December 2012

I’ll sign up for another familiar reading challenge: the 2013 Graphic Novel reading challenge. Hosted by Nicola.

I’m going to sign up for Basic Level 1 (12 graphic novels).

I was tempted to try the advanced but I’m not sure I could get all of required graphic novels. For example, as far as I know, classic adaptations aren’t done here.

Most likely, I’ll continue with similar stuff, meaning mostly superheroes.

It’s almost time for the 2013 challenge to start and so we’ll start taking names of participants now. There will be two ways to play and two levels this year! Please write a sign-up post on your blog and then sign-up below with a link to your specific sign-up post. Here is how the Challenge will play this year:

runs from Jan.1 – Dec. 31, 2013

Level 1: read and review 12 books during the year (you could spread them out and read one a month or have a blast and read all 12 in a row!)

Level 2: read and review 24 books during the year (same as above only you would read two a month for the slow rate)

Game Play

Basic: no change from last year. just read any book generally considered a graphic novel, manga, or collection of comics, write a review and link to your post.

Advanced: For advanced play we are going to play categories. Players will pick 1 book from each of the 12 categories below. If you are playing at Level 2 you could double up, choosing two from each category, or use the remainder as free picks. You only have to read one book from each of the 12 categories.

1. manga
2. superhero
3. classic adaptation (a classic work adapted into the graphic format)
4. memoir
5. fantasy
6. translated from a foreign language
7. a single-issue comic book
8. science-fiction
9. crime or mystery
10. fairytale or mythology (true to the original or fractured, such as Fables series)
11. children’s book (specifically written for children)
12. anthology (a collection of short stories by different authors/artists)

Any questions just ask in the comments.

1, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Ring of Fire
2, Uncanny X-Men: The Birth of Generation Hope
3, Planetary: All Over the World and other stories
4, Uncanny X-Men: Quarantine
5, Uncanny X-Men: Breaking Point
6, Uncanny X-Men: Fear itself
7, X-Men: Age of X
8, Battlestar Galactica: The Final Five
9, Planetary: Crossing worlds
10, JLA: The Obsidian Age books 1 and 2
11, Fantastic Four: Unthinkable
12, Fantastic Four: Authoritative Action
13, Essential X-Men vol. 6
14, Batman & Robin vol. 1: Batman Reborn
15, X-Men: First to Last
16, Battlestar Galactica: Origins Omnibus
17, Battlestar Galactica: Season Zero Omnibus

The third book in the series.

Publication year: 1993, 2006 for the omnibus
Page count: 268 in the omnibus
Format: print
Publisher: Daw

Doctor Elias Rax is the Curator of the Egyptology department in the Royal Ontario Museum. He’s made a terrific find in the UK and because the British Museum isn’t interested in the sarcophagus, he’s able to buy it and bring it with him. However, during the long sea voyage something starts to affect his mind. He becomes obsessed with the mummy which he’s convinced is in the sarcophagus. And something is stirring in it; something that has waited for more than a millennia to get out and serve his dark god again.

Meanwhile, both of Vicki’s boyfriends (the 450-year-old vampire Henry Fitzroy and Detective Michael Celluci) are getting antsy about their arrangement. They both know that they are in love with Vicki and want to settle down with her. However, Vicki is doing her best to avoid that conversation with them. But when Henry asks for Vicki’s help, she’s ready to give it. Henry has been dreaming about the sun which he hasn’t seen for 450 years. He’s starting to think that he’s losing his mind and wants to die in sunlight. Because vampires are solitary creatures, he can’t ask any other vampire about it. Vicki agrees to come to Henry’s apartment every sunrise and to keep him from killing himself.

Two men die mysteriously in the museum. Even though the official story is that they died of heart attacks, Celluci is convinced that a mummy has killed them. When Celluci heard of the first death, a mummy was mentioned but after that everyone denies that the museum even has a mummy so Cellyci’s instincts say that it is a cover up.

Once again, Vicki has a lot of problems. The plot forces her to work during the night and twilight which is when her eye sight is at its worst. She’s also fiercely independent which lands her in a bit of trouble. She also comes across as angry pretty much all of the time.

A couple of chapters near the end of the book are set in a women’s prison. Vicki is stripped of her glasses and she is pretty much helpless. I didn’t really care for that section of the book.

I was quite amused when Henry and Celluci are forced to work together. Again. They seem to be developing a working friendship, even though when Vicki’s near, they devolve into macho posturing, which I really don’t care for. We find out more about Vicki’s and Celluci’s relationship. Turns out that during the four years they were together, they weren’t exclusive. It’s just when Henry turned up that Celluci became possessive and jealous. More than a bit too convenient, not to mention hypocritical of Celluci. I find the non-exclusive relationships quite refreshing compared to the “I own you” alpha male bullshit in many other UF. Still, no matter how much I hope that the triangle with change into a triad, it’s not likely. Apparently, Henry is sleeping with Vicki’s young male friend, a former street kid, and Vicki is fine with it.

The plot is fast paced. We get to know the villain quite early, so the book isn’t a “who done it” but “how we’re going to stop him”. The villain is very powerful and I wondered how they are going to stop him.
The ending is a bit too convenient and leaves the love triangle wide open (still).

A collection of four short stories set in an alternate Earth.

Publication year: 1981, short story first publications 1974-1979
Page count: 229
Format: print
Publisher: Ace

The collection has the following stories: “A Matter of Gravity” (1974), “The Ipswich Phial” (1976), “The Sixteen Keys” (1976) , and “The Napoli Express” (1979).

Lord Darcy, the Chief Forensic Investigator for the Duke of Normandy, is given four cases. Most of them are murder cases with a side dish of spying or a lost item. The stories are detective stories set in a world where magic works. Magic is used in a scientific way as a forensic tool. Lord Darcy himself doesn’t have a magical Talent but his faithful sidekick Sean O Lachlainn is a master sorcerer. The two seem to have worked for a long time and trust each other implicitly. In fact, if one of the stories didn’t have an adventure with a woman, I would think that they are lovers.

In the first story, Lord Darcy and Sean investigate a locked room murder of Count de la Vexin. In the second story, an agent of the King’s Secret Service asks Lord Darcy to solve the murder of another agent and to get back the phial the murdered agent was carrying. In the third one, Lord Vauxhall dies while carrying secret papers. The papers disappear and Lord Darcy is called in to find them. In the final story, Lord Darcy and Sean are undercover in the Napoli Express train.

I enjoyed all of the series but especially the last one which is clearly a homage to Agatha Christie. However, the second story’s beginning turned out to be misleading which was frustrating.

Still, I was far more interested in the setting and the information we got about how this world is different from ours. King John rules a large Anglo-French Empire and his chief opponent seems to be Poland’s King Casimir IX whose secret police, the Serka, features in almost all of the stories. The people are also very religious which is different from the usual fantasy stories.

Booking Through Thursday

A deceptively easy question for this week (easy to ask but possibly hard to answer): What are/were your favorite book(s) of the year? (Bonus points if you know how many books you read.)

I’ve read 103 books this year and I’ve started two more.

Happily I had a lot of favorites: most of the Terry Pratchett books I read: Going Postal, Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, and Wyrd Sisters, all of the Kerry Greenwood books I listened, Kirsten Imani Kasai’s Tattoo, Teresa Frohock’s Miserere, Rowena Cory Daniells’ epic fantasy trilogy Besieged, Exile, and Sanctuary, Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, and everything I read from Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Publication year: 1992
Page count: 310 + an excerpt of If Faust You Don’t Succeed
Format: print
Publisher: Bantam Spectra

The demon Azzie Elbub works in one of the oldest pits in Hell but he has other ambitions. He gets his chance when one of the souls in his pit turns out to have been taken mistakenly before his time. Azzie is ordered to take the man’s soul back to Earth and when he gets there, he stays on Earth.

It’s the year 1000 and the millennial contest between Good and Evil is rapidly approaching. Azzie meets the old god Hermes and he encourages Azzie to make an entrance to the contest. Azzie flies around getting money he needs to get started and even has to bodily burst into a meeting between the demon lords who are deciding Hell’s entrant. His suggestion is a twisted fairy tale: the Sleeping Beauty. He will build the Princess and her Prince Charming from body parts which will have belonged to cowards and other similar people. He will also coach the two from the start so that tale will have a really unhappy ending, thus proving that people are evil. This seems to be the best idea so far and the lords agree. They give Azzie an unlimited credit card and he flies to work.

Unfortunately, the demons in Supply don’t seem to know how important Azzie’s work is and at every turn he has to bribe and threaten the demons to get the required stuff, like an Enchanted Castle and an Enchanted Forest. Indeed, Azzie’s biggest foe in the book is Supply.

Azzie manages to get help from Ylith, his old witch girlfriend. He also gets a vile servant Frike. The little man with the hump wants the henchman job so much that he kills his two rivals.

Writing humor is hard. For some reason, I didn’t click with this book. I know intellectually that some of the stuff was funny, especially the demonic bureaucracy and the other Supply demons, but they just didn’t make me laugh. Hermes also seemed inexplicably helpful to Azzie, for no other reason that he’s the main character. I mean Hermes didn’t even ask anything in return for his help and advice.

A new Retrieval Artist story!

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Jay Snider
Running Time: 10 hrs and 3 minutes

The story starts three years before the rest of the story on Callisto, Jupiter’s moon, with detective Iniko Zagrando whom we met in a previous book, the Retrieval Man. He’s actually working as a spy for the Earth Intelligence and his handler Ike Jarvis wants to send him to another assignment. Zagrando disagrees but Jarvis arranges for Zagrando’s death, using his clone so the former detective has no choice. He’s sent to infiltrate the Black Fleet, the most notorious and feared criminal organization operating currently.

Six months has gone by since the domes on the Moon were bombed during the Anniversary Day, but people investigating the terrorist act aren’t any closer to finding the people responsible. Even the investigators from the Earth Alliance haven’t found anything significant. Also, the bombings were done by clones of a famous murderer and people’s opinion has turned against all clones.

Noelle DeRicci is the chief of security for the United Domes of the Moon doesn’t like the Earth Alliance investigators and doesn’t want to deal with them at all. She also has to deal with the local political fallout from the bombing.

The Retrieval Artist Miles Flint is in DeRicci’s small group of investigators but even he has found mostly dead ends. However, then he’s contacted by one of the Moon’s criminal bosses who has information and possible leads. Flint knows that DeRicci wouldn’t want to work with the suspected criminal but Flint thinks that their time to solve the bombing is running out. He’s ready to do almost anything to keep his daughter safe.

Flint’s daughter Talia is a clone. Flint’s wife cloned her without Flint’s knowledge and she came to his life recently. Talia is still recovering from her mother’s death and adjusting to living with her father whom she’s known for only a short time. She’s intelligent and is bored by her school work. She’d much rather help her father investigate the bombing. In her school, kids are accusing twins of being terrorists and bullying them. Talia is terrified that they will find out that she’s a clone.

Meanwhile, a scientist on Payla might have some answers to the investigators.

Like in the previous books in this series, the book has a lot of different point-of-view characters and situations which at first look very different from each other. However, they’re very much related to each other. The plot is fast paced and has lots of twist and turns.

Most of the plots deal with the terrorist act and the investigators who try to uncover the people responsible. However, Talia’s part of the story tell the way that the bombing has affected the people living on the Moon. They are more suspicious of outsiders and laws against clones have become harsher, even though only specific clones were involved with the bombing. That’s a very realistic reaction.

I’ve enjoyed this series a lot with the great combination of Moon habitats, very unhuman like aliens, and the very human human characters. Blowback is a very satisfying continuation to the series. I’ve really enjoyed the books which center on a different alien race, such as the Disty in “Buried Deep”. This time we get to know more about Payty (spelling? Peyty? Payti?) who are very rules bound and non-violent. Currently.

I recommend starting the series with the first book: “the Disappeared”.

The author’s site has an excerpt:

The third book in the series.

Publication year: 2007
Page count: 318 + an excerpt of Kitty and the Silver Bullet
Format: print
Publisher: Warner Books

After the climatic ending of the previous book, where Kitty changed into a wolf in front of television cameras, Kitty has withdrawn to a mountain cabin. Supposedly, she’s taking a break from publicity and writing a book. Instead, she’s fighting her inner wolf who wants to just run away from civilization.

Then, someone leaves a slaughtered rabbit on her doorstep and paints a cross on her door with blood. Kitty calls in the local sheriff but to her dismay the local police officers aren’t very efficient. She’s also concerned because she didn’t hear or smell anyone, even with her werewolf senses.

The werewolf hunter Cormac appears. He brings with him Ben O’Farrell, Kitty’s friend and lawyer. A werewolf has bitten Ben and he’s now transforming into a werewolf, too. It’s not going to be easy; some people go crazy. Cormac wants Kitty to help Ben.

Then someone leaves many slaughtered dog carcasses outside the cabin door and makes a circle around the cabin with crosses made of barbed wire and silver. The sheriff is starting to believe that Kitty is doing this herself to get attention. This makes Kitty, of course, angry.

The book has a quite isolated environment and a limited cast. Cormac is his usual dour self and we get to know his background. Apparently, he and Ben made a vow when they were a lot younger that if either of them gets infected with lycantrophy, the other one would kill him. However, in the end, Cormac couldn’t kill Ben but brought him to Kitty thinking that she can help him. Ben seriously thinks about killing himself. Kitty is, of course, furious. She takes Ben into her pack, of two wolves, and becomes very protective of him. This is quite a change for her; when we first met her, she was the omega of her pack, in the next book she doesn’t have a pack, and now she’s the leader. She’s pretty unsure about it herself except that she wants to keep her small pack alive and thriving.

Cormac is now rather protective of Kitty. When the police fail to found out who has been bringing the carcasses outside the cabin, he starts to look into it. Ben is pretty much a mess. As a lawyer, he’s used to being in control and having rules to follow, or bend. Now, he doesn’t have them. His whole self has changed and now has a stranger in his mind. Kitty remembers how her best friend T. J. helped her when she changed and tries to do the same thing for Ben. Also, there’s a lot of tension between Cormac and Ben; neither of them knows how to deal with the change.

There’s a town near the cabin. Now that people know that Kitty is a werewolf, the owner of the convenience store trains a shotgun on Kitty every time she shops there. Also, Ariel, the Priestess of the Night, has started her radio show about all things supernatural and Kitty is convinced that she’s a hack who is trying to ride on Kitty’s fame. Kitty even calls in to the show. This was very, very human and funny.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the book. Kitty has grown quite a bit and I like her better when she isn’t in an abusive relationship with her pack leader.

The ending, or rather the last 1/3 of the book were really surprising in a good way. It was quite different from the videogame like endings a lot of fantasy books have.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten Favorite Books of 2012.

Overall, I had a very good reading year. While few books stood out as exceptional, the vast majority of them were “Good” (3-4 stars from 5) and I didn’t leave any unfinished and didn’t really dislike any of them. I guess I’ve become ruthless enough when I choose books to read. 🙂

In the reading order:

1, Kirsten Imani Kasai: Tattoo
2, Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder: The Lost Slayer Omnibus
3, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Boneyards
4, Robin McKinley: Sunshine
5, C. J. Cherryh: Downbelow Station
6, Liz Williams: the Poison Master
I read quite a few Williams’ books this year and had again trouble choosing between them.
7, Teresa Frohock: Miserere
8, Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters
I have a really hard time choosing between Wyrd Sisters, Going Postal, Guards! Guards, and Men at Arms.
9, Rowena Cory Daniells: Sanctuary
Daniells’ whole series was intense and I had trouble picking a favorite book.
10, Kerry Greenwood: Raisins and Almonds

The first book in the Thursday Next series set in an alternate universe.

Publication year: 2001
Page count: 373
Format: print
Publisher: Hodder

The book is set in an alternate 1985 Great Britain where the Crimean war with the Russians is still going on. Goliath Corporation is the biggest company in Britain and pretty much runs the country. The people are very enthusiastic about art, especially literature, to the point that people change their names to classical poets and instead of door-to-door missionaries, they have the Baconists who go door-to-door and try to convince people that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Also, Welsh is an independent country and since the war is with Russians, it seems that the Soviet Union never existed.

Thursday Next is a veteran of the Crimean war and now a LitraTec, a literature detective, stationed in London with her pet dodo. The original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit is robbed in broad daylight and nobody saw anything. Thursday investigates the scene but doesn’t find any clues. Then SO-5 operative contacts her and drafts her into finding the fiendish villain who has stole the manuscript, Acheron Hades. Hades is a psychotic master villain with powers nobody else has and he can even hear it when someone says his name so its use is avoided.

Thursday and two other operatives stake out Hades’ brother’s place and soon Hades shows up. The operatives attack but things go sadly wrong. Thursday is the only operative left alive and Hades escapes again. However, Hades’ getaway car crashes and he’s believed to be dead.

When Thursday is recovering in hospital, she sees a brightly colored sports car appear in the middle of the hospital room and a familiar looking woman shouts to her to take a job in Swindon. Then the car vanished and it takes a few moments for Thursday to realize that the woman was… herself.

Swindon is Thursday’s home town and she’s reluctant to return there. However, she thinks that she should listen to herself and returns.

I really enjoyed the setting of the book; it’s full of little scenes that make me laugh. For example, Thursday goes to see a Richard III play where members of the audience are also the actors and the rest of the audience joins in the performance. Also, Thursday goes to Swindon to replace a LitraTec operative who was “shot to death during a bookbuy that went wrong”. The Swindon office has two officers who specialize on Shakespeare related crimes: “They keep an eye on forgery, illegal dealing and overtly free thespian interpretations. The actor with them was Graham Huxtable. He was putting on a felonious one-man performance of Twelfth Night.” I was laughing out loud, in a bus.

However, Acheron Hades was a bit too much a mustache-twirling bad guy who was doing evil because he liked doing evil. Each chapter of the book starts with a quote from another in-world book or a news article, and in one quote, from Hades’ book (Degeneracy for Pleasure and Profit), he even admits that “the best reason for committing loathsome and detestable acts – and lets face it, I am considered something of an expert in this field – is purely for their own sake.” He has some pretty strange assistants, though.

Thursday has a lot of emotional baggage. She fought in the Crimean war ten years ago and her brother was there, too. Thursday survived but her brother didn’t. Also, one of Thursday’s fellow officers said that her brother was steering the attack to the wrong place and her brother got a bad reputation because of that. That fellow officer was Landen Parke-Laine, Thursday’s fiancee. Thursday broke the engagement after that. Landen lives in Swindon so Thursday knows that she has to meet again the man she still loves.

I thoroughly enjoyed Thursday’s uncle Mycroft. He’s an inventor and brought to my mind Doc Brown from the Back to the Future movies. However, Mycroft’s inventions involve, of course, literature. He invented the Prose Portal though which a real person can get into a book and a book’s character can go to the real world. The bookworms were also very entertaining.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast weren’t really memorable to me. Despite that, I enjoyed the book and I’m likely going to read the next one, Lost in a Good Book, which to my surprise is in the library.

Booking Through Thursday

So … you’ve just finished reading a book. For the sake of the discussion, we’ll say it was everything a book should be—engaging, entertaining, interesting, thought-provoking. The kind you want to gush over. The question is—do you immediately move on to your next book? Or do you take time to contemplate this writerly masterpiece and all its associated thoughts/emotions/ideas for a while first?

I tend to think about the book I’m reading while I’m reading it or rather when I set the book down to do other things. Also, I write reviews of pretty much every book I read, so I “discuss” it then.

Most of the time I move right to the next book.

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