December 2014

Happy new year to everyone!

The fourth book in the Clockwork Century series (including the novellas).

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Page count: 366
Publisher: Tor

Rector Sherman has just turned eighteen and the orphanage where he’s grown up will have to kick him out. He doesn’t really know what to do because he doesn’t have many useful skills. So far, he’s mainly conned people out of their money, sold drug called sap, and also used sap himself. He’s also haunted by a ghost of a kid he sent to die. However, that kid wasn’t using sap; Rector helped him get inside the walled city of Seattle. With nothing else to do, on the eve of his birthday, he collects his meager belongings, steals food from the orphanage, and heads to Seattle. He has some notion that he’ll be able to talk straight with the people who make the sap and take a bigger cut – if he survives the Blight gas and the walking rotters.

However, things aren’t that easy. The people of Seattle have divided strongly into groups which don’t really care for each other. The Chinese men, who don’t speak much English, the Doornails who oppose the Stationers. The Stationers are mostly the drug makers and more dangerous bandits. Also, Rector finds out that something else than the walking dead is stalking humans.

Rector isn’t a pleasant POV character and not just because he’s an addict. He’s also always looking to profit himself at the expense of others. He’s also lazy and the only ambition his has is his next fix. And yet, the moral choices he has to make are quite easy and it’s strangely easy for him to get rid of his addiction. There are a few mentions later on that he’s thinking about the next fix but that’s it.

I also didn’t really care for the Inexplicable and was more interested in the other storyline but Rector was more a sideliner in that. However, most of the rest of the cast return and I really enjoy them. It was also interesting to see them from another POV, especially with such a self-centered character and Rector.

Clearly my least favorite of the series but I’m looking forward to the next book.

Next up is 2015 8th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge!

It’s time to start signing up for the 2015 challenge now. No changes 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 (NOT to your home page).

What counts: graphic novels, collected trade editions, manga, comic strip collections, comic books. In print or digital. Anything else you feel is suitable. My criteria is if it has either frames OR speech bubbles it counts. I’m not going to be the comic police but if you are unsure, ask me in the comments any given month.

Here is how the Challenge plays out:

runs from Jan.1 – Dec. 31, 2015

Modern Age: read and review 12 books during the year (that’s only 1 book a month)

Bronze Age: read and review 24 books during the year (Can you handle 2 books a month.)

Silver Age: read and review 52 books during the year (Are you up to a book a week!)

You must sign up for a level, but once you complete that level you may move up and try for the next one.

I’m again aiming for Modern Age. In 2014 I graduated to Bronze Age and since I’m seriously thinking of getting a yearly Marvel Unlimited subscription, I’ll likely end up at that level. But to make things easier for me, I’ll pick Modern Age first.

1, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind
2, Essential X-Men vol. 8
3, Fantastic Four: The End
4, Essential X-Men vol. 9
5, Excalibur Classic vol. 1: the Sword is Drawn
6, Excalibur Classic vol. 2: The Two-Edged Sword
7, Excalibur Classic vol. 3: The Cross-Time Caper book 1
8, Excalibur Classic vol. 4: The Cross-Time Caper book 2
9, Excalibur Classic vol. 5
10, Avengers vs. X-Men
11, AVX: Consequences
12, Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1: The Red Shadow
13, Essential X-Men vol. 10
14, Essential X-Men vol. 11
15, Elfquest: Fire and Flight
16, Elfquest: 2: The Forbidden Grove
17, Elfquest: vol. 3: Captives of Blue Mountain
18, The New Fantastic Four
19, Fantastic Four, Vol. 5: Disassembled
20, Fantastic Four, Vol. 6: Rising Storm
21, Complete Elfquest vol. 4: Quest’s End
22, X-Men Forever volume 1: Picking Up Where We Left Off
23, X-Men Forever volume 2: The Secret History of the Sentinels
24, X-Men Forever volume 3: Welcome to Mother… Russia!
25, X-Men Forever volume 4
26, X-Men Forever volume 5: Once More… Into the Breach
27, X-Men Forever 2 volume 1: Back in Action
28, X-Men Forever 2 volume 2: Scream a Little Scream
29, X-Men Forever 2 volume 3: Perfect world
30, X-Men: Bishop’s Crossing
31, X-Men: X-Cutioner’s Song
32, Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest
33, Fantastic Four: Masters of Doom
34, Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Vol. 1
35, Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman, Vol. 2

It’s that time of the year again, the time to start choosing reading challenges for 2015. My first reading challenge will be Just of Fun 2015:

As bloggers we are all on timetables to read books, get reviews posted, host giveaways, etc.

But we also travel around to other blogs and see books we would just like to read because of their recommendation or the cover or title catches our interest. The Meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” adds more books to my Wish List and To-Be-Read pile every week.

As followers you get our recommendations, win books from us, pick up books at the library or buy them at a store.

But our lives are so busy these books sometimes sit in our To-Be-Read piles for months or even years.

This is the 5th year I am hosting this challenge to
encourage you to read some of those books.
12 books in 12 months JUST FOR FUN!!!!!!!!!!


This year there will be no months designated as Catch-Up Months!
If you miss a month it is up to you to catch up. Just designate you are catching up when you list the book and include the date.

You are not required to review these books.
They are to be read JUST FOR FUN. You can review if you wish.

I started my Barsoom books reread in Just for Fun 2014 and I’ll complete it next year with the last three books and I’m sure I’ll have fun reading other books, too.

1, Joss Llewlyn: The Razor’s Edge
2, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Synthetic Men of Mars
3, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Llana of Gathol
4, Edgar Rice Burroughs: John Carter of Mars
5, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Pirates of Venus
6, Elizabeth Bear: One-Eyed Jack
7, Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith: The Kingmaker
8, John Scalzi: Lock In
9, Naomi Novik: The Blood of Tyrants
10, Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Demon
11, Carol Berg: The Soul Mirror
12, Carol Berg: The Daemon Prism

Happy holidays to everyone who is celebrating!
(I’m self-employed so I’ll be working but I’ll also try to get time to be with my family.)

I wish for excellent year 2015 to everyone!

Publication year: 2014
Format: audiobook
Running time: 13 hours, 26 minute
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Publisher: Tor
English translation: Ken Liu

This is a book which IMHO is best read without knowing too much about what’s coming. In fact, I think that most reviews reveal too much about it and surprises aren’t surprising after that.

The book starts in 1980s China right after the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In character’s stories, it describes how people were affected and lives destroyed by the people in power. Specifically, professors and teachers of science were required to change their teachings when they could be inferred as “going against” the Communist ideal. Never mind that the actual physics of course work as they work regardless of what humans think. Ye Wenjie is a young astrophysicist when she sees her father, a physics professor, tortured to death in front of her eyes. Then she’s sent to a labor camp because she’s seen as dangerous to the new order. But then she’s taken to a secret outpost to work again in something close to her old work. This government project supposedly studies satellites but turns out to be quite different.

Ye Wenjie is a very wounded character, understandably. She has lost all faith in humanity in general and despairs in the labor camp when she’s forced to destroy irreplaceable nature. The only comfort she has comes from the work in the secret base and even that is unsatisfying when she’s an outsider.

However, most of the book is set in near future and in a virtual world called Three Body. A surprising number of scientists have killed themselves and the police ask Wang Maio to look into it. As a scientist, he has better chance of understanding why the other scientists are driven to suicide. He follows clues to a virtual world called Three Body where the sun is behaving oddly, causing unstable times when that part of the world is almost inhabitable. The only way the inhabitants can survive is because they can “dehydrate”; they can force all liquid out of their bodies and not require any food or water. The few still conscious ones are trying to find a way to predict the sun’s behavior so that their civilization can continue. Wang Maio becomes absorbed into the world and this three body problem.

Wang Maio who is a physicist working with nanomaterial. He uses the scientific method to find answers to his questions. He has a wife and son but they aren’t shown much in the book.

I found the various settings in the book very compelling. The world of Three Body is quite different from the real world but it takes aspects from the real world, incorporating both civilizations and famous people into the game. I also rather enjoyed the people behind the game.

This is thoughtful SF which has its roots firmly in the real past, namely the Chinese revolution and the way in which it shaped not just individual people but a whole nation. If you’re looking for rayguns and big fight scenes, you won’t find it here. But for readers looking for real science and puzzles to solve, the book can be a treat. However, it does have a lot of exposition and people telling their stories to each other.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuedays is Top Ten Book read in 2014. This has been a good reading year; I’ve read 64 books so far and most of them have been at least good. On the other hand, few stood out as excellent. In the order I read them:

1, Andy Weir: The Martian
A lone man’s struggle to survive on Mars, after he was accidentally abandoned there during a NASA mission.

2, John Scalzi: Redshirts
A parody of various SF TV-shows.

3, Terry Pratchett: Night Watch
Commander Vimes and time travel!

4, Fiction River: Moonscapes
This is a short story collection centered on various moons.

5, Seanan McGuire: The Winter Long
The new October Day book where she finds out some disturbing things about her past.

6, Fiction River: Time Streams
Another short story collection, this time about time travel.

7. Kris Nelscott: A Dangerous Road
A historical mystery during the days when Martin Luther King was murdered.

8, Liu Cixin: The three body problem
An SF story set in China and a virtual reality world.

9, Lois McMaster Bujold: Diplomatic Immunity
One of my favorite book series, ever.

10, Agatha Christie: The Body in the Library

Special mentions to Brust’s Hawk and Priest’s Inexplicables (which I’m currently reading). Mostly I’ve been reading books from familiar authors and it’s always hard to compare them (like one set of friends against each other!).

Rejoice! A new Vlad Taltos book!

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Page count: 320
Publisher: Tor

First things first: Hawk is the fourteenth book in the series and I’m happy to read it, so: I love the characters and the setting, there’s no question about it and I can’t really say how someone who reads Hawk as their first Brust book would feel about it. But briefly: Vlad is a (former) assassin and he’s a human in a world where humans are second-class people (if that) and the world is ruled by Dragaerans (elf like, very long lived people). Vlad used to work in the criminal organization/noble house Jhereg but for almost the whole series he’s had a prize on his head and has been running from the Jhereg. He has just his familiar Loiosh and a few good friends to help him. He had to leave behind his home, wife, and everything he knew before and is quite bitter about it.

He’s also really tired for it and has returned his home city Adrilankha even though that means that he’s in constant danger and worse: he also puts his ex-wife in danger. After surviving an almost successful attack on his life, he has an epiphany and now he might have found a way to get the prize off his head. Of course, it’s not going to be easy and most likely he’ll be double crossed sooner or later. But Vlad might finally be able to return home.

Hawk is written in the first person and in a very conversational style. It’s not a long book and some of the material even seems extraneous with Vlad talking with Loiosh, Kragar, and various other characters. I don’t mind since I love the characters. Especially Sethra and I was happy when Vlad took a detour to the Dzur Mountain. However, that means that there’s actually very little plot in the book, because the majority of pages are just a set up for the big plan. It’s not a bad book by any means but not one of the best, either. But the ending left me very curious about where the series will go in the future. What you will get is sparse descriptions, witty and sarcastic dialog, and Vlad develling so much in his situation than even his familiar tells him to stop it.

Once again, Brust’s book left me craving for more. In fact, I’m thinking of rereading the Khaavren romances.

Collects X-Men #214-228, Annual #10-11, Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1-4

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Barry Windsor-Smith, Bob Wiacek, Alan Davis, Dan Green, Jackson Guice, Mark Sylvester, Bret Belvins, Arthur Adams, Jon Bogdanove

The previous collection ended with Marauders murdering many Morlocks, mutants who live in New York’s sewers, and wounding three X-Men critically (Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler).

This collection starts with Dazzler. The marauder Malice has taken over the mutant singer and she’s using her powers openly. The X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Psylocke) arrive to warn Dazzler about their recent enemies and about the growing human hatred towards mutants. However, Malice prompts Dazzler to attack the team. Malice is an energy based mutant who can unleash a person’s worst side and so persuade them to attack others.

In the next issue the team splits up so FF vs X-Men seems to happen before the rest of the collection. Most of the team is headed to Muir island but Storm and Wolverine stay in the New York state. At the end of the previous collection, the Marauders attacked Morlocks, killed many of them and wounded three X-Men grievously. Shadowcat, Colossus, and Nightcrawler are in such a bad state that they’re going to the Muir island hospital. The new group of Psylocke, Rogue, Longshot, and Dazzler are both guarding them and also learning to work as a team with Banshee training them. Meanwhile, Storm and Wolverine encounter three new super beings, former soldiers who have taken it upon themselves to cleanse their country of criminals whom the justice system ignores for one reason or another. Unfortunately for them, they mistake Storm for a criminal. Issue 216 is quite a philosophical one: The old solders think that they are fully justified in taking “scum” of humanity and hunting them in the woods. This time their prey is Storm and a young woman who seems at first quite helpless but is actually a rich girl who sells drugs for fun and doesn’t shy away from killing. Storm thinks about her own values while evading the super soldiers.

In the next two issues, the new X-Men fight Juggernaut. First Dazzler confronts him alone because she wants to prove that she can and then they fight him as a team. Before Rogue turned into a hero, she attacked Dazzler and Daz accuses her of that, so they have some internal, personal grievances, too.

In the next issue, two old X-Men return: Havok and Polaris. Havok has gone to Xavier’s but returns with just nightmares. When he goes back to the mansion, to his horror he finds quite a different X-Men… and Magneto. However, after the initial misunderstanding, Havok rejoins the team. Meanwhile, the Marauders attack Havok’s girlfriend Polaris. She has magnetic powers and puts up a fight but in the end, the energy being Malice takes over.

Then, the next long storyline kicks into high gear: Storm goes to meet Forge to beg her powers back. However, Forge is gone, leaving behind just holograms of Storm and his own time in Vietnam, where he fought demons by using demons. Forge’s teacher, Naze, confronts Storm and tells her that Forge is a shaman who has been trained to fight the forces of Chaos but Forge has become evil. Naze needs Storm’s help against Forge and she agrees.

The next issues are intertwined with X-Men and Storm’s quest. She battles demons with Naze and we also find out that Naze is actually the bad guy and is training Storm to take out Forge. Meanwhile, the X-Men battle Marauders and Freedom Force while coming to grips with their internal strife. In issue 225, Storm finds Forge and tries to kill him, realizing too late that he was trying to keep Chaos at bay. However, they are whisked into another world where they stay for about a year. Storm gets her powers back and they decide to return to Earth and face Chaos with the X-Men. In the penultimate issue (for this collection) the X-Men and Madelyne Pryor make the ultimate sacrifice and die fighting Chaos.

The final issue (228) is a reminiscent story where where Dazzler writes a letter to her old friend, a bounty hunter, remembering their previous adventure together. Alison has a hunch that her friend is in trouble and leaves the team to help him. Wolverine follows. It turns out that the bounty hunter is in quite a deep trouble indeed and both Dazzler and Wolverine help him.

In Annual 10, Longshot makes his first appearance. The X-Men and Magneto are training in the Danger Room. Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler are in good shape so the story is set before this collection. Mojo sends Longshot to the Danger Room along with mystical goop which transforms the X-Men and Magneto gradually to children. The New Mutants want to investigate their condition but the X-Men run away to Mojo first. The New Mutants take up their individual uniforms and try to follow them. Instead, they’re forced to fight against the mind controlled X-Men.

I don’t have annual 11; it wasn’t published here in Finland.

In Fantastic Four vs. X-Men the little Franklin Richards sees a disturbing dream where his father finds his old diary which leads to the FF and X-Men fighting and killing each other. Then Reed kills his wife and turns into Dr. Doom. In the real world Susan finds’ Reed diary and finds out that Reed had known about the cosmic rays and that they would transform the four. This makes her, of course, really angry with Reed. He protests that he couldn’t have written that but starts to doubt himself; what if he subconsciously had known about the problem? Magneto ask Reed for help with Kitty’s problem: she’s stuck into intangible state and her atoms are starting to drift apart. Reed has built a machine which could save Kitty but his doubts grow and he in the end he refuses to help, fearing that he will kill Kitty. The Dr. Doom offers his own help. The X-Men have deep reservations, but agree. I don’t really think that Reed was in character here. His confidence is taken away awfully easily.

Once again, I really enjoyed most of these stories. The artwork is quite variable and I don’t like Silvestri’s art as much as John Romita Jr’s but I really enjoyed Jackson Guice and Arthur Adams. The characters are the highlight, as usual. The only thing which really bothered me was Storm’s and Forge’s quick romance which suddenly grew into death defying love. I would have wanted them to at least spend some more time together before it developed. I mean they spent grand total of what three issues? four issues? together and during that time Storm was extremely depressed because her powers were gone.

Also, I felt extremely sorry for Polaris and Havok. Their happy life was disrupted and an extremely nasty villain took over Polaris. IIRC, they never recovered from it. Poor Madelyne Pryor is also hunted by Marauders and then have to tag along with the X-Men in order to survive. She also “dies” along with them.

I was also a bit surprised that Rogue is still considered such a rookie. She has a lot more experience than any of the others in the team. But I guess she was still stubborn and acted on impulse a lot. Like, um, 80% of heroes ever.

Overall, a great read.

A Miss Marple mystery.

Publication year: 1952
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011
Format: audio, 8 cds
Publisher of the Finnish translation: WSOY
Finnish translator: Anna-Liisa Laine
Narrated by Lars Swedberg

Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy takes a nap in train and when she wakes up, she witnesses a murder. On a train travelling to the same direction but next to McGillicuddy’s train, a tall, dark man strangles a blond woman. But nobody belives her when she tells about it. At least until she tells her friends, Miss Marple. Marple thinks that they will read about from papers and then the police will listen.

But no such body is found. Miss Marple realizes that she’s a bit old to do her own sleuthing, so she sends Lucy Eyelesbarrow to be her eyes and ears. Lucy is a young and highly sought after housekeeper who rarely stays long in one place. She’s also very intelligent and resourceful, looking for both the body and the murderer.

She goes to old Rutherford Hall which belongs to the highly dysfunctional Crackenthorpe family. The father is old and an invalid and his only surviving daugther looks after him. The father resents his three sons and they in turn resent him.

Lucy is the main POV character, along with detective Dermot Craddock. She’s a delightful narrator and I didn’t mind Craddock, either. The family is full of suspects and the characters are interesting. I throughly enjoyed the book even though the ending was less stellar than other Christie books I’ve read.