My thoughts on ‘And Then There Were None’

And Then There Were None written by Agatha Christie is the first mystery novel I’d read this year or possibly for almost half a decade. An online pal recommended this book and I reserved it for collection in the local library. I’d usually spend a few weeks to complete reading a novel but for this one, I started it last weekend and finished it last night!

Synopsis:
10 characters are lured to Soldier Island by a fella named U.N. Owen. Note that these 10 characters are strangers to each other; they’re from various backgrounds and they’re lured into the island with different reasons. Continue reading

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Here’s to the end of freshman year and more travels!

I started summer break about a week ago. This term’s finals drained me for real. I’m beginning to get really sick of studying… of rote learning. Memorizing for exams or for any other purposes usually delights me more than the assessments that require you to wreck your brains out doing critical thinking. But not now. Getting a bad grade for a critical thinking course doesn’t bother me anymore, that I can’t catch up with the rest and I’m on my own pace of… figuring something out!

This semester passed really quickly. I’m over being a freshman! I didn’t get to really know more people than I’d have expected myself to take the initiative to do so. I thought this awkward front of mine would get me to converse more comfortably with other people because that’d mean I’m being real and not hiding anything behind a cool and calm facade. I’m always being told off by my parents for not acting like peers of my age or even a couple of years younger than I am. Whenever I try to explain to them about this denial mode I’m in, the topic gets slapped down like a buzzing fly. Then I’d try to comfort myself that there’re the people whom I’ve seen on the television and in their personal life being all quirky and weird (probably because it’s expected of them)… and yet, it’s still possible for them to win in life with that sort of childish-like attitude. It’s OK to get overwhelmed and enthusiastic about things, like… karaoke, right?

I got a 12-weeks internship at MSF, which is great news for me (!) but not an extremely impressive piece to my family who sees it as one of the vacation jobs I took up. It’s some place I’d like to explore very much before… either feeling all determined about what I’d want to do after school OR being thrown back into the maze to look for an alternative that interests me. I really hope this works out! The thing is, I cringe alittle interacting with people, asking appropriate questions to get to know them better, forging relationships and all that. I did consider that maybe working with people on a job  like this (social worker, counselor) would be the least suitable. Perhaps if I want to help people, I was told that I could fix things and work something out that requires as minimal contact with human beings as possible. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll see interaction on the job differently. My previous working experience did overcome my fear of phone calls and hearing my own voice in a recording and perhaps over a mic (hoping that’s the case)?

3 days ago this week, I went to Batam island in Indonesia, with my Dad and Granny. Some interesting sights I feel obliged to share about this trip: people in coffee shops clapped for attention (sometimes it gets alittle confusing when there’re performers on stage), smoking in malls and hotel lobbies, people love their food fried (yes?) which is delightful to my palate ^^ and I’ve talked about this particular incident so many times to people around me but they didn’t think it was true at all – I saw a rat ran across on top of a ceiling pipe in a mall. It had steady scurries, that appears very cartoony to me because you don’t see that in real-life. Where could it be scurrying to? One of those square tunnels connected to the fans, like the ones in Toy Story?

Dad brought us to meet some of his friends there and they guided us around the vicinity. From that, I made a new friend along the way – a friend whom I didn’t talked to her much because I tried to think that it was due to a language barrier we had. I would not want to sound creepy to talk about her in a post like this but since it’s in a good way and there’s no identity revealed, I suppose I could talk about it. She drove us around and at that point, Dad was in a disbelief because he’d never been drove around by a 19-year-old, perhaps 20 now (which is no astonishment to people these days). He’d been astonished because I don’t have a driving license and I’d never talked to him about plans of getting one. Yes sure, I’d be getting a driving license anyway at some point of my life even though I have no intention to do so because it’s unusual to not know how to drive? I was like the child in this crowd. I couldn’t assimilate in their conversations. I’d been looking around the place to distract myself by observing my surroundings. There’d be a lot to talk about to say that she’s the kind of child every parent would be proud of. For me, even as someone who envies her (which I don’t mean trying to be like her), I think she is really nice, polite, accepting and there’s little-no pretentiousness in her being nice to her mother, even outside of us meeting them. The way I’ve been treating my parents isn’t something I’m very proud of and maybe alittle ashamed of. Some of it is attributed to the expectations they have of me and others attributed to my attitude towards them when they ask something of me and how much care and concern I’ve showed to them.

Travelling is something people can love it to death doing it even when they don’t do it very often. It only takes 1 trip out of your country to fall in love with this. You don’t need to go very far. It’s seeing everything around you with a fresh pair of eyes. The grass is always greener on the other side. As a tourist, you’re open to everything. For instance, you’re accepting towards a culture as backward in comparison to modernity and probably residing in a rundown cabin or a straw hut with water streaming through the broken roof on rainy days in a couple of days before leaving the place back home. Being a citizen of the place exudes a different outlook, even as a new resident who just moved in to become a citizen. I’ve always, always wondered how other people abroad see Singapore when they come over. I never understood why they’d travel ten over hours to somewhere expensive where they’d spend so much on things and especially experiences that aren’t that fancy and novel. City life and skyscrapers aren’t uncommon sightings. My impression is… Europe for architecture and the arts, USA for Hollywood, Asia (as a whole) for exotic food, culture (?), nature. It’ll take awhile for me to form impressions from the media, books and hopefully travels, on other parts of the world! I’ve said this before: I want to be able to explore my home country with the eyes of a tourist. Someday, I would like to travel to another country, reside there for awhile, maybe 3 months or longer, and then come back here. I want to learn a new language, which means conversing with it among the local people there in a decent amount! I want to feel homesick for once and regain a newfound novelty (probably not the best word to use after “newfound”) and curiosity one could only get when they’re travelling.

I dug up an old private post for a quote from a book I read, Tuscan Holiday, which I think it is perfectly-timed to share in a post like this one.

And I thought again about how travel – how being in an unfamiliar place , surrounded by unfamiliar faces and languages not your own – changes so much about a person at the moment and, sometimes, forever after.

It’s that travel is both disconcerting and liberating, if done outside of the tightly controlled, slightly anemic tradition of planned tours. You experience a sense of dislocation, a heightened-awareness of possible lives other than the one you are currently living; you live in anticipation of something unpredictable about to happen, something you both fear and desire.

Joy Luck Club

“This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions.”

Joy Luck Club has kept my time, as well as my thoughts, occupied for the past month. I first came to hear about the book title when it was mentioned by a Philosophy professor who conducted the university admission interview with me.

The result of the interview? He didn’t give me the approval to admit into his bachelor’s programme, but what I gained from that interview was a good read; served with a side of food for thought, lasting enough to remain in my memory for quite awhile before another plot takes over from there. I bought the book online. No second thoughts on the purchase, even though it was just S$2. The yellowed paperback cover and the pages did justice to how much it was charged but the story was certainly worth more than that.

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Stephen King’s description of ‘Muse’

I came across an interesting excerpt in a book I just recently started reading, On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft, written by Stephen King. The title was first introduced to me by a fellow blogger, Willow (and you can check out her interesting write-ups here!)

Stephen King in his home office, 1980’s
Photo courtesy of: npr.org

In the book, Stephen King shared about the bits and pieces of his experience with writing while he was growing up (and growing old). Some of them I couldn’t really understand but I have a general idea of what’s told in the book. There were also plenty of tips he provided the readers with, even though he did indirectly imply that there will be some kind of harsh truth. Also, the way he describes… stuff is really entertaining to read. About writing and about the people/things in his life. And I really love this particular description of the term, muse, he spins up with:

 

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and little wings got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.”

The way King twisted the idea of muse, or maybe his idea of muse – that muse isn’t just all fairy-dust. It gives a new perspective to something that has always been perceived as god/angel-sent and coincidental luck. In fact, it seems to be the contrary, I thought. It turns out to be a man, instead of a goddess or a lady. He isn’t much of a socialite, doesn’t talk much and has a pretty bad attitude. You will have to “descend to his level” and put up with the “grunt labor” he’ll get you to do before you can reach your hand down into his bag of magic dust. It is like, muse is all hard work and tolerance. There seems to be also this assurance and certainty (promised by King) that all the tough work you undertake will eventually pay off, to the extent that it will turn your life around and muse isn’t simply just a chance-thing.

Book Review: Bitter-Sweet Harvest

This is one of the few books that I will not regret picking it randomly; on the basis of its title, book cover which intrigued me, also knowing that a fellow Southeast Asian wrote this, then buying it at a Book Fair. In a typical book fair like this where there is barely any classification for various fictional books – ranging from mythical fantasies, vampire tales to classic literature and then to novels of family, relationships and love; finding the book that is to your preference and that one book you know it’d be a worthy buy (even though it’s less than $10 per book) is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Bitter-Sweet Harvest is definitely that needle.

This book is a sequel to the novel Sweet Offerings but it claims that “the stories can be read in any any order and are complete in themselves”. From the synopsis of Sweet Offerings, these two stories certainly evolve in the same family of two different generations. 

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Book Review: Peony in Love

It’s a wrap for another Lisa See’s novel ; titled Peony in Love! When I was reading this novel, there were occasional times when I was taken aback by the different excerpts in the story.

The story started with a 16 year old Chinese girl, named Peony, who was looking forward to a play production staged by her father, The Peony Pavilion, which happens to be her all-time favorite opera.

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Library quote.

I came across a quote by Cicero, a Roman Philosopher – which was re-quoted by Lisa See, the writer of Shanghai Girls, which I did a review on the novel one post ago. She tweeted it moments ago and I thought I’ll share it.

Photo courtesy of: Sodahead’s forum topic

Original tweet:-

The simplest words, no use of extraordinary vocabulary, or any hidden, sea-deep meanings behind that phrase. And truer words have never been spoken – it hints the perfect plan to pass time during the weekend!

Daily Prompt: Bookworm (and it ended up to be a review on the book!)

Daily Prompt post: Grab the nearest book. Open it and go to the tenth word. Do a Google Image Search of the word. Write about what the image brings to mind.

This is somehow relevant since recently, I’m immersed in a really good book, titled Shanghai Girls. I came across the book in the neighborhood library about 3 weeks ago. The words in the first few pages captivate me and they didn’t sound too complex, so I was lead on to read more about it, now I absolutely love the book! It’s one of those books that tell a story behind the glam-up and once-naive personae in the plot.

There has been many little excerpts printed on the first few pages of the book and I’ve decided to choose the tenth word in the Author’s Note.

Author’s Note

Shanghai Girls takes place between 1937 and 1957. Readers will find some of what today we would call politically incorrect terms, but they are accurate to the time. I have used the Wade – Giles system of transliteration for Chinese words – whether in Mandarin, Cantonese, or in the Sze Yap and Wu dialects – again in keeping with the Era.

Regarding the exchange rates: Silver dollars were used in Shanghai before November 1935; Chinese yuan were used after 1935. The two were roughly equivalent. I have chosen to stay with dollars and cents because some were still in circulation and they are a more familiar currency to Western readers. The copper – silver exchange rate ranged from 300 to 330 coppers for every silver dollar (or yuan).

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