September 2013

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Narrator: Nicky Barber, Shash Hira, Gerald Price
Running Time: 3 hrs, 09 min

Steampunk Holmes was adapted from the “Adventure of the Bruce-Partington plans”. The story starts in a very similar way but later, Martin has added chase scenes and a shootout and the ending is different, too. However, the main change is in the setting and some of the characters.

Mycroft Holmes contacts Sherlock to get his aid. It seems that the plans for the submarine Nautilus have been stolen and they are urgently needed back, or at least away from enemy hands. Sherlock agrees to investigate with the help of Doctor Watson.

In this universe, Watson has a bionic arm, replacing the one he lost in a war and Mycroft is an energetic, beautiful woman working in the highest levels of British government. Sherlock loves to drive too fast on his motorized bicycle, the Widow maker, and his burglary kit contains tools with which he can take over any Babbage engine.

For the most part, I enjoyed the book. The ending felt a bit rushed but the book is pretty short.

Pretty much my only complaint is that Mycroft was changed too much. In the books, he’s a lazy fat man. I don’t know why the writer had to make the female Mycroft extraordinary beautiful. She’s also a very good shot and doesn’t mind leaving her office. In essence, her only resemblance to Mycroft was the name. I find myself in the peculiar position that I quite liked her as a character and most likely if she had been an original character I would have been delighted to meet her. But she’s not Mycroft.

The audiobook has three narrators, two men and one woman. They did an excellent job for the most part. However, for some reason Watson’s voice sounded like it came from a tube or a distance, which was a bit weird.

The first book in a mystery series.

Publication year: 1992
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Format: print
Finnish translator: Titia Schuuman
Page count: 272
Finnish Publisher: Otava

The famous German conductor Wellauer is found poisoned in his room at the opera house La Fenice, in Venice. Apparently, someone put poison into his coffee which he drank during the break between the second and third acts of Verdi’s La Traviata. Police Commissioner Guido Brunetti is assigned to the case. Brunetti questions the singers and Wellauer’s significantly younger wife. It seems that while pretty much everyone respected him as a musical genius, they didn’t much care for him as a person. Soon, Brunetti starts to think that Wellauer’s past has something to do with his murder. The conductor was an old man and there were rumors that he had been a member of the Nazi party when he was much younger, during the war.

In fact, it seems that Brunetti is the only competent officer in Venice. His superior got his post because of family ties and it seems that he doesn’t know anything about police work. In this case, Brunetti has two underlings who seem to care more about sitting in cafes than doing their work. In contrast to many other mystery novels, Brunetti isn’t single or divorced. He’s happily married to his wife Paola and they have a son and a daughter. Paola’s parents are aristocrats and they know quite a lot about the people in their circles, which turns out to be pretty important in this case. We find out quite a lot about Brunetti’s and Paola’s life up to this point.

This is not a thriller nor does the book have any action scenes. It’s basic detective work where Brunetti questions people and sometimes finds out something which will point him to the correct direction. The pace is leisurely which fits the plot and the atmosphere.

I quite enjoyed the characters and the leisurely pace for a change. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of Venice.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top ten best sequels ever.

1, Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
Independent sequel to ”Curse of Chalion”. In ”Paladin”, one of the minor characters in ”Curse” is the main character. I liked ”Curse” well enough and though the world building was excellent but I love ”Paladin”!

2, Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine
The second book in the Weather Warden series starts slow but when the pace picks up, it doesn’t slacken.

3, A Shot in the Dark by K. A. Stewart
I quite liked the first book, ”Devil in the Details”, which is about a modern day samurai who fights against demons. However, the second book was more intense and raised the stakes admirably.

4, Exile by Rowena Cory Daniells
A very intense continuation to ”Besieged” and the war really starts.

5, Mermaid’s Madness by Jim C. Hines
Each of the the book in the series seem to have their own plots, even though the characters grow and change. The first book, ”Stepsister Scheme” has just one point-of-view character, Danielle also known as Cinderella but the second book has several POV characters.

6, Blood Trail by Tanya Huff
”Blood Trail” introduces a whole different setting and cast of characters.

7, Taboo by Tara Maya
”Taboo” continues the story from ”Initiate” without any second book syndrome.

8, C. J. Cherryh: Shon’jir
The second book in the series takes the main characters off to another planet.

9, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: City of Ruins
Some time has passed since ”Diving into the Wreck” and book is set in another place then the first book.

10, Karen A. Wyle: Reach
Another book where the characters leave the place where the first book was set. This time they head into space, exploring it.

Collects issues 1-6.

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Publication year: 2011

Batman is dead and hasn’t appeared in Gotham for about a month. However, Dick Grayson feels that it’s his duty to take over from Bruce and Bruce’s 10-year old son Damien takes over as Robin. So, once again Batman and Robin patrol Gotham City. The collection contains stories “Batman Reborn” and “Revenge of the Red Hood”.

The collection starts with a flying Batmobile which is, of course, very cool as Dick says. (“I’d have killed for a flying Batmobile when I was Robin.”) Unfortunately, the rest of the story wasn’t as cool. Dick is trying to teach Damian teamwork and how to be a “proper” Robin. Damian is arrogant and convinced that he knows everything there is to know and Dick is somewhat ambivalent about taking over as Batman. In fact, he might not have continued it without Alfred’s advice. Alfred was great! Dick’s and Damien’s personalities are quite different and their bickering is the highlight of the comic. I also admired Commissioner Gordon’s initial distrust towards the new Batman. Because, you know, he could be anyone under the mask.

But the villains! They are pretty bizarre, especially in the first story. Pyg is the main villain in the first story and even though he’s clearly mentally disturbed he could be a great Batvillain with his Dollotron’s and the Circus of Strange. However, the villains in the second story are very bloodthirsty and I don’t feel like they fit well among other Bat-villains. The Red Hood wants to kill criminals and does so with a lot of blood. Then, the mafiosos send their master killer to Gotham, a lobotomized former good guy called Flamingo. Now, I almost think we’re in Criminal Minds territory, not in Batman’s.

However, I enjoyed the collection in the end.

Collects Uncanny X-Men #199-213; New Mutants Special Edition #1; Uncanny X-Men Annual #9; X-Factor #9-10; New Mutants #46; Thor #373-374; Power Pack #27

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr., Barry Windsor-Smith, Arthur Adams, Rick Leonardi

This another collection full of classic issues; people and events which still affect story lines. The collection starts with Mystique meeting with Val Cooper, the president’s adviser, and so the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants becomes Freedom Force, who works only for the president. Rachel Summers visits her mother’s parents’ house (in this universe), she touches Jean’s memory crystal and apparently gets a power boost. In later issues, the Beyonder gives her even more power and the X-Men wonder if Rachel will be the new Dark Phoenix.

Next up is Magneto’s trial in Paris. During the story, Xavier has a heart attack and is teleported away by the Star Jammers. Xavier makes Magneto promise that he will take over and teach the kids in his absence. Unsurprisingly, some X-Men are skeptical about that. The trial ends without a clear sentence. Instead the judge says that Magneto and all mutants will be judged by public opinion instead of any judges. Also, Madelyne and Scott’s son is born, making it clear that this isn’t Rachel’s universe.

Then, perhaps my favorite issue in this collection: Cyclops and the powerless Storm duel over the leadership of the X-Men. Cyclops loses and Storm is now the acknowledged leader. Cyclops disappears for a while from the comic, presumably to live with his wife and son. I remember when I read this comic for the first time and how amazed I was that Storm was such a badass without her powers. Also, I think Rick Leonardi’s art was perfect for this issue.

Then we have two issues which focus on one X-Man: first Wolverine and then Nightcrawler. Wolverine’s issue introduced lady Deathstroke but otherwise these issues, and the next one, where the X-Men fight Freedom Force in San Francisco, are pretty average.

Then comes issues focusing on Rachel’s mental problems which are only heightened by her great supernatural powers. Rachel is a tortured character who comes from a tortured future, and she wants to do anything to keep it from happening. The problem is that she’s also just one person and she can’t know what to do. She sees that some things are the same, like the way humans hate and fear mutants more and more, and wants to change that. This time her hatred for the evil mutants boils over and she infiltrates Hellfire’s Club and attacks their Black Queen, Selene. However, Wolverine confronts Rachel and begs her to leave instead of becoming a murderer. Rachel refuses and Wolverine wounds her grievously. However, Rachel’s powers keep her wound closed, just barely, and she escapes. Both the X-Men and Hellfire’s Club search for her and fight in the Central Park. In the end, the two groups have to join forces against Nimrod, and Rachel is lured by Spiral into the Body Shoppe where all her memories would go away. I believe she isn’t seen again until in the first issue of Excalibur.

Poor Rachel. She has suffered so much and feels out of place in the past. She doesn’t even tell Scott that he’s her father but just keeps an awkward distance. This time her actions also case friction among the X-Men. I feel that this is classic Claremont where he mixes super powered fights with tortured characters and heroes arguing amongst themselves about pretty big issues (this time what gives anyone a right to kill someone else) and teams up villains and heroes against a bigger threat (one of my favorite troupes!).

Next up is an aftermaths issue with foreshadowing. Kitty gets to tell off a bunch of racists who are attacking Kurt because of his appearance. Mutants are compared to the Jewish people and other oppressed minorities.

Then the Marauders attack! That kicks off the Mutant Massacre storyline which continues for the rest of the collection. Storm loses (briefly) confidence in her ability to lead, a lot of Morloks are killed, and gentle Colossus becomes a killer, as well. The collection ends with three X-Men out of commission: Colossus is paralyzed, Shadowcat is stuck in an intangible state, and Nightcrawler is seriously injured. On the plus side, Psylocke is introduced, in her original body as a young British girl, and she goes toe to toe with Sabertooth and survives.

In New Mutants Special Edition, the New Mutants and Storm are kidnapped to Asgard by a vengeful Loki. In X-Men Annual 9, the X-Men follow in order to rescue the kids and Storm. I remember enjoying this story quite a lot when I first read it. Many of the kids get more confidence in themselves and each other as a team. Also, Dani Moonstar becomes a Valkyrie and get her winged steed. Illyana’s evil side is also established pretty firmly.

Overall, this is a great collection and I really enjoyed myself rereading these stories.

The first book in a mystery series.

Publication year: 1997
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1998
Format: print
Finnish translator: Ilkka Rekiaho
Page count: 447
Finnish Publisher: Otava

Amelia Sachs is the daughter of a police officer and she’s a patrolling police officer, too, like her father. However, she suffers from arthritis even though she’s just over thirty years old. So, she has asked a transfer into public relations department. But on her last day, she finds serial killer’s victim who has been buried alive. To preserve the crime scene, Sachs stops trains and even traffic on a nearby avenue. However, her supervisor later tells her that she was wrong because she delayed important people from getting to their destinations.

Lincoln Rhyme was one of the best forensics experts in New York before he was paralyzed from the neck down. Now, he’s confined to bed and strongly thinking of killing himself. However, his former partner convinces him to consult on this case. Because Rhyme can’t inspect the scenes himself, he wants a partner who can, and he wants Sachs because she wasn’t afraid to protect the scene and because she’s new to forensics. Sachs agrees, but reluctantly.

Sachs is very beautiful but her arthritis stopped her from becoming a model, so instead she became a beat cop. But she’s not happy with that, either, because reality isn’t like in her father’s stories. She’s determined and headstrong. At first she loathes Rhyme but during the story she starts to respect him and even defend his methods. Unfortunately, the book takes about two days, that’s a very short time for such a change of opinion.

Rhyme was a rude man even before his accident and now he’s even more unlikable. At the start of the book, he has contacted a doctor who might help him to die but then Rhyme starts to get interested in the case. He doesn’t care about the victims, just about the evidence and piecing the puzzle together. In fact, he’s a lot like House or rather because the book was written before House M.D. aired, House is a lot like him.

In addition to these two characters, there is Ryhme’s long-suffering assistant Thom who stays with him even though Rhyme is very dismissive towards him. Ryhme’s ex-wife Blaine is mentioned a few times. Lon Sellitto is Rhyme’s former partner. He has an explosive temper but he’s careful around Rhyme. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters don’t have much of a personality. The best example are two detectives who look exactly the same and even finish each others sentences. They aren’t related.

The plot is very fast-paced and has a lot of twists. Unfortunately for me, the victims are also POV characters and we are shown how the killer tortures them beforehand. Some of the scenes are quite gruesome. I also think that the speed which everything happens is unrealistic. The serial killer/kidnapper seems to kidnap new victims very few hours and the laboratory test results also appear very fast.

The murderer was fascinated with New York’s history and we get to know a little bit of New York’s past. I liked that the most in this book. I also really liked the clues table which is included every couple of chapters. There the reader sees the clues which the detectives have. I’m somewhat surprised no other mystery author uses it.

18th book in the series

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 9 hrs and 25 minutes

Phryne, her maid Dot, her adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly are on vacation on Queenscliff where Phryne has rented a house. The house’s owner says that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are supposed to greet Phryne’s group and serve them during their stay. However, when they arrive, the Johnsons aren’t there and also all the food and even furniture are gone. However, there’s no sign of struggle or burglary. Phryne asks the neighbors but they don’t know anything, either. The Johnson’s seem to be decent folk and they have had a week’s holiday but they are supposed to be back already. The mystery deepens when Phryne finds the Johnson’s beloved dog Gaston starving and filthy. Also, a Phantom Snipper is haunting the village. He cuts off girl’s hair suddenly and nobody has been able to even identify him.

Fortunately for Phryne, Ruth wants to be a cook and she’s happy to try her hand in the kitchen, first stoking it from the start and then cooking for the whole party.

The characters are again delightful. In addition to the familiar cast, there’s Eddie, also called Tinker, a young boy who is considered lazy but whom Phryne quickly deduces only needs someone to trust him and treat him right, and he quickly becomes devoted to Phryne. One of the neighbors is a very disagreeable old woman but she might know something.

The mystery is pretty light this time, however.

The first book in the Corinna Chapman mystery series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 10 hrs

Once, Corinna wanted to become an accountant. In order to finance her studies she became a baker and now she owns her own baker, Earthly Delights, in Melbourne. However, her bakery is not in the best of places and so she starts the book giving CPR to a junkie who has taken an overdose right in behind her door. When the EMTs save the addict, she turns out to be less than grateful. But the Soup Run’s tall, dark and handsome man Daniel turns out to be very grateful, and interested in Corinne, to boot.

Someone sends threatening letters to every woman in Corinna’s building calling them “scarlet women” and unsurprisingly, they want to find out who is behind it. Also, someone is poisoning the drugs which the addicts use and several addicts have already died. Daniel wants to find out the guilty party.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Jason is a young drug addict who comes to Corinna’s door wanting a job and she gives him one, sweeping the floors. She doesn’t pry into his life, enough though she wants to, and slowly they start to trust each other. Meroe is a witch and she runs her own business, the Sibyl’s Cave. She and Corinna a great friends. Even though Corinna is mostly self-employed, she has to young women who sell her break when she’s not in the shop. Kylie and Gossamer dream of being actresses and have to maintain a very low weight. They change their hair color almost daily and behave otherwise like teenagers. Then there’s Dionysius Monk. He’s one of Corinna’s neighbors, a former classics professor and still obsessed with classical history.

This is a great beginning for a new mystery series.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top ten books I want to see made to a movie or a TV show (in a perfect world).

There are so many choices here!

Actually, after the success of the Harry Potter, LOTR, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies I’m a bit surprised we haven’t seen very many similar fantasy movies but I guess most books are easier to make into TV shows than movies, at least if you don’t want to chop off majority of the book.

Here are my current choices:

1, The Amber chronicles by Roger Zelazny
The various alternate universes are very cinematic and I think they could be done well today.

2, Jocelynn Drake’s Dark Days series
The books could easily be made into a TV show.

3, Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series
With the success that Walking Dead has, Priest’s world of zombies and steampunk could be great.

4, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards
Either a series of movies or a TV show about young wizards. Surely there must be a lot of Potter fans who would love it?

5, Jim C. Hines’ Princess series
I think a TV show would be better for these books.

6, Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series
A cross between Grimm and Once Upon a Time? Come on, TV moguls!

7, Liz Williams’ Chief Inspector Chen series
Another lush world just waiting to be translated into a TV show.

8, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Spirit Ring
I think this book could be a great movie with a clear setting and a short, self-contained story.

9, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series
Victorian Egyptologists who solve crimes!

10, Peters Clines’ Ex-Heroes
Zombies and superheroes! I’m a bit surprised these books haven’t been made into movies already.

A Buffy the vampire slayer novel, although set in 1940, before the show started.

Publication year: 2001
Format: print
Page count: 353
Publisher: Pocket Books

Spike and Dru are vampires and lovers, and apparently quite popular characters. Spike is one of my favorite characters, ever, so I was quite exited to read this book.

In March 1940 Spike and Drusilla are in New York and Dru is bored. So, she wants a very special birthday present: the mythical Freya’s Strand, the necklace of the Brisings. Her birthday is, of course, the anniversary of the day when she was made a vampire. Spike, of course, will do anything for his lady love and they are looking for someone who knows where the demon Skrymir, the Strand’s owner, is. Spike gets the information and soon the duo is sailing to Norway. However, because the war has started, their journey is a bit rough; the Germans sink their ship and the vampires have to invade the German submarine to get to their destination. But the demon is quite powerful and he doesn’t want to just give the magical item away. Instead he proposes a bargain: if Spike and Dru kill off the prospective Slayers under the Watchers’ Council’s protection, he will give the necklace to them. Spike and Dru are just too happy to agree.

The current Slayer is Sophie Carstensen, a Danish girl, and her Watcher is Yanna who is a seer. Sophie is willful but very determined and capable. She also loves Yanna dearly and is worried that Yanna’s gift of sight will drive her insane at some point. When the book starts, they are on the trail of Gorm who used to be Denmark’s king a thousand years ago. Yanna’s visions warn her of the coming war but Sophie doesn’t want to leave her country before killing Gorm.

Sophie is very similar to Buffy, except that she doesn’t have a circle of friends and she’s an orphan, so the only person she worries about is Yanna. She’s even blond and beautiful. We’re introduced to several Slayers in waiting, as they are called, and they are somewhat different. All of them have been identified as potential Slayers and the Watchers are training them, as Kendra and Faith were trained in the series. I quite enjoyed the potentials but there wasn’t much time to get to know them.

The plot is quite fast-paced but has some repetitive elements: Spike and Dru go after a potential and kills her. For a Buffy book, this book has a lot of pretty gruesome violence and death. Of course, the main characters are Spike and Dru who were quite known for their evil and violent ways in the series. And the setting is during a war. Unfortunately, that also means that characters introduced in this book are killed of pretty quickly and there’s not much room for character development. Also, the book deviates from canon.

The books starts off focusing on Spike and Dru, with Spike as the POV character. However, fairly soon, Sophie becomes also a POV character and then Yanna and even Skrymir steal the spotlight from the vampires. Like I said, I’m a fan of Spike and so I rather enjoyed the book.

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