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
 

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