Books aren’t just for a party of one. Here’s a list of good reads to have in your arsenal for perfect small talk fodder and conversation starters.
the girl on the train
by Paula Hawkins
Overview: Rachel Watson, a divorcee, despite tormented by her broken marriage and alcholism, continues her daily routine of riding the train that passes by her old house she used to live in with her ex-husband. Everyday, the train will also pass by a couple’s house whose marriage she envies and wishes she has. She would draw from her imagination about how perfect the couple’s lives must be. However, all of her ideals fall apart when she witnessed something fearful happening at the couple’s house from the train window one day.
Eleanor & park
by Rainbow Rowell
Overview: Eleanor is always bullied in school and was not spared even at home. Park is considered one of the popular kids in school and has a loving family. They are different in all senses, fom their backgrounds to their personalities. However, through comic books and ’80s music, Eleanor and Park made a connection, through which they endeavoured to make the most out of the proverbial ‘first love’ in a world where it almost never lasts.
pride & prejudice
by Jane Austen
Overview: Set in 19th century England where women are taught to be graceful, respectful and docile – especially those who wish to fit in with the aristocrats. However, tenacious Elizabeth Bennet prefers to follow her own set of independent opinions. This historic romance will follow young Elizabeth as she manoeuvres her way through the complex world of impeccable manners, decorum, societal status and true love in Old England.
by Julie Anne Peters
Overview: Regan is a regular 16 year old girl who’s kinda socially awkward and has a typical crush on a boy in her chemistry class. She has an older brother, Liam, a popular senior who’s got the girls at school swooning. However when night comes, he becomes Luna, Regan’s sister. As Luna becomes more absorbed into the idea of being identified as her true-self, she confides in Regan — the only one who knows her secret— the desire to be Luna, both day and night. This novel follows the siblings’ journey through learning how to stay true to oneself when faced with conventional societal expectations and self-acceptance even through their loved ones’ uncertain reactions.
by J.K Rowling
Overview: He is The Boy Who Lived. Since birth, Harry Potter’s fate is intricately intertwined with the most evil wizard to roam the world, Lord Voldemort. With the help of his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, and trained under the wings of the finest Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, Harry faces the greatest confrontation ever — the battle of the century against his innate nemesis — where only one can live.
tuesdays with morrie
by Mitch Albom
Overview: The novel follows a young man, Mitch Albom, who starts to realise that he is so caught up with his life that that he is becoming blinded to the more important things in life. When he managed to reconnect with his college professor, Morrie Schwartz, in the man’s final months, he decided to rekindle an old routine from college with the latter — visiting Morrie in his study every Tuesday. They are going to commence their final ‘class’: lessons on how to live.
by Haruki Murakami
Overview: Set in Tokyo 1984, this dystopian novel comprises of several characters that becomes connected in the most inexplicable way, starting with a young woman named Aomame who heeded the enigmatic advice of a taxi driver before finding herself in an alternate reality which she calls 1Q84. At the same time, Tengo, an aspiring writer suddenly finds himself also existing in the same parallel world. As these two characters’ narratives converge, a fantasy unfolds, binding each individual together as they embark on a journey of self-discovery.
by Paulo Coelho
Overview: Believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, an Andalusian shepherd boy consulted a gypsy woman who asked him to travel to Egypt in search of the treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he met many people, all of whom point Santiago to the direction of his quest and what started out as an innocent treasure hunt turns out to be a trail to discovering the pricelessness within dreams.
Extremely loud & incredibly close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Overview: After his father is tragically killed in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Oskar Schell discovers an unknown key in his father’s closet. Intrigued by the idea that whatever the key opens could be something purposeful his father left behind, the nine year old embarks on a peculiar treasure hunt, meeting unique strangers and picking up valuable lessons along the way.
What are some of your favourite reads? Share ’em with us in the comment section!
Does visiting exotic countries, meeting interesting people and making money while travelling sound like the perfect job for you? Well, the dream has come true for Singapore Polytechnic Diploma in Nautical Studies (DNS) student, Amelia Sue Pickering.
Harbouring ambitions of an adventurous career that would allow her to travel and see the world, she was eager to pursue her diploma studies at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) because she figured there would be more job opportunities readily available upon graduation. Looking to her father, a veteran in the Maritime industry, for inspiration and advice on her nautical pursuits, as well as scoring several medals at various canoeing championships as part of SP Canoe Sprint – it’s safe to say that the life of a seafarer comes easily to Amelia.
With her parents’ support and tuition fees sponsored by PSA Marine, it was full speed ahead for Amelia’s career in the high seas. Between February 2015 to April 2016, she set sail on a year-long internship with shipping firm, APL, which saw her working as a crew mate and learning the ins and outs of running a ship. But the best part was getting to travel the world – from Los Angeles and Seattle in America to Barcelona and Valencia in Spain; Genova in Italy to Fos-sur-Mer in France; and parts of the Middle East and China – Amelia’s definitely turning out to be quite the globetrotter.
But this aspiring mariner also earned her keep. Her daily duties aboard the ship included navigational watch four hours in the day and four hours at night, checking the temperatures of reefer containers, measuring water levels in tanks and bilges, and recording every little detail into logbooks. In between her duties, she also helped out with various other jobs such as deck work, cargo watches, and mooring operations.
And while life on board a cargo ship may seem tough to most girls, Amelia’s biggest challenge was actually learning to get comfortable with her crew mates. “On my first ship, APL Barcelona, it felt kind of strange to just be suddenly living with a group of strangers. But I did manage to adapt pretty quickly. My second ship, APL Miami, was much easier on me,” she shares.
Describing it as the major highlight of her time in SP, Amelia is grateful for the opportunities that helped her to flourish from a shy secondary school girl to the confident young woman she is today. During her fulfilling three years in SP, she has made many close friends and received support from encouraging lecturers, including SMA lecturer Mr Peter Lee, who put in the effort to make sure his students understand his lessons. In parting words of advice to all aspiring lady mariners out there, Amelia mentions: “Don’t worry too much about what the crew thinks of you. Just do what you’re supposed to do, work hard, and it’ll all be fine.”
Bent on conquering the local scene and spreading SG pride overseas, STARREseconds has come a long way since their Teenage K-pop Dance Battle Days. But pursuing dance in Singapore is not without its challenges, as this four-piece outfit has found out.
We first met STARREseconds when the group signed up for Teenage K-pop Dance Battle back in 2010. Wowing everyone with their powerful moves and charisma, this talented dance crew won the position of 2nd runner up. In the 7 years since, STARREseconds has made waves in the local dance industry, and brought their name to the global stage through international competitions and performances. And they’ve gone from competitors to guest performers whom aspiring dancers look up to! Ahead, we speak to STARREseconds, who share their thoughts on carving a name for themselves in Singapore, memorable experiences thus far and STARREseconds’ future.
How did the formation of STARREseconds come about?
Akif: We were all friends who shared a common love for K-pop. We got together to dance and make covers and Arina joined us soon after! Soon, we were participating in competitions and K-pop related events. We named ourselves STARREseconds (pronounced as Star Seconds) as we always head up onstage thinking: “You only have seconds to prove your worth. So make every second count and shine like a star.”
Has it always been a lifelong dream to be a dancer?
Sharil: Yes! What started as a hobby slowly evolved into a lifelong ambition. At first, we were unsure if we were good enough. However, we became more confident with our [dance] skills when we started winning competitions and gaining recognition from there.
How did your family and friends react when you guys told them you were going to be a dancer?
Akif: They have always been supportive since day 1. It was [initially] always viewed as a hobby, but through the years they’ve seen how much dance means to us and they take our passion seriously now. I dare say that they are proud of our achievements!
Hakheem: Our friends and family have always stepped up to the plate when we required them to. Through the years, they’ve been our videographer, photographer, makeup artist and more. We’re blessed to have them.
What has been the proudest achievement of your career thus far?
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Arina: Winning the opportunity to represent Singapore in a global competition in Korea, and clinching the 2nd place amongst 12 countries.
Sharil: No one seemed to know about Singapore, and we were glad to give recognition to our country.
How has the local dance scene changed from when you first started out?
Sharil: When you compare the local dance scene now versus back then, you can see a striking difference in the dancer’s attitude towards quality and execution of their performances. We can often see local groups putting up professional quality dance covers on YouTube.
Arina: It’s more competitive now and the local dance scene is taken more seriously by both dancers and industry partners alike.
You have had a couple of performances in Korea. How did STARREseconds get selected for these shows and what were some of your highlights from those experiences?
Hakheem: We participated in a dance competition hosted by the Korean Embassy, where the winners were given the opportunity to represent Singapore in another round competing with 12 other countries.
Arina: It was our first time in Korea, so being able to experience the Korean culture in real life and through a screen (like on YouTube or on TV) was unbelievable.
Akif: Visiting the entertainment companies where our favourite artists were, was the highlight for me. So close yet so far!
Having performed in both Korea and Singapore, what are some of the differences between the two groups of fans?
Hakheem: As no one really knew much about Singapore, we didn’t receive much encouragement when we first stepped onstage. However as we started getting into our routine, you could see the fans cheering hard. It shows how honest the Korean fans are – if they love [your performance], they will show it!
Sharil: Compared to Singapore, fans usually start cheering the moment they hear their favourite hits regardless of where it’s held, who’s performing or what’s happening onstage. They are like, “It’s my favourite song and I am going to rock out to it!
What are some misconceptions about the dance industry that you’d like to set straight?
Akif: A popular misconception many have, is that it’s not recognised as a proper career option.
Who’s in charge of the choreography?
Hakheem: Our choreography is handled by Akif, our leader. He is constantly pushing us further – instead of matching the steps to our dance ability, he makes us practice and train to deliver the routine he wants.
Is there a reason why you chose the K-pop dance style over the others?
Arina: K-pop was what started it all. It was the reason why we came together as a group. As we grew older, we did go into different forms of dance and joined other crews competing in other genres. However as STARREseconds, we will always stay true to our K-pop roots.
What are some of the challenges you have faced so far, and how did you overcome them?
Hakheem: When we are engaged for performances, many forget that even a 3 to 5 minute performance requires studio rental, costumes, makeup, hours of practice and time for choreography. And when the performance fee is split amongst the members, you’d realise that many dancers are underpaid. But for the clients, they seem to be paying too much for a ‘mere’ 3 to 5 minutes performance.
Arina: I believe another issue that most dancers currently have (us including), is having proper space to practice our routines. Before being able to practice with mirrors at our manager’s office, we were limited to practicing in Akif’s living room!
What are some of your favorite performances so far?
Sharil: Other than our performance in Korea, one of our most memorable shows was a collaboration that we did with native Korean Taekwondo masters. It was fun preparing and performing a Taekwondo/Kpop performance.
Hakheem: We also love guest performing at dance events, like the Kpop All In (KAI) and of course, Teenage Dance Challenge. It’s very different performing in front of an audience filled with dancers and K-pop lovers. Since they know and enjoy K-pop, the crowd is able to realise and appreciate the subtle but unique changes we insert into our choreography. The audience reactions get us really pumped up onstage!
What can a dancer with no competitive experience expect upon signing up for a dance competition? What are some things to look out for?
Arina: Any dance competition usually starts off with an online registration followed by either a closed door or public audition – after which comes the finals. Whether you are performing to a panel of 3 judges in a closed door audition or in front of a crowd of hundreds, always perform your best and be mindful of your stage presence.
Akif: Do read up on all the rules and requirements! You don’t want to arrive for the auditions only to be disqualified. If you have questions, no matter how unimportant it may seem, do clarify with the organisers prior to the event. Pay extra attention to the judging criteria to see how your performance will be judged. Most importantly, focus on yourself and your crew, regardless of who your competitor may be and/or the order of your lineup. Work the stage to make it work for you!
What’s a piece of advice that has stuck with you throughout the years?
Hakheem: Truth be told, we have gotten numerous feedback – both negative and positive – through the years. There are two quotes in particular, one by a fan and the other by a close friend. “Be so good, that they never forget”, and “Forget what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you”.
Do you have any tips for budding dancers who are trying to get their name out in the industry?
Arina: We are friends first, and competitors second. The dance scene is prominent but relatively small in Singapore. After our close friends and family, our fellow competitors were our first fans – we are fans of them as well.
Sharil: We are active on social media and we always try our best to find time after events to meet and thank fans who came down to support us.
What are some of your most memorable fan encounters?
Arina: We are so blessed to have amazing fans! They come surprising us with gifts, food and drinks. We are so thankful to have their support.
What are some of your best memories from Teenage Dance Challenge?
Akif: Getting to perform as a guest was one of our biggest honours. From competing to being a guest performer was a major accomplishment to us.
How did your participation in Teenage Dance Challenge help to take your career to the next level?
Akif: Our relationship with TDC has changed from being a competitor to now performing and even participating as a judge. This step up has been an amazing journey and has definitely elevated our members into role models for budding dancers. We are truly humbled by this, and we still have much to learn.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give to the new wave of Teenage Dance Challenge contestants?
Sharil: Just have fun and do your very best. Own the stage!
What’s next in the pipeline for STARREseconds?
Akif: As a group, we hope to participate in more overseas events and to represent Singapore. We also hope to be more recognised locally and to gain the support of companies to assist us in branching out further.
Are you an aspiring dancer? It’s time to step up like STARREseconds and slay the stage. Sign up now for the upcoming Teenage Dance Challenge and show the world what you’re made of!
Read this silently and just keep it to yourself, because it’s okay, no one has to know. *Though we all do it anyway*
1. Not hearing someone even when he has repeated himself for the third time and you just laugh, hoping it’s the right response you’re supposed to give.
2. Run a background check on someone you’re gonna meet through social media, but pretend you know nothing about them when you actually hang out with them IRL
3. Turn down the volume on your headphones to eavesdrop on convos
4. Recycle the outfit you wore yesterday because you know you won’t be seeing the same people
5. Make up plans to get out of other plans, when your only plan is to stay home and binge-watch Netflix/K-dramas
6. Telling your parents that it’s a school camp/activity when it’s actually a friend’s birthday/chalet
7. Purposely ignore a text for days, and then genuinely forget about it. And light years later, you reply, “Hey sorry didn’t see this!”
8. Saying, “Yay weekends! Gonna go cafe-hopping!” when all you’re thinking is “YAS no human interaction till Monday”
9. Listening to rap songs and pretending that you can rap by moving your lips rapidly when you don’t even know half the lyrics. (While being extra conscious to not say the gibberish out loud, of course)
10. Spamming selfies on Snapchat/IG stories to show how cute and fun your life is, and checking in every hour to see if your crush has viewed your snap stories. *And feeling a little too gleeful if he/she has.*
Which ones are you guilty of, and which ones have we missed out? If you’re brave enough to admit it, share it with us in the comments section!
When you’re tugging at your hair in agitation, overwhelmed with your workload or simply by the trials and tribulations of life, don’t even entertain the thought of giving in to the stress. We’ve got your back with these 6 stress-busters that will guarantee to help you win at life.
Nothing beats the sheer joy of the cathartic ‘pop’ sound you hear when pressing these stress-relieving bumps. Although perhaps not for those with trypophobia (fear of small holes/dots), the classic method of bubble wrap has been tried and tested to be a surefire way to quell your worries. Now can someone tell us where to get this mind-blowing phone case above?!
2017’s answer to the kendama has taken the world’s hands by storm, one spin at a time. But at least this year’s ‘millennial toy’ has some upsides as compared to its predecessor – studies show that the fidget spinner helps usually-distracted individuals shift focus on a single task and alleviate stress. And with designs spanning Batman’s logo to Harry Potter’s Golden Snitch available out there, dare we say that the fad is actually, pretty cool too?
We totally understand if unjust world affairs infuriate you so much so that you feel the need to word-vomit your thoughts on social media. For such triggering moments encompassing any topic at all, vent them out in a much healthier way at Pixel Thoughts. An online platform where you can type out anything that’s bothering you in a virtual star, watch it fade away into the online galaxy along with your pressing thoughts. As Coldplay once imparted in us, “lights will guide you home”.
Shake It Off
Part of having negative thoughts swarm your mind is staying too long in one setting. The next time you’re restless – pick yourself up literally, put your favourite song on blast, and just boogie it down. Dancing away your worries is quite possibly the funnest way to do so too, and it doesn’t matter if you have the moves of Beyoncé or the gracefulness of an ice-skating cow, since nobody’s watching!
Take A Nice Shower
In efforts to destress yourself, why not step under a cooling shower to wash those worries away? Those rub-a-dub-dub massage motions on your body and scalp should naturally soothe you down and make you feel relaxed in the best way. And hey, with our country’s never-ceasing humidity, there’s no such thing as showering too often either. Keep calm and scrub away!
Catch Up On Memes
From #SaltBae to the dancing Snapchat hotdog, trust the Internet to inject us with a dose of laughter anytime. Following meme accounts on Twitter, or having a quick scroll on your Facebook feed to see re-shared posts via your friends, will have you giggling to yourself unknowingly and before you know it, you won’t even remember what you were dwelling on in the first place!
What’s your stress-busting tip? Share with us in the comments below!