Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012, Part 15

Land of the Dead by Thomas Harlan- When a new First Sun artifact is found in the depths of space, the  archaeologist Gretchen Anderssen is contacted by Green Hummingbird, the spy and tlamine priest, to go find it and deal with it. But Gretchen wants nothing to do with him- her son is dead, and the help he promised to get her boy into college never materialized. He is sorry to hear it, but he finally persuades her he really does need her help, and gains her cooperation with a great deal of money. Susan Kosho, former second in command to Hadeishi, is saddened that her commanding officer is to be kicked to the inactive list, indefinitely. He is too good a commander to be let go because someone had to take the blame for the Flower War fought in Wasteland of Flint. She threatens Green Hummingbird to find a way to let Hadeishi fly again, and he soon finds himself on a freighter ship as a Cargo Hand. Nevertheless, it is a chance to fly again. But when his ship is hijacked and its crew mostly killed by aliens, Hadeishi finds himself in the midst of chaos once more, and the only hope for Susan Kosho and Gretchen Andersson to escape the fate that finds them behind the wall hiding the First Sun Artifact. But can he pull off the near-impossible and rescue them both? I love Thomas Harlan's book series, as it is based on a non-European mythology, and the characters mirror that in the kind of actions they take and how they think. And this novel has plenty of excitement, with an alien race whose emissary is a complete coward, and yet another Mexica princeling abandoned by his family to die. Excellent book, and exciting to read. Recommended.

Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb- When an entire club full of patrons goes crazy and kills each other in vicious and violent ways, it's up to Eve Dallas and her crew, including her husband, Roarke, to find the killer. But this crime is unusual, with ties to incidents during the Wars and a group known as the Red Horseman. Eve has to find the real killer before he or she strikes again, and when he does, prevent him from getting away with his crimes. For the tie between this killer and the Red Horseman is still alive, and if they have their way, they will do everything to save the killer from his fate. But as the victims increase and the killer is uncovered, can Eve work with Homeland Security, who Eve doesn't trust, to bring the killer to Justice? Also, Eve is having flashbacks to her killing her father as a child, and must deal with what happened in Dallas if she is to be able to live with it. I loved this book. The deaths and killing were so over the top, yet so horribly believable, and the trail left by the killer seemed almost too tangled to be unraveled. But the whole story was amazing and hooked me right off and kept me happily reading until the end. There is no higher recommendation I can give for this book, except to say, read it!

Midst Toil and Tribulation by David Weber- The Combines Charisian-corisandean Empire has beaten back the Churchnavies at sea, so much so that the Church fears to go up against them on the water. But Zhaspair Clintahn is desperate to wipe the Heretics off the face of the world, and continues to Prosecure the war on land, since now the battles are moving to land because Charis pretty much controls the seas. But the Church lands are huge, and the number of men the Church and the Gang of Four can mobilize means that Charis and Corisande are badly outnumbered. All is not lost, though. Even though some in Siddarmark, the country through which the armies of the Charisians must nowmove, have converted to the beliefs of the Church of Charis, the Brutal retaliation against the new believers by the old church has ended with fields being burned by adherents of the Old Church, resulting in a massive famine. So, when Charis and Corisande pull out all the stops to ship aid to Siddarmark without requiring anything in return, they turn the leader of Siddarmark to their side, and all the people who aren't completely brainwashed by the old church. But with the number of Men the Church can field, will even Charis, Corisande and siddarmark be able to defeat the seemingly endless numbers of the church troops, or will Emperor Cayleb and his seijin Advisor, Merlin Athrawes, actually the PICA holding the memories of Nimue Alban, be able to somehow defeat the Church on land while blocking the church from getting more troops to Siddarmark for another year? And Merlin is hiding something from his fellow conspirators, something that they might not like... or even understand. Can Merlin and the alliance find a way to stall the advance of the church forces, and keep them bottled up during the winter? Hatred is growing on both sides, and the Church forces "Scorched Earth" policy isn't helping matters on either side... I enjoyed this book a lot. Often, it seems that the forces of the Charis-Corisande Alliance must surely win, what with the advantage of technology on their side, and their near-constant innovation, but an advantage in manpower can wipe that out quite easily, as the Church quickly proves. And the Church commanders are no fools, even if they are outmatched in guns and technology, and the Church is slowly catching up to them. Only the Charisians ability to innovate is what keeps them on top, even as they run out of trained soldiers and sailors. However, the series is starting to feel rather artificially long and maybe a bit padded. Recommended.

Club CSI: The Case of the Disappearing Dogs by David Lewman- Hannah loves her dog, an expensive and friendly Australian Shepherd named Molly. But when Molly goes missing from her backyard, her parents seem convinced that Hannah accidentally left the door to the yard unlocked and that Molly simply got out and ran away. But Hannah is sure that she locked the door, and asks her two Club CSI friends, Ben and Corey, to help her prove that Molly was dognapped. But even when they find evidence that someone snatched Molly, can they find out who that is, and bring the dognapper to justice even though most of their evidence is circumstantial? I like this series, which shows how crime scene investigators look for evidence, and how they interpret it. The mysteries are good and engaging, as is the writing. Highly recommended.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold- Captain Ivan Vorpatril was a childhood friend of Miles Vorkosigan, but where Ivan had a tall, strong body and good looks, Miles had to cultivate his intelligence and natural cunning to get by, as he was born stunted, with fragile bones. Ivan has continued with his career in the military, and acts as an adjutant to Admiral Desplains, he hasn't spent his years living by his wits like Miles has. So when a friend and relative, Byerly Vorruyter, shows up, outs himself as a spy and asks Ivan to keep an eye on a certain young lady, Ivan is pretty much completely flummoxed, and the only plan he can think of is to ask the young woman out on a date from the small shipping office she works for. Tej (not the name she is working under) is a woman on the run, Her family, owners and operators of Cordonah station in Jackson's Whole. As far as she knows, her family is dead, and she is the only one who made it out of the system when Cordonah Station was taken over by another familty. Now. only she and her retainer, the deep blue, elf-eared dancer named Rish, are on the run from assassins dedicated to making certain that Tej is the last of her family. But when Ivan saves them from an assassination team, he takes them under his wing, and soon is doing more than that. When he must smuggle Tej and Rish off the planet, he marries her in a Barrayaran wedding ceremony, intending to only stay with her long enough to keep her safe. But when they get back to Barrayar, things quickly spiral out of control when her entire family turns up, looking for a fortune left on Barrayar during the Occupation, and hidden beneath the hallowed halls of ImpSec. Simon Ilyan, still keeping his hand in despite his returement, thinks he can outmaneuver Ivan's new relatives. But when things go pear-shaped, can Ivan find a way out of his predicament, and a death trap underground? In a way, I liked this book a lot. I could see Ivan's decency and forthrightness being a wonderful change for Tej after her family, and why they stuck together. But I didn't find Ivan half as interesting as Miles. Although he does make anappearance in this book as sort of a harried house husband, this book lacked the sparkle and fire of a Miles Vorkosigan book. Recommended, but just not as interesting as other books in the series.

The Science of Ghosts by Joe Nickell- Many people believe in the existence of Ghosts, but most "encounters" with ghosts can be attributed to wishful thinking, having a truly vivid imagination and so on. Photos of the "dead" or spirits are easily to fake and replicate, but are not always maliciously produced- sometimes, the person who took the photo truly doesn't know the cause of the strange bar of light or sparkles that show up in his pictures. Joe Nickell is a skeptic who has investigated many reports of Ghosts, the Supernatural and all manner of strange sightings and coincidences, and I found that this book, well-written as it is, increased my skepticism about and towards ghosts and the supernatural. I like to feel a chill down my spine at stories of the supernatural as much as the next person. But I also work in a supposedly "haunted" building, and because I am a skeptic towards so much of this stuff, I have never felt the supposed Ghost, nor been privy to the kind of Supernatural dread myco-workers feel when they work here late at night. This is a good book for exposing supernatural debunkery and fakes, and abandoning a belief in the existence of ghosts. Well-researched, well-told and highly recommended.

The Silvered by Tanya Huff- Mirian Maylin was told that she had much mage power, but despite attending the academy for mages, all she could master was the first level in five of the six types of mage power, and no higher. She didn't even have the time to try and master metalcraft before her teachers sent her home as hopeless. She didn't even develop the sparks of color in her eyes that would signify her magecraft power. So she is sent home to her family, her banker father and her mother, hungry for influence, decides to try and wed Mirian to one of the Pack, men who can shapeshift into wolves, who run the country of Aydori, along with their mage wives. Mirian attracts the attention of one of the Regan family, members of the Ruling pack, and her mother is thrilled. But when the country of Aydori is attacked by the Empire, and five female mages stolen, Mirian feels compelled to go after them and try to rescue them. Captured by Reiter, the man who captured the other mages, and his men, Mirian is somehow able to take off the artifact that has imprisoned the other mages without their powers- she assumes it's because she isn't much of a mage- but the device has actually burnt out. Helped by Thomas Regan, the only remaining member of his pack, she is rescued by him, and rescues him in turn from a piece of silver lodged in his shoulder, preventing him from changing from beast to human. But as they travel together to free the Mage Pack, Mirian discovers that she may not be powerless after all, but can she discover her true powers in time to use them against the Emperor who would control the children of the Mage Pack and to conquer Aydori as well? I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit of a slow start, but worked up fairly quickly with the insanity of the Emperor and Mirian and Thomas' discoveries of the powers they have as they traveled. I liked that one of the missteps she made in attempting to use her power was the very thing she needed to take out the Emperor, and the affection between Thomas and Mirian, even when they were exasperated with each other. The ending was interesting, and it seems that this won't be the end of them as characters, and I think Aydori and the Empire will encounter each other again. Soon, I hope. Highly recommended.

When Dreams Come True by Cathy Maxwell- Pierce Kirrer, the Earl of Penhallow, needs a wife, but despite his mother's plan to marry him off to the daughter of one of her friends, he just hasn't been interested. And all his male friends are telling him about how marriage really is and how women change after you are married, but he doesn't believe a word of it. and when a boat washes into the cove near his castle, he dives into the water to rescue the woman who lies unconscious at the bottom of it. Eden is a courtesan, carefully groomed to become a harem girl of the Sultan Ibn Sibah. She doesn't want to, but feels she has no choice. But when a storm blew up, engulfing the boat that would take her to him, she did her best to escape. Now, she pretends to have forgotten her previous life as Pierce opens  his home to her. His mother doesn't care for Eden one bit, but she is powerless to affect the attraction between the two in any meaningful way. But when Pierce decides to marry Eden, she is eventually tracked down by the woman who raised her and the two men who were sent to bring her to ibn Sibah. Can Eden survive the fallout of lying to her new husband and the problems it wreaked in her marriage, and can she and Pierce find the love they felt for each other once again? I enjoyed this book. The plot was a little inconsistent, wavering between magic and the relationship between Eden and Pierce. I also found the sudden turnaround in feelings that occurs between Eden and her mother-in-law to be slightly unbelievable. But the relationship sparkles, and I like how the two of them interacted, and the ending made me smile. Recommended.

The Manga Guide to Physics by Hideo Nita, and Keita Takatsu-Having trouble learning Physics? so is Megumi, who fails her Physics test, and when worrying about the Questions she got wrong, blows a tennis match with her rival, Sayaka. But have no fear, a physics whiz named Ryota comes forward to help Megumi understand Physics  by tying most of the lessons towards tennis and understanding how the racquet and ball interact with one another. When the time comes for a rematch between Megumi and Sayaka, can Megumi use her newly enhanced knowledge of Physics to dominate over Sayaka and win the game? Basically, this book is an educational manga on the subject of Physics. Megumi and Ryota discuss why things work the way they do in a manga section, and then more is explained in a strictly word-based section that follows afterwards, giving formulae and more explanation. For a physics text, it's not bad, and while strictly at a high school level, can help readers having trouble with specific concepts in physics. Recommended.

Blood Crime  by Kim Harrison- Ivy Tamwood is a living vampire who is partnered with a witch named  Rachel Morgan are partners working Inland Security's worst beat- busting two-bit supernatural punks and vampires pushing Supernatural Drugs. Ivy's superior, Piscary, is also a master vampire, one who controls  Ivy thanks to her being the daughter and granddaughter of two of his made children, whom he killed when they turned out to be other than what he was trying to create. But Ivy is beginning to suspect that Rachel, whom she is in love wirh and whose blood she craves more than anything, is being targeted by Piscary. But why, and what, if anything, can she do to stop him while keeping her job, and keeping Rachel safe from Piscary, who also wants to kill her. But when a man is sent after her by his vampire lover, can Ivy defeat him and keep her and her partner safe? And can she bring down Piscary, or is the old vampire too wily for her? I have only read a few of the Rachel Morgan books, so i don't know if Ivy was ever used as a viewpoint character, but I found both characters interesting and the story was full of action and intrigue. I did feel as if there wasn't quite enough backstory and explanation, so while this is a graphic novel, it's probably best to wait until after you have read the Rachel Morgan books to start this one. or read the prequel, Blood Work. Recommended, but can be confusing.

Nicholas North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce and Laura Geringer- Long ago and far away, a horrible force named Pitch, the Nightmare King, was imprisoned deep underground near the village of Santoff Claussen. So when a stray moonbeam finds the imprisoned Pitch, it accidentally wakens him when it enters a diamond knife stuck deep in his chest and revives and awakens a translucent child buried deep in Pitch's heart. The child escapes, taking the now moonbeam-infused diamond knife with him, and Pitch escapes from the hole in which he is imprisoned. Pitch proceeds to attack Santoff Claussen, and in response, the Man in the Moon, Tsar Lunaroff, summons the King of Bandits, Nicholas St. North, to defend the town. His men follow him, and are destroyed by the Town's Defenses, but Nicholas makes it through to defend the town when Pitch takes over the giant  bear that  Guards the town and attempts to kill and eat everyone there, including the mage Ombric Shalazar, who founded Santoff Claussen and is only brought back by the powers of the belief of the children of the town. Nicholas is badly injured, but recovers and becomes Ombric's student in magic. But when he and Ombric leave for the Himalayas to find one of the pieces of the Man in the Moon's crashed ship, which is vital to defeating Pitch, Pitch is with them as part of Nicholas' greatest creation. Can they overcome his treachery, and prevent Pitch from getting the piece of the ship? This book is one of the books that is the basis for the new "Rise of the Guardians" movie, and as the movie critic I watched says, it's sort of the Avengers for kids. The books take place 200 years before the events of the movie and cover the background of the main characters, Nicholas St. North is, of course, Santa Claus (and I wonder how much Santa Claussen is going to influence that name?). I found this an exciting and engaging book. From the minute I picked it up, I found it impossible to put down. An excellent book that kids will love- even girls, as despite it being about adventure and fighting an evil bad guy, there is a girl named Katherine who figures very prominently in the story. Highly recommended, with lovely and evocative art. Oh, and two more books in this series, about E. Aster Bunnymund (the Easter Bunny, who is actually a Pooka, or a magical bunny) and Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Faeries, are out as I write this, along with two picture books, one about the Man in the Moon, the leader of the Guardians, and the other about the Sandman (aka Sanderson Mansnoozle).

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core by William Joyce-  Katherine, Nicholas St. North and Ombric Shalazar have stayed in the Himlayas with Nightlight, the Lunatr Lamas and Yetis at the Lunar Lamasery. Katherine has adopted a new pet/companion, Kailash, a baby Himalayan Snow Goose that is soon big enough to fly with her on its back. But a disaster at Santa Claussen sends them flying back to the village (literally) in the Lunar Lama's Lamasery, which is also a rocket. It seems Pitch has attacked the village, looking for Ombric's books of magic. And in pursuit of them, he has abducted the children of the village and tuened all the animals who watch over it and the Lady of the Woods, along with all the adults, into tiny Porcelain statues using his enslavement spell. But why, and what is he looking for? Ombric had been searching back through time, looking for the lunar relics after the crash of the Lunar Tsar's spaceship, but when he tried to interfere in the past, he was stopped by a mysterious rabbit-like figure, who he believes is a creature known as the Pooka, the last of its kind. He also believes that it is this Pooka who holds the secret to the next of the Moon relics. But Ombric needs to know more about the attack and sends Katherine and Nicholas St. North to Easter Island, where the Pooka is believed to live, to search for him and ask for his aid. And they are soon found by E. Aster Bunymund, a stand-offish figure obsessed with the shape of eggs and making different flavors of Chocolate, which he, himself, never eats. He's dismissive of humanity, who he views as unworthy of another Golden Age and declines to help them. He is also holding the second relic, an egg full of Lunar Light, literla light to bring on another Golden age. But can Katherine and North persuade the Pooka to help them reach the Earth's Core and fight on their side? What will convince him to side with them and that they and humanity, are worthy of his help? I loved this book, and while the E. Aster Bunnymund in the book doesn't seem to resemble the one in the movie trailers, I loved his character and the reason why he doesn't eat chocolate and is obsessed with the shapes of eggs. By the end of the book, he's mellowed quite a bit and I found him a wonderful character (and while Santa, in the modern day) is served by Elves and Yeti, the Easter Bunny is served by mechanical eggs! I love it! Once again, Katherine shines despite being just a little girl among incredibly old entities and against Nicholas St. North, a young warrior-mage. Highly revommended.

Alichino, Vols 1 and 2 by Kougu Shurei- Alichino are creatures of Angelic Beauty who are said to grant wishes to those who really need them. But there are few Alichino left in the world, And the gifts they give always come with a price... When a young girl appears searching for an Alichino, she meets Tsugiri, a young man so beautiful that she believes that he might be the Alichino she is looking for. But he claims to know nothing about them, only to go to the house of a friend named Enju and talk about them. The girl, who has followed  Tsugiri, bursts in on them and asks if they know about Alichino, explaining that she really needs one. Her brother is dying and no doctor can find the cause. It's as if his soul is just being sucked away. It transpires that her brother may have found an Alichino to save her life when she was sick. But Tsugiri can only tell her the truth. Yes, Alichino can grant wishes- but the price is the life of the asker. Tsugiri hates Alichino and hunts them, for he holds a strange fascination for the Alichino. He is a Kusabi, born to slay Alichino. However, they want to kill him and take his soul. Myobi, an Alichino, lives with Tusgiri and protects him while helping him kill other Alichino. But what does she really want, and why can't Tsugiri remember his childhood? What secrets does the past hold for him, and will he be able to kill off the Alichino before one of them catches up with him and takes his life? I found this manga beautifully drawn, but a little confusing. Sometimes, it reminded me of CLAMP's works, but not as clear in the story. The author/artist broke her hand back in 2001, putting the series on indefinite hold. As of 2005, she was said to be working on the last, fourth volume, but is not yet finished. And that means this series might never  be finished in America, which makes me kind of not care for it as much. Not recommended, except for the prettiness of the art.

Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Eric Mannheimer, M.D.- Most people know Bellevue for its famous mental ward, but Bellevue is an actual hospital and takes in all sorts of patients. Eric Mannheimer has worked there almost all his life, and tells the story of Bellevue in twelve patients, including himself- who survived a bout with cancer- from the patient he saw repatriated to the Dominican Republic before his own death from cancer- to a woman he worked hard to save, yet who passed away anyway, Mannheimer explores the texture of New York and the people of Bellevue hospital he has known and dealt with. Each story is full of medical and personal details (the personal details seem real, but are carefullywritten to conceal the real names) as Dr. Mannheimer shows why these diseases and these patients have problems, both from home and abroad. Even in cases where the patient recovers, there is a dearth of happy endings. A Sobering look at medicine, and patients in New York City. I enjoyed the book, the stories are compelling, even if the endings usually turn out to be sad, but it's still a fascinating read of how care is portioned out, and yet the doctors still try everything in their power to help. Recommended,

The Guardians of Childhood: The Man in the Moon by William Joyce- Long Ago, in space, there was a golden age, and leading is were the Tsar and Tsarina Lunar, their son, the Man in the Moon, grew never knowing a bad dream or fear, and standing over him was his companion, Nightlight. But he soon attracted the attention of Pitch, who wished to bring fear to the universe, and he attacked the great moon Clipper where the Man in the Moon and his parents lived. His parents sacrificed themselves to protect him, and Nightlight imprisoned Pitch, leaving the Man in the Moon to grow up on the moon, no longer able to fly as the Moon Clipper. But when the Man in the Moon discovered that there were children like him living on Earth, he vowed to become their protector. But how could he send his message to the children of Earth so far away? I loved this book, which has just the right touch of whimsy and fantasy to appeal to all kids, and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous! William Joyce is the same man who created Rolie Polie Olie, and his pictures are gorgeous enough to lose yourself in, even for adults. Highly recommended.

The Guardians of Childhood: The Sandman by William Joyce- Sanderson Mansnoozie rode a tremendous golden comet during the Golden Age in space, one who anyone could make a wish on and have that wish be granted. But when the comet was attacked by Pitch, it crashed onto Earth, and only the dreams of the Sandman ensured it landed safely on the Earth. And for a long time after, the Sandman dreamed. Until the voice of the Man in the Moon reached him, asking him for help in keeping the sleep of the children of Earth free of bad dreams. And Sandman thought long and hard on how to do it, and even lost sleep over it. Until the mermaids came and sang him to sleep, to dream a dream of sleep untroubled by nightmares. But could the Sandman destroy the Dream Pirates and keep Earth free of Nightmares? I loved this book, another one filled with wonderful pictures that reads like a happy dream. The colors just scream fantasy, being super-saturated and vivid. A wonderful book to read to your children. Highly recommended.

The Guardians:Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies by William Joyce- It seems as though Pitch was defeated in the last battle, but Katherine has been having dreams about him that she doesn't remember in the morning, Dreams that only Nightlight has seen. And he worries about her. Meanwhile, the rest of the Guardians have been growing closer, and Nicholas St. North has persuaded the Guardian of the Forest to release his bandits, now miniature men. The experience seems to have driven whatever evil they harbored strsight out of them and they have become much more childlike, even as they still follow North and help him. As the residents of Santoff Claussen take a trip to the Himalayas to meet the Lunar Lamas, everyone is happy to go back among old friends. Ombric Shalazar's glowworm, Mr. Qwerty tells them the story of Toothiana, abd how she came to be, and how she got her job safeguarding the memories of Children. Katherine hopes that losing her new tooth means that she can get back the memories of her parents, which she no longer remembers. Everyone else wants to at least see Toothiana. But when Katherine is kidnapped from the Lamasery by the Monkey King and his minions, they find that Pitch is missing his daughter, and he wants to replace her with Katherine! But can the other Guardians rescue their friend before Pitch succeeds in making her over in his image? I quite liked Toothiana and her story, and the book ends on a real cliffhanger as we get to meet Pitch's REAL daughter, who isn't wholly bad, but not wholly good, either. Now I can't wait for the next book, which will involve the Sandman. And a book about Jack Frost is also forthcoming. Reading these books is an adventure that's also like coming home to old friends. Excellent and Highly recommended.

The Lost Night by Jayne Castle- Rachel Blake has returned to Rainshadow Island from a life in the city where she tried to join a scientific/medical group dealing with the mentally fragile. But she left over an incident involving a psychopath who fixated on her precisely because she knew what he was and was repulsed by him. Starting over as a bookseller on Rainshadow isn't  easy,. but she's picked up a Dustbunny named Darwina as a pet, and is settling into the life of the Island. This isn't her first time on Rainshadow- she lived there for a while when she was younger, but one night, she mysteriously wandered into the Preserve while heading home, and the next morning, walked out again, not remembering anything of the night or what or even how it happened. Harry Sebastian's family owns the Preserve and he us related to the Pirate, Harry Sebastian that was said to have buried his treasure on the Island. Now he's back to try and find out what happened tot he Psychically "hot" stone which were buried on the island, as they have apparently been stolen. He's attracted to Rachel as soon as he meets her, but she's turned off by the fact that he thinks she or one of her neighbors stole the stones. The fact that he spent a night at her house to escape a storm makes everyone gossip, and when it happens at his house the next night, they resign themselves to the prospect of even more talk, but when two teens show up and firebomb the house, Harryis forced to use his powers to deal with the teens, and Rachel rebalances his aura for him afterwards, preventing an afterburn. But that doesn't stop them from making love later on, anyway. The next morning, the sight of a tattoo on the back of the their hands makes Rachel sure that the two were there for her, not Harry, as they had first assumed. But what does the psychopath on the mainland have to do with her life on Rainshadow now? And what happened on that lost night in the Rainshadow preserve, and can Harry and Rachel find out withoutending up a victim of the conspiracy in the Preserve, or prey to one of the creatures that make the place home? And can they find the missing stones belonging to Richard's Family and return them to the vault before they send the Sanctuary into overdrive?I actually enjoyed this book, which gently teased a number of sequels without using a big flashing sign saying, essentially "Sequel goes here!" I found this a fascinating book and easy and quick to read. Despite th elength of the book is takes place in less than a week, not including the epilogue. There was nothing that really blew my socks off, but it was a good read, and I enhjoyed the residents of Rainshadow and some of the more interesting stones mentioned in it, like Rainstones. Recommended.

Club CSI:The Case of the Ruined Ram by David Lewman- Corey, one of the Club CSI members, convinces the others to go to the Pep Rally with them before the big game against the Jefferson High Vikings. But a big no-show that night is the School's mascot, Rocky the Ram. Everyone wonders where he is, but everything else seems to go okay, so nobody remarks on it, until Rocky's costume is found, partly burned, under the remnants of the bonfire used to inspire School Spirit. Since the costume is expensive, the police are called in. But since the CSI club has solved mysteries in the past, the Principle brings the case to the science class taught by the CSI Club's advisor, and she opens up the investigation to the class. If anyone can find out who destroyed Rocky the Ram, they'll get tickets to the Rest of the Rams Games for a year. Corey is completely stoked about this, and thinks the CSI Club has a lock on finding the culprit, but Corey isn't the only one who wants those tickets. Ricky, an annoying classmate, is also crazy about football, and he teams up with Charlie, the smartest kid in the class, to chase down the culprit. But as the two teams go head to head against each other, can either find the truth, or will it take both to find the true culprit, even after a note claiming responsibility is found? This was a good book, and I didn't know who dunnit until fairly late in the book. This was actually refreshing, as far too many adult books telegraph their endings to me. So even though this book is for kids, the mystery is first rate, with plenty of red haerrings and false trail. Excellent and Highly Recommended.

Crown of Vengeance by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory- Vielessar Farcarinon was born in the Sanctuary of the Star as her mother took shelter after the house she ruled with Vielessar's father was destroyed when he sought to unite the Hundred Houses into one Kingdom. Proclaimed a child of Prophecy at her birth, she was raised in ignaorance of her true origins, until she was sent back to the Sanctuary of the Star when she was 12. Before she was sent back by House Celioniel, who had raised her, with the knowledge of her true name, and a burning need for Vengeance. But as she lived in the Sanctuary and her Light-given powers blossomed, she gave over vengeance... until she was forced to take up her destiny, to conquer the Hundred Houses and make all equal before the Law. Because the Endarkened are still out there, and they seek to conquer the land and destroy Light and Life utterly at the behest of their creator, who wishes the world to go back to the serene lifeless place it once was. But Vielessar has left her Vengeance unpursued for years. Is it too late to unite the Kingdoms, and can she do it before the Endarkened make their new plans and attack? Because she is the only one to believe in the Prophecy, and to win, she is going to have to throw out every rule of war and fight against all the houses, plus rediscover the lost Throne of the Unicorn and take it for her own. And there si more: her sworn bondmate is her greatest enemy, and he can kill her at any time merely by ending his own life. But how can she win against such odds, and does she dare to try? Wow. This was some book. Yes, another book in the Endarkened series, and this one seems to be a prequel rather than a sequel as such, and it's wonderful, filled with a dark twisty vengeance and a lead character who is a woman merely trying to stave off the end of the world. But to do so, she must sacrifice almost everything and work hard to a task she was never trained for. And while her courage, intelligence and daring do a great deal to give her victories, she isn't always winning and has to deal with losing battles and being chased, And the Endarkened are given a beginning and a God, which is quite scary. Recommended.

The Big Book of Pain: Torture and Punishment throughout History by Mark F, Donnelly and Daniel Diehl- Humans haven't always treated each other nicely. In fact a great deal of our history is being really, really bad to one another. But worst of all was torture, used in the past as both a punishment for wrongdoing and to extract information about crimes, fellow criminals and other things as well. But now, torture is making a comeback, and understanding the kind of tortures used in the past can give you an idea of why it has returned. But, as a means of gaining information, torture simply doesn't work. Once a person is in enough pain, they will say anything, confess anything, to get the pain to stop, even if it isn't true. This is an excruciatingly painful look at torture, yesterday and today, and the various means by which people inflicted pain, suffering and death on other people. Not for the weak of stomach or those who easily suffer nightmares. Some of the descriptions are downright painful to read (as in sympathetic pain, not  badly written. If you are looking to learn about torture, this book can give you a really good overview... and turn your stomach at the same time. Recommended

The Instruments of Torture by Michael Kerrigan- Another book covering the record of Man's inhumanity towards his fellow man, this book covers all of human history, from ancient times to modern scenarios like Abu-Ghraib. Humiliation, Pain, and the ripping apart of the body are all covered in detail, although most of the illustrations are woodcuts and drawings rather than photographs. A bit less stomach-turning, but still informative, you can still feel pangs of sympathy and sympathetic pains from reading this book, but perhaps less so than "The Big Book of Pain". Still not recommended for those with sensitive minds/stomachs.  But otherwise good.

Ember's Kiss  by Deborah Cooke- Liz  Barrett is a biologist who has come to Hawaii to attend a conference. But the woman who invited her, her Mentor, is hoping Liz will love the island enough to stay. So when Liz meets extreme surfer Brandon Merrick her first night on the island, there is an instant connection, and she finds herself wanting to be with him. Brandon, though, is a Dragon who doesn't want to be one, and he is working with Marco, leader of the Wyverns, to try and kill the Dragon without harming himself. Marco, though, only wants Brandon as a source of more Dragonbone, which means Brandon will have to die. But Liz is on his side, and is his destined mate, setting off a firestorm  that binds them both together. And Liz has secrets of her own- she is a special kind of Witch, a Firedaughter, who also didn't want her powers, because similar powers killed her own mother. She  stopped using them and they faded away, but now that she is in Hawaii, she is back, and the goddess Pele seems to have taken an interest in her. Can Liz and Brandon survive their firestorm, and the forces of the Wyverns and the Evil magic arrayed against them? Or will Marco use their connection against Brandon to win the day? This is the eighth novel in the Dragonfire series, and unlike some of the other  novels in the series that I've read, this one takes place far from the others, by someone who has been completely mislead about what he is. But thanks to Liz, and the other Dragons who come to meet him, Brandon is able to find  the truth, forgive his father, and triumph over his problems, just as Liz must overcome her own. I liked this book a great deal. It won't blow your socks off, but it's a nice, solid romance. Recommended.

A Christmas Garland by Anne  Perry- Victor Narraway is in the Army in India after the Maiwand massacre when an Indian soldier is killed while on duty guarding another Indian soldier who went over to the enemy, and it seems that a young medical assistant is to blame. Narraway is assigned to defend the medical assistant, who maintains his innocence, but everyone else seems to have an alibi and he  does not. Victor needs to track down the real killer and keep the innocent man from being killed.But one of his fellow officers has a grudge against him and would like to see Victor fail. Can Victor tease out the strands of truth and weave it together into a defense that will save the innocent man? Or is he just uselessly spinning his wheels against a foregone conclusion? A small and compact little mystery by a master at the top of her game, Anne Perry has produced another triumphant Christmas mystery and packed it full of red herrings, and a solid, completely engaging mystery story. They don't get much better than this. Highly recommended.

Seawitch by Kat Richardson- P.I. Harper Blaine is a Graywalker, someone who can travel between the  borders of life and death and see the effect of the Gray, a sort of limbo in between, and deal with the spirits who live there. When a 27 years gone missing boat is found drifting in the harbor, the Insurance Company who paid out on the claim all those years ago wants Harper to investigate. She is teamed up with Columbian cop Rey Solis, who doesn't believe in the Supernatural whatsoever. But the Guardian of the Gray wants Harper to "Free the Lost", while something or someone else, wants everyone involved with the ship and the mystery dead- and is glad to include Harper if she continues to stir things up. Furthermore, Harper's lover, Quinton, is being blackmailed by his father, now head of a Federal agency that wants to use and study Supernatural creatures, to give information on the ones he knows, while Quint wants nothing to do with his father's plans. Can Harper investigate the case without falling afoul of Quint's father, and untangle the threads of which Supernatural creatures want the Seawitch... and why? I loved this book and tore through it in a single day, because it was quite amazing. I knew nothing about the supernatural creatures that appear in the story, and yet, I want to know more. It really pulled me in and made me want to know what was going on, and I enjoyed every single page. Highly recommended.

After Moonrise  by P.C. Cast and Gena Showalter- After Moonrise is an agency that helps clients with Supernatural problems. In the first story, Kent Raef is a psychic who can only percieve the darker emotions, which means he is stuck investigating strange deaths. So when Lauren Wilcox comes to him with the story of being haunted by her sister, who was recently murdered, Raef and Lauren must work together with the spirit of her sister, Aubrey, to track down the killer and free the spirits of the women he's imprisoned and who he is draining the bad emotions from their spirits to gain power. Raef is attracted to the spirit of Lauren's dead sister, Aubrey, but the only way he can be with her is when she possesses her sister's body. And he also finds he can feel Aubrey's  happiness and joy. But if he frees her soul, she'll be lost to him forever, and if he lets the killer go, it's a death sentence not only for Aubrey, but other women as well. And the killer now wants Lauren as well... The second story in this anthology follows Aurora Harper, a painter who suddenly finds herself painting disturbing images. She reaches out to her neighbor, cop Levi Reid, for help, He is recovering from a bust gone bad but Aurora's story is compelling and overcomes his need for solitude. Bur as he investigates, disturbing memories come back for both of them. And is the murder something Aurora witnessed in the past, or something yet to come? I liked both stories in this volume, but I felt the first story started a little quicker, and moved more quickly, whereas the second story had a slower start and a longer build-up to the climax. In the end, both turned out very enjoyable in different ways. Recommended.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

2012, Part 14

Personal Assets by Emma Holly- Béatrix Clouet's mother owned and operated the store known as Meilleurs Amis, but when her mother dies, the company is left in the hands of her lover, Phillip, the young artist and model that Béatrix loved first, and Béatrix finds solace in painting and becoming an artist, but still can't help but be attracted to Phillip. A visit by her college friend Lela gives her hope and an idea- to be an established artist on her own. But Lela has a request- to take over the New York shop and see if she can't pull it out of the tailspin it's been in, while Béatrix tends to the  rest of the company, and Phillip. As Béatrix comes into her own and discovers what she really wants out of life, Lela encounters the boss of her old flame and becomes incredibly attracted to him without knowing who he is, really. As Béatrix and Phillip become closer, Lela discovers who her new lover is. But can he be trusted with her heart and her secret? And when Phllip and Bea are outed as lovers, this may be the end of Meilleurs Amis. Can they come up with a way of saving the company that both of them love? I found this book very hot, in a physical way, it's much closer to erotica than traditional romance. But that didn't make me love it any less. In fact, I liked it better for its hotness, and it made the book a very satisfying read. Recommended.

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan- Mel lives in the Town of New Whitby, started and still mostly controlled by vampires. However, the vampires, who live in groups known as "shades", live in their areas of town, and the humans live separately, But when a new Vampire named Francis starts attending the same school as Mel and her friend Cathy, Mel instantly hates him and wonders why he is attending a human school with humans. He's likely hundreds of years older than they are, so what does he need to learn? But Cathy is entranced by the first sight of the mysterious vampire, and soon believes that he is "the One", the person she is destined for and fated to be with. But Mel doesn't want to lose her friend, and begins investigating Francis and why he wants to go to their school. Along the way, she also gets drawn into the problems of another friend, the daughter of the Principal of the School, whose father supposedly ran off with a vampire who fell in love with him. But nobody seems to think he would have done any of this. On top of it all, Mel meets a human boy who is being raised by Francis' Shade, and whose very existence calls everything she has ever believed about  vampires into question. And if she can't change Cathy's mind about becoming a vampire, will Kit change her own? I picked this book up because of the title, which riffs on the whole "Team Edward/Team Jacob" thing that that the Twilight books and movies used to sell themselves. And while Mel is a great character, she's not flawless or removed from the whole idea of romance with a non-human creature- she's actively against it, being bigoted against the whole idea. The book shows how she changes and grows from her rather knee-jerk prejudice against vampires into something more balanced, to the point where she becomes very adult about the whole thing. I enjoyed this book a lot, and it turned a lot of the tropes about vampires on their heads. Definitely worth a look if you are sick of the whole "Twilight" thing.

Live and Let Drood by Simon R. Green- When Eddie Drood returns home to his family one day to discover that they have disappeared and the family home has been destroyed, he goes a little bit crazy, thinking and knowing that he is the Last Drood and looking for who might have done this to him and those he loves. Not even Molly Metcalf, the witch and woman he loves, can bring him out of his funk. Until he realizes that while the house that had been destroyed was A Drood House, it wasn't *his* Drood House. The house must have been spirited away to another dimension and this one left behind as a decoy. After taking care of a few villains who would loot the remains of the house for profit, Eddie must ally himself with Moxxon's Mistake, a set of sentient armor created by his family long ago. The armor killed its maker, and with Ethel, the otherworldly intelligence that creates the Drood armor gone with his family, he has no choice if he wants to get his family back. But who activated Alpha Red Alpha and made his family disappear to another reality? Eddie will have to ally with the Rogue Droods to bring his family back and discover and punish whoever made it disappear in the first place. And along the way, he may just discover what really happened to his parents. But how will he take the news? I am very slowly warming to Eddie Drood. He's not my favorite of  Simon Green's heroes (that would be Hawk and Fisher, from the series of the same name and of the "Blue Moon" series, but he's  not as objectionable as he used to me. I still want to slap his face, just not as often, but he can still be a smarmy git, so YMMV on that. I liked the armor and this book definitely set up the next- I can't wait to see what really happened to his parents, and why they are still hiding after all these years. And you get smacked in the face, over and over, with who his parents are supposed to resemble. I got so tired of it by the end that when "Patrick" and "Diana" show up yet again, I rolled my eyes, and said aloud, "I get it, I get it. The Avengers. Stop beating that horse, it's dead." And yet the ultimate revelation was a surprise. Recommended.

Time Untime by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Kateri Avani is a scientist, but when she receives a stone in the mail from a colleague of hers, she knows he has found something special- because it predates humanity in the Americas. And yet, it exists, and it is covered with strange writing that no one seems to be able to interpret. So when a strange man named Cabeza shows up and demands the stone from Teri, she believes it is the stone he is seeking. Only three strange warriors show up to defend her, and she ends up with one of them, a man named Ren, in Hell and is forced to work with him and trust him to survive. The longer they are together, the more she experiences his past, and sees the kind of man he is, so that even though she has dreamt of him killing her from the time she was young, she grows to trust and care for him. But he doesn't give his own trust so easily, and he actively resists falling for  her- he trusted once before, and got kicked in the teeth for it. But Kateri is the only one who can prevent the world from ending at the end of the year. Can Ren keep her safe until she is needed, and help her restart the clock of time that is needed for the world to go on? Can he keep himself from betraying the woman he has come to love? This was an interesting book, and set up on Mayan beliefs rather than the Greek and Roman (and Atlantean) myths that the rest of the series runs on. I enjoyed it, but I was a little disappointed that the supposed betrayal that Ren had promised to save Kateri's life didn't get more time. It didn't seem to impact the story at all. I have no idea how the series is going to go on from here (or even if it will), but the problem of Nick is still around, and while Kenyon has claimed that the series might end here (I think it will just be the end of the Mayan-themed stories), it seems rather pointless to end it here. Also, Ren joins the 'Worst Childhood in the World" club, which has become quite overplayed in my book. Recommended, but not very highly. It's sort of more "same old, same old" once again.

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke- Ever since the plague came into the world, the highborn have mutated. In the cold areas of the world, they became Werewolves, while elsewhere, they became Vampires. And then there are the unfortunates- those who mutated far more wildly, becoming goblins. Most aristos can interbreed with humans, and their children, the halfies, protect the Aristos from goblins and humans both. Alexandra Vardan, known as Xandra, is a halfie who is the daughter of a British Aristo Vampire. But when her sister Drusiilla goes missing, she goes to the Goblins, all of whom know everything that is going on in the streets, for answers. And they tell her that her sister is in Bedlam for attacking one of the Aristos. But when her sister burns herself to death while in custody, Xandra knows she is still alive, because the body she is shown isn't her sister's. Who is protecting her sister, and why did she feel it was necessary to pretend to die? Xandra finds a rot running deeply through the country, through the Aristos and Halfies alike, and there are people who want to bring down the current order of the country and place something new, and possibly, hopefully better, in its place. And both sides want Xandra to join them. But when Xandra learns the truth about herself, will she be able to look beyond the lies spun by both sides and find the truth? And in the end, will she want to? I liked this book because it want beyond the "Vampires vs. Werewolves" dynamic by introducing the goblins, and making all three of them a product of the same disease/plague. Best, I loved Xandra's "voice" and it enchanted me so much that I was drawn into the novel and loved staying by her side throughout. The ending was a little shocking, but I can't wait to see what happens with Xandra in the future. This reads like the first book in a new series, and I want to find out more, like if things really change for the halfies and the goblins. Highly recommended.

Beaten, Seared and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America by Jonathan Dixon- Lots of people want to make a difference in their lives and love cooking, but few people decide to go to the Culinary Institute of America  and learn from the best. Jonathan Dixon, looking for a new direction in his life after a small career in journalism, did just that. And what he learned was that the CIA is not for everyone. Your time there will change you, change the very way you look at food. And not everyone is cut out to be a Master Chef, or even a Sous-Chef in charge of their own restaurant. Even if you end up being an "also-ran" in the food world, there is a place for you. Dixon was unusual, coming to the CIA in his late 30's, and had trouble with not overthinking his food. But what he learned there was invaluable and did indeed give him a new direction in life. Just not the one he thought he was  headed towards when he first attended the CIA. I enjoyed this book for the look it gave me at what a pressure-cooker the CIA really is, and how many people just don't make it. But for those that do, it turns out chefs like nobody's business. Recommended, and it might turn you off from going to the CIA, or spur you on, if that's your interest. YMMV.

Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey- Mags is still working under his Herald-teacher, Nikolas, the King's Own Herald, who also acts as a spy. Now that Amily is safe and has had the operation that has transformed her from a cripple to someone who is on the mend, the entire student body is on the lookout for anyone who might mean her harm, and Mags is finally able to spend a little more time romancing her as he can, but he worries he isn't doing it right. Of course, he's also spending time in the pawn shop that Nikolas runs in Haven under his assumed identity, but lately, Mags has felt like something is watching him, and he is afraid that the thing that is watching him is a ghost-something he's had all too much experience with in the mine, and he's deathly afraid of ghosts- and with good reason. Even Nikolas isn't sure why Mags is so afraid, until Mags details his former experiences with ghostszt the mine. But Mags is also dealing with the fallout from Bear and Lena's relationship. They have decided to get married, because as long as Bear is single, his family, and more importantly, his father, can decide to marry him off as they will. And as Bear and Lena are very much in love, they would rather stay together. So when they marry and Bear's father finally finds out, there is an explosion that ends up with him nearly being arrested. However, shortly afterwards, Mags is kidnapped from Haven and taken to Karse, where he must find his way free if he ever wants to return to Haven and his life as a Herald. But with Demons roaming freely in Karse and his Mind Speech abilities gone, will he ever find out what his kidnappers have to do with his parents, and find a way to let Dallen know where he is? Well, I found this book less objectionable than some of the earlier ones in this series. Mags has finally learned to speak just like everyone else, or is allowed to speak like everyone else, and the end of the book has him surviving on his own in a foreign country where he literally starts with nothing. But the ending was sort of foreshadowed earlier in the book, and in a somewhat clumsy way. When Nikolas tells him that he can survive on his own because of his upbringing in the mines, I was thinking to myself, "Hel-lo Mr. Foreshadowing!" without even knowing what was going to happen later in the book. But it was enjoyable, and let us know why Valdemar never intervened on behalf of the people of Karse when they knew that there were demons in Karse. And I have to admit, it's a good reason. Now that we have more hints about Mags' family and who they were (and what his real name is), it makes me hope that Mercedes will flesh out some of the smaller Kingdoms shown in the Valdemar Companion. Highly recommended.

The Fallen: Warrior by Kristen Douglas- Tory has all her life been raised by her mother, the Contessa, who arranged for her to be trained in fighting, everything from martial arts to weapons by a personal weapons trainer. But the one thung that Tory really wanted: the freedom to travel and be herself, was denied her. Even when she fell in love with a boy named Johann and tried to run away with him, she was found and brought back. And all because she is the warrior goddess, Victoria Bellona, reborn, and is the destined bride of the Fallen Angel, Michael. In fact, all the Angels are fallen, since God crested the world and then left, leaving things to be on their own. Now, Tory is the destined Bride of Michael, but he resists caring for her. It's only after he retrieves Tory that he discovers from one of the female seers that Tory will die on her 35th birthday, in only a few days time. This gives Michael an excuse to avoid getting close to her- his heart will be ripped out if he comes to care for her, and loses her suddenly. But Tory refuses to be ignored and when Michael gives in and makes love to her, she also takes some of her blood, tying them together. So when she is kidnapped from Sheol and taken to the Dark City, better known as Heaven,  Michael will do anything to retrieve her, if not let her go. But time passes differently in the Dark City, and the danger steadily draws him closer to Tory. But when their fated battle comes, will he be able to save her from her fate? This was an interesting book, but I never really felt that Michael really connected with Tory. The love scenes were hot and all, but I just found myself not caring too much about the characters. Perhaps it's because it seemed more like a vampire book than a book about Angels, and Tory's supposed powers remain an enigma until almost right up until the end. Not recommended.

Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey- Daisy Johanssen is a half-incubus, daughter of the Incubus Baalphegor. Raised by a loving mother, she is okay with her heritage, but she is more prone to falling victim to "The Seven Deadlies", or the Seven Deadly Sins. She also has to be careful, because if she ever asks to be empowered by her father (which he certainly wants her to do), she could end up bringing the walls down between Heaven, Hell and Esrth, leading to the end of days. In the meantime, she acts as an agent of the Goddess Hel, her sheriff on Earth. So when a drowned college kid turns up in Pemkowet, where she lives, Daisy has to find out what killed him, fast, because his parents are a big deal in a nearby town that isn't nearly so accepting of the supernatural. But the victim had a secret- he was in Pemkowet to have sex with some sort of water creature. But what? And Hel wants Daisy to find out who has it, and what it is, something that will bring Daisy closer to both the Hunky Werewolf she's had a crush on since she was little, and a new Master Ghoul in town. But Daisy will need help from both of them to succeed- but can she contain her rage long enough to bring the people responsible to justice? I rteally enjoyed this book. Daisy is fun and funny, and I liked how Hel was depicted, and the support characters who Daisy interacts with. The story was interesting, and I definitely want to see more of Daisy and Pemkowet. Highly recommended.

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima- Seph McCauley is a wizard, young and untaught, and that is a problem for him, because his untamed powers caused accidents for everyone around him, and now he's been kicked out of school- again. Sent to the school known as Havens by his guardians,  Seph agrees to be taught by the Headmaster to gain some training, only to realize that the cost for such training is way too high. Imprisoned at the school, denied any contact with those outside, he is tormented nightly with horrendous dreams that leave him screaming, and is told that the dreams will end if he just submits. But Seph is made of stronger stuff than that, and even though the dreams take him to the very edge of sanity, Seph is able to resist and finally manages to get a message out to his attorneys, and finds a student who disagrees with what the school is doing and offers him some help and training. Rescued in the nick of time, his new guardian takes him to Trinity as a Sanctuary. But his classmates are already there, and are determined to get him back. Can Seph keep himself safe when he is kidnapped from Trinity in order to hold him over his father as a hostage? This was the second book in the "Warrior Heir/Dragon Heir Trilogy", and it was quite brutal to read. My sympathy was with Seph as he was tortured by the Headmaster and his own classmates. By the end of the book, though, I just wanted it to be over. Reading all that torture was kind of gruelling. Still, if you liked the other books, you'll enjoy this one. Recommended.

Star Wars- X-wing: Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston- Rogue Squadron has long since been disbanded, but when it seems that a High-ranking Rebel general has sold out the Alliance for gain, an ex-Rogue named Face Loran gathers together a squadron of his ex-comrades to find out the truth of the matter and take down the treacherous general. Included in the team is Piggy, now known as Professor Voort saBinring- the only super intelligent Gamorrean. Piggy doesn't want to return to service, but truth to tell, his current life is dull and boring, and he craves a bit of excitement. He's not so sure about one of his new comrades, a Yuuzhan Vong raised by a member of the Alliance, But when their leader is killed in an ambush, it will be hp to Voort/Piggy to hold the team together and make sure everything comes out okay- and to deal with the Yuuzhan Vong in their midst. I miss the old Rogue Squadron books, it's true, so I picked up this book looking to relive those old days. But despite the scattering of old comrades who show up during the story, this didn't feel like much of a Rogue Squadron book to me until about halfway through, and then the old magic came back. Despite a slow start, I loved the story and the ending. If you are looking to relive the old books, stick with this one, and it will eventually reward you. Also, some of the old characters return in flashbacks and cameos. Recommended.

Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan- Percy Jackson has been missing for months, and now we discover what happened to him and what he has been doing. Percy lost his memory, and wound up in California, where he is being chased by monsters, only to find temporary refuge in the Camp of the Roman Legion-made up of not only demigods, but the children and grandchildren of Demigods. These demigods aren't Greek, though, they are Roman, and while each of the Gods has something in common with their Greek counterpart, they are by no means the same. Percy shows up just in time to be added to the Legion, escorted in as he is by Juno, the Roman counterpart to Hera. But several things set him apart from the Roman Demigods immediately. However, when Percy turns around the Legion he is temporarily assigned to and helps them win the weekly battles theu fight against each other, some of the Legionnaires look on him more kindly, while others look on him rather less so, especially the Roman's forseer, who wants the job of leader of the Legions himself. But when he tries to rid himself of Percy by nominating him to lead a group to find the lost Golden Eagle of one of the Legions, he may have bitten off more than he can chew, because Percy isn't going to die without a fight, and he has two of the Roman Demigods on his side, one of whom is in love with Jason, the lost leader, while the other is the Son of Mars and an oriental woman who had more secrets than anyone knew. Is Percy the "Son of Neptune" spoken of in the Prophecy? And if not, who might it be? Another excellent adventure from Rick Riordan. This allows us to see what Percy has been doing while he's been missing, and why no one has heard from him. I am also looking forward to seeing what happens to Percy and all his friends, old and new, in the last book. This is a rip-roaring adventure that's fun and has plenty of suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. I liked the revelation of who the "Son of Neptune" was because I didn't see it coming. The fact that the Gods here are different from the Gods we have come to know in the Greek Pantheon was a little strange, but I quickly adapted, much like Percy did. Highly recommended.

Uppity Women of the New World by Vicki Léon- Well-behaved women rarely get written about in history books, and that's true here where Vicki Léon writes about the women who made waves, from native women who fought against the Spaniards to Spanish women who came to the New World to make a name and a fortune for themselves, to colonial women who stood up for themselves and sometimes were severely punished for it. There is even a British Noblewoman who first discovered the practice of live vaccination and pushed for it, first with her own family, and then the royal family, and then to countries and places beyond. It's really an amazing book and an amazing look at some very interesting women that are never mentioned in the history books, even though they should be,  Highly recommended.

Fabergé and the Russian Master Goldsmiths by Gerard Hill, G. G. Smoradinova and B. L. Ulyanova is a look at the works of Carl Peter Fabergé and of the goldsmiths and other crafters who worked for him. In addition to the expected Easter Eggs made for the royal family are carvings in semiprecious and precious stone of various animals, flowers and other objects, clocks and watches, religious icons, cigarette cases and other small boxes, jewelled crowns, and samovars, tea sets and similar objects d'art. They are all quite beautiful and gorgeous, and seeing them all gave me an appreciation of what Carl Peter Fabergé and his artisans did. An excellent, attractive, if very expensive book. Recommended.

The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan- It's time for the final showdown between the Kanes and the serpent Apophis. But Sadie is busy worrying about Walt, the magician she loves, and Carter's is exasperated with his sister. They are also trying to save the last writings of the magician, Setne. whose spells might be the only one which provide a hope to defeating Apophis. But when they go to Arizona to try and protect the last copy of the scroll scribed by Setne, Sadie is contacted by a spirit claimng to be her "uncle Vinny", that only he can help them- but they have to help him, first. So when the last scroll is destroyed by the agents of Apophis, they have no choice but to travel to the court of their father, Osiris, and persuade him to let Setne go while they find the spell that can imprison the shadow of Apophis, of his sheut. But even if they can find the spell, can they keep ahead of Setne's propensity for treachery and chaos? After a stunning betrayal, they are left alone in the afterlife to regroup and find that they need to imprison Apophis' sheut. Carter teams up with Ria while Sadie and Ward go to find what they need to perform the spell. But will this be Ward's last day? And even if they can banish Apophis, will they be able to save the first Nome from the attack of renegade magicians who have allied themselves wih Apophis? Well, the Kane series was... interesting, but I really didn't enjoy it as much as I do the Percy Jackson books and series. And it seems like, at the end of "The Serpent's Shadow, Rick Riordan is telling us, not so subtly, that the Kanes will eventually show up in the Percy Jackson books or vice-versa, which smacked of pandering to me, at least a little. So, while I enjoyed this trilogy, I wouldn't recommend it as readily as the Percy Jackson series. Still, not bad, and the ending promises some intriguing stuff to come for the Kanes.

Lethal Rider by Larissa Ione- Thanatos is one of the four Riders of the Apocalypse. But since the Demons have flooded through portals into our world, he and his fellow Riders have been fighting them, hoping the Demons won't be able to break the seals, known as agimorti, which would make them fight on the side of the Demons. But for the last eight months, Thanatos has been poisoned with Hellhound  venom so that he can't move. His brothers and sister riders in the Horsemen think he'll lose it when he realizes that hell is literally breaking loose on earth. But he's too busy remembering Regan, who seduced him. He thought his virginity was his Agimorti, but it turned out not to be the case, and he's angry at being taken advantage of. But he's slowly throwing the venom off and planning revenge on Regan. Once he kidnaps her from the Headquarters of the Aegis, the demon-hunting organization she works for, he realizes she is pregnant (actually, she has to tell him). And then he's caught between wanting to take care of her and wanting to kill her. Meanwhile, though. his brother, Pestilence, formerly known as Reseph, is fighting on the side of evil. Can Thanatos save his brother by reforming his Agimorti, or is it too late? And can Regan live through her remaining pregnancy and surviv e the birth of Than's child? I enjoyed this book, even though I haven't read the previous books in the series. Thanatos starts out violently angry, and has to deal with his own memories and fear of what Regan is coming to mean to him. While Regan, a warrior, has to learn to deal with the softer side of her nature, and her rejecyion by the Aegis while the world goes to Hell in a handbasket. Excellent book that really drew me in. Very enjoyable and recommended.

Lawe's Justice by Lora Leigh. Lawe Justice is a Lion Breed, an Alpha. Raised in the labs with his mother, a Native American woman who, along with her mate, was killed before his eyes, Lawe is tasked with tracking down a Rogue Breed named Gideon, who was infected with a strange disease and is seeking a woman stilen from the labs as a girl, one infected with the same disease, which may be the only chance to save him. But this woman is also being sought by the breeds, as what she was infected wth might be the only chance of saving Jonas Wyatt's daughter, infacted by the scientist Brandenmere before he died. And helping track both Gideon and the missing women is the mercenary Diana, better known as Diane Broen, the sister of Jonas' mate. But Diane is Lawe's mate, and while he's been trying to ignore their connection, he can no longer ignore her ot the reaction she stirs in him when they are forced to work together so closely. He wants her to stop her work as a mercenary and settle down, but he refuses to give up his job as a Breed Enforcer in return, while Diane can't give up being what she is and resents being asked. When the two of them return to the Reservation that Lawe once lived on, can they avoid letting their argument spill over and interfere with the hunt for Gideon, or will they tear each other apart as their mating heat turns to arguments and a traitor stalks Diane's trail. Will the two of them ever be truly comfortable with each other and their life choices, or is this mating impossible? I am actually getting kind of tired of the Breed books, or maybe it was just this one, where Lawe comes off like an Alphole for so damn much of the book. I was tired of his high-handed ways, and wanted to kick his ass several times over. It's not until near the very end that he settled down, but by then he had gotten enough of my sympathy back to redeem himself. I just had a rather jaundiced view of most of the beginning of the novel, still. This one wasn't my cup of tea so much, but it was otherwise okay. Recommended, but not highly.

Friday, September 21, 2012

2012, Part 13

Rebel Fire by Andrew Lane- Sherlock Holmes is fourteen and staying with his aunt and uncle for the summer. He is being taught to think by Amycus Crowe, an American Bounty Hunter searching for Confederate Rebels who escaped to England after the war. But he has been notified that John Wilkes Booth, the Southern Actor who shot Lincoln, is still alive and may be in England. Naturally, Sherlock wants to help him, and searches for Booth with the help of his friend, Matty Arnatt. But when he's caught by Booth and his keepers, he discovers that Booth has gone mad, and although he is able to win his way free, Matty is captured by the men and taken prisoner to prevent Crowe from following them after they escape. But neither Amycus Crowe nor Sherlock are good at taking orders, and they follow the men to Southhampton, and from there to America, along with Amycus's daughter, Virginia. Along the way it becomes clear that Booth is not the one in charge of the assassination attempt on the President, and never was. But who could wish to see the President dead, and why. Left alone with a madman, Sherlock and his friends will have to outwit the man with the real power and prevent him from seizing his next target, while staying alive all the while... I loved this book, which actually read rather like an episode of Young Indiana Jones, complete with encounters with real life people, like the Graf von Zeppelin, and the story and adventure are always exciting and entertaining. Sherlock Holmes is not the way he is later on, but still developing, and I enjoyed this story immensely. Well worth reading and extremely enjoyable. Highly recommended.

Elfhome by Wen Spencer- Tinker, transformed from a human to an elf by her husband, is still dealing with the fallout from the events of "Wolf Who Rules". So is her cousin, Oilcan, who unexpectedly finds himself looking after a young Stone Clan Elf of merely double years, i.e. less than 100, and below the age of majority. But it turns out that this orphan isn't the only one who has been coming to human Pittsburgh, and the others are missing. Unable to keep from investigating the situation, Oilcan teams up with Tinker and a Stone Clan Sekasha named Thorne Scratch to rescue the other Stone clan orphans who had been drawn to the city by members of the Stone Clan agreeing to welcome them when they arrived. But Oilcan somehow ends up taking the kids into his house, which is by no means big enough to hold them all, and must find new accomodations for all of them. He also finds himself falling into a relationship with Thorne Scratch even as Tinker becomes engaged in looking for the High Oni still living in the city- Oni who may actually be the Skin Clan who shaped the Elves into the way they are presently, and who were thrown off Elfhome by the Sekasha who were their latest and most perfect creations. But when Oilcan and Tinker's Great Grandfather ends up in the city looking for his relatives and descendants, they discover that someone in the Stone Clan has allied with the Oni, and that the half-Oni may be the be their best allies against the Full Oni. But can they get the half-Oni on their side? And can Wolf Who Rules persude the Half-Oni that allying with the elves is safer than just hiding from everyone? And when Oilcan is kidnapped by members of his own family to turn him into a Domani to rule the Stone Clan in the city, can he uncover the corruption in his own clan, and what effect, if any, will it have on his growing relationship with Thorne Scratch? And can Tinker cut off Onihida from Elfhome and destroy the twisted part of her own soul that is rising up to destroy her and all she has worked for? I enjoyed reading this book, even though I had only just finished reading "Wolf Who Rules" not long before. This one focusses a lot on Oilcan, Tinker's relative and also a descendant of the Stone Clan. But something is rotten in the Stone Clan, and Oilcan has to step up, not only as a human, but a man and (later) an elf to keep his clan in line. And even then, his life is in danger, and he has to tap into his magic to take out the one who has set the whole sick plan in motion. But who will support him, now that he's an elf? I liked reading about Oilcan and seeing the world through his eyes, not just those of Tinker, but she's still there, and brings the ending to a satisfying conclusion. Recommended.

Lothaire by Kresley Cole. Lothaire is a vampire, the Dreaded Enemy of Old, and he has been told by a soothseer that his Bride will be one that gains him a throne, and considering that he is heir to both the Dacian vampires as well as the Horde, he's happy about that. Until he realizes that his Bride is a mere human, and he doesn't feel any sort of a connection to her at all. He visits her every few years, and then finally, one night, he sees her sacrificing humans on the mountain where she lives and finally feels the conncection. His Bride is not this... human, but the Vampire Goddess who has taken over her body, Saroya the Soul Reaper. Meanwhile Ellie Peirce knows she's cursed, possessed by something that enjoys killing indiscriminately. But when a red-eyed man shows up to prevent her from killing herself, and later, to prevent the state from putting her to death, she's despairing. She wants to die, and take the thing inside her with her. And yet, she feels a connection to this man, as much as she doesn't want to. But as he spends more time with the Human Ellie, Lothaire comes to realize that she may be his Bride after all, that Saroya will never mate with him willingly, and he has promised by the Lore to kill Ellie's spirit and give her body to Saroya. How will he get out of his pledge and keep the woman promised to be his destined Bride? Ehh... I wasn't feeling Lothaire so much because he really treated Ellie like crap. By the time he realizes he's wrong about her *not* being his bride, I wanted him to go off and die and leave Ellie alone- after Saroya was kicked out of her body, of course, I don't think he did nearly enough butt kissing for Ellie to forgive him, even if she loved him, and I don't know why she fell in love with him. I can only blame Stockholm Syndrome. So by the end, I wasn't happy that they ended up together. I thought Ellie deserved better, and Lothaire still didn't deserve Ellie. Not recommended.

Avengera Academy: Second Semester by Gage, Chen, Raney, Grummet and Moline- With the destruction of the Infinite Avengers HQ, Ant-Man moved the team of young people he'd been teaching out to the old HQ of the West Coast Avengers and invited all sorts of kids with Superpowers there to learn how to be heroes. Finesse, Reptil, Hazmat, Veil and Mettle have made their peace with the Academy and settled in to being students. But when the other Avengers come, they believe that the Academy is going to be shut down. But can they convince the Avengers that the Academy is something that needs to go on? And then, when Jocasta is killed and her consciousness erased, Ant-Man can only conclude that the job was accomplished by someone inside the academy. But when Magneto and the White Queen come to discover who among the staff and students might have done the deed, Magneto and his son Quicksilver, now a teacher at the Academy, come to blows, and the Young Avengers, backed by new Students White Tiger, X-23 and Lightspeed, jump into the fray to help. But will the tension between father and son boil over into a war between the X-Men and Avengers? Next, a new student is discovered, and turns out to be a mind-manipulating alien whom Reptil allies with? But why? And why are Avengers from the future manipulating their younger selves? And finally, the Outsiders turn up at the Avengers Academy campus needing help, Ant Man and the students are glad to help. But when Ant-Man and Tigra decide to take away the two youngest Outsiders, for their own good, the young heroes take exception to them. But can a spell of understanding clear things up? I loved the Avengers after watching the recent movie, but this volume had very little to recommend it for me. One of my least favorite Avengers (Ant-Man) and a bunch of teenage characters I mostly hadn't heard of.

DC Universe- Legacies by Len Wein and a huge selection of artists retells the stories that went into the making of the DC Universe much like "Marvels" did for Marvel. Told by a man named Paul Lincoln, who grows up in Suicide Slum, until a chance encounter with the Guardian and the Sandman changes his life- but not that of his former friend, Jimmy Mahoney. As time passes, Paul witnesses Supervillains turning murderous, the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and more. As Paul grows, he becomes a cop, then a detective, and marries his old friend's sister, who is just as angry at the mobster Paul's friend became as he is. But eventually, Paul, as a cop, arrests his old friend, and they come back together when his old friend comes up for Parole. Paul Testifies for him, and his friend is finally released and becomes a security guard at S.T.A.R. Labs, only to save lives himself in an explosion and have Superman shake his hand. The story ends with the modern day universe, but the book continues with short stories about some of the Forgotten heroes of the D.C. Universe, people like the Challengers of the Unknown, the BlackHawks, The Sea Devils and Cave Carson, along with a story of the second Blue Beetle, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, a battle between King Arthur, Merlin, the Shining Knight, Silent Knight, and Etrigan the Demon against Morgain Le Fay and her demonic knights, a Reunion story of Hard Company as they remember the last day of the War and how Sgt. Rock died as well as a story of Orion and the New Gods, and Shazam telling his story, along with that of Black Adam. I liked this story, which was a bit more personal and touching than that of "Marvels", which attempted the same sort of thing. In this, there was more of a focus on Paul and his family and friends, and I found myself drawn in to the metastory that tied the different eras of the comics together. And I loved the backup stories in each volume interesting.

Club CSI: The Missing Moola by David Lewman- The Class is saving for a trip by selling Magazine subscriptions. But when $100 is missing from before the last fundraiser- the class bake sale, Ben, one of the Club CSI comes under suspicion because he's really been wanting a new tablet computer. But by following the evidence left behind- fingerprints and other evidence- they discover the real thief, who took the money to impress a girl he liked. But there's something wrong with his explanation, that leads the Club, and their teacher-advisor into a large theft ring. But can they crack the ring, or will they be hurt by the thieves? And what reward will they receive for their hard work? Another excellent volume in the series, one that takes all sorts of kids and brings them together to find the solution to the crime, even if one of their own might be blamed. Highly recommended for those who love CSI.

I Want You to Shut the F#CK Up: How the Audacity of Dopes is Ruining America by D.L. Hughley with Michael Malice- D.L. Hughley might be a comedian, but one of the things about being a comedian is that you must be able to see clearly before you can poke fun at things, and in this book, Hughley takes on his own life, how he became a comic and politics as well. He discusses why the current crop of Republican candidates were so unelectable, and why Herman Cain was such a disappointment, both as a Repulican and to blacks (Here's a hint: Republicans thing that Blacks will vote for anyone with dark skin, regardless of their politics, and Republicans are wrong on that point.) He also lays out how Republicans could win black voters to their side, if they cared. But Republicans simply don't seem to really care. He is scathing in his observations about the Republican candidates, and really points out what they are saying, and how that would make things worse, not better. My favorite criticism of his was that Herman Cain's 9=9-9 Tax plan sounded like a pizza deal, not a tax plan- and he's right. It did. Entertaining and enlightening. Recommended.

A Want So Wicked by Suzanne Young- Elise seems to be a normal seventeen year old girl, the daughter of a preacher, with a dead mother and an older sister who seems to be growing up much too fast to suit their father. He's moved them to Thistle, Arizona, hoping that he can provide a better life for them. Until the night when she wakes up in a local park, not knowing who she is. She soon remembers but problems continue with Lucy, and Elise, going to her first job at a Mexican restaurant, bonds with fellow server Abe, and is accosted first by an old, homeless man, and the local "witch" and seer. She finds that she is able to give something to these people, and the seer claims she shines very brightly. And then everything turns pear-shaped. Abe turns threatening, she meets a new boy named Harlin, and she starts finding out who and what she really is. But can she handle the knowledge? And the visions she's been having of a girl named Onnika... what significance do they have in her life, and what can she do about them? I really enjoyed the mythology of the book, which was unlike anything I've encountered before. The story was enjoyable and mysterious, and the characters were engaging and drew me right in. It's not a very long book, but the story will stay with you for a while. Recommended.

Silence by Michelle Sagara- Emma's boyfriend, Nathan, died in a car crash, and ever since, Emma has visited his grave when walking her dog at night. One nighr, however, she stumbles on Eric, a classmate of hers, also in the cemetery with a ragged woman, she starts having headaches, and ends up in the hospital, where she sees her dead father- and when she touches him, everyone can see him, too. But this puts her in danger, for the powers she has mean she is a Necromancer, with powers over the Dead, and her new classmate Eric seeks to kill her before she can become a danger to others. And soon other necromancers will come, attracted by her power, and attempt to make her one of them. But Emma isn't like the others, and she doesn't want to use the dead people she sees for power- she wants to help them move on into wherever they should be in death, be it Heaven or wherever else they go, and she'll fight anyone, even the other Necromancers, to keep the spirits of the dead safe. But when Eric comes to see her side, his own organization sends other Hunters to "help" him, and with the Necromancers gathering, the stage is set for a fight over Emma. But she just wants to save the spirit of a little boy who died in a fire, and she'll even enlist the boy's mother to help her. But can Emma keep herself safe as she fights to save the little boy? And will she end up becoming a necromancer after all? I found this an interesting read, with a new sort of supernatural heroine. I found the details of her powers and how we learn about them and what she is interesting. How she dealt with her powers also made her interesting- but is she really the first and only person to feel this way about dealing with the dead? I didn't get what made her so different in her attitudes. But this book is the first in a series, so it's very probable that we will get answers sooner or later. Recommended.

The Dark Legacy of Shannara: Wards of Faerie Fire by Terry Brooks- In Aborlon, Elven Druid Aphenglow Elessedil discovers a hint to the location of the other Elfstones that were stolen from Aborlon ages and ages ago by a Darkling boy who was in love with the Elvish Princess and wanted her to abandon her people and live with him and his. Aphenglow knows she must inform the Druids of this clue to hidden magic, but someone has found out about her discovery and tries to kill her and steal the knowledge. Aphenglow kills one of those after her and discovers that it is a human clad in black robes. Soon after, she returns to Paranor, and the Ard Rhys of the Druids awakens from Druid sleep to undertake the search for the missing elfstones, while Aphenglow returns to Aborlon to ask the Elven King to let her use the Seeking Elfstones to find the magic she is looking for. He is not inclined to let her, but his grandfather, and Aphenglow's ensures she is able to use the stones for a day, inside the borders of Aborlon. But again, she is attacked- only this time she has a protector and between the two of them, they kill five humans sent to kill Aphenglow by the new Head of the Federation: Drust Chazhul, who distrusts magic and wants to have it all under his control. He plans an attack on the Druid fortress, Paranor. But Aphenglow is hurt, her leg broken, and Khyber Elessedil, the Ard Rhys, asks her permission to see the same vision Aphenglow was granted by the Seeing Elfstones, then assembles a group to seek the missing Elfstones, among them the twins, Redden and Railing Ohmsford, who have inherited the Wishsong powers, Mirai Leah, the young woman they are both interested in, the Druids Pleysia, her daughter Oranthia, a man of visions called the Speakman, a Dwarven Druid named Seersha, and a Druid named Carrack. But when the Speakerman tells them only one will return from their quest, how can they turn back? And when their Quest takes them out of the Real World and into another, will they be able to escape? Meanwhile, Paranor comes under attack, and Aphenglow, her Druid lover Bombax, her sister Arlingphant, and the troll servants of the Druids come under attack in Paranor, and must defend the fortress from Federation troops. But the magic which protects Paranor is more than the wards which the Ilse Witch left behind. Can the two remaining Druids and their friends stay safe as the fortress rises to attack the Federation men? I enjoyed this book, which was interesting, but felt that it was a little confusing as written, and the love plot thread was set up in a way that was more than a little telegraphed, to me. Recommended.

DoOon Mode by Piers Anthony- Colene, an abused young woman, ran away from her horrid life and found the Virtual Mode, where she met Darius, the Cyng of Hlaughtar, or King of Laughter, of his own mode. He was carrying a chip that made travel for others possible in the Virtual Mode. And he also fell in love with Colene, even though he was searching for a woman to be his vessel of joy and bring amusement to his people, and Colene was a well of nothing but dolor and sadness. But their former travels in the Virtual Mode have come back to haunt them- the Emperor of the DoOon Mode, Ddwng, wants the chip for himself to conquer the nodes around them, and when he captures Colene and Darius and their traveling companions, he tries to force them, via the manufactured animal-like "Nulls", to give up the chip. But in their time on the planet Chains, Colene manages to befriend the Dragons, also nulls, but prone to eating the animal-null inhabitants of the planet, and get them to stop eating the nulls and eat rats instead. But even when Darius agrees to give Ddwng the chip, their trip home will force them to confront their deepest fears as they finally bring their traveling to an end. I hadn't read a book in this series in years, and I don't ever remember reading this one, but after a slow start focusing entirely on the nulls, this ended up being enjoyable. Even so, it felt a little rushed towards the end, and ultimately less successful than I would like. Slightly recommended, but read the rest of the series first.

The Heroes of Olympus: The Demigod Diaries by Rich Riordan- This book is a follow-up to the Demigod Files, and part of the Percy Jackson series. In it, we find out more about rhe Demigods at Camp Halfblood and we find out how Luke and Annabeth met. After a small game, we find out what happened on Percy and Annabeth's one month anniversary date (hint, it involved a giant and the Staff of Hermes, aka the Cadeuceus), and find out what happened while Percy was at the Roman DemiGod camp In Bunker 9 with Leo and Buford. Some more games, the prophecy, and the book ends with a Novella written by Rick Riordan's son, Haley, showing Lamia's son, Alabaster, and a human who investigates death and the Dead, Dr. Claymore, try to get Alabaster's half-sister Lamia to stop trying to kill him. I enjoyed this little mini-book, and I thought the story by Haley was simply amazing and very well-written. Highly recommended.

How to Pee Standing Up:Tips for Hip Chicks by Anna Skinner with Illustrations by Sara Schwartz- This book gives hip (and broke) girls tips on how to get by- spend less money, what you really need, and how to get ahead in business: dealing with bad bosses, how to request a raise, and more. But I didn't like this book much, as some of the stuff it advocates is on the shady side of legality, like buying a dress, tucking the tags in to wear it, and then returning it the next day. Not to mention, it takes money right of the pockets of the salespeople who sold it to you, and they can always tell if yo've worn it. Do it more than once, and they'll remember and despise you for it- if they didn't after the first time. Not recommended.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012, Part 12

Born of Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Darling Cruel is a member of the most hated royal family in the world, and he is the most hated of them all. But in reality, his uncle is the only one who lives up to the name, and who slew Darling's father to gain the throne. But Darling, who is known as a gay man, isn't, actually. He's just posing as one to cover up his mother's many lovers, even though this has caused him to be both hated and scorned. But he also masquerades as Kere, the second in command of the Resistance that is fighting against his uncle, while he is in disguise. He can't legally fight his uncle until he's 26, but he's found a loophole in the rules. He just needs to get the rest of his family to safety, and he will do it. But when he prepares to flee with his sister, he is captured by the same Resistance he is part of, and without his disguise, nobody recognizes him. The members of the Resistance take him and torture him, and it isn't until he is just about to be rescued by his friends, that the woman he loves, the Leader of the Resistance, discovers who he really is, when one of the men shows her a ring he tried to protect, and she recognizes it as belonging to her mother. Freed by her friends, they slaughter the Resistance, take Zarya hostage, and try to put Darling back together. But when Darling is finally free to take care of his uncle, he goes completely crazy. Can bringing Zarya back to him restore his mind and calm his rage? or will he take revenge on her, thinking that she betrayed him to the men who tortured him?And can Zarya convince him she had nothing to do with what her men did? And can her love save him from an eternity of rage and madness? I liked this series. Sherrilyn Kenyon still sort of overplays the trope of "How abused can I make this hero's past?", but plenty of abuse occurs in the present, and most of the abuse-worthy stuff occurs because the hero offers himself up as a sacrifice to protect others. I liked how he was able to hold himself back from being cruel to everyone, and that the ending showed what kind of man he truly was. I enjoyed the ending more than reading some of the torture parts, but this was a good book. Recommended.

Local Custom by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller- Er Thom yos'Galan is being commanded by his mother to marry, but he cannot forget the Terran woman who had become his lover. He agrees to marry, but asks leave to take care of something before he meets his new bride. When his brother goes to give him leave, he goes to find Anne Davis and tell her he loves her- only to find she has given birth to s aon- his son, which she has named Shan yos'Galan, in deference to him as the father. But faced with a son of his body, Er Thom must take Shan back to Liad to introduce Shan to his delm and thodelm, the heads of his clan. Unfortunately, she doesn't see it in quite his way, and the local custom that each of them expects is wildly different. Can Er Thom convince Anne he loves only her and wants to be with only her, or will his mother, who doesn't want a Terran in her family, either as Er Thom's bride or the mother of his son, contrive to end their relationship? When Anne's work as a linguist threatens her life and the life of her son, can Er Thom track her down and save her from those who would kill her to conceal the truth that she has found concerning the origins of the Liaden and Terran languages? This book was a delight to read, showing us Shan yos'Galan's parents and how they nearly didn't get married because each didn't know how to deal with or react to the local customs of the other. I loved Anne and Er Thom together, and how they finally overcame all obstacles to be with each other was simply wonderful. Er Thom's mother was such a bitch- even though she wanted the best for the family, she tried to do it in a way that ran roughshod over everyone else, because of her own frailties and problems. Excellently done and a joy to read. Highly recommended.

Commedia Della Morte by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro- Saint-Germain found the love of his life in Madelaine de Montalia, but when she became a vampire like him, he had to give her up to run her own life. Now, thanks to the French Revolution, Madelaine's life is in danger- because she was a noblewoman, no matter how well she treated her servants, the Committees of Correspondence would have her die to finish purging the nobles of the Revolution. When she is detained in her home by soldiers, she sends her current lover, Theron Heurer, to Saint Germain with a plea for help and rescue. And Saint Germain has an idea on how to rescue Madelaine, but he will need the help of his own current lover, Photine, the leader of a Commedia del Arte troupe. But her son, Enee, has become dangerously jealous of Sant-Germain, and on the long sojourn in France, his enmity rises to a dangerous head, it may endanger all their lives... I love the Saint-Germain books, and it was nice to see him go to rescue Madelaine de Montalia. It shows that Vampires don't always make good choices, and that their lovers are not always well chosen, as by the end, both have been abandoned by their human lovers, but find solace in each other. Highly recommended.

Dorchester Terrace by Anne Perry- Thomas Pitt is now the head of Special Branch, having taken over from his friend and former boss, Victor Narraway. But Aunt Vespasia Cumming-Gould has a friend whose past life may tie into a horrible plot that could endanger English-Austrian relations, and endanger her own life. Serafina Monserrat was a revolutionary when she was younger, and her own knowledge of secrets terrifies her as she moves into her twilight years, as she sometimes no longer remembers where she is or who she is talking to. But when she turns up dead of a Laudnaum overdose she couldn't possibly have taken herself, even by accident, who is responsible for her death? And what might it have to do with Austrian-English relations and the possibile assassination of the scholarly Duke Alois of Hungary, and why does Tregarron, the boss of Thomas's brother-in-Law Jack, seem so dismissive of the idea? Is it because he doesn't trust Pitt, who is new to his position, or is there a deeper, darker reason for his distrust? As plots abound, Pitt, Charlotte and Narraway must work to discover the truth, and keep England, and themselves, safe. This book was quite a bit different for the other novels in this series. In the other books, Pitt has always been sure of his place, and sure he had superiors to back him up. But now, it seems that's no longer the case- he's the head of Special Branch, and everything rests on his shoulders alone. But does he have the knowledge and expertise to solve the case? I love how this mixed family tensions with Pitt's work and how the different jobs of Pitt and Jack caused tension between Charlotte and her sister Emily, and I always love Vespasia Cumming-Gould, who is simply awesome for an old Victorian lady. Highly recommended and enjoyable.

Tiger's Voyage by Colleen Houck- Kelsey may have won Ren back from Lokesh, but he no longer remembers their love or their romance, and no matter how hard she tries to bring back his memories by making him his favorite cookies she bakes, he not only doesn't remember her, but is actively hurt by touching her. Kelsey tries not to get hurt by it, but when he tells her to forget him and starts looking for love with another girl, Kelsey is pushed right into the arms of Ren's brother, Kishan. It's only when she, Ren, Kishan, Mr. Kadam and Nilima set off on another voyage by sea to retrieve another thing for the goddess Durga to help Ren and Kishan break their curse that Ren finally regains his memories when he sees Kelsey kissing Kishan, and he tells her he was responsible for giving up his memories to try and keep her safe. But Kelsey has been too hurt by Ren, and even though she is angry with him, she is determined not to give in to love with him again. Her problem is that her love for Kishan is a safe and comfortable thing, while her love for Ren is an all-consuming fire. But as they face off against five celestial dragons to retrieve Durga's necklace, can Ren win Kelsey back or will Lokesh, who now wants Kelsey for himself, steal her away before either brother can win her completely? This was another really excellent adventure, but I found all the back and forthing with the romance subplot to be more than a little... tiring. It reminded me a lot of Twilight, and that isn't a good thing. But generally, the adventure made up for that, and I am really hoping the next book is the last. You'll enjoy meeting the various dragons, and my two favorites were the last two- the gold dragon, who controls all the wealth and riches of the world, and the crystal/white Dragon, who pretends to be fearsome, but is actually the nicest of them all. Recommended.

Wolf Who Rules by Wen Spencer- Tinker, the human girl who has been changed into an elf and married to the leader of the elven enclave near the City of Pittsburgh, is back in this book. Pittsburgh has been dragged into the Elven lands/dimension/world, and the gate is blocked because three different worlds are pressing on it simultaneously- the human world, the elven world, and the world of the Oni. Now, monsters are coming from the Oni world, including a Dragon, and endangering Pittsburgh and the humans entrapped there. The elven response is to go after all the Oni and kill them, including half-oni children which are the product of an intermarriage with humans. But a Dragon from the Elven lands has also showed up, and Tinker must deal with her new, elven sensibilities and culture, and her growing feelings for Pony, one of her guards. She feels she is being disloyal to Windwolf, her husband, for her feelings, but unbeknownst to her, Elves have quite a different conception of what guards are there for. But as Tinker continues to dream about the Wizard of Oz, and a contingent of Elves from the Stone and Fire clans descend on the area to fight back an invasion by the Oni, Tinker must reconnect with her mother, now an astronaut on the orbiting part of the gate, and find a way to bring the gate back to earth, reopen the gate to the human part of Earth, and save the Tengu, who have been enslaved by the Oni, as well as keep her husband and the entire city safe. But can she do it before the Oni Dragon, and the Oni, come through and kill them all? I liked this book. I loved the first book, Tinker, and i honestly thought it was a stand-alone book, so to see this made me squeal in glee, a little. I love how Tinker works, and I loved finding out bits about the Elves, and reading more about all the characters I read in the original book. In short, this book was practically perfect, and I loved it. The only place where it failed to be utterly perfect was... now I want to read more with these characters. Highly recommended, and utterly involving.

The Magistrates of Hell by Barbara Hambly- James Asher and his wife, Lydia, have come to Peking, China to track down the new kind of vampires with James's mentor, the vampire Hunter known as Solomon Karlebach. But they are not alone in the city, as their former vampire companion, Don Simon Ysidro is also in the city, undertaking the same task. But when a young woman is killed at a diplomatic party, the father of the Young man suspected of killing her, a former classmate of Asher, asks him to find the real killer, or at least, someone who he can blame to take the suspicion off his own son. But as Ysidro and Asher investigate the problem of the new kind of vampires, he finds that Karlebach may have deeper secrets than even James knows, and his investigations into the killing of the girl uncover a murderer hiding in the diplomatic quarter. But when Lydia is kidnapped by a criminal syndicate backed by a real vampire to protect the new vampires, because they wish to exploit them themselves, James will have to protect his wife, save Ysidro, and bring down a criminal syndicate to ensure that he is able to leave Peking with his life and reputation intact. I always love Barbara Hambly's mysteries, and I have loved James Asher ever since reading "Those Who Hunt the Night" many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though there weren't many sympathetic characters besides James and his family. Recommended.

Point of Knives by Melissa Scott- After the events of Point of Hopes, Nicolas Rathe and Phillip Eslingen are drawn into another mystery, this involving the slaying of a man and his son both known to be pirates, within a few blocks of each other on the same night. Grandad Steen was retired from the business, being too old for it now, and his son was still a sometimes sailor. His grandson is sailing now, and due back in Astreiant at any time. But Phillip Eslingen is found standing over the body of Grandad Steen's son, and says he was there to meet the son for his employer, Hanselin Caiazzo, over a matter of some gold- ever since the events of the summer, Caiazzo has been strapped for cash, which doesn't bother Rathe one bit, but Grandad Steen's son was about to make a deal with Caiazzo to get him the gold that he needed. But it seems that Caiazzo isn't the only one who needs that gold, or thinks that it should be theirs. With the return of Grandad Steen's grandson, a woman comes out of the works, claiming to be Grandad Steen's new wife, and she has a valid marriage certificate, but his grandson never met her and doesn't know who she is, and says his grandfather wasn't looking to marry, and wouldn't remarry. But the gold is foreign, and may have some of the same powers that alchemical gold does, and may be being sought for the same reason- to bring down the government of Astreiant, either from without or within, Can Nicolas and Phillip find the parties behind the killings, bring them to justice, and find the chest of Gold that Grandad Steen hid and make it safe for the city before someone decides to kill them as well? Or will the forces of chaos prevail? I loved this book, and I loved this series, which may not continue now that Melissa scott's co-writer has passed on. But I did love this book, even though it's rather small- and much more explicit about the relationship between the two main characters. I loved the mystery, and I'd love to see more, so I hope this isn't the end of the stories about Astreiant or these two characters. Highly recommended.

Stupid American History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness and Mythconceptions by Leland Gregory is a series of factoids about people, places and events in American History, some of which are really, patently stupid, but most of which are simply amusing, like how Andrew Jackson never kissed a baby during his term of Presidency. When handed a baby to kiss, he handed it over to his Secretary of War. It debunks stories that aren't true (when asked about his supposed response to one of his cabinet about Ulysses S. Grant being a drunk, and President Lincoln saying if he could find out what Grant drank, he'd have a case of it delivered to ALL his generals, Lincoln said he'd never said it), and little known historical facts- During the wild west Era, Tucson Arizona had 3000 people, two doctors, a newspaper, a brewery and several saloons, but only one bathtub. As for stupidity. it's there, too, with anecdotes about how the builder of the Empire State Building wrote an article in the Ladies Home Journal called "Everyone should be rich", two months before the Stock Market crashed, setting off the great depression. I found this book to be funny and amusing and occasionally let me know something I didn't before. It's not a really deep book, but it is fun, and it's something you can read in stages, a few pages a day or so, as it's a bit of a chore to read straight through. But if you're looking for something amusing, this book has you covered. Recommended.

Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter by Joe Maguire- Ann Coulter is a well known right wing pundit who is famous for unleashing scathing attacks on the left, liberals and anyone that catches her ire. But who is she; really, and where is she coming from with her attacks? This book traces Ann's history, and the attacks she has made on everything from Planned Parenthood to 9/11 Widows (who she said were dancing on their murdered husband's graves at the thought of receiving the money they were owed) and most especially, Bill Clinton (numerous lies, almost too numerous to mention). She also has a hate on for other women (You shouldn't vote and should just stay home), Atheists and Non-Christians (you are all going to hell), Planned Parenthood (who want to promote abortions) and others. This book provides proof of when and where she made all those attacks, and why she was wrong, with extensive footnotes. Reading this book was a real eye-opener. I know a lot of conservatives swear by her, and the titles of her books certainly rub me the wrong way, as well as the jokes people use when talking about her (Ann the Man, Mann Coulter), but this was a look at what she says, and s well as being eye-opening, it's also stomach-turning. If you don't already like Ann Coulter, this book provides great information on what she says and how she gets it wrong. And if you do, you can always check out the attribution list and see if the author got it wrong for yourself. Highly recommended.

Soulless: Ann Coulter and the Right-Wing Church of Hate by Susan Estrich- In addition to her scathing attacks on other people, one of the most frequent comments about Ann Coulter is how she has lowered the level of discourse in this country by her out and out attacks, becoming the High Priestess of Hate for the nastiness and scorn she has unleashed on her opponents and those she disagrees with. This book shows Ann in all her unmitigated hatred, and while she may not have unleashed the tide of hate and nastiness in this country, she has done little to stop it or stem the tide. And how does she get away with it? Much like Sarah Palin, nobody really objects on her side because she is a woman and a lot of men seem to think she is good-looking. But sadly, looks are only on the outside, while ugly goes to the bone. And we get to see a lot of the ugly side of Ann Coulter here, and I, personally, think her looks are highly overrated. Another excellent book pointing out where Ann gets it wrong and her incredible nastiness towards anyone who disagrees with her. Even when they are correct and she is not. Another eye-opening book that shows why looks shouldn't prevail over substance. Highly recommended.

Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio with Michael Malice- A Concierge is a service offered by high-end hotels. If you need to know where to go for dinner, the best place for steak, or need a helicopter to take you from New York City to Atlantic City for some high-stakes gambling, they are the one who can make it happen. Michael Fazio started out in the Entertainment Industry, and found he was better at getting his boss what she needed and even enjoyed making it happen. So after bailing out of the film industry and spending some time as a lounge singer on a cruise line, he got a job at the Intercontinental Hotel and became a Concierge. This book shows how he learned on the job and some of the people- good, bad and indifferent, he had to deal with during the course of the job. He also showed how he worked and how he did what he did, and how you can do it, too (well, if you have the same contacts he does). I liked this book because he showed how that service happens and what it takes to do that kind of job. This was an unusual book, and I liked it a lot. Reading it was amusing and entertaining, and showed how hard it is to do the job right. Highly recommended, and the stories in this one are the best.

Crimes of Passion: An Unblinking Look at Murderous Love by Howard Engel- This book is a look at crimes of passion committed by men and women throughout history- specifically a look at 25 different cases where love led to death, everything from Dr. Hawley Crippen to Lorena Bobbit to OJ Simpson. A look at why these murders happened and why their trials either led to a conviction or acquittal, and the changing attitudes towards crimes of passion that these outcomes showed. This book was fascinating at first, but in the end, it became kind of a slog to read, even with the trial details. More interesting was reading the outcomes and how it showed changing attitudes towards women and crimes of passion. Recommended, but it can be boring.

FairyTail Volumes 16-20 by Hiro Mashima- Back from their last mission, Lucy and Natsu worry over the Master of the Fairy Tail Guild. Thankfully, he will make it, and after the Fantasia Festival, Natsu, Lucy, Erza and Gray are sent to make contact with the members of three other guilds: Hibi, Eve, Ren and the Guildmaster, Ichiya of the Blue Pegasus guild, Lyon, Jura and Sherry of the Lamia Scale Guild, and the child, Wendy, of the Cait Shelter Guild to take out the Dark Guilds. But Wendy is not alone- she is followed by Carla, a talking Cat like Happy. The Dark Guilds are talking about something called Fantasia, and The Oracion Seis are teaming up to find it. But first, they must revive Jellal, the dark magician and former friend of Erza, who tried to destroy the world, as only he knows where Fantasia is. And only Wendy has the power to Revive him, as she can heal literally anything. And she was also rescued by Jellal, so she has a reason to bring him back. But when he is revived, he can't remember anything, except that the Fantasia is evil and must be destroyed, but the leader of the Oracion Seis sends the city that is part of Fantasia heading towards the guild of Cait Shelter. But why? What is so important about the Cait Shelter Guild, and what does that mean for Wendy? Afterwards, Wendy joins the Fairy Tail Guild, and we discover why Claudia can talk, like Happy, and who she is. But when they travel to another dimension to get the guild back, can they prevail on a world with no magic? This was an engaging arc, and I found myself glad I could read the entire thing at once, back to back. I enjoyed the story, and while it occasionally got Dragonball-esque, being able to read the entire thing in one go actually made me happier than having to spread it out over days or weeks (or even months). I like what happened with and to Jellal and the details of the Cait Shelter Guild and why it existed. The new Arc that is starting also promises to be entertaining, but I am going to wait until it's complete before reading it. Recommended.