Friday, 9 June 2023

a blog return? we'll see how long this lasts.


I deleted a bunch of emails (like 12k of them) from my old main email, which is mostly the old friends and newsletters email now (as separated from the work/primary/I actually read this stuff email), and discovered (re-discovered?) a bunch of really old emails plus a bunch of blog comments from the old tabulas.

Because obviously I never delete anything in my gmail.

Until now la, because I'm running out of space. 


my email and blogging game was a whole different... ballgame? scene? style? thingamabob? and you know what. Maybe I shouldn't have moved so far away from that. lol

cos also, writing properly gets tiring after a while. 

i miss tabulas.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

#bookreview: Old Man's War | John Scalzi

Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)Old Man's War by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gonna keep this review short, because this is mostly just for records. And also because I am tired and lazy.

I enjoyed it. I skipped some sciency bits, but those were actually quite few and far between. Overall an interesting premise and I would love to read the rest of the series if I find them!

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Wednesday, 10 May 2023

#bookreview: Tales of Polynesia: Folktales from Hawai'i, New Zealand, Tahiti and Samoa

Tales of Polynesia: Folktales from Hawai'i, New Zealand, Tahiti, and SamoaTales of Polynesia: Folktales from Hawai'i, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa by Yiling Changues
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a somewhat frustrating read. I went in hoping to really like it because I generally like folktales. I like reading old origin/creation myths, finding out what makes a culture gel together, what kinds of stories they tell each other, and how these make up who they are as a nation.

Most of the stories were fascinating, but they were a really hard, dry, and boring read. I mean, these are pretty much fantastic and fantastical stories, but struggling through unending sentences just made me want to give up. I feel like... pulling together a bunch of old translations into one book and giving them really fancy illustrations wasn't enough to keep my attention.

Maybe I lost out a little on the reading experience because this was an ebook ARC and the formatting really sucked (footnotes that only appeared several pages later instead of as a pop-up; illustrations that were somehow split into multiple images; Kindle only shows black & white images instead of colour; fancy drop caps don't show up; random line breaks, page numbers, headers and footers appearing haphazardly in the text) but... that really shouldn't change the experience of the stories themselves?

I just felt like the stories needed someone to edit them for a better flow, and probably to slightly more modern English, instead of just using centuries-old versions. I don't think these need a "retelling" in the way everyone is retelling folktales and making them into whole novels, but they do need a bit of a rewrite for readability's sake.

Or maybe I'm somewhat at the end of my interest in the folktale style of storytelling.

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

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Wednesday, 3 May 2023

#bookreview: Namesake (Morningstar: Destiny #2) | A.C. Williams

Namesake (Morningstar: Destiny Trilogy #2)Namesake by A.C. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So following on from Nameless, things get really, really dark. I mean like super dark. So I guess content warnings for rape and suicide ideation.

After the losses in the first book, things started to look up a little, at least at the start. After all, they did manage to find what they were looking for. Their sacrifices were not in vain. And their trip to McLeod's home forces some deeper conversations and discussions about their pasts - not just Xander's, but just about everyone left on the Prodigal.

The core of this book is the discovery of who Xander really is. And whilst it was amazing and mindblowing, Williams did a good job in laying down enough clues and hints for that delicious tension of ooohh I think this is what happened! and but how would it actually work? leading up to the reveal. (I was almost right about what happened, but am obviously not science-y enough to guess how lol)

But things don't stay peaceful for long...

I mean, who expected it to? They've got syndicates on their tail after all.

But coming back to the Morningstar: Destiny Trilogy's underpinnings of faith, where Nameless explores personal convictions, Namesake goes so much deeper into holding onto faith in dark times. Xander keeps asking the questions Where are you, God? and Why me? Why is all this happening to me? as she struggles through everything that has happened to her, everything that has brought her to the Prodigal, especially all the deaths she leaves in her wake. Because of her. Because of who she is. Because of the people who are trying to get her. And it culminates in the big one: Can I still then believe?

Namesake ends on another cliffhanger, and I'm excited to head into New Name when I have the time!

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Wednesday, 19 April 2023

bookreview: Under the Pendulum Sun | Jeannette Ng

Under the Pendulum SunUnder the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Under the Pendulum Sun came very heavily recommended to me. But as all TBRs go (even physical ones), it just sits on the shelf for a while... for 4 years in this case.

Let's start off with the heavy stuff, a content warning for incest in this case. If this is something you will never touch, then this is a book you'll want to skip, even if it only develops midway through. [Spoilers at the end of this review!]

Arcadia, the magical land of the fae, is a dark, mysterious place. Nothing is as it seems, everything is a construct, seemingly made to mirror or mimic the real world - but in strangely bizarre ways. No one knows if the fae have souls and yet missionaries do what they have always done - go into the darkest reaches of the world to bring the word of God. It is a very well-constructed world, one full of fancy and also full of darkness, and Ng does a fantastic job leading us through it. She utilises many familiar elements from fairy tales: Mab the Queen of the Fae, changelings and stolen children, the fae hunt - and yet it's intertwined with extra-biblical myth: Enochian the language of angels, origins of Lilith.

Catherine Helstone plunges blindly into Arcadia in search of her missing brother, Laon. There, she wrestles with the gospel and with sin. Is salvation only for humans or does it extend to the fae? Do the fae have souls or are they soulless, like animals or constructs? If they are soulless, can they then still be saved? Is there a point in having a missions outpost in the fae worlds if salvation is not extended to them?

Yet she is not the only one wrestling with faith. Laon, the missionary brother, struggles with sin and worthiness. Is he worthy to carry the gospel if there is sin in his heart, even if he doesn't act on it? Where is the line between resisting temptation and being sinful because he cannot let go of his lustful thoughts? What compromises can he make to carry the gospel to the innermost parts of Arcadia? Or will the requirements of the Pale Queen invalidate his testimony and his good works?

Ng peppers the book with quotations from scripture, as well as excerpts of medieval-sounding texts that present missionary efforts and theological arguments in an alternate earth where the fae are real. It sounds more Christian than I would expect from a fantasy book, exploring deep questions of faith and Christian theology; yet as it is a fantasy world and a fiction book, it does not provide any semblance of answers, only more questions.

Ultimately, however, the set-up of the creation of the fae and the fantastical underpinnings of fae society as imagined by Ng presents a skewed gospel; a reminder, that you will, that this is not a biblical work. Under the Pendulum Sun leads to an almost-inevitable ending, one I wish were not her conclusion.

Still, I would put it as a sort of fantasy counterpart to Steve Rzasa's sci-fi exploration of whether aliens can be saved in For Us Humans: A Tale of Alien Occupation.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2023

#bookreview: UNSAID: An Asian Anthology | Anitha Devi Pillai (ed.)

UNSAID: An Asian AnthologyUNSAID: An Asian Anthology by Anitha Devi Pillai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

UNSAID: An Asian Anthology started off strong, but ended up a little meh towards the end. It was a really weird feeling of going "ooh I really like the stories in this anthology" to "ummmm like that only ah?", especially since the sequence of stories moved from sad, dark real-to-life stories I tend to get bored by to supernatural, legend type stories that I tend to like so I kind of expected it to be the inverse.

The first four stories in The Others category deal with dark matters - the constant othering and prejudices many Asians face, even within their own cities. Nothing is more relatable than Saras Manickam's "When We Are Young"; which non-Malay Malaysian hasn't faced this very scenario? How often do we have to talk about meritocracy and quotas for nothing to change? Cherrie Sing's "The Taste of Pickles" also elicited nods: yes, these things happen, what can you do about it? "Broken Filaments" by Paul GnanaSelvam presents a very odd premise - yet I can imagine it happening in small-town Malaysia in the 80s; we all know weird old teachers like that with strange ideas and the inability to accept a no. I resonated with the home-away-from-home in "Diwali Lights" by Adwiti Subba Haffner; that feeling of in-betweenness where you long for what was even though you know that the here and now are your true home.

Knotted Ties explores relationships, both familial and within the local community. Of the five stories here, the middle three (The Peanut Turtle, The Broken Window, Lata) stood out to me. These are the kinds of stories that I, personally, would like to read more of: that dissonance between your own and your adopted cultures, of having to match what you know with what you were supposed to have known. "The Peanut Turtle" (Dennis Yeo) was the most intriguing, probably because of the format. It switched between the protagonist's first trip to Malaysia as a child (told in the present tense), and something like a memoir (diary?) of the events written in the future that explained the historical & cultural background plus many of the gaps in the child's knowledge - which really made for a strange reading. Oddly enough, it works. Whilst I did like "The Apartment of Good Intentions" (Adriana Nordin Manan), it ended rather abruptly and felt a little incomplete to me.

That dissatisfaction of "huh, something feels missing here" carried over into the last section, The Unknown, which felt like the weakest set of the whole anthology. Maybe I was bored by the time I got to it, I don't know, or maybe I've read too many similar ghost/supernatural stories that nothing really stood out or got me excited in this batch of stories. Or maybe there was just too much revenge going on, whether in life or from beyond the grave. That said, they're interesting enough, and still worth a read.

As a whole, Unsaid is a solid collection of short stories set in Asia. (I hesitate to say "by Asians" because there are a couple of names that don't seem to be specifically Asian based on their bios.)

Note: I received a review of this book from PRH SEA. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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