Book Review: Incarceron

Incarceron (Incarceron, #1)Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Claudia's father is the warden of Incarceron, a prison that no one knows where it is but is rumored to be a paradise to rehabilitate the prisoners, but Claudia is certain that her father is keeping secrets. In a strange game of politics, Claudia is determined to end her betrothal to the prince and to get out of her father's strategies for gaining power. She is certain that the key lies within Incarceron. If she can find it, maybe, just maybe, she can save her kingdom, her people, and herself.

Finn is imprisoned in Incarceron and he finds a key, the key that he hopes will lead him to the Outside and reveal to him his secret past. For the key is marked with the same tattoo that appears on Finn's wrist.

This was an amazing well done story with a complex plot and an even more complex world. I loved Claudia--she was smart and stubborn. I found the prison of Incarceron to be quite fascinating, a whole separate world from the one that Claudia lives in.

My only complaint is the ending. A cliffhanger ending is okay; I know that there's another book to this series. But for some reason, the ending just didn't resonate with me.


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Runt of the Litter

Her ankle screamed with pain, the trap’s teeth biting into her foot. Four creatures surrounded her, creatures shaped like her but taller and hair on their faces. She had never seen anyone else like her before. She crouched, hissing.

One poked her with a spear, slicing her arm. He laughed. Another peeled the rags off his body; she watched him warily. Her nostrils flared; something in the air smelled wrong. Fear ran like ice down her spine. She glanced about, searching for a way to escape. Hissing again, she tried to scoot away, but the heavy metal attached to her foot held her down. She yowled, and the creatures jeered.

A sound behind her and then a shadow jumped out of the trees. The creatures, one by one, fell as the shadow spun around them. Then the shapeless shadow crouched before her, a face in hers. Dark brown eyes that reminded her of the flame that had flickered in her mother’s eyes stared at her, and a soft voice mewed gently, a murmur that reminded her of Mother’s voice singing her to sleep. She didn’t know what he meant, but she trusted his tone.

The teeth opened and he slipped her leg out. He picked her up, and she saw Mother Tiger lying on the ground, blood pooling around her. Whimpering, she pressed her face into his chest. His hand stroked her hair, and she could feel the rumble in his chest when he spoke, the words foreign to her ears.

She breathed him in, the smells reminding her of home—fresh pine, animal hides, the musky odor of the earth. And something else too. Something pleasant. This must be the smell of Man, the dangerous creature Mother Tiger always warned her to stay away from.

Through the woods, he carried her to a den built above the ground, made from fallen trees. Inside, it was warm. He set her on something soft and wrapped in warm hides. Hides without fur. It felt strangely smooth to her fingers.

He tugged at the rags around her foot, pushing, jabbing at the painful sores. Hissing, scratching at him, she pulled away. But his low voice rumbled at her, quiet, soothing, and he gently wiped the blood away. At first, it stung, then it soothed, and his voiced made her feel sleepy. He gave her warm milk to drink, and her eyes drifted shut.

###

She woke to the thud of the door banging shut. With a cry, she sat up, and he stood before her, two black tiger kittens in his hands. He dumped them in her lap, her sister and brother.

She cried and smiled as they tumbled over each other, trying to lick her face. Hands on his hips, he stood beside them, grinning. “Looks like you were the runt of the litter.”

She frowned. “Grrr. Rrrnnn. Rrrrrnnnnnt. Ruuuuunnnt.” She poked her chest with her thumb. “Runt.”

Unlocked






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Unlocked (Paperback) by Jaimey Grant



Unlocked



by Jaimey Grant




Giveaway ends October 31, 2010.



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Group Projects, part two

I interrupt the normal broadcast to bring you this question:

anyway, how to join a group project?
--Rollie



By Invitation
My first project was an anthology. I like to hang out on the goodreads group On Fiction Writing (affectionately referred to as OFW), and published author Carlos J. Cortes, who leads the group, had a vision of a group project and invited all OFW members to submit stories. I submitted two stories for the project and both were accepted.

Pros: You have less responsibility when you are invited into a project that someone else has envisioned. It’s a good place to start for someone who has never been involved in a group project before.

Cons: You’d have to be at the right place, at the right time, and know the right people.


By Proposal
My second project was another anthology in which I was one of the founders / editors of the project. Wendy and I planned the project and invited submissions from the group of writers who were members of the writing group we moderated.

Pros: You get to choose who you work with and how the project will be organized.

Cons: The weight of success is on your shoulders as you carry the responsibility of leading the project. It’s a lot of work.

Group Projects, part one

No man dies to himself. No man lives to himself. Art is always influenced by others.

In the past 12 months, I have been a part of 5 different group projects--2 succeeded, 2 failed, and 1 still in progress. A lot of lessons learned came out of both the successes and the failures. When you fail, you can get up and try again. Or you can wallow in selfishness and blame everyone else.

















I am picturing scenes from one of my favorite movies: Meet the Robinsons.

In the quote below, the Bowler Hat Guy is revealing that he is Lewis's childhood roommate. This is the moment when Lewis realizes the truths taught to him by his friend Wilbur and Mildred, the orphanage caretaker.


Lewis: Goob, I had no idea!

Bowler Hat Guy: Shut up! And don't call me "Goob"! How many evil villians do you know that can pull off a name like "Goob"? Bleh!

Lewis: Look, I'm sorry your life turned out so bad. But don't blame me you messed it up yourself. You just focused on the bad stuff when all you had to do was... let go of the past and keep moving forward...

Bowler Hat Guy: Hmm, let's see... take responsiblity for my own life or blame you? Dingdingdingdingding! Blame you wins hands down!


Two things you need for a successful group project: a good group and a good plan.

Group Qualities

#1. Shared vision.
In humility, I must say that my work is a culmination of inputs from so many outside sources: the books I read, the writers I talk to, the friends who edit for me, my life experiences. Yet I don't take input from people who don't share my vision. My husband shares my vision, and that makes him the best sounding board. He listens fully to my idea before he begins to interject ideas. He loves my characters, he enjoys my plots, and he likes my writing.

#2. Respect and trust.
For Unlocked, I worked with Wendy Swore. Prior to embarking on this project, we had been friends for quite some time before we ventured into this project together. We had swapped editing jobs for each other. We managed a goodreads group together. These little projects built understanding, respect, and trust. I knew what kind of writer and person she was.

#3. Common knowledge.
My friend and fellow author Renee Miller is an excellent resource to go to for editing. She has studied writing as extensively as I have and shares my opinions on what's the best way to do things. Sometimes she's more insightful than I am, but there is a common ground in the knowledge we share.

#4. Variant skills.
In publishing Unlocked, Wendy was handy with a camera. Jaimey was great with the turning Wendy's photos into a cover. I did the typesetting. Gwen made bookmarks. Everyone helped with the editing. So much to be done, and it never would have worked if we hadn't pulled together. No room for egos when you have a deadline!


More coming tomorrow on coming up with a plan.

Mockingjay



*** CAUTION!!! SPOILERS!!! ***


Nothing I've read has ever moved me like this book. Suzanne Collins has written a trilogy that has festered in my soul since finishing Mockingjay back in August.

The world filled my senses. I could taste the soup. I could hear the crunch of the bones as Katniss walked through what was left of District 12. I could smell the hospital and the sweat. I could feel Katniss's tears. I wanted to reach through the book and rescue Peeta, and when they mind-raped him, I cried.

I've heard people complain about the deaths. "Not necessary," someone cried. But Hunger Games isn't entertainment. Mockingjay is a story about war. One death was the loss of potential. A girl with hopes and dreams, plans for her future. Killed by a bomb. A man who finally marries the love of his life. It was potential realized. Someone needed him. He finally found peace in a lifetime of tragedy.

In the words of Arya, "...this book wasn't "fun". It was horrible, but it was beautiful."

My husband read the book first. "A happy ending?" I asked him.

"It was the right ending," he answered.

This isn't the story of victory. This is the story of war. And for every victory, Katniss and Peeta took deep wounds to their spirits, until their souls were empty. As Arya said, horrible.

And yet when Peeta planted the primroses next to Katniss's house, it was beautiful.

Poetic Moments

Reading Lisa Schroeder's (author of I Heart You, You Haunt Me) blog about her new book touched my heart.

There was something beautiful and encouraging as she looked back at what she has accomplished this year and where she failed. Hey, it's okay to fail! I loved the line about how she was working on a project and hating every minute of it. Then she looks through some of her ideas and finds something that sparks her imagination. Suddenly the chore became a blessing. I'd love to feel that way.

Reading her blog got me thinking. What have I accomplished so far this year?

#1. I finished a novel that is currently looking for an agent. (Yes, I'm not the one looking for the agent; my book is. Don't all your creative endeavors have sentience? Maybe you haven't talked to them enough.)

Fourteen-year-old Lelea Sythe is insane. A military project since age two, she endured surgery after surgery to transform her into the ultimate soldier. Somewhere along the way, the dreams haunting her nights spilled into her days.


#2. I was an author and editor for Unlocked. My short story Symbiote is included in this collection. Wendy Swore and I, along with 7 other authors, put together the YA anthology Unlocked, which you can download free on our website or buy on Amazon.

#3. I've outlined my next novel Symbiote, the novel version of the short story published in Unlocked. Outlining to this much detail is a first for me. Planning a romance-focused story will be a challenge for me.

RW is a cyborg slave girl who dreams of freedom. With the help of TJ, a corporate guard, she escapes into the city. Together, they must learn to survive.


#4. I'm working on outlining a trilogy geared toward children. I'm really excited about this project, co-writing with my dear friend Wendy. Her style and my style mesh well together.

#5. I failed a lot this year. Didn't you know failing is an accomplishment? You can't fail unless you try and that in itself is something to celebrate.

#6. i got my health in order. The first half of this year, I was very sick, trudging from one day to the next, guzzling coffee to get by. Finally, I visited an allergist and scheduled some testing, and then armed with the knowledge that I am allergic to everything I had been eating, I battled to get my life under control. It took a lot of study and perseverance and cooking from scratch.

#7. I taught Rowena how to read. She makes me so proud when she reads me stories. Home schooling is such a joy to me, and we've had a lot of fun with it.

#8. I built a raised garden and planted flowers and a pumpkin patch. A pumpkin patch that nearly took over the yard.

#9. I made yummy Peach Sorbet today. I might have allergies, but I am not deprived.

Look back over your year. What do you have to celebrate?

Banning Books

I read an article by Risha Mullins about censorship in the classroom. Growing up with parents who tried to control what I read, I should understand why people want to censor books, but I just don't get it.

It's like my sister-in-law who won't trust her 17-year-old son to go to the park on his bike alone. He does dangerous things, like ramping. A year from now, he'll be in college. Who is going to control him then? Who will protect him?

For him, there's no period of time between being controlled as a child and being free as an adult. There's no time to test himself in a safe environment where mistakes are still fixable. There's no adult coming alongside him and coaching him through making his own decisions, mentoring him into being his own person.

And that's why I am so bothered by the censorship in the high schools. The parents aren't reading these books with their kids and discussing the pros and cons of what is going on inside the books. The parents aren't passing on their values to their kids by talking about what they find wrong with the book. They're just saying, "You can't read this. It's bad."

In another article I read about a parent who wanted to ban a children's book (not a YA), the parent was upset by the opening line, "I am ______ (insert character's name) and I hate school." As a society, we so want our kids to succeed, that we don't want them to question the value of their education. Successful students love school. Successful students get good jobs. Successful students have swallowed the happy pills and will sell themselves for their job. Only to be laid off when the company thinks they can find somebody cheaper.

Only in questioning can we find truths. Only in doubting something's value can we truly find its worth.

If school has value, then in questioning we will seek the answer. We will find meaning in what we don't understand.

If school doesn't have value, then in questioning we can find a way to fix what is wrong.

To me, the problem with the school system is the way it instills this need for validation. Huh? What'd she just say?

I said, children are taught to get good grades, but no one tells them why. They take that attitude to their jobs, where they want their boss to pat them on the back, so they slave away for middle-class wages while someone else gets rich. And if you ask them about their dreams, they'll tell you they don't have time or it's too risky or they don't know how to make it happen.

"Dreams happen to someone else. Dreams happen in the movies. Not to me," they tell you.

Getting a job is the safe thing to do. Until you get laid off and realize just how much your employer really valued you.

What's your dream? What are you going to do to make it happen? Are you going to let them tell you what to think? Are you going to let them hide thoughts from you? There was a reason black slaves weren't taught to read.

Who Am I?

Who do I want to be?

Three years ago, I embarked on a road with hopes of starting a new career. I wanted something valuable for my life. I wanted something lasting, meaningful.
To create.
To love.
To breathe.
To influence others.

Build people up.
Encourage and enlighten and inspire.
Spark imaginations.

For three years, I spent every moment studying, writing, editing, or marketing. I've become a one-dimensional character in my own life's story so that I can pour my soul into the characters I drew on paper.

I lost myself.

This year, I have often thought of quitting. Is it so wrong to work 9 to 5 and relax in the evenings?

But still, I plow forward. One foot in front of the other, dragging myself through the dry desert. The sands blow around me, through me. Burning.

If I give up now, would I ever hope again? Can someone truly be alive when they have no hope?