December 2010


My final familiar challenge will be the 2011 Graphic Novels Challenge.

1. The challenge starts January 1, 2011 and ends December 31, 2011. You can start anytime you want to especially if you want to start early.
2. The level of participation: Beginner (3 comics or graphic novels), Intermediate (3-10 books), or Expert (10+)
3. Overlaps with other challenges is definitely okay
4. Re-reads count
5. Feel free to post your list at any time

I’m aiming again for Expert level with 11 comics. I just got my mitts on the Terminator omnibuses so I’ll be torturing you with more reviews from that franchise. Mwhahaha!

1. Terminator Omnibus vol. 1
The Terminator: Tempest
The Terminator: One Shot
The Terminator: Secondary Objectives
The Terminator: Enemy Within

2. Terminator Omnibus vol. 2
The Terminator: Hunters and Killers
The Terminator: Endgame
The Terminator: Suicide Run
The Terminator: Death Valley
The Terminator: The Dark Years

3. Matrix Comics vol. 2
4, Lone Wolf and Cub vol. 1: The Assassin’s Road
5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer vol 5: Predators and Prey
6, Buffy the Vampire Slayer vol 6: Retreat

7, Serenity: Those Left Behind
8, Serenity: Better Days

9, Angel: After the Fall, vol 1
10, Angel: After the Fall, vol 2: First Night

11, Angel: After the Fall, vol 3
12, Spike: After the Fall

13, Tom Strong: Book One
14, Tom Strong: Book Two

15, Astonishing X-Men vol. 1: Gifted
16, Astonishing X-Men vol. 2: Dangerous
17, Astonishing X-Men vol. 3: Torn
18, Astonishing X-Men vol. 4: Unstoppable

19, Avengers: The Korvac Saga

Next will be the 2nds Challenge 2011 hosted by A Few More Pages.

The guidelines:

1. Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog to participate. If you’re not a blogger, leave your information in the comments.

2. There are four levels to choose from in this challenge:

* Just a spoonful – Read 3 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
* A few more bites – Read 6 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
* A full plate – Read 12 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
* All you can eat – Read 20 books (or more) that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.

You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you. Any genre counts.

3. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2011. Don’t start reading until January.

4. If you’re a blogger, write up a sign-up post that includes the URL to this post so that others can join in. Feel free to use the button above. When you sign up in the Linky, put the direct link to your 2nds Challenge sign-up post.

I’ll aim for the full plate with 12 books.
1, Marjorie M. Liu: Darkness Calls
2, Seanan McGuire: A Local Habitation
3, Tara Maya: Taboo
4, Kerry Greenwood: Flying Too High
5, Tim Powers: On Stranger Tides
6, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: City of Ruins
7, Ben Bova: Vengeance of Orion
8, Layton Green: The Egyptian
9, Jocelynn Drake: Dayhunter
10, Susan Wright: Star Trek: Dark Passions, Book 2
11, C. J. Cherryh: The Faded Sun: Shon’Jir
12, Peter Clines: Ex-Patriots
13, Linda Hawley: Guardian of Time
14, Elizabeth Bear: By the Mountain Bound
15, Carrie Vaughn: Kitty Goes to Washington
16, Baroness Orczy: The Elusive Pimpernel
17, Elizabeth Bear: Chill

I’m going to sign up for two more familiar challenge. First is 1st in a Series Challenge 2011 hosted by A Few More Pages.

The rules:
1. Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog to participate. If you’re not a blogger, leave your information in the comments.

2. There are four levels for this challenge:

* Series Novice: Read 3 books that are the first in any series.
* Series Lover: Read 6 books that are the first in any series.
* Series Expert: Read 12 books that are the first in any series.
* Series Fanatic: Read 20 books that are the first in any series.

You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you. Any genre counts.

3. The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2011.

4. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2011.

I’m going to get eight books just from the TBR and Urban fantasy and horror challenges so I’m going to aim for Expert level with 12 books.

1, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
2, Seanan McGuire: Rosemary and Rue
3, Tara Maya: the Unfinished Song: Initiate
4, Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
5, Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass
6, Ben Bova: Orion
7, Kerry Greenwood: Cocaine Blues
8, Amanda Quick: Second Sight
9, Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
10, Evangeline Walton: Prince of Annwn
11, Jon Courtenay Grimwood: the Fallen Blade
12, Philippa Ballantine: Geist
13, Joe Haldeman: the Forever War
14, Linda Hawley: Dreams Unleashed
15, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro: Hôtel Transylvania
16, C. J. Cherryh: Gate of Ivrel
17, Raymond Rose: The Fire Inside
18, Elizabeth Bear: All the Windwracked Stars
19, C. J. Cherryh: Faded Sun: Kesrith
20, Susan Wright: Star Trek: Dark Passions, Book 1
21, Jacqueline Carey: Kushiel’s Scion
22, Donna Andrews: Murder with Peacocks
23, Julia Spencer-Fleming: In the Bleak Midwinter
24, Peter Clines: Ex-Heroes
25, Cherie Priest: Boneshaker

Booking Through Thursday

What’s the best book you read this year?

Worst?

Favorite?

Well, I guess it’s time to do the lists:

Best series: So hard to choose! I’ve read both familiar and new series. I guess I’ll have to support an old favorite and choose Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan science fiction series.

Best new-to-me author: This was a great year for new-to-me authors! I’ve already bought Laura Anne Gilman’s urban fantasy series the Retrievers, three of Lisa Shaerin’s four fantasy books on audio, Stacia Kane’s three Ghosts books, the three Kate Elliott’s Crossroads books which are out so far. But I’ll choose Stacia Kane for great characters and world-building, and a unique main character.

Top 10 books:
1, Kirsten Imani Kasai: Ice Song
2, C. J. Cherryh: The Kif Strike Back
3, C. J. Cherryh Chanur’s Homecoming
4, Liz Williams: the Demon and the City
5, Stacia Kane: Unholy Ghosts
6, Elizabeth Bear: Dust
7, Stacia Kane: City of Ghosts
8, Naomi Novik: Victory of Eagles
9. Claire McCleary: The Alchemy of Murder
10, Lisa Shearin: Armed and Magical

Top 3 most disappointing books:

1, Sharon Shinn: Dark Moon Defender: Unfortunately, the world-building and the plot crumbled under closer scrutiny.
2, Ian Rankin: Knots and Crosses: I fully admit that it’s my fault: I don’t really like gritty modern world books.
3, Peter Elbling: the Food Taster: pretty bland after all.

A tie-in novel.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Print
Page count: 372
Publisher: Titan

The story is divided into two parts. In 2003 Captain Losenko commands the Russian nuclear submarine Gorshkov. In 2018 Molly Kookesh is the leader of Alaskan Resistance cell. The chapter alternate between 2003 and 2018.

The Russian submarine is on a routine mission when they get a message from Moscow that US has made a nuclear strike. They also get an order to launch the nuclear missiles they carry. Losenko angsts about it for a short time but does as he’s ordered to do. Then they wait and listen.

Some months later they finally hear from the outside world. General Ashdown claims that a computer called Skynet is responsible for the original attack. Losenko’s second in command Ivanov doesn’t believe it and Losenko decides to go to Murmansk to find out. However, there they encounter a devastated city. When they finally see movement, it’s a factory run by Skynet and humans who have decided that they must work for the machines in order to survive. The Russians are attacked by early Terminators.

In 2018 Alaska, Molly tries to sabotage Skynet as much as she can. Skynet has oil pipes and runs uranium trains, and the small Resistance cell tries to destroy them. Unfortunately, Resistance Command considers them a small operation and doesn’t give them any help. Therefore, the former Forest Ranger has to do her best to keep her people alive. Her cell includes a former bush pilot, and her lover, Geir Svenson, and old Doc Rathbone who is their computer expert, and the resident drunk. Sitka is a teenager who was found as a child alone among the ruins of her namesake city. Young lovers Tammi and Roger are determined to get married despite the constant threat of death.

The cell moves around with several dog sleds and the dogs do double duty as guards, too. It’s in the middle of a bitter winter so survival is tough.

General Ashdown is the only one of the prominent movie characters who are in the book. The book ends just before the movie starts.

As you might expect, the story is full of gritty fighting for survival against cold and Terminators. Most of the fights are on the small scale; a small group of humans against a lone or a few Terminators. We also get a new variety of the machines: a train and Snowmiantors who move on skis. The fighting is bloody and often final; lots of characters die. And yet, there’s hope and love, too.

There’s also solid characterization: Molly is determined and fiercely independent. While she looks after her people, she’s also ready to sacrifice them in order to strike a blow against Skynet. The teenager Sitka is stubborn but able to follow orders, finally. She’s determined to earn her red armband. Geir is a gentle soul who stubbornly proposed to Molly time after time. Losenko is tormented by his decision to follow orders and launch missiles against Alaska. His XO Ivanov refuses to believe that a computer can be guilty of destroying the world and hates Americans with a passion.

Oh, and when Losenko first sees the Terminators he thinks: “This is like something out of science fiction movie!”

All in all, this is a fine Terminator novel and should please the fans of the franchise.

My newest review: Alayna William’s Dark Oracle

It’s urban fantasy with an adult main character so I liked it quite a lot.

The fourteenth book in the long-running Vorkosigan series. This time Miles meets Ekaterin Vorsoisson.

Publication year: 2004
Format: Audio
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Running Time: 12 hours 44 minutes

Ekaterin Vorsoisson is married to Tien Vorsoisson who is a bureaucrat in the terraforming project on Komarr. They have been married for a ten years and have one son, Nikolai. Ekaterin is unhappy because her husband mentally abuses her. They also have a secret: Tien and Nikolai suffer from a genetic disease. Tien hates mutants and is afraid that someone else would know about his disease. So, even though Ekaterin pleads him to cure himself and their son, he delays and delays. Also, Tien has trouble keeping his job; he blames his awful supervisors and co-workers, and moves often. Ekaterin doesn’t have any friends anymore and she doesn’t even bother to plant a new garden.

When Komarr’s solar array is damaged by a mysterious accident, Emperor Gregor sends to Imperial Auditors to check it out; Vorthys, who is Ekaterin’s uncle and an Engineer Professor, and the newly minted Auditor Miles Vorkosigan. The more they look into the accident, the weirder it looks. The duo lives with the Vorsoissons during that time, and Miles and Ekaterin grow closer.

Miles Vorkosigan is now the youngest Imperial Auditor ever. He comes to Komarr to study the elder Auditor in action and to help with case. He’s instantly attracted to the lovely Ekaterin but keeps reminding himself that she’s married. He’s also trying to adjust to his new job but his old instincts as a secret agent still take over from time to time. In addition to researching his case, he also manages to snoop in Ekaterin’s computer. He stumbles into her garden designs but also her notes about the disease.

The book is structured as a romance; the point-of-view switches between the hero and the heroine, and their growing attraction is a secondary plot along with the mystery. Thankfully, the story is devoid of the more toxic romance tropes, such as rape is romantic if it’s done by the “right” guy.

Professor Vorthys and the ImpSec people are great new characters. Vorthys has also a wife who is called the Professora and she also a university teacher. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much of her. Ekaterin has trained herself to be still as stone so that she wouldn’t do anything to upset her volatile husband (Unfortunately, her tactic doesn’t work because Tien is the cause of Tien’s anger) so she might come across as a bland character. Apparently, she’s a realistic portrayal of an abuse victim. In the end, she does have fire and passion in her.

Komarr’s cities are inside domes because the planet is still being terraformed. Barrayar conquered the planet about a generation ago. However, while some Komarrans make snide remarks to the Barrayarans, there doesn’t seem to be much active resistance going on. For example, Miles whose father is known as the Butcher of Komarr can move around freely without bodyguards. Komarr feels also more galactic than Barrayar. I can’t imagine that any Komarrans live in as profound poverty as the peasants on Barrayar. So, the difference between the conquered and the conquerors seems to be surprisingly large.

I heartily recommend the book for romance fans.

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