Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013, Part 7

The Companions by R.A. Salvatore- Drizzt has entered the lowest period of his life, and when his companions in the afterlife find out, they are send by Mielikki, his Goddess, on a most perilous mission, to be reborn in new bodies, and to meet up with Drizzt and be with him again. All agree except for Wulfgar, who would rather be with his God, and leaves the Companions of the Hall behind. The other three are reborn, Regis into the body of a half water-Genasi halfling, named Spider, Cattie-Brie is reborn in the body of a young Bedine witch named Ruquiah, and Bruenor is reborn a dwarf, the son of Reginald Roundshield, the son of the King's Captain of the guard, also named Reginald after his father. As they grow up apart, each learning new skills on top of their old ones, they wonder what is left of themselves, and in Bruenor's case, if he can still be himself on top of his new life. But will Drizzt accept them as his old companions, and can they survive an increasingly hostile world, and the enemies they will make in their new life? I was actually looking forward to this book until I realized that the book is basically going to be Drizzt 2.0 for D&D Next. And I just found that sad and kind of cheap. That being said, the book focuses less on Drizzt and more on his new/old companions. However, someone shows up near the end that just had me rolling my eyes. and saying, "Oh, come *on*, REALLY?" I can't really say I approve. But it's a Drizzt book that has the companions as more important than him, and I suppose they are making enemies and changes that might keep their characters important. So I ended up with a sort of overall "Meh" feeling about this book. It's technically well-written and focuses on the companions and not a certain Dark Elf. But it's bringing back the companions to return them to the original sort of team, and the "twist" at the end made me annoyed. If you can't get enough Drizzt, then this is tbe book for you. Otherwise, you might want to give it a miss.

Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton- When Anita's lover and fellow pack leader Nathaniel is called to his dying father's bedside, Anita drops everything to be there for him. But his father's sickness is unusual- he was attacked by a zombie, and his wound is slowly rotting from the inside out. Anita thought she knew Zombies, but this is beyond anything she knows about them- and the master of the zombies can even take control of vampires who are Anita's lovers. Anita has to call in her fellow Marshalls, including Edward, to take down whatever is behind this outbreak or infestation, and deal with the grief-stricken members of Nathaniel's family, none of whom want to accept either his sexuality or his living arrangements. As Anita tries to deal with everything on her plate, who should show up but Jean-Claude, and even more of his guards. But can Anita take down the big bad, and what compromises will she have to make to do so? I liked this book, which was less about Anita gaining or exploring her new powers, and dealing with the one she's always had- the ability to raise Zombies. There was a tension in this book that was exciting, since it often feels that Anita is pretty much on top of everything- but here she's uncertain and lost about this new wrinkle, and it shows. It also gave the book a real tension, and the background characters shone in a way they sometimes don't in these books. If this is a new direction for the series, color me liking it. Highly recommended.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons and Dragons: One Woman's Quest to Turn Self-Help into Elf-Help by Shelly Mazzanoble- Shelly Mazzanoble is a recent convert to D&D, but she was annoyed by her mother's constant poking into her life and sending her what seemed like every self-help book under the sun. But could she find a way to get the help she needed to break out of her rut and finally move in with the man she loved by taking advice from "Dungeons and Dragons"? Her attempts to do so are incredibly funny amd sometimes heartwarming as well, and along the way, she ends up bonding with her mom, her friend's kids, and helping another friend improve her love life- all the while taking her cues from D&D. This is an amusing book, but some of the self-help parts are more than a bit overdone. I wasn't reallyinterested in her love life and her relationship with her mom. But the ending was a funny adventure, and hearing more about her D&D exploits is always fun. This one is going to be of limited interest to D&D fantatics- the amusing bits don't always make up for the boring bits. Not highly recommended. Female D&D players might find it either interesting, meh or a total bore, Male D&D players will probably end up on the "Bore" side.

MacRieve by Kresley Cole- Uilleam MacRieve thought he'd survived the worst his life could throw at him,, until he was thrown into the prison of General Webb, and tortured. But nothing broke him- until the succubae caught him, just like one had when he was young. Unable to deal with the memories, he stagnated in drinking to try and forget. And the daughter of General Webb was kidnapped and put up for auction- and he discovered that Chloe Todd was his destined mate. Chloe wanted nothing more than toget on the American Olympic soccer team- she'd worked and trained damned hard for the chance. But when she was kidnapped from her home by the Loreans and put up for auction to pay for her father's sins against them, she was plunged into a world out of her control. Then, she is rescued by a wolfishly handsome man who she quickly begins to fall for- only to discover that she, too, is a Lorean. But which one? And can her loving relationship with Uilleam MccRieve survive the revelation? Or will the knowledge drive them apart? And when Chloe is nearly killed, can Uilleam make up for his mistreatment of her, or will his hating of her kill her? And even more importantly, what has become of Chloe's father, and can she live with the knowledge of what her father has done? I liked this book, but the part where Uilleam started to hate Chloe was hard to read- incredibly hard to read. I wanted her to triumph, yes, but the ending kicked ass with the revelations and cementing the bond between them. This book really satisfied me at the end, and it was a pleasure to read and finish. Chloe deals with the twists and turns in her life with courage and kickass grace. MacRieve is an asshole, but Chloe cuts out his heart and hands it to him, and he earns back her love. Definitely recommended.

Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross- Finley Jane, Emma, Sam and  Griffin have tracked their friend Jasper Renn aceoss the ocean to New York, flying in a private airship charteed by Griffin. But when they arrive, the Cops don't have Jasper- it turns out there is a Crime Lord named Reno Dalton who sent the men to England in the guise of police to snatch him back. He wants something Jasper stole from him, a small Etheric device of unknown powers, but Jasper doesn't have it- he broke it up into its component parts and hid each one separately. But Dalton has something precious to Jasper, a girl named Mei that he once saved after she killed a man who had been sexually abusing her. Jasper not only took the blame for the murder, but herlped her find a woman who took in such strays and then helped Mei rescue other women as well. His feelings for her can't be denied, and Jasper agrees to get the pieces back for Dalton if Dalton will free Mei unharmed. Dalton agrees- but until he has all the pieces, he'll keep them both. Arriving at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the four friends search for information about Jasper and find out that Dalton wanted him. Both Griffin and Finley Jane come up with an idea as to how to get close to Dalton- by becoming part of his organization. And Finley succeeds in arousing his interest. But what is Dalton's scheme? What does he want Jasper to retrieve for him, and what is his ultimate plan? Can the four friends save Jasper from himself and the girl he loves, or will it end with the death of one of their number? I loved this followup story, and the reader's sympathy veers wildly from Finley to Mei, and then back again as we find out how Mei has manipulated people. But can she be trusted, and will her love for Jasper overcome her possibly divided loyalties? That becomes the defining question of the book, and in the end, the story comes to an exciting and satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended.

The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross- On their return to England, Griffin is recovering from the events in New York. But when Emily is kidnapped by Automatons, it seems that his old nemesis, the Machinist, is behind it. But how, when the Machinist is quite dead? Or is he? And Emily finds herself bonding with a partly-mechanical, partly flesh mandroid named Endeavor 213, meant to receive her captor's brain and memories. But her conversations with the girl, who choses the name Mila, reveal that she has a spark and personality of her own, and Emily, while in a strange, twisted way the girl's mother, decides to fight to free her. But can she, when the other automata are so many and ruthless? And will the strange attraction between Finley Jane and Griffin finally be resolved into an actual relationship? And what will be Mila's fate? This was a shorter book than "Girl in the Clockwork Collar, but it was lovely to meet all the characters. There is so much more I want to see from these characters, and it seems I'll get the chance. A tense and intriguing story. Highly recommended.

Autumn Bones by Jacqueline Carey- Daisy Johansen, the half-demon liason to the court of Hel, the Norse Goddess, is looking to end her loverless state, and it seems she might finally have met her match in Sinclair, the Jamaican who has settled in the area and is running tours that show off the local fae, she's ecstatic. He's a great guy, funny. and he has no problem with the fact that she has a tail. But when his sister, Emmeline shows up, things go from sunny to cloudy pretty fast. His sister threatens Daisy, claiming that Sinclair doesn't belong to Pemkowet, but to Jamaica where he was born, and she threatens to unleash something bad on the town if Daisy doesn't break off her relationship with Sinclair and let him return home- or make him return home. This makes Sinclair open up to Daisy about his family. His mother is a powerful judge and magic worker, who used magic to make Sinclair's father fall in love with and marry her- and when he finally threw off the magic, he left her and left the islands completely. Sinclair followed later, but his sister remained in her mother's orbit. As twins, they are linked magically- and while Sinclair inherited Light magic, his sister Emme inherited only the dark side of magic. This leads Daisy to banish Emma from town as Hel's agent, but his sister gives him two weeks to change his mind and return "home". It also causes the breakup of Daisy and Sinclair's newly formed relationship. When Emme returns as promised and unleashes the not quite dead spirit of his grandfather as a "Duppy" on the town, Sinclair joins the local coven to finally explore his magic and try to put down what his sister called up. Also, the body of Pemkowet's founder, The Tall Man is stolen from his grave and no one has any clue to who took it. As a variety of other threats and problems swirl around the town, Daisy has to try and keep  order. But can she keep her hands off the too-handsome Cody Fairfax while investigating a crime and trying to run down the Duppy infesting the town? And can she triumph over Sinclair's powerful mother and sister with only her power as Hel's agent to call on? I love this series, as Daisy is personable and written in a way that makes her sympathetic without being a bitch or too overly powerful. Her relationship with her mother, her cat Mogwai, Hel and many of the Supernatural residents of Pemkowet set her apart in a good way. She's not as unlikeable as some of Lilith Saintcrow's heroines or as overwhelmingly powerful as Laurell K. Hamilton's. And she's believable and I find myself wanting to read more at the end of every book. Highly recommended.

inVincible by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Nick Gautier is a fairly clueless teenager living in the French Quarter of New Orleans who has discovered he is part demon, and is surrounded by supernatural creatuires living in the ctty along with him. But he is also Ambrose, the Demon who is slowly losing his connection to humanity and with it his determination NOT to kill the whole of humanity. So Nick/Ambrose is reaching back in time, trying to prevent himself from succumbing to bad influences and losing the things that made him lose not only his faith in himself in humanity, but his humanity itself. But Ambrose's meddling may not give him the kind of outcome he wants- with Nick's powers awakening earlier, he's painted a target on his past self and made sure more entities who would just love to gobble up Nick and his slowly growing power as a stasty treat. Now, As Nick attempts to cope with growing up poor, fatherless and unliked, he also has to deal with the supernatural- and those who are gunning for him. So when the School gets a new coach, he seems to take an interest in Nick- for all the wrong reasons. He claims to want Nick on the team- but actually wants him to steal things from members of the team because Nick is such a huge troublemaker, no one will have a problem believing he is bad. But why? Who is Coach Davus, and why doesn't he seem to have any kind of employment record? Why does he want his players personal items, and why is he willing to kill and frame other kids to get them? Well, this was an interesting volume. Since Nick basically hates Ash now in the adult Dark-Hunter series, this appears to be Sherrilyn Kenyon's method of "saving" the character as well as slightly rewriting his history. It's just a question if this series is going to impact the adult series in any way, since it seems to be written for teens, who I wouldn't expect to read the more adult books, nor for most adults to read a "teen" series. But I did like it, and I thought this book would definitely appeal to teen girls. Nick is a strong and admirable character, but any romance is rather undercut in that one of his interests will kill him if he goes bad, and his other, well, his older self mentions that Nick will end up with her, which kind of makes the whole thing a forgone conclusion. But for a supernatural adventure story it's very enjoyable and not at all bad. Recommended.

The Guardians: Book Four- The Sandman and the War of Dreams by William Joyce- Katherine, the friend of all the guardians and one unofficial guardian, has been kidnapped by Pitch, who sees in her both an echo of his lost daughter, and who he wants to turn and make his Queen of Shadows. The other Guardians are searching for her, and also for Pitch's real daughter, who has become Mother Earth. But they can find nothing, and this is when the Man in the Moon activates another guardian to come to the fore: Sanderson Mansnoozie, also known as the Sandman. The Sandman is another member of that Golden Age among the stars once overseen by the parents of the Man in the Moon, and he was also a Starsailor. But his star-ship crashed into the earth, becoming an island of floating golden sand, and the Sandman himself has been asleep ever since, overseeing the dreams of everyone in the world. Now, he is the only one who can find Katherine and possibly save her from Pitch, who is tormenting her with nightmares. For The Sandman has a history with Eliza Jane, the girl who would become Mother Earth, and he knows the true story of Pitch and how he came to be. But can he save Katherine on her own, or with the help of Nightlight, who once oversaw the child of the Tsar and Tsarina Lunar, who became the Man in the Moon? This book incorporates two stories written by William Joyce for younger children, called "The Guardians of Childhood" and featuring The Sandman and The Man in the Moon, revealing their true origins (and hinting at the role Katherine will one day play as Mother Goose). But here we get more information about the war against the Dream Pirates which led to Pitch becoming who and what he is, and his tragic story. Sadly, he is probably not redeemable, despite the fact that he was once the most noble member of the Golden Age, which I found pretty sad, to be honest. The Sandman is at once childlike and yet wise beyond his years, and I liked how North finally builds the North Pole, and how he grows into his role as Santa to be. (including filling out around the waist!) This book seemed to be much shorter than the others in the series, but I really enjoyed it, and I can't wait for the final book, which will be about Jack Frost and The Man in the Moon. I've enjoyed these books and will be sorry to see them end- I hope there might be a sequel series in there somewhere before long. Highly recommended.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick- Hugo Cabret is the apprentice Timekeeper at the Paris Train Station, brought in by his uncle, who is the timekeeper. But his uncle likes to drink and gamble, and frequently disappeared for long periods of time, until one day when he didn't return at all. Since then, Hugo has stepped into the job. stealing to eat, and also from the bitter toy shop owner, who sells clockwork toys. Because Hugo has one thing left from his father, an automaton his father, a clockmaker, discovered in the attic in a museum where he also worked as a guard. It was broken, but it fascinated him, and he attempted to repair it. Then, one night, the museum burnt down, with his father in it, and after being taken in by his uncle, Hugo found the broken and now partly melted automaton, and wants to repair it himself. So he steals clockwork toys from the old man, hoping to learn enough to be able to fix it. But when the old man catches him, he searches Hugo and takes the one thing most valuable to Hugo- his father's notebook, with drawings of the automaton. When the old man tells him the next day that he burned the notebook, Hugo loses hope, but then a young girl who Hugo has seen with the old man tells him that the toy man is her foster father, and that he didn't burn the book. She wants to help Hugo, but he doesn't want to trust her with his secrets. As it turns out, it is partly her secret as well, and the toy man's. But how do these things all fit together, and can Hugo find the courage and will to track down the secret of the Automaton and bring it to the light? This book is less a book than a graphic novel and storybook. Small parts of it are told in words, but much of it is wordless pictures- or photographs of early motion pictures, which Hugo's father was obsessed with. It's a wonderful, lyrical story that pulled me in and didn't let me go. The book is over 500 pages, but so many of them are just pictures, albeit the kind that speak a thousand words and more with each image. Child or Adult, you owe it to yourself to read this book and experience the story for yourself. Highly, highly recommended.

The Dark Legacy of Shannara: Witch Wraith by Terry Brooks- The Forbidding is breaking down with the dying of the Elvish Ellcrys, and demons are breaking through the Forbidding into the world of the Federation. Arlingphant Elessedil has the power to take the place of the Ellcrys and banish the demons back to the Forbidding, but she was forced to flee the Elvish lands and seek out the Bloodfire to empower the Ellcrys seed. Meanwhile, her sister Aphenglow is seeking her, along with the Elfstones that are the ancestral legacy of the Elves, stolen by a half-demon boy named Charis, who had once loved and been in love with an Elven girl named Aleia, but fled with the Elfstones when their love was denied by both peoples. Now Aphen seeks Arling amongst the human city, where she has been taken captive by Edinja Orle. And Railing Ohmsford seeks to save his brother Redding from the leader of the Demons from the Forbidding, Tael Riverine. But the only solution may be to bring back his famous ancestor, Grianne, once known as the Ilse Witch, who Tael wants to rule his army at his side. Grianne has found peace as an Aeriad, but when Grianne comes back as a human, all her softness and peace is burnt away, and she cannot go back. But will she doing as Railing asks and defeat Tael Riverine? And what will be the consequences for humanity, the Elves and the Federation if the Ilse Witch is truly set free? This book has a strong feeling of the familiar about it. Once again, the Ellcrys is dying and must be replaced. Once again, the Druid fortress is beseiged and falls to the invaders (do they ever win on their own without invoking the guardian?). And it's not just the readers who will recognize these things. Brooks has placed a lampshade on this by claiming that patterns repeat. At least this one has enough stylistic differences not to read like rehashed ideas, but the Druids don't seem all that competent when they get bowled over so many times and with such seeming ease. The villains here do shine, though- Edinja Orle is both sympathetic and vile at the same time, overcoming abuse by her brother to frame a cousin for his murder, and then ruthlessly consolidating her power, and, of course, Tael Riverine, cruel, cold, and yet hungering for the Ilse Witch. And over all is Grainne herself- now completely the Ilse Witch, her humanity burned away. But I also liked the underlying story that started the book, about the Demon boy Charis, and what he intended for Aleia. Still recommended, but the tropes are starting to repeat enough to be concerning.

Soft Focus by Jayne Ann Krentz- Elizabeth Cabot always believed she knew enough to make the right decisions- especially in the boardroom. But when she got involved with Jack Fairfax in business, it led to a more personal encounter in the bedroom- and then she found out that he was engaged in business with the Galloway company- the same company that bought her family's business out from under them and carved it up after taking away control from her and her family- it was too much to bear. She tried to cut her ties with him, but it was too late. A deal between then had already been signed, and now their companies were linked together by the Soft Focus project, for good or ill. So, when it is stolen, it's a loss that can rob them both of the businesses they built from their own hard work. With no other choice, he contacts her to tell her the bad news- the scientist in charge of the project has fled, and the product they worked so hard on is missing from the lab where it was being developed. But instead of pulling the funding, Jack wants Elizabeth to keep the funding while he tracks the scientists down at an abscure film festival for Film Noir films, where Jack thinks he might have gone. Elizabeth, though, isn't about to let Jack do it alone- she plans to go with him to protect her own investment. But with them being thrown together into the same house in the overcrowded town, and someone determined to kill off a number of people who have gathered together to bid on the crystal- and to promote the movies being shown at the festival. As they dodge obsessed film noir fans on one side and corporate spies on the other, their attraction and passion re-ignites. The question is, can they put up with each other long enough to avid killing each other, or will they go up in flames? I was stuck in the hospital when I read this book, and I was reluctant, because I usually don't like romances set in the modern day, unless they are paranormal or supernatural ones. But this book was a delight to read, as Jayne Ann Krentz is an unparalleled romance writer. The cover image mimics that of Film Noir heroines, and the story is engaging and delightful, with plenty of espionage, high emotion and hot romance, If you enjoy any, or all of those things, this is a romance that will almost certainly appeal to you. Highly recommended.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, Steven McNiven and Sara Pichelli- When Meredith Quill rescued a man from the spaceship that crashed in her back yard, she never expected him to be an alien… or to fall in love with him. He was worried about being followed, but after his ship was repaired, he stayed, because he made a connection with her- long enough to father her son- Peter, who lost his mother when his father's enemies, the Badoon, found her and returned to kill her- and him. But he killed the aliens, and found his father's gun, which he'd left behind with Meredith. When he grew older, Peter became an astronaut, When he gets to space, though, he becomes tasked to become a "Space Policeman, and ends up taking the name Star Lord, who assembles a team called the Guardians of the Galaxy, who attempt to be proactive in preventing threats to the universe. Also part of the team are Gamorra, the adopted daughter of Thanos of Titan, a sentient plant being named Groot, Drax the Destroyer, and Rocket Raccoon. When his father, J-Son, King of Spartax, tells him that Earth is to be off-limits to protect its people, Star Lord, along with Iron Man, sets out to protect the Earth from invading Badoon. But when the Spartaxans throw the Guardians in Prison for defying the directive, how will Peter react to what he sees as his father's high-handedness? And if he does manage to bust his fellow guardians out of prison, how will his father take it? Or was this just some twisted plan of J-son's all along? I picked this book up because I was intrigued with the new movie coming out. Apparently, this isn't the "classic" Guardians of the Galaxy, but a re-imagining  by Brian Michael Bendis. It's really fun and interesting. Peter Quill is kind of a jerk, but then, so is his father. The other Guardians seem well fleshed-out, and Gamorra is a source of conflict and lust for both J-Son and Peter, as Peter constantly throws his relationship with Gamorra in his father's face, and his father confesses himself to be jealous. That was pretty eye-rolling, two supposedly grown men acting like ten year olds. Like father, like son, I guess. But it did make me interested to see the movie when it finally comes out. Recommended. 

Immortal Hearts by Ellen Schreiber- Raven and Alexander are deeply in love. They have survived many members of the Maxwell family, but now Alexander's sister Athena, better known as "Stormy" because she loves drama, has come to visit because she misses Alexander so much. Raven worries about her visit- will Stormy like her, and more, approve of her? Stormy apparently wanted Alexander to marry Luna, who was Stormy's babysitter back when Luna was human and Stormy was younger. Now that she is older, she still wants there to be a marriage between Luna and Alexander. But can she see that Raven is much better suited for Alexander, and more, that Alexander really loves Raven? And when Raven tells Alexander her true feelings about becoming a vampire, will he break up with her. or can Raven's childhood nemesis Trevor finally win her back to the ways of humanity? This book ended the series, and while I enjoyed it as I read it, the ending eventually raised a lot of unanswered questions in me that I can'r enumerate without spoiling the ending. But suffice to say that there should have been a LOT more explanation, because the series ends without any. Raven ends up with one of her love interests, but the ramifications of her choice are just glossed over. Yes, Raven is happy, but the explanation for how she deals with what he choice will mean for those around her is missing. A problematic ending that did spoil the book a bit for me. I'd still recommend the series, but this book was nor really all that satisfying an ending for me.

The First X-Men by Neal Adams and Christos Gage- Long before Charles Xavier founded his school and set out to change the minds of normal humans about mutants, Logan saw how mutants were being mistreated and hated and set out to recruit a bunch of genetic misfits to protect themselves and others.  Logan first recruits Victor Creed, who was abused by his tather as a child, by paying him and asking him to imagine what his life might have been like if someone had been there for him as a child. He also finds Holo, a mutant who can read minds and bring to life your greatest fear or your deepest desire; Yeti, a native American looking for vengeance for his brother, and Meteor, a young African American kid who can direct heat and force. But when tney fall afoul of the government, who wants to use them and calls the Sentinels down on them, the fallout does more than break them apart- it drives a wedge between Logan and Creed that may well last forever. But one of their failed recruitments, Charles Xavier, may end up doing what Logan and Creed could not, as Logan ends up in Canada's Weapon X program. This was a good book, but I felt it sort of retconned way too much about the Marvel Universe. I mean, I liked the romance between Creed and Holo, and the sad ending was wonderful. But I just felt the series as a whole undercut Marvel History as it was.

The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima- Jonah Kinlock is one of the few remaining survivors of Thorn Hill, an Enchanter compound in South America where they gathered to do research into herbcraft. However, the compound ran afoul of either magic or herbs run amuck, and all the adults died, and the children mostly survived. But whatever they were exposed to that killed the adults changed them, Jonah's skin is a literal poison that kills anyone who touches it, just as it killed his sister who he unwittingly tried to save by carrying her out of their burning house. He believes that the other magical traditions were afraid that the enchanters were trying to make some poison that would kill the other traditions while leaving themselves untouched, and so the other traditions acted to kill them first. But there is no proof on either end that the Enchanters were doing more than they claimed or that the other traditions collaborated to take them out. However, along with many of the other children left from the incident, attends a school in Chicago headed by Gabriel Mandrake, the man who saved the Enchanter children, and he's part of a secret team that takes down the Shades, souls who take over and use the bodies of others to survive. But when his path intersects with Emma Greenwood, the daughter of an Enchantress who has been raised without ever learning about magic by her paternal grandfather, a luthier of New Orleans, his life begins to change for the better… and worse. Because Emma is a wild child, untutored in magic, and her father, also a musician, has been hiding in plain sight because of the Thorn Hill Massacre. But when her grandfather is slain because of what he and Emma might know, he sends her to her father- and she and him scrape along until she meets Jonah, and her father is brutally slain by a group of young Weiryn looking for answers. When Joshua rescues her, he is careful not to touch her, but she kisses him and he thinks, dies. In reality, she is just made very sick, but another wild talent Enchanter, a healer, saves her life, although the brother of one of the Weiryn (whom Joshua all slew) believes she knows what happened to his sister- for he wants revenge on the one or ones who killed her. She wants to know who killed her father, and Jonah must keep the secret, as well as the guitar he stole for his one remaining sibling, whose afflictions are even worse than his. But when the traditions must come together or risk war between them, secrets have a way of coming out… can Jonah keep his without risking losing everything, and will it kill the slowly developing feelings between him and Emma? This is the fourth book in their Heir series, and the first one that sort of ends on a cliffhanger and a "to be continued" sort of note. The writing here is choppier here than in previous novels, and narrative flow suffers as a result. There is an awful lot of telling and rehashing what people look like over and over, and it kind of suffers from Twilight-ism when Emma keeps getting distracted from how peeved off Jonah makes her because he's so pretty. Whereas, I felt if she was really that upset, his looks would probably be more of a negative, not a positive at that point. But Jonah wasn't that sympathetic to me. He was a broody teenager and I honestly didn't care so much about him. Emma was far more sympathetic to me. In short, I would have preferred the book to be about Emma rather than Jonah. Less good than the other heir novels and lacking a concrete ending, I'd still recommend reading this one… as long as you read it AFTER the others in the series. Sort of a letdown.

The Arcana Chronicles: Endless Knight by Kresley Cole- Evie, by slaying the Alchemist, has ascended fully into her powers of the Empress, and Jackson, the Cajun boy who has been accompanying her, has pulled back from her after finding out what she really is. Matthew, the Magician, tries to warn her that Tarot and non-tarot are not meant to mix, but Evie still loves Jackson, and wants to make what they have work. Only with Death, The Devil, The World, The Tower and others out after them, she must make an alliance with the Chariot, Finn and The Moon, Selene to survive. They agree not to kill each other, but to work together, as too many are out after them. But when Evie is captured by the forces of the Heirophant, she and Jackson and the others are only saved by Evie's powers, and she and Jack finally come together- only to be cursed by death, who wants Evie for a reason she can barely understand. Until she ends up imprisoned in his fortress. Death has won the last two conflicts and is hundreds of years old- he kills with but a touch, but as the embodiment of life, Evie is the only one immune. So why is he so angry at her personally, and what history have they shared in past conflicts? As Evie works to find out, she must dodge Ogen, the Devil Card, who works for Death and wants to sacrifice and kill her, and manage her disappointment with Lark, the Strength card, who betrayed them all. But as time goes on, she comes to have softer feelings for Death, who is insulated by his killing anyone he touches skin to skin, and his great age. But as Evie tries to make him fall for her, she finds herself equally entranced by this dangerous boy… who may have more of a shared history with her than she knows… Wow, Death on the cover of this book is Smoking Hot. And the story was fairly epic, from the Heirophant and his powers (and how Evie defeats him) to her capture and imprisonment by Death himself, who seems to only think of himself by the name of the Card, and not his true name. I was intrigued to find out what the connection between Evie and this strange boy was, and I loved how it was revealed. Evie may be in danger in the House of Death, but her heart is the thing most in danger of all. And when Death tells her how Jack has lied to her, will she abandon Jack and her allies to throw her lot in with Death and his allies? And given their past, can they trust each other enough to even get to that point? I loved the romantic tension between both Evie and Jackson and Evie and Death. He imprisons her, because he feels, due to their actions in a past life, that she belongs to him. But that past Evie was a different, harder person- more into the game, which this Evie growing up away from her grandmother, prevented her from becoming. Evie wants to survive, but is traveling to find her grandmother really a good choice, and which side will she choose, Jack or Death? Recommended.

Midnight's Kiss by Donna Grant- Arran and his fellow Highlanders who carry the spirits of Gods inside them have been brought forward in time to fight the evil druids known as Droughs. The good Driuds, the mies, also exist, but many have forgotten their ancestry or never known it. Fighting against the droughs have brought together two of the Warriors and Druid mies, including Saffron, who is a seer .hey have already defeated two foes and tithe battle is over. But when a new threat raises its head, Arran is sent to keep an Archaeologist Ronnie Reid. Arran is expecting a man, but instead finds out that Ronnie happens to be a very beautiful woman. Ronnie, on the other hand, finds herself distracted by Arran's presence. But she is being drawn to find something buried on the site, and when she finds it, with Arran's help, she is coerced by the magic itself into opening the box she has been dreaming of. but can Arran keep her safe from the monsters contained within it? And will she believe him when he tells her of the Druids and warriors? Because Arran, who once scorned a relationship with a woman as a weakness, may just have found the one woman he cannot live without- but when the drough want Ronnie for her powers to find artifacts, can Arran keep her and the rest of the mie safe? I actually liked this book, although as far as I am aware, I haven't read any of the other books in the series. At least two pairs  are being sequel baited- a female and male warrior and a female druid who was strong-armed into selling her soul to the devil and turning drough, and a warrior who is working for her cousin, the leader of the drough, and distantly related to the villains of the last books. I liked the heat between Arran and Ronnie, and the different Druid and Warrior powers. I also liked the other characters, particularly Ainsley, the drough Druid who has been abused by her cousin and is looking desperately looking for a way out of the situation she is in. Recommended.

Fatal Strike by Shannon McKenna- Lara Kirk is a woman kidnapped away from her family and friends, now imprisoned in a facility run by Thomas Greaves, a man who is exploiting her by running even more tests on her. But he is intrigued by her sudden ability to project a mental shield through which no one can penetrate- not his pet psychics he "created" with the drug pay-max, and not even himself. In reality, it's not Lara who is creating the shield, but Miles Davenport, a mercenary who was hired to retrieve her months ago, and failed. Drugged with pay-max, it has opened previously closed parts of his mind and sent him into virtual hermitage in the wilderness, his senses jacked to the max, and which he is unable to handle. But he's begun dreaming of a woman who he shares sensual visits with inside his head and "texts" him in his mind. But when he finds out that this woman is Lara, he knows he must rescue her- he first must figure out if she's real, or just a figment of his imagination. Now, Lara is real, but just like Miles, thinks he is no more than a dream lover in her mind, and she takes shelter in the citadel created in his head. When he shows up to save her from her captor, they are both chased by foes beyond imagining. But can he keep them, or his other friends safe from a man who will do anything, dare anything, to get what he wants? I liked this book. I liked how both characters are trapped at the beginning- Lara by the men holding her imprisoned, and Miles by the mental overload that keeps him out of society. But even after she is rescued, as Miles finds mental harmony with her, Lara has to find the strength to strike back, to become active and not just reactive. And the sex is ultra-hot, of course, but I liked how the two of them found each other, and then held on tight. Evenwhen she may not trust what he's doing, she's been in his head and trusts him implicitly as someone looking out for her. And in the end, they have to work together to overcome Thomas Greaves, who wants inside the shield becaise his son is hiding in one similar and he wants to break through and bring it down. An excellent book that's very enjoyable. Highly recommended.

B.P.R.D. 1948 by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Max Fiumara and Dave Stewart- Strange things have been sighted in the desert near the site of America's atomic testing, and these things have started killing the men sent to investigate, so Professor Bruttenholm leaves the young Hellboy behind and goes to the site to check it out himself, along with some B.P.R.D. agents and a tiny seer named varvara. While there, he meets Scientist Dr. Anna Riev, who has been clashing with her superiors over what the monsters are- aliens or something not of this world. But all is not well with the B.P.R.D. team. Agent Simon Anders was, unknown to Dr,.Bruttenholm, marked by vampires on the chest. But his strangeness and taking off by himself to investigate is causing unrest and discontent with the rest of the team. As Bruttenholm tries to keep everyone safe and deal with his attraction for the lovely Dr. Rieu, back at home, Hellboy is in the care of Ben, a soldier who woyuld rather look after him than return to active duty. Hellboy wants to be big and grown up, but he's going about it in all the wrong ways. Is Ben the right man to help him through this tough time? This was an intriguing story, which sort of reiterated the themes from the more modern books that Dr. Bruttenholm may be a fantastic researcher and theorist, but as a leader of men, he's not so great. Additionally, he can become too distracted by a pretty face- but he hates that when it's called to his attention. I also liked the gimpses into Hellboy's boyhood, and his decision to cut off his horns. Recommended, even if it did leave me feeling unsettled at the ending- as unsettled as Bruttenholm himself.

The Undead Next Door by Kerrelyn Sparks- Jean-Luc Echarpe is a famous dress designer and also happens to be a hundreds of years old vampire. His current career has lasted a little too long, and now he's looking to go underground for a while and disappear before "re-inventing" himself as a relative of his former identity. Heather Lynn Westfield is a mom in Texas who once wanted to be a designer before settling down to raise her daughter. But when she gets an invite to the opening of Echarpe's new flagship store, she can't help herself, even though she knows he designs for women who are a size zero, and she's just too large for his designs. He sees her copying his design and is incensed, until she tells him that she's planning to make it for herself. He agrees that he could use someone to make his designs fit "normal" women and agrees to hire her. But when his nemesis, a vampire he calles "Lui" or "Him" shows up, Lui quickly gathers that Jean-Lu is interested in Heather and threatens her life in their ongoing war. Now Jean-Luc can't go through with his plans to shut down the store and disappear- he has to hire her and stick around to keep her safe, along with her daughter and housekeeper. As she starts to fall for him, he begins to worry, because she sees vampires as horrible monsters- can he convince her he loves her and to stay with him? This was a nice, light, forthy little confection, like a flirty dress. It was light on the mental tongue, like Southern lemon pie ice cream. In other words, it will make you laugh and feel cheerful more than anything else- at least, it did for me. Rcommended.

Master of Smoke by Angela Knight- Eva Roman is a werewolf, transformed by an attack that nearly took her life. She lives apart from her parents, but works at her Dad's comic shop, until one night while hunting in werewolf form, she comes across two men fighting. One is a werewolf that can use magic, and the other is a cat-like being whom he nearly kills. Smoke is an energy being who was once worshipped as a God. But when Smoke is partly drawn out of his host, what's left becomes a confused man to whom Eva gives the name David. David can't tell her anything about himself, as most of his memories and powers have been ruthlessly stripped away by his opponent, Warlock, the leader of the Werewolves, made by Merlin and the only one who can use magic. He's determined to wipe magekind, the Majae, from the world, and is continually thwarted by King Arthur, leader of the Majae. To do so he needs Smoke's Powers and memories, and for Smoke to be dead. But as Eva struggles to learn to defend herself- the attack that turned her into a Were was so traumatic that she can barely even think about fighting- she finds herself wanting nothing more than David, even as Tristan and La Belle Coeur search for both Smoke and Warlock, one Were is finding out that her ability to do magic isn't some fluke- and that Warlock has plans for her- plans she wants no part of. But can Smoke and Eva deliver Warlock another defeat and rescue Smoke's powers and memories from Warlock's grasp? And when Warlock choose one of Smoke's fellow almost-deities to kill can Eva save what is left of it and use it to boost her own power to be able to fight Warlock? I love this series, with the unusual Majae, Weres and Elves/Faeries that Angela Knight has populated her mageverse universe with. Everything is so wonderful, even the good and bad parts, and I love reading every one of her characters. The interactions between Eva's father and King Arthur in this book had me in stitches, especially the Monty Python quote-off, and the idea of Arthur loving "The Holy Grail". An unexpected delight filled with sequel-baiting (La Belle Coeur and Tristan) and some really great, hot sex and relationship stuff. Well worth the read. Highly recommended.

Into the Flame by Christina Dodd- Firebird Wilder is the orly daugher of the Wilder family, one that has only produced sons thus far. And that is because her father's ancxestor, a thousand years ago, made a deal with the Devil to serve him in exchange for power and sons. Now, Firebird's father is sick and the family wants to break the pact and repudiate the deal. Her father is an outcast from the family, having married a gypsy and run off to live in America. The rest of the family still lives in Transylvania and makes a living as ferocious mercenaries, spreading war and violence across the globe. Until one of the sons decides to move to the US, ruthlessly sacrificing the ones not smart enough to follow. Meanwhile Firebird has met Doug Black in College and fallen in love with him. But when she finds out his secret, she flees, thinking he is one of the "bad" Wilders. Except that she is pregnant with his son, and Doug wants nothing more than to find his real birth family- and ask them why they abandoned him. He also wants to rescue Firebird, who he thinks is being imprisoned by her family. But when Firebird discovers she isn't really related to the people she thinks of as her family, she knows it is Doug who is really a Wilder and tracks him down, just in time to get caught up in a War between the bad side of the family, who want to wipe out her brothers and parents and her own siblings and Doug, who may hold the key to destroying the curse and freeing them. But first,t hey have to survive an assault by the bad side of the family on the farm, and re-assemble the icon that is the symbol of the pact. But can they survive the assult of a murderous clan of mercenaries, and will the entire family be able to survive? I came into this book having only read one of the books before this one, but I didn't really need to know all the backstories of Firebird's other brothers and the women they met, loved and married. Doug and Firebird are fully realized characters with solid reasons for acting and thinking as they do, and the confrontation at the end is riveting and thrilling all at the same time. Recommended.

Rising Darkness by Thea Harrison- Thousands of years ago, seven individuals from another dimension left their home to seek a crminal who had fled across dimensions- but to do so, they had to give up their own lives. Mary is a doctor who has been dreaming this story, and she is partly freaked to find out that the creatures, whatever they are, are not even remotely human. Michael, meanwhile, is a man who has been enraged since the day he was born- he has merely learned to control and channel it. And when Mary, thinking she is suffering a nervous breakdown, takes a ride and finds her life and home going up in literal smoke, she learns that the dreams she's been having are actual memories- she was one of the seven beings- the healer, and her mate, Michael, is the warrior. But their foe knows who they are, and he is wily and has the ability to change bodies almost at will. Can Mary, Michael and their allies defeat the foe who they have chased across dimensions and miles, and take him out? More, can Mary find healing for the ailment that is slowly killing her? And can she trust Michael when, the last time they met, he killed her? I have to say I wasn't quite into either main character- they don't quite seem real or all that human- which may have been what Thea Harrison was going for, since both characters are quite literal aliens. But all the same I couldn't care about them or their romance- it just seemed like a foregone conclusion since they had already been mates in a previous life. I never felt that they wouldn't end up together. I did wonder more about one of their more peripheral ally characters. Was she supposed to be another one of their original group, or was she something else? It's never really stated and kind of left up in the air. With five more characters to go, I am wondering if they will all get their own books, or if they'll be paired up (except for one of them, considering there were seven originally- one will/may have to find love elsewhere. Not really recommended, but it's just okay. Nothing to knock your socks off.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

2013, Part 6

Codex Born by Jim C. Hines- Isaac Vainio was once a Libriomancer limited to research because of his reckless use of magic. But after stopping a threat to the world by the Devourers- creatures who seek to break into our world, and spending time inside one of the Automatons, creations which help the Porters, the only organization able to use Libriomancy, made by the original Libriomancer- Gutenberg, he's returned to his life as a Librarian, and is working with Gutenberg and trying to fix the problems the last disaster spawned. But when Lena Greenwood's tree is attacked by tiny biomechanical insects, it turns out that Isaac's mentor, Victor, killed only a few months back, has spawned another crisis of his own. Victor had made changes to insects from a book, and sent the Queen to his father as a reconciliation gift when he was dying. But his father was also an abusive man, and now he's using his son's invention to gain power. And for some reason, he needs Lena to accomplish what he has in mind. But what does he have in mind, and can Isaac, Lena, and his fire Spider, Smudge, save the world once again? Who are these strange Bibliomancer-like oriental magicians, and why do they hate and fear Gutenberg so much? This book was great. Lena moved from being an ensemble character, to almost a main character, as who she was and what she was figured strongly into the story and its resolution. And this one teases us with the volume to come, and Isaac really goes through the wringer with this one, ending up in a very low and sad state at the end of the book. But I am betting he isn't out of the fight yet... and the Devourers are still out there. Very good, engaging and fun to read. Highly recommended.

Worlds of Honor #6: Beginnings by David Weber, Charles E. Gannon, Joelle Presby and Timothy Zahn- This is a short story collection set in the universe of Honor Harrington. "By the Book" by Charles E. Gannon is set during the Diaspora, when settlers began to leave Earth for various other worlds. A Dirtsider Lieutenant on patrol encounters a space ship drifting free, ambushed by pirates, he and his team work to kill the hijackers and find out where the ship was headed to. Called off the case by his superiors on Earth, he is sent to the nearest base, and chooses Callisto. But when they get there, the Commander of the station sets him to investigating an expolsion that resulted in a death on the station. But the crime is all twisted up in what is going on on Earth, with the Greens and Neo-Luddites in control of the government, and unless he can solve the crime, war might break out and Earth system close in on itself. But can he interpret the clues correctly? "A Call to Arms" by Timothy Zahn tells the story of Ensign Travis Long, who, in being too perfectionistic, makes an enemy of an Admiral, and is transferred to a new command, where he's put under a strict Captain, who nonetheless, sees potential in him and works him hard to make him realize that potential. But when Manticore is attacked by a mercenary fleet come to conquer it for an interstellar Corporation, has he learned enough to help the Captain save the ship and most of its crew from an almost no-win situation? "Beauty and the Beast" tells how Honor Harrington's parents met, the tall Sphynxian Alfred Harrington met Allison Carmena Elena Inez Regina Benton-Ramirez y Chou at the Sphynxian University. Unfortunately, Allison's brother, Ramirez, has come to the attention of Manpower, and when she is kidnapped to force him to give up information to Manpower, the naescent psychic link between them is the only thing which may save her life, and Alfred's soul. "The Best Laid Plans", also by David Weber, details another portentous meeting, this one between a thirteen year old Honor Harrington and her treecat, Nimitz, also known by his clan as "Laughs Brightly". When Nimitz and his clan brother, Sharp- Nose, go out to investigate the state of food in their clan territory, they run into Peak Bears, and while Laughs Brightly attacks to save Sharp Nose, Honor steps in to save both 'cats. Neither has intentions of bonding, but as they say… "Obligated Service" by Joelle Presby tells the story of a women from a Steading on Greyson who is only in service to find a husband- at least according to her family. She, in turn, wants a job in the merchant marine. But with her young cousin continually taking money from her accounts, and then withdrawing his approval for her to work outside of the steading, does she have any chance to have the career she really wants? I liked this collection of stories, which added a richer, fuller tapestry to the Honor Harrington Universe. Some of the stories seemed like they didn't fit, especially the first story at first, but in the end, I ended up liking them all. Besides the ones written by David Weber himself, I think my favorite was "Obligated Service", because I really connected with the character as a person, and at the end, she finally achieved a dream that may not have been exactly what she wanted, but was even better. All the stories are strong and good, and you may end up having your own favorite, too. Highly recommanded.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris- Sookie's faerie relatives have withdrawn from the human world, and she used her faery wish to save her boss Sam Merlotte's life when he was shot. This has implications for Sookie's romance with Eric, as he is furious with her for not using the wish on his behalf, and now he must marry the Queen of Oklahoma and become her consort. She isn't happy about Sookie, though, and Sookie is forced into a series of acts that break up the vampire marriage between her and Eric, and she is banned from Fangtasia forever. But her use of the Faery wish has gained her an even more fervent and determined enemies that are bent on punishing her for using the wish before they could steal it away from her, and part of it involves setting Sookie up for the murder of her former friend, Arlene. But who is behind this new plot, and can Sookie find a Happy Ever After for herself before the forces arrayed against her conspire to kill her? Well, this was an interesting book, with even more knotty problems than usual. But the ending of Sookie's romance with Eric, and the beginning of her new romance felt strangely rushed to me, and the last part of the plot (with the reveal of the proponents of the last plot) felt crammed in. I wish the book could have been a little longer to properly play out the end, it felt a bit rushed because of it. But it was a fitting end to the series- I just feel that, because of all the stuff that happens to Sookie, that it just feels like it could go on, but Charlaine Harris didn't want it to. Recommended.

Living on the Edge by Shannon K. Butcher- Sloane Gideon is the daughter of a famous General, but she has grown up seemingly unloved and unwanted by her father, which has led to her rejecting him and making a living as a mercenary on her own, under Bella, a female mercenary who runs the group known as the Edge. But when Sloane's best friend Gina is kidnapped to Columbia by a shadowy drug Lord, Sloae won't let anything keep her from rescuing her friend, not even the hot guy who keeps showing up where he is least wanted. Lucas Ramsay, meanwhile, is a former Army man who suffered a devastating injury that is threatening to sideline him for good. When the General, a man he deeply respects, asks him to keep his secret daughter from getting on a plane to Columbia, he has no problem with the assignment. But Sloane isn't as helpless and naive as her father made her sound, and soon Lucas finds himself in Columbia, helping Sloane rescue her friend. But something is strange about both the Drug Lord and his reasons for taking Gina, and a facility deep within the jungle that freaks Sloane out as she has never been frightened before. What do Sloane and another prisoner have in common, and why does only her to-be-born child have value. What secrets is Sloane's father keeping, and can Lucas get Sloane and her father to start talking and finally reconcile all the hatred and indifference between them for all these years? I picked up this book because Sharon Butcher is Jim Butcher's wife and I was interested in reading something she'd written. However, it was obvious that this wasn't the the first book in the series, as I had no idea what was going on with the strange medical facilities that members of Edge were finding. I got the idea that it was something genetic, but other than that, no clue. And I really wanted to know. It left a hole for me in what was an otherwise good story and strong romance. I liked how Sloane and Lucas worked together and the chemistry between them, though the ending wrapped up a bit too neatly for my tastes. But sequels were baited and I do want to find out what was up. If I see another book in this series, I'd definitely pick it up. Recommended.

American History Revised by Seymour Morris, Jr.- Because Americans believe in American Exceptionalism very strongly, it causes us to mis-remember or misunderstand our own history. Seymour Morris, who travels in foreign countries, has learned more about American history to disarm and persuade people of other countries that not ALL Americans are ignorant of their own hostory. From our country's founding and contentious Civil War, to some of the most "forgotten" American wars like the War of 1812, Morris sheds a light that most Americans never get to see on the history of our country, along with many facts that most history teachers never taught in their classrooms. Extremely well researched and footnoted, this book will open your eyes to how little most Americans know about their own country, and perhaps make you eager to learn more. I found this book fascinating, but weighty and not suited to gobbling down quickly and in large chunks. This is a book to be read slowly and savored like a fine stew. Chapters on the Civil War are particularly fascinating, including one tidbit that it was the first War where modern pain-fighting drugs administered by Surgeons on the operating tables led to men abusing them and becoming addicted, long before anyone had heard of Vietnam. This book will enlarge and change your perspective on American history, and in quite a welcome way. Engagingly written, it's full of information and sources. Highly recommended.

Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton- Anita Blake, in the midst of tracking down a group of Rogue vampires who wish to remain beholden to no master, must also deal with problems amongst her lovers, from Cynrick, her Blue tiger whom she has affection for but doesn't love as a lover, to Asher, who is once again being a difficult drama queen, and while Anita is trying to keep the peace, forces are conspiring to keep her feeling like a monster among her fellow marshalls and other humans. But what is a monster, and Can Anita keep her loves and friends alive when the Rogue vamps perpare a shocking attack that could leave hundreds dead? And why is Anita under such subtle and blatant attack? Can she bond with a new Marshall and find out what is really going on with these new vampires that don't want to be under the control of a master, and can she show them why that is so dangerous to the normal humans around them? This was a very short book in terms of what goes on and how long it takes. The book only covers about three days, but its more about Anita's relationships rather than what is going on with her Marshall duties. For that reason, it feels like not much really goes on in the book, but it was entertaining. A good read, but not really highly recommended, because it just seems like fluff.

Great American Scandals by Michael Farqhar- People who think Presidential Scandals are something new will be very surprised by this book, which is full of scandalous stories about the early Presidents, from Aaron Burr and his trying to create another country in the West, to the spending habits of Abe Lincoln's wife. Sex, murder, theft, cruelty and man's inhumanity to their fellow man are all laid out in long chapters and we get to see some truly vicious presidential politics from the inside. Also, contrary to what most people think of Abe Lincoln now, he was hated during his lifetime because of the war. But there were plenty of other Presidents were hated. There was even a President who should never been, giving new meaning to crony capitalism- who filled his cabinet with his friends, and had the most corrupt administration to date- every one used the post to fill their own pockets. This is a good book, full of interesting information, and probably shouldn't be read all at once but savored in slow degrees. Recommended.

Breath of Iron by Kate Cross- Evelyn Stone works for the Wardens as a doctor and surgeon. She is in Germany, working a heart replacement for the head of the German Secret Service, when she is kidnapped by her old lover, Gavin "Mac' MacRae, who needs her help to save a female agent on board his flying ship. But because he's upset that Evelyn left him, he tells her that this woman is his wife. Eve is stunned by the news- she left Mac because she didn't want him to put his life on the line, and she also felt uncomfortable with settling down. But a series of mishaps, like an attack by a Pirate known as "Iron Hand" after Mac cut off his flesh and blood one and it was replaced with an iron one, and the release of a Minotaur-like monster from Greece, keep her on the ship and with Mac, whose presence brings back memories of their love. But the knowledge that someone in his crew has betrayed him is hard for both of them to accept, and Mac has been keeping from Evie that he has been working for the Wardens all along- in return for past help freeing his sister. Now, Mac wants to retire, after this last job, and he wants to settle down with Evie. But can she get over her fear of commitment to finally settle down with Mac, and can they out the traitor and find the information that the Wardens are expecting to free Mac of his obligations to the organization? I read another book by Kate Cross, "Touch of Steel", I did enjoy it, and looked forward to reading this one. Just as in the former book, the Heroine is prickly, but the Hero in this one is dealing with their past. Both of them are locked in the past, and it doesn't help that Mac continually lies to her- that the woman she's treating is his wife, that he is still on the outs with the Wardens, and, of course, that he's over her. Both have had lovers since, but neither one has found one that has more than what they had together. But none of them express any regret over their past lovers (though certainly, Mac is jealous). Both characters, in working together, remember the magic they had together, but Evie just suddenly finds herself okay with settling down at last- none of them really changes much during the course of the novel, at least not consciously, so readers looking for some sort of character arc may find themselves a bit disappointed. Otherwise, a good book. Recommended.

Traveling the Trans-Canada: from NewFoundland to British Columbia by William Howarth- This National Geographic Book traces a journey across the Southern End of Canada, following the Trans-Canada Highway all the way from the Island of NewFoundland on the Atlantic Ocean through to the Pacific and Vancouver Island. Along the way, we are treated to magnificent shots of Canada's natural  beauty and wonders, like hot springs in Wjite Swan Lake Provincial Park, and the things people do for fun, like the Annual Bathtub race across the sound to Vancouver Island (the prize for winning is a gold bathtub plug). It covers many people and many stories about life in the country, and some of the tensions and also traditions in living in certain areas. This is a great book, with lots of pictures and some fascinating stories. Highly recommended.

Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn- Kitty is trying (and failing) to work on the material for her next book, but she is struggling. Her husband, Ben, has a case in another state, and leaves to take care of it, leaving Kitty to do her show and work on her book. But it isn't going well when Kitty receives a call from one of her packmates who went on a run in his wolf form and smelled something unusual- a strange wolf running with another were creature, and Kitty knows it's a werelion. But what are a werewolf and a werelion doing together? Kitty soon finds out when she is ambushed and wakes up in an old silver mine. The werewolf, who calls himself Enkidu, and the werelion, who calls herself Sekhmet, are working for a vampire who calls himself Kumarbis, along with a human mage who calls herself Zoroaster- or Zora. They are against the vampire known as Roman, and want Kitty's help to launch a magical attack on Roman. But they call Kitty "Regina Luporum" and think that she is Queen of the Wolves- One of the reasons they want her help. Kitty struggles with wanting to help them and thinking that what they intend to do is crazy. Plus, they are holding her prisoner and not letting her leave. But will she fall in with their plans, especially when she knows that Roman has recently killed a friend of hers, and is searching for an artifact known as the Hand of hercules? More, can she get any truth out of Kumarbis and the others, or are they more wedded to their plans and new identifies than to sanity or clarity? I liked this story, We, the readers, learn things as Kitty does, and when she finally gets a chance to escape, and doesn't, we understand why, even if we may not agree with her. The ending is left up in the air, as to what exactly the conspirators accomplished, but there is a lot of interesting stuff at the end as well about the former conspirators, so the living ones may appear in future books. Recommended.

Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn- This is a book of fourteen short stories set in the Kitty Norville Universe. "Il Est NĂ©"- Shows the first meeting between Kitty and Ben and how they worked together to stop a serial killer, "Princess of Spain" explores a vampire encounter with Princess Catherine of Aragon and Prince Henry of England. Can they overcome the foreign vampire together? "Conquistador de la Noche" shows the origins of Kitty's vampire friend Rick, a conquistador betrayed by a former friend into Vampirism. But when the determines to bring down the Vampires preying on the villagers, can he take them on all on his own, "The Book of Daniel" shows the true state of Daniel from the Bible: a werelion. "The Temptation of Robin Green" has a guard in a facility for Supernaturals encountering her first Selkie. But can she resist his supernatural wiles? "Looking After Family" shows the early history of Cormac, and how he and Ben came to be so close as Cormac comes to Ben's family after a were kills his father, and he is forced to kill the Were in Self-defense. But Ben's family is unaware of the Supernatural. Can he keep them safe? "God's Creatures" shows an older Cormac on the job, going after a killer of cattle in a small town. Who in the nearby Catholic School and church could be behind it? "Wild Ride" shows the werewolf, T.J. back when he was human, and how he became a werewolf. "Winnowing the Herd" follows Kitty  at the annual KNOB staff party, and her interactions with her co-workers. "Kitty and the Mosh Pit of the Damned" has Kitty present when a death occurs at a club. The band playing is no stranger to deaths at their concerts, but this is too much for the lead singer. When he quits, can Kitty find the person responsible and bring them to justice? "Kitty's Zombie New Year" has Kitty encountering a real zombie at a New Year's Party. But this zombie is a Voodoo Zombie. Can Kitty restore her to life and figure out why she is there? "Life is the Teacher" shows Emma when she was a young vampire, and must take her first blood from a living victim/donor. Can she overcome her reluctance to do so before she dies of starvation? "You're on the Air" has Jack, the Vampire from Kitty's first book, who works in a convenience store and has a miserable life, having no vampire family to support him. But when he foils a robbery at his store, will things begin looking up for him? "Long Time Waiting" shows how Cormac met Amelia while in jail, and how Amelia dies, and how the both of them work together to defeat the evil spirit that Amelia had been chasing before she died. But can Cormac trust Amelia, and how can he overcome evil magic? I liked this book, which was full of interesting stories. My favorites were "Princess of Spain" and "Long Time Waiting", the last of which was the longest story in the book, almost novella-length, but all the stories were good and interesting. An excellent collection of short stories, and Highly recommended.

Mission in a Bottle:The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently- and Succeeding  by Seth Goldman, Barry Nalebuff and Sungyoon Choi- This book tells the story of Honest Tea, a company started by a Harvard Business School Graduate and his former professor, who wanted to make a tea drink that wasn't so overly sweet as other drinks on the market and made with real tea leaves, not parts and dust. Their struggle to start and grow their company whole making a real, honest drink, is told in graphic novel format. The book is split into three sections, with the start of the company, growing pains along the way, and the final sale to CocaCola, and how they still guide the company. Along the way, the company runs into problems, with glass being found in a bottle, and what looked like a finger or another body part found in a bottle, and how they eventually triumphed over the damage that they did to the company by their growing pains, and eventually diversified into several other areas. Honest Ades, which are fruit drinks, Honest Kids- pouched drinks for children, and several other drinks, some of which failed spectacularly, and others of which succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The book ends with the deal with Coca Cola and how they continue to steer their company because Honest Tea is more than a product or series of products- it's a business and personal philosophy for both as well. This was a fascinating book, and the graphic novel format allows it to be more real and immediate than if it was just words on a page, and you feel the struggles of the two founders more deeply when you can see the emotions on their faces. We also get to see Seth's visits to tea leaf growers around the world with his son, and how it changed their relationship for the better. Excellent, fascinating stuff, and highly recommended.

The Christmas Wassail by Kate Sedley- Roger the Chapman is at home for Christmas, enjoying the festivities with his family. This year, the town has hired a troupe of mummers to perform, and everyone is looking forward to seeing them, Roger's young sons especially. But when two prominent men of the town are attacked and killed, Roger finds himself on tap to find the killer or killers, from the hard streets where the Irish Slave Traders hang out to the homes of prominent merchants, he must track down the killer or killers. But can he bring them to justice. For Roger also finds himself a target in this latest mystery, and the last victim, Sir Marvell, had plenty of enemies that would be glad to do him in, including his own wife, who Roger himself witnessed trying to bribe a slave trader to kill him. But who actually did the deed, and why are they trying to stop Roger with poison? And who is the Die or Dee mentioned by the first victim before he died, and which was carved into Sir Marvell's chest? Can Roger figure out the crime before another victim falls? This was an interesting and unusual mystery, as it takes place among people that Roger knows, and in some cases, knows very well. I found the ending unusual here, too, and the reason for the murders was almost understandable. There are surprises aplenty here, and it made this book a particularly entertaining read.. Recommended.

My Lord Vampire by Alexandra Ivy- Gideon Ravel is sent into the human world to look after one of the human woman who hold one part of the mystical amulet known as the Medallion, that could give any vampire immense powers. Three evil vampires have entered the human world, each attempting to take the Medallion for himself. Gideon is assigned to guard the lovely Simone, the Lady Gilbert, who maintains the persona of a seductive and bold woman who holds her secrets dear, and her heart aloof. But Gideon is able to see her when nobody should be able to, and that shakes her confidence in herself. As she spends more time in Gideon's company, he finds hismelf also becoming affected by Simone, and wanting to tell her his secret, as well as learn hers. But to tell her the truth would be to betray his world. But Simone is torn between Gideon and the vampire known as Tristan, both of whom ahunt her. Only, with Gideon she feels safe, and with Tristan, she doesn't feel safe at all. But when Tristan learns her secrets and threatens to expose them to the world, and wants her life and the Medallion in exchange for his silence, so when he swoops in to steal her away, Gideon must give in to his deepest instincrs in order to find where the vampire has taken Simone. But can he save her in time, and can she accept him for who and what he is? I found this to be slow going at first, as Simone was not all that likeable. But once we got to see her discomfited and trying to deal with the deeply unsettling encounter with Gideon, I warmed to her rather quickly, and Gideon along with her. Soon, I was rooting for Simone to overcome her past, and for Gideon to just trust her with his heart already. I loved the meeting of the minds and hearts they achieved, and how they worked hard to preserve their love. This was a good romance, and I enhjoyed pretty much every minute of it. Recommended.

The Girl in the Steel Corset: The Sreampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross- This book is actually two books in one, including an earlier novel called "The Strange Case of Finley Jane". Finley Jane is a lower to middle class girl employed as a maid. In the first story, when she sees a nurse abusing the young son of a household, she punches the nurse so hard, she knocks her across the room and out. Of course, the lady of the  household  fires her, but she is approached by one of the lady's friends with a job offer- look over her daughter, who is engaged, and become friends with her. As Finley Jane becomes friends with Phoebe, she becomes more and more concerned with Lord Vincent, who treats Phoebe in strange ways. And the second personality inside Finley Jane comes awake, determined to protect her new friend and find out why Lord Vincent is so strange. But can she accomplish that from a man who builds automatons and is now determined to do her in? In the second novel, Finley Jane is being employed as a housemaid, but the son of her employer is determined to have sex with her. When he won't take no for an answer, she hits him hard enough to knock him out and nearly kill him. But when she flees the scene, she runs into the street and is injured by the carriage of Griffin, Lord Graythorne. He takes her to his home to recover, which she does with stunning swiftness. At his home, she meets his friends Emily and Sam, but inadvertently reveals the other side of herself when she struggles against the footmen and knocks them around like ninepins. Sam is immediately suspicious of Finley, but Griffin finds finds himself intrigued. For he and his friends all have strange talents of their own, But Sam's came about inadvertently, when Emily had to replace some of his skeleton with metal parts when he was nearly killed by an automaton. But as Finley slowly gets drawn into their investigation of a series of crimes committed by a villain named the Machinist, Finley finds herself equally drawn to Griffin, but the darker side of herself finds a Kindred spirit in the Criminal Master, Jack Dandy. Inadvertently betrayed by one of his friends, Griff must find the Machinist and prevent him from committing a terrible crime, before it's too late. But can he find the criminal in time? I loved the first story, where Finley Jane is strong and confident, but by the beginning of "The Girl in the Steel Corset", it seemed that the beginning of this story didn't gibe with where the other story ended. Finley is once again in a dead-end position, and not helping or protecting anyone. Admittedly, she grows and changes far more during this story, and perhaps one can explain it away as Finley being older and her condition becoming more advanced.. But it still didn't seem to fit where hse had ended up in "The Strange Case of Finley Jane". But I did enjoy "The Girl in the Steel Corset", I found the characters strong and interesting, and even If I did figure out who the villain was fairly quickly, it was a very enjoyable read- and I will pick up the next when it comes out. Highly recommended.

Tsubasa: Those with Wings, Volumes 1-3 by Natsuki Takaya- Kotobuki is a female thief survivng in a world where there have been so many wars, the Earth was devastated. But when she is noticed bya military man named Raimon, she finds him dogging her steps, and gives up her life as a thief to live in a village, trying to get an actual job instead of stealing.. But when Raimon shows up in her new home, she gets upset and drops glasses, getting her fired from her job. But then another thief shows up and tries to recruit her to help find beings or creatures known as Tsubasa, which are said to grant wishes and cam grant anything. The main thief, a woman, says she wants to get "boys and booze and money". But no matter where Kotobuki attempt to go, they keep running into this woman and her "boys". Kotobuki doesn't want to be with Raimon, but events keep throwing them together, and he starts to grow on her... not to mention that he can make money where she generally fails to do so. As they keep traveling, Kotobuki discovers that Raimon is no longer part of the army- he has left, and his superiors are chasing him. But also that everyone is chasing after the Tsubasa for their wish-granting powers. Before long, Raimon and Kotobuki are also looking for the Tsubasa- Kotobuki for Raimon, and Raimon because Kotobuki is curious about them. But painful truths- Raimon cannot leave the country because a bomb was planted in his head- and his superiors want him for a specific reason- if only they could find out what it is. As Kotobuki starts work in a orphanage like one she grew up in, they discover that someone is stirring up bad feeling against the "Nameless" as the orphans are known. Nameless because they don't have last names. Kotobuki grew up in one, but it was burned down when she went to find medicine for the woman who ran it, who was sick. With no other choice, she turned to thievery to survive. Who is behind this calculated campaign of hate, and what does Raimon's father have to do with it? why does the army want Raimon, and what do the Tsubasa have to do with it? And who is the young boy who keeps showing up around Kotobuki and is he one of these legendary creatures? In the last volume, Raimon waits while Kotobuki, Shouka and Addie Wilson fly a plane to the last piece of Japan still around. There, they meet the professor who helped creat the Tsubasa and are attacked by members of the Army who want Raimon, who is kidnapped by Gil and taken back to the Capital. But can Kotobuki, who has grown to love Raimon, save him from Gil's plans- to turn Raimon into one of the Tsubasa and reveal it in full? What is or are the Tsuhasa, and can everyone hava a happy ending? This wasn't quite a departure from "Fruits Basket" by Natsuki Takaya, since a great part of the story is the romance between Kotobuki and Raimon. But it's also more of an adventure as well, along with the mystery of what exactly the Tsubasa are- and why Hil Gil, the Colonel who used to be Raimon's superior, wants them so much. Many parts of this series can be a little hard to read, being at least mildly repellent, but as a whole, the story is for older audiences than Fruits Basket, and correspondingly contains slightly more adult themes. Well worth reading. These volumes are also huge compared to most manga and cost $14.99 rather than the more usual $9.99. Recommended.

Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost- Leila is a human psychic who can make a connection with others through her powers if she touches the other person or toucches something they touched, Project electricity from her hands and arms, and currently she is a relationship with the biggest, baddest vampire of them all- Vlad Dracula. But his inability to say the words "I love you", make her leave him and decide to return to the circus where she used to work as an assistant to another vampire, Marty. But Marty has already found someone to replace Leila in the act, but Leila is welcome to stay until she can put together a new act on her own. Only that night, after the performance, the circus is bombed, and Leila is caught in the blast, only surviving thanks to Vlad's blood, which makes her immune to fire. Maximus, a bodyguard who is looking after her on Vlad's orders, saves her, but has hopes of his own  to end up with Leila. She is intrigued, but can't get Vlad out of her mind. Who wanted to blow up Leila, and why does Leila keep dreaming of Vlad in her sleep? As she investigates with Maximus, Leila's powers begin to return in force, but using them nearly kills her. It appears that someone wants Leila dead- the question is, who? When she nearly dies, Vlad swoops in to keep her safe, and it seems that someone in Vlad's stronghold has bretayed his trust, and targeted Lwila. But why, and who is the mysterious brunette vampire who seems to be behind the whole plot? As Leila goes an unwanted transformation, she must work to solve the problem on her own- although Vlad insists on being there at every moment. Can Leila live with what she must do to put an end to the plot on her life? I liked this book a lot. I found the early parts a bit interminable, but once Leila and Vlad hook back up, the book got progressively better, and towards the ending, it just kept getting better and better. I like that both characters made mistakes, and both had to change to get together again. This was another excellent book by Jeaniene Frost.

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews- Kate Daniels lives in a world where magic and technology are flooding through the world in waves. She's a mercenary and works with her mate, the Beast Lord, Curran, running his pack as well as providing mercenary services on the side. She and her adopted daughter, Julie, live with the clan in their huge castle/manor. So when Julie's best friend and her sister have their first change and go Loup Garou, the only cure is Panacea, a liquid made by European packs of shifters. But they won't share the secret of making it with the American packs. Only the pack doesn't have enough panacea to save both girls. So when Curran gets an offer from two European packs to guard a pregnant woman in exchange for 30 drums of panacea, he feels he has no other choice but to go and act as her bodyguards for the lives that the Panacea can save. The woman in question is the daughter of Jarek Kral, the shapeshifter who has the largest pack area in Europe, and who is also crazier than a loon. When he killed off most of his family, including his son, his only pawn left in play was his daughter, and he sold her off to two different packs, marrying her to one, then ripping her away and selling and marrying her to another. When she was at a meeting between the two packs, she ended up sleeping with her first "husband". Now she is pregnant by both, and since her father put up a pass  desired by both packs as the inheritance for whoever fathered her first son, neither pack can be trusted to guard her, and neither can her father, so they need Curran's help, as he is known to both packs as honorable and isn't interested in allying with Kral. But something strange is going on in the castle. It's owned by a former student of Kate's Father, who has vast magical powers- but nothing to match her father, and he wants her as his own. Plus, the castle seems to be under attack by strange shifters that have a scaled, cat-like form with wings- ones that no one ever seems to have heard of. But when they go after Kate, and Kral's daughter Desandra, Kate and Curran, and the members of the pack they brought along with them are going to have to be extra careful to come out of this with their lives intact. And then there is Lorelei, the daughter of the leader of an Alaskan pack who has her eyes on Curran as a mate... and he doesn't appear to be objecting to her attentions, and everyone seems to be ready to throw it in Kate's face. But is Curran playing a deeper game, or is he just straying from Kate and her love? And can Kate and Curran bring all their people out alive after it all goes to shit? I really enjoyed this book. It's told through Kate's eyes, and we get to see her hurt and disillusionment about Curran when he seems to have abandoned her for Lorelei. We get so caught up in what Kate is seeing and experiencing, that it's hard to sympathize with anyone but her. But by the end of the book, we lose a few characters and others undergo fairly significant changes- and there's a short story at the end explaining how Saiman ended up owing Kate a huge favor. I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys supernatural romance and fantasy. Highly recommended.

Beneath the Rising Moon- Neva Grant's sister has been attacked at a party run by the Sinclair pack, and Neva wants to find out who is responsible. To that end, she goes undercover at the parties thrown by the Sinclairs, where participants let their inner beasts roam free and mate with abandon. Neva's parents frown on that behavior, but Neva is willing to make the sacrifice for her sister. But the member of the Sinclair family that she choses as her mark is Duncan, the estranged son who has just recently returned to the area, and thus, Neva knows he cannot be responsible for the attacks, as he wasn't there for most of them, including the one that took her sister. But Duncan isn't like the rest of his family, and he is also trying to find the real culprit. But the feelings and heat that explode between them when they come together cannot be denied, and suddenly, Neva finds herself in over her head as Duncan decides to take a little revenge on her for not telling him what she really wanted by making all sorts of sensual demands on her that only drive them both into hotter and hotter scenarios. Can their connection survive the investigation into the attacks, and can Neva and Duncan find the killer before they kill again? And how will Neva explain Duncan to her parents, when he is the epitome of a family who is everything they despise? I loved this book, which was both hot with the feelings and sex that happen between Duncan and Neva, and the rather interestingly twisty mystery of who was behind the attacks on the women at the Sinclair get togethers. Duncan is very unlike the rest of his family- while they are more focused on having sex with many women, Duncan wants to find just one to settle down with, and Neva is also somewhat more unlike her own family. Her parents don't like the full moon revels that the Sinclairs throw and believe that you should only mate with one person for the rest of your life- but you wait until marriage. Neva isn't a virgin, but neither is she overly experienced, either. The clash between the expectations of the families of the characters and of the characters themselves made for an interesting and tension-filled story until Neva and Duncan decide to trust each other and help each other solve the mystery of the attacks. This story is hot with both emotion and the sensual heat between the characters, and I couldn't tear myself away from reading it. Highly recommended.

Devoured by Darkness by Alexandra Ivy- Laylah is a half-jinn halfbreed who has been chosen to look after a child wanted by everyone as the means to bringing back a dead demon god. The child himself is innocent, but both those who want to return the demon to power and those who wish to prevent it want the child- in both cases to kill him, either as a sacrifice or to prevent such a sacrifice from happening. But when Layla comes to the attention of Tane, a Charon sworn to hunt down and kill rogues for the Council that rules the vampires, her only thought is to flee him. Tane, on the other hand, is intrigued by Laylah, and soon he realizes he'd rather protect her than capture her. But no less a person than Laylah's aunt, a powerful vampire, and her pet Russian mage are on Laylah's tail and want to steal the child for their own nefarious purposes. Can Laylah protect her own heart while protecting the child she is sworn to shield? This book took me a while to warm up to, because I never really felt like Tane was actually attracted to her for real, discernable reasons. Instead, he seemed to be attracted to her for reasons of story. But as the story went on, I did feel they made a better connection, and by the end of the story, I wanted them to have a happy ending. So in the end, I did enjoy the story enough to recommend it, but not very highly, as the beginning sort of ruined the whole. Recommended.

Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book by Grumpy Cat- Grumpy Cat, also known by her real name of "Tardar Sauce" or "Tard" for short, pens her first book, meant to put a frown on your face and introduce you to the grumpy mentality. Don't turn that frown upside down! Make it stay permanently! Just remember, the rest of your life is going to be terrible, so get grumpy now! In reality, you'll be laughing at the many pictures of Grumpy Cat, along with her observations on life. "Die now. There is no hope." It's short and amusing. Recommended.

Night's Mistress by Amanda Ashley- Mara became a vampire back during the time of the Pharaohs, and she's used to living like that. But when she realizes she can now eat human food once more, she worries about what it could mean. It seems she is becoming human once more, and she has also become pregnant by her last human lover, Kyle Bowden. But Kyle left her when he found out what she really was, so she turns to one of her own vampire children, Logan Blackwood, for help as she wonders what to do with herself, and whether or not to keep her child. But does she love Kyle enough to give him another chance when he pays to track her down, or will her love for Logan win out over the father of her child and can Kyle keep her safe from those who want her child, either for science or for other reasons of their own? And will Mara choose to stay human to raise her child, or return to a life that she has become accustomed to in the thousands years since she died? This was an interesting story, because we never find out exactly *why* Mara is suddenly becoming human again. Is this something supernatural, or can one only become a vampire for so many years before returning to your former, completely human, state? We never find out- it simply happens, and that's fair, because the characters find it as much of a puzzle as we do. There are plenty of ups and downs, and Mara, because she is now a human, seems to lose all of her ability to be decisive- and all those 3000 years of experience. She can't decide who to be with, and goes back and forth between the two men, before the decision is taken out of her hands. The villains here are really horrible, although one of them you really feel sorry for- not so much the other one. While I didn't feel the outcome was perfect, I did enjoy the book, so this is one I'd definitely recommend.

Chosen by Benedicr Jacka- Alex Verus is a magician, a diviner who can see possible futures. And he's living with his apprentice and two other mages who he is trying to find a new master after their old master went Dark. Alex hasn't told them, but he was once apprenticed to a Dark Mage himself, and it didn't end well when Alex started to question him after his fellow apprentices started killing people at his master's behest. So, when people start trying to kill Alex, he isn't sure why. But he soon finds out that his would-be killers are tied to that last task he undertook for his dark master- the brother of the girl that his fellow apprentices killed has returned as a mage and is looking for Revenge on Alex, along with a number of mage friends he has recruited to his cause. But now Alex is visiting his fellow former Apprentice Rachel (now calling herself Deleo) in her dreams, and the reason why is another fellow former apprentice, Shireen, who was killed by having her magic stolen by Rachel. But now it seems that their former Master, Richard, might be returning from his travels to other worlds. What will Alex have to do to defend himself, and can he keep his friends and apprentice from discovering his past? And if Richard is really coming back, what can Alex do to prevent it and keep himself safe? I like this series, which is an antidote to more fantastic wizards of fiction. Alex is limited in his powers- he's a powerful diviner- but that doesn't translate to an excess of power at his fingertips- at least not to shoot flashy spells and throw around fire and lightning. He does have some powerful devices, but they aren't perfect. In fact, one of them almost kills him. I like how the series treats magic and Alex, the flawed man, for he certainly is that. Recommended.

One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost- "Cat" Crawfield was last seen averting an underworld war and trying to live with a gift from former Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau that allows her to command shades- an ability that will fade slowly as time passes. But when a female ghost approaches Cat about needing help to overcome the ghost of Jacob Sprenger, the man who wrote Malleus Maleficarum, the Hammer of the Witches, Cat is convinced to help by Fabian, the Ghost she lives with, and also by Elizabeth, the ghost who asks her for help. Apparently, ever since his death, Jacob has been killing real women who he thinks are "witches", three at a time, and consigning their souls to the afterlife. Having been killed by him, Elizabeth wants to put an end to his antics forever. But Sprenger is more powerful than Cat can imagine, and he has a helper who is the last person Cat would ever expect. But when she turns into Sprenger's last victim, can Cat, Bones and her friends turn the tables on the malevolent German ghost and put him to rest forever? This book took several unexpected turns, and the uncertainty, as well as Cat's fading powers over ghosts, kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.. It's a surprising turn from vampires, taking on Ghosts, but I loved it much more than I expected to. Well worth a read. Highly recommended.

Bastion by Mercedes Lackey- After Mags makes it back from Karse, where he was kidnapped to at the beginning of the last book, all he wants to do is rest and recuperate, and spend time with Amily, the young woman he loves. But returning to the collegium is rather painful for Mags, as his spot on the kirball team has been taken, and with Bear and Lena being married, they can sneak off for the kind of fun that Mags can only dream of with Amily. Plus, there is the fear that the assailants who kidnapped Mags in the last book will somehow return and take him again. And so, after more is learned about the land Mags came from, the Masters at the Collegium decide to send him out on a circuit with Jakyr, the man who rescued him from the mine in the first book. Along for the ride are Lena, Bear, Amily and Lena's former head of the Bardic Collegium, Lita, who as it turns out, shares quite a bit of history with Jakyr. They will be returning to the land where Mags was found, and the For known as Bastion, to see what might be found in the caves nearby where the bandits that killed Mags parents were hiding. As well, Mags and Jakyr must patrol the lands around, most of which are not used to being overseen by Heralds. But when Mags' people track him down there, Mags must ally himself with a relative he never knew he had and save himself and his companions by learning the skills of his people. But can he do that without losing himself and the people he loves? I loved learning more about Mags' people and about the many factions that were causing Mags so much trouble- as well as WHY they wanted him so badly. I liked that the stories of the other characters also mattered in this story- it wasn't all just centered around Mags and Amily- Jakyr and Lits, and the various townspeople also got some story love, and it ended up being an extremely enjoyable read. Highly recommended.