Monday, December 30, 2013

Long time no see and a plan for the new year


Well, I seem to have fallen off the world again, haven't I?

Christmas is past, and it's time to get back on the wagon. I've read several great books over December that I'm excited to talk about, and reviews should be back on schedule.
Here's the plan for the coming year:


  • Two reviews (or a 'Thoughts on Books' post) a week
  • Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves on Saturday
  • An occasional 'Top Ten Tuesday' post
I'll hopefully get a review up tomorrow, to get things kicked off early!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Letterbox Love: The WFC Haul part 2


 



I missed doing last weeks, so here are the rest of the books I picked up at World Fantasy Con in Brighton at the start of the month. I've been a little busy with uni work (it's essays time of the semester) but I'm planning to put up my write-ups of it this coming week. I'll also have more reading time now, so reviews will be back! *g*

On to the books!


'Farlander' by Col Buchanan - Fantasy, sounds like it could be interesting

'Black Feathers' by Joseph D'Lacey - Don't know much about this, but I've heard good things about Joseph D'Lacey and the cover is just gorgeous.

'The Emperor's Knife' by Mazarkis Williams - Fantasy, again don't know much about it.

'The Knights of Breton Court' by Maurice Broaddus - A new version of the King Arthur myth - I'm not particularly interested in Arthur stories, but this one looked different so I thought I'd give it a go - it's fairly far down the tbr pile at the moment though.

'The Fifth Wave' by Rick Yancy - this one sounds a bit mid-apocalyptic, and I've heard a little bit about it. I'm actually quite keen to read this one soon. 


At the top of this one is the lovely commemorative program they gave to everyone, which features lots of nice pictures and some cool short stories. 

'The Queen of the Tearling' by Erika Johansen - This is a proof copy, so the cover isn't final, about a 19 year old girl about to inherit a kingdom that's a bit of a mess, by the sound of it. I think this sounds really cool, and I'm hoping to read it soon. It doesn't come out till summer, so I won't be posting a review for a while though. 

'The Martian' by Andy Weir - Don't know much about this at all, so it's fairly low in the pile again, but it could be interesting, I'll give it a go sometime.

'The Forbidden Library' by Django Wrexler - This one sounds really cool, it has an introduction letter from the author tucked inside that says it's built on the question of what if you couldn't trust the mentor figure there often is in fantasy books? I hope to read it soon, but again, it's a proof copy, not releasing until April, so it'll be a while till I actually post the review.


How about you? Leave me the links to what you got this week and I'll come check them out! 

~Ailsa

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Letterbox Love/StS: The WFC haul, part 1



Last weekend I went to the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, and one of the many awesome things that happened was they gave away a whole lot of free books. Since I came home with so many, and I don't anticipate buying any more for a little while, I'm going to split the haul over two Letterbox Love posts. 

First of all, here are the three books I did actually buy: 

'Darkness Splintered' by Keri Arthur (Dark Angel #6)  - I've loved Keri Arthur's work for a long time now, and I was very excited to find this for sale (a little early) at the weekend, so I could get her to sign it! :) I've already started reading, and it's going well so far. Review or 'Thoughts on Books' post to come soon. 

'A Conspiracy of Alchemists' by Liesel Schwarz - I had an e-arc of this back in the spring, and was really enjoying it, but unfortunately it expired before I could get to the end. I'm looking forward to reading the end of the story now.

'The Prince of Lies' by Anne Lyle (Night's Masque #3) - I'm currently half way through the audio of book 2, and was looking forward to meeting Anne Lyle at the con, but didn't have the book for her to sign, so when they had book 3 (again, a little early), I picked it up. I'll get to this one soon.


'The Garden of Stones', by Mark T Barnes - I wasn't sure about this one, but I really enjoyed hearing the author speaking on a panel, so I decided to give it a go.

'The Emperor's Blades' by Brian Stavely - This sounds like a great new fantasy series, and I"m excited to read it.

'The Path of Anger' by Antoine Rouaud - Another fantasy which I'm very excited to read, and on the spine it says 'The Debut of the Year' which I thought was fun :)

'Unspoken' by Sarah Rees Brenan - I've heard a lot about this from people who've already read it, and I think I'll have to keep the tissues close to hand, so I might wait until I have the rest of the series to cope with it.

'Banished' by Liz De Jager - This is the one I was most excited to see on the 'goodies' table - the cover was just revealed the other week, and it looks great! Liz was the author of the first book blog I ever read, and I'm looking forward to reading this story a lot. 


There's the first part! So many books that I'm really excited to read. 
Thank you to publishers, 47 North, Simon & Schuster, Gollancz and Tor for your generosity offering the copies.

What books did you get this week?
~Ailsa

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Preparing for World Fantasy Convention



I've heard a lot in the past few years about various bookish conventions, and I'm very excited to be heading to my first one this week! I'm heading to Brighton for the World Fantasy Convention.
There are loads of authors that I'm excited to see, doing readings, panels, and signings. I've made sure there are fresh batteries for my camera, and I'm planning on taking lots of photos. It's also going to be a great chance to catch up with some of my online friends who I either haven't seen for far too long, or have yet to meet in person. There are many plans for meet ups in the bar :)

Some high points I'm looking forward to:


  • Seeing Patrick Rothfuss

  • Seeing Scott Lynch

  • Exploring the 'dealers room' and looking at the books and other geeky fun things

  • Hearing some agents and publishers I'm interested in take part in several panels

  • Exploring the town of Brighton itself - I've never been there before


It's going to be a very jam-packed few days, but I'm so stoked for this. I'm planning on doing a few posts when I get back about the various events.

If you're going, let me know!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger


Title: Etiquette & Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Release Date: February 2013
Publisher: Atom (UK)
Genre: YA fantasy
Source: Gift

Description: It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. 
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

My thoughts: I love Gail Carriger's 'Parasol Protectorate' series, so I was looking forward to this new 'Finishing School' series, which is set in the same world, 25 years earlier. Thankfully Ms Carriger did not disappoint: 'Etiquette & Espionage' is as much fun to read as her previous novels.

We first meet Sophronia as she is trying to hide in the dumbwaiter in her house to spy on the conversation her mother is having with a neighbour. Unfortunately it doesn't go as planned, and an incident with a trifle leads to having to meet a mother who seems more exasperated than angry - a state she seems to be in a lot around Sophronia. That same afternoon, Sophronia is whisked off to the finishing school, but right from the start, things don't go to plan. Before they even make it to the school, the carriage is attacked by 'flywaymen', who use contraptions like hot air balloons to attack passing carriages. As they get to the school and start to learn more, Sophronia and her new friend and roommate Dimity realise that it was no random attack, and start trying to piece together what the flywaymen were looking for, and why.

As readers have come to expect from Gail Carriger, the book is a lot of fun. She continues to paint this steampunk, alternate-history Britain in beautiful little details, while keeping up a plot that had me racing through the story. Fans of the series will be glad to see some familiar faces, albeit a little younger. One of my favourite things was seeing a young Madame Lefoux, who has always been one of my favourite characters. I also thought it was fun to meet a new vampire, one of the Professors, and another werewolf, both of whom seem like very interesting characters with much more to them than we get to see in this book. There is just enough to hint at the fascinating personal stories the two must have, and given Sophronia's constant curiosity, I'm sure there will be more revealed about them in the future books.

I've always enjoyed books set in boarding schools - Enid Blyton, Hogwarts, and many others, and reading something like that again was a flashback of being curled up on a cushion in the school library, reading about the adventures people could have living away from home. Sophronia and her friend get to try things like figuring out how to get past mechanical hall guards, how to sneak in and out of the ship's boiler room, and how to pass notes undetected while dancing.

With 'Etiquette and Espionage', Gail Carriger has produced just the sort of fun-filled story readers have come to expect from her, and the Finishing School series promises to put a new twist on the 'adventures at boarding school' theme.
Overall, I give Etiquette & Espionage 8 out of 10.

~Ailsa

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

DNF review: Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson


Title: Full Blooded
Author: Amanda Carlson
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: September 11 2012
Source: NetGalley

Description: Born the only female in an all-male werewolf race, Jessica McClain isn't just different - she's feared. After living under the radar for the last twenty-six years, Jessica is thrust unexpectedly into her first change, a full ten years late. She wakes up and finds she's in the middle of a storm. Now that she's become the only female full-blooded werewolf in town, the supernatural world is already clamouring to take a bite out of her. Now her new Pack must rise up and protect her. But not everyone is on board. There are certain superstitious werewolves who think Jessica means an end to their race - and they're not about to go down without a fight.

My thoughts: I wouldn't normally review a DNF book, partly because I prefer to give time to the books I did enjoy, and partly because I think it's unfair when I haven't read much of the book. However, this is a title I received from the publisher via NetGalley, so I think it's fair to give some reasons for DNF'ing.

I made it through two or three chapters of 'Full Blooded', and I'm afraid even some of that was skimmed over. With so many books in my physical 'to be read' pile in my room, Full Blooded just didn't grab me enough with its begining. In the opening scene, Jessica goes through her first ever change from human to werewolf. I think this is an exciting thing, but I didn't know Jessica enough to care, and if I hadn't read the blurb, I wouldn't have known why it was significant. But I pushed on, hoping to be grabbed a little more in the next bit.
Unfortunately, I wasn't, and mostly skimmed through the chapter where Jessica is running around as a wolf and has an altercation with a human. Again, I didn't care enough about her to be interested, and I was hoping to get to the good stuff, find out who she was, and see what the plot was going to turn in to.
Jessica wakes up, and I hoped that here, I would finally be hooked, but the attitudes of the male characters who are around Jessica when she first comes to were a little irritating, and I think the way she reacted considering she'd just done something that everyone thought was impossible, was not very accurate - she's very very calm about everything.

At that point, it was just one thing too many counting against it, and with so many books and so little free time for reading at the moment, I had to put it aside and read something that grabbed me more. Perhaps if I come across it in the library, I'll give 'Full Blooded' another chance, as people seem to be really enjoying the rest of the series, but this go around it just wasn't for me.

Rating: DNF

~Ailsa

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cover love: Strange Chemistry Titles


We're always told not to judge a book by its cover, but I constantly do exactly that - a cover I love will make me pick up a new book to read the back and find out more. It's the cover or title that catches my eye in the first place.

Strange Chemistry sent out some of their 2014 covers last week, and I thought I'd share some of them on the blog.

First, there is the sparkly 'Under Nameless Stars' by Christian Schoon. I'm not familiar with this series (the blurb makes it sound as though it's at least 2nd in a series) and I'm not personally a fan of stories set in space, but I think this cover is very eye-catching, with the window of stars pulling you in. 













Next, there's 'Emilie & the Sky World' by Martha Wells, which has a great cover and sounds like an excellent story! There's a lot happening on this cover, and from the blurb I'd say it gives an accurate impression of what the story will be about. I love how there is the map in the background, and the circle in the middle looking up through trees to the sky also looks like a globe. This story makes me think back to reading Kenneth Oppel's 'Airborn', which I loved when I was in high school. 










Finally, one with a more simple cover, but the one I'm most intrigued to read: 'Feather Bound' by Sarah Raughley. Yes, girls in dresses is a cover trope that's been done over and over for YA, but I like how it turns very feathery around the edges here, and how the birds blend in with it. Here's the description: 

In contemporary New York, a swan girl must help her enemy destroy her best friend or risk being sold to the black market.

When Deanna’s missing friend Hyde turns up at his father’s funeral to claim his corporate empire and inheritance, she is swept into his glittering world of paparazzi and wealth.

But Deanna has a secret - and somebody knows. Someone who is out to get Hyde. And if she doesn’t play along, and help the enemy take Hyde down…she will be sold to the highest bidder in the black market for human swans.
Now Deanna is struggling to break free from the gilded cage that would trap her forever…

We must all remember the stories about swan princesses from when we were little, right? I don't think I've seen a story yet that modernises that, and I'm really excited about how this book sounds. It looks like Strange Chemistry have some awesome books coming out next year, with some equally awesome covers.

Which is your favourite of these three?

~Ailsa




Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book review: The Falconer, by Elizabeth May


Title: The Falconer
Author: Elizabeth May
Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: 26/9/13
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Source: Bought at Waterstones

Description: Lady Aileana Kameron was destined for a life which revolved around Edinburgh's social events - until the moment a faery killed her mother. 
Now, between high society balls, Aileana slaughters faeries in secret. Every night, armed with modified percussion pistols, explosives and a killer instinct, she sheds her aristocratic facade and goes hunting.
She's looking for revenge, but she'll kill any fae that crosses her path.
But there's another battle looming - one her mysterious mentor, Kiaran MacKay, won't even talk about and it has world-altering consequences.
Aileana will have to decide how much she's willing to lose - and just how far she'll go to avenge her mother.

My thoughts: I first noticed this book when I heard the author was British, as I like to support 'local' authors when I can, and when I heard it was a historical fantasy set in Edinburgh (where I go to university) it really piqued my interest.

Aileana is attending her first ball after spending a year in mourning for her mother. The other ladies gossip when they think she isn't listening, speculating over the fact Aileana was found covered in blood beside her mother's body: a fact she has never explained. Aileana has changed a lot since then, learning how to hunt down and kill the faeries who most people can't see, alongside her mentor Kiaran. But now she's back in the limelight of society, with her every move scrutinised as she theoretically looks for a husband, it becomes much harder to keep hunting the fae. The action of the story kicks off straight away, with Aileana realising a faery is there at the party and going in search of it.

I love the world Elizabeth May creates in this book: part historic Scotland, filled with half-believed folklore, elaborate balls, and a city well on the way to becoming the Edinburgh we know today, and part alternate-world, with mechanical punch dispensers, flying ornithopters, and modified guns.

Something that surprised me about it was the length of time the story takes place over. I believe there's something like a week, or just over that, from the start to the finish. Sometimes this annoys me in books,  but I think Ms May pulls it off in The Falconer - any relationships (family/friendship/other) that change or develop aren't sudden things - we're very much thrown in to the middle of Aileana's life, and the changes were more like instances of Aileana realising something that has been true for a while. There is enough of her past, pre-faery-fighting life worked in to the story that you can see how she has changed, and how that has affected her view of the people around her. There were a couple of times where I thought the action felt a little rushed with one thing happening after another, but it kept the tension high and made me keep turning the pages until the end.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot, because it really does go very quickly and it's more fun to read if you're trying to figure out what's coming next. I will give you a cliffhanger warning for the ending though - I went in to this book not knowing if it was a stand alone book or part of a series, and the ending is very abrupt. The first in a trilogy, I'm going to be very impatient waiting for the rest of this series!

'The Falconer' is a fantastic debut novel from Elizabeth May, leading the reader through a dark alternate-history Edinburgh full of things that will grab you in the night. I give this book 8 out of 10, and I'm very much looking forward to book 2.

~Ailsa

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves


 
I don't know about you, but for me this week has flown by! I was looking forward to doing my review of Elizabeth May's 'The Falconer' which I finished reading last week, but Wednesday, my normal coursework-and-life-catchup day became a work-I-get-paid-for day, so I was playing catchup the rest of the week. Although the money will be nice - more books! :-) So no reviews this week, but that means you can look forward to seeing a review tomorrow, and probably one for Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger in the middle of the week.

On to the books!


First up is actually one I got for a class.

Praetorian, by Simon Scarrow. I'm an Ancient History student, and I've been interested in reading this series set in the ancient Roman Empire for a while. Unfortunately this is jumping in to the middle of the series, but this is the book I need for my essay, so c'est la vie, I'll catch up on the others another time.

Next, 3 books I've been looking forward to for a while.

The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch - I've been waiting for this book for years. #3 in the Gentleman Bastard series, I read its predecessors as soon as they came out, when I was maybe 14/15. I'm now 22, so it's been a long wait, but this one came out on Thursday, so at long last I can find out what happens next for these conmen. I'm rereading book 1 at the moment, so hopefully I'll get to that one very soon.

Blood Trade, by Faith Hunter - another series I love, this is book 6 in the Jane Yellowrock series. I read the last one while I was in Carolina last year & didn't want to buy the next and be unable to bring it home with me. I can't wait to see what's next for Jane.

Firelight, by Kristen Callihan. I haven't read anything by this author before, but I've heard good things about the series from the start, and I'm looking forward to finally reading it. 

What books did you get this week? Have you read any of these four? Share your links in the comments :)

~Ailsa

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking The Shelves


 



It's that time of the week again! I managed to get a couple of days ahead on my college work this week, so hopefully I can take a little time to read over the weekend. I have one book to show this week:



Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger.


Descripton: It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school. 
14 year old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners-and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. 
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's young ladies learn to finish... everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage - in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.


I've been wanting to try this for a while, but decided to wait for the paperback. This was another surprise gift from my boyfriend, and I ended up staying up late last night reading the first few chapters. I love it so far, so I'll probably be posting a review sometime next week.

What books did you get this week?

~Ailsa

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thoughts on Books: Midnight Blue-Light Special, by Seanan McGuire


*Thoughts on Books is a new occasional feature I am doing, as introduced here.*

Welcome to my first 'Thoughts on Books' post! Today, I'm talking about Midnight Blue-Light Special, by Seanan McGuire. This is the 2nd 'Incryptid' novel, and I feel like I don't have many new critical things to say about her books - I've loved every book I've read by Ms McGuire, and have reviewed various ones on the blog in the past. A 'review' would just have been full of me gushing, so here's something a little different.

Title: Midnight Blue-Light Special
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: Daw
Release date: March 2013
Source: Gift
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Description:
Telepathic mathematicians. Chess-playing dragons. Bogeyman night-club owners. Talking mice. The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity - and to protect humanity from them. Verity Price is just trying to do her job, keeping the native cryptid population of Manhattan from getting into trouble, and doing a little ballroom dancing on the side. But her tenure on the East Coast is coming to an end, and she's still not sure what she wants to do with her life.
Enter Dominic De Luca, an operative for the Covenant of St. George, and Verity's on-agian, off-again boyfriend. When he tells her that the Covenant is sending a full team to assess how ready the city if for a purge, Verity finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Stay, and risk her almost-certain death, or flee, and leave the cryptids of New York with nothing between them and the Covenant. 
It's not the kind of choice that ever comes easy. With allies and enemies on every side, and no safe way to turn, it's going to take some quickstepping for Verity to waltz out of this one. There's just one question on everyone's mind: Is this the last dance for Verity Price?

Six Things I Love From 'Midnight Blue-Light Special'.

1) The Aeslin Mice. I adored these little talking mice in the first book, and as there, they have a tendency to steal the show a little in a scene they're involved in. They're just so funny, but I understand why Verity finds them a bit annoying to live with sometimes. I liked that in this book we got to see them as more than just comic entertainment, as they play an important role towards the end, and show a more fierce side to their personalities.

2) The relationship between Verity & Dominic. Things left off pretty well between these two at the end of the first book, but of course there were still going to be issues to work out, and those really get explored here. You'll have to read it to see if they can really put aside their differences ;)

3) "Turn the darks on". You know how we turn the lights on when it's dark outside? Seanan McGuire has written Bogeymen who have darks to turn on when it's light. This is just one of the many little details she includes which make me smile - it's such interesting world building, I love it.

4) When talking about running naked: "For one thing, without a bra, I was going to wind up in a world of pain." Thank you, Verity Price, for acknowledging something that bothers me a lot in action films. Verity might not be super-curvy, but properly running without any support is going to hurt, and I don't understand how Bond Girls who are bouncing all over the place can escape from the bad guys without even wincing over that. And things like this fill these books, acknowledgements of the reality that is missing from many stories and films.

5) Verity's friends. As readers saw in Discount Armageddon (book 1), the creatures, or cryptids, whom Verity comes into contact with are a diverse group to say the least. I enjoyed getting to see more about them in this book, and the various reactions to the news about the Covenant coming, and to later events in the book. These people know what Verity does for them, and they'll stick by her.

6) Her family. We see a few more hints about the family back home in this book - Verity's dad, in particular, and a little more about her sister. Sarah, the telepathic adopted sister, also has a big role in this book, and even narrates a couple of chapters, which I loved. 'Uncle Mike', another adopted relative, also turns up in this book, and I enjoyed seeing him and the bigger picture of the Healy/Price family that his presence brought.

So there you go, some of the reasons why I'd mark this as a 10/10 book. Ms McGuire continues to write books with multi-faceted characters in fascinating worlds that keep me up well past my bedtime so I can find out what happens next.

~Ailsa

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking The Shelves



 

Good morning! It's bright and sunny here in Edinburgh today, so maybe I'll get to do a little reading outside later on.

I have one book this week, but I'm very excited about it.

The Falconer, by Elizabeth May.
Isn't this a cool cover?

Description: Lady Aileana Kameron was destined for a life which revolved around Edinburgh's social events - until the moment a faery killed her mother. 
Now, between high society balls, Aileana slaughters faeries in secret. Every night, armed with modified percussion pistols, explosives and a killer instinct, she sheds her aristocratic facade and goes hunting.
She's looking for revenge, but she'll kill any fae that crosses her path.
But there's another battle looming - one her mysterious mentor, Kiaran MacKay, won't even talk about and it has world-altering consequences. 
Aileana will have to decide how much she's willing to lose - and just how far she'll go to avenge her mother. 

I started paying attention to this book when I heard the author was Scottish and that it's set in Edinburgh - it's always nice to see 'home grown' authors, and I love stories in settings I'm familiar with. When they started releasing teasers (you can read chapter one online here), it seemed like the book might live up to the hype. I can't wait to dive in!

If you missed it, the other day on the blog I reviewed 'God Save The Queen' by Kate Locke. Look out for my post tomorrow about Seanan McGuire's 'Midnight Blue-Light Special'.

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

~Ailsa

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book review: God Save The Queen, by Kate Locke


Title: God Save The Queen
Author: Kate Locke
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: 2012
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Steampunk
Source: Bought from Waterstones
Length: Novel

Description: London, present day - and Queen Victoria still rules with an immortal fist.
She's the undead matriarch of a Britain where the Aristocracy is made up of werewolves and vampires, where goblins live underground and mothers no better than to let their children out after dark. A world where technology lives side by side with magic, where being nobility means being infected with the Plague (side effects include undeath) and Hysteria is the popular affliction of the day.
Xandra Vardan is a member of the elite Royal Guard, and it's her duty to protect the Aristocracy. But things get complicated when her sister goes missing. Xandra will not only realise she's the prize in a dangerous power struggle - but she'll also uncover a conspiracy that threatens to topple the empire itself.

My thoughts: As a general rule, I love steampunk books, and Kate Locke's 'God Save The Queen' continued that trend for me. The story begins with Xandra asking some dangerous people (the goblins) for information about her missing sister. Right from the start, the world-building was really well done, little details being explained quickly enough that I could build a good picture in my head of how things worked, without it ever feeling like "info-dumping".

I enjoyed Kate Locke's interpretation of vampires and werewolves. Through the many waves of plague that came to Britain, human DNA mutated to fight that, and the people who have this stronger DNA become either vampires or werewolves. Interestingly, it's mostly the aristocracy who carry this, so humans really are the bottom of the pecking order in this country.

Although there is a small romance thread with Vex, the romance itself is not a big part: instead, it gives Xandra one more person she has to figure out whether she can trust. He assures her that he's been interested in her for a while and not just because of what she is, and so far we as readers have been lead to believe that. However, I'm still a bit sceptical about what he sees in Xandra and why he had noticed her before the events of the book begin. I hope this is something that will come up again in the second book of the series, so that we might get more reassurance of whose side Vex is on, and what he likes about Xandra.

There are lots of twists, and many problems for Xandra to overcome. There is one thing about 3/4 of the way through the book when she finally understands something about herself and puts together all the things she's seen that I think was a bit overdone. It was something I'd realised much earlier on, and I find it hard to believe that Xandra took so long to make the connections when she'd lived with these world rules all her life, whereas I'd been reading about them for just a few hours.

Overall, I enjoyed this quick romp through 21st century/Victorian London, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel.  I give 'God Save The Queen' 7 stars.

~Ailsa

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking The Shelves





Another week has gone by, so it's time to look at the new books again! I haven't bought anything myself this week, and unfortunately I was ill for a lot of the time, so I didn't get the reviews written that I wanted, but that just means I'll have more to post about this coming week.
Although I didn't get any myself, my boyfriend sent me three books from my wishlist that I'm really looking forward to reading.


Title links go to Goodreads.

'Tempest's Fury', by Nicole Peeler. This is number 5 in her 'Jane True' series, about a girl who is half selkie. I have the first 3 on audiobook and they're my 'comfort listens', for when I'm sick and stuff like that - I'm really excited to read about what's next for Jane and her boyfriend Anyan.

'Midnight Blue-light Special' by Seanan McGuire - 2nd in her series about the Price family, who study and take care of cryptids, or supernatural creatures, this one continues to follow Verity, who we met in the first book. I've actually read the first couple of chapters of this one, and I'm really happy to finally be able to read the whole thing. It also features some of my favourite made-up creatures, the Aislin Mice, who I'll talk about when I review it. (You can see my review of book one by clicking here.)

'Chimes At Midnight' by Seanan McGuire - 7th in the 'October Daye' series. This one came out at the start of the month, and I really want to see what happens to Toby. Despite being definitely an adult, she did a lot of growing up in the last book, and it'll be interesting to see how much of that she's managed to hold on to here, and how the events of the last book have affected her. Even with strong plots in all of them, I think this is a very character driven series. 

So, I'm very excited about all three of these books! How about you, what did you get this week?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves


 


It's Saturday! It's the first day of Fresher's Week! I have time to myself again so the blog is back! (And this time, I really mean it.)

I mentioned Magic Rises in my last LL/StS post, which was actually a while ago, but I've been spending a lot of time with my boyfriend this past month, so had very little time for reading, and even less for blogging. But, I do have two print copies and one ebook.



As I mentioned in the video, I've been trying since March to do a little vlog every day. I've done rubbish at it, but there are more videos I just haven't uploaded yet. If you're interested, it's here: The Vlog Project.

The books mentioned in the video are Beyond Pain, by Kit Rocha; God Save The Queen, by Kate Locke; and The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake.

What books have you been reading recently?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking The Shelves


Good morning! I've been packing up and moving in to my new flat this past week, so sorry for the lack of posts, but now I'm back in lovely Edinburgh! I've very excited to be back, and looking forward to going to some things at the International Book Festival this coming week.

Anyway, on to the books! And look, a video, for the first time in ages.



The Shifting Price of Prey, by Suzanne McLeod (Spellcrackers #4) - love this one, review or 'thoughts on books' post coming soon.
Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman - thought I'd posted a review for this last year, but apparently not, so review coming soon, another book I loved.
Freefall, by Jill Sorenson - won this one from The Book Vixen, looking forward to reading. Thanks, Brianna!
Run To You, by Charlotte Stein - for review, from NetGalley.
Magic Rises, by Ilona Andrews - very excited to finally have this one in the shops, looking forward to reading it.
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, by Neil Gaiman - I'm seeing him talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this week, so figured I should read this one first! Hehe.

What books did you get this week?

~Ailsa

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: On Dublin Street, by Samantha Young


Title: On Dublin Street
Author: Samantha Young
Release Date: October 2012 (UK ebook)/January 2013 (UK paperback)
Publisher: Penguin (UK)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Bought from Waterstones
(Find it on Goodreads here.)

Description: Jocelyn Butler has been hiding from her past for years. But all her secrets are about to be laid bare...
Four years ago, Jocelyn left her tragic past behind in the States and started over in Scotland, burying her grief, ignoring her demons and forging ahead without attachements. Her solitary life is working well - until she moves into a new apartment on Dublin Street, where she meets a man who shakes her carefully guarded world to its core. 
Braden Carmichael is used to getting what he wants, and he's determined to get Jocelyn into his bed. Knowing how skittish she is about entering a relationship, Braden proposes an arrangement that will satisfy their intense attraction without any strings attached. 
But after an intrigued Jocelyn accepts, she realises that Braden won't be satisfied with just mind-blowing passion. The stubborn Scotsman is intent on truly knowing her... down to her very soul.

My thoughts: I heard a lot about this book last year on the 'Smexy Books' and 'Fiction Vixen' blogs, but at the time it just sounded too much like yet-another-innocent-girl-meets-billionaire-and-kinkyness-ensues story. I was wrong. Very wrong. [Just as a note, both characters are financially well off, and there is 0 kinkyness, just hot sex. ;-)] I finally picked it up earlier this summer when I saw that it's actually quite a long book, and is written by a Scottish author - I felt like I should give it a chance, and see how Ms Young wrote about Edinburgh (where I go to university).

This was one of those books where, right from the first chapter, I knew it was going to be good. It evokes Edinburgh so beautifully, and that continues throughout the book. The setting doesn't feel forced in any way - it's not as though Samantha Young is inserting typical Edinburgh/Scotland features in, so that a reader knows where they are - it's more subtle than that. Characters walk down this street, past a row of buildings that look like that, they get swamped by tourists in August when the festivals come. Maybe it helps that I live there, but I felt like she really brought it to life.

As the story begins, Jocelyn has finished uni and is looking for somewhere new to stay. On her way to what turns out to be a successful meeting with a new flatmate, she ends up sharing a taxi with 'the Suit'. They flirt a little in the cab, but he has a girlfriend, and Jocelyn won't tell him her name. Of course, it turns out he's the older brother of the girl Jocelyn has started living with, which they discover when he comes into the flat while she's rushing naked from the bath to grab a towel. Scenes like that had me laughing as I read it, which is lucky, as there are also plenty of parts which had me reaching for the tissues. Jocelyn didn't have an easy life before she came to Scotland for uni, and her relationship with Braden drags out a lot of memories and things which she hadn't dealt with, as well as throwing up a whole new set of problems as she figures out how she feels about him and what she wants.

 Braden also comes with an interesting history and has had some problems with previous relationships. Something else I liked though was how close he is with his family now, and that they have these big family Sunday dinners each week - I love seeing large happy family groups in stories. It was very touching how they bring Jocelyn in to their group, and gradually get her to overcome some of her solitary tendencies which she's built up to protect herself.

This is a very very emotional book, with Jocelyn and Braden both having a long personal journey until they can be happy together. I love that it's not just about their relationship. Although at first Jocelyn seems to have everything working perfectly for her, she has to learn to let old friends and new into her life a little more. The way living with Ellie and letting her into her life affects Joss is just as important to the story as the intimate relationship she gradually forms with Braden. I can think of moments when something each of those three characters did made me slam the book shut and have to go walk around for a while before I could go back to reading. The 'secondary' characters are that well built that I felt just as attached to people like Ellie as I did for Braden and Joss.

I think 'On Dublin Street' is a really well built novel, bringing all the characters and the setting to life so vividly that it was easy to get lost in the story, or to imagine that next time I walk along Prince's Street I might bump in to one of them. It might be a romance story at the heart, but it's much more of a personal journey for Jocelyn, for her to really grow up and accept what has happened in the past and to move on with her future.

I know I'll read it again and again, and I'm kicking myself it took me this long to get to it - I absolutely recommend it. 10 out of 10.

~Ailsa

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book review: Real Men Don't Quit, by Coleen Kwan


Title: Real Men Don't Quit (Real Men #2)
Author: Coleen Kwan
Release date: April 2013
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Bliss imprint)
Source: Review copy from publisher
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Description: Serial bachelor. Celebrity author. Her perfect forever? 

When famous author Luke Maguire decides to write his next novel in the small town of Burronga, Australia, he's sure he can ignore the fiery redhead next door. Not only has he just been burned from a high-profile breakup, but he's never been one to set down roots. No, he'll finish his novel and leave Burronga. And soon. 

Tyler Jones just wants to run her business with her best friend, Ally, and take care of her three-year-old daughter, Chloe. She's never needed help from anyone, especially not a man, and the brooding, rugged writer next door can't tempt her. Not in the least. 

Only Tyler and Luke can't stay away from each other. So they set rules. No staying overnight, no future plans, no sappy good-byes when Luke inevitably quits town. But the chemistry between them is too strong to contain in a rulebook. Are Luke and Tyler ready to risk their lives of independence for something more?

My thoughts: This is the second book in Coleen Kwan's 'Real Men' series, following 'Real Men Don't Break Hearts' (which I reviewed earlier this year). This one follows Tyler, who we saw a little of in the previous book. I was looking forward to learning more about her, as she seemed like a woman who is very self confident and sure about what she's doing. Of course, this is her friend's view of her, and the reality isn't quite the same. Tyler loves her little daughter, but as a single parent is finding it stressful trying to take care of her while making ends meet. Luke and Tyler don't get off to the best start - Luke has moved in to the house next door, and sees the daughter, Chloe, stood in the garden beside the pool. He takes her home, but Tyler, seeing her kid with an unfamiliar man, jumps to conclusions & doesn't let him explain what happened. Luckily, when her car breaks down a little later, he gives her a lift and they manage to sort things out a little.

Luke is an author, and was lucky enough to be very successful with his first novel. The downside is that he really doesn't like his main character, and he's struggling to write a sequel. Staying in Burronga is meant to help him finish it, but it takes Luke most of the story to accept that maybe he should try writing something else. Side note - Luke's agent is horrible! As someone interested in being published one day, I couldn't believe the way the agent spoke to Luke and acted towards him, and I was glad when Luke finally stood up to him.

I think something I really liked about the story was the gradual way Tyler and Luke get closer together. There are plenty of challenges for them to overcome both separately and together, and I found it to be a very sweet story. Luke gets on very well with Chloe, but Tyler is concerned about her daughter getting attached to him when he's not going to be there forever. I got pretty cross reading about some of the characters treating Tyler badly because she's a fairly young single parent, and I was cheering for her friends who are as likeable as the others were annoying. I like the way this book finishes - there's an argument/make-up in the rain that had me snuffling into the tissues - and there are one or two things in the characters' lives which we don't see fully resolved, but I felt that fitted the story and was much more believable.

Overall, I felt this was a cute, enjoyable romance, with realistic characters and believable situations. I give this 7 out of 10, and I'm looking forward to what Ms Kwan writes next.

Find Coleen Kwan on Goodreads here: link.

~Ailsa

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves





Letterbox Love & Stacking the Shelves are weekly memes to share the books you've received this week. 


Hello! I've just in the last hour got back from a week of family holiday on the lovely island of Tiree, off the west coast of Scotland. It was great, so good to be back there, and for a lot of the time we had great weather, too! So now, time to get caught up on the books I've got in the past two weeks.

Since my last post, I've only had ebooks, but there were some good ones!


Lover At Last, by J. R. Ward #11 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. (Goodreads description here.) I really like this series, and in this book we finally see Blay & Qhuinn get their happily-ever-after. I've been looking forward to their story for a long time, but just couldn't justify buying another fat hardcover when it came out while I was in America. Now I'm home, I noticed it was about the price of a normal paperback if you got the ebook version, so this was my treat for myself on holiday, and true to form, I loved it. I'll do a 'Thoughts On Books' post about this one soon.





The Governess Affair, by Courtney Milan. (Goodreads description here.) I don't really know much about this one, but it's the first/prequel to one of Courtney Milan's historical romance series', and I've heard many reccomendations for her books, so I thought I would give it a try.


Elite, by Rachel Van Dyken (Description)  I saw this on Netgalley, and thought it sounded interesting summer reading. Hopefully getting to it later this week, and I'll review soon. Thanks, Grand Central Publishing!









The Woken Gods, by Gwenda Bond (Description) As an ancient history student, I'm always interested in books that involve the ancient myths, so I'm looking forward to reading this one. As it doesn't come out until September, I think I'm going to get through some of the others I need to review first, but I'm hoping to get to it soon. Thank you Strange Chemistry/
Angry Robot!








So what books did you get this week?

~Ailsa

Friday, July 12, 2013

Holiday time!


I'm heading off on holiday (or 'vacation' as Americans would say) tomorrow morning for a week, so will not be posting until next week. I'm going to the beautiful island of Tiree in Scotland:


I'll be reading a lot of books and sitting on lovely beaches like the one in the photo :) So look out for my next post next weekend with the 'Letterbox Love' collection for this week & next. 
Happy holidays!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nalini Singh announces next Psy/Changeling hero


Earlier this week Nalini Singh announced the hero of the next Psy/Changeling book. If you don't want to know, look away now, or scroll down see the name ;)







*Drumroll*

Vasic!

Although I'd hoped to see more of the Changelings in this book, I'm still very pleased to hear this. I'm also a little disappointed (and I know I'm definitely not the only one) that his partner is a new female, and not a certain Arrow, but Nalini had said previously that she never intended them to be like that.

I think given the events of Heart Of Obsidian, it makes sense to have a Psy narrator for this book, as the  situation with the Net and Silence is going to be very interesting now, and I don't know if we would have been able to see the full effect of that from a DarkRiver or SnowDancer point of view. I love that we're going to find out more about the Arrows now, too, and I expect that Judd Lauren will make an appearance at some point.

I'm very excited to get to know more about Vasic. All the snippets we've had about him so far in the series have made him seem like a very interesting, complex character. He has his loyalty to the Arrows, and protecting the people in the net. I'm really looking forward to seeing his full reaction to what Kaleb showed him at the end of Heart Of Obsidian, and how that affects him (I don't see how it couldn't cause some ripples).

I really am happy to get to know more about such an intriguing character, and I can't wait till we get some more information about the heroine, and any other hints and snippets about this book.

How about you? What did you think about having Vasic as the next hero in the Psy/Changeling series?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Letterbox Love//Stacking the Shelves




As always, Letterbox Love & Stacking the Shelves are ways to share the books you've got recently. LL is a British version of these sharing memes :)


I can't believe it's been a whole week already! I did read two fun books this week, and recieved a third from NetGalley which I'll be reading soon.

That one was 'Full Blooded' by Amanda Carlson, which apparently came out last year, but it sounds interesting: a werewolf who isn't quite normal for the species. Full description on Goodreads.


I bought 'The Mane Attraction' by Shelley Laurenston with some amazon vouchers I had, and it was worth it, a fun read and I loved the couple involved in this, book 3 in her 'Pride' series. This one features Sissy Mae and Mitch. And mmm, he is looking very nice in this cover, I think! Not sure if I'll be reviewing this one, we'll see. (Description on Goodreads.)

And then there were these two:

Down London Road, by Samantha Young. This is the 'sequel', if you like, to On Dublin Street, which I read and loved last week. Jo, the main character in this one, works at the bar with Joss from ODS, and we get to see her and Braden again, which was nice. I enjoyed this one too, and will be reviewing both soon. (Description here.)

Moon Over Soho, by Ben Aaronovitch. I have the first book in this series, and read & loved it a while ago, but hadn't got to reading the others yet. I saw one of my friends this week, and she lent this one too me, so I'll be getting to that very soon. (Description.)

As always, I'd love to hear what you think about any of these. I'm also curious about whether anyone is planning to see Samantha Young at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August - I have a ticket and it would be fun to meet other people there :)

~Ailsa

Friday, July 5, 2013

Independent Bookseller Week


It's 'Independent Bookseller Week'! This is intended to be a celebration of, you guessed it, independent bookstores. You can learn more about it here, at the website.

For those who don't know, I go to university in Edinburgh, a city full of little bookshops. Some of them are exclusively second hand, some of the second-hand ones are part of a charity shop, but almost all of them have staff who are happy to help you look for things, and will order something in if you want it. I thought to celebrate the week, I would do a little post about three of my favourites.

1) Transreal Fiction, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh.
This lovely sci-fi/fantasy bookshop is usually my first stop when I'm looking for my next fantasy fix. They have a great range of titles and often carry the American editions if a book isn't available in the UK yet. I love browsing the 'new releases' shelf to find new-to-me books and authors, and they also have quite a selection of anthologies. Website.

2) Pulp Fiction Books, Bread Street, Edinburgh.
This one is kind of cool, because it's where I meet my writer's group, and I've seen it evolve from a brand new store to its current state: a little cafe counter on one side with great cake, and tables in the middle, surrounded by books. The owner has tried to make it a place for writer's to gather, and they run writing-related events regularly. Website.

3) Till's, Hope Park Crescent, Edinburgh
I used to walk past this shop every day on my way to class in 1st year at uni, and I still love to go in for a look around. They squeeze a lot of genres in to the little second hand bookshop, with stacked children's books just inside the door, and a table in the middle with old movie posters. If you go in to the back room, there's a little wood-burning stove, and you can warm your hands up on a rainy day while you look at the books. Website.

Do you have favourite independent booksellers in your town? I'd love to hear about them.

~Ailsa

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New feature: Thoughts on Books


I'm going to start doing a new thing here, which for now will creatively be called 'Thoughts on Books'. These are going to be my thoughts on a book which I want to talk about but not write a review for - usually these will be later books in a series that I love. They're going to be a little of a discussion post, and they will contain spoilers for those books.

 Sometimes I read something which I want to excitedly discuss. I want to talk about how I'm so glad X finally happened, or that I can't believe Y did that, or how I guessed that Z was going to happen. These are fun things to talk about with a new book, but I don't always feel like they can fit in to the sort of information that I like to get across in a review.

So I'll be kicking things off later today or sometime tomorrow with talking about Heart of Obsidian, the new book in the psy/changeling series from Nalini Singh. I may or may not do one for the latest Dark Angels book from Keri Arthur which I'm reading just now, but I'm fairly sure that when Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews comes out at the end of July, it'll end up in a Thoughts on Books post. So that's a little taste of what's to come. It's not going to be a regular feature, just as and when I have a book that fits in with it.

I hope you enjoy reading these new posts!

~Ailsa

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: It's In His Kiss, by Julia Quinn


Title: It's In His Kiss (Bridgerton Family #7)
Author: Julia Quinn
Release Date: October '09
Publisher: Harper Collins (US)/Piatkus (UK)
Source: Bought

Description from Goodreads: IF IT'S IN HIS HEART ... IT'S IN HIS KISS
MEET OUR HERO...
Gareth St. Clair is in a bind. His father, who detests him, is determined to beggar the St. Clair estates and ruin his inheritance. Gareth's sole bequest is an old family diary, which may or may not contain the secrets of his past... and the key to his future. The problem is—it's written in Italian, of which Gareth speaks not a word.
MEET OUR HEROINE ...
All the ton agreed: there was no one quite like Hyacinth Bridgerton. She's fiendishly smart, devilishly outspoken, and according to Gareth, probably best in small doses. But there's something about her—something charming and vexing—that grabs him and won't quite let go...
MEET POOR MR. MOZART...
Or don't. But rest assured, he's spinning in his grave when Gareth and Hyacinth cross paths at the annual—and annually discordant—Smythe-Smith musicale. To Hyacinth, Gareth's every word seems a dare, and she offers to translate his diary, even though her Italian is slightly less than perfect. But as they delve into the mysterious text, they discover that the answers they seek lie not in the diary, but in each other ... and that there is nothing as simple—or as complicated—as a single, perfect kiss 

My thoughts: I've been on a bit of a historical romance kick the past few months, and had heard Julia Quinn talked about by a lot of people as one of the must-read authors of the genre. Although it's the 7th in the series, this is only the 3rd I've read - I don't think it's made much difference taking them out of order, as each so far has stood on its own very well.

Hyacinth is the youngest of 8 children, almost all of whom are happily married by this point. But now it's her turn to look for a husband, her intelligence & outspoken manner, which have always been part of her character, are a little off putting to some men. However, every week she reads for Gareth's grandmother, the fierce Lady Danbury, and she's there when Gareth turns up to ask Lady Danbury about where he might be able to get the diary translated. Despite the fact they don't always get on smoothly, Hyacinth agrees to translate the diary, and soon gets caught up in the story she's discovering there. Together, she and Gareth are then launched on an adventure of trying to follow the clues in the diary to find some valuable jewellery hidden in Gareth's family home.

I love the interactions between Gareth and Hyacinth, and what they think about each other when they aren't together. Of course it's clear from the begining that they're going to end up together, but what I like about historical romance is seeing the journey unfold and watching the characters figure it out themselves. Hyacinth is very feisty, and it was fun to see her finding her place as a grown woman, not just the youngest sister of so many other people. Gareth has been affected so much by his angry, unhappy father - I was very glad when he finally stood up to the man, and that things worked out well in the end.

Although I'm fairly new to her work, this book helped cement Julia Quinn in my mind as an author who I think I'll always enjoy. 'It's In His Kiss' is a fun historical romance adventure in London, complete with society events, scheming mothers, and town gossip. It was a lot of fun to read.

I give this book 7 stars.

~Ailsa

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking The Shelves


 



Welcome to another Letterbox Love post! How is everyone? I know I've said it before, but this time I'm really going to get on and start posting regularly again. I can't believe my last post was the begining of the month! It feels like it's gone really fast.

Anyway, let's cut to the chase. I'm sure I'm forgetting some ebooks here, but here are some of the books I've got or read in the last few weeks. Links go to Goodreads.

Ebooks:



Frost Burned, by Patricia Briggs. #7 in the Mercy Thompson series. I've been looking forward to this for a while, but the hardbacks were just too expensive, and I didn't want something else to have to squeeze in my bag to bring home from America. Finally got the ebook, read it, and loved it. I'll do a review or discussion post on this one very soon.







It's In His Kiss, by Julia Quinn. #7 in the Bridgerton Family series. I was looking for some more historical romance, and I've heard a lot about this author, so picked this one up when I had some amazon vouchers. Review coming this weekend.








Print books:



Heart of Obsidian, by Nalini Singh. #12 in the Psy/Changeling series. SQUEE!! I was so excited to finally get this book. Definitely worth spending £12 on and waiting for months, no matter how much my mum might disagree about that for a book. I'll be doing a post with my thoughts on this soon.

Darkness Unmasked, by Keri Arthur. #5 in the Dark Angel series. As you can tell by the bookmark, I'm part way through reading this, and loving it so far. Will review soon.

On Dublin Street, by Samantha Young. Read this in one day during the week, and loved it, far more than I was expecting to. Review coming very soon.

So what about you? What did you get recently? Do you have any good recommendations?
~Ailsa
 

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