January 2016


This is a collection of three short steampunk novellas. I got an ebook in exchange for an honest review. The main character Maliha is a biracial woman and she needs a walking stick.

Format: ebook
Page count: 258

The year for the stories isn’t clearly stated until in the third novella. They take place during the reign of Edward II but in an alternate world where anti-gravity machines, called Faraday devices, have been invented and are used by the British Empire. Also, it seems that the British have gone to Venus and Mars which have at least plants.

Alice Maliha Anderson is the daughter of a high-born Indian lady and a Scottish engineer. Her family lives in India but Maliha has been sent to a boarding school in Britain. Unfortunately, the other girls made her life very unpleasant and her leg was also permanently injured during her school years so that she needs a cane to walk around. She’s a determined lady who has learned not to let anyone or anything stand in her way. But she’s keenly aware that she isn’t white enough to be British or dark enough to be Indian. She’s also very used to nobody wanting to even talk to her and keeping all people at an arm’s length. She’s a very proper Victorian woman with regards to personal relationships.

“Murder out of Blue” is the first novella where Maliha is finally returning home to India to her family via Ceylon. She travels by a flying ship which uses a Faraday device. That lessens the effects of gravity and allows her to walk without the cane. She travels in first class with a colorful company. At first, she’s keenly aware that everyone keeps an eye out on her but then she makes a few friends. However, then the body of one of the passengers is found murdered and much to her surprise, Maliha finds out that she’s also a suspect.

Another passenger urges Maliha to investigate; it seems that Maliha had solved another case earlier. Inspector Forsyth from Ceylon police department doesn’t want a woman messing in his case but he quickly realizes that she’s exceptionally perceptive. Maliha also meets Mr. William Crier who doesn’t appear to be intimidated by a strong woman.

The second novella, “Blood Sky at Night”, is set in Ceylon. A woman who Maliha knew at the boarding school is in trouble and she intends to contact Maliha for help. But before she can do so, she’s murdered. The woman’s pupil contacts Maliha instead. The pupil is a princess from a Bali royal line and the only survivor of a recent massacre. This time Inspector Forsyth and his deputy Detective Constable Choudhary can’t avoid Maliha getting involved in the case.

“Halo Around the Moon” is the third novella and it’s set mostly on Ceylon. One of Mr. Crier’s distant friends has died seemingly in a riding accident and he travels to the mainland of India for the funeral. He invites Maliha along because he wants to be sure that his young friend really died from an accident and because he wants to spend more time with the aloof and proper woman.

The novellas are entertaining and each novella gets better (and longer). None of them end in a cliffhanger and the first two can be read as a stand-alones. The short length means that the stories don’t have much space for red herrings, tough. They have romance only as a possible undercurrent, until the third novella. The stories have some non-hetero people and they also deal with racism and colonialism. The one thing the stories lack is humor. Maliha is always earnest and serious.

I enjoyed the stories even though sometimes the sentence structures are awkward (for example “The horse had leapt the fallen tree trunk without a problem and although there had been no pace adjustment but something had gone wrong.” “Both raised their hats as drew closer.”) and I would have liked to get more descriptions of people and places. Maliha is a delightful protagonist and the stories have a historical feel.

The next story, Wind in the East, seems to be a full-length novel.

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A Discworld novel about Christmas.
Publication year: 1996
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 348
Translator: Marja Sinkkonen
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Karisto

The Auditors hire a crazy Assassin Johnathan Teatime to kill Hogfather. Teatime gathers up a band robbers and happily does what he was hired to do.

Every year at the end of the year, Hogfather gets into his sleigh, drawn by hogs, and flies around the world to give gifts to all nice children who have hung their stockings up. But rich kids get more and better gifts than poor kids, and kids get gifts that parents think are appropriate for them. This greatly puzzles the current Hogfather, Death. He and his trusty manservant Albert fly around Discworld in the Hogfather’s sleigh. Meanwhile, Death’s granddaughter Susan is trying to be an ordinary governess to a merchant’s kids (awkward when Susan is a duchess). When she finds out what Death is up to, she gets really angry and starts to investigate what’s happening.

Meanwhile, something stranger than usual is happening in the Unseen University.

This is a book about belief.
Look, it’s great. Go and read it!

“HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”

“YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.”
“So we can believe the big ones?”
“YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.”

“The phrase ‘Someone ought to do something’ was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider ‘and that someone is me’.”

(Instead of even trying to review a Pratchett book, I should just post quotes.)

This year I’m going to focus more on reading authors already familiar to me but I’m most likely going to read new authors, too, so I’m joining again New Authors challenge. This year I can choose the number of new authors I’ll read so I’m choosing 10.

1, The challenge will run from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016.
2, Since this is an author challenge, there is no restriction on choosing your novels. They can definitely be from other challenges. However, the authors must be new to you and, preferably from novels. Anthologies are a great way to try someone new, but only a third of your new authors can be from short stories/novellas or anthologies.
3, I want this to be an easy challenge, so you tell me how many new authors you want to discover. If it’s 1 or 100, go for it. It all depends on how fast you read and how adventurous you want to be.
4, After reading your new author, write your review and then come back here and add your link to the form.
5, Bloggers or Non-Bloggers alike are welcome. You don’t have to have a site to participate. You can link up via Facebook, GoodReads or even Amazon if you’d like.

Once you reach your goal, you don’t have to stop. Any new author you try, go ahead and head back here and add it to the list. Introduce us all to whoever you find. Afterall, there’s no reason to stop trying new authors, right?

I’m going to choose 10 new authors.
1, Steve Turnbull: Maliha Anderson Mysteries volume 1
2, Dan Koboldt: The Rogue Retrieval
3, Lindsay Buroker: Torrent
4, Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin: A Vision of Fire
5, Jodi Taylor: Just One Damned Thing After Another
6, Wesley Chu: Time salvager
7, Jordanna Max Brodsky: The Immortals
8, Sebastien de Castell: Traitor’s Blade
9, Joanna M. Harris: The Gospel of Loki
10, Laura Resnick: Maybe You’ve Heard of Me?
11, Becky Chambers: The Long Way to the Small, Angry Planet
12, Karl K. Gallagher: Torchship
13, Austin Grossman: Soon I will be invincible
14, Robert A. Heinlein: Double Star
15, Leigh Brackett: Eric John Stark: An Outlaw of Mars
16, Adam Roberts: Salt
17, Alma Alexander: Empress
18, Mikkel Birkegaard: The Library of Shadows
19, S. C. Flynn: Children of the Different
20, Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library
21, Claire North: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
22, China Miéville: The City and the City
23, Rachel Aaron: The Spirit Thief
24, Matthew Hughes: Majestrum
25, John David Krygelski: Time Cursor

Collects FF 1-5


Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Steve Epting, Barry Kitson

The storylines from the Fantastic Four continue here and they could be confusing to people who haven’t read the previous issues. In this trade, we find out what became from Val’s deal with Doom and what happened with the Reeds from alternate universes: they’re now running around in the main universe and apparently trying to wreck it in the name of greater good. This is all very exciting but I’m just not sure that destroying Earth in order to help other planets is really something Reed would do, so it seems a strange goal for the alternate Reeds.

But first, the fallen FF member gets a replacement: Spider-Man. However, I felt that Peter is here quite muted. Maybe the loss of a friend which is probably on his mind all the time does it. But he’s clearly not the main star there, the FF are. He just hangs around, not doing much.

The first issue ends with Doom teaming up with the FF. The rest of the team doesn’t want anything to do with him but Reed and Valeria force it to happen. Reed and Valeria also establish a council of villains which consists of the High Evolutionary, Diablo, the Mad Thinker and Wizard and his A. I. M. flunkies in addition to Doom. They’re supposed to give Reed advice on how to defeat the other Reeds. The problem with this, as Susan points out, is that the FF has defeated them many times so I’m not sure how they can be of assistance. But the snark level is high.

Frankly, after “Three” this is a bit of a let-down and not as entertaining. The storyline doesn’t end in five issues, either, but is just heating up. But we get Doom and Kristoff. And the Future Foundation kids who are always fun.

The second book in the science fiction series.


Publication year: 2003
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours and 5 minutes
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Gregory Linington

Three years after the surviving scientists returned from an alien planet which the human-like natives call “the World” (in Probability Moon), another expedition is finally seriously considered. It’s a joint civilian and military mission with hand-picked people and some of those surviving scientists will be returning. However, they know that the Worlders declared humans “unreal” so they’re expecting trouble; being unreal means that the Worlders will not literally see them or have anything to do with them, except to kill them. But the previous team discovered that the World itself has an artifact which could change the balance of war between humans and alien Fallers to the humans’ favor. However, the humans need to study the artifact which is buried in an area of the planet which is sacred to the Worlders. Also, removing the artifact could mean the end of the Worlders’ peaceful way of life.

Tom Capelo is a brilliant scientist but a jerk. His wife was killed by the Fallers and so he hates and loathes them. She was killed on a supposedly safe world so now Capello takes his two young daughters, and their nanny, everywhere with him. Including to an alien planet. He’s also prone to irrational rages and blackouts following the rage.

Major Lyle Kaufman is the military leader of the non-military mission. He doesn’t care for the natives and is focused on his goal.

Ann was on the original mission. She cares about the aliens and is furious about how the humans are going to callously change their lives.

Enli is the native who dealt most with the Terrans last time and now she’s also drawn into this situation even though she doesn’t really want anything to do with humans anymore. But she’s one of the few Worlders who know the Terran language.

The Worlders have decided that humans are real because of the actions of one of the humans left behind in the last book, so the humans get a different welcome than they expected and the Worlders are will to trade with the humans. However, they’re not happy about the humans’ plans to desecrate their holy place.

Another plot line follows a Faller prisoner of war and Marbet Grant. She’s a civilian Sensitive, an empath, and she’s given the task of interrogating the only alive Faller humans have been able to capture. The Faller is kept on the same ship than Kaufman’s team (which I found a bit strange) and Grant does her rather unusual best to do what she can. Considering that humans and Fallers don’t have a common language and that humans don’t know anything about Faller culture, the task isn’t easy.

The science part of the book is probability. The setting has probability bosons called probons. I find them fascinating but I’m not a scientist in any way so I can’t say if they’re made up or not.

In the first book, the Worlders and their civilization were a big part of the story. Now, they’re a back drop and Kress assumes that the reader is familiar with their culture of sheared reality. They’re part of the big moral questions, of course; if humans can or should wreck an entire culture in order to have a chance at winning a war (the other moral question is the treatment of alien prisoners of war). I found the book well written and engaging. The humans seemed quite real with their flaws.

The ending left an opening for the next, and final, book but it gave enough closure that the reader isn’t forced to continue. But I’ll be continuing into the next one soon!

Collects Fantastic Four # 583-588

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Steve Epting, Paul Mounts, Rick Magyar, Mike Perkins, Nick Dragotta

The original issues collected here had a “countdown to casualty” in their covers and that in the end one FF member would die. I, of course, scoffed at it. Let’s face it, there’s been many, many times one of the FF has either fake died or it has been a member from alternate time line or future (yeah, I’m looking at you Miller, as the latest gimmicky “death” writer). This time around… well, I’m not going to spoil it.

The first issue focuses on Valeria, who is now apparently smarter than Reed but still very young. She breaks into Reed’s lab and finds out that he’s been working on the Bridge and what happened because of that. Then, she figures that she needs Doom’s help and teleports herself to his castle. However, Doom has suffered brain damage (apparently on the pages of Hulk?) and isn’t himself anymore. Val strikes a bargain with Doom: she’ll help him get his intellect back and he helps Reed. Also: Val makes a big mistake while spying on her dad.

In the next issue Ben (finally) takes the medicine the kids concocted to him: he gets to be a human for one week each year. The serum takes effect and Ben returns to normal. He and Johnny have a great day. But it all ends when Galactus comes calling: he knows about the future Galactus’ corpse buried deep in the Earth (last seen in Millar’s run). Also, we see Susan really taking on the mantle of Speaker for Man. When the FF found a lost civilization on the bottom of Antarctica, it had three races from an ancient Atlantis living in it. They needed an arbiter from the world of humans, the Voice of Man, and Susan volunteered for it. Now, she going to negotiate a deal between Namor and the other Atlantis people.

Then each of the situations escalate and the group divides to deal with different threats. Susan is trying to defuse a war under the seas and Reed is trying to save the Nu-World from Galactus. Meanwhile back in the Baxter Building Johnny, a powerless Ben, and the Future Foundation kids are dealing with a possible invasion from the Neutral Zone. One of the original members of FF is indeed lost.

In the final issue the remaining FF mourn their fallen member along with all the superhuman community. Even some villains turn up to respect the fallen hero. It’s mostly a soundless comic and the talk at the end between Spider-Man and Franklin is very touching.

These stories start the big pay-off and they also bring a big change to the FF. Hickman has several storylines going and I don’t think it was too obvious who was going to die. (Although I suspected all along that it wouldn’t be Susan because of the kids.) Still, the death hits everyone hard and the almost soundless comic captures that beautifully. Dragotta’s art is different from Epting’s, reminiscent of Kirby, which is fitting. Again I enjoyed the characterizations and especially blustering Namor crying “Imperious Rex!” and Johnny first making fun of Ben and then being with him when he explores the world as a human. The new Yancy Street Gang was also fun. Highly entertaining comic.

Next up is the Future Foundation and a new member to replace the fallen one.

Collects Fantastic Four # 579-582
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Neil Edwards, Andrew Currie

This collection starts with Reed, essentially, calling an end to people fearing the future and instead tells them to dream and plan big. And because he’s disappointed in others’ inability to do just that he quits Singularity (apparently a place for all scientists to gather) and starts the Future Foundation where he had already gathered many of the world’s brightest young minds, including Valeria, Alex Power, Bentley (the clone of Wizard), and Dragon Man. This is both a pay-off from previous issues and a set-up for lots of future stuff.

Then we get a fun, wacky issue where Johnny takes Franklin and Leech toy shopping for Impossible Man’s new toys. However, they go to a store owned by Arcade and hijinks ensure! We also get glimpses of what’s happening in Nu-World and the story ends with a surprise: The Future Foundation kids just might have found a partial cure for Ben!

Next is a two-issue time traveling and dimension hopping adventure for Ben, Reed… and Victor von Doom. We finally get to know whatever happened to Reed’s dad Nathaniel Richards whom Byrne revealed to have been a dimension traveling scientist. Nathaniel has so big problems that he comes to Reed when Reed’s still studying in university. But the reason Nathaniel shows up is not to ask for help, otherwise he would have showed much later in Reed’s life, like Nathaniel admits, but to say good-bye to his son. Of course Reed wants to help his dad (duh!) but the only one with the required inventions is another student, Victor. We also find about what the future Franklin and Valeria are up to. And it’s huge!

This is the collection where the set-ups start to pay off. But 12 issues of set up is a long time. Still, I really enjoy Hickman’s characterizations, having the kids around and doing stuff, and the large cast around FF. Johnny’s and Franklin’s relationship is shown more than ever before (I think). Now, the two issue story here is a bit confusing even to me and I consider myself an experienced time travel reader. 🙂 Still, it’s overall a very enjoyable collection unless you really hate Arcade, of course.

Next up is “Three”!

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