Monday, December 24, 2012

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton



I read this book over a period of 2 months. For me, that is a relatively long time because I usually finish books within a day (if it's really interesting) or a week (when it is heavy). Now apart from the book being a pretty difficult read by my standards, I had a whole host of other books that captured my attention over this period of time that distracted me, these included, "A Year of Biblical Womanhood", "Praying to the Goddess of Mercy", "Out of a Far Country" and "A Clean Breast".

Well, I first heard of Chesterton when Nicole Conner quoted him on Twitter. My interest piqued, I started googling him and discovered that he was an intriguing author. I read up about him on Wikipedia too. After that and some other considerations, I decided to purchase two of his books from bookdepository.com.

When I got this book, I began reading it immediately. It was tough. The writing was unlike any I had ever encountered. His subject was Christianity and his style was allegory. Now this might be pretty interesting but I wasn't used to it.

So in my recent vacation to Taiwan, I managed to squeeze in time to finish this book. I realised that the back part of the book was so much more interesting than the beginning. It was perhaps because he had finished his introductions, which consisted of snipes at other people among other things, which I wasn't too interested in reading.

The last couple of chapters gave beautiful and clever analogies and allegories on why Christianity made sense to him and turned him from an agnostic to a theist.

I'll start reading the second book I bought that he is famous for, The Everlasting Man, once I get through my other fascinating reads that my friends gave me for my birthday. I have at least 10 books to finish. Bliss!




Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Clean Breast by Theresa Tan



Theresa is a friend I made on Twitter. She runs a blog at http://acleanbreast.wordpress.com/ that I follow and it chronicles her journey of overcoming breast cancer.

She tweeted that she was in the process of writing and editing a book earlier this year which was due to be released in November. I was waiting in anticipation and when it was out, I got a friend to buy it for me as a birthday present.

I finished the book in one day. It is that good.

Theresa was an editor at various magazines and it shows in the writing. It is clear, easy to read and very, very witty at some points. 

Through the book, I learnt a lot about breast cancer, about DCIS or Stage 0 cancer, about early critical illness insurance coverage in Singapore, and more.

It is a very honest account of her experience and I really salute her for it.

The book also provides an insight into how cancer not just only affects the patient but the immediate family members and friends as well. At the end of the book, she got her husband and two children to express how they felt throughout the entire process. 

Go get it at any bookstore in Singapore in Kinokuniya, Popular or Times today.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I have been meaning to blog this for a while after realizing I had neglected to write about the final part of the marvelous trilogy. So on this night, plagued with some mild insomnia, I have found some time to share it with you, whoever my silent, faithful readers might be.

In this 3rd book, our protagonist Katniss Everdeen has been captured by the rebels as District 13 mounts a rebellion against the Capitol. They had been planning it from the start of the Games in the 2nd book.

In this book, she is torn between the love of the two loves of her life. This love story captivates as the typical love triangle involves two girls and a guy whereas this is between two guys and a girl. Awesome! Peeta, her faithful partner throughout the Games was unable to escape together with Katniss and has been at the mercy of the Capitol as they attempt to get answers out of him via torture.

Nonetheless, he remains loyal to Katniss and even gives her a premature warning before a massive Capitol strikes occurs, allowing them to save the lives of the people of the entire District.

Katniss feels trapped in this last book as she feels less like a Mockingjay, a symbol of the rebellion, and more like a tool being manipulated by her captors. Yet if she does nothing, people will suffer. So she is presented with this very real dilemma, to fake it, or to do nothing.

Eventually she takes up the role of the Mockingjay. But she does it in a way no one quite expected and it fits her to a T. The middle part of the book chronicles her adventures and is action packed. I love it! Sadly, many characters you'd have grown to love in the 2nd book die as the author kills them off one by one in the various battles. But like a chess grandmaster would say, sometimes you need to sacrifice in order to progress.

There was a twist at right the end of the story as to who the ultimate victor and I'll keep it a secret. But I must say I love happy endings!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Singapore Word Maps - A chapbook of Edwin Thumboo's new and selectedplace poems

What on earth is a "chapbook" you may ask? Well, I didn't know either until my faithful Merriem-Webster iPhone app informed me that it was "a small book containing ballads, poems, tales, or tracts". There you go.

I received this book as a reward for speaking up during the interval of the ending debate of the Singapore Writers Festival that took place on 11 November 2012.

The book is essentially Thumboo's insights and reflections of various parts of Singapore, ranging from Kent Ridge to Punggol to Bidadari. I love the idea of place poems. What better way to remember your country and the places that bring meaning to you, both old and new, than such poems?

So I dove into it straight away. I must admit that free verse is not my usual cup of tea. But who could resist a free book? And I have heard so much about the author, I had to finish his book. So finish I did.

I suppose good poetry makes you want to read it repeatedly. And Thumboo's poems really warrant re-reading. I most certainly will. The poems are rich with meaning, full imagery and local flavor. I must say that if one has not lived in Singapore for a protracted period of time, one might not appreciate these poems fully.

Well, I don't know where to get a copy of this book if you'd like to purchase a copy after reading this review. I did a quick search on Google to no avail. But it's published by the National Library Board of Singapore so you could ask them if you're interested.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Out of a far country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan


I just finished this book on the way home on the train and the ending brought tears to my eyes. Now it's pretty rare for a book to do that; I don't weep much while reading, what with it being a rather cerebral and abstract activity.

I first heard about Christopher Yuan earlier this year as he was a scheduled speaker in the Exodus International conference. Then a few weeks ago, I started following him on Twitter. He posted a couple of reviews that I read and that piqued my interest. So I ordered my own copy from bookdepository.com.

The book is an easy read and is an alternating narrative featuring both Christopher and his mother Angela Yuan. I must say the reviews do not do justice to the book.

This book tells us in great detail about a relatively promiscuous gay life that Christopher led. He came out pretty early in the book to his parents and moved out immediately after doing so. He was in dental school, but the nights in the gay clubs introduced him to the world of drugs.

First experimenting, then dealing in small amounts, finally graduating to being a successful dealer in great quantities of drugs nationwide, I must say that he was a really intelligent businessman. I was really impressed at the scale of his dealership. Then again, that's probably how he got into dental school.

On the other hand, Angela was a person that was very much against Christians and the church. But after the shock of her son coming out to her, she decided to end her life and was miraculously prevented by a talk with a minister who gave her a booklet titled, "Homosexuality: An Open Door?", she began tentatively believing in the possibility of a God. That was the turning point.

I shall not go into too much detail for fear of spoiling your read, but this is truly a story of the power of prayer and perseverance. Despite Christopher's aggressive stance and behaviour, his parents never once gave up hope in his redemption. 

And one day he is finally busted, caught red-handed and imprisoned. Picking up a Bible from a trashcan, Christopher begins his journey to God. He eventually led Bible studies and preached in prison, surprising both himself and his mother.

This is one amazing story and the final homecoming was so simple but full of meaning that I teared up in the train and was trying to hide it, fearing that my fellow commuters might not make sense of it.

So, if you're interested in hearing the inside scoop of the gay lifestyle in America, it does go in quite a bit of detail, describing the party circuit and stuff, get this book. There were times I felt like a voyeur. But more than that, if you want to know how to respond lovingly to a person coming out, this book gives you an incredible example to follow.

This is one truly compelling book. Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Praying to the goddess of mercy by Mahita Vas

Wow. That's the first word that comes to mine as I finished this book in a little cafe called "Toast Box" not feeling particularly toasty but freezing from the chilly air-conditioning.

I bought this book yesterday at Popular Bookstore in Bukit Timah Plaza as I waited for my sister who was at the hairdresser's. Randomly browsing through the shelves, this book caught my eye with "bipolar" emphasized in the bright pink font against the dark blue background.

You see, like the author, I've been diagnosed with the same disorder. So I was naturally interested in reading her perspective on it. Coming from a fellow Singaporean, that was an added bonus as I've only read books by doctors or personal recounts by Westerners on online blogs.

I must say it's a pretty decent read and the story of the author's life flows along quite briskly. She's lived a pretty charmed life I must admit. An SIA girl for a couple of years and in top advertising firms for the next two decades. It's really interesting reading about her insights in these industries, especially with alternating episodes of mania and depression.

The chapter on seeing a psychiatrist could not have come any sooner as I was wondering when that'll happen. It really took pretty long. Thank God I found out early and stabilized rather quickly despite the initial resistance.

Would really love to meet the author one day and more than just getting my book signed, I'd love to hear from her directly. And she has the most wonderful husband and kids to boot. It's amazing, you should read the book.

I'd recommend the book to everyone. For those wishing to get an insight on the bipolar mind, whether to support a loved one who has been diagnosed with it or for those who just want to understand the condition better. Or perhaps you might be a fellow sufferer and this is something to help you along your journey.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I first got wind of this book from Twitter as Rachel Held Evans is an author I started following this year. Her publisher was having this contest where 75 people would be chosen to be part of her Launch Team and given an advanced copy of her book to read. Being me, I jumped at the chance! It's the Singaporean trait in me, wanting to win, that coupled with the fact that I am a book-lover, made me quickly sign up on her website.

When they asked the question, "How do you think you can contribute?" I simply stated that I was from Singapore and being part of this tiny Southeast Asian nation, that I could provide an Asian perspective to the book. Yes, I played the nationality card. But it worked! Praise the Lord!

Back to the book. I finished the book on my iPhone (a first as I prefer the feel of paper) in 8 days as it was both extremely hilarious yet very relevant. As I told my friends, Rachel manages to add humour to such a serious topic - a difficult task indeed, if you ask this budding author.

I shall break up the rest of the review into questions that you (a potential reader) might ask.

What's the book about?
This book is about this author deciding to live one year literally living out what the Bible says about womanhood, thus, "A Year of Biblical Womanhood". But more than that, she does extensive research on how various denominations and religions do this, from interviewing the Amish, talking at length to a Jewish woman living in Israel and even attending a 3-day retreat at a Benedictine monastery.

How is this book structured?
As she lives out her year biblically, Rachel divides up the book into 12 different chapters, each one describing a month she spent, beginning in October. She chose to focus on a different virtue each month, in the following order:

October - Gentleness, November - Domesticity, December - Obedience, January - Valour, February - Beauty, March - Modesty, April - Purity, May - Fertility, June - Submission, July - Justice, August - Silence and finally September - Grace.

This is a pretty impressive list don't you think? On top of these virtues, at the end of each chapter, she highlights one woman from the Bible, someone that you might not have read about due to the lack of emphasis on women in the Bible.

What are my favourite chapters? 
Chapters May (Fertility) and June (Justice) are my favourite chapters by far. 

In the first, Rachel talks extensively about sex and the prevalent attitude about it. At one extreme, Christian women are told to submit to whatever their husbands want them to do in the bedroom and at the other, feminists fight against the seemingly oppressive patriarchal attitude that conservative Christianity seems to have. Rachel examines carefully what the Bible says, you can read it, and comes to this conclusion: Mutuality in the bedroom is key. I love it! Not just because I'm a woman, but because it makes sense.

Next, I saw the injustices that women all over the world suffer and my heart breaks for them. After reading the chapter, I am stirred to purchase what Rachel read in that month, a copy of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "a passionate call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls" according to www.randomhouse.com. I want to do my part (however little) to help lift the living standards of women and find out how to do that.

My Asian perspective?
To be honest, I just typed that in to improve my chances in winning the contest, because growing up in Singapore, I've been fed American TV shows and have consumed large quantities of US and Brit pop music, so how Asian could I possibly be?

But I was wrong. I do have an Asian perspective to offer. :)

I feel that living as a Singaporean Chinese Christian in an independent church, there seems to be an unspoken but very real rule that women are expected to submit to men. Now, we are not oppressed, with a couple of female pastors in our church, but with the senior pastor being male, there inevitably comes this attitude that Christian women are to obey their husbands no matter what they say. I supposed it comes with the strong patriarchal values we Asians were brought up with. Because in the 3 major races represented in Singapore, Chinese, Malay and Indian, all of them have familiar strains where the head of the household dominates, sometimes, even controls the entire family's thought, word and deed.

I could be wrong, being a single, unmarried woman in church, but this is just how I perceive things. 

So when Rachel describes her marriage with Dan as being one that is egalitarian (a belief in equality) and complementary, inwardly, I go, "YIPPEE!" And I do expect to find a partner like that, and I'm pretty hopeful actually. Haha.

My conclusion?
Go buy this book! Christian or otherwise, it's a HILARIOUS read and very informational at the same time. I recommend it not because I'm part of a launch team, but because I believe that even if you don't benefit from learning more about how different women around the world aim to live their lives biblically, you will almost certainly have a great laugh out of this entertaining read.


You can order it here!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Walking with God by John Eldredge

I was browsing around Tecman looking for a Derek Prince book when I chanced upon this. I've heard about John Eldredge previously and this title was so compelling I had to get it. And it sure didn't disappoint.

This book is a year long journey of Eldredge's walk with God. I really learnt how to quieten down and listen to the voice of God, to hear what He wants to say through Ortberg's sharing of how he does it.

There are no chapters in this book but is instead separated into Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. I found the book an easy read as the author takes on an open, honest conversational tone right from the start. He admitted to hearing from God and then ignoring His advice on the right day to go for a journey in winter time. And continues to relate to us how that was a disaster.

This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to walk even closer with God and wanting to hear His voice in the midst of this busy, connected world we live in. I certainly did, and I hope you will too.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Contemplative prayer by Thomas Merton

I first came across Merton's name in a quote that Nicole Conner put up on twitter. Ever since then, I did some research on him and decide to buy this book.

I then ordered it online from bookdepository.co.uk, I eagerly anticipated its arrival. After exactly 2 weeks, I received it in the mail.

At 94 pages, it is one slim volume. However, do not let its size deceive you. This is one book that requires a lot of unpacking.

Thomas Merton writes in a way that forces one to think deeply. I had to read at half my usual pace because of the way it is written. I did enjoy it though.

This book was written for monks but in Merton's own words, "just as a book about psychoanalysis by an analyst and primarily for analysts may also (if it is not too technical) appeal to a layman interested in these matters, so a practical non-academic study of monastic prayer should be of interest to all Christians, since every Christian is bound to be in some sense a man of prayer."

Yup. That is exactly the reason why I got this book. But if you are expecting a clear, step-by-step instructional guide on the subject, be prepared to be sorely disappointed.

What this book does is to examine how some have approached prayer and Merton's thoughts on it.

It can be pretty profound.

I believe this is the first book (at least one that is a non-textbook) that I have used a pen to underline paragraphs that stood out to me. More than once in fact. This is no mean feat considering that I do read quite a bit.

Here is a sample of what I have underlined,

"Our knowledge of God is paradoxically a knowledge not of him as the object of our scrutiny, but of ourselves as utterly dependent on his saving and merciful knowledge of us."

"dread divests us of the sense of possession, of "having" our being and our power to love, in order that we may simply be in perfect openness (turned inside out), a defenselessness that is utter simplicity and total gift."

I am in the process of reading this book for a second time because it truly deserves rereading.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who has read Christian books on prayer but still desire something deeper. This book does it.

I have always wondered why there is a need to pray if God knows us and our thoughts. And more than the importance of speaking out and declaring our desires, this book revealed to me that prayer is also a retuning of our mind to be more aware of God.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Radical Disciple by John Stott

I think I first heard about John Stott on Twitter. Someone probably quoted from him. I was intrigued and googled him and ended up purchasing the most compelling title from bookdepository.com.

I chose this book because I wanted to be a radical disciple for Jesus Christ and wanted to see what he had to say about being one. I'd previously done a spot of research on the author and discovered that this was one of the last books he wrote and it's a distillation of his life's experiences. How precious that is.

The book has a total of 8 chapters, namely,

1. Non-conformity
2. Christlikeness
3. Maturity
4. Creation-care
5. Simplicity
6. Balance
7. Dependence
8. Death

I dived into the first chapter as I really want to be a non-conformist and it's was a pretty decent read. I continued reading a chapter each night and I really liked it.

Some of what's written I already know but most of it was a refreshing read.

I'd recommend this to anyone who'd like to be a radical disciple for God.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Just finished the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy last night. It's awesome!

As much as I wish to, I shall not do any spoilers here, so read on.

The story picks up where the first book leaves off and throughout the entire book, we see how the Capitol works to subdue the rebellion Katniss had inadvertently started at the end of the games.

It's a good book to read even on its own as Collins has infused bits of the first book into the second to help the uninitiated catch up. Even so, read the trilogy in the proper order to get the most out of it.

I would recommend this book to more than just youths as it is a truly compelling read, with equal parts action and romance.

Go get your copy of Catching Fire today!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I picked up the trilogy by Suzanne Collins at Popular bookstore yesterday at Compasspoint shopping mall in Sengkang.

I'd wanted to read it ever since I noticed it outsold Harry Potter on Amazon. It must be quite a read since Harry Potter was so good. My main motivation for buying it was to know what appeals to youths these days.

So I started reading the first book, The Hunger Games, late last afternoon. I paused for about 2 hours because of the National Day Rally on television but the book was so good it kept me up till 3am - that's when I finished the book.

Content wise, it's pretty decent. Once you get past the first three chapters, things pick up as the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen gets thrust into the Capitol, and begins preparations for the Games.

It's hard going in the beginning because of the way it's written - in the first person. That coupled with the fact that with every science fiction novel, the reader needs to slowly get familiarized to the jargon of the text and the feel of the setting.

But as I said, once you've eased into it, these two problems actually work to their advantage as you easily take on the thoughts and feelings of Katniss.

The book's action packed to keep you turning the pages and the characters have enough heart to make the story captivating.

One thing I learnt from reading it was that different writing styles work. Suzanne Collins is no J.K. Rowling but The Hunger Games is a pretty good book by itself.

I'd encourage any high school student to read it, or even elementary/primary school students to. And young adults might even enjoy it, just like I did. "The effect of war and violence on young people," was the angle the author was going for and that alone provides much food for thought.

I anticipate the next time I'm free to continue with the second book in the series. Till then, you can get the first book as it's wraps up pretty well and is a story on its own. The ending is not really a dramatic cliffhanger so you don't have to get the rest of the books if you don't want to buy three books at one go. That is, until I read the next book and post here again. ;)

My final point, which is pretty superficial (you could skip this) is that it seems like there are a few differently designed covers out there. I wanted to plonk my money on a more refined cover that was simple and minimalist when my friend found me a set that came together and was cheaper than getting the books individually, even with the discount Popular offered. The only drawback was that it was a print by Scholastic, a local publisher and it wasn't the nicest looking cover on the shelf. But I rationalized that it was the content that mattered more so I got it anyway. In any case, I'll be keeping it in the box that came with the trilogy. But for those who like their book covers pretty, there are at least two designs you can choose from when you get the book individually.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The short stories and radio plays of S. Rajaratnam


I picked this book up from Kinokuniya after a friend, Theresa, tweeted about it. I got my hands on the last copy and was extremely pleased about it. This photo was taken at a bus stop along Orchard Road.

I must say that our former Minister of Culture is one great writer! The short stories are extremely well written and deserved to be placed in the same anthology as Tagore and co. I wish I could write half as well as him. It's amazing.

And the Radio Plays are really persuasive. They compel me to be a democratic citizen and to use my vote wisely. I would say that their objective has been met - to persuade. And Rajaratnam uses so many different authors to make his points in his radio plays it is no wonder he has such a huge collection of books - 5000 to be exact, now stored in the ISEAS library. 

I think every Singaporean should read this book to know a little more about how our country developed in its early days. Not everyone understood the importance of voting that's for sure.

Fantastic read!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to be led by the Sprit of God by Kenneth E. Hagin

I chanced upon this book at my friend's place when I was there visiting. The book caught my eye among the dozens it was lying with because of its title. I mean, which Bible-believing Christian wouldn't want to be led by the Holy Spirit?

So I borrowed it from my good friend and read it at the start of my devotion each night.

This book is a timely reminder on how to be led by the Holy Spirit. It talks and elaborates on 3 ways:

1. An inward witness
2. A still small voice
3. The voice of the Spirit

Points 2 and 3 may sound similar but after reading the book, you'll realize why they are different.

Kenneth Hagin also talks about how to be led by the Spirit in prayer and even in financial matters. The latter was just briefly touched upon though.

I'd recommend this great book to anyone who desires to be led by the Holy Spirit. It's an easy read, just the right length and it probably answers any questions you might have on the topic. It answered all of mine at least. :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Jeremy Lin: The reason for the Linsanity by Timothy Dalrymple

I picked up this book from Popular bookstore as I often reward myself with a new book when my pay cheque arrives. The outlet at Jurong Point Shopping Centre had run out of Steve Job's biography. I chanced upon this book because my interest in Jeremy Lin had been piqued by the sports pages in the local paper.

This book is incredible! It traces the journey of Jeremy Lin from birth all the way to his education at Harvard, a stint in the D-League and finally the NBA. The author does all this in 7 chapters detailing the 7 miracle games in February as he intersperses the description of the game with the basketball star's life.

It really inspires me to live my Christian faith like Jeremy does. To work hard, be humble and do all for the "audience of one" as Jeremy puts it.

I'd encourage everyone to read it, even those who don't really know basketball. I have precious little knowledge on basketball jargon but the text just flows so smoothly I completed the book before using my iPhone's Merriam Webster app to find out what an "alley-oop" and a "turnover" was.

More than anything, this book chronicles the journey of the ultimate underdog - an Asian American Ivy Leaguer who made it big in the NBA.