Friday, April 1, 2022

My Grandfather's an Immigrant, and So Is Yours by Michael Chin

I was approached by Booktasters in connecting me with the author for an honest review.

Let me first start by saying how much I enjoyed reading this book. Albeit, it took me a long time to complete it due to work obligations. However, the premise of this book is very much written like a Literary Fiction to me. 

Things I like:
Chapter-less book
This is straight up storytelling at its best! Very clever way of engaging his reader. It keeps you wanting to know more. Also, you're in his head all the time. Not many authors are able to pull it off this way by allowing his readers to be engaged throughout the entire book without a single chapter division. Refreshing!

Character Development
First, I thought I'm reading a Mike's autobiography instead, or Billy. I have a question for him, how much of it is his story while he was growing up? The reading experience feels very personal and raw. That sentiment of nostalgia hits right through the heart as I was reading the book. There were so much things that I could relate to him whilst I was growing up with a twin half Chinese half Caucasian friends myself.

[I am so delighted to have the author's response to my question, thank you Michael! :-
"And to answer the embedded question about autobiographical elements, while the overarching plot is fiction, a lot of pieces do derived directly from my lived experience. I’m a couple decades older than Billy, but his upbringing as a minority in a homogeneously white small town, friendships, and intense crush on someone he doesn’t really know are elements directly inspired by my life."]

Secondly, his family dynamics is what I like most. Especially Grandpa. Eccentric in a good way since most of the Asian grandparents react the same way as how Mike depicts it. For example, silent agreement, diplomatically passive… etc to name a few.

The entire bunch of Boil Crew was my favourite. How much they grew together despite their differences. Who got together with whom. And their ever enriching idiosyncrasy boil! has always been fun with reactions visibly written.

Plot Development
Here lies the development of a love interest until it's very anti-climactic reality about a person we used to form in our mind when we like someone. It's a very familiar ground where the minds runs wild about a person until we speak to them. And there was a change in pacing and writing style towards the last few pages? I don't mean it in a bad way, but it kept me going really fast and so much so I enjoy how much Billy has moved on and grow.

It is a beautiful journey you'll enjoy it from the eyes of Billy Chen.

Overall, would I recommend it? Of course! This is my first ever chapter-less book and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Thank you Mike, it is such a privilege to read such a beautiful story. It's just not getting enough traction! Keep it up, Mike!

Goodreads Review

Monday, January 24, 2022

In the Beginning by John J. Higgins (The Archangel Jarahmael and the War to Conquer Heaven)

I was approached by Booktasters in connecting me with the author for an honest review.

Personally, I'm a big Bible nerd. That being said, from this stand point, it doesn't deviate my opinions when I'm reading fictionalised Biblical events. To be honest, I would never have thought that the events of the creation can be fictionally written at this scale.

Truthfully, Higgins knows the chronological events in Genesis extremely well. That being said, there are definite loop holes which allow him to play around with by filling in with his work of art to much delight. This is a definite supernatural fantasy genre that is really up my alley.

Things I like:

World Building
I enjoyed how the Creation took place progressively. And this is what I like about how the world building was written, he did not take for granted that his readers knows about the events of the creation and allow his readers to experience how the Almighty beautifully does it majestically. Guiding us through like a cinematic montage. Very well done, I might say.

Character Development
The Almighty itself might sound a little too human but then again, admittedly we will never know how He's going to sound like. Still a good representation of how the Almighty plays the subtle role yet the writing for His omnipresence is just the right amount. Not too much and not too over powerful.

What dominates the entire book here are the types of angels introduced to us. Specifically the archangels. Very well planned in developing their characteristics with different sets of voices whereby readers are able to clearly differentiate it. Jarahmael's character resonates with me a lot more as the book progresses.

There was one character that I am very still very much curious about is, Lilith. She is still a mystery to me until now. Which made me want to know more about what's the outcome of her role in this series.

The plot was predictable which leads up the fall of mankind. The deception plan was one I would have never thought out to be as such but then again, it was very well thought out. There were stuff like the pyramids built within Eden and outside of it. I wonder what's the purpose of having these pyramids for.

Overall, I would recommend this book and to advise Christians to read it with an open mind. It's really interesting how Higgins shaped the all well-known creation events with such an interesting turn. Radical Christians might call it a blasphemy, but this to me it's an interesting take altogether!

I really don't mind reading the entire series to get to know what happened next.

Ratings: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Review Link

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

REVIEW: The Son by Pangdemonium - 2020

As I was approaching the art centre, I can hear a cheerful cry of this little toddler boy playing catch with his dad that was really pronounced. The sound of a playful endearment with his dad knowing that his father is going to catch him up with a big hug draws a lasting smile on my face as I was staring over the poster of "The Son" whom the father was hugging his troubled son.

But what really caught my attention was this board that printed a slogan ""Unite Against Mental Health Stigma" - Share your words of encouragement and support for your loved ones and persons in recovery." And that itself, speaks a thousand words of awareness. 

This play not only targets the social concerns of today but it is definitely something to be applauded by the society for it's effort and duty for being a catalyst by educating the society what it means to have someone with mental health deficiency. We know, in the Asian context, mental health is always a taboo, a negative connotation to be a centre of acceptance today. Nevertheless, Adrian and Tracie Pang's bold initiative to convey something so poignant is what deemed courageous!

I hereby took the initiative to review this play in a local art scene here in Singapore, would be a good exposure (for me) and also an exercise for me on how the performing arts is like over here as compared to my home country, Malaysia. The old saying has always coined out our similarities that is so uncanny but that was 30 - 40 years ago. I will remain silence on the differences for the good of The Son's review. 

This play was so cleverly written by a French novelist & playwright, Florian Zeller (Translated by Christopher Hampton) in which it was so highly acclaimed that it won him numerous awards. Hereinafter, we were fortunate enough to have it here at our doorstep by experiencing it with such honor. Technically, the stage and sets were arranged with linear perspective, and it was strategically so to cater for such a dynamic story line.

Magnificently, the casts of 6 beautiful actors gave the audiences a spellbinding performance, and all the more, they did not disappoint with that span of 2 hours. Honestly, it doesn't feel like it was 2 hours at all. And I must confess, it's really a heavy subject to comprehend or maybe to digest and they gave it their all with such a beautifully gut wrenching performance to be dealt with. All of them should be highly commended with the highest regards! Not easy!

They have conveyed with clarity, I understood.

Their portrayal was raw and true, I cried.

The show has imparted with a strong messages, I received with privilege.

Regardless on how I couldn't bring myself to laugh when their jokes and punch lines were executed and they were truly on point. "The Son" has brought me to tears so much so, I have to look away from the stage. The flashbacks on my painful memories has brought forth a taste of nostalgia that no one could ever asked for, then again it strengthens the weak when we knew what good has came out of it (ONLY when we seek help)!

Mental health is never to be taken lightly, and I for one, was living with one in such a circumstance. Adversely, the closest among these victims are their family members, and vast majority, the ones that are in heavy denial are the family members and this play portrays it so disgustingly true. It bares the ugliness of how we human reacts to such a turmoil.

Few factors within the our community that are heavily in denial with this subject matter and it is because to them, it's shameful, or maybe it's a disgrace or the notional myth of generational curses. All of this screams, Taboo. Hence, the should-be victim's number one supporter tends to suppress the matter and they are never allowed to speak of it. Sad, but this is the world that we are living in.

Then again, if the victim themselves do not come to terms by accepting their mental health condition. It would be so difficult for their family to express their help and support or to help carry their burdens with them. Yes, providing such assurance can be daunting on a daily basis, then again family members ought to understand that such love and support is greatly needed. 

At the end of the performance, we were told not to expose any of the spoilers or leak any of the story plot that was prepared diligently for the audience to enjoy such an impactful play. Bravo bravo bravo once again! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Demise by Cavell Lim Zi Gui

This publication came to me, truly with a pleasant surprise when I was just merely searching for the word "Kasut Manek" (directly translated as "Shoe Beads"). To justify my action on the search was mainly because my aunt used to make one of these shoes as side income or pass time before she became a grandmother.

Here's a little background on why Kasut Manek sparks my interest. My mother was born in a small state called Malacca, a historical state where birth of Malaya (now Malaysia) starts. Subsequently, the origins of where the Baba-Nyonya (aka Peranakan) community came about is actually where my mom and her siblings grew up. Hence, the crafting of these Manek shoes are very much a reminiscence of laughter and snacks between the 2 sisters whilst exchanging ideas on the kind of designs they agreed to sew.

What Cavell did cleverly in this short and powerful depiction on the art of making a "Kasut Manek" has it's sentimental values. His worry was whether such iconic traits (within the South East Asian region) will be long gone if legacies are not brought forward in today's technological advancements. Then again, he cared enough by capturing the essence of the Peranakan culture, in which he purposefully includes every aspects of ethnic origins, religions and politics.

For starters, Cavell brilliantly journeyed his audience on a detailed level craftsmanship on the making of these shoes. Nevertheless, he has made an extra effort by interviewing Mr Sng's journey in crafting something so tastefully beautiful but also by carrying on the colours of Peranakan culture. Minimal mistakes on a typo error with the term "Dondang Sayang" could very much be an auto-correct from an Office Application, the rest was very well thought-out with so much soul into it.

To me, would anyone care enough to think that such traits would still be carry on? Never in a million years would I find a treasure that was written, researched and depicted with so much heart and effort. Flavorful as this might sound, I would suggest readers to read it off with the link that I will be providing at the end of my review.

In conclusion, if I ever got a chance to appreciate this piece of treasure, I definitely would! The idea of archiving an article by bringing back our forefather's culture back to life is a million to none (over the internet). Then again, kudos to Cavell whom he has done an amazing job by allowing me to reminisce such a beautiful memory that even the scent of these beads are close to my nostrils than ever before!


Saturday, October 7, 2017

REVIEW: You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown - 2017 by Sifu Production

"Happiness is morning and evening, day time and night time too..." 2017 has been a year of many musicals experience for Malaysia. Well, it is for me. With so many of our local artistes, be it stage, creative teams or management, they all have been neglected by the local's public eye. If one would say that only the International Productions are worth watching, then my take to prove them wrong with You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown because it will be a thrill ride for all fellow Malaysians.

Indeed, there aren't many theatres that are solely built for big stage productions here in Malaysia but with what's available, I think they are more than enough to deliver such performances in terms of standards and qualities.

The establishment of Sifu Production was not in vain as Freddy Tan (one of the Founder of Sifu Productions), Director of this musical were one of the many that bought the rights of this 1999 award winning Broadway Musical into our doorstep. Assisted alongside, with director William Yap, (also an established stage director for many of our local Chinese production) which contributed his experiences in directing a full scale musical.

A worthy mention, with all media interviews, they did not factor in the hours they spent busting their all in order to bring us a show which is as close as travelling to the Big Apple that anyone could've asked for.

Staying faithful to most of the original arrangements, the cast did make a slight adjustment here and there. In all of it's praises, all characters in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown are so genuine, you will think that you're in the room playing with them if you're a big fan of Peanuts.

The cast, Peter Ong was initially given the title role before Joel Wong replaced him for an injury that needed prolong nursing and therapy. Eventually, the role of Schroeder, will be replaced by an upcoming talent, Izen Kong.

The creative team has brought You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown to life on the Damansara Performing Art Centre's stage with a very cute cartoon-ish prop designers, Simon Lee & Joanne Ooi. Set designer, Zen Tan. Lighting designer, Amelia Tan. Sound engineer, Mohd Najib. Choreographer, Tunku Atiah, Musical directors are Fly Halizor and Loh Ui Li accompanied by band members Saizuddin Bin Biden and Him Ee Jeng. They, too, played the entire score very well, without an inch of mistake to be heard. 

A very vibrant costume designer that fits this performance very well by Zamri Saidin. Lastly, the stage managers are Keilly Lim and assisted by Joanne Ooi.

Honorable mentions of the cast which brought the house down with a standing ovation performance. Actors performance review in alphabetical order based on their first name:

Benjamin Lin, he is THE Snoopy!!! Our Snoopy!! My Snoopy! He stole my heart away when he started his first woof in the very first number. No one is suppose to understand him except the audience. He made us relate with his frustration that all the audience felt connected. I couldn't stop smiling when "Red Baron" was up right after intermission. I know I am going to miss his character dearly when I knew "Suppertime" has ended.

Ivan Chan Atienza, that cute little Linus, the one who always sucks his thumb with his blanket with him as his companion. His ability to sing with that short tongue deficiency and accent included, caught us by surprise how much he could hold off the entire show. "My Blanket And Me" gave a tender moment when it comes to being detached from his blanket was portrayed very very well. And that moment, he assured his sister Lucy, that no matter what, he will stand by her side. That was a true touching moment to applaud for!

Izen Konghis character as Schroeder wasn't pronounced at the beginning. Not until when his number "Beethoven Day" came up, he literally stole the show with his vocal abilities with his stage presence. What I truly like about him is that he nicely irascible the character as how Schroeder should be. He prove to us with a really good time during "Glee Club Rehearsal" with a touch of adorable geekyness towards the end. His love for Beethoven is pronounced and his hostility towards Lucy was every bit of an entertainment to us all. No matter how, he is always darling to Lucy.

Joel Wong, behold he is completely believable as Charlie Brown. I have my confession that I doubted him at first, when Peter left for recovery. Now, Joel prove me wrong with his nerdy looking boyish feature. He is able to look and search within himself by exploring with his peers whether is he a really good man. Without a doubt, Joel could sing very well. His portrayal as Charlie is very much anyone could have asked for. He is able to draws our our sympathy for him. Will Peter Ong be proud of him? I know I would.

Safia Hanifa, is a standout actress for her role as Lucy. She has a great stage presence as the ebullient girl with a distinctly catty edge. She screams, she shouts, she sings and annoys the living hell out of everyone including the audience. As long as she's on that stage, she caught me by just turning all my attention and direction towards her annoying portrayal. She made that introduction announcement before the show starts with so much enthusiasm which got me all ready for what we're about to embark.

Tria Aziz, I lover her to bits as Sally Brown!!! My favourite song is "My New Philosophy" and she pulls it off effortlessly! Yup, she has this oddly witty jovial character side in her. My hats off to her soprano vocal abilities and there was much more to her and her relationship with the cast. She made me laughed so hard during "Rabbit Chasing". In the end, I have a soft spot for her as an actress. I truly adore her!

The issue with this musical is that among the high quality acting and some sharply funny dialogue is a nagging sense that the musical as a whole could be a tad bit tighter.

Other than that, there is so much to enjoy in this sharply observed local revival of the show, particularly the very strong and convincingly directed cast.

This production itself made me, as a Malaysian, very proud that we are able to produce a musical with such qualities and standards. I hope this not be the last because I would very much love to see more shows such as this! Bravo!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dane Curse by Matt Abraham

**I was given this book with an honest review.** 

The author has approached me for an honest review. And this book has came to me as a surprise. Alright, in all honesty when I first started picking this book out, I wasn't in the mood for Mystery & Thriller. So I put it back down and go on reading something else. Then again, I pick it up and I got myself all interested with the plot line and read it like reading a comic.

I must say, I like how the world building premise setup, and it is enough for me to get around the map in my head.  Not too massive and very city based, which I think we're able to relate well especially those who reads comics regularly. I love how writing has taken it's course for readers to get by easily. Nothing fancy in which readers are able to relate with the character faster.

I do not have a strong command in English especially when it comes to grammar, however I only have issues with missing punctuation. It kinda disrupt the reading flow as I have to re-read it a few times to know how the author is conveying the tone of writing. Overall, is not a big deal but it would be smoother with the right punctuation.

Plot wise, I need to applaud the author for the plot. I know it's going to be a big twist but I didn't know it's gonna be that epic. It was really fun with all the non-stop actions flying around the city and buildings. From machine guns to lasers to certain degrees of wave power by throwing people off. Now that was really a fun read. No doubt, the technology of this world seems very advance for our time and it goes off with futuristic advantage to most of the characters.

Now, about the characters, Dane is one person I like. He's groovy and slick. No doubt, he's a Private Investigator but then again he has a sense of style that I really enjoy reading about. Well, he has his way around with girls, I must say. 

My personal rant, can we ship him with Fangirl together? I really enjoy their chemistry together. Seriously, put them together and solve the mystery together. That would be so cool!

I wanted to give 4.5 stars due to the punctuation, but hey who's to say my reviews are perfect with or without them. Haha!! 5 stars it is!

Ratings: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Review Links

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pretty Little Things by Jilliane Hoffman

My little sister knew I was a crime thriller geek when I first started reading as a hobby. So, she gave me a task to see whether I'm able to find out who the psycho is in this book. I took up her challenge and read it without hesitation.

The book introduced us to our victim and was immediately being held captive is less than 5 chapters. So, this is where we are being introduced to our investigator and the plot starts to flow. I'm quite fond of the writing because this book is written from different point of views (POV). Hence, it makes it very interesting in reading how different opinions solves this crime. 

Without a doubt, I knew who the kidnapper was before half of the book. Now I was dreading to know how the ending is going to happen because there were other cases involved while the rest of the world is trying to solve this one. Trust me, this book is written with a slight graphic violence and gore. Very well executed with every little bit details that might cause you your appetite. 

What caught me off guard was the ending twist. It was so well thought off with subtlety. I applaud the author for doing so.  In a way, my sister has got me all interested in reading Crime Thriller again. I personally love Crime and Political thriller and I might want to get started with Archer's "Clifton Chronicles" soon.

Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads Review Link