Review – Out of the Maze | Spencer Johnson

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  • Title: Out of the Maze: An A-Mazing Way to Get Unstuck
  • Author: Spencer Johnson
  • Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin
  • Release Date: November 13th 2018
  • Pages: 96

Blurb

The posthumous sequel to Who Moved My Cheese?, the classic parable that became a worldwide sensation.

Who Moved My Cheese? offered millions of readers relief for an evergreen problem: unanticipated and unwelcome change. Now its long-awaited sequel digs deeper, to show how readers can adapt their beliefs and achieve better results in any field.

Johnson’s theme is that all of our accomplishments are due to our beliefs: whether we’re confident or insecure, cynical or positive, open-minded or inflexible. But it’s difficult to change your beliefs–and with them, your outcomes. Find out how Hem, Haw, and the other characters from Who Moved My Cheese? deal with this challenge.


Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese.

After 20 years of success with Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson returns with a sequel, Out of the Maze. Unfortunately, due to his passing in July 2017 from pancreatic cancer, he was unable to feel the finished copy in his hands. This book was made possible thanks to his 3 sons, and Ken Blanchard, his coauthor and good friend.

“I’ll bet you can do a lot more than you think you can…”

Out of the Maze is a continuation of the first book, Who Moved My Cheese?, now sharing littleperson Hem’s journey in looking for cheese to eat. Ever since his best friend, Haw, left to find “new cheese”, Hem felt helpless and sad. There was a lot of regret oozing through his veins – why didn’t I follow Haw when I could? From his initial times of appreciating his comfort zone over the great journey towards “nothingness”, as Haw did, he soon felt that he needed to do something, for fear he would die of loneliness and hunger.

“I don’t think things ever go back to how they were,” said Hope. “Here’s my thought, though: Maybe they can turn out better than they were.” 

We will follow Hem’s journey closely as he discovers new opportunities and hope, deals with self-doubt, experiences stages of realisation and ultimately, masters the art of letting go to gain something so much better. Sometimes, we tend to be so used with our old ways that we close our eyes to possibilities out of our space. This simple story of Hem teaches us that there is more to discover if you allow yourself to just, try. Baggage of the past should be left where it belongs, the past. Instead, take those lessons and be the best version of yourself today, and in the future.

Towards the end of the book, you will find a short letter written by Spencer Johnson before he died. It is both heartfelt and inspiring, so I share this review with hopes that more people will read his story and appreciate all the simple yet meaningful lessons he imparted and embodied during his life.

Now then, I leave you with this –

What would you do if you believed it was possible? 

Rating: 

I would like to thank Times Reads for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

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Review – Ponytail: The Love for Revenge | Dr. Pradip Chauhan

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  • Title: Ponytail: The Love for Revenge
  • Author: Dr. Pradip Chauhan
  • Publisher: HRC Publisher
  • Release Date: May 1st 2016
  • Pages: 172

Blurb

Prabuddh is famous for his flamboyant avatar. His big hair is a very hot topic of discussion amongst his office folks. But he has some desire which keeps him burning from inside.

Three women, Tapasya, Kaumudi and Amita, make Prabuddh reach different sections of his life.

Which way his destiny takes him? What effect the trio has on his life? Does it end on a normal trip? Or something really big lies in front?


This is going to be a short review as unfortunately, I do not have much to say. As you can see from the blurb itself, grammatical errors are present, which is really what you will find throughout the book too – a huge bummer for me.

Ponytail: The Love for Revenge is a love story of how businessman Prabuddh discovers the true value of love, one which is more than all the riches life has to offer him. I found his character self-absorbed (extremely full of himself!), overly-confident yet highly liked among his upper class social circle. Told in the first narrative, it did not take long for me to get annoyed with how highly he views himself, his business and achievements.

The plot was largely predictable but with a huge twist at the end which was rather lazy and weird, if you ask me. I did not enjoy this read, but I do believe given improvements in writing (plot and grammar, specifically), it could possibly be more entertaining.

Rating:

Nonetheless, I would like to thank the author, Dr. Pradip Chauhan, for this review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review – Book Love | Debbie Tung

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  • Title: Book Love
  • Author/Illustrator: Debbie Tung
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • Release Date: January 1st 2019
  • Pages: 144

Blurb

Bookworms rejoice! These charming comics capture exactly what it feels like to be head-over-heels for hardcovers. And paperbacks! And ebooks! And bookstores! And libraries!

Book Love is a gift book of comics tailor-made for tea-sipping, spine-sniffing, book-hoarding bibliophiles. Debbie Tung’s comics are humorous and instantly recognizable—making readers laugh while precisely conveying the thoughts and habits of book nerds. Book Love is the ideal gift to let a book lover know they’re understood and appreciated.


Lovely read! I read this book in one sitting on my commute back home from work yesterday. I smiled and chuckled, occasionally adjusting the book for other passengers to see my gorgeous current read – reading is contagious, please read too fellow seat neighbour! *trust me I’m not annoying oops guilty as charged*

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Book Love is a gorgeous hardback filled with beautiful comics/illustrations of the many quirks of us, your everyday readers. From reading anywhere and everywhere to getting emotionally attached to characters, we’ve all gone through numerous experiences of crazy book hangovers and annoying (to others!) reading habits. You’re going to dog-ear my pages? Nope, you can’t borrow my books. You’re going to open the book really wide till you break the spine? Nope, please stay away. I’m glad Debbie managed to capture most of the funny little things we readers do on a daily basis. There are more though which could  have been included, maybe for a second edition, if Debbie ever plans on one! Readers working together during book sales, bookish meet-ups where we quiz each other on our book knowledge; to name a few.

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(Psst, I’m not a fan of movie tie-in covers too)

Oh and have I mentioned how beautiful the illustrations are? Please be my guest and gently touch the pages as you admire the art. Don’t worry – we won’t judge you. Haha! Even after finishing the book, I found myself flipping back to appreciate Debbie’s work. She illustrates with so much character and thought. The inclusion of famous book titles and literary quotes were a nice touch too!

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An extremely relatable quick read and a true page turner. You would definitely want to have this treasure as part of your (mountain) collection. If you’re not a reader yourself, this would be a perfect book to know us readers better – understand us, feed us and allow us time to read. Ultimately, the joy of reading is in its sharing with the people we love. To those enjoying the company of loved ones tomorrow,  Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Rating: 

I would like to thank Times Reads for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

Review – The Asrama Anthology

 

  • Title: The Asrama Anthology
  • Editors: Zan Azlee
  • Featuring submissions by: Aiman Najhan, A. Ahmad, Adlyn Shazmy, Ili Nur Amalina Ibrahim, Hannany Md Salehuddin, Nuurrianti Jalli, Amirah Fatinah, Shalini Jay, Farah Hussin, S. H. Azemi, Silver Coyote, Asytar, Zulfikri Ahmad, Tharma Pillai, Yusoff Bulanbiru, Nadine Sahzan, Aqilah Aminuddin, Lyana Khairuddin
  • Publisher: Matahari Books (an imprint of Buku Fixi)
  • Release Date: July 26th 2018
  • Pages: 192

Blurb 

The Asrama Anthology shares 19 true stories of Malaysians who have experienced life in boarding schools, which they believe helped build them into who they are today. There are stories of friendship, heartbreak, family tragedy, conflict, race relations, and yes, there are one or two romantic ones. Chosen and edited by award-winning writer and broadcaster Zan Azlee, whose own true-life hostel accounts are too shocking for this volume.


After my read of Matahari Book’s Letters to Home,  I started keeping tabs on their work, particularly interested with how they encourage Malaysians to contribute relatable, personal stories by turning selected pieces into books. In this latest edition, The Asrama Anthology, editor Zan Azlee brings together 19 true stories by 18 authors (Yusoff Bulanbiru shares 2 stories) on their experiences studying in a boarding school environment. Ili Nur Amalina, one of the contributors, is a dear friend of mine too – all the more reason to read this book.

So there I was, feeling excited, afraid and everything in between. As we drove past the gates I felt that my moment was now. My journey began.

– A Tale of Tie, Aiman Najhan

Themes of self growth, discovery, family, and challenges growing up were some of the more common ones, shared in almost every story in this compilation. You will also find stories unique to certain topics, often heard but not talked about enough, including those on bullying, depression, sexual harassment, and even bulimia.

“This is it. I never thought that I would die this young,” whispered Kera to herself.        

– Kera in the Closet, Zulfikri Ahmad

Chapters are short, and easy to get into. Ideal for those who need a quick read every now and then, without the usual – “Oh no, what happened in the previous chapters again?!” Overall, I found this book to be, for the most part, an interesting read with a unique standpoint brimming with potential for some very great story-telling. Unfortunately, many stories turned out to be too draggy and boring for my own liking. It could be how they were written, or just for the fact that some of contributors did not really have a strong story to tell. Which is a shame, as I do believe there are many untold tales out there on boarding schools which somehow or another did not make their way into the hands of readers. Also – boarding school horror stories, where you guys at? I was expecting more of these! 

Which brings me to this – if you have a story to tell and the opportunity to do so, do take it seriously. Your writing may very well be relatable and touch the lives of many. Experiences in boarding schools, both good and bad, ride on great waves in shaping the lives of many Malaysians. I would still recommend you to give this book a go, there are a few notable pieces here worth discovering. 

No matter what situation you are in and how many people are against you, stand up straight and fight for what you believe in. The truth is always the best language to speak.

– What I Can Tell But I Cannot Show, Ili Nur Amalina Ibrahim

Rating: 

I would like to thank Buku Fixi and Matahari Books for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

Review – Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative | Austin Kleon

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  • Title: Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
  • Author: Austin Kleon
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
  • Release Date: February 28th 2012
  • Pages: 160

Blurb

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.


I can genuinely say that this book came to me at a time I needed it the most. The past few weeks have been an adventure of sorts – of me reconnecting with interests of mine I have sidelined for a very long time – drawing, colouring and painting. I realised this one day when I came across Bob Ross’ videos on Netflix. I was glued for hours – no surprises there. I have been so busy with work, books, movies and writing that I forgot about a childhood love I once truly enjoyed.

Steal Like an Artist has given me all the good advice I need to know, and more, to get things rolling. For starters, all creative work needs to start somewhere and it is impossible to have it perfect the first time around. The process of finding your style and voice is important, and can be done simply when we observe and learn from the works of others. Take in positive influences, and you would be surprised by the good they bring in shaping your artistic journey.

As the French writer Andre Gide put it, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.

Austin Kleon stresses that the key here is to keep your brain working. Observe and absorb as much from your surroundings. Every single conversation, situation, movie, and even book could provide you with ideas, packs of energy boosts to your creativity capacity. In this book, Austin too provides practical advice we can use daily – carry a notebook. Doodle. Write ideas.

Artist David Hockney had all the inside pockets of his suit jackets tailored to fit a sketchbook. The musician Arthur Russell liked to wear shirts with two front pockets so he could fill them with scraps of score sheets.

Another advice I feel strongly for is – don’t wait till you know who you are to get started. I found this surprisingly relatable. We tend to procrastinate a lot when it comes to embarking on new things. It’s either we are afraid on taking the big step or we doubt ourselves till the point of no progress. Either way, we lose. The recipe here is to really –  just do it. Experiment and explore your passions. Do not leave any of them out because each is important to keep you feeling alive. Take them towards directions which are fresh and real. The possibilities are endless when it comes to pursuing what makes you, you.

The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.

All in all, creative work needs to be done regularly, no matter how small. Get a planner, plan your time around it and ensure that it does not get lost in you maintaining your day job and life, in general.

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert

Steal Like an Artist is a quick read, but packed with the little things you need in conquering the huge mountain of doubt hindering your creative pursuit. Well then, time to get my creative hat on and get to work! So should you.

Rating: 

Review – Scenes of the Father | Amir Hafizi

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  • Title: Scenes of the Fathers
  • Author: Amir Hafizi
  • Illustrator: Ong Chee Yang
  • Publisher: Maple Comics
  • Release date: March 2016
  • Pages: 100

Blurb

We often remember our loved ones through rose-tinted glasses. The soft pink tint of the memories would sometimes reveal ludicrous details and anecdotes of humour and heartbreak, perhaps some hints at longing and love.

In this story, a man who was the pillar of his community is remembered for his stories and the stories he tells. These are facets that hope to form a semi-coherent collage of what makes a person.

Artist Chee takes on Amir Hafizi’s text and presents these facets of a man, a teacher, a farmer and a storyteller as they have never been seen before.


After half year of studying to prepare for exams, one can easily fall into the deep, dark pit of what we call the reading slump! I was also not spared from this evil curse as I welcomed July, free from exams but unable to finish any of the books I wanted to read. Every reader’s nightmare! One day as I was working on something, my friend came up to me and introduced me to this book – a short story with illustrations – hmm, it did seem like just what I needed to get over my slump.

That’s what my old man told me when I was six or seven

…when I was eating more monosodium glutamate than any human ever should, most of it from the Maggi noodles I ate almost every day.

The illustrations in the book caught my eye as I flipped through its pages. Anecdote and drawings to tell the tale of the author’s father who lived, fought and did whatever he could to contribute to his little community. A simple and honest account, I enjoyed the nostalgic and melancholic feel to it.

He did all of that. The old man. He worked like a horse. He said that if he stopped working even for a day, he would suffer pains all over his body. So he worked. And worked.

I finished the book quickly enough. The Malaysian references were fun to read. The political ones hmm — not so much as I found one a little disturbing, but raw, which I appreciate. I did learn a thing or two, which was nice. Thanks to the illustrations, the flow of the story was given more depth. Reading slump, no more!

Rating:

Review – An Ocean of Grey | Kamalia Hasni

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  • Title: An Ocean of Grey
  • Author: Kamalia Hasni
  • Publisher: Meraki Press
  • Release date: April 21st 2018
  • Pages: 159

Blurb

I could find peace
in an ocean
of all the shades
of the colour grey 

An Ocean of Grey by Kamalia Hasni explores the pain and aftermath of a love that was promised a forever but had ended too soon. The collection of poetry and prose also includes beautiful illustrations by the author’s friends who had helped her through her healing.


Give a woman love and hope, and she might just write a book on you. It’s up to you though – on whether it would be about her happiness, or grief.

An Ocean of Grey is a poetry book written by my dear friend, Kamalia Hasni aka Malie, and it is the very first book published by her and two of my other friends – Adora and Nabilah – under Meraki Press. I’ve been following their publishing journey for some time now so it is truly exciting and inspiring to see all of it finally coming together.

Breaking up, losing love, having our souls crushed – synonyms of experiencing life at its most fundamental. We put our hearts out there to only have it torn. But yet, we continue doing so, never to give up on finding love again. We are all broken pieces of happy memories, laughters, shared dreams, hope – yes, hope – to love and be loved by a person who would choose us, over and over again. We keep this little spark of faith in our hearts, not wanting to show the world our vulnerabilities.

Malie, on the other hand, has chosen to pen it all on paper. All in this book, jewel, we now have in our hands. Her experience of heartbreak, healing and loving herself again. We call it – raw, real, bare.

We call it – An Ocean of Grey.

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I just want to go back to the moment I let my guard down, the moment I had let the walls crumble. I want to hold the bricks in place, every last piece. I want to warn the fragile flesh within those walls that they will bleed, and it is not worth it.

I can feel the depth of her words, thoughts in every page. Each piece is accompanied by a beautiful illustration and titles of songs which capture the mood she was in, and what she felt at that very moment. A lot of thought and effort was put into ensuring the reader could take it all in, one memory at a time, one event at a time. I can feel her emotions, and empathise on her struggles. It was all so relatable, so if you are going through or have gone through such love and lost, it will remind you that we broken souls are not that much different after all. But we are still fighting today, we are still doing all we can to be the best versions of ourselves.

finding home

Maybe Love isn’t a person, or even a feeling. Maybe Love is its own element, its own creature floating in the hearts of the souls we fall in love with. Maybe when the people leave us, it’s actually the very same Love leaving that person’s body, going off to search for a better home to settle in.

Maybe when we finally fall in love again with someone new, that familiarity is Love, and when Love finally finds its long-lost home, the true one, it is also Love telling you after so many wrongly encountered souls, “This one. It’s this one.”

So don’t look for the person and instead go look for Love, because sometimes, the person isn’t the home Love was meant to live in.

An honest account yet emotional roller coaster – that’s what you have gifted the world, Malie. But like all crazy roller coasters, it comes to an end eventually. We then work our way to heal completely, we will then love again. There is a piece in the book which is divided into 3 parts on what Malie felt she should have said when her relationship ended – sampai hati. It appears at the beginning, mid-book and towards the end. Within this piece alone, you can witness her 3 different stages of healing, and since I generally love clever ties, connectivity within a story, I thought this perfectly summed the book – making it feel complete and whole.

Thank you for sharing with us this piece of your heart, Malie. I will certainly treasure this book as proof that no matter what people say, no matter the hurt, there is still love out there. One day, one day, we would find it with the right one.

Because someday, somebody will fall in love with me again, and I will love them because I have so much love in me to offer, and we might fight, we might go through many downs, but someday, somebody will not walk away.

Nobody would walk away from the best version of me.

Rating: