To Journey in the Year of the Tiger

To Journey in the Year of the Tiger is a tale about honour, love, racial boundaries, discovery of self and the world, all while the shadow of death looms nearby.

Something, or someone, is killing the Empresses Council of Seers – those with the best talent with the gift of vision and far sight. In response to these deaths, the Empress sends a diversely skilled group to uncover the truth, bring the killings to a stop, and punish whoever is responsible.

To Journey in the Year of the Tiger is the first book in the Tails of the Upper Kingdom saga and through the pages, Dickson opens our eyes, and those of her characters, to the great scope that this journey will take.

H. Leighton gives us a diverse group of characters, all of whom bring skills to aid them in either surviving the journey, or determining the cause of the deaths. Kirin, the brave and noble Captain who, even if it goes against his deepest wishes and desires, will follow the traditions of his people and the orders of his Empress. Kerris, Kirin’s brother, an easy going, Geomancer who has traveled across more of the world than most. Fallon, a young upbeat Scholar whose wisdom well exceeds her years, while her views on the world challenge the traditions of the Upper Kingdom. Shera the alchemist, shrouded in mystery and who weaves spells to keep it that way. Ursa, the Captain’s right hand woman and Major in the army, has a tongue that is often sharper then her blades, and strikes with just as much accuracy. Finally, benAramis, last of the Council of Seers, whose very life rests in the hands of the others.

Her characters are well defined, and even when a chapter or section opens without directly stating who is thinking or speaking, it is made clear by the character’s actions or mannerisms. The clacking of heels and pacing can only belong to the Major, while an incensed filled room belongs to Shera. Their pasts define their actions and are revealed through small moments and glimmers, making it all the more clear that their choices are rooted by who they are and their experiences, thus making them deeper and richer characters than the standard tropes.

Unlike most sagas, Dickson has not completed a story in this book that will resume in the next. Instead, book one is just the start of the journey, and I found this quite a refreshing change. Instead of trying to cram a small story into a book that is part of a greater arc, Dickson has taken the arc and separated it. This change is bold, but something I sorely needed, as it seems that with most trilogies (or sagas) that the characters can’t seem to get a break from one book to the next. This series seems to be telling one tale in the span of multiple books and it gives me hope that when I reach the end, the survivors will have come through their stories changed, but alive, and allowed to rest, and live their lives.

H. Leighton’s choice to spread her arc over many books is not the only aspect that separates her books apart, but also her choice to make her characters anthropomorphic. The Upper Kingdom belongs to cats of all breeds; snow leopards, cheetahs, lynx, tigers, and most important of all lions. Mating between the breeds is considered blasphemy, and any mixed breeds are ostracized as mongrels. This has become a consternation for more than a couple of characters when their hearts belong to someone of a different breed. It will be interesting to see if the characters will choose to betray their culture for love, or live lonely and duty bound.

Another unique aspect to the world is that Dickson has found a way to modify our world and that of her new world. It is still unclear exactly how those worlds are connected, but I have no doubt that by the end of the journey we will learn how this new world came to be, and what happened to humans, if we still even exist on the same plane.

I cannot wait to continue this journey with Kirin and his headache educing companions (especially Kerris… love that lion), and see where To Walk in the Way of Lions takes me.

The Wolf Gift: Anne Rice

Novel Information (Taken from GoodReads)

Country: United States

Language: English

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

Publication Date: January 29, 2013

Pages: 528

Narration: Third Person

CiSu’s Review

I picked up this book for two reasons. 1. Anne Rice is a well known, well respected author. 2. I was/am sick of vampire stories, so werewolves seemed like a nice change of pace.

Overall, it was a decent book, there was just too much thrown into it for my liking, and too many conveniences for the main character, Reuben. I’m also not a huge fan of long drawn out descriptions, and although it did print a beautiful picture, and showcased the Gothic style of writing, I thought some of it could have been cut out.

Now, what I mean by “too much thrown in” is that Rice tackles the topics of transformation and what it means to become someone else, good versus evil, praising vigilantes, and of course, the basics of trying to discover what it means to be a werewolf, and how it happened, and how it affects your relationships with your family and loved ones.
There was so much that she was trying to address, that many topics were either quickly and conveniently resolved, or not addressed at all. I also state all of this with the knowledge that this is not a stand alone book. However, topics such as what the change means to him as a person, is only glossed over; it was thought of enough times by Reuben that it becomes seemingly important, but is never fully addressed.
As for the lore and history, and how it all works. It’s conveniently explained to him by not one werewolf, but essentially a pack.

Which brings me to my next point of how easily everything happens for Reuban.

HERE BE SPOILERS! (scroll down until you see END OF SPOILERS)

Reuban gets attacked by a werewolf in a house. Inherits the house where all the information about werewolves exists. This inheritance is given to him, for free, by the now deceased owner, who left it to him after meeting him for the first time the previous day.
He falls in love with a woman who sees him as a werewolf and instead of being scared, comes up to him and sleeps with him in wolf form. No talking, no nothing, just “Hey look, the man wolf. I’m going to let him sleep with me”. Then of course, she falls madly in love with him after just that one special night. *head desk*
Oh and his current girlfriend… err.. fiance… don’t remember. She’s okay with Reuben dumping her after giving her the silent treatment, then she hooks up with his best friend who has always been in love with her (though she never noticed him). It’s okay though, they all stay friends. *sigh*
Werewolf who built the house he know lives in, finally comes out of hiding after decades, just to teach him how to live. Oh, and to kill some scientists that he’s been hunting. Scientists that have been in hiding for decades, who decide to reveal themselves just because of Reuban.
Oh and his family, only one of which knows who he is, ignores his cold demeanor, all the help he’s been refusing and still loves him. So, in spite of everything, he gets the change, the girl, and his family.

END OF SPOILERS!

So as I had mentioned previously, many conveniences, with no consequences to Reuben for any of his actions. This ruined the book for me, and to be honest, there was a large part when I was 90% done, that I honestly didn’t care if I ever finished the book.

The only reason I gave this two stars instead of one, was because many of the concepts were interesting. Personally, I think if Anne had settled to focus on two specific topics, and thrown in some conflict, it would have made for a much better and spectacular book.

I do want to note, that I found her writing style eloquent and the conversations between the characters to flow and be natural. Her world is fascinating, and the ideas that she has about werewolves and especially their DNA are intriguing and fresh.

Overall, I would have to say that if you are a lover of Anne Rice, then this book would be a great read. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Life Happens

I’m sure everyone has those moments. Sometimes, it can derail a day, sometimes a week, sometimes a month. Well that’s kinda sorta what happened to me. I was all ready to sit and write and get stuff done, and then… life happened.

Lots of little things, nothing major, but all those little things can really throw me off my groove. Like Kuzco, only I don’t live in a palace and I don’t have anyone to throw out a window, nor do I have someone to throw said person out the window. Oh well, at least I’m not a llama.

Anyway! Blogging got put on hold, writing got kinda put on hold, and now November is nearly two weeks away, and my head is just focused on NaNoWriMo. I have so many ideas that pop into my head only to be overly analyzed every second. Also, no one is very active on the forums and I don’t know what to do about that. Any ideas?

I talked to someone I knew, and they said they were at least coming to the Kick-Off party, which is super awesome and made me very happy. On the non-ML side of NaNo, I have no idea what I’m going to write about, which is a complete change from last year. Last year, I had my idea and a full outline by like… the beginning of October. I was just waiting for November to FINALLY roll around so I could start writing. This year, I’ve got a list of story ideas I’ve been meaning to write and all I need to do is pick one. Easier said than done though.

I have 8 options available to me, and in this case, less is more. I can cut a few because really, there’s nothing substantial other than “Werewolf PI”. Yup, that’s an idea, and all of the idea I have, so that one can be cut in the preliminary round. It’s the intermediate round that it gets complicated. I have two… epic fantasy stories that I want to tell. The problem is, I want to have the complete outline of all the … books… instances… plots before I publish anything. Which isn’t to say that I can’t start writing. What I don’t want to happen is have an awesome idea by book 6, but something should have been happening by book 2 in order to make that possible. At least I’d have something written though.

Then there are the single book stories that I could write and then maybe I could actually *publish* one. It’s exciting and hard to imagine. Actual completing a story, editing it, and publishing it. However, it’s entirely possible if I use NaNo as a means of getting one of these stories out. The one that I’m mostly leaning towards however, is not my preferred genre of writing. I adore writing Fantasy or SciFi, and this… this is just fiction. Almost a collection of short stories if you will, that intermingle. Nothing fancy, just… different lives that touch one another. It’s neat, but again, hardly what I want to be writing.

So, there’s that dilemma. Try to get one book done and see if that lights the fire under my butt to work on the others, or write the beginning of one of the epic stories, and see if that lights a fire to finish off the story. Any thoughts, ideas or sage advice would be appreciated!

On a positive writing note, I finished my final edits of my short story and managed to cut it below the 1500 word cap! Whoo hoo! I also braved sending it out for review to a handful of people. I know that everything can be improved upon and that was the feedback I was hoping for, and out of the four people I gave it to, two were helpful in the “this would be better” but otherwise it’s awesome, and three were simply helpful in telling me it was great and boosting what little teeny tiny esteem I have.

I’m going to give it one last look, and give it back to my very first beta reader to see what she thinks now that the edits have been done, then it’s submission time! A milestone in itself – submitting my writing to a contest.

So that’s where my writing life is at right now. I won’t promise any sort of blog until December, but I hope to write something on here as NaNo gets closer, and even into the thick of things.

Best of luck to any who are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, and as always, happy writing!

~ Jess

NaNoWriMo 2014 ML!

Okay, this post is late in being written. Almost two months late. However, the enthusiasm I felt when I received my email stating that I had been accepted as a NaNoWriMo ML has not wavered in the slightest. I’m SUPER excited to be a Municipal Liaison with my partner in crime Jill, and I’m really looking forward to meeting all the writers and watching their stories come to life on the page… errr screen… well both actually :P

Today I assisted in promoting the event with Jill, whom I will be honest, since I was kinda running the event, did most if not all the promoting today. We gave out magazine coasters that I had made, along with handouts reminding people to sign up, that Jill made, and had a neat little board that explained the event.

I think the best part about explaining NaNo today, was the openness of the people we spoke to. Normally when I’ve explained NaNo in the past, and tell people that it’s a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m met with frown faces and a complete lack of faith that it’s even possible. Today was different. People were accepting, and willing to challenge themselves (or other people that they knew) into attempting it. Which, besides being refreshing, surged me with new energy and even more eagerness to make this year a success.

I already secured a writing venue, so now it’s time to locate someplace for our kickoff party and TGIO party.

SUPER HAPPY that the initial steps are almost done. Well… other than a story idea to write for NaNo, but that can always comes later right? Maybe night before later? Sure why not.

If any of you are thinking of doing NaNo, I highly suggest it. It’s a personal challenge, and even if you don’t write 50,000 words, it is an incredible experience.

~ Jess

CiSu’s 2014 Reading List Progress

With September here (an absolutely terrifying thought), I figured I’d go back and take a look at my TBR list and see exactly how well I did, and if I’m going to make my goal of 12 books this year.

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: Book 1 – 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

 

First of all, whoot for reading 12 books! Hooray I met my goal! (It’s the little things in life) Also, I know I’ve read more that aren’t on this list, which makes me even happier. 

I’ll go into a more in depth look at the end of the year but for now I want to give special mentions to the following books (links will open to amazon where you can purchase them):

Reave – C. Miller

Hounded – Kevin Hearne

Soulbinder by Jililan Watts would also be on the list, yet it’s not yet available – yay for getting an advanced copy XD

 

Anyway, I highly recommend both Reave and Hounded if you’re looking for a great book/ start of series. 

I wrote a short story!

Okay, so I wrote a first draft of a short story, but the point is, I wrote a story from start to finish and that makes me extremely happy. I’m also rather pleased with how it turned out, which is something unexpected. This pleasant feeling comes one week after writing it, not looking at it, then re-reading it and editing. In the end, I was still happy with what I had written and hadn’t torn it completely to pieces, which is something that I wasn’t expecting. Normally I go back and hate what I wrote, find that there are so many problems and missed words (sometimes entire sentences), but not this time. This time I actually managed to get something coherent out.

I suppose I should note that it’s only 1700 words, and took all of like 2 hours to write, but still, it meant a lot that I finished it (let alone that I decidedly took the time to sit and write it). I’m doing this for the Canada Writes short story contest, which sadly caps at 1500 words. I expect that this part will consist of the much more difficult process of editing and cutting. How I’m going to cut 200 words, I have no idea, but it will be an adventure for sure.

That’s all for now. Happy writing everyone :)

Reave: C. Miller

Novel Information (Taken from GoodReads)

Country: United States

Language: English

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publication Date: December 4, 2013

Pages: 308

Narration: First Person

 

CiSu’s Review

Reave is a story about a young woman who has been a servant for most of her life, living on an estate where the Leader of the house only lives for a short period of time. Any time a servant speaks out, or does something wrong they are severely punished. Aster is no exception having more than her share of beating and whippings throughout her life. However, all this changes when the new Leader arrives and challenges Asters perspective on the world, and herself.

Although lacking in action, the journey that Aster takes trying to understand herself and the new Leader, all while pushing boundaries with the Reaper makes this book a page turner. I wanted to know more and more about the motives behind the new Leader, who the mysterious Reaper was, and when Aster would finally learn what everything meant, and what decision she would make in the end.

Her character was interesting, because although Aster could read the malevolence in people, or pick up on certain mannerisms, her sheltered life kept her from noticing other mannerisms, that I, as a reader, picked up on right away. Aster questions kindness and flirtations and at some points I just laughed at her naivety, while feeling absolute pity for the man vying for her affection.

Her characters are well fleshed out, and the relationships are real and deep where they should be, and shallow and new where they needed to be. Another refreshing change with C. Miller’s characters was the unique yet normal names. Although Aster is more unique than normal, there were no names that had me pondering how to say them; which in a world where Apple is an actual name, was quite the refreshing change of pace. Not to mention the normal spellings.

Overall this book pulled me into the story, had me captivated by the world, and invested in the characters and their lives. I would move this book to the top of your TBR pile and in the meantime I’m going to order my copy of Elude, the second book in the Reave series.