Starting A blog: Lesson 1

So, here’s the first thing I’ve learnt since starting my blog all of 10 days ago:

Make sure you know what your blog theme offers you!

I, incorrectly, assumed that one WordPress theme was much like another, they just looked different. How wrong was I! They all offer slightly different functions and, depending on what you want from your blog, create a different environment. I initially chose a theme I liked on face value, but in retrospect, it didn’t quite provide the function or feel that I wanted for my blog. Talk about jumping in the deep end.  So I’ve changed it, sooner rather than later, so as to cause the minimal amount of disruption to those of you who have very generously decided to follow me. I hope you like it.

The second thing I’ve learnt since starting my blog about my book writing is this:

I haven’t had time to write my book!

One of the reasons I started this blog was to help me maintain my writing progress. How can I blog about my book and my writing if I’m not actually writing it? The more interaction I have with the writing community the more I want to write. I was fully aware that it would take some time to get the blog up and running. But I haven’t written one sentence of my book since the blog was launched! Time management is going to be key if I want to maintain my writing pace for the book and create a successful and interesting blog. I need to set targets for each and stick to them.

The third thing I’ve learnt in my 10 days as a blogger is:

How amazing is the writing community!

Ultimately, we’re all in competition with each other. We all want to write in some way or fashion, and we all want to succeed. But the writing community is a rare gem in that we don’t compete with each other. It’s a community I’m proud to be a part of.  We support and encourage one another in a way that I’ve never come across before. It’s like we’re in it together, one writers’ success is a success for us all. As long as there are people that want to read there are those of us that will always want to write, not for money or fame, but for the love of the written word. Wielded well, the pen is as mighty as the sword, as sharp as a knife and as gentle as a kiss. That’s what I’m chasing, what I’m hoping to achieve, and I’m glad to have you all with me in my endeavours.

Happy writing, peeps!

 

Daughter of the Flames (Ruan #1) by Zoe Marriott, Book Review

Goodreads Blurb

What if your deadliest enemy were the only one who could save you?

Inside an ancient temple in the mountains, fifteen-year-old Zira trains in the martial arts to become a warrior priestess who can defend the faith of the Ruan people. Bearing a scar on her face from the fire that killed her parents, the orphaned Zira is taught to distrust the occupying Sedornes. Terror strikes when the forces of the tyrannical Sedorne king destroy the only home she knows. To survive, Zira must unravel the secrets of her identity, decide her people’s fate — and accept her growing feelings for a man who should be her enemy.

My Review

Rating: 4*

Another great read by Zoe Marriott. DotF follows the story of 15 year old Zira. Although she is young, she’s fearless, which is just as well, because the antagonist in this story is warped as well as evil.

Ms Marriott has been very clever with this book because, not only do you get to know the heroine in DotF, you also get to know her opponent and his motivations and, strangely, you feel some sympathy for him. It really makes you question what makes a person evil? And can evil people do good things? I like when a book has the power to make you ask questions of morality without actually posing those questions or preaching at you. 

Once again, we get to experience Ms Marriott’s great characterization. You have a very clear picture in your head of each individual that plays a part in the story and you feel that you get to know them as the story progresses. I very much enjoyed the interaction between Zira and Sorin.

The writing is clean, the pacing is good throughout and the plot is easy to follow, flowing seamlessly from one scene to the next. She builds a very believable world and creates engaging characters that you become emotionally invested in.

This is Book 1 in the Ruan series but they are stand alone books. Perhaps if I would have read this one before I read Frostfire I would have given it 5* but Ms Marriott has had time to hone her skills. That does not take anything away from this book, though. It is well worth a read.

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) Jim Butcher, Book Review

 

 

Goodreads Blurb

Harry Dresden — Wizard.

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

 

My Review

Rating 4*

Harry Dresden is a Wizard for hire. Along with helping civilians with magical problems, for a fee, he also works with the Police Department when they have magic related crimes. In this first volume of The Dresden Files, Harry gets embroiled in a crime that spans magic and the mafia, while at the same time trying to prove to the wizard authority, the White Council, that he is not breaking wizard law by practising black magic. To make matters worse, the Police have Harry in their sights, too.

What makes a refreshing change for this type of Urban Fantasy is having a male protagonist and a male author. Though I really liked Harry, perhaps that is also why I found it a little bit difficult to stay completely immersed in the story. And the fact that Harry was a bit hapless simultaneously added humour to the story and turned me off. Perhaps it was my own expectations that tripped me up here. Even though I like to think of myself as an open-minded reader, perhaps I’m more set in my ways than I thought. 

There are some great characters in this book, Butcher has a gift for giving a real personality to his characters, all of them different, all of them with a back story. Even if he doesn’t share all of it with us, the reader, you get a sense of them without him belabouring the point. That is the books real strength, along with the quality of writing. 

It’s flaw, for me, comes from the pacing of the story. The first half of the book felt very slow, though I understand he was world-building, while the second half was relentless. Poor Harry stumbles out of one impossible situation straight into the next. I personally enjoy the odd moment of stillness in a book, a chance for the protagonist, and me, to catch our breath. And I do like my leading men to be a bit more Alpha male. Again, though, I’m willing to concede it may well have been my own expectations that got in the way. 

This was a hard one for me to rate because Harry is a contradiction. On the one hand he’s accident prone, not too great with women, and seems to attract danger, while on the other he’s a formidable Wizard. If I was rating it purely on how much I enjoyed the book I would have given it 3*. But if I take into account the fact that this is a well written book with great characterisation, a solid mystery and the ability to challenge my expectations at every turn, in good faith I can’t give it less than 4*. 

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer, Book Review

 

 

Goodreads Blurb

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

 

My Review

Rating: 5*

Well, what to say about this book!

I love reading books with beautiful prose and vivid descriptions that paint pretty pictures in your mind and carry you away somewhere else.

This book is not one of them. 

This book seems to have taken the other route, the route where the author focuses on the story more than the prose, the characterisation rather than the setting. This is not writing by numbers, this is writing by feel. 

Cinder is an intelligently written story and I like the choices that Meyer makes throughout the book. The writing is clean and simple in the best way possible, you barely notice the writing. It flows, it’s smooth, it’s secondary to the telling of the story. It’s not distracting. Meyer gives you just enough for your mind to fill in the rest. She is not showy with her skill, and I believe it takes a skilled writer to write in such a minimalist way and for the story not to suffer for it. Instead of being carried away by pretty writing, it’s the story itself – and the way Meyer tells it – that draws you in. If she would have written in flowery prose it would have read like the original fairytale, and a fairytale this book is not. Meyer hasn’t re-written Cinderella, Meyer has taken all of the pertinent moments from Cinderella and re-invented it. 

If The Brother’s Grimm were only now writing the fairytale of Cinderella, this is the story they would write.

Bravo, Marissa Meyer.

 

Widow’s Web (Elemental Assassin #7)by Jennifer Estep, Book Review

 

 

Goodreads Blurb 

I used to murder people for money, but these days it’s more of a survival technique.

Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town. 

Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back in town, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. 

Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.

 

My Review

Rating: 4.5*

Gin Blanco is still one of my favourite female protagonists, and Jennifer Estep is yet to let me down in her recounting of Gin’s adventures. Perhaps I’m just in a demanding or particularly picky frame of mind right now,(I get like that when I’m in writing mode) because, as much as I want to, I can’t give this book 5*. 

Why? I hear you ask. If you love the story and you love the writing, why not give it full marks? 

I only have one answer to that. For the first time in reading an Elemental Assassins book I felt the formula. This series, as with many ongoing series, does follow a formula, but usually with this series I don’t notice it. The story flows logically, with one or two surprises on the way, ending with Gin kicking ass. But with Widow’s Web it felt very similar to a couple of the earlier books, just with a couple of name changes. The result of that was it lacked a little of the usual Gin magic that I have become accustomed to.

That is the only criticism I have of this book. What I am enjoying is watching Gin’s development as a person, aside from her identity as The Spider. I very much like how this book focuses very heavily on Owen and his background, which I hope means we’ll be seeing more of him as the series progress. In fact, many of the characters that feature in this series are growing and changing, even Jo-Jo (g’wan, rude girl!) has a little twinkle in her eye. Thankfully, Finn has stayed exactly the same: flirtatious, materialistic, fiercely loyal, utterly loveable.

I wonder what book #8 has in store.

Lover Enshrined (Black Dagger Brotherhood #6) by JR Ward, Book Review

 

 

Goodreads Blurb

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly war raging between vampires and their slayers. And there exists a secret band of brothers like no other—six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. And now, a dutiful twin must choose between two lives…

Fiercely loyal to the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Phury has sacrificed himself for the good of the race, becoming the male responsible for keeping the Brotherhood’s bloodlines alive. As Primale of the Chosen, he is obligated to father the sons and daughters who will ensure that the traditions of the race survive, and that there are warriors to fight those who want all vampires extinguished.

As his first mate, the Chosen Cormia wants to win not only his body but his heart for herself. She is drawn to the noble responsibility behind the emotionally scarred male. But Phury has never allowed himself to know pleasure or joy. As the war with the Lessening Society grows grim, tragedy looms over the Brotherhood’s mansion, and Phury must decide between duty and love…

 

My Review

Rating: 5*

How I’ve missed the boys! It’s been a while since I’ve read this series as I’d heard that they has changed for the worse. Now, having read it for myself, I have to disagree. They have changed somewhat, perhaps edging closer to UF than PNR, but I liked the changed. The series has grown, in my opinion, the stories are deeper, more emotional, and more exciting. I understand why that may not be to a lot of BDB fans liking, and I was worried myself as I’m old and don’t like change, but I loved it.

Phury is in a bad place. He’s much more like Z than I’d previously thought, and Ward really explores the depths that he has sunk to. You really develop concern for Phury that I’m not sure I felt for the others in the earlier books to this degree. That may be because I’ve forgotten them or because of how Ward’s writing has changed. I liked exploring the psychological aspect of one of the Brothers.

And how cool are the Baby Brothers? We really get to see how the next generation of BDB are growing into their shitkickers in this book, and rather a lot of it focuses on them, which I didn’t mind in principle, but would have liked maybe even more about Phury.

All told, a great read, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as the previous 5, and am certainly going to keep reading this series.

Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver, Book Review

 

 

Goodreads Blurb

I’m pushing aside 
the memory of my nightmare, 
pushing aside thoughts of Alex, 
pushing aside thoughts of Hana 
and my old school, 
push, 
push, 
push, 
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

 

My Review

Rating: 3.5*

I’ve finally identified the problem with this book. When we read books we enter into a tacit yet unspoken agreement with the writer to allow ourselves to be manipulated. But we don’t want to be reminded of that throughout the book. We want the writer to conceal their machinations so we can fool ourselves long enough to go along with their story. This book was much better on many levels than book 1, but I think this was it’s main flaw. There were no surprises. It was simply too predictable.

As much as I like to play detective when I read, I like nothing more than being so surprised by the direction a story takes that I occasionally get whiplash. That’s why people go on rollercoaster’s, otherwise theme parks would just be full of trains.

For me, this book was a train when what I wanted was a rollercoaster.