A Writing Study on Assassins, Flashbacks, and Emotions (A Guest Post & Giveaway by Fantasy Author Maria V. Snyder)

maria-snyder-guest-post-banner

Oh, am I excited about our returning guest! Fantasy author Maria V. Snyder stopped by here 2 years ago for an interview on SHADOW STUDY, her fourth Study novel and the return of Yelena and Valek, her two most beloved characters. Today, the series ends with DAWN STUDY, and Maria was gracious enough to take time out of her schedule to write a guest post. So, let’s celebrate DAWN STUDY’s book birthday with a “study” of master spy-assassin Valek, his growth since SHADOW STUDY, and the challenges of writing from his perspective. 

When my first book, Poison Study, was published over (*cough*) eleven (*cough*) years ago, I had no idea I’d go on to write five more Study books and the spin-off Glass Series. Nine total books and four short stories! I’d also didn’t know that Valek would become my readers’ favorite character (according to an unscientific Facebook poll).

While planning Poison Study, I knew Valek would be Ixia’s Chief of Security and the Commander’s assassin. He’d be distant, cold, and good at killing people with all types of weapons – basically, a stereotypical bad ass.  After that, I didn’t really consider him to be more than an antagonist to my main protagonist, Yelena.  In fact, I thought if there would be a romance in the book, it would most likely be between Yelena and the Commander. Yeah, well, I’m not the best at planning books, and I tend to discover the true story as I write.

Continue reading

Favorite Reads of 2015, Part 2: Books Published in 2015 + Reading Statistics

Fave Reads 2015 logo cropped

On Tuesday I shared my 10 favorite non-2015 books I read last year. Today, I share the other Top 10 list: the one for my favorite new books of 2015! 🙂

Like Tuesday’s list, this one will go in ascending order (suspense is the key, remember? *winks*) and will feature a brief explanation of why I included it on this list, as well as links to each review. I’ll also post my reading statistics for 2015, including how many books I read, which genres I read most, and a few random yet interesting bits I discovered along the way. Shall we begin?

Continue reading

Time Flies!: February 2015

Time Flies Logo

Welcome to the latest edition of Time Flies! It’s my version of a monthly update, where I recap the past month’s accomplishments and articles, share news and random things from my offline life, and hint at what may be coming in the month ahead.

First of all, thanks to all the new visitors who came by this month for the Maria V. Snyder and #1000Speak articles! I hope you enjoyed what you read and will continue to visit as time goes on. And if you haven’t yet, make sure you enter the Shadow Study giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of Maria’s new book. The giveaway ends on Wednesday, March 4th at midnight EST, and is international (i.e., open to everyone).

February was much less stressful than the past couple months had been. (*whew*) It was also a super-busy month writing-wise, which is never a bad thing – especially given one of the milestones I reached recently. 😀  Some of you may already know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, no worries. That’s part of this month’s recap.

I’ve tweaked the format for Time Flies this month. If you’ve seen the past monthly updates, let me know you think this one’s an improvement over the last one.

Continue reading

Recent Reads: “Shadow Study” by Maria V. Snyder

Shadow Study Shadow Study
Maria V. Snyder
Fantasy / Young Adult
409 pages

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she’s back with a new tale of intrigue. 

Once, only her own life hung in the balance… 

Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands — and protect her relationship with Valek. 

Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job and his life are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret — or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is — while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers. 

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous…

Rating: 4 / 5

Confession: I hugged my copy of Shadow Study when it arrived in the mail. Yes, I was that excited to read it. Then again, Poison Study was one of my favorite reads of last year, and I devoured Magic Study and Fire Study a couple months later solely so I could stay on top of this series starting with the fourth book. So here it is, the newest adventures of former poison taster and current magician-diplomat Yelena Zaltana, and I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

Shadow Study takes place about 6 years after the original conclusion of the Study trilogy. Yelena is acting as political liaison between the countries of Ixia and Sitia and has fully embraced her role as a Soulfinder. She’s also still with Valek, her soulmate and the famed Ixian spy-assassin. No sooner does the couple reunite in Chapter 1 that crisis strikes – literally. Valek is ordered home by Ixia’s Commander to address the country’s growing smuggler network and is confronted by a young, hot-shot assassin who wants Valek’s job. Yelena remains in Sitia to investigate a past enemy’s escape from prison – and is grappling with the sudden loss of her magic. Given how many enemies Yelena has, she’s in great danger if they find out how vulnerable she is.

Like Snyder’s other novels, Shadow Study is impossible to put down thanks to its suspenseful chapter endings and urgent prose. Also, the first bit of conflict pops up within the first couple pages, so Snyder gives us reasons right away to worry about Yelena and the other characters. I was also fascinated by how interwoven the conflict threads became as the story went along. Each chapter drops hints that widen the overall scope. Once I put the pieces together, my mouth dropped open. And for the record, I’m not much of a plot-twist guesser, but there were two in particular that I guessed correctly – and both will have a HUGE impact on the next two Study books.

One welcome change between the three older Study novels and Shadow Study is the POV narration style. From Poison Study to Fire Study, it was from Yelena’s first-person perspective. With Shadow Study, Snyder alternates between Yelena (first person), Valek (third person), and Valek’s assistant and Yelena’s friend Janco (third person). While Yelena’s the one who drew me into this series, Valek’s sections steal the show here. Readers finally learn more about his past, from his early days as an assassin-in-training at the School Of Night And Shadow, to the moment where he enacts his ultimate revenge. It’s a fascinating trip down memory lane that explains Valek’s unique and lethal brew of logic, meticulousness, and cunning. Readers also get to see the beating heart beneath, and feel for Valek as his loyalties become entangled.

Janco’s POV, on the other hand… Sometimes he was so funny that I’d burst out laughing. Other times, he was downright annoying, and I wanted to smack him. Janco’s perspective is necessary, though, since he’s in a number of important scenes where Yelena and Valek aren’t present. But at the same time, I feel like I learned very little about Janco, especially in comparison to what I learned about Valek.

A couple other things about Shadow Study threw me off. First, there were times where the timing for one character’s POV wasn’t synchronized with the timing for another character’s sections. I’m not sure why this caught my attention. It hasn’t for other multiple POV books like George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Fire And Ice novels. But for some reason, I noticed it more with Shadow Study, and it jarred me a little. Also, Yelena’s independent streak drives me nuts sometimes. It’s not a complete drawback; I like that Yelena is decisive and follows her instincts, but she rarely asks for help. So when she strikes out on her own, I always know something bad is going to happen.

I could say so much more about Shadow Study, including the characters who returned from the previous Study novels (and also the Glass trilogy), and the new characters we meet. But the point is, Shadow Study is a fantastic new installment to the Yelena Zaltana saga. It’s tightly written, packed with tension and action, and full of new reasons to love its memorable characters. I’m still reeling a bit from the bombshell ending (“cliffhanger” doesn’t quite fit for this one – trust me) and the other revelations that emerge – but that just means lots of crucial choices and juicy conflict for Night Study and Dawn Study. And I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds from here!

Shadow Study will be out tomorrow (Tuesday, February 24th) in North America. Are you looking forward to reading it? If you’ve been lucky enough to read a pre-pub copy, what did you think of it? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Goodreads and Amazon.

Also, I’m hosting a giveaway for a signed U.S. copy of Shadow Study! Click here for my recent interview with Maria, then scroll to the bottom for contest details. The giveaway ends Wednesday, March 4th at midnight EST.

Interview with Maria V. Snyder + Shadow Study Giveaway!

Maria V Snyder

I’m thrilled to have Maria V. Snyder for our next Author Interview! Maria was one of my favorite “new” writers (or rather, new to me) of last year, and her debut novel Poison Study ended up at #2 on my 10 Favorite Reads of 2014 list. Besides Poison Study, I gobbled up the rest of her Study Series (Magic Study and Fire Study), which follows poison taster / magician / diplomat Yelena Zaltana as she confronts her past, learns about her magical powers, and kicks some serious butt. Next week, Maria releases her thirteenth novel, Shadow Study – which means Yelena and her assassin-spy soulmate Valek are back for more adventures! Plus, as you may have noticed from the title, we have a very special contest at the end of this article!

So, read on to learn more about Shadow Study, how it’s different from Maria’s previous Study novels, and a few things about Maria herself, including her writing influences, her favorite literary heroines, and what she’d do – or avoid doing – if she ever visited Yelena’s world. Also, if you’re interested, come back on Monday, February 23rd for my review of Shadow Study!

Continue reading

Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 8: Shadow Study & Author Interview Announcement!

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.

The post title gives away which novel I’m featuring, so I’ll get right to it! 😉 Continue reading

Time to Play TBR Book Tag!

Since Anya at On Starships And Dragonwings and Molly Mortensen openly tagged readers on their TBR Book Tags, I thought I’d continue the chain! So, I combed through my physical bookshelves, took some photos, and (finally!) finished updating my “To-Read” shelf on Goodreads to include my home collection. Now I’m ready to play!

For anyone who’s not familiar with the acronym, TBR stands for “to be read.” Therefore, a TBR pile or TBR list consists of the books in your personal collection that you haven’t read yet.

Ready to explore my bookshelves and reading wishlists with me? 🙂   Continue reading

Waiting On Wednesday Vol. 1: “Shadow Study” by Maria V. Snyder

Waiting on Wednesday_1

Today is my first Waiting On Wednesday post! Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming book releases that I’m looking forward to. My WOW postings won’t be weekly, but will come on Wednesdays that are open in terms of my blogging schedule here and elsewhere and when I add a yet-to-be-published book to my wishlist. 😉

So, here’s what I’m waiting for this Wednesday: Shadow Study, the upcoming fourth novel in Maria V. Snyder’s Study series! Poison Study (Book #1) is one of my favorite books of all time; and while the other two books (Magic Study and Fire Study) weren’t quite as good IMO, I’m still fascinated by the world of magic and constant danger and political intrigue that Snyder’s created. Yelena is also a fantastic protagonist: persistent, clever, resourceful, and loyal to the people she cares about – especially her long-time love, the infamous spy-assassin Valek. And judging from the blurb below, things are about to get interesting once again for both Yelena and Valek. 😀

Shadow Study

Shadow Study
Maria V. Snyder
Fantasy / Young Adult
Publication Date: February 25, 2015
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Goodreads

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she’s back with a new tale of intrigue.

Once, only her own life hung in the balance…

Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job and his life are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret—or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is—while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous…

What book(s) are you waiting on this Wednesday? Are you also looking forward to Shadow Study?