Monday, 30 September 2013

Review: The Birth of Venus, by Sarah Dunant

'Turning fifteen in Renaissance Florence, Alessandra Cecchi becomes intoxicated with the works of a young painter whom her father has brought to the city to decorate the family's Florentine palazzo.'

Sarah Dunant brings Renaissance Florence to life, exploring Alessandra's life and marriage under the influence of fundamentalist monk Savonarola who's political power and religious influence are changing the city. Beautifully written and easy to read, The Birth of Venus starts off as a fantastically vivid novel. The first chapter was written beautifully in a way that captured my attention and made me itching to read the rest of the book. Sarah Dunant paints pictures with her words- the images of Florence and the information about the clothes and colours she provides are rich and incredibly detailed, which seems to suit the nature of Alessandra's story telling. This can at times get a bit repetitive, especially in reference to the religious motivations behind art. But, again, even that fits, as Alessandra captures the changing spirit of the city of Florence in the closing years of the fifteenth century. Dunant's historical research is also evidence (and I have to admit that accurate historical knowledge always improves a book for me).

And then the last third ruined it all for me. The conclusions and decisions that Alessandra came to in her life did not satisfy me at all. I felt that there were certain elements that were too contrived, and that Alessandra would not really be happy with the way events happened. What she said and what she did sometimes differed through the book, and sometimes I felt that the character was being manipulated to cause plot developments to suit the authors whim. And by the end of the book, I was distinctly unsatisfied. This feeling has definitely affected the rating I have given the book, of 6 stars, which would have been much higher, I feel, if events after the receipt of the letter had taken a different turn. Like I said, 6 stars despite a strong start. I would definitely be interested in reading other works by Sarah Dunant, if only for the way she writes.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Review: At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson

At Home is definitely a learny stuff book. It claims to be a short history of private life, but crams in so much information into its many pages to really be more a history of technology, organised categorically by the rooms in his house. Bill Bryson has a certain way of writing that feels like he is telling you about someone he knows- the whole book feels personalised and anecdotal despite covering hundreds of years and featuring hundreds of different historical figures, from politicians, inventors and nobility.

The book is not something that can be read in one sitting, or even over a few days. To read more than a chapter or two at a time does cause information overload, so many facts slip the mind or blur together. Too many chapters together also does feel a touch repetitive, but that may be because I was listening to the audio book version whilst doing two weeks of data entry. Certainly, there were some chapters that were both better written and more interesting than others. For anyone who loves spouting random facts, Bill Bryson's works are the best source for a variety of these facts. He talks about the origin and development of habits, inventions and even language, and shows how over time these have all formed the features of our home that we take for granted.

Bill Bryson's At Home is definitely a book for the curious minded, and works well as a general overview of everything social history related. As a social history lover with a history degree, I feel like I can be a bit fussy here and say that there are other historians that I prefer, in both their general style of writing, methodology and general conclusions. But, not to knock Bill, he does have a certain charm that occasionally shines through. 7 stars.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Review: My Granny Writes Erotica, by Rosen Trevithick

Browsing amazon, I stumbled across My Granny Writes Erotica, and downloaded it after snaffling loudly at the description. Reading the book, I am so thankful that I did, as it was witty, prim and dirty, all at once. My Granny writes erotica takes a very humorous look at the forgotten person in erotic fiction: the writer.

Betty Berry has longed to be a writer, and has been working on her bestseller-to-be for 20 years, despite continuing rejections from publishers. But now, with debt collectors at her door looking for her adulterous husband and a fat wad of cash, Betty turns to self-publishing to make some speedy cash, with erotica being her genre of choice. But, being 65 and sexually naive to say the least (as well as quite prim and proper), Betty needs an education in erotica, and fast. Betty embarks on her mission, in an attempt to repay some of her husbands debts before anyone finds out that she is writing about naughty rumpy-pumpy.

I cannot recommend this book more. Betty is lovably naive, and manages to grow through the novella without losing her unintentional middle-class suburban charm. The story is detailed and well paced, allowing for a constant smirk of general amusement to be on my face for the whole 89 pages. Rosen Trevithick is a genius, and I have downloaded another of her books, Straight out of University, to read next. If anyone is interested in finding out more about older erotic writers, Rosen has a short piece about it on her website here.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Review: With This Ring, by Savannah Leigh

Lily is a wedding planner, and whilst she is fantastic at what she does, the depression is taking hold and threatening her business. Add in that she is 32 and single, with no chance of that changing any time soon.  Then at the biggest wedding of the season, Lily meets Drew, a stunningly handsome groomsman, who seduces her off her feet. The chemistry between them is too hot to handle, but Drew has a proposition for Lily that is more business than pleasure.

Novellas can be terrible, especially when there is insta-love. Thankfully, this is as far as you can get from short form literary tripe, thanks to its totally mad premise, that removes any and all need for insta-love. Eagerly awaiting the sequel, I thee wed! 8.5 stars.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Review: Who the hell is Pansy O'Hara?, By Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy

Another book to contribute towards my learning stuff about stuff, and a quick review of it.

Who the hell is Pansy O'Hara? is a book about books. I don't really know how to describe it better than that really. This book tells the tales behind the stories, about the struggles many famous authors went through to write and publish their most famous works.

Covering a variety of books, from Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice to Peter Pan and The Cat in The Hat, this book is filled with short biographies, centred around each author's great works. It is informative, interesting, sometimes a tad tragic, and easily digestible. Each chapter covers one author, making it a book that is easy to pick up for a chapter at a time, and easy to read out of order- which I did. Quite the chaos causer, I am indeed.

I really enjoyed reading this. The layout made it easy to pick and choose what chapters I read and in what order, which fitted how I felt when I read it- I don't think I read more than two chapters at a time, as I wasn't really in a settled reading mood. The writing was clear, and suited the kind of biographical style that I like, where everything that is mentioned seems to be relevant to the purpose of the biography. Well worth a read, especially if you like learning obscure facts about books to use as dinner conversation fodder...
9.0 stars.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Review: Naked In Death, by J. D. Robb

Re-reading this book, I was at first surprised how much of the book I remembered, bearing in mind that I read it first maybe three years ago. At first this worried me, as I thought it wouldn't be worth a full re-read... but, I have proved myself wrong- Naked in Death was definitely as good, if not better, the second read round.

What's the skinny?

The year is 2058, and Lieutenant Eve Dallas is launched into a high profile murder case, when a senator's prostitute granddaughter is murdered, shot in her own bed with an illegal firearm. Eve, who is brash, up front and dedicated to her job, is thrown into a hot bed of complicated politics and triple meanings and agendas, with the Senator breathing down her neck to find his Granddaughter's murderer, and the ominous threat "one of six" left beside the victim's mutilated body. And just to complicate matters further, there is Roarke, the overtly sexual, mysterious Irish hunk super-billionaire who is expressing a great deal of interest in Eve, which is exceedingly unfortunate, as he is increasingly looking good for the main murder suspect.

What does it offer?

Romance, murder, great characters and an excellent set-up for an incredibly long-running series (which is still going at nearly 40 books and 20 odd years of publication). J. D. Robb, also known as Nora Roberts, has created a detailed futuristic world, in which guns are banned (after the gang wars of the early twenty-first century), space stations are common, and the underground spans across all of America. Technology has infiltrated the world Robb has created entirely, in the forms of drones, surveillance, lasers and body mods (known to us as cosmetic surgery), as well as a reliance upon communication links.

Sexual tension is there a-plenty, and did I mention Roarke? If the sentence above didn't pique your interest, then I'm not sure what will. Roarke is a pretty deep male lead, who is most definitely multifaceted, and with enough back story to fill entire libraries- he is, at least from Eve's perspective, infuriatingly unreadable, past his obvious love of luxury, and yet the reader gets to see another side to him, as we watch his fascination with Dallas develop. Whilst he is not at his best in this first book as later on in the series, he is a character that is well-deserving of my mild fan-girling.

And then, to top it all off, there is Eve herself. Funny, angry, sarcastic, head strong and tortured, Dallas is really a protagonist to be proud of, with snappy dialogue to boot. She is well-complemented by an eclectic bunch of secondary characters, my favourite of which is Mavis. Afterall, who else could perform a show on stage in a club dressed in only strategically placed paint.

A strong all rounder, Naked in Death provides everything that is demanded of both a romance and a murder mystery/crime thriller, and more. Robb has a strong sense of humour, heavily laced with a wry tone and more than a smidgen of sarcasm, and this lightens the tone of the book without seeming out of place. Definitely worth the re-read, and more than worth a first read. I very highly recommend the entire In Death Series, even if they may seem daunting at first. 8.5 stars

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Big THANKYOU- 10,000 views in under a year

Not gonna lie; that's pretty sick. I remember being excited that my blog had 59 views in one month, let alone 10,000 since I properly signed myself up for actually making an effort to blog, back in June 2012.

So, here is a big thanks to everyone who had read, commented upon and followed the blog in the last year. You rule, and have great taste. Kudos.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Review: You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney

Recently I have been making an attempt to expand my knowledge of stuff, and have been setting aside a few books about stuff to swat up on. My first area to look at is psychology, particularly how our brains work.

So, You Are Not So Smart is a book designed to prove to you that your brain lies to you, and you frequently deceive yourself in everyday matters. David McRaney goes through over 40 different delusions and lies that we tell ourselves, and presents the reality behind these situations.  Each idea or theory is clearly set out in a chapter, and McRaney uses numerous studies and other psychology books to put forward his ideas, and explain the implications for you, and how you are not so smart... And if you think that you are not one of the average people that makes up this mass of people who form the subjects of these studies, who all fit into these neat little psychological boxes... well, McRaney has a whole chapter to prove that you may not think you are one of those who contribute towards the definition of the average, but you really are. 

Listening to the book was actually quite an interactive experience. McRaney poses questions and ideas directly to the reader, and makes comments about your most likely reactions to the questions he raises. In fact, he is worryingly good at making you admit to doing many of the behaviours that he mentions. For example, he lists a large number of ways in which you think you are better than other people around you, such as being smarter than your co-workers or better looking than your friends, and just as you start to say to yourself "I don't think I am better than everyone around me", he pauses, and says "I bet you are thinking 'I don't think I am better than everyone around me'. Well, do you think that you are more honest than everyone around you? Because you aren't, you are a liar."

And just as each behaviour is proved as something that a lot of people do, and you start to feel bad that you participate in these lies and self delusions, even though many of them are on an unconscious level, the author then explains how this is an evolutionary step, that has formed as a method to survive in the wild, or to ensure the preservation of resources, or to choose an ideal mate and survival of the species via reproduction, or to prevent your ego from curling up in a shrivelled ball and sending you insane.

Overall, I couldn't decide if I felt like I was learning or not.... Scratch that... I was definitely learning, but it didn't feel like I was being educated- the information was presented fairly informally, and there was a clear sense of humour that emerged consistently through the book. However, it was a book that I couldn't listen to for too long at a time, because of information overload. Luckily, other than the first and last chapters, every chapter runs between about 5 and 15 mins, making it easily digestible. In terms of the recording, it wasn't read by the author, but the speaker's voice was melodic and fairly matter of fact, which contrasted almost humorously with the tone of the writing itself. Definitely worth a read or a listen if one is interested in how one thinks based upon a psychological perspective, without getting too overbearing with the science lingo.

Conclusions: Delusions keep us sane.
We remember what we want to remember.
Every behaviour ever has some cool psychology name.
You Are Not So Smart.

8.0 stars. Mmmm, learny goodness. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Follow me... go on, you know you want to... Stalker

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Hey look everyone, a new way to follow the blog. (well, an old one that I didn't know about?!) Enjoy.

On a side note, prepare yourself for a review of a book on psychology, and ready yourself to support (or laugh at) my continued efforts to improve my knowledge of stuff.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Discussion: Blog Management

I've been reading a lot of blog discussions over the past few weeks that have been all about how people find the time, energy and motivation to blog, and blog regularly, and I think that it is about time that I weigh in with my own views. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with blogging- I absolutely love blogging, reading other peoples' reviews, occasionally commenting on others' blogs (although I am not nearly active enough in this), and, most especially, reading. I hate that should I not blog for any reason, I make myself feel guilty for not having tried hard enough. (For proof of this, see various posts that casually mention my lack of posting, or are dedicated promises of "must try harder".)
Since getting myself a full time job, my blogging efforts have dramatically reduced, and I constantly manage to make myself feel bad for this- and to be honest, all of the self-inflicted guilt tripping often makes me not want to carry on blogging, because I set myself targets that I know that I can't keep. It's not even necessarily that I don't have time to blog, but more that I don't have time to read the same number of books as when I was unemployed, and so have far fewer reviews to churn out. I have also stopped various memes and features (such as top-off tuesday and teaser tuesday), and while this has saved me some extra time in my week, it has made my blog look just a bit empty.

So, what is the answer? Well, each to their own, but I have been trying to work out what woks for me (and may work for others too. Who knows, right?)

Changing my reading patterns- Audiobooks on buses

Trying to find the time to get my reading fix is difficult, until you start to add up the amount of time I spend on buses during the week. Just my bus rides to and from work start to add up to some pretty impressive hours Monday to Friday. 40 minutes each way to work from my house, or 1 hour and 20 minutes each way from my boyfriend's house to work (and the sad thing is that in a car these are 12 minute and 18 minute trips respectively). That's a lot of reading time, and even more listening time (as I can listen while I walk to various stops and between various buses), hence, a change to audio-books.

Plus, this is great because I can be borderline comatose every morning, and effectively having someone read the book to me. And, as another little bonus, it saves my eyes for the brutality of staring at a computer screen for 8 hours straight. Whoop, less eye strain for me.

Not getting distracted

I used to write reviews with about 10 other tabs open on my laptop- goodreads, facebook, tumblr, twitter, about three other blogs,, maybe a recipe or two, and youtube. This made it so easy to have sensory overload and get massively distracted mid review. Then I would go back to it another time (or later the same night), forget my point, and spend hours making a little progress before getting distracted again.

More recently I have imposed some limitations on myself- I will literally only have one other page open at most, and that is usually goodreads if I need a refresh on a book's blurb and to get the cover image. And the result is that I get much more done, much quicker.

Blog when I feel like it

This works in two ways- if I try to blog when I don't feel like it, then I get barely anything done, and when I do, I am never happy with the result.

Secondly, if I feel like blogging, then if possible I will do it, even if I can't get near a computer. I write reviews on paper on the bus, write notes to myself on my phone, and borrow my boyfriends laptop if I don't have mine to hand. The same applies for writing in general- it has become an increasingly regular sight to see me jotting down notes, ideas and phrases at the oddest of times, such as when drunk and pre-drinking- and surprisingly, I can even sometimes read it the next morning.

Don't have a reading order on my to-be-read list

The more I try to structure my reading patterns, the less I seem to read. Whatever book I had planned to read (because it looked incredibly exciting/funny/interesting/other fundamental good-book characteristic) next suddenly seems a lot less interesting, and another one that I can see on the shelf is now whispering my name. "Rachel," it says, "read me first. I'm much more interesting than that book."

It seems that I operate best when I follow my instincts to be a creature of whim. (Anyone who has been to a restaurant with me knows this well.)

Review as soon as possible (but not too soon)

There are books that I read months ago that I haven't reviewed yet. And now, after all this time, I probably won't review them at all. My initial reaction has faded to a distant memory, and the general plot has probably become a bit muddled or forgotten. It is best for me if I leave it a day or two after finishing a book before I write my review, to make my thoughts a tad more coherent than "oh, wow" or "bore snore" but if I leave it too long I lose motivation.

What do you do to optimize your blogging? Let me know in the comments below, or link through to your own discussion posts on the matter.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Review: The Memory Collector, by Meg Gardiner

Now I do have to admit that thrillers aren't amongst my usual reading genres, but I do like a bit of action in my books (even if it is normally supernatural). So when Pook gave me The Memory Collector for a valentine's day present, I was genuinely quite excited, alongside being mildly annoyed that he had got me a valentine's day present when I had specifically asked him not too.
The Memory Collector is the second book in a series, and follows Dr. Jo Beckett, forensic psychiatrist to the dead- usually, her job entails interviewing friends and family of the deceased to identify why they died. I say usually, because Jo is called to the airport to section a live patient who has tried to open the emergency escape hatch on an aeroplane, mid-flight. From there, the story is fast paced and attention grabbing (at least initially)- the patient from the plane, Ian Kanan, has amnesia, his brain is mush and he has lost the ability to form new memories. A highly far fetched plot develops, involving nano-technology, kidnappings, identity swaps and an infectious *thing* (trying to avoid too many spoilers) that drives the plot in terms of how freaking dangerous it is, in every possible presentation of dangerous. 

Meg Gardiner writes superbly, bringing each character to life with vivid description and an in-depth, high octane plot. The only problem is that the plot can't possibly be high octane all of the time, and it is in the down time between the Big events that the books loses its energy somewhat. I felt a great deal more invested in Ian Kanan's character than Jo's, even though she was supposed to be the protagonist, which makes me feel that I wouldn't be especially interested in the rest of this series, even though I enjoyed this instalment.

The best parts, in every aspect that I can think to analyse it from, is most definitely the scenes from Ian's perspective. The way it is written reminded me a lot of the Guy Pearce film Memento- you really get a sense of how uncomfortable and disorientating it must be to lose your recent memories anytime you get even remotely distracted. 

Overall, was pleasantly surprised by this book- it went in a totally different direction to how I thought it would pan out, and the story was strong enough that I didn't even mind the lacklustre romance that floated along in the background. 7.5 stars 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bout of Books 7.0 Days 1-7

Bout of Books
Everyone knows that history repeats itself, and yet again, for the third bout of books in a row, these two awful things called employment, and a social life have managed to get in the way of my reading. Plus I keep missing the bus and having to walk to work, which makes it much harder to read for an extra hour in the morning.


Reading stats are approximate and total for the week total

Finished books: 1
Audiobooks listened to: 8 hours of A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
You are not so smart, by David McRaney- about 3 hours so far

Paperbacks read: The Memory Collector, by Meg Gardiner - FINISHED :)
         Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen- 70 pages (190 total)

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Review: Wait for me, by Elisabeth Naughton

Mini review time, peeps!

Wait for Me, by Elizabeth Naughton, is a romantic suspense novel that is available in both paperback and e-book.

The book first follows Kate Alexander, an amnesia patient who has no memory of her life pre-accident. Kate's life is somewhat perfect, but her marriage has never quite fit, or made her totally happy- there is something missing in her life. After her doctor husband dies in an accident, she discovers a secret that he has kept from her all these years- that she has a daughter that she forgot.

Next, Ryan Harrison is introduced. Having lost his wife in a plane crash five years previously, he has focused on raising their daughter and developing his business into an incredibly successful pharmaceutical venture.

As Kate and Ryan are re-united they both have to come to terms with what they have lost, and what they have gained- Kate has no memory of their past relationship, but is strangely drawn to Ryan, whilst Ryan wants his old wife back, and struggles to come to terms with Kate's new identity, and the time they spent apart. And then there is the whole mystery behind why Kate has amnesia, and why another man had masqueraded as her husband for five years. Woo, depth and mystery in fiction land!

It has one of the most "ZOH-MY-GAWD, Did I seriously just read that?" starts to a book that I have ever read. Reading the book, it felt terribly predictable as the story developed, but I think that lulled me into a false sense of security, as eventually the book surprised me with a rather dramatic twist as the book raced towards its climax. The relationship between Kate and Ryan felt real, and rather frustrating, as they both tried to comes to terms with their relationship. The fame dynamic added another level to the story, and worked well as a source of conflict. The middle dragged somewhat, but the start and end more than make up for this with the rather dramatic premise and ending. 6.5 stars.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review: Slave to Sensation, by Nalini Singh

Title: Slave to Sensation
Author: Nalini Singh
Format: Paperback
Length: 334 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance

This book. Just. This Book. Seriously? Is Nalini Singh allowed to be talented enough to have not just one awesome series, but two?

Actually who cares if it is allowed, it has happened, deal with it.

So, Slave to Sensation is the first in Singh's Psy-Changeling Series. In the world Singh creates, there are humans, and two other species living amongst them- Psy and Changelings. Changelings are shapeshifters, which are a very well used trope that Singh has managed to make her own. Psy, on the other hand, are a complete creation of Singh's genius mind. In the 1960's the Psy began a program called Silence, eradicating emotions amongst their race in an attempt to reduce violent crime. A hundred years or so later, and any sign of remaining emotion amongst adult Psy is deemed a flaw, the punishment or 'cure' for which is 'rehabilitation', essentially a stripping of one's mind. This is what faces Sascha Duncan if it is discovered that, behind her impressive mental shields, she is hiding a massive case of the feels. With the terrible pressure upon her to keep her shields up, plus the fact that she is fundamentally flawed, breaking slowly, Sascha feels that it is only time that separates her from eventual madness. 

And then she meets Lucas Hunter, a Leopard changeling pack leader who she is negotiating a business deal with. Lucas needs Sascha, in order to gain access to the Psy, so that he can investigate the murders of several changeling women. Sascha agrees to work with him, almost unable to believe that any Psy could be capable of such brutal murders, or that The Council (including her own mother) would let anyone get away with such behaviour. 

The relationship between Sascha and Lucas is excellently developed throughout the book- there is plenty of chemistry, and Lucas's intrigue into who Sascha really is behind her shields is brilliantly played, and totally hawwwt to read. The whole thing builds up nice and slowly, with passion and chemistry bubbling barely under the surface throughout the book. I think the slow development really helped me buy into their unlikely relationship, as it seemed built on more than just sexual attraction. 

Sascha's self sacrificing shtick is rather irksome (but I never buy into any of that nonsense, regardless of the book), but vaguely understandable/justifiable, seeing as she is convinced throughout the book that she will mentally crack and either go insane or be sent for "rehabilitiation". But, watching Sascha battle with and then embrace her emotions was really touching. This was definitely a book that I got lost in for hours at a time, drawn in by the complex world, the gripping plot, the chemistry, and the loveable, sexy, intricate characters.

The book serves as an incredibly strong opening to a long-running paranormal romance series, which I plan to be reading over the coming months, as budget allows. There are several secondary characters that I have already pegged as ones to watch, who will have rather epic books of their own. Plus, I really want to see how Lucas and Sascha continue to develop after this book, as secondary characters in later installations.

Rather bloody good stuff, this is. Not as epic as The Guild Hunter/ Archangel Series by the same author (see my fangirling here or here) but it is a damn good effort. 8.0 stars

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Bout of Books #7.0

Bout of Books

For those that don't know what Bout of Books is... here you go...

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

^^^ Erm.. yeah... what they said. I am all over this readathon thing this time (having missed yet another 24 hour readathon due to a lack of twitter on my phone). Whilst I can not dedicate all of the time that I wish I could, I shall read as much as possible. My aims are rather unusual this time round- I have a currently reading list on that includes several half-finished books. I just want to complete them. At this precise moment, these include Pride and Prejudice, The Memory Collector, The Dark Glamour and Nobody's Angel. There are probably more, but this is a pretty good start to a loooong list.

By midnight on the 19th of May, I plan to have got to the point where those half read books cluttering up my conscience are Gone, read, Done and Dusted. Anything extra is a bonus. Blogging might be nice too.
Yay, Bout of Booooooooks!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Discussion: 'What is the appeal of paranormal romance?' - a question pitched by my boyfriend

Now my boyfriend, the lovely Pook, has the uncanny ability of asking a seemingly simple question that quickly develops into a full blown debate, complete with strategic thinking pauses. Why am I telling you this? Well, two reasons really.
Firstly, he has insisted that I write about him on my blog so that he can "be famous"- I snorted at this suggestion.
Secondly, he asked me the other day just what the appeal was of paranormal romance novels... and it ended up becoming a fairly complex conversation about the female psyche and how a woman's desires were reflected in her reading material.
Because we are mighty cool like that.

So, What indeed is the appeal of paranormal romance?

1. It's damn sexy stuff.

Seriously, authors of paranormal romance know what constitutes damn good sex, and they know how to describe it.

Prime Example: Chapter 32 from Halfway to The Grave from the Night Huntress Series is talked about (erm... typed about?) with a knowing reverence by the bookish community. The entire Night Huntress series has been added to my TBR pile solely because of the universal borderline-orgasmic descriptions of the famed Chapter 32.

2. Engaging characters

The characters in paranormal romance are not afraid to be totally kick ass. They all have attitude, and sass, and a general complexity that a lot of books in other genres (*cough* vaguely realistic chick lit *cough*) generally seem to be lacking in. They all have such potential to be developed into full characters, and so they often are, given the chance to be protagonist in later books, because they deserve it.

3. The world building

Create a world from scratch, and you can add in so much stuff. There are seriously no limits to how far authors can develop their own little universe- and this means the scope for writing series with many instalments is so vast. Truly amazing paranormal authors can write ten, twenty plus books in their universe of choice, developing secondary characters and giving them the story they deserve, as well as progressing the stories of previously covered and well loved characters. Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nalini Singh, Kresley Cole- all rock at this expanding their huge concepts way beyond their first book, bringing in new characters successfully to keep the whole thing fresh (rather than reusing a single protagonist repeatedly past the point of exhaustion).

4. The community and the fan-girling

The more supernatural and fantastical (and sexy) books get, the stronger the community support seems to be for them. Watching people fan-girl en masse over twitter, facebook and goodreads over the latest instalment in a their favourite paranormal romance series is always fun, especially when I join in with the fan-girling. (Please see any and all of my Nalini Singh references. Fan. Girling. Out.)

5. The men...

Oh, yes. The men. Archangels, Changlings, Vampires, Demi-Gods, Dark-hunters. You name it, they are hot, hunky, and so so....

Sorry, I got distracted. The word Phoar comes to mind. Can someone please help me articulate why the men in paranormal romance are so perfectly... Seriously, all of the words that come to mind are food associated. Scrumptious. Yummy. Tasty. I think I have worked out the secret to paranormal romance being so awesome. Its definitely the manly manly men, who are all beyond human in their extreme butch manliness of extremely sexual masculinity. pssh, human men can not compare.

So, why do you love paranormal romance? Let me know in the comments :)

Friday, 12 April 2013

review: Toil and Trouble, by H. P. Mallory

Title: Toil and Trouble
Author: H. P. Mallory
Format: Ebook
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Add this: Goodreads

The second book in H. P. Mallory's fantastic Jolie Wilkins series, Toil and Trouble continues straight from where Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble left off- in the middle of a paranormal war. Jolie awakes from a magical coma, having won the allegiance of the Fairy King in a battle, to find herself severely weakened, and the entire magical population about to go to war against each other. And they aren't just fighting for territory, or for power. They are fighting for Jolie herself- her power to reanimate the dead has attracted all the wrong sort of attention, naturally (something that was set up fantastically in the first book, which a total must read). So, prep for battle is ongoing through the book, which I thought would get boring, but doesn't as it builds slowly, and is broken up by much sexual tension/banter with both Rand Balfour (the infuriating Warlock that Jolie should totally be with- my God they need to just sort it out), and with Sinjin... who is there to confuse Jolie sexually and to totally delay her and Rand's relationship. 

And then there is the time travelling thing. And it all gets complicated, but I kinda figured out half way through how it was going to pan out (in the plot reveals, but not so much the plot developments), and got very non-nonsensical in my "Oooh, I know what could happen!" and "Aw, they wuv each other!" remarks... Yes, I talk to myself... problem?

Anyway. Jolie rocks, still. In fact, she rocks more in this book than the last. Her magic gets stronger, and she embraces the whole kicking ass thing, whilst retaining her loltastic personality. Rand is deliciously uptight, facing a decision between love and honour- I love that the reader finds out so much more about his history- afterall, a warlock who is over 100 years old has a lot of history to find out about- and this made him so much more accessible. In fact, I did swing from team Sinjin firmly into Team Rand. 

Overall.... 7.5 stars. So. Good.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Review: First Catch Your Husband: Adventures on the Dating Front Line, by Sarah Bridge

Allow me to introduce you to the incredibly funny, laugh-out-loud-on-the-train-and-get-stared-at book, First Catch Your Husband: Adventures of the Dating Front Line. Sarah Bridge has written a biographical account of her dating history, covering the time from which a slight fear of shrivelled ovaries hit her, causing a renewed vigour on the dating front.

Sarah has definitely had more than her fair share of dating misadventures... Ok, this is a hard review to write without feeling like I am criticising Sarah Bridge personally.This is not just her writing, but her real life, her love life, that I am discussing. It feels kind of personal. Lets try this again, with slightly less judging and more reviewing...

Sarah has had way more than her fair share of dating disasters- blind dates with green suited weirdos, singles events where no men turn up, and a financially (and physically) exhausting collection of hobbies pursued to increase your chance of running into "The One", or at least, a vaguely good looking man with similar hobbies to you. Sarah also goes into the various other aspects of the single life- sympathetic and pitying looks from friends, poorly phrased zen advice from newly un-single friends (who are suddenly pros at life, especially dating, even after years of failure).

The writing is funny, but marked with a vague tone of desperation and maybe a tinge of self-pity. There were moments where I felt almost sorry for Sarah, and every other single woman past the age of 30. And yet, as the book progressed, you could almost see her mental state developing, which was somewhat reassuring. Whilst there were some really slow parts, when Sarah is mid-anecdote, she is a superb story teller of awkward but hilarious stories over lunch with the girls, type stories. I began reading this on the tube, and soon had to stop, after receiving weird looks for me laughing out loud.

A mixed bag here... A very honest, borderline critical look at the world of dating in your 30s, written by an intelligent and vaguely funny woman, who is incredibly brave for putting herself out there like this, baring soul for biographical purposes. Funny, but not spectacular. 5.5 stars

Thursday, 14 March 2013

E-reader vs Paperback (Ducks head as fight commences)

So all this week I have been posting E-reader vs Paper copies related pics on The One With Rachel's Book's Facebook Page in a build-up to my vague rant. For those of you in a rush, it is pretty well summed up by the Nerd Girl Problem posted at the bottom of the page. For everyone else, go ahead and read my random musings.

Ok... Books and me have history. Obviously, as a kid and then through my teen years, I didn't have an e-reader, and so my love of the written word was channelled exclusively through a large collection of paperbacks, and frequent trips to the school library. Books were frequently passed on to me by my Mum and my Gran- a practice that still continues today. (just last week I took my copies of The Night Circus and The Secret Supper Club up to my Gran's house for her to read) Strangely enough, it is slightly harder to share a book with someone when it is on your e-reader. There are very few people I would trust with my kindle (and I do get slightly territorial over it). In fact, the only instance I can think of in which I left my kindle with anyone... at all... ever... was with my boyfriend in a coffee shop while I went for a job interview. This was because 1. He had nothing to read, and 2. He needed to be shown the awesomeness of Oscar Wilde.

Anyway- books have this sharing/lending type nature to them (at least in my family) whereas e-readers don't.

Kindle has free reads, especially classics. My god, my addiction to free reads is out of control. My book collection on my kindle is principally (like 95%) free smut and free classics. But... if I get a classic book for free on Kindle that I find I absolutely love, I will then buy it in paperback...

I get a massive kick out of seeing my book collection in various places in my house. Currently there are 4 book shelves in my house (three are mine), and a pile of books on my bedside table, as well as random singular books dotted around (despite my mother's attempts to herd me and my belongings back into my bedroom). There are also two books in my handbag (my current read and a spare). The effect just isn't the same with my kindle- I know I have about 80 books on there at the moment, but it doesn't envoke the same sense of pride in my collection that my physical books do.

Basically, I am split on the whole book vs. kindle thing. I love both. More books for me, as far as I am concerned. Kindle is good for practicality, and yet I am a sentimental being sometimes (and so books win extra points in that department.)
I don't really get the passionate arguing over whatever way people wish to read books in. It is a bit like the xbox vs. wii vs. playstation debate as well, I suppose.   "I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school...
I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy...."
Erm... yeah, I quoted Mean Girls... and???

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Top 5 (and a half)Favourite Fictional Mums

In honour of Mother's Day (which is today here in the UK), here are some of my favourite fictional Mums, and why.
Molly Weasley

1. Molly Weasley- Harry Potter: "Not my daughter, you bitch!"

I think that phrase says it all. Molly Weasley is a bad-ass mum. Yes, she fusses over her many children, and she knits sweaters for Christmas presents, but she also takes on dark-wizards in battle and wins.

2. Mrs Bennet- Pride and Prejudice: “Good gracious! Lord bless me! Only think! Dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it? And is it really true? Oh, my sweetest Lizzy! how rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have! Jane’s is nothing to it — nothing at all. I am so pleased — so happy. Such a charming man! — so handsome! so tall! Oh, my dear Lizzy! pray apologise for my having disliked him so much before. I hope he will overlook it. Dear, dear Lizzy! A house in town! Everything that is charming! Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me? I shall go distracted.”

Mrs Bennet is amazing purely because she is such an awful woman. A figure of harsh satire and general dramatic comic relief, she says the most embarrassing, tactless things.... and I LOVE IT!

3. The Aunts - Practical Magic: "My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." - Aunt Frances

Although they are technically Guardians rather than Mothers, the Aunts, Frances and Jet, are the crazy old women that I aspire to be in my senior years. To someone normal, they may seem completely nuts, brewing their love potions and keeping an excess number of cats... but they care (even if they don't always know how to show it), and they come out with some pretty great lines- my favourite of which I have quoted above.

4. Natalie Prior- Divergent: "Be brave Beatrice. I love you."

I loved how supportive Natalie was of Tris in Divergent. In a world where they are all taught to choose faction first, Natalie's strength to say that she doesn't care about what faction her daughter is in is pretty significant. And then there is the whole other side to her, where by the end of the book I had totally transformed my opinions of her, going from vague respect for her quiet support and strength, to... ah, damn, I can't tell you without spoiling the entire second half of the book. Basically, kick-ass character, and possibly the best actual mum of the lot I have chosen.   Scratch that.. Molly Weasley FTW, but Natalie Prior is still pretty cool.

5. Cercei Lannister- A Game of Thrones: "When you play a game of thrones, you win or you die."

I wanted to put all of the female characters from Game of Thrones in this list, but not all of them are mothers... Catelyn is pretty damn cool too, but of the GoT mums, Cercei wins. She really would do anything for her family, and indeed she does some pretty messed up and cruel things to protect herself, her children and her brother/lover. Plus, she is Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. How many mums can claim to be that?

Cercei Lannister

5.5...... OOH, massive loophole here.... my super absolute favourite character from Game of Thrones happens to be Daenerys Targaryen, also known as The Mother of Dragons (amongst many other titles). Yes, this is such a technicality, but she is such an amazing character that I can not miss her out. Her inner strength and courage, as well as how much she grows over the books, make her a fearsome being to behold.

Happy Mother's day to all mummy's out there, but especially to my own. She puts up with a lot from me, so Thank You Mummy!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde

Title: The Importance of Being Earnest
Author: Oscar Wilde
Format: E-book
Length: 67 pages
Genre: Comedy, Play
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A wee while ago I saw the film Wilde, and was totally amazed by it, and immediately downloaded a selection of Wilde literary offerings to my Kindle for free. I love the full name of this play. (The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Play for Serious People). It summarises Oscar Wilde's wit so well- his one liners are packed into the play, and there are no surplus words to slow the pace.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a play about how a name can change the perception of a person infinitely. Jack Worthing and his friend Algernon both have secret identities, for similar purposes. For Jack, he becomes his fictional brother Earnest any time he wants to visit town and escape the confines of his home in the countryside, whereas Algernon uses a similar excuse whenever he wants a peaceful retreat to the countryside. The problem is that Jack has courted the lovely Gwendolyn whilst using Earnest's identity, and upon accepting his proposal she declares she could not love a man by any other name than Earnest. Algernon also temporarily adopts Earnest's identity to woo Jack's ward Cecily. Strangely enough, Cecily declares the exact same statement about loving Earnest- deception may get you the girl, but it makes it all blooming complicated. And then there is the super awkward moment when Cecily and Gwendolyn meet, both introducing themselves as the fiancĂ©e of Earnest. 

So yes, Wilde's wit is loltastic to the extreme. I genuinely had a 20 minute conversation the other day about my favourite quotes from this play. It was in the coffee shop where my parents met that hasn't been redecorated in maybe 20 years, and it was possibly the most hipster moment of my entire life. Anyway, here are a selection of my favs to round off my review (I am out of practice at review writing, and I have missed you all *hugs*)

"The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public."

"All women become their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

"If I am occasionally a little overdressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated."

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train."

"I have always been of the opinion that a man who desires to get married should know everything or nothing."

10 stars. Genius.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

What in the Hell is Going On Rach?

Oh Blog, How I have missed you! *Hugs!!* I never meant to leave you for this long! I just wandered off, over there... *points vaguely*

Erm... so yeah... I had a breaky thing from the blog. There was a very distracting dog that my family have acquired (she remains distracting, and is currently sat on my feet in a lumpy yet adorable manner).

But now I have some time on my hands, and a backlog of good books that I have to review... and so, as such I am back. I missed you!!!

Upcoming is....
The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
To Kill A Warlock, by H. P. Mallory

(N.B. 9/4/13. I am now also of the employed portion of humanity, and so as such have little spare time, and even less energy, to give as much time as I would like to my little blog. But, I will keep trying.)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Top-off Tuesday #14- Rogue Rider

Top off Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Amanda from On a Book Bender, Christi from Smitten with Reading and Felicia from Geeky Blogger's Book Blog. Every Tuesday, participants post their favourite book covers featuring partially dressed hunks. I heartily approve of this practice, and so am joining in!

This week there are two covers for one book!! Twice as much male nudity for your Tuesday perv session.

They're here.

They ride.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Born of a match between good and evil, four siblings stand between hell's minions and everything they want to destroy. They are the Lords of Deliverance, and they have the power to ward off Doomsday . . . or let it ride . . .


Jillian Cardiff came to this remote mountain town to forget the demon attack that almost killed her. Instead, she rescues-and falls for-a gorgeous stranger who has no memory of anything other than his name. Handsome, charming, and protective, Reseph seems like the kind of man whom Jillian can trust. But with hints of a troubling history of his own, he's also the kind of man who can be very dangerous . . .

Reseph may not know why he mysteriously appeared in Jillian's life, but he knows he wants to stay. Yet when Jillian's neighbors are killed, and demon hunters arrive on the scene, Reseph fears that he's putting Jillian in danger. And once it's revealed that Reseph is also Pestilence, the Horseman responsible for ravaging the world, he and Jillian must face the greatest challenge of all: Can they forget the horrors of a chilling past to save the future they both desire?

Enjoy :)

Teaser Tuesday #22

This is a post for Teaser Tuesday, which is where I randomly pick a page of the book I'm reading at the moment, and share with all you lovelies two sentences off that page, with no spoilers allowed. This is a weekly event, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. The button is supplied by the lovely Kylee of Babbling of a Bookaholic. 

This week I'm reading Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, which is the sequel to Divergent (which I reviewed here last month and absolutely LOVED!)

p. 169. 
"He needs all the friends he can get, it sounds like," I say. "What with Zeke and all."

"Yeah. What a nightmare that was. One day he was here, and the next..." She sighs. "No matter how long you train someone to be brave, you never know if they are or not until something real happens."

As usual,  I'd love to know your thoughts. 

See you next week!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Top-off Tuesday #13- Thrown By a Curve

Top off Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Amanda from On a Book Bender, Christi from Smitten with Reading and Felicia from Geeky Blogger's Book Blog. Every Tuesday, participants post their favourite book covers featuring partially dressed hunks. I heartily approve of this practice, and so am joining in!

This week's cover is Thrown By a Curve, by Jaci Burton, which is due out this March. It is the fifth book in the Play-by-play series, all of which feature hunky semi-dressed men on the front cover.

Sports medicine specialist Alicia Riley has the job of her dreams, until she's assigned to star pitcher Garrett Scott. Undergoing shoulder rehab, it's make it or break it time for Garrett, and he needs to focus to get back on the mound in time for opening day. But close proximity and combustible chemistry is a dangerous combination, and both Alicia and Garrett have a lot to lose if this doesn't work.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Cutthroat Business, by Jenna Bennett

Title: A Cutthroat Business
Author: Jenna Bennett
Format: Ebook
Length: 266 pages
Genre: Murder mystery
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Buy this: Ebook (its free!)

Whoever thought that the world of real estate could be so violent? Savannah Martin certainly didn't expect it when she began work as an estate agent- competitiveness, yes, but murder? What a ridiculous notion! But with one of her colleagues dead, her throat slit in a house Savannah was due to be showing, Savannah feels the need to investigate. And it doesn't help that one of the main suspects is Rafe Collier, the rather hot bad boy from Savannah's past, who is showing a great deal of interest in Savannah.

There is something about this book that just didn't click with me. I think it was Savannah herself. I've read books with southern heroines before and loved them (Sookie Stackhouse is southern sass in a cute but increasingly bad-ass package), but Savannah just wasn't my type of Southern Belle. She was a tad too uptight, and would probably be much better as a character if she got laid and stopped worrying about what her Momma would think if she was seen with Rafe Collier on a date. I'm hoping that happens for her in the second book. But yeah, I stopped reading at one point and it was a good fortnight before I got back into the story again. But, once I did get into it, the story was interesting, the mystery solved plausibly (even if the answer fell into Savannah's lap), and I only guessed half of the big plot developments before they were unveiled. A Cutthroat Business served excellently as an introductory book that marks the start of a long running series; at present there are five Savannah Martin Mysteries, and one novella, and all the sequels are rated higher on than the first in the series. The supporting cast of characters is large, but suitably varied- some of them were rather annoying, but I am hoping they will come into their own in the next book.

Overall, this book is worth checking out, mostly because it is a free read. The chemistry between Savannah and Rafe, as well as Rafe's character in general, is enough to save the book from being just mediocre, but I have read much better murder mysteries in the past few years. 6.5 stars.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Giveaway- Walking Disaster, by Jamie McGuire

I figured it is about time that I held a give-away. And what book is better to give away than a copy of Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire, which I have been waiting very impatiently for. Giveaway ends on the 1st April, the day before the release. This giveaway is international- yay!!!

Walking Disaster is Travis' POV.
How much is too much to love?
Travis Maddox learned two things from his mother before she died: Love hard. Fight harder.
In Walking Disaster, the life of Travis is full of fast women, underground gambling, and violence. Just when he thought he was invincible, Abby Abernathy brings him to his knees.
Every story has two sides. In Jamie McGuire's New York Times bestseller Beautiful Disaster Abby had her say. Now it's time to see the story through Travis's eyes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Archangel's Kiss, by Nalini Singh

Title: Archangel's Kiss
Author: Nalini Singh
Format: Paperback
Length: 323 pages
Genre: Paranormal
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Buy this: Paperback |Ebook

Ok, this review contains spoilers, as I am writing it presuming that you have read the first book in the series, Angel's Blood. If you haven't, I highly recommend it, and my review is available here.

So, Archangel's Kiss starts off immediately after the events of Angel's Blood; Elena (a Vampire Hunter) has woken up after being in a coma for a year, to discover that she has turned into an Angel by Raphael. This makes her a bit of a novelty, as typically Angels are born, not made. Elena is Raphael's one weakness, and now she needs to learn how to survive as a baby immortal, and, (the part she is looking forward to most) learn how to fly. In theory she is in the safest place possible for her, The Sanctuary, where baby Angel's are raised, and no human has ever set foot. But, Angels and Vampires are being attacked, and various factions of Angel's are being set against each other, as an unknown Angel begins making a power-play, so as to take their place in the Cadre of Ten. 

Then, to raise the pressure even more, Raphael and Elena receive an invite to a ball thrown in Elena's honour by Lijuan, another of the Archangels- to attend would be a trap, and to not attend would be a fatal sign of weakness. Lijuan is the most ancient of the immortals, and her powers have evolved to have influence over the dead. Plus, she is totally psychotic with no remaining humanity.

I really love this series of books; as I may have mentioned in my review of Angel's Blood, I swoon over Raphael, and Elena is a kick-ass protagonist. I found it really interesting how their relationship is a personal power struggle- Raphael is used to being master of all, and Elena knows she has to fight to retain her personality and independence, and not be lost in the strength of the relationship.

The story is packed full of things going on, and the politics of the Angels, Vampires and the Cadre of Ten is complex and well developed by Singh. There is plenty of sexual chemistry and banter throughout the book- as well as the exemplary world building, these are two strengths of Nalini Singh's writing. Fantastic stuff. 8.0 stars.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Top Off Tuesday #12- Walking Disaster

Top off Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Amanda from On a Book Bender, Christi from Smitten with Reading and Felicia from Geeky Blogger's Book Blog. Every Tuesday, participants post their favourite book covers featuring partially dressed hunks. I heartily approve of this practice, and so am joining in!

This week's top off cover is Walking Disaster, by Jamie McGuire! This is the prize for the competition starting Friday, so I thought we would have a theme this week!
Walking Disaster is Travis' POV.

How much is too much to love?

Travis Maddox learned two things from his mother before she died: Love hard. Fight harder.

In Walking Disaster, the life of Travis is full of fast women, underground gambling, and violence. Just when he thought he was invincible, Abby Abernathy brings him to his knees.

Every story has two sides. In Jamie McGuire's New York Times bestseller Beautiful Disaster Abby had her say. Now it's time to see the story through Travis's eyes.

As ever, comments are very welcome. Enjoy!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Game Review- Anno 1404

Having been in a reading slump for the last few days, I decided to dig out some PC games that I hadn't played in a while, and zone out of the real world for a few hours. First choice was Anno 1404, a world building game that I have owned for a few years, but only pull out every few months. Let me tell you, there is a reason for this: Anno 1404 is addictive. It has the ability to block out the real world for hours at a time- a characteristic that I value in books much more than games. A book will end after a few hundred pages, and that is the natural point at which to return to the real world, even if it is just to get some sleep or do the laundry. This game, however, has no foreseeable end-point. Yes, there is a goal, or several, to each scenario or challenge, but the time it takes to achieve them is sometimes bordering on ridiculous, especially as, by the end stages of some of the challenges, it is more a test of patience rather than a test of economic smarts. I may have actually come to resent this game, and my unwanted addiction to it. 

Like I said, Anno 1404 is a world-building game, which has a primary focus of building an 'occidental' town of increasing size, supplying its occupants with goods to fulfill their desires, and expanding into the 'Orient'. Goods can be traded using, typically enough, gold, but certain items and favours (as well as loans) can be gained through the use of honour; a secondary currency earned through completing tasks and quests, and as your towns expand. 
The storyline in the Campaign is interesting, provides lots of diverse challenges and requires different tactics to succeed at each level. It also has three different difficulty levels, and acts as the tutorial for the game. Once each of the levels has been completed, it can be replayed on its own at any time, and at any level- this is good if you want to focus on certain types of challenge. 

The layout of the game lends itself to those seeking gameplay based upon economic challenge and a vaguely capitalist venture. Tactics involving war and dominance over the AI competitors can be utilised. However, I found that these are much more difficult, not as satisfying, and to be really successful, the attacks need to be make after establishing a strong economic base to support your growing army units. The focus on trade utilises trade shipping routes, moving items between your own islands and buying and selling goods so as to fulfill the needs of the 7 groups of residents: beggars, peasants, citizens, patricians, noblemen, nomads and envoys. Their happiness allows the towns expansion, which in turn unlocks more buildings, and more desires to be filled. These residents are also the source of tax income, helping to keep your funds up.

The graphics are beautiful, and highly adjustable to suit the graphic capabilities of your PC. Each individual element, such as clouds, waves and water quality and reflections in the water, can be turned off, or set to a low or high level. When I am at the waiting stage of any game (usually waiting for supplies to be stockpiled), I find it incredibly relaxing to make the camera follow a ship on a long shipping route, zoomed in, using the postcard mode (that relocates the camera from an aerial perspective to looking as if one were on the ground), and just watch the things that it passes. The attention to detail here is really rather superb; it is possible to watch people walking about the town centres, workers rolling barrels between storage buildings and various industrial buildings, and see wild animals roaming the as-yet-untamed parts of islands.

The number of bugs in the game is quite noticeable- some of the challenges are occasionally provided in German, despite the English language settings, and some are missing entirely; this however, detracts only slightly from the gaming experience. 

Overall, despite my resentment for the time the game takes to play well, I really do love this game. It requires forethought and planning, as well as the ability to multi-task to play it successfully, and I always find the later stages of the game challenging (despite the waiting for resources), especially in coordinating forty odd ships between 12 islands in order to feed and clothe 10,000 rather demanding residents. It is fun as well; the characters the game provides, both as opponents and those who will assist you, are well developed, with various catchphrases that are alternatively amusing and aggravating. 7.5/10

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Discussion Post/ Random Rant- Would you be Divergent?

So the other day I posted my review of Divergent by Veronica Roth, in which I commented that "Its kind of interesting to consider what faction I would choose, both if I were Tris, or based on me personally". So, here is my follow up post.

For those of you who haven't read Divergent; 1) shame on you, push it to the top of your reading pile immediately! and 2) here is a break-down of the five factions.

Abnegation is the faction that values selflessness- every action should be determined by the consideration of others. They wear grey, don't celebrate birthdays, spend their time volunteering, and the political leaders are sourced from this faction, because they are incorruptible.

Erudite values intelligence- they have a constant thirst for knowledge, and wear blue. Career choices include occupations such as inventors and scientists.

The Dauntless value bravery- they are considered reckless by the other factions. They all wear black, and are all tattooed and pierced. Their main job is security, protecting the city from dangers both outside and in.

Amity are the peaceful faction; they are seen as laid back, and shown as both counsellors and farmers in the book. They all wear yellow clothing.

Members of the Candor faction are recognisable by their black suits and white ties; they see the truth as black and white, and dress to reflect that. To those in other factions, Candor members may seem tactless and frank, but their honesty means they make excellent (and trustworthy) lawyers.

Finally there are the factionless- those who fail their initiation into a faction, and are therefore rejected by that faction and wider society. They work doing the menial jobs that no one else wants to do, and get food and clothing in return.

So, if you were sixteen, in the choosing ceremony, and had to pick one of these five factions to join, which one would you choose? You have to live your life and dictate every decision based upon the rules of your chosen faction, and associate primarily with people who share those beliefs and mindset. Erm, no pressure.

I know which factions I wouldn't choose immediately. Amity is a definite no-no- I'm too much of a stress-head, and yellow is not a good colour on me at all. I definitely wouldn't pick Abnegation either- being considerate of others over yourself all the time must be exhausting! I found Tris' constant guilt that she wasn't selfless enough tiring, and that was only for a few pages!
I see truth as a matter of perspective/objectivity, i.e. in shades of grey, so that's Candour out as an option. Which leaves me with Dauntless and Erudite to choose from. This is where I am split. My innate geekisms, addiction to reading, curiosity (also known as being a nosy person), and the fact that the other day I was lamenting about how much I miss university, all point towards Erudite. But there is another part of me that really wants to be considered a member of the Dauntless faction: not that I have much proof of those qualities- I think that I am Erudite, and want to become more Dauntless. What would you choose? Would you take the risk to prove what you can be, like Tris did, or would you pick the safer option? Obviously it seems better to be Divergent, but that is an innate thing rather than a choice a person can make.

Yup, so that was my random rambling for today. Philosophical and whatnot, wasn't it? Let me know in the comments what you would be and why?

Friday, 25 January 2013

666 Park Avenue, by Gabriella Pierce

Title: 666 Park Avenue
Author: Gabriella Pierce
Format: Paperback
Length: 294 pages
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal Chick-Lit Romance of Everythingness
Source: Sent by Publisher
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So about a week ago there I come home to find a note saying that I had a package waiting at the post office for me as the package had been too large to post. Like all girls, I love a large package (of books! Take your mind out of the gutter... *sniggers*), and so I trekked off to the post office in the snow to collect said large package, which turned out to contain this...

I've said in the genre bit above that this is a "Contemporary Paranormal Chick-Lit Romance of Everythingness". I stick by that- the book could easily fit into each category, and there is no clear primary genre it belongs to. This could have failed miserably, but I think in this case it works. By having parts that are clearly romance orientated, and some that are chick-lit-esque, it makes Jane's experience of New York feel much more grounded, despite being about to marry into a family of socialites from New York's High Society, as well as the witch storyline (both quite surreal elements). 

So we meet Jane shopping for a dress in Paris, before her date with Malcolm Doran, the super rich American hunk who has swept her off her feet in a whirlwind romance. One proposal later, and an unexpected death in the family, along with the bomb drop of Jane finding out that she is a witch and therefore probably in danger, and she has moved to New York with Malcolm. Enter borderline-psychopathic mother-in-law from hell, and its all socialite drama, family secrets and witchcraft type stuff. 

Now Jane is nice, but a bit thick, and very trusting. All of these coincidences happen to her and around her, combined with a warning from her Grandma, and yet she is quite happily oblivious to the glaringly obvious truth throughout the first half of the book. Maybe they were only glaringly obvious to me because I had read the book blurb? Anyway, she uses blind faith far too much. I'm just glad that she begins to stand on her own two feet by the end of the book. The love interests in the book didn't do much for me; Malcolm was too sickeningly "perfect" and I didn't trust him as far as I could throw him, whereas Jane's connection to Harris seemed to be all about the magic- I would have liked to see more between them than just a mystical spark. Lynne is the perfect mother-in-law from hell- so much so that I actually took pleasure in disliking her. 

Overall, I liked this book much more than I had expected too. After a slow start, it develops into a pretty good book, which has left me eager to read the two sequels. 6.5 stars.