Wednesday, November 06, 2013

2013, Part 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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