Category Archives: Books

Football – Bloody Hell!

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Book: Football – Bloody Hell!

Genre: Biography/Football

Author: Patrick Barclay

Thickness: 512 pages

Tagline: The Biography of Alex Ferguson

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If anyone told me that I would be reading a BIOGRAPHY in my lifetime, I would have laughed myself silly! Somehow, I have always had this low regard for biographies – oft looking down on them as boring, dull books that heaps praises on themselves. Wait, perhaps those are autobiographies? Hmmmm. Anyway, when my sister gave me this biography of Sir Alex Ferguson (SAF) as a present some time ago, I had no choice but to read it…..and after reading my very first EVER biography, I have to say it isn’t quite half as bad as I had initially thought. 😛

In fact, Football – Bloody Hell! was so good that I had some difficulty putting it down, hence finishing it quite fast, actually! I just didn’t have time to sit down and write a review of it, that’s all. My bad.

Storyline

The biography starts off very nicely, tracing the humble beginnings of SAF as a striker when it began with Queen’s Park to St Johnstone to Dunfermline, Rangers, Falkirk and Ayr United. Always unable to secure first team football almost whereever he went, SAF started to realised that his actual talent may not be in playing but in tactics! It was revealed that SAF loved to discuss tactics and strategies after every football match!

So it wasn’t really surprising that somewhere along the way, he trained to become a coach and eventually started his career as manager in East Sterlingshire in 1974 , St Mirren in the same year, before eventually moving on to his prime tenure in Aberdeen from 1978 to 1986. It was during this time that SAF’s Aberdeen managed to challenge the Old Firm (Celtic & Rangers) consistently in the Scottish League. The biography also tells of his short stint in managing the Scotland national team in the 1986 World Cup before moving on to take charge of Manchester United.

His adventure in Manchester takes up a bigger portion of the book, where we are offered a overview, season by season of his struggles and successes there, right through the treble winning season of 1999 and eventually  to the UCL final of the 2010/11 season.

Off-field, much is shared about his family life, his relationship with his family members, other managers, etc. and also his troubled own business, horse-racing addiction, etc. I would say the biography is quite comprehensive and covers just about everything you like and need to know about SAF.

Writing

For a biography, I am glad to note that the writing isn’t all that dry. I could almost feel the pain during his troubled times and also revel in the successes during SAF’s better times. The writing is very easy to follow and can be humorous at times. :-)

Of course, I did feel that the better part of the writing was all events from page 1 leading right up to the treble winning season of 1998/99. it was as if the writer paced his book to climax there. Because beyond that season, the writing started to feel a little rushed for me – as if just to keep the pages as updated to the current year as possible.

Key Takeaways

I have to admit, it was kinda exciting to finally read and understand a little bit more of the mind of perhaps one of the greatest football managers of all time. So, I thought it would be good for me to try to recall some of the things or gems I picked up from his biography:

– one of SAF’s principles is that we’ve got to have discipline to work hard in whatever we do.

– SAF was rather infamous on the field for rough tactics , elbowing opponents, etc. heck, he even owned a bar called The Elbows Room! Now I could see why he has a fondness and similarity of a certain Wayne Rooney..

– He picked up most of his mind games from the legendary Jock Stein. Here I learnt some techniques of putting pressure on your opponents…”The title is now for Newcastle to lose…”, etc.

– However good a manager that he is, SAF always seemed to do badly in horse-racing bets. Conclusion: Being a good football manager is different from a football predictor.

– I noticed many in his family – brother, sons, etc. also eventually entered the football industry – some even through his influence. Most of this did not end well. Moral: too many family members in the same industry is hazardous…

– SAF taught me to always celebrate your opponent’s successes, especially after being defeated by them. He never failed to produce a bottle of wine to the manager of the team who tops United in the BPL or beats them in the UCL. Great humility and exemplary.

– SAF was also very persistent in signing the player that he wants. He shows that as well as he could bark on the football pitch, he could also display the human touch in personally following up with the players he wants till they sign up fir the club.

– Family was very important to SAF.

– SAF is always able to learn something from the people he meets in his life.

Conclusion

I found that after reading SAF’s biography, I am now able to better appreciate the wonderful stuff he has done and is still doing for the Manchester United Football Club. And more than that, there were some lessons of life that I could learn as well, making this biography the BEST (and perhaps the only one) that I will ever read!

 

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Some Big Bad Thoughts

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Yup. The World’s Biggest book sale is BACK! This year, the highly (and globally, probably) anticipated Big Bad Wolf Book Sale makes its presence at the Mines Convention Centre. With discounts ranging from 75 – 95% and over 3 million titles on offer, who could resist, right? :-p

Being a book lover who has never failed to attend the BBW Sale, I made earlier plans to take leave with my wife on 7 Dec itself (its first official opening day) and throng the BBW venue to have a better selection of the available loot. Not surprisingly, many, MANY people also had the same idea, because by the time we went in around 9am, all roads leading into the MIECC was already jammed up. I also heard that apparently the crowds had already started to gather outside the building like some K-Pop concert even before the sale opened its gates at 6.30am!

It was a good thing we know the area quite well, so we promptly made our way to the Shopping Fair and parked in Level 1 there instead, where there was a link road directly to the MIECC. No jams and stress heading to the sale!

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So, how did this year’s BBW Sale do compared to previous years? Here are some of my thoughts…

– Better layout arrangement of books. Although I personally felt the MAEPS which was used in last year’s sale was a much bigger venue, the layout of books in MIECC felt more organised and easier to move around.

– With thousands of people coming to the sale, Malaysia as a book-reading nation continues to surprise me!

– The sales were so good that the inside toilets were actually quite empty!

– Having the kid’s playzone was a nice touch. Parents could actually leave their kids there and shop in peace!

– MIECC being next to Mines Shopping Fair meant that food wouldn’t be an issue…a huge positive improvement from last year’s venue.

– New BBW price tags. Another nice touch….much cooler compared to the plain, dull price tags of before.

– BBW merchandise (T-shirts, bags, etc.) also made their debut this year. Was delighted that the quality was pretty good too!

– Another good move by the organisers was to set up another section of the Sale for those children books with pop-ups, toys, 3D glasses, etc. – all things that could easily be damaged by the ruthless book lovers. This way, all of the good stuff were protected. Two thumbs up!

– Another nice touch was the facility for the shoppers to leave their loot temporarily at a deposit area so that they could continue shopping. They also had this facility last time, but in MIECC, the counter included some awesome looking high rack shelves. More organised and efficient.

All in all, I went home TIRED, but very happy with my loot worth over RM600…

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I’m impressed with the ways BBW keeps improving itself year after year, not only in terms of offering us more book titles, but also in terms of the arrangement, logistics and planning of the venue!

These are some suggestions for improvement for BBW in the future…

1. Use colored price tags, like YELLOW for RM5 tags, RED for RM10 tags, etc. Definitely a time saver at checkout lines.

2. Alternatively, have some price specific lines, like a counter that only checks out RM5 items, etc.

3. Stamp some of the boxes with BBW logo and allow environment-friendly shoppers to carry the boxes home. This could save on the precious plastic bag production too..

4. OCBC’s credit card promotion should also start like 3 months prior to the sale. Personally, I still find it rather irritating for the sales person to be following me around whilst I’m scouring for books!

Star Trek: Klingons – Blood Will Tell

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Book: Star Trek: Klingons – Blood Will Tell

Genre: Graphic Novel/Science Fiction/Comic

Writers: Scott Tipton/David Tipton

Illustrator: David Messina

Thickness: 168 pages

Tagline: NA

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Here is a confession: As big as a Star trek fan as I am, I have never really thought much about its comic books. Not sure if it is the cheesy artwork on the covers or some bias that sci-fi on comics just doesn’t quite add up.

This is the reason why I only started to pick up some of these Star Trek graphic novels (note: some of them are even just a collection of their monthly comic series) at last year’s Big Bad Wolf Sale when they were selling em CHEAP at RM5 a pop.

However, after reading through some of these, I have to sheepishly admit that I was so glad I bought those ST graphic novels! I was thoroughly impressed by the refreshing writing in their pages. Of course, the artwork isn’t exactly visually stunning, but the quality of the storylines more than makes up for it.

Today, I shall review about one of the ST graphic novels I finished quite a while ago, and it’s all about Klingons. Seriously. Younger Trekkies may not know much about the Klingons but this warrior race was sorta like the main baddie in the Original series, so it’s really worth a look at how much drama they brought to the original crew…

Storyline

Basically, the story starts off on the Klingon home planet where they are undecided whether they should go to war with the Federation of Planets or to make peace. It then zooms in on the protagonist of the story, Kahnrah who has the vote that will break the tie and determine this critical decision.

As he ponders on what his vote will be with K’ahlynn, his grand daughter, Kahnrah starts to reminiscent about historical encounters between the Klingons and the Federation. Through these stories, he gains more insight before making his decision at the end of the story.

Writing

The uniqueness of this book is that it recollects classic stories in the ST: Original Series lore where the Klingons featured prominently. The only difference is that all of these stories are now told in this graphic novel from the perspective of the Klingons! How cool is that?!

The Klingon-based stories covered in this graphic novel include “Errand of Mercy“, which is incidentally the first episode that introduced the Klingons to the ST universe, “The Trouble with Tribbles“, “Day of the Dove” and “A Private Little War“. For those of you who are familiar with the stories mentioned here, you should be able to enjoy this graphic novel more because you’d be able to understand the beauty of unraveling the classic stories again, only from another point of view.

I especially enjoyed this panel where K’ahlynn shrieks in shock “Kirk Again?!!” after listening through some of these stories, where the Kirk’s Enterprise was seemingly always involved in all of them!

Artwork

I have to say although the artwork feels water-colourish at times, it was actually pretty decent. Again, I have to mention ST comic artwork seems to be its weakest department; which is a waste considering its excellent story-telling.

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

Well paced wit all Enterprise-Klingon encounters smartly separated in each chapter. And yes, it’s a comic book too, so reading visual panels is always easy on the eyes and speed. 😛

Conclusion

Excellent book to read, especially if you are a fan. I simply loved the way the writer managed to capture the essence of those classic Klingon episodes and spun it from their perspective instead. A superb effort and play on the adage “there’s always two sides to every story”

 

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OOPS!

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Book: OOPS!

Genre: Management/Business

Author: Aubrey C. Daniels

Thickness: 190 pages

Tagline: “13 Management Practices That Waste Time And Money (and what to do instead)”

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Gosh! It sure has been a while since I last posted a  book review, as per my personal commitment to read, read, read (and review, review, review…of course). I realise that much of the challenge may not be the lack of time to read, but possibly the lack of time to review them! I already have a growing stack of books that needs reviewing…

Anyway, I was recommended to read this book which was supposed to shed some refreshing insights on Management Practices…13 to be exact. The lure of the book is basically getting to know what are 13 normal management (or mis-management, rather) practices that may have been over-used worldwide and what we could or should do instead.

The book is written by one of the more renown management gurus, Mr Aubrey Daniels, so it was certainly worth a read.

 

Content

For those who are working or specifically in management or HR, the content is very much relevant and hits the nail on the head most of the time.

As you read through the 13 practices, you’d more often than not find yourself chuckle and go “Yeah…that makes sense!” It’s also shocking to see how many of these practices are still widely promoted in many companies around the world!

For example the books shares that the “Employee of the Month” practice (which is very widely used all over the world) is essentially a no-no because the largest number of people impacted positively by this method is exactly…ONE! Everyone else would be visibly upset. Besides, it is also not personal, not immediate, not contingent and not frequent.

Another one that I liked is the popular practice known as ‘The Sandwich’. It is aptly named as a method for correcting performance where criticism is sandwiched between two positive statements. The book mentions that this practice will do well to ensure the main message is missed altogether! Check out this sample ‘sandwiched’ message that clearly confuses the intended employee:

“You are one of the best employees we’ve got, when you are here. If you don’t improve your attendance in the next two months, we are going to have to terminate you. Why, you have more talent in your little finger than most people have in their whole body and that is why I am so concerned about you.”

The suggested method to use instead would be one where the corrective feedback is given in a more straightforward manner by emphasizing on the specific, desired behaviour to take place. The alternative address to the sample above is as follows:

“Tim, you have been late three days this week. I have spoken to you about this before and you know how important it is for you to be here on timebecause other employees cannot complete their work until you do yours. If you are late again this month, you will be terminated. Do you have any questions? Now, what can I do to help you be punctual?”

Good stuff, huh?

 

Writing

Although this is supposed to be a management book (read: boring), I found the writing of Mr Daniels very easy to follow. Even if I had no prior knowledge or background in HR management, I would still be able to understand the message he is trying to deliver.

Mr Daniels has managed to avoid too many business jargons and kept me interested through simple layman illustrations as he goes through each of the management practices. Nice!

 

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

It’s a management book…sheesh!

My way of saying that management books are typically not glue-y at all. Nevertheless, Mr Daniels has managed to inject some humourous illustrations and cartoons too that surely helps in keeping the reader not putting down the book for too long!

 

Conclusion

Overall, an excellent book that critically debunks many of the more popular management practices and offers more refreshing and innovative solutions instead.

Of course, as with all management books, for every book that promotes Method A, there will be another book that will promote Method B. So whilst I tend to agree with most of the content of the book, I also believe that not all methods or suggestions can work for every company.

Definitely worth a read!

 

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A Legacy of Recipes

A Our Legacy Recipe Book

Of all types of books, I must admit I really love to read cook books. Not because I love to cook (coz I can’t!), but simply because they always supplement the recipes with those delicious-looking end-result foods that just screams “Eat Me!”

Interestingly enough, my church, KL Wesley Methodist Church, recently went on a noble drive to collect timeless, tried and tested recipes from its members and friends and compiled all these golden nuggets of recipes into a delightful hard cover cookbook called “Legacy”, with the tagline ‘Recipes to pass on to our children‘….Awwww.

The project is another initiative to raise funds for our church’s new building project. Personally, I thought it was a wonderful way to get many of these cooking sifus to contribute their favourite dishes for generations to come. Apart from the saliva-inducing photos, the language of the recipes is also very ‘homely’, making it very simple to read, understand and follow. I’d bet even I could succeed in trying out some of these recipes. Heh. But, that’s a story for another day. 😛

Here are some sample pictures of the glorious food and sample pages taken from Legacy…

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Fishpaste
Kai Choy Fan
Kai Choy Fan
Nyonya Laksa
Saybahk (Eurasion Salad)
Teochew Duck
Char Yuk (Hakka Stewed Pork)
Sample page from Crispy Roast Pork recipe

Note: All Images courtesy of Nigel A. Skelchy of Just Heavenly

After you have finished wiping off the saliva from your computer or tablet screen, you may wanna consider purchasing the Legacy cook book, perhaps?

At slightly more than 120+ glossy pages of easy to follow recipes and beautiful photos of food, bound together perfectly in hard cover, I’d say the selling price of RM 100 is really a steal!

You can make your purchase directly from the KL Wesley Methodist Church office, or drop me an email and I can certainly try to help to arrange to get a copy (or more) to you.

Now, excuse me whilst I go give my eyes and tongue a feast first…:-p

Sheep

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Book: Sheep

Genre: Children/Fiction/Humor/Animal

Author: Valerie Hobbs

Thickness: 115 pages

Tagline: “Baa!”

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This book was the last book that I read in 2011, capping off a great year of reading for me, in which I read more books than I thought possible, especially after I challenged myself to not create any word wastages. Hah! The reason why I chose to end the year of 2011 with this “children’s” book  is simply to wind up the year on a happy note, as I gear up for many more books to read and review in 2012.

I picked up Sheep from the last year’s Big Bad Wolf sale at a insanely cut-price of RM3. Sure the back cover had a thin razor cut across it as well but that’s besides the point. I was attracted to the book not because of the price but for its interesting premise of a complete novel entirely written from the perspective of a dog!

Somehow I find myself drawn these kinds of writings. Haha.

Storyline

Sheep tells the heartwarming tale of a Border Collie named Jack as he recalls his life as a puppy on a ranch, and eventually loses his family through a series of events. This sets off an adventure where he travels through numerous different places, getting owned by many individuals who give him their own names like Blackie, Spot, Shep, etc. and growing up to learn how to survive in the world out there. In the midst of all this, Jack also has a dream to pursue, and that is to find his family again, or find some sheep so that he can herd! Seriously!

 

Writing

I loved the way Valerie has written Sheep. Penned from the ‘first-dog’ perspective, she manages to narrate the tale in very simple and believable terms.

From the start of the tale, you’d already know that our dog would eventually end up as Jack. That sets up nicely as I flipped through the pages of Jack’s misadventures of growing up with so many different names, it kept me guessing which name would come next, or would he finally become Jack next?

She manages to write in a way that we’d feel the joy and pain when Jack feels it. Through Jack’s numerous encounters with many different characters, you’d definitely feel his struggles and cheer for him as he continues to relentlessly pursue his dreams!

These are some of the unique and humourous words that Jack uses throughout the book:

I’d had enough of being chased away from the places where food smell was the most enticing: kitchens, restaurants, family picnics. I’d been hanging around people, acting all pitiful. After a while, it wasn’t an act. “Shoo!” the people would say, flapping their arms. “Shoo!” At first I didn’t understand. I thought they meant the things they wore on their feet.

Billy’s Big and Happy Circus looked cheery enough on the outside. But there was only one tent, so it wasn’t very big, and it sure wasn’t happy.

I followed Retardo, who scurried ahead in a low crouch. I guess he thought he’d be smaller that way, invisible. But the crouch is basically an attack position, any half-grown sheep knows that. This kid had a lot to learn.

 

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

With only 115 pages in length and very short chapters, this was indeed a very easy and fun book to read through. The funny and touching tales of Jack’s adventures moves along at quite a brisk pace that I found it difficult to put down.

 

Conclusion

Although Sheep can be easily classified as a children’s book, I found that it can be rather interesting to anyone who wants to read something fun and refreshing for a change. Besides, how many books do you know of that is written from the perspective of an animal?

It’s a great book to read to your children or for older kids to read it themselves!

And to cap it off, Sheep not also provides pages of fun and entertainment, there’s also some lessons of life that can be picked up from within the pages too.

For example, check out this excerpt that Jack learns from one of this owners along his journey of discovering life:

“Truth is, a fellow doesn’t need a whole lot to make him happy. A place to bed down, warm food in his belly, honest work, good company. But he’s gotta have one thing more, doesn’t he, boy?”

What is that ONE thing more? Ahhh…do read Sheep and find out! You won’t be disappointed!

 

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For One More Day

Book: For One More Day

Genre: Inspirational/Family

Author: Mitch Albom

Thickness: 208 pages (hardcover)

Tagline: “If you had the chance, just one chance, to go back and fix what you did wrong in life, would you take it?”

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I’ve only read one Mitch Albom book before this one – Tuesdays With Morrie – and it was such a superb and inspirational book. That sort of set my expectations quite high when I picked up For One More Day to read.

Although not as touching and lively as Tuesdays With Morrie, this book sure surprised me in many other ways!

Storyline

“This is a story about a family and, as there is a ghost involved, you might call it a ghost story. But every family is a ghost story. The dead sit at out tables long after they have gone.”

Great starting hook to a great story.

For One More Day is a touching story related to Albom by Chick Benneto, a former baseball player who was struggling from life’s depressions. Often drunk, his wife had left him, he was in a miserable sales job, etc. The breaking point came when his daughter didn’t even invite him to her wedding…

Depressed, Chick decided to take his own life. However, after a series of ‘failures’ of suicide attempts, he ended up in his old house, the one that he grew up in. He was shocked to see his dead mother who was very well alive there, welcoming him to join her in conversation for one day.

Thus begins this extraordinary, yet supernatural tale of how Chick spent one day with his mother. During this day, he would learn a lot about his mother, why she did the things for him, and most importantly some lessons of life that would change Chick’s life.

Writing

Listening to someone telling a story is one thing. Putting it down on paper in an interesting and structured flow is another art altogether.

I was truly amazed by how Albom pieced together all the information and story told to him by Chick and presented them in a simple, straightforward manner that strikes at the reader’s heart.

Just like in Tuesdays With Morrie, there are plenty of little gems of life’s lessons that can be found from the writings of this book. Check out some of them here:

“When someone is in your heart, they’re never truly gone. They can come back to you, even at unlikely times.”

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”

“Sticking with your family is what makes it a family.”

“Sharing tales of those we’ve lost is how we keep from really losing them.”

“In college, I had a course in Latin, and one day the word “divorce” came up. I always figured it came from some root that meant “divide.” In truth, it comes from “divertere,” which means “to divert.”

“It’s funny. I met a man once who did a lot of mountain climbing. I asked him which was harder, ascending or descending? He said without a doubt descending, because ascending you were so focused on reaching the top, you avoided mistakes.

The backside of a mountain is a fight against human nature,” he said. “You have to care as much about yourself on the way down as you did on the way up.”

“You can find something truly important in an ordinary minute.”

“A child embarrassed by his mother,” she said, “is just a child who hasn’t lived long enough.”

Truly inspirational stuff!

Another thing I liked about Albom’s writing is how he manages to smoothly flash back and forth through Chick’s life as he reminisces about his childhood life to teen and eventually adult life. In between the pages, there are some ‘mini breaks’ or pauses where Albom inserts some original writings of Chick that enhances the mood of the story and adds more colour to Chick’s mother, how he treated her and vice versa throughout the years. Good stuff.

 

Glue Factor

For a story that spans a lifetime filled with tears, joy and lessons, I was quite surprised it was actually a very short book! The pacing is very easy to follow and the story is expertly written with plenty of humour and dialogue that makes it very easy to understand and read.

Needless to say, I finished this book quite fast. Definitely high on the glue factor!

 

Conclusion

An entertaining, simple and truly inspirational story. What’s more, it’s based on true story…that is, if you believe in the ‘ghost’ bit. Haha.

Still, there are so many gems of lessons of life that can be gleaned from the contents makes this a definite must read. If you are a parent, you will definitely pick up some lessons on bringing up your children; and for children, this book will surely make you appreciate your parents more!

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Star Trek Archives Vol 2: Best of The Borg

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Book: Star Trek Archives Vol 2: Best of The Borg

Genre: Graphic Novel/Science Fiction/Comic

Writers/Artists: Michael Jan Friedman/Peter Krause (Worse of Both Worlds – Collecting ST:TNG #47-#50); Paul Jenkins/Terry Pallot (Star Trek: Operation Assimilation)

Thickness: 160 pages

Tagline: “We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships…”

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In my ongoing vigil to avoid wastage of words, I took a mini break from regular novels and dived into one of the many graphic novels I plundered in this year’s Big Bad Wolf Sale. RM5 for a graphic novel? Unheard of! :-)

Anyway, coming back to the review… one of the most appealing villains in the Star Trek Universe would be The Borg, so it’s no surprise that they managed to get a 4 issue arc that is collected in this volume. In addition, the volume also throws in a bonus story about the Borg’s invasion into Romulan space as well.

The Borg are a collective race of cybernetic organisms, with one intent of assimilating other organisms to become like them – perfection. They can adapt very quickly to all situations, heal and repair themselves and is linked in a neural manner across the collective. The favourite phrase that is most associated with the Borg is “Resistance is Futile”.

I have to admit that most of the ST storylines containing the Borg are pretty good and because of that, I had high expectations of this graphic novel. In addition, I thought it was fantastic that Friedman (who has written countless ST novels) agreed to write for the “Worst of Both Worlds” episode. It’s always a great credibility to a graphic novel or comic when a popular author is penning the script.

Storyline

The “Worst of Both Worlds” story is a wicked spin off the excellent “Best of Both Worlds” two-parter from ST: The Next Generation TV series. The Best of Both Worlds saw the Borg abducting and assimilating Picard as ‘Locutus of Borg’ as they carried out their invasion plans of Earth. In the end, the enterprise barely but succeeds in rescuing Picard and stopping the invasion by issuing the correct command across the neural link via Picard.

Now, in the Worst of Both Worlds, the plot takes place several years later from the BOBW stardate. The action starts almost immediately when the Enterprise encounters a rift that hurtles them into another universe – one which the Borg’s invasion of Earth was a success and Picard remains as Locutus. They then run into the battle section of this universe’s Enterprise, with the saucer section apparently all but destroyed.

Reluctantly, Picard’s Enterprise agrees to help Captain Riker to rescue Picard/Locutus and stop the Borg in this universe, since they were able to succeed in our universe. There is also the element of time thrown into the fray as they need to stop the Borg and return to their universe before the rift closes…

Good stuff, excellent storyline and potential continuity plot following BOBW.

The second story, simply called Star Trek: Operation Assimilation tells the story through the eyes of a female Romulan leader as her crew encounters the Borg for the very first time. The story is short and simple – detailing how the Borg takes over an entire ship and the assimilation process.

Not much of a plot, but I’d like to think of this story as an added bonus to the superb WOBW story earlier catalogue in this volume.

Writing

Friedman doesn’t disappoint with the writing in WOBW. For those of you who still remember the BOBW storyline from the TV series, you’d enjoy the writing here even more because of the creative relational titbits and references it makes. For example, you could feel a sense of dejavu as the Enterprise tries out the same tactics they used in their own universe on the Borg of this new universe, with a few twists and surprises thrown in.

The action and flow is kept neat and crisp – something not easy to do in the limited pages of a comic book!

Unfortunately, ST:OA disappoints in terms of writing. It tries to be creative with the first person narrative, but eventually falls flat as the plot is simply flat and boring. The only thing that excited me was reading an encounter between the Romulans and the Borg for the first time!

Artwork

It is sad to note that the artwork of the Star Trek comics failed to match up to the excellent script. It almost feels amateurish at times, but I guess it is not easy to find a regular artist for comics that appear on a monthly basis.

Which leaves me wondering what happened with ST:OA, since it was a one-off and the publishers could have put in more effort to make the art in this story better….unfortunately not.

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

It’s a comic book! And personally most, if not all comic books are made of glue! Not easy to put down as panels and panels of graphic moves the action along fast and furiously!

Conclusion

WOBW – Excellent story that could easily form the basis of a movie or screen episode.

ST:OA – Poor storyline featuring a Romulan’s encounter with the Borg. Only made the entire graphic novel feel thicker. :-) Best part of this story? It’s short!

 

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Airframe

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Book: Airframe

Genre: Fiction/Thriller

Author: Michael Crichton

Thickness: 441 pages

Tagline: “There’s Danger in the Skies”

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In my futile effort to read and review all books in my collection to avoid wastage of words, I scoured through my bookshelves and found this novel which I remember buying from the Big Bad Wolf Sale two years ago!

There is always something appealing about Michael Crichton’s novels. Perhaps it’s the way he puts in so much research into his work; or the way he explicitly writes on a theme that parallels the realities of our world. Whatever it is, it is of no surprise that countless novels of Crichton has been adapted into movies, such as Jurassic Park, Congo, Eaters of the Dead (13th Warrior), Timeline, State of Fear, Disclosure, Sphere, and The Lost World. His range of novels covers almost every genre imaginable is a testament to what a great writer Crichton was.

Strangely though, I don’t think Airframe has been made into a movie yet. Its premise sucked me in and gave me much promise that it had all the ingredients of making it to the silver screen one day. However, as I read on, I figured it may be a better idea to keep the novel as it is…

Storyline

The story starts off promisingly like an episode taken off the pages of the X-Files or Fringe.

A Trans Pacific Airlines (TPA) Flight 545 passenger jet is flying from Hong Kong to Denver when it experiences some turbulence in airspace. The pilot then requests for an emergency landing in Los Angeles, requesting for 40 ambulances to be on standby… When the plane lands, the ground rescue crew is shocked to see the carnage left inside the aircraft that resulted in three deaths and more than 50 passengers injured. What happened onboard the TPA 545?

The story then introduces us to the protagonist, Casey Singleton, who is the Vice President of the QA at Norton, the company that makes the ill-fated N-22 widebody aircraft, and also the rest of the team in Norton who begin their investigation to solve the mystery of the incident. Their investigation is put on additional pressure against the backdrop of a pending major sale of the similar Norton N-22 to China.

As Casey begins putting pieces of the puzzle together, she realises that her investigation could jeopardise much more than just the sale. It could cost her her life as well! There seems to be something else more sinister at work behind the scenes….but are they also connected to the TPA 545 incident?

Writing

Reading a Michael Crichton novel is like sitting in a classroom. He doesn’t just give you a thrilling ride…he lectures you. Seriously. With zero knowledge about aviation, I had expected to struggle through the numerous airline jargon in the book. Surprisingly, Crichton manages to write in a way as though he is ‘educating’ the readers in the world of aviation! At the end of the story, I felt rather pleased to know more about some terminology like FAA, slats deployment, QAR, thrust sensors, etc.

The main hook of the novel was keeping the readers guessing as to what happened onboard the TPA545. Although Crichton managed to satisfactorily build the suspense towards the climax, I felt a little underwhelmed when the truth was revealed. Perhaps it was the subdued pace of their investigation, or the drag of some of the non-action scenes, or perhaps the lack of more action scenes.

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

With the pace a little too slow for my liking, Airframe definitely didn’t have the extra thrust to make me finish the book faster. Fortunately, the book was made up of short chapters, which certainly helped me to get through some of the slow parts.

Although I must admit the book had me thinking about the TPA 545 riddle right till the end, I personally felt the pace didn’t match the hook of the book. Most readers would want to find out what happened on the plane, but getting there is quite tiresome and the truth may not be entirely pleasing either.

Conclusion

Great premise, great characters…unfortunately slowed down by the pace of the investigation and under-climatic reveal.

Of course, it is always a pleasure to read Crichton’s handiwork of intricate research and homework. The other lesson in parallel reality we can glean from Airframe is how sleazy media can be in sensationalising news – so we better do not believe everything we read!

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Fireproof

Image Credits

Book: Fireproof

Genre: Fiction/Novelization/Christian/Inspirational/Love

Author: Eric Wilson (based on screenplay by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick)

Thickness: 284 pages

Tagline: “Never Leave Your Partner”

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Novelizations are always tricky books to review. If you enjoyed the movie, you could be making unfair comparisons – almost always able to find those little details to critic the book. If you didn’t like the movie, you could be reading it to find obvious points not featured in the movie that made it so bad. Thankfully, I was able to escape from this double trap when I read Fireproof because I kept missing the all the screenings when Astro was showing it quite a while back.

All I heard about Fireproof was that the movie was created by the same people who brought us the inspirational movie Facing the Giants, which was quite a sleeper hit, considering the budget they used to produced it. So honestly, I never knew what quite to expect when I bought the book, except that it would be something inspirational.

Storyline

Fireproof is a simple and inspirational story about love, marriage and what Caleb Holt did to fight for them. Caleb, a captain of a fire brigade, spends most of his time fighting fires and saving lives of strangers. Unknown to most people, his marriage of seven years to Catherine is also on fire – of a different kind. The anger and resentment they have for each other eventually reached its breaking point and put their marriage on the brink of divorce.

However, before the divorce papers were filed, Caleb’s father confronts his son and challenges him to perform a 40-day challenge called ‘The Love Dare’. It essentially requires Caleb to perform one task for one day for his wife for the next 40 days.

For the next forty days, Caleb commits himself to the challenge and tries to rescue the heart of the woman he loves and also save his marriage and making it…fireproof!

Quite an interesting premise, if you asked me. 😀

 

Writing

Novelizations have always been quite fun to read, simply because there is plenty of dialogue in those pages. It may seem pretty easy to rip those dialogues from the screen and compile them into a book. However, I would like to believe that the main challenge of novelizations is in creating the back story so that it fills the gaps that is not found in the movie version. And that portion is done pretty well by Eric Wilson.

The other challenge of novelizations are the descriptive bits, which is important as the writer tries to tie the story back to its original screenplay. Whilst sounding mundane sometimes (especially when you read about the colours of the shirt, type of hair, body build, skin colour, etc.), Eric manages to bring out all the characters from the screen to the pages pretty well. The writing has good humour and the action bits are very well described to heighten the tension.

The portions about the relationship between Caleb and Catherine and their characters were very believable to the point that I found myself  wanting to knock some senses into Caleb’s head in the first portion of the book. As the book wore on, I then found myself rooting for Caleb as he tried to fight for the love of his wife. Pretty good stuff.

The other highlight about the book is ‘The Love Dare’. Whilst the book (sadly) does not detail out all 40 challenges, it does provide a glimpse into some of these challenges which I feel is really relevant and helpful in making all relationships fireproof. Some examples of these invaluable and inspirational relationship insights is extracted below:

Day 1: Love is Patient  (based on Ephesians 4:2)


The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It’s better to hold your tongue than to say something you’ll regret.

Day 18: Love Seeks to Understand (based on Proverbs 3:13)

Prepare a special dinner at home, just for the two of you. The dinner can be as nice as you prefer. Focus this time on getting to know your spouse better, perhaps in areas you’ve rarely talked about. Determine to make it an enjoyable evening for you and your mate.

You can read the complete 40-day challenges from the actual book,  The Love Dare!

There are also quite a number of memorable quotes from the book that I will always remember, like:

“Salt and pepper are completely different. Their makeup is different; their taste and their color. But you always see ’em together. When two people get married; it’s for better or for worse, for richer or for poor, in sickness and in health. (after glueing them together)..If you pull them apart now, you’ll break either one or both of them..”

“When a man is trying to win the heart of a woman, he studies her. He learns her likes, dislikes, habits and hobbies. But after he wins her heart and marries her, he often stops learning about her. If the amount he studied her before marriage was equal to a High School Degree, he should continue to learn about her until he gains a College Degree, a Master’s Degree and ultimately a Doctorate Degree. It is a Lifelong Journey that draws his heart ever closer to hers.” 

Nice.

I also think the title of the book/movie was cleverly thought off, as it was written against the backdrop of a main character who is a fire fighter who is also fighting to make his relationship fireproof.

 

Glue Factor (difficulty of putting the book down!)

Personally, I had difficulty putting down the book, mainly because the chapters flew by so fast, thanks to the bulk of the book which is dialogue-based. The curiosity of seeing what’s the next challenge for Caleb also provided the pull factor to continue reading it.

Last but not least, I also enjoyed the humour and other side stories like the friendly banter between all the firemen, the funny encounters with their neighbour, and the gossiping staff at the hospital where Catherine works.

 

Conclusion

I would highly recommend for everyone who is in a relationship, about to embark on a relationship, sustaining a marriage and even for those who want to know more about what real love in a relationship is like.

Okok, I believe it is a wonderful book for everyone.

For the simple reason that the book allows us to reflect on the challenges faced in any relationship, and getting great ideas from the Love Dare on working on the relationship and making it fireproof.

After all, Fireproof is much more than just an inspirational book – it is a book about love, and why it is something worth fighting for.

 

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