Wednesday, 28 August 2013

WWW 28 August

It's been a while since I took part in this meme, but now I'm back. I can't wait to visit you all and see what you've been up to. In the meantime, let's play along with MizB as she asks:
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

At the moment I'm catching up on the final book in the Darkness Rising trilogy. I really enjoyed the first two in this paranormal adventure and so far this one is good too. Kelly Armstrong definitely knows how to write tension.

The Rising (Goodreads)

What did you recently finish reading?

In the last week, I've read two fantastic, highly recommended books. 
The first is this steampunk fantasy whodunit. Brilliant. You can find my review here.

The other is:

Crown of Midnight (Goodreads)

Regular readers to my blog will know that I've been anxiously awaiting this book (understatement of the year!) for a while now. I'm thrilled to report that it was even better than I anticipated. It's a long wait for the next one. My review will be up next week.

So what will I be reading next?

I think I'll stick with Kelly Armstrong . . . I love the Elena and Clay books so I'm excited about this one.

Frostbitten (Goodreads)

That's me. As usual leave a link and I'll visit. Happy reading.

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A Study in Silk by Emma Jane Holloway

A Study in Silks (Goodreads)

I love stumbling upon books which leave me longing for the next in the series. A Study in Silks is definitely one of those. Happily, I don't have to wait to long because the next two books will be out before the end of the year. I will definitely be reading them. 

I saw A Study in Silks on Netgalley and was beguiled by the premise. . .

In this steampunk whodunit, Emma Jane Holloway weaves an imaginative story around Sherlock Holmes's niece, Evelina Cooper. Evelina is a girl caught between two worlds: her childhood spent as a trapeze artist in the circus (a legacy from her father) and her opportunity as a young debutante facing her first season in London to find a gentleman husband (a legacy from her mother who happened to be Sherlock Holmes's sister). Add Evelina's bright, inquiring mind and her magical abilities - kept secret because she lives in a age when knowledge of magic is a crime punishable by death - to the mix and we have a rollicking read. 

The book opens with a murder at Evelina's best friend Imogen's family home where Evelina is staying for the season. Encouraged by Imogen's rakish brother Tobias, whom she is secretly crushing on, Evelina quickly becomes embroiled in the investigation. To add to the confusion, Evelina's childhood sweetheart Nick, a circus performer, appears in her bedroom moments before the murder is discovered. But for all this, Evelina's only concern is to protect the reputation of Imogen's family and to keep her magical abilities hidden. Her task is greatly challenged by Imogen's father who seems to be deeply implicated in the murder, and a whole lot of other clandestine activities involving sorcery and a collection of fascinating, but dangerous steam-driven constructs.

The many other characters who share the stage with her are richly depicted and interestingly flawed. There isn't one of them - including Evelina - who comes off squeaky clean and sparkly. Everyone has an agenda, everyone has a price, usually exacted by the powerful steam barons who virtually control life and death. Even Sherlock Holmes, who makes an appearance, is successfully blackmailed by them!

A Study in Silk is a fun read that kept me riveted for my entire plane flight from Cape Town, through Dubai, and onto Newcastle. I just couldn't put it down. Even better, the story stayed with me for days afterwards as I pondered how each character's motives added to the convoluted plot. The more I thought about, the more excited I got for the next book: A Study in Darkness due in October.

So if you love steampunk, mysteries, bitter-sweet romance, and fascinating characters, then this one is definitely for you.

Stars? Definitely a four star read.


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Monday, 26 August 2013

Author Interview: Lindsay Buroker

Lindsay Buroker

Regular readers to my blog will know that I just love The Emperor's Edge series by Lindsay Buroker. You can find my reviews here and here. I sent Lindsay a few questions about the series and herself which she gladly answered for us. Hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did . . .

Lindsay, let me begin by asking what inspired The Emperor’s Edge Series?

Hm, lots ;) I always liked action-adventure stories, ones where the "adventuring party" goes off on a mission and has to save the victim, the city, the world/universe, etc. As a kid in the 80s, I grew up watching Star Trek reruns, Macgyver, and the A-Team, so you could say I was prepped well for quirky heroes and campy dialogue. I was an only child so read a lot, too. Mostly historical fiction (more adventure stuff) and books about animals (animals having adventures, that is). In middle school, I found fantasy and science fiction novels, and from then on, all the stories taking place in my head existed in secondary worlds that involved swords (even the science fiction. . . you can't go wrong with swords, right?)

I always loved good dialogue too, lines that surprise and make you laugh out loud. That's a big part of what makes me fall in love with characters. When I was "getting serious" about writing, I came this [ ] close to choosing screenwriting over novels, but books were my first love (and I didn't think I could handle the Hollywood lifestyle anyway). As a dialogue-junky, I couldn't imagine writing anything that didn't have an ensemble of characters to interact with each other.

So, I'd say everything from age five onward led me to the Emperor's Edge stories, though I do distinctly remembering getting the idea for Sicarius and some of the other characters when I was watching the movie U.S. Marshals of all things. Tommy Lee Jones as a 60-year-old Sicarius? Hm, probably not. I think it was just the idea of this team of experts working together to catch the bad guys.

Anyway, that's probably more than you wanted to know. It is interesting to me now, given that I've drifted toward female main characters of late, that Amaranthe wasn't an original part of "the team." She came later, after a reader in my writing workshop said I needed some women in the story. At first I tried to write a story where I integrated her into the team (Sicarius was in charge back then, if you can imagine). It ended up being an OK story, but didn't impress me enough that I ever polished it up with thoughts of publishing. Things got a lot more interesting when I decided Amaranthe should be in charge of this team of guys. So the first EE book was all about how I could make that happen and get the band together.

Who is you favourite character and why?

I don't have a favorite character, insomuch as I have pairs of characters that are fun for me to write because of the way they play off each other. The dialogue and the way people interact with each other is much more interesting to me than a character by him or herself. I always enjoy writing Amaranthe and Sicarius together, Books and Maldynado, Maldynado and Yara (actually Maldynado's kind of fun with just about anyone, heh).

Which character was the hardest to write?

I'm going to say Basilard, mainly because he can't talk. He's got his sign language, but when the team is skulking about in the dark (and this happens a lot!), it can be hard to find ways to keep him alive on the page. Even when it's not dark, he has a quiet personality, so I'll have to remind myself to have him comment now and then. I think I do best with him when he's off alone with one other character. Naturally, in group situations, your mouthy people are going to do most of the talking (I'm looking at you Maldynado. . . and you, too, Amaranthe --you've been accused of burbling, you know).

To answer the unspoken question, yes, authors do have conversations with their characters from time to time . . . It's not weird. Really.

Tell me something personal about yourself.

I like the number 3, the color blue, and I recently jammed my toe so hard in a tennis match that I'm fairly certain the nail is going to fall off this summer. Hey, you asked. ;) 

Thanks Lindsay!

Now I know you are dying to get your hands on Lindsay's books, so I'm happy to tell you that book one in the series The Emperor's Edge is free everywhere.  It's so worth reading. Lindsay also has a fantastic blog where she posts stuff to help other self-published authors. It's a great resource. 


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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Beguiled Again by Patricia Burroughs

Beguiled Again (Goodreads)

I saw a review of this on Elsa's blog, Lost Inside the Covers, and had to get a copy. A click on Amazon and moments later the book was mine. I loved the premise. . . 

At school Cecelia had been besotted by Jeff, driving him totally crazy. He wanted to kill her she was such a pest. Then school ended and they went their separate ways, until years later they meet again by chance at the supermarket. Only now Cecelia is recovering from a divorce and has three very cute kids kids and a dog. Jeff, never married, has a parrot. Although Cecelia is dying with humiliation at seeing him (all those painful memories of how she'd stalked him!), Jeff is instantly attracted to her and her chaotic life. It doesn't take long for Cecelia to fall for him again, but she fights it with a fierceness any pit bull terrier would admire. Her commitment fears are not all Jeff has to overcome. Cecelia's three children are also an obstacle. But I give the man his due, he certainly persevered! It made for a fun story.

The characters are wonderful too - especially Peter, Cecelia's oldest son. He was so realistic and wonderfully fleshed-out, I could feel his every emotion. Jeff and Cecelia are fun spending time with too. The romance is well-paced and realistic, and I was rooting for Jeff to win his girl. I also loved the ending and would happily have read a few more chapters of Jeff and Cecelia. 

For me, the only flaw in this book were the sex scenes. The first one I could cope with. The next two . . . yawn. I really found them tedious and had to do a lot of page skipping.  Apart from that it is a fun contemporary romance. 

Stars? Three

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Friday, 23 August 2013

Frivolous Friday: A Week Spent Peering Over Hedges . . . AKA House Hunting

Happy weekend everyone!  

My first week in England has been dominated by house hunting. Our quest has taken us from the very north - Durham - down to the bit in the middle just off to the right side of the country - Cambridgeshire for the purists amongst us.  Part of that search included taking some fun photos  . . .

Kate's eyes lit up when she saw these boots. They would have been ideal for stomping around the country looking for houses . . .

Who can resist a chocolate bear? Or the song "Teddy Bear's Picnic?"
The girls and I stumbled onto a mouthwatering chocolatier in Durham . . . pity chocolate hates me!

This awesome pear tree espalier graced a wall of an ancient house in the quaint town of Duddington.

Andrew was very keen on this stone cottage in Duddington. Gorgeous on the outside but waaaaay beyond rustic on the inside. Living there would have felt like we'd been transported to Cranford - fine for a book or TV series, but to live? I don't think so. It would have been proof conclusive to Erin and Kate that we'd finally flipped over the edge . . .

In the end we settled for a very boring-looking, but infinitely more comfortable house in Lincolnshire. 

Now we await all the legalize with the rental agency. Meanwhile our container of furniture arrived in England today. it will go into storage until the house is ready for us to move into at the beginning of September. Can't wait.

Now for some bookish news . . .

You have probably noticed that my blog has been very quiet for the past week. Don't despair, normal transmission resumes tomorrow. I will be posting a review of Beguiled Again by Patricia Burroughs. In the meantime, have a great weekend.


Friday, 16 August 2013

Frivolous Friday: Happiness is . . . England

So we have arrived in the UK. My verdict? It's fantastic! Yes, I know, we've only been here a day, but still, I'm as happy as a cat lying on a sunny windowsill. For those who are wondering, we've decided to settle in Durham county - up north where the countryside is beautiful (as seen in my pic) and far less crowded than down south. Andrew arrived here ten days before me and the girls and he spent that time trying to find us a house down south. He was constantly texting me saying he was claustrophobic. For us Africans used to wide open spaces, big skies and isolation, the thought of living cheek by jowl with masses of other people is not appealing. A little village in Durham seems like the perfect answer. Living so far north does come with a drawback though . . . the weather can be savage! Thank goodness for central heating. . .

Today was spent sorting out a school for Kate and a college for Erin. We also managed a quick visit to Waterstone bookstore in Durham. Drooooool . . .  Erin and my tongues were hanging out at the size of the store and the choice of books. I managed to snag a copy of Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas. This was a find for me considering that it will only reach South African shores in October. Even better, it was considerably cheaper than what I would have paid in South Africa. Here's me smiling.

The weirdest things seen today? The prize for that definitely goes to the fish foot spa we passed in Durham. I really should have taken a pic, but I was too grossed out to even think. What is a fish foot spa you ask? Very simply, you plop your feet into a large fish tank filled with a school of finger-length fish. With a flash of silver, a dozen fish attack, latching onto your (no my) feet, gnawing off all the dead skin . . .  Urgh. Gross. Not for me.

On that fishy note, have a happy weekend everyone . . .


Monday, 12 August 2013

Blue Eyes and Other Teen Hazards by Janette Rallison

Blue Eyes and other Teenage Hazards (Goodreads)

I had never read any Janette Rallison before I saw this book mentioned on a blog (can't remember which one). I was so intrigued by the blurb that I immediately downloaded it from Amazon. And how glad I am that I did. It's a well-written, funny, light-hearted read with an unexpected plot line. Altogether one of the best of YA Contemporary Romances I've read in a long while.

Cassidy, a bright, studious, reliable sophomore, has been crushing on Chad forever, but he hardly knows she exists. Someday, somehow, she vows, those deep blue eyes are going to look her way. In the meantime, she's got plenty of other things to worry about. Her best friend has just moved away, and a new family have moved into her old house. Like a good neighbour, Cassidy goes over to meet them, hoping there will be a girl to fill the gap left by Anjie. The wild, highly-intelligent, Elise hardly fits the bill, but Cassidy is intrigued enough by her to endure her rudeness. The two girls bond and, aided and abetted by Elise's older brother Josh, form an unlikely friendship. Josh hopes Cassidy will be a good influence on his troubled sister. But Elise has other plans. With her Carpe Diem moto, she is determined to introduce Cassidy to the partying life. This leads loyal Cassidy into some scrapes as she tries to protect Elise from herself. It also opens her up to an unexpected - and beautifully fleshed out - romance with . . .  ah! That would be telling.

I really enjoyed this book. It was fun, clean, inspiring and funny all at the same time. Stars? Four deep blue eyes!


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Friday, 9 August 2013

Frivolous Friday: The Art of Re-Inventing Yourself

I'm a firm believer that life is lived in chapters. For me, the best chapters are those that allow me to reinvent myself. Those opportunities are few and far between and therefore all the more cherished. I have less than a week left in South Africa and I am now so excited - like a child on Christmas morning.  It's like I have been given a beautifully wrapped gift, filled with new beginnings.  I can't wait to rip it open (I'm definitely not one of those protect-the-paper people) and start playing. Who knows what I'll find? Who knows how I will change? I don't have the answers. All I do know is that I can't wait.

And the photo? You northerners (I have very few days left in which to say that!) may be basking in the summer sun, but us folk on the southern tip of Africa are in the grips of winter. A mild one, I must admit. But this week a vicious cold front swept in with driving rain, cold and wind. When it all cleared, we woke up to this  . . .

The Hottentot-Holland mountain range 

The little town where I live nestles in the shadows of these mountains. It's a view I will miss. . .  Bring on the rolling hills of England.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone


Monday, 5 August 2013


The winner of the Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop is Katha Panda! Congratulations. I have emailed you, and you have thirty six hours to claim your prize. 

Thank you to everyone who entered. I loved reading your comments and hope to keep you coming back to my blog with some great posts!


Blog Tour: Dargonwitch by Anne Elizabeth Stengl

Dragonwitch (Goodreads)

Who Will Dare to Face the Dragonwitch? 

Submissive to her father’s will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves–Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.

But within the walls of Gaheris Castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair to the brink of insanity. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta’s tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the North Country into civil war.

And far away in a hidden kingdom, a fire burns atop the Temple of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice…and for the one person who can wield it

My thoughts . . . 

I first saw this book on Netgalley and was instantly suckered by the cover (intriguing) and the name (I love dragons). I had requested it before I even read the blurb. Then I saw that Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer was offering a blog tour for this so I signed up. My post should have been up yesterday, but to be honest I have really struggled with every aspect of this book, but I saw too much merit in it to just declare it a DNF. (Though I admit I was sorely tempted up until about 40%) 

I understand now, (after doing a bit of research) that this is the fifth book in a series Tales of Goldstone Wood (Goodreads) Although it's supposed to stand alone, I think I would have found it easier if I had read the others. So what are the problems and merits?

Problems first. 

Like many fantasy authors, Stengl is big on unpronounceable names. You know the kind I mean, hit a few consonants on the keyboard, chuck in a few vowels, and there . . . we have a name. The trouble with this is that there are a lot of characters and places to be remembered and having awkward names did not help with understanding.

But that was a minor problem compared to the real biggie . . . The plot follows three distinct story lines with three distinct sets of characters - immortals, mortals, fey, goblins, and just about everything else in between. While it all eventually starts to come together (at about 40%, according to my Kindle) I spent a good chunk of my reading scratching my head, wondering what was going on. I kept slamming my Kindle cover shut, saying to my husband "That's it. Done with this." But I wasn't done, because regardless of my many, many frustrations, I pushed on. Why?

The Merits

The characters whose story I did undertand (and whose names I could pronounce) were compelling. By this I mean Alistair, the Chronicler and Leta. I instantly attached myself to them. I wanted to follow them, to get to know them, to empathize with them. I'll give Stengl her due, she can create brilliant characters. Once I got the gist of what was happening in the other story lines, I fell in love with the Cat Man too. And as for the Dragonwitch - the baddie in this book . . . well, she is superbly drawn. I don't think I have ever read her equal. And that is some praise given some of the bestsellers I've read over the years.

As mentioned, the story line is complex, very, exploring religious themes, good versus evil, inner beauty and strength versus outward perfection, jealousy, love . . .  the list is almost endless. I don't think there is a major literary theme not covered. But there was also constant action, good dialogue, not too much description, and - one I figured out what was happening (60%) - it flowed quickly. Romance is alluded too, but it was pretty predictable how it would all work out. 

So The Big Question?

Did I enjoy it?

I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I can't. I feel a bit iffy about it. It was compelling. The writing is excellent. The plot imaginative. The themes interesting. The characters step off the page. But I didn't love it. That doesn't mean that you won't, though, because if I look on Goodreads, I am way in the minority. Most people gave it five stars. Me? Three shiny blue stars who talk to people and turn into unicorns.

Meet the Author

Author Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, STARFLOWER and DRAGONWITCH. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.


As with all Kathy's Blog Tours, there is a Giveaway. Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PS. I was given this book for free for an honest review.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Frivolous Friday: A New Spin On Camping

Through the years I've sat around some beautful campfires in some pretty amazing places, but never one quite like this. This photo (with Bella, my dog on my lap) was taken in my empty lounge. My furniture left for England this week and kind friends have lent us some camping chairs, a camping table, some beds and bedding to tide us over until we vacate our home. It's amazing how echoey a big house is with nothing in it!

The challenge with moving overseas is when to let the furniture go. With a twenty-five-day shipping transit you're going to have to camp at some point in the process. We figured it was easier to camp here where friends could step in and help. Who knows what will happen when we arrive in Cambridgeshire, England? Yes, that is where Andrew's business calls us. He leaves on Monday. Erin, Kate and I leave on the 14th of August. Stephanie, my eldest daughter, is staying behind (with friends) to finish her schooling. That cracking sound you hear . . . it's my heart breaking at leaving her behind. But we will see her in December and who knows what the new year brings . . . My gold-plated dogs? They're coming with us. Gold-plated? It's cheaper to transport four adults than two mutts to England. I shudder at the cost, but some things just have to be borne.

What about my blog over the next couple of weeks? It will slow down, no doubt about it. But I will still do my weekly meme and keep up with Frivolous Friday. Reviews may have to wait. Please bear with me, regular transmission will resume as soon as my feet hit the ground.

And my writing? My current book steams ahead. Working on it is the most therapeutic thing I can do at the moment. It's my escape from all the stress, even more so than reading. That's good, I guess.

The hardest part of moving? Definitely the goodbyes. We had to say goodbye to Stephanie's horse today. He has found a new (we hope) loving home with a young girl who is so exited by his arrival in her life that she can hardly speak. It was heart-wrenching watching the horse box pull away with him inside. Weird that so much sadness can bring someone else so much joy. Life is strange. Saying goodbye to Louis was just the beginning . . . The next twelve days are going to be tough. Think of me when you are enjoying yourself with family and friends. You don't know how precious they are until you have to say goodbye. . .

Have a wonderful weekend.

PS. Elisa is doing some hiking this weekend and she's posted a stunning picture of where she's going. Check it out here.

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