Monday, January 13, 2014

2013, Part 8

The Excursion Train by Edward Marston- When a man is murdered on an excursion train to see a prizefight between the Bargeman and "Mad Isaac", his body isn't found until the rest of the bare knuckle boxing fans have left. But this man is no ordinary man-he was an executioner, and, as such, in constant fear for his life. But was he killed because of his job, or was he merely the victim of a random murder? In his effects, Detective Colbeck, known as the "Railway Detective" for his ability to solve murders that occur in or on trains, has to track down the many people who might have wanted him dead. But as he grows closer to tracking down the people with grudges against the hangman, a prison chaplain is killed, making Colbeck wonder if he is on the right track. But when he finds the case that ties the hangman and the priest together, he must act to discover the true culprits behind the deaths before the killers kill again. I liked this book, which provided a knotty problem: when hangman are considered unlucky, and even cursed, who hated this particular hangman enough to kill him, and why?The character himself is an unpleasant one: a hangman who is actively bad at his job, and rather than doing the job with dispatch and care, does it to harangue the soon to be dead man to come to Christ and actively torments them with his unwelcome and unlooked for pamphlets, prayer and exhortations. In a way, I wasn't sorry that the victim was dead- he kind of deserved what he got, and the motives behind the killings were understandable in a way, just taken too much to an extreme. I'd definitely recommend this series, as Edward Marston is an excellent writer who really knows how to construct a mystery. Highly recommended.

Infamous- The Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Nick Gautier is just an ordinary poor kid growing up in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Well, if being a kid on a scholarship to a pricy school, a mother who used to strip for a living, and a criminal father in jail in Solitary Confinement can be considered "ordinary". But life picked up for Nick when he was saved from an attack by a Dark-Hunter. Now he's working for the Dark-Hunter as a squire, his mom has become a waitress at the Peltier place (run by a family of were bears and off-limits to any sort of grudge or feud, and on the whole, his life is looking up. Except that Nick has found out more than he ever wanted to know about himself; He's a budding Malachi demon, which makes him more powerful even than the Gods, and he's destined to bring about the end of the world. His future self, Ambrose, has lost most of his humanity and is trying to reboot his life to regain it. But his rebooting has consequences for Nick, who is now seen as a threat or a prize by every demon out there, and not a few Gods as well. Whoever can take out Nick and his father will gain their power, and there are those who seek to bring about the end of the world who want Nick to completely lose his humanity. and keep poking and pushing at him to make him do so. So when Nick goes to school and sees the face of the one girl who has always treated him well photoshopped onto pictures showing her doing all sorts of twisted and bizarre sexual acts and uploaded to computers all over school, he's shocked, stunned and unhappy, especially when he sees her leaving the school in tears as her classmates speculate that this is what she really likes and who she really is. But she isn't the only one who is outed on the website- so is Nick and many other of their classmates- including that his mother was a stripper and his father is a convicted criminal. He goes to his friend Bubba Boudreau to see if he can track down the origins of the website, and then must go see Brynna, as he gets a vision of her committing suicide. He manages to talk her down from that, but it turns out that the cause of the website is a demon known as a Trexian: Literally "She who stirs the feces", who use propaganda to do the dirty work. But it's up to Nick, along with his protector Caleb and his girlfriend Kody, themselves both supernatural beings, to try and track down and defeat the Trexian and return order to the school. But can Nick do that when he's been accused of rape and theft? And will Nick retain the love and respect of his mother with the accusations about him flying thick and fast? I am actually starting to really like this series. At first, I was rather skeptical of the whole "Reboot Nick's life in an attempt to make him a better person, but I am really starting to get into it, and Nick is just a really nice guy who tries to do the right thing, but has anger issues because of his background and his earlier life. It's nice to see more of nice Nick, not "nasty. snarky Nick who hates Ash because Ash lied to him and didn't save his mother". I like the direction the series is going in, and I actually can't wait to read more. Recommended.

Inferno- The Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Nick survived the attack of the Trexian, but has since broken up with Kody, ever since Caleb told him that she was there to kill him. Immediately, Casey, the girlfriend of the school's star quarterback, Stone, latches on to him. But she's not quite herself, either. She, too, is being inhabited by a demon who wants Nick to become the Malachi and lose his humanity, and Casey is far too clingy and hands-y for Nick to feel comfortable. However, she does attempt to build up Nick's confidence, attempting to get him to join a band and buying him new clothes. However, on their way to dinner, they are nearly mugged by some ex-friends of Nick's and his anger has him nearly killing their attackers. Only an injury to Casey makes him remember who he is and call for help. But someone has unleashed a new force on Nick- one that the gods themselves fear, and Nick may just end up having to work with and alongside his hated father to get out of this one alive. And while the Malachi is supposed to be without any emotions or humanity whatsoever, it turns out that this is neither true for Nick *or* his father, who still seems to have feelings for Nick's mother, unwelcome to him as they are. So, can Nick be saved, or can he save himself, when he comes face to face with his own worst fear- becoming just like his Dad and inheriting his father's power? Because when Nick's mother is kidnapped, it's up to Nick, Caleb, Nekoda and his father to save her- and his father has been dangerously weakened. But what will happen to Nick if his worst fears come true? Another excellent installment in the series- this one ends on something of a cliffhanger- what will become of Nick now. and will he end up making his future self worse, or managing to keep his emotions and humanity even though his Malachi nature is supposed to prevent that? I'm not sure how many volumes will come, but this series has me on the edge of my seat. Highly recommended/

Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh- This volume has two stories linked by a common character- Lord Lionel Kersey. In the first book, Jennifer Winwood is the fiancee of Lord Kersey and is quite in love with him. But Lord Gabriel Fisher, Earl of Thornhill, long absent from England, having run off with his pregnant stepmother, returns with a grudge against Kersey. For Lord Kersey is the true father of his stepmother's child, born after an affair between them. So in revenge, he plots to take Jennifer away from Kersey by making it appear that they have come to a love match. But when Kersey forges a letter intimating that they have become secret lovers, he calls off their engagement, leaving Jennifer both heartbroken and now notorious. Can Gabriel undo the damage he caused to her reputation by marrying her, and make up the ruin he made of her life in the process? In the second book, Jennifer's cousin, Samantha Newmann, is still suffering the emotional damage of having been used by Lord Kersey to try and break his engagement with Jennifer. It's now four years later, and, once having believed herself in love with Lionel, is unable and unwilling to fall in love with anyone else- as her first experience giving her heart was so disastrous and hurtful. But when she meets a man she comes to know as Hartley Wade, a disabled gardener working for Lord Carew, who lives next to the estate owned by Jennifer and Gabriel, she finds herself trusting him as she trusts no one else, and when Lord Kersey returns and intimates that he still finds her tremendously attractive, she finds herself seeking out Hartley for comfort- but he has fallen in love with her, and proposes marriage- to which she immediately accepts. But can the lies they have shared ever be repaired with the truth? For Hartley has another secret in his past: Lord Kersey was responsible for his crippling, and is Harley's cousin. He also looks down on his crippled cousin and would like nothing more than to seduce his new bride away from him. But can Samantha and Wade fight for their love, and finally put Lord Kersey in his place? I loved this combined book. Lord Kersey starts out looking so wonderful and handsome, but is shown to be quite contemptible and twisted. By the end of the first book, you feel a definite sickness in your stomach when you see him, and you can quite understand Samantha's reaction to what he does.. But both books have wonderful romances, albeit with plenty of misunderstandings and some bad feelings on both sides- and neither seem forced in any way. There is no "smart character acts stupidly for the sake of plot" moments and no point where either heroine acts in a way that is inconsistent with their own intelligence. The romances are sometimes uncomfortable, but very realistic, and I enjoyed both of them a lot, with the comeuppance of Lord Kersey in both being quite delicious. Recommended.

The Eye of the World Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon and Chase Conley- Rand Al'Thor is a young man growing up in the village of Emmond's Field with his friend Matrim Cauthon and Perrin Aybara. He is looked on with love by Egwene Al'vere, the daughter of the mayor and also proprietor of the town's only inn. It's nearing the time of Bel'tine, and the portents are dark. Strange robed man have been seen by Rand, his friend Mat, and other young men of the village, though no one else seems to have seen them, also Moraine, an Aes Sedai, a woman of magic, has shown up along with her Warder, Lan Al-Mandragoran. There is also a traveling gleeman, Thom Merillian, who has come to the village to entertain at the festival. But then Rand and his father's farm is attacked by beast-men known as Trollocs. Rand's father is badly injured, and when he makes his way back to the village, he finds it has been attacked as well. Nynaeve Al'Mere, the very young Wisdom, or wise woman, can do nothing for Rand's father, and so he asks Moraine to try and heal him. She is able to do so, but knows that the Trolloc attack was against specific young men of the village and decides to take them to Tar Valon for their safety. Meanwhile, Rand dreams of the life of the Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon, and of his death, which raised a volcanic mountain after he killed his wife and people in a fit of madness. But the road to Tar Valon is long. Can he and his friends make it without succumbing to the forces of darkness along the way? And why is the Darkness seeking Rand and his friends, anyhow? I read this series a long  long time ago, and I was curious enough to try and re-read it when the graphic novel version came out. This was a good adaptation, but occasionally the artist' art is rather strange. Fingers occasionally look broken and/or badly arthritic, but otherwise, it's just fine. And the story is just wonderful, of course. It's adapted well and told well, and I'd recommend this if you're looking for a more visual depiction of the story. Recommended.

Dungeons and Dragons: Untold Adventures by Various Authors collects stories from across many worlds of Dungerons and Dtagons, from the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Athas and so on. "Under the Plains of Rust" is an interplanar tale where a dying Tiefling sends a rogue to the abyss to steal access to an artifact that is said to be able to bring law out of chaos, a new kingdom to rule, but when the thief recruits a Dwarven artificer and his half-elven foster sister to accompany him, they will have to work together to find what they seek and deal with base treachery against them, "The Steel Princess" recounts the story of a Rakshasa Noble Ranger trying to heal his brother by finding a cursed princess with control over metal. But the only way she will help him is to free her of her curse. Can he do so before she kills him with the swords she embodies? "Tallfolk Tales" is one dwarf's story of treasure, and how it can be found- as long as the searcher is willing to do a certain task… "The Foundling" tells the story of a Githzerai woman who loses her daughter- but finds a replacement in a Githyanki male child whom she adopts. Unfortunately, the ruler of her people wants to kill the child who she protects with her life. But in seeking to kill the child, will the ruler go too far to enforce her will? "The Forge of Xan'drik" tells of a warrior enslaved by monsters, and how he has lost all hope or will to fight back as the monsters construct a forge to make magical weapons for a coming war. His only companion is a halfling with broken ribs who looks after him. But can the monsters push him too far and make him remember his warrior past? And what will be the price he pays when they do? "Arena of Shadows" has a spy of the Queen going after a Skulk who has set himself up as an assassin. But can he work with a changeling actress and her Warforged companion who also have an interest in the business- and can he trust them? "Watchers at the Living Gate" follows a half-orc shaman who is enticed through a gate by a woman who he has been seeing since he was a child in a mountain lake. But what does she want, and  can he fulfill their unspoken contract? "Blood Oasis" has a seer who uses her own blood to empower a crystal that can bring her back to Athas as it was before the Defiler magic ruined it. But when she encounters a rogue Templar who went against his master's dictates, can she use that same magic to escape to that earlier time… forever, and take him with her? "Lord of the Darkways" takes Elminster to Zhentil Keep, where Manshoon is attempting to control the Darkways, the hidden teleportation corridors to Sembia, through which Zhentil Keep keeps trade open. But when Manshoon seeks to make them kill or magically twist any who pass through them, can Elminster undo his work and keep Zhentil Keep marginally more free than it has been? "Dreaming of Waterdeep" follows a young man named Gustin, who dreams of leaving his sleepy village and going to Waterdeep. But when he follows a dwarf and two Elves into an adventure, it may be up to his friends and elders in the village to rescue him from his own bad decisions. Does one really need to go to Waterdeep to find adventure, anyhow? "To Chaos and Back Again" follows the adventures of a Halfling and his merry band as they attempt to deal with the results of treachery against them. Will they all make it back alive? "The Decaying Mansions of Memory" brings us Horn, a human from a mountain tribe who variously trains as a warrior, mage and monk. But a chance encounter with the Deck of Many Things changes his life twice. What will the third card bring, and can he choose not to select it? I liked this book, which has stories from all over the many worlds TSR envisioned and tells many interesting stories. Some of my fvorites were, of course, from my favoite world, the Forgotten Realms, but I also loved "Blood Oasis" and "The Decaying Mansions of Memory", which were just really interesting. Highly recommended.

The Great Hot Sauce Book by Jennifer Trainer Thompson- This book catalogues the hot saucesfrom around the world that the author has personally encountered andtasted, fromCarribean sauces, Louisiana Hot Sauces, Mexican and South American Hot Saucs, Louisiana Hot sauces, and those from other areas around the world, including Sriacha Sauce,. There is also the "Melting Pot" section for sauces that draw upon more than one area of the world. Then there are the other categories... "Screamers", whose names (and experience areindicative of how the hot sauce experience is. (Favorite titles: "Pain is Good" and Screaming Sphincter", "Religious Experiences" with sauces like the DanT's Inferno line and "Holy City Hear", along with "Road to Hell", "Halfway to Hell" and Pure Hell". The book ends with a selection of recipes using various sorts of hot sauces, probably none of which I will ever make, as most hot sauces are just too hot for me. Sttill, as a minor catalogue of hot sauces, this is a gem, and fnny, to boot. If you are on the lookout for something interesting and amusing, this book will be right up your alley, especially if you love Hot Sauces. Recommended.

Archangel's Legion by Nalini Singh- Rafael and Elena are taken aback when a wae of death crosses the globe, causing a whirlwind in New York City that kills five angels and grounds many more from the guardians of Rafael's Tower. Those injured, because of having to be exposed to an Angel Epinephrine to be brought back from the dead, will be incapacitated for months, and require much, much longer to heal. But Lijuan has been growing stronger, now able to bring vampires and others back from the dead, and make them into ravenous hordes of bloodthirsty zombies to send against her enemies. She counts Rafael, and his mother, Caliane, as enemies, and as Rafael is stronger, he is her first target. But even as the other Archangels gain new powers, so, too does Rafael, and his new powers engulf him in a cold, unfeeling cloak that only Elena seems capable of breaking through. As he fights to not be overwhelmed by this new power and more inexplicable events occur both in New York and around the world, Rafael must reassure the humans of the city and prepare for a battle against Lijuan and her legions of the dead for control of the world. But can he deal with such a powerful Archangel and still retain his humanity? Wow, this was amazing, as stuff keeps happening in the city and it's weird, weird dark clouds that eject anything flying to their death, the Hudson River turning to blood for a short time, and Rafael's being marked in blood red on his face. And yet, he could certainly have become a cold, emotionless tyrant without the influence of Elena, who helps him retain hold on his humanity through extremely trying circumstances- while dealing with what happened to her mother and two older sisters and trying to help her two younger, half sisters deal with the fact that one of them is hunter-born. She also has to face the fact that her father- a man she thinks has despised her for most of her life, doesn't actually despise her at all, and that his feelings are something completely different, but that he, too, is shaped by a powerful bad memory in his past. Old friends and protagonists from other books return, and the fight at the end of the book is powerful, sending shockwaves through the world. But it's not the end, and I want to see what happens now. Highly recommended.

The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues it Holds by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones- Richard III, thanks to the play by Shakespeare and stories by Chroniclers from the Tudor Era, as come down through history to us as the perfect malign Prince- twisted in both body and mind, actively malevolent, and doing good only to engender goodwill from the public. But is that truly the case? Because, as victors in the battle against Richard III, Henry Tudor- Henry VII and his heirs, had a vested interest in portraying Richard III that way, mainly because Henry VII's claim to the throne was weak and he was a personal coward, compared to Richard III, who was victorious and tested in battle, and, as reports from his lifetime indicate, a good and just King- or at least, no worse than his contemporaries in that regard. Phillippa Langley found herself fascinated by Richard III, and after a book named Bosworth 1485, which examined the Battle of Bosworth, she became interested in tracking down what happened to Richard's body and where it had ended up. Although there was a story that his bones or body had been disinterred and thrown in the River Soar by Tudor supporters, it soon became clear, thanks to scholarly research, that this was nothing more than a story, and that Richard's bones were still interred at Greyfriar's Church… wherever that was. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Greyfriars was destroyed and a garden placed on the site, but there was a record that Richard's burial place was marked by a pillar within the garden. Needless to say, neither did the Garden last, but was eventually knocked down as well, and now was lost to time. There certainly was a Greyfriars street, but where the church had been located was now somewhere under a car park. But in searching out the area, Philippa Langley had felt a powerful moment of connection while standing above an "R" designating a reserved space at the local Social Services building in Leicester, and it was here she felt that Richard's body lay buried. How she brought about the dig that found Richard III's bones is the subject of this book, along with a look at Richard's life and what he might have really been like absent the false propaganda perpetuated about him by the Tudors. It's a fascinating tale- and he really was found under that "R" in the car park. But more than his bones were found- they also found the remains of the church and other bodies as well, buried under the stones of the church. Although the book focuses mainly on Richard, the rest of the story is equally as fascinating to read. Also included is a short piece on the Princes in the Tower and how each of the author feels about Richard III as being the author of their deaths- Ms. Langley feels that Richard III was not responsible for killing them, while Mr. Jones feels he did kill them, but only did so because he had no choice in the matter. However, both say that there is no actual proof that Richard had them killed- even a public trial on TV showed that there was just no proof for such, but stories have had him responsible, even back then. I found this a truly fascinating book- it even pulled me out of some much-needed sleep to finish it, and I found the entire story fascinating in the extreme. Highly recommended.

The Eye of the World Graphic Novel, Volume Two by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon and Andy Tong- Leaving Edmond's Field, Moraine, Lan and those of the village: Rand, Mat and Perrin, along with Egwene and Thom Merillin, make their way cross-country to the town of Baerlon, where they rest in an Inn and explore the city, attracting the attention of both Darkfriends and Whitecloaks, both of whom have no love for Aes Sedai or those sought by Trollocs and Myddral. But they are tracked to the city by Nynaeve, the Wisdom of Edmond's Field, who wants to bring back the boys and Egwene home. But Moirane impresses on Nynaeve that the boys are being sought and to bring them back home would mean the death of everyone in Edmond's Field. And when they are tracked to the Inn by a Myddral, they must flee in the middle of the night. And a confrontation with the Children of the Light brings them more attention than they want, leaving them driven forward by Trollocs and Myddral, also known as Halfmen, yet again. But where are the monsters driving them, and can they cross the river ahead of the ones tracking them and free themselves of pursuit? Why does the Dark One want the three boys, and why do they dream of Baalzamon at night- all three of them? Many questions remain unanswered as they move forward into the unknown. This graphic novel retells the first book of the Wheel of Time series, and it's much better and more understandable in graphic novel form. If you enjoyed the book long ago or are looking to get into the series for the first time, this graphic novel might just be the thing to grab your interest in the book and not let go. Recommended.

The Eye of the World Graphic Novel. Volume Three- Pursued by Trollocs, the group takes shelter in an abandoned city once known as Aridhol, or, in other terms, Shadar Logroth. Mat, Rand and Perrin once again explore the city, but encounter a man named Mordeth, who tries to get them to take a vast treasure inside Shadar Logroth. They figure out it is some sort of Dark trap and flee, but Mat steals a single Ruby-studded dagger. But their brush with Mordeth has allowed Trollocs and Myddral into the city, and once again they are forced to flee- and a battle on the way separates them. Mat and Rand end up with Thom Merillin and Egwene and Perrin are washed across the  River and meet a yellow-eyed wanderer named Elyas, who takes them under his wing for the present, along with his friends, a band of wolves.. Also together are Lan and Moiraine, who hope to meet up with the others in Tar Valon. Thom gets Rand and Mat passage on a boat across the river as Apprentice Gleemen, and teaches them to play the slide whistle and juggle. But will they be able to find each other across the river, or will darkness, disease, and the dreams Rand is still having separate them forever? Another book filled with bad portents and worse dreams, but the decision to stop in Shadar Logroth is going to have bad consequences further down the road- we can already see Mat getting more suspicious and untrusting- and Mordeth wanted them to take treasure, so what will be the end of these effects on Mat? I don't think it's going to be good. Recommended.

The Eye of the World Graphic Novel, Volume Four by Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon and Andie Tong- Land Moiraine meet up with Nynaeve, who has been following them. She can track the boys through the silver tokens she gave them in Emmond's Field. Unfortunately for Moiraine, the three boys have split up and she must decide which of the trails to follow. Meanwhile, Perrin, Elyas and Egwene travel with the Tuatha'an, while Matt, Rand and Thom entertain their way south to Tar Valon, until an encounter with Darkfriends ends up wth Mat and Rand traveling alone. But Mat is increasingly distrustful, and sickness dogs them both, along with the dreams that never stop. And Perrin and Egwene are captured in a battle with Children of the Light, and are captured. But the Children are headint to Tar Valon, so there is hope for them to be rescued, even though the Chilren want to "purify" them by killing them for being Darkfriends. Can they find each other before it's too late, and will Tar Valon be all that they each hoped? We see the continuing disintegration of Mat's ability to trust, and Rand falls ill from sleeping rough. But Egwene and Perrin get caught by the Children of the Light, and seem to be headed to an execution- plus, Perrin doesn't want to face that he could have the same powers as Elyas- hearing wolves (and possibly other animals?), and working with them. In fact, I personally know he develops them later, but this is set up well. It's strange that all three of the young men from Emond's field are turning into such suspicious people. Rand seems less so than Mat and Perrin, but the fact that the three of them are being tracked, hunted and chased by creatures out of myth and legend may have something to do with it. Not to mention also being hunted by strictly human Darkfriends. Anyhow, this sets up everyone's arrival in Tar Valon, and they are about to arrive, each in separate ways. An interesting and wonderful adaptation of the original book. Recommended.

Primal Desires by Susan Sizemore- Sofiya Hunyara is one of the last descendants of her clan, and is a WolfTamer- one who can fight and tame an out of control werewolf. But she is ignorant of her clan, and her father, who knows the clan secrets, is a felon serving out time in prison. When her grandfather dies, he passes on the family burden to Sofiya and sends her to Jason Cage to teach her of her heritage. Jason is a Prime, a powerful vampire. But when the werewolves come after Sofiya, Jason will have to keep her safe as well as teaching her. Forced in together by the attacks, Sofiya and Jason soon succumb to their attraction for each other. But when he feels that she is his mate, he must go against almost his entire society to take her for his own. But when her father is released from prison, she and Jason will have to face off against members of her own clan- can she pass the test and gain their approval? And will she cease thinking of her father as a felon when she finds out who and what he really killed? I read this in the hospital, and I wasn't really eager to read it- I was out of my own books and pretty desperate for reading material. But this was a solid story and romance. Nothing that knocked my socks off, but it was an okay read. Recommended if you like Susan Sizemore- I saw nothing in particular that made me want to read more, but nothing that really turned me off, either. Just sort of "meh". It passed the time fairly pleasantly.

To Tame a Wolf by Susan Krinard- Tally Bernard is a young widow who has been treated badly by life and her dead ex-husband. However, when her brother disappears on a trip to a nearby town, she's forced to hire Simon Kavanaugh to help her track him down. Simon has a big secret of his own- his father was a werewolf and he's inherited the condition. It makes him an excellent tracker, but he lives in fear of what he is, and people's reactions to finding out that he isn't quite human. He plans to track down André Bernard on his own, but Tally insists on coming along, and he can't get her to leave him be. Soon, he realizes that Tally, who has been posing as a boy and calling herself "Tal" isn't quite what she has sold herself to be. But he's locked in by his agreement, and a growing attraction to this woman who refuses to back down or show weakness. But when he openly discovers her secret, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic loner- and her heart opens to him. But when she discovers his secret, and they find her brother, will her feelings for Simon be able to overcome a fear of what he might be? And will her brother's bad decisions cost her the farm, and his opinion of Simon shut down their possible relationship? Is there any hope for this damaged woman and suspicious man to open their hearts and find a forever love? I also read this book in the hospital, and I enjoyed this book far more than "Primal Desires" The story is really nothing special, but the execution was flawless and wonderful, making us care about both characters- Simon seems hard-hearted and almost cruel- and could have lost reader sympathy, but instead, you get why he rejects everyone before they can do the same to him. This story caught me up and made me care and I ended up smiling at the Happily Ever After. Recommended.

Mystical Warrior by Janet Chapman- Trace Huntsman is a man of the modern era, but he has become friends with a number of Highlanders moved forward in time. But when he's asked to take on the job of looking after Fiona MacGregor, a sister to his friends who spent a thousand years imprisoned in the form of a hawk, he's not certain he's up to the job of helping her ease back into modern human society. Fiona wants to learn to live in the modern day, but she has a lot to learn- and she also wants to help Trace out and build up her own confidence- but every time she tries to help him, or herself, she seems to incite his ire. In reality, he can barely stop himself from touching her, and he's afraid that if he dares trifle with her, her older brothers are going to come down on him like a load of bricks. But when a dangerous enemy and a mage who may be on the side of that enemy show up in town, it's up to Trace to step up to the plate and keep Fiona safe… or rescue her if he can't. And Fiona finds herself equally intrigued by Trace as he is mesmerized by her. But is there any hope for this modern-day loner and a time-tossed woman who no longer has the skills needed to survive to come together in a love that can last? I also read this book in the hospital- a remaindered book with the cover ripped off that I found in one of the caddies on the third floor where I had a room. Like some of the other books I found there, it was okay, but nothing special. Yes, it had wizards and magic, but I just wasn't that interested- if I'd had any other book, I probably wouldn't have read this one. But it passed the time, and it didn't turn me off, so I'd say it was at least a successful romance. I just wasn't overly thrilled or enthralled by it. Sort of meh- not recommended nor disrecommended.

Black Magic by Cherry Adair- Sara Temple is the daughter of people with magic. When she was young, she fell in love with Jackson Slater, a fellow wizard and the man she loved and wanted more than anything- until their relationship and their love fell completely apart. She was consoled by Grant, the man who had raised her when her parents passed away, and she became a designer attached to his hotel company, designing buildings and rooms all over the world. But when she is attacked in South America, her psychic cry for help reaches only Slater, and he's halfway around the world, tracking down ley lines for the Wizard Council. Some strange magical malady has attacked Grant's workers, and the Council assigns both Sara and Jack to work at finding out who is behind the attacks- together, despite their relationship together and the way it all went bad. Sara and Jack hate being forced together, but their enforced proximity to each other reawakens the memories of why they were so good together, and not why they all went wrong. But as they investigate the mystery of who is attacking Grant's employees and property, they hear native tales of a gigantic-rainbow-hued crystal snake that inhabits a lair in the forest- a snake that seems to want Sara for her ancestry- she's not just a wizard child, but a child of evil magic-users named Omnivatics. As Sara and Jack are led to question what is real, the only thing they can rely on is their feelings for each other, which have never dimmed. But can even their combined powers be enough to keep them safe when a dreaded Omnivatic apocalypse is in the offing, one that Sara has been specially bred to fulfill? This was another book I borrowed from the Hospital to read, and like some of the others I read, this one I really enjoyed. I don't think I have ever read Cherry Adair before, but to be honest, I liked what I read. I wasn't particularly down with the entire "wizard council" thing, but I liked the heat and the chemistry between Sara and Jackson Slater. I especially like how their backstory was manipulated by the big villain, and how she continued to be manipulated by the villain to bring about the desired outcome. Only this time, Sara and Jack are older and harder to manipulate out of love- perhaps having their love called into question once made their later reuniting more enduring and permanent. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend this book and this author to others. By the end, I still didn't care about the whole Wizard's Council, but the book definitely struck a chord in me. Highly recommended.

Chains of Ice by Christina Dodd- Genesis Valente has lived with the knowledge that her father was accused of stealing artifacts from the Gypsy Travel Agency- but he always maintained that he was framed by malicious higher-ups. He wanted her to succeed, to become the kind of person he hadn't been able to be. So he directed her schooling to make her someone skilled in law and business- no matter that she was more interested in rare and exotic animals and hoped to work with them some day. But after she graduated from college, her father surprised her with a trip to work with rare Russian Lynx, and the woman responsible for working with them, Lubochka Koslov. But he also had a mission for her while she was deep in the Russian Wilderness. It seemed that the Gypsy Travel Agency had paid for her schooling, and if she could make contact with one of their agents who had long ago gone back to his roots in the region and convince him to return to New Yorkl, her debt would be forgiven. But John Powell has his own reasons for hiding out in the wilderness, and even as he can't ignore Genesis or her affect on him, his relationship with her stirs up plenty of ill-feeling in the locals and among Lubochka's own workers, who know John as a Mountain Man who is said to enter into a relationship with a woman that ruins her for anyone else afterwards. But when they ignite a betrayal against the Lynx and by the townsfolk against them, they are forced to flee into another world that intersects their own, and once there, his accusing her of betraying him for her father end in them separating. When they travel back to their own world, they are separated, and John believes her to be dead. But when he takes over control of the chosen ones from his former leader, who has nearly killed the team many times over with his ill-considered decisions, he must face his past and why he fled the chosen ones years before. And when his powers finally start to go wonky from Genesis' absence from his life, can he find her and reunite with her to save the Chosen Ones from their enemies and find the love they once shared again? Or will one of the Chosen Ones have to willingly sacrifice their life to keep the rest safe from harm? I read this book, thinking it was tied to the Wilder books. And it was, in a way, as one of the Wilders shows up as one of the Chosen Ones later on in the book (Aleksandr Wilder, the child in the last book of the series), but not that much time seems to have passed between that book and this, which was… well, a little puzzling, to say the least. In any case, the book is well set up with Genesis doing things for the sake of her father, even being willing to throw her dreams and aspirations away to fulfill her father's needs- and at the very end, she is made aware that he has always done this for selfish reasons- all he has been thinking of is himself, and she has always and ever been a tool to him- a tool to make enough money to get back on top. Which makes her father one of the worst fathers ever, but he's never held up as a role model for anyone. The romance between Genny and John is powerful, but not so powerful that his issues, to put it mildly, with betrayal don't mess it up. He has to grow before he can admit that he was wrong, but she grows, too, in the meantime. Only her growth is all offscreen. This book seemed to be only peripherally about the Chosen Ones and more about Genny and John, which was fine, as I had only read a single Chosen Ones story before, and not all the past books- there is little explanation of who or what they are here. But still, the story was compelling all on its own, and I enjoyed the interactions between John and Genny and how he grew past his problems with betrayal. I would definitely recommend this book, but I'd also want to read more of the Chosen books to get a greater handle on who and what they are. Recommended.

If He's Tempted by Hannah Howell- When Lady Agatha Mallam asks Lady Olympia Wherlocke, to find her brother so that he may save her from the arranged marriage her mother is forcing her into, Olympia agrees, as she is a seer and can easily find Lord Brent Mallam. For his own part, Lord Brent is drowning his own sorrows in wine and women, but his mother has taken advantage of his inattention to become the real power behind the Earldom of Fieldgate, and Brent's dissolution provides her the perfect cover to get people to ignore him, the true Lord. a pose she masks with a pleasant manner and appearance. But Brent is tired of his mother's machinations, and he contrives a scheme with Lady Olympia that will stymie any such plans, present or future of his mother's and return control of his title to him. But it will require Lady Olivia to pretend to be his fiancee. But will she do it, and when their close proximity turns a necessary association into a more sensual relationship, can she deny Lord Brent the affections that she, too, is afflicted by? I actually found this book interesting, and the villain was really chilling- the coldness they show and how far they'll go to prevail and enforce their will on the other characters was just… well to say I experienced extreme revulsion at the actions of this person is understating the case. I also liked how Olympia and Brent got on and came to care deeply for each other. This was a wonderful book and I really enjoyed it. I recommended it.

Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur- Nikki James is a private investigator looking for the daughter of a local politician who has taken up with a very unsuitable man. But she is unable to convince the girl to return to the bosom of her family, and the man she is in thrall to seems to have strange powers beyond the human norm. But Nikki rejects that conclusion, seeing him as only some strangely compelling scumbag she will have to deal with to return the girl to her father. However, along the way, she encounters Michael Kelly, a mysterious man who is also after the man that Monica is in thrall to. Unbeknownst to her, this man, Jasper, is a vampire- a very old and evil one, who turns those he feeds from into thralls before he turns them. Luckily, though, Michael is also a vampire, one who has learned to control his urges and bloodlust, sent by Seline, another vampire, to track down Jasper and end the threat he poses to the discovery of their existence. But thanks to Nikki's unexpected psychic powers and her strong connection with him. Michael soon finds himself over his head. As Nikki and Michael move to take down Jasper along with Monica and his other victims, he has to trust Nikki enough to let her know what he is and try and decide if he can risk having a relationship with her. But Michael isn't the only one with trust issues. Can they work together personally as well as professionally and manage to do it without dying? Jasper may be crazy, but he is powerful as well. And can Michael resist the urge to turn Nikki when she is badly injured? I enjoyed this book. The readers get to know what Michael is very near the beginning of the book, and Jasper as well. But Nikki takes longer to get clued in, and it gives you a real feeling of tension to know just how far over her head she is in. I liked the romance elements, and Jasper and Monica make very effective villains. Scary ones, too, and it all adds up to a story that keeps the chills and thrills coming. Recommended.

Darkness Unmasked by Keri Arthut- Risa Jones is half-Aedh, half-werewolf, and she's been set a task by her fully Aedh father to track down keys that can open or close a portal between the dark realms and earth. She and Azriel, a reaper from the Gray Fields, are attempting to track them down when her directorate boss's lover is found dead in his home, murdered by something that is as much of a mystery to the Directorate as it is to Risa. Her boss orders Risa to find and track down the killer, but Risa's job finding the keys won't wait- and neither will Hunter, her boss at the Directorate. But when Iliana, a seer who has been helping Risa, is kidnapped, she discovers that the man who kidnapped her friend is also the same man who killed her mother, and to keep her friend safe, she will have to give herself up completely to the twisted killer. But can she work three cases simultaneously? Wo killed Hunter's lover, Wolfgang Schmidt, and what is he, she or it? And can Risa find the second key and get her father off her back? As Risa undergoes a startling transformation that may separate her eternally from the Reaper she loves, not to mention her friends, she wonders if she'll be able to fulfill everything everyone wants of her… without dying from the various supernatural threats she has to face? Wow, this one heck of a ride. I always enjoyed the Riley Jenson books by Keri Arthur, and this book is about her niece, who is half-Aedh, an angel-like being. As such, while Riley was half-vampire, half werewolf, Risa is half-(cloned) werewolf, half-Aedh, and as such, she can see Reapers and the like, but at the beginning of the series, the extent of her powers was unknown, even to her. Now, she's made good inroads in figuring out what she can do and has become confident (or at least *more* confident) with her powers, but this book brings her up short in that she goes through a lot of changes in a very short time. Who she is, what she is, may even have changed in a drastic way by the end of the book. But I loved every minute of the story, and the creature who killed schmidt was horrifying and yet understandable all at once. I started this book and couldn't put it down until the end- and while that may not take me very long at all, I am sure other readers will have the same experience. Recommended.

Casket of Souls by Lynne Flewelling- Alec and Seregil appear to be nothing more than vain nobles who spend their time traveling, or, when in the city of Rhiminee, in lives of bored dissipation. Both are part Aurenfaie, and both are actually Nightrunners, Spy-cum thieves for the crown. Returning to the city, which means adopting their noble personas once more, they discover that a faction amongst the nobles is trying to overthrow Queen Phoria in favor of her daughter, Princess Klia, who has gone to fight in the war. Other nobles pin their hopes on the other Princess of Skala. In their guise as bored nobles, they get close to the conspirators, using their sub-rosa skills to break into their houses and find documents incriminating to the conspiracy. Skala is also at war with the Plenimarans, and other plots abound as well, as usual, in the hothouse that is the Capital. But along with their old roles as young nobles, they also befriend an acting troupe that has fallen on hard times and needs somewhere better to stage their very popular plays- something that Alec and Seregil help them with by becoming their patrons and making introductions for them to other nobles and those who rub elbows with the nobles. The actors are soon the toast of the town- but a nasty plague that strikes young and old, rich and poor alike is soon at large in the city. People simply fall down and die, either quickly or slowly, with no sign of illness, poison or magic. Though it starts in the docks district and amongst the poor children, Alec and Seregil find themselves losing friends and even the conspirators in the plot against Princess Phoria. But is it Plenimaran magic from a people that Phoria is ruthlessly punishing with war? Or is this an older and darker magic? And why are the healers unable to find anything wrong with the victims? and can Alec and Seregil discover and end the cause of the plague before it strikes the royal family itself? This is the sixth book in the series, but it hooked me in very easily. The characters are interesting, and the book is written from several points of view- from children on the street (many of whom fall victim to the plague), to Princess Klia's closest friend, Beka, a captain in the horse guards. The multiplicity of viewpoint characters took my breath away in how well each is written, with their own distinctive voice. Some readers might be put off by the romantic and sexual relationship between Alec and Seregil, but I found it done just right, and it's not dwelt upon as the thing that defines either of them as characters, which reminded me a great deal of the "Astreiant" series, Point of Hopes, Point of Dreams, Point of Knives and so on, in that the characters have a character despite being gay. It's more like they just happen to like and prefer men, and to be in love with one another- it's more being Nightrunners. spy cum thieves, that is more of what they are, but they are more than that as well. More, the characters are flawed- they are not all-seeing or all-powerful, and they lose many friends and are honestly perplexed by the mystery of the plague. I found a lot to love in this book, and it has made me want to read the entire series, of which this is book six. I can't wait to read more about this wonderful and intriguing pair. Highly recommended.

Fiery Heart, A Bloodlines Novel by Richelle Mead- Sydney is away from her Alchemist past and going to college in California, where she attends with Ivan Dragomir, Spirit user and former love of Rose Hathaway. Sydney is in a relationship with Ivan, and he wants to do right by her, but she is also caught up in things that the Alchemists would very much fornw upon- like doing magic with a coven of local witches and trying to find a way to overcome the mind and will-controlling magics in the Alchemist tattoos. Doing magic, seeking magic, trying to undo and overcome whatever sort of mind-control magics are in the tattoos, being in a romance with *any* vampire, even a Moroi. could lead to Sydney becoming an outcast and imprisoned by her own people. Even being friends with Moroi and Dhampirs is forbidden- but those aren't the only things Sydney is doing. And she's not alone at college, either, because her sister Jill is with her, and Sydney has to keep Jill, who is far more indoctrinated by her father and the rest of the Alchemists, from realizing how deeply Sydney has become involved with Ivan and the Moroi world- and how much she loves this deeply troubled young vampire who is tormented by the powers of spirit that used to have him drinking to tamp down his powers. And Ivan has concerns of his own, wanting to do right by Sydney and love her, but also responsible for finding out more about the power of Spirit and its effects on the vampires who possess it. But now more problems are coming Sydney's way- because her parents are getting divorced, and her father wants her and her sister to testify against her fitness as a mother at the trial. And she finds out that the tattoos that the alchemists already possess aren't the worst that can happen to anyone who tries breaking away from their supervision- it's made horrifyingly clear that there exist worse versions that can turn the Alchemist on whom they are tattooed into little better than puppets- but as Sydney and Ivan's relationship heats up, and her responsibilities weigh down on her. can she keep it together long enough to get everything she wants and needs? And what happens if her father suspects, or worse, finds out, all the secrets that Sydney has been keeping? This was not the best entry into the series, but I did remember Sydney from the Vampire Academy series. Stuff is continuing to go on in the Moroi world, and Sydney is working against time to try and learn about her own magic and undo the magic of the alchemist tattoos with some sort of magical "Anti mind control tattoo ink" without it being obvious- because the only other way to undo the magic is to use another concoction that turns the tattoo purple instead of gold and is just too obvious. Even though I hadn't read earlier books in the series and didn't know most of the characters, this was still amazingly easy to get into, and my not remembering much about the Alchemists didn't really seem to matter. I did enjoy the book, although I definitely would have gotten more out of it if I'd read the earlier books. Still, this is a highly readable, recommended book. It might even have made it into my "highly recommended" if I was more familiar with the series.

Everlasting Enchantment by Kathryne Kennedy- Milicent Pantere is a werepanther, one of the many magical races created by Merlin. But though she technically would be considered a noble, to be a were is the lowest of the low among a magical aristocracy- one prized for their ability to track and their keen sense of smell, but little better than the animals they become. When she is sent in search of one of the twelve relics of Merlin, sought after by another noble who holds her best friend as hostage against her good behavior and word, she discovers that a relic is being held by a certain lady, a bracelet that when worn, summons a knight who will bring the bracelet's wearer complete and total sensual pleasure for a night- and this noblewoman is allowing it to circulate amongst the innocent ladies of the ton. But when Millicent dons the bracelet, she discovers that unless she gives in to having sex with the knight that the bracelet summons- the only way to remove it is death= her death. And since she has no inclination or want to have sex, she'd just as soon not, thank you. But the Knight, an actual man imprisoned in the bracelet by Merlin when he seduced Merlin's lover, has known nothing more than an endless series of one-night stands for hundreds of years- unless one counts the older women who viewed him more as a son or grandson than a lover- then he lost them to death of old age. But he's baffled by Milicent's resistance to his very obvious and well-practiced charms. He also wishes to be free of his curse, but Merlin dictated that he can only be freed by falling into True love with a woman, and how likely is that, given that he only spends a single night with them? As Milicent struggles to escape the clutches of the nobleman holding her friend captive, Sir Gareth Solimere finds himself wanting to protect Milicent and keep her safe- even though he know she doesn't feel anything for him. But as for Milicent, who knows that love is a lie, finds herself falling less for Gareth's wiles and more for his fighting prowess and protective instincts. But can he somehow get around the curse and stay with her forever? And will Milicent ever let herself be vulnerable to the teder feelings she suddenly finds herself having for her cursed knight? I loved the Elven Lords trilogy from Kathryne Kennedy (especially "The Fire Lord's Lover", but I wished she could have told *all* the romance stories hinted at in the last book. This is based on a similar concept, with twelve relics of Merlin, and I hope she gets to tell all of them, because she is an amazingly gifted writer that brings her characters and worlds to life in a truly amazing way and makes you feel for both of them. This was an enjoyable book that made me want to explore more of the world and see more attifacts as Merlin made them and experience more of the world than the few bits we saw. The villain has an interesting idea for a plot to take over the throne by marrying Queen Victoria and almost succeeds. This book was amazing, and I'm waiting eagerly to see more. Recommended.

Assassin in the Greenwood- King Edward of England pardoned Robin of Locksley and sent him off to Scotland to make war for him, along with several of his companions. But now that the war has ended, Robin has come home and resumed his depredations in Sherwood Forest, only this time, he is even more murderous and is slaughtering rich people and their guards left and right. Edward is incensed that his mercy has been thrown back in his face, and he sends Hugh Corbett and his two servants: Ranulf atte Newgate and Maltote to Sherwood to try and bring Robin to heel. But Robin seems to have even turned against his old companions, and is slaughtering them as well. King Edward also sends Guy of Gisborn against his old nemesis. But all of these efforts fail. Even Robin's sister, the Abbess of Kirklees Abbey, confesses that she no longer knows the man who is killing men in the Greenwood. But Hugh Corbett is troubled by the stories coming out of Sherwood Forest and makes every effort to track down what is really going on. Can he prove who the real killer is and will Robin of Locksley escape the blame for the crimes that are currently going on in Sherwood Forest? Who killed the two travelers, and if Robin Hood is alive, where is he? And if not, what happened to him? I liked this book. Although most legends have Robin living during the time of King Richard (and the legend of Robin Hood is supposedly based on the very real Hereward the Wake), this takes the story and runs with it. After the war Robin fought was over, what happened to him? Why does he seemingly disappear, and what happened to him? This book is fairly short, but the mystery is sufficiently twisty to really keep your interest, and it was interesting to see the various players in the tale through a different set of eyes (Hugh Corbett, who has no connection to the legend in one way or another). It also shows that the legend of Robin Hood is kept alive by others, partly in tribute to who and what he was, and partly for selfish reasons (to strike fear into the hearts of rich travelers). Still, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable story. Recommended.

No comments: