Friday, December 12, 2014

"If I leave you alone you will leave England."

Awaiting the FireAwaiting the Fire by Donna Lea Simpson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If this book was written as a "horrid novel that corrupt innocent young feminine minds" in the Victorian times, I think it would have been a bestseller. It has all the requisite: a feisty heroine, a dark, brooding hero, a tempting yet menacing villain, isolated grand mansion/castle, supernatural entities, perilous moments, misunderstandings and torrid resolution.

Sadly, I find the melodrama overwrought, the heroine AND hero annoying in their inconstancy and immaturity, the plot unnecessarily plodding and tiresome, the exposition clunky and the deux-ex-machina unsatisfactory. Not to mention that I've never enjoyed any books that feature Judeo-Christian angels anyway.

Seriously, I should stop being surprised at how much blurbs and recommendations by "notables" can disappoint.

Male protagonist: 2/5 stars
Female protagonist: 1/5 stars
Storyline: 1/5 stars
Pacing: 0/5 stars
Fun Factor: 1/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 0/5 stars

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"I parked there yesterday and my Range Rover exploded."

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1)Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's a reason I didn't read more book in 2014 and it's because of this author. I just got this book a few weeks ago and it's now pretty dog-eared, thanks to the multiple re-reading because I enjoy it just *that* much.

The novel is set in a world where magic is real and is the main currency for power and wealth. A small-time private investigator was tasked to persuade a powerful pyromage to surrender to his family after a series of high profile arson. She has a competitor in the chase, another catastrophically powerful mage who can level cities. A lot of mayhem and high octane action, peppered with tickle-your-ribs humour and steamy sexual tension.

The book is peopled with characters who are not just larger-than-life but also wonderfully likeable. The primary characters sucked me in and kept the book glued to my hand up to the very end. C'mon, how am I to resist when the male protagonist was described as such:

He'd traded the suit and shoes for faded jeans, a pale grey t-shirt and heavy, dark boots. The effect was staggering. The suit had toned him down, smoothing harshness with a veneer of wealth and civilisation. Now he was all rough edge and rugged strength. He looked like he needed some jungle ruins to explore or some bad people to hit with a chair. Trouble was, he was the bad people

I also adored that the female protagonist was no Mary Sue; she had a complement of vulnerabilities along with kick ass determination, wilyness and intelligence. Her Mom was a magically enhanced sniper, her Grandma talked to tanks and the heavy weaponry that she crafted, and a cybermage cousin as her sidekick. Her family was insane and fun and I can't wait to see more of her crazy sisters and cousin in the next books.

Even the psychopath was pretty endearing and made you want to root for him.

Pierce did have devil eyes. Deep and dark, the rich brown of coffee grinds, they were unpredictable and full of crazy.

Burn for Me is a new tangent for the husband-wife writing team, a book that is closer to a traditional romance in the action-adventure genre. However, the romance aspect developed more slowly, paying out over a three-book series. By the last page you are jonesing for the next book and gosh, can't they write any faster?

Favourite quotes:

1. "... Had I known that you were going to pull a pretty ribbon out of your sleeve like some two-bit magician, I would have shot you. Many times."

"Two-bit magician?"

"Men like you enjoy being flattered."

2. Small talk with the dragon. How are you? Eaten any adventurers lately? Sure, just had one this morning. Look, I still got his femur stuck in my teeth. Is that upsetting to you?

3. "I was conceived because my mother skipped bail. Her boyfriend at the time threatened to call the cops on her, so she had to do something to keep him from doing it."

4. And then he had felt her. She was warm and golden and she tore through the sterility of the ascent and reached for him. She kissed him and as she shared all of her fears and wants, he felt alive. He had shrugged off the cold serenity for her, and the world around him bloomed.

Seriously. Go get this book. You won't regret it.

Male protagonist: 5/5 stars
Female protagonist: 5/5 stars
Storyline: 5/5 stars
Pacing: 5/5 stars
Fun Factor: 5/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 5/5 stars

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hanging out in Tartarus by the river of fire would be a jolly thing to do

Styxx (Dark-Hunter, #12)Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had this book in my keeping for over a month before I cracked it open. One is because of its size: at 930 pages and at least 2.5 inch thick, I worry that if I accidentally drop it on my face when reading, I might break my nose.

OK, spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hurrah for gun laws.

Sepucuk Pistol Di Dalam LaciSepucuk Pistol Di Dalam Laci by Hadi M. Nor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find myself picking up Malay books and discarding them by page 45. I have lost my tolerance for slower pacing, preachy drama and annoying plot devices.

But I found none of those peeves in this anthology; a marvelous cornucopia of romance (of the weird kind), urban fantasy, sprinkled with a good dose of homicidal mania and sheer hilarity.Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride. 

Thanks for lending me the book, Hanies!

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NoLa on my mind ...

Dawn Encounter (Masters at Arms #2)Dawn Encounter by Jennifer Blake
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't read very many Americana historical romance. Primarily it's because the more I learn about the victimisation of the indigenous people of North America, the harder it is for me to read about the romantic half breed yearning for the blonde homestead daughter. So that takes the cowboy genre out of circulation for me and except for Pamela Morsi and Rebecca Paisley, I rarely come across other settings for Americana historical.

I liked the premise of New Orleans prior to the War Between the States and Ms. Blake did an excellent job of painting the atmosphere and society of the Deep South. I also liked that she didn't whitewash slavery in the premise and did it without contemporary moralising.

However, the female protagonist annoyed me with the way she vaccilated between being so die-away and bull-headed assertion of her independence. A bit like a spoilt brat, but I gave that a pass judging by her age and background. The male protagonist was a total dyed-in-the-wool hero; brave, self-sacrificing, painfully honourable etc etc, but a bit cookie cutter. I think that both characters could have done with greater character development, but alas, that territory was not ventured.

Male protagonist: 3/5 stars
Female protagonist: 2/5 stars
Storyline: 3/5 stars
Pacing: 2/5 stars
Fun Factor: 3/5 stars
Repeat Reading Factor: 1/5 stars

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

E is for English

... and its myriad accents the world over. From Manglish to Singlish to Aussie to Kiwi to the Indian subcontinent, the language is flavoured by the first language of its speaker. There are ten times more non-native English speakers than there are native English speaker (I pulled this number out of thin air, so don't quote me) so it is not logical to think that there is only one way to use (and abuse) the language.

Methinks that standard English pronunciation exists only in the imagination of snobbish purists.

Monday, May 26, 2014

G is for Gender

(find the lyrics to Arcade Fire's We Exist here)

No, I am not a fan of Arcade Fire but this video caught my eye for obvious reasons (Andrew Garfield, duh).


This song was the anthem I bopped along to during my pre-u days when Damon Alban and the rest of the second wave of British Invasion ruled the airwaves. We innocently sang along to it without real thought to the underlying meaning of the lyrics.

I enjoy dreams where I am a man (except the time I morphed into John C Reilly complete with flannel shirts); it is amazingly liberating to be so physically dominating, let me tell you. Do men ever dream of being women, I wonder.
"Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots. ‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading. ‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading. But secretly, you’d love to know what it’s like… Wouldn’t you? What it feels like for a girl."

I am among those who benefit from this sexism. I can keep my hair ear length  and no one blinks when I buy my shorts from the men's section (women's shorts are too indecent. They barely cover my fat bum). However, all these didn't do squat to make me manly nor do I ever want to abandon my bright lipsticks.

Some people may say that gender is nothing more than a social construct that depends on your location. In some parts of the world, men keep long hair (e.g. Comanche, Iroquois nation) and wear dresses (the Arab men robes are damn comfy and I love wearing them too). Hence, outward manifestation of gender is a fluid thing and has time-place setting parameters to them (Georgian men in Europe used powder and maquillage).

What's it like to be a girl? What's it like to be a boy? For those who do not experience gender dysphoria, these are silly questions. But for those who have felt like they have been in the wrong body for their entire life, it's no laughing matter. It's a terrible discordance to live with and one I wouldn't wish on anyone at all.

The transgender community are often victims of violence and untoward aggression. They are discriminated against not just in terms of service provision, but also in employment and other social mobility. This often pushed them into doing sex work where they are made further vulnerable to violence and limits their economic advantage.

I think we should strive to be kinder to transgendered people. I know that many use religion to smack down transgenders, but if you consider gender dysphoria as something organic, don't you think that it's God's will that they are they way they are? It's not their fault, nor is it something they sought after. So why can't we leave them be and just accept them as they are?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

F is for fright

Back in my early teens, the television station would put up stuff like The Omen, The Exorcist, The Thing, and a number of horror classics from the 70s and 80s. I freely admit that I can be a scaredy cat, so I'd watch 'em behind the sofa, with a pillow over my face.

And because I'm a screamer, I avoid watching horror films in the cinema. It's not nice to make some random stranger deaf just because he/she was unfortunate enough to sit close to me in the theater. It was bad enough I drove away two movie-goers with my tears in the last 12 minutes of Warrior. Yes, I have no problem crying in public either (at least in a darkened cinema, that is).

As much as I love Supernatural, horror is not a genre I sought after when it comes to viewing choices. I know people who find horror films fun and entertaining even if it makes it hard for them to sleep (one person would sleep with the lights on or force a companion to sleep with her for several weeks after watching a terrifying movie) or they get paranoid when they go into the shower (or see static rain on the television set). I'm cool about reading horror, but I do not enjoy the gut churning, heart thumping moments anticipating the big monster stepping out of the shadows or gory ordeals.

I think that there are enough frightening things in this world that are real (e.g. potentially catastrophic financial meltdown, climate change, death of bees etc) that I don't want to be frightened for entertainment purposes. 

But I do plan to watch Crimson Peak for this:

I could always watch from behind my fingers, no?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A is for admire

I have no talent for drawing or any kind of art-linked endeavours. Couldn't even draw a straight line with a ruler. But I love pretty things and these pictures below really speak to me.

These are the works of Ms. Rebecca Mock.

My favourite activity in my favourite mode of transportation.

Age doesn't inhibit embracing technology.

 I love the eloquence of her art, elevating something as prosaic as reading on a train or in the outdoors into something whimsical and delightful. The pictures are so evocative, you could almost feel the movement of the train of the warm breeze caressing your skin while you lounge on the balcony. The feel of the grass under you separated by the blanket. You could almost hear the chirp of birds and the buzz of bees collecting nectar in the flourishing garden.

Doesn't her work remind you of the animated pictures and portraits in the Harry Potter series?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

M is for Mask





Women are often portrayed as conniving plotters and vile seducers out to victimise poor, hapless men. From centuries old fairy tales to the latest television hits, pop culture and literature are littered with women who are evil (i.e. has her own agenda that doesn't serve a man's), wily (i.e. respectable intelligence is only for men), bossy (i.e. only men are forceful), and the list goes on.

Why can't women be forthright, many men say. Why can't women be open about what they want and be honest about their true motivations? Why are women always saying A but actually meant B?

Dear readers, we are made that way.


Many women grow up thinking that they need to present a certain front to the world. They are expected to be pretty, to be personable, to be nice, to be demure and subservient to the authorities in their life (namely, the men). They have to be a good daughter - do the chores, mind the younger siblings, cook the meals, be home by 6 pm, and come home with bushels of As for the exams. They are expected to be a great girlfriend -  the obedient wife - the undemanding mother.

And if they can't? Well ... fake it till you make it.

Lyrics to the awesome song is here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Yeah, I'm a sexist

... and I'm not ashamed of it. All stolen from tumblr.

Again, NSFW. What? I'm an adult. It says so on my birth certificate.

Midweek sh*t and giggles

Cause it's not Friday yet and we need some laughs. All gifs are stolen from here.

NSFW, You have been warned.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Midweek sh*ts and giggles

NSFW. Not safe to view with beverage in hand or in mouth.

You have been warned.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bludgeon me bloody

Have you ever entertained fantasies of being Dexter? No, I'm not talking about the serial killer thing, sheesh. Unless you are a violent sociopath, in which case, keep calm and carry on SUBMERGING HOMICIDAL DESIRES.

The lovable serial killing villain has a day job with the fictitious Miami Metro Police as a blood pattern analyst. So what the heck does that mean? The pictures below shed some light on what Dexter does  in his professional capacity.


*All pictures stolen from here, original source is this.

Television shows like the CSI franchise sold us on the idea that forensic science can solve almost anything. To certain extent, science have made crime investigation a lot more reliable than the previous method of beating up a suspect until he/she confessed (though it's still applied in parts of the world where civil liberty is still a laughable dream). As much as the television show has done to encourage interest in science, it has as much to do with real-life laboratory practice as porn is to making love. My friends and I often laugh at the insane timeline portrayed in CSI (collecting specimen, tagging and paperwork, sample prep, sample run AND analysis in a single day? Please.) and we mock at the clean chromatography results (yeah, nice, distinguishable peaks from a swab at the freeway. Riiiiight.). Not to mention the awkward pipetting techniques or the blase centrifuging without balancing the rotor. To have someone comment, "You're doing it the CSI-style, aren't you?" is considered as a gross insult.

Science, however, is not infallible; DNA profiling is not the magic bullet of conviction as evidenced by the inability to distinguish the rapist twin from the innocent one (though this may change). Samples degrade, there are issues of contamination, false evidence, specimen tampering and many more. That said, it doesn't mean that you can call a video iron (refer to comment by Tuan Guru Haji Hadi Awang on Anwar Ibrahim's Chinadoll video) and throw science out of the window. DNA technology has helped to overthrow convictions on people wrongly imprisoned for rape and give names and faces to victims of mass disasters. Surveillance technology helped to map the unfolding of the Boston marathon bombing step-by-step. Biometrics have been invaluable in enhancing security protocols as well as identify presence at a crime scene.

However, as more and more criminals and villains get smarter from watching Discovery Channel and use forensic science against the law enforcement, legal technicality gets a lot more convoluted and conviction remains equal parts of science, good investigation, robust prosecution and a huge dollop of luck.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Let there be laughter (Caution: NSFW)

People often say women don't like physical comedy. We don't get the appeal of The Three Stooges. We can't understand why bashing your friend with the nearest object is funny.

But this? I'll bet many ladies (and some men) will love this too.

Now to write an ode to those magnificent thighs.

*scurries off*

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Are you a lover?

Yes, Valentine's Day was two weeks ago. But watch this anyway.

Love isn't just between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and a man. Love is not always about romance and happily (n)ever after. Love is more than lust-fueled gropes and short-lived euphoria.

Love is ... ah, it's too complicated.

Easier to talk about what is NOT LOVE. Abuse is not love. Terror is not love. Non-consensual acts are not love. Harming and hurting is not love. Indifference is not love.

So what is love for you?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Oldie is not goldie

It is not uncommon to see sunrise/sunset couples. Yes, the kind where the dude could be mistaken as the dudette's father or even grandfather.

Case in point:

Media troll and vitriolic partner.

Beauty and Daddy.

Why don't these sort of partnerships raise brows, unlike:

 They hot together, no?

Both are drool-worthy, regardless of the way you swing.

Is it because partnership has to be about a resource provider hooking up with the best of baby factories? After a certain age, women develop menopause and can happily throw away the birth control pills, intrauterine device, estrogen patches, etc that helps them make sure no unexpected babies pop up (or out)*. For some reason, this leads to a devaluation of women in the eye of society; conveniently forgetting the wisdom that comes with age and the inner sex goddess unleashed by freedom from getting knocked up (also, who discovered the joy of self acceptance, unlike self loathing nymphs in their twenties).

It is okay for older men to hook up with younger women, right?  Men remain potent shooters of baby makers till the day they drop dead. Well, guess what?

Just 'cause you can shoot, don't mean you should.

Older fathers are more likely to pass on joyful stuff like sporadic schizophrenia (where you sometimes hear voices and may/may not go manic), osteogenesis imperfecta (where the offspring is so fragile that a strong sneeze could break a bone, kinda like this guy) and autism (it's not all like Rain Man) to their hapless offsprings. This is because the older you are, the greater the likelihood for your testicles to produce error-riddled sperms. Not to mention that fathers transmit 4 times more mutations than mothers.

And no, just because you are over 35 years old, it doesn't mean that your mutant sperm is going to produce X-Men in the next generation. Nature is cool, but it ain't a comic book.

I do have a predilection for this man, er ... Gambit.

* Caveat: Do not throw away the condom. You don't know where he's been. Learn the lesson from senior citizens who developed nasty stuff like HIV, herpes and syphilis.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

This is not a book review

I've been devouring Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and am enjoying them immensely. So I tried watching the Jack Reacher movie, curious to see how they could translate it into the big screen.

No, my hopes aren't the level of Star Trek geeks anticipating Episode I.

*moar rant below cut*

Things that make you go grrrr ...

Q: Did you ever have this problem?

A: All the damn time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Macho macho man?

What makes a male human being manly?

I am glad that I am a female. I enjoy everything about being female, from the softness of my skin, to the lushness of my body, even the insanity that plagues me when the red flag is raised. I am hugely appreciative that I can enjoy and express my emotions and no one will call me on it and scream, "BE A MAN!" I don't have to pretend to not have fear, to not have insecurities, and I don't need to hide what is percolating in my head (to a certain extend, otherwise they'll put you in a mental institution).

However, I get to do all that because I am a female. But men can't do this; especially those conditioned in a machismo culture. Unfortunately, machismo is not helping men become manlier. It cripples men from exploring God's gift of emotions and to be honest with the most basic parts of themselves. When I read about the Prophet Muhammad: about his kindness, his unabashed affection for his wife(ves) and children and grandchildren, his gentle ways, his openness of his tears; all things that are contrary to the rough and ready Arab culture of those days, I am amazed. This was a *real* man who stood for what he felt was right, enjoined righteousness and did not fear society's anger or reprisal.

My fear is that machismo is often a slippery slope that leads to arrogance, misplaced pride and violence. Quite often the violence is directed towards the weaker ones, be it women, children, and even other men.

Let's kill the machismo that is strangling men. Because they deserve better.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lay back and relax

This is the soundtrack for you to lay back, sip a beverage of your choice and just chill.

*takes another hit of the joint*

Friday, February 14, 2014