Monday, February 24, 2014

Singapore Siu Dai by Felix Cheong

This is such an AWESOME read! I bought this book yesterday just before the author did a reading at Toast Box. I arrived at the branch in Esplanade Mall, expecting to find someone selling it, but I was too early. However, I caught sight of a giant Toast Box poster saying that if I spent $11.80 at that outlet, I'd get a complimentary copy! 

Excited, I asked the cashier just to double check that that was for real. Unfortunately, he had not been briefed, and neither had his other colleagues. Fortunately, the agent or representative from the publisher was there to clear things up. The deal was on. 

There was only one problem, there was nothing that cost $11.80 or even close to that at Toast Box. Having just had lunch, I only wanted a cup of iced tea, which costs only $2. I was $9.80 short. But being the enterprising Singaporean that I am, I asked the guy next in line if we could combine receipts. He agreed, rather amused. I decided to order a set of Nasi Lemak + Iced Barley that cost $6 to make up for the difference. What a great deal! A book, a meal and a reading all for the price of $6! I ended up taking away the rice. 

Now enough about me, on to the book. 

As I sat down to read it, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that each short story really lived up to its name. They were all a page or two in length, the longest was probably three pages. When I later chatted with the author, he explained that he wanted it to be an easy read where the average commuter could finish it on the commute either on the bus or train. Brilliant idea that. 

I went through it pretty quickly before the reading began, covering about a third of the book in that time. I quickly found my favorite story. It was the one titled " A Day at Toast Box" and I'll take a chance to post the excerpt here, hoping the author wouldn't mind. 

Of course, you have to be Singaporean, or at least someone familiar with the coffee shop lingo to appreciate this piece. It is ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS! I loved it and so did all my friends whom I shared this with over Whatsapp and Facebook. (Whoops, hope I didn't infringe on any copyright laws there.)

I enjoyed the pieces on the schoolboy named Rex with his kiasu parents, the series on SDU, Singapore's official matchmaking agency and Captain Obvious too. They all brought a smile to my face. 

I must add however, that the book does not lend itself to book readings very kindly. I found that the puns were all funnier on paper than during the reading. During the reading at Esplanade's Toast Box yesterday, I was the only one laughing when they finished telling the stories, probably because I was the only customer that had a copy of the book and could understand the humour behind it. But that is probably just me. You tell me.

All in all, I think the tie up with Toast Box is a pretty clever idea. Better book readings at easily accessible locations like kopitiams than at places like Books Actually (a place I've wanted to visit for the longest time but have never found time to.) 

The book ends on a slightly darker note and made me ponder on the cost of the rapid development in this little island of ours. I loved the part where Gini was an adviser to the Prime Minister. I must say the Felix did a pretty good job at ending on a sombre note to balance things out a little. It helps the average citizen reflect on how healthy progress is for the nation. 

All in all, this is a BRILLIANT book. I would recommend all Singaporeans to grab a copy today. For $13.90, it gives you more entertainment than the latest blockbuster in theaters and you can even share it with your friends and laugh over the jokes together. I did. At on the very same day, I met at least 5 other people and showed them "A Day at Toast Box" which had all of them in stitches. That was excluding those I shared with on social media. Haha. The power of technology these days. 

I truly enjoyed the book, thank you Felix, we definitely needed this. I eagerly await the arrival of "Singapore Ka Dai"!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This marks a breakthrough for me. Third ebook I read using my iPhone. Though I must say that I read half of it using a kobo mini my friend lent me - that speeded up the process quite a bit and I'm thankful for it. 

My dear friend Theresa, who is an author herself, recommended the book to me late last year. After downloading the kobo app recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was available for free and eagerly downloaded it. 

Oscar Wilde does not disappoint. This is one remarkably witty book full of paradoxical, thought provoking statements. I loved it! It really made me ponder on the assumptions we take for granted even in this day and age. 

Well, the story opens with two friend, Lord Henry and his painter friend Basil who were discussing one of the latter's muse, Dorian Gray. A chapter later, we meet the protagonist whom the book is named after and realizes that he is a beauty unlike any other. Basil paints a portrait of Dorian as Lord Henry entertains Dorian by going on in a fascinating monologue. And to cut the long story short, after a vigorous argument of sorts, Dorian wishes that he would never grow old and that the painting would. The story then revolves mainly around him. He gets his wish granted with terrible consequences. 

The book makes for good reading and moves on at a sprightly pace except for one chapter in the middle that I felt was rather long winded. I suppose there must have been some hidden meaning that was lost to me but will probably be also lost to the average reader as well. Nonetheless, the rest of the book more than makes up for this minor flaw. 

I loved the ending too! Very apt!

Everyone should read this gem!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dissident Voices by Clement Mesenas

I saw a review on this book on The Straits Times last week and when I saw David Marshall's name on it, I knew I had to get it (I'm working on a book about Singapore's forefathers). So I bought it just before lunch at Clementi Mall's Popular Bookstore. 

The chapter on David Marshall was devoured fairly quickly. There wasn't much that was new to me, having read both his biographies by Chan Heng Chee and Kevin Tan. But I suppose it was a rather good summary of his life for someone who's reading about him for the very first time. 

I then continued with the chapter on Catherine Lim, followed by Lim Chin Siong, Ong Eng Guan because I was more familiar with their names and was interested to find out more. I was not disappointed. It was a pretty good read. However, I'd noted by now that the author admires all these figures rather ardently which made me wonder how unbiased it was. But hey, with a title like that, what was I suppose to expect?

The book was then read in the proper order, and I skipped the chapters I'd already read of the four above mentioned personalities. It was an eye-opener. So much of Operation Coldstore and Operation Spectrum executed by the Government has been lost to textbook history until now. For all censorship and eye for detail the ISA (Internal Security Act) that I discovered in the process of reading, I was surprised this book even got published. And I'm pretty impressed too. 

Turns out that most of the dissidents have been jailed for their words or deeds by ISA. If they haven't been, they've been threatened. Brave souls these people are. What's most inspiring is the lack of hatred and animosity some of them possess even after such trial. Wow.

This is an excellent read for every Singaporean as an introduction to 10 Singapore's dissident voices. Their stories can be quite heart-rending. 

Unfortunately, as is the case with such books, the author seems intent to point out all the faults of the People's Action Party (PAP) and neglects to mention all the good work done. I thought it might be good to round up the book evaluating the pros and cons of the ISA but the author nudges the reader to form his own conclusions that the ISA should be done away with after all the hurt and heartbreak it has caused. 

Still, I'd recommend this book to anyone, just note that it is slightly biased. Then again, who isn't?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ by Various Authors

I was reading a blog post by someone who linked to this free ebook which you can get if you click here.

With such an intriguing title, I could not help but dive straight into it. Now, for those who know me, I'm not a big fan of ebooks, perhaps because I don't own a Kindle, but possibly because I like the heft of a good book and the joy of turning the pages. Yet, this is the second complete ebook on my iPhone I've finished after Rachel Held Evans' 'A Year of Biblical Womanhood'. 

Well, this is a collection of essays written by various ones, and as such, it's a book of uneven quality. I shall gush about the titles I like and rant about those I disagree with to be fair, so bear with me. 

John Piper starts by declaring two main points: that sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully and that knowing God in Christ more fully is a means to guarding and guiding our sexuality. It was pretty deep. 

The chapters I loved were Chapter 6: Sex and the Single Man and Chapter 8: Sex and the Single Woman. I suppose this is so because of the relevance to me. These are wonderfully written chapters that instructs single people how to live most fully for God. 

Marriage is not the ultimate aim, Carolyn McCulley, author of the latter chapter advised - the glory of God is. The chapter for men said that one should not do to a single woman what he would not do to a married woman. Brilliant advice I reckon. The chapter was written by four different men who provided different and Christ-like perspectives on what sex meant to the single man. 

On a different note, the chapter that I had issues with was Chapter 5: Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church. 

I disagree not with the fact that homosexual marriage is indeed a challenge to the church and that the conversation should be filled with love instead of judgement. It was this line that caused revulsion to rise within me: "There can be no question that the Bible comprehensively and candidly identified homosexual acts - and even homosexual desire - as sin." 

How can desire be a sin? It is but a temptation isn't it? Isn't it stated in Hebrews 4:5 that "we do not have a High Priest who cannot symphatize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin". If Jesus was sinless and even He was tempted, how can the authors categorically state that desire is a sin? 

Can you imagine how someone who experiences same-sex attraction must feels when he or she reads this? 

Rant aside, I think that if you skip this chapter, the rest of the book is pretty good and provides a sound argument for Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

the Rabbit & the Elephant by Tony & Felicity Dale, George Barna

I was browsing online on Amazon when I chanced upon this title. Now I'd heard much about George Barna and was intrigued when I read the synopsis of this book on the website. That, the many good reviews, and the fact that I was keen to know how to enable church growth made me plonk down my money on Book Depository for it. 

I finally received it a couple of days ago after a reasonable wait and had already forgotten why I bought the book in the first place. But the lovely Chinese New Year holiday break meant that I could finish this lovely gem in two days. It's quite an eye-opener I must say. 

The analogy given by the authors forms the basis of this book. If you put a male and a female elephant in a room, feed them well, after 3 years, you might expect to get a baby elephant. However, put a pair of rabbits in that same room, in that same amount of time, you'd expect millions of rabbits to come hopping out! Similarly, megachurches are hard to replicate but small, they call it 'simple' churches can multiply rapidly. 

Coming from a megachurch myself, that was rather worrying. But hey, I wanted to find out how to bring Christ into the whole world, so let's leave no stone unturned shall we? 

Initially, I thought these simple churches were akin to a cell group. But they are much, much more than that. Cell groups often tend to be a replica of the main service, having a praise and worship segment in the beginning, followed by preaching and ending of with a time of giving. 

These simple churches on the other hand, can be as basic as a couple of friends coming together for a meal and sharing Christ. Or a couple of housewives having a discussion on Jesus and how they've been hurt by the church. Or a bunch of pre-believing businessmen studying a book written by the wisest man, the book of Proverbs, with the authors. Turning church on its head. 

The book teaches one how to start a simple church and provides many helpful tips to boot. I loved the chapters titled 'The Master's Voice and 'Luke 10 Principles' which talk about hearing from God and praying for workers for the harvest respectively. 

After reading this book, I feel so inspired to start a simple church on my own. But after some prayer, I realized now is not yet the time. However, if you have already felt led to do so, this book will prove to be an invaluable resource to you. 

I pray that every Christian hungry to see the Kingdom of God come would get a copy of this book to know how to better reach out to others. Even if one doesn't start a house church at the end of it, the lessons learnt can be translated into other aspects of our lives as well. For example, I am now better equipped to share my testimony of how God's changed me to my colleagues at work and to my friends and family as well.