Book Review: Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

I think that people who are given the opportunity to say their goodbyes are indeed blessed. Too often, people are taken away from their families in an unexpected instant – an accident on the roads, a natural disaster, a sudden medical emergency.

In this book ‘Five Days Left’, you’ll read about the lives of Mara who is a successful lawyer, and Scott who helps foster an eight-year-old child during the year his mother is in jail. By the end of the book, a 404-page tome which took Julie Lawson Timmer two years to write, one family gets a happy ending, while the other gets a sorrowful one. Read the book to find out the details. I’m trying hard not to include spoilers here. :D

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Mara has the rug pulled out from under her when she has to give up her lucrative and demanding law practice because of Huntington’s Disease. HD is a genetic brain disorder that leads to uncontrolled movements, loss of cognition, etc. And in just one book, the author has given me an invaluable insight into the life of a sufferer of HD, and an understanding of how it affects the people around the patient.

From commanding respect in a courtroom to embarrassing her kid in school, Maya was certainly a hapless victim to “this terrorist of a disease”. At the ripe old age of 42, she had to buy adult diapers for herself in a sneaky fashion – trying to avoid detection by other people in the store, and hiding the diaper packets under other merchandise in her shopping basket, just like how some young men try to hide condoms under newspapers before sheepishly heading to the cashier! It would actually be funny if it weren’t so sad!

The reason she had to buy adult diapers is because she actually peed in her pants while at a grocery store, and was utterly mortified by the reaction of a kid who spotted this weird lady who did not make it in time to the bathroom. The kid’s mom sympathetically gave her paper towels to wipe up the mess but it was of little help. This part of the story reminds me of what the Singaporean Of The Year, Noriza A. Mansor, did to help the elderly man who had soiled himself while grocery-shopping at a supermarket in Toa Payoh.

And from that point onwards, it’d be downhill for Mara. She’d also have to grapple with thoughts of Tom with another woman (after she dies), what would happen to her (adopted) daughter, etc. At one point, she actually voiced out her thoughts to Tom:

“I know how much better off Laks would be with me in an urn on the mantel, rather than as an object of ridicule in the school hallways. I know how much better life would be for you with me out of the way, and room for some young, healthy bombshell to sweep in and take my place. Someone you can look at with pride rather than pity.”

I think the author has done a brilliant job in highlighting the struggles Mara goes through in deciding whether or not she should take her own life, and also, if she does want to commit suicide, when and how she should do it. Would it eventually still be vodka, sleeping pills and carbon monoxide? Read this book to find out!

As for Scott, Curtis’ entrance into his life was set to change it forever. Curtis’ mother, a drug addict, had to serve time for drug possession, and Scott and his wife took Curtis in for the year that she was in jail. The couple had been trying to have a kid for 3 years, and spent a lot of money on IVF, but to no avail. Eventually, Curtis’ lousy mother gets out of jail, and wants to take Curtis home way before the agreed-upon date, claiming she misses her son. Scott is devastated. What happens in the end? You’ll have to get a copy of this book to know. :)

Meanwhile, one thing about parenting struck me. No matter how lousy some parents are, the State should in no way interfere. “The state has no right to require perfection from parents.” Yes, some parents will sell their children’s belongings in order to get money to fuel their drug habit, some won’t bother with packing their lunchboxes or ensuring they have enough money for food, and yet more others won’t care that their children share their beds with cockroaches. But the State cannot, and should not, take children away from their biological parents. Hmm.

About ‘Last Meals’

“When you are actually going to have your last meal, you’ll either be too sick to have it or you aren’t gonna know it’s your last meal and you could squander it on something like a tuna melt and that would be ironic. So it’s important… I feel it’s important to have that last meal today, tomorrow, soon.” – a quote in the book that is attributed to Nora Ephron.

Wow. I’d consider it a privilege to be able to plan my own last meal.

I think it would be a blessing to be able to say goodbye, in the company of loving friends and family, without too much pain or struggle, and certainly with smiles through the tears. And hopefully, without the gnawing thought that there’s just five days left. Good book. Go read it.

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‘Five Days Left’ is available in bookstores, at S$21.45 before GST. :)

Book Review: Bangkok SlaughterHouse by Father Joe Maier

Bangkok SlaughterHouse

I got to know about this book when the rockstar-lookalike lawyer Josephus Tan recommended it (Thank you, Josephus!) Actually the title of this book is ‘Welcome To The Bangkok Slaughterhouse – The Battle for Human Dignity in Bangkok’s Bleakest Slums’ but for simplicity’s sake, I’ll just refer to it as ‘Bangkok Slaughterhouse’ here. :) I highly recommend that you borrow a copy from the national library and have a read. Extremely insightful especially if you have an interest in Bangkok, aside from the shopping haven that it is. :D

The book is written by Father Joe Maier, a Redemptorist priest from the United States who went to Thailand in 1967 as a missionary. He has lived and worked in Bangkok’s Klong Toey slum for more than 30 years. Why “Slaughterhouse”? Because some of the residents in the slum slaughtered pigs for a living. But I do also think that some of the residents appear to be as helpless – they are caught in a downward spiral of poverty, lack of opportunity, drugs, gambling, debt, etc.

If you are able to find a copy of ‘Bangkok Slaughterhouse’ in a bookstore, do purchase it. Royalties will be donated to the Human Development Foundation charity. :)

And here’s a video clip in which you can see Father Joe and his interactions with the locals:

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To be very honest with you, I’ve become rather nauseated by the oft-reported cases of child abuse (usually of a sexual nature) in South-East Asia by white people. Of course, this doesn’t happen just in Asia. Last year, I was shocked by the reports that one of the people I had previously interviewed for this blog, Jared Fogle of Subway fame, had been sentenced to 15 years in prison after being charged for sex with minors and for receiving child pornography. (I kid you not, go do a Google search) And reading about how parents in this Bangkok slum actually get their kids to go sell trinkets in street corners, and then even their bodies to (disgusting) men is mind-blowing. These parents want the money to either fuel their drug habit or to pay off gambling debts! It’ll prompt you to think “how can this be happening?!” as you read this book.

I’m indeed thankful that there are people like Father Joe who do not exploit these people, but instead help them, and give them a leg up in society by providing access to education, food, etc.

In the foreword written by Jerry Hopkins, the author of ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive’, it is stated that “when Father Joe guided Mother Teresa around the Klong Toey slum in 1971, she said something quite simple that changed his life. She told him to stay in the slums, where the need was great.”

Late last year, I went on a volunteer trip to KL, where ASEAN youth (yes I’m still considered a ‘youth’ :P) helped feed the homeless and take part in other volunteer activities. This year, I did also go to Cambodia to visit an orphanage, bring them supplies of stationery and food, and spent some time with the children. And it pains me to read articles written by people who claim that such ‘voluntours’ (volunteer work while touring a country) are simply for self-glorifying reasons, e.g. for pictures to put on Facebook. For me, it has 3 purposes:

  1. It makes me thankful. There’s so much to complain about in Singapore, that we sometimes forget there’s so much to be thankful for too. Trips like these help me snap out of this ungrateful state.
  2. Reminds me to contribute. Often, I think that I’m only one person. What can I do? These trips show me that even when I’m going through a rough patch in my personal life, I can actually still lend a helping hand to others. And in helping others, I might sometimes be able to help myself too.
  3. Reminds me we are one big human family. There are instances when there’s absolutely nothing I can do. I remember meeting a lady when I was on a missions trip to Batam. There was a huge language barrier – I had difficulty understanding what she was saying about her husband being in prison and her having to raise a young kid on her own – but as I prayed for (and with) her, my tears just kept falling, my false eyelashes fell out, and it’s like our souls spoke when our tongues failed. I understood the depth of her sorrow and I was crying as if it was my own. It was a truly unforgettable experience.

When I read a book or attend a seminar, I ask myself if I’d learnt one thing from it. If I have, then it was worth the money, time and effort already. Likewise, I believe that if the people I meet on these volunteer trips even learn one thing or benefit in one way (e.g. have a fun afternoon of games and laughter), that’s enough. There are many kids in our part of the world who live with AIDS, and won’t live long with AIDS either. If you can even bring a little spark of joy into their lives at one point in time, I think that’s a good thing. Doing a little something is always better than doing a lot of NOTHING. And whatever you do, there will be someone who will question your motives and frown upon your actions. Do it anyway.

And know that the more times you fail, the more likely you are to encounter success.

Father Joe shared a success story in this book:

“Samlee’s story is happy in a Klong Toey way. She’s our kind of hero. Beaten up but never beaten, Samlee never (not once!) ever thought of quitting. If we hadn’t helped her, she would have found another way on her own.” As a single parent, Samlee managed to raise two children who do brilliantly well in school. Read the book to find out how she did it. :)

Also, Father Joe encourages us to help out when we see kids peddling stuff on streets – just buy a little something. With enough money, hopefully, these kids (and their parents) will be able to say ‘no’ when some crook decides to try and lure these children into his van with the promise of a lot of money and food.

I’m glad I read this book. It sure gave me a different perspective about Bangkok. It’s not just about shopping, mango sticky rice, coconut ice cream, or Chatuchak. At some point in your life, you have to stop thinking about ‘you’ and start thinking about ‘them’, about ‘us’ and how we all share the same fate actually… we’re not getting out of this life alive.

Book Review: ‘Furiously Happy’ by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

The author of this book, Jenny Lawson, is also known as The Bloggess. Yup, make sure you check out her blog *wink*. Her first book ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’ was a #1 New York Times bestseller. And I won’t be surprised if this book rises to the top of the charts too. It’s hilarious. I even read it twice. The funniest part of it all has to be the fact that I enjoy reading what a woman has to say about her struggles with depression and anxiety. And I feel relieved I don’t have any of those illnesses she’s living with – and it’s quite a long list too! But ultimately, I feel happy for her that she has a husband (Victor) who loves her, quirks and all. :)

I’m one of those crazy (hur hur) folks who love to read books from cover to cover. This means that I read the ‘Praise’ section as well, and I love knowing what other people have to say about the book before I read it myself. In ‘Furiously Happy’, the author wrote her own (fake) “Advance Praise” for the book, pretending to be Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Dorothy Parker, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Stephen King, William Shakespeare, and her current shrink. LOL! This sets the tone for what is to come in the rest of the book! She says this is one “funny book about living with mental illness”. I like that she ‘lives’ with it, instead of suffering from it, and so we can all laugh together. :)

Furiously Happy is, in her own words, “about taking those moments when things are fine and making them amazing, because those moments are what make us who we are, and they’re the same moments we take into battle with us when our brains declare war on our very existence. It’s the difference between “surviving life” and “living life”.

She reminds me to make that decision to be ridiculously happy, no matter what.

Jenny has been described by her doctors as “a high-functioning depressive with severe anxiety disorder, moderate clinical depression, and mild self-harm issues that stem from an impulse-control disorder”. And if that doesn’t sound bad enough, she also has avoidant personality disorder, occasional depersonalization disorder, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune issues, mild OCD and trichotillomania.

She’s also allergic to latex so condoms might give her a vaginal rash. She has chronic insomnia. She has a tendency to pick at her cuticles till they bleed, then pick at the scabs when she is nervous. She will also pull her hair out and scratch her scalp and forehead. Apparently, it’s something called Dematillomania: “an impulse control disorder that makes you want to scratch your skin off”.

In this book, she also shares about the time her gallbladder had started to gangrene. And if you think that’s the end of her health woes, she shares that when she goes underwater, she’ll always get an ear infection. And oh, she’s “dangerously lactose intolerant” and lives with “a host of phobias”. I bet you’re wondering, just like I am… How can this woman still be alive?

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“And when we see celebrities who fall victim to depression’s lies we think to ourselves, “How in the world could they have killed themselves? They had everything.” But they didn’t. They didn’t have a cure for an illness that convinced them they were better off dead.”

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But I’m glad she shares these things. It’s how I can begin to understand why people like successful actor Robin Williams would want to kill themselves. How is it possible that they choose to end their lives despite their success and the millions of people around the world who adore them? Now I know.

And I do suspect that she knows (new) readers like me would be skeptical about the amazing things she says happened to her. Thankfully, she provides pictures in the book to prove to skeptics that she did indeed encounter a pharmacist at the drive-through who eats dog biscuits, catch live catfish in a water-filled canoe in the backyard, take a photo with a koala while wearing a koala costume, and frolic in the outback while wearing a kangaroo suit. All these events are properly documented and supported with black-and-white photographs. :D So she’s not that crazy after all :)

I love when she spouts such truths as “when I’m fatter my wrinkles disappear”. Hahaha! It’s what I’ve always thought but never found the guts to reveal to a fat person I meet who’s lamenting the fact the he/she is old. If you don’t have wrinkles, stop saying you’re old, please.

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“…appreciate the fact that what drives you is very different from what you’re told should make you happy. You learn that it’s okay to prefer your personal idea of heaven (live-tweeting zombie movies from under a blanket of kittens) rather than someone else’s idea that fame/fortune/parties are the pinnacle that we should all reach for. And there’s something surprisingly freeing about that”

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More quotable quotes from this outstanding book:

“It doesn’t mean I’m a failure at appreciating the good things in life. It means I’m successful in recognizing what the good things in life are for me.”

“Don’t sabotage yourself. There are plenty of other people willing to do that for free.”

“…stop judging yourself against shiny people. Avoid the shiny people. The shiny people are a lie. Or get to know them enough to realize they aren’t so shiny after all.”

All in all, I think everyone should read this book because it’s hilarious! And also because this woman does the insane things I wish I had the guts to do, like be photographed with a koala while wearing a koala costume. Sometimes we should all allow ourselves to be a little crazy. :D

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Grab a copy of ‘Furiously Happy’ at all good bookstores at just S$27.99, before GST. :)

It’s totally worth the pricetag! :D

Book Review: Daughters Of Eve by Lois Duncan

Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan

If you’ve watched the movie “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, you might be familiar with author Lois Duncan. Her book ‘Daughters Of Eve’ was published in 1979 and updated in 2011. It’s quite a page-turner and it’s one of those books I’d happily forego sleep for so as to find out what happens in the next chapter. LOL. Needless to say, I was done reading the book pretty quick –  in just 2 sittings. :D

Here’s a summary: “A high school teacher uses the guise of feminist philosophy to manipulate the lives of a group of girls with chilling results”.

This book covers so many topics: sisterhood, loyalty, the mob mentality, sexism, revenge, love vs lust, dreams, relationships, divorces, domestic violence, etc. But revenge seems to be the main one – as you can see on the cover, it states “All for one and revenge for all”.

In some cases, I’d have to say that the revenge exacted was pretty satisfying, such as with Peter. The way he got ambushed, had all his bodily hair removed, and the word ‘SLUT’ carved into the back of his head… it all kind of made up for the way he callously toyed with Laura’s feelings, used her body and ruthlessly dumped her.

Then it gets darker and darker.

And you, the reader, are left wondering when it’ll all stop and what will be left at the end of it.

Indeed, it’s as one of the testimonial-givers shares:

“Lois Duncan’s thrillers have a timeless quality about them. They are good stories, very well told, that also happen to illuminate both the heroic and dark parts of growing up” – Marc Talbert, author of Dead Birds Singing, etc

I don’t know if you do the same but I love to read books (literally) from cover to cover. I read the testimonials given by other authors (You really should check out those on Ellen DeGeneres’ book as they were all written by her. LOL) and I read too the author’s Bio page to find out more about the person who wrote the book. Lois’ is particularly interesting, as I’ve indicated below:

Daughters of Eve Lois Duncan

Lois and her husband, Don, have five children. And among the many novels that Lois has written is a book titled ‘Who Killed My Daughter?” which is about the true story of the murder of Kaitlyn Arquette, the youngest of Lois’ children, on July 16, 1989 . You can find out more about this still-unsolved homicide at kaitarquette.arquettes.com.

It’s true – I don’t quite know what to say about this. May all rest in peace.

Book Review and Giveaway: Black Sheep by Richard Stephens

Black Sheep by Richard Stephens

Seeing double? Hehe. I have two copies of this book and am giving away one copy to a lucky reader who leaves a comment on this blogpost! :) If you’re like me in how I judge books by their covers, you’ll probably like this one, eh? That black sheep going “F*** OFF!” to the rest of the white sheep is just hilarious! :D And oh, you should definitely check out the back cover in which the black sheep is drinking alcohol!

This book is about “the hidden benefits of being bad”. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it?

It’s actually an enjoyable read. And the author also throws out a caveat within the foreword – “Don’t take the accounts in these pages as gospel”. Yeah. Just enjoy the read.

Chapter 1 is titled “Sleep Around”

Apparently, having sex helps in exercising facial muscles to keep us looking young, makes us more tolerant of pain, and reduces anxiety and stress. However, decision-making can be impaired by sexual arousal – one becomes more impulsive and prone to making less advantageous decisions. LOL!

Chapter 2 encourages us to “Drink Up”

Alcohol can protect against some illnesses, reduce your risk of depression and set creative juices flowing. There’s apparently such a thing as hangover immunity in which about 1 in 5 people don’t get hangovers, whatever they drink.

Chapter 3 claims that swearing is “Damn Good”

Hidden benefits of swearing include expressing emotion, being a tool for persuasion, as a means of coping with pain, way of identifying dementia, and to be polite. Swearing apparently acts on pain perception via the emotion of aggression.

Chapter 4 is on the benefits of fast driving. Chapter 5 is about love. I found it interesting that “Studies of people’s preferences for faces have repeatedly shown that, actually, people are more impressed by averageness”. Chapter 6 is on “Stress More” – being stressed can bolster your memory. Chapter 7 encourages us to “Waste Time” and states that chewing gum has psychological benefits. Doodling can also help maintain concentration while performing a dull task. Chapter 8 is on “Die Hard” which investigates near-death experiences. I do wish it can somehow be proven that those people did have out-of-body experiences. That would be way too cool! :D

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This book retails at S$27.99 (before GST) at all good bookstores. You stand to win a copy if you leave a comment right here and tell me which of these chapters seem most interesting to you. :)

Update: Congratulations go to June Low! :D Check your email inbox for my winner notification email. And thank you all for participating! :D

Book Review: Cultivating Creativity by Maria Fabrizio

Cultivating Creativity by Maria Fabrizio

The author of this book, Maria, is an illustrator and designer. And she also maintains the blog Wordless News. I wanted to read this book because I’m always on the lookout for ideas for becoming more creative, or rather, for ideas to help unleash innate creativity. :D I think most of us were extremely creative as children – we played make-believe games, doodled on walls, wrote our own storybooks, and spent lots of time daydreaming. As we grow older, sadly, we become less creative, our imagination becomes limited and we need structured, brainstorming sessions at work in order to (ironically) think out of the box and try to come up with innovative solutions.

And many bloggers struggle with expressing their creative voice, merely falling into the trap of doing what’s already been done, and trying to replicate something they see on another blog.

So how can we break out of the mould?

Maria’s Wordless News blog offers one such example. Her blog is “vowel and consonant free”, which means it’s probably not going to rank as well in Google searches. But, if you were to pop by her blog, you’d see images such as this one:

Trafficking

And a link to the article that inspired it, in this case a report about ‘The Underage Girls Of Mexico’s Sex Trade’

An image a day, inspired by a news article. How’s that for creativity? And doesn’t a picture speak a thousand words? :)

Maria’s book, ‘Cultivating Creativity’, also includes many of the images she has created. This next one is about the danger of toxic metals in some lipstick colors and brands:

Cultivating Creativity

I love this sketch, by the way:

Cultivating Creativity book

I’ve gathered many tips from Maria’s book ‘Cultivating Creativity’ and I’ll share some of them with you here:

  1. Work when it feels best and is more efficient
  2. Log off from email for 4 hours and simply create, enjoying the energy and peace
  3. Don’t have long lunches or eat too much at lunch
  4. Have a “uniform” that you wear everyday so you don’t have to waste time looking for matching clothes to wear
  5. Have a shortlist of choices for breakfast so you don’t waste time figuring out what to eat
  6. Exercise. “The longevity of a creative life comes from non-creative activities”
  7. Journal your thoughts, images and ideas
  8. Have a “blue book” in which you write down compliments and accomplishments that you can read for encouragement when you are feeling blue – get a dose of “intentional sunshine”
  9. Draw without looking at the paper – “the best way to capture a soul is with a blind contour, only looking and not harboring expectations”
  10. “The discipline of being prolific produces quantity, which then leads to quality”
  11. “Failure isn’t failure if you can reflect, learn and grow”

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This full-color, illustrated book is available at all good bookstores for just S$27.06 (before GST). Needless to say, you have to go get a copy. Now. :D

Book Review: Penguins Can’t Fly by Jason Kotecki

Penguins Can't Fly by Jason Kotecki

It looks like a book for children, what with the too-cute illustrations and how it’s just the right size as a picture book for kids. But this book ‘Penguins Can’t Fly’ is quite a page-turner. Jason Kotecki is an artist, author and professional speaker who has selected 40 “rules” to include in this book, and he encourages us to break them all, and offers good reasons why this should be done too! And I’ll start by breaking a few rules myself:

“if you obey all the rules you miss all the fun” – katharine hepburn

This book might seem less-than-serious to snobbish readers, but it offers up pearls of wisdom in a most palatable manner. I won’t be able to reproduce all those pages here (some rules are not meant to be broken, unfortunately) but here are some takeaways I got from reading this book:

  1. Every single day is a holiday. It’s just that most days, what to celebrate is up to you.
  2. Pay attention to what your inner child says.
  3. Go ahead and eat dessert first – that’s what you promised yourself as a kid; that when you’re all grown-up, you’ll eat dessert before your meal. *reaches for pint of ice cream* Penguins Can't Fly by Jason Kotecki
  4. Celebrate playfulness. Dance in the rain like a child, hop into a puddle instead of skirting around it!
  5. It’s “okay to consume pizza, cake, or wine for breakfast”
  6. Mondays don’t stink – it’s your job. Change your attitude or change your job. “The REAL key to happiness (and so-called work-life balance) is not figuring out how to work less, but doing more work that matters.
  7. Should you be obsessed about being busy, or appearing to be busy, when you can proudly say “I haven’t been busy at all. I’m just taking life as it comes, enjoying it one moment at a time”? :D
  8. Question all those rules.
  9. Write your own definition of success.
  10. Worried about wrinkles? Well… “no one ever died at the age of one hundred looking like a nineteen-year-old” !!!
  11. “If a dream is realistic, it’s not really a dream. It’s a to-do. If you want to be realistic, be realistic about your fears. After all, most of the things you worry about will never happen.”
  12. Why keep the fine china locked away till there’s a special occasion? Every day is special. Think about that family member who has passed on. Wouldn’t you give just about anything to have one more dinner with that person?
  13. Fact: We will all die with stuff on our to-do list.

And these are just some of the things that Jason shares in this really cool book. You should head out to a bookstore and get a copy, or order one online. I highly recommend that you read it. :)

Penguins Can't Fly by Jason Kotecki

What was most striking for me was that point about keeping the tableware till that fine day when there’s a special occasion. What if that day never comes? What if I die before that day comes? What if the house gets burnt down together with everything in it? Sobering thought, no? Why not understand that every day is special and worth celebrating, as today is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed?

~

This book retails at S$26.12 (before GST) in all good bookstores :)

Review: Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman’

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

I guess Harper Lee has led the life many aspiring novelists can only dream of – publish a book and have it sell over 30 million copies, and have (more than) enough to last a lifetime. Plus, what a lasting legacy the book ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has. For sure, any other novel that she writes after this will likely pale in comparison (oops), but Harper Lee now gives us ‘Go Set A Watchman’. *wink*

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ fans can read this second book without fear. Instead of destroying your impressions about the characters, you’ll get a greater insight into what Scout and Atticus really think about racial issues. But… if you have trouble coming to terms with reading about a now-old Atticus Finch (72 years old and almost crippled by rheumatoid arthritis) and a Scout who is quite comfortable doing the unimaginable – SMOKING – then you’d best not read this book. :D

I also came to realize that I missed the character Dill / Charles Baker Harris. I love reading about the things that Dill, Scout and Jem did as kids and the part about Dill dressing up as the “Holy Ghost” in ‘Go Set A Watchman’ was laugh-out-loud-FUNNY! I’ll not spoil it for you… you can go read about it yourself.

I’m not sure if ‘Go Set A Watchman’ was indeed, as Wikipedia says, the original text that should have been published instead of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. But how different things would have been! I’m not sure if Harper Lee would still have gone on to receive “the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards and honours” as the book’s cover sleeve so proudly shares.

Free postcards at the back of the book :D

Go Set A Watchman postcards Harper Lee

My biggest disappointment in reading this book is finding out that Jem had simply keeled over and died one day. Presumably, he had a heart problem, just like his mother had. But we do get to read about Henry Clinton a.k.a. Hank. Hank is Scout’s suitor and when they are together, we get something to laugh about. From the late-night swim in the river (they were caught by spying eyes and said to have been swimming naked, when they were in fact clothed. Atticus’ response was pretty epic and super funny!) to the flashback to Scout’s schooldays when she showed up for a Commencement Dance with a pair of “false bosoms” which did not stay in place during the dance (what Hank did thereafter led to a hilarious situation in school). You’ll really have to read about these instances!

And, of course, there’s no avoiding issues about race and racial tensions in this book.

If more people are like Scout, we’d have fewer outbreaks of racism all around the world. Scout says on p179 that “They were poor, they were diseased and dirty, some were lazy and shiftless, but never in my life was I given the idea that I should despise one, should fear one, should be discourteous to one, or think that I could mistreat one and get away with it”. I would attribute this to Atticus’ not having a second marriage to a white woman and instead, employing a black woman (Calpurnia) to be the cook and also help in raising his two children.

As Scout’s Uncle Jack a.k.a. Dr. Finch says, “You’re color blind, Jean Louise… You always have been, you always will be. The only differences you see between one human and another are differences in looks and intelligence and character and the like. You’ve never been prodded to look at people as a race, and now that race is the burning issue of the day, you’re still unable to think racially. You see only people.” 

We definitely need more people who are color blind when it comes to race. And I do believe that this book still serves a purpose in reinforcing this point, especially when Scout begins to think that Atticus might be a racist and lashes out at him.

Dr Finch explains to Scout that “He (Atticus) was letting you break your icons one by one. He was letting you reduce him to the status of a human being”. And isn’t this what Harper Lee is trying to do for us readers too? *wink*

All in all, I think this book is a good read. Not as mindblowing-ly awesome as ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has been, but it was great reading about Atticus and Jean Louise again, and the central message about racial issues remains. And perhaps some of us just need to hear it again from Harper Lee. :)

As Dr Finch says, on p264, “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.” What does your conscience say to you today about the way racial issues are playing out in your country, in the world you live in, and your response to those issues? :)

The BEST Book Sale In 2015 PLUS $50 Box Sale And FREE Books For Seniors!

sg book deals

I’m really liking the SG50 celebrations and promotions so far. This one takes the cake. Yes, yes, it’s not been very long since the previous book fair at the Singapore Expo, but this one is well worth your time.

5 Reasons Why You Should Pop By This Warehouse Sale:

  • SG50 Box Sale – Remember the $100 box sale in April? You got to choose as many books as you want, and as long as they fit into the box and could be sealed, you take them all home for just $100? Well, it’s now going for just $50!
  • Free Book for Seniors – If you are 50 years old and above, you are entitled to ONE free book of your choice. Only one book per person, so don’t get greedy! *wink* Proof of identity/age is required, so bring your IC along. :)
  • Prices as low as 50 cents – Prices are already very low each time. I can vouch for that. Read my review here: https://workingwithgrace.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/get-a-free-book-great-book-deals-at-the-book-expo-singapore/
  • Good range at great value – Everything from children’s books to personal development and finance books!
  • Over 10,000 titles available at the sale – Be prepared to spend A LOT of time at the warehouse sale. I was late for lunch with my friend previously because I lost track of time among the rows and rows of books. (>_<)

This time round, it’s not at the Expo, so take note of the location:

SG Book Deals

To keep yourself updated about the Sale, and all the promotions, ‘Like’ SG Book Deals on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/sgbookdeals

Book Review: ‘Thank You For This Moment’ by Valérie Trierweiler

Reading List

This picture above shows my “reading list” for these 2 weeks, I guess. :D I borrowed ‘Life in the Skies – Everything You Want To Know About Flying’ from the library as I thought it might be a pretty interesting read as most of the cabin crew stories we usually get to read about are sensational or scandalous. This one by Captain Lim Khoy Hing turned out to be pretty mild, and is a 249-page essay to convince you that flying is super safe and there’s really nothing to worry about. And oh, to fly with AirAsia, of course. ;)

The book ‘Thank You For This Moment by Valérie Trierweiler, however, has these words “A story of love, power and betrayal” on the cover. And if I may add, it should be “betrayals” (plural form) because that’s what it seems to be.

Thank You For This Moment by Valerie TrierWeiler

After reading its 298 pages, I’m still wondering if there is any nobler purpose to writing this book. For those who don’t know the author, she was married twice and got divorced twice as well. She was in her second marriage (with 3 children) when she fell in love with (the current French President) François Hollande who was also married and had 4 children at that time. So they each split with their respective spouses and got together, and she became First Lady. In the end, François left her for an actress named Julie Gayet.

* big sigh *

On page 286 is what I think sums up the purpose of this book:

“Before I saw the pictures of François on his way to meet his mistress, I would have staked my life on the fact that he would never betray me or abandon me – that he would never do such a thing to me, not in a million years. But he did and I still cannot get over it. I will not get over it.”

*I also find the name of the publishing house very cute – “Biteback Publishing”. Oh yes, indeed. *wink*

 “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is true. And “sometimes we are our own worst enemies” is also true. We do need to give ourselves permission to move on.

I’m sure it’s now easier for the author to move on since the book has sold many hundreds of thousands of copies.

If anything, this book teaches us all about karma (what goes around comes around) and that cheaters will never stop cheating. I don’t know why the author would compare Julie Gayer to “a snake in the grass” (p127) when the author herself had cheated on her second husband (I don’t know what happened with the first divorce).

Plus, this book just goes on and on with no chapters to divide the story. Yup, it’s one of those rare books with no chapters at all.

While some self-righteous people will say “Cheating is easy, try something more challenging like being faithful”, I’d say that the only thing we need to learn here is to avoid the cheaters. Even if someone appears to be a good catch and he is willing to leave his wife for you, don’t fall for it. He’ll leave you for someone else in a heartbeat.

And the children really do suffer. From hatred of the “mistress” to the hatred of their own dad or mom. I see this very clearly in the life of a prominent figure – dad cheated multiple times, mom becomes bitter, blogger herself becomes super wary of instances of betrayal and abandonment. Female bloggers she hates get labelled as “whores” and “sluts”. Because the father left the family when she was young, this blogger feels she has been robbed of a happy childhood. I guess this is why after getting married and becoming a mother, she’s still wearing what netizens call her ‘ridiculous kiddy outfits’.

But such is Life. We cannot choose the families we are born into. We cannot choose our parents or change the way they behave and think. But we can choose the right person to be in a relationship with. And we can definitely choose to be happy in spite of the situations we find ourselves in. :)