Thursday, 2 December 2021

#bookreview: Living Shadows (Reckless #2) | Cornelia Funke

Living Shadows (Reckless #2)Living Shadows by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacob Reckless has been keeping secrets - but how long can he keep his coming death from Fox, who knows him better than he knows himself?

Living Shadows (also called Fearless) is a race against time and death. Jacob has tried every magical object and legend he can think of, but the Fairy curse is proving unbreakable. The only thing left to try may not even prove reliable (or exist at all)--and is also being actively pursued by the Goyl. Funke pits two treasure hunters against each other: Jacob in a bid to save his own life; Nerron the Bastard who wants both fame and the Goyl's triumph over humans.

I rather enjoyed this one, despite wanting to yell at Jacob to just tell her already, tell Fox the truth like every single chapter. Despite the dark theme, it becomes a rather sweet slow burn romance, where they realise that they can't keep ignoring their feelings for each other - especially when death is just so close for both of them. Because as the chase goes on, it's not just Jacob's life at stake anymore.

I still don't like the shifting POVs very much, but it's not super jarring. I guess like with The Petrified Flesh, familiarity with the story helps smoothen the flow. Otherwise, expect to flip back and forth a little at times to keep track of what's happening. Because it is a complex story - it's not just two people looking for one crossbow. It's a chase across Austry, Albion and Lotharaine, it is politics and double-crossing and backstabbing, it is varied myths and legends being weaved into one larger whole. There's a lot to keep track of.

But if there's one thing to take away from this one, it's the fact that keeping secrets can be very, very harmful. And that Reckless is always reckless with his own life because he values Will and Fox above himself. And also very secretive. And both these traits just lead him into more trouble (which leads into The Golden Yarn).

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Pushkin Children's Books via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Monday, 22 November 2021

#musicmonday: Ganjaran | Josh Yeoh



Oh Yesus, jadilah ganjaran terbesar 
Harta yang lebih indah dari hidupku 
Tak ingin ku hilang jiwaku mengejar dunia 
Ku tahu hidupku milik-Mu

Come and be my exceedingly great reward
You're the treasure that I would give my whole life for
What would it profit me to gain the world but lose my soul?
I know my life is not my own

Sunday, 21 November 2021

#GTF: Between 01 exhibition | Tan Lay Heong (A response)

You live in the in-between. You've been living there since the pandemic started, since the day the gomen ask you to stay home, stay safe. Lindung Diri, Lindung Semua. The days bleed into each other, the weeks into months, the months into years. It has been eighteen months since you've seen the light.

Who have you really protected?

The plastic boxes pile up in your house, one for every meal. Almost. You can still handle making your own breakfast, when you decide to have it. What's the point? There's no rush hour, you can deal with waking up a little later, working on a slow cup of caffeine, and then having a large brunch delivered. One more plastic box, until all you are is plastic boxes, stacked up in precarious columns, hanging boxes deep on the racks, painstakingly washed to get the oil out. 

Who has your hand-washing saved?

You reach, you grasp. You slip. It's always that way, has always been. Your hands are not strong enough to hold; no one's arms  are strong enough to keep you. Out of the corner of your eye, you see them run. Like everyone has left you. There is no hey let's hang out when you can't; when you're boxed in, boxed out, plastic shoulders slumped. There is no real you. Your conversations stall in the first line. I'm fine. Nothing new. You're more boring than ever.

Who has your isolation helped?

So you live in the in-between, in the shadows. You are a shadow. You are all the things you have forgotten, all the things you have put on hold, all the plans you've shelved, all the hopes you've seen wither. But there is light, and there is dark, and even in the Saturday of the soul, there is hope. Even the dimmest of lights can shine. The smallest leaf still casts a shadow. And maybe in the in-between is where you are finally perceived, when the brightest of lights shine through you.

Who keeps you safe?

But you -

You are

where the light shines through

---

Photos taken at Between 01, an art installation by Tan Lay Heong (and others!). More info here: georgetownfestival.com/2021/programmes/between-01/ 

You can pre-book a viewing slot via this form, but actually... you can also just fill in the form when you arrive. The form offers 1-hour slots, but it's not like you have to turn up on the hour or for the whole hour. There's a 12-minute dance video that is looped and you should probably sit in the little plastic igloo for the surround-sound impact.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

#bookreview: The Petrified Flesh (Reckless #1) | Cornelia Funke

The Petrified Flesh (Reckless, #1)The Petrified Flesh by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Will Reckless' skin is turning to stone and his older brother Jacob is using all his treasure hunting skills to find a cure. Only, there is no cure. And more than that, Will's skin is turning to Jade - and in this world of fairy tales, the mythical Jade Goyl is the one who will protect the Goyl King from his human enemies.

Rather than a straight fairy tale setting, Funke gives us a portal/alternate earth fantasy - where Jacob has found access to an alternate earth filled with magic via the mirror in his missing father's study. The Petrified Flesh takes place only in one location (Austry), but as you continue on in the series, Funke makes it clear that many of the countries in this alternate earth correspond to real-world countries and their mythology. It's a brilliant set-up, affording Funke both a structure to follow whilst affording her the space to expand creatively, developing alternate histories and mythologies.

I'm somewhat conflicted about how to rate this book. I initially rated it 3 stars because The Petrified Flesh isn't an easy one to get into. It starts off in a light, classic fairy tale style, but the tone seems to shift the further along you get in the book as the story gets darker and darker. (It is a dark fantasy, after all.) On that first read, I found it rather choppy. Maybe it's the fact that it shifts POV almost from chapter to chapter and you never really get to know the characters in depth. The story doesn't quite pull you in for some reason. But I decided to re-read it after I finished book 4, just so I could review it with fresh eyes - and on the second read, I didn't really notice the "choppiness", and liked it much better. So I don't quite know what that initial thing was.

Despite it being book 1 of the Reckless/Mirrorworld series, the story is self-contained. Jacob sets off to solve the problem of Will's Goyl skin, he finds a solution. But the solution lends itself to another problem, which is what sets up Book 2 (Reckless II: Living Shadows) and the rest of the series.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Pushkin Children's Books via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Friday, 12 November 2021

#nanowrimo: An excerpt from the #teanovel!


It was a Saturday and Jasmine didn’t know what to do with herself. The routine had always been to be doing things during the weekday, whether that was school or college or work, and then to be not doing things during the weekend, which in school or college had meant either meeting up with friends or joining some church-related activity, but in the past fourteen years had gradually come to mean stumbling into the office at 11am “for five minutes to grab a thing or send an email” and then going home at midnight anyway. She was good at “not doing things” in that context, not so good at what most other people called “not doing things”. 

It didn’t help that after almost a decade of that kind of behaviour (the first five years were a mix; she’d managed to hold out for that long until her seniority and job scope meant she couldn’t just deny her way out of responsibilities) she didn’t really have any friends outside of work. Outside of her old job, she should say. Were they even friends? Or just people she had to deal with on a regular basis?

What even were friends?

Jasmine lay in bed staring up at the ceiling, wondering what she should do. She pulled her blanket over her head and inhaled the warmth. She couldn’t call Aun or Lay Peng, or Deen or Raj—they’d all be working right now, possibly even desperately covering for all the work she’d left behind when she quit, probably even working off that unending to-do list she’d stuck in the front of the file while cursing her. Though she had tried to close up as much as possible before she left. It wasn’t her fault that in the last week of her three months’ notice, whoever that idiot was behind scheduling (her boss) decided that they really, really needed someone on that last-minute job and the only one with a blank week was…her. Because she was leaving. And she needed to close out all her files.

But nope. New client it was, no matter how idiotic it was.

Anyway. Not her job anymore. 

She rolled on her left side, kicking the blanket off and reached for her phone, squinting at the large numbers. It was only eight in the morning. Way too early to be awake on what should be technically a holiday. Well, a weekend. What had she done in the past when she took her annual leave? Oh right—she only took leave to go travel, which meant she had a whole new place to explore, or when she went back home, which meant her mother would put her to work doing something. Like marketing. 

Jasmine got out of bed and shuffled to the kitchen. She blinked and stretched, then sighed as she opened the fridge. It looked terribly empty, even more empty than usual. Right, she’d finished up her leftovers yesterday because she got home late, even though she’d already surrendered her laptop and work badge by the time HR and IT left at five pm. There was a lot she could do just by talking to her team and pointing at their screens. 

She squinted at her phone again. No one had called. She was fairly sure there was someone already in the office, but no one had called. Or messaged. 

Not my job. Not my problem. Not anymore. They’ve got it. 

It should be easy to remember, seeing that she’d turned in all her company property, but it was like this void. In her heart. An emptiness. Maybe she should do some marketing. All she had was cereal and since she wasn’t going to work today (or for the next few days until she found something else to do) she would have to make her own lunches and dinners. Jasmine laughed at herself until she cried. 

When she was done laugh-crying, she washed up, took a shower, and sat down to cereal and milk and the book she’d bought two years ago but hadn’t had time to read. By the time she was done with it, it was four in the afternoon and she was hungry. She didn’t feel like cooking (not like there was anything remotely cookable in the fridge) so she ordered something random off Grab. And then she started another book. 

It was Thursday night (how had six days passed by so slowly and yet so quickly?) before she decided she should do something a little more productive than binge-reading all her TBR and ordering food on Grab because even though she had a lot of savings (she hadn't had the time to spend it), it wasn’t going to last forever. She hadn’t talked to a person in days other than acknowledging the Grab driver and grunting at the guard when she went to pick up her food. She wasn’t even sure if that counted as talking to people. 

Tomorrow was Friday. She’d been unemployed for a week. Friday morning, she would pretend she was on holiday and take a tour of her historical city. 

I mean, people travel all the way here for holidays, right? Why not be a tourist in my own city? 

She rather liked the idea of a staycation.

---

Here's where you can find out more about The Tea Novel!!! Which doesn't have a name yet. Or even a properly thought out plot. But eh, it's the first draft of a WIP so things will sort themselves out...eventually.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

#booktour: Head Over Tails | Brianna Tibbetts - a #bookreview


Welcome to the book tour for Head Over Tails!

Here's the blurb before we jump into my review:

Mermaids meet mental health in this light-hearted story of life, love, and learning to grow into who you were meant to be. 

Their love is true...but is it real?

Fear of inheriting his father’s hallucinations and memory loss have brought Jacob’s life to a screeching halt at age nineteen. Now he spends his days alone on the beach behind his home, staring into the endless Hawaiian waves.

Mermaid Sevencea is eager to explore life above the water--and cheer up the handsome, lonely young man strolling on the shores. Forming a bond with him is as natural as swimming. All she needs are legs to walk beside him, so Sevencea disappears to trade for the necessary magic.

Yet when she returns, Jacob is gone, convinced she was a hallucination after all. And the more Sevencea searches for him, the more she doubts what they have will last. 

Can love truly exist between land and sea?

A sweet YA mermaid-meets-human romance set within the lovely vistas of Hawaii.

---

MY REVIEW!

Head Over TailsHead Over Tails by Brianna Tibbetts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So many fantasy books these days are high-stakes epics with people trying to save the world--or at least save their kingdom or reclaim their throne--that Head Over Tails threw me a little. (Also, I should read blurbs more carefully, I was just excited about mermaids and magic). While it runs in the vein of retelling Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid, with a little tinge of the Disney version, this one is really a low-stakes sweet romance between a mermaid and a human.

There is no kingdom to be saved, there is no prince who needs a wife; just nineteen-year-old Jacob struggling to find his place in the world in the aftermath of his father's diagnosis that splits his world--and family--apart. And as much as Sevencea gives off Ariel vibes, she's not a princess whose forbidden romance will cause the fall of her father's kingdom; all she wants is (mostly) to not let the cute guy she's (maybe) falling in love with think she's only a hallucination.

Despite it being a romance, Head Over Tails is very much about family. The choices both Jacob and Sevencea make are heavily impacted by their families--whether it's Jacob's fear that he's inherited his father's illness, or it's Sevencea looking for her father's wisdom and advice. I love found family stories (there's a bit of that going on at The Makai), where the displaced and disenchanted build a new family from the wreckage, but this also feels necessary: a reminder that natural families are also important. And while most families are messy and sometimes they break apart, they can still be what you need when everyone pulls together, when each family member decides to work towards reconciliation instead of giving up.

Overall, Head Over Tails is quiet, slow, and sweet. There are no unexpected twists or crafty, intricate plotting. It's a comfort read for when you're reaching for soothing and familiar, when you crave the simplicity of youth falling in love, and that quiet hope of a happily ever after.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Uncommon Universes Press as part of the book launch tour. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

---

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raised on a steady diet of rich fiction, novelist Brianna Tibbetts has been writing exciting, speculative worlds as long as she can remember. Currently based in the Pacific Northwest, she reads voraciously and writes extensively. In everything from short stories to series, Brianna demonstrates her passion for lively stories infused with faith. In addition to writing, her other superpowers include being ginger and yarn crafting. When she isn’t spending time in her own creations, she loves indulging in the fictional worlds of others.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

#bookreview: Climactic Crisis | C G Penne

Climatic CrisisClimatic Crisis by C G Penne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emma's life - and the lives of her extended family - are turned upside down when the weather goes crazy. First, a tsunami hits her home in Cornwall, England while tornadoes strand her husband in New York, USA. Then there are the massive fires in Perth, Australia - raging in the middle of winter - where her twin sister Jen lives. The weird weather extends across the world in the span of a few days, sowing devastation in its wake.

The novel is quite fast-moving and dramatic, with many tense moments as the family tries to find their missing loved ones. It paints a frightening picture of the terrible impacts of climate change - and how ineffective our current governments and politicians are at addressing the issue, especially when they don't see it as urgent.

There's what I would call a 'literary' arc to this novel. It's very focused on the moment (looking for the missing children, surviving the flood and the fire and the waves) and whilst there are little snippets of the bigger picture (exposes by journalists, growing movements to petition the government to deal with climate change in the wake of such drastic weather changes) there isn't really a resolution. The arc is pretty much each new weather event escalating to a bigger tragedy. In fact, the ending felt a little like a cop-out to me.

Interspersed between the events, Penne slows down the pace a little with the introduction of each character. This is good in one sense, because there is such rich detail and attention paid to their backstories and the dynamics of their relationships, yet, on the other hand, the execution is often clumsy leading to just a little too much telling and clumps of info dumps.

Overall, I thought the premise was interesting, but the execution clumsy. A little more editing and polishing would have made it a better read.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews