October 2013

A stand-alone science fiction book.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook

Gordon and Johnny are conjoined twins. They have only one body: Gordon controls his head, left hand and left arm, and Johnny controls his head and the right side. Of course, they have had to learn to live together and never expected things to be otherwise. Fortunately, they have a loving and supporting family. Their mother Ellen and their stepfather Frank have done everything they can for the boys. They’ve even shielded the boys from curious people, mostly tourists. The local people are used to them and treat them just like anyone else.

Gordon loves to play the violin and study history while Johnny is more impatient and competitive. But they’ve had to learn to compromise. They’re even dating the girl next door, Dodi, and she dreams of a future with both of them. Gordon is looking forward to that future, sharing everything with his brother but Johnny is a little frustrated because of their limitations. Yet, they are planning what they will study in collage because they have limited time and different interests.

Then one day, they hear about a new treatment method, TTC or Transplant to Clone, for people whose bodies has suffered severe damage. In the treatment, a clone body is grown for the damaged person and then his or her brain is surgically removed and planted into the clone. Almost instantly, Johnny knows that he wants to do just that, so that he would be able to live a normal life. But when Johnny suggests it, Gordon is horrified. He’s happy with their lives and doesn’t want to change it.

For Johnny to get a transplant, he has to go to court and battle his brother. The battle might tear apart the brothers, their family and friends. No matter what the outcome will be, how can they live with it?

Ms. Wyle has again written a very thoughtful and fascinating science fiction book. It explores personal choices which can affect others in a profound way and also what is normal and what’s not. Gordon, Johnny, and the other people feel very realistic to me. They each have their own goals and desires. Even though Johnny loves his brother, he yearns to be free to live his own life in a way that Gordon doesn’t. Dodi has never thought of the possibility that they could be separated. Her parents try to keep her away from the brothers when Dodi and the boys become teenagers.

With the court case, the brothers suddenly become interesting to the media which is a new experience for the family and offers another layer to the story.

The story is set in future but the family isn’t wealthy and so they don’t have significantly different technology than what we have today, except for the TTC, of course.

The fifth book in the series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 392 + an excerpt of the Garden of Iden
Publisher: TOR

The book starts with an extract from Mendoza’s journal. She’s an immortal cyborg and the main character of the series. Because of what she did in a previous book, Mendoza in Hollywood, she was sent to Way Back When, also known as 150 000 BC, to grow vegetables to the wealthy tourists from the future. But Dr. Zeus Inc.’s efforts to confine Mendoza doesn’t work. A man in a time shuttle appears. He’s from the future but looks exactly like Mendoza’s lost lover Nicholas, from the year 1555, and like her other lost lover Edward, from the year 1862. Mendoza is now convinced that the three men are actually the same man and that he can’t be human. When the man, Alec Chekersfield , tells her that he’s on a quest to destroy Dr Zeus and he comes from the year 2351, Mendoza realizes that he will succeed. Dr. Zeus Inc is almost omniscient company which owns the secrets of time travel and yet, in 2355 the Company will become silent. Nobody knows what will happen after that year. Mendoza will do everything she can to help Alec. He has stolen the time shuttle and so Mendoza disables the shuttle’s self-destruct device and teaches Alec how to control the shuttle. Alec promises to return and vanishes back into the future.

That’s almost the last we’ll see of Mendoza in this book which focuses on the life and times of Alec Chekersfield, and the three men who created him.

Three idle rich men call themselves the Inklings Nouveau. They all adore history and re-enact it to the extent that they can, considering that most things are banned in the future (such as coffee, cheese, chocolate, alcohol…). They work for Dr. Zeus designing the cyborgs which the company uses. One of their previous designs have become obsolete and they are asked to design a new breed of Enforces. They start to design a new man which they call Adonai, a template, or an image of, King Arthur. They will try out this new man in various times to see how he will act. At the same time, we see quite a bit of this future.

Alec lives with his parents and their servants in a boat and even though his mother is cold towards him and his father is a drunkard, he’s early life is relatively happy. But then he has to move to London and everything changes. His mother gets a divorce and he doesn’t seen again. His father stays for a short while and then leaves. Alec is raised by the servants and his Pembroke Playfriend which is an AI. The AI is supposed to have strong moral rules and teach them to the child, too. However, Alec is able to get into the AI’s systems and turns off the AI’s moral code. Now, the AI’s primary goal is to keep Alec safe and happy.

Alec is a genius but the AI, named Captain, advises him to keep that a secret. With the AI’s help, Alec nurtures his instinctive grasp of computers and becomes a smuggler.

The future in this series is pretty bland, just like in the previous books. Almost everything is banned from touching children to walking barefoot on grass. Public health monitors are watching all the time and if anyone behaves illegally, he or she is sent to a hospital. Yet, when Alec and Mr. Lewin go to a museum, it has a statue of Nelson because he kept England free from Napoleon who wanted everyone to behave the same. Meanwhile England and US are trying to get all other countries to ban cheese and meat as well. There are two Mars colonies but nothing is said if they’re more free or not.

Alec tasted real freedom on the boat where he spend his early years and he has no problem later becoming a rebel and breaking all sorts of laws. By contrast, the Inklings Nouveau are far more timid lot, only hesitantly breaking minor laws, such as set a fire in a fire place or walking barefoot in grass.

I really enjoyed this one. It revealed the secrets around Mendoza’s lovers and continued the major plot.

Yes! A new Toby Daye novel!

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Running Time: 12 hrs, 15 min

Toby has heard that someone is selling goblin fruit in San Francisco. While it gives a nice high for the pure blood fairies, humans and changelings tend to become addicted and eventually die, so Toby really wants goblin fruit sellers out. However, because fairies’ bodies are taken away by night haunts, so that humans don’t find weird bodies and find out about the faerie world, she doesn’t know if anyone has already died or who they were. When Toby finds an hapless changeling’s body she, Tybalt, and May decide to wait for the haunts so that Toby can talk with them. This means that Toby has to face her dead enemies and also her dead lover. That’s a difficult situation all by itself and on top of that Toby finds out that several changelings have died from eating goblin fruit.

Toby storms to the court of the Queen of the Mists who rules SF. Toby is convinced that the Queen will have to protect her subjects, even changelings. The others are more skeptical but they can’t allow Toby to confront alone the Queen who loathes her. However, it turns out that the Queen herself is supplying goblin fruit. When Toby appeals to her to stop the trade, the Queen banishes Toby; she has three days to get her affairs in order and leave the Queen’s area.

Toby asks the Luidaeg to help her. The Sea Witch tells Toby to seek out those who knew king Gilad, who was the King in the Mists before the Queen. Toby follows her advice and starts to suspect that the Queen isn’t actually the rightful ruler. Now, she has three days to lead a revolt against her.

I really liked Chimes at Midnight but I don’t think it was as personally intense as the two previous books, so it suffers a bit in comparison. The plot is fast-paced and we’re introduced into new places in Faerie. One of them is the Library of the Stars which you can’t even find without an invitation. Another excellent literary library!

The familiar cast returns: Toby’s former fetch (death omen) May and her girlfriend, Toby’s squire Quentin, the Luidaeg (my personal favorite), and Tybalt, of course. Most of the characters from the previous books make at least a cameo, so this is really a great way to connect again with them all. We also get to know a bit more about Quentin and he has clearly grown quite a bit during this series. So, it’s perhaps a bit disappointing that Toby hasn’t learned. She still makes a couple of quite bone-headed mistakes. One of the could have avoided the final fight or made it at least a lot less dramatic.

Overall, a good continuation to the series and I strong recommend reading the previous books before this one.

A stand-alone book based on Dracula.

Publication year: 2005
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2006
Format: print
Finnish translator: Arto Schroderus
Page count: 596
Finnish Publisher: WSOY

The Finnish translation is abridged. The original seems to be almost 1000 pages.

The book is narrated by a 16-year-old girl who remains nameless. However, most of the time she’s either listening her father tell her about his life or reading letters from various people. Her father, Paul, is a diplomat but he studied history and he tells is story from the time when he’s writing his dissertation about merchants in Holland. The story is also told in several time lines. The main story with the girl happens in 1972 but most of the book is set in the 1950s, and in the beginning some of the letters are from the 1930s. The book has several references to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it’s pretty clear from the start that the mysterious enemies are vampires.

The narrator lives in Amsterdam. Her father is away a lot and the narrator lives with a housekeeper whom she doesn’t really like. The story starts when the narrator finds a mysterious book and a frightening letter from her father’s study. The book is very old but the only thing on its pages is a picture of a dragon. The narrator insists that her father tells her about the book. Reluctantly, Paul takes her daughter with him on one of his travels and during their stay in various cities, he tells her his story.

Paul was working on his Ph. D. in Oxford university when he found the book. He took it to his mentor, Professor Rossi. To Paul’s amazement Rossi has a similar book and he tells Paul about his research into the historical Vlad Tepes, who is also known as Dracula. On the same night, Rossi disappears.

Paul and a mysterious Hungarian woman Helen start to research Tepes/Dracula in order to find Rossi. They travel to several cities, from Istanbul to Budapest. All the time, they have the feeling that they might be too late to save Rossi and that Dracula’s minions are watching them.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed it, especially the descriptions of various cities and the research the characters do. And yet, the book is so very long that I thought about giving up on it a couple of times. Many of the descriptions don’t advance the plot or character development, no matter how fascinating they are. I was also a bit disappointed with Dracula’s final motives and I probably would have been happier about the epilog.

Atmosphere isn’t modern horror by any means. It and the writing style are very much like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, eerie and otherworldly. Also, the Cold War figures into the atmosphere and the plot; it’s difficult to move from the Western European countries to the East. You can’t even send a letter from Britain to Hungary without it being opened and read by a government official at least once. Helen’s descriptions of what it was like to grow up in Soviet ruled Hungary and the tale of how her own mother escaped Romania are quite vivid.

The characters react to the possibility of vampires and more human threats like real people, they definitely aren’t Buffy like characters who laugh in the face of danger and are unaffected by it.

The fourth book in the series where Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty are the main characters.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Narrator: Carol Monda
Running Time: 11 hrs

The story starts with a humorous episode, where Snow and Talia are hunting a couple of witch hunters who are in Lorendar’s capital. One of the with hunters is Hansel and the other is his sister. However, after that the tone of the book becomes far more serious because Queen Beatrice dies. The characters have know for a while that she’s dying but it still hits them hard. Snow has been preparing a spell which should keep the queen’s soul in this world. Unfortunately, the spell fails. Instead the magical mirror Snow has inherited from her cruel mother, breaks. Now Snow sees the world as it “truly” is: cruel and ugly, and everyone is really alone. She goes around the palace wounding others with the shards from the mirror and they begin to see the “true” world, too. Danielle’s husband Armand succumbs to this evil spell but their young son Jacob is able to resist it. Snow is intrigued by the boy and when she leaves for her home country Alessandria, she takes the three-year-old boy with her. But she leaves someone behind: a young woman who looks very much like Snow. She calls herself Gerta and claims that she used to be Snow’s imaginary sister but now Snow has made her real.

Danielle and Talia insist that they should go after Jacob and Snow, and they commandeer one of the Queen’s ships. Even though they don’t trust Gerta, she is their only link to Snow, and so they take her along.

Years ago, Snow’s mother Rose Curtana ruled Alessandria which is renowned for the number and quality of the magic-users it has. However, she was a cruel woman who wanted to kill even her own daughter. Snow fled and eventually she defeated her mother. But afterward Alessandria’s nobles found Snow guilty of murder and banished her. Now, Snow returns to her homeland and wants revenge.

I think Snow Queen’s Shadow is a worthy end to the series. Danielle and Talia are forced to fight against their dear friend and comrade in arms. They will also have to make hard decisions. Gerta is a new and mysterious character, and Danielle and Talia don’t know what to make of her. Gerta muses about her origin, and if she even is a real person. She seems to have a lot of Snow’s memories and so she knows Talia and Danielle but they don’t know her. That’s more than a little awkward.

Alessandria’s current king wants to defend his country but Danielle and Talia want to save their friend, no matter how powerful Snow’s enemies are.

The second book in the mystery series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 9 hrs

Corinna Chapman used to be an accountant but now she’s a baker and even though she has to wake up at four in the morning she still prefers running Earthly Delights. Her life is good: she has a gorgeous new lover, her new apprentice seems to be supernaturally talented at inventing new muffins, and her bakery is doing well.

However, when Corinna is given some excellent chocolates from the nearby chocolate chop, Heavenly Delights, she bites into chili sauce. Then breathless Juliette Lefebvre, the Belgian chocolatier, explains that someone has been sabotaging her chocolates. Apparently, someone has put in chili or soybean sauce in some of her chocolates which has angered her clients. Juliette hires Daniel to find out just who is behind it all and Corinne, of course, assists him. She finds out a lot about the chocolate trade and how the sweets are made, in addition to getting to know the people who work in the chocolate shop. It turns out that one of the workers is missing.

Also, Daniel had a run-in with a “prophet” who is called Darren the God-boy. Darren had kidnapped a girl and Daniel had been hired to get her back. Now, Darren is in prison but he says that he’s been possessed by evil spirits. Additionally, the house where Corinna and all of her neighbors live in, gets two new residents.

Heavenly Pleasures is a delightful and charming book. The mysteries aren’t the main draw, but the characters and also the humorous writing. Corinna is a warmhearted and confident and she has a great sense of humor. She’s also fat which is still quite a rarity in heroines.

Corinne’s young apprentice Jason is a former drug addict and Corinne is still worried that he will start using again. He loves baking and inventing new tastes. Daniel is a former soldier and now he’s private detective. He’s devoted to Corinne and they are a very cute couple. However, Daniel has a hero complex which causes some trouble for them. Her best friend Meroe is a witch. And then, of course, there are the many cats who all have their own personalities.

It’s time for the October 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
22, J. Gregory Keyes: Dark Genesis: The Birth of the Psi Corps
23, Terry Pratchett: Jingo
24, J. Gregory Keyes: Final Reckoning: The Fate of Bester
25, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Alien Influences
26, Christopher Golden: Spike & Dru: Pretty Maids all in a row
27, Patricia Barnes-Svarney: Loyalties

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.

I’ve read 27 books from 24 so I’m already at the top! Yes!

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.

Well… I’m a huge fan of Spike, from Buffy the vampire slayer, so inevitably, I’ll have to choose him. Also, I think that Golden did a terrific job with both Spike and Drusilla in the book, they were very much in character.

The tenth book in the Star Trek: TNG: Starfleet Academy series.

Publication year: 1996
Format: print
Page count: 120
Publisher: Pocket Books

Beverly Howard (later Crusher) is a first-year medical student. She’s very diligent, just like her room mate Claire Voy. But this morning Claire suggest that they should skip class, because they already know all about Terran Anatomy, and go instead to a nearby archeological site where the archeologists are digging up an old hospital. Beverly agrees, a bit reluctantly, and they head out to the site. Unfortunately, they are caught. Beverly expects for the admiral in charge to put them on probation or perhaps even expel them, but the admiral lets them off with just a warning.

The next day Beverly and Claire take part in a holographic simulation in Medical Emergencies class but something goes wrong. During the simulation Beverly takes part, she feels that the holographic tricorder gives her a shock. Unfortunately, the teacher doesn’t believer her. When Claire takes part in the next simulation, a student is hurt badly. Unfortunately, the teacher blames Claire! Beverly and Claire have to find out what happened.

This is a short book for younger readers. I rather enjoyed the Star Trek atmosphere of hard-working young students. However, the plot has a feel that many YA books do. Namely, that the young protagonists have to do everything themselves because the adults don’t believe or trust them or are just acting stupidly.

The third book in the series.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Narrator: Carol Monda
Running Time: 11 hrs

The book starts with Danielle (Cinderella), Talia (Sleeping Beauty), and Snow (Snow White) apparently making a deal with a poor miller Lang whose daughter can spin straw into gold, even promising to marry the girl to Danielle’s infant son when the boy is old enough. However, this turns out to be a ruse to lure out the fairy Rumpelstiltskin. The gnome has stolen children for years and erased their memories but the three princesses end all that.

Lang and the gnome are sent to another country for their punishment but their carriage is attacked and everyone killed. The attacker sends Danielle a message and her stepsister’s toe. The attacker is Roudette, the Lady of the Red Hood, a master assassin. Even though Danielle’s stepsister tried to kill her in the first book, Stepsister Scheme, Danielle insists that they will try to rescue her. Talia, Snow, and their fairy friend Trittebar set out to kill Roudette and rescue the stepsister, if possible.

I really enjoy many of the aspects of this series. Characters grow and change during the series and bad consequences aren’t just made to disappear. Danielle’s mother-in-law Queen Beatrice was stabbed in the previous book. Even though Snow was able to heal her so that she didn’t die immediately, she is dying more slowly and everyone knows it. Also, Snow was wounded in the previous book and the wound has made it more difficult for her to use her magic. There’s also positive growth: Danielle is now a mother and she must think about her family first.

I also really enjoy the friendship between the three women and between them and Beatrice who is beloved mother figure to them.

This story focuses on Talia, who has so far been the most mysterious figure. Now we get to really know her past. Her home country, Arathea, is in a desert and based on Muslim culture. As far as I can tell, the writer is sensitive to the Muslim culture. Arathea is ruled by fairies and according to Arathea’s religion, fairies are essentially angels and doing what the fairies say will save a mortal’s soul. Talia violently disagrees with all that because she slept during the time when the fairies took over Arathea. Essentially, they took over Talia’s land. The Wild Hunt also makes an appearance. We also get to know a lot about Roudette, the Little Red Riding Hood. Her past is just as dark as the other princesses’.