Your guide to great books to get stuck into in Singapore this April…
Making a House Your Home
Kyle Books | 288 pages
If, like me, one of your pleasures is leafing through the home section of a magazine for ideas, or surfing Pinterest boards for hints and tips on home styling, then this book – subtitled The Essential Guide to Modern Day Homemaking – is for you.
Author Clare Nolan, lifestyle editor for the UK Mail on Sunday’s You magazine, has put together a publication that takes into account not only the practicalities of life and any design ideas you may have, but also how to make the best of your current possessions. Her initial advice, to create a “lust list, must list”, resonates strongly. “Search out the pleasures that float your boat and make something of them, or, as I always say, ‘feed your needs’,” she advises.
Making a House your Home reads easily, from doing the base work – deciding what you really want, establishing what you already have, and getting organised – to making the most of each area in the house, be it the hallway, a bathroom or even a fireplace. Lusts and needs are translated into practical solutions: for example, instead of wistfully dreaming about a cinema room, you could install a hide-away projector and blackout blinds in an existing room.
The book is not only well put together, but its beautiful illustrations give wings to the ideas it contains. Almost every page has a special tip for the reader, many of which I have taken on board, though have yet to apply.
As the Heart Bones Break
Marshall Cavendish | 360 pages
Audrey Chin weaves her novel around Thong Tran, a Vietnamese-American aerospace engineer and previous Viet Cong informer who is settled in California with his Vietnamese-American wife and their son.
Nostalgic flashbacks give the reader glimpses into Thong’s adolescent life, his biological father who is away at war, the French civil servant father who brings him up, his pro-American tutor, and the war-torn Vietnam where he grows to manhood. When elements of his carefully hidden past come to light, Thong is left with no choice but to make a full disclosure of what has lain hidden in his heart for a decade.
Audrey’s craftsmanship, as a writer, shines in a gripping plot and pertinent dialogue. Writing in the second person slows down the reading pace initially, but this picks up as the book progresses. Strewn with interesting Vietnamese anecdotes and thrilling encounters, this multi-layered tale has a large cast of characters and takes one on an emotional journey.
An immensely compelling and captivating read that you’ll want to consume all in one go.
Bridget Jones – Mad about the Boy
Jonathan Cape | 386 pages
Deep questions are explored in the third Bridget Jones novel:
1. What do you do when a girlfriend’s 60th birthday falls on the same date as your boyfriend’s 30th?
2. Is it wrong to lie about your age when online dating?
3. Is sleeping with someone after two dates and six weeks of texting the same as marrying someone after two meetings and six months of letter-writing in Jane Austen’s time?
Bridget is back: sadder after the tragic death four years ago of her beloved Mark Darcy, but, fortunately for the reader, not too much wiser than the 30-something whose amorous adventures in Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996), Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason (1999) and the 2001 movie (Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant) had us all in stitches. (All of us who were grownups, anyway, which excludes an alarming number of my colleagues.)
Now 51, Bridget is bringing up her and Mark’s two young children alone. She is eventually ready to look for love again – but the world of dating is now fraught with technological terrors: online dating sites, texting and tweeting; a minefield for this social networking virgin. “Rule Number 1: Do Not Text When Drunk.”
Fans were both sad and angry about Helen Fielding having killed off Mr Darcy, which after all goes against chick-lit convention. She must be forgiven, though, as Darcy’s exit is the basis for a wonderful read that is by turns tender, thoughtful and uproariously hilarious.
Bring on the movie, I say.
Just for Teens
Run, first in the trilogy Run Hide Seek
The year is 2037, the place is Singapore, and a spunky heroine wakes up with amnesia in a post-apocalyptic puddle of muddy water. With no idea of who she is – but a strong feeling that there’s something she has to do – 15-year-old Zee joins a band of young survivors like herself in a terrifying adventure.
Described as a modern take on Hansel and Gretel, this engaging tale is by a talented Secondary Three pupil writing for her peers. It tackles big themes such as food shortages, genetic modification, and “the ethics of survival in a world where adults have abandoned their children in the desperate attempt to save themselves”.
Crucially, the cast of characters includes a cute boy – Jae, he of the deep green eyes and nice muscles – for that extra teenage frisson. Worth mentioning is the book’s creative design, and that the second in the trilogy is to be published in 2014.
Just for Kids
Frank the Frog
Wicked Gilly; illustrated by Paula Pang
wickedgilly.com | 18 pages
From the hilariously irreverent author of I Hate Peas, Nelly Catches a Cold and Chocolate Bunny comes another subversive rhyming tale for children. Chubby Frank is addicted to rubbishy fast food – hot lizard pies, beetle bolognaise, deep-fried battered spiders and flies, especially – but can’t win the fit girl frog of his dreams until he makes some drastic lifestyle changes. Apart from a strict new exercise regimen, he learns to eat his bugs grilled or sushi-style. Lively illustrations from Paula Pang help tell the story. Buy it for $12 from Tango Mango or online from Select Books (selectbooks.com.sg); all author’s proceeds go to the Tabitha Foundation – “Building lives, building futures, helping the poorest of the poor in Cambodia”.