Thursday, June 11, 2015

2015, Part 4

Baptism of Fire by Andrezej Sapkowski- Geralt continues to search for Ciri, who has been tansported to a deadly desert by a malfunctioning portal. She relies on herself and her training as a Witcher and sorceress. But when she calls on the power of fire, she reaches too far and is nearly taken over by an inimical force and saves herself by shutting down her magic, for good it seems. Making it out of the desert, she winds up being captured, and then freed when a group of young human and elven bandits known as the Rats arrive to free their leader. Normally, they are six, but Ciri, calling herself "Falka" joins with them, losing herself in their banditry and killing, getting further and further from her true self. Geralt tries to go in search of her, having heard that Ciri is to be married off to a King. But he knows she is elsewhere, having dreamt of her. And likewise, she dreams of him. Geralt, accompanied by the Bard Dandilion and a human woman archer named Malva, tries to travel down to where he last saw Ciri, to track her down. Joining with a group of Dwarves and a gnome who are escorting a group of women and children dispossessed by the war, they discover a physician named Regis who also comes along with them when he finds out his village was burned. But as they are cut off from traveling south by the actions of the fighting armies, they each discover truths about each other and are forced to make hard decisions. Meanwhile, Yennifer is transformed back into a human by the elven sorceress and is forced to join a group of sorceresses who want to impose their own vision upon the world. Can they do it without consequences? And will Yennefer stay true to the magicians when they have forced her to join them on threat of being returned to statue form. But men still seek after Ciri, can Geralt find her before the Bounty Hunters do? I liked this book. It's kind of obvious that Anderzej Sapkowski's political views have informed his writing. Or at least the political history he seems to have lived through, as this is a very sort of world-weary sort of fantasy that isn't like much of what I have read from other authors. Yet still, I enjoyed it very much, it being more gritty and just different from Western Heroic Fantasy. These characters have more flaws and scorn being "heroic", but end up being heroes anyway by sticking up for their principles and those they love, and the villains, aside from the monsters, appear to be attached to nations and kings rather than idealistic or simple outright villainous simply to be villainous. A goodm nuanced fantasy novel from a superb author. Recommended.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J, Maas- Feyre is the last hope of her family. With her father crippled and their mother dead and their fortune gone, she saves them by going out and hunting deer in the woods that border the fae lands. But when she kills a deer and a wolf, she realizes that the wolf is very probably a fae. But she doesn't care, skinning it and taking both pelts to the market to sell, and venison to her family to feed them. Her two sisters are too na├»ve or too uncaring to hunt for them, so it lands of Feyre to do so. But her killing of the Fae wolf leads to her being abducted by Tamlin, one of the High Fae Lords, ruler of the Faerie Court of Spring. Instead of killing her, he tells her that he needs her life for the life of the Fae she slew. But all she must do is live with him, among his people, and while at first, she makes plans to escape, she soon realizes how futile such plans are, and how many things are waiting in the woods beyond Tamlin's manor walls waiting to kill her. Slowly, her feelings for him begin to change, and things go from bad to worse. a Plague is brewing in the Fae lands, one which could imperil the human lands as well, and Feyre's only hope at breaking the curse is to decipher a riddle set to her by the true blight on the Fae Kingdoms, Amarantha, or to complete three impossible tasks set by Amarantha herself. But even if she manages to complete the tasks will the evil fairy give up the prize she wants, Tamlin? Or will Feyre win her way out of Amarantha's tricks and snares to win her and Tamlin free? This story sort of retells the story of Tamlin, but with a number of twists and the ending is completely different. I really liked it, I loved the way the story built and the little pieces that seemed to mean nothing at first and ended up having a big impact on the story. Sarah J. Maas is a very good storywriter, and while I was disappointed at first that it wasn't another Celaena Sardothian book, this is very good nevertheless. It also has elements of Beauty and the Beast in it, with a curse needing to be broken by the words and actions of the heroine, and perhaps a bit of the story of the Fisher King as well. Excellently done and Highly recommended.

Dayshift by Charlaine Harris- Manfred Bernardo is a psychic, a real one, but he's also a fake, and does readings over the internet. When he goes from the town where he is living, Midnight, Texas, to Dallas and stays in a hotel to give personal (and expensive) readings to a number of clients. But his first afternoon Client drops dead in Manfred's room, and it happens after another resident in the small town is sighted after two people in another room die. Manfred, though, knows that she was there to kill the two, but has no idea how his client died. Worse, her mentally damaged son insists that Manfred killed her and took a fortune in jewels from her purse before she died. Being a psychic and therefore considered a shady character, Manfred must clear his name before police attention is focused on him and on Midnight, where a number of very interesting people live. Plus, there is an old hotel in town that gets renovated so that it can be turned into an eldercare hostel. The question is, why is the conglomeration of companies banding together to do this, and what do their plans have to do with the town. That's not the only upset in town. A young boy arrives in town and grows up unnaturally fast while staying with the local reverend, who makes money as an animal cemetery as well as being a preacher. And the other resident in town who Manfred saw in Dallas, Olivia, might be a contract killer. The man she lives with is a vampire. And Manfred is a friend of Sookie's. With all these threads converging on the town, Manfred is going to have to solve the mysteries with the help of Olivia, and the residents of Midnight will have to work together to figure out what is going on and why before the situation becomes deadly. This is a spin-off series from Charlaine Harris' "Sookie Stackhouse vampire mystery/romances. This one  more about the mystery than the romance, and I liked it a great deal. Manfred has grown and matured since meeting Sookie. In this book, he actually qualifies as an "upstanding citizen" and does his level best to try and solve the mystery and save his fellow Midnighters. There are far less vampires and were creatures in this book, and more seemingly otherwise normal people. It's different than Harris' other series, but still good and well worth reading. Recommended.

Born of Defiance by Sherrilyn Kenyon- Talyn Batur has lived his entire life as an outcast from his people, the Andarions. With his father not recognizing him, his only recourse was to the military, and though he is a smart, dedicated, intelligent soldier, he is stuck at the level of major and discriminated against by his own superior all because of his birth. When he contracts with a house to have a mistress, he must pay them many times the normal going rate to have Felicia be with him. She is born out of wedlock, but recognized by her father, but even so, her options are also limited. Studying medicine, she also sells herself, much as her mother did. But she only accepted Talyn because he treated her well and promised her a place close to her college to live in. When she moves in with him, she discovers how badly he is treated by his own superior, and the many cruelties the man inflicts on him. Despite her intention not to get emotionally involved, she ends up falling for Talyn, motivated by his obvious feelings for her and the loving, considerate way he treats her. But when she grows tired of the way he is treated by her superiors, she calls in the help of her half-brother, who gets him reassigned to the palace. But even here, the mistreatment follows him, and the man he is supposed to be guarding is a friend of his former commander, gets him cashiered and thrown onto a notorious prison planet with his legs broken. Even so, Talyn manages to survive and help a group of prisoners to stay alive. But when his mother, who is also in the service, finds out what has happened to him, she takes action through her friend, the sister of the current Andorian Empress, getting him retrieved. But Talyn has had his fill of the monarchy and being mistreated. When a rebel approaches him about overthrowing the current family on the throne, he is all for it. But can he keep Felicia safe while staying a fighter in the ring all the while overthrowing the royals in the coming coup, which will demand of him that he take a leadership role? I loved this book. Yes, Talyn's people are harsh, and he has a really sucky life, but his mother loves him and he's extremely good at what he does. The reason behind his superior's hatred of him is believable and horrible at the same time, but I loved how Talyn and Felicia came together and how they never doubted their feelings for each other and never descended into sniping or yelling at each other. The ending ties into other books in the Sentella series as it ends with the overthrow of most of the royal family and the revelation of Taplyn's true father and clan (s). It' a good book, if a trifle hard to read at times because of the abuse Talyn suffers. Recommended.

Spider Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli- Spider man is swinging through the city one night, taking down crooks, when he notices a blast of purple lightning coming from a rooftop not far away. Where it came from, he discovers the lair of Mysterio, and a portal powered by Stark Technology, presumably stolen from Tony Stark. But when he and Mysterio have a fight, the portal flares and Peter is sucked in... only to appear elsewhere, and seemingly, elsewhen. Where it once was night, now it's day, and his while the city appears unchanged, he is confronted by a smaller man, a teenager, wearing a spider-suit. They fight, and Miles uses his Venom sting to knock Peter out. Cottoning to who Peter is right away, he tries to remove Peter's mask. But Peter, waking, objects to this and learns some of what this universe is like from Miles and Nick Fury. But he breaks away from them, trying to find out if it is really true. Peter goes to his apartment and finds out that in this world, he's dead and people think his costume in poor taste as if he is trying to ape the original Spidernan. But when Peter goes to see his Aunt Betty and Gwen Stacy, they think he is trying to start something, until he pulls off his mask and shows them his face. There are explanations all around. Meanwhile, back in the original comics universe, Mysterio has sent a robot double of himself to kill Spider-Man once and for all, but the two Spidermen fight him off and with the help of the Avengers and Nick Fury, return to the original comics world to deal with Mysterio, But can they defeat him before the portal collapses and strands either one in the wrong world? I don't generally read Spider Man (never did, really), but I loved this graphic novel, which was smart, funny and snappy. The best funny scene was where Nick Fury asks Peter what he is like in Peter's world, and Peter can only say, "White." and Ultimates Fury is like "Sad to hear that." The book ends on a mini-cliffhanger as Peter tries to see if there is a Miles Morales in his own world and appears shocked at what he finds, but the novel leaves us in suspence. It was a great book and I really enjoyed the crossing over of worlds and characters. Highly recommended,

Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole- Evie, theEmpress of the Current Arcana, has been kidnapped by Aric, the Death Card, and imprisoned at his base. But even though she has come to have feelings for Aric, she is also in love with Jack and when she heard Jack had been captured by the Lovers, the most twisted and evil cards of this cycle, Evie left Aric's fortress to try and save the boy she loves. But Jack has been busy since she was gone, forging together elements of an army, accompanied by several other members of the Tarot, including the Fool, Judgment, The Tower, The Moon and others have encamped across the river from the army lead by the father of the Lovers. Jack is their prisoner, but they have ways of cloning themselves, and can mingle their blood to create copies of themselves. They also have a secret, and to discover it, Evie, Jack, Aric and the other trumps will have to work together to deal with them. But with Evie the focus of love for both Aric and Jack, can she keep their friction to a minimum and keep them all safe by using her powers? I love this series and I love these characters. I don't know who Evie will pick, it's turning into rather a "Team Arci/Team Jack kind of situation. People have theorized that Jack is an Arcana, possibly the Sun (given his skills as a leader, I am thinking possibly the Emperor, but only if he does turn out to be an Arcana, which is far from assured. I am personally trending towards Aric, myself, But I am willing to be persuaded. So much happened in this book that it seems like it should have been longer, but I like the mix of character and action moments, and how Evie struggles against the Red Queen, the more "outcome oriented" part of her personality. It was also nice to see Jack and Aric come, if not to actually like each other, respect each other for their abilities and talents. I can't wait for the next installment! Highly recommended.

Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson- While waiting to be married, Sarah Brandt and Frank Molloy have purchased a home together, which Frank is having remodeled to suit them and their family. But now that he is no longer a policeman, Frank is building another type of business entirely, as a private detective. When Sarah's mother discovers that Charles Oakes, the son of an old friend, has died unexpectedly, she takes Sarah along on a visit to console the family. But Charles' father hires Frank to look into the death and find the man who killed Frank, who was poisoned with arsenic. As it seems that he had no enemies outside the home, Frank concentrates on the servants working in the house, and Charles' wife, who isn't exactly mourning him the way that she should be, But when a servant named Daisy, who used to work for Mrs. Oakes when she was a slave and Mrs. Oakes the daughter of the plantation owner, is also poisoned by arsenic concealed in pieces of candy that she took with her to the home of a friend,  Malloy wonders who might have wanted her dead as well, and why. Working with another former member of the force who he hires after Gino returns from the War in Cuba, he and Sarah's adopted daughter Maeve join forces with Gino and Malloy to find the real killer and bring him or her to justice. I love this series, which marries turn of the century New York with a family dynamic a bit like Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels. Though this series was always a bit more gritty and grounded in realism than the Anne Perry books, I like both of them, and this book was no exception to the series. Some of the elements of this case seemed to call back to earlier cases, like when Malloy investigated the truth behind the facts of the death of her husband, I found this quite wonderful and believable, especially the reasons behind the murder, which speak of hidden secrets and shame. Highly recommended once again.

Hulk: Omega Hulk Book 1: by Gerry Duggan and Mark Bagley- The Hulk has evolved again, this time into "Doctor Green", with the physique of Hulk and the mental prowess of Banner. And he wants to eliminate all the other heroes ad villains whose powers derive from gamma radiation from the world. So he sets up a lab, working with other scientists to make antidotes to Gamma ray irradiation. The irony is, of course, that he, himself, is immune to his own cure. He will be the Hulk forever. He tales out the Abomination, Atom Bomb, the Red She-Hulk, Skaar, and even Hulkling, who isn't gamma-irradiated, just a shapeshifter. But will he be able to take down The Red Hulk, aka longtie Hulk foe "Thunderbolt" Ross? And when one of the scientists working with Doc Green turns herself into a living tree and takes over all the plants near her, using them to kill humans, Doc Green has to take it on himself to deal with her. But why did she do this? I thought this was okay. It's definitely a breath of fresh air for the Hulk Franchise, I thought it harkened back to The Joe Fixit Character. Even though he's intelligent and tries to control his temper, he's still a scary guy, as he's willing to use the strength of the Hulk in his own ends. I thought it was okay, but not completely enjoyable. Slightly recommended.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua-Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron who was turned towards mathematic pursuits to keep her from having a "poetic" disposition. Charles Babbage was also a mathematician 20 years her senior who invented the first computer, "The difference Engine" and later "The Analytical Engine". Ehen Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage met, it was a match made in heaven, as she saw more uses for his machine beyond just mathematical calculations. In writing code for the machines, Ada became the first programmer (of sorts). After this historical introduction, Sydney Padua moves on to rebrand them as mathematical adventurers in a parallel but different steampunk universe. In the first, Lovelace and Babbage must fix things at the Bank of England when the American Banking system collapse. In the process, they invent the steam engine and give one man the idea for the railroad. "Luddites" shows a bunch of angry "computers" people who do sums for a living, like accountants) attacking the engine which has taken away their jobs. Lovelace and Babbage must handle this with... MATH. In "User Experience" George Eliot, aka Marian Evans must make her way through the Engine with her manuscript in search of spelling errors, but will she survive the experience? In "Mr. Boole comes to tea, and shows Boolean logic. "Imaginary Numbers" takes Ada to the land of fantasy, i.e. imaginary Numbers, in a manner reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. The book ends with recollections of people who knew Lovelace and Babbage, and some papers about them and their ideas. I liked this book, which is art graphic novel and part text, with numerous and copious footnotes. The story of the two protagonists was interesting, and several stories, while taken from actual history, mirror things happening today. This graphic novel is very geeky, but fun. Highly recommended.

The Devil Takes a Bride by Julia London- When Grace Cabot sets out to seduce Lord Amherst to save her sisters from penury and disgrace, she ends up in the embrace of his brother instead, the Earl of Merryton, who is known to be staid and humorless. But when they are found together in a shocking and profound kiss, Grace must marry him, and since he is so cold and seemingly unfeeling, she wonders how she can ever be happy with such a man. But that cold, staid, humorless exterior hides a man in pain, who must put up a passionless front just to survive living day to day, and as Grace discovers her new husband's deepest secrets, she must heal them if their marriage is to survive. But will she always long for the love and the man she never had? I really liked this book. Jeffrey, Lord Merryton, is like anything but his title. He's not merry, has an obsession with order, and with the number 8. But all of these are hiding a shocking secret from the past and a terrible history. And while Grace doesn't react very well to her husband's needs at first, she eventually begins to understand him and she is not shocked by his needs and desires. I was a little disappointed that the desires he felt sort of went away when Grace was willing to do a few things with him, but otherwise, I found the book good and interesting. Recommended,

The Ugly Duchess by Eloise James- Theodora Ashby is the ward of the Duke of Ashbrook, and has been raised with his son, James Ryburn, for most of their lives. But when his father loses the estate, he tries to force James to marry her an secure her fortune so that they can save the estate. James is resistant at first, thinking of her as a sister, but soon his discovers that his true feelings for her are far more tender and intimate. He does end up marrying her, and they begin to save the estate together, until Theodora overhears her new father-in-law congratulating his son on the success of their scheme. Theodora, overhearing them, is shocked and crushed. She tells both men to leave forever, and settles down to getting the estate out of entail and dressing the way she wants rather than in endless pink and ruffles. Soon, she goes from an ugly duckling to a swan. Meanwhile, James has become a sea captain, and then a privateer. But just as Theodora who has heard nothing from James for 7 years and has been unable to find him, is about to have him declared dead, when he returns in a spectacular fashion. But can the two of them reconnect when both have changed so radically? I liked this book a lot> Both characters change from when they are separated from each other to when they finally reconnect and rediscover their love at the end of the book. Theodora blossoms into love, then shuts herself off for fear of being hurt again. But I loved how they got back together and rediscovered their love at the end of the book. Recommended.

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes- Cassie Hobbes is a natural profiler whose mother was killed by a serial killer. She was taken in by the FBI to join another group of talented teens like herself- broken by life, but coming out of it with seemsingly supernatural instincts for reading emotions, telling lies, Profiling or for seeing patterns. In the first book, Naturals, Cassie discovered that the killer who killed her mother wanted her as well. Now, her friend and fellow "Natural Profiler", Dean, is drawn into a case by a serial killer who is mimicking his father's killings. But just as they did for Cassie, the entire team of naturals wants to help Dean and find the copycat who is killing in the same way as his father did. But for what reason, and why does Dean's Father want to know and control Dean? And now they have a new protector to deal with, Agent Sterling, Brigg's wife, has returned to the force and wants to get the naturals program shut down. But she also wants to protect Dean. But why? What history do they share together, and can they find the copycat before any other women die? Another excellent title. I really enjo0yed the whole "Criminal Minds for YA" vibe, and the characters. Cassie and her fellow Naturals intrigue and absorb, and even the adults are always interesting. Lets teens see Criminal Profiling from the inside and see how the FBI works. I love Cassie, though. No more love triangle this time around, at least I hope. If you're a teen, or you know one who enjoys the whole "CSI/Criminal Minds", this series might scratch the itch you feel for more. Highly recommended.

By Tooth and Claw by S. M. Stirling, Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Jody Lynn Nye.- An alternate Earth tale, in this alternate, the asteroid did not strike the Earth, and the dinosaurs did not go extinct. Instead, the earth is inhabited by two very different races of intelligent beings, the Mrem, a humanoid feline race, and the Liskash, a reptiloid Dinosaurian race. The Mrem are fierce warriors, but the Liskash have mental powers. Now, a great disaster has come, and the great water has invaded the lands occupied by both the Mrem and Liskash, forcing both to struggle for survival. "Bury My Heart" by Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin tells the story of the Long Fang, who lived to the south and were nearly drowned by the rushing tidal wave of the waters. Left smaller and much, much poorer by the Tsunami that engulfed their lands, they struggle to make their way t safety. But though Sartas Rrem, the leader and his mate Reshia, do their best to try and lead their clan to safety, a large group of Liskash are on their trail. Can Sartas Rrem and his warriors hold them back long enough to get the rest of the group to (relative) safety? "A Clan's Foundation" by S. M. Stirling- When a group of escaped Mrem slaves from a Liskash holding rescue a Wild Mrem Warrior, he must help them to become a unified tribe if they want to join the Clan of the Claw. "Sanctuary" by Eric Flint has a clan of Mrem on the run from a Liskash Warlord. But when they help and are rescued by a group of outcast Liskash, they must make a lasting peace if they hope to outwit and evade the forces of the general- a route that will take them across the long water and see the Mrem and Liskash joining their mental abilities to win their way to safety. Lastly, "Feeding a Fever" by Jody Lynn Nye tells of a Mrem clan of dancers beset by disease. When the servant of the Dancers makes a detour to gather plants and food from a nearby swamp to tempt the dancers into eating, they are captured by a group of Liskash who want to turn the Mrem into slaves. And only the ingenuity of the Dancer's servant can save them from death, humiliation and slavery forever... I liked these stories, which are more of a shared world story than a cohesive whole. Still, I really enjoyed each separate story, and both the conflict and cooperation between the Mrem and Liskash. My favorite was a tossup between "Survival" and "Feed a Fever", both of which were strong stories, each in different ways. Still, all the stories here were above average. Highly recommended.

His Wicked Reputation by Madeline Hunter- Gareth Fitzallen is the bastard son of a Duke. While two of his brothers love him, one of them, Rupert, hated him and sought every chance to bring Rupert low. Making his own way as a factor for sales of fine art, Rupert is skilled in the art of seduction of older, willing women.  Eva Russell is the daughter of a gentleman, reduced to near-penury by the deaths of her father and brother. She and her sister live in genteel poverty, alleviated by the money she makes from copying pictures that she finds in the attic of the manor house down the lane from her own. But when she meets Gareth on the road and realizes that he is the owner of the house, she must stop her copying of the paintings. So she does so, but realizes that her new paintings have made much money for her and her sister. She plans a trip to the house of a relative and meets again with Gareth there. In the meantime, he has been assigned a task by Ywain, called Ives by his brothers, to track down paintings that went missing from the manor house of a noble, all of which belonged to wealthy nobles, who sent them into safety during the Napoleonic Wars. But as Gareth tracks down the paintings, he and Eva become closer, then lovers, when her house is broken into and her paintings ruined by forces unknown. Not the paintings she copied, but ones she did on her own. But when Gareth offers her and her sister the chance to stay in London, she sees one of her paintings up for auction at Sotheby's, and when she tries to tell the man that she did the painting, he treats her as if she is crazy. But as the assaults on her home continue, it is clear that a group of Ruffians think that her brother hid a great treasure with her, and they want it back. The treasure turns out to be at least part of the missing paintings, and Gareth must keep Eva and her sister safe while they discover what exactly happened to the paintings and where they are now. But will Eva be put in gaol for forgery, or can Gareth save her and convince her that she did nothing wrong? And will Gareth leave his life of lechery and finally settle down with Eva, the woman he has come to love? I liked this book a lot. I liked how Gareth and Eva interacted, and their interactions with their relatives as well. I would love to see if Eva became famous for her painting as well. But this was a superior romance novel nonetheless. Recommended.

Red Flags: How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers and Toxic People in Your Life by Wendy L. Patrick- This book shows you how to spot the people in your life who willo hurt you and cause you pain because of who they are. In a way, this book reminded me of that book on the 5 most dangerous kinds of people, because this book pretty much covers the same ground, only in a different way. They both focus on the need to look beyond the surface, to see what people are really like underneath, which mostly involves looking at them when they are at home and in spaces and places they feel at home. Mostly, putting these into action involves paying attention to what people say and do and not just accepting them at face value. It's filled with interesting information and interesting stories of how the people she warns you against can leave you hurt and blindsided when they turn on you. And interesting book and recommended,


Orion and King Arthur by Ben Bova- Orion is an operative, a construct made by the future human who masquerades as the God Aten in time. He uses Orion to intervene in situations  and twist the situation for his benefit. When Orion helps Siegfried overcome both Grendel and his mother, he discovers that one of the children Grendel's mother has in her lair is none other than Arthur. He helps Siegfried rescue the hostages, and later, is returned to Britain by Aten to ensure that Arthur doesn't become King. But Orion finds King Arthur to be noble and worthy of respect, and aided by the Lady of the Lake (Orion's love and a creator like Aten) and Merlin (another creator who calls himself Ares), they elevate Arthur to the Kingship despite Aten's wishes and plots to the contrary. But even Orion is unable to Keep Arthur safe from every plot, and Aten's attempts to punish Orion and even destroy him is only making Orion stronger. Soon, he may become Aten's equal. But will Aten allow it? And can Orion save the King from his foredestined end? And can Even Orion stand against the might and cunning of his creator? I thought this was a new book, but as it turns out, this is part of a series. Orion is the main character, and he is both a servant of Aten and a foil to him. Aten wants to manipulate history to make himself and the other creators possible, and Orion works to undo that. But despite Orion's "meddling" in the timeline, the Creators somehow still exist. This book doesn't really explain how this is possible  But by the end, Aten has declared his intention to destroy Orion, so there will be at least one more book in the series. I greatly enjoyed the book, as it showed mostly Arthur and Orion interacting as friends as well as noble (or Dux Bellorum- War Leader) and Liegeman. If I see any more of these, I will certainly pick them up. Highly recommended.


The Lady is a Vamp by Lynsay Sands- Jeanne Louise Argeneau is  a researcher at the Argeneau blood clinic, working on issues that concern immortals, but one night, she is kidnapped from her job by Paul Jones, whose daughter, Olivia, is dying of a brain tumor. John wants Jeanne Louise to turn his daughter and make her immortal, saving her life. Jeanne Louise is startled, but soon realizes that Paul is her lifemate when she cannot read his mind. Soon, the two of them are in love and on the run from the Immortal Enforcers who will do anything to set Jeanne Louise free. But she no longer wants to go free, nor does she want Paul punished for what he has done. But when the Enforcers, including her Uncle, Lucian, show up to "rescue" her, it precipitates a crisis that may end up parting them forever. Can Jeanne Louise live with the knowledge that the man she loves will die long before she even grows old? Or will a solution be found to their dilemma? I liked this book, usually, the books are about an immortal male and a human female. Sometimes, both the male and female are immortal, but this is one of a few that broke the mold. I liked the interaction between Jeanne Louise and Paul even back when he hard her a prisoner, and after she fell in love with little Livvy and him, it only got much, much better. This was a wonderful book and well-worth the read. Recommended.


The Immortal Who Loved Me by Lynsay Sands Sherry Carne is a big success. Though she is barely thirty, she owns her own, successful kitchenware shop. But when the shop is invaded by three men chasing a young girl, things quickly go out of control. The men are immortals, and fangless vampires as well. The girl is Stephanie, also a fangless vampire, because she and her sister were turned by these vampires long ago. But unlike them, they aren't crazy, They do, however, want Stephanie. Sherry, dragged along in the girl's wake, helps her out and Stephanie's relative, Basileos Argeneau, is called in to assist. Stephanie, who is extraordinarily good at reading these things, believes that Sherry could be Basil's lifemate. There is a complication, though. While lifemates cannot be read by their lifemate, Sherry is difficult to read anyhow. Which can only mean that Sherry has been around a vampire most of her life, and has developed the mental shielding that comes inevitably when someone is able to read your thoughts. And since no one knows of any vampires in the area, it must be a rogue. Sherry must uncover the secrets of her own life to help Basil find out who might have been influencing her and uncover the truth about herself and her own birth. But can she live with the results? This book was only okay. I usually like the Argeneau vampires books, but this one I found merely middle of the road and kind of boilerplate as it all went. Sherry finding out about her past and how she came to be (as well as he secret of who the vampire close to her was good, and the rest was
just okay. Recommended, but not highly.


Forbidden Magic by Jo Beverley- Meg Gillingham was impoverished by the death of her parents. Now, she tries to keep everything together for sake of her sister and brother. Finally, with Christmas coming and out of options, she resorts to a magical item that has been in her family for generations, the Sheela-mg-gigh, a rude carving of a woman. She wishes for someone to rescue her from their situation and prevent their landlord from despoiling her sister for his own wicked lust. Into her home comes Lord Saxonhurst, who is in a pickle. He was raided by his grandmother, and she rules hm as harshly as iron. So, he needs to fulfill the promise he made to her, to marry by his 25th birthday, which is a mere few days off. Then, a maid who used to work for Meg tells him about her, and Meg about Sax (as he is called), and suggests that they take care of each other's problems by marrying. It seems the perfect solution on paper and would get them both out of their difficulties. But will Meg and her siblings be able to adapt to Sax's crazy household and lifestyle? And when his grandmother continues to try and control Sax, can Meg help him stay out of her clutches and free? Because when she uses the magic of the Sheelagh, it always exacts a price... This book was acually mad fun. Taking place in the Georgian Period rather than the Regency or Victorian gives it a different air, one of unstated and unbridled sensuality and hedonism. I loved both Meg and Sax, but mostly Sax, as he was really helpful to Mag. But he's not without his own problems, and Meg definitely helps him with that. I loved this book and am really glad I stumbled on it. Recommended.



The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh- Lord Brocklehiurst has been scarred in war, and his features often make him seem ugly to his wife, who is in love with another man, his brother. But when he comes on a skinny and starved looking prostitute with a strange air of self-possession, he cannot help but engage her. Wen she turns out to be a virgin, he realizes that he has done her wrong. He buys her food and attempts to do more for her, but she disappears into the night, leaving him with only a name, Fleur. Isabella Fleur Bradshaw is a woman of secrets, and on the run, attempting to survive on her own. When she loses her virginity, she is at the end of her rope, but she is soon hired ats a governess by the wife of Lord Brocklehurst. His wife is fretful, and is soon sure that her new governess is her husband's mistress, but he refuses to let her be let go. Like her mother, the daughter is fretful and complaining, but Fleur soon brings her out of her attitude. As Fleur and Lord Brocklehurst grow ever closer, they must keep themselves from breaking his marriage vows within his house, and a House Party brings all of Fleur's secrets into the light. But can she face them to be free to finally love him? And when Lord Brocklehurst's brother returns, it causes tension between him and his wife. But what will become of these two star-crossed lovers, can they ever be together? This is one of Mary Balogh's early romance stories, and as such, isn't much like her later works. It has adultery (on both sides of a marriage), and a very mournful tone. Both Lord Brocklehurst and Fleur live in such constrained circumstances, and they aren't free to be together, which leaves the book with a mournful yet hopeful tone. And there is so much tragedy... so much. It was interesting, but not so much romantic as some of her later works. I liked it, but it's not a book for everyone. Recommended.


Storm of Shadows by Christina Dodd- Rosamund Hill is a daughter of two archaeologists, now dead. Aaron Eagle is a Chosen One, descendants of two very special children born to a mother who abandoned them. Both had powers, but while one twin used them for good, the other used them for evil. Aaron is of the Chosen Ones, who use their powers to help Humanity. They need Rosamund's help to track down a prophecy left by a dark-skinned prophetess that could help save the Chosen Ones, who are almost the only Chosen Ones left after an explosion took out the others. But Aaron and Rosamund are not alone in looking for the Prophecy. Lance Matthews, a member of the Others, and markedly handsome and cunning, wants Rosamund's services for the Others, the group that came out of the evil twin. And he got to Rosamund first. Can Aaron convince her to help him whole keeping her safe from Lance Matthews and find the prophecy before The Orhers get it? I liked this series, not quite so much as her earlier "Darkness Chosen" series, but enough to really enjoy this books, which is a whirlwind trip around the world and  shows us how Powerful the Chosen and The Others are. I liked the characters, and while this is not the first book in the series, I didn't feel left out or left in the dark by the story. Recommended.


Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R. A. Salvatore- Bruenor and the Companions of the Hall return to his home, where the Drow and their forces, including the army led by Harrtusk, now ruling Obould's old Kingdom of Many Arrows, are besieging the far north, trying to bring down the Many Dwarf Halls and the independent cities in the area with the hopes of building a Drow Kingdom under the Darkening, which permanently blots out the sun and the stars from shining. But in addition to the forces of the Dwarves, the forces of the Drow are rent from within by infighting and tensions between clans. Plus, Tos'un Armgo and Tiago Do'Urden don't always agree, with Tiago fighting boredom in his new lands and Tos'un ready to use his half Drow daughter, Doum'wielle to his own advantage. Only the threat of Quenthel Baenrae keeps them in line, as do the efforts of Gromph Baenrae, the Mage and Head of the Sorcere. Meanwhile, Regis and Wulfgar have been separated from their friends and must survive in the Underdark tunnels beneath the North, which they manage to do quite handily. But when Jarlaxle intervenes, accompanied by his lover, the two Copper Dragon Sisters, the tide really begins to turn. But who is really on the side of the Dwarves and who is merely opposing Matron Mother Quenthel and her forces? And can the Dwarves work with the humans and Sinnafein and her elves, along with the folk of Silverymoon to free the north of the Drow? This book was... okay at best. I have noticed that I don't really get as excited about Drizzt and his companions as I used to. Part of that is that Salvatore and the publisher seem to be all too willing to give into Drizzt's many fanboys and keep writing about him, when I think he should have been left to pass into obscurity once more. With so many Drizzt books about, sooner or later, I would hope that R.A. Salvatore ran out of enthusiasm for writing about the Drow and picked up some new characters. I am very upset that, say, Cadderly was killed off (and his lady-love Danica). I wanted to read more of those characters, but they just weren't as popular as Drizzt. And I think this series and these characters are jumping the shark at this point. Yes, the battles are still massive and thrilling, but all the joy seems to be gone, and I'd like to only read the next book when R.A. Salvatore has found that joy in writing again. So, still recommended, but only slightly.


Rushed to the Altar by Jane Feather- Jasper Sullivan, Earl of Blackwater, is not a wealthy man. So when his uncle proposes to leave his fortune to Jasper and his brothers, with one stipulation: each one must marry a former prostitute who they saved from her profession. Jasper encounters Clarissa Astley the daughter of a prosperous merchant, when she is living in a brothel and searching desperately for her younger brother, just a child, who has been taken away from their home by her guardian, who wants to eliminate the heir, her brother, and then force her into marriage so that he can take their parents fortune. But on her own, she is unable to find him, and reluctantly, she needs Jasper's help. In return, she agrees to marry him to spite his already spiteful uncle and give him enough money to live on. But when the hand of her Guardian reaches out to snatch her away, Clairssa will have to escape the man she fears the most, and find a life with Jasper, who she is in love with, in the bargain. But can they outwit their foes and triumph before Clarissa is dragged away to a lunatic asylum and his uncle disinherits him? I liked this book. I'd read another book in the series, and all three brothers seem to be getting around their uncle by marrying women who aren't actually courtesans, they just looked like they were. But I liked all the characters, the romance was wonderful and the ending was actually rather appropriate for the villain. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.


New Spring by Robert Jordan- This is a prequel to the Wheel of Time stories. It starts in the White Tower, as Moiraine Damodred witnesses a foretelling from one of the Tower's Seers. Afterwards, the seer falls dead at Moiraine's feet and precipitates the search for the newly born Dragon Reborn. Moiraine and her best friend Siuan Sanche, join the search for the mother of the Dragon Reborn, looking for women who gave birth in the sight of Dragonmount, which covers a lot of ground. Siuan and Moiraine are sent to one of the army camps to record the borths, with women lining up to do so because the Amyrlin seat offers a reward to any woman who has given birth to a child in the time allotted for the birth. But soon, the test to become a Aes Sedai is given to both of them and both pass, becoming sisters of the Blue Aja. Siuan is taken into the spy service, Moiraine is chocen to learn more magic. But soon she becomes convinced that she knows who the mother of the new Dragon reborn is... or might be, and takes off on her own to investigate. Along the way, she meets an outlander named Lan Mandragoran., he Uncrowned King of a country swallowed by the Blight. As he and his companions are drawn into the conflict between Darkfriends, Black Aja and all too human enemies, Moiraine, Siuan and Lan will have to work together to defeat the dark and find the Dragon Reborn. But how long will it take her to find them, and can she meet the Black Aja and Darkfriends she meets along the way? I actually rather enjoyed this book. It takes place twenty years before the series and ends a few months later, but we get to see the forces being marshaled to look for the Dragon Reborn, who has just been born. Sadly, Moiraine doesn't find Rand until 20 years later, but we get to see her encountering Lan for the first time and how they bonded (and how she bonded him. This book sets up the rest of the series, and like the first books in the series, things actually happen fairly swiftly. This makes it a fast read and it's also surprisingly good. I really enjoyed it all the way through, even if Moiraine *doesn't* find the child she is searching for. Recommended.


The Loving Daylights by Lynsay Sands- Jane Spyrus is a tech geek who designs gadgets for spies. Disturbingly, though, all of the gadgets she designs seem to revolve around sex. A Mini -Missile designed to resemble a bright pink vibrator, Tampons that act as locator beacons, and a condom that reacts to male excitement by shrinking to a fraction of its former size. But when her next door neighbor is kidnapped by her boss, Jane must team up with her grandmother, a feisty ex-spy now confined to a wheelchair and her neighbor's hot brother, Abel Andretti, to find Jane's friend. Luckily, she borrowed a few of Jane's "tampons". But in the process, Jane is called upon to actually *be* a spy, something she isn't quite prepared for. And when Abel, an accountant, and she start getting closer than she's ever been with a man, Jane finds herself pulled in two directions. But can she rescue her friend *and* land a man who is constantly impressed with her mind and ideas, and seems to think she is sexy as well? This book was a mix of laughs and hotness. Jane is clumsy, lacks confidence and is better with technology than people. But when Edie goes missing, Jane will do anything to find her, even become a spy and not just a tech. As she bumbles through the case, she gains skills with people, dressing sexy and builds confidence. And Abel, after a less than successful first meeting, finds himself enjoying both sides of her. I liked their chemistry and how they treated each other, and I would definitely recommend this book to someone looking for a fun, comedic modern romance. Recommended.


Sinful in Satin by Madelaine Hunter- Celia Pennifold's mother was a courtesan, a very rich and famous one. Her mother attempted to sell Celia into the same sort of life, Celia ran away to the country and found a different sort of life working with other women in a gardening business. Now that her mother is passed on, Celia has returned to London to take up residence in one of her mother's houses, the other being sold to pay off her many debts. Unbeknownst to her, though, Jonathan Albrighton, a spy, rented the house from Celia's mother, and is interested in finding her mother's account book, which will shed light on certain diplomatic spying that went on long before. Celia also wants to find it, to find out who her father really is, and why her mother never told her, as she took the secret of the reality of Celia's parentage to the grave with her. But as Celia tries to make a new, quieter,more sedate life for herself, phantoms of the past are knocking at her door, from the man she once loved to the man she is coming to care for deeply. But one cannot go digging into a hidden past without turning up hurtful secrets and when Celia uncovers the truth of who her father is, it may open up a world of new secrets, and the truth about her mother in equal measures. But can she live with the truth of her parentage and the shame of having been born the daughter of a courtesan? And can she find love when a man wants her for nothing more than her body and maidenhead? I liked this book as well. Celia is someone who has lived with the truth of who she is for a long time, and she thinks she has very little illusions about how the world works. But she still does have some, and it up to Jonathan to help her with finding her true father. Jonathan is a spy, trained not to have emotions, but when he starts getting close to Celia, all that changes, and he has to face that he has been lied to as well. I found this story engrossing, for pretty much all of it. And would definitely recommend it to others.


Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt- Temperance Dews is a widow working for her family's Foundling Home, along with her brother, Winter and a servant named Polly. The home is on the edge of St. Giles, a poor, crime-ridden area of London. One night, en route to retrieve a child  who has been abandoned, she is followed home by Lazarus Huntingdon, Lord Caire, a man well-known for his passions, and the twisted ways in which he fulfills them. Caire is in St. Giles to track down the Ghost of St. Giles, reputed to have murdered Caire's mistress by gutting her. But he is unfamiliar with the area, and Mrs. Dews is very familiar, So he asks for her help, offering first money, and then a sexual relationship with him. But Temperance is further-seeing than that, and holds out for an introduction to the Ton, so she can get her Orphanage and Foundling Home a patron who will support them with money donations. A deal is struck, but as they start and continue the search, they discover an inconvenient longing for each other, and they must help each other face the demons in their past before they have any hope of being free of their baggage. But is love too much to expect for these wounded hearts? I loved this book. I'll admit it took a while to warm up to both  characters, but you don't get the sense of how injured they are until near the middle of the book. Eventually, they do end up confronting their past demons, and I loved the true identity of the villain. This is the first book in a series about St. Giles, and several characters are teased as sequel bait, but not in a way I particularly minded. Highly recommended.


Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt- Godric St. John is the Ghost of St. Giles, but when the woman he married comes to London to invade his run-down home, he wants her to go away as quickly as possible. He doesn't want to give up being the Ghost or the memories of his first wife, who died early, and the woman he married, Lady Margaret, "Megs" Reading, he has promised to be a husband to in name only. But Megs wants two things from her trip to London, to kill the Ghost of St. Giles, who murdered the man she loved, and to beget a child of her own after she lost the child of her lover. Godric married het to save her reputation, and because her brother forced him into it. But now that Meg is living in his house, doing her best to bring his home back to life, he finds his heart coming alive as well, and when she discovers his secret, he has no choice but to take her along on his search for the murderer of her love, both to prove his own innocence, and to keep her from harm. But can they have a true marriage of equals and find the love they have been denying? And will Godric agree to give up being the Ghost for Megs? Another really excellent book, the fifth in the "Maiden Lane" series. of which this is book 5. I liked seeing Godric and Megs strike sparks off each other, and finally come to admit that they loved and cared for one another. I see that in the time between "Wicked Intentions", several characters have been paired up, and Godric was one of the characters from the first book that it was good to see again. Several years have passed, but the character is a little grimmer and darker than he used to be, sort of Regency Batman. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every minute of the book. Both characters hurt each other and get over their past ties to form a new one with each other, and it held my attention every step of the way. Recommended.


Redshirts by John Scalzi- Andrew Dahl is an Ensign newly assigned to the Universal Union Flagship Intrepid. Older than the usual Ensigns, he is a refugee from Forshan. But Human, not alien. He was a seminary student of the Forshan religion until a religious Schism wiped out the abbey he had made his home. With nowhere left to go, he joined the Union Academy and was assigned to the Intrepid. But soon after he arrives on board, he discovers a curious fact. Whenever someone is looking for Ensigns for away missions, everyone seems to disappear. In asking his crewmates, he discovers that this ship has an abnormally high casualty rate. While the Captain and Science Officer are never affected, new recruits to the ship seem to die like mayflies every time they beam down to a new planet. It's so much more than other ships in the same fleet, even ones tasked to dangerous missions in the Union, that the lower crew members have been avoiding going on away missions. But what could lead to such an increased threat of death? There are crew members, mostly the Captain and the Bridge Crew, who never seem to be affected, except for the Astrogator, who is regularly menaced, but always saved at the last minute. But when a theory of what s happening is proposed by a crewmember who seems to have literally disappeared, can Dahl and his friends on the lower decks  discover if the theory is true and work to ameliorate what is happening before they die as well? The books ends in three novelettes that examine characters in the past and their reaction to meeting the crewmen from the future, and how they deal with that. This is an amusing, yet also horrifying book. There are plenty of nods to Star Trek, but the true culprit is a rip-off cable show. And the landing parties usually consist of Captain, Science Officer, and Ensign Expendable, sometimes more than one. What it would be like to live on board a ship where to attract the notice of the senior crew is basically, to die, was unexpectedly chilling, making this an effective mix of humor and horror. It sounds like it might be funny, but to the characters caught in the trap, it's no joke, and I enjoyed it very much. It reminded me of the Stargate SG-1 episode where we see a TV series based on the Stargate SG-1 team, and while that is played straight rather than for laughs, this book is going to stay with me for a long time. A very long time. Highly recommended.




Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett- When Polly Perks' brother Paul marched off to war a few years ago, the troops were promised that the war would be short and victorious. But when her father falls ill (and the local god, Nuggan, has declared a woman owning a business is an abomination, she decides to cut her hair, run off to join the army and follow him to bring him back home. But Polly's nation, Borogravia, is badly outmatched by the forces of Zlobenia,. and even worse, Zlobenia is allied with Ankh-Morporkh, who has sent Duke Commander Vimes to oversee the War. But as Polly joins Sergeant Jackrum and the rest of her newly-recruited squad of In and Outs, she begins to realize that being a man is harder than she thought, and that most of the "men" in her group aren't even men at all. But can this Monstrous Regiment of Women, dressed like men, end the war with Borogravia and Ankh-Morpork and bring peace to the land? And can they survive the march to the front and bring down the fort where the forces of Zlobenia are holed up, free High Command and get out again safely? For Nuggan has declared women dressing like men to be an abomination, along with the color blue, oysters and rocks) and just being in their position means that they, too are an abomination. Can they still win the day? Terry Pratchett is known for his humor, and writing comedy, but this book edged much closer to satire that out and out comedy. In his novel, "The Truth", Terry took on the press. But here, it's the military mindset- mostly of the commanders and planners rather than the soldiers left to carry out their orders. Vimes is not the only character from previous books to show up here. Buggy Swires, Sergeant Angua, William deWorde and Otto Chriek, among others. Plus, there is a vampire and an Igor, and numerous other typical characters, and a troll as well. I loved this book, and I would definitely recommend it for a good dose of humor. Highly recommended.