Monday, November 5, 2012

Letterbox Love



Letterbox Love - a British meme for sharing the books you've acquired this week through the letterbox, library, and other places!

It's been a long time since I've posted, so I thought I'd kick things off again by sharing some of the books I've received recently.

First up, I won a lovely package of books via Smexy Books, including several ARCs.

I'm about half way through 'Barefoot In The Rain' which came out this week and it is very sweet. I'm probably going to dip into one of the historical romances soon, as they look fun, but I'm part way through so many books right now that I need to finish some before I start anything else. I also read 'Where Angels Rest', a crime novel with a romantic line through it, which I enjoyed.




  • The green one is 'Palace of Impossible Dreams' by Jennifer Fallon, book 3 in the Tide Lords series. It's been a while since I read a good fantasy novel, and I gobbled through the first 2 books, but had to slow down because of homework. 
  • The giant yellow one is A Clash Of Kings, book 2 in the 'Song Of Ice And Fire' series. I've read the first half before, a while ago, but got stuck, and wanted to get back in to the series. 
  • 'Ratcatcher' is about a Bow Street Runner in London, and is full of highwaymen and secret plans, very interesting. 
  • I'm getting back to 'Gunmetal Magic' as soon as I'm done with A Clash Of Kings, but it's been put off for a little while because it's not a library book. 
  • I won the monthly comments contest at Book Lovers, Inc., and picked 'Lover Unleashed' as my book. I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but the description for this book hadn't jumped at me the way the others did, so I hadn't read it sooner. I thought it was ok, but it felt like a bridging book, introducing new story arcs. I can't wait to read the next one though, and it's fairly near the top of my 'to buy' list at the moment. 
How about you? What have you read recently? Do you have any recommendations for me? Feel free to share links to your own Letterbox Love/IMM/Stacking The Shelves, etc, post in the comments.

~Ailsa

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Colin Fischer by Miller and Stentz


Life is math.

We know this because mathematics can reduce anything to a system of equations. Sometimes the solutions tell us things that seem "intuitively obvious." This means that we do not need math to figure them out. For example, the Parking Problem.

Some mathematicians at a university wanted to know how people could minimize the time it takes to find a parking spot and get into a store. Here is what they found: The optimal strategy is to take the first space you see and then walk.

When I told my father about this, he asked why it took mathematicians at a university to figure it out. I explained that while the conclusions seems intuitively obvious, it runs counter to standard human behavior. Most people will not take the first space the come across. Instead, the will seek out a better, theoretical spot that could be more convenient, incorrectly believing it will save them time.

I used to think people did this because they're bad at math, but actually it's because they're gamblers. They pass up good opportunities that are right in front of them in exchange for imagined improvements that almost never materialize. This is why I trust math and I do not trust people. Math makes better sense.
This is one of Colin Fisher's many observations in his Notebook, a catalog of facts, observations, and notations dating back to his pre-school days. Colin has been diagnosed with high-functioning Aspergers Syndrome and that translates to a variety of quirks which place him firmly on the outskirts of his school's social spectrum. He's bullied by some, ridiculed by others, ignored by most, and befriended by few, but Colin honestly doesn't care. He enjoys school and enjoys making observations of his peers even more. Even his main tormentor, Wayne Connelly, is worthy of consideration. This turns out to be for the bully's benefit after an incident in the cafeteria--one involving an interrupted birthday party and a gunshot--leaves Wayne the prime suspect. Only Colin, the one person with the most reason to want Wayne out of school, believes his innocence. Only Colin starts asking the right questions to figure out what really happened, just like one of his idols, Sherlock Holmes, would.

Especially given that I believe Sherlock Holmes (had he been a real person) probably could have been diagnosed with some form of Autism, Aspergers, or other sociodevelopmental syndrome, I think Colin is this generation's Sherlock. You may not like him, but you'll empathize as he tries to safely navigate the perils of high school. You'll cheer each small victory and you'll smile when people find him as baffling as he finds them. Every character in the book became intriguing when seen through Colin's eyes and his relationships with his parents, his younger brother, and his peers involve interesting and unusual dynamics. Everyone around him has to take Colin for what he is or leave him, but either way it makes very little difference to Colin. His very indifference made him even more fascinating.

I read this book all in one day... in fact, often while I was supposed to be doing other things. I fell in love with Colin from page one. I can actually pinpoint the moment, because it happened at the end of his first Notebook observation, one centering on the inexplicable schooling habits of hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos. In it, Colin states the following:
My name is Colin Fischer. I'm fourteen years old and weigh 121 lbs. Today is my first day of high school.
I have 1,365 days left until I'm finished. 
The tenor of the statements, a simple listing of facts, is a thing of brilliance. Possibly without even realizing it, Colin is doing what every other kid facing their looming high school career is doing: dreading the trials to come and counting the days until they don't have to face them anymore.  Colin's observations are intelligent, thorough, and thought provoking and some of his references (and those of the narrator) would have left me in the dust if not for the very handy footnotes. Not having an overly analytical mind myself, I find books like this mesmerizing if only for letting me peek into an entirely different worldview. It's probably why I studied psychology in college; trying to figure out how different people think intrigues me just as much as it puzzles Colin.

Colin Fischer is out today! Do yourself a favor and go get the book now. It's worth it. I'm hoping the implied promise of a sequel holds true. In fact, I'm hoping for a long, drawn out series of books revolving around Colin. I don't think I will ever get tired of diving into his head.

Erica's Rating: 10 stars

Find the book on:
Amazon - Kindle  |  Hardcover
Barnes & Noble - Nook  |  Hardcover
Goodreads
IndieBound

Monday, August 27, 2012

After Hello by Lisa Mangum



Sam ignored the lie he saw on her face. "I can't trade without knowing what's at stake."

"I thought the important thing was to keep things moving." Sara waved her hands in small circles in front of her as though stirring the air into action.

Sam shook his head. "If you don't know what you want, you'll never get it. What's more, if you don't know what you want, you'll never know when you do get it." He reached into his bag and withdrew a packet. He offered it to her on the palm of his hand. "So, Sara without an h, tell me--what do you want?"

Sara is only in New York City for one day, a day she was supposed to spend sightseeing with her father after his meeting wrapped up. But her father's meeting runs long and Sara is left to her own devices. On impulse she follows a boy she sees leaving a bookstore wearing a Zebra Stripes hoodie, a band she loves that most other people haven't heard of. It's a decision that could lead to something great or something horrible, but the last thing she expects is for it to change her life.

Sam knows a girl is following him, but he can't decide if he should ditch her or let her catch up. He waits for her and meets Sara (without an h) for the first time. Even without knowing anything about her, the ever-observant Sam sees in Sara a kindred spirit, he just doesn't know why yet.

They spend the day together and whether by accident or design they end up on a seemingly impossible quest across the city looking for something that may not even exist. Sam teaches Sara the art of trading, promising you can get anything you want by starting with a sugar packet. Sara shows Sam that sometimes letting go isn't the same as letting go. They seem to click together perfectly, but they're both holding onto demons they're afraid of revealing. Sam and Sara know going in that there's an end in sight--Sara's flight leaves at noon the next day--and it's a looming deadline that makes their time together all the more special and their secrets all the heavier. Will the strange ties that bind them be strong enough to hold when their pasts come to light and their plans fall apart or will good-bye come far too quickly after hello?

I loved this book. I adored the feel of the city you get from it and I loved the characters. Sara wears her smile like a shield to keep people from seeing the pain she still feels from her mother's abandonment eight years ago and Sam is still coping (and running) from a tragedy that shattered the way he looks at the world. Sam has a unique way of seeing things and being able to see from his point of view (the book is told from alternating viewpoints) gave the story another level of depth the really drew me in. It took a few chapters to get used to the switch between first person (Sara's chapters) and third person limited-omniscient (Sam's sections), but otherwise the writing style had a flavor I enjoyed. The descriptions, comparisons, characters, and dialogue all seemed fresh and real and kept me reading until I'd devoured the book in one sitting. The only thing that bothered me: I wanted it to keep going! The book offers a resolution, but enough of the story continues after the last page that it's meant for either the reader to fill in the blanks or to set the characters in motion for a sequel. Personally, I'm hoping for a sequel.

Erica's Rating: 10/10

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Letterbox Love


Letterbox Love is a weekly feature hosted by Narratively Speaking, where bloggers can share the books they received that week.

First of all, I bought one ebook this week:

The first book in the 'Red Rock Pass' series by Moira Rogers, 'Cry Sanctuary'. I'm almost done with this one, and really enjoyed it. I'll probably buy the 2nd book in the series soon.

Then, I got these two:

I've actually had 'Witchling' for a few weeks, but I'm only really getting in to it now. While the story is interesting, the writing style doesn't grab me so much. I bought Spider's Bite yesterday, and I'm glad I finally got around to this series! I love it so far, but I've only read the first couple of chapters.

What books did you get this week? Let me know in the comments, and if you have a link to your own post, I'll check it out!

~Ailsa

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome back!


Hello!

I hope you all had a good summer - I know I did, even if it was incredibly busy. I finished working at camp on Friday afternoon, and after a busy weekend, made it to North Carolina on Sunday evening, where I'm studying this year. Being back at uni means I now have time for reviewing books again!

So, welcome back, everyone! I want to try to get back to my old schedule as quickly as possible - so I'll be aiming to do 2 or 3 reviews a week, and a Letterbox Love post at the weekend. I know, I know, I'm in the States now, but I still like to bring my Britishisms to some things.
I have a couple of books I read over the summer that I want to write about, and I'm reading one just now, but knowing me, other books will accumulate very quickly!

I'm also very happy to take on books for review just now, so check my policy (above) and get in touch if you're interested in me review a book or books for you.

What did you all get up to this summer?

~Ailsa

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger



"Isn't this great, munchkin?" Dad said, stepping up beside Sylvia and putting his arm around her. "You kids will have a wonderful time together. Won't this be a fun summer?"

Fun? Fun was not the word I would have chosen. Unbearable, awkward, torturous... Anything but fun.

This was a nightmare.

I was supposed to be at the condo, wasting time on the beach, just Dad and me, figuring out college and my life and spending time together. Instead, I was in a new house with new people - including a future stepbrother who'd seen me naked.

"Well." I sighed, facing my father again. "It will definitely be interesting. That's for sure."

 Whitley Johnson's parents divorced when she was 12 and for the past six years Whitley has been living with her mother, forced to listen to the near-constant diatribe against her father. Whitley doesn't understand why her mom can't see she's bashing the same traits Whitely inherited from her dad and hates the fact that her mom never sees how miserable she is. Her friends have all abandoned or betrayed her, her brother is too busy with his wife and their new daughter to call Whitley, and she only gets to see her father in the summer months. The only way Whitley can find to feel happy, even for a moment, is to go out and party. Hard. She gets a reputation for being easy--a highly exaggerated reputation--and drowns her sorrows in tequila as often as possible. She's looking forward to spending the summer at her father's condo and wasting the days tanning, drinking margarita's, and barbequing, but that dream is blown apart when her father takes her instead to small-town suburbia where he has a surprise for her: he's getting married.

That's not even the worst part. The new fiance comes with two kids Nathan and Bailey, and Nathan just happens to be Whitley's most recent one night stand. Suddenly her dream summer is starting to look like a nightmare that Whitley doesn't know how to escape. Her usual outlets aren't readily available and as the daughter of Greg Johnson, one of the area's most popular newscasters, Whitley's mistakes are suddenly worthy of noting... and posting on the internet. Despite her best efforts, Whitley is befriended by Harrison, a local boy, and no matter how hard she tries she can't seem to hate her new stepsister Bailey. As she digs herself deeper and deeper into her own hell, will her new family and friend be able to pull her out before she destroys the first good that's happened to her in years?

Kody Keplinger has done it again. I loved this book. You may not like Whitley, but she is a relatable and sympathetic character I couldn't help hoping would see the light. I may not agree with how she dealt with her issues with her parents, but the dynamics of those relationships struck a serious chord with me--I've seen the damage those kinds of parents can do. Also, I loved getting to know Harrison (who showed up in The DUFF) better and seeing that Wesley and Bianca (also from The DUFF) were still together and baffling outsiders with the apparent oddity of their relationship. The book comes with a PG-13 warning.

Sera's Rating: 9/10

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Snapshot by Angie Stanton


Adam finally spoke. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize. My family isn't like that at all."

"No one ever does see that side of the story. They just think about the genius. Well, there's a steep price paid by the people around him."

"It sucks he treated you that way, but stop confusing me with him. I'm not like that."

"Maybe not, but give it time."

Martini Hunter (who much prefers going by Marti) is the daughter of legendary guitarist Steven Hunter. It's a relationship she hates owning up to because spending the first ten years of her life with him and her drug-addict mother has scarred her. Luckily, her maternal grandmother took her in and Marti was able to live the next six years in relative normalcy. She hates rock music and loves photography, so Marti's grandma sends her to an exclusive arts camp with a respected photography program. The last thing she expects is to run into the one thing she can't stand: a rock star.

Adam Jamieson is thrilled to have two weeks to pretend that he's a normal sixteen-year-old and not the lead guitarist of a world class rock band. He meets a pretty girl and everything is looking great, but the illusion only lasts three days before Marti figures him out. Now she's pissed because she thinks he's just like her wastrel father and it doesn't seem like anything he can do will get him back in her good graces. But once he's set his sights on something, Adam doesn't give up easily and Marti is an enticing mystery he's determined to solve.

Just after they finally get past their initial differences, Marti gets news that her grandmother passed away. With this devastating loss comes the realization that she has to move back to LA to live with her father. Adam has to return to his family on the East Coast but worries there's a lot Marti isn't telling him about her life and has to face the criticisms of his older brother and his parents who still insist on treating him like a child. Will he break free in time to help Marti escape the life she never wanted?

I love the Jamieson family. This is the second book centering on the rock star brothers who were first introduced in Rock and a Hard Place. Marti is the perfect combination of scars and strength and she gives Adam's rock star ego a run for his money. The only thing that really bothered me is that it seemed as though Adam's older brother Garrett didn't learn a thing from everything that happened in Rock and a Hard Place. That's kind of disappointing because most of the trouble in that book was his fault and in this one he's up to the same tricks. Mrs. Jamieson seems to have taken her lessons to heart, though, and I really enjoyed getting to know Adam better. The book was a quick read (literally. I read it in a single afternoon cause once I started I just kept going!) and is great for anyone looking for a contemporary YA book. For those considering the book for younger readers, there's more cursing, drugs, and sex in this book than in Angie's previous ones, but not an excessive amount. Just be aware you may have to explain to the younger ones what a bong is if you give them the story. :)

Honestly, I can't wait to see what Angie comes up with for Garrett. At least, I'm sincerely hoping she has someone up her sleeve to calm down that cranky boy. He needs it more than either of his brothers did, I think! Whenever it comes out (if it comes out... please write it, Angie!), I will definitely be reading it.

Sera's rating: 9/10

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Weekly Roundup


No 'Letterbox Love' post from me this week, but here's what did happen on the blog:

Earlier in the week, I reviewed Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire (9/10);

On Thursday, I reviewed Divinely Ruined, by Diane Alberts (6/10);

And also on Thursday, Diane did an interview with us.  You should also check out that post for an international giveaway of Divinely Ruined - all you have to do is comment to enter!

~Ailsa

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blog tour: Interview & giveaway with Diane Alberts


Today I am happy to welcome Diane Alberts to the blog, as part of her blog tour for new book, Divinely Ruined.
Author bio: Diane Alberts has always been a dreamer with a vivid imagination, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she put her pen where her brain was, and became a published author.  Since receiving her first contract offer, she has yet to stop writing. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, and a Senegal parrot. In the rare moments when she’s not writing, she can usually be found hunched over one knitting project or another.
She is a multi-published, bestselling author with Entangled Publishing and Decadent Publishing. She is repped by her fabulous agent, Lauren Hammond of ADA Management. She has, as of this date, two books with Entangled Publishing, and five books with Decadent Publishing. Her February release with Entangled Publishing, ON ONE CONDITION, hit #18 on the Barnes and Noble Bestseller List. She has a lot of projects currently being shopped around by her fabulous agent, and her goal is to write so many fantastic books that even a non-romance book fan will know her name.


Let's find out a little more about the book!

She finally meets a decent man–after she’s oath-bound never to touch men again!
Rebecca’s life sucked before she became an angel. Crappy apartment, awful jobs, abusive boyfriends–it was no wonder she jumped at the chance to escape it all and become a real live angel. The problem is Rebecca’s not very angelic, and she’ll have to do more to earn her wings than end her love affair with the word f–er, frick.
Especially when she’s assigned to save single father Tony Weis, whose less-than-pure thoughts wreak hell on a telepathic angel’s nerves. It’s all Rebecca can do to keep her hands off him…but when she loses her memory injuring herself to save Tony’s daughter, now it’s Tony’s turn to be her angel and care for her. But will Tony’s devotion tempt her from her angelic path, even if it means being human again?

I had the chance to ask Diane a few questions for the blog.
Ailsa: First of all, 'Divinely Ruined' deals with the idea of guardian angels, but your angels were originally human. Rebecca is still very influenced by who she was in her human life - is she different in this, or do others have problems with adapting to 'angel behavior', too?

Diane: I think she, in particular, has a hard time adjusting to the new life she is in. She had such a dark, unhappy life as a human, so she thinks she is ready to give it all up for the glory of the life of an angel. She doesn’t want love and a family anymore…or, she thinks she doesn’t. But Tony helps her see past her fears, and helps her move on from them.
If not for her past life as a human, I think she wouldn’t have been so tempted by Tony, since he represents everything she wanted when she was human, but could never find.

Ailsa: Aww! So what's your favourite thing about Rebecca? How about Tony?

Diane: I love that Rebecca, despite her attempts at being a hard-hearted, perfect, non-swearing  angel, finds everything she didn’t know she wanted in Tony and Miranda. She is stubborn and tries to ignore the signs, like any red-headed angel would, but not too hard-headed to admit it.
And my favorite thing about Tony is the way he acts around those he loves. He tries to hide behind a hard shell and act like he doesn’t care about anything or anyone, but around Miranda and Rebecca, the real Tony shines through.

Ailsa:  Tony's daughter is adorable! Did you always plan for her to be an equally important main character? I love how much she is tied in to the plot, not just someone there to lighten things up and look cute.

Diane: Yes! To me, she is a central character because she drives Tony to be a better person. She makes him want to be an amazing father and a good human…despite his skepticism toward life. She needed to shine through as the adorable, amazing little girl she is. And, I’ll tell you a little secret. She’s based off my own daughter.

Ailsa: That's so nice to be able to base a character on your daughter! A lot of our readers are also aspiring writers - how would you describe your writing process for the story? Did it come to you fully formed, or did it take a while to come together? Is that typical for you?

Diane: Well, the first thing that came to me was the fact that I wanted to write an angel story that is different from all the other ones. In other angel books, they are ethereal beings that have great, sunny dispositions and never lose their temper. I thought it would be a fun change of pace to switch it up and have them be more human. And Rebecca? Well, she came with a foul temper and bright red hair.
Tony quickly followed, and with him came Miranda. A single father, down on his luck and miserable—in desperate need of saving. Saving that Rebecca could give, and only her. The rest of the story just flowed along after the characters formed, and after lots of re-writing and revising, I subbed it to Entangled!

Ailsa: Hurray! Finally, what would you say to people who still aren't convinced to try the book - what do you think makes Divinely Ruined different?

Diane: It is such a refreshing take on angels, and I tried to blend in the realistic world with the fantasy world. I tried to make you believe that angels like Rebecca really do exist—and maybe you know one. But more importantly, this is not like any angel book you’ve ever read. Trust me…I know! Pick up a copy today!

---
Thanks Diane! If you want to know more, you can read the first chapter online, Entangled Publishing or follow these links to buy: Books on Board Amazon,  or Barnes and Noble.


Find Diane on the web:
Website: www.dianealberts.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DianeAlberts
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Diane-Alberts/121705201245084
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5081315.Diane_Alberts


Finally, Entangled Publishing are offering a giveaway copy of 'Divinely Ruined'! Just leave a comment  to enter, open to midnight June 7th. Winner will be chosen at random and announced as close to June 8th as I can manage.

Review: Divinely Ruined, by Diane Alberts


Title: Divinely Ruined
Author: Diane Alberts
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Release date: April 2012
Genre: Romance
Source: review copy from publisher

Description: She finally meets a decent man - after she's oath-bound never to touch men again!
Rebecca's life sucked before she became an angel. Crappy apartment, awful jobs, abusive boyfriends - it was no wonder she jumped at the chance to escape it all and become a real live angel. The problem is Rebecca's not very angelic, and she'll have to do more to earn her wings than end her love affair with the word f-er, frick.
Especially when she's assigned to save single father Tony Weis, whose less-than-pure thoughts wreak hell on a telepathic angel's nerves. It's all Rebecca can do to keep her hands off him... but when she loses her memory injuring herself to save Tony's daughter, now it's Tony's turn to be her angel and care for her. But will Tony's devotion tempt her from her angelic path, even if it means being human again?

My thoughts: Divinely Ruined is a sweet story about a woman who's been given the chance at a new life as an angel. Her first task is to save Tony, and that is immediately problematic. First, there's the challenge of making Tony let her in to help. Being an angel makes her telepathic which helps, but it also leaves her susceptible to the mental images Tony comes up with of them being very friendly together. Not on purpose (most of the time) - he just didn't expect an angel to be pretty and favour low cut tops. Each chapter starts with an Angel Rule, and Rule Number 2 is "never fall for your subject". Rebecca is so determined to do a good job and earn her wings, but Tony is very distracting, especially with his adorable daughter, Miranda.

I liked watching Tony and Rebecca start to trust and become familiar with each other, and then to properly care about each other. Rebecca connects with Miranda almost straight away and is an important part in bringing them together. The story is fairly short (less than 200 pages) but has a lot of character development packed in. There was one big thing Rebecca did that I got a bit annoyed with, near the end of the book - she reacts very badly to something Tony does, and I really don't think it was fair of her.

This is a sweet romance story with just a hint of angels involved, and was a pleasant read for an evening. It wasn't particularly 'deep' or needing lots of thought, but it was nice to have something light for a little while. I'll give this a 6 overall.

~Ailsa

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A little disruption


Hi guys!
On Friday evening I start a slow trip to New Jersey for my 3rd summer working as a camp counsellor there. I can't wait to be back, but it means posts might be a little slower. For the next couple of weeks, I should be able to keep up with lots of posts, but once camp kicks off near the end of June, I'm not sure how it's going to go. My plan is to get at least two reviews up a week, plus the Letterbox Love posts on Sundays. Maybe I'll be able to do more than that (I hope so) but we'll see how it goes. I'm going to try and set up some auto-posts for the days I can't get to the computer.

I read every single comment, and appreciate them all, so if I'm a little slow reply, it's because I'm trying to stop a group of children burning down the pinelands!

Check back on the blog tomorrow for a review of 'Divinely Ruined' by Diane Alberts, and an interview & giveaway with the author!

Do any of you have fun summer plans?

~Ailsa

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire


Title: Discount Armageddon
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: Daw (US)
Release date: March 2012
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Bought at my local indie fantasy book store (Transreal Fiction, Edinburgh)

Description from back cover: Cryptid, noun: Any creature whose existence has not yet been proven by science. See also "monster".
Cryptozoologist, noun: Any person who thinks hunting for cryptids is a good idea. See also "idiot".


Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... and that's just the beginning. The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity - and to protect humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance.
Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St George. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumours about a dragon sleeping underneath the city... 
A lifetime of training isn't enough to prepare Verity for what's ahead - especially not for Dominic De Luca, the Covenant's newest operative. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. 

My thoughts: I was introduced to Seanan McGuire's writing shortly after her first book, Rosemary and Rue, was published, and I've looked forward to each new book ever since. I've yet to be let down by one of her books, so I was really excited for her new series, which starts with Discount Armageddon.

Verity's family has a long history working as cryptozoologists, mainly trying to protect supernatural creatures from humans, and from the Covenant of St George, who think the only good cryptid is a dead one. Verity is taking a gap year of sorts, to live in a city (*gasps from her family*) and pursue a career ballroom dancing. Previously, she entered a So-You-Think-You-Can-Dance type show and did very well, but because her family are hiding from the Covenant, she had to do so under a false name, which she now uses for dance auditions in New York. To make ends meet, she works in a bar owned by a cryptid, Dave, and lives in a tiny apartment with creatures called 'Aeslin Mice'. The mice are rather adorable - just like normal mice, but they talk, and have festivals and religious celebrations for everything. Verity first meets Dominic De Luca as she's free-running home from work over the rooftops of New York and ends up hanging upside down from a trap he'd set. From there, it starts getting harder for Verity to keep her two lives of dancing and cryptozoology separate, getting pulled into problems about dragons that she would rather stay away from. While she and Dominic try to keep from killing each other, they must hunt around and under the city to find the truth of the rumours and find out what's happening to the disappearing locals.

Discount Armageddon is a really fun read. I was very quickly pulled into Verity's world, and I loved each new cryptid she met. I can't wait to see more of the world in the following books.  I like how Dominic and Verity both have a lot of prejudices about each other which they gradually manage to overcome, and I hope later books will show a little more of their fledgling friendship.

The second book, Midnight Blue Light, is scheduled for March 2013, and if you can't wait that long, there are some short stories about Verity's predecessors available on Seanan McGuire's website, here, as well as field guide to some of the cryptids.

I'm giving this 9 out of 10, and I'm really looking forward to book two in the InCryptid series.

~Ailsa

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Letterbox Love #2


Letterbox Love is a new feature hosted by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking, intended as a way of sharing the books we've received with a slightly more British feel to it.

I've been away for a couple of weeks, trying (hopefully) to pass my exams, and sort out things for the summer and the coming year - I'm off to study abroad, so it's taken a bit of stress & organising with visas and pesky things things like that.

I've got a couple of books in the last week or so. First, I finally got the 4th Parasol Protectorate book, by Gail Carriger:

I'm about half way through this one, and I love it, it's so much fun to be back in this world again. (Click here for description on Goodreads.)

I also got a couple of ebooks from NetGalley for review:

Brook Street: Rogues, by Ava March - I've finished this one, and will be doing a mini-review of it soon. It's quite short, but it was fun. (Goodreads description.) 

And one that I read the description for somewhere online, and thought it sounded great, so I checked online and lo and behold, there it was! It's called 'The 500' by Matthew Quirk. I'm saving this one for when I have time to just sit & read with no distractions - I think it's going to be the sort of book that needs it. It's published by Hatchette Books & comes out on 5th June. (Goodreads description.)


So that's me for now - what did you all get through the post this week?

~Ailsa

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: Nightfire by Lisa Marie Rice


Title: Nightfire
Author: Lisa Marie Rice
Publisher: Avon Red
Release Date: Feb 7 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Notes: Book 3 in a series, but stands alone pretty well
Source: review copy from publisher via edelweiss

Description from publisher: Chloe Mason can't remember much about her childhood, except for being in and out of hospitals. Now healthy and all grown up, she's determined to fill the gaping hole that was her past.. When she finds her long lost brother, Harry, she discovers family and something else that was missing from her life. Love.


As a child, Mike Keillor helplessly watched as his parents were massacred. Vowing to never again be vulnerable, he joined the Marines and became a Recon sniper, SWAT officer, and an expert in martial arts, before establishing his own successful security company. When his friend and partner Harry reconnects with his long lost sister, Chloe, the hard-as-nails Mike is felled by the one thing he can't fight. Love.


But their future is jeopardized when Chloe accidently steps into the path of the Russian mob. Though his adversary is way bigger than he is, nothing can stop Mike from saving the woman who has captured his heart. He lost his family, and he will not lose Chloe. Failure is not an option.

My thoughts: It's taken me a while to start writing this review because there were bits that really bothered me in the book. There were other bits that I quite liked. At first, we meet Chloe as she's in the waiting room of a mysterious company, waiting very nervously to speak to someone. She's had a hard childhood, and been a victim of abuse, which is clear early on. She reveals through a tearful conversation that Harry is her brother. Aaannd here it started losing me with the lack of realism. The family that are there at the office immediately welcome her as a sister, and they go home (where the three families involved in the series have apartments almost nextdoor to each other) and have a big family lunch. They've literally just met each other, and they go to have this cosy meal. Mike helps Chloe collect her stuff from the hotel she was staying in, because of course the family want her to stay with them, and while in the hotel room, the insta-lust between them bubbles over. Abused, virginal Chloe makes out with him against a wall, and lets him touch her intimately. It just seemed so unbelievable to me that a woman who's been through what Chloe has, and is still a virgin, would suddenly be so happy with physical contact when she's shied away from it with anyone so far in the book, and then would suddenly let herself be intimate with a man she's just met.

Moving on from that, there were bits that were very well written and I hoped it would turn out ok. There were a couple of other things along the lines of Chloe's intimacy issues that bothered me, but mostly it was the torture and the treatment of the prostitutes that also are tied in to the story. Perhaps stronger-stomached readers would have faired better, but I just didn't feel comfortable reading it. Readers here how secure Mike has made his apartment, and then someone finds a way to get in anyway - I really found it hard to accept that he would have thought of all these other ways to stop things and miss this one rather obvious one.

There is good writing in there, but I just didn't feel like it was very believable in a lot of places, and I was very uncomfortable with some scenes. I think this book has to get 4 out of 10 from me. I might read something else by this author if it had good recommendations, but it's something I'll be quite wary of.

~Ailsa

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Royal Street, by Suzanne Johnson


Title: Royal Street
Author: Suzanne Johnson
Publisher: Tor/Forge
Released: April 10th, 2012
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: review copy via NetGalley

Description: As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco's job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans' fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards' Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ's new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

My Thoughts: I really like this book. Now that we've got that out the way, let me tell you a bit more about it. We meet the heroine, DJ, as she's meeting the ghost of a lascivious pirate, who she soon banishes. She then catches up with her mentor Gerry, and they dismiss the coming storm, Katrina, as something that probably won't do any more harm than any other storm, and think that people should stop scaremongering. Of course, every reader knows how it's really going to turn out, and I was biting my nails waiting to see if these people would get themselves somewhere safe, and then what would happen in the aftermath. At first it seems like they're going to be ok, but then a few days after the storm has passed, Gerry goes missing, and it's up to DJ to sort out the supernatural beasties that are sneaking in to the city, while she tries to clear his name. Enter Alex, the "grenade-toting assassin". Both Alex & his cousin Jake sound very hot, and I found it very interesting to read about the interaction DJ had with each of them. For a little while, I really couldn't guess which way things were going to go.

I like the way the relationships develop between all the characters, and the way that DJ changes over the book as she finds out some things about her childhood. In her quest to clear Gerry's name, she does come across some things that point the finger strongly against him, and I thought the way she reacted and changed because of that was very believable. Each character has a strong, realistic personality of their own, and the interactions between them were often very funny - I really like DJ's inner voice.

I visited New Orleans last September, and I think it's beautifully brought to life in the book - it made me very nostalgic for my trip. The way that the supernatural element is brought into the world is very interesting, I think - they seem to exist in a parallel, slightly in the past, world, and try to break through to our world/time - it's DJ's job to stop this sort of thing. I can't wait to read more about her adventures, and see what happens with her changing powers as she learns more about what she can do. I'm also very interested to see the after affects of the events at the end of this book.

I'll give this one 9 out of 10 - check it out if you like books by Kalayna Price, Ilona Andrews, or Jocelynn Drake.

~Ailsa

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview with Courtney Vail


For the first time ever on this blog, I'm pleased to welcome author Courtney Vail to my blog! Her book Kings & Queens just released this year and the sequel, Sapphire Reign, is in the works. Courtney graciously stopped by long enough to answer some questions about her book, her writing style, and advice all would-be authors need to hear.

Thank you, Courtney!

Seventeen-year-old Majesty Alistair wants police to look further into her father's fatal car wreck, hopes the baseball team she manages can reclaim the state crown, aches for Derek...or, no...maybe Alec...maybe. And she mostly wishes to retract the hateful words she said to her dad right before slamming the door in his face, only to never see him again.

All her desires get sidelined, though, when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre. She doubts cops will follow up on her tip since they're sick of her coming around with notions of possible crimes-in-the-works. And it's not like she cries wolf. Not really. They'd be freaked too, but they're not the ones suffering from bloody dreams that hint at disaster like some crazy, street guy forecasting the Apocalypse.

So, she does what any habitual winner with zero cred would do...try to I.D. the nutjobs before they act. But, when their agenda turns out to be far bigger than she ever assumed, and even friends start looking suspect, the truth and her actions threaten to haunt her forever, especially since she's left with blood on her hands, the blood of someone she loves.

To read the interview, click here. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Last Day to Enter Sera's Giveaway!


Photo found here.
This is the last day to enter my birthday-inspired giveaway! Until midnight eastern standard time tonight, you can enter a contest to win one of two prizes. First prize will be a custom designed necklace made by me. Second place will be a custom designed bracelet.  Also, because this is a special month and a special contest, the contest will be open internationally!

One of the entries asks for a blog comment (click here to comment), a comment specifically answering the question, if money were no object, what would you want for your birthday this year?

My answer? Four back-to-back cruises on the Holland America line that would take me around the entire world in about a year.

A girl can dream, right? :)





a Rafflecopter giveaway

A sampling of pieces I've made recently.



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

'Rules of Attraction' flash giveaway results


Morning everyone! It's a lovely sunny day here on the west of Scotland, a nice cheery time to announce the winners of the 'Rules of Attraction' giveaway :-)

I assigned everyone a number based on the order their comments were published & put the numbers into random.org, and the winner is:

Emily!

Congrats, Emily! Check your emails - you've got 2 weeks to get back to me :)

We'll have another giveaway in a couple of weeks time, so stay tuned if you didn't win this time!

~Ailsa

Monday, May 7, 2012

Letterbox Love #1


'Letterbox Love' is a new meme created by a group of UK book bloggers and hosted by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking. It's a way to share the books you've got through the post each week, aimed more at British bloggers.

I got one book this week, which is actually quite a good thing because I've put all my partially-read and to-be-read books on one shelf, and there are quite a lot of them! I'm trying to get through some of them before the next adventure, which is approaching fast.

The book I got this week was a review copy of 'Divinely Ruined' by Diane Alberts. Diane will be stopping by on the 24th May as part of her blog tour, and doing an interview and giveaway.

Published April 26th by Entangled Publishing, you can learn more about it at Goodreads.
Thanks Entangled!

What books did you get this week? Leave your links in the comments and I'll check them out :-)

~Ailsa

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mini Review: The Luxe, by Anna Godbersen


Title: The Luxe
Author: Anna Godbersen
Publisher: Penguin (UK)/Harper Collins (US)
Release date: 2008
Genre: YA historical
Source: BookMooch

Description (from back cover): Imagine, if you will, New York City, 1899... 
Society's elite: the glamour, the grandeur, the glittering parties, the most handsome beaux, the most beautiful debutantes... the rich girl, the humble boy, the forbidden love, the stolen glances, the whispers, the scandal, the mystery, the revenge
You are cordially invited to step into The Luxe, where the secrets are dark and the sins are delicious... 

My thoughts: A sort of turn of the century Gossip Girl, 'The Luxe' introduces us to a cast of young men and women coming of age in 1899 Manhattan. Beginning with a newspaper obituary and then the start of a funeral for one miss Diana, readers get a quick who's who of the young elite. It was a bit of an info-dump, but it made it very easy to flick back and forth later and find out more about characters from their names. The story then jumps back a few weeks, to where Diana is alive. I enjoyed reading about the pretty dresses and fancy parties - I'm still a girly-girl at heart ;-) Of course behind the parties there are other problems and a lot of rivalries. The story gets to that part quickly, and I was keen to find out what happened to cause the funeral just a few weeks later.
There were a few pages where I skipped forward because it was clear what was happening and I wanted to get to the good bits. I thought it was a good story overall, and I would like to read the sequel when I can get hold of it.
 6/10

~Ailsa

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell


Also posted on my blog. 

We need her. 

When you've been out in an ocean, stung by jellyfish, battered by waves, and circled by sharks in frosty pink lipstick, you grab the first life preserver tossed your way.

We need her. 

I faced every member of KDRS radio staff. I wasn't naked. I wasn't alone. And according to Duncan, I was needed.

Before school let out for winter break, Chloe was on top of the world. She and her two best friends were inseparable--and ultra popular--and she'd been crowned Mistletoe Ball Queen. Her Junior Independent Study Project (JISP) had been approved on the lives of soap opera villenesses and she could always make her friends laugh. But then, for no apparent reason, everything completely falls apart. Her best friends hate her and start spreading vicious lies through the school, the old guidance counselor retires and the new one un-approves Chloe's JISP, and her beloved Grams starts to succumb to her Parkinsons disease. Desperate for a new JISP--because it's the only problem she seems able to fix--Chloe ends up at the school-run radio station, KDRS. The only problem? No one wants her there. These kids, all outsiders of the school's social order, have formed their own little family and newcomers aren't exactly welcomed with open arms. But Chloe doesn't have any other options and the KDRS kids can't say no. The only one who doesn't seem to hate her is the radio's fix-it guy Duncan who is incredibly cute, but about as taciturn as Chloe is talkative. Can Chloe work her magic and put all the pieces of her life back together or do some things that break stay broken forever?

Before I start, I'm just going to say I love this cover. Is it the best cover ever designed? No, but it fits the book perfectly. The designers paid attention to things like the color of the main character's hair and her love of vintage fashion and added those details into this layout. It's colorful, glittery, and totally Chloe. Kudos to the team behind this. When I get published, I hope I have a team who really gets my book and can pull together a cover just as representative of the story. Now, for the actual contents...

Well, I loved those too! The characters were all unique with easy to differentiate voices and I found myself smiling a lot as I read. Shelley did a great job working in a lot of common high-school-age issues without treating them in the same way. Chloe is lambasted by her ex-best friends, but never seeks vengeance. She also doesn't go out looking to get her popularity back. Because of who she is, though, it comes anyway. The love interest between Chloe and Duncan is adorable and develops naturally. Throughout the book you see Chloe not only coming out of her comfort zone, but helping pull others out of theirs. She's funny, outgoing, intelligent, and kind. She may end up being a trifle self-absorbed at times, but, honestly, who isn't? Overall, I found her and the rest of the cast delightful and the book was a quick, fun read.


In the end, I was only left with a couple of questions: 1) What is Clem's story? The girl who runs the radio station is prickly as hell, but we never really get any background on her. 2) The shoes Chloe is always talking about sound expensive! Where in the world is she getting the money for those? How much does her side job as a promo girl at a Mexican restaurant pay exactly? Still, if those were the only biting, unanswered questions left at the end of the book, I have to say the author did a bang-up job of tying the loose ends together. I can't tell for sure, but I feel as though there might be a sequel buried in these characters. Maybe with Chloe taking the lead again, maybe not. All I know is I wouldn't mind taking a trip back into Chloe's universe one day.

Sera's Rating: 10/10

Friday, May 4, 2012

Almost by Anne Elliot


Cross posted from my blog.
Almost. Almost.

How I hate that word and the way it defines me.

Almost raped. Almost over it. Almost normal.

I can almost forget. Way worse, I can almost remember.

I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. Even though everyone says it wasn't my fault, I feel responsible. How can this messed up life not be partly my deal? I did wrong. I broke all the rules that night. And I'm paying the consequences for my 'bad choices' in this endless time-out. Nightmare. Punishment. Endless time-out.
It's been three years and Jess Jordan still isn't over something that technically didn't happen. She barely even remembers that night, but what she does remember is just enough to give her nightmares every time she falls asleep in the dark. Her solution? Don't sleep at night. Instead, she uses her Jeep to catch catnaps whenever she has some spare time. The silence in the house at night helps convince her parents everything is getting back to "normal," but they're not ready to let her move out at the end of her senior year unless she can prove it. Her sister's solution? Get a job, get some friends, get a boyfriend. So that's what Jess is trying to do--land an internship at the headquarters of Geekstuff.com. The only problem? She's not the only one they're considering.

Three years ago, Gray Porter promised Jess Jordan's parents he'd stay away from her even though that's the last thing he wants to do. Come senior year, though, he is getting a little desperate for money since his chances at a hockey scholarship are out the window. When he hears Geekstuff.com is going to pay their intern $8,000 for a few weeks work, he's determined that intern is going to be him... until he realizes Jess Jordan is the only other candidate left. He's been keeping a secret that's been slowly eating away at him for a long time and Jess is at the heart of it.

It's the last thing she expected when she arrived for the second interview, but when Jess goes home that day she has everything her sister thought she needed to qualify as a "normal" teen: a job, friends, and a boyfriend. So what if she had to offer to work for free just to get the job? So what if her new friends just happened to come with her boyfriend? And so what if her boyfriend--her very cute boyfriend--only agreed because she's paying him $8,000 to play the part for a few weeks? It still counts, right? But Jess doesn't know she's spending time with the one person outside her family who knows what keeps her up at night. What will she do if hearing his voice every day starts to bring back the memory of that night so long ago? Do they even stand a chance or will their relationship me one more almost to add to her list?

That summary was a lot longer than I usually do, but the story is complicated. This is partially because it's told from both perspectives: Jess and Gray. I loved that. I always want to know what the characters are thinking and this format allows us to see exactly that. There were a lot of adorable moments between Jess and Gray, but I think the strongest part of this book is that it revolves around an "almost." A lot of people forget that even something that almost happened can destroy a life; almost getting raped definitely falls into that category.

Honestly, I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to pretty much anyone who like contemporary YA. Despite the subject matter, there's actually little to no cursing, sex, violence, or any other graphic material, so even giving it to younger readers as a conversation starter would probably be okay. My only complaints? 1) At times Gray came off a tiny (tiny) bit girlish, especially in the wording when he started gushing over Jess, and 2) through the beginning of the book I sometimes felt Jess' reactions and her level of trauma were a tad overblown... until she finally remembered what happened. Then, I realized, not so much. I'm not sure if this reaction is because I haven't suffered through something like this and can't relate or because that actual horror of the circumstances don't come through until the night finally comes back to her... Overall I thought Anne's story and her characters were strong. She's got a new book coming out soon and I'll definitely be buying it when it hits Amazon!

Sera's Rating: 9/10

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Flash giveaway: Rules of Attraction, by Simone Elkeles


I'm clearing through my bookshelves again, trying to make space for all the shiny new ones I just brought home from uni. So, it's giveaway time!

Rules of Attraction, by Simone Elkeles (review here). 

To win, just leave me a comment on this post. Giveaway is open from now until midnight Tuesday (8th May). UK only, must be a follower, either on GFC or by email. 

~Ailsa

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A little more British


Being a British book blogger, I'm quite interested in bringing some more British feeling to the blog. You'll have noticed that most of the time, it's the UK cover of a book that I post alongside my reviews, and I'm participating in the 'British Books Challenge' this year to read & review 12 books by British authors. At The Overflowing Library, Kirsty & some of her fellow bloggers have come up with a new feature to share new books we've received, which will be called 'Letterbox Love'. You see, we don't have 'mailboxes' or even 'mail' here - instead, it's post, which is delivered to a postbox or letterbox.
I think this sounds like a fun feature, something a little more British. You can read the post about it on The Overflowing Library here.

I don't have any new books this week to participate, but in future, you can expect to see my Letterbox Love posts sometime over the weekend when I have new books to talk about!

~Ailsa

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Dark Parties by Sara Grant


Title: Dark Parties
Author: Sara Grant
Publisher: Indigo (UK)
Release Date: December 2011 (UK)
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description from back cover: Every tiny act of defiance adds up. Maybe this one snowflake can start an avalanche.

Neva keeps a list of The Missing - people like her grandmother who have vanished. The people that everyone else pretends never existed. In a world isolated by the Protectosphere - a dome which protects, but also imprisons - Neva and her friends dream of freedom. But a forbidden party leads to complications. Suddenly, Neva's falling for her best friend's boyfriend, uncovering secrets and lies that threaten to destroy her world - and learning the horrifying truth about what happens to The Missing

My thoughts: I'm not normally very interested in dystopian novels. They just don't appeal to me for a variety of reasons. But when people started talking about 'Dark Parties' by Sara Grant I thought it sounded different, and I'm very glad I gave it a shot. I was lucky enough to get a copy for review, and it kept me entertained on a couple of long journeys.

The story starts with Neva and her friend Sanna holding a 'dark party' with their friends. In a city which never really gets totally dark, they get tape and cushions to block out every scrap of light in the room. Then the girls tell everyone their real plan: they want to do something to tell their oppressive government that they don't want to listen to it any more, and they are fed up of the constant propaganda praising the protectosphere. The first hitch: Neva's father works for the government, and all their employees must be beyond reproof. Any one of the people who are in on the plan could decide to snitch on them, and of course, someone does. Neva is questioned by the police, and only just escapes.

From then on, Neva walks a narrow line between passing the government's scrutiny, and continuing to search for the truth of what's going on, and what happens to the people who go missing. Of course, falling for Sanna's boyfriend, Braydon, is not helping things, and as you can guess, that leads to problems between the two girls. Sara Grant creates a believable new future where a couple of generations after people move in to the Protectosphere, problems of inbreeding, lack of resources, and food shortages are starting to plague the population. Neva and her friends are in the middle of it, declared adults now that they're 16, and being encouraged to take up government appointed jobs and start having children. I found it a very interesting situation to read about and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book.

Some of the plot twists were very unexpected, others not so much - I guessed what might be happening to the missing women a long time before Neva figures it out, and although she's kept ignorant to many things by the government, I think it should have occurred to her sooner what was going on. In the last few chapters though I could barely stand turning the page - just as I thought things were going to be ok, something went wrong, then it got better, then something worse happened! I really wasn't sure by the end how things were going to turn out.

This was a really enjoyable page-turner, and maybe I'll be brave enough to try some more dystopians soon. With 'Dark Parties' Sara Grant takes readers to a world where one person might just be able to start a revolution against an overly controlling government whose protectiveness is out of control. Can't wait to read the next book in this series and see what happens next! 8 out of 10.

~Ailsa

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Lessons After Dark, by Isabel Cooper


Title: Lessons After Dark
Author: Isabel Cooper
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
Publication date: 1st April 2012
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley

Description: For years, Gareth St. John put his supernatural talent for healing in service to the British Army. Now he’s the doctor at a very unusual new school that helps people with special “talents” learn how to hone their abilities. Olivia Brightmore became a fake medium to support herself after her husband died, but she never expected to discover real magic as the school’s newest teacher. Olivia tries to keep the handsome doctor at arm’s length, but she can’t resist the urge to get under his skin.


He’s no proper gentleman, but she’s no honest woman.

My thoughts: I had no idea from the description that this story took place in a historical setting, but luckily I had no problem with it. It's set in one of my favourite time periods - late 1800s England. Olivia turns up at the school not really sure what to expect, but knowing she doesn't really have much choice in her current circumstances, and that it could be the lifeline she needs to a respectable, more stable life.

Whatever else it might be, her new job certainly isn't normal, as Olivia spends her first afternoon coaxing a young girl down from the ceiling, where she's floated to and got stuck. Unfortunately while she impresses the pupils and the couple who run the little 'school', Olivia's early meetings with Gareth don't go very well, and he is convinced she's a fraud because of her previous job.

As the story unfolds, Gareth and Olivia gradually come to trust each other, and despite wanting to shake each of them a couple of times, their relationship was realistic as it developed and they worked through things both individually together. It was really interesting to see the various magical abilities that the children had, too. The world building was very believable, and although there are some magical elements, they are carefully fitted in to the world of the late 1800s, kept quiet for the most part.

Although this is the second book in the series, it was fine to pick up without having read the first one. I really enjoyed it, and I will definitely look for the other books in the series as they are written. I would definitely recommend this book, and I give it 8 out of 10.


~Ailsa

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In My Mailbox (22/3)


Hi everyone, welcome to another In My Mailbox! IMM is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, and is a way for people to share the books they got each week.

I have a couple of ebooks to talk about this week, so no video.

First, after seeing some good reviews for Shelley Laurenston's new book I decided to check out the first book in the series, 'The Mane Event' and as it was only a couple of pounds on amazon and I needed cheering up.
 
Description: Mace Llewellyn. Brendon Shaw. Two tall, gorgeous, sexy alpha heroes who are 100% male--with a little something extra. Lion-shifters, to be exact, who can unleash every woman's animal side and still look good--make that spectacular--in a suit. . .and even better out of it. . .
NYPD cop Desiree "Dez" MacDermot knows she's changed a lot since she palled around with her childhood buddy, Mace. But it's fair to say that Mace has changed even more. It isn't just those too-sexy gold eyes, or the six-four, built-like-a-Navy Seal body. It's something in the way he sniffs her neck and purrs, making her entire body tingle. . . Meanwhile, for Tennessean Ronnie Lee Reed, New York City is the place where any girl--even one who runs with a Pack--can redefine herself. First order of business: find a mate, settle down, and stop using men for sex. Even big, gorgeous, lion shifter men like Brendon Shaw. But she needn't worry, because now that Brendon's set his sights on her, the predator in him is ready to pounce and never let go. . .


Then I got a couple of books to review from Avon:
Scandal Wears Satin, by Loretta Chase (released June 26th, book 2 in the Dressmakers Series)



A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot's beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society's fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop's advantage requires every iota of Sophy's manipulative skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rakes like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can't keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy's clothes.


But when Longmore's sister, Noirot's wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can't let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .

& 'A Night Like This' by Julia Quinn (released May 29th):

Anne Wynter might not be who she says she is...
But she's managing quite well as a governess to three highborn young ladies. Her job can be a challenge— in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play that might be a tragedy (or might be a comedy— no one is sure), and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he's the first man who has truly tempted her, and it's getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.
Daniel Smythe-Smith Might be in mortal danger...
But that's not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family's annual musicale, he vows to pursue her, even if that means spending his days with a ten-year-old who thinks she's a unicorn. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending...

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

~Ailsa

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy (Almost) Birthday To Me!



Photo found here.
In honor of my birthday, I'm giving away presents! Seems odd, doesn't it? Oh well! It's fun.

Between midnight tonight and midnight on May 11th, you will be able to enter a contest to win one of two prizes. First prize will be a custom designed necklace made by me. Second place will be a custom designed bracelet. Hopefully sometime before then I'll have enough designs made to set up an etsy or an artfire shop so you'll be able to look at some of the things I've made to get an idea of what you'd like me to create for you should you win. In the meantime, enter away! Most of the entries are one time only, but posting once a day on Facebook and Twitter get you extra entries! Also, because this is a special month and a special contest, the contest will be open internationally!

One of the entries asks for a blog comment, a comment specifically answering the question, if money were no object, what would you want for your birthday this year?

My answer? Four back-to-back cruises on the Holland America line that would take me around the entire world in about a year.

A girl can dream, right? :)

Good luck!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book review: Heart Signs, by Cari Quinn


Title: Heart Signs
Author: Cari Quinn
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Publication Date: February 2012
Genre: Romance
Source: From author for review

Description: Rory Fowler has taken Sam Miller's billboard orders for the last two years, but they aren't to advertise, they're love notes to his wife. Sam's most recent billboard about his wife's passing hits Rory hard. When she calls Sam to offer condolences, it sets off an unexpected chain of events that ends with Rory in Sam's apartment —and his arms.

Reading Sam's love letters tugs Rory into the romance between him and his estranged, now-deceased, wife. Their lives soon intertwine so completely that Rory wonders how she'll ever forget the man who makes poetry out of emotions she's fought to dismiss. And plays her body even more skillfully than he writes love notes.

Consumed by guilt and grief, Sam is shocked by the feelings Rory arouses in him, sexually and otherwise. Now he's not thinking about yesterday as much as he's looking forward to tomorrow. He's just not sure if he's capable of moving on... or if the woman who helped him find the will to really live again will be by his side.

My thoughts: I've read, I think 4 Cari Quinn stories now, including this one, and have really enjoyed them all. This story starts with Rory driving past the most recent billboard sign that Sam's commissioned, and unlike previous times, she wasn't the one who took the booking, so hasn't seen it until now. The fact that it's a memorial for Sam's wife, Dani, really affects Rory, even though she's never met either of them.

The two arrange to meet, but on the way, Rory ends up bumping his car, and they head back to his house to sort out the bump before either of them admits to who they are. Sparks fly almost immediately, and although they get a little carried away, it's not going to work between them right then. Sam hasn't been with a woman for a long time, not since he and his deceased wife separated, and it's going to take a lot to help him work through his feelings for her.

I love the way the relationship between these two develops. Although they feel very attracted to each other, things go slowly. They spend a lot of time just talking to each other, often over the phone, getting to know each other very well. I really liked the fact that it wasn't an 'instant love' thing. Gradually as they share more about themselves they become closer and closer.

I kind of felt like the ending was a bit abrupt, in that I looked up from reading to realise there were about 20 pages left, when I felt like there should be more, but actually it was a fulfilling ending, and I like the direction the two characters are heading. The love letters from Sam to Dani are very touching, and I found myself in tears a few times while reading.

This is a sweet, believable romance from Cari Quinn, who I'm adding to my list of 'favourite contemporary romance writers'. As with her previous stories, it shows a couple in a believable romance with some lovely steamy scenes. I give this one 7 stars.

~Ailsa

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Winners of the Big Birthday Giveaway!


I finished term a couple of weeks ago and just got back from my holiday with the family, so now it's time to announce the winners of the Big Birthday Giveaway. I've also read some good books in the last couple of weeks, so there will be a lot of reviews coming in the next few weeks.

I assigned a number to everyone who entered, including their extra entries, then put the numbers into random.org

The winner of the 'Dante Valentine' series by Lilith Saintcrow is:

Beks/Just Another Teenage Bookworm

The winner of 'Undead and Unemployed' by Mary Janice Davidson is:

Discincentive

The winner of 'Evernight' by Claudia Gray is:

Anaisa

Congratulations, winners! I've tried to contact you via email, please get in touch with me at ailsa.floyd@yahoo.com and let me know your addresses so I can send the books. You have 1 week to claim your prize.

If you missed out this time, I'll be running another giveaway before the end of the month, so keep an eye on the blog!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Giveaway closed!


The Big Birthday Giveaway is now closed. I'm going to tally up the entries in the next couple of days, and draw the winners for each prize. Winners will be announced here on the blog, and if an email address has been left I will also contact winners that way.

There will be another giveaway soon, so keep your eye on the blog for that!

~Ailsa
 

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