Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Enchanted Swans by Christy Nicholas

I originally read this story a long time ago as a beta-reader, but I gotta say straight up, it's worth full price now. And here, I aim to tell you why.

[No actual spoilers are contained in this review]
The Enchanted Swans started slow for me, it had its moments, of course, but (for me) it wasn't until - spoilers - the four main characters got turned into swans that things really took off (pun intended). The lead up, and the build-up to the point where that all happened was not intense, and I hardly saw it coming. I had not heard of nor read the myth this novel is based upon until I read this novel. It all made for an excellent twist long before the story was over.

The map provided at the beginning of the book was a great help and a good addition! I love maps, even simple ones, and it really nailed home the distances involved in the story.

I found the many strange - and to my English mind - hard to pronounce names were a barrier to entry. That meant bonding with the characters was more difficult than I might have liked, since most of the characters were intriguing at worst, and downright captivating at best. Even with all the confusing names of people and places, once I got past it, read a few pronunciation guides (including the one Christy Nicholas has in this book), and learned me a thing or two, I discovered characters with lives of their own, and breaths outside of the story itself.

I remember dreaming of swan-songs a few times when I was reading this book.

I think Fiachra (the main character's younger brother, and one of the twins born in the opening scene) was the one who truly stole the show by the end of The Enchanted Swans. He made me happy. Fionnuala (the actual main character) had grown on me by the end of the story as well, and I dare say I shed a tear or two when it was all finished and done and read and over.


Christy Nicholas's links:

-Twitter @greendragon9
-Website http://greendragonartist.com

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

AbsoluteWrite's SFF section Sekrit Solstice Sci-Fi/Fantasy Story Swap, and My Eperiences with It

I've been frequenting an author-socialising (I am aware of the contradiction in terms here) website called "The AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler" (found HERE) for a while now. Nowhere near as long as many others on the site seem to have been around, but long enough to have seen my fill, gotten around, and spoken to many other writers on the site.

My tl;dr verdict regarding AbsoluteWrite as a whole: The BOMB-Diggidy! My experiences with the individuals I have interacted with in the tiny corner of the site where I have found a place I can bookmark "Home": Simply, and without a shadow of a doubt, a hair of hesitation, or an ounce of drawing this out... it's my home now.

But this isn't about the entirety of AbsoluteWrite (hence forth referred to as "AW"); this is about one specific event I took part in on AW that is the title of this post. The Sekrit Solstice Science-Fiction & Fantasy Story Swap, or SSSFFSS (Sisyph/fus) for short. This is about the best experience I have ever had writing with others!

Let's start at the beginning: The SSSFFSS has been happening annually for a while now (not sure precisely how long...), starting with sign-ups in December when participants agree to "the Rulez and Such", and provide a prompt for a story to be thrown into the pot.

It's all is currently run/managed by a certain "CobraMisfit" and his story-elves. He's a great organiser, hardly ever have I seen him actually use his whip on the story-elves who provide the backbone of the Sisyphus. He seems to me to be more of the sort of person who'll lead you with a carrot and chase you with a shark-tank, and it works!

Next, on Christmas day, the prompts are sent out by the story-elves. One to each person who wanted to give another writer the gift of a story. The prompts themselves are viewed as Christmas presents by most, as I gather. But the REAL fun begins after Christmas, when the Sisyphus stories themselves are written by the participants for two(ish) months until March arrives.

Only once all the "Sisyphuses" have been submitted back to CobraMisfit, do the story-elves proceed to send each newly formed tale off to the person (Giftee) who provided the prompt of its inception. In secret and the dark of night, like a child sneaking to the cookie-jar or a teenager reading novels after bedtime by flashlight, the various and sundry "Sisyphusers" (Or, as I like to call them: "Sisyfants") read the gifts they have been given. Then, usually, the praises of every Sisyfant are extolled from the rooftops by their Giftees and joy spreads throughout the world a little more.

With all the stories shared and gifts given you'd think the SSSFFSS would be done, and you'd be WRONG! The story-elves are never done!

Now it's time for the Guessing Thread, in which everyone tries to figure out who gave what to everyone else based upon the title and a small excerpt alone. It is so much fun to read all the excerpts from all the different writers, and see all the different styles and voices come to life, and think "Hot Dayumn! I want to read this! And that!  AND THAT TOO!" But  no, you have to wait for the story to be correctly guessed to find out who authored it and ask them for a copy to read. It shouldn't take too long.

And that's how the Sisyphus runs, now for my thoughts on it:

Last year I participated in the 2015/16 SSSFFSS, and had a ball of a time, and a hard time too. But I came upwith something I thought was worthy and my Giftee didn't actually say out loud to me that he hated it, so that's all to the good. It was a wonderful bonding experience with the other writers, and gave me a great opportunity not only to share my work and get some form of feedback from people who actually cared, but also to read OTHER writers. Not famous well edited, thoroughly proofed stories put out in print and ebook by publishing houses in multi-million dollar deals, but raw, wriggling stories still warm from the brains of their creators.

In someways it was intimidating, but in more ways, it was INVIGORATING! There we were, fifty writers in various states of publication and disarray, sharing our thoughts, our stories, our feedback, and our cares with each other. HELPING each other get even better than we already were.

I made FRIENDS :O actual, real, human friends who can talk and write and reply and tell me when I heck up! I've only made more friends on AW since last year's Sisyphus, and they are the best friends I have ever had the pleasure, the JOY of interacting with.

This year I joined in again, with the 2016/17 SSSFFSS, and if it's possible, I had an ever better time than before! '17's Sisyphus just ended and as I write this, the Guessing has drawn to a close. I am unfortunate in that I have to wait until I can start reading all the other Sisyfants' stories, but that is only me. Already the reviews are flooding in for the content of this year's Sisyphus, and boy-oh-boy, do they make me wanna read 'em all! (Bobo, you A+mazing humanoid!)

I volunteered as a beta-reader and got to help other Sisyfants with their stories preparation prior to the gifts being sent out, it was a blast! Even though I had an episode of the bummed-down-sads right near the end of the writing portion, I pushed through and helped and was helped and it was all GREAT. (I keep saying that, but I really don't think words can truly capture the wonderfulness of it all!)

Right now, as I write this, CobraMisfit is receiving all the love and attention and kind words he deserves for his expert wrangling of the story-elves this year. Professionally done, my good sir!

And now, a great deal of ado about everything:

But specifically, I would like to publicly, personally acknowledge and thank everyone with whom I interacted over the course of the two Sisyphuses I have been blessed enough to take part in. There's no way I can make a list of you all, and if I did, I think it might detract from the sentiment behind it. Know this, though, dearest fellow Sisyfants, you have improved my life immeasurably, and I love you for it!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Of Shade and Soul: A Touch Trilogy Novella by A.G. Carpenter

(Reviewer's note: If you read this book before bed, you won't sleep until it's finished. You have been warned.)

FINALLY, at long last, after all these YEARS (months), a sequel to A.G. Carpenter's much beloved (by me) "Of Lips and Tongue"! And O-M-G, does it live up to its predecessor? Yes! Yes, it does. Is "Of Shade and Soul" a worthwhile and worthy continuation of this spectacular and riveting trilogy? Yup! And am I now desperate to read the finale because HOT DAYUMN, that ending? Uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it! :D

I should probably mention, if you, dear Reader, are considering the next step in your affair with A.G. Carpenter's wonderful stories, that you should take the time to read/REread/love "Of Lips and Tongue". It will help, it's not necessary, but it WILL make this one even better. If that's possible.

Book two in the Touch Trilogy picks up shortly after Book one left off, with all kinds of questions still ricocheting through our minds, and it adds a few more to the roster with some well-timed, well executed flashbacks. I particularly enjoyed reading how not only the voice of the story changed with each character P.O.V. shift, but also how the tense changed as well, to denote when what happened, well, happened.

Percy's subtle changes in behaviour and thought-process were especially enlightening to what's going on with him. If you know what to look for, that is. I can't hardly wait for Book three!

There is one issue I have found in the Touch Trilogy so far, that bothers me ever so slightly. See, I'm a villain at heart, and I like me some other villains to read about. The antagonists in these books are there less to be villains, and more to be something for the protagonists to overcome, outwit, overpower, and generally defeat. There is very little about them that makes me think, 'Oh, yeah, I can see where they're coming from...' and a lot that makes me think, 'Meh'. I think I am picking up what the author is putting down though, and I can understand why she might be doing this, as well as what she's building up to. Or, really, I can guess, hope, and dream. I don't actually know.

"Of Shade and Soul" by A.G. Carpenter is available now on Amazon and elsewhere, along with "Of Lips and Tongue". Both books are amazing, and well worth your time. Once you read the first, however, you won't be finished until A.G. Carpenter is.

 Links for A.G. Carpenter:

-Blog: http://agcarpenter.blogspot.ca/

-Twitter: @Aggy_C