Saturday, October 31, 2015

2015, Part 8

Pumpkin Scissors, Volume 5 by Ryotaro Iwanaga- As the battle at the ball continues, Alice must win against a skilled Lodelian Bodyguard. But if she wins, can she bring the wrongdoers to justice, all of them, without getting them killed by Section 1? And when the Princess of Lodelia comes to the Empire to try and gauge its readiness, can Machs save the Empire from her wrath? Another really good book, with lots of action and thoughts on nobility. I love the way each section sets off each other, and the section with Machs was really funny and gave insight into his character. Recommended,

Lady's Hazard by Miranda Jarrett- Bethany Penny, one of the three Penny sisters, has made a fortune, like her sisters, from their gaming hell, serving members of the landed and gentry. But she is still more interested in serving food for the poor rather than the spoiled scions of the rich. However, when someone begins poisoning the poor with the food served at the poor kitchens around the city, Bethany considers that the most heinous crime imaginable. To find the culprit, she teams up with Major William Callaway, a titled man who lives more like the poor in the streets. For it seems that all of the men who have been killed are from the military- and are all from the regiment he led. He no longer believes in love or caring, until he finds in Bethany a kindred soul, one who truly does help out of the goodness of her heart. But as their search draws them closer together, can the man who doesn't believe in love and the woman who thought she would never marry find the kind of love that makes them stronger together than apart? I love Miranda Jarrett, and this book is one of the main reasons why. William Callaway has lost faith in everything and Bethany Penny no longer believes in marriage for herself, but through their working together, they find out they were both wrong. An excellent book, but I can't say the villain of the piece caught me entirely by surprise. Recommended.

Angel in Chains by Cynthia Eden- Azrael was once leader of the death Angels, but when his fellow angel Keenan fell over love of a woman, Az was angry. However, he falls for the anger he feels, and when he remembers who he is, he wants nothing more than to reclaim his position as an angel and his status. Howeverm when he sees Jade Pierce being harassed by shifters, he can't help but intervene. She isn't sure who Az is, but she is more frightened for him than for herself. It turns out that when Jade was young, she fell in love with a shifter boy, but his father was abusive and he wasn't much better. But when she finally got up the strength and courage to leave him, he wouldn't let her go. So she made her way on her own. But her former boyfriend and lover wants her back, and is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way of having her- Az included. Az, who has regained his power to kill with a touch, discovers that he can't use it on Jade's ex, because he is part-angel. And her ex wants to get Angel dust, made from destroying Angel's wings. When he can't get them from Az, he summons another angel and destroys her wings. But when Az decides to take the man out, because he wants Jade for himself, how can he destroy an evil shifter who is also part angel? And can Jade love Az, even though he is now a fallen and no longer an angel? I liked this book, because I will have to admit that I really took a dislike to Az in Angel of Darkness. It was nice to see him fall and see how he redeemed himself on the Earth, and also how he fell in love and gave up on being an angel for Jade. I enjoyed it, but seeing Az get his comeuppance was also rather nice, Recommended.

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt- Lady Phoebe Batten is beautiful, but also almost completely blind. To guard her, her brother haa hired Captain James Trevillion, who himself is injured and has a hard time walking. But when she is nearly snatched several times in London, he takes her away to his family estate, disguised as his wife. As for Phoebe, she is angered by the way Trevillion is always there, preventing her from trying to live her life in the way she wants. But when she is dragged agaist his hard body when he rescues her from kidnappers, she soon becomes aware that her irritation covers a very real affection for him, an affection that is quickly turning into something more than just lukewarm. But when he takes her to his boyhood home disguised as his wife, she soon becomes aware that she wishes the role was more real than anything else. Can she convince both James and her brother that this is a good idea? James has longed from Phobe from afar, but when she begins heating things up between them, can he convince her it isn't a good idea, or will he succumb to her charms? I liked this book, especially the byplay between the two characters and how they, despite the damage to their bodies, liked each other for whom they are. Highly recommended.

About a Vampire by Lindsay Sands- Justin Bricker is a Hunter working for the vampire council, but he has been left alone while his partners found their lifemate. He, of course, gave them plenty of advice on how to win their lifemates over. But when Justin meets Holly when she breaks in on him and Anders disposing of Rogues in the mortuary cremation oven, he chases her and causes her to fall, right on the pair of scissors she'd been carrying to use against any zombies who might attack her. With her lifeblood gushing out, and him being unable to control her, He turns her to save her- and now must teach her how to use her powers as an immortal. Only one problem- Holly is married. Holly, for her part, has lived all her life with either her parents or her husband, who she grew up with as her best friend. But when she is abruptly turned immortal by Bricker, she must come to terms with her new, better body, and drinking blood. But when she must return to her husband, how can she give up Bricker, who she got close to? And what will she do if her husband is also a potential lifemate for her? I liked seeing the obnoxious Bricker taken down a peg. He's always been so confident with women, but seeing him struggle to woo Holly (thanks to the interference of his friends) was really amusing, since he previously claimed to know it all. But the ending was nice, and how things neatly knitted up the story was very good and wonderful. Highly recommended.

When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare- In her first London Season, Madeline Gracechurch was so uncomfortable with the crowds and masses of people that she decided to save herself the hassle of catching a husband. On a trip to Brighton to see a relative, she made up a fiancee named Logan MacKensie and claimed she had met and fallen in love with him in the city, and that he had to leave on campaign. In the meantime, she wrote him letters about what she was doing (while talking about how much she hated society and how she was doing this to get out of being married), and when he was no longer useful, she killed him off and "mourned" him. However, when she is willed a castle in the Highlands, she goes there with her aunt Thea. However, soon a man turns up her her door, the real Captain Logan MacKenzie, who has gotten her letters all these years. He is looking for a home for himself and his men, all of whom were wounded and some crippled by the war. He threatens to blackmail Maddie if she doesn't go along with his plan, threatening to expose her using the letters she wrote. So Maddie has no choice but to go along with his plan. But when the flesh and blood man she thought she created begins to actively woo her, and she finds herself not panicking about him, can she keep her heart in line and resist falling in love? Or is her heart already irrevocably lost? And will she still be able to follow her career of being a wildlife illustrator if she gives her heart away to Logan? I loved this book, as it follows Maddy sort of paying for the mistake she made in making up a supposed fiancee to spare herself her fear of crowds and people in large numbers. I also liked Logan and his men, and how she dealt with them all. I also liked that she didn't give up on her dream. Highly Recommended.

The Dream Maker's Magic by Sharon Shinn- Kellen's mother gave birth to her away from home, but she insists that she gave birth to a boy, not a girl. Therefore, Kellen was raised as a boy would be, and her father, a traveling trader, stayed only as long as he could deal with his wife. When a truth-teller came to the village and her mother dragged Kellen to see her, the truth-teller told her that Kellen had been born a girl- had always been a girl. But her mother was still unable to accept the truth. When she went to school, she met a boy named Gryffin, the son of the local innkeeper, who, unbeknownst to most, horribly abused Gryffin after he was forced to take the boy in. Kellen has two dreams, to have her mother accept her, and for Gryffin to be safe and well. But when the village is visited by the Dream-Maker, now an old woman, can she make those two dreams come true for Kellen. When she goes to find Kellen to bring him to the Dream-Maker, she finds she cannot- he has gone missing. The next day, after the Dream-Maker leaves, she finds that his uncle had dragged him out of town, beat him again, further damaging his already-weak legs, and left him in the woods to die. Kellen rescues him and takes him to work with her, ensuring he has a place with an old schoolmate of theirs. Then word comes through the land- the Dream-Maker's magic has passed on. And it seems that Gryffin has it. But when they must separate for a yeat, will Gryffin remember Kellen at the end of it, and can they have any kind of future together? I loved this book, which was a continuation of The Safe-Keeper's Secret and The Truth-Teller's Tale. A Dream Maker has the power to make wishes come true, but only for others, and not for themselves. And their powers come from the hard lives they have led. But can Gryffin make Kellen's dreams come true? I loved the poignancy of this romantic story and how Kellen saves Gryffin and in the end, he saves her. I loved every aspect of the story and the many characters in it, even Kellen's mother. This is a book you simply must read. Highly recommended.

Rise of the Gryphon by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love - Evalle is an Alterant, a human mixed with some sort of supernatural race. She fights trolls, demons and other sorts of deadly things, but she is an outcast among the Beladors who serve the Druids. More than anything, she wants to find out her origins and help the Beladors, getting back in their good graces. In hopes of catching a traitor among the Beladors and rescue a friend they captured, she tries to infiltrate the deadly Medb coven in hopes of finding out informtation, along with her partner, Storm, a deadly Skinwalker. But when she is tricked into donning a bracelet intended to lead her into a trap, Evalle must try to keep Storm, now her lover as well as her partner, safe. And to do that, she must enter a deadly fighting competition against other Alterants and win, becoming one of the finalists. Dogged by a young witch whose powers are growing, and the leader of the coven from becoming immortal, along with her Dark Druid mate, Cathbad. But when it turns out the leader of the Medb needs the strongest Alterants for an attack on the Belador home dimention, can Evalle find the answers she needs while keeping her friends and lover safe? And what do the Medb know about the Alterants, anyway? I liked this book despite not having read the other books in the series, but the story hung together anyway. I wasn't completely sure of all the players and details, but it's a great novel withg plenty of interesting twists and turns. Recommended.

A Call to Arms by David Weber, Timothy Zahn and Thomas Pope- Travis Long is an excellent spacer with one little hang-up: rules are meant to be followed. Living in a time where most commanders are slack about enforcing those rules, Travis has run into many problems in the Manticoran navy. Now, there are problems in the admiralty, with the politician in charge of MPARS agitating for increasing the size of MPARS and decreasing the size of the navy, Travis' brother is working with Winterfall to do his bidding. But with a mercenary group, the Volslungs, seeking to conquer Manticore to secure a possible Wormhole Junction on the edge of Manty space, it's up to Travis and his fellow spacers to try and keep Manticore free and destroy the ships of the Volslungs. Thankfully, they have been ill-informed about the ships in the Manticoran forces by a traitor, and it's possible that MPARS and its ships being the only thing standing between Victory and Defeat. But as Travis tries his best to keep his ship and Captain alive, can he be s decisive factor in the battle for Mantcore? I liked this book, esecially the growing romance between Travis and Lisa Donnelly, and the final battle in Manticore space. This was a seriously good book, and I can't wait to read more. Highly recommended.

The Legacy of Lehr by Katherine Kurtz- Mather Seton and Dr. Wallace Hamilton are a husband and wife team sent to Beta-Geminorum to bring Lehr cats back to the emperor for his menagerie. No sooner do they have the highly-intelligent, psychically active cats on board the ship Valkyrie that strange things begin happening on board. The cats, supposedly demons to a number of alien races, seem to be killing and attacking people on board the Valkyrie. But both Seton and Wallace, and their men, believe that it is impossible for the cats to escape from their cages. When scraps of blue cat fur are left behind at the scenes of the attacks, and the victims appear to have been carved up by claws, everyone suspects the cats as the culprits... but are they really? And how can they prove it if the cats aren't at fault? This was a great sci-fi mystery, with an entirely sci-fi ending, and wonderful characters and alien races. Highly recommended,

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare- The daughter of a prominent author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight is down to nearly her last penny when she hears she has inherited a castle from the Earl of Lynforth, she travels there, only to be confronted by the nearly fully-blind  Ransom, Lord Rothbury, who contests her ownership of the estate. But with nowhere else to go, Izzy can't leave, and she intends to stay in the castle, defending her claim on it, for as long as she can. But while Izzy has grown up on stories of love and romance, it seems she has outgrown them all, except perhaps for the one of beauty and the beast- especially if the beast is a lord who no longer believes in love or dreams, and especially hates the sort of faerytales that Izzy's father wrote. But he is willing to employ her to help him read through his backlog of mail and find out why her uncle thought he owned Ransom's castle. But as they share his home and Izzy keeps falling for Ransome, he realizes he can no longer live without her- even if the Moranglians (followers of her father's tales) keep showing up at the castle dressed in medieval garb and knightly armor. But now Ransom's solicitors want him declared insane- apparently so that their tricking his accounts is dismissed. But when he chooses that moment to propose to Izzy, can she keep him safe from Bedlam and accept his proposal as well? I liked this book- it was a cross between fairy tales and true love, and I did sort of suspect the twist that Ransom figured out along the way. I liked Izzy and I like Ransom, and their romance is wonderful. Naturally, it takes some time for Ransom to warm up to Izzy, but I really liked them both, and the ending when he declares his love for her is wonderful. Recommended.

Angel Betrayed by Cynthia Eden- Sammael, known better as Sam is a former Death Angel who fell from Heaven when he decided to kill humans who had attacked a village, killed women and children, but not before raping them horribly. Ever since then, he has been cast out on the Earth. But now he is approached by a woman named Seline O'Shaw, who claims she needs protection from some people who are intent upon killing her. Sam turns her down, but when she is attacked on the street, he takes her to one of his many homes to keep her safe- only to find out that Seline is a succubus- or part succubus, to be honest. He's expecting her to betray him, but he's not expecting her to intrigue him. And when it turns out that Seline is working for a punishment Angel named Rogziel, who wants to punish all the fallen angels on earth, the two of them end up working together to defeat the Punishment Angel, who is going after fallen who fell for things like love. When he starts killing even relatively innocent Fallen, Sam decides to take him on- and also his brother Az, who Rogziel has imprisoned in his base and is torturing. But when Rogziel also decides to kill Seline, that's when Sam hits his limit. How far is Sam willing to go to save the woman he loves, and, more importantly, how far is she willing to go for him? When they are separated between love and hell, can anything on earth reunite them? Or are they fated to be separated forever? This is the second book in the Fallen series, but I really ended up liking it. Sammael is usually equated with Satan in a lot of religion, but Sam is strong, hard and uncompromising, much like his angel-self used to be. He's also possibly the first fallen angel and we get to see others who fell for a variety of reasons, from love to curiosity, to wanting to protect their human. We also get to see different kinds of angels from guardian angels to punishment angels to messenger angels, not just the Death Angels. This expanded the universe in a very good way, and we also got to see Uriel, one of the major angels (archangels) in the story as well. I liked how the dichotomy of Seline was revealed, as you would think someone half angel, half devil would be quite... different. Highly recommended.

The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer by John C. Mutter- Natural disasters happen, but you might expect that when they do, both rich and poor are given equal chance to come out from under the debris and rebuild, rebuild better and rebuild stronger. Or maybe not in less equal societies, where the ones in charge don't distribute aid equally, but surely in America, that isn't the case... Sadly, though, even in America, in areas struck by any kind of disaster, the poor end up less well off and the Rich are barely touched, and even get more of the pie than they did before. Mutter shows why this happens- even in countries like the US, but also in places like Haiti, South Korea and Thailand. It really opened my eyes to how unequally even our society distributes wealth and why it's the poor who have the hardest time when even everyone loses just about everything they have. A fascinating book. Recommended.

The Turning Season by Sharon Shinn- Karadel is a vet in the tiny little town of Quinton, living on the edge of town and trying to live a normal life. But Karadel is a shifter, and not really very normal at all. At any time, she can suddenly feel the shift come upon her and have to hurry home to throw off her human clothes and revert to being some sort of animal. And when she has animals to feed and look after, it's even harder. But luckily, she has people around her, humans and shifters both, who know who and what she is and take care of her as much as she takes care of them when they shift or become injured. People like Bonnie, a human who is raising a shifter named Alonzo with her lover Aurelia. Celeste, another shifter who maintains a happy-go-lucky attitude towards life, and Ryan, another shifter who is Karadel's ex-boyfriend, who tries to lighten her up and who is the male "twin" of Celeste. But complications come to Karadel's life when a local man tries to rape Celeste outside in the alley of a new nightclub they went to. Karadel has bonded with Joe, one of the Bouncers, and as they get closer, chaos rises from Celeste's having turned into a bobcat and clawed the man to get away. But as Karadel deals with inconvenient shifts and her new boyfriend, an even bigger dose of chaos comes to town when someone attempts to abduct Celeste and hurts her very badly. Ryan is furious, and when he goes out for vengeance on the two men who hurt her, all the shifters Karadel knows are caught up in the battle. Can Karadel find the normality she wants amid the backdrop of what is going on in town, and can she prevent one of her friends from making a mistake with their life? I wasn't sure what to expect from this series, but this is very much like a literary novel, only with shapeshifters. Or, to quote the title of the earlier book in this series, "Still Life with Shape-Shifter". It seems so ordinary a book, but at the same time, somehow profound and at all times wonderful and amazing. Each of the characters is well and exquisitely drawn, and I loved reading it. I even read it twice- that's just how good it is. Highly Recommended.

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and more tell us about Crime by Val McDermid- Val McDermid is a mystery writer, and these days, whether you are writing police procedurals or any other kind of mystery, you'll want to keep yourself up to date on the whos, hows, Whats and Whys of forensics, which is all about gathering clues from many different sources to either find suspects or eliminate ones already found by the police detectives. This book covers ten different areas of clue detection and also how the clues are collected at the scene and, finally, used and abused in the courtroom itself. The book covers fire scenes, bugs, DNA, facial reconstruction, Pathology, Toxicology, Anthropology, Digital Forensics and more on its way to showing us how many ways there are now to ferret out clues as to who killed this person and how- the why usually belongs to Psychiatry. It's a fascinating book that covers everything in a fairly fine detail and shows how the science in question was used in real-life crimes to solve the old "Whodunnit?" question. While there are other books out there for writers that give more detail (usually in a single book about a single kind of detection, this book gives a fascinating overview of it all. Highly recommended, whether you're a writer or just fascinated with things like the CSI series.

Siren's Call by Jane Castle- Ella Morgan is a song talent, a very strong one- specifically, she can sing people into sleep- or death. Her kind is known as a Siren, and she is used to people thinking of her as some kind of monster. But when she sings a killer about to marry her friend into a sleep to prevent him from killing her or her friend, she is happy to have her skills and powers. Shortly, though, she leaves the company she is employed at to become a freelance dream interpreter- and in her first case, she helps a dust bunny to free its friends from a man who wants to use them to test out an old alien relic- a destructive one. While on the case, she meets Rafe Coppersmith, son of a rich family dealing in mining, who has recently found a new area under the island of Rainshadow. The two of them connect, and he promises to take her on a date. Shortly thereafter, he is recalled to Rainshadow to help his family, and falls prey to a horrible psy-fever that is destroying his mental talent. But he returns to Ella to hire her, because his family needs her help with Dinosaurs that prey by using their own songs to hunt in the Wonderland Area under Rainshadow. Rafe, even if he suspects Ella is a Siren, needs her help too badly to let her turn him down. And when he saves her from men trying to abduct them, is willing to leave with Rafe to go to Rainshadow. But she will be taking along Lorelei, the Dust Bunny who adopted her after she saved its friends. Now, in the catacombs underneath Rainshadow, can Ella keep everyone alive while steering Rafe through the depts. of his psy-fever? I loved this book. I loved Ella's powers and her struggle to hide them, and I loved the revelation of music talents and what she was capable of. Moreover, I loved Lorelei and the rest of the dust bunnies and how Ella came up with a new profession for Rafe after his talent shifts. In short, I loved everything, and I suspect the next novel will have something to do with the city of Ghosts and Fog. I love this series very much. Highly recommended,

An Arranged Marriage by Jo Beverley- When Eleanor Chivenham was young, she hated her brother for his unbridled lifestyle. When he sold her home out from under her, she had no choie by the terms of her father's will but to move in with him. But when he sells her for the night to an Earl who believes she is a lightskirt, she can no longer stay with him and leaves, running away, even if she does lose her money to her brother by doing so. When the Earl finds her again, he explains that it wasn't him who took her innocence, but his brother, who has returned to Paris in the meantime. But if she is pregnant, the child will be part of his family, so he will take care of her until his brother returns and can be persuaded to marry her. When he does marry her, Nicolas promises her to tell her the truth, unless he cannot. He also lets slip to her that it really was his brother who got her with child, but Christopher likes men instead of women and thus cannot marry her, which makes her distrust hos brother. Meanwhile, Nicolas must try to win the heart of a female spy and prostitute to get her to turn over the knowledge she has to England about a plot against the Emperor of France, but when Eleanor has tried to make her life with Nicolas worth living, he finds he cannot pretend to be in love with another woman when it is Eleanor he loves. And as they grow further apart, can they ever find their way back to each other before he is forced to go the distance with Madam Bellaire? I liked this book. Jo Beverley writes/wrote some really good romances, and some of my favorites of the 1980's. This book is from the 1990's, but she still has her charms. I don't know if I would have been as patient as Eleanor is with Nicolas, but I loved reading this book and it took me back to everything I loved about Jo Beverley. Recommended,

The Marriage Test by Bettina Krahn- Griffin de Grandaise is gifted with a sense of smell that is extremely potent, so much so that a smell which is merely unpleasant  to ordinary people is like a whiff of pure garbage to him. Also, it means that food made with substandard ingredients or even spoiled ingredients, is pure garbage to him and he cannot eat it. So he has looked for the perfect chef to suit his tastes for years. Joanne of Childress is the daughter of a former nobleman who was dumped into the convent of the Brides of Virtue when she was only a child. Thanks to her cooking, the convent has enjoyed unusual peace and serenity among the nuns and novitiate. The abbess wants Joanne to take vows, but Joanne has no such calling and wishes to be free to be a normal woman, even though she truly enjoys cooking. So when two of Grandaise's men stumble on the convent and sample her cooking, it is rumors of her cooking that draw Grandaise to the Convent of the Brides of Virtue. But when the Bishop and the Duke of Avalon are also feasting there, it means the Abbess cannot simply send Grandaise away. Instead, he leases her from the church for one year and agrees to return her to the convent with her virtue intact, or be punished by the King of France. Meanwhile, Grandaise's neighbor Verdun believes that Joanne is merely a mistress, and since he is to marry his daughter to Grandaise, which he is against, he decides to make Grandaise marry Joanne, thus bringing the King and Church's wrath upon his head, and marry his daughter off to a fat German Prince. But when Joanne and Verdun's daughter Sophie decide to take it into their own hands to solve things, can the men do anything but go along? And will the true culprit behind the incidents between the two Noble lords feud ever be brought to justice? This was an older book, but the story was very interesting, it being all about Medieval cooking and cookery. In fact, Bettina Krahn said she tried to make the dishes as authentic as possible to medieval recipes and at the same time, delicious-sounding to modern ears. In this, she succeeded, and I really enjoyed reading the book and the sensuality of food and taste revealed within. Highly effective and wonderful. Recommended.

Drink of Me by Jacquelyn Frank- In the outlands where the Jakals wander, torturing and killing people to feed on their pain and despair also live the Sange, who drink blood in the act of passion with their mates and are thereby feared. So when a woman who feels sorrow very deeply is rescued by Reule, leader of the Sange, he cannot help but try to help her, as he can feel her sorrow beating on him. But when she awakes, she is amnesiac, unable even to remember her own name, and when Darcio, his shadow, tries to read the memory of her body, it seems that she was wounded before she crawled to where he found her, but just remembering that far back hurts. Reule names her "Mystique, and before long, she saves one of his broodpack from dying with her ability to take on the pain and wounds of others to heal. Taking the place of the Physician she ousted, he finds himself falling for her and making her his Prima, or wife. But when people who look like Mystique, the Yesu, come to the Sange city looking for a murderess, Reule knows they mean Mystique, but can she regain yher memories and remember why these men seek her and provide a true explanation to what actually went on, or will Rye, Reule's heir cast her out for her crime without listening to the truth? I like Jacquelyn Frank's exquisite romances among peoples who aren't human and have never been human. Like this one, which apparently takes place in a very different world than the Nightwalkers/ Shadowdwellers universe. All we learn of here are the Sange, the Jakal and the Yesu, none of which I am aware of from the other series.. Nonetheless, I liked the interesting world, the characters, and the Sange, which are analogous to vampires while not actually being vampires (having fangs and drinking blood are the only two things Sange and vampires have in common.. Nevertheless, I loved the world-building and the glimpses of the world and peoples we saw. Highly recommended,

Closer to the Heart by Mercedes Lackey- with the crisis of Amily taking over as King's Own from her father, Nikolas finally past them and Amily and Mags in love and to be married, the King has decided to make political hay from their marriage by turning it into a low-key diplomatic event. However, the ambassador from Menmellith comes riding into Haven, the Capital of Valdemar, hell-bent for leather with horrible news- the Regency Council that rules Menmellith for the ten-year old boy who rules as King has heard of a horrible plot against the King by one of the Lords passed over by the Regent Council, and he is backing his bid against the King with weapons purchased in Valdemar- bearing the marks of Valdemaran swordmakers. The King has no idea of who bought the weapons or where they are coming from, and who, if anyone in Valdemar, is behind the plot. With no time to waste, Mags, Nikolas and Amily must look into the matter, and one of Amily's latest ideas, of a service to train unwanted spinsters for working for the crown in the guise of "Crown Approved Maids", recruits a young woman named Keira, who is willing to do anything for Valdemar, even give up her purity, if it helps the Kingdom. So as Nikolas goes among the master smiths to find out who purchased the weapons, Mags, Keira, Lord Jorun, Nikolas's mentor and a former street boy named Coot go amongst the Mine-Owners to see who might have lent money to this venture. But as the King attempts to keep a diplomatic delegation delayed by coming up with ploys to keep them from making easy headway through Vakdemar, Mags and Amily are kidnapped from the grounds of the collegium itself. But can they escape from their jailer and put paid to his plans? I loved this book- I loved how Mags and Amily forestalled all the fuss over their wedding by getting married on their own beforehand and the way the structures they'd set up helped them track down the actual plotter and put his plans to an end. While I am getting over the constant irritation over Mags' tortured dialect, I still wish he'd talk like the other characters, as it takes me twice as long to read a line written in his own way of speaking than "normal" speech. Highly recommended,

Redeemed by P.c. Cast and Kristin Cast- Former head of the Tulsa House of Night and agent of Chaos Neferet has returned from her exile with a bang, killing an entire church full of worshippers and taking over the hotel where she once lived in the Penthouse. Now, styling herself a goddess, she's killed sixty people and used their deaths and their souls to barricade herself within. Meanwhile, Zoey Redbird is in the jail at the Tulsa Police Department, taking the blame for two homeless men she killed by accident. But, as it turns out, she didn't kill them after all, Neferet did soon after she emerged from her cocoon. Freed of the responsibility for atoning for those deaths, Zoey returns to the House of Night with the idea to call a meeting and decide how to deal with Neferet. Along with her are the teachers, including Lenobia, and Thanatos and all of the "Nerd Herd", including Aphrodite and Darius, Kalona, Rephaim, Aurox and Detective Marx, among others. Meanwhile, back in the Hotel, Neferet gets an event planner to work for her, under threat of death or sacrifice to Neferet's chaos allies, and Thanatos sets up a barrier of flame around the city, including around the hotel. So when Neferet sends her event planner out to try and get 1920's costumes for a ritual Neferet wants her to set in motion, Neferet's minions are burned and destroyed while the Stockholm-Syndrome'd planner is left unharmed. Meanwhile, Aphrodite has received a vision that the Goddess wants Zoey to use the old Magic to defeat Neferet, but to do so without running into the same problem as Neferet, she must be pure of intent. But how can Zoey guarantee that? Deaths mount as Neferet takes out Kalona, who is no longer immortal, and Zoey agrees that he deserves a second chance, allowing him to return to the side of the Goddess Nyx. But as deaths mount on both sides, can Zoey discover how she needs to defeat Neferet and the Old Magic she needs to use? For the last book in the series, everything came down to several battles, but each one, and the ending, were, frankly, perfect in my view. Yes, plenty of people died, both the good and the wicked, but I loved the ending and I was glad to have read the entire series up to this point. The last few pages of the book were beautiful and I hope I can read more stories set in this world. Highly recommended.

An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff- The Galactic Council is made up of the Elder Races and the Younger Races. The younger races were brought in to fight a war for the Elder Races that they were no longer capable of fighting, having evolved past the need for fighting and war. But the war turned out to he an experiment set up by polymorphous plastic aliens as a social experiment and now the war is over. Some among the younger races, however, are still looking for conflict, and someone has gone in search of the home system of the H'san to raid their tomb planet, because apparently long ago, the H'san had horrendous weapons and buried them with their dead. Now, artifacts are coming onto the market, so ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr and her team, including her husband Craig, must go in search of the H'san System and whoever is plundering the tombs of the long-dead H'san. Backtracking the artifacts sold on the planet of Abalae, they discover that the seller was a Katrien named Jamers. Also, her family was a dependent of the Katrien named Presit, a journalist that theyw worked with  to cover the threat of the plastic aliens. Presit promised to go in search of Jamers for her family's ruling female, but apparently the location of the original H'san homeworld is known to the Elder races. Unbeknownst to them all, the team sent in search of the weapons is now stuck on the planet, fighting off a wave of H'san zombies (actually, animated dead bodies through science, and only Torin and her Team can get them out. But the planet doesn't give up its secrets easily, and escaping is harder than it seems. Can Torin recover the other team, leave behind the weapons and bring her own team safely home?, or will the H'san planet be the death of them all? I really like Tanya Huff and her writing, and this series brings back one of my favorite characters of her, Confederation Marine Torin Kerr. This time, she is transitioning from being a soldier to working for the Bureau of Justice, and while most of her team are ex-military, Torin is still suffering from dreams and nightmares from her time at war. I liked this book, and the story was interesting, but seeing the team take on challenges and work together, unlike the other team, was interesting and great, to see the example to be like and not to be like. I wonder if any of the people she rescued will end up joining her in the future. Highly recommended.

Darkness on his Bones by Barbara Hambly- James Asher is an Oxford Don who used to be a spy for England. But when he is injured and nearly dies in Paris, it is his wife, Lydia, who comes to his rescue. James nearly died when someone threw him from the steeple of a Church, and through his dreams and memories, it seems that someone in Paris is after a vampiric artifact known as the Fascinum that is said to ensure powers over vampires so that they obey the elder vampire who has it to the best of their ability. But not only the vampires are seeking it, but the German High Command as well, and Asher wanted to destroy it so that no one could get their hands on it, as it would be dangerous no matter who had it. But apparently, he got closer in his investigations than he realized, because someone tried to kill him. Now, the only way to save his life is to find the Fascinum and to do that, Lydia must call on the vampire who first introduced James to the world of the undead, Don Simon Ysidro. But can the three of them working together find the truth behind the existence of the Fascinum and escape to England before the Germans overrun Paris at the start or World War I? I loved this book. Some of it is told in flashback, as James Asher remembers in his coma, while other parts are as Don Ysidro remembers when he was both human and vampire in Paris. It's an excellent book and I loved peering into all its corners and secrets, like an antiquarian book. Highly recommended,

I re-read Astronomy by Ian Ridpath, specifically the part about the constellations.

Hell's Foundations Quiver by David Weber- The Fight by Charis, Corisande, Emerald and Chisholm against the Church of God Awaiting is still ongoing, but while the church lands fight to keep up with the technical advances of the Heretics, the church is coming closer and closer to the realization that this might be a battle they could lose, a realization that Zhaspar Clyntahn, chief Vicar of the Church, fights tooth and claw, but others in the church are not as blinkered as Clyntahn when it comes to the truth. But even as the fight goes on, it seems that there is another faction in the church, the followers of Kohdy, who have the journal of Seijin Kohdy from the time that the church was established and fought against Shan-wei. But will they be on the side of the church, or the side of the rebels against the Church of God Awaiting? And as the battles heat up, can the rebels recruit Earl Thirsk of Dohlar when Zhaspar Clyntahn decides to take his family hostage to ensure he doesn't go over to the enemy? And can they let the Earl know that before Clyntahn decides to do something irrevocable? I loved this book. It's a mix of fighting, wars and battle and philosophy and talking, but the long war is having an effect on everyone, including the PICA of Nimue Alban, now fighting as Merlin Athrawes, and his "sister, also known as Nimue, who Merlin wants to keep safe from the bad acts he's had to perform. Merlin is getting a bit stressed and I can only wait to see how it plays out in the future, and I want to see Clyntahn and the Gang of Four get what is coming to them. Highly recommended.

Edge of Darkness by Christine Feehan, Maggie Shayne and Lori Herter- This is a book of three short stories/novelettes. "Dark Crime" by Christine Feehan is about Blaze McGuire, whose father, a former Marine, is killed by a criminal family. Since he taught Blaze, and her friend, Emeline, everything he knew about defense, and Blaze about explosives as well, Blaze decides to get revenge on the four men who killed her father and tossed him into the street like a piece of trash. The only person on her side, with Emeline in Europe. is another crime lord, Tariq Asengard, and his partner, Maksim Volkov. But that might be more than she knows when it turns out that Coonan, head of the Criminal Syndicate that the Halloran brothers help him run, is a Vampire, and Maksim is a Carpathian dedicated to destroying Coonan. But when Blaze is forced to take the fight to Coonan, can she and her new mate, Maksim, pull off the task? In "Dead by Twilight" by Maggie Shayne, Chloe Madison, a vampire Cop is on the track of someone who has been killing people as a vampire does. So when she saves Shepard Daniels, a BCD cop who is also on the trail of the killers. Chloe hates vamires, and so does Daniels, but when they come together on the Vampire Crimes unit,  each finds themselves rethinking that idea. But can they track down the vampire behind the crimes? "Cimmaron Spirit" by Lori Herter has Annie Carmichael, an Archgaeologist, working on a Anasazi ruin on land owned by Brent Logan, who wants her to marry him. But at the same time, she is connecting with Rafael de La Vega, who also claims the land the ruin sits on. But when she discovers that Rafael is also a vampire who lairs in the ruins, can she choose between the two men, or risk giving up everything that matters to her? This was an okay book. I am getting tired of reading the "mate bonding" tat Christine Feehan writes about. It was boring me so badly, I skipped over that part, and lost nothing from the story. Literally. I was more interested in the conflict between Blaze and the Halloran brothers than I was in the bonding of Maksim and Blaze. I also smelled a sequel coming with emeline and I just... didn't care. I think Christine Feehan is going to drop out of my reading list for a while. My favorite story was the one by Maggie Shayne, as she brought back in characters from her Silhouette Shadows series, and it was welcome to see them. Recommended, but not for everyone.

Lord Fenton's Folly by Josi S. Kilpatrick- Charles Theler, known as Lord Fenton, first met Alice Stanbridge  when they were children. But in an attempt to irritate his father into seeing him as a man backfires and has him close to losing his birthright, his only choice is to beg his mother for help. His mother brokers a deal with his father and Fenton must shape up, take an interest in the estate, and marry- and Fenton, who lives in utter horror of marriage, chooses Alice Stanbridge as his bride, with the urging of his mother. Alice has been in love with him since she was a girl, but when she finds out that Fenton only picked her because she was convenient, she is outraged and treats him with disdain. Now, as his mother grows sicker, there is only one thing that can bring them back together- their mutual regard for Lord Fenton's mother and the secrets that wait on Foxcroft, his mother's dower estate. But will the secrets revealed there bring them together or shatter them completely apart? This book was kind of a meh. It looks like a magnified version of the Harlequin Historicals, and that is pretty much what you are getting. There isn't really much romance- Lord Fenton and his bride never share so much as a lusty moment together until the very end of the book, and even then, if it happens, it happens off-screen. Also , the book reminded me a bit of a Inspirational romance, only without the religion parts. It was okay, but it didn't make me impressed with the writer or the publisher. Neither recommended nor not recommended.

Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews- Kate Daniels lived life as a mercenary, until her father returned. a mage centuries old, she fought him to keep him from taking over Atlanta. Now, Kate and her boyfriend/mate Curran, formerly the Beast Lord of Atlanta, are trying to live life on their own, but their pack ties are bringing him problems. Monetary problems. To solve it, the pack tries to cede the Mercenary Guild, which they own shares in, to Curran to pay him for his own investments in pack businesses. Unless Curran is willing to destroy those businesses he backed, he can't be paid any other way. But the Guild is in disarray and they are dealing with a magical artifact that can take anyone over. When that impacts the Guild, Curran decides the only way to save the Guild is to take it over and make sure it is done right. But when their problem is an Efreet straight out of Persian lore, can all of the guild, even with Kate and Curran's help, take it on? And Kate's father isn't out of the picture, either. He wants a relationship with Kate, but how can she keep him from pushing her into taking over the entire city? I really enjoyed this book. It's nice to see Kate and Curran thriving and Kate's adopted daughter, Julie. I liked all the set pieces and the story behind the Efreet and why it was after a member of the pack. and I really liked the battle at the end, with members of the pack helping Curran out. It was a win/win and I loved every minute of it. Recommended.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourne- Veronica Speedwell is a lepidopterist who has just buried her last aunt and is looking forward to starting out on a new expedition to Malaysia. The vicar of the church where she and her aunt have been living wants her to marry a local farmer with six children, but she most definitely does not, and says so. But when she returns to her cottage only to find it is being burgled, she is rescued by a German noble, Count Von Stauffenburg, who tells her that her life is in danger and she needs to come with him. Since the Count is an old man, she agrees and he takes her to London and puts her into the care of an old friend of his named Stoker. But when news comes that the count had been killed, Stoker takes his promise to take care of her seriously and whisks her off into the countryside to keep her safe and discover why her life is in danger. There, she learns that the Count is not the only man who was looking for her- but why? While she is not a virgin and likes men (especially foreign men, and is attracted to Stoker, she also refuses to get into relationships with English men, so while she finds him super-attractive, she decides not to touch him because he could cause her to be labeled a fallen woman if their relationship got out, But Veronica's secrets may be more interesting than she thinks... or knows. Can she and Stoker find out the truth, and take on the ones who want her? I liked this book, which was first in a new series, I suspect that Stoker and Veronica will end up married at some point, but I liked their byplay and the science that they clearly both knew. A really excellent book with engaging characters and a wonderful mystery. Highly recommended,

Fool Me Once by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco- Alanis McLachlan is the daughter of a con-woman. When her mother died, she took over the White Magic Five and Dime to make amends to all the people that her mother fleeced. So when Marsha, an abused wife and her mother's most profitable clients, comes looking for help with dealing with her husband, Alanis tries to help- but Marsha's husband ends up dead, and the police are looking at Marsha as the killer. It's up to Alanis to find out what is really going on, and figure out who the real killer or killers are. But can she do it without falling into the clutches of the police herself? I don't remember reading the first book in the series, but I liked the chapter headings, which are the suit of wands as interpreted by Alanis' mother. And not only does Alanis have to deal with baggage from her mother, but an actual family of shady con-men and grifters, and competition from right across the street, along with a good man and another con, and trying to live her life honestly. On the other hand, every time they mentioned her name, my mind filled in "... Morisette", which was a bit ditracting. Recommended.

No. 6 Volume 1 by Atsuko Asano, Art by Hinoki Kino- Twelve year old Shion is smart enough to have it all in City Number six, but loses it when he gives sanctuary to a young boy named Rat who has escaped from confinement and bears a violence chip implanted in him. Shion and his mother are ousted from Chronos, the high-class area of the city and forced to move to Lost City, the low-class area of Number six. But when Shion and his co-worker find a dead man in the park they overse, it's a puzzle, because the man was young but looks desiccated and old. When the same thing happens to Shion's co-worker the very next day, Shion sees a black bee emerge from the body, and he is apprehended by agents of the city who claim Shion is responsible for the deaths. He is saved by Rat, who helps Shion flee the city to the area outside, where Shion soon finds that he, too, is infected. But can Rat help him cut out the infection before Shion can die, and what will be the effects if he can? This was an interesting beginning to the series, and I found it to be somewhat horrifying, but given that the center of the city was called "Moondrop", yet looked like a giant beehive gave me bad vibes. Very bad vibes. So I am sort of looking forward to reading the rest, and at the same time, not looking forward to it. It seems like this might possibly turn into a horror manga. Still, recommended.

No. 6 Volume 2 by Atsuko Asano, Art by Hinoki Kino- Shino has survived his encounter with the black bee, but the shock has turned his hair white and left a red line around his body. Now that he has escaped the city, he must learn to survive in the West Block, the outside of the city where people struggle to get into the city or live out fairly hopeless lives beyond its walls. But while Shion, never having to survive on his own before, struggles to live his life in a new way, he and Rat start piecing together the truth about the city, helped by a former boyfriend of Shion's mother, Karan. And inside the city, scientists and administrators discuss how to make No. "A holy city" in more than name. Shion wants to save the city where he spent most of his life, but Rat tells him that if Shion tries to save the city, that will make them enemies. Shion and Rat also meet with Dog-Keeper, a person who rents Dogs to people staying in the halls of an old hotel to keep warm. Dog Keeper acts as an informant for Rat, but they have something of antagonistic relationship. The scientists in the city talk about needing a female subject, and Shion's longtime friend Safu must return to the city when her grandmother dies. This was a bit more confusing than the first volume, but shows us how conditions are in the area outside the city and why people are desperate to get in there. We get no more real clues about the Black Bees (or possibly wasps), but the fact that they need a female subject right before we see Safu return doesn't bode well for Safu. I'm still waiting to see where this story is going. Recommended.

The Scottish Play Murder by Anne Rutherford-Suzanne Thornton's company of players work out of the Globe Theatre, but when an actor named Diarmuid Ramsay demands the lead in the play of Macbeth, and plays himself as if he were actually Macbeth, Suzanna and the other actors are torn between envy at Diarmuid's abilities to transform himself into the part and superstition about putting on a play so seemingly cursed. But when a player and minor musician is found dead soon afterwards, Susanna finds herself once more thrust into the role of sleuth to try and discover who might have wanted their drum player dead. Added to rumors that  Diarmuid Ramsay is possibly a conman who makes off with all women's valuables, and an argument between Diarmuid and a pirate that resulted in the death of the pirate as well. With no one seeming to trust Ramsay and Susanna not sure if she can trust him with her heart, not to mention her possessions, she must decide if she will allow Ramsay into her life or stay with her former beaux Daniel.  I liked this book as well, with interesting characters, and Susanna herself is one of the better ones. A former prostitute and player who is cautious about giving her heart and her body, especially since she works with her son and former love. I liked all the characters and am eager to see what happens with Diarmuid Ramsay in the future. Recommended,

The Stockholm Castle Mystery by Joyce Elson Moore- When former soldier Johan Sokolewski travels to Stockholm to attend a college for music, he is instead told to go to the castle and gets a job as a royal musician. But on the night before he arrives, a goldsmith is killed while examining some of the treasure the Queen, Cristina, inherited from her father. But also, a Bible named the Silver Bible is stolen from the same library where the Goldsmith was killed. The Queen Mother, Eleonora, is very upset at the theft, and decides that she will investigate who might have taken the book. She uses her dwarves as a jury and decides that Zofia, the court astrologer and alchemist, is the culprit, and that she stole the book for her father. But Johan has met Zofia and thinks it absurd that she might have stolen it. When he expressed this to the Queen Mother, she puts him in charge of an investigation to clear Zofia, and if he cannot find the true culprit within 20 days, Zofia will be thrown in jail. Johan isn't used to being a detective, but he enlists Gunne, one of Eleonora's dwarves, to help him. But can he discover the true culprit when he never knew any of these people before a few days ago? And can he keep Zofia's good opinion in the process? I've never read any books by Joyce Elson Moore before, but I really enjoyed this book. The castle is a bit bland- I mean, it could be anywhere, not just Stockholm, but I hope that future books flesh out the Swedish background of the series in a more specific way. Recommended.

Inspector Colbeck's Casebook by Edward Marston- This book is collection of thirteen short stories set in the world of "The Railway Detective". The last tale in the book was written first and is very different from the series, because the short story was written before the series. "Wetting the Coal" has the body of a guard found in a coal bunker and Colbeck must discover who killed him,  "Rain, Steam and Speed" has a valuable picture of a train stolen neat a train stop, and the nobleman who wants the picture to go on display is offered the picture back... for a price, But who are the thieves? "The Railway Church" has a murdered body found in the first church ever built by a Railway, Colbeck must discover who killed Claude Exton, "A Family Affair" has a retired railway official robbed of his wallet, Colback and Leeming must discover who the thief was and if a poor musician is his accomplice, In "The Hat Trick", a married couple looking for where the man proposed is startled when a man is thrown from a passing train, lands on a rock and dies. But who is the man, and who killed him? "Helping Hand" has Tallis helping out an old vet by setting him up with Colbeck for employment in his yard. But when there is a theft, is the vet to blame, or the worker who they already have? "Songs for a Swedish Nightingale" has Jenny Lind disappear while under the watch of Inspector Colbeck, can he find out where she has been taken and why? "Suffer the Children" has the money for the workers is stolen, Colbeck and Leeming's sons must discover the money and who stole it. "The Missionary" has Colbeck tracking down a man who Superintendant Tallis feels he stole money from him by misrepresenting himself. But who is this man really, and what is his real profession? "On Guard" has a murdered guard's attacker tracked. But was the guard the target, or was it merely a mistake? "The Barber of Ravenglass" has a woman's body found in a torched railway car. But who was she and why was she killed? "Puffing Billy" has Colbeck's wife, Madelaine travels north to sketch the train "Puffing Billy". But when her drawings and sketchbook are stolen from her room, Colbeck and his wife must find the thief. And finally, "The End of the Line" has the murder of a Railway Executive on a line in which there were only four men on the train, including the murdered man. But who killed him? I liked these short stories, but it's true that "The End of the Line" is very different from the other stories, with very different characterizations from the normal stories. My favorite story was probably "Puffing Billy", as it had the most interesting story and the most interesting thief. Highly recommended.

Discoveries in the Shriver Family Attic: How a Woman and Her Children Dealt with the Battle of Gettysburg by Kajsa C. Cook- is the story of the Shriver Family as told as a fiction book for children as Sadie and Molly Shriver return to their former home in Gettysburg with two fictional children, Amy and Jason. It tells the story of what happened to them and has pictures of the Shriver family and their property, along with inside of the house. Parts of the story are told from the point of view of Hettie and one a dream of her husband in Andersonville, where he died. It's sort of a story for kids, but very expensive for all that ($8.95 for a slim volume was rather steep- I get that this money probably goes to support the people who restored and run the Shriver House, but still...that must have been hard to stomach for the person who bought it. Would I recommend it? No, neither to read nor purchase, as it feels like its for kids a lot younger than could actually read it.

The Shriver's Story: Eyewitnesses to the Battle of Gettysburgh by Nancie W. Gudmestad- This book retells the Battle of Gettysburg through the eyes of the Shriver family and their family and friends in Gettysburg from December, 1861 through July 7th (and afterwards), 1863. There is also a small section at the end of the back where the restoration is described and the artifacts found in the walls, and floors of the Shriver attic. I enjoyed this book more than the "Discoveries in the Shriver Family Attic" book. This one is written for teens to adults and contains more details and more pictures, which is always a good thing, such as that the family also fairly went by Schriver as well. I enjoyed this one much better. Recommended,

Chosen by Jeanne C. Stein- Anna Strong has been a vampire for less than a year, but suddenly, everyone seems to want her. On vacation with her model-vampire boyfriend, Lance, she finds herself the object of interest of his maker, Julian Underwood. But while she thinks she can fight off anyone, especially with Lance's help. But when he serves her up to Julian, she becomes so angry that she would do anything to get back at him. So when the leaders of all the vampires across the world meet under the wife of former North American leader,  Williams, she is forced to meet Lance in battle, Judith Williams thinks that Anna will be unable to kill  Lance. But is she right, or will Anna roll over for Lance? I stumbled into this book without reading the rest of the series, and it was okay. I didn't feel that Anna was as strong as other readers seemed to think. It's okay, but only lightly recommended.

Marrying the Major by Joanna Maitland- Hugo Stratton was once a light-hearted, happy young man, and Emma Fitzwilliam was the girl next door who fell madly in love with him. When war on the Continent was declared, Hugo sailed away to war, but a commission as a Major didn't prevent the war from taking a major toll on him. Now and exhausted, embittered man, Hugo must marry, and it seems that only Emma is willing to do so out of the love she bore and still bears for him. But with the man she loves so different from the man she fell in love with, is there any hope for the two of them to have a happy marriage? Emma believes that Hugo isn't damaged as he thinks, but can she coax the man she fell in love with to engage with the world again? This was a good, engaging romance with a damaged hero who is depressed about his ability to cope with what he's seen. This was my (current, anyway) catnip, and I realty enjoyed reading it. Recommended.

Friday, October 16, 2015

2015, Part 7

From a High Tower by Mercedes Lackey- Giselle is the daughter of a poor man and his wife, burdened with too many children to feed. When her father happens upon an untouched garden behind an abandoned house, he raids the garden to feed his family. But then the woman who owns the garden catches him and requires his newest child, a daughter, in payment. With no other choice, he agrees, and the Earth Master takes the child and adopts her as her own. Giselle, who has powers over air, lives at the top of a tower in room with huge windows on every side. Her only quirk is that her hair grows with unnatural speed- fast enough that you can actually see it lengthen over mere days or weeks, and she must cut it every so often. But once when her mother is away, Giselle is befriended by a woodsman, who seems like he could be her friend, but when she lowers her hair to draw him up to her tower, he ends by trying to rape her, and she is only saved by the intervention of her adoptive mother. The woodsman is thrown from the tower and disappears and Giselle is left to learn defense from her mother and some members of the local foresters. One of the things she learns is how to shoot, and because of her practice and air mastery, she becomes VERY GOOD at it. When her mother finally passes, she begins earning a living by pretending to be a man and moving from town to town and entering shooting competitions. However, when she is cornered by an army recruiter and threatened with being inducted into the army, she reveals her true sex and the man attempts to attack her. She calls on her elementals to defend her by taking away his air, but he falls dead, and she must flee, hating herself for inadvertently killing him. She falls in with another Earth Witch who absolves her of killing him, and tells her to keep her eyes open for another opportunity. At the next big towm, She encounters an American Wild West show and shows off her shooting skills. The owner, a man named Cody, hires her as a new lady Sharpshooter, and she meets a Crow shaman named Fox, who also happens to have Air Master powers, but of a totally different kind. Even his Air Spirits are different. But along the way, she begins to feel unfriendly eyes on her. And when they are joined by Rosa, the local female huntmaster, they continue to run into various sorts of spirits to be put down. Because Giselle has grown close to the many people in the production, she invites them to shelter the winter with her in the former abbey that was her home, which the others gleefully accept- they will stay for free, allowing them to save more money to return home with. But an old trouble follows Giselle home, and she and her new friends must defeat it in the midst of the coldest winter ever, and one of their foes is a cold mage (the evil opposite of a fire mage). Can they and their familiar spirits deal with the problem? This book is based around the fairytale of Rapunzel, but continues on long after the traditional end of the fairy tale. In book terms, this is reminiscent of "Reserved for the Cat" (the show business aspect), but includes tantalizing glimpses of American Spirits. It's also, intriguingly, the first one to skip a romance entirely, and I honestly can't say I missed it. I felt it was a solid but not stunning example of Mercedes Lackey's writing. It's a good, solid book, but it isn't going to blow your socks off like some of the other books in this series. Recommended.

Dragon Fall by Katie MacAlister- Aoife Dakar is a half-Irish, half-Senegalese transplant to Norway from America. She, her parents, and her brother and sister moved there when she was young. But when Aoife has a date with a man who believes in magic at the local Gothfest, she sees him murdered by two strange men. When she reports his murder to the police, she is taken in to a mental asylum when the man turns up alive. Two years later, she is released, only to find a black dog who she hits with her car and an apparently wounded and nearly-drowned man washed up on a beach. He is Kostya, a dragon, and he is trying to undo a curse that struck the dragon clans. But he also experiences an attraction for Aoife, body and soul. Can he keep her safe and prevent her from discovering his secrets while plumbing her own, this woman who may be his heart's mate.? I started this book, but lost interest very quickly. I couldn't find myself seeing through Aoife's eyes, and how even her family didn't believe her and sort of shunted her off into treatment. Kostya, too, was not to my taste and I just threw it down after a very short time. Did not finish. Would not recommend, YMMV.

Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey- Mags is a Herald who was once an enslaved boy in a mine. Now that he knows his background, and has fallen in love with Amily, daughter of the King's Spy and King's Own Herald Nikolas, he finally is able to put on his Whites and move on into working for Valdemar, as he has always wanted to do. Nikolas, his mentor, wants him develop new personas he can assume if needed, this time among the nobles. It seems that two Valdemaran noble families, The Leverances and Kaltar, both decided independently to bring their children to court to marry them off to make good matches. However, both are in a great feud over a long-ago broken attempt at betrothal between the two families. They must be kept apart and kept from feuding while they are in the capital. But a chance accident kills Nikolas when he is walking through Haven and Mags brings him back to life with what is essentially CPR. However, the death breaks Nikolas' bond with Rolan, his companion, and Amily becomes the new King's Own while Nikolas is Chosen again by another Companion. Now, with the experienced King's own replaced by an untried girl, the court is in an uproar, until Mags points out that Nikolas still being alive is a good thing, as he can advise Amily if needed. Also, there is trouble between the two feuding houses, and Dia, youngest daughter of Lord Leverance, falls madly in love at first sight with Brand, son of Lord Kaltar. With Mags watching over Brand and Amily over Dia, can they contain the feud fighting between the tow family's retainers and orchestrate an end to the feud with a marriage? Meanwhile, Mags is also being kept busy breaking up a thief-ring and taking the boys the Thief Lord was using and turning them into messengers and having them educated. And when the worst happens, it is up to Amily and her new-found powers as a Herald that must come to save the day. I really enjoyed this book. In the vein of the Elemental Masters series and the 500 Kingdoms series, this book's story was more or less based on "Romeo and Juliet", but this one has Dia, the female character, falling in love at first sight. The ending, though, is wildly different and unexpected. Lackey leads viewers into expecting one thing and then surprising them with quite another. It was a surprise and a welcome one, and I enjoyed this book far more than the Collegium Chronicles books. Highly recommended.

The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries- American artist Jeremy Keane is in England to try and get one of his paintings accepted by the Royal Academy for a show. At a wedding he bumps into the Earl of Blakeborough, and both commiserate over how hard it is to find husbands for their sisters- the right kind of husband, that is.  Blakeborough's sister Yvette Barlow is someone Jeremy wants to paint, so he agrees to paint her portrait in return for helping get his own sister, who is coming to England, married off to a respectable man. But he also wants Yvette for a model for his new painting, "Art Sacrificed to Commerce", which will have her scantily clad. She agrees if he will help her find a former actress, as she is the mother of her other borther, Ben's son. Ben has just been sentenced to transportation for his crimes, and Yvette wants to get her nephew to safety.  Jeremy also agrees, but he finds himself falling for Yvette in a way he has never done before. As they spar and he paints, and he awaits the arrival of his family in England, can he make peace with his past and find out if Yvette is really the lady to conquer his heart? I liked this book. I like how Jeremy was very much like a rogue and Yvette is much attracted to rogues. But in the end, he turns out to not be much of a rogue after all. And the situations where he and Yvette come together to be both lovely and intense. And both had to make peace with their pasts. Yvette is just as damaged as Jeremy is, but the truth of the situation has been hidden from her. I loved the ending and how he transformed his painting in such a way as to provide a private viewing experience for both of them. Highly recommended.

Archangels' Enigma by Nalini Singh- Naasir is a particularly Feral vampire who works as part of Raphael's seven. He has been hunting for his mate for some time, but hasn't found her. But Rafael pulls him off the hunt to find a sleeping Ancient named Alexander. Alexaner disappeared into sleep over 400 years ago, but Lijuan believes he is a threat to her because of an ancient prophecy. She is determined to kill Raphael while he still sleeps- a major crime among angels, but Lijuan. believing herself a goddess, doesn't care. Both Raphael and Lijuan know there is a scholar, Andromeda, working in the refuge, who is a historian and who may have a clue as to where Alexander's resting place lies. But as Naasir travels to meet her, he discovers that she smells like a woman he could be mated to. Only she is kidnapped from the refuge before they can start their search. She is brought to one of Lijuan's palaces in China, built by a long ago artisan named Suyin. Lijuan also wants to know where Alexander went to ground, and Andromeda speculates that he could be under his old palace in lower Africa. She also discovers that Suyin is still alive and being imprisoned by Lijuan, one wing cut off every time she wakes from healing trance to prevent her from leaving. But Naasir is balked from claiming Andromeda because she has taken a vow of celibacy and will only release herself if she can find a certain ancient book. So as he rescues her and Suyin from Lijuan, they must race to discover Alexander's true resting place so that they can awaken him and help him defend himself against Lijuan. And to finally claim his mate Naasir must travel back to where he became and find Andromeda the book she wants. But she is trapped by her vows to her parents' sire, and must serve 500 years in his court- something sure to destroy her spirit. Can Naasir find a way to free her from her vow? I loved this book. I love all Nalini Singh's books, but this one really took my breath away. I loved the reveal of who and what Naasir is, and how he and Andromeda came to love and care for each other. One of her best books ever. Highly recommended.

Safe at Last by Maya Banks- When Zack Covington was just a boy, he met and fell in love with Anna-Grace, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Zack saved her, got her a job and was working to make a life he could live with her when she abruptly disappeared. Cut to the soul, Zack kept searching for her. And when he got injured in his career as a quarterback, he dropped out of pro sports to become a federal agent, still on the search for his "Gracie". But he's had no luck So he decides to move on with his life. But before he can he has one last job- to protect the exhibition of an artist at an upscale art gallery. But when he sees the last painting the artist has completed, he goes nearly crazy, because the artist is Gracie. Only she wants nothing to do with him, and runs from him in a panic. Desperate to know why she fears him so much, he pursues her- and pisses off the gallery owner, who is her friend. But when he finds Gracie beaten up and left for dead in the front yard of his apartment, he has no choice but to find out why his enemies attacked her, and to try and keep her safe. But the secrets she holds might break him- or break them both. Can he live with what happened to her and why she left, or will he decide to take revenge on the ones who wronged her? and can he win back the love of the only woman he has ever truly loved? I don't usually read books like this one, but this made me glad I did. Yes, there was a lot of angst and drama in the story, but I loved how his honest reactions won Gracie back to him and what he did to the people who had conspired to wrong her. This is a book that embodies a lot of pain, but the outcome is heartwarming. Recommended.

Aquaman: SubDiego by Will Pfeiffer, Patrick Gleason and Christian Alamy- When there is an Earthquake in California, part of San Diego crumbles into the bay. Everyone, including Aquaman, believes the people of the city that crumbled into the bay dead, until a boy makes it to the surface, and promptly dies. It turns out what killed him was not lack of air, but lack of water. He had grown gills and somehow survived under the sea. Aquaman looks for other survivors and finds a girl named Lorena. Something  has changed her DNA to allow her to adaprt to being underwater and surviving by breathing water instead of air. Nor is she the only one. And with no one able to look after the people, it's up to Aquaman, Arthur Curry, to take on the responsibility. While Lorena and Aquaman patrol the city together the question becomes how did all these people have a fortunate mutation that allowed them to survive? Or perhaps it wasn't a mutation after all. Aquaman must track down the person responsible and make them do something to fix it, especially since some of the women who survived are pregnant and their babies have only a 50/50 chance of being born water breathers, And when he finds the person, he must convince him to fix the problem. Finally, Aquaman must deal with crime in the undercity, and find and keep out the kind of criminals responsible. But can Aquaman find out who really is behind the earthquake and sinking of Sub Diego? I don'tusually read Aquaman, but I liked this story a lot. I liked seeing how Aquaman became Sub Diego's protector, much like Superman is for Metropolis and Batman is for Gothem. It was a fascinating and engaging tale, and the ending had me looking forward to more. Highly recommended.

Ant-Man: Second Chance Man by Nick Spemcer, Raymond Rosanas and Jordan Boyd- Scott Lang is a former criminal who took up the mantle of Ant Man from Hank Pym. He and his wife are divorced and he has one daughter, Cassie. So when her mother decides to move to Florida and take Cassie with her, Scott feels he has no choice but to follow, even turning down the offer of a job he really wanted from Tony Stark. Once down in Florida, he needs to make a living, and discovers an ex-villain who is in a giant bear suit, who happens to be angry at Hank Pym. But Scott Hires him and sets up a security company so he can make a living in Florida and be close to her. His attempts to help set up security systems with his ants are somewhat less than successful, and when Cassie gets kidnapped by Augustine Cross, Scott must rescue her, because Cross needs Cassie's heart to resurrect his father, Darren Cross. Specifically, he needs Cassie's heart, and he has kidnapped the doctor who saved Cassie's life as well. But can Scott save her in time and take care of Darren Cross as well? I rather liked the Hank Pym version of Ant Man better, but this book felt like I was watching a sad sack try to do good, and fall short at almost every turn. I get that Scott wants to do good by Cassie, his daughter, but he ends up screwing it up and making his ex-wife angry at seemingly every turn. It was an okay book, but not who I prefer as Ant-Man. Ends up as Meh for me.

Batman Detective Comics: Volume 5 Gothtopia by John Layman, Jason Fabok and Aaron Lopresti- Things have never been better in Gotham and Batman is right on top of crime, aided by Catbird (the former Catwoman), Bluebelle and Brightbat. But first Batman must take down a woman infected with the same serum that made Man-Bat and Jim Gordon remembers the time when he started on the Gotham police force. But when a seemingly-crazy Poison Ivy shows up telling people that they are being gulled, he takes her to Arkham Asylum. Soon, Batman comes to realize that she is right, as seemingly normal people are committing suicide for what seems to be no reason, all over the city. When Batman himself discovers there is something deeply unsettling going on, his friends take him to Arkham as well, where it turns out there is a new Doctor in charge, Doctor Crane, and he has been poisoning the city's water with something that allows them all to live the life of their dreams, which makes their resulting terror just that much greater. But can Batman team up with Poison Ivy to defeat Scarecrow's latest plan? In "The Chemical Syndicate" we get to see an alternate beginning for the Joker, and in "Old School" we see the evolution of Batman from his earliest days to more modern versions of himself. But is it all a dream? "Better Days" shows future Batman making one last tour around the city fighting crime. "Rain" show what might have happened had Bruce's parents been saved when he was a child, and the choice he makes to let history remain the same, and "Twenty Seven" shows what might happen to Batman in the future, when he clones himself to keep the city safe. Will his latest clone take up the mantle, or choose a normal life? This was a really great graphic novel, one I truly enjoyed reading, "Troubled Waters", the first story, about Jim Gordon, shows the kind of corruption endemic to the city, was an interesting one, although it was more about Jim Gordon than Batman. Which is what I like, that some of the 'background characters", who are Batman's allies, have just as deep and interesting stories as he does. Recommended.

Spider's Trap by Jennifer Estep- Now that Mab Monroe is dead, Gin is trying to run the city's criminal enterprises in her place, but being an assassin and not a crime boss, she is having less than total success at the job. But when Gin survives an assassination attempt, she wonders who has a price on her head. Only it turns out that it might not have been meant for the Spider after all. Long ago, you see, when Fletcher first began teaching Gin his business, Gin was given the job of guarding a young girl for a short time. The girl's father was trying to kill her, and Gin felt badly enough that when the man came for his daughter, Gin ended up killing him to save the obviously frightened girl. But it turns out that her father wasn't the only monster in the family, and now the other one has come back to finish the job the father started, and the former girl victim has grown up to become part of the criminal underworld. The killer is after the woman who killed his father, but he doesn't know the real culprit. Can Gin take him out before he takes out either her or the former victim, and settle an underworld dispute in the process? I loved this book, and I love the entire series. Gin often reacts in a manner less like the assassin she is supposed to be and more sloppy and less thinking. But every time, she cleans up after her own mess. I would just like to see one nvel where she remains a cool assassin throughout and doesn't end up screwing the pooch by being overconfident and screwing something up. Other than that, there is much to recommend in this series, and a lot to like. Recommended.

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey- Joyeaux Charmand is a Hunter, those who keep the Cits (aka Citizens) safe from the monsters of Otherland who spill over into our dimension from another. But she's not alone in her task- she has creatures called "Hounds" who are also creatures of otherwhere, but on the side of the Hunters who can call them. Joy has been called in from the Hinterlands to protect the Cits of the Capital from monsters that try to get in a kill the humans, or even steal them away. But unlike in the Hinterlands Joy came from, the capital views the Hunters as entertainment and watches their hunts through Closed-Circuit TV. But soon Joy cottons onto something that the government doesn't want the Cits to know: The Othersider attacks are getting closer to the city, some even inside the barrier that supposedly keeps the Cits safe. But when someone tries to eliminate Joy, she can only see one way to become too powerful to attack, to become an Elite Hunter. But can she and her pack of Hounds survive the grueling test to become Elite, especially when the man she will face off against in the final test is a Hunter who hates her, blaming her for the death of his brother? I liked this book. It had a sort of YA/Teen vibe to it though the book isn't specifically targeted at the YA audience. Primarily is a female main character who is in a romance, but doesn't know if she can trust her partner, and a tendency to explain things about the world over and over and over again. For adults and some older teens, this will probably become a bit tedious and annoying, but ut's an otherwise solid book. I suspect that this is first in a new series or trilogy, and that the next one will probably be named Elite. Also, Christians might be angry and/or annoyed by the way their religion is viewed in this book. But while the world holds "Christers" partially responsible for the "Diseray", or the semi-apocalypse that destroyed the world. You might think this comes from "Disarray", but it's actually from the Dies Irae, or "God's wrath", since it wasn't the *actual* apocalypse. Recommended.

Only a Promise by Mary Balogh- The Survivors Club is a group of Men and one Woman who lost a great deal during the Napoleonic War. Ralph Stockwood lost his friends when he convinced them to come to the war with him, and he struggles to overcome his guilt for getting his friends killed, and also for surviving without them. Chloe Muirhead was savaged when her own sister ran off with the man she was intended to marry, and became and laughingstock in the ton when the scandal became known. She no longer believes in love, and to escape from her family, has become a companion to her mother's Godmother, who is Ralph's Grandmother. He has been summoned to find a wife and carry on the family name, but knows himself incapable of Love, but what woman would marry him without such an emotion. He is surprised when Chloe suggests they marry. She does not need love, but she does want a family, and with her scandal still a subject of gossip amongst the ton, her only hope for doing so is Ralph. He is taken back by her offer, but begins to see the obvious advantages. But that is not the only reason why Chloe is an outcast. She also bears a great resemblance to another woman of the ton, and it seems that she and that other woman are related. Ralph urges her to find out the truth, and she helps him reconnect with his own family... and the families of his friends whose sons he feels responsible for the deaths France. But can they make peace with their pasts and move on to a life of love, or is Ralph really incapable of love as he claims? I have loved all the "Survivor's Club" books, and this one was one of the better ones. After his friends were killed, Ralph's emotions went dead to deal with the shock of losing his friends. He still mourns them, but cuts off all his emotions to save himself from pain. It's up to Chloe to help him regain his ability to feel love, while he helps her deal with some painful emotions of her own. But of course, Ralph never really lost his ability to feel love, he was just deliberately blocking it out. This sort of disappointed me, because the other Survivors lost things they will never regain, like sight, and Ralph's injuries were more emotional than truly physical, and I liked that the other books in the series were not miraculous total healings. I still enjoyed it, but I was disappointed that the series has moved from people who stay injured and must deal with it for the rest of their lives, to someone with scars, but who is healed of his emotional wounds. Still recommended.

Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh- This second to last book of the Survivor's Club series deals with Imogen, Lady Barclay, who lost her husband in the war on the peninsula against Napoleon. She lives on the estate of her stepfather, in the dower house, which needs a new roof, but the man she hired for the job is dragging his feet. So she is living in the house of the former Earl, along with the New Earl's Aunt and her companion. The new Earl inherited the estate years ago, but has never been there for a visit. A golden boy who has gotten everything, Percival Hayes is feeling at a loss,like something is missing in his life. When he is abruptly reminded of the estate he inherited, he makes immediate plans to go there, never expecting the estate to be anything but a run-down old pile. He gets there only to find his estate overrun in unwanted pets, and yet is intrigued by Imogen, who seems to him more a statue cast in marble. Determining to break through her reserve and her refusal to rely on anybody but herself, he challenges her at every opportunity and finally succeeds in breaking through her well of reserve. He also meddles in her affairs without telling her, getting the roof of her house repaired. He also sets down the law with his aunt about how many animals she can take in at once, and finds himself being adopted by one of her unsightly "pets". But when he propositions Imogen to become his mistress, she isn't willing, but is willing to have a short affair with him before she leaves for her annual "Survivors Club" meeting. But while she has confessed some of her deepest secrets to him, does he have any to confess in return? And when he wants to marry him, can she leave the shadow of her dead husband behind to embrace new love with a whole and open heart? And in the meantime, can she discover the truth behind her husband's death on the Peninsula, and what might have been behind his capture, and bring the true culprit to justice? Or will the shadow of her dead husband remain over her for the rest of her life? I liked this one, as both characters have things missing in their lives, and each has to push the other to reach, grow and branch out. It takes Imogen a bit longer to let go, but eventually, even she realizes that she must move on with her life. But in doing so, she must acknowledge the real truth of what she did and why it was so very painful for her. I loved this book. Yes, this one had a mental block the hero and heroine must overcome, not a more permanent disability, but this was a book where the survivor was a woman, and I loved it mainly for that reason. Recommended.

Trapped by Scandal by Jane Feather- Lady Hermione Fanshawe, better known as "Hero", is used to doing what she wants. When she encounters an old lover, William Ducasse, during an outing in London, it brings back their adventure together, when she went in search of her brother in Paris, who had gone looking for his fiancée and found her imprisoned in the Bastille. Together, William, Hero, her brother and his fiancée had escaped from both the Guillotine and Paris, and while Hero's heart was captured by William when they became lovers, he  refused to put her in danger by continuing their association after they had escaped back to England. However, William is being chased by a Spymaster for the French side, who is looking for William to being him to "justice". But William wants to protect not only Hero, but some other secrets he is hiding as well, and his foe is looking to get William through any means possible. And since he and Hero have been spending time together, she will do admirably as a lever to get to him. Bur when there is a kidnapping, Hero and William will have to work together to keep their necks unsevered, and decide together what they both really want. I liked this bopok a lot. I liked that the Heroine's name was Hermione (which kind of reminded me of Harry Potter), and at the beginning of their association, she is mourning the loss of her fiancé in the War. It's her relationship with William that leads her to believe that life goes on, but she also has to overcome William's reluctance to begin a relationship with her because of the secrets he's hiding, and the people he could put into danger if he slips. I loved how the two were not able to deny their desire for each other, and how William finally decides he cannot control Hermione or her heart. Highly recommended.

Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman by Lorraine Heath- Steven Lyons has returned from the war against Napoleon with a secret- he no longer remembers anything that happened to him during the war. His memory of it is just a big blank. But when Mercy Dawson comes to him with his son, he can only do the right thing and marry her. Even if she only begs his family to keep his son safe and use her as his nursemaid. But even though he can't remember the circumstances of their meeting or his making her pregnant, he could never deny the mother of his child. But while Steven is hiding the truth of what he remembers from his family, Mercy is also hiding a secret, one that could rip her heart in two if anyone, especially Steven, found out. And when a woman who served with her in the war threatens to out her secret, but will stay silent for money, Mercy cannot pay her. But will the truth of her circumstances move Steven, or cause him to leave her? And can she deal with being parted from her beloved son? I loved this book, as the whole "Secret Baby" was here turned on its head. The Secret that Mercy is hiding is completely unexpected and was a completely new twist for me. But even so, I love how Steven came to love her and how they came together in the end to protect Steven's son, the only one who really mattered to them both. Recommended.

Tremaine's True Love by Grace Burrowes- Tremaine St. Michael is a wool magnate who has come to Nita Haddonfeld's brother to buy a flock of merino wool sheep, hoping to improve his own herd. Nita is the black sheep of the family, more interested in keeping her family's tenants and sheep safe and well that in keeping her own self well. Tremaine doesn't expect to get along with her, but he finds her the least affected and most sympathetic of her family, even as he worries for her going out to tend sick people when she takes no care for her own life.  Lord Haddonfeld makes Tremaine a bargain. If he marries Nita, he will give Tremaine the sheep as a wedding present. But Tremaine isn't the only one who is interested in the sheep. Digby, Nita's sister's fiancé, is also interested in the sheep, but Nita believes there is something wrong with Digby- and not just in the way he treats his sister and her son. Tremaine meets the boy and is also concerned for him, as Digby seems to be trying to kill the boy so that he can get the boy's inheritance. Tremaine and Nita must solve the mystery and put everything to rights before she will marry him. But can he get her to be more careful of herself when she is so used to caring only for others? I liked this book, but it wasn't exactly my favorite. There was lots of stuff that went on, but the characters were somewhat incidental to the plot as a whole, and I sort of felt it took away from the romance aspect. Recommended, still

Loki, Agent of Asgard: I Cannot Tell a Lie by Al Ewing, George Coelho, and Lee Garbet- Loki has been reborn, but is trying to change his fate by changing his past and trying to live life in an aboveboard and straightforward manner, even though he is the God of lies and deception. To do so, however, he had to resort to a horrific act. But when a sorcerer's pact made the world change, it made Loki the only truthful, upstanding member of the Asgardians, and changed the formerly good ones into their opposites. He works for Freya, the All-Mother, and for every mission he successfully undertakes, one of his mistakes from his past is erased. In this way, he hopes to change his ultimate fate. Along with him for the ride is Verity Willis, a human who can sense whenever someone lies to her. Meanwhile, old Loki is still around, seeking to meddle in the life of his younger self and make him unable to change his fate. When Loki is kidnapped and imprisoned by Doctor Doom, Doom's kingdom of Latveria falls victim to the Red Skull and his power o incite Distrust and hatred, only Loki, and the power of the sword of truth can help, and so verity works with Valeria Richards to free Loki and save Latveria. Then, Loki works with the Avengers, made of all former villains, to deal with a group of villains attempting to break into a casino and steal money. Then, he must deal with Thor, and wield Mjolnir to defeat his brother. Which lead to Loki revealing his crime, and being rejected by not only Thor, but the whole of Asgard. But when even Veiry rejects him, Loki is imprisoned by his older self, and is about to be shown the way things need to be.... I found this an interesting take on Loki. You cheer for him, wanting to be better than he was, and trying to change his fate, but he still makes very bad decisions, and reaps the rewards (so to speak) of his crimes. I want to see if he really can make himself a better person, but I don't have much faith that this is going to end that way. Recommended.

Bizarre London : Discover the Capital's Secrets and Surprises by David Long- London is a big city with a long history, and David Long traces fascinating bits of its history from Roman times all the way up through the present day, through crime, business, trade, ghosts and all sorts of fascinating topics. There is a list of merchants who have Warrants from the Crown to supply the Royals, the Oldest still surviving businesses in London, and more, including a Hatter whose business has been extant since 1676- not long at all after the Great Fire of London. This book holds a fascinating and intriguing look at the history of a great city and where some of its skeletons are buried. If you have any interest in history, or in London itself, this is a book that you will want to pick up. Recommended.

Devoted in Death by J.D. Robb- When Eve Dallas is called to the scene of a murder in a seedy alley in downtown New York, it's of a body so mutilated that she nearly misses a vital piece of evidence, an E and D carved in the shape of a heart. Unsure of what those initials might mean, she tries to follow the evidence, only to find another body, this of a brilliant concert violinist, who has been murdered and mutilated in the same way, and with the same markings. Evidence is that a pair of killers have moved into New York, a pair of killers with murder on their minds, and seemingly nothing to lose. But the trail doesn't start in New York, but far across the county, and Eve is kept busy tracking a long trail of murder and a pair of killers getting better at what they do. But all is not well when they start taking prisoners to slowly torture, but Eve must work fast before another victim ends up dead and dumped on the streets. And with two victims in their grasp, Even will have to work faster than ever... I loved this book. I loved the backstory of the two killers, and how they came together, and I loved how Eve caught them, even the interaction between their victims was amazing and intense. I did think that the book was going to be about another person obsessed with Eve, because ED could also stand for "Eve Dallas", but I loved how the book didn't go there. Highly recommended,

Angel of Darkness by Cynthia Eden- Keenan is a death angel, meant to escort humans to their final reward when they finally pass on. But when a vampire attacks Nicole St. James, he can't stand by and remain unmoved. Instead, he attacks the vampire to save her, but fails, and then he falls for failing in his duty. His last thought is of Nicole and wanting to find her again. Two years later, Nicole is a vampire on the run, and Keenan has finally remembered her after his fall from grace. But when he comes to her aid yet again, can they finally be together forever? Nicole thinks she can't have a life, and Azrael, Keenan's former superior, is tantalizing him with promises of being lifted to heaven again if he can just do his duty and let Nicole die. But Keenan is finding that wanting Nicole is far better than wanting Heaven. But can he keep her safe from the men hunting her and stay alive himself? Or will he fall to her foes and the danger she is in? This was an interesting book. These books use Angels, but don't really seem to reference God all that much. As well, while Azrael is the angel of Death in the Bible, in these book, Azrael is merely the leader of the Angels of Death, and is not really referred to as a Archangel. This makes the books just fine to read if you want the flavor of Angels without too much spirituality. Whereas this series does have a fallen Angel named Sammael (aka Sam), he's not the Devil, and while there may be Demons, they aren't really demonic forces serving Samael. There appear to merely another kind of supernatural creature. So while there are Angels, they aren't explicitly tied to Christianity very much. This may be a good point or a bad point for you. For me, that added to the worldbuilding in the book. Recommended.

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher (The Cinder Spires, Book 1)- In a world shrouded in mist where terrible creatures roam freely, the Spires have sheltered humanity from time immemorial. But each spire is like a country unto itself, finding fierce rivals among other Spires. In Spire Albion, Caprtain Grimm is an Aeroship pilot, of the small but fast Merchant Ship Predator, which in between shipping runs, also acts as a Privateer. But it appears that Grimm's past as a Privateer against Spire Aurora is catching up with him, when his ship is ambushed the Auroran Warship Itasca and through Grimm and his men escape, Predator is severely damaged in the fight, with the lift crystals that power the ship damaged, it will cost more than his ship is worth to replace them. Meanwhile, Gwendolyn Lancaster, one of Spire Albion's noblest families, joins the guard, seemingly over her mother's wishes. But when another recruit, Bridget Tagwynn, last scion of the formerly prominent family, and her companion, Rowl, Gwen and her cousin Benedict end up counseling Bridget for a duel against Reginald Astor, first son of the Astor house. But the duel is interrupted by an attack of Auroran Marines on Spire Albion. Spire Aurora has declared war, and the three and Rowl must fight against the Marines attacking the spite. In so doing they come to the attention of the Spirereach, Leader of Spire Albion (though usually in name only). He replaces The Preadtor's Crystals in exchange for Grimm taking an Etherealist and his apprentice (along with Gwen, Benedict, Bridget and Rowl) to the Habble section of Spire Albion, there to hunt down the marines that weren't killed or captured. But the Marines aren't the only things that they have to fear. Another Etherealist is with the Marines, trying to destroy Habble Albion from within. And she is working for an ancient evil that has its eye on humanity. But as fleets crash and the Marines conspire, can Grimm and the others keep Spire Albion safe, or see it all end in fire? I loved this book. I was expecting it to be good, but not *this* good. Grimm, though painted as a coward by his former superiors, has honor and courage, and the other characters, including the cats, who are also sentient, are absolutely amazing. I could barely put this book down to do anything else, and I stayed up late into the night reading it. If a sort of steam-punky fantasy with power crystals replacing steam engines is up your alley, this will definitely drive you over to the next street. Highly recommended.

Elemental Magic edited by Mercedes Lackey- I re-read this book, missing the series after having read "From A High Tower". It was just as good on re-reading it as it was the first time. Again, Highly Recommended,

A Rose for Major Flint by Louise Allen- Major Adam Flint is an officer in the gunnery corps. But in the aftermath of the battle, he comes upon a young woman caught in a rosebush and fighting off four deserters who want to attack her. But when he rescues her, he finds that she cannot speak and doesn't seem to remember who she is, so he names her "Rose" for the brambles she was caught in. Taking her back to Brussels, he thinks she is a camp follower with another unit, but she indicates that she wants to stay with the men in their lodgings in Brussels. It's only after she gets her voice back that they begin to grow even closer, and they become lovers, only for Adam to discover that Rose is a virgin. Worse, she begins to remember who she really is- a lady who is the daughter of a rich family who have taken shelter in Brussels. But as they grow closer, can Adam admit that he has fallen for Rose and really wants to give up fighting after following the rum for so many years? And can Rose believe him, or will she let him go because soldiering is all he is good at? This was a Harlequin, and fairly short, but I really enjoyed the story and the way the characters came together. Adam may be a bastard who has made a life as a mercenary, but can he really do that for the rest of his life? Or will the lovely Rose be the one to make him see the virtues of settling down with a good woman? Highly recommended.

No Conventional Miss by Eleanor Webster- Amaryllis Gibson is one of two daughters of an eccentric academic, and loves science and inventing. But she also has a talent for seeing and hearing ghosts, which has bothered her all her life. She ignored it in hopes it would go away, but it doesn't seem to be fading. However, when she must marry, she hopes she can avoid the problem and settle down. However, while she would be glad to see her sister wed, it is she who gets caught in a compromising position with Paul Lindsey, Viscount Wyburn, and must marry to settle the gossip put about herself by an old neighbor who seeks to cause trouble for her. Afraid of being cast into a madhouse, Rilla seeks to hide the truth from her soon-to-be husband, even as the ghost of his mother urges her to help him and to find the truth about her death. Another excellent book that I really enjoyed, with a red-haired heroine who, as it could be said, "Hears Dead People. I loved the tension between Rilla and Paul, and Jack St. John, the villain of the piece. I also loved how Paul loved her for herself, enough to accept her for ALL her talents. Highly Recommended,

Tegami Bachi, Letter Bee Volume 18 by Hiroyuki Asada- Lag reunites with his friend Largo, a former Letter Bee who has been persuaded to rebel against the government of Amberground. But as Lag learns more about his birth and what happened on that long-ago day of the flicker, not to mention what the government is trying to do to solve the problem, and what the rebellion seeks to do, he decides to listen to a Spirit Insect in the Outlands, and try to figure out how to solve the problem of the Amber Sun without anybody being killed, even if it means sacrificing himself to ensure that no one else has to die. But as his friends among the Bees deliver his letters to his friends and acquaintances, they speculate on what is happening with Lag and what he may be becoming. But when Lag returns a year later, will anyone recognize him and will he still be human? This series is drawing to a close, but tantalizes readers with more mysteries yet to come. I'm still finding myself interested and reading. Recommended.

The Rogue You Know by Shana Galen- Susanna Derring is dreadfully tired with the way her mother treats her. Nothing she does is ever right, and since her brother Sam married a girl from the Rookeries named Marlowe, she's been wanting a chance to have an adventure of her own. So when Gideon Harrow, a sneak thief, breaks into her room and hides a piece of valuable jewelry he's just stolen, she blackmails him into taking her to Vauxhall Gardens if he wants the jewelry back. And he takes her reluctantly. But as their night adventure turns into a three-day trek, he discovers that Susanna is as passionate as she is sheltered, and doesn't seem the slightest bit restrained in expressing that passion. And Gideon, friend to Marlowe, who was shattered by her falling in love with and marrying another man, finds himself forgetting Marlowe as he deals with Susanna. As for Susanna, she is going to Vauxhall to find out the truth about her mother, but finds herself falling for the Rogue and sneak thief she blackmailed into taking her. Sure he isn't nearly the rogue he claims to be, Susanna can't help but fall for him. But with the pickiest mother on the planet, how can she persuade her mother that this thief from the streets is the perfect man for her? I didn't know what to expect from this book, but it was genuinely funny and very sweet as well. Seeing Gideon's reaction to how Susanna  talks a room of rogues after Gideon's neck into letting him take her to Vauxhall gardens was wonderful, and I loved how he managed to turn his life around and win her mother's approval. Recommended.

Pumpkin Scissors, Volume 3 by Ryotaro Iwanaga- After encountering a soldier in a fireproof suit, Corporal Oland is told the truth- the supposed fireproof liquid that shields the skin of the soldier in the suit is just an anaesthetic meant to shield them from feeling their skin being burned. Meanwhile, the Pumpkin Scissors are called out to a water treatment plant being held by saboteurs, one of whom is the man in the fire-proof suit. He is the only one left of his squad, who died when they took off their suits to take a bath. But when Oland and the rest of the Pumpkin Scissors try and stop the Saboteurs, can he keep the man in the suit safe with the knowledge he has, or is it already too late? Then, Alice must attend a ball with the rest of her families, two sisters who have already married and want Alice to do so as well. But when the ball in invaded by the poor, who blame the finance minister for embezzling the money meant to feed their families to line his own pockets, can Alice keep the protestors from killing anyone? And does she want to defend the finance minister for what he has done? Another excellent look at a country in turmoil and trying to rebuild after the war. I like the characters and I like the stories. My two favorite characters are Corporal Oland and Lieutenant Alice Malvin, though all of the characters are wonderful, which is a rarity in a manga with such a large cast. Highly recommended.

Pumpkin Scissors, Volume 4 by Ryotaro Iwanaga- The ball continues, and Alice must deal with the protestors. As the rest of the Pumpkin Scissors come to the ball to find and help her, they find that the crimes the finance minister committed are real. But when he's confronted, the two guards make attempts to take Alice and Corporal Oland down. But Alice can't take the side of the minister nor the side of the protestors if she really wants to propagate justice. Can she push aside the soldiers from Section 1 and allow Section 3, Pumpkin Scissors, to mete out real justice for everyone? I loved this book. It takes place mostly at a ball, but the story was real and immediate. Alice has to work on her own, without her commander, but even so, Zechs and the others are backing her up. I loved how her sisters realized that they can't make her fit a role, they can only let her do as she needs to do to fix things. And they also realized that she has it harder than any of them when it comes to doing her duty to everyone- Emperor, people, nobles and justice. The battles, both of words and swords, were amazing and really made this volume shine. Highly recommended,