Thursday, June 11, 2015

2015, Part 4

Baptism of Fire by Andrezej Sapkowski- Geralt continues to search for Ciri, who has been tansported to a deadly desert by a malfunctioning portal. She relies on herself and her training as a Witcher and sorceress. But when she calls on the power of fire, she reaches too far and is nearly taken over by an inimical force and saves herself by shutting down her magic, for good it seems. Making it out of the desert, she winds up being captured, and then freed when a group of young human and elven bandits known as the Rats arrive to free their leader. Normally, they are six, but Ciri, calling herself "Falka" joins with them, losing herself in their banditry and killing, getting further and further from her true self. Geralt tries to go in search of her, having heard that Ciri is to be married off to a King. But he knows she is elsewhere, having dreamt of her. And likewise, she dreams of him. Geralt, accompanied by the Bard Dandilion and a human woman archer named Malva, tries to travel down to where he last saw Ciri, to track her down. Joining with a group of Dwarves and a gnome who are escorting a group of women and children dispossessed by the war, they discover a physician named Regis who also comes along with them when he finds out his village was burned. But as they are cut off from traveling south by the actions of the fighting armies, they each discover truths about each other and are forced to make hard decisions. Meanwhile, Yennifer is transformed back into a human by the elven sorceress and is forced to join a group of sorceresses who want to impose their own vision upon the world. Can they do it without consequences? And will Yennefer stay true to the magicians when they have forced her to join them on threat of being returned to statue form. But men still seek after Ciri, can Geralt find her before the Bounty Hunters do? I liked this book. It's kind of obvious that Anderzej Sapkowski's political views have informed his writing. Or at least the political history he seems to have lived through, as this is a very sort of world-weary sort of fantasy that isn't like much of what I have read from other authors. Yet still, I enjoyed it very much, it being more gritty and just different from Western Heroic Fantasy. These characters have more flaws and scorn being "heroic", but end up being heroes anyway by sticking up for their principles and those they love, and the villains, aside from the monsters, appear to be attached to nations and kings rather than idealistic or simple outright villainous simply to be villainous. A goodm nuanced fantasy novel from a superb author. Recommended.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J, Maas- Feyre is the last hope of her family. With her father crippled and their mother dead and their fortune gone, she saves them by going out and hunting deer in the woods that border the fae lands. But when she kills a deer and a wolf, she realizes that the wolf is very probably a fae. But she doesn't care, skinning it and taking both pelts to the market to sell, and venison to her family to feed them. Her two sisters are too naïve or too uncaring to hunt for them, so it lands of Feyre to do so. But her killing of the Fae wolf leads to her being abducted by Tamlin, one of the High Fae Lords, ruler of the Faerie Court of Spring. Instead of killing her, he tells her that he needs her life for the life of the Fae she slew. But all she must do is live with him, among his people, and while at first, she makes plans to escape, she soon realizes how futile such plans are, and how many things are waiting in the woods beyond Tamlin's manor walls waiting to kill her. Slowly, her feelings for him begin to change, and things go from bad to worse. a Plague is brewing in the Fae lands, one which could imperil the human lands as well, and Feyre's only hope at breaking the curse is to decipher a riddle set to her by the true blight on the Fae Kingdoms, Amarantha, or to complete three impossible tasks set by Amarantha herself. But even if she manages to complete the tasks will the evil fairy give up the prize she wants, Tamlin? Or will Feyre win her way out of Amarantha's tricks and snares to win her and Tamlin free? This story sort of retells the story of Tamlin, but with a number of twists and the ending is completely different. I really liked it, I loved the way the story built and the little pieces that seemed to mean nothing at first and ended up having a big impact on the story. Sarah J. Maas is a very good storywriter, and while I was disappointed at first that it wasn't another Celaena Sardothian book, this is very good nevertheless. It also has elements of Beauty and the Beast in it, with a curse needing to be broken by the words and actions of the heroine, and perhaps a bit of the story of the Fisher King as well. Excellently done and Highly recommended.

Dayshift by Charlaine Harris- Manfred Bernardo is a psychic, a real one, but he's also a fake, and does readings over the internet. When he goes from the town where he is living, Midnight, Texas, to Dallas and stays in a hotel to give personal (and expensive) readings to a number of clients. But his first afternoon Client drops dead in Manfred's room, and it happens after another resident in the small town is sighted after two people in another room die. Manfred, though, knows that she was there to kill the two, but has no idea how his client died. Worse, her mentally damaged son insists that Manfred killed her and took a fortune in jewels from her purse before she died. Being a psychic and therefore considered a shady character, Manfred must clear his name before police attention is focused on him and on Midnight, where a number of very interesting people live. Plus, there is an old hotel in town that gets renovated so that it can be turned into an eldercare hostel. The question is, why is the conglomeration of companies banding together to do this, and what do their plans have to do with the town. That's not the only upset in town. A young boy arrives in town and grows up unnaturally fast while staying with the local reverend, who makes money as an animal cemetery as well as being a preacher. And the other resident in town who Manfred saw in Dallas, Olivia, might be a contract killer. The man she lives with is a vampire. And Manfred is a friend of Sookie's. With all these threads converging on the town, Manfred is going to have to solve the mysteries with the help of Olivia, and the residents of Midnight will have to work together to figure out what is going on and why before the situation becomes deadly. This is a spin-off series from Charlaine Harris' "Sookie Stackhouse vampire mystery/romances. This one  more about the mystery than the romance, and I liked it a great deal. Manfred has grown and matured since meeting Sookie. In this book, he actually qualifies as an "upstanding citizen" and does his level best to try and solve the mystery and save his fellow Midnighters. There are far less vampires and were creatures in this book, and more seemingly otherwise normal people. It's different than Harris' other series, but still good and well worth reading. Recommended.

Born of Defiance by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Talyn Batur has lived his entire life as an outcast from his people, the Andarions. With his father not recognizing him, his only recourse was to the military, and though he is a smart, dedicated, intelligent soldier, he is stuck at the level of major and discriminated against by his own superior all because of his birth. When he contracts with a house to have a mistress, he must pay them many times the normal going rate to have Felicia be with him. She is born out of wedlock, but recognized by her father, but even so, her options are also limited. Studying medicine, she also sells herself, much as her mother did. But she only accepted Talyn because he treated her well and promised her a place close to her college to live in. When she moves in with him, she discovers how badly he is treated by his own superior, and the many cruelties the man inflicts on him. Despite her intention not to get emotionally involved, she ends up falling for Talyn, motivated by his obvious feelings for her and the loving, considerate way he treats her. But when she grows tired of the way he is treated by her superiors, she calls in the help of her half-brother, who gets him reassigned to the palace. But even here, the mistreatment follows him, and the man he is supposed to be guarding is a friend of his former commander, gets him cashiered and thrown onto a notorious prison planet with his legs broken. Even so, Talyn manages to survive and help a group of prisoners to stay alive. But when his mother, who is also in the service, finds out what has happened to him, she takes action through her friend, the sister of the current Andorian Empress, getting him retrieved. But Talyn has had his fill of the monarchy and being mistreated. When a rebel approaches him about overthrowing the current family on the throne, he is all for it. But can he keep Felicia safe while staying a fighter in the ring all the while overthrowing the royals in the coming coup, which will demand of him that he take a leadership role? I loved this book. Yes, Talyn's people are harsh, and he has a really sucky life, but his mother loves him and he's extremely good at what he does. The reason behind his superior's hatred of him is believable and horrible at the same time, but I loved how Talyn and Felicia came together and how they never doubted their feelings for each other and never descended into sniping or yelling at each other. The ending ties into other books in the Sentella series as it ends with the overthrow of most of the royal family and the revelation of Taplyn's true father and clan (s). It' a good book, if a trifle hard to read at times because of the abuse Talyn suffers. Recommended.

Spider Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli- Spider man is swinging through the city one night, taking down crooks, when he notices a blast of purple lightning coming from a rooftop not far away. Where it came from, he discovers the lair of Mysterio, and a portal powered by Stark Technology, presumably stolen from Tony Stark. But when he and Mysterio have a fight, the portal flares and Peter is sucked in... only to appear elsewhere, and seemingly, elsewhen. Where it once was night, now it's day, and his while the city appears unchanged, he is confronted by a smaller man, a teenager, wearing a spider-suit. They fight, and Miles uses his Venom sting to knock Peter out. Cottoning to who Peter is right away, he tries to remove Peter's mask. But Peter, waking, objects to this and learns some of what this universe is like from Miles and Nick Fury. But he breaks away from them, trying to find out if it is really true. Peter goes to his apartment and finds out that in this world, he's dead and people think his costume in poor taste as if he is trying to ape the original Spidernan. But when Peter goes to see his Aunt Betty and Gwen Stacy, they think he is trying to start something, until he pulls off his mask and shows them his face. There are explanations all around. Meanwhile, back in the original comics universe, Mysterio has sent a robot double of himself to kill Spider-Man once and for all, but the two Spidermen fight him off and with the help of the Avengers and Nick Fury, return to the original comics world to deal with Mysterio, But can they defeat him before the portal collapses and strands either one in the wrong world? I don't generally read Spider Man (never did, really), but I loved this graphic novel, which was smart, funny and snappy. The best funny scene was where Nick Fury asks Peter what he is like in Peter's world, and Peter can only say, "White." and Ultimates Fury is like "Sad to hear that." The book ends on a mini-cliffhanger as Peter tries to see if there is a Miles Morales in his own world and appears shocked at what he finds, but the novel leaves us in suspence. It was a great book and I really enjoyed the crossing over of worlds and characters. Highly recommended,

Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole- Evie, theEmpress of the Current Arcana, has been kidnapped by Aric, the Death Card, and imprisoned at his base. But even though she has come to have feelings for Aric, she is also in love with Jack and when she heard Jack had been captured by the Lovers, the most twisted and evil cards of this cycle, Evie left Aric's fortress to try and save the boy she loves. But Jack has been busy since she was gone, forging together elements of an army, accompanied by several other members of the Tarot, including the Fool, Judgment, The Tower, The Moon and others have encamped across the river from the army lead by the father of the Lovers. Jack is their prisoner, but they have ways of cloning themselves, and can mingle their blood to create copies of themselves. They also have a secret, and to discover it, Evie, Jack, Aric and the other trumps will have to work together to deal with them. But with Evie the focus of love for both Aric and Jack, can she keep their friction to a minimum and keep them all safe by using her powers? I love this series and I love these characters. I don't know who Evie will pick, it's turning into rather a "Team Arci/Team Jack kind of situation. People have theorized that Jack is an Arcana, possibly the Sun (given his skills as a leader, I am thinking possibly the Emperor, but only if he does turn out to be an Arcana, which is far from assured. I am personally trending towards Aric, myself, But I am willing to be persuaded. So much happened in this book that it seems like it should have been longer, but I like the mix of character and action moments, and how Evie struggles against the Red Queen, the more "outcome oriented" part of her personality. It was also nice to see Jack and Aric come, if not to actually like each other, respect each other for their abilities and talents. I can't wait for the next installment! Highly recommended.

Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson- While waiting to be married, Sarah Brandt and Frank Molloy have purchased a home together, which Frank is having remodeled to suit them and their family. But now that he is no longer a policeman, Frank is building another type of business entirely, as a private detective. When Sarah's mother discovers that Charles Oakes, the son of an old friend, has died unexpectedly, she takes Sarah along on a visit to console the family. But Charles' father hires Frank to look into the death and find the man who killed Frank, who was poisoned with arsenic. As it seems that he had no enemies outside the home, Frank concentrates on the servants working in the house, and Charles' wife, who isn't exactly mourning him the way that she should be, But when a servant named Daisy, who used to work for Mrs. Oakes when she was a slave and Mrs. Oakes the daughter of the plantation owner, is also poisoned by arsenic concealed in pieces of candy that she took with her to the home of a friend,  Malloy wonders who might have wanted her dead as well, and why. Working with another former member of the force who he hires after Gino returns from the War in Cuba, he and Sarah's adopted daughter Maeve join forces with Gino and Malloy to find the real killer and bring him or her to justice. I love this series, which marries turn of the century New York with a family dynamic a bit like Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels. Though this series was always a bit more gritty and grounded in realism than the Anne Perry books, I like both of them, and this book was no exception to the series. Some of the elements of this case seemed to call back to earlier cases, like when Malloy investigated the truth behind the facts of the death of her husband, I found this quite wonderful and believable, especially the reasons behind the murder, which speak of hidden secrets and shame. Highly recommended once again.

Hulk: Omega Hulk Book 1: by Gerry Duggan and Mark Bagley- The Hulk has evolved again, this time into "Doctor Green", with the physique of Hulk and the mental prowess of Banner. And he wants to eliminate all the other heroes ad villains whose powers derive from gamma radiation from the world. So he sets up a lab, working with other scientists to make antidotes to Gamma ray irradiation. The irony is, of course, that he, himself, is immune to his own cure. He will be the Hulk forever. He tales out the Abomination, Atom Bomb, the Red She-Hulk, Skaar, and even Hulkling, who isn't gamma-irradiated, just a shapeshifter. But will he be able to take down The Red Hulk, aka longtie Hulk foe "Thunderbolt" Ross? And when one of the scientists working with Doc Green turns herself into a living tree and takes over all the plants near her, using them to kill humans, Doc Green has to take it on himself to deal with her. But why did she do this? I thought this was okay. It's definitely a breath of fresh air for the Hulk Franchise, I thought it harkened back to The Joe Fixit Character. Even though he's intelligent and tries to control his temper, he's still a scary guy, as he's willing to use the strength of the Hulk in his own ends. I thought it was okay, but not completely enjoyable. Slightly recommended.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua-Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron who was turned towards mathematic pursuits to keep her from having a "poetic" disposition. Charles Babbage was also a mathematician 20 years her senior who invented the first computer, "The difference Engine" and later "The Analytical Engine". Ehen Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage met, it was a match made in heaven, as she saw more uses for his machine beyond just mathematical calculations. In writing code for the machines, Ada became the first programmer (of sorts). After this historical introduction, Sydney Padua moves on to rebrand them as mathematical adventurers in a parallel but different steampunk universe. In the first, Lovelace and Babbage must fix things at the Bank of England when the American Banking system collapse. In the process, they invent the steam engine and give one man the idea for the railroad. "Luddites" shows a bunch of angry "computers" people who do sums for a living, like accountants) attacking the engine which has taken away their jobs. Lovelace and Babbage must handle this with... MATH. In "User Experience" George Eliot, aka Marian Evans must make her way through the Engine with her manuscript in search of spelling errors, but will she survive the experience? In "Mr. Boole comes to tea, and shows Boolean logic. "Imaginary Numbers" takes Ada to the land of fantasy, i.e. imaginary Numbers, in a manner reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. The book ends with recollections of people who knew Lovelace and Babbage, and some papers about them and their ideas. I liked this book, which is art graphic novel and part text, with numerous and copious footnotes. The story of the two protagonists was interesting, and several stories, while taken from actual history, mirror things happening today. This graphic novel is very geeky, but fun. Highly recommended.

The Devil Takes a Bride by Julia London- When Grace Cabot sets out to seduce Lord Amherst to save her sisters from penury and disgrace, she ends up in the embrace of his brother instead, the Earl of Merryton, who is known to be staid and humorless. But when they are found together in a shocking and profound kiss, Grace must marry him, and since he is so cold and seemingly unfeeling, she wonders how she can ever be happy with such a man. But that cold, staid, humorless exterior hides a man in pain, who must put up a passionless front just to survive living day to day, and as Grace discovers her new husband's deepest secrets, she must heal them if their marriage is to survive. But will she always long for the love and the man she never had? I really liked this book. Jeffrey, Lord Merryton, is like anything but his title. He's not merry, has an obsession with order, and with the number 8. But all of these are hiding a shocking secret from the past and a terrible history. And while Grace doesn't react very well to her husband's needs at first, she eventually begins to understand him and she is not shocked by his needs and desires. I was a little disappointed that the desires he felt sort of went away when Grace was willing to do a few things with him, but otherwise, I found the book good and interesting. Recommended,

The Ugly Duchess by Eloise James- Theodora Ashby is the ward of the Duke of Ashbrook, and has been raised with his son, James Ryburn, for most of their lives. But when his father loses the estate, he tries to force James to marry her an secure her fortune so that they can save the estate. James is resistant at first, thinking of her as a sister, but soon his discovers that his true feelings for her are far more tender and intimate. He does end up marrying her, and they begin to save the estate together, until Theodora overhears her new father-in-law congratulating his son on the success of their scheme. Theodora, overhearing them, is shocked and crushed. She tells both men to leave forever, and settles down to getting the estate out of entail and dressing the way she wants rather than in endless pink and ruffles. Soon, she goes from an ugly duckling to a swan. Meanwhile, James has become a sea captain, and then a privateer. But just as Theodora who has heard nothing from James for 7 years and has been unable to find him, is about to have him declared dead, when he returns in a spectacular fashion. But can the two of them reconnect when both have changed so radically? I liked this book a lot> Both characters change from when they are separated from each other to when they finally reconnect and rediscover their love at the end of the book. Theodora blossoms into love, then shuts herself off for fear of being hurt again. But I loved how they got back together and rediscovered their love at the end of the book. Recommended.

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes- Cassie Hobbes is a natural profiler whose mother was killed by a serial killer. She was taken in by the FBI to join another group of talented teens like herself- broken by life, but coming out of it with seemsingly supernatural instincts for reading emotions, telling lies, Profiling or for seeing patterns. In the first book, Naturals, Cassie discovered that the killer who killed her mother wanted her as well. Now, her friend and fellow "Natural Profiler", Dean, is drawn into a case by a serial killer who is mimicking his father's killings. But just as they did for Cassie, the entire team of naturals wants to help Dean and find the copycat who is killing in the same way as his father did. But for what reason, and why does Dean's Father want to know and control Dean? And now they have a new protector to deal with, Agent Sterling, Brigg's wife, has returned to the force and wants to get the naturals program shut down. But she also wants to protect Dean. But why? What history do they share together, and can they find the copycat before any other women die? Another excellent title. I really enjo0yed the whole "Criminal Minds for YA" vibe, and the characters. Cassie and her fellow Naturals intrigue and absorb, and even the adults are always interesting. Lets teens see Criminal Profiling from the inside and see how the FBI works. I love Cassie, though. No more love triangle this time around, at least I hope. If you're a teen, or you know one who enjoys the whole "CSI/Criminal Minds", this series might scratch the itch you feel for more. Highly recommended.

By Tooth and Claw by S. M. Stirling, Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Jody Lynn Nye.- An alternate Earth tale, in this alternate, the asteroid did not strike the Earth, and the dinosaurs did not go extinct. Instead, the earth is inhabited by two very different races of intelligent beings, the Mrem, a humanoid feline race, and the Liskash, a reptiloid Dinosaurian race. The Mrem are fierce warriors, but the Liskash have mental powers. Now, a great disaster has come, and the great water has invaded the lands occupied by both the Mrem and Liskash, forcing both to struggle for survival. "Bury My Heart" by Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin tells the story of the Long Fang, who lived to the south and were nearly drowned by the rushing tidal wave of the waters. Left smaller and much, much poorer by the Tsunami that engulfed their lands, they struggle to make their way t safety. But though Sartas Rrem, the leader and his mate Reshia, do their best to try and lead their clan to safety, a large group of Liskash are on their trail. Can Sartas Rrem and his warriors hold them back long enough to get the rest of the group to (relative) safety? "A Clan's Foundation" by S. M. Stirling- When a group of escaped Mrem slaves from a Liskash holding rescue a Wild Mrem Warrior, he must help them to become a unified tribe if they want to join the Clan of the Claw. "Sanctuary" by Eric Flint has a clan of Mrem on the run from a Liskash Warlord. But when they help and are rescued by a group of outcast Liskash, they must make a lasting peace if they hope to outwit and evade the forces of the general- a route that will take them across the long water and see the Mrem and Liskash joining their mental abilities to win their way to safety. Lastly, "Feeding a Fever" by Jody Lynn Nye tells of a Mrem clan of dancers beset by disease. When the servant of the Dancers makes a detour to gather plants and food from a nearby swamp to tempt the dancers into eating, they are captured by a group of Liskash who want to turn the Mrem into slaves. And only the ingenuity of the Dancer's servant can save them from death, humiliation and slavery forever... I liked these stories, which are more of a shared world story than a cohesive whole. Still, I really enjoyed each separate story, and both the conflict and cooperation between the Mrem and Liskash. My favorite was a tossup between "Survival" and "Feed a Fever", both of which were strong stories, each in different ways. Still, all the stories here were above average. Highly recommended.

His Wicked Reputation by Madeline Hunter- Gareth Fitzallen is the bastard son of a Duke. While two of his brothers love him, one of them, Rupert, hated him and sought every chance to bring Rupert low. Making his own way as a factor for sales of fine art, Rupert is skilled in the art of seduction of older, willing women.  Eva Russell is the daughter of a gentleman, reduced to near-penury by the deaths of her father and brother. She and her sister live in genteel poverty, alleviated by the money she makes from copying pictures that she finds in the attic of the manor house down the lane from her own. But when she meets Gareth on the road and realizes that he is the owner of the house, she must stop her copying of the paintings. So she does so, but realizes that her new paintings have made much money for her and her sister. She plans a trip to the house of a relative and meets again with Gareth there. In the meantime, he has been assigned a task by Ywain, called Ives by his brothers, to track down paintings that went missing from the manor house of a noble, all of which belonged to wealthy nobles, who sent them into safety during the Napoleonic Wars. But as Gareth tracks down the paintings, he and Eva become closer, then lovers, when her house is broken into and her paintings ruined by forces unknown. Not the paintings she copied, but ones she did on her own. But when Gareth offers her and her sister the chance to stay in London, she sees one of her paintings up for auction at Sotheby's, and when she tries to tell the man that she did the painting, he treats her as if she is crazy. But as the assaults on her home continue, it is clear that a group of Ruffians think that her brother hid a great treasure with her, and they want it back. The treasure turns out to be at least part of the missing paintings, and Gareth must keep Eva and her sister safe while they discover what exactly happened to the paintings and where they are now. But will Eva be put in gaol for forgery, or can Gareth save her and convince her that she did nothing wrong? And will Gareth leave his life of lechery and finally settle down with Eva, the woman he has come to love? I liked this book a lot. I liked how Gareth and Eva interacted, and their interactions with their relatives as well. I would love to see if Eva became famous for her painting as well. But this was a superior romance novel nonetheless. Recommended.

Red Flags: How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers and Toxic People in Your Life by Wendy L. Patrick- This book shows you how to spot the people in your life who willo hurt you and cause you pain because of who they are. In a way, this book reminded me of that book on the 5 most dangerous kinds of people, because this book pretty much covers the same ground, only in a different way. They both focus on the need to look beyond the surface, to see what people are really like underneath, which mostly involves looking at them when they are at home and in spaces and places they feel at home. Mostly, putting these into action involves paying attention to what people say and do and not just accepting them at face value. It's filled with interesting information and interesting stories of how the people she warns you against can leave you hurt and blindsided when they turn on you. And interesting book and recommended,

Orion and King Arthur by Ben Bova- Orion is an operative, a construct made by the future human who masquerades as the God Aten in time. He uses Orion to intervene in situations  and twist the situation for his benefit. When Orion helps Siegfried overcome both Grendel and his mother, he discovers that one of the children Grendel's mother has in her lair is none other than Arthur. He helps Siegfried rescue the hostages, and later, is returned to Britain by Aten to ensure that Arthur doesn't become King. But Orion finds King Arthur to be noble and worthy of respect, and aided by the Lady of the Lake (Orion's love and a creator like Aten) and Merlin (another creator who calls himself Ares), they elevate Arthur to the Kingship despite Aten's wishes and plots to the contrary. But even Orion is unable to Keep Arthur safe from every plot, and Aten's attempts to punish Orion and even destroy him is only making Orion stronger. Soon, he may become Aten's equal. But will Aten allow it? And can Orion save the King from his foredestined end? And can Even Orion stand against the might and cunning of his creator? I thought this was a new book, but as it turns out, this is part of a series. Orion is the main character, and he is both a servant of Aten and a foil to him. Aten wants to manipulate history to make himself and the other creators possible, and Orion works to undo that. But despite Orion's "meddling" in the timeline, the Creators somehow still exist. This book doesn't really explain how this is possible  But by the end, Aten has declared his intention to destroy Orion, so there will be at least one more book in the series. I greatly enjoyed the book, as it showed mostly Arthur and Orion interacting as friends as well as noble (or Dux Bellorum- War Leader) and Liegeman. If I see any more of these, I will certainly pick them up. Highly recommended.

The Lady is a Vamp by Lynsay Sands- Jeanne Louise Argeneau is  a researcher at the Argeneau blood clinic, working on issues that concern immortals, but one night, she is kidnapped from her job by Paul Jones, whose daughter, Olivia, is dying of a brain tumor. John wants Jeanne Louise to turn his daughter and make her immortal, saving her life. Jeanne Louise is startled, but soon realizes that Paul is her lifemate when she cannot read his mind. Soon, the two of them are in love and on the run from the Immortal Enforcers who will do anything to set Jeanne Louise free. But she no longer wants to go free, nor does she want Paul punished for what he has done. But when the Enforcers, including her Uncle, Lucian, show up to "rescue" her, it precipitates a crisis that may end up parting them forever. Can Jeanne Louise live with the knowledge that the man she loves will die long before she even grows old? Or will a solution be found to their dilemma? I liked this book, usually, the books are about an immortal male and a human female. Sometimes, both the male and female are immortal, but this is one of a few that broke the mold. I liked the interaction between Jeanne Louise and Paul even back when he hard her a prisoner, and after she fell in love with little Livvy and him, it only got much, much better. This was a wonderful book and well-worth the read. Recommended.

The Immortal Who Loved Me by Lynsay Sands Sherry Carne is a big success. Though she is barely thirty, she owns her own, successful kitchenware shop. But when the shop is invaded by three men chasing a young girl, things quickly go out of control. The men are immortals, and fangless vampires as well. The girl is Stephanie, also a fangless vampire, because she and her sister were turned by these vampires long ago. But unlike them, they aren't crazy, They do, however, want Stephanie. Sherry, dragged along in the girl's wake, helps her out and Stephanie's relative, Basileos Argeneau, is called in to assist. Stephanie, who is extraordinarily good at reading these things, believes that Sherry could be Basil's lifemate. There is a complication, though. While lifemates cannot be read by their lifemate, Sherry is difficult to read anyhow. Which can only mean that Sherry has been around a vampire most of her life, and has developed the mental shielding that comes inevitably when someone is able to read your thoughts. And since no one knows of any vampires in the area, it must be a rogue. Sherry must uncover the secrets of her own life to help Basil find out who might have been influencing her and uncover the truth about herself and her own birth. But can she live with the results? This book was only okay. I usually like the Argeneau vampires books, but this one I found merely middle of the road and kind of boilerplate as it all went. Sherry finding out about her past and how she came to be (as well as he secret of who the vampire close to her was good, and the rest was
just okay. Recommended, but not highly.

Forbidden Magic by Jo Beverley- Meg Gillingham was impoverished by the death of her parents. Now, she tries to keep everything together for sake of her sister and brother. Finally, with Christmas coming and out of options, she resorts to a magical item that has been in her family for generations, the Sheela-mg-gigh, a rude carving of a woman. She wishes for someone to rescue her from their situation and prevent their landlord from despoiling her sister for his own wicked lust. Into her home comes Lord Saxonhurst, who is in a pickle. He was raided by his grandmother, and she rules hm as harshly as iron. So, he needs to fulfill the promise he made to her, to marry by his 25th birthday, which is a mere few days off. Then, a maid who used to work for Meg tells him about her, and Meg about Sax (as he is called), and suggests that they take care of each other's problems by marrying. It seems the perfect solution on paper and would get them both out of their difficulties. But will Meg and her siblings be able to adapt to Sax's crazy household and lifestyle? And when his grandmother continues to try and control Sax, can Meg help him stay out of her clutches and free? Because when she uses the magic of the Sheelagh, it always exacts a price... This book was acually mad fun. Taking place in the Georgian Period rather than the Regency or Victorian gives it a different air, one of unstated and unbridled sensuality and hedonism. I loved both Meg and Sax, but mostly Sax, as he was really helpful to Mag. But he's not without his own problems, and Meg definitely helps him with that. I loved this book and am really glad I stumbled on it. Recommended.

The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh- Lord Brocklehiurst has been scarred in war, and his features often make him seem ugly to his wife, who is in love with another man, his brother. But when he comes on a skinny and starved looking prostitute with a strange air of self-possession, he cannot help but engage her. Wen she turns out to be a virgin, he realizes that he has done her wrong. He buys her food and attempts to do more for her, but she disappears into the night, leaving him with only a name, Fleur. Isabella Fleur Bradshaw is a woman of secrets, and on the run, attempting to survive on her own. When she loses her virginity, she is at the end of her rope, but she is soon hired ats a governess by the wife of Lord Brocklehurst. His wife is fretful, and is soon sure that her new governess is her husband's mistress, but he refuses to let her be let go. Like her mother, the daughter is fretful and complaining, but Fleur soon brings her out of her attitude. As Fleur and Lord Brocklehurst grow ever closer, they must keep themselves from breaking his marriage vows within his house, and a House Party brings all of Fleur's secrets into the light. But can she face them to be free to finally love him? And when Lord Brocklehurst's brother returns, it causes tension between him and his wife. But what will become of these two star-crossed lovers, can they ever be together? This is one of Mary Balogh's early romance stories, and as such, isn't much like her later works. It has adultery (on both sides of a marriage), and a very mournful tone. Both Lord Brocklehurst and Fleur live in such constrained circumstances, and they aren't free to be together, which leaves the book with a mournful yet hopeful tone. And there is so much tragedy... so much. It was interesting, but not so much romantic as some of her later works. I liked it, but it's not a book for everyone. Recommended.

Storm of Shadows by Christina Dodd- Rosamund Hill is a daughter of two archaeologists, now dead. Aaron Eagle is a Chosen One, descendants of two very special children born to a mother who abandoned them. Both had powers, but while one twin used them for good, the other used them for evil. Aaron is of the Chosen Ones, who use their powers to help Humanity. They need Rosamund's help to track down a prophecy left by a dark-skinned prophetess that could help save the Chosen Ones, who are almost the only Chosen Ones left after an explosion took out the others. But Aaron and Rosamund are not alone in looking for the Prophecy. Lance Matthews, a member of the Others, and markedly handsome and cunning, wants Rosamund's services for the Others, the group that came out of the evil twin. And he got to Rosamund first. Can Aaron convince her to help him whole keeping her safe from Lance Matthews and find the prophecy before The Orhers get it? I liked this series, not quite so much as her earlier "Darkness Chosen" series, but enough to really enjoy this books, which is a whirlwind trip around the world and  shows us how Powerful the Chosen and The Others are. I liked the characters, and while this is not the first book in the series, I didn't feel left out or left in the dark by the story. Recommended.

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R. A. Salvatore- Bruenor and the Companions of the Hall return to his home, where the Drow and their forces, including the army led by Harrtusk, now ruling Obould's old Kingdom of Many Arrows, are besieging the far north, trying to bring down the Many Dwarf Halls and the independent cities in the area with the hopes of building a Drow Kingdom under the Darkening, which permanently blots out the sun and the stars from shining. But in addition to the forces of the Dwarves, the forces of the Drow are rent from within by infighting and tensions between clans. Plus, Tos'un Armgo and Tiago Do'Urden don't always agree, with Tiago fighting boredom in his new lands and Tos'un ready to use his half Drow daughter, Doum'wielle to his own advantage. Only the threat of Quenthel Baenrae keeps them in line, as do the efforts of Gromph Baenrae, the Mage and Head of the Sorcere. Meanwhile, Regis and Wulfgar have been separated from their friends and must survive in the Underdark tunnels beneath the North, which they manage to do quite handily. But when Jarlaxle intervenes, accompanied by his lover, the two Copper Dragon Sisters, the tide really begins to turn. But who is really on the side of the Dwarves and who is merely opposing Matron Mother Quenthel and her forces? And can the Dwarves work with the humans and Sinnafein and her elves, along with the folk of Silverymoon to free the north of the Drow? This book was... okay at best. I have noticed that I don't really get as excited about Drizzt and his companions as I used to. Part of that is that Salvatore and the publisher seem to be all too willing to give into Drizzt's many fanboys and keep writing about him, when I think he should have been left to pass into obscurity once more. With so many Drizzt books about, sooner or later, I would hope that R.A. Salvatore ran out of enthusiasm for writing about the Drow and picked up some new characters. I am very upset that, say, Cadderly was killed off (and his lady-love Danica). I wanted to read more of those characters, but they just weren't as popular as Drizzt. And I think this series and these characters are jumping the shark at this point. Yes, the battles are still massive and thrilling, but all the joy seems to be gone, and I'd like to only read the next book when R.A. Salvatore has found that joy in writing again. So, still recommended, but only slightly.

Rushed to the Altar by Jane Feather- Jasper Sullivan, Earl of Blackwater, is not a wealthy man. So when his uncle proposes to leave his fortune to Jasper and his brothers, with one stipulation: each one must marry a former prostitute who they saved from her profession. Jasper encounters Clarissa Astley the daughter of a prosperous merchant, when she is living in a brothel and searching desperately for her younger brother, just a child, who has been taken away from their home by her guardian, who wants to eliminate the heir, her brother, and then force her into marriage so that he can take their parents fortune. But on her own, she is unable to find him, and reluctantly, she needs Jasper's help. In return, she agrees to marry him to spite his already spiteful uncle and give him enough money to live on. But when the hand of her Guardian reaches out to snatch her away, Clairssa will have to escape the man she fears the most, and find a life with Jasper, who she is in love with, in the bargain. But can they outwit their foes and triumph before Clarissa is dragged away to a lunatic asylum and his uncle disinherits him? I liked this book. I'd read another book in the series, and all three brothers seem to be getting around their uncle by marrying women who aren't actually courtesans, they just looked like they were. But I liked all the characters, the romance was wonderful and the ending was actually rather appropriate for the villain. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.

New Spring by Robert Jordan- This is a prequel to the Wheel of Time stories. It starts in the White Tower, as Moiraine Damodred witnesses a foretelling from one of the Tower's Seers. Afterwards, the seer falls dead at Moiraine's feet and precipitates the search for the newly born Dragon Reborn. Moiraine and her best friend Siuan Sanche, join the search for the mother of the Dragon Reborn, looking for women who gave birth in the sight of Dragonmount, which covers a lot of ground. Siuan and Moiraine are sent to one of the army camps to record the borths, with women lining up to do so because the Amyrlin seat offers a reward to any woman who has given birth to a child in the time allotted for the birth. But soon, the test to become a Aes Sedai is given to both of them and both pass, becoming sisters of the Blue Aja. Siuan is taken into the spy service, Moiraine is chocen to learn more magic. But soon she becomes convinced that she knows who the mother of the new Dragon reborn is... or might be, and takes off on her own to investigate. Along the way, she meets an outlander named Lan Mandragoran., he Uncrowned King of a country swallowed by the Blight. As he and his companions are drawn into the conflict between Darkfriends, Black Aja and all too human enemies, Moiraine, Siuan and Lan will have to work together to defeat the dark and find the Dragon Reborn. But how long will it take her to find them, and can she meet the Black Aja and Darkfriends she meets along the way? I actually rather enjoyed this book. It takes place twenty years before the series and ends a few months later, but we get to see the forces being marshaled to look for the Dragon Reborn, who has just been born. Sadly, Moiraine doesn't find Rand until 20 years later, but we get to see her encountering Lan for the first time and how they bonded (and how she bonded him. This book sets up the rest of the series, and like the first books in the series, things actually happen fairly swiftly. This makes it a fast read and it's also surprisingly good. I really enjoyed it all the way through, even if Moiraine *doesn't* find the child she is searching for. Recommended.

The Loving Daylights by Lynsay Sands- Jane Spyrus is a tech geek who designs gadgets for spies. Disturbingly, though, all of the gadgets she designs seem to revolve around sex. A Mini -Missile designed to resemble a bright pink vibrator, Tampons that act as locator beacons, and a condom that reacts to male excitement by shrinking to a fraction of its former size. But when her next door neighbor is kidnapped by her boss, Jane must team up with her grandmother, a feisty ex-spy now confined to a wheelchair and her neighbor's hot brother, Abel Andretti, to find Jane's friend. Luckily, she borrowed a few of Jane's "tampons". But in the process, Jane is called upon to actually *be* a spy, something she isn't quite prepared for. And when Abel, an accountant, and she start getting closer than she's ever been with a man, Jane finds herself pulled in two directions. But can she rescue her friend *and* land a man who is constantly impressed with her mind and ideas, and seems to think she is sexy as well? This book was a mix of laughs and hotness. Jane is clumsy, lacks confidence and is better with technology than people. But when Edie goes missing, Jane will do anything to find her, even become a spy and not just a tech. As she bumbles through the case, she gains skills with people, dressing sexy and builds confidence. And Abel, after a less than successful first meeting, finds himself enjoying both sides of her. I liked their chemistry and how they treated each other, and I would definitely recommend this book to someone looking for a fun, comedic modern romance. Recommended.

Sinful in Satin by Madelaine Hunter- Celia Pennifold's mother was a courtesan, a very rich and famous one. Her mother attempted to sell Celia into the same sort of life, Celia ran away to the country and found a different sort of life working with other women in a gardening business. Now that her mother is passed on, Celia has returned to London to take up residence in one of her mother's houses, the other being sold to pay off her many debts. Unbeknownst to her, though, Jonathan Albrighton, a spy, rented the house from Celia's mother, and is interested in finding her mother's account book, which will shed light on certain diplomatic spying that went on long before. Celia also wants to find it, to find out who her father really is, and why her mother never told her, as she took the secret of the reality of Celia's parentage to the grave with her. But as Celia tries to make a new, quieter,more sedate life for herself, phantoms of the past are knocking at her door, from the man she once loved to the man she is coming to care for deeply. But one cannot go digging into a hidden past without turning up hurtful secrets and when Celia uncovers the truth of who her father is, it may open up a world of new secrets, and the truth about her mother in equal measures. But can she live with the truth of her parentage and the shame of having been born the daughter of a courtesan? And can she find love when a man wants her for nothing more than her body and maidenhead? I liked this book as well. Celia is someone who has lived with the truth of who she is for a long time, and she thinks she has very little illusions about how the world works. But she still does have some, and it up to Jonathan to help her with finding her true father. Jonathan is a spy, trained not to have emotions, but when he starts getting close to Celia, all that changes, and he has to face that he has been lied to as well. I found this story engrossing, for pretty much all of it. And would definitely recommend it to others.

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt- Temperance Dews is a widow working for her family's Foundling Home, along with her brother, Winter and a servant named Polly. The home is on the edge of St. Giles, a poor, crime-ridden area of London. One night, en route to retrieve a child  who has been abandoned, she is followed home by Lazarus Huntingdon, Lord Caire, a man well-known for his passions, and the twisted ways in which he fulfills them. Caire is in St. Giles to track down the Ghost of St. Giles, reputed to have murdered Caire's mistress by gutting her. But he is unfamiliar with the area, and Mrs. Dews is very familiar, So he asks for her help, offering first money, and then a sexual relationship with him. But Temperance is further-seeing than that, and holds out for an introduction to the Ton, so she can get her Orphanage and Foundling Home a patron who will support them with money donations. A deal is struck, but as they start and continue the search, they discover an inconvenient longing for each other, and they must help each other face the demons in their past before they have any hope of being free of their baggage. But is love too much to expect for these wounded hearts? I loved this book. I'll admit it took a while to warm up to both  characters, but you don't get the sense of how injured they are until near the middle of the book. Eventually, they do end up confronting their past demons, and I loved the true identity of the villain. This is the first book in a series about St. Giles, and several characters are teased as sequel bait, but not in a way I particularly minded. Highly recommended.

Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt- Godric St. John is the Ghost of St. Giles, but when the woman he married comes to London to invade his run-down home, he wants her to go away as quickly as possible. He doesn't want to give up being the Ghost or the memories of his first wife, who died early, and the woman he married, Lady Margaret, "Megs" Reading, he has promised to be a husband to in name only. But Megs wants two things from her trip to London, to kill the Ghost of St. Giles, who murdered the man she loved, and to beget a child of her own after she lost the child of her lover. Godric married het to save her reputation, and because her brother forced him into it. But now that Meg is living in his house, doing her best to bring his home back to life, he finds his heart coming alive as well, and when she discovers his secret, he has no choice but to take her along on his search for the murderer of her love, both to prove his own innocence, and to keep her from harm. But can they have a true marriage of equals and find the love they have been denying? And will Godric agree to give up being the Ghost for Megs? Another really excellent book, the fifth in the "Maiden Lane" series. of which this is book 5. I liked seeing Godric and Megs strike sparks off each other, and finally come to admit that they loved and cared for one another. I see that in the time between "Wicked Intentions", several characters have been paired up, and Godric was one of the characters from the first book that it was good to see again. Several years have passed, but the character is a little grimmer and darker than he used to be, sort of Regency Batman. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every minute of the book. Both characters hurt each other and get over their past ties to form a new one with each other, and it held my attention every step of the way. Recommended.

Redshirts by John Scalzi- Andrew Dahl is an Ensign newly assigned to the Universal Union Flagship Intrepid. Older than the usual Ensigns, he is a refugee from Forshan. But Human, not alien. He was a seminary student of the Forshan religion until a religious Schism wiped out the abbey he had made his home. With nowhere left to go, he joined the Union Academy and was assigned to the Intrepid. But soon after he arrives on board, he discovers a curious fact. Whenever someone is looking for Ensigns for away missions, everyone seems to disappear. In asking his crewmates, he discovers that this ship has an abnormally high casualty rate. While the Captain and Science Officer are never affected, new recruits to the ship seem to die like mayflies every time they beam down to a new planet. It's so much more than other ships in the same fleet, even ones tasked to dangerous missions in the Union, that the lower crew members have been avoiding going on away missions. But what could lead to such an increased threat of death? There are crew members, mostly the Captain and the Bridge Crew, who never seem to be affected, except for the Astrogator, who is regularly menaced, but always saved at the last minute. But when a theory of what s happening is proposed by a crewmember who seems to have literally disappeared, can Dahl and his friends on the lower decks  discover if the theory is true and work to ameliorate what is happening before they die as well? The books ends in three novelettes that examine characters in the past and their reaction to meeting the crewmen from the future, and how they deal with that. This is an amusing, yet also horrifying book. There are plenty of nods to Star Trek, but the true culprit is a rip-off cable show. And the landing parties usually consist of Captain, Science Officer, and Ensign Expendable, sometimes more than one. What it would be like to live on board a ship where to attract the notice of the senior crew is basically, to die, was unexpectedly chilling, making this an effective mix of humor and horror. It sounds like it might be funny, but to the characters caught in the trap, it's no joke, and I enjoyed it very much. It reminded me of the Stargate SG-1 episode where we see a TV series based on the Stargate SG-1 team, and while that is played straight rather than for laughs, this book is going to stay with me for a long time. A very long time. Highly recommended.

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett- When Polly Perks' brother Paul marched off to war a few years ago, the troops were promised that the war would be short and victorious. But when her father falls ill (and the local god, Nuggan, has declared a woman owning a business is an abomination, she decides to cut her hair, run off to join the army and follow him to bring him back home. But Polly's nation, Borogravia, is badly outmatched by the forces of Zlobenia,. and even worse, Zlobenia is allied with Ankh-Morporkh, who has sent Duke Commander Vimes to oversee the War. But as Polly joins Sergeat Jackrum and the rest of her newly-recruited squad of In and Outs, she begins to realize that being a msn is harder than she thought, and that most of the "men" in her group aren't even men at all. But can this Monstrous Regiment of Women, dressed like men, end the war with Borogravia and Ankh-Morpork and bring peace to the land? And can they survive the march to the front and bring down the fort where the forces of Zlobenia are holed up, free High Command and get out again safely? For Nuggan has declared women dressing like men to be an abomination, along with the color blue, oysters and rocks) and just being in their position means that they, too are an abomination. Can they still win the day? Terry Pratchett is known for his humor, and writing comedy, but this book edged much closer to satire that out and out comedy. In his novel, "The Trutch", Terry took on the press. But here, it's the military mindset- mostly of the commanders and planners rather than the soldiers left to carry out their orders. Vimes is not the only character from previous books to show up here. Buggy Swires, Sergeant Angua, William deWorde and Otto Chriek, among others. Plus, there is a vampire and an Igor, and numerous other typical characters, and a troll as well. I loved this book, and I would definitely recommend it for a good dose of humor. Highly recommended.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015, Part 3

The Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley- Roberta "Bertie" Frasier is the daughter of a cheat who makes her living as a "Touch" or pickpocket. When she picks the pocket of Sinclair McBride, a Scottish Barrister, on the orders of her brother, she has already been intrigued by his getting off a lady's maid who Bertie counted as a friend. But when he catches her after she picks his pocket, he is set upon by bullyboys or street toughs, and Bertie ends up saving his life. He lets her go in thanks for the saving him, but when she encounters his son and daughter later in the street, they have climbed the scaffolding of a building and their lives are in danger. Bertie risks her own life to get them down and bring them home safely. When their current governess quits, McBride sees how his children listen to Bertie, and hires her to be their governess, since all the other ones he's hired have failed to get them to listen or to inspire their respect. But as Berie serves longer in McBride's household, his feeling towards her are growing increasingly muddled, and he wonders if he can lose his heart to a London pickpocket. But how can he not, when Bertie is not only loveable, but strong, smart and brave? And as for Bertie, how can she not fall in love with McBride, who is all those things himself? I loved this book. The hero and heroine were such strong characters, but willing to work with and respect each others skills and talents. I loved their slow development of feelings for each other and the children, who weren't just plot moppets, but actually contributed to the story themselves. They were little handfuls, but intrigued by Bertie in a good way. I loved every bit of this book, and the characters. Highly recommended.

Sentinel Wars: Binding Ties by Shannon K. Butcher- Lyka Phelan is a slayer, but she also hides a secret which could mean the end of her if it were to be found out. Joseph is a Theronal, a leader of his people. But time is running out for him to find his lifemate, as the number of leaves on the birthmark tree on his chest are falling, and even though he is frustrated by being leader, he knows he is best suited for the job, so he sticks with it instead of going out and fighting  with the rest of his people. But when Lyka's home compound is invaded and destroyed by the Synestryn, her brother and a group of Slayer children are captured by the Synestryn, and Lyka wants to join in the hunt. But Lyka is the sister of the leader of the slayers and so her life shouldn't be put at risk, lest her death lead to the unraveling of the contract between the two races. But when Joseph denies her the chance to search for the missing with the others, , Lyka pulls out her trump card: She, too, is Theronal, one of the few Theronal women left, and in exchange for Bonding with Joseph, he must let het go to search for her brother with him and his team. But, as Eric is forced to mate with the Synestryn leader to satisfy her need for a Slayer/Synestryn crossbreed child, he must also try to save the young children who have been captured along with him. But can he keep his revulsion for the Synestryn leader in check long enough to keep the children safe? And after all this is over, what will happen to Joseph and Lyka? and do they have a happy ending when Joseph is nearly killed in battle with the Synestryn? This book had a cover like a sword and sorcery novel, but it read more like a romance. It's actually somewhere in between. with a romance set in a fantasy universe. I don't think I've read this particular universe before, but it was interesting. I just did feel like I'd missed a lot of backstory that would have made this story better. Recommended. But remember this story is not the first in the series, and you may have little idea of what is going on because of it.

If the Vicount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries- When Jane Vernon was young, she was in love with Dominick Manton, second son of the Duke of Rathmoore. But when his elder brother inherited, Dom soon found himself disinherited by his brother in payment for not calling the police on their half-brother. Left penniless, Dom was forced to find work as a private detective, but regardless, she still wanted to marry him. To protect her fortune, Dom staged a scene that made her break off the engagement. Now, years later, his brother is dead and his sister in-law, Jane's cousin, Nancy, is missing. Jane wants to investigate, but Dom wants nothing to do with it. However, with Jane determined to do right by Nancy. he is reluctantly drawn in to helping Jane find her cousin, and discovers that while he and Jane may have broken off their engagement, the feelings for each other have never really gone away- on either side. As Dom discovers he still loves Jane more than anything, and she discovers that she still has strong feelings for him, they must work together to find Nancy and restore her to the bosom of her family. For Nancy is pregnant with the heir to the Duke of Rathmoore, and it is up to Dom and Jane to try to save her and her unborn child, if possible. But can they do that when their passion for each other is flaring brightly? This was another great book with two strong characters. It starts rather slowly, with Dom refusing to confront his desire for Jane or any feelings he once had for her, and Jane still being angry at him. Over the course of the story, they are forced to confront their feelings for each other, and I loved how they finally came together in the end. I loved every interaction between the two, and definitely recommend this wonderful book.

The Accidental Countess by Valerie Bowman- Lady Cassandra Monroe has long waited for Julian Swift to return from the continent. But he isn't her betrothed, he is her cousin's fiancé instead. But when her cousin confesses to being unsure about her betrothal to Julian, Cassandra is forced into pretending to be Patience Bunbury, a made-up friend of her cousin who her cousin uses to get out of obligations which she cannot outright refuse. But when Cassandra is forced to pretend to be Patience at a false house party, she is disconcerted to find that Julian appears to have taken an interest in Patience in a romantic fashion, which disconcerts her greatly. But as her dreams of romance with Julian come true, how can Cassandra revel to the man she loves that she is not the woman she is pretending to be, but the friend from their childhood? And when the deception is finally revealed, can Julian trust the woman who he thought he loved but who fooled him so completely? Can he listen to his heart without being led astray by the anger in his mind? Can there be a happy ending for these two accidental lovers? Another really great book that I loved in aftermath more than when I was reading it. I liked the ending, but the reading of it was actually pretty painful for me. I hate when characters actively lie to each other, and this book had tons of that, so it wasn't my favorite when I was reading the parts where Cassandra was lying to Julian. But when they finally came together, that part I loved. Recommended.

Avenger's Angel by Heather Killough-Walden- Uriel and his fellow Archangels came to earth millennia ago to search for their promised brides, the Archesses. But despite living on Earth in human form, they have been unable to find any sign of their promised brides and are losing hope. They only have God's word that these brides even exist. Also banished to earth is the Angel Samael, who also lives as a human and owns the world's largest media company, the better to search for the archesses. But Samael, who was banished from Heaven for rebelling against God, wants to steal an archess for himself. Eleanor Granger has grown up knowing she was different her whole life. With her ability to heal and control fire, she has lived life on the run from anyone who wants to study and control her. But when she meets Uriel in the guise of Hearthrob movie star Christopher Daniels, he knows she is meant to be his- now he just must convince Ellie of it. But when Samael steps in, Uriel goes from human to vampire, like the one he played as Christopher Daniels. Can he control his new condition long enough not to harm Ellie and convince her that they are meant to be one? And will his brother angels find their own archesses? More to the point, who are these people out after Ellie and what do they know about Ellie, Angels and the Archesses? And why are they trying to kill Uriel and mate Ellie? This was an interesting book, but I wasn't wholly into it. I got that Uriel was supposed to be like Robert Pattinson, but I just found myself unable to get into the whole book until near the end, but even so, I was left kind of unimpressed with the ending. While Ellie seems like a real person, Uriel didn't turn me off, but neither did he really appeal to me. Neither recommended nor not. This was a "Meh" for me.

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare- Clio Whitmore has been engaged to the same man, Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, a diplomat who works for the highest levels of the British Government. But though she loved Piers at the start of her engagement, or thought she did, eight years of waiting, of not being a bride, have taken their toll on her spirit, and now that she has inherited a castle, she wishes to dissolve their engagement and live by herself. But Rafe Brandon, Piers' brother, will not sign the papers allowing her to escape the engagement. He is determined to save his brother's engagement, even if it kills him- or he must plan the wedding himself! But when she begins to share the castle with Clio, he finds himself slowly falling for her, and giving her all the things his own brother hasn't, such as strength, being there and the confirmation that she is beautiful and worthy of love. Slowly, Rafe starts wanting her for himself, and not for Piers. But when another of his brother's possessions, an old dog that Rafe has been caring for, dies, can Rafe finally admit to Clio what he really wants- and admit it to himself at the same time? I loved this book. Although sometimes uncomfortable to read in spots, it was, in others, a laugh and a lark. When Rafe finally admits to himself that he can stop being the rebel everyone expects him to be, be can finally reach for his own happiness. And as for Clio, she has to learn to believe in Rafe and his feeling for her before she can accept him as her own. Glorious, and I loved the ending. Recommended

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy byJulia Quinn- Richard Kenworthy needs a bride, and when he stumbles across Iris Smythe-Smith, the only one at the musicale put on by her family who can actually play an instrument, he thinks he has found the perfect bride, one with an income and one also who is overlooked. Iris, for her part, is surprised when Richard pays her attention, as she has always disappeared into the background of her family. But she comes to accept him, and when he asks her to marry him, she asks for more time, but he presses the issue by deep kissing her where her mother is able to see, and she is forced to marry him right away, even though she probably would have said yes eventually anyway. But Richard will not touch her on their voyage north to his home, and although he does exhibit romantic feelings towards her, he refuses to make love to her, and she doesn't know why. Until his two sisters return home almost two weeks after they have married, and Iris discovers why Richard needed a bride so badly and what he intends to do. But while Iris finds herself  feeling betrayed by Richard's actions, she still loves him, and as she attempts to make a reconciliation, Richard, feeling stung, retaliates. Can they find a way to resume their loving relationship, or is their relationship doomed forever to be cold and loveless? For most of this book, I actually liked it, however, what Richard does and how he lied to Iris made me enraged on her behalf and I didn't think he did enough to make amends before the book and story ended. This ruined the book for me, and I would not recommend this book to anyone because of the possibly rage-inducing ending. Not recommended.

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick- Ursula Kern is the owner of The Kern Secretarial Agency and once of its finest secretaries, Anne Clifton, dies under mysterious circumstances, Ursula decides to look into it herself. However, to do so, she must stop working for Slater Roxton, an explorer, as his own secretary while she goes to work for Valerie, Lady Fulbrook, Anne's employer. Lady Fulbrook is a poet who publishes most of her work in an obscure American Literary Journal, and her husband is in charge of various businesses, but when she leaves the house for the first time, Slater is waiting for her and tells her someone is watching her. He is determined to help her if he cannot dissuade her from her plan. But Lord Fulbrook appears to be up to his eyebrows in a scheme involving a drug known only as ambrosia, which once made men have pleasant dreams and visions, but is now more likely to drive them mad and/or murderous. But what happened to Anne and why exactly was she killed? Can Slater and Ursula find out before whoever killed Anne kills them as well? Because Anne, too, appears to have been involved with the making of Ambrosia, and now Ursula can no longer avoid the implication that Anne was doing something possibly illegal; But can she and Slater, who are discovering that they have feelings for each other, must unravel the mystery and find the true culprit before he or she disappears. I really liked this book. It didn't have the psychic powers, but the Ambrosia reminded me a little of the formula from the Arcane books, though the ambrosia is far less dangerous (while actually being more dangerous for seeming essentially harmless). But I liked the chemistry between Ursula and Slater and the elements of the mystery, and also the revelation of who the actual villain was. I also loved many of the side characters, like Slater's mother. The book was an extremely enjoyable read, albeit less steamy than some of Amanda Quick's other books. Still recommended.

Behold A Pale Horse by Peter Tremayne- Sister Fidelma is a Dalaigh, or a lawyer of ancient Ireland's Celtic peoples. She is also a religeuse, and she has recently come from Rome, where she helped solve a mystery for the Pope. She is in Genua when she says an old religious man who is attacked, but she comes to his rescue and when he learns that she is from Ireland, he tells her that the monastery he hails from has a monk there who hails from Ireland and who was recently attacked, and his life is despaired of. Fidelma,, who was a student of the monk, brother Ruadan, travels to the monastery to see him and bring him word to his people. But little does she know that the monastery is on disputed ground, and two different provinces are going to war over it. But when someone kills Brother Ruadan and rumors of lost treasure abound, Fidelma must discover the truth of what is going on and uncover the traitors who are hiding among the monastery's monks. She works with another monk there, Brother Eolann, also a child of Ireland, to ferret out the traitors in amongst the monks of the monastery. But can she restore a rightful lord to his throne and solve the several murders which preceded the crisis. But can she do it on her own without the help of Brother Eadulf? This book was a throwback to earlier in the series, before Eadulf and Fidelma married and became parents. I missed the presence of Eadulf in this book, because he appears in neither this book nor the one set in Rome. I've gotten so used to him being Fidelma's aide, that it was kid of strange to read a story without him. But this was an interesting story about murders in a monastery, heresy and battling lords, not to mention a missing treasure that may or may not have been found. I really enjoyed this book and the mystery, and Fidelma's interactions with the people around her. Recommended.

The Seventh Trumpet by Peter Tremayne- Sister Fidelma has left the religious and become once more simply a Dalaigh Brehon or advocate in the Brehon law courts at the level of Anruth, or one level lower than the highest level, Ollamh. Fidelma was recently turned down to become the Brehon Judge for her brother's court of Muman, and she is still smarting over it. So when a young man's body is found facedown in the river by a farmer, Fidelma asks to be allowed to investigate. Also, the man wore a brooch showing he was from neighboring kingdom. He had been stabbed in the back, but who could have committed this outrage? Fidelma, Eadulf and Enda, a warrior of the Nasc Niadh, or King's Elite unit, are tasked with discovering the murderer and bringing him or her to justice. As it turns out, the murder may have more to do with rebellion and revenge than anything else, and with Fidelma's brother Colgu having finally found a possible bride, this is the prefect time to rebel against him if they want to seize the throne. But who could be behind the plot, and why have they turned an otherwise innocent monastery into an armed castle? Can Fidelma stop the plot against her brother without further bloodshed or will more deaths come about before it is ended? Another excellent book in the Fidelma series (can't really call it the "Sister Fidelma" series when she's no longer in religious orders). Here Fidelma is just a Princess and Brehon, but she is still remarkably effective as an investigator and detective. Sometimes she misses things, but Eadulf is there to pick up any slack she might leave, and sometimes his "outsider" status allows him to pick up a nuance or clue that Fidelma and Enda might miss. This was an intriguing story, involving Colgu finally possibly getting married. Fidelma thinks the girl he is interested in is a vapid airhead (not in those words, of course), but she turns out to have more depths than anyone suspected. In any case, an excellent novel and mystery. Recommended.

Atonement of Blood by Peter Tremayne- After traveling many of the areas of Ireland seeking evildoers for Cashel and Colgu, its King and Fidelma's brother, Fidelma and Eadulf are finally home to stay for a while. But on a winter feast day, during a feast, a religious comes into the room and stabs Colgu while calling out a woman's name, Liamuin. He also kills Aedo, the chief Brehon of Muman who shields the king with his body and takes a blow meant for him.. The guards cut down the intruder, but Fidelma and Eadulf are left with the question of who perpetrated this horrible deed. and who Lamuin was. They backtrack the man who stabbed Colgu and left him gravely injured, but when he recovers his wits, he has no idea who Lamuin is or why the man seems to have thought that Colgu might have known her. But it turns out that the man was from the lands of the Ui Fidgente, who have been foes of Muman in the past. But was this aborted assassination another attempt at war by the Ui Fidgente, or was it simply the actions of a deranged man who was in love with a woman long dead? And can Fidelma find the true person behind the conspiracy to kill her brother, and who was Liamuin, and why was someone willing to kill in her name? This book was another excellent mystery, involving twisted love and hatred many years old. So many twisted threads come together in this book, but the outcomes here are positive ones, with hatred being overcome and peace re-established at the end. I loved ho Fidelma was off her game here, being distraught over the serious wounding of her brother and the possibility that he might die. It made her act differently, but she loses much of her "stiff upper lip" because of her worry. It was good to see her be human and somewhat emotional. I mean, it is her beloved brother we are speaking of. But I liked how she even managed to impress the Ui Fidgente with her deductive abilities. She was not only able to find the killers, but she helped recover a Ui Fidgente relic and give them some measure of peace and payback for atrocities committed by both sides. A really compelling mystery and book. Recommended.

The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green- Ishmael Jones is a very strange young man who works for "The Colonel", his boss in a mysterious agency which investigates things that man was not meant to know. Ishmael is invited to the Colonel's family holiday gathering, and when he arrives the house is cut off from the world by a howling blizzard. However, the Colonel is dead and no one at the house is what they seem to be- not even Ishmael. As he investigates the death of his boss and the influence of the Colonel's family, it becomes obvious that something has infiltrated the family estate- any only Ishmael is qualified to deal with this thing that is slowly killing everyone off. But how many more will die before he unmasks the creature and deals with it? I liked this book, which reminded me a lot of the first Nightside novel, and, in fact, doesn't seem to be connected to either his Shaman Bond/Eddie Drood character or any of the Nightside novels. And while he fights horrors, Ishmael is a different sort of creature, of man, entirely. I was intrigued by his story and of his past, but I have a feeling this will end up much like Simon Green's last two series. If you enjoyed them, as I did, this series will scratch that itch inside you for more. Recommended.

Tracker by C. J. Cherryh- After the recent trouble with the rebellion in the assassin's guild, things are finally returning to normal, and the Assassin's guild is re-forming, with an eye towards looking after their own affairs. Jase is going to be going home along with Cajeiri's ship-friends. But just when Bren can possibly think about relaxing for once, a rebellion aboard the space station, as well as the return of the kyo from deep space mean Bren, the aiji-dowager and Cajeiri must return to the space station to deal with the diplomatic greeting of the kyo. However, a human named Braddock has seized control of the children who have come back from the planet and is trying to agitate for another space station for the people from Reunion. As well as there are supposed to be equal numbers of humans and atevi on the station and with the arrival of the Reunion refugees, the station is strained by the sheet number of people it is being asked to support. And the Mosphei commander of the station has fallen in with Braddock and is refusing orders from Mospheira. It's up to Bren to settle matters for the arrival of the kyo and set the human and atevi come to an agreement over what happens on the station. But can he accomplish all this *and* find Cajeiri's friends, who have been seized in a hostage attempt? I love this series. Atevi are not at all like humans, even if they look like them in large part, and the humans are more fractious amongst themselves than the atevi are. I love Bren and Jago and Cajeiri and the Dowager and all the other characters in this series so very much. The aliens are convincingly inhuman and the humans come off badly by comparison. I love that Bren seems to be the perfect bridge between cultures, what all people in his position should be, but which only Bren has become. Amazingly well-done and highly recommended.

Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross- Henni is a cat-like humanoid living in a village with her father, mother and sister. When she is young, her father is denounced to the village priests by her mother, who is a fanatical follower of the local religion, and her father is killed. Before this, her father had confessed to Henni that he was unhappy in his marriage and didn't really lover her mother. Later, Henni delivers a meat pie to the priests for her mother and discovers that her mother has sent a bribe to the priests to marry her well. Disillusioned, Henni retreats to the edge of the village to think, and in a burst of rebellion, crosses the lines that you are not supposed to cross or you will lose your soul. When she feels no different, she returns after crossing all three lines, but her sister rejects her, and she meets a man who brands her with his ring and tells her to run off. She is found by another set of people, who are like Henni but they wear clothes. Assigned to an old man who is supposed to teach her the rules of their culture, Henni tricks one of the guards when she hears that a piece of art has been left outside the village, she goes to see it, running afoul of the religious laws and is sentenced to death. But she manages to talk her way into merely being banished, and discovers the artist who left the art- the blind son of a court painter who fell out of favor when secular art was abolished, and who died a bitter man. His son was an artist who refused to knuckle under and was blinded, his eyes torn out. Still, he opens Henni's eyes to how one can pretend to follow the law while subverting the spirit of it, and Henni discovers that the artist has a book that once belonged to her father, which means that he must be alive somewhere... But does Henni have the courage and strength of will to try and find him on her own? I loved this graphic novel, which is all about being yourself and following your convictions.. It does get a trifle heavy-handed at times, but it shows how certain societies control people (or try to control people) for their own benefit. It's not a comfortable read, but I think it's a wonderful book and story. Recommended.

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes- The Complete Collection by Jeff Johns, Book 1- The Avengers are coming down off saving the world when cities across the world begin disappearing, and the Wasp and Yellowjacket are caught in Washington DC when it disappears. It, along with the other cities, reappear in some strange dimension, somehow conjoined with each other into one huge, super-massive conglomeration. But it isn't peaceful. Meanwhile, Wanda the Scarlet Witch, ends up being possessed by some strange entity and attacks Warbird and She-Hulk. Meanwhile, Henry Gyricj is assigned as liaison to the Avengers and the rest of them must decide if they can deal with him. Also, an entity named Scorpio, the Holder of the Zodiac, attacks, and Ant-Man asks a question apparently no one has ever asked before. If Zodiac is a key, what does it unlock? Meanwhile, the cause of the strife turns out to be the forces of order and chaos, normally one bing, but now separated. Can the Avengers bring them back together to reconstitute the original being. The rest of the comic reprints the Vision: Icons book, where we see the origins of the vision and see him reclaim his memories and emotions from the "Brother" who stole them from him. He reconnects with his long-dead creator through his granddaughter and a young boy whose father is in the military while defeating his erstwhile brother. I liked this book a lot, and the stories within. The Vision story was wonderful and I can't wait to see how the end impacts the main storyline of the comic. The one of the war between order and chaos was also good, and I liked all the side stories that were incorporated. Recommended.

Sculptor by Scott McCloud- David is a sculptor who once had it all, wealth, money and fame, and threw it away when he gave an interview about his art. Now struggling after his earlier success, David finds himself drinking in a bar when he is approached by his Uncle Harry. But his uncle is dead. It's actually Death himself. He asks David what he'd give for his art, and David tells him "anything". So Death makes a deal with David. David, if he accepts the deal, will live 200 days but in that time, he can sculpt anything he sees in his head with his bare hands. But in those 200 days, David, while making a lot of art, meets a girl, Meg, an actress, and falls in love with her. He finds his inspiration, loses it, and finds it again. But as he explores his art and his artistic vision, he struggles to come up with something... something big, that he can leave the city, and people, after he's gone. Through love and life, David finally finds the inspiration, but can he finish it before his deadline with Death? I'm a writer. I make my living with words, but I have none to describe this beautiful story and how it left me feeling when I finished it. I am quite literally, speechless. Read it. Highly recommended.

Jason by Laurell K. Hamilton- Jason Schuyler is one of Anita's sometimes lovers, but she tends not to call on him even though he's into some pain the bedroom, he also is in love with a dancer, J.J., and she just doesn't "get" why he'd be into such a thing. Jason asks Anita to try and help him explain, and she sets up a bed session to show J.J, *why* they like it. But J.J. Turns out also try and help Anita with her first female lover, Jade, a black tiger. Jade's former master really did a number on her and it is making Anita unhappy when she tries to make Jade happy in bed. But is there something Anita can do to help, and can J.J. help her find what that "something" is? This isn't a big story. it's small and intimate, and happens mainly in bed and all involves relationship stuff. Some people might not think that this is a good reason to write a book, but it's a small, self-contained story, more of a novelette or novella than novel. And a lot of space is taken up with part of the author's next Anita Blake book. I enjoyed it, but this sort of story isn't for everyone. If you don't mind pretty much a side story about Anita, you'll enjoy it. Otherwise, give it a miss.

Somewhere I'll Find You by Lisa Kleypas- When Damon Savage was a mere seven years old, he was married to the daughter of a man who gave his father a loan to pay his gambling debts. The girl was barely out of diapers and Damon never agreed to the marriage, and now that he's older, he wants an annulment. But he can't find the woman he was married to, Julia Wentworth. Her family refuses to tell him where she is, and none of his hired detectives have had the least luck. While Damon has a lover in the pretty widow named Pauline, Lady Ashton, he isn't sure he wants to marry her, but he does want to be free to make his own choice. Until he meets the actress, Julia Wentworth, and wants her for his mistress. But unbeknownst to Damon, Julia Wentworth is his wife, and she knows who he is. When he finally finds out she is the woman he's been looking for, and that she is also the woman he wants, will he still want to marry her and let her go? As for Julia, who has found fulfillment in her role of an actress and in the theatre herself, will she agree to give it up to become wife and lover to Damon? Can she have both or is it all one way or another? I started out thinking this book was going to be good, but the way Damon acted once he discovered that Julia was his wife just turned me right off. He's stalker-y and overbearing in a way that harkens back to the sort of Alpha Assholishness of an earlier breed of romance novel. I get that Julia fell in love with him, but I wondered why. He only seemed to be nice when he was getting his own way. In fact, I found a lot of the men in this story rather reprehensible in behavior. Normally, I like Lisa Kleypas. I didn't like this book, or Damon.

The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh- Miles Ripley, the Earl of Severn is being pushed towards an engagement by his mother and sisters, who have the perfect wife for him, or so they think, a beautiful blonde named Frances Galloway. But Miles fears being married to an empty-headed woman who thinks of little but herself. What Miles says he wants is a wife dull and plain as dishwater, someone who can be a true companion to him. So when he meets Abigail Gardiner, a distant member of the family, who has been dismissed unfairly from her job as a governess, and only asks him for a letter of recommendation from him, he offers her a job in his own house, as his wife. Abigail is startled, to say the least, but eventually accepts and marries Miles within a few days. He does tell her that he wants to be married and why, but doesn't tell her about his "requirements" for a wife. Abby may not be dull as dishwater, but he soon finds himself in love with an entranced by his new wife, and wants to ensure that she is happy. But when people learn of his requirements, who are already gossiping about how plain Abby is, and she learns what Miles said, can she live with the hurt she feels? And when the Galloways and their daughter Frances start making trouble for Abby, is there anything Miles can do? And can he allay her hurt feelings over his words in a way she will accept? I loved this book, which was gentle and lighthearted. In fact, I think it was my favorite book written by Mary Balogh that I have read so far. I loved Abby and Miles and the whole family of each. Abby loved and looked out for everyone in a way I found noble and admirable. I enjoyed the story so much that I never wanted it to end, which is high praise for a book like this. Highly recommended.

Love Him or Leave Him: But Don't Get Stuck With the Tab by Loni Love- Loni Love is an African-American comedian with lots of sass, but she also seems to have her head on straight when it comes to men, so people are usually asking her for advice about their man problems. Since so many people asked her and seemed to like the advice she gave them, Loni wrote this book to help every woman. And her prime rule is to love yourself first, and don't accept being second in anything to the man you are with. Knowing your own worth as a woman and loving yourself is being confident enough to also put yourself first, because then, no man can take advantage of you or use you. But she hasn't always had it together, and she shares stories from her own life and the life of her friends and the people she knows about that illustrate her points. I found the book amusing and informative and I could definitely see it helping a lot of people. Recommended.

The Angel Court Affair by Anne Perry- Thomas Pitt is asked, as head of Special Branch, which usually investigates terrorism threats, to keep an eye on a woman named Sofia Delacruz, an English Expat who lives in Spain as the head of a religious movement. She is known to be a fiery speaker, but her Theology is what really causes people to denounce her. When she and two of her female disciples disappear from the Angel Court House where they had been staying, it's up to Pitt to discover what happened to her and who kidnapped her. Meanwhile, a threat comes into the police threatening to kill Sofia unless her husband, back in Spain, denounces her as a Scarlet woman and home wrecker before the world and her audiences in England. So, of course, Pitt must also investigate what really happened in Spain, but his men are already being stretched thin, and while there are many rumors about what Sofia did in Spain, her brother, who happens to be a Trustee of the national Bank of England, so he sends Vespasia Cumming Gould and her new husband, his old Boss, Victor Narraway, to Spain to investigate. But can he and his men discover what has become of Sofia Delacruz, and more importantly, why she was kidnapped in the first place? And can he do it without creating an international incident? I actually liked  this book a lot, which delved into the religious feelings that her characters had or, in Pitt's case, rarely thought about. Sofia Delacruz preached the sort of Theology which wouldn't seem out of place today, but which would have been frowned on by many at the time. This made it an interesting and thought-provoking book for both reader and characters, but the outcome of why she was kidnapped and why the kidnappers wanted to discredit her led in a very different direction than I thought it would. This book is definitely recommended.

She Hulk: Law and Disorder by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and Ron Wimberly- Jennifer Walters, Cousin of Bruce Banner, was a shy attorney when she took a bullet meant for him and only he could save her life with a blood transfusion. Now, she's an attorney who moonlights as a crimefighter, and spends most of her time in She-Hulk form. But when she breaks with the firm she formerly worked for over compensation issues, she takes on a case of a woman whose husband invented part of the Repulsor tech that Tony Stark, Iron Man, uses and goes after him to get compensation for the man's widow. With the money she gets from that case, she opens her own law office and goes to work on a case involving Victor Von Doom's son, who REALLY doesn't want to succeed his father. But can Jen, as She-Hulk really drive the point home? Then, she decides to investigate "The Blue File", a case she was assigned back when she worked for her original employers. But investigating this is actually dangerous and may not be capable of being solved. Can Jennifer and Patsy and her secretary get to the bottom of what is really going on? I didn't particularly like the art in this graphic novel, but the stories were solid and they were entertaining to read. Still slightly recommended.

The Avengers: Time Runs Out Volume 2 by Jonathan Hickman, Key Walker, Scott Hanna, Stefano Caselli, Szymon Kudranski, Mike Deodato and Mike Perkins- As the Illuminati's actions come home to roost, the Avengers are split in two. Iron Man is imprisoned and Spider Woman and the Black Widow track him down only to leave him there when he protests wildly that only he can save them. But as he does so, the Avengers are rent in two, with one side supporting the Illuminati, the other side the Cabal. And meanwhile, Valeria Richards warns both her father and Doctor Doom that neither can hope to win. What they have to do is not fail. But when the forced come to a clash, will they fight the real threat, or fight each other? And who will come out the winner when the Multiverses clash? This was only okay. I haven't read the first volume and I suspect it would be a little more understandable if I had. This graphic Novel is not one you just pick up and si down to read, so if you want to pick this one up on your own, it's a hard row to hoe. Apparently, the Illuminati have made mistakes and universes are being destroyed, and Black Swan, a hero from a different universe, has show up to try and get people to stop it. But the Illuminati, especially Iron Man, don't want to admit they were wrong, and so everything goes to hell in a handbasket very quickly. It's kind of depressing to read and I honestly had a hard time finishing it. Not recommended for me.

Shutter by Joe Keatinge, Leila DeLuca, Owen Gieni and Ed Brisson- Kate Kristopher used to be a world-reknowned explorer, but she's been retired for many years. Now, however, for some reason, someone is out to kill her. She isn't sure why, but apparently, she has siblings she never knew about and a younger brother who was born shortly before her father died. As Kate seeks to find out who is trying to kill her and why, she also has to stay alive and keep her newly discovered brother safe. But that's going to be harder than it her father raised her siblings as well. Going on the run with her brother and Alarm Clock Cat (who resembles a Felix the Cat clock, is she up to the challenge after years of being a normal person? This graphic novel looked interesting, and Kate's world is not our own, it has non-human races, magic and curses, among other things. I'd be interested in reading more, at least to find out why the rest of her siblings (save her younger brother) want her dead. I was more intrigued by the world Kate lives in than Kate herself, who seems like a standard "action girl" stereotype. This one was a meh, ranging into recommended territory.

Not Always a Saint by Mary J Putney- Daniel Herbert is a doctor who lives alone with his sister. Ever since his beloved died while he was away at school, he has done his best to give medical aid to everyone who needs it. One night, a young woman named Jane comes to him, battered by an abusive husband. He treats her and lets her go, but his sister decides to open a house for women who need shelter. Seven years later, his parents and brother die of the pestilence, leaving him lord of the manor, which he has a duty to perpetuate. He decides to go to London to find himself a wife, someone older, who can run the estates while he tends to the patients at his practice. Jessie Kelham is a very beautiful woman whose looks have always brought her trouble. Now that her beloved older husband is dead, she is left as guardian of their young daughter, who has inherited the estate. But her husband's older son is incensed that he didn't inherit and he hates Jessie. Afraid that he will bring a suit and take control of her daughter, she heads to London to find a husband, older and kind, who will not mind raising her daughter as his own. One night, they meet across a crowded ballroom, but Jessie is determined to avoid Daniel until she has no choice and their discovery in a room together forces them into an engagement and marriage that it seems both of them really want. But when Jessie's past comes back to haunt her, can she and Daniel win their way free to have a loving marriage that both want? I thought this was a wonderful romance. One of the plot twists I saw coming right away, as to why she turned him away at first, but her son-in-law forces her hand. I loved the hero, the heroine and pretty much everything that happened between them. There is not a thing wrong with this book Highly recommended.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes- Cassie is very good at reading people, and has been her entire life. But when her mother was killed by a serial killer, she became able to read just about anyone. One night, while at work, she is approached by an arrogant boy who tells her to tell him how he takes his eggs. After he's left, he leaves behind a card for Agent Tanner of the FBI. It seems that Cassie is a natural profiler and they want her to join similarly gifted young people to solve cold cases. But all of her fellow "naturals" have something in their past to be ashamed of, like Dean, whose father was a serial killer and who shares Cassie's ability to profile people. Lia is a consummate liar, but is a human lie detector. Sloane is phenomenal with numbers and science, Michael can read the emotions of people. But when the serial killer from Cassie's past fixates on her, can she and her newfound friends use their ability to find the killer and capture them? I loved this book, which combines science, psychology and a really gripping story that pulled me in and kept me there. Each character is well crafted, and I didn't see the end coming. Highly recommended.

The Lazarus Curse by Tessa Harris- Thomas Silkstone is a young Physician living in London. He is approached by the Royal Society to catalogue a load of sample plants and animals recently retrieved from the West Indies. Of the three men on the expedition, two have died, and only one, the artist has been returned to London. Since Silkstone is a science-minded man, he is perfect for the job of cataloguing all the animals and plants from the expedition. But when the artist, and the specimen of calalue, a plant retrieved from the Indies goes missing, Silkstone must find out what happened to the artist and unravel the secrets of the plant, which is said to have the power to bring the dead back to life. Another problem that besets him is that of an escaped slave he finds in the street, neaten nearly to death. He brings Joseph back to his lodgings and cares for him there, but his master wants him back, and Silkstone's landlady is willing to betray them for the money. Meanwhile, on her estate, Thomas' lady love  Lydia Farrell, from whom he has been separated by force of law, must deal with matters at her estate and her newly returned son. But when she hires a new estate manager, has she found the right man? And when it becomes clear that people in charge of the British Empire want to use the Calalue to make their armies invincible and turn enemy soldiers into slaves, can Thomas discover what the herb really does and if this scheme will even work? I liked this book, and the ending really shocked me, but I liked the mix of old world and new, and the story of the calalue plant, which is more like the plant used in making Zombies rather than actually making people come back to life. This is a book I will want to read the next one of, just because of the shocking ending. Definitely recommended.

Vermonia Volume 8: The Return of the Queen by Yoyo- Unsuccessful at defending Vermonia despite all they have done and the lessons they have learned, the only pillar left standing is the pillar of Wind, which, unbalanced, is causing strange weather all over the land with unrestrained Yami magic  Now, they must defend the final pillar or Vermonia falls. Uro wants the Bolirium, but does it reside within the staff of the Queen, or does one of the warriors have it? And can they prevent Uro from getting it and protect the Queen when she reappears? The final battle was a fitting end for this series, and, as we get reminded, they have an entire life to live in their own world, aka "The Blue Star", but they will be able to visit Vermonia if they are needed, via the objects of power that they discovered. This short series was pretty good, and reminded me a bit of "Magic Knight Rayearth, at least a little. Recommended.

The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski- The Kingdoms of Milfgard and the North are about to come to blows, and Geralt's ward, Ciri, who carried Elder Blood and is the last living princess of Cintra, is wanted by all parties in the war for their own purposes. Meeting up again with his love and sorceress,Yennifer, he reconciles with her and escorts her to the sorcerers conclave on the island of Thanedd. But intrigue is being plotted on the island, and even as Yennifer plans to enroll Ciri in the school there, Ciri doesn't want to be a sorceress. She would rather be a Witcher or have adventures. So when she runs away, she is found by Geralt and Yennifer both. They argue, make up and end up traveling to Thanedd together for the conclave. But something is going on. The intelligence services of various kingdoms and principalities have agents there, and someone wants the Conclave to collapse. When fighting breaks out, Geralt barely escapes with his life, Yennifer is captured in statuette form and Ciri escapes through a malfunctioning portal. Geralt goes in search of them both, but the Conclave erupts in flames, and many of the magicians are killed. But as he goes in search of both women, can he deal with the treachery of the Kings behind the chaos and find the women he loves? This was an interesting book. Geralt isn't into politics and intrigue, and it costs him big when trouble starts, and he's forced to battle innumerable foes. Likewise, Yennifer assumes that her magic and fellow magicians will keep her safe, only to be quite surprised when she fails. It's the carpet being jerked out from under everyone, and it's a big shock that separates everyone, with no sign, at the end, that they might ever find each other again. This book, this series, has quite a different feel to it than most Western Fantasy. A sort of world-weariness and distrust of government that you don't generally see in the West. Still, it's different enough to enjoy while remaining very readable. Recommended,