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Elements Cover Reveal

Is it Christmas yet? Naaahhh just the breathtaking picture of Inez’ cover for Elements, the 3rd book in the Nishaverse series!

Elements cover goes back into the same vibe as the first cover after seeing some feedback from reviewers and readers. Most seemed to like the cover of the first book better, although both images gathered solid praise. So we went back to that vibe, but with a different emotion on Nisha’s face. If you read the book you will understand why…

Illustrated by Inez Wandita

Elements will be officially released at the shop on 31st January 2022. In the meanwhile, advanced reader copies are now available for reviewers! If you are a book reviewer, have reviewed both Nisha and Sacred Rituals, and would like to review Elements (in exchange for a free digital copy), please fill out this form.

So now that all three covers are out, what do you think? Which one do you like best?

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Nishaverse Wallpaper Airdrop!

Elements, the third book of the Nishaverse trilogy is ready for a release date of 31 January 2022. In the meanwhile, Inez and I have made a Nishaverse wallpaper series to satisfy your anticipation time.

There are 3 digital artwork in this Nishaverse Wallpaper series so far:

  1. Ged Luft (whom we all occasionally get annoyed at)
  2. Baba (Faris’ cool father)
  3. General Char (Nisha’s aunt)

Here is a high res of the Ged wallpaper:

Collect the 3 wallpapers by subscribing to my newsletters! The Baba and Char wallpapers will be airdropped to your inbox next Sunday, 28th of November. If you’ve already subscribed then sit back, relax, and wait for the airdrop 🙂

My newsletter contains exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming books and projects, and also special digital gifts from me (for example: the wallpapers and music recordings). I promise I won’t be sending you spam, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

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Arranged Marriage Theme in Nisha

A lot of great reviews have flowed in for my fantasy series Nisha and its sequel, Sacred Rituals. Thank you so much to all my readers out there who have taken the time to read and review my books. One review, in particular, caught my eye. It’s Febrian’s review on Goodreads, can you can read the full review here.

Febrian wrote “believe me, Nisha, I was also wondering what it would take to get your parents to understand your life is your choice.” She highlighted the arranged marriage theme, which I would like to highlight in this post. No major spoilers for the book ahead if you haven’t read it.

Nisha and Ged Luft’s Situation

Indeed one of the running themes in Nisha is her arranged marriage to young Lord Ged Luft. Her parents, the King and Queen arranged this because the crown was running out of money, and for them, the only way to refill the crown’s coffers was to marry off Princess Nisha to the Lufts, a wealthy noble family of their Kingdom, Seis.

There are many wonderful stories in literature or in real life which depict forced arranged marriage working out very well, but not mine. As Mary, an illustrator who has read the book also said in a Mad Tea Book Club discussion, she didn’t think Nisha was a good example of arranged marriages working out well.

This is precisely the case because I have experienced arranged marriage situations, and it simply didn’t work out for me. I was THIS CLOSE to getting married to someone whom my parents had introduced. I ended the relationship because I knew I would not be happy long-term in that arrangement.

Child Bride

There is one BIG difference though, and that is the point that Nisha is underage. I was set up when I was in my mid-20s, but Nisha was set up in her teens. And this is my main point: CHILD MARRIAGE IS NOT OKAY. If you think this practice is finished, I am sad to say that it is not so.

Globally, 1 in 5 women were married before their 18th birthday. As instability increases, girls living in conflict or crisis settings become particularly vulnerable to the practice.

unicef

This is precisely what happens to Nisha. Her kingdom falls into crisis, and the answer in her parents’ mind was to marry her off to solve the problem. NO, IT DOES NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM. And if you read Nisha and Sacred Rituals, you will know why.

To read more on child bride problems, visit this article (International Women’s Health Coalition).

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Movie Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Out of the darkness…into the spotlight…

That song is now forever cemented in my head. I must also join the hype for this one and also talk about Jamie! In short, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a musical movie about a high school boy Jamie who decides he wants to wear a dress to prom.

The events of the few weeks leading up to the prom become touching and emotional as Jamie gets mixed receptions to his intentions. His best friend Preeti and his mother supports him, while his teacher, some macho bullies, and his father opposes him. Another key figure is a mentor who teaches him the ways of a professional drag queen.

The stage musical came before the movie, and it was inspired by a documentary titled Jamie: Drag Queen at 16.

Songs

It’s a musical so let’s talk about the songs. In short, they are fabulous. Put them on your Spotify play loop now and you’ll see what I mean.

The lyrics by Tom McRae are realistic and not forced, with a lot of witty humor. The melodies are simple and memorable – it reminds me of Les Misérables’ songs. Indeed the composer Dan Gillespie Sells said he connected with Jamie’s story and therefore could write the songs in a way that was hopeful and confident instead of tropic and cliché.

Some of my favorite are Spotlight (I covered it on my IG channel), Over the Top, and Everybody’s Talkin About Jamie. My Man, Your Boy is touching but whenever I listen to it I cry and bawl and sometimes I don’t want to cry and bawl, but this song makes me so emotional every single time). So it’s on my “emotional” lists not my “play all the time” list.

Story

Just like the composer, I love stories like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. It’s got a timeframe which is well defined ( a couple weeks into the prom and prom night), a clear focused struggle (he just wants to wear a dress to the prom – he isn’t trying to change the world or be a billionaire, or answer the world’s problems), realistic relationships (probably cuz its based on a true story), and a satisfying ending: everyone dances at the dance party. Simple, focused, sweet. And by being true to himself in this one thing, Jamie has touched and impacted many hearts.

We often forget that sometimes, it just takes one simple small stone to dislodge, and then the avalanche will roll.

If you like movie musicals, another one I recommend is In the Heights by Lin Manuel Miranda.

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Nisha 3 Title and Release Date Reveal

Who’s excited for the last installment of the Nisha trilogy!!!

In this post I will reveal the TITLE, the DATE OF RELEASE, and a short excerpt!!! If you are ready…

Drumrolls…

Yes, the third book will be titled Elements. What are the elements? And how will the Elements help Nisha, Saad, and Faris to defend their beloved little kingdom?

You can find out on 31 January 2021.

Excerpt of Elements Chapter 2 : Trade-Offs

Nisha watched silently as Elian and Ademaro began to set up three small tents in the middle of the woods. They were resting the night here, having just left her aunt, General Char, Faris, the Outer Movement Wizard, and everyone else at the Border. Ademaro and Elian had volunteered to accompany Princess Nisha in her journey to the Lair of the Order of the Witches and Wizards. Their mission was to convince the Order to send mages to support them in the fight against the Aklumites. 

This journey was about a week by horse. At the end of the first day, Nisha’s guardians chose this location of the forest to sleep. Nisha wanted to help them set up camp, but she had no idea where to even begin. In the end, she opted to watch silently, not wanting to be a hindrance. When Ademaro and Elian were finished, the Princess automatically cringed. 

“Your bedroom for the night,” Ademaro gestured with his deep voice. His kind face looked a bit sorry for her, but circumstances allowed no time for luxuries. 

“I’m sure the earth is, ah, great to sleep on,” sighed Nisha. No complaining, she reminded herself. “I suppose if I could manage sleeping on those hard bunks at the Border, I can handle sleeping on the ground.” 

“Do you mean you’ve never slept outdoors before?” asked Elian, surprised. The young archer had spent most of his childhood hunting and trekking. It was almost inconceivable to him how one could spend their lives trapped inside buildings.

Nisha blushed. “I was sheltered,” she explained pointedly. “It’s not like I had a choice in the matter.” 

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Elian said softly, taking a step closer to Nisha. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She noticed that either by training or simply by the way he was brought up, Elian did not even rustle the leaves as he approached her. 

Ademaro tactfully walked away to take care of their horses, leaving the two youngsters to their discussion. Oh, to be young, the hardy warrior reminisced with nostalgia. 

“So what did you mean?” the Princess asked. She kept her voice steady, although the fluttering in her chest had picked up in speed and volume.


Can’t wait? ME NEITHER!!! Subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak peek scene of Saad, Ged, and the mysterious girl they picked up.

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Book Review: Rule of Wolves (Grishaverse)

Well, well. Many a twist happens in this last installment of the Grishaverse. Rule of Wolves is quite epic in comparison to all the other previous books. The plot unfolds in poor decrepit Ravka with our dears Nikolai and Zoya. At the same time it incorporates matriarchal Shu with Tamar and Princess Ehri, and of course Nina and Hanne in cold cruel Fjerda.

First of all, I am glad we don’t spend too much time in Ravka. As I said before in King of Scars, I think Ravka’s getting old. It seems Leigh knows it because that last bit at the ending was certainly breathing in new winds of change to the conservative country.

Second of all, it’s fascinating that the title “Rule of Wolves” is not about Nikolai and Zoya, but about Nina and Hanne! Wolves refer to the wolves in Fjerda, and I love this! Talk about winds of change coming for Fjerda. This part was brilliantly done, in my opinion.

Lastly, going into Shu Han territory was…interesting. So far, Leigh has never taken her readers into Shu Han territory. Thus I enjoyed getting to know this country with its vastly different cultures and customs. I’d love to read more about Shu Han because I think Leigh is just beginning to set up this area – introducing the culture and customs to her readers.

Predictions for what’s after Rule of Wolves

The ending opens a lot of possibilities for a new adventure. It hints at the return of our favorite protagonist Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows, so I don’t think this is goodbye.

In fact, my prediction for the next installment is that Kaz will have to go into Shu Han to steal what Zoya needs, while Jesper will face up to the full measure of his true self in Ravka and die a valiant death. Inej’s ship probably will be settling scores with the slavers in Kerch, while perhaps being backed up by the ministers of Novyi Zem.

Nina? Oh Gosh. Who knows with Nina. I feel her story arc has been the most unpredictable throughout this whole series, it’s as if Leigh treats her like a wild card. Beware the Heartrender turned Joker.

In the meanwhile, I await which actor will be cast as Nikolai in Season 2 of Netflix Shadow and Bone. Ruairi O’Connor, pretty please. Also, while waiting, why not check out my Grishaverse fanfics.

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Book Review: King of Scars (Grishaverse)

Did someone say handsome, witty, funny, kind? Yes, he said it himself. Nikolai Lantsov, the current ruler of Ravka, and as the title suggests: the King of Scars.

King of Scars is the 6th book in the Grishaverse series, and if you follow this saga from Netflix Shadow and Bone then you will know that the second season is coming out soon. Which means we are all awaiting who is going to be cast as Nikolai. My absolute plea is Ruairi O’Connor from The Spanish Princess. Please, Sankta Alina, please.

Update : Sankta Alina has answered my prayers in the form of bookstagrammer @yourstrulyjulietta. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this reel she made for Mad Tea Book Club.

Back in Ravka

Sorry, got sidetracked by the King (and Ruairi). To get back to the book, King of Scars brings our adventure to Ravka with Nikolai and the Squaller Zoya Nazyalensky who is now Commander Nazyalensky, General of the Ravkan army. So, I have this little theory which is that whenever Leigh Bardugo goes back to Ravka, it feels like we enter into a very religious, conservative place governed by “shoulds”.

Zoya thinks she should behave a certain way. Nikolai thinks he should be showing a certain aura, which is problematic due to the darkness growing inside of him as a souvenir from the Darkling. Should, should, should. I love the two characters and their budding relationship, but “shoulds” always annoy me. That’s why I loved Six of Crows duology, which I think are the best two books of this series – because the characters were free of “shoulds”. The Crows just did what they had to do to survive, and that was it. Simple.

Ravka is always so unnecessarily complicated, sigh.

The highlight of this book was Nina Zenik’s adventure over in Fjerda. Nina’s character in this book is fabulous. She goes through so much and faces it, then takes it further by moving with it. Leigh Bardugo’s brilliant plan to host the two separate adventure lines worked well, because a whole book centered again in Ravka would be too similar to Shadow and Bone and would thus frankly be boring.

I got Game of Thrones vibes from this book, especially how it starts with the perspective of a minor character. The political intrigues, deceptions, and trickeries really remind me of GRRM’s writing. Not a bad thing. Just an observation.

All in all, I did enjoy Nikolai and Zoya, and even made a mild smut fanfic on these two!

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Nisha 3 Cover Sneak Peek!

Dear readers, a very special email popped into my inbox a couple weeks ago. It was from my illustrator Inez Wandita. By now, I am simply in love with her works and have complete trust that she will interpret my drafts into fabulous covers.

Inez had emailed me her ideas for the cover of the third book and the last installment of the trilogy. After observing some reviews and feedback, we decided to go back to the design of the first book cover. If you noticed, Nisha and Sacred Rituals have very different vibes and design. The reason is because the story developed and really “amped up” in the second book, so it felt necessary for that to be reflected in the cover.

We both acknowledge though, that the effect is a non-consistent look, alas. Well, we’re still learning. At least it was a beautiful learning point!

Well, here is a sneak peek of the draft design for the 3rd book!

I hope you enjoyed the little sneak peek! The draft is being edited at the moment. Finger- crossed the 3rd book will be released towards the earlier half of 2022. I’ll be posting title reveal and snippets until then, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get all the insider updates.

If you have read and reviewed Nisha, I want to thank you so much for helping me share Nisha’s story out there to the world.

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First Nisha FanArt!

The first of hopefully many many more Nisha FanArt! This is a super cute piece of work I commissioned from Mary, a talented young Indonesian digital artist.

The scene is from Chapter 16 of the first book. Nisha, Faris, and Saad are at the Border, trying to help General Char in her efforts to defend their kingdom from neighboring invasions. Faris has an idea which will eventually be a huge asset to their efforts. His idea is rooted from when he was a child, training with his Outer Movement magic under the guidance of his parents.

However, in order for Faris’ suggestion to work, it requires Saad to link and channel the Outer Movement Magic which Faris practices with the Inner Movement Magic which Nisha practices.

This scene is one of the most memorable scenes when I read the book. It shows the characters’ companionship forming as they work together, and I thought it was a beautiful scene to illustrate.

mary

Without further ado, here is the illustration!

Meet the Artist

Mary

Mary is a 16 year old digital artist whom I met through the Mad Tea Book Club. At this time, she is also a volunteer board member of the book club.

Q: Why digital medium?

A: I think digital suits me the most. I’ve always preferred working in digital over other art mediums.

Q: When and where did you learn drawing?

A: I started to draw seriously around 6th grade and was self-taught for almost 4 years until I went to art school.

Q: How did you come to love drawing?

A: In 6th grade, I fell in love with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I watched the fanart speedpaint on Youtube of this book (?). I watched countless of videos until one day I decided to try to make my own. I tried to follow their process. The result wasn’t the best but I was proud of it and enjoyed making them. So I kept practicing and making more fanart, until today!

Q: What is your dream job?

A: I’ve always dreamed to be a book cover artist or childrens’ book illustrator! Oh to be able to bring other talented people’s stories to life and see my illustrations on stores’ shelves!

Keep updated with Mary’s journey and dreams via her Instagram profile – where you can find more of her illustrations!

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Book Review: Crooked Kingdom

Leigh Bardugo definitely notches up her writing game with the Six of Crows duology. Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows and the fifth book in the Grishaverse. In this installment, Kaz Brekker and his band of thieves and thugs conclude their grand heist, which began in Six of Crows.

Character Development

The story arcs of Kaz and Inej, the Suli assassin indebted to him were just beautiful here. Fans of Kaz-Inej relationship will be very happy. Nina Zenik played a smaller part in this book in comparison to Six of Crows, but that’s alright because in the next duology (book 6 and 7 of Grishaverse), she is HUGE. Like larger than life. In this book however, well. Let’s just say I know all too well the horrors she has to go through in Crooked Kingdom. Enough said or it will spoil the ending.

I think that Jesper’s character was developed very well and brought to a nice ripe growth, especially with the appearance of someone special to him. Jesper started off as someone unwilling to face his true identity. He masked sorrows with a huge addiction to gambling and adrenaline. Through his adventures in Crooked Kingdom, however, he is able to somewhat come to terms with himself. I can almost smell future development for Jesper! What will a bright energetic person like Jesper be able to pull off once he has fully acknowledged his strengths and weaknesses? I can’t wait to see.

Full of Deceit and Trickery

With a grand heist, layers of deception from the antagonists and the protagonists (read: Kaz Brekker’s schemes), Crooked Kingdom can honestly be a bit tricky. Leigh Bardugo also employs a lot of flashbacks to flesh out the backstory of her characters, which I loved. I really enjoyed getting to know them better. However, I wonder if there is another way to pull this off so that it’s not so confusing to the main plot. I can see it working extremely well in movie format though. And I’ve heard rumors of a Six of Crows spinoff by Netflix…

I also must mention that as much as I enjoy Leigh Bardugo’s poetic writing, I feel sometimes it got bit carried away. As a result, some descriptions were a bit unclear for me because it went into the realm of poetry instead of being crisp and clear about what was going on.

All in all, I loved Six of Crows duology – so much that I even wrote a fanfic of it! Check out my Six of Crows fanfic ,told from Jesper’s point of view.