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As a book reviewer, I get excited about new books regularly but there are some books that almost take root within you, staying with you long after that last page is turned. Meira Chand’s A Different Sky is one of those rare books. Although almost 500-pages long, I had to ration the pages because I had fallen in love with this Singapore – the old Singapore of the 1930’s. Fiction they say, is the original virtual reality and and nothing I’ve read so far has been able to transport me so fully into a historical moment of Singapore’s trading post past the way this book has.

The year is 1927 and three young people from different families are living in Singapore; a meeting point for migrants, a part of Malaya under British colonial rule, a society where different cultures and social classes jostle, sometimes with discomfort. 

As a Singaporean I read the book thinking, “this is our story.This book is a portal into our past.” The trouble with reading history is that dry academic writing can suck the life out a period. The beauty of fiction and this book in particular is that it breathes life back into the period of Singapore of the 1930’s – 50’s where real people really lived, loved and lost.  The book is, in the words of its publisher “forensic in detail.” A remarkable achievement given the author Meira Chand is not Singaporean. She is of Indian-Swiss parentage, born and educated in London, she has lived much of her life in Japan. She moved to Singapore in 1997. In a conversation with President Nathan, the President urged the writer – who already had seven novels to her name, all offering insider and outsider perspectives societies, evocatively depicting their structures with detail – to choose Singapore as the setting for her next novel.

 The grace of the language, the effortless flow of the plot, the incredible authenticity of Meira’s invented Singapore, the way she unpacks what “multi-racial Singapore” means by depicting the real jostle of lives and social classes makes for an mesmerising read.  

My only consolation – having turned the last page of “A Different Sky” – is that Meira Chand has authored seven other novels. This means I can look forward to months of happy sleepless nights. Now where is my copy of ” The Gossamer Fly”?

What is the one book that really made an impact in your life?

Tell me about your favourite title in the comment box and you could win!

How has Richard Mcgregor been able to penetrate the inner workings of China’s deeply secretive communist party? He was almost self-deprecating in our telephone interview, saying he didn’t really think he had and someone would do so in his wake. This book however, is testament to the former financial times China bureau chief’s incredible network of insiders in China and his talent for bringing to life – with forensic detail- the workings of an all- encompassing, onmipresent political party that has taken root in all aspects of life in China.

How has the party been able to sustain itself and meet the changing aspirations of it’s members? How have it’s methods of meeting challenges evolved? What would you need to know about China’s communist party to do business in China? Pick up this illuminating and beautifully written all-access guide to the CCP to find out.

I’m taking the programme on the road again to meet up with prolific author Shamini Flint, who is launching the third installment of her witty mystery series starring the lovable but oh-so-flawed Inspector Singh. ( It is a private launch at the Singapore Cricket Club, but tune in at 6.40 pm on the 13 May in Talking Books on 938LIVE, and you will have a front-row seat).

This time, the good inspector is working on his home turf; crimebusting right here in oh-so-proper Singapore. The book promises that Singh will “rip apart the fabric of Singapore society and expose the rotten core beneath”.  So it makes perfect sense that the action is centred around  a law firm!

Far from being a 2-dimensional caricature, three books on, and the lovable, always-sweaty, always-hungry character of Inspector Singh comes even more alive in this installment. Which is great since the entire series depends largely on the popularity of its star character.

I think Shamini is among the most relevant authors of fiction that Singapore can lay claim to in recent history ( she is Malaysian born but is a Singapore PR). It is a constant marvel how she manages to breathe life to the rarely talked about in Singapore; showing up  the subtle almost unconsious racism that drifts casually into conversation, the precarious social footing of maids in Singapore (and the sometimes devastating results of that postition), she even  even tackles the links of corruption stretching off the island. All themes that are neatly packaged in a fictional murder mystery, that seethes with a withering wit and is served with a warm sense of humour.

It’s always enjoyable to recognise a familiar world in a work of fiction. Don’t miss Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of Villany. It is great fun.

Read about Shamini here http://www.shaminiflint.com/

Rarely have I picked up a book about grieving that has been as touching and riveting a read as this true-life account by Kristine Carlson.

Kristine Carlson lived an idyllic life as loving mother to two daughters, and life partner of Richard Carlson. Richard was the man behind the bestselling self-help book “Don’t sweat the small stuff’. Kristine’s life was shattered when her husband Richard unexpectedly suffered a pulmonary embolism on a typical flight to New York.

The sudden loss catapulted Kristine into heartbreak and uncertainly. This book , which she describes as a ” memoir through loss to self-discovery” is a look back at her journey into the underworld of mourning.

How do you pick up the pieces of life when death robs you of a loved one?

After the loss Kristine discovered she not only had to deal with her own personal grief but she had to learn to be a single parent, learn to love herself and allow herself to love deeply again. And she had to do all this as she struggled to rebuild a sense of self confidence that collapsed after her loss.

This is a courageous, honest and wise book with a central message -that loss too is a passage in life that one can emerge from with new life-lessons.

For Kristine, the mantra, “surrender, trust, accept” became a guiding light.

This lyrical book reads like a personal diary, and has an important message of inspiration for anyone who has suffered any loss of any kind.

If you have lost someone you love and want to hear from someone who has emerged from the other side of grief that feels it has blown a hole in your heart forever, pick up this book by Kristine Carlson who has learnt to survive and thrive through grief no one wishes on anyone else.


MANAGING THOUGHTS – MARY J. LORE

You’ve read the books, listened to conference speakers, bought those audio tapes. Self-help books are consistent bestsellers because we all at some level desire to change something in our lives in our search for success.

And I’m sure you’ve heard the many platitudes that if you simply change the way you think, you can change your life. But what few speakers, and books do is show you exactly what you need to do to improve the way you think. Which is where this powerful book triumphs over many other self-help books out there.

Author Mary J. Lore shows you just how to take control and change your thoughts so you can think those powerful, high purpose , high service thoughts. The key to success in work and life are the same: self awareness, self mastery and being on purpose Do you live each day as you did yesterday? Are your next five years going to be exactly what you did for the past five?

If you are ready for real change, pick up this book!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary J. Lore on May 18th. Listen to the interview here http://entertainment.xin.msn.com/en/radio/podcast/938live.aspx?cp-documentid=3973402

Read more here http://tiny.cc/r88mw.

WOW! We had some wonderful and well thought-through answers!

We have our three winners and will be contacting all three shortly.

A big thank you to everyone for taking part in ‘The Long Song’ giveaway!

Keep Reading!

Michelle

Michelle says: WELCOME TO THE BOOK HUNT!

Why did Andrea Levy feel  initially that she did not ” have the stomach ” to write the Long Song?

Send me your answers via the comment section of this post,  along with your name and email address and telephone number and you could be one of THREE winners picked to walk away with a personally signed copy of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song.  Good luck!

A terrifying read

I read ” The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston it in one swoop overnight. The book scared me so much I haven’t stopped talking about this piece of non-fiction since.

Between 1967 – 1993 a deadly, exotic “hot” virus made its way from the African rainforests to  the suburbs of Washington leaving its victims literally dissolving to death.

The deadly ebola virus is the star of this bone chilling epidemiological thriller. 

Preston does a remarkable job of piecing together interviews and scientific information to craft a medical cliffhanger like nothing else I’ve read.

When Steven King describes this  book as “One of the most horrifying things I’ve ever read”, you know you are onto a really scary read.

This book was published in 1994; I have no idea why I took so long to pick it up.

 What did we look like in 1819? Read the story here:

http://tiny.cc/E9SnY

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