Thursday, February 05, 2015

2015, Part 1

What a Lady Needs For Christmas by Grace Burrowes- Lady Joan Flynn is a woman with problems. She is a lady but dreams of designing her own clothing and having the designs be adopted by a design house. So when she was approached by Lord Valmonte, whose family owns a fashion house, and he invited her to bring some of her designs, she was over the moon. But Valmonte drugged her, and though she doesn't remembered exactly what happened afterwards, she feels that he compromised her while she was drugged. Worse, she left a portfolio of her latest designs behind. Fleeing to be with her brother at a house party, she finds that the train to Scotland has no seats left, and the clerk refuses to help her. She is rescued by Dante Howell, a widowed Welshman who is no lord- he's in trade, owning a series of cloth mills in the Highlands. He's travelling to the very same party at the estate owned by Joan's parents, and he offers her a place in the private carriage he's reserved for him, his sister, daughter and man of business. Joan accepts only because she is so eager to get away from the source of her compromising. Along the way, Dante cannot help but notice that Joan seems depressed, and when he learns the nature of her distress, he offers to marry her and give her child, if she is bearing one, a name and her a husband. But Valmonte follows her to Scotland. His family has seen Joan's designs and assume they are his. Joan cannot tell Dante about her designs, but she makes all her own clothing, and Valmonte uses her feeling of having been compromised to blackmail her. She cannot confess to Dante, and Valmonte's backmail is killing her soul. But what can she do, and will she and Dante ever be able to be happy if he thinks she is cheating on him? I did like the two main characters, and I probably would have found the :Lady Joan is a virgin so shy that she doesn't know how sex works or if she's even had it to be bad, but given how Joan didn't remember *anything*, reformed that particular trope for me here. And I liked the hero very much as well. He is neither a complete rake nor a saint. Just a decent man who is maybe looking for a little something out of his marriage besides love and companionship However, the villain, Valmonte (shades of Dangerous Liaisons, there) was very villainous, admittedly not of the "Kick puppies and steal kids' candy" variety, but he is a total ass. I enjoyed every stage in the romance and while it isn't filled with tons of sex or passion, it is one that just might capture your heart, especially Dante. Definitely one to read and look out for. Recommended highly.

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas- Celaena Sardothien is only sixteen years old, and she is already the Kingdom of Adarian's most feared assassin. Always masked, no one outside the guild knows what she looks like, and even though she is young, she is Arobynn Hamel's the guildmaster's protégée and next in line to succeed them. Sam, another young assassin, is a thorn in her side she despises. But when Arobynn sends them to make deal with slavers, Celaena reacts badly to even the idea of selling slaves in Adarian. Same doesn't like the idea either, especially when some of the slaves are only children. She and Sam make a pact to free them, but will they be able to work together to accomplish their goals? Afterwards, Arobynn sends Celaena to the Red Desert to be trained by the Silent Assassins. On the way, she meets Yrene Towers, a serving wench who wants to train with Healers, as he mother was a healer, and both she and her mother once had healing magic. but with her money gone. she took a job in an inn, and tries to save for the trip. Since her master constantly docks her pay for "infractions", she finds this impossible to achieve. But when Celaena stays in the Inn, various ne'er do wells in the city attack her and she kills them. And when Yrene helps her, Celaena rewards her with the means to finally achieve her dream. Next, she travels to the home of the Silent Assassins to be trained by their master. Most of the Assassins are literally silent, and Celaea is befriended by a young woman who is there to learn to rule her kingdom. She also is used as an ambassador between the Assassins and the nearby Sultan, who wishes to drive the assassins out. But how far can Celaena trust her newfound friend, and when the Sutan's men finally attack, can she save the Silent Man's life? Finally, Celaena returns home from the desert and finds that not only does she have feelings for Sam, but he has feelings for her. But when they attempt to make their exit from the guild, they must also leave the city to make their lives elsewhere. And only the city's worst crimelord and his number one man stand in their way. Can Celaena save Sam from his foolish decision to take them on? This book is a collection of four Novellas about Celaena Sardothian before the beginning of the book series about her. Here we get to see her at the top of her game as an assassin. but she's not invincible and her heart can lead her into trouble that not even her own formidable skills cannot get her out of. The book ends with her in a very low state, and sets the stage for the first chapter of "Throne of Glass", but this book and these stories flesh out who Celaeba is and was and why she ended up where she did. These are highly readable and Celaena is very kick-ass as a character. Highly recommended.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas- Celaena Sardothian was an assassin, sentenced to life in the salt mines of Endovier. Rescued by Prince Dorian Havillard to be his candidate for the role of King's Champion, in reality the King's Assassin, she is promised her freedom after a mere four years, rather than five, if she wins the contest. Celaena agrees, but the contest is being held in the seat of the King's Power, the Glass Castle, in the city of Rifthold, where she spent most of her years with the Guild of Assassins. But almost as soon as she is ensconced in the city, Dorian is warned off by his father, the King, the same man who sentenced her to life in the Endovier salt mines. Most criminals sent there only last a month, but Celaena has survived there for a year, and she came within an inch of the walls when she tried to escape, another unheard-of coincidence. But something is afoot in the castle. The other champions are dying, killed and their bodies turned into little more than bloody meat and rags, their brains missing. And the long-dead first queen of the country has set Celaena a mission- to find who and/or what is responsible for the killings and stop them. And her only allies are the Captain of the Guard, who is a childhood friend of the Prince, and a foreign Princess of Eyllwe, who pretends not to know much Adarian, as well as the Prince himself, who is growing increasingly frustrated with his father's reign. But can Celaena do anything to protect the others, or even herself, along with winning the contest? And when she is drugged before the final battle, can she overcome the machinations of those who wish her to fail and emerge triumphant? I loved this book. Celaena is defiant and sassy in even in the midst of slavery and she spends the entire book kicking ass and taking names, even if metaphorically. Even in the midst of things which would turn almost anyone off, sh manages to keep her cool and emerge triumphant, even if it means resorting to magic that she has a deep distrust for. I loved the character of Celaena, who, even if she was an assassin, still has a woman's heart and a cool head to go with her steely resolve, iron will and sassy tongue. She sparkles here and its obvious that most of the male characters have fallen for her by the middle of the book. Highly recommended.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas- Now King's Champion, Celaena has become his assassin, ranging far and wide and taking out the King's enemies. Unbeknownst to everyone, though, she has been allowing his enemies to put themselves in exile and bringing home rotting heads from the local mortuary that resemble those of her target. But when the King sends her to root out a conspiracy against him in Rifthold, she realizes that she knows the man who is supposedly one of the ringleaders, and they knew each other when Celaena was younger. But even if he is one of the most highly paid, best Courtesan in the city, and she isn't sure he is actually plotting against the King, she offers him the same deal- 30 days to put your affairs in order and fake your death or die. He offers her information about an actual plot against the King he's heard of, and as she makes plans to take out the plotters, and romances Chaol, Captain of the Guard, both the first Queen of Adarian and her friend Princess Nehemiah are warning her that there are further problems afoot from other Realms and that she must deal with them. But when the King kills Nehemia in the process of questioning her and Chaol is kidnapped by conspirators, she kills many of the conspirators and nearly kills Chaol for conspiring with the King to keep her out of the castle that night. The Conspirators reveal that they want to overthrow the King in favor of the last living Princess of Terrasen, said to still live after the rest of her family was slaughtered ten years ago. But Celaena finds herself fighting against the King's first minister, a man who shares a strange sort of magic with the King. And Dorian, the Crown Prince, is discovering that he holds magic as well, and he is extremely conflicted about it. The only person he can seem to confide in is Celaena, who is now angry at Chaol. But when her discoveries about magic in the castle come to a head, it's uncertain that Celaena will survive to flee the King's wrath. With the truth about her known, what will become of Celaena, and can she survive the wrath of a King who can wield magic? I loved this book even more than "Throne of Glass", as it had Celaena walking a narrow tightrope when it came to following the King's orders. So much happened in this novel that I had to keep reading it and reading it long after I should have gone to sleep- it's just that good. This novel ran the gamut from happiness to sadness and desolation and back. If you like strong heroines, this book is definitely the one for you. She is a strong heroine, but still possesses a woman's heart, and that was really interesting to read about. And with the revelation at the end, about who and what Celaena really is, wasn't exacty a shock if you have been reading the books closely enough. I love this series and would not hesitate to Highly recommend it.

Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh- Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, is a member of the Survivor's Club, a group of men and one woman who have survived the War against Napoleon greatly changed. Favian fell from his horse, hitting his heas, and as a result, his wits were disordered and he still speaks with a stutter. But he hates his former fiancee, who left him when he was injured and married his best friend instead, as they had been told that Flavian would never recover. Recently, though, his former best friend died, and his family thinks it wonderful that his former fiancee still has feelings for him and want him to marry her. He only feels revulsion at the thought. When he goes to visit another member of the Survivor's Club and his new wife, Vincent, Viscount Darleigh, he meets Agnes Keeping, a young woman who lives with her sister, and who is the closest friend of the Viscountess Darleigh. And while he finds her "only Enchanting", Flavian cannot stop thinking about her, She, too, falls for Flavian, for his good looks and wicked words, and when he returns several months later, he asks her to marry him, and she accepts. However, Flavian hasn't told her everything she should know, like about his former fiancee, it's partly because he still hasn't regained all his memories back, and he can no longer remember much about how he even came to be engaged to be married. So it will be up to the both of them to deal with the fallout of Flavian's impetuous marriage and the machinations of his former fiancee to meddle in their lives. But can Agnes forgive him for not telling her everything? This was a good romance novel, one I really enjoyed even though the Hero has a number of problems left over. His head injury has made him prone to violent and debilitating headaches, and he cannot remember much of his earlier life. But I did like the way he and Agnes interacted, and the love that they found between them. I also liked the villain, because it wasn't until you got to know them better that you realized how villainous they were. This book comes closes to being a " all problems solved by the end of the book" sort of book, but not completely. Definitely recommended.

The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding- Jackson Channing is a banker. the second in command to his grandfather at Graham, Merryweather and Lockwood Bank. All of his life, he's been told that this father is dead, slain by Indians out West, but much to his surprise, one night, just before Jackson's engagement to Lucinda Merryweather, the daughter of his grandfather's partner, his father shows up, and he finds out that his mother and grandfather have been lying to him all his life. His father offers him a chance to get to know the other side of his family, and eventually, Jackson takes him up on it. They go to the wedding of Jack's cousin Camille, one of three sisters born to Jack's uncle. At the party, before anyone knows who he is, Jack meets and dances with Theodosia, or "Teddy" Winslow, a party planner who is also a lady of the ton. And before he knows what he is doing, he finds himself kissing her and bantering with her, and she finds herself intrigued. But, the next morning, when she finds out that Jack is a member of the family, she is miffed at him for not telling her who he was/is. But when she continues to run into him, because she is a friend of the family, even if she is irritated with him (and she often is, after a few minutes in his company and listening to him talk, she always finds herself intrigued by him again. However, Teddy has secrets of her own, including being in debt because her father made many bad investments and killed himself as a result. So when her mother attempts to get her to marry a distant cousin who inherited her father's title, Jack steps in and pretends to be her fiancé. Her mother isn't happy at first, but since the title Jack will inherit from his uncle is better than the one Teddy's father had, she goes along with it. And then Teddy's supposedly dead fiancé shows up wanting to blackmail her over her father's debts and back into a relationship so that he can inherit his family's money from his mother. Can Jack save her again with his knowledge of banks and investing, and will Teddy still agree to call off their false engagement afterwards? When Jack's mother and maternal grandfather show up in the bargain, there is no guarantee of a happy ending. Or is there? This was an okay romance. It had some very witty lines, but the characters, especially Jack's mother, kind of left me cold. Even at the end, when there are signs that she will get back with Jack's father. I couldn't believe that either man would or should forgive her as easily as they seemed to. And I also found that Teddy was rather cold and standoffish at times- that kept me from warming up to her very much. But it was still a fine romance, just not anything standout for me. Recommended, but only slightly.

A Call to Duty: An Honorverse Novel- Book 1 of "Manticore Ascendant" by David Weber and Timothy Zahn- Travis Long grew up mostly ignored by his mother, and needing guidance since his father had died. But when he nearly gets caught taking part in a robbery with a group of boys he thought were his friends, he finds a different way to get that structure he needs by joining the Manticorean Navy, which is dying since all they get to fight these days is the occasional Pirate. Most of the Navy is in mothballs. But during his training, Travis ignites ire for wanting to do things "By the Book", and reports to his superiors that his fellow students are cheating, especially on their work on the Impeller nodes. which is what keeps the ship flying. Travis is upset because mistakes there can cripple or kill a ship, but no one but him seems to care. When his superiors try to have him Cashiered from the service for cheating, he is saved by the section head of Engineering, who takes him on as a student. When a shakeup changes the commanding officer of the camp, their collusion is discovered, but as exposing it would mean more damage to the Navy, the transfer is reluctantly upheld. Meanwhile, the Navy has had an idea about the mothballed Battlecruisers, split them in half and make each half into a separate, smaller ship that will be more cost-efficient to run and save the Navy money on maintaining ships that aren't used. Travis' half-brother Gavin, a minor lord, gets involved with the project because of his low status and relative youth. And the King's son has an idea for revitalizing the Manticorean economy- build a shipyard and make their own impellers and wedges instead of buying them very expensively from the Solarian League. To do so, they travel to the relatively nearby system of Haven, who is selling off a number of older ships at cost to help the smaller systems defeat pirates. But an attack on the Havenites by a disaffected group forces them to work together with the Manticoreans to protect themselves. Can Travis come up with an idea to defeat the pirates, or will some of the more important diplomats from both sides meet their end at the hands of the pirates? I liked this book. It reminded me a lot of the Honor Harrington books, with a relatively minor officer who distinguishes themselves, but it takes place when Manticore is still tiny star nation of a single system, and instead of Honor being held back by supporters of a man who tried to rape her (and got his just reward when she kicked his butt), Travis is held back by accusations of nepotism on behalf of his brother, and by his own "Do it by the Book" way of thinking that very few of his fellow cadets and officers seem to share. It still manages to be an absolutely kickass adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I *do* miss treecats, but hopefully, we'll see some more in the future. I definitely Highly recommend this book, and I want to read more. Highly Recommended.

The Ties That Bind by Jayne Ann Krentz- Shannon Raine is an artist living in a small artist's commune on the California Coast. Then, one day she finds she has a new neighbor when Garth Sheridan moves in next door. She in intrigued by the handsome man, and wants to know more, so she invites him to dinner that night with a friend o0f hers and her boyfriend. Shannon thinks Garth is a writer, but actually, Garth is the President and CEO of a high-tech company, and he intends to use the cottage he's rented to relax on the weekends- not to get to know the locals. But he thinks Sahnnon is coming onto him, and when he discovers she isn't. he's already been thinking about her in that way, and he realizes that a sexual relationship with her would be the perfect cap to his relaxing weekends away from the office. And Shannon, despite her professing not to want Garth, finds that her body has other ideas. However, Gath's controlling tendencies and his wanting to micromanage every moment of Shannon's life throw then into conflict, and when Shannon decides she wants to be more a part of his life than just a weekend relaxation, Garth seems to blame her for the ensuing chaos and the discovery that someone is stealing secrets from his company Can Shannon convince him that she isn't a corporate spy, and can he lighten up enough to stop controlling everything so much that he chokes the life out of their relationship? Or will the stresses between the two of them end up shattering the two of them apart? I usually love Jayne Ann Krentz, no matter which of her pseudonyms she is writing under. This book, however, I found a bit troubling. I did not feel that much sympathy for the hero. In the end, he did manage to tone it down, but the story implied the hero was justified at his attitude, and Shannon is naïve and wishy-washy, and unable to protect herself from an angent who would prey on her naivete. I wished that Shannon could have come off a little stronger, as she sometimes seems a sheep among the wolves when she is with Garth, and I disliked the imbalance of power among the sides of the relationship. I did feel better about the two by the end, but it was a rather hard slog to get there, and as it isn't a very long book, I ended up wishing Garth could go die in a fire at times for quite a bit of the story. In the end, this book ended up at "Meh" on the scale for me. Just not as enjoyable as I was hoping it would be.

Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins- Snake Bite by Andrew Lane- Sherlock has become too much of a thorn in the side of the Paradol Chamber, and in revenge, they kidnap him and set him on a boat bound for China. But while for a member of the Paradol Chamber, being kidnapped from their comfortable lives and being forced to live as a merchant sailor, Sherlock is a teenaged boy who finds this more of an adventure than a torture or even a hardship. He settles in, works hard and uses his time on board as a learning experience, including learning Chinese from the Ship's Cook and beating off an attack by pirates after the ship's Cargo. In Macao, a strange Dutchman joins the party, and the rest of the crew think he's a demon, since he hides his face and almost never leaves his cabin. But when Sherlock saves some papers from the man's cabin during the pirate attack, the man reveals that he suffers from a rare skin condition caused by ingesting colloidal silver, which he does because of silver's anti-disease properties. The silver particles collect under his shin, dying it a silver blue color. When she ship finally gets to China, even though Sherlock didn't sign on, the Captain gives him some money and some time to enjoy himself in the city. There, Sherlock gets invited to his family home by the cook, Wu Chung. and is befriended by a boy, Cameron Mackenzie, who is factor for a group of British Merchants. An American ship wishes to head up the river to make better maps of the area, and is asking for permission from the local officials. Wu Chung decides to take a job with the Americans to stay closer to his family, and tells Sherlock this, but he is ill after having only worked his first day, and dies later that night. His family believes him to have been bitten by a snake, but no snake is found in the house, and Wu's son believes that there are no holes a snake could have climbed in or out through- he has been most diligent in patching them all. But when Cameron's father dies of the same cause, Sherlock finds cause to believe that both men have been murdered. But by who and for what reason or reasons? Can Sherlock team up with Cameron and Wu's son, Wu Fung-Yi, to find and unmask the murderer while on the run in still-primitive China? And will he ever get back to England, his teacher and Virginia, who he has feelings for? I liked this book, which continued the "Young Sherlock Holmes" book series, at the end of the last book, Sherlock was kidnapped and put on a ship by members of the Paradol chamber, who intend the voyage to be something of a torture for him. But as his brother Mycroft points out, members of the Paradol Chamber might find it a torture to be deprived of home and family and all, but Sherlock is a sixteen tear old boy and will find it to be more of an adventure than a torture. And so it proves to be. Sherlock learns both Cantonese and T'ai Ch'i from the cook and uses his knowledge to solve the murder of Wu Chung as well, even if he isn't sure that Wu Chung was murdered until Cameron's father suffers a similar fate, and his snake bite wound is exactly the same as that of Wu Chung. The mystery is tense and yet adventurous and I liked the ending, even if it leaves Sherlock unhappy and half a world away from his family and friends. This is a book for young fans of Sherlock Holmes, and stays true to the character of Holmes as he is developing his unique powers of observation and ability to solve crimes. An excellent mystery and adventure combined. Hightly recommended, both for the series and this book.

The Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry- anthology edited by Sean Wallace - This book contains 25 short stories involving men and women getting involved with some sort of magic. "Small Magic" by Jay Lake involves a warrior sent to guard a small fortress at the end of the world from barbarians, along with other members of the legion. When their superior officer is killed, and the other men start deserting, only this one warrior's oath to his King keeps him from joining them. But will his Oath be enough to keep him safe? "King Rainjoy's Tears" is the story of  a female scholar/bard who travels with her thief lover to retrieve King Rainjoy's three tears, which he gave up, along with human feeling, to properly lead his Kingdom. But can regaining his tears give him back all the feelings he lost? "A Rich, Full Week" by K.J. Parker has a Wizard dealing with a lingering spirit of a man who was also a wizard. But will he be able to banish the spirit forever? "Woman in Scarlet" by Tanith Lee tells the story of a warrior with a sentient sword. But when the sword bonded with his soul abandons him for another, how can he live with himself, or forgive the spirit in the sword? "Flotsam" by Bradley P. Beaulieu tells of a fish-man with too close ties to the humans asked to aid them in their wars. But what will be the cost to himself and his people if he agrees? "A Warrior's Death" by Aliette de Bodard, a failed Priest of the War-God must discover who made an improper sacrifice to the God he once served and why they would do such a thing. But the answer may mean the death of his civilization. What will he report to the head priest? "A Siege of Cranes" by Benjamin Rosenbaum has a man named Marish who returns from hunting to find his village burnt to the ground and his wife and daughter missing. When he goes in sake of Vengeance on the raider's did it, he is joined by a non-human and might have to battle a demon. But can he give closure for the people who died? Fox Bones, Many Uses" by Alex Dally MacFarlane tells the story of a foxwoman and her half-human baby. When the human lord declares war on the non-humans, she and her people must either decide to fight, or just go. But will either decision bring safety? "Where Virtue Lives" by Saladin Ahmed: has a doctor-mage facing off against a ghul who has abducted a merchant's wife. Also in the city is a Holy Slayer who wants to apprentice to him. But while the mage is getting old, the Holy Slayer needs guidance. Can hey find what they need in each other to finish the case and rescue the woman? "The Effigy Engine: A Take of the Red Hats" by Scott Lynch tells of a war mage tasked with destroying a carriage turned into an Engine of War, Along with his mother, leader of the Red Hat Mages and her own partner, rhey must find a way to kill the unkillable  and survive in the process, "Strife Lingers in Memory" by Carrie Vaughn tells of a Mage's daughter who marries the ruler of a Kingdom who survived the battle to free his legacy from his enemies, but paid a terrible cost to do so. After years of helping her husband through the aftermath, can she survive when the nightmares start in her? " A Sweet Calling" by Tony Pi follows a sugar mage who must defeat a rival sorcerer. He can summon up magic from thr animals of the zodiac when he shapes them out of candy. But what will be the cost of doing so, and how will he pay it?  "The Narcomancer" by N. K. Jemisin follows a mage of the goddess of dreams and death, His task is to collect the dream fluid from people before they die. But when he is called to a small village by the wife of a dead headman, one of his other wives, little better than a slave, asks the Narcomancer to father a child on her. But he has been sworn to celibacy, which conflicts with his duty to bring comfort in the game of his goddess. Which will he choose to follow? "Golden Daughter, Stone Wife" by Benjamin Sriduangkaew tells of a female magician and her golem daughter. When her husband dies, it is up to her to return the golem to the Mage's Guild. But the Golem has become as dear to her as a daughter. Can she outwit the female mage sent to retriever her "daughter"? "Effigy Nights" by Yoon Ha Lee tells of a mage who uses an effigy to bring sleep and disarm his foes. But when the party seeking his help is incapacitated by a similar lump of stone, can he bring a good outcome to the situation for his temple? "Wearaway and Flambeau" by Matthew Hughes When a thief is employed by a man to try and steal an item from the Wizard's Home, the Thief discovers a way to use the situation to his and his employer's advantage. But what will happen when both of them reach too far? "At the Edge of Dying by Mary Robinette Kowal has a mage who gains power from being near death traveling through his Kingdom at war, fighting on behalf  of his King, but when it is revealed his wife is dying, she is suddenly more powerful than he. Can they defeat the wizard in charge of the enemy to keep their homeland free/  Or will the Wizard sacrifice everything for his dying wife? "Vici" by Naomi Novik take a son of Rome and pairs him with a dragon, at first to kill it, but when he succeeds in turning it into a mount instead, and nearly turns against his former masters, what will Rome do to him? "Abjure the Realm" takes a bard that serves his King and makes him question his loyalty when the King chooses to war on his own sister, a sorceress with powers over the dead. What will he do when he realizes that the sister is innocent of the charges that the King makes against her? "The Word of Azrael" by Matthew David Surridge tells the tale of a warrior who encounters the Angel of Death once upon a battlefield, and who spends the rest of his life trying to meet the Angel again and discover his destiny. "Lady of the Ghost Willow" by Richard Parks tells the story of a Samurai troubled by a female spirit who is making him unable to sleep. but can a fellow samurai track the cause of the trouble? "The Singing Spear" by James Enge has a smith being called upon to destroy a magical weapon that he made. But he knows it cannot be destroyed- not without unleashing a great evil on the world. So what can he do? "So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen" by Genevieve Valentine takes the last descendant of a Native American Shaman to become part of a magical council. Only she has no powers and doesn't believe the council can change anything. When she meets others of a magical bent, can she prove what she knows to be wrong? "Warrior Dreams" by Cinda Williams Chima has a war vet living under a bridge. He used to be a warrior, but he doesn't want to fight any more  Can a faerie convince him how much she and her people need him to be their champion? "The Magician, The Maid and Other Stories pits a magician from anther world against a woman who wants him dead for killing the man she loved. But when both of them find an unexpected connection, can they see beyond the blind hatreds of the past to find a different life? This was an interesting collection of short stories, and interestingly enough, I liked most of the stories in the novel and didn't really dislike any of them. I did have favorites, but my top three were probably "Woman In Scarlet", "Strife Lingers in Memory" and "Wariior Dreams" were my top three favorites of the bunch, while "Golden Daughter, Stone wife was the one I liked least, but didn't dislike. This book is way above average for an anthology and comes out at Highly recommended.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas- Celaena Sardothian, formerly Aelin Galathynius, has been sent to the country of Wendlyn by the King of Adarlan to kill off the royal family- a task she has no intention of doing. Instead, she seeks out Maeve, her mother's aunt, to demand answers about the magical artifacts that the King is trying to get so that he can take control over the world and all their Kingdoms, even as her former lover, Chaol, , who has bargained for her to be sent from Wendlyn so that she can be safe, has to work with her cousin, Aedion, now one of the King's Own Generals. Aedion pretends to be the King's Man, and wears the same sort of ring that the King and his minister do, but is he actually supporting the King, and will Chaol resort to treason to inform Aedion of what happened to his cousin? Meanwhile, Celaena goes to Wendlyn to meet her aunt, the Queen of the Faeries, who assigns her to a part-fae named Rowan to train in her magic. But Celaena has blocked every trace of her magic because of her past, when it was too strong to be controlled, and trying to get her magic to work, even here in a world where magic isn't blocked by the King's long-ago ritual, is dangerous, not only to her, but the people around her. Can she learn to use her magic properly in time, and just what must she do to get it to come at her beck and call rather than being controlled by her magic? Will she remember more than just scraps of her past life, and can she save Rowan from the horrible position he will be put in? More to the point, can she come away from a conflict with her powerful aunt without getting literally burned? And can she save the part-fae from a monster imported from Adarlan and made from the King's Magic when he sends it against the people of Wendlyn? Lastly, the King of Adarlan is working with the Witches of The Western Wastes, training them to ride monstrous beasts to be part of his army. Manon, leader of the Thirteen, is undergoing her own apotheosis as she works to become wingleader of the Witch forces. But with a Wyvern that started out as a bait beast, can she win victory on the field and make sure she leads? So much goes on in this novel among many main characters. Not only Prince Dorian, Captain of the Guard Chaol and Aedion, but new characters like Manon are introduced and enough time is spent with them to show that they will be an important part of this series moving forward. But we get to see a whole lot of character development and things are starting to come to a head for Aelyn/Celaena and her friends and possible future foes. I am thinking no more than a book or two remain in the series, but It's possible something could delay the ending. Not yet, though, I hope.

To Love a King by Shona Husk- Felan ap Gwyn is the Prince of Annwyn, and Annwyn is dying, led by the breakup of the marriage between his mother, a human, and his father, a fae. Felan was once in love with Jacquelyn Ara, but it all fell apart when she lost the baby she was carrying. She knew it was an ectopic pregnancy and had to end it to save her own life, while Felan thought that Jacqui's mother, who never approved of their relationship, persuaded her to have an abortion. When he left, it was for a long time, and Jacqui was upset that he hadn't even asked her what happened. But now he needs a bride, a human willing to give up her soul and become semi-immortal to save Annwyn. And he needs to find her within two weeks. Felan wants Jacqui, whom he never really stopped having feelings for. But can he persuade Jacqui to come back to him and try again, even if doing so brings her nothing but pain? For Felan isn't alone in seeking the throne, his cousin, Sulia, is also looking to become queen. But if she does, Annwyn will become a very dark place indeed. And unlike Felan, Sulia is already pregnant by her male lover, something that Felsn has yet to accomplish with Jacqui, but can he romance her, get her pregnant and get her to give up her soul to save Annwyn to beat Sulia at her own game? I liked this book. despite the greatly shortened form of the romance (which takes place over less than a week, and I could see that Jacqui and Felan had feelings for each other. In fact, being menaced by Sulia only brings them together faster, once they acknowledge their true feelings. I liked Felan, I liked Jacqui, and although it took me a lot of the book to watm up to the main characters, I did end up believing in their happily ever after. Recommended.

Deadly Descendatn by Jenna Black- Nikki Glass, former private investigator, has discovered that she is a descendant, one of the many-times removed offspring of the Greek Gods. And her particular progenitor is Artemis, goddess of the Hunt. For that reason, she is wanted by the Olympians actual children of the Gods. But the reason they want her is to track down other descendants so they can be killed, even otherwise innocent women and children. Nikki won't do that, so she has joined forced with Anderson, descendant of a Death God, who has gathered a group of descendants. But when she helped find his wife, who had been kidnapped and imprisoned at the bottom of a lake for years, neither she nor Anderson knew that the constant torture of dying over and over had driven her insane. Now, she is irrationally jealous of Nikki, and the Descendants have been asked by the Olympians to find a Descendant who has been killing men in DC, and who is descended from a Death God. But as Nikki investigates on Anderson's behalf, his wife's paranoia escalates, and she attacks Nikki, who is also attacked by the Descendant of Anubis, who controls a pack of hyenas who are infected with rabies and whose bite is even capable of infecting another Descendant, who should be immune to all disease. But as they prepare to try and take the Descendant of Anubis down, the tension between Anderson and his wife brings things to a head and could lead to Nikki's death once again. Can they bring the man down and discover *why* he hates Konstantin so much? This is the second book in the series, which I didn't know when I picked it up. However, we're not so far into the story that I found it hard to catch up on the story so far. I found it very interesting. The Descendants and the Olympians share immortal souls known as Liberi, and there are a limited number of them around. The Olympians try to prevent more Liberi from coming into being, and if they do arise, can kill the Descendant and steal the immortality they have for themselves. Needless to say, we get to see this through the eyes of a Descendant, which makes the case for the Descendants more compelling than the case of the Olympians. I'd definitely like to read more, but I'd also like to see the Olympians point of view- since the Greek and Roman Gods aren't the only gods who have human descendants (We see descendants of Loki, Anubis, and other pantheons in the story.) Recommended, even highly, and I want to read more.

Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne- Camille Leyland is s French Spy gone deep undercover in England. But over the years, she has stopped acting as a double agent and her loyalties and sympathies now lie with England, and the two old ladies, masters of cryptography, that have taken her in. But when her cover is broken and a French assassin sent to kill her or her two "aunts" if they will not give up the incredibly secret cypher in their possession, the only way to keep them safe is for Camille to go on the run. Thomas Paxton was once also a spy for France, but he isn't French and his loyalties are also now to England. But when he realizes an infamous French Assassin is loose in England, he can only investigate with the help of his friends. To his surprise, he finds Camille as the object of the assassin's intentions, and as they once knew each other in the spy school both were "trained" at, he knows he must try and save her- as long as she is no longer Spying for France. As for Camille, Thomas Paxton is the only boy she ever had feelings for, and the man is more than the boy ever was. as they are thrown together by the attempt on her life, he struggles to keep her safe, but cannot help the feelings he develops for her. For her part, she finds the man much more compelling than the boy, but does he return her intense feelings? And once she finds the family who once abandoned her, can he live up to their impossible standards? Can two people who were once hurt and abandoned young children ever find solace and even love in each others arms when a ruthless killer is after them both? I really enjoyed this book, for many reasons. For one, Camille is the more experienced one in the bedroom. Though Pax pretended to spend money on Prostitutes, he only drew them, so when he finally takes Camille to bed, he is a bit anxious at making love to her properly. She's had sex with two men, and though it was pleasant, it's nothing to what she feels for a man she truly loves. I also liked that both characters were extraordinarily competent, and neither one had to ride the idiot bus for the plot to go forward. I also liked their history and the snippets we saw of their pasts in France. Both were picked up as indigent children, abandoned by their families, and forced to be spies. It was an interesting take on the idea of spies and I am sure occurred in some real history somewhere. I just found myself really liking both characters and the way they interacted, and the way their shared history brought them together. Well done, well told and definitely highly recommended,

Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead- Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of the group who is supposed to look after and clean up after Moroi Vampires. But the Alchemists think Sydney is a traitor, because she has entered into a relationship with Adrian, cousin to the current Moroi Queen and a user of Spirit. But Sydney has been captured and taken to a retraining facility, where she will be brainwashed into toeing the Alchemist line. Despite horrible mental and physical torment, she is able to hold out for a long time- and soon finds out that she isn't the only Moroi Sympathizer in the facility. Thanks to her ability to use magic and the ink she discovered that can cancel out the effects of the Alchemist tattoo ink she is able to "inoculate" the other sympathizers undergoing re-education to resist re-inking of the tattoo. And Adrian finds himself drawn back to court by his mother and discovers the true state of affairs between his mother and father is not what he thought it was. And with his own tendency to drink himself blotto to forget the pain of losing Sydney, he must exercise some discipline if he wants to get her back. But to rescue Sydney, he's going to need lots of help- and that won't prevent her from being taken by the Alchemists if Adrian and his allies somehow manage to find out where she is and break her out. But will his plan to find her succeed? I was slow to warm up to this series, but I actually kind of like it now. Reading about the mental and physical torture that Sydney undergoes was hard, but I did enjoy this book, both sides. Sydney and Adrian have to suck up and keep soldiering on without each other, and it's hard for both of them, but I really enjoyed the book, which is part imprisonment story, part prison break and part chase. I loved this book and this finally got me liking both characters with the way they "manned up" and helped each other find Sydney. Recommended.

The Ice Dragon by George R. R, Martin, illustrated by Luis Royo- Adara is a "Winter Child", born in the winter, one of the coldest ones ever known. She neither smiles nor cries and her skin is always chilled. She also manages to bond with an ice dragon, which most men think is impossible. But when war comes to her home and her farm is attacked, Adara's only hope is the Ice Dragon, even though it is the middle of summer. Can she find a way to save her family and destroy the fire Dragons of the enemy? I found this tale to be short and yet still profound. I loved how it is told so simply and yet so beautifully, and the illustrations by Royo are perfect: delicate, yet with plenty of detail and wonder. A lovely fable for children. Highly recommended.

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