December 2017

Here’s the post where I’m going to gather all the books, novellas and comics read next year.
Reading challenges:
Pick and Mix (40) 40 done!
Action heroine (35) 35 done!
Mount TBR (24) 24 done!
Sci-fi experience (1) 4
comics (24) 25 done!

1, Curtis Craddock: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (p&m)
2, Cecily Gayford ed.: Murder under the Christmas tree
3, Jennifer Foehner Wells: Fluency (p&m, scifi)
4, David Baldacci: The Innocent
5, R. E. Stearns: Barbary Station (sci-fi, p&m)

1, Astro City: vol. 7: the Dark Age, Book two: Brothers in arms
2, Birds of Prey vol. 2
3, Birds of Prey vol. 3: The Hunt for Oracle

6, R. J. Theodore: Flotsam (sci-fi, p&m)
7, Robert Jackson Bennett: City of Miracles (p&m)
8, Dan Koboldt: The World Awakening
9, Andrew Vachss: Batman: the Ultimate Evil (mount TBR)
10, Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey: Catwoman (mount TBR)
11, Steven Brust: Vallista (&m)

4, Birds of Prey vol. 3: Of Like Minds (action heroine)
5, Birds of Prey vol. 4: Sensei & Student

12,D. N. Erikson: Bone Realm (action heroine)
13, Kerri L. Hughs, ed.: Fiction River: Alchemy and Steam (mount tbr)
14, Mercedes Lackey: Beauty and the Werewolf (p&m)
15, Madeline Miller: The Song of Achilles (p&m)
16, Justin W. M. Roberts: The Policewoman
17, Alison Morton: Perfiditas
18, Holly Evans: Seers Stone

6, Birds of Prey vol. 5: Between Dark and Dawn
7, Birds of Prey vol. 7: Perfect Pitch

19, Robert Van Gulick, translator: Celebrated cases of Judge Dee (tbr)
20, Martha Wells: All Systems Red (p&m)
21, Kenneth Oppel: Airborn (mount tbr)
22, Jordanna Max Brosky: Olympus Bound (p&m)

8, Black Widow vol. 1: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most wanted
9, Star Wars: Shattered Empire

23, Trish Heinrich: Serpent’s Sacrifice
24, Anthony Hope: The Prisoner of Zenda (tbr)
25, Trish Heinrich: Serpent’s Rise
26, Katharine Neville: The Eight (p&m)
27, Juliet Marillier: Dreamer’s Pool (p&m)
28, Lois McMaster Bujold: The Prisoner of Limnos
29, Trish Heinrich: Shadow Dreams

10, Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter
11, Birds of Prey 10: Club Kids
12, Star Wars: Princess Leia

30, Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric and the Fox
31, Elizabeth Peters: The Serpent on the Crown (mount tbr)
32, Patricia Loofbourrow: The Jacq of Spades
33, Elizabeth Moon: Marque and Reprisal (p&m)
34, Tanya Huff: Fire’s Stone (p&m)
35, Russell Blake: Fatal Exchange (tbr)

13, World War Hulk
14, All-New X-Men vol. 1
15, All-New X-Men vol. 3: Out of their Depth
16, Spider-Island: Warzones

36, N. K. Jemisin: The Stone Sky (tbr)
37, Vincent Zandri: Chase Baker and the Golden Condor (tbr)
38, Elizabeth Moon: Engaging the Enemy (p&m)
39, Kevin J. Anderson: X-Files: Ruins (tbr)
40, Carolyn Keene: Vanishing Act (Nancy Drew files #34) (tbr)
41, J. M. Bannon: The Untold Tales of Dolly Williamson
42, Tracy Townsend: The Nine (p&m)
43, C. T. Phipps: Games of Supervillainy

17, X-Men: Legacy: Salvage
18, Uncanny Avengers vol. 1: Counter-evolutionary
19, X-Men: Schism
20, All-New X-Men vol. 4: All-Different

44, Lee Killough: Deadly Silents (tbr)
45, Carole Nelson Douglas: Catnap (tbr)
46, Kevin J. Anderson: Alternitech (tbr)
47, C. T. Phipps: Secrets of Supervillainy
48, Elizabeth Peters: Guardian of the Horizon (p&m)
49, Andy Weir: Artemis (p&m)
50, Elizabeth Moon: Command Decision (p&m)

21, Batgirl: Greatest stories ever told
22, Batgirlvol 1: the Darkest Reflection

51, Penny Warner: Dead Body Language (tbr)
52, Hannu Rajaniemi: Invisible Planets: collected fiction (p&m)
53, Max Gladstone: Three Parts Dead (tbr)
54, Elizabeth Moon: Victory Conditions (p&m)
55, James S. A. Corey: Leviathan Wakes (p&m)
56, Kerry L. Hughes, ed.: Fiction River: Tavern Tales

23, Batgirl vol 2: Knightfall descends
24, Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walt Simonson, Vol. 1
25, Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walt Simonson, Vol. 2
26, Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walt Simonson, Vol. 3

57, Patrick Weekes: The Prophecy Con (tbr)
58, John Vornholt: Crossfire (tbr)
59, Richard Ellis Preston Jr: Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders (p&m)
60, Karen Wyle: Water to Water
61, Patrick Weekes: The The Paladin Caper (tbr)
62, Genevieve Cogman: The Lost Plot (p&m)
63, Juliet Marillier: Tower of Thorns (p&m)
64, Diane Duane: Intellivore (p&m)

65, Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski: Dyson Sphere (p&m)
66, Nancy A. Collins: Right Hand Magic (p&m, tbr)
67, Bob Mayer: The Rock (tbr)
68, Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith: Flash: the Haunting of Barry Allen (p&m)
69, Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith: Arrow: A Generation of Vipers (p&m)
70, J. Tullos Hennig: Greenwode (p&m)

27, The Flash by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar

71, J.Y. Yang: The Black Tides of Heaven (p%m)
72, James S. A. Corey: Caliban’s War (p&m, tbr)
73, Juliet Marillier: Den of Wolves (p&m)
74, S. P. Somtow: Do Comets Dream? (p&m)
75, J.Y. Yang: Red Threads of Fortune (p&m)
76, Seanan McGuire: Night and Silence (p&m)
77, Anne Logston: Shadow (p&m) reread
78, Dan Abnett: Avengers: Everybody wants to rule the world
79, Greg Cox: Q-Space (p&m)
80, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Searching for the Fleet (p&m)

The third and final book in the Eternal Sky epic fantasy series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 430

Steles of the Sky continues right where Shattered Pillars ended. Al-Sepehr and his assassins seem to be even greater threat than before and our intrepid heroes are really struggling to face him and his allies. Also, when the story starts, the characters have all over the map doing their own things.

Overall, was a good ending to the epic fantasy trilogy with some surprises, too. However, there’s definitely room for more adventures to some of the characters, and the setting is also in an intriguing place.

One of the lesser seen secondary characters starts to call themselves Iskandar which greatly amused me, because that’s one of Alexander the Great’s Eastern names.

“Like any weapon, it only takes one mistake for me to turn in a hand.”

“Comforting thoughts should be questioned more stringently than any others. For they are more likely to lead us astray, as we wish to believe them.”

“It was unwise to dwell on eventualities. Here and now was the only world. Anticipation bred misery.”

Collects issues 1-6 of Xena: Warrior Princess volume 2.

Writer: Genevieve Valentine
Artists: Ariel Medel, Julius Gopez

This limited series is set during season 6 when Xena and Gabrielle have already faced Rome and the current Caesar, Augustus, has made Xena into a champion of Rome, at least in bards’ tales. Xena and Gabrielle team up with a group of fierce female warriors to combat Rome’s cruel ways.

The comic references a lot of stuff from the show, such as Gabrielle’s friendship with Augustus, Xena’s relationship with Borias, and Ares’ obsession with Xena. It’s definitely aimed at fans of the show and I’d recommend watching season 6 at least before reading this. I, uh, really want to rewatch the show after reading this (but I’m in the middle of Flash’s third season and then have Legends of Tomorrow to watch…)

It’s very much in the sprit of the show, although it’s made clear that Gabrielle and Xena are more than friends (which the show didn’t).

I liked the first artist more than the second one. The shift was in the middle of fourth issue and it felt quite jarring to me since the styles are quite different. There’s some unnecessarily revealing female “armor” but no more than is usual to the show.

I didn’t love the comic but liked it quite a lot, especially because it includes our heroes going undercover (which on the show I either loved or cringed through one episode and never watched again). Recommended to fans only.

Today, the topic for Top Ten Tuesdays is Top ten books I’m looking forward to in 2018.

I have so many books in my TBR that’s not funny, especially electronically. I’d like to read all of them. But here are definitely some books that I’m looking forward to more than others, most of the continuations to books I’ve already enjoyed. But this is just the tip of the TBR:

1, “Seven surrenders” and “the Will to Battle” by Ada Palmer
I loved “Too much like the Lightning” to bits and I’m really looking forward to the next two books in the series.
2, Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
I also love “Ninefox Gambit”, although for somewhat different reasons than the previous books and I’d also looking forward to continuing the Machineries of Empire series.
3, Marque and Reprisal by Elizabeth Moon
Another SF series I started this year and I’m looking forward to continuing it.
4, Perifiditas by Alison Morton
I also started an alternate reality thriller series this year, Roma Nova, which I fully intend to continue.
5, The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold
I’ve really enjoyed the short fantasy novellas centered of Penric and I’m looking forward to the next one and however many Bujold ends up writing.
6, The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman
I loved the setting and the characters in this series and I’m eager to devour the next offering.
7, Vallista by Steven Brust
I’ve enjoyed the Vlad Taltos series for quite a few years and I’m hoping that the next book will be just as enjoyable as the rest.
8, Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh
I’ve read quite a few books from Cherryh but haven’t yet started her latest series.
9, The next Toby Daye book by Seanan McGuire
I love the series!
10, The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
The Broken Earth series has been a rollercoaster ride and I’m really curious to see how it will end.

Happy holidays to everyone who is celebrating!

The second book in the Eternal Sky epic fantasy series.

Publication year: 2013
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 333

Bear plays with lots of epic fantasy troupes here. It’s not my favorite Bear book but it could be because I’m not really that interested in epic fantasy anymore. Please read the first book “Range of Ghosts” first because she doesn’t waste pages recapping what came before (which is good IMHO).

Re Temur who is the grandson of the great but dead Khagan is still in exile, looking for his lover Edene who was kidnapped by ghosts. However, his quest has changed. Now he, and his companions, are also looking for a way to wrest power from Temur’s usurper uncle and to unite the steppe tribes once again. To do that, Temur has to find a band of loyal steppe soldiers. But first, he needs to rescue Edene from Ala-Din, the headquarters of the followers of the Nameless, the Scholar-God. They’re also assassins who are hunting the small group.

Samarkar-la is a wizard and a former princess. She’s only recently come to her power but has studied magic for years. She’s also in love with Temur and follows him loyally. She’s also looking for a way to stop the leader of the assassins. Hsiung is a mute warrior-monk and Hrahima is a warrior from a tiger-like species. They’ve become a tightly knit band of friends who are very capable of facing the challenges of the road and the assassins.

Meanwhile, a terrible plague is sweeping across the lands. The wizards in Tsarepheth are trying to fight it, while struggling with intrigue. Also, the leader of the Assassins, al-Sepehr, has sent one of his people to cement Temur’s uncle’s claim to become the Khagan, the king of all steppe tribes.

Much like in the first book, in “Shattered Pillars” the main group is moving from place to place with disaster and assassins on their heels. The people around them plot and plan and we see glimpses of them. This book has many POV characters, some of them new.

I like particularly two characters: Edene, who was a secondary character at best in the first book, rose to an unexpected prominence in this one. I loved her development. She was a spirited steppe woman in the first book and now she’s heavily pregnant with a magic ring which gives her extraordinary powers. She managed to escape her captors and encounters dog-faced ghulim who seem to worship her as a queen. She’s determined to keep her unborn child safe and also rescue Temur from whatever dangers he’s facing. And the best way to do that is to become the queen of an evil, mythical place! Loved that even though I don’t really see how she can have a happy ending. I also really grew to like Saadet who is the twin of one of the lead assassins. Her situation is very complicated and interesting.

This whole series is set in a world that has clearly been inspired by the Mongols and the Middle-East. There are some twists to the cultures, which I quite liked, too, such as the Scholar-God being female and yet her religion has been twisted into supporting oppression of women. Apparently, women are so holy that they can’t be seen by men or do anything but menial labor…

The series has a lot of women with agency which was great. Bear also plays with the roles that men and women usually play in epic fantasy books.

“What was a book? Not just ink and fiber and stitchery: a series of processes. To a wizard, it was not a static object–but a human thought caught and bound, made concrete through sacred technology. Magic, then, and a deep form of it.”

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. This week, the Top 5 Wednesdays topic is Top 5 Books of 2017.

The year hasn’t ended yet but this is my top 5, so far. Happily, I read quite a few excellent books this year but still the choice was pretty easy.

1, Ada Palmer: Too Like the Lightning
2, Robert Jackson Bennett: City of Blades
3, Yoon Ha Yee: Ninefox Gambit
4, N. K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season
5, Seanan McGuire: The Brightest Fell

The first book in an alternate reality series set in modern times.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook, kindle
Publisher: Silver wood books
Page count: 319 (at GoodReads)

The story starts in the present-day New York but in another reality. Karen Brown is a pretty ordinary young woman with a low-level job at a marketing firm. But her real passion is her volunteer work at the Kew Park. However, when she asks a group of young men to stop harassing an old Native man she has no idea what sort of trouble she finds herself in. One of the men has very influential parents and Karen is banned from the park. But soon she has a lot of other things to think. Strange men follow her, and she meets a particularly handsome man who seems to take a special interest in her. Then she finds out that her family isn’t quite whom she thought them to be. Her mother, who passed away years ago, left her a legacy which her uncle and aunt have kept a secret from her after her father’s death. Soon, government agents are harassing her, and her only ally is that handsome man from Nova Roma. Should she trust him?

This is a modern-day thriller but set in an alternate reality where a group of powerful Roman families established their own country, Roma Nova, which survived to the modern day. However, the Roman customs had to give way to more practical considerations and in this country, and world, women are able to rise to powerful positions and do so. Even though Karen’s mother is from Roma Nova, she doesn’t know anything about the country and we find out alongside her. However, we don’t really see much about the day-to-day customs which was a small disappointment. I would have loved to see more of the ordinary Roma Novans.

The first part of the book is a fast-paced thriller but in the second part things slow down quite a bit and Karen’s character development takes the center stage. She chooses to change quite a lot and becomes responsible for her own life and choices. While she isn’t a timid person at the start, she is quite a normal young woman without any experience with criminal matters or anything like that, so she feels quite out of control and even a victim at times. Later the pace quickens again somewhat but not as much as it was at the start. That’s not a complaint, though. Karen’s life changes quite a bit and it’s natural that it doesn’t do so in just a few days.

In fact, the story has been divided into four parts, which correspond with how Karen’s life changes. They’re almost episodic, like a miniseries instead of a continuous story (again not a complain but an observation). Unfortunately, there were a couple of things I didn’t care for. One of them was how quickly Karen becomes a fighter and not just an ordinary fighter but with some very special skills which I doubt can be learnt in just a couple of months. Also, Karen’s change in circumstances seems like wish fulfillment.

The cast of characters changes three times in the book while Karen’s life changes, too. At first, she has only one friend in the ad agency and any friends she made at the park do not contact her again. Later, we get quite intriguing characters, a couple of them powerful and elderly women.

The story has the obligatory romance, too. I didn’t mind it at first, because we didn’t get the usual nonsense reasons stopping them from getting together. Unfortunately, those reasons did come up later. But even though I’m not a romance reader, I wasn’t too annoyed by Karen’s romantic entanglements. In fact, I was content with the ending.

The story is written in first person POV. There are also brief chapters from the POV of the main antagonist, a high ranking and very skilled man who has a personal grudge against Karen.

Some of the next books in the series are in audio, so I’m going to try the next book, Perfiditas, in that format.

Carl invites all of us to take part in his 2018 Sci-Fi Experience.

The 2018 Sci-Fi Experience will hopefully give people an opportunity to:

a) Continue their love affair with science fiction
b) Return to science fiction after an absence, or
c) Experience for the first time just how exhilarating science fiction can be.

If you have ever wanted to give science fiction a try, or are already a fan of the genre and are looking for a group of kindred spirits, this is the event for you.

This is a very laid back event. There are no challenges to meet, no limits to how little or much you can participate. You can read short stories, novels, comics, art books…anything with a science fictional bent. You can read nonfiction about space, space travel, other planets, etc. You can watch television shows, films, YouTube series. You can play video or table top games. You can also just fire up your blog and wax eloquent about those science fiction artists whose work you admire.

I’m delighted to see this event back. I love SF and I love to read reviews, musings, anything with an SF twist. I’m joining but I don’t know yet with how many posts.

Currently I’m in the middle of two fantasy books and also one which is set in modern day but in an alternate reality. So, I guess that last book can be categorized as SF. It’s Alison Morton’s “Inceptio” the first book in the Roma Nova series. I’ll have the review up soon. Otherwise, I’ve downloaded quite a few free books this year and while most of them are fantasy, there are also many science fiction books among them. Of course, Christmas time is a busy time otherwise so I’m hoping that I’ll have time to read more in January.

Of course, I’m going to watch the new Star Wars movie (tomorrow!) but the net is going to be full of reviews and opinions about it. I’m also watching the third season of Flash and some other superhero shows, but I don’t know if I’ll write about them.

Books read:
1, Alison Morton: Inceptio
2, Jennifer Foehner Wells: Fluency
3, R. E. Stearns: Barbary Station
4, R. J. Theodore: Flotsam

The novelization of the first Underworld movie.

Publication year: 2003
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket star books
Page count: 375

I really enjoyed Selene, the gothic setting, and the world building in the movie Underworld. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for the romance which was the linchpin to the plot.

In the novelization the romance is present right at the start. Right at the beginning, before the gunfight at the subway station, Selene and Michael notice each other among the crowds and are immediately taken by each other. Unfortunately, I don’t find their romance in the book any more convincing than in the movie. Oh, I can just about believe that Selene, who has been a stoic werewolf hunter for 600 years without any romantic feelings at all, could find Michael attractive. But for her to quite suddenly abandon her coven for him in just an afternoon… is less believable. Then again, I’d also want any excuse to get away from Kraven, if I were Selene.

The book is very faithful to the movie, for the most part. There are some scenes which aren’t in the movie though it could be that they were cut afterwards or cut from the script. Since the book has multiple POV characters, we get to see the thoughts of most of the characters who appear in the film. Even though Selene is outwardly calm, she goes through more emotions in the book than in the movie. I understand that a stoic character can be difficult to make appealing to a reader. Unfortunately, her stoic get-the-job done attitude is one of the things I really liked in the movie, so the book kind of undermines that.

The book has around dozen different POV characters and unfortunately Selene was the only one who appealed to me. I didn’t care for Kraven in the movie either but his POV here is almost excruciating. He lusts after Selene but abuses her and everyone else around him.

The scenes are short with rapidly changing POVs. We do find out a few interesting details about vampire life which weren’t in the movie but otherwise it’s just a movie in a book form.

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