Darker than Midnight by Lara Adrian- The Order's battle against Dragos comes to a head while Sterling Chase battles with the beast inside himself to try and bring himself back to sanity. On a mission gone wrong, Sterling comes face to face with a woman named Tavia Fairchild, who seems to be more than just a human. Despite having no breed markings, he is sure she is more than she appears, and he kidnaps her to keep her from talking to the police about what she has seen. Unbeknownst to either of them, though, her existence holds the key to Dragos' plans, and his defeat. As the Order struggles to pick up the pieces after their Headquarters are destroyed, can Sterling and Tavia bring them victory while he overcomes his inner demons? This seems to be the final entry in the Breed series, with the destruction of the main threat at the end of the book, and the Order settling into a new role among the Breed, it seems that any future books will be very, very different from these. And while this book reminded me of some of the other books in the Breed series, there is a difference in the story of Sterling and Tavia. Recommended.
Enchanted Again by Robin D. Owens- Amber Sarga is a curse-breaker, but her ability comes with a steep cost. For every curse she breaks, she becomes older. Perhaps only a few months for a minor curse, but years for a major curse. Indeed, her abilities mean that she is the last one in her family with the power- all of her female relatives have aged themselves to death by breaking curses. And the ability itself is also a curse. But when she is approached by Rafe Duvail, himself under a family curse to die young, Amber is at first unwilling to help, as Rafe is arrogant and doesn't believe in her power. But when he humbles himself to beg her for help, and to help his best friend, also under a curse, Amber cannot find it in herself to turn him down. But Rafe's curse is complex, and Amber is going to need all her research and curse-breaking abilities to help Rafe, especially when she starts to fall in love with him, and he with her. But can Amber break her own curse of being too willing to help out others with curses, or will she fall prey to her own family curse, and end up dying to help Rafe? And even if she survives breaking his curse, will he be able to recognize her afterwards? I liked the idea of this book, that Amber's ability to break curses was in itself a curse, and the lesson she had to learn to break it. Rafe comes off as arrogant and a bit of a jerk. But he redeems himself well into the story, and I loved this book, and how Amber and Rafe fed off and grew with each other. The book was glorious and the ending was amazng. Highly recommended.
The Earl and the Fairy by Ayuo and Mizue Tani- Lydia Carlton is a fairy doctor, and all her life, she has been able to see fairies. Fairy Doctors were once common, helping people with their fairy problems and interceding on the behalf of humans with fairies, but with the rise of science, people no longer believe in fairies, but lydia isn't one of the non-believers. However, when she leaves the quiet countryside to go see her father in London, she meets a man who has been tortured and imprisoned by others, and he needs her help. He is Edgar Ashenbert, and he claims to be descended from the human ruler of the Fairy Kingdom, and needs Lydia's help in regaining the symbol of his rule, the Sword of the Blue Knight Earl. Ever since he swore to find and regain the sword, people who want it to remain hidden have tried to keeep him from finding it. But is Edgar lying about his identity, and if he has been, how can Lydia trust anything he has to say? This was cute, but the first volume is taken up with the whole can or can't Lydia trust Edgar? At the end, we find out what is going on, and the reasons why Edgar wants to find the sword, so its not as bad as I thought it might be in the middle of the book. Lydia's talking fairy cat/advisor was both adorable and utterly catlike to boot- both the good and bad parts. Tolerable, and I would definitely read a second volume.
Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop- Gloriana Belladonna has sacrificed herself and her balance to balance the world, and her brother, Lee, no longer feels he can trust her, not even when she has found some solace in love. But when a band of Dark Guides try and gain entrance to her landscapes in order to further twist them towards evil, Lee sacrifices himself to keep her safe nonetheless. Taken prisoner by the Dark Guides and tortured, Lee ends up in an Asylum for the insane in the city of Vision, with the asylum now being run by a Shaman, which are Vision's versions of Guides, though they cannot do the things a guide can. But a dark presence is overtaking vision, and none of the Shamans seem to know what to do about it. Not even Danyal, the shaman in charge of the Asylum. But with Lee's help, and the help of the woman Lee is coming to love, a Tryad, Danyal must find Gloriana Belladonaa and save his city from the Dark Guides. But with Lee blinded by the Dark Guides, can any of them see clearly enough to leave? I thought the last book in this series, the one starring Gloriana, might be the last, and I wondered how the series could go on. But this was an excellent continuation, introducing more pwople, new landscapes, and a new heroine, who is three women in one. Lee's torture was horrible, but I loved the story, and the ending, very much. And I'd love to see more. Probably not the first book you want to read in this series, but recommended.
The Girl's Guide to Vampires by Barb Karg- This small book basically brands vampires as the ultimate bad boys, but then expands on that by introducing other species of vampires from different cultures around the world like the Jiang Shi, the Alp, Kappa, Rakshasa, Camazotz, Baobhan Sidhe (aka Banshee) and so on. It talks about vampire characteristics, how to catch and kill vampires, and then goes over different vampires from movies, books and television series, and talks about the actors who have played Dracula and other famous vampires. It's a cute book, short but sweet, but ultimately forgettable. It's nothing you really haven't seen in other vampire books aimed at young adults, just a little more up to date. Mostly meh, but if this is the only "About Vampires" book you buy aimed at teens, you won't be doing wrong.
The Importance of Being Oscar by Yvonne Skargon with words by Oscar Wilde is a book of woodcuts of a cat named Oscar, after the famous writer Oscar Wilde. The book shows Oscar sleeping, lying, sitting, grooming and other attitudes, with quotes by Oscar Wilde underneath that somehow relate to the action Oscar is doing in the woodcut. A picture of him sleeping may have a quote saying, "in the country, people get up early because they have so much to do, and go to bed early because they have so little to think about." The woodcuts are nice, and the quotes are also nice, but overall, it's just a bunch of pictures of a cat, and if you have a cat, you already can see the same things in life. I didn't find the pictures to be all that wonderful- I'd prefer the cat to be either more sleek or more fluffy. Not recommended.
The English Rose by David Austin is a book devoted to the love of a very specific rose type- English Roses, which are much like Old Garden Roses, with double-petaled flowers (mosty), and fairly strong to very strong scents. Not all of these strains of roses are old- some of them are fairly new, but the various species of roses are given their species names, and a picture of these roses. The description covers how the rose was bred, who bred it, and what makes it stand out. Other pictures of roses, either on the bush or in vases, are shown with quotes about Roses. I love Roses, especially roses that are something other than the usual nearly-scentless buds you get from the florist. These are the kind of roses you barely ever see, and most of them don't even look like the roses you see in the florist. But this book is gorgeous and is real rose porn. Recommended.
The Famous Heroine and The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh is a compilation of two novels in one. The Famous Heroine is about Cora Downes, the daughter of a merchant, saved the son of the Duchess of Bridgewater from drowning, so the Duchess has decided to help Cora find a husband. When the Duke asks Francis Kneller, who is nursing a broken heart from the woman he loved marrying another, to partner Cora for a dance, Cora's uninhibited smiles and opinions unexpectedly charm him, and he helps her escape the ball because her feet are hurting from the too-small shoes she was convinced to buy and wear. But as they keep being thrown together, Sir Francis finds himself falling for this utterly unsuitable woman, and she, while also falling for him, thinks she is too ugly and bad to ever attract a man of his caliber and social position. But when circumstances force them to marry, can he convince her that she is lovely and beautiful, and that he married her because he wanted to, not because he was forced to? In the Plumed Bonnet, Stephanie Gray, a former governess, has inherited a fortune, provided she can make it to her relative's house and marry in time. But trying to make it across the country by herself is not fun, and the unfortunate color of her plumed bonnet and cape make her look like a conwoman or fallen woman. When she is rescued by Alistair Munro, the Duke of Bridgewater, he doesn't believe a single word she says, but humors her, making her think that he is the only person who supports her. But when he finds out that she is being truthful, and she really is an heiress (and the man who is going to marry her is an utter ass), he proposes to her instead, and she accepts. But as in the other story, she believes she isn't ready to be a Duchess, and she doesn't know about how he didn't believe her. So when he must confess his sins, can he make her see he has come to love her, but is fearful of pushing her into a sexual relationship too quickly? Or will her injured feelings cause her to reject him, his love, and the marriage? I liked both of these books, which took "unsuitable" heroines and gave them the love of highly titled men who truly love them. But usually, it's the man's problems which end up having to be overcome, usually after the marriage, by the woman who loves them. In these stories, however, both characters have problems that have to be overcome, and I liked the evenhandedness of that, and how the problems were handled. Plus, the love stories were believable, and interesting. Definitely recommended (both of them).