January 2019

A stand-alone science fiction book.

Original name: Voyage au centre de la Terre
Publication year: 1864
Format: print
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1987
Finnish publisher: WSOY
Page count for the Finnish translation: 191
Translator: Pentti Kähkönen

Axel Lindenbrock is a young German man who lives with his uncle geologist Professor Lindebrock. The Professor finds a 300-year old manuscript written in Icelandic runes. Inside it is also a smaller paper which was written by Arne Saknussem who was an alchemist and an explorer. The paper is written in runes and different language which the Professor realizes is Latin. However, the message is also crypted. Axel is able to decipher the code, much to his annoyance, because it is Saknussem’s account of his journey to the center of the Earth. The Professor is immediately on fire with determination to go on the same journey and forces Axel to accompany with him. He takes with them a lot of equipment.

They travel to Iceland because Saknussem started his journey through the crater of an Icelandic jökull. Axel is very reluctant and fearful but follows his uncle, leaving behind Grauben, a German girl he loves. In Reyjavik, they hire a Danish-speaking eiderdown hunter Hans Bjelke as their guide to the crater and as their servant for the rest of the journey.

They see wondrous things below the surface.

The Professor is determined to the point of obsessive lunacy. He won’t listen any arguments to stop or return back. While he bases most of his arguments in science, he also makes assumptions about things he can’t possibility know, for example that there is going to be a lot of drinkable water underground so the small company don’t take much with them.

Axel is his counterpoint, always expecting trouble. Hans speaks as little as possible and is extremely loyal to the Professor, following him without question as long as his salary is paid. His skills save them a lot of times.

Axel is the narrator and he tells the story in past tense, although at one point he provides us with direct quotes from the diary he kept for a part of the journey.

This is a very good adventure novel where manly men go where no other man has gone before. We’re also told about the arguments that the scientific community at the time had about dinosaurs, what Earth’s is made of, and other things. Of course, we now know that some of the things that the Professor, and the scientific community of the time, speculated are wrong.

Unlike the other books I’ve read from him, this one contains clearly very imaginative things that the characters encounter below ground. I’ve read Burrough’s Pellucidar books and they were clearly inspired by this one.

The characters are archetypal but quite entertaining. I think I like this book more than the other Verne’s books I’ve read. However, the only female character is Graube, the Professor’s foster daughter, who laments that she can’t go because she’s a woman and all women are weak and useless on such a journey. So, her only role is to provide inspiration for Axel.

The Finnish translation is aimed at younger readers and so it includes maps and a small dictionary.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List.

My list is a huge, huge thing (I have 1417 books in my to read shelf on GoodReads) and I don’t know I’ll ever get around to reading all of them. However, these books have recently caught my eye mostly through recommendations or reviews from other bloggers:

1, The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde
I read the first novella in this series, ”the Jewel and Her Lapidary” and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I’m very interested in reading the next story.

2, Genrenauts by Michel R. Underwood
This sounds like a lot of fun, agents who find and fix broken stories. Luckily, it’s part of the current SFWA fantasy bundle at https://storybundle.com/fantasy so I’m going to get it.

3, Shadows over Baker Street edited by Michael Reaves
Sherlock Holmes and Watson vs Lovecraft horror. A short story collection.

4, The Geneva Decision by Seely James
A thriller with an action heroine lead.

5, Queen Zazzau by J. S. Emuakpor
Mythological fantasy book that sounds very interesting.

6, Sherlock Holmes: the Breath of God by Guy Adams
Another supernatural Holmes story and the first in a series. I actually ended up adding this because I recently read the first Firefly book by James Lovegrove and when I looked up what else Lovegrove has written, this same up. Apparently, Lovegrove continues this Holmes series.

7, Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
A historical magical realism story. Honestly, I don’t really care for magical realism but this one is apparently a story about stories.

8, The Pendragon Legend by Antal Zerb
Apparently, it’s a King Arthur tale set in modern times by a Hungarian author. It’s been way too long since I last read a King Arthur book. It has been translated into Finnish and so it’s available in the local library which greatly increases the odds that I’ll read it.

9, The Descent of Monsters by JY Yang
The third book in the Tensorate fantasy series. I enjoyed the first two novellas in this series and will continue with it.

10, Aurelia by Alison Morton
The fourth book in the thriller series set in alternate universe where Rome’s legacy continues to modern day in a nation called Roma Nova. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two books and will continue with the series.

A multiple author short story collection.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebooks
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Page count: 273 (at GoodReads)

All of the main characters in this collection are young, high school age or younger. They all feel like they’re the underdog: powerless in their lives and often also unattractive. Almost all of the stories are written from first person POV.

“Villainous Aspirations” by Stefon Mears is a story about young man who is waiting to get his superpowers. You see, he’s the son of two famous superheroes. He’s writing essays at school so this is all in first person. However, he thinks that his parents are stupid for helping other people for free, so he’s going to use his powers for personal gains.

“A Kiss Too Sweet” by Eric Kent Edstrom: Monica is a high school girl who finds out that she has diabetes. Soon after, when she kisses a girl she doesn’t like on the cheek she finds out that she also has a superpower: anyone she kisses becomes devoted to her. However, that’s not just a good thing.

“The Clunkety” by Brenda Carre: Gretti’s mother was a great hedge-witch so it was not surprise that Gretti is a witch, too. After a hard childhood, Gretti gets together with the young man she loves and even his kin grudgingly accepts her. But then her past comes back to haunt them both.

“Power Trip” by Lee Allred: in this world, enough people get superpowers in high school that there are whole training programs for superpowered people. Sammy is a nerd but gets powers so powerful that he can’t show them, so he’s still bullied. The POV character is envious but still hopeful that he’ll get powers, too. However, he doesn’t want to use them for good, or evil for that matter. He would just want to continue with his life rather than going to the Supers Training Program and serving the government the rest of his life.

“Pocket Full of Ashes” by Anthea Sharp: Kit is one of Victorian London’s street urchins. She steals for Old Nellie who keeps everyone in a tight leash. Kit was sick for three days but is now pickpocketing again. Only now, she finds out to her amazement that she can shoot fire from her fingertips. However, Kit is growing up and Old Nellie has noticed it – and Kit is in danger of become a scarlet woman of the streets. Kit must get away and her new power could help her.

“The Ordinary” by Valerie Brook: The black monk has kidnapped boys from nearby villages. He forces them to learn how to manifest their inner spiritman and telekinetic powers. Tomas is the only one who can’t do that. If he can’t do it tomorrow, the monk will kill him and his parents.

“Dawn” by Jody Lynn Nye & Rebecca Moesta: Aurora, the young goddess of dawn, is late to her duties for the fifth morning in row. That’s because she loves to stay up late to listen to the poets which is far more exciting than her dull duties. But inspiration is the arena of her friends, the muses, and her siblings Apollo and Artemis expect Aurora to do her job well.

“Fatty Boombalatty” by Kerrie L. Hughes: Matilda Bloom is at a summer camp and it’s awful. Her former best friend Kiley has abandoned her for two rich, mean girls and even started the horrible nickname, Fatty Boombalatty. She doesn’t have any friends and must see the camp counselor. But then the counselor gives her a friendship bracelet and tells her that with it she can hear other people’s thoughts.

“Passion for the Game” by Brigid Collins: Jimmy has superpowers and he’s using them to play baseball. However, he’s starting to think that he should be helping people instead of just playing a game. But for his older brother Jimmy’s games are a path to freedom for both of them, and their mother who’s in rehab. Then Jimmy’s powers disappear.

“Just Stop It!” by David H. Hendrickson: Amy’s parents are arguing again. She tries to ignore it but finally they say so hurtful things that she yells at them to stop it. Incredibly, they do that. In fact, they’re quite civil after that. Amy decides to try this new power at her school.

“Normal Boy” by Rebecca M. Senese: Ellis and Miguel are the only two normal people in Super High where everyone else has powers. But some of the most powerful supers are bullying them. So, Ellis decides to do something about it.

“Sophie Rosenblatt, Hero At Large” by Annie Reed: Sophie in an unassuming, normal girl in a world were solar radiation has given some kids powers. For a while, Sophie was sure that her beautiful best friend would get powers but she didn’t. However, when Sophie has been home sick for three days, something unexpected happens.

“Flowers in Winter” by Kelly Washington: In this world, everyone has powers, usually inherited from their parents. Mattie is a systemizer; she can organize small things very quickly. However, her mother and sister can control water. Her sister, Justine, has started to tease Mattie mercilessly about her lack of impressive powers and also about Mattie’s bum leg.

“Hidden Talents” by Dayle A. Dermatis: Tilly has enough magical talents to be accepted to Miss Rosina Wakenshaw’s School for Talented Girls. Unfortunately, her own particular talent hasn’t surfaced and in two days time, the whole class will be represented to Queen Mary so that their magical talents can be put to proper use. Tilly is seriously considering leaving behind, especially because she’s become so clumsy lately. But her best friend Gwendolyn won’t let her.
I’d love to read more of Tilly and Gwen’s adventures!

“The Ballad of Osmosis McGuire” by Travis Heerman: Oswin McGuire is terribly bullied at school by the stars of the wrestling team so he can’t do anything about it. But one day, he feels an electric snap go through him and everything changes.

These are all uplifting stories about teens overcoming bullies, their own low self-esteem or finding their inborn talents. None of the powers are overwhelming; they all are limited or have down sides.

However, they also highlight the bad sides of Western school system, namely that it seems that people don’t want to put an end to bullying.

It’s more YA focused than I expected. Otherwise this is a fine collection with superpowers and some magic thrown in, as well.

A historical murder mystery set in the year 512.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 92 which includes the first chapter of the next mystery, the Vellum Scribe

Gaius Vitellus Argolicus is a former Roman praefect, known for his careful study of people and places which lead to fair judgments. However, he’s not good a politics and so he leaves Rome and returns to countryside. His old friend asks him to take a book to a scholarly young man. The man, Philo, lives along Argolicus’ route, so he decides to visit Philo’s family.

However, when Argolicus arrives, he finds that the house is in disarray because Philo’s father has been murdered. Servius Norbanus Pius was a man who didn’t care for the new king Theodrick’s reign and the way the king appointed new men in positions than had been long held by the sons of old Roman families. He had inherited a very profitable shipping business so his murder could affect a lot of people. Argolicus decides to investigate together with his mentor and slave Nikolaos. However, they have only a couple of days to investigate before their ship leaves.

Pius’ family tells that he was a dutiful father and husband but he spent a lot of time away from his family. He tried to mold his scholarly son into his image but Philo isn’t like his father. Pius’ brother runs the shipping business and lives in the nearby harbor town of Portus. Pius was the paterfamilias, the highest-ranking male who decided everything for his family members. Philo’s sister Titiana seemed to have been on the edge even before their father was murdered.

The short book is meticulously researched. This is the time when Rome is ruled by the Ostrogoths and the patricans, of course, resent that. I don’t remember any other books set in this time. Under Roman law, a murder is a family matter and it’s up to the family to find the murderer and then sue them. Agrolicus can’t help them officially, just as a favor.

The writing is a bit awkward at times but otherwise very readable except for some editing errors. Pius is not an agreeable man but someone who has a lot of political connections and so a lot of potential enemies. However, nobody is too obvious so Agrolicus must talk to a lot of people.

I enjoyed the story which brings Rome under Ostrogoth rule to life.

Altair has a Kickstarter project to fund a novel length Agrolicus mystery.

Collects Avengers Prime 1-5.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer

This series is set right after Siege (where Norman Osborn led the Avengers and apparently used the Iron Man suit). I think I’ve only read the X-Men side of that.

After the events of Siege Cap is mad at Iron Man and Iron Man is trying to defend himself. However, they try to work together when Asgard falls to Earth and the Avengers investigate. However, Steve and Tony snipe at each other the whole time so much that even Thor suggests they leave. Then the remnants of the Rainbow Bridge activate and sends Thor, Steve, and Tony away. Each ends up alone in a fantasy type setting. It turns out that the Nine Realms are in chaos and everyone blames Thor. When Steve tells the elves that he’s a friend of Thor, he’s attacked. When Tony tells the ogres the same thing, he’s knocked unconscious and stripped of his armor. Meanwhile, Thor is battling the big bad boss.

This is a fun adventure without much deeper significance. The trio save each other while Steve and Tony are reminded how much they care for each other. The funniest part was Tony stripped naked and then Steve comes to his rescue in full armor. Steve also has a brief romance with a girl whose name we don’t know until the last issue. I guess she’s there to reassure the (male) readers that our heroes are heteros and that Tony and Steve are just friends no matter how much male bonding the story has.

Awesome art, as usual from Davis. I loved the massive battle scenes with a dragon and the various Nine Realms creatures.

Collects miniseries Rogue & Gambit 1-5.

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Pere Pérez

For many years (at least for us readers: Rogue and Gambit met for the first time in 1990s) X-Men Rogue and Gambit have danced around each other. They’re attracted to each other but so far they’ve had too many problems to really get together – in other words, the editors at Marvel didn’t want them together. In order to keep them apart, the writers invented several problems for them.

Well, in this miniseries they confront those issues head on.

Mutants have been disappearing from Cerebra’s scans. Kitty Pryde (who is now the leader of the X-Men) sends them to find out what’s going on. And the reason why she chose Rogue and Gambit is that the mutants are disappearing from a paradise island where a counselor offers to “free mutants of their trauma” and Kitty wants to send in a couple who needs counseling. Rogue is less than thrilled but since Gambit agrees, they head out.

They talk about their problems to a couple’s counselor while sneaking around. This is as much fun as it sounds with Rogue and Gambit snarking at each other while also wanting to be together. The story has just as much fisticuffs and mystery solving as figuring out their relationship.

The villain turns out to be quite an interesting person but their motives are left open. Thompson manages to make some rather questionable editorial decisions somehow reasonable for the characters, especially when you consider that Rogue was just 18 when they met. I’m pretty sure we haven’t been told Gambit’s age but he had been married and divorced by the time he met Rogue. We also get to see their first meeting which was during the time Shadow King had taken over Muir Island and they were both under SK’s mind control.

Recommended to fans of Rogue and Gambit. The story references a lot of their history so to get most out of it, you should be familiar with them.

A stand-alone science fiction book.

Publication year: 1895
Format: print
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1979
Finnish publisher: Kirjayhtymä
Page count for the Finnish translation: 120
Translator: Matti Kannosto

The Time Machine has two first-person narrators, both nameless but both male and at least relatively well-off. The story begins with the first narrator who comes to the house of the time traveler and meets other people there. The time traveler talks about traveling through time and the others think the whole idea is ridiculous. The people leave.

Later, the first narrator returns to the time traveler’s home and again meets other people and later the disheveled time traveler who tells the others about his journey to distant futures.

The traveler is so sure that the future will be good for humans that he doesn’t take any equipment with him. He just has a box of matches in his pocket but that’s all.

The time traveler tells about the year 802701 in the future where he first meets small, beautiful but not very smart humans. They live in deteriorating buildings and eat mostly fruit. They don’t work; instead their time is spent frolicking in meadows and rivers. But they fear the dark. Soon, the time traveler meets another race of small, ape-like people who live underground in darkness. He makes observations but also draws conclusions based on his own biases and expectations, as a wealthy man in Victorian England. Later, he briefly travels further in time to witness the end of Earth.

While the story has some exciting passages, it’s not really an adventure story. The traveler draws very intricate conclusions from small evidence. Also, he sees only a small part of the world and yet supposes that everywhere is the same.

The story doesn’t really have character development; in fact the future seems to confirm the traveler’s expectations and ideas, that strife and hardship are good for humans and if they’re done away with, the human race will degenerate.

This a perfect example of idea based story. It’s the first time travel story so Wells is focused on showing off his idea rather than on the story and characters. However, these days most, if not all, readers are already familiar with the concept so they expect more. The influence of the idea is, of course, great. It’s now an accepted part of not just science fiction books, but TV-shows, movies, comics, plays.

The story is available for free at Project Gutenberg as are all of H. G. Wells’ books.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Best New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018.

I ended up reading 27 new authors last year from 80 books read. Happily, I also found some authors I’m going to continue to read:

1, Martha Wells: All Systems Red
The first Murderbot novella was fun and enjoyable. I’ve already listened to the next book, Artificial Condition, and enjoyed it just as much.

2, Juliet Marillier: Dreamer’s Pool
The lush fantasy world and rich characters in Marillier’s trilogy drew me in and I’ve already finished the series.

3, James S. A. Corey: Leviathan Wakes
The wonderful science fiction TV show Expanse is based on this series. I enjoyed the book as much as the TV show and I’ve already read the second book.

4, J.Y. Yang: The Black Tides of Heaven
The fantasy world in the Tensorate series isn’t based on Western models. I find it fascinating and I’ve already read the second novella.

5, Max Gladstone: Three Parts Dead
Yet another fascinating fantasy world. I’m going to read the next book in the series soon.

6, Curtis Craddock: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors
This is a Three Musketeers style of story set in a steampunk world and I enjoyed it through, so I fully intend to continue with the series.

7, Robert Van Gulick, translator: Celebrated cases of Judge Dee
This book wasn’t one of my favorites last year, but I’m not very familiar with China during the Tang dynasty. While I didn’t fall in love with his writing style, I’m very interested in finding out more about this period. Luckily, quite a few of van Gulick’s historical mystery series have been translated into Finnish and they’re not very long so I intend to read at least a few of them.

8, J. Tullos Hennig: Greenwode
This is a reimagining of Robin Hood in a fantasy world and Robin is gay. I’m a sucker for Robin Hood stories and interested in finding out how Henning intends to do the actual robbing from the rich and giving to the poor part. Greenwode was a prequel to that with a very young Robin and we didn’t even get to see the Merry Men yet. Marian is Robin’s sister.

9, Madeline Miller: The Song of Achilles
Unlike the other books on this list, this is a stand-alone. It’s a historical story with a small smattering of fantasy. The story is told from the POV of Patroclus, Akhilleus’ best friend and lover. Miller has a new book out, Circe.

I’m joining one more challenge: the Helsinki Library’s reading challenge.

It’s non-stress and free-style challenge. It has 50 subjects but the participants are free to include as many subjects per book as they want to. I’m going to use that option and use both Pick&Mix and Mount TBR for this challenge, too. I’m also using novellas and short story collections.

The subjects:

1. The book cover has a human face on it
(read: James Lovegrove: Firefly: Big Damn Hero)
2. Someone is looking for a missing person or an item in the book 
(read: James Lovegrove: Firefly: Big Damn Hero)
3. A book from a genre you don’t usually read
John Vornholt: The Troll Treasure
4. The only book written by the author
(read: F.J. Blair: the Delivery of Flesh)
5. The book has been a nominee for a book prize in your homeland
Mauri Kunnas: Seitsemän koiraveljestä
6. A romance novel
Trish Heinrich: Fahrenheit’s Ghost
7. A book about a place you have visited
James Patterson: Along Came a Spider
8. A book whose reading belongs to general knowledge in your opinion
(read: H. G. Wells: The Time Machine)
9. A book recommended by someone under 18 years old
Tarkastaja Akane Tsunemori (Psycho-Pass)
10. A book written by a person of colour
Aliette de Bodard: In the Vanishers’ Palace
11. A book about women’s role  in society
Mary Robinette Kowal: the Calculating Stars
12. A book connected to Great Britain
V. E. Schwab: A Darker Shade of Magic
13. A book for children or youth from your homeland
Mauri Kunnas: Seitsemän koiraveljestä
14. The author’s last name starts with the same letter as yours
Trish Heinrich: Fahrenheit’s Ghost
15. A taboo is dealt within the book /A book about a taboo
Rachel Caine: Stillhouse Lake
16. A story that shifts between reality and unreality
Kat Richardson: Greywalker
17. There are twins in the book
John Scalzi: Head On
18. A book written by a European writer
Peter O’Donnell: Pieces of Modesty
19. You don’t like the title of the book
Peter O’Donnell: Pieces of Modesty
20. The book deals with a culture that you are not familiar with
Mark J. Ravina: Understanding Japan
21. A book written by a celebrity
22. A book about climate change
23. The book title has a name of a country in it
Mark J. Ravina: Understanding Japan
24. Book chosen from a bookshelf with your eyes closed
25. A book from an author you have never read before
(read: F. J. Blair: the Delivery of Flesh)
26. A book that you see someone you don’t know reading
27. The book is some way based on Nordic mythology
28. There is a moon on the book cover
29. Someone is dreaming in the book
30. The book cover has a city landscape on it
Virpi Hämeen-Anttila: Yön sydän on jäätä
31. Someone travels by metro in the book
32. The book title has a profession in it
Rhys Bowen: Her Royal Spyness
33. You have seen a movie based on the book
Jules Verne: The Journey to the Center of the Earth
34. The book has writings by several writers in it
Rebecca Moesta, ed: Fiction River: Superpowers
35. There is an entrepreneur or company in the book
Kat Richardson: Greywalker
36. Someone is alone in the book
37. A book published by a small publisher
Fiction River: Last Stand
38. A banned book
39. A book about the relationship between humans and animals
H. Y. Hanna: Tea with Milk and Murder
40. A book about mental health problems
Rachel Caine: Stillhouse Lake
41. A book about a time period you would like to live in
Rachel Caine: Stillhouse Lake
42. You like the name of the author
Mark J. Ravina: Understanding Japan
43. A book that follows the growth of a child to adulthood
Resa Nelson: Berserk
44. A book about Berlin
Peter O’Donnell: Pieces of Modesty
45. The book title has a negative in it
Hayley Camille: A Woman’s Work is Never Done
46. The book has a trans or non-binary character in it
Batgirl vol 4: Wanted
47. The book has less than 100 pages
Zara Altair: The Roman Heir
48. The book has a hearing-impaired or visually impaired character in it
Peter O’Donnell: Pieces of Modesty
49. A book published in 2019
Elizabeth Bear: Ancestral Night
50. A book recommended by library personnel

I could use recommendations, especially for 6 (romance novel – no toxic troupes, please), 17 (twins), 19 (book whose title you don’t like – I can’t think off-hand of any, except for “Men who hate women” (the Finnish name of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Larsson and I have no interest in reading it)), 23 (title has a name of a country), 31 (Someone travels by metro), and 48 (has a hearing-impaired or visually impaired character in it).

The second novella in the Murderbot Diaries SF series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 3 hours 21 minutes
Narrator: Kevin R. Free

I enjoyed the first Murderbot story, All Systems Red, and I enjoyed the voice of the Murderbot just as much in this novella. We also get to see a bit more of the world.

The Murderbot is a security unit, an android with both mechanical parts and cloned biological parts. It’s designed for security on various sites and ships. What it hasn’t been designed for is interactions with humans and that makes it nervous. Because of an incident in the past where it (supposedly) killed lots of humans, it christened itself Murderbot. However, it has only a partial memory of that event so it has decided to go back to that planet and research what actually happened.

The Murderbot has left it’s human owner and former ally. It’s technically a rogue SecUnit but it’s trying to pass for an cybernetically augmented human. However, that’s not easy. When it finds a transport space ship which is going to the right planet, it hitches a ride. However, the transport doesn’t have a human crew, so the Artificial Intelligence of the transport is lonely and wants to interact with the Murderbot. Who just wants to be left alone and view its shows.

I enjoyed the first novella a lot and this was a great continuation. We get some more world-building because the ‘Bot is now outside and eventually forced to work with humans. It tries to minimize that as much as it can but don’t really succeed. It also forms a bond with the transport despite the fact that it calls it ART (Asshole Research Transport). The ‘Bot denies having feelings and yet it clearly has them: it cares for the humans when they’re under its care, it’s scared and anxious. I love that the bot doesn’t have gender. Bots that have sexual parts are called sexbots, or Comfort units. Murderbot doesn’t want to help humans because it’s in love with or attracted to any of them: it’s has been programmed to do so. Just like most humans.

Next Page »