Thursday, January 28, 2016

Balik Kampung 2A: People and Places edited by Verena Tay

After reading too much incomprehensible poetry, this delightful book of short stories set in different places in Singapore was a much needed breath of fresh air.

The brainchild of Verena Tay, this book is the second collection of stories under the same name, hence "Balik Kampung 2A" because everyone loves sequels. Comprising 11 short stories, it features award-winning writers together with literary unknowns. They are all equally brilliant though. It was an easy read and I finished it in two days while travelling on MRT trains to work.

The book got off to a good start with Joshua Ip's Peace is a Foot Reflexology Parlour which was set mostly in Beauty World along Upper Bukit Timah. I am quite familiar with that area and it was refreshing to finally see a piece of short story set somewhere in Singapore.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book and all the stories were really good. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the quality was not uneven, unlike other collections. If I'd had to pick favourites, it would be a toss-up between Joshua Ip's piece, Shelley Bryant's Enough, and Cyril Wong's The Mistake. The latter was narrated from the perspective of a little boy which very different from the stories found in the rest of the book but worked quite well.

I think those of the older generation might enjoy Carena Chor's The Tontine Leader as it might bring back memories of when that money-lending ingenuity was still in place.

All in all, people who've stayed in Singapore for some time ought to read this book. I'd recommend teachers of Literature in English to use this book as material for their students. It might be a bit too long for Unseen Prose, but I think it would be an interesting change from reading short stories set in America, England or Africa.

You can get this book from Books Actually.


Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

For the end comes reaching by David Wong Hsien Ming

There are times when I don't like poetry. This usually occurs when I read poems that are so abstract I don't understand what's going on. I had a lot of these moments when reading this book. 

Now don't get me wrong. The poems are of a high quality, that much I can make out (that and the couple of must-read lists this title has been on). I just don't feel them that's all. They say reading poetry is a subjective experience and I just didn't like the poems here. 

The ones I did enjoy though, were those that were on the theme of death. 

I liked this one best:

The poems on death were simply stellar. 

Well, to each his own I suppose. And if you are the kind that likes abstract poetry, you can get this book over at Books Actually


Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

the little world of liz climo by Liz Climo

I borrowed this book from my student after enjoying her other book "Lobster is the Best Medicine: A Collection of Comics About Friendship" at a friend's house.

My student said she'd read it a couple times through and literally laughed out loud at several points in the book.

I LOVED the whimsical drawings and the wit of Liz Climo. You cannot go wrong getting this book as a gift for a loved one. The puns were the best. I absolutely ADORED them.

You might be familiar with her work, after all, they've gone viral several times on Facebook. 

As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, here are three of my fav (which makes 3000 words and with so many words I shall soon end my blogpost):

I recommend this to absolutely everyone. Click on the following links if you'd like to get the book on...

and Kinokuniya for my Singaporean readers.

If you'd like to follow her, check her out at her tumblr page or Instagram if that's more your cuppa tea.


Friday, January 1, 2016

I was just wondering by Philip Yancey

This book was a lovely gift from my dear friend Shiqi who read it and thought that I might appreciate it too. And I really do! (Advice to friends: Please, please, please do not gift me books you've not read yourself. Only get me books you've truly enjoyed yourself. Thank you.)

Back to the review. This book is a collection of articles Yancey wrote for Christianity Today a decade or two ago and I'm pleasantly surprised to find it still very relevant today. 

There are 6 parts as he's organised all the articles into certain themes - they are namely:

Part I: The Human Animal
Part II: In the World
Part III: Among the Believers
Part IV: Necessary Voices
Part V: Life with God
Part VI: Another World

I particularly enjoyed the first and fourth parts because they dealt with issues pertaining to daily life and notable writers of faith respectively. 

"A theology of dirty jokes" was my favourite article from the first part of the book because it rightly questions why we find talking about excretion and reproduction, functions we share with all other animals, somehow so strange. In the author's own words, "Try to envision a horse or a cow bashful about the need to excrete in public. Or imagine a dog or cat with sexual hangups, reluctant to mate."

Hahaha. It's got a lovely conclusion, this article, one I'll leave you to discover. 

This book is an easy read with each article only lasting 3-5 pages and one can pick up the book anytime while commuting and read a chapter or two, not fearing that you'd have to stop at a cliffhanger when you arrive at your destination (I seriously hate that). 

A brilliant writer, Yancey is both humorous and insightful, making this one of the rare books on Christianity that is so. 

An interesting feature of this book would be how the author opens each chapter by asking a series of intriguing questions. He elaborated in the introduction that one of the article that generated loads of reader responses was one consisting entirely of questions sans answers. 

And here, I'll leave you with some...

Why are there so many kinds of animals? Couldn't the world get along with, say 300,000 species of beetles instead of 500,000? What good are they?

Why is it that the most beautiful animals on earth are hidden away from all humans except those wearing elaborate SCUBA equipment? Who are they beautiful for?

Why is almost all religious art realistic, whereas much of God's creation - zebra, swallowtail butterfly, crystalline structure - excels at abstract design?

Why are there dirty jokes? What makes the physiology of excretion and reproduction so funny anyhow?

As Walker Percy asks, "Why does man feel so sad in the twentieth century? Why does man feel so bad in the very age when, more than in any other age, he has succeeded in satisfying his needs and making over the world for his own use?"

Do gorillas and aardvarks go through a mid-life crisis?