Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Great Divorce and Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

I'm so happy! My books from amazon.com came yesterday. I don't know if I said it, but I'm really happy(: It's like receiving a present! But I haven't finished reading them yet (or started at all). I'm weird because when I read a book that I've been wanting to read, I like to make my reading experience as pleasant as possible(: Now is Week 11, so I'm waiting for a less hectic time. So, today, I read two books by C.S Lewis (once again, courtesy of Aunty Florence):

The Great Divorce came in a very nice cover, although the way the pages was cut made it too easy to skip a few pages (not that I did). The story is about the author, who gets on a bus ride from Hell to Heaven, where they are invited to stay forever. Although the story consists mostly of overhead conversations, it's still engaging. I was curious to find out the fates of the Ghosts in conversation, although C. S. Lewis does not say. I suppose it's because he does not want to limit the ending of the various case studies.

Surprised by Joy, although I had read before, felt unfamiliar to me. It's an autobiography of how C.S Lewis went from a form of Christianity to Atheism and finally to true Christianity again. It's very interesting, although I'm quite shocked at the gay relationships that went/go on in an English public school.....

After reading his books, I really wish I have the talent to write like him and Chesterton. It's interesting, how although he only refers to G.K Chesterton a few times, I could see his influence straight away. As soon as he used the phrase "the horn of elfland" (or something to that effect), I had a feeling that he read Chesterton. That phrase is so much like him.

C.S Lewis (and G.K Chesterton) are two authors that should be read and re-read. There are a few quotes that I want to remember, but I think I'll re-read the book. It's a good test to see if they are worth remembering - if they have the same freshness as the first time, it's worth keeping.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dead Heat by Joel C Rosenberg

I've actually written the review for IntoTheBook, but I can't post it there because I can't find the image, so here's the review first:

The World Is Ending! Well, it's actually started it's decay since The Fall about 6000 years ago. But the End-Times still fascinate us. The most recent example would be the Preacher Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end on May 21. A result of this fascination is the slew of End-Times books, including Dead Heat by Joel C. Rosenberg, who based his books on the book of Ezekiel, focusing on the war of Gog and Magog.

Dead Heat, the last book in the his series, starts with the increasing chaos: Oil prices surging to record heights, A new dictator rising in Iraq, China threatening Taiwan, North Korean forces ready to strike the South and Israel feverishly trying to complete the Third Temple. In an eerie echo of his first book, which started with a terrorist attack on a major landmark in an attempt to assassinate the President, this book opens with another terrorist attack, but this time, nuclear warheads are launched and they succeed.

What follows is utter chaos. 5 nuclear warheads have hit and obliterated 4 cities: Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. Most of Congress has died and America is left in chaos. Jon and Erin (the two protagonists) are in a refugee camp in Northern Jordan, Erin dangerously ill. I won't reveal all that happen, but I will state that book (and so, the series), ends with the Rapture.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which deserves the title of page-turner. While I've never been impressed with most End-Times books, which were forgettable and controversial (I've had a Preacher once tell the congregation that the Left Behind Series should be left behind), this one is very believable.

This is one book that strikes fear into my heart, and not just because Mr Rosenberg has been called a "modern Nostradamus" with many of his guesses in previous books coming true. This book scares me because of how well it portrays the evil in the world. Yes, Iraq is 'evil', but not all, if any, arguments come from extremism. In fact, one of the most convincing arguments come from a CIA traitor on why she betrayed her country to kill the President:

" I don't believe there should be only one superpower in the world. It's too dangerous. A country that is answerable to no one else becomes arrogant. Corrupt. Greedy. Bloodthirsty. And that's what has happened to America. She swaggers about the world as if she owns the place. She invades countries for no reason. She bombs civilians without mercy. She thinks she's superior to everyone on the planet and it's not right. The world is out of balance, Jonathan, and I decided to set it right.
"How can I?" Bennet asked. "You've just admitted to masterminding the assassination of the president of the United States."
"But not with nuclear weapons," Rajiv insisted, the tears coming harder now. "I wanted to humble America, not annihilate her. I wanted to bring across some kind of balance, not tip the scales completely."

Can you see the seductive power of her arguments? This book doesn't talk about evil as if it's black and white, evil is seen in the shades of grey, where the means no longer justify the ends.

This book is easy-to-read and scarily believable. The characters felt real, and not all of them were Christians when they died. In fact, some sympathetic characters (E.g. The Prime Minister of Israel) were not Christians at all, which made the book much more life-like. The book is very fast paced, and jumps between locations, which may be confusing for some people.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book if you're looking for some fast-paced and thrilling End-Times fiction. While I do not see any theological controversies inside, Mr Rosenberg is still 'interpreting' prophecy by trying to hypothesise about what will happen so this book should not be taken as the blue-print for how the End Times will play out.

I do want to end with this quote from the author, which I think is very appropriate:
"A new evil is rising. I feel it. I fear it. Let us awaken, before it's too late"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bilingual By Choice

I managed to read another book while I brought my brother to Beyond for Ohagi Class. I'm afraid he was a rather large nuisance because he kept wanting to win so badly. Well, thankfully for him, he won(: Because all the Sensei's voted for him. Haha.

Well, the book I read is called "Bilingual by Choice", and I didn't see the subtitle: Raising kids in two (or more!) languages. So it's as much a parenting book as it is about being bilingual.

You see, it's really strange. Singapore has a bilingual policy, where we have to learn English and our mother tongue, yet a lot of Chinese kids can't speak either (while other languages like Malay or Tamil or Hindi don't appear to have that problem). Well, if you're in schools like MGS or ACS, then you'll have people whose English is of a very very high standard. The kind where most people won't understand, and they laugh at weird puns. The ongoing jokes in my English Class (Basically Literature) are all based on our Lit books (Think Shakespeare, Twain, etc). And in my school, Puns are the norm/highest standard of humor. And even my brother, who's in a different ACS school makes so many puns a day.

But apart from the predominantly English schools (Good at English, almost non-existent Chinese), I've noticed when I'm out that other Singaporeans don't seem to have a very good grasp of either language. They speak in a mix of languages, which is really cool, since I do have friends who'll just mix like 4/6 languages, but when they do speak in one language, even I can hear mistakes. Which is not a good sign, considering that I'm being corrected (in English at least) whenever I speak. And on the radio, my dad always complains that the "youth" Station (Chinese) has horrible Chinese. Most of the time, I don't get it, but I do see, sometimes.

Yet, I grew up in a Chinese-English household. My audio environment when I was growing up was Hokkien/Chinese/English/Malay/Indonesian/Tagalog. My Church, for the first 15/16 years at least, was predominantly in Chinese. And to be honest, my sisters and I can get by in Chinese and English, although my Chinese is very very weak. And my Hokkien is even worse. Plus, I can't speak Malay or Indonesian (forgot whatever I learnt) or Tagalog (save a few scattered words). So it doesn't seem as though immersion is effective for language learning. The very prominent case: My brother. He grew up in the same environment, but only understand English.

And when I was in China last year, I more or less shocked the Chinese with my ability to speak Chinese (they spent about 4 days hearing me argue in English first). Plus, I'm currently learning Japanese. So I'm sort-of multilingual. And I've always did like languages (even though I spent a lot of time hating Chinese). But now, I even sorta like Chinese. I watch Chinese shows, and sometimes, I lapsed into Chinese when speaking with my parents (although speaking Hokkien/Chinese with my grandparents is a must).

So, this book basically gave me an opportunity to reflect on why I learn all these languages (it's fun, except the memorisation part) and what it means to be multilingual. I actually appreciate Chinese more now, and I've got some interesting ideas to try out to improve it. You should read this book if you take more than one language, it's quite useful(:

Reality and Fantasy

I've been reading a lot of fiction lately, maybe because I've been sick this week, and I don't really want to read anything too serious. It's the official school hols right now, but in school, it's what we all call "Week 11". Basically, we come back to school for one more week of lessons ):

Let me see, first, I read The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch. I borrowed it because it looked interesting, and Esther borrowed it from me cause she thought it looked interesting too. But I'd have to say, I don't recommend this to Christians, especially those struggling with their faith.

The story talks about Hoodoo (another sort of African Magic, if I remember correctly), and while the storyline was interesting, I didn't like how all the characters seemed to take it for granted that Christianity and Hoodoo can mix. Some of the 'spells' they used even used Bible verses >.< This sort of thing is very dangerous, because it rationalises black magic so BEWARE.

The next book I read was Emma Burning by Shanon Hale. It's the direct sequel of the book Goose Girl and I loved it! It's about Emma, Isi's forest friend from the first book, and how she learnt 'fire speak'. The difference between Emma Burning and The Magnolia League is that Emma Burning is quite plainly fantasy. It quite reminds me of Narnia or LOTR (But not that good, those books are simply one of a kind). It's the entertaining fantasy that instructs.

The last book I read is called A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie, and is another one of the Poirot Series. The premise is quite interesting, an unknown person puts an announcement in the local paper announcing a murder at 6.30 that day. The curious residents gather and the lights go out. A shots are heard and one resident is briefly struck by a bullet. But the intruder somehow has a bullet in him and dies.

Like all her books, this book has a very unexpected twist, not the one you expect. While the twist is a little strained and smacks a little of coincidence, it's not so coincidental as to be completely unbelievable. I suppose that's the beauty of it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Strata by Terry Pratchet

Strata, by Terry Pratchet, is the book that calls itself (according to the blurb), an "early exploration of the idea that was to become the bestselling Discworld series". Which is why I borrowed the book from the library(: But sometimes, such titles may unintentionally harm the book.

Strata is placed in a universe where humans have learnt how to create planets. Kin Arad (the protagonist), comes across a man who talks about a flat earth (that is the early version of Discworld). Through a series of events, she and two friends/acquaintances are trapped into a flat version of earth, way in the past.

Because this book supposedly inspired Discworld, I was actually expecting a world very similar to Discworld, not earth. Earth is cool, but it's not Discworld. Therein lies the problem. The story is good (relatively) but because I was expecting something as funny as one of the Discworld novels, I was disappointed.

The story itself, is interesting but doesn't seem very plot-centric. Well, plot does feature heavily, but I had this strange feeling that this was more of a character exploration than a story. And unlike his later novels, this book doesn't have as many funny moments.

The last point I have to make is basically about the ending of the story. While most stories by Terry Pratchet don't have satisfactory endings, it's fine with me because these stories take place in a larger world, where each character will appear here and there, and so, we'll be able to find their stories (even if it's in a haphazard way, because I don't read in chronological order). But in this story, I had this feeling of loose ends, such as "Why does Kin say she knew this already?" Even the explanation of the plot isn't very well done, because it admits that not all the information is known (because she suppressed it). This, in my opinion, greatly weakens the book.

But still, it's actually very interesting, as an exploration of how other worlds like ours would be like, and it raises valid ideas about the meaning of "cosmopolitan". I don't like it as much as his other books though...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Social Marketing to the Business Customer


I've been reading business books lately, including a Michael Porter book ^^

Porter is a really good writer, and since I have to study his theories, I might as well learn from the horses' mouth, so to speak. But there's actually not much to share with you, since it's pretty specialised in the sense that it's directed for business students/people.

But still, <3 Harvard Business Review stuff(:

The other book, which is a business book, so I'll be equally succinct. Social Marketing to the Business Customer looks irrelevant, but it's actually a really thorough and practical book on how to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs etc) to reach out to customers for B2B selling.

Actually, it has very useful tips for the average blogger/Internet shop owner, since it tells of how to win customer loyalty and how to feature on the top of google search engine. How to research trends and other useful tools. The reason why it's targeted at business would be the chapters which talk about how to convince your company to embrace social media (but they don't make up half the book).

I like the chapters with case studies (there's one every chapter, but there's also a chapter dedicated to it), since it shows the ways the social media tools can be applied. But I also like the useful and practical screenshots/pictures, which effectively teach the reader how to use the tools.

Ok, boring rant over(:

Friday, May 20, 2011

The "A" Authoress(es)

I was going to post yesterday, really! But I decided to do the old, long post for IntoTheBook, and apparently, I'm unproductive enough that I only have the motivation and drive to do one post a day. But I'll make it up by combining posts(: But do be warned, with EEToKIA and other posts, the number of posts will decrease in frequency until after November 18 2011.

The first book is by Agatha Christie, called "Evil Under the Sun". It's a Poiret mystery and only cost me $3. But honestly, I'd pay quite a lot for her books, because they're the kind I read over and over again. This novel, as usual, combines human nature with a murder mystery. One aspect about Agatha Christie's books that I like would be how the mystery isn't just something to be solved, and it can't be solved until you probe into human nature. It adds this psychological depths that to me, increases the richness of the book.

While this book claims to tie seemingly random things into the whole puzzle, this is just an illusion. The clues are logical, but require out-of-the-box thinking. When it's explain, the feeling that I get is "Why didn't I think of this earlier!" instead of "This does not make sense!/This is too coincidental!" Even the identity of the murderer, while unexpected, isn't completely implausible. Agatha Christie really is an authoress that upon re-reading, makes the clues seem obvious.

The next book is by Cecelia Ahern and it's called A Place Called Here. Amazingly, while I was reading it in school, one of my classmates Heizel (a guy), mentioned he read it. If you don't know, the cover of this book is bright pink, which is why all the other guys stared at him. It's hard to imagine a guy reading chick lit for some reason.

But he didn't really like the book because of the ending, and I have to agree with him. The book was actually very enjoyable, and I was wondering how it would end, and the ending felt so unsatisfying to me. Since the premise of the book was clearly un-realistic, I wanted a happy ending, like her other books, and this ending didn't feel happy enough for me. I suppose, when I re-read this book, I won't read the ending.

But I don't regret buying both books. Besides, maybe the ending will be an incentive for me to continue writing and write my own version(:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Devious Book for Cats (But mostly about bookshops)

These past few days, I haven't been reading much, because I (-shock/horror-) ran out of books. I did try to read the Ingoldsby Tales, where "The Hand of Glory" is mentioned, but for some reason, I couldn't find a decent ebook version. After searching (and unsuccessfully searching Kobo and Project Gutenberg), I found a copy from, I can't remember where. But I couldn't finish reading it. I couldn't even start.

But I did try to read the Hand of Glory story and I'm sad to say that I couldn't even comprehend the words used. I'm not sure if it's just really really bad copying or old English. It brings to mind a Discworld Quote, that this is "Old English, before they invented spelling" (I'm probably not quoting exactly). But to Kobo, placing the title (in image format) does not make it an ebook. And if anyone from Project Gutenberg can see this (A girl can hope), please make an ebook version. It was written so long ago the copyright no longer exists(:

But since yesterday was Vesak Day, Rae and I had a day off together (Poly and JC schedules are surprisingly hard to coordinate), so we went to Duxton Road. I "dragged" her to two bookshops (well, one, but the other was on the way). The first one, which I've never been to, is The Pigeonhole, which calls itself a 'bookshop by day, bar by night'. But even though the shop looks really cool, I didn't actually see any books, except here and there. I also understand that they import out-of-print books, but honestly, the books just looked old, and the titles weren't very interesting. We wandered around for a while, but we were so thoroughly ignored and felt out of place that we left.

The other bookshop is an 'old favourite' (though I've only been going there for less than a year), even with the change in staff (although one old staff, surprisingly, remembered my first visit there ^^). The bookshop, Littered With Books, was surprisingly friendly. The staff asked us if they could help several times, and even carried on a conversation about books (what I like, what do I think, etc). Even though most of them were new, their friendliness really impressed me.

Rae and I spent a surprisingly long time there. I was alternating between rummaging the books that were sold at 'special prices' (basically, they're books that are old/with tiny defects that get marked down quite a far bit) and reading random books. One book which I wanted to buy was called Euphemania (which, since Euphe's full name is Euphemia, is so cool), but the price deterred me. Rae, spent her time reading various cookbooks and wishing for the Jamie Oliver one.

In the end, I bought two books, an (old) Agatha Christie one for $3 and a Cecelia Ahern book (slightly old, but otherwise good condition) for $8, which is a really good find. After that, we walked over to Flor, had awesome cakes, realised that no restaurant in Tanjong Pagar was open and after a while, decided to go to her place for lunch.

And it was at her home that I found "The Devious Book for Cats", a book that purports to be a guide for cats to retain their dignity while still being house cats. I really wonder how she always finds such cool books, because this is one of the books that you'd want to read more than one time.

I can actually imagine cats thinking/talking in that manner, and the book was consistently funny (one of my favourite passages though, involves the logic that since Tigers like to swim, and they have stripes. And Zebras like to swim, have stripes and are large, therefore, Tigers are half Zebra half Cat. Another line was where they called the vacuum machine by it's 'real name' the 'Suck Monster'). The way of thinking is such that you can imagine that this is how cats think, and it's hilarious.

If you find this book, buy it immediately(:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More books~

For some reason, I couldn't log onto blogspot last night.... But I do have a fairly lot of books to tell you about(:

The first one is the only non-fiction one, called "Mom always loved you best", and you can easily guess, it's about sisters. I thought it was a really interesting read, since it seemed to be rather accurate in describing the nature of sisterhood. But what I thought was interesting, was this short sentence (or was it a paragraph?) talking about how brothers would stay in contact much often if they had a sister (or something to that effect). It actually explains why last year, when I wanted to invite three of my friends for a birthday dinner (they're brothers), I had to ask each one of them personally, even though I asked them to "please tell your brothers as well".

But I do wonder, how often do my sisters and I really talk? It's mostly on holiday, and then, normally just me and Euphe, since we'll be sharing a room, and we're closer in age (1 year apart ^^). And I really do wonder, and it does hurt me, that Euge gets offended whenever people say she looks like me (the 'metamessage' to use the author's words, is not complimentary).

The other books I read are, in a sense, mysteries, although one is definitely scarier than the other. The two books are "Murder at the Vicarage" by Agatha Christie and "Property of a Lady" by Sarah Rayne.

I don't know how many times I've mentioned it, but I think Agatha Christie is an awesome writer. Her books are logical, yet interesting (there are books I read that depend on some form of implausible coincidence to solve the mystery), and because she wrote in the late 20th century (around the Second World War, if I remember correctly), her books don't have any, well, I can say immoral/explicit descriptions, yet, they always somehow involve love.

Murder at the Vicarage is apparently the first in the Miss Marple series. Although Miss Marple was Agatha Christie's favourite character, I haven't actually read the books about her. There's even an anime based on the Miss Marple series and I don't think I've watched it. For some reason, I prefer the Poirot series...

But this mystery, like all her others is really interesting. When an unpopular figure in the village is shot dead in the Vicar's office, the Vicar is drawn into the mystery (quite naturally). The interesting thing is that the narrative is from the Vicar's point of view (I don't think any of her stories have the detective's point of view, for plot reasons, because if the detective's viewpoint was used, the reader would know the ending too early), and Miss Marple (unlike, I think, Poirot) isn't mentioned very often. She's talked about, and she solves the case, but the book is largely concerned with how the Vicar attempts to solve the case.

The other book, Property of a Lady is a mystery/horror book. I don't normally read horror, but I do like Sarah Rayne's books. This book doesn't have much of a duel plot, since it comes in the form of letters/journals, and is very nicely integrated into the present day (discovering a journal and reading it, for instance). But the book is interesting. The plot twist at the end resulted in a sort of paradigm shift for me, since it changes the nature of some characters drastically, yet if you re-read the relevant sections, you'll see (at least for me), that that was the tone all along, reminding me of how we so often mis-read things.

After reading this book, I searched out an ebook called "The Ingoldsby Legends", which sounds interesting. I'll read it, and get back to you(:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fanfiction and Thriller

I've been feeling so lazy recently, or maybe, it's because I've been trying to catch up with work (didn't work - no pun intended), that I've been neglecting lots of things. But I really want to post (yet, I don't want to work), so, forgive this rushed review(:

The first book I want to review, I read on Sunday/Monday (well, I reread it at my Aunt's place before watching Man U vs Chelsea, so it counts as Monday morning I suppose. It's called "Darcy's Voyage" (formerly Pemberly's Promise) by Kara Louise. It basically re-imagines the entire premise of Pride and Prejudice, asking "What if Darcy and Elizabeth met before?" (Even before the voyage, since they met two years before than).

The interesting thing, is that I've never heard of the book, and never intended to borrow it. I actually found it when I was rushed-browsing through the new local library (I very foolishly didn't check closing time, which meant that I arrived one hour before it closed, only to find that I couldn't borrow any books because I didn't have enough money to pay the fine, so I had to top-up the EZ-link card at the MRT station). I actually didn't want to borrow it, because I was afraid it would not live up to a Pride and Prejudice 'sequel' (very few do), but I'm glad I did.

I've heard read criticism online that it's glorified fanfiction, and well, maybe it is. To others. I find it a really good rewriting of a basic story, keeping the original characterisation and chemistry between Darcy and Elizabeth. While most stories with Darcy's Point of View is really hard to write, because we all imagine him differently, this book seems to pull it off effortlessly. I suppose that any book inspired by an author could be called fanfiction, but I think that this book goes beyond it, to imagine a whole new aspect to Elizabeth's society.

The other book I read is "What lies beneath" by Sarah Rayne, and it was lent to me by Aunty Florence. I don't normally like thrillers (I'm a scaredy cat at heart), but for some reason, Sarah Rayne's books really appeal to me. This one is actually very different from most books, because the protagonist is unexpected:

She's a murderer.

While the story, again, has two different plots (and some subplots which I felt were really unnecessary), they came together fairly early in the story (or maybe, I read it too fast), which was really pleasant. But I'm digressing, the whole story is about madness (hereditary and not), and how that leads to one being a killer. Well, we actually have two killer's point of view, the past and the present killer. They have a really surprising connection (read the book if you want to find out), but still very believable.

It was an interesting read, because it's hard to get into the mind of the villain without making your readers close the book (I still haven't been able to read Lolita), but surprisingly, one of the villains actually seems sympathetic. Until the end of the book, where you really really feel as though that you can't sympathise with her (too evil). But the other villian, evil and easy to "hate" from start to finish.

So, there are another two good books for you to read, I really hope you do(:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lady Audley's Secret (Mary Elizabeth Braddon)

Good news! I got accepted as a reviewer for IntoTheBook. I was fairly worried at first, because I'm not used to writing structured reviews, but I managed to pass master. Praise the Lord!

Today, I surprised myself by reading Lady Audley's Secret, a book which to my surprise, was published in 1862. But the book actually appears quite contemporary. However, I suppose the thick novel is due to the style of writing in installments? I'm not sure, since I don't study Victorian Era Literature.

Lady Audley's Secret talks about Lady Audley (to state the very obvious), who is married to the much-older Sir Audley. However, she was a governess previously, which causes some surprise at first, but her amiable, open ways soon win people over, with the exception of her step-daughter.

However, suspicion soon falls on her, (by Sir Audley's nephew Robert),  when his friend mysteriously disappears. George Talboys (his friend), had just returned from Australia, where he made his fortune, to go back to the wife he loves.

The culprit in this story is actually very obvious from the start, but the ending had a real twist. It's not the doppelganger type of twist, that's not believable, but something that I can actually believe happened.

The story is very compelling, albeit at a fairly slow pace, and was quite different by the fact that a lot of thought was given towards the moral issues in the story, taking into consideration the opinions of many people (even Lady Audley!), something that isn't often seen today. However, I don't like two aspects of the book:

a. When Christianity is referred to, they seem to be talking about the forms of Christianity, and taking it to be the substance. The reference only appeared, I think, twice, but it was enough to dampen my complete enthusiasm for the book.

b. Despite the fact that this novel is written by a woman, there are many many disparaging comments about women here. Apart from over-generalisations, the portrayal is fairly negative (but not completely). This took up more 'space' in the book, but thankfully, did not overshadow the main plot.

Seeing as the book was published in the nineteenth century, I believe you can find it on Project Gutenberg, if so, just download it and read it(:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I learnt today(:

Today, I was, for an inexplicable reason, was reading Harvard Business Review's "Collaborating across Silos". Well, I actually really like Harvard Business Review because it's a good way to revise business concepts, see how they apply to the real world and well, reading is reading(:

The only thing in the entire book I didn't understand was the word "silos". The weak point of the book was that they didn't provide the definition, which is a communication weakness I learnt about (hooray for application!). So, what I learnt today, was the definition of "silos", which I had to learn from a business dictionary. So, the "Silo mentality" is:

A mind-set present in some companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce the efficiency of the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.

(I would cite in APA format, but I've forgotten ): )

Other than that, what I read in the book is a review and expansion of what I learnt earlier, but not so applicable for this blog (being so different from running a business).

The book I read yesterday, but couldn't blog about (due to time constraints) was a detective story called "The Paris Enigma". I don't really feel like giving away the plot, and since it's a detective story, it does follow a 'set formula' or 'prototype'.

But what I liked about the book, was that it gave many 'mini-cases' in the form of the twelve detectives (an elite group) old cases. I read some people complaining about how it detracts/distracts the story, but I thought that it added to the meaning of the role of a detective.

The only "complaint" that I have is that the Japanese detective (Sakawa I believe), doesn't get as much space as the others (by others I mean protagonists). His story about 'grasshopper murderers' (those that use insinuations to murder others) is very good and gave me a lot of food for thought.

I'd recommend Reading this book because it's fairly thought provoking, and does not contain any offensive material (bad language and such). But I would forewarn impressionable people that cults do feature in the book, although not very prominently(:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Small is Beautiful (E.F. Schumacher)

Today was the day of my economics exam, so to feel less guilty about reading, I decided to read the only economics book I borrowed: Small is beautiful.

This book brought me a lot of laughter: from others. Because of my height (or lack of it), the phrase small is beautiful took on new dimensions. But, it was still an interesting read(:

This book makes the claim that current economic models don't take into account welfare, and asks for decentralised control and no nuclear energy (I think). The subtitle of the book is "economics as if people mattered", which succinctly sums up the entire book: putting people, rather than profit first.

This book is actually more like a very long speech, or a series of lectures to me, considering how the tone and style of the book mimics a speech very closely. To me, that was the hardest part in reading and understanding the book, because for me, I'm not very good at reading speeches, and tend to turn off.

Like some reviewers say, this book tends to be naive, but wonderfully so, looking at how we can change the world (after castigating what's wrong with the world now of course). It's very much a typical treatise/proposal, but what separates it is it's content.

The only issue I have with the book is the chapter titled "Buddhist Economics", which uses the 8-fold path to illustrate economic principals. Astonishingly, he purports to be a Christian... Despite the fact that Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is one of my literature books, I still cannot see how different religions can co-exist. I'm not referring to religious tolerance (which I strongly support), but religious plurality (which I think is logically impossible).

But still, this book is wonderfully refreshing and 'uneconomic'(:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ernst and Young Business Plan Guide

*Warning: This post is boring to most people* But if you're willing to read it(: YAY!

Ernst and Young, if you don't know, is a very famous accounting firm. Why they have a business plan book, I have no idea, but it's actually a good book. I remember borrowing a similar book before, but got really really bored and didn't finish reading it (contrary to popular belief by my friends, there are books I don't read or finish)

One nice thing about the book is that they use one case study (with comments) to illustrate the different parts of the business plan, so that's it's cohesive. For someone like me, it's actually a help with my BM IA. Even though the IA is totally different (except the executive summary part), it actually helps in showing how different business reports (part of the unit on communication) can be written, and it works as a kind of guiding light.

The book also gives a good (short but deep) section on the types of business (but tax codes are about the US, unfortunately) and why you should write a good business report. And of course, throughout the book, they do tell you what to avoid.

So, from the executive summary chapter, the list of 10 in the very first page, with my comments:

1. Be different - everyone is looking for the next idea or way to solve an age-old problem
True, but the question is, how do you come up with the creativity? It might be serendipity, it might be inspiration from God. But I think the important thing is to do whatever you do well.

2. While you have a grand vision, focus on the things you can do.
Also very true. Practicality can trump a lot of things. I believe Einstein once said "Genius is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.

3. Be clear in what you want to accomplish; don't make the business plan merely an exercise in raising money.
Well, I thought of Cooperatives straightaway, even though it's not related.

4. Capitalise on past achievements, don't reinvent things.
It sounds like a contradiction to 1. but I think they want to walk the balance between innovation and tradition. Plus, if you think about Kaizen (continuous improvement - although in Japanese, it's just improvement), it makes sense. And as with life, you should also do the same.

5. Learn from your and other's mistakes
This applies to life and everything else as well(:

6. Check out your ideas with skeptics; the more your ideas are challenged, the better they will be when they are fully formed.
See point 5. And also why the opposition should be criticised more.

7. Enlist the help of experts in the field of your venture.
You can't be expected to know everything, and I remember reading (the best way to gain knowledge) that it's better to be someone with only minimal knowledge across all fields, but knows how to put together and manage a team of experts, than to be an expert and not have any people skills. After all, knowledge is continually be updated, but relationship skills will stay the same.

8. Network! Network! Network! You cannot have a network that is too big.
Sad but true. Who you know is almost, if not more important than what you know. Makes you wonder why you should even learn business theories ):

9. A business is like a stew. Load your mind with a great deal of information, then let your business idea simmer before finalising it.
The same could be said for any kind of essay, particularly those like EE's and ToK Essays(:

10. Look forward and never give up!
So true(:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Asking for Trouble: Tales of Saffy and Amanda

I'm back(:

After writing the review -fingers crossed-, and going to the library, I finally have books to read (and then review~).

It was my first time at the NEW library, and even if it sounds so superficial, I really love the brand new books, untouched by people and the ravages of time (although I do own a very well loved hand-me-down that I read all the time). The only fly in my ointment (I'm using so many cliches today), is that the selection of books isn't very good. Well, in the non-fiction department. I'm absolutely ecstatic with the fiction department, since they have so much more Agatha Christie books than Jurong Regional Library (which is my usual haunt). As soon as I saw the shelves, I decided that I had to come back.

It's a pity their non-fiction section is so small, because that's the only thing the library is lacking. It's actually a very pleasant place to browse (seeing that it calmed me down, because I arrived at the library one hour before closing time, only to find I didn't have enough money to pay the library fines), but I can't go to a library just to read. Ok, I can, but I do need my Business, Economics and Literature books for school (somehow, I always ending needing books for those). But, like everyone says, it's still a new library and it'll probably have a wider range of books in time.

This is really sounding like an ode to libraries, and my book review will look very short in comparison. But so far, apart from comic books (and "English Literature, a very short introduction", which to digress, I will review, but after Friday - reasons later) is Asking for Trouble: Tales of Saffy and Amanda by Jason Hahn. It's the first book he wrote, but for some reason, not stocked in Jurong Library.

If you have a chance to read the 8 Days magazine, you'll notice that at the back, there's a column detailing the humorous exploits of Saffy and Amanda, who are the writer (Jason's) flatmates. Yes, it's a Singaporean work and No, it's not literature, it's just humour. And for some reason, the local books I enjoy the most are those with humour.

The book itself, well, it's definitely not for children, although if you read the weekly column, you'd know that already. It's also not explicit either (unlike too many romance novels these days). It's just, well, reality I guess. I can't really tell, since I'm still a student and so sheltered. But the book is humorous and seems to depict Singapore accurately.

And honestly, I don't like Catherine Lim (unless she writes humour), even though she's supposed to be a good novelist. I much prefer humorists like Neil Humphrey and Jason Hahn.

And Happy Labour Day Everyone(: