Wednesday 25 July 2018

#bookreview: The Incendiaries | R.O. Kwon

The IncendiariesThe Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finished reading The Incendiaries a week ago, and I still don't know how to write this review. It's haunting. Entrancing. Captivating. It's also difficult to read. Highly polarizing. I want to yell at the book that this is not how faith works. This is not what Christianity is! And yet I identify. I've asked these questions. I've thought these thoughts.

Time is fractured--the story is told in three voices, each with different starting points. They meander between present and past, through actual and imagined happenings (in the novel's world), and sometimes it's not very clear what is real, what is imagined, and what is just perceived. It's slightly unconventional, but it works. The only thing I can seriously fault it for is the lack of quotation marks a la Cormac McCarthy.

John Leal's story is told in the third person. It starts from way before, from the North Korean prison that sowed the seeds of his cultic behaviour. They're small sound-bites, little flashes of background. If they weren't there, you probably wouldn't notice, since his story also plays out in the other narratives.

Will Kendall tells his own story in the first person. His is the easiest to follow, and the voice that I identified with the most--not his entitled white male persona (I love you, you can't leave me), but his struggles with faith (Are you real, God? If you're real, why aren't you speaking to me?). His story starts with his reimagining of the Phipps building bombing, his effort to understand. Then he backtracks to the start of his relationship to Phoebe, from when they first met and pushes forward to the present, to the aftermath of the bombing, his implication in it because of his links to the cult. Will is a Nice Guy, and his relationship with Phoebe is problematic. Even though it starts off sweet, it turns obsessive, delusional and abusive. Will is remorseful after the fact, but does that ever really change anything?

Phoebe Lin's narrative is the most difficult to read. It often starts off in the third person and meanders into the first, often flitting between present and past with little notice. I cannot tell if it is someone else telling her story, or if she has multiple personalities she shifts between (she sometimes refers to herself by her Korean name, Haejin). She's drawn to the cult for what it purports to offer: a way to cleanse her soul of guilt.

The Incendiaries is raw, offering up a fractured, misguided understanding of Christianity and faith. Will yells into the void for a God he does not believe in anymore. Phoebe performs penance for the things she cannot forgive herself for. John just wants the world to burn for its sins.

It's also the love story of two people whose religious journeys are diametrically opposed: Will's faith had led to action, but ultimately left him dry and unfulfilled whilst Phoebe hopes that her actions will lead to faith in hopes of forgiveness from her guilt. It's a relationship doomed from the start, inherently incendiary.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from Edelweiss. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

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Monday 23 July 2018

Wednesday 18 July 2018

#bookreview: Star-Touched Stories | Roshani Chokshi

Star-Touched Stories (The Star-Touched Queen, #2.5)Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hoooboy. Where do I start?

Star-Touched Stories is insanely lyrical and immensely beautiful. Chokshi writes with an enchanting rhythm and voice, which really makes you want to read the stories out loud. 100% performance pieces. As it is, I want to read them over and over again, but I can't because my TBR is too long. But since this is book #2.5 it means I need to go and find books #1 and #2 (The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes).

My favourite of the three stories was Death and Night which tells of the courtship between the Dharma Raja, Lord of Death, who was cursed never to love and Night, who refuses to marry without love.

Poison and Gold was also enchanting--though it may set off some reader's squick metres as it touches on a f/f relationship. There's background to this which is possibly from A Crown of Wishes, but it's still easy enough to follow.

The last story, Rose and Sword , jumps between the present and the past. Gauri tells her granddaughter about her past, but it's shrouded in myth. There are allusions to both The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes I figure, which made me think I probably don't appreciate this one as much as the other two due to lack of knowledge.

But I'd say read it for Death and Night . If that's all you have time for.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

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Monday 16 July 2018

#musicmonday: Broken | Lifehouse

Old gold.

No relevance to current life circumstances except the fact that I won't be at Realm Makers Conference this week.

Also, it was recommended for me on YouTube and I don't know why. What do you know, YouTube?! Huh?

Boooo T.T

Thursday 12 July 2018

#coverreveal: Spice Bringer by HL Burke!

It's cover reveal day for Spice Bringer by H.L. Burke! Isn't that just so pretty :) I can't wait to get my hands on this.

A deadly disease. A vanishing remedy. A breathless journey.

All her life, Niya's known she will die young from the fatal rasp. She survives only with the aid of vitrisar spice and a magical, curmudgeonly fire salamander named Alk. Then an ambitious princess burns down the vitrisar grove in an effort to steal Alk so she can claim her rightful throne. Joined by Jayesh, a disgraced monk, Niya and Alk must flee to the faraway Hidden Temple with the last vitrisar plant, or all who suffer from the rasp will perish.

But even as Niya’s frustration and banter with Jayesh deepen to affection, the rasp is stealing away her breath and life.

For a girl with limited time and a crippling quest, love may be more painful than death.


Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.


Regularly 17.99, autographed paperback preorders are 14.99 with free shipping discount (free shipping to US locations only).

Wednesday 11 July 2018

#bookreview: Flame by Selah J Tay-Song

Flame: Tales of QaiMaj Volume IIFlame: Tales of QaiMaj Volume II by Selah J Tay-Song
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where Frost: Tales of QaiMaj Vol I told tales of Iskalon, Flame tells the stories of Chraun. Flame focuses quite a lot more on King Dynat with 3 of the 6 stories (Orphan, Kinyara, General) exploring his background and his ascension to the throne, including his relations to those closest to him.

Tanner was a bit more of a Chraun folk tale--and it's not clear whether the tale is true or an exaggeration.

Semija felt a little jarring at first, with some non-standard grammar, but later proved to be a rather tragic story of the slaves of Chraun.

The final story, Khanten goes back to the founding of Chraun--and explores how and when everything first went wrong.

Personally, I think I prefer Frost--probably because I liked Stasia and Glace more--but Flame works out to be a pretty interesting read as well. So overall, a good way to get to know this series just a little better.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the author. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

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Wednesday 4 July 2018

#bookreview: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes #netgalley

FawkesFawkes by Nadine Brandes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. I was initially going to only give it a four, but oh my the emotional pay off at the end. So yeah.

An alternate history of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in a magical Britain, Fawkes follows Thomas Fawkes, the (maybe imaginary) son of Guy Fawkes and his desperate attempt to gain his colour mask from a distant father. Fortunately, you don't need to know any history to follow this story! I only had a sketchy idea of Guy Fawkes Night based on Enid Blyton stories and V for Vendetta... but after finishing Fawkes (and before starting this review) I went to google Guy Fawkes to find that almost everything in the story is accurate. Well, except for Thomas (though rumours say Guy had a son), the magical Stone Plague, Emma and colour magic.

Kicked out of school, Thomas sets off to London in search of his father, the only one who can give him the mask that will enable him to use colour magic and ensure a place in society. Fawkes is a coming-of-age story, with Thomas learning to search for the truth and stand for his beliefs--though it will ultimately either set him against the estranged Keeper father he so desperately yearns for approval from or against the Igniter girl he has come to love. Whichever side he takes, there is no going back in this war.

The story is gripping and the stakes are high, though there are some draggy-ish bits here and there. It's everything you could want from a Historical Fantasy, probably (I don't read enough of these to really say). Brandes describes the difference between Igniters and Keepers by paring down the differences between Protestants and Catholics into something simple to understand: direct access to God (or in this case White Light). It felt really blatantly obvious to me at first, which led to some impatience--and the primary reason it's a personal 4-star--until I realised that this is something the general reading (i.e. non-Christian) public wouldn't pick up on (or would they? I dunno).

Fawkes ultimate provides a balanced view of the reasons behind a religious war in an exciting novel. No one group is right or wrong--each has their legitimate worries and issues--but everything is muddied by personal agendas, politics, and disinformation. The novel manages to get its point across without being preachy and without pushing one group's view above another, showing both group's strengths and weaknesses as Thomas grapples with the issue in a personal capacity. Because that's what faith is about, isn't it? A personal conviction that made in spite of opposition?

I loved seeing Thomas grow and change throughout Fawkes--and that his greatest wish was finally fulfilled. :)

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley. I was given the book with no expectation of a positive review and the review is my own.

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