Friday, May 23, 2014

2014, Part 5

Otherwise Enagaged by Amanda Quick- Amity Doncaster is an experienced traveler, but when she meets Benjamin Stanbridge on a tropical island, she doesn't know that her meeting with him will put her life in danger. At first, he is the one in danger, bleeding from a wound sustained by a spy, but she nurses him back to health on their trip back to England. He has also given her a message to pass on for him, and she is willing to do so. But soon after her return to England, she is assaulted in a carriage one night by a deranged killer known as "The Bridegroom". But thanks to the metal Tessen, a Japanese war fan that she carries with her, she is able to fight her way out of danger. But the incident brings Benedict and Amity together, and both wish to find the killer, as they discover that he has killed at least four women before. Benjamin, though, is still attracted to Amity, and he remembers the kiss they shared on the boat. She does as well, but can two so mismatched people actually find true love in each other's arms, or will they part after finding the identity of the Bridegroom and bringing him to justice? Because the killer behind the Bridegroom also has ties to the information on Solar Energy that Benjamin had gone abroad to retrieve, and the solution to the killings may have more to do with spycraft than mere technology. But can Benjamin and Amity find the villains together? I loved this book, which has nothing to do with Amanda Quick/Jane Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle' ongoing Arcane stories. What it does have is mystery and suspense, along with a rational hero and a heroine who happens to be strong and brave. I loved this book, and the mystery within, and the unusual weapon that the heroine wields. Highly recommended.

Cauldron of Ghosts by David Weber and Eric Flint- When Anton Zilwicki and Victor Cachat escaped Mesa with Rogue Scientist Herlander Simoes, their landlady and her daughter, they knew the information they now had about Mesa and Manpower, Inc. the Corporation who really ran Mesa and who kept Manticore and the People's Republic at each other's throats so that they would not team up to go after the home of genetic slavery, they knew that the information they had gathered would blow the lid off their respective governments. Not only did it stop the cold war, part of the ongoing war between Manticore and Haven, the two sides made peace with each other and then went a step further by becoming allies after a disastrous attack on Manticore's Shipbuilding sattellites left the star nation all but defenseless. Now, both the Manties and the Havenites have allied with Torch, the home of many newly-freed slaves, and Anton's adopted daughter Berry Zilwicki has become their Queen- and all three are more than interested in bringing Manpower down. And bringing down Manpower means dealing with Mesa. Which means it is time for another mission to Mesa. Since Anton, Victor Cachat and Victor's lover  Thandi Palane, the former Scrag and now leader of Torch's armed forces, are returning to Mesa in second skins crafted by Beowulfers, who are also against Genetic Slavery. They are meant to be going back to find out yet more about the elusive Manpower, Inc. and the ruling Alpha cabal that oversees Mesa and the operations of Manpower. But Mesa has dealt with the "Green Pines" incident where a defecting security man set off a nuke to cover HerlanderSimoes, Cachar and Zilwicki's escape, by lashing out at the "seccies", the offspring of manumitted slaves, when menumission was allowed. The seccies are frightened and don't seem to be able to fight back on their own- but when the crackdowns worsen, the crimelords who Cachat and Zilwicki have been working with step in to protect their people- and an uprising begins that will forever change the Mesan's attitudes towards the Seccies and possibly overthrow the government of Mesa. But casualties are high- will the ensuing chaos kill the infiltration team along with the Seccies, or can Cachat, Zilwicki, palane and their allies be able to hold out long enough to be rescued by Honor Harrington and the forcres under her command. Wow, this book was BRUTAL. Instead of the relatively straightforward ship battles, the fights here take place on the ground, and because they involve civilians, they seem more real and enact a greater toll on the reader. The almost casual brutality of the forces on the Mesan side at the beginning of the battle is horrendous and shocking, and the reactions of the troops to what was going on was also pretty shocking. A lot of the beginning of the book is talking heads, but trust me when I say that there is plenty of action in the later part of the book. This one kept me on the edge of my seat, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series. Manpower may have been handed a temporary setback, but they aren't dead yet. Not nearly. Highly recommended.

Five Dead Canaries by Edward Marston- The frist World War grinds on, and those left at home do as best they can to carry on. Women have had to take on the jobs of men, and some men resent them for it. So when a group of six young women Munitioneers, known as "Canaries", because the chemicals turn their skin yellow, go to a pub to celebrate one of the women's birthdays, they plan to have a good time. Only one woman, Maureen Queen, who leaves early because she feels sick, survive the blast that kills the other five. But who would want to kill this particular bunch of women? And were they killed because they were taking away the jobs of men, as some feel, or was it something personal which led to their death? Joe Keedy and Inspector Marmion will have their work cut out for them in determining who would be so evil as to kill five young women in the prime of their lives, and what led to such hatred against the Canaries in the first place. And this time, Inspector Marmion's daughter Alice, herself the fiancee of  Joe Keedy, working in the woman's Police Corps, may be able to help, as she is the same age as the young dead women. But can she keep the secret from her superior, who has a grudge against her because of her famous detective father? And will Marmion ever be reconciled to the fact that his daughter is in love with his own partner? I loved this book, because it exposed me to information I didn't know about World War I, how England had fared badly in the first year of the wat because of their lack of munitions, and only after women started working in the factories was England able to pump up the production to meet the demmand. And the price forthe women working in those factors was that their skin turned yellow, taking away what many men thought of as their natural beauty- their clear complexion. There are many red herrings during the course of the novel, and when the villain is revealed, it comes a bit out of left field- the families of each girl, victims and survivor both, are well-drawn and figure into the mystery. Many details of the girls lives are laid bare, but it never causes us to lose sympathy with them- the families, most of the time, but not the girls themselves. This was an excellent mystery, and one I'd definitely recommend. Recommended.

Copperhead by Tina Connolly- Helen Huntingdon once used to be pretty, but now she is supernaturally beatiful. Her husband paid for her to be given a new face by utilizing bits of Fae, and the same man who did her own face also did the same to 99 others. The Hundred found out, almost too late, and much to their own cost, that this process made them vulnerable to takeover by the Queen of Fae, who would supplant their personalties and take them over completely. But the humans, led primarily by Helen's sister, Jane, rose up and threw over the Fae, but the only protection for the woman who underwent the procedure is to weat masks of iron whenever they go out into the world, to prevent them from being taken over again, and to prevent them from using the glamour that they have inherited from the bits of Fae that were implanted into them. Jane has been studying and thinks that the best way to help is to return their true faces to the women, but has had little luck in convincing them to go through with the procedure. Helen promises to help her, as these women are in her social circle. But when Jane disappears partway through an attempt to return the face of the wife of Mr. Grimsby, the head of a Political clique called Copperheas, Helen finds herself desperately searching for her missing sister, and among an entirely new class of people, from actors to the Dwarvven, a short race of people who have long been on the side of humans and against the Fae. But now Copperhead seems to be prejudiced against the Dwarvven as well, and they are instituting an increasingly harsh rule over London. Helen finds herself thrown into the company of Rook, a half Dwarvven who appears to show up wherever Helen goes. But can Helen find and free her sister and uncover the true motives of the Copperheads without alienating her increasingly hostile husband? And when the time comes to choose butween her love and her duty, which will she choose? I didn't read the first book, Ironskin, and I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to understand what was going on, but no, the story was laid out in such a way that it was more or less clear what had happened, and what the background of the story was, and I really enjoyed myself immensely anyway. The story is fraught with danger and has plenty of tension as Helen confronts some really horrible truths about the society she is living in and the people she thought she knew. This was a really excellent story, and I loved the ending, promising a happy ending for Helen, at least. Recommended.

Circle of Fire by Keri Arthur- Madeline Smith lives a extremely secretive, proscribed life because she fears the psychic powers she has  inherited. But when she is approached by a man she thinks is a ghost, asking her to help him, she initially backs away. Why does he want her help? But as it transpires, he isn't dead at all. Jon Barnett is still alive, but maybe not for long. He was shot in the arm and fell into a well, and is rapidly losing strength. He also warns het that children who have visited a place called Taurin Bay. And her nephew and sister went their recently. She calls to see if her nephew is okay, and it seems that he is... until her sister calls her the next day and tells her that Evan is missing, Madeline knows she must help Jon, but she has no idea of what Jon is, or the kinds of creatures that exist. And when one of them is responsiblefor the disappearance of not only Evan, but many other kids in the area, can she continue working with Jon the shifter to help save them, or will she flee when she discovers who and what he is? Building on the Nikki and Michael series, the organization Michael worked for, The Damask Circle, is the focus of this series. Maddy is a psychic, a firestarter, who lives in fear of her talent and cannot control it. But to help save her nephew, she is going to have to face up to who and what she is, and deal with the anger and hatred of her sister's husband, who feels she is a bad influence on Evan. Jon, too, has to deal with his feelings for Maddy and not wanting her to necessarily be drawn into his world. But if you're expecting a retread of Nikki and Michael- don't. Jon and Maddy are different enough to stand out in their own way. And I really enjoyed this boook and the story. Recommended.

Ghost Seer by Robin D, Owens- Clare Cermak is an accountant, used to logic and reason. But when an actual, literal Ghost dog shows up in her house, she thinks she's going crazy. And when the Ghost Cowboy follows, begging her to help him, she's ure of it. It seems that Clare has inherited her aunt Sandra's ability to see Ghosts, and to help them pass on. But she doesn't want a single bit ot it. Even when she's told that she will die if she denies her gifts. But when she learns that the gift will pass to her niece, a mere child, Clare doesn't want the girl to go through the same things she is experiencing. So she does agree to help... but only to save her niece. Meanwhile, Zach Slade is a lawman who had to leave the job he loved when he was injured in the line of duty. His former boss gives him the name and number of a private investigator, but Zeke doesn't like the idea of investigating for pay. But when he's assigned to help an older lady find some heirloom antiques that were taken from her family long ago, he meets Clare, and the sparks fly. Can Clare and Zach deal with Clare's new profession while helping the old-time bandit *also* known as Zach Slade? Or will Clare end up dead or insane/ It took me a while to get into this book, and I have to say that part of that was to blame on the outfit of the female character on the cover. Her outfit is a mix of gypsy and pirate and I kept looking at it, thinking, "That's right out of the bad old 70's! Who would wear that in this day and age?!" I ended up enjoying the story, but that cover... eesh. It's so bad, you might want to cover it with brown paper. It's not hot or sexy at all. Good book. Bad, bad., bad, bad, bad cover Still, recommended

Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb- Roarke is working on a building he's acquired, and the foreman invites him to start with the interior demolition, for luck. But when he brings down the flimsy interior wall, two bodies are discovered- little more than bones after what is apparently several years in the wall. Roarke calls in his wife, Eve, and after more demolition, the body count rises to fifteen. Fifteen young women, killed and stuffed behind flimsy walls, with no sign of who or what might have dumped them there. The building has been in multiple hands, including a youth shelter that has since moved out and onto better things. But when the bodies begin to be identified, it's obvious that all the women were from the youth shelter. The question becomes, who are they and who killed them, and it's up to Eve Dallas and her cops, with the help of Roarke and her friends from the street, like Mavis, to find out what happened and who really killed the girls- and why he or she abruptly stopped. But can Eve dig out information on fifteen year old undiscovered crimes, and bring the murderer to justice? There's no statute of limitations on murder, and Eve wouldn't be inclined to grant it anyhow. I loved this book. When I first started reading it, it seemed familiar because I'd read the beginning in the "coming attractions" in another book, but this was really excellent. Nora Roberts made you feel for the young women who were killed, even the less-than-innocent ones, and in the end, the killer just... turned you off. It wasn't that he was evil, exactly, but sly and loathesome nonetheless. I enjoyed the introduction of new characters, like the new Forensic Anthropologist, and returning older characters, like Mavis, Leonardo and Dennis Mira. This book was a tour-de-force that took my breath away and made me see old characters in a new light. Highly recommended.

Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland-Harry Rivers is the Stage Manager for the Lyceum Theatre and Henry Irving is the lead actor there, playing Hamlet. But on the opening night, Henry Irving is poisoned, yet still manages to go on and give his performance. But Irving's manager of the Lyceum, Bram Stoker, knows he has to nip any rumors that the "Guv'nor"(Irving's nickname among the theatre folk) is in trouble. But when Irving's understudy dies the next day, run over in the street after a nightly tipple with the cast and crew, He knows something must be done. But whoever might be out to ruin the Lyceum doesn't seem to care for people's safety- and he has apparently stolen the body of their dead castmate and cut off the head, which comes springing out of the fly at an inopportune moment. Stoker and Rivers suspect the cast and crew of another theatre, but why? And how far will they go to stop the production of Hamlet at the Lyceum? When fire and magical rituals fail, perhaps kidnapping Edward Terry, one of Ellen Terry's children, will do it. But can Harry Rivers and Bram Stoker stop the attacks on the theatre and find out *why* they had to happen and who was behind them> Or will one of the strategems succeed in stopping the play? Well, I'd never read Raymond Buckland as a mystery writer, so I was determined to check it out. It isn't a bad book- in fact, it's pretty good, but it was still something of a struggle for me to read, but I ended up satisfied by the story and characters and wanting to read more. If I can say anything about the book its that, aside from the main characters and original characters, we don't get to see or know the actual famous characters the way we do the rest- and that's something I felt was missing. Still, I do recommend this book for lovers of a good historical mystery.

Dark Wolf by Christine Feehan- Skyler Daratrazanoff is a human with both Carpathian and mage blood, and she knows her destined mate is Dmitiri Tiranuul. But when Dmitri is captured and imprisoned by the Lycans for being what they consider an abomination- a vampire with the blood of werewolves, he is strung up in silver and left to die, with silver slowly dripping into his veins. So it is up to Skyler, her brother Josef, and her human friend Paul Jansen, to mount a rescue and save Dmitri while the rulers of both the Carpathians and the Lycans meet to broker peace. But some of the Lycans don't want peace- they want to destroy not only Dmitri, but also any Carpathian who has tasted Lycan Bood. Can Skyler and her friends rescue Dmitri and prevent a war between their people and the Lycans? I read this book, but I have to say that it wasn't the most compelling of the Carpathian novels I've read. For one thing, using the term "Lycans" made me think of Underworld, and while the story looked long, the last, roughly, 1/3 of the book wasn't story, but treatises on the Carpathian language and healing rituals, so I felt strangely cheated when the story came to an end. And even worse, the story seems unnaturally lengthened by the addition of Skyler and Dmitri's becoming part of a wolf pack gifted to them by Razvan and his mate, Ivory. It was a strange ending that seemed to abruptly stop rather than just coming to an end, making the story feel strange and disjointed. Still, it wasn't bad, just not as full as the other Carpathian stories. Slightly recommended, but this is more like a snack than a real meal.

Dark Bites by Sherrilyn Kenyon- This is a book of short stories set in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter Universe. House of the Rising Son details the story and eventual relationship between Aricles, a Greek farmer, and the Atlantean Goddess Bathymaas. He's not primarily a warrior, but as he fights with and for her, Aricles and Bathymaas, who is said to have no emotions, grow closer and eventually marry. But when the Greek God Apollo interferes in their relationship, can their love, and Aricles, survive? "Phantom Lover" tells of Erin Mc Douglas, who has been having horrific nightmares. However, one night, she is saved by V'Aidan, a Dream Hunter. But once he has saved her from the Skoti Demons haunting her dreams, he makes love to her and cannot stop thinking of her. When he is condemned for his feelings, will Erin love him enough to save him? Winter Born tells of Pandora, a Katagaria WerePanther who was kidnapped from her tribe and her own time to be mated to another werepanther tribe in the present day. She's at Dragon-Con in search of Acheron Parthenopaeus, thinking he could send her home, but instead finds herself hooking up with Dante Pontis, another WerePanther who happens to be her mate. But can he save her and her tribe, and be the kind of mate she wants him to be? A Dark-Hunter Christmas, a Dark-Hunter named James Patrick Gallagher has to come to terms with meeting one of his many descendants, just when he is missing his wife, right before Christmas. But since he's forbidden going back to his family, can he connect with his fellow Dark-Hunters and the Arcadians instead? Until Death Do We Part involves Esperetta, the daughter of Vlad Dracul, and her husband, Velkan. When she saw her husband murder her father, it cut her heart out of her chest. But now The Order of the Dragon is back, and they want to kill Velkan, and they think using Retta will do the trick. Can Retta patch things up with Velkan in time to save both their lives? A Hard Day's Night Searcher has the Dark Hunter Rafael Santiago trying to deal with an issue his Squire, Jeff, has brought up by publishing a story that is about the Dark-Hunters under a different name. He sends Jeff off to hide, but accepts the Squire searching for Jeff for the Squire Council while she hunts him. He finds her completely irritating at first, but as he comes to know her, and why she is the way she is, he finds himself wanting her. But Squire/Dark Hunter relationships are forbidden. Would they give up what they have for each other? Shadow of the Moon has Fury Kattlakis encountering his old friend Angelia, who betrayed him when she found out he was a wolf who could take on human shape, not a human who could take on wolf shape. Her tribe filled her ears with lies about the wolf-born, and now they have developed a weapon that could trap the WereHunters permanently in their animal shape. But Can Fury get through to her to get her to give up the information he needs, and when they turn out to be mates, can she live with her lies she was told about Fury and his people?Fear the Darkness has Nick returning to New Orleans years after Hurricane Katrina. But can he accept all that has gone on there since he was last there? Where Angels Fear to Tread- introduces Zeke Jacobson, a claims adjuster who wants to be a hero. But when he picks up a strange coin after a relative's death and funeral, he will finally get his chance. Could this be a case of "Be Careful What You WIsh For...?" Love Bytes" introduces us to Samantha Parker, a woman working for a tech company who finds herself falling for the President of the company, a tech geek who made good. But would someone as magnificent as Adrian Cole be attracted to a relative nobody like her? "Santa Wears Spurs" has Catherine O'Callahan, who's husband, O'Connell, left her when she was pregnant. Now he's returned, seeking time away from his outlaw brother. Can Catherine let him back into her heart, and will he choose her and their daughter, or his brother once again? Last in the book is Redemption, A Bonus Scene from the book, "The Guardian", where Seth and Lydia get ready to be married. I liked this book. The stories were all good, with some I definitely preferred (like House of the Rising Son) and some I didn't ("Where Angels Fear To Tread"). Some are pure Romance, others Urban Fantasy, and it gives an excellent look at the range of Sherrilyn Kenyon's wriing. What I really loved was that all the stories really pulled me in from the first paragraph, and I never lost interest in reading them. Definitely on the Recommended list.

Kiss the Night Goodbye by Keri Arthur- Nikki has only one final test to conquer before the Damask Circle verifies that she can go out in the field with Michael, her soon-to-be husband. But when she is attacked during the test, Seline knows who is responsible. One hundred years ago, she and Michael met when tracking down a magician named Dunleavy, who killed a number of women to power a ritual meant to make him immortal. Since one of the women he killed was Michael's lover, Camille, Michael helped Seline catch him and then tore the man apart. Their association eventually drew in others who became the Damask Circle. But it seems that Dunleavy had a brother, Weylin, and Weylin wants Seline and Michael to use in a ritual to help bring his brother back, even going so far as to kidnap Michael and invite Seline to try and catch him. But Seline sends Nikki in, in the disguise she wore at the time, hoping that the connection between Michael and Nikki will bring him out of the magical fog the sorceror has wrapped around him. But Michael isn't the only person Weylin has kidnapped to be part of his little scheme. and Nikki only has five days to stop the sorceror, who is taunting her by killing people in town, all of whom have been spelled to think that it is one hundred years ago. The question is, can she and Michael unmask the killer and stop him in time to prevent him from resurrecting his brother? This was the last book in the Nikki and Michael series, and I was looking forward to seeing them working together again.  But not quite like this! In fact, this actually heightened my enjoyment of the book and the story, which was also an incredible mystery as well. I look forward to perhaps seeing Nikki and Michael working together in other Damask Circle books, perhaps as a background couple or secondary characters, but this was a fitting send-off to such beloved characters. Highly recommended.

The Runaway King byJennifer Nielsen- Prince Jaron, once hiding under the persona and nickname of the Street boy, Sage, has at last come to the throne. But it is a throne on the brink of war, and Sage can see only one way to prevent a war with Avenia and the pirates Avenia is buying off- if only the Pirate King can command the Pirates, Jaron will have to become King of the Pirates. But it isn't nearly that simple, and two new attempts on his life have him sending those he cares for far away from him so that they cannot be drawn into the conflict and hurt by those wanting to hurt or kill him. But there are conspirators still close to the Carthyian throne, and Jaron must root those out as well if he is to save Carthyia. But can he do it on his own? This was a wonderful follow up to the False Prince, and I loved seeing the characters again. But once more, it is Jaron himself- follishly brave to the point of foolhardiness, and the best swordsman in his land, that keeps you transfixed throughout the story. It's thoroughly his story, and it's a complex and thrilling one. Despite his intelligence, he can still miss things and be wrong, so he doesn't come off like a superman or anything. Teens will find this story wonderful and interesting. Highly recommended.

Night of the Hunter- Companions Codex, Book 1 by R.A. Salvatore- Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall are back, some changed by their new lives, but still who they were. But Bruenor has something he needs to do-free Thibbledworf Pwent from his curse of Vampirism. Unbeknownst to the companions, though, new tensions are stirring in the Underdark, and the Dark Elves, the Drow,  and Gromph Baenre helps rewrite his sister Quenthel's consciousness with that of their ancestress, Yvonnel- all with the blessing of Lolth. Not only are Drizzt and his companions caught up in the renewed plans of the Drow, but so are Artemis Entreri and his party, including Drizzt's ex-lover, Dahlia, Ambergris the Dwarf, Dahlia's son, the Warlock and Afafrenfere the Monk- along with Jarlaxle and the Bregan D'Arthe mercenaries. Can Drizzt and his friends save Pwent while remaining free from the plans of the Drow? And what larger implications will this have for the Realms? Well, it was kind of nice to see this sort of book, where Drizt doesn't have all the answers and can't save things just by showing off how cool and awesome he is. This is a book about real things, and consequences, and taking one woman down to rubble and building her back up to be something else entirely, all at the behest of Lolth. In the end, evil triumphs, and not in a small way, but a fairly large way that is sure to have ramifications for everyone in the Realms, and all the way up to the relationship between Drizzt and Entreri. In a way, this seems to also be a way to restart that very relationship. Now Entreri has a new reason to hate Drizzt, and much more fiercely thant he did before. But there isn't really anything new in the relationships between the companions of the Hall, I felt. In a way, it's a comforting, comfortable backdrop to the book- but in another way, readers could find it a bit boring. So while there were some very nice character moments- and a lot more very disturbing ones, I was still glad I gave this book a try. Recommended.

The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love- Roxanne Love seems to be a normal young woman, but she's died three times before, and so a Reaper decides to investigate for himself why Roxanne Love keeps coming back from the dead, along with her brother, Reece. But when the bar owned by their family is attacked by Demons, The Reaper, inhabiting the body of cop Santo Castillo, will have to go above and beyond to figure out the truth- all the while trying to keep his emotional distance- something harder to do than he thinks, now that he is living in a human body. This book was a Did Not Finish for me- and part of it was that I couldn't get into the characters much at all, even after over 100 pages. But the final straw came when, on page 125, the author wrote about the characters in an elevator going down, "The elevator shuttered to a stop at the bottom". What person gets to be an author without knowing English spelling, and what sort of publisher and editor doesn't correct the problem? Really, I lost all interest in the book, right there. It may be a good book, it may even be enjoyable- but I can't bring myself to pick it up again.

Kamichama Karin Chu Volume 1 by Koge-Donbo- Karin is a young woman who can take on a goddess form, and her boyfriend is a boy who used to be her husband in a past life. Now, she has a dream asking her to find three gods. One is found right away- her boyfriend, Kazune, and she soon meets the second, Jin Kuga, ia an idol who has long dreamed of meeting her. Soon, her son from the future appears, asking her to find the three gods so that they can destroy the seeds of chaos. But even when Karin finds the third God she is looking for, her work isn't done, and she and the others are tricked into becoming tiny children. Can Karin fulfill her responsibilities as a goddess and keep the Gods from killing each other before they can do what they have to? I don't know what I was expecting when I picked this up, but reading this book was a real pain. All the character are drawn in Chibi style, which I found distracted me from the story to the point where it made reading the dialogue difficult for me. And the Chibi characters look about 8 and are supposed to be in their late teens, so the whole thing was fairly brain-breaking for me. I finished the volume, but I won't be picking up any more. It's just too much of a struggle to read. Not recommended.

Marked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon- Charlotte Caissie is a New Orleans Homicide Cop out after Crime Boss Jimmy Legere, who she is certain killed her father, who as also a cop, when she was younger. But when Legere's bodyguard/assassin Max Savoie saves her life, she finds herself  unable to stop thinking about him, and soon she realizes that their association goes back longer than she knows. Because when Legere kidnapped her and her best friend in order to turn her father away from a case he was investigating, Max Savoie was the one who stopped their torture and set them free. But Max isn't just human. He doesn't know *what* he is, but he's not human at all. And when two low-level thugs turn up dead after one of them abuses hus wife and lets the second man stay behind to rape her, nobody knows who did it, because the evidence points to an animal. Charlotte knows of Max's ability to turn into a beast, but is he responsible for the death? As Max's relationship with Charlotte heats up, it incites comment and reactions, both from the police and Legere. But when Legere is suddenly taken out of the picture, what will happen to Max, who Legere has trained to look to and depend upon him for everything. But can Max deal with the new role being thrust upon him, Legere's second in command who wants him dead, and what may be his own people? And is there any hope for Max and Chaelotte to be together when he's on the criminal side of the line, and she's a by-the-book cop? I wasn't very excited to read this book. It sounded like Max was going to be some sort of Werewolf, or Shapechanger, but even the people in the novel most like him, have no name for themselves or what Max is, except that he might be a "Pureblood", of whatever he is. I found the story rather bland and uninteresting. This is only supposed to be the first book in a series that seems to focus around Max and Charlotte, but the only thing I found interesting about the story was the hero's name. And he's actually not very heroic at all, in any way. This rated a solid "Meh" from me. But I really don't recommend it.

Sometimes a Rogue by Mary Jo Putney- Sarah Clark-Townsend is the twin sister of Mariah, who is now Duchess of Ashton. But when her very preganant sister persuades her twin to take her for a ride because she is tired of being in the house, her sister goes into labor and must take shelter in an old church on her husband's property. But when a group of ruffians appear and Sarah overhears them plan to tak her sister hostage and carry her away, she hides Mariah and claims to be her twin, so they abduct her to Ireland. Luckily for Mariah and Sarah, her husband's friend Rob, a Bow Street Runner, is about to spend some time in Ashton Castle, and he goes off in search of Sarah, following her to Ireland and rescuing her from her captors, then making their way back across the country to Cork, where they came ashore. But Sarah's abductors were politically motivated, and they don't want to let her and Rob escape. But when they flee across the Irish Sea in a tiny sloop, they are shipwrecked at Rob's old home of Kellington, where his father and brother have recently died, making him the heir. Thge only one in residence is Rob's grandmother, who hates him for being the despised son of the second wife. But the estate is on the verge of bankruptcy, and to save it, he may have to marry an heiress. But they have become close since their experiences in Ireland. Do they have the courage to reach for the lives and the love they want, against all the odds? I really enjoyed this book, as the heroine was courageous and rarely complained, even when undergoing significant hardship. And the hero was strong and appreciated the heroine, both in looks and in qualities, and genuinely admired her, which is my personal catnip when it comes to romance. This book really strongly appealed to me, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes the same. Highly recommended.

I Thee Wed by Amanda Quick- Edison Stokes is a mysterious lord who is also a member of a secret society of mystics and martial artists known as the Vazangara Society. A legendary book has been stolen from the monks, and Edison, while no longer part of the Circle, as it is known, is still seeking the book, for it could be dangerous, if the formulas within were used immoderately. At a House Party, he meets Emma Grayson, a paid companion to a wealthy woman. She manages to see him sneaking onto the estate, something that proves her to be exceptionally keen-sighted. To keep her from exposing him, he hires her as his assistant to spy on a certain lady whom Edison thinks might have the book or one of the formulae from it. Emma  sticks close to the woman and excites her interest when she shows some psychic powers. But when a Lord who once tried to rape Emma is killed in her room late one night while she is elsewhere, she immediately loses her position and Edison steps in to claim her as his fiancee to ansure that she suffers no scandal from not being in her room. But someone wanted the lord dead. Why? Was it because of his notorious propensity for cutting a swath through the maids anywhere he went, who couldn't refuse him nor accuse him without losing everything? But working with Emma and posing as her fiance makes Edison even more appreciative of her finer qualities, and posing as someone who is going to marry her is no imposition at all. But Edison isn't the only Vanzagara in town- there is another student seeking to take him down- and he needs to find the student's master, as this man may have the codex he is seeking. But more attempts on his life make him wonder who really has the codex, and who, among many, are after not only his life, but Emma's. I loved this book. This was another one where the Hero appreciates the intelligence and perceptiveness of the heroine, and they have a healthy attraction to each other that neither feels in the slightest embarrassed about. While the Vanzagara Scoiety is completely made up, it is based on the sort of martial arts and martial art groups that already exist in the world. This was a lovely book that makes you feel the feelings that the Hero and Heroine have for each other as well as having an excellently twisty plot. Recommended.

Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, Volume 3 by Yoshiyuki Nishi- Muhyo is a law magic practitioner, and his friend and co-worker Roji is someone who easily sees spirits, but also gets freaked out by them and often cries. When they finally return to the office after Roji has his temporary Level 1 Clerk's permit, they are troubled by a ghost girl attaracted there by the sound of their friend Kenji's recorder. But before Muhyo sentences her to the afterlife, can they lay her spirit to rest another way? Then, they are called upon to help a perverted writer who has been passing off the writing of a spirit as his own. But can they fulfill the spirit writer's last wish and then banish him before he ends up inadvertantly killing the man who he is using to write his masterpiece? And when one of Muhyo's classmates, an artificer, shows up for Muhyo's help, he is afraid items he has made are losing power, including a seal he made for a special magical prison- and now, something big and very dangerous may have escaped, and they need Muhyo's help to recapture and contain it. But are Muhyo and Roji up to the task, no matter how powerful or skilled Muhyo may be? This was an interesting book, rather dark and yet humorous in tone. I only started reading with this volume, so I was afraid I was not going to be able to get into it, but this story shares the same kind of story as Tarot or Yumekui Kenbun, Nightmare Inspector, And I did end up enjoying it, despite the main character of Muhyo looking like an SD or Chibi character (But not necessarily "cute". More creepy than cute, to be honest). I liked the stories and I liked the characters, so I'd definitely read more of this. Recommended.

Muhyo and Roji's Supernatural Bureau of Investigation Volume 4 by Yoshiyuki Nishi- Muhyo and Roji and the rest of the mages fight their way down to the prison to the final, lowest level. On this floor is imprisoned the worst spirit of all- Face-Ripper Sophie! But is she still there, or has she already escaped? And could she be masquerading as one of them with her abilities? Then, Biko must save his beloved teacher from an encounter with the dark arts. But Muhyo is drained, and only Biko can make the elixir that will revive his magic. Will he do so if the object is to put Enchu in Purgatory? Well, this book ended the magical prison arc and it was really satisfying to see it end. And Enchu, despite being a villainess, comes across as quite sympathetic despite what she is doing. We, the readers, empathize with Biko wanting to save her, especially after we get to see what made her fall. But does she even *want* to be saved? I'd definitely like to read more of this series. Recommended.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation- The Burning Season by Jeff Mariotte- When a fire rips through a small bedroom community outside of Las Vegas, seven firefighters give their lives fighting the blaze. Now, it's up to Nick Stokes and Sara Sidle to track down the real culprits who started the fire, as the community is blaming two "Hippie campers" whose camp was very near to where the fire started. Meanwhile, Ray Langston and Nick are assigned to a case of a hand found under a homeowner's porch. Who does the hand belong to , and why did they lose it? And when a local politician is nearly killed by a car bomb, who might be after him, and does it have anything to do with his female aide? But when he is killed, his views on some issues might have had something to do with his death- and a father and son traveling the country warning of a coming apocalypse might have had something to do with thr crime... I love CSI, and since I no longer get cable TV (Or any other kind of TV), I love reading the books. And this one was really good. The characterizations were spot on, and the ending to all three main story threads were really good and appropriate. Definitely recommended,

Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett- Aida Palmer is a spirit medium working at a Nightclub called the Gris-Gris and living temporarily in the Chinatown district. Winter Magnusson is a fiasherman and bootlegger who is one of the three largest bootlegging operations in town. But when an old Chinese man curses Winter with a collection of Ghosts and the sight to see them, he apparently hopes to turn Winter insane. But Winter hires Aida to help him with his problem. She can lay the ghosts, no problem, but for the curse, she asks the help of her employer at the Gris Gris, an actual Voodoo Queen. But now they have to track down whoever was responsible for the curse in the first place. And when her help puts Aida into danger, Winter helps her by taking her under his wing- as he is already entranced with the beautiful young performer. But someday she will have to leave when her run at the Gris-Gris ends. By that time, will Winter be willing to let her go? Or can he persuade her into a more permanent relationship with him? I liked this book. I haven't seen many romances set during the roaring twenties, and it was a time period both familliar and unfamilliar to me. Anything new is always interesting, and I liked thar Winter pushed Aida, but never too far or made himself into an asshole. He may seem hard, but he has a soft heart, so this was a fun and exciting read. Highly recommended.

The Arrangement by  Mary Balogh- Vincent Hunt, the Viscount Darleigh, was blinded during the war and now lives with his mother and unwed sisters. But their current project to pressure him into marrying with an heiress they find suitable fills him with horror, and instead of telling them off, he flees into the night, going to the Lake District to rest before returning to his other home, where he grew up, he finds even more marriage-minded mamas in wait for him. But when one is foiled in her plans by a penniless relation, she throws the young woman, Sophia Fry, out on her own. Sophia has nowhere to go, but Vincent liked her and felt a connection to her, so he proposes to marry her as the woman of his choosing, so that both of them can escape the fates that their relatives have in store for them. But can such an arrangement lead to a real marriage, or will she be trapped in cold lovelessness  for the rest of her life? And will she always be an impediment to her husband, or can she help him get even more freedom in his life and his estate? And will love blossom in place of friendship? Wow, this novel was just great. The hero starts out as blind, and he's been living with the condition for a few years now. In fact, this book is part of a series, "The Survivors Club", where all the heroes and one heroine, have been scarred and wounded or maimed by the war. Despite that, Mary Balogh resists the urge to have Vincent make a miraculous recovery and regain his sight during the novel. His condition is permanent, as it should be, and while it comes with consequences, those are dealt with realistically. I loved both characters in the novel, and I liked how they helped each other, enlarging their respective worlds with help and support. Highly recommended, and I will be looking for other books in the series now.

The Countess by Lynsay Sands- Christiana Fairgrave married in haste to a man who claimed to love her. But after they married, he turned from someone who claimed to love her into a cruel, controlling man who never had anything nice to say about her or her friends, and even banned some of them from the house. So when he drops dead one morning after a visit by her sisters, she is overjoyed, except that her father has seemingly gambled away his fortune again, and one of her sisters must also marry to keep their family afloat. And if her husband is no longer alive, her sister will not be able to have the time to make a marriage alliance with a man of her choosing and save the family. So instead, they roll her husband Richard, up in a rug and take him upstairs to bed, where they pack him in with ice and put out that her husband is deathly ill, then take her sisters to a ball that night to search for a suitable husband. But when her husband shows up at the ball, Christina is petrified with fear, knowing there will be punishment from her husband for what she did. But, to her surprise, her husband is the man he purported to be before he married: solicitous, attentive, and seemingly happy to see her. In reality, Richard has just recently come back to England after being sold as a slave in America. He blames his twin brother, George, for his predicament- but he cannot blame Christina. Instead, he finds himself falling for her and attempting to do the rest of his brother's schemes. But can he unravel them all in time to keep Christina safe and make her love him when he finds he is falling for her? Wow, this book started out rather like a French bedroom farce, but became more and more interesting and sympathetic as the book went on. It takes time for both hero and heroine to trust each other with the real story of what has gone on, but once they come together, this book became one of my favorite romance novels. The characters are excellent and interesting, and the twist is one you will never see coming, but the book provides both chuckles and a meaningful, deep love story. Highly recommended.

Moon Cursed by Lori Handeland- Kristen Daniels is the star and producer of a supernatural debunking show. In danger of being out of work when her show is cancelled, she travels to Loch Ness to try and debunk the famous monster. But she is attacked shortly after arriving and meets a man named Liam Grant who is far more than he appears. But as she tracks down the genesis of the myth and seeks to unravel the hoax she feels is behind it, she is unknowingly falling in love with the monster himself, cursed to take on that form until he finds someone who truly loves him. But is Kris that woman, and can she adjust to the idea that the supernatural creatures she is used to debunking might exist after all? This one rated only okay for me. I liked some of the secondary characters, but others, like Liam's friend who were lying on his behalf to Kris, just turned me right off. On the whole it was okay, but nothing earth-shattering, neither the romance, nor the main characters, nor the sex. So, meh.

Friday, May 02, 2014

2014, Part 4

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire- Verity Price is living the dream in New York City as a competitive dancer in the ballroom scene. But that is merely her cover for her life as a Cryptozoologist. Her family, the Prices, left an organization known as the Covenant, which only studies Cryptids in order to kill them and keep humans safe. But Verity's family knows that not every Cryptid is dangerous or needs killing, and so Verity's Grandfather and Grandmother split from the Covenant, to be considered traitors by their former comrades, and a legend by the Cryptids themselves as the Prices try to act as diplomats and mediators between the Cryptids and the humans who might be in danger from them. But while living in New York and trying to make a living as a ballroom dancer, when Parkouring home one night, she falls into a trap set by a member of the Order of St. George named Dominic DeLuca. She thinks he's cute, but Verity is angered that he's hunting Cryptids in *her* city. He's says he's just there scouting out the city, but when she finds out that the Order scouts out cities before engaging in massive cleansing "hunts", she starts warning the Cryptids around the city. And when Cryptid girls begin to disappear, she thinks she knows the reason- Dominic DeLuca! But it turns out that he isn't the one making them disappear, and he thinks she is responsible- but obviously, she isn't. So they have to team up together to find out what is really going on, and whether the rumors of a surviving Dragon living in the Sewers of the city is true... along with dealing with the religiously crazy Cryptid mice who inhabit her apartment and who think that Verity should relive the life of her grandmother... and her family, who isn't happy with the Covenant, nor the Covenant with them. Should be a piece of cake, right? I loved this book, and all the different kinds of Cryptids that Verity and her family keep track of and know about- but their information isn't perfect, given that they were members of the Covenant of St. George up until three generations ago, and the Covenant is more interesting in knowing enough about Cryptids to kill them, not study them. I loved the little bits of world-building (Like "Darks" that increase the amount of gloom in the area for dark-loving Cryptid races) and Verity's trying to balance her dancing career with her career as a Cryptozoologist. It made me laugh and smile a lot, while also being a fairly ripping action yarn at points. I won't say this book is perfect, but I loved it anyway. Definitely give this one a try. Highly recommended.

Hulk: World War Hulks by Jeph Loeb, John Romita Jr, and Ed McGuinness- Thunderbolt Ross is dead, slain by the Red Hulk, a new threat to the world. But it seems that the Red Hulk is working with the Green Hulk and against a group of The Hulk's Old Foes, including The Leader, M.O.D.O.K., Kragoff and his Gamma Apes and even Doc Samson, But it turns out that the Red Hulk, who power is energy absorbtion, knows their plans and is working with Bruce Banner to stop them from taking over the world, and using the world's greatest intellects to do it, which involve turning all the world's heroes into Hulks and then coming in to clean up and save the day. But can the two Hulks, wo have little reason to trust each other, team up and put an end to the villain's plans? And who is the Red Hulk? And the Red She-Hulk, for that matter? Well, this was rather... interesting. I sort of already knew who the Red Hulk was supposed to be, but this story introduced several Hulks and Hulk-Like  Heroes and villains. It got to the point where I wondered if all the Green-skinned characters were somehow related to the Hulk (She-Hulk is Bruce's Cousin, who he saved with a blood transfusion, and, as it turns out, the two Red Hulks also shared a family connection. The story was a bit convoluted, but it seems that the Red Hulk will continue, even though he can be drained of his powers in the same way he drains the power of others. I wonder if the same goes for the Red She-Hulk? Anyhow, this was an interesting Graphic novel, but seems a bit overly convoluted if you haveb;t read the series up to this point, and the book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger as well. It seems the Red Hulk will be sticking around for some time. Recommended, but you might want to read other books in the series before this one or it might get very confusing to you.

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan- Percy Jackson and Annabeth have been taken to Tartarus, the body of a Titan which is also a prison for Giants and evil souls. With Gaia re-awakening, she is aiming to bring the Giants up from Tartarus to be her amy in the world. They will enter through the Doors of Death, in the literal Heart of Tartarus, which have been chained so that, instead of her amryappearing in bits and pieces all over the world, they will all appear in one place, the same place, at one time. As Percy and Annabeth struggle across the unforgiving terrain of Tartarus to the Doors to try and make it back into the world, They are aided by Bob/Iapetus, who seems to prefer being Good rather than evil. Meanwhile, back on the surface, Piper, Leo, Frank, Nico, Hazel and their flying ship have to make it to Greece to try and stop Gaia's army and save their friends. Plus, they also need to get the Athena Parthenos back to Camp Half-Blood to try and prevent a war between the Roman and Greek Demigods, for which they will need the help of Reyna, the Praetor of the Legion. And the monsters of the Earth, inhabiting the Appenines, are barring their way. Can both sets of heroes make it through the trials ahead of them and make it to Greece before the Doors of Death open and unleash the Giants upon the earth? And who will pay the Price for them to succeed? This was a fabulous book, with the tension seesawing from one set of heroes to the other- Percy and Annabeth in Hades, and the others aelsewhere. We get to see some really great and amazing stuff here- Frank's Battle in Venice with the Catobleps, and Hazel learning the powers of Hecate, which they need to succeed, and Leo finally falling in love. I only wish I could tell you how awesome this book is without giving away too many spoilers, but I can't. The part of the book where Percy and Annabeth are slogging through Tartarus actually *feels* like a slog, which made a weird sort of sense, because it mirrored what Percy and Annabeth are experiencing. At the same time, I liked how all the characters grew and matured, many in what were amazingly large ways (one of those only literally!). It's a great book, and I loved it a lot. Highly recommended, and looking forward to the final book in this series.

Ashes of Honor- It's been a year for Toby since the Events of "One Salt Sea" and since then, she's tried to keep her head down and fulfill her responsibilities to her lord, Sylvester, train her squire, Quentin, and generally keep out of trouble. But when she is approached by Etienne, another Knight working for Sylvester, she agrees to help him, because, unbeknownst to him, he has a daughter he never knew about, and he only discovered her when her mother came to him, accusing him of abducting her. Chelsea, Etienne's daughter, is a changeling that the old stories warn about- full of power, but having no control over them- and his daughter is a teleporter, and can open up paths to places long closed to the fae. Toby and Etienne have to find Chelsea before other Fae can, and offer her the Changeling's Choice: Choose the Human *or* the Fae world, and never see the other parent again. If Chelsea chooses to be Fae, she will gain control over her powers, and her mother might never forgive Etienne. But now Chelsea has done the seemingly impossible- opened a portal to Annwn, the land of the dead, and Tybalt's heir, Raj, is also missing, and his father is agitating for Raj to replace Tybalt as King of the Cats. Since the only way for a King of Cats to be deposed is to die, Tobby isn't going to let that happen. And now Chelsea has been kidnapped by the Regent of Dreamer's Glass, who wants to repopulate the long-abandoned Elven Lands like Annwn. Can Toby rescue Chelsea, offer her the Changeling's Choice, and not get stranded in long-gone places? And can she prevent Raj's father from deposing Tybalt in a bloody fashion in favor of his own son? And can she manage to stay alive while she does these things? She has to, because otherwise, the damage to everything she knows and loves  will be too great to bear! This was a great book. Faerie seems to be fading somewhat, but it can still give borth to tremendously powerful "Sports" who embody powers too dangerous to be allowed in a changeling, and Chelsea is one such. Everyone assumes she has been kidnapped, but was she kidnapped, or did her own powers take her away by accident? And who will she end up choosing when they finally do track her down? And can the relationship between her mother and Etienne be salvaged? All of these questions are asked and then, eventually answered anyway, and for Toby, this is hard for her because she had to offer the choice to her own daughter- and well, you'll have to find that one out for yourself. Still, this was an excellent book that really kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through. Highly recommended.

Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire- Toby Daye has survived her latest assignment, and is now patrolling the city for trouble when she comes across some fae selling Goblin Fruit. Goblin Fruit is only a problem for changelings- to full fae, it's a mild intoxicant, like a goblet of wine. But for changelings, who are neither fae nor human, it is a drug that is all-consuming and instantly addictive. Toby does her best to take down the sellers, but finds out that they are being protected by someone in power. So she goes to the Queen to get the sellers stopped or banished, and loses her temper when the Queen refuses to do so. In return, the Queen banishes her from the Kingdom. She has a week to get out or die. Toby is in a daze, but the Luidaeg tells her that the Queen is not who she seems to be. In short, the Queen, who took the throne because she said she was the only surviving child of the previous King, is nothing of the sort. Now, it's up to Toby to prove that, find the real Queen and overthrow the current one- and to do so, she will have to get into the fabled Library of Stars.  But someone, and perhaps many someones, don't want Toby to succeed. So when she is targeted with a thrown Goblin-fruit pie, can she overcome the resulting addiction to the fruit in time to accomplish all she needs to before she is forced to leave the Kingdom or die? I loved this book. It's full of intrigue and mystery, and we get to see just how corrupt the Queen is, and why she has an especial hatred for Toby. It was also nice to see how Toby and all her friends, the Luidaeg especially, worked together to overthrow the old Queen and bring back the rightful heir to the throne. This book doesn't end Toby's adventures, or at least I hope it doesn't. I'd love to read more with her in the future. Highly recommended.

Death on Blackheath by Anne Perry-When a young maid goes missing at the home of a man important in Naval Defense, it seems that she is the victim of foul play, since blood is found on the ground near the house where she was employed. But who would want to make the maid disappear? And what might the disappearance have to do with British Naval Secrets? It seems as though no one in the house knows anything. Not Dudley Kynaston, not his wife, nor his sister-in-law, Ailsa. But Pitt suspects that someone is hiding something, he just cannot say what, or if it impinges on the dsiappearance of the maid. Then, some weeks later, a body is found in a gravel pit not too far from the Kynaston House. The woman's mutilated body resembles that of the missing maid, but her features have been obliterated, so they cannot be sure. Others introduce red herrings into the investigation, and Pitt and his lieutenant, Stoker, must make sure again, that they have all the facts in the case. Because it seems that the body is not freshly killed: it has been stored somewhere and then dumped in the gravel pit. But who would do such a thing? Is it to interfere in the investigation? Certainly, questions are being asked in Parliament, and Pitt is under pressure to solve the case quickly. But when another, male, body is also discovered nearby, once again mutilated, Pitt is sure that someone is attempting to draw attention to Dudley Kynaston and his household. But who and why? Pitt must uncover a tangled web os duty, obligation and treason to uncover the truth, and least of all will it be easy. Meanwhile, on the home front, Charlotte must deal with not being involved with Pitt's investigations, and the hole that leaves in her life, and her sister Emily is discovering that her husband, Jack, may end up working with Kynaston, and worse, to her, may be losing interest, making her fear for her marriage and her happiness. Can they solve their personal problems without unhappiness? I always love the Pitt/Charlotte mysteries, but ever since Pitt rose to the position as the Head of Special Branch, with the ousting of Victor Narraway, Charlotte hasn't been as involved with his mysteries, remaining a stay at home mother to their children, and she is starting to feel a little left out, despite the fact that Pitt deals with threats to the nation and not simple (ha!) crimes like murder any longer. In a way, she is still helping him, just not as overtly, but she misses the excitement of helping him with his cases. Even so, she still does manage to help him here, and it was nice to see a sort of return to form for this book here. I didn't find the mystery, at least for some of the book, all that interesting, but things did heat up later. These books are sort of laid-back mysteries. in that the stories start slow, but slowly heat up over the course of the book until the end. It's not at a white-hot pitch all the way through. And that's not a bad thing. This was a very enjoyable book, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in historical mysteries. Recommended.

Kindred of Darkness by Barbara Hambly- It has been years since James Asher encountered the vampires living in London in "Those Who Hunt the Night", and since then, he and the vampires have each kept to their side of the agreement they made- Everyone leaves each other alone, and Asher will not hunt them down and kill them. But now, the last master vampire left in London, Lionel Grippen, kidnaps James and Lydia's daughter from their home, along with her nurse. He wants Lydia, who is an academic, to find a new vampire who has come to London and may be a threat to Grippen, Damian Zahorec, so that Grippen can kill him and deny London and Grippen's get to him, Lydia, is stunned by the kidnapping of her daughter, and will do anything to get her back. She wires James, who is in Italy, and also sends a message to another vampire, Don Simon Ysidro, asking for his help. But in the meantime,  she must deal with things herself without falling to pieces. In addition, she must help one of her nieces navigate polite society and make a good marriage for herself. But the presence of an American and his daughter, a very rich American who is seeking a title for his daughter and is willing to pay a very high dowry for the privilege, is interfering with her aunt's plans to marry her relative off. But then it seems that the Lord the American girl is seeking to marry has something to do with the vampire Grippen wants her to find, and she must find out where the vampire is, where he keeps his money and what his interest in the American girl is, for her father is also interested in vampires, wanting to find one to "take care of" some agitators and rioters in the mines he owns in America. But will he somehow get Lydia to reveal where the vampires are, and can James and Lydia get their daughter back safe and sound before Grippen loses patience with them and decides to hurt either the girl or her nurse to threaten them? And can either of them trust anything the vampires say after Grippen broke his word to them? I read "Those Who Hunt the Night" years ago, and I've read every book in the series since, loving each and every one of them. This book was no exception, and I really felt for Lydia, frantic with worry over her daughter's disappearance, knowing that she was kidnapped by a vampire who is ruthless, and who wanted something from her. We get to see how much has changed in London since Asher first hunted for the man who was killing vampires so many years ago, and now it seems that too many people are learning of vampires and wanting to use them. But vampires usually end up using humans who want to use them, and it's no less true in this case. There is also a book written by a vampire hunter, "The Book of the Kindred of Darkness", which puports to tell all about vampires, but how much of the text is true? James must track it down, in its many versions, looking for the truest one, to help him against the vampires that he meets in this book. And in the end, can he achieve some vengeance against Grippen, or will the Master Vampire outwit him and evade James' punishment for kidnapping his daughter? And what will happen if he does? And excellent, entertaining and gripping book. Recommended.

The Winter King by Alys Clare- John is King of England, and it seems that there is a plague of prophets breaking out who claim that the troubles that the land of England is under is entirely the fault of the King. Additionally, a woman named Lilas has visions of a Winter King, who England shall survive, and his heir, who England shall also survive, but who will finally see the rise of a true King who will let the people have a stake in their lives again. Since John's Barons are mostly in revolt against him, one of the Barons is rounding up these prophets to prove that John is unfit to rule, and the woman, Lilas, is taken to the Nunnery of Hawkenlye Abbey to recover from her fit- only she knows she is being pursued, and wants the Abbey to keep her safe. Caliste, the Abbess, promises to keep her safe, but when the Baron and his men come to Hawkenlye to parade their captive friar who is denouncing King John to the people, will they be able to make off with Lilas as well, or can Caliste and the nuns keep her safe? Meanwhile, Lord Benedict de Vitre dies in his own hall at a feast. But the question is, was it merely an overtaxed heart, weakened by too many years of carrying the fat and bulk of his body, or was it something else that killed him? Sabin, the wife of the Sherriff, is called upon, along with two local canons to look at the body and render a verdict as to what caused his death. She agrees with them that he was killed by a spasm of his heart, but in secret, she goes to Meggie, telling her that she had prepared a potion for Lord Benedict, and cannot be sure that it might not have killed him. Meggie goes with her to wash and dress the body, and discovers that Lord Benedict actually died from a stab wound, and thus, her potion had nothing to do with it. But as Meggie is called to Hawkenlye Abbey to help Lilias, the murder is discovered, and Sabin throws blame on Meggie when someone must shoulder the blame. Afterwards, Meggie, who has been waiting for Sabin to tell the truth, accosts her with this, Sabin will only say, "You are different", as if that absolves her of blame. But who murdered Lord Benedict, and why? And can Meggie and her family find the true culprit before Meggie is killed by the man's wife and retainers for the crime? And if that isn't enough, the bodies of two young men are discovered in the wood, brutally attacked. One made it to the hut in the woods, where Helewise finds and comforts him before he dies. Where were they going, and why were they so brutally attacked/ When a friend of theirs turns up looking for them, it seems that the crime might be solved.  But when he is also found killed, the urgency redoubles to find out who killed them and why- and what it may have to do with Wealdsend, where the three were headed? And what may it have to do with a visit by King John? This book is home to three different mystery stories, and each is skillfully interwoven to create a seamless whole, as each mystery eventually morphs into one, with the death of Lord Vitre, the mystery of what is going on at Wealdsend, and the people chasing Lilias, all turn out to be connected in some way- and all by the King. It was nice to see the characters once again, and we get to see how they are treated , and sometimes abused, by the people around them it isn't all happiness and sunshine, and we get to see who Meggie's suitor from another book is, finally. But she loves someone else now, and in the end, they part. I really enjoyed this book, even if it was a little slow to get going. Recommended.

The Adversary by Erin M. Evans- Farideh and and her sister Havilar are Tieflings, which means that they are the offspring of an evil outsider. Farideh is a pact mage, meaning she derives much of her power from a pact with an otherworldly creature, in this case, a devil named Lorcan. Not that she is the only one who has a pact with Lorcan, and he is beginning to discover that he cares more for Farideh than just as another one of his pacts. But she and her sister are wanted by an entire cadre of devils, for they are the spiritual and genetic heirs of one of the Toril Thirteen, the original thirteen Tieflings who made a pact with Asmodeus, a devil who became a God. But when Farideh believes that Lorcan has betrayed her, she makes a pact with his sister, Sairché, for protection and other considerations. One of the unintended consequences of the pact is that Farideh and Havilar disappear out of the Realmns for seven years, leaving their foster father, Mehen, and Havilar's lover, Brin, behind. In trade for this "favor", Farideh must travel to a camp run by a wizard named Adolican Rand, who has been gathering up people who are the chosen of various gods, which will be slaughtered and the "sparks', which are the godly essence contained within them, gathered for Asmodeus to become even more powerful. But Farideh has also become a Chosen of Asmodeus, and when her sister, foster father and Lorcan show up to try and save her, Farideh must decide to try and trust those who care for her while saving everyone she cares about, and the other inhabitants of the camps. Meanwhile, her sister Havilar has to deal with the missing time, and her feelings for Brin, their comrade who has never forgotten her, and the Harper Dahl, a former associate of the sisters who got taken to the camps along with Farideh by mistake, has to try and lead the inhabitants of the camps against Adolican Rand and his Shadevar followers. But can they all come together to find victory? To be honest, I was excited to read this book, but I had never read anything with Farideh and Havilar before, and after reading for a while, I found myself not really caring about the characters and uninterested in their struggles. So this book was rather a slog for me to read. I maybe started caring a little towards the end of the book, but I never really felt any kind of connection to the characters and I felt little satisfaction at the end of the book. I feel that this book is totally skippable in the Sundering Series- in fact, all of them are skippable if you don't like the characters involved. Not recommended.

Why Kings Confess by C.S. Harris- When Doctor Paul Gibson takes a walk around the city on a cold winter night, he discovers an injured woman and a slaughtered man in a horrible back alley known as Cat Alley. He rescues the woman and discovers that the man is not only dead, but his heart has been cut out and removed. The man is a fellow doctor, Damian Pelletan, and he's French. It seems that he is there as part of a French party that is there in England to discuss a possible peace treaty that could put an end to the hostilities between France and England. But it's hushed up, because neither side seems to be in favor of such. Then there are the remains of the French Royal Family, who fled to England after the French Revolution. But why would anyone want to kill someone who was merely the personal physician to one of the members of the delegation? Or it is possible that someone believes he was more than just a physician? Was the killer French or English? Was it the man who wanted the woman, who was also a physician, dead, or was it someone else entirely? And as Sebastian St. Cyr deals with the coming birth of his and his wife's first child, he must deal with his fears of losing her in childbirth, and the threats of her father, who will kill him if she dies from birthing his child. But can he discover who the true murderer is and find out why they wanted Damian Pelletan dead? I loved this book, which brings out so many interesting threads that run through the books. Paul Gibson's being addicted to laudanum, Sebastian's fear of losing Hero to childbirth, his father-in-law hating him… But I really enjoy how much Hero and Sebastian have come to love each other and count on each other- it's really wonderful to see and read. The mystery was also interesting, and I in no way expected the ending from where the book started. The book also expanded on the lives of the other characters, and I loved this book even more for it. Highly recommended.

Dirty Magic by Jane Wells- Kate Prospero is a cop who works the Dirty Magic beat, bringing down people marketing and selling potions that cause worse problems than those they are supposed to treat. But Kate hides a secret- she's the niece of one of the worst potion dealers, and she used to work with him "cooking" dirty potions. But when her mother died from a dirty potion, she left the business, and her boyfriend at the time to go legal and join the police. But being a street cop isn't what she aspires to be- she wants to work her way up the chain of command, however, her history is keeping her back. So when a new Drug known as Gray Wolf appears on the streets, that turns the user into a low-rent werewolf, Kate wants to be part of the Federal Drug probe that investigates the appearance of the Drug. But when her own brother is poisoned with the drug, Kate is going to have to link up with her former boyfriend, John Volos, now head of her Uncle's Potion operation, to identify the components of the potion and make an anti-potion to help cure him. But Volos isn't the only one with skin in the game, and someone wants Kate to fail and be implicated in the potion-making biz. Can she find out who is responsible for Gray Wolf being on the market and find a cure for it before her brother dies? Or will even trying come back to bite her in the butt? Can she come to terms with her previous life and deal with her past and the man she used to love, or will she end up falling for her fellow cop on the Federal task force? I loved this book, which was filled with excellent world-building. Potions are treated like both illegal drugs and the medications which seem to be endlessly advertised and pushed online, everything from Viagra to Anti-depressants. And there is even a specific comment made that the legal potions are just as dangerous as the illegal ones, but they are just subject to tighter controls when being made. For example, the "sexual confidence" illegal potion causes such sexual excitement that the men who use it end up with friction blisters on their penis from over masturbation. Sounds painful and is probably analogous to the "erections lasting too long" that Viagra can cause. Kate is a hot mess, barely keeping her personal life together, but her past is both amazing and a little shocking, and even the end of the book made me smile, even if it was bad for Kate personally. I can't wait to see where this series goes. Highly recommended.

Murder on Olympus by Robert B. Warren- Plato Jones is a private eye who doesn't want to work for the Gods of Olympus. But when a minor Goddess is killed, something that just shouldn't be possible, the Gods wear him down by threatening his ex-wife, which makes Plato reluctantly take up the case. But the case revolves around the Claw of Erebus, a weapon that can kill the Gods that no one seems to be willing to admit exists. And while Plato may be reluctant to take up the case, he's also unwilling to be put off once he has actually agreed to investigate. But when Hera is hoping for Plato to fail so that she can put someone she thinks to be more "suitable" put on the case, is she actually willing to kill him to see him fail? And who is responsible for stealing the Claw and putting it to use, and can Plato find out who is murdering Gods without falling victim to the same killer? I found this an interesting iteration of the mystery genre. The Greek Gods are real and hang out in Greece, where Olympus still exists. But do the people who live there still worship them as Gods, or are they just something like super-powerful celebrities and Business owners? The book never really says. Certainly, Plato Jones doesn't seem to worship them. And neither do any of the other characters. We never see people swearing on or by them and it just led to a strange feeling disconnect for me. They are called Gods, and they have magical powers, maybe…? But we never see them actually being worshipped as Gods (although it is possible that they are only worshipped elsewhere). We also never see if the Greek Gods are supposed to be worshipped universally, or if other Gods exist in other places. I'd be interested in seeing this/finding this out. So, while Plato Jones is a sort of film noir detective working with the Greek Gods, it's not a perfect fit for me. I'd still recommend this book, but I'd like to see more questions answered in other books in the series. Recommended.

Refusal by Felix Francis- Sid Halley is a former steeplechase Jockey who used to work investigating crimes in the Horse-racing . Now, he's settled down with his Dutch wife and their daughter, Saskia, while he works in finance. He gave up his detective work because his wife was afraid of him getting hurt. But when he's approached after all these years by Sir Richard Stewart, the head of the British Horseracing Authority, about someone possibly fixing races, he doesn't want to get involved, but he does at least agree to look at the evidence that Sir Richard has gathered. However, when Sir Richard ends up dead the next morning, Sid begins to wonder if there really is something to the race-fixing allegations, and he can't help but look into it. When he does, he attracts the attention of an Irish thug who is behind the scheme and won't stop until Sid is dead or stopped- and since people know that threatening Sid himself is useless, they go after his family and friends instead. Sid must team up with his old friend and co-worker Chico Barnes to clear his own name from charges of pedophilia and bring the real villain to light. But can he do so with his family and life intact? I only read this book because I used to read the Sid Halley books long ago (admittedly, there are only two of them that Dick Francis wrote) because I watched "The Racing Game" on "Mystery!". I loved the series, and I loved the books, which were really harsh towards Sid and Chico (at one point, they get whipped with chains, which nearly breaks both of them). And now, Sid might be able to get a new hand through a transplant, and he spends quite a bit of time pursuing this. But we are thoroughly in Sid's head, and this we identify with him very strongly. So when he gets threatened or hurt, it's like it's happening to us, the readers. It made me identify with him even more. I got easily drawn into the story, and even though this book is written by Dick Francis' son rather than Dick Francis himself, I didn't think that there was any big difference in style or talent between the two. I would like to see if Felix Francis can make a name for himself in writing his own fiction rather than just continuing his father's stuff. Recommended.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen- Sage is an orphan being raised in an orphanage, but he also looks out for the other kids in the orphanage by stealing food for them so that they can have regular meals that don't consist solely of rich people's barely-still-good leftovers. But when he is sold to a nobleman by the woman in charge of the orphanage, he joins three other boys on a journey to where the nobleman lives. Along the way, they find out that the Royal Family has been killed, but the news is being covered up to prevent panic. But there was one Prince who disappeared on a trip to another country, and he wants to train one of the boys to pretend to be the missing Prince so that the nobleman can get control of the throne by "advising" his chosen Prince. And he shows how willing he is to discard anyone or anything by killing one of the boys when he opts out of the whole thing. Sage fights the hardest against "becoming"the nobleman's chosen Prince, but even he knows the ones who don't make the cut will be killed much like the other boy. He does promise them that he will save them if he is the one chosen, and he ends up making the cut- but one of the other boys will do anything to be the Prince, even killing Sage, and he has plans of his own. But Sage has a secret that can change the whole game- can he win the position of the Prince, or will he end up dying for the nobleman's plans? When I read the blurb for this book, I guessed the nature of Sage's secret before even reading one word of the book, and I turned out to be absolutely right. I think that most people who read the blurb are going to figure it out as well. But it's the details that set the book and the story apart, and it turns out to be very good after all. I liked the character of Sage, but the end we get to see his motivation and it's quite wonderful and unexpected. I highly recommend the book, and am looking forward to reading the sequel.

Tegami Bachi, Volume 16: Wuthering Heights by Hiroyuki Asada- Zazie became a letter Bee to find and destroy the Gaichuu that killed his parents. So when he hears that the Gaichuu has been seen in the Petrified Wood Road area, he heads off there to kill it. He's befriended by Emil Bronte, the Blind Proprietress of the Wuthering Heights Inn, who seems greatly taken with Zazie. But as he finds out, she is merely the servant of the actual owners, who seem to have disappeared. And she has allied herself with the Gaichuu, Laphroaig. Can Zazie take care of Laphroaig on his own, or will he need the aid of the Letter Bees who are his friends to put an end to the threat once and for all? And then we get to see how Zazie grew up and how his parents died. Why does Zazie want revenge of Laphroaig so badly, and why did he dedicate his life to getting it? This was an intriguing story, as Emil seems to have an affection for Zazie, and he seems to develop one for her, but the end of the story is a tragedy, for she was poisoning him all along, as she had latched on to Laphroaig as her only hope, and in the end, it kills her. Plus, we get to hear a prophecy of five young people who were born on the day of the Blink, as Lag was. Emil is another child born that day, and will her death mean the prophecy fails? We don't know, but I do want to find out. This is a bit more adventure-oriented than most stories in this manga, but feelings and love are the primary motivators, as always. This is definitely a good series, with lots of points of interest, even if Lag's tendency to weep buckets at the drop of a hat makes him both one of the most open and honest heros I've ever seen in a manga, and at the same time, makes me roll my eyes a little. Recommended.

Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough- Aral Kingslayer is a former Blade, one of a set of assassins who killed to perpetrate justice, and were blessed in their mission by the Goddess Namara, the Goddess of Justice and the Downtrodden. But the Goddess was slain by the other Gods, and her temple razed, the Blades who served her killed without mercy by the Elite, the God-sworn of the Emperor of Heaven. As far as Aral knows, he is the only Blade to have survived the fall of the Temple, and the only remnants he has to show for his past life is his shadow familliar,Triss, a shadow dragon that can hide itself in his own shadow, and which gives him various powers having to do with the shadows. But Aral is no longer an assassin, though he still works in the shadows, doing jobs that few others will do. So when he is approached by a woman named Maylien to deliver a message, he takes the job, but on hie way into the estate she sends him to, he sees a man named Devin, another Blade who apparently survived the end of Namara's temple. But Devin has turned into a mere assassin for hire, and he tries to get Aral to be one as well and join him in his new business, where he is summoning shadow-beasts like Triss and Devin's own shadow, Zass. But Aral cannot make himself be a mere unfeeling assassin, and he turns Devin down, barely escaping his old friend's attack. But it seems that someone suspects that the Blades aren't all dead, and is hunting Aral. At first, Aral thinks it is Devin, but when he's kidnapped and questioned under torture by men who want to know about Devin, he is forced to revise that belief. Soon after escaping his captors, during which he finds out something disturbing that he never knew about Triss, and by all shadow-familiars, he finds the building where he was held captive, and the area where it was located, has been set aflame. But as he looks to solve the mystery of where the Blades are now, and what is going on, he discovers that Maylien, a powerful mage in her own right, and a noble, is about to face off against her own sister, Sumey, who may be trying to take over the throne for herself. But as Devin is saved by Maylien, and decides to help her- while discovering his feelings for her, can he keep her safe and help her defeat her sister and her sister's ambitions? And can he keep his true identity safe from the authorities as he does so? I really enjoyed this book. I loved the whole idea of assassins for justice, and it was hard for me not to get caught up in Aral's story. We find out how he gained his name, and the things he must do now to keep himself and Triss safe. Along the way, he discovers things about Triss, and himself, that help him define who he is now that his Goddess is dead. This was a fascinating and engaging read that kept me deep inside the story and wanting to know more, right up until the end. It's not an especially long book, but it was really wonderful, with tons of worldbuilding that actually made me believe that assassins could work for a Goddess of Justice. Highly recommended, and I can't wait to read more, since this is the first in a new series.