Saturday, December 31, 2011

Giveaway: Hush Hush & Evermore


Happy New Year! Whether you celebrate it or not, I hope you have a lovely new year. I know I'm a few hours early, but to get things off to a good start, I'm giving away a book. It will be winner's choice, of either:

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Book 1 in the series)


Evermore by Alyson Noel (Book 1 in Immortals series)


How to enter:
1) Follow the blog
2) Leave a comment on this post telling me something you are looking forward to this year.
3) 1 extra entry for each link to the giveaway that you share. Sharing links is not a requirement, but please let me know in the comments where you've linked, ie, twitter, blog post, etc.

The rules:
  • Contest will run from December 31st - January 14th contest extended! January 18th, closing at Midnight GMT.
  • Open internationally.
  • Must be a follower.
  • Winner chooses one book, the remaining one will return for later contests.
  • Winner will be announced on the blog, and I will either contact you through your profile email, or wait 1 week for you to reply to the winner's post. You DO NOT have to leave your email in a comment.
  • Winner will be chosen at random.
  • Winner announced January 19th.
Let me know if you have any questions that I've missed.
And to get started, the first thing I'm looking forward to this year is my university snow sports club trip next week! I can't wait to go skiing again, it's been too long.

~Ailsa

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And we're back! (Contest soon)


Welcome back! I hope everyone had a happy Christmas time, or enjoyed the break if you don't celebrate it. I have several reviews waiting to go in the new year, but I want to save them just a few more days until everyone is done with celebrations, and I'm back in Edinburgh again, with the books I'll be reviewing!

I'm hoping to run more contests this year. We're slowly getting nearer to 200 followers, and we'll definitely have a giveaway when that happens. It's my 21st birthday in March, and again, I've got a few things I'm planing on doing for that ;) But, to kick things off, I'm giving away a copy of either 'Hush, Hush' by Becca Fitzpatrick, or 'Evermore' by Alyson Noel. It'll be winners choice, open internationally, and I'll do a post for it on New Years Day, so don't forget to come back then and enter!

I'm excited for another year of book blogging, and I really do want to make it more regular for me this year - I'm aiming for 2 reviews (or more!) a week, plus In My Mailbox on Sundays. My IMM posts will start again in January.

~Ailsa

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A few new things


I've been playing around with the site a bit, and I just wanted to point out a couple of our new features.
First up, just under our 'guidelines' box on the right, you can share the blog in a variety of ways, eg Facebook, Stumble, or Twitter, just by clicking. I've also tried to turn on the button where that should show up at the bottom of each post, but I don't think it's working properly yet - hopefully that will be there soon, so if you read a post you like, share it!

You can also subscribe to the blog feed, or sign up to get new posts emailed to you - those are both in the same place, just on the right hand side of the blog again. Google have announced plans to stop using the 'google follower count' tool next year, so if you want to keep up with the blog, consider subscribing!

Let us know what you think, and there will be book reviews coming up very soon!

~Ailsa

Friday, December 2, 2011

Events: The Miami International Book Fair



Clockwise from top: Colleen Houck, Me, Sarah Dessen, Nancy Holder, Debbie Viguie

I meant to post this a while back, but Thanksgiving, NaNoWriMo, and work got in the way. Well, better late than never, right?

The weekend before Thanksgiving Miami Dade College hosted the Miami Book Fair International. This week long event culminated in a three-day street fair and presentations by dozens of authors from all genres and styles. So much happened it's impossible to fit it all into one post, so I wrote up two: one recap of Saturday, and one of Sunday.

For anyone living in South Florida, attend if you can in 2012. For anyone not in the area, check out your local college and see if they host something similar. It might not be on the same scale as this, but I've learned first hand that any contact with writers is worth the trip. :D

Hope you enjoy, guys!
Sera

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekly Roundup & mini IMM


Hi Guys!

So, it's been a silent week on the blog. I'm sorry :( I didn't really get much reading done, or at least, I didn't finish reading any books, so I had no reviews to put up for you. I've got both my term essays for uni due in next week, so I've been frantically trying to get the readings done for them, and writing them, and keeping up with everything else that's going on... It's been a bit of a crazy week for me. I'm hoping to get a review of The Name Of The Star by Maureen Johnson up later today, or tomorrow. Please check the box on the right hand side to see what other fun things are coming up :)

I did buy one ebook this week, which I've actually finished reading. It was Captives of the Night, by Loretta Chase. I read an excerpt for her newest book, but it isn't available as an ebook yet, and I wanted to read something light straight away, not wait for it to be delivered. This one was only £2.75 on kindle, so I thought, why not, and it was actually a really good mystery alongside the romance. This one might get a review soon.

What have you guys been up to this week? What did you get in your mailboxes?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nanowrimo update time


So, with about ten days to go, depending on what time it is where you are now, and how long you intend to keep writing on the 30th, how is nanowrimo going for you all?
I'm about five days behind where I should be with my word count. I broke through the 25 thousand word barrier yesterday! That means it's all downhill from here - the number of words I still need to write is smaller than the number I've written. Hurray! But the downside is that that took me 20 days. I now only have ten to go. I also have the problem at the moment that my uni essays are due in just under two weeks, and for the last weekend in November, when I could be finishing essays, or catching up with nano, I'm going to be away with friends until bedtime on Sunday.
I don't want to get sucked in to thinking that Nano is like homework - needing to write 1666 words by midnight, OR ELSE. It should still be fun. And much as I'd like to, I don't want to be prioritising nano over that uni work.
So, at the moment I'm trying to write something every day. Let's say at least 1000 words. If I can make the daily word count, or a little bit more, then that's great, but don't berate yourself too much if you can't make it. Writing should be fun. It's not homework.

How are you doing with your word counts, fellow wrimos?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

In My Mailbox 20/11


Welcome to another week of In My Mailbox! Hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, IMM is a way to show people the books you got this week.

As usual, please check out the other posts we've shared this week - we love to hear your comments!

This is a slightly sleepy IMM, so please forgive the occasional pauses and confused looks. It was a long day.


The Name Of The Star, by Maureen Johnson
Hard Bitten, by Chloe Neill

Thanks to Gollancz for:
Drink Deep, by Chloe Neill,
Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner
Shakespeare's Landlord, by Charlaine Harris


What did you get in your mailbox this week?

~Ailsa

Series review: The Caldwell Sisters, by Lucienne Rivers


Title: Hold Me (book 1), Thrill Me (book 2), Entice Me (book 3)
Author: Lucianne Rivers
Release date: August/September/October 2011, each
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Source: e-book from publisher for review

Description: Meet the Caldwell Sisters.
Reeling from their mother's untimely death, Jane, Allison and Margo Caldwell each go searching for answers... and for their missing father. Treachery, traps and temptation abound in this thrilling contemporary romance trilogy.

My Thoughts: As each of these books is a short novella (around 80-90 pages each), and I don't have overly much to say, I thought I would review the series as a whole in one post. Please let me know if you like this style of review.

At the beginning of Hold Me, Lucianne Rivers gives us the reason for the series: the three sisters are meeting their attorney to hear the reading of their mother's will, and it's revealed that the father they thought was dead is alive somewhere. The recently deceased Candace has left a quarter of the estate to him, and a quarter to each daughter, with their family home going to whoever finds their father first. The sisters hire a private investigator who finds two men who could possibly be Zach Caldwell, and Hold Me follows Jane as she sets off for Guatemala to track down one of them.

The first thing that struck me as we got in to the story was how ridiculously naive Jane is about travelling. I like to travel, I usually travel alone, and as a young solo traveler I think I can relate to some of Jane's feelings and experiences on her trip. But I have to be honest and say that when I was travelling after high school, 18 years old, I had more travel-smarts than Jane does. By a long way. Firstly, she gets off a plane and makes her way to the bus station where she has no idea when the next bus is, or how often they go. She seems to have assumed that she won't have to wait, because she's not expecting to be in town for the night. I could forgive the bus timetable part if it was a last minute trip, but this is two weeks after the reading of the will. Plenty of time for her to plan how to get to her destination. Surely she could have worked out that she would need a room for the night. Enter 'Harrison', who does sound very tasty, and luckily for Jane really is a decent guy coming to her rescue, because she needed a break. The attraction between them is clear almost straight away, but he holds back, worried he's taking advantage of her, and for other reasons. When they both finally do decide to investigate what's between them, I thought it was very sweet. It's been a while for both of them since previous lovers, and they are both very concerned about each other all the time. I liked the way that part of the story turned out. However, Jane's naiveté is shown again and again in the story, and it really annoyed me. She's supposed to be a news reader, she's the one in the family who lives in the city - she should be a lot more sensible than she is, and I couldn't believe some of the situations she walked in to.

In Thrill Me, it's Margo's turn, and she goes to the Virgin Islands, where she quickly meets Adrian. His cousin, laid up in hospital, gets him to take over delivery duties to some of the local islands, and luckily, this is the boat Margo has been recommended to take to see if her father is living on one of those islands.
I think this is my favourite of the three stories. Margo is a police detective, used to being 'one of the guys' at work, and described later by her sister as 'a serial dater'. Adrian makes his living from the tourists with his own boat, and is seriously hot to boot, but has been with his newly-ex girlfriend since they met in college. Things start well on the boat, with their flirting moving quickly to other things, but then it turns out that Adrian's cousin hasn't just been making grocery deliveries with his boat, and Margo and Adrian are in very hot water, very quickly. I liked the speed of this one, and the characters themselves.

Finally, in Entice Me, Allison goes to Afghanistan with private investigator and retired navy SEAL Robert Rivera. Robert knows how dangerous the area they're going to is, and won't let Allison go by herself. Of course, being in a room together for propriety's sake, they end up with more than just the business partnership. I had a few issues with the realism of this story, but I do like how the romance comes out.

I don't really like stories where characters are madly in love after knowing each other for just a couple of days, but I guess it's one of the things that often comes with a novella. Ignoring that, the Caldwell Sisters trilogy is a sweet romantic series that was a nice light read. The action was enough to keep me reading and the pacing is good.

I'll give this series 7 stars.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Coming Soon! Transendent: Tales of the Paranormal


Some friends of mine will be included in an upcoming YA anthology called Transcendent: Tales of the Paranormal. Their cover was just released, and WOW! What a cover it is! As soon as I have more information, I'll come back and share it, but I've read the stories inside and I can't wait to see them in print! So, without further ado, may I proudly present Transcendent:


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

River Marked, by Patricia Briggs



Title: River Marked
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Orbit (UK)/ Ace (US)
Release Date: Feb '11
Source: library
Notes: book 6 in the 'Mercy Thompson' series - review may contain spoilers for earlier books.

Description: Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known she was different, and not just because she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Marcy is a coyote shapechanger, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. And she's never known any others of her kind - until now.
As Mercy takes in this new situation, an evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River. Something deadly is coming, facts are thin on the ground, and Mercy feels ill at ease. However, her father's people may know more. To have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the alpha werewolf Adam, will need all the resources the shifters can offer. Or death will be the least of their worries.

My thoughts: This is a series that I've enjoyed a lot so far, and I've been looking forward to reading this book. It's a little bit different from some of the others in that there's a lot of Mercy & Adam on their own, and not so much of the pack, or other groups of people that we've come to know, like the local vampires or fae. I know some people were a bit disappointed by this, but having finished the book now, I'm actually ok with what we do get. The very start of the book sees Mercy arriving at Stefan's house to find out why he hasn't been returning her calls, and to drag him to 'Bad Movie Night'. Stefan is having a hard time from what Marsilia did to him in the previous books, and we only see a little bit of him in this book, but I think it's something that needs a little while to develop - Stefan needs time for things to change, and these books often only last the space of a couple of weeks, so although there isn't much development of 'what's-up-with-Stefan' in this book, I think that's much more realistic.
The movie night gave me just enough of my Kyle & Warren fix to get by - I absolutely love the interactions between those guys, Mercy, and the pack.

Avoiding major spoilers, we get to see some of Jessie's scheming (I love that kid!) before Mercy and Adam head off on their own for the rest of the book, bar a couple of chapters at the end and the occasional phone call. I really liked getting so much of Mercy & Adam together. One of my favourite quote from the book is between them:

"Argued with your back fence neighbour," said Adam, his voice very gentle.
"And watched him when he wasn't looking," I agreed. "Because every once in a while, especially after a full moon hunt, he'd forget that I could see in the dark, and he'd run around naked in the backyard."
He laughed silently. "I never forgot you could see in the dark," he admitted.

This book sees a lot more about the native american side of Mercy's heritage. I felt like the plot was a little bit slow sometimes, but it was very interesting. People keep going missing near the Columbia River, and Uncle Mike wants Mercy & Adam to have a little look, and find out more. I thought it was an interesting 'bad guy', but not as good as ones from previous books.

My overall feeling for this book is that it was really good for showing us more of Mercy and Adam learning to live together as a mated couple, and the challenges that involved. They still have a lot that they need to accept about each other's personalities, and this story gives them a chance to do that to some extent. I wasn't as keen on the mystery side of the plot, but it was still a very good book overall. For the next book, I hope there is more time with the pack, and maybe how it's influencing them to have Mercy there too.

I think I'll give this book 8 stars over all - a bit slow sometimes, but I really liked it!

~Ailsa

Saturday, November 12, 2011

GLOW by Amy Kathleen Ryan


I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book from the publisher.  Thank you to St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to review it even though my review is a 2 months overdue and this book was released back in September.  Oh well, I will still review it.

I've noticed a new trend of young adult novels heading to the regions of space and space travel because the earth has long since died.  At first I wasn't too excited about it but after reading a few (2 out of 3 of them I've read, I've liked) and Glow so far is in that "like" category.

Here is the summary from goodreads.com:

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue? 

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them... 

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth. 

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.



First off, the story line is intriguing.  I couldn't stop thinking about it as I read the book.  What was going to happen next?  How were these characters going to survive all this that they were going through?  Basically, as I read it, it is a very much so thrown-into-the-action-coming-of-age-story.  The characters: Kieran, Waverly and Seth all have so much that they must do to overcome the obstacles that are thrown at them from the very beginning.  From Kieran proposing to Waverly, to Waverly not knowing what she really wants from life aboard the Empryean, to the attack that changes all of their lives for good.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.


The characters are enjoyable to read.  I didn't like so much to read from Kieran's point of view when it came along, I much more enjoyed Waverly's.  She is such a down to earth but strong personality young woman that certain parts of her person were relatable.  It's also much easier to be able to put yourself in a girl's shoes when reading  when you are a girl.


Kieran and Seth were, in my opinion, similar as in they both really wanted to help Waverly, but both opposite ends of the spectrum.  Kieran, the captain to be of the Empryean and Seth, the kid who no one really understands.  The struggle for power and the resistance to each other throughout the ordeal is really what makes this "love triangle" with Waverly more interesting.  I like how the author dealt with Seth as the get things done in order to survive style, even if it means picking on the weak ones to make a point and how Kieran comes to when he is put in charge and even is able to lift that small spark of hope to one that is large and forthcoming.


What was interesting in this book is that it takes place on two identical ships.  The Empryean and the New Horizon.  Both ships heading to a New Earth because our current earth and its resources were depleted and humanity needed to survive.  But the struggle doesn't lie within getting to the new planet.  It's within its people and the ranks and sharing survival skills.  Survival of the fittest really gets a new meaning in Glow.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story.  Each turn took you in a different direction of trust.  Who could you trust?  When?  It's a good story of survival and hope that will keep you guessing to the very end.  Even then, you still don't know who to turn to anymore.





In My Mailbox


Welcome to this week's In My Mailbox! IMM is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

No vlog again this week, because although I got a couple of ebooks to review, I don't have any pretty paper copies to hold up. I'm expecting a couple of books though, so, fingers crossed, next week will be the interesting week!
I can only apologise again for not posting more reviews. I've just had a really busy week with trying to keep up with my uni work and nanowrimo - being ill for a couple of days this week didn't help either.
OK! On to the books:


The Christmas Cookie Chronicles: Cassia, by Lori Wilde

This one is a romance, I think, set in a small town near Christmas time. Cassie's old flame moves back, but he broke her heart once, so who knows what might happen now he's back? I'm looking forward to reading something sweet. This one comes out on November 15th.


Vamped Up, by Kristin Miller

I'm a little confused of what this one is about, because the blurb didn't really give much information, but it's described as 'paranormal' and there are vampires, so fingers crossed I'll like it! This one is out on the 6th of December.

Thanks to Avon Impulse for both of those!

If you missed it, Jess posted a review of 'Glow' yesterday, and Sera is hosting a givaway of 'Saints Astray', by Jacqueline Carey, on her blog - you can scroll down the main page for both of those.

What did you get in your mailbox this week? I love seeing them, leave your links in the comments!

~Ailsa

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Giveaway: One SIGNED Copy of Saints Astray!


Hello, everyone!

Through a stroke of blind luck, I am currently hosting a giveaway on my blog for one SIGNED copy of Jacqueline Carey's newest book Saints Astray. Jacqueline Carey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kushiel Saga as well as the Sundering duology. She is phenomenal!

In addition to the book giveaway, I'm also hosting a contest inspired by Thanksgiving and NaNoWriMo. I'm asking everyone to submit a paragraph telling me what they're thankful for and why. The ones that are the most inspiring, funniest, and all-around awesomest will be posted on my blog on Thanksgiving morning.

Anyone who wants to enter, just fill out the form on my blog. And spread the word if you know anyone who might be interested!

Jacqueline Carey Giveaway;
http://www.sera-phyn.com/2011/11/giveaway-jacqueline-careys-saints.html

Thanks, everyone! And good luck!
Sera
<a href="http://www.sera-phyn.com">sera-phyn.com</a>

Sunday, November 6, 2011

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, and is a way to share which books you got this week.

I'm not doing a vlog this week, because I only got one book:


Smokeless Fire, by Samantha Young. I won this from Karen at The Slowest Bookworm. Thanks Karen!

In case you didn't see them yet, I posted a review yesterday of Grave Dance, by Kalayna Price, which I loved, and talked in another post about my Nanowrimo progress so far. Scroll down the main page to find them.

What books did you get this week?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nanowrimo update the first


So, we're 5 days in to Nano, and I thought I'd best do an update before my week gets busy again.

I've actually found things to be going well so far, word count wise. There was a little blip on Thursday where I was busy doing other things and sort of forgot to write things until it was past midnight, but I got a little bit caught up on Friday, and then did the rest of my catching up today. I'm currently about 200 words ahead of target, which gives me that tiny bit of wiggle room. I have to say, I think this is the best start I've ever had.

I'm aiming to reach the daily amount of words (1667) each day, and not worrying so much about the overall targets, which is helping me stay motivated when I do get a little bit behind. Rather than having a big scary number of words that I have to do to catch up, I still only have that safe, manageable number. I've got the main introductions out of the way now, and although it's very choppy, I think things are going to get better now. I've reached the point where I can start writing about what I actually wanted to - the 'real' start of the story. Characters have met, first sparks have been felt, and now I can start pushing people together in situations they don't want to be in, and making bad people do suitably bad things. *rubs hands together evilly*

If you're falling behind a bit - don't worry! This is only day five! There is still the rest of the month to catch up! And it's the weekend - this is the traditional catch up time. If there's a local group near you, it can be quite encouraging to sit and write with other people who're taking on the same challenge - I find it's good motivation to keep reaching the daily goal.

How are things going? Do you have any handy tips or tricks for making your word count, catching up, or just staying motivated?

~Ailsa

Grave Dance, by Kalayna Price



Title: Grave Dance
Author: Kalayna Price
Publisher: Roc
Release date: July 2011
Source: Bought at Transreal Fiction, Edinburgh (local independent book shop)
Notes: Book 2 in the Alex Craft series

Description from back cover: Whoever said dead men tell no tales obviously never met Alex Craft...
After a month spent recovering from a vicious fight with a sorcerer, grave witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil, thanks to the disappearance of Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews and a shocking "L"-word confession from Death himself, Alex is eager for the distraction of work. But her new case turns out to be a deadly challenge.
The police hire Alex to consult on a particularly strange investigation in the nature preserve south of Nekros City. The strange part: There are no corpses - only fragments of them. A serial killer is potentially on the loose, and Alex has no way to raise a shade without a body, so she'll have to rely on the magic of others to find leads. But as she begins investigating, a creature born of the darkest magic comes after her. Someone very powerful wants to make sure the only thing she finds is a dead end - her own.

My thoughts: I loved the first book in the series, and the second book kept up the high standards.

I really enjoyed getting to learn more about the characters involved, and to watch how Alex changes as she learns more about her power (and where it might have come from). Alex's father is still a bit of a mystery to her after the revelation at the end of book one, and although he only gets a little page time himself in this book, he's there long enough to give Alex just a little more information about himself, and of course raise a whole lot of new questions for her about him. I have a feeling that

Overall, I do think I prefer to 1st book, Grave Witch. There is a little too much build up to pain in this book - one of the situations being built up in this book can not end well for the people involved, and I don't want to see the characters get hurt as it unfolds. I'm looking forward to book 3, but I am a little apprehensive about how much emotional pain might be in store for Alex.

I love the mystery element in this story - they keep finding left feet everywhere, and no bodies or right feet. I won't be able to think of someone dancing 'like they have two left feet' without thinking of this book any more!

I loved Grave Dance - I'll give it 8 stars. Recommended for fans of stories involving fae, mystery solving, and sexy supernatural men ;)

~Ailsa

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nanowrimo time!


I'm sure most of you have heard of NaNoWriMo, but if not, it's short for National Novel Writing Month, and you can find out more about it here: website.

I'm participating for the 4th or 5th time this year (I can't actually remember when I started), but I'm hoping that this year will be the one where I succeed!
The big reason why I haven't made it to 50k in the past is that I get somewhere where I realise that I have to think about the plot more before I can carry on. And some plot things for me take a while to cook in my head. This year, I'm trying to do two things differently.

First, I've tried plan more before I start - more of the background information that won't necessarily make it on to the page, but nevertheless is important to know about the situations in the world of this story. (Of course, then I had an idea on Saturday about the antagonists that actually fits much better than what I'd originally been thinking, so I've lost a lot of my planning and story arc, but I'm sure I can get it back!)
Secondly, I'm going to try and be a bit more relaxed about putting things in that don't seem strictly necessary - I'm going to try and be flexible about when things happen, and random things popping up. The big one I can think of is flashbacks - a lot of important things for my main characters have happened just before the story starts. If I need to reach my word count one day, I'm thinking of adding in a flashback to certain key points in those events.

Are any of you doing Nano this year? What are your strategies, if you have any? Would you be interested in talking about our progress here on the blog as the month goes on?

If anyone wants to be 'buddies' on the nano site, my username is 'dragon-girl' - a leftover from my 16 year old self thinking it was an excellent and original pseudonym on the internet.

~Ailsa

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

First up, I'm really sorry about the video quality this week! I used the webcam on my computer, and for most of the video it doesn't match up with the sound. Sorry guys!
Secondly, did you see the series of 5 reviews Sera posted this week? Scroll down our main page to check them out - they are some great YA books.


What did you get this week? Let me know in the comments!

~Ailsa

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen



“Life can be long or short, it all depends on how you choose to live it. it's like forever, always changing. for any of us our forever could end in an hour, or a hundred years from now. you can never know for sure, so you'd better make every second count. what you have to decide is how you want your life to be. if your forever was ending tomorrow, is this how you'd want to have spent it?”

Losing someone you love is hard enough without being there to watch them disappear before your eyes. Hard or not, this is exactly what happens to Macy Queen when her father dies of a heart attack as she watches helplessly. Macy’s older sister grieves by bawling her eyes out for days. Macy’s mother avoids her pain by working nearly twenty-four hours a day. Macy copes by falling for the guy who has all the answers, who has somehow managed to become perfect. For over a year she copies her boyfriend Jason’s every move and goal becoming a straight A student, active in extracurricular activities, and a model daughter, but then Jason leaves for the summer to go to Brain Camp. Suddenly, Macy is left to her own devices and filling in for Jason at the library where the other employees (both female versions of Jason) seem to go out of their way to make her miserable. Everything seems to be going as well as can be expected until an email from Jason blows her world to pieces: I think it’s best for us to take a break from our relationship, and each other, until I return at the end of the summer. It will give us both time to think, so that in August we’ll know better whether we want the same things or if it’s best to sever our ties and make this separation permanent. After reading this email a spur of the moment decision and a twist of fate find Macy signing on to join the Wish catering crew, an unlikely group that just happens to include the sawoon-worthy Wes. Macy eventually discovers that Wes is also on a break from his girlfriend and the two develop a strong friendship, bonding over their non-relationship statuses and a seemingly never-ending game of Truth (the only rule, you have to tell the truth). When the end of summer starts looming closer every day, questions start to race around Macy’s head. Should she get back together with Jason? What will happen to her friendship with Wes? Why does it feel like she’s finally alive for the first time in years?

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen is brilliant. I’ve only ever read one of her other books before (Lock and Key, also highly recommended), but I loved that one too. Sarah has a way of dealing with powerful emotions issues and family crises without making them depressing or overly melodramatic. Her characters are real and relatable and her writing is beautiful. Honestly, authors like Sarah make me wish I was still a “young adult” so that I could have discovered her at a younger age. Her stories make you think about a variety of topics but always seem to leave you with a sense of hope. I loved the subplots in this book, especially; they came together so beautifully by the end. This book will make you take a long look at death, grief, family, love, friendship, truth, flaws, luck, life, choice, infomercials, junkyard art, prison records, and how sometimes finding perfection means accepting that you’ll never have perfection.

Sera’s Rating: 10/10 stars

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pure Red by Danielle Joseph



“I, Cassia Bernard, do solemnly swear to find pure red—my passion—this summer. Dad's passion is art. When he's painting, no one can reach him, not even me. My mom's passion was the ocean. She said the ocean allows you to see whatever you want to see. That was one of the last things she ever said to me...”

Especially for someone who usually feels adrift, meeting someone with a passion—a true purpose for their life—can be unsettling. Living with someone like that is downright depressing if, like Cassia Bernard, you can’t seem to find your own guiding force. Remembering how she used to like playing pickup games of basketball, Cassia joins the summer league in hopes of discovering a love for the game. Not too far into the season, though, she suffers a bad sprain and is forced to sit it out while she recovers. During her recovery, she decides to take a ceramics class and finds something else that may call to her. While all this is happening, she’s dealing with a best friend in the gushing, obsessive new-relationship phase, her perpetually clueless father who gets so wrapped up in his art he forgets to come to her games, and Graham—a new boy who worships Cassia’s father, the famous artist, but doesn’t seem to see Cassia for herself. Will her father ever come out of his own mind long enough to really connect with her? Will Graham ever be able to see past her father long enough to ask her out? Will she ever find her calling?

Like Indigo Blues, Pure Red is more about the characters than the action. Again, I enjoyed Danielle Joseph’s prose and think she has an amazing talent for phrasing. I especially enjoyed the constant use of color and the way Cassia interpreted everything by color—including the opposing teams of the summer league. The characters were interesting and well written and although I would have enjoyed more doing, that’s not always necessary. I think the main reason this book couldn’t get to the four-star mark for me is Cassia’s passion. She states herself that finding her passion will be her goal. Honestly, the buildup was so heavy through the whole book that I really wanted an epiphany moment. I wanted everything to come together like puzzle pieces magically flying into place as she realized, “Oh, goodness! How could I have been so blind!” I didn’t get that. In fact, less than a week after reading it I had to go back to the book to make sure she actually had found her passion at all. I remembered the things she had been interested in, but the realization had been so quiet and subtle that I didn’t feel as though it meant as much to her as it should have. I liked Graham who turned out to be even more interesting at the end of the book than I thought he’d be, but her father annoyed me. That, however, was probably only because it would have driven me crazy to have my only parent be as disconnected and scatterbrained as he was. There were a couple of side characters that I felt went nowhere, but the ones that stuck through to the end made for a very interesting bunch. I recommend the book especially to anyone who likes art or color. It’s also always interesting to read something set in my area of the world (the story takes place in Miami). Overall, a good read, but I expected more from it.

Sera’s Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Indigo Blues by Danielle Joseph



“When I found out that ‘Indigo Blues’ hit number one on the Billboard charts this morning, I ran to the bathroom and threw up. Then the toilet lid smacked down on my nose. Now, at the insistence of my mom, I’m zoning with an ice pack on my face.”

Think about the worst rumor anyone has ever spread about you and then imagine that someone turned that rumor into a song and it became a hit single overnight. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. This is Indigo’s life.

Told from alternating points of view, Indigo Blues shows what happens to both the songwriter and the muse after a breakup inspires a hit single. Adam Spade’s band Blank Stare is the newest craze and all Adam can think about is Indigo. She won’t return his calls or texts, but she never leaves his thoughts. For Indigo, this seems like the peak in her sudden rise to infamy and even though Adam has ruined her life he still won’t stop calling her.

It’s hard to give a better description because, honestly, not much happens. The story centers around Indigo and Adam’s relationship as Adam struggles with newfound fame and attempts to write a song that will live up to the standards ‘Indigo Blues’ has set and Indigo tries and fails to stay out of the limelight. Indigo finally gives in to one of the numerous requests for an interview and agrees to go on TV with Adam to put to rest all of the rumors surrounding the song.

To be honest, I found Indigo annoying. She whines and complains but doesn’t actually do much. And plus, the thing she’s complaining about is something most girls are searching for everyday: a guy who is completely in love with them. She broke up with Adam after they’d been dating a few months not because he was mean, a cheat, or a liar but because he was too devoted. Really? Give me a guy like that any day. I liked Adam better, but could see in his tendency to clinginess an insecurity that would ruin all of his relationships. Still, I thought he grew as a character more than Indigo through the book. I probably could have dealt with all this if there had been more of a conclusion to the story. Did Adam and Indigo find closure or a way back to each other? You could argue it either way.

The prose itself read well and there were some very pretty phrasing, but overall, I liked Shrinking Violet a lot more.

Sera’s Rating: 4/10 stars

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph


“Might as well admit it—I’m shy. Not the kind where you blush when someone compliments you, but the kind that results in feelings of nausea when meeting new people. When I was little, I thought I was Shy Adams. People would ask my name, and my mother would immediately answer for me, “She’s shy.” She even did it three weeks ago when we met up with some of the radio people at a restaurant.”

Feeling uncomfortable in front of strangers is a feeling I know well, but not even I am paralyzed at the thought of speaking out loud. Teresa (who most people call Tere) Adams’ is. She has one friend but might as well be invisible to the rest of the school. But her silence hides a voice stronger than anyone would suspect and a dream of one day becoming a radio DJ and sharing her love of music with the world. Or at least South Florida. It’s a dream that suddenly looks closer to reality than ever before when one of the DJs at her step-father’s radio station quits. After a fight with her extremely confident, appearance-obsessed mother, Tere surprises even herself by voicing this dream aloud and asking Rob for a chance to host the now vacant show. She starts out helping at the station, interning and observing the afternoon DJ, but eventually she gets a lucky break and is allowed to co-host the evening show. On air, Tere becomes Sweet T, the confident girl with the sexy voice who couldn’t possibly be shy, silent Tere Adams and she makes sure it stays this way by swearing everyone at the station to silence on her identity. Which is why everything at school continues mostly as normal. The one exception is Gavin, Tere’s new crush who just happens to be one of her partners on a project that combines two of her worst nightmares: working in a group and a presentation in front of the class. A long presentation. Gavin is astonishingly understanding, heartbreakingly cute, and a music buff so falling for him is not a shock, but how easy Tere finds it to talk to him is. Entire sentences are uttered in his presence, even after Tere finds out that Gavin listens to her radio show. It’s only when the afternoon DJ comes up with the brilliant idea of auctioning off Sweet T as a prom date to the winner of a songwriting contest that things begin to unravel. Can Tere survive the revelation of her identity? Will she be paralyzed on stage in front of her entire school when she meets the contest winner in person? What if the guy hates her? What if he doesn’t? Should she tell Gavin the truth?

Shrinking Violet was adorable in so many ways. I rooted for Tere every step of the way and the way she talked about the bands she loved made me wish they actually existed so I could look them up. You don’t have to know anything about music to appreciate this story, though. Tere’s struggle to overcome her own shortcomings can translate into anyone’s life. The rest of the characters too—love ‘em or hate ‘em—are unique and well written. Her mother, for example, makes me extraordinarily grateful that my mother is nothing like Tere’s. Their relationship if fraught with difficulties and arguments, mostly from the fact that they exist on completely separate wavelengths. Like Tere herself, though, their relationship grows and changes from beginning to end.

Well written, engaging, and littered with random bursts of incredibly poetic prose, I really enjoyed Shrinking Violet and highly recommend it.

Sera’s Rating: 10/10 stars

Monday, October 24, 2011

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler



“When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (its three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will).”

During the span of the average life, most people will fall in love and everyone will experience loss. Very few people will find love and then lose it almost instantly before the age of sixteen. This, however, is exactly what happens to Anna just after her life-long unrequited crush on her best friend Frankie’s brother Matt suddenly becomes requited. They share one glorious month of stolen kisses, secret glances, and midnight rendezvous and then on the way back from an ice cream run, Matt falls victim to an unknown congenital heart defect. Both Anna and Frankie’s families are devastated by the loss, but since they hadn’t yet revealed their no one knows how hard his death hit Anna. As Frankie’s parents retreat into silence, Anna becomes Frankie’s rock, her comfort, and her caregiver. She makes sure she eats, sleeps, and even tries to protect her from the trouble Frankie seems determined to get into. It isn’t until a little over a year after his death that this strange status quo is finally upset when Frankie’s parents decide to resume their family’s yearly vacation to Zanzibar Bay in California. Frankie unilaterally decides that they will conquer twenty boys in twenty days and that by the end of the trip Anna will have divested herself of the albatross hanging around her neck—her virginity. Anna goes along with this plan in theory, still holding onto the secret of her relationship with Matt and feeling guiltier about that secret every day. Theory clashes with reality when she meets Sam and starts feeling for the first time since Matt’s death. Does this mean she’s forgetting Matt? “What is the statute of limitations on feeling guilty for cheating on a ghost?” she asks herself.

Less about grief and more about coming back to life, Twenty Boy Summer catalogs Anna’s return to life. It covers friendship, trust, truth, death, grief, secrets, forgiveness, family, swimsuits, sunburns, sneaking out, virginity, and the fact that no matter how hard you try you can’t make someone else okay—they have to do that for themselves. Sarah Ockler tackles these questions through Anna’s eyes and you see all of her pain, her guilt, the loyalty she feels toward both Frankie and Matt, the pull of her new feelings for Sam, and the overwhelming pressure all this places on her shoulders. Ockler’s lyrical and at times profound prose guides you through the twenty days Anna and Frankie spend at Zanzibar Bay. Highly quotable, pieces of Twenty Boy Summer can be pulled out of context and applied to so many lives and so many situations. I was highly impressed by the quality of the writing and the beauty of some of Ockler’s phrasing. I felt as though she also did a good job showing how people react differently to loss, how differently people grieve. The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the ending—this, however, is probably a highly subjective point and I can easily see how many people would disagree with me. Overall, Twenty Boy Summer is more than worth the read and Sarah Ockler is an author to keep on your radar for the years to come. I have a feeling her talent with words is only going to get stronger.

Sera's Rating: 8/10 stars

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In My Mailbox


It's Sunday morning, so of course it's time for In My Mailbox! IMM is a meme started by Kristi at the Story Siren, and is a way of sharing which books you received this week.


What did you get this week?

~Ailsa

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hello, Bibliophiles!


Years ago in a wonderful internet forum, a girl named Sera met a girl named Emily. They became friends, joined by a few common obsessions, and eventually Emily invited Sera to join a blog she'd started called The Book Bundle.

"Sure!" Sera said. But then life got in the way, as life often does, and Sera never actually posted on Em's blog. (Yes, Sera is me. No, I don't know why I started this in the third person... O.o?)

Anywho, it is long overdue, but I am finally, officially joining The Book Bundle team! My entries will be cross posted on my personal blog Incandescent which covers a range of topics revolving around the literary world and little bits of randomness that I throw in just for the entertainment value.

Next week I will be posting my first book reviews, one a day for five days, but for now here's a bit of current news from the young adult fiction world:


It's already all over the internet, but more publicity is not a bad thing, especially in this case.

Visit the official site here.
Lauren Myracle was recently honored by the National Book Awards for her novel Shine, a story about a young sleuth who investigates a hate crime. Allowed to bask in the glory for only a few scant days, she was soon told that the announcement had been a mistake. The book they'd actually meant to nominate was Chime by Fanny Billingsley. Blamed on some sort of internal error (rumor has pinned it on either phone static or conspiracy), it still didn't stop the foundation from asking the unbelievable: “I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work,” she explained to the NY Times.

Um... Excuse me?

Talk about adding insult to injury! Is her book really so far below your standards that you can't even leave her as a nominee, National Book Award judges? Yes, I'm talking to you. Do you not realize that this whole mess probably would have blown over and been forgotten if you had simply left Shine as a nominee?

Now, I have not read Shine (in fact, I honestly didn't even know it existed before this), but I've added it to my to be read pile. In fact, I think not winning the award has done Shine more good than winning ever could have done. Not only will the book's readership grow, but the National Book Awards has agreed to donate $5,000 (five times as much as she would have received as a winner) to the Matthew Sheppard Foundation, a not-for-profit aimed at "encouraging respect for human dignity and difference by raising awareness, opening dialogues, and promoting positive change."

The recap? Lauren Myracle walks away from this fiasco with dignity, the respect of the literary world and the media, and $5,000 for a charity that obviously means a lot to her. The National Book Awards judges look like total jackasses, have spent five times the amount they usually do for this single prize, and ruined the "integrity" of their precious award.

Lauren 1 - National Book Award Jerks 0

Want to read more? Here are some blogs and news articles I've found about Shine's withdrawal:
Lauren Myracle tells it like it is on Huffington Post
Libba Bray (Pardon Libba's French ;) )
Julianna Baggott
TIME Entertainment
The Guardian
LA Times
NY Times


Want to donate to the Matthew Sheppard Foundation? Click here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I only got two books this week, so no video. I've been doing a lot of reading for classes, and haven't been reading so much in the evenings, which is when I normally get caught up in books.


"River Marked" by Patricia Briggs, which is the most recent book in the Mercy Thompson series - I've been wanting to read this for a while now! I'm about half way through, I hope to get a review up of this one early this week.

"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins - book 2 in the Hunger Games trilogy - I read THG for the first time last week, and had to get book 2 as soon as possible. I've started it, but it had to get bumped down the TBR pile because other things are due back in the library soon *sigh*. I'll get to it as soon as I can. I don't think I'm going to review THG after all, because most people are already very familiar with it, and I don't have that much time for reviewing just now - I need to get myself more organised!

I also got a couple of ebooks for review this week:
"Legacy" by Molly Cochran, which is supposed to be about witches, and sounds pretty cool. It's from Simon & Schuster's 'galley grab' program.

"Hold Me If You Can" by Stephenie Crowe - I've almost finished this, but it doesn't come out for a while, so I'll hold off posting the review until the release date. From Sourcebooks, via NetGalley.

What do you think of any of these books, if you've read them? And what's in your mailbox this week?

~Ailsa

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mini review: Flirt, by Laurell K. Hamilton


*Sometimes I don't have much to say, but still want to talk about a book, so I'll do a mini review instead*

Title: Flirt
Author: Laurel K. Hamilton
Publisher: Headline (UK)/Berkley (US)
Release date: 2010
Source: library
Notes: book 18 in the Anita Blake series. Novella.

Description from back cover: I am Anita Blake, vampire hunter and necromancer, and when I meet with Tony Bennington, who is desperate to have me reanimate his recently deceased wife, I feel sympathy for his loss. After all, I know something about love, and I know everything there is to know about loss. But I also know that what I can do as a necromancer isn't the miracle Tony thinks he needs. The creature that I could coerce to step out of his late wife's grave would not be the lovely Mrs Bennington. Not really. And not for long.
I have been relaxing just a bit with the men in my private life. The affectionate warmth of being with them seems to bring out something softer in me, a sense of safety I can almost trust. They do love me; that part is for ever and for sure. But flirting with feeling safe is a dangerous thing...

My thoughts: I'll be honest, I didn't really like this book. I think it's because the pacing doesn't quite work for me. At the start of the story, we get to see a bit of a normal day for Anita. She meets an awkward client, then goes out for lunch with Micah, Nathaniel, and Jason, and they flirt a little with one of the waiters. Then she has a second awkward customer in the afternoon. The similarity of these two scenes made the second one a little boring, and while it's kind of interesting to see some of the people Anita meets in her everyday life, I don't think it was really necessary to show both meetings. A couple of weeks pass before the next chapter, and suddenly the action starts, with Anita being kidnapped. I won't spoil who does the kidnapping, but they threaten Anita that if she doesn't cooperate, they will shoot one or several of her men.

I really felt like what happens from that point on in the book happens far too quickly for the length of the story. The consequences are too big for the series - I feel like, if Anita is continuing to add to her 'menagerie' of people to feed from, then it deserves a bigger book, and we should have been able to meet this character a little more before what happened, happened. I guess my overall feeling is, I don't like the outcome at the end because of the speed things happened.

I give this book 4 out of 10

Sunday, October 9, 2011

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

Sorry I only got one review up this week, and a mini one at that! This week coming will be better, I promise!


What did you get in your postbox/mailbox this week?

~Ailsa

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mini review: Rules of Attraction, by Simone Elkeles


*Sometimes I want to talk about a book, but don't have much to say - at those times I'll do a 'mini review' with just a few thoughts about the book*

Title: Rules of Attraction
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Release Date: October 2010
Source: won from Book Chick City

Description: Carlos Fuentes isn't happy about leaving Mexico to start the "new" life his older brother, Alex, has planned for him. Carlos liked his freedom: living life on the edge and carving out his own path - just like Alex did.
Kiara Westford doesn't talk much; preferring instead to shut the world out. And when Carlos bounds into her life she struggles to understand him and his wild ways. Carlos is sure that Kiara thinks she's too good for him, which is just fine because he's not interested anyway, right? But when they finally open up to each other, the connection they fell shocks them both. Can the overcome their fears and realise that sometimes opposites really do attract?

My Thoughts: I did enjoy Rules of Attraction, possibly more than the first in the series, Perfect Chemistry. It's not really the sort of thing that I would usually pick up, but I was pleasantly surprised by both books.
I thought Carlos was really annoying at the beginning of the book - he's just so rude to Alex & Brittany (Alex's girlfriend), the kind of rudeness that I just don't like in other people. I was so glad when he started to appreciate what people around him were doing to help him, and started being a little nicer.
Kiara on the other hand is someone I could immediately relate to. She is the quiet girl in class who likes to wear baggy t-shirts and go hiking at the weekend. I found her much more likeable than Brittany had been in Perfect Chemistry. She's the sort of person I would have been best-friends with in high school because we're very similar. I was very glad when Carlos started to realise how nice she was, and to notice that she was pretty, too.

A sweet story with interesting characters, Simone Elkeles' "Rules of Attraction" is an enjoyable, quick read, even if the final ending is a little predictable. I give it 5/10 stars.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In My Mailbox


Welcome back to In My Mailbox! IMM is a weekly meme from Kristi at The Story Siren, where you can show which books you got this week.

I'm sorry about the static sound on this - I really have no idea what that's from.



Please do check out the reviews further down the page as well!

And what did you get in your mailboxes/postboxes this week?

~Ailsa

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Darkfever, by Karen Marie Moning


Title: Darkfever
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Publisher: Gollancz (UK)/ Dell (USA)
Release Date: 8th September (UK)
Source: review copy from Gollancz
Notes: Book 1 in the 'Fever' series

Description from back cover: MacKayla Lane's life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she's your perfectly ordinary twenty-first century woman... until something extraordinary happens.
When her sister is murdered, Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister's killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed - a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae...

My thoughts: I have heard a lot about the Fever series from book bloggers in the states, so I was interested in finally getting to read it. I love the cover for this book, especially the cobbles! It's very simple, but gives a great feel for the book.

I feel like you get a lot more information about the Fae, and what's going on, in the prologue than you do in the next several chapters of the book. It gives clues to what the book's going to be about (and I hope the series) and I got really excited reading it, but I think there's a lot of things still to come that were hinted at here, then never showed up in the rest of the story.

Chapter One starts 'a year earlier', with Mac sitting by a pool, wondering when she's going to hear from her parents, and generally enjoying summer in Georgia. Then her sister dies, and her lovely happy world breaks apart. When she finds a voicemail message her sister left her the day of the murder, she realises that maybe her sister hadn't really been telling her everything, and, despairing with the Dublin police, she decides to go to Ireland herself. She's very lost and lonely there to start with, which I liked - it seemed much more realistic, and fit with what we have so far of her personality. She hasn't been there long before she starts seeing strange, horrible things, where it seems like no one else can see them, and understandably starts to think she's going crazy.

Then, enter Jericho Barrons. He and Mac are both looking for the same thing, and neither will tell the other what they know. When Mac learns more about what's going on in the city, and why she's seeing the strange things, she goes back to him for help, and they spend a lot of time together in the book - and Mac spends a lot of time wondering whether he's to be trusted. I'll be honest - I don't really know what 'role' he's supposed to play in the book - I've heard other bloggers speak reverently of him, along with the gorgeous heroes in other stories, but although Mac emphasises that he's attractive, I never felt like it was anything more than that. Barrons is more than a little intimidating and creepy, I think - he turns up at the inn where she's staying, in the middle of the night, and threatens her! And then she starts trusting him! Crazy girl, I think.

I feel like, with the way Mac's character was painted at the start, the book played out accordingly - everything fit with her, and the pace of her change towards a more kick-ass heroine was realistic - she doesn't just wake up overnight and lose the, well, bimbo-ness that she seems to have to start with. I enjoyed hearing the ridiculous names for the various nail varnish colours that she would wear, but that's about as far as it went - I'm very glad that by the end of the book she was growing up, and starting to be a bit more like an urban fantasy heroine. I hope there's a little bit of a time-period break between this one and book two, so that she's more mature again, but even so I would definitely read on.

I really enjoyed the plot, and the world that Ms Moning has created here. The writing really pulled me in - I started reading at abot 2:30, and didn't stop until I was finished later that night. I loved the portrayal of Dublin - I've only visited it once, very briefly, but I could relate a lot of the things described in Darkfever to Edinburgh (where I live) - the confusing streets, old buildings, general spookiness at times ;) I am really looking forward to the next book - luckily Bloodfever, book two, comes out in October, so I don't have long to wait!

Overall, I think I'll give this 7 stars.

Thank you Gollancz for the review copy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Salt Sea, by Seanan McGuire



Title: One Salt Sea
Autor: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Release date: September 6th - Available now!
Source: Bought in Barnes & Noble, Philadelphia
Warning: This is book 5 in the series, review may contain spoilers for earlier books

Description: October "Toby" Daye is settling into her new role as Countess of Goldengreen. She's actually dating again, and she's taken on Quentin as her squire. So, of course, it's time for things to take a turn for the worse.

Someone has kidnapped the sons of the regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must find the missing boys and prove the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. Toby's search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves, and her deadline is firm: she must find the boys in three days' time, or all of the Mists will pay the price. But someone is determined to stop her-and whoever it is isn't playing by Oberon's Laws...

My review: I love these books, so I couldn't wait to see what would happen to Toby in this installment. This has to be one of the most consistent series', for me, in terms of how the characters are treated and how much I like what is going on. I think what I'm trying to get at is that McGuire doesn't mess readers around - horrible things happen to the characters, but someone you think is one thing doesn't suddenly become something totally different. We are 5 books in to the series now, and I've never ended up suddenly hating a character, or throwing a book across the room feeling betrayed betrayed, or wondering if I want to keep reading. I have loved these books since the first one, and I love how each new adventure manages to meet the standards of the previous one, or even improve on it.

In this book, we start with Toby being asked to attend a formal event to help prevent a war. Of course, that doesn't work out, so she enlists her usual allies and starts trying to find out who took the missing boys and where they might be now. You'll have to read the book to find out how successful they are ;) As part of the investigation, she gets to visit a sea kingdom, and learn about some of the cool creatures there, which I enjoyed reading about. I hope we get to see a little more of them in the future.

Something I really liked about this book was that we got a little more time between the things that were happening to see what 'normal' life for Toby and her friends, like May and Quentin, is like. There was still always tension, but it was like being able to surface to grab a mouthful of air before you go back in to the water again. There's also plenty of enigmatic Tybalt to keep me happy, and also a lot more Connor, now he's no longer married to Rayseline. I'm not sure how I feel about the relationship between Connor and Toby - in previous books it always seemed like it was never going to work out between them as well as they'd like, and I can't help feeling that there's still a little of that here. I'll have to read it again for second impressions. Another of my favourite characters, the Luidaeg, answers several reader/Toby question about her but raises some even bigger ones - I feel like this is another character we got to know a lot better in this book.

Although there's some very sad parts towards the end of this book (I cried a lot, I'll admit) I do like the way things finish up at the end of it for Toby. There's a lot of potential for interesting things happening in the future for her, I think. It's going to take a little while for her to be completely back on her feet after this book, just as with any of the others, but I'm looking forward to when it does happen.

I'll give it 9 out of 10

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Returning from the summer


Hi guys!
I'm back to college on Monday, so book reviews from me will be resuming this week! One of my resolutions for the new school year is to be more organised in a lot of ways, so I'm really going to try and get at least one book review a week up on here, hopefully more, and the Sunday 'In My Mailbox' posts will start again too. I'm really looking forward to getting back in to the book blogging community, I've missed it :)

Hopefully my first review will be up early next week, it's going to be the newly released 'One Salt Sea' by Seanan McGuire, which I'm almost finished and really enjoying.

How has everyone's summer gone? Read any good books? ;)

~Ailsa

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano


Summary from Goodreads:

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings. Editor's recommendation.


Wither is the first of The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano.  And I have to begin by saying if you like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, I felt like this story went along those lines with Linton and the young Catherine (kind of, not exactly)...it just felt like that.


First thing that caught my attention with Wither is the cover.  Isn't it beautiful?  The way the girls hands are gripping the skirt of the dress in such a frustrated and almost confined way and how the bird in the cage looks connected with the line and circles to those hands?  I love it!  It really defines the story as a whole once you've read it.


Rhine is an orphan along with her brother, Rowan and they try to make the best of things in the house their parents left them after they died.  They make it look like they are poverty stricken so as to not lure other orphans or anyone else not wanted to their door.  They lock away their most precious possessions and items so they aren't stolen.  They even take turns keeping watch each night with a gun to protect themselves and what meager things they have for themselves.  That is until Rhine goes for a job and gets kidnapped by the Gatherers instead and taken to a large mansion somewhere far away from Manhattan and ends up becoming a sister wife with two other girls who were taken, Jenna and Cecily.  


Being married to Linden Ashby couldn't be the worst thing in the world to Jenna and Cecily is in love with it all.  Rhine, however, hates everything about the place, especially Housemaster Vaughn who is frantically working on an antidote to keep his son alive past twenty-five and maybe even try to help the girls to live past twenty.  There's no way out unless you are escorting your husband to a party in the city and even then the way is blocked.  Rhine puts on her facade and grits her teeth through all this living until she can figure out how to get out.


I will say this first, the only bad thing I found is that there is a lot of whining from the all the sister wives.  I wanted to smack Cecily across the back of the head and say, "Chill out okay?  You don't need to be so stuck up and rude to everyone."  To Jenna, "Sorry about your life, but really, quit moping."  And to Rhine I'd say, "Do something about it or just quit whining."  Other than the whining that takes place, I love the characters.


Rhine is a strong willed heroine that determines after being forced into this marriage to Linden Ashby that she will earn his trust to be able to run away.  I love the fact that she can be so determined and it helps her remember everything about her brother and never gives up hope that he may be out looking for her.  I love that she is the favorite of the wives among the servants, they will do anything for her, even if it means they may lose their job, or even maybe, their life.  Even when she starts to believe in her own facade in certain points and ways, she is able to shake it off and remember what her plan is.


Jenna is a quiet character.  At first I thought Jenna was stuck up and didn't care about anyone else, but I loved her later on.  She does everything she can to help Rhine leave the mansion and Linden behind without getting caught by their father-in-law, Vaughn.  Cecily, yeah, I hated Cecily through the whole story until the last when I felt more sorry for her than anger.


Vaughn reminded me of Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights for parts of the story.  The unrelentless, merciless being he is and how he creeps all the sister wives out.  I shuddered with every moment Rhine had with Vaughn and even with what he may be hiding in the basement.


Overall, I really liked this story.  It has great character development and is a character driven story.  The imagery is realistic and Lauren weaved a fine new world for us to see and truly believe it may exist.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Last Four Things


Thank you to Wunderkind-PR, for providing me with a copy of this book to review.

UK Cover
The Last Four Things, by Paul Hoffman is the sequel to 'The Left Hand of God' and takes place in a world similar but different to our own historical world, where a powerful religious order 'The Redeemers' wages war against 'The Antagonists' and other 'enemy' nations. The focus of a very brutal kind of affection from Redeemer Bosco, the story continues to focus on Cale - a young man numbed by a brutal childhood, betrayed by his first love and now is a fierce weapon for his mentor Bosco's plans.

To the warrior-monks known as the Redeemers, who rule over massive armies of child slaves, “the last four things” represent the culmination of a faithful life. Death. Judgment. Heaven. Hell. The last four things represent eternal bliss-or endless destruction, permanent chaos, and infinite pain.

Perhaps nowhere are the competing ideas of heaven and hell exhibited more clearly than in the dark and tormented soul of Thomas Cale. Betrayed by his beloved but still marked by a child’s innocence, possessed of a remarkable aptitude for violence but capable of extreme tenderness, Cale will lead the Redeemers into a battle for nothing less than the fate of the human race. And though his broken heart foretells the bloody trail he will leave in pursuit of a personal peace he can never achieve, a glimmer of hope remains. The question even Cale can’t answer: When it comes time to decide the fate of the world, to ensure the extermination of humankind or spare it, what will he choose? To express God’s will on the edge of his sword, or to forgive his fellow man-and himself?


US Cover
The book begins almost immediately after the events of the previous book, but Cale has become an even darker character, changed by betrayed love and alone without his friends, he becomes more susceptible to Bosco's manipulative behaviour and begins to see himself as an Angel of Death. Compared to the first book, The Last Four Things is more slow to begin, but seems to explore the dynamic of Bosco and Cale's relationship and its sudden change from student-mentor to soldiers in a holy war.

We also get to see more of the people of this world through Kleitze experiences and the battles between Redeemers and other nations/people. As before, Hoffman's strength lies in the description and detail of battles. His characterisation of the main characters is excellent and their actions remain true to the characters. My favourite moments of this book have been the interaction between Vague Henri and Cale - which shows a more boyish side to the later. I'm intrigued by the plot twists, characters and the world Hoffman has created and definitely am looking forward to the third book to see how this story develops.

My only fault is regarding female characters - there were a couple of good developed female characters in this book but considering the underlying theme concerning women and how pivotal it seems this is going to be in the future plot - more strong female characters would be nice. That being said, this is a high military fantasy set in a world where women seem to be worthless (and soulless) so it does make sense from character's perspective.

I can't wait for the next book in this series, especially with the cliff-hanger ending so I sincerely  recommend reading this series to anyone! 
 

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