Oh yes! My very first book review

Every so often, I key in my name into Google Search to see what comes up. Every so often I am surprised by the number of “Catherine Khoo”(s) that come up. Then lo and behold, I came across on Page 9 a review. Of my book! Every author wants the lowdown on her book and I am no different. And this came from a male reviewer. I liked what Mr Ivan Chew said about my book so here it is, the unadulterated version, word for word of what he wrote. 🙂 Thank you, Ivan, for your candid comments. And yes, if you are reading this, I am very keen to work with other women on their stories …. if they would give me a chance to ….

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book review: Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun!: a mother’s lessons on love, hope, loss and the gifts of life

This one came in the mail for me to review. The book, targeted at young female readers, was easy to read. The tone and style was very personable.

Book review: Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun!: a mother's lessons on love, hope, loss and the gifts of life
Cover from: catherinekhoo.wordpress.com. All Rights Reserved.

My take-away from the book:

Crap will happen to anyone and everyone, at some point. No one is immune. The difference is how we choose to carry on.

Taking risks doesn’t always mean we will come up tops. But it also doesn’t mean we will always fail.

Exercise compassion. Life is not just about ‘me’.

Not entirely the way the author described, but I think not too far from it.

The author shared selective episodes from her life, explaining how she realised that one should love and take risks in life.

Right off the start, I sensed this was a woman who did not conform to conventional thinking, even as a teenager. Her mother had forbidden her to go on dates, and that the young Catherine should only focus on her studies. But she dated the boy anyway, even initiating the courtship rather than wait for him to act. The consequence was that her studies were affected, and so did the boy’s.

Before you wonder what sort of message the author is imposing on young impressionable minds, the truth is that many of our friends (perhaps you and I) went through the same, in different degrees. There may be more ‘teen rebels’ among us than we care to acknowledge.

The key difference, I thought, was that a person like Catherine Khoo consistently applied her optimistic outlook towards life.

She wrote in another of her blog:

… I’ve lived this maxim since I was a teenager … and strange enough, it applies so much more as I grow older. Sure, sometimes I jump in without thinking of the consequences, and I fail, but how many times have I brushed off the blood and dust and moved on? Think of it this way, at least I figured out another way not to do it! Truth be told, though…I love this journey

Can we truly have a happy life just by living our dreams?

Cynics may say that there are those who have tried to do just that, and they end up being decrepit and miserable.

Perhaps in anticipation of that, the author peppers her anecdotes about seeing life optimistically.

Part of her credibility arose from her managing and growing her own business. I think it takes a feisty no-nonsense approach to do that, in addition to being a mother, a wife, and a daughter-in-law. If that’s not enough, try starting a writing scheme for teens.

I did not think the author suggests that one should one up-end our lives and gallivant halfway around the world. You get a sense that risk-taking has to be tempered with an underlying sense of responsibility first.

Still, I would not have done some of the things she did, no matter what you tell me. For example, her episode with the illegal taxi ride in a foreign country, where she almost became a victim of a robbery. If I learnt my wife/ mother/ sister did just that (accept rides from strangers), I would be very, very angry. It seemed reckless.

For the most part, I empathised with her stories. Like how she walked out on her husband one time, feeling that she was being unfairly put down by her spouse. As a husband myself, it made me reflect on my words and deeds towards my wife.

One thing I felt the book fell short was that flow of the chapters can appear to be disjointed at times — though this could be said to be the online-diary writing style. Also, I was left with the impression that there could have been a lot more interesting stuff to be told, but weren’t.

I would have wanted to read more was her trials and tribulations in starting and sustaining the Young Authors Club, for one. What went through her mind when she was asked to set up the club? Did she see a business opportunity first, or the social cause?

So, here are a few things that I would be interested in reading, perhaps in her next book:

  • Stories, as told by other woman, whom she met along the way.
  • Interesting stories of the children and teens whom she have met, through the club she set up.
  • The challenges in running a business, never mind being a businesswoman.
  • What was it really like when she “shattered the traditional Japanese male enclave when she became the only woman editor-in-chief of two Japan-based magazines published in Singapore, a position she held for seven years” (see this).

Overall, this would make a good book discussion for teens. Or among teens and parents (I guess the teens would have to be forced to attend such a session, lol).

In a practical and pragmatic society like Singapore, some parents will not agree with the premise behind her book’s title. The call to “love and live dangerously” was something that goes against conventional thinking when I was growing up, and in a way it’s still very much the covert values most of us go by.

This was Catherine Khoo’s fourth book. It is currently available at major bookstores here, like MPH, Kinokuniya, and Times Bookshop.

Her books are also available at the NLB libraries.

Catherine also blogs at www.catherinekhoo.sg/the-meaning-of-education.

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Those who dare to teach, should never cease to learn!

Oh! It's so enabling to know one is never too old to learn!

Oh! It’s so enabling to know one is never too old to learn!

Those who dare to teach, should never cease to learn ….. Saw this on the signboard of a training company while on my way to a WordPress class and I thought, how appropriate! I always find there’s something new to learn everyday, and yes, learning can come from everywhere, the people I meet, the children I teach, the parents and teachers I work with and yes, my family.

Perhaps it’s my training as a journalist, perhaps it’s innate … it doesn’t matter, what matters is how I view the world around me. I open my eyes every morning, stretch, turn to my husband and caress his face or just hug him (coz he doesn’t sleep very well … reason is I snore pretty loudly shh! It’s pretty embarrassing to share but makes me feel better that I’ve said it. There! Now you know 🙂 ) so yes, I open my eyes, stretch, reach out and say hello to the world, plant my feet firmly on the floor and tell myself, “Thank you for giving me another day!”

And as I work with the people around me ….. I am very delighted to be able to learn new things. In this session, I learnt about how to create websites using WordPress. Tough for a lot of people, especially people my age, in fact I was not surprised to note that out of the 7 in my class, 5 are above 40 and one is 63. Two are property agents, three are venturing into their own business, one just quitted coz he felt under-appreciated, and one is working in a bank and looks really tired. What a motley crowd. And all of them are learning to survive, either for a passive income or to keep in touch with their customers who do everything online. From looking for a house, to looking at samples, to looking for a course, today’s customer is so tech savvy. I think all of us try to make sense of it …. Some do, some struggle, but hey, I really admire this bunch who dare venture to learn new things. And yes, though I don’t think I can really learn everything, I am satisfied I managed to grasp the essentials. I learn when I understand and then I can remember, that’s my learning style, and I am so glad that I can put two and two together. Whew! Not that simple, but well, it’s not rocket science either!

Which brings me to my point …. One should never cease to learn. And you know what I learnt today? In realizing we don’t have all the answers, we begin to find humility!

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood!

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood

SF and I drove my Fong and Kwee to the hospital today for his scan. Ever since Kwee has been diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, life has been quite a downward spiral for him. Yes, despite the outpouring of concern from Fong who spends practically all her available time with him, and Hoon and Yin plying him with all sorts of anti-cancer herbs and supplements, to SF and me driving him to hospital early morning …. Frankly, I think what the guy needs is to mix around with people his age or a support group so he could share his pain and frustrations …. Instead of moping about at home and feeling so useless. The poor guy. I think too much attention by my sisters-in-law, although, yes, they mean well, and their morbid sense of prolonging his life by believing in every anti-cancer herb that come their way, is making him very very losing control of his life. He’s so fragile now, staying home too much has deprived him of his sense of surroundings. And because he is at home staring at the four walls all day … He would wonder about life and feel helpless and the depression would start …. And everyone would be at a loss on what to do …. And SF and my sisters-in-law would fret and worry … Why can’t they see that what is important is for the guy to get a grip on his life, go out, get some friends his age and do some work? Or volunteer? He needs a support group to feel needed, that he’s not a burden to anyone (which I’m sure he feels now). I think this is what community is about. In Singapore, the endless drive to keep up with rising prices and maintain a Swiss standard of living sans the Swiss lifestyle is not helping much …..

So here, again, is the stark difference between how I live my life and SF’s family living theirs. I think losing Daddy at 23 propelled me to suddenly have to fend for my family. Having Pat at 25 added a certain kind of responsibility …… So at a ripe age of 25, I juggled multiple roles of wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law and to top it all, studies and a career. Man! Was it tough? Now, looking back at it after 30 years …. I don’t think so. I think I just had to grow up overnight 🙂 For SF’s family, there was complete reliance on their parents till he turned 50 …. So I think, yes, we fear illness, and suddenly to face it, especially when it attacks a loved one, is a fear we grapple with everyday. I think it’s the fear of growing old, the fear of being alone, the fear of not being useful anymore that shakes them more than the illness itself! Fear paralyses. Worry paralyses. We just have to live our life! Today. Now!

Do I fear growing old? Do I fear being alone? Yes, before my life turned topsy-turvy at 44. Suddenly a great big storm came and I had to change … I had to learn new things. I had a choice. To admit defeat and tell myself: I am useless. I can’t do anything. Or to take a long hard look at myself and say, there must be a reason why this is happening to me. I shared all this in my book. In essence, Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! is about what life should be. So, when I say I am beyond fear 🙂 …. I mean that “nothing is life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”

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