Wednesday, 21 June 2017

#bookreview: Storm in Shanghai | @M_to_the_Bush

Storm in Shanghai (Mage Father, #1)Storm in Shanghai by J.M. Bush
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

2015 finds former speedcaster champion Jaret King leading a joint mage & wizard law enforcement team in Shanghai. Sent to investigate the disappearance of a local wizard, a fairly innocuous-sounding missing persons case soon devolves into a hunt for the most deadly magical terrorist in history.

Storm in Shanghai is a story about a white American in China, written by a white American in China. Bush offers you snippets of life in China's biggest city, quick offerings of cultural exchanges, and descriptions of the locale, in the midst of a witch hunt (wizard hunt?) led by a white man with a team of locals. It's an interesting balance he's managed to walk, which should satisfy even the most politically correct of the cultural critics out there (I think. There were several jibes, but nothing I wouldn't say to a fellow Asian. lol).

The novel jumps between several main timelines: the terrorist attacks in 1990, the rise of wizardry in the early 11th century and present day events in 2015. This makes the beginning of the story feel long and rather clunky, making it a little difficult to get into immediately but it's worth it. By the time everything weaves together into one horrific disaster somewhere in the middle of the book, you can't help but feel invested in all that has happened so far and hope for a solution that's not painful or nasty, and certainly please, no more deaths. (Case in point: I read the first maybe 30% sporadically over the span of 5 days, picked it up again today thinking I'd read for short while before doing something else, and then find myself finishing the whole darned thing because... darn it, NO. WHY DID YOU DO IT JARET.)

There's no real explicit or graphic violence though violence (mainly magical) is mentioned and there are epic magical battles. There's also quite a bit of death, including a main character death, though they're not described in detail. Slight allusion to sex, nothing described, a bit of swearing, so this one's probably pretty safe for teens and up. (I.e. nothing that would shock a supposedly innocent 13-YO. I know 13YOs are not innocent. Just saying.)

Bush's writing style is pretty straight-forward and action-driven, so don't expect anything poetically fancy or pointlessly beautiful. His strength is in the plot, action and characterisations, even of the villain. There's a nice complexity to his creation of mage-wizard relations and tensions, making it believable.

Yeah, so all in all, I pretty much liked Storm in Shanghai

Given Bush's nomadic lifestyle, I'm expecting Mage Father #2 to be based in Penang (hinted as much at the end of the book) and Mage Father #3 (if there is one) to be based in Thailand (Bangkok, was it?)

View all my reviews

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Probably not gonna be able to see Michael Bush before he heads off to Thailand, so I guess this is a farewell gift of sorts?

Hurry up and write book 2, man.

Monday, 19 June 2017

#musicmonday: Question Mark | Neal Morse



Oblation, vows, the promise of faith
Atonement, the wine, oil and cakes
The sheep, the goats, acceptable in his eyes
The maimed, the blemished, the scurvy scabbed
The creeping things, the firstborn lamb
Avail his presence in the house of sacrifice

And then after all, with our backs against the wall
We seek the temple of the living God
And outside the gate the cripples sit and wait
To see the temple of the living God
To see the temple of the living God

Because I felt like listening to it would help me write Absolution.

LYRICS.


Monday, 12 June 2017

#musicmonday: Faith My Eyes | Caedmon's Call



So keep 'em coming, these lines on the road
And keep me responsible be it a light or heavy load
And keep me guessing with these blessings in disguise
And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes

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Still somewhat in nostalgia, since I haven't swapped out the old CD bag from the car yet. The current bag holds CDs from the college years, so mostly stuff pre-2007. A DECADE, PEOPLE, A DECADE.

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Sorry for the long-ish hiatus. Was distracted with stuff and forgot that I hadn't pre-scheduled anything on the blog.

I'm back, hopefully. But maybe not until July. We'll see.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

#bookreview: Arrivals by @scifrey

ArrivalsArrivals by J.M. Frey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Forsyth is gone, leaving the Shadow Hand's Mask behind for Bevel. The Viceroy has been defeated, leaving a sudden dearth of battles to fight. The Untold Tale is over, leaving behind Kintyre and Bevel to wander around until something new happens, until the Writer Writes something else. It's endings and tying up loose ends and all the mundane little things that need to be done, like returning items from the quest, resting, sleeping, eating, not getting kicked by the horse. Telling everyone that Forsyth is gone and Kintyre is retiring. The hero and his sidekick are going to attempt being domestic at Lysse without killing themselves and everyone around them (killing metaphorically, though overuse of eye-rolling and face-palming, that is) or going insane with boredom.

But it's mostly Bevel Dom finding his place in a world that has changed drastically. Who is he when he's not just a sidekick, not just the bard? (And how can he be a bard when he can't fully express everything he's overwhelmed with to Kin?) Who is he when he feels betrayed by his own nature? (As he says, why is the world so cruel as to make him love and want children he can never naturally have because he is a man in love with another man?) Who is he as Kin's Paired? (What to do with all these grabby noble women?) Who is he as the Lord's Consort? With all these new dynamics of domesticity, pairing, marriage, and the looming Shadow Hand, who is he really to Kin and how will this fragile relationship survive?

Arrivals begins with departures and ends with arrivals. It's an in-between kind of story, the anti-hero kind that tells you about what heroes do when they're not heroing. (They're busy having crises of identity and renegotiating relationships.)

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the author!

View all my reviews

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Slight disclaimery thing necessary?
I've reviewed Frey's other books here before (The Untold Tale and The Forgotten Tale). Arrivals take place right in between those two novels, focusing on what happens in Hain after Forsyth and Pip leave. What's not stated explicitly in those reviews is the homosexual relationship between Kintyre Turn and Bevel Dom which is pretty much background in those stories but is brought to the forefront here.

As stated in my review, it's mostly a first-person account of a man coming to terms with who he is in light of the people around him, and a very fragile new relationship he is afraid of breaking. The emotions are raw and the fears feel real--not just for a homosexual relationship (I wouldn't know first-hand how that feels) but for any relationship that is on shaky ground through lack of self-esteem & self-worth, unequal social standing, and societal disapproval.

I thought I'd just state that outright because it's a touchy issue for some readers and I *did* say that I wanted to keep this blog and my reviews as "family-friendly" (Christian-wise) as possible.

Monday, 29 May 2017

#musicmonday: Tea and Sympathy | Jars of Clay

Because it came up on the Jar of Gems CD.

And I've been thinking about tea.

So maybe you should submit something.

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So fare thee well
Words the bag of leaves that fill my head
I could taste the bitterness and call the waitress instead
She holds the answer, smiles and asks one teaspoon or two

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Saturday Setlist



The shout of the King is among us
God lives here in our praises

Our God is a lion
The Lion of Judah (praise)
He's roaring with power
And fighting our battles
Every knee will bow before Him

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith would be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want

And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Friday, 26 May 2017

#Fridayflash: Accelerando (Another #Dongeng excerpt)

The house is quiet. His son and daughter-in-law have gone out somewhere—he does not know where, does not ask. They are adults, after all, and he is merely a visitor—and the boy is most likely still asleep. He lingers at the dining table, still sipping at his cooling coffee when the front door opens and the boy walks in.

“Morning, ‘tuk,” the boy mumbles. He looks restless, antsy.

“Where did you go so early in the morning?”

The boy sighs and slides into a chair, leaning slumped over the table. “What if she doesn’t come back?”

Fear grips his heart. “Why wouldn’t she?” He’s not sure if she refers to the girl his grandson has been seeing or if it’s someone else—if it’s that someone trying to seduce him. The enemy of my enemy…

“I don’t trust him.”

“Him?” He cannot read the boy’s mind, but it’s clear that he’s jumping from thought to thought, sowing marbles in their houses, calculating with each click to see who will end up with the most seeds in his store. Who is he playing against and what’s at stake? “You should never trust Putera Aria.” He speaks from bitter experience. Not Putera now—Raja. He doesn’t correct his mistake.

“Who?” But the boy doesn’t wait for him to explain. “Garuda. Can I trust Garuda?” he asks, looking up with an expression that is all at once desperation and fear and worry and calculation.

He wonders what his grandson has become, even as he nods once. Garuda can be trusted. The kings of old—the kings of men of old—had trusted him. Garuda is honourable even in his pride and foolhardiness, is said to be honourable even to the point of death. If Garuda is on their side, at least he knows truth will be upheld. “Where is she?” he asks, although he already knows the answer.

“Alam Dongeng. This morning. I went to see her off.”

Pain and sorrow pierces his heart. He doesn’t speak of it, and the boy, caught up in his own misery, doesn’t ask.

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Several important things:
1. Coexist is now retailing at $0.99 permanently.
2. Dongeng is now up for pre-order at a special launch price of $0.99. Price goes up to $2.99 on June 6. So grab it quick!

Check out the landing page here! :)

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Super lovely cover commissioned from Charis Loke features Sara, Helmi, and Garuda. Check out her site if you want to commission her art.