Tag Archive: reading

How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own WordsHow I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words by Ray White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title alone is enough to grab the attention of any writer dying to get published. Famous and not-so-famous authors share their stories of failure and eventual success in the brutal business of publishing.

Organized into short essays, a number of authors write about their experiences with query letters, rejections, agents, deals gone wrong, and the unpredictable nature of the literary scene. It’s a tough industry to break into and they are very honest about the fact that publishing is not for those with paper-thin skin or a gelatinous spine. As horrible as that sounds, each author’s story has a strong sense of optimism brought on by a taste of success. The odds of snagging an agent or a book deal may be small, but anything is possible.

Two pieces of advice dominate How I Got Published from start to finish. First, there is no perfect tried and true method of getting published. Second, persistence is a writer’s greatest weapon. The only way to find the right agent or get your work in front of an editor is to put it out there and do so relentlessly. Send query letters even when nothing but rejections follow. Keep revising and writing until no word goes untouched. What it all comes down to is hard work, a little luck, and a great story.

The only flaw with an otherwise highly motivational and encouraging read is a problem with repetition. While every author has their own unique story, they all start to blur together about halfway through the book. Furthermore, most of the writers showcased are mystery and crime fiction writers. Little attention is given to writers in other genres, thereby limiting the inside perspective on agents and publishing houses.

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c.b.w. 2013

Book Review: Lupa

LupaLupa by Marie Marshall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jelena is a displaced soul wandering the streets of Rome. While her memory clings to the horrors of the Bosnian War, she tries to find her way to a new a life. Likewise, a woman called Lupa, tries to escape her past by surrendering herself to the fighting ranks of the gladiator class in Ancient Rome. Both stories play out simultaneously as each woman struggles to find her strength and defeat her demons.

When Jelena meets the charismatic Vittorio, she finds herself trusting him despite her usual standoffish approach to strangers. He eventually takes her to an archeological site that he oversees and the dig yields artifacts that possibly belong to a female gladiator. Jelena is instantly intrigued by the idea of a woman strong enough to hold her own in a fight.

Meanwhile, Lupa signs her life over to the Lanista who trains her in the art of hand-to-hand combat. Her journey to fit in as the lone female and to prove herself among the others is the stuff of legend. She goes on to fight numerous battles where one by one, her opponents fall. However, the past is never far away, no matter how many enemies she defeats.

Jelena spends an inordinate amount of time helping Vittorio dig deeper into Rome’s past, but it’s not enough to distract her from the memories of torture, loss of family and friends, and the corruption of her innocence. Her despair is sometimes debilitating, but the spirit of Lupa encourages her to keep fighting for survival.

Marie Marshall captures two historical periods with realistic detail. The Bosnian War is one that is often forgotten, but Jelena’s story ensures the raw emotion of war wounds goes down as something real and heartbreaking. In addition, Marshall’s portrayal of Ancient Rome is vivid with the sheer violence of the gladiator games. Both time periods display the darker side of humanity, while Jelena and Lupa exist to defy the odds. Lupa means “she-wolf,” which is a distinctive characteristic for both women. They share a connection that cannot be broken, for each lives within the other.

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c.b.w. 2013

Book Review: A Matter of Class

A Matter of ClassA Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Regency England, the upper echelons of society thrive on outward appearances and intrigue. Reginald Mason has the look of a gentleman, but his recent behavior of “sowing his wild oats” and accruing massive gambling debts is making it more difficult for his “new money” family to fit into wealthy society. As it stands, Reginald’s father is in the midst of a feud with the Earl of Havercroft, whose estate abuts his lands. Gambling debts and less than appropriate behavior is only giving the Earl more ammunition to persuade proper society to snub the Mason family as a whole.

When the young daughter of the Earl runs off with a coachman in a mad dash to the Scottish border, the scandal soils the family name and leaves Lady Annabelle virtually untouchable to any prospective suitor. To make matters worse, the Earl of Havercroft is in a precarious financial situation as he is going broke.

The Mason family sees an opportunity to elevate their status by marrying their son off to the disgraced Lady Annabelle. They have the money to save the Earl of Havercroft from bankruptcy and they have leverage over their son. Reginald will lose all claim to the family fortune if he does not settle down and marry Lady Annabelle, while the Earl realizes he has no choice but to hand over his daughter to the only eligible bachelor who will have her.

On the surface, Reginald and Lady Annabelle appear hostile to one another and resent the ultimatums presented by their parents. However, not all is as it seems. Beautifully rendered flashbacks offer a tantalizing trail of breadcrumbs that quickly allows readers to become willing accomplices in the ruse.

Balogh scores high marks for capturing the atmosphere of the English gentry and conceiving a delicious twist ending. However, several passages in the novel suffer from chronic repetition of phrases and plot points. For such a short book, the reader can be trusted to remember what happened just a few pages ago. Despite this flaw, A Matter of Class offers a satisfying take on historical romance.

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c.b.w. 2013

Book Review: Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Equal parts love story, mystery, and historical fiction, Maisie Dobbs follows the adventures of a clever woman set on making her way in the business of sleuthing. Little Maisie gets her start as a maid in wealthy home, but as soon as the Lady of the house realizes the potential of the girl cleaning her fireplace, she becomes a benefactor in Maisie’s education.

Thanks to natural smarts and dedicated study, Maisie works her way into Cambridge University where she excels. However, the call of duty to the French battlefields of World War I sends Maisie on a different course. She steps away from university and serves as a nurse to wounded soldiers fresh from the trenches. The brutality and horror of war will weigh heavy on her long after she returns home. Especially, since her time on the war front is linked with memories of her first love.

To her credit, Maisie returns to Cambridge and finishes her studies after the war. Thanks to her childhood tutor and clever wit, she jumps right into the business of private investigating. One of Maisie’s first cases leads to a mystery involving the death of a wounded World War I veteran, which naturally dredges up many horrific memories. Despite her own demons, Maisie works relentlessly on the case with her own brand of deduction and fact-finding. This is one tough woman and it takes more than a murderer and wartime memories to scare her away from sniffing out the truth.

Jacqueline Winspear deserves huge kudos for enlivening early 20th Century London with so much detail. The same is true for the characters she creates as they feel so real their pulses practically bounce across the page. Maisie herself exudes incredible spirit and determination, but her pain is also quite palpable when it comes to all she’s endured in her young life.

Maisie Dobbs is a great read for anyone who loves a strong female character and historical escape mixed with a little romance and intriguing mystery.

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c.b.w. 2013

Aside from setting my 2012 writing goals, I decided to give myself an additional goal by joining the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge. After all, to be a writer is to be a reader. Even though I already have a habit of reading a respectable number of books each year, I thought it might be fun to set a number and go for it.

The first six months of 2012 went very well as I averaged about 1 book every week or so, but by summer I got very distracted with writing and craft projects. As a result, I had to start reading like a lunatic from September to December! Despite my irregular reading schedule, I managed to reach my goal of reading 30 books before the end of the year. Yay!

I did it!

I did it!

In addition to reading 30 books, I made a secondary goal of writing a snapshot review for each book, (see My Bookshelf). Most of the time, I was able to stay on track with this, but there were multiple times throughout the year where I fell behind (most notably November and December). That being said, I’m happy to report every review was completed before the end of December.

While all the titles I read are listed on My Bookshelf, I really love seeing a grid of book covers that shows the wide variety of books I read this year. I read everything from classic literature, non-fiction, and biography to trashy romance novels, young adult, and children’s books. There’s nothing like a little diversity to fire up my muse!

Book List #1

Book List #2

Book List #3

Now, it looks like a I cheated a bit with Mr. Happy and friends, but these books are very special to me. I read them when I was a kid and they were always among my favorites. As an adult, I haven’t so much as seen a Mr. Men or Little Miss book until I went to London in 2011. My love of them was rekindled and so was my desire to read them again. This year I received a boxed set of the first ten books in the series as a gift for Christmas and I was so excited! They are still wonderful little books!

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As for the 2013 Reading Challenge, I’ve already jumped in with a goal of reading 30 books.

Are you up for the challenge? Check out Goodreads and sign up!

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c.b.w. 2012


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