Thursday, 7 October 2021

#bookreview: Climactic Crisis | C G Penne

Climatic CrisisClimatic Crisis by C G Penne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emma's life - and the lives of her extended family - are turned upside down when the weather goes crazy. First, a tsunami hits her home in Cornwall, England while tornadoes strand her husband in New York, USA. Then there are the massive fires in Perth, Australia - raging in the middle of winter - where her twin sister Jen lives. The weird weather extends across the world in the span of a few days, sowing devastation in its wake.

The novel is quite fast-moving and dramatic, with many tense moments as the family tries to find their missing loved ones. It paints a frightening picture of the terrible impacts of climate change - and how ineffective our current governments and politicians are at addressing the issue, especially when they don't see it as urgent.

There's what I would call a 'literary' arc to this novel. It's very focused on the moment (looking for the missing children, surviving the flood and the fire and the waves) and whilst there are little snippets of the bigger picture (exposes by journalists, growing movements to petition the government to deal with climate change in the wake of such drastic weather changes) there isn't really a resolution. The arc is pretty much each new weather event escalating to a bigger tragedy. In fact, the ending felt a little like a cop-out to me.

Interspersed between the events, Penne slows down the pace a little with the introduction of each character. This is good in one sense, because there is such rich detail and attention paid to their backstories and the dynamics of their relationships, yet, on the other hand, the execution is often clumsy leading to just a little too much telling and clumps of info dumps.

Overall, I thought the premise was interesting, but the execution clumsy. A little more editing and polishing would have made it a better read.

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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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

#booklaunch #guestpost: How the Dwarf kept his beard: Adapting a Fairytale to a Novel

So today's the release day for C.O. Bonham's new novel, Runaway Lyrics! Before we take a look at the book itself, here's a guest post from Bonham.

How the Dwarf kept his beard: Adapting a Fairytale to a Novel.

By C.O. Bonham

So the story of Snow White and Rose Red is odd. Here’s the TL;DR:

Snow White and her sister Rose Red live in a house in the forest with their mother. They are very sweet, get along well, and are kind to all the forest creatures.

One Winter night, a bear shows up at their house, and they welcome it in and become friends. He stays until summer, then leaves. The girls miss him, so they head out into the woods to find their gentle bear friend.

The girls meet a dwarf whose beard is snagged in a tree/bush/bramble (It varies). Snow cuts his beard free, even though he tells her not to. (I thought she was kind?)

They meet him again, and his beard is tangled in a fishing line. She cuts the beard again. When she could have just cut the line. (She doesn’t care about other people’s wishes much.)

Then he is carried by an Eagle. They throw rocks at it and it drops him. (Don’t they know they could have killed him?)

Anyway, the dwarf is angry and wants to attack them. (Can you blame him?) But the bear saves them and scares/kills (it varies) the dwarf. It’s okay because the dwarf is the villain for not being grateful. The bear turns into a prince and marries Snow White, and he has a brother who marries Rose Red.

Long story short: Snow White is sweet and kind, but she doesn’t respect the dwarf enough to not cut his beard.

So I thought, how can I make her kinder? And it turned into a weird message. She isn’t super sweet or nice to the dwarf. He is wasting their time and it would be so easy to just cut his beard. But she respects his wishes and finds another solution.

The story kind of snowballed from there. There’s a difference between being kind and being polite. Some of the worst serial killers in history had pleasant manners and friendly personalities.

Some of the rudest people can be very kind. Once, I was on the side of the road. Car after car passed me by. Finally, one stopped. The guy got out, asked what was wrong and then fixed the car for me. (The problem was embarrassingly simple, so no, I won’t tell you what it was.) He didn’t introduce himself, didn’t make small talk, just fixed it, waved off my offer of payment, and left.

He was very kind to stop and fix my car, even if others wouldn’t have called him friendly. In fact, a super friendly man might have set off a ton of red flags that would have made me hesitant to accept his help.

So the moral of the story: Kindness is not equal to politeness.

I looked at all the girls’ encounters with the dwarf and came up with new solutions, and I made Snow a little put out to emphasize my point. Then the hard part came. How to make a novel out of this.

I made the Bear prince kind of gender-swapped Snow White with the evil stepmother thing. I wanted a dragon, and I knew I needed to give the younger prince a bigger role. Then I wrote until all these random elements made sense together.

The younger brother got a name and a personality and then his part in the plot just exploded from there. 

The girls’ each got a motivation, and it turns out that their mother had an excellent reason for living out in the middle of nowhere. 

The main prince is still turned into a bear for no good reason. There is never a good reason for turning people into bears. 

I added Steampunk because every story is better with steampunk.

So ends the tale of a problematic fairytale turned steampunk adventure novel. 

Now go forth and be kind. Even if you can’t be polite while doing it.


Runaway Lyrics

What one sister has, she must share with the other . . .

Snow loves music. She has spent her entire life learning, new instruments and memorizing new pieces, only to while away her life in a country manor with only her mother and twin sister as company. If only she could get out on her own and play in front of a real audience.

Rose loves magic. The things she can do with music would amaze her twin sister, but whenever she shows her, Snow quickly forgets as if the event had never happened. If only Rose could get out on her own and work some real magic.

When an airship crashes near their home Snow’s magical abilities awaken. Together the sisters must learn to use their magic, rescue a pair of cursed princes, and discover their own secrets.

Discover the magic of music in this retelling of Snow White and Rose Red.


Add on Goodreads


Author Bio:

C.O. Bonham is the pen name for a commonly misspelled first name. She loves stories of all kinds, but really likes the ones that are weird, and outside the norm. A certified book geek, when she isn’t writing stories of her own, she is busy reading stories by others. A homeschool graduate with a degree in creative writing, her goal is to create stories that make people think, feel, and have fun. 

Visit to read author interviews, book reviews, and to hear about what she’s working on next. 

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Wednesday, 8 September 2021

#bookreview: Spellsmith and Carver series | HL Burke

I figured since I binge-read the whole series, I might as well just put up all the reviews in this post! :) I'll hide the second and third behind the read more so you don't get spoilers, if you don't want them.

Magicians' Rivalry (Spellsmith & Carver #1)Magicians' Rivalry by H.L. Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Auric Spellsmith comes home from the city to find his expected place at his father's business filled by a terrible upstart of a carpenter, Jericho Carver. Jericho just knows that whatever future he thought he had as a magician apprentice is over now that Master Hedward Spellsmith's son is back. But when Hedward Spellsmith disappears and Fey Magic threatens the human world, Auric and Jericho must learn to work together - or lose everyone and everything they hold dear.

Magicians' Rivalry is a fun, engaging, and quick read! The rivalry between the two men is hilarious and poor Rill Spellsmith, Auric's younger sister, is caught trying to placate all the easily riled, arrogant, posturing men in her life - while trying to learn magic without her father's knowledge.

About that - Hedward Spellsmith comes across at first as a misogynic old man but as the story unfolds and his past comes to light, you learn that he is anything but - it's just that he is a terrible communicator and refuses to explain why he's doing the things he's doing...until it's too late.

The one thing that felt a little off was how quickly Auric claims Jericho as his best friend. I mean, well Jericho did save him a few times in the Fey lands...but does that naturally make them best friends? idk.

Anyway, I'm just here for the proud, self-sacrificing idiots who keep landing themselves into trouble because they won't actually talk to each other or admit that they need help. Oh, and of course for Jaspyr, the magical clockwork fox.

Before we get to the rest, Magician's Gift (Spellsmith & Carver 3.5) is free for a couple of days. 

It's a short story that'll give you a preview of the main characters if you're still ambivalent! However, it's set at the end of the series, so might include some relationship-type spoilers if you're fussy about that.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

#bookreview: Toyols 'R' Us | Terence Toh

TOYOLS 'R' USTOYOLS 'R' US by Terence Toh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Toyols 'R' Us starts off like quite a normal police procedural then veers quickly into magic. Inspector Khairul is at his wit's end trying to solve a series of deaths (murders, he thinks) that only have one apparent connection: a hacked off big toe and a body drained of blood. Elsewhere in Klang Valley, Harun introduces his cousin Ismail to a secret that can solve all his monetary woes: toyols. On the surface, Toyols 'R' Us aims to help people secure their financial future, albeit in not-quite-legal ways - but what is their super enigmatic owner hiding behind his cheery demeanour?

If you've ever read one of Terence Toh's short stories, you know exactly what to look forward to in his debut novel: an utterly Malaysian story guided by and wrapped in punnery and wordplay. And since puns tend to be somewhat divisive, you may end up laughing your head off... or rolling your eyes so hard it hurts. I think I did a little of both.

In between the wit and the fun, Toh doesn't gloss over the darker side of Klang Valley. There's that one-upmanship, the constant competition to be better, richer. The rampant corruption and cronyism. Religious extremism and cyber trolling. Unwanted pregnancies and abortion. Loan sharks and gangs. In some ways, it feels a little like an extension of the KL Noir series. Both obliquely and blatantly, Toh seems to include an underlying commentary on the social issues that plague Malaysian society today.

The ending lends itself to a possible sequel - and I would definitely pick up the next Inspector Khairul & Detective Fara novel if that materialises!

It's not perfect. There's a little more POV changing than I prefer, and also a bit of an almost romance (as in, it's set up to be romantic I think but isn't quite sure what it is) that felt rather awkwardly staged. But these are really rather minor preferences that don't detract from the enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

I absolutely loved this gem, the winner of Fixi Novo's inaugural Malaysian Novel Contest. A deserving win indeed!

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From Malaysia? Get Toyols 'R' Us from the Fixi store or on Shopee.
Not from Malaysia? Toyols 'R' Us is available on Amazon

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

#booklaunch: Queen's Crown | Anne Wheeler

A foreign crown bent on conquest.
An escaped traitor out for vengeance.
A realm caught in the middle.
Sometimes it takes a queen to save a kingdom.
Queens Crown cover
Laurent has left to meet the Vassian Army at the border, leaving Riette in charge of Lochfeld Castle and indeed Meirdre itself. Waiting on war to come to the kingdom she loves is unthinkable, so she escapes to her home village for a visit, searching for one last bit of normalcy in a life that is no longer her own.

But that normalcy is shattered when Thomas arrives. Bitter over his imprisonment and bent on the revenge he’s always wanted, he’s intent on destroying Laurent and has no qualms about using Riette to do so. Worse, her power as a crownkeeper is no longer a secret, and King Damir of Vassian wants it for himself. From Lochfeld itself to a coastal town, defeat looms. For their adversary is well-prepared and powerful—a formidable enemy to her small kingdom.

But the map on the floor of Lochfeld’s ballroom holds power of its own—and Riette will discover what it truly means to be a crownkeeper.


About the author:
Anne Wheeler grew up with her nose in a book but earned two degrees in aviation before it occurred to her she was allowed to write the stories that had been brewing in her head for years. When not writing her next novel, she can be found planning her next escape to the desert—camera gear included. An occasional commercial pilot and flight instructor, she currently lives in Georgia with her husband, son, and herd of cats. Visit her at

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

#bookreview: Generation Manifestation | Steven Bereznai

Generation ManifestationGeneration Manifestation by Steven Bereznai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Generation Manifestation starts with a very Divergent vibe. Caitlin Feral is preparing for her Final Testing - if she doesn't Manifest now, she'll be assigned a boring (or maybe dangerous) adult job, based on her aptitude scores. There's no room for standing out, for pursuing your own interests, if you're not a Supergenic.

So Caitlin wants to Manifest. She wants it so desperately that she's already tried to fake her way through earlier tests, earning herself some renown amongst the testers. Normand Bamford is the rich, weird guy in class - super rich, super smart, but also super weird. And on this final Testing Day, Normand makes Caitlin promise that she'll survive the Testing - and then later sneaks her a contraband comic book that ends up changing the course of her life.

Like all dystopian and post-apocalyptic books, nothing is as they seem. The X-men type Genetic Wars did not just result in superheroes, or Supergenics, as they're called. They also resulted in weird mutations and beasts who now roam the wastelands outside - which the Supergenics in Jupitar City protect the squalid human boroughs as part of the treaty. But the treaty - and rules - are unfair, and it's only the humans who are truly sacrificing themselves. The status quo may seem to work for now, but the system is broken - and since this is a YA coming-of-age book, it's up to the teens to rebel and break the world, before reshaping it into something better. Not the popular, Supergenic teens though. But the misfits like Caitlin, the weirdos like Normand, and of course, the good-looking popular jock boyfriend ones like Bradie Lopez Nettle who stays by Caitlin even at her worst.

Generation Manifestation is a wish-fulfilment kind of story where the young save the day, where you can make change possible even if you're just a dreg (DNA-regular), where the weirdos rebels are accepted for who they are. It pulses with a deeper kind of persistent love, not just the sex-hormones-emotions kind, but the kind that sticks by someone through thick and thin, that protects each other, that sacrifices themselves for friendship and the greater community. The kind that believes in you and supports you all the way, despite and through your failings.

Help comes from unexpected places, in unexpected ways, and whilst the solution isn't the cleanest (or even the most moral), it's one that offers hope in the midst of compromise. Where allies can work together, even though they'll never actually be friends. Where true stories of the rights violated and the laws broken give people the reason to rebel and fight for a better future, but it's the comic books and dreams of true heroes that will help show them how.

With the breakdown of governments around the world, Generation Manifestation is a wish-fulfilment kind of story, the kind we desperately need right now.

"We can't change the world in a day," I rationalize. "But I will make sure this rebellion has a tomorrow."

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

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Monday, 23 August 2021

#musicmonday: Jireh (You are enough) / How He Loves | Justin Bieber & Chandler Moore

So there's nothing I can do to let You down
It doesn't take a trophy to make You proud
I'll never be more loved than I am right now

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

#bookreview: Christians in a Cancel Culture: Speaking with Truth and Grace in a Hostile World | Joe Dallas

Christians in a Cancel Culture: Speaking with Truth and Grace in a Hostile WorldChristians in a Cancel Culture: Speaking with Truth and Grace in a Hostile World by Joe Dallas

I have been sitting on this because this book is a difficult one to review. I picked this up as an eARC from Harvest House Publishers via NetGalley and should have probably just passed on it and saved myself some headache.

Maybe let's start with what it does get right. When Dallas actually gets into the meat of the issues he wants to talk about (Abortion, Homosexuality, Race***, Gender, Progressive Christianity*) he sets out quite fairly the current views of the issue** and what God says about them in the Bible. There is no ambiguity, no obvious twisting of verses, no over-the-top bias. He presents a clear Christian worldview of how things were intended to be by God. And that's not a bad thing for someone who professes to follow Christ.

Contrary to popular opinion, Christians do still have the right to take a stance on their beliefs, and in this, I agree with Dallas. Practising or following a religion requires that you follow the standards set by that religion/faith, and stating that you personally believe a certain thing according to that faith is not a crime. Persecuting others for those personal beliefs are a crime, and this is true in both directions.

But this is also where Dallas muddies the waters. As I stated in my Rant Chapter 1, the whole angle of this book presumes several strange premises:
1. That passing laws to allow others to do what you disagree with is a law attacking you and your beliefs as a Christian;
2. That free speech equates to the right to be listened to no matter what and people not wanting to listen to you is an attack on your personal freedom and rights (???); and
3. USA is a Christian nation and all laws need to be Christian and therefore current society is attacking Christians.
(OMG the persecution complex there)

I mean, these three premises alone puts the book in a very weird, off-kilter position, where some of the things Dallas says are true, but the rest of it is very, very wrong. (Also, a note to global readers, most of the issues spoken to here arise out of specifically American problems related to US laws, so may not apply across the board.) One of the reasons this book really irks me, actually, is this uber American Evangelical stance of "what Christians believe should be made law for everyone else", even non-Christians, which in my part of the world, when done other faiths try to do it, is "[religion] is oppressing Christians! How dare they!" Think about that hypocrisy for a moment.

So on one hand, part of the book has its merits. But what Dallas gets terribly, terribly wrong is how he ends each of those chapters. And unfortunately, this is also the most crucial part. Because now that you know what God says about an issue, you also need to know what's the Christ-like way to react to that issue. And instead of anything useful, loving, or kind, Dallas just tells you how to continue digging your heels in and getting people to hate you for your beliefs. The assumption here is that "because I am a Christian, my opinions are right, and whatever you say or think or feel doesn't matter in light of that."

That bit is subtitled "Keep It Going", which I assume refers to keeping the conversation going, and it is just a horrible mess of gaslighting in the name of "discourse". An example would be where the response to "I need you to call me by my preferred name and pronoun" is answered by "Don't ask me to call you by names and pronouns that represent something I don't believe is real". Later on, in response to "If you can't accept me for who I am, then I have to keep my distance from you. I won't tolerate someone who's transphobic" is refuted by "unless I treat you with disrespect and hostility, I really think the transphobic label is way off base". (IDK, I kinda think not calling someone by the name they want to be called, transgender or not, is actually really disrespectful and hostile.)

Circling back to hypocrisy and doublespeak, the one thing that Dallas keeps bringing up over and over again is how hurt Christians feel when current society cancels them for their beliefs and how breaking family relationships and friendships over a difference in opinion is bad and wrong, and why can't everyone just STILL be friends despite them being a horrible, gaslighting person? Let me just end this review with this thought:

How is this any different from when churches and Christian families excommunicated and kicked out members, children, and friends over many of these issues? Did they not also feel hurt? Were they not left stranded and without support, especially when these were minors? Or is it okay to hurt others because you believe you are morally superior/in the right?

Or, as I wrote in a note:
"So, it's okay for the church to excommunicate the backsliders but not okay for the non-believers to return the favour?"

* I would have to note that this refers to a very specific Progressive Christianity that, according to Dallas, believes all paths lead to God and not "progressive" in the general terms of not-conservative.
** I did not fact check any specific examples quoted. If he presented any facts in bad faith, I am not aware of them.
*** Dallas does not believe in systemic racism and Needs You To Specify Each Individual Charge.

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Thursday, 29 July 2021

#bookreview: Monkey Around | Jadie Jang

Monkey AroundMonkey Around by Jadie Jang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, the great part about Monkey Around is that you don't need to be a Journey to the West kind of person to know what's going on! Though I suppose if you come with that kind of literary background you'd probably pick up things (clues? inside jokes?) that I might have missed. But not knowing is also cool and doesn't detract from the story as a whole, because you're taken on a journey of discovery with Maya herself!

Maya MacQueen is on a journey of discovering what she truly is - is she just a were-monkey, or is she something more? What lies behind the supercool powers she has that Ayo, magic-human-boss, doesn't seem to recognise? But in the midst of protesting at Occupy, barista-ing at Cafe Sanc-ahh, and taking on odd jobs for Ayo (like tracking down a missing aswang), supernatural creatures are turning up dead. Like Wayland Soh, the harimau jadian, and Bu-Bu, the bajang. And the only clue she has is that this soul-eating shadow is just like her.

What I love about Monkey Around is the wide range of cultures and supernatural creatures from all around the world that just appear, but is somehow still so rooted in place. Jang explores the many different were-creatures and magic users around the world that have migrated to (or pass through) the Bay, though two cultures are featured with some prominence - the Asian-American and Mexican (Mesoamerican?) communities.

With so many things going on, it feels like the disparate cultures and creatures should pull the story apart - or at least confuse it too much. Yet it doesn't. There's one thing that pulls them together, that provides a defining feature - the San Francisco Bay Area. The place feels like a character of its own. It speaks to Maya, it searches for its guardian. It's actively trying to save itself, and I love it. I also admit to having a soft spot for it in my heart due to the many times I once travelled there for work.

The most annoying thing about Monkey Around, though, is in my opinion, Maya. And that's actually a very personal thing. Okay, I should explain that a bit. Many readers gush about how much they *love* a character. I don't...fall in love with characters. There are very few characters that I super like, and that's also mostly because there are very few real people that I like. But there are very, very many characters that I hate, and that kind of correlates to the amount of real life people I just find annoying and tiresome and don't want to deal with. So back to the story, you know how you meet someone and they just...irritate you for no definable reason? Just one of those personalities that grates on you but everyone else is ok with (and maybe even like)? That's Maya for me. She's amusing to a point, until she protests "but the Monkey in me...." one too many times and [Anna stabs the Main Character].

At any rate, Monkey Around is a fun urban fantasy read that explores the diversity of the Bay, identity, and place.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Wednesday, 21 July 2021

#bookreview: Mist Bound: How to Glue Back Grandpa | Daryl Kho

Mist Bound: How to Glue Back GrandpaMist Bound: How to Glue Back Grandpa by Daryl Kho
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't recall how I stumbled upon this, because honestly, the marketing around it is... non-existent?? But I somehow found Daryl Kho's website! And realised there was a preorder sale! So I ordered it!

Mist Bound tells of Alexis' quest to cure her Grandpa after he was hit by a Fog of Forgetting spell. She just has to travel across the magical world of Mist with her scary Grandma and the annoying kenit who cast the spell to find the 8 ingredients to make Memory Glue. As Alexis journeys across Mist, she discovers a wonderful (and scary) thing - all the wild tales Grandpa has been telling her are true!

As an MG book, lame jokes abound - which was a little meh for me, but I'm not the main target audience. The concept itself isn't terribly new (my Coexist is written in a similar vein), but what I love about it is the delving into of Asian folklore. Not only do we have the kenit, Paeri, and duyung, there are also the Nangmais from Thailand, Baku from Japan, and pixiu from China (and a lot more lah!). While this is primarily Alexis' journey (and ours) of meeting these strange and wonderful creatures, Kho also weaves in short snippets of actual folklore and regional myths.

There are also all these cute little illustrations!! by SillyJellie!!

Whilst this is an exciting journey to a magical land, there's also a sad note to it - book Alexis' Grandpa is hit by a spell that makes him forget, but real-life Alexis, Kho's daughter, will never be able to know her grandfather before dementia struck.

Mist Bound: How to Glue Back Grandpa offers a determined story of faith, hope, and love, glued together by family.

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Get Mist Bound on Kindle!

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

#bookreviews: A Castle Contended | Sharon Rose

A Castle Contended (Castle in the Wilde #2)A Castle Contended by Sharon Rose
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So basically I sat (lay) down and read the whole thing in one sitting past midnight. Is that review enough? lol

Lemme see, where do I start?

I gave the first book, A Castle Awakened, 4 stars mainly because the writing style jarred me a little. The writing here is still somewhat old and stuffy at points, but either it flows better here or I'm more used to it now(?) so this sequel was a rather entrancing read. Or maybe I've reconciled myself to the fact that it just fits the style and the story.

Beth is learning what it truly means to be Princess of Layvacia (Lavaycia? I can't spell) - and that involves acting through seeming inaction quite often. Her parents have accepted the fact that she's grown up and are now involving her in their discussions. There's politics galore, including whole sections debating the finer points of the kingdom's laws, so if you're not one for those, you might get a bit bored in those chapters. There are still many unspoken secrets, frustrating as it is for Beth and the reader, but many things FINALLY get revealed in this one!

While I enjoyed the very clean, very slow burn between Beth and Tristan, it doesn't really appear much, other than some pining on both sides. The meat of this story is really the politics between kingdoms and the tricky navigation of opposing cultures without causing offence. It's also a very witty novel - not laugh out loud hilarious - but with a generous sprinkling of humourous turns of phrase and wry observations.

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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Wednesday, 7 July 2021

#bookreview: Heart of Snow | Katherine Buel

Heart of SnowHeart of Snow by Katherine Buel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd rate this one somewhat more than 4 but somewhat less than 5, so maybe a 4.5?

Heart of Snow is kind of a typical fairy tale retelling/mash-up. It's Snow White and Rose Red, but Rose Red is dead, killed by her murderous aunt. And now this aunt, Lyric, is ruling as Queen of Cresilea whilst Snow is biding her time, plotting her revenge. But it's also Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Swan Maiden, the Fairy King, the Hunter, and many, many little references and familiar fairy tales rolled into one.

Which made for a meh beginning, where things were muddy, and all you had was "maimed, conflicted, deposed teenage princess hungry for revenge against all advice". I mean, that's where most stories start anyway.

So no, this book didn't capture me right from the start, though it was entertaining enough (Eh, probably a 3+, she says, after putting the Kindle down multiple times) but then THINGS HAPPEN (somewhere past the 50% mark) and REALISATION DAWNS and it's like OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

The ending was brilliant and complex and finely spun, also heart-wrenching while we're at it. If I had more time, I'd consider reading the start again to see what I missed when I was bored and didn't know better.

Side note: I'm slightly ambivalent about the romance. I mean, it makes sense in the overall scheme of things, and it was a very powerful motivator for the climax & conclusion, but... idk. A part of me isn't quite convinced.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book via Victory Editing NetGalley Co-op on NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Wednesday, 23 June 2021

#bookreview: The Image of Her | Sonia Velton

The Image of HerThe Image of Her by Sonia Velton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd really give this more of a 3, rounded up to the 3.5 because of the unexpected ending. I was offered this for review via NetGalley (as in, the publicist wrote and said, you liked her first book! Would you like to read this?) and, whilst it's not what I usually read, I picked it up because I really, really loved Velton's first book, Blackberry & Wild Rose. (There are always exceptions, right? Good writing can always surprise you. I was hoping to be surprised. )

Here, Velton uses a similar style, segueing seamlessly between Stella's narrative of her new life and snippets of Connie's old one. There's a mystery to how these two women could possibly be connected. Their lives are so disparate, so separate - how would they ever have met? There's only one person who links them, Connie's husband Mark. And for the most part, you see Connie drawing away from her husband, suspecting him of cheating on her, and you hear Stella wanting to know more about this mystery woman she's stalking on facebook, drawing closer to her - and to him and...

This was honestly where I got bored because one of the reasons I don't quite like reading literary fiction (or what's mostly touted as literary) nowadays is the whole prolonged drama about marriage infidelity.

ANYWAYS I pushed on because annoying as the subject matter was, the writing is good enough that I wasn't throwing things at the wall. I was more invested in Stella, honestly, because of the mystery of her accident and what really happened between her and her mother. Connie's was a very manufactured entitled-white-woman-expat drama that I found myself rolling my eyes at most of the time.

But I'll conclude this review by saying that the book blurb is right - how they are connected is one that I would have never guessed, and even if you skim the whole book, reading that ending when the timelines converge makes the rest of it pretty much worth it.

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

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Just a quick reminder that prices for Amok go up tomorrow, June 24 - so today's your last chance to get it at $2.99 / RM12.

Monday, 21 June 2021

#musicmonday: Jujur | Sidney Mohede


Music & Lyric: Sidney Mohede
@2019 Insight Unlimited

Verse 1:

Jujur kadang ku tak sanggup / Honestly, sometimes I don't know how
Menghadapi s’mua bebanku / To face all my burdens
Menantikan jawaban / To keep waiting for answers
Menolak untuk menyerah / While refusing to give up

Ku tau Kau Tuhan yang sanggup / I know You are God who is able
Menolong dalam sesakku / To help me in my struggles 
Namun meskipun Kau belum / But even if You don't help me yet
Kukan tetap menyembah-Mu / I will still be here to worship You


Ku kan bernyanyi / I will keep singing
Sampai jiwaku percaya / Until my soul believes
Sampai hatiku mendengar / Until my heart hears
Lagu Pengharapan / A song of hope
Ku kan berserah / I will surrender
Kutau aku tak sendiri / For I know I am not alone
Kuyakin Kau mengasihiku / I am convinced that You love me
Bahkan di dalam api pun / So even in the fire
Kukan menyembah-Mu / I am here to worship You

Verse 2:

Jujur kadang aku lalai / Honestly, sometimes I forget
Bersandar pada kekuatan-Mu / To lean on Your strength alone
Di dalam kelemahanku / I know in my weakness
Sempurnalah kuasa-Mu / Your strength is made perfect

Imanku memegang janji-Mu / My faith keeps holding on to Your promises
Kutau Kau s’lalu bersamaku / For I know You are always with me
Dalam s’tiap perkaraku / In every situation
Kaulah damai tenangku / You are my peace and my comfort


Ku kan bernyanyi / I will keep singing
Sampai jiwaku percaya / Until my soul believes
Sampai hatiku mendengar / Until my heart hears
Lagu Pengharapan / A song of hope
Kutau Kau sanggup / I know You are able
Dan aku tak pernah sendiri / And I know I am never alone
Selalu baik Kau di hidupku / You are always good in my life
Bahkan di dalam api pun / So even in the fire
Kukan menyembah-Mu / I am here to worship You


In line with songs for my Amok mood board, this is one of those which never made the list because it came out after I was mostly done writing it. 



Ebook prices are set to go up to $4.99 / RM20 this Thursday. If you haven't purchased your copy of Amok yet, you should do so now!

International: Amazon | Other retailers

Monday, 14 June 2021

#musicmonday: Pilgrimage | RiverLife Worship

I was going to find a semi-Amok related song, but my friend Josh has just released a new single with his church. So that's today's post. 


Today on the tour: C.O. Bonham's review! 

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

#bookreview: Discernment | Lauren Salisbury (plus #booklaunch!)

Discernment (The Legacy Chronicles, #3)Discernment by Lauren H. Salisbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

JIYA DOES NOT WANT TO GET MARRIED. That's it, that's the whole book.

Discernment starts with the typical "awkward girl who doesn't quite fit in" vibe. Jiya can't cook. She can't sew. She wants to watch the races, work on machines, maybe be a mechanic. But she can't. Not when her father is the Nalac-dar, leader of the clan, and has traditions and laws to uphold. And one of them is that she needs to get married and settle down pretty soon. Even though she knows there has to be something more to her life - something that matters.

But then Mahsan saves her from space pirates, and the off-worlder takes residence in her father's estate and eventually in her heart...

TBH I had a little difficulty starting this one. After the brilliant Esaralian world in Courage and Strength, you're suddenly thrown into an all-new Teraburan world with new customs and traditions and so. many. animal. names. I have to admit that I skipped some of the animal/plant descriptions, sorry.

What I especially love about this one is the nuance that Salisbury brings to Jiya's search for meaning. It's not that Jiya just wants to buck traditions for the sake of rebellion. She tries. But it's not enough. Why did the All-seeing One give her gifts and interests that don't fit any of their traditions? That refuses to conform to the mould? Did God make her wrong? Was she a mistake? Were all her dreams just that - dreams? To be simply discarded so that she can cook and clean and raise children for someone who won't appreciate her true gifts?

I think these are timely, relevant questions to be asking in this day and age - young women have many new opportunities now, but traditions (especially church ones!) are holding them to the same old expectations. How do you use your gifts if your community won't let you just because of your gender? What then, is the point of having that gift?

Obviously, since this is fiction instead of real life, it all ties in very neatly.

But it should, too, in real life.

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


A misfit, a fugitive, and a sacred destiny. Everything changes when all three collide.

In Jiya’s world, the only choice a woman has is who she will marry. When she meets a mysterious off-worlder, she must decide how far she is willing to push the boundaries of Teraburan culture to gain her freedom, and whether that is truly what she wants.

Mahsan has never been accepted for who he is. The sole human raised on an Esarelian cruiser, his attempts to belong led only to disaster and him becoming a fugitive. When he is invited into the home of a Teraburan clan leader, he finds a place where he could finally put down roots. But his past haunts him, and he will need to make peace with it if he wants any kind of future in his new home.

Not everyone approves of Jiya and Mahsan’s friendship, and some will stop at nothing to keep them apart. As the unlikely pair discover their true calling, they will have to confront everything they thought they knew and learn to see themselves as they never have before.


Lauren H Salisbury hates writing bios. She tried to bribe her husband to write this for her, but he refused, even for homemade banana cake. Unfortunately, she’s run out of plausible housework excuses, and she’s still waiting for the next series of The Expanse. Oh, most of her writing is sci-fi and fantasy set in the universe of her Legacy Chronicles series.

Discernment Giveaway Word: 2. the

Monday, 7 June 2021

#musicmonday: Restless | Audrey Assad

Because it's Monday.
And I am still running, still catching up, never caught up.

When does this stop?

Saturday, 5 June 2021

#booklaunch: Here's the #AmokNovel tour calendar!

So, if things had gone according to plan, I had a week-long tour filled with posts from lovely, generous book bloggers on the launch week from 24 to 30 June. Now that the dates have been shifted, I have a smattering of posts across the month. This makes it a little harder to keep track of, but here's a handy-dandy calendar and a list of where posts are appearing, and when!

Click to embiggen!


31 May: Moments for my thoughts - Launch spotlight

2 June: Mermaird - Launch spotlight

14 June: C.O. Bonham - Review

15 June: Moments for my thoughts - Guest Post: On Leaving Malaysia to Find It Again

22 June: Kara J. Lovett Co. - Guest Post: On Standing Firm in the Faith You’re Doubting

26 June: Abigail Falanga, Author - Guest Post: On Vomit Drafts and Learning to Plan

26 June: Aleesya - Review

26 June: Teh Tarik & Books - Review

27 June: Trisha Bisen - Review

28 June: Amazing Distance - Review

29 June: H. L. Burke - Spotlight

I'll also be reposting & resharing reviews on facebook, so check out my page for updates


hat is faith, except hope in desperation?
All Putera Mikal wants is to gain the Amok Strength, the supernatural power granted by Kudus to the Mahan royal family. No matter how religiously Mikal keeps his vows, Kudus still denies him the Strength—whilst his father, Sultan Simson, flaunts the Strength despite his blatant defiance of the Temple and the priests’ visions of coming doom.

Then the prophecies come true.

Taken captive, Mikal must find a way to liberate his people and restore his throne in Maha—and the key to this is the Amok Strength. But what does it take to gain Kudus’ favour?


But paperbacks!

If you’ve preordered a local paperback from Teaspoon Publishing and/or still want to order one, we’re also maintaining the preorder price of RM35 until we actually have the printed books in hand. We'll also sweeten the deal by sending you an ebook copy to keep you occupied until the paperback finally gets printed.


Are you a NetGalley reviewer? Here's where you can download a review copy!

Friday, 4 June 2021

#bookspotlight: Finding God in Anime: A devotional for otakus

Being a Christian can be tough. Being an otaku can be tough. But being both at once?

Sometimes it seems easier to become Hokage rather than explaining your faith and passions to others. That is why we otaku have united in this devotional: To encourage otaku like you spiritually and through a medium we all cherish.

In this devotional, you will find God in the animes you know and love. Each devotional presents spiritual lessons found in animes ranging from the world-famous Attack on Titan to fan-favorite Haikyu!! to beloved classics like Cowboy Bebop. Each piece will feature a different theme such as:
  • Human Will vs. The Holy Spirit in Yona of the Dawn
  • Choosing to be Free in Free! Swim Club
  • Not by My Might in My Hero Academia
…and many others! We believe that God can be seen throughout His creation—even in places where people might not intend! So pull out your cosplay and snuggle close with your plushies as you join us in Finding God in Anime.

About the Organizers

Laura and Moriah’s life consists of giving each other manga recommendations until they see whose TBR pile will fall on them first. Rest assured they're both still safe...until another manga releases. In the meantime, they enjoy sharing beautiful pictures of Japan and trying to make each other laugh with anime memes. They both have an appreciation for cute stickers, samurai, and pins. If they're not chatting about all things otaku, you can find them trying to write their next story or surviving on ramen and pocky after their latest manga order.

Manga Photo Challenge on Instagram

Celebrate the release of Finding God in Anime by participating in the manga photo challenge on Instagram! During the month of June, the organizers will be spotlighting a variety of manga that have had an anime adaptation by showcasing them using #MangaFestival in their posts. Each title prompt is an anime that is featured in the devotional. Grab your favorite manga and get ready to celebrate!

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

#bookreview: Strength (The Legacy Chronicles 2) | Lauren Salisbury

Strength (The Legacy Chronicles, #2)Strength by Lauren H. Salisbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, so this book. I'm all set to start reading Discernment (book 3) so I look it up on GR and then I go eh, how come I didn't review book 2???
Grab a copy and start reading and go... BUT WAIT I HAVE READ THIS. WHY DID I NOT REVIEW IT?
[Then I realise when I got to the acknowledgements that I probably didn't review it because I beta read it and then I forgot lol]

That doesn't change my opinion that this is a brilliant, brilliant book.

If you've ever wondered what happens between the time when the Pharoah's daughter adopts baby Moses and then he goes out and murders an Egyptian guard before running away, Salisbury's wonderful reimagining does a lot to fill in the gaps. Remember though, that this is (no longer baby) MOSES IN SPACE so obviously, not Egyptian, not earth.

Strength covers Moses' teenage years. Mahsan has grown up an outcast in the Esaralian cruiser - and his only friends are really his mother, Reemah, and her two friends, Velay and Selah. He reaches that age where he really wants to know about his birth family - and defies his mother to do so, and then gets into all kinds of trouble, where he has to flee. I mean, that's the bare bones. You know how the Bible story goes.

But Salisbury's writing focuses on the women surrounding Moses, so where Courage focused on Gilla, Mahsan's birth mother, Strength focuses on Ra'hos Reemah, the Esaralian princess who defies all court and social conventions to adopt a human son. I love the strength that she shows in standing up for her son, even if that means curbing her own wild and adventurous nature, and becoming somewhat of an outcast herself so that Mahsan can grow up just like the pure-blooded Esaralians, with all their advantages.

There's political intrigue, of course, and help from unexpected quarters, including just a little bit of romance.

I love it and am excited to go on to read Discernment!!

View all my reviews


Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Amok: Surprise Lockdown Launch! Get your copy now!

Surprise Lockdown Launch

In light of Malaysia’s not-so-surprising Total Lockdown, Teaspoon Publishing has pushed up the release date of Amok for a surprise lockdown launch!

Yes, Amok ebooks drop on 1 June* as so that you can hunker down in your house and entertain yourself with a great read—and everyone else gets to benefit! We'll still honour our launch prices, so our ebook preorder prices of RM12 / USD2.99 will remain until the 23rd of June and will rise to RM20 / USD4.99 on 24 June.


* Some retailers might release it on 2 June.


What is faith, except hope in desperation?
All Putera Mikal wants is to gain the Amok Strength, the supernatural power granted by Kudus to the Mahan royal family. No matter how religiously Mikal keeps his vows, Kudus still denies him the Strength—whilst his father, Sultan Simson, flaunts the Strength despite his blatant defiance of the Temple and the priests’ visions of coming doom.

Then the prophecies come true.

Taken captive, Mikal must find a way to liberate his people and restore his throne in Maha—and the key to this is the Amok Strength. But what does it take to gain Kudus’ favour?


But paperbacks!

If you’ve preordered a local paperback from Teaspoon Publishing and/or still want to order one, we’re also maintaining the preorder price of RM35 until we actually have the printed books in hand. We'll also sweeten the deal by sending you an ebook copy to keep you occupied until the paperback finally gets printed.

For our overseas friends, we’re currently in the process of approving paperback editions via Amazon’s POD and IngramSpark, so you’ll be able to get that once the book goes live at totally random times during the month! (You can tell we’re just winging it right now, can’t you?)
Quote: "Yet what is faith, except hope in desperation?" - Mikal (Amok by Anna Tan)

Bonus content!

And while we're at it, send a screenshot of your Amok purchase receipt (whether ebook or paperback) to by 24 June to claim a free copy of The Painted Hall Collection! Just tell us if you’d like it in e-pub or mobi.

Happy reading!

Stay safe, stay home, and get vaccinated.


Monday, 31 May 2021

#musicmonday: It's Always Been You | Phil Wickham

You saw me first
You let me in when I was at my worst
The moment when I heard You say my name
It's the first time in so long I'm not afraid
I'm not afraid

You are the voice that calms the storm inside me
Castle walls that stand around me
All this time, my guardian was You
You are the light that shines in every tunnel
There in the past, You'll be there tomorrow
All my life, Your love was breaking through

It's always been You
It's always been You

My northern star
Your love will be the compass of my heart
Oh, I just want to be right where You are
Right where You are

You are the voice that calms the storm inside me
Castle walls that stand around me
All this time, my guardian was You
You are the light that shines in every tunnel
There in the past, You'll be there tomorrow
All my life, Your love was breaking through

It's always been You
And it's always been You
It's always been You
It's always been You

Who stood with me in the fire?
It was You, it was always You
Who pulled me out of the water?
It was You, it was always You
And who carried me on their shoulders?
It was You, I know it's You, You

You are the voice that calms the storm inside me
Castle walls that stand around me
All this time, my guardian was You
You are the light that shines in every tunnel
There in the past, You'll be there tomorrow
All my life, Your love was breaking through

It's always been You
And it's always been You
It's always been You
It's always been You
It's always been You


If Mikal had a theme song by the end of Amok, this would be it. 


Friday, 28 May 2021

#bookreview: In Real Life | Elisabeth Warner

 This is a slightly delayed book review because I was distracted on Wednesday by AstraZeneca pit fights and on Thursday by client's who cannot tech or English. 

In Real LifeIn Real Life by Elisabeth Warner

I'm not going to give this a star rating because I was involved in critiquing this story, so that doesn't seem quite fair.

In Real Life is set in a near dystopian future - the United States of America has isolated itself and built its own Internet where they are safe from terrorists, religion, and the rest of the world. But then the Internet shuts down, USA is thrown into disarray, and Lin has to rediscover how to live life without her AI assistant, Tobi, handling everything from her household appliances and her schedules to her very life. When patrol officers take her mother away for questionable social media activity, she has to figure out if she can trust the one person she has raged against for the past five years: her ex-husband, Don.

In Real Life is very much about hope. Hope when things turn dark, when nothing in life seems to make sense. It's also about forgiveness, and faith, and finding Jesus. Yes, it's an explicitly Christian book, so there's some preaching involved - if you don't like come-to-Jesus moments, this probably isn't the right book for you, though it is relatively light, short, and 100% story/plot appropriate.

A strong theme is also about making connections - or re-making them in some cases - and about rebuilding your life from the shambles it has become. And how community helps you do that in many ways, whether it's being a sounding board when you're worried, helping you let go of the past, or supporting you despite your failures.

View all my reviews


Monday, 24 May 2021

#CoverReveal: Amok


What is faith, except hope in desperation?

All Putera Mikal wants is to gain the Amok Strength, the supernatural power granted by Kudus to the Mahan royal family. No matter how religiously Mikal keeps his vows, Kudus still denies him the Strength—whilst his father, Sultan Simson, flaunts the Strength despite his blatant defiance of the Temple and the priests’ visions of coming doom.

Then the prophecies come true.

Taken captive, Mikal must find a way to liberate his people and restore his throne in Maha—and the key to this is the Amok Strength. But what does it take to gain Kudus’ favour?


Amok releases in one month, on 24 June 2021, but you can preorder your copy now!

Amazon | Teaspoon Publishing


Love the cover? Check out our cover artist's website for more: Jiwosophy

Jiwo also explains his process in this thread:


About the Author (aka me!)

Anna Tan grew up in Malaysia, the country that is not Singapore. She is interested in Malay/Nusantara and Chinese legends and folklore in exploring the intersection of language, culture, and faith.

Anna has an MA in Creative Writing: The Novel under a Chevening scholarship and is the President of the Malaysian Writers Society. She can be found tweeting as @natzers and forgetting to update

Find her online: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter


Visit other stops on the Cover Reveal! Their posts will be going live throughout the day, so I'll update the links as and when I see them. But you can go ahead and see all their other bookish posts too :)

Monday, 17 May 2021

#musicmonday: Make Room | Community Music

Here is where I lay it down 
Every burden every crown 
This is my surrender 
This is my surrender 
Here is where I lay it down 
Every lie and every doubt 
This is my surrender 

And I’ll make room for you 
To do whatever you want to 
Do whatever you want to 

Shake up the ground of all my tradition 
Breakdown the walls of all my religion 
Your way is better 
Your way is better 

Here is where I lay it down 
You are all I’m chasing now 
This is my surrender


CCLI #7122057 | Evelyn Heideriqui, Josh Farro, Lucas Cortazio, and Rebekah White © 2018 | Praise, Supplication, Surrender, Worship Mike Curb Music, FYWBTG Publishing, A New Song For A New Day Music, Father Of Lights Publishing

Friday, 14 May 2021

Join the #AmokNovel Cover Reveal and Release Tour!

OKAY okay okaaaayyyy.

So I'm finalising the cover and I'm SO EXCITED to share it with you! And I'd like to get you excited along with me!

If you'd like to join my cover reveal party and online launch tour, here's where you can sign up

In the meantime, check out Jiwosophy's website

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

#bookreview: KL Noir: Magic | edited by Deric Ee


I'll forgo the star rating on this one, mostly because it felt pretty evident that Noir is still not my thing, so I'd hardly give a fair rating.

There's a level of magical realism to most of the stories (hello, supernatural Malaysia) here that made the anthology more palatable to me as a whole than some of the earlier books in the KL Noir series. On the other hand, there's also a level of obliqueness to quite a few stories that makes for a rather overall 'eh' feeling for me.

As of now, here's a short list of stories I really enjoyed:
Dastar - Sukhbir Cheema - THIS!!! This is the one story I would read over and over again. I would probably recommend you buy this anthology just for this story.
The Radio - Lily Jamaludin - This was a great start to the book, actually. Simple, understated.
Tooth and Consequences - Terence Toh - lol Terence, as usual, starts off dark and grim and then goes in unexpected directions. (Looking forward to TOYOLS 'R' US)
Pontianak, Risen - Nadia Mikail
Jaga Diri, Jaga Hati - Hong Jinghann
We Are Young - Joshua Lim - I don't know if I really "enjoyed" this, but it did stand out.

View all my reviews

Monday, 19 April 2021

#musicmonday: Nothing Without You | Will Reagan, United Pursuit


When I am tired and weak
Lord, will you carry me?
And when I'm feeling low
Hold me close
When I am tired and weak
Lord, will you carry me?
When I am broken in two
Pull me through