Friday, 27 November 2015

#bookreview: The Migrant Report by @Moha_Doha

The Migrant Report (Crimes in Arabia #1)The Migrant Report by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Police Captain Ali has to give up his dreams of joining the Internal Security Force due to a physical defect. Initially stuck with ridiculous assignments such as arresting chefs for making penis-shaped cakes for a private function, he gets sucked into the investigation of mysterious deaths amongst foreign construction workers.

Maryam needs to write a report - something unique to life in the Arabian Gulf - so that Professor Paul will give her a passing grade. Failing would mean that she would get kicked out of university - and her mother would finally be able to marry her off. When her brother, Nasser, suggests that she write about migrant workers and their lives, she jumps at the idea. Finding one to interview for her report is no easy feat, however. As an unmarried female, she doesn't have the freedom to interview any of the male migrant workers - even if she could find one who was willing to talk to her.

Manu is excited to leave Nepal and join his sister Sanjana in the Middle East. But things quickly turn sour when his expected office job turns into menial labour on a construction site, his salary is slashed, and he has no way to contact Sanjana.

The Migrant Report is an honest peek into life in the Gulf - where profits are more important than the lives of cheap labour, and family honour is more important than truth or education. But the world is slowly changing and Ali, Maryam and Manu find themselves treading in dangerous waters. The three of them, with the help of their family and friends, need to figure out how to walk the dangerous balance between meeting society's expectations and cultural values whilst pressing to expose the corruption behind the scenes without ending up dead. Race, religion and skin colour all make up an important part of one's identity - both in the way one views oneself, and in the way one is treated by others in society - and Moha demonstrates this very well in The Migrant Report.

I enjoyed reading Moha's latest novel. It's an ambitious one - one that contrasts the differences between being an expatriate and an immigrant, though both are foreign workers in a foreign country. It highlights the privileges of being white and illustrates the restrictions of being a Muslim girl.

I think it is an important story that needed to be told.

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

View all my reviews


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 Migrant Report! 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 The Migrant Report tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: 

The penalty for stealing is losing your hand. No wonder Ali can leave his wallet overnight in his office. Crime hovers on the fringes of society, under the veneer of utopia. Police captain Ali's hopes of joining the elite government forces are dashed when his childhood deformity is discovered. His demotion brings him face to face with the corruption of labor agencies and also Maryam, an aspiring journalism student, who is unlike any local girl he has ever met. Ali and his unlikely sidekick must work together to find the reason so many laborers are dying. Against the glittery backdrop of the oil rich Arabian Gulf, Ali pursues a corrupt agency that will stop at nothing to keep their profits rising. As the body count rises, so does the pressure to settle the source. Can Ali settle the score before the agency strikes again?

Get The Migrant Report through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: 

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar’s award winning books have focused on various aspects of life in the Arabian Gulf nation of Qatar. From Dunes to Dior is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf and named as Indie Book of the Day in 2013. Love Comes Later is a literary romance set in Qatar and London and was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013, short listed for the New Talent award by the Festival of Romance, and Best Novel Finalist in eFestival of Words, 2013.

She currently lives with her family in Qatar, where she teaches writing and literature courses at American universities.

Connect with Mohanalakshmi on her website, Facebook,or Twitter.

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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

#review: Here in the Waiting

It has been a difficult week.

If you know me well enough, you know that I don't do well with dealing with people. Especially young people. What led me to volunteer at a youth arts camp for teens aged between 13 - 17 is one thing. I, at least, was somewhat prepared for it. The drama that teens create that do not relate to the Christmas drama (totally not related to camp) was another thing altogether. Add to that hormones. And overall levels of frustration. "Stress" is too mild a word. I had stabby feelings. Very, very stabby feelings.

One thing that has helped me keep my sanity was Josh's Here in the Waiting album. Like seriously.

The songs on this album aren't exactly new to me. I was there at PenHOP during the recording in May, so I've listened to and sung these songs over and over again. But listening to them again in my car was like a breath of fresh air; like a new wind.

HITW is an album of intimacy. Kau Yang Terelok, Surrender and One Glance are love songs to the Father, Hear Him Roar and The Return are declarations of power, Breath of Heaven invites us to invite God to work in us. And Here in the Waiting itself is the heart-cry of a generation desperate to see the Father move.

On Josh's website, he says (emphasis mine):
Maturity is the ability to live in the tension of unresolved questions. It is the ability to navigate the space between the already’s and not-yet’s of life while being fully present in the now. As believers, we are caught in the pull of the kingdom now and yet-to-come, the “fulfillment without consummation”. We see God’s power manifested through healing and miracles, yet see bodies ravaged by disease and lives truncated by death. We see justice movements being raised and released on the earth, yet are confronted daily with the injustices of living in a fallen world. As beings created with eternity in our hearts, it is difficult, even discouraging, to confront the stark disparity between what is and what should be. 
And this is the space I've been inhabiting lately. A place where I see the things that should be and yet stand in the place where it is not. I see the so much more that we could be, but I do not know how to get there. And I do not know if we will. And yet we hope. We wait. We long. 

In his interview on Selah, Josh says this:
After the final note of the last track has faded and what’s left in the heart of the listener is an aching and longing for Jesus and a desire to love Him more, then it would have all been worth it.
It has then been worth it.


So in lieu of a #musicmonday post and a book review post that's being rescheduled to Friday, here's a song and an invitation. :)


// 26 November - Penang (FGA Centre)
RSVP here today:

// 27 November - Kuala Lumpur (DUMC)
RSVP here today:

// 29 November - Singapore (Faith Methodist Church)
RSVP here today:

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

#bookreview: Juma's Rain by Katharina Gerlach

Jumatoa Botango is the only female left in her family and she is intent on claiming the role her late mother gave up when she followed her husband out to the Endless Wells: Chieftess of the tribe. But claiming the role as the chieftess' apprentice is a near impossible task. Her cousin Kandra, daughter of the current Chieftess, is her direct competitor. The tribe is facing the worst drought in history, and no matter what they do, the witch has been unable to wake Vanamate, Mother of the Tribes and Keeper of the Water, from her slumber. Netinu, Kandra's brother, is insistent on trying to court her - mostly to annoy his mother and sister - adding an additional layer of distraction to her complicated life. Worst of all, Juma keeps seeing a red-haired man no one else sees - one she gradually realises is the heat daemon, Mubuntu.

In Juma's Rain, German author Katharina Gerlach weaves an enchanting tale set in Africa. It isn't an African folk tale though - it's a retelling of The Rain Maiden by Theodor Storm, a German writer from the 1800's. In her retelling, Gerlach constructs a very believable matriarchal society and belief system, giving you enough details to make it seem authentic, and yet not enough to fix it to any one tribe or location. The gods referenced (The Nameless, Vanamate, Monnatoba, Mubuntu) do not seem to come from any popular African mythology that I can find online; either Gerlach created them, or they are quite obscure (not that I looked very hard, other than random Wikipedia searches). While I was reading though, it felt authentic, charming and romantic and I was excited to learn something about African myths and beliefs, which says something about Gerlach's growing prowess as a story teller.

It feels odd to say this, but I am proud - and glad - to witness Gerlach's growth over the years. The first time I met her online was through the Writers Platform Building Campaign back in 2011, where she spurred quite a few participants and compiled our flash fiction into an anthology, Campaigner Challenges 2011, for charity.

Since then, I have been on her mailing list and have been invited to review a few of her books. One of the earliest was Urchin King, a retelling of The Prince and the Pauper, which hinted at her prowess, but was not quite there yet. The next was The Adventure of Creation, an anthology in which Katharina's short story appears. This was followed by another short story, The Day Music Died, in 2014 and The King's Mechanic early this year.

What makes this doubly impressive is the fact that not only does she write increasingly well in English, she also writes in German. Or rather, she writes in German (which I am not qualified to comment on) and then translates them into English.

Katharina Gerlach is definitely a writer to watch.

*Note: I received a copy of Juma's Rain from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

#guestpost: @michelle4laughs talks about diversity in Grudging

Diversity is a hot button issue. People feel very emotional about it. And rightly so. But that makes it a difficult subject to talk about. And also difficult for writers with their books. Leave out diverse characters in your book and you can be called out on it. Include diverse characters and you can be called out in the opposite way for not being sensitive or genuine enough--for getting it wrong.

As a white writer do we avoid diversity or do we go for it? Either way seems full of the possibility of upsetting someone, no matter our good intentions. Unlike in stories, I don't like conflict in my real life. I just want to write and craft an entertaining story. But I also want to show that our world is full of wonderfully different people. That's why when I decided on a desert setting for my newest book, I knew the characters living there would need to have darker skin than the traditional western European hero in order to be accurate. That's basic evolution. I based my protagonists on Spanish and Moorish cultures. The aggressive antagonists in Grudging have lighter hair and eyes being from the North or colder climate.

The thing to remember is that I write fantasy, and not modern urban fantasy, but fantasy set in an imaginary place--like Lord of the Rings but without orcs and elves and such. These human cultures are fiction, invented by me. They don't have the same racial history of the real world. They didn't struggle with slavery or the same prejudices. Their reactions are going to be different from real world people. What I hope is that they will have human reactions.

I work in an elementary school, helping special needs children. This year I'm in my favorite place--a kindergarten class. I love it because they accept each other unconditionally. There are twenty children from all sorts of backgrounds. We have kids whose parents came from the Middle East. Kids whose parents were born in Africa. There is every color of the wonderful world in this class and every religion, and I adore them all. My days are full of funny and touching moments. Five-year-olds love to hug and share about their lives. And do you know what I noticed? They may be only five, but they all have strikingly different and unique personalities. Not one of them acts exactly the same as another. Not one of them can be classified by how they look.

When I craft a character I hope that's what comes through. That each character is a different and unique individual with their own way of reacting. But whether protagonist or antagonist they all feel human. Perhaps that's the way I feel diversity should work: that it shows how people are the same and how we are different, but that we are all human. And that's how we should be judged--on our humanity.


A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.
On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.
The Women of the Song.
But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.
A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.
Find Grudging: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | HarperCollins | Goodreads


Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. She is a co-host of the yearly query contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, New Agent, PitchSlam, and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints trilogy from Harper Voyager starts with GRUDGING on November 17, 2015. Her epic fantasy, KINDAR’S CURE, was published by Divertir Publishing.

Goodreads: Grudging
Goodreads: Kindar’s Cure

Monday, 16 November 2015

#musicmonday: Steady Heart | Steffany Gretzinger

Steady heart that keeps on going
Steady love that keeps on holding
Lead me on
Steady grace that keeps forgiving
Steady faith that keeps believing
Lead me on

Friday, 13 November 2015

A #nanowrimo excerpt: Of Elephants and Potatoes

And here it is, an excerpt from the story I started for Nanowrimo, which is probably going to die an ignominious death very soon. Enjoy, or rather, just stab me to death right now.


The thing with being In a State was that it often tired Cherise out so that she didn’t have any bad dreams. This time though, because she had fallen asleep after less than half an hour of crying, her subconscious was still overly active, resulting in the strangest dream about elephants that she had ever had. Not that she had ever dreamt of elephants before.
She had opened her eyes to see a large, matronly elephant bending over her, nuzzling her neck with its trunk. She had blinked and rubbed her eyes, but the elephant still loomed over her. She could feel the gentle touch of the elephant’s trunk on her neck, unexpectedly feather light, like a warm caress.
“Why do you cry, little one?” the elephant asked.
Cherise’s eyes widened.
“You… you speak. I’m… I’m dreaming, aren’t I?” Cherise pinched herself.
The elephant’s eyes narrowed. “Hmm. Yes, yes you are.”
Cherise nodded. “That’s right.”
“So why don’t you tell me why you’re crying, little one? After all, this is only a dream, so you can say whatever you want.”
“I - I…” Cherise couldn’t figure out what to say. Frankly, she felt a little silly for talking to an elephant, even if it were only an imaginary one.
“You remind me of that cartoon,” she said instead. “The one with the flying elephant.”
“Maybe I am.”
“I haven’t seen that cartoon for ages. I don’t really remember what it was about except that little Dumbo was crying because he had been separated from his mother.”
“So why are you crying? Have you been separated from your mother?”
“I - well, it seems so silly.”
“Nothing can be sillier than you dreaming of talking to a cartoon elephant, so why don’t you try me?” the elephant said. Cherise found herself agreeing.
“Well, you see, Nate got married.”
The elephant waited for her to continue. After a while, it prodded, “and you’re heart-broken because you like him?”
“No, not exactly. I never liked Nate in that way. I mean, he was nice. We’ve been friends for a long time, but I never had romantic feelings for him.” She paused, sitting up. The elephant settled into what passed for a sitting position beside her and they sat companionably in silence. Cherise found herself leaning on it.
“Do you have a name?” she finally asked.
“Hmm. You can call me Iris,” the elephant replied.
“Iris. Like the flower?”
“No. Iris, like your eye.”
Cherise thought about that. “Because you are all-seeing? Or something?”
“Or something.” Iris’ trunk settled about Cherise’s shoulders like a warm hug. “Why don’t you continue telling me your story?”
“Oh. I thought I’d finished. Well, Nate got married. And everyone was so happy and so pretty. And then I felt like a useless fifth wheel which no one noticed or wanted.”
“Fifth wheel?” Iris queried.
“You know, like that spare tire thing that’s in the car that you never remember you have until your get a flat tire?”
“I’m not very familiar with the concept of cars, but I think I get what you mean.”
“Yea, I mean everything is always done in pairs - or in this case, with four wheels on a car - and you never ever need that last person, unless something goes wrong. And I’m always this person - this - useless person until something goes wrong and they say, oh but maybe Cherise knows what to do. And then most times I don’t, but I try. And sometimes I do but it’s all so - ugh.”
“Doesn’t that make you a useful person, though? Because they need you?”
Cherise shook her head. “You don’t understand, Iris. I don’t want to be needed anymore. I want to be wanted.”
Iris flapped her ears thoughtfully.
“And maybe what I really want is a family of my own. Despite the fact that kids are such bothersome things. But… but maybe they won’t be that bad,” Cherise continued in a rush.
“But that sounds like you want to be needed. Children are needy little people after all.”
“I - I…” a small tear leaked out of Cherise’s eye. “I don’t know what I want. I just know that I don’t want to be where I am anymore. The white elephant. The elephant in the room.” She paused. “No offense.”
Iris engulfed her in a warm elephant hug. “Don’t worry little one. Things will get better soon.” Cherise wriggled a little, but Iris’ hug was strong and comforting, and once she was settled in a comfortable position, she closed her eyes and listened to Iris sing a little Elephant Lullaby.

Hush, little one, close your eyes
Iris is here to still your cries
The world so harsh will fade away
As Iris sings her little lay.  


And my terrible word count so you can laugh at me.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

#Tea review series: Traditional teas from @roleaftea

And I'm back with my final instalment of the tea review!

The first one I started with was Rooibos the Robust, which hails from South Africa. 

Anna's review: I've had Rooibos before and find that there are varying strengths to this. I once had a whole pack of rather light sachets that I finished off quickly in college, and I've also had some really thick rooibos from when a friend visited South Africa, so I was thinking "Robust" must be really thick. Surprisingly not.
As the product description says: "Strength: Light." Not sure why it's called Robust then. 

How I would describe it to my mum: Hey, it says it's caffeine-free so you can drink it any time. Though I think you probably won't want to try because it still has a very 'tea' taste. 


The next on the list is a rather common tea: Jasmine. The name on the pack they sent me says "Just Jasmine", but I can't find that specific name on the website. they've probably rebranded to either Dragon Pearl Jasmine or maybe Jasmine Luxury. Which ever it is, it's a very nice Jasmine tea. 

Anna's review: Very often you don't get Jasmine tea any more. You get Jasmine green tea which is very much green tea and not enough Jasmine. This... is very flowery Jasmine. Be careful of over-steeping though.

How I would describe it to my mum: Uh, it's Jasmine. Like what you get in pots in restaurants.


The last tea is Imperial Long Jing. I was trying to figure out what tea this was from the name because neither my mum nor I had ever heard of it before. The production description, "variety of pan-roasted green tea from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China," didn't help very much, so I just drank it.

Anna's review & how I would describe it to my mum: We drank this together because we couldn't figure out what tea it was. Our conclusion was that this tasted like fancy Chinese tea from fancy expensive Chinese restaurants. It's pretty light, with a bit of a dry after taste and we still don't know what we would call it here.


Again, super-duper thanks and much love to RoLeaf for these tea samples! Check them out at their websitefacebooktwitter and instagram.