Book Review: ‘Under The Wig’ by William Clegg QC

I thought this book ‘Under The Wig: A Lawyer’s Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence’ by William Clegg QC was really good (and I was impressed at how a lawyer can write so well and in such an engaging manner) till I got to the Acknowledgements at the back where, on page 278, William Clegg acknowledges his “ghost writer” – a John Troup a.k.a “Troupy”. Wait… whatttt? I do think that Troupy should be acknowledged on the cover of the book or at least within the pages immediately after. (@_@) It could have been stated “William Clegg QC with John Troup”, right?

In any case, like I’ve said, it’s a really good read. Besides being written for the average layperson, barristers themselves will enjoy chapters such as “How to Become a QC”, “Winning the Trust of a Judge”, “How to Appeal to a Jury”, etc. The case studies are illuminating and certainly eye-opening. There are some things I’ve never heard of before, such as earprints being admitted as evidence. I know of fingerprints, but earprints? Seriously?

And here is one lawyer, a QC or Queen’s Counsel no less, who thinks the wig is “ridiculous”. Yes! I think so too! πŸ˜€

Things we may not agree on would be ones such as the death penalty – his argument about miscarriages of justice is valid but still… is it even possible to keep everyone imprisoned until such time that technological advances allow us to prove beyond any and all reasonable doubt that the person is either 100% guilty or 100% innocent? If there is sufficient evidence, and the jury concurs, then why not proceed with the death penalty like in SG (we don’t have a jury, I know that)? If the argument is that every life is precious and the law cannot, and must never(!), allow for an innocent person to be hanged after being erroneously found guilty, then…

Stop complaining about the budget for legal aid cases. Why would you not take up a case simply because it doesn’t pay as well as your regular cases / commercial clients? In the book, the author claims it is because the other experts whom he has to rope in to assist on the case would need to be paid their fees as well. O…K. But if every life is so precious, and you’re going to wax lyrical about how miscarriages of justice persist till this very day, then try not to sound hypocritical when you confess you don’t take as many legal aid cases anymore ‘cos the budget’s been on a decline and you wish it’s back to what it was a decade ago. I’m not asking lawyers to work pro bono all the time (need to eat, right?), but if they claim to be in this profession because of some noble reasons then hey, do what you can whenever you can, ok? If you keep wanting to compare your salaries with that of other professions, then go join those, seriously.

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At the end of the day, I don’t know if William Clegg QC can call himself an author. If the book was written by someone else, even if it is about this QC’s life and career, it would fall into the category of being a biography, no? But if you’re simply looking for a good read, then we won’t have to quibble over who actually wrote this book. #justsaying

Book Review: ‘Hard Pushed: A Midwife’s Story’ by Leah Hazard

What a luxury it is to be able to enjoy a good book all in one day… on a public holiday! πŸ˜€ I read ‘Hard Pushed: A Midwife’s Story’ by Leah Hazard in just a few hours, and while cooking lunch too. It may not be an entirely ‘unputdownable’ book but it’s very close to being one. The book offers an insight into the lives of midwives and you’ll definitely start looking at them a little differently after reading this book. And you certainly will NOT call them “nurse” anymore.

Leah’s brilliant sense of humor also got me laughing out loud often. But that didn’t stop me from realizing that there’s more to this occupation than people know. What happens when the baby’s delivered as a stillborn? What do midwives have to do when the mother has difficulty breastfeeding but family members insist she presses on with the task, deeming her a failure if she *gasp* dares turn to the bottle to feed her baby? How do you respond when the person giving birth to a child is, in fact, still a child herself? What do you do when the pregnant lady in front of you is actually a victim of human trafficking, and while she does NOT want to keep the baby, it’s too late to terminate the pregnancy?

Because midwives are kept on their toes in an understaffed, underfunded and perhaps even underappreciated department, many end up dealing with depression, getting burnt out from work, and scores of them eventually leave the profession. After all, how do you deal with frequent nightmares about the babies who didn’t survive? How do you deal with seeing the female parts of ladies who’ve had Female Genital Mutilation? How do you manage not just with helping women deliver their children, but also having to care for them before and after pregnancy – that’s 9 months of queries, panicked or otherwise, about the foetus in them, then many more months or years of post-natal care after the women have endured much physical and emotional upheaval. It’s not just a tough job. It’s crazy!

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I’m afraid this book won’t be as popular as those about the secrets of getting rich quick or about something sensational such as *ahem* Billion Dollar Whale. You’ll probably not read this book unless someone has placed it on your table. But if you’ve ever worked in a high pressure environment (such as in the A&E department), you’ll be able to commiserate and to empathize. If you want to be trained as a midwife, or you have thought about entering this line before, well, this would be perfect reading material to help you make up your mind.

And if it’s a public holiday, and you don’t want to head outside and navigate the crowd, yet you don’t want to ‘rot’ in front of the TV or a digital device, I’d recommend this book. It certainly got me laughing and learning and I have to say I enjoyed reading this book more than I’d initially thought I would. πŸ˜‰

Book Review: ‘Fabulous Finn: The Brave Police Dog Who Came Back from the Brink’

This book got me crying after the first few chapters. Gosh. If the author isn’t a police dog handler, he might as well consider a career as a writer. This true story of how Finn (the police dog) got viciously stabbed by a criminal he was helping to apprehend, and how he miraculously recovered, will probably have you sobbing a couple of times before you reach the end of the book. The bond between the writer (PC Dave Wardell) and his dog PD Finn is an admirable one – no matter how dangerous the situation, Finn would always ensure he takes care of his ‘dad’ and that no harm would come to Dave. Even after being gravely injured, he bounces right back and goes back to protecting ‘dad’ and catching the baddies. When Dave mentions how his wife had once asked him to send one of the dogs away or she’ll leave him, he says he’ll help her pack her bags. Though he’s very likely joking (British humor OMG), I’m sure his wife also knows that nothing will separate this guy from his beloved furry friends.

I believe one of the aims of this book is to bring to people’s attention the sad fact that police dogs aren’t valued in the eyes of the law as equal to that of, say, a police officer. They’re regarded as ‘property’ so stabbing a police dog would be the rough equivalent of kicking over a flower pot. You don’t get put behind bars for that. But for the ‘dad’ of the dog, how does one deal with that outcome? Your beloved crime-fighting partner, the one who’d risk his life to save you any day of the week, gets stabbed right before your eyes, and the perpetrator gets little more than a slap on the wrist for that. If I’m the police officer, I’d certainly feel like stabbing the criminal myself, if not for the recording devices officers have to wear on their uniforms. I’m not sure if any progress has been made with regard to Finn’s Law but hopefully it has.

In Singapore, I don’t think we protect animals enough. Community cat feeders get harassed, cats get abused, and even in Parliament, things get said which ruffle some feathers. I do still insist that cat feeding is necessary – animals in our community ARE our responsibility. Feeders just need to ensure they don’t leave the food unattended, and always to clear up after the cats are done, and bin any trash. Hopefully, there’ll be a reduction in pet abandonment cases too. Just follow a couple of Facebook groups regarding our street animals and you’ll get a sense of how severe the issue is. I’m just glad this year is the year of the pig – people won’t be getting pigs as gifts for their kids. Just wait till the year of the dog comes round again. Sigh.

‘Fabulous Finn’ is easily one of the best books you’ll read this year so please go grab a copy at any bookstore near you. Prepare some tissues too as the waterworks will certainly be turned on. Not suitable for reading in public places such as within an MRT train carriage – I had my eyes welling up with tears. Good grief.

Book Review: ‘Circumstance’ by Rosie Milne

circumstance by rosie milne

This book has all of 464 pages and I was initially a bit intimidated by the length of the novel. Thank God for speed-reading! It’s basically about British-ruled Malaya and how the colonial administrator, Frank, takes a new English bride (Rose) but ‘neglects’ to tell her that he already has a native mistress, Nony, whom he has lived with for 10 years and had 4 children with. Frank, who wasn’t being quite frank, had thought he’d be posted elsewhere so neither of the women would know about each other. As luck would have it, he’s sent back to the same post, with his new bride. And the two women end up meeting.

I’d expected a story full of twists and turns. Would Nony somehow wrestle the title of ‘missus’ back? Would Rose somehow be able to accept the mistress who, after all, had already given Frank three sons and a daughter?

Nony ends up blackmailing Frank because he didn’t have the balls to tell Rose about Nony’s existence. That plan backfired because he eventually caved in and let the secret out. Rose ends up getting pregnant (her baby will be called Grace… wahahaa) and it is super strange how this pregnant woman can decide to kill her husband.

And that’s basically it.

The book’s a bit of a letdown. I was hoping to read about how the women would fight for Frank’s attention but it seems Rose only wanted Frank dead and Nony only wanted his money.

I guess the main takeaway from this book would be that it’s best not to have secrets regarding past relationships. Your spouse deserves to know. If she finds out (too late), and she cannot deal with the truth, then you might just end up with a hammer to the back of your head. You won’t even know what hit you.

Book Review: ‘Freedom Fighter’ by Joanna Palani

freedom fighter book by joanna palani

This is one book I’d recommend if you want to know more about the individuals who go and join the war against ISIS. ‘Freedom Fighter: My War Against ISIS on the Frontlines of Syria’ is the true story of Joanna Palani and how she left Denmark to travel to the Middle East and joined the YPJ – the all-female brigade of the Kurdish militia in Syria. You know how we’re often told not to judge books by their covers? I took one look at this cover, saw how attractive this lady is and knew that some part of this book would involve romance (how could it not?) What I couldn’t have known was that she has also gotten special-forces training, and is a saboteur and sniper. How cool is that? Upon returning to Denmark, though, she ended up in jail because of laws which supposedly were for stopping citizens from joining ISIS. (She’d been fighting against ISIS)

This book is an exceedingly good read – I had someone chanting “unputdownable” near me all the time ‘cos I was engrossed in reading this. πŸ˜€ I believe a lot of the credit has to go to co-writer, Lara Whyte. Though Joanna doesn’t go into great detail about the training, strategies employed and plans of the organizations she has worked with (for obvious reasons), there’s still enough excitement and even gore. Within the first chapter alone, you’ll read about how her comrade put a grenade in his own mouth and blew his head off, just to save the group by sacrificing himself during an attack by Daesh.

Joanna also shares about her difficult childhood. I really think her father’s quite an a**hole. The ‘ultimate’ a**hole deed was what happened after Joanna’s uncle died –Β her father ‘forced’ his sister-in-law to become his second wife. He told her that if she refused, she can find another husband but she’ll lose her children. So of course she had to agree for the sake of her kids. And when he moved in with his second wife, it was obvious he never spared a thought for his first wife.

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“The worst place in the world to be a woman is the Middle East. The worst places to be born as a woman are Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and northern Iraq.”

“I believe that an educated mind is the best weapon a woman can have against men.”

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Towards the end of the book, Joanna also shares about a family she stayed with – in a sort of safe house. The head of the household, Shorash, kept molesting her at home, in the car, when she was asleep, etc. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out why she would not just rip him apart. Here’s a woman who can make as well as defuse bombs, killed maybe a hundred Daesh fighters, and she’s tolerating the sexual abuse? Is it because you can’t kill someone who’s supposedly part of your movement, or that the guy has young children aged 4, 10 and 16 and can’t afford to lose their father? Is it because males have ‘authority’ and can do whatever they like? I think, at the very least, she should have chopped off one of his fingers as a warning? πŸ˜›

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“I always find it difficult when anyone asks me why I went to join the war, and I have decided there is no easy answer – or at least not one that seems to satisfy. In some ways going to war was just natural for me, in the way that it is completely unnatural for others. When people ask me why I went, I always want to ask them, ‘What made you stay behind and watch all this suffering on your television, and do absolutely nothing about it?’ I really think that’s the bigger question, actually.”

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I think it’s easier to run off and join the fight when there’s tension at home, when you’re fighting so much with family members that you might as well go and kill a few of the enemies outside. When there’s a lot at stake, however, I guess most people can’t help but stay by their television sets with a bucket of popcorn. While I’m happy people like Joanna Palani are doing their part in fighting against ISIS, I’d say it’s not quite easy for women to follow in her footsteps because there’s the enemy outside, yes, but there’s also the enemy within – the men who are happy to taunt, belittle and even abuse the female fighters.

The New Library@Harbourfront Is GORGEOUS!

library@harbourfront

I’ve been wanting to visit the new library@harbourfront since its Opening Day on Jan 12 this year. πŸ˜€ Thankfully, I waited a little ‘cos there were lots of library-goers that day. The spanking new library is located one floor above the Golden Village cinema. Yes, where Daiso was once located. πŸ™‚ This is wayyy better than a Daiso store, obviously. Allow me to take you on a quick tour of the library at Vivocity and I’ll point out the stuff that really wowed me.

Once you enter the library, the Children’s section is on the left…

library @ harbourfront

Gosh. Just sit there and use the bookshelf as a background for your Instagram post… even if you don’t read a single book in a year. πŸ˜› SO cool, no?

Then there’s this section where kids can learn about poetry and rhymes…

vivocity library review

Bring your kiddos and let them explore the area. There’s lots more, obviously. But I was distracted by what’s over at the other side…

Here’s my absolute favorite part of the library… what looks like Business Class seats in an airplane…

vivo library

And if your handphone battery is running out of juice, the library has got you covered. Just watch over your phone, please, and don’t leave it unattended.

vivocity library handphone charging station

And what made me do a double take was this elevator for the ‘less mobile’. It’ll take you up and down the area where there are seminar room-style long desks, with a view of Sentosa in the distance.

vivocity library wheelchair accessible

I’ll not post the pictures I took of that area so it’ll be a surprise for you when you visit. πŸ™‚ It reminded me of SMU lecture rooms though. And I couldn’t help but feel like someone would stand up and give a speech all of a sudden.

And it’s quite something to see our senior citizens reading digital newspapers. No more fighting over limited copies of the papers, and no more sneaky tearing or cutting out of coupons within. Now you read with a swipe of the screen. I sure hope we won’t end up having libraries with zero physical books. Imagine a library with only desks and computers for you to read everything online. Sounds terrible to me, really.

vivocity public library

I’m guessing the best seats in the house would be these two. Though you may or may not need a cushion for your bum. And maybe suncreen too.

vivocity library

Book Review: ‘Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers’ by Paige Parker

Don't Call Me Mrs Rogers by Paige Parker

When I first found out about this new release, I was tempted to get it straight from the bookstores. It seems to promise tales of adventures, epic fights (it does say “loathing” on the cover) and invaluable insights into the relationship between investment guru Jim Rogers and his less-famous (but no less awesome) wife. The book ‘Small Fry‘ by Steve Jobs’ daughter, Lisa, really helped satisfy my curiosity about Steve. I was hoping this book would do the same. What I neglected, though, was the fact that Steve’s no longer around while Jim still is, and the couple also have two daughters who would definitely be reading this book. So, it’s either restraint I detect or an overwhelming saint-like ability to forgive and forget. Most women (or perhaps I can only speak for myself) get better at describing an unpleasant situation (such as a fight with a spouse) with each retelling of the same story. Paige’s account lacks that added punch of emotion. After all, if my guy calls me a “Stupid bitch!”, my account would be as fiery, if not more.

Reading this book is like watching a long documentary. It’s not reality TV and you don’t really feel the need to tell anyone else they should read the book too. I was initially a bit puzzled as to how Paige can remember details of this 3-year round-the-world journey with Jim. Was she using her imagination to fill in the gaps in memory or does she simply have a fantastic memory? Later on in the book,Β  they were fighting over a laptop and it appears she does her ‘writing’ on it. In which case, I think a ‘diary’ format would be much better. With dates and places stated clearly before each chapter. Otherwise the book always seems to be in that strange zone between fiction and non-fiction.

I think Jim Rogers picked the perfect way to select his third wife: a three-year-long journey around the world. If the pair can survive the trip, they’ll survive anything that comes after. Even if you’re a gold-digger, there’s only so much you can tolerate. And such a ‘crazy’ journey to foreign lands, away from friends and family, and with only one person as your constant companion, you’re bound to reveal questionable motives, if any. According to Wikipedia, Jim’s previous marriages lasted around three years each. And it does appear to me that this one will be ‘the right one’.

I admire Paige’s courage in dropping everything and leaving for this journey with a man who’s not yet her husband. One must be feverish with wanderlust in order to do that. Maybe Jim had really swept her off her feet, who knows? And I can only cringe while reading her descriptions of some truly awful locations, when she has to go without bathing for 5 days and her hair is full of oil. Good grief! I do also love her account of how she grabbed the collars of men who’d groped her bum, and how she’d smacked them repeatedly. You go, girl! And it does seem like she has a heart for helping women and children. So she’s not just one of those socialite types who attend galas and fundraisers mainly to be seen and to win ‘Best Dressed’ awards.

I think Jim’s gotten really good at picking the right woman to be his wife. Third time’s the charm, I guess. πŸ˜‰

‘Don’t Call Me Mrs Rogers’ is available at libraries and bookstores near you, so grab a copy if you’d like.

Epigram Books’ Year-End Sale: Books From 1-Dollar Plus Freebies!

Epigram Books Sale

Unlike the toys sale over at Bishan, I didn’t have to queue to enter the book sale over at Epigram Books. πŸ˜€ Sad, isn’t it? How many parents will bring their kids to a toy sale instead of a book sale. And Epigram Books’ year-end sale certainly doesn’t disappoint. Unlike the previous sale I’ve been to, which occupied only a small space near the reception area, this sale spans just about their entire office. I think they have flexi work spaces so they can shift desks around to make space for this much larger sale. If you walk all the way to the end (see picture above), you’ll find the spot with $1 / $2 bargains. I picked up quite a few items here. πŸ˜€

Also, I found this sign super funny:

epigram books singapore office

To the boss: Nope, I still don’t own a copy! πŸ˜›

I did pick up one of these Amos Lee badges though! Since there was another sign which told people to select one. Gosh. I’d love to own the entire set. So cute!

Amos Lee badge

Unlike at the toy warehouse sale, the ‘damage’ here’s just S$37. πŸ˜€ And I also got a chance at the lucky dip, and won yet another book (the Carrot Cake one). The prizes are pretty attractive. And you really have to wonder why there’s no freebie at all over at the toy sale and yet the queue is SO long!

epigram books sale lucky dip

Seriously, this sale is good. Maybe not as awesome as the Books Box Sale I look forward to every single year but close enough. πŸ˜€

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FINAL TWO DAYS!

Saturday: 11am to 9pm
Sunday: 11am to 6pm

1008 Toa Payoh North, #03-08, Singapore 318996

*Within walking distance from Braddell MRT Station

Book Review: ‘Unqualified’ by Anna Faris (Foreword by Chris Pratt)

anna faris unqualified book review

What a great memoir this is! πŸ™‚ Almost ‘unputdownable’, and I say ‘almost’ because I think those pages with input from Anna’s Facebook fans and podcast listeners seem to be fillers. And I might be wrong, but it appears this book was launched around the time Anna and Chris split? So, why oh why, does it not spill the beans on the reason(s) for the split, instead of just gushing about what a unicorn Chris is and how much they love and will sacrifice for their son? Hmm. Before picking up this book, I actually had no idea who Anna Faris is (and yup, I’ll probably pronounce her name wrongly too, just like you would – it’s supposed to be something like Ah-nah, not Ann-na). But after reading this book, I now know (just about) everything from when she lost her virginity to the time she got breast implants. Let’s just say this book is a tell-all, except about the part regarding the divorce. I’m guessing it’s somewhere in pre-nuptial agreements to keep certain things private? πŸ˜‰ So, props to them for somehow still being able to remain friends after a divorce.

It all seems so weird to me, how these angmohs can get divorced and have new partners and everyone can get to meet / know each other. It’s like they kind of accept that no one gets marriage right the first time, so it’s ok to call it quits (“till death do us part” hahahaa) and then stay pals with exes and even befriend their ex-spouse’s new love interests. (>_<)

Anna has this popular podcast called ‘Anna Faris is Unqualified’ and I really do love this word – ‘Unqualified’. She can say whatever she wants, and you can’t fault her, ‘cos she has already stated that she is unqualified and who asked you to believe what she says? πŸ˜€ In this book, she shares lots of relationship advice too, and ultimately I feel a little sympathetic towards these high-profile celebrity romances. If you’re a celeb, it makes sense to date / marry another celeb; someone who will understand the demands of your job and also not kick up a fuss if you have kissing scenes, etc, with another hot celeb. BUT the pressures of keeping up a facade of being in a marriage that is #relationshipgoals (thanks, social media) and having to deal with the press who’d happily plaster a picture of your sole, sad self along the beach alongside one of your husband laughing with his hot co-star… that can certainly take its toll. And when there’s a comparison of who’s more famous than whom? Sigh.

On page 194, Anna shares about the time she uttered “Don’t you know who I am?” in 2002 when the manager of a bowling alley bar wanted to kick her out of the place for getting (slightly) drunk. Reminds me of the time that our own local celebrity, Rui En, did the same. I suppose fame gets to your head, ya? Even a self-deprecating, funny, and lovable character like Anna also falls prey to it.

Read this book if you’d like to know Anna Faris a little better. She does share some interesting nuggets about Chris Pratt (which make him seem REALLY desirable) but don’t expect it to tell you (not even a hint!) about the reasons why they got a divorce.

Book Review: ‘Operation Playboy’ by Kathryn Bonella

operation playboy book by kathryn bonella

This book, ‘Operation Playboy’, is about the true story of “playboy surfers turned international drug lords’. It’s a hundred times better than ‘Billion Dollar Whale‘, in my humble opinion. πŸ˜‰ It’s a real page-turner and it’s obvious the writer did countless interviews with the people involved (caught or still at-large) and the cops who caught them. The result is a book which opened my eyes to a portion of the international drug trade starting from Brazil and leading to other parts of the world, such as Amsterdam and Bali. It reveals the lives these drug lords lead, dripping in cash, and their eventual downfall which could involve 12-man firing squads. Also, there is a shocking and damning account of the justice system in Brazil, where cops, prosecutors and judges can be bribed all too easily.

“…if a judge gets convicted for crimes, even if he worked only 3,4,5 years, he’s going to be dismissed of his judiciary power, they are going to say you are not a judge anymore but you are going to receive your paycheck every month… it’s almost an invitation to sell some sentences, to get money off some guys being accused. Give it a try, man. What’s the worst [that] can happen? You don’t have to work for the next 30 years and you’re going to receive pay as if you’re working.” – Chief CaieronΒ 

Sometimes I wonder how drugs land in Singapore, what with our strict laws and all the customs checks. Then there’s this book about how these surfer drug lords have ‘horses’ (read: drug mules) working for them, and they have drugs hidden in the lining of bags, parachutes even, and also within specially made surfboards just for this purpose. There’s carbon paper packaging to counter all those x-ray checks and anti-dog scents to get dogs off their (drug) trail. It all sounds so easy, unless dumb things happen, such as sending a horse who looks like the exact opposite of a surfer, or when the guy making these surfboards isn’t paid promptly and he decides to cut corners this time.

This book succeeds, beyond any doubt, in drawing readers into the world of the playboys, with its free flow of drugs, cash, booze, women, luxury hotels and first-class travel. You might begin to wonder why you’re working so hard and making so little, when these guys are getting others to be their horses and they’re just flying in after them and getting loads of cash without much risk. Then, towards the end of the book, you’ll find executions, jail time and sometimes ridiculous outcomes such as when a “well-known horse and boss” becomes a police officer in Brazil. (>_<) Someone should make a movie out of this book!