Collects X-Men (2019) issue 1-6.

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Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Lenil Francis Yu

Publisher: Marvel

Publication year: 2020

This was an interesting start to the next stage of X-Men. Most mutants live in the island paradise of Krakoa where they are immortal and happy. Except that the rest of the world still views them with suspicion and that the most powerful and experienced mutants must protect the rest.

A case in point is the Orchis, made up of the remains of many villainous human organizations, such as Hydra, A.I.M., and even S.H.I.E.L.D. They have an orbiting base where they’re creating weapons against mutants. Storm, Magneto, Polaris, and Cyclops attack them. They free captured mutants but also one who is apparently ”posthuman”.

The issue starts with a bang and a fight. Later we get to see our heroes in a more relaxed setting. Summer House in on the Moon. The Summers clan live there: Scott, Havok, Jean, Rachel, Nathan… and Logan. Corsair and the Starjammers are visiting.

In the next issue, another island approaches Krakoa. Scott, Nathan, and Rachel investigate. We get a couple of nice moments between them, but mostly they fight the locals. However, Krakoa and the next island merge so now the paradise island has dangerous new places. The mutants’ Silent Council is introduced. In retrospect, Scott made grave tactical errors in this issue.

In the next issue, four mysterious figures invade the island. I rather enjoyed the new villains, the Hordeculture and their confrontation with Scott and Sebastian Shaw. On the other hand, the new villains made our mutants look like incompetent idiots.

Issue four centers on politics. Krakoa is a new nation but already so powerful that the human nations are afraid of it, and for a good reason. Still, Krakoa’s representatives are asked to join a summit between nations. Magneto, Professor X, and Apocalypse are the diplomats while Cyclops and Gorgon are security. Once again, humans appear friendly, but assault squads are ready. I loved how Magneto flat out told the humans that Krakoa is soon going to be the economic powerhouse of the world because of the awful way that humans treat each other and others.

The next issue shows us that having a paradise island isn’t without a cost. Cyclops and Logan send three mutants to investigate the Vault, a place where time flows differently. They’ve chosen three who are most likely to survive it: X-23, Darwin, and Synch. While Storm and Cyclops attack the Vault as a distraction, the three try to infiltrate it. If they succeed, they could be inside for hundreds of years form their perspective. If they don’t, they die.

The final issue continues the shadowy dealings, this time with Mystique who has infiltrated the Orchid and tries to sabotage them as best she can. She’s doing it to get back Destiny. While she made a deal with Xavier and Magneto, they have no intention of keeping the deal. This feels huge out of character for both of them. Of course, Mystique has her own plots.

This was a very interesting beginning, showing us both a paradise for most mutants and yet it has a clear dark side, as well. This clearly starts off long storylines. Issue five ends in a cliffhanger and nothing is really resolved.

I enjoyed seeing most of the characters relatively happy and I’m very intrigued to see that Logan lives with the Summers clan.

The mutants have a lot of things going for them: five mutants who can resurrect apparently any mutant, Krakoa’s flowers which can create instant gateways between Krakoa and any place, medicines and healers, relatively safe place to heal and live. To balance it out, they also have a lot of enemies, including some nations.

A stand-alone zombie book.

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Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011

Format: print
Page count: 449

Finnish publisher: Johnny Kniga

Finnish translator: Helmi Keränen

This was very different from the movie. The book is a collection of interviews after the Zombie war is, well, not over, but when the humans have won. It’s split into several parts, starting with how the people in power ignored all the warning signs for political reasons. The first part of the book deals with how governments try to cover up zombies and the uncertainty people feel, or how people also turn a blind eye towards events that don’t affect them personally – until a zombie leaps into their living room. Then becomes the big panic: people lose faith in their governments and just try to survive as best they can. Then the war itself and finally the aftermath. Most of the stories are about war against an inhuman enemy or surviving. The vast majority of the characters are only interviewed once, so we see brief glimpses of events and people.

This structure means that the story doesn’t have main characters. We don’t get to know the interviewer, except through his choice of which interviews to keep.

The plot is showing how people cope, or no, globally. Also, Brooks explores all the changes that the war does globally, not just economically and politically, but culturally and religiously to several countries.

The people in power must make terrible choices so I don’t think I would have enjoyed this story must as a more traditional story. I understand why the movie had to be quite different, but I was surprised that the solution to the zombies isn’t from the book.

Also, the movie left out pretty much all the political allusions, such as rich Americans buying organs from China, pretending they aren’t coming from murdered political prisoners. Especially timely are the people who refuse to believe facts, fearing that they’re propaganda.

Overall, I was surprised how much I liked this.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Yesterday, the topic was Monsters.

Vampires, goblins, crytpids, oh my! What are some of your favorite reads that include monsters? Share as many different (or same) monsters for this prompt!

I don’t read much horror but I do enjoy the odd undead, especially in a fantasy setting. And of course dragons, faeries, and other fantasy monsters.

1, Tanya Huff: The Blood Books

This is one of my favorite monster series. Victoria “Vicky” Nelson is a former police detective and now a private investigator. She and her two love interests encounter one classic monster in each book. In the first book “Blood Trail” it was a serial killer who drains his (or her) victims of blood. In the second book, “Blood Price”, Vicky agrees to help a family of werewolves.

2, Bram Stoker: Dracula

Dracula was published in 1897 so the book’s structure is somewhat different from the modern style, but it still works.

3, Richard Matheson: I am Legend

This is the closest to pure horror on my list. The book is quite different from the movie. It’s different from most other vampire books but works very well.

4, Anne Rice: Interview with a Vampire

I’ve read 10 books in this series so I really liked the first one, too. The main characters are vampires, of course.

5, Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library

This fantasy series has both fae and dragons, as significant secondary characters. Irene Winters is the main character who is both a librarian and a spy.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Top Ten Favorite Book Settings.

I have lots of favorite settings, it was hard to choose just ten.

1, Libraries
Libraries actually aren’t very common, outside of mysteries. Two of my favorite libraries are Dream’s Library in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic book and the Invisible Library which exists between alternate realities in Genevieve Cogman’s fantasy series. Dream’s Library contains not just every book written but also the ones dreamed about while the Invisible Library has almost all books from dozens of alternate worlds.

2, Space
I love space opera. Lots and lots of books and series are set in space ships, not the least the various Star Trek and Star Wars books. Also, Becky Chamber’s Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is set on a spaceship, the Wayfarer. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving into the Wreck has a main character who dives old spaceships.

3, Magical cities
Lots of urban fantasy feature real-life cities with magic or magical creatures, but lots of books also have purely imagined cities, such as Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs and Roger Zelazny’s Amber series.

4, Historical London
Another city which is used quite a lot in books. I love Marie Brennan’s Onyx Court series which starts with Midnight Never Come. In this series, there’s a faerie court underneath London.

5, Alternate worlds
Another very broad subject. My favorites include Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, where elves (called Dragaerans) rule the world and humans are second-class subjects, and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

6, Mars
No matter if the setting is fictional, a far future, or near-future Mars I’ve always been fascinated with it. I love Edgar Rice Burroughs’ planetary romance Barsoom and also Andy Weir’s the Martian.

7, Parallel Worlds
I love parallel worlds stories in SF shows but they’re far rarer in books. Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library books has alternate versions of worlds but not so much characters. V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic has four parallel worlds which are quite different from each other.

8, Alien Planets
Another setting that covers a lot of books and depending on the planet, the reading experience is quite different. Martha Wells’ All Systems Red is set on a rather hostile planet.

9, Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt has fascinated me since I was a child. One of my favorite murder mystery series in Egypt is Lynda S. Robinson’s Lord Meren series which starts with Murder at the Place of Anubis.

10, Time travel
Not really a setting but I love time travel stories, even when they’re cheesy. Connie Wills’ To Say Nothing of the Dog or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last is one of my favorite comedies and mostly set in Victorian England. On the other hand, Forever War by Joe Haldeman has some profound things to say about war and human nature.

A historical fantasy book that can be read as a stand-alone.

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Publication year: 2016

Format: Audio

Running time: 14 hours, 22 minutes
Narrator: Julia Whelan

The book is set in 1880 in New York when Cleopatra’s Needle is traveling by train toward New York.

Eleanor St. Clair and Adelaide Thom own together Tea and Sympathy. Eleanor is a witch and a former medical student while Adelaide used to travel the country with a sideshow but now she’s a fortune teller who can really see ghosts and futures. They help women who come to their shop with tea, medical knowledge, and more mystical gifts. However, Adelaide thinks that Eleanor is working too much and so she advertises for a shop-girl: ”Respectable Lady Seeks Dependable Shop Girl. Those averse to magic need not apply.”

17-year-old Beatrice Dunn lives with her aunt in a small town near New York. When she sees the ad, she’s determined to start her independent life as a shop-girl. She knows a little bit about magic and dreams about being a witch herself. She travels to New York and after a couple of mishaps arrives at the tea shop. Then she starts to see people others can’t see.

However, some (religious) people know that Adelaide and Eleanor have strange powers, and even worse, are independent women. So they are convinced that the two are in league with Satan. These people want to stop Adelaide and Eleanor at any cost.

Eleanor, Beatrice, and Adelaide are the main characters of the book but lots of other POV characters, as well. Most of their lives intertwine somehow with the three women.

Adelaide has a dark past, which haunts her. When she was a child, her mother sold her to be a lady’s maid. But Adelaide ended up as a child prostitute before she ran away. Then, a woman threw acid on her face so one side of her face is burned and the eye is gone. Eleanor admired her Gypsy mother who taught her magic. Eleanor wants to help women and that why’s she studied medicine. But she soon noticed that her mom knew more about medicine than what passes for modern medicine, so she returned to her mother’s teachings. Beatrice loves her aunt but lost her parents when she was little. She loves to read and dreams about writing. The three are endearing main characters. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t really care for most of the many side characters. And the few that I did care about just disappeared without a proper ending.

Most of the people opposing the three are doing so because of their religious beliefs. So all of the bad guys in this book are Christians or using the Bible as an excuse to act on their bigoted views. Of course, in 1880 women were considered barely second-class citizens and many men simply ignored anything women said or did. A few scenes have Suffragettes and the Christian women oppose them.

The historical setting was done very well, both the characters and their opinions as well as the historical city itself. I was intrigued by the few scenes that had dearlies or fairies that brought dreams to humans. But we didn’t get to know much about them.

Most of the book has a cute and fluffy atmosphere but in contrast is also has the cruder side of NYC, such as whores and the insane asylum. They seemed strangely out of place compared to the tone of the rest of the book. Also, Adelaide’s past is very dark compared to the tone of most of the book.

Overall this was mostly an interesting read for the atmosphere of the historical New York City and the main characters. Adelaide is apparently from one of McKay’s previous books, the Virgin Cure, but I haven’t read it and I don’t think I missed out on anything.

The first book in the fantasy series Rogue Angel.

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Publisher: Golden Eagle

Publishing year: 2006

Format: Print

Page count: 346

The book starts with a brief scene in 1430 England where an impassionate young woman is burned at the stake and her sword shatters.

Then we move to the modern-day. Annja Creed is an archeologist. Because it’s not easy to get funding for excavations, she also works for Chasing History’s Monsters, a TV show about mythical beasts around the world. She does her research and narrates her own episodes. This time she’s in France, hunting la Bete, a supposedly werewolf-type creature that killed people in the 1760s. However, she soon finds that someone is shadowing her, and then she is attacked in broad daylight.

She continues her search, heading to the mountains. There she encounters a mysterious older man who calls himself Roux. Her assailants continue to follow her.

The book has multiple POV characters, including the main villain who is ruthless after la Bete because he thinks it will lead him to treasure. A hidden order of monks is also involved.

This was a fun and fast-paced action/adventure. It has a good mix of historical detail and fantasy.

Annja is a good main character who reminds me of Sidney Fox, from the TV show Relic Hunter. She has a lot of skills but unlike many heroines these days, she’s personable and gets along with most people, even though at times she can be a bit too blunt. She knows how to shoot and learned karate from an early age. She’s an orphan who learned to take care of herself.

I also found Roux a fascinating character but I won’t spoil his story here.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Yesterday the topic is Recommendable.

When a friend comes up to you for a recommendation, what do you normally suggest? List your top five most recommendable books for today’s prompt!

1, the Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters.

For historical mystery and humor, I recommend the Amelia Peabody series. Amelia is the first-person narrator in the series which is starts in 1884. Amelia is an amateur Egyptologist. So, while her family and Amelia work on various digs, they also solve murders. The first book is Crocodile on the Sandbank.

2, the Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

For people who enjoy alternate realities, spies, dragons, and fairies, the Invisible Library is the series to go to. The main character Irene Winters is a junior Librarian, spy, and secret agent for the Library between parallel worlds. Her mission is to save books from various worlds. To do that, she often has to use cover identities and get into places where she shouldn’t be.

3, The Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is a long-running science fiction series that focuses on the characters. I’d start with Shards of Honor which is the first one in a duology where the main character’s mom Cordelia is the main character. Or you can start with the hyper-energetic Miles in Warrior’s Apprentice.

4, Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

For urban fantasy, I always recommend the Toby Daye series which is also very much character-centered.

5, Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge: Black and white

Black and white has a great superhero feel. It’s not too gritty, like Watchmen and the Batman movies, but it’s also not a parody or a comedy. It incorporates the current media and commercial cultures with superheroes. Iridium and Jet were best friends when they were in the Corp-Co’s Academy for teenaged extrahumans, training to be superheroes. But five years later, they are sworn enemies. Jet, who has Shadow powers, is New Chicago’s most celebrated heroine, the Lady of the Night, and Iridium, who has light powers, is a supervillain and running the city’s underworld.

Collects Worlds’ Finest issues 18-21, Annual #1, and Batman/Superman #8-9.

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Writers: Paul Levits, Greg Pak

Artists: R. B. Silva, Scott McDaniel, Diogenes Neves, Jae Lee

This was a pretty good collection, although issue 18, the first one, was the last issue in the previous collection. Karen’s powers are out of control. She and Hel fight a new threat, a girl whose tattoos come to life.

Next is my favorite story in the collection: the adventures of Robin and Supergirl. This is set on Earth-2 where Helena is Robin and fights alongside her dad, Batman. Karen is still in hiding because her cousin Superman wants to keep her a secret weapon against Darkseid’s forces. But both girls long to be more independent, so they set out on their own.

Next starts the First Contact crossover, where the Huntress and the Power Girl finally meet Batman and Superman. Karen’s unstable powers worry Helena more and more. She finally asks for help from this world’s Batman. He’s younger than her dad and while they have similarities, they also have differences. Helena breaks into the Batcave. Bruce doesn’t want to believe her claims, but his instincts tell him that she’s telling the truth. So, he and Hel fly (on a Batplane) to see Karen, whose powers are making her a danger to everyone around her. She’s so much out of control that Superman must intervene.

However, whatever is affecting Karen infects Clark, too. Bruce must take him out with kryptonite. Then Hel and Bruce start tracing the nanobits that are affecting the Kryptonians. The team-up is pretty interesting. Hel and Karen can’t help but to compare the men they know to this world’s doubles. Clark and Bruce are younger than their counterparts. Bruce doesn’t trust anyone and not even his own instincts. He wants logic to back up his hunches. Clark doesn’t really trust Hel and Karen, but he still does his best to help Karen. While the story is fight-heavy (since it’s a superhero comic…) we get some very interesting character interaction and even growth. This was a good ending to the Karen’s powers are unstable plotline. Unfortunately, I’ve already read Batman/Superman vol. 2 Game Over where the story is also printed.

The first book in the historical Nottingham series reimagining the myth of Robin Hood. Or rather a deconstruction of the myth.

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Publication year: 2019

Format: Audio

Running time: 25 hours 25 minutes
Narrators: Raphael Corkhill, Marisa Calin

This was far darker than I expected it to be. I guess it can be called realistic but is it really realism when every decision has bad consequences? But I guess it is realistic when everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, no matter who they hurt or how much.

I was curious to read another reimagining of Robin Hood but unfortunately, this one wasn’t for me. For one thing, three significant POV characters are new: William de Wendenal, Arabel de Burel, and Elena Famwell, Will Scarlett’s lover. They’re solid, flawed characters with dark pasts. But since they’re not part of Robin’s myth I didn’t care for them. For another, it’s very dark. No matter how much the characters strive to do good, all their actions turn out to be wrong.

Set in 1191, King Richard is fighting in the crusades with Robin of Loxley and William de Wendenal as his closest allies. Robin and William even wear the king’s crown from time to time, acting as his body doubles to draw away assassins. But money and weapons don’t flow from England and that hurts the army. When Robin is wounded, he and William are sent to England to retrieve the missing weapons.

Meanwhile in England, the sheriff of Nottingham and his guard captain Lord Guy of Gisborne must collect crippling taxes that the king has ordered to fund the war. Lady Marion Fitzwalter is doing her best to keep the people from starving or rotting in jail because they can’t pay the taxes.

In the forest, a group of outlaws and former street urchins hide out, stealing what they can. Their leader is a huge, older man John Little who tries to keep his people safe. But Marion gives them information and directs their efforts.

The book did have some very interesting reversals. The current sheriff, for example, is trying to do his job and keep the peace. But the king’s demands and the disdain of the local nobles makes it very hard. Even his guard captain Guy thinks the sheriff is weak and ineffectual. Guy himself loathes everyone who breaks the law and does his best to keep his own men safe.

So, everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, but they’re working against each other, which adds to the grim tone. Everyone also assumed others’ motivations are bad. However, there was some humor, especially in the banter between the characters.

The Robin Hood mythos had quite a few reversals. The biggest one is, of course, right from the start Marion was leading the outlaws and Little John was the field leader. Also, Robin’s attitude toward poor people was very elitist: he thought they were poor because they didn’t work hard enough and when he started to help the poor, it was a political choice. Alan a Dale isn’t a musician at all. Robin often mentions that the outlaws can’t effectively fight against Nottingham’s guard because the outlaws aren’t trained and have poor weapons. Will Scarlet has a different upbringing, I liked him a lot. I won’t spoil the others. Some of them I liked, some I didn’t. It was nice to see more female characters, though.

The book has multiple POV characters and each chapter starts with the name of the POV character and where he or she is. The story has quite a few surprises. Even the end has a very surprising twist and is a cliffhanger, not really an ending.

A SF thriller, sequel to Jurassic Park.

Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1996

Format: print
Page count: 443

Finnish publisher: Otava

Finnish translator: Jaakko Kankaanpää

The book is very different from the second Jurassic Park movie. In fact, only a couple of scenes are from the book.

Five years have gone by since the Jurassic Park catastrophe, but most people don’t know about it because the Costa Rican authorities kept the survivors quiet. But strange creatures are found from time to time and even though Costa Rican authorities destroy them as soon as they know about them, rumors are circulating.

Richard Levine is obsessed with these creatures. He’s a scientist, but he wants to catalog things and theorize rather than do any field research. But then he finds clues that point to one Costa Rican island where dinosaurs could still survive and he must go there. He won’t even wait for his equipment. He just leaves. And disappears.

Levine isn’t a likable person, and he has few friends. Luckily for him, those friends include Dr. Ian Malcolm and Dr. Thorpe, who is a former engineering professor who has nothing but scorn for theory. Also, two kids have been helping Levine, Arby and Kelly. When Thorpe, along with his assistant Eddie, and Malcolm put together clues when Levine could be, Arby and Kelly help them. But my favorite was Dr. Sarah Harding who is an animal behaviorist specializing in African predators. Sadly, her advice to young Kelly is still relevant. Some parents and teachers still tell girls that they’re worthless except for their looks. Unlike in the movie, the book Sarah is calm under pressure and focused on getting her colleagues off the island.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Jurassic Park. It has some bad guys, but they don’t really do much. The characters also discuss how humans are destroying the nature and themselves. Malcom offers his theories about how species go extinct.

But the book has plenty of dinosaurs, and they aren’t just a threat. Crichton puts down his own theory on how they behave and we get to see them sort of in the wild.