Friday, December 31, 2010

Christianity in China (and HAPPY NEW YEAR!)

I've managed to finish one book by today, and I'm halfway through the second one. For the second post in a row, the common element is Geographical, although these books (there are three in total) are focused on history rather than prophecy.

And if anyone is wondering, all these books were lent to me, which is why they're not the kind I usually read, because I have no idea these books exist OTL....

Anyway, even though I don't take history, I find it really interesting (the only reason I don't take history is subject limitations, and that I refuse to sacrifice Literature for History). But I've realised that not taking the subject is liberating, since I can just read any part of history, instead of having to follow a certain textbook. E.g. When I was studying World History (which thankfully is broad enough to encompass lots of stuff), what I borrowed from the library was mostly limited to WWII, just because I figured that if I was gonna read history, I might as well study at the same time. But now, I can read about any subject I want~

The two books I read/am reading are God's Chinese son, which is about the Taiping Revolution (Which I've never heard of until yesterday) and Christianity in China, which is helping me understand and see the complexity of the Chinese culture and the (possible) influences of the Christian faith on it. I've realised from these books that I actually like China and Chinese Culture, but I don't like modern China, because I'm opposed to communism (So it's only the present China - PRC that I don't really like).

And HAPPY NEW YEAR!! God bless ^_^

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The End Times

"And still the rockets scream. Still the innocent dies. Still the hatred boils." (Once an Arafat Man)

Yesterday-Today I read two really interesting books; while the subject matter isn't exactly the same, it's within the same sphere. And that would be the Middle East, in the End Times. I normally don't like to think about this, mainly because there are so many different opinions, and I'm not sure which to trust. That, and this topic scares me. I think the End Times isn't something that people want to talk about, but it's something we need to hear. And what I gleaned from the two books was a sense of how the current Middle Eastern crisis is related to the End Times.

Now, this is a contentious issue, and most views seem pretty polarised to me, so I'm gonna say right write now (and maybe later too), that all the views expressed are my personal own, and I'm not attempting to force them on anyone. If you don't like it, please don't read it. But I am a Christian and I'm going to rejoice at God's goodness and faithfulness (:

-Random Interlude- I'm taking the liberty to be be random here because the rest of the review is gonna be pretty serious, and I do have things to say that doesn't make a coherent whole with everything else. Alright, lemme see.... Well, when I was typing the title, I accidentally typed "Endo" by mistake (This is due to the EE research I did just before this), I was going to start with a joke about studying too much, but I decided to use the quote since this topic shouldn't be treated lightly, in my opinion. And speaking of quotes, I've noticed an awkward tendency for me to start essay (for school) with a quote. This probably shows my lack of originality in crafting the English language, and the fact that I really can't think of any better way to start an essay. Now, back to the matter at hand....

The first book I read was Once An Arafat Man by Tass Saada with Dean Merrill, and tells the amazing story of how an Islamic Terrorist found Christ and turned his life completely around. And, if you haven't noticed by now, where the starting quote comes from. It's an engrossing read and gives hope to Christians by showing (not just telling) that there is a Christian revival in the Middle East. But what really struck me was the message that the Ishmaelites are also the descendants of Abraham and have been blessed by God. He talked about how the feelings against the Jews was (to him) a reaction to the rejection they felt by Abraham when he sent them away. Now, while it's hard to support the terrorist activities taking place, this has helped me understand the need to pray for the Jews AND the Ishmaelites.

Now, while the first book is a memoir, the second book is filled with more facts. Epicentre is written by Joel C Rosenberg, who has apparently written "prophetic" books (which I now really really really want to read). While most non-fiction books on current affairs will become outdated in a few years, (e.g. one book I read on using Sun Tzu's Art of War in business cited Japan as going to overtake the US), and especially about the Middle East, where the situation is in flux, this book is relevant, probably it's main sources are taken from the timeless and eternal book, the Bible. While there is a lot of reference to current affairs and interviews with key players in the Middle East, what the book does is to piece all the separate pieces of information into a coherent whole, and make an educated guess about how prophecy from Ezekiel could be fulfilled. If I were to even try and summarise the book, it would still take too long, so again, I recommend that everyone reads it. And thank God, from the book, I learnt that yearly, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. (I am sorry if that sentence offends anyone, but that is my personal feelings about the subject matter).

I know there are lots of books around about the End Times, and many of them are going to have different views on how the end times happen, but it seems that one thing they are all in agreement is is that: The End Times are near, if not already here. While that scares me (I really want a peaceful life), I hope that anyone who reads it pauses to reflect on their life: If and When the End Times come, what's going to happen to you? Are you too focused on this life to think of the next's?

Books and Bookstores

I realised last night, as I was about to sleep, that I neglected to review this book, which I had to wait many many weeks to get (building up all my anticipation). But, since I couldn't just jump out of bed to write a review (ok, I could, but I'd get into a lot of trouble with my family), I decided to wait until morning to post. (:

The King's English (TKE) by Betsy Burton is subtitled "Adventures of an Independent Bookseller" and was bought, ironically, over Amazon (instead of an independent bookshop like Littered with Books). Unlike my past purchases, I actually had to wait an inordinately long time to get this book ): But when I finally got it (: I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas reading it~ And it was as good as expected.

Because I really like books, and I think Business is fun, I have considered opening up my own bookstore. But, I'll probably end up working another job. However, if you're going to read TKE to learn how to operate a bookstore, this is not the right book. This book is a chronicle of one store's personal experience (in working with partners, fighting against the Big Chains like Borders, Barns and Noble, etc) rather than a How-To guide. But as for me, I prefer reading this "mini-memoir" because it seems more personal. And anyway, if you want to learn how to run a business, you can always pick up a business book.

This book is warm and engaging, and recommends lots of books to read. (I did, however, end up skipping over lots of lists in order to continue reading the narrative.

I originally titled this post "The King's English (Betsy Burton)", but as soon as I wrote the words 'mini-memoir', I was reminded of yet another book I read recently "Reading Lolita in Tehran", which is subtitled "A memoir in books". Hence, the new title "Books and Bookstores".

The premise of Reading Lolita in Tehran is of an Iranian Literature Professor, and her life teaching (if I remember correctly) Modern History. She taught through the Revolution, and by what she writes, she sounds like an amazing teacher, as she managed to get her students to think beyond the norm, as seen when she let them put The Great Gatsby "on trial" when a student condemned it, instead of immediately taking a position.

This book, apart from giving me a another literary perspective on books (such as reading Lolita not so much as the rape of a little girl, but as the imprisonment of one life by another), is also a social commentary on Iran at those times. The author writes about how she refused to wear the veil, explaining that it was her personal decision, and she refused to turn the veil into a political symbol. By also describing the lives of some of her students, she also lets the reader see how the Iranian government has taken 'control' over their lives, in a manner that reminds me of Fahrenheit 451.

This book is many things, a memoir, a social commentary, a history book (it does chronicle the lives of people during a historical event, so I think it can be considered a history book), but most of all, it should be read as a book about literature, and how literature has the power to change ways of thinking (which can lead to changed lives).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton)

I've been at YI Camp for the past few days (So Much More), and so, I've only read 2 books: The Hiding Place (Which is the story of Corrie Ten Boom, who hid the Jews from the Nazi's in WWII, and was a Christmas Present), and Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (Which was Xiao Wen Lao Shi's book, but I got bored).

Even though I've read Orthodoxy before, it still seems like a first reading to me (maybe it's because I've not read it for so long?). And I realised on the second reading, that G.K. Chesterton's style of writing reminds me of C.S. Lewis's, and he's another awesome writer.

But, during the reading, I was suddenly reminded of ToK, from a line about reason being/needing faith, which led me to think about the various Ways of Knowing, which of course, led me to panic about my ToK essay, yet, Ryan says not to think about it....

But, the book is really beautiful, and is practically poetic is certain passages. I'm pretty certain that I've annoyed quite a lot of the campers because I went around asking them to read this one passage that I love. Maybe it shows the poetry of the English language and combines that with a new way of looking at fairy tales (a new interpretative framework?).

Sigh, I'm quite worried about the 2 big essays I have to finish, but I'm sure that with God's grace, I'll get things done in time.

Anyway, I shouldn't be worrying, when there's such a cool book to review, even though I'm not sure what more I can say. Seeing as all the praise I heap upon the book can't compare with reading the book itself (since I'm just an anonymous reader), I'll just reccomend that everyone reads this book. And since I'm sure some won't be able to find the book (or will be too lazy to look for it), here's the link to the online version from Project Gutenberg (Isn't it great that copyrights expire?):

And this is my favourite passage in the entire book. I don't know about anyone else, but I find it full of meaning and poetry (I bolded what I feel is the 'essence' of the passage). (:

But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. If I were describing them in detail I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. There is the chivalrous lesson of "Jack the Giant Killer"; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms, and the Jacobin has more tradition than the Jacobite. There is the lesson of "Cinderella," which is the same as that of the Magnificat— EXALTAVIT HUMILES. There is the great lesson of "Beauty and the Beast"; that a thing must be loved BEFORE it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the "Sleeping Beauty," which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep. But I am not concerned with any of the separate statutes of elfland, but with the whole spirit of its law, which I learnt before I could speak, and shall retain when I cannot write. I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairy tales, but has since been meekly ratified by the mere facts.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I decided to be more selective about the books I post because:
a. I honestly read too many books
b. This gives it a sense of coherence.

So today, I decided to post about the 2 chocolate related books I read yesterday: A true history of Chocolate and Chocolate (By The Knowledge).

A True History of Chocolate is a rather scholary treatise, looking at chocolate from Maya-times to modern times, even looking at the origin of the word. It's very very precise (i.e. well referenced), which I could probably learn from). But even if it's very scholarly, it's also very interesting to read, and it gives a good social context of the use of chocolate, how it gains its popularity and such.

But reading this, I realised that even in History books, there is bias (here comes the ToK lessons). The bias is more obvious in this book, as the author admits that there is dry wit and opinions in the preface, but I did realise that opinions are also hidden in innoucuous statements such as those about the Marquis De Sade and how he has been unjustly judged. On the other hand, it is really hard to write a completely neutral piece of work, since everyone has their opinions, and asking them to be completely objective is impossible. So I suppose it's up to the reader to sort our what is fact and what is opinion.

The other book was Chocolate (I forgot the title) by The Knowledge. It's also a history of chocolate, but aimed at kids/teens. Which is why even though the gist of both books is the same, this book has less details, and chooses interesting trivia to present to it's readers. Futhermore, it has a bigger emphasis on chocolate as a solid. But that makes it interesting, since they have all the history and trivia of the well known chocolates such as Cadbury's Dairy Milk, Mars bars, Snickers, etc.

I suppose with two different books aimed at two very different audiences, the approach will naturally be different. But that makes them enjoyable in their own way (:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

T for.....

I was going to title this post Tough Customer (by Sandra Brown), but then I remembered that I also read two Terry Pratchet books, so the common denominator is the letter "T".

Lemme see... Tough Customer is one of those Thriller/Detective/Romance novels, which I suppose is fairly typical. It's not a bad story line, although the twist in the plot is really unbelievable, and feels like a cop-out by the author. I suppose this will be one of the books that you only need to read once.

On the other hand, Terry Pratchet books can be read over and over again. (: Today, Mong lent me (and I finished) The Light Fantastic (A reference to the phrase Tripping the Light Fantastic) and The Colour of Magic, which were both hilarious. They're both easy reads and really lots of fun. So I'd reccomend them to anyone and everyone with a sense of humour.

This two books talks about the the wizard Rincewind (which is the first time I'm reading the part of the series about him). I find the books very interesting, although I'd still prefer the Night Watch series to this (which Mong has agreed to lend me more of). That's probably because there are more diverse characters/protagonist in the Night Watch, with really really amusing villians (Like the Assassins Guild).

And I guess, I like satire about city life best of all(:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Debbie Macomber

I was reading some Chic-lit that Aunty Florence lent me, which were Sisters-in-law by Nina Bell and Reluctant Cinderella by uh.... I forgot *sheepishsmile*. Both of them were fairly interesting, all though a bit generic, but what I didn't like was that it had uh.... graphic descriptions in them.

But the third book I read, which was The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber totally blew me away, it was that good. For one thing, the plot was really interesting, and second, there wasn't any graphic stuff inside. It's basically about 4 ladies who became friends through a knitting group at a knitting shop called A Good Yarn. And for some reason, I like knitting too, although I can only do the knit stich and nothing else >.<

Although the book was outwardly secular, I kept getting the niggling feeling that Debbie Macomber was a Christian, I guess from the passing (but respectful) references to God. But I wasn't sure, so at that time, I was just very happy that I found a book series (the Blossom Shop Street) that didn't have nudity or anything else.

But the next day (which is today), I read One Simple Act, which took me a few chapters to read before I realised that it was by Debbie Macomber, and *shout and flourish* she IS a Christian. Praise God! One Simple Act (subtittled Discovering the Power of Generosity), is about incorporating thankfulness in our lives, and allowing God to use that to work through us. The book is very inspirational, and I really really love it.

Although, like the old me, I didn't put it into practice straightaway. I woke up almost 40 minutes late today, which wrecked my schedule, so I was a little upset when I was leaving the house. But on the MRT there, I read (and finished) One Simple Act, and on the MRT back, I was thinking about being thankful. I guess that to be thankful for that would be I got more sleep (always a good thing) and I probably set my record of getting out of bed, folding my blankets, eating breakfast, changing into uniform, eating medicine and leaving the house in 15 minutes flat. (:

But during the day, I was still upset at little things, such as when almost all the group members (6 out of 10) people, left during lunch and didn't come back til the end of the session (during tea break). And since they came back late, they asked me to help "cover" them, which was getting hard because the organisers started taking attendence. But thankfully, I didn't have do anything, because they got booked, so I didn't have to falsify anything (ok, this is really weird, and probably a little mean to be thankful for - I guess my real intention is to say that I'm glad I didn't have to lie or anything).

And on the way back, I was even more upset, because I went to Popular at Brash Pasah to buy the 50th anniversary edition of To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) and Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) since I'm a Popular Member (mostly for the Harris Bookstore in Johor) and got a $20 voucher (though I'll infinitely prefer one by Kinokuniya, Borders or Littered with books! (But I don't think Littered With Books have them)). But when I get there, To Kill A Mockingbird was completely sold out, even though I saw it 2 days ago! And this was the main branch! But it didn't make sense to just buy a $17 book (cause TKAM is only $9+ so the $10 voucher won't cover it); so I more or less left in a huff. But after thinking it over, the good thing about this is that I have an excuse to buy more books from Popular and that I can probably find TKAM cheaper from Littered With Books, which I will be going to anyway on Friday to return Aunty Florence's book.

But on the MRT home, I started thinking about my attitude, and realised that it was very wrong, and is also very disrespectful to God. So from now on, I want to try and change my attitude, to incorporate a heart of thankfulness and generosity.

Wow! I spent more than half this post not-talking about books, although I suppose that really good books will impact your life. ^_^

Monday, December 6, 2010


I spent the past few days reading lots of Jane Austen books (well... 3). And that was because I bought this book called Jane Austen for dummies. While I don't normally like the "For Dummies" book (like the one for learning Japanese, because it has romaji all the way, and it's not very helpful to me), this one was really marvelous. It had lots of information (probably because the author is the President of the North American Jane Austen Society, and teaches college courses about her!). It provides the socio-economic-political-religious background of Austen's books, her life and other relevant information, which got me to read her books with a whole new perspective.

And because of that, I went on to read Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. All three books were really really good, like I remembered, and I really enjoyed reading it. These books are different from my Green Covered Puffin Pride and Prejudice, with beige covers and pictures.

And this got me wondering, would I buy different copies of the same book? After all, I'm going to buy the 50th anniversary edition of To Kill A Mockingbird (although it's because I don't have the book now, it's either with some one else, or I borrowed it when I needed to study it). I suppose, if it's a particularly beautiful cover, and maybe something I want for sentimental reason's, I'll probably buy it, although I'm sure my parent's will think it's a waste. But I suppose, the books that I want more copies of, should be really good, and I'll be lending them out a lot (To friends and family, in my bid to get more people to read). And in that case, there can't be too many copies(:

But I suppose that for now, I'll have to focus on building a great variety of books rather than multiple (but all beautiful and different) copies of the same books. And since I'm on a budget, I'll stick to buying the cheaper books first (the Puffin Orange or Green ones, that cost $4.50 - but that is only for classics) before I "move on" to other editions/those with different covers/hardbacks.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I re-read Silence by Shusaku Endo, and once again, I'm blown away. He is, in my opinion, one of the finest writers, who is able to vividly portray Japan and it's people. For those that don't know, Silence follows a Portuguese Priest, called Roderigues, as he struggles to keep his faith, sadly, he succumbs to "the swamp of Japan" and apostatises. However, the main thrust of this book, and of Endo's books in general, is to show and emphasize the 'mother love' of Christ, rather than the 'father love' as he feels that it is the 'mother love' that the Japanese lack and need.

This time, as I read through the book, I took special note of the word "silence", as advised by my supervisor. It really opened my eyes as to the different dimensions of silence, and its different purposes, to protect, when in doubt. Of course, the most obvious connotation would be the silence of God (which is referred too repeatedly), and ties in to the book of Job. However, unlike Job, there is no happy ending, except perhaps, the continual existence of the secret Christians.

Even though at times, Endo makes statements which seem heretical (causing him to be condemned by some Japanese Christians - I did say he was controversial right?) I think that overall, he manages to capture the essence, perhaps his version of the essence of Christ's love.

And while I'm on the topic of silence, I might as well take the chance to talk about the latest issue of Creation magazine, which arrived in the mail yesterday. It was, as usual, very interesting and very informative. One (relatively funny, at least to me) argument is that: sponges have DNA that is 70% similar to human DNA, does that mean sponges are 70% human? The absurdity of the argument just cracks me up! Yet some people will argue likewise for monkeys. And as the evolutionists yell their arguments (no matter how absurd) louder and louder, the dissenting Christian voices are pushed further into silence.