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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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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

 

JUJUR
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


Chorus:

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


Chorus:

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. 

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Reminder!


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!

TOUR STOPS

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

***

W
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

DISCERNMENT RELEASES TODAY! BUY NOW!

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.

BUY LINKS:

* 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 admin@teaspoonpublishing.com.my 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.

#LindungiDiriLindungiSemua


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

BUY IN REAL LIFE NOW!

Monday, 24 May 2021

#CoverReveal: Amok

EVERYONE! IT'S AMOK'S COVER REVEAL DAY!


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 annatsp.com.

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

KL NOIR: MAGICKL NOIR: MAGIC 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.

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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

Saturday, 17 April 2021

#Flights2021 live tweet notes embed [closed 19/4]

Doing a mix of taking notes and tweeting, so am going to embed the start of my live tweets so I can find them again myself. 

It should be noted that these are my interpretations of what has been said (as processed and condensed at time of tweeting) & not verbatim notes. Hopefully, I do not misrepresent what any of them said! 

The Ingredients of a Breakthrough Short Story:

Publishing outside the US

Beyond the Western Lens

Short Stories are Not Baby Novels

Sensitivity Reading as Developmental Editing

How to Give and Receive Critiques Like the Best

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

#bookreview: Of Kindness and Kilowatts | Susan Kaye Quinn

Of Kindness and KilowattsOf Kindness and Kilowatts by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, first up, I feel kind of mean that this is only a 3 star? But it is what it is. [It's a very personal-reason rating though, as in I liked it but not SUPER liked it mainly cos there was too much physics in it haha]

We're moving up the ladder in this series, where the problem of shady bosses in When You Had Power and nasty power outages in You Knew the Price have escalated to reach Southern California's Public Utilities Commissioner, Akemi Sato. Is this threat real? Or is the Regional Director going off the rails? In a pandemic? (Well, a new virus outbreak anyway.)

I feel like Of Kindness and Kilowatts suffers from "second book syndrome" (even though it's the third), where the strong buildup from the first two books have reached a bit of a plateau. There's a lot of physics in this one (which went a little over my head) and they make some cool (and disturbing) discoveries, but the tension isn't as high as the previous one, and it feels more plotty (idk if this is a word, but it now is). But you gotta get through this one to get to the final book, Yet You Cry When It Hurts!

Relationship wise, this one focuses on Akemi and his relationship with his estranged father, Dai - which again was personally not as relatable for me as the themes of found family and community were in the first two books.

Plus points: it has tea! <3

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, 24 March 2021

#bookreview: Slow Brewing Tea | Randy Loubier

Slow Brewing TeaSlow Brewing Tea by Randy Loubier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

80% of why I picked this up was the title; the other 20% was because well, it did sound intriguing.
To be honest, when I started reading, I wavered between "I hope he does it well" and "how terrible can this get?"

Loubier does quite well in the beginning. Itsuki's teachings start off mysterious and enticing, wrapped in Japanese sayings and Taoist words (I don't know how accurate this is) - though if you've been a long time Christian, it's obvious that it has a Christian source, no matter what other trappings are added to it. There's a tension in Isaiah's search for God - his reactions and anger come from a place of truth. I'm sure many who have been hurt by the church can relate.

As you proceed through the story, however, and Itsuki's teaching gets clearer and more explicit, the narrative itself starts to get just a little too preachy - especially during, you know, the expected conversion scene. (Is this a spoiler? It can't be a spoiler - it's key to every Christian fiction.) I suppose, as a pastor, Loubier didn't quite manage to stop from sermonising just a little. It IS, however, a story about coming to faith - so it's not anything unexpected or anything that might blindside you.

I suppose if you like a little dose of apologetics with your fiction, this is the sort of thing that you'll like. I think it will appeal more to those who are already Christians or people who are struggling with faith & the church. It was just a tad to slow (lol) and on-the-nose for me to truly enjoy it.

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, 17 March 2021

#bookreview: Future Perfect | Felicia Yap

Future PerfectFuture Perfect by Felicia Yap
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On 8 June 2030, iPredict informs Police Commissioner Christian Verger that he has a 99.74% chance of dying tomorrow. A model was blown up at Alexander King's fashion show in New York City yesterday, the same show that's going to be at Old Billingsgate tonight - and he has to find the killer in time to make sure it doesn't happen again. Of course, this just has to happen on the day his fiancee leaves him.

Yap keeps you guessing with each new revelation that comes to light. Three different people tell three different stories of the same event. Viola's program, CriminalX, is spitting out results that don't make sense. Everyone has secrets to hide - but are they secrets worth killing for? Will Christian be able to pull the answers - and himself- together in time to prevent another death from happening? Is he even looking in the right place? Is this a helpful clue? Or is this another misdirection?

Future Perfect is not just a crime thriller, though. Yap explores the impact of technology on our lives, taking trends in tech and pushing it forward ten years to a plausible future. Alexa not only manages the household, it also directs Christian's & Viola's lives even when they don't want it to. Predictions of the future become self-fulfilling when the tech themselves make it happen because it was predicted. Only people who have something to hide use cash. And maybe, just maybe, software can be programmed to be creative enough to create art, denying the need for humanity's creative eye and spark.

With a deft hand, Yap brings you through a harrowing day as told from four main perspectives: Verger, his fiancee Viola, the designer Alexander King, and an unnamed person from the past whose story may be the key to unravelling this dense web of lies. And haunting them all is the spectre of another dead model, the same one Xander is dedicating his show to.

Future Perfect is just... perfect.

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

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Monday, 15 March 2021

#musicmonday: So Afraid | Bebo Norman


That's not what you said
It's all in my head
And I throw my anger at you instead
So don't give up on me
I want to believe
That you'll never leave me

But I am so afraid
That I'll find myself alone
Looking for a saviour, looking for a home
I am so afraid
That I'll find myself alone
Deep into the ages, deep into the foam
I am so afraid
That I'll find myself alone
Looking for a saviour, looking for a home

So don't leave me here alone
Don't leave me here alone

Sunday, 14 March 2021

On Publishing: How do you do it?

I met up with a secondary school classmate last Sunday for high tea. Meeting up was great, the high tea was so-so (real British high tea has spoilt me, sigh). 

We talked about various things, but one of the things that came up, as it tends to do nowadays, was the question "how do you do it?" in relation to the confidence of getting your work out there, and self-publishing - or at least that's how I've been thinking about it this past week. 

And the answer is... 

I don't. 

I don't have confidence.

I just do it because I am tired of waiting, and tired of begging, and dammit it's time, and THIS THING IS GOING OUT SCREAMING AND YELLING. 

And then I hide in my room because I'm 100% sure that everyone will hate it, but it's out there, and it's DONE. And I just want it done

Is it the best reason to self-publish?

Probably not. 

But this thing is as ready as it will ever be. 

Absolution series banner
Click image for more info! 

Oh God, grant me the confidence of the mediocre white man.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

#bookreview: Songs of Insurrection | JC Kang

Songs of Insurrection (The Dragon Songs Saga #1)Songs of Insurrection by J.C. Kang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Princess Wang Kaiya is just a pawn. The foreign (and very handsome) Prince Hardeep Vaswani wants her to wield her new-found magic to save his beloved country, Ankira. Her father needs to marry her off to the right noble to stabilise Cathay and his grip on the throne. What can a sixteen-year-old still learning to use her powers do in the face of such confusing politics and constantly-shifting allegiances? Are her powers even real?

I'd put this at something like a 3.5, honestly, because there are some bits that I liked quite a lot, but others that I didn't so much.

Kaiya is young and female in a very misogynistic culture, which also means she is underestimated once she learns of her magic and starts standing up for what is right. She's well-educated, but very inexperienced and awkward, making her the underdog in this story. You come to root for her despite her very stupid decisions because of the strength of her convictions and good intentions. I'm not quite a fan of this instalove or puppy crush thing she has on Hardeep, though I suppose it's... understandable? Maybe? (Mark this down as I'm-too-old-for-this-shit) Personally, my verdict is that she's stupid, but not Too Stupid To Live. Part of this is also the third person POV, I think, which gives a more balanced perspective to her actions and reasoning plus also makes it pretty clear when she's blatantly being manipulated without her realising it.

The politics of Cathay are complex. There's the Mandate of Heaven to think of, repercussions of Hellstorm if the Emperor were to renege on an agreement sworn on the imperial plaque. The neighbouring countries of Madura and Ankira are fighting in the South, rebellion fermenting in the North, and the Tianzi needs to balance all of that while keeping the hereditary Lords happy. Which means compromise. And bribes. And marrying off the princess for political gain. There's a bureaucracy to appease and the military to pacify. All of which makes for pretty dense politics for Kaiya to navigate without proper training.

No, actually, I think Kaiya's part of the politics were easier to read than what Zheng Tien and Yan Jie, agents of the Black Lotus Clan, start uncovering. There's so much underhanded dealing (Bribes! Murder! Betrayal! Weird business deals!) that I got a little cross-eyed and skimmed a little (Sorry, bad reading habit). I think there was a point where some goods were substituted for other goods and if you trace these goods you'll find out who was rebelling and who was betraying who and then I couldn't remember what goods were from what province so I just moved on.

Some content warnings might be necessary, I suppose.
- One of Kaiya's suitors is known to torture women, and there is a brief scene of sorts. (Not graphic, but a little unsettling.)
- The concept/typology of the Bovyan might offend some Christians, though they're mentioned only very briefly in the story itself. (It was a "lol, what?" moment for me)
- The misogyny and racism of the culture are never directly addressed. Some offhand statements which come across as insulting, while true to the culture/worldbuilding, are not dealt with/addressed within the story.

Still, it was overall quite an interesting read.

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

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Wednesday, 3 March 2021

#bookreview: The Second Bell | Gabriela Houston

The Second BellThe Second Bell by Gabriela Houston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Salka is a striga who has spent all her life suppressing her second heart, which, if given any power, would turn her into an evil monster. It's their way of life, and the only way to keep their community safe. But when Salka is sent away, it comes down to a matter of survival: continue starving the monster and die or finally tap into her striga nature and live.

The Second Bell is a story of choices - not just the choices Salka has to make, but how the choices of others in their community have direct and lingering impact on her life. As Salka is forced into increasingly limited and difficult choices, she needs to decide if she will continue living within the boundaries of the community that has sheltered her so far, or if she should strike out and make a new way for herself.

This brings us to the question of nature versus nurture. In the striga village, the conventional wisdom is to starve the second heart, the source of both power and evil; yet the most experienced at - and legalistic about - starving their second heart turn out to be those whose choices cause the most harm to others. Are all strigas evil just because they have a second heart? Or is it what they do with the power that they are born with that makes them dark? What if Salka's experience is something totally different? And what if there was a way to tap on to that power and still remain good?

What is the balance between personal responsibility for your actions and the sinful nature of a person?

The story starts off well - Chapter 1 draws you into the history of Heyne Town, Salka's birth, and the stigma around strigas, then jumps 19 years into the future in Chapter 2 to see Salka all grown up. However, Chapters 3 - 6 hits you with a choppy series of POVs that read like a series of short stories that are somewhat related to the plot but not quite. Houston seems to hit her stride around Chapter 7 - whilst we still get multiple points of view, they start to flow together in a cohesive narrative to its heart-wrenching end.

Overall, The Second Bell is an enchanting and thoughtful read.

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

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Wednesday, 24 February 2021

#bookreview: You Knew the Price | Susan Kaye Quinn

You Knew the PriceYou Knew the Price by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Regional Director Zuri Hill-Gray has it all - yet nothing feels right after the death of her twin sister. Then power engineer Lucia Ramirez comes stumbling into her life, bringing with her a threat to the power grid that puts her job - and last shred of identity - on the line.

Is it weird to say that You Knew the Price feels strangely prescient? I doubt Quinn could have predicted the power shortages in Texas right at the time she's launching the book, but time is just weird nowadays anyway! The main difference is, the power shortages in the book are done on purpose for nefarious reasons instead of being a result of poor planning through climate change.

Still, the overall premise for the Nothing is Promised series is a timely and relevant one: pandemics, climate change, and the price society has to pay collectively to fix things. Where Quinn focuses very much on found family in When You Had Power, it's the community gathering support each other - whether they're colleagues or unknown protesters - that comes to the fore here. As much as Zuri is able to rely on the support of her close-knit family, she also needs to step up and face the very real evil of people bent on power. And she can't do it alone.

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, 17 February 2021

#bookreview: What's the Tea with Gen Z

What's The Tea With Gen ZWhat's The Tea With Gen Z by G.Z. Manuel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What's the Tea with Gen Z is a guidebook to understanding Gen Z, written by communication students from IACT College, Gen Z-ers themselves. It's a huge effort - the book is filled with lots of information, from research and surveys, as well as personal anecdotes.

Content-wise, I'd give them an A (or 5 stars) for effort. The book covers everything from who the Gen Z are and how they grew up to what they're currently facing in the Covid-19 pandemic. It sometimes feels like the majority of the statistical information quoted has an implicit White USA bias. In a way, this makes sense because of how global the world is and what kind of information is readily available on the Internet (as well as the limits of college students carrying out surveys during MCO - this begs the question, who are they surveying?). At some points, the question "is that really true here?" kept coming up while reading, so I'd have appreciated a little bit of analysis on how this translates to the Gen Z in Malaysia. Is it absolutely the same, or would there be variation due to culture? Is there a difference in the way the same global events are perceived & reacted to by Gen Z in White/Western surveys vs the average Malaysian youth? Or is this generation truly so global that cultural backgrounds don't play as big a role as they used to?

On a more personal interest level, a lot of what was said that defined this generation was technology. Yet everything mentioned seemed very urban English-speaking middle-class - what about B40 without the same level of access to tech & the Internet? What about those whose primary language is Malay or Chinese or Tamil? Do they also fit in the demographic, or are they some sort of subculture within Gen Z? [Other side thought - do these generational analyses only apply to the English-speaking world? How does language change generational experiences?]

On a more or editorial level, the book would have benefited from tighter editorial control. If I understand the format correctly, each chapter is written by a different team of 3 students. This has resulted in varying levels of readability. There are some chapters that are a breeze to read and others that are filled with grammatical mistakes and extremely confusing sentences. Some seem to go a little more in-depth into why things are the way things are, others seem just to summarise and present whatever they found or are just extremely anecdotal.

Overall, What's the Tea With Gen Z is an informative read, though it could have benefited from more thoroughly thought out analysis. It contains a lot of information, but what it lacks is a strong narrative that pulls all this into a cohesive whole. However, as these are communications students and not researchers or analysts, I suppose I'll give them a pass on that.

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