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.

I want to set realistic goals, but at the same time, challenge myself. I also want a clear list from which I can refer to at the start of 2021 to see what I have achieved and what I have failed to accomplish. Aside from that, I want to include in my list those that I have failed and keep doing so yearly until I achieve them (unless if they don’t make sense to be redone). And for those that I have achieved, I should either keep it or increase it – although, this only applies to countable goals (like how many books to read).

Now that I have set some ground rules, here are my goals…

2020 Reading Goals

  • Read 50 Books. I thought 50 books would be more or less easy for me, but I actually just barely made it last year. So this year, I’m gonna maintain this goal and hopefully, it’s easier this time around.
  • Beta read 3 WIPs. Last year from September to mid-November, I beta read 2 projects completely, and the first part of another project. More or less, I had a good experience, and so I hope to do the same this year. I’m doing the second part of that project now, signed up for another one just recently which will start soon, and will be looking for a third one once I’m done with that. (FYI, WIP stands for Work In Progress. Also, FYI stands for For Your Information. 😜)
  • Read 5 books published in 2020. I haven’t yet decided which books these are, but I’ll definitely be checking out books that are set to release this year and see what catches my interest.
  • Read 5 indie books published in 2020. I know some indie authors who will be releasing books this year, so I’m excited about those.
  • Read 5 books that won Goodreads Choice Awards in 2019. I expect these “award-winning” books to be excellent, so I’m going to be checking out that list for anything that interests me. And also to update myself as I may be slightly outdated.
  • Read 5 books from my Scribbler subscription boxes. I have been subscribed to Scribbler since mid last year but have yet to read any of the books that came with the boxes. I have a library of books on my iPad so I usually default to that for reading choices. Now, that I have my TBR cleared, I’m gonna check out those Scribbler books. (Scribbler is a monthly subscription box that comes with a book and writerly goodies. Check out their website here.)
  • Read 12 dark fantasy or horror books. My current project, tentatively called “Claire of the Corpses” is a dark fantasy (and horror, if I can help it) story. So naturally, I would like to read books from the same genre, maybe after I finish the draft, while I let it breathe. (I actually did “finish” the draft during NaNoWriMo last year, but I skipped several scenes and so I intend to fill them all up before going into revisions.)
  • Read the books I should have read last year. I talk about them in my last post, and this shall be the year I finally complete that list. 🤞

2020 Writing Goals

  • Complete COTC draft by March. COTC stands for “Claire of the Corpses” which is the tentative title for my current WIP.
  • Finalize TMM revised outline in April (Camp NaNoWriMo). This is my WIP for my 2018 NaNoWriMo project and this outline needs a huge overhaul! Before I even start writing one word of (well, a brand new) draft, I want to produce a cohesive outline that flows well. TMM stands for “The Moonseeker’s Medallion”, though recently I’ve changed the title to “Davathad” (which means “war” in my fictional language). Both these titles are tentative.
  • Finish COTC revisions in July (Camp NaNoWriMo). Hopefully, I can complete the draft in March so I can use Camp NaNoWriMo in July to do the revisions. I don’t want to start revisions right after completing the draft, as I may be too close to it to objectively correct mistakes, find plot holes, etc.
  • Brainstorm an outline for “New Project” in October (Preptober). I want to use NaNoWriMo to work on new ideas. This is the time to set aside anything I’m currently working on and focus on the ideas I have put on hold. I’m not sure if this is a good idea, jumping from one project to another, but depending on the actual progress of TMM and COTC by that time, I may just have to work on one of them for Nano and skip this step.
  • Draft 50K words of “New Project” in November (NaNoWriMo). I do intend to win NaNo again this year.
  • Write 12 new poems. I actually wish to join NaPoWriMo in April, but since last year I wasn’t even able to write 12 poems, I’ll just repeat that goal until I’m able to do it. (Okay, actually that’s a lie, I did write more than 12 poems but some of them are depressing and are about actual people that I don’t want to share them. I guess the goal is really to write and post 12 new poems.) Then, I can think about participating in NaPoWriMo. (NaPoWriMo is National Poetry Writing Month, which is in April. Check out their website here.)

2020 Blogging Goals

  • Post every Sunday. Definitely maintain a consistent posting schedule. Starting today.
  • Post at least 1 poem per month. This will tie in nicely to my 12 poems goal, although I’m hoping for more than 12 poems. I also want to write more haiku and free verse poems this year.
  • Review Witcher books. Witcher is constantly on my mind after having just watched the show. The Witcher books were the books I read after I’ve finished rereading the A Song of Ice And Fire books, like, five times that I had to tell myself to go find another book. Witcher 3 is my favorite video game of all time and I’ve spent more than 300 hours on it. This franchise is quite valuable to me so I thought it should reflect a little bit on my blog by reviewing the books.
  • Post reviews of the books I read for Indiecember 2019. I’m either gonna just repost the ones I posted on Amazon/Goodreads, or write about them a little bit more for this blog.
  • Create a WIP updates page to track my WIP progress publicly. It just makes me feel more accountable and motivate me to work on them more.

Aside from the above, I’ve decided to include some personal goals as well. Typical personal goals are financial goals and fitness goals. So I’m gonna go ahead and give those a shot:

2020 Financial Goals

  • Increase my Savings ratio by 1%. What the hell am I talking about? I’m talking about the “50-30-20 Rule”, which corresponds to Needs-Wants-Savings. Basically, it means that 50% of your spending should go to Needs (such as rent, bills, etc), 30% on Wants (shopping, entertainment, etc.), and 20% on savings or financial goals (like savings, investments, retirement plans, etc.). I began tracking my expenses in June of last year when I just started my new job, and based on that, my ratio is approximately 49-31-20. Which means Needs is 49%, Wants is 31%, and Savings is 20%. It’s unlikely my Needs will change, so I guess I’d like to transfer that 1% from Wants to Savings this year.

2020 Fitness Goals

  • Do plank pose for at least two minutes every day. I’m taking inspiration from my colleague on this as she does it and recommends it. I tried to do it in December but didn’t really do it daily. So I’ll do this goal for 2020 and if I can do it consistently, then maybe I can think about better fitness goals in 2021. I generally don’t like to exercise 😅 so I don’t want to overwhelm myself with fitness goals this year.

 

Do you think these goals are feasible? Am I challenging myself a little too much? Or maybe, it’s not enough and I need to challenge myself more?

 

I mentioned my 2019 goals in this post and it’s now time to check if I achieved them.

Reading Goals in 2019:

Why did I not read those 4 other books? It probably was because the other indie books from the Indiecember prize pack arrived and… I got distracted by them 😅

Writing Goals

  • Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo – ACHIEVED
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo – ACHIEVED
  • 12 Poems – PARTIALLY ACHIEVED 😓 I only did 10 new poems in 2019:

Blogging Goals for 2019:

  • Although, I said in the post that I don’t have any blogging goals, but I did say in this other post that I will be blogging on Sundays starting in September. However, I did not do that consistently so this one will have to be a FAIL. Sigh.

I’m hoping to finalize my 2020 goals this weekend and will be posting them soon.

Did you also have reading, writing, and blogging goals in 2019? Did you achieve any of them?

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.

 

Unfortunately this is a late post since we’re heading towards the middle of April now. But I want to talk about the books I’ve read so far and the current count is 9, which means I’m behind on my goal of 50 books for the year – but I do plan to catch up!

My TBR has changed as I added books I’ve received from the Indiecember Giveaway pack and prioritized them. I managed to read one book from my initial TBR, though, which had consisted of 5 books. I also read books that were not on my TBR out of curiosity… I guess I needed to discipline myself.

My current TBR will be a different post, but here are the books that I’ve read as of the end of March, a little synopsis on them, and my overall thoughts.

23635434The World of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin / Elio M. Garcia Jr. / Linda Antonsson. It took me a while to finish this book, but I managed to finish it before deciding on my TBR. This is a fictional history book on the rich lore of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series told from the perspective of a maester. Like a real history book, some parts were boring, but I’d say 70% is quite interesting and in fact intriguing. This definitely makes me want to pick up Fire & Blood but I have a long list of books to read as of now, so it’s not really a priority. You don’t need to read this book to enjoy or understand the books in the main series but I feel that it will enhance the experience especially if the world-building of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series interests you.

26308563Echo Volume I, II, & III by Kent Wayne. Only the first volume was in my TBR but I continued with the series out of curiosity. This series actually contains four books, but I found myself stuck in what seemed like an endless loop of training montage in the middle of the fourth book, so I put it on-hold for a while. This is a sci-fi dystopian series with fabulous world-building centered around Kishchan Atriya as he struggles through action-packed missions full of tech and mech and discovers himself through magic and mind-bending philosophy. Not fond of all the “Old Earth” references because they distract me from the story, but the action, world-building, and the main character himself definitely makes this a wonderful read. So far, anyway.

35034255Reflections by Briana Morgan. This is the first book I received from the Indiecember Giveaway. This is about a young insecure girl, with past trauma, who encounters and joins a tribe of shapeshifters who helps her acquire the same ability, as she struggles to solve the mystery of girls being murdered in the woods, as well as learn to love and be confident with herself. I wish that the fantasy elements in this story was used more, but overall it is a decent read.

42946515Theonite: Planet Adyn by M. L. Wang. This is the first book of a series, the second of which I plan to read in the future. The main character finds herself with special abilities that no one else seem to have and she learns to harness and hide them, until she discovers that the new kid in class seem to have abilities too and may not even belong on the same planet. I enjoyed this book, especially the main character Joan who is so endearing, and will definitely want to continue the journey with her.

40220795Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Was not in my TBR but picked it up out of curiosity. This follows an imprisoned young assassin who is given a chance to gain her freedom by competing in a tournament against other mercenary-type warriors, while finding herself in a romance with the prince, and trying to solve murders occurring in the palace. This book was a struggle to me because the main character was poorly written as an assassin, romance was bland, and the resolution of the mystery wasn’t particularly compelling. However, I did enjoy the main character as a teenager, as well as two other characters, and the glimpse of the magical lore intrigued me. Overall, it wasn’t a waste of time and I do plan to read the next book in the series someday as I do want to follow the characters as well as learn more about the lore.

41139191Reciprocity by Sean M. Locke. A very unique story set in a dark sci-fi world about a lesbian mafia goon who finds herself in the middle of a gang war as she helps a noblewoman retrieve a dangerous family weapon prototype off the streets, and falls for her in the process. The writing is slick and clever, the world-building is captivating, and the characters are cool and complex. Thoroughly enjoyed this book and very happy to know that the author himself confirmed that there will be a sequel because the two main characters of this story definitely deserves it.

44172434Swinging Sanity by N. F. Mirza. A poetry book where pain and darkness are beautifully expressed. From the title to the art to the words themselves, the book is an excellent package. My favorites are: “Clash of Extremes”, “Insomniac”, and “A Million Dead Stars”. This was also not part of my TBR but, once again, I picked it up out of curiosity. Totally worth it.

 

That’s it for now.

Thanks for reading!