Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where are all the reviews?


I just wanted to let you all know that reviews will be back very soon - I have midterms and papers due this week and next, so I just haven't had any reading time recently. After next week we get in to spring break though, and I have a whole bunch of books that I'm almost finished reading that I want to talk about here. So, hang tight, there will still be Feature & Follow tomorrow, and a Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves post over the weekend and next week, and the reviews will be back very soon!

~Ailsa

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

200 followers giveaway!


Something cool happened last week, bookworms - we passed 200 followers! To celebrate, I'm doing a little giveaway!

One winner (open internationally) can choose their preference of one of the following books:

    


(Links to goodreads summaries)
Nightshifted, by Cassie Alexander
Timeless, by Gail Carriger
Sins of the Angels, by Linda Poitevin
Unholy Magic, by Stacia Kane
Barefoot in the Rain, by Roxanne St Claire

To enter, just leave a comment saying which book you would choose and why. I'll pick a winner using random.org.

Rules:

  • Open to followers only - you can follow by GFC or email.
  • Closing date is March 17, winner will be announced on the blog on March 18.
  • YOU DO NOT NEED TO LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS - winner will be announced here on the blog.
  • Winner will have 1 week to contact me, then I will pick someone else.

~Ailsa

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stacking The Shelves/Letterbox Love


  
In an attempt to discover some new blogs, I'm now doing both Letterbox Love and Tynga's Stacking The Shelves. These are both ways of sharing the books you received during the week, whether bought, borrowed from the library, or sent for review. It's a great way to see what books are out there!

This week I only have one book to talk about, which is good because uni work has stopped me having much reading time recently :( I did get:

Temping Is Hell, by Cathy Yardley.
Goodreads description:
WORST. JOB. EVER.
Kate O'Hara can't wait until this temp assignment is over. The woman who hired her is a psychotic pageant queen, her coworkers are convicts-turned-clerks, and it's so boringly corporate it makes her skin crawl. Even her sexy-as-sin boss, famed billionaire Thomas Kestrel, isn't enticement enough to keep her there. Once she makes enough to pay off her bills, she's out. Or so she thinks...
WHAT THE HELL?
Next thing she knows, she's accidentally signed over her soul. Literally. And she's discovered Thomas's real mission: to kill thirteen bad guys in one year, in order to get his—now his and Kate’s—souls back.
IT'S NOT JUST A JOB. IT'S A MISADVENTURE.
From learning to boost the morale of some paper-pushing demons to navigating her way through blood-red tape, Kate has to work closely with her super-hot supervisor and get her flaky act together, before somebody clocks her out—permanently! 


This sounds like fun, and I'm hoping to get to reading it soon :)

What about you? What books did you get this week? If you leave a link in the comments, I'll check out your post!

~Ailsa

Friday, February 22, 2013

Feature & Follow



Hi, welcome to this week's 'Feature & Follow' post! F&F is hosted by Parjunkee & Alison Can Read.

The question today was, What are some books you have given to others recently? 
For Christmas I gave my Dad a fantasy novel, but I've forgotten the title! He was the one who got me interested in fantasy, and it was a book I'm planning to borrow from him sometime! One of my friends back home just turned 18, and I sent her a couple of books - Soulless, by Gail Carriger, and Rosemary & Rue, by Seanan McGuire, two great books which I think start great series. 

If you've stopped by from one of the sites, welcome to the blog! We review a mix of genres, but lean towards varieties of fantasy and romance. Leave me a link to your blog and I'll come & visit :)

~Ailsa

Review: The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle


Title: The Alchemist of Souls (Night's Masque #1)
Author: Anne Lyle
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication date: April 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Source: won (from Book Chick City)

Description: When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods – and a skrayling ambassador – to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?
Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally – and Mal Catlyn his soul.

My thoughts: I won & read this book over the summer, and loved it a lot. I noticed it on a shelf in a local bookstore today, and realised I never reviewed it. Anne Lyle's 'The Alchemist of Souls' is a rich alternate history set in Tudor London. These strange creatures, skraylings, live in an encampment in London somewhat separated from the rest of the population. Many people are afraid of them, and sometimes they are hunted. Through an unfortunate series of circumstances, Mal becomes bodyguard to the skrayling ambassador. Also involved is Coby, a girl disguising herself as a boy so she can work with a theatre troupe, and becomes tangled with Mal when he asks her to teach him about the skrayling customs she's familiar with.

This is a proper fantasy novel with the stories of a variety of characters intersecting and tangling with each other. I really enjoyed reading about the various threads coming together. I also like how Ms Lyle incorporated the Catholic vs Protestant conflict into the story alongside the politics with the skraylings. There were so many interesting bits that it's hard to describe the story much more without giving away bits that are much more fun to find out by yourself. It got me back into reading epic fantasy, which I'd had a bit of a break from, and I loved the intricacies of the plot and the world building. There were one or two scenes that I had to scan over because they were a little icky, a little too graphic for me, but I don't think they were unnecessary - they were important to get across the strong emotions of the characters who witnessed/experienced those things.

An intricate story of political intrigue in an alternate Tudor London, Anne Lyle's "The Alchemist Of Souls" is an engaging fantasy novel. I give it 8 stars.

~Ailsa

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quick review: 'Restraint' by Charlotte Stein


Title: Restraint
Author: Charlotte Stein
Publisher: Xcite publishing
Genre: Erotic romance
Length: Short story
Source: Bought

Description: Mallory is certain that one of her friends – handsome but awkward Artie – hates her guts. The last thing she wants to do is go on a luscious weekend away with him and a few other buddies, to a cabin in the woods. But when she catches Artie doing something very dirty after a night spent listening to her relate some of her sexcapades to everyone, she can’t resist pushing his buttons a little harder. He might seem like a prude, but Mallory suspects he likes a little dirty talk. And Mallory has no problems inciting his long dormant desires.

My thoughts: I've heard Charlotte Stein reccommended as a good romance author, and when I saw this was just 99cents on amazon, I thought I would give it a try. It's a short story, so there's not much to say, but Ms Stein manages to acheive a lot in a short space of time. I really got a feel for the two main characters - they felt fully fledged very quickly and I was curious to see how these very different people could end up together.

Mallory really doesn't like like Artie - she thinks he's stuck up, and he always seems disgusted with her, and unwilling to even talk to her. She finds her mouth runs away from her sometimes, saying crude things that she later regrets. Early in the story, though (even if everything is 'early' in a short story) after just such an incident in front of her friends and Artie, she discovers that he isn't cross for the reasons she thought, and in fact doesn't object to her dirty talk at all. It was quite interesting to read a female character being the one to initiate most of the sexual encounters in the story, and the one to do most of the dirty-talk, and it makes things quite interesting.

I feel strange rating such a short story. I did enjoy it and the characters, I just wish there had been more - I felt like there could have been more of their story shown. It works as it is, but I didn't want it to be over so soon. So I think I'm going to give it 6 out of 10, and I'll definitely be looking at other things Charlotte Stein writes soon.

~Ailsa

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Letterbox Love/Stacking the Shelves



Welcome to this week's Letterbox Love post! As you can tell from the title & extra button, I've decided to also start taking part in 'Stacking the Shelves' which is hosted by Tynga's reviews. I feel like it's been a while since I discovered new book blogs, and both this & the Follow Friday meme are a good way to do that.

Over the past two weeks, I've had 3 new books. I'm trying to cut down a little to get caught up on my TBR pile!

video


Mentioned in the video:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (audiobook) - from the library, fantasy
Nightlife by Rob Thurman - bought, urban fantasy
Restraint by Charlotte Stein (ebook) - bought, erotic romance

As always, let me know in the comments what books you got this week, and I'll check out your posts!

~Ailsa

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Follow Friday (a day late!)




I've decided to try the 'Follow Friday' hop run by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read. I guess it's on probation at the moment, and I'll see if it becomes a regular thing over here!

If you're new, feel free to look around, and let me know you stopped by! I'd love if you chose to follow via GFC (on the right there) or by email subscription.

~Ailsa

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Breathless Reads book tour


I recently discovered another independent (and large) bookstore right here in my college town, who regularly host events. I randomly checked their website on Friday and discovered that they were hosting a tour stop for the Breathless Reads tour. So I went along on Monday and got to hear from 5 great YA authros: Beth Revis, Fiona Paul, Morgan Rhodes, Elizabeth Richards and Jess Spotswood.

I had seen some of their book covers before, but didn't connect them to the names. It was a great panel with some fun Q & A, which gave a flavour for each book. All the authors were lovely, too, and it was fun to see their personalities coming through as they talked about their books and answered the questions. I didn't know much about some of the books, so it was great to hear about them - I have some exciting new things on my 'to be read' list now!


Fiona Paul (Venom) and Jess Spotswood (Born Wicked)

 Beth Revis (Across the Universe; etc)


Elizabeth Richards (Black City) and Morgan Rhodes (Falling Kingdoms)

I had heard of Black City, but I don't think I've read any reviews for it. Having heard Elizabeth talk about it some more, I definitely want to check it out. The other one that I really loved the sound of was 'Falling Kingdoms' by Morgan Rhodes, which sounds great!

It was a fun evening, and nice to hear about some great books from the authors themselves, as well as being able to ask them some other questions. If anyone has read these books, I'd love to hear from you!

~Ailsa

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan


Title: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir of Lady Trent
Author: Marie Brennan
Release date: February 5th, 2013
Publisher: Tor
Genre: Fantasy
Source: e-arc from NetGalley

*Cover art and picture below by Todd Lockwood*

Description: "You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . ."
All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever. 

Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.

My thoughts: I've been interested in dragon stories since I was a kid & my mum would pretend we were looking for dragons in the woods. As soon as I saw the cover for this book, I knew it was something I wanted to read, and the back-cover description (above) convinced me for sure. I'm delighted to say I was not disappointed. Marie Brennan has written the book as the memoirs of Isabella, Lady Trent, and I thought that gave it a unique, distinct voice. It starts with Isabella as a young girl, explaining how she became interested in dragons, and some of her childhood scrapes relating to them. She grows up over the first half of the story, then embarks on the first expedition of what will turn into a career.

The historical feel of the story is interesting - it feels like 1800s England, maybe - a place where women  stay in the home, taking care of their husbands, and definitely don't go galavanting across the continent chasing something as shockingly dangerous as a dragon. I love the adventures Isabella has growing up. They seemed very realistic, and I like the way it was told, with grown-Isabella almost shaking her head at her younger self as she recounts what happened. I felt like I was right there with her wishing for a way that she would be able to pursue her interest in dragons.
(Picture by Todd Lockwood)

The second half of the story takes place when Isabella is recently married - along with a few others, she goes on an expedition abroad to the mountains in search of dragons to study. While the travellers adjust to life in a rural foreign village, and try to find the dragons they have come to see, they are also trying to solve the mystery of what has become of the man who is meant to be their host. I liked how the various strands of the plot mixed together. Nothing seemed rushed, or unbelievable but it definitely wasn't boring - I found myself thinking "just another chapter" as I tried to put the book away to get some sleep!

As well as the lovely cover, there are other illustrations inside which helped bring the story to life - Isabella sketches, and it was fun to see what the dragons looked like. My favourite is when Isabella and her companions are examining a dead dragon, trying to work out things like how it flies.

A lovely foray into the world of the dragon naturalist, Marie Brennan's 'A Natural History of Dragons', the memoirs of Lady Trent, is a delightful combination of fantasy and historical, with an interesting narration style.

I can't wait to read the sequel! I give this book 9 stars.

Buy it here: Indiebound; Amazon; Barnes & Noble.

~Ailsa

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kim Harrison 'Ever After' signing & Q&A


For those who don't know, I'm originally in Scotland, but I'm studying abroad in North Carolina this year. I got to experience an unexpected bonus of that this weekend - one of my favourite authors, Kim Harrison, is doing a tour for the release of her latest book 'Ever After' and one of the tour stops was in Raleigh. Most of my favourite authors are from the US, Australia or New Zealand, so on rare European  tours they tend to only come to London - still too far for me to get to! This is a long way of saying, I was very excited to hear she was going to be less than an hour away from me.

The signing was in Quail Ridge Books, an independent bookstore that has been there for almost 30 years! I'd never been before, so it was good to find, and they were super helpful when I was ordering my copy of the book through them. I got there to find a large seating area around a podium, and I was glad I'd got there early because it was already pretty busy!

Kim came up and read a couple of page from the book, a nice little teaser from those who hadn't read it yet, and then started taking questions. I tried to take notes, but there were a couple I skipped over because the answers are on her website and things like that. This is SPOILER FREE for 'Ever After' but may have one or two spoilers for books earlier in the series, so if you aren't up to date, be warned!


Q. When a character dies, do you suffer as much as we [readers] do?

A: Yes! She said if someone like Nick died, she wouldn't mind, but Kisten was very upsetting. She also said that she still can't read the scenes where Matalina dies, because it feels to personal as a mother.

Q: Why did certain deaths in Ever After [you'll know which ones if you've read the book] occur 'off screen'?

A: She said this was too hard to answer without spoilers, but she would answer if you asked in person, so maybe this will be answered on the website at some point.

Q: How does she keep things straight in her head, and not get details and character personalities mixed up?

A: Partly from the number of edit rounds that each book goes through means she knows the story pretty well by the time it's done. When she was putting together the 'Hollows Insider' she had to reread the whole series, which also helped. She also works a long way ahead of her publication schedule, about 2 books ahead, so she can go back and change things, or add foreshadowing. She said she's never had a long range plot for the series on paper, just in her head.

Q: Did she always know details of what happened between Trent & Rachel at camp?

A: No, not at all. There was some shared past between them, and Trent remembers a lot more from camp than Rachel does, but no, she hadn't always known.

Q: Is every child with Rosewood syndrome actually a demon?

A: Yes, a Rosewood kid is born a demon.

Q: There seems to be a lot of science in the books....

A: Kim did a bio degree at college, and finds genetics really interesting, hence their inclusion in the books - she likes to bring the logic from science into magic systems and thinks it gives them some more grounding in reality.

Q: Will there be a happy ending? 

A: Rachel wants a happy ending, and Kim is working to give her one. She also said that she is "working for happy endings for all the characters who survive!"

***

I was lucky enough to be in te front of the line for signing because I bought my book early on, which was lucky since there must have been almost 100 people there!



It was very exciting to be there, and meet her, and get my book signed! :D

~Ailsa

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wallbanger, by Alice Clayton


Title: Wallbanger
Author: Alice Clayton
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Publication date: November 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Bought

Description: Caroline Reynolds has a fantastic new apartment in San Francisco, a KitchenAid mixer, and no O (and we’re not talking Oprah here, folks). She has a flourishing design career, an office overlooking the bay, a killer zucchini bread recipe, and no O. She has Clive (the best cat ever), great friends, a great rack, and no O.

Adding insult to O-less, since her move, she has an oversexed neighbor with the loudest late-night wallbanging she’s ever heard. Each moan, spank, and–was that a meow?–punctuates the fact that not only is she losing sleep, she still has, yep, you guessed it, no O.

Enter Simon Parker. (No, really, Simon, please enter.) When the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. Their late-night hallway encounter has, well, mixed results. Ahem. With walls this thin, the tension’s gonna be thick…

My thoughts: I bought this book after seeing it reviewed on a couple of my favourite sites. They loved it, the blurb sounded fun, and it was just before finals, so I needed something to cheer me up. It certainly did that. Let me just say, I'm glad my roommate wasn't around, because I was giggling out loud so many times reading this story. I think I tweeted a lot about it too while I read - it really is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time. But more than just a funny story, Alice Clayton has given us great characters and a believable plot.

Caroline has just moved in to a new apartment but is horrified to be woken up the first night by banging from her neighbour through the wall, and the awkward accompanying noises of sex. She does the normal response and pulls a pillow over her head, but after three nights of hearing her neighbour having sex, with a different woman each time, something snaps, and we get the hallway encounter mentioned above. At a housewarming soon after, they discover mutual friends, and form a truce. Truce turns to friendship, and gradually friendship leads to something more.

This isn't just a story about Simon and Caroline, though. Simon & his two best friends fall into a firm friendship group with Carolina and her friends. It was very funny seeing Simon and Caroline working together to try to match-make their friends. Another character I enjoyed seeing was Caroline's boss. All the characters seem fully fledged, as though they are real people I might meet on the street, or (more likely) in bar.

Although the story is told from Caroline's point of view, there are occasional interludes where we see texts between characters, which gave an interesting look at how Simon was feeling, and his thoughts on Caroline.

I can't talk enough about how funny this book was. I really was laughing out loud as I read. A rich contemporary romance, Alice Clayton's 'Wallbanger' is a hilarious frienemys-to-lovers story. If you need a story to cheer you up, I would point you to this one.

I will give this book 9 stars.
~Ailsa
 

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