Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015, Part 3

The Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley- Roberta "Bertie" Frasier is the daughter of a cheat who makes her living as a "Touch" or pickpocket. When she picks the pocket of Sinclair McBride, a Scottish Barrister, on the orders of her brother, she has already been intrigued by his getting off a lady's maid who Bertie counted as a friend. But when he catches her after she picks his pocket, he is set upon by bullyboys or street toughs, and Bertie ends up saving his life. He lets her go in thanks for the saving him, but when she encounters his son and daughter later in the street, they have climbed the scaffolding of a building and their lives are in danger. Bertie risks her own life to get them down and bring them home safely. When their current governess quits, McBride sees how his children listen to Bertie, and hires her to be their governess, since all the other ones he's hired have failed to get them to listen or to inspire their respect. But as Berie serves longer in McBride's household, his feeling towards her are growing increasingly muddled, and he wonders if he can lose his heart to a London pickpocket. But how can he not, when Bertie is not only loveable, but strong, smart and brave? And as for Bertie, how can she not fall in love with McBride, who is all those things himself? I loved this book. The hero and heroine were such strong characters, but willing to work with and respect each others skills and talents. I loved their slow development of feelings for each other and the children, who weren't just plot moppets, but actually contributed to the story themselves. They were little handfuls, but intrigued by Bertie in a good way. I loved every bit of this book, and the characters. Highly recommended.

Sentinel Wars: Binding Ties by Shannon K. Butcher- Lyka Phelan is a slayer, but she also hides a secret which could mean the end of her if it were to be found out. Joseph is a Theronal, a leader of his people. But time is running out for him to find his lifemate, as the number of leaves on the birthmark tree on his chest are falling, and even though he is frustrated by being leader, he knows he is best suited for the job, so he sticks with it instead of going out and fighting  with the rest of his people. But when Lyka's home compound is invaded and destroyed by the Synestryn, her brother and a group of Slayer children are captured by the Synestryn, and Lyka wants to join in the hunt. But Lyka is the sister of the leader of the slayers and so her life shouldn't be put at risk, lest her death lead to the unraveling of the contract between the two races. But when Joseph denies her the chance to search for the missing with the others, , Lyka pulls out her trump card: She, too, is Theronal, one of the few Theronal women left, and in exchange for Bonding with Joseph, he must let het go to search for her brother with him and his team. But, as Eric is forced to mate with the Synestryn leader to satisfy her need for a Slayer/Synestryn crossbreed child, he must also try to save the young children who have been captured along with him. But can he keep his revulsion for the Synestryn leader in check long enough to keep the children safe? And after all this is over, what will happen to Joseph and Lyka? and do they have a happy ending when Joseph is nearly killed in battle with the Synestryn? This book had a cover like a sword and sorcery novel, but it read more like a romance. It's actually somewhere in between. with a romance set in a fantasy universe. I don't think I've read this particular universe before, but it was interesting. I just did feel like I'd missed a lot of backstory that would have made this story better. Recommended. But remember this story is not the first in the series, and you may have little idea of what is going on because of it.

If the Vicount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries- When Jane Vernon was young, she was in love with Dominick Manton, second son of the Duke of Rathmoore. But when his elder brother inherited, Dom soon found himself disinherited by his brother in payment for not calling the police on their half-brother. Left penniless, Dom was forced to find work as a private detective, but regardless, she still wanted to marry him. To protect her fortune, Dom staged a scene that made her break off the engagement. Now, years later, his brother is dead and his sister in-law, Jane's cousin, Nancy, is missing. Jane wants to investigate, but Dom wants nothing to do with it. However, with Jane determined to do right by Nancy. he is reluctantly drawn in to helping Jane find her cousin, and discovers that while he and Jane may have broken off their engagement, the feelings for each other have never really gone away- on either side. As Dom discovers he still loves Jane more than anything, and she discovers that she still has strong feelings for him, they must work together to find Nancy and restore her to the bosom of her family. For Nancy is pregnant with the heir to the Duke of Rathmoore, and it is up to Dom and Jane to try to save her and her unborn child, if possible. But can they do that when their passion for each other is flaring brightly? This was another great book with two strong characters. It starts rather slowly, with Dom refusing to confront his desire for Jane or any feelings he once had for her, and Jane still being angry at him. Over the course of the story, they are forced to confront their feelings for each other, and I loved how they finally came together in the end. I loved every interaction between the two, and definitely recommend this wonderful book.

The Accidental Countess by Valerie Bowman- Lady Cassandra Monroe has long waited for Julian Swift to return from the continent. But he isn't her betrothed, he is her cousin's fiancé instead. But when her cousin confesses to being unsure about her betrothal to Julian, Cassandra is forced into pretending to be Patience Bunbury, a made-up friend of her cousin who her cousin uses to get out of obligations which she cannot outright refuse. But when Cassandra is forced to pretend to be Patience at a false house party, she is disconcerted to find that Julian appears to have taken an interest in Patience in a romantic fashion, which disconcerts her greatly. But as her dreams of romance with Julian come true, how can Cassandra revel to the man she loves that she is not the woman she is pretending to be, but the friend from their childhood? And when the deception is finally revealed, can Julian trust the woman who he thought he loved but who fooled him so completely? Can he listen to his heart without being led astray by the anger in his mind? Can there be a happy ending for these two accidental lovers? Another really great book that I loved in aftermath more than when I was reading it. I liked the ending, but the reading of it was actually pretty painful for me. I hate when characters actively lie to each other, and this book had tons of that, so it wasn't my favorite when I was reading the parts where Cassandra was lying to Julian. But when they finally came together, that part I loved. Recommended.

Avenger's Angel by Heather Killough-Walden- Uriel and his fellow Archangels came to earth millennia ago to search for their promised brides, the Archesses. But despite living on Earth in human form, they have been unable to find any sign of their promised brides and are losing hope. They only have God's word that these brides even exist. Also banished to earth is the Angel Samael, who also lives as a human and owns the world's largest media company, the better to search for the archesses. But Samael, who was banished from Heaven for rebelling against God, wants to steal an archess for himself. Eleanor Granger has grown up knowing she was different her whole life. With her ability to heal and control fire, she has lived life on the run from anyone who wants to study and control her. But when she meets Uriel in the guise of Hearthrob movie star Christopher Daniels, he knows she is meant to be his- now he just must convince Ellie of it. But when Samael steps in, Uriel goes from human to vampire, like the one he played as Christopher Daniels. Can he control his new condition long enough not to harm Ellie and convince her that they are meant to be one? And will his brother angels find their own archesses? More to the point, who are these people out after Ellie and what do they know about Ellie, Angels and the Archesses? And why are they trying to kill Uriel and mate Ellie? This was an interesting book, but I wasn't wholly into it. I got that Uriel was supposed to be like Robert Pattinson, but I just found myself unable to get into the whole book until near the end, but even so, I was left kind of unimpressed with the ending. While Ellie seems like a real person, Uriel didn't turn me off, but neither did he really appeal to me. Neither recommended nor not. This was a "Meh" for me.

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare- Clio Whitmore has been engaged to the same man, Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, a diplomat who works for the highest levels of the British Government. But though she loved Piers at the start of her engagement, or thought she did, eight years of waiting, of not being a bride, have taken their toll on her spirit, and now that she has inherited a castle, she wishes to dissolve their engagement and live by herself. But Rafe Brandon, Piers' brother, will not sign the papers allowing her to escape the engagement. He is determined to save his brother's engagement, even if it kills him- or he must plan the wedding himself! But when she begins to share the castle with Clio, he finds himself slowly falling for her, and giving her all the things his own brother hasn't, such as strength, being there and the confirmation that she is beautiful and worthy of love. Slowly, Rafe starts wanting her for himself, and not for Piers. But when another of his brother's possessions, an old dog that Rafe has been caring for, dies, can Rafe finally admit to Clio what he really wants- and admit it to himself at the same time? I loved this book. Although sometimes uncomfortable to read in spots, it was, in others, a laugh and a lark. When Rafe finally admits to himself that he can stop being the rebel everyone expects him to be, be can finally reach for his own happiness. And as for Clio, she has to learn to believe in Rafe and his feeling for her before she can accept him as her own. Glorious, and I loved the ending. Recommended

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy byJulia Quinn- Richard Kenworthy needs a bride, and when he stumbles across Iris Smythe-Smith, the only one at the musicale put on by her family who can actually play an instrument, he thinks he has found the perfect bride, one with an income and one also who is overlooked. Iris, for her part, is surprised when Richard pays her attention, as she has always disappeared into the background of her family. But she comes to accept him, and when he asks her to marry him, she asks for more time, but he presses the issue by deep kissing her where her mother is able to see, and she is forced to marry him right away, even though she probably would have said yes eventually anyway. But Richard will not touch her on their voyage north to his home, and although he does exhibit romantic feelings towards her, he refuses to make love to her, and she doesn't know why. Until his two sisters return home almost two weeks after they have married, and Iris discovers why Richard needed a bride so badly and what he intends to do. But while Iris finds herself  feeling betrayed by Richard's actions, she still loves him, and as she attempts to make a reconciliation, Richard, feeling stung, retaliates. Can they find a way to resume their loving relationship, or is their relationship doomed forever to be cold and loveless? For most of this book, I actually liked it, however, what Richard does and how he lied to Iris made me enraged on her behalf and I didn't think he did enough to make amends before the book and story ended. This ruined the book for me, and I would not recommend this book to anyone because of the possibly rage-inducing ending. Not recommended.

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick- Ursula Kern is the owner of The Kern Secretarial Agency and once of its finest secretaries, Anne Clifton, dies under mysterious circumstances, Ursula decides to look into it herself. However, to do so, she must stop working for Slater Roxton, an explorer, as his own secretary while she goes to work for Valerie, Lady Fulbrook, Anne's employer. Lady Fulbrook is a poet who publishes most of her work in an obscure American Literary Journal, and her husband is in charge of various businesses, but when she leaves the house for the first time, Slater is waiting for her and tells her someone is watching her. He is determined to help her if he cannot dissuade her from her plan. But Lord Fulbrook appears to be up to his eyebrows in a scheme involving a drug known only as ambrosia, which once made men have pleasant dreams and visions, but is now more likely to drive them mad and/or murderous. But what happened to Anne and why exactly was she killed? Can Slater and Ursula find out before whoever killed Anne kills them as well? Because Anne, too, appears to have been involved with the making of Ambrosia, and now Ursula can no longer avoid the implication that Anne was doing something possibly illegal; But can she and Slater, who are discovering that they have feelings for each other, must unravel the mystery and find the true culprit before he or she disappears. I really liked this book. It didn't have the psychic powers, but the Ambrosia reminded me a little of the formula from the Arcane books, though the ambrosia is far less dangerous (while actually being more dangerous for seeming essentially harmless). But I liked the chemistry between Ursula and Slater and the elements of the mystery, and also the revelation of who the actual villain was. I also loved many of the side characters, like Slater's mother. The book was an extremely enjoyable read, albeit less steamy than some of Amanda Quick's other books. Still recommended.

Behold A Pale Horse by Peter Tremayne- Sister Fidelma is a Dalaigh, or a lawyer of ancient Ireland's Celtic peoples. She is also a religeuse, and she has recently come from Rome, where she helped solve a mystery for the Pope. She is in Genua when she says an old religious man who is attacked, but she comes to his rescue and when he learns that she is from Ireland, he tells her that the monastery he hails from has a monk there who hails from Ireland and who was recently attacked, and his life is despaired of. Fidelma,, who was a student of the monk, brother Ruadan, travels to the monastery to see him and bring him word to his people. But little does she know that the monastery is on disputed ground, and two different provinces are going to war over it. But when someone kills Brother Ruadan and rumors of lost treasure abound, Fidelma must discover the truth of what is going on and uncover the traitors who are hiding among the monastery's monks. She works with another monk there, Brother Eolann, also a child of Ireland, to ferret out the traitors in amongst the monks of the monastery. But can she restore a rightful lord to his throne and solve the several murders which preceded the crisis. But can she do it on her own without the help of Brother Eadulf? This book was a throwback to earlier in the series, before Eadulf and Fidelma married and became parents. I missed the presence of Eadulf in this book, because he appears in neither this book nor the one set in Rome. I've gotten so used to him being Fidelma's aide, that it was kid of strange to read a story without him. But this was an interesting story about murders in a monastery, heresy and battling lords, not to mention a missing treasure that may or may not have been found. I really enjoyed this book and the mystery, and Fidelma's interactions with the people around her. Recommended.

The Seventh Trumpet by Peter Tremayne- Sister Fidelma has left the religious and become once more simply a Dalaigh Brehon or advocate in the Brehon law courts at the level of Anruth, or one level lower than the highest level, Ollamh. Fidelma was recently turned down to become the Brehon Judge for her brother's court of Muman, and she is still smarting over it. So when a young man's body is found facedown in the river by a farmer, Fidelma asks to be allowed to investigate. Also, the man wore a brooch showing he was from neighboring kingdom. He had been stabbed in the back, but who could have committed this outrage? Fidelma, Eadulf and Enda, a warrior of the Nasc Niadh, or King's Elite unit, are tasked with discovering the murderer and bringing him or her to justice. As it turns out, the murder may have more to do with rebellion and revenge than anything else, and with Fidelma's brother Colgu having finally found a possible bride, this is the prefect time to rebel against him if they want to seize the throne. But who could be behind the plot, and why have they turned an otherwise innocent monastery into an armed castle? Can Fidelma stop the plot against her brother without further bloodshed or will more deaths come about before it is ended? Another excellent book in the Fidelma series (can't really call it the "Sister Fidelma" series when she's no longer in religious orders). Here Fidelma is just a Princess and Brehon, but she is still remarkably effective as an investigator and detective. Sometimes she misses things, but Eadulf is there to pick up any slack she might leave, and sometimes his "outsider" status allows him to pick up a nuance or clue that Fidelma and Enda might miss. This was an intriguing story, involving Colgu finally possibly getting married. Fidelma thinks the girl he is interested in is a vapid airhead (not in those words, of course), but she turns out to have more depths than anyone suspected. In any case, an excellent novel and mystery. Recommended.

Atonement of Blood by Peter Tremayne- After traveling many of the areas of Ireland seeking evildoers for Cashel and Colgu, its King and Fidelma's brother, Fidelma and Eadulf are finally home to stay for a while. But on a winter feast day, during a feast, a religious comes into the room and stabs Colgu while calling out a woman's name, Liamuin. He also kills Aedo, the chief Brehon of Muman who shields the king with his body and takes a blow meant for him.. The guards cut down the intruder, but Fidelma and Eadulf are left with the question of who perpetrated this horrible deed. and who Lamuin was. They backtrack the man who stabbed Colgu and left him gravely injured, but when he recovers his wits, he has no idea who Lamuin is or why the man seems to have thought that Colgu might have known her. But it turns out that the man was from the lands of the Ui Fidgente, who have been foes of Muman in the past. But was this aborted assassination another attempt at war by the Ui Fidgente, or was it simply the actions of a deranged man who was in love with a woman long dead? And can Fidelma find the true person behind the conspiracy to kill her brother, and who was Liamuin, and why was someone willing to kill in her name? This book was another excellent mystery, involving twisted love and hatred many years old. So many twisted threads come together in this book, but the outcomes here are positive ones, with hatred being overcome and peace re-established at the end. I loved ho Fidelma was off her game here, being distraught over the serious wounding of her brother and the possibility that he might die. It made her act differently, but she loses much of her "stiff upper lip" because of her worry. It was good to see her be human and somewhat emotional. I mean, it is her beloved brother we are speaking of. But I liked how she even managed to impress the Ui Fidgente with her deductive abilities. She was not only able to find the killers, but she helped recover a Ui Fidgente relic and give them some measure of peace and payback for atrocities committed by both sides. A really compelling mystery and book. Recommended.

The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green- Ishmael Jones is a very strange young man who works for "The Colonel", his boss in a mysterious agency which investigates things that man was not meant to know. Ishmael is invited to the Colonel's family holiday gathering, and when he arrives the house is cut off from the world by a howling blizzard. However, the Colonel is dead and no one at the house is what they seem to be- not even Ishmael. As he investigates the death of his boss and the influence of the Colonel's family, it becomes obvious that something has infiltrated the family estate- any only Ishmael is qualified to deal with this thing that is slowly killing everyone off. But how many more will die before he unmasks the creature and deals with it? I liked this book, which reminded me a lot of the first Nightside novel, and, in fact, doesn't seem to be connected to either his Shaman Bond/Eddie Drood character or any of the Nightside novels. And while he fights horrors, Ishmael is a different sort of creature, of man, entirely. I was intrigued by his story and of his past, but I have a feeling this will end up much like Simon Green's last two series. If you enjoyed them, as I did, this series will scratch that itch inside you for more. Recommended.

Tracker by C. J. Cherryh- After the recent trouble with the rebellion in the assassin's guild, things are finally returning to normal, and the Assassin's guild is re-forming, with an eye towards looking after their own affairs. Jase is going to be going home along with Cajeiri's ship-friends. But just when Bren can possibly think about relaxing for once, a rebellion aboard the space station, as well as the return of the kyo from deep space mean Bren, the aiji-dowager and Cajeiri must return to the space station to deal with the diplomatic greeting of the kyo. However, a human named Braddock has seized control of the children who have come back from the planet and is trying to agitate for another space station for the people from Reunion. As well as there are supposed to be equal numbers of humans and atevi on the station and with the arrival of the Reunion refugees, the station is strained by the sheet number of people it is being asked to support. And the Mosphei commander of the station has fallen in with Braddock and is refusing orders from Mospheira. It's up to Bren to settle matters for the arrival of the kyo and set the human and atevi come to an agreement over what happens on the station. But can he accomplish all this *and* find Cajeiri's friends, who have been seized in a hostage attempt? I love this series. Atevi are not at all like humans, even if they look like them in large part, and the humans are more fractious amongst themselves than the atevi are. I love Bren and Jago and Cajeiri and the Dowager and all the other characters in this series so very much. The aliens are convincingly inhuman and the humans come off badly by comparison. I love that Bren seems to be the perfect bridge between cultures, what all people in his position should be, but which only Bren has become. Amazingly well-done and highly recommended.

Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross- Henni is a cat-like humanoid living in a village with her father, mother and sister. When she is young, her father is denounced to the village priests by her mother, who is a fanatical follower of the local religion, and her father is killed. Before this, her father had confessed to Henni that he was unhappy in his marriage and didn't really lover her mother. Later, Henni delivers a meat pie to the priests for her mother and discovers that her mother has sent a bribe to the priests to marry her well. Disillusioned, Henni retreats to the edge of the village to think, and in a burst of rebellion, crosses the lines that you are not supposed to cross or you will lose your soul. When she feels no different, she returns after crossing all three lines, but her sister rejects her, and she meets a man who brands her with his ring and tells her to run off. She is found by another set of people, who are like Henni but they wear clothes. Assigned to an old man who is supposed to teach her the rules of their culture, Henni tricks one of the guards when she hears that a piece of art has been left outside the village, she goes to see it, running afoul of the religious laws and is sentenced to death. But she manages to talk her way into merely being banished, and discovers the artist who left the art- the blind son of a court painter who fell out of favor when secular art was abolished, and who died a bitter man. His son was an artist who refused to knuckle under and was blinded, his eyes torn out. Still, he opens Henni's eyes to how one can pretend to follow the law while subverting the spirit of it, and Henni discovers that the artist has a book that once belonged to her father, which means that he must be alive somewhere... But does Henni have the courage and strength of will to try and find him on her own? I loved this graphic novel, which is all about being yourself and following your convictions.. It does get a trifle heavy-handed at times, but it shows how certain societies control people (or try to control people) for their own benefit. It's not a comfortable read, but I think it's a wonderful book and story. Recommended.

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes- The Complete Collection by Jeff Johns, Book 1- The Avengers are coming down off saving the world when cities across the world begin disappearing, and the Wasp and Yellowjacket are caught in Washington DC when it disappears. It, along with the other cities, reappear in some strange dimension, somehow conjoined with each other into one huge, super-massive conglomeration. But it isn't peaceful. Meanwhile, Wanda the Scarlet Witch, ends up being possessed by some strange entity and attacks Warbird and She-Hulk. Meanwhile, Henry Gyricj is assigned as liaison to the Avengers and the rest of them must decide if they can deal with him. Also, an entity named Scorpio, the Holder of the Zodiac, attacks, and Ant-Man asks a question apparently no one has ever asked before. If Zodiac is a key, what does it unlock? Meanwhile, the cause of the strife turns out to be the forces of order and chaos, normally one bing, but now separated. Can the Avengers bring them back together to reconstitute the original being. The rest of the comic reprints the Vision: Icons book, where we see the origins of the vision and see him reclaim his memories and emotions from the "Brother" who stole them from him. He reconnects with his long-dead creator through his granddaughter and a young boy whose father is in the military while defeating his erstwhile brother. I liked this book a lot, and the stories within. The Vision story was wonderful and I can't wait to see how the end impacts the main storyline of the comic. The one of the war between order and chaos was also good, and I liked all the side stories that were incorporated. Recommended.

Sculptor by Scott McCloud- David is a sculptor who once had it all, wealth, money and fame, and threw it away when he gave an interview about his art. Now struggling after his earlier success, David finds himself drinking in a bar when he is approached by his Uncle Harry. But his uncle is dead. It's actually Death himself. He asks David what he'd give for his art, and David tells him "anything". So Death makes a deal with David. David, if he accepts the deal, will live 200 days but in that time, he can sculpt anything he sees in his head with his bare hands. But in those 200 days, David, while making a lot of art, meets a girl, Meg, an actress, and falls in love with her. He finds his inspiration, loses it, and finds it again. But as he explores his art and his artistic vision, he struggles to come up with something... something big, that he can leave the city, and people, after he's gone. Through love and life, David finally finds the inspiration, but can he finish it before his deadline with Death? I'm a writer. I make my living with words, but I have none to describe this beautiful story and how it left me feeling when I finished it. I am quite literally, speechless. Read it. Highly recommended.

Jason by Laurell K. Hamilton- Jason Schuyler is one of Anita's sometimes lovers, but she tends not to call on him even though he's into some pain the bedroom, he also is in love with a dancer, J.J., and she just doesn't "get" why he'd be into such a thing. Jason asks Anita to try and help him explain, and she sets up a bed session to show J.J, *why* they like it. But J.J. Turns out also try and help Anita with her first female lover, Jade, a black tiger. Jade's former master really did a number on her and it is making Anita unhappy when she tries to make Jade happy in bed. But is there something Anita can do to help, and can J.J. help her find what that "something" is? This isn't a big story. it's small and intimate, and happens mainly in bed and all involves relationship stuff. Some people might not think that this is a good reason to write a book, but it's a small, self-contained story, more of a novelette or novella than novel. And a lot of space is taken up with part of the author's next Anita Blake book. I enjoyed it, but this sort of story isn't for everyone. If you don't mind pretty much a side story about Anita, you'll enjoy it. Otherwise, give it a miss.

Somewhere I'll Find You by Lisa Kleypas- When Damon Savage was a mere seven years old, he was married to the daughter of a man who gave his father a loan to pay his gambling debts. The girl was barely out of diapers and Damon never agreed to the marriage, and now that he's older, he wants an annulment. But he can't find the woman he was married to, Julia Wentworth. Her family refuses to tell him where she is, and none of his hired detectives have had the least luck. While Damon has a lover in the pretty widow named Pauline, Lady Ashton, he isn't sure he wants to marry her, but he does want to be free to make his own choice. Until he meets the actress, Julia Wentworth, and wants her for his mistress. But unbeknownst to Damon, Julia Wentworth is his wife, and she knows who he is. When he finally finds out she is the woman he's been looking for, and that she is also the woman he wants, will he still want to marry her and let her go? As for Julia, who has found fulfillment in her role of an actress and in the theatre herself, will she agree to give it up to become wife and lover to Damon? Can she have both or is it all one way or another? I started out thinking this book was going to be good, but the way Damon acted once he discovered that Julia was his wife just turned me right off. He's stalker-y and overbearing in a way that harkens back to the sort of Alpha Assholishness of an earlier breed of romance novel. I get that Julia fell in love with him, but I wondered why. He only seemed to be nice when he was getting his own way. In fact, I found a lot of the men in this story rather reprehensible in behavior. Normally, I like Lisa Kleypas. I didn't like this book, or Damon.

The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh- Miles Ripley, the Earl of Severn is being pushed towards an engagement by his mother and sisters, who have the perfect wife for him, or so they think, a beautiful blonde named Frances Galloway. But Miles fears being married to an empty-headed woman who thinks of little but herself. What Miles says he wants is a wife dull and plain as dishwater, someone who can be a true companion to him. So when he meets Abigail Gardiner, a distant member of the family, who has been dismissed unfairly from her job as a governess, and only asks him for a letter of recommendation from him, he offers her a job in his own house, as his wife. Abigail is startled, to say the least, but eventually accepts and marries Miles within a few days. He does tell her that he wants to be married and why, but doesn't tell her about his "requirements" for a wife. Abby may not be dull as dishwater, but he soon finds himself in love with an entranced by his new wife, and wants to ensure that she is happy. But when people learn of his requirements, who are already gossiping about how plain Abby is, and she learns what Miles said, can she live with the hurt she feels? And when the Galloways and their daughter Frances start making trouble for Abby, is there anything Miles can do? And can he allay her hurt feelings over his words in a way she will accept? I loved this book, which was gentle and lighthearted. In fact, I think it was my favorite book written by Mary Balogh that I have read so far. I loved Abby and Miles and the whole family of each. Abby loved and looked out for everyone in a way I found noble and admirable. I enjoyed the story so much that I never wanted it to end, which is high praise for a book like this. Highly recommended.

Love Him or Leave Him: But Don't Get Stuck With the Tab by Loni Love- Loni Love is an African-American comedian with lots of sass, but she also seems to have her head on straight when it comes to men, so people are usually asking her for advice about their man problems. Since so many people asked her and seemed to like the advice she gave them, Loni wrote this book to help every woman. And her prime rule is to love yourself first, and don't accept being second in anything to the man you are with. Knowing your own worth as a woman and loving yourself is being confident enough to also put yourself first, because then, no man can take advantage of you or use you. But she hasn't always had it together, and she shares stories from her own life and the life of her friends and the people she knows about that illustrate her points. I found the book amusing and informative and I could definitely see it helping a lot of people. Recommended.

The Angel Court Affair by Anne Perry- Thomas Pitt is asked, as head of Special Branch, which usually investigates terrorism threats, to keep an eye on a woman named Sofia Delacruz, an English Expat who lives in Spain as the head of a religious movement. She is known to be a fiery speaker, but her Theology is what really causes people to denounce her. When she and two of her female disciples disappear from the Angel Court House where they had been staying, it's up to Pitt to discover what happened to her and who kidnapped her. Meanwhile, a threat comes into the police threatening to kill Sofia unless her husband, back in Spain, denounces her as a Scarlet woman and home wrecker before the world and her audiences in England. So, of course, Pitt must also investigate what really happened in Spain, but his men are already being stretched thin, and while there are many rumors about what Sofia did in Spain, her brother, who happens to be a Trustee of the national Bank of England, so he sends Vespasia Cumming Gould and her new husband, his old Boss, Victor Narraway, to Spain to investigate. But can he and his men discover what has become of Sofia Delacruz, and more importantly, why she was kidnapped in the first place? And can he do it without creating an international incident? I actually liked  this book a lot, which delved into the religious feelings that her characters had or, in Pitt's case, rarely thought about. Sofia Delacruz preached the sort of Theology which wouldn't seem out of place today, but which would have been frowned on by many at the time. This made it an interesting and thought-provoking book for both reader and characters, but the outcome of why she was kidnapped and why the kidnappers wanted to discredit her led in a very different direction than I thought it would. This book is definitely recommended.

She Hulk: Law and Disorder by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and Ron Wimberly- Jennifer Walters, Cousin of Bruce Banner, was a shy attorney when she took a bullet meant for him and only he could save her life with a blood transfusion. Now, she's an attorney who moonlights as a crimefighter, and spends most of her time in She-Hulk form. But when she breaks with the firm she formerly worked for over compensation issues, she takes on a case of a woman whose husband invented part of the Repulsor tech that Tony Stark, Iron Man, uses and goes after him to get compensation for the man's widow. With the money she gets from that case, she opens her own law office and goes to work on a case involving Victor Von Doom's son, who REALLY doesn't want to succeed his father. But can Jen, as She-Hulk really drive the point home? Then, she decides to investigate "The Blue File", a case she was assigned back when she worked for her original employers. But investigating this is actually dangerous and may not be capable of being solved. Can Jennifer and Patsy and her secretary get to the bottom of what is really going on? I didn't particularly like the art in this graphic novel, but the stories were solid and they were entertaining to read. Still slightly recommended.

The Avengers: Time Runs Out Volume 2 by Jonathan Hickman, Key Walker, Scott Hanna, Stefano Caselli, Szymon Kudranski, Mike Deodato and Mike Perkins- As the Illuminati's actions come home to roost, the Avengers are split in two. Iron Man is imprisoned and Spider Woman and the Black Widow track him down only to leave him there when he protests wildly that only he can save them. But as he does so, the Avengers are rent in two, with one side supporting the Illuminati, the other side the Cabal. And meanwhile, Valeria Richards warns both her father and Doctor Doom that neither can hope to win. What they have to do is not fail. But when the forced come to a clash, will they fight the real threat, or fight each other? And who will come out the winner when the Multiverses clash? This was only okay. I haven't read the first volume and I suspect it would be a little more understandable if I had. This graphic Novel is not one you just pick up and si down to read, so if you want to pick this one up on your own, it's a hard row to hoe. Apparently, the Illuminati have made mistakes and universes are being destroyed, and Black Swan, a hero from a different universe, has show up to try and get people to stop it. But the Illuminati, especially Iron Man, don't want to admit they were wrong, and so everything goes to hell in a handbasket very quickly. It's kind of depressing to read and I honestly had a hard time finishing it. Not recommended for me.

Shutter by Joe Keatinge, Leila DeLuca, Owen Gieni and Ed Brisson- Kate Kristopher used to be a world-reknowned explorer, but she's been retired for many years. Now, however, for some reason, someone is out to kill her. She isn't sure why, but apparently, she has siblings she never knew about and a younger brother who was born shortly before her father died. As Kate seeks to find out who is trying to kill her and why, she also has to stay alive and keep her newly discovered brother safe. But that's going to be harder than it her father raised her siblings as well. Going on the run with her brother and Alarm Clock Cat (who resembles a Felix the Cat clock, is she up to the challenge after years of being a normal person? This graphic novel looked interesting, and Kate's world is not our own, it has non-human races, magic and curses, among other things. I'd be interested in reading more, at least to find out why the rest of her siblings (save her younger brother) want her dead. I was more intrigued by the world Kate lives in than Kate herself, who seems like a standard "action girl" stereotype. This one was a meh, ranging into recommended territory.

Not Always a Saint by Mary J Putney- Daniel Herbert is a doctor who lives alone with his sister. Ever since his beloved died while he was away at school, he has done his best to give medical aid to everyone who needs it. One night, a young woman named Jane comes to him, battered by an abusive husband. He treats her and lets her go, but his sister decides to open a house for women who need shelter. Seven years later, his parents and brother die of the pestilence, leaving him lord of the manor, which he has a duty to perpetuate. He decides to go to London to find himself a wife, someone older, who can run the estates while he tends to the patients at his practice. Jessie Kelham is a very beautiful woman whose looks have always brought her trouble. Now that her beloved older husband is dead, she is left as guardian of their young daughter, who has inherited the estate. But her husband's older son is incensed that he didn't inherit and he hates Jessie. Afraid that he will bring a suit and take control of her daughter, she heads to London to find a husband, older and kind, who will not mind raising her daughter as his own. One night, they meet across a crowded ballroom, but Jessie is determined to avoid Daniel until she has no choice and their discovery in a room together forces them into an engagement and marriage that it seems both of them really want. But when Jessie's past comes back to haunt her, can she and Daniel win their way free to have a loving marriage that both want? I thought this was a wonderful romance. One of the plot twists I saw coming right away, as to why she turned him away at first, but her son-in-law forces her hand. I loved the hero, the heroine and pretty much everything that happened between them. There is not a thing wrong with this book Highly recommended.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes- Cassie is very good at reading people, and has been her entire life. But when her mother was killed by a serial killer, she became able to read just about anyone. One night, while at work, she is approached by an arrogant boy who tells her to tell him how he takes his eggs. After he's left, he leaves behind a card for Agent Tanner of the FBI. It seems that Cassie is a natural profiler and they want her to join similarly gifted young people to solve cold cases. But all of her fellow "naturals" have something in their past to be ashamed of, like Dean, whose father was a serial killer and who shares Cassie's ability to profile people. Lia is a consummate liar, but is a human lie detector. Sloane is phenomenal with numbers and science, Michael can read the emotions of people. But when the serial killer from Cassie's past fixates on her, can she and her newfound friends use their ability to find the killer and capture them? I loved this book, which combines science, psychology and a really gripping story that pulled me in and kept me there. Each character is well crafted, and I didn't see the end coming. Highly recommended.

The Lazarus Curse by Tessa Harris- Thomas Silkstone is a young Physician living in London. He is approached by the Royal Society to catalogue a load of sample plants and animals recently retrieved from the West Indies. Of the three men on the expedition, two have died, and only one, the artist has been returned to London. Since Silkstone is a science-minded man, he is perfect for the job of cataloguing all the animals and plants from the expedition. But when the artist, and the specimen of calalue, a plant retrieved from the Indies goes missing, Silkstone must find out what happened to the artist and unravel the secrets of the plant, which is said to have the power to bring the dead back to life. Another problem that besets him is that of an escaped slave he finds in the street, neaten nearly to death. He brings Joseph back to his lodgings and cares for him there, but his master wants him back, and Silkstone's landlady is willing to betray them for the money. Meanwhile, on her estate, Thomas' lady love  Lydia Farrell, from whom he has been separated by force of law, must deal with matters at her estate and her newly returned son. But when she hires a new estate manager, has she found the right man? And when it becomes clear that people in charge of the British Empire want to use the Calalue to make their armies invincible and turn enemy soldiers into slaves, can Thomas discover what the herb really does and if this scheme will even work? I liked this book, and the ending really shocked me, but I liked the mix of old world and new, and the story of the calalue plant, which is more like the plant used in making Zombies rather than actually making people come back to life. This is a book I will want to read the next one of, just because of the shocking ending. Definitely recommended.

Vermonia Volume 8: The Return of the Queen by Yoyo- Unsuccessful at defending Vermonia despite all they have done and the lessons they have learned, the only pillar left standing is the pillar of Wind, which, unbalanced, is causing strange weather all over the land with unrestrained Yami magic  Now, they must defend the final pillar or Vermonia falls. Uro wants the Bolirium, but does it reside within the staff of the Queen, or does one of the warriors have it? And can they prevent Uro from getting it and protect the Queen when she reappears? The final battle was a fitting end for this series, and, as we get reminded, they have an entire life to live in their own world, aka "The Blue Star", but they will be able to visit Vermonia if they are needed, via the objects of power that they discovered. This short series was pretty good, and reminded me a bit of "Magic Knight Rayearth, at least a little. Recommended.

The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski- The Kingdoms of Milfgard and the North are about to come to blows, and Geralt's ward, Ciri, who carried Elder Blood and is the last living princess of Cintra, is wanted by all parties in the war for their own purposes. Meeting up again with his love and sorceress,Yennifer, he reconciles with her and escorts her to the sorcerers conclave on the island of Thanedd. But intrigue is being plotted on the island, and even as Yennifer plans to enroll Ciri in the school there, Ciri doesn't want to be a sorceress. She would rather be a Witcher or have adventures. So when she runs away, she is found by Geralt and Yennifer both. They argue, make up and end up traveling to Thanedd together for the conclave. But something is going on. The intelligence services of various kingdoms and principalities have agents there, and someone wants the Conclave to collapse. When fighting breaks out, Geralt barely escapes with his life, Yennifer is captured in statuette form and Ciri escapes through a malfunctioning portal. Geralt goes in search of them both, but the Conclave erupts in flames, and many of the magicians are killed. But as he goes in search of both women, can he deal with the treachery of the Kings behind the chaos and find the women he loves? This was an interesting book. Geralt isn't into politics and intrigue, and it costs him big when trouble starts, and he's forced to battle innumerable foes. Likewise, Yennifer assumes that her magic and fellow magicians will keep her safe, only to be quite surprised when she fails. It's the carpet being jerked out from under everyone, and it's a big shock that separates everyone, with no sign, at the end, that they might ever find each other again. This book, this series, has quite a different feel to it than most Western Fantasy. A sort of world-weariness and distrust of government that you don't generally see in the West. Still, it's different enough to enjoy while remaining very readable. Recommended,

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