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.

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