Wednesday 25 December 2019

#bookreview: On Far Malayan Shores | Tara Haigh

On Far Malayan ShoresOn Far Malayan Shores by Tara Haigh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's perhaps fitting that I read most of this on my flight home from London to Penang--it certainly increased my longing for home!

When Ella Kaltenbach's father dies, he reveals a long-kept secret--her adoption is not as straightforward as it appears, neither is the annual stipend he receives an inheritance from his late brother. Driven to discover the secret of her birth and her real family, Ella sets off on a long voyage to Malaya with her suitor, Rudolf, armed with only three facts: that the payments are being made from Penang; she was picked up from the port of Singapore in 1877; and the name Richard F.

I started reading this with a huge dose of skepticism. I mean, a German lady writing about the Malaya? HMMMM. Anyway, it had a bit of a slow start for me, probably because I don't often read in this genre; On Far Malayan Shores seemed to plod along at a slower pace compared to majority of the fantasy books I've been reading, especially in the beginning. The build-up is beautifully crafted though, and even though I hit the 75% mark going COME ON I CAN GUESS WHO HER PARENTS ARE, REVEAL IT ALREADY (and I was right), there's enough tension and intrigue for it to still be exciting.

On authenticity, I'm not from the early 1900s so I cannot comment on how historically accurate it is, but there's definitely a feel of old Malaysia, from eating with your hands, to having roti canai (though it was translated flatbread) and curry for breakfast, also the obligatory Chinese temple, Indian temple, and Malay mosque near each other.

The only puzzling part was the odd references that made it sound like Johor was part of Malacca? Since we're talking about British Straits Settlements, Johor should already be a separate state as there was a Johor Sultanate after the end of the Malaccan empire. Ok wait. When I search up instances of Malacca and Johore (as it's spelt) in the book, Haigh references Johore as a town/city in Malacca... which ultimately makes no sense.

"Most of the plantations are located in Malacca, on the Malay Peninsula. Mainly in the south, in a region called Johore, which is also under British control..."
("region" may be an accurate term, but...)
"...in the south of Malacca, most likely between Singapore and Johore..."
(err, which would mean the sea? lol)
"Ella was told that the journey to Johore was perfectly safe, since they only had to travel northwards across Singapore...before making a short ferry crossing to the south coast of Malacca."
I get the feeling that she means "Johore Bahru", as in the capital of Johor, but either way, the Johor-as-part-of-Malacca bit is wrong.

I feel like docking another star now for bad research lol. (See: Johor Sultanate)

Culturally though, nothing feels terribly off. Verdict, I guess, is to read it for the feels and oo Malaysia vibes but not for the geographical content.

Addendum: Tara notes on Goodreads that "I read a few British travel accounts from the 19th century. They referred to Malaysia (the entire peninsula including the sultanate of Johor) as Malacca. This is what I found on old maps of Farther India as well." Which is weird, and shows the flippancy the British have for their own colonial holdings.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Amazon Publishing UK via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Monday 23 December 2019

#musicmonday: The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore | James Morrison



It's time to surrender
It's been too long pretending
There's no use in trying
When the pieces don't fit anymore
The pieces don't fit here anymore

---

On returning to say goodbye.

Thursday 5 December 2019

#bookreview: Dear Author: Letters from a Bookish Fangirl | Laura A. Grace

Dear Author: Letters from a Bookish FangirlDear Author: Letters from a Bookish Fangirl by Laura A. Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you've ever had a down day, wondering whether anything you've ever written is worth the paper it's printed on (or the screen it's... pixeled on...?), Laura's "Dear Author" is sure to put a smile on your face--or some tears on your cheeks.

Accompanied by extremely cute illustrations, this book is a welcome pick-me-up for beleaguered authors everywhere.


Note: I received an e-ARC of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

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BUY A COPY for the authors in your life! (Or for yourself.)

Monday 18 November 2019

#guestpost: 5 Exercises to Help You Craft Compelling Fictional Characters

It can be difficult to create a believable and relatable character, but I have a few tips and tricks that you can use to help you create a unique and memorable character.

1. Make a mini-biography

The easiest way to create a compelling fictional character is to match their life details. Whether it's fantasy adventure or teen fiction books for girls, if you've noticed in literary works, the main characters are well established with small nuances that make them more credible. To do this, you will have to write for each character a kind of biography. You don't have to say their life; it's enough to have a clear cheat sheet of the character's major points. You can add more detail to the character sheet as you progress in writing the story or use it as a guide.

2. Do an interview

This is a fun exercise that you can do to help you create a concrete and engaging character. You can reconstruct your character's interview, ask them big and small questions, and answer them in a way that the character might. What would help if you were to list your questions, about 10 or 15 so that you would be better prepared to answer them?
You can ask questions such as: 
  • What's your happiest memory?
  • What's the place you'd most like to visit?
  • What are your life's greatest regrets?
  • What's a hobby that you really like to try?
To help determine the personality of the character, you can mix general questions with very specific ones. Also, you can include questions that will help you imagine the plot of the story you write.

3. Dating profile

There may seem to be a little bit of this tip, but hear me out. If you've ever tried to create a dating profile for yourself or a friend, you'll know that creating one that's respectable and appealing requires a lot of introspection and self-analysis. So why not apply the technique to your story to create a character? There are many dating sites that you can use as a reference. Make sure you include any information that is included in your profile by a real person. Start with basics such as age, place, occupation, and definition of physics. Then you can also create a short bio about the character you are looking for and the type of partner.

4. Character speech

Writing a talk is a great way to find the voice of your character. Knowing their tone, their inflection, or even their specific use of words. It will bring a more thorough and vibrant personality to your character. When you're writing fiction, say girls' teen fiction books, each character needs a compelling backstory and a unique voice tone that translates into words. Remember the character and what they'd be talking about. The educated character may speak differently from a little educated character. The adult will also have a voice distinct from a child's sound. Sometimes, remember where the characters come from and the accent they could use. For example, London accents are different from a New York accent.

5. Do the unexpected

Human beings are very resistant to change—something Big and unique must happen to them for a character to experience a personal journey that fundamentally changes them. This incident does not have to be in your story, but once you can recognize the shortcomings of your character you can decide what changes are required in the structure of your character.

At the end of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miser. Even for his poor policeman, Bob Cratchit, who can hardly feed his own children, he is isolated from those around him and lacks empathy. Scrooge, however, has been resurrected as an animated character at the end of the novel. What was the incident in his life that inspired the whole eighty? The experience of past, present and future dreams and the first-hand knowledge of how not only his actions influenced him negatively, but also his own personality.

Wrapping It Up

Even the quickest, action-driven novels need to attract readers with compelling characters. Of course, if the writers do not understand fully who they are and what drives them first, readers will never get to know a character.

The character creation exercises are a good way to better understand the person you build with stylus and paper (or more likely "fingers and keyboards"). You can also build tools you can draw from during the process of writing.

Only after you have gained a thorough knowledge of your protagonist will there shine a robust, realistic character. In the field of reading, however, there is confusion about what knowledge a writer knows about a character is important or does not apply. While we agree that a writer probably does not need it, we feel you can never know enough about your character, too. We know the number of hairs on his head. What is important is to decide the knowledge that is important to your current story.

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations," Ray Bradbury wrote at Zen in the art of writing.

Author Bio:

Eliza Brooks is a passionate blogger who loves to write about travel, books, personality development, lifestyle, productivity, and more. She spends her spare time hiking, camping and reading adventure, fantasy, mystery stories, and young adult fiction books. Everything she talks about ends in books.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

#bookreview: Tess of the Road | Rachel Hartman

Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road, #1)Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This took me a very, very long time to get into and I nearly stopped reading at about the 30% mark. Actually, I did stop reading and then go on to read other more exciting things, and then I ran out of books in my luggage except for one I didn't really want to read, so I went back to this one and then I finished it off and it wasn't so bad.

...I think it was just a matter of the wrong book at the wrong time. It deals with weighty, important matters, like how your past shouldn't define your future, and rape and coercion, and the fact that we are always forgiving of dashing young pirates, if they are male, but not confused young maidens who are no longer virgins.

This makes it a very hard, but impactful, book to read--and maybe even a little troublesome, especially if you're one to always defend the Church and its preachers. Well, it's obvious it isn't the Church, but it is, isn't it?

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley as part of the Hugo voting packet.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 6 November 2019

#bookreview: Harvest & Resistance - Stories of Singularity | Susan Kaye Quinn

Quinn is back with more Stories of Singularity! While I'm waiting for that final novel to drop, here are the last two short stories she's sent out.

Harvest (Stories of Singularity #5)Harvest by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one didn't capture me as much as the rest of Quinn's Singularity stories normally do.
It's probably because I struggle with reading from the perspective of a machine. It's still a nice, short story with a robot that has learnt to care about legacy humans... I mean, malfunctioned.

Résistance (Stories of Singularity #7)Résistance by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you've always wondered about Kamali's past, here's the short story (novelette?) that will answer your questions. In Resistance, Quinn delves into Kamali's bitterness and the reason why she keeps defying the ascender, and explores the dynamics at play around her recruitment into the Resistance.

It's a perfect short read that eases you back into the world of the Singularity.

I received complimentary copies from the author. Opinions expressed in these reviews are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Monday 4 November 2019

#coverreveal: Dear Author: Letters from a Bookish Fangirl | Laura A. Grace


Dear Author: Letters from a Bookish Fangirl 
Genres: Self-Help, Motivational 
Publication date: December 3, 2019

About the Book
Think your words might not matter? Think again.

Words have the power to change lives, especially when they are used to create meaningful stories. In this collection of letters, bookish fangirl Laura A. Grace addresses topics related to every writer’s journey. From “character conversations,” to embracing one’s unique writing style, to celebrating a release day—there is a letter for every author no matter where they may be in sharing their story with others.

“Dear Author” includes six illustrations by Hannah S.J. Williams.

Signed PaperbackAmazonBarnes & Noble — Book Depository (Coming soon!) Pre-Order Goodies Form




About the Author

Laura A. Grace had a lifelong dream of getting to know authors behind the covers of her favorite reads. Little did she know that one day she would become an author too! Now an avid book blogger at Unicorn Quester and writer of clean, Christian manga, Laura creatively balances her passions of supporting indie authors and feeding her readers new stories. In between, she wields plastic lightsabers with her children and binge-watches anime with her husband. Join her quest to find wandering unicorns for your favorite authors at unicornquester.com!

Wednesday 30 October 2019

#bookreview: Deeplight | Frances Hardinge

DeeplightDeeplight by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I WOULD HAVE READ IT FASTER IF I WAS NOT TRAVELLING.

...which is a strange way to start a review, but it's truth. Deeplight is one of those books that demands you devour it in one, or at the most two, sitting and I feel that I have done it a disservice by reading it so slowly. lol.

In premise, at least, Deeplight pings a little bit of Pratchett's Nation--the gods are dead, what do humans do now? Well, the humans in Hardinge's island chain of Myriad are making profits out of it by diving into the seas and collecting godware for sale. What Hark does best is tell stories, a skill that often helps get him out of trouble--and scam continental tourists for easy money. When a job goes wrong, Hark's life changes in many ways, and not always for the better.

Deeplight feels in many ways like an exploration of the various friendships that a troubled young person may have in their life and how it impacts them. There's Quest, the ex-priest, who trades stories for stories in a bid to understand Hark and offer advice. There's Kly, the Sanctuary supervisor, who has a soft spot for Hark and offers him leeway and understanding even when he messes up. There's also Dr Vyne, the one who bought his indenture, who offers him a second chance and a brand of tough love that keeps Hark on the safe and narrow--for now.

And then there's Jelt. The childhood friend and protector who has saved him many times--from the exact same trouble he caused. Hark's friendship with Jelt is a clear case of abuse and gaslighting. It sat uncomfortably with me in the beginning, seeing the way Hark question his own decisions and push aside his worries just because he feels like he owes Jelt something, that Jelt--being bigger, stronger, better--may be right about his cowardice and disloyalty. I wanted him to break away from Jelt, to stay clear of that obviously toxic relationship, but in a novel, things have to happen so again and again, Hark gets sucked into Jelt's downward spiral, drowning in deeper and deeper waters even as he tries to stay clear of the heavy hand of the law.

But Hark has resilience and Hark also has good, wise friends in Quest and Kly and Selphin who together try to save the world from ending.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Tuesday 22 October 2019

A Kind of Death: Tales of Love, Loss, and Transformation releases today!

People, people!

A Kind of Death: Tales of Love, Loss and Transformation releases today! 


Which means you can finally read my new short story, Takpe. If you've already preordered a kindle copy, it should be dropping into your kindle soon. If not... what are you waiting for? Go get your copy now!



A princess who makes dangerous bargains with the afterlife. A man desperate to save his wife, no matter the cost. An uber driver for the undead.
Death, whether real or metaphorical, comes for us all. Yet it is not always the end. And in the depths of grieving can be the promise of hope and redemption.

The tales and poems in this anthology explore the depths of love, loss, and transformation. Whether in a reimagined folktale or a modern urban fantasy, A Kind of Death features a fine balance of tragedy and comedy, but always with a hint of wonder and hope.

As this anthology concerns matters of loss (all handled tastefully and without graphic depiction), certain stories might prove challenging for sensitive readers. Recommend reading with a hot beverage and/or a packet of tissues.


Uncommon Universes Press is a traditional publishing company featuring fresh science fiction and fantasy stories with wonder, adventure, and sacrifice. Check out the links below to learn more!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday 18 October 2019

#fridayflash: A preview of Takpe from A Kind of Death



There is a nail in the back of Nur’s neck. She doesn’t know why.

She doesn’t think about it often, though sometimes when she bathes, her fingers touch it and she shudders. She doesn’t pull it out; she can’t, she’s not allowed to. Her husband Bakri doesn’t talk about it, changing the topic whenever she brings it up. She doesn’t anymore.

She wants to please him.

No one else she knows has a nail there. She’d seen a girl before, on that one trip to Kuala Lumpur for her daughter, Alia’s, medical check-up, a mat salleh with short purple hair and two little metal balls at the nape of her neck. The mat salleh had a lot of other metal pieces all over her body, so Nur doesn’t think it’s the same. Nur has looked carefully at all the other women in her kampung, her village. Most of them keep their hair in buns, under scarves, out of their faces. She leaves hers down, black and silky, reaching to the curve of her back. Bakri doesn’t like her to cut it, so she doesn’t.

Bakri comes in the front door, kicking off his shoes, and stooping to scoop Alia up. “And how has my little Alia been all day?”

Alia wiggles and squeals as he tosses her up in the air. For a brief moment, her fine, wavy hair circles her round face like a halo, then flops down, tussled bangs across her forehead, fluffed up around the back of her head like a little button mushroom.

Bakri winces as Alia tugs at his goatee, catches the small hand to still its grasping. His smile is wide and generous, filling out the sharp contours of his sun-darkened face.

Nur smiles, getting up from the couch. “Her birthday is coming up next week, abang. What do you want to do?”

“Ooo, my little Alia is going to be one, huh?” Bakri perches the little girl on his hip as he steps closer to Nur into the living room. Three steps to the right, and he would bump into their dining table. She’s not sure why she keeps this distinction in her mind when it’s all one cosy room. She lifts his leathery hand to her forehead, brings it to her lips.

He is all that fills her soul.

When he pulls away, she notices the sadness in his dark brown eyes he always gets when looking at her. Why, she wants to ask, but doesn’t. He never tells her, only shakes his head, saying takpe. It’s nothing.

“Should we have a party, abang? Invite the everyone from the kampung?” she asks. Birthdays are meant to be village-wide celebrations, a matter of pride—she knows this much. He keeps apart for her sake, but for this, for Alia, maybe he would want to do it right.

“Let’s keep it small, eh, Nur? No need to call everyone.”

She nods, making a mental list of their close friends. The neighbors on their left, Pak Ali and his wife Timah, but not the ones on the right; they don’t like Nur. The Penghulu, definitely—the village chief would feel slighted if he and his family weren’t invited. The two little girls Alia plays with and their families…

“Nur, is dinner ready?” Bakri asks, pulling her out of her thoughts.

“Ya, abang. Sorry!” She puts her thoughts aside and heads into the kitchen. Everything is prepared. She left them in the pots to keep warm and all she needs to do now is serve them.

Tonight, there is kari ikan, with more ladyfingers than fish, and nasi putih, the rice steamed and fluffy. Nur wishes there were more dishes, but it’s all they can afford. If they slaughter a chicken, tomorrow they might have meat, but then what would they do for eggs in the future? The banana trees in the back make up for it. She finds them comforting. Alia loves them as a snack, whether fresh or fried in batter. Bakri—he turns away from the fruit, looking sick. Although she remembers, somehow, that he used to love pisang goreng, loved it fresh and dripping with oil, the batter they’d been dipped in a recipe handed down from her grandmother. She remembers that, although she cannot remember anything else, not since the incident.

“What’s wrong, sayang?” Bakri stops eating, fingers smeared with curry.

She shakes her head. “Takpe.”

The phrase passes between them so often it too means nothing: Takpe. Takde ape-pe. Doesn’t matter. It’s nothing. Never mind. It’s fine.
They talk about birthday parties instead.

---




Note: paperback and hardback preorders will receive exclusive A Kind of Death swag!

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Friday 27 September 2019

Request an ARC for A Kind of Death

Earlier this month, I mentioned that I have a new story releasing that you can preorder. Well, if you can't wait, you can sign up for an ARC from Uncommon Universes Press right now. Just fill in this form!




Note: paperback and hardback preorders will receive exclusive A Kind of Death swag!

Wednesday 25 September 2019

#BookReview: You Beneath Your Skin | Damyanti Biswas

You Beneath Your SkinYou Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You Beneath Your Skin is a chilling debut by Damyanti Biswas--a psychological thriller that delves deep into dysfunctional families, broken relationships, drug abuse, and violence, all wrapped up in an unpresuming police procedural set in Delhi. There's also the relentless Delhi politics that keeps Jatin Bhatt in a loveless marriage, receiving dirty money and participating in cover-ups for minister's, whilst staying friendly with the Union Home Secretary and his powerful family, so that he can keep Commissioner Mehra, his father-in-law and boss, happy in hopes that he will be able to succeed him as Delhi's Chief of Police. If that's not enough, Damyanti throws into the mix complications from Anjali's son's autism, ramping up the tension, especially with the hide and seek that she plays with the truth.

The heart of this story, though, isn't the politics or the crime or the misadventures in love, though all these provide an entertaining though heart wrenching background. It's the poor women trapped in poverty who are subjected to one of the most cruel and debilitating attacks of all--acid attacks. Damyanti brings sympathy to the women caught in this plight through no fault of their own. The fault lies squarely with the men who hold women's lives to no value. In that aspect, this novel is a little sordid--there's no escaping the dirt and squalor, or the horrible crimes of rape and mutilation in this novel.

I love Damyanti's code switching, the way she brings out the different accents of her characters in their Indian English alongside their use of Hindi phrases. I tend to skim over the longer phrases (some of which may or may not be Urdu poetry?), but I'm sure those who speak Hindi and Urdu would appreciate it. She deftly includes translations, and the repetition of certain key phrases is also very helpful.

All in all, You Beneath Your Skin is a thrilling read, full of surprising twists and turns.



You Beneath Your Skin released last week. Get your copy from Amazon today!

Wednesday 18 September 2019

#bookreview: Heroes of the Realm

Heroes of the RealmHeroes of the Realm by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I backed this one on kickstarter!

Heroes of the Realm is a collection of short stories based on the theme of... heroes! As usual, with anthologies, there's a mixed bag of stuff in here.

Ashling and the Little People (Kathy Tyers) -- This is an interesting twist on Irish legends and how Christianity pushed out the local beliefs and superstitions of the area. 4/5 stars

The Tea Dragon (L. Jagi Lamplighter) -- Obviously my favourite! It has tea. And dragons. The scoundrel (more like dandy) has a change of heart which seems somewhat a little too sudden, but tea and dragons make up for everything. Almost. 5/5 stars!

The Fire Proof Man is Dead (James Chambers) -- Magic or science? There's some detective work going on here when super heroes end up stealing stuff before turning up dead. It's okay. 3/5 stars

The Garrison Holds (Steve Rzasa) -- Somewhat superman like, Tobias is tempted to use his powers the same way the enemy does, even if that goes against the principles he's supposed to be upholding. 3/5 stars

Where Monsters Wait (Gabrielle Pollack) -- The monsters aren't real, are they? Lyric has to decide if she believe the mad man or if she's willing to let her village be destroyed. 4/5 stars

Will o The Wisps (Wayne Thomas Batson) -- Another one of my favourites! Stoker Graves is crazy about ghosts--he's excited to go to a camp where Will o the Wisps have been said to kill people, but when it starts to come true, will he have the bravery to face them? 5/5 stars

The Devil in the Details (Danielle Ackley-McPhail) -- I can't quite decide about this one. I liked it but it didn't quite stick in my memory. I also didn't quite get what the mom was supposed to be. 3.5 stars maybe

Glint Starcrost and the Ice Prison (Paul Regnier) -- Dashing rogue in mortal peril? Attempting to save the woman in the midst of the jailbreak? I probably shouldn't like this as much as I did. 4/5 stars

Hard s Watcher (Kerry Nietz) -- I liked the twist in this one. I was expecting it to be something super creepy at first. 4/5 stars

The Librarian Who Would be King (Teisha Priest) - Nothing super new with this one, but I liked it all the same. My soft heart always goes out to the wronged/framed person being saved at the last minute. And then selflessly saving other people on the way. 5/5 stars

The Brick (Jeffrey Lyman) -- mmmm This was a bit too space sci-fi for me. 3/5 stars

All in all, a nice read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Introducing... #YouBeneathYourSkin by @damyantig @SimonandSchusterIN


Today I have the honour and privilege of introducing Damyanti Biswas' new book, You Beneath Your Skin!

Damyanti has been a great writer friend ever since I started talking about this writing thing online, so I'm really excited that her book is hitting the shelves today!

---

You Beneath Your Skin is a crime novel about the investigation of an acid attack on a woman from Delhi’s upper class, set against the backdrop of crimes against underprivileged women. They are assaulted, disfigured with acid, and murdered.

While the framework is that of a thriller, the novel threads together different narrative strands. The author tackles various social issues: crimes against women and why they occur, the nexus between political corruption, police and big money; the abuse of the underprivileged, be it adults or children.

Of these the issue of crimes against women is the strongest—why do men attack women? Why do they gang together? What happens when a woman tries to break the glass ceiling? Can toxic masculinity masquerade as benevolent patriarchy?

Parents would also find this novel fascinating: how do you bring up a good human being in today’s troubled times? How much do you know of your teenager’s life? If you’re the parent of a special child, what challenges do you face and what sort of support can you expect?

It is a whodunnit, but also a whydunnit, because violent crime unravels those affected: the people, the relationships, the very fabric of society, and we get a glimpse of what lies beneath. That’s why the title, You Beneath Your Skin.

The narrative of the book was researched and shaped during the author’s work with Project WHY, and some of the experiences generously shared by acid attack survivors from the non-profit Stop Acid Attacks. To return this debt of gratitude, all author proceeds from the book will go to these two non-profits.

---

Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and works with Delhi's underprivileged children as part of Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.

All the author proceeds will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.


Get a copy now: India | Outside India


Here's a preview of Chapter One!

Thursday 12 September 2019

Preorder A Kind of Death!

Okay, so this has been kind of under wraps for a while, but preorders are now up so...


A princess who makes dangerous bargains with the afterlife. A man desperate to save his wife, no matter the cost. An uber driver for the undead.

Death, whether real or metaphorical, comes for us all. Yet it is not always the end. And in the depths of grieving can be the promise of hope and redemption.

The tales and poems in this anthology explore the depths of love, loss, and transformation. Whether in a reimagined folktale or a modern urban fantasy, A Kind of Death features a fine balance of tragedy and comedy, but always with a hint of wonder and hope.

As this anthology concerns matters of loss (all handled tastefully and without graphic depiction), certain stories might prove challenging for sensitive readers. Recommend reading with a hot beverage and/or a packet of tissues.

---

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2lCrWyO
Other Major Online Retailers: https://books2read.com/u/meB9Yg

Paperback Preorder: https://uncommonuniverses.com/product/a-kind-of-death-a-short-story-and-poetry-anthology-paperback/
Hardback Preorder: https://uncommonuniverses.com/product/a-kind-of-death-a-short-story-and-poetry-anthology-hardcover/

Note: paperback and hardback preorders will receive exclusive A Kind of Death swag!

---

Uncommon Universes Press is a traditional publishing company featuring fresh science fiction and fantasy stories with wonder, adventure, and sacrifice. Check out the links below to learn more!


Wednesday 11 September 2019

#bookreview: The Resurrectionist of Caligo | Wendy Trimboli & Alicia Zaloga

The Resurrectionist of CaligoThe Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roger Weathersby is a Man of Science in a land ruled by magic--it's magic that lends legitimacy to the throne, passed down through the royal blood. He's skeptical about it, the way the royals are worshipped and deified, but when Roger is framed for murder, magic might be the only thing that can save him.

The Resurrectionist of Caligo delves into the slightly macabre, with Roger digging up dead bodies for a living, throwing us back into that bygone era were doctors were still learning about the human body. And of course, there's the murders--not just one, but the serial murders that Roger is framed for.

I picked up an advanced proof copy of this from the Angry Robot Books booth during Worldcon, so had no clue what I was getting into. This book surprised me from the very start!

The story is straight forward, barring a few surprising twists, and told in the third person from Roger and Sibylla's POVs. I appreciated this very much because Roger comes very close to being Too Stupid To Live at times. The distance afforded by the third person POV, less angst and more humour, plus the (mostly) altruistic motives, saved me from getting too annoyed. (I did think will you just shut up now, you're being an idiot a few times.)

But as I mentioned, the humour! This is the type of writing that I enjoy: snark and dry wit. I found myself laughing to myself quite a lot. I also do like the star-crossed lover scenario, made even better by the fact that it's not a new love, but a failed entanglement that is still getting in the way of them moving on.

There are some niggling "but why..." questions, but nothing that really detracts from the enjoyment of the story. Overall, a fun read!

View all my reviews

Wednesday 4 September 2019

#bookreview: Kingdom of Souls | Rena Barron

Kingdom of SoulsKingdom of Souls by Rena Barron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All Arrah wants is to have just a little magic. The way her parents have it, the way her Grandmother, the great Aatiri chieftain, wields it and sees visions of the future. But she doesn't, and when children start disappearing in Tarah, Arrah does the forbidden: exchanges years of her life for the taste of magic.

Kingdom of Souls is involved and complex. Gods walk the earth, the Demon King is manipulating humans for his freedom, and Arrah is caught in between, powerless. It's beautifully crafted, bringing you into a world of witch doctors and magic, an eternal battle of good vs evil--except who is good and who is evil? Barron turns your expectations upside down, creating a pantheon of gods who are both good and evil, powerful yet fallible. After all, they created this mess. Now they need to fix it.

Arrah is a compelling character--as she needs to be as the voice of this novel. It's fascinating to sink into her view of the world, the outsider always wanting to fit in, the outcast desiring the one thing that would finally make her accepted by her society. It's made even stronger as her most precious relationships are tested and tried, exploring the question, what is love? Does her mother love her even in the midst of her frigid nature and her pursuit of revenge? Can Rudjek really love her in the face of the opposition of both their families?

The gods come into it here and there, with brief interlude chapters that sound like monologues. It's a little jarring, but does give some context to everything that is taking place.

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

Kingdom of Souls releases on 19 Sept 19.


Monday 2 September 2019

Of Endings and Goodbyes

There’s always a sense of leaving.

Today I sit on the 607 to White City, to what may be my last Ealing write-in. I usually read on the bus, but today I watch the scenery and feel a sense of... nostalgia? A sense of saying goodbye? It doesn't make sense. It’s only been a year.

Not long enough to set down roots. Not long enough to belong. Not really.

But there is a sadness in saying goodbye. I’m maudlin. I don’t leave the UK until mid-December but I am moving away from this neighbourhood in West London down to the south.

Spotify croons You’re not finished yet. You’re not finished yet.



I’m not. I have an essay to hand in that I’m procrastinating on because of this finality.

These are neighbourhoods I’ve never explored, but have always thought one day, one day I’ll get off this bus at a random spot in between and I’ll see what you have to offer. 

I never have. Now I never will. They’re just shops. A suburb. I don’t do this back home. Maybe I should.


I take photos. It’s a beautiful day. I want to remember this place. It has been good to me.

You have been good to me.

~

I don’t write at the write-in today. I read and reread my essay, tweaking it to sound a little bit more academic, a little less like an irreverent Terry Pratchett-esque commentary. Deleting my snarky footnotes does the trick.

The discussion revolves around reasons to punch a priest and the differences between the Catholic Church and the Church of England. We should read more Austen to figure out what a parish is, one says.

I order the cream tea, telling myself it’s not the last cream tea I’ll have in England. I have another three months, more than enough time for tea and scones. I finish editing the essay, leaving only the references to be formatted. I have been putting off formatting the references for half a week now. What's another few hours?

I am restless. I'm always restless.



I leave early, at half-past four, to make it in time for church.

The Piccadilly is shakier than usual. I hate the Piccadilly line but the Metropolitan doesn’t serve Ealing. There doesn’t seem to be a direct train to Uxbridge coming anytime soon, so I take the Piccadilly to Rayners Lane and change to the Metropolitan there.

~

Church is a series of telling people that I'm done, I'm almost done, I'm leaving soon. I have plans, I don't know what my plans are, I'm working on plans. I hope to tour Europe before I go, I don't know if I will see you again.

It's a rash of goodbyes, some I take care to tell that it may be my last service, it will be my last evening service. Next week, my halls will kick me out at ten in the morning, so I'll have to wake up for the morning service. We have a life group BBQ after that, and then I'll be gone.


We have dinner.

I walk home in the gathering dark. It's getting dark earlier, there's a chill in the air. I've gone from complaining about the stifling heat to thinking I should close one of my windows. It's not that cold yet, 3/4 of my windows stay open. I don't use my scarf, though I brought it out.

I fix my references.

Submit my essay.

I'm done.


There's always a sense of leaving; all things come to an end.

You make all things new.

Friday 30 August 2019

#Dublin2019 #AnIrishWorldCon in tweet threads

I was looking up my own notes for the panels I attended at Worldcon 2019, so here's a listing of the threads I made. Also so I can find it later on. lol. I dunno how this embedding thing works, I'm assuming you can click it to open the full thread.

We'll see.

























Why did I attend so many panels. hahaha.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

#bookreview: Skyward | Brandon Sanderson

Skyward (Skyward, #1)Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a brilliant, brilliant book, and the long reading time recorded is only because Worldcon came in between the first half and the second half of my reading!

Skyward was entrancing from beginning to end, driven by the sheer focus and desperation of Spensa (Callsign: Spin). She grates on you a little at times, but if you can see past the bluster, you feel how she hides her vulnerability and fear in the most outrageous fighting words she can utter--all in an effort to hide from what her father is said to be: a coward. Spensa is the only one who knows this cannot be true. Admiral Ironsides and the First Citizens must be hiding something. Whatever the truth is, Spensa is not going to let it stand in the way of the thing she wants the most: to be a pilot, fight the Krell, and see the stars.

There are shades of Ender's Game in this, where children are used in battle against the invading aliens, in a sheer war for survival. It's really the plot twist that makes this book, something I did not--and could not--have foreseen. It's a truth Spensa doesn't want to hear, but which propels her--and the book--into greater heights.

Sanderson writes a brilliantly, and I may actually like this one more than The Stormlight Archives, which sometimes drags out just a tad too much. This is perfect for what it is, an exciting adventure in the skies.

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

View all my reviews

I picked up a free preview (the first chapter) of Starsight at Worldcon! SO EXCITED.



Get Skyward and preorder Starsight!

Wednesday 21 August 2019

#bookreview: Speak No Evil | Liana Gardner

Speak No EvilSpeak No Evil by Liana Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Liana Gardner sure pulls at your heartstrings with Speak No Evil.

Melody Fisher has been shunted from foster home to foster home ever since the death of her mother and the disappearance of her father. Every time she has spoken up to defend herself, something even worse happens, so she gradually falls into silence. But now, she needs to speak again, to tell her side of why she stabbed Troy.

Gardner brings you on a journey of recovery through song and memory as Dr Kane, Melody's therapist, uses the one thing that holds Melody together to help her communicate again: music. She anchors each chapter in a song, using the lyrics--beautifully written by Lucas Astor-- to bridge Melody's present and her traumatic past. Melody's gift may be the gift of song, but Gardner's true gift is evoking the emotions of a vulnerable young girl and giving her voice through this story.

Melody's story isn't an unfamiliar one. Right from the beginning, I knew why she stabbed Troy. Discounting insanity--and Melody is definitely not insane--there can only be one reason why a young girl would attack a bright, promising young athlete. Only one reason why courts and public opinion would want to side with a promising, white jock against the word of a troubled, mixed-race girl. We've seen it in the news all too often. She must be lying. Gardner holds no punches, describing the things that happened, not in a voyeuristic, pornographic or erotic way, but in Melody's dark memories and trauma--take this as a content/trigger warning.

Yet, in the midst of the darkness, shines a beacon of hope:
It is not your fault.
You are more than your past.
You are stronger than you think you are.
You are a survivor.
We will stand with you.

If these are the words you need to hear, let Gardner whisper it to you again and again through Dr Kane's patience, Rebecca Prescott's persistence, and Quatie Raincrow's love and wisdom.

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

---

Speak No Evil releases on 1 October 2019.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

#bookreview: Claiming T-Mo | Eugen Bacon

Claiming T-MoClaiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The most I can say about this book is that it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The narrative flits between the lives of the women in T-Mo's life and how his dual personality and subsequent disappearance impacted them.

It was interesting, in a way, but also felt disjointed as you jumped from his mother to his wife to his daughter and his granddaughter and it's really not about them, but it is. It's mostly still about him, in a roundabout way. It's also about abuse and abusive relationships and the perpetuation of it over generations, whether the self-serving coldness of Novic that sets T-Mo on his path, or the casual cruelty of Pastor Ike Drew that chased Salem into T-Mo's arms. And it's finally about freedom, about each woman chasing what it means to be herself in the lines of her life, whether in conjuction with or despite of her husband and her family.

At least, I think that's what it's about, between the jumping from person to person and the switches in POV and the alien things that are happening all over the place. I wish I had liked it much better.

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

View all my reviews

Wednesday 7 August 2019

#bookreview: Pale Kings | Micah Yongo

Pale Kings (Lost Gods, #2)Pale Kings by Micah Yongo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pale Kings starts off slowly, picking up where Lost Gods left off. Yongo takes his time to orient you: The Shedaim Brotherhood is broken, magic is stirring once again, dark beasts have arisen… and gods now walk the land. Strange visions come upon Neythan, Sidon must navigate his way through court intrigue and betrayal, and Daneel and Josef wrestle with the choices that pull them in opposite directions. The slow-build and the changing POVs are slightly disingenuous though. As revelations build, so does the tension, until you’re gripped by the events unfolding before you.

If there were an overarching theme to Pale Kings, it’s trust and betrayal. Nothing is as it seems—and that’s the beauty of this novel. As layer upon layer of history and the hidden past are revealed, Neythan soon discovers that everything he once believed in may not be the truth—and the things he thought were myth and children’s stories may prove truer than fact. Visions and prophecies don’t add clarity either, muddying perceptions of what is to come. When everyone and every faction is working to their own purposes, hiding secrets from each other, each new piece of information necessarily forces a fresh evaluation of who can and should be trusted.

There’s so much more to be unpacked in this epic about the gods who once walked the land and seek to do so once again. And that ending sets up so much excitement for things to come!

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

View all my reviews

Pale Kings releases on August 13! Preorder your copy here.

Read my review of Lost Gods here.

Sunday 4 August 2019

#bookreview: Etania's Worth | M.H. Elrich

Etania's Worth (Daughters of Tamnarae #1)Etania's Worth by M.H. Elrich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the planet Tearah, where the various human races possess different Neuma, or powers and gifts granted by God, Etania doubts herself and her gift. Chosen to help save the world? Yeah, right. Cute bodyguard falling in love with her? Double yeah, right. Why would anyone, especially Melchizidek the God of Tamnarae, love or believe in her when she can't even keep the attention of her own father?

Etania's Worth is a Christian allegorical quest fantasy with coming-of-age and chosen-one themes, plus a side of clean romance. Elrich doesn't hide the allegory or the Christian themes--it's stated clearly in the glossary which characters/symbols are meant to reflect Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Melchizidek also obviously has twelve followers (disciples), one of whom betrays him. None of this detracts from the story, and whilst bits of the plot may seem rather apparent or predictable to people well-versed with chosen one or Christian/faith-based stories (whether Biblical stories or fiction), the way it unfolds is nevertheless interesting.

I especially love the extensive worldbuilding you catch glimpses of as Etania, Jakin and Kayel travel throughout Tamnarae on their quest. However, "glimpses" is a key thing here--it sometimes feels as though you're rushed through the world like a tourist without fully experiencing it, which ended up more than a little confusing at times. I guess what I'm saying is that I would have liked a little more immersion, if that makes sense. Still, the Glossary was stuffed with information you didn't know you didn't know so that helped a little.

One of the key themes Elrich addresses in Etania's Worth is the idea of self-worth and acceptance, but in the Christian sense. Etania and Keyel both doubt themselves, their gifts, and their statuses in society because of their youth, experiences, and past. Elrich works with the concepts of redemption as well as reliance on God to build their confidence in both their worth, value, and acceptance of self.

My major bugbear with this novel, which is probably inordinately affected by the fact that I'm currently doing my own edits, is that it could really, really do with another round of editing. The writing is clunky in parts and, whilst readable, could have been tightened up a lot more.

The book will probably suit female YA readers (aged 15 - 20-ish) the best. Whilst there is war and fighting aplenty, there's also a huge chunk of MAYBE HE LIKES ME MAYBE HE DOESN'T WHY WOULD HE EVER LIKE ME I'M UGLY AND TERRIBLE AND USELESS that may turn off teenage boys after a bit.

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

View all my reviews

Friday 2 August 2019

#bookreview: The Escape Manual for Introverts | Katie Vaz

I know it's not my usual book review day! And also I've missed a couple of weeks. I've been away on a roadtrip and in my head, I thought I would have time to keep reading and reviewing. Obviously not. So I'll be slowly catching up a little over the next few weeks.

Here's a short one to tide you over until I actually get stuff done.

The Escape Manual for IntrovertsThe Escape Manual for Introverts by Katie Vaz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a cutesy, off-kilter "manual" on how to escape social situations you really don't want to be in. Not all of them will actually work* though they're sure to elicit a few laughs.

It's a quick read, so perfect for a short getaway from real life. Which is just what every introvert needs.

* not if you want to be an actual relatable, not-weird (adult) human being. And want to keep your job and your friends.

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

View all my reviews

Monday 22 July 2019

#guestpost: Why Writing Poetry is Valuable | Matt Nagin (@mnagin)

When I was 16, I wrote tons of poems. I must have filled up fifty notebooks with random scribblings. One day, completely entranced by my new hobby, I told my mother I wanted to be a writer. She was less than pleased. She goes, ‘Oh Matthew! Become a doctor and you can write prescriptions!’

I still write poems today, at 42 years old. Some say I have a bit of a Peter Pan Complex. I still live in a bachelor pad, I’m unmarried, no kids, still have many of the same habits I developed as a teen. This may be accurate. Not sure. But what I do know is that all these years of writing poetry have been valuable.


Poetry taught me to write better. To trust my voice. To listen. To hear. Poetry made writing fun for me. It filled me with a sense of possibility. It also taught me that the most important rule is to be willing to break them all.

A good poet can write cover letters, novels, screenplays, resumes, grant applications, graduate admissions essays, blog articles, contracts, advertising copy, speeches, you name it. It is insanely valuable. Ok. It’s not being a doctor. But it can enrich your life and help you succeed in a wide range of careers.

Am I sometimes disappointed in book sales? Definitely. But just because my newest book, ‘Feast of Sapphires,’ isn’t a best-seller, doesn’t mean I’m not glad I wrote it.

I’m an actor too. Many of the parts I’ve played, on television for example, have reached millions of homes. Still, if only a handful of people read my poems, it’s more rewarding to me. Because this is something I feel intrinsically connected to, something that feels necessary. I wouldn’t be happy without it.

So, no, you can’t trade poetry on the NYSE (Symbol: PTRY). Venture capitalists aren’t squabbling over every last stanza. Nor is Netflix paying billions to have poets read their work at The Beacon Theater. Still, poetry is insanely valuable. It can save your life. In certain ways, at least, it saved mine.

---

Matt Nagin is a writer, educator, filmmaker, and standup comedian. His poetry has been published in Antigonish Review, Oxford Magazine and The East Bay Review. Kirkus Reviews deemed his first poetry collection, ‘Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight,’ ‘powerful verse from a writer of real talent.’ His second collection, ‘Feast of Sapphires,’ reached #12 on the Amazon Best Seller List. Matt has performed standup in seven countries, and acted in numerous film and tv productions. His first short film, Inside Job, won acting and directing awards on the festival circuit. More at mattnagin.com

Wednesday 17 July 2019

#bookreview: Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes | Carla Hoch

Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight ScenesFight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes by Carla Hoch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I once attended Carla Hoch's session in a Realm Maker's Conference, where she demonstrated various fighting techniques for a bunch of writers. This is kinda like that, in book form.

Fight Write is a great writing resource. It doesn't just give you basic information about various fighting styles and weapons, but it also directs you to think about how to write a fight scene, and what sort of stuff you should think about when writing it. (Tip: it's not so much about the technicalities that most readers won't know, but about how it feels).

Hoch is hilarious, both in person and in text, so this doesn't turn into a dry and boring textbook. It also goes a little into the psychology of fighting and how and why people react in different ways, gender differences, scene and environment... and how you can "test" fight scenes and scenarios without getting yourself actually beaten up. (Eg.: Never been punched in the eye? Think about how you reacted when you poked your eye; same reaction, just worse injury)

*bonus: there is a chapter on Fighting Aliens and Stuff if you're writing SFF. ;)

Biggest takeaway: When writing a fight scene, it's not just about the fight. It's about the people involved and their motivations.

I mostly read this because I've been struggling with some fight scenes in my WIP and I've bookmarked like a lot of things to re-read as I fix the WIP, so I can safely say this is a very useful book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Writer's Digest Books via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Purchase a copy here!