Sunday, 15 May 2022

Sesi Seni with #PenangArtDistrict

I recently sat down with Swarna from the George Town Literary Festival to talk about my writing journey.

It actually came out a few days ago but I was too scared to watch it until now. heh.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

#bookreview: Unspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man | Guvna B

Unspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the ManUnspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man by Guvna B.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interspersed with Guvna B's own lyrics as well as his Instagram posts (unfortunately only the captions made it into the digital ARC; I assume the pictures made it into print?), reading Unspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man felt like sitting in Isaac's (Guvna B's real name) living room, listening to him ramble on about life, grief, faith, and therapy.

It may seem a little weird that I picked this up for review (thanks Netgalley!) since I am not black, British, or male. I don't even listen to his songs; I find rap music a little weird. But the church I attended in Uxbridge had invited him to one of their youth events in 2019 (which is how I remembered the name), so I was a little curious.

The super-long title makes it sound like it's going to be this thesis, but the book reads more like a memoir, with Isaac dropping all pretensions, even his stage name. It centres around his upbringing on a council estate in East London and his grief at the loss of his father and two close friends in the span of two years. It's also mixed up with race relations in the UK, clashes of cultural and familial expectations, and the burden of fame, to some extent. Yet it's conversational and extremely relatable, like an elder brother sharing a personal story.

Some quotes I found super relatable even as someone who's not anywhere near the book's target market:

[For the Asians (lol)]
I was comprised neither of flesh nor blood but of parental aspiration...

[For the artists]
I now know that what was happening was that I was trying so hard to put out what I thought people wanted to hear, without ever stopping to ask myself what I wanted to say, what was in my heart...
I started comparing myself to other people, which made me feel even worse.
Advice to anyone reading this: Never compare.

[For grieving Christians]
'Within modern Christianity,' [Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury] said, 'we are really bad at lament and protest; really bad at saying, this is terrible, this is wrong, this is awful; and we're really bad at saying, "God I am really mad about this. I am so angry about this. God, I think you've let me down".'
What the psalm teaches us is that it is okay to rage against God, even though it does not come easily to us. It is better to rage against him than to shut him out completely.
In showing our true selves to God, he can reveal his true self to us. That is why lamenting and protesting in times of deep pain is as important as praising and celebrating in times of happiness. Learning to lament and protest is a journey towards better understanding God's love.


To be honest, while the storytelling prose is what makes the book, there were times when it felt like the author rambled on too far and then came back again with an, "oh yes, this was where I was going with this story". At the end of it all, he ties all the stories and the almost-devastation that came from those tragic events back to his own response, which was:

This ingrained sense of masculinity led me to believe that the only emotion permissible for me to reveal was rage. I could be angry, upset, hurt, or sad and then punch something, because that is what men did. Bare my teeth. Tighten my fist. Either that or grin and bear it. Handle it. Withstand the pain.


Overall, Unspoken is lyrically written, honest and heartfelt.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from [] via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

I didn't know this song was by Guvna B!

Saturday, 30 April 2022

#AtoZChallenge: Z for Zen

It has been awfully difficult to figure out a post for Z. I was thinking of going for ZZZ (sleep) but that was just weird. I’ve got nothing to do with animals (zoo) or even chaos and disorder. So I figured I’d go with zen, in the “peaceful and calm” meaning of the word, and give you a little excerpt of how and where Yosua finds some peace in the midst of the storm. 


Chapter 7 excerpt

The next few days pass in a blur. In the early mornings, before the castle wakes, I find myself sneaking out to the market, Relka trailing behind me. Relka has taken to sleeping outside my bedroom, no matter how many times I tell him I’m fine, I just need to be alone. I do need to be alone. I need to light the censers, to let the incense rise to heaven, to scream out my anger and fear and weariness to Kudus. I need to pray over their souls, releasing them to Kudus. 

O Kudus, please. Grant me strength. Grant me peace.

The Tawanan are a form of peace, if only because of their familiarity. They congregate in the northwest corner of the market, where several have set up their own stalls. I’ve visited them often enough during ‘market inspections’, just to see how they’re doing. 

The first morning I appear after my parents’ deaths, Uncle Dan stares at me wordlessly. He’s thin and grizzled, looking like he hasn’t slept in days. We’re not related by blood, though I call him Uncle. He was one of Ayah’s closest friends in Maha, always coming in and out of our quarters. I lift my hands, shrug. He nods and puts me to work. Relka gawks for a moment before he too gets ordered about. It takes Azman half an hour to blaze in, two Royal Guards on his tail, in a panic. Uncle Dan shakes his head but ignores their presence, as does everyone else, eventually.


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And that's a wrap for the A to Z Challenge! Thank you for surviving this whole month with me! 

Every year, I say this is too much, I'm never going to do it again, but...I obviously can't keep myself from it for too long. I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into the Absolution series. If you'd like a look at an earlier form of this series, you can check out my 2018 challenge posts. hahaha. I believe Yosua had yet to exist, Mikal was still called Adam, and this book was supposed to be about Rahsia. *snort*

Head back to my theme reveal and master list.

Go check out the other A to Z Bloggers!


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The Tale of the Hostage Prince (Absolution 1.5)

Yosua wears an uneasy crown. Although he is now Raja of Bayangan, he still longs for the land of his birth where everything was much simpler…and less deadly.

But peace doesn’t come easily, not for a twenty-year-old servant playacting at being king.

With his parents brutally murdered and his uncle bent on revenge, Yosua must decide where his loyalties truly lie. With his only remaining relative and the kingdom he has claimed? Or with his best friend Mikal and the sultanate that raised him as a hostage?


BUY NOW!

International purchases books2read.com/HostagePrince

Friday, 29 April 2022

#AtoZChallenge: Y for Yosua

Of course, a whole blog series on The Tale of the Hostage Prince has to talk about its main protagonist by name at some point! 

Yosua ayell Garett, in my head, is a bit of a walking contradiction. Putting aside the rags-to-riches, slave-to-prince narrative, Yosua is soft, innocent, and sweet, and often overly trusting of family and friends. Yet at the same time, he’s had to learn to be hard, crafty, suspicious, and street-smart in order to survive in both Maha and Bayangan. 

My original envisioning of Amok was to split the POV between Mikal and Yosua, but I eventually decided that making it Mikal’s story made more narrative sense. But I’d already fallen in love with Yosua enough that I had to give him his own story, hence this book that doesn’t quite fit within the overall series arc. 

Trivia:

Yosua is named after the most prominent Sultan of Terang. It’s noted in Amok that after Raja Muda Mahmud performed his penance and fulfilled the Covenant of Salt, “A new priest-king, the famous Sultan Yosua…ascends the throne with a Secretkeeper wife. It’s the first and only time that the leadership of all Terang was concentrated in a ruling pair.” It’s this fulfilment of the covenant with Kudus that grants Terang their magical powers. 

Interestingly enough, this is also what pushed Harett Baya to leave, bringing those who don't believe in Kudus out from Terang to form his own kingdom of Bayangan: “There are fantastic sea battles up and down the straits accompanied by dramatic declarations, until Harett finally convinces Sultan Yosua to leave them alone.”

Here are a couple of reviews from readers who probably love Yosua as much, if not more, than I do.

Sholee’s Sphere | Mermaird 


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That's it for today!

Head back to my theme reveal and master list.

Go check out the other A to Z Bloggers!


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The Tale of the Hostage Prince (Absolution 1.5)

Yosua wears an uneasy crown. Although he is now Raja of Bayangan, he still longs for the land of his birth where everything was much simpler…and less deadly.

But peace doesn’t come easily, not for a twenty-year-old servant playacting at being king.

With his parents brutally murdered and his uncle bent on revenge, Yosua must decide where his loyalties truly lie. With his only remaining relative and the kingdom he has claimed? Or with his best friend Mikal and the sultanate that raised him as a hostage?


BUY NOW!

International purchases books2read.com/HostagePrince

Thursday, 28 April 2022

#AtoZChallenge: X for Xenophobia

Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. And as we’ve seen throughout this month’s posts, xenophobia runs (not so) subtly through The Tale of the Hostage Prince, whether it’s the Bayangans’ inability to fully accept the Tawanan back into society or the way they reject their young “foreign” ruler’s efforts to effect changes in the law. 

It comes back down to emigration and exile, and the whole idea of being a foreigner even in your homeland. 

In many ways, it also mirrors the complex relationship I have with Malaysia. “What makes one a Malaysian?” is a question that has been explored many, many times, with varying conclusions. Because the obvious one, being born in Malaysia to Malaysian parents, sometimes doesn’t seem to be enough in light of your race or religion.  How can one be xenophobic against people you grew up amongst?

And yet, some can. Because we live in our own comfortable bubbles.   



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That's it for today!

Head back to my theme reveal and master list.

Go check out the other A to Z Bloggers!


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The Tale of the Hostage Prince (Absolution 1.5)

Yosua wears an uneasy crown. Although he is now Raja of Bayangan, he still longs for the land of his birth where everything was much simpler…and less deadly.

But peace doesn’t come easily, not for a twenty-year-old servant playacting at being king.

With his parents brutally murdered and his uncle bent on revenge, Yosua must decide where his loyalties truly lie. With his only remaining relative and the kingdom he has claimed? Or with his best friend Mikal and the sultanate that raised him as a hostage?


BUY NOW!

International purchases books2read.com/HostagePrince

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

#AtoZChallenge: W for War

What Yosua wants is peace. What Uncle Jeffett wants is retribution.

It feels like war always wins, violence always wins. There is only so much you can do in peaceful protest until it feels like you need to strike back if only to protect yourself. 

And so Yosua cannot step down because he knows that the minute he does, Uncle Jeffett—or whoever he backs—is going to restart the war.


Chapter 2 excerpt

“So tell me, Han, which am I? The frog under the tempurung? Or the one afraid of the rain?” I raise an eyebrow at him, leaning back so I can watch both his face and his hands.

“Neither. It wasn’t meant as a statement.” He has the grace to look a little guilty. “I wasn’t, Yos. I wouldn’t. You’d never invite me back again and then where would I be?”

“Living it up in Maha, I suppose. Or playing raja in the kampungs around Bayangan.” 

“Honest, Yos, I wasn’t mocking you. It was just a funny story!”

I sigh. “I know that. But only because I know you. Because you’re my friend. You are my friend, aren’t you?”

“Of course!” He looks affronted. 

“I don’t know, Han. I don’t know anymore. Are they my friends or are they just trying to curry favour? Is Az always with me because he enjoys my company, or because he’s my guard? If he’s guarding me, is it out of altruism and goodwill or to preserve his family’s standing? Do you pass messages between Mikal and me because you are a trustworthy courier and my friend, or because you want money and a way to blackmail me?”

Han looks horrified. “I think you should renounce the throne and go back to living a normal person’s life.”

“I…I can’t.” I bury my face in my hands.

“You can’t or you won’t?”

“I can’t and I won’t.” I gather my courage to look up at him again. He’s got curiosity written all over his face. I’m relieved that it’s not judgement. “Who else is there, Han? My father has refused the crown and my uncle has retired to his estate. If I step down, there’s not only going to be great unrest in Bayangan, but whoever puts themselves forward will probably start another war with Terang and we’d be right back where we started. I won’t let that happen. I can’t.”


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That's it for today!

Head back to my theme reveal and master list.

Go check out the other A to Z Bloggers!


###

The Tale of the Hostage Prince (Absolution 1.5)

Yosua wears an uneasy crown. Although he is now Raja of Bayangan, he still longs for the land of his birth where everything was much simpler…and less deadly.

But peace doesn’t come easily, not for a twenty-year-old servant playacting at being king.

With his parents brutally murdered and his uncle bent on revenge, Yosua must decide where his loyalties truly lie. With his only remaining relative and the kingdom he has claimed? Or with his best friend Mikal and the sultanate that raised him as a hostage?


BUY NOW!

International purchases books2read.com/HostagePrince

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

#AtoZChallenge: V for Vibes

I’ve been pretty stumped about what to write for V, so I figured I’d go for the vibes.

Unfortunately, it seems I never made a musical mood board for The Tale of the Hostage Prince at any point in the writing process (there’s one for Amok), but I think maybe this one might fit.




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That's it for today!

Head back to my theme reveal and master list.

Go check out the other A to Z Bloggers!


###

The Tale of the Hostage Prince (Absolution 1.5)

Yosua wears an uneasy crown. Although he is now Raja of Bayangan, he still longs for the land of his birth where everything was much simpler…and less deadly.

But peace doesn’t come easily, not for a twenty-year-old servant playacting at being king.

With his parents brutally murdered and his uncle bent on revenge, Yosua must decide where his loyalties truly lie. With his only remaining relative and the kingdom he has claimed? Or with his best friend Mikal and the sultanate that raised him as a hostage?


BUY NOW!

International purchases books2read.com/HostagePrince