Entangled Lives by Imran Omer

51js94lyqslRaza, a poor orphan trapped in the slums of Pakistan, is sent to a strict madrassah where he meets and falls in love with Perveen. They attempt to flee the city to escape their respective fates but fail. Perveen, pregnant, is sent back to her family, and Raza is sent to Afghanistan to fight as a Taliban solider. American journalist, Rachael Brown, travels to Afghanistan to cover the political unrest. When she meets Raza for a brief interview, she sees for the first time the true face of the Taliban: poor and desperate young men with nowhere else to go. As the war unfolds, their paths cross again, and each must decide what they owe the other.

REVIEW: Eye-opening and bittersweet | ★★★★☆

The novel follows the heartbreaking story of Raza who lives a life of hardship and sacrifice in Pakistan. Although we do follow a journalist Rachael who has her own struggles, this is very much Raza’s story. His story is quite compelling for me especially that I don’t live and definitely can’t imagine living in the circumstances and environment he lives in. The glimpses of politics, societal dynamics, human interaction, and relationships are eye-opening and thought-provoking for me, albeit depressing. I love that it ends on a sweet note, even though I do wish things had turned out better for both Raza and Rachael.

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Long story short, I thoroughly ENJOYED the show! I was hoping to enjoy it, of course, but, being a fan of the books by Andrzej Sapkowski and the video game by CD Projekt Red, I was incredibly nervous about this show. These were my reasons for this nervousness:

Showrunner’s Agenda. There was some controversy on the casting for this show and the showrunner’s response to this controversy, and how it was being reported in the media. It made me feel that the showrunner, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, may be using this show to insert her own agenda rather than be respectful of the source material, as well as the fans of the books and video games who love it and made it so popular to begin with. I didn’t know if I could trust that kind of person to take good care of this property.

Having diversity is great, but there’s a lot of properties you can do that with (X-Men, for example). You can also create your own original property for it even, rather than try to hijack an already existing one. So my question is: is it necessary and fair to do that with The Witcher? The characters of The Witcher were already diverse, but there’s just not that many black people in that world, for example, so for Hissrich it wasn’t enough.

After being aware of this controversy, I was just disillusioned. I had hoped they’d pick someone who had loved the games and books for years, not someone who came into it fresh and with an agenda.

But I didn’t lose hope. Casting was just one aspect of it. There’s still a chance to be blown away by the storytelling and world-building, in terms of cinematography, musical score, action, special effects, etc. So I was nervous, but stayed hopeful.

The controversy actually helped me mitigate my expectations when I finally did watch the show. So seeing Triss, Fringilla, Vilgefortz, etc. didn’t end up to be jarring, as they probably would have been. Especially for Triss, who was a significant character in the game. And because the world in the show is already diverse to begin with, it didn’t feel off at all, though I admit, I still would have liked to see the old Triss (the one in Witcher 3. Now that I think about it, this wasn’t the first time Triss was changed). Anyway, overall, the diverse casting did not hurt my enjoyment of this show. The actors themselves did well.

Cavill as Geralt. I have seen Henry Cavill in a lot of things, including The Tudors when he wasn’t Superman or that well-known yet. Based on those, I felt he would not be the best Geralt. I was hoping for Nikolai Coster-Waldau who played Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones. It was nice to know that Cavill loved the games and the books and really sought out this role. But the question here is: can he actually play it well?

Yes. The answer is yes. When the trailer came out, all my fears about Geralt were gone.  And when I finally watched the show, I absolutely loved that aside from the voice and accent (note that Cavill is English, not American) (EDIT: on second viewing, he sounded English now, sorry about that), Cavill even captured the little quirks that Geralt had in the game, like his grunting, the way he talks to Roach (his horse), his facial expression and mannerisms. The Superman in Cavill completely disappeared, and all I saw was his Geralt.

Yennefer and Ciri. When the trailer revealed Yennefer and Ciri, I was just disappointed. Also, why was Ciri all grown up? She wasn’t even supposed to be born yet. As much as I loved Cavill as Geralt, I did not like them at all! It didn’t help that the Yennefer and Ciri in the game were already so compelling, in their nuance and charisma, and so the actors featured in the trailer paled in comparison.

Both Anya Chalotra and Freya Allan, who played Yennefer and Ciri respectively, did solid acting in their portrayal of their characters. It took me a while to get used to them because, well, I supposed the bias for the game is just so strong in me. However, by the end of the show, they’ve completely won me over, especially Anya Chalotra whose Yennefer of Vengerberg had great chemistry with Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia.

Nilfgaardian Armor. In the game, Nilfgaard is a formidable empire and it showed in their armor. I feel that the show didn’t exactly capture this. They already had the game to compare to, shouldn’t they have at least enhanced from that, for the show version? I don’t know. But anyway, I got used to it, so I just tolerated it, I guess. Besides, there’s new leadership in Nilfgaard and who knows, we might get a different design in the future. (Also, this is clearly a nitpick.)

I started out criticizing Lauren Hissrich, the showrunner, but in the end, I commend her for producing such a wonderfully realized version of The Witcher. I’m in love with it and cannot wait for Season 2!

This is by no means a complete review of the show. There are so many things I loved about the show that I haven’t discussed here, and things I wished they’d done differently, knowing the source material. I am still deciding whether I should review the show as a whole or per episode. And what about the books? Should I review them as well? Can I even organize my thoughts well enough to come up with any of these reviews?

As I gather my thoughts and decide on that, let me end this post with the official trailer:

In my previous post, I did the Indiecember Writing Tag, answering questions about my current WIP while trying to get a bingo. Now, I’m doing the Indiecember Book Tag.

14-booktag-13xSo, what is this Indiecember Book Tag?

This time, it’s a bingo game for readers. The board now has 24 squares, with the center square as a wild card. Each number corresponds to a question. Use a random number generator (or anyhow you want) to get a number, cross it out on the board, and answer the corresponding question. Do this over and over again, until you get a bingo! The answers don’t have to be about indie books, but I try to answer for indie books as well. Megan Tennant has a video on it, including the full list of questions.

Before I begin, here’s a quick overview of Indiecember:

Indiecember is a reading challenge created by the lovely Megan Tennant in order to motivate people to read indie books and write reviews on them in December. It comes with a bingo board that has 25 labeled squares. For each indie book you review, you can cross out the squares that match it until you fill-up the board in flush style. Or, just cross out a line of squares bingo-style, but for only one matching square per book. Players who win will be able to fill out a form to get entry into a huge giveaway going down in January! For more info, check out megantennant.com/indiecember or her Indiecember YouTube video.

For this tag, I got 14 unique numbers before getting a bingo! Check out my answers below!

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Legacy (Deity Rising, #1) by Kilian Grey

LegacyA fractured hierarchy. A buried past. The wind tells all, to those who listen.

Tension is high among the kingdoms of Alimphis and information about the past is prohibited. The Kingsley royal line has lived under restrictive rules from the deities, Emoris and Lathil, but the royal family also holds a great secret.

Prince Faust has kept his affinity for magic hidden by the order of his brother, King Konrad. His life is thrown into chaos when Emoris discovers he can wield all four magic stones and tries to kill him. King Konrad sends Faust away under the guise of a prestigious court merchant. Outrunning the deities isn’t easy, and Faust is exposed to the corruption and lies that have settled in the kingdoms.

With the help of a rather amorous mercenary and King Konrad’s allies, Faust embarks on a path to restore order to Alimphis’s kingdoms. Emoris and Lathil will stop at nothing to ensure he fails, even pitting him against his own family. Faust isn’t alone in his fight as those with power gather to assist him. But is he ready to shoulder the weight of war?

 

REVIEW: A somewhat confusing but enjoyable adventure | ★★★☆☆

I can see the anime and video game influences in this story, even from the way the characters react and behave… or it could be just my imagination. The world-building and magic-wielding are quite amazing here, however, I can’t seem to fully grasp the ranking system in terms of the deities, kings, *and* a high king, not to mention volants, servants of power, blessed, etc. – which, I believe, are over-powered high-ranking soldiers with fancy titles. The concept of having several kings when there are leaving breathing deities who can physically stand next to them, are more powerful than them, and rule over them makes me wonder: why bother having kings at all? I’d say anime is to blame for this. Also, the way “the wind” is always referred to is almost like it’s own character, which is half intriguing but half distracting. But regardless of all of the above, Faust is definitely a character I enjoyed following and I especially like his power set. Ignas is not bad either as the overprotective merc, despite my dislike with him constantly referring to Faust as “gorgeous”. Aris arrives a bit later but is just as intriguing and I find myself shipping him with Faust more than Ignas. The book is also full of action, which is something I quite enjoyed. It’s animated in my head. The steamy m/m sexiness definitely adds some spice, if you’re into that. Overall, this was a fun albeit confusing read and hope the sequel will be just as fun as well.

The Helm of Darkness (War on the Gods, #1) by A. P. Mobley

41ykgfebyylAndy and Zoey are two normal teenagers living in the modern day—that is, until they’re knocked unconscious in a freak storm sweeping the United States. 

When they wake up, the world they know has been tossed away. Their city is in ruins, strange creatures walk the earth, and worst of all, everyone is gone. They stumble across Diana and Spencer, two kids around their age who possess incredible magical abilities, and who claim to be the demigod children of Greek gods. Not only that, they also claim the year is 500 AS, five hundred years after the gods conjured a massive storm that destroyed most of humanity and helped them take the world as their own once again. 

Andy and Zoey are soon handed an impossible task: To save humanity. To lead a war on the gods. 

They’ll have to battle monsters, death, and their own inner demons to survive and to protect the people they love.

REVIEW: A sweet dive into the world of greek mythology | ★★★☆☆

A sweet dive into the world of greek mythology in the eyes of young adult humans and demigods. As a fan of greek mythology, this is definitely a fun read for me, although it caters to much younger readers than myself. Maybe apart from Spencer, I couldn’t find myself that much invested in the main characters, but the adventure and the world-building makes for a wonderful ride. A solid start to a series and will definitely check out the sequel!

Only Words (Shane Ashby Trilogy #1) by Summer Kiska

419ky6iv5blIf magick defines me, who am I without it?

Has your boyfriend been turned into a bunny?  Does your creepy stalker need a time-out as a toad? Or maybe you want a little more oomph in your spells? Shane Ashby—Celtic witch with three times the power of your average magick-user—has you covered.

Or, well, at least I used to.

I’ve been cursed. That’s bad enough, but now I have to defend against a sister I never thought I’d see again. And with the worst timing ever, a desperate, if irritatingly attractive warlock shows up at my door in need of a tutor. Apparently, I’m his “last hope.”

Somehow, I have to figure out how to keep breathing, not have an emotional breakdown, and make sure no one around me gets caught in the crossfire. All while having one proverbial hand tied behind my back.

Sure, I’ve got this…

 

REVIEW: A fun read with a refreshing perspective | ★★★★☆

It’s such a refreshing perspective for a story to be told from a witch whose speech is limited due to a curse. I had a lot of fun reading this book, and from Shane Ashby’s interesting point of view. It was incredibly easy to like her, and the love interest Jeremy Reeves as well. Though to be honest, I am rooting for the other guy, only because he’s a P.I. and a teleporter! There are few other characters in the story but none of them are bland, including Freya, the cat! Overall, this is definitely a good read and a great start to a trilogy.

Unknown Element by Brittani S. Avery

518i87uvc7lIn fifteen-year-old Rex Marshall’s mystical world, beings are classified by and can harness the powers of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Light, and Darkness. When Rex, the rebellious son of an abolitionist councilman, impulsively purchases the freedom of Meenal, a peculiar blue slave, they discover a deep connection over one commonality: both don’t know who—or what—they are.

Rex and Meenal’s journey of self-discovery and Rex’s need to defend his birthright and inheritance takes them to the Saldur Empire, the country from which Rex’s homeland, Maventa, won its independence—the same place his missing mother hails from. As Rex acts as ambassador between Maventa and the Saldur Empire, his connection to his mother becomes stronger than ever, and his origin becomes eerily clear.

The quest to unearth their elements may prove life-threatening— or worse.

REVIEW: Intriguing but with character issues | ★★★☆☆

There are some aspects to enjoy about this book, but it’s significantly hindered by the main character Rex who is difficult to like. Even though his hot-tempered personality is meant to be part of a mystery, it’s still difficult to follow such an unlikeable lead. His behavior (and some others as well) is also a bit much for a teenager although that may depend on the culture? For me, it’s cringey mainly because they’re underaged. However, the world itself is interesting and there are other intriguing characters such as Meenal. So, if there is a sequel to this book, I will still continue with the series, hoping that Rex would have developed into a better character.

 

I guess it has been available for a while now, but due to some issues that needed resolving and *life stuff* (sigh!), I’ve delayed announcing it. I hope you give it a chance and leave an honest review when you can. Without further ado, here it is:

41uhdr784el._sx311_bo1204203200_What Have You Done to the Angel?

Buy in Amazon | Buy Kindle eBook | Goodreads

What have you done to the angel?
Why have you injured her wings?
The bliss of her smile has faded.
Her hands have been soiled by your sins . . .

Inspired by personal emotions and her dark imaginations, Sathepine Marco shares a compilation of poems penned during her teenage and young adult years when she was gripped with angst, depression, and heartaches. As she leads others through her darkness, Sathepine invites introspective reflection while sharing a glimpse into her own heart and soul as she grappled with all that accompanied pain and sadness, sometimes conveying them through angels and demons with her words.

What Have You Done to the Angel? shares a thought-provoking collection of poetry that allows anyone who has suffered heartache to know that they are not alone.

Buy in Amazon | Buy Kindle eBook | Goodreads

Note: This is not a religious book, in case you may be misled because the title included the term “angel”. I am an atheist, but I prefer not to shame or judge people solely because their beliefs are different from mine, religious or otherwise. However, there are a couple of poems in the book that speaks to my struggle with faith written a long time ago. If you are curious about that, it may be worth reading, but please don’t buy it expecting it to be a religious book.

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Today I received digital proofs of my poetry book that is currently in the process of being published. It is titled “What Have You Done to the Angel?” based on my poem of the same name. It contains a few poems and some artwork by “Rezeile”. I don’t know yet when it will be released officially, but I do have the cover art.

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There are two versions: one big colored book with black pages, and one normal-sized black-and-white book with normal pages. This is because they can’t do a normal-sized colored book, for some reason, so I decided to have two versions.

In the beginning I was kind of excited, but now I feel a bit nervous because most of these poems are personal, especially during the time that I wrote them. Poetry is one way I deal with things, sometimes personal things.

One of the poems I wrote was for someone that I admired. He didn’t feel the same way but I accepted that and admired him anyway. I felt he was mature and witty and he made people laugh. He was a friend. But later on, I became closer to him due to circumstances, and I got to know the real him. I discovered he was kind of an asshole. He was in fact immature, takes advantage of people, and is pretentious. And this is in addition to what he did about me. I was already involved with someone else at that time, who was a friend of his and who respected him, but he basically tried to mess it up behind his friend’s back, telling me I should be with him instead, among other ugly things. My relationship with that guy was already “messed up” to begin with, so whatever he did didn’t have any impact at all LOL. I basically tolerated his behavior because he’s been my friend for years, but I really lost respect for him. In any case, I was unsure whether to include the poem or not because it was from the point of view of someone who admired him. In the end, I decided to include it. It was part of my past as much as the other poems were.

Other funny things happened about the exact same poem. I had posted it online and also shared it with other poets in the office through a poetry mailing list. My ex-boyfriend read it online and thought it was about him and I couldn’t seem to convince him that it wasn’t. And that’s not all. Some of the other poets in the office thought it was about my boss. It was annoying and amusing at the same time. But in hindsight I figured there’s probably some detail in the poem that might have applied to both my ex and my boss.

A lot of other memories came back to me when I read my old poems again, mostly negative memories because they were depressing poems. I’m definitely grateful that my circumstances are different now. Also, maybe I should write happier poems too…

I’m not doing anything official for this poetry book yet. Once I have details, I will definitely do more for it.

 

The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci

51lsmxtzmelTobias Kaya doesn’t care about The Savior. He doesn’t care that She’s the Ruler of the realm or that She purified the land, and he certainly doesn’t care that She’s of age to be married. But when competing for Her hand proves to be his last chance to save his family, he’s forced to make The Savior his priority.

Now Tobias is thrown into the Sovereign’s Tournament with nineteen other men, and each of them is fighting—and killing—for the chance to rule at The Savior’s side. Instantly his world is plagued with violence, treachery, and manipulation, revealing the hidden ugliness of his proud realm. And when his circumstances seem especially dire, he stumbles into an unexpected romance, one that opens him up to unimaginable dangers and darkness.

Trigger warning: this novel contains graphic violence, adult language, and sexual situations.

REVIEW: Highly recommended to adults who love action, twists, and steamy romance | ★★★★☆

I would highly recommend this book to adults who love action, twists, and steamy romance. It’s a thrilling roller-coaster ride full of intriguing characters, including a baddie you’d love to hate (Kaleo fan over here). Speaking of love and hate, I had a love-and-hate relationship with the main character Tobias almost the whole time, but still rooted for him all the way. (If only he’d be less whiny.) He is definitely a complex character, but his counterpart Leila is even more so. Leila is a capable but troubled heroine that I enjoyed reading every time she’s on the page. She is that character where the more you know about her, the more questions you end up having! The circumstances of Leila and Tobias’ coupledom plays on your emotions on top of the ride your emotions are getting from the twists and turns you encounter in the story. The fantasy elements are minimal but well-utilized, though I still wished there was more world-building. The amount of profanity can also be a bit distracting sometimes. Overall, I definitely enjoyed reading and rereading this book, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel.