Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Pen Friends ~ Summer is not OVER yet. We still have more books to read and review for our Summer Reading Challenge  & Summer Writing Challenge – So send us your reviews of any books you love or find helpful for craft.

Thanks to Dawn Shipman for her review below!

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Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses series

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Blurb: When 19-year-old Feyre, the sole provider for her poverty-stricken family, ventures into the bleak, ice-cold forest to hunt, a giant wolf stands between her and her prey. She knows the stories of the Fae who are rumored to haunt the forest and can sometimes take on other forms…but her family is starving. She kills the wolf and sets in motion the plot for this three-book series. For her crime of killing the wolf, who was, indeed, a disguised Fairy, Feyre’s life is forfeit. She can allow herself to be torn to shreds by the beast who appears to enforce the law, or be dragged away from her family to the land of Prythian, to serve out her life sentence. Choosing the latter, she is soon introduced to that place of magic and wonder, a land both beautiful and terrible, where mystery, violence, and political intrigue abound. She also learns to love the ‘beast’ who brought her there—Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court.

Feyre was already a hunter, a fighter, but when Tamlin and all his people are taken captive by the murderous queen Amarantha, nothing will stop her from attempting to save him—even at the risk of her own life.

The next two books add, layer upon layer, to the complexity of this world, where violence and brilliance live side by side and masks come in many forms. Book 2—A Court of Mist and Fury—follows Feyre as she attempts to recover from the emotional devastation she endured in Amarantha’s dungeon and Book 3—A Court of Wings and Ruin—unite many plot lines and lead to the final battle that will determine the future of both the Fae and humankind.

Review:

I was pulled into Feyre’s story by the happy thought of another Beauty and the Beast re-telling, but was immediately led deep into the dazzling world of the Fae—a mythology I was unfamiliar with. For me, the first book began rather slowly but once I got past the first few chapters, Feyre and Tamlin’s story had me turning pages as fast as I could. The story was anything but predictable. As soon as I thought I knew what was coming next, author Maas worked in another twist that slammed one door and threw open another.

Feyre is a strong and passionate character, replete with doubts and conflict, but also with unwavering loyalty to those she loves. Before the story even begins, she’s had to endure privation and terrible difficulty just to survive. She is not perfect and often makes decisions that made me cringe, but I still found it easy to like her, cheer her on, and fear for her life. At the end of book one (and without giving too much away) she is gifted with Fae power that she cannot always control, but bit by bit, grows in her strength until she truly becomes a Wonder Woman—though a believable one, thanks to Maas’s careful character- and world-building efforts.

The evil in this world is real—but so is the good. The appearance of the dark High Lord of the Night Court—Rhysand–half-way through the first book introduces a mystery that is not resolved until much later. Other characters, even those who appeared secondary at first, wormed their way into my heart. The love stories—and, yes, there are more than one—are magnificent, and the themes of loyalty, sacrifice, redemption, and family are woven seamlessly into the plot.

My only concern with this series is its rating as Young Adult. The love scenes are graphic beyond anything I’ve read in adult romance. “Steamy” doesn’t seem a strong enough descriptor. I’d hate for a young teen—or even a not-so-young one—to get ahold of these. FantasticFiction agrees: “Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.” I’m thinking they fit better in the publishing category New Adult, but, unfortunately, the YA designation seems to be sticking.

Even though the major conflicts are resolved by the end of book three with much blood, death, and gore, the avid fan wants to know what happens to some of those so-called minor characters—Cassian and Nesta, Lucian and Elaine, Mor and Azriel. Therefore, I was quite delighted to see a 4th book in the series is due to be released in 2018.

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New SP Contributor: Caleb Robinson

Pen Friends ~ We are super pleased to announce that we have a new contributor at the Spinning Pen–Caleb Robinson, a very talented Middle Grade & YA writer, has joined us! 

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Welcome Caleb! Tell us about yourself…

Caleb: At a deeply secretive college in an unknown location between a floating mountain and a cloud city, I study the shadowy and dark arts of… Chemistry. Well, at least I do until my writing decides to turn itself into a full-time job that actually pays (opposed to just being my full-time hobby that doesn’t). Until that time, I am content studying tiny things we can’t see (chemistry), playing basketball, reading (shocking), being an RA, and just hanging out with other humans or other creatures. I have been writing stories since the day I learned to form sentences with crayons.

Glad to be here! Ask me about anything–writing, chemistry, books, magic…Go.

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To learn more about Caleb, click this link to his last post: Obsessed Writers, which for convenience also links to his other posts, also be sure to find him on his Instagram -a widely popular writing account- and his twitter! Look for his posts in the future!

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Nova, signing off.

 

 

 

Obsessed Writers

How To Super-Charge Your Story With Energizing Word Sprints | The Spinning Pen

Writers have always struggled to write. As far as I know, it has been that way since the dawn of stories. Even when that first caveman picked up the piece of charcoal to scratch his tale on the wall of his home, he thought, “Do I really have time for this? I have a life. My family needs me to keep them safe from sabretooth tigers, after all. Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.”

This brings us to an equally old question that I will attempt to answer. Continue reading

Author Interview: Carrie Anne Noble

Pen Friends ~ Today we have awesome YA Author, Carrie Anne Noble, to chat about the writing life and her newly-released novel, The Gold-Son!

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SP: Welcome Carrie Anne! Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

C: Hi! I’m a stay-at-home mom/writer who lives in the beautiful mountains of Pennsylvania with my family and assorted pets (currently two cats, a dog, a lizard, a foster hedgehog, and some chickens). I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember, but I really got hooked on it when I was about eleven years old.

SP: Essential info next: Tea or Coffee? And one fact about yourself that we wouldn’t know by looking at you?  Continue reading

Author Interview: Hannah Heath

Pen Friends ~ Come meet Indie YA author & super awesome writing-blogger, Hannah Heath!

images-43SP: Hi Hannah! Thanks for being with us. Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

Hello! First off, thank you for inviting me on to your awesome website! I’m an author of YA Christian speculative fiction, a bookworm, chai-tea-lover, and all-around nerd. While I write mostly fantasy, I read everything from classic literature to comic books. I started writing a couple of years before I knew how to spell correctly, inspired by authors who brought beautiful worlds, new ideas, and courageous thoughts into my mind.

SP: So, let’s talk about Skies of Dripping Gold. How did this idea come about? How was your journey self-publishing it? 

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I have Lyme Disease. It is physically painful and has brought on a lot of spiritual suffering. I’ve struggled to come to terms with how God fits into all of the pain and, through this, I discovered Gabriel and his fight with these same questions. Self-publishing this story was insane: I’d never done it before and didn’t have any friend who had experience in the area. Thus, the formatting was a nightmare (seriously un-fun) and the marketing aspect was a complete unknown. But I learned a lot and was especially touched by all of the amazing people who took the time to review Skies of Dripping Gold, recommend it to others, and take a few moments to message me personally about the story. It has been (and continues to be) an incredible journey.

 

SP: We’d love to pick your brain about your blog. It’s witty, enjoyable and totally packed with great writing tips. How do you decide on topics and where did you learn all of these guru like tips? How do you balance your writing time versus social media/blogging time? 

As much as I’d like to tell you that I have a super intelligent, organized system for my blog, I really can’t. I keep a running list of topics on a whiteboard as I get questions from followers or come across interesting techniques in my various readings. I choose a topic the day before the post is due based off of what I find most interesting during that specific moment. My tips largely come from writing stories and reading other people’s books. I take note of things I like, things I would improve, things that make my eyes bleed, and then go from there. Because it’s such an interconnected system, sometimes my blogging platform time and personal writing time try to blend together, so I set up specific times each week dedicated to these separate activities.

SP: You were a host for this year’s WriteOnCon Conference. How did that happen? What is one (or more) things you learned from hosting it and the conference itself?

Out of the vast expanses of the web, the WriteOnCon team noticed me and knew that I was the best person for the job. Just kidding. One of their team members got sick about two weeks before the event. Alyssa Hollingsworth, one of the lovely creators of this conference who I’d made friends with through twitter and blogging, messaged me and asked if I could fill in. I sent back a (somewhat) professional acceptance response as soon as I saw her request, then proceeded to dance around my room. I learned two things from this event: 1) Pulling these types of events off is a lot more difficult that you’d imagine and requires a lot of teamwork and persistence. 2) We’re all in the same boat: Every writer struggles with similar insecurities and has similar questions about the writing world, so it’s important to be brave, encourage each other, and keep writing.

SP: You started young. How did your parents view your writing? Were they supportive? 

I’m blessed to have incredibly supportive parents. My mom is a former English teacher who not only cheered me on, but reads and gives feedback on all of my rough drafts. My dad enjoys reading about as much as Obi Wan enjoys flying, yet he voluntarily read Skies of Dripping Gold and keeps up on all of my blog posts. I cannot express how much their support means to me.

SP: What is your biggest distraction while writing and how do you combat it?

I’m a perfectionist, so letting my rough drafts be…well, rough, is really difficult for me. I need every sentence to read well, which is an extremely good way to go insane. I’ve had to learn to be okay with writing down something crummy and coming back later to edit it.

SP: Favorite snack or drink while writing? And one more fact about yourself that we wouldn’t know by looking at you?  

None, actually, though I do love listening to music and lighting some good-smelling incense. And don’t let the brightly-colored hair fool you: I love black-and-white rom-coms. I could watch Bringing Up Baby for weeks on end.

SP: Ultimate life-time writing goal? 

Well, after my recent trip to London, my current goal is to write several best-selling Christian sci-fi and fantasy novels and buy a house in the Cotswolds. However, I’ll settle for writing books that encourage and inspire my readers to dream big, trust in Jesus, and push on through their fears.

SP: Ok, which authors/books inspired you growing up and which books are on your TBR list this summer? *SP is doing a summer reading list challenge

As cliche as this will sound: C.S. Lewis has been a massive inspiration to me. I love his honesty and creativity. Aside from Lewis, Douglas Adams showed me the many glorious possibilities of sarcasm and J.K. Rowling taught me how to spin amazing character arcs. My TBR list this summer is bizarre, so don’t run away: I’m reading Dostoevsky (specifically The Idiot and Demons), catching up on Marvel comics, and delving into some classic Japanese authors (Edogawa Rampo, Doppo Kunikida, and Osamu Dazai, among others).

SP: Lol. Not running anywhere. Enjoy! Now, where can we learn more about you and your books? 

Oooo. A question that I know the answer for without having to sit back and think! You guys can visit my website to learn more about my books: http://hannahheathwriter.com. You can also check out my blog for weekly writing tips, along with links to various social media accounts. I’d love to chat with you, so feel free to leave comments or get in touch with me via my website/social medias!

SP: Thanks Hannah!!!

Thank you so much for the fun opportunity!

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Nova, signing off.

Expect the Unexpected*

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Today’s post is inspired by real life events: driving home from Dallas, I was half a block away from my house when the car in front of me at a green light did not go.

I honked politely. I honked longer. I laid on the horn. Absolutely nothing. The light turned red, and I shook my head in disbelief.

As I had a full light cycle to consider my next course of action, I decided at the next green light, if they did not move, I would go around them. That’s exactly what happened, but as I passed the vehicle, I looked inside, and saw the driver was passed out. Yikes! Not what I was expecting.

Does this ever happen in your stories? You think you have a plan for your story – all the main plot points, the path to the climatic event, the catharsis of a happy ending – and then it all gets derailed when a character does something totally unexpected, or the plot suddenly turns on you, like the family dog gone feral. Continue reading

Laws of Attraction: A Guest Post by Irish Author Evie Gaughan

Pen Friends, we are so honored to have Irish Author Evie Gaughan, as our guest today to share some writing insight with us! 

c6f27b3e0cc8c692c21a892fcd6bda06--irishLaws Of Attraction

When writers are asked, ‘Where do you get your inspiration from?’, the perception is that there is one big idea from which the book just flows. While this is partially true, I have found as a writer that my books are more likely to be made up of several ideas, all drawn together in a seemingly random yet perfectly designed patchwork to form the storyline. What begins as a small, fragile idea, lodged in my subconscious, begins to attract other ideas that just magically seem to connect. It is during this ‘germinating’ phase that serendipity peeps out from behind corners, magazine articles, overheard conversations; drawing all manner of flotsam to the shores of your mind, creating a map of the story.

This makes it all sound terribly easy, which of course, it isn’t! Sometimes, patience and observation are the most difficult skills to master. Take my novel, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris. I had the initial idea and rushed at it, like an over-excited puppy. I was watching a TV show about an Irish chef living in France and she visited a renowned bakery in Paris that was shrouded in secrecy, as no-one knew who the baker was. No-one was ever seen entering or leaving and the patrons were very discreet. It’s all so long ago that I’m not sure where the TV show ended and my imagination began. Excited to get the story down, I rushed at my first draft, in which I hit the mother of all dead ends. My original plan for the story just didn’t work. I hadn’t given the idea enough time simmer, to see what other ingredients it might need. And one day, my main character Edith appeared in my head and took over the story, breathing new life into my draft.

Plotting a new book can be a very fraught time for a writer. Continue reading

Author Interview: Carlie Sorosiak

Pen Friends ~ We should be just a tad (read super-mega) excited because today we have the lovely YA Author Carlie Sorosiak with us!! Her YA book, If Birds Fly Back, is fast becoming the next bestselling, swoony, STEM-y (that means: nerdy smart stuff), read of the summer!

 

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SP: Hi Carlie! Thanks for being with us. Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

Thank you so much for having me! So, my first novel just published in the US and UK—it’s called If Birds Fly Back, and it’s about family and first love and disappearances. I’ve been writing for a long time. I went to a Montessori elementary school, where we had journal time every day. Besides recess and the hours reading in a beanbag chair, it was my favorite activity. I wrote my first full-length novel between the ages of nine and thirteen, and although I took a little detour into biology and defense studies during university, I’ve ended up exactly where I want to be.

SP: As one who splits her time between two continents, where do you feel most at home? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? You mentioned wanting to achieve an accent like Madonna’s… have you? Continue reading