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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Chin

Books I Read: Some stuff I took off my to-read pile (1)

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

I've been offline recently, and wonderfully productive as a consequence!

Here's part (1) of the list I took off my to-read pile, with notes on whatever wisdom I've gleaned. Hopefully, you'll have a more profitable time with the gems and avoid some of the duds.

SingLit YA

I don't usually read YA, but I'm so glad I took a chance on these two debuts by fellow Penguin Random House authors Leslie W. and Joyce Chua.

Leslie W's The Night of Legends is an action-packed adventure story set in a dystopic world controlled by secret government forces and contested by enigmatic Ifarl mystics, nasty smelly trolls and ravaging hungry ghosts. Featuring Keix, a bad-ass girl special trooper who's been betrayed by the organization she trusts totally, the story-arc has interesting parallels with real-life societies where undying loyalty is demanded of it's citizens. Well worth a few non-stop hours.

Land of Sand and Song by Joyce Chua also features a spunky girl protagonist. Drawing from East-Asian palace dramas and wu-xia, the plot also incorporates morphing spirit-creatures, and a developing love triangle between two handsome princes and the water-taming heroine. The multi-layered work is not just a tale of a desert girl in a fantasy world, but also a metaphor for current culture wars and fears about technology. Another book worth spending non-stop hours on.

Books about the brain and body in the world

This set of reads are a follow-on from the brain-body books I'd blogged about in December. And, as with the last set, I've mixed feelings about this bag.

I'd started reading about the two part brain, the four part brain, and then a how-to on whole brain living. Thomas Verney's The Embodied Mind takes the argument one step further, with a compelling thesis that consciousness does not just reside in our brains, but in all our cell systems; i.e., our body thinks. This was quite comforting for someone like me, whose brain cells are supposedly in terribly condition. A bit technical and hard-going. Not sure if it was worth the effort.

In contrast to Verney, Wendy Mitchell's Somebody I Used to Know is a layperson's book recording the author's challenges as she tries to maintain her functionality despite the onset of dementia. I appreciate the straightforward language and found the author's matter of fact descriptions of her problems moving house and preparing herself to give speeches extremely affecting. I wish I could have read this as my mother slipped into dementia. I'm glad I've now read it for myself.

Originally in Malay Sa'eda Buang's Razi has been translated into Tamil, Chinese and English as part of the National Library Board's One Story initiative. A disturbing narrative about the difficulties faced by a mother of a special needs (autistic) boy who is not accepted by society and how she unintentionally ends up harming her child that offers a useful perspective on how knowledge and understanding is crucial if we want to integrate 'dif-abled' persons into society.

And the last one of this lot is Georgia Blain's novel Between a Wolf and A Dog. I'd bought it because it was purportedly about a movie-maker with brain cancer who decides to end her own life before the cancer does, and, because Georgia Blaine herself was diagnosed with a brain cancer in the middle of the book's final edit. Rather illogically, I'd therefore expected the book to provide me with an epiphany about how to let go of life when one's brain is going kaput. It didn't.

Blain's book is a beautiful work filled with luminous prose. It clearly deserves to win all the literary prizes it did. Read it for it's sensitive rendering of family relationships, flaws and all. Read it to be encouraged by the possibility of forgiveness even amidst the worst betrayals. But, no, don't expect it to offer any tips on how to confront the end stages of a brain disease that's allowed to go all the way to it's natural end.

What do you think? Did anything jump out at you from this lot?

No worries if nothing did. There'll be more book notes coming up in my next post. Till then, sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite.


Audrey Chin is an award-winning Singaporean writer whose work explores the intersections of culture, faith and gender. She believes in the imponderables including love, god and ghosts AND she's an omnivore when it comes to books.

Buy her books here.


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