Wednesday 18 December 2013

#bookreview: KL Noir Red

KL NOIR: REDKL NOIR: RED by Amir Muhammad
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I took a really long time to finish this one. Partly because I was busy, partly because... I don't know. Noir is maybe not my very favourite genre. I think I read this mainly because hey, it's local. Need to start reading local, right?
In terms of themes and language - let's just say these are mostly not for kids, ok? (Or the prudes like me.)

The stories I liked the most would probably be Rukun Tetangga by Preeta Samarasan and Mamak Murder Mystery by Marc de Faoite.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the writing in this... I guess it's just not my style.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 11 December 2013

#review: Bookurve

Some time last month, Hossein wrote me a nice message telling me about this new startup, Bookurve.

It's basically something like Book Depository, but focused specifically on the Malaysian market. As Hossein says [sic]:
"As comparing to Book Depository, we all have tried the service and sometimes the book takes more than 6 weeks to reach to Malaysia and we even encountered missing book. We know that the reader can order through bookstore as well and again the service is not so good. We are just trying to give a better service while keeping the price as low as possible."

What this means is - you search for the book you want, and then you order and pay for it and it gets delivered to your house for free. Yay!

It's another one of those sites that link to your facebook account (everything's social nowadays, isn't it?) so you can check what your friends or other Malaysians are recommending, and you can add the stuff you're reading or the stuff you've bought to the social bookshelf as well. It's currently English and Malay books at the moment, but I'm told they're planning to expand to Chinese books as well.

Discovery lets you browse the bestsellers or featured books, selected by categories and language. I was looking for the search feature under discovery, but realised that the search function is on the home page. Duh.

So anyway, I randomly clicked on Ender's Game and this is what pops out:

Eh. If it's RM23 for a new book that's pretty good leh. (I mean you don't compare to BBW lah.)

And if shipping's only 1 - 3 business days, that's pretty fast!

The major bummer here is really the payment method. Offline payment, really? :(

You can find Bookurve on:

Okay - let's wait for Android apps, and online payments maybe. :)

Saturday 7 December 2013

More thoughts on #marryingmemusical and Christian theatre

I'd wanted to write about this a little last night too, but it was late and it slipped my mind by the time I got round to actually writing the review. 

It was just a thought about tragedies and the role they play as catalysts in theatre. The thing is, having some sort of family tragedy is so overdone in Christian plays. It's utterly predictable. 

You have the headstrong person heading to hell and nothing you try to say can change them but then someone dies or nearly dies and all of a sudden they (or the loved one, depending) repent and see the error of their ways and turn to Christ. 

Marrying Me almost had that cliche - except that they faked it. They created a fake crisis to try to make Stephanie get married. I liked the twist and the fact that they made us know it was fake, because if they didn't that would have made it such a boring generic show. 

Which comes to the question - will a tragedy of that sort really change someone? Or would it just be a temporary thing until that loved one really dies? 

MUST I get married? #marryingmemusical #review

About the Show

When you reach a certain age (normally after 25) the few questions you tend to hear a lot are:
  1. When are you getting married?
  2. Got boyfriend yet or not?
  3. Why no boyfriend yet?
  4. Why are you so picky?
It's a presumed fact of life that you are supposed to get married. That's been the formula for the past hundreds of years, and it's supposed to be the formula for the next few hundred, never mind the fact that half the marriages now are ending up in divorce. As Auntie Gertrude (Chang Fang Chyi) says, "Everyone gets married for the wrong reasons."

Marrying Me is a hilarious look at what happens when Stephanie's mother and aunt get together and start planning to make her tie the knot. Stephanie (played by Stephanie Van Driesen), the headstrong CEO of SCOWL, an NGO to help abused women, absolutely refuses to get married... until her mother (Sandra Sodhy) mysteriously falls ill and says it's her dying wish to see her married. Who else can she turn to but her old flame, Tony (Tony Leo), who also just so happens to be Auntie Gertrude's son?

Stage 2 is a really small space, so it's easy to see everything that's going on (no faking due to distance, ha) - the cast of Marrying Me was gave a really stellar performance. This is the first time I've seen Stephanie Van Driesen act (I've heard her sing in the YES Academy 2012 show), and I thought she was superb as this very strong, intensely wacky, and yet immensely vulnerable woman. It was also great to see someone I've worked with before - Benjamin Lin - playing Stephanie's BFF, Leroy (was also totally distracted by the 'legalize gay' shirt!).

What I like best about this musical is how local it is. It's stuff that you instantly relate to like parents pushing you to get married, broken families, the tough relationships that sometimes happen, and the crazy mismatch of religions that we sometimes practice (a Catholic family that believes in palm reading?). Of course, never forget the witty asides on current affairs!
Show Details
It's really a must-watch show.

P/S- Oh - if you're watching it in Penang, do check where you sit! It makes a bit of a difference, because it's theater-in-the-round so the "front" stage gets more face time, though usually they do face all corners. (And I happened to be in the corner Benjamin was facing... hahahaha!)

Saturday 30 November 2013

super mini update: nanowrimo and book launch


And now I have a literary fest to attend and a book to launch this afternoon.

I wish I could blog more but that will have to come later.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Love in Penang goes LIVE!

Okay, so yesterday was a really crazy day for me. Three things happened yesterday - it was Shaun's birthday (happy birthday, Shaun!) and I attended KPMG's annual dinner (as a guest, haha!) and Love in Penang launched its online sales!



Where to buy?


2. Fixi's website (p/s yo, Malaysians! It's cheaper here!)

3. At Malaysian retailers near you!

Do drop by at our facebook page for more updates and come for our book launch on 30 Nov!

Sunday 17 November 2013

#nanowrimo update number 2

This is more or less today's starting point. It's still looking dismal, and looking at my schedule I don't feel I have enough time to catch up.

But... I will push on and try.

Also, because I'm weird, my story is now being updated on Wattpad at a pace of maybe 1 or 2 chapters behind where I'm writing. This delay is just in case I feel like changing some stuff here and there (which would normally be in the later chapters rather than the earlier).

There's also a Wattpad reader installed on my webpage here for your convenience. Wattpad also lets you read on your mobile device, with the code 29758100.

So to end today's update, here's another excerpt. (from a chapter not yet on Wattpad... lol!)
Song cleared his throat and looked at King Music. The royal couple broke their gaze, Music with a quizzical look on his face, Soprano with a slight blush. He nodded at Song, who nodded, and closed his eyes.
Fear gripped Song’s heart as he tried to listen for the Song. He cleared his throat again, licking his lips. The sound of the drumming fingers annoyed him, and he wanted to chew out the princess for being so annoying. A while passed before his lips parted again, and he started to sing. 
It started as a low rumble, like a grumble of pain, erupting into a blast of hurt. Struggling to control it, Song grasped at the stream, trying to direct where the song was going, but it was like fighting with a typhoon. A shrill whine soon appeared above the maelstrom - Soprano, fascinated by the rush of thunder was riding the wave. Eyes half-closed, Alto’s lower pitch soon joined in, adding minors and sevens into the mix. Tenor hesitated - this wasn’t the kind of song he had been expecting - but as King Music nodded at him, he also belted in his frustration and bitterness. In less than two minutes, it was over. As a Song, it was the most discordant and short piece to ever have debuted from the heir to the throne. But in a time where the talent seemed to be dying out, it was a welcome sigh of relief. 
“Thank you, son,” King Music said, tears streaming down his face. “After so many years, I finally have a successor.”
“A kind of strange song to sing for your debut,” Princess Alto sniffed, seemingly inspecting her fingernails. 
“I did what I could,” Song said tightly.
“We all do what we can,” Tenor interjected, trying to head off the argument. He scowled at Alto. She scowled back. 
“Well, now that’s settled - we can make the official announcement,” the King said, regaining his composure. He rose from his chair and walked forward to embrace Song. “Let’s go to the music room and work out a nice royal announcement song. Then we can get the arrangers to make it pretty for your Acceptance Ceremony.”
The two of them left the room. The Queen sat fidgeting in her chair for a while, but with a nod to Alto and Tenor, she left as well. 
“So - you think he’s the real thing?” Alto asked as soon as they were alone in the room. 
Tenor shrugged. “Maybe. That was a real Song. No faking it. Couldn’t you feel the resonance?”
A look of uncertainty crossed Alto’s face. She seemed determined to hate Prince Song. “Well -”
“It was curious, though, that he never once asked about Prince Bass,” Tenor continued. “Don’t you find that strange?”
“Well, not all the council is here. Maybe he assumed that Bass was not around.”
“When Bass was one of his closest teachers?”
It was Alto’s turn to shrug. 

Saturday 16 November 2013

#bookreview: Running Against Traffic by Gaelen VanDenbergh

Paige Scott spent her childhood shuffled between relatives who ignored her, and her adult life hiding in her crumbling marriage to wealthy David Davenport. When David suddenly thrusts her into a remote, impoverished world, Paige is forced to face the betrayals of her past - not to mention the colorful townies of her present. Unexpected friendships and her discovery of running propel her on a jagged and comical journey toward learning how to truly live.


Running Against TrafficRunning Against Traffic by Gaelen VanDenbergh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paige Davenport had it all - a rich husband and an easy socialite life - until her husband drives her out to the middle of nowhere and abandons her at a ramshackle house. For the first time in her easy life, she realizes that 1) she has no true friends, 2) she has never appreciated all the good things in her life until then and 3) she has never actually really lived.

Running Against Traffic is a humorous story of how Paige slowly starts to pull herself together with the help of Deidre, Darnell, Al and Bryce - even if Al and Bryce need just as much help as she does! Paige was annoyingly useless in the beginning - I wanted to slap her silly - but grew over the pages of the book, even though she lapsed a few times.

Al was a conflict of sorts - one thing that bugged me a little was how VanDenbergh left so many questions hanging about him - like what was stopping Al from just sleeping with her? Was he just being gentlemanly? Did he have a problem with it? There were hints and strange conversations with Darnell, his brother, but nothing really concrete - or maybe I was too dense to pick it up. (Or was VanDenbergh trying to keep it clean? If she was, then she shouldn't have even gone there... lol. It felt confusing. Like, I'm going to have you two in compromising situations, but no, not sex. We can't have the two of you actually having sex.)

Overall, Running Against Traffic was a light, interesting read. True, some parts felt a little contrived, but it was an overall uplifting story of how even a spoilt young woman can rise amid challenging circumstances and make something of her life.

* I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews


You can pick up Running Against Traffic from AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE or GOODREADS.

Gaelen VanDenbergh is a writer, runner, and compulsive list-maker who lives in Philadelphia with her family, a fat cat, and several fish. Her debut novel Running Against Traffic, was a Global Ebook Award nominee, a semifinalist in the The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards, a semifinalist in the Readers' Favorite 2013 International Book Award Contest, Indie Book of the Day, June 30, 2013, a 2013 Beach Book Festival Award nominee, and has received a four star review in InD’tale Magazine. When not writing, Gaelen enjoys reading, running races for charities, and spending as much time in Key West and the Adirondacks as she can.

You can find her here:

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Monday 11 November 2013

PSA/Wanted: Healthy Penangites

It's apparently Leukemia awareness month in my little world, so this is a little PSA/announcement/call for action/whatever you call it.

1. Stem Cell Donors Registration

p/s apparently we still need to make up the numbers to 100 before this drive/test can be carried out in Penang.
pp/s if you want to register as a donor, and you're in KL, you can contact Malaysian Stem Cell Registry (MSCR) Tel: +603-26162666

2. Donate Blood at Penang General Hospital

3. Provide support. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

Sunday 10 November 2013

First #nanowrimo check in

Okay, I wanted to check in more often, but I've been busy busy busy busy.
At any rate, this has been a good writing weekend, even if I'm behind.

Anyways, here's an excerpt:

He could feel the edges of a song rising in his head. A song of panic and confusion. A song of fear and failure. But even as he grasped at it, it fled out of his reach.
The rougher edges of his headache had dissipated in the fog, but it still felt as if bands of steel were holding him in his own head.

What’s going on?
He grasped the baton tighter in his hands, feeling reassured as it started to glow slightly. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate.

Sing a song of confidence. Sing a song of faith.

But he couldn’t find it. The melody seemed to slip through his fingers, the rhythm stumbled over itself and the words seemed to be pulled right out of his throat. The baton glowed and sputtered in turn. He could feel his power and talent being sucked right out of him through the fingers that grasped the slender golden tube.

Drop it? Is it turning against me? Has it rejected me? Drop it? Maybe?
What are you doing?
His thoughts jumbled in his head and more than once, he wondered if there were someone else talking in his head.

The baton slipped out of his fingers.

What are you doing? Why did you let go? Would you so easily give up your one chance?
How do I know it is a chance and not a threat?
Find your centre, boy. Hurry. Find who you are.
Leave him alone. Let him find his way.
Pick up the baton; It’s your only hope.
Find who you are. Find your centre.
Who are you?
Who am I? I am…

The boy crumpled to the ground in tears. He couldn’t remember who he was. He couldn’t remember what he was there for. All he knew was that he was in a strange, terrifying place, with voices that argued against itself in his head. Something poked into him and he sat up, grasping the long, slender stick in his hand. He searched his memory, listening to the odd feeling in his heart that this was once very important to him, had been very important to him for a large portion of his life.

A surge of power flowed into his body and he gasped as it filled every cranny of his being: he felt as if he were on fire, as if hot gold flowed in his veins, as if he would explode if he did not burn up before that. The boy threw back his head and Sang.

The notes, soft at first, full of anguish and pain, dipped in confusion, soared into bittersweetness, running through the minors and grazing against the majors. Wordlessly, he sang – he sang pain into existence, sharp barbs that stung and bled; thick oozing blood that stained and would not be washed away. When he ran out of pain, he dipped into the depths of loneliness, the strain of always being together but always apart, the secret knowledge that he denied himself: that Beauty only wanted him for what he had, and not who he was, the knowledge that if he married her, if he pursued her, he would always be alone; her heart was not made to be shared. But what of his? He searched for the right notes, for the right swell, for the right flow to ride. He sang of comfort and contentment, of the pride of being, of the way he hid his heart, how he carefully held in his generous spirit and loving nature because it would never do, never ever do, as a Prince of the Land to fall in love with – with Cherry. Cherry, the sweet girl who had once brought his dinner every night without fail, who had once listened to him ranting without a word, who still managed smiled at him when he was exceptionally mean, who told him in the quiet of the night before he went to bed that he was an insufferable prick and his mother would be disappointed in him as a man, who he had dismissed without a word because she – he – she - his song softened as the tears flowed again, releasing the pride in him, releasing the pain and the hurt and the confusion, as he consolidated himself, throwing away the things that were bad, digging deep again for the boy he once was, and trying to become the man, the Prince, the King he would one day be.

Song opened his eyes.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

A quick half-asleep update

Nanowrimo started on Friday and I have less than 2,000 words.

Mainly because I took a 18 hour train to Hua Hin on Saturday afternoon, before which I was up almost all Friday night and Saturday morning trying to fix edits for Love in Penang before I left (which I didn't manage to and have to continue tomorrow). And so I was sleepy all afternoon on the train, through a few games of Resistance, and then we had dinner during which I felt train sick, so as soon as they fixed up the beds I took an early night.

The bed was quite comfortable, but when I woke up in the morning I couldn't write either because I'm not that good at concentrating in moving vehicles.

Then it was Speed Bang on the train, breakfast, hanging out at the shopping mall because the sun was too hot, some rest and a few measly words, then Plearnwan, awesome seafood dinner and a little night market shopping and 2 rounds of Bang until 2AM.

There were only 7 places left on the train and there were 8 of us, so we spent a lot of time discussing how to get back home - but that was settled on Monday.

Monday started at 7-ish with the power going off and the water going off (all for short whiles, thankfully) and then searing hot beach with the after effects of a mini typhoon, where there were really strong waves and lots of washed up squid. I did not take pictures of the washed up fish.

(I apparently can't paste the squid picture here cos it didn't get sent to facebook, but you can look it up on instagram.)

Then it was lunch followed by drinks at Let's Sea, and then a slight pause in the afternoon to rest/wash up/play Speed Bang before dinner.
After dinner we waited at the bus station for almost an hour before our bus to Hatyai arrived, where I crashed almost immediately (at I think 9-ish pm? or maybe 10) and then we had supper at something like midnight and reached Hatyai at 8AM. Where we immediately hopped on another van (at 8.30am) to take us back to Penang where by the time we ta-paued lunch, I got home at 2pm.
And then I worked, because I was supposed to.
And now I'm going to sleep.

Good night all.
I am tired and cannot think anymore.

P/S. I had a look at the cover for Love in Penang. Too bad I can't share it yet :P

Wednesday 30 October 2013

#bookreview - Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us

Every once in a while, you receive an e-mail that really makes you smile. I mean, how often does someone you met randomly during a blogfest write to you and send you their newly published book for review and say that they love your blog? =)

Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us is a collection of 26 short stories in alphabetical order (uh - A to Z challenge baby?) written by Melanie Lee, illustrated by Sheryl Khor, and published by MPH Group Publishing. 

From the press release:
At first glance, Imaginary Friends may look like a typical children’s book. However, upon closer reading, you will find that its sophisticated wit and references to modern culture make it an enjoyable read for teens and adults who are young at heart.

"We've been reading a lot of books to our children," says Khor, "and we realised that a similar concept of short narratives anchored by tongue-in-cheek illustrations could also work for adults, especially in today's hurried, attention-deficit society."

Adds Lee, “While the main characters in this books are animals or grocery items, they were written for a very human audience in mind. In fact, many of the life lessons that are stated at the end of each story are things I’d wished the ‘older people’ had told me about when I was in my late teens and early 20s!”

With plenty of rib-tickling humour and heart-warming moments, these 26 modern-day fables are bound to make you ponder about life. 
They even have a promo video!

Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in UsImaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us by Melanie Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you see the word "Fable" you'd automatically think it's for kids, right?


Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us might make interesting reading for a kid, but it really is for us Big Kids. For one, you'd get really tired explaining all the big words, even in the chapter titles. For another, I don't think the you really want your kids to know about Chucky the Calico Cat being euthanised, Friendly Froyo Freda backstabbing Ingrid Ice Cream and Bitchy Brownie or Olivia the Overachieving Octopus being served up as fresh tako sashimi despite really valid morals such as "Never be too smug about success or good fortune; you’ll never know when the shit will hit the fan" and "Always treat celebrity gossip as fiction".

The only complaint I would have is that not all the fables sound fable-like enough - but that could be just a matter of preference.


I received a review copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

MELANIE LEE is a writer and editor in Singapore. Her work has been published in Travel + Leisure (Southeast Asia), Yahoo! Singapore and TODAY newspaper, amongst others. She has also co-authored a spiritual book, Quiet Journeys: Finding Stillness in Chaos, and edited heritage and architecture coffee-table books. For more information, please visit her website at

SHERYL KHOR is a writer and self-taught illustrator in Singapore. Trained in Creative Arts, with experience in theatre, web and fashion design, she now hones her skills with crafting sessions at home with her two young children. She also designs for, an online fashion store.

Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us is available at Kobo and Amazon. Visit their facebook page for the full list of where you can purchase this ebook.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Love in Penang: Book launch on 30 November!

So like, I got this very exciting email yesterday:

I knew it was coming, but still.... =) Here's that link so that you can click on it: BOOK LAUNCH.

Also, online sales, cover reveal and line up will be announced on 22 November!

Hmm... blog tour and giveaway as well, maybe?

Right now - just need to fix that final last story with serious timeline issues. =(

Sunday 20 October 2013

Have you found your purpose in life?

Last weekend, I attended a workshop called Life Purpose Planning. We were asked to write our Personal Mission Statement as part of the workshop and I was totally prepared for it - kinda. What's so hard about writing down something that's already been percolating in my head for so long?

The problem, as I wrote, was that my own dream was giving me palpitations. Not the excited-I-love-this-dream kind of palpitations, but the I'm-on-the-verge-of-a-panic-attack kind. And then when Uncle Sam prayed for me, what he said (probably paraphrased by now) was, "Stop scaling down your dreams."

What, my totally (to me) audacious prayer was scaled down?

Yes - because that was back in March, and on the first day of the workshop when I was scribbling notes to form my statement, I had drawn a little arrow which took me from Penang to Malaysia. And promptly forgot all about it, albeit a little purposefully.

I do this all the time because I cannot believe that I can do all the things I want to do. Half the time I'm not even sure I want to do all the things I want to do. Because bed + books + rain + anti-socialism = awesome introverted me. When I'm home alone on a weekend, I can go the whole day without saying anything at all. I don't feel the need to call anybody, talk to anybody, or even chat with anybody - and here I am writing out a Personal Mission Statement that, for one thing, talks about building community and uses the words facilitate and speak. 

And the thing I was just thinking of, which may be totally weird for all you super-go-getters and extroverts who chase all your dreams and never ever ever ever settle, is that I always ask for more, but settle for less.
Because I always settle. It's easier to say "this is enough" because I'm afraid of what more would entail, because I am more afraid of the sword of Anna than the sword of the Lord. And because, you know, bed. books. snuggling under the comforter. comfort. not having to think so hard. not having to think at all. books. I'm lazy -

and the life I'm choosing is one that is totally at odds with who I think I am.

During Encounter Weekend a gazillion years ago (well, maybe 10 - I'm not sure) I asked for boldness, and was told, "but you are so bold". But I'm not. I'm frightened. I'm a two year old kid wailing because it is scary. It's not even dark. It's just scary. I'm just good at pretending and hiding behind the anonymity of the web where I don't have to see you when I talk (or type) and I never have to press "publish" or "send" if I chicken out. But life can't be wholly lived out behind the computer screen.

Roughly translated, the song says:
You're my rock
You're my fortress
(I keep thinking of retaining walls, though, as a translation for benteng?)
I lay my future before You
In every thought
In every hope
I'm convinced You know what's best for me
Because You're the Almighty
You're God
I believe it's Your grace that strengthens me
Because You're mighty
You're the King
Nothing is impossible for You 
Except when I myself stand in the way.
Because it's me and yet it's not me, if you get what I mean. And yet it is the mountain I prayed for. And while I would rather not, at the same time, it's what pulls me and pushes me and inspires me. Don't worry if you're confused. I am too.

It's been many years in the making, but I think I've discovered my holy discontent. It's probably not news to you at this point of time. But as I look though my fireplace postings, there's a growing stream of evidence that it's been building, slowly but surely, noticeably.

So again and again, I say yes. Because what else is there to say?

AnugrahMu kepadaku / Your grace towards me
Tak pernah berubah / Has never changed
Perbuatan-Mu terlukiskan / Your works are written (etched?)
Didalam hatiku / In my heart
Tercengang ku dibuat-Mu / I'm astounded by Your works
Ku kagum pada-Mu / I marvel at who You are
Tak ada hal di hidupku yang luput dari-Mu / No detail of my life escapes from You 

Kau indah / You're wonderful (beautiful)
Kau mulia / You're glorious
Tiada seperti-Mu / There is none like You
Kuingin hidupku menyenangkan-Mu / I want my life to be pleasing to You

Kau terawal dan terakhir / You're the first and the last (Alpha & Omega)
Pencipta segalanya / Creator of all things
Seluruh bintang pun bersinar  / All the stars shine
Oleh ucapan-Mu / At Your word
Engkau pun mengasihiku / You love me
Penulis hidupku / The author of my life
Tak henti seg’nap nafasku menyembahMu selalu / I will never stop worshipping You

Kupuji / I praise 
Kusembah / I worship
Tiada seperti-Mu / There is none like You
Kuingin hidupku menyenangkan-Mu / I want my life to be pleasing to You

S'gala puji / All praise
S'gala hormat / All honour
Seg'nap hatiku menyembah-Mu / I worship You with all my heart
Terimalah seg'nap hidupku / Accept my life
S'bagai persembahan yang hidup / As a living sacrifice

Bukan kehendakku / Not my will
Namun kehendak-Mu / But Your will
Hidupku bagi-Mu / I live for You
Kau indah / You're wonderful (beautiful)
Kau mulia / You're glorious
Kuingin hidupku menyenangkan-Mu / I want my life to be pleasing to You

Thursday 17 October 2013

Help, I don't have a blog name!

Okay - this is coming really really really belatedly, but I kind of just realised that I don't have a blog name anymore.

I used to. The header used to say "Deeply Shallow", which was what I had once titled my blog.

Until I created my webpage, and synchronised a fancy new cover picture... and thereby deleted any blog name I had. 


Rather than just being "Anna's blog" or "ATSP", what should I name my blog? Should I:

a) use back the old name - Deeply Shallow
b) use a new name (see below)
c) not name it at all

I did try to think up some fancy schmancy names - 

a) the noisy mouse
b) inscribed logorrhea (this was my old tabulas blog name)
c) extroverted introversion

I dunno. I just dunno.

Help, anyone?

Wednesday 16 October 2013

#bookreview: The Adventure of Creation (anthology)

Honestly, I nearly passed up the chance to review this book. When Katharina Gerlach sent out the email from Independent Bookworm looking for reviewers, I kind of thought maybe, maybe not. I've read some of Kat's stuff before - Urchin King was one I reviewed previously - and it wasn't very high on my YES I MUST READ IT list.

But anyway, I've heard some stuff about Holly Lisle's writing classes on the interwebs (though I passed up a chance to get one of her novels cheap at the Big Bad Wolf sale) and thought - why not give it a go?

I'm glad I did.

The Adventure of Creation (Think Sideways Writers Anthology #1)The Adventure of Creation by Holly Lisle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Taking you on a wild romp through the imagination, The Adventure of Creation features 35 short stories written by students of Holly Lisle's How To Think Sideways course.

Whilst every story is centred around the theme of creation, there's no one specific genre being featured. Fantasy worlds, magical kingdoms and fairy tales nestle side by side with science fiction, realism and slice-of-life pieces. Love stories and tragedies make you tear up even whilst others tell of things that make you cringe.

The stories in the anthology are so good that there's only one which I didn't really quite like (I'm not telling which).

I think my favourite would be the one which won second place (and ends the anthology) - The Definition of a Super Hero. Other stories that I especially liked (in no particular order) are: A Splash of Art, The Forest King, Tortellini, Restoration, Spoilers, After the Fire and Hedda of the Upworld. (In which you can tell my reading bias. Oh well)

I'd recommend this for:
1) anyone looking for quick, great reads
2) people who want to try out new genres but don't want a whole novel
3) parents who want their kids to start reading something, anything, just read

I received this review copy from Independent Bookworm in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday 13 October 2013

On Jacob and Israel, closure, and the end of #fireplace

The thing about Jacob was that he had a lot of heart. He knew what he wanted and he chased after it. But the problem was that it wasn't his and what he did wasn't right. I don't know what would have happened if Jacob had waited for his prophecy to be fulfilled instead of stealing it from Esau, but stole it he did, even if it was Esau's fault for giving it away. I mean, come on. You're hungry. I get that. But your little brother says "sell me your birthright for this stew" so you get melodramatic and say "I'm going to die of hunger anyway so you can have it." Like, was that the only food in the camp? Wouldn't say there be other people around with food, like servants, who would willingly give you food for free or just because you're the boss's son? And then what would happen when you didn't die of hunger?

But Jacob - Jacob wanted the birthright. He hungered for the blessing. From when he was born, he had probably lived with the words "and the older will serve the younger" rattling around in his head. Maybe even from the womb, he had lived with that desire in his heart and when he saw the opportunity, he took it. And then he took the blessing as well, though technically, the blessing went with the birthright. And then he ran, and he never stopped running until -

The difference that marked Israel was that he had "striven with God and with men and had prevailed". The blessing of Abraham had long passed from Abraham to Isaac and to him as Jacob, but he had still been running. He was still living in the fear of his lie and maybe the fear for his life. But by the time Jacob becomes Israel, he's settled his differences with Laban - they've drawn a line where neither will cross to harm the other - and he's met Esau and appeased him. He has stopped running away.

More than that, he's wrestled with God in the dark of the night and clung on until he received his blessing - not through trickery this time, by pretending to be someone else, but from God himself, in his own name. He's returned to the beginning of his journey, Bethel, where he first saw God, and God appears to him again, blessing him in his own right.

The thing about our God is that He is a God of closure. He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. As much as I like open ended stories, there must always be a form of closure which says "this is the end... even if it's only for now". When Jacob first met God in Luz, God says "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Genesis 28:15). At the end of this episode, in Genesis 35, God brings Israel back to Bethel and reaffirms His promise. Jacob's chapter as runaway birthright stealer had closed. A new chapter as Israel, father of the twelve tribes had begun.


I began writing fireplace back in high school as part of a weekly devotional for my cell group. Our youth group had been called firebrands, so I called my write ups "by the fireplace", which was later shortened to "fireplace". Since then it moved from my now-defunct lycos email list to my yahoo email list to my gmail email list and finally to my blog. It's been following me through up and downs, from weird write ups to fervent rants, including mountaintop experiences to awkward deconversion posts. It's time to lay it to rest.

I'm coming to the end of something. Maybe. I've said this before. I'm also coming to the start of something. I've said this before too. But I'm the type of person who needs to say it many times, to reaffirm it many times until it becomes real. Maybe because there is a need to speak it into being and since I don't really speak much, I write it down often. After all Habakkuk 2: 2-3 tells us to :

“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry."
So as fireplaces comes to its end, maybe something new will take its place. I don't know yet. I've been thinking of something but I don't know how it will work. Or whether I should make it work.

But we'll see.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

#bookreview: Luka and the Fire of Life by @salmanrushdie

Luka and the Fire of LifeLuka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know... I enjoyed this novel, but somehow I don't feel like I liked it as much as I did Haroun And The Sea Of Stories. (Not that I reviewed Haroun... so I can't really compare at this point).

In Luka and the Fire of Life, Rashid Khalifa succumbs to a mysterious sleeping sickness after Luka, his second son, successfully curses Captain Aag, the terrible Grandmaster Flame of the Great Rings of Fire. Accompanied by Dog the bear, Bear the dog, Nobodaddy the frightening shadow that grows more solid as Rashid fades, and the Princess of Ott, Luka sets off on a quest to steal the Fire of Life in a bid to save Rashid from dying.

Luka reads like a fable, though the primary story is structured like a video game, and contains multiple references to current pop culture (Appearing and disappearing at various points on both banks was a dark blue British police telephone booth, out of which a perplexed-looking man holding a screwdriver would periodically emerge) as well as ancient mythology. I like the references, but maybe because it's been done too much before (Neil Gaiman's American Gods, anything Tom Holt) it wasn't very outstanding.

I liked it a lot in the beginning but began to cool off from the middle onwards. I don't usually get distracted in the middle of a really interesting book, but I was during this one. Maybe I should read it again.

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Okay so I couldn't stand the fact that I couldn't quite recall Haroun and the Sea of Stories, so I dug out the book to reread it.

Haroun and the Sea of StoriesHaroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Rashid Khalifa loses his ability to tell stories after his wife leaves him, his son sets out on a crazy, magical adventure to Gup City in Kahani to try to get the Walrus to restore Rashid's subscription of Story Water from the Great Story Sea. Flying to earth's invisible second moon with Iff the Water Genie on the back of Butt the Hoopoe, Haroun soon finds himself entangled in the problems of Gup City - Princess Batcheat has been kidnapped by Cultmaster Khattam-Shud, the evil leader of Chup, who is also masterminding the destruction of the Great Story Sea.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a delightful, entrancing read, full of magic. The words rattle off the page, as if from the mouth of a silver-tongued storyteller. It's storytelling at its best, whether you're a young child, still entranced by Magic, or merely young at heart. The story itself is absurdly fantastical which makes it even that much more enjoyable.

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Hrm. At this point of time, I still think Haroun and the Sea of Stories was a more interesting read. Maybe it's the format that he used, not so much the style (or a change in it) and the words, because in flipping through, I can see an almost similar writing style between the two. I'd say it's more of a personal preference between an outright fable/fairytale/fantastical magic story and an awkward mix of myth/parody/video game story.

Parody - that was the word I was looking for. I'm not quite into parody, and Luka and the Fire of Life had leanings towards that.

Friday 4 October 2013

In transit 6

Janice stared at the letter in her hand, wondering if it was the right step. Ripped in neat shreds in the waste basket were earlier drafts that she’d written and discarded. But where are you going, echoed in her head as she read and re-read the letter again. It had been in her head for the past few days - the past few months actually - but she could never sit down long enough to write it out. And now she had.

She glanced at her phone again, waiting for Keith to call. It wasn’t the end of the week yet, but she couldn’t stand being so antsy about it. She started to dial his number, but stopped. What if- she shook her head to clear the gathering cobwebs. Obviously this break was a really bad idea. A very, very bad idea - she’d actually written out her resignation letter! With horror she looked at the incriminating letter in her hand and started shredding it to bits again.

“I hate this, Lee!” she growled into the phone when her housemate finally picked up. “I’m stagnating. I’m dying. I can’t stand it anymore.”

“Cancel your leave and come back then,” Lee Chin said.

“No- not that. I’ve been waiting forever for this phone call and -”

“Call them. You know you won’t be able to function until you do.”

“But - but I don’t know -”

“Wait. Is it a guy? Nick?”

“Why would it be Nick?” she remembered guiltily that she was supposed to meet him in two days and hadn’t even given a thought to her business model.

“Because obviously he has a crush on you.”

“Nah, he’s just interested in the business.”

“Which is quite non-existent, so what other hold have you got on him?”



Janice exhaled noisily, blowing her fringe off her face. “Anyway. I need to find something to do.”

“Go hang out with your family or something.”

“And do what?”

“How would I know? Whatever it is your family does together.”

“Nothing. We never do anything together. I don’t know why I bothered coming home.”

“So why did you go home?”

“Stop being annoying.”

“Hey, you called me, didn’t you? I get to be annoying because you’re disturbing me when I’m supposed to be working.”

“Are you working? You sound like you’re eating.”

“Of course I’m eating. And working. It’s tea time. I have biscuits and tea at my desk, don’t you remember? Besides, the crumbs and stains drive my boss crazy.”

“One day he’s going to sack you.”

“Not unless he finds me slacking, like I’m doing now, talking to you.”

“I wrote it, Lee.”


“My resignation letter.”

The silence was so long that Janice wondered if the line had been cut off. “Lee?”

“Are you sure you’re fine, Jan?”

“I’m not going to submit it, of course.”

“You so need to get your butt back here.”

“What you going to do?”

“I don’t know. Smack some sense back into you. Why, Janice?”

“I’m restless, Lee. I don’t know where I’m going.”

“And leaving will help you do that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t do anything rash. This is not like you.”

“What’s like me? I don’t know what me is anymore.”

There were slurping sounds on the other end of the line. Finally, Lee Chin said, “Just. Don’t. We’ll talk when you get back.”

“Okay. Now you get back to work,” Janice said.


Janice slumped back down on the bed, letting her phone slip out of her fingers to land with a soft thump next to her.


So I got round to writing something. Lol. 
Just picking up the stray threads right now. 

Wednesday 2 October 2013

#bookreview: Earth Unaware and Earth Afire (First Formic Wars) #endersgame #enderverse

Earth Unaware (The First Formic War, #1)Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm pretty much a fangirl of the Enderverse, so I was quite excited to jump into Earth Unaware.
I mean.. the Formic Wars? Mazer Rackham? Of course I want to know what happened!

Victor Delgado is a mechanical prodigy working out in the Kuiper belt with his free-mining family. Lem Jukes, heir to the Jukes Corporation wealth, is out in Deep Space testing the new mining equipment and trying to prove (or establish?) his worth to his father, Ukko. Captain Wit 'O Toole is out recruiting new soldiers for the Mobile Operations Police (MOP).

The story jumps back and forth between the different character's viewpoints and it's very space opera. If you're not one for the drama of broken hearted love stories (or almost-love-story in this case), then you probably won't like this one much. Card and Johnston tug at a lot of heart-strings in this one, with tragic deaths and families being broken up and sacrifices. The Formics make their appearance and you get a few small space battles, but ultimately the story doesn't move forward very much. It's a trilogy, after all.

Mazer hardly appears here. I think he got something like a chapter. :(

Earth Afire (The First Formic War, #2)Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More things happen in Earth Afire than it does in Earth Unaware, so it kept me on the edge (not of my seat... of my bed, maybe), wanting to know what happens.

Victor's warnings are finally being heeded, but it's too late because the Scouring of China soon begins and it's up to Mazer Rackham and his team, who are on an exchange training program in China, to try to stop them. Captain Wit O'Toole and MOP soon appear on the scene, though, and this Chinese kid whizz, Bingwen, makes the most astounding observations.

Bingwen sounds like a precursor to (foreshadowing of?) Ender and it's so very blatantly written into the text that it triggers Rackham to wonder if kids, trained, could be used in warfare. Uh, we know that. Because we've read Ender's Game.

I think Earth Afire lost a star (compared to Unaware) because of the... um... stupidity (?) it assumes of its readers. I don't know. I can't really define it, but I don't think Aaron Johnston is a good co-writer for Card. The Formic Wars doesn't have that magic, that brilliancy or thrill that the Enders Shadow series gave me. Also, not as much tear-jerkery material to keep me excited (okay, so I have a soft heart)

You are NOT a TV Episode. You're not supposed to have EPIC CLIFF HANGERS! Incomplete major story arch, yes... but not like this!

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Wednesday 25 September 2013

#bookreview: How the Rhino Got His Skin

How the Rhino Got His SkinHow the Rhino Got His Skin by Henry L. Herz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How the Rhino Got his Skin is a retelling of Rudyard Kipling's short story of the same name.
Rewritten in simple, lyrical English, the book is filled with beautiful illustrations to entrance the young kids.
Included in the book is the original short story, which may help to transition young readers from picture books to non-illustrated stories.

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I first met Henry on twitter. He was promoting Nimpentoad, the first book he wrote with his sons Joshua and Harrison. I readily agreed to review the book - it proved to be a great read; creative, descriptive, enjoyable, fun, all whilst having good teaching points for readers. I think I enjoyed this the most as it was the most comprehensive of his books, aimed at 5- to10-year-olds.

The next book, Twignibble, was aimed at a slightly younger age, stated at between 5 - 8. It was simpler, but more poetic, and filled with more illustrations. It had a great environmental message and educational value for young kids about the environment, animals and the world at large. I read it during lunch break at work and showed it to a colleague of mine who has a young kid. She loved it, saying it's the sort of thing she wants to buy for her daughter. I liked it, but not as much as Nimpentoad. Maybe I'm a sucker for longer narratives, even when it's packaged as a kid's book (hey, I love illustrations too!).

This one, How the Rhino Got His Skin, I like, but I don't love it. It's great as a kid's book. It's funny and entertaining, and the illustrations are cute. But... It's a remake. Coming after two highly original books, this feels a little like a let down. Yes, it's aimed at even younger children (3 - 6 year olds) and it reads that way, but surely the Herz family could have come up with something original?

I don't know. We'll see where they go. I hope they come up with something more in the spirit of Nimpentoad again.

*fingers crossed*

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Hey, I posted on Medium!

Today I'm on medium talking about being a 29 year old virgin.

If you missed my first medium post on writing (which was posted here first), check it out here.

Sunday 22 September 2013

#fireplace: don't despise the little things

I had a strange dream on Tuesday night.

I’m not sure what to make of it (at least what I remember of it), but the main takeaway that’s sticking in my brain right now are the words don’t despise the little things. It had some weird connection to Corinthians (in my dream at least) but I don’t remember what. Maybe I’ll have to go read Corinthians to find out. I don’t even know if it’s 1st or 2nd Corinthians. Google suggests “Start Small, End Big” - Zechariah 4:10 and 2 Corinthians 3: 4-6 as well as this - 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

Actually 1 Cor 27-31 is really a good passage - 
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of  the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and the righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."
Don't despise the little things.
It's a two-pronged admonishment.

Don't despise the little ones, the ones you think are lesser than you, the ones who are not as articulate, the ones who struggle with their words, with their expressions, with their thoughts. Because I do. All the time. Because words are my playground and my battlefield. They are where I find comfort, and where I find fault. And sometimes the littlest of things - a wrong word, an awkward sentence, strange phrasing, grammatical errors - makes me discount the message because, well, you can't even say it right.
It's intellectual pride.
Which is funny, coming from one who often refuses to think, really, because it's too much effort.

Don't despise the little things, the things you've done, the things you've tried to do, the things you thought you failed at, the things that you thought no one saw or noticed. Because I do. All the time. And yet it's sometimes these little things that prove to you over and over again that this was what you were made for, this was what brought meaning to your life (oh, how you agonised!). And maybe, just maybe, one of these little things touched someone, impacted someone, and it wasn't a waste of time.
It's just that you didn't know it.

Sometimes I think that I'm too small.
But really, what I mean is that my pride is too big. It's getting in the way of the actual doing, because in doing, you might fail, and that might break you.

Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.
Because it's not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit that we accomplish anything worthwhile at all.

Thursday 19 September 2013

#bookreview: Maybe I Will

Maybe I WillMaybe I Will by Laurie Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Life couldn't be better for Sandy. Cassie and Troy are the best friends that one could ever hope for, and Sandy's parents are understanding and supportive. Nailing the role of Peter Pan at the school musical and the new iPhone makes life even better. And then tragedy strikes.

One night at Cassie's house, Sandy is sexually abused by Cassie's boyfriend, Aaron. In a matter of seconds, Sandy is traumatised and life takes a downward spiral. Sandy turns to drinking, and steals to support the habit. Depression and anger become close friends as Sandy starts to isolate from both Cassie, who believes Aaron's story, and Troy, who is anguished at having to choose between them.

There are relatively few books that make me cry, and this is one of them. It's very easy to identify with Sandy's thoughts and feelings, even if you've never been in the same situation. Gray's storytelling makes everything so vivid and so real that you are able to step into Sandy's situation and identify with him/her.

It's not clear if Sandy is a guy or a girl. In certain passages, I'd imagine Sandy, in all her enthusiasm and excitement, as a girl. In others, Sandy's actions lead me to believe he's a guy. This was done intentionally by Laurie Gray, and it's quite effective in her purpose - to emphasise the fact that sexual abuse happens to everyone, whether male or female.

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About the Book - About the Author - Prizes!!!

Welcome to Novel Publicity's latest publishing house blog tour. Join us as two new titles from Luminis Books--we're calling them the Luminis Duo--tour the blogosphere in a way that just can't be ignored. And, hey, we've got prizes!

  About the book: It's not about sex. It's about how one secret act of violence changes everything--how best friends can desert you when you need them most, how nobody understands. It's about the drinking and stealing and lying and wondering who you can trust. It's about parents and teachers, police officers and counselors--all the people who are supposed to help you, but who may not even believe you. It's about how suddenly all of your hopes and dreams can vanish, and you can find yourself all alone, with nothing and no one. Your only choice is to end it all or to start over... and all you can think is Maybe I Will. Author Laurie Gray presents a compelling picture of the realities of sexual assault in Maybe I Will, drawing on her years of experience as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, dealing with crimes against children. The twist in the story is that we never know for sure if the victim is a boy or a girl, and we realize that it doesn't matter, because it's not about sex. Pick up your copy of this Young Adult (with mature themes) through Amazon US, Amazon UK, or Barnes & Noble.

  About the author: Laurie Gray has worked as a high school teacher, a deputy prosecuting attorney, and the founder of Socratic Parenting LLC ( In addition to writing, speaking and consulting, Laurie currently works as a bilingual child forensic interviewer at her local Child Advocacy Center and as an adjunct professor of criminal sciences at Indiana Tech. She has served on the faculty of the National Symposium for Child Abuse in Huntsville, Alabama, annually since 2009. Her debut novel Summer Sanctuary (Luminis Books/2010) received a Moon Beam Gold Medal for excellence in young adult fiction and was named a 2011 Indiana Best Book Finalist. Her third young adult novel Just Myrto (Luminis Books/2014) will carry readers back to ancient Greece to meet Socrates, Laurie’s favorite teacher of all times. Connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook, or GoodReads.

  About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win either of two $25 Amazon gift cards, an autographed copy of Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray Aloha, Mozart by Waimea Williams, or an autographed copy of its tour mate, Aloha, Mozart by Waimea Williams. Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog.
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win a $25 gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found here. The other $25 gift card and the 3 autographed books will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Luminis Duo tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

  Luminis Books was launched in January, 2010 by husband and wife team Tracy Richardson and Chris Katsaropoulos with a mission to publish thoughtprovoking literary fiction for children and adults. We publish what we love: Meaningful Books That Entertain. Our award-winning books engage and inform readers and explore a wide range of topics from love and relationships, teen sexual assault and homelessness to string theory, consciousness, and the Universal Energy Field. Luminis Books is a proudly independent publisher located in Carmel, IN. Learn more at  

Learn more about Maybe I Will's tour mate HERE.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday 18 September 2013

#bookreview: Shade's Children by Garth Nix

Shade's ChildrenShade's Children by Garth Nix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Evil Overlords have taken over the world and no one is allowed to live above the age of fourteen. All fourteen year-olds celebrate their Sad Day and are taken off to the Meat Factory. Anyone who tries to escape is hunted down by mutant creatures - Ferrets by night and Myrmidons by day.

Shade is the only adult left on earth - and he himself isn't fully human. His goal is to protect the children and to find away to destroy the Overlords. Aiding him are Ella, Drum, Ninde and Gold-Eye, four teenagers with Change Talents that have given them the ability to continuously evade the Overlords and their creatures.

I picked up Shade's Children because I was very impressed with Nix's The Old Kingdom series. However, this one just wasn't as tantalising. I don't know if it's because of the setting - this is much more science fiction/dystopian whilst Abhorsen is more into old-school magic, bust since all these fall squarely into my normally reading genres, I don't see why it should be an issue for me.

Was it the writing style? Shade's Children wasn't as emotional for me as compared to Abhorsen or the other two books in the series. Or maybe I've been reading too many books standing up for an "issue" that the lack of an identifiable cause made it seem flatter than it would have been previously.

Shade's Children wasn't boring. I kind of liked it. It just wasn't stellar.

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Saturday 14 September 2013

#review: Short + Sweet #Theatre Penang 2013

I'd wanted to write this the night before, right after watching the show, but I was tired, and then I was lazy. So anyway, there's still one more run Saturday night (not sure if they have a matinee? There might be) so I figured I might as well just do the review now, in case there's anyone who's still figuring out whether or not to catch the final show.

Okay. So mini introduction - short and sweet theatre is a showcase of 10-minute plays. Plays will be judged for a variety of things (doesn't make a difference unless you are a participant or a judge), as well as the Audience Choice Awards (okay, this one involves you, the audience. You get to vote for your favourite).

As a mini rundown goes, I think this year's offerings were slightly better than last year's. Most of the plays were local - only two from KL - as compared to last year, whereby some plays were recycled from previous fests.

Thoughts about the plays 

The show started off with Arrangement, which kind of bombed for me because it didn't quite make sense. A wife comes home from a trip to find her husband masturbating (?) goes into a spiel about being perfectly fine and understanding if he needs to have another woman (went on too long about this, in CIRCLES) and then discovers that after two months of marriage, he is still a virgin. Er. Unless I understood the whole thing wrong. (Sorry if this is a spoiler, but if you understand it any better, please do let me know). *scratch head*
It would have been much better if 1) the extreme vulgarity was dropped (the actors didn't seem comfortable with it anyway) as the subject matter was shocking enough at any rate 2) the acting was much more flamboyant (and the English better/more fluent), thereby carrying off the pseudo-American patter it was written in.

This was followed by Noticed, which was a sweet little piece about teenagers and self-image, and how things are supposed to change in college, but doesn't really, not unless you do something about it yourself. On one hand, you have a teen (sorry, I forgot her name) who, tired of being the wallflower, is on an extreme diet (i.e. I AM NOT EATING). Her friend, the popular one, is worried about her. I loved the argument about why, if losing weight and gaining popularity was supposed to make you happy, you don't actually seem happy? As much as I liked this piece (and it was quite well written by my friend Jackie) there wasn't anything spectacularly new or exceptional about this.

I didn't really follow Hope and hopeless as it was in Mandarin, but you know what, it was BRILLIANT. Sounds strange, right? But that shows you what good acting really is - it draws you in, entrances you, makes you laugh and react - even if it's mainly to the body language and about 10% (err, or less) of what they said. It had something to do with heaven and hell...

Good girls turned semi-serious, talking about abusive husbands and arranged marriages, whilst "..." was a classic lost in translation/miscommunication story between a frantic husband (I think he was supposed to be Indian, but the actor was Chinese) and his visiting Japanese mother-in-law though it was a rather Malaysian interpretation of what a Japanese old woman would be, which I think made her look like a rather frazzled, befuddled aunty lost in her own world, rather than one who had communication problems. (Okay, that sentence was way too long).

The sixth play was Shooting Star, where Rachel recalls why wishing on shooting stars makes her feel sad and why she will never wish on one again. I really liked the actors on this one. They had this nice shy/awkward vibe going on (you know, he likes her, she's oblivious, he doesn't know how to tell her, she's talking about another guy) that makes me go awww.

Okay, so 'No' in spite of itself was a brilliantly written piece. Do you realise how many nuances there can be just for that one word - "no"? Okay, so slightly same premise with the love triangle thing, but I like the way it played out. Touched a bit on suicide. Also, actor (from last year's S+S) did much better this round - maybe he suited this character better, or maybe he improved a lot.

Grave affairs was another serious piece - also bringing up the issue of abusive husbands (why are all the serious pieces about abusive husbands?) and male chauvinistic thinking. I preferred this one though, because it was serious and intended to be serious. Good girls had that psychotic/hysteria vibe to it which tends to take away from the issue. In Grave affairs, the widow stands up and gives an eulogy about why she won't be grieving for her husband's death. Her son's attempts to shut her up gives even more gravity to the issue.

Who is the killer? was another Mandarin piece, so it lost me a little. It was something about H1N1, some other pandemic (also spread by mosquitoes, I think and has R?N? or maybe N?R? code, I forget) and Char Koay Teow and I think the case was about who killed more? Or who killed someone? Er. Of course you had to have the Chinese Judge. Oh, and iPad photos. A little more slapstick humour to this one.

The last play of all, homo | phobia, was the shocker of the evening. I mean, I don't even know how to start talking about this one. Okay, I had a sneaky suspicion it was going to go the way it was going, but I didn't quite expect them to end that way. (Haha! No spoilers until after the final show!) It was, of course, about the gays and homophobia. Gay guy (shown obviously by his erm. tight, colourful shirt and short shorts and GLITTERY EYELASHES OH MY GOODNESS THE GLITTERY EYELASHES*) comes to borrow notes from a classmate. Classmate acts decidedly uncomfortable around him and gets accused of being homophobic.

* First thought - that's more trans/drag queen than gay. Second thought - do gay guys wear glittery eyelashes? Third thought - are transsexuals gay? Fourth thought - who cares, let's just take this at face value

Other random thoughts
1. Okay, so why is it that the two plays about abuse was written by Malays (Haris Hazizan and Fa Abdul)? Is this a common problem in Malay households? Or is it a bigger/weightier problem/issue for them? Good Girls was a definitely Malay setting, though Grave Affairs was rather confused - the son was wearing a cross, there was an obvious "Christian wake" kind of setting with eulogy time, but the widow later smears red paint on her forehead which is a Hindu practice? (Intentional, I'm thinking - kind of I'm not just renouncing you as my husband, I'm renouncing your religion too!)

2. Is Maxime Rhapsody the poet guy from last year's lit fest?

3. LANGUAGE! It makes such a big difference - not the language itself, but how well you speak it, or how comfortable you are speaking it. It really affects your acting. I don't doubt that the two actors in Arrangement were okay with speaking English, but you could tell it wasn't fluent, maybe not quite their first language. And I think that was the deciding factor in what broke the play (for me at least) - there was no impact to what they were saying at all. This was all the more evident because right after that, Noticed, was played by two girls (one Caucasian, one maybe mixed? - or at least from an international school) who were decidedly fluent and it made everything they did and said feel more natural. Of course, as I said about Hope and Hopeless, and which also applies to Who is the Killer?, even though I didn't understand the actual dialogue, it still captured my attention because it felt real.