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.

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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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