Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012, Part 10

Insatiable Desire by Rita Herron- Vincent Valtrez knows all too well the evil hidden in the forest outside Eerie, Tennesee- because it swallowed up his father, who killed his mother, and nearly killed him as well. But when the adult Vincent, now a federal agent, is called back to Eerie to end another series of killings, he finds himself paired with the psychic Clarissa King, the only girl who ever befriended him and defended him. Vincent is a man of strong desires, and he can barely keep himself from claiming the girl he once loved. But how can he burden her with the evil that lives inside of him, and can he keep her safe from the evil which stalks them both, seeking to kill her and enslave him? I found myself of two minds about this book. The story is compelling, but Vincent doesn't come off very well as a character. In fact, he's kind of an asshole. He gets his redemption, but his asshole qualities meant I didn't feel very kindly towards him for a long time. Recommended, but not highly.

Immortal Warrior by Lisa Hendrix- Ivar Greycloak is a cursed man, cursed to take on the form of a hawk during the day while retaining that of a man by night because of a long-ago curse by a witch. But when the King gives him land and bids him marry the granddaughter of the former lord, Lady Alaida, Ivar must work to keep his secret from the world *and* his new wife. But all is not well in his new lands, and a noble with a grudge may cost Ivar the woman he has come to love. Can Alaida find it in herself to love her strange husband and help him break the curse that holds him captive? And does Ivar love his new wife and daughter enough to try? Or will the spirit of the sorceress who cursed him ensure that Ivar loses everyone and everything he holds dear? This is the first in a new series, and it was passable, though Ivar seemed to manage his curse well enough until much later in the story. It wasn't bad and I would read more in the series, although it seems that the series will be spread out in time. How much time, I can't say, though. Recommended.

Last Breath by Rachel Caine- Morganville is run by vampires, for vampires, and the humans only live there on sufferance. Claire Danvers discovered the truth about Morganville when her dorm-mates in college tried to kill her and she was forced to find off-campus housing in Morganville herself to try and stay safe. But when she discovered the truth, the vampires would never let her leave. Now, Claire's roommates Eve, a goth girl human, and Michael Glass, a vampire musician, want to get married, which is causing friction with both vampires and humans. But neither will listen to reason- they are in love, and that is enough for them. When vampires start to go missing, and the rains begin, Amelie, the leader of the vampires, makes a decision to abandon the town, but Claire and her friends are afraid that the vampires will also kill the humans of the town to keep their secrets. But the truth behind the disappearances is even stranger than Claire and her friends can believe, and has to do with a strange man that Claire keeps seeing around town. But can she make Amelie fight for the town, even when she doesn't wish to do so? And will Claire be able to keep herself and Shane, her own lover safe from the creatures killing the vampires, or will Claire finally meet an opponent which her intelligence and will cannot overcome? This book seems to mean the end of the series is drawing near, and its one of the most dangerous and yet thrilling books yet. The book kept me in suspense, and the ending had me on tenterhooks as to what would happen to everyone. Highly recommended, and I can't wait for the next book in the series!

Agent of Change by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller- Val Con yos'Phelium is a Liaden secret agent, once a First-in Scout and Pilot, but turned into a brutal assassin and executioner by his own government. Returning to Liad from a successful mission, he discovers men trying to kill a human woman, the ex-Mercenary Miri Robertson, who ran afoul of the galactic mafia known as the Juntavas and is now on the run. Saving her, he ends up being knocked out by her and having to scrap his plans to flee the planet, but ends up bonding with her as she saves his own life as well. Forced to take shelter with Val Con's "Brother" Edger of the Shell people, Miri wants to retrieve her belongings and monies owed to her by a former comrade before leaving the planet. But the Juntavas pursuing them mean that they must leave Edger and his fellow shell-people of his clans behind while fleeing in the Turtles' spaceship, which has a drive that causes visual hallucinations in humans. But when they are stranded on a marooned spaceship and must face off against another band of aliens descended from humans, who are violently Xenophobic, can Val Con and Miri fight them off and survive the attack in ship which is completely unable to defend itself? I enjoyed this first dip of the toe into the Liaden universe, and I am looking forward to reading more of them. The book may start slow, but it's the characters who will draw you into the story and keep you there. Highly recommended.

Cinderella: Fables are Forever by Chris Robertson and Shawn McManus- Cinderella masquerades in Fabletown as a gadabout more interested in shoes and partying than anything else. But in truth, she's an accomplished secret agent, and this series of comics pits her against a woman equally as deadly and determined, the Fable known only as "The Silver Slipper", an accomplished assassin and terrorist who lives to create havoc and destroy, and who was once a Kansas farmgirl known as Dorothy Gale. But when their paths cross time and again, Dorothy decides there is only one way to deal with the situation- to take out Cinderella directly, by her own hand. Can Cindy stay alive against a Fable equally skilled and talented as her? A mini-story in the back covers a diplomatic mission Cinderella is sent on to sign a treaty with the Giants of the Cloud Kingdoms. But when the King falls ill, Cinderella must perform some unusual maneuvers to ensure he signs the treaty. I liked this graphic novel a lot, even if it had plenty of parallels with the Fables novel Sam and Max, about two Fables who start out as foes. But here, Cinderella never bonds with Dorothy, who seems pretty insane. Recommended.

Home from the Sea: An Elemental Masters novel- Mari is the daughter of a Welsh fisherman with unusual luck at sea. On her eighteenth birthday, she discovers the source of that luck- a long ago bargain with the Seich, a bunch of creatures whom, like the Selkies, can take on seal form and live in the sea. But the Seich are humans who can become seals, and the Selkies are seals who can take on human form. To fulfill the bargain, Mari will have to marry one of the Seich and bear two children, one to live with her on land, and a second to live in the Sea with the Seich. But Mari, who is livid about this being forced on her, makes her own bargain with the Seich chief- a tutor to help her learn to control her magic, and her choice of husbands from among the Seich who are unmarried. Meanwhile, Nan and Sarah Jane from the earlier book, "The Wizard of London" return to England from visiting Sarah Jane's parents in Africa. Now grown, they are looking for work they can do and do well. Lord Alderscroft sends them to Wales to find the new Elemental Mage that hss suddenly appeared. But when the Seich chief objects to Mari's choice of husband and steals away her two sons, can Nan and Sarah Jane help their now friend to get back everything that matters to her? I loved this story, which seems to be based on Tam Lin and at least partly on the ballet Swan Lake, at least at the end. Mari comes off as a very strong woman, if unschooled, but not stupid at all, and the story, and the return of Nan and Sarah Jane, Memsah'b and Lord Alderscroft was a welcome touch. But there is little conflict for most of the book. A bully made constable seems like he might be the main antagonist, but ends up being more of a footnote. There is also a shoutout to Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody Emerson in the novel. Not as good as her earlier "Elemental Masters" books and rather a quick read, but still highly recommended.

The Obama Hate Machine: The Lies, Distortions, and Personal Attacks on the President- and who is behind them by Bill Press- The attacks on President Obama are nothing new- past Presidents have faced attacks as well, but what is new is the level of ourright hate, the lies and distortions of not only what Barack Obama stands for, but even who he is. Author Press talks about how Past Presidents from Washington to Clinton have been attacked, and reveals the force behind the attacks on Obama, a pair of businessmen known as the Koch brothers. Working on a blueprint first laid out by Richard Mellon Scaife, the force behind the attacks on Bill Clinton, the Koch brothers have expanded on it, funding hundreds of agencies and think tanks which support their ambition to run the businesses they own unfettered by laws or regulations. Even the "Spontaneous" appearance of the Tea Party was a ploy of the Koch brothers, and their views come from their father, a John Bircher. In addition to the attacks on Obama in the media, Press cites almost seventy books, written by both the left and the right against Obama. Most of the books from the right are simply ridiculous, while those from the left, much less numerous, are far better researched and make actual points that even those who love Obama find hard to refute. So, if you ever wondered why there is so much hate towards Obama and why so many people in the Tea Party are old white men, this book will lay it out for you. Highly recommended, and it neither puts Obama on a pedastle nor unfairly slanders him.

Carpe Diem by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller- Marooned on a low-tech planet, Val Con and Miri must fit into a society where men and women have very different roles, and where neither one of them really knows the language. Luckily, with Val Con having been a first-in Scout, he is able to pick up the language quickly, and helps Miri to do the same. But all around them, forces are conspiring against them: On Liad, the Council that runs Liad has determined on a policy of racial purity, and Val Con's family, having intermarried with Terrans, is seen as less than pure and therefore must be purged. His family and connections are another reason why he was changed from a scout to a Spy or Agent of Change. His family, however, is much harder to kill than the council can realize, and scatter to the winds before they can be killed. Only one member of the family stays on Liad to watch over the semi-sentient tree that is an important member of the family and which protect them as much as they protect it. Meanwhile, his superiors have become aware that Val Con might have survived and send another agent to either bring him back into the fold or kill him. In discovering that Miri once used a drug called Cloud, which allowed her to forget a horrific incident she lived through, they make plans to addict her to it again, and plan to use that to get to Val Con. Meanwhile, on the planet, Miri and Val Con must fight off an attack by rebels on the House where they are staying, and must survive the rebels ruthless attempts to kill them. And Val Con's turtle brother, Edger, must track down the Juntavas leader who wants Miri and Val Con dead and keep him from carrying out such a task. But when the Council's Agent of Change finally discovers where Val Con and Miri are living, can they defeat him and escape the planet that they thought might have been their final destination? And can Val Con's Liaden Clan survive the plans of the Liaden Council? I fell thoroughly in love with Miri and Val Con in Agent of Change, and I was very anxious to read this book after finishing that one. We see the characters continue to change and grow, Miri especially, as she has had this image of herself all her life- that she is stupid and good only for fighting and killing. But we see during the course of the novel that this just isn't so, and even Val Con must deal with the fallout of the brainwashing he underwent to be an Agent of Change and the lingering effects it has on him. An excellent novel and highly recommended.

Plan B by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller- Val Con yos'Phelium and Miri Robertson have escaped from the planet that should have been their prison by stealing the ship which belonged to the Agent of Change sent to bring Val Con back to Liad, and having been in mental contact with Val Con's brother Shan yos' Galan and his lover and first mate Priscilla, they are headed to the planet where Miri's people live, as she is half-Liaden, She is of the Clan Erob, and they are based on the planet Lytaxin. So as Shan and Priscilla head for Lytaxin, taking a roundabout route to avoid anyone trying to intercept them, Val Con and Miri present her to clan Erob, where she is welcomed and her grandmother discovered as a member of Clan Erob who fled an arranged marriage- not permanently, but to put it off for a time, and then crashed on Stonebrake and was unable to leave. But once again, trouble follows Miri and Val Con, in the form of a battle group of Yxtrang who are determined to capture Lytaxin. Miri, being a former mercenary soldier, and Val Con hook up with a regiment of mercenaries employed by clan Erob, but about to leave before the attack and head into the woods to set up a resistance force. Val Con encounters a Yxtrang explorer whom he met once before, captured and set free. In disgrace because of this, the former Yxtrang Explorer has become a no name and of no group, used for scut work and considered highly expendable. Sent to spy on the rebels, he is captured once again, and ends up being sworn to serve Val Con and his family clan. But can the small band of mercenaries and Terran and Liaden civilians fight off a group of Yxtrang, who are focussed and bent on the conquest of the world? And can Shan vos'Galan survive when he is separated from his ship and ends up on Lytaxin? Another excellent book in this series, and we again get to see Miri back where she feels she does best- being in charge of fighting men. And she manages to get Terrans, Liadens and Yxtrang to work together. We also get to meet a Yxtrang for the first time, and they are a people like any other- a violent culture, who have bred themselves to be bigger and taller than Liadens or Terrans, but it was nice to see that they were just as human as the others and not just some super-evil bogeymen, as they have somewhat appeared in the other stories. I also loved the background of the Yxtrang Explorer, Nelirikk, and how he eventually fit into the story. I love this series and want to see where it goes from here. The war is far from over, and there is still the matter of the Liaden council to deal with, and I want to see where it ends. Highly recommended.

Awakened: A House of Night novel by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast- having been saved from the fracture of her soul, Zoey Redbird has returned to life, her Warrior, Stark, at her side. But she isn't ready to return to the fight just yet. Sending her friends on ahead of her, she goes with the Warrior Queen Sgiach to learn elemental magic on the Island of Skye, while Stark trains with Sgiach's Warrior, Seoras. But when Damian's love Jack is killed by Neferet as a sacrifice to the Darkness, Zoey knows she must return to Tulsa and deal with Nefret and Kalona. Meanwhile, Stevie Rae is trying to avoid admitting to Zoey and her fellow Red Fledgelings that she has bonded with Rephaim, the Raven Mocker and son of Kalona. But as she attempts to keep her connection to him secret, Kalona requires Rephaim's help in destroying Neferet's hold over him. And as Neferet attempts to build a life form to kill Zoey, her former love, Heath, sends his spirit back into the world to protect Zoey, but when the final confrontation between Neferet and Kalona comes, will Rephaim choose the side of Nyx and life, or the side of his father? And will Stevie Ray be able to influence his choice with her love?Or is Rephaim too far gone to reach and save? I love this series, and I love this book, and while Neferet might have some people on her side, Zoey and her friends should be able to succeed in the end, even though Neferet is consolidating any advantage she might have. But until that time, she is going to remain a hard foe to overcome. I love reading this series, and I loved the closure to the story of Stevie Ray and Rephaim. Highly recommended.

The Red Circle by Brandon Webb- Webb grew up on the ocean, taking a job to keep himself occupied and from getting into trouble. When he started working on a diving boat, he met a group of men who always seemed calm and connected and with it, in a way that other sport divers weren't. When he found out that those men were Navy S.E.A.L.S., he wanted nothing more than to be one someday. But it would take him years to get there, and when he finally made it out of BUD/S, he was sent on to Sniper school, where he learned to be a Sniper. He didn't want to be a Sniper, but what he learned there helped save his life in Afghanistan when he went on a mission that was only supposed to last for twelve hours, but instead lasted nine days. And he went on to become a teacher in the Sniper school and adapting its curriculum to suit the changing technology and times. While Webb is no longer a S.E.A.L., he has his own security firm and keeps in contact with the men he knew and taught. This book is an excellent account of not only Brandon Webb's life, but the things he learned, and what he experienced as a Sniper. The book is not only interesting for what he experienced, but what it's like to be a Sniper and the kind of professionalism they bring to the job. Highly recommended.

Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb- Eve Dallas has solved many crimes, but she's never had her life, or one of her cases, turned into a movie before. Until now. Nadine Furst's book on the Icove case is being made into a movie, and not only is Eve allowed on the set, but so is her assistant, Delia Peabody, and while the actress playing Eve is a big fan of her, but the actress playing Peabody: K.T. Harris, is kind of a bitch, so she doesn't make a good impression on either Eve or Peabody. But when she is found dead later that night at the home of the director, drowned in his rooftop pool, Eve has to decide who at the party is the murderer or murderess- among a group of actors and actresses who may be used to playing detectives, but not to being suspects. But when it seems that this isn't the first go round for the murderer, can Eve and Peabody figure out who is responsible and bring them to justice before more people end up dead? I loved this book and I loved Eve's reaction to the whole thing- the movie, the actress playing her, and the hero worship the actress and the others show towards her. It was excellent, and I didn't suspect the murderer being who it was until much later in the book. Excellent and Highly recommended.

What a Way to Go by Geoffrey Abbott- This book details man's inhumanity towards their fellow man in the cases of judicial torture and executions- starting out with execution by Axe and going all the way to the Death by the Twenty Four (not 1000) Cuts, the book covers all sorts of tortures, from the deadly to the merely painful, even some you may not think are deadly, like bastinado, or beating the soles of the feet- which can kill, if you pour boiling water over the wounds. But there are many other forms of torture as well, from sawing people in half to burning at the stake (in which, surprisingly, most of them were strangled before they were burned, rather than actually burned to death, and even the Diele, a sort of reverse Guillotine, where instead of the blade coming down to a block, the weight comes down to the blade, forcing the neck onto the blade and the blade through the muscle and bone. It's fascinating, if occasionally stomach-turning. But the worst was a deceptively short chapter titled "Burning from the Inside Out", which involves a red-hot iron thrust up where you would least like such a thing to go. If you have the stomach to read it, I highly recommend this book- just not at mealtimes.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

2012, Part 9

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost- Cat Crawfield is half-vampire, but hunts vampires, who she believes are all bad, to avenge her mother, who was raped by a vampire. But when she tries to take on the Master Vampire known as Bones, he defeats her easily despite her stronger than human strength and faster than human speed. But when he undertakes to train her to hunt vampires like he does, and with her help take down stronger vampires, can she overcome her prejudice against vampires, especially when she starts finding herself attracted to Bones? I loved this book, as it is unusual to see a Dhampir as the protagonist of a book, but Cat was raised to be a scourge of vampires, and its obvious that her mother only seems to love her when she is killing vampires, which seems a little twisted for me. But I loved Cat's character and how she changes and grows under Bones's tutelage. The way he is described seems to me to be like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with his appearance and cockney accent, but he's much deeper than that. I loved it and couldn't wait to read more. Highly recommended.

One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost- After the events of the first novel, Cat has gone to working for the government as a vampire slayer. But she only takes out vampires that they have proof that are killing humans. But when it becomes obvious that someone undead is gunning for Cat, she finds Bones coming back into her life, and along with her former lover, she has to figure out who is out to kill her, and face her team and her boss, who think that she killed Bones back when she first joined up with the government. But when the man behind the termination order is out of Cat's past, can she and Bones bring him to justice and save her life while killing the bad vampires, and reigniting their love? Another excellent book in the series, and it was nice to see Bones and Cat back together, as how they parted in "Halfway to the Grave" was kind of sad and maddening at the same time- it's nice to know she can't escape him forever. I loved how they sparked off each other and how they dealt with her lying to her boss, as well as the revelation over who was after Cat. Highly recommended.

At Grave's End by Jeaniene Frost- Despite having taken care of the man who was trying to kill her in the last book, Cat, now reconciled with her lover, Bones, has married him according to vampire society, and is planning their human wedding- against the wishes of her mother, who hates not only Bones, but all vampires. But someone is once again out to kill Cat, and Bones will have to ally with his Grandsire, Mancheres, to gain enough power to overcome the new threat to kill Cat. But why are people so anxious to kill her? And she is getting too well-known to remain in her job killing vampires for the government- too many people can recognize the "Red Reaper", so the agency decides to use another female vampire- with disastrous results. Can Cat keep off the two people wanting her dead, or will she have to defer to Bones, who wants to kill anyone whp tries to hurt her? And what does Mancheres have to do with their problems? Locked in a house in Canada, can Cat and Bones keep their friends and allies alive when their foe unleashes the grave upon them? It was a bit strange how all the villains seem to go after Cat when Bones is so much stronger than she is. But can it be that they are trying to take her out to somehow weaken him? It's a puzzle, but makes for a great story, because Cat will always want to be there in her own defense. Another great story, and Cat and Bones continue to grow in power and ability. Cat makes a new friend who promises to be quite... interesting for her. Highly recommended.

Destined for an Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost- Now a married couple in both senses of the word, Cat starts to have strange dreams where she is stalked by a strange vampire who denies that Bones is her husband. His name is Gregor, and his nickname is "The Dream Snatcher", as he can kidnap people from dreams and into reality. Cat doesn't want to go to Gregor and fights against him, but he insists that she is his wife, and that therefore she cannot have married Bones. And, as it turns out, he may be correct. As Bones tries to hold off Gregor from his assault on Cat, she discovers that she may have been lied to about her first encounter with a vampire, and that Gregor may have taken her virginity as well as her blood, before she ever met Bones. But when the truth comes out, it breaks her and Bones apart- but Cat still loves him and wants to deny Gregor. But when pictures catch Bones being unfaithful to her, can Cat deny her pain, rejoin with her former lover and kill Gregor without Bones dying or Cat being forced back into Gregor's arms? This book was quite a rollercoaster, with lots of ups and downs, and an ending that managed to be heartwarming and lovely as well as a relief. There may be more books to come in this series, and I hope there are, because I love Bones, love Cat and love all the secondary characters as well. Highly recommended, but read this series in order to get the most out of it.

First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost- Cat's best friend Denise MacGregor left Cat and Bones after her husband was killed with the assault on their home in "Grave's End". Now, she is living in Virginia, far away from any vampires and ghouls that she might know, but when her cousin is killed by a man who turns into a dog, she calls on the vampire known as Spade for help. Spade, who knew Bones when they were both convicts in Australia, lives his own life but remembers his interest in Denise quite well. So when her problem turns out to be a demon summoned by her ancestor who wants to find Nathaniel, the man who summoned him, he turns Denise into his pawn to make her find him- and threatens her parents and the remaining members of her family to get her to do so. Spade, who quickly finds himself attracted to Denise all over again, agrees to help her and goes out of his way to find out what happened to Nathaniel and track him down so Denise can be safe. But when he finds that the Demon-corrupted Denise's blood is now a drug known in vampire circles as "Red Dragon", he knows he must track down the source of "Red Dragon" to free Denise. But can he do so before the Demon catches up to her and kills her, or the other members of her family? I liked Denise from the original books, and this spin-off story was unusual in that Denise, at the beginning, is still grieving for her dead husband, but along the way, both characters find their emotions engaged with their new partner. I liked how they came together, and the ending, which fit Denise while giving her a whole new set of powers that brought her and Spade together in a new way. Another recommended book, but save this one until after you are finished with Grave's End or Destined for an Early Grave, as it takes place after both books.

Desire Untamed by Pamela Palmer- Kara MacAllister is a small town girl caring for her dying mother, but one night, a strange man shows up on her doorstep to take her away. Lyon is a feral, a man who can take on the form of a beast, in his case, a lion, and he needs Kara, in fact, all the ferals do, to be their Radiant, the one who holds their magic powers and keeps their beast selves from manifesting as more than just shapes. But Kara has been raised by humans and knows nothing at all about the ferals or their eternal foe, the mages. As Lyon works to educate her on her heritage, and bring out her powers of magic, the mages will do nothing to stop Kara from ascending to be the Radiant. But when Lyon comes to believe that Kara herself is a mage, can she defend herself without knowing anything about mages, except for their evil? And when it is revealed that the Feral known as Vhyper is Kara's destined mate, can the growing bond between Kara and Lyon survive the knowledge that he will never have her? While I liked the conceit that Kara was raised by humans and thus knows nothing about her heritage that was used to explain all the infodumping that went on in the series, the romance story itself went nothing beyond ordinary for me. In fact, the whole "Big misunderstanding threatens the love of the hero/heroine" just made it like hundreds of other romances I've read. And then there's "the man she is promised to as a mate is actually a huge prick" kind of thing that is just so rehashed I was sick of it. And Kara was appallingly passive beyond a few instances, waiting for the big misunderstanding to be cleared up rather than do anything about it herself. It just struck the wrong chord for me. Not recommended.

Bonds of Justice by Nalini Singh- Sophia Russo is a J-Psy, aw oman who can delve into the memories of psychopaths to see their worst deeds, remember the details, and transmit what she sees to other Psy. But the cost to the psyche of a J-Psy is immense, and they have a history of burning out and being rehabilitated- rebuilt from the ground up with no memory of who they were earlier. And Sophia, as loathe as she is to admit it, is very close to cracking. But when working a case with human Max Shannon, she discovers a connection to him and finds herself falling in love- just one more demonstration of how close she is to losing it all. But as she and Max track down a killer of Psy for Councillor Nikita Duncan, they must also deal with the serial killer known as Bonner, probing his psyche to discover where he hid the bodies of the women he killed. But when Bonner gets free, can Max find him and Sophia, the woman he loves, before Bonner claims her as another victim? I loved this book, and how the problem of Sophia's shields, not to mention the fact that she is minor anchor for the net and thus cannot ever leave it, was resolved, as well as the romance between Max and Sophia. Bonner gives off a real feeling of evil and makes a wonderful adversary for the two, both in psychic and physical terms. Recommended.

Devour by Melina Morel- Catherine Marais is a werewolf hunter, carrying on the tradition of her family. Ian Morgan is a vampire who loves her, but worries over her latest opponent: Pierre deMontfort, the last of the Montfort werewolves. The Montfort line has always been evil, killing and murdering the weak and helpless, but now Catherine, and her partner Paul DuJardin, finally have the opportunity to end the line that has caused so much death and destruction over the centuries. But also in New York City, where the final showdown will take place, is Paul's lover, Julie Buchanan, a college teacher of French and translator of Paul's latest book- not so coincidentally about the Montfort werewolves. They are there to kill Pierre deMontfort, but can they keep each other safe, not to mention their lovers, in the wake of a rapidly maturing werewolf whose evil and cunning are without peer? This story was okay, but it was really let down by the sex aspect of the book. I never felt that the sex scenes, which are rather blandly described and often described only in generalities, supported the rest of the story. It felt, to me, as though the author only included sex scenes because "Everyone else does so" and didn't really feel them when she was writing them. It makes the rest of the story feel bland and made the book into a letdown for me. Not recommended on the whole- the story is okay, but only okay, and the sex scenes feel flat, bland and uninspired.

Prey by Melina Morel- Vivian Roussel is a werecat of the Maine Coon line, and a descendant of a famous werecat named Krasivaya, who is revered as sort of a demigoddess. But when her and her brother's warehouse of Russian antiquities is broken into, and they are nearly kidnapped, they turn to fellow werecat Pavel Federov for assistance. He is of the Russian Blue line of werecats, and thus, not as trusted as someone in their own clan, but his security company is the best in the business, and thus he seems the perfect person to keep them safe. But the break-in turns out to be a cover for someone searching for a stolen Russian icon, the Virgin of Saratov, and the theft has put both Viv and her brother Marc at risk, add to that the murdered Hierarch of the Russian Blue clan, his duplicitous wife of the Siberian Forest Cat clan, and his bumbling brother, and the Hierarch of the Maine Coons, who has apparently gone crazy and started raping the female members of his clan, and Vivian finds herself at risk from people both inside and outside her clan. But when she begins a romance with Pavel, a big no-no to those who don't believe in mixing bloodlines, can he keep her safe and return the icon to the clan, many of whom hold it in special reverence? I was hoping this book, which covered the more primal and feral werecats, would be better than Devour, but once again, the sex scenes fell amazingly flat and let down the book. I felt nothing for the two main characters and their sex scenes didn't seem all that sexy at all. A major disappointment. I will not be reading this author again. Not recommended at all.

Kiki de Montparnasse by Catel and Bouqet- is a graphic novel of the life of famed model and artist Alice Prin, who met many of the famed artists and sculptors in the 20's and 30's. The graphic novel follows her life from her birth, to living with her grandmother, to when she went to live with her mother, showing short excerpts of her life as a model when her high spirits and refusal to be put down made her get fired from all the jobs she tried, and eventually living life as a model for the Dadaist and surrealist painters, only to settle down with photographer Man Ray for a time. But sadly for Kiki, her living as a bon vivant meant she became addicted to drugs and drinking- not even a stint in prison could wean her off her addiction, and when the war was over, she swelled up like a bloated frog from dropsy. Sadly, Kiki passed away amidst a time when she should have been happy, and those who knew her were all there at her funeral. The graphic novel concludes with biographies of Kiki and those she knew. Well, it's an interesting story, and much more readable for being in graphic novel form. It's sad that the war years were sort of glossed over, but the story of her life is rich and compelling to read. Recommended.

Vermonia: Volume 6- To the Pillar of Wind by Yoyo- The friends decide to become proactive in dealing with the forces of General Uro, and split up into three seperate attack forces to free the people Uro's warriors have enslaved, break into his castle and possibly free their friend Satorin, and to go the Pillar of the Wind, where Uro's forces must attack to ensure their control over Vermonia. But the Satorin-like creature Satoran is waiting along each path, trying to lead the warriors astray and defeat them. Can they overcome the deceptions of Satoran and free the Vermonians from Uro and his warriors? We seem to be getting to a climax, but the story could continue to go on again and again. Satoran is revealed as a tricksy little bugger, but the other warriors appear to be wise to her tricks. Not a bad volume, but it seemed inconclusive to me. I am wanting this series to end soon, as it seems to be more and more stretched out in story. I wish manga creators would sometimes remember that brevity is both the soul of wit and can enliven their stories to prevent them from engendering fan fatigue. Recommended, but only slightly.

Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce- Digger is a thief living on the streets of Gerse who has come into possession of incriminating letters. Chased by the Greenmen for possessing the letters and papers, she takes shelter with a bunch of nobles sailing down the river on a boat belonging to the family of one of the nobles. She passes herself off as Celyn Contrare, a girl fleeing the Daughters of Celys, a order who serves the city's only Goddess. Taken up by one of the noblewomen as a handmaiden, Celyn promises to keep the girl safe, which she later comes to understand will be harder than it seems, as the girl has magic and is thus sacred to the Goddess Sar, whp the Celys-worshipping Greenmen regard as a heretic and a witch. But in order to keep Lady Merista safe, Celyn will have to deal with a blackmailing noble, a Prince whose own brother would kill him, and a group of Inquisitors who want to kill Merista. But can even her own thiefly skills keep herself and Merista safe? And what will she be forced to do to keep her word to Merista's cousin? I loved this book, because it starts out throwing you right into the story, and it is first in the series. It starts with Digger on the run, and gives only a few details of what happened before the book, yet manages to really draw you not only into the story, but into the world completely. Within a chapter, you are rooting for Digger/Celyn to make it out of her mess alive and safe, and then the story *really* kicks into high gear. With a strong female heroine, this book is a real delight to read. Celyn is not only physically and mentally strong, she's emotionally strong and brave as well. Highly recommended.

Liar's Moon by Elizabeth C. Bunce- With Merista finally safe on her own, Celyn returns to Gerse to scout out the situation for Prince Weirolf and to see if she can incite a popular rebellion in his name and on his behalf. However, one night, she is apprehended by the Greenmen and thrown into a cell with Durrel Decath, the same man who asked her to watch over his cousin for him. It seems Durrel is in jail for murdering his wife, a cold bitch of a woman who married him only for the connections he would bring her. She was murdered after a quarrel between them and a phial of the poison used to kill her was found in his room. He maintains his innocence, but his wife's son believes Durrel was the murderer, and someone wants the truth found. Celyn agrees to investigate the murder, but it seems that everyone believes he did it, even his own father! But can Celyn find the truth, and what does it have to do with helping Sarists flee the city? This advances the story of Celyn Contrare, formerly known as Digger, but the ending lets us know there is at least one story about her still to come. An intriguing look at war and spying in a fantasy universe, with magic and murder intertwined. Highly recommended.

Untouched by Sara Humphries- Kerry Smithson is a model who has been unable to touch other people for all of her life, as doing so causes her incredible pain. Her friend, Samantha, the only person she can bear to touch, is getting married, and that means that Kerry is going to lose her only friend. But Sam, who recently discovered she is a member of the Amoveo race, a race with ties to animals, knows that Kerry is under threat from those who would kill her because she, like Sam, is only half Amoveo and thus anathema to many who believe the Amoveo should remain pure-blooded. Dante Coltari, friend to Sam's husband, is assigned to Kerry to protect her, but Kerry wants none of his protection. Even when she realizes that she can touch Dante, like Sam, without feeling pain. But will she believe Dante when he tells her of her heritage, and can he keep them both safe from a killer who would like nothing more than to lock him into his animal form forever, and kill Kerry before she can learn her clan? I didn't read the first book in the series, but I enjoyed this book a lot, and the series has real potential to be something to look forward to. Recommended.

Lust Bites by Kristina Lloyd, Portia DaCosta and Mathilde Madden is a series of three novellas about love with a vampire. Vampire's Heart has a woman loved by a vampire, but also killed by him, reborn into a human body at last. But when she and the members of a Polar Expedition fall into a trap set by her former lover and his friends, can she stay alive, or will he end up killing her all over again? Buddies Don't Bite has a virginal vampire falling in love with his human roommate. But can she overcome his mental powers to remember that she loves him, too, or will his constant tampering with her memory make her hate him? Under Her Skin has a human woman who is daughter to two of the foremost vampire slayers in the world having to stay with a vampire to get an antidote to the poison killing her father. But when the vampire turns out to be nothing like what she expected, and she finds out that her own parents have lied to her, will she put her sympathies with them or with him? Well, sort of liked the last story, but all of them had the same problems- I had trouble believing in the relationships between the characters. I didn't feel that the characters actually felt anything for each other- the relationships seemed chill and lifeless. Sex happens, yes, and can be hot, but for me it was nothing when I couldn't feel the connections between the characters. Not recommended at all, the opposite of sexy.

 Lord of the Night by Robin T. Popp- Erik Winslow is a vampire, but he isn't able to prevent a vampire from killing two of his friends and fellow vampire slayers. Their daughter, Kacie Renault, hates the vampires for what they did and becomes a slayer herself, trained by Erik. But when she finds out that he is one of those things she hates, she intends to leave him behind forever and become an accountant. Only her imminent move to the US to be with her fiancĂ© makes her return to Erik's castle to retrieve her belongings. But when a vampire in town is killed by Kacie, it reignites a blood feud between Erik and a former friend, who demands he turn Kacie over for justice. Can Erik bear to turn Kacie over to be killed, and will Kacie kill more vampires to spite him? Or will she discover that Erik is not so bad as she feared? I wound up liking this book, and the author misleads us for quite some time so that the readers won't cotton on to the true plot. Still, it was no more than interesting, and not much interesting at that, for most of the book. I rate this one a "Meh".