Graceling: Kristin Cashore

Novel Information (Taken from Wikipedia)

Country: United States

Language: English

Publication Date: October 1, 2008

Pages: 471

Narration: Third Person

 

CiSu’s Review

Graceling is unique in that Kristin has found a way to create superheroes in a fantasy setting. That’s the easiest way I can describe it. Gracelings are people who have a Grace. These graces can range from improving fighting, archery, seeing at night, being able to sense a person, reading minds, being able to tell when a storm is going to hit, improved swimming and everything in between. They are easily distinguishable by their multi-coloured eyes, although every Graceling has a different pairing of eyes.

The novel’s central character Katsa is struggling with her grace and trying to find a way to be her own person and use her grace for her own desires and not just for her King. She has already started her transformation but it isn’t until she meets another Graceling who helps her see the world and herself through different eyes, that she can truly become the person she desires to be.

The book is well written and flows at a comfortable speed. There were many plot points that I found predictable, but may not be to the average reader, and certainly didn’t spoil or ruin the story for me because it never took the characters long to catch up to what I had already realized. There was only one moment (towards the end) that I didn’t forsee what had happened, and to be honest, I’m not sure how Katsa figured it out, and how exactly it happened (because I doubt how it happened is actually possible). I also don’t think it was necessary… but I can understand why Kristin made that choice. Nonetheless it didn’t deter my enjoyment by any means.

I found that the concept of the Gracelings to be rather unique and was pleased to watch Katsa’s growth throughout the book.She is a strong female protagonist who (despite falling in love) keeps a level head and remains logical throughout the book. I cannot tell you how refreshing that is to find. Even when she fears to leave her lover behind, she intends to because logically that is what matters. So, bravo Kristin for making a female protagonist who doesn’t lose her mind just because she’s in love.

One of the downsides for me, was the speediness of Katsa’s romance. It just seemed to sudden, with no real confusion for Katsa in regards to her feelings as they slowly start to ebb. To me it felt like a whirlwind romance that was deep and meaningful as though they’d known each other for years. Again, this was certainly not a deterrent for me, just something that I noticed as I read.

Overall, I enjoyed Graceling a lot, and although I’m not ready to jump into Bitterblue or Fire just yet, Bitterblue (a vital character in Graceling) is a book I will put on my TBR list for sure.

The Princess Bride: William Goldman

Novel Information (Taken from Wikipedia)

Country: United States

Language: English

Publication Date: 1973

Pages: 355

Narration: Third Person

 

CiSu’s Review

This is one of those books I decided to read because I saw the movie, and for the first time the movie actually did credit to the book. I was thoroughly impressed.

This is (as the cover of the book states) a “Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure”. The book is full of compelling narrative, sword fights, the Zoo of Death (which was omitted in the movie), and the never ending romance between Wesley and Buttercup.

To be honest I believe that Buttercup is worthy of Wesley, and even more so now that I’ve read the book. Still, the faith that they have for each other, and more so the utter love and devotion Wesley has for her, is just heartwarming.

There is, however, a lot of talking from Goldman in the book which was distracting, although sometimes informative and interesting. After all, this is his abridgement of “the good parts” because Morgenstern’s original tale was epic and had lots of sections that were uninteresting. Still, there are times that Goldman goes on an incredibly long tangent for something that could have been summed up in one page or two at the most. Still, I’m not going to say that the book was worse because of this for the simple fact that all his interjections are clearly marked and if I didn’t want to be interrupted from the story I could have simply skipped over them.

As for the story itself, I realized that I’m having difficulty describing it because I’ve seen the movie and I know the story so well it’s ingrained in me, and I just can’t seem to get it out into words because I feel that everyone has read it. So, I’m going to instead try to explain the parts that are different – like the backstory to Inigo and Fezzik and how their characters are more clearly defined, and more empathetic because of this. There is also more of an impact with their friendship and how much stronger the two of them are when they are together then when they are apart. They kind of remind me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because apart they do not really exist (however when they’re together they are two very distinguishable characters).

Anyway, that’s all I can say because my brain isn’t working beyond telling me it’s awesome and cycling through moments in the book and movie.

The best line (in both the movie and the book is still) DEATH FIRST!

My dear Wesley. I shall always love you.

An Update about my Sandman Story

I’ve been doing much better at trying to write something every day, even if it is difficult to get into the swing of things. I know that any change to your daily routine (no matter how big or small that change might be) can take a long time; longer than we’d like to admit. Knowing this, I’m going through this change open-minded and not berating myself whenever I neglect to write a new sentence, paragraph or even page (pages if I’m lucky).

In these moments where I realize that I haven’t written a single word at all that day, I instead, think about the writing and what direction I want it to go, or how the characters are going to develop and what makes them develop into the characters at the end?

I’ve been making some decent progress with my Sandman story. I’ve completed chapter one, have chapter two started, and have written the first two of many articles that will be inserted between random chapters. As the book is fantasy based, but does tie into the mortal world, I wanted a way to show that connection without taking away from the fantasy aspect; these articles are my brilliant link between fantasy and reality. I use the term brilliant loosely. I do not think I’m brilliant, or that it’s a brilliant idea, I’m just rather proud I thought of it, and that so far it seems to work.

My articles also inspired me and offered me a way to pay homage to authors and books I enjoy without being open about it. Consider it… an easter egg if you will. I didn’t mean to do it the first time… not really. I needed a name for the author of the article, and decided that Bill something or other would work. Something plain that doesn’t really stick out, and you can gloss over, because his name isn’t important. However, I needed to fit him with a last name (because no article is written by Bill …. okay that made me think of Kill Bill where he has no last name… but I digress), and am currently reading The Princess Bride and decided to just make his last name Wesley. It wasn’t until much later (finishing the article and writing the remainder of the first chapter) that I realized that the author is William Goldman… William can be shortened to Bill (don’t know why, but I just go with it). So here I had an author and character from a book I love (well I’m not done the book but I love the movie and the book so far has not been disappointing so I doubt I will emerge hating it).

So, this got me to carefully consider my next author for the next article, and then I just began to brainstorm books that I loved and characters within that I could use as writers for these articles. I don’t know if anyone would ever pick up on this on their own (assuming I ever finish writing it… and then if it ever gets published), but it fills me with a certain amount of giddiness that I can’t overcome.

As for the story, I’m at a juncture where I’m not sure how to progress forward in the story, but am using the time to write down dreams (mostly nightmares) that I’ve had, that I can utilize in the story. I’ve gotten two from a friend and published author, and am always trying to write down more as I’m not certain how many I will need in the end. … So if you’ve read all this and you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear them! I know that describing them after never sounds as scary, but I have a wild imagination (so wild that I can’t watch horror movies …. not unless I want to scare myself scary while both awake or asleep for at least  a week) and I guarantee that I will understand why it would be so terrifying.

I’m also stuck on how to explain one of the characters/entities. The Déjà. I got the name from the term déjà vue, and just turned them into immortals who created the first Sandman and have dreams about the future that they sometimes decide to share with the mortals. Explaining this in a world where my characters knew what they were from a young age has proved a challenge, but I’m looking forward to conquering it.

As for the story that I have characters but no plot for… well it’s unchanged. At this point though I’m not overly thinking/worrying about it, and choosing to focus on the Sandman tale that has actually become much more than I thought it would. I really think that I have a narrow enough focus on this to make it into a compelling story that I might actually finish writing.

I’ve debated sharing it with others to get a response, but I’m hesitant and far from reaching that point. I’ve given what I have so far to the above mentioned friend, and she’s encouraged me to continue because she really wants to know what happened, what the big secret is, and where the characters will find themselves at the end. It inspired me, and has pushed me to keep going. Kind of a pleasant nagging that tells me I should be working on it (not now though because I felt bad for not updating in over a week).

I’ve heard of Wattpad, and a friend and fellow NaNoWriMo writer has posted his newest story (written this past November) on Wattpad. As far as I can tell, the content remains yours but it allows for other authors and writers to read it and comment. I can post as much or as little of the story as I want, obtain feedback, edit and resubmit. I’m weary that someone will steal it, although I’m sure there are stringent rules in place to prevent that, but still…. it just… doesn’t feel right. Perhaps I can post bits and pieces here and you guys can let me know what you think?

We shall see. I am a fickle and uncertain creature.

Until the next time, happy reading and writing!

<3 CiSu (Jess)

Finding Time to Write

I’ve been working on the Sandman story idea that I thought up on here back in October. I was stuck with my idea for a plot – and am still stuck – so I figured I’d move away from that one and work on my Sandman idea. It can be disheartening at times to have so many ideas, and leave so many stories as skeletons waiting to be worked out. As for my NaNo story… well that one has been put in the – need to revamp entirely pile. I put too much into it, and I think it’s developing more as a mystery than that of Sci-fi. This means that I really need to work on how I want to tell the story, and what means would best fit the genre.

Naturally, I decided to put some distance between myself and that story, partly so that I wasn’t still determined on old ideas, and partly to learn more about the mystery genre before trying to write a book in said genre. However, I digress…

As for the Sandman story, it seems to be moving along relatively well, although I haven’t made much time for it as I would like. On the plus side, not rushing to write it has also given me some time to think things through regarding the flow which is beneficial, and time to figure out all the little intricacies. At the same time, I feel bad for not writing more.

I know it’s possible to get some writing in every night – I certainly accomplished it back in November – I just can’t seem to find the same energy I had once I get home from work, or on the weekends. I don’t have an excuse, I’m being lazy. I get home, make something to eat, and watch a movie on Netflix before heading to bed. It’s a pattern I seriously need to break.

So I’m going to try and set a little goal for myself in an attempt to write 500 words each day for this story – no matter how bad those words might turn out to be, at least it’s something. I also have another story on the go (not the one without a plot, yet another one) so if I’m really stuck on the Sandman one, I’ll work on that.

I’m also finding that writing during my lunch break at work is a good time to get my writing done. I’ve already managed over 2,000 words writing at lunch so, hopefully that will continue. Of course, lunch was my reading time, so now I’m not reading as much.

… Reading or writing… well they both deserve equal time. Perhaps I can read at night instead of watching Netflix. That’s probably better for my brain anyway.

Let me know when you find time to write!

~ CiSu

Indie Services and Writer Awards

So this post will largely promote the publishing company that I work for – and more specifically their Indie Service branch. If you’re interested in the awards portion and not so much what I have to say, then by all means here’s the link: http://splittreeindie.com/about/events/ . It’s a calendar, and the pink are all deadlines for submissions.

Okay, so before I get into the website I want to say how proud I am to work for this small publishing company that cares about its authors more than making money. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a business, and like all businesses it wants to make money to survive, but at the same time we want to help authors as much as we can in the process.

There are a few ways we’re achieving this, one of which is letting authors know when awards are happening, and the deadline to submit for said award. You can click the link above to reach Split Tree Indie’s calendar of events.

We’re also posting helpful articles every day (or as best we can), in relation to book design, marketing and distribution. All articles can be found under “Book Help” or you click here for quick access: http://splittreeindie.com/info/ .

We want to help authors who choose to self-publish well beyond the services we offer, and these were two simple ways that we could start. We also publish the articles daily on Facebook as well, so if you’d like to receive this articles on your news feed each day, be sure to like our page: https://www.facebook.com/splittreeindie .

As for the individual services we offer, well we’ve broken them down into six categories: Consultations, Editing, Design, Media Releases, Tours and Trailers, and Websites (design and hosting). Many of these categories offer varying degrees of help, and we’ve even lumped together varies services and offered them as packages, to help save you money.

We know it’s expensive to publish a book, but the more you pay the better quality you get, and that’s where we want to get your book – at a high quality for readers.

I know this blog might have seemed self-serving, but I really wanted to pass along the informational portion about the website. If you are interested in purchasing a service, and want my help, just ask for Jess and I’ll be more than happy to work with you!

As one of my friends told me, “Us writers have to stick together”.

Happy writing!

~ CiSu (Jess)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Stieg Larsson

Novel Information (Taken from Wikipedia)

Original Title: Män som hatar kvinnor

Country: Sweden

Language: Swedish

Series: Millennium Series

Publication Date: 2005 (2008: English)

Pages: 590

Narration: Third Person

Author Website: http://www.stieglarsson.com/

CiSu’s Review

I shall begin by saying that overall I did enjoy this book, and although I would not mark it as one of the top books to read, I wouldn’t tell someone not to read it either.

The problem for me is that the first 300 pages are rather quite dull. … Hmm… let’s do a quick recap of the story first. Financial Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by an eighty-something year old man named Henrik Vanger to write a historical biography of his family, while trying to find out what happened to his niece 37 years ago.

That’s the short of it. Now, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, Mikael is not a cop or investigator of any kind, which didn’t shock me because I was waiting for our tattooed girl to show as I knew she was a PI. The kick? She (Lisbeth Salander)  doesn’t appear on that scene until 300 pages into the book. She’s in the story, but she’s not working on that assignment. In fact, her role is rather diminished until halfway through the novel, which is depressing because her story is much more interesting and dynamic than that of Blomkvist.

To tell you the truth, if it hadn’t been for her intermittent appearances throughout the first half of the book I probably wouldn’t have been able to get past the first hundred or so pages. The reason is because it is dull and full of dates and names. The whole first chapter isn’t overly relevant to the story and could have been explained in a few paragraphs instead of a few pages. However, I can overlook that. It was more the initial discussion with Henrik that dragged on that I could barely force myself to read.

The entire first part of the book is comprised of Henrik listing in detail the members of his family, when they were born, when they died (if applicable), who they were related to, the names of their children as well as their date of birth. It was a lot. Unless I was sitting there with a pen and paper it really didn’t matter. Then we learn that not everyone was there when the girl disappeared, and some were dead… so really, what was the point? Did it matter for the character Mikael? Yes. Absolutely. Did it matter to the reader? Not in the slightest – unless you’re one of those readers who loves dates and facts. I am not one of them.

Then I got to page 300 and the story started reading like a story and not a history report. A story like all Lisbeth’s chapters or scenes had been written; engaging, interesting, and urging you to read more. At that point I actively wanted to know what happened to Harriet and what they were going to discover.

The plot was semi-predictable. Predictable to the point that I discovered things before Blomkvist, but was still thrown for a twist or two. In the end, I knew what had happened to Harriet before they did, but as I got closer to the end, it is written as though you were supposed to figure it out before it’s plainly told to you.

As I said, I enjoyed it, but I’m not overly ready to start the next book in the series, and in fact it will be some time before I even consider taking a look at the back of the book and the premiss within.

Top Ten Tips to Survive a Relationship with a Writer

I saw this post on facebook – an image shared from Janis Ian, originally posted by http://www.writerswrite.co.za. The image however I didn’t care for so I’m just going to write them out here. Some are very true for me – especially numbers 4 and 9.

 

How to Survive a Relationship with a Writer

Top Ten Tips

 

1.  Never ask when the book will be published.

2.  Do not ask a writer if they wish they had written the latest best-seller.

3.  Never say you’re thinking of writing a book. Never ever say you’d also write a book if only you had the time.

4.  Don’t call the police if you happen to see a writer’s browsing history. The average writer is not planning to poison you, hire a hit-man, or move to Afghanistan. It’s simply research.

5.  Leave the writer alone when the writer is actually writing. You have no idea how difficult it is to enter the zone.

6.  Don’t pick unfair fights with a writer. Writers do get their revenge in print.

7.  If you do want to fight, make it memorable. The writer is always looking for material.

8.  If your writer wanders off at a party, don’t panic. Writers love to inspect the host’s bookshelves and medicine cabinets.

9.  Buy your writer notebooks and cute pens as gifts. Do not buy flowers. Chocolate is also acceptable.

10.  Leave your writer alone when a rejection letter arrives. After the deadly silence, screaming, crying, moaning, and muttering have subsided, offer your writer a cup of coffee or tea. And a cupcake. And a huge hug.

Coraline: Neil Gaiman

Novel Information (Taken from Wikipedia)

Country: United Kingdom

Language: English

Publication Date: January 24, 2002

Pages: 160

Narration: Third Person

Author Website: http://www.neilgaiman.com/

 

CiSu’s Review

Coraline (the name actually the result of mistyping Caroline – per the author in the interview added at the end of the book), is a very compelling read for children and adults alike. The story is about a young girl who loves to explore and ends up in a parellel world of her own with very subtle differences. At first things seem wonderful, but soon Coraline is introduced to the horrors and truly terrifying “other mother” who resides there.

Coraline’s experiences are those of a real-life nightmare, where things aren’t what they seem, change happens constantly and without question, and suddenly the warm feeling you had upon entering your dream turns cold and terrifying. Throughout all the terrors that Coraline faces, she remains brave, and her bravery is brought forth by the memories she shared with her parents – parents who are given a very cold and uncaring demeanour in the first half of the novel.

Although detached from the story, I felt like a parent watching Coraline face her fears, and cheering her on whenever she succeeded. I also felt that the novel was very family oriented, even though there are few happy family moments. Coraline’s parents are too busy working to play with her, and often ignore her wishes even when her opinion is asked. Still, Gaiman manages to make the entire story revolve around family and Coraline’s love for her real parents despite their flaws and adventurous cooking.

Overall, I enjoyed the book as it was an easy read, kept a good pace, and was filled with some of the most unique characters I’ve read about. Not to mention there is a black cat who kicks some serious butt, both with his sarcastic and aloof manners, as well as with his claws.

Although I wouldn’t say this is a must read, I would recommend it as something that you should take the time to read somewhere in your lifetime. Perhaps on a rainy day when you can’t go out exploring.

CiSu’s 2014 Reading List

Since I plan to continue writing throughout the year, I’m only going to give myself one book to read a month. If I manage to read more than that, bonus to me, but in the meantime, I’m aiming to read at least twelve. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ve limited myself to twelve books, because that would just be ludicrous.

1.  The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

2.  Through the Zombie Glass – Gena Showalter

3.  MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood (Re-Read: Oryx and Crake & The Year of the Flood)

4.  The Girl with the Iron Touch – Kady Cross

5.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

6.  Inkspell – Cornelia Funke

7.  Inkdeath – Cornelia Funke

8.  Graceling – Kristin Cashore (Recommended by: C.Miller)

9.  Insomnia – Stephen King (Recommended by: C.Miller)

10.  Dreamcatcher – Stephen King (Recommended by: C.Miller)

11.  Reave – C. Miller

12.  Dracula – Bram Stoker

13.  Remember Me – Christopher Pike (Recommended by: Jill)

14.  The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Cassandra Clare (Recommended by: Jill)

15.  Carrie – Stephen King (Recommended by: Jill)

16.  Ship of Theseus – J.J Abrams and Doug Dorst (Recommended by: Jill)

17.  Soulbinder – Jillian Watts

18.  The Princess Bride – William Goldman

19.  Coraline – Neil Gaiman

20.  Hounded – Kevin Hearne

21.  I am Number Four – Pittacus Lore

22.  Bloodlines – Richelle Mead

23.  The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

24.  Divergent – Veronica Roth

25.  Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

26.  The Lost Hero – Rick Riordan

27.  The Red Tree – Caitlin R. Kiernan

28.  The Shining – Steven King

29.  Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

30.  The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaimen

All Characters & No Plot

Yet another story idea popped into my head a week ago. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I can’t seem to focus on a story because as soon as I start getting into one, another one takes shape in my head and then I start on that one so I don’t forget the idea. This one started out differently, this one started out with the characters and not the plot. Normally, even if the plot doesn’t have a full shape, I know the general direction of where I’m heading with the story. This time, all I’m getting from my characters are bits and pieces of where they want to go and what they want to achieve with absolutely no advice on how to get there.

This has been, needless to say, frustrating. I keep thinking that if I develop the characters I have I’ll get a better picture, but so far that hasn’t been the case. In all honestly, I don’t even have all the characters that I know I’m going to need, but they’re refusing to talk to me at the moment which is another problem. I’m unable to flesh out the characters I both want and need because they’re only letting the four I have fleshed out talk to me. Those four are being extremely uncooperative.

This is also new territory for me because I’ve never attempted to write a story that’s character driven. That is to say, that the characters are the ones telling me the story. I’ve always had the story in my head and then created the characters and let them take more of a shape as I write. This whole, characters first, story second, kinda largely sucks. … In a good way … I think.

I’ve also tried to create the world, but in truth, I suck at that, and am even worse when I don’t know what the world should be like, or how big, or if there are other continents and if yes (because what world is really one continent?), so the characters know about it? I’m thinking not, and they haven’t said otherwise. Wonderfully this means I only need to create one continent for now, but what it needs, and what it needs to contain still eludes me.

It’s a medieval fantasy with Greek God elements. So, knights, wizards, kings, and magic, all with Greek God influence. Therefore, the realm is decently normal, and there’s nothing new that I need to create. I just don’t know what the hell the characters are doing, or are meant to do.

I want to stay away from poor boy turned King/Hero/Knight, and I don’t want one where the prince/princess/hero is born to privileged and seeks adventure and then ends up in trouble. I don’t want civil war between two nations vying for power, and I don’t want to re-write Game of Thrones, which is difficult not to think of when writing a medieval fantasy. So basically, something realistic that has a reasonable plot that I can play around and adapt.

I have the main character as the son of a Duke, so someone who is privileged, has influence, and knows the Royal family, but isn’t in line for the crown, nor does he want it; he has his own people that he cares for and wants to enrich their lives. Truth be told, he is concerned that he is not good enough to rule anything, but he will not run from his duties either. Still, something has to pull him away and set him off on a wonderful adventure … *sigh* If only I knew what the hell pulls him away.

I also don’t want it to be because of a woman. Every book I looked into about Greek Mythology (which granted wasn’t many because I quickly became annoyed) mirrored the following: boy/girl needs to blank, but meets boy/girl who they need to save/kill, which becomes problematic as they develop feelings for each other.

GAH! There are larger problems in life then love, and realistically, anyone who has been around for hundreds of years or isn’t a teen knows better. Attraction is one thing, you get over it when looking at the larger picture. I think it’s fairly obvious that all (save one) of my main characters in this tale is over the age of 18 (most closer to 30) and none are super old (well except the wizard, but he uses knowledge and wisdom to keep the larger picture in focus). Btw, even he isn’t telling me what said larger picture looks like, and up until a moment ago, wasn’t even speaking to me. I guess I should be thankful.

The only benefit to having characters over 18 is that there’s no worry for underage sex, and the belief that they are in love even though they only just entered high school. I digress…

If any of you have had this obstacle in the past and have overcome it, or just have ideas about a plot I’d be ever so grateful if you left a comment.

Ever yours (with much frustration)

~ CiSu