April 2019


The first book in romantic urban fantasy series, the Gale women.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 hours 1 minute
Narrator: Teri Clark Linden

Allie Gale was born to the Gale family and so to magic, as well. The numerous women in the Gale family are strong with magic and so are the few men. The Gales tend to have 4 or 5 girls for every male child. But Allie doesn’t have any sisters. Instead, she has just one older brother and the family is afraid that he’s so strong with magic that he’ll go rogue. Allie loves her brother David and doesn’t believe that her aunts and nieces are right.

But her more immediate problem is that she’s unemployed, had to move back in with her parents, and Michael, the man she thought would be spend the rest of her life with, has gone off his boyfriend. She’s depressed and aimless in her life. Then she receives a letter from her grandmother, who has a junk shop in Calgary. Apparently her grandmother has died and given Allie the shop. Allie is shocked but none of the older women believe that her Gran is really dead. Allie isn’t thrilled about it but she goes to Calgary to check the place out. Mysterious things are happening and one of them is a gorgeous but snoopy reporter who wants to know all about Allie’s grandmother.

Soon, she’s joined by her cousin Charlie who has wild magic and is a musician. She’s also joined by Michael who is still worried about her… and caught his boyfriend cheating on him.

This was mostly a fun book. It’s very much a romance: Allie and Graham’s relationship is the main thing. Also, it’s about dragons. It’s also about familial love, family sticking together, no matter what (well, mostly).

Yet on have mixed feeling about it because the Gale family’s seriously strange. Only people in the Gale family have magic and so they want to keep the talent in the family as much as possible. Males make the choice of their wife among cousins… and before they choose, they sleep around with everyone. The woman can make a male change their mind and do so. In fact, the aunts are unhappy with Allie because she didn’t change Michael’s mind. However, that would have changed him to a different person and Allie didn’t want to do that.

Women also get more powerful when they age. On the other hand, they need a male spouse to rise to the “second circle” (get more powerful). They’re also expected to have a lot of children. And yet, the family has at least one nuclear family where the women are the spouses (to each other) and share a man. So, not so heterocentric after all.

The actual magic is mostly done with low-key charms, except when, er, dragons are involved. Allie’s cousin Charlie has wild talent which allows her to travel through woods. However, some the magic isn’t really defined much.

I liked Allie and Charlie. I didn’t mind Allie and Graham’s romance. I loved the humor and the pop culture references made be giggle. Still, the Gale family dynamic makes me uncomfortable. But I guess I’ll continue with the series.

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Collects issues 1-5 of Mirror Broken.

Writers: David Tipton and Scott Tipton
Artist: J. K. Woodward
Publication year: 2018
Publisher: IDW

I’m a fan of alternate universes. This comic is set in Star Trek’s Mirror universe and in the same timeline as the Deep Space 9 Mirror episodes.

The Terran Empire is crumbling. The Cardassian-Klingon Alliance has almost driven the Terran starships back to their own solar system. The I.S.S. Stargazer is an old ship and captain Picard is looking for something better. Lieutenant Barcley in Engineering hates Picard and his mindwitch Deanna Troi but when Picard orders him to help Lieutenant Yar monitor the transfer of Vulcan slave ships, he has no choice but to agree. He’s looking for a way to do something big. When some of the slaves try to rebel, Yar blows up a couple of the ships. After a ceremony where Yar gets a medal for her quick thinking, Barcley attacks and kills her. Picard promotes him to Yar’s previous position as the chief of security.

The longer story line starts in the next issue. Throughout the Terran Empire there are rumors that the government is building a much faster and more powerful ship. When Data hacks into the Empire’s network, he realizes that the rumors are true. Picard knows one of the engineers working on the new ship, the Enterprise. He convinces the engineer, LaForge, to help him try to take over the new ship.

This was a fun and fast-paced story. The first issue mostly introduces us to the characters and how they’re different from our usual heroes. Troi is Picard’s inquisitor who keeps the crew in line. This is a logical, but not very original use of her empathy. I don’t know why she should be loyal to Picard and she does start to scheme against him. Even though this Picard is far more ruthless than the Picard we’re used to seeing, he wants to change the fortunes of the Empire and return it to greatness. Picard has apparently saved Data who is now loyal to him. Data has visible mechanical parts and most of them look quite Borg-like. He usually has an implanted weapon as his other arm and doesn’t hesitate to use it. Other familiar characters and side characters are introduced in later issues. I found most of the fun but won’t spoil them here.

As is usual for Mirror universe, the characters tend to be bitter, aloof, and suspicious of each other. They’re all also quite brutal towards each other. Still, they manage to work together, at least until they stab each other in the back, sometimes literally. I wouldn’t want to read about this sort of crew on regular basis.

The art looks like paintings. Mostly, the characters look like themselves but some panels look quite awkward. The space battles look awesome, though.

I received the whole serial eARC free from the publisher! I’m going to review it one episode a week. I haven’t read a serial before so it’s a new experience for me. The Triangle has 10 episodes, all available from The Triangle’s page at Serial Box starting April 24th.

Publisher: Serial Box 2019
Writers: Dan Koboldt, Mindy McGinnis, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley.
Format: eARC

“Since two massive hurricanes hit the Bermuda Triangle region, ships and planes have disappeared, leaving behind a trail of haunting radio transmissions. A covert task force investigates, but finds themselves caught in a third hurricane and shipwrecked on an uncharted island. They discover something shocking there—and not just that they aren’t alone on the island. Can they survive long enough to escape the Triangle and tell the world?“

The first episode, of course, introduces us to the setting and the characters. The Triangle setting seems to be our modern world. However, there are hints that something supernatural or maybe alien is going on.

Tessa Dumont investigates plane crashes at the NTSB. She’s very good at her job, noticing small details that others miss. She’s also not comfortable around people or enclosed spaces. When retired Navy Vice Admiral David Segarra wants her to join his team of experts, she’s doesn’t want to go. But when he tells her that the target is the famous Bermuda Triangle and that even more ships and planes than usual have disappeared, and plays back the strange last transmission of one of the planes, she can’t resist joining the team.

Michael Hammond is a data recovery specialist. But after his fiancee died in a plane crash, he’s been unable to concentrate on anything. He distrusts anyone from NTSB because they ruled the crash an accident but he’s convinced that it couldn’t have been an accident. But when Segarra tells him about the mystery of the disappearances he joins the team.

But when the small team arrives on the secret underground base in the Caribbeans, they get another member over Segarra’s objections. Flamboyant Alastair McBride is an expert of Bermuda Triangle but he’s also a conspiracy theorist who loves to dig dirt about US government. Hammond loves his book while Segarra hates him and Dumont thinks his book is garbage. However, Segarra’s superiors order him to include McBride.

When it’s time to work, they each have theirs specialties and are able to put their differences behind them. They listen transmissions from the missing ships and planes, and find out that many of the pilots mentioned seeing a golden or orange light just before their transmissions end.

Among the missing is a whole battleship with more than 1000 people. Another is a private plane with two passengers, a father and his five-year old daughter. In the final transmission the child, Olivia, talk about someone she calls Mr. Babbit. It vanished five years ago.

The first episode does a good job of establishing the characters and their conflicts between each other and how they are still able to work together. I’m sure we also get to know much more about the characters as the story advances. They’re all professionals in their own areas, which is something I really like.

It also gives us a very good understanding of the mystery. I’ve heard of Bermuda Triangle, of course, and seen the X-Files episode about it, but I don’t know much beside it. We hear some of the last transmissions the planes and ships sent and the characters wonder about possible natural explanations but must dismiss that.

This is a very promising start. The first episode did its job and enticed me to read more.

The first book in the alternate history Lady Astronaut series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 431 including historical note and bibliography

This is my first Kowal book. I love her work as the narrator of Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye audiobooks. Happily, I clicked with her writing style or Elma’s voice.

It’s fall 1952 and a huge meteorite strikes us destroying most of the Eastern coast. Elma and her husband Nathaniel are taking a small holiday and they’re in the mountains. That’s why they’re still alive. They manage to escape to the nearest surviving Air Force base because they have a small plane and Elma is a great pilot. Nathaniel is the lead engineer of International Aerospace Coalition and he goes to work – persuading the AF base commander that this was not a Soviet attack. Except for her brother who lives in California, Elma’s whole family is dead. She’s a pilot but the AF won’t give her a chance to rescue refugees. But she must work so she volunteers at the local hospital.

But soon enough, her husband needs her particular skills. Elma has a PhD in Mathematics. But because this is 1952, she works as a computer – one of the very best at calculating anything. She finds out the chilling truth: the meteorite has changed world’s climate catastrophically and if humanity is going to survive, it must happen in space.

But only white men are approved to train as astronauts.

Kowal shows the pervasive, casual, and smug sexism against Elma and all the other women who are just casually dismissed all the time. Just as chilling is the casual racism and undervaluing of black people; how the white men don’t even see either, until it’s pointed out and yet the targets must constantly live with it. Elma doesn’t initially realize her own racism but slowly her awareness grows. Sadly, both attitudes still exist, if not so blatantly.

The book is written from Elma’s first-person POV. I loved her voice. But she constantly undervalues herself and what she’s capable of. Also, she hears her mother’s voice telling her to mind “what will others think”. She has an anxiety disorder and when she almost accidentally becomes the famous “Lady Astronaut” and people want her to speak in front of large crowds, it’s almost impossible for her. But only almost.

She and Nathaniel are happily married and Nathaniel is a wonderful, supportive husband. They both love their work and work long hours but they also find time to support each other. Neither of them talks about starting a family, though. I guess they’re too focused on their work, especially knowing that the end of the world is literally approaching.

There was also no talk about what happens to the billions of people who are on Earth. Are the colonies going to take all of them? It seems that just a select few are going to get off Earth and continue the species in colonies. Of course, a lot of people don’t believe that the Earth is going become unhabitable.

The changes in the timeline are pretty subtle at first and also the change in climate isn’t sudden but gradual. That’s why so many powerful white men have difficulty in believing that the change will come. They’d much rather pour money into their own agendas than the space program. However, we don’t see much of the world outside IAC except through newspaper clippings at the beginning of each chapter. IAC has international staff but they don’t talk much beside work (and sexism).

This isn’t an adventure book: Elma isn’t kidnapped or fighting for her own survival. Also, this is just the beginning of the road off Earth.

It’s the first book in a duology so the ending is wide open.

Collects Wonder Woman (vol 3) issues 26-33.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Bernard Chang

Simone changes the status quo of the Amazons and their gods in this story. The Hollywood story at the end of the previous collection was a comic breather and now the story is much grimmer.

The Greek gods return to Earth. Apparently, they’re aliens. Darkseid and his underlings have fouled Olympus and on top of that humans, and even the gods’ supposed champion Diana, have abandoned them. The gods are unhappy to say the least. But Zeus has a plan. A terrible plan.

On Earth, Director Steel’s paranoia grows. He sends agent Diana Prince and her team to a mall which has been destroyed by a new superbeing called Genocide. However, Steel claims that he has another job for Tresser who stays behind. However, as soon as Diana is gone, Steel tries to arrest Tresser. But Tresser escapes and is now a wanted fugitive.

Meanwhile, the villains in Secret Society are scheming against Wonder Woman. Cheetah has convinced Dr. Morrow to create something even he’s afraid of.

When Wonder Woman fights Genocide, she realizes that Genocide is or was a deity. Genocide has an aura that makes people despair and she kills a lot of people. She defeats Diana, beating her near to death. Troia and Wonder Girl are called to help her but Genocide continues her rampage to the DMA itself.

This is an intense and grim story. The Greek gods almost literally stab the Amazons in the back when Zeus creates a new group of elite soldiers to serve him, intending to replace the Amazons. They, the Olympians as they’re called, are trying to force the world to become peaceful. Which never works.

Diana faces her most difficult challenge yet when she not only fails to stop Genocide but must lead her friends against the murderous being while grievously wounded. Genocide is a very good villain to challenge WW and more than worthy addition to her rogues’ gallery. It’s also great that she’s not as sexualized as female villains tend to be. Her face isn’t shown, her hair is short and spiky, she doesn’t have a cleavage; in fact her skin isn’t showing much at all. She’s scary and not in a sexy way. However, I can’t help to think that there should have been some more dramatic way to tell her origin, at least to the readers if not to Diana.

The ending is mostly satisfying with some emotional drama and mostly likely a new direction for Diana.

Collects WW (vol 3) issues 20-25.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Bernard Chang

Ends of the Earth story line runs the first four issues. It’s a bit on the strange side. First issue starts with Diana in a foreign, wintry land fighting wolves. She ends up in a tavern, looking for fabled hero Beowulf. Then we return to the beginning. Department of Metahuman Affairs’ agent Diana Prince is promoted. She’s expected to lead a team of six agents. Diana is quite flustered because she feels that she hasn’t earn a promotion, quite the contrary. But then a strange man with omnious red glowing eyes (I can think of only one time when that’s been a good sign) confronts Diana in her own office. He asks Wonder Woman to kill the devil. Diana uses her lasso on him, but that’s a terrible choice. It turns out that the man, who calls himself only Stalker, has no soul and so ensnares Diana’s soul (or mind). Apparently, he sends Diana to another dimension. There, Diana needs to find the heroes Beowulf and Claw to help her defeat the demon Dgrth.

For the rest of the story, Diana and Beowulf journey in a couple of other worlds. Diana’s soul is diminishing and so her compassion is leaving her and she becomes more and more violent and cold. Eventually Diana, Beowulf, Claw, and the Stalker confront the demon.

Meanwhile, DMA’s director Steele recruits agent Tresser, Diana’s partner and love interest, into spying on Diana and agent Candy. Steele (quite right) suspects that they’re Amazons and that they’re looking for more info in preparation for the Amazon’s next attack (which of course isn’t true). Tresser manages to find out that the giant intelligent gorillas are in Diana’s apartment. It’s gorillas vs Tresser!

By the fourth issue, Diana has returned and it’s now time for Tresser to meet her mom, Queen Hippolyta. Of course, they did meet briefly during Amazons Attack when Tresser was almost killed… However, Hippolyta seems to accept Tresser. Then Diana goes to Hollywood! People are making a Wonder Woman movie and they want Diana’s endorsement. Of course, this being a superhero comic, an old WW villain is involved.

I’m a fantasy fan and Diana, more than any other superhero, has a mythological roots, so I quite enjoyed the short romp in these Hyborian-like fantasy worlds. We even get some philosophizing about what it feels like to loose your soul and what it means to live without one. However, I thought Claw was Conan and I wasn’t familiar with the other characters. Turns out that they are some older fantasy character. I’ve no idea why Simone chose to use them or if it was some weird editorial decision. Also, another enemy is left loose to plague Diana later.

The final two issues set in Hollywood are fun. The movie is a horribly twisted version of Diana’s life but considering that she’s a real person, I’m not sure if they could have done it with Diana objecting. I enjoyed Diana’s two advisers, Rhanda and Tolifhar. They’re giant white gorillas. With briefcases. Once again, Diana shows both her warrior and diplomat sides. This shows how very, very badly a WW movie could have gone wrong.

Overall, this was an uneven collection even if it was fun for me.

Collects WW (vol. 3) issues 14-19. Par of WW’s second relaunch, after Heidenberg and Picoult’s issues.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Ron Randall, Bernard Chang

Simone is one of the best WW writers and she shows it right at the start. The story begins after the Amazons Attack story where Queen Hippolyta was, apparently, confined to one island away from the Amazons.

The first story, the Circle, runs four issues. Each issue starts with a flashback of four Amazons whom Hippolyta chose to be her personal guard. They’re fanatically loyal but when Hippolyta tells about her plan to get a child, they decide that the child will tear the Amazons apart for the simple reason that many Amazons want a child (or children) but they can’t have them. So, their jealousy will grow into bitterness and anger. So, the four decide that they can’t allow their Queen to succeed.

In the present time, the four are imprisoned on the island where the Queen is held. She asks them to repent but instead one of them warns that the dragon (as they call Diana) must be destroyed before she destroys the Amazons.

Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd is gathering an army of intelligent white gorillas. Apparently, he’s been telling them that all humans want to kill them and they have seen poachers. Diana offers them an alternative, to find out more about humans. So, the gorillas move in with Diana in her agent’s apartment.

A bunch of Neo-Nazis want to make Hippolyta’s island their base and attack, expecting to overcome a single woman easily. While the Queen of the Amazons battles a large group of humans with modern weapons, Diana comes to save her mother. Unfortunately, the Nazis unleash the four Amazon prisoners.

The last story line is two issues long. The Khund are a space faring species who live to conquer others. When they came to Earth, the superheroes defeated them. Now the Khund are back and they have declared war of Wonder Woman. After initial battle, Diana finds out that the Khund almost revere her because of her warrior skills. Some also consider her part Khund. But now a Khund general has come to ask for Diana’s help against another race who is defeating them easily. Diana agrees to help them. Of course, things aren’t quite as they seem.

Meanwhile, Diana starts to officially court Nemesis, Tom Tresser. But now that Tom’s close to getting what he wants, he realizes that he’s not worthy of her. (And good riddance to him!)

This was a good start. I always enjoy seeing more of Amazons and Hippolyta, although I don’t like seeing them as villains. I can see how some Amazons could have reacted that way to their Queen being the only one who gets to have a child. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Amazons portrayed as mourning their infertility, so it’s clear to me that not all of them feel that way. Still, I was a bit disappointed that this story started by showing them yearning for motherhood rather than as fierce warriors.

I’m not familiar with the Khund so I can’t say if they’re in character here. But both story lines show excellently Diana’s compassion to her enemies and the second portrays her as a diplomat as well as a warrior, which was great.

Tom is in hospital for most of the stories, so he’s not fighting by her side. Instead, we are introduced to Simone’s Etta Candy. I really enjoyed Etta and Diana’s friendship.

I really liked Dodson’s lush art which fits Diana very well.

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