Thursday, February 05, 2015

2015, Part 1

What a Lady Needs For Christmas by Grace Burrowes- Lady Joan Flynn is a woman with problems. She is a lady but dreams of designing her own clothing and having the designs be adopted by a design house. So when she was approached by Lord Valmonte, whose family owns a fashion house, and he invited her to bring some of her designs, she was over the moon. But Valmonte drugged her, and though she doesn't remembered exactly what happened afterwards, she feels that he compromised her while she was drugged. Worse, she left a portfolio of her latest designs behind. Fleeing to be with her brother at a house party, she finds that the train to Scotland has no seats left, and the clerk refuses to help her. She is rescued by Dante Howell, a widowed Welshman who is no lord- he's in trade, owning a series of cloth mills in the Highlands. He's travelling to the very same party at the estate owned by Joan's parents, and he offers her a place in the private carriage he's reserved for him, his sister, daughter and man of business. Joan accepts only because she is so eager to get away from the source of her compromising. Along the way, Dante cannot help but notice that Joan seems depressed, and when he learns the nature of her distress, he offers to marry her and give her child, if she is bearing one, a name and her a husband. But Valmonte follows her to Scotland. His family has seen Joan's designs and assume they are his. Joan cannot tell Dante about her designs, but she makes all her own clothing, and Valmonte uses her feeling of having been compromised to blackmail her. She cannot confess to Dante, and Valmonte's backmail is killing her soul. But what can she do, and will she and Dante ever be able to be happy if he thinks she is cheating on him? I did like the two main characters, and I probably would have found the :Lady Joan is a virgin so shy that she doesn't know how sex works or if she's even had it to be bad, but given how Joan didn't remember *anything*, reformed that particular trope for me here. And I liked the hero very much as well. He is neither a complete rake nor a saint. Just a decent man who is maybe looking for a little something out of his marriage besides love and companionship However, the villain, Valmonte (shades of Dangerous Liaisons, there) was very villainous, admittedly not of the "Kick puppies and steal kids' candy" variety, but he is a total ass. I enjoyed every stage in the romance and while it isn't filled with tons of sex or passion, it is one that just might capture your heart, especially Dante. Definitely one to read and look out for. Recommended highly.

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas- Celaena Sardothien is only sixteen years old, and she is already the Kingdom of Adarian's most feared assassin. Always masked, no one outside the guild knows what she looks like, and even though she is young, she is Arobynn Hamel's the guildmaster's protégée and next in line to succeed them. Sam, another young assassin, is a thorn in her side she despises. But when Arobynn sends them to make deal with slavers, Celaena reacts badly to even the idea of selling slaves in Adarian. Same doesn't like the idea either, especially when some of the slaves are only children. She and Sam make a pact to free them, but will they be able to work together to accomplish their goals? Afterwards, Arobynn sends Celaena to the Red Desert to be trained by the Silent Assassins. On the way, she meets Yrene Towers, a serving wench who wants to train with Healers, as he mother was a healer, and both she and her mother once had healing magic. but with her money gone. she took a job in an inn, and tries to save for the trip. Since her master constantly docks her pay for "infractions", she finds this impossible to achieve. But when Celaena stays in the Inn, various ne'er do wells in the city attack her and she kills them. And when Yrene helps her, Celaena rewards her with the means to finally achieve her dream. Next, she travels to the home of the Silent Assassins to be trained by their master. Most of the Assassins are literally silent, and Celaea is befriended by a young woman who is there to learn to rule her kingdom. She also is used as an ambassador between the Assassins and the nearby Sultan, who wishes to drive the assassins out. But how far can Celaena trust her newfound friend, and when the Sutan's men finally attack, can she save the Silent Man's life? Finally, Celaena returns home from the desert and finds that not only does she have feelings for Sam, but he has feelings for her. But when they attempt to make their exit from the guild, they must also leave the city to make their lives elsewhere. And only the city's worst crimelord and his number one man stand in their way. Can Celaena save Sam from his foolish decision to take them on? This book is a collection of four Novellas about Celaena Sardothian before the beginning of the book series about her. Here we get to see her at the top of her game as an assassin. but she's not invincible and her heart can lead her into trouble that not even her own formidable skills cannot get her out of. The book ends with her in a very low state, and sets the stage for the first chapter of "Throne of Glass", but this book and these stories flesh out who Celaeba is and was and why she ended up where she did. These are highly readable and Celaena is very kick-ass as a character. Highly recommended.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas- Celaena Sardothian was an assassin, sentenced to life in the salt mines of Endovier. Rescued by Prince Dorian Havillard to be his candidate for the role of King's Champion, in reality the King's Assassin, she is promised her freedom after a mere four years, rather than five, if she wins the contest. Celaena agrees, but the contest is being held in the seat of the King's Power, the Glass Castle, in the city of Rifthold, where she spent most of her years with the Guild of Assassins. But almost as soon as she is ensconced in the city, Dorian is warned off by his father, the King, the same man who sentenced her to life in the Endovier salt mines. Most criminals sent there only last a month, but Celaena has survived there for a year, and she came within an inch of the walls when she tried to escape, another unheard-of coincidence. But something is afoot in the castle. The other champions are dying, killed and their bodies turned into little more than bloody meat and rags, their brains missing. And the long-dead first queen of the country has set Celaena a mission- to find who and/or what is responsible for the killings and stop them. And her only allies are the Captain of the Guard, who is a childhood friend of the Prince, and a foreign Princess of Eyllwe, who pretends not to know much Adarian, as well as the Prince himself, who is growing increasingly frustrated with his father's reign. But can Celaena do anything to protect the others, or even herself, along with winning the contest? And when she is drugged before the final battle, can she overcome the machinations of those who wish her to fail and emerge triumphant? I loved this book. Celaena is defiant and sassy in even in the midst of slavery and she spends the entire book kicking ass and taking names, even if metaphorically. Even in the midst of things which would turn almost anyone off, sh manages to keep her cool and emerge triumphant, even if it means resorting to magic that she has a deep distrust for. I loved the character of Celaena, who, even if she was an assassin, still has a woman's heart and a cool head to go with her steely resolve, iron will and sassy tongue. She sparkles here and its obvious that most of the male characters have fallen for her by the middle of the book. Highly recommended.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas- Now King's Champion, Celaena has become his assassin, ranging far and wide and taking out the King's enemies. Unbeknownst to everyone, though, she has been allowing his enemies to put themselves in exile and bringing home rotting heads from the local mortuary that resemble those of her target. But when the King sends her to root out a conspiracy against him in Rifthold, she realizes that she knows the man who is supposedly one of the ringleaders, and they knew each other when Celaena was younger. But even if he is one of the most highly paid, best Courtesan in the city, and she isn't sure he is actually plotting against the King, she offers him the same deal- 30 days to put your affairs in order and fake your death or die. He offers her information about an actual plot against the King he's heard of, and as she makes plans to take out the plotters, and romances Chaol, Captain of the Guard, both the first Queen of Adarian and her friend Princess Nehemiah are warning her that there are further problems afoot from other Realms and that she must deal with them. But when the King kills Nehemia in the process of questioning her and Chaol is kidnapped by conspirators, she kills many of the conspirators and nearly kills Chaol for conspiring with the King to keep her out of the castle that night. The Conspirators reveal that they want to overthrow the King in favor of the last living Princess of Terrasen, said to still live after the rest of her family was slaughtered ten years ago. But Celaena finds herself fighting against the King's first minister, a man who shares a strange sort of magic with the King. And Dorian, the Crown Prince, is discovering that he holds magic as well, and he is extremely conflicted about it. The only person he can seem to confide in is Celaena, who is now angry at Chaol. But when her discoveries about magic in the castle come to a head, it's uncertain that Celaena will survive to flee the King's wrath. With the truth about her known, what will become of Celaena, and can she survive the wrath of a King who can wield magic? I loved this book even more than "Throne of Glass", as it had Celaena walking a narrow tightrope when it came to following the King's orders. So much happened in this novel that I had to keep reading it and reading it long after I should have gone to sleep- it's just that good. This novel ran the gamut from happiness to sadness and desolation and back. If you like strong heroines, this book is definitely the one for you. She is a strong heroine, but still possesses a woman's heart, and that was really interesting to read about. And with the revelation at the end, about who and what Celaena really is, wasn't exacty a shock if you have been reading the books closely enough. I love this series and would not hesitate to Highly recommend it.

Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh- Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, is a member of the Survivor's Club, a group of men and one woman who have survived the War against Napoleon greatly changed. Favian fell from his horse, hitting his heas, and as a result, his wits were disordered and he still speaks with a stutter. But he hates his former fiancee, who left him when he was injured and married his best friend instead, as they had been told that Flavian would never recover. Recently, though, his former best friend died, and his family thinks it wonderful that his former fiancee still has feelings for him and want him to marry her. He only feels revulsion at the thought. When he goes to visit another member of the Survivor's Club and his new wife, Vincent, Viscount Darleigh, he meets Agnes Keeping, a young woman who lives with her sister, and who is the closest friend of the Viscountess Darleigh. And while he finds her "only Enchanting", Flavian cannot stop thinking about her, She, too, falls for Flavian, for his good looks and wicked words, and when he returns several months later, he asks her to marry him, and she accepts. However, Flavian hasn't told her everything she should know, like about his former fiancee, it's partly because he still hasn't regained all his memories back, and he can no longer remember much about how he even came to be engaged to be married. So it will be up to the both of them to deal with the fallout of Flavian's impetuous marriage and the machinations of his former fiancee to meddle in their lives. But can Agnes forgive him for not telling her everything? This was a good romance novel, one I really enjoyed even though the Hero has a number of problems left over. His head injury has made him prone to violent and debilitating headaches, and he cannot remember much of his earlier life. But I did like the way he and Agnes interacted, and the love that they found between them. I also liked the villain, because it wasn't until you got to know them better that you realized how villainous they were. This book comes closes to being a " all problems solved by the end of the book" sort of book, but not completely. Definitely recommended.

The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding- Jackson Channing is a banker. the second in command to his grandfather at Graham, Merryweather and Lockwood Bank. All of his life, he's been told that this father is dead, slain by Indians out West, but much to his surprise, one night, just before Jackson's engagement to Lucinda Merryweather, the daughter of his grandfather's partner, his father shows up, and he finds out that his mother and grandfather have been lying to him all his life. His father offers him a chance to get to know the other side of his family, and eventually, Jackson takes him up on it. They go to the wedding of Jack's cousin Camille, one of three sisters born to Jack's uncle. At the party, before anyone knows who he is, Jack meets and dances with Theodosia, or "Teddy" Winslow, a party planner who is also a lady of the ton. And before he knows what he is doing, he finds himself kissing her and bantering with her, and she finds herself intrigued. But, the next morning, when she finds out that Jack is a member of the family, she is miffed at him for not telling her who he was/is. But when she continues to run into him, because she is a friend of the family, even if she is irritated with him (and she often is, after a few minutes in his company and listening to him talk, she always finds herself intrigued by him again. However, Teddy has secrets of her own, including being in debt because her father made many bad investments and killed himself as a result. So when her mother attempts to get her to marry a distant cousin who inherited her father's title, Jack steps in and pretends to be her fiancé. Her mother isn't happy at first, but since the title Jack will inherit from his uncle is better than the one Teddy's father had, she goes along with it. And then Teddy's supposedly dead fiancé shows up wanting to blackmail her over her father's debts and back into a relationship so that he can inherit his family's money from his mother. Can Jack save her again with his knowledge of banks and investing, and will Teddy still agree to call off their false engagement afterwards? When Jack's mother and maternal grandfather show up in the bargain, there is no guarantee of a happy ending. Or is there? This was an okay romance. It had some very witty lines, but the characters, especially Jack's mother, kind of left me cold. Even at the end, when there are signs that she will get back with Jack's father. I couldn't believe that either man would or should forgive her as easily as they seemed to. And I also found that Teddy was rather cold and standoffish at times- that kept me from warming up to her very much. But it was still a fine romance, just not anything standout for me. Recommended, but only slightly.

A Call to Duty: An Honorverse Novel- Book 1 of "Manticore Ascendant" by David Weber and Timothy Zahn- Travis Long grew up mostly ignored by his mother, and needing guidance since his father had died. But when he nearly gets caught taking part in a robbery with a group of boys he thought were his friends, he finds a different way to get that structure he needs by joining the Manticorean Navy, which is dying since all they get to fight these days is the occasional Pirate. Most of the Navy is in mothballs. But during his training, Travis ignites ire for wanting to do things "By the Book", and reports to his superiors that his fellow students are cheating, especially on their work on the Impeller nodes. which is what keeps the ship flying. Travis is upset because mistakes there can cripple or kill a ship, but no one but him seems to care. When his superiors try to have him Cashiered from the service for cheating, he is saved by the section head of Engineering, who takes him on as a student. When a shakeup changes the commanding officer of the camp, their collusion is discovered, but as exposing it would mean more damage to the Navy, the transfer is reluctantly upheld. Meanwhile, the Navy has had an idea about the mothballed Battlecruisers, split them in half and make each half into a separate, smaller ship that will be more cost-efficient to run and save the Navy money on maintaining ships that aren't used. Travis' half-brother Gavin, a minor lord, gets involved with the project because of his low status and relative youth. And the King's son has an idea for revitalizing the Manticorean economy- build a shipyard and make their own impellers and wedges instead of buying them very expensively from the Solarian League. To do so, they travel to the relatively nearby system of Haven, who is selling off a number of older ships at cost to help the smaller systems defeat pirates. But an attack on the Havenites by a disaffected group forces them to work together with the Manticoreans to protect themselves. Can Travis come up with an idea to defeat the pirates, or will some of the more important diplomats from both sides meet their end at the hands of the pirates? I liked this book. It reminded me a lot of the Honor Harrington books, with a relatively minor officer who distinguishes themselves, but it takes place when Manticore is still tiny star nation of a single system, and instead of Honor being held back by supporters of a man who tried to rape her (and got his just reward when she kicked his butt), Travis is held back by accusations of nepotism on behalf of his brother, and by his own "Do it by the Book" way of thinking that very few of his fellow cadets and officers seem to share. It still manages to be an absolutely kickass adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I *do* miss treecats, but hopefully, we'll see some more in the future. I definitely Highly recommend this book, and I want to read more. Highly Recommended.

The Ties That Bind by Jayne Ann Krentz- Shannon Raine is an artist living in a small artist's commune on the California Coast. Then, one day she finds she has a new neighbor when Garth Sheridan moves in next door. She in intrigued by the handsome man, and wants to know more, so she invites him to dinner that night with a friend o0f hers and her boyfriend. Shannon thinks Garth is a writer, but actually, Garth is the President and CEO of a high-tech company, and he intends to use the cottage he's rented to relax on the weekends- not to get to know the locals. But he thinks Sahnnon is coming onto him, and when he discovers she isn't. he's already been thinking about her in that way, and he realizes that a sexual relationship with her would be the perfect cap to his relaxing weekends away from the office. And Shannon, despite her professing not to want Garth, finds that her body has other ideas. However, Gath's controlling tendencies and his wanting to micromanage every moment of Shannon's life throw then into conflict, and when Shannon decides she wants to be more a part of his life than just a weekend relaxation, Garth seems to blame her for the ensuing chaos and the discovery that someone is stealing secrets from his company Can Shannon convince him that she isn't a corporate spy, and can he lighten up enough to stop controlling everything so much that he chokes the life out of their relationship? Or will the stresses between the two of them end up shattering the two of them apart? I usually love Jayne Ann Krentz, no matter which of her pseudonyms she is writing under. This book, however, I found a bit troubling. I did not feel that much sympathy for the hero. In the end, he did manage to tone it down, but the story implied the hero was justified at his attitude, and Shannon is naïve and wishy-washy, and unable to protect herself from an angent who would prey on her naivete. I wished that Shannon could have come off a little stronger, as she sometimes seems a sheep among the wolves when she is with Garth, and I disliked the imbalance of power among the sides of the relationship. I did feel better about the two by the end, but it was a rather hard slog to get there, and as it isn't a very long book, I ended up wishing Garth could go die in a fire at times for quite a bit of the story. In the end, this book ended up at "Meh" on the scale for me. Just not as enjoyable as I was hoping it would be.

Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins- Snake Bite by Andrew Lane- Sherlock has become too much of a thorn in the side of the Paradol Chamber, and in revenge, they kidnap him and set him on a boat bound for China. But while for a member of the Paradol Chamber, being kidnapped from their comfortable lives and being forced to live as a merchant sailor, Sherlock is a teenaged boy who finds this more of an adventure than a torture or even a hardship. He settles in, works hard and uses his time on board as a learning experience, including learning Chinese from the Ship's Cook and beating off an attack by pirates after the ship's Cargo. In Macao, a strange Dutchman joins the party, and the rest of the crew think he's a demon, since he hides his face and almost never leaves his cabin. But when Sherlock saves some papers from the man's cabin during the pirate attack, the man reveals that he suffers from a rare skin condition caused by ingesting colloidal silver, which he does because of silver's anti-disease properties. The silver particles collect under his shin, dying it a silver blue color. When she ship finally gets to China, even though Sherlock didn't sign on, the Captain gives him some money and some time to enjoy himself in the city. There, Sherlock gets invited to his family home by the cook, Wu Chung. and is befriended by a boy, Cameron Mackenzie, who is factor for a group of British Merchants. An American ship wishes to head up the river to make better maps of the area, and is asking for permission from the local officials. Wu Chung decides to take a job with the Americans to stay closer to his family, and tells Sherlock this, but he is ill after having only worked his first day, and dies later that night. His family believes him to have been bitten by a snake, but no snake is found in the house, and Wu's son believes that there are no holes a snake could have climbed in or out through- he has been most diligent in patching them all. But when Cameron's father dies of the same cause, Sherlock finds cause to believe that both men have been murdered. But by who and for what reason or reasons? Can Sherlock team up with Cameron and Wu's son, Wu Fung-Yi, to find and unmask the murderer while on the run in still-primitive China? And will he ever get back to England, his teacher and Virginia, who he has feelings for? I liked this book, which continued the "Young Sherlock Holmes" book series, at the end of the last book, Sherlock was kidnapped and put on a ship by members of the Paradol chamber, who intend the voyage to be something of a torture for him. But as his brother Mycroft points out, members of the Paradol Chamber might find it a torture to be deprived of home and family and all, but Sherlock is a sixteen tear old boy and will find it to be more of an adventure than a torture. And so it proves to be. Sherlock learns both Cantonese and T'ai Ch'i from the cook and uses his knowledge to solve the murder of Wu Chung as well, even if he isn't sure that Wu Chung was murdered until Cameron's father suffers a similar fate, and his snake bite wound is exactly the same as that of Wu Chung. The mystery is tense and yet adventurous and I liked the ending, even if it leaves Sherlock unhappy and half a world away from his family and friends. This is a book for young fans of Sherlock Holmes, and stays true to the character of Holmes as he is developing his unique powers of observation and ability to solve crimes. An excellent mystery and adventure combined. Hightly recommended, both for the series and this book.

The Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry- anthology edited by Sean Wallace - This book contains 25 short stories involving men and women getting involved with some sort of magic. "Small Magic" by Jay Lake involves a warrior sent to guard a small fortress at the end of the world from barbarians, along with other members of the legion. When their superior officer is killed, and the other men start deserting, only this one warrior's oath to his King keeps him from joining them. But will his Oath be enough to keep him safe? "King Rainjoy's Tears" is the story of  a female scholar/bard who travels with her thief lover to retrieve King Rainjoy's three tears, which he gave up, along with human feeling, to properly lead his Kingdom. But can regaining his tears give him back all the feelings he lost? "A Rich, Full Week" by K.J. Parker has a Wizard dealing with a lingering spirit of a man who was also a wizard. But will he be able to banish the spirit forever? "Woman in Scarlet" by Tanith Lee tells the story of a warrior with a sentient sword. But when the sword bonded with his soul abandons him for another, how can he live with himself, or forgive the spirit in the sword? "Flotsam" by Bradley P. Beaulieu tells of a fish-man with too close ties to the humans asked to aid them in their wars. But what will be the cost to himself and his people if he agrees? "A Warrior's Death" by Aliette de Bodard, a failed Priest of the War-God must discover who made an improper sacrifice to the God he once served and why they would do such a thing. But the answer may mean the death of his civilization. What will he report to the head priest? "A Siege of Cranes" by Benjamin Rosenbaum has a man named Marish who returns from hunting to find his village burnt to the ground and his wife and daughter missing. When he goes in sake of Vengeance on the raider's did it, he is joined by a non-human and might have to battle a demon. But can he give closure for the people who died? Fox Bones, Many Uses" by Alex Dally MacFarlane tells the story of a foxwoman and her half-human baby. When the human lord declares war on the non-humans, she and her people must either decide to fight, or just go. But will either decision bring safety? "Where Virtue Lives" by Saladin Ahmed: has a doctor-mage facing off against a ghul who has abducted a merchant's wife. Also in the city is a Holy Slayer who wants to apprentice to him. But while the mage is getting old, the Holy Slayer needs guidance. Can hey find what they need in each other to finish the case and rescue the woman? "The Effigy Engine: A Take of the Red Hats" by Scott Lynch tells of a war mage tasked with destroying a carriage turned into an Engine of War, Along with his mother, leader of the Red Hat Mages and her own partner, rhey must find a way to kill the unkillable  and survive in the process, "Strife Lingers in Memory" by Carrie Vaughn tells of a Mage's daughter who marries the ruler of a Kingdom who survived the battle to free his legacy from his enemies, but paid a terrible cost to do so. After years of helping her husband through the aftermath, can she survive when the nightmares start in her? " A Sweet Calling" by Tony Pi follows a sugar mage who must defeat a rival sorcerer. He can summon up magic from thr animals of the zodiac when he shapes them out of candy. But what will be the cost of doing so, and how will he pay it?  "The Narcomancer" by N. K. Jemisin follows a mage of the goddess of dreams and death, His task is to collect the dream fluid from people before they die. But when he is called to a small village by the wife of a dead headman, one of his other wives, little better than a slave, asks the Narcomancer to father a child on her. But he has been sworn to celibacy, which conflicts with his duty to bring comfort in the game of his goddess. Which will he choose to follow? "Golden Daughter, Stone Wife" by Benjamin Sriduangkaew tells of a female magician and her golem daughter. When her husband dies, it is up to her to return the golem to the Mage's Guild. But the Golem has become as dear to her as a daughter. Can she outwit the female mage sent to retriever her "daughter"? "Effigy Nights" by Yoon Ha Lee tells of a mage who uses an effigy to bring sleep and disarm his foes. But when the party seeking his help is incapacitated by a similar lump of stone, can he bring a good outcome to the situation for his temple? "Wearaway and Flambeau" by Matthew Hughes When a thief is employed by a man to try and steal an item from the Wizard's Home, the Thief discovers a way to use the situation to his and his employer's advantage. But what will happen when both of them reach too far? "At the Edge of Dying by Mary Robinette Kowal has a mage who gains power from being near death traveling through his Kingdom at war, fighting on behalf  of his King, but when it is revealed his wife is dying, she is suddenly more powerful than he. Can they defeat the wizard in charge of the enemy to keep their homeland free/  Or will the Wizard sacrifice everything for his dying wife? "Vici" by Naomi Novik take a son of Rome and pairs him with a dragon, at first to kill it, but when he succeeds in turning it into a mount instead, and nearly turns against his former masters, what will Rome do to him? "Abjure the Realm" takes a bard that serves his King and makes him question his loyalty when the King chooses to war on his own sister, a sorceress with powers over the dead. What will he do when he realizes that the sister is innocent of the charges that the King makes against her? "The Word of Azrael" by Matthew David Surridge tells the tale of a warrior who encounters the Angel of Death once upon a battlefield, and who spends the rest of his life trying to meet the Angel again and discover his destiny. "Lady of the Ghost Willow" by Richard Parks tells the story of a Samurai troubled by a female spirit who is making him unable to sleep. but can a fellow samurai track the cause of the trouble? "The Singing Spear" by James Enge has a smith being called upon to destroy a magical weapon that he made. But he knows it cannot be destroyed- not without unleashing a great evil on the world. So what can he do? "So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen" by Genevieve Valentine takes the last descendant of a Native American Shaman to become part of a magical council. Only she has no powers and doesn't believe the council can change anything. When she meets others of a magical bent, can she prove what she knows to be wrong? "Warrior Dreams" by Cinda Williams Chima has a war vet living under a bridge. He used to be a warrior, but he doesn't want to fight any more  Can a faerie convince him how much she and her people need him to be their champion? "The Magician, The Maid and Other Stories pits a magician from anther world against a woman who wants him dead for killing the man she loved. But when both of them find an unexpected connection, can they see beyond the blind hatreds of the past to find a different life? This was an interesting collection of short stories, and interestingly enough, I liked most of the stories in the novel and didn't really dislike any of them. I did have favorites, but my top three were probably "Woman In Scarlet", "Strife Lingers in Memory" and "Wariior Dreams" were my top three favorites of the bunch, while "Golden Daughter, Stone wife was the one I liked least, but didn't dislike. This book is way above average for an anthology and comes out at Highly recommended.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas- Celaena Sardothian, formerly Aelin Galathynius, has been sent to the country of Wendlyn by the King of Adarlan to kill off the royal family- a task she has no intention of doing. Instead, she seeks out Maeve, her mother's aunt, to demand answers about the magical artifacts that the King is trying to get so that he can take control over the world and all their Kingdoms, even as her former lover, Chaol, , who has bargained for her to be sent from Wendlyn so that she can be safe, has to work with her cousin, Aedion, now one of the King's Own Generals. Aedion pretends to be the King's Man, and wears the same sort of ring that the King and his minister do, but is he actually supporting the King, and will Chaol resort to treason to inform Aedion of what happened to his cousin? Meanwhile, Celaena goes to Wendlyn to meet her aunt, the Queen of the Faeries, who assigns her to a part-fae named Rowan to train in her magic. But Celaena has blocked every trace of her magic because of her past, when it was too strong to be controlled, and trying to get her magic to work, even here in a world where magic isn't blocked by the King's long-ago ritual, is dangerous, not only to her, but the people around her. Can she learn to use her magic properly in time, and just what must she do to get it to come at her beck and call rather than being controlled by her magic? Will she remember more than just scraps of her past life, and can she save Rowan from the horrible position he will be put in? More to the point, can she come away from a conflict with her powerful aunt without getting literally burned? And can she save the part-fae from a monster imported from Adarlan and made from the King's Magic when he sends it against the people of Wendlyn? Lastly, the King of Adarlan is working with the Witches of The Western Wastes, training them to ride monstrous beasts to be part of his army. Manon, leader of the Thirteen, is undergoing her own apotheosis as she works to become wingleader of the Witch forces. But with a Wyvern that started out as a bait beast, can she win victory on the field and make sure she leads? So much goes on in this novel among many main characters. Not only Prince Dorian, Captain of the Guard Chaol and Aedion, but new characters like Manon are introduced and enough time is spent with them to show that they will be an important part of this series moving forward. But we get to see a whole lot of character development and things are starting to come to a head for Aelyn/Celaena and her friends and possible future foes. I am thinking no more than a book or two remain in the series, but It's possible something could delay the ending. Not yet, though, I hope.

To Love a King by Shona Husk- Felan ap Gwyn is the Prince of Annwyn, and Annwyn is dying, led by the breakup of the marriage between his mother, a human, and his father, a fae. Felan was once in love with Jacquelyn Ara, but it all fell apart when she lost the baby she was carrying. She knew it was an ectopic pregnancy and had to end it to save her own life, while Felan thought that Jacqui's mother, who never approved of their relationship, persuaded her to have an abortion. When he left, it was for a long time, and Jacqui was upset that he hadn't even asked her what happened. But now he needs a bride, a human willing to give up her soul and become semi-immortal to save Annwyn. And he needs to find her within two weeks. Felan wants Jacqui, whom he never really stopped having feelings for. But can he persuade Jacqui to come back to him and try again, even if doing so brings her nothing but pain? For Felan isn't alone in seeking the throne, his cousin, Sulia, is also looking to become queen. But if she does, Annwyn will become a very dark place indeed. And unlike Felan, Sulia is already pregnant by her male lover, something that Felsn has yet to accomplish with Jacqui, but can he romance her, get her pregnant and get her to give up her soul to save Annwyn to beat Sulia at her own game? I liked this book. despite the greatly shortened form of the romance (which takes place over less than a week, and I could see that Jacqui and Felan had feelings for each other. In fact, being menaced by Sulia only brings them together faster, once they acknowledge their true feelings. I liked Felan, I liked Jacqui, and although it took me a lot of the book to watm up to the main characters, I did end up believing in their happily ever after. Recommended.

Deadly Descendatn by Jenna Black- Nikki Glass, former private investigator, has discovered that she is a descendant, one of the many-times removed offspring of the Greek Gods. And her particular progenitor is Artemis, goddess of the Hunt. For that reason, she is wanted by the Olympians actual children of the Gods. But the reason they want her is to track down other descendants so they can be killed, even otherwise innocent women and children. Nikki won't do that, so she has joined forced with Anderson, descendant of a Death God, who has gathered a group of descendants. But when she helped find his wife, who had been kidnapped and imprisoned at the bottom of a lake for years, neither she nor Anderson knew that the constant torture of dying over and over had driven her insane. Now, she is irrationally jealous of Nikki, and the Descendants have been asked by the Olympians to find a Descendant who has been killing men in DC, and who is descended from a Death God. But as Nikki investigates on Anderson's behalf, his wife's paranoia escalates, and she attacks Nikki, who is also attacked by the Descendant of Anubis, who controls a pack of hyenas who are infected with rabies and whose bite is even capable of infecting another Descendant, who should be immune to all disease. But as they prepare to try and take the Descendant of Anubis down, the tension between Anderson and his wife brings things to a head and could lead to Nikki's death once again. Can they bring the man down and discover *why* he hates Konstantin so much? This is the second book in the series, which I didn't know when I picked it up. However, we're not so far into the story that I found it hard to catch up on the story so far. I found it very interesting. The Descendants and the Olympians share immortal souls known as Liberi, and there are a limited number of them around. The Olympians try to prevent more Liberi from coming into being, and if they do arise, can kill the Descendant and steal the immortality they have for themselves. Needless to say, we get to see this through the eyes of a Descendant, which makes the case for the Descendants more compelling than the case of the Olympians. I'd definitely like to read more, but I'd also like to see the Olympians point of view- since the Greek and Roman Gods aren't the only gods who have human descendants (We see descendants of Loki, Anubis, and other pantheons in the story.) Recommended, even highly, and I want to read more.

Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne- Camille Leyland is s French Spy gone deep undercover in England. But over the years, she has stopped acting as a double agent and her loyalties and sympathies now lie with England, and the two old ladies, masters of cryptography, that have taken her in. But when her cover is broken and a French assassin sent to kill her or her two "aunts" if they will not give up the incredibly secret cypher in their possession, the only way to keep them safe is for Camille to go on the run. Thomas Paxton was once also a spy for France, but he isn't French and his loyalties are also now to England. But when he realizes an infamous French Assassin is loose in England, he can only investigate with the help of his friends. To his surprise, he finds Camille as the object of the assassin's intentions, and as they once knew each other in the spy school both were "trained" at, he knows he must try and save her- as long as she is no longer Spying for France. As for Camille, Thomas Paxton is the only boy she ever had feelings for, and the man is more than the boy ever was. as they are thrown together by the attempt on her life, he struggles to keep her safe, but cannot help the feelings he develops for her. For her part, she finds the man much more compelling than the boy, but does he return her intense feelings? And once she finds the family who once abandoned her, can he live up to their impossible standards? Can two people who were once hurt and abandoned young children ever find solace and even love in each others arms when a ruthless killer is after them both? I really enjoyed this book, for many reasons. For one, Camille is the more experienced one in the bedroom. Though Pax pretended to spend money on Prostitutes, he only drew them, so when he finally takes Camille to bed, he is a bit anxious at making love to her properly. She's had sex with two men, and though it was pleasant, it's nothing to what she feels for a man she truly loves. I also liked that both characters were extraordinarily competent, and neither one had to ride the idiot bus for the plot to go forward. I also liked their history and the snippets we saw of their pasts in France. Both were picked up as indigent children, abandoned by their families, and forced to be spies. It was an interesting take on the idea of spies and I am sure occurred in some real history somewhere. I just found myself really liking both characters and the way they interacted, and the way their shared history brought them together. Well done, well told and definitely highly recommended,

Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead- Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of the group who is supposed to look after and clean up after Moroi Vampires. But the Alchemists think Sydney is a traitor, because she has entered into a relationship with Adrian, cousin to the current Moroi Queen and a user of Spirit. But Sydney has been captured and taken to a retraining facility, where she will be brainwashed into toeing the Alchemist line. Despite horrible mental and physical torment, she is able to hold out for a long time- and soon finds out that she isn't the only Moroi Sympathizer in the facility. Thanks to her ability to use magic and the ink she discovered that can cancel out the effects of the Alchemist tattoo ink she is able to "inoculate" the other sympathizers undergoing re-education to resist re-inking of the tattoo. And Adrian finds himself drawn back to court by his mother and discovers the true state of affairs between his mother and father is not what he thought it was. And with his own tendency to drink himself blotto to forget the pain of losing Sydney, he must exercise some discipline if he wants to get her back. But to rescue Sydney, he's going to need lots of help- and that won't prevent her from being taken by the Alchemists if Adrian and his allies somehow manage to find out where she is and break her out. But will his plan to find her succeed? I was slow to warm up to this series, but I actually kind of like it now. Reading about the mental and physical torture that Sydney undergoes was hard, but I did enjoy this book, both sides. Sydney and Adrian have to suck up and keep soldiering on without each other, and it's hard for both of them, but I really enjoyed the book, which is part imprisonment story, part prison break and part chase. I loved this book and this finally got me liking both characters with the way they "manned up" and helped each other find Sydney. Recommended.

The Ice Dragon by George R. R, Martin, illustrated by Luis Royo- Adara is a "Winter Child", born in the winter, one of the coldest ones ever known. She neither smiles nor cries and her skin is always chilled. She also manages to bond with an ice dragon, which most men think is impossible. But when war comes to her home and her farm is attacked, Adara's only hope is the Ice Dragon, even though it is the middle of summer. Can she find a way to save her family and destroy the fire Dragons of the enemy? I found this tale to be short and yet still profound. I loved how it is told so simply and yet so beautifully, and the illustrations by Royo are perfect: delicate, yet with plenty of detail and wonder. A lovely fable for children. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

2014, Part 11

Almost a Bride by Jane Feather- Jack Fortescu is a man on a mission, and that mission is finally taking *everything* away from Frederick Lacey, Earl of Dunston. So when the Earl loses his fortune and family home "With everything in it" to Jack, he blows his brains out, leaving behind his sister, Arabella Lacey, to take the fallout for her brother. But Arabella doesn't know the terms of the agreement, and Jack wants to keep it from her so that he can force her to marry him, all so he can have his final revenge on Frederick, who he thinks killed Jack's sister and his lover in the French Revolution. But Arabella agrees to marry Jack, and finds that the man she loves has been lying to her through her connection with French Emigres. But when she discovers that Jack's sister is still alive in the Bastille, she will not let him go alone into France to rescue her. And as Jack stays married to Arabella, he starts to discover her brilliant mind, loving heart and sense of wit, and finds himself unexpectedly falling for his bride. But can he let his revenge go to enjoy an entirely unexpected love? I found this one a little hard to get into. Jack is such a jerk for most of the book because he's fixated on Revenge. I thought Arabella deserved far better. But both characters sneaked in and stole my heart. It's hard not to feel for Jack and his feelings of hatred for Frederick Lacey- and with good reason. I found this a difficult romance, but ended up loving how the characters came together. I almost wish it lasted a bit longer so we could get to see Jack as a changed man and loving Arabella a bit more. Still an excellent book. Recommended.

My Unfair Lady by Kathryne Kennedy- Summer Wine Lee knows nothing about being a lady. Raised on the frontier of America, she grew up in poverty, until her father struck it rich for her mother, who was already dead. He continued to amass wealth for Summer, and Summer came to New York to live with him, only to fall in love with Monte Tarkington, one of the richest families in New York. He also loves her, but his family will not accept her until she has been presented to the Queen. And so she travels to London, only to discover it isn't as easy as that. She needs lessons to prepare herself for London, so she approaches Byron, impoverished Duke of Monchester with a proposal- get her introduced to the Queen and polish her so she can be accepted. Byron is as well known for his viciously truthful tongue that makes the ton fear him. But this American who has offered him the chance to regain the money his family lost isn't afraid of him- perhaps he should be afraid of a woman to packs a knife beneath her skirts and is ready to jump in and save him from someone who seems set on killing him. Constantly surprised and taken aback by her, he finds himself drawn to her beauty and fearlessness, and soon, he no longer wants to teach her so she can go back to New York and marry Monte- he wants her for herself. As for Summer, the dashing Duke becomes more than a teacher- he becomes a friend and a lover, but can she deny what ahe finds she really wants to return to New York to marry the man she thought she loved? Or does she have the will to reach for something she never knew she wanted? This was an intriguing and engaging story. Summer starts out as a fish out of water, but also finds that the skills she learned as a child in the American Southwest can be equally needed in England. But it is Byron who finds himself the most changed. Renowned for his poisonous tongue, he is only accepted because of his rank and his friendship with the Prince. The things he wants- the things he cares about, are far removed from his daily life. It was nice to see him change and grow to accept Summer, and the effect they have on each other through the course of the book, and I liked the ending very much. Recommended.

The Viking Takes a Knight by Sandra Hill- John of Hawk's Nest is a valiant Saxon Knight who wants nothing else than to be left alone in peace to raise bees and perform his experiments with honey. But others around him are telling him that he needs a good woman to ease his needs. Ingrith, a Viking Princess, runs an orphanage where she raises the son of the Prince, who is now in danger from a relative who has taken the throne and wants the boy killed to ensure the succession. With another threat from the Captain of the Guard, who intends to make her his leman, against her wishes, she flees to John's Castle, hoping to hide the boy from his relative and keep him alive and her from the Captain's Bed. But when she takes charge of the Castle kitchens, John is irritated with Ingrith, but cannot help but notice her... finer qualities. Ingrith, too, finds herself more attracted to John the longer she stays in his company. As they come together, both body and mind, John will have to go to Ingrith's father to take her to wife. But can he win her wild heart? This was an okay romance novel, but nothing all that good really stood out about it for me in a good way. However, what really made me annoyed with the story was the phrase, "Man parts", used by pretty much everyone, no matter their culture or background. Really? Neither the Vikings nor the Saxons have a more prosaic or earthy term for that part of the body? Not even Ballocks? It grated on my nerves after a while, and I found it offputting in the extreme. It's horrible that it's often the little things that so ruin a story that later make you look back on things with a jaundiced eye. I mean, the word may sound like it should be courtly and old-fashioned, but to my ears it just falls lame, and flat. So, I wouldn't recommend this book because I still cringe when I think of reading the love scenes. Save your money. Not recommended.

Silver Nights by Jane Feather- Sophie Golitskova's mother died in childbirth, on the run from the forces of the Czarina Catherine, who they were accused to wanting to overthrow, and her father shot himself rather than be captured. Their daughter, Sophia Alexeyevna was taken to her grandfather to raise. But when Catherine orders her to marry Prince Paul Dmitirev, she sends a young Cavalry Officer, Dmitriev's aide, Adam Danilevski, to deliver the news and escort her back to the capital for her marriage. Sophie does not want to be married, but both Adam and her grandfather conspire to get her to accept the marriage. She and Adam become close- almost lovers, but not quite, as he takes her to meet her bridegroom. Prince Dmitirev doesn't actually want Sophie, though- he wanted her mother, who was won instead by Sophie's father. Because he doesn't want his new bride, except as a sop to his pride, he determines to completely rule her-something foreign to the spirited Sophie. And just when he thought he had the job finished, she rebels against him, and he sells her beloved horse. When she continues to defy him, she becomes Adam's lover, and the Czarina colludes with the lovers by assigning her husband fat from the two, and looking the other way. But finally Dmitryev has had enough and sends her off on a visit to her grandfather in thin clothing and without any heat. Only Adam's interference saves her, and he returns her to her grandfather, loving her through the winter. But she is pregnant with his child, and when her husband finds out, he is determined to separate the lovers once and for all and to kill Sophie if he cannot make her his. Her only hope is Adam. Can he find her and rescue their son in time? Reading this romance was hard. I mean, I loved the story and the love between Sophie and Adam, but her husband was a real piece of work, and the evil he does to Sophie, and to Adam as well, made me sick. In a way, it was almost too real to be able to dismiss as merely a story. Paul Dmitiryev is a monster, and he is so realistic, it's really disturbing, because you can see that actually happening. But I found the romance a little dry and almost... too mannered for me, which was strange, considering the supposedly untamed nature of Sophie and what happens. As a result of the sickening monster who is the villain and the almost too dry nature of the romance, I found myself not enjoying the book very much. It was simply not my cup of tea. So, not recommended from me, but I have a feeling that other people would find this more interesting than I did.

A Gentleman Never Tells by Amelia Gentry- Gabrielle was taking a walk with her hound, Brutus, after witnessing the love between her fiancé and her sister, Rosabelle, when she came on Lord Brentwood walking his deceased mother's laphound, Prissy. In moments, she is in Brent's arms, kissing him for all she is worth, with he gladly returning her ardor. But when they are caught by her father and her fiancé, she can't betray her sister's dalliance and instead keeps her silence. The betrothal broken, her father forces Brentwood to offer for her and they become engaged. But when she offers to let her former Fiance offer for her sister, instead, he claims that he was only kissing her because Rosabelle enjoyed kissing, and that he feels nothing for her. Gabrielle is shocked, but knows she will never marry him. But as she finds herself falling for Brent, they are thrown together when he goes in search of his mother's missing dog, finding that other nobles are also missing their dogs as well. Brent also is in London to take care of his half-brothers, born out of an affair that his mother had with a man she met in London. Now that his mother is dead, he wants to protect them from finding out about their real parentage and thinking ill of their mother. Plus, he keeps Gabrielle's secret about being the one to initiate the kiss, because a true Gentleman never tells. But can she find a way to keep Brent, the man she is falling in love with, and her family as well? This romance made me smile. Yes, there are some genuinely uncomfortable moments for both Brent and Gabrielle, but generally, their romance was made of happy moments and  it left me happy to read. While there was nothing "knock your socks off" about this story- it was still a solid romance that, at the end of the book, left me with a smile on my face. Definitely a book to feel good about. Recommended.

Black Butler, Volume 8 by Yana Toboso- The Big top assassins continue their rampage, and Ciel and Sebastian, along with Ciel's servants, must fend them off with weapons and cunning. While it might be possible to save the assassins, Ciel determines that they are too badly damaged to risk them re-entering society. However, he does as one of them asks and goes to save the rest of the orphans from the orphanage they come from because the assassins are trying to free the other children there. Then, Ciel is visited by his fiancée and has to have a new wardrobe made. But the designer is crazy and wants to dress Ciel like a toy doll. Can Ciel fight for his right to dress like an adult and can Sebastian save him from having the scar that seals their contract be seen by the fashion designer? I like this series, which sort of riffs on the same things that "Yami no Matsuei" or "Descendants of Darkness" does so well. It also puts me in mind of "Godchild", with a detective having a devoted Butler who helps them, and it sort of mixes the two genres. I find the character of Sebastian an intriguing study in contrasts. Despite being a literal devil, he usually ends up fascinated by the evil that humans are capable of- apparently, humans are or can be worse than devils, and Cain and his opponents often show this. Recommended.

Black Butler, Volume 10 by Yana Toboso- Ciel's been giving a Royally sanctioned dinner party, but three people have been killed, including Sebastian. Seemingly at an impasse, one of the guests steps forward to try and solve the murders and determine who is responsible, but Ciel has already sent for help- a vicar named Jeremy Rathbone, who arrives just as the guest determines that someone from the outside, not a part of the guests, must have committed the murders. But can the Vicar determine the true murderer, and is Sebastian really dead? This book is the end of a locked room-type mystery, although it's less a room than an entire estate cut off from the world by a horrible storm and an overflowing river, but it manages to remain a creditable mystery, though readers familiar with the work of Arthur Conan Doyle will notice that the solution is very Holmesian and even the supposed "vicar" is strongly based on the appearance of Jeremy Brett from the Sherlock Holmes TV series from Granada Television. Nonetheless, an interesting book to read and a fun story. Recommended.

At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh- Duncan Pennethorne, Earl of Sherringford, has fled from the ton after a notorious scandal. But now that five years have passed, he's been informed that his grandfather is cutting him off from the funds that sustain him, his servants, and his son, Tobias. Traveling back to London to confront his grandfather, he discovers that the old man is holding him to his promise to marry before his grandfather's 80th birthday and have an heir by his 81st- and he only has two weeks to fulfill the terms of the agreement. Sebastian sets off in search of a wife who will have him. By contrast, Margaret Huxtable gave up on the idea of marriage, or even romance, to raise her three siblings after their parents died. The man who she was in love with and promised to wait for betrayed her when he was on the continent, and now that he has returned, she wants nothing to do with him. However, her only other prospect for romance and marriage has since met another woman and married her as well, leaving her alone. Literally running into Duncan on the dance floor, he proposes to her right away, liking the looks of her, and she accepts, but thinking he is merely joking. When she realizes he is being honest, she decides that she won't agree to marry him- but she will agree to be romanced, with the possibility to marry him at the end of his time. He agrees, but can he give Meg the love she yearns for while still hiding so many secrets from her? And can Meg heal the rifts inside Duncan's family and help him regain what he's lost? I liked this book, which had a very strong hook to draw me in- Duncan was exiled from the Ton because of a scandal- but the blurb doesn't make clear what the scandal is. But let me say- it's a doozy. Duncan ran off with his brother's wife at his own wedding. Of course, there is more to it than that. Considerably more, and therein lies the truth of the matter and the reason why it happened. But Duncan's good fortune in finding the right woman to marry and his wife's ability to love and be loved is what underlies the story and makes the ending worthwhile. I loved how open and honest Meg was and how I could understand why Duncan lied about so many things to her- by that time, I was invested in the story and wanted to see both Hero and heroine end up happy. Recommended, though this is an older book and you may have o search for it.

Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission by Marc Kaufman, with a forward by Elon Musk- Mars is almost a twin to earth- nearly the same size, but even though it is in the habitable zone of the sun, Mars is dry, dessicated and dead, especially when compared to Earth, with an abundance of free-flowing water and an equal abundance of life and life forms. But Mars may have once had water- many features on Mars seem to have been sculpted by water, and they continue to whisper to scientists that Mars may have looked even more like Earth when it was younger. But could the secrets of Mars' green past still be found buried in the present? And with a human mission impossible at this point in time, how will we be able to find the evidence if it is? Adam Steltzner, a rock guitarist, designed an SUV-sized rover to explore the surface of Mars, absent any humans. And so began the story of the Curiosity rover, and the incredible journey it undertook across the surface of the red planet to probe into the Martian past. Filled with hundreds of photos and charts, this book tells us both the human story of the Rover and the many people at NASA who made it work, fixed it when there was a problem (from many millions of miles away) and who shared in the triumph of the Curiosity mission. We get to see everywhere along the way, from the time Curiosity landed, through the glitch that nearly ended the mission and into further triumphs later on. This book was packed with information and the stories of those who worked on the Rover mission, and the story of the Rover itself. If you wanted to know anything about the Rover and its mission, here is the place to find it. Highly recommended.

New York Christmas by Anne Perry- Jemima Pitt is now in her twenties and she is acting as a companion to Delphinia Cardew, and acquaintance of hers to New York City to marry Phinnie's fiancé, Brent Albright. Both families are rich and while neither is titled, their marriage will definitely be an affair to remember. However, Brent's brother Harley asks her to help him find Phinnie's mother, a woman who abandoned her husband and daughter and ran off for no apparent reason, to keep her from attending the wedding and spoiling the occasion, Jemima is glad to try and help. But when Phinnie's mother turns up dead and is found by Jemima, he throws her to the wolves, in this case, the New York Police and accuses her, in a roundabout way, of killing Phinnie's mother, Jemima is imprisoned and questioned. To save her own life and find the real murderer, Jemima must team up with Patrick Flannery, the Irish policeman assigned to the case. It turns out that Maria Cardew, Phinnie's mother, was nursing the owner of the apartment. Trying to track down the woman, Jemima, freed with the help of Celia Albright must discover her own hidden detective instinct to determine not only the true killer, but save herself from the Hangman's noose. This was a short but wonderful novel, part of Anne Perry's Christmas series. Here we get to see Jemima, the daughter of Thomas and Caroline, finally come into her own and help solve a mystery. And it's a great one that ties into the American location they take place in. Also, though we haven't seen a section from Jemima's perspective before, I found her an engaging Mix of both her mother and father's point of view. I liked the ending and perhaps Anne Perry, like Elizabeth Peters, is going to do a "next generation" series, where the children of the two original characters come into their own and take on many of the same roles. I can only hope! Highly recommended,

Love on the Dark Side Anthology by various Authors is a collection of soft-core erotica of the paranormal variety from a company known as "Black Lace" In "What Witches Want" by Mathilde Madden details Lilith, Queen of the Witches as she attempts to find a man to be her lover. Can she do it by giving up her power? "The Black Knight" by Olivia Knight has a faithful Knight ensorcelled and imprisoned by a wicked enchantress. Can his lady-love and her mother save him from the woman's clutches? "My Earthquake in Leamington Spa" by Kristina Lloyd has a Married woman finding love and a satisfying love life with a Butler of another era, who she visits by traveling through a time portal into the past. But can their relationship last when all she wants to do is be with him?  "Stranger to My Shores" by Sophie Mouette has an oceanographer find a merman washed up on shore. She saves his life, and he gifts her love, but can the two of them be together when he is a creature of the tropics and she lives and works in  Cape Cod? "Lust for Blood" by Madelynne Ellis tells of one woman's Odyssey of sex and seduction with two vampires, "Sun Seeking" by Janine Ashbless has a tourist in Greece getting seduced by a pair of Greek deities living on a small island, "Power Play" by Katie Doyce has a supervillain fall into the clutches of a very sexy Superhero on vacation, but while they play a game of seduction, will she let him go at the end, or throw him in jail for his crimes? In "The Shadow of Matthew" by Gwen Masters, a woman mourning the death of her husband gets a little supernatural visitation from the dearly departed. "Magic for Beginners" by Sabine Whelan has a student of magic in love with her teacher, but will they come together before she explodes in frustration> "Sweet Dreams" by A.D.R. Forte has a woman meet one of her co-workers in her dreams for tremendous sex. But can it last? "Girl of His Dreams" has a woman with the power to enter and manipulate the dreams of others try to seduce a co-worker with her powers. But will her plans succeed? "To Stand Between the Wild and the Human" has a researcher on a deserted isle meet a mythical creature- a kitsune. But when she begins falling in love with him, can their experience end happily? "Watching the Detective" by Portia DaCosta has a woman dreaming od a sexual encounter with her favorite fictional but was it really just a dream when her boyfriend has dreamed of watching her? "All I Want for Christmas" by Mae Nixon has a video store employee summon her own succubus for Christmas. But what does se really want? "The End of the Pier" by Angel Blake has a man encountering the BDSM model of his dreams. But will their encounter end the way he wants it to? I was interested in this book mainly because I love reading Emma Holly's story, which sit firmly on the line between romance and erotica. But this book was a mixed bag for me Some of the stories were good, and others were only okay or did nothing for me. My favorites were "The Black Knight" and "Power Play". The rest just didn't scratch that same itch. I suspect that this will be true for everyone, but it is a nice overview of what's available. Neither recommended nor not recommended.

Black Butler Volume 9 by Yana Toboso- The Queen commands Ciel to throw a party for a relative of hers visiting from Germany. It must be Ciel because the man wishes to meet leading industriaists and Ciel runs the Funtom Corporation. The man proves to be quiet a problem, especially when drinking, as he manhandles an actress invited for the dinner, and will not let her go. He also drinks like a fish and Sebastian has to haul him off to his room. Later that night, though, the man is dead, and Sebastian and the other guests must find the killer. But he isn't the only one who is killed- when Sebastian looks into the fireplace in the murdered man's room, he is struck from behind and killed. Ciel is angered by his Butler's Death, but he'a also angry at Sebastian for dying.. But when another guest is discovered dead, it's up to Ciel and a young Doctor with an interest in mysteries, to solve the whodunit and unmask the murderer... This volume neatly sets up a locked room and "locked house" mystery, but doesn't (as yet) reveal the murderer. Nevertheless, it was an interesting read, and seeing Ciel's reaction to Sebastian;'s death was very affecting, but we are already getting clues that make it clear that things are not quite as they seem. Despite having already read Volume 10 and knowing who the murderer was, I still found the story quite suspenseful, and I enjoyed reading it. Tension is handled well, with the suspense ratcheting up and up as the story goes on. Recommended.

Black Butler, Volume 12 by Yana Toboso- Ciel and his fiancée are sailing on the Campania, but there is a zombie loose on the ship.Ciel and Sebastian team up to take it down, but it's not the only one on the ship. One of the guests has created a machine to bring the dead back to life, and he's traveling with quite a few corpses in his baggage, all stored in the lower baggage compartment. But when one zombie becomes hundreds, two reapers show up and start killing the zombies, inadvertently helping Ciel, Sebastian and Elizabeth and her family fight off the zombie plague. Elizabeth thinks Ciel will reject her if she shows off how good at combat she is, but she also wants to keep him safe. But the reapers care nothing for the living and they very much don't like Sebastian. Soon, the walking dead outnumber the living, and Sebastian and Ciel are separated as they attemopt to keep more Zombies from being produced. But who is really in charge of the mysterious "Aurora Society", and why do they want to save humans by re-animating the bodies as bloodthirsty killers? And who or what gave them the idea in the first place? This volume starts out with a single zombie and escalates from there. As more and more of the living dead show up to plague the living, the more chaotic and out of control things get, until the entire ship is in chaos- and the reapers don't care to help the living, except indirectly. In fact, the reapers plan to destroy the ship and sink it, killing everyone on board, before they are stopped and coerced into doing things in a way that will allow the other humans to survive. But who will be among the survivors is still an open question, mong others. Recommended.

Black Butler, Volume 13 by Yana Toboso- We finally meet the mastermind behind the Aurora Society, and learn why the Kaiser wants zombies- and the answer isn't pretty. The remaining humans, Elizabetgh and her family, Ciel and the others must team up to prevent further deaths. But even with the assistance of the two Reapers, are Ciel and Sebastian enough to overcome this new foe? And in the midst of Death, their foe calls up the memory of the first meeting of Ciel and Sebastian and find out how a devil became a Butler and Ciel came to take Sebastian into his service. But Can Sebastian really die? And what would happen to Ciel if he does? Another tense and suspenseful volume. In the midst of a Zombie outbreak, a supernatural fight is going on, one that will have the fate of the world at its stake. But Can Ciel and the others survive the villain and ensure that he meets a just fate? I am hoping the next volume is the conclusion of the fight, because the whole "Zombies" thing is getting old. But the villain and his motivations are finally explained, and it was a welcome change to see. The backstory of Sebastian and Ciel is fascinating, and I want to read more of that. More mysteries tantalize the reader, and I found them fascinating. Recommended.

Revenant by Kat Richardson- Harper Blaine has been living with her boyfriend, Quinton, who lives life as a ghost in the system to escape the clutches of his father, James Purlis. Quinton has always been wary of his father, but now his niece has disappeared and his sister is asking for his help. Making her way to Portugal with the help of a vampire she knows named Carlos, she is shpped to Portugal as a dead body, with a spell on her yo make her seem that way. But once in Portugal, it seems that Quinton's niece was kidnapped by her own grandfather, along with being given two very creepy presents. Harper determines that the two people with Purlis were magicians who deal with death, and that they are responsible for kidnapping Soraia, and that the magicians need the litle girl for a rritual they are going to do. The only help Carlos can give Harper is that sometimes, someone must sacrifice something precious to them to make a ritual work right. But what does Purlis want so badly that he'd give up members of his own family to accomplish it? And what do the magicians want from Purlis in return? And furthermore, what history do the magicians have with Carlos, a vampire who was also once a magician? And can Quinton, Harper and their allies save Soraia from her grandfather and from whatever vengeance the magicians are planning before a magical catastrophe falls on Portugal/ I read this book almost all at once while waiting to see a Doctor, and I have to admit, I was hooked from the very first page. I liked the way that Harper saw Portugal and how Kat Richardson described the History of Portugal affecting the ghosts there. Naturally, Europe is far older than Portugal, so there are more ghosts there and as a different culture,the way that the Portuguese people saw and reacted to the ghosts in their midst was different and interesting. While I really enjoyed the main plot, I also found the subplot with Carlos and his history and later, how it tied into the main plot, incredibly gripping. I liked the way that even Carlos, an immortal vampire who you think would be immune to or have thrown off his emotional baggage by now, found that to be not the case. In short, this book kept me engrossed and engaged right up until the very end. Definitely recommended, along with the entire series.

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz is a book of 150+ recipes of all sorts, based on foods, meals and drinksmentioned in the Harry Potter books. You'll find everything from the proverbial soup to nuts (no actual nuts, but there are recipes with nuts in them. Unlike some cookbooks, which arrange recipes by type (breakfasts, appetizers,, main dishes and so on). This book arranges meals by where they are eaten, from "Good meals with Bad Relatives" (foods that are metnioned in the chapters where Harry is with the Dursleys, to foods on sale in or near Diagon Alley, to the feasts at Hogwarts, dinners at the Weasley home of "The Burrow", all the way to the treats available in Hogsmeade at Honeydukes and similar shops, this book brings on the fun aspects! It's not all British foods, though, as the book was published after "Deathly Hallows" and covers both some French and German recipes enjoyed by students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, as well as the lovely Fleur Delacort, so recipes like Bouillabaisse and Blanmange make appearances as well. Most of the recipes are rather classically English, but they are also all pretty much from scratch, which may take a bit of time, especially for sweets like cakes, whereas most Americans tend to make premeasured cake mix rather than measuring and mixing the ingredients themselves. On the other hand, there are recipes here for things that are really interesting, like Real English Muffins and the like. If you are interested in Harry Potter and trying to make things like the characters in the books eat, this is definitely a book you are going to want to look into. I haven't tried any of the recipes, but they look good, and they were developed by a French-trained chef, so they should be extremely edible and delicious. Worth a read- recommended.

Rise of the King by R.A. Salvatore- The Companions of the Hall are reborn and reunited, but the machinations of the Drow, specificially MAtron Mother Quenthel Baenre of Menzoberranzan, is bringing wat to the North, and Drizzt and his companions feel that they must intervene as the Kingdom of Obould Many-Arrows is overthrown by a Warlord named Harrtusk under Drow leadership. The Orcs then combine with the Frost Giants, Goblins, Ogrillions and other monstrous humanoids to wage war on the Kingdoms of the North, including Nesme, Silverymoon, Everlund and the three Dwarf Citadels of Clan Adbar, Bruenor Battlehammer's Mithral Hall and Citadel Felbarr, among others. The sheet size and ferocity of the Orcish army and its allies leads to many towns and cities being overrun and some of the dwarven leaders being killed. With the Dwarves penned up in their lands by the sheer size of the Orcish led army, the Silver Marches Confederation falls apart, leaving the cities weakened still further. Drizzt and his friends meet up with Athrogate and help defend Nesme, then try to reach Mithral Hall, but Regis and Wulfgar are separated from the others while Drizzt, Bruenor, Athrogate and Cattie-Brie reach Mithril Hall and do some fast talking to prove who they really are. But without them, Nesme falls to a trick by the Drow and their Orcish army, and there is no guarantee that Drizzt and the companions of the Hall will be able to prevail against the sheer numbers arrayed against them. Will Drizzt and his friends fall attempting to save the North once again, or will the Drow overreach themselves and find themselves defeated? Meanwhile, Jarlaxle and his lieutenant in the Bregan D'Arthe, Kimmuirl Oblodra, discover what Quenthel Baenre has done to Dahlia, now ensconced in the role and person of Darthiir Do'Unrden, Matron mother of that house and firmly allied with Quenthel. But her mind is broken and it's unknown if the person of Dahlia even exists any more. What will happen to the north, regardless of the way things fall out? Wow, so much stuff happens in this book, and yet, it still all ends on a cliffhanger, with the Companions separated and both sets of characters in trouble, and events all up in the air around them. So much battle happens, and we nearly lose a character from the Companions several times, that this one had an air of actual danger and excitement to it. I found the characters better in this one, and the story kept my interest throughout. I've gotten used to the changes of the characters in this one now, or rather I should say that the characters have become more like their old selves, and it's hard to not to feel a glimmer of excitement that I used to feel when I first read R.A. Salvatore's books years ago. I feel cautiously hopeful for this series. Recommended.

Heart Fortune by Robin D. Owens- Glyssa Licorice is a member of the highly flaired families of Celta, her family being hereditary librarians. She has already met her Heartmate, a man named Jace Bayrum, and while they connected on a sexual plane, he fled from her because he doesn't want to be tied down to anything like a mate. An adventurer at heart, Jace is working on an archaeological site- the crash of one of the Celtan Colonists original spaceships, the Lugh's Spear, assisting with excavations there. Off a recently ended relationship with a woman named Funa Twinevine, who decided she also wanted a realtionship with Andic Sanicle, Jace declining to share her and giving her up, Jace is the first one to enter the ship and is nearly hurt. But the reverberations of his near-death reach Glyssa, who decides to take her destiny in her hands and join the expedition so she can make a deeper connection with Jace. But doing so is a big risk to her careet, and Jace, who has been connecting with Glyssa in his dreams, has also been tagged with the reputatuon of being unlucky and a possible saboteur on the expedition. By the time Glyssa joins him, Jace is feeling ostracized, and Glyssa and the daughter of the two people leading the expedition, who happens to have a crush on Jace, are the only ones who will spend time eith him- and Jace and Glyssa's new Fams, Glyssa's FoxFam, Lepid and Zem, the HawkcelFam that Jace saved from a broken wing. As they research the origins of the ship, it becomes clear that the expedition *does* have a saboteur, but it isn't Jace. Can Jace and Glyssa discover the real saboteur and save the contents of the ship before the saboteur can make off with valuable artifacts from the past of Celta? And can Jace overcome his background to trust Glyssa with his heart and make her his? And when they are trapped in the ship together, can Glyssa uncover the source of Jace's flair and find a way to save them all from a horrible, Lingering dearh? And can she overcome the way Jace treated her to claim her HeartMate and found a new life for them? I love the Robin Owens Celta stories, which are almost something like the Harmony books of Jane Castle, only the Celtans already had some sorts of mental powers and were seeking a place to build a society on that. Psychic powers are also increaing in strength and potency, causing unrest between those who want the pople with new and greater powers to be added to the "Noble" families, while others do not. But this book eschews that part of society to focus and the origins of the colonists and the people who are investigating that origin. That being said, this is a romance novel and that's what the story is pretty much taken up with- the feelings of the characters and their varuous encounters with each other. I did like the story, as I wanted to be an archaologist when I was younger , and the story fed right into that. The romances Robin Owen writes are always fine, and this was just another wonderful one- this one was hampered by Jace's past and his family, and Glssa's hurt at him. However, to stay alive at tne end, they had to overcome their feelings on both sides to survive, and I liked the ending. Recommended.

Heart Fire by Robin D. Owens- Antenn Blackthorn-Mossused to be wild street kid after his sister was killed in a fire and he was adopted into a gang run by his older brother, who killed Nobles in a really horrific firebombing. Antenn was saved by the Blackthorn family, adopted, and became one of their sons. Now an architect with a budding careet, he is contracted to build a Cathedral for a non-mainstream religion called "The Intersection of Hope". He is assigned to work with a priestess named Tiana Mugwort, whose mother holds those beliefs and who must write a new ritual to consecrate the temple to the four deities of the Intersectionist faith. But even though Tiana's mother is a member of the Intersectionists, Tiana is of the more popular Celtan religion of the Lord and Lady. But she has bad memories based around the church because of a murder that was blamed on the members of the Intersection of Faith, whose incense was left at the scene of the crime. Tiana's family was attacked by a mob because of it, but Tiana thinks it had less to do with that and the fact that Lord Equisetum wanted a job that Tiana's father was also in the running for. But as she works with the members of the other church (who wish to be known as the Hopers), new clouds are gathering. Though her family lost their own estate and now live in the BalmHeal Estate, which hides itself exceot to those who need healing), Lord Equisetum is violently opposed to the temple being built outside the city- and to Tiana herself, as well as Antenn. Both previously outcast and now accepted by the dint of their trying, Antenn and Tiana find themselves attracted to each other quite deeply. Only Antenn has blocked knowledge of his Heartmate because he didn't want to be distracted from becoming accepted and building his business. When the protection is finally removed, he discovers that Tiana is his HeartMate, and she is upset at how he has hidden from her all this time. She channels the rage she feels into a case against Lord Equisetum investigated by IlexWinterberry. To remember what happened that night, Tiana will have to relive it as if she was there, and gain enough courage to swear out a complaint against Lord Equisetum. But as protect against the new temple being built intensifies, someone seems determined to stop it from being built. Can Antenn and Tiana protect the temple from the forces converging to force it never to be built and bring Lord Equisetum to justice? This was another great Robin Owens romance. Both characters in this one are or have been outcasts, and know what it is like to be looked down upon- and hated and hunted. But both are trying to overcome their origins. The love between them is unexpected and yet sweet, and I liked how they both had cat Fams, and the way they interacted with each other- and how they helped each other defeat the threats to the temple they were building. I really loved this book, and these two characters. The only downside is that we don't get to see what happens to the ultimate villain who is causing all the problem. His fate is discussed, but not revealed. Highly recommended.

Archangel's Shadows by Nalini Singh- Ashwini is a Guild Hunter, a friend of Elena, and Janvier is a hundreds year old vampire who has been interested in Ash since she first tracked him down on behalf of an angel. Luckily, Janvier made up with the angel and Ash wasn't forced to kill him. However, both of them share an interest in each other. Now, Cleaning up in the aftermath of the attack by Lijuan on New York, Ash is assigned to find who or what has been killing and mummifying dogs in the New York Sewers. Janvier has been assigned to find out why vampires have been turning feral and bloodthirsty- which may be related to a new drug on the scene. Ash and Janvier think their problems might be related, and they team up to find answers, Janvier helping Ash with the mummified animals- and humans that are turning up, and Ash helping Janvier track the drug. Doing so makes them become cloaer, but Ash is hiding a secret from Janvier, one that affects her whole family, and may be why she is so opposed to becoming a vampire like him- it has to do with her power- the ability to read people by skin to skin contact. But as she and Janvier become closer, even becoming lovers, she can't help but let him into her life- which includes all of her secrets. But will Janvier be angry when he finds out what she has been hiding from him, or will he understand? And can Ash and Janvier track down the villains responsible for the dead animals and the drug? I liked this book. Ash's secret is kept not only from Janvier, but from the reader as well until very late in the story, which lends it a strength and weight equal to its later impact on the story. We, as readers, get drawn into the head of Ash and when the big secret is finally revealed, it's portentous in a way few other secrets are in romance novels. And I found this book gripping and emotionally engaging in a way I haven't found many others lately. This was a wonderful story with great world-building, and I loved to see all the other characters that showed up in it again. Lovely, just lovely. Highly recommended.

To Desire a Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt- Beatrice Corning is the niece of the Current Earl of Blanchard. Before her uncle became Earl, he was not a nobleman, but a fairly wealthy member of the merchant class. He doesn't make a very impressive Earl, but he is determined to remain Earl. As for Beatrice, she knows she is supposed to marry, but she has only ever been attracted to one man: the son of the former Earl of Blanchard, whose picture hangs over the fireplace in the home that now belongs to her Uncle. So when Reynaud St. Aubyn finally returns home from the colonies, he goes back to the home that was once his- but if Beatrice's uncle has his way, he won't be welcome there. Reynaud is no longer the man he was- years enslaved by the Native Americans have changed him in deep and fundamental ways- more than the scars on his body and the tattoos around his eye- he has been betrayed by someone among his own men, and now that he is returned to England, Reynaud is determined to get his life back- starting with the title that should have been his, and justice on the member of his command who betrayed him, and blackened his name in the process- because the rumor is that the betrayer had a French mother, and in all the men captured by the Indians- that could only be Reynaud himself. And he finds himself attracted to Beatrice, and wanting her as he has wanting nothing before, save freedom. But can he win her if she hurts her Uncle by taking back his title? And if she doesn't want a title, how will he win this beautiful, fascinating woman for his own? I found this book only okay- It's the last in a series of four by Elizabeth Hoyt in the :Legend of the Four Soldiers" series. I hadn't read the others in the series, but that was actually fine, as most of the novel focuses on Reynaud and the way he feels after living for seven years in captivity among American Indians in the Colonies. The other characters come in near the end, when they are tracking down the true identity of the traitor. In truth, I wasn't all that taken with Reynaud, even considering what happened to him, he treats people like an ass a lot of the time, and his jerkish behavior made it hard for me to like him. Yes, he has an excuse, but his behavior towards Beatrice made me want to kick him hard in the ass- because he deserved it. And because of that, I wasn't as invested in the ending. Neither recommended nor not. I found the hero's behavior towards the heroine not really excusable, even with everything that had happened to him.

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell- Judy Melinek is the daughter of a man who committed suicide, a doctor, and who was left emotionally adrift by him killing himself when she was just a teenager. She wanted to become a doctor like him, a surgeon, but the hours were killing her. Back when she was originally graduating from Medical School, she'd been offered a job in the Medical Examiner's office. When she flamed out of being a surgeon, she went back, asking if they could recommend a job for her, and to her surprise, they were holding a spot open for her. Here was her real introduction to the job- to the plain English she'd have to use instead of medical jargon, and the bodies she would be working with- their circumstances of death, and the rulings she would have to make- Accident, Homicide, Natural, Therapeutic? Each one of those means different things. If a robber fires his gun by accident while in the commission of a robbery, the death could be accidental, but the death would also be death by gunshot- even though the robber shot the victim, it was not a planned killing. Whereas a doctor trying to remove an old bullet during an operation may cause a therapeutic death by bullet- he was trying to improve the patient's life by the operation, but the therapeutic operation ended up killing him... and so on. Part of Dr. Melinek's training took place in New York City before and during 9/11 and she speaks about what it was like to work in the ME's office during that time, and the personal and professional toll it took on her. This was an amazing book that only took me a couple hours to read, in between doing other things. A fascinating look into Judy Melinek's life and the life of the people she touched, and who touched her as well during her time in New York. Really excellent and Highly recommended.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Rita Mae Brown- "Sister" Jane Arnold is the Hunt Master of Foxhounds for the Jefferson Hunt in Central Virginia. When the dead body of a man is found in the grave of an old horse in Kentucky, along with the skeleton of a dog, Sister must discover who he is and why he was buried with the horse and the dog. Surprisingly, he turns out to be the grandfather of her love, Gray Lorillard, who was thought dead in a whorehouse years ago. Now, his wife, Gray's mother, wants to know the truth about how he died, and who killed him. And it's up to Gray and "Sister" to find out for her. But he's not the only dead body. When a Vet known and beloved by the community is killed in her office, Sister is sure that the murder is connected to the body of the dead man, the horse and the mystery. But how many more people will have to die before the truth comes out, and what is the truth behind the murder that everyone seems to be working so hard to keep silent. The Hounds can hunt game, but will they be successful on the hunt for this murderer? I found this an interesting change from Harry and the goings on in Crozet. Sister is much older than Harry, and far more into the Hunt scene- the main characters here are Hunting dogs and foxes rather than cats and pets. Even though the body is discovered in Kentucky- it has repercussions in Sister's world and among the people she knows. It's not quite as well developed as Crozet, West Virginia, but it will, given time. Recommended- just be prepared for an entirely new cast of characters.

Santorini: The Prehistoric City of Akroteri by Christos G. Doumas, Ephor of Antiquities- The tiny island of Santorini and the ancient village of Akroteri are all that remains of an island destroyed by a volcanic eruption and explosion- the story of which became known as Atlantis. But Santorini is still inhabited, and the beauty of the white-washed houses mingles with leftover tufa and blocks from the old eruption. This book explores the island, from the remains of the palace to the beautiful stone stairs that run from the harbor all the way to the cliffs. The book is filled with pictures of the island itself, and of the Palace at Akroteri, showing Minoan-esque art, pottery and wall frescos, many of which have been greatly restored. None are on the island, owing to the fact that the Volcano is still active (albeit underwater in the center of Thera). I really enjoyed the book- there are more pictures than text, but the views of the island are superb, and the text is full or information about the island, if a little stilted in English. Recommended.

Urban Legends: 666 Absolutely True Stories that Happened to a Friend... of a Friend... of a Friend by Thomas Craughwell- This book collects Urban Legends- stories that are supposedly true, but generally aren't. Most of them are used to "warn about people who stray off the straight and narrow of Christian behavior, while others entertain through Schadenfreude or just a "Can't look away" sort of feeling. Others purport to tell us the true story behind people we think we know. These stories are entertaining, but all of them are false. In reading them, though, we learn more about outrselves- and what kind of people we are. I enjoyed this book, and laughed at the stories. Yes, you can find other books in the store about Urban Legends "Spiders in the Hairdo" and the like, but this book collects a huge number in one place, sorted by type, the ne plus ultra of Urban Legends. recommended.

The Future Falls by Tanya Huff- Charlotte "Charlie" Gale is a member of the magical Gale family and is a "wild" Power- she has the ability to travel through "The Wood", an otherworldly nexus that can lead anywhere, any time. And her sense of music is what allows her to travel where she needs to be. But Charlie has learned that the Earth is about to be obliterated by an asteroid that cannot even be seen from Earth, and she is trying to stop it by whatever means are necessary, calling on her family, the Fae and anyone else she can think might have a vested interest in saving the Earth. Her second problem is Jack, another Gale member who is also a Dragon Prince. Jack is seventeen, and he has fallen desperately in love with Charlie, but because she is 30, marrying him, or having any kind of a relationship is verboten, as Gales can only marry those in the family within seven years of their age. Even as Charlie works to save the earth, she must fight her attraction for Jack. They are best suited for each other, but unable to be together. And Jack is convinced that the best way to deal with the problem is for him to go to the Fae courts and give up four years of his life learning to be a sorcerer so that he can destroy the Asteroid before it can crash into the Earth. But with Charlie working on the problem- and a new Dragon no one knows in town, can they save the earth and find some way around their own problems at the same time? Or is the Earth on an inevitable course for destruction?  Despite this book being about a relatively serious problem, it also had a strong hint of "teenage romance" because of Jack. But while Jack sort of doesn't confront his problems in anything but a head-on manner, it was easier to read than any anime romance, with added meddling (with good intent) from the Aunties, and plenty of pie, this book was another triumph for Tanya Huff. who I have enjoyed reading. Recommended, but if this is your first Gale novel, you're not going to want to start here.

Burning Dawn by Gena Showalter- Elin Vale is a human, kidnapped from her home and taken to some alternate plane to be imprisoned in a camp where she is tormented and tortured daily. But nothing compares to the torture of Thane, a Sent One who is the very image of an Angel- when he isn't being used as a sex slave by Malta, Princess of the Phoenix. Malta has Thane so enslaved through her pheromones and a drug which heightens their effect that all he can remember or want is being Malta's sex slave, open to her in every cruel and dominating thing she does to him. But Elin has access to the cure for the drug, and if Thane will take her with him when he escapes, she will give him the cure- and hopefully return to Earth at the same time. But Thane's experiences with Malta have left him craving pain with his pleasure, and while he finds himself powerfully attracted to Elin, he doesn't want to abuse her for his own pleasure. As for Elin, she is attracted to Thane, but all she wants to do is go home to Earth and live her own life. But when she falls in love with the man who saved her, nothing is going according to plan. As Thane must track down a demon Prince on Earth, can he keep Elin safe, and will he survive learning her deepest secret? I wasn't quite sure what to think about this book. It's not the first in the series, and yet, I didn't fee; it had all the information and backstory I needed to not have read the other books. In other words, for me, this book was not the best entry point to the series.  Everything else was fine, but I felt too far behind in terms of what was going on in the story to really follow it. Recommended, but not especially highly.

Son of No One by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Josette Laqndry has grown used to being the only person in her family who doesn't believe in magic or the supernatural. But when reality bites her hard on the butt, she agrees to bethe videographer and photographer for some friends of her sister who are investigating a supposedly haunted house. Left alone in a room with a huge, full-length mirror, she finds herself tripped and falling face first through the mirror, and into another place. Cadegan is a warrior who is also half-demon. All his life, he has struggled against evil, but a betrayal from a brother left him stranded in a land which is an antechamber to Hell, and ruled over by demons, fae and Night-haunts. He rescues Josette and keeps her safe, trying to help her return to her own world. But her way is blocked, and Cadegan must serve the Night Haunts to get a key that can return her to the human world. In the meantime, he must gather the ingredients needed for the potion the Night Haunts want to make, though for what end he does not know, and hope he can keep himself alive long enough to get Josette free. But she has also fallen for Cadegan, and now she doesn't want to leave without him. Leaving him imprisoned in Hell's antechamber becomes anathema to her, and nothing, not even her sisters, will move her. But Cadegan doesn't know the whole story of his life, nor why his brother betrayed him so. When he is finally free with Josette, the threat he represents to the world isn't over. But can his and Josette's best efforts be enough to change him... for good? I love Sherrilyn Kenyon's series, and this one broke the mold of "Hero with the worst backstory ever". I mean, it's still not good and he's still pretty tortured, but I didn't feel like Cadegan was competing in the competition to be the worst history in the history of the world type stakes. I liked the chemistry between him and Josette, and how Josette, despite not wanting to believe in magic and/or ghosts, didn't spend time in a futile, "This can't be real, I MUST be hallucinating" type spiral. She accepted magic and weird stuff in a realistically speedy manner, considering what she was going through and experiencing, and I liked that. And the romance made me smile in a good way. Highly recommended,

Flying Too High: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood- Phryne Fisher has but recently moved to Ausralia, and she is in the process of moving from her previous lodgings in a hotel and into a real house. She is also in the process of setting up herself as a detective and solver of mysteries. So when a distraught woman approaches Phryne ay home and asks her to prevent her son from killing his father after they argue, Phryne pops around to the son's airfield to have a word with him, gaining his respect by wing-walking on a plane during a flying lesson. However, the father is later slain and the son, with whom he'd just had another blazing row, gets the blame, and Phrune. who almost certainly knows the son had nothing to do with the death, looks into the death on behalf of the family. Meanwhile, a young girl whose father came into lots of money after winning the lottery is kidnapped by a group who want a sum of fat cash for their trouble. But the girl, who had sneaked out of the house to buy candy with a threepence she'd found in the street, is smart and has her own ideas about how to stay safe. But can she keep the Pedophile who wants her for her body away from her, and stay close to the man who only wants to keep her safe? Ands can she discover who killed the Aviator's father and why before he is charged with the crime and tried? This was a very interesting sort of novel. Phryne is without some of her usual supports, yet is her usual irrepressible self and manages to pull out the right answers despite the lack of some of her favorite people to work with. I enjoyed seeing Phryne work and seeing her triumph over the mysteries that beset her. Recommended, most definitely.

Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler shows you how to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People by Joe Navarro with Toni Sciarra- Joe Navarro is an ex-FBI Profiler, in the same unit as Robert Ressler, John Douglas and similar FBI Profilers who led the country in profiling serial killers and other dangerous criminals. But now, he turns his attentions to helping ordinary people find and keep themselves safe from the five most dangerous types of people you are likely to meet: The Narcissistic Personality, The Unstable Emotional Personality, The Paranoid Personality, The Predator, and those who are some combination of two three or more of the above. He takes us step by step through each personality, showing how and why they are dangerous and how they can be dangerous to you, your life, reputation and money. Each chapter is leavened with stories from real life, and most of them are absolutely horrifying. After showing the type of people they are, and discussing how each type brings you down in all sorts of ways, there is a checklist, in ordinary English, asking you questions to evaluate whether or not a person is that type. People who show few attributes are less destructive, but can still have  wide-ranging effects on your life, those with more can be extremely toxic and deadly to have in your life. Finally, the chapter on the combined personalities discusses how sometimes the combination can be worse, qualitatively, than a single dangerous personality alone. The last chapter describes how to protect yourself from these people and even to get away from them, if you need to. In many cases, it comes down to listening to your gut, and keeping away from them in the first place. Sometimes, as when the personality is your child or other relative, it can't be done.. In which case, other strategies can be used. I liked this book very much, as it is written for laymen, using the language of laymen (plain English) and discusses these people as regular people would talk about them.. Highly recommended.

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Keats Citron- Most people would agree that the internet is not exactly a welcoming place. As many communities that exist as places for open discussion and support, there are an equal number or more that enjoy hating, hurting and bringing other people down, verbally or in other ways, out there. But sometimes, worse than just people badmouthing otjers on the internet, hate campaigns will spring up that attempt to do more than slander, hate on, or "punish" people for their views. These attacks often come off the internet and extend into people's real lives with bosses being contacted and filth spread around the people they are targeting, sometimes with effects that aren't known until much, much too late. And these attacks don't even have to be targeted because of malice. Sometimes, it's just a circle of people trying to outdo each other in bile, getting worse and worse with the users not knowing or caring that the person they are attacking it a real person with real feelings. This book focuses around three real-life cases of hateful criminal behavior in cyberspace: towards a law student, an actor, and a tech guru, examining each case and showing how the crimes affected them in real life. Some are still dealing with the fallout and other stories are shown in which the person affected never went to the police, or who went to authorities and got no help. As one Policeman said who was approached by a victim who was being harassed and cyberstalked on Facebook, "What's a Facebook?" Often, small-town police forces are unable and/or unwilling to deal with this sort of crime online because of lack of knowledge and lack of technology, leading the attackers to get away with it. I found this book troubling to read because of recent stories like GamerGate, the attacks on Briana Wu and Anita Sarkeesian, and the knowledge of how much police and law enforcement are still playing catch-up in this technology game. It was frightening and disheartening that in a world where so much appears to be moving forward, we are still experiencing a strong move backwards to old attitudes and old hatreds. I can only hope our knowledge and enforcement can close the gap so that those responsible for these attacks can be caught more successfully and stopped. Frightening and highly recommended.

Crimson Angel by Barbara Hambly- Benjamin January has returned to New Orleans, his wife, Rose and his son, John. He doesn't want to leave his wife and newborn son again, but  Rose's  white half-brother Jefferson Vitrack tracks her and Ben down with stories of treasure remaining on the Cuban estate of their ancestor and as proof brings a gold and ruby angel figurine which is spoken of in family legends. But he can't persuade Ben to go in search of it, because Ben and Rose already have all the money they will need for some while from Ben's last adventure. But when Jefferson Vitrack is murdered, it seems that he isn't the only one who is out after the treasure and Ben and Rose must leave little John behind with Ben's sister Olympe and her husband and go in search of the fabled treasure to keep it from the hands of a ruthless man willing to kill on behalf of it. Accompanied by Ben's friend Hannibal Sefton, now weaned from Opium and clean of vices, they must track down the truth of the treasure and what really happened on the Le Rouge Ange plantation before the revolution, and what happened to those who survived after it. Whispers of an evil French bokor and the toll he took on the slaves of the plantation may have more to do with why the locals see the place as haunted, and Ben's memories and a journal may be all that stands between a ruthless man and a secret he is trying to quash. But can they survive the hunters and the slave catchers and the others who are sniffing around for any trace of treasure? I really enjoyed this book. It was a look at the major island communities in the Carribbean during the slave times and after the slaves had managed to free themselves. It's an even more treacherous environment than the one Ben is used to inhabiting, and as they say, shit gets real very quick. I loved how the mystery became less about missing treasure than truth, but there was some of each in the story. I loved the ending as well, and the truth being an explosive thing. Recommended.

The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins by Robert B. Baer-Bob Baer worked for the CIA and at one point, he was tasked with assassinating an assassin working to drive the Americans out of the Middle East, Hajj Radwan, which means "The Delightful One". But the many schemes cooked up to try and eliminate Radwan failed, because Radwan knew what the CIA didn't- how to use assassination as a weapon of terror, and how to boil down the act to one target, one bullet and the kill. And that's it. American had forgotten, or never learned these lessons when it came to dealing with the Middle East and the people who opposed them there. They used killings as a means of boasting, or warnings, and failed to kill of Radwan, who knew about being the perfect killer, the coldest assassin, better than the Americans did. And here, Baer lays out the essential laws of Assassins and assassination, and tells the story of Radwan and Baer's hunt for him. I should have loved this book- I always enjoy true stories and tales about bringing people to justice, but this book was almost... boring to me. I found it hard to get through and the baggage of Baer weighs down the story instead of being fascinating. Instead of a tense hunt for a ruthless assassin, it becomes a tedious story told by a boring uncle. The facts and "laws" that he passes on may be sound, but I felt the rest of the story, of Baer;s hunt for Radwab, actually dragged the book down. Not recommended unless you need to fall asleep.

Collision: Book Four of the Secret World Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey, Cody Martin, Dennis Lee and Veronica Giguere- John Murdock has been brought back to life by Seraphym, but he no longer remembers her- or the last ten years of his life. Seraphym is thrown into a tailspin by his lack of memory, and since she has given up her status as a celestial to save him, it's doubly disheartening that he doesn't remember their love, and worse that he seems to be hearing the chorus of the divine that she gave up to save him. But when a secret Thulian base is discovered in the valleys between India and Nepal, it's up to all the world's super and metahumans to gather together and destroy it. But can the humans , infiltrated by Thulian agents, keep their plans secret enough to take the Thulians by surprise, and can the metahumans in their separate factions, work together well enough to destroy the Thulians? And can the humans, and their new "Secret" meta Steel Maiden, persuade the alien Metisians be peruaded to weigh in on the human side against the Thulians? And will their coming together of races save them, or damn them all? This was an interesting book. Part of the book is taken up with the mystery of what has Seraphym's sacrifice made of John Murdock and what new powers has it given him, and even more to the point what has it taken away. The book builds to the attack on the Thulian base, and the aftermath, and lest we forget, some Thulians escaped, meaning this isn't the endgame, but I loved how it all came together- the deepening of the relationship between John and Seraphym, and how he was the keystone needed to overcome the Thulians at the end. I am looking forward to reading more in this shared world, and seeing what happens. Highly recommended.

The Traitor- Sebastian St. Clair is half French and half English. He fought in the Napoleonic wars, but on the side of Napoleon. And worse, as a torturer, used to get information out of captured British officers. Now that the war is over, he is back with his English relatives, specifically his aunt Freddy, who has engaged a new companion, Millicent Danforth, a young lady who takes up the life of a companion to escape her own relations. But while Sebastian deals with ex-English officers trying to kill him for his actions during the war, he is the Baron and needs a wife and an heir, and his gaze lights upon Millicent, who is still smarting after leaving the two aunts who loved her because they were about to die and could no longer shelter her from the rest of her family, who wanted to turn Millicent into an unpaid servant to her brother's family. To save Millie and because he has fallen in love with her, Sebastian marries his Millie, all the while about to meet another man, a Scotsman, who is willing to beat Sebastian to death with his bare hands. But can they find who is sending these officers after Sebastian and reveal his real role in the war effort? Or will hidden foes be the death of Sebastian yet? I liked this book, which I read after I'd read the sequel, "The Laird", about Sebastian's servant, Michael Brodie. Even so , I enjoyed the book, even though I knew that Michael was hiding a very big secret of his own from Sebastian all through the book. I liked the romance between Sebastian and Millie and I loved the reveal of her secret, and how Sebastian helped her begin to overcome it. This book is extremely enjoyable, even if you read it out of order. Recommended.

The Laird by Grace Burrowes- Michael Brodie left homeland and new Bride to follow the drum to the war against Napoleon. Left behind in Scotland was his new Bride, Brenna, and his father and Uncle, Angus. But when Michael returns after so long away and long after the war had ended, he finds his bride quietly furious at him, and to a land much changed. Tenants have died and some have left Scotland for America. Michael slowly begins romancing Brenna, but it's been so long for him that he barely remembers how to do so. And when his little sister, Maeve, arrives from Ireland to be with him because her other sister is finally pregnant, he must deal with Brenna's strange behavior towards the girl in keeping him away from Angus- whom Brenna already dislikes intensely. But his Brenna is hiding far more secrets than that, and Michael must deal with them, and the change in his and Brenna's relationship as well as the arrival of his sister. Can he untangle the knot his clan holding has begun and cut out the rot that has taken root at its core, or will the damage of a hidden foe cause too many problems to resolve, sundering Michael and Brenna apart? I loved this book, which is part of the "Captive Hearts" series, I thought originally that it had something to do with a book of a different series by a different author, but this series is really excellent and engaging. I loved how Michael and Brenna interacted, and when the villain was revealed for the horrible person they were, I could really believe it all. I loved the ending, and I want to see more in this series. Definitely recommended.

A Scandal to Remember by Elizabeth Essex- Jane Burke is a conchologist who wants to join a Royal Society expedition to the South Seas. She is invited along on the strength of her initials, and the belief that she is her father. Lieutenant Charles Dance is an officer newly come to the Tenacious, and what he finds sickens and disgusts him. The ship is in no way ready to sail- it's practically rotting in port, and Dance needs to use the prize money he has acquired just to refit the ship well enough to keep her afloat. He finds Jane Burke an unwelcome distraction, but her ability to hold up under pressure reluctantly draws his admiration, even as things go from bad to worse on the ship. The purser absconds with the money, including the funds that were supposed to go towards buying food for the expedition members, ad the Bosun is actively cruel. Meanwhile, the sailors think that Jane's presence endangers the ship simply because she is female. So when the Captain commits suicide and the ship founders attempting to cross Cape Horn in the midst of a horrendous storm, someone locks her below decks while the ship is sinking. Dance goes back to find her, rescues her, and they sail away from the wreck on her pinnace, which she was taking along with the expedition. The other sailors decamp in the ship's boats and Jane and Dance end up on a small atoll in the middle of the ocean, where they recover and become lovers, as Jane starts her own personal expedition there. But rescue brings not salvation, but danger, for the rescuers are led by the Bosun, who blames Dance for the ship's sinking. Can Jane and Dance prove that he was not responsible before an Admiralty Court? I liked this book because Jane is a scientist and she acts like it when she is aboard ship. She is capable of caring for others like a woman. Some of the situations on board she helps with, but in other cases, she causes more problems for Dance. I liked that he esteemed her for her mind and thinking ability, as well as the fit of her garments. And when they finally became lovers- well, most of the book was chaste, the part after they land on the Atoll was where the romance really became physical. But the seeds were laid long before that. An excellent book and one I really enjoyed. Recommended.