Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stacking the Shelves/Letterbox Love


StS is hosted by Tynga's reviews, and Letterbox Love was started by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking. 

I said in my last StS/LL post that there is a great library here. I picked up a few more this week.

A Murder of Crows, by Anne Bishop. #2 in the Others series. I read book one at the start of the summer and loved it, and book 2 is just as good. I'm racing through this one at the moment and will probably post a review soon. Meg and her friends are trying to figure out why Crows are being attacked.








Lola & the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins. I loved Anna & the French Kiss, and I've been
looking forward to reading this one. I know it'll be a quick read, so I was happy to find it in a library. May or may not review, we'll see.









Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo. #1 in the Grisha trilogy. This was one of the books I mentioned in the top ten Tuesday about series' I want to start. Looking forward to starting it later this week.









Indexing, by Seanan McGuire. I'm pretty sure this is a standalone story. I love everything by Ms. McGuire that I've read so far, and I like the sound of this one - fairy tale stories can affect the lives of some people, and there's a Bureau trying to help them.







I also borrowed the audiobook of Nalini Singh's 'Kiss of Snow' - it's one of my favourite books in the Psy/Changeling series, and I think the narrator is really good.

So what did you get this week? Have you read any of these books?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book review: Magic Breaks, by Ilona Andrews


Title: Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7)
Author: Ilona Andrews
Release date: July 2014
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Bought

Description: As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.


As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear...


My thoughts: I was a bit nervous starting this Ilona Andrews book. After the previous one, Magic Rises, it seemed inevitable that the story was reaching the point where Kate would have to face her father. And I couldn't imagine that happening without things going really badly for Kate and her allies, the way things did in Magic Rises. I don't want to spoil everything, but it wasn't the bloodbath I worried it might be.

I love this book. However, it's hard to say that I love it on it's own merits, or to review it on it's own merits. Magic Breaks works, for me, because of the series as a whole. It's the little bits and pieces from the earlier books starting to really pull together and reach a head that makes me appreciate it so much. It's seeing Kate stand up and do things that are a world away from what readers might have expected from her in the first few books. The characters and situations are meaningful because we got to know these characters, like Derek, Ascanio, and Barabas, to pick out just a few.

There are some acceptances and realisations in Magic Breaks for Kate and others that come out of just the events of this book. But overall, I felt like it was a culmination of things that came before. It's the proof that events in the previous books are still affecting Kate and Curran. The events of Magic Rises in particular are very much still felt.

I'm not saying that I think it wouldn't be a good book without the rest of the series. It's a great book. But it's hard at this stage in the series, with such a strong link of the story arc going between them, to take it as a stand-alone. It's not. It's the next chapter, and that took it from being a great book in a great series, to being one of my favourite reads this year.

With Magic Breaks, Ilona Andrews has a story with character development, romance, revelations, tough decisions, and unexpected twists. I can only hope that the remaining couple of books in the series live up to this. 10/10.

~Ailsa

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: series I want to start



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's question is 'New series' you want to start'. Since I'm not so up-to-date on this year's new releases, I'm going to do this as any series I haven't started yet but want to. This was actually quite hard for me, because most of my wishlist consists of second, third etc books in series I've already started. I've linked to the first book of each series on goodreads.

1) The Twilight Reign series, by Tom Lloyd. This series has been on my radar for a while, and after briefly meeting Tom last year at WFC '13, I've really been thinking about buying the first one, Stormcaller. Fantasy series.

2) The Throne Of Glass series, by Sarah J. Maas. Another fantasy series, I've heard so many good things about them and I'd love to read it.

3) The Paranormalcy series, by Kiersten White. Again, I've heard many many good things about this series, and haven't had a chance to read it yet.

4) The Grisha Trilogy, by Leigh Bardugo. I'm sure this doesn't need explaining.

5) The Charley Davidson series, by Darynda Jones. I don't know so much about this series, but I keep seeing recommendations for the later books in the series, and I think I'd like to check it out.

6) The Curse Worker's series, by Holly Black. I love the sound of these books, and Holly Black seems kind of awesome. I love her Spiderwick series and I've read some of her other books, so I've been hoping to read these ones for a while.

7) The Shadow Police books by Paul Cornell, which start with London Falling. Magic in London. Always a fun thing to read about.

That's all I've got... so if anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them! Particularly if there are new steampunk novels that have come out this year! :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stacking the Shelves/Letterbox Love


 


Hello!

Letterbox Love (from Narratively Speaking) and Stacking the Shelves (from Tynga's Reviews) are memes to share the books you've received this week.

Busy times here, as per usual. I'm in Texas for a few weeks visiting a friend, and the library here is brilliant, they have so many books I want to read! Here are the three I got to start me off. (Links go to Goodreads.)

The Undead Pool, by Kim Harrison. The penultimate book in the hollows series. I've been looking forward to reading this for a while, can't wait to see how it goes, and of course I'm looking forward to seeing how things go between Rachel & Trent in this book. Reading it at the moment, review coming soon.

















Black Arts, by Faith Hunter. (#7 in the Jane Yellowrock series.) Evan Trueblood comes to New Orleans looking for his wife. I started reading this on the bus yesterday, and I'm excited to see how it goes. Getting to see more of the Trueblood family? Yes, please, I love seeing Jane with her 'pack' and it looks like this book might see the mending of some bridges between them.












Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach. 1st in the series. I first heard of this book when I think Ilona Andrews reviewed it on her blog, and I've noticed it in a couple of places since then. Something a little different for me, but I think it'll be interesting.















What books did you get this week? Leave your links in the comments and I'll check them out, and let me know if you've read any of these three!
-Ailsa

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book review: Hell's Belle, by Karen Greco


Title: Hell's Belle
Author: Karen Greco
Publisher: Self published
Release date: July 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Bought

Description: Half vampire, half human, Nina Martinez spent most of her life underground as part of an elite secret team of government agents that quietly take down rogue monsters, the human world none the wiser. She moves back to her hometown of Providence, RI to keep an eye on the recent uptick in supernatural activity, and to help run the bar she co-owns with her aunt. 

Her attempt at a “regular” life, not to mention a budding relationship with smoking hot FBI agent Max, is cut short because of a string of ritual murders targeting the city's community of witches. 

But Nina's investigation unearths deadly secrets from her long buried parents. Now the target of supernatural assassins, could Nina be the most dangerous vampire hybrid to ever exist? No wonder she can’t get a date.

My thoughts: The story starts (after a prologue which I'll talk about in a minute) with Nina working in a bar in Providence. A cute guy comes in, but she's quickly distracted by the guy who snarls at her then tries to slit her throat. Thankfully, since Nina is part vampire, she heals quickly enough that it doesn't cause a big problem, and in the chaos, the cute guy turns out to be a cop, working for the FBI. By the end of chapter one, I was hooked.

Apart from the attack on her in the bar, there are also several gruesome murders in the city. Nina investigates, and discovers that a blade used in the attacks looks the same as the one the vampire attacked her with at the bar. Even more interesting, she owns a blade that looks almost the same, which was given to her by her late father. She begins to try tracking the killer vampire across the city, amidst a turbulent relationship with Max, the FBI guy. (Do they want to date, or is she a suspect in his investigation? And the classic, what if he finds out the truth about her?)

There were a couple of things I didn't like in this book. The prologue was interesting: we see Nina fighting off some vampires with the help of Frankie, her best friend & also a vampire. You get a lot of information about why they are killing these vampires and the situation in that city (Newark). I enjoyed reading it, thinking it was set up for the main story. However, no. Nothing about these vampires or the situation in Newark links in with the rest of the story at all. Yes, it gives you an idea of what her usual monster-hunting job involves, but I think you could get enough of an idea about that from the rest of the story. As it became clear that the prologue wasn't actually going to tie in with the main story, I got more irritated - it really didn't need to be there at all.

There were also the inevitable phrases here and there which I stumbled over and think would have been different in a traditionally published novel. However, there were fewer than in other self-pubbed books I've read, and I believe the sequel will be even better. I couldn't find any information about when it comes out, but I'll definitely be reading it when it does turn up.

I really enjoyed this book, and how refreshing it is to have vampires who are actually creepy and more like monsters. Some of the other monsters I won't spoil you about were also very good, very creepy.

Overall, I found Karen Greco's "Hell's Belle" to be an exciting urban fantasy murder mystery story, stepping away from the romanticising of 'monsters'. I give it 7/10.

~Ailsa

Friday, September 5, 2014

Letterbox Love: the LonCon edition


I was at LonCon a couple of weeks ago, and of course picked up a few books :) All links go to Goodreads.



The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie - I still haven't read any of Joe Abercrombie's books, but I've seen him do a few pannels and he's really funny, and I've heard great things about the books, so I'm looking forward to reading this.

Memory of Water, by Emmi Itaranta -   I'd seen this on a couple of blogs, and the author was signing coppies. It looked interesting, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Songs of the Earth, by Elspeth Cooper - This one I'd never heard of before,  but it sounds really interesting, I'm looking forward to starting it. It's another fantasy, so right up my street :)

The City of Silk and Steel, by Mike, Linda and Louise Carey - I actually heard Mike Carey talk last year about co-writing this book with his wife and daughter. Knowing I like his work and curious about how the writing together process worked out, I decided to pick this one up too.


I also bought a few books, but amazingly managed to limit myself to three!

The King's Bastard, by Rowena Corey Daniels - I had wanted to read this one for a while, but it was a bit disappointing. Review here.

The Winter Long, by Seanan McGuire - the next in the October Daye series. Observant people will notice this wasn't actually released at the time of the con, but Forbidden Planet had a couple of copies in the dealer's room, so I snagged one. Fans of the series - you are going to love this one, it might be my new favourite in the series.

Deadly Curiosities, by Gail Z Martin - again, seen this in the shops a few times and been interested. They were on sale so that was all the push I needed! I expect this will be one of the next ones I pick up when I get home from my current travels.

I'd love to know if you've read any of these books, and the books you've bought recently!

-Ailsa

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: The King's Bastard by Rowena Cory Daniels


Title: The King's Bastard
Author: Rowena Cory Daniels
Publisher: Solaris
Release date: out now
Source: Bought

Description: The Kingdom of Rolencia sleeps as rumours of new Affinity Seeps, places where the untamed power wells up. By royal decree all those afflicted with Affinity must serve the Abbey or face death. Sent to the Abbey, the King's youngest son, Fyn, trains to become a warrior monk. Elsewhere others are tainted with Affinity and must fight to survive. Political intrigue and magic combine in this explosive first book in an exciting new fantasy trilogy.

My thoughts: I have to say it was very frustrating reading this book. I love a fantasy series with political intrigue and I'd thought that would be what I was getting with this. Right from the start though I was disappointed.

The story starts with Byren on a hunting trip, and he soon hears the prophecy that he will kill his twin. Readers are also introduced to younger brother Fyn, training to be a monk because of his magical ability, and little sister Piro, still very much a child in the eyes of those around her. The story focuses on Byren & how events develop because of the prophecy and something that happens with his friend early in the book. Byren did annoy me a bit - I never saw him as the inspiring leader other characters supposedly see him as. He made some poor judgement calls that I just couldn't understand. Fyn was more interesting to read about but the schoolboy squabbles and bullying at the abbey were the sort of thing I find quite boring. Piro was my favourite, and I think will be an interesting character  to follow in the next book. She had the most character development over the book.

I was incredibly frustrated with the author's style though. The writing just felt a bit clunky, and although the plot was good, I think it's really been let down by the storytelling here. I felt like the author did a lot of unnecessary 'telling' - a character would say something to themselves that had already been implied, for example. If it only happened a few times I could let that go, but it came up again and again. I did enjoy the plot, but I often found myself skimming pages so that I could find out what was going on without having to actually read it. Because of the plot, I'm giving this 5/10. I would read the sequels, but they are a long way down my list of bookish priorities at the moment.

Monday, August 25, 2014

LonCon: general summary


I don't have all the notes I took, because I wrote some of them in the 'pocket' (ha) program, and threw it out before I remembered that. Oops. So here's an overview of some of the program events I went to from memory & the notes I did manage to bring back.

1) I went to some great panels. One was on blogging, with Liz de Jager (formerly of 'My Favourite Books') and others, where they discussed the uses of book blogs and things to include in reviews.
2) While discussing subverting genres, Pat Rothfuss pointed out that you "can't subvert something that doesn't exist yet. You can't get stuck in a rut that isn't there." The panel were discussing aspects of fantasy novels which might/might not have been overdone. In a similar panel later, a panelist said that "No new stories" might actually mean "lots of old plots." I think that's a great way of putting it - there are so many old stories that its hard for a book not to have something vaguely relating to a predecessor in it.
3) I went to a fascinating panel about food in fantasy. Every place has food rituals, regardless of what the food is or how its prepared, said a panelist, which I think would be something really interesting to think about in future stories I write.
4) On Friday night there was a sff version of radio game I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, which was very funny. I've listened to the show for years and it was great seeing a fantasy twist on the answers.

5) Another interestibg thing called 'What do you mean you don't watch...' Convinced me I need to watch Grimm. I'm now on episode 4, safely hooked! :)

There were so many great things, and great panelists to listen to (Joe Abercrombie & Scott Lynch being two of my favourites). There was also an interesting fan area where they held parties, and other things. I liked hanging around there in the evening, just soaking up the atmosphere.
Overall, it was a great experience but I think I might try to make my next con a smaller one!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: Blade Song by J C Daniels


Title: Blade Song
Author: J. C. Daniels
Publisher: self published
Genre: UF/PNR
Release date: August 2012
Source: Bought as ebook

Description: Kit Colbana--half breed, assassin, thief, jack of all trades--has a new job: track down the missing ward of one of the local alpha shapeshifters. It should be a piece of cake. So why is she so nervous? It probably has something to do with the insanity that happens when you deal with shifters--especially sexy ones who come bearing promises of easy jobs and easier money. Or maybe it's all the other missing kids that Kit discovers while working the case, or the way her gut keeps screaming she's gotten in over her head. Or maybe it's because if she fails--she's dead. If she can stay just one step ahead, she should be okay. Maybe she'll even live long to collect her fee...

My thoughts: I read this book way faster than I meant to. The story starts with Kit facing a man in her office. She knows he's a shapeshifter, he's a strong one, and he's someone she doesn't want to be anywhere near. By the end of the meeting, she's working a case, and he's on board as her information guy and security detail. It's exactly the kind of start I love in an urban fantasy novel - jumping straight in to the dangerous situation, and characters who have to be around each other while not actually getting along.

The kid she has to find is the adopted son of the local shapeshifter queen - a dangerous woman who Kit learns in a personal meeting is also completely crazy. If Kit doesn't find the boy soon, the queen will take out her anger on her, instead - and Kit knows she won't survive that. So she gets to work calling in contacts to try to trace the missing boy. The story moves at a fast page, which I enjoyed, taking Kit and her companion from one dangerous situation to another. Thankfully, it also has little rest periods where she meets up with friends in safe places, which acted as places in the story for me to catch my breath. I think J C Daniels has really nailed the pacing with this one.

Although this is an urban fantasy, there are some steamy dream sequences and a strong romance plotline. One of the things I really disliked about the book is to do with the way the romance plot goes at the end of the story. I won't give anything away, but as this is the first book in a series, I'm a bit unsure about whether I'll like the later books as much - I don't feel like the author has left herself anywhere to go with the romance line. It will at least have to have a definite shift in direction in future books.

Overall, I did really enjoy this story, and I do plan to read the sequel sometime, although there are quite a lot of other books ahead of it in my queue just now. As an urban fantasy, it races along, and I think the world J C Daniels has created is very interesting and I look forward to learning more about it and the magical races who people it. Overall, I give Blade Song 8 out of 10.

-Ailsa

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling


Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Release date: July 2014
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Promotional copy from publisher at WFC '13.

Description: Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother - Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid - was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...

My thoughts:
I got sucked in to this book and read it pretty quickly. Kelsea has ben raised in isolation by her foster parents, allowed to read many things but kept ignorant about a lot of the recent history and politics of the kingdom. So she's intelligent, but has large gaps in her knowledge. As the story progresses, and Kelsea learns more about the decisions her mother and uncle have made to try to keep the kingdom 'safe', readers start to see that her aunt & uncle most likely kept her ignorant so that she could make decisions based on her, not on the political histories that sometimes push the edges of 'right' and 'wrong'. There are some pretty horrible things happening in the kingdom, and Kelsea is determined to fix as much as she can.

The time setting of the novel is also interesting. Technology has risen and fallen again. The book is a bit vague on some details - at some point there was 'The Crossing' from somewhere to the world they now live in - on this journey, a lot of technology and medicine was lost. So although they are aware of some things that used to be around, there are gaps in their knowledge and the facilities to produce such technology and medicine again. For instance, Kelsea knows red hair like hers is a recessive gene. But, they are living in almost European medieval conditions because of the materials they have access to.

It's very much a story of 'the young hero comes out of hiding and sets the kingdom to rights', which might be a repetitive story for some, but there are enough unique aspects that I still found it interesting. There's an evil queen in a neighbouring land who has been happily taking over countries for a while, and suddenly finds Kelsea a threat she was not expecting. There are hints of magic, and in some areas, like for the queen, this seems normal, but to Kelsea and those in her country it's a very odd occurrence which they can't seem to explain.

I really enjoyed the story, and found that Kelsea, without knowing the political recent history of the country, was a very interesting heroine for the book. I'll definitely be buying the next one when it comes out. In some places, things seemed a little too easy for her, which I wasn't too sure about, but overall it was a very good book. I give 'The Queen of the Tearling' 8 out of 10.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Beta reader wanted


For those who don't know, I write, and I've been working on editing my urban fantasy story for a while now. I've reached the point where I need some help - I can't see what needs fixing any more. This is where you come in: I'm looking for a beta reader.

What I'm looking for: Someone to read through the story and give me some feedback. While spotting spelling/grammar mistakes I might have missed is helpful, I'm more interested in things like what you think works or doesn't, if the pacing is right, any inconsistencies you see, and places where you think I haven't explained stuff properly.

A bit about the story: 90k words. Urban fantasy.
Shapeshifter Bryony comes to Scotland for a fresh start, but instead finds a territory war brewing. Should her new pack help a child seeking their aid, or protect the peace they've worked for?

First 250 words below. If you're interested, leave me a comment on this post, or email me at the address in the sidebar.

***

If you’d asked her even two weeks ago to make a list of ‘places to start your life over’, Bryony would not have included Scotland. And yet, here she was, stepping off a plane in Glasgow airport at some horrendously early time in the morning, feeling like it was still the middle of the night. No amount of time on the plane or coffee grabbed on the layover in London could prepare her for this.
Next time, think first, she reminded herself.
The contrasts between JFK and Glasgow hit her immediately as she moved into the arrivals hall and stared around. This place was tiny. She scanned the row of people holding up placards, then common sense caught up with her and she used her nose instead. There it was - the scent of cat, something familiar at last. She walked over to the woman, tall and slim and dressed to blend in. Bryony didn’t know for certain, but she’d be willing to bet this woman worked in the security side of the pack.
As she approached, the woman met her eyes.
“You must be Bryony.” It was said with a smile, but Bryony had faked enough of her own to see the lie.
“That’s me.”
The woman’s eyes flicked over her, and Bryony was forced not to fidget.
“I must say, considering all the fuss and arguments you’ve caused, I was expecting someone a little bigger.”
“Arguments?” Bryony asked, feeling something clench in her stomach.

***

Looking forward to hearing from you :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

I'm back!


So I've been away from the blog for a while. I wrote a dissertation, finished my undergrad degree, and graduated. I also went to the States for a month to see my boyfriend and some study abroad friends. It's been amazing to have TIME again. Time to read, without feeling guilty. Time to just wander around the city, or hang out with my friends, without worry about leaving time to study and do homework. 

I've had enough of a break now that I'm ready to get back to reviewing, and I have a lovely stack of things to read and review. I'm not going to give myself a strict schedule, but here's, roughly, what the blog will look like for the next few months:

3 reviews a week, or more
'Top Ten Tuesday' meme on Tuesday
'Letter Box Love' & 'Stacking the Shelves' posts or videos on Sundays. 

I can't wait to start sharing books with you again!

~Ailsa

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves


 


Hello everyone!
It's a very gloomy Sunday here in Edinburgh, but luckily I have books to cheer me up in my study breaks.

Here's what I got recently:

Before Jamaica Lane, by Samantha Young - book 3 in her 'Dublin Street' series. These are set in Edinburgh, and over all I liked this book. Review coming soon.

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. Reading & loving this just now, will definitely be reviewing it very soon.

Hounded, by Kevin Hearn - Book one of the 'Iron Druid Chronicles'. Lots of friends have talked about this series, so I thought I'd check it out.

I also saw that 'The King', the latest Black Dagger Brotherhood book from J. R. Ward was reduced to about £2.50 on amazon at the moment, so I've downloaded that to read sometime. I've read the first chapter and wasn't getting in to it, but I know I'll want to read it sometime.

How about you? What did you get this week?

-Ailsa

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Emperor's Edge #1


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

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

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

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

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

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

FYI: This is a cross-post from my blog

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: The Boy With The Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Ailsa

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Letterbox Love: belated birthday edition


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


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

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

Then there were my birthday books:


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

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

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

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

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


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

What did you get recently?

-Ailsa

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: Beyond Jealousy by Kit Rocha


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, I give this one 8 out of 10.


Competition time!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: Banished by Liz de Jager


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10.

~Ailsa

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Letterbox Love: another UK author


 



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

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

Brighton Belle, by Sara Sheridan.



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

What books did you get this week?

~Ailsa

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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


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

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

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

6/10

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

5/10

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

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


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

~Ailsa

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Letterbox Love/Stacking The Shelve


 


Phew, another week gone already? I've had my boyfriend staying with me for the past several weeks, which has been lovely, but he's now off home again. The upside is that now I'll have reading time again! So reviews will be back very soon. Specifically, I'll be putting up my thoughts on the 'Marked' anthology, which I talked about in the last LL/StS post, either tomorrow or Monday as it releases very soon!

On to the books!

I had an amazon voucher, so yesterday I bought this:



As someone who worked a ski season in the alps a few years ago, I've known about Belle's blog for a while and enjoyed reading it, so when I saw she'd turned a lot of the blog into a book, I wanted to see what it said. Review to come soon. 

I'm also full of the cold just now, so decided I should get a new audiobook for when I just can't cope with looking at a screen/page any more. I picked out this: 



I've seen Peter V. Brett's books all over the place in shops for a while now, so thought I'd give it a try. 


What books did you get this week?

~Ailsa

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves


 


Time for another Letterbox Love post! As always, LL is hosted by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking, and Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I only got one book this week, but it's a goodie.



I was so excited to get the e-arc for this. It comes out in February, and I've started reading it already, so I'll probably have my review up very soon. I've read Kit Rocha's story already, another trip to the Sectors to carry on their 'Beyond' series, and I'm currently reading Vivian Arend's contribution. I've heard good things about her novels, but this is the first I've read from her, and I think I'll have to check out the rest sometime.

What books did you get this week? 

~Ailsa

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top Ten Debuts I'm Excited For




Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a new feature for me, and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week there is a topic for a 'top ten' list.

Here are mine for this week, in no particular order:

1) Banished, by Liz de Jager. I'm reading an ARC of this at the moment, and really enjoying it. I'll definitely be reviewing it soon.

2) The Emperor's Blades, by Brian Staveley. Again, I've got an ARC for this in my room, it's my 'read next' book. I've heard a lot of chatter about it and am looking forward to another good fantasy novel.

3) The Relic Guild, by Edward Cox. There isn't much information about this one out yet (no Goodreads page to link to!), but Gollancz describe it: "With its split time-line, superb characters and bewitching setting of a vast city cut off from the realms around it where magic is ruthlessly supressed this is a dark and exciting fantasy set in a city which itself becomes a living, breathing character."

4) The Copper Promise, by Jen Williams. Are you sensing a theme here yet? I think 2014 is going to be a great year for fantasy debuts. I love the cover for this, and the story sounds right up my alley.

5) Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen. Another one I already have a copy of, and am looking forward to reading. It's scheduled to come out in July, so I'll be reviewing it a bit closer to the time.

6) Sing, Sweet Nightingale, by Erica Cameron. Of course, I have to include our own occasional reviewer Erica on this list! I'm excited to read her book which is scheduled to come out in March in the UK.

Those are the debuts which I'm aware of at the moment that really jump out to me. I'm sure there are others, and I know there are several books from previously published authors which I really can't wait to read, either.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves


 



I'm a little late with this, but I was down in Newcastle this weekend, catching up with some family I hadn't seen in a long time.
Most of these books were bought for one of my classes this term, but some of them were on '3 for 2' at Blackwell's, so I got one fun book, too :)



Sorry it's a bit fuzzy.
I have the first two books in the Cassie Clare series, and there wasn't really anything on the 3 for 2 offer that caught my eye apart from that.

How about you? What books did you get hold of this week?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: The Path of Anger, by Antoine Rouaud


Title: The Path of Anger
Author: Antoine Rouaud (translated by Tom Clegg)
Release date: October 20133
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Free copy at World Fantasy Con '13.

Description: There will be blood. There will be death. This is the path of anger. . .

Dun-Cadal has been drinking his life away for years. Betrayed by his friends - who turned their back on their ideals in favour of a new republic - and grief stricken at the loss of his apprentice, who saved his life on the battlefield and whom he trained as a knight in exchange, he's done with politics, with adventure, and with people.

But people aren't finished with him - not yet. Viola is a young historian looking for the last Emperor's sword, and her search not only brings her to Dun-Cadal, it's also going to embroil them both in a series of assassinations. Because Dun-Cadal's turncoat friends are being murdered, one by one. . . by someone who kills in the unmistakable style of an Imperial assassin. . .

My thoughts: 'The Path Of Anger' is a typical fantasy novel. It begins in an in, and as with many good stories, it's a dark and stormy night... Viola walks in with her mysterious protector and finds an old man she's been told is called Dune. When she discovers he's actually Dun-Cadal, the war hero she's heard a lot about, she persuades him to begin talking.

The story jumps from the present, with Viola trying to get Dun-Cadal's help to find the sword of the Emperor, and the past, where he narrates some of his battles, and the events that lead to the fall of the empire. Then, just as Dun-Cadal seems to be wrapping up his story, and I thought the present day narrative would take centre stage, everything changes.

"Like a coin with two sides ... Two things as different in their forms as in their meanings, and yet, it's still one and the same coin."

From here, the story really starts to race along. I don't want to give too much away, but all that's been said so far gets cast in a different light as the second half begins. Dun-Cadal, Viola and her companions begin their task in earnest of launching an attack on the republic and its leaders. Their plan could go wrong in a variety of ways, and in the days leading up to the attack, there are several revelations that cause characters to wobble in their desire to do as they've planned. Will they do it? Will they make the 'right' choices, whatever those may be? Those are the questions readers are thinking as you read the rest of the book.

A great fantasy novel, I agree with the suggestions on the back - fans of Pat Rothfuss and Brent Weeks will also enjoy Antoine Rouaud's 'The Path of Anger'.

Overall, I give it 9/10.

~Ailsa

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reading/blog goals for 2014


I don't have any books to talk about in a 'Letterbox Love'/'Stacking the Shelves' post this weekend, so instead, let's talk resolutions! Of the reading variety, of course ;-)

Overall, 2013 was a great year for me, particularly on the lines of meeting favourite authors. So far, I haven't got anything planned that will see similar things happening this year, but it's early days yet! While that was a success, and I had some great experiences while studying and travelling abroad, something that suffered because of it was my reading and blogging time. So this year, I'm going in with goals!

Goodreads: Like many people, I'm going to track my books on Goodreads this year, and really make an effort to record ones as 'read' even if I'm not posting a review of them. I've set my aim at 100 books, which should be do-able but I haven't decided yet if I'm going to include re-reads in that or not.

I posted the other day about the post schedule for the blog this year, and that's something else I'm determined to stick to - which of course means I need to have read books to talk about!

Those are my main ones just now, but I might post about more as they come up. What are your reading and blogging goals for this year?

~Ailsa
 

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