Saturday, November 08, 2014

2014, Part 10

Fireborn by Keri Arthur- Emberly Pearson is a Phoenix, a supernatural creature of fire who is reborn over and over with the help of her fellow phoenix/soulmate, Rory- who she can mate and produce children with, but not really love. Emberly was in love with a cop named Sam, but he discovered her relationship with Rory, but not the details and assumed she was cheating on him and just left her. She is still bitter about it, and hasn't gotten over him leaving her like that, but at the same time, when she has a vision of Sam being killed, she does her best to intervene and prevent his death. When she meets him again, though, he's changed. and not in a good way- he's darker and colder and now working for the "Paranormal Investigation Team" or PIT. He's investigating a bunch called the "Red Cloaks, who were made from humans trying to become immortal using vampire blood. Sam's own brother was killed by a Red Cloak, and he's holding a grudge. But when the scientist who Emberly has been working for is killed and his death has ties to the Red Cloaks, Emberly can't resist getting involved- and in trouble with her former lover. There is also Jackson. fire Fae she meets and forms an intimate connection with, who happens to be a P.I. coming at the case from a different direction. But when things start to go south, she keeps running into Sam, and seeing hints of the man she once loved inside his new, harder, colder persona. But can she solve the murder of the Scientist she was helping, or will Sam shut her and Jackson down? And might this case kill Emberly and make her unable to rise again into a new life? Can she resist falling for the man she once loved all over again, or will heartbreak be the only thing he can give her now? I liked this book, which reminded me of the Riley Jensen books, but I really didn't like Sam, who it seems to me will be one of the men in Emberly's life. But the rest of it was wonderful, and I like Emberly's relationship with Jackson, and I like the whole "Sex-positive" message of the books, which allow Keri Arthur's characters to sleep around without making them seem bad or wrong for doing so. Recommended.

Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee- When Kate returns home to Archer's Beach, Maine, it's to look after the old Carousel run by her family. But her grandmother is missing, presumed dead, and Kate, once guardian of the land, is slowly dying after haing severed her connection to the land when she was only a teenager. Now, she feels the need of the land to have her back, and strange events are stirring in Archer Beach- and an old enemy of Kate's has returned and wants her, and the power she has. For Kate is really a Faerie Princess, and her mother gave herself over into the keeping of Kate's Enemy to keep her daughter free. But Kate has spent so long running from her problems- how can she deal with things she has spent most of her life avoiding, and her old enemy is stronger than ever. If she couldn't do anything about him then, how can she now? But while Kate has enemies, she also has friends and allies, and the creatures imprisoned in the Carousel might be on her side in this battle. And this stime, she's not just fighting to protect herself- but everyone and everything else in town, who will all suffer if she fails to deal with the dark Fae coming after ber. Luckily, she has far more and stronger allies than she knows.... I saw this book, and was intrigued by the cover, so I picked it up and read it. It reminded me a bit of the SERRAted edge tales- the cover art. And to be honest, I wasn't disappointed at all. The story started slowly, with hints of the problems to come. Kate is ignoring what she is and who she is, and she's dying because of some bad decisions she made- all of which she will have to unmake to save the town and the people she loves- and has come to love. I loved the different characters, even though it's hard to know who to trust until nearly the end of the book. And I loved the reveal of who the characters were and what's at stake. All in all, a book which is well worth reading. Recommended.

Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed How We Eat by Gail Jarrow- When people in the Southern US, mostly poor and low wage workers, started dying of a mysterious disease known as "Pellagra, nobody could agree on how they caught it or what caused it. What they did know was that the disease generally started with intestinal upsets and diarrhea. Eventually, the sufferers would develop horrible rashes on their skin, especially in places that were exposed to the sun. This would  occur for years, after which the Pellagrin (an Italian name for someone suffering from Pellagra) would slide into insanity, which then, inevitably led to death. When Pellagra broke out in the South, it didn't take long before it became an epidemic, especially in areas heavily involved in cotton production. But the actual cause of Pellagra was murky. Some maintained that the disease was caused by moldy corn- but even those who ate Fresh Corn were afflicted. Others determined that the disease was caused by some infection- yet nurses in hospitals and asylums, who were living with and often next to Pellagra sufferers, were not becoming infected. And some people were saved by going into the hospital- many were not. Many physicians tried to determine the reasons that people were getting the disease, but it was a Jewish Doctor, Joseph Goldberger, to solve the reason for the disease and discover a cure. But once he found it, would other doctors and the people of the south accept his conclusions? This was a fascinating book- I'd heard about Pellagra, but didn't know much about it or how pervasive it had been. Nor all that much on how it was cured and why it is so little known today. Pellagra was a nutritional disease, like beriberi and scurvy, but discovering the cause was not easy. This is a book for teens, and it's written like a medical mystery, but the pictures of the sufferers are pretty horrific, and the small biographical snippets about sufferers of the disease are scattered throughout the book. This book made me think a lot, and while the stories of the sufferers are horrendous, the outcome is interesting, and even after Joseph Goldberger died, work had to continue to ensure the cure was something that could be given to everyone. An amazingly interesting book that really kept my interest. Recommended.

Lord of the Changing Winds: The Griffin Mage, Book One by Rachel Neumeier- Kes is the dreamy daughter of a farmer in the country of Feierabiand. She loves horses, but spends most of her time wandering the hills outside her village. But when the village discovers Griffins have come to her village of Minas Ford, her life turns upside down. Kes, who might be a mage, is asked by the griffin Mage, Kairaithin, to help heal his people. but he does not tell her than doing so will change Kes from a woman of earth into a woman of fire- one not sustained by food, but by heat and light. But the arrival of the Griffins is also changing the land around Minas Ford, from fertile farmland to desert sand, and the King of Feierabiand tries to drive the Griffins out of his land, only to find himself and his forces outmatched- and his mages, earth mages all, are bitterly opposed to the Griffins and Kes, the new fire mage. But can the Lord Bertaud, also a noble of Feierabiand, discover a way to make peace with the Griffins, and keep them from invading Feierabiand and have them help the Feierabiandans from being invaded by their sister nation of Casmantium? And what will become of the Griffins and Kes? I liked this book, the first in a trilogy. I have liked Griffins ever since Mercedes Lackey's Skandranon series, and while these Griffins are infinitely more alien, I liked these Griffins as well. I found myself unexpectedly fascinated by the story, and really enjoyed every bit of it. I would highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy. Highly Recommended.

Land of the Burning Sands: The Griffin Mage: Book Two by Rachel Neumeier- Gereint Enseichen of Casmantium is a slave, but he is a slave who would be free. So when the Griffins change northern Casmantium into a wasteland of burning sand, he hides from his master and hopes to escape his own imprisonment and servitude  by making his way over the mountains. But a chance encounter with a scholar whom he saves in the desert gives Gereint the hope which he could be free. He is sent to the Scholar's Daughter, a maker who is trying to understand the nature of rocks so that she can help design a bridge to the neighboring country of Feierabiand. But when Gereint is discovered to be a slave, he is imprisoned and forced to serve the country's only remaining mage, Beguchren, who imposes some very strange conditions on Gereint as they travel northward to deal with the Griffins. But following after them comes Tehre, the scholar's daughter, and Lord Bertaud of Feierabiand. Can they save Casmantium from the Griffins who want revenge on Begruchten and his people, who attacked them in the first place, and can Gereint become the mage that Begruchten wishes him to be? And can they reach a peacable accord with the Griffins? This was a different book, but while characters from the first book turned up her again, including Kes and Kairiathin, the story mostly focuses on Gereint and Tehre as the main characters. The Griffins seek revenge on Casmantium for attacking them in the first place, and will not be denied- and Casmantium needs mages, specifically Earth mages, to stave them off. But it's not quite so easy to make an Earth mage, even from a talented maker, as it seems. Only Tehre might have accomplished the feat of turning herself into a mage- and she was both uncommonly intelligent and gifted. I liked this book, despite it being about the "opposite side" from the first book, and really identified with Gereint. I wanted to see him freed and happy, and while I sort of cordially despised Beguchren for 99% of the book that he was in, I was happy to see how he ends up. Recommended, and I can't wait to read book #3.

These Lawless Worlds Book #2: Scales of Justice by Jarrod Comstock- This book was one I remembered reading back when I was younger, one of those peculiar to the late 70's and early 80's, with as much sex as story, and where the sex was part of the story. Aleria Farrell is a judge whose beat includes the outer worlds of the galactic scene. So when a garbled message about the extinction of an entire species is received, it is she, and her alien, silver-skinned bailiff named Jemall, who are assigned to the case. But getting there means a trip of weeks through space, sharing space with an orono, or intelligent dolphin named Rosmer. The message was received telepathically, and Aleria is a sensitive, so Rosmer must work with her to develop her telepathic powers on the trip to the planet, known as Kahiko. When they arrive, they are greeted by the natives, and the leader of the planet, Prince Neihinei, guides them around, keeping them safe from the dangers and showing them the many beautiful places. Aleria finds herself being seduced by the planet, and then by Nehini and the other natives. She even partakes of their chief diversion, Sumati. And in doing so, she discovers what is truly happening on Kahiko- and it is up to her and her friends to put a stop to the genocide, and ensure that Kahiko is able to become part of the Confederation. But will it be so easy to change the entire economy and way of life for the whole planet? And can she make the Kahikans understand the concept of a taboo? I was actually surprised by this book- today, it reads more like a urban fantasy or romance novel than a strictly Sci-Fi novel, but the sex wasn't as out of place as I had feared it might be, and the story held up surprisingly well. I enjoyed the book all over again. There *is* so much sex in the story that you will occasionally forget what the main characters are there for- but the conclusion to the book, where Aleria must pass judgment on the planet of Kahiko, is very well done, and I never got the impression that she is anything but a judge, but she is also a woman. Reommended, if you can find a copy.

I Could Pee on This and other poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano- This is a small book of poems from a cat's point of view, put into four general categories, from Work, Play, Family and Existence, and each poem channels the essence of what it is to be a cat. From "I Lick You" "I lick your nose. I lick your nose again. I drag my claws down your eyelids. Oh, you're up? Feed me." Others are similar, and if you are a cat owner, you are sure to get a chuckle on pretty much every page, and a smile of recognition if you don't. This book is so close to how a real cat acts, it's amazing. Highly recommended,

Blood Games: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel by Chloe Neill- Merit is the Sentinel of Cadogan House and the lover of Master Vampire Ethan Sullivan, When she challenges him to a foot race, it's to help the vampires of the city gain more acceptance. It also gets the winner a dinner of their choice to be enjoyed with the loser. But while Ethan wins (just barely), someone makes a half-assed attempt on his life and tells him to stay out of the running for the vacant seat on the worldwide vampire council. Meanwhile, Merit is summoned to a crime scene by her grandfather- a woman has been killed , two swords shoved through her body, and because vampires use Katanas, this leads to the assumption that a vampire killed her. But Merit and her second are able to reveal that the swords used are just replica Katanas, not the authentically old ones that a real vampire would use, and a vampire would not treat Katanas so shamefully. Meanwhile another "attempt" is made on Ethan, telling him to step down or people will be hurt. But the vampires will be there to judge his strength will be in Chicago soon, and another female vampire, from Georgia, also wants the seat. Is she the one behind the threats to Ethan and Merit? Meanwhile, another woman's body is discovered, this one marked with Pentagrams, leading to the suspicion that a magician might have done it, so Merit calls on the assistance of her friend Mallory, a witch. She reveals that the pentagrams are actually Pentacles- like those in the Tarot Cards, and that the dead bodies are from a specific tarot made by a man who died, whose wife sold the copies of the cards he'd made. But who is using the cards as a template for murder, and why? And can Ethan successfully navigate the challenges ahead, and can Merit as well, while tracking down a vicious murderer? With Ethan's former lover trying to cause tension between them, and whoever is trying to persuade him not to run for the council seat, Merit has more to worry about and more to keep her eye on than usual. But what happens if Ethan loses? Or if his inability to confess misdeeds from his past sunders himself and Merit apart? Can Cadogan House survive the turmoil that is coming, and the murderous rampage of a human determined to kill? I'd never read any part of this series before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Nor is it anywhere near the first book in the series, but I found it easy to get into and the story was enjoyable. Very much so. There were scenes that made me laugh aloud (like the one where they go to a convention and people think Merit is cosplaying as herself.), so I really enjoyed this book, and I want to read more. Highly recommended, and I am going to look up others in this series now.

Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier- This is the third book in the Ruby Red Trilogy. Gwen is supposed to fulfill a wonderful destiny to bring healing and good health to the human race, but nobody seems to want to tell her how. The leader of the secret society that sends her back in time, the Count, aka Ragocy de Saint-Germain, has taken a high interest in Gwen, but she finds him creepy and doesn't trust him. Her cousin, Lucy, and Lucy's husband, Paul have left the Circle of Twelve over not trusting the count, but Gwen seems to be the only person who believes them that the Count is up to no good, and Gideon, Gwen's partner in their time excursions, has recently told her that he doesn't love her after all, sending Gwen into a tailspin of hurt and pain. With so much to do and find out, can she discover what the Count is really up to, find who he is working with the in the future, complete the circle and discover the cure for death and disease, all before the Count can have her killed so that he can become immortal himself? And can she survive the death that is coming for her? Because for anyone to win, she or someone else must die- and it's sure that the Count isn't going to let it be himself- all he wants is immortality. But can Gwen deny him what he wants? This was an interesting book. So much gets revealed in this book- who Gwen really is, who the Count really is and what he wants, and who is really on her side and how to get what she wants. But it's up to her, not any of her allies or her friends, to defeat the Count, after finding out who he is in her time. And while one of the revelations is what allows her to defeat him, he sort of goes with a whimper, not a bang. At the end, Gwen's entire conception of who she is completely changes, and yet, she's still traveling in time to meet her allies. I wonder how the circle has changed, and what they use the time traveling devices for now. I was not really all that impressed with the third book, which I felt descended into way too much confused story threads that could be slightly hard to follow, but it was still an interesting book, and I'd still recommend it. Recommended, but not as highly as the first two books in the series.

Women in Game of Thrones: Power, Conformity and Resistance by Valerie Estelle Frankel- examines the female characters in the Game of Thrones series, both in the books, and in the television series, which differs from the books in ways both large and small. For instance, in the books, Daenerys is much more a chooser of her fate. When she goes to marry Khal Drogo, she accepts his advances almost eagerly, where in the show, they play the scene more as a rape, because the character is supposed to be so young (the actress playing Daenerys, is not as young as she is supposed to be in the books, of course. But these changes change the characters in ways that make them much more problematic than those in the books. In a way, this cheapens some of the characters, but there are also characters that have grown and deepened compared to the books because they subsumed other characters into themselves, or proved popular/interesting and were kept on by the producers because of public interest. These changes and the story roles the female characters play in the series are spelled out, and their problematic aspects noted. While this book is told mostly from a feminist perspective, it does point out the places where the TV series "Falls down on the job", when it comes to making characters as interesting as the books- and where the books also have problematic portrayals of women. In short, the books have more well-nuanced, well-rounded female characters, but there are shockingly few in both areas who could serve as real feminist role models. Even the "best" female character for this portrayal, Daenerys, is portrayed in the TV series as the white savior of darker peoples, a problematic portrayal because they are also portrayed as worshipping her. However, she seems to be going back to her origins, where she will connect with the wisewoman in their city and emerge with more wisdom. It remains to be seen if this will be borne out in the series, of if they will play with the story some more. I don't follow either the TV series or the books that closely, but I enjoyed this book immensely, as it goes into tropes and stereotypes and which ones are in use for the different characters in both series. Given a choice, if I ever do start reading through the entire series, I think I will pick that of the books, because I feel, given the information here, that the series runs into the "Flanderization" of the book characters, that both their positive, negative and problematic aspects are increased to make for better TV Drama. Highly recommended.

Death Blows: The BloodHound Files by D.D. Barant- Jace Valchek was once an FBI profiler... in our world., But she was kidnapped out of our world and taken to another one, where humans are rare and sorcerors, vampires (called 'pires), Lycanthropes (called 'thropes) and Golems (known colloquially as 'Lems) all exist in place of humans in our world. Jace was kidnapped because her skills as a profiler are badly needed, and while she has been promised that she will eventually be allowed to return home, Jace has been trying to track down the name of the Shaman who kidnapped her from her own world and into this new one, as she isn't exactly happy about the entire thing.. But now she is faced with a new case. In Addition to her search for Aristotle Stoker, a human from our world who is preying on the Supernaturals of her new world, someone is killing off members of an all-Supernatural team of Superheroes. Their exploits were chronicled in comic form, but Comics in her new world have been outlawed because their nature is to change opinion, and some have spells woven into them that would allow sorcerors to power spells that could effect the entire world.. But when someone goes after the heroes of yesteryear, is it because of a case they too part in, or is it to power just such a spell? Meanwhile, the Vampire in charge of the office is pregnant- only the baby's father has been killed, putting her life at risk. The 'thrope the office uses as a physician is disappearing for no explainable reason, leaving Jace in charge of his dog- another 'thrope that seems barely intelligent.  And someone is crossing the bonds of reality again, and Jace still has no idea who the man who brought her across is- or wether the strange people of her new world will ever let her go... This was another urban Fantasy I picked up at random, but which I found to be interesting and worth keeping. I liked the conceit of the world, with the humans as being a vanishingly small subset of the people on the world. Here, we get to see more about how Vampires can be born, how 'Lems are made and animated, and what can go wrong with that, and why Jace's skills are needed. Despite humans being a minority, most killings are straightforward depending on what Supernatural did the deed. Humans killing would be a tremendous outlier, and so they need s human expert on humans killing to understand Stoker and why he would kill- Humans in this world just don't do that. That's what made it all so interesting. Definitely recommended.

The Dee by Lynsay Sands- Lady Emmaline Eberhart wants a child to be the heir to her husband. But except for her wedding night the man has not shared her bed nor done the deed with her. So she petitions the King to get him to order her husband to lay with her. The King asks her  what exactly happened on her wedding night, and seems very unhappy about what he hears. However, as her husband is returning to her, he dies in an accident, and the King assigns her a new man to take to husband right away, Amaury deAneford. Amaury has never seen Emmaline, but assumes she is either very old. or very ugly- why else would a man resist bedding a rich heiress? But when he meets her, he finds himself wanting her, and bedding her immediately- in a way that far surpasses what her first husband did, and completely changes what she thinks of as "Bedding". Because it seems that her first husband's mother and brother have their own ideas about lady Emmeline and her inheritance, and they want her brother-in-law to take over where his brother left off. Only they are foiled by Amaury having already bedded Emmaline in a way that makes it clear that she was sill a virgin up until that point. But when someone keeps trying to murder Amaury, he doesn't know who to trust, and Emmaline doesn't want to confess it was she who saved him by shooting arrows at his attackers out of the forest. Can the two of them overcome their fears of commitment and trust issues to have a real, loving marriage and prevent the schemes of her ex-mother-in-law and ex-brother-in-law? Or will Emmaline have to don mourning clothes once again? I generally enjoyed this novel, though inretrospect, it seems suspect that someone who lived in medieval times had no idea of what the marriage bed entailed, as they would have seen animals- especially horses, sheep and cattle being mated pretty much everywhere. Okay, the book is 17 years old, but still! It became harder to justify the longer the book went on. At the very least, in medieval parlance, Emmaline's father did her a great disservice. In that, the setup of the story made me wince, so it was less successful for me as a whole. The love story was fine, but the background made me sad. Not recommended.

The Marriage Spell by Mary Jo Putney - Abby Barton has long been fascinated by Jack Langdon, Lord Frayne. So when he is wounded unto death, and she can help heal him with her Wizardly Powers and a circle of healing with other wizards, she does so. But her price for the healing is to marry him- or at least, that is what she tells him and his friends. When she does go to heal him, though, she discovers a great well of magic power within him, and she draws on that to help heal the shattered vertebrae in his neck. But while Jack is grateful, he is also somewhat appalled, as he hates wizardry now- though as a child, he was fascinated with it and even used it himself. But his father had Jack shipped off to Stonebridge academy to curb his interest in both magic and doing magic, and it seems to have worked. He is grateful to Abby for saving his life, but when she offers to let him cry off of the marriage, he won't do it. yes, the upper class hates magic, but Jack has become very attracted to Abby and both this and a sense of duty to his word make it impossible for him to back down. But along with his marriage come a series of other shocks, that he has been ensorcelled to make him hate magic, and that his own sister shares his magical gift, which makes him seeks out the spells in his own mind, and discovers that this is not the only spell cast on him- he has another that makes him avoid his home, and one that makes him almost dangerously reckless with his own life. Ones that he cannot help but conclude were placed on him by his mother's second husband, who inhabits the family home and who has turned Jack's mother into a pale shadow of her former self, focused only on her new husband. But as Jack and Abby try to deal with the horrible pall than hangs over the estate- a clear consequence of his stepfather's magic, Jack will have to deal with the fact that not only is he a mage, but a very strong one- and the consequences that will come out of that, for him and his friends and Abby. I liked this book. I never encountered this version of a world before, but I found it interesting and wonderful to read. The world-building is accomplished wonderfully and seamlessly from the first page of the book, and it hardly took any time at all before I was invested in both the book and the story. And I loved both characters. Jack is a bit of a prat, but as we find out, he has sort of been magicked to be that way, and he does love Abby very much, which excuses him very nicely. I am pretty certain I am going to end up keeping this book, which I loved. Highly recommended.

The Gilded Web by Mary Balogh- When Alexandra Purnell escapes a hot ballroom for a breath of fresh air outside, she hardly expects to be kidnapped. But when two men mistake her for the younger sister of a friend of theirs, one who is rumored to be going to Scotland for a quick marriage against her family's wishes, Alexandra finds herself becoming the object of blame, by both her father and her now-former fiancé and his family But the man whose house she was kidnapped to is the only one to stand up for her and offer her marriage to overcome what many will see as a failing on her part and a scandal. At first she believes that her father and fiancé will support her. But when they blame her as well, and people who she formerly thought of as friends cut her, she finds herself accepting the offer of Edmund, Earl of Amberly, to be his wife and now fiancée. But along with his offer comes the realization that she is very much attracted to Edmund, and that the two of them inspire heat in each other as well as warmth. Free to be a woman for the first time in her life, and awakening to her own sensuality. Alexandra must find it within herself to accept the changes in her life and take the freedom and love it will afford her. The question is, can she, with all the strictures she has lived with all her life? This didn't seem much like a Mary Balogh novel to me, , but to be fair, it's also one of her first novels and I suspect her style was still gelling at the time she wrote it. But it was still enjoyable in its own way- I just found I prefer the style that Mary Balogh has now over the style she started with. And the strangest thing is that I can't even put the difference I experienced in words, I can only say it was different and not necessarily in a good way to me. Not recommended, and YMMV.

Crash Go the Chariots by Clifford Wilson- Pretty much everyone who lived during the 70's is familiar with Erich VonDaniken, a Swedish Con Man and Fraud who published the book "Chariots of the Gods", which theorized the completely debunked theory that non-white indigenous cultures (and even some white ones) were completely incapable of constructing the magnificent monuments that litter the ancient world and that these monuments had to be the work of "Gods", human appearing aliens who did all the actual construction work, and who the primitive humans therefore worshipped as Gods. I was interested in this book, because in the beginning, the author presents reason and science based evidence for rejecting VonDaniken's claims. This is the best part of the book. However, when he starts rejecting VonDaniken's claims because they go against what the Bible says, my newfound enthusiasm for reading the book went away. He makes a point of rejecting the "Stories, Legends and Superstitions" referenced by VonDaniken, but has absolutely no problem accepting the very same "stories, legends and Superstitions" when they come straight out of the Bible. In fact, in several cases, he insists the Bible are stories of truth, when in point of fact, there is no evidence beyond the authors belief that this is so. He also goes beyond to accept that several mentions of Gods from other cultures seem to be true- a fact contradicted by Christian belief, and then sort of wishy-washily concludes that evil spirits also exist. This book was a great disappointment to me, and to be honest, I would rather read a reason and science based rebuttal to "Chariots of the Gods" than this sort of weaksauce. Not recommended unless you are a Christian, and even then, some of the things asserted by the author may end up taking you aback.

Born of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Dancer Hauk is Andarion, a race which loves perfection and savagery in battle. But Hauk, scarred in an accident hen he was young, was always seen as less than perfect. But when his elder brother died escorting him on his Endurance, and Hauk managed to survive, his brother's wife and his own family blamed him for his death and scarred him even further. And when Hauk was required to try and take his brother's wife as his own and protect her, she cruelly rejected him, scarring him even further. Every year he was required to ask her and every year she rejects him and scars him again. But this year, her son by his brother is ready for his own Endurance, and once he makes the climb, it is up to Hauk to ask again- and this time, Dariana has said she will accept him. But on the Endurance, he discovers SumiAntaxas, a League Assassin who was sent, not to kill him, but to get information that Hauk is a member of the Sentella, a group dedicated to fighting the League wherever they may be. But she is driven not by love of her job, but by love of and for her daughter, being held by the league and threatened with death should Sumi not do her job. But as Haukhelps and protects her, Sumi discovers that Hauk is incredibly brave and warm, much the way his other brother, also known as Hauk was, and as Sumi discovers the truth behind the tragedy that shattered her own family, she finds in Hauk a man to fight for and with, and to love more deeply than she ever thought possible. But Hauk is sworn to Dariana, and can be killed if so much as touches another woman- and Sumi wants to touch him very much. With two youngsters to protect and a large number of mercenaries out to kill him, can Sumi and Hauk keep each other safe without succumbing to their desire for one another? And with Hauk pledged to a woman who hates his guts, can he ever find true happiness with the thought of having to submit to Dariana riding over him? Wow, this book was pretty amazing. Yeah, Hauk had a bad childhood, but it hasn't yet been flanderized to the frankly insane levels you see in the Dark Hunter books. I liked Sumi, whose childhood was also pretty awful, and who hated to kill, but did it anyway to keep her daughter safe. I liked how Sumi came to feel about Hauk and discovered his finer qualities, and I liked how Hauk threw over the traces and threw it all away to love Sumi and be with her. The ending of the book made me smile Happily, and it was nice to see the villains get what was coming to them and see everyone safe and happy at last. There are some instances of (alien) cursing in this book that are not translated, like minsid, but it's rather mild, all things considered. Highly recommended.

Night's Honor by Thea Harrison- Tess is on the run and needs somewhere safe to hide. She thinks that maybe hiding in a Nightkind demense is the only place she can go to ground. So when she applies for a job at the Halloween Ball given by the Vampires, Her "application" is short and to the point. She's not pretty and yet she is the smartest person in the room. But she only gets one interview- the Xavier DelToro, who asks what she can do and then makes her prove she is telling the truth. Tess is terrified of Vampires, and Xavier especially, and while he has her in mind for a special operative and puts Tess through some very specialized training, he is also intrigued by her, and Tess finds her fear of him slowly fading- not enough to allow him to drink from her, but when they spend even more time together, as he insists on teaching her to dance the waltz. But when the past she was on the run from finally catches up to her, she has to decide if keeping his trust is more important than saving her own life... or perhaps he can help her with her problems. But can even a four hundred year old vampire go against one of  the Nightkind elders on her behalf and help her win? And will she ever be able to have him drink from her vein so that she can share his power and resistance to aging? This book is set in the same universe as the series involving Dragos, only this one involves Vampires and Djinn, another set of powerful, reclusive Nightkinf. Since we haven't yet met any Djinn, we are completely unknowing what Tess's boss can do to her for straying from his employ. The tale was a really interesting one, and I liked both Tess and Xavier, their histories and how they came to end up being a couple- I also like Tess's fear, which wouldn't be unnatural for a human in this universe, and the romance aspect I felt was very well done- both how Tess came to be interested his Xavier and vice-versa. I really enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it.

Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy: Prelude by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wellington Alves, Manny Clark and Jeff David Ramos- This comic collects 8 short stories of the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy before they came to join up. The first tells of Nebula, a childhood companion and adversary of Gamorra as they trained under her father, Thanos. Nebula tries her best, but fails when compared to Gamorra, and has several parts of her body replaced with mechanical parts as a result. Then, we get to see Rocket Raccoon and Groot as they go on a little job for someone when they are running short of money to refuel their spaceship. Afterwards, we get to see Gamorra herself interacting with the Collector, Taneleer Tivan- an actual prequel to the movie. We also get to see a comic from the 70's, when Drax the Destroyer and Iron Man fought together to free Drax from his captor, Thanos, and his minions. Next is a tale of Adam Warlock, fighting against a group of religious fanatics who want to bring him into their faith and make him espouse their cause. Along the way, Gamorra is about to rescue him, but Adam Warlock doesn't need her help. Then, the Hulk finds himself in the world of Rocket Raccoon and helps him against a sinister figure who wants to enslave Rocket's girlfriend, Lylla.  We see the origin of Groot from "Takes to Astonish", and how he once attempted to take over the earth through the plants here, and finally, we get to see the new origin of Starlord as J'son of Spartax crash-lands on earth and meets Meredith Quill, and they share time together as he repairs his ship. But when their son is born, J'son's trail is backtracked, and two aliens kill Meredith, and Peter kills them with the gun his father left behinf, which looks like a mere toy gun to everyone else, since only someone with the blood of J'son can wield it.  But it also becomes the reason that Peter Quill becomes a NASA Astronaut and ends up in space. This book was interesting, as it combines both new and old stories to weave the tale of the Guardians before they met and joined up together. The older stories are interesting, but the Drax there doesn't much look like his movie self. Still the stories were interesting and even if the Starlord story has been reprinted in another graphic novel, it was interesting and fun to read. Recommended.

The Leopard by K. V. Johansen- Ahjvar was a famous assassin known as the Leopard, but he is hiding in a small town on the coast, looked after only by a young male servant known as Ghu. So when Princess Deyandara, comes looking for him at the behest of a Goddess, he isn't inclined to listeb- even when the Goddess promises him the remission of a curse that leaves him alive and deathless- he's lost too many and too much to do anything but live a life sunken in misery. But when he leaves to escort her back to the place where her brother is, to keep her from those who would make of her a queen, the nightmares return, and he is also being sought. Splitting from his companions, Ahjvar must make his own way out of the pickle he is in. Meanwhile, the goddess of the waters takes a new Voice, a young dancer named Zora. And unlike the Goddess's previous Voice, she achieves a closer union with the Goddess of the Waters, speaking not only for the Goddess, but with the Goddess's actual voice. But the Goddess is actually the spirit of a long-ago young mage who accompanied her mad brother, and hoped that death would finally allow her to escape him. But he brought her spirit back, and she merged with the waters to hopefully escape him forever. Mages are now anathema to her, and she uses what is left of the spirits of mages to serve as her guards. She also is served by a group of raiders who are killing mages, and rulers, to ensure that her worship rules the lands- and it is these raiders who another Goddess wants Ahjvar to slay in return for a peaceful death. Meanwhile, another woman from the North comes with her demonborn lover, carrying a sword meant to slay seven devils who escaped from the coldest of the cold hells- but as they come near Marrakand, who can tell what weaving these disparate threads will form? This book was a did not finish for me. I got about 7/8ths of the way through the book, trying to push on and read the ending when I realized I just didn't care about any of the characters enough to finish reading the book. So many characters are introduced so quickly that I just ended up not caring about any of them. The book spends time introducing the various characters and then giving us various snippets about them that I hoped to be able to weave together as the story went on. But it wasn't enough for me and I gave up in disgust before the end. The stuff we see isn't enough to get me to care about the characters as much as I wanted to. It's not just the characters mentioned above, but many others, more minor to the story, who are given this treatment and I felt that the story became a fairly disjointed mess to me. I couldn't finish it, and I really don't recommend it. I was hoping this book was going to be something like "The Nightrunners" books based on the cover, but it wasn't, and I couldn't help but fault it something for that.

All my Patients Kick and Bite: More Favorite Stories from a Vet's Practice by Jeff Wells, D.V.M.- This is the second collection from Vet Jeff Wells and has more stories from his practice in the Western US. From dealing with the tight-fisted father of a little girl whose cat was very sick to encountering new cattle with extremely long horns who would NOT let him deal with an injured calf and a llama who had to have its toenails trimmed and was very much not impressed with his vet, these stories are sure to delight and amuse with stories of sick animals and their sometimes crazy owners I really enjoyed this book, which reads very much like the tales of James Herriott, but with a more American feel. As well, Dr. Wells shows us how often it is that the human element provides help and aid to the healing of animals when he tells a story about a little boy and two beloved ponies, and how the young boy was led into a life in medicine by his experiences with his ponies. This is a heartwarming book that made me smile, laugh, and nearly cry. Highly recommended.

Illusion by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Nick Gautier has been an outcast all his life. His father was a demon called a Malachi, and his mother was the rather saintly young woman who had attracted him. But while other people may have rejected Nick, he has the love of his mother, who raised him as a normal young man, who happens to be charismatic, but snarky, and with a will that cannot be denied. Awakened early to knowledge of who and what he is by his older self, who has become a thoroughgoing demon who is destroying the world, his older self is trying to change the future by changing his own past. But this time, this Nick Gautier, is his last chance. If Nick succumbs to the power of his bloodline or is killed- or his mother is killed: that will be the end, for Nick and the World. And now, Nick falls asleep and wakes up in a different body, a different life, where his father is Bubba Boudreaux and he has been raised a short and more ordinary life. But when Nick tries to figure out how he got there, and how he can back to his real life, home and time, he is blindsided by how, in this new world, his allies are gone and some of his allies are now his enemies. He also finds that his soul or spirit has been riven from his body and placed in the body of this world's Nick Boudreau. Meanwhile, in his own world, his friends and allies have noticed the change and are trying to get their Nick back. But when Demons in both worlds seek to kill Nick while his body and soul are separated, can Nick summon his allies from his own world to defeat the Demons in both worlds? And when it seems Nick can be rescued, can Kory, whose spirit left her body to go to her Nick, be left behind forever? I have really enjoyed the "Chronicles of Nick" series. I like seeing Nick how he was before he was the utter bastard that losing his mother and finding out that he was a Malachi Demon turned him into. But this new world has some rather horrible stings in the tail that aren't present in his own world, and they are fairly horrifying in and of themselves... but you'll have to read the book to find out for yourselves. In any case, I loved the book and I would heartily recommend it, even if it's YA, adult readers will also find a lot in it to recommend it. Highly recommended.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Book 17 by Yuki Midorikawa- Takahashi Natsume has always been able to see Oni and other spirits. But unlike his aunt, who challenged the spirits and collected their names into a book to summon them because she had no real friends, Takahashi has made friends with many spirits by returning their names to them. He now lives with one: Nyanko Sensei, a powerful spirit living in the body of a porcelain cat who everyone sees as a real cat. When Natsume discovers another spirit, Aoi, who is looking for a human girl he once played with, Natsume agrees to go look for her. But the girl is supposedly getting married, and Aoi is pleased she found other humans to be with, as he will live very much longer than she will, and not age in the bargain. But the woman who Aoi once played with has her own agenda- she wants to live with Aoi. But can Aoi give up his duties to live with a human? Next, Nyanko Sensei invites Natsume to a party among the spirits. But when Natsume tries to follow him, he ends up getting drawn into a strange game and bothered by dreams. Can Natsume find a way out of being "It" in a game of hide and seek amongst spirits. The last story is a side story about Natori Shuichi, and how he started down the road to become an exorcist. He only wanted to find out how to remove the little tattoo of a lizard that crawls around his body. But when he is challenged by other exorcists, he is determined to beat them. But will he be happy with the outcome of his quest? Another interesting volume. Given the nature of how humans and spirits usually have unhappy outcomes, I don't think the first story will end happily at all. But the story about the game was cute and short, and it was interesting finding out more about Natori. Definitely recommended.

Poison Fruit: Agent of Hel by Jacqueline Carey- Daisy Johanssen is a half-demon who works for Hel, Queen of the Underworld as her agent in the tiny town of Pemkowet. But now the town is in trouble. It's being sued for an incident that happened on Halloween, and the same lawyer who is suing the town is also buying up large pieces of town for an unknown client, which Daisy doesn't trust. But when Daisy suspects that the enemy lawyer who is also half-demon, is using his magic against the judge in the case, she mobilizes the town's coven against him- but outside of Pemkowet and Hel's Domain, there is little magic can do to affect the judge. But when all their plans to defend the town fail, they learn the true nature of the opposition against them- it's Persephone, Queen of Hades, who wants to take over Pemkowet's underworld, and she is using the court judgment against them to bribe the town council with money to sell the Underworld to her. But Daisy isn't down with that plan- she is a servant of Hel, and even with Persephone offering her an equivalent job, she can't just leave Hel behind. Even as Daisy struggles to have a relationship with Stefan, the ghoul, she must join together with the members of the town to defend Hel's Underworld when it comes under attack by the forces of Persephone. But, if, as the signs are telling her, she must accept her demonic heritage to prevail, how can she do so without breaking the world? And Can she do so without laying waste to everything and everyone she loves? I liked this book a lot, even if it was the end of the series. Everything is wrapped up in a satisfactory fashion, and we get a HEA for Daisy at last. I can't say much more than that without spoiling a good deal of the book, but Daisy makes a lot of changes in the Supernatural world, in a good way, and she changes in outlook and determination. If you have enjoyed the rest of the series, you will definitely want to read this one. Highly recommended.

Lady Windermere's Lover by Miranda Neville- Lady Cynthia Windermere was never asked if she was willing to marry the Earl. She simply went along with the marriage her family contracted. Her husband, Damian, married her for the rights to the property that came with her on marriage, because he had foolishly lost his family home at a hand of cards when dangerously drunk. After the marriage, he entered a career in the Foreign Office. Now, returned to his wife a year later, he finds himself intrigued by this woman who is a complete stranger to him. As for her part, Cynthia is less than thrilled by the return of her erstwhile spouse, and has been taking her irritation with her missing husband out by spending his money on horrendous "antiques" and using the proceeds to help out French Emigres. But as much as Damian wishes to get to know his wife better, he also believes that she is secretly carrying on an affair with Julian, his former best friend, who he believes should have reined him in when the was about to wager his home. But can he overcome this hurdle to find out the truth of Cynthian's affections and claim her for his own. But Cynthia must also confront the man who is her husband over his abandonment of her and the treatment she has suffered at his hands. Can both of them overcome their estrangement and have a happily ever after? I  was so not feeling this book. He Hero acts like an entitled jerk for so much of it, I kept wanting to serve him heaping helpings of "Slap on Toast- Hold the Toast".. It does help that he slowly gets better, but it is a very long, slow process., and after a certain point, my patience with Damian was completely gone. In short, this book was not a good one for me, and I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone, unless you have a lot more patience with the hero being a jerk that I did. Not recommended.

It Takes a Scandal by Caroline Linden- Sebastian Vane was once a happy, charming man, until he came home from war with a shattered leg and the necessity of caring for his father, who was slowly going mad. Add to that a scandal over money stolen from the family of his next door neighbor, a quarrel with the same over his friend's daughter being in love with him and going missing, and his father abruptly disappearing, and most people think that Sebastian Vane is mad at best or a horrible villain at worst. With most of his property sold off by his mad father, he lives in straitened circumstances with a minimum of servants. When Abigail Weston, the eldest daughter of one of the richest men in England, moves in next door and meets Sebastian, she can see nothing wrong with him, and is instead intrigued, digging to find the true story of this fascinating, elusive man. But when she begins to be romanced by Benjamin Lennox, the man who was once Sebastian's friend and who he quarreled with over his sister so long ago, Sebastian knows that Abigail will never choose him over Ben. But he hasn't consulted with the lady, and she has definite ideas where Sebastian is concerned. But can she uncover the truth of the events surrounding the disappearance of his father and the quarrel between him and Ben before Her father and Ben's father have them neatly sewn up together into matrimony? And can she have the man she truly loves? I really liked this book. Sebastian is the perfect tortured hero and he treats Abigail so well, at first trying to avoid her because of the scandal that surrounds his name, but she wins him over quite handily, and he wins her heart when he is willing the show her the whereabouts of a missing grotto constructed for a former King's Mistress. I like how they bond over dogs, and all their interactions together. Recommended.

The Escape by Mary Balogh- Benedict Harper was seriously wounded in the Napoleonic Wars and came close to losing both legs. With his friends, "The Survivor's Club", they bond over having survived what seem to be life-shattering injuried. Even though his legs can barely hold him up, Benedict holds out great hope of being able to walk again some day. But when he visits his sister, he meets a young widow named Samantha McKay, who is being oppressed by her husband's family. She married him because she fell in love with him, and found out, to her sorrow, that he was massively unfaithful to her. Worse, he couldn't be faithful. And shortly after he went to war on the continent, she had to live with his family and the judgmental creatures they were, ready to restrict any aspect of her life simply because they thought it "proper". But when he came back from war injured, Samantha became his tireless nurse- which he resented and acted like a child, always demanding her attention. Now that her husband is gone, she feels nothing but relief, but because her husband's family thinks she should remain in deepest mourning forever, she is still chained by the presence of her sister-in-law. When she meets Benedict, it is not a happy or easy meeting for either of them, but as they begin to spend more time in each other's company, she likes the feeling of being free with him. And when her sister-in-law objects to Samantha spending time other than in mourning her former husband. Samantha rebels- and causes her sister-in-law to withdraw back to Samantha's father-in-law, who insists she come back to the family seat and live in propriety- i.e. under her in-laws thumbs. And he sends a complement of burly men to make her comply. But Samantha's mother inherited a cottage from her aunt, and that cottage has become Samantha's property via inheritance. On the strength of the connection, Samantha journeys to Wales to see the cottage for herself- and Benedict, unable to let her travel alone- goes with her as he "husband", only to find himself growing closer than ever to Samantha. In the freedom of Wales, the two become lovers, but Benedict must decide for himself how much freedom he wants, and whether or not to accept his injuries as limiting himself forever. But can he find healing and a new life with Samantha, or will she reject him for a new life of her own? I really enjoyed this book, which is one of a very few where the hero doesn't magically get better as a result of the heroine tending him (or having sex with him). I liked that the limitations he experienced at the start stayed with him through the book. The only thing that changes in his attitude towards himself and his own body. But the heroine, too, must change and accept that her mother was a flawed person and be able to build a life of her own before she can accept Benedict in her life. I loved how they came together, and how their romance progressed, all through the book. I liked that the choices were hard, and both characters really changed and grew over the course of the book. Highly recommended.

Don't Swallow Your Gum: Truths, Half-Truths and Outright Lies about your body and Health by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Dr. Rachel Freeman- We've all heard the warnings. "Don't Swim for an Hour after eating or you'll drown!", "Don't Swallow your gum- it stays in your stomach for 20 years!" "Cover your head or you'll catch a cold!", but how many of those are actually true? These two physicians make and show the real truth-sometimes surprising, about your body and what goes on in it. My favorite statement in this book was under the category of "Shaving your hair makes it grow back in darker and thicker". If this was true, Male Pattern Baldness (Alopecia) could be cured by shaving your head numerous times... Amazing how we never think about this, do we? I found this book amusing and interesting. It's written to be fun and funny and yet really inform you and get you to think. Highly recommended for a short, fun read.

Fool for Love by Eloisa James- Henrietta MacLellan has always wanted a husband and a family of her own, but her health is too fragile to even be able to dream of having one of her own. However, when she meets Simon Darby and his two sisters, she finds him disturbingly beautiful and finds herself beginning to dream of things she has always been told are forbidden to her by her health. She even writes herself a steamy love letters as if it was from Simon, but her dreams will remain just that, dreams, will they not? Until her friend convinces her to use the letter to win Simon for her own by initiating a scandal that will force him to marry her to retain his good name. But Simon, already falling for Henrietta, and loving the way she interacts with his sisters, isn't willing to take the common wisdom about Henrietta's health at face value. In danger of making a fool of himself over her, can he convince her that she *can* have what she wants, and himself as well? I found this an interesting book. The Hero and Heroine are locked into old patterns of thought and behavior, but through meeting each other, they are forced to change and grow. I liked how Henrietta wrote a fake love letter to herself. It wasn't quite steamy as we think of the term, but for the time, it was certainly a bold declaration of love. And I love hoe they cast off old modes of thinking to finally be with and love each other. Recommended.

Trapped at the Altar by Jane Feather- Ariadne Daunt has grown up in a small valley all her life, her family on the outs with the Royal Family because of their religion. She is in love with Gabriel Fawcett, a musician, but her family wishes her to marry Ivor Chalfont, , who is of the King's religion and who they hope can restore the Daunt's close ties to the crown. Forced into marrying Ivor and taking on a mission to restore her family's good name, Ariadne wonders how she can fall for a man who she only thinks of as a good friend. As for Ivor, he has loved Ariadne since they were children- but he will not allow himself to give a name to a bastard child. Since he cannot be sure of Ariadne's affections, how can they ever work together on the mission for her family if she is pining for another man. But when Ariadne starts to fall for her husband, everything is different- and when she meets Gabriel in London, will she choose to run off with him or stay with the husband she has come to love? I spent a good deal of time irritated at Ariadne through this book. Yes, she was in love with another man, but at the same time, Ivor treats her a little badly because he knows she has been with Gabriel and wants to ensure that any child she bears is actually his. But she acts like she will never fall out of love with Gabriel and keeps Ivor on tenterhooks about her real feelings until very late in the book, making it much harder for him to trust her- and I couldn't see where he was all that much in the wrong. Thus, I never really got invested in Ivor and Ariadne as a couple, which made this book less successful for me, even though it ended with them together. Not recommended.

I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like: A Comprehensive Compilaion of History's Greatest Analogies, Metaphors and Similies by Dr. Mardy Grothe- This book shows the best of the literary and other worlds in crafting bon Mots on themes of love, marriage, Age, Death and similar subjects- both for an against. The cover is illustrated with a fish on a bicycle, bringing back the claim of Feminist Gloria Steinem about "A Woman Needs a Man like a Fish needs a Bicycle", which spoke to the idea that a women needs a man- or a relationship with a man, to be happy and fulfilled in life. Other ideas abound in the book, and I found myself enjoying the book greatly. The only drawback is that there are sometimes almost too may thoughts on a particular topic and I found myself growing tired of reading about it. This is not a book to open up and read straight through, but to put aside and read when you are interested in the topic being discussed, or to leaf through when you are thinking. It's not a bad book, but reading it straight through can be a bit overwhelming. Nonetheless, recommended.

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