June 2013

It’s time for the June checkpoint for the 2013 Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s block.

I signed up for Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s

1, Yvonne Navarro: Wicked Willow I – the Darkening
2, Yvonne Navarro: Wicked Willow II – Shattered Twilight
3, Yvonne Navarro: Wicked Willow III – Broken Sunrise
4, John Vornholt: Babylon Voices
5, Jill Archer: Dark Light of Day
6, Elizabeth Bear: Hammered
7, Kage Baker: The Graveyard Game
8. Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio: Agatha H. and the Airship City
9, Steven Harper: The Doomsday Vault
10, K.A. Stewart: A Shot in the Dark
11, Yvonne Carroll: Leprechaun Tales
12, Patrick Weeks: The Palace Job
13, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Five Female Sleuths: a collection
14, Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure
15, Lisa Shearin: All Spell Breaks Loose
16, Issui Ogawa: The Lord of the Sands of Time
17, Peter Ackroyd: London Under
18, Jocelynn Drake: Burn the Night
19, Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge: Shades of Gray
20, Aliette de Bodard: Servant of the Underworld
21, N. K. Jemisin: The Killing Moon

Bev asks:
1. Tell us how many miles you’ve made it up your mountain (# of books read). If you’re really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you’ve read correlates to actual miles up Pike’s Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc.

So far I’ve read 21 books from 24, so I think I’m doing very well!

Mount Blanc is 4 810,90 m high. Divided with 24 is 200, 45 m times 21 is 4 209,53 m. In miles that’s 2615,68.

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:
A. Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.

Hard one! I read four books made from two of my favorite TV shows (Babylon 5 and Buffy) and a couple of last books from series. So I’m going to go with Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

B. What has been your most difficult read so far. And why? (Length? Subject matter? Difficult style? Out of your comfort zone reading?)

None of them were difficult.
C. Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all?

These books haven’t been long in my TBR. I think I’ve had the oldest about two years. That’s Issui Ogawa’s book. I liked it even though it didn’t blow my mind.

My newest review: K. A. Stewart: Wolf at the Door.

The third book in the urban fantasy series about modern day samurai, Jesse Dawson. It wasn’t as intense as the previous book but I enjoyed it.

Sadly, Roc has cancelled this series but the writer is apparently aiming to self-publish the rest. I hope she succeeds.

Once Upon a Time VII challenge ended a few days ago. Thanks to Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting the challenge!

I read ten books for the challenge and enjoyed all of them. I signed up for Quest the Second with five books so I completed the quest.

I managed to finally finish two fantasy series but started four others. I’ll certainly continue with Jim Hines’ Princess series. In fact, I already have the next two books. I also have Jemisin’s The Shadowed Sun.

Books read:
1, Yvonne Carroll: Leprechaun Tales
2, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: The White Mists of Power
3, Patrick Weeks: The Palace Job
4, Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure
5, Lisa Shearin: All Spell Breaks Loose
6, Rachel Caine: Working Stiff
7, Jim C. Hines: The Stepsister Scheme
8, Jocelynn Drake: Burn the Night
9, Aliette de Bodard: Servant of the Underworld
10, N. K. Jemisin: The Killing Moon

The first book in an alternate history SF trilogy.

Publication year: 1972
Format: print
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2013
Page count: 234
Finnish translator: Laura Nieminen
Publisher of the translation: Vaskikirjat

This book reads a lot like the old pulp books. In fact, it reminded me of E. R. Burroughs’ Barsoom books. The story has a framing story: Moorcock’s grandfather left behind a manuscript which
Moorcock, the author, received and has now published.

In 1903 the grandfather was sent to Rowe Island to recover from too much work and met a strange man who told the older Moorcock his story and Moorcock wrote it down. The strange man in question is Oswald Bastable, a former lieutenant in the British army. An insurrection was brewing near the borders of the British India in 1902 and Bastable is sent there with a contingent of Indian soldiers to try to find a solution to it. The place they’re sent to is called Teku Benga which is supposedly a cradle of ancient civilizations and has a large army of fierce warriors. They are led by a high priest, Sharan Kang, who invites Bastable and a couple of his soldiers inside. Teku Benga turns out to be a filthy place but with fierce warriors. Apparently, Kang drugs Bastable and his men. They manage to escape into endless caves under the ancient temple Kang brought them to. Then some mysterious force knocks Bastable unconscious.

When he awakes, he feels very weak but manages to get out of the caves. Outside, the temple lies in ruins and seems to be abandoned. Bastable can only find a few skeletons. Then, a huge airship flies over the place and Bastable is able to get the crew’s attention. They rescue him but to his shock, Bastable finds out that it’s now the year 1973.

At first, this alternate 1973 seems like an utopia: in England, people are well off, wages are high, and the cost of living is low. No major wars have been waged in a hundred years. Britain, France, Russia, Japan, United States, and a few other countries are still empires with colonies. Colonialism is said to make the world more stable and therefore a good thing. However, gradually Bastable finds out that all is not well after all.

Bastable is an honorable and patriotic man who doesn’t want to believe that Great Britain could do something wrong. He’s a soldier who wants to serve his country and takes pride in his work. In fact, he greatly reminds me of John Carter.

However, it takes a long time for the plot to start kicking in. Also, in addition to Bastable only two other characters are at all fleshed out and they appear after the halfway point of the book. Mostly, that’s because Bastable travels alone and moves quickly from one place to another. Also, the book’s main aim seem to be social criticism and not adventure. I enjoyed the alternate world a lot and wouldn’t mind reading more about it. I think the book was a bit too short to really dig deep into the world; we are told about the nasty things happening in the colonies but not really shown them and it also wasn’t clear how many ordinary people knew about them.

The book has several real life people cast in different roles than in real life. Sadly, I didn’t catch any of them while reading but luckily Wikipedia has a list of them. However, the Finnish edition apparently used an older edition: Egan instead of Reagan and Howell instead of Powell.

Moorcock criticizes colonialism strongly. The revolutionary characters also have a disagreement over how a revolution is born and should be done.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten Books Read So Far This Year.

Happily, I’ve mostly read books I really liked and it was a bit difficult to choose just ten of them:

1, Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher books
I’ve listened seven of them so far this year and I can’t really choose just one. They’re all delightful mysteries set in the 1920s Australia.

2, Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
A relisten and one of my favorites in the series.

3, Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez
A parody of science fiction /superhero books, starring a genius super villain.

4, Reach by Karen A. Wyle
A science fiction book focusing on exploration rather than war.

5, Blood by Tara Maya
Sixth book in a fantasy series set in Stone Age equivalent world.

6, The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin
A fantasy book set in a world inspired by Ancient Egypt, with a unique magic system.

7, Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard
A fantasy book set in the Aztec empire, with working blood magic.

8, All Spell Breaks Loose by Lisa Shearin
The last book in a series I’ve enjoyed a lot.

9, Jocelynn Drake: Burn the Night
Another last in a series.

10, Jocelynn Drake: Angel’s Ink
Drake’s new series.

The fifteenth book in the series.
Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 7 minutes

This time Phryne is asked to solve a series of jewlery thefts on a luxury liner, SS Hinemoa. Four very expensive jewels have been stolen from the ship, from locked rooms. Nobody has been able to find the thief and the the company has had to pay for the jewels. Even though Phryne loves her friends and family, they make a lot of noice and Phryne is ready for a small vacation. So, Phryne and her level-headed companion Dot board the huge ship.

SS Hinemoa sails around New Zealand and Phyrne gets to know a lot about that country and especially about the Maori culture. She also gets to know her eccentric fellow passangers, all of whom are suspects because they sailed on the ship during the other thefts, some of the crew, and especially, the band: Mavis and the Melody Makers. But then, one of the passangers is murdered.

Death by Water has very interesting descriptions of both luxury ship and Maori culture. In fact, Greenwood says in her notes afterwards that she had to built a model of the ship and researched it throughly. Even though the first class passangers seem rich and therefore happy, most of them have quite dysfunctional relationships. Some of them are also very racist. Each chapter starts with a letter. I wasn’t able to guess why they were included and that wasn’t reveled until near the end.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think the mystery was the best of the series. But the characters and the setting more than made up for that.

The first in a fantasy duology based on ancient Egypt, The Dreamblood.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Page count: 415 including an extensive glossary plus an interview of the author and an excerpt from the next book
Publisher: Orbit

Gujareen is a small but wealthy country. It’s ruled the Prince who is the earthly consort of the Goddess Hananja. She’s the goddess of dreams, death, and the afterlife. She also has servants who must choose one of the four paths: Teacher, Sentinel, Sharer (healer), or Gatherer.

Ehiru is one of the four senior Gatherers. His job is to give peaceful death to the suffering, or the corrupt. In order to do that, he must enter his victim’s dream and make is a peaceful, blissful dream. He also gathers the victim’s dreamblood which is very addictive. So, he, and the other Gatherers, can’t go more than a few days without gathering dreamblood. The Superior of the order decides who they kill, or gather, and Ehiru trusts him unconditionally. However, when the story starts, Ehiru has been sent to gather a foreigner who is supposed to be corrupt. The foreigner doesn’t worship Hananja and he resists the gathering. He talks about how the Gatherers are corrupt and Ehiru is so disturbed that he makes a mistake and destroys the man’s soul. Ehiru is greatly disturbed and goes into seclusion. However, the Superior convinces him to take on another commission. The victim is another corrupt foreigner; she’s an ambassador from another country. Reluctantly, Ehiru agrees and take with him his apprentice.

Nijiri is sixteen years old and studying to be come a Gatherer. He has just ended his studentship. Even though Ehiru is in seclusion, Nijiri wants to be his apprentice. Reluctantly, Ehiru accepts him. Nijri was born into the servant class but since he was a young boy, he has lived a pretty secluded life among the priests. Ehiru’s mistake with the soul disturbs Nijiri, but the boy is very loyal to Ehiru and supports him no matter what.

Sunandi is Kisua’s ambassador to Gujaareh. She’s also a spy and on the trail of a huge plans. She meets the General who shows her some disturbing things. Sunandi and her young aid Lin makes plans to flee the city so that they can warn the Kisuati leaders but Ehiru is sent to kill her before she manages to leave. Sunandi is able to convince Ehiru that she has found evidence that even the Gatherers are corrupt. Ehiru and Nijiri are disturbed and agree to put Sunandi’s gathering in abeyance for now while they look into it.

Ehiru and Nijiri are both devoted to their goddess and have strong faiths. However, they are both tested sorely with the secrets they find out. They can be quite stoic and distant to the reader, too. Sunandi is an intelligent woman and an experienced spy. She’s used to talking her way out of bad situation.

Gujareen is based on ancient Egypt and Sudan. I adored the world building but otherwise the book is pretty bleak. The characters have secrets which can bring down countries, they are double-crossed, and should trust no-one. Unfortunately, there’s no humor to balance it.

The Gujareen use dream magic, nacromany. The Sharers can use the dreamblood harvested from the dying to use is to heal others. Through her followers, Hananja offers her people a peaceful life: healing during life and a peaceful death at the end. However, foreigners often don’t see that and they call the Gatherers assassins.

The first book in a fantasy trilogy set in the Mexica (Aztec) Empire.

Publication year: 2010
Format: print
Page count: 431, including a glossary and author’s notes
Publisher: Angry Robot

Acatl-tzin is the High Priest of the Dead and his job is to make sure that the dead get the right rites. Sometimes, he also investigates suspicious deaths. However, this time he’s called to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a priestess of a fertility goddess. The Priestess’ quarters are full of blood and it’s possible that she isn’t alive anymore. Acatl tries to trace the magic coming out of the Priestess’ room and identifies it as a jaguar spirit, who can be summoned by anyone who was born on the day of the jaguar (every 20 days). However, the trail vanishes soon, so Acatl can’t trace it to the summoner.

One man is found in her quarters drenched in blood and looking for something. Unfortunately, that man is Neutemoc, Acatl’s elder brother. The brothers has drifted apart in recent years; Neutemoc despises Acatl because Acatl isn’t a warrior, but a cowardly priest, and Acatl knows that. Acatl is also burdened by their parents memory; they didn’t approve of Acatl’s choice of become a priest instead of a warrior.

Neutemoc is a Jaguar Knight, a member of an elite order of warriors, he’s rich and married with children. Acatl doesn’t own much and is forbidding from marrying and getting kids. Reluctantly, Neutemoc confesses that he knew the disappeared priestess. She was holy prostitute for the warriors when they were both younger and Acatl suspects the Neutemoc has either committed adultery with her or was going to. This would shame Neutemoc’s whole family, so he has a motive for kidnapping her. Neutemoc forbids Acatl from looking into the matter but Acatl investigates, anyway.

The plot involves Aztec politics and gods. The Emperor isn’t in good health and when he’s health declines so does the influence of his principal god, The Sun God Huitzlipohtli.

I really enjoyed the book. The Aztec customs aren’t too alien. Perhaps the most startling difference was the way the warriors openly looked down on the priests, especially Acatl. In European settings, the priests are usually respected. The Aztecs also use blood magic; they need blood from live animals or people. Human sacrifice is talked about but isn’t shown. Acatl usually uses his own blood for minor spells, he cuts his earlobes open, but he also sacrifices small animals, like birds.

The gods are very much alive and influencing things. Acalt even meets a few of them. Many people seem to be able to use magic but the gods demand constant sacrifices and rites.

Acatl seemed a bit colorless character, compared to some other amateur detectives I’ve read about. He has an inferiority complex towards his brother and feels guilty about his choice to become a priest and leave Neutemoc to gather glory to the family. He’s also somewhat jealous to his brother about his family. Neutemoc is an arrogant warrior who doesn’t always think things through and takes lot of things for granted. Acatl also gets a young Jaguar warrior sidekick who is eager to prove himself. The position of a High Priest is very political but Acatl isn’t a political man; in fact he goes out of his way to avoid politics which can case harm to his priesthood. He didn’t want the position of a high priest but was appointed against his will. His second in command thinks that he’s politically incompetent.

I was also fascinated by the author’s notes where she tells about her research and writing about the book.

Booking Through Thursday

And while we’re thinking about books converted to tv/movies. Do you ever sit and wonder who could be cast as your favorite characters? (Please feel free to give examples!)

What actors do you think have done particularly excellent jobs with some of your favorite characters?

No, I don’t usually try to match a character with an actor. If a cover has the image of a character, I’m usually stuck with that in my mind.

I’m an old school Holmes fan: Jeremy Brett is the only true Holmes for me. I also like very much David Suchet as Hercules Poirot.

On the film front I thought the Lord of the Rings movies were very well cast. I especially enjoyed Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn and Orlando Bloom as Legolas.

Collects Age of X: Alpha , X-Men: Legacy #245–247, New Mutants #22–24, Age of X: Universe #1–2

Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Clay Mann, Steve Kurth, Jay Leisten, Allen Martinez

This is an alternate dimension story where Professor Xavier never gathered up mutants. Mutants are hunted and killed in this world, and the x gene has been made illegal. However, Magneto has built Fortress X and the surviving mutants have gathered there to make their stand against the Sapiens League and the rest of the humanity.

Magneto is the leader of the remaining mutants, Cannonball is the field leader, and Basilisk, Scott Summers, is a tortured man who is considered to be somewhat of a loose cannon. Rogue goes by the name Legacy, or Reaper, and when a mutant is dying, she’s called in to absorb their memories so that she can remember them. Mutants with mental powers have been imprisoned by Magneto and Danger because they are too dangerous to mix with others.

But even in Fortress X, the mutants aren’t one happy family and a few of them suspect that something isn’t right.

This is yet another very grim and awful alternate dimension to the X-Men. If thing aren’t good for them in the usual Marvel continuity, it’s always possible for things to be even worse. In the Age of X: Universe comic we also get to see the other heroes: most of the Fantastic Four has been arrested for harboring mutants (Sue ratted her family to the police!), Iron Man is plagued with a technovirus and is a walking zombie, Banner was turned into the Hulk because of mutants, and Jessica Drew is an assassin. Captain America is trying to be the voice of reason.

I enjoyed this alternate universe, but I think it would have been more effective if the story would have focused on fewer characters. Now there are so many characters that it’s hard to do more than get a glimpse of each. I enjoyed most the first issue which has back stories for Basilisk, Cannonball, Husk, Wolverine, and Dr. Rao.

Next Page »