Friday, 22 March 2019

#bookreview: Lunching with Lions: Strategies for the Networking-Averse

Lunching with Lions: Strategies for the Networking-AverseLunching with Lions: Strategies for the Networking-Averse by Katherine McGraw Patterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this up because I hate hate hate hate hate networking. You know that feeling where you know you should go to stuff and talk to people and tell them about what you do and all that?
Yeah.
Turns out, according to Patterson I'm doing half of it right but two things are holding me back: my mindset and my lack of purpose.

Lunching with Lions is a pretty breezy read. It's not a textbook that you're going to be struggling over, but a conversational classroom (sorta) with very honest personal anecdotes that make you go yeah, that's me. It's designed to give you both the confidence of "hey, if she can do it, so can I!" plus the kick in the pants of "I really need to get my act together, don't I?"

Patterson breaks things down step-by-step so that it doesn't overwhelm, effectively holding your hand through the process. But then as with all books like this, you've read the materials, now you gotta put it into practice. Which is the hard part, but not as hard now that you've got tips to help you on the way.

View all my reviews

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Apologies! Apparently attending a three-day fair and then going to Stratford-Upon-Avon has wreaked havoc on my deadlines so I've been pushing things further and further back. I hope to be back on regular schedule soon.

Uh I have to anyway, because A to Z is coming up.

Friday, 15 March 2019

#bookreview: Written to Be Heard: Recovering the Messages of the Gospels

A couple of days late because I was waylaid by the London Book Fair!

Written to Be Heard: Recovering the Messages of the GospelsWritten to Be Heard: Recovering the Messages of the Gospels by Paul Borgman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This took me longer to finish than expected, mainly because it requires a lot of thought (I tend to speed-read my way through a lot of things, which isn't really optimal, but is what works for me). Written to be Heard, however, is the kind of book that you want to mull over and read with your Bible open at the same time, not because you don't trust what Borgman and Clark are expounding on in the text, but because you want to see with your own eyes the patterns that are being pulled out for you--and maybe read aloud to yourself.

Part Bible exposition, part literary study, the writers cover each of the Gospels in great detail, teasing out the biases, aims and structure of each writer, or in this case, storyteller of the Good News. Rather than cross-referencing the Gospels to each other and arguing about their differences, as we tend to do, they suggest that we consider each Gospel as individual stories, and as a transcription of an oral heritage. Variations, repetitions, and the way each book is structured then becomes understood as less of haphazard and poorly-constructed narrative--they are instead cues for listeners to pick up the points and themes of each Gospel.

Written to Be Heard: Recovering the Messages of the Gospels gives modern Christians a lot to chew on. As society moves from heavy reliance on text and the written word back to a preference for audio-visual forms, maybe the church should also reconsider what it means to read the Bible aloud.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Monday, 11 March 2019

#musicmonday: Light / Dust | Josh Yeoh ft Jon Cho


You’re the God who spoke light into darkness
You hold my heart, You remember my frame
You’re the strength in the midst of my weakness
You remember my name
You remember my name 

Saturday, 9 March 2019

I signed up for the #atozchallenge and need your help!

Okay, in line with my facebook fast for Lent, I now need to find *ALL NEW WAYS* to procrastinate on homework, and this idea came to me in the shower. (Shower thoughts are the best.)

I've been doing a module on writing in the community and in education, so what better way to procrastinate than to put into practice all the things I've learnt! HAHAH. At least it's productive! Somewhat.

This April, I will be writing flash fiction based on words suggested by YOU, yes all you people who are reading this post. All you have to do is open this google sheet and give me random words/themes/thoughts that begin with the letter for the day. (Or leave a comment here and I'll add them in.) The only rule is let's keep it kid-friendly, eh? Bonuses if you go the mythological/folktale route.

Yes, that's it.

GIVE ME A WORD


My past A-to-Z Challenge posts/themes:
2011: Fiction, on a now defunct blog. I think it became a single, interconnected story
2012: Unrelated flash fiction, words (mostly) chosen from the last word for each letter in the dictionary.
2013: Unrelated flash fiction, mostly influenced by icebreakers and KOL.
2014: Flash fiction: mythical creatures. This eventually became Coexist.
2015: Worship songs, because I was doing camp nano and couldn't write two things at the same time.
2016: Anna's A to Z of Worship Leading, which was compiled into an ebook.
2017: Princesses, which comes with pretty pictures on ind.elvenstar.net.
2018: Absolution, where I merged campnano with A to Z and ended up blogging about my WIP, which is still my WIP, and an offshoot of which will now be my dissertation. Don't you love it when all your projects become one. massive. *insert swearwordy* thingamabob.
2019: Community writing HA.

p/s If you want to throw in a guest post on any of the letters, let me know! Email me at posts [at] annatsp [dot] com and we'll work something out.

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It's the Blogging from A to Z Challenge's tenth anniversary! This is my ninth year with them, so that's pretty great. A quick summary of what it is: we blog a post a day (except Sundays) following the alphabet! Anything goes--there's a wide range of topics from everyday stuff, photos, music, research, locations, art, fiction, as long as it follows the sequence of the alphabet. Then everyone hops over to other blogs on the list to see what they're writing about!

If you've always wanted to start a blog but didn't know how, this is a quick, easy way to get started. It comes with a guide of posts for the month (A to Z) and it comes with an inbuilt, interactive community (other participants) who will cheer you on the way. 

Friday, 8 March 2019

#fridayflash: Deep Waters

For you cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,


I ran. Of course I ran. What else was I do to? I couldn’t stay—not when staying was certain death. That’s what happens when you disobey a Royal (not quite, but close enough) Decree.

What decree? Do you think I have a death wish? I don’t know you well enough to tell you. I’m far enough away now, but not that far. His reach is pretty long—I shouldn’t even be telling you this. (You’re listening, aren’t you?) I just… don’t have anything else to do on this ship, I guess. By the time I reach shore and you get word back to him, I’ll be long gone anyway. Not that I’m telling you who. Or where. (Not like… never mind.)

I’m not saying anything else.

And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.


What do you mean we’re sinking? You said this ship was unsinkable! The best on the Mediterranean Sea! Was that lie? (I knew you’d catch up.)

Pray? What— (No.)

I— (I’m not talking to you.)

Fine, fine, fine. It’s my fault (Your fault, why are you doing this to me? Just let me go). Throw me in the sea. You’ll be safe. My God’s after me, all right? It wasn’t a Royal Decree. It was a God Decree and YES I KNOW I WAS RUNNING AWAY. (YES, I KNOW I AM A FOOL.)

Just throw me in the sea. You’ll be fine.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?


Good fish. Nice fish. Don’t digest me. If you could just throw me up on a deserted island, that would be great. Wouldn’t that be great?

(OKAY FINE. IT’S MY FAULT. I SHOULDN’T HAVE RUN. I SHOULDN’T HAVE DISOBEYED. I KNOW THAT TARSHISH IS IN THE WRONG DIRECTION BUT I HATE NINEVEH. I’M… I am sorry. This is stupid.)

If I ascend into heaven, You are there
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.


Fine. I’m talking to you. Yes, I’m talking to you again, God. I know I’ve been stupid and childish, but hey, here you are keeping me alive. In a fish. Which is gross, but—alive. Alive is good. (A nice island with nobody around, I’ll survive on fish—no, maybe not fish—Uh, or monkeys. Or something.)

I’ll go. I will (this is coercion) but I will. I—

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,


Yeah, I know I’ve been stupid. But you still love me, don’t you? And you still love those horrible people so I guess… I guess I’ll go. (DESERTED ISLAND PLEASE!)

After all, who says they’ll listen? (I hope they don’t.)

No, I didn’t say anything. Scout’s honour. (Though I’ve never been a scout.)

Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.


Uh, hey guys. So you’re probably not going to believe me, but God’s angry at you. In forty days, you’re gonna be toast. So you better repent. (Or not—ah yes, repent. Repent!)

(I hate my job.)

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Because I felt my blog needed more crappy fiction and I found this in my archives. lol

No cookies for guessing where it's from.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

#bookreview: A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night: Finding and Following God's Will for You | AW Tozer

A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night: Finding and Following God's Will for YouA Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night: Finding and Following God's Will for You by A.W. Tozer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night is a compilation of A.W. Tozer's sermons around Exodus as compiled and edited by James L. Snyder.

Starting off with seeking God's will in your life, each of the 23 sermons is a compact reminder that as God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Canaan with visible, tangible signs of His presence, God will also lead you through your wilderness into the place that He has prepared for you. He doesn't promise it will be easy, doesn't sugarcoat it with the platitudes common in church nowadays, emphasising instead that the journey will be hard and there will be many things that discourage us and disappoint us on the way, and that obedience often means surrender and sacrifice as well.

It's easy to get distracted and to give up, but remember that God goes before you, and stands behind you, providing the cloud by day and a fire by night to get us to where we're meant to be. If you need affirmation of God's truths and guidance to understanding God's will for your life, this is a good book to pick up.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Monday, 4 March 2019

Pick up my #ebooks for #free or at 50% off at #Smashwords this week!


Hey! It's Read an E-Book Week over at Smashwords.

In line with that, I thought I'd give you a quick overview of my books and how you can pick them up for free/cheap!

The Painted Hall Collection is a series of short stories set in the mythical North.

A curse binds the City of Winter and the Dragon's prophecy holds the key to breaking it. But will a poor fisherman from the South have the means to fulfil the prophecy? Or will the foreignness of the North itself repel him and his efforts?

Whilst the collection itself, which includes a new standalone story, is at 50% off, you can get the original four short stories in this series free:

1. When Winds Blow Cold
2. The Flame of the North
3. Beneath the Rumbling Earth
4. A Still, Small Voice



If you're looking for Western fairy tales featuring elves, dragons, and fairies, Coexist is the novella for you!

Fifteen-year-old Jane stumbles upon a portal to a fantastical and dangerous world--and discovers things about her family and heritage that she has never known before! Along the way, she makes friend with a friendly adlet, almost gets tricked by a kelpie and has to run from the Fairy Queen herself.

Coexist is available for free this week.









Many years later after Coexist, a young woman named Sara who lives half the globe away stumbles upon a different fairy world--the Malaysian Alam Dongeng.

There’s a war to protect Alam Dongeng, helmed by the Orang Bunian and Garuda. But are the ranks of Hantu really Sara and Helmi's enemies? They may very well be fighting the wrong battle.

Dongeng brings together the dark folklore and fairy creatures of Southeast Asia and the Western fairy tale lore already explored in Coexist

Get your copy of Dongeng at 50% off this week.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

New book out--The Principal Girl: Feminist Tales from Asia!


This has been a while in the making... I think I got the acceptance for my short story sometime in 2017! At any rate, if you fancy fairy tale rewrites and folklore from Asia, here's where you can get them. Mine features the mythical Gedembai, legends of Laksamana Cheng Ho, and damsels not in distress.

Here's the blurb:

The Principal Girl: Feminist Tales from Asia features stories of bold, bright, and heroic women and girls drawn from Malaysia and Singapore, and the Asian diaspora that underlies the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the two countries. All eighteen stories in this anthology emphasise female empowerment, and privilege the strength and wisdom of young girls and women, over conventionally idealised traits such as beauty, obedience, conformity, and passivity, so frequently depicted in traditional male-centric folk tales.

Of these, eight tales are based on, or inspired by Asian folklore and well-known female cultural icons, while ten are original stories with contemporary settings, drawn from sources as diverse as the Mahabharata and Sejarah Melayu, to Iban and Kadazan folklore.

Apart from reimagined tales of legendary female figures like Hang Li Po, Princess of Mount Ledang, Draupadi, Queen Vishpala, Khawlah bt Azwar, Mahsuri, and Cik Siti Wan Kemboja, and mythical creatures like the Phoenix and Gedembai, readers will also meet the crime-fighting teenager Surya, the scholar and philanthropist Lilly Po, and the beauty queen Eve, who learns the true meaning of embodying the spirit of Huminodun, among many others just as dauntless.

Aimed at young adult readers, this volume showcases the writings of both new and established authors from Malaysia and Singapore, and hopes to inspire its young audience with empowering narratives of various ‘principal girls’ of past and present, all courageous, resourceful, and intelligent in their own ways. These are tales readers will want to revisit, again and again.

Get your copy now!

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On another note, it's read an ebook week on Smashwords this Sunday onwards, so that's a great chance for you to get all my books cheap.


Wednesday, 27 February 2019

#bookreview: Day 115 on an Alien World | Jeannette Bedard

Day 115 on an Alien World (Settler Chronicles Book 1)Day 115 on an Alien World by Jeannette Bedard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So sometime end of last year, I received a random email from the author asking if I'd like to review her book. It happens. I have my review email on my blog. Looked at the details and felt eh, why not? It's the type of thing I would casually pick up if it's cheap enough anyway.

Overall, Day 115 on an Alien World was an interesting enough read for me to give it 3.5 stars. I liked the plot twisty stuff and the way things unfolded. The basic premise is simple enough: things are going terribly at the new colony on Thesan, right from departure. Margo thinks there's a saboteur on board... but who? And who can she trust? It's full of mystery and intrigue, danger and adventure. There's a light romance going on, and there are (sad) deaths to tug at your heartstrings. Space opera, in a nutshell.

What I didn't like so much was the structure of the book. It initially took me a little while to get into it because the first few chapters were a little confusing. There were several time-jumpy things. You start off at Day 114, drop back into pre-departure, jump forwards to Day 114, and then Day 1 or something... It also jumps between Gary's point of view and Margo's. I don't think I got fully oriented until probably Chapter 5 or so when it's firmly in Margo's POV and following the storyline at little more sequentially. I guess doing this kind of ramped up the tension a little? But honestly, I'm not quite sure it was necessary. (But also 20% chance I was confused because I read this while in bed with a cold and slightly headachey.)

At any rate, if you're looking for a thriller/suspense story set in space, this one's a good one to try.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 21 February 2019

#guestpost: C.W. Briar talks about his debut dark fantasy novel, Whispers From the Depths

I’m author C.W. Briar. I have wrestled buffaloes, worked as Jason Momoa’s stunt double, and lied on guest posts for book blogs. One thing that is absolutely true is that my debut dark fantasy novel, Whispers From The Depths, just released.



Describe Whispers From The Depths
I pitched the book in a few ways. I originally described it as Frozen except with less Disney and a lot more Beowulfian horror. A more accurate description would be Beowulf as told by Michael Crichton (and I’m aware that concept already exists in the form of Eaters of the Dead, but let me have this).

During the pitch, I also told my publisher I found new ways to kill people with water.

In this world, the Whisperers are the ones who keep people safe from water spirits. They’ve also been enslaved. Betka is one of the Whisperers, and she’s part of an expedition to free a castle from a water spirit’s attack. She hates and fears the warriors she serves under, but she hopes to rescue her sister from the besieged castle.


What is the magic like?
Whisperers and spirits both have considerable control over water’s forms and flow. They also exert pressure on each other in battles of will. Whisperers can focus that influence through motion and spoken words, but it’s willpower that’s the key.

An everyday battle might involve a spirit flooding a village, trying to drown people, while the Whisperer forces the water back to where it belongs. The battles in the book are significantly fiercer than that, though.


Are there more kinds of magic?
Whispers From The Depths is pretty focused in its scope. There’s a lot more I could have gone into, like the history of the spirits or the origin of the Whisperers’ power. I would love to visit that information in the future. For now, the world is zoomed in on Betka and her grandfather. It’s a story about humans in a world with magic, rather than a story about magic and humans.

That’s my roundabout way of saying there might more to magic in this world, but that information would be revealed as the story expands to different times and places.


What are the themes of the book?
Betka and Asi are Whisperers, both dealing with the same issues, but they approach the problems with different perspectives. A lot of the themes are tied into the things they debate or react to in differing ways. What does it mean to love the world when the world hates you back? How does love really conquer?

Vengeance. Survival. The role of traditions and past/religious wisdom in present turmoil.

Betka faces conflicts with her captors and the water spirit, but she also feels conflicted about her role as a Whisperer and the way she was taught to live.


What kinds of reader would enjoy Whispers From The Depths?
I aim for a balance of the terror of horror with the awe of fantasy. I want to be scary enough for horror fans but adventurous enough for fantasy fans. Good comparisons of that tone are Jurassic Park and Stranger Things.

If you want a medieval fantasy story with an emphasis on suspense, check it out. If you like books that raise moral questions while also entertaining, you’re my kind of reader.

PURCHASE WHISPERS FROM THE DEPTHS FROM:


C.W. Briar writes fantasy that's dark but hopeful, filled with wonder and humor along with the suspense and creepiness. His favorite stories are the ones that make him both smile and perch on the edge of his seat. By day, he works as a systems engineer, testing or even riding on trains, airplanes, and helicopters. At night, when not writing, he prepares fancy dinners and shows off his awesome corgis. He's a graduate of Binghamton University and lives in Upstate NY with his wife, three kids, and secret stashes of chocolate.

Sign up for newsletter exclusives through his website: http://www.cwbriar.com

Social Media Links:
https://www.facebook.com/CWBriar
https://twitter.com/CW_Briar
https://www.instagram.com/cw_briar/

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

#bookreview: Whispers From the Depths | C.W. Briar

Whispers From The DepthsWhispers From The Depths by C.W. Briar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Whisperers are trapped by their own powers. Although they have the power to speak to and control water spirits, they cannot use the same powers they wield to set themselves free—whatever harm they cause to others will be inflicted on themselves. When the tribute is late from Kysavar Castle, the king sends a team to find out what happened, and Betka, a palace Whisperer, gets herself sent there so she can find out what has happened to her sister. What she finds instead is horror—betrayal, mutiny, and a powerful water spirit gone rogue.

Opening with the dramatic fall of the Whisperer temple, the story jumps NINETY-TWO YEARS into the future, which was really annoying, because I wanted to know what happened to Eder. You do eventually find out what happened to him, but only in flashbacks, and some ingenious story weaving, but it was still… irritating.

That aside, Briar treats us to a story of contrasts: Betka, the bold, angry Whisperer, ready to rebel against the teaching of the order, vs Asi, the calm, timid Whisperer, who holds that by doing everything with love and according to the teachings of the order, they will be able to regain their freedom. Kuros and Vydan, almost-kind soldiers who do not hate the Whisperers, treating them as humans within the bounds of their orders vs Rorlen and Denogrid, hardened soldiers who bully and torture the Whisperers because of the powers they wield.

Whispers From the Depths holds no punches. It is dark and gritty, grim and full of death, and yet there is always this glimmer of hope, first held out by Asi—and then grasped by all the others—that love truly does conquer all.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

PURCHASE WHISPERS FROM THE DEPTHS:


C.W. Briar writes fantasy that's dark but hopeful, filled with wonder and humor along with the suspense and creepiness. His favorite stories are the ones that make him both smile and perch on the edge of his seat. By day, he works as a systems engineer, testing or even riding on trains, airplanes, and helicopters. At night, when not writing, he prepares fancy dinners and shows off his awesome corgis. He's a graduate of Binghamton University and lives in Upstate NY with his wife, three kids, and secret stashes of chocolate.

Sign up for newsletter exclusives through his website: http://www.cwbriar.com

Social Media Links:
https://www.facebook.com/CWBriar
https://twitter.com/CW_Briar
https://www.instagram.com/cw_briar/

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

#bookreview: A Woman's Battle for Grace: Why God Is More Than You Expected and Everything You Need

A Woman's Battle for Grace: Why God Is More Than You Expected and Everything You NeedA Woman's Battle for Grace: Why God Is More Than You Expected and Everything You Need by Cheryl Brodersen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Filled with anecdotes from Cheryl Brodersen's own life, A Woman's Battle for Grace: Why God is More Than You Expected and Everything You Need is an honest look at how much we need God's grace in our lives. Technically, most of the stuff here is applicable to everyone regardless of gender but Brodersen draws on examples of women from the Bible and women in her life, which somewhat skews the examples towards children and motherhood in some ways (though men can also relate. I mean I don't have children. Why is everything gendered ugh.) She also deals particularly with the false expectations of perfection, beauty standards, and self-condemnation that seems to plague women in more ways than men.

Brodersen invites you to reflect on your spiritual walk at the end of every chapter, closing with a prayer and a list of questions for consideration, which makes it great both for personal study, or for discussion with friends.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

#coverreveal: End of the Magi | Patrick W. Carr

Fleeing for his life after his adoptive father is put to death by a ruthless Parthian queen, Myrad, a young magi acolyte, escapes the city. There he begins an epic journey filled with peril, close escapes, and dangerous battles. Over everything shines the dream of a star that Myrad can't forget and the promise that the world will never be the same.


Coming November 5, 2019 from Bethany House Publishers


Patrick W. Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of cold war tensions. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee.
Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. Patrick’s day job for the last twelve years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and a dog he calls Mr. Fruffles. He has four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. While Patrick enjoys reading about himself, he thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.

Friday, 8 February 2019

#fridayflash: The Other Woman



It’s the announcement that he’s leaving that surprises Iman the most.

“Why now?” she asks. The baby is due in two months. Their daughter Tulen is not yet four. She can’t do this alone.

Bakar stares at her. “You knew? Of course you knew.” His face pinches as he folds his arms and spits, “You and your witchery,” before turning away. 

It’s not witchery, but Iman doesn’t have the energy to argue. “It’s not—I’ve let you—” She drops her hand and stares at the wooden spoon she hadn’t realised she’d been waving about. “Just… why now?”

He slumps on their tattered couch, runs a hand over his face, scratches at his beard and mumbles something.

Iman leans forward. “What? I didn’t catch that.”

He looks up, exasperated, and repeats louder, “I said, she’s pregnant. Can’t you read that off my mind? Do I suddenly need to spell everything out for you now?”

“But I’m pregnant too.” It comes out in a bewildered rush she hadn’t meant to speak aloud. I’m pregnant too and he’s also your child. And Tulen is your daughter. You should be there for them. For us. Not this other woman.

Bakar just gives her a weird look. “So?”

“So? So? What do you mean ‘so’? This is your child. I am your wife. She is nothing. A whore.” The girl is not a whore. She’s a sixteen-year-old kid flattered that a good-looking man ten years her senior is paying her interest. Iman knows that but she doesn’t care. She wants things to go back to the way it was before. Before, when she was cooking lunch and ignoring the fact that she knew her husband was cheating on her. He’d done it four years ago when she was pregnant with Tulen, as if a few months without sex would be the death of him. She’d ignored it then too. Maybe she shouldn’t have.

He sighs and leans his head back against the backrest, covering his eyes with his forearm. Iman steels herself to fight, for the careless words she knows will cut her to the bone. She’s thrown when all he says is, “Her parents are kicking her out of the house. I can’t bring her back here. That’s not fair to you.”

Just as quickly, her self-righteous anger deflates. It’s nice to know her husband has learnt some responsibility, even if it’s not towards her. She leaves him to stew on the couch and heads back into the kitchen, where she’d been making soup. It’s starting to boil over and she hurries to lift the heavy pot off the coals.

Iman stirs the soup and tastes it absently, her gaze fixed on the blue sky outside the window. The sun is warm, but she is cold. It’s not until she feels heat on her cheeks that she realises she’s crying. I told you so, she imagines Rahsia saying, You knew he would cheat on you. She hates this talent that she and Rahsia share, this ability to read minds. There are many things about her marriage she would rather have not known.

They need to talk through this. Iman washes her face and sets the table. As much as Bakar assumes she can read everything on his mind, that’s not true. Her talent is weak and untrained—the main reason she knows about the girl is because Bakar dreams very loudly about her every night when he sleeps in their bed.

Bakar takes his place at the head of the table when she tells him lunch is ready.

“Where’s Tulen?” he asks.

“Out with Rahsia,” she says. Her best friend had come over this morning and taken the four-year-old out shopping for her upcoming birthday. Iman wonders if Rahsia had known something, whether she’d read something off Bakar’s mind. Had she planned for them to be alone? Iman wouldn’t put it past Rahsia.

They start eating.

Iman breaks the silence. “How long?”

“Huh?” 

“How far along is she? Her pregnancy?”

Bakar shrugs as he spoons more soup messily into his mouth. “Long enough to show a little.”

“How long have you been seeing her?” She could guess, but she doesn’t want to. She wants to force a confession out of him, as if that would make her feel any better and him any guiltier.

He manages to almost look contrite. “Six months.”

“So the minute you knew I was pregnant.”

He doesn’t say anything, just continues eating.

“You do know you’ll need her parents’ consent for marriage.”

His spoon clatters, spilling soup everywhere. “Marriage? What?”

Iman’s anger burns cold. “You’re leaving me to take care of your underaged mistress because she’s pregnant and you’re not going to actually marry her? You’re not going to legitimise your own child? What were you planning to do? Just live together so everyone would think she’s a cheap whore?”

“No! I mean yes! I—How do you even know how old she is?”

“I snooped, okay. Happy? You were dreaming about her every night you were home and I was angry so I wanted to find out who she was and I—” 

It hadn’t been her finest moment, storming up to the house, banging on the door demanding to see that slut only to find a pair of confused parents and a frightened teenager. She’d pretended she’d gotten the wrong address. 

Iman shakes her head, hoping she isn’t the one who has caused this tragedy. No, it was his fault for sleeping with her. “What did she tell you?”

“She said she was nineteen.”

Iman snorts.

“I’m sorry.”

She knows he’s not, but she nods. “You’d better marry her. You’ve already ruined her life.”

---

So I have all these short pieces I've been doing for class and decided it was time to post one up.

This one is a snippet on Tulen's mother, and how/why she separates from her husband, so it happens before both Secretkeeper and Absolution. If you've read the short Shattered Memories on The Painted Hall Collection, you'll recognise Iman and Rahsia. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

#bookreview: Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico | David Bowles

Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of MexicoFeathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico by David Bowles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky started off as a fantastic retelling of the myths of Mexico. The storytelling was vivid and the mythology of the beginning of the world was compelling. However, as the ages passed, moving onwards to the third and fourth ages, it started to read a little like a history book. Part of this was because it was concerned with the dealings of men (with the interference of the gods) but also because it was dealing with a lot more with wars between humans themselves. There were still some wonderful stories of passionate women and men with some interference from the gods, but the last part (Fifth Age, I think) became very much a history of which nation rose to conquer which other nation, and who betrayed someone else for power, culminating in the Spanish invasion.
I was really only here for the mythology, so I started losing interest at about that point. Still, it was mostly an enjoyable read, so I guess 3.75 stars?

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Happy New Year again!


Well, technically it's the Lunar New Year, but old habits die hard.


These peanut cookies are a ripoff because that whole column in the middle IS EMPTY.

I've been thinking about stuff over at medium, maybe, because I'm not sure if I'll finish the piece(s) or post it/them.

Monday, 4 February 2019

#musicmonday: Borrow Mine | Bebo Norman



Take my hand 
And walk with me awhile 
Because it seems your smile 
Has left here

And don't give in 
When you fall apart 
And your broken heart 
Has failed you

I'll set a light up
On a hilltop
To show you my love
For this world to see

But when [Moses'] arms grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him and, as he sat, Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
Exodus 17:12

And take my love
When all that you can see
Is the raging sea
All around us

And don't give up
Cause I'm not letting go
And the God we know
Will not fail us

We'll lay it all down
As we call out
Sweet saviour
Help our unbelief

Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of our gracious God, where we may receive mercy and in his grace find timely help.
Hebrews 4:16

When you are weak
Unable to speak
You are not alone
God of us save us
And never forsake us
Is coming to take us
And take us to our home

For ours is not a high priest unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who, because of his likeness to us, has been tested every way, only without sin. 
Hebrews 4:15

You can borrow mine 
When your hope is gone 
You can borrow mine 
When you can't go on 
Cause the world will not defeat you 
When we're side by side 
When your faith is hard to find 
When your faith is hard to find 
You can borrow mine 
You can borrow mine


Take my hand

Take my love
Don't give in, no
And don't give up

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

#bookreview: Dreams of the Dark Sky | Tina LeCount Myers

Dreams of the Dark Sky (The Legacy of the Heavens #2)Dreams of the Dark Sky by Tina LeCount Myers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the first book, The Song of All, enough to jump on this when I saw review copies on Edelweiss. Dreams of the Dark Sky begins where the first left off--in a dark place. The Olmmos have won, Darja has been captured, and the Immortals have slunk of home, devastated and defeated. It also ends at a dark place, with no hope left for the future of the Immortals. But in between the dark places are better things, better dreams, a hope for a better future for both immortals and humans. There's grief, sorrow, and loss, yes, but there is also love, hope, and friendships gained.

Where Song is an epic devoted to one man's love for his son, Dreams follows that son as he sets out to discover the tragedy his father's love has wreaked on the world. It's an exploration of the identities of two children, Darja and Marnej, who have fallen between the cracks of society, neither fully human nor fully Japmemeahttun. It's also an unravelling of lies and secrets--the lies that Marnej grew up with and the secrets that Darja holds close--as they start to forge their paths in life, even if those paths break with sacred tradition. But who can afford to hold on to tradition when the world is about to end?

Dreams of the Dark Sky keeps a ponderous pace; both books really are for patient readers, especially when there's definitely a third book to come. What manages to grip you though are the intricate plots and twists that surprise the readers, set alongside the events laid bare to the reader but that catch the various players in the story unawares. These come along at just the right time, dragging you back into the story, as you hope that things will work out in the end.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Tuesday, 29 January 2019

#guestpost: Talk about the World of Gryphendale


My name is Lara Lee, and I am the author of three young adult fantasy fiction novels and short stories. My newest book, The Gryphon's Handmaiden, has just come out this week! All my books take place in the world of Gryphendale. The Gryphon's Handmaiden specifically focuses on the palace at Vervain, the country of Samodivas, and the Nomad Desert.

Tell us about Gryphendale!
Gryphendale is the faerie realm that we sometimes call the Seelie kingdom. It is a floating disk-shaped island located in the center of the earth. It has a tiny sun and moon of its own creating both day and night, but time moves differently there. Their stars are just glittering gems on the inside of the earth’s crust reflecting the light of their sun.
In the distant past, faeries and humans lived together, but because of greed and evil schemes, this could not continue. The creator God, the great blue Gryphon, separated the worlds. A person cannot travel through the earth’s crust to get there. Instead, there exist four portals to connect our worlds.
Both sides of this world are inhabited. The top is made up of nine countries ruled together as the single kingdom of Gryphendale. A different race of faerie dominates each country. The Sprites live in tree houses in the tops of the vast forest of Caoneag. The shape-shifting Hiru live in human-like homes scattered throughout Cuelebre. The Gnomes live inside the massive trees of Dwende. The Gryphendale Ocean is the realm of the Merpeople, while the Undine rules the river and a great lake. The Ogres dwell deep in the mountains of Rokurokubi. Aberdour is the country of the industrious Brownie farmers. The Huldra hunt in the forests of Samodivas. They used to own the Dryads as slaves, but once freed, the Dryads now rule the young country of Greenbow in their historic homeland. The Nomad Desert lies outside of these kingdoms and is inhabited by those who want no king.
The underside of their world is called the Shadow of the Gryphon. It is made up of mostly ocean inhabited by nomadic sea-people such as the Kelpies, Selkies, and Merrow. The Nix populates the small land mass on that side. The Guardian of the Oceans rules that realm.
My books and stories all take place in this world about the size of the state of Texas, both past and present. I wander this land often and would love to introduce you to my favorite places. Safe travels!

What dangers should we avoid in Gryphendale?
Many creatures inhabit Gryphendale who have no country of their own. The giant trolls eat all meat no matter the source. The Red Ladies are psychic vampires stealing the life potential of wanders. Deadly animals, thieves, and grumpy Ogres could all cause trouble if a traveler isn't careful, but the people of Gryphendale are friendly to help you out of a bind.

Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Gryphendale?
Humans would recognize most foods, but they do have a lot more purple varieties of crops such as purple berries and purple wheat. They also have a unique, intoxicating drink made from distilled cinnamon which they call tonic. Don't drink it though! It burns human throats.

What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Gryphendale?
The various faerie races have their own fighting styles, but most use some kind of sword suited to their strengths. One exception is that the Hiru transform into long serpent-like dragons. Some rare people do use magic. The Adder Warlocks use dark magic to kill, but those who follow the Way of the Gryphon often avoid violence if they can. Rogue wizards and magic creatures also get involved in the battles, but you never know what will happen with them!

What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Gryphendale?
To get to Gryphendale from the human world, you would need to use one of the for portals. In Gryphendale, most people walk or swim. They do ride horses, giant salamanders, carriages, wagons, mules, and the odd steam-powered horseless-carriage.



What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Gryphendale?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.
All was made by the creator God, the great blue Gryphon. All magic comes from Him to sustain the worlds. Seers learn how to pour themselves into the magic potential of each living thing to create good things. Dark magic seeks to steal this magic potential and force it to their will. This is destructive and deadly. All magic and magical creatures were created with abilities to care for the world in unique ways.

What is the political or government structure in Gryphendale? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
The governments in of the countries are different, but usually, there is an elected monarch that is often passed down to their children. This varies from country to country. The nine countries then have a unified central goverment with an elected king or queen. At the time of The Gryphon's Handmaiden, both the king and queen were elected and co-rule. This central government works more like the council in the United Nations rather than having as much power as the United States does over each state.

Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
I grew up in Florida in which I obsessed about mermaids as a child. I never could read enough fairytales.
When my husband and I moved to Scotland for four years, I became emersed in the folklore of Great Britain. Scotland, specifically, has a rich history of faerie stories. I describe inns and taverns for places I visited in Edinburgh and then hills and dirt roads of the countryside. I know exactly how far one can walk in a day because I have done it. Gryphendale was my magical interpretation of my travels.
In the Gryphon's Handmaiden, the country of Samodivas in a mix of Spanish and German culture. This may seem strange, but this my cultural upbringing. I had a Cuban mother and a father of German descent.
The book Laurence of Arabia strongly influenced the Nomad Desert and then my obsession with learning all I could about Petra and the country of Jordan. I still have dreams of visiting there and traveling around on horseback.

What is unique about your newest book?
Prince Timothy and the Brownie, Arthur, travel to the Nomad Desert in search of the Gryphon's Codex to stop the Adder Warlocks from trying to take over the world. Even though I spend a great deal of the first part of the book at the palace at Vervain, my favorite part of the novel is in the desert itself. There they meet a mute run-away slave girl named Tabatha who has more power than they knew was possible. The characters must overcome so much in a few months to accomplish their goal, but most of what they deal with are not magical problems. They have to learn how to survive in the desert, earn money for food, and exist in the culture. By the end of the book, Prince Timothy is barely recognizable. Instead of a spoiled, academic prince, what remains is a strong, tan desert lord.

Author Autobiography:
Lara Lee is the author of the young adult fantasy fiction novels Gryphendale, The Shadow of the Gryphon, and The Gryphon's Handmaiden. She has also had two short stories published, "The Worst Hero Ever" and "Trust Old Juniper." Sometimes, she is also a graphic designer, wife, and mother. After growing up in Florida with her head stuck in various books, she ran away to Oral Roberts University to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design and a husband. Then, she worked professionally with the children's curriculum publisher, Mentoring Minds in Texas before following her husband on a crazy adventure in Scotland. She has lived in three states and four countries and has visited even more destinations with an insatiable curiosity that shows up in her writing. Currently, she lives in Texas with her husband and two sons who all regularly participate in her misadventures and random schemes.

The Gryphon's Handmaiden comes out January 29th on Amazon!

You can find out more:


Monday, 28 January 2019

#musicmonday: In the Wilderness | Josh Yeoh



The new series in church is called "Into the Wild", covering Exodus 15 - 23 when the Israelites are in the desert, after the great miracle of the parting of the Red Sea.

And I remembered this song.

--

Waiting here before the morning
Staring out into the sky
Hearing voices I once silenced
Wondering why it's so hard to cry

It's not that I don't know where to go
I've been there many times before
It's not that I don't know how to get there
I don't have strength to anymore

Lead me here
In the wilderness
I need Your help
Can't do this by myself
Lead me here
In the wilderness
Speak to my soul
Come comfort, make me whole

In the valley of my trouble
Underneath the wounded sky
I will sing songs of salvation
I will hold my head up high

It's not that I don't know where to go (Lead me here)
You've shown me many times before (In the wilderness)
It's not that I don't know how to get there (Lead me here)
It's hope that brings me through the door

Lead me here
In the wilderness
I need Your help
Can't do this by myself
Lead me here
In the wilderness
Speak to my soul
Come comfort, make me whole

Show me Your love
Show me Your love
I am Yours and You are mine
Show me Your love
Show me Your love
I am Yours and You are mine

Show me Your love
I need Your love
Show me Your love
I am Yours and You are mine
Show me Your love
I need Your love
Show me Your love
I am Yours and You are mine

Lead me here
In the wilderness
I need Your help
Can't do this by myself
Lead me here
In the wilderness
Speak to my soul
Come comfort, make me whole

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Inside Voices: exploring feminism, faith, and freedom

Photo from the Inside Voices facebook page

INSIDE VOICES

Described as ‘witty, enchanting and poignant’ (Global Voices Theatre) and “funny, energising... a charismatic ensemble piece” (Nick Hern Books), Inside Voices blends dark comedy and magical realism to shine a spotlight on Southeast Asian Muslim women, exploring feminism, faith and freedom.

The production is presented by an all-female, all-Asian cast and creative team. The play will be published by Nick Hern Books as one of seven best new plays at VAULT Festival and is a selected festival highlight of renowned theatre critic Lyn Gardner.

Inside Voices also interrogates larger conversations about intersectionality, Islamophobia and the #MeToo movement.

WHEN: 23 Jan - 27 Jan (Wed-Sun: 6.20pm, Sat 3.20pm)
WHERE: Pit - The Vaults, Leake Street
TICKETS : £12.00

For more info, visit https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/inside-voices/
~

It's funny when you think that you've moved into white spaces but the things you make an effort to go to are things from your side of the world. Eh. Homesick la kan.

(Also had a nice banana leaf rice with kari ikan before the show. lol.)

Inside Voices was held in the Pit at the Vault, which was all very underground indie cool, except the part that it was a bit hard to find. You have to go through this graffiti-ed tunnel passing by various artists spraypainting the wall.

The Pit itself is a small space, probably a little smaller than PenangPAC's Stage 2, and it was set up as a theatre in the round. The first thing I noticed when I entered was a tray full of food, because food. (They were props for the show.)

Official descriptions of the play uses the term "Southeast Asian Muslim women", but I don't know if that's really the best term to use because it's really very Nusantara, in the older (non-Malaysian/Indonesian nationalistic) sense of the word. Maybe I'm just being pedantic about it; SEA includes a much wider range of identities who may or may not be Muslim, but who don't fit into the conversation here. The dialogue is unapologetic about its use of Malay phrases, exclamations and sentence structures. It's something I would expect in a show back home, not one in London. But well, the playwright is Singaporean as are most of the cast and crew.

Inside Voices starts off with a very normal domestic scene: three women getting ready for a meal. From the beginning, their identities are established: the motherly, dependable one; the wild, sexual one; and the newly married, childish one. Actually, I struggled with that last one--her identities seem to run all over the place, as does her accent. Kak Fatimah (played by Nur Khairiyah Ramli) is the most secure in her identity--she is the most comfortable in her skin and her language. Lily (played by Siti Zuraida) fits her flamboyant, wild-child role quite well--her language is sharper, more upper class, as befits one who's educated, urban and sophisticated. Nisa (played by Suhaili Safari) seems to switch between a local Malay-English patois to something more articulated--I don't know if these shifts are intended since her character is insecure and naive, the one who is asking the questions that need to be answered. It just seemed a little confusing somehow.

Using the idea of a safe space, the narrative then delves into their backstories, the things they struggle with as Muslim women--domestic abuse, societal expectations to marry and have children, miscarriage, the politics of wearing the hijab. It veers into the mystical and the superstitious as well, with this hilarious (but also slightly gross) segment on Nasi Kangkang, that plays on Shakespeare's three witches. I can't seem to find an English translation for this, but it's basically black magic, where a woman mixes bodily fluids in food (rice) to gain control over her husband.

It's the location (for the want of a better word--situationality? Story world?) of this play that is its weakest point. Is it the real, physical world? Is it happening in their minds? Is it a dream world? Is this a mental hospital? The scene shifts clearly mark changes in the mental and emotional landscapes and the themes covered, but there seems to be a lack of rootedness as to where it is which is never fully explained. For the first half of the play, I assumed it was a real-world situation, where three friends have taken time off together, like an all-girls holiday. But later on, they talk about not remembering these conversations, about hiding from yourself, as if they were psychotic episodes, and then they plan to leave together, if each of the others are ready.

I highly enjoyed the play (it's more drama than dark comedy, I feel, but I'm not that good in segmenting stuff). There is enough raw emotion and truthfulness to tug at your heartstrings (I had to tell myself not to cry).

~

Friday, 25 January 2019

How do you measure productivity?

I don't know whether to count the last two days as productive or not. I did stuff, but they weren't really big stuff?

I'd planned to go for a book launch/signing on Thursday because part of our homework is to review a live literature event. But then after an incredibly full day of classes + Writers series talk + dinner on Wednesday, I just didn't feel like moving at all. So I spent the day mostly in bed, reading Dreams of the Dark Sky, which I'd gotten as an ARC for review. Then I forced myself out of bed to go to cell group and then stayed up late doing a beta read.

Which of course meant that I was terribly unproductive this morning, though I managed to do some receipts for MYWriters. In the afternoon and evening, I edited a couple of blog posts for Teaspoon Publishing, wrote the review and scheduled it for next week, updated some links on the website(s) and sent off some super random microfiction for a postcard project.

It sounds like I did a lot but actually... I've been procrastinating on assignments again (said live literature event, which I could have gone for a library talk on some Holocaust book tonight; 1K word short on setting; interview questions for Paths essay) so it feels like I didn't actually do anything of importance.

Well, I washed my towels. I suppose that's important.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

#bookreview: New Suns

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of ColorNew Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color by Nisi Shawl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm thinking really hard about what I want to say in this review because I do want to be supportive about spec fic by POC but I also want to be real. And honestly, either my expectations were too high (most likely) or I don't know what I want (I never know what I want), because I finished the book with a slight sense of discontent.

I guess as anthologies go, this is a proper mixed bag. There were 5 that I really liked and 4 that I liked but had some reservations about? So that’s already 9/17, which is more than half. There were only three that I found very confusing or weird, which I guess just goes to say that it was a nice, interesting read, but nothing especially spectacular, no matter how much I was hoping to be blown away. I guess I really did expect too much. (You can see that inconsistency here, don’t you?)

STUFF I REALLY LIKED, in no particular order.
The Fine Print - Chinelo Onwualu
Djinn! Always here for the djinn. This has a kind of Aladdin feel, but also a very lawyer-y thing going on. I’m looking for a term to describe it but can’t think. Like the smart, fast-talking guy trying to get out of a contract. Oh. I know what I was thinking of. I was thinking of that scene in the American Gods TV series with the djinn. (I can’t recall the book well enough now to remember if that was in it too? I know the TV series did add some scenes.)

Burn the Ships - Alberto Yanez
THIS IS THE CONTENT I'M LOOKING FOR. Lush, rich worldbuilding, magic oozing out of every pore. There’s this intricate weaving of faith versus lore, a juxtaposition of male priesthood and women's magic; both doing what they believe to be right, letting the other go in love. Beauty and death. Anger and life.

Dumb House - Andrea Hairston
I don’t really know how to explain why I like this one. Most of it is just the Cinnamon trying to chase off these two annoying salesmen who are trying to make her upgrade her dumb house into a smart one. Nothing really happens at the end. But it was amusing. I suppose I liked the humour.

Blood and Bells - Karin Lowachee
Though the first prologue (?) threw me, the story unfolded in beautiful ways. An utterly charming story (it has an adorable kid) that ended in an unexpected way.

Kelsey and the Burdened Breath - Darcie Little Badger
I love the concept in this. It’s kind of bittersweet plus nostalgic with a side of ghostbuster detecting. I don’t think I’m explaining myself very well.


STUFF I KINDA LIKE BUT I DUNNO?
The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations - Minsoo Kang
I liked this, like a little Chinese historical story, but it was a little too wordy and repetitive at places. I think there was this bit which felt like they backtracked and retold part of the story and then there was this addendum about omitting the female point of view which just felt a bit awkward. Stylistically on point, but could have done with a little editing down.

The Freedom of the Shifting Sea - Jaymee Goh
Storywise, I liked it, but it was a little gross, honestly. It would honestly be in my “really liked” section if it didn’t have the weird (mandible?) sex.

Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire - E. Lily Yu
A straightforward retelling of The Emperor's New Clothes. I see no lie here. Last variation sounded just a little bit too forced, but tone is a very easily misinterpreted thing, so it could just be my own biases.

The Shadow We Cast Through Time - Indrapramit Das
As much as I liked this, it was a little hard to follow. There’s a nice mythic storytelling feel to it, but it also came across like too much story in too few words. I had this overall feeling that I was missing something that maybe wasn’t being explained well enough? Or maybe like a myth that was just a bit too obscure and I’m too far distant to understand it.

I wasn’t going to mention the others I didn’t like, but I guess I’ll give One Easy Trick - Hiromi Goto a quick mention. I did like this in the beginning, but it got weirder and weirder until I was like.. uh, wth? So really, I’m quite ambivalent. I don’t know what to think.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews