Book Review: Harris bin Potter and the Stoned Philosopher by Suffian Hakim

My darling husband gifted me this book for Christmas and I smiled like the Cheshire Cat when I saw it. It was one that had been on my TBR list.

As you would have guessed, it’s a parody of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I am a bit of a fan of J.K. Rowling’s Potter series of books – the heart of the stories she tells is why I think her books have such a wide appeal. I was hoping that such a parody would not miss that. And it certainly did not disappoint.

In keeping with the Singapore flavour of Harris bin Potter, I shall attempt to write some of this review in Singlish.

I tell you I super like this book. This Suffian Hakim, he very funny writer. No wonder it is number Uno in The Straits Times bestseller list. Hakim use proper Queen’s English when he writing but you can still feel so much Singapore flavour cos he use words like baju kurung, sial lah, relek in a corner, and many others.

He follow quite close to the Harry Potter one; he go to the school, here called Hog-tat-Halal-what, then got the bad guy – this one is called Lord Oldermat and he want to make everyone who show any Malay-ness no more magical. Then got the principal of the school, he called Pakcik Dollah. Got that talking hat, here called a songkok. Of course, got the fat cousin and family. Got all the professors – all with very funny names, I let you read yourself. Harris bin Potter has to live under the kitchen sink, worse than the Harry Potter one. People with no magic are called kosongs. Oh yes, definitely have the best friend, Ron and the girl, here called Her-Aku-Punya-Lutut – you can Google translate to find out why she called that. Don’t want to spoil the fun for you. Actually, in the book got footnote to tell you why also.

But I tell you, huh, I so long not live in Singapore, plus I never study Malay at school, I had to look at dictionary to know what some of the Malay words mean. When I understand already, I think, wah, this Hakim guy quite clever, no? Many times I LOL.

He also have some deep meaning in his writing; he even say in the book, in Chapter 11, “There are several things that many Malay people do not know. That is not to say that Malay people are predisposed to not know things – that would be a horribly racist statement to make, even if the author himself is Malay.” He use this story to talk about some stereotypes that people sometimes think about Malay people. It is not to fight anything, just to show it exists. But I hope that this sort of thinking will be no more soon. You read this interview Hakim gave to l’Officiel Singapore – good to know his thinking behind his writing.

So that’s the book review. I hope this has proven to be helpful in convincing you to go out, buy this book and read it. If you’re Singaporean, I know you will enjoy it and you would have also supported a local talent. If you’re not Singaporean, there might be some head-scratching moments, but nothing that a quick question to a Singaporean or Google won’t be able to help you with, plus it’s a good way to get know a bit of Singaporean culture.

If you have read it, do share your thoughts about this Singaporean version of a famous book.

Happy Reading!

syc

Book Review: Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

This book was an impulse buy. I am absolutely hopeless at walking out of a bookstore empty-handed… LOL…

The back of the book blurb reads: “Crazy Rich Asians meets Bridget Jones’s Diary…” and I knew I had to give this book a shot. I have read Crazy Rich Asians (my review is here) as well as Bridget Jones’s Diary (which I read a long time ago) and I liked both so I thought it’s a good basis as any to read this story.

It was a good purchase! The main plot features Andrea Tang, in her mid-thirties with a successful law career and a flat of her own, enjoying life with a trendy group of friends. What more could you want? Well, in the very matriarchal Chinese-Malaysian family circle, she is lacking in one major part of her life; marriage. With the announcement of her cousin’s engagement, she is about to become the only unmarried member of her generation in the extended family.

With best friend and cousin, Linda (who is only half-Chinese so the family holds her to a different standard), she attempts to find Mr. Right. A chance meeting with very wealthy Mr. Eric Deng seems to be the answer to her ring-less problem but is she being true to herself? What about that annoying Suresh Aditparan who is also vying for partnership at her firm? Why can’t Andrea treat him more like an enemy?

I like Lauren Ho‘s style of writing. The voice she has given Andrea is slightly self-disparaging yet optimistic. The inclusion of a few colloquial terms and social media shorthand makes it appropriately Singaporean, bringing a smile to my face.

I love the play in the relationships between Andrea and Linda, Andrea and her mother/family, Andrea and her friends, Andrea and her work, Andrea and the men in her life, Andrea and her dreams. There are a few LOL moments and a few more head-shaking ones too.

The struggle to find a man whom you love while at the same time satisfying the expectations of the family is so familiar to many Asians but I think it’s not limited to Asia. However, the extent to which one would go or should go to satisfy family is a long and complex debate, depending on which side of the marriage journey you are on.

So if you are interested in learning a bit about an Asian woman’s mindset towards marriage and the juggling act between the demands of work-life and her family she performs, have a read of this book. Let me know what you think.

Happy Reading!

syc

Blessed 2022 New Year

Wishing one and all a most blessed, healthy and peaceful 2022!

As we start a new year, I do what I have done most years; looking back on the year that has passed. Here’s our 2021 Christmas Letter:

HIHI

We hope you and your loved ones are well and healthy.

Another year of life in a pandemic. We were all hopeful that with the development of vaccines that we might be out of it by now. Unfortunately, for various reasons, we are not.

But let’s not dwell on such things as it is, in part, out of our control. What we have some control over is our response to our circumstances and how best we manage in these unpredictable times.

What we have held onto is our faith that God is with us; Jesus, Immaunel, God with us, chose to come as a baby that first Christmas day to show the world God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us; this is the reason for celebrating Christmas.

At the beginning of the year, Tobias still had a couple of weeks of online lessons, which he found slightly disruptive as it was on and off. Online wasn’t just for school; Sandra got to attend the SCBWI Winter Conference online, which usually is too costly to attend in person as it would have been held in New York. So that’s a plus.

Although church services had remained in person (limited in number and with registration), the AGM was conducted via an online platform which was quite a new experience for many. Walter officially stepped down from the eldership this year.

While Walter has continued working as normal, there has been no business travel and most things are conducted via online means. However, him not travelling meant that we got to celebrate his birthday, on the actual day, with homemade curry and cake.

In the spring months, Tobias went back to in person lessons at school. Sandra continued her role as volunteer with SCBWI as blog editor, attending more online meetings. She also entered her first poetry competition and while she didn’t win, it was great fun getting back in touch with that aspect of literature. As Walter continues in his role as worship leader at church, he is very grateful for more help which we have been blessed with. With spring came pollen and this year not just Tobias and Walter were affected, even Sandra had to go searching for allergy remedies.

May saw us celebrating Tobias’ 17th birthday at home. He invited some friends over and cooked lasagne for them. Sandra spent time trying to help her parents with some paperwork, remotely. Walter coordinated an Asian-themed service at church which was an opportunity for us to dress up (see picture at the end of this letter). We also got our first Covid jabs in May/June, suffering only mild side effects. Thank God.

It was the summer holidays in July and August but we stayed here because we felt that the quarantine requirement, which at one point was 21 days, was too much. We spent time with friends here; Tobias had a class gathering to watch the football, and friends over as well as attended a birthday party. We had a few days away as a family to the French part of Switzerland. We really enjoyed the archery hunt we did and the lovely atmosphere at the lakeside town of Vevey.

Tobias started his 3rd year at Gymnasium (or pre-university for Singapore reference) mid-August. Sandra continues her role as missions coordinator at church, now with help from a lovely mission-hearted and experienced lady.

We made a snap decision to fly to Singapore during the October autumn holidays, even with quarantine requirements because it had been more than 2 years since our last family visit, and what a good decision it was, considering what has happened now with the new variant of Covid.

We spent 10 days in quarantine (shorten for the original 14 days as new regulations which came in the day we arrived) and learnt very quickly how to order almost everything via shopping apps. Sandra was, at last, able to sort out the medical paperwork for her parents. During our short time in Singapore, we spent most of our time in quarantine and at home because of the Covid restrictions, seeing almost no one except for immediate family and a couple of friends.

Our major health concern came in early November when Tobias complaint of shoulder pains which quickly became neck pains and headaches, along with nausea. Lots of time was spent at doctors and the ER. He’s finally better after several weeks of physio.

We must mention our sweet little Lexi, who keeps us entertained and fit with all the walks we go on.

Even though the Swiss government has recently implemented new restrictions and brought back the “work-from-home” rule, Walter still goes to the office some days as he needs to work with the equipment there. At least, this year we can have some friends over for Christmas lunch, which we really look forward to.

What are you looking forward to? Do share with us, we love to hear from you.

We hope and pray that your 2021 has had more positives than negatives and that you have and will continue to experience God’s warm love and assuring presence as we move into 2022.

There’s more, much more to Christmas than bright lights and cheer;
It’s the spirit of sweet friendship that brightens all the year,
It’s thoughtfulness and kindness, it’s hope reborn again,
For peace, for understanding, for goodwill to men!

With love,

Walter, Sandra, Tobias and Lexi

Us, all dressed up for Asian-themed service