July 2009

This is the first book in the urban fantasy series Night Huntress set in a modern day USA where vampires and ghosts are real but normal humans don’t know about them.

Catherine, Cat, Crawfield is a young woman who lives in small, rural town in Ohio with her mother and maternal grandparents. She’s also a half-vampire whose main work is to hunt and kill vampires. A vampire raped her mother who now encourages Cat to kill them. Cat has been a lonely outsider her whole life because she’s a “bastard” and also because of her vampiric powers: greater strength and speed than normal humans. One day, when she’s on the hunt she meets an English vampire and tries to kill him. However, things go awry and the vampire manages to capture her. The vampire Bones is intrigued by her and they soon find out that they have something in common: they both kill vampires. Cat agrees to work with Bones and in exchange Bones will try to find Cat’s father (so that Cat can kill him) and to train Cat to better kill vampires. Bones needs Cat to be bait for the other vampires to lure them is a place where Bones and Cat will be able to kill them.

Soon, Cat finds out that Bones is after a Master vampire called Hennessy and he’s tracking down Hennessy’s minions to get information from them. Cat has to conceal both her reluctant partnership and her growing attraction from her mother who firmly believes that all vampires are evil.

This is one of those books where vampires are just “differently abled” people instead of soulless or demon-possessed or evil. Apparently, vampires don’t have to kill humans to survive, just drink enough blood. (Animal blood wasn’t discussed.) Also, here vampires’ only weakness in silver, not wood or sunlight or holy symbols. Their hearing and smell is almost as good as a dog’s.

At the beginning of the book, Cat is very shy about sexual things and blushed often. However, Bones trains her to be a seductress right down to clothing and dirty talk. There’s a lot of sexual innuendo and sexy scenes but only one actual sex scene and one scene where drinking blood can apparently give a character an orgasm.

Cat is an entertaining protagonist but not very original: she’s independent (except that she still lives with her mother), stubborn, and is very strict about who she can kill. She’s also somewhat naive about the evil that perfectly ordinary humans are capable of. The biggest down-side is perhaps that Cat feels like a side-kick while Bones is the leader and the biggest bad-ass. (I didn’t mind much; after all Cat doesn’t know much about vampires at all and Bones becomes her teacher.)

Bones is English, has bleached blond hair, and the English accent. Any Buffy fan should recognize who Bones is modeled after. He even has a similar bad-boy attitude although his background is quite different from Spike’s. He tries to make Cat see that not all vampires are evil. Then again, he is the only vampire in the book who isn’t evil…

Most of the secondary cast is there just to be killed. The rest of them are usually characterized by one trait: Cat’s mother hated vampires, Tara (seen only briefly) was nurturing, the police officers suspicious, Timmie was shy etc. I did rather enjoy Cat’s encounter with the old ghost, though. He was fun! The villains were evil. There cast didn’t really come alive at any point but they were entertaining enough.

There was plenty of violent action in the book. Thankfully, the courtship romance didn’t last through out the book – unfortunately, Cat went from denial to 100% jealousy in just a couple of pages. I don’t much care for jealousy either; what’s the point of being with someone if you can’t trust them?

I was lured into reading this book by a promise that even though the first book contains the mandatory courtship romance (sigh), the rest of the series would be about an established couple. The book didn’t end in a promising note with that in mind (otherwise, the ending was definitely open and ready for many more books). Is there even one single (urban) fantasy book (or a series) about an established couple?? My hope is fading fast…

Overall: Light, fast, and enjoyable if you can get over the Spike reference.

Booking Through Thursday

What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?

I just finished reading “the Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog” by Elizabeth Peters. It’s written from the first person POV of the main character Amelia Peabody and the writing style is very funny. Not laugh-out-loud funny (even though that’s happened a few times) but rather “snickering all the way through”-style. Amelia has very strong opinions and she see everything very much her own way.

This is the seventh book in the addictive Amelia Peabody –series.

After the events in the previous book, The Last Camel Died at Noon, Amelia and Emerson have adopted the young girl Nefret.

Amelia is doing her best to try to teach Nefret all the skills that a proper English upper-class girl should have but it’s a daunting task because Amelia herself isn’t the most average Victorian lady to begin with. In addition she feels that her marriage to Emerson has started to become a bit too stable and boring. That’s why she is determined to leave their son Ramses at home when Emerson and Amelia herself are returning to Egypt for excavations. Much to her surprise Ramses himself wants to stay in England to be near Nefret. So both Nefret and Ramses will stay at Aunt Evelyn’s place so that Nefret will get a proper education. Amelia is determined to have a second honeymoon with Emerson.

Things are never, of course, that easy for the Emersons. Soon, they meet old friends and enemies as well. They are subjected to strange attacks and finally Emerson himself is kidnapped.

This book is very much a return to the old haunts; it’s full of familiar characters and places. The Emersons even return to Amarna, where the first book took place and Amelia refers to previous events quite often. This is definitely not the book to read first in this series! (Although I don’t really understand why anyone wouldn’t want start with the first book in a series.)

I enjoyed both the mystery and the humorous writing style, as usual. Ramses’ letters to his parents where very enjoyable as were Amelia’s reactions to them. Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the plot twist after the kidnapping and so, I didn’t really care for the way Emerson behaved. (Emerson at his worst, perhaps?) Near the beginning of the book, Amelia and Emerson discuss a way to start a larger operation in Egypt and I’m curious to see if and how it will come about.

All in all, a satisfying read.

Morrison, DeMatteis, Porter, Pajarillo
JLA 34-41

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

The trade contains one issue about a superhuman prison riot, one issue about Hal Jordan angsting about being the Spectre, and the rest is devoted to the World War III storyline.

I tend to like long storylines better and this is no exception. It’s not quite as good as Rock of Ages but it certainly has more characters and no time-hopping so I can fully understand why some people like WWIII more.

In the first story, the super powered inmates at Belle Reve are rioting. Aquaman, the Green Lantern, Plastic Man and Zauriel have been sent to contain the situation but things are going worse quickly. Lantern loses his ring during a fist fight, and the inmates are killing wardens. Meanwhile, Orion and Mister Miracle tell the rest of the team that the big threat, Mageddon, has arrived.

After the Hal Jordan-issue, the WWIII continues. Luthor has again gathered up his Injustice gang but the lineup is very different this time: Prometheus, the Queen Bee (who, despite how she’s drawn isn’t, you know, a mammal at all…), and the General in the body of the indestructible Shaggy Man. JLA, Orion, and Mister Miracle are in a war council about Mageddon, which is a weapon of the Old Gods and its nearness can first cause evil people to become violent, and later practically everyone to turn against each other. This is already seen on Earth where military budgets are rising and numerous countries are threatening to go to war against each other. In the middle of all this, the Injustice Gang invades the Watchtower.

Meanwhile Metron, Wonder Woman, and Big Barda are travelling to Wonderworld which was last seen in the Rock of Ages. They are trying to find allies again Mageddon. Unfortunately, Mageddon managed to turn the powerful heroes of that world against each other and almost everyone has died. The trio returns to Earth only to see how badly people have been affected there, too.

There are lots of things happening in the story and again the JLA has to break up to teams in order to deal with all of the crisis: stop the world leaders from bombing each other (and the Earth) to oblivion, to stop Mageddon, and to deal with the super villains. JLA also asks the help of every available super hero. In fact, there’s almost too much going on and no storyline gets the most time.

There are a lot of fights in the trade but surprisingly, there’s even a little character development and very nice way to show the trust and friendship that is between Superman and Batman (which is ironic, of course, considering that the next trade is Tower of Babel. But with a different writer).

There are also nice little scenes like the one between Batman, Huntress, and Prometheus in Prometheus’ tower, and in Heaven when Zauriel is asking for help from his fellow angels and, of course, the way that that help is given. I also quite enjoyed Prometheus vs. Batman round 2.

Overall it’s a nice, long fight against deadly, cosmic level enemies. Not, perhaps, JLA at it’s very best but quite close.

Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)
Depends on my mood, of course, and also on what I’ve been reading recently. Sometimes I want to alternate my reading with different things.

* Reading something frivolous? Or something serious?
Frivolous (with a serious undertone, perhaps?)

* Paperbacks? Or hardcovers?
Paperback for price and functionality

* Fiction? Or Nonfiction?
More fiction than non-fiction

* Poetry? Or Prose?
Prose, hands down. I’m not a poetry person at all.

* Biographies? Or Autobiographies?
I doubt we’re going to find Alexander the Great’s autobiography… So, biographies it is.

* History? Or Historical Fiction?
Urgh. I like them both! Perhaps historical fiction right now.

* Series? Or Stand-alones?
Series. I love to revisit beloved characters and settings.

* Classics? Or best-sellers?
Best-seller in which country and category? If I can choose best-selling SF and fantasy, then best-sellers.

* Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose?
Basic prose, please.

* Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness?
Plots, hands down.

* Long books? Or Short?
Difficult choice. Perhaps shorter for now.

* Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated?
Without pictures unless you’re talking about comics. (I’m one of the very exclusive heretics who think that even maps are a crutch. Even in fantasy books.)

* Borrowed? Or Owned?
Owned, because then I don’t have to keep to someone else’s schedule.

* New? Or Used?
Either, I don’t really care as long as the book is intact and readable. Maybe new is a bit more special.

(Yes, I know, some of these we’ve touched on before, and some of these we might address in-depth in the future, but for today–just quick answers!)

That was fun!

This is the last book in the Terok Nor –series which focuses on the Cardassian occupation of Bajor and starts a little bit before it. First book is Day of the Vipers and the second book is Night of the Wolves

All of the books in this trilogy have pretty epic scope; they span decades and have a very large cast. So, they might feel a bit disjointed at times. I’ve enjoyed all of them and heartily recommend them for all Deep Space 9 fans. They are definitely the best DS9 books I’ve read (admittedly, I haven’t read many of them) and easily in the top 5 of all Star Trek books I’ve read (I’ve read every TNG book made before A Time To… series (they were never shipped here. Distribution just stopped.) which might say a bit more).

This book covers Occupation years 33 to 41 and in the end, it gives a glimpse into the liberated Bajor. There are many, many people in this book and none of them emerge as a clear main character which is as it should be. It’s about the destinies of the people caught up in a violent occupation. Many of the characters from the previous books are seen here as well as many minor characters from the show from Kai Opaka to Vedek Bareil to Jaro Essa and the Bajorans inhabiting the colony at Valo II. Gul Dukat is, of course, the prefect of Bajor and he views the Bajorans as ignorant children. Kira Nerys, Odo, and Quark are all major characters. Kira is a part of the Shakaar resistance cell and some of her missions are described. Here, we finally see how Odo could stomach working for the Cardassians (I don’t entirely agree with it but the writers had to take him there somehow).

We get a look at the Cardassian side of things, too. Not all of them are happy with the Occupation although the reasons for that tend to be more patriotic than just a concern for the Bajorans. Some of the Cardassians are afraid of what the Occupation is doing to the Cardassian Union and its citizens. In many ways, the Bajorans are more united than the Cardassians because they have a clear enemy to struggle against.

Most Bajorans are just trying to survive as best they can. However, they are united in supporting the Resistance and also keeping their religion alive. In contrast, most Cardassians look down on religions and have outlawed their most persistent religion, the Oralian Way. Some of the Cardassian characters are struggling to keep the Oralian Way alive.

There are also some discussions about the Prime Directive. Perhaps understandably, the Bajorans are quite bitter about the fact that the Federation didn’t come to their aid while the Cardassians think of the Federation as weak. Even some the Federation characters are quite frustrated with the limitations they must live with.

At the back of the book, there’s an Appendix about the character and places mentioned in the book. Unfortunately, as I discovered, it’s pretty hard to use in an ebook. Apparently, Microsoft Reader just isn’t equipped to handle any kind of going back and forth inside the same book. Anyway, the Appendix itself is mightily useful. It even lists the first appearance of the characters mentioned.

By Morrison, Porter, Pajarillo, Millar

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

This trade collects JLA 24-33, about a year’s worth of stories. To me, this is a fairly average collection; nothing spectacular but not bad, either.

First there is the story about the Ultramarine Corps where some of the military bigwigs have become distrustful of JLA and they want their own super humans. Of course, that story never ends well unless it’s the origin story of the main team of the book. Then JLA gets a hot tip from T. O. Morrow that Professor Ivo is going to use Amazo to break himself out of prison. Then JLA and JSA team up against the threat of genies from the fifth dimension fighting each other on Earth. At the same time a forgotten founding member of JLA is getting his revenge. Finally, there’s a two-part tie-in to Batman’s No-Man’s Land story.

The first story is perhaps the most average of them. Someone steals the Shaggy Man from the undersea containment where JLA has placed him. At the same time General Eiling is introducing a new, military-controlled super force of four super powered soldiers who will be USA’s own line of defense. Eiling also implies that he doesn’t trust JLA. A bit later, JLA is lured into a trap where the super soldiers and the army attack JLA. Meanwhile, Batman and Huntress are investigating the disappearance of the Shaggy Man. There’s also foreshadowning when the Source warns the New Gods that Maggedon is coming.

The first story felt more like a Marvel story than DC. To me, one of the biggest differences between the two universes is how the general public sees super heroes. In Marvel, it’s ridiculously easy to turn the public opinion against any super group. X-Men are already reviled but Avengers have also suffered their share of mistrust. Perhaps the Fantastic Four are the least mistrusted super heroes in Marvel universe and even they have had their times. However, JLA and JSA have pretty much always enjoyed the trust of the people, Superman especially. In this story, there’s a scene where the normal army is attacking JLA! To me this feel likes the army attacking the police. Not bloody likely. However, some of the soldiers resist the attack order and after Superman talks to them, they pretty much cave in. So, not a complete Marvel-moment.

I was intrigued by the city-state Superbia and the implications it had, but apparently it was destroyed quickly in a later story. Bummer.

The two-issue story about Amazo was pretty much a long fight with lots of brief guests, including the Atom.

The JLA and JSA team-up was the longest story and I liked it the most. The 5th dimensional beings are always entertaining although they tend to be so powerful that the endings are usually cheesy but this ending was a bit better than most. Here we have a man who used to be one of the JLA’s founding members: Triumph. However, he was lost in time and nobody remembers him. He’s bitter about that. He managed to get his hands on the 5th dimensional imp Lkz who gives him his powers back. Then he sends Lkz on a rampage at Central City so that he can save the city when things are most desperate. When JLA is on Earth fighting the genie, he walks into the Moon base with two mind-controlled JLA members Gypsy and Ray.

However, a kid named Jakeem Thunder also possesses one of the genies. He doesn’t understand the being and is reluctant to use him, though. Jakeem lives in Central City and soon the very powerful genies are tearing the city apart in their fighting. Meanwhile Captain Marvel is searching for a way to stop the genies. Zauriel knows that the Spectre has been imprisoned and he and Sentinel are trying to free the Spectre.

The story has a lot of different plotlines which I enjoyed. The Spectre plot gave a nice moral dilemma to the characters.

Again, the JLA had only one female member and this time it was Huntress. I like Huntress and think that she worked very well in Birds of Prey. However, I fear that here she’s badly outclassed. Since Batman wasn’t in this story, Huntress was the only member without powers at all. JSA had Hippolyta who was also the token female character in that team.

The last two-parted was also a pretty weak effort. I haven’t read No Man’s Land but I’ve heard of it. This story felt like an excuse to readers who were wondering why JLA wasn’t doing anything. Batman should have been resentful about that.

by Alan Moore & Alan Davis

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

Or the Finnish edition, again. The US edition has Marvel Super-Heroes (UK) #377-388, The Daredevils (UK) #1-11, Captain America #305-306, Mighty World of Marvel (UK) #7-16, Captain Britain (UK) #1-14, New Mutants Annual #2, and Uncanny X-Men Annual #11.
The Finnish one has Marvel Super-Heroes (UK) #387-388, The Daredevils (UK) #1-11, Mighty World of Marvel (UK) #7-13. However, the New Mutants and the X-Men Annual have been published here years ago in the X-Men comic.

I’ve been a fan of Alan Davis for longer than I care to remember. Here, his style is yet a bit less streamlined than in say, the Authority or the Fantastic Four, but it’s definitely recognizable and enjoyable.

I like most of what I’ve read from Moore. For example V for Vendetta and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which are all excellent.

Captain Britain, Brian Braddock, is a man of science who, nevertheless, accepts magical powers from a man he believes to be Merlin from the Arthurian tales. He’s loyal and brave but not to foolishness. Here he finds himself in alternate realities, seeing other versions of himself (some of them female), and trying to stay sane. He doesn’t quite succeed. In another reality, he has to fight a mutant who can alter reality with his mind and the superhero killing machine that the mutant has created. The machine kills Brian.

Merlyn and his daughter Roma are playing a deadly game, and their playing field is the whole of omniverse. Merlyn needs a champion and when Brian dies, Merlyn builds him up again and places him back to his own reality.

There Brian has to face the chance that what happened in that alternate reality might happen in his home as well: one well-placed and selfish mutant might manage to rally the whole Britain against super beings and put them into concentration camps.

This story has many classic cosmic superhero elements: alternate universes and histories, and nearly invincible villains. The stories are quite cosmic although there is time for a one more mundane villain beating.

Some of the classic Captain Britain and X-men characters are met for the first time: Betsy Braddock who later becomes Psylocke, Opal Luna Saturnyne and her Avant Guard, and of course Merlyn and Roma the Omniversal Majestrix.

I like the first run of Excalibur where Brian was a member along with Meggan, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler and Phoenix, and which featured almost as much dimension-hopping as this one. Even though the stories are quite old (the first one came out in 1982), they hold up admirably and are quite enjoyable.

In Heroine Content a guest has written interesting reviews of the three Matrix movies looking especially the way that the movies treat race and gender. I’m a fan of all three Matrix movies and I strongly agree with the reviews.
Matrix reloaded
Matrix Revolutions

It’s been almost ten years since the third one came out and I’m still waiting for an action heroine who is even half as cool as Trinity or Niobe (and they’re both in Matrix 2 and 3!). Unfortunately, it seems that Hollywood is doing its best to marginalize female characters, especially in action films.

The second book in the excellent historical fantasy series set in Venice. The main character is again Alfeo Zeno who is the apprentice of Filippo Nostradamus.

This time the case starts small: nobleman and former ambassador Zuanbattista Sanudo and his young second wife Eva Morosini pay a visit to the famous astrologer and clairvoyant Filippo Nostradamus. The nobleman’s 15-year-old daughter Grazia is missing. They don’t want any scandal – they just want Nostradamus to find her quickly. The old sage Alfeo both realize quickly that the parents think that their daughter wasn’t kidnapped but eloped with a young lover. This is especially likely when they hear that the girl might be fated to be married to a much older, but rich, man.

Nostradamus takes the case for enormous amount of money and sends Alfeo to find out more about the family and possibly the identity of the young lover. Alfeo heads to his lover, Violetta. She is one of the most expensive courtesans in the city of Venice and therefore knows a great deal about the rich and famous of the city.

Meanwhile, Nostradamus himself performs a clairvoyance to find Grazia. He manages to find out a certain place the next morning. The girl’s parents agree to let Alfeo go and take the girl home.

Much to Alfeo’s surprise Grazia’s companion turns out to be his childhood friend Danese Dolfin. A fight starts but Alfeo stops it quickly. It turns out that he and Maestro Nostradamus were right – Grazia had eloped and then married young Danese. Alfeo is suspicious because he knows that Daense is often up to no good.

Soon, the ruling council of Ten accuse Nostradamus, and Alfeo, of witchcraft. To free themselves of the deadly accusations, the duo has to find a mysterious spy inside Venice herself. The spy is only known as Algol, the Ghoul. He, or she, is selling the secrets of the city to Venice’s enemies. Without even a proper name, finding the spy will be difficult – if not impossible.

Even though Alfeo is a proud young man, he’s also rather charming. He’s curious and smart, and plays by the rules the society has given him. He’s also rather good at persuasion and a good swordsman. The grumpy and irritable Nostradamus has his own charm as well.

I really like the secondary characters. Nostradamus’ servant family, the Angelis, are as delightful as in the previous book, Alchemists’ Apprentice. Giorgio Angeli is a gondolier who knows the city very well. His wife is a very good cook whose life’s mission it is to feed everyone as much as possible. They have a lot of children and their eldest son is considering marriage.

Grazia tries her best to make decisions about her own life and the only way to do that is to try to manipulate everyone around her. Many of the characters have their own motivations and habits instead of just responding to the main characters’ actions.

The historical Venice is delightfully well done. The descriptions are rich and almost take over the story but fits nicely in with the Venetian atmosphere.

The plot isn’t very fast-paced but this book isn’t a thriller, either. The pace is just right for the story, though.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

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