Thursday 31 December 2020

2020: A Year in Review

I suppose, in keeping with the Joneses, or whoever it is who lives near me (Lees? Oois? Lims? Yims?), I should do a year-end review. I used to do one every year until I got lazy. 

2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

But since I can't seem to concentrate on getting anything done, I suppose I should have one last hurrah on this year-end thing, then go and read in bed (currently reading: A River Called Time) until the new year dawns. 

Things I Have Accomplished This Year


  • Finished final edits for The Weight of Strength, variously known as Berserker and maybe now Amok? Since I decided to localise the term. 
  • Also finished two-ish rounds of edits on The Weight of Secrets, also known as Hostage, which I should probably get round to sending off to beta readers.
  • Finally rewrote The Weight of Sin, also known as Absolution, during my residency at Rimbun Dahan
  • Reprinted (!!) Coexist and Dongeng, and distributed them for sale via MPH.
  • Edited and published Home Groan: A NutMag Anthology.

(Keep in mind that I haven't actually published anything this year, other than that one short story in the Home Groan anthology. But this also means that I *may* have multiple things to publish next year, funds permitting.)


Here's My Year in Books! I credit the high number to several rounds of binge-reading during MCO.

I suppose my top 5 reads this year would be:

How did I choose these? Well, I went back to see my 5-star ratings in Goodreads this year. The top 3 were obvious choices. Then I discounted those that I liked enough to give 5-stars but wasn't bothered enough about to actually write a review. Then I whittled it down from there. 


These are the top 5 posts for the year, that I'm too lazy to link to. 

And here's my all-time most popular post: Why Your England So Bad?

Other Miscellaneous

I can't think of anything else to, I guess I'll end it here. 
Have a great 2021, or at least a not-so-awful one. 

Wednesday 30 December 2020

#bookreview: Captain Arnold and Other Tales of the Abnormal | Arthur M. Doweyko

Captain Arnold and Other Tales of the AbnormalCaptain Arnold and Other Tales of the Abnormal by Arthur M. Doweyko
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know that feeling when you finish reading a story and you're kind of left wondering... what really happened there? Sometimes that feeling is one of wonder and open possibilities. Sometimes, it's just a vague feeling of disconnect, like there was something that you were supposed to get, but you missed. 

Captain Arnold and Other Tales of the Abnormal was a mix of both for me. The short stories were amusing and intriguing--and some unsettling and scary--but there were quite a few that left me feeling like I would have liked them more if I could just...get...whatever "it" was.

Several that I quite liked:
Nothing to See Here
Billy and the Time Machine
What Goes Around
The Translator
The Zoo
Lost and Found

8/17 - not quite that bad a ratio.
The collection includes Doweyko's original art, so that's pretty cool, I guess.

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

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Friday 18 December 2020

#fridayflash: Regrets (excerpt) from #homegroan: A #nutmag anthology

Home Groan: A NutMag Anthology cover

Catherine Chong stood in the middle of the road on Puncak Bukit Mutiara and stared at the house in front of her. It was a squat, blocky thing that didn’t look like much from the outside—standing at road level, it appeared to be a very small single-storey house with a tiny front porch.

She frowned at it, then checked the address again.

It was the right house…

But it wasn’t what she’d expected to see, not with the vague memories she still held of this place. It was supposed to be huge, palatial. Three-storeys high, a wonderland she and Julia had roamed, going from room to ever larger room, conquering balconies that overlooked the sea, snuggling in the white wicker swing.

Maybe it’s bigger on the inside. Catherine snorted as she stepped off the road and approached carefully. It’s not a Tardis.

Walls spread out on both sides, blocking the rest of the house and its grounds from sight. That, at least, felt right. 

She knocked on the door. A minute later, Catherine slapped her forehead. Obviously, no one was going to answer because no one was currently living there. She had the keys in her pocket. Still, her school friends had once told her it was courtesy to knock anyway, to let any spirits living in there know you were entering. Catherine wasn’t sure if she believed in spirits, or if that rule applied to anything other than hotel rooms. She dug in her pockets and pulled out the keys.

A soft “hello” still slipped off her tongue as the door creaked open to a mid-sized room with sagging racks and shelves. For a moment, she was transported back into the past, a seven-year-old clinging to her mother’s hand as she visited a new school friend for the first time. Julia had been sitting in the wicker swing, her twin, James, perched somehow on its rounded back, both staring with identical large, brown eyes.

She blinked.

The swing now lay on the floor, the sad, rusty chain dangling from the ceiling.

Catherine stepped in without taking off her shoes or closing the door. Despite the still-bright daylight, the interior of the house was rather dark. She fumbled along the wall until she found the light switch. There was a faint fizzle and then nothing. With a sigh, she pulled out her phone from her pocket and turned on the torch.

The room didn’t open out to a bigger living room; it led instead to a circular stairway heading downwards.

Of course, you dummy.

She’d remembered the three floors right, just not the direction. The house went downwards, not up.

Catherine hesitated at the top of the stairs, looking down into the dark hole that gaped before her. She glanced at her phone. It was already six in the evening. If the house was already this dark now, she didn’t want to be inside when the sun set without a proper torch, or working lights. She made her way back out of the house, turned off the phone torch, then locked up.

“I’ll be back,” she said aloud, though she wasn’t sure who she was speaking to—herself or the house. Maybe both.


Check out our NutMag blog tomorrow for another excerpt!

Want to get your hands on a copy? PREORDER NOW for special rates and packages! 

Wednesday 16 December 2020

#bookreview: Domesticating Dragons | Dan Koboldt

Domesticating DragonsDomesticating Dragons by Dan Koboldt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Noah Parker needs to get into Reptilian Corporation - the genetic engineering firm headed by inventor Simon Redwood that has cracked the code to hatching real-life dragons. Or, well, synthetic reptilian predators designed from genetically-engineered reptilian genomes, but who wants to say all that?

So. Dragons.

And with his biological simulator plus an added behavioural module, Noah can help the company design family-friendly pet dragons to replace the dogs they lost in the canine epidemic. On the side, Noah's hard at work trying to find a way to secretly use Reptilian's resources and advances in genetic sequencing to help fix one problem that's close to his heart... besides dodging scrutiny for, uhm, Octavius.

Domesticating Dragons was an enjoyable read. Koboldt put his training as a geneticist to good work, but as he assured me, it's not SO hard-sciencey that you can't follow along. It's not all about the dragons, though - what drives Noah is his loved ones, especially the welfare of his brother Connor. And it's not just family. Noah comes across as a guy who just... cares for people in his own way, whether it's his team at work - working collaboratively and sharing credit - or that slightly annoying roommate of his ex who's fighting him for the top spot in their geocaching race.

Anyways, back to dragons, I went into this thinking, what, haven't we learnt from Jurassic Park yet? And it seems we have. Reptilian Corporation takes safety of their dragons veeerrryyyy seriously even if their owners don't (the customer service call logs are hilarious!) and if we were anywhere close to this in the real world (are we? I have no clue), we might actually have a chance to get our own little pet dragons. How fun!

Note: I received a complimentary digital ARC from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Domesticating Dragons releases on 5 Jan 2021! You can preorder your copy now. :D

Wednesday 9 December 2020

#bookreview: Payoh | Jim Tan

PayohPayoh by Jim Tan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was bored and didn't want to read something long, so I picked this up while surfing PNM on Libby. It's a pretty quick read (Libby tells me I finished it in 1 hour 50 mins) and, other than a few bombastic words assigned to the pompous Leonardo Owl, a really easy read. It's shelved in YA, at any rate.

Payoh is about JG Chan, a retired professor, and how he met the food court cleaner, Alphonsus Goh, at the first Changi Prison Writing Workshop. Interspersed between JG's narrative and musings is Alphonsus's novel, "Payoh".

We are less equal only because we allow ourselves to be
Goh's "Payoh" reads like a modernised, Singaporeanised retelling of Animal Farm in some ways, where a community of birds take over a protected bird sanctuary from the humans. They set up a leadership team. Which turns into a political party. And then... well, it's not hard to predict.

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Monday 7 December 2020

Coming Soon - Home Groan: A #NutMag Anthology! #mywriterspenang


We're launching Home Groan in 20 days! 

I'm especially excited since I have technically been working on this since 2019. Really. The first iteration of this project started as a combined writing workshop + writing retreat + anthology for MYWriters Penang and was written as part of my Writers at Work assignment for my MA. (P/S, I got an A okay!)

Since then, we had to split the workshops & retreat (ultimately funded by Chevening's alumni fund) from the anthology project (now in its funding period). 

Home Groan features 22 authors and 3 illustrators, all with strong, tangible links to Penang--in fact, only 3 of them are "Honorary Penangites", and for quite a few of them, this is their first story or poem in an anthology! 

We're raising funds at the moment and have various digital and print "rewards" for you to choose from, so if you have money to spare, do grab your copy now! If you have no money to spare, or you don't read (why not?!) you can still help us by sharing our funding page. 

We launch in 20 days. SEE YOU AT THE LAUNCH


A deity laments her lost loves. A pickpocket steals more than just money. A young man wrestles with the colour of the homes he builds.

In Home Groan, we take a deep look at Penang. From idyllic beaches to dangerous jungle, reflections on the past to current issues, island living to mainland life, we explore our beloved home state in both prose and poetry, spinning tall tales and telling it as it is.

This is your Penang. This is your home. Come groan with us.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

#bookreview: A Castle Awakened | Sharon Rose

A Castle Awakened (Castle in the Wilde #1)A Castle Awakened by Sharon Rose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A mysteriously abandoned castle claimed by an usurping foreigner. An injured lady who refuses to divulge her identity. Strange-looking monsters that threaten their safety. Lord Tristan Petram has finally found lands he can claim as his own--but it's hard to say if he can hold on to it. Beth has found temporary safety--but at what cost?

Filled with intrigue, A Castle Awakened offers an entrancing read for anyone looking for a medieval-style adventure. The first novel in the Castle in the Wilde trilogy, Rose offers a clean, slow-budding romance full of Honour and Virtue and Very Complicated Circumstances. There's an underlying current of mystery and political manoeuvring throughout the novel, all very subtly done.

Whilst the style of the prose is slightly archaic, inline with the eurocentric medieval setting, the narrative itself looks quite deeply into cultural clashes and misunderstandings. Both Tristan and Beth misread each others cues, judging the other's actions by their own standards, without realising that what one does and says means something totally different to the other. Rose delicately reveals this layer by layer, uncovering more mystery and surprising twists the more you get absorbed into their world.

The prequel, A Castle Sealed, was a great jump into the trilogy, and I'm looking forward for the next book, A Castle Contended, as well!

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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