Thursday, August 07, 2014

2014, Part 7

When She Was Wicked by Anne Barton-Annabelle Honeycote is a poor seamstress, taking care of her ill mother and sister on her salary. But since that isn't enough to keep her family fed, she must also resort to a bit of blackmail to keep up her finances. But when her latest targets are the sisters of Owen Sherbourne, the Duke of Huntford, their brother takes umbrage and sets out to unmask her. Finding out about her situation, he determines his own revenge- make his sisters each a dozen dresses and stop blackmailing others. To ensure that she keeps her promises, he takes her into his home. But having her around is harder on him than he thinks it will be, and he cannot forget how beaiutiful she is, and personally kind to his sisters. But as he continues to help her and her family, he begins throwing all thoughts of revenge out of his mind and instead finds himself wishing that she would stay longer, like, perhaps, for all time... But can a Duke marry a penniless seamstress without completely turning the world upside down? I like this book a lot. Annabelle starts out in a hard place, barely able to keep her family fed, and with her mother all but wasting away due to "Consumption", with Annabelle having to pay the Doctor to look after her mother and for the medicine she needs. To do so, Annabelle, must blackmail the Ton for money to survive. But through her time with the Duke, he helps her by finding out that the Doctor is a charlatan, and the "Medicine" is nothing more than highly addictive opium. And, of course, the attraction between himself and Annabelle is just the icing on the cake. I loved seeing how Annabelle and Owen literally turned each other's lives around, and the surprise at the ending of who Annabelle was related to that allowed Owen to have the love he wanted. This novel is a book I tore through because I liked it so much, and it left me feeling satisfied in the need for a romance department. Recommended.

Odin's Ravens by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr- Matt Thorsen and Fen and Laurie Brekke have found the Shoeld of Thor and met several other children of the Gods, including Baldwin, the reborn Baldur. But Baldwin is dead, poisoned by Mistletoe, and unlike in the old stories of Ragnarok, Fen, the son of Loki, cried for him. This should end Ragnarok, right? Well, apparently not, but they still travel to the domain of Hel (or in this case, a woman calling herself "Aunt Helen") and retrieve Baldwin to take him back to the real world.  But when they go after Thor's Hammer, they have to fight Draugr, and also return to Blackwell, where their families live. But a betrayal in the place they least expected it draw them into another fight, and several reversals of Fortune leave them wondering if anyone they know is truly on their side. And as Fen makes a bad decision of his own that may have far-reaching consequences- can he undo what he did or find a way out of his choice? And what will become of the reborn Gods and their attemtpts to forstall Ragnarok? Another excellent book with elements both creepy- Helen's skin looks like that of a mannequin, and the smell of the Draugr- sort of Viking Zombies, made this another excellent book. It reminds me of Percy Jackson and the Kane books without the framing devices of another year at camp. Seeing the Norse Gods used (after all the Marvel Movies with Thor and whatnot), this was a nice change of pace. The characters remain interesting, and I like every single character in the books, from the Norns (fates) to the Valkyries, Draugr and even the mythological creatures that show up. I a really enjoying these books, and I definitely look forward to reading more. Highly recommended.

The WInter Bride by Anna Gracie- Damaris Chance is one of four young women who are pretending to be the nieces of Lady Beatrice Davenham. In reality, each of them fled from a whorehouse they had been sold to, or in the case of Daisy, worked as a servant in. But despite their friend Abby having married a lord, Damaris doesn't want to be married. Having lived with her father, a missionary in China, and survived there after he was killed by a local warlord, her experiences have soured her on the whole idea of being married. However, Lady Davenham convinces her to have a season in spite of her doubts, to view it as a chance to have fun instead of looking for a husband. She reluctantly agrees, and the whole household discovers that while Abby and her husband are abroad on their Honeymoon, they have been put into the care of Freddy Monkton-Coombs, the friend of Max, Lord Davenham- who Abby married. As for Freddy, he notices Damaris right off, but he is not interested in marriage- until he receives a letter from his mother in the mail, telling him she has arranged a house party on the one night a year that he always comes home, and that at the end of the house party, one of the young women she invites will become his wife. But when Freddy asks Damaris to accompany him as a fake Fiancee, and that they will dissolve such a relationship at a future time so that they will never need to actually marry- she discovers that Freddy ia shunned by his family for the crime of causing the death of his brother. But the things his parents tear into them about, and the way she relishes the verbal skirmishes with his mother, make him realize that she is the only person who accepts him for who he is and refuses to put the blame on him. But when they are trapped alone in a house for two days by rising floodwaters, Freddy tells her that now they *must* marry, because in the eyes of the proper world, she is compromised, even if nothing actually happened. Damaris realizes she has fallen for Freddy, but is that enough to make her go to the altar with him? And can she confess what she has really been doing to Lady Davenham all along, or is their marriage foundered before it has really begun? This was a bit of a hard book to read for me- I suspected some of what happened to Damaris before it was revealed, but the actuality was far worse than what I had suspected. And yet, it was nice seeing how Damaris cared for herself. Yes, she looked a bit mercenary agreeing to become Freddy's false Fiancee for a deed to a cottage nearwhere Addy and her busband was going to live, but I also liked seeing Freddy come out of his shell and Damaris as well, to be the prople they should have been before their families happened to them. The ending didn't make me cry, but it did give me a warm glow in the chest region, and I couldn't quite put this book down to sleep- I ended up staying up far too late to finish it. Nevertheless, definitely recommended.

The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison- Rachel Morgan started out as a mere witch, but has now become a daywalking demon. Still living with her roommate Ivy, a vampire, in a converted church, she lives with Bix the Gargoyle, Jenks the Pixie and his children, and works as a bodyguard for Trent Kalamack, the elven lord who is also a very rich businessman. But something strange is happening to the Ley Line Rachel claims as hers- magic is shooting out of the line, magic that is causing very strange reactions all over the city-and she is only sure of one thing- she isn'tresponsible. Or is she? As it turns out, the magic that is coming out of the line has the same aura of her, but what is coming out is less like magical power- and more like spirits. Specifically, elven magical creatures who are part of the Elven goddess. And they seem to be very attracted to Rachel and her magic. But where are they coming from? And why do more and more of them keep coming through Rachel's Ley Line? Her only hope is to work with her boss, Trent Kalamack- but none of his people seem to want Rachel around. Including Trent's fiance Ellsabeth, who thinks that Trent and Rachel are all but knocking boots together. And then there are the vampires, whose leaders haven't been seen in weeks, and its causing problems with the younger vampires, who are causing problems without the elders being able to keep them in line. And there is a new group calling itself "The Free Vampires", who want all the elders gone or destroyed- which could end up destroying the county. How do they all fit together and what do they have to do with the Elvish magic infusing Rachel's Ley Line. They just think of it as power- but the Elvish Goddess is real- and she's pissed. Can Rachel and her friends survive their wrath as she attempts to take back the magic as her own? I don't often read Rachel Morgan books because there haven't been that many of them that I have read. But this one was packed with action and story, and ended up enjoying it a lot. Rachel's been through a lot of stuff from her first book, but she always kicks ass and takes names, and it was pure pleasure seeing her do so here. And the romance/relationship beats were also good, from admitting she had feeling for Trent Kalamack, to actually starting something with him, even though she might lose her mentor in demon magic for doing so, this book was a definite "win" in my eyes, and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Recommended.

Nine Lives to Die by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown- It's getting close to Christmas in Crozet Virginia, and winter brings truckloads of snow and distributing care packages from the local churches. On her trips to deliver those packages, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, reconnects with her former math teacher Cletus Thompson, now deep in the bottle and unable to drag himself out, and Flo Rice, who once worked at a local stables, but has become strange and suspicious with age. When her pets, Tee Tucker, a Welsh Corgi, MRs. Murphy, a tabby cat and Pewter, an overweight gray cat, find a golden bracelet that falls off the arm bone of s skeleton being dragged off by a coyote, they hide the bracelet in the stables, in an old horse helmet, so that they can "give" it to her on Christmas. but when she finds it prematurely, it turns out to have disturbing implications in the disappearance and presumed death of an old teacher. And in the present day, two men who work with the Boys Charity, Silver Linings, end up murdered, their index and middle fingers cut off. Also, three checks are stolen from Silver Linings and soon recovered. But there isn't anything off about the group's financials, and no money seems to have been stolen. So who murdered the two men and why? And what, if anything, did Siolver Linings have to do with the murder? I always love the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries, and this book is  a prime example as to why- the animals. in this case, do as much detective work as the humans involved in the case, and while several red herrings are dragged liberally through the case, it's only at the end when we see the true picture, andit always blows me away. I love the interactions betwee the animals, old and new, and the way they look out for each other. The people are often cattier than the actual cats, but I love how Harry's pets love and look out for her, and the way they are interwoven in the case. I wish I had my own cat like Mrs. Murphy, and I love the Biography of Rita Mae Brown's real cat, who is called "Miss Pie". This series is wonderful and deserves to be shared with other lovers of animals, and mysteries. Highly recommended.

Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe- Princess Breena of Elden grew up pretty, but also knowing her place in the world- she is to marry well so that her husband can ally with Elden. But when the Blood Sorceror attacks and kills her parents, they send her and her siblings far across their land to survive and take their vengeance. Breena, who has been dreaming of a man, finds herself  in a foreign kingdom, with only a man little better than a beast, a mercenary, and his two brothers to help her. The man, Osborn, is berserker, and he has been dreaming of a woman ever since his Kingdom was destroyed and he was left to care for his brothers alone. First by becoming a mercenary to raise money, and then by raising them alone by himself. When Breena comes along, he doesn't want anything to do with her-seeing her as an impediment to his quiet life of raising his brothers. But Breena needs help so desperately, she is willing to do anything for Osborn. And he cannot resist the siren call of the dream lover he has been dreaming of. But can he teach her to take care of herself and then bring himself to leave her? Or will he be able to marry a Princess, the woman who has dreamed of him, and he of her, for years? And who will be able to defeat the Blood Sorceror and his men? Well, this book was based on a very well-known fairy tale. It might help to know that Breena is blonde haired, and she eats the food of Berne and his brothers, which has been left to cool while they take a walk. Yes, it's Goldilocks and the Three Bears. (Osborn literally means "Bear warrior"), but obviously, this book has a more romantic and sexual slant. I liked the book, as Breena really did her best to learn and while Osborn wasn't being all "emotionally wounded warrior", he does show her real caring and compassion. And the ending was the best, showing how both of them had grown, with the promise of a happier ending. Not stellar, but not a bad book by any means. Recommended.

The Grendel Affair: A SPI-Files Novel by Lisa Shearin- Makenna Fraser is a seer from the South, and she trained as a journalist, working for a scandal rag before she ended up working for the SPI, Supernatural Protection and Investigation bureau. It's run by an actual Dragon Lady (Vivienne Sagadraco), and Makenna is partnered with a former cop, Ian Byrne. Among her co-workers are also Werewolves, Vampires, Elves and other supernatural beasties- takes one to catch one, right? Well, in this case, Makenna and the others might be in over their heads when an off-the-clock favor reveals the remains of a strange creature and a murdered man. The creature turns out to be a Grendel. Yes, like Beowulf Grendel- someone has imported a breeding pair of Grendels into the city just before New Years Eve, with the intention of having them go wild on Broadway and 42nd street on New Years and letting the resulting carnage rip the scales from the eyes of ordinary humans, causing chaos and letting the mastermind take advantage of the chaos to turn humans into slaves and meals. And whoever did it isn't alone- they are working with Ghouls and Vampires who want a return to the old, bad ways. Only Makenna, Ian and the department can find and stop the Grendels before there is mass slaughter and save the city and humanity itself. But will they be able to sort out the clues in time? I really enjoyed this book- the worldbuilding was great, and I found the details of how the various people and races worked together at the SPI to be as realistic as one could expect this sort of urban fantasy to be. I really liked the revelation of the identity of the anragonist, and the final battle, which took up about the final 1/4 of the book. Makenna is apropriately squishy and more than aware of how unprepared she is to fight, and she works on changing that. Lisa Shearin hasn't been one of my favorite authors, but now I am asking myself, "Why?", because this book was seriously awesome to me. Highly recommended.

New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer by Bill Maher- Bill Maher is a flaming Liberal and TV personality. This book collects many of his "New Rules" segments from his show "Real Time with Bill Maher", along with a few longer rants/observations in between chapters. Subjects are arranged alphabetically, and are just the words he used on his show, with the occasional accompanying pictures to illustrate what he is speaking about. In that this book preserved his "New Rules" for posterity, it's great. But if you've watched the show, 99% of this material you will already have seen. For someone new to Maher, it's great. For someone who already watches, well, not so much. This could be great or "Eh", depending how much you have watched.of "Real Time".

Demon's Bride by Zoe Archer- Leo Bailey is a member of "The Hellraisers, a group of young men who have always been on the lookout for themselves. That is why, when they called up a devil by accident, they each gave into their need and greed and asked for different boons. Leo, who was born into straitened circumstances, made the request to be able to see how other people's investments would do when he held a coin that was once theirs. He has used this talent to make vast amounts of money, and now he has taken a wife, Anne Hartfield, the bookish daughter of a Baron with a money probelm. Leo has always been Hungry for more, but as his need to bring down the wealthy and powerful grows apace, he finds Anne an antidote to his need for wealth. But the tattoo of flames that appeared on his shoulder the night he made the agreement for hiw power grows as his hunger to ruin the rich and powerful does, and there is a threat to the Hellraisers from a former one of their own, and when he realizes that his power is turning him darker, he may have to go against his friends to reclaim the man he once was. But can Anne, the wife he has lied to, ever trust him, and will she help free him from his agreement and help him regain the soul he lost? Or will the powers of the Hellraisers give birth to a literal Hell on Eartj, as their desires and power grow ever greater? I love me some Zoe Archer, and this book was one by her that I had never seen before. But I am extremely glad that I ordered and read it, as I enjoyed how the hero and heroine came together. There is no actual before the marriage romance- the book begins with the party after Leo and Anne have been married, but there certainly is romance there, as Leo doesn't deflower Anne until later, and he treats her all along with a tenderness that will eventually be the undoing of his hellish ambitions. And that's what makes the novel so great. Anne's attraction to her husband and her confusion about what is going on with Leo and her marriage, pull the readers into the story, and Zoe Archer's writing keeps you there. I found this book really enjoyable. Highly recommended.

Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh- Ivy Jane is a Psy, but one who feels she was deeply flawed. Forced to rebuilt her mind after a very bad reconditioning when she was barely out of childhood, it turns out that she is one of the few E's in Psy society, the E standing for Empath. Vasic is an Arrow, a psy commando who has been forced into jobs and situations he never wanted to do after the Arrows served under Councillor Ming LeBon. Now that Kaleb Krychek holds the reing of the Arrows, he is assigned to guard and protect Ivy Jane as part of an experiment to see if the E's can save Psy Net and the destabilization that is threatening to destroy it. Gathering a group of E's from around the world, Krycheck hopes that Sascha Duncan can help the E's regain the skills that they need to save PsyNet. But it won't be easy- the psychopathic parts of the NetMind that make up the dissolution would like to do nothing else than crush the E's, and even with the fall of Silence, the emotionlessness that was supposed to do away with Psy Psychopaths, there are Psy who fear the emotions they were not supposed to feel and want a return to Silence. Vaqsic himself is a broken man, one who wants nothing else than to die for the actions he was forced to undertake under Ming LeBon, and an experimental piece of Psy-tech in his arm might end up killing him anyway. Can working with Ivy Jane, and the emotions she raises inside of him heal Vasic, and can a man and a woman so broken ever find Solace and healing in each other? And what of the piece of technology on his arm that is killing him? Will he ever be able to have a futute with Ivy Jane, if he is destined to die? Wow, this book really blew me away. I was still uncertain if I would find a Psy-Psy romance enjoyable (apart from "Heart of Obsidian". But reading this book with Vasic and Ivy Jane made me a believer in Psy-Psy romances, and it was pretty damn hot, in the bargain. I loved every moment of the story as the E_psy's found themselves and started to turn the situation in the Psy-Net around, and Ivy Jane even managed to save Vasic, with the help of his great-grandfather. It was glorious to read, and for that reason, I dub this book, Highly Recommended.

The Girl with the Windup Heart by Kady Cross- Griffin King and his friends track down a killer known as "Lady Ash", who burns her victims from the inside out. But in the course of apprehending her, Griffin is drawn into the Aetheric plane and imprisoned by his longtime foe Garibaldi, also known as the Machinist. Garibaldi imprisons Griffin in a machine of his own creation which drains his Aetheric Energy and feeds it to the Machinist, which only makes it stronger. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Emily, Finley Jane, Sam, Jasper Renn and his girl Cat are looking to get Griffin back, and Mila, the girl who was built to contain the Machinist's mind, is living with Jack Dandy, and getting irritated that he will spend time with his doxies, but hasn't any for her. He tries to tell her that he isn't good enough for her, but she is human enough to have fallen in love with him. Leaving him to make him miss her, she takes a toom in a boarding house with girls who work in Picadilly Circus. When they leave one morning and witness a carriage accident, Mila steps in to save everyone involved, and her obvious strength gets her a job at the Circus, working as a strongwoman. But it also draws the attention of Lord Blackhurst, Jack's father, whom Jack would love to ruin. Blackhurst wants Mila for his own, but Jack ins't willing to let her go. Can Jack save Mila from his father, and does she even need or want to be saved? And back in the Aetheric Realm, Finley must deal with Lord Felix, the lord who tried to debauch her and whose house she was running from when she met Griffin. He is more powerful than Finley on the Aetheric plane, and he has tied his victims to him, using them to attack Finley. But can she overcome his power, and will she and her friends be able to save Griffin and restore him to life? Because Griffin is slowly dying as his energy is sucked away by the Aetheric plane. Can he end the threat of the Machinist before his life is lost? And what will become of Mila and Jack when her landlady is abducted to force Mila to comply with Blackhurst's wishes? This seems to be the end of the series, as all of the threads are neatly snipped off at the end of the book, but maybe we will see more adventures from Finley, Griffin and their other friends in the Future. I certainly hope so, as this series was really excellent, and this book most of all, Mila gets the reader's sympathy, as she deals with becoming fully human. We get to see snippets of her time with Jack before the book, and how much he admires her. It was nice seeing him finally become more than a thug, and more than a rowdy. Everyone ends happy and even Finley gets to meet her father and lay some of the tension between them to rest. A Really excellent end to a terriffic series. Highly recommended.

Gate 7, Volumes 2, 3 and 4 by CLAMP- Chikahito has been taken in by Hana and her group of protectors as they refight a battle that originally took place in Japan's warring states period. Hana and her friends need to make allies amongst the undecideds, so she and her fellow warriors recruit a daycare teacher who is the reborn general, Yukimura Sanada, and her fellow reborn the Sanada Juuyuushi, culminating in a battle which decides Sanada into backing Hana. Meanwhile, Iemitsu Tokugawa, born into the disturbingly pretty high schooler, befriends Chikahito by pretednding to nearly collapse on the street, and later, by attending the dame school as him. Chikahito has no idea who Iemitsu is, and has no idea that his interest in Chikahito has some sort of ulterior motive. But as battle lines are drawn, Hana continues to live her life and collect allies and Oni for the battle, including one that looks like a tiger, but who can shrink itself down to housecat size.. But why does Hana look to Chikahito for approval, and who is he, really? Why are both sides so eager to have him on their side, and why is he so clueless, when everyone else seems to know who they are or were when they were reborn? Questions abound. I actually kind of liked this series, despite having so many questions about it. It sort of keeps the ultimate reason why everyone is fighting to itself, but we the readers get the sense that all of this is of great import. But real explanations are thin on the ground to nonexistent, and only a general sense of where this is going is given to the reader. It does intrigue me enough to continue reading however, and to see what is really going on. What is the point of collecting sll these Oni? And is Hana a boy or a girl? She (and I only say she because she dresses and looks female) is held up as one of the biggest mysteries of all. In short, it's a bit confusing, but I do enjoy it, and will keep reading. Recommended.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Volume 16 by Yuki Midorikawa- Takahashi Natsume can see spirits naturally, a condition which has caused him many problems in the past. Now living with a pair of loving foster parents, he wants to keep his problems with seeing spirits from them to save them from worry. Along with the spirit Nyanko-sensei, he tries to serve as a bridge between the problems of spirits and the problems of people. His friend Taki can only see spirits with the aid of her special spirit circles, but they cause problems for the spirits she sees and some think the use of her circles is an attack. So when a huge spirit passes through her circle and is trapped in her house, she needs Natsume's help to find and free it. But the reason it was passing through is a problem of its own, and Natsumi must find another spirit to get the first one free, and its growing attachment to Taki may cause problems for her further down the road... Then, Natsume's friend Kaname and several classmates from school travel to his aunt's inn to help out during a festival. But when an important festival prop is stolen, It's up to Natsume to track down the thief and get it back, or Natsume and his friends will suffer. But was the theft deliberate or inadvertant, and can he convince the thief to return what he or she stole? Finally, three adorable bird spirits have their pot stolen and seek out Natsume to get it back from the whit Ogre that has stolen it. But when they hear that Reiko Natsume is a monster, they give up on that plan. But when Natsume steps in to help anyway, can he bring the story to a happy conclusion and convince the ogre to return the pot? I find this series interesting. The story started out about allowing the Spirits whose names are in the book to reclaim them, but since then, the story has broadened out into being this kind of spirit bridge and about the other humans who can see spirits. I find it very interesting and enjoyable, and the stories keep me coming back. Definitely highly recommended.

Crossed Blades by Kelly McCullough- Aral Kingslayer used to be a Blade, the holy weapon of the Goddess of justice. But since the other gods banded together to destroy the goddess and kill and disband the blades, he's survived on his own as a shadowjack, a thief for hire, and lost himself in a bottle, trying to deal with being one of the only survivors of the blades. But when he discovers he's far from the only Blade left alive, he took Faran under his wing to teach her what he needs to know. But when an old lover of his, Jax, returns looking for him, he isn't sure whether to be sad or happy that the bones of his face have been reworked to make him unrecognizable. But she has also taken young Blades under her wing, and they are being threatened to make her find and betray her former comrades. And she isn't the only Blade or Senior blade still around- Kelos, Aral's mentor is also still alive, and may have been the traitor responsible for allowing the Temple to be attacked in the first place. As Aral wrestles with the concept of what is right and wrong, and can humans allow only the Gods to determine whether an action is right or wrong, he must help Jax and faran free the other young Bkades and discover the truth of who was behind the attack on the temple. But can he get over his personal failings to do so, and how can he help bring the Blades back together as an organization without betraying his now-dead Goddess? Is Aral up to the task? I am really loving this series. I loved the first book, and this one goes one better, finally lifting Aral out of the gutter to pur him back at the head of many missing Blades. But he's had to wrestle with the concept of divinely defined right and wrong and how the Blades can survive the death of their Goddess without becoming just a group of assassins for hire. All the while performing deeds that will save the young Blades who survived the fall of the temple, and unmasking traitors among thoe who survived.. I really loved this book, and the character of Aral and his shade, Triss. Worth reading and you might love it, too. Highly recommended.

Shards of Time by Lynn Flewelling- Alec and Seregil are growing bored with life in Rhiminee when Seregil starts having dreams again and they learn that the governor for the sacred isle of Kouros has been murdered- him and his countess at night in their beds behind a closed and locked door. The Queen appoints Klia, her aunt, to be temporary governor and also sends Alec and Seregil to deal with the problem- disguising their Nightrunner status by giving them properties on the island and naming them Lords there. Along with them come the Wizard Thero, now head of Oreska House and Princess Klia's lover, Micum Cavish, longtime friend of Alec and Seregil, and Thero's apprentice, Mika. Everyone on the island is convinced that Ghosts are to blame for the death of the Governor and the disappearance of people around the island. Long ago, the island was home to Oracles, and the governor was restoring the old seat of the Oracles and the cave where they used to prophesy. Could his mucking about there have somehow raised Ghosts? And while Alec and Seregil love their new estate, the Plenimarans who used to control the island kept Aurenfaie as slaves, and while the slaves there were freed when Skala took control during the last war, many of the former slaves are too ashamed by their former status to ever go home. Can Alec and Seregil's estate become a haven for them on Kouros? And when Klia is abducted to another world to become hostage because of her ancestry, can those she loves rescue her while she keeps herself safe? This book is, sadly, the final book in the series, but the threads of this one came together in a wonderful way that kept me engaged, enthralled, and reading the entire way through. This book exposes the characters to a new kind of danger and a horrific new foe that will really turn the reader's stomach even as you worry for the characters. Still, it's the relationship of Alec and Seregil that really underscores the entire book. A wonderful, fitting end to the series, and one I am both delighted and saddened about. Maybe after Ms. Flewelling finishes Grad School, she'll have more time to write and we may see some sort of continuation of the series. I live in hope, and Highly recommended.

High Seduction by Vivian Arend- Erin Tate is a chopper pilot working for Lifeline, an elite search and rescue team based in Alaska. But the last person she expected to see step through the door is her old lover Timothy Dextor, a paramedic looking for a job with Lifeline. But even though she doesn't want to face him, she knows he's a top of the line paramedic who can easily handle the job. She is uncertain about whether she can work with him since their personal life imploded. But while what they had together was so good, Erin isn't sure she can trust herself- or her heart, around the man she once loved. As they grow closer through their work, they take up the threads of their old relationship. But how can Erin and Timothy be together when Erin isn't sure she can trust him? As their sex life heats up, the conflict is coming to a head. Can their relationship survive- this time around? I didn't end up enjoying this very much. As a romance it was okay, and it had some good exciting moments, but I had a hard time connecting with Erin's sub tendencies and I jst wasn't in to Tim as a character. I mean, the sub/dom relationship is well-played in some ways, but not in others. In short, there wasn't much negotiation beforehand, and I just ended up not being into it. Just not my cup of tea. Not recommended for me.

A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries- Lady Celia Sharpe is the last of the Sharp siblings left to marry, and she has two months to marry before she and her siblings are entirely cut out of her grandmother's will. She has her sights set on three different men, and she wants the Bow Street Runner Jackson Pinter, who has been working with her family, to find out what he can about the men so she can choose she best and most suitable man. He thinks none of them are good enough for her, but then, he hasn't confessed to her that he is most hopelessly smitten with her. On her behalf, he agrees to investigate, but she has also had a memory about her parents that calls into question everything she and her siblings thought they knew about what happened to her parents. but as Jackson looks into her parents deaths, she insists on going along to help him question her old nanny. Unfortunately, they must spend the night in a small cabin when someone starts shooting at them along the way- shooting at Celia, Jackson suspects. But when he confesses his affections for her, can Celia make her grandmother see that despite his lack of a title, Jackson is the perfect man for her? Or will her Grandmother cut all her grandchildren out of the will for Celia's "mistake"? And can two such utterly different people find love with each other? Reading this book was lovely. Though both characters start out at least somewhat disdainful of each other, over the course of the story, we get to see how much they actually esteem each other- Jackson thinks that Celia is incredibly beautiful and goddesslike, where she values his intelligence and insightfulness. But by the end, both love each other enough to defy their families to be with each other, and celia's grandmother is forced to admit that the twop of them are spectacularly well-suited to each other. I loved every moment of this book. Highly recommended.

Spider by Jennifer Estep- When Gin Blanco receives a gift of Roses an and anniversary Card, it brings back memories of one of her earlier jobs as "The Spider", one of the first, actually. She was hired to take out a businessman, Cesar Vaughn, whose shoddy work practices may have caused a collapse in a new shopping mall that killed many people. That may be bad enough, but along with the job arrives some evidence that he physically abuses his young daughter, and that decides Gin on taking the job. During her spying portion, where she learns as much about her target as she can, she meets the target's son, Sebastian Vaughn, and quickly ends up falling for him. Everything seems to be wonderful- he lavishes attention and dresses on her. But when his sister's birthday party is over, Gin finds herself drugged and is only saved by the intervention of Sebastian's sister, Charlotte- and it turns out that it was Sebastian who was abusing her all that time- and now he plans to kill Finn and her mentor, Fletcher. But can she save them in time, and does she have the power, and the will, to return and take revenge on the man she though she loved, a Stone Elemental with much stronger powers than she will ever have, and put his menace to rest once and for all- and how will she ever forgive herself for killing an innocent man? This book shares many similarlities with other Jennider Estep "Spider" books. The story is about how Gin tends to go into situations half-cocked, makes a miscalculation, is helped by others and ends up surviving and triumphing in spite of the mistakes she made. I sometimes have to wonder how Spider got to be as  successful an assassin as she is if she constantly screws up in this manner. Still, the story is a fun ride and enjoyable to read, and she throws in a reference to her other series, with the superheroes, with a dress for Gin made by "Fiona Fine", who is the main character of "Hot Mama" (and totally another book you should pick up). So, even with the uneven message about Gin and her abilities, I still enjoyed this book, and would still recommend it.

People of the Morning Star by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear- Cahokia is the largest city-complex, and part of the largest grouping of peoples in America. It is mostly run by the Four Winds Clan, and one of their members, Chunkey Boy, is host to the resurrected Spirit of the Great Leader Morning Star, making him akin to a god. But not everyone is happy with the leadership of the Four Winds Clan, or Matron Blue Heron, the leader of the clan. But when an outside force arises, wanting to bring down Cahokia and the Four Winds Clan, it will be up to a motley selection of people to stop it. including Matron Blue Heron, Lady Night Shadow Star, sister of Chunkey Boy who is in mourning for her husband, slain recently in battle, a thief known as Seven Skull Shield, Fire Cat, the man who slew Night Shadow Star's Cousin, and Piasa, Jaguar Lord of the underworld, who speaks to Night Shadow Star. For if they cannot save the city, fire, darkness and chaos will sweep the land, destroying everyone and everything it touches. But who is the mysterious warrior known as "Bead", and why does he want Night Shadow Star so much? and what spirit is he seeking to conjure with his sacrifices? Can Cahokia win against a man who seems to have the spirits, and a tribe known as the Tula, on his side? I enjoy reading these novels of Ancient America and Ancient Americans, and all of them take place before Europeans set sail for America and American shores. This game takes place in approximately 1100AD, and Native Americans had built, Cahokia, a huge mound city in the Mississippi Valley. But, like any concentration of wealth and power, some are seeking to bring it down and destroy it, and Bead is one of those. Like some people, the rulers of Cahokia don't see it coming, but once they become aware of the threat, have to mobilize to respond to it. And out of this, the story grows. These novels are always interesting, and i completely enjoyed this one. I sort of had an inkling as to who Bead was, but the details of his crime and why he was banished and "killed", was pretty unexpected. There is lots of killing and gore and adult subjects (Seven Skull Shield makes his living seducing woman and stealing srtifactsthat belong to their husbands), but the story is amazing, and the intrigue and infighting made reading it and the twists and turns of the story, something I found incredibly enjoyable.. Highly recommended, bith as a book and a series, despite the fact thatr none of their characters overlap between books.

The Immortal Crown: An Age of X Novel by Richelle Mead- Justin March is a religious investigator who works for the Republic of North America, known as RUNA, which is made up of what remains of Canada and most of the North of the former US. His protector is Mae Koskinen, a super soldier who comes from one of the few remaining pureblood strains. Although RUNA has no official religion, religion is somewhat frowned on, and Justin's job is to prevent any foreign religions from getting a foothold there. Which makes it doublyironic that Justin himself is one of the elect, God-touched and possessing the powers of the God Odin. But he isn't the only one in his household. Mae, it seems, has been having dreams, and in their last adventure together was gifted with an amber blade, but she isn't sure she wants to be part of the designs of the gods. So when they are sent into Arcadia, another nation that is made up of what was formerly the southern states of the US, he doesn't want to be there. But Mae's niece has been kidnapped across the border by the Arcadians, who practice plural marriage, with one man and many women. This leaves a shortage of women for their sons, thus their need to enslave women from elsewhere and make them part of their society. But in addition to having to visibly live by Arcadian mores while they are there, Justin must ferret out a plot by the Arcadians to infiltrate and take over RUNA by taking out their communications system, while Mae must find her neice, guided by the God-sent dreams, and find a way to take her and the other enslaved girls home while evading the Arcadian forces. But will Mae welcome the Goddess who is guiding her actions, and what will be the fallout of their trip into Arcadia? Can they smuggle some of the women into RUNA, where they will have much better lives, and what can be done about Arcadia and their repressive religion? And, at home, Justin's adopted daughter wants to become a reporter, but can she stomach the tasks that her mentor, a muckraking reporter, wants her to do in rooting out the secret religionists that make their home in RUNA? This was a very interesting book. This is the second in the series and I haven't read the first, but the threads of the story were fairly easy to pick up, and I really liked the characters. I did feel that the nation of Arcadia was laying it on a bit thick, and people who feel strongly about religion are going to find Arcadia rather distasteful to them, being highly religious, filled with plural marriage (much like the Mormons), and keeping women in a slave-like state. Yet, for me, it was interesting to see the Arcadians dealing with the same problems as the offshoot of the Mormon community that have plural marroage- lack of enough young women for everyone. And the family we see seems to only have male children, so I have to wonder what happens to daughters- we generally don't see that. And, of course, the head of the Arcadian religion is a hypocrite on top of it, sleeping with women to ease his burdens while denying other priests the right to do the same. So, again, this will be very distasteful to people of religion, as it caricatures modern religion very highly, and the only "sane" religions are ones they will categorize as pagan. It will not be a happy reading atmosphere for them. I had no problem with this book and found it very enjoyable, but some people won't, and you should be aware of that before reading. Recommended, with caveats.

The Ides of April by Lindsay Davis- Flavia Alba is the adopted daughter of Marcus Didius Falco and his wife, Helena Justina. Now a widow, she has turned to her father's old profession, informing, and makes her living as a professional informer, a detective-cum-witness who works in the seedy underbelly of the Roman world. She is living in her father's old, ramshackle building, all by herself, though she does have a porter, a former gladiator, who protects the building. Hired to look for witnesses to a horrific accident that killed a child, Flavia becomes aware that someone is killing off women. When a matron she was talking to is killed shortly after Flavia speaks to her, and called Flavia's name as she was dying, she takes on the case and the company of two men, Andronicus, a slave of the plebian Aedile, Tiberius Manlius Faustus, and a fellow informer named Tiberius. But as more women die from no apparent discernable cause, she realizes that someone close to her might be trying to guide her in certain directions- and may even be interested in taking her out. But can she discover the true culprite before time runs out, and she becomes the victim? I really liked this book. My only complaint would have been that we never see Flavia consulting with her father. Oh, it's the reign of Justinian now, and things are different, but it would have been nice to see the two generations working together. I suppose that Lindsay Davis was afraid that Falco would take over the story, and I suppose that's a good reason for not doing it. But I liked Flavia's voice and the very ancient Roman sensibilities that she and the other characters in the book espouse. I even liked finding out the true identoty of the murderer, and seeing her work out who it was, as well and the appearance by Postumus, her brother, who sort of reminded me of Ramses from the Amelia Peabody Emerson series. I enjoyed this book and will almost definitely end up reading the series. Recommended.

Enemies at Home by Lindsay Davis- Flavia Alba, recovered after the events of "The Ides of April" is approached by Manlius Faustus to help him investigate the deaths of Valerius Aviola and his new wife, Mucia Lucilla, strangled to death in their bedroom during the night. The problem is that their house was full of slaves who claim they heard nothing, and now some of those slaves have run to the temple of Ceres and taken shelter there, because if they are blamed for not helping prevent the deaths or apprehend the murderers, they will all be put to death as a reminder of what happens to slaves who betray their masters. It turns out that the house was a hotbed of competing interests, with Mucia having brought some of her own slaves into the household, some of which clashed with the slaves who were already there. And then there is Myla, a slave who was Valerius' choice of a mistress and who had just given birth to one of his children. Also, silver from the house has been stolen (or gone missing) and there is a bad gang in the area which makes a career of theft. Could they have had something to do with the deaths? Or Valerius' ex-wife, who raised three of his children mostly on her own and who is angling to get the house where Valeriu and Mucia were about to move to put in her name. Can Flavia untangle the threads and find the real culprit or culprits and bring him, her or them to justice? A second very good book in the series, and one I quite thoroughly enjoyed. This was sort of a locked room mystery- only the room wasn't really locked. But the slaves claim to have seen and heard nothing- a claim that Flavia quickly shows to be false. So it's possible that the victims didn't even get the chance to cry out fot help. I found this a really enjoyable book, even the ending, which was sort of gross. I have my own suspicions as to what fouled the well, but those weren't borne out in the book.. This was an enjoyable look at roman "justice" and it's something I definitely will be reading more of. Recommended

Sapphires are an Earl's Best Friend by Shana Galen- Lily Dawson is a celebrated courtesan known as the Countess of Charm. But in reality, she is merely a fallen women who puts on a very good show, and works for England as a verydiscreet spy. Sent by her handler to find out the truth of whether the Duke of Ravenscroft is a famed spy known as Artemis, her job is to search the house while the Duke attempts to seduce her, and she puts him off by holding out for marriage. The only fly in the ointment is the Duke's son, Andrew Booth-Payne, the Earl of Darlington, who Lily was madly in love with, but he was in love with her friend, Juliette, now married. The memory of her constant rejection stiffens her spine when Andrew decides to keep Lily away from his father by making a play for her himself- only to find himself becoming steadily more enamored of the woman he has constantly overlooked.. But can he bring himself to fall in love with someone so wildly unsuitable, and will his feelings for her hold after he discovers the true reasons fot accepting his father's invitation to his house party? As for Lily, despite her disdain for the man who never even knew she was there, she cannot help but develop feelings for him, but can she tell him the truth about who she really is and why she is there without losing whatever connection there is between them? I enjoyed this book more than I though I would. Shana Galen is a new author for me, but the colors of the cover attracted my attention. I may be a ruby birthstone gal, but Sapphire blue is one of my favorite colors, and the cover is mostly that color. I found a delightful book that made me want to read more and I never lost sympathy for both hero and heroine throughout the book, and the ending twist just blew me away. Well done, and someone whose writing I want to read more of, Highly recommended.

Shaman Rises by C.E. Murphy- Joanne Murphy used to be a cop before she nearly died and gained shamnistic abilities. While she was trying to keep her job as a cop, she recently quit to begin a new life aa a dedicated Shaman. She is also having a romance with her former boss, Morrison. For the last year, she has been fighting the Master, the most evil entity in the otherworld, who is trying to destroy the world that exists. But now is the time for the final showdown, and it's not just her own ass on the line  this time. She has built a web of people who care for her, and people she has helped, and the Master doesn't scruple to keep away from them if they can be used to  get to Joanne. Not only that, but Anne, the wife of her friend, Gary, is somehow still alive and under threat from the Master, who is using her soul to feed himself the dark emotions he thrives on. Joanne will have to find a way to free her, and bring down the Master, while keeping Anne safe and alive. But will Joanne be able to do it, or will she end up failing, and bringing an end to the world as well. Because the Master is threatening the whole of Seattle with his powers, stirring up fear and anger and hatred, and if Joanne doesn't find a way to beat him this time, her entire world is at stake... This is the last book in the series, and a more fitting ending I couldn't think of. Joanne was a bit of a mess in earlier books, but she has finally discovered who she is at heart, and aside from the stuff that happens here, she's at peace with all sides of herself and who and what she is- and she'll need that knowledge to defeat the master, along with the help of her friends and teachers. Lots of stuff happens in the book, too much of it dark to really call it "enjoyable", but it does show the menace of the threat they are facing very well, and I really enjoyed the book and the story overall very well. As I said before, a very fitting end to the series, and I will be looking forward to more books and series by C.E. Murphy in the future (perhaps more of the negotiator series, HINT. HINT... ?) Highly recommended.

Trouble in Paradise by Liz Ireland- Ellie Fitzsimmons is, as they say, "a gal in trouble". Pregnant and alone, she traveled into the west to set herself up as a widow and give birth to her child where nobody knew her to escape the shame of having a baby as a unwed mother. but when she stepped off the train in Paradise, Nebrasks, a place where she'd been corresponding with a landowner on various subjects, she didn't expect to meet a man who would appeal to her in every sort of way... Roy McMillan was the brother of the man she'd been correspondibng with, and he wasn't interested in either marriage or romance. But he found Ellie hard to ignore, and he couldn't help of thinking about her in a romantic way. But can she bear to tell him her true circumstances and will he reject her when she does, and make it impossible for her to live in Paradise? This was a cute book, and even though the main characters go through lots of ups and downs, I liked how they came togerher and how Ellie managed to change Roy's outlook on so many things. He's not the only one whose outlook changed, though, and this was a fairly feel good book. Recommended.

Midnight's Master by Donna Grant- Gwynne Austin is a woman on a mission. Her father, a noted academic, has disappeared in Scotland, and since he is her only parent left, she leaves her life behind to go looking for him. But when she gets to Scotland, she runs into Logan Hamilton, almost literally. Logan is a man from the 1600's,. propelled through time by the Druids in search of another Druid, Deirdre, a drough, or evil Druid, who has been opposed by Warriors, like Logan himself. Long ago, the greatest warriors of each family were brought together by the druids and unimaginably powerful Gods conjured into their bodies in order to defeat the Romans. Logan felt that he could be a warrior, and the spirit of the God inside him was wakened by Deirdre, who then imprisoned him, and when Logan and several others managed to leave, he returned to his village to find it gone, along with his family. He dedicated himself to fighting Deirdre, but when she escaped into the future, the mie, or good druids, sent him as well to follow her. Logan and Gwynne are drawn to each other, and Gwynne herself is of the Druid line. and she may be the guardian of a special book of Druid lore, known as the Tablet. But the tablet can only be touched, and the tome that leads to it, can only be deciphered, by its guardian. Could Gwynne be that Guardian? And will she choose to stay with Logan when he never speaks to her or love, or will she break through his emotions and spend an eternity with him in the Highlands? This was an interesting book, and I actually enjoyed the story behind the main book, although it seems that there can be an interesting parallel to stories set in the past, as several of the characters are already paired in the books, but I haven't seen those characters in other books. I wonder if their stories will be told as well, such as the character who is the only female warrior- now there is something I'd like to read! I'm not sure if the twist with Gwynne's father made sense, but there was plenty of story, and plenty of romance, and a satisfying lack of "Predestined love", which almost always seems to be a crutch to short-circuit the relationship. Recommended.

Broken Homes by Ben AAronovitch- Peter Grant is a police constable with a difference. He is also learning to be a mage from his mentor on the force, Nightingale, who is inexplicably unaging, along with being a master of Magic. But Peter still has work to do, along with Lesley, his co-worker, who must wear a mask to hide what remains of her lower face after a disastrous case. But investigating the death of a town planner and a missing grimoire ties into a strange building around which things are going even stranger. Rooms are locked out by the local Guard, a police and fire hazard and therefore illegal. But the builder may have been a little crazy himself- or perhaps he was also a mage. And why would someone want to build a magical building like this, anyhow? This book promised a combination of Harry Potter and CSI (in a quote on the cover), but to me it read far more like "British Police Procedural with a tiny bit of magic mixed in. I can't say I really enjoyed it. Yes, it was British, but there was no sense of Harry Potter-like magic or the kind of stuff that CSI does so well- showng the science of how crimes were/are investigated. So it kind of failed on both fronts for me, and for both of the reasons I picked it up. Not recommended.

Monday, July 14, 2014

2014, Part 6

When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries- Isabelle Cale is a jeweler that excels at making paste versions of jewels, but when her sister and brother-in-law try to get her to switch the paste version of the Dutch Crown Jewels she made switched with the real ones, she tries to refuse, and they tell her that they will involve her husband, Victor Cale, a steadfast soldier who works at the same shop where the jewels are being cleaned. Isa agrees, but then delays and on the last day, pretends to be sick. When she awakens, her sister tells her that her husband helped them, then took the earrings and was going to pawn them himself, and that they will meet in Paris. Isabelle goes to Paris, discovers she is pregnant, and when Victor doesn't show, joins a Edinbugh jeweler who is leaving Paris, thinking that Victor abandoned her for the money. But Victor has been looking for his wife, who he believes left him because he didn't make enough money. But he's discovered that he is related to a Lord, Maximillian Cale, who has begun Manton's, a detective agency in London. Victor comes to work for his cousin, and goes north to investigate a woman, Sophia Franke, who a certain nobleman has taken an unhealthy interest in. But Sophia Franke is really Isabella, and both she and Victor have been lied to by Isa's family. Can they unravel the lies and work together when the rest of her family endanger her new life in Edinburgh? And will Victor be able to forgive her for not telling him about their daughter? This was a really interesting book. Both Isabella and her mentor are based on real people, and superior paste gems, known as Strass, after their inventor, really existed. I loved the details of the story and I really learned something about paste gems, on top of this being a top-notch romance on top of it. Highly recommended.

River of Dreams by Lynn Kurland- Aisling of Bruadair is frantic to find a mercenary to free her country, the quest she was given, before the curse laid with the quest can kill her. But even though she thinks she has no magical ability, she has shown the power to spin not only thread, but the elements of earth, air, fire and water, and even the ability to spin dreams. But as she and her companion, Runach of Ceangail, travel about, he discovers where she really comes from, and also who she is... and perhaps what as well. But can he be the hero she and her county need, and can she give him back the magic he lost long ago when it was stolen by his father? And why does Aisling have these strange powers that may or may not be magic? And just who was it that sent her on this quest, anyhow? I loved this book, which unleashed the story of Aisling and Bruadair itself in a slow, subtle way that I am growing to love. There's almost too much talking in this book over doing, but I really enjoyed the way Lynn Kurland spins the tales of both Aisling and Runach, letting it unfold a bit at a time. This was a really effective way to open up the story, and I loved it. Highly recommended.

The Hour of Dust and Ashes by Kelly Gay- Detective Charlie Madigan used to be fully human, but is no longer, crossed with two races from other dimensions, she still struggles to raise her daughter eight, while having the spirit of a jinn hanging out in her husband's body, raising an actual hellhound, and trying not to deal with the feelings she may be developing for her partner, Hank, which go far beyond his powers as as siren, and trying to heal her sister, addicted to the drug Ash. Charlie finds out early on that she can appeal to the sylphs for help- elemental fae who can inject her with some of each element, which will allow her to "see" what can be done to heal her sister- especially now that those addicted to Ash have been committing suicide- possibly from the addiction or by being taken over by the otherworldly entities that made Ash in the first place. Not only is it completely addictive, but it makes it easier for them to be controlled. If you try to quit cold turkey, it kills you dead. But as Charlie discovers that something is going down in the supernatural underworld, she'll learn far more about Hank than she ever wanted to know, and have to embark on a trip to Charybdon, a literal hell, to look for answers. But the outcome of her risking her own life may mean literal death for her four times over, and can she hang on to the power of seeing long enough to truly help her sister? And can she keep Hank's people from snatching him back for crimes he supposedly committed against them? Well, this wasn't the first book in the series, and this was the first my library had for it. I enjoyed the story very much, but I was sort of clueless as to what was going on and who the players were. But the story explained most of that, and I really enjoyed reading it. Despite not much experience with the characters, I really connected with them and felt for them, which is great for not coming in at the beginning. This was a really good book, and I want to read the other books in the series. Highly recommended.


Archangel of Mercy By Christians Ashcroft- Aurora Robinson may look like a normal woman, but she is actually the daughter of a woman from another dimension who crossed over to our reality to meet the man who she'd been in mental contact with from the time she had been very young. But once she crossed over, she couldn't cross back, and her mind has slowly crumbled, until it seems  that she can only remember her life on Earth. Aurora is determined to help her mother, and has researched psychic phenomena until she is certain she can use her power of Astral Projection to cross the barriers and end up in her mother's dimension and prove to her that her childhood was real. But when she tries, at the exact point where her mother crossed over to meet her father many years ago, she ends up going nowhere, and waking up with a man sprawled on top of her. This man is actually an angel, the Archangel Gabriel. But he's far from the Christian icon she thinks he is. Handsome, golden and exuding a powerful sexuality, Aurora wants him, sexually, and Gabe wants her as well. But her talking to him, and questioning him make him very angry, and he's even more angered that she seems to be immune to his angelic powers to compel her to do his bidding. But when the Guardians, the beings who control the boundaries between the dimensions, show up to abduct Aurora for transgressing their rules, Gabe spirits her off to his refuge- where he has never taken anyone before. He's not sure why he has done it, and he seems to regret it almost immediately. But the longer she spends with him, the more he wants to touch her- and the more she finds herself falling for the prickly immortal. But will he tire of her after one night with her, or can they have a relationship that will last far longer- and will Gabe's fellow angels allow them to be together, after what happened the last time that a woman that Gabe loved died? I had a hard time liking Gabe in this story. He starts off as a complete tool, and ends upgetting better, but he just acts like an asshole throughout a lot of the story to Aurora (and just about everyone else he meets as well. And yes, he does lighten up and mellow out, but let's just say that I was unsure as to why he mellowed out- even at the end of the story. In short, I was *not rooting for the hero and heroine to end up together, and that makes me not recommend this particular book. Not recommended.

Black and Blue by Gena Showalter- Corbin Blue is an alien with silver hair and violet eyes. He lives the life of a sports star, lionized by many, and has a constant stream of lovers even though he is engaged. But that's just Blue's cover. In reality, he's an agent working for Michael Black, and his constant stream of lovers are the women he has sex with to get information from them through "pillow talk". He's never had a problem with his life, as he views Michael as almost a father to him. But when he meets Michael's actual daughter, Evangeline Black, he can't help but be attracted to her on a deep, visceral level. Evie is a surgeon who also wants to be an agent, and when she concludes the case they are there for all on her own, it dents Blue's pride. Four years later, Blue has driven Evie out of the Agency with his constant criticism of her methods, and she has become a celebrated Doctor. But when her father's home and office is burned down, she will do anything to track down those responsible- even work with Blue again, who had been caught in the explosion that preceded the fire and then burned alive by those responsible. But this time, the attraction between them on both sides is undeniable, and they are having a hard time keeping their hands off each other, no matter how much they seem to despise each other. But Blue is coming to realize that Evie is someone he could love- and he feels greater distaste for his job seducing information out of women the more he comes to feel for Evie. Can they find out who is behind the fire-bombing and find her father as they grow more and more attracted to each other. Or will Evie's father put the kibosh on their relationship? I was attracted to this book by the cover, and I ended up loving the story. Gena Showalter is a really excellent writer, and both hero and heroine were attractive in their own ways while still having issues they had to work on. This story sucked me in totally, and I would definitely give it two thumbs up. Recommended.

An Undeniable Rogue by Annette Blair- Sabrina Whitcomb's fiance dies  in the army, and his best friend, Gideon St. Goddard, now Duke of Stanhope is asked by his friend to take her in and marry her to keep Sabrina safe. Gideon finds she has taken his home and turned it into a shelter for the less fortunate- and she believes that the Duke of Stanhope is a wealthy older gentleman who she will marry for his money and protection, which she sorely needs. Gideon is brought up short by her attitude, but finds her delectable enough to marry her- even if she is nine months pregnant. But Sabrina has her share of secrets she is keeping, and isn't ready to trust Gideon with either her body or heart. She hasn't told him about her two sons, nor the reason as to why she is so gun-shy towards affection and men. And he has his work cut out for him if he is to assuage her fears and make her his true bride in reality. Can he do so? This was a Zebra book, which I used to love back in the day. But while the story was cute, it didn't really grab me. It seemed s much more "paint-by-numbers" effort and there was no sizzle between the leads. Affection and longing, perhaps, but the book never quite ignited for me. So this rated only a "meh". Nothing objectionable, but nothing really great, either.

Skin Game by Jim Butcher- Harry Dresden is now the Knight of Winter, but his head is also host to an entity that will likely kill him if and when it emerges. Harry has been hiding out on Demonreach, this isle in the Lake which he is master of, to try and deal with what is inside him, but he has made no headway. Then, he gets a visit from Mab who tells him that he is running out of time. Unless he does something, he will die from the entity in three days. But Mab has also prevenred Harry from contacting his friends and allies and getting help because she has a job she wants him to do. But that job, working with Micodemus Archeleone, may be more than Harry can stomach. Nicodemus is a Denarian- a member of the order of the Blackened Denarius, who are possessed by demons inhabiting the silver coins paid to Judas to betray Jesus. It seems that Nicodemus is planning a heist, and he's called in Mab for help in repayment of a debt that she incurred with him. Now Harry must help Nicodemus break into not only the vault owned by John Marcone, Baron of Chicago named in the Otherworld Accords, but help him to get into the Otherworld and burgle an even more well-protected vault to find something Nicodemus wants very much. Harry calls his friend Karrin Murphy as backup, but Mab isn't letting Harry in on all her secrets- and she hasn't been exactly telling him the whole truth, either. But can Harry carry out what Mab wants him to do while dealing with the supernatural forces that Nicodemus has gathered for this job, and can he survive the process of weeding out when Nicodemus decides that he doesn't need Harry any more? And can Harry survive the thing in his head which is slowly killing him? Wow, this was a great book- once I picked it up, I didn't want to put it down for anything. Harry finds out that he may be Winter's Knight, but Mab isn't telling him everything, and what is really in his head was a little funny and a little frightening at the same time. At the same time, we got to see lots of Harry's allies, and old friends like his cat, Mister, and his dog, Mouse, now protecting Harry and Susan's daughter. I loved the story of this book, and the tone, and we get to see many of the allies that Harry has made through the years, and how they change and grow. This is really a book you shouldn't miss reading. Highly recommended and equally satisfying.

Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn- Rafe Adova is a gambler in the country of Welce. When a scared young woman comes into the bar where he works, he protects her from the low-lifes who try to harm her and helps her send a message to her sister. Corene, the girl, turns out to be one of the Princesses of Welce, thought to be daughters of the late King, but actually sired by noblemen who wanted to help the near-barren King assure the succession. After he died, it was discovered that only the youngest Princess was actually the daughter of the King. While the Princesses are no longer officially in the succession, they are still useful diplomatically. But Corene's sister, Josetta, who comes to rescue her, has almost completely given up on royal life, instead working in the slums to give the poor people there a better life. Rafe is interested in Josetta, and she, too, is attracted to him, but at first she helps him invest the money he receives from the Regent for rescuing Corene with the Elay Prime, who is making Elaymotives, a car-like device run on an internal combustion engine. But when Rafe discovers that the Prime is also making heavier than air flyers, his attention is caught, and he ends up giving up his life as a gambler to become a test pilot. But things are not all right, because someone wants Rafe dead, and has attacked him at least twice. He doesn't seem to be native to Welce, and unlike others, every time he tries pulling up Elemental blessings for him, they come up as "Ghost coins", too worn to be read. And when Josetta tries, she gets the three extraordinary blessings, synthesis, triumph and time, none of them linked to any of the five elements. And then there are the markings cut into his ear when he was just a small child. What is Rafe's background, and what could this mean for his slowly-growing feelings for Josetta? Do an ex-Royal and a man with a mysterious background have any chance to find love, or even live unmolested? This book is the second in a series, but the first I've read. Welce is a land where everyone is born with various blessings from the five elements, which are based on the oriental system: Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Wood. Rafe doesn't let his lack of blessings bother him, until his lack of such and the way the various Primes react to him and his presence make it clear that he is something and someone special. The resolution of just exactly who and what Rafe is takes up the later part of his novel, but through it all, he remains the same sort of person he always was: wanting a more or less normal life and not wanting to be anything other than what he is and does. I really enjoyed the book. I found both the mystery of who Rafe is/was interesting and the love story between Rafe and Josetta is very nicely done- gentle and restrained. Even though this book was the second in a series, enough background on Welce and the Royal Family and the blessings is given that I never felt I couldn't follow the story. This book was very reminiscent of all the other books by Sharon Shinn, and I mean that in a good way. Highly recommended.

Kissing with Fangs by Ashlyn Chase- Anthony is a vampire who used to own a bar where supernatural creatures could meet, but it burned down. Claudia was the manager who used to run the bar for him. Since the bar burnt down, he hasn't seen her- even though he has always been interested in her. He soon discovers that Claudia was hiding a horrible secret from him- she was an alcoholic, and with the bar gone, she's gone on a pretty significant bender. Anthony shows up at her place and helps her, but he has to be careful around her since his fledgling and ex, Ruxandra, is wildly jealous when he even so much as glances at another woman. But Anthony can no longer bring himself to care. He has deep feelings for Claudia, and while she starts going through the twelve steps to free herself of her addiction, he sets about keeping her safe from Ruxandra. But the information that a group of researchers is going around kidnapping and imprisoning supernaturals is forcing Anthony and his friends to work together to find them and shut them down. And Gaia, Mother Nature herself, is angry about Anthony's plans to reinvent the bar as a tea shop and continue the policy of making it neutral ground. But with all this going on, can Anthony and Claudia find the time to somehow be together- and can he keep them safe from Ruxandra? I liked this book, because it was about a heroine who was trying to overcome an addiction, and a hero who is trying to convince a woman not to be addicted to him. As they face off against adversity and those who want to keep them apart, they must also deal with the issues that afflict them. But in a way, it rings a little hollow. We never see Claudia really craving the liquor and the forgetfulness it brings once she realizes that she still has a job with Anthony, and it's more that Ruxandra changes a bit to let herslef be sttracted to someone knew. In the end, the book was very enjoyable, but at the same time, Claudia'scomeback from alcoholism seemed a bit too easy- she gets more grief from her sponsor about staying with Anthony (because you aren't supposed to get into a serious relationship for a yeat once you start AA) than she does from her supposed drinking problem. In short, it was ice that something as real and serious as an alchol problem was used to jumpstart the story, but it just didn't feel like a realistic portrayal of such a problem. Recommended, but not highly.

Simply Love by Mary Balogh- Anne Jewell is a teacher at Miss Martin's school for girls, where she works with her young son. It is because of her son that she must work in teaching, as once, she was a companion to a young woman whose wits were not all there who was being "bothered" by the attentions of her brother. When Anne attempted to put herself in the way of his lecherousness, it succeeded, at a very high cost to her. She lost her position and wound up pregnant. But her son's father is related to the Bedwyn family, and this summer, they have invited Anne and her son to their home in Wales to join them. Sydnam Butler is the Steward of the Bedwyn home, and is badly scarred and missing an arm after being tortured during the War. A former artist who is troubled by the loss of his painting hand, he has thrown himself into his new role to try and forget. But when he encounters Anne, it starts badly- she sees the horribly scarred side of his face and runs off, only to return a few minutes later, ashamed of herself. But by then, he is gone. When they finally meet again at dinner the next night, they begin to talk, she to apologizr. And in each other, they find a kindred spirit, bloody but unbowed. And as their growing relationship comes up against the end of the summer, they share a physical encounter... but can true love grow between them? And will they ever see each other again if their encounter doesn't result in pregnancy for Anne? I liked this story. Love doesn't come into it until later, and at the beginning, there is merely friendship on both sides. The story has a slow start, but the ending made me wish the best for both of them and their new family Definitely one I'd recommend for someone wanting a book about friends becoming lovers. Recommended.

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn- Zoe Ardelay is left at a loss after the death of her father. She and the other villagers in the small village bury his body and get the house cleaned, but before Zoe can recover from her deep grief or even make plans to move on, a vehicle of a kind that nobody has seen before enters the village, and the man in command of it tells everybody that he has come for her, to take her to be a new bride for the King. But the King already has four wives, and the man, Darien Serlast, says that she is needed to bring balance. As they travel from Zoe's small village to the capital, Zoe finds herself despising the man, and when the chance comes, she runs away into the city and ends up taking refuge on the river flats, sleeping with others who have nowhere else to go or simply prefer a free and unfettered life. As she slowly recovers from her deep grief, she discovers who she is and what she wants to be, and also discovers a new power within herself- she is the Coru Prime, with immense powers over Water and Blood. She returns to the home of her grandmother in the mountains, and once again, Darien Serlast comes in search of her, to take her back to the Capital and advise, not marry, the King. But it is obvious that someone is not happy with her being found at last, and there are attacks againstZoe and her servants, and also against some of the Princesses of the land. And when Zoe finds out a secret those close to the King are keeping, she has to decide how she will use the information, and what her true feelings towards Darien Serlast truly are. Remember how I said that "Simply Love" started slow? Well, so does this book, which isn't even really a romance, but more about how Zoe finds out about herself and what she wants. It's not until the end when she realizes that she feels something for Darien, and is willing to entertain living with him. So much goes on during the story, and it's strictly a fantasy, more than a romance, as romance barely comes into it, until almost the end. But as a fantasy, it involves elementa of mystery and intrigue- and we get to see some more of Welce's neighbors, and why Josetta wasn't interested in marrying anyone from Soeche-Tass. This was an excellent book, but it can't really be called a romance, though there was some romance at the end. Still, highly recommended.

Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey- When Rosamund Ackermann is saved from the attack of a werewolf in the home of her Earth Master teacher, she leaves her family behind to be raised by the Hunt Master of Schwarzwald. Now an Earth Master herself, she lacks the healing aspect of Earth and is instead a paramount hunter of Werewolves and other evil creatures. So much so that she has been asked to hunt a creature who is attacking the people in the forests of Transylvania. She and her companion, Hans, travel there and discover that there is not one, but two creatures: a werwolf, and a strigoi vampire and his harem of women, who are preying on the local villagers. Rosa calls on the Elemental creatures of the forest to help her, and brings down the Werewolf, only to find it wearing a strange cooper amulet of St. Helmut, which many of the villagers pray to- but they wear ones of silver or gold, as copper is an insult to the saint. Hans, seeing the state of the local Bruderschaft, the hunt society that he and Rosa belong to and who keep humans safe from the monsters who might prey on them, decides to stay in Transylvania and take over as Hunt Master. Rosa agrees with his choice, and returns homeward on the train, stopping to help a Water Mage who is being hunted by an Air Master gone to evil on the way. But when she reaches Munich, she is hailed by a man who serves the local Hunt Master, who happens to be a Fire Master, and he asks her if she would let him teach her to be an even more effective hunter and Agent. She is happy with this, especially after she talks with her own Foster-Father, the Hunt Master of Schwarzwald, and he proceeds to teach her not only other hunting techniques, but how to better hide herself as a high-class lady. He also throws a party to which he invites the other Hunt Masters all around so that they can meet Rosa, and here she must deal with the aftermath of killing the Air Master, being attacked once again, which she handles admirably. But during the party, the Hunt Master is approached by two cousins, one of which is a rare kind of Werewolf, the kind that runs in families and is just as devoted to killing the inimical ones as Rosamund and the Bruderschaft ate, to tell of a local mystery in the mountains of Romania. And when Rosa, Markos, the good were and his cousin Dominic travel to the country to deal with the disappearances, can the three of them take on the threat without help? Or will this particular case be too much for them? This book is based on the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood', but the first part of the story is over quickly- it's after this that we see Rosa as a Hunter, and a very successful one, at that, severely underestimated because she is also a girl, but having the chops to be a very effective hunter indeed. I loved this book, as we see Rosa as someone to be both respected and feared. The adventure was wonderful, and I loved the fact that this one was *not* a romance, but a simple straightforward adventure story. Highly recommended.

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, M.D.- Oscar was just an ordinary cat, taken in by Steere House, a facility serving Alzheimers and dementia patients. But soon, those who worked there began to notice that when a patient was about to die, Oscar would go and spend time with them, parking himself on their bed and not leaving until they were at peace and the funeral director came to retrieve the body. David Dosa, a doctor who worked at Steere House, was skeptical of Oscar's supposed "ability", and investigated Oscar with the families of the patients whose last hours Oscar held watch over, and he slowly came to believe in Oscar himself, and, strangely, he found himself awed and humbled by Oscar's Gift to be there and give comfort. I loved this book. We see Oscar on the cover, and he's pretty damn adorable. But the story is a heartwarming and uplifting on. Even if you don't believe in an afterlife or souls or even a God/Gods, this book is sure to fascinate. The story of Oscar is wonderful and engaging. Recommended.

Sumptuous Dining in Gaslight San Francisco: Lost Recipes, Culinary Secrets, Flamboyant People, and Fabled Saloons and Restaurants from a Golden Era by Frances de Talavera Berger and John Parke Custis- The Great San Francisco Earthquake did more than destroy most of Old San Francisco, it also wiped out much of its history, from hotels and houses to fabled eateries, restaurants and bars. This book attempts to show the nature of those places and the people and chefs (not to mention the recipes) that made them famous. This book collects reminisces of the places, and people who made dining in San Francisco what it was, and passes along surviving recipes from not only restaurants and eating houses large and small, but also recipes from various famous hostesses and the Spanish community that made the area their home. While modern readers may not find some of the recipes too appealing (too many spices in abundance), or slightly more complicated than needed for home use, some of the recipes sound downright delicious and can still be easily made todayA fascinating look at a bygone era. Recommended, if you are interested in food, history, or the histoey of food in a specific time and place..

Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavam- Tyen is a student at a magical college , when, on expedition in Mailand, he uncovers a magical book named Vella. Vella used to be a woman over 2000 years ago, but a Sorceror named Roporion turned her into a magical book using the same techniques Vella used to make magical books of her own. Tyen is torn between wanting to free Vella and wanting to learn from her, and so he doesn't give her up to his professor or the college. Instead, he continues to read and discuss things with her while learning about making books. But when he is betrayed by a fellow student, he learns that the college wants to put Vella away into its vaults, never to be used or touched again- essentially a living death for her. But when Tyen's professorsteals Vella from the college's vault, Tyen realizes that he will do anything to rescue this woman/book, including attack his professor, steal Vella back from the professor and go on the run to faraway places. But how far will he go to keep Vella safe and in his possession? In another world, Rielle lives in a world with magic, but actually using it is considered stealing from the Angels whose =province magic is. Those who use this stolen "magic" are known as the tainted, and those who teach others to use magic are called "Corrupters". When Rielle is kidnapped by a tainted one day, she tricks him into exposing himself to the priests, and they allow an artist, Izare, to escort her home. From this meeting, she becomes Izare's student, and then his lover, which her family does *not* agree with. But when she finds that she might be able to find the corrupter and reveal her for all to see, she tries to do so, along with deal with a Priest who has a lecherous interest in her. But along with being able to see shade, she might also be able to use magic as well, and finding the corrupter may lead to her being tainted and thus anathema in the eyes of the priests and society. But even if her life is completely destroyed, will she be able to rebuild herself and continue to live? I really enjoyed this book. The stories aren't really connected, though both are about magic, and stolen magic. The title could refer to so many things- Vella herself, powered by life stolen from a magic craftsman by a long ago mage, Tyen himself, who steals Vella to try and aid her and keep her out of the hands of his professor and the college, the second of which would condemn her to a kind of death, and Rielle, who uses magic which her culture feels is stolen from the angels. But while each thread is interesting in and of itself, the two stories don't really have anything to do with each other, even at the end, unless you are saying that the two characters are alike in that the lives they know crumble away at having to deal with magic, or at least, stolen magic. I was thinking that at some point, Rielle and Tyen would meet, but that doesn't happen in this volume, and that left me a bit disappointed at the end. On the other hand, each story is engaging and would have made a wonderful stand-alone book. I do want to read more, and I am looking forward to doing just that. Recommended.

A Shiver of Light by Laurell K. Hamilton- Meredith Gentry, or to give her real name among the fae, Meredith NicEssus, is heavily pregnant by her many lovers, and her aunt, Andais, is putting pressure on the Fae who have left the Unseelie court to return to her by decreeing that only the Fathers of Meredith's babies can stay with her after the children are born. But Meredith must deal with the fact that there are three babies, not two, and also with how her aunt will deal with the children after they are born. Remembering her own childhood, Meredith isn't quite sure she wants the children to know their "Aunt Andais". Plus, her uncle, Taranis, King of the Seelie court, raped her and is convinced that he is the father of her children, despite the fact that she was already pregant when he assaulted her. With the birth of her children, she knows that one is the child of both Frost and Doyle, while another is either sired by Royal, the Demi-Fae, or Sholto, King of the Sluagh. A third has Mistral's blood in her, and can enthrall even as a mere babe in arms. But when Taranis starts invading her dreams, as it is in his power to do, she must decide what to do about him- hold him off with lawyers and courts, or do as her own bodyguards want her to do and have him killed. She also must wait for her body to heal from the birth to sleep with the fathers of her children, along with dealing with the fact that Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, wants to spend time with the children, the few to be born since the Goddess afflicted the Fae. The fact that both sides of the Sidhe have problems swearing themselves by blood to Merry, because she is mortal and her blood turns Fae mortal as well is another concern. But can Merry bring herself to kill her Uncle Taranis, especially when he keeps invading her dreams and trying to mentally rape her to accept his version of the events when he raped her, or will she end up a mind-blasted puppet, eager to rule at his side, and when one of her lovers is killed by those who have sought her protection, can Merry hold back his followers to ensure that true justice is done? I liked this book a lot. I loved the interactions between Merry's lovers/the fathers of her children, and the babies themselves. It was nice to see it not all thrown on Merry herself, and I loved how much the fathers loved their babies. I also liked how Merry dealt with Taranis, the horrible attack on one of her lovers, and how she dealt with the person who was behind the attack. This was a very full book, and made me remember how much I love Merry and her men and why. Seeing Andais finally coming down off her "Batshit Crazy" horse was also good. She's still threatening, but not an unreasoning force of nature.. In short, this book was full of win for me, and I really loved every minute of reading it. I only wish it could have taken a little longer, so I could have savored it more. Highly recommended.

Spirit Animals: Book 1- Wild Born by Brandon Mull-In the world of Erdas, some people share a bond with animals- not everyone, but some people do. And since the bond between a human and a animal can be sanity-breaking and deadly without the right decoction to ease the way, the trials of bonding are overseen by the Greencloaks- an organizaton composed ot humans and their bonded animals. Normally, the ceremony is more or less the same- candidates drink the potion, and their bonded animal will show up. but in the case of Conor, a young shepherd, Meilin, the war-trained daughter of a famous general, Abeke, a hunter from the far south, and Rollan, an orphan and sneak-thief who lives on his own without a family, something special happens- not only do they bond with animals, but they bond with very special animals. Their animals are special, the four, each progenitor of a great nation, and in the past, they stood up to two of their own out of the twelve great animals that exist. Briggan the wolf bonds with Conor, Uraza the Leopard with Abeke, Jhi the Panda with Meilin, and Essix the Falcon bonds with Rollan. This marks them out as special, and it turns out that separatists from the Greencloaks are experimenting on animals bound to humans. But for what end? And someone is trying to bring the two great animals who betrayed the others back into the world from where they are imprisoned. But why? And does it have anything to do with Zerif, the same man who leads the separatists? This book reminded me of some of the other children's books I've read, or at least ones that were sold as being Kid's Books like Phillip Pullman's "The Golden Compass" was. They even have a website where kids can pick their own "Spirit Animals". But while it's geared to kids, it also has a respectable storyline. Zerif, the antagonist, tries to recruit two of the partners of the Spirit animals to his side. He succeeds with one, only because the Greencloak who administers her drink is a compatriot of his, while the second person doesn't trust anyone. This was a solid book that gave me quite a bit of enjoyment. It's a fast read, but lays down a good foundation for further books. Recommended.

Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold- Artemis was a fabled pleasure planet stocked with friendly natives, animals for hunting and fishing, and plenty of things for bored, jaded alien overlords to do and enjoy. But when the Galactic Empire fell, Artemis was abandoned and forgotten, but not destroyed. Now, centuries later, archaeologist Griffin Dane comes to Artemis, trying to find the lost pleasure planet. But when his ship is disabled by a long-ago nanoweapon, he finds himself rescued by the Huntress, Adar, and her companion, a puma named Sand Shaow with whom she shares a mental link. Alara knows of the people who once came to Artemis, the seegnurs, and thinks Griffin is one of them, a fact which Grifin disputes. After getting down off the mountain that Griffin landed on, she brings him to her own teacher, Bruin, who is companions with a bear, but Bruin decides that Griffin needs help and information possessed only by his own teacher, "The Old One who is Young", a man who is functionally immortal. But as both Bruin and Alara and Terrel, a factotum who is romantically interested in Alara, travel in search of Bruin's new student, they discover that "The Old One Who is Young" has been doing some very shifty things, trying to breed children who have much more powers than just linking with animals. He's also fascinated with the seegnurs, which gives them an "in" for discovering what he is doing, and the base where he is doing his secret breeding experiements. But will Griffin allow himself to be used this way, and if The Old One discovers his role as a stalking horse, what will he do to Griffin? I have always liked reading Jane Lindskold's books, and this one is the first in a new series. Here, it's the more technologically advanced character who is the outsider, and the society of Artemis isn't as bucolic and serene as it appears. I also liked the villain in this book, as he appears to be nothing more than an affable man, but scrape off that surface, and he's utterly vile. He views humans as mere animals to be bred as he wills, the way a husbandman breeds his cattle, pigs and a breeder breeds their dogs. And part of that might be due to the "Functionally immortal" part, This book sets up a lot of world-building, and also something of a love triangle between Alara, Griffin and Terrell, and I honestly can't wait to read more of this series and about Artemis itself. Also, will Griffin ever be rescued from Artemis and returned to his family in the stars far away? This questions stay with me and keep me wanting to read more. Highly recommended.

The Sea Without a Shore by David Drake- David Leary is in his home estate at Bantry, enjoying his time with his fiancée and among the relatively uncomplicated people of his estate, when he is approached by Master Sand, the husband of Cinnabar's Spymistress, with help about Mistress Sand's son, who has recently returned to Cinnabar and needs help recovering a treasure that is supposed to be on the planet Corcyra. He wants the treasure for a religious sect he has joined on Corcyra, which needs to buy weapons so that they can fight for their freedom. Mister Sand wants to keep Cleveland safe and thereby ease the mind of his wife. So he asks if Daniel would be willing to provide transport to Corcyra for his stepson. Daniel is willing, and as the same time, Adele Mundy has alo heard of the situation and is willing to go with Daniel on Cleveland's behalf. But first, Daniel must rescue Cleveland from a shifty spacer who has already agreed to transport Cleveland for a share of the treasure. But after the refit of a merchant ship, all of Daniel and Adele's shipmates are coming out of the woodwork, looking to ship with Captain Leary, even if isn't as part of the Navy, but as a merchant job. Once actually on Corcyra, it turns out that there is a lot of factional fighting among those trying to throw the remains of the Pantellaran military off their planet. But since the leaders of most of the factions have been taken prisoner by pirates, Daniel must ransom them back, and then he must end the civil war. But if he does so, will Cleveland still need to go in search of the treasure, and will the shifty spacer captain who Daniel took out back on Cinnabar leave the treasure alone, and just what is this mysterious "treasure" anyway? This was another great book from David Drake. I love the two main characters, and many of the back-up characters as well, like Tovera, Adele Mundy's "Secretary"/Bodyguard, Woetjans and many others who make or made up the crew of the Princess Cecile, Daniel Leary's ship. This book was relatively slender in size, but managed to pack a highly entertaining story within. And even though Adele Mundy is something of a cold fish (almost frozen, one might say), but even she finds family through Daniel and their fellow spacers. I liked all the characters, and the story was wonderful, and I recommend this book highly.

The Emissary by Ed Greenwood- It has been almost one hundred years since Cyric assassinated Mystra and caused the event called the Spellplague. The land is still wracked by problems, and magic no longer works the same. Shar, and the returned floating city of Netheril mages who had withdrawn to the plane of Shadow have dominated much of the land, drawing on Shar, not Mystra, for their magic. Chosen of many different gods have proliferated, but now all are being killed by agents of Shar herself, looking totake over the Weave of Magic and turning Faerun into an endless life of suffering and pain, which will feed her power. One of Mystra's chosen still left alive is Elminster, and he and his companions, his daughter Amaerune and foster daughter Storm Silverhand, have been roaming Faerun, shoring up weak points in the Weave, looking to keep it existent and out of the hands of Shar and her worshippers. But Shar, emboldened by her wanton slaughter of Chosen, and with her worshippers and followers swollen with the magic they have stolen, strike out at the largest source of magic left on Faerun- Myth Drannor. And while Elminster goes to Candlekeep to see whatever secrets of dealing with the Weave Khelben might have left behind, hidden among the books and libraries of Candlekeep, agents of Shar and other interested parties have already infiltrated the fortress-library and are both planning its destruction and trying to keep it alive. Meanwhile, the first Chosen of Mystra, the Lich Larloch, is poking his own bony fingers to into the mess- but is it to help the servants of Mystra, or to destroy him? And another old foe of Elminster, the mage turned Vampire, Manshoon, is out to do his own meddling- but Mirt the Moneylender, one of the Lords of Waterdeep, must help root our corruption in Cormyr without making the situation worse, and help capture Manshoon. But when the dust finally settles, who will prevail, Shar and her followers, or Elminster and the Chosen of Mystra. And can they actually save the Weave without bringing back the Goddess of Magic, Mystra, who *is* the weave? Wow. This was the final book in the "Sundering" series, which detail the remaking of Faerun before all the Meddling that Wizards of the Coast did with the world. This is in preparation for D&D Next (aka 5th edition), which is supposed to bring back many of the things that fans and players loved about the Realms while jettisoning the stuff they didn't. So Abeir and Toril are completely separated, Magic will work like it hs before, and all the characters who everyone loved is back.While I'm happy for that, I am not sure I am really looking forward to D&D Next. But the book is good, with lots of stuff happening all over Faerun, and it's great to read: funny in places, with lots of action, battles, and the decisive end of the city of Shade and the leader of Shar's followers. Recommended.

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff- Alysha Catherine Gale is a member of the Gale family, all of the female members of whom are witches and guardians. But when Alysha loses her job working cataloguing archaeological artifacts, she is temporarily able to return to her family, an atmosphere she finds personally more than a bit stifling. But when her grandmother passes on (a convenient fiction, perhaps, no one is sure), and leaves Alysha her antique/junkshop "The Enchantment Emporium", Alysha is at first uncertain if she reallt wants to take it over. However, in her grandmother's last letter, she tells Alysha that the shop is "vital to the community", and so Alysha goes to claim it. But she realizes how in over her head she is when she realizes that, among other things, one of the "items" in the shop is an actual Monkey's Paw. Worse, the only other employee is a Changeling Leprechaun, and she's being stalked by a reporter for a "Chupacabras are coming kind of rag, and the world is under assault by Dragon Lords from Underhill, who are after the Reporter's boss, who just happens to be a sorcerer- and Sorcerers and Gales are a bad combination. Now, it's up to Alysha to deal with the chaos in Calgary, the members of her family who want to interfere, and decide if the heat between her and the reporter, Graham, is worth adopting him into the family that he knows absolutely nothing about. I liked this book. It was a little difficult to get into at first, but it's really all about Alysha and how she steps away from most of her family to find a life and a love for herself. Frankly, her family dynamics are a bit frightening for anyone outside the family, but how they come together in the end, with Alysha holding her own, was very impressive. I also like how we, the readers, weren't aware of exactly what trouble the Sorcerer had stirred up Underhill until the end of the book, and it was a very interesting story in any case. While it took me a while to get into this book, in the end, I greatly enjoyed it, and I definitely think it's worth a read. Recommended.

Crown of Renewal by Elizabeth Moon- Everything seems stable in the Kingdoms, but the threat of the Pirate Alured remains. Dorrin Verrakai, the only non-blood mage from a magical famil, has eliminated the two-souled from her family and now rules with a gentle hand. But when her King, Mikeli, asks her to get rid of the crown and regalia that was found on her lands, because so many iyinisn are attacking him for it. she has no choice but to agree. And the regalia aren't the only stones being found on her lands- more are turning up as a road crew builds a road through her lands to those of the next lord, something greatly needed. As she makes her way South, because the stones want to return to a ruin she keeps seeing in visions, more shakeups are happening in the Kingdoms all around. Mikeli's brother Camwyn defends the Regalia from thieves and is sorely wounded for it. The Dragon must take him elsewhere to recuperate, something with Mikeli mourns over, but is willing to do if it will save his brother's life. Meanwhile, in Grdish lands, rage against the magelords is rising, and those hotly against them have taken to attacking and killing children who have the ability, and Arvid, now an assistant Marshall of Gird, must help with halting these attacks. But will anyone accept a former thief as a Marshall of Gird? Lastly, Kieri Phelan receives a mission of his own. Awaken the sleeping Mage Lords who went into exile with Luap. He does so, but can men and women from so long ago reintegrate to modern society? And when he is troubled by dreams of the man who once imprisoned him, he is paralyzed with fear. But can his wife and the love for his children allow him to overcome that fear when and if  the man actually returns? And can an appearance by Gird's Cow quiet the muttering against people who are suddenly showing signs of mage talent? Well, this book was the last in the new cycle, but even if the supposed main character of this series, Dorrin Verrakaki, is no longer lord of her demense, the story can continue to go forward. After all Camwyn and others are settling down to new lives, and even Paks is getting silver in her hair. I'd like to see where Elizabeth Moon takes the series, if she does continue it in some fashion, and of course, King Kieri Phelan and his wife are sure to go on, both being half-elf. So even if the human characters are aging, there are enough others to supplant them in the stories. There is much still to be told: how the Kuakgannir are accepted by the followers of Gird, for one thing, and I'd like to see more of Arvid Semminson. This is a big book and takes a while to read, but at the same time, I loved every bit of it. I was actually kind of surprised at the end, about how old Paks and Dorrin were. While we never learn exactly how old Paks is, we see her with silver in her blonde hair, and Dorrin is 50. I could hardly believe it- for these characters seem timeless, and I almost wish they'd be that way. I really enjoyed this book, but parts of me cry out for more. I would highly recommend the entire series to any reader that enjoys fantasy. Highly recommended.

Like a Mighty Army by David Weber- The Safeholdan War between the Church Lands and the Empire of Charis, Chisholm and its allies continues. Though the Empire has a decided technical advantage, the Church and its so-called "Army of God" is playing a desperate game of catch-up. And while Irys, Davyn and Hector return to Corisande to put her brother on the throne, the Rakurai are still around, and still looking to bring down the Charisian "heresy" by any means possible. But when a bombing catches Hector and Irys on the day of their wedding can they survive the chaos that will result? And Merlin Athrawes must deal with demons of his own when he discovers that Owl, the Sentient A.I., has enough materials to make another PICA, and that there is another copy of his/her own memories still extant in the memory banks. Since no other human is capable of becoming the personality of the "new" PICA, that means Nimue Alban will be able to meet herself again- from seven years ago, before s/he started a war that spilled the blood of so many friends and acquaintances. But can he or she deal with whatever judgement her earlier self deals out over his/her actions? Things are going badly for the AOG forces, whgich are dealt several stunning defeats. But when a terrible accident causes damage to locks on one of the Church Lands ' Major canals, The Inquisition is sent to ferret out those responsible. Little do they know that Merlin/Nimue knows and enacts a terrible revenge for the Church's killing of their own people. He also leaves a message for Zhaspyr Clyntahn to find which drives the Churchman into a destructive rage. But will that rage lead him to making even more mistakes that the Charis/Chisholm Empire and its allies can exploit? The war isn't over yet, but more needs to be done before the Church falls entirely. Can the church recover and produce enough new rifles to be able to survive and win the next few battles? Well, I loved returning to this world of Safehold. Some of my favorite parts involved Melin's *new* companion, a PICA version of himself as he was a mere six years ago. He expects "her" to hate him, but she is him, and she agrees with what he has done. Her takedown of a very officious Corisandean guard who thinks women are only suited to have babies and take care of the home was, quite frankly, delicious. I also enjoyed seeing Zhaspar Clyntahn lose it completely- it makes him look not quite sane. But the best moment was the ending, and it promises to be interesting, if nothing else. Highly recommended.

Mirror Sight by Kristen Britain- Karigan G;ladheon is a Green Rider, a messenger for the King. When we last saw her, she had gone into Blackveil to try and stop Mornhavon from getting the Mirror Mask. She and her companions had retrieved the mastk, an object of Ancient power, but to keep Mornhavon from getting his hands on it, she smashed it, and blacked out. When she awakens, she is surrounded by stone on all sides, which abruptly opens to reveal that Karigan has been emtombed in a sarcophagus. However, the man opening the sarcophagus is in the middle of a circus, and he accuses Karigan of being a plant from his rival. Though still injured from her trials, she flees the man and his circus clowns, only to be attacked again on the streets. She passes out, only to find she's been taken in by a professor, Bryce Lowell Josston, who wonders who Karigan is and where she comes from. She reveals enough of herself tomake him believe her when she tells him who she is, but he tells her that it has been almost 200 years since her time, and the world is greatly changed. The Kingdom was conquered with a great magical weapon, and the Professor seeks what could be an antidote to it called the Butterfly Weapon, some kind of staff that has the power to resist whatever it was that conquered Sacoridia. But he's not the only one after it- one of the servants of the Empire, a man named Dr. Silk. But Karigan is not alone in this future. Someone else has traveled here with her: Lhean, who is slowly dying in the lack of magic that exists in this place. But as Karigan slowly recovers, she discovers a kindred spirit in Cade, the Professor's student, who is studying to be a Weapon. She tries to help him with his fighting training, but the Professor also leads a group of Rebels who want to overthrow the Empire- including the slaves. But as Karigan is drawn into the struggles of this future time, those in the past have not forgotten her and are seeking her return. But will she find a way to return her and Lhean to her own time and prevent the events that brought about the rise of the Empire and its horrible abuses? And can Karigan return with her faculties intact? It's been a while since I read Blackveil, but you don't really need to have read that book to read this one. Oh, you won't know who some of the characters are, but the story of Karigan unfolds so well that it sort of takes over the rest of the story elements. I really enjoyed this book, and I couldn't stop reading it once I started. I lost quite a bit of sleep, but I don't regret a bit of it. Highly recommended.

Minecraft: Essential Handbook by Stephanie Milton with help from Paul Soares Jr. and Jordan Maron- So, you've heard of Minecraft, which is a game of building things, and you want to know how to get started? Well, this book has everything you need to get started in the game, and shows you how to build the tools you'll need and what to do on the first "day" so you survive the night and the monsters that will come to get you if you leave yourself unprotected. From there, the book covers basics you need to know- how to make chests and smelting ovens and some of the monsters you'll encounter and need to overcome.. This is an excellent guide to getting started in Minecraft, for the clueless N00b who has never played before, but even if you have been playing for a while, this book still might help you learn something about the game. Packed with information, this book is a must-read for fans of the game, or those wanting to know something more about it. Recommended.

The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell- Lady Aileen Davidson went to London for her season and promised her sister that she would return for her so that the two could live together in their new home. But due to a horrible incident, she was branded a scarlet woman, and before her husband could divorce her, he was killed, along with the man accused of being her lover. She returned to Scotland, deeply emotionally scarred by the experience. Now, it is her sister's turn to go to London for her season, and Aileen hopes that Tara will have a better experience than she did, which she seems to have done, since she is betrothed and about to be married. But when she turns up on Aileen's doorstep unexpectedly, she tells her sister that she isn't so sanguine about marrying Blake Stephens, and mindful of her own experience, Aileen is determined to shelter her from her would-be husband. What she doesn't expect is for their father, along with Tara's fiance, Blake Stephens, showing up on her doorstep. She expects to have to defend her sister, but much to her own shock and surprise,she finds herself developing feelings for Blake Stephens, and equally to his surprise, he feels the same. But can he decide which of the two sisters he is to marry before he is forced to the altar with Tara? And for that matter, Tara left Blake because she has always been in love with the Horse Master of the estate. but he has gotten engaged to the daughter of the village blacksmith, and while he still has feelings for Tara, are they as strong as the ones he feels for his new soon-to-be bride? There will be a wedding in the Highlands, but who will be getting married, and will the result scandalize the countryside. This was a book with a strong romance, but it doesn't quite take off until the latter half of the book. The hero is a self-made man, the bastard son of a lord, and he desperately wants his father's approval. Aileen, for her part, also wants her father's approval, but he is a man of appetites, and to pay for them, he will marry his daughters off to secure money and advantage for himself/ But as the various romances play out amidst the Scottish Countryside, can everyone involved manage a happy ending to a difficult problem? I liked this book, which, despite the serious nature of the topics, was frothy, light, and fun. I liked seeing how Aileen and Blake slowly fell in love with each other, and the ending they managed for themselves. It seems that in this series, the Brides of Wishmore, that Cathy maxwell is playing around with Romance novel tropes, as the sequel seems to deal with a forced marriage. But this isn't a bad thing at all. I never felt the hero and heroine were unsuited for each other, or that the hero was a bore or too stupid to live. It's not quite a comedy of manners, but it's a fun read and I recommend it solely for that. Recommended.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison- Maia is a half-goblin, the son of a goblin woman who was the fourth wife of the King of the Elves. But when his father and all his elder brothers die in a horrendous flyinf airship accident, this despised son will have to take the throne, completely untrained for the role and not even knowing who he really is. As Maialearns to navigate the corridoers of power, he will have to connect with the reamaining members of his family, and deal with enmity from both his father's last wife and his owh chancellor, both of whom seem to utterly despise him. At the same time, he must deal with his changing relationship with his former caretaker, who beat and abused him because he was trapped far from coutt. But as Maia tries to track down the people who sabotaged his father's airship, it is possible that Maia, with his gentle ways, may be the very kind of King his country needs. But can he survive long enough to deal with the threats, both internal and external, to the Kingdom? This book may be the first in a series or just be a stand-alone book, but either way, it was absolutely wonderful. Maia is an unusual character, often shy and retiring because of his unfamiliarity with the Elvish court and its ways. But he is also intelligent, if unschooled, and has a good heart and wants to do right by everyone. Watching him trying to survive and thrive was fascinating, and while his character is at the forefront of it all, he remains interesting and sympathetic. I really enjoyed this book, and Maia's dealing with politics, bootlickers and backstabbers. This makes for an intriguing book with lots of story for its size. I'd definitely read another book about Maia, or anythng else Katherine Addison cares to write. Hghly recommended.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Joseph Cooper and Mohan- The Talbot Family has been under a curse ever since one of their ancestors, a British Major in Cairo, irritated a group of nasty magicians. Ever since, if something supernatural is preying on people where a Talbot lives, they become the object of that thing's attention. Pres Tremain, a sherriff's deputy in a small Missouri town, come to Harry Dresden for help- someone has just slain one of the few remaining Talbots, and only four of them remain- two of them children. Harry discovers that the town is under attack by both a Ghoul and a Goblin, each disguising themselves as part of the population. They are fighting on behalf of their masters, and have decided to solve who gets the town by who can kill the most remaining Talbots until they are gone. But Harry is determined to save the Talbots by discovering the nature of the curse, and hopefully by defusing it. But with two strong supernatural menaces in town, can Harry stay alive long enough to follow through on his mission? And can he save *any* of the Talbots from the Curse? This was an interesting graphic novel, and since it was written by Jim Butcher, I knew I was going to enjoy it as soon as I read his name as the author. And I wasn't wrong. The book has it all- a great story, good art, and many suspenseful moments. I don't live near enough to a comic shop to buy these comics as individual issues, but I sure as heck will buy them like this! Highy recommemded.

Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr- Matt Thorsen has grown up in the small town of Blackwell, South Dakota, all his life, and has known that his family is the descendants of the actual God, Thor. Also living in town are Fen and Laurie Brekke, who are descendants of Loki. But the knowledge that Matt is going to be chosen to embody Thor in the End of the World and fight the Midgard Serpent comes as a shock- he's not the strongest or best of Thor's Descendants, so why was he chosen? But when he overhears his grandfather saying that he expects Matt to die, Matt is upset and ends up fleeing Blackwell with Fen and Laurie. But as they discover other children who are also descendants of the Gods, it might be up to them to prevent the Apocalypse. But can a bunch of young kids prevent the end of the world? The only way to be sure is to collect the Hammer, Shield and other items Thor needs. Now, if they will only be in time,,, I really enjoyed this book, which sort of connects with the vibe of the "Percy Jackson" books without copying the format. In fact, it sort of reads lile a mashup of "Percy Jackson" and the Kane twins books, in that Matt, Fen, Laurie and the other young characters in the novel are descendants of the Norse Gods, but are also taking their places in this "Ragnarok to come". In fact, that might be a selling point to kids who already enjoy the Percy Jackson books. I found this an interesting and entertaining book and I really enjoyed the story. Recommended.