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Books in January 2015: World War II memoirs, sleuthing adventures and more

Looking to get your nose stuck in a fascinating new page-turner? Check out our choice reads out in Singapore this January.



The Silkworm
Robert Galbraith
Little, Brown | 455 pages

She’s done it again! – she being Harry Potter author, J K Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, whose first novel The Cuckoo’s Calling was our introduction to the oddly attractive detective Cormoran Strike and his plucky sidekick Robin Ellacott. (Interesting to discover in the author’s acknowledgements that the Cuckoo made it to number one as an audio-book even before its mega-famous author was unmasked.)

As it’s set in the world of literary publishing, one might think that The Silkworm was an easy gig. But it can’t have been. The plot centres around the libellous contents of an unpublished manuscript, so the author had to first devise the (wildly violent and bizarre) plot for this manuscript before working it into her own complex and well-devised plot. 

The result is a fascinating, warts-and-all glimpse into the environment of contemporary publishing, a field peopled with egotistical, fear-driven authors, drunken editors and greedy agents, not to mention their put-upon spouses and partners. Direct parallels with Jacobean revenge tragedy remind us that extreme violence in literature, far from being a modern invention, goes back a long way.

It’s “a damn good read”, says The Guardian, and I agree; I couldn’t put the book down. Excellent news, then, that as a series of seven is contemplated, there are five more to go.

Verne Maree   



Ramblings of a Rascal
Lawrence Stacey
LS Publishing | 281 pages

Am I getting older, or are the writers of military memoirs getting younger? Instead of the gung-ho World War II reminiscences I was expecting, I found a collection of 40 autobiographical stories about events – mainly from the early 1960s onwards – over the course of Lawrence Stacey’s colourful life, many of them from time served with the First Battalion XX The Lancashire Fusiliers of the British Army.

Admittedly niche, this is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. Why it even came across my desk was that the author’s son, Hugh, lives in Singapore, and this month sees the official launch of the book’s hardcover version here.

However, having a family member who completed his officer training at RMA Sandhurst, I was fascinated by the author’s account of doing the same 40 years earlier. And not only that: in breezy and irreverent style, he takes the reader with equal sangfroid through the jungles and brothels of Borneo to the deserts of the Empty Quarter, and from tea at the Dorchester to Amsterdam’s red-light district.

A dandy and a womaniser, Lawrence Stace nevertheless comes across as a likeable guy in this “blissfully politically incorrect romp through life and history, a rattle bag of anecdote, humour and tall tales”.

Verne Maree



Real Estate Realities
Ku Swee Swong
Subtitled “Accommodating the Investment Needs of Today’s Society”

Don’t think you’re living in a true luxury apartment unless it’s in District 9, 10 or certain parts of 11 such as Goldhill, Chancery and Bukit Timah (up to the Farrer Road junction), says Mr Ku. As he rather crushingly points out, “full marble flooring in … Sengkang does not a luxury apartment make”. Something else I learnt in the first chapter of Real Estate Realities is that the top three luxury residential addresses are Nassim Road, Bishopsgate and Chatsworth Road, and that “[these] locations trumps [sic] the rest of sardine-packed Singapore”.

If you’re at all interested in the Singapore real estate market (and can get over the at times woeful grammar), this collection of articles previously published in TODAY and The Business Times is well worth a read. They touch on both public housing and private properties, real estate investment both here and overseas, and ponder the implications of Singapore’s Master Plan 2014.

Vanessa Harvey



365 Days of Fun, Recipes for any Occasion
ToTT Store
Magazines Integrated | 82 pages

If you’re a keen cook and you’ve been to Tools of the Trade, otherwise known as the ToTT Store on Dunearn Road, you’ll know it’s a great place to have a mooch around for fun and funky kitchen and tableware. The store’s 365 Days of Fun booklet, celebrating its four years in operation, is like the paper-based version of this pleasant mooch.

Recipes range from party food such as lotus chips with avocado dip and scallop ceviche, to its fun take on local recipes like kaya sticky buns. Of course, if there’s a handy product to help with the recipe, the book lists it, because ToTT sells it. It’s an easy flick through, creatively laid out with good images, and for someone who thinks a wander through the kitchenware department of a store is the best thing since sliced bread, this book is for you. Buy it at the store for $12.90.

Amy Brook-Partridge



Find and Seek Singapore
Sally Roydhouse
Goff Books | 32 pages

This picture book for youngsters is the work of an Australian freelance graphic designer and mother of two boys, who has been living in Singapore for the past eight years. Taking the young reader through the rich variety of Singapore experiences, from discovering the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo and East Coast Park to hawker centres, temples, Chinese New Year festivities and kite-flying at Marina Barrage, it would make a vivid memento for a child whose time in Singapore is coming to an end.