Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 19 & Field Trip: Boston Teen Author Festival 2015

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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.

It’s time to report on the 2015 Boston Teen Author Festival! Since I wanted to tell you about the event, I’ve decided to make this post a combination of Stacking The Shelves (which I’ll link up at Tynga’s Reviews) and my Field Trip series. So, what you’re about to read is part photo diary, part written report with quotes and writing tips, and part BOOK SQUEE FEST. 😀

Um, as always, bear with me on the photo quality, especially the zoomed-in shots at BTAF. (I really, really need to get a new camera.) Otherwise, enjoy!

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Chronicling The Craft: 100,000 Words

A Glance into the Faeries’ Magic System

Chapters Completed: 24

Chapters In Progress: 6

Chapters Not Started: 4

“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 100,000 words in length.

YES! Actually, it’s more like, “WHEW! OK, am I almost done yet?” *lol* Seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel has brought on a kind of “can’t-wait-to-finish-this-draft” itch. Unfortunately, with the upcoming December holidays on top of the usual commitments (if you have a day job, you know what I mean), I’m reminding myself more often to be patient. Thank goodness I’ve got some time off planned right after Christmas and around New Year’s. Guess how I plan to spend the bulk of that time? 😉

If you’ve been following this series, you may already know I’ve done “reveals” with every 25K-word milestone in the fantasy novel. Now that I’ve hit 100,000 words, it’s time for another! But first, here’s a quick update of what I’ve worked on since the Chronicle for 95,000 wordsContinue reading

Recent Reads: “Tales From Earthsea” by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Tales From Earthsea
Ursula K. Le Guin
Fantasy / Short Stories / Novellas

Synopsis:

The tales of this book, as Ursula K. Le Guin writes in her introduction, explore or extend the world established by her first four Earthsea novels. Yet each stands on its own.

“The Finder,” a novella set a few hundred years before A Wizard of Earthsea, presents a dark and troubled Archipelago and shows how some of its customs and institutions came to be. “The Bones of the Earth” features the wizards who taught the wizard who first taught Ged and demonstrates how humility, if great enough, can contend with an earthquake. “Darkrose and Diamond” is a delightful story of young courtship showing that wizards sometimes pursue alternative careers. “On the High Marsh” tells of the love of power – and of the power of love. “Dragonfly” shows how a determined woman can break the glass ceiling of male magedom.

Concluding with an account of Earthsea’s history, people, languages, literature, and magic, this collection also features two new maps of Earthsea.

Rating: 4.5 / 5, and *Unputdownable*

First things first: I adore Ursula Le Guin’s work. I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read of hers so far (you can read my reviews of Lavinia, Changing Planes, and The Tombs of Atuan here at the blog), and I usually read them shortly after purchasing because I can’t wait to find out where her imagination will take me next. The latter point explains why I was shocked when I couldn’t recall a thing about Tales From Earthsea, even though I swore I’d read it a couple years ago. Now I have, and I can say with confidence that it’s found a place in my heart and bookshelf next to Le Guin’s full-length novels.

Tales From Earthsea expands the Earthsea universe with five short stories taking place before and in between Le Guin’s previously written novels. Two novellas bookend the collection: “The Finder,” which recounts the life of the mage Medra, including his role in the founding of the prestigious wizardry school on Roke Island; and “Dragonfly,” where the eponymous heroine defies the long-held “Rule of Roke” (prohibiting women from receiving formal training on magic) while discovering her true identity. The other three stories explore a young man’s desire to follow his heart instead of others’ expectations (“Darkrose and Diamond”) and bring back beloved characters such as the wizard Ged (“On The High Marsh”) and his first mentor Ogion (“The Bones of the Earth”). Finally, “A Description of Earthsea” is Le Guin’s equivalent to Tolkein’s Middle-Earth appendices, presenting some of the author’s world-building and history of the lands she’s so vividly created.

Overall, I enjoyed Tales From Earthsea, though two of its tales touched me more deeply than I would have ever imagined. I really connected with Medra in “The Finder,” as he evolved from a vengeful untrained boy-wizard to a courageous, empathetic man who respected and feared his gift. When Medra was in danger, I was terrified for him; and when the darkness and suffering he endured had broken him down to his state in the final “chapter,” my heart wept for him. “On The High Marsh” evoked a similar reaction from me with Otak / Irioth. He comes across as kindly yet deeply troubled at first, but it’s not until late in the story that I understood his discreet search for self-redemption and prayed for his success. The only tale that didn’t resonate with me was “The Bones of the Earth.” It bored me after a few pages, though in hindsight I’ve had a hard time pinpointing why.

What I love most about Le Guin’s work, though, is her distinctive writing style. Graceful yet clear, concise yet at times abstract, it strikes a delicate balance between imagery, wisdom, and the soul. While writing short stories requires a different knack than writing novels, the prose in Tales From Earthsea doesn’t suffer from the shorter length or timespan covered or the snappy pacing. It’s similar to the ease Le Guin shows when switching between fantasy and science fiction – and witnessing such consistency from a versatile writer is a rare delight.

And when an author you love continues to surprise you each time – or spark possible short story ideas for your own work (*raises her hand high*) – you know they’re a master of their craft. Tales From Earthsea is yet another jewel to add to Le Guin’s writing crown. She offers new glimpses into the people, settings, and conflicts of Earthsea, while maintaining the spirit that makes this beguiling universe – and Le Guin’s writing in general – so unique and beautiful. Long-time “visitors” of Earthsea will relish this volume and its insights. For newbies, however, I recommend reading the first four Earthsea books (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu) before reading Tales From Earthsea because of the returning characters and concepts from the earlier novels.

NOTE: The Studio Ghibli / Goro Miyazaki film “Tales From Earthsea” isn’t based on the book Tales From Earthsea. Instead, it’s loosely adapted from Ursula Le Guin’s third Earthsea novel The Farthest Shore and contains elements and characters from other Earthsea novels.

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Deciding whether to buy Tales From Earthsea from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”