Saturday, May 19, 2012

2012, Part 8

Up in Smoke by Katie MacAllister- May Northcott is a doppleganger, the double of a nymph and meant to be her "sister"'s death. But May has achieved a life of her own, and is the beloved of Gabriel Tauhou, the leader of the Silver Dragons. Saving her love from death, however, has left her trapped in Hell with demons, and Magoth, one of the Demon Lords, is attempting to woo her to get access to the human world. But when Gabriel suggests it would be in May's best interests to agree. May is shocked, but agrees to go along with the plan, because according to Gabriel, Magoth's power in the human world would be very limited. But when she returns to earth, she discovers that the Dragons are in the midst of a conclave, with each of the Dragon races attending. The red Dragons have a problem, though- their leader is imprisoned in Hell, and the Dragon who declares himself in charge is not accepted by the son of the former leader now in Hell. When an altercation occurs in the conclave, Gabriel gives May a dragon artifact to hold for him, and she ends up using it to protect him, only to find it has melded with her, and is now a part of her, giving other people even more reason to want to possess her. But can May and Gabriel resolve the problems in the ranks of the Red Dragons, and corral Magoth when it is revealed that he has more power on Earth than Gabriel knew? And will Gabriel's mother accept May as Gabriel's lover and mate? This book is set in the same universe as Katie MacAllister's Green Dragon books, but with a different clan and different characters. May is somthing very unusual, the Doppleganger or fetch of a nymph, but she's much more focused and together than her sister is- and her sister has a tendency to complicate her life amazingly. This was the first book I read in this series, but I enjoyed it immensely and would say that it's definitely as good as all of her books, ones about Dragons and Vampires included. Recommended.

Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett- Phillip Eslingen has recently mustered out of the army and has taken up residence in the city of Astreiant, the royal city, which makes him a foreigner. Recently, young apprentices have started to go missing in Astreiant, and the local scuttlebutt is blaming the missing children on foreigners taking the apprentices and making them into slaves in a foreign country. That is how he meets Nicholas Rathe, a pointsman, a city guard similar to a policeman, who keeps the Peace in Point of Hopes, one of the thirteen districts of the city. Phillip has been hired to be a bouncer in a tavern owned by people of the same nationality as himself, and suspicious citizens keep accusing the tavern owners of being in on the plot to abduct the children of the city. But when the accusations lead to a brawl at the tavern, Phillip is fired, and Nicholas finds him a new job working as the bodyguard for a crime lord. But because of the circumstances of how they met and how it cost him his job, Phillip is also interested in finding out what happened to the children of Astreiant, and of a new series of astrologers coming to the city for the Midsummer Fair- ones charging suspiciously low prices. What, if anything, is going on with them, and what might they have to do with the missing apprentices. Can Phillip and Nicholas find the common thread tying the disappearances together before whoever is abducting these children finishes their dirty work and wants to dispose of all those young bodies? And can Nicholas bring the miscreant to justice so that the children get the justice they deserve? I love police procedurals, and fantasy novels, and this combines that love into a fantasy police procedural, which scratches both itches at once. I loved everything about this book, from the world-building to the characters, the magic, and the city itself, all of which was superior to anything I had read back when I first found it (around the time that Nightwatch by Robin Wayne Bailey was released). It combines everything I love, including a highly unorthodox romance which you have to piece together from inferences rather than being stated outright. Dense and packed with everything I love, this book is highly recommended by me.

Point of Dreams by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett- with the success of their last adventure together, changes have come in the lives of Nicholas Rathe and Phillip Eslingen. Nicholas has been promoted to a new position in another part of the city, Point of Hopes, a larger, richer and more upscale part of the city than Point of Dreams. And because of his notoriety for being one of the men who broke the case of the missing apprentices, Phillip Eslingen has become too famous for his crime lord employer, who lets him go until his notoriety does down. Nicholas once again comes up with a solution to Phillip's woes, and gets him a chance to try out with the Guild of Fighters, where, once he passes their entrance tests, he is assigned to the cast of a new play, to teach a bunch of nobles how to convincingly fight and use a sword- for the play, at least. The play is one that the city has taken up a craze for, known as "The Drowned Island", and is as much innuendo as melodrama. But someone is messing around with the actors and the play itself, and when a guardsman and one of the nobles is killed, Nicholas is called in to investigate the deaths, which seem to have occurred as much by magic as misadventure, and he isn't the only one to be concerned- the mages of the city are also concerned about the deaths, and are worried about the play itself and a tome of magic that might be loose in the city. But if magic really is the culprit behind the deaths, how can Nicholas find out who is behind it and bring them to justice? And can he do it before the one responsible can bring their plan to fruition? An excellent follow up to "Point of Hopes", and another dense, twisty mystery that brings more about the city of Astreiant, its rulers and people, to light. And now I see there will be a third story, and this makes me happy. Another fantasy police procedural? Yes, please! And they are re-releasing their older titles at the same time, so be sure to pick this up. Highly recommended.

Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist- When mercenaries wearing the colors and crest of the Duke of Olasko slaughters his way through the native villages in the Mountains of Midkemia, their objective is to slaughter everyone, from the eldest to the babes in arms. But they miss a lone boy named Kieli, who had gone higher into the mountains on a vision quest. When he returns, his people are slaughtered, but he is found and rescued by a trader named Pasko, and his apprentice, Robert. But, in truth, they are more than just traders, and they take Kieli, now going by the name he was granted in his vision, Talon of the Silver Hawk, or simply, Talon, and raise, teach and train him to become an infiltrator, spy and warrior so that he can track down the true slayers of his people and whoever was behind their deaths. But can Tal contain his need for vengeance long enough and bide his time until his opponents lower their guard for him to strike? And when called upon to serve the man who ordered his people killed, can Tal do so with a smile, awaiting the time to strike? Raymond E. Feist is one of the best fantasy authors writing today, and here you can see why. His sense of place, of this land he has created, is perfect, and his grasp of character and talent are undeniable. His writing reaches out and grabs you, and you can sense how Tal changes as he grows up, from the fierce but callow tribesman to a practiced swordsman and infiltrator- and along the way, we get to meet some of the major players in Midkemia from behind the scenes. A novel that will totally engross you and interest you both in the character and the world. Highly recommended.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halperin- Justin loves his Dad- has always loved him, but what comes out of his father's mouth is both funny and outrageous. Having started repeating what his father says on his blog- and said in the past, stuff that is outrageous, funny and often philosophical, in a weird way. With a blog, sitcom and now a book from the deal, Justin gathers his Dad's collected "wisdom" and lays it out for the world to see. This is a book to make you feel your own relatives are normal, and which will hopefully make you laugh in the meantime. Sadly for me, I didn't find this book all that funny. It was occasionally amusing, but laugh out loud funny? Well, not so much. The best I could do is crack a smile, and I'll admit, some of the stories were pretty awesome, but I honestly didn't think they were funny. Perhaps because my own extended family is pretty outrageous and says some weird things, too. It's not funny if it's just Tuesday. Not recommended, but YMMV.

Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics by Tom Rogers- Hollywood movies have long been known for ejecting the principles of science and reality for movie magic, or perhaps, "fantasy" would be a better word, if it makes a good story. Sounds and explosions in space movies, for one. Artificial gravity that doesn't require the spaceship to be rotating, or part of it to be rotating are another "shortcut" one sees in the movies, but there are more... so many more, and this book covers the more egregious violations in movie physics and movie science as a whole, with an entire chapter dedicated to "who gets it more correct: Star Trek or Star Wars?" and a chapter at the end dedicated to the worst of the worst- the most insultingly bad movies with regards to physics. Interspersed in the book are movies that get it right, and why, with graphs and explanations on why the science in a movie is bad. I loved books like "The Physics of Star Trek" and this book was right up my alley, explaining in an entertaining yet understandable way how and why the movies get it wrong, and how it would be if they had gotten it correct in the first place- and in many cases, how movie makers get their cars and stars to appear to defy physics in the first place. I loved this book, and the cover, with a man leaping to get away from a fiery explosion behind him, suits the idea of the book perfectly. If you want to laugh at how preposterous movie science can be, this is the book for you. Highly recommended.

Betty Crocker's Guide to Easy Entertaining: How to Have Guests and Enjoy Them is a reprint of the 1959 classic. Inside are not only the original recipes from the book, but tips on how to put together a fun dinner party with guests that click, how to plan, serve and cook the dinner, and how to ensure you give the parties that people want to attend- everything from formal dinners to informal get-togethers with friends, and even gatherings of your children's friends, so that everyone is made welcome, has a good time, and you don't wear yourself to a frazzle trying to make everything go "perfectly". And what if you have no space for serving a meal for more than an additional couple? Perhaps an after-dinner party would suit you better... and instructions are given for all of them. This book may have been written in the 1950's, but the advice within is perfectly suited for today as well, and the ideas for stretching meals, additions to make coffee and other dishes more "special", and ideas for parties that give acres of pleasure with only a few feet of work, well, that's where this book excels. If you run into a copy in a store or a used book store, it's definitely one to give a look-see, as many of these ideas are still perfectly good. Recommended.

Captive Spirit by Anna Windsor- Bela Argos is a Sybil, one of a group of women with powers over the elements. The Sybils have been fighting Demons for years, summoned by a group named the Legion. But now they are defeated, and the Sybils are taking time to remember the ones lost in the fight. Bela, having lost the other two of her triad, has decided to form a new group of Sybils, and, with the emergence of a new Water Sybil, first of her kind in almost a thousand years, forms the first fighting quartet since that time. With the exception of the new Water Sybil, she takes women who have also lost their own triads, the ones with the problems, the ones who are considered "useless" by their sisters, and decides to forge them into a fighting group. But its not as easy as it looks, and when Bela and her group rescue the former soldier Duncan Sharp from an attack by a new group of Demons, called the Rakshasa, he is clawed and infected by their leader, and his friend is killed by the Demons as he saves Duncan's life. But when Bela takes him back to the team's house, she begins falling for him, and he for her. But with a demon infection waiting in his veins to change him into a Rakshasa, is there any future for Bela and Duncan? This is the start of a new trilogy or quadrology for Anna Windsor after her Dark Crescent Sisterhood books. With new Water Sibyls appearing, it seems that the Triads will return to being Quads. But a new demon threat endangers them all. I liked the book. The romance was smart and hot and the Rakshasa are certainly theatening and scary- and powerful enough to give Bela and her team fits trying to bring them down. There is no certain victory, and Duncan could become the enemy at any time... all the hallmarks of a good romance conundrum. Recommended.

Captive Soul by Anna Windor- Camille Fitzgerald is a Fire Sibyl, but unlike most of her sisters, she cannot summon flames to her sword, making the other fire Sibyls see her as useless in a battle, and she suffers from the feeling that they are right- she couldn't save the other members of her triad from death, so what good is she? But her sense of fire, that's something else entirely. But when she meets the Spirit of John Cole, once trapped in Duncan Sharp's body and now inhabiting the former body of the leader of the Rakshasa, she has to wonder if it is really him or some trick on the part of the Demons. But his spirit pulls at her, and his contact with people infected with the Rakshasa demon plague but somehow able to keep their own minds and spirits brings her into contact with the Oracle, a former Dark Crescent Sisterhood Sibyl now infected with the demon taint, but keeping her own mind and spirit intact. In fact, the Oracle is so old, she is from the time when the Water Sibyls were still around. And she and another Fire Sibyl named Ona are making Camille see that she might not be useless at all- in fact, she and her sister Sibyls might be the most powerful among their sisters, and a threat to the Sisterhood, and the world, as a whole. But as she struggles to master her powers, can she and John and her sisters destroy the Rakshasa once and for all? Or will the magician allies of the Rakshasa, be too much for them to handle? Another excellent book for the new Quad, and here we get to see that the four sisters could be the most powerful among the Dark Crescent Sisterhood alive today, even though they lack the more usual powers over the elements. And then Camille must determine if John is really who he says he is, as he struggles to keep the spirit of his body's former inhabitant imprisoned inside him- relying too much on his Rakshasa powers could leave him open to being imprisoned himself. And now there is a new enemy as well, and they will probably be the foe in the next book in the series. An excellent book, a wonderful romance, and I still want to read more. Recommended.

More Celtic Fairy Tales collected by Joseph Jacobs and illustrated by John D. Batten has twenty Celtic fairy tales, although very few of them actually involve fairies. Most of them are from Wales and/or Ireland, with tales like "The Fate of the Children of Llyr" (from Ireland) to "Powell, Prince of Dyfed", which is Welsh. Unless you are really into Faerie tales and myths, it's likely you won't have seen most of these fairy tales before, but I didn't find many of them all that interesting in the sense that I really HAD to read this book. It's a nice set of tales, but most of the really interestng ones can be found elsewhere. Not recommended.

Perfect Chocolate- a collection of over 100 essential recipes by Paragon Publishing- There are people who like chocolate, and there are people who LOVE chocolate, who can't get enough of it and who obsess over it in everything. If you are one of the second group, or know someone who is, this is the perfect chocolate cookbook to give them as a gift. It has everything from cakes, pies, bars, tortes and ice cream to everything in between, filled to the brim with milk, dark and white chocolate goodness. Even if you only like chocolate, this book will make you want to whip up something chocolate and devour it. In addition to the recipes, the pictures seduce you with images of sweet chocolaty goodness and deserts just begging to be eaten. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and the pictures will make breezing through the book for something you wish to cook a snap. Highly recommended.

When Blood Calls by J. K. Beck- Sara Constantine is an attorney, a bright up and comer who is abruptly promoted from her former job to one in "The Division" a part of Homeland Security that deals with supernatural threats. And the first job Sara is assigned is to bring down Lucius Dragos, a vampire suspected in the death of a federal judge. And Lucius did it all right- but he killed the man to punish him for sexually abusing his ward, a young woman who is mentally handicapped, and also a vampire. People with mental handicaps aren't supposed to be turned, but Lucius was responsible for the death of his own daughter long ago, and this girl resembled her so much that he couldn't bring himself to kill her when she begged him for life. But he also wants to be free to continue to protect her- and unbeknownst to Sara, the stranger who she had sex with after winning a long, hard-fought case in the human world was actually Lucius. But while part of her is shocked to learn that the man she slept with wasn't human, she is also coming to feel that Lucius may have had a reason to kill the judge. But can she keep him alive long enough to find out? This is not your standard vampire story, but this book introduced me to a whole new world of the supernatural. It's the first in the series, and introduces us to the story and the people in an easy to understand way. Even the organization that Lucius belongs to is explained neatly without seeming like an infodump. I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to reading the other books in the series. Recommended.

Green-Eyed Envy by Kasey Mackenzie- Marissa Holloway is a Fury, a greek supernatural whose job it is to track down wrongdoers and bring justice to them. How lucky it is, then that she is also the Sheriff of Boston, whose job it is to track down crimes involving supernatural creatures. The discovery of a dead werecat brings with it an element of danger, as the dead werecat has had his tongue removed, and replaced with a variety of catnip that is supernatural in origin. According to the werecat on the force that Riss works with, the removal of the tongue is a form of "Counting Coup"- the problem being that both the Cats and their usual foes , the Hounds, know of it. And as one of Riss's friend is a Cat who will soon be marrying a Hound, and Riss's lover is a Hound, she will have to find the killer before he or she can kill again. Added to that is Riss's grandmother, a fury who has spent most of her life in a coma, has now awakened, and is causing lots of trouble in Fury society, and Riss's plate is full even before she takes on the role of the wedding planner to see if one of the prominent cats or hounds could be in on the killings. But when Riss's own niece is imperiled by both threats, will Riss be able to keep her safe as her niece fledges into a Fury? A new series to me, but this is the second book in the series. But even though it wasn't the first book, I was glad to see that the information was presented in a way that felt natural to the story, and not as an infodump. The characters were engaging, and the sex and love was hot, leading to this book feeling more than satisfying to me as a reader. Recommended.

Desire Untamed by Pamela Palmer- Lyon is a feral, one of a group of warriors able to take on animal form and hunt down Draeden, mindless creatures who feed on Energy, and keep the Mages and Demons at bay. But when the Radiant of the Ferals dies, the mantle passes to a new female Therian- and without the Radiant, Lyon and his fellow ferals can neither change nor release their rage. Unfortunately for all of them, Kara MacAllister has been raised as a human, and knows nothing about Therian society- but she finds herself attracted to Lyon- only a ceremony reveals that Vhyper, another Therian, is her destined mate. Kara doesn't like Vhyper, and feels as though she is in danger in the house where the Ferals live. Can she and Lyon keep her safe as she goes through the ritual to Awaken herself as the Radiant, and will she be able to keep herself from giving herself, body and soul to Lyon, and tearing apart the society that the ferals live by? Or was the destined mate ritual wrong somehow, and how could this be the case? Another book that is the first in a new series, and well done, with Therian society being explained to Kara because she has never been a part of it. The information was given organically, and in small enough doses that it didn't turn into chapters of talking heads. I liked the chemistry between Kara and Lyon, and how they came together. Recommended.

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