Wednesday 25 May 2022

#bookreview: All the Seas in the World | Guy Gavriel Kay

All the Seas of the WorldAll the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was excited to start reading this because I remembered liking A Brightness Long Ago very much, back when I read it. What I didn't account for was the fact that although by objective time, having read that one in April 2019 isn't that long ago in book publishing time, I have forgotten everything I loved about that one except for vague impressions and, of course, my own review.

Which made for a frustrating feeling of not quite getting the impact that I should be getting out of this book. Sure, it's wonderfully written: a brilliant tapestry of many different yet ordinary lives that affect each other, of futures that shift and change with each person's rather humdrum decisions, whether they are the ex-slave Lenia Serrano, her Kindath merchant partner Rafel ben Natan, or the famed Folco d'Acorsi. I have also not caught up on any of the other stories set in this world--which, if looking at other reviews, might also have impacted my reading experience. This is despite the fact that All the Seas of the World is touted as a standalone. It may have been meant to be, but it didn't always feel that way.

All the Seas of the World starts with an assassination-turned-heist with a side of murder and unintended consequences. It ends with a siege and battle. In between, it explores the intersections of faith and race with identity--and how changing one's faith and name could change your fortunes, but also how faith is often tied to race and vice versa. It also looks at fate and timing, and how being somewhere at a certain time could make or break your future--and how our reactions and unexplainable impulses can set us on a different path altogether. But ultimately, it is also a story of revenge, of people being driven by revenge, and that thirst for retribution for past wrongs.

Like A Brightness Long Ago, the narrative shifts between POVs, though the majority of it is in Lenia & Rafel's POV (third person). But added to the mix is a first-person narrative from Danio which jumps out at the reader suddenly with no explanation, musings from the dying, an omnipotent narrator with Opinions, as well as strange foretellings of what is to come. I remember some of this from A Brightness Long Ago; I feel that I was okay with it then, but there's something about it that irks me now. Then again, taste is a subjective and ever-changing thing.

All in all, All the Seas of the World is a good, thoughtful read, but probably best read and enjoyed in relation to his earlier books. It may come across as a little slow and ponderous, though it is definitely not as repetitive as some of Brandon Sanderson's narratives.

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

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Sunday 15 May 2022

Sesi Seni with #PenangArtDistrict

I recently sat down with Swarna from the George Town Literary Festival to talk about my writing journey.

It actually came out a few days ago but I was too scared to watch it until now. heh.

Wednesday 4 May 2022

#bookreview: Unspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man | Guvna B

Unspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the ManUnspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man by Guvna B.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interspersed with Guvna B's own lyrics as well as his Instagram posts (unfortunately only the captions made it into the digital ARC; I assume the pictures made it into print?), reading Unspoken: Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man felt like sitting in Isaac's (Guvna B's real name) living room, listening to him ramble on about life, grief, faith, and therapy.

It may seem a little weird that I picked this up for review (thanks Netgalley!) since I am not black, British, or male. I don't even listen to his songs; I find rap music a little weird. But the church I attended in Uxbridge had invited him to one of their youth events in 2019 (which is how I remembered the name), so I was a little curious.

The super-long title makes it sound like it's going to be this thesis, but the book reads more like a memoir, with Isaac dropping all pretensions, even his stage name. It centres around his upbringing on a council estate in East London and his grief at the loss of his father and two close friends in the span of two years. It's also mixed up with race relations in the UK, clashes of cultural and familial expectations, and the burden of fame, to some extent. Yet it's conversational and extremely relatable, like an elder brother sharing a personal story.

Some quotes I found super relatable even as someone who's not anywhere near the book's target market:

[For the Asians (lol)]
I was comprised neither of flesh nor blood but of parental aspiration...

[For the artists]
I now know that what was happening was that I was trying so hard to put out what I thought people wanted to hear, without ever stopping to ask myself what I wanted to say, what was in my heart...
I started comparing myself to other people, which made me feel even worse.
Advice to anyone reading this: Never compare.

[For grieving Christians]
'Within modern Christianity,' [Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury] said, 'we are really bad at lament and protest; really bad at saying, this is terrible, this is wrong, this is awful; and we're really bad at saying, "God I am really mad about this. I am so angry about this. God, I think you've let me down".'
What the psalm teaches us is that it is okay to rage against God, even though it does not come easily to us. It is better to rage against him than to shut him out completely.
In showing our true selves to God, he can reveal his true self to us. That is why lamenting and protesting in times of deep pain is as important as praising and celebrating in times of happiness. Learning to lament and protest is a journey towards better understanding God's love.

To be honest, while the storytelling prose is what makes the book, there were times when it felt like the author rambled on too far and then came back again with an, "oh yes, this was where I was going with this story". At the end of it all, he ties all the stories and the almost-devastation that came from those tragic events back to his own response, which was:

This ingrained sense of masculinity led me to believe that the only emotion permissible for me to reveal was rage. I could be angry, upset, hurt, or sad and then punch something, because that is what men did. Bare my teeth. Tighten my fist. Either that or grin and bear it. Handle it. Withstand the pain.

Overall, Unspoken is lyrically written, honest and heartfelt.

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

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I didn't know this song was by Guvna B!