Fire on the Mountain by Jennifer Lawrence

For those not in the know, currently my dog is coming back from some wicked intestinal wretchedness. He is weak, he is unwell, and he is basically on bed rest. He’s also amazing, and in order for me to keep him in bed I have to stay with him, because he thinks I’m amazing, and wants to be with me all the time. To that end, I’m staying in bed with him and reading. Sometimes out loud, to him, because he likes it.

One of the books we read was Jennifer Lawrence’s Fire on the Mountain. I’ve wanted this book since she released it, and I was hoping to get a Kindle edition at some point because acquiring physical books in our limited space is something I try not to do if I can help it. I’m not going to criticize her for not having this out in e-reader friendly formats, because I’ve got my book out in a limited range and that’d be too much like the pot calling the kettle black. I do wish she had Nook and Kindle books available, if only to make getting the books more instantly gratifying for people.

From the blurb: Damiana Gray is bitter – and who wouldn’t be? A folk musician with three popular CDs, a loyal fanbase, a husband and three young daughters, her world was shattered the night her husband was involved in a fatal DUI while she and her children were in the vehicle. But when she finds an unconscious and wounded Fae warrior on her front porch one stormy winter night, she’s forced to use her knowledge to save his life from his brother. Having become familiar with all the old Celtic ballads about the Fae during her musical career, she’s the perfect person for the job. But the accident has left her disfigured, and her vocal cords so damaged that she can no longer sing. Her knowledge means nothing if she’s not the bard she needs to be to save her life and the life of her friends.

product_thumbnail

I’ve known about Lawrence’s work for a while, though I’ve only just now gotten around to reading Fire on the Mountain. (I say ‘gotten around to reading it’ but I only bought my copy last week, so it’s not like it was sitting here, wasting away.)

One of the best things about this book was: there was absolutely no ‘new to me author’ break in period — you know the kind you sometimes get when getting accustomed to a newer writer’s voice? I slipped into this story with the ease and familiarity of slipping into the world of a best beloved author. Damiana’s story is tragic, and getting to know her is heartbreaking. She’s lost everything and she is mired still in the thick grief that has become her life. The portrayal of her dealing with chronic pain is extremely realistic, and it was refreshing to see a main character start off on a quest despite limited ability.

This is not a happy, feel-good book. While the familiar trappings of quest motif are clear in this fairy tale, this is gritty and dark and sometimes harsh. There are ups, glorious ups, and there are downs. This is a story that takes life as it comes, and it’s the story of a woman  who has lost everything, only to learn that she still has more to lose, and thus more to fight for, than she realized.

I loved this book, and I cannot wait to read more of Lawrence’s fiction. Fans of Mark Chadborne, Neil Gaiman, Patricia McKillip, and Emma Bull may enjoy this book. Anyone who enjoys first contact stories, the traveling from earth to the otherworlds, mythology or fairy tales in general will enjoy this book. And by enjoy I mean having it play with your heart mercilessly.

You want to buy this book.

Truthseeker by C.E. Murphy — a review

Truth-Seeker1

One of the very first books I bought for my Kindle was C.E. Murphy’s Urban Shaman book. It looked interesting enough, and a coworker was reading another of Murphy’s series at the time, and I love first contact stories. I finished the last book in the Walker Papers a few months ago (waaaaaaah!) and I put off reading more of her books because I like knowing there is still a nice stack waiting for me.

Waited as long as I could. Finally took this one out from the library.

Gifted with an uncanny intuition, Lara Jansen nonetheless thinks there is nothing particularly special about her. All that changes when a handsome but mysterious man enters her quiet Boston tailor shop and reveals himself to be a prince of Faerie. What’s more, Dafydd ap Caerwyn claims that Lara is a truthseeker, a person with the rare talent of being able to tell truth from falsehood. Dafydd begs Lara to help solve his brother’s murder, of which Dafydd himself is the only suspect.

Acting against her practical nature, Lara agrees to step through a window into another world. Caught between bitterly opposed Seelie forces and Dafydd’s secrets, which are as perilous as he is irresistible, Lara finds that her abilities are increasing in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. With the fate of two worlds at stake and a malevolent entity wielding the darkest of magic, Lara and Dafydd will risk everything on a love that may be their salvation—or the most treacherous illusion of all.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

This book, and it’s follow-up, reminded me that for all that I talk about how I don’t like books that feature elves and/or fairies, I actually do. The sudden intrusion of the supernatural into a seemingly mundane world will always be my favorite set-up — and I’m enjoying that it’s such a popular set up right now.

Lara is used to her annoying little quirk, and so is her best friend Kelly — but whereas Lara has allowed her truth-detected curse to guide her to the background of life and nurtured a desire to be unnoticed, Kelly wants great things for her best friend. Or, a least, good things.

Or, at least, a good date. Which is how Lara comes to Daffyd — pardon me, David’s — attention, in the first place.

Even knowing that Lara is not quite ‘normal’, Lara and her world are normal enough, until Daffyd reveals his true nature and changes everything.

This series is the second series I’ve read in which the author sets things both earthside and in some otherworld, yet this otherworld of Daffyd’s is fresh and new and different. The characters are engaging, and we quickly come to care about the fate of both worlds. I had high expectations going into this book, and Murphy did not disappoint!

Fans of Mark Chadborne, Partricia Briggs, Seanan McGuire, and Richelle Mead might enjoy C.E Murphy’s work.

July’s installment has gone out!

(or: two things I forget about — updating this blog and paying attention to my public FB page.)

~*~*~*~*~*~

For those of you who are signed up for the Story Subscription, chapter 7 of A Marriage of Land and Sea has been sent out. I’m roughly two chapters ahead of you in the writing, and I can say that it’s looking to be about 12 chapters long, so it should wrap up in December. I hadn’t planned on that — in fact, I thought it was going to be longer — but I am not a long novel writer, I am a short novel writer *insert short jokes here* and 12 chapters looks like it’s going to be just about right. *cue ominous music?*

I still have getting a Patreon account set up, so that I can move away from Paypal, largely so that you have the option of setting up recurring payments rather than having to remember that this is a thing you want to support. Anything that makes life easier is a good thing! Honestly, the setting up of an account intimidates me and conjures up all sorts of “aack, I’m pulling wool over eyes!” as if your enjoyment of my writing is some great scam I’ve tricked you all into. Silly, silly Jo. I’m hoping to tackle that particular project by August. Fingers crossed!

Books I’m excited about!

We received some pretty bad news this last weekend regarding one of our cats. Through all the ups and downs, all the fostering and adopting in and adopting out of companions, our male cat population (a.k.a the boyos) has remained steady.

No longer, and it looks like we’ll see the summer in with one less cat in our household. This is horribly depressing. . .

. . . so i’m more than willing to distract myself with books.

In exciting book news: the proofs for From the Roaring Deep went out to the various contributors *waves hand* to do one last look at our various contributions, and should be moving further along in the publication process after the 8th. (How interesting, the 8th as a deadline for a Poseidon devotional). I contributed an article on prayer beads that I’m quite happy with. I’m tempted to read the whole damn thing NOW, but no, no, I’ll wait. I’ll wait for the real deal. Really. . . . maybe . . .

I’ve also — thanks to Rebecca Buchanan — discovered a nice handful of new authors with work to devour, and I want to talk about the two I’m most excited about (Read: the two whose works I’ve read out of the handful of new material waiting on my Kindle.)

First: Jordan L. Hawk’s work, specifically her Whyborne and Griffin series. I’ll admit I’ve only read the first book so far, but I’m putting off reading more merely because I want to make the series last. This series open in a steampunk-esque (does it count as steampunk if it’s not England?) Massachusetts. It’s alchemy and occulty and just . . .  I want to go and visit the city they’re in. I want to sip tea and soak up the atmosphere. I love, love, love Hawk’s world crafting, and I love the character she creates with Whyborne. She uses dialogue as much as anything else to breathe life into her characters and does this very, very well.

From the author’s website: Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he’s ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.

So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn’t believe are real.

As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin’s rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne’s iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin’s secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?

Second: Meghan Ciana Doidge’s work, specifically her Dowser series. I read the first book (available for free!) after I read Hawk’s book, and I have not stopped yet. I don’t know that I’d say I like it better than Hawk’s series, and I certainly can’t say it’s a lighter story, because it’s not that. I can’t even say that Doidge is a better writer — they are both fantastic writers whose worlds one can slip into seamlessly. There’s none of that “get used to a new to you writer” feeling that you sometimes have to get through. Her books aren’t even faster paced. Something about them (the chocolate, maybe?) makes them seem lighter in tone, even though both series deal with things like demons threatening the world and the danger of magic in the wrong hands. Maybe it’s that Jade (Doidge’s point of view character) is more sarcastic? Maybe it’s that it’s less of a period piece and thus easier to just sink into? I don’t know.  It’s easier, for whatever reason, and with Bad Days Ahead, I really want easier.

From the author’s website: If you’d asked me a week ago, I would have told you that the best cupcakes were dark chocolate with chocolate cream cheese icing, that dancing in a crowd of magic wielders — the Adept —  was better than sex, and that my life was peaceful and uneventful. Just the way I liked it. That’s what twenty-three years in the magical backwater of Vancouver will get you — a completely skewed sense of reality. Because when the dead werewolves started showing up, it all unraveled … except for the cupcake part. That’s a universal truth.

So far, the sex bits in these two series is a lot more explicit and steamier in the Whyborne series. For those of you who care about such things, Whyborne and Griffin have male/male pairing. (I don’t care about these things — give me a good story, and steamy sex is nice, too!) Oh! Maybe, just maybe, part of the reason I like the one better than the other is the potentially not-human romantic interest. Yes, that sounds like me, actually . .  .

Book Release: A Fading Amaranth by Shauna Aura Knight

To make this clear: This is not my book that’s being released. Shauna’s new novel, A Fading Amaranth, is out in e-book with a print release to follow. I haven’t even actually read the book yet — but I have read portions of it, and I have read her other fiction, and I am so excited about this I cant stand it. I have a small number of obligatory reads to get through first, but this baby has mode to the top of my list once that’s done because, you know, vampires. *rubs hands gleefully*

fadingamaranth

From the blurb: Nathaniel’s been a vampire long enough to grow weary of glamoured seduction, and he’s lost his poetic muse. He meets reclusive artist Alexandra—her telepathy has overwhelmed her for years, and she can bear no one’s touch. However, she can’t hear Nathaniel’s thoughts, and she’s immune to his vampire glamour. During scorching nights together, they rediscover their passion for life.

When a Faerie creature stalks Alexandra, the lovers find themselves snared in a paranormal battle alongside Chicago’s mage guardians. Worse, Nathan’s rising bloodlust places Alexandra in danger. Will she master her abilities before going insane? What will they risk to be together?

~*~*~*~*~

Look, if you haven’t checked out Shauna’s fiction by now (what’s wrong with you?) that’s okay, you can fix that. As an author, her world building is detailed, lush, believable, and fits the stories she’s telling. I love when writers manage to make the world around as much a player in the story as the characters are. Alexandra and Nathan are interesting, intriguing people, and I love seeing them interacting together . .. and, you know, ‘interacting’ together. Because, be advised, Shauna’s stories run hot, if you know what I’m sayin’. I am so looking forward to diving into this book!

Paying Attention to the Story

Story telling is more than just the technical bits of getting words onto the page, right?

By now I really should know things — most of the things — about my storytelling process. It’s a bit annoying (and humbling) when I realize I don’t.

In January I was making great progress with the WIP. In February I added a non-fiction book to my WIPs ‘pile’. (file-pile?). In March I effectively slammed the breaks on all writing, and have done nothing beyond blog posts since. This week I finally cracked open the fiction WIP, discovered that in the time between January and now I convinced myself that I had 8k words less than I actually have, and that the scenes sucked.

They don’t suck. They are awesome, and I love them, and rereading them brought me to a place of, “*I* wrote this? Really?? But, this is *good*!”

It also helped realize that a huge portion of my reluctance to write is that I don’t like what I have planned for the next 2-3 chapters. I like where I have my MCs going, I agree that they need to get to that point, but I don’t like how I’m going about it, it does not fit them or their relationship. Yes, as I work toward the climax of the book I need to do terrible, awful, horrible things to Charlie and Roern . . . . but they have to be the right terrible, horrible, awful things and, more to the point, the reactions that Roern and Charlie have (especially Charlie) need to fit their personalities.

So tomorrow I’m writing a new outline and then diving back in!

My only regret is that I wish I had realized earlier that this was why I was dragging my feet. The second I say, “Meh, I don’t really want to write,” really ought to be the second I realize something is off with my story. I’d decided, in my mind, that since I’m outlining now, my standard MO of having the second half of my longer works fall apart to reform into how they are really meant to be would no longer happen — but that’s maybe not going to be true. Maybe what outlining is going to do for me is help me realize sooner when I’m off track? In my defense, there was a lot of nerve pain and health issues, so I was distracted, but I’d like to know sooner that the “eh, writing, bleh.” is about the actual story and less about me being tired/sick/in need of mental refueling.

So far, I have *not* finished the first book in the series, though I’d planned to be on book 2 (and halfway through it) by now. Alas. I still hold out hope that I may get them all written this year. But if not . . .well, my plans were over-ambitious, and I realize that.

The Emperor’s Edge series by Lindsay Buroker — a review

TheEmperorsEdgeNewCoverThumb

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin, is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.

Thus kicks off a seven book series (with an assortment of ‘in between’ shorts and an eighth book that’s related) which follows Amaranthe, Sicarius, and an assortment of unlikely companions as they do their best for emperor and country . . . and if doing their best results less in reward and more in bounties on their heads, surely that’s just misunderstandings, right?

~*~*~*~*~

I am so happy to have discovered Lindsay Buroker’s writing. I came across her work first in the Nine By Night bundle, which contained the first book in her Rust and Relic series. I snagged Emperor’s Edge in December, after reading the available Rust and Relic books, because I needed more of her writing; I was expecting to enjoy this series. I wasn’t expecting it to become my favorite of her work thus far. Lindsay handles a wide cast of characters with seeming ease. While Amaranthe and Sicarius are the main main characters, the rest of the team gets a decent amount of screen time, and the chemistry between them all is believable. Her mastery of pacing and tension is a delight to read, and she weaves connections between the characters with a skilled hand. I cannot, cannot recommend this series highly enough. What do you have to lose? The first book is available for free, still, so you may want to hop on that.