Sunday, July 31, 2011

All Virago/All August

I'm sitting in lovely Somerset at the moment, cat... well, somewhere, she's off exploring. And I'm musing over reading plans for my holiday. I don't normally plan my ahead for my fun-reading (since university and book group reading are scheduled as it is) but I did think I might get on board with 'All Virago/All August'. Not to be confused with Virago Reading Week, which I'm hoping will come back next year, AV/AA is run by the Virago Modern Classics group on LibraryThing. It seems to be pretty informal - just a way of encouraging people to read the VMCs they've got waiting.

Well, most of the books I want to read soon are in Oxford, so I'm basically going to pick at whim down here in Somerset. Not that I'm short on books here - most of my collection is housed in my Chiselborough room - but the ones which I *really know* I want to read soon aren't here. Which means there are shelves and shelves of things with exciting potential...

Sprinkled through this post are my Virago shelves in Chiselborough. I have another 20 or so in Oxford - not a huge collection, compared to many members of the LibraryThing group, but enough unread to keep me going for August (and, indeed, probably most of 2012). Sorry the pictures are a bit blurry - however often I took pics, I couldn't get them any crisper than that. Hopefully you can make out the titles!

Of the ones I've not read, here are six which caught my eye. Any thoughts? (Oh, and I already love Ivy C-B, so no need to try and warn me off her! I know she's an acquired taste...)

And if you're a member of LT and not yet in the VMC group, I encourage you to join! I signed up months and months ago, but only recently started posting - they're very friendly, knowledgable, and even share out duplicate copies, when they turn up.

I'll let you know how I get on with All Virago/All August. I doubt I'll only read Virago novels during the month (indeed, I'm having something of a reader's block at the moment, and just started the most unlikely book - will tell you about it later) - but I'm hoping to read at least two or three that have been waiting for my attention.

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly bookish meme hosted @ The Story Siren


(Thanks to Nevera de Libros!)

Sea by Heidi R. Kling

You don't know how happy I was to receive this book! I won swag (the shoe and some stickers) last year and since then I wanted to read it :D

For my Kindle:

The Hunger GamesCatching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


To Scotland, With LoveTo Catch a Highlander

To Scotland, With Love (MacLean Curse #2) by Karen Hawkins
To Catch a Highlander (MacLean Curse #3) by Karen Hawkins

I just read the first one of these series and liked it, so why not?

Simon and Schuster Galley Glab / NetGalley:

Drink, Slay, LoveIn Total Surrender

Drink, Slay, Love by Margaret K. McElderry
In Total Surrender by Anne Mallory
Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins (no cover yet)

I just love NetGalley! And S+S Galley Grab too, except that I can read their galleys on my Kindle.

What did you get this week? Please leave your links in the comments :)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The First Draft

They say that writing a novel is a one thousand step process. Well, I'm proud to say we officially just finished Step One: The First Draft.

Awwwww. She looks JUST like you, honey!
And despite confusing timestamps, we didn't actually pull this off in one day or anything. We've actually been writing for about a year and a half now. We would have blogged about it back then, but it would have been the most boring blog ever. But today, we're officially done! Woohoo!

You know what's scary? They say that writing the first draft is BY FAR the easiest step. The easiest. And it took a year and a half. Does that mean we're about to get hit by an avalanche of horror?

I mean, seriously. Now we have to try to actually SELL this thing. We actually have to try to convince agents and publishers that what we've been working on for a year and a half is worth an amount greater than ZERO dollars. That thought terrifies me.

Somehow, Kristy doesn't seem worried at all. She just keeps staring at that manuscript, grinning. I think she's just happy we finished it.

OK, seriously, hun, you've been stuck like that for two days. It's starting to freak me out.
You know what? Screw it. I'm going out tonight and getting roaringly drunk. Tomorrow may be uncertain, tomorrow may be unpredictable. But tonight? We can be happy.

Song for a Sunday

I remember when I first heard Amy Winehouse sing - it was on some Saturday morning music show, and she had yet to release her first album. She sang something from it - I don't remember which song, and at the time I didn't even like the song itself all that much. But her voice. I couldn't believe it was coming out of her - that rich, soulful, jazzy voice. I think it is best shown-off in this beautiful rendition of 'Love is a Losing Game'.

Book Review: Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke

Author: Deborah Cooke
Series: The Dragon Diaries #1
Release Date: June 7th, 2011
Publisher: New American Library
Age: Young Adult
The next generation of shape-shifting dragons from the popular author of the Dragonfire novels.

Zoë Sorensson is perfectly normal, except she's been told she's destined for great things. Zoë's the one female dragon shapeshifter of her kind. But Zoë is at the bottom of the class when it comes to being Pyr and her powers are AWOL, so she's sent to a Pyr boot camp.

Zoë quickly realizes that she has to master her powers yesterday, because the Pyr are in danger and boot camp is a trap. The Mages want to eliminate all shifters and the Pyr are next in line-unless Zoë and her friends can work together and save their own kind.
You probably know I love dragons, so when I discovered this book I thought it was perfect for me.

It's the first time I read a book from this author, and I understand she has already written books about the previous generation of these characters. But you don't need to read the previous series to read this one.

Flying Blind is about Zoe, the only female shape shifter dragon. She has a responsibility greater that everyone else. She's supposed to have special powers that will help the Pyr, but she can't even shift into a dragon!

Zoe is young and very immature. She feels like a failure because her powers are missing, but when she accidentally shifts in front of another girl while fighting, instead of being punished by her parents, she's sent to boot camp. It's the best thing it could happen to her, because not only she'll see Nick, the boy she's crazy for, but also her friends.

The plot of Flying Blind was interesting. Zoe is positive her powers are going to appear as soon as she starts boot camp, and she's pretty sure Nick will fall in love with her. Obviously things doesn't happen that way, and when she and her friends are trapped in the woods and starts to fight, she's the only one who have the powers to help them.

I was interested in the shape shifting and the powers of the dragons, but I didn't enjoy too much the characters. As I said before, Zoe was very immature and I didn't liked how her "friends" treated her. She had too much pressure of herself, and they always asked her to do things she couldn't do. Also, they are supposed to know each other since babies, but when a mage comes and puts a spell on them, they not only hated her and tried to hurt her, but actually were very mean to her.

Sometimes it was a unrealistic, as for example when Zoe instantly developed her powers. Or when the hot, older and good-mage guy finds her interesting, specially after she's described to be as a 12 years old girl. I think in the next books, when Zoe is older and more sure of herself, this little details will work better.

But I have to admit that what I liked more was the turns in the plot. When I thought everything was going to be simple, the author actually managed to change something and made the story better.

Overall, Flying Blind it an interesting debut from this author into Young Adult books. It has fantasy, romance, action and awesome dragons. Although it wasn't for me, I think some of you might enjoy it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stuck-in-a-Book's Weekend Miscellany

Hey folks! Hope you've had a good week. Mine involved making the ridiculous cake below, with my lovely friend Lorna. I'm off on holiday tonight, cat-sitting at home for a week, then off to Shropshire and Wales with my bro for a bit. I was going to have proper posts ready to pop up, and who knows, maybe I still will - but... Well, something will appear, but it might be on a somewhat rationed basis. Still time for a Weekend Miscellany before I board the train, though...

1.) The blog post - is a lovely photo post by Diana, being Part 1 of a multipart series documenting her recent trip to the UK. I'll come into it somewhere towards the end, but the first part is delightful - more general, about her 29 trips to these shores, with a great group of photos taken over the years. I swear, she knows Britain much better than I do.

2.) The link - so, the Man Booker longlist is out. I have read none; I own the Julian Barnes. This is the last time I shall mention anything to do with it...
3.) The book - had gone into a pile to go home: interesting enough to keep, but not to read for a while. It's Let Not The Waves of the Sea by Simon Stephenson, and I kept my review copy from John Murray mostly because I love the cover. And then I read this article from the Guardian, wept over it, and want to read it. Let Not The Waves of the Sea is non-fiction, about Stephenson's relationship with his brother Dominic, who died in the 2004 tsunami. My brother is the most important person in my life, and I love any book which cherishes the importance of siblings - even if this has a terribly tragic element, the blurb writes that it is 'more than a book about what it means to lose a brother: it is a book about what it means to have one in the first place.'

For Your Amusement...

Ah, the inaugural post of a blog. It's kinda weird writing this thing. I mean, in normal blog posts, you're talking to an existing audience, but in this case, there is no audience. I mean, I just started this thing half an hour ago. So I guess I'm really writing to future readers, aren't I? Let's take a minute to address them now.

Well, hello there, reader from the future! I realize that there are probably so many other things you could be reading right now, as you ride your flying space-train to your super awesome space-job in the laser-mines, and I just wanted to thank you for spending it here!

So now that you're comfy, I may as well introduce myself. My name is Bryce, this is my lovely wife Kristy, and we are aspiring writers.

I know, I know. Terrible idea, right? But this really is just a natural progression for us. You see, the two of us have a saying: We shall only embark on a dream if it's widely considered to be a terrible idea. Last year, I was a shooting instructor for the blind. The year before that, Kristy worked as the hot-tub cleaner at the Jersey Shore mansion. And the year before that, I was a bull-fighter.

This is going into your performance review.
So why are we blogging about this? Well, all those other times, friends and families kept commenting on how much fun it was watching each of our terrible ideas germinate, sprout, and then bloom into terrible, terrible consequences.

And let's not kid ourselves. Everything we've read has told us that this road to becoming a novelist will be one of the longest, emotionally-scarring, soul-crushing experiences there is. Which means to anyone watching, this is probably going to HIGH-larious.

So, come along with us! We'll laugh, we'll cry, we might even learn a thing or too! I don't know where this journey will lead us, but I can promise you one thing: It won't be boring.

Book Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Little Blue Envelope #2
Release Date: April 26th, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Age: Young Adult
Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny's backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.
Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he's found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.
The Last Little Blue Envelope is the sequel of 13 Little Blue Envelopes. If you read it, you most remember, Ginny's last envelope was stolen and she had to end her journey her own way. It has been a year and suddenly, she receives an email from a guy who found her backpack (and her letters) and knows she still has one left to read.

I think I liked this book more than the previous. 13 Little Blue Envelopes was good, but I thought Ginny was kind of boring. Instead, now Ginny is older, wiser and more adventurous. She knows this may be her last chance to have an adventure, so she decides to go back to London and retrieve her letter.

Of course, she also wants to see Keith, the hot actor Ginny met last year. They have been talking via internet, but lately Keith has been busy...and she really misses him.

Maureen Johnson manages to create a realistic story of a girl looking for her path. Not everything works out as Ginny's plans when she arrived at London, Keith may have a new girlfriend and Oliver, the guy with her letters, wants to steal from her.

I;m glad not everything was perfect for Ginny, because thanks to that she had so many different opportunities. And I really  liked the changes of the characters, in a year people can change so much without even noticing it.

I liked Ginny much more in this book. Keith was the same, kind of immature, but he shows his other face. He can be actually very mean, and I can't believe Ginny's feelings didn't evaporate right after she saw him again.

Oliver was supposed to be the bad guy, but it's so easy to like him. He wants Ginny and him to finish her last task, which will meant that she probably will gain lots of money. He wants money, but it's obvious his reason is more than greed. He was reserved and mysterious, but also sweet. I couldn't stand reading Keith being mean with him, I just wanted to scream to Ginny to do something.

Overall, The Last Little Blue Envelopewas very enjoyable. I was glad I read about Ginny again and see that she have been maturing and really looking for her path. As I said before, I liked better this one that 13 Little Blue Envelopes, so if you already read that one, I recommend you to read more of Ginny's adventure.

More about this book at www.maureenjohnsonbooks.comGoodreadsAmazon, The Book Depository.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: By His Majesty's Grace by Jennifer Blake

Author: Jennifer Blake
Series: The Three Graces
Release Date: July 26th, 2011
Publisher: Mira
Age: Adult
The Three Graces of Graydon are well–born sisters bearing an ominous curse: any man betrothed to them without love is doomed to die.
Much to her chagrin, Lady Isabel Milton has been given to Earl Rand Braesford—a reward from the Tudor king for his loyalty to the throne. The lusty nobleman quickly claims his husbandly rights, an experience Isabel scarcely hoped to enjoy so much. But youth and strength may not save Braesford from his bride's infamous curse…
Accused of a heinous crime with implications that reach all the way to King Henry himself, Braesford is imprisoned in the Tower, and Isabel is offered her salvation—but for a price. She has the power to seal his fate, have him sent to the executioner and be freed from her marriage bonds. Yet the more Isabel learns of Rand, the less convinced she is of his guilt, and she commits to discover the truth about the enigmatic husband she never expected to love.
Lady Isabel Milton and her sisters are cursed with the curse of the Three Graces of Graydon, which says that any man betrothed to them without love is doomed to die. It's the perfect curse for someone who doesn't want to marry, like Isabel. After seeing the brutal marriage of her mother, it's her wish to remain alone.

But it's impossible to refuse the King when he orders her to marry Sir Randall Braesford, as a gift to him for his services.

I really liked Isabel. Even when she's being controlled by her stepbrother and the King, she wants very much to be independent and free. She has a liberal mind and a strong attitude, but she knows when or where she can't win.

But my favorite was Rand. Sexy and very strong, he has a sweet heart and respect for women like no other character in this book. He's delicate with Isabel, and he only wants to be accepted by her.

It's my first book from this author, but I'm really glad I read it. Also it's my first medieval romance and I wasn't sure I was going to feel comfortable with it, but the author manages to make you feel like if you are at that time, with a little bit of historical background and details of the life at that age, without making it boring.

The romance between Rand and Isabel was sweet. Isabel doesn't want a husband but Rand actually wants to have Isabel as his wife. He can't wait to have their wedding night, but then it's interrupted because Rand is being charged with the murder of a child. It's really the curse, or maybe one of Rand's enemies?

The plot has the perfect balance between romance, adventure and action. Rand is being accused for something he didn't do, but why? Could it be the King, Rand's stepbrother or Isabel's stepbrother? While Isabel and Rand are trying to discover who is behind this plot, they start to share more time together and get to know each other. Their romance scenes where very hot and also romantic, Rand is sweet but also desires her very much, while Isabel is more sensual. She doesn't only finds pleasure with him, but affection and maybe love.

Overall, I loved By His Majesty's Grace. It's the first book of The Three Graces series, and I can't wait to read Lady Isabel sister's stories, Cate and Marguerite.