Thursday, August 07, 2014

2014, Part 7

When She Was Wicked by Anne Barton-Annabelle Honeycote is a poor seamstress, taking care of her ill mother and sister on her salary. But since that isn't enough to keep her family fed, she must also resort to a bit of blackmail to keep up her finances. But when her latest targets are the sisters of Owen Sherbourne, the Duke of Huntford, their brother takes umbrage and sets out to unmask her. Finding out about her situation, he determines his own revenge- make his sisters each a dozen dresses and stop blackmailing others. To ensure that she keeps her promises, he takes her into his home. But having her around is harder on him than he thinks it will be, and he cannot forget how beaiutiful she is, and personally kind to his sisters. But as he continues to help her and her family, he begins throwing all thoughts of revenge out of his mind and instead finds himself wishing that she would stay longer, like, perhaps, for all time... But can a Duke marry a penniless seamstress without completely turning the world upside down? I like this book a lot. Annabelle starts out in a hard place, barely able to keep her family fed, and with her mother all but wasting away due to "Consumption", with Annabelle having to pay the Doctor to look after her mother and for the medicine she needs. To do so, Annabelle, must blackmail the Ton for money to survive. But through her time with the Duke, he helps her by finding out that the Doctor is a charlatan, and the "Medicine" is nothing more than highly addictive opium. And, of course, the attraction between himself and Annabelle is just the icing on the cake. I loved seeing how Annabelle and Owen literally turned each other's lives around, and the surprise at the ending of who Annabelle was related to that allowed Owen to have the love he wanted. This novel is a book I tore through because I liked it so much, and it left me feeling satisfied in the need for a romance department. Recommended.

Odin's Ravens by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr- Matt Thorsen and Fen and Laurie Brekke have found the Shoeld of Thor and met several other children of the Gods, including Baldwin, the reborn Baldur. But Baldwin is dead, poisoned by Mistletoe, and unlike in the old stories of Ragnarok, Fen, the son of Loki, cried for him. This should end Ragnarok, right? Well, apparently not, but they still travel to the domain of Hel (or in this case, a woman calling herself "Aunt Helen") and retrieve Baldwin to take him back to the real world.  But when they go after Thor's Hammer, they have to fight Draugr, and also return to Blackwell, where their families live. But a betrayal in the place they least expected it draw them into another fight, and several reversals of Fortune leave them wondering if anyone they know is truly on their side. And as Fen makes a bad decision of his own that may have far-reaching consequences- can he undo what he did or find a way out of his choice? And what will become of the reborn Gods and their attemtpts to forstall Ragnarok? Another excellent book with elements both creepy- Helen's skin looks like that of a mannequin, and the smell of the Draugr- sort of Viking Zombies, made this another excellent book. It reminds me of Percy Jackson and the Kane books without the framing devices of another year at camp. Seeing the Norse Gods used (after all the Marvel Movies with Thor and whatnot), this was a nice change of pace. The characters remain interesting, and I like every single character in the books, from the Norns (fates) to the Valkyries, Draugr and even the mythological creatures that show up. I a really enjoying these books, and I definitely look forward to reading more. Highly recommended.

The WInter Bride by Anna Gracie- Damaris Chance is one of four young women who are pretending to be the nieces of Lady Beatrice Davenham. In reality, each of them fled from a whorehouse they had been sold to, or in the case of Daisy, worked as a servant in. But despite their friend Abby having married a lord, Damaris doesn't want to be married. Having lived with her father, a missionary in China, and survived there after he was killed by a local warlord, her experiences have soured her on the whole idea of being married. However, Lady Davenham convinces her to have a season in spite of her doubts, to view it as a chance to have fun instead of looking for a husband. She reluctantly agrees, and the whole household discovers that while Abby and her husband are abroad on their Honeymoon, they have been put into the care of Freddy Monkton-Coombs, the friend of Max, Lord Davenham- who Abby married. As for Freddy, he notices Damaris right off, but he is not interested in marriage- until he receives a letter from his mother in the mail, telling him she has arranged a house party on the one night a year that he always comes home, and that at the end of the house party, one of the young women she invites will become his wife. But when Freddy asks Damaris to accompany him as a fake Fiancee, and that they will dissolve such a relationship at a future time so that they will never need to actually marry- she discovers that Freddy ia shunned by his family for the crime of causing the death of his brother. But the things his parents tear into them about, and the way she relishes the verbal skirmishes with his mother, make him realize that she is the only person who accepts him for who he is and refuses to put the blame on him. But when they are trapped alone in a house for two days by rising floodwaters, Freddy tells her that now they *must* marry, because in the eyes of the proper world, she is compromised, even if nothing actually happened. Damaris realizes she has fallen for Freddy, but is that enough to make her go to the altar with him? And can she confess what she has really been doing to Lady Davenham all along, or is their marriage foundered before it has really begun? This was a bit of a hard book to read for me- I suspected some of what happened to Damaris before it was revealed, but the actuality was far worse than what I had suspected. And yet, it was nice seeing how Damaris cared for herself. Yes, she looked a bit mercenary agreeing to become Freddy's false Fiancee for a deed to a cottage nearwhere Addy and her busband was going to live, but I also liked seeing Freddy come out of his shell and Damaris as well, to be the prople they should have been before their families happened to them. The ending didn't make me cry, but it did give me a warm glow in the chest region, and I couldn't quite put this book down to sleep- I ended up staying up far too late to finish it. Nevertheless, definitely recommended.

The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison- Rachel Morgan started out as a mere witch, but has now become a daywalking demon. Still living with her roommate Ivy, a vampire, in a converted church, she lives with Bix the Gargoyle, Jenks the Pixie and his children, and works as a bodyguard for Trent Kalamack, the elven lord who is also a very rich businessman. But something strange is happening to the Ley Line Rachel claims as hers- magic is shooting out of the line, magic that is causing very strange reactions all over the city-and she is only sure of one thing- she isn'tresponsible. Or is she? As it turns out, the magic that is coming out of the line has the same aura of her, but what is coming out is less like magical power- and more like spirits. Specifically, elven magical creatures who are part of the Elven goddess. And they seem to be very attracted to Rachel and her magic. But where are they coming from? And why do more and more of them keep coming through Rachel's Ley Line? Her only hope is to work with her boss, Trent Kalamack- but none of his people seem to want Rachel around. Including Trent's fiance Ellsabeth, who thinks that Trent and Rachel are all but knocking boots together. And then there are the vampires, whose leaders haven't been seen in weeks, and its causing problems with the younger vampires, who are causing problems without the elders being able to keep them in line. And there is a new group calling itself "The Free Vampires", who want all the elders gone or destroyed- which could end up destroying the county. How do they all fit together and what do they have to do with the Elvish magic infusing Rachel's Ley Line. They just think of it as power- but the Elvish Goddess is real- and she's pissed. Can Rachel and her friends survive their wrath as she attempts to take back the magic as her own? I don't often read Rachel Morgan books because there haven't been that many of them that I have read. But this one was packed with action and story, and ended up enjoying it a lot. Rachel's been through a lot of stuff from her first book, but she always kicks ass and takes names, and it was pure pleasure seeing her do so here. And the romance/relationship beats were also good, from admitting she had feeling for Trent Kalamack, to actually starting something with him, even though she might lose her mentor in demon magic for doing so, this book was a definite "win" in my eyes, and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Recommended.

Nine Lives to Die by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown- It's getting close to Christmas in Crozet Virginia, and winter brings truckloads of snow and distributing care packages from the local churches. On her trips to deliver those packages, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, reconnects with her former math teacher Cletus Thompson, now deep in the bottle and unable to drag himself out, and Flo Rice, who once worked at a local stables, but has become strange and suspicious with age. When her pets, Tee Tucker, a Welsh Corgi, MRs. Murphy, a tabby cat and Pewter, an overweight gray cat, find a golden bracelet that falls off the arm bone of s skeleton being dragged off by a coyote, they hide the bracelet in the stables, in an old horse helmet, so that they can "give" it to her on Christmas. but when she finds it prematurely, it turns out to have disturbing implications in the disappearance and presumed death of an old teacher. And in the present day, two men who work with the Boys Charity, Silver Linings, end up murdered, their index and middle fingers cut off. Also, three checks are stolen from Silver Linings and soon recovered. But there isn't anything off about the group's financials, and no money seems to have been stolen. So who murdered the two men and why? And what, if anything, did Siolver Linings have to do with the murder? I always love the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries, and this book is  a prime example as to why- the animals. in this case, do as much detective work as the humans involved in the case, and while several red herrings are dragged liberally through the case, it's only at the end when we see the true picture, andit always blows me away. I love the interactions betwee the animals, old and new, and the way they look out for each other. The people are often cattier than the actual cats, but I love how Harry's pets love and look out for her, and the way they are interwoven in the case. I wish I had my own cat like Mrs. Murphy, and I love the Biography of Rita Mae Brown's real cat, who is called "Miss Pie". This series is wonderful and deserves to be shared with other lovers of animals, and mysteries. Highly recommended.

Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe- Princess Breena of Elden grew up pretty, but also knowing her place in the world- she is to marry well so that her husband can ally with Elden. But when the Blood Sorceror attacks and kills her parents, they send her and her siblings far across their land to survive and take their vengeance. Breena, who has been dreaming of a man, finds herself  in a foreign kingdom, with only a man little better than a beast, a mercenary, and his two brothers to help her. The man, Osborn, is berserker, and he has been dreaming of a woman ever since his Kingdom was destroyed and he was left to care for his brothers alone. First by becoming a mercenary to raise money, and then by raising them alone by himself. When Breena comes along, he doesn't want anything to do with her-seeing her as an impediment to his quiet life of raising his brothers. But Breena needs help so desperately, she is willing to do anything for Osborn. And he cannot resist the siren call of the dream lover he has been dreaming of. But can he teach her to take care of herself and then bring himself to leave her? Or will he be able to marry a Princess, the woman who has dreamed of him, and he of her, for years? And who will be able to defeat the Blood Sorceror and his men? Well, this book was based on a very well-known fairy tale. It might help to know that Breena is blonde haired, and she eats the food of Berne and his brothers, which has been left to cool while they take a walk. Yes, it's Goldilocks and the Three Bears. (Osborn literally means "Bear warrior"), but obviously, this book has a more romantic and sexual slant. I liked the book, as Breena really did her best to learn and while Osborn wasn't being all "emotionally wounded warrior", he does show her real caring and compassion. And the ending was the best, showing how both of them had grown, with the promise of a happier ending. Not stellar, but not a bad book by any means. Recommended.

The Grendel Affair: A SPI-Files Novel by Lisa Shearin- Makenna Fraser is a seer from the South, and she trained as a journalist, working for a scandal rag before she ended up working for the SPI, Supernatural Protection and Investigation bureau. It's run by an actual Dragon Lady (Vivienne Sagadraco), and Makenna is partnered with a former cop, Ian Byrne. Among her co-workers are also Werewolves, Vampires, Elves and other supernatural beasties- takes one to catch one, right? Well, in this case, Makenna and the others might be in over their heads when an off-the-clock favor reveals the remains of a strange creature and a murdered man. The creature turns out to be a Grendel. Yes, like Beowulf Grendel- someone has imported a breeding pair of Grendels into the city just before New Years Eve, with the intention of having them go wild on Broadway and 42nd street on New Years and letting the resulting carnage rip the scales from the eyes of ordinary humans, causing chaos and letting the mastermind take advantage of the chaos to turn humans into slaves and meals. And whoever did it isn't alone- they are working with Ghouls and Vampires who want a return to the old, bad ways. Only Makenna, Ian and the department can find and stop the Grendels before there is mass slaughter and save the city and humanity itself. But will they be able to sort out the clues in time? I really enjoyed this book- the worldbuilding was great, and I found the details of how the various people and races worked together at the SPI to be as realistic as one could expect this sort of urban fantasy to be. I really liked the revelation of the identity of the anragonist, and the final battle, which took up about the final 1/4 of the book. Makenna is apropriately squishy and more than aware of how unprepared she is to fight, and she works on changing that. Lisa Shearin hasn't been one of my favorite authors, but now I am asking myself, "Why?", because this book was seriously awesome to me. Highly recommended.

New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer by Bill Maher- Bill Maher is a flaming Liberal and TV personality. This book collects many of his "New Rules" segments from his show "Real Time with Bill Maher", along with a few longer rants/observations in between chapters. Subjects are arranged alphabetically, and are just the words he used on his show, with the occasional accompanying pictures to illustrate what he is speaking about. In that this book preserved his "New Rules" for posterity, it's great. But if you've watched the show, 99% of this material you will already have seen. For someone new to Maher, it's great. For someone who already watches, well, not so much. This could be great or "Eh", depending how much you have watched.of "Real Time".

Demon's Bride by Zoe Archer- Leo Bailey is a member of "The Hellraisers, a group of young men who have always been on the lookout for themselves. That is why, when they called up a devil by accident, they each gave into their need and greed and asked for different boons. Leo, who was born into straitened circumstances, made the request to be able to see how other people's investments would do when he held a coin that was once theirs. He has used this talent to make vast amounts of money, and now he has taken a wife, Anne Hartfield, the bookish daughter of a Baron with a money probelm. Leo has always been Hungry for more, but as his need to bring down the wealthy and powerful grows apace, he finds Anne an antidote to his need for wealth. But the tattoo of flames that appeared on his shoulder the night he made the agreement for hiw power grows as his hunger to ruin the rich and powerful does, and there is a threat to the Hellraisers from a former one of their own, and when he realizes that his power is turning him darker, he may have to go against his friends to reclaim the man he once was. But can Anne, the wife he has lied to, ever trust him, and will she help free him from his agreement and help him regain the soul he lost? Or will the powers of the Hellraisers give birth to a literal Hell on Eartj, as their desires and power grow ever greater? I love me some Zoe Archer, and this book was one by her that I had never seen before. But I am extremely glad that I ordered and read it, as I enjoyed how the hero and heroine came together. There is no actual before the marriage romance- the book begins with the party after Leo and Anne have been married, but there certainly is romance there, as Leo doesn't deflower Anne until later, and he treats her all along with a tenderness that will eventually be the undoing of his hellish ambitions. And that's what makes the novel so great. Anne's attraction to her husband and her confusion about what is going on with Leo and her marriage, pull the readers into the story, and Zoe Archer's writing keeps you there. I found this book really enjoyable. Highly recommended.

Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh- Ivy Jane is a Psy, but one who feels she was deeply flawed. Forced to rebuilt her mind after a very bad reconditioning when she was barely out of childhood, it turns out that she is one of the few E's in Psy society, the E standing for Empath. Vasic is an Arrow, a psy commando who has been forced into jobs and situations he never wanted to do after the Arrows served under Councillor Ming LeBon. Now that Kaleb Krychek holds the reing of the Arrows, he is assigned to guard and protect Ivy Jane as part of an experiment to see if the E's can save Psy Net and the destabilization that is threatening to destroy it. Gathering a group of E's from around the world, Krycheck hopes that Sascha Duncan can help the E's regain the skills that they need to save PsyNet. But it won't be easy- the psychopathic parts of the NetMind that make up the dissolution would like to do nothing else than crush the E's, and even with the fall of Silence, the emotionlessness that was supposed to do away with Psy Psychopaths, there are Psy who fear the emotions they were not supposed to feel and want a return to Silence. Vaqsic himself is a broken man, one who wants nothing else than to die for the actions he was forced to undertake under Ming LeBon, and an experimental piece of Psy-tech in his arm might end up killing him anyway. Can working with Ivy Jane, and the emotions she raises inside of him heal Vasic, and can a man and a woman so broken ever find Solace and healing in each other? And what of the piece of technology on his arm that is killing him? Will he ever be able to have a futute with Ivy Jane, if he is destined to die? Wow, this book really blew me away. I was still uncertain if I would find a Psy-Psy romance enjoyable (apart from "Heart of Obsidian". But reading this book with Vasic and Ivy Jane made me a believer in Psy-Psy romances, and it was pretty damn hot, in the bargain. I loved every moment of the story as the E_psy's found themselves and started to turn the situation in the Psy-Net around, and Ivy Jane even managed to save Vasic, with the help of his great-grandfather. It was glorious to read, and for that reason, I dub this book, Highly Recommended.

The Girl with the Windup Heart by Kady Cross- Griffin King and his friends track down a killer known as "Lady Ash", who burns her victims from the inside out. But in the course of apprehending her, Griffin is drawn into the Aetheric plane and imprisoned by his longtime foe Garibaldi, also known as the Machinist. Garibaldi imprisons Griffin in a machine of his own creation which drains his Aetheric Energy and feeds it to the Machinist, which only makes it stronger. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Emily, Finley Jane, Sam, Jasper Renn and his girl Cat are looking to get Griffin back, and Mila, the girl who was built to contain the Machinist's mind, is living with Jack Dandy, and getting irritated that he will spend time with his doxies, but hasn't any for her. He tries to tell her that he isn't good enough for her, but she is human enough to have fallen in love with him. Leaving him to make him miss her, she takes a toom in a boarding house with girls who work in Picadilly Circus. When they leave one morning and witness a carriage accident, Mila steps in to save everyone involved, and her obvious strength gets her a job at the Circus, working as a strongwoman. But it also draws the attention of Lord Blackhurst, Jack's father, whom Jack would love to ruin. Blackhurst wants Mila for his own, but Jack ins't willing to let her go. Can Jack save Mila from his father, and does she even need or want to be saved? And back in the Aetheric Realm, Finley must deal with Lord Felix, the lord who tried to debauch her and whose house she was running from when she met Griffin. He is more powerful than Finley on the Aetheric plane, and he has tied his victims to him, using them to attack Finley. But can she overcome his power, and will she and her friends be able to save Griffin and restore him to life? Because Griffin is slowly dying as his energy is sucked away by the Aetheric plane. Can he end the threat of the Machinist before his life is lost? And what will become of Mila and Jack when her landlady is abducted to force Mila to comply with Blackhurst's wishes? This seems to be the end of the series, as all of the threads are neatly snipped off at the end of the book, but maybe we will see more adventures from Finley, Griffin and their other friends in the Future. I certainly hope so, as this series was really excellent, and this book most of all, Mila gets the reader's sympathy, as she deals with becoming fully human. We get to see snippets of her time with Jack before the book, and how much he admires her. It was nice seeing him finally become more than a thug, and more than a rowdy. Everyone ends happy and even Finley gets to meet her father and lay some of the tension between them to rest. A Really excellent end to a terriffic series. Highly recommended.

Gate 7, Volumes 2, 3 and 4 by CLAMP- Chikahito has been taken in by Hana and her group of protectors as they refight a battle that originally took place in Japan's warring states period. Hana and her friends need to make allies amongst the undecideds, so she and her fellow warriors recruit a daycare teacher who is the reborn general, Yukimura Sanada, and her fellow reborn the Sanada Juuyuushi, culminating in a battle which decides Sanada into backing Hana. Meanwhile, Iemitsu Tokugawa, born into the disturbingly pretty high schooler, befriends Chikahito by pretednding to nearly collapse on the street, and later, by attending the dame school as him. Chikahito has no idea who Iemitsu is, and has no idea that his interest in Chikahito has some sort of ulterior motive. But as battle lines are drawn, Hana continues to live her life and collect allies and Oni for the battle, including one that looks like a tiger, but who can shrink itself down to housecat size.. But why does Hana look to Chikahito for approval, and who is he, really? Why are both sides so eager to have him on their side, and why is he so clueless, when everyone else seems to know who they are or were when they were reborn? Questions abound. I actually kind of liked this series, despite having so many questions about it. It sort of keeps the ultimate reason why everyone is fighting to itself, but we the readers get the sense that all of this is of great import. But real explanations are thin on the ground to nonexistent, and only a general sense of where this is going is given to the reader. It does intrigue me enough to continue reading however, and to see what is really going on. What is the point of collecting sll these Oni? And is Hana a boy or a girl? She (and I only say she because she dresses and looks female) is held up as one of the biggest mysteries of all. In short, it's a bit confusing, but I do enjoy it, and will keep reading. Recommended.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Volume 16 by Yuki Midorikawa- Takahashi Natsume can see spirits naturally, a condition which has caused him many problems in the past. Now living with a pair of loving foster parents, he wants to keep his problems with seeing spirits from them to save them from worry. Along with the spirit Nyanko-sensei, he tries to serve as a bridge between the problems of spirits and the problems of people. His friend Taki can only see spirits with the aid of her special spirit circles, but they cause problems for the spirits she sees and some think the use of her circles is an attack. So when a huge spirit passes through her circle and is trapped in her house, she needs Natsume's help to find and free it. But the reason it was passing through is a problem of its own, and Natsumi must find another spirit to get the first one free, and its growing attachment to Taki may cause problems for her further down the road... Then, Natsume's friend Kaname and several classmates from school travel to his aunt's inn to help out during a festival. But when an important festival prop is stolen, It's up to Natsume to track down the thief and get it back, or Natsume and his friends will suffer. But was the theft deliberate or inadvertant, and can he convince the thief to return what he or she stole? Finally, three adorable bird spirits have their pot stolen and seek out Natsume to get it back from the whit Ogre that has stolen it. But when they hear that Reiko Natsume is a monster, they give up on that plan. But when Natsume steps in to help anyway, can he bring the story to a happy conclusion and convince the ogre to return the pot? I find this series interesting. The story started out about allowing the Spirits whose names are in the book to reclaim them, but since then, the story has broadened out into being this kind of spirit bridge and about the other humans who can see spirits. I find it very interesting and enjoyable, and the stories keep me coming back. Definitely highly recommended.

Crossed Blades by Kelly McCullough- Aral Kingslayer used to be a Blade, the holy weapon of the Goddess of justice. But since the other gods banded together to destroy the goddess and kill and disband the blades, he's survived on his own as a shadowjack, a thief for hire, and lost himself in a bottle, trying to deal with being one of the only survivors of the blades. But when he discovers he's far from the only Blade left alive, he took Faran under his wing to teach her what he needs to know. But when an old lover of his, Jax, returns looking for him, he isn't sure whether to be sad or happy that the bones of his face have been reworked to make him unrecognizable. But she has also taken young Blades under her wing, and they are being threatened to make her find and betray her former comrades. And she isn't the only Blade or Senior blade still around- Kelos, Aral's mentor is also still alive, and may have been the traitor responsible for allowing the Temple to be attacked in the first place. As Aral wrestles with the concept of what is right and wrong, and can humans allow only the Gods to determine whether an action is right or wrong, he must help Jax and faran free the other young Bkades and discover the truth of who was behind the attack on the temple. But can he get over his personal failings to do so, and how can he help bring the Blades back together as an organization without betraying his now-dead Goddess? Is Aral up to the task? I am really loving this series. I loved the first book, and this one goes one better, finally lifting Aral out of the gutter to pur him back at the head of many missing Blades. But he's had to wrestle with the concept of divinely defined right and wrong and how the Blades can survive the death of their Goddess without becoming just a group of assassins for hire. All the while performing deeds that will save the young Blades who survived the fall of the temple, and unmasking traitors among thoe who survived.. I really loved this book, and the character of Aral and his shade, Triss. Worth reading and you might love it, too. Highly recommended.

Shards of Time by Lynn Flewelling- Alec and Seregil are growing bored with life in Rhiminee when Seregil starts having dreams again and they learn that the governor for the sacred isle of Kouros has been murdered- him and his countess at night in their beds behind a closed and locked door. The Queen appoints Klia, her aunt, to be temporary governor and also sends Alec and Seregil to deal with the problem- disguising their Nightrunner status by giving them properties on the island and naming them Lords there. Along with them come the Wizard Thero, now head of Oreska House and Princess Klia's lover, Micum Cavish, longtime friend of Alec and Seregil, and Thero's apprentice, Mika. Everyone on the island is convinced that Ghosts are to blame for the death of the Governor and the disappearance of people around the island. Long ago, the island was home to Oracles, and the governor was restoring the old seat of the Oracles and the cave where they used to prophesy. Could his mucking about there have somehow raised Ghosts? And while Alec and Seregil love their new estate, the Plenimarans who used to control the island kept Aurenfaie as slaves, and while the slaves there were freed when Skala took control during the last war, many of the former slaves are too ashamed by their former status to ever go home. Can Alec and Seregil's estate become a haven for them on Kouros? And when Klia is abducted to another world to become hostage because of her ancestry, can those she loves rescue her while she keeps herself safe? This book is, sadly, the final book in the series, but the threads of this one came together in a wonderful way that kept me engaged, enthralled, and reading the entire way through. This book exposes the characters to a new kind of danger and a horrific new foe that will really turn the reader's stomach even as you worry for the characters. Still, it's the relationship of Alec and Seregil that really underscores the entire book. A wonderful, fitting end to the series, and one I am both delighted and saddened about. Maybe after Ms. Flewelling finishes Grad School, she'll have more time to write and we may see some sort of continuation of the series. I live in hope, and Highly recommended.

High Seduction by Vivian Arend- Erin Tate is a chopper pilot working for Lifeline, an elite search and rescue team based in Alaska. But the last person she expected to see step through the door is her old lover Timothy Dextor, a paramedic looking for a job with Lifeline. But even though she doesn't want to face him, she knows he's a top of the line paramedic who can easily handle the job. She is uncertain about whether she can work with him since their personal life imploded. But while what they had together was so good, Erin isn't sure she can trust herself- or her heart, around the man she once loved. As they grow closer through their work, they take up the threads of their old relationship. But how can Erin and Timothy be together when Erin isn't sure she can trust him? As their sex life heats up, the conflict is coming to a head. Can their relationship survive- this time around? I didn't end up enjoying this very much. As a romance it was okay, and it had some good exciting moments, but I had a hard time connecting with Erin's sub tendencies and I jst wasn't in to Tim as a character. I mean, the sub/dom relationship is well-played in some ways, but not in others. In short, there wasn't much negotiation beforehand, and I just ended up not being into it. Just not my cup of tea. Not recommended for me.

A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries- Lady Celia Sharpe is the last of the Sharp siblings left to marry, and she has two months to marry before she and her siblings are entirely cut out of her grandmother's will. She has her sights set on three different men, and she wants the Bow Street Runner Jackson Pinter, who has been working with her family, to find out what he can about the men so she can choose she best and most suitable man. He thinks none of them are good enough for her, but then, he hasn't confessed to her that he is most hopelessly smitten with her. On her behalf, he agrees to investigate, but she has also had a memory about her parents that calls into question everything she and her siblings thought they knew about what happened to her parents. but as Jackson looks into her parents deaths, she insists on going along to help him question her old nanny. Unfortunately, they must spend the night in a small cabin when someone starts shooting at them along the way- shooting at Celia, Jackson suspects. But when he confesses his affections for her, can Celia make her grandmother see that despite his lack of a title, Jackson is the perfect man for her? Or will her Grandmother cut all her grandchildren out of the will for Celia's "mistake"? And can two such utterly different people find love with each other? Reading this book was lovely. Though both characters start out at least somewhat disdainful of each other, over the course of the story, we get to see how much they actually esteem each other- Jackson thinks that Celia is incredibly beautiful and goddesslike, where she values his intelligence and insightfulness. But by the end, both love each other enough to defy their families to be with each other, and celia's grandmother is forced to admit that the twop of them are spectacularly well-suited to each other. I loved every moment of this book. Highly recommended.

Spider by Jennifer Estep- When Gin Blanco receives a gift of Roses an and anniversary Card, it brings back memories of one of her earlier jobs as "The Spider", one of the first, actually. She was hired to take out a businessman, Cesar Vaughn, whose shoddy work practices may have caused a collapse in a new shopping mall that killed many people. That may be bad enough, but along with the job arrives some evidence that he physically abuses his young daughter, and that decides Gin on taking the job. During her spying portion, where she learns as much about her target as she can, she meets the target's son, Sebastian Vaughn, and quickly ends up falling for him. Everything seems to be wonderful- he lavishes attention and dresses on her. But when his sister's birthday party is over, Gin finds herself drugged and is only saved by the intervention of Sebastian's sister, Charlotte- and it turns out that it was Sebastian who was abusing her all that time- and now he plans to kill Finn and her mentor, Fletcher. But can she save them in time, and does she have the power, and the will, to return and take revenge on the man she though she loved, a Stone Elemental with much stronger powers than she will ever have, and put his menace to rest once and for all- and how will she ever forgive herself for killing an innocent man? This book shares many similarlities with other Jennider Estep "Spider" books. The story is about how Gin tends to go into situations half-cocked, makes a miscalculation, is helped by others and ends up surviving and triumphing in spite of the mistakes she made. I sometimes have to wonder how Spider got to be as  successful an assassin as she is if she constantly screws up in this manner. Still, the story is a fun ride and enjoyable to read, and she throws in a reference to her other series, with the superheroes, with a dress for Gin made by "Fiona Fine", who is the main character of "Hot Mama" (and totally another book you should pick up). So, even with the uneven message about Gin and her abilities, I still enjoyed this book, and would still recommend it.

People of the Morning Star by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear- Cahokia is the largest city-complex, and part of the largest grouping of peoples in America. It is mostly run by the Four Winds Clan, and one of their members, Chunkey Boy, is host to the resurrected Spirit of the Great Leader Morning Star, making him akin to a god. But not everyone is happy with the leadership of the Four Winds Clan, or Matron Blue Heron, the leader of the clan. But when an outside force arises, wanting to bring down Cahokia and the Four Winds Clan, it will be up to a motley selection of people to stop it. including Matron Blue Heron, Lady Night Shadow Star, sister of Chunkey Boy who is in mourning for her husband, slain recently in battle, a thief known as Seven Skull Shield, Fire Cat, the man who slew Night Shadow Star's Cousin, and Piasa, Jaguar Lord of the underworld, who speaks to Night Shadow Star. For if they cannot save the city, fire, darkness and chaos will sweep the land, destroying everyone and everything it touches. But who is the mysterious warrior known as "Bead", and why does he want Night Shadow Star so much? and what spirit is he seeking to conjure with his sacrifices? Can Cahokia win against a man who seems to have the spirits, and a tribe known as the Tula, on his side? I enjoy reading these novels of Ancient America and Ancient Americans, and all of them take place before Europeans set sail for America and American shores. This game takes place in approximately 1100AD, and Native Americans had built, Cahokia, a huge mound city in the Mississippi Valley. But, like any concentration of wealth and power, some are seeking to bring it down and destroy it, and Bead is one of those. Like some people, the rulers of Cahokia don't see it coming, but once they become aware of the threat, have to mobilize to respond to it. And out of this, the story grows. These novels are always interesting, and i completely enjoyed this one. I sort of had an inkling as to who Bead was, but the details of his crime and why he was banished and "killed", was pretty unexpected. There is lots of killing and gore and adult subjects (Seven Skull Shield makes his living seducing woman and stealing srtifactsthat belong to their husbands), but the story is amazing, and the intrigue and infighting made reading it and the twists and turns of the story, something I found incredibly enjoyable.. Highly recommended, bith as a book and a series, despite the fact thatr none of their characters overlap between books.

The Immortal Crown: An Age of X Novel by Richelle Mead- Justin March is a religious investigator who works for the Republic of North America, known as RUNA, which is made up of what remains of Canada and most of the North of the former US. His protector is Mae Koskinen, a super soldier who comes from one of the few remaining pureblood strains. Although RUNA has no official religion, religion is somewhat frowned on, and Justin's job is to prevent any foreign religions from getting a foothold there. Which makes it doublyironic that Justin himself is one of the elect, God-touched and possessing the powers of the God Odin. But he isn't the only one in his household. Mae, it seems, has been having dreams, and in their last adventure together was gifted with an amber blade, but she isn't sure she wants to be part of the designs of the gods. So when they are sent into Arcadia, another nation that is made up of what was formerly the southern states of the US, he doesn't want to be there. But Mae's niece has been kidnapped across the border by the Arcadians, who practice plural marriage, with one man and many women. This leaves a shortage of women for their sons, thus their need to enslave women from elsewhere and make them part of their society. But in addition to having to visibly live by Arcadian mores while they are there, Justin must ferret out a plot by the Arcadians to infiltrate and take over RUNA by taking out their communications system, while Mae must find her neice, guided by the God-sent dreams, and find a way to take her and the other enslaved girls home while evading the Arcadian forces. But will Mae welcome the Goddess who is guiding her actions, and what will be the fallout of their trip into Arcadia? Can they smuggle some of the women into RUNA, where they will have much better lives, and what can be done about Arcadia and their repressive religion? And, at home, Justin's adopted daughter wants to become a reporter, but can she stomach the tasks that her mentor, a muckraking reporter, wants her to do in rooting out the secret religionists that make their home in RUNA? This was a very interesting book. This is the second in the series and I haven't read the first, but the threads of the story were fairly easy to pick up, and I really liked the characters. I did feel that the nation of Arcadia was laying it on a bit thick, and people who feel strongly about religion are going to find Arcadia rather distasteful to them, being highly religious, filled with plural marriage (much like the Mormons), and keeping women in a slave-like state. Yet, for me, it was interesting to see the Arcadians dealing with the same problems as the offshoot of the Mormon community that have plural marroage- lack of enough young women for everyone. And the family we see seems to only have male children, so I have to wonder what happens to daughters- we generally don't see that. And, of course, the head of the Arcadian religion is a hypocrite on top of it, sleeping with women to ease his burdens while denying other priests the right to do the same. So, again, this will be very distasteful to people of religion, as it caricatures modern religion very highly, and the only "sane" religions are ones they will categorize as pagan. It will not be a happy reading atmosphere for them. I had no problem with this book and found it very enjoyable, but some people won't, and you should be aware of that before reading. Recommended, with caveats.

The Ides of April by Lindsay Davis- Flavia Alba is the adopted daughter of Marcus Didius Falco and his wife, Helena Justina. Now a widow, she has turned to her father's old profession, informing, and makes her living as a professional informer, a detective-cum-witness who works in the seedy underbelly of the Roman world. She is living in her father's old, ramshackle building, all by herself, though she does have a porter, a former gladiator, who protects the building. Hired to look for witnesses to a horrific accident that killed a child, Flavia becomes aware that someone is killing off women. When a matron she was talking to is killed shortly after Flavia speaks to her, and called Flavia's name as she was dying, she takes on the case and the company of two men, Andronicus, a slave of the plebian Aedile, Tiberius Manlius Faustus, and a fellow informer named Tiberius. But as more women die from no apparent discernable cause, she realizes that someone close to her might be trying to guide her in certain directions- and may even be interested in taking her out. But can she discover the true culprite before time runs out, and she becomes the victim? I really liked this book. My only complaint would have been that we never see Flavia consulting with her father. Oh, it's the reign of Justinian now, and things are different, but it would have been nice to see the two generations working together. I suppose that Lindsay Davis was afraid that Falco would take over the story, and I suppose that's a good reason for not doing it. But I liked Flavia's voice and the very ancient Roman sensibilities that she and the other characters in the book espouse. I even liked finding out the true identoty of the murderer, and seeing her work out who it was, as well and the appearance by Postumus, her brother, who sort of reminded me of Ramses from the Amelia Peabody Emerson series. I enjoyed this book and will almost definitely end up reading the series. Recommended.

Enemies at Home by Lindsay Davis- Flavia Alba, recovered after the events of "The Ides of April" is approached by Manlius Faustus to help him investigate the deaths of Valerius Aviola and his new wife, Mucia Lucilla, strangled to death in their bedroom during the night. The problem is that their house was full of slaves who claim they heard nothing, and now some of those slaves have run to the temple of Ceres and taken shelter there, because if they are blamed for not helping prevent the deaths or apprehend the murderers, they will all be put to death as a reminder of what happens to slaves who betray their masters. It turns out that the house was a hotbed of competing interests, with Mucia having brought some of her own slaves into the household, some of which clashed with the slaves who were already there. And then there is Myla, a slave who was Valerius' choice of a mistress and who had just given birth to one of his children. Also, silver from the house has been stolen (or gone missing) and there is a bad gang in the area which makes a career of theft. Could they have had something to do with the deaths? Or Valerius' ex-wife, who raised three of his children mostly on her own and who is angling to get the house where Valeriu and Mucia were about to move to put in her name. Can Flavia untangle the threads and find the real culprit or culprits and bring him, her or them to justice? A second very good book in the series, and one I quite thoroughly enjoyed. This was sort of a locked room mystery- only the room wasn't really locked. But the slaves claim to have seen and heard nothing- a claim that Flavia quickly shows to be false. So it's possible that the victims didn't even get the chance to cry out fot help. I found this a really enjoyable book, even the ending, which was sort of gross. I have my own suspicions as to what fouled the well, but those weren't borne out in the book.. This was an enjoyable look at roman "justice" and it's something I definitely will be reading more of. Recommended

Sapphires are an Earl's Best Friend by Shana Galen- Lily Dawson is a celebrated courtesan known as the Countess of Charm. But in reality, she is merely a fallen women who puts on a very good show, and works for England as a verydiscreet spy. Sent by her handler to find out the truth of whether the Duke of Ravenscroft is a famed spy known as Artemis, her job is to search the house while the Duke attempts to seduce her, and she puts him off by holding out for marriage. The only fly in the ointment is the Duke's son, Andrew Booth-Payne, the Earl of Darlington, who Lily was madly in love with, but he was in love with her friend, Juliette, now married. The memory of her constant rejection stiffens her spine when Andrew decides to keep Lily away from his father by making a play for her himself- only to find himself becoming steadily more enamored of the woman he has constantly overlooked.. But can he bring himself to fall in love with someone so wildly unsuitable, and will his feelings for her hold after he discovers the true reasons fot accepting his father's invitation to his house party? As for Lily, despite her disdain for the man who never even knew she was there, she cannot help but develop feelings for him, but can she tell him the truth about who she really is and why she is there without losing whatever connection there is between them? I enjoyed this book more than I though I would. Shana Galen is a new author for me, but the colors of the cover attracted my attention. I may be a ruby birthstone gal, but Sapphire blue is one of my favorite colors, and the cover is mostly that color. I found a delightful book that made me want to read more and I never lost sympathy for both hero and heroine throughout the book, and the ending twist just blew me away. Well done, and someone whose writing I want to read more of, Highly recommended.

Shaman Rises by C.E. Murphy- Joanne Murphy used to be a cop before she nearly died and gained shamnistic abilities. While she was trying to keep her job as a cop, she recently quit to begin a new life aa a dedicated Shaman. She is also having a romance with her former boss, Morrison. For the last year, she has been fighting the Master, the most evil entity in the otherworld, who is trying to destroy the world that exists. But now is the time for the final showdown, and it's not just her own ass on the line  this time. She has built a web of people who care for her, and people she has helped, and the Master doesn't scruple to keep away from them if they can be used to  get to Joanne. Not only that, but Anne, the wife of her friend, Gary, is somehow still alive and under threat from the Master, who is using her soul to feed himself the dark emotions he thrives on. Joanne will have to find a way to free her, and bring down the Master, while keeping Anne safe and alive. But will Joanne be able to do it, or will she end up failing, and bringing an end to the world as well. Because the Master is threatening the whole of Seattle with his powers, stirring up fear and anger and hatred, and if Joanne doesn't find a way to beat him this time, her entire world is at stake... This is the last book in the series, and a more fitting ending I couldn't think of. Joanne was a bit of a mess in earlier books, but she has finally discovered who she is at heart, and aside from the stuff that happens here, she's at peace with all sides of herself and who and what she is- and she'll need that knowledge to defeat the master, along with the help of her friends and teachers. Lots of stuff happens in the book, too much of it dark to really call it "enjoyable", but it does show the menace of the threat they are facing very well, and I really enjoyed the book and the story overall very well. As I said before, a very fitting end to the series, and I will be looking forward to more books and series by C.E. Murphy in the future (perhaps more of the negotiator series, HINT. HINT... ?) Highly recommended.

Trouble in Paradise by Liz Ireland- Ellie Fitzsimmons is, as they say, "a gal in trouble". Pregnant and alone, she traveled into the west to set herself up as a widow and give birth to her child where nobody knew her to escape the shame of having a baby as a unwed mother. but when she stepped off the train in Paradise, Nebrasks, a place where she'd been corresponding with a landowner on various subjects, she didn't expect to meet a man who would appeal to her in every sort of way... Roy McMillan was the brother of the man she'd been correspondibng with, and he wasn't interested in either marriage or romance. But he found Ellie hard to ignore, and he couldn't help of thinking about her in a romantic way. But can she bear to tell him her true circumstances and will he reject her when she does, and make it impossible for her to live in Paradise? This was a cute book, and even though the main characters go through lots of ups and downs, I liked how they came togerher and how Ellie managed to change Roy's outlook on so many things. He's not the only one whose outlook changed, though, and this was a fairly feel good book. Recommended.

Midnight's Master by Donna Grant- Gwynne Austin is a woman on a mission. Her father, a noted academic, has disappeared in Scotland, and since he is her only parent left, she leaves her life behind to go looking for him. But when she gets to Scotland, she runs into Logan Hamilton, almost literally. Logan is a man from the 1600's,. propelled through time by the Druids in search of another Druid, Deirdre, a drough, or evil Druid, who has been opposed by Warriors, like Logan himself. Long ago, the greatest warriors of each family were brought together by the druids and unimaginably powerful Gods conjured into their bodies in order to defeat the Romans. Logan felt that he could be a warrior, and the spirit of the God inside him was wakened by Deirdre, who then imprisoned him, and when Logan and several others managed to leave, he returned to his village to find it gone, along with his family. He dedicated himself to fighting Deirdre, but when she escaped into the future, the mie, or good druids, sent him as well to follow her. Logan and Gwynne are drawn to each other, and Gwynne herself is of the Druid line. and she may be the guardian of a special book of Druid lore, known as the Tablet. But the tablet can only be touched, and the tome that leads to it, can only be deciphered, by its guardian. Could Gwynne be that Guardian? And will she choose to stay with Logan when he never speaks to her or love, or will she break through his emotions and spend an eternity with him in the Highlands? This was an interesting book, and I actually enjoyed the story behind the main book, although it seems that there can be an interesting parallel to stories set in the past, as several of the characters are already paired in the books, but I haven't seen those characters in other books. I wonder if their stories will be told as well, such as the character who is the only female warrior- now there is something I'd like to read! I'm not sure if the twist with Gwynne's father made sense, but there was plenty of story, and plenty of romance, and a satisfying lack of "Predestined love", which almost always seems to be a crutch to short-circuit the relationship. Recommended.

Broken Homes by Ben AAronovitch- Peter Grant is a police constable with a difference. He is also learning to be a mage from his mentor on the force, Nightingale, who is inexplicably unaging, along with being a master of Magic. But Peter still has work to do, along with Lesley, his co-worker, who must wear a mask to hide what remains of her lower face after a disastrous case. But investigating the death of a town planner and a missing grimoire ties into a strange building around which things are going even stranger. Rooms are locked out by the local Guard, a police and fire hazard and therefore illegal. But the builder may have been a little crazy himself- or perhaps he was also a mage. And why would someone want to build a magical building like this, anyhow? This book promised a combination of Harry Potter and CSI (in a quote on the cover), but to me it read far more like "British Police Procedural with a tiny bit of magic mixed in. I can't say I really enjoyed it. Yes, it was British, but there was no sense of Harry Potter-like magic or the kind of stuff that CSI does so well- showng the science of how crimes were/are investigated. So it kind of failed on both fronts for me, and for both of the reasons I picked it up. Not recommended.