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.

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