Friday, April 24, 2015

2015, Part 2

The Darkest Touch by Gena Showalter- Torin is an immortal warrior who opened Pandora's Box and was possessed by the Demon of Disease- every time he so much as touches someone, they grow sick, and if they don't die, they become a carrier. Keelycael is the Red Queen, the last of her kind, a Curator- also immortal and possessed of immense power. Both of them have been imprisoned in an otherworldly prison, and Keelycael is angry at Torin for killing her best friend, a human who was supposed to bring him comfort, but whom he touched and infected by mistake instead. While Keelycael wants nothing more than to rip Torin into teeny-tiny shreds, she also finds herself attracted to him like nobody she has ever met before. He seems a little sad and hesitant of hurting her, even if she wants to kill him. For his part, Torin knows that Keely, also known as the Red Queen, is deadly, but he thinks she is an extremely fine woman as well. So when he accidentally infects her, he is desperate to save her, not knowing that she will get under his skin before he can blink. She is also the only one who can find Pandora's Box and lock the demons it once contained away forever. But can he convince her to do so and save him and his friends? and once he's had a taste of her, can he ever give her up? Torin isn't the only one who wants Keely. Hades and Lucifer both want her on their side of the war they are fighting with each other, since whoever manages to get her help is guaranteed to win. The question is, can Torin win her heart before Hades, her old lover, can steal her away from him? I enjoyed this book a lot, both characters are imprisoned, but because Keely's friend has died of disease, She is quickly confused by her growing attraction to the mysterious Torin, but the cycle of them wanting to be with each other and Torin rejecting her because of his fears of causing her harm with the diseases generated by his demon quickly became annoying and tiring to me, because he never really takes the time to discuss his fears with Keely, he ends up rejecting her over and over, and regretting it only minutes or hours later. This happened no more than three or four times, but I still found it annoying. Aside from that, I liked the romance between the two characters, but some of it just annoyed me. Still Redcommended.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean- Georgianna Pearson never really got a season, as she fell in love with a man who seduced her in a hayloft and got her pregnant, then left her. Covered in scandal when she was only sixteen, she has since returned, bent on revenge, as Chase, owner of The Fallen Angel, London's Most Notorious Gaming Hell. Here, the price of admittance is an important secret, and those who don't pay their debts are utterly ruined. But her three fellow owners are now all married, and Georgianna finds herself entering the marriage mart again to find a husband, one which will allow her daughter respectability and open doors closed to her as a bastard child. She has chosen Lord Langley, who she hopes she can get to the altar herself, without blackmail, even though his secret is also one she knows. But Duncan West, the most famous newspaperman in London, meets Georgianna at a ball, and is immediately intrigued by her. Though he has already satirized her in print, he finds himself sympathizing with her and wanting to help her in her quest- that is, if he doesn't reach out and take her for himself. And Georgianna wants him, too, even as she struggles for the title and respectability that Langley would bring her. But Duncan West has his own request to make of Chase, the proof that a powerful politician is guilty of Treason, one who holds West's own secrets over his head as blackmail. When such powerful desires collide, what can be the fallout? Will Anna choose love or a title, and can Duncan seduce her into his own arms? This is fourth in a quadrology of books, the others of which I have never read. But I really enjoyed this book, and wished I could have read the others as well (currently, the library I work for doesn't own them). I like Georgianna, so determined to get what she wanted for her daughter, whom she loved fiercely. I also loved Duncan, although he also came off as controlling occasionally, he, too, had a younger relative whom he loved, in this case, a sister, who could also be hurt by his secrets coming to light. I found the story surprisingly easy to read, and I really missed it when I had to put it down to do other things. I'd definitely recommend this book to other readers, and Sarah MacLean is a writer to watch. Highly recommended.

Green Lantern, Volume Five, Test of Wills by Robert Venditti, Billy Tan, Van Jensen, and Bernard Chang- The Guardians of Oa are gone, and the Green Lanterns are alone in the universe, which is a signal to those who resent these Guardians of Law and Order to try and bring them down. The Lanterns have discovered that using their powers is somehow depleting the universe, and will bring about its death that much sooner. With the Green Lanterns exiled from Earth in favor of the Red Lantern Guy Gardner, the Durlans shift shape to resemble Hal and use his image to declare that the Lanterns are now in charge of the Galaxy. Hal must find a way to convince a multitude of races and peoples that the Corps is not becoming an authoritarian organization hell-bent on controlling the Universe. But not even all the Lanterns are on his side, and something is preventing the rings from recognizing their true owners. Hal and the rest of the Lanterns of multiple spectrums must work together to restore order to the universe and honor to the name of the Corps. But can they succeed against an enemy that can take on anyone's shape? I don't normally read Green Lantern, but this one sort of appealed to me. It certainly made me remember Chameleon Boy from the Original Legion of Superheroes, but we can see why nobody trusts Durlans- here, they try to take over the entire galaxy. We also get to see that Reep Daggle's ancestor, Ren Daggle, was on the side of the Lanterns. It's a long, hard war that tests everyone, but it's an entertaining read, and I did enjoy the comic. Recommended, even for those who may not be Green Lantern fans.

Festive in Death by J.D. Robb- Sima, an employee of Trina, the lady who does makeup for Eve when she needs to be glamorous, discover the body of Sima's ex-boyfriend murdered in his apartment when they go to prank him, Trina calls Eve Dallas. The man, personal trainer Trey Ziegler, has been killed with a blow to the head from his bodybuilding trophy and a knife shoved into his heart  bearing the message, "Santa Says You've Been Bad! Ho Ho Ho!". Eve discovers that the trainer has over one hundred and sixty thousand dollars in his locker at work, and an herbal tea full of chemicals that mimic Zoner in his "Bag of Tricks". He's also been sleeping around on Sima, and she's not the only one he's played dirty tricks on. But who took it into their mind to kill him? Eve must investigate the death of a man she is coming to despise, while preparing for a holiday party with Roarke and her friends. But can she bring the true culprit to justice and unweave the tangled web the killer has created? Another excellent book by Nora Roberts, writing as J.D. Robb. I loved that the murdered man was a scumbag, but Eve really shines in this case, and she gets her man, so to speak, in both ways. I also loved the party things. Eve will never be a woman comfortable at a party, but I loved how she took the time to get everyone the perfect gift, Roarke included. I even liked the murder investigation, and how Eve uncovered the true murderer from a field of suspects. Another shot out of the park. Highly recommended.

Blood on the Water by Anne Perry- William Monk is a commander in the River Watch, and he and another watchman named Orme are out on the Thames when a pleasure boat named the Princess Mary explodes for seemingly no reason one night. Though Monk and Orme do their best to save people, there are many, almost two hundred people, who die. But before he can do much investigating, the case is taken away from him by the Home Office, because some of the dead were politically significant, and there is a dread of Foreign unrest, especially in Egypt, where the Suez Canal is being built. Suspicion centers around a man named Habib Beshara, an Egyptian who may have criminal connections, who debarked the boat before it left the dock. What the investigators cannot discover is a motive- why did he do it? After a trial, he is quickly convicted, with public sentiment being that he is surely guilty. However, shortly after his conviction, it is discovered that he is dying, and therefore is saved from execution,which angers many people. Worse, though, is that Monk discovers one of the men at the trial who testified to Beshara's whereabouts was clearly lying, and thus, the conviction must be overturned and the true culprit found. But when they do find the man who may actually be responsible, can Monk also discover the reason for the crime? And what will that reason reveal about the true state of Britain's involvement in the Suez and the conduct of their soldiers there? This book is like two mysteries in one. First there is the investigation by the home office, the second by Monk himself, both of which are very well done. Like Monk, we can feel his frustration when the first investigation seizes on the easy culprit of Habib Beshara, and when they stop looking for the real culprit and instead try to convict the suspect they already have. And in the second we identify with the danger as someone attempts to kill Monk to prevent him from finding the true killer and the reason for the sabotage. Anne Perry does very well at making us sympathize and feel for (and with) Monk as he attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery, and in the end, we feel something for the villain of the piece as well. Not enough to sympathize with him, but enough that we can see why he felt he was justified in killing so many people. Highly recommended.

Trust No One by Jayne Ann Krentz- Grace Elland found and killed a murderer back when she was only sixteen. Since then, she has mostly gotten over her post traumatic stress syndrome. But when she finds the body of her boss, Sprague Witherspoon, dead in his room with a bottle of Vodka close at hand, she finds it hard to control her jitters- because the brand of Vodka is the same one that she was forced to use to kill the man who was going to kill her when she was only sixteen. Now under more stress than ever, as the police seem to blame her for murder, or for the siphoning of money from Witherspoon's accounts. She is invited to dinner by her friends, Irene and Devlin, to dinner and a blind date at their home. But Grace suspects that Devlin, who also happens to be the chief of Police, is trying to decide if she really is guilty and called in her date, Julius Arkwright, to get another opinion. And she is right, but Julius Arkwright, though he makes a very bad initial impression on Grace, is intrigued by her and senses that she is not guilty of any kind of crime. In fact, she seems to be haunted, and when she confesses that someone has been e-mailing and texting her Witherspoon's daily affirmations subtly changed into threats, he can see the effect it has on her. But who is behind the killing of Witherspoon and who wants Grace dead, and why? Though Grace is attracted to Julius, and he to her, she hires him to help her plot out a new career for herself, and inadvertently ends up getting involved with Julius' ex, who left him for his business partner and whose family business is now failing and nearly dead. His ex is assuming that Julius is behind it, but, to be honest, he's lost interest in being a venture Capitalist. As he finds a new career for Grace, can he find a new career for himself as well? I liked this book, even though it had nothing to do with any of the psychic powers universes that Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle) usually writes. Like her earlier novel "Soft Focus", this one is completely grounded in the normal business world. But Grace comes off as a sort of naïf who doesn't seem to notice that she is the only one who has her Boss' best interests at heart. She is literally the only worker in the office who didn't have something going on the side, and while there is more than one "Bad guy", the ending of the story managed to shock me.. in a good way. I had no idea, right up to the end, who the bad guy/bad guys were, nor why they were out after Grace. And the connection to her life came totally out of left field, although, to be honest, she only did this through narrative slight of hand. This was a good book, but the book isn't always telling the truth about the facts, which will definitely leave you feeling left out at the end of the mystery. Still, recommended.

The Seelie Wars, Book One: The Hostage Prince by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple- Snail is an apprentice midwife of the UnSeelie Court, working for Mistress Softhands. The Faerie Queen of the Seelie Court is pregnant and due to give birth soon, and all three midwives and their apprentices are needed for the birth. But when something goes wrong and the Queen detects magic being used against her, she fires back, killing one of the apprentice midwives and causing the other midwives and their apprentices to be imprisoned and questioned under torture. Prince Aspen is the Seelie Prince who is assigned to the UnSeelie Court as a hostage. But when his tutor reveals that war is going to be declared, he helps Aspen to prepare for departure- as when open war breaks out, Aspen's life will be forfeit- as will that of the UnSeelie Prince in his father's court. Fleeing to save his own life, Aspen encounters Snail, and the two of them join forces to save themselves. But all is not as it seems, and the Ferryman between the Seelie and UnSeelie kingdoms forces Aspen to ask all he meets three questions that might free the Ferryman known as the Stickman. And Snail finds herself far more useful to the quest to get to the Seelie lands than Aspen. But can she develop feelings for a boy who often treats her life a slave, and sometimes like a friend? And what will happen between the Seelie and UnSeelie realms now that Aspen has fled? This book sets up the entire trilogy that follows and it does a very good job of that, even as to what kind of creature Snail is, and why she alone is able to do things that no other faery can do. I liked the story and both of the characters, and I liked how the two of them made it to freedom by working together. An excellent book and one kids will really enjoy, although it's slightly more girl-centric since the series is more about Snail than Aspen. Recommended.

The Seelie Wars, Book 2: The Last Changeling by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple- Snail and Aspen made it to the Seelie Court, but were forced to flee from there as well when they discovered that Aspen had been lied to, and no war had been declared. But with Aspen's flight from the UnSeelie Court, that had led to war, and so now Aspen and Snail, renamed Nomi have taken to the road as a minstrel and his helper. But the leader of the circus they fall in with, Professor Odds, seems very interested in Snail and rather contemptuous of Aspen. All in all, Professor Odds is very odd indeed and seems to have an ulterior motive for taking them both on. Snail, apparently, is not all she seems, and the professor is fomenting revolt against both the Seelie and UnSeelie for their crimes against another race, and he wants Snail to join their ranks because of who and what she is. But when Seelie and UnSeelie clash, Aspen's father is killed, and Aspen must take the throne. But can Snail and Aspen's friendship survive the revelations to come, and can Aspen and Snail take out the person who is really behind the whole war? Another really excellent book that continues the patterns set in the first book- Snail is the more important character, but we do get to see at least some answers to Stickman's questions from the first book. Fleshing out the story and helping us see the bigger picture for once, this is an excellent story and very readable. Recommended.

The Hoarder in You by Dr, Robin Zasio- Robin Zasio has worked with many hoarders and "collectors" whose homes and lives were overwhelmed by the stuff they go and refused to get rid of, which overtook their houses and their lives. Dr. Zasio looks at hoarding, why it happens and why it isn't so easy to deal with- you can force the people who hoard to throw their things out, but if you don't deal with the underlying issues, the problem will always reoccur- you must deal with the psychological reasons for the hoarding before you can have the hoarders get rid of their things. And the reasons can be varied. The main problem with hoarders is that they cannot deal with being able to not buy things, or pick up what seems to be trash that they feel they can repair. And even if you aren't a hoarder, you can be a collector- and Dr. Zasio also covers how to deal with your collections so that they won't take over and become the basis of hoarding. With the same rules she uses on the "Extreme Hoarders" show, she shows you how to deal with the items you have accumulated, and where to get help if you need it with your hoarding. I felt this was a good book o read. I am a collector, but I feel I could turn into a hoarder if bad things happened, so I was interested in seeing what she recommended. I found this book very helpful, and I definitely think it could be helpful to others. Highly recommended.

The Truth About Nature: A Family's Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors by Stacey Tornio and Ken Keffer- Nature is beautiful, and we often treasure wisdom hanged down to us by our parents, grandparents and other people. Some of this "wisdom" is wrong. Separated into four categories based on season, this book debunks common misconceptions about nature, from the story that "Squirrels remember where they bury their nuts for the winter", "Bees die after they sting you", "Flower Bulbs are Always Planted in the Fall" or "Mice Eat Cheese". These are given debunked and discussed as to why they are wrong. Interspersed with the discussion and debunking of myths are pages where readers are prompted to do actual science, and discussions about larger issues about animals and biology. If you like animals and have taken a college-level biology class, or even watch lots of programs about animals on the Learning Channel or the Discovery Channel (or Animal Planet), you'll almost certainly know most of the true facts already. Still, it's not a bad book, and really is more meant for parents to read with their kids rather than for adults to read on their own. It's not a bad book by any means- full of information, facts and illustrations. A cut above for parents wanting to be sharing science and biology information with their kids. Recommended.

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder- Avry wasn't a healer until she was poisoned by a death Lily. When she survived its venom, it unlocked her magic and made her a Healer. Then She was kidnapped by Kerrick, Prince of Alga, to resurrect the King of Alga, Ryna, who had been locked in magical stasis. Now that Ryne is back to normal, Avry wants to return to Zabin, where she goes undercover to help the soldiers, teaching them how woodcraft and how to move silently in the forest, hoping it will help them when King Tohon's troops, an army of the dead, arrive to conquer the country. She has plans to reveal herself as a healer before Tohon's troops invade, but until then, she wants to do something more proactive to help her people. Meanwhile, Kerrick goes north to rouse the people of Alga. Ryne is Kerrick's brother, and Ryne is to head to Zabin first. But when the tribes of the north attack Kerrick's troops, he is taken prisoner, along with his young cousin, who stowed away in the baggage train and who is being used by the tribes to control Kerrick's behavior and to extort him into not escaping. As Kerrick lives among the tribe and slowly gains their trust, he treats with them to come and help the Kingdoms fight against the menace of Tohon, who leads an army of the dead. But his delay with the tribes gives Tohon the means to conquer Zabin and Tohon, who wants Avry for his own, takes her prisoner, intending to seduce her to his side. And, he has Avry's sister, Noelle, to threaten to keep Avry in line. Avry will need all the help she can get- from both the death Lilies and the Peace Lilies, if she is to help defeat Tohon's army and wipe out the menace of hus undead. But can she do so without losing everyone and everything she had come to love and care for? I didn't read the first book in this trilogy (and the third book hadn't been released yet), so I was a bit at sea when starting this novel. That being said, the backstory reminded me a great deal of "Poison Study", but in a slightly different way. And how Avry fell in love with the man who imprisoned her, like Yelena did Valek (and how similar the ending sounds Valek and Kerrick are... But I liked the story and how Avry was determined to do the right thing. Despite how similar the stories of Avry and Yelena were, I did like this book and found it a good read.

Cast in Sorrow by Michelle Sagara- Kaylin Neya is a Hawk in Service to the Ruler of Elantra. One of the races who dwell there are the Barrani, elf like creatures who are functionally immortal (can be killed by damage, but who do not die of age. The Barrani don't like Kaylin because she survived a test which most Barrani fail or choose not to take. The idea that a mere human could succeed where Barrani fail is distasteful to them, and most of them would rather kill her or let her die rather than live as an embarrassment to their race. Even so, not every Barrani hates her. One of Kaylin's closest friends is Teela, a fellow Hawk. So when Kaylin is invited to a special Barrani ceremony deep in the woods, she must accept, and Teela comes with her to safeguard her. But then Kaylin's home is firebombed with a mage bomb, and it has two different magical signatures on it. However, Kaylin seems to be the only person who can see the second signature. Plus, people are disappearing from the fiefs, and the same mage signatures. Who could be stealing people, and why? Can Kaylin discover the secret before she must leave for a Barrani Ceremony? I really like this series. which I started reading years ago, Kaylin has discovered more about the glyphs on her skin, but not why they are there or why she was chosen to be the one who carries them. This book delves into the story of the fiefs and why people are going missing, and she begins to travel to the ceremony she will be taking pert in. But even here, someone is trying to kill her, and she must fight back to survive not only hostile Barrani, but the other "lost" Barrani who want to regain An'Teela and their names,. An excellent book looking at a uniquely alien society. Highly recommended.

Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara- Kaylin neya was invited to take part in a Barrani ceremony. But on her way there, she was chosen by fate to wear the dress of the Teller, who fulfills a unique role in the Barrani ceremony. But when attacked the "Lost Barrani who once took part in the naming Ceremony with her fellow Hawk An'Teela, the party of Barrani and Hawks must take shelter with the Lord of West March, who is related to the Barrani Consort. But something is happening inside the forest, related to the lost Barrani. The ceremony requires Kaylin to tell a story in a way that the Barrani can understand. It's possible that this will cause the Lost Barrani Ferals to be reclaimed and get their names, or it could unmake the world. When the Consort  is sunk into a coma, it is Kaylin, as a healer and user of magic to rescue the Consort's spirit from whatever has it now. But will Kaylin be able to fulfill her duties to the Green and to the Consort and fulfill her part in the ceremony in a successful way? Or will she do the green even more harm than it has already suffered> And will she survive the ceremony to return to Elantra at the end? Another excellent book in a great series. Kaylin and the Consort have a strained relationship, as well as with the rest of the Barrani. The only thing that gives them comfort is that Kaylin is merely mortal, and will only be around for what seems a short time to the Barrani. It was kind of strange seeing things through Barrani eyes, but in the end, although I only understood a bit more about these enigmatic elf-like beings  it was a welcome change from knowing even less. An excellent continuation to the story from the last book. Hihgly recommended.

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King- After being on a mission for Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock Holmes and his American wife Mary Russell plan to go on to California to deal with unfinished family business. But on the ship there, which will also pass through Canton and Japan, they meet a young Japanese woman named Haruki Satp, who Mary is intrigued by while Holmes deals a lesson to the son of th Earl of Darley. While his father is a known (to Holmes) blackmailer, the son is a card cheat, and Holmes teaches young Darley a lesson by being a better cheater. But Miss Sato turns out to be more than a mere well-educated foreigner, and her family needs help in dealing with a Blackamiler who is seeking to extort monies from the Emperor of Japan with a missing copy of a very special book whom the Emperor should not have given away when he was a young man. Darley, the Blackmailer is summarily dealt with, but when the Blackmailer strikes again, Haruki is sent to England to deal with the aftermath. Can Holmes and Mary Russell help her find the missing book, and the map which it was supposed to hold? And can they be entirely comfortable with the motives of Haruki Sato?? I loved this book, and the glimpse we get of the true Japan before it was so highly Westernized. I loved the character moments, and the multiple reveals at the end. This was a really excellent mystery and I read it through in less than a day. An excellent book, well-researched and full of story. Highly recommended.

Mangaman- story by Barry Lyga and illustrated by Colleen Doran- Ryoko Kiyana is a transplant from far away- not Japan, but another dimension, another reality. Stunned by his appearance, he is kept on a military base as Dr. Capeletti tries to figure out how he got here and send him home, repairing a rift through which monsters called Kaiju occasionally break through into our world from the spaces between "our" reality and others. But when Kiyoko begins falling for Marissa Montaigne, who has fallen out of love with her current boyfriend, it causes trouble in her school, which he has also begun to attend.  However, nobody but Marissa seems to like him. He leaves behind speed lines and sweat drops in his wake, but  she is intrigued by him, and as a castaway from another dimension, he can see through the edges of the panels, and discovers that not only can he see past the edges of the panel, he can walk though them as well And he teaches Marissa to do the same. But when Marissa's ex-boyfriend decides to challenge Ryoko to a fight, it works against him as none of Ryan's punches hurt Ryoko's, while Ryoko's fighting prowess sends her ex to the hospital. Ryoko only wanted to get back home, but now he has Marissa to distract him... Will he want to find his way back after falling for Marissa? I really liked this book The story was intriguing, with a nominally manga character interacting with Western comic book characters, but ultimately Ryoko falls a bit flat for fans of manga, his world seems to be a mashup of various genres of manga (his girlfriend is an ex-magical girl who used to have a locket that could change her in any way she wanted. She changed into a boy, and the locket was broken, leaving her a boy in girl's clothing. And Ryoko's appearance is "off", even by Manga's standards. But I really enjoyed the story, and the ending, while something also of a disappointment to me, was still pretty wonderful. Good for fans of both manga and comics, there is a lot to love here, some disappointments, but I found the story to be wonderful nevertheless, Recommended

Castaway Planet by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor- The Kimei family are traveling on the Ship Outward Bound to a new planet to help start a colony when there is an accident and their ship/Shuttle is separated from the rest of the Outward Bound mid-flight. With them is Sakura's friend, "Whips", real name Harratrer, a Europan "Bemmie" are on the Kimei family pod after the accident, and separated from the other ships in Hyperdrive, the family must find a planet on which to survive until being rescued. However, shortly after touchdown on the planet, their ship is lost, and the family and Whips must survive on a planet with nearly no resources and alien life which is mostly hostile. They need to make what they can to survive and thrive, but can they ever be rescued, in the wide vastness of space? This book is science fiction, and I thought it was a stand-alone novel, until I saw it was the new novel in the "Boundary series. As I haven't read any of the others, I can't say if the Kimei family will appear again in the future, but I pretty much loved the book, which is pretty much a sci-fi retelling of the Swiss family Robinson in space. Most of the action devolves around the family surviving and thriving around the planet's challenges, so if you are expecting something more action-oriented, you are going to be disappointed. But for someone who enjoys a more "Man vs Nature" (even if the "man" is often the 14-year old Hitomi Kimei, an aspiring pilot) will enjoy this book very much. Each of the family helps the others to survive, headed by Laura Kimei, a physician and her husband, Akira Kimei, biologist. Along with Sakura's sisters, 7 year old Hitomi, 10 year old Melody and Caroline, an aspiring 17 year old  geologist. Each of the family is given lots to do, and their struggle to survive is quite affecting and interesting. There is some action in the family's interactions with the local wildlife, but this book is rather more sedate and slower paced. Recommended, but be sure you know what you are getting before you pick this up.

Once More My Darling Rogue by Lorraine Heath- Drake Darling is ennobled now, but he was once a commoner and because of that, many in society will never accept him as good enough. Especially not Lady Ophelia Lyttleton, who spends her time snubbing him and giving him the cut direct. But when she is abducted and thrown into the Thames, she loses her memory and is found by Drake, who decides to take his revenge by telling her she is his housekeeper and making her be his servant for a day. But the ruse lasts for far longer than that because he is afraid of what she might do to him for playing the prank on him. And then, he finds himself attracted to her, by her inability to let animals or orphans be abused, and how she somehow inserts herself into every corner of his life. As for Opehia, she becomes very attracted to Drake, and even gives him everything. But when she regains her memory unexpectedly (at the sight of an old friend), she is devastated by what he is done and is angry that he didn't stop her from giving him everything. But when she must rescue her aunt from a husband who she thinks is trying to poison her, she needs Drake's help. The question is, can she trust him every again? I found this book, okay. I felt that Drake should have owned up to what was going on much sooner, and he comes across as a real ass about using Ophelia like he does. Yes, she is very cruel to him, so he feels like he has a reason, but not wanting to face up to what he'd done made him look rather weak. The romance was otherwise okay, and he does give her abuser a highly satisfying (Metaphorical) boot to the rear, so that was a good ending. But if you dislike the idea of a man being cruel to a woman who has been made an amnesiac, you must not be as forgiving of what Drake does. Heck, I didn't even like it. Neither recommended nor not recommended. Your mileage about the hero may vary.

The Once and Future Duchess by Sophia Nash- After a scandalous night of drinking and debauchery, Prinny, the Prince Regent, has decided that it is time to make those around him marry, and his next candidate is James, Duke of Candover, who has an absolute aversion to marriage after two failed engagements. Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, has loved James from afar for a long time, but when he refuses to marry her (because he claims he cannot inflict on her a marriage without love and affection, they agree to each "vet" candidates for marriage for each other, as Isabelle has also be ordered to marry by Prinny. But while Isabelle battles a broken heart, James finds himself unable to suggest her an alternate candidate for marriage that he can stomach marrying her. Isabelle was long his friend, and as each tries their best for each other, he finds that his emotions are engaged on her behalf anyway. But can he swallow his pride enough to suck it up and admit to his love for her and propose marriage to her? And can Isabelle accept his apology and give her heart wholeheartedly to James when she had been metaphorically slapped in the face by his lack of interest? Will their be wedding bells between them after all? This book had a very interesting pemise, and I rather like James coming to terms with his feelings when he realizes that he can't bear to see his old friend love another and realize he has feelings for her after all. As for Isabelle, she has to get over her feelings of hurt and realize that James doesn't really know how he feels about much at all. Recommended.

Night Shift by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearing and Milla Vane. This short story collection has four tales of shapeshifters and magic. Nalini Singh contributes "Secrets at Midnight". Bastien Smith hasn't yet found his mate. But when he is intrigued by a scent carried on a female relative, he discovers her: a human teacher named Kirby, he finds himself getting worried for her: she is having srange symptoms: vomiting, pain and weakness. Then he discovers that Kirby is an orphan whose parents died in a fire, and his wanting to help her find her family makes him discover all her secrets- like how she may not be human after all... Illona Andrews contributes "Magic Steals". introduces Tigress Dali Hanimau, who is in love with Jim Shropshire, leader of Clan Cat. There is an incursion of Eastern demons and curses invading her neighborhood, which is good because Dali's job, which she was born into, is to take care of threats just like these. But when Jim tags along, Dali thinks that he will find out just how weak she is and reject her. But Jim doesn't seem to mind... "Lucky Charms" by Lisa Shearin, has Makenna Frazier, a seer from the south, starting her first day on the job with SPI, Supernatural Protection and Investigations, when she discovers that all the seers before her have died, and messily, on the job, Luckily, her partner, Ian Byrne, has been set to look after her by the head of SPI, Vivian Sagadraco, an actual dragon. But their first case turns out to be looking for a Leprechaun Prince who disappeared during his own bachelor party, and everything goes downhill from there..."The Beast of Blackmoor" by Milla Vane has a female warrior woman who seeks to bring down a threat to people deep in a forbidden land, and her only guide is a warrior who failed to defeat that same menace long ago. But when he begins to develop feelings for her, and she for him, will he crew everything up when he tries to deny his feelings? This was a great collection I loved every single story, but to my mind the best was "Lucky Charms", because it had to set up a whole universe and I loved the many different story threads. It was the standout story to me in a book filled with standout stories. Though each is quite different, together, they make the perfect little packet of story goodness. Highly recommended.

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine- Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden with control over air. But when her senior mage, Big Bob Burlingame, wants to see her, she has no idea that he is actually host to a demon- until he puts it into her. Now Joanne is infected, and the only way she can get rid of the Demon without dying is to get a Djinn and get it to take the demon from her and host it himself, which will save her and doom the Djinn. But Joanne hasn't got a Djinn and has no way to get one. Unless she can speak with her old friend, former Weather Warden Lewis. Lewis, however, is no longer a Weather after stealing three Djinn Bottles from the Wardens. Joanne needs to ask him for a Djinn. but he's disappeared. On the way to Oklahoma, where divination tells Joanne she can find him, she picks up a hitchhiker named David, who she ends up catapulting into a relationship with. Wanted for killing "Bad Bob" by the other Weather Wardens, she also has them on her tail, wanting to catch her and take her powers away from her. Can Joanne elude them, find Lewis and stay alive while removing her Demonic Taint? Or will she lose her race against time? I loved this book. We get to live inside Joanne's skin, inside her mind, and it makes the book seem very real and immediate. Joanne loves fast cars and handsome men, and the story of how she came to know Lewis is actually rather amusing. I enjoyed every bit of this thrill ride of a book. Highly recommended.

Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine- Joanne was saved from her demon, but at a high cost. David, her lover, turned out to be a very powerful Djinn and he turned her into a Djinn as well. Now Joanne must come to terms with her new form and learn what it's like to be in the same position as the Djinn that she and other Weather Wardens have done through the years. And she has come to the attention of Jonathan, the leader of the Djinn, who decrees that Joanne must be trained, but not by David, who is too close to her emotionally. Instead, she is given to another former human turned Djinn named Patrick, who enslaves her to teach her some hard lessons about the nature of Djinn. But as David is trying to close a hole in the Aether that has suddenly appeared, Joanne is enslaved again, this time to another Warden, who passes Joanne to her son, who treats her like a slutty variation on "I Dream of Jeannie". Joanne must learn to use the usual tricks that the Djinn use to thwart those they do not want to serve. And when the woman Warden enslaves David, Joanne must work to free him before the woman can order him to make her his lover… or kill Joanne. And there is still that hole in the Aether to deal with which apparently only Joanne can. Fresh out of freedom and fresh out of ideas, Joanne must find a way to free herself and take care of the hole, even if it means dying once again… This was unusual, in that Joanne finds out what it is like to be a slave, to not have a choice in who she serves, just like the Djinn who work with the Weather Wardens. And when she finds out that her own existence is responsible for the hole in the Aether, and that she has made David less powerful simply by existing, it's hard not to want to sacrifice herself to save his life. In short, Joanne is delivered of a lot of shocks, and she still manages to rise above them and live. Very excellent, and highly recommended.

Chill Factor by Rachel Caine- Now human again, Joanne is sent to Las Vegas where her former human "master from when she was a Djinn has set himself up in style and is ruling over the city. Kevin, who has been abused by his mother and had a really terrible life, may be somewhat sympathetic, but now that he has power, he's ruling over everyone and everything. And she isn't the only one who wants to stop him... Who is this secretive organization called Ma'at, and why is she having flashbacks to the first time she was sent to Las Vegas? Because the last time she was in Vegas, the man she was sent to investigate turned out to be using his powers to profit... and "Disappearing" the people who were sent to investigate if he couldn't bribe them to ignore his "irregularities". But when Joanne survived he and his partner's attempts to "disappear" her, she came back to kick his butt. Now, his father blames Joanne for his son's death, and he's the leader of Ma'at. So while they offer her help to get rid of Kevin, it doesn't mean that they have her best interests in mind. And even if she can take care of Kevin, does that mean she actually needs to kill him? And will she want to keep up her association with the Wardens when they have screwed her over so thoroughly? Another really good book, this one has Joanne dealing with the menace of Kevin, who has decided to go to Vegas and live out every dream he'd ever had. But this book through lots of twists and turns at Joanne, and revealed some of her backstory, making her that much more kickass.. The ending was also a surprise, both parts of it. Highly Recommended.

Windfall by Rachel Caine- Joanne Baldwin used to be a Weather Warden, but now she's trying t live life at an ordinary girl. And to be honest... she's not doing very good at it. She's living in Florida and working with the local weatherman. But she's certain he's hiding something. But she no longer cares to find out. Even though she and the other assistant weathergirl, Cherise are being constantly humiliated on the show, they are more interested in drinking, shopping and sunbathing. After all, that's normal life in the south for a pretty young girl right? Until Joanne's sister is left by her husband and she gets nothing, and even then, her sister meets a handsome, polite Brit who she seems to have fallen in love with, and he with her, while David is slowly dying, and needs her energy to survive, do most of the time, he must spend it in his bottle. Add to the mix a revenge-obsessed cop who wants Joanne to admit she killed his partner, her sister pending lots of Joanne's money because she is addicted to shopping, a scheme involving destroying real estate for money, and man who wants Joanne to heal his ex-lover whom he may have nearly tortured to death, and Joanne is in for a real hum-dinger of s time. And that isn't even with the approaching hurricane.. The readers who find the Weather Warden series exciting are going to find this one a change of pace. All Joanne seems to interested in is having nice clothes, a perfect bronzed beach body and men. All the female characters are like that, which was rather disappointing. But some of the characters still managed to surprise me, and all of the female characters managed to ride above the stereotype for a while (except for one, and I wasn't expecting much from her anyway, to be truthful).I loved the comeuppance the "handsy" meteorologist got, but things look a little bleak for David towards the end. He seems to be going Ifrit..I hope not. But I'm willing to read more to find out. Recommended.

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop- Meg is a Cassandra Sangue, a blood prophet, who sees things in visions when she cut herself. But each blood prophet only has 1000 cuts in them and after that, they die. So the Others, the monster-like native that populate America, have taken her in under their wing, because unlike other humans, she doesn't smell like prey. She isn't the only Cassandra Sangue around. The others rescued the imprisoned Cassandra Sangue and tried to return them to their proper homes. But now the Cassandra Sangue are committing suicide in large numbers, or dying because of trying to cut themselves without their razors and dying from blood loss. What makes Meg so different? How was she able to survive when so many of her sister in Power are dead? Meg and her human friends must find ways to articulate how she keeps herself sane in an-ever changing, expanding world. And other humans have other Cassandra Sangue in "Breeding factories" which are now illegal to use. Unable to pray for raising the girls, they are dumping them on roads, pregnant and alone, but only after making them fear the others, first./ On top of this, some humans in the old World, like Cel-Romano, want the humans in Thasia to rise up against the Others. There is a motivational speaker in charge of the "Humans First and Last". A human from Lakeside, Monty, the policeman, his daughter is found travelling alone on a train, and has been taken in hand by a Pedophile, He protects her, and when they reach Lakeside,  They discover a stash of valuable gems hidden inside her bear, and blood on the outside. Gems from Jewelry that humans claim was stalen by others, but which some humans think is money being funneled to HFL. Can Meg save her fellow humans and Cassandra Sangue from starting a war with the Others, sure to end badly, very badly, for the humans? I has assumed that this was a trilogy, but now it seems it's going to be longer, and I was relieved to hear that, because I love this series and the hints of a romance that seem to be developing between Meg and Simon Wolfgaard. I like the sort of "picks sides thing developing, but I am quite sure that this isn't going to end well for the arrogant humans. Not all the humans are arrogant, of course, but the readers sympathies are definitely going to be with the Others in this The arrogant humans across the sea deserve to get their butts handed to them, and it will be interesting to see if this can end without the arrogant ones being wiped out. Highly recommended- can't wait for the next book!

The Witch with No Name by Kim Harrison- Now that Rachel Morgan is in a relationship with her former boss, Trent, an elf, and she has defeated a problem with magic and the elven Goddess, everything should be coming up roses for her, right? Not so much... The vampires want their souls back. Rachel could give them to the vampires, but she knows that for most of the elder vamps, it will be a death sentence. Now, she isn't necessarily opposed to killing them, but the vampires who are left can and will run wild without the older vampires there to control them. Plus Al, Rachel's mentor among the demons, wants nothing to do with her after she helped the elves, who are trying to exterminate the demons. The last thing that Rachel expects is an offer of help from the elves. But when the Elves conspire to rid themselves of the Demons, the Vampires and their problematic goddess all at once, it's up to Rachel to stop them before they damage the world irreparably, but can she defeat the Elven High Priest before he does something he cannot undo? Or will her solution be worse than the problem? This is the final Rachel Morgan book, and it was nice to see the threads get all gathered together and nicely tied up at the end. Everybody gets what they deserve and the demons get redeemed, such as they are. I liked the sting in the tail about how the elves also get what they deserved and that Rachel and Trent get a happy life together at last. Recommended.

Twice Tempted by Eileen Dreyer- Five years ago, Alex Knight thought he'd saved his friend Ian's sister from homelessness and disgrace by returning her to the home of her grandfather. But when it seems Ian has been killed, her grandfather brutally rejects her and casts she and her sister Maeve out onto the street. Now, Fiona has fond dreams of Alex and the single kiss they shared, but she cannot forget that Alex dumped her with her uncle who rejected her and her sister so brutally. But when it turns out that there are people out after her and her sister, Fiona must turn to Alex to keep her safe from those who would kill her and discover what she and her sister might have taken that would make them a target. And as for Alex, e's never forgotten the kiss he shared with Fiona. Can he keep her and Maeve safe from a nest of enemy spies while she and her sister decipher the new message that could endanger Alex and his friends? And Can Alex save his father, who seems determined to work himself to death? I loved this bok, which took several romance conventions and turned them on their heads. First of all, Maeve, who seems younger and more childlike than Maeve (and who, in light of modern diagnoses, is clearly on the autism spectrum) is actually the older sister to Fiona rather than being younger, and while Maeve could be the subject of a sequel, her romance is happening at the same time as Fiona's. Otherwise, the tropes were well-used and I liked how both sisters were brilliant, each in their own way. I liked Alex and Fiona (and Maeve and Chuffy) a lot, and since the book revolves around all of them, this was a very good thing. The romance and the plot were satisfying, and I found the ending delightful. Highly recommended,

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder- Avry is a healer, able to absorb the hurts of others into herself, who heals wounds and diseases with ease. But instead of being celebrated, she is hunted, because Healers like Avry are being blamed for a plague that decimated the Fifteen Realms, and are hunted to extinction. But when compassionate Avry slips and heals a child, it turns the city where she has taken refuge against her, and she is captured. Freed by a group of what she thinks are bandits, Avry discovers that the leader of the group, Kerrick, wants her to heal Prince Ryne, who was infected with the plague and who is being held prisoner by Tohon, a death Magician who wants Avry for his own ends. But Avry has been learning while she is with Kerrick and his men, and she has discovered the truth of where the plague came from what she might need to do to save the Fifteen Realms. But can she do so without falling for either of the men who she suspects wishes to use her? And can one woman with healing powers heal the realms and return peace to the world? I read this book after the second book in the series, and I was honestly stunned at how bleak Avry's position is at the start of the book. Obviously, as Fantasy novels with a strong romantic element, Avry does end up with one of the men, and since I'd read the second book, I knew who it was going to be. Even so, I liked the story of how she and Kerrick grew closer and learned from each other, and the powers that each of them had. Even Tohon, the villain of the piece, was handled well, and you could see why Avry would be attracted to him. Excellent book and definitely recommended,

Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder- Avry might have taken care of Tohon, placing him into the same kind of stasis that he'd once put Prince Ryne into, but his lieutenants are still active, as well as other threats, still plague the fifteen Realms. And Tohon's army of the dead is still on the march as well. But now Kerrick is missing, and Avry must deal with threats on her own while Kerrick, who is tied deeply to the forest, must discover how to undo to himself what he did to wind up in this condition in the first place. And he and Avry must make the Realms safe for everyone, and restore the rulers of the various regions to their thrones. But how can they when there is so much unrest, and Tohon sis till manipulating events from behind the scenes, even in stasis? I loved this final book, which I had been waiting to read ever since the second one. Plenty more happens to both Avry and Kerrick, and Tohon, even though he's supposed to be in an unbreakable stasis. Avry raises her own dead soldier, and finally finds the cure for the plague which Tohon created. The ending was wonderful and sort of triumphal for Avry and Kerrick, and I liked the outcome of what happened to the both of them, and how they ended up bonded and loving each other. Highly recommended ending to the series. Definitely worth the read.

Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs- Charles, son of the Marrok, or highest ranking werewolf in America takes Anna to the southwest to buy her a real riding horse that can be her own. He's also going to be meeting an old friend of his, Joseph, who he met when Joseph was a young man and they broke horses on ranches together. But now Joseph is old and dying, and although Charles offered to change him into a werewolf years ago, Joseph chose not to be changed. Charles is apprehensive about seeing Joseph again, as Joseph has never changed his mind. However, something in the area is making people go crazy and attempt to kill children, including the wife of one of the pack wolves who happens to be pure human. But when the rage infects her and tries to make her kill her children, she fights back and the only way to save her is to change her into a wold, and Charles is asked to do it. Complicating the situation is a fey who may be kidnapping children and an FBI investigation into a missing child that ask Anna and Charles for help. Can they uncover the true culprits and buy Anna a new riding horse without getting killed, or will Charles find this case as stressful as being an enforcer to his father Bran, the Marrok? And will be finally be able to relax into his new role, whatever it happens to be? As for Anna, as the only nown Omega Wolf, can she soothe and heal the wounds between Charles and his friend Joseph, and help him accept Joseph's choice to die a human, after all? This was a great book, with plenty of tension and Charles and Anna being neaky, loving and working together to solve the answers to what was going on. Anna shows why she is the perfect mate for Charles, she's an Omega, but she is also still a werewolf,and she actually ends up really exerting her power for the first time and puts two strong Alpha werewolves to sleep at once. I loved this book and the story and will definitely read more of Patricia Briggs she's at the top of her game as a writer, and it shows.Highly recommended.

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron- Jane Austen goes with her mother and sisters to visit her brother, a parson, and his wife and family, for Christmas. They are invited to a Christmas Party by s friend of the family, who happen to be rich members of the ton. But when a messenger arrives from a Navy Admiral to his wife who is also at the party, he is killed in the woods the next day, and the message he was carrying to the Admiralty, the only English copy of the  Treaty of Ghent, his death becomes a crisis for the Admiralty. Jane teams up with a Guest at the party, the artist Raphael West, to solve the mystery. But does the death of the young man have more to do with his duties for the Admiralty, or a woman's jealousy? I love Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries and it seemed as if this one took longer to write than usual. I love Jane Austen as a detective, because her known sharp observations of people in society and those around her demonstrated a fierce intelligence and ability to observe others closely, which are also suited for being a detective, and thus, make her admirable suited for her role in these books. And Jane certainly does put her observation skills to the test here, paired with another excellent observer of life, an artist. I liked the way that Jane and West interacted, and although we know that Jane spent her life as a Spinster, I loved their scenes together ad wished she might interact with him again in another book. This is a wonderful book, once you get used to the rather stilted manners of the time, and I recommend it highly to those who like historical mysteries, Jane Austen, or both, Or even those who just like a well-plotted mystery tale.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

2015, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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