Friday, 9 June 2023

a blog return? we'll see how long this lasts.


I deleted a bunch of emails (like 12k of them) from my old main email, which is mostly the old friends and newsletters email now (as separated from the work/primary/I actually read this stuff email), and discovered (re-discovered?) a bunch of really old emails plus a bunch of blog comments from the old tabulas.

Because obviously I never delete anything in my gmail.

Until now la, because I'm running out of space. 


my email and blogging game was a whole different... ballgame? scene? style? thingamabob? and you know what. Maybe I shouldn't have moved so far away from that. lol

cos also, writing properly gets tiring after a while. 

i miss tabulas.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

#bookreview: Old Man's War | John Scalzi

Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)Old Man's War by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gonna keep this review short, because this is mostly just for records. And also because I am tired and lazy.

I enjoyed it. I skipped some sciency bits, but those were actually quite few and far between. Overall an interesting premise and I would love to read the rest of the series if I find them!

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Wednesday, 10 May 2023

#bookreview: Tales of Polynesia: Folktales from Hawai'i, New Zealand, Tahiti and Samoa

Tales of Polynesia: Folktales from Hawai'i, New Zealand, Tahiti, and SamoaTales of Polynesia: Folktales from Hawai'i, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa by Yiling Changues
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a somewhat frustrating read. I went in hoping to really like it because I generally like folktales. I like reading old origin/creation myths, finding out what makes a culture gel together, what kinds of stories they tell each other, and how these make up who they are as a nation.

Most of the stories were fascinating, but they were a really hard, dry, and boring read. I mean, these are pretty much fantastic and fantastical stories, but struggling through unending sentences just made me want to give up. I feel like... pulling together a bunch of old translations into one book and giving them really fancy illustrations wasn't enough to keep my attention.

Maybe I lost out a little on the reading experience because this was an ebook ARC and the formatting really sucked (footnotes that only appeared several pages later instead of as a pop-up; illustrations that were somehow split into multiple images; Kindle only shows black & white images instead of colour; fancy drop caps don't show up; random line breaks, page numbers, headers and footers appearing haphazardly in the text) but... that really shouldn't change the experience of the stories themselves?

I just felt like the stories needed someone to edit them for a better flow, and probably to slightly more modern English, instead of just using centuries-old versions. I don't think these need a "retelling" in the way everyone is retelling folktales and making them into whole novels, but they do need a bit of a rewrite for readability's sake.

Or maybe I'm somewhat at the end of my interest in the folktale style of storytelling.

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

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Wednesday, 3 May 2023

#bookreview: Namesake (Morningstar: Destiny #2) | A.C. Williams

Namesake (Morningstar: Destiny Trilogy #2)Namesake by A.C. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So following on from Nameless, things get really, really dark. I mean like super dark. So I guess content warnings for rape and suicide ideation.

After the losses in the first book, things started to look up a little, at least at the start. After all, they did manage to find what they were looking for. Their sacrifices were not in vain. And their trip to McLeod's home forces some deeper conversations and discussions about their pasts - not just Xander's, but just about everyone left on the Prodigal.

The core of this book is the discovery of who Xander really is. And whilst it was amazing and mindblowing, Williams did a good job in laying down enough clues and hints for that delicious tension of ooohh I think this is what happened! and but how would it actually work? leading up to the reveal. (I was almost right about what happened, but am obviously not science-y enough to guess how lol)

But things don't stay peaceful for long...

I mean, who expected it to? They've got syndicates on their tail after all.

But coming back to the Morningstar: Destiny Trilogy's underpinnings of faith, where Nameless explores personal convictions, Namesake goes so much deeper into holding onto faith in dark times. Xander keeps asking the questions Where are you, God? and Why me? Why is all this happening to me? as she struggles through everything that has happened to her, everything that has brought her to the Prodigal, especially all the deaths she leaves in her wake. Because of her. Because of who she is. Because of the people who are trying to get her. And it culminates in the big one: Can I still then believe?

Namesake ends on another cliffhanger, and I'm excited to head into New Name when I have the time!

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Wednesday, 19 April 2023

bookreview: Under the Pendulum Sun | Jeannette Ng

Under the Pendulum SunUnder the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Under the Pendulum Sun came very heavily recommended to me. But as all TBRs go (even physical ones), it just sits on the shelf for a while... for 4 years in this case.

Let's start off with the heavy stuff, a content warning for incest in this case. If this is something you will never touch, then this is a book you'll want to skip, even if it only develops midway through. [Spoilers at the end of this review!]

Arcadia, the magical land of the fae, is a dark, mysterious place. Nothing is as it seems, everything is a construct, seemingly made to mirror or mimic the real world - but in strangely bizarre ways. No one knows if the fae have souls and yet missionaries do what they have always done - go into the darkest reaches of the world to bring the word of God. It is a very well-constructed world, one full of fancy and also full of darkness, and Ng does a fantastic job leading us through it. She utilises many familiar elements from fairy tales: Mab the Queen of the Fae, changelings and stolen children, the fae hunt - and yet it's intertwined with extra-biblical myth: Enochian the language of angels, origins of Lilith.

Catherine Helstone plunges blindly into Arcadia in search of her missing brother, Laon. There, she wrestles with the gospel and with sin. Is salvation only for humans or does it extend to the fae? Do the fae have souls or are they soulless, like animals or constructs? If they are soulless, can they then still be saved? Is there a point in having a missions outpost in the fae worlds if salvation is not extended to them?

Yet she is not the only one wrestling with faith. Laon, the missionary brother, struggles with sin and worthiness. Is he worthy to carry the gospel if there is sin in his heart, even if he doesn't act on it? Where is the line between resisting temptation and being sinful because he cannot let go of his lustful thoughts? What compromises can he make to carry the gospel to the innermost parts of Arcadia? Or will the requirements of the Pale Queen invalidate his testimony and his good works?

Ng peppers the book with quotations from scripture, as well as excerpts of medieval-sounding texts that present missionary efforts and theological arguments in an alternate earth where the fae are real. It sounds more Christian than I would expect from a fantasy book, exploring deep questions of faith and Christian theology; yet as it is a fantasy world and a fiction book, it does not provide any semblance of answers, only more questions.

Ultimately, however, the set-up of the creation of the fae and the fantastical underpinnings of fae society as imagined by Ng presents a skewed gospel; a reminder, that you will, that this is not a biblical work. Under the Pendulum Sun leads to an almost-inevitable ending, one I wish were not her conclusion.

Still, I would put it as a sort of fantasy counterpart to Steve Rzasa's sci-fi exploration of whether aliens can be saved in For Us Humans: A Tale of Alien Occupation.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2023

#bookreview: UNSAID: An Asian Anthology | Anitha Devi Pillai (ed.)

UNSAID: An Asian AnthologyUNSAID: An Asian Anthology by Anitha Devi Pillai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

UNSAID: An Asian Anthology started off strong, but ended up a little meh towards the end. It was a really weird feeling of going "ooh I really like the stories in this anthology" to "ummmm like that only ah?", especially since the sequence of stories moved from sad, dark real-to-life stories I tend to get bored by to supernatural, legend type stories that I tend to like so I kind of expected it to be the inverse.

The first four stories in The Others category deal with dark matters - the constant othering and prejudices many Asians face, even within their own cities. Nothing is more relatable than Saras Manickam's "When We Are Young"; which non-Malay Malaysian hasn't faced this very scenario? How often do we have to talk about meritocracy and quotas for nothing to change? Cherrie Sing's "The Taste of Pickles" also elicited nods: yes, these things happen, what can you do about it? "Broken Filaments" by Paul GnanaSelvam presents a very odd premise - yet I can imagine it happening in small-town Malaysia in the 80s; we all know weird old teachers like that with strange ideas and the inability to accept a no. I resonated with the home-away-from-home in "Diwali Lights" by Adwiti Subba Haffner; that feeling of in-betweenness where you long for what was even though you know that the here and now are your true home.

Knotted Ties explores relationships, both familial and within the local community. Of the five stories here, the middle three (The Peanut Turtle, The Broken Window, Lata) stood out to me. These are the kinds of stories that I, personally, would like to read more of: that dissonance between your own and your adopted cultures, of having to match what you know with what you were supposed to have known. "The Peanut Turtle" (Dennis Yeo) was the most intriguing, probably because of the format. It switched between the protagonist's first trip to Malaysia as a child (told in the present tense), and something like a memoir (diary?) of the events written in the future that explained the historical & cultural background plus many of the gaps in the child's knowledge - which really made for a strange reading. Oddly enough, it works. Whilst I did like "The Apartment of Good Intentions" (Adriana Nordin Manan), it ended rather abruptly and felt a little incomplete to me.

That dissatisfaction of "huh, something feels missing here" carried over into the last section, The Unknown, which felt like the weakest set of the whole anthology. Maybe I was bored by the time I got to it, I don't know, or maybe I've read too many similar ghost/supernatural stories that nothing really stood out or got me excited in this batch of stories. Or maybe there was just too much revenge going on, whether in life or from beyond the grave. That said, they're interesting enough, and still worth a read.

As a whole, Unsaid is a solid collection of short stories set in Asia. (I hesitate to say "by Asians" because there are a couple of names that don't seem to be specifically Asian based on their bios.)

Note: I received a review of this book from PRH SEA. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Wednesday, 5 April 2023

#bookreview: The Rise and Fall of a Social Network | Dane Cobain The Rise and Fall of a Social The Rise and Fall of a Social Network by Dane Cobain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dan Roberts takes up a developer job at the upcoming social network, a network that releases posts from its users upon their deaths. Plagued with bad code, financial troubles and twitchy founders, things take a turn for the worse when a journalist and an ex-staff turn up dead after a big announcement. There's some shady business going on and the longer Dan stays, the harder it is for him to leave without dire repercussions.

Cobain showcases a truly toxic start-up culture in John Mayers, one of the founders, tells Dan upfront that the job will kill his social life and ruin his relationships, also ending the job interview on a weirdly threatening note, saying they need full commitment, and once they're in there's no turning back. Both bosses are extremely erratic, the company runs on unpaid overtime instead of hiring enough staff, and pay is low but with the promise of payment in stocks. And yet, if you think about it, much of this has been normalised in our current capitalistic work culture, where people are encouraged to put their jobs and work commitments above their families and relationships.

What fascinated me most was the warped social fabric woven around Dan and his colleagues, one that encompasses all their lives and pulls them all into a little silo that's disconnected from the real world. And that's also another question the text grapples with: what lengths would someone take to protect their money and reputation? And if the company is all they have left, what would they do to protect it, even over others' lives?

Overall, The Rise and Fall of a Social Network is a really interesting 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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Wednesday, 29 March 2023

#bookreview: Prophetess of Arden | L.A. Thornhill

Prophetess of Arden (The King and Prophet Chronicles)Prophetess of Arden by L.A. Thornhill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars rounded up to 5!

Reminiscent of CS Lewis' Narnia series, Thornhill has created a fantastic portal fantasy, where Beckah enters Renatus, a pre-flood, pre-redemption world inhabited by the descendants of Abel. There, she's tasked by Yeshua to be the Voice of Adonai, the prophet that would help restore the Kingdom and lead the Ardenians back to God.

But the one person she is supposed to help the most, the Hand of Adonai, aka the annoying(ly handsome) Prince Seth Hal-Titus, doesn't trust her. She looks too much like the enemy, and sounds like she's crazy.

If there's one thing that Thornhill excels at, it's in building the relationships between her characters. It's always nice to see how they develop and grow around each other - and also grow to like each other despite their spats *ahem*.

The world itself is fantastic, with both wonderful things like raqia and healing clay and terrible things like blood lilies and shades. Beckah's journey of discovery is one that's shared with the reader, as Seth, Hadassah, Judah and Beckah make their way across the country back to South Arden.

One of the things that annoyed me about reading the prequel (The Lost Descendants) was how obvious the Christian parallels were. But this book sets it up perfectly: (view spoiler)

Prophetess of Arden works as a Christian fantasy, at times drawing from Biblical stories and yet setting up its own rules and history. This can only be done because it isn't Earth, thereby avoiding accusations of heresy should the book's faith and theology differ from common interpretations of the Bible (though the more conservative would say fantasy itself and speculation of other worlds is heresy, lol). Yet, it's also Earthlike enough that it could be some form of medieval fantasy if you squint.

The book clearly sets up for the next one in the series, which I'm totally looking forward to! If you haven't read any of this series at all, I'd actually recommend reading this one first before going back to the prequel, because the prequel actually makes so much more sense AFTER you've read this.

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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Get the books here!

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

#bookreview: Nameless (Morningstar: Destiny Trilogy #1) | AC Williams

Nameless (Morningstar: Destiny Trilogy #1)Nameless by A.C. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nameless is space opera, a perfect read for someone like me who just wants the far-flung worlds and fancy tech without having to understand how a spaceship (or all that tech) works. At any rate, I picked this one up mostly to support a fellow Realmie (not that I recall ever meeting her; we just hang out in the same conference/socmed spaces) and didn't go in with much in the way of expectations.

Xander doesn't know who she is. Rescued from a derelict spaceship, all she possesses is a coat with the name she's adopted, faint memories of things that no one else seems to know about, and a strange sense of right and wrong that's at odds with everyone she's met so far. Yet, as she journeys to discover who she is and pieces together her odd dreams and fragmented memories, she may soon discover that she doesn't like who she was and where she came from.

Nameless isn't super blatantly Christian fiction - while it's clean in a sense (there are no graphic sex scenes or real-world swearing), it deals with a broken, fallen world that is upfront about its brokenness. There's blood and gore, innuendos and attempted rape... and whilst Xander is innocent, naive, and lucky enough to be able to protect herself from unwanted attentions, the setup in this story world is such that all this is commonplace, and Xander may well be the only exception - other than the people of Sanctum, whom everybody hates because they are all hypocrites.

I think what I like about it most is that it's an exploration of what it means to be a good person in bad situations, of what it means to make the best of things when you've already messed up your life, and of how one can still hold on to personal convictions when everyone else says that you are weird and wrong.

I'm curious as to where it's heading and look forward to reading the next book in the series!

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This is March's goal for the 2023 Booktempter's TBR Reduction Challenge. The stretch goal is to finish the rest of the series by year end... which is doable as there are only 2 other books! Haha. I was trying to finish them in March as well, but I think that won't happen since I have an ARC and 2 review copies to finish in the next few weeks. 

Saturday, 11 March 2023

#review: Fresh 14.0 | ZXC Theatre Troupe

Okay so I did this thing (again) where I went to see a show without knowing anything about it except that my friend wrote a script in English, but it was going to be performed in Hokkien with surtitles. 


It was actually this:

I dunno what all the other words say, I only know Fresh 14.0 hahaha. And I'm too lazy to google translate. So anyway, the first 3 plays were in Mandarin (probably) and only the last (Heng Yeh's) was in Hokkien, and apparently my half-past-six Hokkien is better than my non-existent Mandarin, who knew! (I knew) But anyway, the surtitles were much better written and felt more complete than the ones during A Complete Woman.

Some general notes on the overall experience first. I know this show isn't catered to bananas like me, but... these would probably also help the Chinese theatre-goers, I feel. 

(1) The thing with programme booklets (and why we have them, even if it's a one-page A5 flyer) is that it helps the audience understand the background or premise of the play(s), even before the show starts. I suppose there has been copious stuff posted on their facebook page (which I didn't know existed until now that I'm writing this and stealing their pics), but none of it was at the venue, that I saw at least. ETA: I found a QR code on the FB page but it doesn't want to open on my phone. Also, all of that is in Chinese, which brings me to...

(2) There should also have been a little more general translation for the technical type things as well, especially all the really, really long announcements before the show, between the plays, and after the whole event. With the existence of English surtitles - the ushers even tell you where to sit/where the surtitles will be projected - you're basically inviting a multilingual crowd so there's an expectation that other things should be translated as well. Beginning with the usual "we're about to start, turn off your phones, no recording" etc which can be just the usual pictograms on the screen. 

Right. So the four plays. 

Bathroom was the first play. And this is where context is important because... when it first started, I thought it meant that was where the scene was taking place (obvious, there was a bathtub there). Adding a few lines for as playwright, director, & actors' names (which I think was what they were announcing) would have clarified that a bit. 

Anyway, remember: no programme booklet, no foreknowledge of what on earth is happening. A woman struggling with depression is in the bathroom, where she can be free to be herself. She's talking to another woman about the past, bringing up memories that don't quite match up sometimes. I could never figure out who they were to each other. Were they friends? Sisters? Is she talking to herself and this is a split personality of sorts? Was it like the happy side of the person talking to the sad side? Is it her past talking to her present?

It was all very metaphorical, a long search for something amidst multiple internal breakdowns and external crises. What was the significance of the white balls and the one random blue one she was looking for but not really looking for? Was she cutting? Was she committing suicide? I dunno. Nothing was obviously explained in the dialogue itself, and nothing in the scene clued me in. 

The second play, I don't eat meat with bones, started off well. Three people and a dog get lost in a cave. They start off optimistic (don't worry! my boyfriend will find us soon!) but when their supplies run out after 3 days, they have to start making difficult decisions. Will the vegetarian let the others eat her dog in exchange for a packet of dried mangoes? Will the young man who's afraid of choking on bones finally eat meat that has bones? And when that too is gone, do they just lie down and die or do they start sacrificing each other for their own survival?

The Dad figure (idk the character's name or the actor's name lol) stood out in showing his slow descent into madness, his obsession with survival to get back to his wife and son at the expense of everyone else. And yet he's still The Dad, taking care of the others and trying to get them to eat. There was a rather amusing discussion of reincarnation (if you will reincarnate as a chicken if you eat chicken, does that mean you need to eat humans to be reborn as a human?!) and holding on to your principles in times of crisis. What would you do if your survival depended on it? 

I'm not sure if the playwright/director meant it to be a funny show. I mean, it's an absurd situation and people laugh at dark things, but some of the humour felt a little displaced alongside the horror of the scene. I also felt rather ambivalent about the ending, which didn't quite make sense to me. Honestly, I felt that the play could have ended about half a scene earlier and it would have been much stronger for it. 

Ok, I'm not sure what the actual name of this play is. It sounded really lyrical on the screen something about the fog and the heart and the ocean? But Google translates it as The Dark Ocean, I Am Alone (which ????? lol). I guess I'll just call it Ocean??

The theme for Ocean is rather similar to Bathroom: facing the past, dealing with depression. The protagonist is sitting looking out at the sea, where he finds peace. At first, he cannot see the three others, who are very clearly representations of himself from different times in his life. And when he finally sees them, he doesn't recognise who they are, finding fault with how they live their lives. But soon he has to face up to reality, to remember amidst the crippling fog, and learn to let go of the past in order to move forward in life. 

The only thing that threw me off a little, was that there was this fog horn going at intervals and I kept thinking that the boat would crash into them and kills them or something. HAHAHA. But the ending felt rather hopeful with him burying his past in the sea! Side note: I do hope that their feet are okay because I could see leftover detritus from the earlier play on the floor... and that looked painful. 

This was overall very beautifully done, with amazing choreography. Even though the actors cycled through various characters in presenting the past to the protagonist, it was always very clear what was going on. And the dance at the end! So good!

And finally, the play I was actually there to see: 163288. (Eh, why no fancy pic with all the cast for this one?)

I was impressed with Ocean, but I can definitely say this was my favourite (not cronyism). It was hilarious and also very thought-provoking, exploring friendship and money, and how the latter can make or break the former. Even when both friends are adamant that they will help each other out no matter what since they're practically family

Two friends are looking for a tree stump which has a spirit that can grant wishes... for a price. But when the price turns out to be a hand, will either of them be willing to give up a hand (or mutilate the other) to get the winning numbers for the lottery? (do you want to give up a hand to the spirit or give up a kidney to the loan shark?)

And so starts a hilarious argument over whether one needs to pay back loans between friends, whose need for money is greater, whether brothers with cancer are burdens, and what they would do with FIFTY BILLION RINGGIT.


There's another run of the show tomorrow (12/3) at 3pm. More info on ZXC Theater Troupe's page!

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

#bookreview: Yet You Cry When It Hurts (Nothing is Promised #4) | Susan Kaye Quinn

Yet You Cry When It HurtsYet You Cry When It Hurts by Susan Kaye Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quinn's imagined future is one where the world has finally gotten its act together in the midst of devastating crises. Cooperation is the word of the day, whether voluntary or involuntary, and everyone is working together for the good of all humanity, no matter race, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender. Equality of a sort has been reached, if only because without it, your country is not going to survive the next pandemic or power crisis.

And of course the ones who are trying to upset that balance and buy their way back into the old world order are... mediocre white men with no qualifications who think they should hold the power.

Anyway, remember when I said, When You Had Power was a low-stakes, fuzzy, found-family story? The stakes have been upped with each successive book in the series, culminating in this final book that's all about high-level manoeuvring, international power plays, alpha male posturing, and attempted murders.

Whilst characters in the earlier three books do play their part in this one, they're mostly off in the background, doing supporting-type stuff. Yet You Cry When It Hurts focuses on a set of new characters, mostly Nitara Desai, Director of the IEC's Office of Multilateral Funds and International Agreements and Matti, her best friend and co-conspirator in everything. And the day Nitara discovers that there's a crazy new unlimited energy source being sold privately to the highest bidders is also the day she finds out that her Matti is getting someone else.

Yet You Cry When It Hurts is a story of resilience, trust, and standing up for what's right, not what's most beneficial to you at the cost of everyone else. It's also about community and the power of cooperation and collaboration, and understanding that you don't have to do everything 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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The Nothing is Promised Series:

My reviews: 

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

#bookreview: Exhalation | Ted Chiang; The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends | Peter Berresford Ellis

ExhalationExhalation by Ted Chiang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't deny that Exhalation is a compelling, thoughtful read. There are many things to think about, to delve into, in these nine stories. And all of them are varied enough that each truly feels like a fresh thought.

And yet at the same time, for some weird reason, they didn't feel quite memorable to me. I reached the story notes and went... wait, what was that story about again? And nothing in the title or in the notes clued me in.

So I dunno. I liked it well enough, but it wasn't quite a 5-star.

And that's 9 stories for the #2023TBRchallenge.

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I'm gonna count "On a Ghost's Whim" by Katharina Gerlach for the #2023TBRchallenge, just to up the numbers a bit haha. This is a bonus short story from Gerlach's recent Kickstarter. It was a fun short read, and I got to vote for stuff that went into the story, ha! 


The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and LegendsThe Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


But yay! I mean, there were 37 stories over 612 pages so I think that's justified, seeing that I also read a bunch of other stuff throughout the year.

This is a great read if you want a look at Celtic myths and legends as a huge overview. It covers Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Some of them were familiar, some of them not, but there's the overarching fairy tale tropes that remain true throughout. The earlier ones, especially Ireland, Isle of Man, and Scotland seem to deal more with origin myths and fairy creatures, while the latter deal a bit more with the Great Invasion of the Christians.

Stories read for the #2023TBRchallenge:
- 29 Jowan Chy-an-Horth
- 30 Nos Calan Gwaf
- 31 An Lys-an-Gwrys
- 32 The Destruction of Ker- Ys
- 33 N'oun Doare
- 34 The Anaon
- 35 Koadalan
- 36 The King of Bro Arc'hant
- 37 Prinsez-a-Sterenn

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Total of 9+1+9 = 19 stories for the #2023TBRchallenge!

Monday, 27 February 2023

#musicmonday: Budaya 4.0: Cerita Kita | A Tapestry of Malaysian Tales

The kids (lol) over at Berklee Malaysia Association wrote music to 12 stories of Malaysia as part of their showcase and in conjunction with GTLF2022. Here's the description:

The Berklee Malaysian Association (BMA) is proud to present BUDAYA 4.0: Cerita Kita (A Tapestry of Malaysian Tales). This year, our student-run concert aims to showcase music inspired by 12 stories of Malaysia from its unique fusion of multiple cultures that is influenced by the indigenous, immigrant and colonizing powers.

Our show presents original music composed by the students of the Berklee Malaysian Association that are inspired by local Malaysian voices, utilizing traditional and modern instruments from different ethnic groups. We aim to create a contemporary sound that pushes the boundaries of sonic standards, while presenting a narrative of how different communities and cultures solidified into a uniquely diverse Asian country.

Out setlist includes three stories from ‘Home Groan’, a collection of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and graphic art, compiled and edited by Anna Tan. It features work by twenty-two writers and three artists, all either based in Penang, or with a connection to Penang, Malaysia.

You can currently get Home Groan here:

Penang: Hin Store | GerakBudaya/Hikayat

KL: Riwayat

Online: Malaysian Writers Society | Working Desk Publishing

Ebook: Google Play

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

#bookreview: Whitstead Harvestide: A Speculative Anthology | Abigail & Sarah Falanga (eds.)

Whitstead Harvestide: A Speculative AnthologyWhitstead Harvestide: A Speculative Anthology by Abigail Falanga
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This took me a long time to get through, partially because I took a long time in between stories.

It's an interesting enough collection of short stories that centres around a small English town called Whitstead in the 1800s, at harvestide...or All Hallows Eve. And it's also a "speculative" anthology, which means that all the stories deal with the fantastical, whether that's pure fantasy, fairy tale, folklore, science fiction, paranormal, horror and so on.

So on one hand, it's a really great sampler of short works by a wide range of authors who write in very different styles across a swath of speculative fiction subgenres... but it also doesn't quite gel together as a collection for me. Whilst there are some recurring characters across the stories and they all DO centre on the same location, each piece felt like a disparate stand-alone story. There's apparently a first Christmas anthology of this, where most of the characters were introduced--maybe if you've read that first this would be more appealing and slightly less confusing. (Some stories refer to events that happen prior to this, which I believe were in the first collection.)

Short stories read for the #2023TBRchallenge:
- The Guardian and the Golden Gathering
- What Once Was Lost
- Locusts and Lanterns
- Ollie and the Saints
- The Battle is the Lord's

Total: 5.

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And that's 5 shorts from the 2023 Booktempter's TBR reduction challenge... 23 more to go! whoops.

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

#bookreview: The Last Tale of the Flower Bride | Roshani Chokshi

The Last Tale of the Flower BrideThe Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is a dark fairy tale about fairy tales, where nothing really is as it seems. There are secrets within secrets--but will the revealing of the secret be what breaks the curse or what triggers it? That's the risk the Bridegroom has to take.

Indigo Maxwell-Castenada is a figure full of mystery and enchantment. She is rich and famous - and utterly eccentric, living in a world defined by her own rules. But the deeper you dig into the mystery, the more you find that it isn't really an enchantment. The Bridegroom dreams of a brother that he has lost. Indigo hides a best friend who has disappeared and is never to be spoken of. And the House of Dream's quest, it seems, is to reveal everything that has been carefully hidden and talked around for all these years.

It's hard to tell what's real and what's not in this fairy tale. Where does the enchantment begin, where does the hard, ugly truth end? Hidden under the glitz and glamour of the Castenada wealth, obscured by the magic of Faerie, is a dark tale of manipulation and abuse. This is a tale of memories buried because one cannot bear to remember them, of pasts obscured so that they do not hurt in the present. Yet with all that is hidden, there is this thread of truth that refuses to be buried, that screams to be uncovered...

...but at what cost?

It's still a love story of sorts - inasmuch as Indigo and the never-named Bridegroom understand love. This is a twisted love that cannot bear to let another go, that always lives in the fear of being left behind, and thus makes it so that their partner can never leave. It is utterly self-serving, taking all and giving nothing. At points, it felt like madness; a child so lost to their delusions that they cannot live in the real world - and cannot let others do so too.

It's hard for me to put an actual star rating to this one. It was a little too dark for me to truly enjoy - especially towards the end, and yet the lure of Faerie was strong enough to keep me going. Do read with caution.

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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Wednesday, 1 February 2023

#bookreview: Storm Front (The Dresden Files) | Jim Butcher

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't want to do anything over CNY so I read this instead.

I got this like a million years ago (I cannot remember which book sale lol) mostly because someone had said that the Dresden Files were a good read. And then I procrastinated because, you know, everything else is a good read. And if I ended up liking it going in, that would be a hefty investment because there are like what, 10+ books in the series? and I only have the one book...

Anyway, it was...okay? Like a crime procedural/thriller but with magic and supernatural creatures/events. Except that Harry Dresden was kind of annoying and rather useless and hopeless. It doesn't help that there are very slight hints about his "tragic background" but hardly anything is revealed in this book, so you don't really feel any sympathy for him either.

I posted this on socmed and immediately got the "you must give him a chance! It gets better in books 5 (or whatever)" And I'm just Like, no one else gives other writers a chance if their first book wasn't great, so eh, whatever. (I'm also thinking that publishing must have been much simpler in the way back when, because similarly, if I'd started on Terry Pratchett with The Colour of Magic I would never have read any of the Discworld books.)

Maybe the later books are a good read, but this one was just okay.

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This was January's stretch goal for the 2023 Booktempter's TBR reduction challenge! (Read in January, but scheduled for later)

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

#bookreview: Nusantara: A Sea of Tales | Heidi Shamsuddin

Nusantara: A Sea of TalesNusantara: A Sea of Tales by Heidi Shamsuddin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nusantara: A Sea of Tales is a wonderful collection of fairy tales, folklore, and fables from the core geographic area of the Malay Archipelago or what used to be called Nusantara. A large majority of the stories come from Malaysia, both East and West (since Heidi Shamsuddin is Malaysian), and Indonesia (because both countries share quite a lot of the same folklore), which I guess automatically includes Singapore (because they were historically always linked before they became their own country).

There are a smattering of stories from other Southeast Asian countries - the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand - and, oddly, one story each from Guam and Madagascar. Heidi justifies the latter two as being included because they share the Austronesian language. Frankly, I felt they were just a little too far away to share much cultural similarity and probably could have been kept for a later collection.

Some of the more familiar tales (to me) are several Sang Kancil stories, variations of the Bawang Putih, Bawang Merah tale, Si Tanggang, The Swordfish Attack of Singapore and The Curse of Mahsuri. Some of the other tales are vaguely familiar - whether because I have heard of/read them before in other collections or they are similar to European tales, I cannot quite tell. But quite a few were new to me, especially those from Borneo and from other countries. I was delighted to discover Pak Pandir stories for the first time. How did I not know these exist?

Heidi includes notes at the end of each tale or, sometimes, at the end of a group of similar tales. This provided a lot of background knowledge about where the story comes from (and where similar stories are told across the region), explanations of untranslated words and names (where they hold specific meanings that add nuance to the story), as well as some hidden meanings behind cultural practices that are not quite apparent face value.

Some other books you may be interested in checking out include: Tales of Superhuman Powers: 55 Traditional Stories from Around the World, Pearls on a Branch: Arab Stories Told by Women in Lebanon Today, Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic.

Nusantara: A Sea of Tales is a timely book that collects tales from oral storytellers and
older print sources that are increasingly hard to find before they are lost to us altogether.

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And that's book 1 from the 2023 Booktempter's TBR reduction challenge!

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

#edelweiss #bookreview: Gin, Jesus, and Jim Crow | Brendan J. J. Payne

Gin, Jesus, and Jim Crow: Prohibition and the Transformation of Racial and Religious Politics in the SouthGin, Jesus, and Jim Crow: Prohibition and the Transformation of Racial and Religious Politics in the South by Brendan J. J. Payne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TBH... the main reason I picked this up was because I saw the cover and went "oh, that's the book my Facebook friend's husband wrote". But also, I agree with a lot of her views and I was just kaypo enough to figure why not since Edelweiss had it as a DRC for download.

It was fascinating to read about how so many things we take for granted as "Christian tradition" did not actually become "tradition" until about a hundred years ago. Which is really short when you look at how old Christianity really is. And it's also really weird to realise that so many things seen as "conservative" now were really... "liberal and progressive" ideas back then.

But it is also a deeper insight into how American Christianity dropped off the deep end.

What I did not expect to find was how uncannily racial politics back in early 1900s America align with racial politics in Malaysia in this century; you just have to replace "Christian" with "Muslim" and "White" with "Malay". Which is a terrible, terrible realisation. Except that I have hopes that our democracy is strong enough and old enough at this point to withstand the worst of it. (Bersih & #balikundi movements have been doing good work.)

But one thing the church needs to come back to is the traditional Christian understanding that:
regulating such morality was the role of the church, not the state, and the church ought not try to use the government to remove a man's liberty to choose, even if he chose to sin.
Because any time the church tries to do that, it becomes the oppressor.

Anyway! Gin, Jesus, and Jim Crow was a fascinating, if difficult, read. Which really also means I am out of touch with academic reading and I had a hard time slogging through some bits, maybe also because some of the terminology and phrasing were strange to me.

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

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Wednesday, 11 January 2023

#edelweiss #bookreview: VAMPS: Fresh Blood | Nicole Arend

VAMPS: Fresh BloodVAMPS: Fresh Blood by Nicole Arend
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dillon is a Dhampire, a half-human, half-vampire reject. But he's also gotten a place at the very prestigious vampire finishing school, known as VAMPS, where he's supposed to be learning with and competing against the most elite of vampire society. Which really sucks, because he only found out about this whole... thing... a week before he was supposed to show up at school and has no clue about how vampire society works. Or how he's supposed to act as a vampire.

To put it simply, VAMPS: Fresh Blood is a kinda campy, boarding school vampire new adult rom-com, which is probably a lot to stuff to wrap your head around. Kinda Twilight X St Clare's/Mallory Towers (I'm sure there's one where like half the students were royalty or related to royalty, but I can't remember which one), where insecure 18YO vampires duke it out to be the best of the best while their parents play politics in the background.

It's actually quite a fun read once you can get through the clunky beginning where the WHOLE class is introduced and you're overloaded by too many characters too quickly. There's a bit of mystery surrounding Dillon's vampire parentage (though I kinda guessed who his mom was midway through the book) as well as surrounding why Dillon's blood is so special (science bla bla bla).

Read if you like teenage angst, love triangles, and betrayal.

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

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Wednesday, 4 January 2023

The 2023 Booktempter’s #TBR reduction challenge booklist!

Since I've got a hefty TBR and Matt over at Runalong the Shelves is doing a TBR reduction challenge, I figured why not?

Because many of my books are still in boxes after the moves (in 2019 and 2020, ha!!), I'm restricting the books even further to the current 3 open boxes and 1 shelf of unread books, plus unread ebooks on my Kindle. 

The idea is that once I clear these boxes and the shelf, I can move on to the next unopened box. And work from there until there are no more boxes clogging up my office. (Will that actually happen??? Probably not in the next year or so). 

So, here are the books I've lined up so far. I may not end up doing the stretch goals because I DO also have e-ARCS to review and I try not to post more than 4 reviews a month. I also don't think I have the time to read more than that.

I'll be linking the books to their Goodreads page here first, and then updating the links to my review post once I've read them. 

JANUARY: End to end temptation

  • Newest book in Mount TBR = Nusantara: A Sea of Tales by Heidi Shamsuddin. This is the last book I remember buying. Could be wrong, but eh. Review: 25/1.
  • Stretch goal: Oldest book in Mount TBR = Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Not sure if it's really the oldest, but it's from a BBW sale that's coming up to a decade ago so I figure it counts. Review: 1/2.

FEBRUARY: Short steps

MARCH: Fresh starts

APRIL: Open and Shut Case

  • Standalone = Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng. Just because it's in the box. Review: 19/4.
  • Stretch goal: finish the last book in a series in Mount TBR = huh, idk. Most of my unfinished series' are stuck in one of the unopened boxes. This isn't technically the "last book" in a series, but I figure Snakewood by Adrian Selby should fit somewhat because I read The Winter Road without reading this one and they're somewhat connected?
MAY: Crowning Glory?
  • A book about revolution or a change of those in power = I'm going to put The Old Man's War by John Scalzi as a placeholder here though I don't really want to start a new series without the subsequent books, because well, it's been in the box for a while now too. Review: 17/5. Huh, not so much revolution, but just war. Eh, whatever. 
  • Stretch goal: A tale with a member of a royal household in a leading role = The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. Didn't write a full review on the blog, but it's up on Goodreads here.

JUNE: long reading days or longest nights

  • The largest tale on Mount TBR = The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I cannot remember if I've ever read this before or if I only remember the story from watching the movie, but this is a pretty long one. Is it the longest? idk. 
  • Stretch goal: The shortest novel in your pile = Well, the Goodreads page says it's a short novel (163 pages) so I guess Songs in the Night by Laura Frances.

JULY: Holidays are coming!

  • The author who lives the furthest from you on the globe = The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Mostly because USA is further than the UK (from Malaysia), and I feel like I should get around to reading this. 
  • Stretch goal: A tale with an empire featuring heavily in it = Maybe The King's Sword by C.J. Brightley unless something else comes up. Don't know if it's exactly empire. Am open to suggestions.
AUGUST: Holiday treats
  • Free read! = Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. Mostly because I met the author at SRFC and got the book signed so I really should read it. 
  • Stretch goal: A translated work / a character on holiday = I might go with Muara by Pauline Fan, (ed), Badrul Hisham Ismail (ed), Izzudin Ramli (ed) and Hafiz Hamzah (ed) on this. Not exactly translated, but a mix of works in English & Malay. 
SEPTEMBER: Seven deadly tempts
  • A book linked to one of the seven deadly sins = Fatal Greed by John W. Mefford, just because it has "greed" in the title. 
  • Stretch goal: An author who has published more than seven booksSet in Darkness by Ian Rankin. 
OCTOBER: Spooky season cometh
  • A book with a spooky or dark theme: Hantu Macabre by Jill Girardi. 
  • Stretch goal: A book connected to nighttime in some way = Apparently, I have previously downloaded a book called Midnight Marriage by Lucinda Brant. I have just read the summary and I have no idea why I have it on my kindle but okay! We shall find out!!!
NOVEMBER: Small press, big stories

  • A book published by a small/indie press = The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson. Published by Talos Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing.
  • Stretch goal: A book where peace is the end result = Huh, how would I know this if I haven't read it? I'm gonna assume that Steampunk Cleopatra by Thaddeus Thomas is going to end in peace. lol Also open to suggestions for this one.
DECEMBER: Don't forget to say thank you
  • A book someone else gifted you = In Defence of Doubt by Val Webb. My sister sent this to me from Australia last year. 
  • Stretch goal: A wintry-based tale = Umm maybe The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, since the blurb starts "Just before dawn one winter's morning..." I'd love to read The Winter's Tale, which I know I own, but I just don't know which box it's in, so it's not in the scope, lol. 

I'll probably update the list further on in the year if I decide that something else in the box/kindle fits better. Or if I cave and open another TBR box. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

2022: Books in review

I decided not to do a full year in review because I am lazy, but I figured I might as well post my books in review.

Here are the previous years' posts (also so I can look them up lol; I should do a tag, shouldn't I?)

At any rate, here's my Goodreads' Year in Books, where I read 46 books during the year, not counting several I DNFed. And also several that I still haven't finished reading (anthologies, so I've stopped in between stories) which I probably should. hahaha.

Top 5 books of 2022:

The first three were very automatic highlights because THEY ARE VERY AWESOME BOOKS, but the other two were chosen by going through my 5-star reads and going "huh yeah I remember that one very fondly". 

But also, Brandon Sanderson and Diana Wynne Jones don't need any further boosts on this blog because they are a) super popular already (both) and b) dead (the latter).

Monday, 2 January 2023