Saturday, June 22, 2013

2013, Part 4

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs- Mercy is finally healed from the wounds she took in the last book, River Marked, and it's Black Friday. Adam's daughter, Jesse, has convinced Marcy to drive her out to the Black Friday sales. But after hitting Home Depot, they still don't have what Jesse wants to buy so she convinces Mercy to take her to the local mall. On the way, Mercy has a minor freak out and gets into an accident, totaling her car. But after getting the accident dealt with, she finds out why she had her Freak-out. Someone has kidnapped Adam and the entire pack, and is holding them hostage so that Adam will assassinate a Senator who is anti-were. Adam knows that this would mean that the wrath of the United States would come on any werewolves, so Adam refuses, and the men holding him kill the most submissive wolf in the pack, and Mercedes "sees"  through the bond she shares with Adam and the pack. In addition, Adam and the others have been poisoned with silver, and Adam, while taking much of it into himself via the pack bond ends up having it drawn off by Mercy, who then vomits much of it up on the floor. The fact she can do so is unprecedented, and may come from her association with Coyote. But can she and the remaining free member of the pack find out who has taken them, and where, and cut off the scheme that the men want Adam to carry out? Who is behind it, anyway? And when the master of another Vampire Seethe tries to move in and take over, can Mercy keep her friends safe? And can she call on the help of her mentor, Zee, to ensure that her loved ones come out on top, when the Fae have withdrawn from the United States because of the events in "Fait Game"? Whoa, this one was another book that made me rush through it, even when I wanted to slow down and take my time, because the story and characters pulled at me so powerfully. So much goes on, and readers are pulled in every direction by the various twists and turns, but the story is good, and I have to admit that I didn't see a lot of the ending coming, nor who was really responsible. I can't wait for the next book in the series- I want to see what happens with the Fae  and the Marrok and werewolves both. Highly recommended.

CSI: The Case of the Plagued Play by David Lewman- Woodlands Junior High is putting on a student written play, but problems have plagued the production. Despite how hard the cast and crew have worked, someone is hiding props and doing everything they can to get the play halted or cancelled. Club CSI investigates, having a number of suspects for the sabotage, from the boy whose played came in as second runner up in the class, to one of the cast, to the prop master herself. Even the drama teacher who chose the play to be put on. But who is the true culprit and why are they trying to end the play? A fair number of red herrings makes the Club CSI members second-guess themselves at every turn, but can they finally discover the truth? This book was a little thicker than the other stories in this series, but that was fine, as all the red herrings and misdirection took up quite a bit of time in the book. But the story was good, and even if I guessed the true culprit from the beginning, finding out the why of why they wanted the play cancelled was not completely unexpected. But the clues are hidden well, just the idea that the least likely suspect is often the true villain turned out to be true in this case. Still an excellent story, and both the book and the entire series is highly recommended.

The Mystery Woman by Amanda Quick- Beatrice Lockwood works for Flint and March, usually working as a chaperone protecting young ladies and their virtue from scoundrels that would despoil them. But when her latest case goes awry, she is helped by a man named Joshua Gage, who has been on her trail. Before working for Flint and Marsh, and even before she was an actual chaperone, she worked as a psychic practitioner under an assumed name. But the man who killed her mentor and caused her to flee into the night is after her once again, and Gage believes that she is the one who killed  her mentor and ran off with the money from the Psychical Society that he ran. On actually meeting Beatrice, though, he feels that she is not a criminal, and while he disbelieves in Psychic powers,  he does  believe her to be unusually perceptive and coolheaded. So when she asks to be included in his investigation, he cannot refuse But as they investigate who killer her mentor and who might be blackmailing Gage's sister, Beatrice and Gage discover a powerful attraction between them that could endanger them both,.. or lead to true love. But as Gage deals with his badly injured body, and a nephew who wants nothing more than to follow in his footsteps, he must also seek to control his powerful passion for Beatrice. But does he need more control, or to let himself free? And can Beatrice find it within herself to accept her feelings for this dangerous, unusual man?  And can both of them win free of their enemies and a stunning betrayal that will call into question everything Gage thought he knew? I usually fall into Amanda Quick;s stories and sink into them like a stone. This one was a bit more difficult to do that with because both characters are exceedingly self-controlled and it was a bit off-putting at the beginning of the story. But when the characters started to lighten up a bit and reveal more of themselves, that was what finally sucked me in. The villains here are sufficiently villainous and at the same time hidden that the story unfolded in a way that was truly suspenseful. You get a definite feeling of menace that is quite chilling. Recommended.

Wild Invitation by Nalini Singh- Four short stories set in the Psy-Changeling universe. "Beat of Temptation" has Tamsyn, the healer for DarkRiver, returning to the pack after time away in Medical School. but when she meets Nathan, her soon-to-be-mate again, he tries to keep his distance so that she can have some time to have a normal life before she is subjected to the mating heat. But his intention to keep his distance only makes her think he doesn't want her, which is far, far from the truth. But can he make her see that, or will she have to take matters into her own hands to get what she wants? "Stroke of Enticement" involves Anna, a young teacher who was nearly crippled in a train accident. But when she meets Zach, the uncle of one of her  students, he begins a determined courtship of her that runs squarely into her determination never to marry or enter into a longterm relationship of any kind, because of her past hurts. But Zach wants to have her forever. Can the man and the Leopard convince the reluctant human to accept both his love and the mating bond? "Declaration of Courtship" has  Grace, an extremely submissive wolf, courted by Cooper, an extremely strong Alpha. Butt can he court her without  overwhelming her and making her run, and can she learn to stand up to this man and wolf who  overwhelms her in every conceivable way? Lastly, "Texture of Intimacy" coves the first few weeks after the mating of Lara, the pack healer, and Walker, a Psy who hid his emotions even in the midst of Silence. Can they learn to adjust together, and accept each other's strengths and weaknesses to discover the true joy in their bond? I liked every one of the stories, and they all felt very different, but in a good way. My favorite story was probably "Stroke of Enticement", as I loved the interactions between Zach and Anna, and also between her and her mother, and between her parents as well. This is probably one of my favorite Pay-Changeling books now. Highly recommended.

Destined by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast- Zoey and her friends have returned to Tulsa, but Zoey's mother has  been killed, and she only knows because Nyx let her witness her mother crossing into the afterlife, and Zoey is wracked with grief. But she has to suck it up and return to the House of Night to get schooled. But Nefret isn't out of options yet. Her alliance with the white bull has given her a servant in Aurox, a vampire who can turn into a bull when he absorbs enough pain, anger and sorrow. But even though Zoey is an eeemy of Nefret, Aurox finds he cannot absorb her sorrow, and instead of it feeding him, he feels her emotions as well.  Zoey's grandmother seeks her out to tell Zoey of her mother's death. Since it happened on her grandmother's land, her grandkother will fast and do a ceremony to cleanse the land of the death. She requests that Zoey and her friends do one as well. Neferet is afraid, but she cannot say why, and so she approves the request to appear magnanimous. But it isn't all bad. Thanatos, of the council has come to the school as a teacher to teach advanced classes, and even as the other Vampire teachers bristle at Neferet's bringing humans in to "help" them with their duties, Lenobia finds a kindred spirit in the cowboy sent to help her and his horse. Meanwhile, Kalona seeks to take back Rephaim, but Rephaim is more convinced that Stevie Ray loves him than his father is, and the loss of Rephaim hits him hard. Gradually, it becomes clear that the ritual that takes place on Grandma Redbird's land must be done sooner, and Neferet chooses to act before Zoey and her friends can discover that she killed Zoey's mother. But can Aurox, Neferet's pawn, kill or injure Zoey to prevent the ritual from being successful? And more to the point, does he want to? And Erik goes on his first marking mission, only to encounter a blind girl who is his target. But when he finally marks her, she gains back her sight, and True Sight as well as Red Markings. But what does she have to do with the Red Vampires? I liked this book a lot. I still feel it's more interesting and a better romance than the Twilight series, It was interesting, seeing where Heath's spirit ended up, and I enjoyed Zoey's interaction with Thanatos and even Lemobia, and Lenobia's interactions with her new Cowboy helper. It often seems that the plans Neferet makes end up coming back to bite her in the ass, and I am counting on that to continue. This book was a bit of a waiting game, with several surprising turns for the characters, but I can't wait to read the next one.

Streadfast: An Elemental Masters Novel by Mercedes Lackey- Katie Lagford is on the run from her abusive husband, and a life at the circus that has family joined when they could no longer make a good living on her own. When her parents died in a fire, she was forced to marry the strongman by the Master of the Circus, and his displeasure soon turned into slaps and punches. Now, she's on the run with the money she's earned and looking to run as fast and far from her husband as possible. A group of gypsies shelters her, both because her mother was a gypsy and because of the magic she has- but Katie isn't aware of any mafic, and soon , she must leave the gypsies and make her way on her own. She heads to Brighton, where she quickly gets a job with Lionel Hawkins, an Air Mage who stays in Brighton year round, as his assistant in a magic act. Here, she also comes to the attention of Jack Prescott, a Fire Mage who used to be a soldier in the Boer war, where he lost his leg. He's haunted by what happened to the Boer women and children, but neither he nor Lionel are Elemental Masters, rather, merely Elemental Magicians, and so they are not considered hight up in the cheme of the White Lodge. But as Katie's magic awakens one night when she and Jack are nearly incinerated by a misfired shell at the Fireowrks show, they teach her to use and control their power, even though Katie is more powerful than either of them will ever be. But when Katie's husband returns, neither can do anything to help her- not openly at least. Katie is still the property of her husband by British law, and, and so Katie is going to have to take him out on her own- but maybe with some help. But can she fight against this brutal man who has no compunction about hurting her severely and taking everythin she has yet again? Can Katie get away from him witht he help of her Elementals, or will using them to deal with him inevitably turn them to evil? and more to the point, can she find a way to get a divorce that will have her and Jack be happy together? This book was a wonderful return to form for Ms. Lackey. While "Home from the Sea" suffered from the introduction of two characters from an earlier story, this book mentions that it takes place around the time of "Reserved for the Cat", without ever revisiting those characters. And while I knew as soon as I saw the cover what fiary tale this one was based on, I still wondered about the ending and how it would play out. I should have had tno worries on that score. It's a glorious story, a wonderful love story, and highloy recommended.

Goddess Interrupted by Aimée Carter- Kate has enjoyed the summer off that she shared with James, though only as a friend. But when she returns to the Underworld to become Henry's wife and Queen, he seems strangely distant, and the palace is attacked by strange tendrils of fog. It transpires that Calliope, or Hera, has joined with Cronos, who has awakened and partially freed himself. Now, she wants to let him loose on the surface world, even if it means destroying the mortals. Even if it means that all the Gods fade, she doesn't care. And she also wants to destroy Kate, who has earned the love of Henry and therefore her enmity. So when Cronos abducts Henry,  Walter and Phillip, the others assume that they have already lost, but Kate, Ava and James go in search of Kate's sister, Persephone, to figure out where the gate to the Underworld is to try and free them and bring down Calliope. Along the way, Kate finds little flowers, beautiful and colorful, that smell like cake, which she assumes come from Henry. And Persephone is a revelation, petty and spiteful, but still willing to help them. Only when they finally get to the cave and save Henry and the others, she discovers that Henry is still in love with his ex-wife, no matter how she betrayed him. Kate, who has developed the power of visions, is treated to some very unwelcome ones, and is still strangely stand-offish. Can she repair her relationship with Henry? And should she? Why is he being so distant from her? Does he still love her, or will he throw her over for Persephone? and could she trust him to reply honestly if she asked him why he is distant? Can Kate be with the man she loves, or is pain all she has to look forward to? Coming after the Goddess Test, this book was a revelation and an awakening. Calliope, who she made an enemy of, still hates her- even more now that Kate has returned to share Henry's life and throne, and the revenge she takes on Kate is horrendous. At the same time, Henry has things to work through, feelings of betrayal engendered in him by his previous relationship with Persephone, who still doesn't want him or love him the way he wants her to. Recommended.

The Goddess Legacy by Aimée Carter- This is a series of short stories about the different Gods and Goddesses in the series, showing backgrounds on why they are the way they are. The story begins with Hera, one of the most powerful of the Gods, who enabled Zeus and his brothers and sisters to conquer the Titans. But when Zeus claims kingship over the sky and surface world, Hera is angered that he considers the Goddesses beneath ruling. When he seems to change himself to be with Hera, she finally unbends and marries him. But has he really changed? And will his inability to do so drive the ultimate wedge between them? Ava/Aphrodite is being married off to Hephaestus, but she revolts, wanting to follow her heart and marry Ares. she leaves Olympus to get away from her father and the others who are pressing her to marry Hephaestus. But when Ares leaves her to go off to war, and a wounded man shows up on her island, will he mean more to her than the love of her life? And who will suit Aphrodite  better? The next story is about Persephone, who is married at a mere sixteen to Hades. But although she likes Hades as a friend, she finds it impossible to live with him, and has affairs with Hermes before he betrays her with Aphrodite (as she sees it), and when she meets Adonis, she is unaware at first that he and Aphrodite are together. But when she realizes that Aphrodite is with Adonis, she is determined to fight for this man. But when Adonis dies, how can Persephone save him from an afterlife that is an endless torture? And when Hermes, shunned by the Gods because of his relationship with Persephone, is sent out to discover why Helios and Selene have faded, can he discover why the old Gods faded and possibly prevent the current Gods from doing the same. But when Hermes befriends a group of young boys and their female leader living off robbers traveling through their woods, he ends up falling for their leader, Tuck. But when she gets captured by the Lord she hates, can Hermes get back in time to save her life? And how will the Gods end up not fading? Lastly, we see into the mind of Hades, and his decision to Fade. But when he meets Kate, will his opinion change? And will he accept the offer of Calliope/Hera when she offers to marry him instead of Walter? This book was the third in the series and gives backstory for the characters in the series. We get to see why Calliope is so angry at all the rest of the Gods and Goddesses, Hades included, and why she loves Henry/Hades so much. In a way, you do sympathize with her feelings, but just as obviously, her scorched earth tactics lose her that sympathy. I didn't feel as much sympathy for Ava/Aphrodite, despite her story, although I did find her fascinating. Persephone also had a bit of my sympathy, but the whole "Feuding over a man"thing was kind of ridiculous. I got the feeling that Adonis was a reed that bent whatever way the strongest wind was blowing, and it made him seem awfully shallow. James/Hermes' story was one of the more interesting ones, but the one on Hades seemed to be marking time until the last chapter. All in all, it's not a bad collection of stories, and they certainly kept my interest. The insight we get into the various Gods and Goddesses is great, but I would have liked to seen one on Zeus. Is he as callous and shallow as he comes across? Or does he, too have his reasons? well, maybe someday. Recommended.e

Mixed Vegetables, Volumes 5 and 6 by Ayumi Komura- Hanayu Ashitaba is from a pasty-baking family, but lives to be a Sushi Chef. Hayato Hyuga's family owns a famous sushi restaurant, but he wants to be a baker. The two of them get together so that they can marry into each other's families and inherit the business, but discover real feelings of attraction for each other in the process, But can they both keep their dreams alive? Now, Hayato Hyuga tells her he's willing to give up his dream, because his grandfather wanted him to take over the business. Next, Hanaya makes a bet that she will beat Hayato in their midterms, and if she loses, she will stop working at Hyuga Sushi. But when her father gets a last-minute order for a bridal confection for a woman whose friend is getting married, she gives up her study time to help her father make the Croque-em-Bouche. But will that come back to bite her in the ass? And then Maezawa, one of the workers at the Ashitaba pastry shop, tells Hayata that he wants to marry Hanayu. But will he interfere with their romance? And will their holiday at the beach be interrupted by work?I like this series, even though in the beginning both characters struck me as fairly mercenary and repellent, but the characters have grown on me and continue to do so. I am rather expecting the two businesses to end up conjoined into one, with one side selling sushi and the other selling cakes, so that both characters could be happy. But so far, the series is holding my interest. It's kind of settled down into a more or less a standard student romance. Still, it's not bad- Recommended.

Captain America and Iron Man by Cullen Bunn, Barry Kitson and Jay Leister- Iron Man is at an Arms dealer's convention, showing off his latest creation, the Myriad Engine, which produce tens of thousands of mechanical hornets. But Stark has better ideas than to use them for war. Use them to pollinate crops, or to deliver medicine. And hoping he has given the assembled people something to think on, he adjourns. But he isn't there to show off, but to track down an arms dealer named Kashmir Vennema, but when Batroc aqd his crew invade the Madripoorean weapons show to steal a computer virus known as the Harvester Protocol, they accidentally set it loose on the island, imperiling the world as the virus seeks to take over everything it can touch, including Iron Man's bio-technic armor and every weapon that Batroc and hos crew possess. But can Iron Man purge the virus from his system and keep it from spreading out of Madripoor and into the wider world? And can he and Captain America bring the people responsible for setting the virus free to justice? The second story involves Captain America meeting the fighting both against and alongside Namor the Sub-Mariner during World War 2. When a set of occultists unleash the powers of the Kraken Mask, It's up to Namor and Captain America to defeat the holder of the mask and destroy it so that it can never be used again. But will Namor succumb to the temptation of the mask's power? I enjoyed this graphic novel, which showed some of Tony Stark's genius at creation. He also gets to poke fun at himself and be self-deprecating. The WWII era Cap and Namor Story was amazing and interesting, how he never seems to incite Namor's distate for humans. It's a pretty excellent story, and showed the persistence of evil. Recommended, perhaps even highly, as a dose of fun and amazing.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Volume 13 by Yuki Midorikawa- Takashi Natsume can see all sorts of Onu and other spirits. He inherited "The Book of Friends" from his sunt, and the spirits within the book want to reclaim their names- if anyone uses the book, they can command the sopirits with their true names  But Natsume has won their friendship by returning their names to them if they ask politely. Along the way, he met Nyanko-Sensei, a powerful spirit who has taken the form of a ceramic  Maneki Neko. Seen by everyone as a real cat, he keeps Natsume safe in return for the book when Natsume inevitably does. Natsume isn't the only one who can see spirits. Lots of professional exorcists can as well, but Natsume rather dislikes the malleable morality portrayed by most professional exorcists. However, when  Matioba sens him a message asking for his help, Natsume can;t hlep byut agree, because he does like being helpful.- and matoba tells him exoprcists are being attacked. Going undercover as an Oni serving Matoba, he must discover the person who has been replaced by another spirit in a mask. But can he do it before anyone else is attacked, and can he keep Matoba from using him this way again? Finally, we get to see the interaction betrween Natsumi and two of his classmates, and how they slowly become friends. Can his mask keep people out as well as attract them? Another interesting set of stories, although I did feel the two classmate tales suffered a bit from running so close together. The mystery and hunt for the killer was the more interesting story. Highly Recommended, both book and series.

The Goddess Inheritance by Aimée Carter- Kate has been captured by Calliope/Hera and is pregnant with Henry's child. She's been held by Calliope and Cromus for nine months and is about to give birth. But when her baby comes, Callipe comes and takes her new son away from her, intending to deprive Kate of everything she loves. And helping her is Ava, who Calliope is holding the threat of killing Ava's husband Nicholas over. Then the other gods attack and free Kate, but not her son, who she and Henry name Milo. Kate is forced to flee, but at least she can keep track of her son through visions. But visions aren't enough when she wants to hold him. But in addition to Calliope as a foe, Cronos sets his eyes on Kate, wanting her as his own, a toy and plaything. In addition,  Henry has been badly hurt in the assault on Calliope's palace, and lies in a coma. The only chance to save Henry is to find Cronos' wife, Rhea, but she didn't fight in the last war and may be unwilling to fight in this one. Kate and James head to Africa to track him down, while Kate Communes with Henry through her mind and visions, seeing both her husband and son. Until James asks her to take him along into her visions, and he reveals that it isn't Henry she's seeing and speaking with, but Cronus. As Rhea refuses to help once again, Kate tries to remonstrate with her, but ends up begging the Titan to at least heal Henry, which she does. But Rhea tells Kate that she holds the key to defeating Cronos in herself. Henry appears to escoet Kate and James to Athens, which Cronos has destroyed with a tidal wave. But left behind in the Acropolis, whcih he hasn't destroyed, are pictoglyphs depicting what Cronus wants... and Kate is one of them. But she hasn't told Henry that she agreed to stay with Cronus if he would spare the life of everyone. But when the war against Cronus heats up, it's obvious that the Gods are doomed without Calliope, and she isn't interested in fighting on their side, it's obvious that the fascination that Kate holds for Cronus may be the only key to defeating him and Calliope. But now that Calliope holds a weapon that can kill a God, how can any of them stand against her and Cronos. But can Kate bring herself to sacrifice her love and life with Henry to be with Cronos and end the war? And would such a sacrifice even work? This was an interesting endint to the series, with just the right amounts of tension, danger, love and heartbreak. I found the ending good and surprising, in a way, and the ultimate ending made lots of sense, considering who Kate is. A wonderful, fitting ending. Recommended.

Super Pop: Pop Culture Top Ten Lists to help you win at trivia, survive in the wild , and make it through the Holidays by Daniel Harmon- This book is a book of lists, specifically top ten lists. Best movies to gain wisdom by? Sorted. Best movies and TV shows to learn how to eat better? Done. And so on and so forth. Included with each entry on the list is the reason why it is there- and why it rocks. But unless you are completely on board with the totality of Pop Culture, the nature of the lists can be rather hit or miss, and more of them were misses for me than hits. I found this book sort of uninspiring to read, but I sispect that its utility will vary to different people. It's okay, but if you are looking for a book to knock your socks off, you'll have to look elsewhere. Get it from the library- don't buy it.

The Silver Siz by A.J. Lieberman and Darren Rawlings- Phoebe is an Orphan living on her own on a world where Orphans cannot live on their own. She pretends her father is very busy and thus can't meet with thr landlord. Her parents used to work for Craven Mining, until the ship they were on blew up- something engineered by the owner of Craven Mining to get the secret they were looking for, something to replace Hydro-2, the super fuel which is incredibly expensive... and incredibly polluting for all its potential power. But when Phoebe is rounded up and placed on an orbiting ship with other orphans, she finds that, like her, five of them have a certificate giving them ownership of property on one of the orphan moons. When each of them brings out their certificates to show Phoebe, microchips embedded in the paper start to glow, and they realize that all of their parents were killed in the same Craven mining "accident", and Phoebe intends to escape to see if they can find out where their parents died. But Craven is still after Phoebe, and when he sends his "son" out after them, they end up stealing a ship and landing on the moon that their parents bought a part of. What will they find on the Orphan moon, and can they keep Craven from discovering the secret? Can Phoebe and her new friends find what their parents couldn't, and can they outwit Mr. Craven and bring his crimes to light? I loved this graphic novel, which has six kids fighting back against a tyrannical rich man, his henchmen and his robots to save the legacy of their parents. And just when it seems they might have lost everything, well.. you'll have to reasd that for yourself. An excellent story, and the ending may make you cry, in a good way. Recommended.

Love in the Time of Dragons by Katie McAllister- Tully Sullivan lives, what is to her, a fairly uncomplicated life. She's married to a man named Gideon and has a son named Brom, and she is an apprentice to a mage. The only thing that isn't normal, more or less, about her life, is that once a year, she blacks out for weeks at a time, where she has very intense dreams. But when she goes to London to meet her magician master, for some reason, her collapse comes early, and she dreams of being Ysolde Bouchard, a young woman being raised by foster parents. Her father is a magician, and he gets visited by Baltic, another magician, who realizes that Ysolde is a dragon, and he takes her away with him, because he, too, is a dragon, the Wyvern of the Black Dragons. Animosity ignites between he and Ysolde when he realizes she is a Silver Dragon. but he falls in love with her, and wants her to be his mate. However, the Wyvern of the Silver Dragons also wants her for his own, and War comes between the Dragons, not only over Ysolde, but also over Baltic's wanting to rule over all the other Dragon septs. When she returns to herself, she awakens in an unfamiliar house, with unfamiliar people. They have realized her Dragon nature, and are trying to protect her, but Tully has been recognzed as Baltic's mate, and Baltic's former second in command, Kostya, now Wyvern of the Black Dragons, wants Tully killed for Baltic's crimes, none of which she can even remember. Both Ysolde and Baltic were supposed to have died 300 years ago, and now it seems that Tully has been reborn, and her Dragon spirit is trying to reawaken. Tully would rather believe she is going mad than that any of this is true, but when she meets a reborn Baltic, he is just as hot for her as he was back when they first met. But now he is an outcast among Dragons. However, Baltic has a new wrinkle. He was reborn as a new type of Dragon, a Light Dragon. But will any of his former foes or friends believe him, and can he convince Tully to come back to him? And can she make peace between the Septs so that there is no second war? More to the point, can anybody believe that Balic is good? Well, this book is a part of the Dragons series that Katie MacAlister writes, but truth be told, I just wasn't quite feeling this one. I didn't feel much of any connection to either Tully/Ysolde, and none at all to Balic, which really killed most of my interest in the story. It's not that the characters were unlikeable, just not particularly interesting to me. Okay, so they are a new type of Dragons, Light Dragons. How do they differ from other Dragons beyond being able to use magic? It's never really revealed. Is that the only difference, or are their more? We don't know. And ultimately, the story sank n the shoals of "So?" Not recommended.

Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood- When a young female reporter is attacked in the street, Phryne Fisher and her friend Doctor MacMillan learn she is investigating the disappearance of several heavily pregnant wiomen from a home where they were ready to give birth. The Reporter thinks they may have been kidnapped to a brothel for men with... highly unusual tastes. Phryne is concerned, but when the reporter herself disappears, the Police call in Phryne to investigate. Not only does Phryne have to find the missing reporter, and the pregnant women, but also discover who may have kidnapped the reporter, and why. What secrets is the church hiding, and why do they treat pregnant women so badly? Can Phryne do anything for them? and will she be successful in her quest? Also, Phryne now has another helper- a young man who wants to learn how she does what she does. But is Tucker, used to life on the farm, a good fit with Phryne and her constructed family? This book was good, but the treatment of women we see in the novel made me grind my teeth in anger. Luckily, it's an anger Phryne shares, and she is in a better position than the reader to do something about it. and do something she does, most wonderfully. An excellent mystery and a wonderful all-around book that may not always be comforting or comfortable to read, but which keeps your interest very well. Recommended.

Hidden by P.C. Cast- Now that the truth of Nefret's attack on Zoey's mother is revealed, she is kicked out of the house of Night, but she retaliates by setting herself up as a liaison between the humans and the vampires, and implying that the vampires of the House of Night are responsible for attacking humans. In response, Thanatos, new leader of the Tulsa House of Night, holds a press conference of her own where she paints Nefret as a mere disgruntled employee with an axe to grind. The grudge match between Shaunee and Erin continues, and Erin takes a turn for the Evil and starts a relationship with Dallas, leader of the evil Red Fledglings. Meanwhile Nicole, one of the Evil Red Fledgelings, has helped out after a fire in the stables, and no longer seems to fit in with her former group. And Shaylin, the girl with true sight, has been seeing both changes in their aura. But when Zoey faces up to Aurox being Heath's spirit reborn, she has to tell Stark what she has discovered, and it's time for someone else to step up and become the pillar of water in their circle. But who will it be? And a fire at the stables menaces not only Lenobia and her newly reborn love in the form of the human cowboy who came to work for her, but all of the animals in the stables- at the behest of Neferet. But will her intention to cause chaos bring the White Bull to her side, or will her need for his help keep him away? And will Zoey and her friends be able to solidly defeat Neferet once and for all? Has Kalona really turned away from the Darkness? And can Zoey and her friends keep Aurox in his human form as he battles Neferet, his mistress? This was another great book. More changes happen both to and among Zoey's crew. Erin's turn to evil was rather surprising, but also rather inevitable, given the last book- and Shayla's new role in the coven was amazing. Erik also seems to be becoming less of a prick, although it's taking Shayla to bring that out of him. As the books keep reminding us, change is possible, both from evil to goos, and from good to evil (or certainly bad). Redemption is also possible, and Zoey's life never gets any easier, with men falling for her- and even coming back from the dead to be wtth her. This series is coming to an end, but I have enjoyed it all. The next book is to be the Penultimate one, and I can't wait. Highly recommended.

Excalibur: The Legend of Arthur- a Graphic Novel by Tony Hill and Sam Hart- Uther Pendragon was a warlord who used the power of the Unseelie Folk to shift his seeming to that of Grolois and take his form to spend the night with Gorlois' wife, Igraine. Out of that night comes Gorlois's death in battle, and Igraine's pregnancy with Arthur, Uther's heir. But the price that the Unseelie wamt for their help is Arthur himself, and Uther has Merlin hide him somewhere that Uther doesn't know. So instead, they take Arthur's half-sister, Morgan, for ten years, and Arthur grows up in the country. Uther is slain by his Lieutenant, Ulric, and his sword, Caliburn, is driven into the stone, from which it cannot be pulled, by any save his heir. so when Ector, the Knight who has been raising Arthur, takes Arthur and his son, Cei, to the tourney that happens every year around the sword in the stone, even though Ulric has forbidden it under pain of death, he tries his hand and fails. But when Ulric appears and tries to kill Arthur, Cei defends him, and then Arthur tries to defend Cei from getting killed, only he needs a sword, and so pulls Caliburn from the stone, proving his rightness to be the King of England. But when Ulric would kill Arthur then and there, Merlin appears to tell Ulric that Arthur has the right to challenge him- at dawn the next day. Arthur doesn't trust Merlin, who it seems abandoned him, but Merlin has a plan to not get him killed- take him to Avalon, where a year and a day will pass in a mere few hours on Earth, and have him tutored by the Seelie Fae in war, fighting and statecraft. But after a year and a day passes, Arthur doesn't want to leave, for he has fallen in love with Vivianne, the Lady of the Lake, and he wants to spend time with her. So he makes a bargain with Bran the Blessed for another year and a day in Avalon- and Bran agrees, as long as Arthur comes to Avalon and rules in Bran's place after he dies. Arthur has had visions of his death since he was a boy, and agrees. After the year is up, Arthur must leave Vivianne and Merlin his own lover, the nymph Nimue, and return to the human world to fight Ulric. But after Arthur is victorious, he begs Merlin to take his memory of Vivianne from him- the nobles want him to marry Guinevere, daughter of Leodegrance, and he cannot do so with the memory of Vivianne so fresh in his mind. Merlin, hating the necessity, agrees, and then goes to take on Morgan, calling herself Le Fay after her time with the Unseelie. She hates Arthur, but helped him against Ulric- only to dash him down even further later. Merlin tries to take on Morgan, but she prevails. She thinks she has killed him, but he has merely been throen seven years in the future. Here, Arthur rules over a land at peace and content- but Guinevere and Arthur have never truky connected as husband and wife. Arthur's champion is Sir Lancelot Du Lac, who is in love with the Queen, but chastely, and so wields the sword Caliburn on Arthur's behalf. But the Unseelie know that his mother was an Unseelie Fae raised amongst the Seelie and they salivate for his fall from grace, into their realm. But the time of Arthur's death is approaching, and everyone seems to be conspiring to bring him down. But can Arthur somehow survive the death he has seen coming since he was a mere boy, and can he remember what he has lost by forgetting it before the bitter end comes? This was quite a different look at King Arthur and the events surrounding his reign. Interference by the Fae, both good and evil, explained much- and while the blanking of Arthur's romantic love for Vivianne did a lot of damage, it gave him hope at the end. In this book, the ending is quite different with regards to some of the Knights of the Round Table and Guinevere as well. I liked this version best of pretty much all those I have read, even though Arthur comes off as somewhat of a less than strong figure due to the foreshortening of the story. Nevertheless, an excellent read and highly recommended.

Wolfishly Yours by Lydia Dare- Livoana Mayeux is angry with her father for shipping her off to England to learn how to be a lady. She's more used to following her Lycan brothers around the Bayou, absorbing the place's natural beauty. But now she is stuck in frigid England having her every move scrutinized. Grayson Hadley is feeling put-upon in much the same position, being treated as a wayward cub by the female tutor being paid to drum better manners intothe head of him and his brother. So when the two of them meet for the first time at the home of Livi's grandfather, Livi can tell what Grayson is, and he is stunned to find a woman who actually knows a Lycan. But unfortunately, he finds himself inadvertantly covering her in scandal, not to mention punch. But can Livi overcome this unfortunate first public metting, and can Grayson, who wants her as he has no other woman, keep from tearing apart any other male who pays her attention? I only read this book partway through- the characters didn't capture me, and reading it became a chore I could no longer persevere in. Livi was spoiled and selfish, and Grayson was practically urinating circles around her to keep the other wolves at bay while Grayson's brother and their ettiquette teacher were being incredibly spoilered to be the next couple to fall into love and matrimony- and I could only think I had tons of better things to do with the time I was using to read this book. So I stopped. I have just read this book, God, so many times before. It was the ultimate in meh, and for someone not as into Paranormal Romance as I am, it may even be enjoyable- not so much for me, though. Not recommended.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

2013, Part 3

Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King- Sherlock Holmes arrives in Fez looking for his wife, only to find her missing from among the movie folk she was traveling with. In his inquiries to find out what might have happened to her, he finds out that she took off in the middle of the night with a boy and a strange man. Meanwhile, a woman wakes up in a strange room, missing her entire memory and with a wound on her scalp. When a group of soldiers shows up at the door of the house where she woke up, she escapes into the souk and attempts to survive on her own. But when Russell and Holmes are together once again, they discover that Russell was not alone, but with Mahmoud Hazr. Now, she, Holmes and Ali must discover what happened to Ali's brother and how Russell ended up injured and  why. And it may all have to do with a current rebellion happening in the Northern part of Morocco among the Rif tribes and their leaders Mohammed And-el Razir and his brother, M'hammed And- el Razir. But what has that to do with Russell, and why does someone not want a meeting between Abd-el Razir and Holmes' distant cousin, Marshall Lyautey, to take place? With the aid of a boy unable to speak, Holmes and his wife must discover what is going on, and put a stop to the plans of those who would stop the rebels. I enjoyed this book, especially the early part where Mary Russell tries to figure out who she is amidst a foreign city while on the run from soldiers who seemingly want to arrest her, though she doesn't know the reason. Although we the readers know who she is, it was very well written, and I liked learning more about the Rif rebellion and the tensions in Morocco before World War II. A good mystery and an interesting read. Recommended.

The Perils of Sherlock Holmes by Loren D. Estlemen- This book collects a number of short stories by Loren Estlemen, along with two essays about Holmes- one on the subject of Watson, and the other on the question of whether Holmes could also be the Shadow, if Royal Jelly had restored his youth. In "The Adventure of the Arabian Knight", Holmes and Watson meet Richard Francis Burton, the famous British Explorer. "The Adventure of the Three Ghosts" has Holmes helping Sir Chislehurst explain a vision of three Ghosts which he met in his own home, ones of Christmas Past, Present and Future. "The Riddle of the Golden Monkeys" has Holmes and Watson helping Sax Rohmer to discover a puzzle set to him by a Chinese Crime Lord in London, which he must solve or lose his own life. "Dr. and Mrs. Watson at Home: a Comedy in one Unnatural Act" explores the Home Life of the Watsons and what it must really have been like. "The Adventure of the Coughing Dentist"takes Holmes and Watson to the  American Wild West and has them save Doc Holliday for the Crime of shooting a card cheat, which he is adamant he did not commit, at the Behest of Wyatt Earp. "The Adventure of the Greatest Gift" has Holmes summoned to a party to prevent a crime. But can he? "The Devil and Sherlock Holmes" has Holmes called into a Mental Asylum to meet a patient who claims he is the Prince of Lies, and who invites Holmes to bargain with Watson's soul. And finally, "The Serpent's Egg" is the  first chapter in a planned shared novel by several Baker Street Irregulars which never came off, in which an archaeologist approaches Holmes with apparent evidence of magic existing. However, this first chapter is the only one that was completed, and the story is thus only a beginning and has no middle or end. I really enjoyed these stories by Loren D. Estleman. I personally think my favorite is the one with Doc Holliday, as Estleman goes through showing how most people's knowledge of the Wild West is highly inaccurate, as back then, most people spoke better and more correct English than we do today. It's an amazing look into the past, and a very good adventure story as well. Highly recommended, though I wish he had included his first story, which he mentions, one where Holmes meets Count Dracula, as well. 

Protector by C. J. Cherryh- Bren Cameron is still dealing with the aftereffects of the attempted coup against Tabini and Geigi in the East. But Tabini's son Cajeiri is looking forward to his birthday, in which he will pass from the age of infelicitous eight to fortunate nine. And for his birthday, he wants to invite the frienda he made on the Spaceship, and who now live on the space station above the planet. His father, Tabini, agrees to send the messages, but Cajeiri's friends have to agree to come. And Tabini's longtime conservative foe, Tatisegi, has agreed to host Cajeiri, his grandmother, the Dowager Ilisidi, and Cajeiri's friends, along with Bren, and everyone's bodyguards, at his estate in the West. But when Cajeiri's friends Ireme, Artur and Gene arrive from the space station, they are accompanied by Jase, the man who Bren trained to be a negotiator between the ship-folk and the atevi. Along with him are *his* guards, two ship soldiers in powered armor, and Lord Tatisegi enlarges his invitation to Jase and his guards as well. But this relaxing trip turns out to be anything but when Cajeiri's maternal grandfather dies after being banished from the Bujavid for his previous coup attempt against Tabini, without any evidence of a filing by or with the assassin's guild, and an attempt against Tatisegi by his own neighbors, the Kadagidi. But the presence of the Human guards may make the coup by the Kadagidi into a case of biting off more than they can chew. But can Bren and his guards keep Cajeiri and his guests safe to return to the Bujavid for Cajeiri's fortunate ninth birthday, or will another rebellion keep things tumbling down amongst the atevi? and will the ship humans ever successfully join with the Mospheirans, or will their plans to build a new space station ever come to fruition? I enjoyed this book, but it almost didn't seem long enough. In a way, Bren never seems to be able to have a peaceful period in this life. Yes, he's adapted well, but it's a rough thing. And the book didn't seem long enough because by the time the book ends, they are merely returning to the Bujavid and the party for Cajeiri hasn't yet happened, so the book feels strangely unfinished, and like it should have been longer. Still, an excellent, engaging, well-told story. Recommended.

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert- Batman is dead. Or is he? As his friends and foes gather to mourn or celebrate the passing of an icon, Batman's baffled spirit watches from the place between life and death, wondering why he is witnessing this funeral. What can he learn from the lessons of life and death? and to what end will he go? The book ends with three smaller stories. "Batman: Black and White shows Batrman and Joker as actors in a television series, and "Pavane" shows what happens to a government flunky sent to try and recruit Poison Ivy into the Suicide Squad. and "Original Sins: When is a Door" shows the fate of a Journalist who comes to Gotham to uncover the true backstories behind Batman's foes. But when he tries to get to interview the Joker, can it end well? I enjoyed the main story to this book very much, especially the ending, which alludes to the changing nature of Batman over the years and his continuing evolution to match the tastes of his audience. Of the other stories, my favorite was "Original Sins: When is a Door", which was excellent and the ending was creepy and rather disturbing. Highly Recommended.

Luck of the Draw by Piers Anthony- Bryce is an eighty year old grandfather in poor health. His wife is dead and he's looking forward to death himself in a few years. But when he smells the scent of a dead rat wafting from his garage, he knows he has to clean it out, before he forgets or is sidelined by other things. But in the course of cleaning out the garage, he is joined by an unfamiliar dog who seems friendly, and discovers the smell emanates from a glowing golden box he could swear he has never seen before. Inside are a bottle of liquid, a piece of food and a small notepad, each labeled with a set of characters that make no sense. When he puts his mind to it, he solves the substitution cypher and gets "Drink Me", "Eat Me" and "Invoke Me". He also finds his old recumbent trike, and in trying to ride it, gets drawn into Xanth, along with the dog, who can now speak some words and whose name is Rachel. He discovers that he is now inhabiting a young, fit body quite unlike his former self. Bryce finds himself in Castle Caprice, where he is befriended by Picka Bone and his wife, Princess Eve, along with Anna, a maid who helps Bryce and Rachel acclimate to Xanth. He also meets Piper and discovers his secret. But everyone determines that if Bryce really wants to go home, he must to speak to the Magician Humphrey. Bryce is in Xanth to compete in a competition between several Demons, including Xanth and Earth, to choose a husband for Princess Harmony. But Bryce doesn't want to marry a spoiled and bratty Princess so much younger than he is/was. Can Humphrey convince him to change his mind? And Princess Harmony also doesn't want to be married at all. Demons have a way of getting their way, though. Can Bryce afford to lose the competition against Piper, Demon Pose, Arsenal, and the other competitors for Harmony's hand? And will he ever get home? I know I have said several times that I am done with this series because of all the young person/older person sex and marriage, but I had hopes that this one wouldn't feature that aspect. And hopefully, I won't ruin the story for you when I say this story is much more sane in that respect, and I ended up enjoying the ending as much as the story itself. So if you are hoping for a return to the older aspect of the stories, this  book is an enormous step in the right direction. Recommended.

Raisins and Almonds: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood- When a murder happens in a bookshop owned by Miss Lee, a bookish woman who has never been trouble in her life, her landlord, Benjamin Abraham, the father of Phryne's dancing partner Simon Abraham, asks Phryne to investigate. The man who died was a Jewish Scholar studying under a Rabbi who taught mysticism, but the police believe that Miss Lee killed him out of thwarted love. However, there is another thread that the murdered student, Yossi Lieberman, was working on a recipe for synthetic rubber, which he wished to patent so that it could be sold to raise money for a revolution against the Bolshevics in Russia, or a Homeland for the Jews who have none of their own. But could the Russians who expelled the Jews be infiltrating them to steal the scientific discover for their own? Or is there some other reason that Yossi had to die? And if there is an infiltrator, how will Phryne uncover the traitor? As she gets closer to Simon, she has to deal with Simon's mother, and make her way among a community that is very different than Phryne has ever experienced before. I enjoyed this book, which dealt with the Jewish community in Australia. I mean, I know that everywhere has Jews there, but I was surprised to find out that there was a fairly sizable community of them in the 1920's. This book had some especially humorous moments in it, like how Phryne ferrets out a non-Jew among a group of Rabbinic students, and I enjoyed every bit of the book, which features Phryne's usual helpers of Bert and Cec, Dot and her  two daughters. Recommended.

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb- This book is a prequel to Robin Hobb's King's Fool series. It talks about one of the Ancestors of Fitzchivalry Farseer. In this case, the Willful Princess is Princess Caution Farseer. Normally rulers of the family are tied to the elements, but the Princess was barely allowed to touch the various elements, and so grew up willful and in her way, foolish. Raised mostly by the serving girl who was the child of her wetnurse, and who relates the story, she grew up wanting for nothing and enjoyed riding and hunting. But when she went to the fair. she saw a beautiful piebald horse, and the young man who cared for it, whose skin was similarly marked, named Lostler. She immediately bought the horse and it became her favorite. And Lostler, the groom, accompanied her each time she rode, as did her maid. But soon, Princess Caution and Lostler would slip away, and the maid discovered that they were lovers. She tried to prevent them from meeting, and failed, and soon Caution was pregnant. The maid, on the advice of her mother, got pregnant as well, by a new minstrel to court, but intimated to Caution that Lostler was also her lover. This caused Caution to reject Lostler, and eventually, both he and the horse died, as they were linked by the Wit. And Caution's son, like his father, was born with dark patches on his pale skin. He grew up with the maid's son, Redbird, who became a skilled musician, like his own father. The Baby, Charger, was never called by his name, but everyone called him "The Piebald Prince" for his coloring. He grew tall and strong and just, but his uncle expected his own son, canny Farseer, to become King. It was only when Canny and Charger came to love the same woman, that the tale of woe truly came to a head. Stories are told by the victors, so will this true story be told? Or must it be hidden away for the future to judge? This, like many of Robin Hobb's stories is not a story with a happy ending. You wish so well for Charger, but Hobb's characters, even when heroic, can make bad choices just like the rest of us, and the ending is sad, but bittersweet, because like Shakespeare's tragedies, the tragedies occur because of the hero's own bad choices. Highly recommended.

Fables: Fairest- Wide Awake by Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Matthew Sturges, Shawn McManus- Sleeping Beauty was left behind in the Homelands, and Ali Baba is investigating the remains of the Adversary's Kingdom when he discovers two beautiful sleeping women in a chest, aided  by a Djinni in a bottle. One is extremely pale, with white hair, and the other a redhead. The Djinni tells him one of the women is Sleeping Beauty and can only be woken by True Love's kiss. He first kisses the pale woman and then the redhead. At first neither awakens, and then both do, waking up the Goblins all around them. It turns out the redhead is Sleeping Beauty, and the pale woman is the Snow Queen. As Ali Baba and Sleeping Beauty try to escape, the Snow Queen freezes the Goblins into statues, and eventually, she captures them both. The Djinni tells her the story about Sleeping Beauty and Ali Baba, which she cannot help but want him to continue. But when an evil Fairy from Sleeping Beauty's story show up, drawn by the Djinni's repeated use of her name, can the Snow Queen defeat her? And who is Ali Baba's true love? Sleeping Beauty or the Snow Queen? And could he possibly love an evil woman who helped the Adversary? The backup story has Beast chasing Lamia, an evil Fable with a surprising story. Can he keep her safe from a human detective while he chases her down on his own? Why is he interested in keeping her safe, anyway? I loved both stories, as they each had an amazing and completely unexpected ending. The story of what  had really happened to the Snow Queen to make her evil, because as we saw in Jack of Fables that she was really an innocent before he corrupted her and got her pregnant, was quite amazing, and how she turned back to good was extremely well done. Het epic battle with Hadeon was amazing as well. And the Beast story would have made me swallow my gum if I was chewing any. Amazing and Highly recommended.

Secret Avengers: Eyes of the Dragon by Ed Brubaker, Mike Deodato and Will Conrad- When Shang-Chi is attacked by strange martial artists in his home, he has an inkling of why. His father, Fu Manchu, real name Zheng Zu, needs Sheng-Chi's spirit to truly rise again. But can he capture his son, even with the assistance of the Hai-Dai, a group of paid assassins? And who is the force of mercenaries behind  Fu Manchu and why do they want him alive? The man in charge is well known to Captain America, a man named John Steele. But he fought on the side of Steve and the Allies during the war before disappearing. Steve and his allies, Shang- Chi, Beast and Valkyrie, must take down the mercs and Zheng Zu, and then probe the mind of John Steele to discover who is behind the return, and why John is fighting on their side... I never expected this tale, but I enjoyed seeing Cap working with Valkyrie and Shang Chi, who is a character who we almost never see after the Heroes for Hire series back in the 70's. and the whole Fu Manchu thing was also quite unexpected. There is a lot of good character stuff in here, for Cap and the others as well. Recommended.

Hardly a Husband by Rebecca Hagan Lee- The Free Fellows League is a group of men who have vowed to put off Matrimony as long as possible. Jarrod Shepardson is the one who came up with the idea, mainly because his parents were always out of love and out of charity with one another, and he wished to avoid matrimony entirely to avoid ending up with the same situation, and other boys who felt the same joined him in his pledge. He turned thirty a few years back, but still wants to put off marriage. So when his old friend Satah Eckersley approaches him, he is shocked to hear that the death of her father means he has been replaced in his position by a fellow whose family thinks that everything that Sarah owns belongs to them, including her beloved pet. But when her arrogant aristocratic neighbor and Lord proposes to marry her, she runs as far and fast as she can. She feels her only choice is to either find a husband, or become a Courtesan. Jarrod is her choice for a husband, but when he turns her down, she makes him an even more shocking proposal: take her virginity and teach her what she knows to be a successful courtesan, which Jarrod hates, but he is powerfully attracted to her. As he desperately tries to save her from a fate she insists she wants, he quickly finds himself losing his heart, just as his mentor, the Earl Mayhew, finds endless enchantment in Lady Dunbridge, Sarah's aunt. But can the two older people conspire to get Jarrod and Sarah married, or will it take their own wedding, and a baring of the souls, before Jarod and Sarah together forever? This is part of a series, "The Free Fellows League" which uses male characters who are utterly opposed to marriage as the heroes. And in a time when marriages were even more important than today, especially noble sons expected to carry on the family line, that's saying something. In this case, it's always the woman who is anxious for marriage, and the man who is resisting, which provides a nice turnabout. It's an interesting book, and at least amusing and enjoyable reading. Recommended.

Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History's Most Notorious Women by Elizabeth Kerry Mahon- What makes a woman "Scandalous"? She is someone who lives her life her own way, in flagrant denial of Society's Rules. This book breaks the women down into seven Chapters- Warrior Queens, Wayward Wives, Scintillating Seductresses, Crusading Ladies, Wild Women of the West, Amorous Artists and Amazing Adventuresses. Each one received scorn or approbation from the rest of society for their choices in life. Included are "Unsinkable" Molly Brown, Frieda Kahlo, Boudicca, Cakamity Jane, Violet Trefusis, Anne Boleyn, Carry Nation, and Joan of Arc. Each woman is given a mini-biography, detailing their youth, what made them famous and infamous, and what happened to them at the end of their life. The greatest shock was Calamity Jane, whose life story as we know it is all the lies of an attention-seeking and alcoholic prostitute who had an insatiable need for adventure. The book is written clearly and concisely, and is quite fascinating to read. Some of these women you may never have heard of, while others are justly well-known. Excellent and fascinating. Highly recommended.

Magic Below Stairs by Caroline Stevermer- I read this book which I first read in 2010 again:

Dodger by Terry Pratchett- Dodger is a tosher, someone who goes into sewers looking for things people have lost, like money and jewelry, and he always looks forward to a good rain, which washes much of the stench out and washes more lost things into places where he can "find" it. But when he witnesses two men trying to abduct a girl in the middle of a blinding thunderstorm, Dodger, who is well aware that the girl is not a bit of trash, but rather, a treasure, jumps in to rescue her, beating both men who are hitting and abusing the girl and attracting the attention of two "nobs", Mr. Henry Mayhew and Mr. Charles Darwin, a jouranlist. Soon realizing that Dodger had been defending the girl, and take him along to see that she is alright. All the girl has on her is a pack of cards for the game "Happy Families, but it soon turns up that the girl is a missing German Princess who married into the family, but the King, her father-in-law, wishes her to disappear so that his son, the Prince, can marry another girl, this one noble, for her money. The girl, who Mayhew has taken to calling "Simplicity", is half-English and fled to London for sanctuary, but her Father-in-Law is willing to create and international incident to get her back, and only Dodger, with the help of his friend and Landlord Solomon Cohen and his very smelly dog, Onan, may be the only ones dedicated enough, and cunning enough, to keep Simplicity safe and ensure her pursuers fail in their attempts to catch her. But can Dodger be the kinf of man that Simplicity needs to keep her alive, and attract her attention? I loved this book, which is set in the early part of Queen Victoria's reign, and tells a sort of Dick Whittington tale about a lad from the gutter that makes good and becomes a hero. The characters here are top-notch, and I really enjoyed every bit of the story and how it ended. Highly recommended.

Sorceror's Son by Phyllis Eisenstein- When the  sorceror Smada Rezhyk proposes marriage to the sorceress Delivev Ormoru, she turns him down, and this can only mean, to him, that she hates him and would seek his death. Since Smada's power is over metals and the making of rings to enslave Elementals, and her power is over thread and weaving, he fears for his life, smothered by his own garments. To deal with his fears, his oldest elemental, named Gildrum, proposes he weave a shirt from metal, and to keep Delivev's attention occupied elsewhere, to get her with child so she will be distracted. Rezhyk assumes that as soon as she discovers she is pregnant, that she will abort the child, especially if the father merely dsiappears- or to keep her powers strong. But when he gives Gildrum the body of a young knight and fills his body with his own seed, Gildrum goes off to seduce Delivev, and in the process, falls deeply in love with her. But he isn't free to be with her, as he is still the slave of Smada Rezhyk. Only Delivev doesn't abort the child born out of her love for the young Knight, even when he leaves, presumably to deliver a message for his lord and never returns. She names her son Cray and raises him with all the love she is capable of. But as he gets older, he lives for becoming a Knight like his father, and discovering what happened to the man. But when all his searches lead to nothing but grief, he finds that his father may only have been a thief, as the arms and armor he bore were stolen. But Cray is determined to know the truth of his father, and decides to become a Sorceror to find the truth. And not a sorceror of Thread like his mother, but an Elemental Sorceror so that he can discover the truth, which Elementals can seek and discover on their home plane. His seeking of a master alerts Smada to his existence, and now he assumes Delivev raised Cray to use as a tool against him. When Cray seeks a master to learn from Smada offers himself, trying to steer Cray wrong so that he can never summon an elemental. But Gildrum, who has been watching Cray ever since he was a child, comes forward to teach Cray what he really need to know. But can he learn what he needs to know before Rezhyk decides he is too much of a threat and kills him anyway? I remember reading this book back in 1979, when it first came out. I loved it then, but time has made it somewhat less than I remembered. Most of the story is still good, but... honestly. Smada Rezhyk is the more paranoid asshole that has ever existed. He goes from "Delivev Ormoru turned down my offer of marriage" to "She must hate me enough to seek my death" in less than a minute. It's going from 0 to crazy, and he does this a lot. I mean, he decides she had the child to use Cray against him just as quickly. But then again, other decisions he makes in the story reflect this same kind of thinking. It's just that he seems so stable otherwise... Still, a good story and recommended.

City of Dragons by Robin Hobb- The Rainwilders have reach Kelsingra with their Dragons and at least one of them, Rapskal, is exploring the city on his Dragon, Heeby, who has learned to fly. But the other Dragons still can't fly and need their Keepers to hunt for them. Thymara is also being pulled between Rapskal, who is in love with her, and Tats, who she likes as a friend. When he reveals that he has spent the night with Jerd, another Keeper who spreads her favors around freely, it hurts Thymara badly, pushing her into the arms of Rapskal, who has taught Thymara to seek out information about the city through the use of the memory stones left behind by the Elderlings who built the city. When Thymara forces her Dragon, Sintara, to hunt for herself, Sintara finally gains the strength to fly across the city and use the hot water pools that allow her to reshape her body to better fly. But Rapskal's night in bed with Thymara hurts Tats, too. Meanwhile, Captain Leftrin must return to Trehaug to get the money and goods promised by the Council to him and the Keepers to keep them alive through the rest of the winter and allow them to live in the city. Meanwhile, Reyn's wife Malta is ready to give birth. But when they go to Trehaug to see the new Impervious boats that are able to cross the Rain Wild River. Malta is kidnapped by a Chalcedean in the midst of giving birth, and her son is barely alive. Escaping and taking shelter on Captain Leftrin's liveship Tarman, the ship tells her that her son needs the help of a Dragon to survive. But where is Tintaglia, who changed both Reyn and Malta into the Elderlings they are? Meanwhile, Tintaglia has been poisoned by the weapon of a  Chalcedian, whose ruling Duke wants Dragon mear and Dragon Blood to cure him of his age-born illnesses, and she makes for Trehaug to try and get cured. But the Duke of Chalced has agents, even there, and they harry her up the river towards Kelsingra. And in Bingtown, Hest Finbok, the husband of Alise, is told to seek her out by his family when the news of Kelsingra being rediscovered is bandied about in Bingtown. They have a claim on that through Alise, but if Hest allows her to sliup through his fingers, they lose that profit. But can Hest, who hates Alise anyway and has never loved her, convince her to come back to him? And can the threats of the Chalcedeans change his mind? Maybe it was not reading this series for a long time, but I liked the characters in this story much more than I did in the first two books. Even Thymara who came off as an awful "Witch starting with a B" quickly grew on me, especially after she comes into her own and realizes her beauty. The love triangle between Rapskal, Tats and her made me wonder who would win her heart, though I had a sneaking suspicion about who she would end up with in the end. The story kept my attention quite faithfully throughout, and it was nice to see the really bad characters get some comeuppance at least. But there is one more book to go, and this book firmly sets up the conflict and conflicts to come. Highly recommended.

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb- Tintaglia has finally made it to Kelsingra, and her treatment at the hands of the Chalcedeans has all the Dragons up in arms. When their Keepers try to decide what they should do about it, the Dragons reject them firmly- this is Dragon business, and Dragons will decide. Meanwhile, the Elderlings have rediscovered the well of silver that gives Dragons their long lives and magic, and are working to clear it to help their Dragons. When the well is finally reopened, the Dragons drink long and deep, becoming even more powerful. Meanwhile, the Elderlings and their dragons take captive some of the Chalcedeans who were trying to kill Tintaglia, and Hest makes it to the city, as the Chalcedeans had taken him captive and used him as a slave. But will he be able to convince Alise and Sedric to take him back into their lives? But when Tintaglia's mate Icefyre shows up in Kelsingra, he, too, has been poisoned by the Chacedeans, and wants revenge. Little does Tintaglia know that Seldin Vestrit, her singer, has been imprisoned by the Duke of Chalced and has had his blood consumed by the Duke. Meanwhile, the Duke's Daughter, Chassim, is trying to nurse him back to health so that her father can keep drinking his blood. Unknown to her father, or her putative would-be husband, she and Seldin have made a connection, and she doesn't wish to survive his death. But can she keep him alive when her father wants to devour him, and can the war party of Dragons arrive in time to save his life? Well, this was the last book in the series and a really satisfying read. Bad, evil people are punished in entirely appropriate ways, and the good one triumphs, and the last chapter really made me cheer and feel happy. Amazing book, wonderful series- the last two books are the best and most readable of all. Highly recommended. As a series, this starts out being a little hard to read, but the ending certainly redeems it as a whole.

Transmetropolitan #2: Lust for Life by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson and Rodney Ramos- Spider Jerusalem is a journalist of the far future (23rd century), is an inveterate drug user and hates authority and people who annoy him. The first story deals with his intern, Channon, who is upset that her boyfriend Xiang is planning to become a computer program, or download his personality into a computer and go virtual as a cloud of fog. Channon is convinced he's planning to kill himself, and Spider tries to show her that what Xiang is doing isn't killing himself. But can he and his Foglet friend Tico Cortez convince her otherwise? "Another Cold Morning" shows the life and fate of a female journalist from the present day who has herself frozen to be revived in the future when she dies of Cancer. But will the future be too strange for her to withstand? "Wild in the Country" has Spider Exploring lifestyles so out there that they can only be contained in complete reservations apart from normal society. But is his new piece so out there that his own editor will abandon him? Finally, Spider  is cut off from everything in "Freeze Me with Your Kiss". When Spider becomes a wanted man for non-payment of his Insurance, it seems everyone is out to get him. But who put him into this situation and why? And can Spider survive the many people out after him? I picked this up because I'd never read Spider Jerusalem before, and it was weird and neither exceptionally good nor exceptionally bad. My favorite story was "Another Cold Morning", and that one was just damned depressing. Neither recommended nor bad enough to warn you against. Just "meh."

Dreamspinner by Lynn Kurland- Runach of Ceangail had thought for the longest time that his siblings were dead, killed by their father, Torlach, when he opened the well of evil to unleash the power trapped there and take it for himself. But Torlach had finally started on a task too difficult even for him, and it killed him. His wife managed to save her children and re-close the well, but at the cost of her own life, and the children were scattered, each thinking the others dead. Now, Runach knows he is no longer alone, but his magic has been gone since the day his father drained him to help him open the well, and in the cataclysm, the well cap was closed on his hands, leaving them bent and broken and forever weak. With no other goal in life, he decides to become a mercenary or guardsman and live out the rest of his life in obscurity. Aisling is of Bruadair, a land of weavers. Apprenticed at seven to the weaver's guild, she has lived her life as a virtual prisoner, her parents continually selling her back to the guild. This last timr was supposed to be the last, as she has finally attained her majority. But when her parents return, she knows they are there to extend her time as a weaver, and she flees rather than spend more time in the guild. She is captured on the street by a merchant, who sends her halfway across the world to hire an assassin to free Bruadair from a cruel tyrant. If she doesn't return in three sevendays, she will die due to a curse placed on her. Neither can she spin wool, due to another curse from the weaver's guild. But when she encounters Runach, he realizes she can spin anything- from water, to air, to even magic. Who *is* Aisling, and why does she have these mysterious powers? And can he keep her safe from those who mean to kill her or him or both of them? WHat is going on in Bruadair, and can Runach become the man Aisling needs to set her and her people free? Okay, so this is a new Nine Kingdoms novel, and to be honest, I am already tired of having another supposedly thought dead sibling coming out of the woodwork for another trilogy of Romance novels. It's not a bad series by any means, but the background horse has long ago been beaten into a find red paste. Recommended, but please, can we have a hero and heroine from a completely unrelated background now?

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter- Kate Winters and her mother have moved to Eden from New York City. Eden's mother is dying, and she wants to spend her last weeks or months in the town where she grew up, and as her primary caregiver, Kate has moved them to the town and will be attending her last two years of High School there. On her first day in the new school, she meets Ava, the School's head cheerleader, her boyfriend, Dylan, who takes a shine to Kate, and James, boy who seems to keep mostly to himself. Kate, althiough she thinks Dylan is cute and handsome, tells him she doesn't date- at all, and tries to turn away his interest in her. Ava invites her to a spirit-building bonfire in the woods for a few nights hence, and Kate reluctantly accepts. The next day, her mother relapses, forcing Kate to spend the night in the hospital with her, and though Kate doesn't really want to go, when her mother comes home, she tells Kate to liver her life, including going to the spirit event. But Ava, jealous at Dylan's being attracted to Kate, intends to leave Kate in the woods surrounded by the river- and Kate is deathlt afraid of water and can't swim. But when Ava hits her head on a rock, Kate musters up the courage to save her, only to find that Ava is truly dead. Then a dark boy named Henry appears and offers to save Ava's life if Kate will go through with the same bargain that Persephone made with Hades. Kate agrees, and Ava is somehow returned to life. Kate has until the next solstice to join with Henry and stay in his mansion through the fall and winter. But when she doesn't show up, he comes to her house, where she declines to go with him. The next day, Ava is dead, and Kate frantically returns to Henry to undo the harm she's caused. Henry reveals that he is the God of Death. and he can bring Ava back, but it's too late and she would always be tainted by being seen as "Unnatural". However, he can let Kate meet with her mother's spirit, which is in the process of dying, as that lies within his Realm, and Ava, now that she is dead, is also in James' domain, so Kate can see her everyday. But to survive in Henry's Realm, Kate will have to pass seven tests, and if she fails any of them, she will die, just as all the other girls to make the attempt did before her.

Liberty Vocational, Volume 1: Will Super Villains Be on the Final? by Naomi Novik and Yishan Li- Leah Taymore is a sixteen year old girl who wants to become a superhero. Her powers of matter control is extremely powerful, but she still has to learn to use them. The need for powerful superheroes has made Liberty Vocational offer her early entry, especially since the Superhero Calvin Washington lost his own powers and Heroes are needed. Leah's parents, small-town heroes themselves, are delighted. But when a series of misfortunes befalls her, all seeming to be her own fault, Leah isn't sure she is made for the big leagues, and is certain that she is soon to be kicked out for her missteps. Can a hot guy, her roommate, and a coming flood change Leah's mind as to whether she is suited to staying? And if it isn't Leah who is behind the series of misfotunes that are happening to her, who is, and why is he. she or they wanting to make her fail? I loved this book. The title was irresistable, and Leah's story pulled me in most powerfully and wouldn't let me go. It's a refreshing look at both Superheroes and college, and reminded me somewhat of a Superhero Harry Potter story. Highly recommended.

Kobato, Volumes 2-6 by CLAMP- Kobato is a friendly, naive young woman sent to Earth by God to collect the broken hearts of humans by healing them. To collect them, she must fill a jar with bits of broken hearts, and then she will have a heartfelt wish granted to her by God. But she's not alone- she has the foul-tempered stuffed Dog Ioryogi to help her out and hopefully help her learn about the world, and although she's clumsy, she's found a job helping out at the local bursery school. What could go wrong? But something is wrong, the head of the school, Sayaka Okiura, owes a lot of money to the Yakuza, and a Yakuza man, Kazuto, often appears to hell her to get out of the school so that he can sell it and tak the money for the repayment of the debt, which causes Miss Okiyura much grief, though she tries to put it off for the sake of her students, for whom she maintains a happy face. Also helping out Miss Okiura is KiyoKazu Fujimoto, a sarcastic young man who nonetheless finds himeslf warming to Kobato. But as the situation with the Yakusa grows worse, and Kobato finds herself falling in love with Kiyokazu, can she change her wish to end everything, and fulfill her pact with God so that everything ends as it should? Characters from WISH and Chobits also appear in this manga. I loved the story, which starts off very low-key and gets deeper and more interesting with each volume. It's not until the end when we get to find out who Kobato really is and why Ioryogi and some of the other chaeacters are helping Kobato, that we see the whole story, and this is another one where the ending made me cry, and in a good way. The ending is sentimental, slightly sad, and yet joyous as well. Readers can't help but be entranced, even though the story is fairly simple, the impact is not. Highly recommended.

Fair Game: An Alpha and Omega Novel by Patricia Briggs- Anna Latham is an Omega Wolf, out of the normal pack hierarchy and able to calm Alpha wolves merely by being near them. She is mated to Charles Cornick, the son of the Marrok, Bran, who is the Alpha over all the wolves of America. Charles has been acting as Bran's enforcer ever since werewolves came out of the closet and outed themselves to the world. Now, they share an uneasy peace with humans, and any infractions are dealt with harshly. Because the Alphas often find it hard to kill errant members of their own packs, Bran sends Charles in to take care of it. But Charles hates the work, and it is killing him. Bran wants to believe everyuthing is okay, and won't listen to what Anna is trying to tell him, until Charles returns from his latest trip and Bran can see the results for himself. and then he's shocked at the change in his son. So, to give him a break, Bran assigns Charles the job of Bodyguard to Anna as Anna meets with an FBI task force  which is trying to catch a serial killer. The Killer, known as "The Big Game killer" has been killing people since the 70's and started out with people from Vietnam and southeast asia, then expamded his killing to others. However, his latest victims include Fae and Werewolves, which concerns everyone. Fae and Weres are not easy targets to kill, and yet, this presumably human, has been managing it. Now, another woman has been kidnapped, a half-fae daughter of a very important Fae, but the dsughter is mostly human and a dancer. Her father is desperate to find her before her killer kills her, but there are signs he isn't working alone. When they find and recover the girl, Charles has an idea who might be helping the killer, but when Anna is the Big Game Hunter's Next victim, can Charles and the other agents find her before she becomes another statistic? And can Anna, who Chatles rescued from ab abusive situation, keep herself alive and sane as the killers take every chance to break her down and "deal" with her? I liked this book. The real villain of the piece wasn't glaringly obvious, but the drawback was that his reveal comes a bit out of left field- you don't realize he's a vaillain until Charles pulls him seemingly out of thin air. Other than that, it was a thoroughloy enjoyable book. I liked the interaction between Anna and Chales, and Anna and the local FBI agent, alog with the story about the FBI Agent's past. The ending of the book was also a shock, even though I was also cheering at seeing one of the Bad guys finally brought to justice.  I read this book literally in hours because of how it pulled me in. Highly recommended.

River Marked by Patricia Briggs- Mercy and Adam are planning their wedding when it all becomes too much for Mercy. Her mother is planning on releasing pigeons instead of doves, which Mercy shot down, because the pack is going to chase them. Now her mother wants to release Monarch Butterflies and Balloons, which is only slightly less objectionable. It's still too much for Mercy, so she and Adam elope, which is attended by everyone anyway, as they have all forseen Mercy's reaction. Adam, meanwhile, has put aside weeks to spend with her at a campsite which he provided security for when they were building it, and it isn't open yet, leaving it all to them. To get there, "Uncle Mike" a local fae, lends them a new RV, which makes Mercy more than a little suspicious. But Adam tells her that Unle Mike only asked her to look in on a clan of Otter-shifters while they are in the area, so Mercy eventually calms down, because doing favors for the Fae is almost always a BAD IDEA. But when she and Adam find an injured man on the river one night, it's clear he's been attacked by something, his foot is nearlychopped, or in this case, gnawed, off. But what might have done it? Investigation leads them to the local river monster/goddess, who was once defeated by Coyote and imprisoned at the bottom of the River. Now, it appears that something or someone has awakened her, and it's up to Mercedes to take care of her. But she is not alone, because other Coyote shifters are living in the area, and it appears that Coyote himself is taking an interest, along with his brothers, Thunderbird, Bear, Wolf, Raven and others. But when it comes down to a fight between the Native American totems and the River Goddess with Mercy as the killer, and the other Native American Gods as bait. But can she bring the River Goddess down for the count? I enjoyed this book, the interactions between Mercy and her new husband, Adam, and how she finally meets other shifters like herself. Initially, they seem kind of bigoted, asserting Mercy can't be a shifter because she is half-white. But once we find out more about Mercy, it's explained quite well. Once again, Mercy ends up quite banged up by the end of the book, in a wheelchair and her hands burned, but aside from her injuries, I found the book a wonderful, engaging read, and one that pulls you along quite effortlessly. Recommended.