The first book in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 17 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

This story was part of a collection of three books: the prequel and books 1 and 2.

Gemma Rose has started her tearoom just a couple of weeks ago. She has a brilliant if somewhat eccentric chef and her best friend works as a waitress. Best of all, she has a lot of customers. But then a very rude, almost obnoxious American tourist walks in, snapping his fingers for service. Gemma grits her teeth and plays nice. But then the chef’s mischievous cat Muesli slips to the tearoom and Gemma must try to get her before the customers spot her. The rude American makes a crude pass at Cassie, Gemma’s best friend, and threatens to return the next day. Gemma thinks there is something very strange about him, beside his lack of manners. That evening, in the pub, the American picks a fight with a local man known for his hotheadedness. They’re both thrown out.

But the next morning, Gemma finds the American dead. He’s sitting in front of her tearoom, murdered with a scone. Not only are she and her friends prime suspects but after the local newspaper writes about the murder, nobody comes to her tearoom anymore. Worse, the detective on the case is Gemma’s old boyfriend Devlin and he’s determined to treat her like any other suspect.

This was mostly a light and fun read. Gemma’s mom is very prim and proper and she’s trying to fix Gemma up with a doctor. She also doesn’t think that running a business is a proper job.

Gemma is the first person POV character. She’s rather an immature and impulsive lead. She used to be a canny businesswoman for eight years but she seems to have none of those qualities now. All her savings were used on the tearoom and she doesn’t know how to cook herself. When the local newspaper starts writing about the murder and Cassie’s possible involvement, Gemma is close to bankruptcy because people are afraid to come to the tearoom. There’s a possible love triangle between Devlin and the doctor, which I really don’t care for.

However, the cast of characters are fun. The four old women are nosy and very entertaining when they try to help Gemma. I also enjoy Cassie who is an artist but must work part-time jobs until/unless her paintings start to sell. The narrator was great and I enjoyed the writing style a lot.

The prequel to the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 17 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

This story was part of a collection of three books: the prequel and books 1 and 2.

Gemma Rose is a former Oxford graduate and she also grew up in Oxford. However, after graduation she decided to take a high-paying job in Australia. But now, eight years later, she decided to quit her job and move back to Oxford. She wants to start a tearoom and is buying a run-down cafe to do it. She’s already talked to a local bank and been assured that she’ll get the loan.

On the plane back to Britain, she becomes fast friends with the woman sitting next to her, Jen Murray who is visiting Oxford and staying at a local hotel. After Jen has left, Gemma realizes Jen forgot her scarf. Gemma takes it intending to return it to her. Gemma is staying with her parents while she’s trying to get the tea room up and running.

Her mother has invited four old women to tea. While Gemma doesn’t particularly want to meet them and reminiscent about her childhood, she put up with them. After meeting her oldest friend Cassie, Gemma goes to the hotel and returns to scarf to Jen. Jen invites her to stay for a while and drink with her. Gemma accepts and they talk at the hotel bar for awhile. Gemma doesn’t drink but Jen drinks a lot. In the end Gemma helps Jen up to her room.

The next morning, Gemma is surprised and saddened when she hears that someone has murdered Jen the previous night. She’s even more surprised and horrified to find out that she herself is the prime suspect. Of course, the bank refuses to give her the loan while she’s a suspect and another buyer wants to get the place.

This was a fun and light cozy mystery. It does a great job introducing us to Gemma and the people in her life. I especially liked Gemma’s relationship with her best friend Cassie. They support each other wonderfully. While Gemma didn’t care for the four old ladies, they helped her solve the mystery and were very funny. The mystery starts pretty late compared to the other books (I’m halfway through the second book) and it’s quite convoluted. But I liked the characters and the light writing style quite a lot.

Collects Cloak and Dagger maxiseries issues 1-11 (1985) and their part of Strange Tales issues 1 and 2.

Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Art Adams, Terry Shoemaker, Terry Austin, Mike Mignola, Bret Blevins, Marc Silvestri, June Brigman

Just like the first Cloak and Dagger collection, “Shadows and Light”, “Lost and found” is a perfect example of 1980s superhero comics. Compared to current comics, it’s very wordy. The pictures are explained and Mantlo also has lots of explanations about how Cloak feels. There are also some unfortunate stereotyping. But if you don’t mind that, it’s a very good read.

It starts right from the previous collection and has the same (small) cast of recurring characters. Cloak and Dagger break up a illicit porn shop. The police show up and the men who run the peep show, using mostly unwilling girls, tell detective Brigid O’Reilly that many of the cops in her precinct have been bribed. O’Reilly starts to look into it over several issues while tracking down a big drug shipment coming to New York. Also, father Delgado is increasingly obsessed with “saving” Dagger from Cloak.

Meanwhile, Dagger wants a normal life. When father Delgado tells Dagger that her mom and stepfather are in down, Dagger leaps to the chance to meeting them again. Unfortunately, she’s bitterly disappointed and becomes a bit disillusioned.

Issue seven takes our heroes out of America and to Europe where they’re tracking down the opium so that they can get to the source and shut it down. This takes them from Marseilles to Istanbul and takes the rest of the collection. They encounter various local gangsters and for a brief time Dagger even joins a circus and finds a little bit of happiness there.

On the long ship voyage to France they’re joined by another young stowaway, Bill Clayton. He’s enchanted by Dagger’s beauty and he tags along, claiming that he’ll be a good guide. He speaks many languages and does know a lot of about various European countries. But Cloak is unhappy; he knows that Bill wants Dagger for himself.

The last two issues, in the Strange Tales comics, are set in India.

Spider-Man guest stars in the third issue and the fourth issue is a part of the Secret Wars II cross-over with the Beyonder getting a small taste of New York’s criminal underworld. Unlike the vast majority of cross-overs, Beyonder’s guest stint isn’t too bad. Dagger and Cloak must explain to him a lot of things, like why he shouldn’t just kill the bad guys. This makes their mission more clear to themselves. They decide that they should give the criminals a second chance to repent and turn to the light. However, in practice, this doesn’t change their M.O. much.

During the first half of the series, there are subplots involving detective O’Reilly and father Delgado. However, these are quickly dropped without clousure when our heroes leave US. I suspect that since this maxiseries led to a bi-monthly series, the subplots continue there.

Overall, this was a good read with very down-to-earth heroes. It was great to see the heroes really trying to stop the drug trade rather than just fight the symptoms. On the other hand, there are some stereotypes which can be uncomfortable to modern readers. This story also deals with organizations which are supposed to be good for people and the society but are corrupt instead.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Cloak and Dagger. As long as he has his powers, Cloak can’t lead a normal life. His darkness needs to devour life’s light; he needs Dagger’s light or he will succumb to the hunger and feeding so much from humans that he’ll kill them. He’s jealous of anything or anyone other who draw Dagger’s attention and can’t help but to delight in Dagger’s disappointment in her mother and later in other disappointments. Dagger wants a normal life. When Bill Clayton gives her a taste of it, she’s eager to grasp it. But sometimes she gets weary of seeing bad guys all the time and wants to really punish them. Some of the stories explore her past but Cloak’s past remains mostly a mystery.

Rick Leonardi is the artist for issue 1-4 and 6. The other issues all have different artists. However, they’re styles are surprisingly similar so the differences didn’t bother me too much.

The first volume in a comic where Earth has lost gravity. Collects issues 1-5.

Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett

Willa was an infant the day Earth lost gravity. Her mother was sucked to the sky and died, along with a lot of other people and animals. Willa and her brilliant scientist father were inside and survived. Twenty years later, Willa is working for a delivery company and flying around Chicago delivering packages. Humanity has adapted to living, using ropes to tether themselves to buildings. She has a crush on her co-worker Edison who doesn’t have legs below the knees. She’d like to see the world but her father hasn’t left the apartment since G-day and Willa must support them. She carries a gun, but not really for protection but to use in an emergency: the recoil will push her back toward ground. She also carries a fire extinguisher to aim her flying.

Willa’s dad, Nate, was working on gravity when it failed and now he claims that he can reverse the effect. Willa hears from her surrogate mother that Nate had worked with a man who’s now rich and lives on the surface of Chicago. Nate has never even mentioned his partner Roger but Willa thinks that Roger could help her dad. So, she flies to the surface and encounters a really strange culture which tries very hard to keep things the way they were before G-day. The place is also dangerous.

This was a really fun idea and visually the comic is really appealing. It’s fast-paced. Willa is brave and curious but she also argues a lot with her dad and is very impulsive and trusting. Nate blames himself for “letting” his wife die on G-Day and is deathly afraid to leave the apartment. Edison was apparently born without legs but now he’s able to fly just like everyone else. However, I didn’t care for the way Willa’s mom is killed off to have her dad scared of leaving the apartment.

I found the culture on the ground fascinating, but won’t spoil it for you. But the way the people have adapted to flying was great, very visual.

However, I didn’t really care for one thing in the ending which I won’t spoil. The ending is not a cliffhanger but leaves everything open.

The first book in the Foreigner SF series.

Publication year: 1994
Format: Print
Page count: 426
Publisher: DAW

Other people, including the back cover of this book, describe the Foreigner as anthropological SF and I have to agree. The main draw and attraction in this book is the alien race, the atevi and their culture, and the interaction between the humans and the atevi. This is not an adventure book.

At first glance, the book can be confusing as the first two “books” are just a prelude to the actual story which starts at “book 3” on page 65. Essentially, in book one a human spaceship is lost in hyperspace and after three dangerous years it makes its way to the atevi planet. They don’t contact the locals aliens whose tech level has just reached steam power. In book 2 we see the first contact between the atevi and humans where one atevi kidnaps a human but they’re able to communicate a little. The back cover summarizes the events better than the chapters. Apparently, the humans were able make an alliance with one atevi lord. The humans have far better tech than the atevi. Some atevi attacked the humans wanting their tech and also because the humans had insulted them. The war was ended with a truce in which the humans got a small section of land where their only city Mospheira is now. Also, one human at a time is accepted into the local atevi court, acting as a diplomat and a translator. He or she will slowly give atevi access to tech, so that it doesn’t hurt their planet or culture. However, the atevi way to think is so different from humans that even after generations of cautious contact, humans don’t really understand the aliens.

However, the real story starts on page 65, some 200 years after the treaty was signed. Bren Cameron is the current translator/diplomat (paidhi). By law, he’s not allowed to have any weapons. He’s attacked in the middle of the night. Luckily, the local lord Tabini has given him a firearm a few weeks previous. Bren shoots the assassin but they get away. Because of the attack, Tabini sends him to Tabini’s grandmother’s place in the countryside where they barely even have electricity. The grandmother, Ilisidi, is a strong-willed woman who isn’t happy that she lost the lord position first to her son and then to her grandson. She’s also a very traditional person who hasn’t had contact with humans. Bren has no idea if he can trust her or her staff.

Unfortunately, nothing much else happens. There are a couple of assassination attempts against Bren but he’s kept away from them and only hears about them. Nobody tells him anything. Ilisidi tests him a couple of times, but mostly Bren just sits and wonders what’s going on and thinks about the local politics. I’m afraid it’s not very exciting.

The atevi culture is in the middle of everything. It’s quite different from modern Western culture. They don’t have lands or nations. Instead, they have alliances to people. They also don’t have words for affection or trust. If they can still feel such emotiond, remains to be seen. Part of the legal system are licensed assassins. Most of them work as bodyguards and Bren’s primary protectors, Banichi and Jago, are both assassins. However, for assassination to be legal it must be declared and nobody has declared Bren a target. So, the situation is strange by atevi standards.

Also, they have very strict way in which they need to be seen to behave in public. The higher the rank, the more formal the person (male or female) must be. Personally, I also enjoyed Tabini’s attitude towards eating meat. He, and his household, eat only game:

“[Bren] preferred distance from his meal. Tabini called it a moral flaw. He called it civilization and Tabini called it delusion: You eat meat out of season, Tabini would say. Out of time with the earth, you sell flesh for profit. You eat that never runs free: you call that civilized?”

I enjoyed the atevi characters but I was frustrated by Bren who seemed to be doing noting but arguing with them and moping around. We did learn stuff about atevi history.

Cherryh’s dense style of writing here is similar to Chanur or Faded Suns on the surface. However, the repetitions and lack of action isn’t typical. I’m told that the series gets better. So far the only attraction in the series is atevi culture and characters. I’m hoping the second book will better.

A stand-alone time travel story. Part of Storybundle’s Race Against Clock bundle this year.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Page count in GoodReads: 160

Thomas Ayliffe is a thief who wants to commit the jewel robbery of a life time: to steal the Crown Jewels of Britain. And he’s going to do it by swindling his way to a team which is going back in time to the White Tower in 1674. This isn’t his planned time spot but he must use what he can get. He couldn’t care less about the historian’s goals. In fact, he finds them very strange.

Neyla Kendrick is a historian with an obsession with the murder of the two princes, the sons of Edward IV. She can’t get to their supposed bones now, but Portals Inc has been testing a time traveling device and they need to send a team back in time to test the system. Neyla and her team of handpicked four men are going to do it. However, the day before they’re leaving, one of Neyla’s team members becomes violently ill and needs to be quarantined. To make matters worse, their patron practically forces a complete stranger to join the team. The stranger’s name is Thomas Ayliffe. In 1671 a Thomas Ayliffe was caught trying to steal the Crown Jewels. Neyla has a bad feeling about him, but has no choice but to accept him.

This was a quick and enjoyable read. The characters worked well and the plot was fast-paced. However, I was surprised and a bit disappointed by how little time the characters spent in the past.
Also, the bodies of the princes didn’t play a large part, after all.

The characters are very distinctive for such short tale. Neyla’s very confrontational when required while Thomas is focused on his job. She isn’t looking forward to having a spend a whole month in 1674. In fact, she’s prefer it if she could come back as soon as possible. But for research, she’s willing to risk disease and food poisoning. The past was described vividly.

Portals Inc plans to commercialize time travel. I’d love to read more stories set in this world, but this seems to be the only one.

The hosts of SciFiMonth have gathered cool prompts and top ten lists. Today, I’m going to talk about my favorite time travel stories.

Time travel is one of the SF tropes I love. However, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish time travel from another trope I also adore: alternate universes. That’s not strange because according to some theories if you time travel and change something, that creates an alternate timeline.

Different stories (and franchises) have different rules for time travel. In most, the travelers can change the past and by changing it, change their own present (the future). They’re often warned against it but end up changing something anyway. In some singular stories you can’t change the past but that’s far more rare. Apparently it makes for less exciting story unless it’s about time travel tourism.

I love time travel in series because what I most like about it is a chance to see characters I know and love to be different. That’s why I’ve split this list in two: series and more stand-alone works.

1, The Days of Future Past comic by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
This is one of the first time travel stories I ever read and I was very young and impressionable then. 🙂 In the original comic, it’s fourteen year old Kitty Pryde who had just joined the X-Men only a couple of issues before who receives the mind of the 30 years older Kate Pryde. She convinces the current day X-Men (Storm, Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine) to try to save senator Kelly from assassination and so change the future.

Seeing the older and much, much sadder Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine of the future was just gut-wrenching. The original story is only two issues long bu it’s very powerful. Also, later Claremont brought Rachel Summers from that future.

2, Star Trek TNG: Cause and Effect
I had really hard time choosing just one ST episode because I love many time travel episodes (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”, DS9’s “Trouble with Tribbles”, Voyager’s “Year in Hell”, Star Trek: First Contact just to name a few). But this episode has somewhat different mechanic than the others mentions on this list, specifically the crew is caught in a time loop and repeats some hours.

3, Legends of Tomorrow: Raiders of the Lost Art
This show just gets better all the time. Since the whole premise of Legends is for a group of misfits traveling through time, it has a lot of time travel. In the first season, they have an immortal bad guy whom they’re trying to catch at different time periods. Later, they try to mop up breaching through time. In this episodes, they’re in Hollywood, reinspiring a certain young movie maker.

4, Back to the Future
While these movies are part of a franchise, there are only three of them, so I can’t really compare them to a long-running series like Star Trek. In this series, Doc Brown constantly tries to warn us not to use time travel for material good or for trying to alter the past. Except from Marty’s past.

I love especially the second movie where returns to 1955 and we have two time traveling Martys running around at the same time.

5, Doctor Who: Blink
One of the best time travel series around is Doctor Who where time is a “big ball of wibbly wobbly time-y wimey stuff”. In Blink Doctor and his companion Martha Jones are trapped in 1969. They try to communicate through video tapes with a woman in current time. It also introduces the most scary villains in the series, the Weeping Angels.

6, Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco
This is a twelve issue maxi series where Kang and Rick Jones pull a group of Avengers from different timelines. Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne are from the “current” timeline (1998), Captain America has super strengh but has just been disillusioned, Yellowjacket who is Hank but he’s had his nervous breakdown, Hawkeye from just after the Kree-Skrull war, Songbird so far in the future that she’s not yet an Avenger in the current time, and Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell’ son Genis) from further in the future. This series explores and tries to make sense of various inconstancies and gaffes in the Avenger’s history. It’s a love letter to the continuity and wonderful for us old fans.

7, The Flash: The once and future Flash
In this episode, Barry travels to a future where he wasn’t able to prevent Iris’ death. In consequence, the whole team disbanded and the future Barry is depressed and no longer a hero.

The Flash has many, many time travel episodes and it explores their consequences in fascinating ways.

Stand-alones:

8, Connie Willis: To Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last
Technically, this too is part of a series, the time traveling historians from Oxford. However, the time traveling main characters Ned Henry and Verity Kindle don’t appear in the other books. Neither do the characters from 1880. Ned Henry is the narrator of the book. He’s from the future Oxford and has been time traveling trying to find the birdstump for an obsessed American financer. Now, he suffers from slippage and the don sends him to Victorian times so that he can rest.

It’s one of my favorite humorous books, right next to Terry Pratchett. The time lag effect, which is similar to jet lag, gives poor Ned confusion and difficultly in hearing and makes it all the more hilarious.

9, Looper
In this movie, mafiosos use time travel to kill without a trace. The changes in the past instantly appear on the character’s future self.

10, Source Code
In this movie, captain Coltair Stevens is sent back to a train which is about to explode, again and again. He has eight minutes at a time to find a way to stop the explosion.

12 Monkeys probably deserves to be on this list but it’s been too long since I saw it. Time for a rewatch.