Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Immortal Nightingale by Don Bosco

This book is the first in the Sherlock Hong Adventures series and it certainly lives up to its name. 

The plot revolves around Sherlock Hong, a intrepid 15-year-old boy living in Singapore in the year 1891. He belongs to the International Order of Young Seekers and is longing to be promoted to the Higher Rank of the Order. To do so, he must solve a mystery of some sort, but information regarding the Order mostly kept under wraps and I expect more detail to be provided in the rest of the series. 

In this first book, Sherlock delves into a case involving a supposed "immortal nightingale" that has suddenly died. He engages the help of his neighbour Aisha and tries to conduct his investigations away from the scrutiny of his mother. He soon gets knee-deep in danger and might have got seriously hurt but is unexpectedly saved by a mystery ninja who disappears as soon as he/she arrived. 

Three things I really enjoyed about The Immortal Nightingale:

1) I liked the fact that it was set in this country and the locations featured can still be found in present day Singapore. 

2) In addition, characters from the minority races have a prominent role to play in the story. Aisha is Sherlock's good friend and trusty assistant and Priya is his intelligent tutor. 

3) It's fast paced and exciting with short chapters guaranteed to hold the attention of anyone, young or old. 

I guess the only thing I didn't quite get were what "banana pancakes" were. They were offered by Aisha to Sherlock somewhere in the middle of the book but I don't remember ever eating them growing up in Singapore. Anyone can enlighten me on that?

I would recommend this book to parents of 7 - 11 year olds. They can read it independently or it can be read to them as bedtime stories. I'm sure they'll soon be dreaming about chasing down bad guys and seeking after the truth. 

You can get a copy at Kinokuniya, or order it online from the Marshall Cavendish website. For my international readers, you can order it from Book Depository or Amazon

Reviews on Books #2, #3, and #4 will be up in the coming weeks so look out for those!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Can Singapore Survive? by Kishore Mahbubani

I picked up this book at Kinokuniya when my paycheque came in because that’s what I usually do. I was actually looking for Chee Soon Juan’s Democratically Speaking which was sold out, and this title caught my eye.

It is an interesting and refreshing read but is somewhat repetitive after a while.

This is a collection of essays and speeches Mahbubani’s written over the course of a decade which have been previously been published, mainly in The Straits Times and in a handful of other newspapers throughout the world.

I liked the fresh ideas Mahbubani proposed for Singapore. These include an innovative ban on cars - to maximise usage of public transportation and a national, bottom up effort to learn Bahasa Melayu.

In addition, I appreciated the fact that he took time to sketch a brief picture of our late leaders that he had worked with, namely Goh Keng Swee and Rajaratnam. I would love to hear more about them from him first-hand, if I ever get the chance to.

It was good to learn that multi-ethnic and multi-religious Singapore stands out as an anomaly to the norm of ex-colonies of Britain who have not seen much harmony over the past decades. But when our stellar reputation compared to Sri Lanka, Fiji, Cyprus or Guyana is pointed out more than five times in as many essays, it can get a bit trying to read, as well-intentioned as it may be.

It took me some time to read at a moderate 270 pages because I got tired of all the repetition and had to put it aside after each reading.

This is a fascinating book written by one of the top minds in Singapore and would have been more compelling with tighter editing. Nonetheless, it would be good for all to take a look and learn from him. You can get this book at Kinokuniya like I did. Enjoy.