Wednesday 28 October 2015

#bookreview: The Princelings trilogy by Jemima Pett

I "met" Jemima Pett over the A to Z blogging challenge in 2013, when we were Damyanti's minions. I picked up her books then - and sat on them, as usual - until I was looking through the books in my kindle and decided that I should make a serious attempt at reducing the backlog. So here they are - all three - which makes for a very long post! =)

The Princelings of the East (Princelings of the East, #1)The Princelings of the East by Jemima Pett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Castle Marsh, an extremely isolated guinea pig castle, is experiencing a strange energy drain. When it ruins the King's birthday feast, the Princeling twins, Fred the Philosopher and George the Engineer, decide that they must do something about it.

The mysterious tunnel that appears in response to Fred's spoken request for a secret passage is only the first surprise in their adventure. As they continue on their quest for answers, they meet the Hugo, a travelling salesman; Victor, a harried barkeeper; as well as Prince Lupin and Lady Nimrod, who provide much wisdom and help. They also discover new drinks (other than strawberry juice), find a time tunnel and visit new castles.

As stated in the blurb, The Princelings of the East is intended for children ages 8 and up, so I wasn't too sure if I would like it. I generally enjoy childrens' books, but have been finding some of them a little too bland lately. This book isn't, though. Pett has a nice blend of wit and wisdom, as well as a very engaging writing style - not overly simplified, as if talking down to children, but simple, clean and crisp, so that you're attracted to it, no matter how young or old you are.

Actually, after reading the trilogy and now flipping through this book again as I write this review, I notice there are subtle hints and clues to things that will happen in the rest of the trilogy - things that I didn't pick up until now.

The Princelings and the PiratesThe Princelings and the Pirates by Jemima Pett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Our Princeling twins, Fred & George, face unexpected swashbuckling adventures in The Princelings and the Pirates. The adventure starts off innocuously enough - the wine from Dimerie has run out and the person that Castle Buckmore originally sent to find out why hasn't returned, so Fred, George, and Victor set out for Castle Dimerie to discover what's wrong. Along the way, they get kidnapped by pirates, meet beautiful princesses, as well as dig out long hidden secrets.

I'm not entirely sure why I didn't feel as engaged with this second book of the trilogy. I love swashbuckling adventures and I did like The Princelings of the East quite a bit, so I was actually looking forward to this one a lot. Maybe it suffers from the general middle syndrome of almost all trilogies. Then again, I think that the Princeling books can be read as standalones so that shouldn't really be a factor.

It could possibly have felt a little disjointed - The Princelings of the East centres pretty much around Fred and George, and is located primarily Castle Buckmore with the occasional time travel, but The Princelings and the Pirates has a much wider scope. In this one, we jump from Castle Buckmore, to Castle Dimerie, pirate ships, Castle Marsh and the deserted Castle Fortune, with a few other castles being mentioned and thrown into the mix.

Whatever it was, Pirates was still a pretty good read.

The Princelings and the Lost CityThe Princelings and the Lost City by Jemima Pett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We pick up our story with George recovering from his injuries, Fred trying to win Kira's hand in marriage, and Prince Lupin getting married to Princess Nerys, Kira's sister. The power plant project is progressing smoothly and Fred is hard at work thinking of ways to improve Castle Marsh, ways that would make full use of the flying machine Miles and George were working on.

When Fred, George and Kira stumble upon an apparently deserted castle called Arbor on their way to Castle Marsh, they decide to explore it, resulting in Kira being kidnapped and an imposter put in her place.

I found this book more interesting than The Princelings and the Pirates, not least because it starts to explore sexism and male privilege in a very natural and practical way, which I think is excellent. Pett doesn't just look at it in a one-sided manner, but looks at the excesses of both feminism as well as male chauvinism. Granted, things in Arbor are over exaggerated - I'm not sure if this should be for kids aged 10; whilst Pett is delicate and doesn't state things very explicitly, I don't recall if these are things that a 10-year old would understand? Then again, kids mature so fast now that they might probably think Pett is being prudish. Hm.

Pett is in top form with several heart-tugging scenes scattered throughout the story and an exciting race against time.

Also, there are 3 more books in this series!

View all my reviews

Psst... you can get book 1 for free here.

Monday 26 October 2015

#musicmonday: O Come Emmanuel

I'm currently jumping between prepping for Christmas and brainstorming for Easter. My head is about to break.

This is one of the songs that which is usually used for Christmas, but I also use for Easter. Which is why it's in my current compilation of muse songs for Easter 2016.

Sunday 25 October 2015

I'm releasing a short story today!

So if you're on my mailing list or following my facebook page, you'd likely already know this and have (hopefully) gotten a copy of the book, but... here's the news for the rest of the world!

Go north, little human.
Go north until the winds blow cold and you walk on water.
Go north, and there you will find her.

With the Dragon's prophecy ringing in his ears, Danis travels from town to town, seeking a wife. But at every stop, he is turned away, until he enters the City of Winter itself...

When Winds Blow Cold is a short fairy tale of approximately 6,000 words, available on Smashwords and Amazon, starting from 10/25/15.

Why should you take a chance on me, you say?
Who says it's a chance? You're already reading my blog so I'm guessing you've had multiple samples of my writing. Actually, I have posted a sample of it here before. Here's the much earlier, unedited snippet.

Then again, you don't really need to take a (monetary) chance. It's currently available for free on NoiseTrade and will be there until the end of the year (also see widget on the side bar). Side note: free downloads on NoiseTrade comes with the caveat that I can add you to my mailing list. And you can always go back later and leave me a tip. Hehe.

But enough about that. This is the VERY EXCITING thingamabob I found recently.


Get your e-book signed by Anna Tan

Wednesday 21 October 2015

#bookreview: In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett

In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry PratchettIn Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett by Laura May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett contains 17 very diverse stories with one central theme: Memory, or the loss of it. If you were expecting that all of them would sound like Terry Pratchett, you'd be sorely disappointed - after all, these are very diverse authors from 9 countries and 4 continents. However, there are echoes of Terry in every single story that you read.
I started reading this book with the presumption that I would love it. After all, it was written as a tribute to Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors of all time.

Personal favourites of mine (in order of appearance) are The Heart of the Labyrinth (DK Mok), Ackerley's Genuine Earth Antiques (Michael K. Schaefer), The Tale of the Storyteller (Caroline Friedel), and The Olivie Crowne Affair (Choong JayVee). They're a very diverse group of stories - Storyteller is an enchanting fairy tale-like read; Olivie Crowne is witty and and a little crazy; Labyrinth harks back to a more medieval time; whilst Antiques is set so far in the future that earth is nothing but a dream.

Honourable mentions go to Memoryarian (Scott A. Butler), There's a Tattoo, But the Robes Hide It (Mike Reeves-McMillan), Strangers (Robert McKelvey), and The Archive of Lost Memories (Anna Mattaar). Tattoo actually reminds me a little of Diana Wynne Jones.

Overall, the anthology is a great one - one that I'd likely want to browse through over and over again. It's funny, it's engaging, it's also a little contemplative and bitter sweet.


I was going to delete my running commentary on the stories, but I guess I'll leave them as part of the review. (Minor cleaning up done)

Thanks for the Memory Cards: First story off to a shaky start, but I really liked how it went.
The Heart of the Labyrinth: Omigosh. Second story is awesome. *squeal*
How Fell The Towers Three: A bit shouty.
Memoryarian; There's a Tattoo, But the Robes Hide It: Nicely done
The Shells of Lethe: Reminds me of something. Not too sure I entirely like the tone it's written in. Was a bit disruptive at points.
Ackerley's Genuine Earth Antiques:I also really liked this one. This is a pretty good anthology. ahaha
The Chicken Gospel: Interesting in a very distracted kind of way. (Note: I liked this better on the second read than the first.)
Doris: Looked back at it to put a comment and did not strike me in any way positive or negative. Hum...
The Wondrous Land of Nib: I didn't like the switch at the end. I mean... if this is a Pratchett tribute, it really could have been done more stylistically over the whole short story.
Strangers: Strangers earns a heart!
The Tale of the Storyteller: Storyteller earns many, many hearts!
Bubble Trouble: A little ambivalent about Bubble. It started off great but I think it got lost halfway.
The Vivadarium: Meh.
The Archive of Lost Memories Liked it.
If Only I'd Known Not sure I got the reasoning behind this one.
The Olivie Crowne Affair OMIGOSH JAY VEE I LOVE YOU (I should probably delete this part of the review. lol)

View all my reviews

In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett will be released on Oct 31, 2015.

You could get it on Kindle, where all proceeds go to Alzheimer's Research UK, or you could try the GIVEAWAY. Or, you know, you could be a terrible person like me and request for a review copy. But only if you're going to really review it, okay. Because if not, you'll be stealing from a worthy cause.

Monday 19 October 2015

#musicmonday: Divine Romance | Phil Wickham

I bought a Phil Wickham album from Logos Hope because I remembered liking his songs. Unfortunately, I don't like this album as much as I thought I would.

This is the song I loved, from a previous album.

Friday 16 October 2015

#fridayflash: On the ledge

There was something about ledges that attracted Janice. The rush of looking down, the giddiness of being up above. But mostly, wondering how it would feel like to fly.
She sat now, hugging her legs, on the top of a twenty-story building, watching the tiny toy cars move far below.


Janice turned.

"Come back in. It's not safe out there." The bespectacled girl beckoned her.

"But I like it here."

"Aren't you - aren't you afraid of falling?"

Janice shrugged. "Maybe I want to." She frowned. "Now you'll think I'm crazy."

"No... no I don't. I..."

"It's okay. I think I'm crazy. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a dragon?"

"I can't say I have."

"Well, I have. I imagine swooping down over those unsuspecting people, just because I can. I wouldn't eat them of course. What's your name, by the way?"


"Chris? For Christine?"

"No. Chris for Chrysanthemum. Don't laugh."

"I like Chrysanthemum," Janice declared, holding a hand out to Chris. "Come on. Have a look."

Chris shook her head. "I don't like heights."

"Oh. Then why are you up here?" Janice unfolded herself and got off the ledge.

Chris fidgeted. "They - they said there was a girl who looked like she was going to jump off a building. And I realised it was here, in my apartment. Thought I wanted to help. I live on the third floor."

"Oh, that was what those pesky flying things were on about, were they? I thought they were yelling at something. I just ignored them."

"Well, you weren't going to jump, were you?" Chris asked cautiously.

"One day, Chris. When I get my wings. Not today. I don't imagine I want to be a flattened pancake all the way down there." Janice smiled and took Chrysanthemum's hand as they walked to the door. "I live on the fifteenth floor. Do you want to visit? I can close all the curtains so you don't have to look."

"Sure, I'd like that."


The title of the song "Come as you are" as featured on my Music Monday post got interpreted in my head as "acceptance".

It was going to be a much darker story (I deleted the line: The unspoken, unacknowledged desire to end it all) but I've been working on a lot of fairy tale stuff so... *shrugs*

Wednesday 14 October 2015

#bookreview: Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge

Fly Trap (Fly By Night, #2)Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mosca Mye, a sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued orphan born under inauspicious stars, is trying her best to survive. Saracen, her pet goose, doesn't really help because he spends most of the time destroying things and therefore incurring more debt. Their companion, the con man Eponymous Clent, does his best to help, but isn't in a good position himself.

In the odd town of Toll, Mosca and Eponymous somehow find themselves embroiled in a plot to kidnap the Mayor's daughter and must find a way to save her before the very tight deadline of the night of Yacobray. But Toll by Day and Toll by Night are very different entities, and when they find themselves in the in-between they are exposed to danger of the greatest kind.

Fly Trap is a mix of funny moments, witty lines, and dark fears. It's a jumble of the intelligence and stupidity of youth, and the careful wariness of experience. It is the kind of book you stumble upon and wonder why you hadn't heard about earlier.

I haven't read book 1, but I can tell you that you won't get lost in the story by not knowing what happened then. Sure, there are allusions to it, and you do start to wonder what really happened, but it's not like there are any gaps in this story that needs to be filled in by the previous one. Though I will start to look out for it so that I can find out what happened in Mandelion. (It sounds exciting).

View all my reviews

Monday 12 October 2015

#musicmonday: Come as you are | David Crowder

Come out of sadness
From wherever you've been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There's hope for the hopeless
And all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
Lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in his arms
Come as you are
There's joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are


Isaiah 35

Friday 9 October 2015

#Fridayflash: Wishes and fishes

Fishies courtesy of Marni Zainodin. Check out her exhibition below!

If wishes were fishes, Tom would be a fat cat by now. But the world didn't work that way, so Tom was still a tiny little fish. 

As a little fish, Tom had to watch out for everyone and everything. Slightly bigger fish would attack him so that they could grow bigger by eliminating the competition. Hungry big fish could swallow him whole, whilst not-so-hungry big fish might toy with him and let him go just because they could. It was a game to them. He hated it. Hated them. 

Tom sighed, releasing a stream of bubbles that floated up to surface of the water. Oops. Time to change my hiding place.

Everything looked still when he peeked out around the rock formation he had been hiding behind, so he flicked his tail and raced to his other hiding place. The pond really was getting too crowded. It was getting harder and harder to find new hiding places to escape from the big fishes and the fat cats, and it seemed as if every time he found a new one, he would lose another one to other little fishes. It was annoying. 

"If only I were a cat," he said aloud to no one in particular. After all, he was squashed in a little nook he had found quite by accident, its only plus point being that no other fish was tiny enough squash in here with him and invade his privacy. 

"Are you sure about that?" said a voice, startling Tom out of his scales. "Because I could make you one, if you wanted. You already have a cat-ty kind of name."

"Um. Yes? Maybe?" he stammered in reply. Cats ate fish, after all, so no matter how big the big fish were, they still had to watch out for the fat cats that prowled the edges of the pond. Even the skinny cats could get them if they were careless enough. 

"Done!" said the mysterious voice. "You'd better get out of that little hole."

Tom felt a burning sensation along his fins and all the way down his sleek, silver body. He shot out of his hiding place as if his tail was on fire, breaking the surface of the water with a yowl. Landing on his feet on the shore, he shook out his fur, bristling at the icky feeling of water all over his body. Ugh how cold.

He inspected his paws and groomed himself, keeping a wary eye on the water of the pond in front of him. Several bubbles broke the surface, and he prowled the edge of the pond, inspecting the ripples for fish. It really was quite difficult to catch fish, he realised.

If wishes were fishes, Tom would be a fat cat by now. He wondered if he should wish for a big fat fish for lunch. 


The BIG FISH, little fish exhibition opens today in conjunction with World Postal Day (Oct 9) and FreedomFilmFest Penang (Oct 16-18).

The exhibition in LUMA @ The Whiteaways Arcade features artwork by Marni Zainodin as well as mail art sent in from all around Malaysia.

The exhibition runs until Oct 29 and is open on Wednesdays - Saturdays from 10am - 6pm, and on Sundays from 9am - 1pm.

Thursday 8 October 2015

#Tea review series: Two peach teas from @roleaftea

I was pretty excited that I received the Pretty Peach White Tea because I love peach tea and had wanted to try it for a while now. There was this really lovely aroma that I just had to sit and bask in for a while when I opened the bag.

Anna's review: Okay, I'm probably biased already because it's peach tea, which is one of my all-time favourites. It's sweet enough to drink without sugar, though I personally feel that a teaspoon of sugar does help enhance the taste. However, because it's a white tea, it feels lighter in comparison to most other peach teas I have tried which use black tea.

How I would describe it to my mum: Uh, it's a fruit tea. No, it's NOT like iced peach tea that's made from the sachets and has too much sugar.


My stash of teas for review also included Peach Green Sencha, which I have tried before. I remembered not really liking it because the green tea was often slightly bitter and too overpowering, but I decided to try it again anyway. Being smarter this time, I googled up the product page to check on brewing suggestions. Take note that the suggested brewing temperature for this is only 80° C. This is actually the same as for the other peach tea above, but the big difference is this: GREEN TEA TASTES TERRIBLE WHEN IT'S OVERCOOKED. Well, at least, to me.

Anna's review: Now that I allowed the water to cool a little before steeping the tea, the peach and the green tea taste seemed to balance out. The green tea was not too overpowering, allowing the sweetness of the peach to come as a nice after taste. I'll probably not be too crazy about it because green teas have never been a personal favourite, but it's not bad after all.

How I would describe it to my mum: A light green tea mixed with peach tea (again, not the super sweet iced one). I'm not very good at this, am I?


Again, super-duper thanks and much love to RoLeaf for these tea samples! Check them out at their website, facebook, twitter and instagram.

Another 3 to go!

Wednesday 7 October 2015

#bookreview: The Duality Bridge by @susankayequinn

The Duality Bridge (Singularity, #2)The Duality Bridge by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Picking up where The Legacy Human left off, Elijah Brighton poses as the new face of the Human Resistance Movement - but he's only planning to stick around until his mother is fully healed. The ascender Marcus is hunting him down and Eli doesn't want the Resistance to be penalised on his behalf. Besides, there's a rumour of a spy in the camp and Eli don't know who to trust any more. Even worse, the more he discovers about the fugue state and about himself, the more complicated and confusing things get.

The Duality Bridge is absorbingly fast paced. There's a sense of urgency as Eli races against time to discover who - or what - he really is and the extent of things he can accomplish in that unearthly fugue state. Is he the promised saviour the believers are looking for? Is he really the bridge that the Ascenders who created him were trying to make? Or is he just a failed not-quite-human experiment who is experiencing strange things because of what was done to him?

Quinn hasn't lost sight of the original question yet - the question of your soul - but it looks like we will have to wait for book 3 to find her answer.

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

View all my reviews

I reviewed The Legacy Human here!

Monday 5 October 2015

Happy World Teachers' Day!

I'm taking a break from Music Monday to celebrate World Teachers' Day!

This is for the wonderful people I've met who have worked with/are currently working with/going to start working with Teach for Malaysia:
Ken Ming, Yue-Yi, Phui Yee, Wan Ying, Victoria
(And probably a bunch of other friends that I don't recall work with TFM because it doesn't appear on my FB feed.)

Also, for the long-suffering Yuin-Y.

Thank you for the work you do.

(Infographic courtesy of Grammarly)

Friday 2 October 2015

#Fridayflash: Yearn

We are aching for the real thing


Pei hated her new home. She hated the dry sand and the harsh winds. She hated the dust and the dirt. She longed for - she paused, wondering what she truly longed for. It wasn't the wet and the cold, surely. She'd complained enough about those. Maybe she just longed for the familiarity of the thing. She just didn't know how anything worked here, if they did at all.

Give it time, Alan had said. She had. She had given it one year, two months and four days. It still didn't feel like home. 

The thing that irked Pei the most was the way Alan dismissed her feelings, as if they weren't valid. They'd argued about it; they had decided before the move that this was the right place for them. Logically it made sense. The job here paid much better, housing was cheaper and it was warm

He wasn't going to move again just because she didn't like it, especially when she couldn't say exactly what about it she didn't like.


"Come Follow Me" by Ch'ng Mei Yen

I had a vision, Pei recalled saying six months ago. There was a figure, beckoning me out into the waves. We live in a dream, Alan. We have to break out of this. This is good, it really is, but it isn't true. It isn't real. 

Alan had rolled his eyes and said she had been dreaming. What do you mean this isn't real? This wall is real, he rapped against the brick. This drink is real, he picked up his coffee and downed it. What you feel and what you dreamt isn't real. He had stormed off, slamming the door behind him, leaving Pei angry and upset and confused.

The feeling of unreality stirred in her again. One year, six months and one day. This isn't life, Alan. This is death.

Pei forced her eyes open. There was a little pause, then a hiss as her bodypod opened. Shakily, she got out of the pod and stumbled over to her husband's pod. It hummed merrily, the glass slightly opaque to show that it was still occupied and functioning. She looked in and watched his eyes twitch behind his closed eyelids. I'm sorry, I can't live this life with you.


In this darkness light a flame


Based on my #MusicMonday post. 

Thursday 1 October 2015

#Tea review series: 3 samples from @roleaftea

A couple of weeks ago, I received a batch teas for review from the RoLeaf.

Now that's kind of a lot to review at one go!

I'm an avid tea drinker but this is the first time I'm actually going to write reviews (What do I say? How do I describe them?) so I'm just going to put down my thoughts about the tea.
I'm also adding a section called "How I would describe this to my mum" where I compare the tea to more common teas (because she always asks "what does it taste like?")

Here's my review of the first 3 teas that I sampled at random:

I started off with the Osmanthus Fragrans, mainly because it smelled really nice. And because I was feeling fancy that night, I decided to make it in a fancy cup and take a photo. (I normally just use ginormous mugs, but figured that this one needed some special treatment.)

Anna's review: This is a very beautiful, light, flowery tea, naturally sweet to the taste. And yes, I drank it at night. It's an herbal tea so it probably doesn't have any caffeine, I think, not that it would personally affect me. I'm not a big herbal person, but I kinda liked it.

How I would describe it to my mum: Something like chamomile but sweet. Maybe something like chamomile and chrysanthemum together.


The next tea I chose was Choju Hojicha, mainly because I wanted something light and this one didn't have a very strong smell.

Anna's review: It put me in mind of roasted rice/nuts and I thought it might have been a Korean tea, but when I looked it up, it's actually a Japanese roasted green tea. (I apparently can't tell from the name. Haha!) I would definitely buy this if I were looking for something in the Oriental/Chinese-type tea range.

How I would describe it to my mum: Like the watery free flow tea they served in that Korean shop in Prima Tanjung (that's now closed down), only thicker and "roasty-er" tasting.


The last one I picked for this review was Chava Chai. I'm normally wary of chai, because it uses a lot of spices that I hate so I really wasn't sure if I wanted to drink this. Then again, it smelled okay (as you can tell, I go by smell a lot when it comes to tea).

Anna's review: I found it to be a thick and rich black tea, but surprisingly neutral (i.e. no overwhelming spice taste). I initially thought I might have over-brewed it because it was thick and bitter-ish, but I checked the brewing time and temperature of 4-5 mins and 100° C, which was kind of the range I made it at, so I suppose that's how it's supposed to taste. Tried it a second time, just in case. This time it wasn't as thick (made sure to take the tea bag out after 5 mins), but there was still a bitterish, strangish after taste that I didn't quite like. I guess this wasn't really my cup of tea.

How I would describe it to my mum: Normal black tea with a bitter taste at the end probably from the weird cinnamon, cardamom, ginger things. You might like it if you like those kind of stuff.


A huge thanks to RoLeaf for the wonderful tea samples! Check them out at their website, facebook, twitter and instagram.

Check back next week for more tea reviews!