Wednesday 25 January 2017

#bookreview: The Summer It Came for Us | @DanRixAuthor

The Summer It Came for UsThe Summer It Came for Us by Dan Rix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The night after the horrible car crash, Remi wakes up at home with no recollection of how she got there. All her other friends are a little scratched up but okay - except for Vincent. Vincent is gone. Even worse, he seems to have been wiped off the memories of everyone else in town. Besides having to find Vincent, they also have to contend with the fact that there’s a strange nine-foot tall shadow after them. And really weird stuff happening where they crashed, near the Shasta-Trinity Supercollider complex, involving even the Defense Department.

The Summer It Came for Us starts off with a little leftover paranormal/horror vibe I got from Translucent, but quickly slips into something more in the vein of Timeloopers and God’s Loophole. Meaning, it's more science than spirits, though there's a little bit of overlap. They can both be pretty freaky when unexplained. Hint (which I hope is not spoilery): (view spoiler) It’s fast-paced and suddenly much shorter (at 2 hours) than the 5 - 10-hour tomes I’ve been reading lately. And also pretty much engrossing, so you don't quite realise that you've spent a bunch of time reading. Which is fine by me.

It's been a while since I've read Rix, so it was a nice look back into all the wonderful stories that he has entertained me with! I see that Rix is still playing with the good girl/bad boy trope; fine, Remi isn't exactly a 100% innocent, and Malcom's badness is more aggressive, military edge (Americans and their guns, sheesh) than anything dangerous, but it still gives off a bit of that vibe. There's a little less absentee parenting here compared to his previous books, with more (even active) involvement from most of their parents except for Malcolm's (who are described as abusive/neglectful).

Themes touched on include acceptance, bullying, and teen suicide - very pertinent issues amongst the YA crowd - as well as some discussion on when/whether something should be taken to the relevant authority figures. Most current YA books make it seem like the protagonists live in a bubble and no one older or vaguely wiser can help them - or worse, makes all authority figures unreliable/antagonistic, but Rix creates a situation where they at least debate about looking for help. Whilst there is at least one unreliable authority figure, there are others who are sympathetic AND able to offer help/advice.

All in all, I enjoyed the book very much!

*Note: I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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The Summer It Came for Us releases on Feb 1, 2017! Grab a sneak peek here!

Monday 23 January 2017

#musicmonday: Beautiful Exchange | Hillsong

When only love could make a way
You gave your life in a beautiful exchange
When only love could break these chains
You gave your life in a beautiful exchange

Wednesday 18 January 2017

#bookreview: Galactic Empires by Neil Clarke

Galactic EmpiresGalactic Empires by Neil Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven't had the greatest track record of picking good anthologies to read. Most of them garner something like a 3-star rating; a mixed up kind of meh. I'm also rather picky about my science fiction. Too hard and I get bored, too soft and it often gets too romantic for me.

What Neil Clarke has done here is create a collection that hits just the right spot with the right balance. Obviously, everything is galactic - whether it's a human-settled planet, or humans somewhere in space, or even no humans at all, just aliens - and based around empires - some benign, some conquering, others falling apart. Multispecies, multiracial, multigendered; nothing ever exactly fitting in our earthly constraints, every story mindblowing in its own way.

The only drawback of this anthology is that it takes an extremely long time to get through. This is mainly because each story is a novella in its own right but also because you can't just sit down and power through the whole thing. You need time and space in between each achingly beautiful story to just rest and let your emotions finish unfurling (and your brain to stop internally squealing) before you launch yourself headlong into the next adventure.

*Note: I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review via Edelweiss.

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Get your copy of Galactic Empires HERE!

Friday 13 January 2017

#fridayflash: Flame of the North (excerpt)

I was going to skip #fridayflash this week having been so busy finishing up the novella submission, but I thought I'd give you a sneak preview into my upcoming short story, Flame of the North!

It's a continuation to When Winds Blow Cold, so if you haven't already read that one, you can sign up for my mailing list to get a free copy! 

I'm also going to be giving out free ARCs for review, so stay tuned. =D


Mica, son of the Sun and Snow, was miserable. His father had left for home two weeks after they arrived and Mica had quickly been absorbed into the rhythm of the castle. Morning until late afternoon was spent in the nursery, where various teachers from the city came to teach him everything from art to science, history to swordsmanship.

When they continued to duel outside in the middle of a snow storm, Mica started to count down to the day he could reasonably expect his mother to come and save him from this insanity. He felt as if every shiver he exhibited was greeted with a great sigh from his grandfather and a disapproving shake of the Steward’s head.

The clothes his mother had made him were not warm enough, no matter how many of them he put on at the same time. He wondered at how he had scoffed when he first saw those clothes! But neither could the best and thickest that the Steward found in all the Kingdom warm him.

Give him time, his grandfather said worriedly in his echoing voice that chilled Mica to the bone.

“Give him time,” the maids said, those motherly souls who worried about the thin shivering boy who had earned the Steward’s disapproving glare. “After all, this is his first winter—and him so used to the warmth of the South!”

So they gave him time and winter passed and spring began. The snows cleared, the flowers bloomed, yet the endless cold, even in spring, made him shiver. Half a year passed and still, he could not accustom himself to the frigid North. He missed the Sun and its cheery grin, he pined for the Sea and the waves and his friends from the deep. The Castle was too big for him; too large for an eleven-year-old boy and his dead grandfather, even with all the servants that lived with them.

More and more, the Steward would find him in the Painted Hall, staring at murals that had once come to life. He looked with longing on the deep blue sea, at the creatures he had called his friends. The great whale rising to the surface to breathe; the schools of fish swimming amidst the wreckages; the dolphin pod frolicking in the sun; the sun itself, bright and yellow and full of the promise of warmth. But the painted hall was truly only painted now. None of it came to life for him as it once had for his father.


Wednesday 11 January 2017

#bookreview: The Illusory Prophet | @susankayequinn

The Illusory Prophet (Singularity #3)The Illusory Prophet by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TBH, I'm just sitting here going what? Whaaaatttt? over and over again. (But which doesn't give you a coherent overview of the book.)

So, I spent the first half of the book being annoyed at Elijah Brighton because I hate waffly main characters who can't decide who they are and what they want. Like GET ON WITH IT. And I was getting a little upset with Quinn because WHYYYYY are you doing this. I thought you're better than this!

But then Eli finally finds a purpose (I hesitate to say 'his' - it's a purpose, but it might not be exactly what he wants) and starts putting things together, so I'm like yay! Things are happening! This looks good! And then I'm starting to get worried because THERE ARE 6 MINUTES LEFT IN THE BOOK THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING (although I know there's a book 4, but still) and then *BOOM*. ARGH Susan Kaye Quinn WHERE IS BOOK FOUR I NEED BOOK FOUR NAAAAOOOOOO.

So that's my entirely incoherent review of The Illusory Prophet.
Minus one star because. Waffle.

Also, if you haven't read Augment yet, now would be a good time, because Miriam and the Makers appear in this one.


Emotions aside, besides being very entertaining, the Singularity series does study rather deep questions for a science fiction novel. The question of the soul appeared very strongly in the first book of the series (The Legacy Human) and seemed to be skimmed over rather quickly in the second book (The Duality Bridge) but is back in full force here again.

It's actually a very thoughtful book because of the waffling, if you get what I mean. 'Cause if things are just happening boom-boom-boom, you wouldn't have time to think, right? And Eli does it a lot. He questions his purpose. He questions his humanity. He soul-searches. He asks unanswerable questions (and he also does ridiculously stupid things, but that's beside the point).

It would seem that Quinn is quite against organised religion - this isn't the first time she's made religious groups in the book seem extremely cultish and bad - but she's also building Eli into something of a religion of his own. I'm not sure if I'm entirely okay with the symbolism she uses (saviours, prophets, resurrection, miracles, three days) but I guess there's nothing to complain about (and I usually don't really care that much but it seemed a bit in-your-face.)


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

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Friday 6 January 2017

#fridayflash: Yì Bin and the dragon

Today's flash is a snippet from my current WIP, which I may or may not finish in time to submit to TOR. *eyes word count; glares at calendar*


A long time ago, when your great-grandfather, Yì Bin, was a young man seeking fame and fortune, he set off to seek a dragon. His grandfather, our venerable ancestor, had been a Dragon Master before him, and Bin was adamant that he would be one too. So he packed his bag, bid his family goodbye and left on his quest.

According to the practice of the time, Bin first travelled North to the great capital to pay respects to the King. The King gave him his blessing, pointing him to the West, where rumours of dragons had arisen. Bin travelled for more than a month before he saw his first dragon. It was a small creature—hardly bigger than a horse.

"Are you the dragon who has been terrorising the villages?" Bin asked as he pulled out his sword.

The dragon laughed. "Do I look that terrifying to you?" it paused to say before lunging at the young man. 

But Bin was strong and fast so he side-stepped the attack without a scratch. He sheathed his sword, clasped his hands before him and bowed to the dragon, saying "Then my battle is not with you."

With that, Bin continued down the road, the dragon by his side. 

"Why do you come with me, Master Dragon?" Bin asked. 

"It amuses me. It has been a long time since I have conversed with a human," the dragon replied.

"What do you wish to converse about? I am not learned in skills of poetry and verse, as our esteemed officials and royal court are," Bin confessed. 

"Oh, anything you wish," the dragon said, then changed his mind. "Tell me about your home," it ordered.

By the time Bin finished describing the lush green fields, deep blue skies, rolling hills and bubbling creeks of his ancestral home, the deal was made. Loong would accompany him on his quest in return for being invited to visit the Yì home. 

And that is the story of how Yì Bin made his first dragon friend.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

#bookreview: Awakening | @susankayequinn

A short review of a short story this time because I'm in the middle of writing something! (Was supposed to review something else, but it's too long to read at the moment.)

Awakening (Stories of Singularity #5)Awakening by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I took a little while to get into this - not entirely sure why. It's a short read; I'd count it more in the short-story length but it's described as a novella so I guess it falls somewhere in-between. Maybe I read really fast because it ends too soon.

Awakening starts off a little slowly, easing you into the cloister where Sister Amara, the main protagonist, resides. It's reflective, contemplative, almost peaceful. The pace picks up in Chapter 2, somewhere about the 25% mark, and as you go deeper into the story, things take a strange turn, filling you with a grim, righteous anger.

Remember though that this isn't a simple Catholic cloister as it seems on the surface. This is the Singularity and as much as Sister Amara knows that the ascenders need her to awaken, she doesn't exactly know what they're looking for or why.

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

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Get Awakening for 99cents here!

Monday 2 January 2017

#musicmonday: You Are Loved | Stars Go Dim

- you don't have to prove yourself -

I thought this was a good reminder to start the year with. 
2017 isn't about proving yourself. It's about getting things done. 

Sunday 1 January 2017

2016: a year in review

In preparation to write my year in review post, I went back through my archives and realised that I've actually been doing this for a long time.

Here are the previous year-in-review posts:

So... what can we say about 2016?
Click to enlarge

Starting with the blog, simple maths says that this blog has garnered 48.6K views this year, which really goes to show that last year was an anomaly. And because I have apparently rediscovered my love for analysing figures and making graphs, here's a graph which shows you 2015 was weird:

Then again, my all-time top posts are mainly from 2015, so... *shrug*

Other than the A-to-Z blogging challenge (which I started doing in 2011!), this year's blog has primarily consisted of 3 types of posts:
  • #musicmonday 
  • Wednesday's #bookreview 
  • #fridayflash posts
I have to admit, I mainly slacked with the flash posts because... well... lazy. And busy. And writing other things. But since the book reviews have been mostly consistent until December, here's a round up of my favourite books for the year!

Well, there were actually 16 5-star books, but the last one couldn't fit in my screenshot :P 
I don't actually know how Goodreads arranges these but here they are in alphabetical order on Amazon (affiliate links):

Indie Author Survival Guide (Susan Kaye Quinn) - there might be a 3rd edition out but I can't seem to find it
The Ladybird Book of Dating (Ladybirds for grownups) - okay, this was a bit of a joke, but it's HILARIOUS
The Man with Two Pasts (Dan Rix) - this is the last book in a series, FYI. But it's a good series!
Zoe's Tale (John Scalzi) - this is book 4 in a series, but I read it without reading any other book of the series!

To read all my flash fiction for the year, follow this tag.


Writing-wise, several things happened this year.


I released Coexist on 31 March 2016 with a semi-successful blog tour. (Okay, I don't know how successful it was, but I think it was successful? But maybe not, because several months later a friend says oh, I didn't know you launched.) At any rate, I have just approved a quotation to do a print run in Malaysia, so that should be out sometime... I don't know. January? Hopefully.

I wrote and released Anna's A to Z of Worship Leading, which was written for the A to Z blogging challenge, in May 2016.

Working with the Malaysian Writers Society (MYWriters) in Penang, we launched the first volume of NutMag, an annual zine which features writings from Penang! I had the privilege of editing this volume, and one of my flash fiction pieces is also included in the list of 10 authors.

I also sold a short story to Insignia Stories, but I'm not quite sure when that's going to be released. I was hoping it would round out the end of the year.

Lastly, Love in Penang (which I edited) is #58 on Fixi's all-time bestseller list, with something like 6.5K sales total (according to the publisher), whilst Cyberpunk: Malaysia (which includes a short story of mine) is at #82.

On to unpublished stuff, Flame of the North is also mostly done, just waiting for a cover and the editor. Dongeng is on its first draft and Absolution is kind of in the pits. But I'll get back to that in 2017.

I also submitted to a bunch of places this year and whilst half of them were rejections, one was an acceptance (Insignia, as above) and the rest are probably rotting electronically in the slush pile, I'm kind of happy with the volume of work I've produced. Even with the other whole bunch of non-starters and half-abandoned ideas. I really should start tracking my word count.


Community-wise, the Malaysian Writers Society is A THING, like a real legit registered society, okay. And while we're still working out the kinks and trying to set things up right, it's still awesome cos it's happening, if you know what I mean.

Want to be a member? Here's how!
You can apply for membership here.

We pulled off registrations and a fest in Sept & Oct, leaving a lot of people very frazzled. I also got to lead a workshop on Self-Publishing! Woohoo!

In Penang, our events are moving at full force with weekly write-ins on Mondays at LUMA, a monthly write-in on the weekends (Sat/Sun - we swapped quite a bit this year) and not-quite monthly readings on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Not-quite monthly because we have a quarterly special which is often just a catchup/makan session. Oh! We also instituted the monthly critique as part of the Monday write-ins, which sometimes works but sometimes not. Oh well.

And, of course, the MOST EXCITING PART: our drop-in writing space at LUMA during the last week of November was an absolute BLAST.


I also went back to acting for a short while, doing W;T with the Penang Players.

One of our publicity shots. 
I also turned down a chance to act with them in 2017 because I didn't like the script. But maybe I'll go for another audition in Feb. I don't know. I DON'T KNOWWWWWW. I might be in a cave by February trying to align timelines and stuff, so, yeah.

We (I) also tried to kick-start (again) a drama team in church, but whilst we did do one show during Occupy Beach Street and in church followed by a Treasure Hunt for Christmas Eve, I don't know how or if it's going to work out. Right now, I'm thinking it's a non-starter.

I also joined a choir.


I don't really know what else to add here. I think I've covered the main stuff: blog, writing, acting... I updated my website (again) and created another website and if you think it's pretty, it's only because of the wonders of drag-and-drop templates. And, which makes life simpler.
And this post is getting too long.

So, goodbye, 2016. You have been an interesting year.