The 16th book in the Amelia Peabody historical mystery series. However, this time it’s not a murder mystery, rather an adventure story.

Publication year: 2005
Format: print
Publisher: Avon
Page count: 420

This time, we return to the past to the (until now) missing 1907-1908 season when the Emersons didn’t have an excavation. Instead they return to the Lost Oasis or Holy Mountain, as the locals call it. It’s a hidden place where the culture is mixture of Meroitic and Egyptian cultures. That place was introduced in the “Last Camel Died at Noon”, the 6th book in the series.

The Emersons are in England planning the next season of excavation, or rather Emerson wants to work in the Valley of the Kings but because of his temper he lost that chance and it’s likely they can’t work at all. But that changes when Merasen appears. He’s an arrogant young man who claims to be the young brother of king Tarek who is ruling the Holy Mountain these days. But a disease is rampant; it has struck both Tarek and his young son. So, Tarek has sent Merasen to Emersons to get help. The Emersons want to help but they’re skeptical about not only about Merasen and his motive, but if they can help at all because Merasen’s journey to them has taken months and the return trip will also take many months. But in the end, Nefret demands to help and the Emersons’ leave. The journey is dangerous, not only because of the dangers in desert but also because the Emersons’ don’t want to lead any other people there. And also, many of them wonder if they can trust Merasen or is he leading them into a trap?

This time, Ramses is hopelessly in love with Nefret but he thinks he doesn’t have any chance with her, so he hasn’t told her. In fact, he’s planning to go to Germany and study there for a year, hoping to forget his feelings during that time. But of course he joins his parents, Nefret, Merasen, and loyal Daoud and Selim in their journey to the Holy Mountain. He’s strangely tentative and hesitant, rather than his usual confident self. Nefret is also not her usual self.

During the journey, we meet a group of colorful and interesting characters, most of them suspicious in some way such as a boisterous and rude big game hunter who is very interested to know where the Emersons are going and a suave military captain who seems to know a bit too much about the Emersons’ plans.

This time the story isn’t a murder mystery but in the line of old pulp adventures where white men discover “new” places. Except that the Holy Mountain isn’t a new place to the Emersons but instead they’re worshipped almost as godly figures there. That was a lot of fun. However, I don’t think this was one of the best in the series. It was fun to revisit Holy Mountain but not much actually happens there. I also didn’t really care for the way that Ramses was pining after Nefret especially since we know that they’ll get married.

Otherwise, it was great to see the familiar characters a bit younger.

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The third book in the Supervillainy saga.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 6 hours 6 minutes
Narrators: Jeffery Kafer

The book starts about a year after the second in the series, The Games of Supervillainy.

Gary Karkofsky also known as Merciless, the Supervillain without Mercy, is in a pickle: his wife was turned into a vampire and not the sexy kind either but a soulless monster. He’s been looking for a cure, but nothing has worked, so far. He’s also developing feelings for his henchwoman Cindy, who is also his ex-girlfriend. And Death has a job for him. Apparently, the greatest superhero of all time was killed far sooner than they should have been, and Death wants Gary to kill the murderer. Also, the superpowers that the Cloak grants Gary have been fading and president Omega wants Gary dead.

Yeppers, the terrible love triangle rears up its ugly head and once again I loathe it. It’s mildly amusing in this book but quite frankly I’d have liked the book a lot more without it.

Still, for the most part this was just as funny as the previous two books. We get more superhero plot twists and even a flashback to times when Gary was dating Gabrielle, the Ultragoddess. We also get more pop culture references, such as Cindy and Gary disagreeing over Star Wars: the Force Awakens!

A short story collection about parallel worlds. Part of the Timetravel ebook bundle I bought from Storybundle in 2015.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook
Publisher: Wordfire Press

Alternitech is a company which “sends agents to alternate timelines where tiny differences yield valuable changes”: for example, a famous band doesn’t break up or a musician doesn’t die or a cure has been found for a disease which affects a lot of people. They’ve all been published before in Analog.

The main character in all stories, except the last one, is an Alternitech agent, traveling through parallel worlds for a living, looking for some specific knowledge.

“Music Played through the Strings of Time”: Jeremy Cardiff is looking for music. Specifically, from famous musicians who have done music which hasn’t been published in his own timeline. He’s also a musician himself but he’s never hit big, not matter how technically good songs he makes. But then he comes to a timeline where his own song has been a big hit.

“Tide Pools”: Andrea is a cure hunter, looking for various cures. But she has a very personal reason to look for one specific cure: her husband in sick with a very rare and fatal disease. Because it’s rare, Alternitech has forbidden her to look for the cure. Of course, she does it anyway.

“An Innocent Presumption”: Heather Rheims’s employer is obsessed with JFK’s assassination and sends her to various parallel universes to find out everything she can about it. But she also has a very personal project: a serial killer called Slasher X killed her younger sister. In Heather’s own timeline, he was caught by a freak accident. Now Heather wants to make sure he’s caught in every timeline.

“The Bistro of Alternate Realites”: Heather returns. In this story, she’s working for a young archeologist and looks for clues of various archeological finds which haven’t been found in her timeline. By accident, she meets her counterparts in other realities and they starts to share their info, and more personal lives, as well.

“Rough Draft”: Mitchell Coren wrote one (stand-alone) sci-fi novel which won Hugo and Nebula and left readers wanting more. But he never wrote more. Twenty years later, an Alternitech agent, who’s also Coren’s fan, found out another book that an alternate world Coren has written. The agent sends Coren that novel, which enrages Coren.

I liked the premise and the stories (after I got over the surprise that these aren’t actually timetravel). Parallel realities are fascinating to me. The Bistro story was especially interesting, but it felt a bit of a cheat that we didn’t find out how one subplot ended. I wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in these worlds.

A stand-alone science fiction mystery.

Publication year: 1981
Format: print
Publisher: Del Rey
Page count: 246

This book in set in another world, Egara, which was originally habited by a telepathic sentient species, the Iregara. However, when Iregara sent a group of their own people to Earth, as a peaceful embassy, the telepaths were suddenly in contact with thousands of human minds and they burnt out. They became Silent, not able to send or receive telepathy. Their children were also Silent. Because the Iregara culture assumes that everyone is telepathic, the Silents have a lot of trouble and aren’t able to blend in. Indeed, even the jobs they can have are quite limited. A small group of humans have moved to Egara, as well.

Reluctantly, the Iregara have realized that they need a police force in Egara. They’ve never before needed such people and so they turn to humans. They set up a small police force, Conservators of Peace or cops, to start with, 300 cops for 300 000 people. The new police force’s results are also strictly monitored and some Iregara aren’t happy that more humans are in the world and in such visible position.

Ten Kampachalas is one of the new recruits from Earth. He’s been a leo, a law enforcement officer, for five years and is eager to get to know the new world and its habitants. However, in this time, leos on Earth must provide protection for citizens in cities which resemble warzones (some of the citizens apparently fight the leos), so the Iregara way of life is very different to him and all the other new cops. While the cops are expected to solve crimes, they’re mostly expected to act as mediators to keep the peace and to sooth the people against whom a crime has been committed.

Another new aspect is the telepathy, of course. The Iregara can’t turn it off nor use it selectively. They use it all the time on everyone. Even their languages are mostly verbs and nouns designed to arouse emotions and thoughts which the others’ can pick up and understand what it meant. This is, of course, a very challenging to the humans and to the Silents. However, Ten does his best to cope.

The other, more minor, view point character is Director Devane Brooks. In addition to getting the new department going in a new culture and on a new planet, he has a young son and a wife who only came to Egara because of Devane’s career. She’s humiliated and annoyed that the Iregara can read her every thought.

Someone starts to kill the cops. Ten and the other cops must find the killer as quickly as possible.

The book is focused on exploring the telepathic culture and on the culture clash between the humans and the Iregara. It’s not a fast-paced book but I enjoyed the new culture a lot and found the book very interesting. The world-building was much more intriguing than the plot or the characters. The Iregara are bipedal sentients and while they aren’t completely incomprehensible, they’re far more alien than most aliens.

The first book in a (then) modern-day mystery series set in Las Vegas.

Publication year: 1992
Format: print
Publisher: Tor
Page count: 241

Midnight Louie is a large, black tomcat. He’s a former stray and even though he’s a house cat in the Crystal Palace hotel, he can come and go at his leisure. He fancies himself an amateur detective and his chapters are written in noir style in first person. When he stumbles upon a body (of a human), he realizes that he must help solve the murder mystery.

Temple Barr is a 29-year old freelance PR woman and this time she works for the American Booksellers Convention set in the huge convention center in Las Vegas. She’s just heard that two very famous library cats, Baker and Taylor, who were supposed to have been on display, have vanished. She thinks that Louie is one of them and chases him. Louie leads her to the murder victim and they start to investigate the murder and the case of the missing cats, both in their own ways.

The victim is Chester Royal, the founder and editor of Pennyroyal Press, an imprint of Reynolds/Chapter/Deuce publishing house. The Pennyroyal Press focuses on medical thriller. The more we find out about the victim, the clearer it becomes that almost anyone who had any dealings with him could have killed him. The three best-sellers from his imprint are the first suspects, along with his ex-wife. Royal was a quite a bastard, keeping the writers firmly under his thumb and he was apparently quite an unpleasant person to be around.

Temple escorts the detective around and tells her about the book business. C. R. Molina is very much focused on her job and doesn’t endear herself to Temple at all. Temple is also a hard-working woman but needs to be charming and personable in her job. She talks with the suspects and other people near Royal while doing her job.

The story is told mostly from Temple’s third POV and a little from Louie’s first POV. Of course, Louie doesn’t talk to any of the people, but he does talk to the other cats. He has nothing but disdain for dogs.

This was a nice and fast read. Because it’s set in book convention it no doubt has a lot of inside jokes which went right over my head. Also, I’ve never been to Las Vegas, so I don’t know how authentic the places are. Louie’s chapters are quite distinct because of his sizable ego. The story has a lot of characters for such a small book, but I had little trouble keeping them distinct.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Yesterday the topic was Favorites You’d Like to Revisit

— What favorite books would you like to re-read? These don’t just need to be books, they can also be TV, movies, video games, etc.

Well, I’d like to reread more than I do because I have so many unread books on my shelves. But I do rewatch a lot of TV series and films, especially in recent years when it seems that every time I find an interesting TV show, it’s already (or soon will be) cancelled. (Luckily, neither Flash nor Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seem to be in danger of being cancelled, so far.)

These are the ones I’m currently revisiting:

1, Fraiser
Some months back, I bought all eleven seasons in one wonderful bundle and I’ve been rewatching the whole show. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the best US sitcom ever.

2, Star Trek: TNG
My science fiction comfort watch.

3, To say nothing of the dog or how we found the bishop’s bird stump at last by Connie Willis
Hysterically funny time travel comedy. I have the audio book and occasionally relisten it, especially when stressed.

4, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Another series I just adore and rewatch my favorite episodes from time to time.

5, Marvel’s Legendary the deck-building game
It became quickly my favorite board/card game since this came out 2013. Out of the 14 expansions I don’t own 4. I’m eagerly looking forward to their next expansion which is going to center on Ant-Man and hopefully we’ll finally, finally get the Wasp! (I’ve already printed out a fan-made the Wasp but an official the Wasp would be great!) The game is based on Marvel superheroes.

A collection of Batgirl stories from her very first story in 1967 to the 1990s.

Writers: Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Elliot S. Maggan, Bob Rozakis, Davin Grayson, Kelley Puckett
Artist: Carmine Infantino, Sid Keene, Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson, Don Heck, Mike Grell, Irv Novick, Vince Collette, Duncan Fegredo, Terry Dodson, Kevin Nowlan

I confess: I don’t really know much about Batgirl. She was in some of the Batman cartoons but that’s about it. I’m far more familiar with Barbara Gordon as the wheel-chair bound Oracle. I think these stories are set in another continuity than the one I’m most familiar with. They’re all new to me.

While the collection starts with wacky and fun stories, the last two aren’t so good.

The collection starts, appropriately enough with Batgirl’s debut in “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl”: Detective Comics #359 in 1967. Barbara is the head librarian of Gotham library, wearing Princess Leia hairdo. 😊 She’s going to the policemen’s ball and has made a Batgirl costume for that. However, on the way she sees none other than Bruce Wayne attacked by Killer Moth and his Moth men. Barbara goes for the rescue and finds that she likes being a superhero, so she continues. She kind of helps Batman and Robin to capture the Killer Moth who is blackmailing millionaires.

She doesn’t have a tragic origin and I think that’s very appropriate for her. With nothing more than her Judo training and enthusiasm she’s just as capable of catching bad guys as Batman and Robin. Well, except that the males keep telling her to stop.

“The Orchid-Crusher” – Detective Comics #396 and “The Hollow Man” – Detective Comics #396 in 1970 is a two-part story where

Barbara hunts down a serial killer who kills young, redheaded girls.
This is pretty straight-forward story where we’re introduced to Jason Bard, a man who wants to be Babs’ boyfriend.

“The Unmasking of Batgirl” – Detective Comics #422, “Candidate for Danger” – Detective Comics #423, and “Batgirl’s Last Case” – Detective Comics #424 1972

Now this goes deep into the wacky country. In the first story, the “dominoed daredoll” encounters an ex-con who cons her again. At the same time, her dad is reluctantly running for congress. Babs becomes so disillusioned about her work as Batgirl that she decides to run for Congress instead of her dad, so that she can really make a difference. She also tells him that she’s Batgirl. The next two stories center around her campaign.

“The Invader from Hell” – Batman Family #1 1975
Barbara was elected into Congress and Dick comes to meet her there, just in time, too, because none other than Benedict Arnold seems to have come back from the dead.

“Startling Secret of the Devilish Daughters” – Batman Family #9 1977
Batgirl and Robin versus the daughters of Scarecrow, Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin!

“Photo Finish” – Batman Chronicles #9 1997: This story jumps to a different continuity. Batgirl meets Batman and Robin for the first time (again). While Batman is, er, busy with Catwoman (and yeah, the sexuality is almost dripping from the page, ew) he sends Robin to find evidence of her burglary. Batgirl tags along. They find the real burglar and managed to first get into each other’s way but finally bring him down.

“Folie a Deux Part One” – Legends of the DC Universe #10 “Folie a Deux Part Two” – Legends of the DC Universe #10 1998: The last story in the collection has gorgeous art by Terry Dodson, but the story is… not good. It again returns to the roots of Batgirl being a hero. This story reboots her as Commissioner Gordon’s niece whose parents died young and the Commissioner then raised her. Babs is an angry rebel teenager who convinces Batman to help her train. Gordon spies on her and finds out that she’s the Batgirl.

Interestingly enough, while Dick and Barbara have long been an off-again on-again couple, they’re not together in these stories. In fact, in Photo Finish, Dick (as Robin) is drawn quite a bit younger than Babs. In “Invader from Hell” Dick is still trying to persuade Batgirl to stop being a hero and they don’t know each other’s secret identities. But in the next story “Startling Secret of the Devilish Daughters”, they work together comfortably and know each other’s secret identities. But Dick has a girlfriend.

The problem here is that, especially in comparison to Batman, Batgirl doesn’t get to shine on her own. She doesn’t have a rogue’s gallery. She’s intelligent and skilled but battles ordinary criminals. This isn’t the Babs I know from Birds of Prey and I find it hard to believe these are really her best stories.