Sunday, April 06, 2014

2014, Part 3

Red, White and Blood by Christopher Farnsworth- Cade and Zach are called in once again when the President is on the Campaign trail. Something or someone is killing off workers in his campaign, and Cade knows who, or more precisely, what, it is. Apparently, the boogeyman is real, and can only be killed for a short time, destined to come back again and again. But even if he manages to kill the boogeyman, how can he prevent him from coming back in the future? And who brought him back this time? Who is the female agent who is trying to use the Boogeyman to kill Cade and the President? And as the bodies continue to pile up, can Cade keep the President and his family safe? I definitely enjoyed this book more than "The President's Vampire", because I knew what I was in for when I started it. This one takes place on the campaign trail, and I am starting to notice a troubling trend in these books, that there rarely seems to be a female character that is completely sympathetic. It seems in this book that we might finally have found one in the President's Daughter, but even though she is a bit of a bitch at the beginning, she manages to make it all the way through to the end without ending up in "villain" territory. Other female characters, not so much. While it wasn't especially blatant, it did make me feel a little uncomfortable when reading the book. Yes, the boogeyman is the real villain here (and get a really delicious comeuppance), but the women we see, three of them at least, are portrayed in pretty vile and repugnant ways. There is a secondary and tertiary male villain, but the tertiary one is pretty sad and sickish (he's wanted to betray the President, but he's so bad at it, nobody wants to give him the chance) and the other villain is bad, yes, but somehow not as repugnant as the female villains. Reading this book was somewhat of an uncomfortable experience for me as the disparity between the male and female characters (some of whom are victims and yet are still reprehensible as characters) were portrayed. I am not entirely certain I would feel comfortable recommending this book for that reason.

The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp- So, first we had the companions of Mithril Hall reborn, and now it's time for another character to come back- Erevis Cale. When the mother of Erevis Cale's child is seeking someplace to give birth to their son, she meets a strange man who sends her forward 70 years in time. She dies in childbirth, but not before making a connection with a Priest of Amaunator/Lathander and he takes in her son, who she has named Vasen. Raised in the shadowlands, he helps guide pilgrims who worship at the Temple of the God of the Sun and Light. But someone is seeking the end of Erevis Cale, who still holds part of the Godhood of Mask, and the only one who can find and free him is Vasen, helped by Cale's old comrades Riven and Magadon. But Vasen is not without friends himself, and Orsin, a traveler, and Gerak, a hunter whose wife is taken and twisted by the shadow infection borne by a pair of brothers who seek Erevis and Vasen Cale for Mephistopheles are there for Vasen. But can the shadow-touched Vasen find and free his father from his grave/jail on the outer planes, or will he succumb to the darkness that is in his very blood? Can the pieces of divinity that chain Erevis, Mephistopheles and Rivalen together be broken by the removal of that divinity, and can Erevis bond with his son? Okay, so I enjoyed the Erevis Cale stories, but I felt his story already had a satisfying ending. Okay, it's true that Mask sent Erevis and Varra's son into the future for some reason, but I would rather have read about Vasen by himself and not had what I feel was a fairly cliched plot to bring Erevis back. Why resurrect old characters for D&D Next? Why not create new characters? I get that creators are attached to their characters but this felt more than a little ridiculous to me. Can we have some new characters, please, and not just bring back old ones? The story itself was fine, and I liked Vasek. Thankfully, while Erevis Cale was the focus of the story, he's only in it for a very short span. Not really recommended.

Nine for the Devil by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer- Empress Theodora is sick and dying, and when she is finally dead, Justinian seems to go slightly mad. He insists that Theodora was killed, and coerces his Lord Chamberlain, John, into finding her "killer". But everyone, John included, thinks that Theodora expired from her illness. Even the Royal Physician, Gaius, knows this. Still John is forced to investigate anyway, under threat of death if he fails the Emperor. But as he starts to investigate, the city is gripped with unrest. Everywhere he goes, people in the streets are celebrating Theodora's death, because they have long hated her. Justinian is caught up in a war of ideas about Jesus, known as "The Three Chapters" arguing about the three possible natures of Christ- Fully human, fully god or some commingling of both. People, even his old friends, seem to be changing irrevocably- Gaius has become a drunkard, The Madam, Isis, has converted to Christianity and is changing her brothel into a women's refuge, and his longtime friend, the Excubitor, Felix, is keeping secrets from him and no longer comes to the Mithraeum where he and John used to worship. Plus, the Emperor himself seems to have gone mad, summoning John for discussions late at night with a squad of excubitors. And now John's servant, Paul, seems to be dying after a lifetime of service, and he wants John to convert to Christianity. But even as John sends the woman he loves to their daughter to help at the birth of their grandchild, can he find a way out of Justinian's prison of a proclamation and weather the storm that seems to be hitting the city all around him? And just who would have the temerity to poison an Empress, anyway, even considering how much she was hated by the people of the city? This is, as far as I can tell, the final book in the Chamberlain John series (yes, it could continue, but he would no longer be 'Chamberlain John"), and it was a tightly-plotted mystery with a feeling of real tension throughout. The city is changing, and so are the people in charge. Though John thinks he no longer has to fear Theodora's hatred of him, in a way, she comes back from the grave to imperil him again. This story smacked of time changing and passing, and it left me feeling sort of melancholy at the end. But I was surprised at the true identity of the murderer and the ending, which was the best one that could be hoped for in a series like this. Let's face it, removal from power rarely ends well. Highly recommended, and I regret that the series, which felt like an old friend, ended. 

The Stationmaster's Farewell by Edward Marston- Robert Colbeck is known as the Railway Detective, and is well-known for solving mysteries involving the trains which have begun to criss-cross the country. So when the Stationmaster of Exeter's St. David Railway station is found murderred in the ashes of a Guy Fawkes Day Bonfire, Inspector Edward Tallis sends Colbeck and his assistant Victor Leeming to Exeter to look into the matter. First of all, they must determine if the body discovered in the remains of the bonfire is actually that of Joel Haygate. the Stationmaster, as it is burned almost beyond recognition. Then, they must determine who killed him and why. Complicating the case is the stationmaster's brother, who wants nothing more than his brother's money, and who was in the midst of a feud with him over that same subject. Also, the woman in charge of the St. David's Refreshment station seems to have gone mad in the wake of his death, having wanted to marry Joel Haygate, but he had no such intention towards her. Third, Colbeck must bring Bagsy Browne, a man with a decided grudge towards Stationmaster Haygate, in for questioning, which is hard as Browne is slippery a customer as can be. Bagsy, meanwhile, is happy that the Stationmaster is dead, and he wants to attend the funeral so he can spit on the grave. As the situation worsens, Colbeck discovers a fourth suspect in the killing. But can he discover the true villain and bring him or her to justice and get back to London in time to marry  Madeline? And when the presence of Edward Tallis complicates the investigation, can Colbeck and Leeming get him out of their hair and stop him from interfereing with their investigation? I love Edward Marston's mysteries, and this book is no exception. Colbeck is brilliant and fashionable, like many of Marston's detective heroes, hes incisive and holds up the "Upper Class" part of the detective Duo. Victor Leeming, by contrast, is not at all brilliant, but he's dogged and determined, and often misses his wife anf children. But both do their parts to move the investigation forward. Here, their superior becomes more of an interference than a help, and he is growing upset with Colbeck's brilliance as a detective. He's moving from "superior" to "obstacle", as he smarts over Colbeck being more loved and lionized than he is. This was a murder case that really was only incidental to trains, but even so, I very much enjoyed the story. This was another ending I didn't see coming, and I found the book fascinating. Highly recommended.

Peril on the Royal Train by Edward Marston- A horrific derailment accident in Scotland kills three man on a goods train, but the nature of the crime, a huge rock blasted free of the cliffs and left on the tracks, makes it clear that this was no accident. Despite having plenty of detectives who work for him already, the Superintendant of the Caledonian Railway sends for Robert Colbeck to solve the mystery of who was behind this outrage. The Superintendant suspects the work of the North British Railway, and the chief of his own Railway Police, Rory McTurk, agrees. But McTurk, a longtime foe of Colbeck, doesn't agree with calling in the Railway Detective and smarts under what he sees as the humiliation. He is determined to solve the case on his own and show up Colbeck once and for all. But the crash is not the only worry plaguing the Caledonian Railway. One is the Sabbatarians, who believe that the railways shouldn't run on Sunday, the "day of rest" according to the Bible. They have protested. to no avail, and now they believe the time has come to take action. But are they responsible for the crash. or was it the two men on the horse-drawn cart who were seen shortly before the crash- they had something roped down under canvas in the back of the cart. Did they cause the crash? And if not either of those, then who? As Colbeck follows the clues to their conclusion, it becomes clear that whoever caused the crash had their eyes on a far larger prize. But can Colbeck and Leeming keep another such crash from occurring with an even greater loss of life? This book was startling in that the story at the start has nothing to do with the title. In that, the ending of the book is sort of given away, when you come to think about it. But as usual, you aren't sure who is ultimately responsible for the crime until the very end of the book, and Marston dangles some very attractive red herrings in front of you to throw you off the scent. It was also nice to see Madeline adapting to her new life as Colbeck's wife, and her and her father's role in this book. An excellent mystery and one I heartily enjoyed. Highly recommended.

Sherlock, Lupin and Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler- What do the greatest thief in France, the World's Greatest Detective and a lady singer have in common? Nothing, except they are all children staying in St. Malo France in the summer of 1870. They meet and become friends, and when they discover the body of a dead man washed up on the beach, their natural curiosity leads them to rry and find out who the man was and why he died. But it will take all their talents, not to mention the help and interference of the adults in their lives, to uncover the man's true name and find out how he ended up washed up on the beach of St. Malo. But can the three uncover the truth without ending up like the man themselves? Someone wanted him dead,. and it seems that several someones don't want anyone looking into the mystery, either! This was a fun idea for the book, with Arsene Lupin, Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler meeting as children and then getting caught up in a murder mystery. It takes them a bit of time to solve, but in the meantime, they are learning how to fight and defend themselves and how to pick locks (mostly courtesy of Lupin's father). This is only the first book in what promises to be a series, and I look forward to seeing and reading more of them. Highly recommended.

Revolution: Book Three of the Secret World Chronicle by Mercedes Lackey, with Cody Martin, Dennis Lee and Veronica Giguere- The Heroes are still fighting the Thulians, but now the organization of Echo has been taken over by the Supervillain Dominic Verdigris, and the heroes, especially Victrix and Belladonna Blue, have to find out, quickly, how to unseat him and get the organization back out from under him, as they suspect- and with good reason, that he's more interested in keeping himself in control rather than fighting the Thulians. As long as he can maintain power, they feel he might even cut a deal with the enemy. Meanwhile, the rest of the allies, the Soviets and the parts of Echo not under direct control by Verdigris, continues to fight against the Thulians and more local crime gangs, led by other metas. Changes are coming for all of them- especially the Angel Seraphym, who finds herself falling in love with human meta John Murdock, who may not be long for this world. But as each of them fight the good fight in their own separate ways, can they come together in the end when and where it really matters, and pull victory out of the jaws of defeat? This is a sizable book, and a bit scattered, with short chapters devoted to the view of the main characters: Victrix, John Murdock, Belladonna Blue and Mercurye. We also get to see some chapters from the point of view of Verdigris- and from another hero turned villain- People's Blade, now taken over by the spirit of her mentor Shen Xue- an absolutely ruthless villain who is mainly looking out for himself while the spirit of Fe Li, the original owner of his borrowed body, recovers from deep spiritual wounds taken in the last book. But the biggest change comes with Seraphim and John Murdock, with plenty of story set up for another book that will be coming- and it's one I will definitely be waiting to read. Fascinating and definitely recommended.

Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb- Jerry Reinhold is a lazy, thankless loser who is living with his parents after he lost his job amd his girlfriend threw him out on the street for hitting her. But when he loses his temper and knifes his mother with the knife she was using to make his lunch sandwich, he suddenly feels powerful for the first time in his life... and it feels good. So he decides to wait for his father to get home and get some payback for all he's "suffered" in his life. And then, after stealing all the money, cash and electronics, not to mention other valuables from his parents' home, he decides it would be a very good thing to take revenge on all the other people who have hurt him during his life... starting with his ex-girlfriend. And he does. But Eve Dallas is on his tail, and she knows that once he's started killing, he's not going to stop. The question is, can Eve catch him before he kills again? And how many more victims will be added to his tally before he can be caught? Plus, Eve is feeling a little more stress because Roarke's family is coming from Ireland for Thanksgiving, and she has just been told that she will be receiving the Medal of Honor for her work, and Roark will also be receiving a medal at the same ceremony. Wow, this villain was such a sleeze that I was really anxious for him to be caught. At the same time, his last victim was also kind of a jerk and Nora Roberts know just how long enough to hurt him to gain him a smidgen of sympathy by the end. Not much, but a smidgen. And the last scene with Jerry just made me want to cheer Eve and Peabody. It so fit the way I wanted to see them end the threat of the villain. A really excellent book- not much a mystery, but an amazing read. Highly recommended.

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop- Meg Corbyn has been with the others, recovering, ever since her former owners tried to get her kidnapped from the Courtyard. And ever since. she's had nightmares so bad that Simon Wolfgard has been sleeping in her bed in Wolf form. But when she kicks him out of bed one night, he changes back to human form, and things go pear-shaped for Meg, who feels uncomfortable around him, because she unexpectedly fels an attraction to him. As Simon struggles with dealing with Meg's skittishness, he finds out that she isn't the only one acting in unexpected ways. Members of the Others feel that he has become a little too close to Meg, and say he has been treating her less like a friend and more like a mate. He denies this, but at the same time, he finds himself becoming possessive of Meg and unhappy when he sees others treating her with affection- not necessarily juveniles, but other adults. So what does he really feel? And meanwhile, the Blood Seers, Meg included, are forseeing a great cataclysm to come, one that may have everything to do with a new group called HFL, Humans First and Last, who want to exterminate the Others and take the continent for themselves. But do they think that the Others won't react very harshly indeed to such an act? Plus, someone tries to kill the crows of the crowguard with poisoned meat and lures them in with shiny objects while two new drugs, Gone over Wolf and Feelgood, permeate the human world. As Meg warns the Others of the events she can foresee, The Cassandra Sangue seem unable to forsee anything but disaster, and Meg wants Simon and the Others to free the other Blood Seers from their imprisonment, especially her friend, Jean, one of the few who remembers a life outside the compound. But can he and the others find and reach the other Cassandra Sangue in time? For the attacks by HFL and humans hopped up on Gone Over Wolf and Feelgood are increasing, and the source of those drugs is a horrible secret that must come out. But will the Other outside of Lakeside Compound agree to rescuing the Cassandra Sangue when the truth is revealed? Wow, this book was amazing. The title is both literal and the term for a group of crows, but the book revealed a lot of the backstory of Meg, how she got to the Courtyard of Lakeside to apply for the job, and where she came from- also, where she found out so much about the outside world. The story of the Cassandra Sangue is somewhat depressing, but  I liked finding out where they came from, and that at least a few of them were saved. And, given the ending, I suspect that this series, like so many Anne Bishop writes, is going to be a trilogy (at least), and I can't help but look forward to the next volume. Highly recommended for the story, characters, worldbuilding and writing.

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire- October, "Toby" Daye was once merely a changeling Knight, and now she is the Countess of Goldengreen, but her lifestyle hasn't changed much since her ennoblement. She still lives with her Fetch, May Day and is slowly learning about being nobility, including lessons with Sylvester Torquil, her liege. But when the Luidaeg warns her about a coming war with the Duchy of Saltmist, the Sea Kingdom, Toby must find out what has Saltmist beating the war drums and do her best to defuse the situation... by any means necessary. By saving the life of Patrick Lorden, the consort to Dianda Lorden, the Duchess of Saltmist, she discovers the truth of the matter. Someone has abducted the two sons of Dianda and Patrick, Dean and Sam, and if she wants to halt the war, Toby is going to have to find them and return them to their parents. But Toby is stunned to learn that the abductress was none other than Rayselline Torquil who has long hated Toby for not rescuing her from her kidnappers so many years ago- not caring that Toby spent twenty years as a fish in a pond in Golden Gate Park for all that time. And more than just kidnapping the Lorden children, Rayselline has also kidnapped Toby's daughter, Gillian- the one thing that ensures that Toby will spare no effort in tracking her down- because if there is one thing that cannot be denied, it's Toby's love for her daughter. But will rescuing her daughter mean losing her at the same time? And when Rayselline is revealed as a murderer, there is no power, human or fae to save her from her fate. But can Toby uncover the truth behind who supported Rayselline in her ambitions and bring them both to justice? Well, this was a bit of a change. We finally get to see and meet a lot of the sea-born fae, and Toby gets to go to the Undersea Knowe of Saltmist and meet the Lordens. But Toby has a lot of hard choices to make, and helping the Lordens seems to be a thing that not only she is able to do, but also only she is willing to do. Nobody else wants to help them because too many land fae think war is glorious and honorable- but none of them ever fought in a war and don't know what it's really like. They also lack the discipline to fight a war, discipline the sea fae have never lost. I really enjoyed this book, and the ending was very depressing, but had a note of hope. We also get to see Toby exercise her new powers as a Dochas Sidhe, with powers over blood, which helps her in her quest to find the Lorden boys, and sets up many interesting threads for the future. Highly recommended.

Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories by Mike Mignola, Patric Reynolds, James Harren, John Arcudi, Peter Snejbjerg and Dave Stewart- This graphic novel collects three stories starring Abe Sapien from the BPRD. "The Haunted Boy" takes Abe to Vermont to investigate a "typical" haunting case, only for him to find out that it isn't typical at all. Two boys went ice-skating and fell through the ice. Only one boy survived. So is the haunting the dead boy, or something else? "The Abyssal Plain" follows up on the war sinking of a submarine carrying a very important enchanted artifact- and the Red Army man who promised his superiors that he would protect it with his life. But when he is dead, who will protect the helmet, and what lengths will he go to to in order to fulfill that promise? Finally, "The Devil Does Not Jest" takes Abe to meet the grandson of a man whose books on Demonology Abe has been fascinated with. But the man was hiding secrets in his home, and when Laer's grandson is killed by his "Uncle", Abe and the local sheriff have to deal with the fallout- and which may lead to both of their deaths. Hellboy makes a short appearance in this one. I liked these stories focused on Abe, who usually played a backseat to Hellboy in the movies and the early comics, He's an interesting character on his own and makes a whole variety of water-based and centered stories possible. This collection was interesting and the stories were by turns horrific and yet interesting. Recommended.

The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede- Francine "Eff" Rothmer is the thirteenth child, while her twin brother, Lan, is the ultra-lucky seventh son of a seventh son. Now living in Mill City near the magical Great Barrier Wall, Eff and Lan are dealing with the aftermath of killing a Medusa Lizard who can turn animals to stone. Eff has been working with the local college, taking care of the animals, both magical and not, that are kept by the college where her father is a professor. But the government and other magicians are very interested in Lizzie, their name for the Medusa Lizard, and everyone is clamoring to study it. But shipping the lizard east is just not going to happen, so a delegation of Hijiero_Cathayan wizards comes to Mill City with the intention of studying it, and the government builds a study center across the river to study the new animals, both magical and not, that seem to be heading east from the far West. But this involves moving Lizzy and the eggs she was carrying, through the Great Barrier Spell, which has unforeseen consequences- three of the eggs hatch, and the Medusa Lizard carried over 70 of them. Mill City, and the rest of the East, need to know how populous the Lizards are, and if and when they are going to reach the east. So when the Cathayan Magician arrives, she and her fellow magicians study the Lizard. There, they are able to pinpoint the Lizard's origin in the Far West, and the magicians offer to sponsor a trip with the government to catalogue the creatures, and features of the far West. Eff wants to go, but knows she has no chance, but her brother Lan, her friend William and even her former teacher Miss Ochiba, Circuit-Rider Wash and Miss Torgerson, her colleague at the Animal Care center, will be going on the trip. But when Miss Torgerson asks her along as an assistant, Eff knows she wants to go, but will her family accept it? And how exactly do you prepare to leave everything you have known behind- for years? And what will happen on her great adventure in the far west? This is the third book in the "Frontier Magic series, about Eff Rothmer and her adventures with magic and the magical creatures. I loved the way this book brings out how, while her brother Lan is supposed to be the most powerfully magical one, it's usually Eff who ends up finding a way to save the day by something she has realized. Yet while Lan is arrogant, he's lost a lot of his former confidence and arrogance, and Eff remains surprisingly self-effacing. And in this book, she finally grows up, becoming an experienced magician, explorer and person, as well as finding the man she wants to spend her life with, and a career. This is a wonderful series, and I never felt at all let down by it, or like the story had squandered its potential. This is a great capper to a wonderful series, and perhaps Ms. Wrede might see fit to visit this world again one day. I'd be more than happy to make the trip back. Highly Recommended.

Eight Million Gods by Wen Spencer- Nikki Delaney is an American writer living in Japan, hiding from her powerful mother, who has long thought Nikki to be mentally ill and tried to commit her more than once. In fact, Nikki left the States barely ahead of her mother and a bunch of men in white coats. Still in hiding, she works on her horror novel, and has just recently written a scene with an American expat killed by means of a blender when she goes out to meet her friend Miriam at a restaurant. When another diner overhears them talking about her latest murder scene and is horrified, Miriam chides him playfully, saying that if he's not careful, Nikki will kill him, too, and he runs out of the restaurant. But soon, other men enter, and approach her table. They are police, it turns out, and are there to arrest her- for murder. It seems that the murder she wrote about on her blog actually happened, and now she is the prime suspect. Nikki is horrified herself, but she tries to explain the truth to the police. Nikki may not be insane, but she is OCD and can't not write. In fact, if she can't write, she has to click a retractable pen in and out to calm herself down. But Nikki, to her horror, finds out that everything she has written has come true, and she wonders if she is in some way responsible for what happened. Maybe a crazed fan of hers is re-enacting the murders she writes about? But she is able to prove to the police that she was not the murderer. But in writing another scene, she discovers that the murdered man stole a katana and hid it in a train station locker. Wondering if she is going crazy, she goes to the locker, and finds the katana, wrapped in leather. Not knowing what is going on, she discovers that the sword belongs to a Kami and another Kami is looking for him. But why, he doesn't know. The Kami, Atsumori, is a minor Kami, but he wants revenge on the people who burned his shrine. Soon, she is taken by Leo, a man who is looking for his father. And somehow, she is able to at least find out where his father is. But as her life on the run fills with Kami, gangsters, Tanuki, and a fan of hers named Pixii, Nikki is going to have to find out what she is, and what she can become and even what she wants to do with her life. But can she do all that without dying first? I started reading this because I am waiting for the next Wen Spencer "Tinker" novel and saw this listed in her back catalogue. Then I read the blurb inside the front cover and knew I HAD to read it. Gods and demons and Tanuki and a writer who writes reality even when she doesn't realize it? Sign me up! But the initial premise is actually quite disquieting for a writer- write horror stuff and realize that somehow, impossibly, it is all coming true? Well, that's a pretty nightmare all on its own. But as Nikki begins to understand where her mother is coming from, and deal with her own demons of the past (one of the times when she was committed, she was apparently raped by an orderly) and finds someone to love and what she really is. By the end of the book, she doesn't "need" to write ever again. But the compulsion remains, and she has come to terms with her, for lack of a better word, ability. And she finds herself attracted to Leo. But can she live with an attraction to a man she describes as a "Scary Cat guy"?  Insane question, maybe, but I loved it. Recommended.

Waxwork by Peter Lovesey- When Miriam Cromer comes under suspicion for the murder of her husband's photographic assistant, she at first refuses to answer, then writes a detailed confession. But something in her "confession" doesn't make sense. How did she poison the man with potassium cyanide, which was kept locked up in a cabinet that only her husband and his assistant had the keys to? And her husband was out of the house at a meeting of a photographic society in another city, and his assistant would hardly have given her the keys to poison himself! Inspector Jowett assigns Cribb to the case, insisting that someone in power has the idea that Miriam Cromer is innocent and would like Cribb to prove it. Meanwhile, James Berry the executioner, receives an invitation from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum to have a figure made of him and to have it installed in their "House of Horrors" section, for a sum of money. But as Cribb investigates what really happened in the Cromer household that day and before, the case grows muddier instead of clearer. Is Miriam the murderess, or was it someone else in the household, like her husband? What really happened, and who, if anyone, can be trusted to tell the truth? I loved the old Sgt. Cribb series, and his book was turned into the first episode of that series that appeared, with Alan Dobie in the role as Cribb. This was a very effective book, but I felt that it telegraphed the true murderer when the reader sees that not only has the assistant been killed, but so have a wide number of people around the killer,  including possibly the parents and a former assistant. As soon as I read that, a certain suspicion settled in my mind. "This is the murderer. This is the one." And it turned out I was right. Still, I enjoyed reading about Sgt. Cribb without his usual companion of Thackeray, and we can see why Jowett is not exactly Cribb's favorite person. But it definitely has an old Victorian/Edwardian feel to it, and the true story emerges slowly, teased from little bits in the testimony of others. Highly recommended.

Owls aren't Wise and Bats aren't Blind: A Naturalist Debunks Our Favorite Fallacies About Wildlife by Warmer Shedd- This book examines the stories that are often told about different animals- that Wolves live mainly upon small prey like rabbits and squirrels, that Squirrels are tame or remember where they bury nuts, that the Newt and the Red Eft are different animals, and that the Lynx and the Bobcat are different animals, among just a small number of tall tales we tend to believe. Warner Shedd debunks these tales by giving us the real truth about animals, many of which he has experienced on his own or been told by another naturalist- and mostly, the stories are his own. He covers animals from the Beaver to the Mison, from the Muskrat to the Deer, Elk and Bison (which are not actually extinct, but were saved by owners and ranchers, to be raised on farms, and have only recently been released back into the wild. If you are expecting this book to be dead and dry as dust, let me disabuse you of that notion now. This was a fascinating book to read, and while it had no photographs beyond those on its cover, each species is drawn in exacting detail by Trudy Nicholson, and the illustrations are superb. I really enjoyed reading this book, though it's better absorbed in small bites than in reading several chapters at once. Highly recommended.

In Fire Forged: Worlds of Honor #5 by David Weber, Jane Lindskold, Andy Presby and Timothy Zahn- This book collects three stories and a technical manual on how the Honotverse's weapons and armor work. The First story is "Ruthless" by Jane Lindskold. When Judith Newland's daughter, Ruth, is kidnapped byQueen Elizabeth's political enemies to force her brother, David, who loves Judith, to make statements dismissive of his sister's policies and bring down her government, the enemies are in for a shock. Because while Judith might have been captured and mated to one of the horrible Masadans, but she loves her daughter, and will do anything to get her back. But will allow David to sacrifice himself for her daughter? in "An Act of War" by Timothy Zahn, a con man attempting to sell the People's Republic of Haven a worthless piece of tech is caught and "recruited" into the People's Navy to try and kickstart a war between Manticore and the Andermanni Empire, neither of which "Charles", the conman, really wants to do. But when they send him along on the mission to start an incident with the Andermanni, can he keep himself alive when the plan goes to heck and threatens to kill everyone on board? And will the Peeps be able to start the war they want? "Let's Dance" by David Weber details the trials and tribulations Honor Harrington experiences when she tries to bring pirates to justice in Silesia. But are the experiences she has just an example of sector officials who don't care, or are they something much worse- actual collusion with the pirates? And how will Honor deal with it, no matter the cause of the difficulties she experiences? Lastly "An Introduction to Modern Starship Armor Design" shows how and why Ships of Honor's day are laid out, and how and why they carry the sort of armor and armaments they do. I really liked this book, especially the first story by Jane Lindskold. While every story evoked the Honorverse, I found this one the most interesting and approachable- and I loved how the two characters acknowledged their feelings in the end. Definitely interesting and recommended.

They Have a Word for It: Alighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases by Howard Rheingold- English is a language that borrows from every other one, or as I shirt I own puts it. "English doesn't just BORROW from other languages- it follows them down dark alleys, bashes them over the head and rifles through theur pockets for loose vocabulary." Well, this book is a list of words that haven't yet entered American English, but should. Words for art, like Shibui, a japanese word to connote the beauty that age brings to things, or Frotteur, the word for a man who rubs himself on strange women (from the French). These are words we need in our language, but they have meanings that cannot be efficiently stated in any other way. My current favorite word, which I have seen before, is Aware, which I know from a description in Japanese, mono no aware, which roughtly translated, means "The Ah-ness of things", or beauty that is so ephemeral that you only have time to gasp out "Ah!", and it is gone. If you love words, as I do, this book is fascinating, and will give you many interesting words to think on and add to your vocabulary. Highly recommended.

Shadow of the Alchemist by Jeri Westerson- Crispin Guest used to be a knight, but an accusation of treason led to him losing everything. Now, he solves mysteries, known as "The Tracker", working the streets with his apprentice, Jack. In this book, he is approached by the French Alchemist, Nicolas Flamel, to find his wife and apprentice, both of whom have gone missing. But at the same time, Crispin reconnects with a lord he once trained, Henry, Lord Derby, who claims to want to learn to do what Crispin does. But as Crispin navigates the utterly alien world of alchemy and alchemists to find out who may have wanted to do Flamel and his wife harm, he attracts the attention of Aveline, Flamel's deaf and mute servant girl, who takes a tendre to him. and tries to help him with his investigation.. But when someone starts trying to kill him, he will have to discover the true culprit and find the solution to both mysteries... before it kills him. I really like this series, which mixes medieval with Noir to make a surprisingly unexpected harmonious whole. It has the whole "Bitter, cynical, jaded detective", too much drinking and a succession of hot women who never seem to stick around... and transports it wholesale to the medieval era. I love Crispin, who still tries to do his best while being scorned by the society who once loved, or at least respected him, and I love his relationship with his apprentice, Jack. Anyone who has read, or heard of, Nicholas Flamel or the Philosopher's stone will enjoy this book, as well as anyone who enjoys detective fiction or Noir. Highly recommended.

Night Broken by Patricia Briggs- Mercy Thompson has been married to Adam Hauptmann, Alpha of the local Werewolf pack, for a while now. Despiote that, not everyone in the pack accepts her, because she is a mere skinchanger, a human who can become a coyote rather than a wolf. But Mercy can live with it- until Adam gets a call from his human ex-wife, Christy, who says she is being stalked by a man and he may have killed a boyfriend of hers, and she is scared. Adam, of course, has no problem helping her with her problem- that's the kind of man he is, and Mercy loves him for it. But what she doesn't like about Christy is her manipulative nature, whoch allows her to control everyone around her without seeming to- and it seems that members of Adam's pack would rather him being married to Christy than to Mercy. But the man who is after her isn't human, and his powers are almost more than even Adam can take. Has the pack and Adam bitten off more than they can chew, and how can Mercy help the man she loves from being involved once again with a woman who left him for no good reason? And can she end the threat that Christy's stalker poses without putting the entire world at risk? This was an excellent book. I really enjoyed seeing Mercy deal with an intruder in her territory (Christy), and her recognizing the passive-aggressive ways that Christy was trying to push her buttons and make Mercy react badly, which would have made her seem like the bad guy. But Mercy resisted losing her cool, despite lots and lots of provocation, and I also liked the villain, who felt like a real threat (Him throwing his own finger at Mercy felt extremely significant, and damn scary, too.) And the way Mercy finally takes him down was pure awesome. I also liked that even gutting the villain's threat doesn't make the pack members who didn't like her suddenly lov her, but some of them end up liking Christy less because they realize what she is doing. And the implications for the pack are up in the air at the end. Once more, they will be forced to change, and sometimes change is a good thing, while other times... Highly recommended.

Sat, Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss- There is nothing the human body and hrain react to as much as Salt, Sugar and Fat. Once, a long time ago, people mostly cooked meals from Fresh Ingredients that they had at home. Now, with the number of people in the workforce, everything is ready-made and reheatable. But with that comes a whole host of problems. Foods with WOF- or "Warmed-Over Flavor", a nasty taste that makes things taste reheated, and mostly unappetizing. Every Big Brand wants to attract people to its foods, so how do they accomplish that? By using Salt, Sugar and Fat to trick our bodies into not tasting off flavors and to get us to eat more. First, Author Moss takes us to Sugar- which our bodies crave because it is a high-energy substance. All of us have a Bliss Point,at which a product appeals to our taste for sweets most strongly. Children have a much higher Bliss Point than adults, to the point where at one time, there was a breakfast cereal that was an astonishing 73% sugar on the market. Add in fat, and the body no longer senda a "Stop eating, you're full" notice to tbe brain. This is especially prevalent in things like cookies. Companies may make noises from time to time about reducing fat in their baked goods, but once their competitors release cookies with higher amounts of fat, the other brands increase the fat in their own cookies to increase their control over the market. And you wondered why you "Can't eat just one"? (Oreos are almost always the worst offenders in this regard). Lastly, salt controls flavor, making you not notice bad or off flavors in food. But it is also not good for you and can be responsible for higher blood prssure, among other things. Reading this book was an eye-opener for me. I have never been into high sugar cereal (I grew up eating Cheerios and Kellog's Corn Flakes), not sticking tons of salt on my food and generally staying away from high fat. I still grew up overweight, but my "Bliss Point" for sugar has apparently always been set lower than other peoples. I remember asking my mom for one of those high-sugar cereals when I was little, and even then, it was just too sweet for me. Nevertheless, I still love cake, pie and other sugary deserts (Lemon pie- not lemon Meringue Pie, just Lemon Pie, is still my favorite, with Apple a close second.). But there are things, like Hot Dogs (loaded with fat and other chemicals that are really bad for you) that I don't think I will ever be eating again. This book changed the things I will eat, and maybe that's enough change in my life for now. This book may not change the way you live or eat, but it will open your eyes to what goes into the food you eat. Highly recommended.

Board Stiff by Piers Anthony- Irrelevant Kandy is a beautiful girl, but bored with her life. She wants an adventure, with some romance included, so she makes a wish on a wishing well,and gets turned into what she was: a board. Bored Stiff, actially. Realizing she made a bad choice and a bad wish, she ends up getting picked up by a man named Ease, whose magical talent is always having things be easy for him, and Kandy discovers that she can inflience him a little by speaking to him, mind to mind, which he mistakes for his own thoughts. She sends him off to the Good Wizard Humphrey to ask him a question, which means he will be bound in service for a year. Instead, Humphrey sends him on a quest: to get rid of a pun-destroying virus that has invaded Xanth. Ease doesn't like puns, but Kandy makes him see that some of them are necessary. They are joined on the quest by Astrid Basilisk-Cockatrice, who MareAnn wants Kandy to befriend, Com-Pewter, who has a vested interest in keeping Xanth the way it is, Tiara, a young girl with unruly hair they find locked up in a tower by her sisters, whom they rescue, and Mitch, a man with amazingly long hair he wears as a shirt. But there are other players interested in Xanth, including the Demoness Fornax, who wants Kandy to be her representative in Xanth and is willing to do almost anything to get her to agree. But can Kandy help Ease to find what he wants, and to find his dream girl, who is Kandy? And can their group eliminate the source of the pun-killing virus with everything that stands in their way? Surprisingly enough, I liked this book, which was focussed on romance rather than sex (yes, sex happens between some of the other characters, but offscreen, where it belongs and the characters aren't banging lika a dunny door in a storm all the time. This is a return to the earlier Xanth books, and much appreciated. Recommended.

Carniepunk by various authors- This compilation of short stories focuses on carnivals, with a punk sort of theme. "Painted Love" by Rob Thurman introduces us to Doodle, a very strange man who is actually a tattoo from hell. But he's escaped and is looking forward to dealing with Brad, a psychopath who works in a circus. When Doodle falls in love with the sister of a girl Bard has his eye on, can be save her from Brad's wrath? "The Three Lives of Lydia" by Delilah S. Dawson has Lydia, who suddenly finds herself in Bludworld. When she makes a connection with Charlie Dregs, a bludman who works in the circus she finds herself in, can she stay with him, despite knowing that she might be drawn back to her own world at any moment? "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" by Kevin Hearne has his Iron Druid Character, his apprentice and Oberon, in the shape of a dog, checking out a carnival that has come to town. But when the carnival turns into a trip to Hell, can he keep them all safe and fight the demons with his powers? "The Sweeter the Juice" by Mark Henry has a pre-operative transsexual looking to buy the drugs that keep her looking female after a zombie apocalypse. But will she enjoy the end of her quest to discover a new street drug that her doctor wants to gain access to? "The Werewife by Jane Wells takes a man who has been cursed with a werewolf wife back to the carnival where she picked up her strange affliction, But when she confronts the woman who changed her, will she be imprisoned, or set free? "The Cold Girl" by Rachel Caine has a girl named Kiley, who discovers, on a trip to a carnival, that her boyfriend is a real monster- human, but a monster. When he and his friends kill her, she comes back to haunt him in the form of a Cold Girl, i.e. a vampire. But can she stay a cold girl forever, or will her human side win out? "A Duet with Darkness" by Alison Pang introduces us to Abby Sinclair, a violinist who ran away from Julliard to make music on her own. Taken in by a band formed of Outsiders and wildlings, she travels to a music festival strictly for outsiders. But when she faces off against a violinist who carries the violin of the devil, can she beat him? And what will be the price to her? "Recession of the Divine" gives us Olivia, who is a muse working as a claims adjuster. When she goes to a carnival to deal with a claim, one of the workers there imprisons her and makes her tell people's fortunes. But what will happen when she finally breaks free, and can her human, mortal shell survive? "Parlor Tricks" by Jennifer Estep has Gin Blanco, better known as the former assassin "The Spider" and her sister, Bria, a detective in the notoriously corrupt police force, go to a carnival looking for a lost girl, the daughter of one of the Police's secretaries. But what they find there traps both of them, and can they win free themselves and rescue the girl before they end up dying from another elemental who will do anything to possess continued beauty and youth? "Freak House" by Kelly Meding takes us to the "strays" universe to bing us the tale of Shiloh Harrison, a half-Djinn whose father has been imprisoned in a freak show for rich people's delectation, along with several other "paras". But when she meets up with a werewolf government agent, can she find a way to attend the show and rescue her father? "The Inside Man" by Nicole Peeler  has a woman named Jane True who investigates otherworldly crimes with her associates looking into a carnival where people who attend are never quite right again. But when it turns out that the carnival's master is stealing the memories of the people who go there, can she save her friends from the same fate- while experiencing their innermost memories and secrets? "A Chance in Hell" by Jackie Kessler has a female ex-succubus with a human soul who is trying to learn to become human. But when she is dragged by her friend to a carnival run by a demon of Greed, can she keep her friend's soul safe when she is marked and claimed by a demon of Lust? And what will breaking her friend free cost her? "Hell's Menagerie" by Kelly Fay gives us Emma Madigan, daughter of her character Charlie Madigan, going to rescue a litter of Hellhound puppies who have been imprisoned by an evil caravan master. But when his price for letting them go is one of her friends, how can she say no? And what will she do to redeem her friend? Finally, "The Daughter of the Midway, The Mermaid and the Open, Lonely Sea" by Seanan McGuire tells us of Ada, a carnival girl whose mother, once human, has become an actual mermaid, and a carnival sideshow attraction. But when the carnival returns to where her mother grew up and the town from which she was desperate to escape, can Ada find out what her mother was fleeing, and keep from coming to the same end? This was a really good collection of stories. Many of them were horror or borderline horror, but they were all good. The one I enjoyed the most, because it is still staying with me, is "The Three Lives of Lydia", which continues to haunt me because of the ending. I wanted to read more about lydia and a story that leaves you wanting more, when it is this good, is a very good thing. Highly recommended.

1 comment: