Thursday, 7 October 2021

#bookreview: Climactic Crisis | C G Penne

Climatic CrisisClimatic Crisis by C G Penne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emma's life - and the lives of her extended family - are turned upside down when the weather goes crazy. First, a tsunami hits her home in Cornwall, England while tornadoes strand her husband in New York, USA. Then there are the massive fires in Perth, Australia - raging in the middle of winter - where her twin sister Jen lives. The weird weather extends across the world in the span of a few days, sowing devastation in its wake.

The novel is quite fast-moving and dramatic, with many tense moments as the family tries to find their missing loved ones. It paints a frightening picture of the terrible impacts of climate change - and how ineffective our current governments and politicians are at addressing the issue, especially when they don't see it as urgent.

There's what I would call a 'literary' arc to this novel. It's very focused on the moment (looking for the missing children, surviving the flood and the fire and the waves) and whilst there are little snippets of the bigger picture (exposes by journalists, growing movements to petition the government to deal with climate change in the wake of such drastic weather changes) there isn't really a resolution. The arc is pretty much each new weather event escalating to a bigger tragedy. In fact, the ending felt a little like a cop-out to me.

Interspersed between the events, Penne slows down the pace a little with the introduction of each character. This is good in one sense, because there is such rich detail and attention paid to their backstories and the dynamics of their relationships, yet, on the other hand, the execution is often clumsy leading to just a little too much telling and clumps of info dumps.

Overall, I thought the premise was interesting, but the execution clumsy. A little more editing and polishing would have made it a better read.

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

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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

#booklaunch #guestpost: How the Dwarf kept his beard: Adapting a Fairytale to a Novel

So today's the release day for C.O. Bonham's new novel, Runaway Lyrics! Before we take a look at the book itself, here's a guest post from Bonham.

How the Dwarf kept his beard: Adapting a Fairytale to a Novel.

By C.O. Bonham

So the story of Snow White and Rose Red is odd. Here’s the TL;DR:

Snow White and her sister Rose Red live in a house in the forest with their mother. They are very sweet, get along well, and are kind to all the forest creatures.

One Winter night, a bear shows up at their house, and they welcome it in and become friends. He stays until summer, then leaves. The girls miss him, so they head out into the woods to find their gentle bear friend.

The girls meet a dwarf whose beard is snagged in a tree/bush/bramble (It varies). Snow cuts his beard free, even though he tells her not to. (I thought she was kind?)

They meet him again, and his beard is tangled in a fishing line. She cuts the beard again. When she could have just cut the line. (She doesn’t care about other people’s wishes much.)

Then he is carried by an Eagle. They throw rocks at it and it drops him. (Don’t they know they could have killed him?)

Anyway, the dwarf is angry and wants to attack them. (Can you blame him?) But the bear saves them and scares/kills (it varies) the dwarf. It’s okay because the dwarf is the villain for not being grateful. The bear turns into a prince and marries Snow White, and he has a brother who marries Rose Red.

Long story short: Snow White is sweet and kind, but she doesn’t respect the dwarf enough to not cut his beard.

So I thought, how can I make her kinder? And it turned into a weird message. She isn’t super sweet or nice to the dwarf. He is wasting their time and it would be so easy to just cut his beard. But she respects his wishes and finds another solution.

The story kind of snowballed from there. There’s a difference between being kind and being polite. Some of the worst serial killers in history had pleasant manners and friendly personalities.

Some of the rudest people can be very kind. Once, I was on the side of the road. Car after car passed me by. Finally, one stopped. The guy got out, asked what was wrong and then fixed the car for me. (The problem was embarrassingly simple, so no, I won’t tell you what it was.) He didn’t introduce himself, didn’t make small talk, just fixed it, waved off my offer of payment, and left.

He was very kind to stop and fix my car, even if others wouldn’t have called him friendly. In fact, a super friendly man might have set off a ton of red flags that would have made me hesitant to accept his help.

So the moral of the story: Kindness is not equal to politeness.

I looked at all the girls’ encounters with the dwarf and came up with new solutions, and I made Snow a little put out to emphasize my point. Then the hard part came. How to make a novel out of this.

I made the Bear prince kind of gender-swapped Snow White with the evil stepmother thing. I wanted a dragon, and I knew I needed to give the younger prince a bigger role. Then I wrote until all these random elements made sense together.

The younger brother got a name and a personality and then his part in the plot just exploded from there. 

The girls’ each got a motivation, and it turns out that their mother had an excellent reason for living out in the middle of nowhere. 

The main prince is still turned into a bear for no good reason. There is never a good reason for turning people into bears. 

I added Steampunk because every story is better with steampunk.

So ends the tale of a problematic fairytale turned steampunk adventure novel. 

Now go forth and be kind. Even if you can’t be polite while doing it.


Runaway Lyrics

What one sister has, she must share with the other . . .

Snow loves music. She has spent her entire life learning, new instruments and memorizing new pieces, only to while away her life in a country manor with only her mother and twin sister as company. If only she could get out on her own and play in front of a real audience.

Rose loves magic. The things she can do with music would amaze her twin sister, but whenever she shows her, Snow quickly forgets as if the event had never happened. If only Rose could get out on her own and work some real magic.

When an airship crashes near their home Snow’s magical abilities awaken. Together the sisters must learn to use their magic, rescue a pair of cursed princes, and discover their own secrets.

Discover the magic of music in this retelling of Snow White and Rose Red.


Add on Goodreads


Author Bio:

C.O. Bonham is the pen name for a commonly misspelled first name. She loves stories of all kinds, but really likes the ones that are weird, and outside the norm. A certified book geek, when she isn’t writing stories of her own, she is busy reading stories by others. A homeschool graduate with a degree in creative writing, her goal is to create stories that make people think, feel, and have fun. 

Visit to read author interviews, book reviews, and to hear about what she’s working on next. 

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Wednesday, 8 September 2021

#bookreview: Spellsmith and Carver series | HL Burke

I figured since I binge-read the whole series, I might as well just put up all the reviews in this post! :) I'll hide the second and third behind the read more so you don't get spoilers, if you don't want them.

Magicians' Rivalry (Spellsmith & Carver #1)Magicians' Rivalry by H.L. Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Auric Spellsmith comes home from the city to find his expected place at his father's business filled by a terrible upstart of a carpenter, Jericho Carver. Jericho just knows that whatever future he thought he had as a magician apprentice is over now that Master Hedward Spellsmith's son is back. But when Hedward Spellsmith disappears and Fey Magic threatens the human world, Auric and Jericho must learn to work together - or lose everyone and everything they hold dear.

Magicians' Rivalry is a fun, engaging, and quick read! The rivalry between the two men is hilarious and poor Rill Spellsmith, Auric's younger sister, is caught trying to placate all the easily riled, arrogant, posturing men in her life - while trying to learn magic without her father's knowledge.

About that - Hedward Spellsmith comes across at first as a misogynic old man but as the story unfolds and his past comes to light, you learn that he is anything but - it's just that he is a terrible communicator and refuses to explain why he's doing the things he's doing...until it's too late.

The one thing that felt a little off was how quickly Auric claims Jericho as his best friend. I mean, well Jericho did save him a few times in the Fey lands...but does that naturally make them best friends? idk.

Anyway, I'm just here for the proud, self-sacrificing idiots who keep landing themselves into trouble because they won't actually talk to each other or admit that they need help. Oh, and of course for Jaspyr, the magical clockwork fox.

Before we get to the rest, Magician's Gift (Spellsmith & Carver 3.5) is free for a couple of days. 

It's a short story that'll give you a preview of the main characters if you're still ambivalent! However, it's set at the end of the series, so might include some relationship-type spoilers if you're fussy about that.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

#bookreview: Toyols 'R' Us | Terence Toh

TOYOLS 'R' USTOYOLS 'R' US by Terence Toh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Toyols 'R' Us starts off like quite a normal police procedural then veers quickly into magic. Inspector Khairul is at his wit's end trying to solve a series of deaths (murders, he thinks) that only have one apparent connection: a hacked off big toe and a body drained of blood. Elsewhere in Klang Valley, Harun introduces his cousin Ismail to a secret that can solve all his monetary woes: toyols. On the surface, Toyols 'R' Us aims to help people secure their financial future, albeit in not-quite-legal ways - but what is their super enigmatic owner hiding behind his cheery demeanour?

If you've ever read one of Terence Toh's short stories, you know exactly what to look forward to in his debut novel: an utterly Malaysian story guided by and wrapped in punnery and wordplay. And since puns tend to be somewhat divisive, you may end up laughing your head off... or rolling your eyes so hard it hurts. I think I did a little of both.

In between the wit and the fun, Toh doesn't gloss over the darker side of Klang Valley. There's that one-upmanship, the constant competition to be better, richer. The rampant corruption and cronyism. Religious extremism and cyber trolling. Unwanted pregnancies and abortion. Loan sharks and gangs. In some ways, it feels a little like an extension of the KL Noir series. Both obliquely and blatantly, Toh seems to include an underlying commentary on the social issues that plague Malaysian society today.

The ending lends itself to a possible sequel - and I would definitely pick up the next Inspector Khairul & Detective Fara novel if that materialises!

It's not perfect. There's a little more POV changing than I prefer, and also a bit of an almost romance (as in, it's set up to be romantic I think but isn't quite sure what it is) that felt rather awkwardly staged. But these are really rather minor preferences that don't detract from the enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

I absolutely loved this gem, the winner of Fixi Novo's inaugural Malaysian Novel Contest. A deserving win indeed!

View all my reviews

From Malaysia? Get Toyols 'R' Us from the Fixi store or on Shopee.
Not from Malaysia? Toyols 'R' Us is available on Amazon

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

#booklaunch: Queen's Crown | Anne Wheeler

A foreign crown bent on conquest.
An escaped traitor out for vengeance.
A realm caught in the middle.
Sometimes it takes a queen to save a kingdom.
Queens Crown cover
Laurent has left to meet the Vassian Army at the border, leaving Riette in charge of Lochfeld Castle and indeed Meirdre itself. Waiting on war to come to the kingdom she loves is unthinkable, so she escapes to her home village for a visit, searching for one last bit of normalcy in a life that is no longer her own.

But that normalcy is shattered when Thomas arrives. Bitter over his imprisonment and bent on the revenge he’s always wanted, he’s intent on destroying Laurent and has no qualms about using Riette to do so. Worse, her power as a crownkeeper is no longer a secret, and King Damir of Vassian wants it for himself. From Lochfeld itself to a coastal town, defeat looms. For their adversary is well-prepared and powerful—a formidable enemy to her small kingdom.

But the map on the floor of Lochfeld’s ballroom holds power of its own—and Riette will discover what it truly means to be a crownkeeper.


About the author:
Anne Wheeler grew up with her nose in a book but earned two degrees in aviation before it occurred to her she was allowed to write the stories that had been brewing in her head for years. When not writing her next novel, she can be found planning her next escape to the desert—camera gear included. An occasional commercial pilot and flight instructor, she currently lives in Georgia with her husband, son, and herd of cats. Visit her at

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

#bookreview: Generation Manifestation | Steven Bereznai

Generation ManifestationGeneration Manifestation by Steven Bereznai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Generation Manifestation starts with a very Divergent vibe. Caitlin Feral is preparing for her Final Testing - if she doesn't Manifest now, she'll be assigned a boring (or maybe dangerous) adult job, based on her aptitude scores. There's no room for standing out, for pursuing your own interests, if you're not a Supergenic.

So Caitlin wants to Manifest. She wants it so desperately that she's already tried to fake her way through earlier tests, earning herself some renown amongst the testers. Normand Bamford is the rich, weird guy in class - super rich, super smart, but also super weird. And on this final Testing Day, Normand makes Caitlin promise that she'll survive the Testing - and then later sneaks her a contraband comic book that ends up changing the course of her life.

Like all dystopian and post-apocalyptic books, nothing is as they seem. The X-men type Genetic Wars did not just result in superheroes, or Supergenics, as they're called. They also resulted in weird mutations and beasts who now roam the wastelands outside - which the Supergenics in Jupitar City protect the squalid human boroughs as part of the treaty. But the treaty - and rules - are unfair, and it's only the humans who are truly sacrificing themselves. The status quo may seem to work for now, but the system is broken - and since this is a YA coming-of-age book, it's up to the teens to rebel and break the world, before reshaping it into something better. Not the popular, Supergenic teens though. But the misfits like Caitlin, the weirdos like Normand, and of course, the good-looking popular jock boyfriend ones like Bradie Lopez Nettle who stays by Caitlin even at her worst.

Generation Manifestation is a wish-fulfilment kind of story where the young save the day, where you can make change possible even if you're just a dreg (DNA-regular), where the weirdos rebels are accepted for who they are. It pulses with a deeper kind of persistent love, not just the sex-hormones-emotions kind, but the kind that sticks by someone through thick and thin, that protects each other, that sacrifices themselves for friendship and the greater community. The kind that believes in you and supports you all the way, despite and through your failings.

Help comes from unexpected places, in unexpected ways, and whilst the solution isn't the cleanest (or even the most moral), it's one that offers hope in the midst of compromise. Where allies can work together, even though they'll never actually be friends. Where true stories of the rights violated and the laws broken give people the reason to rebel and fight for a better future, but it's the comic books and dreams of true heroes that will help show them how.

With the breakdown of governments around the world, Generation Manifestation is a wish-fulfilment kind of story, the kind we desperately need right now.

"We can't change the world in a day," I rationalize. "But I will make sure this rebellion has a tomorrow."

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Edelweiss +. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Monday, 23 August 2021

#musicmonday: Jireh (You are enough) / How He Loves | Justin Bieber & Chandler Moore

So there's nothing I can do to let You down
It doesn't take a trophy to make You proud
I'll never be more loved than I am right now