Monday, 22 January 2018

#musicmonday: This is Me | Keala Settle



ALL THE EMOTIONS.
I'd also say that this is even stronger than the final cut.
(also amused by Hugh Jackman waving his apple in the air)

---

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

#bookreview: Die For Me | Dan Rix

Die for MeDie for Me by Dan Rix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In contrast to most of the other Dan Rix books I've read so far, this actually appears to be the most low tech, on the surface at least. In fact, most of the story reads more like a YA mystery but then again, this is Rix, so expect some super techy reveal.

Jaden and Danae are trying to come to terms with their girlfriend/best friend's suicide/murder. Suicide because she did jump off a four-storey building, leaving behind a suicide note. Murder because she was abruptly taken off life-support by her parents that very same day with no explanation, without waiting to see if she would come out of her coma. But the more they dig into the mystery that is Sabrina's suicide note, the stranger things become. The school counsellors, Katie and Benji, start acting weirdly, as does the headmaster, Mr Feeney.

Rix spends a lot of time exploring both Jaden and Danae's feelings--both about the suicide and their relationships--and while that was interesting at first, the constant back and forth over who likes who (or not) becomes a little too much after it's been prolonged once too many times. Then again, I'm starting to age out of this kind of YA (I've said that for a while now, but yeah), so an actual teen or a younger reader might relate to this much better than I can at this point of time.

I'm not quite the best fan of the voice either, as each section jumps from POV to POV, all in the first person, so you get different sections in Jaden, Danae, Sabrina, and even Mr Feeney's voice. If you're not one who likes that kind of head-hopping you're probably gonna want to sit this one out. The good part about it, though, is that it does provide that much more tension. (Still ambivalent over the need for Feeney's voice, but whatever).

Overall, Die for Me is quite an intriguing read, at I'd say 3.5 stars.

Note: I received a digital ARC from the author. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

View all my reviews

Monday, 15 January 2018

#musicmonday: Rewrite the Stars | Zac Efron & Zendaya



You know I want you
It's not a secret I try to hide
But I can't have you
We're bound to break and
My hands are tied

---

I just watched The Greatest Showman and I'm super impressed.

The only two voices I didn't quite like was Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) and Charity Barnum (Michelle Williams). I don't really know why. I think Ferguson did this weird breathy thing with her voice especially in the verses of Never Enough; was it an affectation? Some accent she was using? Oh wait. She didn't actually sing; it was sung by Loren Allred. The chorus and build up was fine; she does have a good voice. I just think the verse was weird.
Williams also has a very airyish voice. I guess it just isn't solid enough for me.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

#bookreview: Scarlet Moon | SD Grimm

Scarlet Moon (Children of the Blood Moon, #1)Scarlet Moon by S.D. Grimm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grimm throws you right into the action in Scarlet Moon, an action-packed story of love, heroism and revenge.

Love, because the overarching theme of this book seems to be that Love conquers all, especially Fear and Evil. She does have that little love triangle thing going on, but it's not so much a plot as a distraction. But Love here, in the more agape than eros kind, takes front stage centre, and makes every one do stupid things. Ryan, for instance, has to choose between his desire to protect his family or his beloved. Logan cannot face or confront his absconded wife. Ethan will protect Jayden at all costs. And Jayden, poor, stupid, heroic, annoying Jayden (I love her but boy, does she need a slap upside the head), is set on running away from everyone who would protect her because she loves them too much. Or running to put herself between them and danger even when she cannot do anything to save them (and actually, if she ran away, they could sort of save themselves?).

Which brings me to heroism. There's noble heroics (see: Ethan), there's reluctant heroics (see: Logan), and there is STUPID HEROICS (see: Jayden). I don't really know where Ryan fits in this. Maybe brave heroics? He's fighting to stay alive for at least half of this story, though he does get some heroic action towards the end. Anyway, Jayden is one of the prophesied Deliverers but she is inclined to stupid, short-sighted heroics where she frequently messes up escape plans because of her inability to actually run away when she needs to. I know, I know, it adds to the tension and the plot, but you'd think she'd learn after the second time or so. (But NOOOO she can't run because Ethan/Ryan might die and no one can die except her. Except if she does, the prophecy fails and EVERY ONE DIES. Right.)

Then there is revenge. Personal vendettas break from their confines every once in a while, with all the lovely tragic backstories making their appearances (sorry, I'm a sucker for tragic heroes), and whilst some of these get pushed aside momentarily to deal with current circumstances, you just know it's going to rear its head sometime in the future. Or in other (shorter) words, several characters have difficulty staying on course because they have a thirst for revenge.

AT ANY RATE. Scarlet Moon is a thrilling read for fantasy lovers.

Note: I received a free copy of this book via Unicorn Questor for an upcoming blog tour. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

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The Amber Eyes Blog Tour is coming up! I'll be reviewing Amber Eyes (the sequel to Scarlet Moon) on January 24th so check back here then! 

Get Scarlet Moon on Amazon.
Get Amber Eyes on Amazon.

Monday, 8 January 2018

#musicmonday: Psalm 46 | Shane & Shane



---

I am selfishly depressed that we can't do this song in church because we don't have the musicians or the singers for it.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Down the TBR hole

I had some time (not really) so I decided to do this. I found it off one of the blogs I've been following sporadically, and since my "to read" shelf on Goodreads now stands at 432, it might be time to pare it down a little.


So yeah, it works like this:
  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
--- ONE ---

Slaughterhouse-FiveSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.


Slaughterhouse-Five is supposed to be famous. Ratings are high, at 4.06/5. Robin Hobb and Lynn Flewelling rated it at 5 & 4 stars respectively, so I probably should give it a go.
Verdict: Keep, assuming I find a copy sometime somewhere.

--- TWO---

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

I actually started this before but got distracted halfway. I think I was ultimately bored by long descriptions of war and soldiers going to battle. At any rate, I've watched the musical.
Verdict: Delete.

--- THREE---

Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the alethiometer. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

I initially wanted to read this because it was supposed to be written as an antithesis to the Narnia series. Reading the synopsis doesn't make it sound very enticing... but I already have the books (all three).
Verdict: Keep, only because I already have the books so I might as well read them.

--- FOUR---

The Princess BrideThe Princess Bride by William Goldman

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams? As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears. Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex. In short, it's about everything.

This is a classic. EVERYONE QUOTES IT. I've watched the movie, which was wonderful. The book can only be better, right?
Verdict: Keep.

--- FIVE---

19841984 by George Orwell

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff's attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell's prescience of modern life--the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language--and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

Another book that everyone quotes. I have this strange sense of knowing too much about it that I can't tell if it's second-hand knowledge or if it's from actually having read the book. In a way, it sounds like something I would read, but it's also from that era where I find most of the stuff hard to get through. So I don't know.
Verdict: undecided.

---

Well, that's five!

... I'm not very good at deleting books off my TBR, am I?

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

#bookreview: Once We Were There | Bernice Chauly

Once We Were ThereOnce We Were There by Bernice Chauly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once We Were There is dark and gritty, as fueled by drugs and sex as its setting in late 1990's - early 2000's Kuala Lumpur.

The story itself is a story of profound loss. It's the story of a woman first losing herself in her anger and her politics, then losing herself in family and motherhood, losing the child that has become an extension of her self, losing herself to drugs, and finally at the end of it all, trying to discover who she is, who she's meant to be after she's lost everything. And it does feel like Delonix Regia has no sense of self for most of the story--she is defined by the people and events around her. Whenever anything goes wrong, or she is at a loss, she turns back to alcohol and drugs.

Set against the backdrop of the 1998 Reformasi until Anwar's release in 2004, the events of the times weave in and out of the plot. Del and her journalist friends protest Anwar Ibrahim's arrest. They start an independent journalism site on the internet, the first of its kind. Del finds purpose in this. But as the romance takes over, and Omar, and subsequently Alba, becomes her world, this fades away, reappearing only in spurts: the lost appeal, subsequent protests, Mahathir's resignation, Pak Lah's win during the GE, Anwar's release. Little sound bites that are soon forgotten, stuffed in to tell you what year it is by now. By the middle of the novel, it doesn't really feel important anymore--it's just Kuala Lumpur. The journalistic beginning feels like an excuse for a social commentary on the times.

You could also say that undue emphasis is given to this recounting of history, evidenced by the fact that although the book description says "But when their two-year-old daughter Alba is kidnapped, Del must confront the terrible secret of a city where babies are sold and girls are trafficked", this event only happens 2/3rds of the way through the book. It feels terribly unbalanced, plot-wise, unless this is the way things work with literary fiction? (I read mainly in the fantasy/scifi genre, where inciting incidents usually take place in the first quarter.)

Overall, however, the novel works. It reads almost psychedelically, jumping between viewpoints and timelines, rushing in and out of events but also lingering in the here, the now, the never-ending painful present. I hesitate to say that it's brilliant. I disliked the first awfully long chapter (all the chapters are awfully long and could have been broken up at multiple points), wondering where Chauly was going with her part-novel, part-history lesson, part-social commentary. Yet, having finally pushed through, it feels like this disjointedness, this floating story, this bits-and-pieces cobbled together thing, finally makes sense in the light of the ending. Or I could just be extending literary grace and purpose to something that has no reason.

Personally, I don't see myself revisiting Once We Were There. It's not one of those stories that have gripped me in any specific way. However, I do not regret reading it either; it's one of those books that you feel you should read, at least once in your lifetime.

It's unapologetically Malaysian, though at times Chauly tends to overexplain as if pandering to the international crowd, and it's what the Malaysian English fiction scene needs more of.

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Monday, 1 January 2018

#musicmonday: You are the Beauty | Gungor


This is one of the oddest yet most fascinating songs I've heard in a while.
Which, I guess, is a good way to start off a new year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!