Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012, Part 12

Born of Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Darling Cruel is a member of the most hated royal family in the world, and he is the most hated of them all. But in reality, his uncle is the only one who lives up to the name, and who slew Darling's father to gain the throne. But Darling, who is known as a gay man, isn't, actually. He's just posing as one to cover up his mother's many lovers, even though this has caused him to be both hated and scorned. But he also masquerades as Kere, the second in command of the Resistance that is fighting against his uncle, while he is in disguise. He can't legally fight his uncle until he's 26, but he's found a loophole in the rules. He just needs to get the rest of his family to safety, and he will do it. But when he prepares to flee with his sister, he is captured by the same Resistance he is part of, and without his disguise, nobody recognizes him. The members of the Resistance take him and torture him, and it isn't until he is just about to be rescued by his friends, that the woman he loves, the Leader of the Resistance, discovers who he really is, when one of the men shows her a ring he tried to protect, and she recognizes it as belonging to her mother. Freed by her friends, they slaughter the Resistance, take Zarya hostage, and try to put Darling back together. But when Darling is finally free to take care of his uncle, he goes completely crazy. Can bringing Zarya back to him restore his mind and calm his rage? or will he take revenge on her, thinking that she betrayed him to the men who tortured him?And can Zarya convince him she had nothing to do with what her men did? And can her love save him from an eternity of rage and madness? I liked this series. Sherrilyn Kenyon still sort of overplays the trope of "How abused can I make this hero's past?", but plenty of abuse occurs in the present, and most of the abuse-worthy stuff occurs because the hero offers himself up as a sacrifice to protect others. I liked how he was able to hold himself back from being cruel to everyone, and that the ending showed what kind of man he truly was. I enjoyed the ending more than reading some of the torture parts, but this was a good book. Recommended.

Local Custom by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller- Er Thom yos'Galan is being commanded by his mother to marry, but he cannot forget the Terran woman who had become his lover. He agrees to marry, but asks leave to take care of something before he meets his new bride. When his brother goes to give him leave, he goes to find Anne Davis and tell her he loves her- only to find she has given birth to s aon- his son, which she has named Shan yos'Galan, in deference to him as the father. But faced with a son of his body, Er Thom must take Shan back to Liad to introduce Shan to his delm and thodelm, the heads of his clan. Unfortunately, she doesn't see it in quite his way, and the local custom that each of them expects is wildly different. Can Er Thom convince Anne he loves only her and wants to be with only her, or will his mother, who doesn't want a Terran in her family, either as Er Thom's bride or the mother of his son, contrive to end their relationship? When Anne's work as a linguist threatens her life and the life of her son, can Er Thom track her down and save her from those who would kill her to conceal the truth that she has found concerning the origins of the Liaden and Terran languages? This book was a delight to read, showing us Shan yos'Galan's parents and how they nearly didn't get married because each didn't know how to deal with or react to the local customs of the other. I loved Anne and Er Thom together, and how they finally overcame all obstacles to be with each other was simply wonderful. Er Thom's mother was such a bitch- even though she wanted the best for the family, she tried to do it in a way that ran roughshod over everyone else, because of her own frailties and problems. Excellently done and a joy to read. Highly recommended.

Commedia Della Morte by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro- Saint-Germain found the love of his life in Madelaine de Montalia, but when she became a vampire like him, he had to give her up to run her own life. Now, thanks to the French Revolution, Madelaine's life is in danger- because she was a noblewoman, no matter how well she treated her servants, the Committees of Correspondence would have her die to finish purging the nobles of the Revolution. When she is detained in her home by soldiers, she sends her current lover, Theron Heurer, to Saint Germain with a plea for help and rescue. And Saint Germain has an idea on how to rescue Madelaine, but he will need the help of his own current lover, Photine, the leader of a Commedia del Arte troupe. But her son, Enee, has become dangerously jealous of Sant-Germain, and on the long sojourn in France, his enmity rises to a dangerous head, it may endanger all their lives... I love the Saint-Germain books, and it was nice to see him go to rescue Madelaine de Montalia. It shows that Vampires don't always make good choices, and that their lovers are not always well chosen, as by the end, both have been abandoned by their human lovers, but find solace in each other. Highly recommended.

Dorchester Terrace by Anne Perry- Thomas Pitt is now the head of Special Branch, having taken over from his friend and former boss, Victor Narraway. But Aunt Vespasia Cumming-Gould has a friend whose past life may tie into a horrible plot that could endanger English-Austrian relations, and endanger her own life. Serafina Monserrat was a revolutionary when she was younger, and her own knowledge of secrets terrifies her as she moves into her twilight years, as she sometimes no longer remembers where she is or who she is talking to. But when she turns up dead of a Laudnaum overdose she couldn't possibly have taken herself, even by accident, who is responsible for her death? And what might it have to do with Austrian-English relations and the possibile assassination of the scholarly Duke Alois of Hungary, and why does Tregarron, the boss of Thomas's brother-in-Law Jack, seem so dismissive of the idea? Is it because he doesn't trust Pitt, who is new to his position, or is there a deeper, darker reason for his distrust? As plots abound, Pitt, Charlotte and Narraway must work to discover the truth, and keep England, and themselves, safe. This book was quite a bit different for the other novels in this series. In the other books, Pitt has always been sure of his place, and sure he had superiors to back him up. But now, it seems that's no longer the case- he's the head of Special Branch, and everything rests on his shoulders alone. But does he have the knowledge and expertise to solve the case? I love how this mixed family tensions with Pitt's work and how the different jobs of Pitt and Jack caused tension between Charlotte and her sister Emily, and I always love Vespasia Cumming-Gould, who is simply awesome for an old Victorian lady. Highly recommended and enjoyable.

Tiger's Voyage by Colleen Houck- Kelsey may have won Ren back from Lokesh, but he no longer remembers their love or their romance, and no matter how hard she tries to bring back his memories by making him his favorite cookies she bakes, he not only doesn't remember her, but is actively hurt by touching her. Kelsey tries not to get hurt by it, but when he tells her to forget him and starts looking for love with another girl, Kelsey is pushed right into the arms of Ren's brother, Kishan. It's only when she, Ren, Kishan, Mr. Kadam and Nilima set off on another voyage by sea to retrieve another thing for the goddess Durga to help Ren and Kishan break their curse that Ren finally regains his memories when he sees Kelsey kissing Kishan, and he tells her he was responsible for giving up his memories to try and keep her safe. But Kelsey has been too hurt by Ren, and even though she is angry with him, she is determined not to give in to love with him again. Her problem is that her love for Kishan is a safe and comfortable thing, while her love for Ren is an all-consuming fire. But as they face off against five celestial dragons to retrieve Durga's necklace, can Ren win Kelsey back or will Lokesh, who now wants Kelsey for himself, steal her away before either brother can win her completely? This was another really excellent adventure, but I found all the back and forthing with the romance subplot to be more than a little... tiring. It reminded me a lot of Twilight, and that isn't a good thing. But generally, the adventure made up for that, and I am really hoping the next book is the last. You'll enjoy meeting the various dragons, and my two favorites were the last two- the gold dragon, who controls all the wealth and riches of the world, and the crystal/white Dragon, who pretends to be fearsome, but is actually the nicest of them all. Recommended.

Wolf Who Rules by Wen Spencer- Tinker, the human girl who has been changed into an elf and married to the leader of the elven enclave near the City of Pittsburgh, is back in this book. Pittsburgh has been dragged into the Elven lands/dimension/world, and the gate is blocked because three different worlds are pressing on it simultaneously- the human world, the elven world, and the world of the Oni. Now, monsters are coming from the Oni world, including a Dragon, and endangering Pittsburgh and the humans entrapped there. The elven response is to go after all the Oni and kill them, including half-oni children which are the product of an intermarriage with humans. But a Dragon from the Elven lands has also showed up, and Tinker must deal with her new, elven sensibilities and culture, and her growing feelings for Pony, one of her guards. She feels she is being disloyal to Windwolf, her husband, for her feelings, but unbeknownst to her, Elves have quite a different conception of what guards are there for. But as Tinker continues to dream about the Wizard of Oz, and a contingent of Elves from the Stone and Fire clans descend on the area to fight back an invasion by the Oni, Tinker must reconnect with her mother, now an astronaut on the orbiting part of the gate, and find a way to bring the gate back to earth, reopen the gate to the human part of Earth, and save the Tengu, who have been enslaved by the Oni, as well as keep her husband and the entire city safe. But can she do it before the Oni Dragon, and the Oni, come through and kill them all? I liked this book. I loved the first book, Tinker, and i honestly thought it was a stand-alone book, so to see this made me squeal in glee, a little. I love how Tinker works, and I loved finding out bits about the Elves, and reading more about all the characters I read in the original book. In short, this book was practically perfect, and I loved it. The only place where it failed to be utterly perfect was... now I want to read more with these characters. Highly recommended, and utterly involving.

The Magistrates of Hell by Barbara Hambly- James Asher and his wife, Lydia, have come to Peking, China to track down the new kind of vampires with James's mentor, the vampire Hunter known as Solomon Karlebach. But they are not alone in the city, as their former vampire companion, Don Simon Ysidro is also in the city, undertaking the same task. But when a young woman is killed at a diplomatic party, the father of the Young man suspected of killing her, a former classmate of Asher, asks him to find the real killer, or at least, someone who he can blame to take the suspicion off his own son. But as Ysidro and Asher investigate the problem of the new kind of vampires, he finds that Karlebach may have deeper secrets than even James knows, and his investigations into the killing of the girl uncover a murderer hiding in the diplomatic quarter. But when Lydia is kidnapped by a criminal syndicate backed by a real vampire to protect the new vampires, because they wish to exploit them themselves, James will have to protect his wife, save Ysidro, and bring down a criminal syndicate to ensure that he is able to leave Peking with his life and reputation intact. I always love Barbara Hambly's mysteries, and I have loved James Asher ever since reading "Those Who Hunt the Night" many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though there weren't many sympathetic characters besides James and his family. Recommended.

Point of Knives by Melissa Scott- After the events of Point of Hopes, Nicolas Rathe and Phillip Eslingen are drawn into another mystery, this involving the slaying of a man and his son both known to be pirates, within a few blocks of each other on the same night. Grandad Steen was retired from the business, being too old for it now, and his son was still a sometimes sailor. His grandson is sailing now, and due back in Astreiant at any time. But Phillip Eslingen is found standing over the body of Grandad Steen's son, and says he was there to meet the son for his employer, Hanselin Caiazzo, over a matter of some gold- ever since the events of the summer, Caiazzo has been strapped for cash, which doesn't bother Rathe one bit, but Grandad Steen's son was about to make a deal with Caiazzo to get him the gold that he needed. But it seems that Caiazzo isn't the only one who needs that gold, or thinks that it should be theirs. With the return of Grandad Steen's grandson, a woman comes out of the works, claiming to be Grandad Steen's new wife, and she has a valid marriage certificate, but his grandson never met her and doesn't know who she is, and says his grandfather wasn't looking to marry, and wouldn't remarry. But the gold is foreign, and may have some of the same powers that alchemical gold does, and may be being sought for the same reason- to bring down the government of Astreiant, either from without or within, Can Nicolas and Phillip find the parties behind the killings, bring them to justice, and find the chest of Gold that Grandad Steen hid and make it safe for the city before someone decides to kill them as well? Or will the forces of chaos prevail? I loved this book, and I loved this series, which may not continue now that Melissa scott's co-writer has passed on. But I did love this book, even though it's rather small- and much more explicit about the relationship between the two main characters. I loved the mystery, and I'd love to see more, so I hope this isn't the end of the stories about Astreiant or these two characters. Highly recommended.

Stupid American History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness and Mythconceptions by Leland Gregory is a series of factoids about people, places and events in American History, some of which are really, patently stupid, but most of which are simply amusing, like how Andrew Jackson never kissed a baby during his term of Presidency. When handed a baby to kiss, he handed it over to his Secretary of War. It debunks stories that aren't true (when asked about his supposed response to one of his cabinet about Ulysses S. Grant being a drunk, and President Lincoln saying if he could find out what Grant drank, he'd have a case of it delivered to ALL his generals, Lincoln said he'd never said it), and little known historical facts- During the wild west Era, Tucson Arizona had 3000 people, two doctors, a newspaper, a brewery and several saloons, but only one bathtub. As for stupidity. it's there, too, with anecdotes about how the builder of the Empire State Building wrote an article in the Ladies Home Journal called "Everyone should be rich", two months before the Stock Market crashed, setting off the great depression. I found this book to be funny and amusing and occasionally let me know something I didn't before. It's not a really deep book, but it is fun, and it's something you can read in stages, a few pages a day or so, as it's a bit of a chore to read straight through. But if you're looking for something amusing, this book has you covered. Recommended.

Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter by Joe Maguire- Ann Coulter is a well known right wing pundit who is famous for unleashing scathing attacks on the left, liberals and anyone that catches her ire. But who is she; really, and where is she coming from with her attacks? This book traces Ann's history, and the attacks she has made on everything from Planned Parenthood to 9/11 Widows (who she said were dancing on their murdered husband's graves at the thought of receiving the money they were owed) and most especially, Bill Clinton (numerous lies, almost too numerous to mention). She also has a hate on for other women (You shouldn't vote and should just stay home), Atheists and Non-Christians (you are all going to hell), Planned Parenthood (who want to promote abortions) and others. This book provides proof of when and where she made all those attacks, and why she was wrong, with extensive footnotes. Reading this book was a real eye-opener. I know a lot of conservatives swear by her, and the titles of her books certainly rub me the wrong way, as well as the jokes people use when talking about her (Ann the Man, Mann Coulter), but this was a look at what she says, and s well as being eye-opening, it's also stomach-turning. If you don't already like Ann Coulter, this book provides great information on what she says and how she gets it wrong. And if you do, you can always check out the attribution list and see if the author got it wrong for yourself. Highly recommended.

Soulless: Ann Coulter and the Right-Wing Church of Hate by Susan Estrich- In addition to her scathing attacks on other people, one of the most frequent comments about Ann Coulter is how she has lowered the level of discourse in this country by her out and out attacks, becoming the High Priestess of Hate for the nastiness and scorn she has unleashed on her opponents and those she disagrees with. This book shows Ann in all her unmitigated hatred, and while she may not have unleashed the tide of hate and nastiness in this country, she has done little to stop it or stem the tide. And how does she get away with it? Much like Sarah Palin, nobody really objects on her side because she is a woman and a lot of men seem to think she is good-looking. But sadly, looks are only on the outside, while ugly goes to the bone. And we get to see a lot of the ugly side of Ann Coulter here, and I, personally, think her looks are highly overrated. Another excellent book pointing out where Ann gets it wrong and her incredible nastiness towards anyone who disagrees with her. Even when they are correct and she is not. Another eye-opening book that shows why looks shouldn't prevail over substance. Highly recommended.

Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio with Michael Malice- A Concierge is a service offered by high-end hotels. If you need to know where to go for dinner, the best place for steak, or need a helicopter to take you from New York City to Atlantic City for some high-stakes gambling, they are the one who can make it happen. Michael Fazio started out in the Entertainment Industry, and found he was better at getting his boss what she needed and even enjoyed making it happen. So after bailing out of the film industry and spending some time as a lounge singer on a cruise line, he got a job at the Intercontinental Hotel and became a Concierge. This book shows how he learned on the job and some of the people- good, bad and indifferent, he had to deal with during the course of the job. He also showed how he worked and how he did what he did, and how you can do it, too (well, if you have the same contacts he does). I liked this book because he showed how that service happens and what it takes to do that kind of job. This was an unusual book, and I liked it a lot. Reading it was amusing and entertaining, and showed how hard it is to do the job right. Highly recommended, and the stories in this one are the best.

Crimes of Passion: An Unblinking Look at Murderous Love by Howard Engel- This book is a look at crimes of passion committed by men and women throughout history- specifically a look at 25 different cases where love led to death, everything from Dr. Hawley Crippen to Lorena Bobbit to OJ Simpson. A look at why these murders happened and why their trials either led to a conviction or acquittal, and the changing attitudes towards crimes of passion that these outcomes showed. This book was fascinating at first, but in the end, it became kind of a slog to read, even with the trial details. More interesting was reading the outcomes and how it showed changing attitudes towards women and crimes of passion. Recommended, but it can be boring.

FairyTail Volumes 16-20 by Hiro Mashima- Back from their last mission, Lucy and Natsu worry over the Master of the Fairy Tail Guild. Thankfully, he will make it, and after the Fantasia Festival, Natsu, Lucy, Erza and Gray are sent to make contact with the members of three other guilds: Hibi, Eve, Ren and the Guildmaster, Ichiya of the Blue Pegasus guild, Lyon, Jura and Sherry of the Lamia Scale Guild, and the child, Wendy, of the Cait Shelter Guild to take out the Dark Guilds. But Wendy is not alone- she is followed by Carla, a talking Cat like Happy. The Dark Guilds are talking about something called Fantasia, and The Oracion Seis are teaming up to find it. But first, they must revive Jellal, the dark magician and former friend of Erza, who tried to destroy the world, as only he knows where Fantasia is. And only Wendy has the power to Revive him, as she can heal literally anything. And she was also rescued by Jellal, so she has a reason to bring him back. But when he is revived, he can't remember anything, except that the Fantasia is evil and must be destroyed, but the leader of the Oracion Seis sends the city that is part of Fantasia heading towards the guild of Cait Shelter. But why? What is so important about the Cait Shelter Guild, and what does that mean for Wendy? Afterwards, Wendy joins the Fairy Tail Guild, and we discover why Claudia can talk, like Happy, and who she is. But when they travel to another dimension to get the guild back, can they prevail on a world with no magic? This was an engaging arc, and I found myself glad I could read the entire thing at once, back to back. I enjoyed the story, and while it occasionally got Dragonball-esque, being able to read the entire thing in one go actually made me happier than having to spread it out over days or weeks (or even months). I like what happened with and to Jellal and the details of the Cait Shelter Guild and why it existed. The new Arc that is starting also promises to be entertaining, but I am going to wait until it's complete before reading it. Recommended.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

2011, Part 3

Making Mead, Metheglin, Hippocras, Melomel, Pyment, Cyser by Bryan Acton and Peter Duncan- Mead is an alcoholic drink made primarily from fermenting honey. This book discusses the history and making of Mead in both history and today, with recipes and hints on bottling and drinking it, as well as changes to the recipe that can drastically alter the taste, Melomel adds fruit juice to the mead and Hippocras, Metheglin, Pyment and Cyser are other honey-based drinks, not distilled or fermented. The book is old, published originally in the late 50's or early 60's, but has plenty of tips and recipes to try, so if you are interested in making these sorts of drinks, this book is an invaluable companion. Highly recommended.

Vodou by Manuela Dunn Mascetti traces the origins of Vodou as a belief system, from African slaves who combined their pagan beliefs with Catholic beliefs in saints and the various great spirits, such as Ghede, Ezili, Damballa and Baron Samdi. It's a very short and tiny book but packed with information and excellently researched. Recommended.

The Book of Hard Words by David Bramwell- There's often a word for that, but it's usually little known and less used. David Bramwell digs out these words for us to see and learn, everything from Callipygean (possessing a firm pair of buttocks), Mellifluous (flowing like honey, used to describe tones of speech most usually), Coprolalia (excessive cursing) and so on. The book is divided into three sections: hard words, harder words and hardest words, with the words getting successively more obscure and less used. With pictures illustrating the original greek and latin roots of many of the words and clear, concise definitions, this is a book for Logophiles (people who love words). I loved the book, but I already knew and used most of the hard and harder words, and people who are familiar with Greek and Latin roots will be able to suss out what the words mean even if they have never heard a word in context. So if you feel like abusing pusillanimous pissants on the sly, or just want to quiet the coprolalia that is chat in most modern first person shooters, this book can help, Or, as the saying goes in the South, tell them to go to hell in such a way as to make them look forward to the trip! Highly recommended.

Word Histories and Mysteries from the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries- Probes the histories of words, everything from "Abracadabra" (an ancient Persian incantation meant to make things disappear, like disease or trouble) to zither, which comes from the Latin Cithara and the Greek Kithara, and has connections to the modern word guitar. Not only are unusual words profiled, but so are ones like "Meat", which has its roots in mete, or "what was considered good" and forms words like Sweetmeat (candy) and Nutmeat (the edible portion of a nut). The book is not exceptionally large, but packs a lot of information into its pages, enlivened with the occasional picture. Finding out the history and meaning of such words is wonderful, and those who love language and words (like me) will find this book endlessly fascinating. Recommended.

In Too Deep: Book One of the Glasslight Trilogy by Jayne Ann Krentz- Fallon Jones is a member of the famous Jones family which is the preeminent family in the Arcane Society. Once a researcher in his family's business, Fallon took over Jones and Jones, the family detective agency, and moved its headquarters to Scargill Cove, California. There, he lives a lonely existence that suits him just fine... until Isabella Valdez shows up in town and gets a job at the agency. Isabella is used to living a nomadic existence, but recently, she stumbled on a conspiracy that left her in deep, deep trouble, with men willing to kill her. Jones and Jones is her last resort for sanctuary, and she only knows about it because of her missing grandmother, who may have been "disappeared" by the men after her. But can Fallon help her with her problems? And when she and Fallon stumble on a clock with preternormal powers hidden inside its glass, can the two of them find out who or what is behind the dangerous curiosity and keep each other safe? Or will either Isabella's pursuers or the glass artifacts bring them down? Fallon Jones was a bit of a non-starter for me. He's more antisocial and standoffish than other heroes I have liked in the past, but I loved how Isabella quickly got inside his prickly skin and made him want to be a better man, and change, for her. As for Isabella, she was pretty awesome in her own way, and I liked the reveal of who she and her family were, and the ending with her grandmother. In the end, I loved the story and by the end, I wished I could be reading more. I like the Jones and Jones stories, but I am sad that this seems to be the last one for a while. Highly recommended.

The Othello Response: Conquering Jealousy, Betrayal and Rage in Your Relationship by Doctor Kenneth C. Ruge and Barry Lenson-A normal reaction to betrayal of a relationship is anger,even rage, and, of course, sadness. But some people, either because of growing up under a parenting relationship that was betrayed, or from being betrayed themselves, have an over the top, extreme reaction. They may believe betrayal is inevitable in all relationships, that one sex is completely unable to be faithful, or so on. Some may even go on to kill a spouse they believe is being unfaithful, just like Othello did to Desdemona. And it doesn't even matter if the other is being unfaithful or not- in the perceptions of the one with the Othello response, they are, no matter what the truth is. And there is no hope of getting them to accept otherwise. But if you are tired of being locked into the same sort of relationships, you can work on your trust issues and overcome them, and this book can help you see where you need to change. I found this book both disturbing and helpful, because many of the behaviors described are almost textbook abusive behaviors right down to abusing your partner, but seeing the abuse as wholly their fault in the "Look what you made me do/look how you made me act" kind of way, which I find downright scary. Recommended.

A Hard Day's Knight: A Novel of the Nightside by Simon R, Green- John Taylor, new voice of the Authorities in Nightside, has inherited that singular sword, Excalibur, and something needs to be done with it. But when he goes to see the Knights Templar at their home in London Proper, he finds himself in the midst of a war to reclaim Excalibur and also by the elves of Queen Mab against the humans. But even with his avility to find literally anything, can John Taylor find a way to end the war and bring peace between the humans and elves, and deal with the truth of King Arthur being reborn? And can he help Arthur save the dying race of the elves before they end up killing the humans and their own brethren over a war of misplaced priorities? Is there a better way, or will this be the end of Nightside on John Taylor's watch? I liked this novel. I love the Nightside series- the novels are not too long but are packed with story and characters that are both strikingly alien and strikingly human at the same time. I liked Simon Green's playing with the whole Arthur returned and Knights of the Round Table myths, and the elves at the same time. If you have liked any of the Nightside novels, this is just another excellent one in a string of them, and if you haven't, this isn't the best place to start the series, but get reading... Highly recommended.

A Prince Among Frogs by E.D. Baker- Princess Millie, the Princess who can turn into a Dragon, and her dragon Fiance Audun, who can turn into a man, are finally engaged and looking forward to becoming married, when her younger brother is stolen from the Castle, sending the entire family searching for him, far and wide. It turns out that Prince Felix was captured by a sorceror named Olebald, and Millie and Audun and the ones they love will have to call on all their cunning and magic after they find out that Olebald turned Felix into a frog and threw him into the swamp. But even if they can recover him, Olebald has taken over the castle while they were gone and is using his magic to hold it hostage. Can Millie, Audun and the others recover Prince Felix, restore the castle, and make peace among their squabbling relatives before the big day? And can Millie's more close-minded relatives accept a Dragon into the family as a son-in-law? I really enjoyed this book, it was the final frisson of frosting on the cake in Millie and Audun's romance, and while E.D. Baker seems to not have written a sequel so far, I hope we read more about Millie and her family in years to come. Highly recommended, both as a book and a series.

World of Warcraft: The Shattering- Prelude to Cataclysm by Christie Golden- The world of Warcraft is split into many major races, but only two major factions, the Alliance, composed of the "Good" races, and the Horde, made up of what is perceived to be the "Evil" races, like Orcs, Trolls, Kobolds and so on. These two main factions have been at each others throats for years. But now something is coming that threatens them both, but can they put aside their entrenched hatred to work with each other to prevent it? As each ruler for each faction is pulled in separate paths- Thrall of the Horde is called away to Outland to discover how to heal the land and what is calling the elemental spirits away from the Shamans, leaving the younger, more impetuous Orc known as Garrosh in charge of the Horde. And Varian Wrynn's son Anduin, who is very unlike his warlike father, is sent to the Dwarves to learn from them. But as the time passes for each of them, Garrosh's missteps lead the horde closer to fracturing as a group, and Anduin is caught up in a political war among two factions of the Dwarves. And as the world comes closer to Cataclysm, can Aduin survive the Dwarven Mines as Thrall finds competition and love in Outland. Will the Horde be able to survive as a group until he returns? And can Anduin survive under the depths when even the Dwarves around him are dying? Lots of people love Warcraft, from the original strategy games to the MMORPG behemoth it has become. I have to confess, I have never actually played any of it, but read the comics and some of the manga that has been released for it, and to be honest, there is a LOT of lore associated with the game. This book was released shortly before the world was forever changed from how it had been at the start of the MMORPG, and it tells the story from multiple perspectives. A lot of it seems a little strange, like how Varian Wrynn is supposed to be the titular leader of the Alliance, the good guys, and yet, he's a jerk. Thrall, on the other hand, the leader of the "Bad" guys, comes of as a much better leader, stronger and wiser than Varian, but his idea of giving Garrosh an idea of what it's like to lead the Horde by actually letting him do so comes off as terminally misguided, even if he is a wiser and more honorable leader than the Human Varian. That being said, the book is enjoyable look at the story events behind and leading up to the cataclysm, and made me root for both sides (not Varian, though.) Recommended.

Primal by Lora Leigh, Michelle Rowen, Jory Strong, and Ava Gray explore Primal needs and characters who have a touch of animal or vampire inside them. Bleeding Heart by Michelle Rowen follows Jill, a girl whose blood can now kill vampires because of a failed experiment, and pairs her with Declan Reyes, a half-vampire Dhampir who has become her protector. Because the problem with her blood is also killing her, Jill seeks help from a scientist who says he can help her. But when the man turns up dead, can Jill and Declan escape the ensuing chaos without giving into their feelings for each other, which could kill them both? Skin and Bone by Ava Gray follows SIlas, a normal human with some very abnormal powers that set him apart from other people. But when he meets fellow agent Juneau in Ecuador, can he find love with a woman who won't judge him for what he is? Angel Claimed by Jory Strong follows Sajia, a human servant to a vampire family who is looking for Corinne, a young woman of the family who has disappeared, But when she encounters Addai, an angel, who commits the ultimate sin as they work together- falling in love with her. But can they find a way to let their love, and their lives, survive? Primal Kiss by Lora Leigh is a tale of the breeds, bred in a lab to be part human, part animal. Phillip Brandenmore, one of the architects of the Breed has done something to the adopted daughter of Breed Leader Callan Lyons. He sends Creed Raines, a wolf breed who is bodyguard to Kita Claire Engalls, to see if they can discover what Brandenmore did, both to himself, and to the child. But Breed, who wants to bring down the human monster as much as anyone, is beginning to suspect that Kita may be his mate, even if she only sees him as a thorn in her side and a chain around her ankle. But can they discover what Brandenmore did before it kills either Brandenmore or the child they all love? I only really knew the Breeds before I picked up this novel, and while I found the other stories interesting, I didn't really get sucked into their worlds as much as I did the Lora Leigh story. For some of the stories, like Angel-Claimed, did make me want to read more in that universe, but the best story in this novel was Primal Kiss, and the others I found rather more forgettable. Recommended, but not highly.

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandreth- Everyone who is anyone is invited to the party given by the Duke and Duchess of Abermarle, including Oscar Wilde and his friend Arthur Conan Doyle. There is even a young actor who either believes, or is just saying, that he is a vampire. Even the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward Victor. But when the Duchess is found dead in the telephone room, two pinprick wounds in her throat with evidence of blood dripping from them, suspicion falls on the vampire actor. But with Prinny involved, the Prince asks Oscar Wilde to investigate the crime and discover the true culprit, no matter who they may be. Unfortunately for Oscar, rumors about vampires and the true murderer swirl through society, impelled by the guests at the party. But is the murderer really a vampire, or is a more human, less prosaic murderer to blame for the death of the Duchess? I really like this series. Oscar Wilde was a real person, but he was quite merry and fun to be with, and reading these books is like being introduced to him all over again every time. He's fun, he's witty, and devastatingly intelligent. Plus, he's able to see past the surface of things to the truth beneath-something that stood him in good stead as an artist and writer, and something that, in these stories, makes him an excellent sleuth. Far from being deadly serious as most sleuths are, Oscar knows how to have fun, and that makes these stories incredible to read. Highly recommended.

The Roman Mysteries: The Prophet of Ephesus by Caroline Lawrence- Flavia Gemina and her friends are in trouble. Sent to find a gemstone by the Emperor Titus, they found the stone and sent it back to him with one of his agents. But they didn't count on the agent stealing it for himself and blaming the four of them for its loss. Now wanted throughout the Roman Empire, they are stuck in Ostia, kicking their heels and waiting to be spirited out of the city. Until word comes that Flavia's nephew Popo has been kidnapped by pirates. Though she and her friends cut their teeth taking on a gang of pirates, they have resurged and made off with many young Romans. Though Flavia is becoming less and less sanguine about being a detective, she knows that she must help recover her nephew. Making their way from Ostia to Helicarnassus, they are caught up in a popular movement around a number of prophets, one of whom is from Ephesus, But when Nubia, Jonathan and Lupus find themselves becoming part of a new religion, will Flavia join them, or will she find that everything that led them to Asia Minor is a lie? I have loved this series for a long time, but this book shows it is drawing near to the end. Flavia no longer wishes to be a detective, and is getting tired of traveling around the world solving mysteries. But will she get her wish? The book ends on a cliffhanger as the detectives go after one of their own, who has been having visions that will take him back to Rome- where they are all wanted for theft...

The Roman Mysteries: The Man from Pomegranate Street by Caroline Lawrence- Jonathan has gone back to Rome to try and prevent Domitian from killing Emperor Titus. Flavia, Nubia and Lupus must sneak into the city, disguised, because there is an order of Death out on them. But it turns out that they are too late, and Titus is already dead. But did Domitian kill Titus, and how? And if he did, can Flavia and her friends uncover the truth and expose the conspiracy? More, can they finally clear their names, and what will happen to the four friends? This was a rather sad ending to the series, but the books have always been enjoyable, and I did like the actual ending- Flavia Gemina may have renounced solving mysteries, but can she really live up to that vow? And will she ever find happiness with her beloved "Floppy"? Recommended.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

2012, Part 11

The Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows- In a world like our own, but not quite, an FBI agent named Aldo Sax is on the trail of a bunch of killers, and a new drug that may have fueled the strangely similar murders by three separate people named Aklo. Sax tracks down Aklo, and it turns out to be a language- the language of Nyarltotep, which infects him and drives him into killing people in exactly the same way. Years later, two naive young agents named Brears and Lamper go to find out the truth, and uncover a group of cultists who are tied into a deeper, hidden world. And only one of them will come out alive. What secrets will the other uncover along the way? This graphic novel was dark and disturbing, which I suspected it would be when I first saw it and picked it up. The intersection between the ideas of H.P. Lovecraft and the modern world (not our own, especially with references to holidays like Farrakhan Day) is chilling and yet leaves the reader in a sort of horrible wonder by the end of the story. Excellent story, excellent art. It will leave you uncomfortable, and yet, that's the idea. Highly recommended.

Crystal Gardens by Amanda Quick- Evangeline Ames has come to the village of Little Dixby to rest and to work on the sensation novel she wishes to write. A Private Inquiry agent who often masquerades as a lady's companion, she was recently involved in a case where she was nearly killed by a fortune hunter she exposed. But when a man breaks into her rented cottage determined to kill her, she has no idea of who would want her dead or why. Fleeing, she seeks refuge in the paranormally powerful grounds of the Crystal Gardens, owned by Lucas Sebastian, who quickly realizes why she is there and keeps her safe. But as the cottage she is renting is on his land, he feels determined to keep her safe, while exploring the grounds of his former Uncle's estate and discovering who murdered him. He urges Evangeline to move into the Manor with him, and brings his aunt to be her chaperone to protect her reputation. But with her comes Lucas's sister, Beth, and a host of problems around the man Beth wants to marry, who her mother is flatly denying her hand. And then there is the reputed treasure of Roman gold that supposedly lies on the grounds of the estate- perhaps within the psychically dangerous Night Garden itself, or in the hot spring that feeds the garden much of its paranormal power. But as forces both near and far conspire against them, Evangeline and Lucas find themselves not so inexplicably drawn to each other by both lust and love. But can they survive against the people trying to kill and hurt them both? I loved this book. It's not tied to either the Arcane Society books nor the more recent series that began with Copper Beach, but contains similar types of paranormal powers. I noticed Lucas had what would be called the "Hunter Talent" in the Arcane Society books, whereas Evangeline's talent was more like the Amber Resonance powers of Amber tuners-only without the Amber. and while I felt "Copper Sands" was like the Arcane Society books with the serial numbers filed off, this book I found better as a stand-alone novel while incorporating paranormal psychic powers. Highly recommended, and Evie's two friends are also highly sequel-baited.

Investigating the Paranormal by Joe Nickell- A Former investigative reporter, Joe Nickell is also a member of CSICOP, the Committee for Scientific Investigations of Claims of the Paranormal. In this book, he shares the results of his own investigations of everything from ghosts to religious miracles like crying icons, idols which drink milk, the incorruptible bodies of saints, poltergeists, phenomena like Spontaneous human combustion, U.F.O.'s, spiritualism and photos of ghosts and spirits, as well as things like Auras and Kirlian Photography- and debunks them all, as well as showing how and why these things aren't true. So, if you are invested in believing in these things being true, but believe in science showing the truth, this book is going to dash those beliefs. If you don't accept science, you can still deny the truth, but those who accept that science and investigation will get the most out of the book. Highly recommended.

Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh- Dmitri is the second to the Angel Rafael. When a dead body turns up in a busy intersection in New York, it's up to him to find out who killed the man, as Rafael is with his love, the former Hunter and newly born Angel Elena in China meeting the Archangel Lijuan. But a tattoo on the body concerns him, because it's the sigil of a female angel who turned him into a vampire, and killed his wife and children, then forced him to serve her, until he was able to turn the tables on her and end up killing her and tearing her to pieces. But to catch the perpetrators, he will need the help of the Hunter Honor, who comes to the case with baggage of her own- after an attack on her by vampires, she was kidnapped and tortured, her blood drunk as she was raped and abused. Rescued, she has only recently recovered from her experience, but the cracks in her confidence are still there, just barely papered over. But Dmitri finds himself unusually incensed by the attack on Honor and wants to help her find the vampires who attacked her and get vengeance on them. Why, after so many years, is he attracted to a woman who is not his wife, and can Honor overcome her trauma to trust him and help him discover who is tormenting Dmitri with the sigil of his maker's sigil? And why are both Honor and Dmitri dreaming of his earlier life, and what is that strange connection that they share? Is it just one of justice and revenge, or is it something else? Dmitri is such a cold character in the earlier books in this series, that it was nice to see he had some heat beneath the coldness, but that coldness and sort of deliberation that are at the core of him can also be a sort of passion- and that Honor somehow appeals to him not only as the man he was, but the man he is now. And Honor is equally strong character, living and choosing to live after being so brutalized, but to still be able to show gentleness and emotion rather than cutting herself off from life, was wonderful. I felt the ending and the nature of their connection was a bit, "Oh, come on!", but the story itself was something I completely loved. Highly recommended except for that one ending quibble.

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Volume 1 by QuinRose and Soumei Hoshino- Alice is having tea with her sister in the garden and falls asleep, dreaming of a cute little waistcoated rabbit with a pocketwatch claiming that he is going to be late. But when her sister wakes her, telling her she sleeps too much, Alice experiences a moment of envy and regret. Everyone loves her sister, even the men Alice is interested in. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a place where Alice was wanted as much as her sister? Alice decides to nap some more as she is still tired, but is abruptly grabbed by a man with rabbit ears, who runs off with her and jumps into a hole in the ground with her. Afterwards, sick and dizzy from the experience, he tries to get her to take "medicine", but she refuses, so he takes it and forces a kiss on her, flooding her mouth with the liquid, which she inadvertantly swallows. Then the rabbit-eared man, Peter White, is happy, as it means she cannot leave this Kingdom, the Kingdom of Hearts, until she refills the vial by interacting with the people who live there. And in that time, he can try to win her heart. But Peter isn't the only inhabitant of this strange land. There is also Blood, known as the Mad Hatter, and his servants, including the March Hare, and the twins Dee and Dum; Vivaldi, the Queen of the Castle, where Peter is her majordomo and Ace serves as her knight. She is also served by the King and the cards. Gowland runs the amusement park and has his own set of faceless servants, as well as Boris, who is part cat. All these people are locked in combat against each other, ready and willing to kill ruthlessly- and all of them have strong feelings of love for Alice. Some more romantic, and some more sisterly. But Alice can't wait to get out of there and get back to her sister, so she takes refuge with Julius in his Clock Tower. But can even he keep Alice safe when her many admirers and suitors seem willing to kill each other messily to win Alice for their own? And what is really going on in the Country of Hearts? Why was she brought here, and what does the Demon Nightmare have to do with it? And as Alice becomes closer to the inhabitants the longer she stays, will she still choose to go home when the time is done? This book makes about as much sense as the original Alice tales do, and while the characters tend to be very different. Blood is the leader of the Hatters, but not the same as the Mad Hatter in the original book, and his companion Elliott, the March Hare, is also very unlike the original March Hare. Some of the characters have seemingly no connection to any of the book characters, like Julius and Gowland, and the conflict between the groups is now a gang fight.. It's amusing, but while a lot happens, there isn't much of real substance, and the volume is so long that it seems like a slog to get through it. Recommended only if you have a high resistance to reading without knowing what the heck is going on and are willing to wait... and wait... and wait... for some kind of answers.

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Volume 2 by QuinRose and Soumei Hoshino- Alice continues to interact with the inhabitants of the Country of Hearts, and has become friends with most of them. But while Blood of the Hatters is willing to lend her books from his huge library, he also accuses her of being a horrible flirt, spreading her affections around while keeping them all on a string, and threatens to kill her, then ends up strangling her, which Alice doesn't like at all. And he isn't the only one with troubling new problems. Ace, too, exhibits a more bloodthirsty and violent mindset and kills several people right in front of Alice, leaving them both spattered with blood and her nearly catatonic. Boris finds her and brings her back to herself, but when he goes off to confront Ace about what he has done, Ace nearly kills him as well, and Alice finds herself acting as his nurse. But when Ace shows off to finish the job and kill Alice like he told Boris he was going to, can Alice talk him out of killing them both, or will this be the end for the both of them? I found this volume to be better in story, but still very disjointed, and the ending both comes out of nowhere and is not continued in the third volume. it seems like the editors dropped the ball here when it came to that part of the story, as I doubt it ended so abruptly in the original manga volumes. I found it not all that satisfying to read, and while the art is lovely and the guys are super cute, I just feel like I ate cotton candy- an astonishingly sweet taste on the tongue, but nothing in the belly afterwards, and feeling slightly sick that I ate the whole thing. Not recommended.

Alice in the Country of Hearts, Volume 3 by QuinRose and Soumei Hoshino- Alice's time in this world is fast approaching its end, and while she has managed to make some kind of peace with Blood, it seems like everyone else wants her to choose them and stay with him, Blood just doesn't care. But Alice is determined- she misses her sister terribly and only wants to go home and be with her again. And while she says goodbye to Vivaldi and Julius, Peter begs her to stay with him one more time, but she can't forget that he was the one who kidnapped her in the first place and forced her to stay here. But when the time finally comes to make the choice, will Alice be able to go through with her plan to leave, or will the choice be made for her? And what has really happened to her sister back at home? Will she be missing Alice forever? Unfortunately for readers, the answers of what has happened to the people who Alice loved and left behind is never really answered, making the ending of the series feel especially disappointing for me. I also really disliked the ending, as it mirrored the beginning of the story so closely- but I can't reveal it without spoiling the story for everyone. To me, the ending seemed non-sensical and like nothing had really changed, and after all the non-events of the series, I felt that was anathema. Not recommended, unless you like looking at pretty boys irrespective of story. The story isn't much there, and to have such a non-ending ending just made me want to slap someone or something. Not recommended at all, except as eyecandy.

The Earl and the Fairy, Volume 2 by Ayuko and Mizue Tani- The first volume of this series set things up pretty well, with Lydia Carlton being a fairy Doctor, someone who helps humans and fairies be able to live together. But when she is kidnapped on her way to London to meet her father, she is rescued by Edgar Ashenbert, a young man who claims to be the heir to the Half Fairy Blue Knight Earl. However, he must find the sword belonging to the Blue Knight Earl to actually claim the title, and he really has no connection to the BK Earl, so he needs Lydia's help to find the sword. His tale that he is an escaped slave seeking to gain a place so that he and the friends he helped rescue can never be enslaved again strike a chord in Lydia, and she agrees to help him. Now, near the home of the Blue Knight Earl, the island of Manan, Edgar and Lydia must decipher a riddle to find where the sword is hidden. But the Merrows of the island may need a sacrifice of blood to give up the sword, and Edgar's enemies tell her that Edgar plans for Lydia being the sacrifice. Can Lydia discover the truth, and find the sword from where it was hidden years ago? And once she does, will her strange adventure finally be over? Reading this as I did after Alice in the Country of Hearts, I was almost fooled into thinking that the end of this volume was the end of the series, but that isn't the case. The story will go on, and this is good, because otherwise, it would have been a non-ending ending. We finally get to see Lydia's father in this volume, and while he's a researcher, he seems woefully unprepared to have a daughter. I enjoyed Lydia's interactions with the various fairies, although her faerie cat companion Nico seems to have more conversations with them than she does. I do wonder where the relationship between Edgar and Lydia will go from here, and if he really does feel something for her, or he is cynically saying so to use her and her abilities. Recommended, but the ending is a little bit deceptive.

Black Dawn by Rachel Caine- Morganville is facing the worst time yet. The Draug have taken over the town, saturating the area with rain and luring vampires and humans both into their nests, where the Draug can feed at their leisure. Amelie, the town's founder, has been bitten by the Draug leader and may be dying. The vampires of Morganville have mostly abandoned the town, but a few people are still ready, willing and able to fight, like Claire Danvers, her boyfriend Shane, and their roommates, Vampire Michael Glass and his bride to be, Eve. And with them will stand Myrnin, Claire's half-mad vampire mentor in the arts of alchemy and magic, Oliver, Amelie's sometime foe and now second in command, and some of the humans who hate vampires, because they realize how much worse things could be with the Draug in charge. But as Amelie struggles not to give in to the transformation to Draug, Eve and Michael must deal with the aftermath of his imprisonment and near-death by the Draug- his attack and near-killing of her, which has left her feeling afraid of him. Shane, too, is nearly killed by the Draug, leaving him feeling as if nothing he experiences is real. But a last ditch effort reveals a way the Draug can be killed, and an unexpected ally turned opponent must be trusted to lead the attack on the Draug strongholds. But as human and vampire fight their monstrous opponents, and humans and vampires fall in battle, will winning have any meaning if and when they win, and can winning, even for both sides of Morganville, mean an end to everything they have learned or taken for granted about Morganville? Can they live with the changes their actions might bring about? I had the idea that this was either the last Morganville book or the second to last, but now I hear there will be three more books before the series ends, and that's actually all to the good, because the ending of this one had so many changes and things that had happened, both good and bad, that the changes will take a good, long while to iron out. Suffice to say, that while there is some good stuff, a lot more bad stuff goes on, and the changes to Morganville will be considerable, and it doesn't look good for Claire and her friends. The book kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, and I am wondering what will happen to ClaireBear and her friends. Highly recommended.

The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler- takes names of various foods mentioned in the Game of Thrones saga and attempts to provide recipies to various meals and foods mentioned in the story. Some of these, you can tell what recipes they came from, things like Guacamole or various salads. But others, unless you live in an area where hunting is both allowed and common, are going to be new to you. Elk, Venison, Wild Boar, Swan... And then there are ones that can be farmed, like Bison/Buffalo, quail or Goat. On the other hand, at least one of the "recipes", I wouldn't call a recipe at all, for corn on the cob with butter. Does anyone really need a "recipe" for how to cook that? Shuck corn ears, boil in water, let butter melt on hot, drained ears? I think something needs to have more than two ingredients, corn and butter, to be called a recipe. Though I guess there are some people who have never made their own hot corn on the cob. Most of the recipes are good, but unless you live in an area where people do a lot of hunting and are willing to eat animals seen as more decorative than food (Swans, mainly), you will never cook or brew them all. If you are willing to substitute, you can make your own "Game of Thrones" inspired meal, but be aware this is more like "Put on a show" food than something you are likely to prepare yourself, at least some of the time. Recommended.

Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller- Priscilla Delacroix was outcast from her planet by her mother at sixteen and forced to survive on her own in space. Now, as cargo master on the Liaden ship Daxflan, having worked her way up from cook's assistant, she is sure her ship's Trader, Sav Rid Olanek, is shipping illegal pharmaceuticals. Serving on a Liaden ship as a Terran, she and the other Terrans are treated as second class citizens, so perhaps it isn't so strange when her shipmates push her into a broken storage compartment and leave her for dead on a world called Janaklin. but it rankles. And when her only recourse is to try tp get passage on another ship that will end up an another world where the Daxflan is headed, she finds her only option is yet another Liaden ship, the Dutiful Passage, captained by Shan yos'Galan. But can she trust this Liaden Captain and Master Trader to employ her honestly and do right by her? As Priscilla travels with the ship under her common use name of Priscilla Mendoza, she finds herself struck by how honestly and rightly this particular ship is run, and finds all her old skills coming to the fore as her pursuit of her shipmates and higher status for herself bring both her and Shan yos'Galan into conflict with the Daxflan and its master. But when things turn deadly, can she keep Shan, her shipmates and the Dutiful Passage out of harm's way, or will the conflict engulf them all? And can Shan, who has come to love and esteem the lovely Priscilla, discover her true name and worth and love and esteem her as she deserves to be? I loved this book, which takes place in the same universe as the Liaden books "Agent of Change", "Carpe Diem" and "Plan B", and introduces Priscilla and Shan yos'Galan to the world. This book came out second or third in the series, in strict chronological order, but the story can stand on its own quite well. In fact, this is another book I found myself sucked into whole and entire before even the first chapter had ended, and similar to the other books, it grabs you and doesn't let you go until the book is done. I loved this book, and I loved this series. The characters are a delight, and so is the universe and world-building, which are done with a minimum of words and yet convey so much. Highly recommended. This is a series to look out for, and if you haven't read it already, you should.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

2011, Part 2

Knot Gneiss by Piers Anthony- Wenda Woodwife thought her life should be settled after she settled down with Prince Charming after her adventure with Jumper Spider. But lately, she's been experiencing large highs and lows in her emotions that have her feeling unsettled and nervous. So she travels to see the Good Magician Humphrey to have him find her a solution, only to find that he doesn't have one. What he does have for her is a mission. A tree of Reverse wood has petrified, and turned to producing terror. Only someone like herself, with powers over wood, has the power to remain unaffected by the evil emanations from the wood for longer than anyone else. Humphrey wants the tree brought to him, and Wenda sets out to deliver it, accompanied by some old friends. But as the journey continues, they keep collecting more and more stragglers to join them, like Hilarion, a Prince looking for his betrothed bride, and an Angel who only has half of her body. But when handling the Knot threatens to undo everything Wenda holds dear, and her friends as well, can she keep it together for the sake of the journey, or will she find all is lost? A Good book, but with the problem that seems to afflict all Piers Anthony books of late: too much adult stuff, like sex, that seems extraneously dumped into the story. However, it's better in that it doesn't reek of sex like some of the others. Recommended, but you'll want to read it before passing it on to younger readers.

Jane and the Canterbury Tale by Stephanie Barron- Jane Austen, sometime author and sometime sleuth, is enjoying time in the country with her brother, Edward, and his family on their estate. The current round of gossip concerns a certain Adelaide Fiske, who lost her husband quite suspiciously three years ago and is now once again engaged to be married. But her wedding day is ruined by the appearance of her former husband, quite alive and well, and wanting to call his wayward wife and her new lover on their infidelity. But when he makes plans to meet them both to discuss the situation, he shows up once more, and this time, he is utterly and truly dead for all time, and Adelaide is implicated in the crime. Now Edward, who happens to be first Magistrate for Canterbury, must investigate the crime. While he is quick to see Adelaide as the villain in the piece, Jane is not so sure. And when the body of an unfortunate maid is found in a coppice, her throat slit, Jane must step forward to uncover the true villain of the piece, before she can join the cavalcade of death... I love Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries, and this is one of the better ones- short but sweet, and filled with vicious murders and villains who are mad to protect what they love. It reads a lot like one of Jane Austen's stories, mingled with a knotty mystery. Highly recommended.

Tegami Bachi, Letter Bee, Volume 7 by Hiroyuki Asada- Letter thefts in Amberground continue, and Lag and Niche, his Dingo, have gone to Blue Notes Blues, where Niche tells Lag she was born 200 years ago. Lag can't believe Niche is that old, but she warns him not to ask about her in town. Lag does so anyway, and discovers that another child of Maka is buried in the caves outside of town. Well, not exactly buried, as Lag and Niche discover when he goes to find out the truth, and the mayor of the town has a vested interest in the true story not getting out, but will it cost Lag and Niche their lives when they learn the truth of the Child of Maka? And after being rescued, Lag discovers that his hero, Gauche Suede, has been stealing letters under the name Noir, and Lag can hardly wait to confront him. But more appears to be going on than Lag knows, and why does the girl who works with Noir/Gauche show up at the Verity Convent as a sister? I loved this volume, especially with the part about the other Child of Maka, and how Niche will grow up when she has an emotional upheaval like her sister did. More stuff is teased to us about Gauche Suede and how he came to be Noir, which will be interesting to see fulfilled. Recommended.

The Quest for Arthur's Britain by Geoffrey Ashe is a series of scholarly essays about King Arthur, both the man, the myth, the stories that are told about him, and what England was really like when Arthur might have ruled. Many kinds of evidence are examined, from the stories told about him, written by Geoffrey of Monmouth and other authors, archaeological researches and surviving remnants of those times, all with an eye to unlocking the "real" King Arthur, his life and times, as much as we can discover about him at this fairly late remove. Lots of pictures and drawings, but the articles tend towards the scholarly and can be deadly dull in patches- more apt to serve as a sleep aid than an interesting book. The book is also old, being first published in the late 60's, so you can almost definitely find a better, more up to date book now. Not recommended unless you have a high tolerance for dense, scholarly writing.

Jack of Fables: The Big Book of War by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Akins, Russ Braun, Jose Marzán Jr. and Dan Green- The Bookburner and his minions are advancing on the small camp where Mr. Revise keeps the most powerful Fables, the ones whose powers must be kept hidden or they will be able to break the world. But when push comes to shove, and Jack is put in charge of the defenses, the situation becomes so bad that there is only one way out, to unleash the real fables, the ones Mr. Revise spent his life devising , back into action again. But what will happen to the Fables when the Bookburner's forces attack? And when Kevin Thorne regains his pen and starts to write again, what will this mean for the world. And what does it mean that Jack is half-Literal himself? Will he be happy when he finds out who his true father is? I don't like Jack. He's an asshole and not that interesting to read about. I was more interested in the Literals and the other Fables that populate the story, like Sambo and the Prose sisters. You could almost say that Jack was the least interesting part of the book. Still, an interesting story, I just don't care for Jack, or about him, either.

Mixed Vegatables, Volume 3 by Ayumi Komura- Hanayu discovers the chef who created the taste of the Sushi she had always been searching for- Hayato's father. She shares her memory of his egg sushi and tells him that this is why she wanted to become a sushi chef. In fact, he offers her a chance to apprentice with him at the shop- there's just one little hitch- she has to get approval from her own father first, and he wants her to become a pastry chef, not a sushi chef. And confessing her real feelings is not going to go over well with her father or her family. But a long, ongoing family argument is short-circuited by Hayato, who unexpectedly comes to her defense and defuses the tension. And Hanayu finds herself smitten once more. But when she discovers that Hayato says he plans to work in his family's restaurant in his applications for college, will she be able to support him to his own family when he confesses his dreams? Or is he really lying to her? I still enjoy this series more than a bit, and seeing the on-again, off-again nature of Hanayu's relationship and feelings towards Hayato can occasionally be annoying rather than amusing. But seeing their situations play out remains interesting. Recommended.

Mixed Vegetables, Volume 4 by Aymui Komura- Now that Hanayu is apprenticed to Hayato's father at the Sushi shop, she wants to find out why Hayato wants to be a pastry chef and not a Sushi chef, So when Hayato challenges her to a contest cutting Daikon radish and the winner will be based on length and appearance, Hanayu looks at Hayato's skills in that area and thinks she has no chance to win. But can she "steal" the techniques of Hayato's father as he wants her to? And when Hanayu and Hayato discover that their coworker, Saki, has a crush on their teacher, can they help convince him to try and be with her, which is what he really wants? And when Hanayu finds out why Hayato's mother reveres the old Master, Hayato's grandfather, will it help her help him confess to wanting to be a pastry chef? This was cute, and I loved the story with Saki. Hanayu knows she loves Hayato, but the way he sometimes seems to be lying, either to her or his parents, makes her question why- and the readers, too. It pulls you deeper into the story and keeps me wondering about the outcome. I'll keep reading.

101 SCI-FI Movies You must See before You Die by Steven Jay Schneider- less about movies with great stories or amazing special effects, most of this book is taken up with movies that are classics of the genre- although many of them have wonderful stories, too. Many you will never have heard of, being foreign films or from the 1900's like Georges Melie's La Voyage Dans La Lune. But many you will recognize, like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" and yes, the original Star Wars. A short (2-3 page) blurb discusses why the film is important and what makes it good and significant. And if you love Sci-Fi Films, it will bring back lots of memories. "Soylent Green is People!" Recommended.

The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives takes 29 stories throughout history, from Primitive Man to Sherlock Holmes, and collects them in rough groupings by time. Some of the stories in the book were real eye-openers, like "Death in the Downtime", which takes place before recorded History. Despite looking old, the book has plenty of modern authors, and I loved just about every story and time period detective. Despite the wide range of time periods and cultures covered, the book is remarkably even in tone and enjoyment, and you are sure to find most, if not all of the stories enjoyable. This book is a wonderful way to pick up and discover new authors you might enjoy reading. Highly recommended.

This is NPR- The First 40 years- shares stories of NPR, how it started, how it grew, and gives personal reminisces from broadcasters, hosts, writers and administrators, each sharing tales of stories they covered, people they interviewed and how NPR changed from a small single station to something now carried nationwide. Special sections cover particularly important stories, like Nixon's resignation, or the demonstrations at Kent State College and covers from the late 60's to the present day. While some of the stories were interesting, it's a very hard book to read sitting after sitting, and I found myself getting a little bored and skipping around in time and in the book. But still, an invaluable look at NPR. Just not one you can read straight through from cover to cover. Best absorbed in small doses. Recommended, but with caveats.

The Snow Queen's Shadow by Jim C. Hines-Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella have dedicate themselves to keeping the Kingdom of Lorindar free. But with the Queen dying of a magical disease that not even the fairies can cure, it has become even more important to keep the Kingdom stable until Cinderella, really Danielle deGlas, and her husband, the Crown Prince Armand, can take over for the dying Queen. But when Snow White, attempting to save the Queen with her magic, cracks the magical glass that makes up her necklace, it lets loose a demon into the world- a demon who sows hatred and dissent and turns everything good into a reflection of Evil, and his first victim is Snow White herself, exhausted from her effort of trying to save the Queen. And when Snow turns evil and abducts Danielle's son, Jakob, her old friends and comrades must overcome their lingering feelings of friendship and take Snow down before she brings down the entire Kingdom and makes Jakob her spell-bonded slave. But can they kill the woman they once called friend? This was unexpected, and I really didn't see this book coming, but that was a good thing. I felt for Danielle and Talia as they had to try and kill a friend, as she was too far gone to save. amazing and a wonderful ending to the series. But there is the prospect for more, even if new stories go untold. Highly recommended.

Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coastguard, America's Forgotten Heroes by David Helarg is all about the least-known of America's armed services and the only one who doesn't kill anyone, spending more time stopping threats to American shipping, rescuing fishermen, divers and plane crash victims and does jobs that no other service can or would. From its inception to its modern tasks, we meet the men and machines that make up the Coast Guard, and see why it is an equally valid service, but often forgotten in the glamour of the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force. Like the Secret Service, which not only acts as bodyguards to the President, Vice President, candidates for both offices and their families, but also oversees the Treasury Department, the Coast Guard does more than just perform heroic rescues, and this book examines the service, the tasks and the kind of people who become Coast Guard members in detail. An excellent book that really opens your eyes as to what the Coast Guard is about and the people who make it up and the kind of training they undergo. It certainly surprised me more than once. Highly recommended.

Bury Elminster Deep by Ed Greenwood- When Mystra died, magic in the Realms broke, and several magicians who were the Chosen of the Goddess were forever changed by her extinction. But now there are signs that Mystra may be returning, and Elminster must join forces with longtime foe Manshoon of the Red Wizards, to see if the rumors are true. But Manshoon, still angry at Elminster for his intruding into the affairs of the Red Wizards, and Manshoon himself, is also trying to do what he has wanted to for so many years- Kill Elminster and extinguish his memory from the face of the Realms. But can Elminster, the Simbul and Manshoon uncover the secrets of the Blueflame magic items hidden over the face of Faerun, and bring back the Goddess of Magic to restore the true face of the Realms? Elminster has lived so long that he is pretty much the face of the Realms for old Dungeons and Dragons players, and this book delivers on Elminster, even if he is much changed in the wake of the Spellplague. The adventure is tense and exciting, and the ending promises more to come- so I enjoyed the book even though I really despise what the fourth edition of the game did to the Realms. Recommended, but I still prefer the books set in the old Realms more.

Bioshock: Rapture by John Shirley takes us to the world of Bioshock and the city of Rapture, a collectivist ideal set under the ocean, but brought down by a combination of misplaced idealism and old-fashioned brutality. Told from the perspective of Andrew Ryan's second in command, Bill McDonough, we see how Rapture was formed and built, and escalating problems eventually brought it down. By the end of the story, Bill hopes to escape Rapture with his wife and daughter, but is there any real escape from the spreading madness and Ryan's own bad choices? I've only seen bits and pieces of the game, so I don't know how much of what goes on in the book is actually cribbed from journals and records you can find in the game, but the story is extremely compelling and make me root for the characters to succeed, despite knowing how it would end from the game itself. In the end, the ending did surprise me, and it was quite chilling. Highly recommended.

Ascension by Caris Roane- All her life, Allison Wells has been unusual, with powers she has never seen or heard of in another human being. And as she has gotten older, she has only gotten more and more powerful, to the point where she can no longer even make love to a man, because she could inadvertantly hurt or kill him. But unbeknownst to her, her powers have attracted the wrong sort of attention- armies of Death Vampires hunger for her powerful blood. But there is one man on her side- Kerrick, also a vampire, but a warrior and guardian. He is assigned to protect her, but when she proves even more powerful than his own superiors know, it might interfere with the growing feelings between himself and the beautiful Allison. And when it appears that she might even be too powerful for this plane of existence, can Kerrick overcome his past hurts to give up Allison to her destiny. This book was really good. As the first in the series, there has to be a lot of worldbuilding, and this one has tons of it, from multiple worlds on multiple levels, both up and down from "our" earth, but the whole death vamps/guardian warrior vampires thing (truth be told, these vampires are *not* the usual sorts of vampires, but even though they drink blood, they have feathery wings like angels) is well explained and I never felt lost. I don't know if there is a sequel to this book yet, but I will certainly be on the lookout for one and I want to delve deeper into the mysteries of this world. Recommended.