Wednesday 27 May 2020

#bookreview: Seen. Known. Loved: 5 Truths About God and Your Love Language | Gary Chapman, R York Moore

Seen. Known. Loved.: 5 Truths About God and Your Love LanguageSeen. Known. Loved.: 5 Truths About God and Your Love Language by Gary Chapman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I dunno. It's a really, really short book? 95-ish pages--at least based on the contents page of this e-ARC. My Kindle says its 51 minutes long (at my average reading speed), so more like a booklet.

Seen. Known. Loved: 5 Truths About God and Your Love Language rides on Chapman's earlier 5 Love Languages book(s), relating each love language to an expression of God's love. Although he (they?) explains a little bit about the five love languages in the first chapter, passing familiarity with the concept helps. I've never read any of those earlier books, but they're referenced enough in popular culture that I kinda know what they are. There's also a website quiz to discover your love languages that they refer you to.

Seeing that this rides on a whole series of books, I don't know that it presents anything new, other than that they tie it back to how you can receive and relate to God's love in each of the five love languages. While Chapman and York do quite well relating the five love languages back to God's love, I think the Physical Touch analogies kinda fail a little.

Overall, the book probably works more as a devotional or study group discussion to, uh, "unpack" the truths. Each chapter starts with a narrative, explaining the relevant love language with both generic (secular) stories and Christian ones (either current or from the Bible). The chapter closes with a "Refocus" section that directs you back to the God stuff and has either reflection questions or action items. On the other hand, coming from an angle of one who has been in church all her life, it reads rather evangelistic at points. Browsed again; based on the number of "if you have never", this book seems targetted at non-believers, or as church people would say, pre-believers.

Conclusion: this book is probably for people who already LOVE the 5 Love Languages brand and want to know how to relate it more to their lives or people who are trying to figure out this "God's love" thing.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Northfield Publishing via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Friday 22 May 2020

Teenage keepsakes: a strange badge of honour

During the saga of the Strange Smell that turned out to be a Dead Rat Under The Staircase (a story I have not yet told and may probably never bother to tell), my mother cleared out all the stuff that had piled up in the storage area under the stairs. Most of this stuff is junk: old stationery, various wires from various appliances (and eras), decorative knick-knacks--the kind of stuff that you keep "just in case" and then find out that you'll never use again.

And then there was my woodwork project from school.

Well, then.

I remember hating this. Kemahiran Hidup (KH; Living Skills) was like the Worst Class Ever after Art and PJ (sports). Mostly because I'm terrible at working with my hands. And the problem with that is I'm also a bit of a perfectionist, and when something Just Won't Work I get this terrible urge to Destroy Everything In Sight (also why I hate art class).

So anyway, KH had like several components and you have to do a project for each one of them in Form 3 (Grade 9? idk the year you turn 15). Sewing was okay, I think (at least, I don't remember having any meltdowns, and I also don't even know what happened to that project) and Electronics was terrible (everything I soldered probably came out the next day lol but it wasn't as frustrating in general), but Woodwork was...

This is what I learnt:

  1. I cannot saw straight (I can't even cut paper in a straight line with scissors so...)
  2. I do not have the strength to saw through thick pieces of wood (I relied on help from the teacher and some classmates to actually cut through some of those chunks lol)
  3. I cannot hammer straight either (this also relates to strength, plus being generally bad at angles)
  4. Using sandpaper is slightly therapeutic, but also boring, and I have no patience 
  5. I know I'm bad at art, but this also translates into not being able to shellac in nice, flat layers, leaving weird streaks and clumps.
  6. I will never ever do woodwork again. 
If I'd found this ten years ago, I'd probably agree and junk it, but right now, it feels like a souvenir of my past--a hard-earned accomplishment made of my Blood and Sweat and Tears (there probably was blood). Right now, it feels like a badge of honour, if only because if it survived 20 years without falling apart, I probably did a better job of hammering than I thought I did.

Also, I probably did all the fancy stencil work to earn more marks for making it pretty because I was obviously going to lose a lot for the way the nails were bent and the joints aren't actually flush or even.

Anyways, it will look nice on my shelf and actually has a use!

Wednesday 20 May 2020

#bookreview: Feathertide | Beth Cartwright

FeathertideFeathertide by Beth Cartwright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marea was born with feathers and raised as a secret. When she turns eighteen, she sets out on a journey to find her father--only to find that it's also a journey of discovering and accepting herself.

Feathertide is a slow burn. A very, very slow burn. So slow in fact that the middle gets a bit boring, but the beginning and the end make up for it. They make up for almost everything. The trick, I think, is to read it all in one sitting. Once you stop somewhere, it's difficult to pick it up again.

There's nothing terribly new or exciting about Feathertide, honestly. It's a classic story of self-discovery, a coming-of-age without the excitement of knights and swords and kingdoms to wrest, just one of waiting and listening and asking questions. Marea sets out on her journey intent on finding the place where her parents met, hoping to find clues as to who her father is and why he left--and there she stays.

It's this unnatural stillness and lack of action that drags the story down--yet, it's this undefined longing and yearning that makes the story what it is. You really aren't picking up Feathertide for an exciting or twisty plot, you're picking it up for its beautiful prose and the raw emotions they draw from you. Cartwright captures the strong emotions and needs we all share no matter who we are--love and desire, belonging and acceptance, safety and shelter--and embodies it in Marea, the secret girl with feathers who doesn't know who she is or where she belongs. And as you journey with her, you hope that you too can find what you're looking for.

Feathertide is not for the restless; it's a book for quiet, for yearnings you cannot quite put into words, for those who need to just be for a little while.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House UK, Cornerstone via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Monday 18 May 2020

#musicmonday: The Curse of the Faithful | Justin McRoberts

But the curse of the faithful
Is watching the ones they love go away.

I’m here. I’m always here

I’m here
I’m always here
I’m here because I choose to be
Despite all that’s been done to me
I don’t have much left that I could lose
So I’m here
And I’ll be here tomorrow, too.

(I've forgotten
Just how sweet Your
Mercies are Lord)

Wednesday 13 May 2020

#bookreview: Sorrowfish | Anne C. Miles

Sorrowfish (The Call of the Lorica, #1)Sorrowfish by Anne C. Miles

Where do I start with this?

Let's start with the star-rating. There is no star rating here because I do not know how to star it, but also inline with my updated rating system. For Amazon, I think I'll settle for a 3.5, pushing towards a 4. (Okay, I went to read through the guidelines for the review programme I got this book from, and realised I had to put a star for this on Goodreads as well. So that's now starred there too.)

It's really hard to define why.

Sorrowfish is an intriguing merged-worlds kind of story, where Sara Moore in Kentucky has waking dreams of a magical world and Dane in Canard is visited by a Fae. There are shades of Ted Dekker's The Complete Circle Series, where both worlds affect each other and Sara is the key to the overlap with her creative gifts.

I love the rich mythology Miles has created, with the World Tree and the Storm King, the Song and the dewin, the Fae and their bonding, gnomes and deemlings, the ties to earth and creative acts. It's all very beautiful and symbolic. Even the title, Sorrowfish takes on great meaning as you journey with Sara, Dane, and Trystan.

But to get there... Where some books have a great start and then let you down with a mediocre ending, Sorrowfish muddles through the beginning until you want to yell at it and then speeds up to a tense middle and an impressive ending. It's an awkward mix between just too slow to keep your attention and yet just too much that it's all so confusing. It's only somewhere midway when the various arcs really begin to overlap that things start to fall into place. But it's not quite an easy oh, that's what she means ding of understanding, more of a pfft, maybe I need to go and read the beginning again to figure this out... which is not quite a reaction I really like as a reader.
Maybe it's because it tries to follow three arcs at once and the correlation isn't really apparent until much later. There's just a little too much going on.

Writing-wise, there's just this odd thing about the sentence structures that makes me feel like everything is a tiny bit stilted. It's not anything really jarring or noticeable, more of an unsettled feeling while reading. I don't even know how to describe it. This is probably just me being nitpicky though (or still slightly in editor mode).
(Stupid aside: Miles uses "dan" in a name sort of like "son of", but "dan" in Malay is "and", so my bilingual brain keeps interpreting that as TWO PEOPLE.)

Overall, I think Sorrowfish is worth a read if you can get through the slightly confusing start.

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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Monday 11 May 2020

#musicmonday: Goodness of God | Bethel

This has been replaying in my head for a few days now.

All my life You have been faithful 
All my life You have been so, so good 
With every breath that I am able 
I will sing of the goodness of God


I have lived in the goodness of God

Wednesday 6 May 2020

#bookreview: Getting Naked Later: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life | Kate Hurley

Getting Naked Later: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single LifeGetting Naked Later: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life by Kate Hurley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Kate Hurley's bare-it-all memoir...

Not really. But Hurley has written the handbook of my life, the one where you run up against expectations about what your life was supposed to look like and try to make sense of how it actually does. Reading this book is like being known, which is no something that happens often to thirty-year-old singles in church.

My favourite chapter (obviously) is the one titled What Singles Wish Married People Knew because dammit if you'd stop saying those things, even in passing, maybe I wouldn't hurt as much. Or as often. Or decide that some days aren't worth going to church for (the weekends of Valentine's, or Mother's Day, or anything that could possibly head round to why-are-you-single-and-not-having-babies? or maybe-if-you'd-do-this-you'd-already-be-married). Hurley balances it out, of course, with follow up chapters titled What Married People Wish Singles Knew and What Divorced People Wish Everybody Knew.

I think the biggest thing about Getting Naked Later is the validation it brings--that I'm not the only one going through this alone, I'm not the only one struggling with these thoughts, that you know what, it's okay to struggle through this and not be okay. It's okay to be not okay.

It's not all gloom-and-doom. Amidst the soul-crushing pain, Hurley is both hilarious, and hopeful. And it's more than just the hope of a husband-to-come, it's the hope of a God-Who-Is and a Community-That-Can-Be.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harvest House via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Friday 1 May 2020

So how long does it take to write a book?

Alright, while I'm busy procrastinating on Labour Day, here's a quick look at how long it actually took to write the first draft of The Weight of Secrets, or as I call it, "Hostage".

Why? Because I like stats and I like numbers and playing around with data is fun. LOL.
Also, it helps me figure out what works and doesn't work for me, so that the next time I start a project, I can uh, plan. appropriately. Or something.

So how did it go overall?

Look at that! My original target was to quick draft it in 2 months, from February to March. OBVIOUSLY, no writing got done in February. I did start the first 1K like on Feb 24 or something, but let's disregard that. Well, I still did write it in two months, March and April, so I'll call that a win.

And then after a good start in March, it plateaued again like forever before it picked up again. Um, I don't exactly remember why, but probably because I was either a) doing paid projects to actually earn money or b) lazy.

Most likely lazy. Oh wait, Feb & March was when I was working on the Agape & TMRD scripts.

As my daily word count shows, I'm not very good at writing every day. I already figured this out last year when I was working on Berserker (The Weight of Strength). Whether it was for the NaNoWriMo vomit draft or the actually paced-and-plotted rewrite for my dissertation, the best I could do was write on alternate days. It's as if my brain needs a day to recover, especially if I write anything over 2K a day. Who knew?!

Hence the random spurts. If you track the dates (which aren't actually showing on the graph, idk why), you'll find that most of my writing is done on Monday. Which is when I run writing sprints for MYWriters Penang now that we don't get to meet in LUMA for our write-ins. Actually, half the time I'm sprinting by myself, but that's all cool.

I've discovered sprinting on Discord so I get trophies (even if I'm the only one competing), stats and levels. :p

The NaNoWriMo site covers a lot of info if you write with their timer, which is how I've confirmed that I'm a night owl. (Nothing new there).

But because I also want to look at my own stats, I downloaded info off my Toggl tracker to see how many hours I actually wrote over these two-ish months. The info isn't 100% accurate because sometimes I forget to turn it on and sometimes it's on, but I'm just like rewriting the same few sentences over and over again, but most of the sessions are there.

Here are the stats:

I spent 87.5 hours in total writing this beast! That's 87.5 hours for 81K words, so an average of 925 words an hour. 

That's a slight variance from NaNoWriMo's 1,140 words per hour (19wpm x 60 mins), but the average 1K per hour is roughly correct. In all likelihood, the Toggle data is more accurate, because I also track time the time I spend light editing the previous chapters to help me get started. I only turn on the NaNoWriMo tracker when I'm ready to sprint. 

In terms of when I wrote, yup, I wrote the most often in the evening, but surprisingly I wrote quite a lot at 2pm as well. This is just the time I started (count of description) and the total hours written in that session (sum of duration) and doesn't tell you how productive those sessions were.

So, how long does it take to write a book?
Approximately 95 hours over 2 months. 

Or if you're mad enough to cram it into an actual 40-day work week, you could be done in... 2.5 weeks.

This is just the first draft, though.
Next, I have to edit it for all the things I set aside and said "I'll fix this in edits".

I'm not going to start editing until at least June.
HMMM maybe that'll be my CampNaNo goal.