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.

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