Thursday, 31 March 2016

COEXIST LAUNCHES TODAY!

Coexist has finally been released! Woohoo! *flings confetti everywhere*

So I've been setting up a tour to celebrate the launch. Here's where you'll find Coexist over the next seven days:

April 1: LuAnn Braley's review at @ Back Porchevations
April 2: Fantasia Hearth
April 3: Right here!
April 4: Patricia Lynne
April 5: Live reading at The Big Fat Hen
April 6: Rebekah Loper's review @ Fantasia Hearth
April 7: Madeline Dyer

I'll be updating these links as they go live, but for now, here's an excerpt!
(Also, check out the Rafflecopter below for prizes.)

---

The door swung open silently.

Standing on the threshold, she looked back and forth between the growing storm behind her and the welcoming fire in front of her. The rain lashed harder, drenching her again. It almost felt as if the wind was trying to blow her into the house. She noticed with dismay a small puddle of water forming at her feet. Taking a deep breath, she stepped in and closed the door behind her.

Still, she stood with her hand on the doorknob, her eyes roving the quiet house, wondering if someone would emerge from the shadows. Minutes passed and Jane slowly relaxed her guard. The warmth of the cottage enveloped her and she soon found herself skirting the low table in the middle of the room and sinking down on the rugs that were piled up by the fireplace. She had almost fallen asleep when the door slammed.

“Who’s that?” Jane’s voice was shrill in her ears as she sat upright, clutching at the rugs.

There was the sound of scuffling before a deep voice answered, “Shouldn’t I be the one asking? This is my house, after all.”

“I didn’t mean to –”

“No, don’t turn around!”

Jane froze mid-turn, her gaze settling on the curtains. She could see faint movement from the edge of her eyes. Her imagination ran wild. She squeezed her eyes shut as she imagined him sneaking up on her, wondering if he would have a monstrous face, if his body would be twisted, if he would cook her first, or if he would eat her alive.

“You can stay. Just don’t look at me.”

Jane tried to speak in measured tones, her heart still pounding. “Why... why not? Is there – is there something wrong with you?” He didn’t sound dangerous – in fact, he could be anybody from her village or the next. She relaxed her body as she turned back toward the fire, squinting her eyes to try to catch a glimpse of him. The fire was casting shadows in the wrong direction for her to see anything.

“No – nothing. You’ll just... Just don’t.”

Jane kept her eyes on the fire, trying not to react to the noises behind her or the growing smell of wet dog. The queasy feeling returned.

“What are you?” she blurted.

There was a sudden silence. “What do you mean?”

Jane gathered up her courage. There wasn’t much to begin with, but she didn’t want to be eaten without ever seeing the creature. She took a deep breath and turned around.

She saw his face first and smiled. He was a good looking man, with soft brown curls framing a pleasant – but slightly worried – face. He was in the midst of rubbing himself down with a tattered towel, which he hurriedly swung to cover the lower part of his body. She stifled a scream as he backed away, his four feet scrabbling against the wooden floor.

“Now, stay calm now...” He held out a hand as if it would hold her back.

“What are – are you a – a monster?” She couldn’t help staring as he slowly lowered the towel and held his hands open in front of him.

---

About the book:


Jane Hays has been told all her life that it’s dangerous to be out in the forest past sundown. At fifteen, she’s quite sure that it’s all old wives’ tales... yet, why does her village bar the gates every night? Why do they even have gates? When she is caught in an unexpected rainstorm on her way home, Jane ignores all the warnings 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.

The Fairy Queen is out for blood. There have been intruders - human intruders - in her domain and she will stop at nothing to find them and kill them. After all, it is only fair. She is only seeking retribution for the death that humans leave in their wake.

But Jane isn’t all that she seems to be. And the events of the night aren’t as innocent as they appear.

A tale of magic, fairy creatures and family, Coexist is a novella for the young and the young-at-heart.

Get Coexist on Amazon or Smashwords. Check out Book Depository or Createspace for paperbacks!

Coexist

Are you an A to Z blogger? Send me a message on my facebook page or on Twitter with your blog name and number and I will send you a coupon to get Coexist on Smashwords for only $0.99!


---

About the Author:

Anna Tan grew up in Malaysia, the country that is not Singapore. In 2015, she traded in a life of annoying other bean counters for one of annoying the online world with questions about life and death and everything in between. The answer is sometimes 42. 

When she is not writing or nitpicking over other writers' copy, she can be found reading a book or attempting to organise her room. 

She can be found lurking at the following places:


---
PRIZES!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

#bookreview: Without Anchovies, Tiger's Adventure and The Terracotta Bride

Without AnchoviesWithout Anchovies by Chua Kok Yee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Without Anchovies starts with the title story, Sambal Without Anchovies, a bittersweet story about Hanif's ongoing spat with his father regarding improving his nasi lemak stall. It ends with a strange little Twilight-like story, Vampire and Werewolf where an unnamed protagonist recounts her love for Joe, whom she suspects is a murderer. In between, you find robberies, murders, ghosts, cats, abusive Datuks, kiasu strangers, strange feng shui, civilian vigilantes, morphing geckos and much more.

I devoured this slim book of short stories in the span of a day.
Well - to be honest, the stories are on the shorter end of short stories and some veer into flash fiction territory.
Quibbling on terminology aside, the stories are entertaining, absorbing and thoroughly Malaysian.


Tiger's AdventureTiger's Adventure by Hussain Ajina
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tiger's Adventure is a really short read at 76 pages. Which means, you can finish it in like what, 20 minutes? It's the story of a really fat cat named Tiger who runs away from home and discovers a wonderful Catopia, or well, at least, a city of cats run by cats for cats. It's a cute, entertaining read, with some subliminal political messages, maybe - but probably not, because, you know, cats.

Thank you, Michelle, for passing me this book! :)
(This book is available on Lulu)


The Terracotta BrideThe Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Siew Tsin's early death has landed her in an unexpected place - in the tenth court of hell, where the dead bribe the hell officials to keep them out of torment and to keep them from being reborn. But Junsheng, her husband, is playing a dangerous game, and Yonghua, his terracotta third wife, is at the centre of it all.

I don't know how to describe this novelette other than it's East meets West. It's a fascinating look into Chinese beliefs of the afterlife versus simplified versions of Christianity as disseminated by well-meaning nuns in mission schools in Malaysia (Popular theology is not always accurate).
Yangsze Choo delves into this in The Ghost Bride too, and I suppose I find it fascinating mainly because I have no personal experience of learning these things while growing up.

Cho's writing is exquisite, as usual; simple, and yet enticing, witty in an understated way. She pulls you into the story, spitting you out at the end thoroughly satisfied.

Get it here!

View all my reviews

Monday, 28 March 2016

#musicmonday: You are my hiding place



Wasn't thinking of posting a Music Monday post, but this came up on the random youtube playlist!

Friday, 25 March 2016

#bookreview: Dissolution by Lee S Hawke

Dissolution is supposed to be launched today! (Edit: I now have an Amazon link! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DEGTLGK)
At any rate, I thought I'd just post my review here before April gets crazy.

If you want to help fund her crowdsourcing for science in Australia, head over here!

Dissolution - A Dystopian NovellaDissolution - A Dystopian Novella by Lee S. Hawke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Taking the concept of selling your souls to work literally, Hawke builds a city where at 18, you sell yourself to the highest bidder. Madeline has known all her life that Merce is where she wants to be - so that she can help fix up Unilox through her modding skills. But when the Auctioning goes terribly wrong, she finds herself on the run.

Dissolution is a gripping read - Hawke takes you down to the depths of rejection and out to the wilds of fear and desperation, before holding out a little carrot of hope. There's a determination to Madeline that seeps out through her every action and word, helping her do the unthinkable: disconnect from the world absolutely by turning off her UConn. Turning to the outcasts for help.

Technology is the core of Dissolution, and Hawke explores our slavery to tech and connectivity, and how we find our value in our jobs and possessions, making non-conformists the stranger-enemy. Corporations that were once meant to protect have been subverted from their purpose. Are corporations inherently evil? Or do they just allow people with the propensity for it to have too much power?

There's much to think about. Or you could just enjoy a good story.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

#bookreview: The Untold Tale by @scifrey

The Untold Tale (The Accidental Turn Series, #1)The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I could mark this as 10/5 stars, I would, but that's impossible, so 5/5 it is, with much hearts and swoons.

Forsyth Turn, our adorable narrator of this story, has always been the secondary character in life as the younger brother of the Great Hero, Kintyre Turn. The bookish, sensitive man who stutters, is prone to fat and is at serious risk of growing old alone and forgotten, will never be the Main Character. It doesn't matter that he's also the Shadow Hand, the King's chief spy, because he doesn't actually get to do anything heroic, not where people might actually see him. The young woman brought to him for healing intrigues him - she must have been very strong to have been able to resist Bootknife's torture and the Viceroy's evil. She also seems to know a lot about him without ever having met him. But of course, no matter what Forsyth thinks of her (that she is beautiful, she is strong, she is admirable), she's not meant for him. Remarkable women turning up at Turn Hall are always meant for Kintyre.

I loved the story from the first word, but after this declaration by Sheriff Pointe at the end of Chapter Two, I was totally sold:
"I don't believe it. I don't, Forsyth, and I don't care what you say. They're just fairy tales made up to scare bad kids into eating their vegetables. There is no such thing as The Last Chapter, there is no such thing as Authorial Intent, and there is no such bloody thing as the Great Writer!"
The Untold Tale is delicious, each word meant to be savoured, breathed in, nibbled at, full of hidden delight and wonder. Frey has a beautiful writing style - all at once slightly old-fashioned and delectable, whilst also being modern and quick-paced. It's tongue-in-cheek and it's serious. It's like an epic fantasy and a modern YA all in one. It is a book for every bookworm or geek who has wanted to enter the worlds of their favourite books, to experience for themselves the wonder of Narnia, or Middle Earth, or Hogwarts, or the Rain Wilds, or in this case, Lysse Chipping. But most of all, it is a book for writers - and Frey delivers.

She pokes at every trope in fantasy adventure stories there is: the damsel in distress, the knight in shining armour, how the MMC always has to fall in love with the FMC; and brings up increasingly common conversations/debates in writer/reader circles (or in the world): female agency, white male privilege, sexism and misogyny in books, Strong Female Characters, diversity, sexuality; all while being extremely entertaining.

Lucy Piper knows everything there is to know about The Tales of Kintyre Turn by Elgar Reed, having written her dissertation on it, but living it is a different thing altogether. And the further she gets into the real world of the books, the more she realises how chauvinistic it is. It's a world that's built to counter her every thought and reaction - but one that's gradually changing because a right word at the right time always makes a difference.

I love it.

* I received a review copy of this book via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

I probably should slap on a reader warning that this book contains sex.

Monday, 21 March 2016

#atozchallenge: 2016 Theme reveal #atozreveal

I'd briefly thought about doing this last year, but the problem then was that I didn't have the time to sit down and write. I didn't want to simply dash out something half-baked and then have regrets. So I took the easy way out and did a series on the A to Z of (mostly) worship songs, which was pretty fun, and kicked off my currently slightly sporadic Music Monday posts.

So, this series veers far away from the usual stuff I post on my blog (books, books and more books - plus the occasional flash fiction), but then again, it is something close to my heart.

Cover by Pam Choo!
This blog series isn’t a how-to of worship leading. It’s not going to teach you step by step what to do, or all the things you need to know about worship leading, or even about worship. That is something too wide a scope for my little blog, and definitely too long for the short snippets and sound bites that make up posts for the A to Z Blogging challenge. Whilst I will be expanding on the posts when I compile them into an ebook after this month, it will still not be comprehensive enough to really teach you anything in depth about this vast experience called worship.

I know all the arguments about how we’ve confined the word “worship” into the 30-minute segment at the beginning of church service where we sing songs and how worship should actually encompass the whole of our lives and the way we live it for God, but for the purpose of this series (and to make my life simpler) when I say “worship” I will generally refer to singing songs (unless I state otherwise).

I'm not saying that I know everything about worship leading. I'm not even saying I know very much at all. I'm just writing out things that I believe are important - at least to me in my walk with God. I first started leading worship in youth group back in the late '90s when we called ourselves lead worshippers. I don't call myself anything anymore, except that busybody who likes compiling top 25 lists (okay, now I feel like an old fart).

At any rate, I'm hoping that you will glean something from my 15+ years of experience. Or not.

I'll be compiling it into an ebook at the end of the month and will be sending out a copy to all those on my mailing list. So sign up if you want to get a free copy! (You'll also get a copy of When Winds Blow Cold, my fairy tale short story when you sign up.)

2016 A to Z Index: 
(each link goes live on the day itself)

Adoration
Beauty
Capacity
Discipline
Exhortation
Focus
Grace
Honour
Integrity
Jesus
Kindle
Listen
Motive
Name
Obedience
Priesthood
Qualified
Rest
Sensitivity
Theology
Unity
Vulnerability
Worth
Xenia
Yearn
Zerubbabel

---

RELEASING 31 MARCH!

Are you an A to Z blogger? Send me a message on my facebook page or on Twitter with your blog name and number and I will send you a coupon to get Coexist on Smashwords for only $0.99!

About the book:

Jane Hays has been told all her life that it’s dangerous to be out in the forest past sundown. At fifteen, she’s quite sure that it’s all old wives’ tales... yet, why does her village bar the gates every night? Why do they even have gates? When she is caught in an unexpected rainstorm on her way home, Jane ignores all the warnings 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.

The Fairy Queen is out for blood. There have been intruders – human intruders  in her domain and she will stop at nothing to find them and kill them. After all, it is only fair. She is only seeking retribution for the death that humans leave in their wake.

But Jane isn’t all that she seems to be. And the events of the night aren’t as innocent as they appear.

A tale of magic, fairy creatures and family, Coexist is a novella for the young and the young-at-heart.

Get Coexist on Amazon or Smashwords. You can also get it as a paperback here or here

Coexist

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Palm Sunday

http://lent.goarch.org/palm_sunday/learn/

You came riding on a donkey. Who rides on an ass, really. 
I mean, where's the grand entrance? That's not showing power and authority. You gotta come with a cool ride. Ferrari. Lamborghini. Okay, maybe an Audi or BMW. Coming in on an ass is like... driving a second hand kancil. Or puttering in on a kapchai. 
No class. 
Poor.
Forgettable.
Like, dude. At least spend some money on a good quality horse, okay. Doesn't need to be a pedigree race horse. 
The look's the thing, man. You're supposed to be Royalty. Well, at least the descendent of royalty. There needs to be some kind of splash, you know. Otherwise who would know who you are?

Though... I think they knew. Well, at least the kids thought they knew. But who believes kids? Who believes those simple kampung people all crowding into town for the Festival? It's not as if they were scholars. It's not as if they'd actually studied the Torah or Bible or whatever you call those Holy Scriptures. 
It's the city people, the urban folk, who've got it together. The scholars in the temple who've studied this over and over again. I mean, man, if you have a message you've gotta speak to the intellectuals, the ones who knows where it's at - people listen to them, okay.
Not like Charlie down the road who doesn't know the difference between resurrection and zombies. 
It all looks the same right? People coming back from the dead?

And yeah. Rising from the dead. Pretty cool.
But not dying is kind of like cooler. 
I don't know, man.

Maybe you're not cut out for hero-hood. 
You're not really the kind of hero they're looking for.

You don't have the style. And that's really important. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

#bookreview: Esther's Gift by Bette Lee Crosby

Esther's Gift: The Lei Crime Series:  (Kindle Worlds Novella)Esther's Gift: The Lei Crime Series: by Bette Lee Crosby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a cute little novella (novella? Longer short story?) that I picked up because:
a) Bette Lee Crosby offered it and
b) it's set in Toby Neal's Lei Crime series world.

I made the mistake of thinking that it might also be a murder mystery in Hawaii, but although it's set in Hawaii and someone dies (well, a few people die), it's not a murder or a mystery. Okay, fair enough - the blurb does tell it as it is: "Esther Ka'awai, a psychic and gifted wise woman of the ancient culture has seen the future. She knows of the devastation that will come to the island." No murder there... but well, one can hope... in vain.

Crosby manages to break out from her very Southern drawl to bring to life a gentle, wise Hawaiian woman with a gift - one that is more often a burden because no one likes to be told bad news, even if it means that they can prepare for it. Underlying it is a very charming romance between a widow and a widower; both with great loves now laid in the grave, uncertain if it would mean anything to start anew at the end of their lives. Overall, a heartwarming tale, as Crosby likes to tell it.

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

View all my reviews

Monday, 14 March 2016

#musicmonday: If not for Your grace | Israel Houghton



Hello! I'm back :P
It's been a while.

Grace that restores
Grace that redeems
Grace that releases
Me to worship
Grace that repairs
Visions and dreams
Grace that releases
Miracles

Friday, 11 March 2016

#fridayflash: Talk me down

Talk me down, she said, like she was on the edge of a building, waiting to jump. Maybe she was. I don't know. But she'd laid down her dreams and bared her soul and she stood there, looking at me with soulful eyes.
Help me or talk me down. She said it like a command. I could either help her achieve all the things she'd wanted to do - too many, too varied to remember - or I could talk her out of it, telling her that it wasn't possible.
So I did.
I tore her down word by word, telling her that she couldn't. That all these things - these dreams? - they're not for one like her. You're too small, too weak, too uncertain; these vast visions need a big-hearted, large-handed, forward-thinking man to head them, because you? You're certainly not enough.
Then she looked at me with tears in her eyes and nodded.
I knew that.
Then she did them anyway because they wouldn't let her go.

 ---

Also, you have until tomorrow (March 12) to get When Winds Blow Cold free from Smashwords with the code "RW100".

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

#bookreview: Board Stiff by Piers Anthony

Board Stiff (Xanth, #38)Board Stiff by Piers Anthony
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hot off reading Ogre, Ogre and saying that I don't find puns funny anymore, I went on to read this. Why? Because I'm a sucker for punishment maybe. Or maybe because I had downloaded a copy of this for review from Edelweiss and figured, "what better way to review this than to see how Piers Anthony has grown since whenever ago?" Ogre, Ogre is book 5 in the series, I think, published in 1982 whilst Board Stiff, #38 was published in 2013.

I enjoyed Board Stiff more than Ogre, Ogre. It felt better put together, as if there were a stronger storyline and more going on than puns. Though there are a lot of puns. And many dying puns too.

Irrelevant Kandy makes a wish - except she made a mental typo that the Wishing Well picked up on. So instead of being a beautiful girl heading out for Adventure, Excitement and Romance, Kandy is a flat, stiff board with two knotholes for eyes, who is picked up by Ease on his way to look for the perfect adventure.

As with every Xanth story I've read so far (I haven't read many), the main two protagonists end up together, so you kind of know where this is going. In the same vein, Ease makes his way to the Good Magician with a question and is sent on a quest. You're not going to get anything especially new in terms of the general storyline.

However, in contrast to Ogre, Ogre, Board Stiff covers a much wider range of Xanth, and out of it as well. I haven't read much of the stuff in between, but the Xanth universe is much more expanded by this time (as it should be), and with the Sequin of Events and the quest that Ease and Kandy are on, much more interesting things happen.

One thing I didn't particularly enjoy was the perpetual male-bashing and the constant stereotype that men have no self-control (i.e. they freak when they see Panties. But freak less when the girl is nude? What?). I mean, it was slightly funny at the start of the book, but by the end of it, it was just annoying. I know that Anthony has to stick with it once it was established in the beginning of the book, especially as it seemed to be quite an important plot point that helped move the story along, but if it had been confined to maybe one bonehead guy it would have been more palatable than being a trait of every male of every species in Xanth.

So whilst I did enjoy it more than Ogre, Ogre storywise, I can't say that I really liked it that super much hence the 3-star review. Well, maybe 3.25.

Note: I received a copy of this for review via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Mosaics: #booklaunch and #bookreview

Today's the day, all the excitement, all the anticipation, and now it's finally here. Don't forget to enter the mega giveaway, including a Kindle Fire, a $50 gift card, and a paperback library, at the end of this post!

A project focused on bringing women's voices to readers and celebrating the stories they have to tell, including stories by Keyan BowesCarol CaoChelo Diaz-LuddenSarina DorieNaomi ElsterJordanne FullerAri Harradine Karen HeulerL.S. Johnson, Tonya LiburdKelsey MakiJulia RayPatty SomloP.K. TylerDeborah WalkerKeira Michelle Telford Kim WellsElizabeth Wolf, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley:

Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women Vol 1

Buy Your Copy Now! Amazon.com

Mosaic 

CoverMosaics: A Collection of Independent Women will inspire and shock you with its multi-faceted look at the history and culture surrounding femininity. If gender is a construct, this anthology is the house it built. Look through its many rooms, some bright and airy, some terrifying- with monsters lurking in the shadows.

Mosaics Volume One features twenty self-identified female authors writing about Intersectionality, including women of color, and members of the disability, trans, and GLB/ GSD* (Gender and Sexual Diversities) communities. We have curated amazing short fiction, flash fiction, poetry, essays, and art. It’s personal, political, and a great read.

This collection includes Hugo Award Nominees, Tiptree Shortlists, Pushcart Prize Winners, USA Today Bestsellers, indie superstars and traditionally published talents alike. The anthology combines leading and new voices all proclaiming their identity as Women, and their ability to Roar.

My review:

Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women (Mosaics #1)Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mosaic is the art of creating images by assembling other smaller pieces together. Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women is just that. This collection of short fiction, flash fiction, poetry, essays and art, each a beautiful piece, has been curated to present a larger tapestry of what it means to be a woman. Not all of them agree with each other. They're not meant to. But they give you a wider picture of the various things it means to be female.

Beginning with Deborah Walker's The Wax Anatomist's Daughter, which gives you a glimpse of the complex relationship between bother and daughter, and ending with L.S. Johnson's The Queen of Lakes, which weighs a marriage Rose doesn't want against a monster's favour, the anthology explores a variety of topics - relationships, abuse, oppression, choices, sexism, misogyny, power, loss, motherhood, menstruation, lesbianism, independence - from the view point of the women themselves. Women's voices have been suppressed for a long time, and in this anthology, women are standing up to claim back their voices and their spaces.

The Girl made of Glass (Ari Harradine) is a particularly insightful story about how girls are often restrained from their full potential because of fear and the idea that women are fragile. It takes a strong woman to set Attie free from this entrapment, helping her decide to take a risky step towards wholeness - even if it may result in her death.

I enjoyed Kim Wells' Star Girl and Captain Obvious meet the Troll, a funny satire on superheroes, comic books and common tropes, but I couldn't decide whether to sympathise (or totally judge) the poor woman in Julie Rea's Pain Relief whose struggles with the benefits office and her medication is made worse by her weed-smoking habit.

Femina Virtus (Keira Michelle Telford) is a period piece on the suffragette movement, whilst Space Loses its Allure When You've Lost Your Moon Cup (Sylvia Spruck Wrigley) is a hilarious piece about having your period in space.

The Queen of Lakes is a powerful piece to end with: Rose's struggles with the limited options she has are poignant; her parents' fights about allowing her to dream and learn weighed against their ability to support her studies financially are all too real; her brother's betrayal like a knife to the heart.

The debate on feminism (and why it's necessary) is not one that is going to go away any time soon. We need collections like this to continue telling the world what it really means to be female.

* I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

All profits go to the Pixel Project to end Violence Against Women!

View all my reviews

Buy Your Copy Now! Amazon.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 4 March 2016

#fridayflash: Poetography by #kafayatquadri



The pictures align in front of me, showing me the things she has seen, the places she has been, the words that leak out from her heart. They speak of things I know but do not understand, plumbing the depths of her experiences, echoing the chambers of her soul, so that I wish I could.

But I can’t.

I look with eyes that do not see, listen with ears that do not hear. There is incomprehension because I cannot make myself care enough for another to feel their heartbeat, to sway to their music, to acknowledge that we are so different and yet we are alike.

Because I won’t.

My fists are curled up tight because I do not wish to let go of myself, to let go of all the things that make me whole, which are all the things that also break me apart, scattering me into fragmented pieces that cannot grasp what it is to be someone else. To love someone else. To be.

So I don’t.

Who they speak to, I cannot tell. Maybe they will whisper their secrets to you in their images and in their lines. Maybe you will grasp all the things she is trying to say but is too ephemeral for me. I need the earth beneath me, holding me firm; she flies in the sky, free, soaring above the wind.

---

Kafayat Quadri is holding a poetography exhibition in the Lightbox @ LUMA, The Whiteaways Arcade, this weekend. Come drop by from 10am - 6pm!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

#bookreview: The Last Days of Magic

The Last Days of Magic: A NovelThe Last Days of Magic: A Novel by Mark Tompkins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I requested an ARC of The Last Days of Magic from NetGalley because it was a good fit with the trend of stories I'd been reading (and writing). There were Celts, fairies, magic, druids, kings, goddesses and Fomorians. Besides, who can resist the line, 'Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales and Biblical mysteries'? This, I thought, is something I could get behind.

Except that the novel starts with a disjointed story of a dead body and a girl who has been asked by her grandmother to run because hidden within her old set of fancy fairy tales are secret pictures of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain things the Vatican does not want anyone to know of. It then plunges you into the 1300s, flitting between Ireland and England and Rome, and the girl doesn't appear again until the end. So besides an unnecessary prologue and epilogue, which I can only guess means that the author is leaving himself an avenue to pursue a sequel or two, this is basically medieval fantasy.

The first thing that really bugged me about the digital galley I received was how badly it was formatted. Seriously, Viking, I can format better than that. Did you just dump the print version into Kindle format and not bother to proofread or something? Scrollability also fails when there are no Chapter breaks. This is like... one block of text with awkward paragraph breaks mid-sentence.

The second thing that really, really bugged me was the way Tompkins used all the Bible verses out of context and perverted everything in an attempt to... I don't know, create conflict? I'm probably a bit more pissed about this because I am a Christian and I don't like having tenets of my faith being twisted about. I'm not one who takes everything in the Bible as 100% literal truth - I've been known to admit that some of my readings (especially Revelations) are taken at a slightly more allegorical level, and there are times I read the Old Testament as myth and legend; i.e. they may or may not have happened as written, but the underlying principles are still the same, consistent and true. I believe I try to do the same when I write my own fairy tales and myths - if a certain fairy creature is written a certain way, I would try to stay true to type.
Tompkins has instead decided that the only reason the Roman Church performs Exorcism is to then capture the demons and use them against other demons and half-angelic beings. In his novel most (if not all) magical beings are actually the offspring of angels/demons and humans, i.e. Nephilim. I'm rather meh about that. This trope has been used before, including in Patricia Lynne's Michael, which I loved/hated. Secret Vatican group, fine. Exorcism, fine. Strange myths about Adam/Lilith vs Adam/Eve, strange but okay, I've encountered those before... Priests running about using witchcraft and summoning demons? Uh, no. Mis-quoting Bible verses for no good reason (and didn't add anything to the story except a tinge of blasphemy), why and what for?

Anyway, between Ireland where the priests of the order of St Patrick spout weird legends posited to be biblical (as far as I know, they're not) and Rome where factions of the Vatican are plotting to destroy Ireland in order to gain control of the magic (eh, what?) and the Irish Christian Church, King Richard II is apparently a half-crazed bi-sexual man who's in bed with his wife, Anne and his um, friend (?) de Vere at the same time and being outmaneuvered by de Vere, his lords, and his priests into throwing money and forces to subdue Ireland for them. Let's not forget France, where the King (again, mad) is controlled by a coven of witches whilst his Queen sleeps with his brother. I am not a history buff - these could actually be historically true (I mean, without the magical tangent). But a novel where most of the powerful men are weak and controlled by conniving, power-hungry and money-hungry women is just... extremely grating.

I suppose in a mad sort of way this is supposed to make sense and supposed to fit together into a remarkable tale - a feat of world-building that poses astonishing and resonant answers to epic questions but the writing is choppy and disjointed, jumping back and forth between years and locations, raising more questions than it does any answers. Lumps of fake history, unconvincing legend and perverted myth are added in as backstory, making it even more unwieldy a read.

It was a tedious read and I was most happy to get to the end of it so that I could write this review. I was about to give it two stars, but I realised... no, this story is not okay. I did not like it. Religious protests aside (because I could be biased), it was still annoying confusing.
I wish I liked it, but I don't.

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