Friday, 30 December 2016

#fridayflash: gates

We were talking over the gate; a strange sort of place to have a conversation, if you ask me. But there I was, leaning over it--it was closed. Locked, like the door of my heart, you could say--and he was ruffling his hair, shuffling his feet, and well, talking, while his car was still running--though idling might be the better word. Which was interesting, to say the least, because we'd been in places together before, with no hurry, and my mouth would be running and his would be shut.

"But yeah, it's important," he stressed, though I couldn't see why it was so important for me to open the gate and head off to nowhere with him. Well, not exactly nowhere. There was a job that needed doing, but he needed an extra pair of eyes and hands. Normally, I'd be off in a sec, jumping into his car to head off wherever, but I'd already showered and was in a comfy pair of PJs. You know, the type with the cute little cartoons you wouldn't be caught dead being seen in. Which made me wonder why I'd gone out to see him in them. Probably too startled by that blast of his horn.

No, he didn't say where. He was talking but he wasn't saying much, if you get what I mean. I figured someone must've wanted something badly but he was worried about it. You know, if he'd just called before showing up at my gate, I might've been a little more inclined--or prepared--to go with him. I might even have had something called a key with me. Just saying.

"Find someone else," I said with an unapologetic shrug. I wasn't the only magic user in town and he knew it. I figured he just wanted someone to do the job for free. Because, you know, we were friends. Kind of. He looked a little upset and I almost changed my mind. But the gate was locked, so whatever.

Yeah, I could have magicked my clothes but I can't magic iron, so I'd say that that gate saved my life. How would I know that I'd be the last person to see him alive? I use magic, but I'm not clairvoyant. But well, what's done's done, eh? I'll miss him, maybe.

Friday, 23 December 2016

#bookreview: Flood and Fire | Deirdra Eden

Flood and Fire (The Watchers #3)Flood and Fire by Deirdra Eden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Watchers series starts off with a spunky 13-year-old Auriella in Knight of Light, a struggling 19-year-old Auriella in Hidden Fire and now an immortal (I guess 60+ but she's immortal so who cares) Auriella in Flood and Fire.

If I were to summarise this third book in one sentence, it would be this: Auriella does a Bella.

Okay, fine. My review may have a 90% chance of being affected by Christmas grinchiness (sorry, reviewers are emotional too). As you can read from the book description, Auriella wakes up and finds that in her long absence, her One True Love, Azrael is missing. But not quite missing-missing, if you get what I mean. He has joined the ranks of Disappointed Literary Lovers who do Stupid Things (TM?), such as Romeo and Edward and, yes, Bella. (Sorry, Stephanie Meyer, I do not mean to diss your characters so much.)

And so, Auriella, in turn, attempts to Do Stupid Things, but because she's quite untrained in her powers and lacks this thing called Control, she doesn't exactly get to Do The Stupid Things she had in mind.

To be fair, this book is very enlightening in a way. It tells you very often the things that hold a person back:
1) Fear (of yourself and of others)
2) Being unable to control your emotions (especially anger), which in Auriella's case, often results in spontaneous combustion
3) Being overly single-minded in chasing after a goal (whether it's a loved one or it's revenge. As demonstrated in the book, this almost always ends in disaster when you neglect other important things. Like using your brain and not being distracted.

Still, since I am a fan of swashbuckling tales, I cannot deny that I enjoyed much of the setting of this book, even though Auriella could be singularly annoying, and Alamar was not as, uhm, *romantic* as he could have been. He felt a little like a caricature of a dashing Italian lover, but something lacked. I'm not sure what. Maybe it was his bullheadedness. Or the way conversations between Auriella and Alamar always devolved into something akin to a Christian vs Atheist debate (in form, not in content). Also, why does everyone's name seem to start with A?

Plotwise, there were a few nifty tricks and twists, some which I saw coming, some which I did not. At any rate, Flood and Fire ends at a good place, even if most of this book felt like a filler to make sure that Auriella gets the training she needs (though not the training she wants, ahahahaha). I'm guessing book 4 should get back to the main meat of the matter.

I received a free copy of this book from Eden Publishing in return for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Read my review of Book 1: Knight of Light
Read my review of Book 2: Hidden Fire 

Buy on Amazon: Knight of Light | Hidden Fire | Flood and Fire
Buy on Smashwords: Knight of Light | Hidden Fire | Flood and Fire

Monday, 19 December 2016

Enough is enough.

The most I can say is that I am tired and drained.
I'll try to keep up the last few book posts, but everything else will be on hiatus.

---

At any rate, I 'm crazy enough to think writing a 40K novella for Tor submissions next month is possibly worth it.
Make that in 3 weeks.
I did nano, didn't I? (but that didn't need to be good enough to be submitted, eek.)

---

Also, short story needs to come out soon; it's written, just needs editing. And a cover. But, TIME.

---

I can't wait for Christmas to be over.

---

Also, hello nanohoppers. I'll continue following you guys when I recover from being a buried potato.

#grinchy. #verygrinchy. #seasonschmeason.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

#christmashuntpcc is making me #grinchy


No review today because I'm swamped and behind.

Now I shall go back and hide in my cave.

BAI.

---

Also currently listening to the new NoiseTrade mix tape and not exactly sure if I like it so far.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Launching tomorrow: Flood and Fire


Flood and Fire (Book #3 of The Watchers Series) by Deirdra Eden

Release Day Special: Buy 1 book get 3 FREE (Details below)

About the Book
Auriella joins the ranks of the Immortals, but Azrael has vanished in the depths of war. She is forced to choose between love or loyalty when the druids charge her with finding Alamar, an unruly Watcher who can control the seas. Though witty and charming, Alamar and his blood thirsty friends can’t be trusted. Now, it’s a race against time to find Azrael before he is killed, and Alamar before he is recruited by the Shadow Legion.


The Watchers Series has been described as Braveheart meets Supernatural. The mythology for the series is based on many theological texts from dozens of sects with correlating themes. Ancient writings include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Traditional Apocrypha, the Pearl of Great Price and the Kabbalah. The Watchers are supernatural beings in human form whose duty it is to protect and guard mankind from the armies of darkness. Unfortunately, as the Book of Enoch mentions, some of these Watchers go bad.

Deirdra Eden's, The Watcher's Series, is written in a traditional fairytale style with a young girl's discovery of incredible, but dangerous powers within herself, a cast of humorous side-kicks, a quest for greater self-discovery and purpose, and villains of epic proportions.

Read my review of Book 1: Knight of Light and Book 2: Hidden Fire

About The Author

Deirdra Eden has spent the last decade captivating audiences of all ages with her Amazon Bestselling novels and fairy tales. Her specialty is paranormal theology that delves into documented historical phenomenon and natural disasters of biblical proportions that entices indulgence of a fine line between fact and fantasy. Deirdra enjoys jousting in arenas, sword fighting and archery, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures with her family.

Connect with Deirdra and The Watchers
Pinterest    Twitter    Facebook   Reddit   Goodreads   Booklikes

  Release Day Special: Buy 1 book get 3 FREE!

Buy Flood and Fire on Amazon on December 14, 2016 and get 3 FREE ebooks! Just email a copy of your order to edenliterary@gmail.com and they'll send you 3 free ebooks.

Monday, 12 December 2016

#musicmonday: #Christmas songs!

The Christmas playlist I wish for (started sometime early this year, forgotten about and shifted to next year):



vs the Christmas playlist I apparently deserve:



I am grinchy.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#bookreview: Unsound | Toby Neal

Unsound (Lei Crime #5.5)Unsound by Toby Neal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read one Toby Neal before, so when this came up as available for review on Edelweiss, I didn’t hesitate to take it up.

Unsound is a companion story to the Lei Teixera detective series, following the life of the police psychologist, Dr Caprice Wilson - which actually confused me a little at first until I realised it wasn’t part of the main series. I’d been expecting something more towards a straight detective story, but nope - this is a little more of a psychological thriller instead.

When a drinking episode goes too far and Captain Ohale threatens to fire her unless she goes to rehab, Caprice meekly agrees and heads off to Maui - to hike the Haleakala Crater alone while she battles to get sober. However, she soon discovers she’s not really alone - her stalker has come along with plans of his own.

The story was interesting enough. Neal moves you from action to action and emotion to emotion, without faltering. There’s Caprice’s crazy drunken antics to laugh at, the mystery of the strange objects that raise your hackles, the danger and fear out on Haleakala Crater, and, as always, the beauty of Hawaii to enchant you. However, it quite often also felt like a long, slow journey through an alcoholic’s mind, one who’s trying to use psychological tricks to both break her addiction and justify it. I guess that's okay if you like that sort of thing?

View all my reviews

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The 2016 #nanowrimo reflection post or how I wrote 33K in 4 days


Writing is often a constant battle between getting the words out and getting the words right. For the month of November and NaNoWriMo, the goal is getting the words out—whether it’s right or not. Not everyone can work that way, and that’s fine, but it’s often a handy tool for me to jumpstart new projects instead of procrastinating and waiting for inspiration to strike.

I had been a bit ambivalent about doing NaNoWriMo this year, mainly because I would be away for half the month, but I’d been encouraging a lot of people—mostly from our baby writing group—to do so and I thought I should set a good example by at least attempting it. After all, winning or losing wasn’t my main goal; my main goal was to continue to build this writing community.

I talked to our weekly write-in group as well as the NPO I work with, LUMA, and we set up the LUMA Drop-In Writing Space to host writers from 10am-10pm daily for the last 6 days of November. The dates also coincided with the annual George Town Literary Fest & In-between Arts Festival, which was focusing on food and zines, so we made a public event on Facebook and announced it in all the writers' groups we knew of online.

And then November started, and I went on my holiday, working sporadically on the new novel and totally pantsing all the way. Which was how I found myself at the start of our write-ins on 25th November with only 17K words. On one hand, I did wonder if I could actually reach 50K in such a short time, but on the other hand, I wasn’t very bothered because I knew that I had a lot of time before me and all I had to do was sit down and write, besides opening and closing the door for people (ah, the privilege of not working a 9-to-5). And so I broke a personal record and wrote an average of 8,000 words a day over the next 4 days, finishing 2 days earlier than I expected.

Now, obviously, I want to replicate this since I’m making writing my full-time job. If I know what’s been working these 4 days, that would help me to work better, right? I tracked all my writing this month (wordcounts & times) in Wordly and here’s my analysis of the data:




  • I rarely wrote anything more than 1K before lunch (noon/1pm). I open the place at 10am, but by the time I’m finished pottering around, making tea, going up and down the stairs, turning on the laptop, checking my phone, it’s usually almost 11am before I even sit down and start writing. This isn’t anything new. Even in my previous day jobs, when I had to be in the office by 8.30 – 9am, I always felt super unproductive before 10am, especially before making tea.
  • Tea is important, as noted above.
  • I averaged about 5.5 hours of writing time per day, despite being at the centre for 12 hours a day. If you subtract approximately 2 hours for lunch and dinner, I only “worked” about 55% of the time. It seems unproductive, but I’m not very good at focusing for extended lengths of time. It also works out (as averaged by Wordly) to about 1,541 words per hour. I’m not entirely sure if that’s good or bad, but at least it’s measurable.
  • Not having Internet access probably helped a lot, because there’s only so long you can stare at your phone before you feel that you’re wasting time.
  • Setting small goals helps, especially when I don’t feel like writing, or am unsure where the story is going. During those times, I do a sprint of maybe 15 minutes. At the end of that 15 minutes, I’ve either written a good bunch of words and am excited to continue, or I’ve figured out a new direction and need to sit back and think about it.
  • Knowing where the story is going helps me to write faster. Some of the “unproductive” time was spent thinking about the story’s direction and possible plot points, which then translated into higher word counts during the next writing session. (Some of the unproductive time was also spent staring into space, which is another matter altogether ;) )
  • The best writing sessions were usually between 20 – 30 minutes.
  • The best writing session goal was usually to hit 1K words per session, which usually averaged out to 30 minutes.
  • I was hampered at times because I’d previously researched some local fairy creatures/folk tales, but I’d only saved the stub or link, instead of saving the whole document for reference. Having all research on hand (that is not online, where I’ll get distracted) is probably pretty important.
  • Having the right mindset really helps. During these 4 days, all I thought about was “I need to finish writing this story before I can do anything else”. This is very different from when I’m writing at home and thinking about ‘oh- I haven’t finished my book review’ or ‘I need to do this other project first’ or even ‘maybe I need to read/research this’ (and the usual culprit - ‘I’m hungry/bored/sleepy, I need to find something to eat’). So – I do really need to get into this ‘cave’ mindset when writing to make sure that I stop procrastinating! (Also already noted by the way I can be superbly productive finishing a short story for submission… the WEEK before the deadline!)


In summary, here are the things I need to be working on to make sure I’m really writing and not just being a bum:

  1. Set writing goals & deadlines and STICK TO THEM
  2. Work on only one project at a set time.
  3. Research BEFORE writing where possible (ahahahah) and SAVE/archive my research
  4. FOCUS!

All of which I already knew before, but now there’s DATA. Hard, measurable data.

But other than that, the writing space has also been a win community-wise. There were some down/slow times, especially in the beginning where I feared I’d be sitting there writing alone (which turned out okay because I was productive), but there’s also been a steady group of regulars, as well as a few newcomers added to our writing community. The group’s excited to take it further, so we might see more people coming for write-ins in future. And maybe more collaborations/discussions/critiques happening spontaneously.



… the only thing I am actually uber sad about is that I didn’t attend anything in GTLF at all. I’d been eyeing maybe 2 – 3 sessions, but I needed to sit in LUMA to keep the space open. Maybe next time we’ll try not to overlap with the fest. I had been hoping for some drop-ins from fest attendees, but that didn’t actually happen.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Revealing... Ever in the After: 13 FantasyTales! #coverreveal

cover-reveal
Hi everyone!

Today, I'm so excited to share the wonderful cover for Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales. This anthology of fantasy/SFF short stories has been put together in aid of Lift 4 Autism, and releases April 1st, 2017. 100% of the proceeds will go to Lift 4 Autism. So, let's take a look at the gorgeous cover!

  ever-in-the-after_cover_amazon

Isn't it beautiful? The cover was designed and created by Stephanie Keyes, and it fits the stories in the anthology perfectly.

About the anthology...

ever-in-the-after_cover_3dIn Ever in the After, 13 authors come together to explore fantastical realms full of supernatural creatures, dark intrigue, and spells that may-or may not-be curses. This anthology features work by:
  • Melle Amade
  • Miracle Austin
  • J. A. Culican
  • Madeline Dyer
  • Jessica Hawke
  • Alaina Hebert
  • Elizabetta Holcomb
  • Stephanie Keyes
  • Christopher D. Morgan
  • Mandy Peterson
  • Alice Rachel
  • Cadence Rae
  • Jaqueline E. Smith
A must-have fantasy collection full of surprises, secrets, and strong teenagers who know what they need to do to succeed in these mystical realities.

Add Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales on Goodreads now!
Buy your copy of Ever in the After: 13 Fantasy Tales on April 1st, 2017!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

#bookreview: Jakkatu Vector | P.K. Tyler

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Welcome to another Novel Publicity tour! We're so excited for the release of The Jakkattu Vector by P.K. Tyler that we wanted to celebrate with a great giveaway featuring a Kindle Fire, one of a kind Jakkattu Vector bookmark and a special book bundle from the author herself!


My Review 

The Jakkattu Vector (Jakkattu #1)The Jakkattu Vector by P.K. Tyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sabaal is a captive Jakkattu imprisoned on Earth by the Mezna priests who experiment on her. Javan 6ix is a tek - half Miscegenate, half machine - beginning to question his life in the city. Norwood Thorne is too smart for a human, too inquisitive for a man, leading his sister Julip down the path of questioning the Temple, the Mezna and all the history they've learnt on the Rez.

Sabaal's escape is the part of the catalyst that throws them all together, leading them to question whether everything the Mezna has been telling them is true. Because beyond their fences, the Feral - the Undone as they name themselves - have information that will turn their understanding of the world upside down.

The Jakkattu Vector is action-packed, with Tyler propelling you from one scene to another, giving you glimpses of the truth, glimmers of the lies these human-Mezna hybrids have grown up with, expecting you to piece them all together before the horrifying reveal. In between, she engages your emotions with the innocence of the young Thornes as they grow up, navigating the thin line between independence and insolence in their quest for truth. And then she feeds you heartbreak on a platter.

The Jakkattu Vector is gritty and grim yet inexplicably hopeful as each of strand of humanity - human, Miscegenate, Undone - come to terms with who they are and what the Mezna has done to them.

Note: I received an ARC from Novel Publicity in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour.

View all my reviews


About the Book

tjv-ebook-coverThey came as saviors to a deteriorating Earth

Julip Thorne questions whether there is more to life beyond the barren dirt, acidic seas, and toxstorms her people work and die in. Living in poverty on the withering Greenland Human Reservation, she wonders if the alien Mezna goddesses are truly as holy as the temple preaches. Julip begins to dig deeper into the history of the planet and her leaders’ rise to power. But nothing can prepare her for the atrocities she uncovers.

Meanwhile, Jakkattu prisoner Sabaal suffers constant torture and heinous medical experiments as her Mezna-priest captors seek to unlock the key to her genetic makeup. Escaping from captivity, she finds herself suddenly alone on the hostile alien planet of Earth. To survive, she’s forced to work with the same Mezna-human hybrids she’s loathed her entire life, but the more they work together, the more they realize that their enemy is the same.

When humans and Mezna collide, will Sabaal turn out to be the genetic vector the Mezna have been searching for all along, or will she spark the flame that sets a revolution ablaze?


About the Author

pavartiktylerP.K. Tyler is the author of Speculative Fiction and other Genre Bending novels. She’s also published works as Pavarti K. Tyler and had projects appear on the USA TODAY Bestseller’s List.

“Tyler is essentially the indie scene’s Margaret Atwood; she incorporates sci-fi elements into her novels, which deal with topics such as spirituality, gender, sexuality and power dynamics.” – IndieReader

Pav attended Smith College and graduated with a degree in Theatre. She lived in New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off-Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms. Now located in Baltimore Maryland, she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not penning science fiction books and other speculative fiction novels, she twists her mind by writing horror and erotica.

You can follow PK Tyler on Facebook, Twitter, and sign up for her newsletter, or visit her website here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

#bookreview: A Thousand Perfect Things | Kay Kenyon

A Thousand Perfect ThingsA Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From this holy place he decided that should a thousand perfect things ever be found, the world would end. Therefore to preserve the world, Rama declared that every manifested though should have a flaw.


Astoria Harding has a tragic flaw. Her club foot has prevented her from participating in the many feminine pursuits of the day - dancing, socialising, finding a husband - so her grandfather, the renowned botanist Sir Charles Littlewood, has trained her in scientific methods and inquiry, nurturing in her an unnatural desire to follow in his footsteps. Tori's passions have been inflamed by the Nelumbo aureus, the holy thousand-petaled golden lotus from Bharata, seeing its discovery and documentation as her way into the men-only Royal Society. Her father's posting to Bharata and her chance to visit the famed Gangadhar Mahal seems fortuitous but soon proves to be a nest of intrigue and manipulation by the Anglics and the Bharatis, both alive... and dead.

Set in an alternate 19th century filled with magic, the social mores of the time seems evident throughout the book: white Anglica is the scientific, progressive continent; brown Bharata is the uncivilised, barbaric spiritual continent, ripe for Anglic exploitation and pity. It's also a time of uprising and rebellion, with the Bharatis fighting for their independence and the Anglics (some of them at least) coming to realise that Bharata is not theirs to conquer and keep. It seems that opinions and attitudes are changing for the better. I would like to think it was a well-written, nuanced view of colonialism and the interplay between England and India (with magic added in), but in some ways, there is still a tinge of White Saviourism to it: the Rana is weak, tempted by Anglic science whilst the Ranee lives in an opium dream; Sahaj is petulant; Jai needs Tori to lead him; the only person who knows the way to the Golden Lotus (a symbol for hope? liberation? holiness?), albeit guided by a Bharati spirit, is Tori. Tori herself becomes a legend - for what else is there for a white woman in a brown land?
The only Bharati with independent agency seems to be Mahindra, the sadhu.

Yet despite all this, which you don't actually think about until you start to analyse the book, A Thousand Perfect Things was a very satisfying read. Like the Golden Lotus, it blooms in hidden places, catching you unawares with its beauty. It's a journey through hidden walkways and dark caves to promises of light and liberation.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


View all my reviews

Friday, 18 November 2016

#fridayflash: a #nanowrimo excerpt

“I don’t believe I have ever been to this part of the Fairy Kingdom before,” Mary Hays said, looking around at the strange trees. It felt hot and muggy, unlike the cool breeze they’d been having earlier.
Ataneq also peered around. “It feels different.” He started to run further down the path.
“Slow down, Neq, I’m not as young as I used to be!” Truth was, Mary was feeling every bit of her 70 years as the heat folded around her. She took off her shawl and used it to wipe her sweat. “Oh my! Why is it so hot here?”
Ataneq stopped and waited. “I do believe that we’ve been joined by a new fairy kingdom,” he said as he waited for her to catch up. “Isn’t that exciting?”
“It is. But how does it happen?” Mary had been in and out of the Old Fairy Kingdom ever since she was 8 years old when that old meddling crone, Baba Yaga, had lured her sister in. Her grandmother, the Fairy Queen, had been dead against their presence in the Kingdom, harbouring her anger and hatred against her supposedly human father, only to find that Darrick Hays was half elf and half human. They’d been given grudging permission since then to enter the Kingdom. Whilst their friends had been allowed in as children due to the Dragon’s decree, only Jane and Mary had been allowed the privilege of continued access until now because of their blood ties.
“I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled into this one either.”

They walked down the overgrown path, Ataneq slowing his pace to match Mary’s. He looked at her with worry sometimes. She’d been a bright, young girl when he’d first met her, and now she was old and grey while he hadn’t changed a bit. The ravages of time. He hated it. He was glad now that he hadn’t made an effort to find his way back home when Baba Yaga had offered to turn him back to a human. Too many years had passed - his wife and sons would have died by then so there was nothing for him to return home to. This was now his home, for better or worse.
“Does it look to you like there’s some sort of plague here?” Mary asked, dislodging him from his melancholic thoughts.
“Is there?” He peered closely at the tree he was standing next too. “Well, it looks like a tree. It’s a little… pale? But maybe that’s just what trees in this place look like. You know, maybe they’re a light-bark type of tree.”
“But I don’t think they’re supposed to be slightly transparent, do you? Do you think we should as Euthalia for her opinion?”
“I don’t see why not.” On second thoughts, Mary was right. The tree didn’t just look pale. It looked a little translucent. Another thought struck him. “I suppose these trees can talk to the dryads?”
“How would I know? Can’t all trees talk to dryads?”
“Well, how were you planning on calling Euthalia then?”
“Oh. I hadn’t thought that far. I just assumed that we could call her and she’d appear as she always did.”
“We can try.”
Mary and Ataneq took turns calling for the dryad by name. When she didn’t appear after a few minutes, Ataneq shrugged and said, “I suppose that answers it. These trees probably don’t talk to the dryads. Or, not yet anyway, if they really are from a new realm.”
Mary looked around. “So, should we go on or do we go back?”
“Oh, onwards, of course!” Ataneq grinned. “It has been a long time since we had a new adventure!”
“Everyday is an adventure with you, adlet,” she teased in reply. “I never know when you’ll turn round and try to eat me!”
Ataneq laughed. “You know I’ll never eat you. I don’t like the taste of stringy old women!”

---

Here's a little excerpt of what I've been working on for NaNoWriMo!
I'm awfully far behind, so any form of moral support is welcome. :D

Here is my extremely pathetic wordcount graph

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

#bookreview: The Shepherd's Crown | Terry Pratchett

The Shepherd's CrownThe Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been waiting for this book ever since it was announced... but it took forever for me to get it, partially because I've sort of banned myself from going to book stores for a while now. :D

To be perfectly honest, in terms of emotional content and my personal relation to this book (The witches/Tiffany Aching archs have always been a personal favourite, even more than the later Vimes books), this is definitely a 5-star book. I don't want to give spoilers, but CHAPTER TWO DID ME IN. And Chapter Three... and I don't think I really climbed out of my funk until somewhere around Chapter 6 or 7 (maybe?) when I took a break from reading to do real life stuff, like wash the dishes.
(Note to self: starting a new book over dinner always sounds like a good idea, BUT IT NEVER IS)

Why only four stars then?
It's... really not as polished, or Pratchett-esque, as I wanted it to be. I mean, yes, I understand he died in the middle of writing it (*sniff*) but maybe I was hoping that someone could have made it shine as much as he did. It feels as if there are parts that are sort-of there, but it just doesn't sparkle yet. Like a slightly un-formed thought. I think Geoffrey could have been so much more - more right, more... funny, maybe -

- that said, I also acknowledge that the Aching series, being YA, isn't usually as snarky as some of the others. Still.

As a whole, The Shepherd's Crown felt a little like an extended goodbye. There were so many little goodbyes in each chapter - intentional or unintentional, I doubt we'll ever know. At some point, it felt a little like The Last Battle (emotionally, as least); it's as if the author himself is saying goodbye to his characters, bringing in older ones you didn't expect to appear in the book to let them have a last say, a last look.

But well, as the afterword says,
The Shepherd's Crown has a beginning, a middle and an end, and all the bits in between. Terry wrote all of those. But even so, it was, still, not quite as finished as he would have liked when he died. If Terry had lived longer, he would almost certainly have written more of this book. There are things we all wish we knew more about. But what we have is a remarkable book, Terry's final book, and anything you wish to know more about in here, you are welcome to imagine yourself.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

#bookreview: Immortal writers | Jill Bowers

Immortal WritersImmortal Writers by Jill Bowers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At almost 18, Elizabeth McKinnen is a highly successful Young Adult Fantasy author. She’s managed to escape from a hellish family life and a past that has nearly killed her and is now dating a rich young man, Derek Harbor. And then the unthinkable happens. Her own characters kidnap her and take her into a strange world of immortality where she meets the Immortal Writers, headed by the one and only William Shakespeare. It’s a dream come true - and also a nightmare - because the main reason she is there is to defeat the evil villain in her books, the Dragon Lord Kenric, who is trying to take over the world.

Immortal Writers starts off exciting and promising. I’m curious to know how things play out - after all, it’s any writer’s dream to be with all the great writers throughout the ages. However, the promise of the premise was more tantalising than the actual execution of it. We see much more of Liz struggling through her battles alone - or with her characters - with all the immortal authors being side bit actors, without much of a role. Except for Shakespeare. Well, Tolkien and McCaffrey did their bit, but I guess I’d hoped to see a little more of them. (Though then again, there’d be the whole thing of what I think the authors would be like, versus what Bowers thinks of them.)

Overall, Immortal Writers was a pretty good read. There were bits in the middle that were slightly more draggy than I’d liked (read: I put it down quite a lot instead of guzzling it up). Maybe about at 3.5?

Note: I received this ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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When you're done reading, head over to Jill Bowers' website to take her reading challenge! :D

Monday, 7 November 2016

#musicmonday: Your glory | All Sons & Daughters



'Cause Your glory is so beautiful
I fall onto my knees in awe
And the heartbeat of my life
Is to worship in Your light
'Cause Your glory is so beautiful
'Cause Your glory is so beautiful

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

#bookreview: The Bad Habits of Jesus | Leonard Sweet

The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone WrongThe Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong by Leonard Sweet
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think I was expecting a lot more of this book than what was delivered. I mean, it's a cool title. It felt like it was going to be one of those cool, cutting-edge books that blows your mind and opens your eyes. You know, something like Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.

Instead, The Bad Habits of Jesus reads like rushed blog posts, like short soundbites cobbled together screaming for attention in an oversaturated world. It doesn't read like a book - which was what I was expecting it to be. Maybe I have over-defined criteria to segregate the media I consume.

At the same time, it felt like Sweet was overextending himself and his definitions in a bit to fit his title. An easy example would be Chapter 2: Jesus procrastinated -
Jesus delayed doing what he wanted to do or needed to do because the timing wasn't right, because he was telling time by his Father's clock and making the most of the time his Father had given him. Jesus stalled because "There is a proper time and procedure for every matter"(Ecc 8:6). High procrastination for Jesus was less to put off doing things than to wait for the right moment to do things, which often conflicted with the timetables and schedules of everyone else.

Look, I get what Sweet is trying to say, but it basically turns out to: you may think Jesus procrastinates! But he doesn't! He's doing things at the Right Time!

So yeah, you may find some good stuff in here, but it's written in a way that I'm disinclined to take seriously. I may be showing signs of age here.
If you're looking for something on bad-ass Jesus and how to live radically, I'd say maybe you should pick up Subversive Jesus: An Adventure in Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness in a Broken World instead.

Note: I received an e-ARC of this book via Edelweiss for review purposes.

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Monday, 31 October 2016

Get Coexist #free via @instafreebie on the #trickortreatreads Book Blog Hop

So my blogger friend Patricia is running a Trick-or-Treat Reads Book Blog Hop and I decided to join in the fun. =)

So, if you wanna grab a copy of Coexist, you can do that HERE!











When Winds Blow Cold is always free as a download on NOISETRADE or if you sign up for my mailing list.











Now go drop by the other author's sites to get more free books!


Friday, 28 October 2016

#fridayflash: Social


It's a partnership, after all. No dance is the same because the partners change, the beat changes and the music -

Her gaze followed the twist of the wrist, the dip of the arm, all the way up to the open smile on his face and the crinkling around his eyes.
"May I?"
She didn't see why not. After all, no one else had asked.

- the music stills at inopportune moments, leaving them wide-eyed, wondering what to do with awkward limbs and uncaught breaths. 

She found herself at the edge of the dance floor again, perching on the edge of her chair, watching him wistfully. He wasn't exclusive, of course. He danced with everyone as long as they agreed, while being just so darned polite about it. He tipped his hat towards her as he passed by, acknowledging her existence.

Some songs go on forever at the whim of the musicians, leaving dancers exhausted or exhilarated, each one coming to love or hate their partners, as they created -

And then it seemed that he had done his rounds and he was back by her side, a rakish grin on his face, his hat askew, his once-crisp shirt soft with seeping sweat. And his hand held out in invitation to -

Magic. 

---

If you noticed (or not), I've created a new page called STORE. This is basically an Amazon affiliate store front where I'm linking books I've reviewed with 4 & 5 stars. So, you know, you can go browse books that I like! Haha.
I've already added all the books I've reviewed from up to the beginning of this year (I think). I'll get round to adding books pre-2016 the next time I'm free :D

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

#bookreview: Regenesis: New Beginnings | D R Kin

Regenesis: New BeginningsRegenesis: New Beginnings by D. R. Kin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Dr Alex Liang performs an emergency procedure on an aircraft, all he hoped for was for the man to survive and for him not to be sued for any unintended consequences. What he did not expect was to strike up a friendship with Eric Shi, owner of Shi Corporation, and end up working with him to realise a long-term dream of his. However, industrial espionage and personal tragedy soon follow, tearing them apart. When Eric's wife's lung cancer worsens, Eric must decide if he can let go of his hurts and trust Alex again... whilst Alex races against time to find a cure for a woman he has come to admire and love.

I have to admit that I was initially a little biased against it - in my experience, people who publish through Partridge are often somewhat delusional about their writing abilities or just incredibly naive about publishing. D.R. Kin falls in the latter category, I suppose. I found Regenesis to be a compelling story - I picked it up to while away the time on a flight and was pleasantly surprised at how fast I was going through it.

Kin moves you through the multiple plots with ease, always teasing you with something more, something happening. He also manages to tie up most of his loose ends, which brings me to my main gripe about Regenesis as a whole: it could have been better. It could have been structured better. It could have been edited better. As it is, it reads a bit like a gem in the rough - Kin is a good storyteller so it's polished enough to glint a little, but not enough to really shine.

Note: I received a free copy of this book for review from the author.

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Monday, 24 October 2016

SPOTLIGHT: Scorched Souls

I signed up for a book spotlight so you get an extra review today! :)

Scorched Souls in the Spotlight


Welcome to The Scorched Souls Tour! Welcome to another exciting Spotlight Tour with Novel Publicity. Today, I’m sharing the spotlight for Scorched Souls, the final story in the Chosen Trilogy by Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef. Don't forget to enter for your chance to win some great prizes including an Amazon Gift Card, a Paperback of Scorched Souls and a dream catcher!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Here is an Exclusive Excerpt

I lean back in my chair; he’s dumped a bucket of ice water on my head, and the chill settles into my bones. “So the Chosen were set up to fail. You’ve planted a bomb on the planet to explode when the Deltites take over.”
He nods, a smug self-congratulatory grin on his face. “A Heart Stone to be precise. It was the only logical action to take.”
Bile burns my throat. “But billions of humans live on the planet.... They will all die. They have souls.”
Still, my father’s logic is undeniable.

“Another complication has developed.” Two different human faces materialize above us and hover in front of the image of Earth. “The woman’s name is Summer Stone. She’s what humans call Native American, and is the mother to the Alpha among the Chosen. The man is not from her tribe. He’s what they call Irish.”
“So?” Why does he care?
“The calculations behind the Chosen were extremely advanced and fragile.” A third face joins that of the others. “The Alpha’s name is Juliet Wildfire Stone. She was supposed to be born from a union between two members of the same Native American tribe. That genetic combination was the only way humans could produce a Chosen strong enough to be an Alpha and draw power from the other three. The secret order had specific rules regarding this, yet they failed to heed them. Fools! I can’t predict what the outcome will be of this particular pairing.”
I study the faces and notice that Juliet has inherited much of her physical appearance from her mother: the long straight black hair, the caramel colored eyes, brown skin and high cheekbones—all but her sharp nose, which resembles her father’s. Her eyes seem to sparkle, but I shake my head. These are only holographic images. I can’t read too much into them or let my imagination cloud my reason. “I don’t understand the problem. Either she is powerful enough to be the Alpha, or she isn’t. Since you want them to fail, why do you care?”

My father bores his gaze into me, and an icy blade carves into my chest and twists. “There is a third possibility.”
My body turns weak. I’m lucky I’m already sitting. It’s unthinkable, but it’s the only thing that might frighten my father. “You’re afraid she’s an... abomination.”
“I can’t rule it out. Even if she is, she won’t be strong enough defeat an Elite, but we can’t take any chances. I want you to go to Earth. Make sure the Chosen fail and never find out about our plans. They can’t tell the Deltites about the Heart Stone I’ve planted on the planet. If they retrieve that crystal, all would be lost, and they could use its power against us.”
“Me.” I point to my chest. “Why me? Why not send someone else, someone who has already proven—”
“I trust no one else with this! You will succeed and return to Alpha, and when you return you will take the final test. This way we have an excuse for your... reluctance to finish the final exam.”

Two small discs fly into his hand, and he hands one to me. “This one is programmed with my brainwaves. You will use it when you have succeeded. I will keep the second here, so I can contact you... if need be.”
I sense the implied threat in his words and bow my head. “Yes, father. As you command.”
If pure evil exists in this universe, it’s sitting next to me, and I am this monster’s son. What does that make me? I glance at the hologram of Earth above me. It’s a beautiful planet.
He’s sentenced billions of humans to die, but can I carry out the punishment?


About the Book

Fate and destiny clash in the explosive, heart-pounding conclusion to the award-winning Chosen series.
~~~~~ 

Survival is not enough. 
Alliances will be formed. 
Loyalties tested. 
A choice made. 

My name is Juliet Wildfire Stone and I’m not just a Chosen, I’m the Alpha… and the fate of Earth rests in my hands.
When I finally met the Prime Elector, he wasn’t anything like I expected. He was supposed to be our mortal enemy, a monster I needed to destroy to fulfill my destiny, yet he was nothing like that—he’s young, brilliant, and looks like an angel.
Caught in the middle of a conflict between two ancient foes, which threatens to rip Earth apart, I must do what is right at all costs. To choose my fate, and Earth’s future, I will need to navigate a new path, form unlikely alliances, and solve ancient mysteries forgotten for centuries.
Yet I cannot do it alone. Will the other Chosen follow me? Do I have the strength to make the right choice, or will the people of Earth be enslaved for all time?


My Review

Scorched Souls (Chosen #3)Scorched Souls by Jeff Altabef
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Chosen series is a war between the Alphians and the Deltites - with all human lives at stake. The beginning of Scorched Souls (Book 3) plods a little, rather like the first two books. I'm beginning to think that maybe it's time for me to move on to "older" YA - I can't believe I forgot that half these kids aren't even 18, so maybe it's feasible that they act like love-sick idiots half the time. (I know, age is catching up with me, isn't it?)

The story bounces around between three POVs: Juliet, Connor and Barrett.
- Juliet seems to have gotten over her trust issues - by seemingly following her gut and trusting too much. Or maybe not.
- Connor's trapped in a loop of trying to better himself, because he's crazily in love with Juliet. And then drinking himself crazy because he's disappointed in love. Which seems totally immature until I'm reminded that he's not even 18, and an orphan with issues and a difficult past.
- With Barrett, you finally get a glimpse into who the Alphians are - and how they're not all as bad as they're made out to be.

Of all the characters in this book, Sicheii would probably be my favourite, even if he isn't alive at this stage - just because he is this mystical, wise guy who spouts philosophical nonsense and annoys the heck out of Juliet. And makes random appearances throughout the book. While dead.

There are deeper themes hidden throughout - distribution of wealth, the perfect society/world (does Utopia exist?), sacrifice, true love, responsibility, trust, wise choices, logic vs emotions, the greater good, addiction, privilege. Weighty themes, no doubt, but not out of place or too difficult to comprehend.

I'd recommend it for the younger end of young adult readers (mostly because the juvenile love side plot got a bit tiring) but it makes up for it with a well-thought out ending.

Note: I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews


About the Authors

Jeff Altabef is an award-winning author who lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and Charlie the dog. He spends time volunteering at the writing center in the local community college. After years of being accused of “telling stories,” he thought he would make it official. He writes in both the thriller and young adult genres. Jeff is very happy and proud that his co-author for the Chosen Series is his teenaged daughter, Erynn Altabef. Wind Catcher, the first in the Chosen Series, has won the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for Coming of Age Novels, the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best YA Fiction and a Mom’s Choice Award. As an avid Knicks fan, Jeff is prone to long periods of melancholy during hoops season. Jeff has a column on The Examiner focused on writing and a blog designed to encourage writing by those who like telling stories. 
Connect with Jeff on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Newsletter.

Erynn Altabef is an avid reader, dancer, and community activist. Some of her favorite authors are Veronica Roth, Joelle Charbonneau, and her dad! (That would be Jeff Altabef.) She just started her freshman year at Connecticut College is proud to be a camel!!!

Connect with Erynn on Facebook.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

#bookreview: The Blind Pig | Elizabeth Dougherty

The Blind PigThe Blind Pig by Elizabeth Dougherty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Living in a world of foodies, it’s hard to imagine the world you’re thrust into in The Blind Pig. Angela Anselm, an investigative journalist, is a firm advocate of the NArc (Nutritional Architecture System). The system, which dispenses artificial food according to your body’s daily needs, has succeeded in eliminating disease and increasing lifespans. The crisis that had resulted in large lines of Americans lining up at clinics waiting to be treated has finally been resolved - even if it was at the cost of taste, texture, variety, and free will. Diabetes, cancer and obesity are all things of the past. When a follower of her struggling nutrition column is found dead of “Cheating”, Angela takes up Lieutenant Potente’s challenge to break into the illegal Cheating/Foodie - world and bring them to justice. Except, what she finds is the opposite of what she expected.

The Blind Pig is a science-fiction novel that invites you to slow down and savour the world that you live in. Whilst the myth of long life and no illnesses is one that sounds inviting at first, the more you learn about it, the more questions arise. Is genetically engineered food good? Are there any other side effects? Would you give up the real thing for a substitute grown in labs that doesn’t taste as good just for the health benefits?

The novel isn’t a quick read. It’s evenly - if a bit slowly - paced. There’s no risky shoot-outs or a lot of running and hiding from the cops. Instead, it’s a steady build-up of risk and trust from Angela’s first exposure to the Foodies, her first Real Meal, her column that’s agitating the system and the overwhelming pressure to choose a side.

Angela tries to be balanced. NArc, for all its faults, has benefited mankind tremendously. But at what cost? On the other hand, real natural (but now illegal) food, if prepared right, has all the nutrition that mankind needs. But is it safe? Living in a food paradise that’s all about taste, I know which way I’d vote.

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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

#bookreview: The short story edition

I was planning to do a full review of Smiling Exercises, and then I realised it would be a really short post!

Smiling Exercises, and other stories: A collection of flash fictionSmiling Exercises, and other stories: A collection of flash fiction by Dan Malakin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very fun, very short read.
Even if you don't like any of the stories (and there were some which made me go, uhhh, what?) they're all flash fiction so it ends pretty quickly and then you can head on to the next one.

Just the kind of break that I needed. :)

[Wasn't that short?]

In Sept, I also finished reading the first three editions of the Insignia series - mainly because a short story of mine was accepted for the fourth edition! Here they are: 

Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories (Insignia Anthology Series #1)Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories by Kelly Matsuura
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not quite familiar with Japanese mythology (despite using some in my writing) so this was quite an interesting read.

As a whole, I preferred Part I: Young Adult/Adventure Tales, which really shows you what my reading style/preference is like. Of these, I liked Kitsune by Heather Jensen the best, though Kelly Matsuura's tale of magic, ninjas, and love in Moon Shadow is a close second.

The stories turn a little darker in Part II: Adult/Literary tales. Restoration by Chris Ward was beautifully haunting - and is probably the only one worth mentioning in this second half. The stories are well-written, but just not to my taste.

Insignia: Chinese Fantasy Stories (Insignia Anthology Series #2)Insignia: Chinese Fantasy Stories by Kelly Matsuura
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a whole, I think I preferred Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories to this one. It felt as if there hadn't been enough submissions for this, so Kelly and Joyce ended up writing multiple stories to bulk it out.

Set in an alternate Singapore which has dragons and phoenixes and foxes, Looking for Trouble (Joyce Chng) was probably the most to my taste in Part I. The Great Qilin (Kelly Matsuura) wasn't half bad as well - though it feels a little like a prelude to something else.

The most impressive from Part II is Black Smoke and Water Lilies by David Jon Fuller. The timeline jumps around a little in this - I had to read the beginning carefully a few times before I really got into it, but it plays out really well.

Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy (Insignia Anthology Series #3)Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy by Kelly Matsuura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was definitely my favourite of the three.

Part I: Adventure/Folktales began with the impressive Horse Feet by Celestine Trinidad. I loved the Filipino flavour to this - and of course, a new mystical creature (at least to me) is something I cannot dislike. Melvin Yong's The Island was a creepier than I would like, but extremely absorbing.

Part I bulked out most of this anthology - which isn't a bad thing in my opinion. I'm just not a big fan of Part II: Adult/Literary Tales, I guess. The most I'll say about this was Never Seen (Kelly Matsuura) was pretty okay. Everything else was just dark and grim and scary.

View all my reviews

Do go check them out! I'm looking forward to #4. ;)

Monday, 10 October 2016

#musicmonday: The 2017 #worship playlist



This time last year (or thereabouts) I was working on a top 25 for the 215 District. I don't know if it was ever used.

Now I'm at it again. I'm creating my own top 50 list for 2017. I'm currently at 33 - anyone has recommendations? I don't know if it will ever be used in church - but at any rate it'll be my own personal playlist, I guess. =)

Thursday, 6 October 2016

#bookreview: Birth of a Dream Weaver

I'm sorry, I kind of dropped the ball on this one. It's been a crazy past two weeks - but here's the review! Even if it's slightly delayed.

Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer's AwakeningBirth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer's Awakening by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a heavy, weighty book - and yet utterly fascinating.

The blurb says:
"Birth of a Dream Weaver charts the very beginnings of a writer’s creative output. In this wonderful memoir, Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o recounts the four years he spent in Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda—threshold years where he found his voice as a playwright, journalist, and novelist, just as Uganda, Kenya, Congo, and other countries were in the final throes of their independence struggles."
Which seems simple enough, but is not.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o (mostly referenced as James Ngugi in the book) writes in depth about the politics of the time - from 1959, when he first entered Makerere University College as a subject of a British Crown Colony until 1964, when he left as a citizen of an independent African state - his birth and growth as a writer being deeply affected by and entwined with the struggle of the African countries for independence. The things he describes are at the same time foreign - so much blood! So much oppression - and yet familiar; Malaysia's struggle for independence and the continued impact of British colonialism gives me, as a reader, a certain shared basis of understanding - or so I would like to think. [It would also seem that the Malay Sultanate may have had a larger mitigating impact - influence, maybe - on the amount of power the British were able to exert in Malaya than I had previously realised. Or the white/black relations are more convoluted and strained than I can comprehend.]

As a writer, it's fascinating to discover how the events of the nation affects Ngugi's growth as a writer - both directly, in terms of what he feels led to write about, and indirectly, in the rules, restrictions and opportunities given him to write and present his work.

Even if you're not a writer, Birth of a Dream Weaver would be a valuable read for those interested in politics, race relations and history.

Note: I received an e-arc of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Birth of a Dream Weaver just launched on Oct 4!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

#bookreview: Warp by Lev Grossman

WarpWarp by Lev Grossman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Books like these are why I think I'm a terrible literary fiction reader.

I requested Warp for review because hey, everyone says Lev Grossman's The Magicians and its sequels are really awesome books. Reading the description and the author's note, I did already have in mind that it is *not* a fantasy book and had already adjusted that expectation in my head accordingly. Or so I thought.

Warp is a very meandering story. You're introduced to Hollis, who doesn't know what he wants to do in life. He wanders around places in the USA that I can't immediately place (because I'm not American and my geography sucks, even locally), he and his friends do some marginally criminal things, there's strange narratives that pop up in the story... and then it ends. And I'm like... *tap tap tap* why is my Kindle not responding? Oh. Book completed. What? WHY DOESN'T IT ENDDDDDD

Yeah, so the best I can say is I kinda enjoyed the writing, the little narrative stuff was actually quite amusing, but I don't understand the story.

Maybe I should stick to reading genre. LOL.

Note: I received a free review egalley of Warp from St Martins Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

#bookreview: Giant Slayers by Jeff Altabef

Giant SlayersGiant Slayers by Jeff Altabef
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

To be fair, as fiction, Giant Slayers isn't half bad. It's got all the ingredients of a really exciting story. There's young David, a shepherd boy who's fallen in love with a Princess. There's King Saul, afflicted by demons that he doesn't dare tell anyone about for the sake of keeping his kingdom. And there's Michal, headstrong young princess, who's not content with just accepting the status quo. On the enemy's side, the Witch of Endor is calling on dark powers to assist her in getting revenge against the hated Israelite King. And there's Goliath - strong and beautiful - who is challenging the armies of God.

... I actually did like the characterisations of the Witch (I'm too lazy to look up how to spell her name now) and Goliath, and how the tension is built between the dark power of Molech and the power of God. It's a pretty good story-telling technique, fleshing out the "evil" characters which usually get passing mention. (Well, the Witch is an invention, so obviously she doesn't get ANY mention.)

[NOTE THE REST OF THIS REVIEW IS A THEOLOGICAL/RELIGIOUS RANT, SO IF YOU'RE NOT A CHRISTIAN/NOT INTERESTED IN THEOLOGY, YOU CAN STOP READING HERE. If, however, you are interested in accuracy and canon whilst retelling religious-based stories, do read on.]

Where it fails is as a Biblical retelling. Making God's power overly magical and mystical? Meh, not a favourite of mine but it's been done, not a big issue. Adding in a forbidden romance? Sure, why not? It's canon anyway. I don't know if it started then (it's mentioned only much later), but it could have. Random access to the Ark of the Covenant at King Saul's palace AND King Saul being able to plate it with "tainted gold"? What? Did you not do research? Saul would already be dead. You're not supposed to touch that thing! Painting Samuel the Prophet as an outcast/rebel? Um, well, I suppose it's within the bounds of plausibility; Samuel did not ever see Saul again after rejecting Saul as king, apparently. But recasting David's motivation for facing Goliath as being just to win Michal's hand is pure character assassination. And then forcing him to choose between saving the kingdom or being with the girl of his dreams in some magical time-stopping event?? Eh. No. Just no.

And that's my main gripe.
Biblically, God has rejected Saul as King because he's disobedient to God. There's that whole bit in 1 Samuel 15:22-23 where prophet Samuel scolds Saul:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

David was anointed to replace Saul, because "the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). He's described in 1 Samuel 16:18 as "...a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him." Which basically means that David is a fervent believer. He's not one of those I'm-just-doing-this-culturally Israelites. If you want to put it in modern terms, he's a practicing Jew. Or, if contextualised, a born-again, church-going, tongue-speaking Christian. He's chosen and anointed because he knows who his God is.

In this story, David has no concept of who God is from the very start. He fights the lion and the bear to save his sister and is "magically" saved by some bizarre white flash of light whose source is unknown. If he were to build that "coming to know God" into the story as it unfolds, fine. Shaky, but fine. Instead, David is crazily impressed WITH HIS OWN SELF AND HIS OWN LUTE PLAYING which summons "birds of light" to fight the "dark snakes" plaguing King Saul. AGAIN, with no concept of God, except something along the vague lines of... "maybe it's God? But I don't know. There's some strange power thing that happens when I play" and "I'm special. Some higher power is saving me for something. Oh wait, yes, that random tatty seer who looks like Samuel says I'm going to be king."

Oh, but randomly, before the battle, he is able to spout stuff about fighting for God and God saving them, even though when he goes to Saul to insist he should fight Goliath, the only thing that's on his mind is "I must do this so I can marry Michal." God wasn't even a consideration. Which is so totally off course, because David's true reaction is one that's more towards righteous anger: "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
And making him steal a horse?? And lie through his teeth?

I usually don't mind minor variations or little tweaks for the story's sake, because that makes a retelling all that more interesting. (There were quite a few of those which I haven't mentioned because eh, who cares.) Humanising Biblical characters with a little bit of doubt and wavering and adding romance is fine. There's room enough in the stories for you to add those, especially when it hasn't been said/inferred/spelled out in any way because you don't know ANY of their thoughts anyway. All you know are their actions and words as written. But changing a fundamental principle of the story? Total character assassination of the main character himself? No. Just no.

Other annoying bit - not so very much theological - is the fact that David, as a shepherd boy, has no fighting skills whatsoever. He literally can't use a sling or a staff to defend himself... which doesn't make sense because he has to protect his flock. This story makes it seem like the one lion and one bear that attacked him was a fluke, and it has never happened before. Yet he boasts of never having lost a sheep. Uh, right. Besides wild animals, there are raiders and bandits and such. I'm sure that even as a shepherd boy he should already have developed some defensive skills, even if he's not depicted as a soldier with sword and armour. (Also note "warrior" description above.)

Ah. I should stop here. To summarise, eh, needs more research.

Note: I received a free digital ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

#bookreview: One World Two: A second global anthology of #shortstories

One World Two: A Second Global Anthology of Short StoriesOne World Two: A Second Global Anthology of Short Stories by Aminatta Forna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What do I think?

I think that this anthology is way more literary than I'm used to, and way more... coloured as well. The first of which turned out pretty well, considering, and the second of which was quite a deliberate choice. I mean, I did request this book for review solely because it purported to be one of those diverse books.

Diverse in this case, sounding rather black and tribal and refugeeish and war-torn. I am not sure why I expected otherwise. I suppose a pervasive theme in such stories is a sense of identity - who am I when I am not white? - which, I admit - is something I too struggle with. Maybe it's an identity of language. Who am I when I speak the white man's tongue but not my own? How do I exist in-between cultures, where the one I live in will never accept me fully, and the one I have left will never let me go? Am I doomed to always be an immigrant, even if I was born in this land?

There's a dream-like quality to most of these stories; something I've come to associate with literary pieces-presenting you a slice-of-life which is real life but not quite. They're gritty (as death and war and loss tends to be) and yet unreal, as if presented through a fog, a dream, or maybe just through the lenses of remembrance. And we know how unreliable our memories are. They betray us with our child-like innocence and surprise us with youthful resilience and tug at us with that longing just to know and be known.

Ethereal was the word I was looking for. Gritty and ethereal, both at once, as literary works are wont to be.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book via Edelweiss for review purposes.

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Friday, 2 September 2016

#bookreview: Moments and Days

So I kind of missed my Wednesday deadline (there was some sending to Kindle snafu I didn't discover until late), but here's my review anyways. Better late than never? Heh.

Moments & Days released on Sept 1. Get it here. (Affiliate link)

Moments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our FaithMoments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith by Michelle Van Loon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Moments & Days, Michelle Van Loon takes us through celebrations in the Jewish and Christian calendar, highlighting its significance in the past as well as its meaning for the present. All this is presented from the unique lens of a Messianic Jew, tying together the Jewish roots of Christianity to its Gentile, almost secular present.

The material is presented in a very conversational, easy-to-read manner whilst retaining a wealth of historical and Biblical information. I found the Jewish feasts and celebrations interesting, but I was most surprised to find a lot of practices/liturgy in the Christian calendar new to me!

I read through this book much faster than I would have liked (silly self-imposed review deadlines) and I fully intend to study/meditate some of these again more deeply when time allows. (On a selfish note: research for Christmas & Easter programs is partially done. lol!)

Note: I received a digital ARC from the publishers for review purposes via Edelweiss.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

#bookreview: Gloaming series by JB Simmons

Light in the Gloaming (Book One)Light in the Gloaming by J.B. Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd put this somewhere between a 3 and a 4 star - it was interesting enough to catch my attention and I did like the story very much. It's classic fantasy - bad prince usurps the throne, good prince fights to win back his throne and his bride (though his bride wasn't really in any danger, I think?)

Throw in family relationships and make it convoluted - Andor is a half-brother to Tryst, though there was a mention of an orphanage and adoption - so he could just have been an adopted brother. Ravien is Tryst's full sister... Lorien is (somehow) a half-sister? At first, I interpreted this for her to be Andor's full sister, but this didn't quite make sense, and also they were... betrothed? This was one of the things that confused me actually - how everyone was related to everyone else, and a family tree would have helped. Or them not being related at all might have worked better, because Andor's lineage apparently has some repercussions for the second book...

The weakest point in this novel, I think, is the constantly changing point of view. Simmons jumps from third to first between chapters, changing viewpoints from Andor to Tryst to I think Lorien at one point. There's no indication of this in the chapter headings (I checked because I was confused) so that doesn't really help you along.

At any rate, Andor makes for a good, complex character, even if he plays into the trope - the broken prince trying to reclaim his own, walking the tightrope between strength and weakness. Ravien is full of intrigue - I would like to know much more about her, actually. Tryst is pompous, proud and idiotic - he felt almost one-sided, but not quite. There were a few glimpses into his character that proved otherwise, but we don't know much more about him.
Of the other characters, I like Jon and Wren quite a lot. Father Yates was quite annoyingly preachy, but I suppose, in character. The Gloaming could be a character on its own, though it's a place, and exploring its origins and its purposes would have been fun.

So yeah. I guess somewhere about a 3.5 star.


Breaking the GloamingBreaking the Gloaming by J.B. Simmons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Prince Andor has much to do to rebuild Valemidas in the aftermath of Tryst’s coup. With Tryst languishing in the Gloaming and Ramzi dead, Andor must forge a way forward in the midst of an uncertain nobility and the threat of war from Sunan. Secrets are being revealed and plans are being laid bare - how true is Sebastian and what is his true motive? In the background, the priests plot - from the still-preachy Yeats, to the tandem Sunan priests, Malam and Ilias.

Simmons ups the complexity in Breaking the Gloaming, with many little mysteries and allusions in Light in the Gloaming now coming to light (or fruition?). Redemption is a recurrent theme - from Andor’s to Tryst’s to the smuggler.

The changing point of view is still a weakness in this sequel, with the story jumping from a third-person point of view to first person (usually Tryst, sometimes Andor) without indication, though this seems to happen less than in the first book.

All in all, Breaking the Gloaming is a pretty solid 3-star story. It doesn’t push many boundaries and there aren’t any spectacular twists to look out for, but it plods steadily on to a satisfying conclusion.

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