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10 reads for December

1. CHILDREN'S

THE GHOST WHO PINCHED ME

By Mabel Gan

Marshall Cavendish/ Paperback/ 135 pages/$16/ Major bookstores

This middle-grade novel depicts World War II through a child's eyes.

Ten-year-old Bee Ling is watching her family's three amahs (maidservants) secretly dig up her mother's jewellery buried in the garden, when she sees her elder sister Ying standing under the frangipani tree. Only Ying died in an air raid and her parents are at this minute in Bukit Brown Cemetery attending to her funeral.

Gan, 47, drew on her own family's tragedy to write the book. Her grandmother lost four children during a Japanese air raid on Singapore. Neighbours had told her grandparents that the safest place to take shelter was a nearby building. Parents put their children there, staying at home themselves to make space. But a bomb fell on the building, killing all the children.

"My dad was born after the war," says Gan, "but my grandmother never got over the loss of her other children. Growing up, I saw this and felt that this period of history was an important one – not only for Singapore, but also my own family."

2. FICTION

BEAUTY QUEENS OF BISHAN

By Akshita Nanda

Penguin Random House SEA/ Paperback/ 349 pages/$19.80/ Major bookstores

The quiet community of Bishan's no-nonsense beauty parlours is upended when celebrity stylist April Chua opens her swanky new salon D'Asthetique in their midst.

April plans to control her competitors through a neighbourhood association. Only Gurpreet Kaur, who owns Monty Beauty Spa (Beauty From Within, Fourth Wax Free), dares protest. When her client Tara Chopra goes up against April's, television star Candy Kang, in the Grand Glam Singapore Beauty contest, the pageant becomes a battlefield for Bishan.

3. FICTION

THE IMPERMANENCE OF LILIES

By Daniel Yeo

Ethos Books/ Paperback/ 264 pages/ $18.60 before GST/Books Kinokuniya, selected Times bookstores, Grassroots Book Room and www.ethosbooks. com.sg

In this strange, freewheeling novel of poetic prose, the captain of the Titanic goes down with his ship on April 15, 1912, but nevertheless, continues to wander the world in his afterlife.

In Japan, his path becomes entwined with that of a painter who speaks only through her pictures.

4. FICTION

EXILE OR PURSUIT

By Chia Joo Ming, translated by Sim Wai Chew

Balestier Press/ Paperback/ 306 pages/ $26 before GST/ City Book Room, Books Kinokuniya, BooksActually, Grassroots Book Room and www.balestier.com from Dec 15

Chia, who recently won the S.E.A. Write Award, received a commendation at the 2016 Singapore Literature Prize for this coming-of-age Chinese novel, now translated into English.

Hok Leong, a hawker's son, cannot envision a future beyond roaming the streets with his rough-and-tumble gang of boys – until he is assigned to be the Chinese tutor for the new girl in class, who has just moved to Singapore from Indonesia.

5. FICTION

THE LAST SERVER

By H.J. Pang

Marshall Cavendish/ Paperback/ 223 pages/ $19.99/Major bookstores

In a post-apocalyptic Singapore devastated by a geomagnetic storm, Greg Lin travels along the ravaged lines of the MRT in search of his missing son. Along the way, he joins forces with a computer-worshipping cult and the remnants of the Singapore Armed Forces to storm a triad-controlled server in Marina Bay.

6. FICTION

BEST NEW SINGAPOREAN SHORT STORIES VOLUME FOUR

Edited by Pooja Nansi and Jason Erik Lundberg

Epigram Books/ Paperback/234 pages/$26.64/ Major bookstores

Singapore Writers Festival director Nansi guest-edits the fourth volume of this series, which collects the best stories published here in 2017 and last year.

These range from Jennani Durai's Regrettable Things, about a reporter forced to interview a former schoolmate whose father has murdered her mother, to Inez Tan's Edison And Curie, in which a pair of twins deal with pressure at an elite junior college, with disastrous results.

7. FICTION

THE NEW SINGAPORE HORROR COLLECTION

By S.J. Huang

Marshall Cavendish/ Paperback/ 216 pages/ $19.99/Major bookstores

This debut collRead More – Source

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