The Scorch Trials

Ever since reading The Maze Runner, which was just a masterpiece, I could not wait to get my hands on James Dashner’s dystopia sequel, “The Scorch Trials”. When I finally got it from my school library, I wasn’t disappointed. Just like its predecessor, this book is another page turner which of course left me in awe and ready for the next one. Anyways, let’s get started.

After finally escaping the Maze, Thomas and his fellow Gladers thought it was all over. No more problems to solve, no more challenges, no more lethal tests. They were wrong. The Maze was just the beginning.

WICKED, (World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department) a group of scientists and governments are the ones who spearheaded the experiments in order to not only test how their subjects react to the multiple experiments they conduct, but to possibly create a new era of superhumans.

As Thomas continues regaining memories off his past life before joining the chaos of the Maze, he and his friends now face phase 2 of WICKED’s tests, The Scorch Trials.

After finally being rescued by a group of anonymous people, the group go back into chaos as not only is The Scorch Trials harder than it sounds, there is a time limit in which the group have to reach a certain checkpoint since they have caught a disease called the Flare, which would cause them to become Cranks, a maniac that has no utter sense of compassion and has a love for blood, which technically makes them zombies.

A man in a white suit, who is called Rat Man releases them back into a destroyed and scorching hot world where the Gladers face deadly storms, another Group of survivors that has orders to kill Thomas and outrageous, psychopathic Cranks.

Would Thomas and his friends go through the horrors of the Scorch? Well, you have to read the book.

Name: The Scorch Trials
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Chicken House
Age Group: 10-15

Advertisements

The Last Battle

Here comes another good book review, this time about the final instalment of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. A few months ago, I also read the first and most popular book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

As always, I wasn’t disappointed and the book was certainly above expectations. What a great way to end a lovable series!

We start off in the far west of Narnia, in a forest where an Ape, called Shift and a donkey, called Puzzle, live. At that point in time, the World of Narnia was at peace and all three creatures were living happily in this enchanted place.

However, as you know, things don’t always stay the same…

When the duo finds a piece of Lion Skin which was left unattended in a river near a waterfall, the Ape, also considered the ‘Smart’ one, asks Puzzle to get it and examine it.

After retrieving the piece of skin which was left by a hunter who killed a lion previously, Shift decides to make a coat for Puzzle, who disagrees with his idea since it is insulting Aslan, the righteous ruler of Narnia. However, Shift, acting like a smart-alec, explains to Puzzle that wearing the coat would make Narnia bow to them, also suggesting that the fact the skin was given to them was an act by the real Aslan.

Back in the main city of Narnia, the current king, King Tirian, is having a peaceful rule over the city. However, one fine evening while chatting with his best friend, Jewel, a centaur, named Roonwit, explains that Narnia is in grave danger, based on what the future holds from the stars.

Soon enough, chaos strikes in the world of Narnia as Puzzle, the fake Aslan is presented in Calormene, where the beasts celebrate for his return. However, its not the fake Aslan who is running the show, it is the Ape, Shift!

Will King Tirian stop the Calormenes, now their enemy and the deceitful Ape? Well you have to read this epic finale!

Name: The Last Battle
Author: C.S. Lewis
First Published: 1956 by The Bodley Head
Age Group: 7-12

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Today, I would be reviewing a fantastically written book by F. Scott Fitzgerald, titled “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. This book is a short story and is about the life of a strange man called Benjamin Button.

In the summer of 1860, the Button family, a family tending to be ahead of style, decided to deliver their first baby in the hospital, which wasn’t common at that period as babies were usually born at home.

Anyhow, after months of waiting anxiously, Mr Roger would finally get to see his new-born in the nursery room. However, he would be getting a surprise that would haunt him for the following months to come.

After a nervous yet exciting walk to the hospital, he bumped into the family physician, Doctor Keene, who rudely dismissed him into seeing the baby himself. Well, Mr Roger definitely was outraged when he first set sight on his boy.

At first, it all seemed to be a fictional dream, an old man being born, but now, Roger frantically knew that it was reality and could not believe what he saw. Inevitably, he accepted the fact about what his son would become as an old man forever, most likely.

Once the old man was dressed with some formal clothes that were weirdly the only ones that seemed to suit him, the life of Benjamin Button began.

Benjamin seemed to have the attitude of an old man, he hated formal clothes, wanted a cane and also had weird wants and needs. He obviously did not like the toys Mr Roger bought for hm. Nevertheless, he still knew his father was forced in order to keep face. So, he used them every now and then.

As his first years swept past him, Benjamin realised a phenomenon. He was getting younger and also was willing to wear long trousers, a practice old people don’t do. It soon dawned to them that Benjamin was living life in reverse.

What would happen to Benjamin as his unique life continues? Well, you got to read the book.

Overall, I found this book very funny and appreciative to read about as I sort of felt grateful that we are living life normally. Anyways, this book is no doubt a good read and you should try to get it soon.

Name: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published year: 1922
Age Group: 8-12

Tips for PSLE   

For those of you parents out there who live in Singapore, where I used to live for the past 12 years, and have a child attending Primary School, you might know something called PSLE. Yes, PSLE, or Primary School Leaving Examination is a series of examinations your child has to take that would determine his (or her) Secondary School. Since the competitions to get into good schools are fierce, many parents and students alike treat it very seriously.  

I know that the exam results might mean your child’s future just by what is printed in the sheet itself. It may be terrifying, and even I was a little nervous when getting the results all the way from New Zealand since my parents have expectations! Although we knew that we would be moving to NZ a long time before the actual exam dates, my parents still wanted me to prepare early and get good results. So, thanks to my hard work and perseverance, I got a sweet, sweet 255. (By the way, I was exempted from mother tongue, making it harder for students like me to get high 250s and 260s as we have no mother tongue!) I have to say that this report card is even scarier than classified FBI documents! 

So if you want your child to pass the exams with flying colours, here are a few useful tips. 

1. Start studying months before the actual exams take place. 

Since PSLE is a test usually about everything from P1 all the way to P6, I suggest that you should ask your child to start training for whatever PSLE is going to throw at him early, especially if he is struggling. Whether it is Science Concepts or Math Problems, you need to make him both smart and fast as some of the tests not only require brains, but also speed! The recommended time to start training your child’s brain is in the P5 December Holidays. That was when I started my brain refresher since that was my mom’s planned schedule! Even a struggling mind would eventually become fit thanks to months of practice! 

As the months go by, you would start to see weaknesses in your child’s work, enabling you to act against them early by focusing on them until they are fixed so that during his actual paper, he would have no problem answering questions he previously had no idea about! 

2. Give your child some play time. 

You know what they say, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Well, take it to heart. Of course, you don’t want to see your child suffering through sheets of exam papers! You should give him some play time at least once a day. You don’t want your child to feel sad while studying as that would reduce his morale to fight for good exam results. And indirectly, it might be your fault!

3. Reduce the use of Digital Gadgets. 

Well this might be a little hard, but still necessary! The digital age has given your child many new stuff to use, like the smartphone or a computer. Well, unlike playing downstairs with friends or exercising with family, these devices would usually have a bad effect on his concentration. Not only do they make him distracted, but they might affect his mood! 

So weeks before the PSLE period begins, I declined from playing computer games and reduced the use of my phone which in the end had a good effect throughout the exam period! Although your child might feel a sense of withdrawal, (I didn’t) he would eventually get over it.

4. Stop studying during the exam week itself! 

It won’t only make you stressed, but the fact that you don’t know an answer to a particular question would only reduce your morale! 

5. If you don’t know something, just ask!  

If your child has any burning question that are related to curriculum, make sure your child has no fear of just asking his teachers! I mean, what are the consequences of asking a question? Well, the worst that could happen is that your child happened to be not listening to the teacher, and the teacher would tell him the answer back and tell him to listen next time round, that’s all! 

Lastly, take it like a normal exam! 

Well, this is the most difficult to fulfil! By taking the exam as per normal, as if this is just another normal assessment, your child would have not be thinking about what his or her future might be after the exam and won’t be very scared of what would happen if he fails. You might think I’m nuts for this but by having that mindset, your child would be focusing more on getting the questions right as the fear for failing and going to a bad school had been suppressed.  

So there you have it, these are all my tips for making your child do well in the PSLE! ! 

 

 

 

 

 

Camping at Catchpool Valley

Rimutaka Forest Park offers a lot of things to do – from nature walks to picnicking, you could do a whole lot of activities that could keep you resplendent for a long time! For us though, we were looking forward to camp at their scenic campground, Catchpool Valley! Just a stone’s throw away from a stream and a lot of nature trails. We were sure excited for our 2nd camping adventure!

After a good breakfast, we packed up and departed in our Mazda for the campsite, which is close to an hour’s drive! We first stopped by at the small town of Petone which was along the way. We went to Rebel Sports, a sports store to get more cricket gear and also bought some ice-cream for the hot afternoon and water from a grocery store to keep us hydrated during our stay!

We arrived in the early afternoon at the campsite and found a good empty space to set up camp! We got to work after filling in our camping details about our stay which we would hand to the DOC (Department of Conservation) Ranger later that evening!

The assembly of our tent was pretty quick since we were getting used to a method to make the tent standing the fastest. That was our 3rd time to setup our tent! In approximately half an hour, our accommodation was up and strong! However, since it was a really windy afternoon, we were afraid that our tent could plunge back to the ground any moment. Despite our fear, our strong pegging and the product’s good quality, lent our tent no trouble… although one of the poles dislodged twice from its position! Anyway, we fixed that and had some well-earned ice-cream while keeping an eye on the tent!

The stream nearby had extremely cold water, I reckon even colder than the water at Battle Hill’s stream! It might have been because of the strong cold breeze, but nevertheless, I was happy that I could get myself wet under the scorching hot sun. Unfortunately, unlike Battle Hill, there were very few deep swimming holes and most of them were upstream. There was also no high ground to jump from into the water! In the end I still had a great time exploring the cold waters and sunbathing!

As the sun slowly descended towards the horizon, I decided to abandon the stream since the water was getting cold and decided to join a group of small kids who were playing cricket and had a whale of a time for the rest of the afternoon!

For our early dinner, we had pasta as I babbled on about my new friends and the activities I did for the day! After that, I did a few more balls with my new buddies before ending our game.

As nightfall came, we enjoyed a supper of chips and I also did crossword with my parents before giving our fees to the DOC ranger as we ended an extremely enjoyable day!

The next morning, we woke up at 7.15am ready for a good and easy nature walk. Although I had a good night sleep, my dad was scared of last night’s strong winds and did not doze of well. In spite of exhaustion, he was also kind of ready to get up and about.

Although we had a cloudy breakfast, the sun soon illuminated the campsite and that gave us the all ‘clear signal’ to go trekking! Before we went off, we first unpitched our tent under perilous windy conditions and did it without any mishaps, fortunately. Once all our equipment were packed in the car, we left it at the camping grounds and went to the Park’s entrance, where there were an abundance of routes to try out.

We chose to walk through the Nga Taonga trail which was 45 minutes. In the nature walk itself, you could hear choruses of cicadas and also see many species of native trees such as the unusually tall Miro tree! There’s also a lot of ferns and fungi too!

Once we were at the other end of the trail, we were a little exhausted but still had a great time exploring nature at its finest! With that, we took the link via the stream without getting wet back to the campsite!

Before we left once and for all, I bade farewell to my friends and departed with a smile! Once again, I had an extremely magnificent camping experience!

Lavender Picking in Carterton 

With the fine weekend weather, my parents and I decided to occupy ourselves with some lavender picking at the rural town of Carterton, just 16.2km South of the major town of Masterton. The lavender garden, called Lavender Abbey, is a couple of kilometres away from Carterton’s quiet town centre and houses a lot of lavenders that would really suit as air fresheners in your house. Since this was the last week for PYO Lavender programme, we decided to drop by to get some lavenders in the early afternoon after the usual church service.

At around 11.30am, we left Johnsonville, and rode along SH2 once again towards Greytown, dubbed ‘The Most Beautiful Small Town in NZ 2017.’ We were really enthusiastic to have our lunch there as the town has numerous restaurants that offer sumptuous cuisines from different parts of the world! The town is also pretty rustic and you could see several townhouses at the center that are now run as restaurants, antique stores or other businesses! Moreover, it is just a stone’s throw from Carterton, just 6km along the SH2! We arrived at the bustling town centre at around 12.45pm and ate at this townhouse restaurant called Swan Lake, which served Western and Seafood Meals. My parents ordered a salad and seafood chowder soup while I ordered a beef burger served with fries.

Since my parents were on diet, they did not eat the potatoes from the soup but we all enjoyed our food as I gobbled up my meal, ending up with a full belly! At around 2.00pm, we left the restaurant and headed forth for the Lavender Gardens themselves!

Since the distance was short, the drive was pretty quick although we nearly got lost due to GPS miscalculations and soon arrived at the garden! After getting all the scissors and rubber bands which would be used to harvest the flowers in bunches, my mom and I got to work at the scorching hot sun! (it was 30 degrees Celsius!!) Unfortunately, since the bees were pretty irritating to me as they came in the masses, my mom did most of the work. However, her solo streak paid off as we took home 2 big bunches of refreshing lavenders along with tons of pictures of us at the garden! The cost of each bunch was 5 bucks, which is very cheap compared to Singapore!

As we headed home with a good smell, we stopped by shop selling antiques before heading home sweaty for being under the sun for such a long time! It was worthwhile though!

 

Road Trip around Martinborough, Masterton and Castlepoint

With the Christmas holidays at its finest, everyone in Wellington is up and about leaving the windy city going both domestically and internationally! With my new family’s hometown, Johnsonville, also getting boring with people leaving by the masses quickly, we too decided to have a trip upstate towards the alluring sights at Castlepoint Lighthouse, approximately 163km from our house! Castlepoint is located at the eastern end of New Zealand’s North Island and around 60km from the major town of Masterton. It offers breath-taking views from the lighthouse itself and it really is worth the long drive just to get a good shot.

We departed from Johnsonville in our reliable Mazda at around 9am towards our lunch stop located in the iconic town of Martinborough. The town is known for being pretty rustic, with its old Victorian buildings around every street! It is one of the oldest European Settlements in New Zealand! Along the way, we also stopped at Kathmandu, a store specialising in hiking gear to look at some camping gear offered at tempting boxing day prices and also passed by a few music stores to look at piano deals since I’m really keen to get one soon. I really miss playing those tunes a lot!

The way to Martinborough from Johnsonville was via SH2, a highway that starts off as a 4-lane motorway that later merges into a windy single carriageway road as you drive through a breath-taking mountain range that had many lookout points to stop by at. The mountain range is located after Hutt Valley and is the only way to the rural town of Featherston! One of the major stopovers along that stretch of tarmac is the Rimutaka Hill Crossing that has a very mind-boggling view at its peak, just a 5 minute walk up the hill from the parking area! Moreover, there are also walking paths for hikers to try out that range from a short 1 hour to some tiring 4 hours! However, we weren’t geared to go for that sort of intensive walks and besides, shortage of time was also another factor!

As we moved on for Martinborough, we drove past more sights and sounds as cattle just grazed among the fields. Unfortunately, it seemed that the weather conditions were not in good shape as we started enduring light showers along the way to town! Moreover, when we arrived at Martinborough, we realised that the restaurant where we planned to have lunch was closed! Thankfully, there were other restaurants at bay and we still had a mouth-watering at the Village Café, located near the centre of Martinborough!

 

With our bellies full, we finally drove for Castlepoint itself, a town famous for its lighthouse, which is the tallest in New Zealand, standing at 52m! Since 1988, it has been an automated lighthouse. Its beam could be seen from 35km far at night! It was originally built in 1913 and was ran manually at that time!

We arrived at the vacation town after a quiet drive of about 60 plus km at around 3.45pm and were excited to have an up close and personal look at the building. 

From the nearest car park, it would be a 10min walk up to the lighthouse and another few steps up to the peak of the cliff on which the lighthouse is standing tall on! From the cliff, you could see the spectacular coast of New Zealand and could also see the far inlands at the same time! You should also try to spot marine wildlife in the sea as there are an abundant of them! Oh, and as it is very windy there, you could actually see the sand gliding along the beach!

After we had a great affair with the view, we left Castlepoint in a great note and with new memories!