Wednesday, 22 March 2017

#bookreview: Seekers Trilogy

The Seekers Trilogy starts with Children of Darkness (reviewed here) followed by The Stuff of Stars and The Light of Reason.

The Stuff of Stars (Seekers #2)The Stuff of Stars by David Litwack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Orah and Nathaniel have set off from Little Pond, attempting to cross the ocean in search of the keepmasters' kin. What they discover isn't exactly what they were hoping to find.

The technos, those who still cling to knowledge and wonder, are struggling to survive. A cataclysm has claimed their best and brightest - locking them in the Dream - leaving only the very old and the very young who struggle to keep the city alive.
On the other hand, the greenies who have rejected technology, and those who have been cast out of the city, struggle to survive, barely being able to feed and clothe themselves.

Yet what the city has is still more advanced that anything in the Keep and Orah and Nathaniel must walk that thin line between the warring parties if they hope to return home - with or without their hoped-for tech.

The Stuff of Stars is a delicate web of desires and hatred, each party pulling for their own goals to the detriment of all else. It's told in Orah's voice, giving you the insight and folly of a young woman consumed with the goal of making her world a better place.

As with The Children of Darkness, Litwack pushes the narrative to balance the quest for truth and knowledge against the desire to be right, because in this dystopian world, to seek knowledge is synonymous with seeking the dark and destruction.
The Light of Reason (Seekers #3)The Light of Reason by David Litwack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Orah and Nathaniel are home - but everything they've worked for before they left is gone. The new grand vicar, one they have personal history with, has taken over and is pushing the people back into fear, back into the old ways. Worse - he's taken over the keep and is jealously guarding the knowledge only for his own use.

Nathaniel is slipping down the slippery slope into darkness and Orah can only watch in horror. But she does not know what else to do either. Is violence the only way to win? What if they only thing they can do to counter the brutality of the grand vicar and his men is to be equally violent in return? When will the bloodshed end? Can the light of reason bring about peace when there is so much anger and hurt?

The Seekers' original quest from The Children of Darkness finally comes to a close, laying bare the confusing maze between darkness masquerading as light and light appearing as darkness. What is the truth? Is knowledge and the pursuit of it evil? Or does evil reside in our own hearts, awakened by our insatiable lust for power?

The Light of Reason is a thoughtful book, one that pursues peace through the ravages of war, attempting to grasp the true essence of light amidst the darkness.

Note: I received a free e-copy of this book for review from the author (sometime in Nov 2016 and which should really have been reviewed earlier. Sorry!)

View all my reviews

Monday, 20 March 2017

The #atozchallenge #themereveal: Princesses!



Everybody loves princesses. Or at least we’re conditioned to. Beauty and the Beast just released again (well, not in Malaysia) so there’s Belle to think about. And Mulan is in the works, though she’s not quite a princess. But well, Disney princesses. So much love.

And so much hate.

What you’ll find in this A to Z are 26 princess stories - ranging from the serious to the ridiculous, mundane to the fantastic, the sweet to the annoying. Accompanying these posts will be 26 princess drawings that you can find on ind.elvenstar.net. Because we’re crazy like that.

Here’s the list! (P/S subject to change as I write and she draws.)

Alabaster Admiral
Blueberry Bane
Charmed Chandelier
Diamond Darkness
Egalitarian Elephant
Flamboyant Flamingo
Ginormous Grape
Heroic Herring
Infinite Inglenook
Judgemental Jungle
Killer Kite
Loquacious Llama
Maudlin Monster
Nasty Nacho
Outraged Octogenarian
Potato in Peril / Perilous Potato
Quaffing Quintet
Rag-bag Rabbit
Strawberry Scone
Travelling Troubadour
Unexceptional Umber
Valiant Vicar
Whale-ish Waistline
Xenophobic Xylophone
Yodeling Yak
Zany Zebra

Links go live on the respective days.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

#bookreview: Shorts

Was planning to review the second two books of David Litwack's Seeker trilogy, but... things came up so here're a couple of shorts from recent archives. :)


Hero Is a Four Letter WordHero Is a Four Letter Word by J.M. Frey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hero Is a Four Letter Word is a pretty short read, consisting of 3 short stories.

The first, The Once and Future King was a cute read, featuring a reborn Arthur Pendragon as a baby.

The second story, Another Four Letter Word was my favourite. It's a retelling of Tam Lin and has echoes of all the things I've ever loved from the Turn Series.

The final story, Maddening Science, felt rather meh in comparison, playing on superhero/supervillain tropes. It's good on its own, I suppose, but after reading the first two, it didn't capture me much.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book via Story Cartel


Flash Fiction Magazine - Issue 1Flash Fiction Magazine - Issue 1 by Flash Fiction Magazine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Flash Fiction Magazine is a mash up of everything. Of many beautiful anythings. From bite-sized stories lasting no more than a paragraph to those that run to a few pages, they cover almost all aspects of life: love, joy, sorrow, pain - and the plain weird.

There are some really beautiful pieces in there, which linger a little with you, alongside some which I just didn't get, but that's what it is: 50 little glimpses of life from 50 different perspectives.

I received a free review copy from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Hokay. Now back to doing exciting betas and excruciating edits.
(I apologise for the sudden lack of consistency in book reviews and other posts. In other words, I am simultaneously winning and failing in life at the same time. Just gotta get back on track...)

ALSO, BETHEL WORSHIP NIGHT THIS WEEKEND WOOHOOOOOOOOO.
(See: another win - yay concert; also another fail: ugh timmmeeeeee)

Monday, 13 March 2017

#musicmonday: No Other Name | Hillsong



Find hope
When all the world seems lost
Behold
The triumph of the cross
His power
Has trampled death and grave
Our life found in His name
The greatest name of all

---

Because nothing seems like triumph right now, this is the verse that needs to be on loop.
Because the world seems lost. The world is lost. But we need hope, if only to push us on a day forward at a time.

I cannot see the triumph, but it is there

And maybe if I sing it louder, speak it louder, I will see beyond the veil, see through that which shrouds the rightful future from me. Beholding

Behold!

The death in me has been defeated. The grave holds no sting. The power of the cross is triumphant.

Behold the triumph of the cross.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

#bookreview: Love's Promise by @melstormauthor

Love's Promise (The First Street Church Romances Book 2)Love's Promise by Melissa Storm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love's Promise is sweet. Definitely saccharine, diabetes-inducingly sweet. In a very clean, old-fashioned, charmingly pure way. Which is probably why I loved it and am not ashamed to say so.

Kristina Rose Maher has always been not-the-one and she knows it. Attempting to take her life by the reins, she opts for a gastric bypass. But recovery is difficult - food has always been her comfort go-to, but is definitely off the list forever. Then there's the way Jeffrey Berkley, her coworker, is suddenly everywhere in her face, and she's not quite sure if she should really dare hope after squishing all her feelings for so long.

Whilst it feels like the major focus of a romance should be the actual romance, it seems that the major bulk of this story actually focuses on one theme: acceptance. Kristina must learn to accept herself as she is, Jeffrey must accept that his dreams in life will never meet his father's approval, Elise must accept and trust God's timing, even if she thinks it's wrong.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the author as part of the book launch.

View all my reviews

Melissa Storm is a mother first, and everything else second. Her fiction is highly personal and often based on true stories. Writing is Melissa's way of showing her daughter just how beautiful life can be, when you pay attention to the everyday wonders that surround us.

Melissa loves books so much, she married fellow author Falcon Storm. Between the two of them, there are always plenty of imaginative, awe-inspiring stories to share. When she's not reading, writing, or child-rearing, Melissa spends time relaxing at home in the company of her four dogs, four parrots, and rescue cat. She never misses an episode of The Bachelor or her nightly lavender-infused soak in the tub. Because priorities.

Website | FacebookInstagram | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube

Friday, 10 March 2017

#fridayflash: Breathe


"You're angry." A statement. Not a question.

She didn't reply.

"You're spiralling." Another statement.

A flash of something. Dark. Hard. Angry. "What of it?"

"Why?"

Did it matter? Did anything really matter? She shrugged off the hand that was slowly creeping onto her shoulder.

He tucked his hands away. "I didn't do anything."

"That's precisely it."

"What are you really accusing me of?"

She shook her head. She didn't know. Didn't know anymore. All she knew was that tight fist of anger nestled beneath her breasts, the stiff clench of hatred settled along her jawline, the burning fire of resentment in her belly, that wouldn't go away. Wouldn't abate. Wouldn't be quenched.

"Did I promise you anything?"

The word fell from her lips like bitter medicine. "No."

"Then why are you angry?"

Because I'm tired. Because I'm lonely. Because I'm afraid. Because I'm stuck here, one step forward, two steps back, and everyone is leaving. Because I'm not enough. I'm never enough. 

He stepped up behind her, wrapping his arms around her and this time, she didn't push him away. "Breathe."

Thursday, 9 March 2017

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

#booklaunch: Love's Promise by @melstormauthor

Love’s Promise:  Excerpt from Chapter 13

Kristina clapped as her friend took the pulpit. She had never seen Elise in front of her youth group. Even though they were best friends, Kristina hadn’t been back to youth group since she’d graduated to the big church. A few times per year, Pastor Bernie would take a Sunday off and ask Elise or one of the elders to deliver the week’s sermon, but the teen members of the congregation understandably required a different message and a different style when it came to their own church services and events.

All around her, the kids settled onto their blankets with plates of fried chicken, potato salad, and other fatty picnic fare. Peggy, a girl who worked at the diner sometimes on nights and weekends, joined Kristina on her blanket. “Hi,” she whispered with a grin as Elise flipped on the microphone and shouted, “Boo!”

Kristina jumped back, unprepared for the loud noise that shot through the auditorium. Nervous laughter erupted around them, but Elise stood stock still with a serious expression on her face.

“Halloween was last month!” Peggy called to Elise.

More laughter.

Still Elise didn’t speak, didn’t wear her signature smile, didn’t do anything.

The laughter quieted, and everyone sat waiting to see what their youth pastor would say or do next.

“Fear,” Elise said, enunciating the word slowly, taking time with each sound. “What is it?”

Answers rose up from all around the room. 

“Not feeling safe.”

“Being worried.”

“Spiders!” Peggy added.

“Not knowing how things will work out,” Kristina said through the laughter.

“And were you afraid just now when I shouted boo right here out of the blue?”

A chorus of Nos rippled through the room.

Elise pouted and stalked forward on the stage. “But it was unexpected. You didn’t know what would happen next. A lot of people find shocks like that scary. Why didn’t you?”

“Because you’re not scary.”

“We know you.”

“You’d never hurt us.”

“You’d never hurt anyone,” Kristina added.

Elise perked up, her eyes wide and voice booming. “Ahh, so I failed in my attempt to scare you because you know me, because you trust me to take care of you?”

Everyone nodded and murmured their agreement.

“You know who else is there to take care of you? God.” Elise bobbed her head and traced her way back to the pulpit. “God’s gotcha. 100% of the time, He is there and He’s got your back. So then why do we continue to live in fear? If I couldn’t scare you, then why does life scare you when you know God is just around the corner rooting for you, ready to catch you if you fall?”

Nobody said anything. They all waited to see what their youth pastor would say next, Kristina Rose most of all.

“Easy in theory, right? But hard in practice,” Elise continued. “They say practice makes perfect, but no one is perfect outside of Jesus. Practice can make better. Practice can make easier, but none of us are perfect. It’s kind of why we need God in the first place. It’s why we need to trust Him with our fears rather than trying to figure everything out for ourselves.”

Oh, now she understood why Elise had dragged her here. She saw Kristina’s fear loud and clear. It was in everything she did, no matter how hard she tried to act otherwise. Elise did love to showboat, but she may have also chose this method of delivering her message so that the kids would be there to back her up, so it would feel less like a personal lecture and more like something Elise was sharing with all of them. 

“It’s a lesson we’ve all learned since Sunday School. God’s got you. So then why do so many of us forget as we grow up? As we face new challenges? Why do we think we can do it all ourselves? Why don’t we depend on God for help?”

Some of the teens ventured answers, but Kristina honestly didn’t know what to say. Elise was right, of course. Kristina had been trying to do it all on her own rather than trusting in God—and in her friends—to take care of her. She’d been trying to do it all on her own and still didn’t even fully trust herself. No wonder she was failing so miserably.

Elise reached under the pulpit and pulled out a small black gun. She closed one eye, and stuck her arm straight out toward Kristina Rose.

Nervous laughter broke through the sanctuary once again.

“You’re laughing. Why are you laughing? I have a gun. A gun! Shouldn’t you be afraid?”

“We know that’s not a real gun, Elise,” Peggy said, making a pistol gesture with her thumb and index finger and pointing it back at Elise.

“Are you sure about that? What makes you think it’s not real? It’s the right color, right size, right shape.” She widened her stance and turned the gun to its side, setting up for a kill shot. “Are you scared now?” she asked, her voice flat, menacing.

“No, I’m not,” Kristina answered. “I know you’d never actually shoot me with a real gun.”

“How sure are you? Would you bet your life?” She took two steps forward, unwavering in her aim.

Kristina nodded. “I trust you not to hurt me.”

Elise pulled the trigger and a stream of water hit Kristina on the leg.

The audience laughed some more. It seemed they did a lot of that whenever Elise took the stage. 

“Told ya! We knew it wasn’t real,” they shouted.

Elise returned the gun to the pulpit and banged on her chest with the mic. “Did you see that? Did you see that? Kristina Rose trusted me to shoot her—to shoot her!—because I’m her best friend and she knows I won’t hurt her. But that’s all I am, a best friend. God is our father. Of course He wants what’s best for us. Of course He would never hurt us without a reason.” 

She gave that a minute to set in before jumping off the stage and pumping her arms as she walked animatedly between the blankets. “Here we are, going about our business, and—whoa—a new danger appears.” Elise jerked forward and threw a banana peel she’d been hiding onto the ground in front of her.

This time Kristina found herself laughing along, too.

“Don’t laugh!” Elise warned, spinning around to look at everyone in turn. “This is dangerous. I could slip and fall! How can I keep walking forward when there’s this huge dangerous thing just waiting to knock me off my feet?”

“Step around it!” 

“Walk over it!”

“Just avoid it.”

Elise did as instructed with a skip. “Pfffhew, I’m safe!” she cried. 

Kristina Rose loved watching her friend in action. She had no idea her sermons involved so much physical comedy, but it all made perfect sense. This is just who Elise was—passionate, energetic, the star of the show. They made a great pair, Elise and Kristina, because while one craved attention, the other was all too happy to let somebody else take center stage. Had they been enabling each other all this time?

Elise winked at Kristina Rose, then rolled her eyes and jogged back up to the stage. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. I know this is all fairly ridiculous. Who slips on a banana peel other than maybe a cartoon character? But here’s the thing: in hindsight, many of our problems seem equally absurd. Why didn’t I just tell her how I feel, or why didn’t I just take the plunge? Well, I’m here to tell you today, God doesn’t give us problems we can’t handle. You know what Kelly Clarkson says: ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Well, I want to be strong. Don’t you?”

Peggy started humming the pop song quietly beside Kristina.

“I want to be strong,” Kristina said.

Others murmured in agreement.

“Well, guess what. So do I, but you know what else? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Say it with me this time…”

Everyone shouted in unison, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

“Yes, you can.” Elise stooped down to pick up the banana peel, curled it into a ball, and then made a free shot at the trash basket. 

Some muted applause followed the swish straight into the bin.

Elise tapped her heart and pointed toward Heaven. “Now when we break into group, I want us to share our fears, share our problems, and then place them at the Lord’s feet. Trusting in God doesn’t mean that you give up trying. It just means that you know you’re going to win in the end. It brushes aside the worry, makes the task of living a much more enjoyable—much easier—thing to do. How would your life change if you stopped being afraid and started trusting in God to lead you to the place you need to be?” Elise locked eyes with Kristina Rose as she asked this.

Kristina had no idea whether she was meant to answer, but luckily she didn’t have to. A series of beeps and whirls sounded from beside her, and all eyes zoomed toward the blanket where she sat with Peggy.

“Oops! Sorry!” Peggy leaped up and waved her phone by way of explanation. “I forgot to silence it, but it’s my boss. I have to take this.” She rushed out in the hall, leaving Kristina to wonder why Mabel would be calling on a day she knew Peggy would be taking off to attend the retreat.

“Let’s all clean up our plates and move our blankets into a circle,” Elise said, striding over to help Kristina Rose adjust hers.

“Was that for me?” Kristina asked quietly while the kids laughed and joked with one another.

“It was for everyone, but, yes, inspired by you. I love you, you know, and I want you to know that you’ve got this, that God’s—”

“God’s got me?” Kristina finished for her friend. “I know. Thank you so much for the reminder.”


---

She's waiting for her prince to come but was he right beside her all the time?

Kristina Rose Maher wants to know why fairytales never happen for fat girls. Certain that diner cook Jeff, handsome and fit, will never want her as more than a friend, she stuffs down her attraction to him. But when she finds herself facing a life-altering weight loss surgery, she discovers she's willing to do whatever it takes to embrace lifeand loveto the fullest.

Jeffrey Berkley can't bear the thought of losing the friend he’s only just beginning to realize matters so much to him no matter what size she is. But he is also terrified that helping her reach for her dreams will also mean finally reaching for his ownand letting down his family’s legacy in the process.

Both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to love themselves before they can find a way to make a promise to each other. Will they finally be able to lay their heavy burdens at the Lord's feet, and trust him to bring the happily-ever-after they both crave?

Don't miss this sweet tale of faith, love, and gastric bypassget your copy of Love's Promise today!


 Melissa Storm is a mother first, and everything else second. Her fiction is highly personal and often based on true stories. Writing is Melissa's way of showing her daughter just how beautiful life can be, when you pay attention to the everyday wonders that surround us.

Melissa loves books so much, she married fellow author Falcon Storm. Between the two of them, there are always plenty of imaginative, awe-inspiring stories to share. When she's not reading, writing, or child-rearing, Melissa spends time relaxing at home in the company of her four dogs, four parrots, and rescue cat. She never misses an episode of The Bachelor or her nightly lavender-infused soak in the tub. Because priorities.


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Join us at the launch party!

I'll be hosting a slot from 11am - noon today (March 6, 10pm - 11pm EST) at the launch party so do drop by then! Well... drop by the whole week-long fest from March 6 - 11 for daily giveaways, games, and fun conversations and behind-the-scenes info. 

See you there!

Monday, 6 March 2017

#musicmonday: The Wonderful Cross



When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain, I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose, so rich a crown

Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
All who gather here by grace, draw near and bless Your name

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

---

But would you really give your all?

Friday, 3 March 2017

#fridayflash: Marked

“Where is your faith?” you ask. I answer, “In you alone.” Walk with me in that peace today, O lover of my soul, protector of my way.
But one day you were Jacob, and the next you were Israel, and there was no in-between. There was just that struggle, that late night fight; bloody tooth, nail, claw, clinging on desperately for the blessing, the change, anything that would take you from this fear and deception into... peace.

Because that was all you ever knew, wasn't it? That if you didn't fight for it, you'd never get it. It was never yours. Never granted. Always stolen, always torn from its rightful owner. Who didn't even want it. And it's fight or flight - hell, it's fight and flight. Because you knew you couldn't stay. Not when you'd taken everything he'd grown up taking for granted.

But the blessing was yours because you wanted it.

And then you had to go back. Because your blessing was tied to the land and if you weren't there it wasn't yours and then what would have been the point of all that fighting? So you headed home, half your heart believing that God would do it, God would protect you, the other half freaking out because you don't want to die.

Not that you wouldn't fight death itself for the blessing. And it felt like it, wrestling with the angel, grasping again for the blessing, afraid. Afraid of being left behind. Afraid of being overlooked. Afraid of being not enough. Afraid, even after all He's done, that maybe, just maybe, this would be as far as you'll ever get.

And to your surprise, you got all you've ever wanted.

You've come up victorious, no longer the Supplanter, the Trickster, but the Man who Contended with God, the One who has Prevailed. The blessing is yours. Your life is given back to you. Your faith is sealed. You've finally found peace. And you're Marked.

Your hip will never be the same again, but that's a small price to pay for having fought with God and not died.

---

Genesis 32: 24-31

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LENT

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

#bookreview: Skyping Back in Time by Agnes Ong

Skyping Back in TimeSkyping Back in Time by Agnes Ong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A strange blackout in his Petaling Jaya apartment connects eleven-year-old Kian Kit to nine-year-old Mei Mei from 1946 Malacca. This strange connection opens Kian Kit's eyes to the realities of life after war and how families struggled to survive in 1946. When events threaten to break up Mei Mei's family, Kian Kit tries to help - but what can he do when he's 68 years in the future?

Agnes has written one of the most awwwww-inducing books I've read in a while. It's targetted at kids - a classic MG kind of story, with obvious "learning points" (the war in Malaya, being poor, being nice to your younger siblings, etc) - but that makes it no less adorable. On second thoughts - maybe more adorable for adults than for kids. And maybe more cute for girls than for boys.

It has a nice, pretty ending; neatly tied up with bows and flourishes, even leaving an opening for a maybe-sequel, should Agnes want to make it into a series.

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On a personal, not-so-MG point of view, the beginning was a little clunky, with a Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque opening. Scattered throughout the book are some rather oddly-styled sentences as well, though that's probably a question of personal style & taste. Agnes additionally uses Malaysian English in conversation (E.g. "You sit with Ko Ko here. Ma go find candles"; "Okay, okay. We go together") quite well, adding in that little Malaysian quirkiness and flair, but which may throw off people not used to it.

View all my reviews

On another thought: WHY IS THIS NOT AN E-BOOK YET?

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