A Review of ‘Success With Landscape Photography by Tom Till’

Why you should read the book?

The author, Tom Till, is a professional landscaper photographer and has over 30 years of photography experience, travelling extensively to capture the most stunning landscapes on the planet. With his wealth of experience, readers will be able to appreciate the nuances of great photography on both film and digital. The book seeks to improve one’s landscape photography skills. Throughout the book, various photography tips are included by Tom to keep the reader intrigued and motivated to learn more. Unsurprisingly, various brilliant landscape photos fill the book and this can certainly attract the attention of even non-professionals.

Who is this book meant for?

As the book is fairly technical in nature, it is more suited to intermediate/advanced users in landscape photography and those planning to make a living from it. For those without a DSLR or an advanced film camera, the majority of the book will not be very relevant. Beginners might find some areas of the book like taking care of equipment, basic camera settings, photo composition, light effects useful. People who own point-and-shoot compacts may be interested in aperture, ISO, shuttle speed settings etc. Even in everyday photography, lighting matters a great deal. Cloud formations, time of day, direction of photography etc can all have a profound effect on the brightness/contrast of the photos. The book is very general and not prescriptive in nature.

What is the book like?

The book is structured in an orderly fashion, with the first few chapters dealing with equipment (types of lens, cameras, and settings), techniques (exposures, depth of focus etc), lighting and composition. The next half of the book delves into the practical aspect of photography. For instance, it covers life in the field and where are some of the amazing places on Earth. Finally, the later chapters cover issues like photo processing and development. The concluding chapters describe what a full-time landscape photographer’s life will be like.

What can I learn from the book?

Certainly, readers can pick up many valuable insights. Some of the tips include how to maintain the camera equipment, editing your work, settings to use when out in the field and for the different environments. However, to get the most of the book, readers are encouraged to experiment them with the various settings on their professional camera. A major take-away from the book is the importance of being patient on the field in order for the natural lighting and conditions to be in your favor. In addition, the author emphasizes on the value of practice and being self-critical in order to improve. Conditions might be harsh during landscape photography shoots, and wannabes ought to be both physically fit and well-clothed for different weather elements and hike extensively to find an ideal spot.



A Review of ‘No More Daddy’s Little Girl’ by Karen Lee

For the book summary, refer to this link.

Why you should read the book?

Karen Lee holds a corporate job with Hewlett Packard and she also had a stint with IBM previously. From a tender age of 6, Karen realized that she was naturally attracted to females. This book is collection of some of her major life events in chronological order and the various relationships she had with her friends/lovers. As a reader, I could empathize with the struggle she faced of coming out as a full-fledged lesbian in a conservative society like Singapore’s.

Karen expresses her thoughts very vividly and one can almost feel for her and the difficulties she faced when embracing this lifestyle. This book is eye-opening for those who are not familiar with the LGBT community or do not have gay/lesbian friends. It presents things from Karen’s perspective and also the rationale behind the decisions she took along the way. Most of the decisions she made were intuitive in nature and the good thing is that Karen was truly honest in following her heart and doing what she think was best at the point in time. The book also showcases how life in Girls Brigade in a Singapore school was like.

Some of the experiences she has been through such as drinking frog soup, being robbed, surviving a small fire, visiting gay bars/pubs are certainly very unique and uncommon. Readers can only see how such events affected her life. Humans are always unpredictable and the book will demonstrate how she navigated through such relationships with her roommates and emerged stronger.

A big part of this book also involves her struggle between her faith in Christianity and coming out as a lesbian. It was certainly not easy to be a full-fledged lesbian when such behavior is not unacceptable by God. Another big struggle for her was when she finally came clean on her sexual orientation with her parents. Having grown up in a conservative Christian family, she had to face some shock and resistance when she finally revealed the truth.

The issue of juggling between co-curricular activities and studies is also a theme prevalent early on in this book. This is something that many modern students might be able to relate to. Karen’s adventurous spirit and global mindset is something to be admired. She had no qualms about travelling to Sweden to meet up with someone she chatted with from IIRC and later, also openly married a Canadian lady, Dorothy.

Who is this book meant for?

This book is suitable for just about any adult. As the LGBT theme is sensitive in nature, children may wish to avoid reading it just yet. Advocates of the LGBT community may be highly motivated by this book to also share their story and have courage to love, not barring societal pressures. Heterosexuals or bisexuals will also understand the life of a lesbian by reading the book.

What is the book like?

It is an autobiography and Karen recounts key events in her life and takes on the pronoun ‘I’ throughout. The linguistic style is easy to read and very reflective, brooding in nature. At some passages, italicized text is used to reflect her innermost thoughts. Consisting of 180+ pages, the book can be read in about 4 hours at ordinary reading pace. Events are often well described and the book is presented in a sequential order, from her life as a pre-schooler till the day she got married.

What can I learn from the book?

The first is to empathize with the struggles of people in the LGBT community and their difficulty in order to gain acceptance into society/religious beliefs. In a country like Singapore where gay marriage is not legalized, gay and lesbians may have to work harder to obtain eventual acceptance. There is a big debate as to whether people are born gay or whether they turn gay due to environmental factors. However, this is not covered in the book.

The next important fact is to learn to respect the LGBT society as they have the right to love and attain happiness through romance. As in Karen’s case, she clearly describes the pleasure and love she felt during the courtship and subsequently marriage with Dorothy. Being more open-minded will allow you to better understand others and learn to walk in their shoes.

For Karen and perhaps some of the LGBT community, much exploration may be needed before one can eventually settle on a same-sex life partner. From the book, one can appreciate Karen’s fear of commitment issues that are associated with marriage. Before her marriage, she also had other girlfriends. It is important to understand that physical attraction and sex do matter in relationships even for LGBTs. So are issues like infatuation, flings, platonic relationships etc. Relationships are an art and always requires hard work to make them flourish. This is so whether for bi/hetero or homosexuals alike.

Finally, you can live by your decisions more easily if you gain the respect of your community/religion. Whilst this is important, it is also crucial to be able to take a stand and stick by your decision. If your heart and mind are in sync, you will be less likely to look back with regret. This also involves the need to have a strong value system to ensure that your actions will be consistent with your values.


A Review of ‘Unapologetically Insane Tales by Zed Yeo’

Why you should read the book?

Zed Yeo studied in philosophy in the University and is currently working for the library. This is his first published work. This book is fictional in nature and contains many unbelievable and absurd, out-of-this-world stories. The title ‘Unapologetically Insane Tales’ is rather apt to describe the content of the book. You really have to take your hat off to him for his wild imagination in developing these stories.

Many of the stories revolve around certain philosophical principles. These will leave the reader pondering after reading, regardless whether one understands these principles. With his stories, you never know what’s going to happen next. A predictable start to a story often trails off into violence, the supernatural or simply the unbelievable. The unpredictability of these stories are what will draw your attention and leave you captivated, always wanting to know more.

Despite this, there are lessons that can be learnt from most of the stories. These will be covered later in the review.

Who is this book meant for?

This book is mainly meant for adults due to the deep underlying themes. Some of these include loneliness, existence, fear, death etc. A few scenes may be a little gory in nature as well. It may not be easy for younger readers to grasp the essence of the underlying themes.

What is the book like?

The books consists of numerous short stories. There are the occasional poems and limericks throw in. The longest story ‘Security Business’ consists of only slightly more than 10 pages. The language used is fairly descriptive in nature and includes the use of complex adjectives. Various metaphors are also being utilized in the book. The plot development is rapid and coherent. Readers should have no trouble following a story. At the end of a few stories, the story will switch back to another dimension. In ‘Hooked’, the character ‘John’ nearly drowns in the final scene after imagining the entire story. The tool of flashback is also being employed.

A handful of the characters have grotesque physical appearances or appear mythical-like. There are also passages where the characters also engage in ‘thinking-out-loud’. The reader can then understand coherently the thought pattern of the character. An example of this occurs in the short story ‘Diagnosis (09:00:00s – 09:53:44s)’, when Charlie reflects on how the doctor is treating him during the medical examination.

Zed infuses a little of Asian and Singaporean culture into his works. Such can be seen from the short stories ‘The Poet and the Lion’ and ‘The Bao’. Satire is used in the story ‘The Poet and the Lion’ to poke fun at the coining of the phrase ‘Nanni Nanni Boo Boo.’

What can I learn from the book?

I have listed the lessons I have learnt in chronological sequence of stories that are presented in the book. Only the prominent stories are featured below.

Origin Story 1: One can learn from everyone, even your disciplines or people more junior than you. A fresh perspective on things always helps.

Origin Story 2: Humans can experience conflicting thoughts and emotions. The Maker is not within grasp and humans are bounded by time and space.

Spoolballs and Warblemouth: Having a disability like blindness/deafness sharpens your other senses. This includes the power of imagination. Sometimes, the world you imagine may be superior to the one you experience in reality.

All I Want for Christmas: Don’t simply grant others’ wishes blindly. See how the wish can benefit the other party eventually. There are all kinds of people in this world.

Under the Bridge: If you live in the present moment and appreciate your environment, life can be a lot more fulfilling.

Diagnosis (09:00:00s – 09:53:44s): Don’t be so quick to dismiss others’ potential. Give them a chance. Let them prove you wrong. The quietest people sometimes have the deepest and most profound thoughts. Do not unto others what you would not have others do unto you.

Life of Voice: The mind never stops thinking. Your thinking self is active and you can’t voluntarily shut it off. However, you can learn to accept these thoughts and work to your desired goals which are consistent with your values.

Onion Man: You are all the layers on your skin. Trying too hard to get something might not pay off. Sometimes it helps just to sit back and the solution might just appear when you least expect it.

Security Business: Don’t be obsessed with the pursuit of fame and fortune. Don’t let mediocrity get in your way. Uphold high standards for yourself and do not lose track of your values. Constantly remind yourself of your goal in life. People generally don’t know what they want unless they stare death in the face.

Hooked: Try and imagine things from the other person’s point of the view. This will help you to build compassion and empathy. Sometimes, the more outstanding you are, the more you will be selected to partake in certain events. Learn to stay inconspicuous.

My Sister’s Story: Companionship and love is invaluable and it certainly beats staying alone.

It’s About Time: There is no need to rush all the time. People are facing much bigger problems out there and yours may simply pale in comparison with theirs.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 1): Don’t stop trying. Although things may not go your way, do not give up. However, you do not have to be an idiot over ridiculously ambitious or unrealistic goals. That would just be bordering on the delusional.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 2): Don’t stop trying. If you are lucky, things might go your way and work out. Make your own luck. People reciprocate and repay your kindness most of the time.

The Boy and the Grass (Story 3): Sometimes, you just have to make do and compromise with the existing situation. Learn to make the most of what you have.

Find out more about Zed here: http://bookcouncil.sg/blog/page/interview-with-zed-yeo-author-of-unapologetically-insane-tales

Book summary here: https://bookquotemonster.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/unapologetically-insane-tales-by-zed-yeo/

A Review of ‘BE in the Moment by Iris Tan’

Book Review

Why you should read the book?

Iris Tan, 36, owns her own marketing/advertising firm. In her early 30s, she found her life calling of helping others lead a meaningful life and follow their passion. Since then, she has attended many workshops on self-improvement and coaching. Aside from this, many other institutions have benefitted from her counselling services and through the workshops that she conducted.

Not many have the courage to continue questioning their lives to see whether they are on track to meet their life’s goals. It is inspiring and encouraging to see Iris find a new direction in life and pursue it with fervour. Her calling of wanting to help others pursue their dreams is remarkable and noble in nature. Sometimes, a big event in your life will trigger a change in your goals/lifestyle. Ultimately, one needs to question one’s life meaning and seek the answers on your own. Her behaviour and actions are consistent with her life’s values and this is something that others can learn from.

The poems cover many of life’s important areas and through them; Iris subtly gives advice on how one’s life should be led. The poems may be vague in nature but that leaves the reader some room for interpretation. Some of her experiences are also covered in the book, most notably her travel journeys to Tuscany and Venice. Iris also gives a very honest and unpretentious account of how she views life in general.

Who is this book meant for?

This book can be appreciated by any age group and is suitable for children to read. It is useful as a reminder of what matters in life and can spur some degree of self-reflection in the reader. It was also meant as a dedication to her loved ones and how appreciative she is over her life. Readers from all walks of age will be able to enjoy this book of poems.

What is the book like?

This book is a collection of short poems (few stanzas long) across the 7 key topics of Travel; Spirituality; Hope; Encouragement; Nature; Love; Moment. It is written in a simple form, with minimal use of complex adjectives or vocabulary. Being easily comprehensible, the book can appeal to the general public.

The illustrations are also highly impressive and complement the poems perfectly. They are drawn in black felt pen. Some of them are also dreamy and imaginative in nature. This fits seamlessly with the settings depicted in the poems. Many of the illustrations are aesthetically attractive and will appeal to children.

Iris attempts to use both repetition of words and rhythmic themes to construct the poems. For instance from the following passage ‘There are many angels by my side. Whenever my troubles are in sight, they will send me beautiful light….If only you can join their flight, your life journey will be a glittering jolly ride.’ – Iris Tan. It is clear that last words of each stanza rhyme with one another.

Repetition of the word ‘Hope’ can be witnessed in the following passage: ‘Hope, Hope and Hope, dance around with Hope. When you are down with despair, only hope can bounce you back. Whether you are sick or poor, only Hope can give you the strength to live….’ Iris Tan.

What can I learn from the book?

There is a great emphasis on the importance of touching others’ lives and the link between that and leading a meaningful life. This is also consistent with many self-help books on the need to live beyond oneself and to give back to others. Another core theme is to live and be mindful of your present settings. Be fully aware of the present and allow the thoughts to flow through it, without judging them.

The book explores the theme of spirituality and how filling your heart with warmth and compassion can aid your progress as an individual. Belief in a higher being might give you the required strength to push on when the times get tough.

In a hectic city like Singapore, Iris laments on the fast paced nature of life and the fact that people overlook compassion and happiness because of the nature of how things are. She encourages others to slow down in order to appreciate the finer beauties of their surroundings.

Hope is what keeps your dreams alive. It is important to dream and follow your heart. Be honest in your dealings with people and in your writing. Learning to encourage oneself is also of paramount importance. The theme of love, togetherness and gratitude is ever present throughout the book. Readers can note the value of close friendships and the joy it can bring.

What is this book similar to?

Some of the lessons that can be drawn from this book are similar to ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. The style of illustrations and the dispensing of nuggets of wisdom also closely model Jimmy Liao’s set of picture books (Taiwanese picture book writer and illustrator). However, his picture books are usually darker, where the characters often suffer from loneliness.

picture be in the moment

A Review of ‘Love! Live Dangerously! And have Fun! By Catherine Khoo’

Why you should read the book?

Catherine Khoo is the author of ‘Love! Live Dangerously! And have Fun!’ Her life has been rather eventful, with many ups and downs. Her story is very inspirational and what is particularly impressive is how she managed to overcome her setbacks and still have the zest for life in her 50s. Catherine is married and has 3 lovely daughters. She even had the chance to meet the Dalai Lama at age 48. Now, she runs her own business ‘The Unique Classroom’ and the Young Author Scheme. The motivation behind those businesses was largely to bring local literature to children and cultivate the habit of reading and writing in them.

To her, life is meant to be lived to the fullest. It also means not living based on others’ expectations. It is heartening to note that she possesses a keen sense for life and the desire to seek adventure (like the hot-air balloon ride). The book gives an honest account of some of her memorable life experiences and the valuable lessons that can be drawn from them. For instance, the major theme of the book is to be grateful and contented with what you have and not forgetting to seek adventure and learn whenever possible. Having strong and healthy relationships are also her key to being so enthusiastic about life.

Who is this book meant for?

According to Catherine, this book is meant for anyone. Singles or married couples, young or old, students or working adults can all learn invaluable lessons from the book. Some of the experiences are also relatable and might happen to any ordinary person on the street. Couples with kids might find the part on how she took care of her 3 daughters useful. Those experiencing relationship trouble can also learn from how she dealt with her sister-in-laws and husband.

What is the book like?

The book is structured into 18 short chapters, each comprising of an average of 7 pages in length. The book is 136 pages long, excluding the 4 short love stories at the end. At ordinary reading pace, it should take no more than 3 hours to complete the book. Each chapter is a learning lesson on its own and contains anecdotes/stories to illustrate her point. The content is easily understood and digestible and the writing is executed in a concise manner.

What can I learn from the book?

There are many key lessons that can be learnt from the book. Her life events are meaningful and Catherine always practiced self-reflection to learn from them. For instance, readers will learn about her parenting style, how she dealt with sisters-in-law and husband, her adventures overseas, her encounter with the Dalai Lama etc. Also, readers will be able to appreciate her motivation for setting up her company. Towards the end of the book, she highlights the importance of being true to yourself, setting goals and living life the way you think it should be led.

What I found particularly inspiring was how she managed to live by her principles and stay positive in the face of adversity. She tries her best not to be living someone else’s life so as to please them and make her daughters happy etc. In a hectic city like Singapore’s, it is rare to see someone trying to live more simply so as to appreciate the simpler pleasures in life.

Listed below is a summary of the key insights of the book. The words in (brackets) are my interpretation of each chapter.

Be grateful and appreciative for what you have (do not lose that sense of childhood curiosity); If you don’t try, you will never know (don’t be afraid to approach an attractive person); It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see that matters (try and think about the motivation behind an act); If you want to be happy, no one can stop you (you decide how positive you want to be); Look within yourself (ask yourself whether you are living by your values); Life is a daring adventure…Live it to the fullest (live your dream); Set your own expectations of yourself (self-awareness and be yourself); It is always darkest before the day dawns (always look forward to something better); Give your children roots, give them wings too! (Let them explore); Take it one step at a time (Good things take time); Live a Life that Transcends your own (Give warmth and affection); Listen to the dreams of the young (Do not be afraid of new opportunities); Always find time for yourself (Practice self-reflection); If it is up to be, it is up to me! (You have the power to change things); Those who know enough is enough, will always have enough (Learn to be contented); Happy ever after? It’s no fairy tale (Life is full of ups and downs); 5 things before I turn 55 (Goal setting); Telling your story. My way (Everyone is unique in their own way)

A Review of ‘Lost and Found by Felicia Tan’

Why you should read the book?
Felicia is a strong willed woman who refuses to give up in the face of adversity. She is also very resilient in rebounding from setbacks such as the twin miscarriages. Her day job is that of a graphic designer and Felicia is the founder of the design company, DESIGN WORKZ. This is the sequel to the first book ‘To Baby with Love’. The book is a continuation from the first miscarriage and how she embarked on plans to conceive again. Along the way, she also converted to Christianity and received plenty of support from her husband, friends, and colleagues during their journey.

Miscarriages are always a risk during pregnancy and the loss of a blessed one can be extremely hard to take. As a reader, I could empathize with her journey and understand some of the struggles she had undergone during this difficult period.

She showed the importance of having a positive mindset and having good social support and how it can play a big part in overcoming challenges. Clinging on to hope and belief allowed her to stay the course. Felicia also exemplifies the spirit of motherhood and the value of commitment. Having a strong faith in Christianity also kept her going through the difficult times. It is very clear that she has the strength and devotion to take care of her future children. Readers can take this lesson away when facing your own challenges in life.

The process of undergoing In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is also mentioned throughout the book. These could be potentially useful for women seeking for a child through the same methods. Males will also be better able to understand how it is like for females to undergo labour pain. Also, there are tips at the end of the book that give advice on wannabe mothers.

Who is this book meant for?
This book is mainly targeted at wannabe mothers or females looking to seek IVF treatment in future. As there some verses that are quoted from the Bible, Christians should also find this book in strengthening their faith and belief in God. The general public might also be able to relate and be inspired by how she has not given up trying to conceive a child despite the initial struggles.

What is the book like?
The length of the book is only slightly over a 100 pages and can be read in less than 2 hours at normal reading speed. Felicia adopts the first person pronoun ‘I’ and writes the story in a chronological order that covers the period of year 2012. The style of writing is clear, simple and is close to a storytelling format. This makes it easy to read. Many of her life events in 2012 are captured in this journal-like book.

What can I learn from the book?
A brief synopsis covers the following timeline: Undergoing the second IVF treatment to the pregnancy and the bed rest period. The book then moves into the phase where she suffers a miscarriage through to the confinement period. The last chapter is about her future plans to undergo further medical procedures to improve her chances of delivery. Readers get to understand her thought process and what are the factors that affect decisions like undergoing a medical procedure etc.

At the end of book, it contains interview of other mums who have had miscarriages before and some health tips that pregnant women should adopt. This includes exercising, engaging in resistance training etc. There is also tips on how one can comfort the grieving parents on learning of the miscarriage. It is heartening to note that Felicia is generous enough to share her story so that other mothers will learn better to deal with grief. Continue to inspire others 🙂

How do I purchase the book or get in touch with the author?
Visit her website here: http://feliciatan22.com/
Purchase the book here: http://feliciatan22.com/product-category/shop/

A Review of ‘Luminate by Jun Mi Tan’

Why you should read the book?
Unlike many of the famous Western writers who built a name for themselves through their endeavours first and then capitalized on this fame to produce a book, Jun Mi is a humble person who worked hard and achieved her dream of publishing her book when she was just like an ordinary man in the street. The problem with society is that people always listen to those who have already made it in life and have achieved a great deal. Their words seemingly carry a lot more weight.

I was at my best at giving financial advice when I was 21 years old and people weren’t listening to me. I could have gotten up there and said the most brilliant things and not very much attention would have been paid to me. And now I can say the dumbest things in the world and a fair number of people will think there’s some great hidden meaning to it or something. – Warren Buffett

Ordinary as she might seem, Jun Mi attends many self-improvement talks and professional development workshops. Aside from that, she partakes in many external seminars as guest speaker and also performs voluntary work for the less fortunate. A highly motivated self-starter that everyone can learn from.

What is more inspiring is that the success was not bestowed upon her like from being born in a wealthy family with connections to the upper echelons of society. Having no illustrious head-start in life also makes her more relatable to the masses. It is prove that ordinary people can achieve big dreams. She had to struggle, fight and work her way up. Later on, things just fell her way and all the paths seemed to align. This path was achieved through hard intense labor and not through sheer luck. This is what makes her story even more credible to readers. After meeting her over coffee, I can sense that authentic desire of hers to help others on their entrepreneurial journey. This is truly inspirational for all.

Who is this book meant for?
This book is useful for everyone who has dreams in life but have them shelved and have no concrete action plan on how to make them work.

What is the book like?
‘Luminate’ is a short book which spans just over 150 pages and can be read in less than an hour. However, it contains insights that you can take along with you for a long while. At the end of nearly every chapter are how the reader can take immediate action and apply the lessons learned in the book. Various anecdotes and her life happenings are used to illustrate some of the key concepts. The language used is fairly persuasive and the reader will develop a feel-good factor after reading.

What can I learn from the book?
The first 4 chapters cover the themes of curiosity, entrepreneurship, dreams and success. Some of the important lessons learnt are the need to put 100% effort in whatever you do, why you need a strong purpose to pursue an entrepreneurial path, why it is important to dream and work on them, why it is crucial to have a positive mindset.

The next 4 chapters cover the themes of public speaking, networking, organizing events and the art of collaboration. In these chapters, the importance of all of the above is highlighted when intending to start a business. She stresses on the need to be authentic in your dealings with people and always see things from their angle. Strive to serve others whenever possible.

The last 4 chapters delves into the areas of understanding yourself, learning, serving others and having a clear direction in life. All these are necessary for living a fulfilling and purposeful life.

How does this book compare with other self-improvement books?
Most of the key concepts listed above have been frequently repeated in many famous self-improvement books. The concept of win-win (collaboration) is one of the principles in the ‘7 habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey.’ Although they are not new, Jun Mi’s work is original and is applied to the local Singapore context. She is prove that anyone can get a book published and share inspirational lessons with others.

How do I purchase the book or get in touch with the author?
Visit her website here: http://www.junmitan.com/
Purchase the book here: http://www.junmitan.com/order/