Wednesday, 29 October 2014

#bookreview: Paths of Alir by Melissa McPhail

Paths of AlirPaths of Alir by Melissa McPhail
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To write a good summary of Paths of Alir is almost impossible - so many things happen in this book, with so many separate threads aligning and so many new ones spinning off. When I first opened it on my kindle, I was shocked to see a reading time of 15 hours (which managed to adjust itself downwards to maybe about 9) so I just *had* to go and check out how hefty the tome would be in print. It clocks in at 782 pages as compared to Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archives which stand at about 1,000+ pages each. Not bad. I could knock someone out with this in hardcover.

Giving too much detail in this review would constitute spoilers for Cephrael's Hand and The Dagger of Adendigaeth (though if you're reading this review, you should probably have read the first two), so I'll keep it brief and to the bare minimum (also, there are so many key players now that it's impossible to talk about each of them).
Bjorn van Gelderan's plans are slowly taking shape - his Players are stepping onto the field and changing the game. Together with his sister, Isabel, he continues to move the pieces and guide the players in this intricate, high-stakes King's Game. Losing will only mean the destruction of Alorin and T'khendar.
More rude awakenings await the remaining Vestals and Adepts in Alorin, and Tanis, revealed in The Dagger of Adendigaeth to be more than he seemed, finally finds home - which raises a host of new questions in his quest for his past. Phaedor, of course, is being as evasive as ever.
Of the three val Lorian princes, Ean is coming into his own - his skills, and his memories, are returning in spurts, even as he wrestles between rescuing his brother Sebastian or his loyal men. Under the hands of Taliah hal'Jaitar, Trell's position is only getting worse - will he break under Taliah's torture?

Threaded through the dramatic storytelling, Paths of Alir struggles with this important question, aptly asked by Pelas: "Do you choose your path, or does it choose you?"
It's hard to decide. On one hand, Pelas starts to question the immutability of his nature as a Malorin'athgul and struggles against the compulsion his brother has put on him, Trell continues to strive for honour and dignity in the midst of torture, and Ean and Isabel's paths start to intertwine due to the choices they make. On the other hand, Shail and Darshan still work towards destruction despite evidence that they can change, and Taliah has submitted to her brokenness and darkness by walking the twisted path of mor'alir.

The one slightly negative thing I'd add to this otherwise great review is that Paths of Alir turns much darker than the preceding two books, delving much deeper into torture & humiliation scenes, including a rape scene, which may overall feel a little BDSM-ish. It's not very explicit, not is it gratuitous, but I guess it should be mentioned for those who might not like/appreciate reading these kinds of things (i.e., sorry, not for the kids).

* I received this ebook as a review copy from Novel Publicity.

View all my reviews

Review of Dagger of Adendigaeth here!
Review of Cephrael's hand here!

About the Book - About the Author - Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of The Dagger of Adendigaeth! Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Dagger of Adendigaeth tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: A Pattern of Shadow & Light Book 2

At long last, the reason for the blessed Adept race’s decline has been discovered: powerful beings known as Malorin’athgul are disrupting the Balance and preventing Alorin’s Adepts from awakening to their gifts. Who are they? Where are they? And how can they be stopped when they wield a power meant to unmake the universe itself?
In T'khendar...Prince Ean val Lorian has forsaken his companions in blood and battle to join the traitorous Fifth Vestal in T’khendar in the hopes of gaining some insight into the tragedies that plagued his Return. Now he must confront the man he's long thought of as his enemy and discover the role he is meant to play in the First Lord’s darkly magnificent game.
The Vestal Raine D’Lacourte has followed his traitorous oath-brother Björn through six kingdoms and into the distant realm of T’khendar seeking explanation and atonement. But the condemned realm harbors shocking secrets, and Raine soon realizes he’s facing his greatest enemy yet—not in Björn, but in the truth.
Elsewhere in Alorin...the young truthreader, Tanis, faces a new villain in the fiery-eyed man he followed from the café in Rethynnea; the soldier Trell struggles to reconcile his growing feelings for the girl he rescued from the river against the guilt of his unknown past; and in Tambarré, another truthreader named Kjieran van Stone treads the incense-filled hallways of the Prophet Bethamin’s temple hoping to uncover a plot of treachery and betrayal before the Prophet demands his soul.
The time has come for each player to claim his role in the First Lord's masterful game. All will be tested, but only time will tell how many can survive the dagger of Adendigaeth.

Get The Dagger of Adendigaeth through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats.

Connect with Melissa on her website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

#bookreview: The Dagger of Adendigaeth by Melissa McPhail

The Dagger of AdendigaethThe Dagger of Adendigaeth by Melissa McPhail
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Following from the events of Cephrael's Hand, Melissa McPhail weaves intricate patterns of intrigue and mystery, hope and despair as time and events in Alorin march inexorably on.

In The Dagger of Adendigaeth ("Dagger"), Prince Ean val Lorian throws in his lot with the traitorous Fifth Vestal, Bjorn van Gelderan, positioning himself as a player in the game of Kings. Trell of the Tides is coming to terms with his past and trying to reconcile it with his future. The Fourth Vestal, Raine D'Lacourte, has his own battles to face as many truths, long shrouded in mystery, begin to surface after he plunges into T'khendar in pursuit of his enemy. Tanis, the young truthreader, is also thrown unexpectedly into an adventure of his own when he impulsively follows a stranger with dark thoughts.

McPhail manages to juggle an amazing breadth of events in this one book, interweaving them so simply and yet so intricately that each new revelation leaves you astounded. It's as if the dangling questions you didn't know you had from Cephrael's Hand has been subtly answered - whilst she leaves enough clues that you think you know what will happen next, oftentimes you realise that there was much more to it than you thought.

I could hardly put down Dagger, sacrificing precious sleeping time to be able to read! Looking forward to reading Paths of Alir once I catch up on some sleep.


View all my reviews

Read my review of Cephrael's Hand here.

About the Book - About the Author - Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of The Dagger of Adendigaeth! Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Dagger of Adendigaeth tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: 

A Pattern of Shadow & Light Book 2 

At long last, the reason for the blessed Adept race’s decline has been discovered: powerful beings known as Malorin’athgul are disrupting the Balance and preventing Alorin’s Adepts from awakening to their gifts. Who are they? Where are they? And how can they be stopped when they wield a power meant to unmake the universe itself?
In T'khendar...Prince Ean val Lorian has forsaken his companions in blood and battle to join the traitorous Fifth Vestal in T’khendar in the hopes of gaining some insight into the tragedies that plagued his Return. Now he must confront the man he's long thought of as his enemy and discover the role he is meant to play in the First Lord’s darkly magnificent game.
The Vestal Raine D’Lacourte has followed his traitorous oath-brother Björn through six kingdoms and into the distant realm of T’khendar seeking explanation and atonement. But the condemned realm harbors shocking secrets, and Raine soon realizes he’s facing his greatest enemy yet—not in Björn, but in the truth.
Elsewhere in Alorin...the young truthreader, Tanis, faces a new villain in the fiery-eyed man he followed from the café in Rethynnea; the soldier Trell struggles to reconcile his growing feelings for the girl he rescued from the river against the guilt of his unknown past; and in Tambarré, another truthreader named Kjieran van Stone treads the incense-filled hallways of the Prophet Bethamin’s temple hoping to uncover a plot of treachery and betrayal before the Prophet demands his soul.
The time has come for each player to claim his role in the First Lord's masterful game. All will be tested, but only time will tell how many can survive the dagger of Adendigaeth.

Get The Dagger of Adendigaeth through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: 
Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats.
Connect with Melissa on her website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Becoming Holy: a continuum.

But you see, holiness is really a continuum.

Yes, we know that we are made righteous through the finished work of Christ, and that His blood has covered  all our sins, making us holy in His eyes. But that's the end game. That's the final judgement. In this life, in this plane of existence, we're not there yet. The Bible says "be holy as He is holy." (I Peter 1: 14 - 16) If we are already holy, that wouldn't be an instruction. It would be a statement: You are holy as He is holy.

It says be. That implies becoming.

It means that we live a continuum between holy and sinful, somewhere between saint and sinner, neither one or the other; both at the same time. Our religious binary says that it cannot be so. It tells us that you can only either be a saint or a sinner, good or bad; you cannot be both.

And yet we are.

Because even as we succeed day by day, we also fail day by day to live up to God's standards and that is the struggle, the battle that we have to live in. At this point of time, in this very second, you could probably say to yourself, "as far as you know, I'm living right. I'm in the perfect will of God." And yet ten years from now, if you're still alive, the likelihood is that you'll probably look back on this very moment and say, "Oh God, how wrong I was! I was such a sinner."

Because we are still becoming. We're on a journey. We are not there yet.

The problem is that we cannot accept this truth. So we turn away people who are struggling more than us, with sins more obvious or "awful" (in our eyes) than ours, saying that they cannot join the club until they've turned away from their sin. Except that the only way they can fully turn away from the sin that plagues them is through the grace of God poured out in their lives and experienced in the body of Christ, where they are given worth.

And there is that excuse, of course: I'm only human. 

Of course you're only human. That's what God made you to be. You'll be susceptible because of the fall. You'll make mistakes. You'll change your mind. You'll fall over and over again. You'll get into messes and blame everyone and everything around you. You'll have raw instincts that move you to aggression and hate and lust. You can always claim, "I was born this way. I don't know any better!"

And yet the truth, oh the beautiful truth of this remains: You are human.

You have a choice. You don't need to give in to your baser instincts, though sometimes you will. You don't need to follow whatever the world tells you you are. Because you are a rational being with free will, and as freely as you can decide to do wrong, or to continue living where you are, you can just as freely decide to live one day better, live one day a little more righteous, live one day with a higher expectation of yourself. And even if you fail on that day, you can decide to live that way again the next day, with the full grace of God covering you, until one day you realise that you've won that battle.

And that is the grace the church needs to extend.

Not a political correctness that says "It's alright to live in sin. We welcome you anyway."
Not a righteousness that says, "We can't accept you because you're gay/you don't live right/we don't like your lifestyle."
Not a permissiveness that says, "Look, come in anyway, and you can do whatever you want in the church."
But a church that looks with love and says, "You know that we hold these standards. We understand that you struggle. Let's struggle together and see if we don't come up on top of it. Because while God is holy, he is also merciful. And the grace and forgiveness He has extended will continue to cover you, even as you come to know Him. And we believe that as you come to know Him more, you will be changed by Him, and your battles will no longer be your demons, but your victory grounds."

Because that is where we all live, regardless of our sin.

In the continuum of sin and holiness.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Happy belated birthday, Francis!

Photo stolen from Yuin's FB

I wanted to write this on Wednesday night and have it scheduled for posting bright and early on Thursday, but what do you know, that didn't happen. Hah. Also, I am too lazy to look for photos. So I stole that off FB.

We haven't talked or met up for the longest time ever; maybe we should soon. I've known you for -what - close to 20 years of my life, during which we've played off each other, from everything between Sunday school class mates, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, uh.. fairy godfather and uncle/niece (well, technically cousin). Which makes for a rather interesting spectrum, when you think about it.

Here's to the future, and all the exciting things it will bring! May the Lord make your paths straight that you may walk in it with favour and confidence. May He guide your steps that your feet may not stumble; may He bless the works of your hands and the fruit of your lips that you may be a beacon wherever He places you.

Haha, yes this picture again.
Happy 30th, Fran!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Where I've been, where I'm going - an update

I suppose I should give an account of where I've disappeared to.
I decided to take a break after the stupid #30to30 challenge I put myself on. That was an exercise in self-flagellation, I think. Hah.

And then I was trying to complete the script for this year's Christmas that I've been thinking/working on intermittently since April. I'm in scene 3 of 4 and I hate it already so I highly doubt this thing is going to end and/or work. Gah. This weekend will be the last ditch effort (I said that about last weekend) but seriously, if it doesn't end this weekend, I'm giving up.

Mainly because on Sunday, I'll be meeting up with 3 other writers and Yasmin from Penang Women's Development Corporation (PWDC) to talk about a new project - Voices: The realities of women - a programme for this year's George Town Literary Festival (GTLF). SO. That's a new project (short term) on the slate so I won't have time for regrets over a script that isn't working.

I only have a dance for the Nov #215live and a drama workshop coming up in November to worry about AND OH THE STUPID NONSENSE... I just realised my drama workshop is on the same dates as GTLF.

*halp*
meh.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

On the contrary, my dear...

I would like to suggest that you're not lazy.
You're just dragging your heels because you refuse to do what needs to be done. Partially because it would mean that you have to give up some (most) of the ways you enjoy wasting time and partially because it will open you to a whole new level of rejection, dejection and depression.

Because you know that you will never always be good enough.
Because you know that you will never always know what you're doing.
Because you know that you will never get the kind of validation you need because it doesn't exist.
Because you know that you will start hating yourself more and despising your talent more and criticising your work more the more you create, especially the more you can't create.

And you hate that level of insecurity.
You hate that level of inconsistency.
Most of all you hate that you need to change, because change is scary, and unfamiliarity and fear is what makes you insecure.
And you hate that.

So you drag it out over the years, taking one tiny step at a time, always wondering why you never move.
But you have.
And you can't go back.
Yet you refuse to move forward.

So you rant and have panic attacks in the middle of the night, kicking against the establishment whilst complaining that no one supports you and no one understands, and everyone is not where they need to be in an effort to not have panic attacks in the middle of the night because everything is moving too quickly and you're not prepared to GO.

So you say you're lazy.
Because you don't know how to move.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month...

On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid,consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”
Haggai 2: 10-23 
I've written about this before, probably many times over. The latest one is here
Every year, I feel that it's this year, it's time. 

And then I feel that I have so far yet to go.