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


  • 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


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.



Review – Scenes of the Father | Amir Hafizi


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


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!


Review – An Ocean of Grey | Kamalia Hasni


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


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.


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.


Review – Behind Her Eyes | Sarah Pinborough


  • Title: Behind Her Eyes
  • Author: Sarah Pinborough
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Release Date: January 26th 2017
  • Pages: 384


Don’t trust this book. Don’t trust this story. Don’t trust yourself.

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

As Louise, David’s new secretary, is drawn into their world, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong – and how far someone might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Full disclosure – I read this book months ago so this review is indeed long overdue! A few weeks back, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine on thriller books when the topic on psychological thrillers came up. First thing that came to my mind was this story and I started raving to her on how she must read it soon, soon, SOON. This, coupled with the fact that I’ve been seeing more of this book in our local Malaysian bookstores (yay!), I knew I had to get this review out fast. Not an easy one to write as I don’t want to give any of the good bits away!

Secrets, secrets, secrets. People are filled to the brim with them if you look closely.

Two of my friends have now read it – both have given good reviews so trust me on this one, you’re in for a thrilling (yet mind-boggling!) ride. 

The past is as ephemeral as the future—it’s all perspective and smoke and mirrors. You can’t pin it down, can you? Let’s say two people experience exactly the same thing—ask them to recount the event later and, although their versions might be similar, there will always be differences. The truth is different to different people.

Behind Her Eyes is essentially built around a twisted love triangle between David, Louise and Adele. David the successful psychiatrist but controlling husband, Louise his new secretary and Adele his too-good-to-be-true wife. It’s twisted because Louise is not just in between David and Adele, but she’s close to both of them too! When feelings are not addressed properly and honesty is taken for granted, that’s when things go downhill and you will see how they have to face far greater consequences along the way. How Sarah ties the characters together is extremely clever – she does keep you on your toes and makes you think and question.

“There’s no right and wrong with feelings. There is only what there is.”

Unfortunately whenever you think you have it all figured out, plot twists will be there to greet you at unexpected corners of its pages. The story will take you on a dark, consuming and gripping not-so walk in the park. Sarah’s incredible writing on its own, has the power to keep you glued for hours. She writes with a lot of thought and heart, crafting every page with elegance and ease.

Whatever you do, do not – I  repeat, do not – give away THAT ending. We book reviewers have been reminded time and time again about this. The ending, the element of surprise, the #WTFthatending WILL make you close the book shut and stare at the wall for awhile, or longer, depending on your level of tolerance to crazy endings, and will make you question whatever you have read. You have been warned!

Overall, a well-written psychological thriller I would highly recommend. Its uniqueness and character should not be missed! Get your copy today and PLEASE. READ. IT.

“It’s strange how different we all appear to who we really are.”


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

Review – Unusual Animals A – Z | Heather Jones


  • Title: Unusual Animals A – Z
  • Author: Heather Jones
  • Publisher: The Rhythm Child Network
  • Release Date: February 14th 2017
  • Pages: 32


Award-winning Unusual Animals A-Z is quirky, imaginative, educational and just plain fun. Whether it’s Andre the aardvark or Zena the zorilla, each of these twenty-six unusual animals are part of a colourful A – Z adventure. Let the journey begin! 

Let’s face it – children nowadays are getting smarter and smarter by the minute! The digital age has taken over their lives like a storm. A two-year-old who can take photos using a mobile phone? Nah, no longer surprising! This little one happens to be my cousin. She knows the word “neighbour” at this age. Don’t think I was ever that smart then – na, ah.

Which brings me to why I think this book is extremely important to parents and adults out there who, like me, have to figure out new ways to attract the attention of the little ones in our lives – especially when it comes to learning something new.

Unusual Animals A – Z is a collection of facts and brief stories of 26 unusual animals, arranged alphabetically. The wonderful thing about this book is that most of the animals featured are not ones a child would usually learn on back at home, or even in their kindergarten. We would have taught them what is a horse, but have we ever thought of going to the next level by teaching them on a quarter horse?

Quentin and Quincy the quarter horses get their name because they can run a quarter mile faster than all the other horses in the world. After years of racing, Quentin and Quincy became rodeo horses where they learned how to perform ranch chores – and loved it!

Pretty cool, eh? Each animal introduced is accompanied by a vibrant watercolour painting (illustrated by Suraya Edmonds), a name (we met Quentin and Quincy already!) and a little story about them – which includes a fun fact!

Wilma the wooly mammoth loves the rain. It moistens her thick fur and cools her down. She uses her gigantic curly tusks to practice digging for berries.

Overall, it is a beautifully illustrated children’s book which is bound to teach the children in your life (and you!) a thing or two. Next time you’re looking for a good bedtime story, this could be just what you need! At the end of the book, you will also find an activity where your little ones could write down names they would like to give to the animals.

Give your hedgehog a H name.

I choose Hope – this book certainly carries much of it in abundance! Haha, will figure out a catchy name soon – or get my seven-year-old cousin to help me with it! Hoping for more great children’s books from you in the future, Heather.


I would like to thank Heather Jones, the author, for this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

Review – Paracosm | Arina


  • Title: Paracosm
  • Author: Arina
  • Publisher: Tun Suffian Foundation Incorporated
  • Release Date: May 6th 2017
  • Pages: 177


Never hate yourself. Stop saying you’re not beautiful, it’s like you’re saying that God’s creations are hideous. If you are beautiful inside, no doubt your outside will shine. It just takes the right person to see it.

Paracosm is a heart-felt gem written by 17-year-old Puteri Fateh Arina Merican Megat Suffian Merican, the great-grandniece of Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. A “paracosm” is said to be a detailed imaginary world, often associated to one’s childhood and unfolded by a turn of events.

Arina’s passion for writing and poetry grew ever since she was a little girl, and let’s just say that she has never looked back since. The first thing I noticed when I flipped through this cream-coloured hardback book is the colourful illustrations that filled its pages. Most of the drawings were produced by Arina herself, such personal touch and vibrancy deserves every bit of attention.

Why do you see the surface
But not what is within
Your eyes are unfair judges
They are mirrors filled with sin
Dark colours displease them
Dark colours and strange religions
No cloud is the same shape
No garden has the same flowers
Yet they glow with beauty
They glow with pride
Beneath the skin
Same structures of bone
No matter who tries to destroy you
That you will never fight alone.

Arina writes with a certain level of boldness and persistence which is highly commendable. I can feel her eagerness on every page – the urgency to translate her thoughts into important messages for people of varying walks of life to read. The topics she covers spreads across – she speaks on her relationships with people, dreams, fears and the many challenges she has to face to be heard in a world heavily chained by societal norms.

Perhaps the crown I wear
Is a little old fashioned.

With withered silver leaves
And wilted gold lilies
There are no diamonds
Or rubies.

While others wear
A crown of garnets
And jewels
Mine is an antique
Of ancient legend
With the stories of my ancestors
Now leaving me
To find my own story.

Because I am the ink
On these pages
And the inspiration
Of my own legend.

All in all, this book breathes originality. There was so much thought put into not just the poetry writing, but in putting the book together as a whole. The poetry, visual art, photographs and even Arina’s old handwritten notes when she was just a 7-year-old! – a book to cherish by generations to come.

Sometimes the world is saved by only one good heart, not a million strong arms.


I would like to thank my good friend, Daniel Ariff Tung, for providing me a copy of this book to review. As a past scholar of the Tun Suffian Foundation, he felt that there is a great need to get the word out on this beautiful book – in which I absolutely agree. After all, proceeds from the book sales will be channeled towards awarding more deserving students to pursue their undergraduate and postgraduate studies. So the next time you pop into your nearby MPH or Kinokuniya bookstore, be sure to pick up a copy for RM30! Your contribution will make a difference in someone’s life.

Dearest Tok Mama

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – JRR Tolkien

But I get lost all the time.

Life is full of struggles, but do keep that passion of yours going, Arina. Aspiring to be a human rights lawyer one day, I do believe Paracosm is a huge first step for her to many promising things to come.


Review – Love & Happiness | Yasmin Mogahed


  • Title: Love & Happiness
  • Author: Yasmin Mogahed
  • Publisher: FB Publishing
  • Release Date: May 1st 2017
  • Pages: 124


Pain is real. And so is loss. Sometimes it’s hard not to let the weight of what we carry–or the memory of what we’ve lost–take over. Many of us know the reality of struggle, and so many people suffer in silence. It’s hard. It’s hard not to give up when we face the repeated disappointments of life. Like some of you, I’ve known loneliness. I’ve known defeat. I’ve fallen many times chasing mirages, and broken many bones making castles in life’s fading sands. Sometimes, all it took was one solid wave to destroy what I had spent years building.

So I decided to give it a voice. All of it: the tears, the pain. And the lessons. The things I saw and learned and gained along my life path needed a voice. I wanted to give back, in hopes of helping myself and others survive. But then it wasn’t just about surviving. I didn’t just want people to survive inside their storms. I wanted people to thrive inside their storms. And so I wrote, as I walked through my own.

The words found in this book became my voice and my letter to the world. They became my deepest attempt to, not just pick myself up, but others along the way. I wrote because, just as we will fall in life, so will we rise. That’s the thing about this world. It never gives us only one kind of path. There is pain. Yes. And loss. And even darkness. But there is also light. There is hope. There is beauty.

And there is also love and happiness.

Love & Happiness was an extremely quick read – I read it in one sitting! It is a compilation of reminders and quotes for everyday struggles and challenges. Having read and reviewed Yasmin Mogahed’s first book – Reclaim Your Heart, I would say that this second one is more like a summary of important messages from her previous book and her videos published online.

You spent your life looking for love. But one day you will realize that it was in those moments of giving – not receiving – that you found happiness.

The  book is filled with colourful pages of calming photos/graphics which makes it a very pleasant read. I strongly feel is not meant to be read just once. You should pick it up whenever you feel down or when you’re being put to a test. Its simple and straightforward advice can lift your spirits and make you feel more composed to think through your challenging situations.

We spend so much time asking God to cure us of our hardships. But we never stop to consider that our hardships are curing us.

I would highly recommend Love & Happiness for those who do not have time to spare on Reclaim Your Heart. The previous book is definitely much, much better in terms of content depth and explanation. I personally prefer it as there is a lot more to learn and it will leave you feeling whole. But having said that, I still feel Love & Happiness is a gem of its own and we can still benefit from it.

Good as a gift too – get it for your family members and friends! I’m sure they would appreciate this little piece of treasure to dive into when they need it the most. May we all find comfort in Yasmin’s words, and may we grow stronger and more focused in our life goals in every challenge we face. 🙂

When you’re real, God surrounds you with real.

And nothing less. That’s why He will remove people from your life, sometimes. That’s why He will close doors. That’s why He will put up impenetrable walls. Don’t ever think it’s to deprive you.

It isn’t.