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Heartwarming books to end the year with

As the year winds down, so do our spirits which have been challenged and tried the past 11 months leaving us yearning for quietness and solicitude in these last few weeks of the year. It’s at times like these that one wants nothing more than to reach for books that balm the soul. We present to you here a selection of fiction and nonfiction that’s sure to inspire or warm the cockles of your heart. Happy reading!

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (RM64.90)
In James Herriot’s memoir as a country veterinarian, we are first introduced to our protagonist as a young man fresh out of veterinary school who begins his practice in rural Yorkshire. Almost immediately, he recognises that veterinary practice, especially in the country, is a completely different proposition from the sterile school environment. Herriot regales us with stories of the many eccentric characters (and their animals) that he meets, and while some of them are heart-wrenchingly difficult to read — such as the story of an old man whose ill dog is his only friend and companion — others are lighthearted and fun. Charming, heartwarming and incredibly funny, All Creatures Great and Small is a classic work which reminds us that life often comes with unexpected twists and turns, but there is nothing that a little compassion, kindness and patience can’t handle. In addition, the series is getting a new TV adaptation with shooting expected to begin in 2020.

Love for Imperfect Things by Haemin Sunim (RM59.95)
Haemin Sunim, one of the most influential Zen Buddhist teachers and writers in South Korea, has written a book full of gentle wisdom on how best to live one’s life, beginning with accepting ourselves for who we are, warts and all. Many of us respond to the pressures of work and life by striving to work harder, but we should first come to a place where we are at peace with ourselves and recognise that we are enough just as we are. Through eight thematic chapters — Self-Care, Family, Empathy, Relationships, Courage, Healing, Enlightenment, and Acceptance — the book offers nuggets of wisdom in short essays, anecdotes and quotes, complemented by full-colour, charming illustrations by Lisk Feng. A feast for the eyes and soul, this book is sure to help those on the journey towards loving yourself, your life and everyone in it.

Bolder: Life Lessons from People Older and Wiser than You by Dominique Afacan (RM79.90)
It’s safe to say that not many of us look forward to growing old — the idea conjures up visions of achy bones, disease and loneliness. This book seeks to change that perception with real profiles and portraits of people aged 70 and older living life to the fullest — they make old age look appealing, or even fun. There’s the incredible story of the 85-year-old man who swims a mile in the Mediterranean Sea every morning, and a woman who fell in love and married at age 82. Many of the folks featured in the book say this stage of their life is their happiest. Arranged by thematic chapters that include Success, Love & Sex, Happiness, Health & Fitness, and Style & Beauty, the inspiring stories of these individuals are packed with life lessons anyone can learn from. 

Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan (RM47.90)
Ruth Hogan burst on to the scene as an up-lit writer in 2017 with her debut novel The Keeper of Lost Things. This was quickly followed by The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes in 2018, and Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel in 2019. A novel of mothers and daughters, families and secrets and the power of friendship. The book’s protagonist, Tilly, is an exuberant little girl who enjoyed life to the utmost living at the Queenie Malone’s Magnificent Paradise Hotel in Brighton with its endearing and loving family of misfits. Tilly’s mother has other ideas, however, and sends her away to boarding school with no explanation or warning. This early betrayal has substantial impact on Tilly’s development and she grows up to become a cold and untrusting adult with Eli, her dog, her only friend. She returns to Brighton following the death of her mother, and together with Queenie, discovers secrets about her mother that reveal a side completely unknown to her before. Relationships  between mothers and daughters can be complicated, and pasts are often hidden for supposedly good reason; but for Tilly, uncovering these hidden pasts won’t just sate an underlying sense of curiosity, but may well pave the way forward to acceptance and forgiveness. 

The Courage to Be Happy by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga (RM69.90)
The Courage to Be Happy is the sequel to Kishimi and Koga’s global best-seller The Courage to Be Disliked where a philosopher gently leads his interlocutor, a young man, to greater self-awareness and acceptance. Written in the form of a Socratic dialogue, Courage utilises the theories of psychologist Alfred Adler to outline a way forward to a life of happiness and fulfillment. Alas, at the start of the sequel, we find that the young man has returned to the philosopher, bitter and disappointed that the Adlerian theories had let him down. Yes, he had taken decisive action with respect to his own life and quit his job to pursue a vocation as a middle-school teacher. However, he quickly hits a brick wall and blames the philosopher for having led him down the wrong path. Of course, our philosopher isn’t about to take these accusations lying down and patiently explains Adler’s ‘Philosophy of Courage’ to the youth in a conversation that lasts the entire night. In this book, authors Kishimi and Koga present Adler’s theories as a philosophical guide for life in contrast to the first book, which was more focused on outlining Adler’s theory. 

This article appears in the December 2019 issue of FireFlyz, the in-flight magazine of Firefly airlines.

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Riveting crime and mystery titles to read now

With the monsoon rains beating down in full force at the moment, there are some very good reasons to hunker down at home. After all, nothing beats curling up at home on a stormy evening on the sofa with a riveting whodunnit or a pacy crime thriller, especially now towards the end of the year when we may be feeling just a bit tired from our exertions these past 10 months. Here are some of our suggestions for crime and mystery titles that will keep you glued to your sofa and see out the month of November. Happy reading!

The Chain by Adrian McKinty (RM72.90)
In his new crime thriller, The Chain, author Adrian McKinty takes a familiar plot device and turns it that much darker and horrifying, banking on the notion that parents will do anything to save their child. While driving one day, Rachel Klein receives a phone call informing her that her daughter has been kidnapped, and she needs to pay a ransom to get her back alive. But that’s not all — Rachel would also need to kidnap another child, and convince his or her parents to kidnap a child as well or else her child will be murdered. Rachel is now part of The Chain, an unending scheme that turns victims into criminals. Sharp, diabolical and relentless, McKinty’s new novel — a movie adaptation is already in the works — will have you at the edge of your seat.

Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Japan by Keisuke Matsuoka (RM84.50)
Fans of Sherlock Holmes have always wondered and speculated just what the intrepid sleuth had been up to after he disappeared following his final battle with arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty. He had presumably fallen to his death at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland only to reappear several years later admitting that his disappearance had been a ruse to throw his enemies off his track. Still, the question of what he was doing in the intermittent years continued to worry at the imagination of his legions of readers. Well, worry no longer for we now have an answer thanks to the Keisuke Matsuoka, who is regarded as Japan’s ‘God of Mystery Novels’. In A Scandal in Japan, we are taken to a lushly depicted Meiji Japan where Holmes finds himself entangled in a knotted tangle of political deceit and on the thresh of an international incident involving the Russians. Deftly researched and based on real historical events, Matsuoka’s novel not only plugs in a critical missing gap in Holmes’ timeline but creates a mystery true to Conan Doyle’s spirit and legacy.

Death Notice by Zhou Haohui (RM49.95)
Zhou Haohui is considered one of the top three suspense authors in China today. The Death Notice trilogy is China’s bestselling work of suspense fiction to date, and this translation of the first book by Zac Haluza makes the work accessible to an English-reading audience for the first time. Death Notice follows the efforts of an elite police squad to hunt a criminal known only as Eumenides (after the Greek goddess of vengeance and retribution) intent on executing criminals the law cannot reach. Despite being in breach of the law, Eumenides’ actions resonate with a public who believes that justice is not being equally applied to all. Soon, the public starts nominating targets for Eumenides, and, two days later, respected police officer Sergeant Zheng Haoming is found dead. Subsequently, the police start receiving ‘death notices’, chilling notes announcing the next target, the crimes they have committed, and the date of their execution. When the next victim dies despite being under police protection, the police realise they are dealing with an inventive and ruthless criminal mastermind.

November Road by Lou Berney (RM69.90)
The assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963 remains a rich ground for speculative fiction and for good reason: even some 56 years after the fact of the event, the assassination itself remains shrouded in mystery and conspiracy. Was the hit organised by the FBI or the mafia or both? Did Marilyn Monroe have a part to play in this? And who was Jacky Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald? Berney’s November Road offers an answer to all this, but that’s not really the point of the book. Instead, the assassination serves as a foil and catalyst that sets mob lieutenant Frank Guidry down a fugitive road when he realises that anyone in-the-know was being eliminated by his boss. He finds a perfect disguise when he meets beautiful housewife Charlotte and her two daughters running away in search of greener pastures. But it’s hard to go on a road trip with someone without realising something about yourself, even when you’re road tripping to save your life.

The Paper Bark Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu (RM49.90)
Su Lin is finally working at her dream job as an assistant to a brand new detective agency in Singapore after sleuthing as an amateur in her past two novels (see The Frangipani Tree Mystery and The Betel Nut Tree Mystery). But all is not well. Her erstwhile boss Bald Bernie Hemsworth had decided that a local Singaporean girl wasn’t quite up to the job of investigating and replaced her with a pretty and privileged white girl. Then they find him dead as a doorknob. Su Lin decides to put on her sleuthing hat again when the authorities accuse her best friend’s father as the murderer, an accusation which she simply cannot believe to be true. Meanwhile, not all is well in Singapore in the 1930s. Political unrest and chaos is the order of the day, which would eventually result in a tragic loss that shakes Su Lin to her core. The truth is out there, but at what cost? Published in 2019, The Paper Bark Tree Mystery is the third and latest book of Ovidia Yu’s Crown Colony series and a must read for mystery fans.

This article appears in the November 2019 issue of FireFlyz, the in-flight magazine of Firefly airlines.

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The Lit Rewind Ep 04 – Bob Holmes

Welcome to the fourth episode of the Lit Rewind.

Every now and then, our bookshop hosts events that brings together writers and readers to discuss all things literary. So when The Edge Options approached us to jointly launch a book by one of their columnists, Bob Holmes, we jumped at the opportunity. Further sweetening the deal was the fact that Bob’s book, Shanks, Yanks and Jurgen, concerned the history and revival of the best football team in the world, Liverpool FC.

While the launch did not rival the famed European nights at Anfield, it came pretty close thanks in part to The Edge’s kind sponsorship of the refreshments for the evening. The event was kicked off by The Edge’s CEO and Publisher Ho Kay Tat who is a life-long Chelsea fan. But we won’t hold that against him… much.