A Monster Calls

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Title: A Monster Calls
Location: Adult Lending
Call no.: NES

Watching the person you love most in the world die is a tremendous thing. It is leaning over the edge of a cliff, holding onto the one you love, while the monster that is death grabs onto them, pulling them down into the abyss below. In those moments, you are filled with a grief that makes you certain if you had just held onto them a little longer, a little tighter, death would not have taken them.

We come to witness this profound experience through the eyes of Conor, a thirteen-year-old English schoolboy whose single mother is dying of cancer.  This lonely young boy has an unlikely companion – a monster whom he has called unknowingly. Through their interactions, the monster tells Conor stories from its ancient past. These stories about queens, princes, apothecaries and invisible men are narrated in the hopes of giving the young boy the courage to face his own truth. These fantastical elements are entrenched in reality for the reader who vicariously lives through Conor’s troubles at school and at home, drawn into his anger at the world and the thing his mother is battling against – death.

With its all-consuming black and white illustrations and potent words, A Monster Calls dares to bring the reader to an evocative place where good and bad, and death and life, are blurred. This book compels us to pause and reflect on what really matters in our existence.

Reena Devi is a volunteer Content Curator with library@orchard and she is an avid reader who also happens to write. She enjoys Japanese literature with its recurring theme of quiet grace amidst intense darkness bordering on macabre. Writers who make magic and the supernatural an everyday reality such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are also her favourite.


Blueberry muffin murder: a Hannah Swensen mystery with recipes

blueTitle: Blueberry Muffin Murder: A Hannah Swensen mystery with recipes
Location: Adult Lending
Call no.: FLU -[MY]

Hannah Swensen owns a cookie shop in the small town of Lake Eden, Minnesota, where the winters can be brutal. To help bring some cheer in the midst of the frigid weather, the town holds an annual Winter Carnival.

Unfortunately for Hannah, she is passed over for the honour of baking the official Winter Carnival cake. Instead, the town has elected to bring in the famous TV chef, Connie Mac. Things start off bad enough: Connie Mac is a bossy diva, and Hannah has a hard time putting up with her domineering ways.

Then, things get much, much worse. Hannah arrives at work one morning to find Connie Mac’s official Winter Carnival cake completely burnt – and Connie Mac lying dead on the ground, surrounded by crumbs of Hannah’s famous blueberry muffin.

The police declare her cookie shop a crime scene and refuse Hannah entry to her own kitchen. Without access to an oven, and with the Winter Carnival just days away, Hannah decides that if the police won’t solve the issue, the only alternative is to catch the killer herself.

This book is the third installment in the Hannah Swensen mystery series by Joanne Fluke. Just like the first two books, the main appeal is in its small town charm, especially the relationships between the residents of Lake Eden. The mystery itself is a comfortable amateur-detective story, peppered with delicious sounding recipes.

If you enjoy baking, mysteries, or just cosy comfort, this book is great for a quick read, especially accompanied by some delicious cookies or muffins!

Ekta Nansi is a volunteer Content Curator with library@orchard. She enjoys a wide range of book genres but fantasy, YA fiction, and murder mysteries are her most common comfort reads. Apart from reading, she also loves travelling. As an added bonus during her holidays, she makes a point of reading books that are set in her destination country.

Icons of Vintage Fashion: definitive designer classics at auction 1900-2000

Icons of Vintage Fashion

Title: Icons of Vintage Fashion: definitive designer classics at auction 1900-2000
Location: People Design, Fashion
Call no.: 746.920904 BLA -[ART]

Icons of Vintage Fashion by Pénélope Blanckaert and Angèle Rincheval Hernu is a visual compilation journeying across important junctures in the history of women’s fashion by featuring famous designs from both the couture and ready-to-wear market. For example, the Chanel jacket’s iconoclastic symbolism and unforgettable place in world history – being the jacket that the then First Lady of the United States, Jackie Kennedy, wore when her husband was assassinated – is explored in tandem with the biography of Chanel’s current head designer, Karl Lagerfeld.

The book’s strong point lies in this contextualisation of the contributions of iconic fashion designers, including the greatest couturiers in Paris like Christian Dior and Madame Grès. The study of these design icons bring to the fore informative gems pertaining to the work practices and personal idiosyncracies behind their creative minds.

For example, Azzedine Alaïa, a Tunisian-born couturier and shoe designer, was honoured at the Guggenheim Museum in 2004 for creating a brand new sartorial aesthetic of skin-tight designs arising from his inherent appreciation of women’s bodies. Indeed, the design is not a standalone idea but an embodiment of the influences, beliefs and aspirations of the designer, reaching out and impacting our socio-cultural imagination throughout the years following its creation.

Reena Devi is a volunteer Content Curator with library@orchard and she is an avid reader who also happens to write. She enjoys Japanese literature with its recurring theme of quiet grace amidst intense darkness bordering on macabre. Writers who make magic and the supernatural an everyday reality such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are also her favourite.

Design: Takaaki Matsumoto

Design Takaaki Matsumoto

Title: Design: Takaaki Matsumoto
Location: Visual Design, Typography
Call no.: 686.22092 WIL

Design is an integral part of our lives, whether or not we realize it. I enjoy being awed by bold, exaggerated works, and like mulling over the subtle undernotes of minimalistic creations, but there is a reason why I particularly admire Takaaki Matsumoto’s designs — they skilfully cover the middle ground. Matsumoto made his way to the States in 1974, where he did his studies and subsequently founded his own design firm, and has been involved in internationally-acclaimed projects since.

Like many other things in life, it is challenging to strike just the right balance with neither excess nor inadequacies. I think Matsumoto achieves this because he seeks to communicate rather than embellish. At times, he lets type take centre stage, and at others he ensures it does not overpower accompanying elements.

This book is a portfolio of such projects. I was particularly impressed with one of Matsumoto’s projects analyzed in this book, which demonstrates his ingenuity with aesthetics. The bounded collection of interviews with alumni of the Art Center has portraits blown up, making the most of the low-pixel images provided, yet creating a unique visual impact at the same time.

The stories behind the design projects are complemented with illustrations of the works themselves, so even if you are new to design, you will literally be able to see how the designer has adapted his designs with great consideration for the needs of each client. Such strategic designing could be just what we need in this day and age, when information alone is already overloading us.

Constance is a volunteer Content Curator with library@orchard. She writes book reviews on non-fiction in particular and enjoys trawling the library’s typography and lifestyle collections.

Tie-dye: Dye it, wear it, share it

A Tale for the Time BeingTitle: Tie-dye: Dye it, wear it, share it
Location: Product Design, Handicrafts
Call no.: 746.664 SIM -[ART]

When you think of tie-dye, colours and patterns would come to mind. These elements, which are put together in this gorgeous book by designer and artist, Shabd Simon-Alexander, will teach and also inspire you.

This step-by-step guide features easy-to-follow techniques for tying knots and mixing colours to create your own innovative style. The large and vibrant results of each tie-dye experiment are placed side by side, making it easy for readers to see the effects of different tie-dye methods on different fabrics. Tie-dye is not limited to clothes but can also be used on accessories and home décor items. Shabd does a good job of explaining the properties of different fabrics and dyes and where they can be obtained, though the more elaborate tie-dye techniques could have used more illustrations. Overall, this is an apt book for beginners seeking plenty of tie-dye tips and guidance.

The potential for tie-dye is practically infinite. According to Shabd, there are no mistakes in tie-dye as the errors are happy accidents and experimenting is part of the fun of exploring tie-dye.

Priyanga is a volunteer Content Curator with library@orchard. A certified bookworm, she reads fiction novels spanning genres like adventure, romance, philosophy and literature. She also loves gathering quotes from the books she reads. Now, she is trying at her hand at the ream of reality or in other words, non-fiction.



A Tale for the Time Being

Title: A Tale for the Time Being
Location: Adult Lending
Call no.: OZE

Nao is a highly imaginative, bullied schoolgirl who lives with her recently unemployed father and workaholic mother in Tokyo. Ruth is a middle-aged Japanese woman living in an island off Canada with her ecologically conscious husband and the memories of her late Alzheimer stricken mother. They live across the world from each other, but are both deeply affected by everyday troubles, personal tragedies, international wars and catastrophes rooted in reality.

Nao and Ruth’s struggles, in the face of a world bent on violence and cruelty, are portrayed realistically but there is still a sense of the mystical. Their stories are linked across time and space through the spiritual wisdom dispensed by an old, Zen nun, and the words of her son who perished as a Japanese suicide bomber during World War II.

A Tale of a Time Being is definitely a recommended read, especially going into the New Year. The clever melding of storylines with quantum physics, eastern and western philosophy sheds light on the importance of accepting life’s transitory nature. You come to understand that at a snap of your fingers, you could be taking your very last breath. Every single moment of your life blazes with significance and urgency to choose actions that could benefit yourself and those around you. Any moment, even the moment right now, as you read this review, is an opportunity to create a new beginning.

Reena Devi is a volunteer Content Curator with library@orchard and she is an avid reader who also happens to write. She enjoys Japanese literature with its recurring theme of quiet grace amidst intense darkness bordering on macabre. Writers who make magic and the supernatural an everyday reality such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are also her favourite.

Residents: Architecture

Not pictured: Wenrong and Weili

These residents, led by group leader, Wenrong, have been calling library@orchard their studio, every Friday for the past two months. They are currently working on their final year project – studying the EEA+Tax Office (by UN Studio) in the Netherlands and implementing the special features of the building into their own project – an artisan centre sited on Orchard Road. They will graduate from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) next year.

This lively bunch completes one another’s sentences, cracks jokes and teases their stoic group member, Irfaan, despite not having slept for close to 48 hours. As we spoke to them, we learnt more about the challenges of the “archi” life, wild buildings and going with the “flow”.

Their session last Friday was the last one with library@orchard. We are sad to see them go, but wish them all the very best.

Look out for more Residencies in the future! If you are interested to apply for Residency, do drop us a note at our Facebook page.

library@orchard (OC): First things first, why did you choose architecture?

Gabriel: I chose architecture as I am interested in creating things. Architecture has been fine for me so far. (After some prompting from OC, Gabriel substituted “fine” for “marvelous”.)

Weili: I actually wanted to study interior design or visual communication. Although I initially decided on interior design, but [on the advice of my dad] I chose Architecture as it is a broader discipline.

Wenrong: I have had a fascination with buildings since when I was young – it’s like a weird quirk. When it came to choosing my course of study, I applied to SP as it offers architecture as a standalone course.

Marinah: I like to design but I am actually more into fine arts. Right now, I have made my decision not to continue as I have lost interest. During the first year, it was still okay for me – I had fun – but halfway through I felt “meh” about it.

Jingyan: I learnt how to draw since I was five years old, because my mother sent me for classes – you know… Chinese mother. I realised that I am quite good at drawing, but I didn’t want to draw all the time. In architecture, I thought I could draw some houses… design some stuff… and it will be better than a course that focuses on just drawing.

Irfaan: I ended up in architecture because the last model that I ever did for my design class was a house back in secondary school. From there, I don’t know how… I followed the flow and ended up in architecture in ITE even though I also applied for aerospace engineering. When I entered SP, I applied for other courses but still ended up in architecture.


OC: Were you trying to escape from architecture?

Irfaan: I guess it’s more like architecture chose me.

(More laughter.)

OC: Is everyone intending to pursue higher education or start work immediately?

Weili: I’m thinking of studying visual communications overseas.

Marinah: I’m intending to apply to NIE to teach art.

Jingyan: I have to start work as I have to fulfil my bond.

Gabriel and Wenrong: Thinking of pursuing architecture still.

OC: How about you, Irfaan?

Irfaan: I’ll see how it goes.

(They crack up at this.)

Wenrong: I think the [architecture] life will choose you.

OC: Have you guys worked together before, or is this your first time working together?

Jingyan and Wenrong: We have worked together before (high-fives each other).

Gabriel (to Jingyan): I think we worked together in year 1?

Jingyan: No, I worked with your girlfriend.

Gabriel: Oh that’s right (laughs).

OC: Tell us more about your final year project (FYP).

Gabriel: For our group project, we have to do a case study of a development in the Netherlands, the EEA+Tax Office by UN Studio.

Wenrong: We had to research on how the façade and the building works as [the school] wanted us to learn and implement [the unique points of these buildings] into our individual projects.

Gabriel: We also conducted precedent studies where we examined one architect and the strategies he or she used.

Wenrong: We were encouraged to implement these strategies in our project.

OC: Did anybody study a local architect?


OC: Oh nooooo.

Everybody: WOHA Architects! They did PARKROYAL on Pickering street!

OC: So did anybody study WOHA?


OC: What happened? Everyone seemed to have a mutual agreement on WOHA.

Wenrong: I think most of us chose international architects because it’s easier. The published works and plans of established architects are already all available online. A few of my friends studied local architects but gave up because they couldn’t find the information they needed.

OC: So out of the architects you have studied that are based overseas, how many of them are from Asian countries?

Wenrong: SANA (Japanese).

Jingyan: I. M. Pei (Chinese).

Gabriel: Kengo Kuma (Japanese).

OC: Pop quiz! Name a building in Singapore designed by I. M. Pei.

Wenrong: The “calculator” building (OCBC Centre).

Gabriel: The Gateway.

OC: Great! How about the rest of you? Which architects did you choose?

Marinah: Foreign Office Architects.

Weili: Steven Holl.

OC: And Irfaan?

Wenrong: The architect chose him.

(Everybody laughs at this.)

Irfaan: (quietly) WOHA.

OC: Oh, why so secretive?

Jingyan: He gave me the eye earlier like, “Don’t say. Don’t say”.

(This cracks the group up again.)

OC: Can you share how you are graded on your school assignments?

Weili: There are three main categories: architecture and design, materials and detailing and other elements like how to shade the sun.

Gabriel: There are a few components but making your concept conform to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) codes is the hardest part. Sometimes you have a certain form in your mind but it may not comply with the regulations, so your form has to change and you lose your concept.

Jingyan: [It’s] imagination versus the real world!

OC: Which country do you think has the most interesting skyline?

Wenrong: In terms of design exploration, Dubai is quite advanced with their technology and also because they have the funding and the space. Their buildings are quite wild.

OC: Speaking of Dubai, what do you think about the tallest buildings in the world?

Gabriel: It’s not about the height. (Everyone nods in agreement at this.) If you don’t study architecture, you think, “Whoa, let’s make it tall”, but it is more than just height. In architecture, you study about spatial qualities and how you experience it when you walk into a building.

Wenrong: And also how it affects the environment.

Jingyang: People who did the high buildings? They’re not architects, they’re engineers.

(Everyone laughs.)

OC: What is the hardest thing you have learnt or been taught in architecture that you used to or still struggle with?

Marinah: You really have to learn to manage your time and for me it’s a challenge. For example, we just submitted our Design Development Review (2 weeks ago) and we have to rush to complete our Building Plan submission for today.

Weili: I think it’s also partially because in this “archi” course, your work can never be perfect. Every time, after you consult your lecturer, there will always be something you need to improve on and it’s becomes a cycle. It’s only during the last week before submission that you try to finish everything and that’s also when you realise that you cannot finish your work.

OC: Now for some library-related questions.  Do you read architecture books?

Wenrong: Yes…


Wenrong: Actually… the information that we can really use are from books. When we do our case studies, we always end up fighting over the books from our school library.

Weili: Yeah, I know! I tried to borrow Steven Holl books but none of them were there. Everything was gone.

Wenrong: Yeah, everybody took everything.

OC: Do you read architecture-related books or articles for leisure?

Gabriel: For me, I go to Arch Daily to read up on architecture and Pinterest (everybody nods at this) to look at the pictures.

OC: Any other channels?

Weili: Instagram and Twitter.

OC: Any last words?

Wenrong: I have a question for Marinah and Irfaan (who have been quiet throughout the session). Would you recommend architecture [to prospective students]?

Gabriel (to Marinah): “Definitely not.” (laughs)

Marinah: I would recommend it if you are up for a challenge, if you want to explore and learn more about architecture, which is more than just the face value of a building… but if I could advise my 16-year-old self, I’d say no. (laughs)

Irfaan: If you want to go with the flow, then…

(Everyone laughs and claps.)

Jingyan: (takes out her phone) I’m going to name the most carefree cat [in Neko Atsume – a cat collecting game for mobile phones] after you.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

French Milk

Title: French Milk
Location: People Design, Portfolios
Call no.: English 741.5973 KNI -[ART]

French Milk, released in 2008, is Lucy Knisley’s first published work as an aspiring comic artist, while she was still in college. The story is told through hand-drawn pages and her own photography as she and her parents take a five-week stay in Paris, France. It collects Knisley’s experience of being in France and her thoughts on the people in her life, forming a highly-personal account.

The beginning of the book can be a little disorientating as a lot of names are thrown at you. Nevertheless, the story begins in earnest after she arrives in France. As she spends more time in France, the mentions of her life outside of the vacation become fewer and she relaxes more comfortably into a vacation. The mentions of the milk that gave the book its title feels a little shoehorned, but in the end it did help give the book its final conclusion in one last text-only page. Overall, this is a funny and artistic journal about staying in France.


Annabelle is a volunteer Content Curator with library@orchard. She is sixteen years old and primarily enjoys reading fiction books.

A blog about the public library at Orchard Road