Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 12: Long Ago and Far Away…

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

All of the books in today’s stack have one thing in common: They take place in times or places very different from my own (and perhaps yours, too). It’s a mix of fantasy, science fiction, romance, and exotic cultures. Murder, mystery, magic, and family. Freedom, power, secrets, and friendship. Intrigued? Then what are you waiting for? 😉

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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 11: Of Fairies And A Female Knight

book-stack

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

*Please note that, starting with today’s edition, Stacking The Shelves will feature links to each book’s Goodreads page instead of their Amazon pages. That way, if you’re on Goodreads, you can any of the featured books to your Goodreads shelves.*

Some of you might remember that last fall, I was looking for recommendations for fantasy novels with fairy characters. I’ve been meaning to do some “market research” on such books because the protagonist and other characters from my WIP, The Keeper’s Curse, are Faeries. Something I should have done a lot sooner than Draft #2, but better late than never, right?

So, I finally bought my first batch of fairy novels for market research, as well as another YA fantasy classic I’ve been meaning to get a hold of. And they are…

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

1000speak

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

Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 6: Post-Christmas Barnes & Noble Bonanza

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves. 

I don’t normally go shopping right after Christmas, but with a Barnes & Noble gift card in my wallet and a wishlist that was still quite long, I decided, “Why not?” So, here are the books I bought the day after Christmas, with a “cameo” appearance by one of my tea mugs. *lol*
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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

Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 5: 2014 Christmas Haul

book-stack

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves. 

I’m taking a quick break from my mini “writing vacation” to share this year’s Christmas book haul! Most of the books were on my wishlist, while a couple others were neat surprises. Here they are!
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Stacking The Shelves: Volume 2 – Post-Birthday Fantasy Haul

book-stack

Welcome to the latest volume of Stacking the Shelves! This meme is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may those books be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and e-books.

Volume 2 of Stacking The Shelves includes one gift (yay!) and three book purchases since Volume 1. Here they are! Continue reading

Chronicling The Craft: 75,000 & 80,000 Words

A Peek Into the Novel’s Villains and Antagonists

Chapters Completed: 20

Chapters In Progress: 4

Chapters Not Started: 10

“Chronicling The Craft” is an article series where I share my experience with writing my current work-in-progress (WIP), which is a fantasy novel. Every 5,000 words, I let readers know what I’ve accomplished since the previous article and share advice, discoveries, techniques, etc. Besides the word count in each article title, a “chapter ticker” at the top also tracks my progress as I use the skip-around / “writercopter” method to write the novel. Today’s installment celebrates the book reaching 75,000 and 80,000 words in length.

Yup, it’s a double installment of Chronicling The Craft! Although it doesn’t exactly mean double the fun, topics, length, etc. I went on another planned writing vacation during the first week of September. Going into that vacation, I was closing in on 75,000 words, but I didn’t want to halt the novel’s progress partway through the week to squeeze in a blog article. So, I decided to barrel past the 75K mark and see how far I could take the novel from there. Today, it stands at a hair over 80,200 words. *does a happy dance*

Here’s what I’ve worked on since the previous Chronicle: Continue reading

Recent Reads: “A Feast For Crows” by George R.R. Martin

A Feast For Crows

A Feast For Crows
George R.R. Martin
Fantasy

Summary:

It seems too good to be true. After centuries of bitter strife and fatal treachery, the seven powers dividing the land have decimated one another into an uneasy truce. Or so it appears. . . . With the death of the monstrous King Joffrey, Cersei is ruling as regent in King’s Landing. Robb Stark’s demise has broken the back of the Northern rebels, and his siblings are scattered throughout the kingdom like seeds on barren soil. Few legitimate claims to the once desperately sought Iron Throne still exist—or they are held in hands too weak or too distant to wield them effectively. The war, which raged out of control for so long, has burned itself out. 

But as in the aftermath of any climactic struggle, it is not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters start to gather, picking over the bones of the dead and fighting for the spoils of the soon-to-be dead. Now in the Seven Kingdoms, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed, while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—are seen emerging from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges ahead. 

It is a time when the wise and the ambitious, the deceitful and the strong will acquire the skills, the power, and the magic to survive the stark and terrible times that lie before them. It is a time for nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages to come together and stake their fortunes . . . and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.

Rating: 3.75 / 5

When I first opened A Feast For Crows, I felt uneasy – no, reluctant. A Storm of Swords, the previous installment of George R.R. Martin’s feverishly popular “A Song of Fire and Ice” saga, was good but still boggled my brain to the point where I was thinking, “Maybe I should quit this series…” I knew I’d only get more of that in A Feast For Crows. Plus, I was aware and disappointed that three of my favorite POV characters (Danaerys, Jon Snow, and Tyrion) wouldn’t appear in this book. But in the end, the reader in me wasn’t a nitpicking carrion crow, but a hungry reveler savoring every morsel of the banquet.

Like its predecessors, A Feast For Crows is a juicy fruit of conflict, lust, blood, and manipulation. The various points of view contribute to this. Martin continues storylines for several fan favorites (Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Jaime Lanniser, Samwell Tarly) while finally offering glimpses into the heads of other familiar faces (Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Asha Greyjoy). He also introduces us to new players (and potential “Game”-changers) from Dorne and the Iron Islands, as both locales have now been drawn into the overall picture after the events of A Storm Of Swords. Alliances once thought unbreakable are tested and ripped apart. Secrets are shared and spilled. Strategies are carefully woven in the shadows – and often shredded by the agendas of other characters. Then again, isn’t that what this “Song of Ice and Fire” has been based on since the beginning?

Despite my initial hesitation, I really enjoyed the new POVs and settings introduced in A Feast For Crows. Dorne entranced me completely; it contains the same debauchery and political chess matches seen at King’s Landing, but it seems more colorful, lush, and exotic. Arianne Martell, Princess of Dorne, is hands down my favorite new character. She embodies the lusciousness of her homeland while easing herself into Martin’s catalog of strong female characters with her persistence, stubbornness, and desire to overcome her wounded past. And wow, did I enjoy Cersei’s take! She proves her status as the saga’s “Lady You Love To Hate” as readers get a first-hand look into her machinations, as well as the start of what could be her downfall. Out of the returning POV characters, my trophy goes to Jaime. His evolution has become increasingly arresting with each book. He’s still the arrogant, headstrong knight from A Game Of Thrones, but he’s clearly plagued by guilt over his (unintentional) role in his father’s death and questioning his loyalty to his sister / lover Cersei. Where Jaime goes from here, I have no clue but definitely want to follow.

I can’t say I hated or disliked anything about A Feast For Crows, but the fact that some of the new POV characters have only one chapter annoyed me. If someone’s viewpoint matters only for a few pages, why include it at all? Why not write the chapter from the perspective of a character who’s guaranteed to pop up more often as the series continues? Here’s hoping this “single shot” error doesn’t become a habit in A Dance With Dragons.

For now, though, I’m relishing the Westeros smorgasbord again. A Feast For Crows has renewed my interest in “A Song of Fire and Ice.” And even though it’s missing some of series’ most exciting characters, I welcome most of the new additions and can see their potential significance in the slowly unfolding plot. It’s fascinating to see how wide the net of impact has been cast beyond King’s Landing. To me, that hints at universal implications of the saga’s eventual ending – and at Martin’s unprecedented writing genius. Now I definitely have to read A Dance With Dragons before Season 5 of the HBO show begins next year.

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Deciding whether to buy A Feast For Crows from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Coming Soon: Maria V. Snyder’s critically acclaimed fantasy novel Poison Study will be the next feature for Recent Reads. Until then, stay tuned for a new “Chronicling The Craft” to celebrate 60,000 words on my WIP!

Chronicling The Craft: 55,000 Words

Wounds, Lies, & Flaws: Using Character Arcs to Propel Your Story

Chapters Completed: 14

Chapters In Progress: 6

Chapters Left to Start: 14

“Chronicling The Craft” is an article series where I share my experience with writing my current work-in-progress (WIP), which is a fantasy novel. Every 5,000 words, I let readers know what I’ve accomplished since the previous article and share advice, discoveries, techniques, etc. Besides the word count in each article title, a “chapter ticker” at the top also tracks my progress as I use the skip-around / “writercopter” method to write the novel. Today’s installment celebrates the book reaching 55,000 words in length.

Reaching each 5,000-word milestone on this WIP has become a ritual that I look forward to very much. It allows me to look back at what I’ve done since the last update and at how far this story has come since I started writing it last year. And, it gives me an opportunity to look ahead and alternate between thinking “Yay! Another step closer to finishing!” and “Jeez, Sara, are you crazy?” (Ha ha!) I’m willing to bet, though, that many writers feel that way when they’re in the middle of a first draft. All I can do to move forward is to keep imagining, planning, changing said plans, talking to myself (I do that A LOT when I write), and typing until the entire book has been written. And with each writing session, I’m indeed another step closer to that point. Continue reading