Wednesday 26 August 2020

#bookreview: The Skylark's Sacrifice | JM Frey

The Skylark's Sacrifice (The Skylark Saga, #2)The Skylark's Sacrifice by J.M. Frey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW. If you started reading Skylark’s Song, you HAVE to read Skylark’s Sacrifice right to its heart-wrenching ending. I mean, I don’t see how you can stop.

Robin Arianhod is free. She can’t return home, but she’s doing what she can to bring the Klonn down by sabotaging their supplies and causing chaos from within their own borders. Her enigmatic captor is dead… or is he? Robin nearly gets captured, Coyote nearly dies saving her, and so she bolts to the only safe refuge she can think of—with the Klonn rebellion. With them, the tables are turned—her captor becomes her prisoner, and the Skylark gains new meaning.

Skylark’s Sacrifice is a twisting kaleidoscope of shifting loyalties, cultural clashes, and unexpected yet inevitable revelations. All the symbolism that Frey has layered in from the start of Skylark’s Song gains additional weight and unexpected importance. There’s so much that Robin (and the reader) has missed because she isn’t Klonnish, and so much that Rosa and the Coyote cannot understand because they are not Sealie. Yet as they work towards the same goal—to end the war—they need to start trusting each other.

Threaded through the story, and yet integral to it, The Skylark and the Coyote’s fraught courtship reads like a bittersweet fairy tale; they battle both the world around them and each other, always second guessing the other’s actions, and their true motives. Does Coyote truly love her? Or does he only want WINGS? Does the Skylark truly love him? Or is she just trying to use him to end the war so she can go home? Which one must give up their cultural identity and beliefs or can they find a gentle balance between the two?

But most of all, does falling in love with the enemy mean you are a traitor to your self and country?
Skylark’s Sacrifice delivers a sharp emotional punch. You gotta steel yourself for this one.

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

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Wednesday 19 August 2020

#bookreview: The Skylark's Song | JM Frey

The Skylark's Song (The Skylark Saga, #1)The Skylark's Song by J.M. Frey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I dunno. It took a while to actually get into this. It felt like the first three chapters were such a slog to get into. Is it because it’s steampunk? Is it because of the exposition? Is it because of the voice? I don’t know! It kinda bugged me a bit because I really wanted to like this book like super a lot because hey, it’s JM Frey. Lol (Sorry, I know I have biases). Maybe my head just wasn’t in the right place at the beginning, when it takes off, it takes off.

Robin Arianhod dances the sky with the Coyote despite all the factors against her: that she’s poor, female, and a Sealie. She knows she isn’t supposed to be there—but she’s fought her way through and she’s a survivor. She’s not going to let any Benne take her dreams away, now that she’s got it. But then the unexpected happens, and now the Klonn have her.

Frey delves into difficult themes in this duology, though it’s all very prettily packaged into an exciting adventure of one Sealie woman defeating the odds (and maybe falling in love). As much as wealthy white men try to tell the rest of the world that anyone can make it through hard work and grit, there are many factors that can keep a person down, no matter how hard they try. Wealth is one of them, and how its distributed. Education is another—and how much access someone has to it, which is usually due to wealth and opportunity. Talking about opportunity, that comes down to what is and isn’t open to you depending on where you come from (ethnicity), what you believe in (religion), or how much money you have to bribe your way in (oh look, wealth again). And luck, of course. Being in the right place at the right time, or knowing the right people—not just knowing, but having them like you as a person and not just as a token.

Aaaaannnywaaayyyy, Skylark’s Song is a fascinating dance of culture clashes, subterfuge and sabotage. There’s layer upon layer of meaning hidden between the lines, whether it’s marriage lines and honey, gliders and religious songs, or hairpins and chess. And then there is the hum of quiet respect, the buzz of distrust, and the tender pulses of new love. And the awful, awful question. Would you betray your country for love? Or would you betray your love for your country?

And how do you know if that love is real?

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

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Wednesday 12 August 2020

#bookreview: Genesis | T. Sae-Low

Genesis (Prophecy Rock #1)Genesis by T. Sae-Low
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My cousin used to have this phrase to describe overly-fantastical, utterly unbelievable shows: “outa”*. Stories like Ultraman vs Godzilla, or involved some monk (probably drunk) flying from tree to tree and defeating a hundred soldiers with kungfu. So outa this story. Genesis fits into that mould—so fantastically outa and yet ridiculously fun as well. (Fireballs, anyone?)

Eos is torn apart by war. The gods have left and all that is left to guide them is an obscure prophecy inscribed on Prophecy Rock. The Renzai believe that the One is sending a saviour to bring unity and peace to Eos. The Vicedonians believe the Creator will choose a Candidate to restore mankind. Both sides search for the magical person endowed with the powers of the Ancients who will bring the war to a decisive end.

In most stories, there’s a clear good kingdom and bad kingdom, which the author is trying to get you to root for. Here, there’s no telling, as yet; Sae-Low shows you both sides of the story, with both kingdoms committing atrocities and also doing good for their citizens. If the protagonists are anything to go by though, I tend to be more sympathetic to Raden, a Renzai soldier orphaned at a young age, who’s driven by his promise to protect his sister Kimi. Prince Aric, spoilt second prince of the Vicedonian kingdom, is impulsive, bratty, and exasperating.

A question that would probably come up is “is this Wuxia?” To which I will answer, I don’t know, because I don’t follow Wuxia enough to be able to tell. It does have distinct East Asian influences, with sages who live forever (sorta), Moon Goddess mythology… and a lot of hand-thrown fireballs. (I keep thinking of Street Fighter lol)

* This is an approximation of how it sounds. It probably is some kind of Chinese phrase but since my Cina knowledge = 0, I cannot tell you what the word actually is or what the correct character/pinyin is. Lol.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Monday 10 August 2020

#musicmonday: Never Going Back to OK | The Afters

Because I never felt this chorus so much before lol

We're never going back to OK
We're never going back to easy
We're never going back to the way it was
We're never going back to OK

Wednesday 5 August 2020

#bookreview: Flirting With Darkness | Ben Courson

Flirting With DarknessFlirting With Darkness by Ben Courson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ben Courson starts by telling us why he wrote this book: because there are twice as many suicides than murders in the United States, because we are not called to live with depression but to defeat it, because he has walked this road before and wants to share the hope he has found.

The meat of this book is in the second part, where Courson shares the various tools and practices that have helped him in defeating depression. I went into this a little skeptically because it started off rather Christian-counsellor (pray and read your Bible and everything will be okay). I’m not saying that God can’t heal, but I’m also wary because God doesn’t always heal. In fact, Courson does address this:
“Well-meaning people might tell you that the solution to your problem is right there in the Bible, but I’m here to say that it’s more complicated than that. So-called biblical counselors may be able to provide some relief to people with mild cases of depression, but when you are in psychological pain, you’ll need more than a spiritual Band-Aid.
And that’s perfectly okay.”
There’s a level-headed mix of faith and science in his eleven “weapons”. There is both very Christian-y stuff (dive deep into Scripture, hold on to heaven, letting God love on you) as well as medical stuff (exercise, stop wallowing in social media, go for therapy, take medication). He also goes for the slightly bizarre—having crazy adventures with your friends!

Part 3 is where things get a little disjointed. It felt like Courson had a bunch of thoughts and slapped them into a chapter each, jumping all over the place. I understand what he’s getting at though: If the Creator of this amazing universe knows the stars by name yet still loves and calls you by name, you should accept that He wants the best for you!

Courson circles back to a few central thoughts throughout the book—that God loves and cares for you, and a proper understanding of God’s love, who He really is (in spite of religion, despite Christianity), and what He wants for you will help you defeat depression. I’m slightly wary of the reshaping-consciousness-by-telling-yourself-truths thing (which feels a little positive-confession to me), but overall, the message is clear: we need to learn how to rest in God and accept his grace, whether that means you pray for healing or you head to the doctor’s, or both.

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

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