Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book review: Darkness Unbound, by Keri Arthur

Not really a mini review, but still shorter than normal today. I read this back in November, so it's hard to think of lots to write without talking about the sequel!

Title: Darkness Rising
Author: Keri Arthur
Publisher: Piatcus (UK)/Bantam (USA)
Publication date: October 2011
Notes: Book 1 in the Dark Angel series. Contains spoilers for the Riley Jensen series.

Description: Born from a lab-enhanced clone mother and an Aedh father, Risa Jones can not only talk to the souls of the dying and the dead but she can see reapers and walk the grey fields that divide this world from the next. They are skills she rarely uses, however. But when her mother asks her to help the parents of a little girl locked in a coma, she reluctantly agrees. What she discovers terrifies her: someone has ripped the girl's soul from her flesh.

As it turns out, a creature consuming the souls of the innocent - and not so innocent - is the least of her problems. Because someone wants to rip open the gates that divide hell from earth, and Risa is a key component in their plans. And the only person standing between her and disaster is a reaper who isn't exactly on her side.

My thoughts: I'm a big fan of the author, Keri Arthur, and particularly her Riley Jensen series, which I was sad to see end. So when I heard she was writing a new series set in the same world, you know I was interested! 'Darkness Unbound' is the first book in the Dark Angel series, and focuses on Risa, someone we started to see at a very young age, now all grown up. Along with her best friends Iliana and Tao, she owns & runs a very successful restaurant, but with her ability to see reapers, the creatures that usher souls along to the next life, her mother (a Seer) sometimes points clients to Risa too.

Risa quickly gets pulled in to a conspiracy that seems to involve her father, and looks like it could leave her dead, possibly getting her friends first. And of course Risa won't let that happen. I really liked the dynamics between the three friends - it's clear they all get on very well, but there are also slight tensions sometimes over things that happened before the book starts. I hope we'll get to explore those things in the rest of the series.

This being a Keri Arthur story, it wouldn't be complete without some sexy complicated men, and taking up the post here we have Lucian, who seems interested in becoming something serious for Risa, but has a lot of secrets. Then there's the reaper who's staying by her side pretty much 24/7 while he tries to stop Risa's dad.

I loved this book, and can't wait to see where the Dark Angel series goes. Book 2 is also out already (hopefully I'll review it soon) and book 3 comes out in July. I'll give Darkness Unbound 8 stars.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

In My Mailbox, 26/2

Welcome to another IMM! Lets get straight to it, shall we:

A slightly brighter version of IMM than my last one... hopefully I'll do it in the day time next week so it'll show up even better!

Books mentioned:
'The Dangerous Book For Demon Slayers' & 'The Accidental Demon Slayer' both by Angie Fox - via BookMooch.
'The Legacy of Eden', by Nelle Davy - via NetGalley
'Royal Street', by Suzanne Johnson - via NetGalley
'A Kiss On The Wind' by Jennifer Bray-Weber - via NetGalley
'Nightfire' by Lisa Marie Rice - via Edelweiss

What did you get this week? If you've read either of the Angie Fox books, let me know what you thought of them!


P.S. - have you entered my birthday giveaway yet? Once you've entered at the original post, every other comment gets you a bonus entry!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Giveaway: Want To Win A Kindle Fire?

I've already mentioned a few times the awesomeness that is Transcendent: Tales of the Paranormal, but I'm going to do it again. Partially because I love the book, partially because I love the people who wrote it, partially because I helped name the whole anthology, but mostly because the editor is currently hosting a pretty fabulous giveaway! But I'll come back to that last part later.

From the back cover, here is a little more about the book:
Discover the secrets of a siren, fly with a hawk girl over the mountains of Montana, and flee supernatural party-crashers as the d├ęcor comes to life in this magical journey through paranormal stories.

Along the way, watch for ghosts in a haunted house, or ride through the moonlight with a stranger. Save a comatose boy who has lost his soul, and don’t forget to bring your garlic and wolfsbane—you never know when the shadows will snag you.

Transcendent includes eight stories of magic, love, death, and choice by some of the newest names in young adult fiction.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? It should! Because it is. :D Originally I was part of the line-up, but then Rita--the uber-talented editor of the series--encouraged me to turn my short story into a novel. So I did that instead and Transcendent released without my name gracing that beautiful cover. Seriously, though! Isn't it gorgeous?

Fast forward to today and Rita (who must also be a marketing genius) is hosting a giveaway on her blog for a FREE Kindle Fire. All you have to do to enter is either Like the post on Facebook or Tweet about the contest on Twitter (or, to double your luck, do both!). There's no purchase necessary. HOWEVER, those who also buy a copy of Transcendent from Amazon in paperback or Kindle version or from Barnes & Noble (nook book only) get even more entries into the drawing. See Rita's blog for more details or to ask her questions.

The contest is open to all ages, but is for US residents only.

Good luck!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book review: Night Child, by Jes Battis

Title: Night Child
Author: Jes Battis
Publisher: Ace/Penguin (USA) - not currently published in the UK, but I know my local indie store has it ;)
Publication Date: June 2008
Notes: Book 1 in the OSI series

Description: "That's a dead vampire, I though. My boss dragged me out of bed at two in the morning to see a dead vampire? I might be an Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver's Mystical Crime Lab, but a dead vampire is routine and no reason to dirturb a person's sleep. Then I took a closer look at the body..."
Tess Corday soon realises that there is not going to be anything ordinary about this case - not the lab results on the cause of death; not Mia Polanski, the teenage girl living at the address found in the vamp's pocket, who may well be in thrall to a demon; and certainly not Lucian Agrado, the necromancer who is liaison to the vampire community. Agrado is supposed to be part of the solution, but Tess suspects he might be part of the problem.
Under pressure from her boss, Tess is trying to go by the book on this one. But when Mia reaches out to her, she risks her career to help the girl - and finds herself in the middle of a paranormal conspiracy that will changer her life forever. Or possibly end it...

My thoughts: I wish I'd picked Night Child up sooner. There's an excellent independent fantasy bookshop near me, and I've read the back of this book several times, but somehow never picked it up. Thankfully, I saw it for 2.99 last weekend and grabbed it straight away.

Jes Battis kicks off the story with Tess looking at a body in the wee hours of the morning. There's apparently some tension between vampires & mages (like Tess & her team), which makes it a delicate situation to be doing a vampire postmortem. Tess has a review coming up, and her boss who seems to enjoy picking at her, is trying to get her to run this case exactly the way it's supposed to go. I like that she sticks to her convictions despite that. When Mia gets in touch with Tess and her partner Derrick, Tess sticks with what she thinks is right, even though it risks her losing her job. This is a constant through the book - Tess is of an age where she should normally be higher up in the structure of the OSIs, but she enjoys the job she's got, so she's stayed there. It was good to see a female lead who isn't the most magically powerful, or the biggest in the playground in other ways, but can still be described as 'strong'. I think there is potential there for us to learn more about her power in later books and for her to become more than she thinks she is - it reminds be a bit of the early Rachel Morgan books by Kim Harrison.

I did find the early chapters a little slow going, but after a break of a couple of days, I really got in to it, and I hope to read the next one soon. I don't want to say too much about the plot, because there are lots of twists and turns, but I'm interested to see where things go from here - a couple of incidents from Tess's past clearly affect her in this book, and I want to see if the events of Night Child change things.

I really enjoyed this first book by Jes Battis, and I certainly plan on picking up book 2 in the OSI series, A Flash Of Hex, soon. I'd recommend it to fans of Kim Harrison and Tanya Huff. I give Night Child 7 out of 10.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Big Birthday Giveaway!

In just a couple of weeks time, I will be turning 21, and to celebrate on the blog, I'm running another giveaway! This one is going to be a bit bigger, and I'm going to run it for a whole month, so there is plenty of time for people to enter and collect bonus entries. There's some urban fantasy, some PNR, and some YA, so hopefully something for everyone!
I'd love for people to stick around the blog not just stop by to enter the giveaway, so I do ask that you are or become a follower.

If we reach 200 followers before the end of the giveaway, I'll add in some more prizes! These will probably more YA books.

So, what can you win?

Prize 1: A hardback copy of 'Evernight' by Claudia Gray (open internationally)

Prize 2: A copy of 'Undead and Unemployed' by MaryJanice Davidson (open internationally)

Prize 3: The full set of 'Dante Valentine' books by Lilith Saintcrow (UK only)

How to enter:
Leave a comment saying what you'd like to win. You can choose to enter all of them, or just one or two.

Bonus entries:
  • Tweet about the giveaway (+1 for each tweet) - just let me know in the comments that you've done it.
  • Leave a meaningful comment on anything posted on the blog between now & the closing date (+3 for each) - I'll tally these up.
Important things:
  • Contest closes midnight GMT on March 20th 31st.
  • Winners will be announced on the site, and will then have a week to reply before winners are redrawn. One winner for each prize, so a total of 3 winners will be chosen using
  • Prizes are provided & shipped by me (Ailsa)
I don't think I'm going to do anything big for my birthday (there's really not much difference between being 20 & 21 in the UK), probably just going out for lunch with some friends, but I'm curious - what did you do for your 21st birthday? If you aren't 21 yet, what have you done for any other exciting birthday?


Visit to 'Seven Stories' children's book museum

I spent last weekend in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with my parents. Dad grew up in the area, so I went there a lot when I was younger, and it's one of my favourite cities. We had decided we'd go and visit Seven Stories, a sort of museum/gallery/archive that celebrates children's books. They run some really interesting exhibitions (last time I was there it was about Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake, this time it was Jacqueline Wilson), as well as having a bookshop, reading area, and archive room where you can learn about book preservation.

We had decided to go on the 'adults tour', hoping to get some more inside information and learn more about the building and it's collection. The tour guide started by telling us a bit about the building, which is in an old factory with, you guessed it, seven stories, and how it was founded. Then we went upstairs to see the reading area on the top floor. It's a wide space in the loft of the building, where they can hold author readings, school group events, and a story time group.
Here's a staff member reading to some children

The loft is the kind of place I'd love to write stories in - it just feels like an exciting place, and has these amazing beams all across the ceiling.

Sorry this is a bit blurry!

Next we went down to look through the Jacqueline Wilson exhibition. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any photos there, but it was very interesting to look at. I'm not sure how well Jacqueline Wilson is known outside the UK, but she's a very prolific writer of children's and young adult books, which tend to focus on young people in tough situations. There are stories about children in care, people whose parents have mental illnesses, people who are being bullied, people whose parents are divorcing... many stories that can be really inspiring to young people who might be experiencing something similar. I didn't realise quite how many of her books I'd read until I was looking at the mural on the floor at the start of the exhibition, which is made up of covers of her books overlapping.

There is a bit about where she grew up and how she started writing, then several sections focussing on some of her most popular books, with talking about the inspiration for that story, and other tidbits relating to its writing. There is also a small section about her illustrator, Nick Sharratt, whose work is synonymous with Jacqueline's stories.

Finally, we went to the archive room. Seven Stories owns a massive collection of children's books and manuscripts, most of which are housed in a separate building. As part of the tour, we got to hear from one of the archivists, who looks after the preservation of the books. She showed us a selection of Enid Blyton (another prolific British author) books, some of which were very old. There were also a couple of loose-leaf, typed manuscripts in boxes that we could look at, provided we were wearing gloves to protect the paper. This was my favourite part of the tour, and I find that sort of thing fascinating. Most exciting was that there was a hand written manuscript of one of Philip Pullman's books, and the archivist pointed out how there are little notes to himself all over it, saying things like "Need to change this!" which is reassuring that even very successful authors doubt their work. Again, we couldn't take photos of this part, which is a shame, but understandable - camera flashes can damage pages over time.

Overall it was a very interesting trip. I know I'll be keeping an eye on their website to see what other exhibitions are coming up. If you're interested in learning more, you can find their website here: Seven Stories homepage, and details of when the adult tours are here: Tour dates & details.

Monday, February 13, 2012

In My Mailbox (13/2)

Just a quick video post this week! It's been very busy, and the coming week isn't going to be much quieter, I don't think, but I'll try and get some things up on the blog when I can. Despite me doing a test video to check it was light enough in the bit of my room I was filming today, it still seems really dark on the video. Oh well, perhaps next week it will turn out better?

EDIT: Actually, that video has turned out so dark that I think I'll re-do it tomorrow, if I have time. Sorry about that!

So how was your week in books? Did you get anything exciting? Let me know in the comments!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Cross posted from Incandescent

Out one night in support of her two best friends, Bianca is doing what she always does when they drag her to The Nest: sit at the bar sipping Cherry Coke and talking to the bartender Joe. She's bored and restless, but resigned. At least until Wesley Rush decides to occupy the bar stool next to hers. He's arrogant, rude, charming, promiscuous, and unbelievably attractive, so Bianca doesn't bother playing his game. Which is a good thing because he pretty quickly admits he's only talking to her because she's the DUFF--the designated ugly fat friend--and spending time with the DUFF is a surefire way to hookup with the hotter friends. And he has his eye on hers. Disgusted, Bianca douses Wesley in the remainder of her Coke, grabs her friends, and storms out, convinced she won't be hearing from Wesley again anytime soon. His insult, though, plays incessantly in her mind. Add that to finding out her crush has a girlfriend at another school, her mom--who has been on a book tour for two months--still isn't coming home, and crashing in Wesley in the hall during school and Bianca is teetering on the edge of a truly horrendous day. Wesley sitting next to her at The Nest that night is just icing on the cake. Already on edge, she loses control when he notices her foul mood and actually asks her what's wrong. Without thinking, she grabs him and pulls him into a kiss that nearly devours them both. The rush is like a drug that makes her forget all of her stupid problems. At least, until she feels Wesley's hand traveling up her chest and into forbidden territory. Then she pushes him away, slaps him across the face, and once again storms off.

Life seems to be plotting against her, though. Problems that seemed manageable grow ever worse and then expand into unforeseen territory including the return of her one ex-boyfriend and the guy she gave her virginity too years ago and the arrival of divorce papers from her mother. Bianca doesn't know how to handle it, but she remembers how easy it was to forget everything when Wesley's mouth was on hers, so she loses herself in him again, this time in an enemies-with-benefits relationship that consumes them both. As things get worse at home, she finds herself spending more and more time with Wesley (and not just in bed) and less time with her friends, especially Casey who asks too many questions. But Wesley is safe because he doesn't really care. Wesley is safe because she's just another notch on his headboard. Wesley is safe because she's the DUFF--as he constantly reminds her--and there's no way the infamous Wesley Rush would ever fall for the DUFF. But there is the danger that the DUFF may fall for Wesley Rush. Eventually, Bianca has to face facts and try to fix the mess her life has become. Will she be able to figure out what to do about Wesley, how to fix her strained relationship with her best friends, and save her father from going off the deep end before everything is shattered beyond repair?

Before I go into my take on this story, a warning. This book is definitely rated PG-13. Possibly R depending on your stance on things. There's a lot of sex (not graphically described, but it's there), swearing, and a few other things some parents would probably find objectionable. On the other hand, it's also a pretty honest look at teen life today. Honest, accurate, and eye-opening. The point of the story isn't the sex, the crush, the parents, or even the friends. It's about Bianca's perception of herself, especially after hearing herself described as the DUFF by one of the hottest guys in her school. She can instantly see that he's right and each time he calls her Duffy (which is often as their relationship continues), it's like a knife wound in her already shaky self-confidence. It has become habit for Bianca to bottle everything up to the point where her friends know to translate the phrase "I'm fine" as "Shut up because I'm not going to tell you what's wrong." Everything in her life feels like it's out of her control but she doesn't want to add her stress to everyone else's. That is something I can completely understand as it's a habit I have as well. One that's hard to break. While some people are going to dislike the casual references to sex and the way Bianca flings herself into a relationship with a guy she knows is a "man-whore," I think the whole story is crafted in a way that shows you how little you see of the people around you and how you can't judge them just because you know one thing about them. It teaches a lesson that can be applied universally, to boys, girls, teens, or adults. I was impressed by Kody's characters and the way they developed through the story and it really felt like a peek into the life of some group of highschool kids somewhere in the country. Anywhere, really. So, despite the maturity warning I attach to the book, it's still one I highly recommend. I really enjoyed reading it.

Sera's Rating: 8/10

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In My Mailbox (5/2)

Time for another In My Mailbox!

No video this week, because I really should be doing homework instead of blogging and videos take a while. Hopefully next week I'll have some interesting books to show you guys, and time to make a video, although I'm off to Newcastle for the weekend with my parents, so it might be a late post on Sunday night. Anyway, this week I got:

"Dreamfever", book 4 in the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I'd been warned that book 3 finished on a cliffhanger, so when I was a couple of chapters from the end, I went on a mission around Edinburgh to find the next one! So far it's been great, but I'm getting to the end of it now, and I'm a bit nervous about not having book 5 to go on to. I really shouldn't be buying more books just now, but I know I'll need to read the next one when I get to the end of this! I have a feeling that, once I've finished the series, I'll really enjoy reading it a second time, when I know the overall ending and can relax, knowing for sure whether to trust or distrust various characters.

I also bought "Ocean's Touch" by Denise Townsend, which I reviewed this afternoon on the blog - if you scroll down on the main page, it's right there. I liked the story, but it didn't quite live up to what I'd hoped it would be.

I thought that was going to be it for the week, but last night Sophia at Fiction Vixen posted a list of ebooks she'd found free on Amazon, and some that sounded fun were free on Amazon UK too, so I grabbed a couple for light reading. They were:

Gifts of the Blood, by Vicki Keire
The Frenchman's Woman, by Taylor Lee
A Hint of Rapture, by Miriam Minger
Catch Me If You Can, by Nina Bruhns
Lucky in Love, by Carolyn Brown

What did you guys get in your mailboxes/postboxes this week? Does anyone have some snow, too? It feels like all of the UK except Scotland does today, and I'm a bit disappointed.


Review: Ocean's Touch, by Denise Townsend

Note: This is a review of an explicit adult book: please use your own discretion with reading.

Title: Ocean's Touch
Author: Denise Townsend
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: 27th December '11
Source: Bought

Description: A lonely widow and a handsome artist have a chance for happiness…with the help of a sexy selkie, that is.
After the death of Meredith’s husband many years before, she allowed his legacy to take over her life. A shell of a woman, she finds little joy in her day-to-day tasks. Drawn to her pain, the empathic selkie Dylan knows she’s ready to live and love again, and he knows that he’s just the man for the job. As Dylan draws Meredith out of her shell, he realizes that to truly free her, he needs to help her accept her budding love for Alexander, an artist who challenges Meredith on every level: intellectually, emotionally and sexually. To achieve a true happy ending, Dylan must help his chosen humans break down their emotional barriers in order to grab the happiness they so deserve.

My thoughts: The story starts with Dylan, the selkie, watching Meredith one night while she's relaxing on her beach. He's seen her here several times now, and can tell she's grieving over something. Meredith comes down to the beach every night. After her much older husband died from a terminal illness, she inherited his property and his businesses, with strict instructions that he wanted her to run the charity projects, giving it the personal touch that suits just wouldn't bring. While it's an amazing opportunity, it puts a lot of pressure on Meredith, and she's only really doing it for Teddy, not herself. And when you throw in her slightly-crazy mother in law who's never happy with anything, it really isn't the best time for Meredith.

Dylan decides it's time to intervene with Meredith, and shows up on her beach glamoured to look like a normal human. They go swimming, have some steamy sex, and unsurprisingly Meredith freaks out a bit the next morning when she realises what she's done. She heads off to work, where she bumps into local (very wealthy) artist, Alex. There's an obvious heat between them that's been there for some time, but not having had a very physical relationship with her deceased husband, until now she's never realised what it was. The trouble is, Meredith is very much "Teddy's Widow". Alex has quite a scandalous reputation, and Merry worries about what people will think about her just being seen around with him, never mind going to the party he invites her too. When Dylan finds out about her feelings for Alex, he's determined to help out.

I thought this book was quite a sweet, happy story. I was a bit disappointed with the love scenes - Denise Townsend is the erotica pen name of one of my favourite authors, and to be honest I think things are steamier and better written in her other series. Some of the descriptions just didn't feel quite right to me. There was a lot of use of a particular 'c' word that I really don't like, which kept pulling me out of the story, and the word "turgid" comes up a couple of times. I'm sorry, but I just can't take that seriously.
I do quite like the way that Dylan helps bring this couple together. They have both been appreciating the other for a while, but needed a bit of a helping hand to push them together and make them do something about the attraction, and to realise that it's mutual. I like the way it finished, too - not everything is perfectly worked out, and you can see that Alex & Merry are going to have to work a bit to make their relationship work, but the important parts are there.

Overall, it was a nice story for an afternoon read, but I think some bits could have been better written. I'll give it 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Recommend me a YA book

Despite the books hiding around my room waiting to be read, I find myself looking for something new... typical!

I would love to read some more Young Adult books, and I'm looking for your recommendations. My only condition is, I don't want anything dystopian. Not a fan. Other than that, I'm open to fantasy elements, high school drama, mystery stories, first in a series or stand alone... anything really!

What young adult book would you recommend for me?