Sunday, January 30, 2011

In My Mailbox


Welcome to In My Mailbox! IMM is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. You can learn more about it here.



Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klaus - from the library
Shades of Night, by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge - from the library
Twice Bitten, by Chloe Neill - bought from Amazon UK
Branded by Fire, by Nalini Singh - from a local indie bookshop
The Iron Witch, by Karen Mahoney (2nd copy) - from the same bookshop

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

~Ailsa

Second Chances, by Lauren Dane


Content warning: this book is aimed at over 18s, so there may be things in the review that aren't appropriate for younger readers
Publisher: Carina Press
Released: Available now - ebook
Source: Carina Press on NetGalley

Description: Ten years ago, Rori Simon left town shy, unattractive and with zero self-esteem. Now she's back, older, stronger and finally loving herself-and it shows. Hot men are soon knocking at her door, including Jude Callahan, the bad boy who starred in her teenage daydreams...and her adult fantasies.

Jude can't believe the sexy, confident woman before him is actually Rori! She's gotten under his skin like no other woman has...and she brings out secret desires he can't resist. He wants to dominate Rori with every fiber of his being. Wants to own her and pleasure her. To cherish her as he makes her his.

Rori discovers she likes being controlled. She also knows Jude is not a one-woman man. Everything changes when she meets Zach Helm. Edgy, sensual Zach knows just what she needs, and before long, she's in love. Jude watches them together and wonders if he's lost his chance forever...

My thoughts: I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. I really liked it at first, but somewhere in the middle... it just didn't do it for me.

The book starts off well - we're introduced to Rori as she arrives back home after a very long time away. I found Rori to be immediately likeable, and her relationship with her sister and sister's family at their reunion was very believable. I think one thing that helped me like Rori is the way that she used to be a very awkward teenager, and then left home, travelled a bit, and gradually developed into her own person - I think probably most people can relate to this, but personally it resonated a lot.

I like Rori's early encounters with the people she used to know in the small town, and their reactions to how much more confident she is now. Again, it's very believable. And I liked reading about the gorgeous Jude, even if the fact that she's hooking up with her brother-in-law's half brother struck me as a tiny bit weird sometimes. The scenes when she's with Jude are very steamy, there is so much emotion and chemistry between them. I really wanted to see how they worked out what they were doing, how they were going to fit together. Then Jude screws up. And this is where it started to go downhill for me. As it says in the blurb, she meets Zach. She meets him the same night she's broken up with Jude, and yes, she won't let herself do anything with Zach at first because of that, but she's so persistent in thinking that everything is over between her and Jude. I can understand that she's cross because she's been badly hurt before, but I really wanted her to let him apologise properly, to give him a second chance.

As the blurb says, Rori falls in love with Zach. And here I really wasn't into the story. They get together, work through a couple of things, and then there is a huge chunk where they, for want of a better phrase, play house for a while. I found myself skimming over a lot of this bit. It just wasn't interesting to me. I'm still not sure how I feel about the end bit of the book. Yes, it was ok, but by that point I wasn't really interested any more. I felt like it had lost the promise that it had at the start.

I've heard a lot of good things about the author, Lauren Dane, so I probably will try and read some of her other books, because the writing was very good for a lot of the story, but unfortunately this one just didn't really do it for me. I'll give it five stars.

Has anyone else read this book? What did you think?

~Ailsa

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Brush Of Darkness, by Allison Pang


Release: 25 Jan, USA & UK

Publisher: Pocket Books

Source: Galley Grab


Description: The man of her dreams might be the cause of her nightmares.

Six months ago, Abby Sinclair was struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Now, she has an enchanted iPod, a miniature unicorn living in her underwear drawer, and a magical marketplace to manage. But despite her growing knowledge of the OtherWorld, Abby isn't at all prepared for Brystion, the dark, mysterious, and sexy-as- sin incubus searching for his sister, convinced Abby has the key to the succubus's whereabouts. Abby has enough problems without having this seductive shape-shifter literally invade her dreams to get information. But when her Faery boss and some of her friends vanish, as well, Abby and Brystion must form an uneasy alliance. As she is sucked deeper and deeper into this perilous world of faeries, angels, and daemons, Abby realizes her life is in as much danger as her heart—and there's no one she can trust to save her.


My thoughts:

I hadn't heard of A Brush of Darkness before I got the e-galley, but a quick search of the internet showed me the cover, which sold me almost at once. When I found the description, I knew I had to read it. Luckily, it didn't disappoint.


Abby works in a bookshop during the day (I'm so jealous!) but at night she runs the Midnight Marketplace, where all kind of supernatural creatures come to buy weird & wonderful things. Only she's not supposed to be running it by herself - her boss, the Protectorate Moira, is missing. People come to her with problems, and when they realise that she isn't there, and hasn't been for a while, there are problems. When Abby and her friends start looking for Moira, things get worse, as more people are kidnapped. And tied into the middle of it all, somehow, is Brystion, an incubus who wanders into the bookshop in the first chapter. Abby is attracted to him, and he seems interested in her, but she's never quite sure whether she can trust him, or what his motives are - it feels like he's hiding something.


I liked Abby's character. She's a Touchstone for Moira, which means they have a contract tying them together somehow that allows Moira, a fae, to be in the human world when she wants to be, rather than just at certain times of day. Some things have happened recently in her past that have changed her a lot, but she's trying to move on and make a new life, even if dealing with supernaturals isn't something she ever thought she would do. I liked the relationship between her and Brystion - it has a very central part in the story, and is a bit of a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs.


It gets quite creepy in some places, but there are also some really fun things in the book. And I think Allison Pang has pulled them off as being funny and believable at the same time, which not everyone does. For instance, there's the tiny unicorn who keeps getting into Abby's underwear draw. Or the demon obsessed with world-of-warcraft - I literally laughed for about five minutes over that part.


I like the motives of the bad guys/girls too. Not going to give anything away, but I do think it was believable that they acted the way they did.


So, I really enjoyed reading this book. I had a e-galley, but I'm definitely going to buy a 'real' copy when I find it in the shops - this is a book that I will read again, and I love the cover! I really hope there's a sequel, but I'd read anything else she writes regardless of whether it was set in Abby's world or not. I give it 9 out of 10 stars.


~Ailsa

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In My Mailbox


Hi guys! I meant to get a couple of reviews up between this IMM and the last one, but I've had a really busy week with classes and other things, so I just didn't have time! I think I've adjusted to being back at college again though, so hopefully this week I can get back to a real posting schedule.

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, with full details on her page.

I actually only got one book this week, so no vlog this time.
I got:

The Iron Witch, by Karen Mahoney.

It just came out this week, and I've been waiting for ages to read this book. I started it last night, and so far so good!

What did you get in your mailboxes this week? Also, what do you think about vlogs vs normal posts? Do you like the vlogs for IMM or do you prefer to have things written down?

~Ailsa

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In My Mailbox


A few days late, but hey! It's here now!

In addition to the books in the vlog below, I've also read 'Second Chances' by Lauren Dane, which I got via NetGalley, and 'A Brush of Darkness' by Allison Pang from Simon&Schuster's galley grab program - I really really enjoyed that one, and I'm aiming to post the review this evening.

(I keep holding the book in front of my face in the video because I wasn't sure how much of me the camera could see.)


What did you get in your mailboxes this week?

~Ailsa

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cryer's Cross, by Lisa McMann



Released: 8 Feb 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: ARC received through S&S galley grab program

Description: The small town of Cryer’s Cross is rocked by tragedy when an unassuming freshman disappears without a trace. Kendall Fletcher wasn’t that friendly with the missing girl, but the angst wreaks havoc on her OCD-addled brain. When a second student goes missing - someone close to Kendall’s heart - the community is in an uproar. Caught in a downward spiral of fear and anxiety, Kendall’s not sure she can hold it together. When she starts hearing the voices of the missing, calling out to her and pleading for help, she fears she’s losing her grip on reality. But when she finds messages scratched in a desk at school - messages that could only be from the missing student who used to sit there - Kendall decides that crazy or not, she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t act on her suspicions.

This isn't the kind of book I normally read, except when I used to do the Carneigie Medal read-along at school, but I actually really enjoyed it.

We are quickly introduced to Kendal, the main character, as she helps the other villagers search for a young girl who has gone missing. The search is unsuccessful, and we jump ahead a couple of months to when Kendal is going back to school. Kendal has OCD, and as the story focusses on her, it plays a big part, which I thought was interesting, as it gives readers an insight into what it’s like for someone with OCD. Kendal lines up the desks in the classroom, getting them just so, and going through other familiar tasks. The two new kids are interesting, even if the boy does seem a little rude and antisocial to Kendal at first.
Then we get to the part where it really grabbed me. Nico (her best friend) starts acting weird, and about a week later, he vanishes. Once again, no one can find any trace of him.

I really liked the story. Although the beginning is slow, it fits the pace of the town, and shows you just how much it rocks the daily lives and relationships of the characters when people start to disappear. I really wanted to know what had been happening to people, and even though I was sad that Nico had gone, I wanted Kendal to open up to Jacián (the new boy), and get closer to him - their relationship was very sweet, in a good way; you could see how much good they were doing each other. And when things start to happen to Kendal and I knew she was going to be the next one to go missing, I really started hoping that her bond with Jacián would be enough to save her, and that someone would stop her before it was too late.

The writing style is interesting. It’s hard to pull off present tense writing, but Lisa McMann does it well. You don’t often see stories in the present tense, and I found that an interesting change. It’s hard to tell when the story is set, because Cryer’s Cross is such a rural town, but I don’t think it really matters to the story. In the end, most questions are answered, although I do still have a couple of small ones, but I think I heard that there’s a sequel, so hopefully we’ll find out more then. Kendal certainly goes through a lot during the story, but I would have liked to see how the village and all the main characters were affected by what happens, after the events at the end of the book. It really was a good read, and I would recommend it to fans of YA and mysteries. 7 out of 10.

On another note, In My Mailbox will be back tomorrow! Yay!
~Ailsa

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nefertiti


Nefertiti by Michelle Moran, reminds me alot of 'The Other Boleyn Girl' by Philippa Gregory - both books tell the story of two sisters, one sister is beautiful, intelligent and ambitious (Nefertiti; Anne) to become queen and the other young sister is loyal and loving to that sister until she is pushed away by her sister's selfishness (Mutnodjmet; Mary). It's actually scary how both stories run in parallel to each other in regards to both the characters and the plot (apart from the 4,000 years between settings).

Nefertiti tells the story of two sisters, against the backdrop of ancient Egypt. Nefertiti is beautiful, intelligent and cunning and is destined to become chief wife to the next Pharaoh, Tuthmosis . However Fate intervenes, and Tuthmosis, the favoured son dies, leaving the younger son Amenhotep to rise as the next leader. The story at its essence is the story of two sisters and their relationship, but is also about the hubris of Amenhotep IV (aka Akhenaten) and his chief wife Nefertiti.

I absolutely love everything to do with Ancient Egypt and have read about the era of Akhenaten. Obviously with the passing of thousands of years, facts about what really happened are quite limited, but Moran does an excellent job of putting her own spin on events. She has done her research and similar to 'Cleopatra's Daughter' doesn't overburden the reader with too much information. She uses historical information to tell the story, not drown it so you keep turning the pages effortlessly. I read this book in a day, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and am giving it 8 stars.

One of the main reasons I docked a star was because of the romance element concerning Mutnodjmet. It seemed to just happen, there was no build up. Mutnodjmet seemed almost removed from it, I felt I never got to see her actually feelings. It just didn't seem to connect.

Apart from this minor issue (because it's not a romance book), it was a great read, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wanted a historical page turner.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner


I reviewed the first book, The Maze Runner, a while ago and it was an amazing read.  It has also been a while since I read, The Scorch Trials (okay, maybe only a couple weeks but with the holidays in the way, it got really busy).

However, for a sequel to The Maze Runner, this one indulges more into what the scarier looks of the future are for Thomas and the boys that got out of The Maze in the first book.

By the way...there will most likely be SPOILERS in this just because of the way it made me feel when reading it and because of how the story goes.

The Scorch Trials begins right where it left off in The Maze Runner.  Thomas and the boys of the The Maze (that made it out alive) are being taken pretty good care of in a kind of dorm-like facility until one day a man comes to tell them that they have the sickness that the world does called, The Flare, and in order to gain the cure they must cross the Scorch in two weeks to the Safe Haven.  In order to do this, the boys end up putting up a good fight against Cranks (the crazies who have the Flare from start until they are completely gone and lost their minds), a dark tunnel that takes lives, the hot sun, lightning storms and the group of girls that were also in another maze and got out too.

I have to say that the author, James Dashner, freaked me out in a couple of spots with his descriptions and the tone in certain places.  There's a spot that is still in my mind because of the way it was described and it's during a lightning storm out in the Scorch where the boys are all running a few miles as fast as they can to gain cover before lightning hits them and one boy does go down right by the hero, Thomas, and just the gory description could possibly triumph Suzanne Collins from The Hunger Games in certain scenes of hers.

Never did I think that a YA author could scare me like he did as well.  I've been jumpy before in scenes from other YA books but none stick to me like the Cranks that Thomas sees in an underground tunnel system in the city he ends up travelling through at one point.  The line, "Rose took my nose I suppose," still scares me with the image of the man with no nose and a limp chasing Thomas through and tracking him to a small room in the underground tunnels.  It's funny too because at one point during this scene, I did take a deep breath (since I can involve myself in my reading so much) and I could swear that I knew the guy would find Thomas in a hidden hole in the wall and grab him until it didn't happen.  I thought, "Oh well, at least the creepy guy is gone for now, maybe they'll run into him later and kill him then."  Oh no no no.  I was wrong.  Even when I thought our hero was safe to come out of hiding, did I jump so high from my comfy reading spot.  I'll leave the rest for you to figure out when you get to this part of the story when you read it.

I did however, push past those two scenes and try to swipe them to go on in the story.  It did help that James Dashner did put calmer scenes here and there within the story, even some parts with a little humor to lighten the mood in this very dark story.  And one thing that keeps me reading as well is that every chapter in The Scorch Trials ends with a cliffhanger.  Some nights I couldn't put the book down until I forced myself too.  Especially after reading the Nose man scene, I pushed myself to read until it calmed down, which it did and then I did too.  Reading something like that in the late evening by myself with just a reading lamp on is just scary!

Anyway, going on with the review, the character building shows more and more until the end.  And even the newer characters that are introduced make it seem like they were always part of this group of kids travelling across the Scorch.  In a story where the characters just travel through with a few eventful turns, I am very happy to see that the character building was shown so much more in every chapter.

The story itself is really good.  Of course as I said earlier, this is a much darker, much scarier story.  I would not like to run into a Crank if something like that ever befell our civilization today.  And it also takes a good wild turn here and there within the story to keep you going, but there were times where I shocked, I jumped, I was scared, grossed out, and really trying to figure out what was going on.  And like the The Maze Runner, I thought I had figured it out until I read the Epilogue which then makes me really want to read the final book, The Death Cure, but sadly, I will have to wait for now--like always in a newer book series.  I really hope that if you read The Maze Runner, that The Scorch Trials will keep you guessing as well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

One Real Thing


(Note: this novel is aimed at adult readers)
One Real Thing, by Anah Crow & Dianne Fox

I received this for review from Carina Press via netGalley. It is available for Kindle from today.

Can you believe this is the first m/m novel I’ve ever read? Yeah, me neither.

One Real Thing is a very sweet story, I think. At the start of the book, you see that organised, happy Nick is still concerned about his college friend Holly even when they haven’t seen each other for a long time. You also get to see how much of a mess Holly is in, staying in a dilapidated motel with a room full of drugs and a girl he doesn’t care about. Luckily for him, Nick realises he can’t just sit and watch his old friend’s self destruction, so making up a story for his wife and telling his boss he’s following a lead on a story, he goes to find Holly. It’s clear as soon as he pulls Holly away from the motel and back to Nick’s hotel that he cares for Holly a lot, but he doesn’t know that Holly would like to be a lot more than friends. As Holly recovers back in New York at an apartment Nick has rented for him, Nick remembers more about how he felt when they were in college together. He likes Holly, but keeps denying to himself how he really feels. I really liked how Nick took care of Holly. It’s the friendship between them, despite how much Holly thinks Nick should leave him alone, Nick stays there. I’ve found that’s an important part of friendship - taking care of someone when they can’t do it for themselves, even if they think they don’t need the help.


I like the way that Holly’s submissiveness is slowly introduced to his thoughts, and the reasoning behind it for Holly. It seemed real, and added to the sweetness of the story. He feels better just being around Nick, but at the same time he feels like he (Holly) is not good enough for him. It’s natural for him to do what Nick tells him, and Nick likes it when Holly just does things he says, without asking. There’s nothing particularly sexual about it, it’s just the right thing for them to do.


One character I really didn’t like was Danner, who Holly goes to work for. He just didn’t seem realistic. He’s very enthusiastic, but at one point his wife, Julie, compares being with him to looking after a puppy. To me, that’s exactly what it seemed like reading the book. He doesn’t act like a grown man, he acts like an immature kid who needs constant attention. Any scene or conversation with Danner in just had him acting so silly, I had to wince at the awkwardness of it. Thankfully, though, he doesn’t have a very large part in the book.


The second half of the book was my favourite. When his wife leaves him, Nick’s life falls apart, and it takes a while before Holly finds out, but he drops everything with his new job to come and help Nick. Free from his marriage, Nick is ready to listen to his feelings for Holly, and things get much more interesting: “I want your mouth. You always looked so good like that, your lips all soft and swollen. Such a pretty mouth.” Everything between them is always about taking care of each other, trying to please the other. I think that’s one of my favourite things about the story. I love how Nick opens up to Holly, and lets himself enjoy what they’ve got. You know that it’s going to be ok in the end, but it’s still nice to watch and see how they manage it. A very cute story, I really enjoyed it, and I would probably read more from these authors. I give it 7 stars out of 10.


~Ailsa

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Reader


Happy New Year Everyone! As Ailsa mentioned in previous post, there will be lots more books reviews coming soon :)

The Reader tells the story of Michael and his relationship with an older woman, Hanna. Later, as a law student, he is faced with the fact that Hanna is now facing criminal charges for her part in the holocaust.

Pretty succinct description isn't it? If I were to use the back cover summary I would mention that "Hanna is not all that she seems" or that Michael is "shocked" to find her in the dock, and that "she is desperately concealing an even deeper secret. . . " but the fact is I did not feel these descriptions are true to the book.

I was engaged with this story at first, but I have to admit this was a slow read for me. The writing is excellent and simple - it should have been a page turner but it ended up as one of those 2-3 pages a night sort of books. I put my lack of enthusiasm down to the fact that this book doesn't evoke any emotion, feeling or thought. It definitely sets out to do it, touching on two subjects a] conflict of the person vs. the action b] the whole issue of illiteracy c] how one relationship can impact the rest of your life. But I didn't come away with an 'after thought', this book didn't stay with me or cause me to think about the issues. There was no ripple effect for me.

We are told about Michael's struggle with Hanna, his feelings for her and the realisation of her secret all right, but for me it doesn't connect - because the information is given by the author and not teased out by the reader. There is no subtlety in this book, no interpretation needed or reading between the lines, which disappointed me alot.

It felt like there was no heart, if that makes sense?

Regarding the plot, the 'deeper secret' is obvious from the start. It was only after rereading the back cover did I realise that this was meant to be a twist?!?

That being said, the first section of this book was excellent, I felt Michael's angst and confusion concerning Hanna, but then as the book progressed it turned into a reporting of the events. I was reading the words on the page, but not imagining the events in my mind's eye.

I didn't intend to be this negative about the book, it didn't irk me or cause any reaction in me - but I think that's the problem and the source of this negative review. It was just a so-so book that didn't do anything for me.

The writing is excellent, and it is the basis for an award winning film, so maybe i'm missing something but i'm only giving this book 5 stars.

Love to hear from other people who've read this book, especially if your opinion differs.
 
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