Friday, September 05, 2014

2014, Part 8

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja and Javier Pulido- Hawkeye is back, and when he gets badly injured in an accident, he gets out of the hospital, only to fnd himself near a building in Bed-Stuy where mobsters are harrassing the residents. Moving into the building, he sets himself against the mobsters while becoming close to the building residents and saving an abused dog as well. But unlike the other Avengers he works with, Hawkeye has no real superpowers, and his whole shtick is shooting arrows. Trick arrows. Okay, really good trick arrows, but still... Can he take on guns and gangs, and villains like Madame Masque, armed only with a bow and arrows? Okay, this book was interesting, but they kind of made Hawkeye the Buttmonkey of the Avengers. The Doof. The Goofball for whom nothing ever goes right. Kind of like Old School Spiderman. And while that's a lot more characterization than Hawkeye has ever gotten, it still kind of rankled me. Because he's been recently made more popular thanks to Jeremy Renner playing him in the Thor and Avengers movie, but this kinda felt... disrespectful to the character, who as I remember in the older Avengers comics, was always a strong and kinda competent guy. Not so much the buttmonkey of the group. I felt slightly offended reading these, and I am sad to say that the feeling never quite went away, even when Hawkeye pulled it all out in the end. I also found the Russian mobsters constant use (some would even go as far to say overabuse) of the word "Bro" to be annoying and eyeroll inducing. It may have been meant to be humorous, but I didn't find it amusing in any way, just annoying. I wouldn't recommend this series, but it might float your boat.

Hawkeye: Little Hits by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Steve Lieber, Jesse Ham and others- Hawkeye now owns the building that he saved, but his actions have attracted the attention of high-caliber villains like Kingpin. With a Price on his head, Hawkeye must make it through and save the building, his tenants and their families from the wrath of the criminals, along with a serial killer known as the Clown. But with the mobsters also after a dangerous ex of his, Darlene Penelope Wright, not even Kate Bishop may be enough help to pull Hawkeye's fat out of the fire. But when she abandons him, how can he stand against the forces arrayed against him? I only read this because I got this and "Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon" at the same time. Less Bro in this volume, but he's still the buttmonkey, seeming consistently down on his luck, and I really didn't find this rather thin graphic novel to be any better than the first. Not my cup of tea. Not recommended.

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews- Dina DeMille owns an inn in the Avalon Subdivision of a small town in Texas. Unlike her perfectly ordinary neighbors, Dina may not stand out from the crowd, but her inn is something special, with a mix of magic and technology, and visitors from other dimensions often stay there. When dogs in Dina's town start dying, she suspects her neighbor, Sean Evans, ex-military and newly moved into the subdivision. He also happens to be a werewolf, which is why she suspects him of the killings. Sean is on edge because he wants to protect the area in which he lives, and he doesn't like Dina interfering in what he considers his own business. But when Dina kills the thing that has been killing the dogs, it's not a misplaced mountain lion or cougar, but a dangerous extraterrestrial hunter. And when a contingent of Vampire Lords of House Krahr show up to hunt the rest of the thing's pack and its master, Dina will have to scramble to help both Sean and Arland, the Vampire Marshal of House Krahr, who have a vested interest in hunting the thing down. But are she and the inn, which is still, very weak, up to the task? And when both men show and interest in her and more, can she keep her feet on the ground and her mind on task for what they face ahead? This was a very obscure Ilona Andrews book, but that didn't make it any less awesome. There is so much story packed into this surprisingly slender book that I was constantly amazed that it wasn't thicker. I'd love to read more of this series, which is surprisingly light on the romance aspects. More a "He's hot and I find him attractive" rather than outright snogging or shagging. There is definitely something of an attraction triangle, with Dina as the hypotenuse, but it's not overwhelming. Really excellent and I want to read more. Recommended.

Victories by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill- Spirit White and her friends have left Oakhurst Academy behind and are fleeing after the death of their friend Muirin. Spirit, who has long thought she had no magic, has found out she has magic after all, the magic of Spirit, which was neither acknowledged nor taught at the academy. Worse, the man in chanrge of Oakhurst turns out to be Mordrd in disguise. Now left on their own, the only hope they have is reaching QUERCUS, a user she met on the internet who seems to know more than he is telling. When they reach their destination, they are met by a woman named Vivian, who takes them to meet QUERCUS, who is the spirit of the actual Merlin. Now, it is up to them to fight Mordred and the Dark Knights, and to do so, they will each have to remember their past selves, find the four Hallows and destroy Mordred. But that won't be easy with the Shadow Knights on their tail and the rest of the students locked up in Oakhurst Academy. Can they find the Hallows, Destroy Mordred's unkillable body and fight the final battle- and win? I really enjoyed this book, which was the ending of the series. Lots of interesting stuff happens, and we get to see why Spirit White is the only Spirit magic user at the entire school. The ending was a bit of a disappointment- not the fight against Mordred. which was great, but the ending where magic has somehow inexplicably diminished with the death of Mordred and the passing of all the reborn spirits. It just didn't make sense as to why, but other than that, I really liked the book, and wondered what would become of the magicians and the world. I assume the former "Mark" would do something about that, it's sort of left like that. Admittedly, most people wouldn't know they had magic without someone telling them that it exists, but again, to me it felt a bit disappointing. Recommended.


Thanos: Redemption by Jim Starlin, Keith Giffen, Dave Sharpe- Thanos has given up on destroying the universe as a present to Death, the only thing he loves and instead decides to aid those he has harmed, including the inhabitants of Rigel-3. After staving off a coup by the Rigellian military against their Grand Councillor, he discovers that their current problem is that one of their colony worlds is about to be attacked and devoured by Galactus. Thanos decides to stand him off, but during the course of the conflict, he discovers that Galactus is trying to collect the Soul Gems to end his own endless hunger. However, Galactus is being made a pawn of by an entity known as Hunger, who destroys realities. He tried to prevent Galactus from releasing Hunger, but is unsuccessful. Then, he teams up with Galactus, who now realizes his error, to destroy Hunger. But can they destroy such a thing> Afterwards, he travels to the Kyln worlds, the universe's largest prison camp, where the Beyonder has reincarnated in a mortal female form. There he battles her with the help of Peter Quill, Star Lord and Gladiator of the Shi'ar Royal Guard, who has had himself incarcerated to monitor the Beyonder's new body. Thanos fights her but can he prevent the Beyonder from escaping and being reborn? Also freed is the Old One, who once served Galactus as a Herald, but now only seeks to destroy him. A fact which he cannot usually do. However the previous battle with Hunger has weakened Galactus, and now he might succeed, So Thanos goes to Galactus to warn him. But can he prevent the Old One from destoying the weakened Galactus? and what will he do with The Old One if he does? This was an interesting collection of stories, but as with all things, Thanos's "Redemption" didn't last long. In the Comics, he died and was reborn and went right back to his old ways almost immediately. Which only goes to show you, nothing changes for very long in comics. It was interesting to see Thanos try for redemption, but he doesn't make a very good hero. He's a little too easy with killing people to really make a good hero. But it was certainly a good experience to read these stories and see Thanos trying to help those he had wronged. I particularly loved the scene where he speaks with Lady Death as a young child, and she tells him the score- if he kills everything, there will be no death, since death requires life to exist. It was also nice to see Adam Warlock being Thnos's sidekick and fellow traveler for a bit. Entertaining if nothing else, and recommended.

Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson- Frank Malloy is a cop, but he's hiding something from his fellow officers- he's about to become a very rich man, thanks to a millionaire dying and leaving Frank all his money to look after his daughter, who Frank rescued in a previous case. The minute this news comes out, Frank will be a Pariah in the station house, so when a man asks Frank to look for his missing daughter, Frank takes it on, knowing it might be his last case. Frank discovers that the daughter had been responding to a fellow she met through a lonely hearts ad for months, and she disappeared in her best clothes- probably a sign that they were going to meet. But when he succeeds in tracking the man down, he finds out that Grace Livingston isn't the only woman the man has kidnapped and is holding in his home, making them into his bawds. He calls in Sarah Brandt to help with the women, who have been brutalized, and also discovers that the man has been killed, possibly by Grace Livingston, before they ever set foot in the house. And there are signs that the two women in the house were not the man's first victims. However, then Frank's inheritance information comes out and he loses his job. Still, he isn't able to give up the case- not when the officer he had to hand the case off to is a drunk and wants to arrest Grace Livingstone for the crime- only Frank doesn't believe she did it. Also missing is the man who helped the kidnapper, and when he turns up murdered in the house, a former inmate of the house and the man who bought her away from the kidnapper become more important as they have to find out if the person who killed the kidnapper also killed his servant. And what if the killings don't end there? Meanwhile, Frank and Sarah decide to marry, but can they get Frank's mother to warm to the idea? She has never liked Sarah, thinking that Sarah will take Frank and his deaf son away from her. Can they persuade her otherwise, and can they come to an agreement on which house they will buy to house their growing family? Another really enjoyable book. I like the way Frank and Sarah interact, and despite Frank inheriting a ton of money, he hasn't changed, being essentially the only honest cop in the lower ranks of the force. He may have lost his job, but he remains a cop at heart, and seeing him transition to a private investigator was wonderful. Sarah hasn't had to change as much, but it was nice to see her move on and make friends with Frank's mother at last. A lot is going to change, but the heart of the series will remain the same, and I look forward to reading more. The subplot with the three women who were caught in the scheme was also very enjoyable, and I liked how they also became friends despite what had happened to bring them together. Highly recommended.

Hunter by Jax (Jacquelyn Frank)- Tatyana is a lawyer in a Manhattan office, but when she goes to see what has become of her brother Dimitre, who has fallen out of touch with her, she finds herself cold and stranded in the Catskills wearing only her party dress and a shawl. Leaving her car to try and find someone, anyone, to help her, she stumbles across a giant house and heads for it. In the house lives a coven of Magic users, and one of their own, their protector, Hunter, has recently come home after a long time away. Hunter is unusual in that, despite being the protector of a coven of good Witches, he comes from a family who has long been part of evil. Only the master of the coven he protects, Ryce, saw the good in him and befriended him. And when Tatyana rings the door and falls into a faint, it is his arms that she falls into. Both of them are immediately attracted to each other, but when an evil coven attacks later that night, Tatyana ends up helping them all and discovers magic of her own. To protect her and her emerging abilities, though, Hunter must make her his thrall to protect her from members of the evil coven who will try to make her a thrall as well. But while thrallship in a good Coven is akin to mentorship, being a thrall to someone in an evil Coven is more like being a slave, both sexual and magical. And thrallship comes with an almost addictive desire for the thrall to serve the master- in every way, both physical, magical and sexual. Given the attraction that already exists between Hunter and Tatyana, they have a hard time keeping their hands off each other. But when Dimitre returns to the house (because he has also found magic and joined the coven), they are trying to determine exactly what kind of magic Tatyana has. And as her relationship with Hunter heats up, so do attacks by the evil Coven, whose master is Hunter's actual brother. But can they take out the evil coven before the members of that coven destroy the Coven Hunter has sworn to protect? I liked this book. I liked it a lot. There were definitely some plot holes (Tatyana's entire outside life seems to disappear without worries after she arrives at the house, and no one seems to miss her, not even her other brothers. I found this a little annoying, but the story stands well on its own, and I can see more sequels dealing with the unattached members of the Coven. I enjoyed what we saw of the other members and I think I will enjoy reading books about them, Recommended.

Midnight's Lover by Donna Grant- Ian Kerr was one of two brothers who were Warriors, and they shared the same Warrior between them. But when Ian's brother Duncan was killed, Ian lost control of the God which was in his body, having to control twice what he did before. So, he ran off into the mountains, where he takes shelter in a cave, trying to control Farmire, the God within him, living on whatever animals the god chooses to hunt, but having contact with no one, lest he snap and kill them by mistake. Danielle Buchanan has been raised in Scotland ever since she was a child, but she knows she is a descendant of the Druids and has magic. Unfortunately, she hates her magical talent. When she finds things, she can tell who owned the and must return the item as soon as possible or she suffers terrible pain. So when she finds a key hidden under some snow when she turns down a friend for a date, she must return the key to MacLeod castle. On the way there, though, she is involved in an accident and winds up in Ian's cave. Reluctantly, Ian agrees to escort her to the castle, however, he discovers that Farmire seems to be calmer in her presence. Along the way, they are tracked by forces belonging to Deirdre, and Ian must help another warrior, one not allied to either the mie (Light) or droch (dark) Druids defend his home. And once they reach the castle, the key tells Danielle she must wait. For there is a spy in the castle, and he wants Ian out of the way so he can more easily betray the other Warriors into Deirdre's control. But when Ian voluntarily imprisons himself to keep Danielle safe, can she unmask the traitor and keep Ian, the other Warriors and their wines and husband safe from the traitor, and will she ever find out what the key opens? More to the point, can she convince Ian that they were meant to be together? I found this book really interesting, until I found out that each Warrior turns a different color when his God comes out, and I had this sudden vision of Monsters in Power Rangers colors, and I couldn't keep from laughing. Aside from that, it was a suspenseful book and one that I enjoyed, but the hero was so stubborn that at times, I wanted to kick him in the shins. But I did love the story and the love and caring that grew between Ian and Danielle, and how they unmask the traitor. Recommended.

Promise of Blood: Book One of the Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan- Field Marshall Tamas has acted to overthrow the corrupt King of Adro, and the Cabal of Privileged who supported his rule. But as the members of the Privileged known as the Circle died, they all said "Do not break Kreismir's Promise. While claiming that it means nothing, Tamas calls on the talents of Adamat, the former police inspector, to track down the meaning of the saying. Also called back home is Tamir Two-Shot, Tamas' son, himself also a Powder Mage, who can manipulate the power in black powder to guide bullets and do magic. They can also ingest the powder, which gives them energy and extends their senses. Tamir comes with his companion, Ka-Poel, a savage from the lands of Deliv. When Tamir saved her life several times, she followed him to repay her debt. When his estranged father sets him to apprehending a Privileged who was with the Royal Cabal the night before the coup, he must work with another female Privileged and a mage killer. but the woman is more than she seems, and seems immune to all of their powers. Then, the nation of Kez declares war, because the King was about to sign a treaty with Kez to eliminate most of Adro's debt, which had been racked up by the King, and get more money for himself to fritter away. And not everyone in Adro is happy with Tamas' actions- and a crime lord wants to influence Adamat's investigation, threatening his family to do so. And then there is corruption in the people who are backing Tamas' coup, and Tamas himself is kidnapped, and a star of gold implanted in a wound near his knee, rendering him powerless as a mage. But he is truly trying to do the best for his country- only the country is broke, bankrupted by the now-executed King. Can he, Adamat and Tamir pull together to save the country from the forces that threaten it? And what of the rumors of the return of the Gods? Can Tamas trust them not to destroy Adro for what he has done, or are they just a tale, as everyone believes? This was a first for me- a tale of magic set in a world where the most common form of magic involves guns and gunpowder. But the story was taut and gripping. Just when you think you understand what is going on, something else comes up and you are back to where you were before. I liked the characters while also despising them for some of the things they did. Tamas comes off as unsympathetic at the beginning, but by the end of the book, you do begin to see something of his point of view. I can't say too much about the plot, because that would give away some of the twists in the story. But this story is something I will definitely be reading more of- it was just that engrossing. Recommended.

Circle of Desire: The Damask Circle: Book 3 by Keri Arthur- Ethan Morgan is a werewolf whose niece is missing, She is one of a number of abductions of children recently, who have been found dead and drained of their souls. Ethan is desperate to find his niece, but the chief has also called in Katherine Tanner, and her grandmother, Gwen. Katherine and Gwen are witches, but Katherine is also a shapeshifter, able to take the form of a bird. She also wants to find the missing kids, but she knows that there is a werewolf and something else, something much, much worse, that is responsible for the abductions. But she finds herself attracted to Ethan, and he needs someone to be his lover through the moon heat, which will drive him wild with animalistic sensuality. But Ethan is also hiding secrets as well as his heart, and as he and Kat search for the abducted children, fight zombies, a werewolf and a Mara, Kat will have to decide if she can help Ethan overcome the baggage that is holding him back from shifting, and keeping him aloof and distant from others. But will she be able to get Ethan to trust her enough to open up to her? And when their times together end in Kat conceiving Ethan's child, can he overcome his past and admit his love for her, or will one or both of them end up dying in the Mara's lair? The Damask Circle books, just like the Nikki and Michael books, are as much about the cases the characters are trying to solve as the romance, but n this case, just like the other Damask Circle books, the story drives the romance, and vice-versa. I did like the romance in this book, but the wqay Ethan kept basically wanting to dip his wick without making a real connection with Kat pissed me off. Thankfully, He got the equivalent of a clue by four to the head, so the ending made me happy that they ended up together. Recommended, but Ethan might make you angry before it is all over.

Batman: Zero Year Volume 4: The Secret City by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Danny Miki- Bruce Wayne has been missing from Gotham for years, travelling the world. But he is back now, under the cover of darkness, trying to save the city from the criminals who have taken it over. But as he faces off against the Red Hood and his goons, Bruce will have to make a decision as to what is more important to him- his last remaining family, headed by his uncle Phillip, who also runs the corporation bearing his name, or fighting the evil that lurks in the criminal underbelly of Gotham. But when the two separate worlds collide, which will he choose to savem and can he find a way to save both? And what will the birth of Batman mean for Gotham> The end of this graphic novel shows how the training Bruce underwent made him into the man he was- learning driving from a thief of expensive cars, thinking outside the box from a strange explorer and fighting from a queen outside of Norway. Each tries to teach him what they are best at, but Bruce has his own way, and fits their training to his own ends. Can he survive the lessons they have to teach? This was an interesting graphic novel. We get to see Bruce struggle with what he is trying to do- so much more than he struggles as Batman. He clashes with his family, with Alfred, with the police and the criminals in a way he never does after the becomes Batman- because during this series, he is becoming himself, struggling to put the lessons he's learned into practice in Gotham. And eventually, we know he succeeds, but it's interesting watching him get there. Recommended.

The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh- Lady Angeline Dudley was raised in the country, far from London and the rest of the ton. Her brother is a rakehell, but he is the only family she has left, and the only one who can help her navigate the world inside London in her first season. She is too cheerful and direct for most of the ton, but when she leaves the safety of her room at the inn, she encounters two other men. Edward Ailsbury, Earl of Heyward, defends her when another rake thinks she is a woman of light virtue- he can see that she is dressed far too well, and too soberly, to be a courtesan. But from that meeting , Angeline concieves a passion for Edward, and wants to marry him herself. Edward, though, feels like a passionless stick, stuck in a life of duty. When the woman he would marry turns him down, he offers for Angeline- also to be turned down for lack of passion and feeling. But as they continue to meet and interact with one another, can he see that they are very well suited for each other, and that, indeed, she could make him the happiest of men if only he could let go of his ideas of himself and allow himself to feel? And as for Angeline, can she see Edward as he really is and persuade him to let down his guard and let her into his heart? I like Mary Balogh, and this is very Mary Balogh- down to how the characters passions are engaged long before they end up in bed together, In this case, though, Edward is very self-doubting, and torn between Angeline, who he does like, but feeling he has to make a decision now and to do his duty to his family. Angeline, for her part, wants Edward to be happy, and even if it is not with her and she is feeling horrible about it, tries to shove him in the direction of the woman he asked to marry him years ago, thinking his heart is still engaged there. But it's up to the other characters to take a hand and ensure that Edward and Angelline will end up together and happy. This one takes a while to come together, and it requires all the book for them to realize how very much in love they are. So recommended, but you might get tired waiting for that ending. 

Simply Magic by Mary Balogh- Susannah Osbourne is a teacher in a Miss Martin's School for Girls, and during the summer, she usually stays to help take care of the students who have no home to return to. but this time, she can have some time off, and a former fellow teacher, who married a member of the nobility, invites her to stay for the summer. And there she meets Peter Edgeworth, Viscount Whitleaf, who is immediately captivated by Susannah's looks and wits, though she remembers him and wants nothing to do with him even if he has no memory of meeting her. Peter is staying awsy from his mother, who wants nothing more than to have him settle down and raise a family, but Peter is tired of living life to his mother's wishes and decides to stay around Susannah, who he finds more interesting than any other woman he has ever met. But Susannah still wants nothing to do with him, and he must find out why this intelligent schoolteacher so appeals to him, and why she also wants nothing to do with him- and the fault lies in the pasts, and the parents of both of them. But can Susan forgive Peter's mother for causing her father's death, and can Peter forgive his own mother for lying to him. But can both of them forgive each other enough to find love with each other through the unexpected bond they share?

Nocturnal by Jacqueline Frank, Kate Douglas, Jess Haines and Claire Willis- This is a book of four short stories. "The Phoenix Project" by Jacqueline Frank begins with Amara, who has been kidnapped and held with others in a strange facility where they undergo various tests. But when she is forced to undergo another test and paired with a kidnapped Cop named Nick, they must survive what has been done to them and escape to get retribution on those who endorsed the experiments. But will they ever be the same again? In "Crystal Dreams" by Kate Douglas, Mari is the daughter of two hippies. When her father falls sick, Mari takes over running their shop in Evergreen, California so that her mother can be together with her father. But when something Demonic slips through a portal from another world, Mari's only hopes are Darius, a Lemurian Guardsman from a third world and her mother's book of spells that she has never believed in. Can she bone up on magic in time to save herself, Darius, and the entire town? "Spark of Temptation" by Jess Haines gives us Sara Holloway, a P.I. with an aversion to Magic. Coming off a less than successful case, she finds her boyfriend, a local cop, being even more controlling than usual and demanding that she quit the case. But Sara can't do that. And her new partner, the Mage Arnold, is throwing off sparks that make her uncomfortable- and not just because of the way her skin feels about his magic. But as the case they are on heats up, can she and Arnold find a meeting of the minds and hearts- in time to save both their skins? "My Soul to Take" by Clare Willis involves Maggie Dillon, a native of New Orleans and the doctor at a mental ward. But when she finds herself reacting to Derek, a musician who clains he is possessed, she must turn to alternate sources for help when her psychiatric skills fail her- like her sister, the Voodoo Queen. But can she free Derek from the entity that haunts him? I liked this book a lot. The stories were very interesting and each gave good story on the supernatural. My favorite was "The Phoenix Project" followed by "Spark of Temptation", but all of the stories were good and interesting to read. I liked how the stories did world building, even with so little space in which to do so. Even better, I ended up believing in each romance, again, despite the lack of length of the stories. Recommended.

Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell- Mich Oberon is a private eye working in Chicago in the 1930's. But he's more than just a private detective- Mich is a fairy, a Knight of the Seelie Court, and a self-imposed exile from Faerie. But when he is contacted by the wife of a mobster to find her missing daughter, who has had a changeling taking her place, Mick will have to search both Chicago and the Otherworld to find her- *and* find out why she was taken, and by whom. Either that, or have his secret revealed to the world. But if the cold iron in the city and the case doesn't kill him first, maybe, just maybe, he might find his way to repairing the reputation he never cared about before. This was, for me, a book I found interesting when it was returned to library by someone else. I love historical detective stories, and I love stories about elves and such, so I figured that this book was in my "golden zone". Well, not quite exactly. It's really soaked in the kind of "noir detective" side of the pool and that doesn't quite appeal to me as much as other periods in history. But reading about the fae in this particular Chicago captured my interest, and the case's twists and turns really kept me entralled. I ended up enjoying the novel, bit not quite as much as I expected to. Still. not a bad series, and one I would probably read more of in the future. Recommended.

The Defenders of Shannara: The High Druid's Blade by Terry Brooks- Paxon Leah is no noble- he's just one of many descendants of the Leah family. No longer nobles of any sort, he runs his family's shipping business for his mother and tries to keep an eye on his sister, Chrys, who has been running pretty wild lately. Paxton is just about to try and rein her in, at least a little, when he hears from the barmaid at the local bar that Chrys lost money gambling with a stranger, and when she couldn't pay what she owed right away, the man kidnapped her. Paxon takes his family's sword off the wall and goes in search of his sister, who has been kidanpped awayto Wayford. When Arcannen, his sister's kidnapper, lays him low at the local airfield, Paxon follows him with the sword. In Wayfield, he discovers that Arcannen has magic, but not that many people like him. Kidnapping his sister back, he is forced to fight Arcannen and discovers that the sword has magic after all- magic enough to defeat Arcannen. But Paxon has no idea how to use it. Contacted by the Druids, Paxon goes to meet them, and they agree to tutor him in magic and fighting- if he will serve the Druids for a time. Unbeknownst to Paxon, who agrees to the druid's offer. Arcannen isn't done with the Leahs, and it wasn't really Chrys that he wanted- he wanted Paxton and his blade- and his sister Chrys for an assassin. But who is she supposed to assassinate. As Paxton gets caught up in looking for a traitor amongst the Druids, and taking on various tasks, Chrys is kidnapped again and one of Arcannen's allies works to turn her into the assassin Arcannen needs. But can Paxon and his friends and allies amongst the Druids rescue Chrys and keep her safe? And can they also uncover the name of the traitor amongst the Druids and bring him, her or them to justice? I read the original Shannara books years ago, and I've eagerly followed the stories since, even the ones where they linked Shannara and the "Knight of the Word" books This one was no exception to the rule of how wonderful these books are. I connected with the characters right away, and the last books, about Arlingphant and Aphenglow Elessedil are referenced here- with the Druids restored, and the surviving sister now Ard Rhys. But plots abound., and there are rumbles of things going on under the surface that I am sure will come to fruition in future books, And I will definitely be there reading. Hihgly recommended,

Hill of Bones: A Historical Mystery by the Medieval Murderers (Karen Maitland, Susanna Gregory, Bernard Knight, Phillip Gooden and Ian Morson- This unusual Mystery series involes murders that takeplace through different times and eras in history- but around the same location. Here, the location is the Hill of Solsbury in Bath. Phillip Gooden starts off the book with a story of two brothers who go to join Arthur's forces at Solsbury Hill. One brother, Geraint, is carrying a dagger with an ivory hilt carved in the shape of a bear that he was given by a seer/witch and told he would know when to use it. But his secret is discovered by a fisherman in a coracle, and he may have to defend it with a murder- and save Arthur's ife as well. The next part of the book takes place in the 1100s, when a Knight who once supported King Richard, Symon Cole, and his wife, Gwenlian, are sent to Bath to solve the murder of its guardian by King John. John will take away Symon's lands if he cannot solve the murder and bring the culprit to justice, and confirm him in his lands if he solves the mystery. Gwenlian doesn't trust John and does some investigaiting on her own. But can she bring the culprit to justice and save her too-trusting husband from death? The Next part is written byBernard Knight and involves treasures, plare and a pyx from Bath Abbey. A Lay brother is charged with the thefts, but Riocas, a cat-catcher and Selwyn, the Royal Steward, must band together to free the innocent Lay Brother and find the true culrpit or culprits. The Next story tells of a man named William, who survived a shipwreck, who uses his abilities with medicine to become a prophet of God. He gets gullible villagers to follow him, but when one of his followers is murdered, he has to find out who really killed her, to save his own neck. But is he truly innocent after all? The next tale by Phillip Gooden, concerns a travelling player named Nick Reville. After playing a role in Bath, he is approached by a woman who wants him to impersonate her cousin to her dying Uncle. Nick reluctantly agrees to do so, and the man gives him a small chapbook before passing away. However, Nick is attacked several times for the book, and when the man's son arrives, Nick must help him find whoever is after the book in order to save his own life. But can he find the secret of the chapbook and who is after it in time?Then, in a tale by Ian Morson, Joe Malinferno, a sometimes con man and sometimes researcher and his companion, Doll Pocket, come to bath to open a mummy case for a rich patron. But when a murder occurs on Solsbury hill where the exhumation occurs, Queen Charlotte, one of the attendees, is implicated in the crime, and it's up to Joe and Doll to figure out who really killed the victim and who might have wanted to throw suspicion on Queen Charlotte. Lastly, the ending tale, by Bernard Knight, shows the history of the Hill when a dead body is discovered there, and it turns out to be a case for the archaeologists. But when competing theories come to blows, is anyone safe? This was quite an unusual idea for a book, but not the first book in this series. I wondered how it was going to work, and in practice, it turned out to be very good and interesting. The first story sets the scene and the last one lays it to rest, as missing items and dead bodies in plenty are recovered on the hill. This was unusual for a mystery book, and is more like a connected series of short tales, but all were well told and kept your interest from the first to the last. Highly recommended.

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews- Kate Daniels is the mate of Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta, head of the Shapeshifter Council. But she is also the only daughter of Roland, one of the most powerful mages in the world, and since he's awakened, her ties to him are coming out, and that means nobody is safe. But when Curran is invited to another shapeshifter's territory who he is trying to make peace with, it's Kate as his mate who must attend the monthly conclave with the Masters of the Dead, those who rule and control vampires, which are brute, mindless beasts who will murder anything in their vicinity if left uncontrolled. But when Kate gets to the Conclave, she discovers that one of the local masters, Mulradin, has been killed by a local Werewolf- a woman who spends her free time making love in her beast form, which other shapeshifters consider unseemly. Added to this is the fact that the wolf Alpha is the wife of the former Alpha, and her Beta is pushing for Alpha status, because the Alpha just isn't strong enough. Said Alpha also blames Kate for the death of her husband, so Kate is unwilling to intervene in the conflict. But when Kate and Ghastek, the other Master of the Undead, are kidnapped by Hugh, her father's servitor, Kate and Ghastek must survive until Curran can come rescue them. But they aren't just anywhere, but a very specific place- Mishmar, her father's tower/place of torture. Protected by crazy, ancient vampires and magic, she, Curran, Ghastek, and their allies must then continue to survive and get out of Mishmar, and even then, Katehas to find a way to get her father to leave her, Atlanta, Curran and everything else she loves- without becoming her father in the process. But can she find a way that won't leave her becoming the same kind of thing that her father is, and will still protect others from him? The book ends with a short story about Kate's adopted daughter, is bored with her school and doesn't want to go. Kate wants her to attend a school for users of magic, but when a young girl disappears from the School, Kate asks Julie to investigate the disappearance because someone as young as she is wouldn't stand out as much as Kate. But can Julie find out Lisa's secret and discover what has become of her? And will she end up attending the school later? I got into Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels books when the first book came out, which, hard as it is to believe, was seven years ago. This book seems like it could be the end (right up until the very last lines, but it isn't, and I am glad the series will be ongoing after this one. But this book does make some major changes- not just in the life of Kate and Julie, but of Curran and Atlanta. I loved this book for how much we are still learning about the characters and cultures of the various wereanimals. Here we see more about some of the twisted sex lives of certain weres, and certain humans, and we also learn about the early life of Ghastek, and why he became a Master of the Dead. It was quite enlightening as well as being entertaining. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I felt that everything had changed by the end of the book. This is one you shouldn't miss if you like the Adventures of Kate Daniels.. Highly Recommended.

The Eye of the World Graphic Novel, Volume Five by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon, Marcio Florito and Frances Nuguit- The Ta'veren have become separated, but events are drawing them back together in Caemlyn. Rand and Matt make it there first, and Mat is ill. They take rooms in an Inn called "The Queen's Blessing", where Rand meets Loial, an Ogier. Meanwhile, Lan, Moiraine and Nynaeve rescue Perrin and Egwene from the Children of the Light. Rand also goes to see a captured Logain, the False Dragon, and climbs the walls of the palace to see the procession, but when he falls into the gardens surrounding the palace, he meets Elaine Trakand, the Princess, and her companion, Gwyn. Taken before the Queen on suspicion of being an Aielman, Rand must defend himself from a green-robed Aes Sedai wh does not believe him. But the Queen, Morgause, sets him free, but tells him to stay in the city while Elaine leaves for Tar Valon and the tower of the Aes Sedai. But when Moraine and the others arrive, she discovers the source of Mat's illness, a blade that Mat stole from Shadar Logroth and didn't tell anyone about until they were separated. Moiraine is able to take it from him, but evil follows the blade and radiates from it. It was about to take Mat over, but she is able to help him a little bit- enough to bring him back to what he was, temporarily- but she can't remove the blade from him without killing him. Forced to flee the city, the band, now including Loial, must travel the darkways of the Ogier. But will the ways be intact? and can they escape the trollocs, Myddral and Fades by using the darkways? Another excellent graphic novel that better illustrates the Eye of the World novel- though we're talking an ungodly number of grphic novels if they adapr the whole thing.into graphic novel form. But it's well done, and I enjoyed seeing the book in this form, and seeing more depictions of the characters than just on the cover. I can't imagine doing the entire series this way- because it would take up so much room. But it's nice to read nonetheless. Recommended.

Forever by Jacqueline Frank- Jackson Waverly has come back from the brink of death by bonding with Menes a pharoah from a race of Nightwalkers. But Jackson, who is slowly bonding with Menes, is also interested in Doctor Marissa Anderson. Menes is interested in finding the perfect women to bond with the woman he loves, the Pharoah Hatshepsut, but Jackson, a canine-handling cop, is more interested in Marissa, who is avoiding her feelings entirely. But when Jackson, on a hunt for a missing kid, is attacked by the Nightwalkers who are inimical to his own faction, he's dorced to bond more quickly, and reveals his secret to Marissa in the process. But the other side's leader makes a mistake of his own and bonds Odjit, his female leader, with the spirit of Apep, god of destruction. And while he cannot undo it, he must make his peace with Menes and Ramses and their allied Nightwalkers to defeat Apep. But Jackson's friend Leo is his prisoner, and being tortured by Chatha, a Nighwalker who delights in torture, and bonded with a Down's Syndrome child-man. As things change,

Guardians of the Galaxy by Jim Valentino- This graphic novel contains the old school 70's versions of the Guardians, and not the characters from the recent movie. Here, we see the Yondu, Martinex, Aleta. Charlie-27, Major Vance Astro and Nikki. Charlie is a Jovian, from Jupiter, while Nikki is a Mercurian, from Mercury. Nikki and Charlie are friends, but he wants to be something more. First, Yondu, who is the last male of his race, goes crazy, wanting to hunt down Force, who exterminated his people- especially since the only female of his race hates him. But Yondu wants to mate with her to bring back their people, and he is incensed that the Guardians are being late at hunting down Force. Meanwhile, Aleta is looking for some love of her own, and looking at Vance Astro, bearer of Captain America's shield. She and Martinex were once married, but when he killed her children and imprisoned her inside him, her love turned to hate. But Vance, imprisoned in his own suit lest his skin oxidize on contact with air, only has his little pocket dimension where he can shed his costume and be a human again- a dimension that Aleta can enter, as she can switch her form to being only light. Meanwhile the ship warps to a planet named Haven, home of the last of the Mutants from Earth, They fled, looking for a home of their own, but with each succeeding generation, the number of mutants lessened, and the number of normal humans grew, until now, a world of humans in ruled by just seven mutants, and they have become tyrants. Their ruler is Rancor, a descendant of Wolverine. Giraud, a human, is rescued from a mutant-induced interrogation, and the Guardians Quiz him on what life is like on the surface. He gladly answers their questions and begs for their help in unseating Rancor and the other mutants. But while some of the Guardians go off to see for themselves what is going on, Martinex seeks out an ancient power to help free Giraud's people. And when the other Guardians are attacked, it's up to this ancient force, the Phoenix. But can he find someone willing to bind with the Phoenix, and when Rancor decides to destroy the planet rather than let the humans win, can the Guardians save the rest of the people?And even if they can save them, can the Guardians accept one of thr Havenites as a new member of their team. Afterwards, the Guardians have an encounter with the Ghost Rider, they meet up with their opposite numbers when they run afoul of Mephisto, and Aleta disappears, along with Martinex, perhaps forever. And finally, the Guardians return to Earth, only to find it in the midst of a Civil War, but can they ferret out the true villains amisdt the chaos? And which Superhero from Old Earth is still alive? The Guardians undergo changes in their line-up, and who will remain at the end of the book? This was the old Guardians of the Galaxy and had a very different set of characters from the Newer Giardians in the movie. For instance, two of the Guardians are from Humans who colonized both Mercury and one of the moons of Jupiter. Charlie-27 is extremely strong, thanks to the higher gravity of Jupiter and Nikki exudes heath through pores on her head, giving her a literally flaming head. And while the guardians of the movie seem to get the goofier stories, the stories here are prety straight-up insofar ad their seriousness level goes. It's not a bad book, but if you're looking for a Guardians of the Gakaxt movie-tyoe story, you aren't going to find it here. Nonetheless, it's an excellent book and there's lots of interesting stuff going on. I just wish they'd used the characters better. Recommended.

Captain America: Loose Nuke- Cap has just gotten back from spending ten years in an alternate reality where Arnim Zola ruled the world. Coming back with him is Jet, Arnim Zola's daughter, who was trained to rule the world. But Cap's life for those ten years are something quite different, and "The Iron Nail", a new villain, is determined to expost S.H.I.E.L.D., and he'll use every dirty trick to do so, Even exploiting both Cap, who is both in mourning for Sharon Carter, who was killed just before they got out, and Arnim Zola's son, who Cap had raised for the ten years, teaching him to reject the attitudes of his father, and accept Cap's Americn Ideals. But Cap's needed immediately and doesn't have time to mourn, no matter how much he needs it. He's sent after Nuke, a former American Soldier from Vietnam who was given a version of the Super-Soldier serum that drove him just a bit crazy. But it's more the mental conditioning they tried to use on him that cause many of his continuing problems. But when Cap, who is broken up inside, catches up with Nuke, will he be able to reatin hia ideals, or will he let the rage festering inside him come out? And how will Cap deal with Nuke, who is both a victim and a villain? This was a very rare experience, to read a book where Captain America has been driven to his breaking point, and he's being forced to go even further with a man who seems to be a villain, hurting the others who have attacked America in the past. But can Cap unwittingly foil the plot put in place by Iron Nail, and who is the one who gave "Iron Nail" his powers (It looks like it could possibly be Fin Fang Foom, but I honestly have no idea. Also making an appearance in the book is The Falcon, who sees Steve and his need for healing, but is unable to convince Maria Hill that Cap really needs some time to adjust. We also get to see Cap as a boy, and see his mother, the reason why Cap grew up the way he did. One thing I didn't understand about this book is how we get to see both Ultimates Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and normal Earth 616 Fury in the same book without it really being explained. Also, the book ends on a cliffhanger with a villain who strongly reminded me of the Riddler in design (not powers or name). I will be interested to see what this new villain does and how he deals with Cap- and how, and when Cap deals with him when they finally come to blows. Recommended.

What People Wore When:  A Complete Illustrated History of Costume from Ancient Times to the Nineteenth Century for Every Level of Society- Consultant Editor Melissa Leventon- This book is exactly what it describes, but it features the artwork of two older artists, Frierich Hottentoth and Auguste Racinet. And while the drawings of various times and places are nice, as the text says, they are not always correct- sometimes te artists changed colors, or misattribted what they were copying, or just got it wrong. Which often made me wish that these were based on new drawings instead of correcting various older ones. Still, it's a large and extensive catalogue of drawings show changes in fashion through the ages and the various wrinkles of what fashions changed where and wny. The back of the book is packed full of pictures or various details, like hoods, collars and necklines. It's a wonderful book- huge and weighty, and is full of different fashions and when and by whom they were worn. For those interested in the history of fashion, it's an invaluable book- but with the caveats I mentionef before- I would have preferred new drawings based on actual remaininf costumes and outfits. Still definitely recommended.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

2014, Part 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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