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.

View all my reviews

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

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Snowwwwww


Our Chevening Malaysia whatsapp group is filled with pictures and videos of snow because... what can I say? All these tropical kids have never seen snow before. lololol. (Well, I have, but still.)


AT ANY RATE.
Critical Commentary has also been submitted, so that's last term's Elements of Fiction assignment all done. 

I also wrote a long email detailing the type of posts and materials needed for a blog tour, so I decided I might as well turn that into a post for my self-publishing blog next month. Now I'm just prepping for tomorrow's classes, drinking lots of tea, and looking forward to starting two beta reads!

Monday, 21 January 2019

#musicmonday: Do It Again | Elevation Worship



Walking around these walls
I thought by now they'd fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle's won
For You have never failed me yet

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You've never failed me yet

I know the night won't last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again
Jesus, You're still enough
Keep me within Your love
My heart will sing Your praise again
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed

I've seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I'll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I'll see You do it again

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Done! And a #RealmMakers kickstarter!

I'm primarily here to say I HAVE FINISHED MY PORTFOLIO AND I AM NOT CHANGING A SINGLE WORD. Noooope.
(Now on to finalise that essay.)

But I am also secondarily here to say SUPPORT THIS KICKSTARTER! Even better, ask everyone you know to support this kickstarter so that we can get to the stretch goals! 
Because more money = more stories, and more stories = opportunities to submit! To quote:
Above, I also mentioned that we would have the ability to add more stories to the anthology if we raise funds beyond our initial goal. For every additional $500 we raise, we'll add another author to the book.
Well, ain't that cool :p (scuttles off to plan a hero story)

Full press release below the line!

*

Friday, 18 January 2019

The Painted Hall Collection has a video review!



Just realised I never posted about this. HA!

Check out The Painted Hall Collection on Amazon. More retailers here!

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Rethinking my approach to #bookreviews and star ratings

I blogged about blogging more and then dropped off the grid. haha.

Well, Tuesday I did blog, but over at Teaspoon Publishing. And then classes started again yesterday. I was still hoping to finish my review of New Suns by then, but we hung out after class, and then I dropped by the department's New Year thing, and then I procrastinated dinner, and by the time I actually finished reading the book, it was almost midnight and I was falling asleep. I'm not usually that last minute in reviewing books, though. I was originally planning to review another book this week, but when I finished it, I hated it, and after much thinking, I decided I was not going to expend any more energy on it by writing a review.

I've been thinking about book reviews and star ratings ever since the last SRFC. Someone mentioned something along the lines of how authors shouldn't give a book anything less than 5/5 stars because doing that is pulling their ratings down and being mean to our colleagues. This reminds me now of the stupid kerfuffle that stopped us doing readings at The Constant Gardener (yes, there was a reason we moved), but my immediate reaction was actually well, in Corporate, we rate our colleagues ALL THE TIME. That's why we have 360-degree reviews (we review our juniors, peers AND managers). But thinking it over, we don't rate them in public and no one else knows what we wrote except us and HR, and whatever HR releases (anonymously) to the reviewee. So yeah, maybe there is a difference.

Sidetrack about performance reviews: I used to be super stressed about how to rate people's work, especially those looking for job confirmation, until one of my managers simplified it for me. She asked (I'm paraphrasing, I don't have perfect recall), "well, would you like this person assigned to your team for your next job (project)? If your answer is an immediate no... then you know what to do." Because if it's a matter of personality clash, you're more likely to go ah, well, maybe, we'll see but if it's a matter of that person is so incompetent you just want to stab him/her, it'll be an automatic omg noooo go awayyyy *throws garlic, salt, holy water, whatever is on hand*. That's me anyway.

But back to book reviews, this person's rationale was that as an author yourself, you would have a following who would probably put more weight on your rating and review than they would on others. Which makes sense.

On the other hand, this fallacy in thinking that only a 5-star book is a good book is... silly. The real world doesn't work that way. A 4-star review is still a good review. Heck, a 1-star review with a carefully thought out reason could also end up being good endorsement for a book because hate reads are a thing. Everyone who reviews and reads reviews knows that no one can 5-star everything. That either means that you're overly generous, you don't want to hurt/offend people, or you're not really a good judge of what you're reviewing.

As a reader, the thing that interests me first is the story description anyway, and I'll only turn down a book based on star ratings if it's less than 2.5... kind of like the passing GPA. LOL. That's usually also a budget thing. Because I buy too many books.

So I dunno. I'm rethinking the way I review and rate books. The big review sites usually have a starred review (Fellowship of Fantasy does a "knighted" review) for the really really good books but no star ratings for anything else, and I might swing that way. The stats on Goodreads would look really weird, though. I usually have a range throughout the year, with most falling between 3 - 5 stars. The ones I don't end up rating are usually the ones I'm too conflicted about to even guess at a star.


What do you think? Maintain the star ratings? Ditch them? Stop reviewing?

AM I BEING WORRIED ABOUT NOTHING?!

(I mean yes, a poor review about my books would make me sad but but it's your opinion and you're entitled to it. Does it make any difference if the review is from a writer or a non-writer because we're all in the business of talking about books anyway?)

I'm probably overthinking it by now so I'm going to go back to actually finish writing my review. HA. But please, settle my doubts.

Monday, 14 January 2019

#musicmonday: Heroes | Amanda Cook



I will trust
Here in the mystery
I will trust
In you completely

Awake my soul to sing
With your breath in me
I will worship
You taught my feet to dance
Upon disappointment
and I
I will worship

---

I've been rethinking my approach to this blog and what I want it to be. I've been blogging for roughly 17 years now, which is like half my life (I DID NOT JUST SAY THAT), starting at the now-defunct tabulas (ah, good times) and then switching over here to blogger sometime in 2011 (I maintained dual blogs for different things for a while). 

That said, I'll probably not be continuing #musicmonday on a regular basis, mostly because I find myself listening to the same songs over and over so there's nothing really new to post. I keep going "hey, I really like this song" and then find that I've already posted it. 

I will, however, try to actually blog more regularly with updates about my life and my writing process, and the weird things I think about. 

One of the things I miss is doing my weekly #fireplace posts, though that's not something I really plan to resurrect. That was supposed to be replaced with the narratives tag, but that didn't work out either, because I didn't have a schedule to hold myself to. As much as I am a free-wheeling creative type, I need deadlines and schedules to get things done. Honestly!

All this blathering just to say that I'll try to blog more this year, and we'll see how long that lasts. I'm also tempted to do #teatuesdays which is this random thing I thought up over breakfast because I was like, eh, I have new tea I haven't talked about yet and I like the alliteration. (AAAAANNNND twitter search tells me it's a thing! hahaha)

And I should get back to my assignment that's due next week. HAH.
(Which I'm procrastinating by writing this blog, formatting the last three NutMags for ebook and planning for next year's NutMag 5th anniversary special. Also I finished watching season 1 of American Gods, which is like the first series I've watched in... years.)

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

#bookreview: Blackberry and Wild Rose | Sonia Velton

Blackberry and Wild RoseBlackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Spitalfields riots, Blackberry and Wild Rose tells the stories of an unhappy Huguenot wife, trying to both support her husband and live her dreams, and her English maid, trying to make something of herself.

It's a study in contrasts; rich against poor, churched against the unchurched, pious wife against former prostitute, noble worker against discontent firebrand, masters against journeymen. The two main female protagonists speak in their own voices, telling their story, their motivations and perspective on things. The classism is obvious, but subtle. The snobbery is downplayed, yet prominent. Neither Sara nor Esther can understand the other, but it's all too clear to the reader.

Esther Thorel falls in love with a noble journeyman weaver, Lambert, because he teaches her to weave; Sara Kemp falls in love with his rebellious colleague, Barnstaple, because there is fire in his eyes and his speech. Throughout the warp of love and honour, Velton weaves in the weft of discontent, jealousy, and malice. With each word, each line, each pass of the shuttle, you're drawn to its inevitable end. You know what's going to happen, there's no other way this story can go. Not with what you know of Esther and Sara, of Lambert and Barnstaple, of the way Elias Thorel sees the world.

All you can do is read on as the world crumbles.

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

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

#bookreview: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two by John Tiffany
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Slightly conflicted about this. The beginning feels very disjointed, as if they're trying to squeeze in too much backstory. It skips through the years fairly quickly--skims, rather. It's really rather hit or miss. And then it somehow settles into the meat of the story midway through and gets better.

The Cursed Child supposedly centres on Albus Severus Potter, Harry Potter's middle child. He's trying to live up to his father's reputation, to the ease with which his older brother James is gliding through Hogwarts, whilst he is struggling with magic and with the shame of being a Potter in Slytherin. His only friend is Draco Malfoy's only son, Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius initially feels mostly like comic relief, but midway through, the play switches up and he carries the story instead.

These two boys, both failing to live up to their family names, try to change the course of personal history but instead find themselves facing choices that may very well destroy the whole wizarding world, undoing everything Harry Potter had done in the original series. This time though, it's not so much a story of the expectations that lie on the shoulders of one boy because of prophecy than it is an exploration of friendship and loyalty and how that changes people.

Reading the first bit of it a second time and working out the staging in my head made it fit together better though, so maybe by the time I finish the second read, it'll start working in my head. (Or maybe I should just go try to see the show.)

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