Next-in-Reading #36: Ten Sticks One Rice

Next in Reading

 

Title: Ten Sticks One Rice
Author: Koh Hong Teng, Oh Yong Hwee
Year: 2012
Publisher:
Epigram Books

“While we might not have been born on the same day… let us hope that it may at least be the same day that we will-“

Hock Seng, an illegal satay seller who is often on the watch for the authorities, is battling Stage 4 Cancer, and at the same time, a veteran in a local triad. Upon hearing the news of the death of an elder, Hock Seng’s story is played out as he organises this elder’s funeral.

Character(s)

Hock Seng, From the Brotherhood

Hock Seng’s struggles with himself, his triad, and his family takes a different stand from what we have been educated to believe secret societies generally are. Instead of a ruffian, we can see a hardworking man who probably took a different choice in life – someone we may know in our families or growing up. While he “fits” the media portrayal of a rough-talking person, we later see that Hock Seng is, fundamentally, a man struggling to continue standing by the values he grew up with (Brotherhood) in our present environment.

Theme(s)

Brotherhood

Growing up, the terms “secret society” or “triad” were generally associated with violence, ignorant good-for-nothings. The theme of Brotherhood is prominent through Hock Seng’s past (told via flashback or recounted by another party) – one of the basic foundations which secret societies are built on. The story focusses on the realities and virtues of the triad, instead of the “glamour” and “darkness” commonly shown in other media.

It also looks at the changing priorities through the generations, where brotherhood is getting less and less prominent to the extent of Hock Seng having to constantly remind his sons to think about the family and look after each other.

Style & Structure

Ten Sticks One Rice was published as a graphic novel, with Koh managing the transitions between both the present day and the past quite seamlessly. The flashbacks bring out the values which Hock Seng hold true to himself – Brotherhood. Touching on a subject not commonly seen in Singaporean culture, the constant use of Hokkien and swear words add sincerity to the story, though it seems unappealing at first.

Ten Sticks One Rice was created by Koh Hong Teng and Oh Yong Hwee. To find out more about the book, click here.

In the meantime…

And with that, I’ll see you next week!

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Next-in-Reading #35: Gone Girl

Next in Reading

 

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Year: 2012
Publisher:
Phoenix

“Who are you? What have we done to each other?”

Nick Dunne returns home to find his living area in disarray and his wife missing. While aiding the police in their investigation, however, the police and his twin sister, Margo, find out that he has more to hide than he cares to admit. At the same time, his wife, Amy Elliot Dunne – the inspiration to her psychologist parents’ best-selling book Amazing Amy – is not the poster girl of perfection that her parents and husband make her out to be, especially when Nick unravels the real motive behind her disappearance.

Character(s)

Amy Elliot, Woman Scorned

If I were to be brutally honest, Amy Elliot disturbs me as a person. While she is outright manipulative of her relationship with her husband, she planned everything to the last second – meticulous in her actions, patient in waiting for the opportune moment. This meant that everything she does has a motive behind it. As seen by her treatment of previous “friends” and “boyfriends” like Desi Collings and Hilary Handy, Amy’s vengeance upon people who question or threaten her perfection is obvious.

Even when we place Amy on the flip side, to try and see things through her shoes, one may come to realise that she is, at the very best, obsessed with looking like the perfect person. And the way she shows no regard to the collateral damage in her plans (e.g. her parents) can indicate that she has been placed on a pedestal all her life (research, stage, worship etc…) and cannot bear to get down from it.

Theme(s)

Grey Areas

What is very outstanding in this book, apart from the tension, is how there is no particular innocent party. Putting aside from the fact that the grey areas reflect the very fabric of humanity, the perspectives from both sides of the main characters tell us that every story is skewed (usually to their own perspective) and that unless a third party was there to witness everything from start to finish, there will be many “truths” in the same situation.

The negativity actually comes from both sides of the story – Nick cheats out of convenience and because his wife is not like who she was when they first met. Amy goes to great lengths to mold her husband into the perfect man in the perfect relationship with the perfect woman. Ironically, the both of them are in the midst of a cruel, twisted romance – they hate each other, they are as crazy as the other side, but they need each other in order for their lives to work. (Note: the roles can be reversed anytime)

Style & Structure

The novel goes between Amy and Nick, telling the story from both perspectives to show that unlike what the media likes to portray or sensationalise at times, there are no completely innocent parties. Readers start off by seeing Nick as a lazy, selfish person who is taking the easy way out in his rocky relationship with his perfect wife, only to realise that both parties are equally selfish in what they want from their marriage (self-worship and perfection for Amy; sex, looks, and convenience for Nick). And brutally, their personalities fit with each other at the end of the day.

For more information on Gillian Flynn and her other books, click here.

In the meantime…

With that, I’ll see you next week!

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Book Bites: Nanowrimo 2014

Book Bites

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

I can now sleep! Or at least, sleep better.

The journey from 0 to 50,000 words in 30 days has finally come to an end, with me validating my Draft 0 on the wee hours of 30th November 2014. This year was a little different from the rest though – I’ll be continuing my Nanowrimo project straight into December and a good half of next year.

Regardless, I feel incredibly relieved that the challenge for this year is over, and that I can concentrate on putting out the best stuff I can until the next Nanowrimo. For those who are interested in setting a writing challenge for yourself, click here, it’s never too late to write the novel that is waiting to come out of you (and then delete it once Nano is over because you’re laughing at yourself more than you’d like.)

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Next-in-Reading #34: The Nao of Brown

Next in Reading

Title: The Nao of Brown
Author: Glyn Dillon
Year: 2012
Publisher:
SelfMadeHero

“I knew right from that cold, clear moment, that that truth would never change. I am my hell, it comes from me, it’s my responsibility and it’s all my fault.”

Nao Brown is a half-Japanese, half-English lady living in the United Kingdom. Struggling with negative and, at times, murderous thoughts, she constantly retreats into herself and finds peace with a Buddhist support group and her close friends. As she delves deeper and deeper into herself, however, Nao reaches a stage she believes to be one of no turning back, and has to fight to find a way to do so.

Character(s)

Nao Brown, Her Own Devil

While Nao struggles with her intrusive thoughts, her guilt of these thoughts actually point to the fact that she is the exact opposite of what she believes she is – a good person. At the same time, Nao can be considered rather brave, facing herself gradually through any way she could find instead of retreating into herself and not facing anyone else. She can also be said to be quite determined – going through with her Buddhist classes, meditation, and “homework” even though she finds it to be a drag. Everything does pay off, and she continues to do them, slowly shedding her dislike of the activities that have helped her.

Theme(s)

Intrusive Thoughts and its Effects on Human Psyche

Throughout the book, Nao struggles with going in between her life and the intrusive thoughts she has about killing random people or causing the deaths of people she sees on the streets. Obsessing over these thoughts, she believes herself to be a horrible person due to the perception of ill intent on strangers.

Seeking peace and assurance, these intrusive thoughts has affected her lifestyle, sending her into the realm of obsessive-compulsive disorder (the way she mutters to herself that her friends and family love her repeatedly) and social anxiety (unable to meet Greg until she systematically spoils her roommate’s washing machine).

However, the story also charts her healing process, stating towards the end that while she feels much better about herself now, she is not permanently out of it. Similarly, it remains a struggle which many people with social anxiety, stress, depression, or other psychological conditions. Regardless, they continue to trod, and hopefully, heal every day.

Style & Structure

This graphic novel was pretty standard, though it presented a twist, using a few black pages stuck between crucial areas of Nao almost going over the edge to tell a seemingly different story. In fact, the technique managed to portray the happenings around Nao, together with what is going on in her head, without too much introspection and brooding. A rather interesting take to look into a character’s mind.

The Nao of Brown was created by Glyn Dillon. To find out more about the book, click here.

In the meantime…

Thanks for tuning in for the last month of Next-in-Reading until 2015. And I’ll see you next week!

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Update [November 2014]

Literary Event of the Month

To say that the month of November was hectic is probably an understatement. The Singapore Writers’ Festival and National Novel Writing Month pretty much took out a huge chunk of my time. Regardless, I would say that my literary event of the month has to be Lion City Secrets, a hilarious yet serious panel I attended during Singapore Writers Festival Weekend #1.

My Espeon joins my literary hijinks on Day 2 with this panel.

My Espeon joins my literary hijinks on Day 2 with this panel.

Blanket Fortress Play

BFP - Nov

The games this month mostly had something to do with my journey through National Novel Writing Month – Boggle, a classic wordplay game, and The Resistance, an espionage bluffing game. You can check them both out on Blanket Fortress Play.

Writery Endeavours and Wattpad

Wattpad - Nov

November has given me a very rough Draft -1 for my current work-in-progress, which I can now rewrite in December before handing it over for mentoring and workshopping. Wattpad-wise, I have added another two stories, a bit of a blast from the past (a.k.a. really old flash fics): Projection, and Of Tattoos and Asylums. I hope you’ll enjoy them!

Coming Next Month…

It’s Christmas Month next month! And Next-in-Reading comes back for a few more weeks before the next year. Apart from that, do look out for:

  • Changes to this site for 2015
  • Comic Fiesta!
  • The last round of Next-in-Reading posts for this year
  • More Blanket Fortress Play posts
  • More Wattpad uploads

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Book Bites: From Concept to Print (@ Kinokuniya Main Store)

Book Bites

I think one of the best phrases I got out from this session was when Wayne said that his audience was intended to be people who wanted to read stories that he told – stories which were not bound by genre or message, just stories that had heart and that were enjoyable.

Peter moderating the session as Audrey, Paul, Wayne, and Andrew think about what they're going to say next.

Peter moderating the session as Audrey, Paul, Wayne, and Andrew think about what they’re going to say next.

And Espeon joins in!

And Espeon joins in!

We arrived when Peter from HereBeGeeks was already into his first few questions, and the artists were talking about how they came up with their various concepts and pieces to be paired with Wayne’s stories in a collection called “Tales From A Tiny Room”. Apart from the humour and the camaraderie between Audrey, Paul, Andrew, and Wayne, it was very heart-warming to see the sincerity and integrity behind each piece.

Wayne was also rather informal during the launch, talking about enjoying the process of writing and appreciating the work that other people and parties have done for him – the artists, his editor, his publisher, his readers. I really liked that he was very sincere and genuine in his anecdotes, especially the story about his appreciation for a fan’s daughter.

At the end of the day, I really enjoyed the launch. All the best to Wayne and his future works! If you would like to find out more about “Tales From A Tiny Room”, click here.

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Book Bites: Workshop with a Literary Agency (MAP)

Book Bites

“You look very familiar, have I seen you at one of my sessions before?”

Needless to say, I was thrilled and surprised that Marysia, the founder of Peony Literary Agency (based in Hong Kong), could remember me from a few years back. Since she was around for the Publishing Symposiums held together with the Singapore Writers’ Festival, The Writers Centre managed to get her down to give the MAP mentees a session on literary agents and what they do.

Marysia showcasing some of the books her agency has brought out.

Marysia showcasing some of the books her agency has brought out.

It was a well-balanced session, with many questions being answered and Marysia going around the room to have tips to give specific genres of writing. And while she mentioned that the publishing industry is having problems worldwide, there is still demand for fiction from this part of the world.

I liked that she went around the room to know where our works were heading for. And therefore, she was able to give advice based on her experiences and what we were working on. While it was true that one needed to network at least a little bit or come up with a few ways to brand yourself as a writer, knowledge of the industry and how it affects specific genres was useful as well.

All in all, I enjoyed this session very much. Many thanks to The Writers Centre, the National Arts Council, and Peony Literary Agency for this workshop! To find out more about Peony Literary Agency, click here.

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