Katharine McGee’s The Dazzling Heights

I received The Dazzling Heights from a Goodreads giveaway and the following is my honest review. This review is also posted on Goodreads.

Note that my review is not spoiler free. Please do not read beyond this point if you wish to remain unspoiled.

In continuation of the story from The Thousandth Floor, we find ourselves following Avery, Leda, Rylin, Watt, and a new character Calliope. The aftermath of Eris’s death at the end of the first book has caused extreme tension between all characters, and Leda is trying her hardest to control and anticipate all situations. There is forbidden romance between Avery and Atlas being tried, Leda blackmailing everyone to keep her secret (pushing Eris off the Tower to her death), Watt and his secret and illegal quant Nadia manipulated by Leda to do her bidding, more revealed about Atlas’s travels when he disappeared and how he and Calliope are acquainted, Calliope’s conning background and where she truly came from, and Rylin’s struggles to navigate the Tower’s highlier world. With subtlety and brilliance, Katharine McGee weaves the character’s lives together in this sequel full of richness in wealth, lies and deceptions, world-building, and plot. The Dazzling Heights is such a well done YA sci-fi: the inclusion of the advanced technologies and technology driven lifestyle natural; the casual references to historical, social, and industrial events that shaped this world and led to the building of the Tower and the environment that bred these characters; the way she shifts the story’s motion with tact and ease. As an aspiring YA sci-fi writer, I will definitely be holding onto these books and re-reading them for prime examples of how a YA sci-fi should be done. McGee is brilliant in the rise and fall of tensions between characters, and there were several pivotal moments where you could feel your heartbeat change from the shifting of character’s emotional and mental states in response to something that occurred. And let’s not forget her deft language, describing situations of varying complexities without droning, without drowning the reader in potentially boring scientific terminology. Even if you aren’t scientifically inclined, you can still enjoy this book without having difficulty following; the sci-fi elements are part of the world-building and they are very accessible, acting as a backdrop to the unfolding drama. I would almost say her approach to sci-fi is touch-and-go: she focuses for a split second upon something high-tech or advanced, let’s it be known, then she immediately moves on and shows its significance to the story–she never lingers.

I will admit that I was uncertain about Calliope when she was first introduced. Part of me missed Eris’s perspective, but that story arc came to an end for obvious reasons; not to mention I really enjoyed getting to know Mariel, someone who lived in the lowest parts of the Tower and seemed content in her existence there. With those thoughts in mind, Calliope, the daughter in a globe-trotting con artist duo, wasn’t a character I thought I could grow to like. Her entire persona was a farce, created to deceive, even if we the readers were given the truth as the story continued. But lo and behold, despite my ever-deepening hate of lying and trickery, she slowly won me over. Her flashbacks to growing up first amidst highbrow low level British royalty, who tried their damnedest to maintain their air of superiority and importance, then her saddened thoughts at how she had missed out on a stable, “normal” upbringing when she recalled certain moments from her life as a constantly traveling swindler–I couldn’t help but feel for the girl. Who was I to judge her for a life that she did not choose, for the only life she had come to know? Even though I didn’t like what she had done and that she planned to con Atlas, the wealthiest young man she had ever come across, I grew to like her. She may have never had a proper education as a teenager, but she was resourceful and intelligent in her assessment of situations and the way she mentally worked through problems, having learned the ways of the world through traveling and trial-and-error. Though her mother raised her to deceive and put on a disguise of beauty, Calliope was equally smart.

I do want to focus on my love of the character and world development for a moment, because I’m still in awe. Like I said above, she incorporates the sci-fi elements into the world-building. However, McGee furthers the building of this futuristic world by giving us glimpses into even more parts of it. I thought I knew the Tower and its different amenities and aspects, but I was so wrong. We travel with the different characters, experiencing different floors, learning that there is a whole Farm from midTower to the upper floors that supplies produce, that there is so much to explore. And with the characters, nothing is straightforward, cut and dry. Everything is a mess of grey, and it is hard to tell by the end who is the villain–they each have their flaws, their redeeming features, their low and high points. They became real, their emotions raw and utterly human.

Is Leda the bad person? Is Avery as perfect as everyone perceives her? Is love enough? Does Watt despise Leda? Could Avery and Leda ever be friends again? Everything that had been established in the first book–expect every bit of it to be turned upside down and shaken, because everything you thought you knew changes. I give The Dazzling Heights a bitchin’ 5/5 stars.

You can find order information for both The Thousandth Floor and The Dazzling Heights at the following site links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Book Depository. (There are other book retailers that carry the series. These are the retailers I purchase from most often.

If you are interested in visiting Katherine McGee’s website, click here.

If you are interested in checking out another YA sci-fi that I have enjoyed, check out H.A. Swain’s Gifted. It does not ring the same as The Thousandth Floor and The Dazzling Heights, with very different premises and incorporating advanced technologies differently, but I enjoyed it just as much.

 

Written by Jenn Edwards.

Website link: http://iwillseizetheday.weebly.com/bitchinreads/katharine-mcgees-the-dazzling-heights

A Journey Within- Free Short Story

It was the Monday morning when I received a call. Two years and six months, that’s the amount of time it took for him to realize, I exist. Not just as a body, but a person.

 

“Hey,” said Robert.

 

His voice still had the timbre of deep intensity and I could imagine him standing close to me, whispering into my ears, slowly. ”Was I dreaming?” I thought to myself. No, said my mind. This was clearly not a dream. The man for whom I once travelled all the way across the country just so I could see him, was on the other side of the phone. I crushed on him in my high school days. Silly of me; never had any chance to express my feelings for him. I listened patiently as he continued.

 

“How are you? It’s been a long time,” said Robert, and he waited for an answer.

 

My mind rushed into the nothingness inside me as the words, “How are you?” echoed into my ears. The sound reverberated, making a shrill noise inside my head, a sound that only I could hear. Should I say, “I am not okay?” or should I lie to him? I had still not recovered from my past injuries. Not the ones that hurt your body, blood and pain. Those injuries hurt my soul and never bled, but the pain was many times deeper. Placing my thoughts aside, I replied in a neutral tone, “I am okay.”

 

I knew that was a lie. I figured if Robert does know me, he will figure out the same. However, it was the past. Now, after two and a half years, how can I expect him to know me? I don’t even know myself.

 

“Would you like to meet?” asked Robert in a pleasant voice.

 

Meet? My hands began to tremble as he said those words. I am not prepared. I don’t know. Is this necessary? I wish I could say NO, but then again this was Robert. The love that I’d lost. I at least wished for him to be the friend. But it was too late. I had lost myself. I had no confidence. No hope of a better tomorrow. I had no idea why I said yes. He seemed pretty excited. We hung up after we decided a date for our meet and the place.

 

“Today at 6 P.M. near the Purple Park,” I whispered under my breath. Why 6 P.M.? I was puzzled. I looked at the clock, it read 12:00 P.M. exactly. I went near my bed and sat beside the table which had all my favourite books piled on top of each other. The weather outside did not look good. It was chaotic, with thunderstorms and no sight of nature that flourished with beauty. I closed my eyes, simply wanting to peek inside my mind. I wondered, how is my weather today?

 

Two Hours Later…

 

“Sara. Are you there?”

 

“Open the door! Let us in.”

 

“Come on now. Are you dead or something.” There was a sound of giggling in the background.

 

“Why don’t you call her? She must be listening to her favourite song. Perhaps this call would let her know about us,” said one of the three girls who stood outside Sara’s house.

 

“Exactly. We had a trip planned. How can she not come? Julia, just call her!”

 

“Okay. Okay. I am dialling,” said Julia.

 

Ringing…ringing…

 

The click of someone picking up the receiver sounded.

 

“Hello? Is this Sara? Where are you? We have been waiting outside your house for like an hour now,” said Julia. There was no answer.

 

“I think she isn’t home. No one is answering,” Julia said.

 

“Ah, I knew she would ditch us. Let’s just leave,” said Miranda.

 

Few Months Ago…

 

“I can’t believe we are finally having the best time together. You are such a lovely person, said Chris as we both looked into each other’s eyes. There was a bond. A connection.

 

As we starred into each other’s eyes, it almost felt as if we are connected. As if, we can almost look into each other’s soul if only we came a little closer. I felt the sensation rising through my nerves. I noticed Chris wanted the same. His eyes now reflected a thirst of something that he wanted so bad. Slowly he approached me. I realised this is that moment in a relationship when I must make a choice. A choice to cross any boundaries. A choice to give into pleasure. I had to be aware. I need time to think, if this is right.

In the next second, as his face approached mine, I noticed his eyes now reflected something else. A thirst was how it started. But now I saw lust. That deep sense of want was evident. His face began to make gestures at me. I sensed danger.

 

“No,” I said. We almost kissed and I almost fell prey to my own demons.

 

His eyes shifted back to normal, for a second, Lust was nowhere to be seen. Still, I noticed a faint shade of red from the edges. He spoke nothing for a brief moment, I know he must have felt awkward or was it rude? I have no idea. I think it was important for me to get a hold of myself. I did. Little did I know, this decision would change my life. And it all happened in the next few minutes.

 

After the date, we both went out for a walk. It was 9 P.M. as we walked past few grocery stores, some of my favourite restaurants in the town, and a place that I loved more than anything, “The Invisible Charm of Books” Yes! I fell in love just knowing the name. But we kept walking. Perhaps Chris never really cared about my likes or dislikes. Still, he knows how much I love going to book stores.

 

As we moved ahead, Chris stopped suddenly and pointed at a distant park.

 

“That’s where we are going,” he said. His eyes held joy. I wondered why.

 

“The Purple Park,” I said, reading the sign just above the entrance to the place.

 

It was a great place. People coming from various nearby cities visited this place, because it carried a sense of harmony. I felt warmth around as I saw children playing games, old people sitting quietly with few of their friends and smiling. I saw more people who were seated on a special bench, “The Lover’s Bench”, they say. I found it amusing. Just then the feeling crossed my mind, if Chris was planning for us the same. My assumptions changed when he booked a private bench for us. It was located behind the park, near a fountain. There was no one around. Just me, Chris…and something else.

 

SILENCE. It was silence.

 

I am a people person. Never really thought about it or had a discussion on why people enjoy silence so much. I don’t hate it. I just don’t like it. For me, silence is scary. Silence means danger with a capital D. We got seated at our special private bench. The staff there also served us some juice and food. It was a lovely experience, except the silence. Chris approached me. I knew this feeling. It was the same as what I’d felt in the restaurant.

 

“You look beautiful,” he said. I saw the hint of lust again.

 

“What am I to you?” I asked, feeling doubtful.

 

“What?” He took a step back as if puzzled by the question.

 

“You know. We have just started to date. I don’t know you well. You don’t know me well. You are strangely interested in my looks and body. What is it that you wish?” I was already aware of his answer. I knew he desired my body more than me. More than my ideas. More than my decisions. I waited for an answer.

 

He stammered out, “I don’t know. You are my girlfriend. I love you.”

 

“Even if I were black, brown, perhaps not beautiful. Will you still love me?” I asked immediately. I needed an instant answer. This is something every girl, anywhere in the world would want to know. For me, the answer has to be true. It has to be without filters. It has to be quick. It has to be on point.

 

There was a long pause. Chris still struggled to think of words to answer this simple question. I certainly, got mine. It was 9:20 P.M. as I got up and began to walk away. He should have stopped me. He didn’t. And that’s why I never met him again.

 

However, this story of love and life did not just include Chris and me. Oh no! There was someone else. Robert, a friend of Chris’ and my high school crush. He was the first person Chris introduced me to. As strange as it may sound, the moment I saw Robert after such a long time, I developed a massive crush on him. Forgive my self-control, I tried my best to focus on my relationship. But there he was, the perfect boyfriend—as I would dream of him to be since my high school days—was standing beside both of us in his leather pants and fancy shirt with a beard every girl would die for.

I knew I would have him. Things took a new turn, when Robert asked for my number after I and Chris had a break. I never actually expected for him to make a move. Yet, there he was.

 

Today…

 

I closed my eyes. Just wanted to take a peek inside my mind. I wonder how my weather is today.

 

It was a new experience for me. I have never really travelled inside me. I felt a little uneasy. Images of different people ran through my mind, now visible to my inner sight. I could see myself standing at a distance waiting for someone near the bus stop. It was a messy place, really. People all around me. The sun had set and the lights were slowly fading away. This was the call from the night. I could feel my presence deep within. Yes! I was alive. Time went past me as the lights slowly faded to nothing.

 

I waited. For someone. Not exactly, who or what. There was a longing. A need for a person maybe. Or was it just something that I wished to possess or be a part of? I had no clue. I saw nothing as it was dark. So dark, in fact, that I would not even notice if there was something In front of me. Slowly, the lights came back again. The sun showed up and so did the virtual reality. Thousands of men, standing in front of me. I was scared.

 

For a moment, I thought I was dreaming. “Silly of me. I should open my eyes now!” I thought to myself. But I couldn’t. I was trapped in my own dream. People kept approaching me. Not people. Men. Hundreds of them. It was a dreadful sight. I took a step back and saw I was no more standing at the bus stop. I was standing inside a phone booth. Locked.

 

I screamed in shock. There were no ears to listen to my cries. I tried picking up the phone and dialling few random numbers. There was no answer. I didn’t know how to escape this virtual world. Or was it real?

 

Just then, I heard a voices echo inside my head. They were familiar voices.

 

“Julia? Miranda!” I exclaimed. I was trapped inside the phone booth and now my head felt heavy. Men surrounded me from all sides as they pushed themselves onto the phone booth, but luckily it was locked. How the hell did I get in here?

 

I have to do something. Or else I would be trapped here for ever. I tried using the phone a couple more times but no good. I pinched myself trying to wake me up. Instead the moment I tried to shake my physical presence, I would feel a shock. Someone is playing with my abstract self.

 

I noticed that Chris was among the many men who surrounded me outside the phone booth.  He was wearing the same outfit that I saw him wearing the night we had our last date. He looked terrible. I wish I could say it was a decent look for him, but it wasn’t. None of the men who stood near me had any spark whatsoever. All I could see was lust. A want that never vanishes. A want that maybe never would.

 

Just then the phone beside me rang. I was taken aback by the sudden change of events. It wasn’t working and now… I felt scared to pick it up. Somehow I managed to muster up all my strength amid the chaos and picked up the phone. And then I heard Julia’s voice.

 

“Hello? Is it Sara? Where are you? We have been waiting outside your house for like an hour now.”

 

“Hello. Hello. Julia. Is that You? Please save me. I am trapped here!” I spoke all in one breath.

 

“I think she isn’t home. No one is answering.”

 

Odd, couldn’t they hear me? “No, I am speaking. Can you hear me? Hello?” I said in a desperate tone.

 

“Ah. I knew she would ditch us. Let’s just leave.” said Miranda.

 

“No. No. No. Don’t leave!” I cried as I heard them moving away. Then the line went dead. I fell right there. Inside the phone booth, as my last hope seem to disappear.

 

As I looked out towards the many men who now seem to be spacing away, I saw him.

 

“Robert!” I exclaimed.

 

As he slowly approached the booth, the men who’d once wanted entry now seemed to be moving away. With every step he took in my direction, those men took ten steps away. What was happening?

 

Robert neared my position. Somehow, he had the keys which would unlock the booth. I was shocked and happy at the same time.

 

“Come with me! Will you?” he asked.

 

I had no choice but to trust him. Strangely, this time I was ready and prepared to answer him. We moved out of the locality and he drove me back to my house. I had a strange feeling. A feeling of being home. Not that I was away for like a year, but it felt good somehow.

 

“Take care. We will meet tomorrow. What do you say? 9 PM at the Purple Park?”

 

“Yes! Sure.” I said, trying not to feel too excited, but feeling that way, nonetheless.

 

I walked to the front door of my house, unlocked it, and went straight to my room. I went near the bed and sat beside the lantern. As I looked out from the window, I noticed the weather outside, in this virtual world of mine, was amazing. Somehow, I’d managed to fight this chaos. Somehow I managed to fight my demons. Somehow, I’d managed to find answers to my question. I felt at peace and confident enough to make my decisions. I was finally prepared for my future. Today was a day full of randomness and my mind felt heavy. I closed my eyes so I could relax and feel this moment.

 

Just then I heard my cellphone ring. Is this yet another Paradox? I thought. I picked up the phone to hear his voice. This was real. I was back to my world.

 

“So, are you ready for our first date?” he asked.

 

“Yes. I am ready.”

 

My words reflected many things. One being my self-awareness and the other being my hope. Both were back. I was more stable. More confident. Ready to face the world. Ready to risk it all, again. But I won’t tell him everything. Some secrets are better left undisclosed. For now, I guess he only needs to know, that I am back to being myself.

.

Blog Overhaul and Partnership with Safa Publishing

Long time no post, right? It has been a while since I have graced my blog with new love. It’s been a busy past several months for me and I’m ecstatic to be back. These sporadic hiatuses are coming to an end, my darling readers. I promise you that.

Now that I’ve settled into my new home and life is relaxing into a somewhat consistent schedule, I will be revamping I Will Seize the Day and posting more often. The makeover is needed for a number of personal and professional reasons. Personally, I feel like the blog does not fully reflect who I am and what my interests and intentions are. As for professionally, I would like for it to have a strong framework and focus to better brand myself and what I offer.

Posts here on out will include:

  • Book reviews (which will undergo their own makeover as well)
  • Event recaps (i.e. author talks and signings, book conventions and festivals)
  • Updates about highly anticipated books, events, and authors
  • Information about and from Safa Publishing

 

Speaking of Safa Publishing, I would like to announce that I have partnered with this new publishing press to blog about all things bookish. Its focus is editing and publication of fiction writing, aiding in obtaining covers, formatting, and promotion. There are different publishing packages available for the creation of eBooks and paperbacks, so an author is able to choose a package that best meets their needs and allows them to maintain control over their work. At this time hardback books are not an option, but they are a future possibility. If you are interested in pricing for the different services available, please visit here to fill in your information and request a pricing quote. Please note that your manuscript must be original work and that the press will not pursue queries containing hate literature (i.e. literature that promotes hatred or discrimination against different races/ethnicities, religious groups, or gender/sexual orientation).

Safa Shaqsy is the founder of Safa Publishing and a sci-fi/fantasy author of several novels and novellas (the Blood Moon Series, Alien Busters, The Dragon’s Curse: Dark Magic, the Asrinia Series, and The Finite: Alien Encounters). Having published her own work, she understands the difficulties and frustrations that authors experience when self-publishing. Through Safa Publishing she hopes to help authors who are new or struggling in the industry with affordable services. If you are interested in reading her work, please click here to go to her author page on Amazon.

The press’s team is being assembled at this time, so if you have experience with editing, cover design, interior design, distribution, marketing, or blogging, make sure to contact the press’s founder Safa Shaqsy by emailing safashaqsy@gmail.com.

With those thoughts in mind, I’m going to work on the blog makeover and get back to y’all in the next few days. If you have a free moment, make sure to check out Safa Publishing and the opportunities presented.

Happy reading, happy writing, and don’t forget to seize the day! Until next time, bitchin’ readers.

Written by Jenn Edwards.

Website link: http://iwillseizetheday.weebly.com/bitchinreads/blog-overhaul-and-partnership