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. Review: 28/6
  • 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. Review: 26/7

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. Review: 6/7 (because I finished reading it on the way to USA lol!! And it's currently Weds here, but Thurs on the laptop)
  • 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. Review: 19/7.
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. Review: 9/8
  • 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. Changed my mind and read The Epic of Bidasari and other tales instead. Review: 13/9
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. DNFed because I don't really like it. So I read Lust by Mike Wells instead, which was kind of 1/3 of a book (so I guess a Novella?). Review on Goodreads.
  • Stretch goal: An author who has published more than seven booksSet in Darkness by Ian Rankin. Finished reading this, added a star rating, but will be skipping the review. 
OCTOBER: Spooky season cometh
  • A book with a spooky or dark theme: Hantu Macabre by Jill Girardi. Review: 20/10.
  • 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!!! Edit 15/12: I read this, left a star review, but not going to do a blog review. 
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. I'm gonna cheat on this one and replace it with Wings of Truth by Aaron DeMott, published by Onicranium Dragon Books so that I can merge my reading list. (Cheat because it was just published on 1 Oct 2023 and I won an ebook copy in a giveaway lol). Review: 15/11
  • 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.  31/12 update: Ended up reading a bunch of novellas from Bookiut, does that count as books someone else gifted me, since they were given to me at GTLF? In that case, I guess this review.
  • 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