Saturday, October 04, 2014

2014, Part 9

Kalona's Fall by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast- A long time ago, Mother Earth made the gods and goddesses as her children. But all but one of them left the earth out of boredom. The only one left was the Goddess known as Nyx, and she found the earth lovely and beautiful beyond all measure. Because she stayed, Earth gave her gifts: Power over the elements, including spirit, and, because she wanted a lover and companion, Mother Earth asked the Sun and the Moon to create companions for her; Lover, companion, plaything and friend in each. They were Kalona and Erebus, and while Nyx loved Kalona, he felt unequal to his brother. The Earth Goddess commanded a competition between the two, Kalona wanted very badly to win. But can he compete with his seemingly better-favored brother as he inadvertantly helps create the Vampyres and seems to do wrong every time he tries to do something good. But can even the immortal lover and plaything of a Goddess deal with the guilt and the darkness that he has seemingly helped unleash< or will it defeat him forever? I loved this book, which was written rather like a fairytale, but at the same time, helped me understand Kalona's love and frustration. It even ends like a fairytale- but here there are no "happily ever after"s. I felt bad for Kalona after reading this book, and it's so unlike the other books in the series- but not in a bad way. A more mythological way. Definitely recommended, though. A wonderful companion to the "House of Night" series.

Forbidden by Jacquelyn Frank- Docia Waverly is on her way to work when a car nearly runs her down. Jumping onto the guardrail of the bridge she was walking on sees her pushed over the side and onto the rocks below- and she can't even say why it happened. But while she is dead, for lack of a better term, she is approached by a strange woman who asks Docia to mingle her soul with that of the woman so that she can be reborn into the world, Docia finally agrees- because she doesn't want to die so young, and also because she wants to find out who was responsible for doing this to her and why. Shortly after returning to the world (and her brother Jackson, a cop who practically raised her), Docia is attacked again, but saved by two men who take her away to a luxuriously appointed mansion where she is told that the woman who is sharing her body is Hatshepsut, the Queen of the Nightwalkers, and that her love and husband, Menes, will be reincarnated shortly, by the same method she is experiencing, to join her. However, one of the men who rescued her, Ramses, she finds herself attracted to. And he, to her as well, which is troubling to him because Menes, his friend and King, should be her only love. Something about the woman who shares her body, Docia, is attracting him, and despite everything in him that says he should keep his hands off of her, he cannot resist her. But the Nightwalkers, including their Gargoyle allies, are fighting against some of their own- former priests and priestesses from Old Egypt, who wish to control their society and make the rules. Odjit, a female priestess, is ruler of the Rival faction and would like to see Docia and Hatshepsut dead. But when she and her minions abduct Docia and Ramses, Docia must cone to terms with her attraction to Ramses and Vincent, the man he shares his body with. Or is she even Hatshepsut at all? And if she isn't the Queen, who is she really, and what does she have to do with the ongoing war? And if she isn't Hatshepsut, who and what is she to Ramses, and can they discover a way to end the war between the two sides of the Bodywalkers? This was the first in the series to the book, Forever, which I read a short while back. This tells the first story in the tale, how Docia became a bodywalker, and how Jackson ended up getting involved, along with his friend, Leo Alvarez. It was interesting because it pretty much lays out the source of the Bodywalkers, and their society and why they are at war with each other. It also introduces some of the other Twelve races of the Nightwalkers, including the Gargoyles, The Djynn, The Wraiths, The Night Angels and others, two of which we know are also the vampire-esque Nightwalkers and the Shadowdwellers from earlier series of her books. It also mentions a prophecy about the twelve Nightwalker races having to come together to do something, and that sounds intriguing. I liked the characters and the worldbuilding, and I loved the romance and the story. A wonderful read. Highly recommended.

A Wedding Wager by Jane Feather- Lady Serena Grantly was born to the nobility. But when her widowed mother wed a gaming man, her life soon became one of shame and disrepute, with the remains of her mother's fortune fueling her step-father's life. By the time she met Sebastian Sullivan, she seemed not to care for anyone. But she fell in love with Sebastian and shared as much as she could of herself with him. When her father was forced to move on by gaming losses, she threw Sebastian out of her life and followed her foster father-s omething she has always regretted. Now, finally back in England, she is determined to leave her foster father behind and foil his burgeoning romance with an innocent daughter of a wealthy tradesman. But what she didn't count on was Sebastian coming back into her life. Sebastian, for his own part, feels he has gotten over the way that Serena crushed his heart, but once he sees her again, he can't get her out of his mind. Meanwhile, he must find a bride from beyond all bounds of decency and redeem her if he wishes his family to not become destitute- and his two brothers also share in this mission. His older brother has already found a bride, but Sebastian can see no other woman for him but Serena. Does he have a chance to rekindle their love for each other, or will her schemes to undo her stepfather interfere with their own romance? More to the point, where does Serena's heart really lie, and can she overcome her step-father's abuse of her to reclaim the life and love she should never have had to give up? I liked this book. Serena and Sebastian spend so much of their time wearing masks- that only they can see what is really behind the mask and see each other. This gives their romance a tension and also a strength that I loved to read. Serena's history is often sad, but she never feels sad for herself or gives into sorrow or hatred (and she really dislikes her stepfather- but who can blame her? Reading this made me smile a lot, and I always enjoy smiling as I read. Recommended.

Crave the Night by Lara Adrian- Nathan is a ruthless Generation One Breed, raised in a prison by Dragos, a mad Breed male and trained to be a ruthless warrior and assassin. Rescued from slavery by his mother, Corinne, and her own mate, Hunter, he spent the rest of his life trying to be an Order Warrior instead and trying to adapt to being more normal. But he's still struggling with allowing people- even his own mother, to show him love and ternderness, because he was ruthlessly punished for either allowing it or showing it on his own. However, Nathan was recently kissed by a female Breedmate named Jordana Gates, and despite his task to find and bring down Cassian Gray, a seeming Breed who runs a gambling den/fighting pit in the heart of downtown Boston, Jordana keeps showing up as part of the case- Her friend, Carys Chase is in love with one of the Breed fighters in the pit, a male named Rune, and Jordana and Carys are close friends. Jordana is supposed to be marrying a Breed male Lawyer, Elliott Bentley-Squire, but it's a choice being pushed on her by her father, who wants her to be married and mated before her twenty-fifth birthday. The question is, why? But she cannot keep away from Nathan, and to be honest with herself, she doesn't really want to. Something about his danger and wildness bring out a deep, hidden wild side of Jordana's own. But Cassian Gray isn't human or Breed- he's Atlantean, the race that wants to kill all the Breed, and the humans as well, so when Cassian Gray makes a visit to Jordana before he is killed by his fellow Atlanteans, Nathan wants to know why- and Jordana has no answers to give him. But as Nathan sticks close, drawn by his feelings for the cool, but passionate Breedmate, both he and Jordana will have to unpack all their assumptions about each other and who and what they are- because Jordana is more than just an ordinary Breedmate, and the secrets behind who she is may save more than just Nathan and the Breed. Wow, this was some book. I read this one in something of a fever, as it scratched a real itch for me to do with my "Bad Boy" and "Hot, Dangerous lover and lovemaking" wants. Reading this book left me a little breathless and I couldn't put it down for very long. I was craving bad boys and hot loving, and that was exactly what I got and then some. This book scratched all my itches and made me want more of the same. Definitely recommended, and it's nice to see more Breed books now that the Dragos arc is finished.

Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen- Jane Bonde is a female spy working for England, trying to bring down the French Spymaster, Fonce. But as she grows older, she is no longer able to travel viably on her own, and her own uncle has decided that she must be married. He has even picked out her groom- Dominic Griffyn. As for Dominic, he has a past as a bastard to contend with, and is quite content on his own. But his mother and stepfather require him to marry Jane, who he's only heard of as a paragon- a diamond of the first water who is wanted by men everywhere. He only wants to raise horses and live his life, but neither of their families will allow them their wishes. But can Jane still track down Fonce with her fiance and husband following her everywhere, and will Dominic realize that his wife is actually a spy? Worse, will he get caught up in her chase and either give the game away or ensure she is unable to do her job? Is there hope for love and redemption on both sides in this marriage made on paper? I looked at the back of this book and thought it sounded interesting, at the very least, so I picked it up- but alas, it was not to be. Neither character really appealed to me, both were rather too mannered to make me think of kickass woman or manly derring-do and the story as a whole just left me cold. This book was a "Did not finish" for me, as I abandoned it anout 1/4 of the way in. If you like regency-era spying (or slightly earlier) and pastiches of James Bond, only in a female vein. this book might appeal to you. Unfortunately, it didn't hit me where it needed to. Not recommended.

Forsaken by Jacquelyn Frank- Leo Alvarez is only human, but it was his hand that laid low the Vampire Priestess Odjit, and when his friend, Jackson is nearly mortally-injured by the Imp God Apep, Jackson is only saved by the intervention of Faith, a messenger Night Angel, a being with black skin, white hair and chartreuse eyes, and blue-white wings. She stabilizes him, but healing Jackson and restoring his souls to balance is going to take a Marid Djynn, and to find one, Leo and Faith must use a niknak to find Docia's Djynn friend, SngSing, who might know of a Marid Djynn who can do the task. But none of the other bodywalkers can leave, so it's up to Leo and Faith to do the job. Leo, however, hates Nightwalkers of all kinds, having recently been kidnapped by one and held under torture. But he may have to give up his prejudices when he travels with Faith, as his bad feelings hurt her in ways he wouldn't want to inflict on anyone, no matter how damaged he is inside by what he has undergone. And when they find the Djynn, he has a job for them to do, stealing a nikkie- a living niknak. And even then, he demands a price for the healing- a price that Leo himself must pay. But is Leo willing to do that for an old friend, who he doesn't even view as his friend any more, and is Leo able to let go of his bitterness to find love for himself? I liked this book, but there were also a few things I didn't like about it. For one thing, I expected the "Night Angels" to be a little more alien and less human than Faith was written, and her family seemed less Angel-y and more like a normal human middle-class family with wings and a condition that turned them albino-white in the sunshine. I found that a bit disappointing. Yes, I know we, as readers, are supposed to be able to understand these characters, but aside from her features and her powers (flight, the ability to read minds and send souls to rest), the character of Faith was very mundane, especially when you get the reveal towards the last third of the book. And for some reason, that just rankled me- Don't get me wrong, the romance itself was great and the story was extremely enjoyable, but the character of Faith just seemed too ordinary to have the role she was playing, if that makes any sense. I liked how Leo reacted to Faith, but the way they got around his distrust of her was handled with a very convenient cop-out- I would have liked to see him deal with his antipathy and distrust and not have it so easily hand-waved away. Other than that, though, the story is fine, with lots of hot romance and love. I just wish the problems I had with it were handled better. Recommended- your mileage may vary.

Fire Rising by Donna Grant- Sammi Miller owns a pub in the Highlands, but her ex-boyfriend business partner is up to his ears in trouble- and now he's in trouble with the mob. He confesses to Sammi that he's been laundering money for them through the pub, and also that he's been skimming off the top- and now he's been caught at it. He warns Sammi, telling her to run, but before she can, the mob man guns him down in cold blood, and Sammi is forced to go on the run. As she leaves, the pub is blown up behind her, and she's wounded in the shoulder. Haunted by the feeling that someone is watching her, she keeps moving, heading towards Dreagan, a small Scottish village that is home to Dreagan Industries, a producer of Whiskey. Unbeknownst to Sammi, it is also the home of the Dragon Kings, and her sister, Jane, who Sammi wants to take shelter with for a short while, is the mate of a Dragon King named Banan. Also a Dragon King is Tristan, who fell out of the sky one day two years ago, and who is the newest Dragon King to show up. Tristan, though, used to be a Dark Warrior named Duncan Kerr, until he died and lost the Warrior inside him. He was somehow reborn as a Dragon King, but his memories of his life with his twin brother Ian are dim and confused- and he can't even be sure if he really was Duncan. But when Sammi shows up in Dreagan, her sister is determined to help her, and Tristan finds himself attracted to her. But both of them have ISSUES, and Tristan is drawn into a conflict with both Ulrik, the Dragon King of the Silver Dragons, who wants to kill and Dominate mankind, and the Dark Fae, who want Sammi for reasons of their own. As they try to survive and make sure of what and who they really want. Tristan must decide what he must do regarding his possible twin, and Sammi must deal with the fact of what Tristan is, and what being the possible mate of a Dragon King might mean for her. She also has to come to terms with the fact that her sister and Banan's enemies used her to get to her sister and deal with the lies Jane and Tristan told her- but can both of them do that and make the right decisions that will lead to them finding love and keeping those they love safe? I read some of Donna Grant's Warrior books and this new series nicely dovetails into that one with Tristan being Duncan Kerr reborn. Although we don't get *why* he was reborn as a Dragon King, we do get an awful lot of worldbuilding (even though this isn't the first book in this series, but the third. I liked both characters fine, and I liked how Sammi tries to get through life on her own, without relying on anyone- and when she has to rely on someone, she doesn't like it, because I am that way myself. A really great book, a good romance, and an interesting backstory and world. Recommended.

Shadows Before the Sun by Kelly Gay- Charlie Madigan was once human, but now she carries the powers of three other races inside her. Also, her partner Hank, a Siren, has been kidnapped by his people and brought to Elysia, his world, to be punished for the crime of running away from the towers that protect the city- towers which are run by young children who are only supposed to serve for seven years, but who actually never leave. Hank managed to get free, and he knows the truth about what goes on in those towers, and it's little better than slavery for the children who serve there. They are kept so isolated with magic, that by the end of their term of service, they are unable to leave, because they cannot function in the real world. But Charlie is determined to get Hank back, so she goes to Elysia, where she meets Alessandra, a seer who she has had dealings with in the past. Alessandra has seen a vision that means Charlie's mission is something that Alessandra needs to help her with, so Alessandra claims Charlie as her bodyguard and helps her get to see the Circe, the Siren Witches who act as advisors to the King. But as Charlie searches for Hank, he is undergoing the NecroNaMoria, a horrific curse that ties his soul to his body after he has died and keeps bringing him back as he undergoes horrific torture, which is slowly driving him insane, and he cannot even die to escape the torture. But as the forces at home deal with Jinn Crime Boss Grigori Tennin search for Akhneri, a divine being, Charlie must discover a stone tablet for a mage from Earth and also find and free Hank from his fellow Sirens- only the Circe have a secret to hide, and it's not just the secret that Hank knows, and they are willing to kill anyone who stands in their way- up to and including Charlie- and of using Hank to do the deed. Can Charlie get Hank to remember who he is, and does she have any chance of standing up to Hank's people and ths who would do her and her partner wrong? And what does it all have to do with the Siren's "stolen words" from out of the past, and can Charlie kill the Death that just might kill her because of the powers she now holds? Well, this was the last book in the four book series, and I never did read books one and two. Yet, I really enjoyed this book and the whole sroryline- I liked what happened, and I liked how she dealt with everyone around her. She's not a perfect character, but Charlie Madigan is very interesting to read about, and I wanted her to suceed by the end of the book. The evil she fights is truly disgusting, and I like that sometimes evil can be unapologetically evil- but here, we get to see that this evil is bigger than we thought. Enjoyable book, and if I ever see the first two, I'ddefinitely pick them up and read them. Recommended.

The World of Shannara by Terry Brooks and Teresa Patterson- Terry Brooks wrote the Shannara books starting back in the 80's, and since the first story about the Sword of Shannara, the world has steadily grown and expanded. But Terry Brooks never really wrote down the history of his world, it's all come out of his books, from the "Knight of the Word" series starring John Ross, which eventually folded into the Shannara Universe, all the way up to the books in 2008, this volume collects all the stories about Shannara, and the main characters and the items and people mentioned in the stories, into one coherent volume that lays out the maps of the lands, pictures of the characters (who have generally heretofore only appeared on the covers of the books, and the various artifacts and legends of the lands that make up Shannara. If you are interested in the backstory of the Shannara books, , and if you want to know the stories and legends of Shannara and have them collected all in one place, this is the book for you. It's a coffee-table sized book with pictures in both color and black and white, maps and discussions of everything Shannara-related. I's a beautiful book and I liked the depictions of the various characters and the story of how the land has changed and grown since the first book. The only thing is that the prequels, about the Knights of the Word and how that world became the world of Shannara, are limited to a single chapter in the back of the book- and not a very large chapter at that. I have enjoyed all the books, and this volume really struck a chord in me, showing how the world has changed from "our world", to Shannara. And... is it just me or is Parkasia supposed to be the remnants of Florida? (Possibly a shoutout to Xanth, perhaps?) I liked this book, and if you want to see overviews of the books published up to 2008 all collated into one place, or if you just really love Shannara, this is the book you are going to want to have on your shelf. Recommended.

Valentine Wedding by Jane Feather- When Edward Beaumont dies on the continent, he sends both his sister and the home office a message. But since he was in possession of a message showing the plans for the Spring Offensive, enemies of England go in search of the information. Back in England, Ned's sister Emma is upset to hear of her brother's passing, but is even more upset when Lord Alasdair Chase is put in charge of her finances, which her brother left completely to her. With her increased consequence, she is sure to be a hit on the marriage mart. Once, she and Alasdair were in love and engaged to be married, but a betrayal set them apart, and now Emma wants nothing to do with Alasdair, because she keeps forgetting the betrayal and remembering the many years of friendship and love between them. But when she learns that Alasdair only has control of her fortune until she gets married, she vows to have a lover and a husband by Valentine's Day. Alasdair thinks he is all right with her moving on- until actual suitors show up for her hand and he realizes that he has never stopped loving her. And he must stick around her and find the cipher that was actually sent to her by Ned and not the Home Office. But at least one of her suitors is actually an enemy Spy attempting to Romance her to get the Cipher which she presumably has possession of- and when he loses her back to Alistair, the Spy and his men attempt to take out their frustrations on Emma- and only Alistair can stop them. But will he be able to win Emma's heart after how he shattered it the first time around? And can Emma forgive him and open her heart to him again after all these years as they become lovers once more? Or will the betrayal that broke them apart do the same thing again? This book was like catnip to me- former lovers split apart by a misunderstanding, but unable to keep their hands off each other and unable to stay angry with each other. It was nice seeing a broken apart couple that actually forget why they broke up when they get back together- and how Alasdair chooses to take out his competition was both funny and touching. I loved this book, and both characters came off well, even though Alasdair was being sort of a prat about why Emma was angry with him. "Oh, she found out I have a secret baby with my mistress, how dare she be upset and angry about that!" ::Rolls my eyes.:: Still, I loved this book and enjoyed the story. Recommended.

The Crimson Campaign: Part Two of the Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan- Taniel Two-Shot is a famous Powder Mage. His father, Tamas, overthrew the King of Adro, because he was running the country into the ground financially, and willing to sell out his people for more money to continue spending. However, the country of Kez, who the King was going to sell out to, invaded when it was clear that Adro was not going to capitulate under Tamas. Now, Tamas' command has been cut off from Adro by a counteroffensive from Kez, leaving him stranded behind enemy lines and deep in the mountains of Kez. His only hope is to make his way home, but Kez Cuirassers and Cavalry are hot on his trail, and his army is without supplies. Can Tamas make it home in time to save Ardo? Taniel, now responsible for the death of the God Kresimir, but none of his superiors believe that he actually killed the God. He has also been lost in a drugged stupor as he tries to deal with what he has done. But he is roused by the forces of Rikard, a former councilman who wants to be elected first speaker, and wants Taniel beneath him on the political ladder, since Tamas will not take the reins of power himself. But when Taniel returns to the army, his father is considered dead by the command, and he is merely one more Powder mage- except that Taniel refuses to cede ground to the Kez troops and wins the regard of the troops below him as he stops the High Command from throwing away the lives of the troops, then allowing the Kez to win the land they were trying to defend. Additionally, he discovers that Kresimir isn't actually dead, and is looking for the man who shot him to have revenge- and the only person who might be able to protect him from an enraged God is Ka-Poel, his savage aide. And back in Adopest, Inspector Adamat will do anything to get his family back, including working with a crimelord named Vetas. But when he discovers that Vetas is holding his wife and son, he must find a way to bring the crime lord down and save the woman he loves. But what cost will he end up paying to save her life? And will he and his family ever be the same afterwards? This is an excellent volume to follow up to "Promise of Blood", and I was engaged all the way through the book and the story, even if certain parts were very hard to read. All the main characters caught my sympathy, and even a lot of the secondary characters as well, from Privileged Borbador to Ka-Poel. This is a surprisingly interesting book and series, and builds smoothly out of "Promise of Blood", and I will be very ineterested in reading, "The Autumn Republic" whenever it comes out. Highly recommended and extremely enjoyable.

The House of the Four WInds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory- The tiny country of Swansgaard is overblessed with daughters- twelve of them, but with the birth of a single brother, the King and Queen must face facts: they are not rich enough to make a dowry for all twelve of their daughters, so their daughters decide that when they turn eighteen, they will leave Swansgaard and make their fortunes elaewhere. The first to leave is Clarice, a young woman who has become an expert swordsman. She wants to set herself up as a fencing master, but realizes that she doesn't have a name or the experience to do so. Instead, she signs on a ship to the new world, hoping to make a name for herself there, but disguised as a man to keep herself safe from rape. Unforunately for her, she signs on with a Captain Sprunt, and soon wishes she hadn't, as he beats and mistreats his crew and eventually makes them rise up against him in a riot of blood. Clarice/Clarence, having befriended Dominick, the navigator, sides with the crew and is the one who kills the captain during the melee. Afterwards, the crew discovers that much of their supplies are false, and they do not have enough to reach Hispaniola like they had planned. However, Sprunt was guiding their ship somewhere, and Dominick, voted the new Captain of the now-pirate ship, finds that the Island is inhabited also by pirates, who do not really trust the crew despite having Sprunt's necklace that is used to be able to even see the island. They want Dominick to sail to get a certain treasure to be allowed to leave the island, which requires taking on a woman named Shamal, who is filled with inimical magic. She wants Dominick for herself- but for what end, and why is she trying to use magic to win him to her side? And what can Clairce do to prevent her plan from succeeding? I saw this book, and even though I don't usually read stuff like this, I trusted Mercedes Lackey's name enough to want to read this book. And I can't say I was disappointed. Clarice starts out thinking she has seen it all and won't be affected by her travels, only to learn that isn't so in the hardest and worst way. I loved thr growth of her character, and how she and Dominick started as friends and slowly grew to be more, even before her secret was revealed. I loved this book a lot, and I am definitely looking forward to reading about the other princesses (although I think twelve is a lot for any series). Highly recommended,

The Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee- Amelie Fawr and her sister Celine are the daughters of a seer, and when their mother dies, they have no way to support theselves, except that Celine pretends to see visions of the future, as their mother had. Amelie, for her part, acts as her sister's protector. Celine's first "Vision" is for a young man whose father wants him to marry a rich heiress, but his heart is already given elsewhere. She advises him to marry the woman he loves. Later on, however, Rhiannon. the bride he rejected comes to see Amelie, but she has already been contacted by Rhiannon's supposed fiance, and bribed to make her accept the marriage. Celine has a vision of her new husband accusing Rhiannon of infidelity and having her killed, and tells Rhiannon so. This leads to men attacking their shop and burning it down, they are only saved by the timely intervention of Jaromir, the Captain of the Guard of Sub-Prince Anton, who is the brother of the man Rhiannon would have had to marry and the man who first sought out Amelie and Celine all those years ago. Now, he has a new mission for the girls- discover who is killing young women of his court, and stop them. These are not the usual sorts of killings- the bodies are withered and shrunken- and there is no sign of who is doing the killings. But to catch the killer, each sister will have to reach within herself to grasp the magic that is their legacy, and adjust to a life of balls, fancy dresses and nobles willing to kill for what they want. But the death of their mother has bereft them of information they need to survive. Can they open up to their abilities, and discover the twisted hand behind the slayings, and can they make a new life for themselves, a life they so desperately want? This is an offshoot from Barb and J.C. Hendee's The Noble Dead series. The sisters appear in one of those books, and the two series are set on the same world. Apparently, there are two kinds of witches: Mist-Torn witches, who have their magic from the time they are young, and Cauldron Witches, who must work at magic and throw in a bit here and a bit there into a cauldron. But the two girls, because their mother died early, know nothing about magic or their own family. There is already another book in this series, and I cannot wait to read it. And to be honest, I liked this series a bit more than I liked the Noble Dead series at the outset. The series was easy to read, and a fast read as well. I enjoyed the book and I can't wait to read the next one in the series, which is always a good sign in my book. Recommended.

Wild Wolf by Jennifer Ashley- Misty is the owner of a flower shop, one she has struggled to make work and build her clientele. But her brother is an ex-con, and when men he knew in the pen show up at the Flower Shop looking for him, the only person Misty can think of calling for help is Graham, her sometimes boyfriend who happens to be a wolf Shifter. He, along with some friends of his from Shiftertown, succeed in driving off the cons, but both Graham and Misty are wounded and Misty finds herself offered water by a drifter who turns out to be Fae which nearly enslaves them both, making them want more faery water. Misty consults a book she owns for how to remove their compulsion to drink the water, but while the cure helps her, it doesn't work on Graham, and he, who has been hungering for her, only finds solace when he is "tasting" Misty. And she returns the favor. This leads Graham into even more trouble, as the other shifters of Shiftertown can't find out that Graham is partially enslaved by the Fae, and his relationship with Misty is looked down upon by the other shifters, as Misty is only human, and they want a lupine shifter for Graham's wife. But when the Fae turn up claiming to have made the Shifters and want them back as their soldiers, it's up to Graham and Misty to track down the Fae responsible and free Graham when he is kidnapped to tbe first Shifter to act as a stud to breed a new army of Shifters, it's up to Misty to save him, and when the Fae use the human authorities to "Check" the collars the shifters have to wear to control them, can Graham and Misty save the shifters and help them survive to be free? I thought I might enjoy this book, but several factors came together to make this only a "Meh" experience for me. For one thing, the hero is really an asshole. I know that all sorts of weres and shifters are supposed to be "Bad Boys", bur this went beyond that and into "asshole" territory. Graham, although he rescues Misty and generally treats her well, I just couldn't get into him as a hero. Also, I know someone named Graham and every time his name was mentioned, I got a strong sense of, "No, Graham isn't like that..." And even the other Shifter characters didn't really appeal to me, so I ended up finding this book just marginal. So, this might appeal to others, it was not my cup of tea. Neither recommended nor not. Just "meh".

Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood- A Choir conductor has been murdered, and DI Jack Robinson asks for Phryne's help on the case. Hugh Tregennis wasn't well liked, by anyone on the chorus, but it hardly called for poisoning him and stuffing a musical score in his mouth. But the manner of the death is strange, because the poison would have killed him long before the strangulation was effective. And if someone wanted him to suffer, why poison him, as it rendered him insensible? Phryne joins the chorus as a soprano, but she is also distracted by the presence of an old friend, John Wilson, a doctor who is an "invert" (gay), but who also finds Phryne irresistable. John is treveling with Rupert Sheffield, a mathematician and former codebreaker who is in Australia to deliver lectures on the science of detection. But John is in love with Rupert, while Rupert hardly seems to know that love, or even feelings, exist. Additionally, someone is going out of their way to try and kill Rupert, and John may need Phryne's help to catch the culprite. But when yet aother conductor is murdered, Phryne finds herself needing help to catch the true culprit or culprits, and hope she can stop them before yet another conductor is murdered. But can she tie together the threads of murder into a coherent whole and keep her old friend and his inamorata alive- as well as bringing John's love, Rupert, around to seeing him as someone to love who loves him as well? I liked this book, the descriptions and the singing, and the callbacks to Sherlock holmes in "John Wilson" and "Rupert Sheffield" (who is described in such a manner as those fans of a certain actor will be kicking themselves if they don't recognize him. But it was an interesting story, and I liked the reveal on who the actual murderer/murderers were, even that "Rupert Sheffield" learns to admire the mental faculties of women. And at the end, in the afterward, the author points out that deduction is a purely female skill, and Sherlock Holmes gets lauded for it becuase he is male- an actual woman would not get lauded for such a skill. And that gave me something to think about! Highly recommended.

Air Bound by Christine Feehan- Airiana Ridell has lived with the fear of going crazy, like her mother, who spiraled into a funk of alcoholism and drinking, and then was murdered when Airiana was only sixteen. Luckily, Airiana met up with five other women who had the same kind of trauma in their past, and now they run a farm together. But lately, the patterns she sees in the clouds have been getting more insistent and she is insistenet that something bad is going to happen to her and her sisters. So when an unnatural fog rolls in, she is not surprised to be kidnapped by Maxim Pakenskii, a man who shares the same sort of powers over air that she has. Maxim has been hired by Airiana's missing father, Theodotus, to bring Airiana to him and work on a project she came up with as a child- one that could have devastating consequences for the world as a whole. But her father isn't the only man who wants Airiana. a Greek Billionaie also wants her, and has hired Max for the same reason. And Max wants her for himelf, and can't stop wanting her, no matter how much he tries. But as this hardened mercenary succumbs to Airiana's charms, can he leave his old life behind to choose a new one with her- and the four young Italian children they saved from lives as sex slaves? And can Max adopt a new identity that will pass the scrutiny of the government to be able to live a long, full, loving life with Airiana? I have read some of the other "Bound" books by Chritine Feeshan, and this one was only okay, I felt that the heroine trusted Max too fast, and felt it was more Stockholm Syndrome than anything else, since he made a decided effort to be nasty to her. In most cases, I don't like the whole 'fated mate" thing, because it's generally lazy writing, but here, Christine Feehan made it work. I liked the mix of romance and danger, action and, um, "action". So, overall, recommended.

Star Ward Omnibus: Infinities- This book collects three "what if" stories from the original Star Wars Trilogy, exploring what would possibly have happened if, say, Luke's Proton Torpedo malfunctioned in the canyons of the Death Star, letting it survive. Leia is taken prisoner by the Empire, becomes the Emperor's pet and is turned to the Dark Side. Luke, meanwhile, becomes a Jedi under Yoda and must bring down the Empire and the Emperor, still. The Second "What If" is, what if Luke had died of his injuries and the cold before Han got to him on Hoth. This also ends very differently, with Leia taking Luke's place as Yoda's Student, but The Emperor and Darth Vader believe Luke is still alive, since there are still disturbances in the Force. Lastly, the third "What If" story involves What if Leia had blow up Jabba's Palace with the Thermal Detonator before she could rescue Han?  Han spends far longer suspended in Carbonite while Luke and Leia search for him, but the outcome of what happens to the Emperor and Darth Vader is quite unexpected, and I really loved the stories in the book. They were different, but different in a good way, and I found the stories entertaining and fun, as well as sad, considering what happens in each. I can't stress that if you haven't read this particular graphic novel, you should. I highly recommend it, especially if you like alternate history, paths not taken and what if stories. And even if you don't, you'll still probably enjoy it.

Batman/Judge Dredd Collection by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Val Semeiks, Cam Kennedy, etc.- This grahic novel collects four stories that mingled the world of Judge Dredd with that of Batman. In the first Story, Judgement in Gotham, Judge Death escapes through dimensions to Gotham. Batman finds the belt and puts it on, ending up in MegaCity One. But he soon comes to blows with Judge Dredd, who doesn't like Vigilantes. Can Judge Anderson bring a solution? And meanwhile, in Gotham, Judge Death teams up with Scarecrow to bring some true terror to Gotham City. But  Real Mean has also come to Gotham and is on his trail. Can a restored Batman and Judge Anderson return the evildoers to MegaCity One? The Second Story, Vendetta in Gotham, involves Judge Dredd appearing in Gotham dpecifically to kick Batman's Butt. Meanwhile, the Ventriloquist and Big Boss are plotting the death of a local politician. Can Batmas survive Dredd and still rescue the politician? And why did Dredd come back now? "The Ultimate Riddle" has Batman, Judge Dredd, the Riddler and a host of other people kidnapped by an alien King from another dimension to fight for his pleasure and kill each other. But is it true, or are their perceptions being warped in some way? Finally, in "Die Laughing", the Joker warps his spirit into MegaCity one, where he encounters the four Dread Judges, who have been encased in a crystalline material to keep them imprisoned, but the Joker and they are intent on locking themselves in with a group known as the Seventh Day Hedonists, who are locking themselves away forever in a pod that will serve as their personal paradise. But when a senior Judge is infected with ths spirit of Judge Mortis, he declares Judge Anderson an outlaw, and she is shot before she can make her way to Gotham City, where she warns Batman of what has happened. Now it is time for Batman to revisit MegaCity one and help Judge Dredd battle and contain the four Dread Judges and return Joker's spirit to his body in Gotham. But can Batman really fight four evil spirits, or will the futuristic weapons of Dredd and his fellow judges end up bringing them down? The volume ends with a Lobo/Judge Dredd Story. Lobo is guarding an entertainer known as Uncle Funkle. But it turns out that Uncle Funkle is dead, and a shapeshifter has taken his place. This shape shifter has a brother who is after a gemstone called the Star of Mars, owned by President Richer Rich, a scion of the Rich family. The shapeshiter's brother wants the rings for the power they will give him. But when Lobo comes hunting the imposter and Judge Dredd the ring, will the universe, and their fores be able to stand against two such formidable men? This was an interesting Grpahic Novel. The art is mainly done by British artists, and I can't really say I found the art all that interesting. In fact, I found it downright ugly in the first three stories, and only "Die Laughing" made me *not cringe* when it came to the art. It was just not to my liking when it came to style. The stories themselves were interesting, even if large portions of the second one was just a long, extended fight scene that seemed to be a little off right up until the rest of it. Though we never get to see Judge Dredd's opinion of Batman after that, I'd wager it did change. Needless to say, I liked "Die Laughing" the best of all the stories, for both art and plotting. The Lobo story at the end has both Lobo and Judge Dredd in it, but they never really interact (and that might have made the story even more interesting, honestly. The art was okay, and the story was somewhat needlessly twisty, but otherwise okay.

The Avengers: The Legacy of Thanos by Roger Stern, John Byrne and John Buscema- The disappearance of Thanos leaves his starship, Sanctuary II, behind. Monica Rambeau, the new Captain Marvel, visits it in space. However, she isn't the only person on the ship. A group of alien mercenaries, led by a woman named Nebula, intend to use the ship as a base to take on the Skrull Empire, so when they take her prisoner, Monica discovers that they have warped to another galaxy, leaving her no way to find her way home. Reluctantly, she agrees to work for them. Meanwhile, back on Earth, The Vision steps down from being the leader of the Avengers because a fault in his brain led him to try to take over Earth throught its computer system. The Wasp is voted back in charge, and the Scarlet Witch leaves with the vision to testify before the Joint Chiefs. She is replaced by The Black Knight, and Hercules receives a new costume from Hephaestus after his old one is destroyed. The rest of the Avengers find themselves reacting to a situation in the Savage Land, as a massive, armored warrior known as Terminus destroys the machinery that keeps the Savage Land warm. Terminus, however, is taken care of by Hercules and the Black Knight. And then FireLord show up in Manhattan, and Spiderman defeats him, but the Avnegers take him back to the mansion to have him pay for the damage he caused- backed up by the strong fist of Hercules. In search of Captain Marvel, who has managed to send a message to earth, the Avengers go in search of her, only to find the Skrulls in the midst of a Civil War, fighting over who should tule them. Since Nebula wants to take over for herself, even though she isn't a Skrull, the Avengers end up clashing with Nebula and her forces. But during the battle, Starfox, who is the brother of Thanos, discovers that Nebula is his Grand-Niece, and when the Beyonder attempts to "Help" the Avengers by Banishing her beyond the bounds of the Galaxy, he is incensed and insists on going in search of her. But first they must help the Skrulls settle their internal disputes, and even the Fantastic Four ends up being drawn into the conflict. This was an interesting book. The Avengers has changed roster many times over the years, and we get to see that quite well here, with characters as varied as Starfox, FireLord and Hercules, not to mention Simon Williams, Wonder Man. These stories take place both on and off Earth, and in some of the strangest places in Marvel Earth, but the story throughline is mostly about Monica Rambeau, Captain Marvel, and her experiences in Skrull Space. And that is quite an adventure. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loved comcis or the Avengers. Recommended.

Star Ward Omnbus: Dark Times Chronicles the adventures of two Jedi after the fall of the Jedi Order. Dass Jennir, a Jedi of low power and no particular skill, comes to the planet of Telerath and discovers that people are being endangered by fighting between two gangs, one of which ships slaves. He is hired by a local bar owner and Madam, Ember Chankell, to take out one of the two gangs, but she is secretly working with the head of the other gang. When Dass Jennir ends up getting the two gangs to go to War with each other, But when the fallout nearly gets him killed and his former allies are left in danger, Jennir goes in to rescue them, and decides to taken Ember back to her family on Vondarc with the help of a group of smugglers he once helped and who have been searching for him. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is hunting down the last survivors of the Jedi, Jennir included. But Dass is being hunted by a Bounty Hunter named Falco Sang, and he stacks Jennir on Vondare. Jennir had rescued a bunch of young Children from a man on Esseles, and then killed him and took the man's droid for his own. But the droid, who Jennir has since rebuilt, was transmitting Jennir's location back to the man's family, who hired Sang to kill him. Jennir rescues Ember from Sang, and leaves him behind on Vondarc, where he is found and questioned by Darth Vader, who takes him prisoner and puts him through harsh training. Meanwhile, there a bunch of orphans traveling with a Whiphid Jedi named Master K'Krukh who land on the planet of Arinnea and become part of the planet's refugee population, but have no intention of staying there. In the camp, they meet another Jedi, Master Zhao, and with him, they make their escape in the middle of the night. However, Arkinnea is hiding a terrible secret, and it's something that neither the Empire nor the Separatists would like; Arkinnea's troops are pretending to resettle the refugees in the north and is instead dumping them from a height to die... all because they don't want to deal with aliens on their planet. But can K'Krukh, Zhao and the others find a safe place for the orphans, all Jedi, to settle? Taking the thread of Dass Jennir and his friends up once more, the story switches back to them. They have found another Jedi, Beyghor Sahdett, who has a plan that may end up taking out Darth Vader. But he and Dass Jennir need another jedi to help them, and go to Kestavel to enlist the help of Master Huldorra. But Sahdett is leading them into a trap for the Emperor, and Vader, who has been having his own worries about what the Emperor is doing and possibly maneuvering him into a trap, must go to Kestavel to take care of him. But who will die on Kestavel, and will any of Dass Jennir's friends, allies and lovers escape? Or will he simply be another Jedi swallowed up by the Empire? This was a long but interesting story with Dass Jennir and his friends. I liked the many twists and turns of the story and how allies and enemies and friends shifted around Ember starts as a seeming ally, but actually an enemy, then becomes an ally, a friend, and a lover in fairly short order when she realizes what a good man Jennir is. I found each of the stories satisfying to read, and very entertaining. Recommended.

The Hot Zone by Jayne Castle - Sedona Snow was and still is a talented gatekeeper, but when she is abducted during an ordinary job and kept in a secret laboratory in the Alien Labyrinth underground, and dosed with some mysterious formula, she never realized that she could develop a new talent- one for controlling fire. But thanks to a Dust Bunny she names Lyle, she is able to escape the underground lab and returns to her Marriage of Convenience Husband, Brock Prescott, who, it turns out, dissolved her marriage a mere two days after she disappeared and immediately shacked up with his personal assistant- all without ever even sending out a searching party for her. Feeling angry and abandoned, she sells everything and moves to Rainshadow Island, a place for outcasts and weirdoes like her. But due to several new discoveries on Rainshadow, a Guild Boss named Cyrus Jones has been assigned there to take over- along with a number of other hunters. Sedona finds herself attracted to Cyrus, and he to her, but she has to be careful about divulging her new, extra talent, as legend has it that multi-talents are dangerously unstable. However, it seems that someone wants Sedona in the worst sort of way, and it's not just some mysterious people out after her- both the families of her parents, who broke Covenant Marriages to be together and have Sedona, her ex, and the Guild all want her for various reasons. But when an ex-Hunter discovers a new location in the catacombs under Rainshadow, Sedona and Cyrus are left behind and trapped in a dangerous Blue Quartz forest being hunted by unknown monsters that make their homes under Rainshadow. But unlike the man who Sedona blames for her kidnapping in the first place, Cyrus Jones means it when he says he doesn't leave any of his people behind. And when Sedona and Cyrus succumb to their feelings in a crystal cave, can Cyrus convince Sedona that what they experienced in the cave was only the result of their coming together and not the crystal in the cave? And when it appears that the families of her parents want to reconnect with her again, will she be able to forgive them for the way they treated not only her, but her parents as well? And when the Jones family's formula resurfaces on Harmony, can Cyrus put a stop to its dispersal, and save Sedona from a treachery she never expected? I liked this book a lot. Sometimes I think Jayne Castle/Jayne Anne Krentz/Amanda Quick can do no wrong with the writing of her romances- I've enjoyed just about all of them, and with the exception of a few niggling things, all of them have been pretty wonderful. This one is no exception. I liked the hero and the heroine, and how the two of them were attracted to each other from the start, and not in some lazy, "Fated mate" kind of way. (I mean, fated mate stories can be okay, but some of them are just an excuse to bring the hero and heroine together in some way that allows the author to be lazy and not write actual attraction and wooing.) I also like how Sedona fell for Cyrus- after realizing that he is a Guild Boss who takes care of his people, and he stays behind with her to get everyone else on the team out of a dangerous situation. Though I didn't find this book as steamy as I thought I might, I did enjoy it enough to enthusiastically recommend it to everyone. Highly recommended.

The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire- October "Toby" Daye has gone through a lot and done many things for the both the Kingdom of the Mists and her own liege, Sylvester of Shadowed Hills. But recent events, and the ascencion to the throne of Queen Arden Windermere, have changed things, not the least of which is Toby's relation to royalty. Though Queen Arden owes Toby much for restoring her to the throne, the relation to Sylvester and his wife, Luna, has deteriorated to the point, where she no longer really calls them friends. But when Sylvester's twin brother, Simon, shows up on her doorstep after Toby is acclaimed the Hero of the Kingdom of the mists, he admits it was him, along with Oleander De Merelands, who were responsible for kidnapping Luna and her daughter, and turning Toby into a fish for almost 14 years. But the one who hired him to do all those things is still around, and it's someone that Toby knows- and now they are back. Toby must find out who hired Simon, and save the Luidaeg when the employer, one of the firstborn, comes to take revenge on the Luidaeg for answering Toby's Questions. And then,  Toby must find a way to deal with the threat once and for all without killing off Sylvester, Simon, Tybalt, Quentin or any of her other friends and allies. But can she stand against an actual firstborn and win a fight with some who has been stabbing her in the back the whole time? Wow. This latest Toby Daye book was wonderful. It doesn't take very long at all in time in the book, but so much happens. The book's story pulled me along, and I didn't want to put it down at all. I loved so much about this book, as we get to see so many people who Toby has touched in her life, and many of them come to help her when she is in trouble, no matter how much Toby wants to work it out on her own, to prevent others from being hurt. But the story will delight you, even as it makes you worry for and about Toby, and the ending made me smile. Highly recommdned

Valentine by Jane Feather- Sylvester Gilbraith is stunned to find himself the heir to the Earl of Stonebridge. Though he's part of the family by blood, his branch of the family has never been accepted by the Belmonsts, the line of the family that was usually in the succession. But the Earl has put a sting in the tail of the inheritance- Sylvester must marry one of the Earl's four granddaughters to inherit the money that should go with the estate. In the thirty days before the Earl's granddaughters are informed about the unusual codicil of the will, Sylvester travels to the Earl's seat and sets about finding one of the granddaughters to be his bride. He finds himself attracted to Theodora, the one who was the Earl's unofficial heir, to whom he left the running of the estate. But even as she battles with Sylvester, she does find herself attracted to and wanting him. The question is, will Sylvester's lies and omissions end their love and their marriage before it is truly begun? And when it seems that someone is out to kill Sylvester, for reasons unknown, can Sylvester keep himself and Theodora alive from someone who is willing to injure or kill both of them to get what he wants? I liked this book. Yes, Theodora is amazingly headstrong, but she is also out for justice and while she hates Sylvester seemingly for who he is, she is also the perfect wife for him, fiery and able to keep up with him while her sisters want other things out of life. I really enjoyed this book, and how both characters saw beyond their flaws to really end up falling in love. Recommended.

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