Elements of Fiction: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

This book is written in three sections.  Beginnings, middles, and ends.  It is written in a way to help the aspiring writer who may be struggling with one of the above or all of the above.  The book provides detailed exercises, descriptions, advice, and examples to help s/he breakthrough whichever of the three sections s/he finds the most difficult to write.

While the reader only needs to read about the section that gives him/her the most difficulty, I still found the book, as a whole, helpful anyway.  I thought the author made some good points.  Some of the information you may have already known, but it was still presented in a clear and helpful way.  I also felt like this book may help some writers that have a “writer’s block” in particular to one or more of these sections.

One thing I appreciated was that Kress did talk a little bit about what may or may not turn off editors and publishers throughout each of the sections and how a writer really only has the first 3-5 paragraphs to grab an editors or publisher’s attention for a short story and about 5 pages for a novel, which makes those beginnings even more important.  And then she discussed how to refine the start of your book.

One thing I learned, but really is actually quite obvious, is that if you struggle during the beginning, middle, or end, or even more than one part, then the chances that your very beginning set up are well done, are not high.  She really emphasized how one section influences the other and how everything is connected to one another.  If you are struggling with a specific part, chances are that the problem has actually originated earlier than where you are now.  She then went on to discuss how to rework it to make everything flow better.

Overall, I thought this book was a valuable source, but whether or not you need to buy it really depends on the writer him/herself.  If you’re short on money, or just don’t want to spend money on another book, I’m sure you could find this one at a library or online somewhere.  I found it a useful source to me so I did buy a copy to keep in my bookcase.

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A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

After Laia helped Elias escape his execution after the Fourth Trial in the first book, An Ember in the Ashes, Laia and Elias, now fugitives, flee Serra and being a dangerous journey where they not only have to avoid and deal with Martial soldiers, but bounty hunters, other creatures, and nature itself.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf, the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison, to save her brother Darin who is the key to the Scholars’ survival.  He holds the secret to making weapons that can defeat the Empire once and for all.

Elias is determined to help Laia rescue her brother even if it means his life so that the Scholar slaves may have the chance to rise and defeat the Empire with these special weapons Darin can make.  But in doing so will have to come face to face with his former best friend, Helene, who has been ordered to find and kill him by Emperor Marcus.

I find it hard to talk about this too much without giving anything away/spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief.

I waited months for this sequel to be released and now that I have finished it, I can honestly say I was NOT disappointed.  This sequel was even better than the first book of the series, An Ember in the Ashes.  While the book was predictable at times, it was still well done and I was able to over look that fact because of the story’s rich plot and developed characters.  While I felt that Helene could have used a little more development, overall  the book succeeded in convincing me of the characters’ motivations and wants in a realistic way.

This book was an emotional roller-coaster.  During one scene you would be laughing at a character’s typical jealousy antics and then in the next scene you’d be crying and then the next scene you’d want to throw the book at a window.  And then repeat that sequence all over again, but in a different order.

This book kept me glued to my seat and if I didn’t have a job and other commitments, I would have finished this book in one-sitting.  I avoided starting to read it at night because then I knew I’d be up all night.  Some people could get away with staying up all night, but I need my sleep in order to function  semi-decently.  Ha ha!

Overall, this book was definitely worth my time and purchase.  There have been few book series I have purchased and enjoyed as much as I did when I first bought them to many years later.  An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night will not be one of those series.  I know I will enjoy these books for as long as I live.  I would highly recommend this series to all those fantasy lovers out there.

This series is like a young adult version of A Game of Thrones mixed with Roman Empire Gladiator-esque feel.  If you love those components of a story and don’t mind books a little more on the dark-side, then I know you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Happy reading! 😀

Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

Ismae, a seventeen year old girl, escapes her arranged marriage to an abusive man by seeking shelter at the convent of St. Mortian.  Here, the sisters serve the Death God and are trained in his secrets to become assassins, handmaidens of Death.  In order for her to live at the convent, she must learn to destroy the lives of others marked by death.

This leads to her most important assignment at the high court of Brittany, a mission she is heavily under prepared and under experienced for, especially when the convent orders her to deliver Death’s vengeance against the man who has stolen her heart.

Even after I finished reading this book, I still haven’t made my mind up about it.  While there where some entertaining scenes, I also found myself bored at other parts.   This book had been recommended to me by a friend who wanted to know what I thought about it and now that we’ve discussed it, she was in the same boat as me.

While this book was fairly predictable and I think had too much of a happy-esque ending that didn’t seem all that realistic, it still did have its suspenseful moments.  But despite that, some of the prose brought me out of the story, especially some of the dialogue.  I realize this is set in an earlier time, but while I was reading, I couldn’t help but feel like normal people wouldn’t talk like that.  It wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if the older dialogue and prose had been consistent, but it wasn’t, which made it feel choppy whenever it used dialogue that didn’t seem realistic.

While this book wasn’t particularly my cup of tea, I’m sure there is someone out there who would enjoy it.  My advice would be to sit down and read it at a store or library before you decide to purchase it.  I’m not sure if I’d buy the second book in this series, but I may read it at a library or a store if I had free time, but it probably wouldn’t be any time soon.