Saturday, April 5, 2014

Emperor's Edge #1


Emperor's edge tells the story of Amaranthe Lokdon, a female enforcer in the city of stumps who (in no fault of her own) ends up on the wrong side of the law. Trying to redeem her place in history, she gathers together an unlikely team of "heroes" called the emperor's edge in order to protect the young emperor from danger and hopefully in doing so, get back on the right side of the history books.

  Blah - that was a pretty dry summary for such a fun book!

 EE is the first of 7 books which tells the story of how Amaranthe Lokdon and her team (of misfits and Sicarius, cause he's no misfit) try to redeem themselves and save the empire. In my opinion this book (and series) are just such fun to read (and re-read - always a good sign). Although set with a serious setting (i.e. political instability etc.), and with certain themes like morality and leadership running through the series, it manages to be a light and adventurous read which captured me from beginning to end (and then made me go and read all available books in the series in 3 days).

 I believe Lindsay Buroker's great talent (which is reflected in all her books) is her character development and dialogue. The characters in her books come alive, with us rooting for them from beginning to the end. I think any other writer would be very much in danger of making Amaranthe unlikable or a Mary-Sue, but Lindsay instead makes both a strong and talented character which is also very likable that (like in the books) draws you in and wants you to be on her side. Similarly, the character of Sicarius the taciturn assassin could easily have been a paper-cut out/assassin stereotype or Gary-Stu, but through out the series (and with various eyebrow twitches) we slowly see a much richer character. In seeing these characters grow during the series, and seeing them grow closer - it adds both romance and a believably element that these two characters know each other and belong together (rather than typical UF/PR romance of insta-love which can often be too prevalent).

Beyond the great characters, dialogue and funny moments, it was Sicarius and Amaranthe's growth and their relationship which made me come back again and again to these books to get that lovely warm feeling of reading a very enjoyable book! I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone if you enjoy a fun light adventure series with great characters and lots of laugh-out-loud dialogue!!

 It is now FREE on all major e-book websites so go on read it!!

FYI: This is a cross-post from my blog

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: The Boy With The Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick


Title: The Boy With The Porcelain Blade
Author: Den Patrick
Release date: 20/3/2014
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: Lucien de Fontein has grown up different. One of the mysterious and misshapen Orfano who appear around the Kingdom of Landfall, he is a talented fighter yet constantly lonely, tormented by his deformity, and well aware that he is a mere pawn in a political game. Ruled by an insane King and the venomous Majordomo, it is a world where corruption and decay are deeply rooted - but to a degree Lucien never dreams possible when he first discovers the plight of the 'insane' women kept in the haunting Sanatoria. Told in a continuous narrative interspersed with flashbacks we see Lucien grow up under the care of his tutors. We watch him forced through rigorous Testings, and fall in love, set against his yearning to discover where he comes from, and how his fate is tied to that of every one of the deformed Orfano in the Kingdom, and of the eerie Sanatoria itself.

My thoughts: This book was not what I was expecting from the blurb and opening chapter. It starts at a critical point in the main character Lucien's life, as he faces the final test that will complete his training as a soldier. It goes horribly wrong, and Lucien is soon exiled from the city. Demesne is a city split into elite houses, each with a speciality, ruled by a king no one has seen for decades. Lucien is one of the 'Orfani', treated to an exceptional education & living in luxury, but separated by some kind of abnormality - in Lucien's case, he has black fingernails & no ears.

The book alternates from chapter to chapter between the present where he deals with the consequences of exile, and the past where we learn more about him, from when he was a small child gradually getting closer to the present.  While some of these flashbacks were interesting, I did find myself skimming through several of them, wanting to get back to the excitement of the present and the maturity of 18 year old Lucien rather than the more childish version in the other chapters.

I felt like it took until the second half of the book for the story to start living up to the promise of the first couple of chapters, with the intrigue and the challenge of a system finally coming out. That's where it really started to pick up for me and I felt far more engaged. Lucien's journey across the city, through the creepy sanatoria, the oubliette, and onwards, trying to rescue & save his friend before she is co-opted in to another gruesome experiment, kept me on the edge of my seat.

The other thing worth commenting on is that this is quite a creepy story. I'd almost class it as horror rather than fantasy. There are a lot of spiders, so I found myself picking my feet up from the floor while I read some parts! If I'd been watching this on tv, there are a lot of places where I think I would have been peeking around a cushion at the screen.

While it takes a little while to get to reach the potential set up by the first chapter and the blurb, 'The Boy With The Porcelain Blade' is a gripping fantasy story which will keep you up past your bedtime and probably sleeping with the light on. I look forward to the second book in the trilogy.

Overall, I give The Boy With The Porcelain Blade 7/10.

-Ailsa

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Letterbox Love: belated birthday edition


This is a catch-up Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves post for the last few weeks, because I've been so busy lately!
 


All links go to Goodreads.
First up, there's the great 'Beyond Jealousy', book 4 in the 'Beyond' series by Kit Rocha. I loved this, and posted my review on Thursday. (Click through to see a contest!)
   

Next, there's 'The Lady Always Wins' by Courtney Milan, a short historical romance story which was free on Kindle for a while. I'll be posting my review for that one this week.

Then there were my birthday books:


'Prince of Thorns' by Mark Lawrence. First in a fantasy series that has been on my wishlist for a few months. I'm planning on taking this on holiday with my in April.

'Half-Off Ragnarok' by Seanan McGuire. 3rd in her InCryptid series. I'm not sure if I'll review this one yet, as I really don't have praises I haven't already said. I love every one of Ms McGuirre's books I've read, and this was no exception.

'Curtsies & Conspiracies' by Gail Carriger. Book 2 in the 'Finishing School' series. I'll probably review this one when I read it, sometime next week after my dissertation is handed in.

'Lunch in Paris' by  Elizabeth Bard. Another that's been on my wishlist for a while. It's been a while since I read any travel stories, so I'm looking forward to this.

Last but by no means least, I was one of the 'Gollancz Geeks' picked out the hat to review this.


'The Boy With The Porcelain Blade' by Den Patrick. I'm reading this at the moment & enjoying it. I think 'gritty fantasy' might be an apt description.

What did you get recently?

-Ailsa

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: Beyond Jealousy by Kit Rocha


Today I'm excited to be taking part in the blog tour for the release of 'Beyond Jealousy', book 4 in the O'Kane series by Kit Rocha.


Title: Beyond Jealousy
Author: Kit Rocha (aka Moira Rodgers)
Release date: 17th March
Source: Review copy
Genre: Dystopian

Description: She’s been looking for the perfect man. She found two.
When Rachel Riley sacrificed a life in Eden to protect the O’Kanes, she earned her place in the powerful Sector Four gang. But the former crime princess is tired of being everyone’s sweet little sister . It’s time for her to get wild, to embrace her fantasies as only an O’Kane can—with a delicious exiled soldier and the gang’s wickedly sinful tattoo artist.
A saint...
Lorenzo Cruz is a warrior, taught by his commanding officers in Eden that involvement equals distraction. Emotion is a liability, and desire a sin.  In Sector Four, he finds decadence, shameless sex—and his own dark urges. No battle strategy prepared him for how Rachel makes his heart race…or the way his rival for her affections sets his blood on fire.
...and a sinner.
Ace Santana has a dirty reputation and a mind to match, especially where his new lovers are concerned.  He’s eager to help Cruz embrace his dominant side, and to explore the lines between pleasure and pain with Rachel. But corrupting them quickly becomes an obsession, a need he can’t deny—and a love he never imagined.
Three hearts on the line means a hundred ways their ménage a trois could go wrong. After all, even O’Kanes do forever two-by-two.  One of them could be the missing piece that makes them all whole…or a temporary diversion destined for a broken heart.

My thoughts: If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I'm a fan of this series. I love the dystopian world the ladies who make up Kit Rocha have created, with a civilisation forced to change after solar flares knocked out a lot of the electricity sources and communication devices. Eden is an isolated city, meant to be a perfect place, and around it are built the Sectors, each run in a different style by a different leader.

One of my favourite things about this book is that we're really starting to learn more about the world outside Eden, and how Eden is managing to run itself, and protect itself from any other cities. There are hints that the city is managing its resources very badly, despite apparently being set up to cope just fine, which is something I think would be very interesting to see as the series continues.

Tension between Ace & Rachel has been there since the beginning. They've always "sparked" as Ace puts it, but the wrong words coming out mean that as the book starts, they're not exactly getting along with each other. Instead, Ace and Cruz have turned their work partnership into something a whole lot more personal. There are some very hot scenes as the group set aside their arguments and start trying to make a go of things as a threesome. Of course, love is never simple, and although they work as a three when it would probably never last with any of them in a pair, it's hard to feel balanced in a three. Ace's past makes it very difficult to let other people in, and the events of Beyond Jealousy really push him to accept some things.

There are so many things developing around this romance, too. The fake O'Kane liquor from book 3 comes back to keep causing trouble, and Rachel's father the beer brewer from Eden becomes involved. The crisis leads to something which has been brewing in these books since the beginning and I can't wait for the next book to see how the next stage of things starts to play out.

With 'Beyond Jealousy', Kit Rocha shows a steamy hot menage-a-trois come together, while further exploring their dystopian world, and the effects of events in the previous books. As ever, I'm waiting desperately for the next in this brilliant series.

Overall, I give this one 8 out of 10.


Competition time!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: Banished by Liz de Jager


Title: Banished
Author: Liz de Jager
Release date: 27 February 2014
Publisher: Tor
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Source: Promotional copy from WFC '13

Description: Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

My thought: I've been looking forward to this since I heard Liz de Jager had a publishing deal. Her old review blog was the first one that got me in to book blogging, and I have always admired the way she wrote in her reviews. I was not disappointed: Banished is the start of a great new urban fantasy series that I can't wait to share with my friends. And look at that cover! Don't you just want to see that on your bookshelf?

The story opens with an episode of Kit's 'everyday' life as she works under cover at a school to banish a banshee. It introduces the things she and her family do for their job, and that our world runs alongside the fae world. After her fight with the banshee, Kit goes home to recover for a few days, and that's when the trouble starts. When she meets Prince Thorn, his attackers turn their attention on her house, forcing the two to flee. As they move from place to place, bits of the jigsaw of what is happening start to come together and they try to stay one step ahead of their enemies as they head north.

The first person point of view threw me off a little bit at first, as I don't usually read books written that way, but once I had time to sit and read larger sections in one sitting, I adjusted. Seeing everything from inside Kit's head really let's you see how she is trying to fit in to this role of 'a Blackhart', keeping the human world safe, while fighting her own insecurities and coming to terms with the death of her gran, who raised her. Ms de Jager nails the 16/17 year old voice, and although I was never running around Britain with a fae prince in tow as a teenager, I felt like I could relate to Kit's experiences.

Banished brings in a fantastic cast of characters and I felt like several of them could probably carry a book of their own. My favourite is Aidan, a werewolf around Kit's age who accompanies her & Thorn for a lot of the trip. I think it's safe to guess he'll be in the next book and I'm looking forward to learning more about him. Kit's cousins are also really interesting even though there's really only a snapshot of what they get up to.

For me, the first half of the book was a series of peaks and troughs with bits I raced through reading and bits which were slower. It built up the momentum, so that when the little group leave London half way through the tension amps up and I was holding my breath as I kept turning pages to see whether Kit would save the day. Once the story grabbed me in that second half, it didn't let go. I was a little worried about a cliffhanger ending, and although readers are absolutely left wanting more, it's satisfying enough that I'll be able to cope ;-)

A fantastic debut, Liz de Jager's 'Banished' introduces a relatable young heroine whose quest to save her friends had me on the edge of my seat. I can't wait for book two.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10.

~Ailsa

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Letterbox Love: another UK author


 



As always, welcome to Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves, memes hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Lynsey at Narratively Speaking.

I hadn't planned on buying any books, as I still have a massive pile to read through that I picked up in November at WFC '13, but this book has been on my radar for a while and I noticed that the Kindle edition was really cheap this week - only 79p!

Brighton Belle, by Sara Sheridan.



As you can guess, this is set in the UK, and the author is actually from Edinburgh, where I live! I've read the first couple of chapter, and I'm enjoying it so far. I expect I'll finish it by the end of February or early March. If you're interested, it's still reduced on amazon UK.

What books did you get this week?

~Ailsa

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Review: Marked (Anthology) by Vivian Arend, Kit Rocha & Lauren Dane


Title: Marked (anthology)
Authors: Kit Rocha, Lauren Dane & Vivian Arend
Release date: 10th February, 2014
Source: Review copy from Kit Rocha

Description: New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lauren Dane takes you into a brand new world in ALL THAT REMAINS. Summer Killian falls fast and hard when Charlie arrives in Paradise Village. But the heat turns all the way up when she learns Charlie is also with Hatch - the man she loved three years before. While she's not sure she's cut out for a triad, neither man is going to give her up. 
           Take a ROCKY RIDE with New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Vivian Arend as she leads you back to the Six Pack Ranch. Anna Coleman might be the law around Rocky Mountain House, but bad boy Mitch Thompson knows that under the stiff RCMP uniform is a woman with a passion for speed and pleasure that matches his own, and he's not giving up until she's his.
          Kit Rocha returns to Sector Four in BEYOND TEMPTATION. A promise to a dying friend backfires when Noah Lennox finds that the girl he was supposed to rescue is all grown up - and wearing O'Kane ink. He wants to protect her from the secrets of their past, but she wants him. And an O'Kane woman always gets what she wants. 

My thoughts: 
Beyond Temptation, by Kit Rocha
I've been a Kit Rocha/Moira Rodgers (different pen names) fan for a few years now, particularly their latest series which follows the O'Kane gang in a post-apocalyptic city somewhere in America. This novella focuses on Emma, apprentice tattoo artist, and Noah, a computer hacker. We haven't seen much of either of these characters before, but you quickly get to know them. Noah can't believe how different Emma is now to the girl he knew, but he doesn't trust that she is genuinely happy where she is, and he has some secrets of his own that would be better off with fewer people knowing them. Noah needs to decide how much he's going to align himself to the O'Kanes, and what the consequences will be.
I did enjoy this story, and of course, with a Kit Rocha book, there are some smoking hot sex scene, but I was still a little disappointed that the conflicts were resolved with relative ease. Part of that, I know, is the curse of the novella - there just aren't the words for things to go on too long, but I felt like there was a lot more to Noah and his secrets that could have been explored. Hopefully this means that he'll continue to be an important character in the next book and we can learn more about him and the significance of his past. I felt like some of Noah's secrets are going to have a big impact on the future of Eden & the sectors.
While I think you can pick this up and enjoy reading it without being confused, you'd definitely be best to start with 'Beyond Shame', the first novel in the series, and read them in order.

6/10

Rocky Ride, by Vivian Arend
This is novella 1 in a new series set in the same area as Ms Arend's 'Six Pack Ranch' books, and the timeline picks up after 'Rocky Mountain Freedom'. However, I struggled to connect with some of the characters and setting at first, and suspect it would be easier to read the other series first. Anna and Mitch open the show with a very hot scene on a quiet road, which sucked me in. The first few chapters were interesting, and the little glimpses of the world she has created made me want to read the other Rocky Mountain books. Then we get to the conflict of the book. Mitch wants to pull Anna out of her shell, as she almost acts like a different (and happier) person around him. This seems fair enough. My problem was that Anna is so hung up with her job as a police woman. She has a particularly irritating partner who I wanted to smack, he was just so idiotic. He's the sort of person who (I write this as a UK citizen) gives American cops a bad reputation, refusing to look past people outward appearance, seeing Mitch's tattoos as a clear mark that the man is no good, amongst other things. He holds massive prejudices against several groups of people. I also found it hard to see that there was really an issue with Anna being a police woman - just do you, girlfriend! Thankfully, all is redeemed in the end. Unlike with the Kit Rocha story above, I think this story is exactly the length it needs to be.

5/10

All That Remains, by Lauren Dane
Another new series, this one is set in a future America after a new kind of plague has wiped out large parts of the population and changed the way people live. With far more men born than women, people living in groups of 3 or more is common. I really enjoyed what was going on in this one, although the writing in some of the early chapters did keep tripping me up - the story was good, but I felt like in some places, it was like a statue that hadn't been fully cut out of the marble block yet - I could see that it was good, but there were still bits that needed trimming away to show it at its best. Luckily that feeling disappeared as I got to the middle of the story. However, I felt very uncomfortable with that last couple of chapters. Summer, rightly given the situation, gets cross with Hatch about something. She is cross, then the two men come to her house, and they all have sex. I never felt like he appologised. And the sex they have is with Hatch bossing everyone around. Given the argument, and the lack of apology, I really did not enjoy reading that sex scene at all. I've had another look as I write this, and it still makes me squirm (in entirely a bad way).

Given my very mixed feeling with this one, I don't feel like I can give this a rating. It was on track for a 7 or 8, then dropped to something like a 5.


While I did enjoy these stories, they did prove again for me why I tend to lean away from anthologies. Partly they can be too hit-and-miss for me, and partly I just like my stories to be longer and more developed. I'd love to hear what you thought of Marked if you've read it.

~Ailsa
 
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