Tuesday, February 05, 2013

2013, Part 1

The History of the World According to Facebook by Wylie Overstreet- This humorous book tells the history of the world as if everyone and everything was on Facebook and could leave messages on each other's walls. Most are humorous, like the one where the meteorite is about to hit the earth during the Cretaceous. and posts "Gonna hit on the Earth soon, if you know what I mean." And in reply, the Tyrannosaurus, Brontosaurus and Triceratops post "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!", the Earth replies "FML" and the cockroaches remark, "LOL". There are subtle winks at modern times and culture and movements, ans when the 80's are noted to be a in a relationship with "bad taste". For a really humorous look backwards, this book can't be beat, and is told perfectly to be light and amusing without being offensive  Highly recommended.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines- Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a magician who can reach into books and pull out any sort of item, as long as it will fit through the book's pages into the real world. He is one of the Gatekeepers, set to guard the world from... something, by Gutenberg, the very first Libriomancer. However, after a short career, he was taken out of active work and became a cataloguer, who reads books for the potential magic items within them and catalogues what he finds. But when he's attacked by a set of vampires called Myerii, after Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, he discovers that all sorts of vampires are attacking Libriomancers, thinking that the Libriomancers are attacking them. He's only saved by the appearance of Lena Greenwood, a nymph, who helps him defeat the vampires. But the closest Libriomancer secret storage center has been attacked, his former boss has been turned, and Gutenberg is missing, presumed dead, along with the automatons who protected the world from Libriomancers gone bad. And now it seems that only Isaac can save it and find both Lena's missing lover and the vanished Gutenberg from attacks by vampires. But who is the person behind setting the Libriomancers and vampires on a collision course, and can even Isaac come back from losing his body? Wow, this book was fantastic. A bit of a slow starter, but I loved the ideas and even Isaac's last name, which is probably Norwegian or Swedish. I loved everything about this book, even the idea of Libriomancy itself. If you love books and love reading, you have to read this book! Highly recommended.

Archangel's Storm by Nalini Singh- Jacob is one of Raphael's Seven, seven angels who serve each  member of the Cadre. When Raphael is contacted by Neha, an angel whose only love betrayed her and whom she imprisoned for the rest of his life in retaliation, Raphael is concerned for her sanity, because her love, Eris, has been slain, and if the murderer isn't caught and found, Neha will go crazy, and given her age and power, she could slay a great number of humans, vampires and angels. She asks for the aid of Jacob, Raphael's spymaster, to find the murderer, and because she has always wanted Jason for one of her servants, he refuses to be bound to her. Instead, she binds him to Mahiya, her niece, the daughter of Eris and Niveiti, Neha's sister and the woman Eris was caught cheating on Neha with. Mahiya is something of an outcast at Neha's court, disliked by her aunt, but too easy to use against Eris to set free. Now that Eris is dead, Mahiya has become useless, as her presence can only serve to remind Neha of her love's infidelity. But as Jacob investigates the murder, he discovers that Mahiya isn't the useless ornament of the court she pretends to be, but she knows that she could not escape her aunt without an offer of shelter from one of the other members of the Cadre, which none of them would give her. But as Jacob and Mahiya become close, and then lovers, can he get her free of Mahiya? And can he find the murderer or murderers as angels and vampires close to Neha continue to die? And when the true culprit is revealed, can both of them survive the coming conflict to find happiness and love together? I really enjoyed this book, both in the stories of Neha's court, and the mysteries surrounding the murders and the story of Neha, Eris, Nivriti and Mahiya. I liked how Mahiya kept her strength hidden, and the ending of the book where she finally found friends and a life for herself. It's a really good series, and I can't wait to read more. Not all the books are about the same characters, but I like the characters that Nalini Singh comes up with, and the stories she tells. Recommended.

Still Life with Shapeshifter by Sharon Shinn- Melanie is a woman with secrets, so when a former television reporter shows up at her door, planning a book on shapeshifters, she doesn't want anything to do with him. But Melanie's secret: That her sister, Ann, is a shapeshifter and has been all her life, is outed when Ann comes home to Melanie and meets Brody Westerbrooke, the ex-reporter. He sticks around, entranced by Melanie and bonding with both sisters. Ann, too, has someone in her life, a shapeshifter named William that she met while they were both in their animal forms, and as Melanie struggles with her fear for Ann and what this will mean, William gives her a new fear- Ann is slowly losing her strength, winding down, and nobody knows the cause. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Janet, a teenager who bonds with an injured wolf that comes to her house one night. She helps him and discovers that he is also a human boy named Cooper with whom she falls in love. But one thing is certain- Shapeshifters don't live beyond fifty, and Ann, who is only in her early 20's, is dying. But does Melanie have the strength to let her sister go? And what hope is there in the relationship between Janet and Cooper? This story made me cry. It's another sort of slow starter, but you grow to care for the characters so deeply that the end of the story is like a punch in the gut- in both good and bad ways. A lot of the ending is sad, but at the the same time, Melanie's "superpower", that she knows both when to hang on and when to let go, means that her new life will be much different and more fulfilling than her old one. This story is deeply affecting and I still feel choked up about the endings to both Ann's story and Janet's story. Beautiful, sad, and haunting. Highly recommended.

Gunmetal Magic by Illona Andrews- Andrea Nash is a Bouda, a Werehyena who was once a Knight of the Order of Merciful Aid who was thrown out for her Bouda status. However, she isn't like the other Bouda, because she is a Werekin- her father was a hyenawere, a hyena that could take on human form rather than the other way around, and that means most Bouda look down on her and despise her, and her first pack abused her and her mother horribly. So she put her first allegiance to the Order, because she didn't trust other Weres not to treat her the same as she and her mother had been treated. But when she chose the Order over the Bouda pack, and her lover, Raphael, the spoiled angel of the Bouda pack, they broke up in anger over what he saw as a betrayal. Now, he needs her help- several of the pack have been slain and since she opened an investigation agency with Kate Daniels, he needs her to find out what happened. It seems that Raphael has gone into salvaging work, and in the course of the job, he and his crew found a hidden storehouse under the property, and something was stolen from it and the Werehyenas guarding it were killed. Now, Andrea must team up with Raphael and a Black Magic practitioner to track down what was stolen and prevent the resurrection of a very nasty old God. But another, former God is pulling the strings, and Andrea and the other Bouda, not to mention the other Weres don't want this one returning to power either. But can they destroy two Gods and keep the entire Earth safe from their wrath? Meanwhile, Kate witnesses an accidental murder when she and Curran, the Wereleader, are out for Dinner one night. The handler of two vampires is strangled by a necklace, and when her parents arrive, the father fixates on the necklace, so his wife puts it on their son instead. Kate is shocked and infuriated, and must track down the maker of the necklace before it kills the young boy. Can she ensure a happy ending for the boy and justice for the mother who treated her son so horribly? Both of these stories are excellent and happen concurrently, and I loved both of them. Andrea was a semi-new character for me, yet she picks up a ton of new responsibilities and may end up featuring in more books of the series, and Kate is the usual protagonist, but I loved the story, and felt the ending was very apropos. Excellent book, excellent writer, not one to miss.

The Homefront Detective by Edward Marston- When a young man is murdered on the street in World War I London, there is considerable sympathy. But when the young man is identified as a Conscientious Objector or "Conchie", the sympathy evaporates- people feel that he should have been away fighting the war with the rest of the young men of England, But Cyril Ablatt felt that going to war would merely turn him into an instrument of slaughter, and this young library worker could out-argue anyone who disagreed with him. So who was angry enough to kill him? Inspector Harvey Marmion of Scotland Yard and his assistant, Sergeant Joe Keedy, have to find the murderer, even if no one cares that a "conchie" is dead. They do care about the victim, but soon find that Cyril Ablatt was keeping any number of secrets, But when another man, a junior rector, is also attacked, they will have to discover if someone has taken it into their head to harm non-soldiers, or if they took him for another "conchie", or if the second attack had nothing to do with the first, and still discover the culprit or culprits in both cases. Amidst the terror and turmoil caused by the war, it's no easy thing to discover a murderer, and Joe's developing feelings for Marmion's only daughter, Alice, now helping by resettling refugees from France and Belgium, must be kept under wraps, as Marmion doesn't quite approve of Keedy's romantic life. But can Keedy prove he isn't just playing with her heart? This was quite a new series for Edward Marston, being that his others take place in earlier times, i.e. the Elizabethan and the Victorian. I didn't know this was the second book until the end, but despite not being the introduction to the series, I was able to follow the story perfectly, and enjoyed it greatly. Tension was maintained throughout, and Marmion and Keedy's superior comes off as pretty venal and uncaring about justice, not to mention sticking his nose into the case left and right. He comes across as a very unsympathetic character, something that always seems to exist in Marston's works on the side of the detective. It troubled me a bit, but I did enjoy the book and would definitely read more. Recommended.

Blacksad: A Silent Hell by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido- Blacksad travels to New Orleans to take on the case of a missing musician for his producer. The Producer, Faust LaChapelle, who is dying of Cancer, wants Blacksad to find  Sebastian "Little Hand" Fletcher, who actually does have one arm smaller than the other, but who was the best musician Faust ever signed. Faust is afraid that heroin addiction has consumed Fletcher's life, and wants him found to ensure that he's alright. But more is going on here than it seems. The band that  Fletcher was once in is gone, and the bandmembers are all dead, but for Fletcher himself. Fletcher is also looking for a place to sing a new song, "Pizen Blues", about a small village in Caledonia poisoned by a supposed "health rub" that caused deaths, miscarriages  and birth defects in the people and children of the people who used it. The maker of the rub was never prosecuted, because he paid off a judge to look the other way. Now, rather than be exposed, the man is seeking to end Sebastian's life before he can play his song and bring the whole filthy thing to light. But can Blacksad save Seb Fletcher, or will his own demons end up killing him first? This graphic  novel also includes a "making of". showing how the artist draws and colors the stories, and two short stories in the back, about a woman seeking to bring down the entity that killed her sons, and a story about the inequities of life, and about the things that make you feel better. I love Blacksad, and this is the last book that will be published of it, because that's the end of the story. But I love how the stories deal with such deep issues, and this story, A Silent Hell, has to be my favorite. It's sad, and you feel the injustice in it deeply, more deeply than if the figures involved were actual humans. The storytelling is amazing, and, like noir in general, the sympathetic figures evoke your sympathy and the villains only revulsion. This is one you should check out, and I can't recommend it enough. Highly recommended.

Dream Eyes by Jane Ann Krentz- Judson Coppersmith is Sam's brother, and he's recovering from nearly being killed by his old boss on a Carribean Island when he's drawn to Wilby, Oregon, to help the best friend of Sam's fianceé, Amy discover if the death of her friend and mentor was a murder or not. Gwen Frazier is convinced that Dr. Evelyn Ballinger was killed in her home by a paranormal device, but as she gets her information from Ghosts, and in this case, Evelyn's ghost, she isn't likely to be believed, and all because Police Chief Oxley believes that Gwen had something to do with three deaths that occurred years ago in Wilby when Gwen took part in an experiment to discover others with psychic abilities under Evelyn's tutelage. Only one of the subjects was a serial killer, and killed two people, then tried to kill Gwen before she turned the tables on him and ended up killing him instead. And that wasn't the only repercussion of the study. One of the other participants had fallen in love with the killer and now blames Gwen for killing everyone, so Gwen's return to Wilby is problematic. But Judson can tell that Evelyn was murdered, and he works with Gwen to find the killer, desiring her even as he is angry at what he feels is her pity in offering to help him deal with his nightmares. With a multitude of suspects, and their nightmares that only seem to stop in each other's arms, can they discover the true killer, and unravel the history that led to Evelyn's death? Well, it didn't take long for this series to cross over with the Arcane Society, but I did like how Evelyn's cat, Max, was part of the story. On the other hand, I thought this series was supposed to be or stay separate from the Arcane Society series, and to see her abandon this so soon was disappointing to me. Still an excellent romance, and an interesting mystery, so I'd highly recommend this book.

Elemental Magic edited by Mercedes Lackey- This is a series of short stories written by other authors and set in the Mercedes Lackey universe of The Elemental Masters. "A Song of the Sea" by Diana L. Paxson has a Water Elemental master deal with her new husband and a band of malicious sirens in ancient Greece. "The Fire Within Him" by Samuel Conway has a Fire Master accidentally killing Icarus, and deciding to get his revenge by spreading the secret of Flight. But will the birds let him succeed? "Makana" by Fiona Patton has an Earth Mage working with masters of the other Elements to take down an evil magician who wants to take over the world. "War to the Knife" by Rosemary Edgehill has an Air Master tracking down a mage using Fire Powers to kill during the Napoleonic War. "Stones and Feathers" by Elizabeth A. Vaughn is a slice of life about an Earth Mage being inducted into the Yeoman Warders of the White Palace. "Fire's Children" by Elizabeth Waters deals with the two children of a Fire Master, and one discovering that his affinities are  very different from those of his father... "For the Sake of Clarity" by Cedric Johnson deals with a down on his luck Earth mage rescuing a fair maiden from an Evil Mage in the old West, "To Ride the River Horse" by Dayle A. Dermatis has an imprisoned Water Master rescuing the Earth Mage who helped set  her free. "The Phoenix of Mulberry Street" by Michelle Lang has a Fire Mage coming into her own with the help of a Fire Elemental to deal with the threat of another Fire Master gone bad. "Air of Mystery" has an Air Master who is an apprentice to a perfumier deal with a threat to a female heiress that she inadvertantly caused. "A Flower Grows in Whitechapel" by Gail Sanders and Michael Z. Williamson takes the characters from "The Wizard of London" and dumps a half-Chinese Earth Mage on their doorstep, with two Elementals asking Isabelle Harton and her people to keep her safe from being hunted. But who is hunting her and why? "Tha Thu Ann" by Tanya Huff involves a girl who can see and bring peace to the dead moving to an island in the Caribbean with her Earth Master father, and having to deal with a deadly cult who wants to call up a horrible darkness. "The Collector" by Ron Collins has a one-handed Black Earth Mage who is nearly enslaved by a horrible woman who collects things... like Elemental Masters and people. "Queen of the Mountain" by Kristin Schwengel involves a servant girl with Fire Powers and her mistress encountering Pele in Hawaii. "I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing" by Mercedes Lackey takes an Elemental Magician who can communicate with all Elementals and has her seeking out a possible inimical Water Master in a seaside town. But can she survive the experience? I liked this book, and I liked most of the stories. Even though I didn't feel it was a bad story, "War to the Knife" didn't quite feel long enough, I felt the story felt like it should have been longer. My favorite stories were "The Phoenix of Mulberry Street", "A Flower Grows in Whitechapel" and "Thu Tha Ann"- all of which were wonderful. Highly Recommended.

Avengers: Mythos by Various- This graphic novel explores the backgrounds and origin stories of several Avengers, from Captain America, Hulk, Ant Man, Wasp, The  Vision, Luke Cage, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and Thor. What really made me interested is that Iron Man isn't included, but I guess they've told and retold his origin story so many times that nobody could bring up interest in doing it again. My favorites in this volume were Luke Cage, Ant-Man and Wasp. Luke Cage because I don't think I ever saw his origin story, and Ant-Man and Wasp because we get to see how Hank Pym is kind of screwed up even before he becomes a Superhero. I enjoyed this book, and while the art isn't all that stellar, it still tells wonderful stories. Recommended.

Shadow Rising by Yasmine Galenorn- The D'Artigo sistees are working for Asterial, Queen of the Otherworld and fighting the forces of Shadow Wing, who wants to control them all. But Menolly, the youngest sister and a Jian-tu (a sort of acrobat/Ninja) Vampire, is finally planning her marriage with the Werepuma Nerissa. Nerissa is pledged to sire Changelings for her clan, and Menolly has allied herself with Roman, the Warlord Vampire Son of Blood Wyne, who is in essence the leader of most of the Vasmpires. But they only truly love each other... but planning a wedding isn't so easy if you have no idea what you really want- except to be together with the one you love forever.. And Menolly, her sisters, their spouses and friends have a lot on their plate already, only to get more dumped on them when the Queen summons them home to a meeting with their father and to give them news. Shadow Wing has sent his minion Telazhar to reignite the Scorching Wars, fought between the Fae and the Necromancers. Additionally, a subordinate of Telazhar, Gulakah, the Lord of Ghosts, has come to Earth to make things hard on those who would defend it, and he's sending hordes of Hungry ghosts and othger undead to kill humans. It's up to Menolly and her sisters to defend Earth, all the while tracking down Gulakah to banish him and close the portal he is using to summon his minions while staying alive and dealing with the Hungry, sometimes incorporeal undead. But Menolly will have to overcome her fear of her own bloodlust to move forward, and discover what she really wants to celebrate her marriage. I like this series, but honestly, this is reaching the point of overload. Although they are taking care of it, so many people inhabit their house, they must be packed in like Sardines! Aside from that, the characters keep growing in power and ability, all without seeming like Mary Sues. A bit purply in prose sometimes, but still an entertaining read that keeps me interested in reading more. Recommended.

The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow- Emma Bannon is a sorceress in service to the Queen of England, and through her, to Britannia, the ruling spirit that possesses every King or Queen of England. But when a series of mentaths, or human calculating machines, are killed in an attempr ro develop a machine that can think and calculate on its own, Emma seeks out the Unregistered Mentath Archibald Clare in order to protect who she feels would next be at risk. But when they both come under attack, it will be up to them both, and Emma's bodyguard Mikal, to discover who was killing mentaths and stealing their brains and why, and then, to deal with the conspiracy behind it all and bring the conspiracy down, even if Mentaths are driven insane by magic, which follows no rule of logic whatsoever. I loved this book, although I found the cover oddly reminiscent of "End of the Century", at least, in what the male character looks like, while he seems to be somewhat balding in the book itself. I like Emma Barton, though she'd be hellish to live with, and Archibald only slightly better. Still, the interactions of the characters made me smile a lot, and the story, a sort of magical Steampunk world, captivated me from the start. Highly recommended.

Steel's Edge by Ilona Andrews- Charlotte de Nay is a former healer, a commoner raised to a noble, but when her husband wishes a divorce when she is found to be sterile, she has a hard time holding back her healing talent from doing harm. So she moves to the Edge, where she is robbed and wanders hungry, but the press of her magic is less strong, until she is taken in by Eléonoré, an Edger who has lost too many in her family to conflict. But when a group of slavers kills Eléonoré and a teenaged girl to  kidnap and get revenge on a man Charlotte had recently healed, she goes after them, intending to make them pay for the lives they stole. And there she meets Richard Mar, better known as the Hunter to the Slavers, and she finds a new meaning in life in taking down the slavers with him. Richard would not want to involve her, but she insists, and he cannot tell her, "No." As they search for the slavers and seek to bring down the man behind the slavers, who is so close to the throne that he cannot be touched without specific and overwhelming proof, Charlotte gives in to her destructive powers more and more, making the urge to use them grow overwhelmingly strong. But can she pull herself back from the edge when she threatens to become nothing more than an instrument of destruction? And can Richard pull her back when she tries to kill even him? This book is the end of the so-called Edger 'arc', and involves yet another member of the Mar family. Here, we get to see protagonists from past books return, and even hint at a possible future Romance, perhaps in a different arc. But this book is compelling, with the descriptions of how Charlotte feels when she uses her healing power to harm, and how her powers are  instrumental in bringing down the slaver operation, and how she slowly gets sucked into using them more and more. The romance aspects are also nice, and I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommended.

The Men on My Couch: True Stories of Sex, Love and Psychotherapy by Dr. Brandy Engler with David Rensin- Dr. Brandy Engler moved to New York to start a career as a sexuality counselor for women. What she didn't expect was the calls from men. Lots of calls. In this book, she shares the true stories of some of her patients, interspersed with her own story with a man she loved, but who had his own issues with love and intimacy. How she dealt with him, and her patients both successes and failures, forms the body of the work. Men say they crave sex, but in reality, they also want love, although sex serves as a distraction. Some men use sex and the chase as a measure of their own self-worth, the more women who seem to "want" them, the better they feel about themselves. The idea that a woman might want him for reasons unrelated to who he is (wealth and status), may rock these men deeply- they are devastated when think they women they chase might be treating them similarly. And that is just one issue men have. This book strips off the covers as to what men really want- when stripped of all the camoflage and covering of out and out sex. An interesting and at times, fascinating look at Men and their psychology, viewed with an attitude of sympathy. Recommended.

Night Veil by Yasmine Galenorn- Cicely Waters grew up the child of a Junkie mother, and believed she was one of the Magic-Born, a witch whose power was over the wind and weather. But since moving back to New Forest, Washington, she has discovered she is part- Sidhe., specifically the Uwilah Sidhe, and she can shapeshift into an Owl, legacy from her father. But Cicely's love, the Sidhe Prince Grieve, has been captured by the Vampiric Fae Queen, Myst, and Cicely has had to ally with Vampires to fight Myst and her court. However, the choices that her erstwhile allies are making may not be the best for her, and other vampires, like Lannan Altos, have stepped forward to offer their aid. But can Cicely trust them, especially when Lannan appears to want to control her, and even her human allies want to separate her from Grieve. Meanwhile, Cicely's friend Kaylin, whose soul is occupied by a Dream Demon, has his Demon awaken, and for Cicely to save his life requires a trip into the lands claimed by the Indigo Court, and seeking out of the Bat People. But when her old allies desert her when she refuses to sacrifice herself for their sake, can she make new allies and survive when everything seems lost? This series has lots of parallels with the Otherworld novels also by this author. However, instead of the characters being sisters, the characters here are merely friends, and Cicely is the only half-fae. But nonetheless, I feel like she might end up attached to both Grieve and Lannan as mates- although I'll admit that this is only hinted at so far. Still, I did enjoy it, but not quite as much as the otherworld Novels. Recommended anyhow.

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole- Evangeline or "Evie" Greene has just returned home from two months imprisoned in a school for "wayward teens", She was there because of the pictures she can't stop drawing, of a coming apocalypse. And despite the drugs she is taking, she continues to have visions. She doesn't want to let anyone know, especially not her mother, who sent her away in the first place, and who she fears would quickly send her back in a heartbeat if she realized that Evie were still having visions. In the meantime, she still struggles with real life and a Cajun Bayou Boy named Jackson Daniels, who she is drawn to despite his wanting to know all her secrets, and the fact that she already has a boyfriend whom she loves. She isn't quite successful at keeping her secrets, but that doesn't seem to matter when the Apocalypse *does* come, and she and her mother struggle to survive. Then, after she discovers the powers her blood has over plants, Jackson comes back into her life, warning her and her mother, who is dying, that an army is on its way, one that will take them into itself to survive- but Evie might not survive the experience. Evie's mother begs her to run with Jackson, but until her mother is dead, Evie can't leave her. When she dies, they set fire to the mansion and go. Jackson teaches Evie to survive on her own, but Evie must face up to the fact that she isn't the only teenager out there with strange powers, and that she must kill the others to survive. But can Evie, gently raised and unwilling to hurt others, face the truth and kill to survive? Can she draw on her powers as the Empress to face up to what she must do? Or will the boy who embodies the Card "Death" and his follower, "The Devil" be the ones to triumph in this struggle? I have to admit, this book took more than a little working to get into. Most of the story is told through the framing device of Evie telling her story to a boy who is going to kill her when she finishes her story, and I didn't think the story needed the framing at all. Other than that, the story was pretty easy to get into, and I liked it when Evie realized a certain vision wasn't sent by others, but something from her own past. Being knowledgable about the Tarot, the aspects of some of the cards were interesting, some being the card upright, while some where the card in reversed aspect. But then again, some of the cards were taken at face value- Death being death rather than change, and the Devil being purely malevolent rather than someone being chained to bad habits. But I am intrigued by the story and where it can go, and I want to read more at this point. So recommended.

Tiger's Destiny by Colleen Houck- Kelsey, After having many adventures with the White Tiger,Ren, and his brother Kishan, the black Tiger, both trapped in a life where they are sometimes Tigers and sometimes men, has been kidnapped by Lokesh, the former Vizier to their parents. With Kelsey's holding many of the Treasures of the Goddess Durga, Lokesh is eager to turn Kelsey to his side and have a son on her.. As he tries her powers and tries to get her to take his side, Kelsey believes none of his lies and knows she will not long survive the birth of any child he might get on her. So she plays a dangerous game, trying to stall for long enough so that the brothers can free her. When they arrive, Kelsey is waiting to wed Lokesh, but the two brothers steal her back, and Kelsey, who has given up on Dhiren, or Ren, when he broke her heart again, spends time with Kishan, loving him, but not in love with him, even though she has agreed to be with him. But they have one last adventure to go on, and one more treasure to retrieve for the Goddess Durga, the Rope of Fire, which is held beneath the Earth, in a city of Light at the Earth's core. But after the shocking sacrifice of one of their number, their hearts are numbed, and Kelsey withdraws into herself, hoping she can be free of losing people, like her mother and father. An encounter with the last remaining Phoenix burns away the sadness in her heart and forces her to face the truth about her turning away, and after obtaining the rope of fire, they must travel into the past, to confront Lokesh where he had been banished to, and defeat him forever there. However, the form Lokesh has taken is of a monster defeated by the Goddess Durga, and she is nowhere to be found. Only a warrior Princess named Anamika, who leads the last warriors of her Kingdom against the monster that Lokesh has become. Can Kelsey and the others defeat Lokesh and turn Anamika into a goddess for the good of her people? But what will be the cost to Kelsey when Ren seems drawn to Anamika? Will Kelsey give into despair when she seems to be losing everything she loves to Anamika, even the snake bracelet Fanindra, given to her by Durga? And how will she deal at leaving one of her Tigers alone in the past, and never seeing him again? Well, this last book was everything I'd hoped for. The other three books were about saving Ren and Kishan and helping them be reconciled to each other, and now this last book is about Kelsey growing up as well. Two years have passed since the first book, but Kelsey still has to change and grow to be worthy of her love and finally deal with Lokesh. Amazingly enough, I didn't quite see the ending coming, and except for the author having everybody be happy and married (I felt that was a bit of overkill concerning the story), I enjoyed it a lot. This book is entirely an appropriate end to the story and the ending was sweet, if a little too drawn out, And yet, the one question I had at the end remained unanswered- did what the characters do together change the past, or is/was it all fated to happen again? I hoped they did change things, but since everything in this book took place in the past, I did find the question lingering. Anyhow, great book, great series and highly recommended.

Stormdancer: The Lotus War Book One by Jay Kristoff- Yukiko is a daughter of the Werefox clan, sent out with her father, Masaru, the Shogun's Chief Hunter. So when the Shogun hears of a living Thunder Tiger, a creature that is Tiger behind and Eagle before, he sends out Masaru, his daughter and the rest of his hunters to bring in a creature that no one believes exists any more. The Hunters view it as a sure and certain death, but there actually *is* a Thunder Tiger in the clouds, and they manage to catch it. Keeping it, however, is another matter, and Masaru is forced to free it after clipping its wings when the ship is brought down by fire. Yukiko, however, clings to the Thunder Tioger, and is stranded with it on the mountain when the ship crashes, along with the Ship's Engineer, a young man who spends most of his time hiding in his armor. His guild is the one who regulates the Red Lotus that now both powers and pollutes everything, the land included, and the only way to bring back life to the land is to build up the soil with the life and blood of the conquered gaijin. Yukiko knows of the Red Lotus and the pollution, but when she discovers the true cost, she vows to fight alongside the rebels who inhabit the mountain, and the city of the Shogun besides, wanting to bring him down for all he has done. But to do this, she will need to use her secret gift of understanding animals, and the help of the Thunder Tiger. But will he support her plans, or is he no more than an animal, and ready to bring her down at any moment? This was the first book in a new series, but it definitely starts in Medias Res, with the Lotus already in use and poisoning the planet such that the sky has turned red and much of the land is darkened and black from Lotus poisoning. It's not hard to see that there is a problem, and the Shogun, even though he is just a young man, might already be insane. Insane or care only for his own wants and pleasures. Yukiko isn';t very sympathetic at first, but she does become more so as time passes, and being inside her head helps, of course. I found this book fascinating, and it definitely kept my interest as Yukiko grows up, becomes a woman, and ends up having quite an adventure- which will continue, apparently. Recommended.

A Million Little Bricks: The Unofficial Illustrated History of Lego Phenomenon by Sarah Herman- Traces the start of the Lego company, from the original wood working of Ole Kirk to when the company he started began to make plastic blocks and how they branched out from there. The book covers both Lego sets that are exclusive, and those that are licensed, although the proprietary sets are covered first, and then the licensed ones, so that if you are wondering about the Harry Potter or Star Wars sets, you will have to wait until all the proprietary sets, such as Lego Space and City sets are covered before you can read about those. I would have preferred the licensed sets be covered in the same chapters as the Proprietary ones, by timeline, but it does make sense to do it the way the author did it as well. I found this to be interesting to read, with sets differentiated by colors used as well as the various differences between sets released to be part of the same continuity, but I was a little disappointed that the author didn't cover some of the faults of Lego, like how "boy" sets differ from "girl" sets by color and focus, where boy-focused sets are based around action, whereas the sets aimed at girls are less so. Still, an interesting read. Recommended.

Lord's Fall by Thea Harrison- Pia Giovanni is a Wyr, specifically a unicorn Wyr, who stole from Dragos, a Dragon who rules over New York and the Wyr itself. Dragos, in chasing after her, fell in love with Pia, and she has now become his mate. So when she must leave him to negotiate with the Elves who live in the South, Dragos doesn't want her to go. He can live with the elves hating him, but their blockade of trade is causing problems for both businesses, the ones owned by Dragos and the ones owned by the Elves, and Pia knows they must fix this before things get worse. Dragos, meanwhile, must stay in New York to oversee the Protector Games, which will choose the seven protectors that help Dragos oversee his business and the Wyr. Since all of Dragos's main protectors are needed in the games, Pia is assigned a team of backup protectors, none of which respect her, to take her south to the Elves. Along the way, Pia must learn to command the respect of her bodyguard, including Eva, the woman who is leading her protectors. Also, Pia is pregnant with Dragos' child, and even though she's seven months along, the baby isn't anywhere near ready to be born. But when an ancient evil from past days attacks the Elven enclave and kidnaps the consort of the Elven leader, Dragos must lead his Wyr south to the Elven stronghold to rescue Pia and resolve the war. Pia, too, must learn to lead on her own and get Dragos to accept her choices and back her decisions, and they have to win a war in a dimension alien to their own. But when the leader of the Elves is slaughtered, can Ria and Dragos take down the thread without further injuring the Elven people? I read the book about Pia and Dragos, but missed the two in between. Thankfully, you don't need to have read them to understand what is going on- but if you haven't read the first book, you won't know what Pia is unless you have read the first book. Still, this was a lovely book that brings the story forward and shows us the continuing and deepening love between Pia and Dragos. I liked the interactions between Pia and the various Elves, and those between Pia and her guards. An excellent book and a great read, Recommended if you have read the first book. If not, read that book first.

Moonshifted by Cassie Alexander- Edie Spence is a nurse working in a secret area of the Hospital. Her cover is that she works in the Pediatric area, but actually Edie works in the Sub-basement caring for the Supernatural community, specifically Vampires and Werewolves. Edie was also involved with a zombie named Ti, but when she was put under threat of death by the vampires, he had to leave town to save his own life, and now Edie feels abandoned. But her concerns are put on the back burner when she and her fellow nurse Charles see a man run down by a black truck at an intersection. The man is a supernatural, so while Charles keeps him alive, Edie runs back to the hospital to summon help. It turns out that this man is the Alpha of the local werewolf Tribe, and his accident throws the pack into turmoil over whether or not he might recover. Edie is also contacted by the vampire girl she saved to be her representative at the ceremony installing her in vampire society. Along with that, she receives a silver knife containing some of Anna (the vampire)'s blood in it. Edie doesn't want to agree, but when Anna explains that Edie is the only person she can trust, Edie feels he has no choice. But in addition to the problems at work, Edie must deal with her family, including her formerly-addicted brother who seems unable to stop with drugs. Only Edie's agreement with the forces that hide the sub-vasement where she works keeps her brother clean. But as her job and personal life collide in entanglements that she could never see coming, she ends up making friends and enemies on both sides of the aisle. But will her ability to make friends help her survive the events to come, or will her friends end up dragging her down? This is the second book in the series, and it doesn't explain at all how the world works, it just sort of throws you in the deep end, and not having read the first book, I wasn't sure I could trust what I figured out. Still I really enjoyed the book, and I got drawn in to Edie and her concerns very easily. The character is sympathetic and the other characters are also very engaging. Really excellent and highly recommended.

Lady and the Magic by Tammy Falkner- Sophia Thorne has come to the human world to carry out a mission to find out what happened to the Duke of Robinsworth's daughter that has made her withdraw into herself. But Sophia finds herself much more strongly drawn to Ashley, even though she is also drawn to his daughter in a friendly, not motherly, fashion. But Sophia's intense attraction to the music that Ashley plays keeps bringing them together in a way that often puts her in his arms, scantily clad and begging for his kiss. But when other members of her family keep showing up and interrupting her mission, Sophie must decide if the love she finds with Ashley and his daughter is worth giving up the world in which she lived her entire life. But when she discovers that her long-lost mother is also living in the human world, will that change her mind? And is there a chance for her to take Ashley to live in the world of the Elves with her? Okay, so this is a romance novel. But it seemed to be very epitome of a by-the-numbers romance novel. There's the whole "strangely draw to one another" on her part, and am attracted despite behavior that should seem almost crazy from her on his, and the usual cast of nagging servants, except here they are Fey. In the end, it only lifts itself a bit from the muck at the end, but I found the whole thing rather forgettable. Not recommended.

Sister of the Dead by Barb and J.C. Hendree- Magiere used to be a conwoman, pretending to kill vampires, vampires that were actually her partner in cons, the half-elf Leesil. But when she was forced to actually kill vampires, she discovered that she is a Dhampir and especially skilled at killing vampires, and the sword that she inherited also has powerful powers against the undead. Leesil, too, is trained as an assassin, and their dog, Chap, is a powerful nature spirit trapped in a dog's body. And with them now is a scholar named Wynn. But now that Magiere knows most of her capabilities, and Leesil has discovered that his mother might still be alive, he wants to go and find her. Only Magiere thinks she has to go find about her own mother and her birth first. But when she finds her aunt is the only one who welcomes her home. But two vampires, the vampire scholar Chane and Welstiel, his master, are on their trail, trying to prevent Magiere from discovering her true origins. But can they keep a determined woman from ferreting out the truth? And what is the true origin of Magiere and what is she, really? I have enjoyed this series from the get-go, and this latest entry was very good and interesting. We get to see that Magiere isn't, as was thought, a Dhampir, even though she is the daughter of a Vampire, she is something quite more than that, having been made from a variety of creatures that each embody a different element: air, earth, fire and water. So, what is she, really? We don't know, and we don't get a clue during the story. But the fact that she was made to be the way she is and that she can or has control over other monstrous creatures is interesting. I can't wait to see how her lineage plays out in the future. Recommended.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

2011, Part 5

Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis- When Clark Kent comes to Metropolis to find a job after high school, he's drawn in several directions- Football star, working in a science lab, at a bank, or even at a newspaper. But Perry White, the head of the newspaper, levels with him- Print media is dying, and among its rivals, the Daily Planet isn't doing that well. He gives Clark an application, but Clark throws it away after the meeting, calling his mother that night to let her know how his job search is going. But when an alien ship appears in the sky over the city, looking for a child that fell to Earth, Clark knows that they are talking about him, and he goes to the science lab he had hopes of working for only to find them hopelessly corrupt. Clark knows he has to do something, but is now the time to let out his greatest secret to the world, and defend the planet that has sheltered him for almost 20 years? J. Michael Stracynzski does here what he does best, illuminating the reasons for why Clark Kent decided to work for the Daily Planet, and how he went about disguising his abilities from the world when he never wears a mask. This version of the tale has Krypton destroyed by aliens, but more- they show up on Earth looking for the one Kryptonian who escaped. Lots of fans came down on this series for showing Clark Kent in a hoodie, before he adopted his costume, but I didn't mind. Recommended.

American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albequerque and Stephen King- Pearl Jones works several jobs, but by far her most glamorous one is in the movies. The Silent movies. She spends her days playing slave girls and other chorus roles, but longs to be a star... until the day she snags the attention of the male star of the movie, Mr. Hamilton, who offers her an invite to the party of B. D. Bloch, the director of the movies. She also takes along her friend, Hattie Hargrove, but is warmed by a cowboy drifter-type not to attend the party, which she waves off. But later, she wishes she had taken his advice, for B.D. is a vampire, and so are all his friends, and when they leave her in a ditch to die in the desert, she struggles back, only to be turned by the man who warned her- Skinner Sweet, a new kind of vampire that is immune to daylight and only finds himself weak during the times of no Moon. Tales of Skinner Sweet, and Pearl's blood-soaked ride of vengeance against those who killed them, and a stunning betrayal from a trusted friend. Their blood-soaked tale speaks of something about America, and the way we are. This is an incredibly bloody and violent tale, one that vampire romances and stories like Twilight forget. Vampires were never about love, but about the most violent sexual act of all-rape. A vampire penetrates the victim, and instead of leaving something behind, he takes something precious away- your blood and your soul. Occasionally, he does leave something hehind- the same condition he's got, and he takes and takes and never gives. But in the end, this story that was intended to be an anti-romantic vampire story ends up having a romance between Henry, the drifter and former marine, and Pearl. So while the story is bloody in spades and has plenty of death and killing, I wasn't shocked by it. Yes, nasty stuff happens, but I am not solely a Vampire Romance reader, and Pearl shows us that even the new kind of Vampires aren't necessarily all killing all the time. Recommended, but you may not be as shocked and horrified as the writers want you to be by the story.

Tales from the Teacher's Lounge by Robert Wilder- People often think they can do a better job than Teachers. Or that Teachers have it easy. But Robert Wilder learned that wasn't the case when he left his job in advertising and got a job as a Teacher's aide to a first grade classroom in Santa Fe, at an alternative school. He learned firsthand the struggles of teaching, and he, himself struggled with anger, frustration. But not just with young kids, Wilder taught all sorts of kids, from kndergarten and grade school all the way up to High School, and the slump and weight gain thst teachers experience became part of his day to day life, and still, he's found his dream job. But it's not easy, and if you read this work, you'll also know why. I was honestly surprised by this book, it shows why the teachers in your child's school are burnt out, overweight and apathetic. After reading this book, the last thing I wanted to do was become a teacher, but it did give me a renewed appreciation for what teachers do, and how they do so much with so little. Recommended.

Eternal Pleasire by Nina Bangs- The world is fated to end at the end of December 2012, and a bunch of ancient demons are the cause. But the Eleven, a group of animal predators from sixty five million years ago, are the only ones who can bring the fight to the aliens now.Ty Endeka, a human with the soul of a Tyrannosautus, is the leader of their band, and he is made for killing. But his driver, Kelly Maloy, is a distraction from his mission. Even though she would have been prey to him once upon a time, he's feeling a quite different set of  emotions in regards to her. More like "mate". But can she deal with the stress of being kidnapped, and the realization that the man she is coming to desire is actually a dinosaur at his core? Can she live with the knowledge of what he really is, and still love him anyway? I wasn't feeling the whole "dinosaur love" angle from this book, but it turned out to be much better than I thought it was going to be and I did find the book enjoyable. I thought that this was going to be the moment where Supernatural romance jumped the shark, but it was actually surprisingly... not bad. Recommended.

Eternal Craving by Nina Bangs- Al is another Dinosaur-souled warrior, and the Eleven have moved on to Philadelphia after their last excursion in Houston to keep fighting the demon Others. But this city holds something that Houston didn't- vampires, including a vampire Queen who may not be all that sane. Also, Kelly Maloy's sister, Jenna, a reporter who can't but help sniff out a story. Kelly tries her  best to turn Jenna away, but her sister won't budge, and when she and Al begin to get closer, he can't help but remember that it's been 65 million years since he last had sex, and Jenna, despite her human form, is everything Al can want. But can she, like her sister before her, deal with Al's Dinosaur side, and when she is kidnapped, can Al avoid revealing himself to get her back? And what do the Vampires  have to do with Jenna's kidnapping? Can Al contain his rage over the Eleven's sometimes allies, or will his rage tear down the city? Also surprisingly good. As I said about Eternal Pleasure, I thought Paranornal Romance jumped the shark with Dinosaurs, but this series is better than I thought it would be- much better. Interesting conflict, hot sex and while it's not quite romance, exactly (Dinosaurs don't do romance), I found it to be a good read. Recommended,

Iron Man: The End by Various- Tony Stark is sick. A lifetime of fighting as Iron Man has left him with a degenerative nerve disease, but he can't give up the suit... not yet. Instead, he's concentrating on the other legacy he intends to leave to the world- a space station. But to finally leave Earth and live there with his wife, he'll have to find a proper successor to himself as Iron Man, someone who can not only wear the suit, but be able to upgrade her. The only question is... who? The answer may well save Tony's life. Then, it's back to the beginning as Tony Stark remembers how he became Iron Man, A story as Iron Man tries to help his girlfriend save her father, Count Nefaria, and when Tony is Paralyzed by a bullet, how will he react when everyone treats him differently? I enjoyed all the stories in this book, especially the first one. It was great to see Tony Stark pass on the Iron Man Legacy to someone who was worthy of the mantle, and to see him still go on to do greater and better things. I've seen the other stories retold before, all except the one where Tony Stark was crippled. That one was a new one for me, and really wonderful as well. Highly recommended.

Captain America; America First  by Daniel Knauf, Charles Knauf, Mitch Breitweiser, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, Agustin Padilla, and Howard Chaykin- These three stories come during World War II, when Cap was fighting in the European Theatre. First, in "Operation: Zero Point", Cap is sent to destroy a camp run by a German Superhuman, which is developing Anti-Gravity for the war Effort. But when Cap is captured, can he escape before he is experimented on, and still end up putting an end to the camp and its secret project. The Second Story, "Prisoners of Duty" has Cap taken when injured in the line of Duty. Taken to a Prison Camp to recover. But the Duty of a Prisoner is to escape, and the German-American nurse who helps Cap regain his health is also a prisoner of sorts, to her ill, crippled father, who cannot leave the town. Can Cap save them... and himself? in "America First!" we see the man who took over the role of Captain America after Steve Rogers was lost during the war, and see him teaching kids on the home front and smashing Commies who are trying to invade America- and an American Congressman who might be spreading fear as part of his agenda. But when the man tries to paint the new Cap as a Commie, has he bitten off more than he can chew? I loved the first two stories, but something struck me as off about the third story. Not just because it's about Steve Rogers, but the art style of Howard Chaykin makes everything look very different. Cap and the other characters almost resemble bloated cariicatures of their real selves, and Cap just looks... ugly. I know it's Howard Chaykin's Style, as he both wrote and drew the story, but, I found it rather off-putting and incredibly distracting from the story itself. Still, an all-around excellent volume that I did enjoy. Recommended.

Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. Many years in the future, America is gone, split into five segments, each ruled by a different Super-villain. Logan is an old man, living with his wife, son and daughter on a little farm out in a place that used to be California, and in the section ruled by the Hulk and his family. So when Logan misses his rent payment, the Hulk's grandchildren beat  him up and tell him he owes double his money next month, or they will kill his family. And Logan doesn't do a thing to defend himself. But he has no money to pay the rent, so when Hawkeye shows up asking Logan to escort him to New York and is willing to pay his 500 dollars, he really has no choice but to accept. But as they travel across the country together, Hawkeye, even though he's blind, will discover exactly what it was that made Logan stop fighting, and their cargo, and the urgency of their plight, might make Wolverine decide to fight once more. But can he save his family from the Hulk gang, and what will make Wolverine decide to fight once more? Can he really make a difference, or is the end of his resistance a forgone conclusion after so long? This is a dark, post-apocalyptic book that can be really hard to read sometimes, like when we find out what made Logan give up being Wolverine. And then there's the ending, where we find out how and why Bruce Banner had an entire clan of Hulk-descendants, which just about turned my stomach. On the other hand, it is a fascinating read, if stomach-turning at points. Recommended.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne by Grant Morrison- When Bruce Wayne appeared to have been killed, but there was no trace of a body. Instead, Bruce had become unstuck in time, travelling back into the past, and then forward again into the future. From caveman times to Puritan America, to the high seas with Blackbeard, the Wild West with Jonah Hex, to the 1930's where he investigates the death of Martha Wayne, and back to the Present where Batman must face the true villain behind it all, the All-Over. But he's not alone: his friends have been searching for him, and by the time he returns home, he may not be the same man as he was when he was left. I hadn't read the original story that this diverted from, but each story, of Bruce Wayne in a different time, yet always returning to Gotham and the Caves that underlie the Wayne estate, where he Became Batman, is fascinating and compelling. How he finally returns to his own present and how he returns to himself, is a journey that shouldn't be missed. Excellently done, and a great read. Highly recommended.

PsychoBusters Volumes 6-7 by Akinari Nao and Yuya Aoki- Kakeru Hase is a middle schooler minding his own business when he meets a group of kids with psychic powera. As it turnes out, he has psychic powers as well and gets caught up in their struggle against Greenhouse, a facility that trains psychics. And Kakeru is a special Psychic, a "Type Zero", with powers over time, which he uses to help and defend his new friends.. But Ikushima, the leader of the Greenhouse, himself a psychic, seems to have some grudge towards these particular psychics. Why? and What is he after? At long last, the story comes to an end. But can Kakeru keep himself and his friends safe and free? Or will his powers exact a terrible toll on all of them? This was a huge volume, and the double size allows them to get really deep into the story. The ending was sad and amazing, as we find out why Ippatsu began the Greenhouse, and Kakeru works to change reality. The ending made me cry, and yet, it was the good ind of crying. Highly recommended.

Animal Academy Volume 5 by Moyamu Fujino- The other students are full of talk of love, but Fukuta learns valuable lessons about the school, when she finds out that another student is leaving because she can't stand humans, and doesn't want to be there any longer. But there is another human student there- one whose job it is to keep an eye on the non-human students, to evaluate them, and the professors thought it was Fukuta, but it wasn't. So there is another human at the school, but who? And Fukuta gets to meet the very powerful Headmaster. But when her roommate turns into a normal cat and refuses to be human, can Fukuta discover what is wrong with her, or will Miiko be lost to her as well? Another volume in this cute series, which is turning darker as it goes along. We know the reason for the school to be there, but will Fukuta be able to stay, and will her education there prepare her in any way for the real world, and what will become of the students whose secrets she is coming to know? Interesting, and recommended. I want to see where this series will go.

Wolverine Goes fo Hell by Jason Aaron and Renato Guedes- Wolverine has always lived in his own personal hell, remembeing the lives of the people he has taken. But when he gets sent to the actual Hell by people intent on taking him out, he must survive Hell without losing himself in endless rage and battles, and find a way out so that he can deal with the people who sent him, his friends, and his lover into death. Surviving Hell with his soul and sanity intact is not easy, however, and By the time he's powerful enough to leave, will he want to? I found this book interesting, but troubling. It's very violent and bloody, and yet it has enough spectacle that it doesn't just feel like an endless, bloody slog through hate and ugliness. Hell is very well depicted and Wolverine's struggles to fight against the sucking pull of endless battles was shown very well. Recommended.

Hellsing, Volume 10 by Kohta Hirano- In the last volume, Lady Integra and the rest of the Hellsing crew must fight against the Nazi's collection of supernatural creatures, and the leaders of the Nazi crusade. The six highest ranking of the Nazis and Alucard, Seras Victoria and the others must face off in one on one battles to finally defeat the Nazi menace. But will all of them survive the coming conflict, and if they do, what will be the outcome for the belagured nation of England, and the Hellsing Organization? This was a fitting end to the series, and the bad guys die and the good guys are (relatively) victorious. This series has just the right amount of buildup and battles and doesn't bang on and on simply for the sake of stretching out the fights (I'm looking at you, Dragonball series!). I felt the ending was perfect, even as it happened 30 years later. It was amazing and glorious and well worth reading. Highly recommended.

Siege: Thor by Kieron Gillen, Billy Tan and Batt, Rich Elson, Dough Braithwaite, Jamie McElvie and Niko Henrichon- Loki, once again conspiring against his brother, Thor, has had Thor exiled from Asgard. Thor and Loki's borther Balder site on the throne, with Loki as his sinister "advisor". But worse, Loki has convinced Norman Osborn that Asgard doesn't belong on Earth, and Osborn arranged a devastation in Chicago that has left many dead, and put the blame on Volstagg of the Warriors Three. With this justification, Norman Osborn declares war on Asgard, which is currently located just outside of Broxton, Oklahoma. As Volstagg struggles to clear his name, Kelda must apologize to Bill's parents for his death, and Thor fights Volstagg, while Loki discovers himself a bit more tightly enmeshed in the mortal world than he realizes. And Dani Moonstar must fulfill a deal with the Goddess Hel, to bring her the dead she is expecting. But when she's given the powers of the Valkyrie, she can't help but be drawn into the conflict. But how will she deal with the experience of fighting in Ragnarok? And will Thor's exile ever be rescinded? This was okay, but aside from a few moments, and the story of Dani Moonstar, but the rest of it was just not that interesting. The best parts were Dani Moonstar and Volstagg. So, recommended, but only slightly.

Dead Man's Chest by Kerry Greenwood- Phryne Fisher, her maid, Dot, and her two adopted daughters take off for the sea on Vacation, but the couple that is supposed to be in the house they are staying in, taking care of it, are missing, and there is a rumor about buried treasure near where they are staying, and a gang of teenagers are hanging around. But what is really going on, and what's the truth about the treasure? And for that matter, what happened to the married couple that were supposed to be at the house? And will Phryne be able to keep her promise to her daughters that this will be a vacation without a dead body? I always enjoy Phryne when she goes out to solve a mystery, and this book is no exception, except that this book has the added fun of her interacting with her adopted daughters. Phryne's ability to remain calm and cool-headed even in the midst of danger makes her very fun to read about. Her books are exceptionally enjoyable for me, Recommended.

Lord of the Vampires by Gena Showalter- Nicolai is the Vampire King, well noted for his virility and sexuality. In a rare twist, he's been deprived of his memory, his timepiece, and enslaved in the land of Delfina, where he provides sex to his masters and mistresses. But they can't enslave his dreams and he's been dreaming of a human woman, Jane Parker, and she has been dreaming of him. But when she is drawn into Delfina by Nikolai's dreams, she must help him escape to be able to go home... the problem is, Nikolai doesn't want to let her go, and by the time he's free, she may not want to go... Can the two of them escape Delfina and return Nikolai to his memories and Kingdom, and is there any future for a vampire and a human? It's a Harlequin Romance in the Nocturne line, which does Supernatural Romance, and what can I say, It was good and hot, and it made me believe in vampires and romance while I was reading it, so recommended.

Bone Palace by Amanda Downum- The death of a foreign Prostitute summons Isyllt Iskaldur from her bome in the middle of the night. This is because the prostitute has a royal signet ring on her body. Isyllt tests for plague, always a problem in the city of Erisin, but the woman is clean. Finding her killer and why she died will distract Isyllt from her three missing fingers and the moodiness of her ex-lover. But something is stitrring in Erisin, something more than the Vrykolaks in their underground kingdoms, something that smacks of rebellion against the king and his current queen. But can Isyllt discover and stop the plot before her home city becomes a seething mass of blood and fire? And can Isyllt save herself from those same coming tides? I remember reading The Drowning City, also by Amanda Downum, and this book promised more of the same intriguing main character, and a new intrigue in the capital city of the empire. I loved this book, and found myself drawn deeply into the intrigues and the characters. This book is fascinating and a wonderful read. Recommended.

Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century by Margaret Wade Labarge- The life of a Baronial  Household in the Thirteenth Century is explored through records of the time, manorial records and manorial household records. The role of the lady of the manor, the castle as a home, the management of the house, daily diet, the role and price of spices, the manor's provisions of wine and beer, some purchased, some brewed onsite, clothing and other household goods are all discussed in detail, illuminating what it was actually like living in such a household. This isn't a dry recounting, but really brings the time to life, and brought that whole century to life for me. Recommended.

The Search for King Arthur by Christopher Hibbert- This book looks at the stories told about King Arthur and looks at them and beyond them to look for the "real" King Arthur, and what the world was actually like when King Arthur would have been on the throne, and how stories about his reign and what his world was supposed to be like tell us about the mindsets of the people who told those stories. This book has plenty of pictures, but it's rather dry and academic. I like dry and academic, but even so, this book was a slog for me. It looks at a variety of approaches to the Legend of Arthur, which is good, so it's still recommended, but it might make a good sleep aid for some people.

The Pleasures of the Torture Chamber by John Swain- Man'a inhumanity to their fellow man takes many forms, and the worst is torture. This book takes a look at various forms of torture by type. Tortures takes from the culinary arts (boiling in oil, being roasted over the fire, etc.), by cord (hanging, slow strangulation) and so on, and describing the effects of various tortures and the long-term effects of being tortured in various ways. and looks at why the various forms of torture were used. This book has less pictures and more woodcuts showing torture rather than the copious photographs of other books on this subject, and the tone is less conversational and more scholarly, but it makes the toll of torture, on victims and society, very clear and speaks with a voice of authority. Recommended.

Duke Most Wanted by Celeste Bradley- Sophie Blake's rich grandfather has willed his money to the first of his granddaughters to maery a Duke. But since her cousin Deirdre has that sewn up by being the fiancee of a Duke, Sophie is content to just live her life, enjoying her books and the company of her friends, including Graham, who she absolutely loves, since he has no designs on her whatsoever. She's content to just be with him, trying to figure out what demons live inside him. But when Graham inherits the family title completely unexpectedly, he inherits along with it a ruined estate and a mountain of debts, and must find himself a rich wife if he hopes to restore the estate to anything like a functioning place for the people who depend on him. He must immediately seek out a rich bride. amd that means Sophie, no matter how he feels about her, will no longer do. And Sophie, realizing she will lose Graham for good if she doesn't do something, steps up and makes herself over to prove that she can be the woman he wants, and the woman he needs as well. But can she win Graham's heart and become his wife in time to win the prize he needs: the money to restore his estate? I liked this book a great deal- the story was good and the characters engaging.and sympatheric. Graham's backstory involves physical abuse whereas Sophie is much more sheltered, but neither shrink away at doing what must be done for them to be happy together. Recommended.

Rogue in My Arms by Celeste Bradley- When a little girl is dumped on the doorstep of a gentlemen's club, they can only conclude that one of them is the father. The first gentleman, having proven himself not the father, has nevertheless found a woman and become engaged. Now, the second possible father, Sir Colin Lambert, wonders if the girl could be the daughter of an actress he once had a relationship with, so he sets out to find out if she is the girl's mother. On the way, he finds that she has decamped for elsewhere, and finds himself saddled with her former dressmaker, a Miss Prudence Philby, and her brother, who are after Melody the actress for the money she owes to Prudence. But as the four of them share a carriage together, Colin is discovering that Miss Philby has charms of her own, and that he is less than immune to her presence. By the time they find Melody, he may be willing to give her up for Prudence. But can he abandon the possible morher of his possible daughter? And if Melody is his daughter's mother, what will he do about his attraction for the lovely Prudence? And can he convince her that his affections truly are sincere? Another excellent little romance. I loved all the character moments, and how Pru was very well named, having to support not only herself but her brother in a profession where money is not guaranteed. The scene with the play and Colin's performance made me smile in a sort of fond, affectionate way, and the interactions between them makes the page crackle. Recommended.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke- Prosper and Bo, two brothers on the run from their cruel aunt and uncle, travel to Venice and fall in with a group of house thieves led by a boy named Scipio, who calls himself "The Thief Lord". But on the heels of Bo and Presper come their aunt and uncle, and Victor, a Private Eye they hired to track the boys down. But hanging out with the underage Thieves gets them caught up in a scheme to discover a lost treasure that could have consequences for all of them. And in this new and unfamilliar city, can they give their aunt and uncle the slip permanently? And what will be the effects of everybody finding what they seek? I liked this book, which is full of danger, thrills and two kids on the run. I don't necessarily think it's something new and wonderful, like how I felt when I finished reading the Harry Potter book, but I found the story quite enjoyable and interesting. Recommended.

Crimson Moon by Rebecca York- After a life looking for trouble and a fight in a bar leaves him half-dead, Johnny Marshall made a new life for himself as Sam Morgan, and found a new vocation in fighting for the Earth. But when his latest target's daughter, Olivia Woodlock, daughter of a lumber baron that Sam has his eye on, comes barreling into Sam, she won't reveal why she is running. Olivia's life is in danger from a man who wants to possess her, while dealing with the problems of a Werewolf who may just have met his lifemate. But can he keep her safe from the man who will do anything to get her, Luther Etheridge? And will she be able to overcome the abuse and secrets of her family to love Sam in the way he deserves? Another excellent book by Rebecca York. This one was a little hard for me to read in parts because of sexual abuse and some other nasty stuff, but I loved how Sam and Olivia came together, and the love they shared with and for each other. Recommended.

Beyond Fearless by Rebecca York- Zachary Robinson has been hired, outside of his usual crew, to find the wreckage of the ship called the Blue Heron, and the missing brother of a millionaire. But his first dive on the ship is a disaster, and his newly-hired crew believes that the wreck is haunted hy a bloodthirsty Carib God. Anna Ridgeway is working on Grand Fernardino, using her abilities in a "magic" act. But her abilities tell her that Zack is in trouble- Danger clings to an d follows him, and when she gets involved with Zack, danger reaches out to engulf her as well. Lucky for her that Zach knows quite well how to defend himself. But are they ready to defend themselves from a danger that isn't strictly physical? I got into Rebecca York with her Werewolf romances, and wasn't quite sure I'd enjoy one of her non-Werewolf books. But this was wonderful and quite surprised me- it was just as good as her other romances, and it's very enjoyable. Recommended.

The Anatomists by Hal McDonald- Edward Montague and Jean-Claude Legard are surgical students in Edinburgh, which means to become surgeons, they must also become criminals, buying dead bodies from the local "Resurrectionists", or body snatchers, who steal recently buried bodies from the local cemeteries. But when the body of the middle-aged man they ordered turns out to be the body of a younger woman, they must figure out what went wrong, and, since the body was buried in the grave that supposedly contained that of a middle-aged man, discover who killed her and hid the body in the grave, and who wanted her dead in the first place. But the situation isn't so clear, and the two students must become detectives to prevent the University or themselves being blamed. But can two want to be  Doctors succeed at solving a mystery? This smacked a lot of Sherlock Holmes to me, with a Edinburgh (student) Doctor filling the role of Watson to the more intelligent French student's Holmes. Legard is more charismatic and balanced than Holmes, but there was a definite undercurrent there. Still, a good mystery and recommended.

Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Nykirian Quiakides is a former League assassin, and he's the only one, because no one is supposed to survive leaving the League- but through his great skill at killing, he's killed all the assassins that have come after him. But when a young woman named Kiara Zamir needs help to survive after her politician father takes some very bad positions that would help the non-League worlds, Nykirian is called on to protect her. But she isn't going to make it easy, since he is the same as the one who killed her mother. But Nykirian, while professing not to care, finds himself coming to care for Kiara. But when it all comes down to the end, does she love him enough to give up her life to be with him? And will those in her life let her make that choice? And does Nykirian have the strength to give up his life for her? And will the League let him? Well, this was a new series for me, but I do have to say that it quickly turned into another session of "My childhood was worse than yours!" part infinity-nurgle-numpty. I don't object to the idea as a means of inducing conflict, but it seems like each time Sherrilyn Kenyon uses it, the childhood has to get worse, until each of her heroes are in competition for the trophy of "Worst Childhood EVAR". It's gotten more and more over the top and it's gotten to the point of distracting me from the story in a major way. Seriously, Ms. Kenyon, time to move on to another trope. PLEASE! Otherwise, acceptable and still recommended.

Lord of the Abyss: Desert Warrior by Nalini Singh- Micah is a monster that the people of the Realm have been taught to feat by the Dark Lord that rules them. But when the Dark Lord's daughter, Liliana, seeks to flee her father by hiding in Micah's realm of the Abyss, she is taken directly into his palace, where Micah imprisons her. But where others see a horrendous monster, Liliana sees only a very lonely man who lashes out at others in his loneliness, and where others see an ugly witch, Micah begins to see a beautiful woman who he could love. But as they work with Micah's siblings to break the power of the Dark Lord, will her father take a terible revenge on them? The book also contains a reprinting of Desert Warrior, Nalini Singh's first published Romance. When Jasmine must return to Zulheil, her former lover, Tariq, now Prince of the Land, kidnaps her as he had promised to do. He wants to punish Jasmine for running away from him, but can he convince her it is love behind his harshness, and can Jasmine overcome his bruised feelings to forge a deeper connection? I liked both books, although I was a little taken aback at Desert Warrior, which pushed directly into the very overdone "Foreign Prince" territory. His country is, of course, highly advanced, but he still mostly lives in tents. To put it in a shorter form, cliche as all get out. But the Lord of the Abyss actually managed to surprise me a bit at the end. Not in the content of the story, but in what happened with the heroine. Excellent and recommended, "Desert Warrior" is terribly cliche, but still manages to be hot. Recommended.

The Mid-Atlantic Treasure Coast: Coin Beaches & Treasure Shipwrecks from Long Island to the Eastern Shore by Stephan M. Voynick- talks about notable shipwrecks at various places along the Mid-Atlantic coast, diuscussing as well how many unknown shipwrecks lie off our coiast because of being wrecked before there were any people from Europe to record them, and then continues enumerating wrecks from the end of Long Island all the way to the Merida, a ship that wrecked off the coast of Virginia with millions in gold, silver, jewels and gems on board in 1902. The stories are lurid, as befits tales of treasure, and give the general area of the wrecks, so that interested treasure seekers can possibly go to seek them out in the depths of the ocean. Also included are places known as "Coin Beaches", where you can still find copper or gold coins washed up from shipwrecks after storms. This book is incredibly informative, and if you love the hunt for treasure, this is a good book to inspire the imagination with the lure of treasure. Well worth reading and recommended.

The Guardian by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Lydia is a Dream-Hunter who knows the location of Olympus, which several evil Gods wish to know the location of. So they toss her to Seth, a man in Hell of his own accord, who has been tortured and drained of his powers for millennia, to find out the truth of where Olympus is. Seth has been tortured so much that he no longer trusts anyone or cares for anyone or anything. They tell him he must get the key to Olympus from Lydia. But Lydia has no idea what Seth is talking about, and even so, he doesn't believe her. But when Lydia tries to get Seth on her side, she begins to see how damaged he is. inside. even as she begins falling in love with him. But when Seth discovers that she is a Jackal, one of the beings who are responsible for being in Hell, will his trust in her be forever damaged? Once again, it was Contestant for "worst childhood EVAR" #46, but at least Seth's life was worse than his childhood, so this book irritated me less than some of Sherrilyn Kenyon's more recent works. I liked the resolution of the story, and the truths that Lydia and Seth learned about themselves., and how they came together in love. The ending of the book made me smile, and enjoy the book just a bit more. Recommended.