Sunday, 1 February 2015

#bookreview: The Gift of Charms by Julia Suzuki (based on a preview)

Okay. So in the strangest of all review requests I have ever received... I was asked to write a review on a 3-chapter preview of Julia Suzuki's The Gift of Charms. Review requests are usually for the whole book but... since this was what was requested, here goes:

The Gift of Charms is a story of a dragon - a dragon with strange heralds from birth. Will he be a gift or a curse? It feels like the beginnings of another coming-of-age story, as well as a prophecy/omen-fulfilling story, and maybe a little epic-type fantasy. It is, after all, a story about dragons. I don't know how epic it will be since nothing much happens in the first 3 chapters except Yoshiko's strange birth, and the opening set up of him as a typical middle-school kid (dragon) being teased for not being able to make fire.

The writing itself seems to be targeted at a younger age group than I am currently interested in reading (I do read children's books, MG and YA, with a stronger preference on YA) so whilst the preview was pretty engaging, this may not be one that I will actually get round to buying anytime in the near future seeing that my to-read list is getting exceptionally long.

In terms of rating, at the moment it would be somewhere between a 2.5 - 3 star book (out of 5). It sounds like something I'd be interested in reading at the end of a long, stressful day, when I don't actually want to think and need something quick, simple and engaging. I won't have a final rating until I actually read the complete book. If I ever do.

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Because I'm too lazy to reproduce and format the press release, here's a screencap:

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To buy the books, visit:
http://bit.ly/BuyDragorBooks
Author website: http://www.juliasuzuki.com 

Twitter: @JuliaSuzuki_uk


Saturday, 31 January 2015

Fears and insecurities

A garden enclosed and barred is my sister, my [promised] bride–a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. (Song of Solomon 4:12 AMP)

Today I've been called two things. A spider and a clam. 

A spider because I've been resilient, always turning up where I'm not expected to be. I'm not sure about that. Resilient, yes. But I don't know about turning up in unexpected places when I don't even know if I'm in the right one. Sometimes where I am feels wrong, but at the same time it feels right. I don't know. I can't tell anymore. 

I'm drifting. I don't know where I'll end up or how. And it's awful because this is the very thing that annoys me about people. How purposeless they are. How lost and wavering they get. I suppose it's God's joke on me. "Let's see how you cope."
But I know where I want to be. I catch glimpses of it sometimes. Then I despair of ever getting there and give up. 

Because my tiny little shriveled heart tells me over and over again that I'm not good enough. And I'm too lazy to. And afraid. I'm afraid because I'm not enough and I know it and I don't want to face that truth. So I don't try. I don't want my heart to be broken any more than it already is. 

So I hide in my little clam shell and peek out to see if it's safe. Sometimes it is. But most times it's not because I'm in the middle of the ocean and I've been swept out to sea and nothing is safe and familiar anymore. 

I cope by making things safe. By going back to the familiar. By trying to cling on to the things I know. But I can't. People change. Things change. And I can't find my footing anymore. 

I thought I'd be somewhere by now but I'm still treading the waters of insecurity. Because it's familiar. The pain is a familiar pain; an old friend, an encompassing blanket that shrouds me almost addictively. I love it but I hate it; I need to feel something other than the vast swaths of emptiness, the warring in my heart that says but I don't want to be alone even when it protests in the same breath I desperately need time by myself.

But I've been swept out into the currents by my own volition, by the strange prayers I've found on my lips and I'm clinging desperately to the safety of my little shell by sheer willpower though I know I know I should let go. Because God is this ocean and His Spirit is the pulsing current and in Him I should be safe although I don't feel it and I can't grasp it and I don't know how to swim. 

So I sing a little louder to find strength, and offer this hollow shell of my heart in worship because it's all I have right now in the midst of my fears. 

May You always be the enough in my lack
May You always be the flow in my ebb
And when I'm far from shore and lost at sea
May Your heart always my safe harbour be

Friday, 30 January 2015

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

#bookreview: Fire and Dust by Christopher Datta

Fire and DustFire and Dust by Christopher Datta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fire and Dust is the second book in the Fire Trilogy.
I read the first book, Touched with Fire, and thought it a pretty good read, so I decided to take a chance on this one too.

Fire and Dust has (almost) nothing to do with Touched with Fire, other than being a story of the opposite side of the war. Christopher Datta clarifies that in his author's note, and adds that the coming book three will see many of the characters in both books meet. That would be an interesting story to read.

The book started off a little too slowly for my liking, and I had to wade through several chapters of slow-moving war scenes before I was fully engaged with the story. I have to say this for Datta though - even in the more "war" (i.e. boring to me) bits, he is a good storyteller with an engaging tone.

Again, per my review for Touched with Fire, I don't know much about American history (not being an American). What I found interesting about this book was the way Datta provides a sympathetic voice for the Confederates, especially for the many normal foot soldiers who were fighting merely for their country, rather than any great cause to preserve slavery. Most of them did not even have any stakes in the fight, other than being of the opinion that their country (or state) was their own and they shouldn't be told what to do by the Union. Okay, that's probably very simplified version of things...

At any rate, I think Fire and Dust presents balanced historical materials about a (still) sensitive issue which doesn't paint any one person in stark black or white (Except maybe General Bragg). Whilst a principle may be true, any change in the lives of people, especially when it involves established institutions and conventions of a country, will always take a long time to be accepted - even when the war has been won.

*I received a free copy of this book via Novel Publicity in return for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Read the review for Touched with Fire here.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

#bookreview: Meritropolis by Joel Ohman

MeritropolisMeritropolis by Joel Ohman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the post-apocalyptic city of Meritropolis, resources are scarce and danger lurks in the surrounding forests. It's a city where survival of the fittest is the rule of the day - and the System of Societal Merit provides the most efficient and fairest way to decide who should live and who should die.

Charley, whose score is second only to Commander of the city, has been nursing a hatred for the System ever since his older brother was zeroed nine years ago. Now that he's an adult and being clued in to the secrets of the city and the system due to his high score, he's doing his best to find a way to bring the system down forever. As Charley butts heads with Commander Orson, he finds both a friend and a nemesis in the mysterious Grigor, who secretly helps Charley as often as he publicly supports the Commander.

Meritropolis fits into the standard YA dystopian mould, pitting youth and their idealism against the world-weary leaders who support the current system because it has ensured their survival thus far. Ohman has some interesting ideas while constructing the world, however his story seems to be driven by one single idea - that everyone matters, no matter how low their Score is. This comes across as a little forced at times, which somewhat detracts from an otherwise quite enjoyable story.

*I received a free copy of this book via Novel Publicity in return for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Writing goals for 2015

I don't like making goals. I don't like the fact that I almost always never achieve them.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I created a file in Google Docs to track submissions. Because I decided I'm going to get round to writing and submitting stuff. And since I do better with short stories anyway, that's what I'm going to work on more proactively this year while I figure out what I really want to do with the fairy tale novella that's kind of hanging and the rest of my 50K nanowrimo novels that are desperately in need of [dire] edits.

So I figure the idea is to write more short stories and submit them. And if they get published, all well and good. If they don't (or if I miss the deadline), well, by the end of the year or maybe next year, I'll have enough shorts to compile into a book that I'll title "Misfits: an anthology of short stories that didn't fit anywhere else". Or something like that.

I also want to get round to writing the script for Ruth and Joseph, and there's an Easter/Cheng Beng idea somewhere in there. All these half-written, half-thought out ideas really need to be finished.

There's also the collection I started on Medium that I should work on. An article a month doesn't sound like too much, though I am lazy and unmotivated. We'll see where that goes. If any of you want to contribute, e-mail me at posts [at] annatsp [dot] com. That's where I compile all the e-mails that have to do with things I'm posting on behalf of people, such as this Medium thing (if you have a Medium account, I'll just add you as a contributor), guest posts, book tours, blog tours, and all that kind of stuff.

Single & Female

Okay. Actually, that looks like a lot of goals. Let's see how it goes.

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On a not-quite-writing related note, I'm coming to a point where I'm wondering whether the whole creative arts dream I have is really what I want to do. I mean, I want it to happen, and I think that Penang AND the Church desperately need it... but at the same time, I think that the piece of it I'm gravitating towards is actually just writing the scripts. I don't really care if I do act in them or not. If I could find someone else to deal with the rest of it, I don't mind just sharing the vision.
.sigh.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Remembering the little things

The last post ended rather abruptly, mainly because in looking at the whole year, I slid into a funk that I haven't fully gotten out of yet.

2014 started off well. It was full of promise, it was hopeful. There was a spiritual high, and an almost prophecy, almost blessing for the future. And then somewhere along the way things happened, and things didn't happen, and when you look at it as a whole, it just felt really sad. There was the novella that didn't get published, the creative arts team that barely got off the ground, the audition that didn't work out, the poorly attended workshop, the Christmas script that just couldn't work - just all the things in my head and in my heart that I was hoping would finally work out this year but didn't quite.

And yet, when you look at the little things, there were victories, albeit small ones. I was refreshed at the Jesus Culture Conference, and at Destiny Conference. I completed my A to Z challenge and it was pretty good (as a series of shorts). I actually submitted for something! Yay me! I wrote and read a piece during GTLF14. I attended a Kutless concert live! And got them to autograph my CD! I got round to actually editing something and hired/worked with an editor, putting it together and sending it out for beta (with accompanying heart attack) and though it's not going anywhere yet (revamp of plans, maybe), it's further than I've ever gone before. I won Nanowrimo again, although I did it mainly because I was depressed and I wanted to prove to myself that I could still win at something, which I did, though I haven't gotten round to finishing the story. Oh, and I went for a writing conference and had my own little writing retreat. And I wrote stuff. Which is always a win in my book because I am so super lazy I will one day die of laziness (seriously, I think I will just one day decide not to get out of bed and die surrounded by books because I was too lazy to move or eat). I survived my first actual camping trip ever. I reached my reading goals on Goodreads (hahahahahahahaha). I bought a lot of lovely books. I finally visited USA, even if it's only one state, and for work. I got my kindle (oh gosh, has it only been a year?)! I bought boots. I don't know why I am happy about the boots, but, boots. I met LK Gardner-Griffie in person. I joined writers groups because I can. Whee.

The problem is that it's so easy to dismiss the little things in the light of all the big things that didn't work out. And it's easier to live in the valley of defeat because it's comfortable there, and it's familiar. And frankly it's too much hard work to reach any form of success and it's daunting.

Sometimes we try so hard to be significant, relevant, noticed, that we've forgotten how to just be. We don't know who we are anymore or why we're here.
And that breaks us.
In more ways than we can imagine.

So today I remember the little things. 
Because the little things matter too.