November 2009


Karl Schroeder’s Pirate Sun

Book three of Virga. The very good fantasy steampunk series continues.

4 and half stars from 5

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The second book in the urban fantasy series called Hollows.

It’s also the last book in my 2nds challenge . The final book list turned out to be somewhat different that the one I started with but I had fun! If this challenge is done next year, too, I’m likely to join again. Of course, I already have quite a few series now to get through…

Much to my surprise, this book was in my local library. As far as I can tell, it’s also the only book of the Hollows –series which is in the Finnish library system. Sigh.

The book starts with Rachel Morgan and her pixie partner Jenks undercover trying to steal a fish. One of the local baseball teams suspect that a rival has stolen their mascot, the fish, and hired Rachel to steal it back. Things don’t go exactly as planned but Rachel and Jenks manage to get away with their prize. A F.I.B agent rescues them from the rival team’s werewolves. It appears that the F.I.B. need a consult in Interlanders affairs and because Rachel had worked with them before, their Captain Edden decided to employ her again.

Trent Kalamack’s secretary Sara Jane has tearfully reported that her fiancé is missing. Rachel feels that she owes Sara Jane for what she did for Rachel in the previous book and agrees to investigate. Dan is witch and Captain Edden believes that he was murdered by a notorious serial killer who is targeting lay line witches. Edden’s primary suspect is Dr. Anders because many of the victims were on her classes and he offers Rachel a chance to go into the Anders’ class undercover. However, Rachel is convinced that Kalamack is behind the killings but she agrees to take the class despite the fact that when she took it the first time, also under Dr. Anders, she failed it. To say the least, Anders doesn’t want Rachel in her class.

Rachel’s roommate, the living vamp Ivy, is horrified that Rachel agreed to work a case that’s connected to Kalamack. However, something else is also bothering the normally cool and level-headed Ivy. To make matters worse, Rachel finds out that her human boyfriend Nick seems to be dabbling into summoning demons. Also, she has trouble getting around because one of her spell went awry in a bus last year and the bus drivers are trying to avoid her. She doesn’t own a car.

I rather enjoy Rachel’s circle of friends: Ivy, Jenks, Nick, and even captain Edden and agent Glenn. They are all distinct from each other and rather dysfunctional as a group. Ivy is an upper class vampire who is “slumming” with Rachel and this time we come to see quite a bit more about her decision to leave I.S. and to stay with Rachel. The pixie Jenks is a very entertaining character: curious, loudmouthed, opinionated, and yet fiercely protective of his own. His clouds of children are also entertaining.

We also get more info about the lay line magic when Rachel is forced to use more of it. Dr. Anders requires her to have a familiar so that she can continue the class and so she has to find a way to bind one to her. The demon which was seen in the previous book has a large part to play in this book as well. I guess I have to admit that I’m a bit frustrated with how little Rachel seems to know about magic which is supposed to be her specialty. She mostly muddles through with luck and guessing.

The plot flows out more smoothly this time than in the previous book, Dead Witch Walking. However, it still somewhat relies on characters doing stupid thing such as not listening to others or doing something in the heat of anger. Rachel is quite impatient and not subtle at all. Still, it strikes me a bit odd that she would be so impatient to arrest Kalamack that she would ignore proper procedure which might lead to Kalamack not being sentenced even if he was arrested.

There’s also a change in the mood in the last part of the book which I found a little jarring. The start and the middle feel to me quite light hearted. Then, near the end the stakes are raised dramatically and the mood becomes much darker. At the end, Rachel is in even more trouble than when she started and her circle of friends will probably not trust each other as much as before. I have mixed feelings about it but I’m curious to see what happens next.

Oh, there’s one sex scene in the book but it’s relevant to the characters and the plot.

Booking Through Thursday

Which do you prefer? Biographies written about someone? Or Autobiographies written by the actual person (and/or ghost-writer)?

I’ve never read an autobiography, so I guess I prefer biographies.

Part of my 2nds challenge. I’ve only read the Doomsday book from Willis before.

What a great book! It combines comedy, time travel, Victorian times, theories about history, detective novels, romance, and lots more.

Ned Henry is an Oxford historian who has done too many time jumps between 1940s and the current day searching for a bishop’s bird stump from the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. Because of the too many jumps, he’s suffering from a severe time lag which causes among other things “tendency to maudlin sentimentality, like an Irishman in his cups or a Victorian poet cold-sober”, dizziness, difficulty in distinguishing sounds, and blurry vision. The cure is two weeks of bed rest. Unfortunately, it does not look likely that Ned will get that. Lady Shrapnell has taken over the history department and the time travel project. She intends to rebuild the ruined Coventry Cathedral and had commandeered every available person. Ned doesn’t think that he’ll be allowed to take any sick leave.

However, after Ned waxes poetical about a dog, “it’s no wonder you are called man’s best friend, faithful and loyal, and true. You share in our sorrows” etc. he’s yanked back to his own time and promptly assigned bed rest. Prudently, Ned seeks out professor Dunworthy who might know a place where Ned could rest. However, at the professor’s office Ned overhears that one of the historians has brought back something from the past which should be impossible according to the laws of time travel. Dunworthy decides to send Ned back to the Victorian era to recover. He also wants Ned to do something else but unfortunately Ned is so time lagged that he can’t understand that part. So, Ned ends up back in time with a mission he barely remembers.

The book refers often another book called “Three men in a boat” which I’ve never even heard of but which is apparently a real book. I don’t really know much about Victorian times but I still felt that this was a very funny book. I enjoyed especially the two dueling history professors who had different theories about how history is formed: just natural forces working blindly or people affecting events. We did see only professor Peddick who rants about historical people and events, and uses Latin quotes. His adversary professor Overforce is only talked about but never seen. I’m a dog person so I enjoyed the large part that dogs had in the book.

The book does have multiple courtship romances but surprisingly enough I didn’t mind. The rest of the story is just that entertaining.

I listened this as an audiobook and I think that the reader, Steven Crossley, was excellent. The audible download was in three 7 hour parts.

By John Byrne and Jerry Ordway

Collects Fantastic Four #276-284, Secret Wars II #2, Thing #23.

In these issues Ordway is inking Byrne’s pencils and to me, at least, the change is noticeable. Ordway has a very distinctive style.

In the first two issues a couple of earlier subplots are tied up: Reed, Sue, and Franklin’s stint as a normal family in Connecticut, and Ben’s return. Next, Dr. Doom steals the Baxter Building and the FF head to Microverse.

The whole “normal family” thing was a nice change of pace in between the superheroics and I was almost sorry to see it end. However, it was quite a long running subplot so it just makes sense for Byrne to end it. Also, I was expecting someone to recognize Susan and Franklin because they should be quite famous. The nosy neighbor brought to mind a similar character from the TV-show “Bewitched” and she was quite entertaining.

The second story was Ben coming back from the Beyonder’s planet. He has already decided to dump Alicia and the FF. Yet, when he comes to Alicia’s place and meets the half naked Johnny there, he starts a fight. I guess he thinks that Alicia is his property. I was happy to see She-Hulk stay.

The next issue is pretty much a recap of Doom’s backstory. Of course, when I first read these comics I didn’t know Doom was, so the recap was appreciated. Doom’s young ward Kristoff is made to think that he is Doom and he “starts his career again” by stealing the Baxter Building. Meanwhile Johnny and Alicia are dealing with racial hatred which seems stronger than usual.

Kristoff as Doom floats the BB up to space and blows it up.

Afterwards, the FF have to deal with the fact that their home is gone. Hatred and intolerance is also building up. Meanwhile, Psycho-Man sends a very powerful woman called Malice after the FF. After a pitched battle, Reed manages to trace their enemy to Microverse. So, the FF shrinks themselves and goes after the bad guy.

Kristoff wasn’t really a match for Victor but I guess he wasn’t supposed to be. He was just a way to show us how far reaching and evil Doom’s plans are.

I rather enjoyed Psycho-Man as the villain because his ability to manipulate emotions was used to a very good effect. It seems, though, that he hasn’t been used much outside this adventure.

Malice was an interesting “character”. I liked the aggressive way she used her powers (and lets face it if she had been a male from the start, he would have used the very aggressively from the start) which clearly showed how dangerous she is. I suspect, though, that her fight with the FF was cut some pages short in the Finnish edition.

The Microverse part of this trade is again one of my favorite stories and the first Microverse story I’ve ever read. I loved it how She-Hulk was trying to overcome her fear. I also liked a lot the surreal FF story that Susan experienced under torture.

Still, the stories here aren’t as classics as the Galactus-story in vol. 2 or the aftermath with Tyros in vol. 4.

This marks the milestone where Susan finally becomes the Invisible Woman.

Overall: a decent trade.

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