Sunday 31 December 2023

2023: A Year in Review

 I'm starting this at 4:22pm on 31 December 2023, let's see if I actually finish it before the new year. heh.

2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022

Right so on to this year. I seem to change my format with each year, so I guess I'll just start with some random something and see if I'll go with it again next year.

Blog Life

I haven't posted about blog stats for a while, so here's a graph from off the stats page.

I... did not know I passed a million views. But then again, this place is over a decade old. Not entirely sure what I did in 2021, though the 2021 review post suggests it was Amok-launch related. 

Readership for 2023 itself isn't half bad, though I haven't been half as consistent at posting as I used to be. 

I have also apparently gained a Singaporean audience. *waves from over the Causeway*

My top 5 posts for the year are all Very Old Posts, which is weird, and which is also why I don't really trust stats. lol. (All-time top post is still my Malaysian Englishes post, which I guess makes a bit more sense.)

Reading life

I read a total of 59 books (2022: 46) this year! Goodreads has my year in books... or you can check it out myyearinbooks for a snazzy new version.

I gave 14 books 5 stars this year, but if I were to select my top 5 reads for the year, they would be:

If you all remember, I tried to take part in the 2023 Booktempter's TBR Reduction Challenge. I started off pretty well, and then slacked off towards year end. It was a good challenge, though, and got me to pick up some books that have been on the shelf (whether physically or on the Kindle) for many, many  years!

My TBR goals for 2024 are going to be a bit more intense, because I have a few boxes of books I need to read/discard/etc. The limits for this challenge is to be mean enough to DNF any book that fails to really capture my interest by page 50, or by about 15% if it's an ebook. I may extend this limit because sometimes I try to be nice, but this is me giving me permission not to *have* to finish every single book.

Writing life

Actual writing has been slow this year, but I have finally, finally finished writing the Tea Novel. It's out with beta readers at this point, but once that's done and I do a final edit based on their feedback (probably by January), I'll be pitching this one to agents. 

But in writing-adjacent stuff (which includes publishing! and editing!), the highlight of the year would be A Spoonful of Malaysian Magic: An Anthology which launched at GTLF in November!

Oh, I also had launches for Absolution at Hikayat and Riwayat once the print book finally appeared in March.

Amok made it to the finals of the Anugerah Buku Malaysia 2023 but lost out to I think Muhammad Haji Salleh. 

We re-started Readings in Penang this year in collaboration with Dabble Dabble Jer Collective, and renamed it Readings@Tanjong! Give us a follow for updates about when and where we are. We had like 6? Maybe 7? events this year but we are absolutely slowing down for 2024 and probably only having 4. lol.

It's only 5:34pm so I guess I made good time on this post. I have this vague feeling I've glossed over many things, and that I should maybe do a top 5 teas section or something but I think I'm good with this. Honestly, the best way to get consistent-ish updates right now is on my Instagram, which I think has taken over the random-post portions of this blog.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

#bookreview: Our Tethered Skates by Naadhira Zahari & School of Thieves by Sabrina Ismail

Might've binged a bit, because these were short. These are MG/YA novellas written for both younger & ESL readers, so I'm not quite judging them against like International Publishing standards. Instead, I'm leaning towards a viewpoint of IF I WERE A TEEN, WOULD I LIKE IT? in the star ratings, with my overall notes in the review.

Our Tethered SkatesOur Tethered Skates by Naadhira Zahari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's go with 3.5, rounded up.
It's a fascinating novella - much more could be developed if it were a longer story, but this worked fine as a short piece.
I had several weather & clothes-related questions that probably can be handwaved away with "magic" (Verglas a magical portal world, after all), but I'd really like to know the age gap between Maya and Layla because that seemed to be the fuzziest point given the 10-year gap between Maya's disappearance and Layla looking for her.

Not quite sure that the present tense quite worked for this story; it was a little clunky in places maybe because it kept wavering between simple and progressive for unclear reasons.

View all my reviews

School of ThievesSchool of Thieves by Sabrina Ismail
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmmm. A little conflicted on this one. It was an interesting enough read, so I figure it's a little under 3 stars. Like, the plot moves you along enough that you get kind of invested in the story but when you reach the end and think about it, you're like... really? Really?! *side-eyes author*

I like the heist aspect, and the side quest of getting back at Amra's deadbeat father. The characters are likeable and relatable. But ultimately the whole point of WHY the School of Thieves exists and what they're trying to achieve doesn't really make sense.

Like MAYBE if the whole School of Thieves thing was just left vague (i.e. the school exists, don't question it), it would have worked better. I think it was the epilogue that threw me off. (It felt a little like the author was trying to be clever but didn't quite pull it off.)

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A final musing: 

It's fascinating that these Very Malaysian Writers writing for a Very Malaysian Crowd would choose to set their magical worlds in Not Very Malaysian settings. 

I mean, Our Tethered Skates was set in some undefined country with four seasons, the Layla's family name was Montgomery or something like that. Verglas, being a magical world can get away with having ice all the time. But why would the main family have to be White? (Not that they were described physically, but I mean the names, the setting.) I would have liked it better if say they were Malaysian transplants in some foreign country, or they live in KL and visit the local ice-skating ring (Sunway Pyramid?? lol) because they want to be figure skaters (we do have those!).

School of Thieves never quite says where they are and the school itself is set in some mystical island, but Amra's family name is De Silva, which fair, we have De Silvas in Penang (an old line of Eurasians), BUT! then it says her dad is from Mexico, which... WHY. This one at least seems to have a mix of races (there's Khai, Lee, Ratna and a bunch of ambiguous English names.)

I have a bunch more to read, so we'll see. 

Wednesday 13 December 2023

#bookreview: New Name | A.C. Williams

New Name (Morningstar: Destiny Trilogy #3)New Name by A.C. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I took a long break between reading the first two books in the series and finally completing this one, so I had a bit of a rough start. One thing to remember (lol) is that Xander discovers a lot about her past and who she is in Namesake. So when this one started off, especially since I took such a long break, I had to back up a bit with "Aura, who?" But it's pretty much a new start for her anyway.

If I said Namesake was dark, this one goes kind of... darker... in many ways before finally going PLOT TWIST but ACTUALLY! Then becomes pretty much hopeful again. Which on one hand is kind of cool because Aura really needs a break, but on the other... I guess there were enough subtle cues that I'm okay with it happening.

Williams sets it up so it sounds like there should be another book in this world, even though this book 3 of a trilogy - and honestly, if she does one exploring that whole side quest on the Al units and why this one guy is hunting down the Alpha Prototype, I'd be all for reading it. (I see other short stories in the Morningstar Universe but none that addresses this. Though Promise: A Morningstar Series Novella might be interesting to read.)

Note: When I say "darker", it's not so much about being more graphic. I think the level of violence is about the same, but it's really very... sex-negative. I get that Williams is portraying villains in this (and is giving the Stormcloud sisters a Very Difficult Childhood), but their main means of control and coercion seems to be primarily sex, especially kinky sex, and abuse in the name of kinky sex.

So "content warnings", if you will: difficult discussions on abortion vs bodily autonomy, mentions of pedophilia, and copious references to rape and sexual assault.

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This finally finishes up March's TBR stretch goal. hahaha. I'll work on December's goal, but I think I'll give up on the stretch goals. 

Monday 11 December 2023

#musicmonday: Christmas Unicorn

Facebook reminded me of the existence of this, so now you have to listen to it too.