Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014: a year in review


The only time I wish I were on wordpress would be at year end when they do that snazzy year end review thingy, instead of me having to do this manually.

The numbers for this year has been a little dismal - not that I actually tracked anything (I'm just comparing stuff now for the heck of it).
I wrote slightly more posts this year (149 vs 125) but there was a drop of page views from 63K to 53K. Then again, I haven't really been concentrating on my blog, other than the A to Z challenge every April and occasional blog tours and friday flash posts.

Okay, I don't understand these stats - how did the total number of page views for the same post drop from 770 to 754? Mmmmmm


Unreliable blog stats aside, I don't know how to sum up this year.

I would say that the highlights of the year would be my two working trips to San Jose and the new friends I've made along the way. Other than that, I think I've been coasting through most of the year, fighting against procrastination and just being too darned comfortable where I am. It's been a year of evaluation and reevaluation, and in the midst of the peaks where I know where I'm headed and the troughs where I'm convinced I'm heading the wrong way, there's a sense of maybe, just maybe, taking steps in kind of the right direction. I hope.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!



I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

---

It's hard not to get sucked up into the inherent consumerism that surrounds Christmas nowadays. It's hard to remember what it's all about.
And yet we must.
Because if we do not, who will?

---

A
Star
A star
Dancing in 
the night
The 
Child
The Child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

---

And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

#thecolornoise launch: great music

Pretty... also pretty expensive.
I came out of my hermitage to attend The Color Noise's long awaited EP launch. As all things Malaysian, it started off late.

The night started off with Pastelpower, Cherie Ko's electronic project.

According to Facebook, her genre is pastelwave... whatever that means. I can't say I'm a fan. For one, she suffers from the local artist malady - incomprehensibly garbled lyrics. I had no clue what half her songs were about, or rather, I could only hear/understand the lyrics of maybe half of each song. Secondly, I guess this isn't quite my genre. It felt mindlessly repeating without any build up.
But yay for tea-making references, at least in the first two songs!

I guess this is the song I enjoyed the most:





This was followed by Son Of A Policeman (SOAP), also known as SabunBand. SOAP is hilariously Malaysian and my first reaction was "why have I not heard of them before?"
Oh right, I haven't been going out much.

They've apparently been around since 2012, though the band members seem to have changed up a bit. They're great entertainers - and super plus point, other than my lack of Mandarin skills, everything else they sang was super clear.

Josh and Zijunn are great vocalists.





Next up was Kien Lim. I normally love his stuff when he plays in China House, but for some reason or another, when sandwiched between SOAP and The Color Noise, his performance felt a little too mellow.

I'm guessing the line up was probably arranged according to popularity or name (in Penang, at least), but I would have put Kien Lim after Pastelpower and before SOAP just because of the drop in energy. Then again maybe they wanted the solo/band to alternate. I don't know.



And after all that... The Color Noise only came on at nearly eleven.


It was a long wait, but I guess worth it. Seems like they have a great fan base already - a bunch of screaming fans went up to the front to jump and dance. A bunch of people at the side were also dancing along to the music (also probably thoroughly drunk by that time).

The music was tight and the synth over the guitars adds a very nice (and not so common) layer. Often you get very rock/guitar sounds or very piano/electronic sounds (compare Pastelpower and SOAP), but The Color Noise merges these two to have a very nice rock sound layered over with the synth. The only minus like really minus point is... again... I don't get half of what Daryl is singing.
Surprise of the night, I guess, was the strength of Reuben's harmonies. You don't normally hear him sing that loud.

Anyway, photos here!




Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christopher Datta's book is on sale!

Touched with Fire, Christopher Datta's #1 best selling Historical Fiction is on sale now for only $0.99.

touchedwithfire"A tremendously amazing story for History lovers!"

"A fantastic story that engaged"

"An excellent example of entertwining a love story with historical facts"



$0.99 December 15th-19th



Touched With Fire, a novel of the Civil War inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft.

Ellen Craft is property; in this case, of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her “father:” the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same pale—indeed, lily-white—skin.

Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run North. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey—South again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army: she will literally fight her way back to her husband.

Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.


Announcing the release of Fire & Dust, book two in the Fire Trilogy

fireanddust"If you thought you knew the Civil War, think again. In Fire and Dust, Christopher Datta takes you beyond the clatter and gore of the battlefield to reveal the very hearts and minds of the Confederacy. His characters will haunt you like a rebel yell, sounding down through the years to touch you with their sacrifices, their struggles, and—most of all—their humanity." -Karen Lyon, Hill Rag Magazine






In the fall of 1863, there is still a chance to prevent a Union victory in the Civil War.

Robert E. Lee’s most trusted senior commander, General James Longstreet, takes two Virginia divisions west to unite with General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. Longstreet arrives just in time to join in the Confederate attack on the Union army at the battle of Chickamauga.

As the fate of the Confederacy is decided, this epic saga plays out against the backdrop of the love stories of Mexican war veteran Sargent Sam Davis and the recently widowed Sally O’Grady, and of the young, poor and naive private Harry Kolb and Rachel Shaw, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. Their tales bring to vivid life the forgotten watershed moments of September, October and November of 1863, a period that more than any other determined the outcome of the war.

Fire and Dust narrates the history of the Civil War as it really was, and makes you a front row witness as the destiny of the Confederacy unfolds.




About the Author

Chris1
Born in Washington, DC Chris Datta, Foreign Service officer, has been on numerous battlefields for his job and country. He has seen mass graves, brought war criminals to justice and in this new chapter, Datta brings readers a stunning historical account of the American Civil War with Touched with Fire. His attention to detail is superb, and his experiences abroad have given him ample stories to tell for years to come.

His action packed life has taken him across the world from the United States to Liberia and Southern Sudan. Not only serving in active war zones but often battling tropical diseases, Datta has nurtured his fascination with civil conflict by diving into the history books and historical records of America’s past. His research is meticulous, and his attention to detail creates vivid pictures of the past.

Monday, 15 December 2014

We have a winner!

You know what... I was so busy/lazy the past weekend I almost forgot that I had to select a winner for the giveaway. Hahaha.

But I remembered and went to rafflecopter to pick the winner.

Ms KK, Xpresso Book Tours will be contacting you sometime on/after Dec 17 to send you the ebook.


Friday, 12 December 2014

Beauty

You are beauty
In the brokenness
    Held together
By cellophane tape
And raffia string
    Keeping back
The tears that
Tear you apart

Broken
But not irreparably so

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

#bookreview: The Ghost at Retreat Lake by Dan Rix

The Ghost At Retreat Lake (Timeloopers, #2)The Ghost At Retreat Lake by Dan Rix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fresh out of the crazy, unnerving, time looping events in A Strange Machine, Iris, Cory and Noah watch with horror as a future Iris Strasser crawls out of the machine and dies in front of their eyes.
Still, Cory Holland, like the annoying prick he is, insists that they go for the senior class lake retreat, because... it will be extremely fun.

Except it's not. A series of close calls and strange happenings further unnerve Iris Strasser, and it's all she can do to convince Cory to stop ogling girls and flirting to listen to her concerns. However, Cory's not as clueless as he pretends to be - even whilst he's enjoying himself zip-lining and swimming (and annoying Iris), he's also trying to work through the events to figure out just what's happening with the Chronos and the strange codes he's found.
Getting the two of them to work together is a huge problem - one that may end up in both of their deaths. But that's not enough. If they don't get Anneliese Faye's cooperation, they may never solve the mystery of the ghost at retreat lake.

Reading The Ghost at Retreat Lake had me confused at times - it honestly felt as if there were dual story lines, or at least dual versions of Cory in the book. Part of it, I suppose, was because of the extremely opposite viewpoints used - between Iris' perception of Cory and his own perception of himself, I was beginning to wonder whether the timeloop had created another version of Cory! There didn't seem to be a similar duality with Iris though. Maybe because Iris sees herself more clearly than Cory does?

Rix again shows his mastery at meshing seemingly random and unrelated events and story lines so that they begin to make sense - and he addresses at least one concern I had from the first book - Edgar Faye. (One thing I'm hoping very hard does not happen though is this burgeoning "romance" thing between Cory and Iris. It's just no no no no no, you are NOT right for each other.)

Of course, he just *has* to end at a cliff hanger and ask you to wait for book three...

I received a pre-release copy of this book in exchange for an honest review


View all my reviews

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Syiok Sendiri - a not quite review


SYNOPSIS (from PenangPac's website)
Syiok Sendiri! A Very Merry Malaysian Christmas!' is the first installment of the 'Syiok Sendiri' series, a comedy-variety project we are hoping would be an endless saga of celebrating the spirit of 'self amusement' on stage. Expect drivel material, not-so-high-brow stuff, and occasional 'siapa makan cili terasa pedas' (tak faham, google la ye!) moments. But ingat ye, no need to be tersinggung and all ok. It's all in good fun. So datanglah beramai-ramai to penangpac from 5-7 December and join the Syiok Sendiri crew as we celebrate Christmas...a la Malaysia.

* For Mature Audience ONLY !
---

I caught Syiok Sendiri!: A very merry Malaysian Christmas! today. On kind of a whim. Well, not really a whim. I knew a couple of people who were involved in it and since I was feeling bored and unmotivated to do anything today, and there were tickets, mah go lor.

Syiok Sendiri is a "comedy-variety performance", which was truly funny (only if you understand the Malaysian context) and very varied. There was a Christmas performance, a drag queen, some keyboard warriors, annoyed flight attendants, a gossipy sales girl, a very cinapek Scrooge, catwalks, a game show, bollywood, errr too many things to remember right now.

I have to say that it was really rather well done... and rather deliciously seditious. Don't go if you're easily offended or if you don't quite understand what satire is.

Two more shows tomorrow (Sunday)! Tickets are RM35 each.

---

Performance wise, I would say that the cast did a great job overall. I especially loved Kanchana and Isabelle - I would say that they were the most natural and realistic of the six.

One major weak point I would have to point out would be that since that Stage 2 is really a very small stage, and I sat right in front because, well, because, there could have been more emphasis placed on facial expressions. This wouldn't really be relevant if this had been done on a bigger stage, say Stage 1, where the audience are really quite far away from the performers - I think the body language was pretty much consistent - but being that close up, there were several instances where it felt like the actors broke character a little based on their facial expressions.
Or maybe I'm just expecting too much facial expressions. I don't know.

Anyway.

Catch it if you can.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A #giveaway! In time for Christmas!

So... I finished NaNoWriMo... as in I completed the 50K words... but the story isn't quite done yet. But I got lazy.

Anyway, while I get back to actually finishing the story, here's something to entertain you - remember the book I was blitzing in November? The Expatriates?

Yeah, well, I have a copy to giveaway. Check that out here. Special additional entries available if you show some love for Love in Penang. ;)

Don't have a copy? Find out where you can get one here. Or, well, pretty Amazon widget just below. (P/S - if you're from Malaysia/Singapore, it's cheaper in the local bookstores listed in the link above. Also, if you're anywhere in San Jose, I'll be there in Jan!)



Anyway, distractions aside... ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE.