Tag Archives: book review

Winner for the Monica Holloway’s Cowboy and Wills contest

Rachel and I reading Cowboy and Wills together
Rachel and I reading Cowboy and Wills together

We have a winner for Monica Holloway’s Cowboy and Wills contest: Congratulations to Ms. Vivian See. I am heartened by the fair number of emails that I received for this contest, including entries that came from abroad.

However, there is only one prize. I will be contacting the winner via email.

If you interested to get a copy of Monica Holloway’s Cowboy and Wills, you can visit her official website to find out more.

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Monica Holloway’s Cowboy and Wills

Book cover
Book cover

The publicist for the above book, Cowboy and Wills, written by Monica Holloway contacted me back in November last year and send me two copies of the books for reviewing. As I was quite occupied the past few months, I did not get the chance to go through the book till a few weeks ago.

In summary, the book is about an autistic boy (Wills)’s extraordinary relationship with his pet dog (Cowboy). The book is written by the boy’s mother and you can feel her love for her son, browsing through the pages as she document the bitter sweet experience of bringing up a special boy with special needs.

Getting a pet dog for Wills changed him for the better as Cowboy helped to overcome the boy’s fear of crowded places among others.

An autographed copy
An autographed copy
Rachel and I reading the same book together
Rachel and I reading the same book together

It’s the kind of motivational book that will inspire and cheer you up when you are going through a rough patch in life. Not exactly my favourite genre, but still accessible.

Since I have two copies of the book, I am running a small contest on this blog to give away a copy. If you are interested, email me your name, contact number and the answer to the question below to alvinologist@gmail.com before 25 Mar 2010:

What is Cowboy’s full name? HINT

I will select the winner via a random draw and notify the person via email.

You can watch the book trailer below:

In addition, you can also read the book excerpt, check out the official facebook page or visit the official website for more information. If you are interested in buying the book, there are links to major online book stores with stocks of Cowboy and Wills on the official website. 🙂

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Vikas Swarup’s Six Suspects

Book Cover
Book Cover

There’s a caste system, even in murder, begins the book.

Vikas Swarup‘s Six Suspects is a fine detective novel that delves into the rich and multi-layered society of modern India. A rich millionaire-murderer has been murdered, there are six suspects – who did it? That in essence is what the book is about.

Each of the six suspects represent a different caste in Indian society, from the slumdog handphone thief to the Bolllywood actress to the retired corrupt politician to the millionaire’s dad himself to the redneck American to a tribal native.

Each of the suspects have a intriguing story to tell of how they wound up at the scene of the murder and each will have their own reason to want the victim murdered.

I finished reading the book in one sitting. The story was just too arresting. It keeps you turning the pages, anxious to find out who committed the murder.

The ending did not disappoint. In fact, there was a twist to the ending which I won’t reveal so as not to spoil the story. If you like detective or mystery novels with a contemporary social setting, Six Suspects is a must-read.

Vikas Swarup, by the way, also wrote Q&A, the book which was made in the multiple award-winning, blockbuster movie, Slumdog Millionaire.I read both of his books and frankly, I find Six Suspects much better than Q&A. If it gets made into a movie, I will definitely go catch it. 🙂

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Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother

Book Cover
Book Cover

This is a must-read for technology and Internet geeks like yours truly.

Little Brother is written by Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing, one of the world’s most popular group blog. Cory is an activist in favour of liberalising copyright laws and a proponent of the Creative Commons organization (Cory actually put up the entire e-book version of Little Brother for free download HERE!).

As a result, common themes seen in his works such as digital rights management, file sharing and leftist politics were weaved into the storyline of Little Brother.

In summary, the fiction book details the story of cyber-rebel, Marcus in his fight against an oppressive state.

Marcus is only seventeen, but he figures he already knows how the state system works and how to work the system for himself. Attuned to the networked world, Marcus has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive surveillance systems as well as other state surveillance apparatus.

However, Marcus’s whole world changed when he finds he and his friends caught up in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew were arrested and whisked away to a secret prison where there were interrogated as terror suspects.

When he was finally released, Marcus discovers his city had became a police state where citizens are all treated like potential terrorists. That is the point where Marcus decided to take on the government. Thus the quest began where the geeks are the one who save the world, not the macho men.

Story aside, the book provides many insights on Internet-era civil rights that I were not aware of previously. There were also many sharp jabs made at excessive state surveillence – something that is happening worldwide, post-Semptember 11.

If you are someone into anti-establishment literature, David vs Goliath storyline, granted, with a technological twist, Little Brother will be ideal for you. 🙂

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Geling Yan’s The Uninvited (不速之客)

Book Cover
Book Cover

The Uninvited (不速之客), by Geling Yan is a fiction book, with the story set in contemporary capitalist China. The protagonist, Dan, is an unemployed factory worker who lives with his simpleton country bumpkin wife, Little Plum in a squalid suburb in Beijing.

By a chance encounter, Dan discovered that by posing as a journalist at corporate events, he can eat gourmet food for free. Thus the birth of the uninvited “Banquet Bug“, Dan.

This other life as a fake journalist leads Dan down a twisted path and ensnares him in a government scandal. Dan evolves in character from a simpleton who is satisfied with just having three meals to eat a day to one who can now see through the ugliness of capitalism, government and corporate corruption.

The book gives a harrowing portrayal of capitalist China and the displacement felt by suburb dwellers in the modern cities, often neglected and with no voices of their own. The huge income disparity results in many social tensions and conflicts, not easily resolved by government policies alone.

While jobless migrant workers starve; journalists, corporate and government officials wine and dine in excesses at various corporate functions. These are the two worlds that Dan had to straddle between.

It is interesting to note that in China, it is a common practice for journalists to collect a token red packet with money inside as a ‘transportation allowance’ and also as provision for taking up their time. The size of the red packet will determine the kind of coverage the event will get in the media.

The phenomenon epitomises the illness of a society where it’s people are only motivated by money above all else. The Uninvited is an interesting read for those who like to know about the lowdowns of modern Chinese society, beyond all its astonishing economic growth figures.

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Sasha Issenberg’s The Sushi Economy

Book Cover
Book Cover

Here’s an interesting book about globalisation – explained through the evolution of sushi (寿司), going from a local delicacy in Japan to become a worldwide dining phenomenon.

A generation ago, sushi had a narrow reach due to the nature of the cuisine which is entirely reliant on the freshness of the fish or seafood. This meant that fish caught locally had to be eaten locally. Sports fishermen who caught tuna in most parts of the world sold the meat for pennies as cat food.

Today, the fatty cuts of tuna known as toro are among the world’s most coveted luxury food, worth hundreds of dollars per kilogram and capable of losing value more quickly than any other product on earth, by the minutes, due to the perishable nature of the gourmet food item.

What made this possible was globalisation and the advent of modern transportation. There are now cargo planes with built-in fridge to specially fly tuna from one end of the world to the other, just to make sure you get your toro sushi served fresh, with tuna caught from the ocean just a day or even hours before.

The Sushi Economy is a riveting combination of culinary biography, behind-the-scene restaurant detail and a unique exploration of globalisation’s dynamics. A must-read for sushi fans. 🙂

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A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically

Book Cover
Book Cover

Written by the editor of Esquire magazine, A.J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically documents his attempt to follow the Bible as literally as possible for an entire year.

Jacobs was raised in a secular family, but became increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world. By embarking on his quest, Jacobs delved into the world of the deeply religiously, and seek to understand and look at the world from their viewpoint.

With the recent AWARE Christian-fundamentalist siege incident, this book might be a good read for both side – the atheists and the Christian-fundamentalists. It is difficult to step outside one’s comfort zone and one’s worldwide to try and understand what another person who shares a different set of values experiences.

Jacobs managed to keep the tone of the book relatively light-hearted, injecting humour into otherwise, chim religious topics and their application to our current society.

Before you dismiss Jacobs’ book as a crass paperback, seeking to make a quick buck by poking fun of Christianity, the book is well-researched. Before he took on his quest, Jacobs read through all the different versions of the Bible he could get his hands on and consulted with many respected religious figures.

The book was an interesting read for an atheist like me who never gave the Bible a chance. What I concluded was the Bible is fundamentally a book. A book with written words in it. Words are free for human interpretation and that’s where the problem lies. If one were to take every single words in the Bible as the literal Truth, one will wind up like Jacobs during his one year experiment – having to avoid shellfish, stone adulterers, tell the absolute truth in all situations, among other hard-to-apply words-of-truth.

Hence in our modern world, selective interpretation of the Bible is usually applied, ignoring the more tricky portions while cherry-picking those verses that are closer to the values we hold.

The book did not change my view about religion, I am still very much an atheist. However, it did made me seek to open up and be more receptive towards others’ beliefs and value systems. The world would be a much better place if everyone could do just the same. 🙂

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