Friday, May 18, 2012

2012, Part 7

Inside the Tower: The Alternative Guide by James Bartholemew is a Guide to the Tower of London, covering a short history of the Tower, the Yeoman Warder's Tour, a detailed Guide to the buildings inside the Tower and discussions of the various bits and pieces of the Tower, such as the Ravens and why they are there, the duties of the Yeoman Warders, pictures of the Crown Jewels, and the layout of the Tower itself. This was a fascinating book, filled with facts and stories and has many pictures depicting the various places inside the Tower of London, the crown jewels, the Yeoman Warders and views of various bits of London and the river Thames visible from the Tower. If you can find a copy of this book, it's invaluable as a resource on anything Tower of London-related. Highly recommended.

Stargazing for Beginners by John Mosely- Want to know more about the night sky but not sure where to begin? This book is a good place to start, with sky maps, discussions on the planets and stories about the various constellations, both northern and southern, as well as why they were named and how. It's not a really in-depth book, but for those who are interested in star-gazing and the sky, it gives a lot of information without being overly technical, but it isn't that deep or detailed, either. Good for kids and first-time stargazers, but soon you will want something more advanced and with more information.

Threadbared: Decades of Don'ts by Kimberly Wrenn and Mary Watkins is full of crafting ideas for clothing, hats, and other knitted and crocheted items that will make you wonder "What were they smoking, um, thinking?!?" Every era has its hideous items, and here they are for everyone to see while the authors lay on the snark with masonry trowels. And not that these patterns and ideas don't deserve them either, because they are flat-out hideous. Revisit the hideous, matchy-matchy days of yesteryear that have thankfully long since been forgotten- and for good reason, too! This book gets high marks for humor, and will make you laugh so hard your sides hurt, even if you aren't into fashion.

Dear America- Behind the Masks- The Diary of Angeline Reddy, Bodie, California, 1880- Angeline's father is Bodie's greatest criminal lawyer, and she believes he was on a case when he suddenly disappeared. But the sheriff says that her father has been murdered, and Angeline doesn't believe him, knowing, in her heart of hearts, that her father is still alive. So she decides to do some investigating of her own, trying to find out what happened to her father. But when her mother falls ill and a mysterious ghost shows up in town, Angeline feels stymied by the mystery. And with her father gone a series of vigilante attacks begin occurring in and around the town, running folks who have lived there for years out. Some blame a group of actors known as the Horribles, but Angeline doesn't know what to think. She only knows that without the help of her friends, Ellie and a Chinese servant girl named Ling Loi, she will never get to the bottom of the mystery or discover what happened to her father. I liked this book, as Angeline is a girl who sees clearly and has hopes and dreams that sometimes seem far outside of the small town of Bodie. I like the history the book related, and the characters, and how Angeline could never quite be sure if Antoine was on her side. The Epilogue wraps up the book perfectly, and the associated history materials were very interesting, about the very real town of Bodie. Highly recommended.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach examines Space and humanity's efforts to explore and colonize it. How astronauts succumb to a curious fascination with space once they are outside of the space capsule and how it is similar to the Rapture of the Deep aka Nitrogen Narcosis. She covers how scientists research things for space- without actually going there themselves, the food astronauts (and maybe the rest of us) will someday eat in space, and even covers the most interesting subject of all-sex in zero gravity- who might have done it and when, and the unique challenges to overcome to have sex in space. This was a fun and funny book that made me laugh aloud more than once, while giving me a look at the kinds of things scientists study to advance our knowledge of space travel. It's also thought-provoking as well as an interesting and entertaining read. If you've read her novel "Bonk", this is another one you are going to have to read if you have any interest in space travel or going to the planets. Highly recommended.

Folktales of Ireland edited and translated by Sean O'Sullivan- The irish have many folktales, not just ones about fairies, but about animals, saints and sinners and about real people. This book collects many of them in one place, like the story of Cu Chulainn or the Boy who became Pope. The wide variety of tales in this book is good, because some of them can seem repetitive after a while and yet others, like the tales of Finn MacCool (or Fionn MacCumhail as it is sometimes written) are completely missing from the volume. So these are less mythology tales than more general folktales. And they are interesting, if somewhat repetitive, but this is not a book to read straight through. It's something you might want to read a bit at a time and put down and then read something else in between. It's good, but can be a struggle to read all at once. Recommended, not highly.

Master of Shadows by Angela Knight- La Belle Coeur is a maja, one of the female immortals of Arthur's Court. Her job is to seduce young males who are about to come of age as vampires, and kill them if they cannot control their bloodlust. Tristran is a male Maja or vampire of Arthur's Court- one who watches over and protects the humans of earth. Long ago, he was married to Isolde, but her betrayal forced him to slay her to save not only his own life, but the lives of others. He dislikes Belle because of her resemblance to Isolde, but when Arthur assigns them to work together to help track down Warlock, a werewolf with magical powers, they will be thrown into close proximity, where they discover that what they feel for each other is anything but contempt. But will Belle, a polished seducer of the court, be able to give up her duty for love, and can Tristan overcome his distaste for women who look like his former wife to find the real emotions that underlay their fascination with each other? This book brings back both Warlock and his daughter, and sets up his daughter as the protagonist of the next book. But I liked the way that Belle and Tristan sparked off each other, and their attempts to protect each other even as the man who would not fall in love again because of past tragedy and the woman whose job it is to seduce but never fall in love find their emotions run far deeper than they would like. How they overcame their pasts to keep that love was wonderful to read and I look forward to more books in this series. Highly recommended.

Wartorn: Obliteration by Robert Asprin and Eric Del Carlo- The Felk people have raised a massive army to conquer the Isthmus and rule over their neighbors. Aided by the spirit of a long-dead General who has his own reasons for wanting everlasting war, the Felkians seek to build on their gains and dominate the entire Isthmus. Arrayed against them are a scholar who studied the history and tactics of said dead General, a playwright striking back against the people who destroyed his home and family by raising a rebellion, and two southern mercenaries who failed to assassinate the body the dead General is currently inhabiting, along with the armies of the other city-states endangered by the Felk army. But can they compete with the might of the Felk and those who support them? As much as I would have liked to like this novel the second in a duology, it seemed like the authors decided they were tired of the story and just abandoned it partway through. A big battle is coming, the magician in charge of the whole thing is assassinated, rocks fall, all the wizards die, and that's pretty much the end of the war and the story. You only see what happens to four of the characters of the book, and the rest either die off-screen or are never mentioned again. It seemed a lazy way to end it, and it was just when the story was getting interesting. Not recommended.

Kiss of Fire by Deborah Cooke- The Firestorm is coming, and those of the Dragon race array on either side to meet it. Quinn Tyrell is the Smith of the Dragons fighting on the side of the light, known as the Pyr, but when he meets his destined mate in Sara Keegan, a former accountant who left her job to run her aunt's quirky New Age bookstore, he knows beyond anything that he must protect her- because the Dragons who support the Dark, called the Slayers, are willing to use her to get to him. Because while he is the Smith, Sara is destined to be the Seer. But more than their own lives are at risk from the Slayers- the Dark ones have kidnapped the Oracle, the most powerful female of the Dragon race- the only female. And to get her back, Sara will have to be kidnapped herself. But can she help free the Oracle from the Slayers? And can Quinn find her before the Slayers kill her and condemn him to an eternity of solitude? I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the interaction between Quinn and Sara, even though I read this book *after* I read the sequel, "Kiss of Fury". It didn't cover a lot of information about Dragons, but that didn't seem to matter. We learned enough to enjoy Quinn and Sara's story, and I do want to read more. Recommended.

Kiss of Fury by Deborah Cooke- Donovan Shea may be a Dragon, but he is also a very rich man in his human life. But when he meets his own destined mate in Alexandra Madison, a scientist who was set to produce an engine that was completely clean and green to boot, he is shocked when she doesn't trust him and tries to steal his car. As for Alexandra, she is running on fumes. Betrayed by those who were backing her engine, her partner dead and her lab in ruins, as well as injured and sought as a possible madwoman, she is having a hard time trusting anyone. But her determination to save her work and rebuild it makes Donovan feel that he should be helping her. And so he gives in to his impulse to help, rather than stand back and watch as life goes by. But the Slayers have reasons for wanting Alexandra dead and her invention dead with her, and Donovan must stand with the other Pyr to save Alexandra, and the invention that means more than her own life to her. Can either of them let the Slayers win and not go down fighting? I read this book first and found myself enjoying the story. Alexandra has had everything she worked for taken away from her, but instead of lying down and dying, she struggles and fights to preserve what she has been working on, and Donovan finds himself moved by her passion into helping her, and eventually, the passion that is building between them ignites into the firestorm of Dragon mating. An interesting and enjoyable romance that made and makes me want to read more. Recommended.

Bound by Sin by Jenna Maclaine- Cin Craven is a Witch and warrior, but she is also a vampire. While not all vampires are evil, there are certainly renegades, and that is who Cin fights, along with her lover and mate, Michael, and her friends. But when she seeks out her family to make amends, she discovers that one of her relatives, her Cousin Claire, has been kidnapped and taken to America, where she is imprisoned by Adrien Boucher, a wicked plantation owner who seeks her power. Cin decides to save her cousin as a means of atoning for the heartbreak she brought her family for her disappearance. But saving Claire is not going to be easy= for on his side, Boucher has a voodoo Queen, and the only way to fight her is for Cin to seek out that variety of Dark magic herself. But Michael, ever mindful of Cin's safety and sanity, is convinced that giving into Dark magic like voodoo would be disastrous for Cin. But is there another way to save Claire and take her away from Boucher? And can Cin's witchly magic fight the might of a voodoo Queen? I have read short stories with Cin before, but this was the first full-length book with her character that I have ever seen, and I enjoyed reading it so much that I definitely want to see if I can find the first two novels in the series, which apparently detail how Cin became a vampire and met Michael. I enjoyed the book greatly and found it a memorable read. Recommended.

Twilight Fulfilled by Maggie Shayne- Birgit Poe may not be a full vampire, but her parents are vampires, and she supports their cause. But the resurrection of one of the oldest vampires, a man named Utanapishtim, endangers the entire vampire race, as Utana believes that because of him, Vampires exist, and the only way for his soul to find rest is to wipe the earth of their presence. In this, he is supported by a human man who wants to kill off vampires, study them and find out how to steal their powers for his own. Birgit and her brother, as mostly human, decide that they must deal with Utanapishtim, as only they have a chance of survivng his wrath against vampires. With her brother having the power to harm, and her having the power to heal, they must work together if they are to stop this first vampire. But when Birgit is separated from her brother, she alone has the power to make Utana see another way. Unfortunately, she may be falling in love with this vampire from ages past. Can she kill the man she is coming to love to save her mother, father, brother, and all the rest of the vampires she loves from destruction? And can she make Utana fall in love with her as well, and change his mind about whether the vampire race needs to die with a very human man whispering hate in his ears? I have followed Maggie Shayne's vampire series ever since it started in the Silhouette Shadows series,and this latest book is stretching the series to its limit, I'll admit. We are past the straight vampires and on to their mostly human descendants, which is kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel. But I found myself drawn into the story of how Birgit found some humanity in Utana, and he reclaimed his humanity and sanity in her. A nice change of pace, and still good, although I find the series is going to ridiculous lengths now. It really needs to end, sooner or later, before it becomes a parody of itself. Recommended nonetheless.

Come to Me by Lisa Cach- Samira is a succubus. But when she helped an Incubus with a prank he played on a Wallachian Prince, making him fear that his virginal sister was actually a slut through a very realistic dream, he violated the laws of the night world and got both of them punished. Samira was cast out into a human body and found herself imprisoned by Nicolae, a Wallachian noble who sought the power of the night world to restore him and his family to his noble seat. Samira, who is bound to human form until she can discover what she did wrong, finds herself drawn to this driven man, even as he seeks to discover the powers she once had. But when the game she plays of making him fall in love with her to get him to let her go gets her caught in the web she is weaving, can she give up what she was for what she has, and what she wants to have. and can she help Nicolae achieve his dreams without letting him go? Well, this book was intriguing, what with Night World society and its ruler, Nyx. And it was nice to see Samira change from a self-absorbed Succubus to a woman in love, who found that she would give up her world for the man she loved. Nicolae, too, must grow, and discover that an endless seeking for power only gets you so far- sometimes you need more than power to succeed, you also need something to fight for. A good book, and recommended.

Be Still My Vampire Heart by Kerrelyn Sparks- Angus McKay was made a vampire at fifteen, and though he's live hundreds of years since then, his body has remained the same age. But just like any man, he wants to find someone to love. So when his boss inadvertantly discovers a way for vampires to age- drinking a synthetic blood substitute and staying awake during the day, Angus is desperate to try it and to finally grow up into a man. But most vampire females seem to think that he is the same old Angus, too young to bother with. Desperate, he approaches a well-known female vampire to try and find a woman that is right for him. Emma Wallace is a CIA Agent who believes the only good vampire is a dead vampire, and has infiltrated the company Angus works for to try and discover where a general's daughter has been kidnapped to and try to get the girl back. Unbeknownst to her, the same woman is now married to Angus's boss, but her father cannot believe she could fall for a vampire. Working as a security guard, Emma finds herself an object of Angus' attentions, and she's shocked to find she isn't immune to his charms, manly or otherwise. But can Emma overcome her hatred of vampires long enough to do her job and fall in love with a Highlander who only wants love? I liked seeing Angus all grown up and looking for love- his desperation and the comic potential of so many women fawning over him carried me through a lot of the novel- until the romance between Emma and Angus started to heat up, which carried me the rest of the way. A good romance with a lot of comedic elements good for a laugh and a sigh. Highly recommended.

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