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,

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