Monday, 31 July 2017

The Lost Ones / Sheena Kamal

4 out of 5 stars
It's late. The phone rings.

The man on the other end says his daughter is missing.

Your daughter.

The baby you gave away over fifteen years ago.

What do you do?

Nora Watts isn't sure that she wants to get involved. Troubled, messed up, and with more than enough problems of her own, Nora doesn't want to revisit the past. But then she sees the photograph. A girl, a teenager, with her eyes. How can she turn her back on her?

But going in search of her daughter brings Nora into contact with a past that she would rather forget, a past that she has worked hard to put behind her, but which is always there, waiting for her . . .

I’m not sure how this book even got on my TBR list—but it came in at the public library for me last week, so I must have seen something along the way that prompted me to put a hold on it. I’ve obviously had it on hold for some time and now that it’s published, voila!

A woman with a past. Alcoholism. Sexual assault. A baby given up for adoption. Homelessness. Indigenous heritage, making her invisible to the justice system unless it is making life more difficult for her.

And yet she has talents and has carved out a very small place in the world for herself. One phone call shatters all of that progress and plunges Nora Watts back into the world with a vengeance.

I would definitely read another book about Nora. I hope Ms. Kamal finds another story that Nora could tell.

Spider's Revenge / Jennifer Estep

3 out of 5 stars
Old habits die hard. And I plan on mur­der­ing some­one before the night is through.

Killing used to be my reg­u­lar gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spi­der, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly mat­ters: Mab Mon­roe, the dan­ger­ous Fire ele­men­tal who mur­dered my fam­ily when I was thir­teen.

Oh, I don’t think the mis­sion will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more prob­lem­atic than expected. The bitch knows I’m com­ing for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keep­ing Bria safe is my first pri­or­ity. Tak­ing Mab out is a close sec­ond.

Good thing I’ve got my pow­er­ful Stone and Ice magic — and my irre­sistible lover Owen Grayson — to watch my back. This bat­tle has been years in the mak­ing, and there’s a chance I won’t sur­vive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s com­ing with mat­ter what I have to do to make that happen.

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

I’m glad this installment actually made some plot progress. The revenge plot actually went somewhere finally in this 5th (!) installment. And the romantic sub-plot seems to have firmed up nicely as well. I like the magic system, I’ve grown accustomed to the environs of Ashland, I like the secondary characters.

I’m so tired of hearing about Gin being an assassin (retired or otherwise), where she keeps her knives (seriously, if you’ve made it this far in the series, you have read that hundreds of times), how Mab Munroe hurt her, what the inside of the Pork Pit looks like, what everybody’s various runes look like, or about Finn & his chicory coffee, just like dear old dad. The obsession with eye colour is also a bit tiring. Does it really matter?

I liked that Gin actually made some realistic mistakes, early in the novel, and has to deal with the fallout. I also appreciated that we finally got some back-story on the Devereau sisters and we now know why they help Gin. I’m a little less gung-ho about Finn & Bria’s new attraction to each other.

The big negative that I can see ahead? There’s going to be no end of the repetition reminding us of what went down with Mab. This will last for at least 4 more books by my reckoning, if not more.  Sigh! I like Gin, I like her friends, I like the setting. This could be such an awesome series if an editor was willing to be ruthless.

A Witch's Handbook of Kisses & Curses / Molly Harper

4 out of 5 stars
Nola Leary would have been content to stay in Kilcairy, Ireland, healing villagers at her family’s clinic with a mix of magic and modern medicine. But a series of ill-timed omens and a deathbed promise to her grandmother have sent her on a quest to Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky, to secure her family’s magical potency for the next generation. Her supernatural task? To unearth four artifacts hidden by her grandfather before a rival magical family beats her to it.

Complication One: Her grandfather was Mr. Wainwright and the artifacts are lost somewhere in what is now Jane Jameson's book shop.

Complication Two: her new neighbor, Jed Trudeau, who keeps turning up half naked at the strangest times, a distraction Nola doesn't need. And teaming up with a real-life Adonis is as dangerous as it sounds, especially when he’s got the face of an angel and the abs of a washboard—can Nola complete her mission before falling completely under his spell?

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

An Irish witch on a special mission to Half Moon Hollow. It’s a cute, fun paranormal romance, in Molly Harper’s inimitable style. But it’s the intersection of this story with the continued adventures of Jane Jameson and Dick Cheney that truly made this worthwhile for me. I’m always interested in whatever shenanigans that Dick is enmeshed in and he features heavily in this book.

Half Nola’s adventures, half the Dick & Jane show, there is just enough of each to keep the plot moving along and to keep me smiling. Perhaps a bit predictable, but with enough humour & snark to keep me reading.

Recommended as light, fluffy summer material.

No Rest for the Wicked / Kresley Cole

2 out of 5 stars
A vampire soldier weary of life...

Centuries ago, Sebastian Wroth was turned into a vampire—a nightmare in his mind—against his will. Burdened with hatred and alone for ages, he sees little reason to live. Until an exquisite, fey creature comes to kill him, inadvertently saving him instead.

A valkyrie assassin dispatched to destroy him...

When Kaderin the Cold Hearted lost her two beloved sisters to a vampire attack long ago, a benevolent force deadened her sorrow—accidentally extinguishing all of her emotions. Yet whenever she encounters Sebastian, her feelings—particularly lust—emerge multiplied. For the first time, she's unable to complete a kill.

Competitors in a legendary hunt...

The prize of the month-long contest is powerful enough to change history, and Kaderin will do anything to win it for her sisters. Wanting only to win her, forever, Sebastian competes as well, taking every opportunity—as they travel to ancient tombs and through catacombs, seeking relics around the world—to use her new feelings to seduce her. But when forced to choose between the vampire she's falling for and reuniting her family, how can Kaderin live without either?

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

I’m not sure why I did this to myself? I gave Kresley Cole a second chance, after the less-than-stellar A Hunger Like No Other. I did like this one infinitesimally better than that one, but I don’t think she will get a third chance.

I like the idea of Valkyries as characters—warrior women who kick ass and take names. The whole world of the Lore has potential. There’s some humour in these novels too, that I can appreciate. It’s just that the plots are soooo thin, like tissue paper, just the basics to string together the sex scenes. And those are hot, but there are so many of them.

Now if that’s what you are reading the book for, your star rating will be higher than mine. However, I like a little plot to go along with my romance.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Wildfire / Ilona Andrews

4.5 out of 5
Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…

Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.

As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

Well, I slurped that down in one evening flat! And it was delightful. I will no doubt read it again, savouring it more slowly.

All the signs point to the Hidden Legacy series consisting of only 3 books. But there are so many things that just call out for more volumes! Leon finally has found his magic and started to use it. Arabella and Catalina have been required to use their talents too. I need to know more about all of them.

Plus, the big conspiracy theory that has been behind all three novels hasn’t been fully explored yet. Sure, the conspirators sustain a lot of damage during the course of Wildfire, but we still don’t know who the criminal mastermind is.

The whole “becoming a House” process has just begun, and there are bound to me challenges. I want to know what those issues are! And how do Nevada & family cope with Evil Grandma? 

Not to mention that I just enjoy Nevada’s family and would be interested in whatever crazy things they were doing. And although Nevada and Connor may seem like a done deal, those two will always have challenges and I want to witness those.

Please, Ilona & Gordon, tell me there will be more books in the Hidden Legacy world!!! 

Curse of the Kings / Victoria Holt

3 out of 5 stars
For centuries the tombs of the Pharaohs were haunted by a deadly curse. And when two eminent archaeologists have died mysteriously, Judith Osmond was certain that it was the curse at work. Then, overnight, her life changed.

There was an unexpected inheritance. Then Tybalt, a young archaeologist and the man she adored, asked her to marry him. But Tybalt planned a honeymoon amid the tombs of the Pharaohs, and suddenly it looked as if the curse of the kings had come to haunt Judith . . .

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List ***

I really enjoyed Victoria Holt’s books when I was in my teens. Re-reading them as a mature adult has been a bit disappointing. Having always had a bit of thing for Ancient Egypt, I recall being enchanted by The Curse of the Kings. Unfortunately, having just recently read The Lord of the Far Island, I can now see far too clearly how formulaic Holt’s romances were.

The main character is an orphan, she gets her education as a fortunate extra with the children of the gentry, she’s beautiful & spirited, and she gets miraculously saved from a desperate life as a lady’s companion by snagging the man intended for the well-born gal. Still, there is a slightly older, beautiful woman who seems like she might be competition for the husband’s interest and there are mysterious goings-on.

I think my main beef with this book is Judith’s education. The reader is told repeatedly how she has read ever so many books on archaeology and Ancient Egypt, and yet there is her new husband explaining tomb paintings to her, pointing out Anubis and Amun, as if she has never seen a book before and she acting like it’s all brand new!

And I had never realized before how undemonstrative Tybalt is! I associate the name Tybalt with fiery passion, so it seems strange to have this cold man share the name.

Perhaps I should have let sleeping dogs lie, but I have another of Holt’s books out of the public library, which I will likely read.

Undead and Unwed / MaryJanice Davidson

2 out of 5 stars
It's been a helluva week for Betsy Taylor. First, she loses her job. Then, to top things off, she's killed in a car accident. But what really bites (besides waking up in the morgue dressed in a pink suit and cheap shoes courtesy of her stepmother) is that she can't seem to stay dead. Every night she rises with a horrible craving for blood. She's not taking too well to a liquid diet.

Worst of all, her new friends have the ridiculous idea that Betsy is the prophesied vampire queen, and they want her help in overthrowing the most obnoxious, power-hungry vampire in five centuries - a badly dressed Bela Lugosi wannabe, natch. Frankly, Betsy couldn't care less about vamp politics, but they have a powerful weapon of persuasion: designer shoes. How can any self-respecting girl say no? But a collection of Ferragamos isn't the only temptation for Betsy. It's just a lot safer than the scrumptious Sinclair - a seductive bloodsucker whose sexy gaze seems as dangerous as a stake through the heart...

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List ***

Before there was Molly Harper’s Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs there was MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and unwed. They feel somewhat related, but although I really enjoy Harper’s fiction, I think I have had enough of Davidson’s. The difference, for me, is in the main character. I can relate to Jane Jameson (Harper)—she’s educated, she’s a librarian/bookstore owner, she’s snarky and sometimes a bit neurotic, but always basically good-hearted. Betsy Taylor (Davidson) is another kind of woman entirely—she’s shallow, uneducated, unfocused, mouthy, selfish, and seemingly completely motivated by designer shoes. I’m sure there’s a target-market for Betsy out there somewhere, I’m just not it.

It’s not that she doesn’t get some good lines, like “I was the Queen who brought all the tribes together, who ruled them as one. Like the Speaker of the House, only way more blood thirsty. More Book of the Dead crap, which Tina had been reading to me all night. It was like attending Bible school in hell.” Or when she first meets Eric Sinclair, “His shoes were—whoa! Where those Ferragamos? It was a rare and wonderful thing to see a properly shod man in an underground mausoleum.”

The “humour” missed its mark for me as often as it hit. I felt the author was trying too hard. But, as I have often stated in my reviews, my comprehension of humour in print is challenged. I had to order this volume via interlibrary loan in order to read it, making feel that I had to finish the book to justify ordering it from another part of the province. I shan’t bother with further volumes.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Dark Prince / Christine Feehan

2 out of 5 stars
Carpathians are an immortal race of beings with animal instincts. Every Carpathian male is drawn to his life mate: a Carpathian or human female able to provide the light to his darkness. Without her, the beast within slowly consumes the man until turning vampire is the only option.' Raven Whitney is a psychic who has used her gift to help the police track down a serial killer. Now she is determined to escape the glare of recent publicity for the peace and quiet of the Carpathian Mountains. Prince Mikhail Dubrinsky is the leader of his people but, as his ancient Carpathian race grows ever closer to extinction, he is close to giving in to the heavy weight of loneliness and despair. From the moment their minds touch, Raven and Mikhail form a connection. But there are those who incorrectly view all Carpathians as vampires, and are determined to give their extinction a helping hand.

  ***2017 Summer Lovin' Reading List***

Not my cuppa tea, your mileage may vary. It does provide a unique spin on the vampire mythos. There are two forms, the virtuous Carpathian and the corrupt vampire. When a Carpathian goes bad, he or she becomes a vampire. Their problem? Hardly any Carpathian females and those who still exist seem to have only male children. Without a life-mate, the Carpathian men are eventually reduced to a state where they can't see colour, can't experience much emotion, and can hardly avoid going vamp.

And that right there was my biggest issue with the whole book. It is entirely driven by male sexual needs and women are ultimately responsible for containing them. There isn't a sympathetic male character in the whole book! Well, I guess there is the priest who was a decent man but all the other human men are criminal, abusive, or teetering on the edge of violence. All the Carpathian men are arrogant assholes--controlling, condescending, seemingly unable to listen to anyone, even each other. (And how creepy is it that all these hundreds-of-years-old men are now standing around staring at Raven's belly, wondering when she is going to produce a girl child that they can perhaps claim as a life-mate?)

My other problem? Raven herself. For someone who thinks she's smart, she does nothing to prove it. She's smart enough to escape from the "protections" that Mikhail has constructed for her, but then goes wandering off into the woods, barefoot and half-naked. Both Raven & Mikhail go on and on about love and trust, but their behaviour says that there isn't all that much trust.

I respect the folks who love this series, though. The whole life-mate concept, while seeming claustrophobic to me, might seems tempting to those who would like to be sure about their relationships. We live in a world of 50% divorce rates--how nice would it be for everything to click magically into place when we meet a magical life-mate? No doubts, no regrets.

Not every book is for everyone, and I am done with this series. My TBR list is too long to waste valuable reading time on books that make me roll my eyes this violently.

Soleri / Michael Johnston

4 out of 5 stars
The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

I am a big fan of anything Ancient Egyptian and of King Lear, so when I heard this book described as inspired by both of those things, I knew I had to give it a try. The environment and the architecture were definitely reminiscent of Ancient Egypt, as were the names and some of the religious observances, but the author definitely gave his world its own traditions and quirks.

I didn’t really see the King Lear comparison—unlike Shakespearean tragedy, there were survivors! I guess the Harkan king, Arko Hark-Wadi could have been somewhat equivalent to Lear, but he is not nearly passionate enough to truly do justice to that monarch. However, that does not mean that it was a disappointing book.

All the members of Arko’s family, in fact, seem rather cold and calculating, even when they are supposedly in love with someone. There are manipulations and misunderstandings galore! If you enjoy back-stabbing and elaborate plots to sabotage rivals, this is the book for you.

I suspect there will be a sequel—there were enough loose ends left hanging to justify one. Probably sales of this volume will determine whether the sequel sees the light of day. I, for one, like messy endings, so I am okay with Soleri’s final pages, but if you need things wrapped up neatly, you may find it frustrating.

Guilty Pleasures / Laurell K. Hamilton

3 out of 5 stars
Ever since the Supreme Court granted the undead equal rights, most people think vampires are just ordinary folks with fangs. I know better. I’ve seen their victims. I carry the scars…

But now a serial killer is murdering vampires—and the most powerful bloodsucker in town wants me to find the killer… “
In a world where vampires, zombies and werewolves have been declared legal citizens of the United States, Anita Blake is an “animator” – a profession that involves raising the dead for mourning relatives. But Anita is also known as a fearsome hunter of criminal vampires, and she’s often employed to investigate cases that are far too much for conventional police. But as Anita gains the attention of the vampire masters of her hometown of St Louis, she also risks revealing an intriguing secret about herself – the source of her unusual strength and power.

  ***2017 Summer Lovin' Reading List***

Another title in what seems to be morphing into my Summer Vampire Reading List. I liked this one and will probably read on, at least for another book or two, in the series.

These are old-school vampires, susceptible to both crosses and holy water, something fairly uncommon in current urban fantasy. Anita knows that she is opposing evil, not just being prejudiced against a new segment of society.

There was also, I thought, a nod to Anne Rice's vampires, specifically Claudia. The biggest, baddest vamp in Anita's town is actually a 1000 year old little girl!

I'm not exactly sure why, but Anita reminds me of Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock. I think it may be a matter of kickass attitude, but Jane is much more comfortable working for and around the undead than Anita.

Anita needs a woman friend right away!! She can't continue to lean on the psychopathic Edward (although I must admit that he has a treasure-trove of weapons, making him a handy kind of guy to know. If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy). Anita also has an unexplained talent for resisting vampire glamour which I will be interested to learn more about. Plus its pretty obvious that Anita is riding for a fall when she declares, "I don't date vampires, I kill them." I predict she'll be dating one in the next book.

The Lost City of the Monkey God/

3.5 stars out of 5
Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

 My friend Barbara recommended this book to me, so really how could I refuse? Especially once I found out that much of the action takes place in Honduras, a country that I have been interested in visiting for several years. Why? The Lovely Cotinga, that's why (have a look at

But I think I may be cured of that desire now. You see, in addition to the anthropological research and the jungle exploration (poisonous snakes, hip deep mud, and unremitting rain, anyone?) there ends up being a fair amount of discussion of insect-bourne disease. A number of the team were infected with Leishamaniasis by the bites of sand flies. What is easily done can be difficult to undo and they struggle to find treatment options. Most of the world's victims of this disease are among the poorest people on earth--if they had money to spend on drugs, the pharma companies would be doing the necessary research. But that's not the way things are.

Now, I am one of those people that biting insects adore. In fact, I was just at a family reunion and I think I heard everyone say at some point, "Oh, mosquitoes love me!" So apparently it is a family trait and as I sat in their attractive midst, I did get only 3-4 mosquito bites. But I am hardly encourages to brave Hondruas, even for the most beautiful bird. Sorry, Lovely Cotinga!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Broken Homes/ Ben Aaronovitch

4 out of 5 stars
A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil - an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case, a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on an housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection?

And i
f there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?

This installment meanders a bit, as it juggles multiple story lines, plus lessons in architecture. Thomas "Oh was that your Tiger tank?" Nightingale gets to show why he's the teacher and Peter & Lesley are the apprentices. I particularly enjoyed Toby's increased role in this book, being Peter's magic detector (the yap-o-metre) and camouflage (a man with a dog is virtually invisible, apparently).

Peter has matured since the first book. Lesley gives him a hard time, needling him about why he and Beverly Brook aren't sleeping together yet. In the first couple of books, Peter would have jumped in first and thought things through later, but he has learned to think with his big head and is suitably cautious. After all, if your relationship with a goddess goes pear-shaped, you know who is going to suffer most (and it won't be Beverly).

I'm still enjoying the effortless multicultural and inclusive cast of characters, however don't imagine that I have no criticism! I'm not wild about the Faceless Man as an antagonist (although I did enjoy Peter's reference to his lab as the Strip Club of Dr. Moreau). But, having read to the end of this volume, how can I doubt that I will read the next to see the next event in the drama?

Blood Games / Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

4 out of 5 stars
Blending the dark eroticism of the vampire with the suspenseful adventure in history's most exotic locales, Yarbro's Saint-Germain epic continues in this third book that takes place in the last chaotic days of Nero's Rome.

  ***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

Finally, I met the enigmatic Olivia who corresponded with Saint-Germain during the first two books! She is an excellent character and the Ancient Roman setting was an inspired choice. I can’t imagine all the historical research that Yarbro must do for each novel—so far, she has skipped through three entirely different time periods and seems to maintain the accuracy of each one reasonably well.

Also long awaited was Saint-Germain actually using his vampire powers a bit more. What is the point of giving your main character exceptional abilities if you aren’t going to utilize them? It was also good to see him lose his temper and make errors. Up to this point, he has been the uber-rational, uber-calm master mind who never screws up!

I seem to be on a vampire kick this summer and I’m enjoying the variety of perspectives as I switch authors. Yarbro’s fiction is from a time before the paranormal craze that we find ourselves in today and is interesting just for that.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Third Grave Dead Ahead / Darynda Jones

2.5 stars out of 5
Paranormal private eye. Grim reaper extraordinaire. Whatever. Charley Davidson is back! And she's drinking copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake because, every time she closes her eyes, she sees him: Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan. Yes, she did imprison him for all eternity, but come on. How is she supposed to solve a missing persons case, deal with an ego-driven doctor, calm her curmudgeonly dad, and take on a motorcycle gang hellbent on murder when the devil's son just won't give up?

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

Some light-hearted fluff to follow an interesting non-fiction book.

I’m tiring of Charley & Reyes, since they seem to make very little progress on their relationship from book to book. In this one, he kidnaps her at knife-point, but that it somehow okay because she “knows that he cares about her.” And although I appreciate her friendship with Cookie, it really seems like both of them are way too focused on “finding a man” and not paying enough attention to their families, their careers, and all the myriads of others things that life consists of. I want to give both of them Penelope Russianoff’s book Why Do I Think I Am Nothing Without A Man?.

Having little luck with Reyes, Charley is throwing herself at two other guys, without really considering the consequences and the thought of the entanglements to come wearies me already. Needless to say, if I continue reading this series, I will be in no hurry to pick of the next volume.

Shakespeare's Rebel / C.C. Humphries

4.5 stars out of 5
London 1599, a city on the brink of revolution...

He is Queen Elizabeth's last, perhaps her greatest, love - Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex. Champion jouster, dashing general...and the man that John Lawley, England's finest swordsman, most wishes to avoid. For John knows the other earl - the reckless melancholic - and has had to risk his life for him in battle one time too many.

All John wants is to be left alone to win back the heart of the woman he loves, be the kind of father that his son can look up to, and arrange the fight scenes for the magnificent new theatre, the Globe. To realise these dreams, John must dodge both Essex and his ruthless adversary for the queen's affections, Robert Cecil, and remain free to help his oldest friend Will Shakespeare finish the play that threatens to destroy him: THE TRAGEDY OF HAMLET.

I picked up this novel in anticipation of a writers & readers conference that I attend in August of each year, as this author will be participating this year. I did not know what to expect but got much more than I was bargaining for!

Humphreys played to his strengths—he has played Hamlet (here in my home town!), knows his way around a sword, has choreographed fight scenes for theatre, and has a passion for Shakespeare. All of these interests have been channeled into this tale of John Lawley. Lawley is a solider, an actor and an alcoholic—he is rather evenly devoted to all three, but the third has made it difficult for him to pursue the other two or to maintain a relationship with his son and the son’s mother.

I love books in which William Shakespeare himself appears as a character and he is a good friend of Lawley in this one. Will is struggling with the writing of Hamlet while Robbie Deveraux and Robert Cecil wrestle for Queen Elizabeth’s affections.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good historical fiction, who is interested in the history surrounding Queen Elizabeth I, or who is a fan of Shakespeare. I am very much looking forward to meeting the author in August and I will read more of his novels with great pleasure.

Artemis Fowl / Eoin Colfer

3 out of 5 stars
Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius, and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren't fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous.

Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them...but then they stop playing by the rules.

Artemis Fowl (or should that be Foul?) is an interesting mix of Lex Luthor and Encyclopedia Brown. He’s a boy genius with designs on leprechaun gold and he is willing to kidnap and deceive his way to his goal. But the fairy world is not going to just roll over and submit to Artemis’ demands, especially not Captain Holly Short, who is being held captive in Fowl Manor.

It’s a quick read, well written. If I was part of the intended demographic, I would probably be more impressed, but it’s a bit tame for adult tastes. Very appropriate for the children’s market, however. I would have no hesitation buying it for a school library. There are explosions, near-death-experiences, monsters, and evil plans, but no one loses their life. Colfer gives amusing names to his characters, like a butler named Butler and a centaur named Foaly.

Looking for summer reading for your 10 year old? Consider Artemis Fowl!

Bonk / Mary Roach

4 out of 5 stars
The study of sexual physiology - what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better - has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex-toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey's attic.

Mary Roach, "the funniest science writer in the country" (Burkhard Bilger of 'The New Yorker'), devoted the past two years to stepping behind those doors. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Why doesn't Viagra help women or, for that matter, pandas?

In 'Bonk', Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm, two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth, can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to slowly make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

Mary Roach, as usual, is drawn to the weird and the wonderful. I love her sense of humour about whatever her current obsession happens to be. A book about sex research could be dry and boring, but not with Ms. Roach at the helm.

Male readers may cringe at several of the chapters regarding surgery on the family jewels—it made me a little queasy. I am also amazed that she managed to drag her husband along to participate in research projects with her. He is obviously a guy with a sense of adventure!

Sex researchers, both animal and human, were good sports to show off their work in progress or discuss published results. As stated a couple of time in the book, publicity can sometimes be a hindrance to obtaining research money, so they were either very established researchers or willing to risk the exposure.

We’re all interested in the topic, but few of us have the time or inclination to track down these great stories! Thank you, Mary Roach, for being the obsessive researcher for us.