Friday, December 22, 2017

Track Fault and Other Glitches by Nicholas Yong

"10 interesting short stories let down by an insipid cover" is my verdict for this book.

The very first story caught my attention from the get go. The zombie civil service had to hold a meeting about a virus spreading across Singapore. It would turn zombies back into humans and the Higher Zombie Committee was terrified.

I also liked the story "A Dream Within a Dream" and "Three Nights in Camp". The former chronicles the last moments of a patient's life in the real world and in his unconscious, and the latter is an army ghost story.

The stories of the Shiba Inu were heart-warming and it might perhaps be due to my fondness of this dog breed. Magical realism came into play when Haru the dog summoned the Dog God in the middle of the first story.

Readers are then left hanging at the story's conclusion but were later rewarded in the subsequent pages where the author ties things up.

I felt that all 10 stories were true page-turners and I promptly finished it all in one night.

Apart from the 2 typos found in the book, it was a pretty good read.

My major gripe is this: Even though the cover designer had tried to incorporate elements of various stories into it, it is rather uninspired. But it's no fault of the author's.

This book would make a great gift for any book lover. Grab your copy today from the Marshall Cavendish online store, Kinokuniya, or Popular today!

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

Murphy, See How You Shine! by Chen Wei Teng

This picture book tells a simple little story about a blind dog named Murphy. Although he was sometimes bullied by the seeing dogs, he had a rescuer in the form of his owner, Candy.

She was the one that took him from the shelter where he'd lived for a long time before she came.

It turns out that Murphy is a Diabetes Assist Dog that's been trained to alert his owner when she has low blood sugar. Candy, his owner, has Type 1 diabetes and was once saved by Murphy before she went into a coma.

The story ends with Murphy saving a young boy, also with diabetes. Candy and Murphy were going for a walk when the dog bounded over to the boy and Candy had a sweet snack on hand.

The full-page watercolour illustrations really brought the characters to life. I liked how the illustrator incorporated tiny details that made the reader recognise that it's set in Singapore. Things like green railings alongside canals and the Bird of Paradise flowers in the park made it really heartwarming.

I guess my only gripe with the otherwise lovely book was that near the end of the book, when Candy offered a marshmallow snack to the aforementioned boy, the illustration was instead of a Rice Krispie. Minor no doubt, but it was a little jarring nonetheless.

I would recommend this book to everyone, young or old, as not many people have heard of Diabetes Assist Dogs, nor blind ones at that. This book teaches the reader that everyone is special in his or her own way and not to despise their gifts.

If you'd like this book, you can get it from this online store. Also, if you'd like to bring your kid to story-telling sessions, check out this Facebook page for more information!

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Red Dot Irreal by Jason Erik Lundberg

Magical realism set in sunny Singapore. Who'd have thought of that? And it's so wonderfully executed too!

I bought this book while on a shopping spree last year and have only just gotten to read it. And what a marvellous book it is! Why has no one informed me of this existence of this book at all? It's a hidden gem amongst the numerous titles stocked at Books Actually.

Prose has never been Math Paper Press' strong suit, but this book of short stories pleasantly defies expectations.

I was hooked from the first story, which was set in ancient Singapore, featuring an Englishman shipwrecked on an island south of Singapore and strange happenings.

My favourite was "Ikan Berbudi (Wise Fish)" which was a delightful tale about a hawker selling fish head curry and her talking fish. It was brilliant!

The short 2-page stories were pretty good too. I enjoyed "Lion City Daikaiju" where Singapore's most famous landmarks like the Merlion, Raffles Hotel, the Esplanade and more took flight and went on a rampage in what was kinda an apocalyptic story except that Singapore ultimately wasn't destroyed but reborn.

I would recommend this to both Singaporeans and expatriates, although perhaps the former would better appreciate the nuances and flavours of our little island.

This would make a perfect gift and you can get it either at Kinokuniya or Books Actually.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Vintage Saints and Sinners:25 Christians who Transformed my Faith by Karen Wright Marsh

At first glance I thought this book was one that would be filled with white men, even if they were people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Aelred of Rievaulx. So I was pleasantly surprised to find people of colour, and not only African American saints, but also an Asian one to boot.

This is a compilation of 25 short stories of Christians who have lived, both in the recent past and in ancient times, who have made an impact on faith of the author.

I liked the fact that each chapter was short and self-contained, so you can technically pick up the book and read from any chapter just fine. The author blends anecdotes from her personal life and seamlessly relates it to the lives of the saints in a manner that I found refreshing and authentic.

Apart from famous figures like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther, lesser known saints like the African American Amanda Berry Smith who preached the gospel to all races across the world, and Mary Paik Lee, a Korean immigrant who grew up with a difficult life were included to make it a book filled with diversity.

A Christian life can be a hard one to lead, but after reading about the lives of these 25 sinner-saints, one feels refreshed and invigorated, able to walk the long and arduous journey of faith once again. This is what I would call a good book, able to inspire, simply through recounting the lives of ordinary people just like us, empowered with a faith from above.

I would greatly recommend this as a gift to your Christian friend, or even yourself. With the clear writing and compelling stories, this book was a breeze to get through and I'm sure you'll be similarly inspired too.

You can get a copy from Amazon, Book Depository or IVP


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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark

This is hands down one of the most inspirational business books I've ever read, on par with Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and Onward by Howard Schultz. The author Duncan Clark has known Jack for a long time and has put together a memoir of how Alibaba came to be the behemoth it is today.

As a budding entrepreneur myself, I feel a kindred spirit in Jack Ma. His fearless attitude and convincing charm christened "Jack Magic" is something that I must learn from in the cut-throat business world. 

Having failed the Chinese national examinations (高考) twice, Jack succeeded on his third try only to end up in a third tier university. He did well and became an English teacher. But it was not long before the business bug bit and he set up his first company - Hope. He still held his full-time job and worked after school on his baby. It was a translation service that didn't do so well.

Alibaba was his third company and it was through a mixture of luck, guts, and hard work that it has become the success it is today.

This book is a real page-turner and I finished reading it within a day. It was that gripping.

I now have a better understanding of how Alibaba may soon dominate the world, perhaps even surpassing eBay and Amazon in due time. This book has given me a clearer insight into the three largest Chinese Internet companies that are dominating the market today - Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.

I must say that the author has done some solid research and I'm full of praise for the impressive book he's published.

This is a book every aspiring business person ought to read and I'm sure you'll be just as inspired as I have been at the end of the book.