Friday, August 16, 2013

2013, Part 5

An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane Magic by Various Authors- This is an anthology of short stories by various fantasy writers. "The Wrong Fairy by Audrey Niffenegger has a man dying of alcohol addiction saved to paint pictures of the children of the Faerie Queen, "If I Die, Kill MY Cat" by Sarah Lotz has an agnostic South African dealing with the aftermath of yet another murder, and the cat that was the only survivor, "Shuffle" by Will Hill shows a man addicted to gambling, and how a little magic completely changes the game. "Domestic Magic" by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem takes us into the lives of a young homeless boy, his sister, and his mother, who seems crazy, but is actually playing with magic. When his sister runs off and disappears, does he have what it takes to find her? "Cad Coddeu" by Liz Williams tells the story of a man's encounter with a deer shifter, sought by Oak warriors. Will he help her escape, or will he be caught? "Party Tricks" by Dan Abnett tells the story of a British Politician who rises from obscurity to very nearly lead the country. But can an old academic publication unveil both his true motives and the way to get rid of the threat he represents? "First and Last and Always" by Thana Niveau tells of a girl who wants the attention of a boy- perhaps a little too much. But will the magic spell she's resorted to get her what she wants? "The Art of Escapology" by Allison Littlewood tells of a boy's encounter with Magic in a travelling circus that takes his father away from him- perhaps forever. "The Baby" by Christopher Fowler has a pregnant girl in trouble. But when she resorts to unorthodox means to rid herself of her child, it sets in motion a transformation that may end up much much worse... "Do As Thou Wilt" by Storm Constantine has a woman who had a piece of her soul stolen by a man encounters the man's wife when she is asked to throw her a party. But will the end be satisfying to all of them? "Bottom Line" by Lou Morgan is the story of a man with a magic talent that could kill him. But when his old boss needs his help for one last job, will he take the chance and use his gift? "MailerDaemon" by Sophia McDougall tells the story of a woman who is troubled by bad dreams. A friend sends help in the form of a Demon who destroys bad dreams, but doesn't like men. To get her life back, can the woman find a way to put the Demon elsewhere and keep it busy and happy? "Buttons" by Gail Z. Martin tells of a woman whose talent is in reading the magic in buttons. But when a malevolent one turns up that may be attached to a voodoo amulet that inadvertantly won't let the spirit associated with it rest, can she and her assistant set it right? "Nanny Grey" by Gemma Files has a thief encountering a demonic guardian who watches over his latest target, and "Dumb Lucy" tells a story of a magician in a post-apocalyptic world, searching for somewhere that the magic will let him be. But who is the girl who travels with him, and why are they together? Some of these atories border on horror, like "First and Last and Always", especially at the ending, and almost all of them provoke thought beyond the end of the story. I liked a lot of the stories in this book, but my favorite hovers between "Bottom Line", Buttons" and "The Wrong Fairy". It's an excellent book, but some of the stories can be a bit... disturbing for some readers. Recommended nonetheless.

R.I.P.D.: City of the Damned by Jeremy Barlow, Peter M. Lenkov and Tony Parker- Roy Pulsipher and his new partner Nick Walker are dead, but to pay off the sins they committed while they were alive, have taken up positions in the R.I.P.D.- Detecrives of the land of the Dead. But the case they are currently on involves Roy's long ago partner, Crispin Mather, and a case they were on that involved a man trying to use souls to end the world. But Crispin, so secure in his faith, thought nothing could end his faith in God. But now he sits where that other man was. But can Pulsipher be corrupted as Crispin was, or will he end the threat in quite a different way? I have never read this series before, but it was quite an interesting comic with interesting ideas about the Dead. It features a new character, Nick Walker, that doesn't  appear in the comic proper. I found it good despite not having read the rest of the comic, and I'd definitely want to read more. Recommended.

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson- Ellie is a sixteen year old girl growing up in the shadow of her older brother, Graham, tall, blond, athletic, and seemingly perfect- except to Ellie, who gets angry that her brother doesn't seem to realize that while he has grown up, so has she- he still treats her like she's seven and unable to figure things out for herself. So when she's staying with her grandmother in Sweden and a local boy, Kjell, expresses an interest in her, she's flattered, even though he's in college and a lot older than she is. But when her brother, and Tucker, his best friend, show up, she's not happy to see them, because young men have started disappearing from her grandmother's village and the towns around, and a group of impossibly tall, blonde, beautiful women seems to be at fault. But when those women target her brother, Ellie discovers that she is actually a Valkyrie... just as her grandmother is, and that Odin has awakened, and is instructing the Valkyries to cull all the brave young men, whether they have died or not, to fill out his army. And only Ellie and her grandmother appear to be interested in stopping him. But the humans seem to hate all Valkyries, including Ellie and her grandmother. Can Ellie convince them that she is on the side of the humans, and take on the Valkyries all on her lonesome, barring maybe help from Tucker, who is quickly becoming more than just a friend, but is he really on her side? And will Odin take a rebellion against him lying down? This book was a bit of a slow starter, but it's a slow but effective way at ratcheting up the tension about what is going on and what secrets Ellis's grandmother is keeping, even though the title of the book kinda gives it away and undercuts the tension that the story is trying to build up.. But the story was enjoyable and I will read the sequel. Recommended.

Shadows of Freedom by David Weber- The tensions between the Solarian League and the Star Empire of Manticore continues, and Mesa continues to try and turn up the heat on the Sollies to see the Manties as "jumped up little neobarbs who need to be slapped down, hard, for getting ideas above their station" from the shadows and behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Anton Zilwicki and Victor Cachat finally make it home to the Manticorean Star Empire with Herlander Simörss, but Mesa discovers that he has survived. But what will they do about it? Meanwhile, they have gone to several Sollue protectorate planets in the guise of Manticore and offered to funnel them arms and other help in rebelling against the Sollie companies who usually own the planets on the sly. But when one of the rebellions actually goes ahead and really contacts the Manties and Michelle Henke, now admiral of her own Task Force, she discovers what is going on and decides to support these rebellions anyhow- so that Mesa can't ruin the name of the Manticorean Empire by withdrawing their support and letting the planets blame the Manticoreans in the wake of failed rebellions. Meanwhile, another Sollie fleet suffers a defeat at the hands of a numerically inferior Manty force, and a;though some of the Sollies flee in the wake of the defeat, the news of another defeat is sure to inflame tensions "back home". But Michelle Henke has her own way of dealing with the strains of what the Empire is undergoing, and she decides to take it into her own hands to do so. But what will happen when she goes off alone with her force to Mesa? This book is sort of a "meanwhile, back at the ranch: type book, showing what's going on while Empress Elizabeth, Honor Harrington and Eloise Pritchart are discussing and achieving an alliance. Even so, a lot of talking goes on, but there are some really great battles, but the book ends on something of a cliffhanger, but I am sure this will be covered in the next book, which I am eagerly looking forward to. Highly recommended for the series, and the individual books.

Limits of Power by Elizabeth Moon- The Lady of Ladysforest is dead, and the Elfaine Taig is no more. Now, King Kieri has to deal with the fallout. The Ladysforest has become mere forest without the elvenhome, and Kieri and his bride have to secure the succession of Lyonya and deal with the frankly shell-shocked elves. But that isn't all. More elves have shown up and are demanding that the girdsmen remove the sleeping magelords from the west, while Magery is being discovered in many, including Tsaia, and some of these, childreb, have been slain by overzealous Girdsmen who believe all magery is evil. As the Marshall-General of Gird struggles to deal with this new outbreak of Magery and her people's response to it, Arvid semminson has to deal with the members of the Thieves Guild attempting to kill him and with Gird speaking to him in his head, as well as those among his fellow believers who are put off by his former profession. Is he meant to become a Paladin of Gird? Meanwhile, in Tsaia, Camyn, brother to the King, discovers he has magery of his own, and tries not to be discovered using it and to make it go away, the second without success. But when Arian, Kieri's Queen, comes to visit, can he keep it hidden from his brother? And does he want to? Meanwhile, Stannis attempts to build a new life for himself as a blind man among people who do not know him, and Arcolin, now Duke and head of Fox Company, must find out what it means to be a Gnomish Prince, as he has apparebtly become one. And Kieri makes a startling discovery about himself when he visits the place where his mother doed. But what implications will it have for the Kingdom as a whole? This book was something of a waiting game, as story events slowly happened, but something is coming, and this is the approaching storm. It was wonderful seeing these characters again, and I can't wait to see more of Paks, who I have sorely missed. Recommended.

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge- Paige is a young teen who just moved from Virginia to New York City. Bereft of her old friends and missing her old life, can she resist flowering under the difficult circumstances that now rule her life? Taking old lessons on art from her grandmother, who was self-taught, Paige buys a new sketchbook and spends her time chronicling her new life, and her introspection allows her to reach out and grab a new life that's full of friends, love and laughte. But will her insights allow her to reconnect with her mother, who she feels is papering over the cracks in all their lives? What will Paige discover about herself in her new journal? I really liked this book, which was semi-autobiographical in that Laura Lee Gulledge actually did move from Virginia to New York when she was a teenager, and, of course, she's an artist, and her time in New York City did change her. At the same time, this is a truly engaging story. Paige is an interesting character who isn't perfect, and who stumbles, but picks herself up and continues on. I like how she interacts with the other characters, and her slow catching the attention of another very shy boy who happens to be a writer. It really is a heartwarming story, and you get really invested in her story. Highly recommended.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang with art by Thien Pham- When Dennis Ouyang is little, he discovers video games, and he's really good at them. At his studies... not so much. But when his father passes on, his father wants him to become a surgeon, and then a group of tiny angels show up, determined to get Dennis to live out his father's dream for him- to be a gastroenterologist. But can Dennis give up his life to the dreams of his father for himself? And more, should he have to? Who are these little angels, and why won't they let him give up on his father's dreams for him? This was a quick read, but very interesting, and I was quite shocked to find out who the angels really were. I also liked the ending, where Dennis discovers that he can possibly combine the games he loves with the career his father wanted for him. A triumph, and definitely worth reading. Recommended.

The Opening Night Murder by Anne Rutherford- Suzanne Thornton left her father's home to be with her lover, only for him to leave and go with King Charles to the Netherlands, leaving her to live by means of becoming a prostitute with her unborn son. She manages to live as a prostitute for a while until she becomes a actress on the stage, and when her theatre company is busted, she lives as the mistress of a Parlimentarian, and when the King finally returns, her lover is devastated and says he will have to flee to France. So, when the King returns, Suzanne gets an idea to reopen the abandoned Globe  Theatre for commoners and put on Shakespeare's plays. To do so, she needs the help of her old lover, and the patronage of the King. But when a man dies on the opening night, Suzanne needs to solve the mystery of who killed him to keep her theatre open and to save her son from the gallows. But can a former prostitute discover who killed the man who once kept her as a mistress and unravel the true reason for his death? This was an interesting novel, gritty with details of Medieval life and the life of Suzanne. While there is a spark of interest between her and her old lover (and the father of her son), he basically screws her over once again, and I hope she ends up with someone more worthy of her. But this was a wonderful first novel. Not comfortable to read, but sets up the characters well, and none are all good or all bad. The readers want Suzanne to succeed and become successful at her profession, and I hope we get closer looks at the secondary characters in future books in this series. Highly recommended.

Blade of the Immortal volume 25 by Hiroaki Samura- We have come to know Manji well, and in this volume, he is tracked down by Shira, who has a bone to pick with Manji. We also learn more about how Manju got his incredible healing powers, and possibly, how he can finally be killed and/or die. But even missing an arm, he's a formidable opponent, and Shira has had Manjii's arm transplanted onto himself, giving him a lesser version of Manji's incredible healing abilities. But can he save Rin, who Shira's companion is watching over? With one hand and Rin tied to a rock in a frozen river, is there a way to save her life before she drowns? I have to admit, it's been so long since I read any of this series, that I could barely remember anything about what was going on. But the art is strong and the story compelling, and the book finally reveals ways to kill Manji that likely no one thought of before. I just hope that more volumes come out in a timely fashion so I can finish reading this series, before I forget again. Recommended,

Good Man Friday by Barbara Hambly- When Benjamin January tries to prevent the death of a slave in a bare-knuckle boxing match, his owner blames the slave's death on Ben and bans him from polite society. And with Ben needing money to support his wife, Rose and his new son, he asks Abishag Shaw to help him find work as a detective. So when his sister Dominique's white lover Henti Viellard asks January to accompany him and his sister (and the man's wife) to Washington D.C. to track down a missing pen-pal from England who also happens to be a professor of Mathematics, Ben is quick to agree, and finds his sister is also taking her daughter, conceived with this man, along with her, and another part-black woman as a nurse for her daughter. But though Washington D.C. is to the North, things aren't any better for blacks there than they are in New Orleans- the threat of being captured and sold back into slavery is rampant, and Blacks have even less freedoms, not even being permitted to assemble in groups to play "town ball". As he investigates the mystery, Benjamin finds himself getting drawn into the local black "town ball" team, along with the husband of his landlady, and a white man staying at the same boarding house, Edgar Allen Poe, is drawn into helping Ben. Through the town ball team, Ben meets Ganymede Tyler, the newly-freed slave and "Good Man Friday" of a clerk at the Secretary of the Navy, whose wife, Rebecca, knew the missing man. Bray freed Ganymede so that  he could pitch in the Town Ball match with the free men of color and defeat the mixed French and British team who have defeated all the white teams in town. Shortly after the match, though, Mede turns up dead. Who might have cause to kill him, and did it have to do with the town ball match, or the missing mathematician? Ben must probe the dark waters carefully and uncover the real reason why Mede had to die and find either  the body or the missing man that Henri Viellard is seeking. But can he do it in an unfamiliar city where he could be abducted and sold back into slavery at any minute? And can he do it without endangering his sister and niece? This was a wonderful book, I loved the inclusion of Edgar Allen Poe, who was in town seeking the position of Postmaster to support his own family, but whose hatred of slavery led  him to help Ben out of a bad situation and help him with his investigation as well, The characters are well-drawn and realized, and you don't realize the true villain until rather late in the book, which I found refreshing after too many mysteries in which I can figure out whodunnit shortly after meeting them. Ben remains a wonderfully sympathetic character who you can cheer and support in his decisions and actions, even when he is killing a slave taker or tracking down a criminal. I recommend this series for the characters and how well it draws the times and places in which Ben lives and works. Highly recommended.

FairyTail 26 by Hiro Mashima- Once again, Fairy Tail is under attack by a rival guild, this one led by a former Master of Fairy Tail and made up of eight people who have powers from the ultimate source of magic. But when Natsu defeats the member of the guild with Godly Fire, he collapses. Can Fairy Tail defeat the Dark Grimoire Heart Guild before they find and reawaken Zeref, who they are seeking? I am definitely suffering from over-exposure to this series, because I just wasn't feeling it. The series has gone on so long that every storyline seems overstretched and just keeps going on and on and on. Not recommended. But if you like the series and have a high tolerance for endlessly rehashed storylines, you'll probably love this.

Hellboy: On Earth As It Is In Hell by Brian Hodge- The Vatican is about to release an obscure scroll found at Masade purportedly penned by Jesus long after he supposedly perished on the cross when the Vatican Library is attacked by Seraphim who burn it to the stone. Only the researcher working on the Masada scroll survives, and the scroll itself is protected inside a vault. The question is, who wants to destroy the scroll? If it's Heaven, why hasn't it done anything before now? And if it is Hell, why are the Seraphim involved? Hellboy and the BPRD are called to the Vatican to unravel the mystery, which involves secret cults among the priests, a conduit being built between Earth and Hell using people who have fallen through the cracks, and forces wanting to bring down the church using Heaven's own minions to do so. But what role does Hellboy play in all these schemes? Does it have anything to do with being Anung an Rama? Or is his presence merely coincidental to the war being waged between the forces of Heaven and the forces of Hell? This was an interesting book that really fits into the Hellboy universe and introduces new characters, including a Greek smuggler who was once saved by Hellboy's own foster father, Professor Bruttenholm. It also includes many creatures who are mentioned in the Bible, such as the Leviathan, but I got the feeling that the scroll is merely a pretext for what is going on here, not the ultimate reason for the conflict. The ending, and the temple city being built on an alternate plane by people possessed by Devils, was pretty creepy and horrible, giving the feeling of things man was  not meant to know while being as horrendous as a hellish plane should be. Highly recommended.

Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford- Maggie Graham was a mere child actress when she first went to the Crossroads Theatre. But when Rowan MacKenzie directed her, she found a lifelong vocation, and then love. But when Rowan was revealed as a Faerie, he had to return to his family across the border. He left his life's fortune, $50,000, and directorship of the theatre to her. And Maggie has struggled to turn the theatre into a business that can pay for itself, while sprucing it and the hotel, the Golden Bough, to respectability. But she misses Rowan, and staging Annie or The Secret Garden is hard enough as a mere human while missing the man she loves. So when he returns, she is overjoyed, never having expected to see him again. But he returns with an unexpected guest: her father, who disappeared into the woods long ago. Now a stranger to her, fearful and nervous from the way he'd lived for years, not in the Faerie he'd been seeking, but the far more dangerous borderlands, Maggie is going to have to learn to live with not only the man she loves, but a father who is a stranger to her- and try to prevent her mother from finding out about her father's return, as Maggie fears her father could break her usually strong mother. As well, Rowan is going to have to learn to fit back into the theatre community where he is no longer in charge- and fae hate change more than anything. But can he make himself a new life with Maggie, and learn new ways? And how can he tell her that her father doesn't want to stay, but rather return to find actual faerie and leave her behind again? This is the second book in, well, not exactly a series, but definitely, this is not a first book. And yet, it was perfectly readable, and I didn't really need to know what happened in the first book because the most important bits are discussed here, and we know the setup here from the beginning of this book. I really enjoyed the story, and each character had their own secrets, and their own problems to overcome, and by the end, I really felt that their love *would* last, if not forever, then a good long time. Maggie may only be human and Rowan a faerie, but they love and support each other, and I liked the way each opened up the life of the other. Even the secondary characters seemed real and alive. I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it wholeheartedly. Highly recommended.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks tells the true stories of all three women who studied Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Orangutans, all of whom were set on their paths by the famous Archaeologist, Louis Leakey. None of them had advanced degrees when they started, but Leakey chose them because of their ability to see what male researchers didn't pick up on. This book brings out what each woman was like- and also what Louis Leakey was like (His wife approved of Biruté because she was married, and Louis had a problem of being faithful to his wife with women that worked under him- although there is nothing to say that he had any kind of sexual relationship with Diane Fossey or Jane Goodall- or Biruté for that matter). But the price each woman paid for her work, which became her lifetime passion, did cost them, some in permanent ways, like Dian Fossey, who was slain by poachers, and Biruté, whose marriage ended when her husband expected her to move on after only a few short years in the field. She later remarried a local man. It's a fascinating story about three fascinating women, who found a life they loved in the wilderness and turned it into a lifetime profession. Amazing and interesting, and highly recommended.

Blackveil by Kristin Britain- Karigan G'ladheon goes home to deliver a message from the head of the Green Riders to her father, and in the meantime, discovers that her father is more than just a simple merchant. Her mother, too, had secrets, including a muna'riel, an Eletian moonstone, hidden in her clothing. A stone that wanted Karigan to find it, and one that her mother insisted that she have as she lay dying. Karigan takes it back to the capital with her, and hopes to spend some time with her lover, the King, but he is busy finalizing his marriage to Lady Estora, a marriage that is supposed to stabilize the country. Karigan's leader knows this, and when a group of Eletians show up to speak to the King about an expedition into the Blackveil, she convinces Karigan to volunteer for it. But Karigan's relationship with the King hasn't gone unnoticed, and Lady Estora's retainer, Richmont, sets a retainer of the Coutre family, a forester, to go with the expedition to find Argenthyne, and to kill Karigan if he gets the chance. Karigan is merely one of those on the expedition, but with the King increasingly out of her reach, she hopes to reconnect with an old friend who was besotted with her- only to find him in a new relationship with another friend of hers But inside the Blackveil, nothing is the same, and the forest is actively inimical to the intrusion of the Eletians and those from Sacoridia and Grandmother, leader of the Second Empire, has come to Blackveil with a group of followers to awaken the sleepers and set them on Sacoridia through the hole in the D'Yer wall. Only Karigan and her party stand in their way. But when it comes down to Karigan to once more walk through time and save the sleepers, and face down the spirit of Mornhavon, the first King, can she find her way to do what must be done, even injured as she is? And can she survive the threat to her life? Meanwhile, back in Sacoridia, the King lies injured and near death from an assassination attempt. Lady Estora is made his wife through the machinations of those nearest the King-and now must run the country on her own. Though she was raised to be a lord of the domain of Coutre, running the country is a different thing entirely- and Richmont is always ready to take advantage of her new position- a fact which Lady Estora realizes far too late. But can she do anything once he has her in his trap? Or is there a way to take care of him before he can slander her far and wide? I really enjoyed this book, which moved from the sedate return of Karigan to her father's home that he shares with her aunts, and which became a rip-roaring adventure in Blackveil, with the added political problems in Sacoridia. In all, it was a delightful book, with consequences that will lead on into the next book. I don't doubt that this isn't the end for Karigan and Sacoridia, and despite the fact that this book took so many years to come out after "The High King's Tomb", that I will still be interested for many more books. Highly recommended.

Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh- Sahara Kyriakus is a Psy with a very unusual talent, but she has been kidnapped and tortured since she was only sixteen. Rescued by Kaleb Krychek, he struggles to bring her back to herself, to get her to remember who and what she is and was, while using his double Cardinal Tp and Tk powers to get revenge on those who harmed her in any way, including his former fellow Councillor Tatiana Rika-Smythe, the woman at whose behest Sahara was kidnapped many years ago. Kaleb, who is in touch with both the Netmind and its twin the Darkmind, wants an end to Silence for the Psy- most of them, anyhow. But the organization known as PurePsy is fighting against that every step of the way, and turning to increasingly terroristic tactics to "persuade" the rest of the Psy to go along. But as Kaleb struggles to save the only woman he has ever loved, the only person who treated him as a person as well, he must also fight against the perception that he is the one behind Pure Psy, or is using it to get what he wants. At the same time, how can he break his own personal silence to let in the woman he loves without revealing his own tortured past for the entire world to see? Sahara, too, must rebuild her fractured shields and mind and remember what she and Kaleb were to each other before she can start that relationship. But she is also opposed by Pure Psy and those who would eliminate her for the power she holds, simply in her genetics. But can they work together to find happiness not only for themselves, but for the rest of Psy as well? I usually love Nalini Singh's books, but this one was really hard to get into for me. Part of it was Kaleb Krychek himself, who is rather overcontrolled, even when he is losing control and creating havoc around them on a fairly massive scale, but Sarhara more than makes up for it later in the story, and the story itself is the culmination of many of the Psy-Changeling books. I just wish it hadn't felt as bloodless as it does, sometimes. Recommended, nonetheless.

The Amoveo Legend: Untamed by Sara Humphreys- Layla Nickelsen is a half-blood Amoveo and photographer. But when she is finally found by her faed mate, William Fleury, she refuses to have anything to do with him, even in dreams, where she hides herself in the mist and flees from him. But William, strong-willed, is an Amoveo Falcon and won't give up. When Layla flees to the farm she grew up on with two other half-blood Amoveo and a human woman who raised them all, William follows. But Layla thinks there is no way they can be made for each other. For William is a stuck up lawyer, and Layla is a passionate photographer. And yet, she can't stop looking at him, and desiring him. But something isn't right down on the farm. Layla's old nemesis, Sylvia, shows up wanting to steal William for her own, and Layla isn't so secure in her looks as to think she is a better choice over Sylvia. But when someone attacks Rosie, her aunt and foster mother, Layla and William will spare no effort to find out who is behind the attacks, especially when William scents at least one Amoveo amidst the wreckage. But who could have it in for Rosie? Is it the Purebloods who want to elminate all the halfbloods from the race, or someone else in the Amoveo clans? And can William, who relaxes with Layla, make her see how much he loves her and doesn't want to control her? Or will he lose to the purebloods or another faction? I have to tell you, I have enjoyed some of the books in this series, but honestly, people who can turn into animals just aren't floating my boat much any more. Whether you call them Amoveo, Weres, Changelings ot what have you, I am getting more than a little tired of this trope. So, while this one was okay, I just wasn't grokking it as much as I used to. I probably won't read another book in this series, but it was okay otherwise. YMMV, of course.

Blackwatch by Jenna Burtenshaw- Kate Winters is the last surviving member of the Winters family and was born to touch the veil between life and death. She also bears the book that members of her family wrote and to which she is heir, Wintercraft. But though she has sought shelter with the Skilled along with her uncle and her friend, Edgar, the skilled see her only as a liability and a danger to them. So when they decide to imprison her forever, she and Edgar decide to flee, leaving Kate's uncle behind with the Skilled, who have no problem with him. But their madcap escape unfortunately puts them right back into the hands of the Blackwatch, and they have also captured Silas Dane and the leader of the Blackwatch, Bandermain, is working with the last of the Bonemen, the cult that preceded the Winters clan and their researches into the Veil. So when Kate and Edgar fall into the hands of the Blackwatch, they take her to meet the woman keeping Bandermain alive, Dalliah. But can Kate keep her mind free of Dalliah's control, and what does Dalliah want with Kate? Can Silas and Edgar keep her safe and save her from falling under Dalliah's spell? Or can Kate free herself? I haven't read the first book in this series, but this one sounded interesting, and not like a second novel- until I took it out and started reading (and yes, I did see the picture of the previous novel, but for some reason, I thought was another book by the same author). And as a second book in a possibly trilogy or series, the book's story had a chopped off and unfinished feel for me- It happens over a short span of time, and between the beginning and end, there really isn't that much that goes on except some escaping and info dumping as well before some more being captured and escaping again. It was okay, but I wouldn't really recommend it, nor am I looking forward to reading book 3. Neither recommended nor not. Sort of meh.

Changeling by Philippa Gregory- Luca is a novice monk at a monastery, but when he questions the number of nails of the true cross extant in Christendom, his Abbot calls in a Papal inquisitor to charge him with Heresy. But the Inquisitor instead offers him a job to map out the fears and horrors of Christendom. With Luca comes Freize, one of the Kitchen boys at the Monastery, who pledges to serve Luca, who he teases with his history of possibly being a changeling. The first case they are sent to investigate is a Nunnery where the nuns have been having visions and sleepwalking, along with stigmata. Supposedly, these began when the new Abbess, the daughter of Lord Lucretili who endowed and built the Nunnery and Brother House of Monks, took over the Nunnery as Abbess. The Lady Almoner certainly blames the new Abbess, and her Muslim servant, for what has been happening at the Abbey. But the Abbess herself is also falling victim to the visions and night walking. Luca's investigations with Freize and his scribe, Brother Peter, discovers that someone in the Nunnery is making a fortune from gold dust pulled from a not-so-nearby stream through the use of sheep fleeces, and someone seems awfully anxious to discredit Isolde, the daughter of Lord Lucretili. But who and why, and can Luca and his band of investigators prove their case before the nuns kill Isolde and her servant Ishraq? And then, in a small village, the villagers have caught what they claim to be a werewolf, but neither Luca nor Freize is convinced. But what is this creature that they have caught, and can they keep the villagers from perpetrating a miscarriage of justice? I enjoyed this book, as all the characters were not actual people, even though that's generally what Philippa Gregory writes, but their attitudes are spot-on about questioning just to know, and the other characters they meet feel authentically medieval. I liked the book and found it a good and entertaining read. The only drawback is that I figured out the real culprit behind the stuff at the Nunnery right off the bat, thanks to a discovery Luca makes. Recommended.

Stolen Away by Alexandra Harvey- Eloise lives with her mother in a small town and hangs out with her best friends, Jo and Devin. Jo chases boys with abandon, while Devin is more of a book geek obsessed with Lord of the Rings. But when strange boys start showing up in town, one warning Eloise that her life is in danger, the other attracted to Jo, it draws them into the Realm of Faerie. Their area is suffering under a horrible heat wave, long after summer should be waning. It turns out that the local ruler of Faerie, Strahan, has long refused to step down as King of Summer, and is trying to lure Eloise into his clutches so that he can entrap her aunt in his clutches. When she is kidnapped by the Unseelie Fae that Strahan leads, she has to survive to rescue herself, but the boy who warned her, turns out to be Fae himself, a Seelie Fae of the Hawk clan, while Eloise is descended, distantly, from the Deer clan. Not enough to actually be Fae, but enough to incite their interest. Meanwhile, Eloise's aunt has spent every summer and most of the fall away from the town, and the winter with her twin sister, Eloise's mother. But Strahan wants to lure Antonia, Eloise's aunt, back to him, why? And Jo's hot boy is Strahan's son. But can she and Eloise trust him? Or will their romance end in the same way as Strahan  and Antonia's did? And can Eloise build up enough support to topple Strahan's bid for power and free her aunt from his power? I enjoyed this book, although it seems like there is or will be a sequel at the end of the book- I could be wrong, but it seemed that neither girl, Eloise or Jo, is finished with the world of the far. I loved the characters and world building, and I wouldn't mind reading more, as the  book kept me guessing right up until the end. Recommended.

Murder in Chelsea by Victoria Thompson- Sarah Brandt has been raising two girls abandoned at a shelter. The younger girl, Catherine, when Sarah took her in, couldn't speak and was subject to horrible nightmares, which she couldn't explain due to her dumbness. But now, a woman is asking about Catherine, and she claims to be the Nanny who abandoned Catherine in the first place. But the women who runs the shelter refuses to give the woman Sarah's name or address, and when Sarah and her elder daughter, Maeve, go to question the woman, they realize she is telling the truth about abandoning Catherine because the woman believed that the mother's life was in danger- and maybe Catherine's as well. Catherine is the daughter of an actress and her lover, but when the woman they talked to is killed the next day before Sarah's friend Frank Malloy, a cop, can question her himself, Sarah fears that the woman is right and that someone may want Sarah dead. But who? Does it have something to do with her Chorus Girl mother, who had a lover even when Catherine's father was caring for her? Or does it have something to do with her father, who is wealthy man dying of cancer and who wants to do right by his daughter before he dies? But who could want to kill an innocent little girl, who, as far as everyone knows, threatens no one, and can Sarah and Malloy bring the real culprit to justice in time to save the little girl they both love? This was a good book, and neatly ties up several plot threads that have been drifting through the earlier books that went otherwise unexplained. It seemed like this could possibly be the end of the series, but the author herself assures readers that this isn't the case, although both main characters are going to undergo some significant changes in future books- but that is wonderful and something I have been looking forward to for some time now. Highly recommended.

Steadfast by Mercedes Lackey- I reread this while waiting in a waiting room. I read it earlier this year and enjoyed it just as much this second time.

Death: The Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman collects most of the Death Stories from the Sandman series and a story from Sandman: Endless Nights. "The Sound of Her Wings" has Death teaching Dream a lesson about life- from those who have already left it. "Facade" has a woman who has inherited the power of Sandman- but doesn't want it and can't even kill herself to escape her fate. Can Death help her with her problem? "Death: A Winter's Tale" tells about what happened when Death grew tired of her job and decided to stop doing it completely- from the mouth of Death herself. "Death: The High Cost of Living" shows what happened on one of the days when Death took on mortal form, to learn lessons of life, and those who met her along the way. "Death: The Wheel" has a young boy trying to kill himself to find out why his mother died, but he is stopped by a strange man, and Death herself appears to give him an answer. Is it one he can be satisfied with?  "Death: The Time of Your Life" has a lesbian  artist go into the Land of Death to save her lover's son. But who will choose to sacrifice their life to save his? and "Death and Venice" has a young boy meet Death on a Venetian Island, and he returns there as an adult to find her again-only to take part in Death's return of time to a man who chose to live beyond time to try and live a perfect day over and over and over again. The graphic novel ends with a gallery of covers depicting Death from various stories about her. I'd read just about all of these before, but it was wonderful to read them collected all in one volume. I love Neil Gaiman's Death, and all her siblings- Dream, Despair, Desire, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny, and I love all the stories about her. If there really was a Death, I'd want it to be this one. The stories are often lyrical and sometimes stark and make the point that Death isn't really something or someone to be feared, but rather the opposite. Every story about her is wonderful and amazing, and more than worth checking out. Highly recommended.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Volume 14 by Yuki Midorikawa- When Takeshi Natsume is attacked by two hostile yokai, they steal his voice with a poison breath spell. He is saved by another Yokai who is upset that Natsume hasn't visited him since she won his name from him. Although the Yokai's glade is sizable, he is the only one who lives there now and wants to move somewhere else. But Natsume's book is preventing it from leaving. Will Natsume be able to return the name and help the Yokai find somewhere else to live? Then. Natsume must help a young Yokai girl return a washcloth to a man who once helped her when she was wet. But it's been decades... is that man even alive anymore? Finally, Natsume is accused of stealing something by a Yokai who lives in a jar, and he has to find it or risk the Yokai taking away what he loves. But what did this Yokai lose, and can Natsume find it before the Yokai takes revenge on his family? Finally, when Natsume falls sick with a cold, his Yokai friends try to help him with herbal medicine> But will their efforts help or hurt him? I love these sorts of volumes, where we get to see how humans and Yokai interact and create lasting bonds between them. We also get to see Natsume's aunt, and how she is rarely so horrible as people think she is. I love the interactions between Natsume and those he helps, both the humans and Yokai, The stories, even the ones with hostile Yokai, like the woman in the urn, still manage to leave you feeling heartwarm and uplifted. Highly recommended.

Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit, Volume 1- Alice has been drawn into the country of Hearts, into a dream that is also a nightmare, where everyone will gain affection for her the longer they know her, and eventually fall in love with her. Alice ends up staying with Hatter Mafia, where the second-in-command, Elliot March, a man with rabbit ears (who he claims he is *not* a rabbit), and finds another man hanging around the Queen's Castle, known as Peter, who also has rabbit ears, and who was the one who kidnapped her into the land of Hearts and forced on her the medicine on her that keeps her here, but will the burgeoning feelings she has for Elliott make her choose to stay here? Or will the Queen execute her before she can make a choice? This is apparently a retelling oF "Alice in the Country of Hearts, but with a different ending and focussing on her relationship with Elliot and Peter. For me, it was just much too similar to the original manga to be very interesting. Recommended, but not highly.

Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery- Father Mateo is a Portuguese Jesuit living in Japan, along with a small trading coalition. In his time in Japan, he has come to the attention of the Shogun, and been granted the Rank of Samurai, allowed to weat the two swords in his obi sash. Along with that has come a retainer named Hiro, who pretends ro be a Ronin, or Masterless Samurai, but who is actually a Shinobi, or Ninja of the Iga clan. Hiro was once only in it for the chance to get back home, but time with the priest has mellowed him, and made him think that Father Mateo is not a bad man to serve. However, when a fellow Christian and Geisha named Sayuri is accused of the murder of Akechi Nobuhide, a former general and high rankinhg Samurai, she asks Father Mateo to help her prove her innocence, but when the dead man's son shows up, and who happens to be a local Police commander, He is enraged by his father's death, and tells Mateo that he has two days to find the real killer, or not only will the son kill Sayuri, who he suspects of his father's murdr, but Father Mateo as well! Now it's up to Hiro and Father Mateo to discover the truth behind the Samurai's death, if they can. But can they discover the true killer in a mere two days when every angle they investigate seems to bring more woukd-be killers out of the woodwork? I liked this book, which combined a somewhat open Japan with open strife before the rise of Oda Nobunaga. And the identity of the killer is presented quite skillfully, with myself not figuring it out before Hiro revealed the truth. It's an excellent mystery with a great sense of time and place, though I'll admit that I kept imagining Father Mateo looking like the Portuguese Martin Alvito in Shogun, when he often comes across as more of an older, wiser, priest, but I couldn't wipe that image from my head. Also, the cover makes it seem like this is the first mystery of its type set in Japan, and I knew that wasn't true in the slightest. Still, I recommend this book highly. It's enjoyable and well-done, an excellent mystery.

Hot for the Holidays by Lora Leigh, Angela Knight, Anya Bast and Allyson James- is a collection of Supernatural tales set around Christmas. "Vampire's Ball by Angela Knight inducts the formerly human Kat Danilo into the ranks of the Mageverse as she meets and falls for the vampire that will make her a Magae. But can she overcome her resentment of the father who abandoned her and her mother, and move on? "A Little Night Magic" by Allyson James reunites Navajo Shaman Jamison Kae with Naomi, the love of his life, after being imprisoned for years. But Naomi doesn't know he was in prison, she only knows that he left her, nor that the shifters who imprisoned him are on his trail, ready to kill her to ensure Jamison bonds with and mates to a full-blooded shifter. But can he keep both of them safe, along with Naomi's daughter? "Sweet Enchantment" by Anya Bast has the Unseelie Fae Ronan scheduled to be killed for theft by the Queen of the Seelie Fae, but the woman he never stopped loving, Bella of the Seelie Fae, tries to get him freed, not wanting to see him die. But can he reveal the truth about why he left her, and how much he still loves her? "A Christmas Kiss" by Lora Leigh shows how the human daughter  of the man who tried to destroy the breeds, and who was brainwashed into an incredible betrayal, finally is claimed by and claims her mate, Hawke Esteban. This was a good short story collection with an excellent collection of stories. All of them are good, and I especially liked the Allyson James and Anya Bast stories, as they were something entirely new. It's hard to make up a new universe in the pages of a short story, but they managed to bring it. Highly recommended.

Last Kiss Goodnight by Gena Showalter- Half-alien Solomon Judah, a Black Ops Agent, has been captured by the Master of a Circus and put on display. The owner's daughter, Vika, is disgusted with the cruelties of her father towards the aliens in his circus, but is unable to do anything to stop him, except for take care of the aliens herself, which she does. Everyone seems to think Solomon is ugly, except for Vika, who is amazed by his male beauty. But when her father threatens to marry her off to Matas, his second in command who is just as cruel as her father, she rebels, and is punished for it. But as Solomon manages to escape on his own, can he keep Vika safe on their long Journey to freedom? Whst happened to Solomon's comrades, and when the spirit in his mind that helps him finally teleports him back to Allora, the planet of his ancestors, to heal him when they are recaptured unexpectedly, can Solomon find a way to get back to the woman he loves and his missing comrades? This was a book very unlike Gena Showalter's other books, as this was more Space Opera than Fantasy, but I liked Solo and Vika, and her father and Matas were excellent villians for the book, keeping the tension ratcheted up.even when they finally got free of the circus. The two presences in Solomon's life, Dr. E and X acted as the demon and angel on his shoulder, and readers initially think they are no more than that, but they exhibit surprising powers towards the end of the book that made me wonder more about them both- questions that, to me, were only partially answered by the end of the book. But I am looking forward to book about Solomon's friends and comrades in the future. Only the romance was a bit unbelievable to me, but otherwise, a great book. Recommended.

Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium, edited by Elizabeth Peters and Kristin Whitbread is a look at the histrical, cultural and political background in both Britain and Egypt as a backdrop to the novels by Elizabeth Peters. Mainly, it goes into what was happening in Egyptian Politics and Archaeology at the time of the first books, and later, when Ramses and Nefret joined them. Also included are many pictures of various Egyptian locations at the time, excerpts from Radcliffe Emerson's notes, short biographies of characters appearing in the series, famous and fictional, and a glossary of Arabic and Egyptian terms used in the series. A long book of many short chapters, it's rather tiring and a slog to try and read it all through at once. But fascinating for all that. Recommended.

Burdens of the Dead by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer- The War Jagiellon, who is inhabited by the Demon Chernobog, proceeds apace. As he builds up his fleet in ports above the Black Sea, he sets in motion a number of plots to stymie the defenders of Rome and Venice. For Marco Valdosta and his wife, Katerina, they are soon to part as Maria must fulfill her duty to be the mortal wife of Aidoneus, the God of the Dead. Meanwhile, Benito Valdosta and his wife, Maria, are anxious to provide an heir of thei own, and eager to get bacl tp trying for one. But an assassination attempt on the Doge takes Marco's attention, along with his new Arabic teacher and himself, and then Marco's daughter, Alessia, is kidnapped by a woman they brought in to be a nurse, one who lost her own daughter, and necessitating benito to free the famed horse, Pegasus, to travel from where he and the Venetian forces are beseigingConstantinople. Plus, the Goddess Hekate has reawakened, and taken an interest in one of the Venetian spies, who loves Dogs and can easily see hers. But as the Venetians deal with Chernobog's allies and forces around the Mediterranean, can they recruit even more allies to fight the Demon? And can Maria find a way to keep from returning to Aidoneous's Kingdom by recruiting him a new wife or wives? This book leaves the wilds of the North that was the focus of the last book in this shared world series, and returns to Venice and the Meditteranean as Chernobog attempts to make a further attempt to conquer the civilized world, while taking out the powers already arrayed against him. But at every step, he seems to incur the wrath of more deities determined to defend the world of humans. This series is long, and the books are, too, as they rarely end with any kind of climax. In this book, most of the action ocurred in the middle, with the kidnapping and rescue of Alessia, and Constantinople fell without the battle taking many pages in the book. It makes the book a little uneven, but still an entertaining read. I just wish that the story wasn't so sprawling, amd the book's tone so strange. I still recommend it, but not especially highly, and the drawn-out pace of publication, and the sheer number of characters means that you get invested in one set, only for the next book to feature a different set.

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