Friday, 29 January 2016

#fridayflash: Bunny Ring

It was the bunny ring on the middle finger of her left hand that caught his attention.

"Your boyfriend proposed to you with that?" He couldn't help laughing as he asked the question.

She looked up from her writing. "Who?"

He gestured helplessly at her hand. "The ring. Did your boyfriend propose to you with that ring? It's awesome."

She looked down at her hand with a confused frown, her eyebrows beetling together. Suddenly they - her eyebrows - seemed to jump up in startlement, or at least in mock clarity. "This thing, you mean?" she asked, pulling the ring off and offering it to him.

"Yeah, that one." He picked it up and turned it over, inspecting it from various angles.

"I bought that for myself. Birthday present. Um. Yeah. Thought it was cute."

He handed the ring back to her and then held out his hand. "Jake, by the way."

"Oh. Great." She shook it and blinked. "Meg."

She was still looking at him five seconds later, so he ventured a question. "What are you writing?"

"Oh." She looked down at her notebook and blushed. "Um. A novel."

"Great. I... I guess I shouldn't disturb you then. Good luck."

"Thanks. Uh, nice to meet you, I guess." She watched as he picked up his cup and walked out the door. Then she bent her head again and continued writing. It was only twenty minutes later when she closed her notebook that she saw the tissue paper with a sketch of a bunny and a number on it.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

#bookreview: Shearwater Part One by @creativindie

Shearwater Part One (an Ocean Depths Mermaid Romance)Shearwater Part One by Derek Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Clara loses both her parents in a tragic accident, she is sent to live in Ireland with a grandfather she never knew she had. Struggling to cope with loss and a totally new school system, she distracts herself by trying to find out more about her mother and why she left this little vacation town. But Branna Daly's secrets may be more dangerous than Clara suspects. They're reaching out to her from beyond the grave and Clara must find out what they are, if she is in danger, and if yes, and who from?

Shearwater Part One loses a star for a stupid, obvious reason: It's only part one

Derek Murphy plunges you into Clara Clark's world - a world that navigates loss, uncertainty, mystery and wonder - and just as you're hoping he'll take you further into the wonder, you look at the bottom of your kindle, see remaining time of 2 minutes, completion of like 99% and think "darnit... if I turn the page, this story is going to end and I'M GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT PART!!"

Which you do, but at least you knew that before going in because the title blatantly states "Part One". Anyway.

To be honest, Shearwater is a classic coming-of-age story. Part of me totally enjoyed it, even whilst my writer-brain was going "and this will happen, and there- see, I knew it". If you're looking for an exceptionally new storyline, you won't get it. There's an element of predictability to the story, so readers will either love it (because they love YA anyway) or hate it (because it's the same ol' same ol'). Murphy plays with tropes and cliches - the budding love triangle, the mysterious bad boy that the girl can't resist, strange new powers she can't control, girl does stupid things she knows she shouldn't, girl gets saved, oh, and let's remake a mythical creature into something new and play around with mythology... an evil part of me says that it's almost Twilight minus annoying Bella.

But whilst I thought of Twilight as an extremely fascinating trainwreck, I'm curious to know where Murphy will take Clara in Part Two and what wonderful discovery - and dangers - awaits our lovely protagonist.

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

View all my reviews

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Shearwater launched yesterday (or today, depending on where you are in the time-continuum *waves from the future*) and is available for $0.99 on Amazon. All earnings during launch week will be donated for ocean conservancy and to protect marine wildlife (Derek says that here!) so I'd say that's a pretty good use for your money.

And if you're short of money, it will be free on Jan 28th...

There's also a mermaid giveaway happening!

Friday, 22 January 2016

#fridayflash: Mumma Bear

Mumma Bear had no energy left. There was no more fight in her, not like there had been the week before, the month before, the year before that. She was tired and she would fight no more.

“It is not my battle,” she said, her face hard like flint.

“It used to be,” they murmured.

“Mayhap. But no longer.” Before her lay the ruins of her hands - and her heart. There was nothing left but a cold wind that whistled through the brokenness and was gone. “I cannot carry on.”

They left her then, alone in the emptiness of her soul. All she could see was what could have been, but was not. The cubs she had been fighting for - were they ever hers? No, but she had taken them in anyway, because her heart had been big enough then, large enough, strong enough, for her dreams had sustained her.

No more. She was empty now, and she had to look elsewhere for filling.

“Why did I trust you?” she asked the wind. “You were warm then, kind. It seemed like you would lead us somewhere, somewhere safe. You danced before us, offering us hope, as if you could bring us through. And then you left. Not remembering your promise.” She sighed, looking up at the sky. “But you did not promise. You never did. I just thought you had.”

She stood to her feet, great lumbering useless feet, stared at her clumsy claws. She sheathed them, her great Mumma claws, knowing for certain now that they were blunt - had always been blunt. Mumma Bear adjusted her skirts and then she was just a girl again; a young, tired girl with lightless eyes.

She picked up the pack she’d prepared, something to tide her over until her next stop. “Well, that’s it then. It’s time to move on.”

Still, she couldn’t help but linger a little while, trying to hold on to her passion a little longer. “You and I, we would have changed the world,” she said a trifle bitterly to no one in particular. “Except that you would not lead so I could not follow.”

The ruins were silent except for the occasional rattling of a stone from under her feet or the snapping of a twig as she stumbled along the path. Once in a while, she thought she heard the bleating of a sheep, and her heart quickened, but just as swiftly, the cold wind blew, and her face stiffened again.

When she reached the end of the valley, she turned back to face it. “It is just as well, you see. I was never meant to be Mumma Bear. You will have to find someone else to be that for you. Someone you can’t con.... or maybe I mean someone that you can.” She shook her head. “But now this means I am free - free to look ahead to where my dreams take me. Where my heart can be one again.”

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

#bookreview: The Rogue Retrieval by @DanKoboldt

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Dan Koboldt's new book, The Rogue Retrieval on my blog! The book launched yesterday (well, today for those of you in the past, heh) so you should really go grab it.

The Rogue RetrievalThe Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quinn Bradley, stage magician on an off-strip theatre in Vegas, is about to get his big break. Except it never comes. Instead, he's offered a lot of money to help a huge corporation infiltrate Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal. What they want is his talent in illusions to help them retrieve the head of the research team, who has gone rogue. But when the real magicians of Alissia come after the impersonator, Quinn has only his wits and his stage props to keep him alive.

The Rogue Retrieval was a great read but I'm wavering between an "I liked it" and "I really liked it". I mean I liked it more than a generic 3-star, but it didn't really capture me all that much to put it as a definite 4-star. I would say it's hovering somewhere at maybe 3.75?

"But why?" you ask.

Expectations. Haha. You see, the blurb mentioned the magic word "Terry Pratchett" but the novel didn't quite deliver on that. I was expecting ridiculousness, downright funny scenes, scathing commentary on the real world via ludicrous events in the other world, but The Rogue Retrieval was quite a bit more serious than that. Terry Brooks was a good mention/comparison though - normal human discovers (or in this case is sent) through a portal to a new world. One that has magic. Sounds like a good read already.

Which leads to the next problem. There wasn't enough magic. Or science.
Quinn does a lot of tricks and manages to dazzle many people with his illusions, usually to get the team out of a tight spot. The real magicians only show up somewhere about 39% of the way through the book, which would already have lost some hardcore fantasy readers. Even then, the magic is subtle, often understated - which isn't a bad thing, except that it somehow ends up leaving you a little underwhelmed.
As a scientist, Koboldt can't leave the science alone and that's seen in how he bookends the magic in Alissia with the high tech in CASE Global's base as well as the gadgets that Quinn uses to create his illusions. It's kind of like you start off in a science fiction, meander into a fantasy, things get stirred up together in a glorious cross-genre (is that what you call it?) and then you end back in the science fiction with the hope of more fantasy in the sequel.
(I mean, yeah, scifi & fantasy are always placed together but the readers are so very different, don't you know? This story is a mash up of both and you'll either get people who love both and love the book or you'll have disappointed readers from the extreme end of both spectrums.)

But going back to magic, in a key scene (which I probably shouldn't talk much about, because spoilers?), I felt a little cheated by how it turned out. Well, not quite cheated but at least disappointed.Then again, that scene alone probably tells you what Dan Koboldt is good at. He keeps you rooting for Quinn, the weakest member of the team, letting you feel his vulnerabilities but also showing you his unexpected strengths; even if those strengths don't seem quite right for the mission. You feel disappointed when he fails, and you get angry when he makes excuses. Because you want him to finally get his breakthrough.

The Rogue Retrieval is really a knight's quest in disguise; except our knight is a magician and his true quest is to harness his power.

Note: I received an ARC for review via Edelweiss

View all my reviews

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About the book

Sleight of hand…in another land

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time. What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That’s how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it’s only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.

Book Links: HarperCollins  Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Goodreads   iBooks 

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About the author

Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and fantasy/science fiction author. He has co-authored more than 60 publications in Nature, Human Mutation, Genome Research, The New England Journal of Medicine, Cell, and other scientific journals. Dan is also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in St. Louis, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.

Author Links:   Website   Twitter   Mailing List   Facebook





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I'm launching Coexist with a cover reveal in March and a blog tour in April. Let me know if you want to help host!

Friday, 15 January 2016

#fridayflash: Strength

Janice's apartment was identical to Chrysanthemum's, except that it was much neater and much higher up in the air. She closed her eyes as Janice pulled the curtains together.

"Okay, you can open your eyes now," Janice said.

The fluorescent lights blinked on at the same time that Chris peeked through her eyelids. "Thanks."

Janice beckoned her over and they sat in the tiny dining area in the centre of the room, away from the windows. Janice put the kettle on and soon enough, the girls were sipping Empress Grey and munching on leftover Chinese New Year cookies.

"What did you mean about wings?" Chris asked.

Janice looked puzzled.

"Just now, up on the roof. You mentioned something about getting your wings. You aren't really a dragon, are you?"

Janice blushed. "Oh, don't mind me. I say silly things all the time."

"But you sound so confident when you say it! I couldn't sound that confident even if I meant it."

"I'm sure you're alright."

"And you were looking all the way down to the ground! I feel faint just going near the window."

"But you're nice and kind and you think of others. If I were the one watching the news, I wouldn't have bothered to go up to look for the girl on the roof, especially if I were as afraid as you. I just don't think of things like that very often." Janice smiled and patted her hand. "We all have our strengths, Chris. And our weaknesses."

Chris sighed. "I wish I were as strong as you."

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You are strong, You are sure
You are life, You endure
You are good, always true
You are light breaking through

Prompt: #musicmonday: Here's my heart; also a somewhat continuation from On The Ledge

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

#bookreview: Algorithm by Arthur Doweyko

AlgorithmAlgorithm by Arthur M. Doweyko
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Touted as a fast-paced, science fiction mystery/thriller, Algorithm is one of those stories that I wished I liked more than I actually did.

The story itself is great - Adam Dove finds an ancient gold medallion in a lump of coal. When he starts investigating, things start happening: his college's laboratory is destroyed, dangerous people with guns start chasing him, a friend ends up dead - or maybe Adam just dreamt that last one up. With the help of his coworker, Linda Garcia, and the crotchety owner of the mining museum, Hedda Morrison, Adam sets out to solve the mystery of his gold medallion - which may very well be the mystery of human origins.
The one person who seems to be able to answer their questions about the medallion poses a significant problem. Is he really who he says he is, and can they believe what he says of his mission, the origin of the medallion and his offer of space travel?

Okay - maybe I figured out where it went wrong for me. Algorithm is a little too hard science for my taste and the narrative was dryer than I preferred. I liked the concept and the storyline, but the execution fell a little short for me. I don't really know how to explain it, except that maybe it could have been paced better. It kind of felt like Doweyko had this great story in his mind, epic, really, but ended up making a sophisticated version of "this happened and then this happened." So many things were happening and so many theories (sciency ones at that) were being thrown around in dialogue that you didn't really get to sit down and wonder at it and feel it. (Or I could just be an emotional female reader. hah)

All in all, it was still an interesting read though it could have been better.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

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Strange deja vu moment: there were these few pages in part 2 that seemed somewhat familiar, as if I'd read them before. Either they appeared somewhere in a preview (highly unlikely, since it's towards the end of the book), I'd accidentally flipped to them before (improbable, since the PDF version provided for review doesn't have bookmarks), it's appeared as a short story somewhere online (maybe) or I might have read a bit of it on Wattpad (though I haven't browsed Wattpad in ages, it was there before and DID win a Wattys award, so maybe that's it).

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Arthur has authored over 100 scientific papers, invented novel 3D drug design software, and shares the 2008 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for the discovery of Sprycel, a new anti-cancer drug. He writes science fiction and fantasy. His novels include Algorithm (2010 RPLA award), published in 2014, and Angela's Apple (Best Pre-Pub Sci-Fi RPLA 2014), under contract with Red Adept Publishing. Many of his published short stories are award-winning (including Honorable Mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Competition).

When not writing or painting, he teaches college chemistry, and wanders the Florida beaches.

Find him online here: website.

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I'm launching Coexist with a cover reveal in March and a blog tour in April. Let me know if you want to help host!

Monday, 11 January 2016

#musicmonday: Here's My Heart | David Crowder



Speak what is true

And yet, what is true?

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I'm launching Coexist with a cover reveal in March and a blog tour in April. Let me know if you want to help host!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Coexist: preorder is available!

So an update on the writing front! (Since I don't do much of those)

Today I got my dad to print out my final final copy of Coexist so I can do a final read/proof before uploading it to Smashwords and Amazon. Well, he actually printed it Friday night but I came home late and didn't realise that he did until he told me. So I technically "got" it today. Goal for Monday: READ THE WHOLE THING WITHOUT DYING. (Of embarrassment or excitement, either one.)

And! The final cover has just arrived in my inbox and it's so pretty I don't know if I can wait until March for the cover reveal. Heck, I might want to do the cover reveal in Feb! Shall I? *eyes sign up form and considers changing dates*

I guess I will keep the date for now though I really do want to upload the cover on Amazon and Smashwords because it's so pretty. Would having a cover reveal tour work in March if the cover is already uploaded along with the book? (Advice is welcome!)

A note on the cover! 
I ordered a cover from Octagonlab (affiliate link, *hint hint*). Okay. I got the heads up on Octagonlab via Writers On Social, which was one of my attempts to be erm... social. Not sure I  have been, but hey, I got a lead on a great and cheap cover site as well as a book for review (Algorithm - check it out this Wednesday) so I guess it's already paid off a little. 
Surfed the site, saw some pretty covers, checked out the pricing and found an offer for 30% off so I went with it. Then I saw an affiliate program and told myself that I would sign up for it if I liked my cover. I love my cover and so here I am promoting it to y'all. Hee =)
OctagonLab

So yes. I am releasing Coexist on March 31, 2016. I moved the release date up by one day, not because of April's Fool, but because I want to have a dedicated post on my blog to celebrate the release and I already have a plan for the A to Z blog challenge that starts April 1 - 30. 

If you want to grab an ARC for review or if you're willing to host me on your blog during the tour on April 1 - 9 (or for the cover reveal on March 1), please do let me know! The sign-up post is here
You can also sign up to be on my ARC list so that you'll always be able to grab a free copy of my books for review.

That's it for today! 

Friday, 8 January 2016

#fridayflash: A new beginning

Julian hated new beginnings. They tended to emphasise how much he had failed in the previous task. Instead of hearing "look, you get to start over" all he got was "look how many times you've already failed." Because if he hadn't failed, he wouldn't have to start anew, would he? No. He would just have continued building on his successes and become even more successful.

A new year was always a new beginning, so he always felt depressed at the start of the year, wondering how and why the last year had gone so wrong. Except that it hadn't, really. It had had its bumps but overall it had smoothened out pretty nicely. So why was he so morose?

Because it was new, and he didn't know what to do with shiny new things. Oh well. He would just have to dirty it up a little and then he'd be fine with it.

Which was why he was standing awkwardly in this crowded place full of young people gyrating, not able to hear a thing above the blasting music or feel anything except the sweat dripping off his face. It was too hot, too loud, too crowded and he felt too old, too out of place, too unwanted. He put down his glass of orange juice, which had taken him forever to order because first of all, he couldn't locate it on the menu, secondly, the waiter couldn't hear him and thirdly, who drank orange juice at a new year's party?

There was only a tinge of regret at the waste of RM15 as he left the party suitably irritated enough to not think of it as a new year at all, but as just another annoying waste of time. Now he could get on with life.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

#bookreview: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorceror Royal, #1)Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am probably superbly biased in rating this book, because, well, Zen Cho.

I first read one of Zen Cho's works when she submitted to my anthology, Love in Penang. My first reaction was WHO IS THIS PERSON AND WHY HAVE I NOT HEARD OF HER? I have read several of her online works since then, but also, being a picky AND distracted reader, I have yet to get round to her award-winning Spirits Abroad. (I should! I will!) Sorcerer to the Crown ("SC") has been on my radar since then, and... I really couldn't resist this pretty cover. :D

Zen has this knack of fitting very Malaysian/Asian voices into diverse settings, and I was wondering how that would fit into this extremely British sounding book. To be honest, there are times when I think SC is overly upper class British, making it a slightly harder read than necessary.

Zacharias Wythe, England's first African Sorcerer Royal, is having a hard time of it. He has taken up the role out of duty and obligation, but it seems that factions of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers are trying to depose him for performing his duty. Part of this is due to the fractious nature of England's thaumaturges, part of it due to personal ambition to the Staff, most of it is due to plain old racism. Yet Zacharias does the best he can for England; first in trying to restore their supply of magic, and secondly, in trying to avoid magical wars with foreign entities, including the French, the witches of Janda Baik, and the Fairy Court, even if the Government's policies and requests seems to be intent on spurring on the war.

I kind of liked Zacharias - a kind, gentlemanly soul put into a difficult situation. On a magical scale, he doesn't seem to be the best of Sorcerers. It seems like most of his work as the Sorcerer Royal is avoiding the use of magic. In a sense, this puts me a little in mind of Gabriel De Witt as the Chrestomanci (Dianna Wynne Jones).

Prunella Gentleman, on the other hand, reminded me starkly of Sara Crewe in A Little Princess - orphan of unknown origins, taken in by the school; not quite student, nor teacher, nor servant. But Prunella has grand ambitions, as well as a secret treasure, and she has the will to make it happen. And the magic. In a time where gentlewomen are not allowed to practice magic for the fear of the damage it would do to their delicate frames (hah), Prunella is a magic user - and the strongest one that Zacharias has seen so far. In the midst of all his troubles, Prunella poses the most critical. Teaching her magic will definitely get him deposed if he is found out; not teaching her magic might result in disaster for England.

Zen Cho addresses broad themes in SC. In her very choice of protagonists, she raises the issue of race and gender. Zacharias is a manumitted African. His gratitude to Sir Stephen and Lady Maria Wythe, who purchased, manumitted and raised him, giving him opportunities and privileges unknown to any of his race, is tinged with anger and confusion, as well as the unspoken need to constantly prove himself worthy and grateful. Prunella, with her clear brown skin, is often an outsider. But more than that, it is her gender that provides the biggest barrier to her advancement, despite her obvious talents. In Mak Genggang, Zen Cho provides a powerful role model - that a leader need not be white nor male (nor Christian) to be strong - and right. She is the one who provides guidance to Prunella as well as helps put to a stop the impending war between Janda Baik and England.

This has been an extremely long review - but overall, I would say that Sorcerer to the Crown is an extremely brilliant read. In publishing a very English book in England, it would seem that Cho might have forgotten her roots in Malaysia. I am glad to say that this is not the case. What she has done instead is to somehow marry her South East Asian sensibilities and heritage with her current place of residence.

View all my reviews

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I'm launching Coexist with a cover reveal in March and a blog tour in April. Let me know if you want to help host!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Sign up to host COEXIST!

So I'm gearing up for the new year and one of the first things on my schedule (besides the upcoming Easter play) is the launch of Coexist.

Coexist, in its first incarnation, was the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I wrote 26 pieces of flash fiction about fairy creatures from A to Z. It's gone through a few rounds of edits, sent for beta reading, been re-written a few more times, retitled a couple of times and now... now I think I'm almost ready to let go of it. In my head, all I need to do is work a little more on the last two chapters.

Then as my last (complete) act of 2015, I ordered a cover for it. So it's *ohmigoshsqueal* time. As I work on those last two chapters (and hopefully do not get the urge to rewrite everything again), and wait in eager anticipation (and dread) for the cover, I figured I might as well put other things into motion! Like my upcoming cover reveal and blog tour! *wiggles*

If you'd like to help out, please sign up below.
I'm offering ARCS for review (to be sent by 1 Feb or thereabouts) and you can get one even if you don't have a blog, as long as you post your review on Goodreads and/or Amazon during the blog tour dates from April 1 - 9! Just put that down in the notes.

Blurb:

In a little corner of 1950’s Britain, the Old Fairy Kingdom and the Elvish Kingdom have eked out an existence near a little human village. An old treaty dictates that each race must not venture into the other's territory during the rare times that the portals between them open, mainly to prevent humans from hunting the magical creatures who are slowly dying out due to lack of belief.

When Jane gets caught in an unexpected rainstorm, she ignores all the warnings she has grown up with and seeks shelter in a cottage in the middle of the forest. Soon, she is caught up in a world of magic and beauty – and in the storm of the Fairy Queen’s wrath.

Expected publication date: April 1, 2016.

I'M EXCITED! Are you? =D