November 2018


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Platonic Relationships In Books (friendships, parent/child, siblings, family, etc.) .

Many SFF books and series have a romance between the two (or more) central characters. But most of my favorite relationships are platonic, so it was very difficult to choose just ten.

1, Miles and Aral Vorkosigan by Lois McMaster Bujold
Aral is a mighty figure in the Vorkosigan science fiction series: a military genius, admiral of a space fleet, a man with a very strong moral compass. His son Miles is born with physical deformities because of a toxin he and his mother were exposed to before he was born. Miles is always trying to please his father and to even surpass him.

2, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garwin by Peter O’Donnell
Modesty and Willie are former criminals whose hard life has knit them together, closer than friends or lovers. They can always depend on each other.

3, Cutter and Skywise by Wendy and Richard Pini
The young, hotheaded chief of Wolfriders is best friends with Skywise “brothers in all but blood”.

4, Temeraire and his captain Will Laurence by Naomi Novik
Laurence was a sea ship captain when he accidentally got a dragon egg and the dragon who fledged from it imprinted on him. So, Laurence became the captain of a huge dragon – a position which isn’t appreciated by his family or the society at large. Fortunately, being friends with Temeraire and the other dragons and their captains has its own rewards.

5, Toby Daye and the sea witch by Seanan McGuire
McGuire has several great relationships in her series. Toby has her strange mother, her liege lord, her death omen/sister, and a lot of friends. But my favorite is her relationship with the Luidaeg. For many fairies, the sea witch is a terrifying figure, old and very powerful. She’s also Toby’s aunt and helps her often, but always for a price. If Toby has nothing more to offer, she must agree to help the sea witch in the future. Toby has made quite a few such promises already…

6, Blackthorn and Grim by Juliet Marillier
They’re both convicts who had a chance to escape and took it. In the awful prison they were in, Grim latched on to Blackthorn as his lifeline and now follows her. They both have pasts which they’re reluctant to reveal to anyone, even each other. But they’re loyal to each other to death.

7, Buffy and Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
They stick together through everything.

8, Sam and Frodo by J. R. R. Tolkien

9, Penric and Desdemona by Lois McMaster Bujold
Their relationship is, of course, quite different because Desdemona is an elemental spirit trapped inside Penric (called demons in this world). However, they’ve developed a strong friendship beyond their bond.

10, Shadow and Donya by Anne Logston
It’s been a long time since I read Logston’s books, but I still remember the great friendship the elven thief Shadow had with Donya who is a human noblewoman. I need to reread this series soonish.

The first book in a Robin Hood retelling (or rather a reinterpretation) with a gay Robin.

Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 17 hours 22 minutes
Narrators: Ross Pendleton

This retelling is set during the time of king Richard the Lionheart (1185 to be exact), as usual, but otherwise it’s somewhat different from the others I’ve read because we don’t really see any of the Merry Men because this story begins when Robin is quite young, before he was an outlaw. His parents and sister Marion are significant characters.

The Normans have established themselves as the lords of England and have brought their Christianity, as well. The local Saxons have their own customs and their religion of the Horned God (also called Hunter, Cernunnos) and the Lady (also called the Maiden). The Church is trying to, of course, stamp out the old religion.

Adam of Loxley is the local lord’s gamekeeper and he’s also the Horned Lord’s representative in the mortal world while his wife is the representative of the Lady. His wife, Elunet, is a wise woman and a healer. However, the Horned Lord has already chosen his next representative: Adam’s teenaged son Rob who is also called Hob-Robyn by his mother.

Rob has quite a temper and he makes no secret that he’s attracted to other men. He’s proud and it’s sometimes difficult for him to act as a humble Saxon. He’s also disdainful of the new religion. His elder sister Marion is somewhat less stubborn and calmer.

The local lord is the Earl of Huntingdon. He has three sons but loves the youngest the best. Gamelyn is more of a scholar than a fighter but has learned to use the sword as well. His eldest brother is a brutal teacher. Gamelyn wants to become a scholar and the only way to do that is to become a monk. However, when his horse throws him and Rob finds him, his destiny becomes something quite different.

The young men are at odds as first, especially because Rob despised Normans and the casual brutality they inflict on the peasants, like him. However, he can’t deny that he’s attracted to the red-headed young lord. Gamelyn, for his part, is a devout Catholic and that means that love between men is an abomination to him.

Rob and Gamelyn make quite a cute pair but the moment Gamelyn is away from Rob, he’s overcome with shame and remorse. I’m also not quite sure why Rob is attracted to him in the first place. Gamelyn wants to be a dutiful son to his elderly father and wants to be a scholar. When he’s attracted to Rob, his whole identity is called to question.

This retelling is heavily bound in myths and the struggle between religions as well as the romance between Rob and Gamelyn. Sometimes Rob’s Horned Lord speaks to him in his mind. The Lady also speaks to Marion. There’s also an old druid who apparently sees the future. The Christians don’t seem to have any magic but the only Christian whose POV we get is Gamelyn.

The cultures are described well, through the characters. Both sides are convinced that they’re right and they demonize the other. The Christians revile the pagans as amoral like animals and the Saxons think that the Christian god is a hypocrite talking of love and yet it’s alright to hurt the Saxons and deny same-sex love.

The book ends in a very dark cliffhanger.

The second book in a duology of books set in the Flash/Arrow tv-show universe. It’s also a crossover between the Flash and Arrow tv-shows this time focusing on team Arrow.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Publisher: Titan books
Page count: 409

The second book in the Flash and Arrow crossover starts immediately after the end of the first book, the Haunting of Barry Allen. I think it’s set during fourth season of Arrow because team Arrow is Oliver, Felicity, Digg, and Thea as Speedy. Oliver is in relationship with Felicia and she’s the CEO of Palmer Technologies.

Barry, the Flash, is experiencing blurring when he’s afraid or stressed out and it’s getting worse. He blurs (becomes motionless and insubstantial while hallucinating about his elder self and about Zoom as Wells) more often even though Oliver has taught him mediation which previously worked to keep the blurs under control. They’re happening because of otherworldly plasma is multiplying in his blood stream. However, there might be a way to save him. One of Queen Consolidates’ previous employees worked on a wat to open stable wormholes. Since the plasma came (apparently) to Barry’s blood stream during the wormhole incident (at the end of season 1), Cisco and Felicity think they can cure Barry with the machine. But the inventor is dead. Now the heroes must find his work and use it to cure Barry. However, other people want the research, too.

As a secondary plot, we get to see Oliver and Thea before Oliver goes to the island. Oliver has a Croatan friend Ghasi who gets into fights often. Oliver’s other friends don’t really like him and Thea downright despises him, but Oliver stays by his friend. In present time, Ghasi wants the research as well and is a cunning opponent. In the flashbacks we also get to see characters from the first season, such as Oliver’s parents and Tommy Merlyn.

The main POV character is Oliver but we also get small glimpses from the POVs of Felicity and Barry.

This was just as a delightful read as the first book in the series: if you liked it, you’re most likely going to like this as well unless you don’t like Oliver. This being an Arrow book, it’s centered on Team Arrow. In fact, the story switches very quickly to Star City. Barry and later Cisco joins them, but the rest of the team Flash don’t really show. This was my big disappointment: I like the Flash show much more than Arrow. However, I don’t think this book was as depressing as the Arrow show usually is: nobody left a relationship, died, or messed up their friendship. In fact, it’s quite upbeat for an Arrow episode. It was also great to see John and Lyla kicking ass together because the show doesn’t give them enough action scenes together.

First in a duology of books set in the Flash/Arrow tv-show universe. It’s also a crossover between the Flash and Arrow tv-shows.

Publication year: 2016
Format: print
Publisher: Titan books
Page count: 416

I really like the Flash tv-show and was pleasantly surprised to find books about it. Of course, the quality of tie-in books can vary quite a lot, like with all books. However, I’ve already enjoyed the Vampire Empire series from the Griffiths, so I knew their writing style. Happily I ended up enjoying this book quite a lot. I think this is set during the second season because Iris West is part of team Flash and knows that Barry is Flash but she’s not dating Barry. She’s also still a journalist.

Central City is in danger from various metavillains’ attacks: the Weather Wizard conjures terrible weather, the homicidal Mist turns into poisonous gas, and the Prism puts people into homicidal rage and they start to attack each other. The Mist and the Prism have also a grudge against detective Joe West, Barry’s foster father.

Soon, team Flash realizes that the villains are working together and the teleporting Peekaboo is helping them, and that the Pied Piper is organizing them. Then the Flash starts to see an older version of himself, tired and scared, telling himself to run faster. The visions happen during dangerous times: when he’s running to help people or catch the villains. During these times he “blurs” becomes intangible and freezes up. He also hallucinates other people. When Barry finally tells the team about it, they insist that he call in back up: Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow.

Barry is the major POV character, but we also get POV from Joe, Iris, and briefly from Oliver. From the villains’ side, only Shawna Baez is a POV character which is something of a relief because I, for one, am not interested in being in the head of a homicidal killer. The characters are introduced briefly but for the most part, the reader is expected to know them, so you should watch the show before reading the book.

Of course, a tie-in book can’t have character development for the main cast. Oliver brings with him Felicity and John Diggle, so the cast grows to be quite large. However, I think the Griffiths handle them easily.

This is a great book for the fans of the show: the characters are in character and we get some friendly bickering from them, familiar from the show. Barry’s problems with the blurs continue into the next book, A Generation of Vipers and I’m diving into it next.

Collects The Flash 130-141, material from 80-Page Giant; Green Lantern 96; Green Arrow 130; & material from JLA: Secret Files. First published in 1997 and 1998.

Writers: Grant Morrison and Mark Millar
Artists: a lot

This is the first Flash comic I’ve read because his own comic hasn’t been published here in Finland. I think only Batman and Superman have had their own comics here before recent years. Also, we got one Green Arrow/Green Lantern cross-over publication years ago. In the last couple of years, we got three Green Lantern albums and one Wonder Woman album. Of course, I’ve read Justice League comics and that’s the way I’m familiar with Wally West.

However, I was completely unfamiliar with Wally’s supporting crew: Impulse, Max Mercury, and Linda Park. Alright, Linda was briefly in the Flash tv-show, as were Jay Garrick and Jesse Quick but they all seem quite different from this comic incarnation. So, I was really thrown in the deep end in these stories, character-wise. And this is set in Keystone City, not the Central City of the TV-show.

It collects four three-part stories and three one-off issues.

In “Emergency stop” the speedsters encounter the Suit who shows them Wally’s dead body and challenges Wally to stop his own death. Wally’s legs are broken during the story.

“Death at the top of the world” is a cross-over with Green Lantern (Kyle) and Green Arrow (Connor) where they take Wally to an Alaskan cruise for a holiday. Unfortunately, three supervillains are also on the cruise.

In “The Human Race” alien beings force Wally to race against a member of another alien species and if Wally doesn’t win, Earth will be destroyed. If Wally’s opponent wins, his world is destroyed. How can Wally prevent both?

In “the Black Flash” Max realized that death has come to take a speedster, specifically Wally. In the end, Wally races Death itself.

These were all pretty entertaining. Wally works really nicely together with the other speedsters and it feels like he’s part of a speedster/superhero family. His girlfriend Linda is a journalist and almost constantly in danger. She even dies in this collection and Wally is left to mourn her. Also, apparently none of the speedsters have secret identities.

The stories have a few villains which inspired some of the villains in the Flash TV-show. It was very interesting to see them in action here.

The one offs are also pretty entertaining.

In “Through the Looking Glass” the Mirror Master traps Linda in a mirror world where she quickly ages in backwards, so it was pretty wacky.

“Still Life in a Fast Lane” is a more somber story. Jay is meeting an elderly supervillain who is dying of a brain tumor. He’s Clifford DeVoe or the Thinker. Jay suspects the Thinker’s old thinking cap could help DeVoe. But it’s not easy to find.

The final story, “Your Life is My Business”, is a humorous short piece where Mark Millar calls to the Flash asking his help in writing a ten-page Flash comic. Flash shows up.

Overall this was a fun and fast-paced collection. It has a lot of different artists who have different styles.

It’s quite different from the modern DC comics because the characters really form a family of experienced superheroes. Yes, there are a few teenagers or less experienced heroes, but the older people are around to teach them. It’s very different from when a reboot made the whole JLA first-time heroes. There’s a sense of continuity. Of course, that can be difficult to new and especially young readers to grasp. I guess that’s why DC decided to make their heroes younger.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Today the topic is Top 5 books you want to read before 2019

So many! So many books, so little time. However, right now I’m thinking of finishing the series I’m in the middle of so:

1, Juliet Marillier: the Den of Wolves
I loved the first two books in this fantasy series.

2, Seanan McGuire: Night and Silence
The new Toby Daye book! Of course, things looked quite bleak for our heroine at the end of the previous book, I’m a bit worried about reading the next.

3, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Searching for the Fleet
Rusch’s Diving universe continues!

4, Some more Star Trek: TNG books
I’m thinking of diving into the Genesis Wave trilogy.

5, James S. A. Corey: Caliban’s War
The second book in the Expanse series. I really enjoyed the first one and I enjoyed the TV-show.

A stand-alone mystery book with some science fiction elements. This was part of a Storybundle which I bought in 2015.

Publication year: 2012
Format: ebook

This is a mystery book with some thriller elements. It starts with a group of mysterious people spying on special forces captain Hawkins when he and his wife are in a car accident. We don’t see an explanation for that until the end.

The book starts with a couple of disparate things, such as Vredefort Dome in South Africa. It’s the largest gold mine in the world but abuses the workers. Some of them have chosen to fight back and one man brings a nuclear bomb into the mine. It detonates, destroying the mine.

In Australia, a deep space communications center observes strange transmissions seemingly coming from Ayers Rock.

Hawkins, who a major now, leads a group of US soldiers in a secret mission to take out a drug lord in Colombia. He’s looking for a nuclear bomb but the drug lord doesn’t know anything about it. Then he’s ordered to Australia.

US government gathers together a group of different individuals: major Hawkins, geologist Don Batson, physicist Debra Levy, and Francine Volkers who uses statistical projection to, essentially, predict the future. They’re all brought to Australia where the US government has started drilling into Ayers Rock which is a holy place to the ingenious people there. A transmission from the rock named the four people. Unfortunately, nobody knows why.

The story weaves together some of the mysterious places on Earth, such as Tunguska in Siberia, Ayers Rock, and Arizona Meteor Crater. The characters have so wild theories about them, apparently from real-life conspiracy theories. It’s part military action/adventure, part supernatural conspiracy mystery story. X-Files seems to have been a large inspiration, along with real-life conspiracy theories.

Batson is a middle-aged man with a drinking problem. He’s considered very good at his job, so good that he’s part of the US government group of experts. Levy is only 23; she’s child prodigy who has difficulty relating to other people. Volkers’ predictions produce quite bleak results for humanity, so she’s gone through a depression and a nervous breakdown. Hawkins is a career military officer whose wife is a coma. However, they manage to work together, most of the time at least. Hawkins in the major POV character and he’s the only one we really get to know.

A decent read.

The first book in a romantic urban fantasy series Golgotham.

Publication year: 2010
Format: print
Publisher: Roc
Page count: 289

Tate was born into filthy rich family, but she loathes her parents and their lifestyle. She’s trying to make a career as a metal sculptor and her parents think that’s just a phase. So, she wants to show them and make a living with it. However, her current neighbors are complaining about the noise she makes while sculpting (with hammers and a blowtorch) so, she needs to move. Also, she caught her boyfriend/fiancé cheating on her in her apartment which is another reason to move.

Tate sees an ad about a cheap apartment but it’s in the Golgotham area of New York City. In this world, there are magical creatures living openly but they’re often live in the same area and in NYC that’s Golgotham. Tate goes to see the apartment and it’s bigger than her previous one. She also meets the landlord, a young man whom she’s instantly attracted to even though he’s a Kymeran, a six-fingered man who was born with magical powers. Hexe is a sorcerer but he only uses right hand magic, which means healing magic. Of course, he could make a lot more money by doing curses, like most other Kymerans. That’s why he needs renters. He also has a demon familiar which looks like a cat and can talk (disdainfully).

Tate decides to move but finds out quickly that normal humans don’t want to deal with Golgothamites at all, to the point where taxis and moving vans simply don’t go in to that area of the city. Fortunately, Hexe knows a lot of people in Golgotham who can help her.

Then Tate thinks the sees a cat or a puppy in distress, but when she goes out to help it, it turns out that the animal is much larger: a werecreature. Through him Tate and Hexe find about a despicable way that the local mafia boss is using magical people and creatures.

The story is set in New York so it’s definitely urban fantasy. In addition to the Kymerans, the world has plenty of fantasy creatures such as centaurs, who draw taxies, leprechauns, dryads, and dwarfs. Humans consider them exotically curious creatures, at least when they don’t have to deal with the magical races daily. Many humans are racist against them, though, and some magic creatures are similarly racist against humans.

The story is focused on exploring Golgotham and some of the people who live there. Hexe also has some secrets of his own, although I guessed most of them pretty early on. Tate and Hexe are immediately attracted to each other but Tate has trouble trusting a boyfriend candidate and some people can’t accept a human and Kymeran as a couple. An action plot doesn’t kick in until late in the novel; mostly it’s about Tate and Hexe getting to know each other.

I enjoyed this book because of the characters. Hexe is great: he has principles and isn’t afraid to stand by them. He’s also a healer who refuses to deal with curses. However, that refusal doesn’t really affect his finances; it would have definitely been far more impressive if it did. Tate is an artist and not the delicate little flower type. She’s impulsive and sometimes blurts out things when she shouldn’t. She’s also loyal and wants to protect animals. She also doesn’t know much about the Kymerans or the other magical races, but she’s not prejudiced against them and is willing to learn.

On the other hand, she’s not a martial artist nor does she have any magical powers. While it was somewhat refreshing it also unfortunately makes her a sideliner (or a hostage) in fights. I also really enjoyed Hexe’s familiar Scratch and his disdainful attitude towards, well, everyone.

The story has a more relaxed pace and far less battle than most UF. It can be read as a stand-alone.

The 45th Star Trek: TNG book.

Publication year: 1997
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 239 plus an expert of Wrath of the Prophets (ST: DS9 book)

Marignano is a long-range exploration ship and captain Ileen Maisel loves to explore outside Federation’s borders. She’s used to being on her own, a long way from backup in the fringes of the Orion arm.
Now, however, she’s noticed colony ships and other starships disappearing more frequently than usual and when she realized that her one ship can’t stop it, she called for backup. Starfleet has sent the Enterprise and another starship, Oraidhe, captained by Gohod Clif, a joined Trill. Picard is in command of the operation but of course he’s very courteous to the other captains.

The captains plan to investigate together at first and then separate, if necessary. They run into interesting new (at least to me) cultures while evidence mounts that something really dangerous is stalking whole starships.

The new cultures include the Third Submission colony ship which doesn’t want anything to do with the Federation ships. They consider life an anathema and are just waiting to die quietly. Another new culture is the Lalairu, who are wandering traders. When they die, they regenerate again. They must have a fascinating society, but we saw them only in passing.

Picard is the major POV character while Dr. Crusher and Data get to shine, too. Ileen Maisel seems younger in her personality than her years: she’s very enthusiastic about her job. Clif is a more thoughtful person but of course the Trill has lived a couple of more lifetimes than the others.

This is another Trek book more focused on exploration than conflict or battles. Duane also uses the holodeck a lot with Picard and the other captains talking in a seafaring vessel. I enjoyed the book a lot but it’s not terribly fast-paced.