Friday, September 16, 2016

Book review: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds


Title: Revenger
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Release date: 15th September 2016
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Blurb: The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them …

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

My thoughts: I don't read much sci-fi but when I do it's usually space opera and I love it. I was excited to read about Revenger and never having read an Alastair Reynolds book it seemed like a good place to start. Revenger is narrated by Fura Ness, who is on the verge of adulthood when the story begins. I definitely felt like there was a YA turn to this book for the first section but having finished, I think it's a clever reflection of who Fura was then, and her innocence, and gives another way for Alastair Reynolds to show how she changes over the course of the story.

This is not a happy story. To start with, there's some adventure, some tension, but it's still quite fun. Then things get dark, and they stay pretty dark and tense for the whole story. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that something happens with the crew of Rackamore's ship and it sets Fura on a path to seek revenge. She becomes very determined, to the point of being single-minded, in that pursuit. I found that as the book went on, I worried more and more for Fura and who she was becoming, as well as finding her less likeable. 

I agree with what Sarah says about Revenger in her review: a lot happens in the book and I would have liked it to slow down in some places and focus more on some big events. With fitting in so much to the story, some parts felt rushed. 

If I sound negative here, I don't mean to - it was an incredibly action-packed book that I could hardly put down, as my co-workers will attest. I really enjoyed the story and was on the edge of my seat on many occasions, waiting to see if characters would get through the next scrape. The writing was very good, as you'd expect from someone with Alastair Reynolds' experience and I'll definitely be reading more of his work in future. I feel like there might be a sequel down the line as the ending definitely left lots of potential for a continuation of the story but the main conflicts of Revenger did all get wrapped up. This was a nail-biting adventure through space with all the danger and wonder you would hope for in a space opera. I'm giving it 8 out of 10, and I definitely recommend it to sci-fi fans. 

-Ailsa

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book review: The Hatching, by Ezekiel Boone


Title: The Hatching
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Genre: Horror
Publication date: 5 July 2016
Publisher: Gollancz
Source: Won (from Blackwell's)

Description: Deep in the jungle of Peru, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

My thoughts: I'm not a horror movie (or book) fan at all, and thinking about spiders makes me a little bit twitchy & paranoid but for some reason I had to know what happened. I'm so glad I gave it a go because I ended up loving this book.

It's a classic horror movie in book form. You know pretty much by reading the blurb what's going to happen. You know very early on that there are going to be killer spiders spreading around the world, especially as characters do really dumb things which the reader/audience can clearly spot. And there are the classic horror film protagonists: a scientist (actually several) with issues in her personal life; an FBI agent who only has occasional visitation rights with his young daughter; a newly engaged couple in a rural location. Will the scientist(s) save the world or make things worse? (A bit of both.) Will the father crack the case and also build a much closer relationship with his daughter? (Not sure yet, we'll have to see how book 2 goes.) Will the couple manage to survive in their quiet location or will one die while tragically trying to save the other? (Again, we're waiting for the sequel, but this is a sweet couple in a horror story... I don't fancy their odds.)

There's nothing too complicated about The Hatching which is partly what I loved about it. I knew a lot of what was going to happen but at the same time I had to keep reading to see how it happened, and whether anyone would figure out how to stop the spider before it was all too late [dun dun DUUNN]. There is a sequel, called Skitter, which is due out in the spring next year. If you're a fan of horror films, or just want an easy read, I definitely recommend this. I read it in one sitting on a 4 hour train ride and really enjoyed it.

Overall I'm giving The Hatching 7 stars.
~Ailsa

Monday, July 18, 2016

Book review: All Is Not Forgotten, by Wendy Walker


Title: All Is Not Forgotten
Author: Wendy Walker
Release date: 14th July 2016
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: HQ
Source: ARC from publisher

Description: You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.

Jenny’s wounds have healed.
An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack.
She is moving on with her life.

That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.
Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
And she’s getting worse.
Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.

It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack.

My thoughts: I've read a few thrillers over the past year and file I find them fast reading and a good change from what I normally read, they don't tend to stand out very much. All Is Not Forgotten felt different, for a couple of reasons. 

Number one: the narrator. At the start of the book, you might think it's a 3rd person, omniscient narrator. But very quickly you learn that someone specific is telling the story, and that got me interested: who would know what this person knows about Jenny? And if it's a character telling the story, how many strands of the picture can they really know about? You do find out a couple of chapters in and I think it's a perfect person to be telling a story like this. I also enjoyed that while you are mostly getting the full story, as you get further in, I questioned the reliability of the narrator more and more.

Number two: The basic premise of a treatment that could block the memory of something traumatic, and the questions that come up around the use of something like that. The decision to give Jenny a medicine that will wipe out the memory of her rape is taken while she's unconscious. It was never her decision but her parents thought it was best. That's a topic on its own, and is dealt with a little bit, but the main concern of the story is on what the effects of the treatment are. Jenny can't move on, even though the memory is blocked - quite possibly because the memory is blocked. Certain things - smells, sounds - make her body react in fright but she doesn't remember why those things are setting off the panic.

The book is based around this exploration of consequences and I found that really interesting. I will say, the first chapter is gruesomely detailed and I felt physically sick reading it. Push past that, or skip it altogether - you really don't need to read it for the rest of the story to make sense. After that, it's a very fast read, exploring the treatment and how other aspects of the family's life are pulled apart by the consequences of it. It was a very interesting read. I'm going to give All Is Not Forgotten 7/10.

~Ailsa

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Book review: Fahrenheit 451


Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Science Fiction (Traditionally, although today most people would say dystopian)
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Source: Free copy via the publisher

Description: Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic novel of a post-literate future, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ stands alongside Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

My thoughts:
*contains spoilers*

I've wanted to read this for a while, as it's one of those stories everyone references and sounds like it was a significant milestone in the genre. I liked the premise: books are banned and firemen have the job of burning them.

I was pretty disappointed.

From the first page, the writing is overly flowery, using five words where one would do. It turns out Guy Montag, the fireman, is married to an idiot zombie, who is attempting suicide one day and completely dismissing the events the next. He meets a strange girl and starts to question thing, but it quickly becomes clear that he was questioning and acting on those questions before that meeting, after all. He runs away, finds book keepers in the wilderness, then the city is blown up. Yes, Bradbury shows a future which is looking more and more possible every year, with superfast cars, surround television and atomic warfare, but it is the setting that is the interesting part. To me, the story itself was not.

I give Fahrenheit 451 4 stars out of 10.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Review: Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan


Title: Brighton Belle
Author: Sara Sheridan
Publisher: Constable
Genre: Historical (mystery)
Series: Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries #1
Source: Bought

Description: 1951. Brighton.

With the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (retired Whitehall secretary) thinks her skills are no longer required. After her lover's death she retires to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when the case of Romana Laszlo - a pregnant Hungarian refugee - comes in, Mirabelle soon discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from insurance clerk Vesta Churchill, they follow a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns and corpses that only they can unravel.

My thoughts: This is a fairly straightforward mystery story, with a fun time period setting. Mirabelle gets tangled into the case of Romana Laszlo when her boss goes missing. Following clues, at first alone, she finds many things which don't seem to add up, despite the fact she knows they must be connected. Needing a bit of help, she enlists Vesta, who works in the same building as her.

The characters were likeable and the mystery was interesting. Aside from the interesting time setting though, nothing jumped out at me as being particularly exciting or brilliant about the story. If I stumble on the sequel, I'll probably give it a go, but this one didn't leave me wanting to rush out and buy it. If you're looking for a nice mystery story, give it a go.

I'm rating this one 5/10.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beyond Ecstasy (Beyond #8) by Kit Rocha


Title: Beyond Ecstasy 
Author: Kit Rocha
Series: Beyond #8
Genre: Dystopian romance
Source: Review copy from the author

Description: The O’Kanes have a reputation for working hard and playing harder—except for Hawk. He joined the gang with one goal: to ensure his family’s survival through the impending war with Eden. It’s been years since he had the luxury of wanting anything for himself. Now, he wants Jeni. From the first moment he saw her, he’s been obsessed with making her his. Not for a night-forever. 
Jeni’s been lusting after the former smuggler for months, but he keeps shutting her down. She’s almost given up on getting him in her bed when he offers her the last thing she ever expected—a collar. Accepting it means belonging to him, body and soul. It’s a reckless gamble, but Jeni can’t resist the chance to slip under Hawk’s armour. 
The only thing more shocking than the dark, dangerous pleasure they discover is how right it feels. But falling in love is even more reckless when forever is far from guaranteed. Because they aren’t just at war, they’re out of time—and every breath could be their last. 

My thoughts: 
Note - this review is spoiler free for Beyond Ecstasy. However, it’s book 8 of the series, so there are spoilers for earlier books.

Regular blog readers will know I really enjoy this series, although there have been times in the past where I felt the books were just falling slightly short of their potential. Beyond Ecstasy, along with the previous book, Beyond Ruin, prove that Kit Rocha has come into her own with the series. There were no disappointments in this book, and it genuinely brought out so many emotions for me. 

The romance in Beyond Ecstasy focusses on Hawk and Jeni. They weren’t a couple I was particularly desperate to read about (unlike some I could mention *cough*Nessa*cough*) but the glimpses of Hawk in Ruin made me more interested in him. Hawk is a farmer and smuggler, here to help his family back in Sector Six and recently slightly obsessed with Jeni. Jeni dances and bartends but her most defining feature before this book was her loneliness. Luckily for her, things get going pretty quickly… possibly too quickly. 

We’ve barely spoken, Hawk. I know we’re attracted to one another, but what you’re talking about - a collar? That’s different. … You can’t commit to someone you don’t know.”

Thank you, Jeni (& Kit Rocha, of course) for saying that. I’m really not at all a fan of ‘insta-love’ so Jeni saying this had me cheering for her. As the book goes on, they find a way to start talking and getting to know each other more, so it’s believable when they do get to the stage of a collar and looking beyond that. Even so, the speed of things in the book is a big issue for Jeni. The background of the war means everyone is trying to seize the moment and romance can get a little messed up in that atmosphere. There are, of course, some very sexy scenes - Jeni is submissive and Hawk has never been with someone like that. His learning curve is very fun to watch ;) 

Then there’s the war. And I can’t lie to you, there are some heartbreaking moments in here because of it. Beyond Ecstasy starts a few weeks after the end of Beyond Ruin and as Jasper and Hawk walk around the electricity-free sector at night, you can see how the war is affecting the ordinary people. This book very much shows the pain of war for those who are a little further away from leadership than we normally see in the Beyond series. Hawk visits his family in Sector Six, bringing Jeni with him, and I loved seeing the extended family network on the farm and how happy everyone was. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t say any more except that the scenes on the farms were the most significant for me in this book. 

If you haven’t discovered this series already, you can get the first three books in a bundle. If you’ve been eagerly waiting for this, it’s out now! You can get it in a variety of places, including amazon: click


This book is one of my favourites in the series. I’m giving it 9 out of 10, I loved it. After the glimpses into Nessa & Ryder’s heads in this story, I’m desperate for the next one, of course! So if you love the series, Beyond Ecstasy is Kit Rocha at her best so far, sexy and sweet against the harsh backdrop of war. Make sure you have your tissues ready. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday



Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine

A book I'm looking forward to is:
A Torch Against The Night, by Sabaa Tahir

This is the sequel to An Ember In The Ashes, which was one of my top four favourite books last year. You can read the first chapter of A Torch Against The Night here.

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. 

Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars' future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side...even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom. 

But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike. 

Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape...and kill them both.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Anything But Broken, by Joelle Knox


Title: Anything But Broken
Author: Joelle Knox
Release date: August 2015
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Won

Description: After five years, tragedy brings Hannah Casey back to Hurricane Creek to bury what’s left of her family.  She’s flunking out of college, haunted by scandal, and the only person who cares is Sean Whitlow, an irresistible bad boy with a soft spot for her. The problem? He’s her dead sister’s ex.
Sean doesn’t bleed red, he bleeds motor oil. During the week, he struggles to turn his auto repair shop into a profitable business.  But when Saturday night rolls around, he’s the reigning stock-car king of the local race track.  He doesn’t know how to lose–or how to walk away and leave Hannah alone with her grief.
Between her grades and her wealthy family’s dark secrets, Hannah’s barely holding her life together.  And the last thing Sean needs is to get tangled up with another Casey girl.  As the attraction between them spins out of control, they’ll either find a love with no limits–or go up in flames.

My thoughts: Yes, this is another contemporary romance where something emotionally traumatic happened in the characters' past which they're now trying to deal with and it affects a new romance. Yes, this type of story comes up again and again. But I love them. As with any romance novel, it's about the journey.

Hannah has come back to the town she grew up in after she inherits her childhood home. She wants to come back, do the dutiful daughter stuff, and then leave again as quickly as possible. Of course it doesn't go that smoothly and as she struggles to deal with what happened in the past and what is happening now, she finds other things to lean on to 'help'. And while she really wants to like Sean, there are secrets her late sister confided in her which would tear him apart.

The chapters alternate between the two perspectives of Hannah and Sean and I really liked getting to see what was going on in Sean's head and life from his own perspective. Another thing I really liked was the community of Hurricane Creek which Joelle Knox introduces. There are some great side characters who I'm looking forward to seeing more of. However, I felt like a bit too much time in this story was spent focussing on the couple who star in book two of the series. They're Hannah & Sean's best friends (of course) so it's understandable that they should feature heavily in this story but at times I felt like Anything But Broken was their story as much as Hannah & Sean's. The problems of a first-in-the-series book, I guess. The other criticism I have is that I thought some of Hannah's 'big secrets' about her sister were very easy to guess.

Overall, I did find this a very enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to the sequel. This was a fun contemporary romance and introduced some characters who I really want to see a happy ending for in future books. Joelle Knox is the pen name for one of my favourite authors but if I hadn't known that, I would never have guessed! This book really proves the versatility of the author. Overall I'm giving this book 6 out of 10.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Book Review: All Of The Above, by Juno Dawson


Title: All Of The Above
Author: Juno Dawson (formerly known as James Dawson)
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: summer
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Won

Description: This is a funny and moving love story about friends, first loves and self-discovery by Queen of Teen 2014. When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who's the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the 'alternative' kids take Toria under their wing. And that's when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band - and it's instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there's Polly...love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

My thoughts: I didn't know much about this book until I saw Juno in conversation with George Lester on George's YouTube channel. I really liked the sound of the story & was lucky enough to win a copy in George's giveaway.

All Of The Above starts with Toria on her first day at a new school, for her penultimate year of high school. She’s quickly adopted in to a group of friends who, if we’re using high school group stereotypes, would be the ‘alternative kids’. The main characters apart from Toria are [name], Polly and Beasley. The story follows them, through Toria’s eyes, through the year.
It’s hard for me to review this without feeling like I’m doing it a disservice. It’s a girl and her friends in high school, like you’ve read before. What’s it about, beyond that? Friendships. A first serious relationship. Physical intimacy. Eating disorders. Self-harm. Figuring out your sexuality. Breakups.
Some people might dismiss it as being too many ‘issues’ crammed in to one book. But that’s rubbish. If they think that, it’s been too long since they were a teenager. In a friendship group, there are so many things going on at one time and I think Juno Dawson captures that perfectly. She also manages to make it laugh out loud funny in so many places, and grabs you by the feelings in others. I cried on the train to London reading one part - and if you’ve read the book, it probably wasn’t the part you’d first guess.

It’s a rollercoaster of a book, just as a year of high school is and absolutely captures being an older teenager. I'm giving All Of The Above by Juno Dawson 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Leave Your Mark, by Aliza Licht


Title: Leave Your Mark
Author: Aliza Licht
Publisher: Piatkus
Release date: May 2015
Genre: Non-fiction - Advice/Autobiography
Source: Bought

Description: LEAVE YOUR MARK isn't an advice book -- it's a mentorship in 288 pages.

Aliza Licht -- global fashion communications executive, AKA fashion's favorite 'PR girl' and Twitter phenomenon -- is here to tell her story, complete with The Devil Wears Prada-like moments and insider secrets.

Drawing invaluable lessons from her experience, Licht shares advice, inspiration, and a healthy dose of real talk in LEAVE YOUR MARK. She delivers personal and professional guidance for people just starting their careers and for people who are well on their way. With a particular emphasis on communicating and building your personal brand, something she knows a thing or two about, Aliza is your sassy, knowledgeable guide to the contemporary working world, where personal and professional lines are blurred and the most important thing you can have is a strong sense of self.

My thoughts: Although Leave Your Mark charts Aliza Licht's route into working at a fashion magazine, it provides excellent advice for starting careers in the media and in general. I read it just as I was starting to apply for publishing jobs and found all the advice very helpful. As that's the stage I was at, I was mostly interested in the early sections, which focus on getting your CV into shape, and how to get work experience. I read through the whole book once, then made particular notes based on those sections. Later, as I was invited to interviews, and got a longer work experience placement, I read on to the bits dealing with those. I found the section on making the most of a placement particularly helpful.

The book charts Aliza Licht’s career so far, so there are definitely sections which I’ll revisit as they become relevant - such as the etiquette for looking for internal and external jobs, or requesting a pay rise. Even though these sections weren’t stuff I needed to hear, it’s still an interesting account of Aliza’s life and I enjoyed hearing about the trials and triumphs she experienced as she started out in the world of media. She became the voice of ‘DKNY PR girl’ when the account was started and shares the story of how the account was planned and how it became her running it.
That lead in to the other section which I really enjoyed, something you can appreciate and learn from even if you’re not looking for careers advice: using social media as a marketing tool. I think a lot of bloggers would find some interesting things in this section as Licht writes about figuring out the defining features of your personal brand and how to harness social media to tie in to it.

Overall, I give Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht 8 out of 10. It has excellent careers advice, particularly for anyone looking to work in media. I’m really glad I found the book when I did as it gave me some very helpful tips.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Book review: Ice Forged by Gail Z Martin


Title: Ice Forged
Author: Gail Z Martin
Publisher: Orbit
Series: #1 of the Ascendant Kingdoms series
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Source: Borrowed

Description: Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine "Mick" McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands of Edgeland. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic of the governor's mages keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, McFadden and the people of Velant decide their fate. They can remain in their icy prison, removed from the devastation of the outside world, but facing a subsistence-level existence, or they can return to the ruins of the kingdom that they once called home. Either way, destruction lies ahead...

My thoughts: I love a good epic fantasy, and this is an excellent start to just such a series. Blaine is sentenced right at the beginning of the story, and takes on the name Mick to hide from the past and give himself a new start. The story covers his long journey on the ship full of other convicts to Velant, where the winters are long, harsh, and with virtually no daylight. However the story is equally focussed on a young man (whose name I can't find just now, it's a while since I've read this one!) who lives in the capital city of Dondareth, Blaine's homeland. He is the aide to someone on the ruling castle and through him you see some of the events that cause the supply ships to stop going to the colonists.

As the reader, seeing both viewpoints, you get a much clearer view of what's going on than the characters and that made it frustrating sometimes to see one group discussing a course of action based on what they knew, when to me it was clear that they should be taking a different path. This is particularly relevant nearer the end, when one group of characters knows that a bad thing will happen if someone does a certain thing, and the other group, unable to talk to them, decides to do that thing. It actually added a lot more tension to the story, having the collective knowledge which the characters lacked, and knowing they were walking into danger when they were unaware of it.

There is a slight supernatural element to the story, which I wasn't expecting. It caught me completely by surprise when it was revealed. I'm still not sure why it was necessary to bring in but I'll hold my judgement until I've read the second book.

Overall I'm giving Gail Z. Martin's 'Ice Forged' 7 out of 10. I'm planning on picking up book 2 next time I'm home and can raid my parents' bookshelves.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book review: Beyond Ruin by Kit Rocha + GIVEAWAY


 Title: Beyond Ruin
Author: Kit Rocha (aka Moria Rodgers or Bree & Donna)
Series: Beyond #7
Genre: Dystopian/Romance
Source: eARC from author

Description: The sectors will never be the same...
Adrian Maddox fled his royal life—and tragic past—in Sector One, choosing instead to join up with the O’Kanes. For years, he’s lived by one rule: love fast, love hard, and always be willing to walk away. He’s managed to guard his heart, keep it whole and untouched—until now.
They couldn’t be more different—Dylan, the brilliant, burned-out doctor from Eden who drowns his pain with drugs and self-destruction. Scarlet, the sensuous, sexy rocker from Three, a woman unafraid to embrace the world. And Jade, the whore turned spy from Sector Two, who battled addiction and came out stronger than anyone he’s ever met.
Separately, they make Mad long to open his heart, to tumble head-first into a sea of possibilities and wild love. Together, they make him burn, inside and out, with lust and unbearable, unimaginable pleasure.
Then one fateful moment shakes their world to its foundations—and leaves the sectors on the verge of all-out war with Eden. It’s the biggest fight the O’Kanes have ever faced, and Mad and his lovers are at the dead center of it. They could end up with everything they never knew they wanted—or lose it all. Including their lives.

My thoughts: A dystopian future, political intrigue, lots of sex, and a happily ever after - what more could you ask for in a story? And Kit Rocha delivers that with every single book in the series.

The political posturing and scheming has been a growing issue in the past few books but in Beyond Ruin it really comes in to front and centre. As part of one of the strongest groups in the Sectors, Mad, Scarlet, Dylan and Jade will join the other O'Kanes in playing a critical role in what happens next, now that Eden is drawing lines in the sand.

Four people trying to figure out how to love each other was always going to be complicated and messy so it seems fitting that it takes place against a background of the first volleys of open war. While I found it interesting to see them figure out how they all fitted together (figuratively and literally!) I had two favourite overarching things in this book: how the four of them grew individually and getting to see more of the other Sectors. Jade was my favourite, stepping up and pushing forward to find a version of herself that she knows she can be, trying to embrace all of her past and make it into a good future, for herself and those around her. But Scarlet was also a favourite, being one of the quieter ones in the background, more of the glue holding other people together and with all the doubts which can come with holding that sort of position. And then there is Mad, one step away from the throne of Sector One, forced to spend a lot of time in Beyond Ruin looking at why he's running so hard away from any ties there and the status his family have there as religious leaders as well as sector leaders. There's a fascinating world in Sector One and this book gives the most detailed picture of it so far. (There's just two more books left in the Beyond series, then Kit Rocha will write a spin-off series, set in Sector One - there are several characters introduced in this book who I can't wait to get to know better in that new series.)

Decisions are made early on in Beyond Ruin which decisively bring the O'Kanes onto a path against the rulers of Eden. Then when you think you're starting to guess where things might lead, something else happens, forcing the hands of the sector leaders. Then something else. My favourite twist came near the end - yes, there's something of a cliff hanger at the end of this book, but the story is wrapped up enough that this is a good stopping point. I'm desperate to see what happens next! While I wait for the next one though, I'm going to get stuck in to a re-read - there are so many developments, reveals and hints in this books that I know I will have missed things on my first read through. So excuse me, I've got a sector war to get back to.

I'm giving Beyond Ruin 9/10 - definitely one of my favourite books in the series so far!



*** GIVEAWAY TIME***

If you'd like to win an ebook collection of the first three Beyond books, just:
1) Leave a comment
2) Say how you follow - via GFC, email, or Twitter. 

The giveaway closes on 24th March and is open internationally.
Here's the blurbs for the first book in the series, Beyond Shame:
BEYOND SHAME (87,000 words, 354 pages)

All Noelle Cunningham has ever wanted is a life beyond the walls of Eden, where only the righteous are allowed to remain. But ruins lie outside the City, remnants of a society destroyed by solar storms.

Those ruins house the corrupt and the criminal--men like Jasper McCray, bootlegger and cage fighter. He'll defend the O'Kane gang with his life, but no fight prepared him for the exiled City girl who falls at his feet.

Her innocence is undeniable, and so is their attraction. But if she wants to belong to Jas, she'll have to open herself to a world where passion is power, and freedom is found in submission.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: February Book Haul part 1


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews as a way to share books you've received recently. 

Between things I've bought, been given, borrowed, and got from work, I've got quite a stack of books this month! I know we're not quite at the end of February yet but I'm going to break it into two haul posts and do the other one next week.

I went on a 'London Bookshop Crawl' a couple of weeks ago, visiting lots of independent bookshops, organised by Bex at An Armchair By The Sea. I was very restrained and came home with two books:

The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. I've seen so many people talking
about this book and loving it since it cam out, I had to give it a go. It's space opera, I'm a couple of chapters in and really enjoying it so far.







Vendetta, by Gail Z Martin. Second book in an urban fantasy series, the main character is a
psychometric who runs an antique shop and takes dangerous magical objects out of public circulation.




A couple more books I'm very excited about are:
Dumplin, by Julie Murphy. I've seen great reviews from a lot of US book bloggers about this, and it just came out in the UK. Hopefully I'll get to reading this one soon.






Beyond Ruin, by Kit Rocha. The latest book in the 'Beyond' series, this one is
an ARC and comes out on Tuesday. I'll be doing a release day post with a giveaway, so come back on Tuesday to enter!






And then there were these, which I don't know much about (with the exception of the Julia Kagawa books, which my friend Karen has been raving about for years), but they sounded good, and were in the freebie box at work:


My final book is one my Dad got me, and that's The Death Of Dulgath, by Michael J. Sullivan. It's book 3 of the Riyria Chronicles. I haven't read the rest of the series yet, but my parents (who got me in to reading fantasy in the first place) have all of his other books and love them. 



What books did you get recently? Have you read any of these? Don't forget to come back on Tuesday for the Beyond series giveaway!

~Ailsa

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mini Review: Autumn Bones by Jacqueline Carey


Title: Autumn Bones
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Publisher: Roc
Series: Agent of Hel #2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Bought

Description: Fathered by an incubus, raised by a mortal mother, and liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, Daisy Johanssen pulled the community together after a summer tragedy befell the resort town she calls home. Things are back to normal—as normal as it gets for a town famous for its supernatural tourism, and presided over by the reclusive Norse goddess Hel.
Not only has Daisy now gained respect as Hel’s enforcer, she’s dating Sinclair Palmer, a nice, seemingly normal human guy. Not too shabby for the daughter of a demon. Unfortunately, Sinclair has a secret. And it’s a big one.
He’s descended from Obeah sorcerers and they want him back. If he doesn’t return to Jamaica to take up his rightful role in the family, they’ll unleash spirit magic that could have dire consequences for the town. It’s Daisy’s job to stop it, and she’s going to need a lot of help. But time is running out, the dead are growing restless, and one mistake could cost Daisy everything…...

My thoughts: This is the second book in Carey's 'Agent of Hel' series. I really enjoyed the first one so I was really excited to get to this. I loved getting to see more about the various potential romantic interests in Daisy Johanssen's life - all of whom have a lot of complications! Particularly this book focuses on Sinclair, who is her sort-of boyfriend for most of the book. I've heard a very little bit about obeah magic, and it was really interesting to learn more. I haven't read many books with supernatural elements that utilise magic from Caribbean culture.

I found the mystery of this book - who was responsible for setting the evil spirit on the town - quite interesting. There are two big enemies facing and her friends in the story, the person setting the evil spirit, and Sinclair's family. I think that made it more interesting. It wasn't just a two strand story, mixing Daisy's personal life with a fight against one bad guy. It made it a more complex story, which is always good.

My favourite of Daisy's potential romantic partners is Stefan the ghoul, who can feed on her enhanced, otherworldly emotions and help balance her out. I loved the glimpses of him in this book and the progression in their friendship and working relationship. I finished the book really hoping that more would happen between the two of them soon.

Overall I'm giving Autumn Bones 8/10.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Four reviews: My top reads of 2015



I read some amazing books in 2015, and these four really stood out. I had planned to review each of them individually on the blog here, but I think most people will have read them already, and honestly, if I try to write about everything I read last year before I start reviews from this year, I'll never post anything. So, here are my thoughts on my four favourite books from last year - All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doer; An Ember In The Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir; A Darker Shade Of Magic, by V. E. Schwab; Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell.  (I have already reviewed ATLWCS.)




Have you read any of these four? What did you think of them?

~Ailsa

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: January Book Haul


Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews to share the books you have got recently.

It's been a couple of weeks since I did a book haul post, so here's everything I got in January:



Books mentioned:
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness
Always The Bridesmaid, by Lindsey Kelk
The Queen's Choice, by Anne O'Brien
The Shock Of The Fall, by Nathan Filer
Prudence, by Gail Carriger
The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick
The Girl On The Liar's Throne by Den Patrick
Just Like Heaven, by Julia Quinn
An Offer From A Gentleman, by Julia Quinn

What books have you read recently?

~Ailsa

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Review: Lunch In Paris by Elizabeth Bard


Title: Lunch In Paris
Author: Elizabeth Bard
Publisher: Summersdale
Genre: Travel writing - with recipes!
Source: Gift from a friend

Description: This is amazing,’ I said. ‘You have to give me the recipe.’                                                                 ‘There is no recipe,’ he said, smiling. ‘I use whatever I have. It never tastes the same way twice.’         I had no way of knowing, that first damp evening in Paris, how this man, and his non-recipes, would change my life.

Has a meal ever changed your life?
Part love story, part wine-splattered cookbook, Lunch in Paris is a deliciously tart, forthright and funny story of falling in love with a Frenchman and moving to the world’s most romantic city – not the Hollywood version, but the real Paris, a heady mix of blood sausage, pains aux chocolats and irregular verbs.

From gutting her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen) to discovering the French version of Death by Chocolate, Elizabeth Bard finds that learning to cook and building a new life have a lot in common. Peppered with recipes, this mouth-watering love story is the perfect treat for anyone who has ever suspected that lunch in Paris could change their life.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. It is a true story, about how American Elizabeth comes to Paris for a boyfriend and gradually builds her life there with him. I've done a fair amount of traveling and one of my favourite things is discovering food in a new place, so it's not surprising I enjoyed how much Elizabeth talks about food in the book. Each chapter also ends with a recipe for something that was talked about, eaten or relates to the chapter. I haven't tried making any of them yet but I definitely will sometime.

The other thing that I could really identify with and relate to was the culture differences Elizabeth describes, as an American living with a Frenchman. I lived in the USA for a year and for a long time had an American boyfriend, and there are some situations Elizabeth describes which happen very differently in the USA compared to Europe which I was completely nodding in agreement with. Her boyfriend (now husband) just couldn't get his head around how certain things are done in the US, and vice versa and I could completely understand.

I think this book is very well written and incredibly well-paced given that it is autobiographical. The food is a central part of the story, which I loved, and I think including the recipes is such a great idea. I highly recommend this book, and I'm giving it 8/10 stars.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Stacking the Shelves



Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews as a way to share the books you've acquired in the last week.

I received three books this week, all of which I'm looking forward to reading.

First, 'The Queen's Choice' by Anne O'Brian
Description: France, 1399: The Duke of Brittany is dead and his widow, Joanna of Navarre, has inherited control of their land - a testament to her intellect, integrity and political prowess. Then comes an unprecedented proposal from Henry IV, King of England. The price of becoming his Queen? Abandoning her homeland, leaving her children and sacrificing her independence. Henry’s hold on the crown is unsteady and war is brewing. With the constant threat of rebellion, Henry will trust no-one – not even his new Queen. Crossing the channel is a dangerous prospect. But the union between Joanna and Henry would bring the chance of a vital alliance between two proud states – if they will allow it.
One question. Two paths. A choice that will make history.

Second, 'Always The Bridesmaid' by Lindsey Kelk
Description: Maddie Fraser has never been anything other than the girl in the background: golden boy Dan’s little sister, crazy Shona’s minion, workaholic Sebastian’s ex and now she’s also the girl in the middle of her warring best friends.

Lauren has announced she’s getting married – just as Sarah’s husband asks her for a divorce. Nothing in Maddie’s career in event organising has prepared her for this particular combo of planning and real pain. The news that her ex is also tying the knot is the final straw. While the magazines say she should be leaning in, all she wants to do is sleep in. But whether she likes it or not, everything is about to change for Maddie. For better or worse, this grown-up bridesmaid is taking centre stage… 

The third book is Prudence, by Gail Carrier. I've already read & reviewed this one, but I had a library copy. I got this one from someone who attended the recent 'Drink YA' event in London, which was a lot of fun and I'll be blogging about it tomorrow. You can see my review of Prudence here.

Which books did you get this week?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Blog tour review: Electric Shadows Of Shanghai by Clare Kane



Title: Electric Shadows of Shanghai
Author: Clare Kane
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Watchword (digital imprint of Impress Books)
Released: December 2015

Description: It’s 1931 and British diplomat William Graves and his wife, Amelia, are flung headfirst into the enticing, neon-lit streets of Shanghai. As Will helps to maintain the fragile peace between China and Japan, Amelia, alone in a foreign city, seeks solace with a Russian ballet troupe that are more than they seem. Whispers of protest, revolt, even war, buzz through the city as Will is tasked with rooting out Communist propaganda that could push tensions over the edge into war. But the city’s streets hold other intoxicating allures. Will falls into a deep obsession with Feifei, a beautiful silent film star, who is desperate to escape the volatile city and sees Will as her only chance at freedom. As Amelia starts to sense Will’s betrayal and the personal and the political begin to blur, will they lose themselves in the electric shadows of Shanghai?

My thoughts: The plot is fairly straightforward as it's described in the blurb - Will has recently started a job at the British consulate in Shanghai and quickly falls for the silent film actress FeiFei. In the first half of the book, you see that almost no one is as happy as they seem on a first impression and everyone has secrets. I think this could have been made more significant by the author - there were no build ups to the reveals, and while these were 'secrets' some, like FeiFei's unhappy relationship with her much-older husband were predictable and easy to guess. 

What I liked most in the story was seeing Shanghai in this time period. I've not read much set in that part of the world and anything set even close to this time period was not seeing the side of the world that Will lives in - wealthy, able to take advantage of anything. That leads me nicely on to the other thing I enjoyed - Amelia becoming friends with a Russian ballet dancer and helping her recruit girls for a Shanghai ballet company. Only the girls they are taking on work as dancers in illicit clubs. 

There is corruption, spying, several unhappy marriages and a lot of social climbers. It's definitely an interesting look at Shanghai and what it could be like for people in various social situations in the 1930s. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mini book review: The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith


Title: The Silkworm
Author: Robert Galbraith
Series: Cormoran Strike book two
Publisher: Sphere
Genre: Crime
Source: Gifted from publisher

Description: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives - so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.
And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before...

My thoughts: I haven't read the first book in the series, but as with many crime novels, that didn't matter. I got enough of an introduction to the characters to understand who they were and the significance of various things, like the financial difficulties Cormoran is experiencing through most of the book. I also thought there was a good amount of character development over the course of the story, and a believable amount for the three weeks or so that the story covers. The relationships between the characters are also developed over this story and that's what makes me want to read book three, Career Of Evil - I want to see what happens next in their personal relationships and other changes that you can start to see in The Silkworm. It also might make me backtrack and read the first one, so I can see where everyone started out, particularly how things were between Robin (his assistant) and Cormoran.

In terms of the mystery, I liked it a lot, although the details from the book the murder is based on were quite gruesome in places! All the evidence was given to the reader, which I liked - all the clues were there, even if I didn't catch all of them. Once Cormoran Strike has figured out who the murderer is, however, things get a bit cagier - Robin is sent on an unnamed mission to find certain bits of evidence, and readers aren't told what that is until the 'big reveal' at the end. While that didn't bother me, I know it's not everyone's favourite thing.

I'm giving this one 7/10 - I'm not rushing out to buy book 1 or 3, but if I stumble on them at a good price second hand somewhere, I'll read them.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Stacking The Shelves



Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews to share the books you've bought, borrowed or been given recently.

This week I have one book - I joined my local library and they have LOADS of great ebooks and audiobooks that you can borrow! I didn't want to get too carried away, so I picked one to start with which I've been wanting to read for ages - The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness:



I've also been reading a book I'll be part of a blog tour for this week, which honestly I'm not loving, but you'll hear about it in my review.
And then there have been a few books I've read from work - these are fun to read on the tube during my commute, but none of them so far are particularly stand-out books, and as I work for the publisher I think it would be a bit... not okay? for me to say bad things about books we've published! At the same time I'm absolutely not going to lie in reviews and say I liked something just because I work for the company, so my policy with these books for now is going to be that I just won't talk about them unless I genuinely loved a book and think people should check it out.

What have you been reading this week? Leave your links in the comments & I'll check them out!

~Ailsa

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mini book review: Page by Tamora Pierce


Title: Page
Author: Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Random House
Series: Protector Of The Small
Genre: Fantasy (YA)

Description: Keladry of Mindalen, the first girl to train as a knight since Alanna, is officially a page now, but she's got three more years before she'll be a squire. And those three years are not going to be easy. Kel has to stand up against bullying boys, cruel older sisters, and, as always, the training master, Lord Wyldon!

My thoughts: I love Tamora Pierce, and reviewed the first book in this series earlier this year. In this instalment, Kel continues through her training. It goes quite quickly through the remaining three years, building up to the graduating exams which she'll face at the end of her fourth year. I enjoyed seeing how Kel's classmates come to accept her (with a few notable exceptions) and the new friendships she forms with animals, staff, teachers and other pages at the castle. It was a nice summer afternoon read and I was glad I could go straight on to the sequel when I was done.
It's hard to rate this one - it was a good story, and entertained me for a few hours by the pool, but it wasn't a standout top book of the year. I'm going to say 7 for this one, I think.

~Ailsa

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Stacking The Shelves: December Edition



Welcome to Stacking the Shelves! StS is a weekly meme hosted at Tynga's Reviews.

I haven't received or bought many books this month - I'm trying really hard to cut down on books I buy until I've cut my TBR pile down a bit. I had a big life change this month as well: I moved from Scotland to London, and started working at a publisher.

I do get books from work now but I haven't quite decided if I'm going to feature or review them on the blog or my Youtube channel so for now I'm leaving them out. So here are the three books I got in December:

All Of The Above, by James Dawson - I won this from George Lester's Youtube channel and I'm so glad I got the chance to read it. It's about Toria, a girl going in to her penultimate year of high school, starting at a new place in a town her family have just moved to. It's about friendship, eating disorders, self harm, figuring out your sexuality, and a whole lot of other stuff - basically being a seventeen year old at high school! I'll review this one properly soon, but I really think James hit the nail on the head with what the experience of being that age is like. It's not neat and tidy, there's always a lot going on.





Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone illustrated edition - this one was a Christmas present from
my parents, it's the only book I asked them for, but I wasn't expecting to actually get it - it's quite expensive for a book. It's so beautiful and I really like it. The illustrations bring it to life in a new way - some similarities to how things are shown in the film, and some things which are more like how I imagined scenes, or something totally new. If you're a Harry Potter fan, I highly recommend this one.





London Falling, by Paul Cornell - I also got vouchers for audiobooks for Christmas, and this is the book I chose. I've just started it so I'll talk more about it in a review when I'm finished. It's about a London police team dealing with a magical suspect.









What books did you get in December? Leave your links in the comments and I'll check them out!

~Ailsa
 

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