November 2008

In the familiar Astro City style, this is a collection of one or two comic stories where the main character is a normal human (or a retired super in one case) living in a city full of super humans and villains. We see how the heroes influence the lives of other people around them.

Newcomers: the main character is a veteran AC citizen who greets people at the Classic hotel. He remembers how he first came there and his encounters with the supers. He also sees the reactions of the newcomers to the city; how they react to meeting the heroes.

Where the action is: Sally Twinings is a comic book writer who writes about the real heroes in imaginary situations. Sally wants to check the facts first and not to just invent stuff. However, her boss Manny has been in the comic book business for a long time and he wants to continue with stories that sell better. However, the heroes aren’t necessarily thrilled about how they have been portrayed. Contains probably a huge amount of industry injokes.

Great Expectations: a soap opera in this world requires a super hero in order to be more realistic. (That already blew my mind. :)) But then the actor playing Crimson Cougar is part of the team that stops a robbery from happening. Here we see what happens when a TV hero gets to have a chance to be a real hero.

Shining Armor: an old woman remembers when she first came to AC full of determination to find her own job and also the best man for herself. She ends up as a reporter and falls for Atomicus, the greatest super hero at the time. A sort of retelling of the Lois and Superman story from their earlier and sillier times.

Pastoral: a girl from AC is forced by her parents to go to the countryside. She’s convinced that she’s going to die of boredom but finds out that even the country cousins have their own superhero: Roustabout.

Knock Wood and Justice Systems: a two-part story where a down on his luck lawyer has to try to defend a mobster. The lawyer is working at a time when the supers have just started to get a wider influence and he decides to take advantage of that.

Old Time: retired superhero Supersonic is practically forced to defend his city against an old enemy. Supersonic knows that he isn’t as good as in his best days and he relives some of his adventures.

All the stories are once again enjoyable but I guess I’m more used to stories that have a continuous main character(s). These are charming and nice, though.

Booking Through Thursday

Today is Thanksgiving here in the U.S.

Now, you may have noticed that the global economy isn’t exactly doing well. There’s war. Starvation. All sorts of bad, scary things going on.

So–just for today–how about sharing 7 things that you’re thankful for?

This can be about books, sure–authors you appreciate, books you love, an ode to your public library–but also, how about other things, too? Because in times like these, with bills piling up and disaster seemingly lurking around every corner, it’s more important than ever to stop and take stock of the things we’re grateful for. Family. Friends. Good health (I hope). Coffee and tea. Turkey. Sunshine. Wagging tails. Curling up with a good book.

So, how about it? Spread a little positive thinking and tell the world what there is to be thankful for.

So, how about it? Spread a little positive thinking and tell the world what there is to be thankful for.

We Finns don’t have Thanksgiving so this is one of those alien customs we only see in movies and TV. But happy Thanksgiving to you USAians!

I guess I have a lot to be thankful for: a supporting family (I mean my parents and brothers), my good health, my new apartment, even my job which is now providing more stress than anything else, that I live in a peaceful, free country, all the wonderful authors out there, and all of my friends offline and online.

This is the second book in the duology. The first is Blood and Iron. Both are part of the Promethean Age –series of books. However, the other books are set in different time periods so it’s not really a continuing series although of course there are same immortal characters in the books. I recommend reading Blood and Iron before this one.

Whiskey and Water is set seven years after the end of Blood and Iron (BaI). All of the surviving characters from BaI are seen here, too, and there are also a lot of new characters. Indeed, the cast of characters here is remarkably larger than in the previous book. There are also a lot more point-of-view characters. This was a bit of a problem for me because I vastly prefer just one or at most three POV characters. However, since some of them were familiar from the previous book, I wasn’t too irritated.

The familiar POV characters are Queen Elaine of the Seelie Court, Whiskey the Kelpie, and Matthew Magus formerly of the Prometheans. Elaine is still queen despite the plotting factions in her court. Her relationship is a bit strained with her son, though. Ian still blames Elaine for the deaths of his girlfriend and his unborn child. Also, the previous queen the Mebd appointed Ian as her successor and some factions in the court think that Elaine isn’t the legal ruler. In order to be the queen of faeries Elaine has given her soul to Whiskey. So, she can’t really feel much of anything. Also, her husband Keith is the legendary Dragon Prince whose fate is to kill a lot of people and be betrayed by someone near him. However, Keith is in Hell. He went the instead of Elaine.

Whiskey has ruled mercilessly the world’s oceans for times without end. However, now that he has a soul he can’t be as ruthless as before. His underlings have noticed this and some of them think it’s time Whiskey gave way to someone who can really rule. The others have stopped obeying his orders and the orders of Elaine. Whiskey himself wishes that Elaine would take his soul back because he has fallen in love with her and is now her occasional lover. Elaine, of course, can’t answer his feelings. Whiskey can’t help but to be loyal to her.

The former mage Matthew is in just as sorry a state as the other two. He can’t control his magic but at the same time he can’t stop hearing what New York City is telling him. He has broken all contact with Jane Adraste who was his mentor and is the only surviving full mage of the Prometheans. Jane has started to gather to herself new apprentices and Matthew isn’t happy about it. He couldn’t avenge his brother and he doesn’t really fit into the new world after the faeries revealed their existence to the world.

The book has a lot of new characters. Jewels wants to be a fae so badly that she has cut pointed tips into her ears. She’s also cut herself otherwise most of her life. When her friend Althea is killed gruesomely in the streets of NYC the authorities and Matthew think that the faeries are involved. The Merlin and Matthew take Jewels and her friend Geoffrey into the Seelie Court to find justice. Elaine gives Jewels as a servant to her son Ian so that Jewels can learn the skill to survive in the faerie lands.

Christopher Marlow has lived hundreds of years in hell as one of Lucifer’s pets. Now he finally has a chance to get back to world that has changed much. Marlow was part of the Prometheans when he was alive and has started to think that their goal of ridding the world of the faeries isn’t right.

There’s also Lily Wakeman who belongs to a Wicca group and gets far more than she thought when she starts a romance with one of the men in the group. It turns out that Lily has natural power of her own. She’s also transsexual.

Donall Smith is a NYC detective but he finds out that poking into the affairs of Jane Adraste can be dangerous. Especially when you yourself have magical power. The archmage may even make you an offer you can’t refuse.

The daughter of Mannannan Mac Lir is still alive and well. She’s a swan maid who knows Lucifer and Archangel Michael as well as Marlow.

Felix Luray used to be a member of the Prometheans. Now he’s trying to get back to the good graces of his archmage.

And a host of other characters. There’s even three devils: Marlow’s Lucifer Morningstar, Milton’s Satan, and a modern, more vicious devil. The Archangel Michael walks the earth as a woman. Morgan Le Fay lives in the Faerie world with her two hounds.

In a world were any and all stories can come true, human perception shapes a lot of things.

This book is just as dark as the previous one. Hope and sympathy are rare things in the cruel faerie world as well as in hell. Human world is a little bit better but only when the humans make it so. The pace is quick considering the size of the cast.

Bear’s writing style has also improved. While in BaI she wrote in tight third point-of-view and only changed the point-of-views between scenes, here she quickly and deftly changes the view as needed even inside a scene. Her writing is very beautiful and fits the grim world well; Bear’s writing makes the world bearable to read about and to even enjoy. She writers immortal and famous characters easily and manages to even surprise the reader at the end.

Oh and did I say that I love the book?

Steven Brust’s Jhegaala

Like the ungrateful reader I am, I want mooooore!!

The second, and last, volume of Nextwave is as devoted to absurdity and humor as the previous one. Although this one has, perhaps, a bit more absurdity than humor although, of course, that would depend on the sense of humor of the reader.

This time our intrepid heroes, Monica Rambeau, Tabitha Smith, the Machine Man, the Captain, and Elsa Bloodstone, have to face a town full of the Mindless ones who are slave beings from another dimension. They are very strong, very endurable, and shoot destructive beams from their eyes. After the teams stops the Mindless ones and their boss, they are lured into an empty town where they have to beat up the Beyond corporation’s chief, Number None, and his two teams of superbeings which include such (not) awesome characters as Doctor Headless, Doctor Meatball, Father Pain, and Reverend Guilt. The task ahead is, well, absurd.

We also get to see the antics of the severely depressed Dirk Anger, who leads the team which is supposed trying to capture Nextwave.

Good stuff but I can see that this might not have pleased the average comic reader.

Booking Through Thursday

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

I’m sure that it would be nice for the authors (and agents and publishers, too) to get only positive, glowing reviews. However, I for one prefer honest reviews. If someone would make me feel like I’d had to do reviews in a certain way, I wouldn’t be doing reviews for them anymore.

People like different things and that’s not a bad thing. Unless the book has some really bad structural problems, a reader might still decide to get the book after reading a negative review.

I was going to say that what’s the point of writing reviews if you only have to write positive ones. However, even these sort of reviews can tell a lot about the book and if I’d like it: tone, writing style, level of violence, multiple POV or just one POV etc.

So, I’m definitely in favor of honesty.

This time Admiral Miles Naismith of the Denadarii mercenaries/ Lieutenant Miles Vorkosigan of Barrayar has ended up on Earth because his mercenary fleet needs repairs. Miles himself takes the opportunity to check in to the Barrayaran Embassy to give his report and receive his next orders as well as the payroll for their previous job. The unfortunate commander of the Embassy, Captain Duv Galeni, doesn’t know anything about Miles’ cover identity.

Galeni orders Miles to stay at the Embassy doing his duties as a Lieutenant. This doesn’t help Miles’ burgeoning romance with the Dendarii mercenary Commander Elli Quinn who is also Miles’ bodyguard. Miles sighs and does his boring social duties as an escort to older ladies. His cousin Ivan has also been assigned to the Embassy doing the same duties. Except that because Ivan is of a junior rank, he gets to escort the young women…

Miles has decided to lay low because now both of his personas are clearly on the same planet and even in the same city, London. Unfortunately, his underlings don’t have the same inhibitions. When a group of drunken Dendarii barricade themselves into a liquor shop with a hostage, Miles has no choice but to try to sort things out – in front of television cameras. Things take a turn to even worse when Miles’ orders and payroll fail to arrive as expected. Then Miles is busy trying to spin lies to inquisitive reporters and dodging assassins sent after him. Meanwhile, Miles is trying to keep himself together when he has to change quickly from his Vorkosigan persona to his Naismith persona.

Miles tries to get to the bottom of everything and finds an adversary who has been planning for revenge for a very long time.

Brothers in Arms is yet again a fast paced space adventure, although set this time on old, civilized Earth so there aren’t actual space fighting. At the same time, the book touches on questions of loyalty, humanity, obsession, and fanaticism.

This book sets up the next one, Mirror Dance, and the rest of the series very well and manages to be very intriguing and entertaining at the same time. Miles wrestles with his issues of who he really is. The loyal subject of Emperor Gregor who will nevertheless never be really accepted by his peers, the Counts? Or a famous mercenary admiral? Miles is also very loyal to his troops, the Dendarii even though other Barrayarans consider them to be little more than cannon fodder, not really Imperial subjects.

Another of my reviews: Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Escape

A modern thriller.

Booking Through Thursday

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

I’m a buyer for several reasons. I like to support the writers whom I’d like to write more. Also, I mostly read in English and I live in Finland which means that English language books aren’t usually available here for free. Sure, if new (or older, too) sci-fi and fantasy books in English were available here in libraries I’d borrow them more. During the last year, I’ve started to use more Fictionwise and Audible where the downloadable e- and audio books tend to be available cheaper than in print form.

I’m also quite a slow reader and I tend to change my mind relatively quickly about what I’m going to read next so borrowing times aren’t that convenient for me.

Booking Through Thursday

What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

I don’t get many books as presents. But I do get trade paperback comics which I enjoy. The most memorable book gift was from my brother who bought me an audio book of Bujold’s Cetaganda. Bujold is one of my favorite writers and audio books tend to be very expensive here. Thanks!

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