The Seven-Day Book Challenge

Recently, a Facebook friend tagged me on the Seven-Day Book Challenge. I finally got around to it a few weeks ago and “double-teamed” it through FB and Instagram. And then I thought, “Why not share it on the blog, too?”

The rules of the Seven-Day Book Challenge are simple: For seven days, you share a photo or image on Facebook of a different favorite book and nominate another friend to carry on the challenge. There’s no set theme to follow, and you don’t need to write a caption or explanation for why you choose each book. You simply share the photo, tag a friend, and reply to any comments. But for this blog post, I think I’ll “break” one of those rules. 😉

Here are the books I chose for the Seven-Day Book Challenge, and why I picked each one.

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The Book Courtship Tag

Book Courtship banner 2

I haven’t done a strictly bookish tag in a while. So when I saw this adorable Book Courtship Tag at Ayunda’s Tea and Paperbacks a couple weeks ago, I knew I wanted to squeeze this in before Valentine’s Day. 🙂

The Book Courtship Tag “follows” the different stages of courtship and challenges bloggers to pick one book that fits each stage. These picks don’t have to be romances. In fact, they can be anything you choose from your bookshelves. So, let’s see what I picked…

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The Liebster Award Challenge


A big thank-you to KL Caley @ New2Writing for nominating me for the Liebster Award Challenge! This honor gives bloggers the opportunity to share more about themselves and then to “pay it forward” to other bloggers whose sites they enjoy. This version of the Liebster doesn’t seem to have a restriction on the number of followers for eligible nominees (whereas the Liebster Award received here did), so everyone is game this time around. 😉

Here are the rules for this version of the Liebster Award Challenge:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions that the blogger gives you.
  3. Nominate 11 blogs that you think are deserving of the award.
  4. Let the bloggers know you nominated them.
  5. Give them 11 questions to answer.

So, let’s start with KL’s questions!

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The Real Neat Blog Award


Heather Jackson and Robin Rivera at have nominated me for the Real Neat Blog Award! Thank you so much, ladies! is one of my favorite writing resource blogs. So, regardless of whether you write novels, short stories, or flash fiction, I urge you to check it out at your next chance. 😉

Accepting the Real Neat Blog Award is pretty simple. You answer five questions posed by the person / blog who nominated you, then nominate four or five others and ask them five new questions. Let’s see what Heather and Robin wanted to know!

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My Nominations for The Writing Hufflepuff’s 2015 Book Awards


Writing Hufflepuff Book Awards

Fellow writer and blogger Michelle @ The Writing Hufflepuff is holding a special Book Awards contest. I don’t know if this is something she does annually or if it’s brand new, but I thought I’d join in and share my picks for as many categories as possible.

Normally I’d share the rules and encourage other bloggers to participate. But considering tomorrow (Sunday, March 29th, 2015) is the deadline for nominations and I’m squeaking these in at the last minute…. Oops? *blushes*

Anyways, here are my nominations for The Writing Hufflepuff’s 2015 Book Awards:

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Acts of Compassion in Literature – A Special #1000Speak Edition of “Theme: A Story’s Soul”


On February 20, 2015, 1000 Voices For Compassion will take to the blogosphere and share their thoughts and stories about compassion in all its forms (love, kindness, understanding, empathy, mercy, etc.). Many of these “Voices” are also posting articles on the subject in advance of the big day. Since I’d been debating between two ideas I like equally, I decided, “Why not pursue both, and make one the lead-in article?” 🙂

As an avid reader and a novelist-in-progress, some of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned have come from literature. So, for my lead-in to #1000Speak, I’m doing a literary “exploration” of compassion that aligns with my DIY MFA column “Theme: A Story’s Soul.” Below are some acts of compassion from books I’ve read over the years. As you read the examples, think about what you can learn from each character, as well as the impact their decisions or actions may have on other characters, their world, and the story’s audience. Maybe you’ll want to add some of these books to your wishlist if you haven’t read them yet. Either way, I hope you’ll find this sampling of literary compassion as inspiring as I do.

NOTE: Some of the following examples contain spoilers (either major and minor) that are necessary for discussing the topic at hand. Continue reading

My 10 Favorite Reads of 2014

It’s here finally: the list of my 10 favorite books I read in 2014! I held off on posting this as long as I could, thanks to a last-minute contender I flew through just before year’s end. Now I feel confident about which books made the final cut – and to be honest, my pick for #1 was a super-easy choice. 😉

With one exception, each entry contains a link to my full review and an excerpt from said review that best explains why I enjoyed the book. I was going to write a new paragraph for each entry, but then I realized I didn’t have anything new to add apart from what I had already said before. So, why repeat myself?

One important note: This list contains books I read this year, regardless of the year they were originally published. I didn’t read enough novels that were published this year to create a Top 10 solely of 2014 releases.

So, here they are, starting with…  Continue reading

New at DIY MFA Today: Identifying a Novel’s Themes Using the Title and the Blurb


Normally we can’t tell what a novel’s themes are until we’ve actually read the novel. However, did you know that with some stories, you can identify potential themes by looking for clues in the title and the blurb (a.k.a. jacket copy)? We explore that idea in “Identifying a Novel’s Themes Using the Title and the Blurb,” the latest article in my Theme: A Story’s Soul column at DIY MFA. We’ll even do some detective work together using the jacket copy of Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See. Curious? Click here to read the article.

Got any questions or suggestions for Theme: A Story’s Soul? Feel free to comment below or tweet me at @SaraL_Writer with the hashtag #AStorysSoul.

Recent Reads: “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See cover

All The Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr
Historical Fiction


From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

Rating: 5 / 5

If you’ve read my book reviews before, you know I rarely give perfect grades. Even if I love a novel, I usually feel uncertain about some part of the story. Then I read Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See. Wow. Even days after I finished reading, that’s the best word I can use to describe it: an awestruck, soul-stirred “Wow.” I’ll do my best to summarize my observations and feelings as concisely as I can – because not only did I love this book from the first page to the last, but I also couldn’t find anything I’d do differently.

All The Light We Cannot See illustrates the lives of the blind French girl Marie-Laure and the German orphan Werner as they grow up on different sides of the trenches of World War II. Each scene switches between Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s point of view, with a couple other stragetic perspectives that raise the stakes for both protagonists. In addition, each part (or large chunks of scenes) switches between the present (Germany’s bombing of Saint-Malo in August 1944) and specified years in Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s childhoods. All of the flashbacks are crucial in allowing the readers to bond with the characters, and important in showing how the story culminates during those fateful days in Saint-Malo.

Speaking of character-reader relationships in All The Light We Cannot See: I can’t think of a single character I didn’t bond with. I adore Marie-Laure for her bravery, curiosity, and astuteness, and Werner for his impassioned intelligence and his desire to hang onto his goodness despite the terrible cause he’s part of. Then there’s peculiar Uncle Etienne, whose fierce love and engineering know-how protect Marie-Laure; Madame Manec, whose canned peaches are to die for and small-scale rebellion against the Nazis makes you cheer; Volkheimer, the gentle war “giant” in constant awe of Werner’s engineering genius; Frederick, a budding expert on birds and a tragic example of what happens when a Hitler Youth swims against the tide; and Werner’s little sister Jutta, who’s bright like her brother and perhaps more aware of the dangers he’ll face in the war. I could go on, but the point is that all of Doerr’s characters seem so real, it’s impossible to not fall in love with them.

Now, Doerr’s writing style. If an ocean somewhere ebbed and flowed with his descriptions and sentences, I’d wade in it all day. That’s how evocative and powerful Doerr’s writing is – and he doesn’t write in that manner for beauty’s sake. His word choices, vivid verbs, and inventive metaphors fit every scene where they appear and dig right into the heart of each character. They set your heart a-pounding during the raid on Saint-Malo. They steal your breath when Marie-Laure explores beaches and grottos and when Werner listens to French science lesson broadcasts on his radio. They swell in your throat as both children learn of the horrors of their world, both everyday and due to the war. Somewhere around Page 50, I started keeping a journal of the words and phrases that leapt out at me. I couldn’t tell you the last time a novel inspired me to do that – which speaks volumes about Doerr’s technique.

Lastly, I’m floored by the amount of research Doerr must have done for All The Light We Cannot See. Not just about WWII-era France and Germany, but about seemingly small details such as mollusks, radios, blindness, birds, gemstones. These details add richness and vibrancy to the story, draw you closer to the characters, and ensnare your heart so it’s fully invested in the outcome. This book had me in a constant state of admiration and wonder; I couldn’t help but marvel at the time and painstaking effort Doerr must have spent on completing his manuscript and ensuring the accuracy of even the tiniest facts.

I may read mostly fantasy, but when I read any book I always look for a compelling story, believable characters, and a fluid writing style. Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See is a stunning example of all three elements. It’s so well written, and so urgent and successful in convincing you to read another scene, then another, and another, until you lose all track of time. It’s also a prime example of the power of words on a reader. It makes you laugh, cry, hold your breath, bite your fingernails. Most of all, it shows us the impact of life-changing choices that must be made in seconds, and the uncanny ability some people have to see the light – be it compassion, beauty, or potential – in darkened hours and places when others cannot.

Have you read All The Light We Cannot See? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you might check it out based on what you’ve read above? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Amazon or Goodreads.

Stacking The Shelves: Volume 1 – Full of Magic and History


Welcome to the first edition – er, volume – of Stacking the Shelves here at the blog! If you follow me at Facebook or Twitter, you may have noticed that I’ve started sharing photos of recently purchased or acquired books. Now I’m extending that sharing to the blog and officially joining in on the Stacking The Shelves fun that other writing and book review blogs are having. 😀

A quick history and explanation of Stacking The Shelves: Tynga’s Reviews began hosting this meme in 2012 as a way for avid readers to share their enthusiasm about their most recent book acquisitions. It doesn’t matter whether the books were purchased, received for review, borrowed from a friend or the library, or won through a giveaway – they’re all game for Stacking The Shelves. Bloggers may also share a photo(s) of the books and explain why they’re interested in reading each one.

I’ll post a new Stacking The Shelves whenever I’ve collected three or four new titles (either newly published or “new” to me but published some time ago). Many blogs post this meme once a week, but I don’t accumulate books that quickly – especially with my to-read pile still miles high! So, let’s call it “periodical” for now.

So, here we go with Volume 1 of Stacking The Shelves!  Continue reading