August 2019


Storybundle again has two very tempting bundles:
Racing the clock curated by Dean Wesley Smith for seven days and Warp Speed Ahead curated by Kevin Anderson for 14 days more.

Also, Humble Bundle has Baen Space Opera bundle with books from Ben Bova, Sharon Lee and Steven Miller,
Catherine Asaro, David Weber, and loads of others. It’s available for 13 days.

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A stand-alone trilogy of science fiction novellas: Collision, Impact, and Maelstrom. With dinosaurs!

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 hours 36 minute
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller, Andrew Eiden, Amy Landon

These three novellas were a fun ride! Each has a different point-of-view character and a different narrator. All of them are in first person and present tense.

Doctor Elizabeth Callie works in a rural Chinese hospital. When a man fights with the security guards in the hospital, Elizabeth calms him down and does what she can for someone she thinks is the man’s father. The locals claim that the man and his father are tribesmen from nearby desert. But in the X-rays she finds something remarkable: the men have deformities which mean they aren’t modern humans. They are, in fact, neanderthals. Elizabeth thinks that she’s found a neanderthal tribe which has survived to modern day. She takes the man and one collage, Chen, and they head to the desert. But the place is heavily guarded by Chinese military and Elizabeth finds out more than she bargained for: the tribe if from another Earth. Also, there are portals between different Earths in different dimensions and the Earths are heading for collision which will destroy them.

In “Impact”, NYC mounted police Mark finds himself in an alternate world when our Earth collides with another. He teams up with a paramedic Vicki and together they try to survive, help other people, and even find a way back home. They fight saber tooth cats as well as some dinosaurs

The third book has another point-of-view character and most of the characters from the previous novellas meet. It’s good conclusion to the story.

These are fun and fast-paced SF thrillers. The main characters were mostly distinct from each other: Mark tried to be the stoic police officer while he has to make some very difficult choices, Elizabeth is a scientist and a doctor, excited by a potential new discovery. I also really enjoyed the portrayal of the neanderthals. They’re different from humans but clever in their own way. I also enjoyed the scenes where Elizabeth (and later another character) was communicating with the neanderthal man.

I also enjoyed the ending but I think some readers might be disappointed with it. There’s some romance but it doesn’t take over.

The first book in the cozy mystery Target Practice Mysteries series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Publisher: Ranch Dog Entertaiment
Page count at GoodReads: 166

This was a fun, short mystery.

Diana, she prefers Di, has gone through a bad divorce and needs a change. When her friend from high school, Jess, wants to hire her, Di is happy to pack up and move to Wyoming where Westmound Center for Competitive Shooting (archery and guns) is located. Once there, she finds the place almost empty, except for her bubbly new roommate Mary and a friendly Great Dane Moo. Di will be the new computer person for the firm.

Westmound is starting a new archery program and they’ve already recruited the coaches among the top archery competitors. Four of them competed in the Olympic Summer Games together but there’s quite a bit of bad blood between them. Di did also shoot for a while but gave it up years ago.

Then one of the new coaches is murdered. Mary decides to investigate her death and drags Di along with her. However, many people hated the murdered person and she did also boast that she’s writing her memoir where she’ll expose a lot of people. So, Mary and Di have their work cut out for them.

The writing style is very humorous and I liked it a lot. The mystery wasn’t too complicated although it did have a few twists. The characters were on the light side, no doubt because the book is short.

I liked most of the cast and most, of course, Moo, the Great Dane and his antics. Mary the enthusiastic sidekick was also great fun and a source of good gossip, er I mean, information on the characters.

Collects Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 #265-267 and Gambit (1993) #1-4.

Writers: Chris Claremont, Howard Mackie
Artists: Bill Jaaska, Joe Rubinstein, Mike Collins, Lee Week, Klaus Janson

Since I must wait for a couple of weeks more for my next (and apparently last! Why Marvel! WHY! 😦 :() dose of Rogue and Gambit, I decided to dig out some of my old comics about Gambit.

This collection starts with the three issues which introduce Gambit to us. It’s not a good place to start for new readers because strange (and I do mean strange, even by X-Men standards) villains called Nanny and the Orphan-Maker made Ororo a child in a previous issue. So, the story starts with Ororo as a child living in Cairo (Illinois, US, not Egypt) and making a living as a thief. She’s stealing from the rich and undeserving and giving most of the loot to poor people or back to their rightful owners. However, the Shadow King is at her heels and luring her into a trap. Fortunately, Gambit appears and they rescue each other.

This story line leads to the Muir Island Saga, so Shadow King and his minions feature heavily. Gambit also just appears, apparently having randomly decided to just burgle the place the same time as Storm.

The rest of the collection is Gambit’s own miniseries. His brother Henri breaks into the X-Mansion. Apparently something big is happening at the Thieves’ Guild (whose boss is Gambit’s adoptive father) and Henri is trying to warn Remy about it. However, in a spectacularly bad move, a member of the Assassins’ Guild kills Henri right in front of Remy and the rest of the X-Men. Remy, of course, heads back to New Orleans with Rogue. There he finds out that his wife Bella Donna (who is, of course, the daughter of the leader of the Assassins’ Guild) is still alive but in a coma. Only an elixir of life could revive her. But that elixir isn’t easy to get. Also, Bella’s brother Julien is also alive but turned into a monster. Candra, the mysterious, alluring and immortal benefactor who has the elixir, isn’t an easy person to convince and Julien wants to kill Remy. Remy heads to Paris to meet with her, leaving Bella in the hands of Rogue and a healer.

This was a fun comic, establishing Remy’s past and the complicated relationship he has to the two rival illegal guilds in New Orleans. If you can ignore the huge amounts of hair that Lee Weeks gives to everyone, this is a fun read for fans of Gambit. Also, Remy seems to have quit smoking at some point. However, I can’t really recommend this as a starting point for new readers because the first three issues are from the middle of a long story line.

The second story line establishes the on-again, off-again nature of Rogue and Gambit’s relationship, complicated further by Rogue’s powers. Rogue accidentally touches Bella and absorbs her memories, leaving Bella an amnesiac. She doesn’t tell Remy about it, which is pretty shitty. I’m very glad they’re over this stage.

Interestingly enough, while Remy is often claimed to be a morally ambiguous character, his first appearance is very heroic: he helps an unknown kid against very powerful enemies and even has to give up all the loot to save the kid.

The first book in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club historical fantasy series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 13 hours 39 minute
Narrator: Kate Reading

I very much wanted to adore this book. I liked it and will probably continue with the series but it has a writing style which no doubt will make it almost unreadable to some people. You see, the characters critique the book while it’s written. This sounds like a cute or even charming style, and it is, at first. But ultimately, it robs the book of any tension. We know that the characters will not only survive the fight scene, they all become such good friends that they feel free to give snarky comments while reading the (presumably) first draft. I don’t actually think that most readers open a book just to see how high the body count will be (unless that’s part of the genre of the book, of course) but it takes away even the illusion of tension. Similarly, when we meet the characters who are commenting (and we do meet most of them along the story) again we know immediately that they’ll become good friends. These interruptions also constantly remind the reader that she, or he, is reading a story, preventing any sort of immersion in it. They happen all the time. All the time.

So, the book’s major selling point are the characters and their relationships. Luckily, I really liked them. I also adored the idea of the book.

Mary Jekyll’s mother has just died. Her father died years ago and left them almost penniless. First thing after the funeral, Mary must fire her staff. But since the housekeeper Mrs Poole is critiquing the manuscript we know that at least she will stay with Mary. Mary finds out that her mother has an account on another bank, paying to a “Hyde”. Mary knows that her father’s former friend and murderer Mr. Hyde died some years ago but now she realizes that he might be alive, after all. That’s significant because there’s a reward for information about Hyde. Since Victorian London offers poor and very poor choices to a penniless, orphan girl, she wants to get that reward. So, she goes to UK’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes to get help. He and Watson agree to help, out of civic duty, if nothing else. Mary and Watson go the Magdalene Society (for fallen women and unwanted girls) where Hyde is supposed to be. But instead of Mr. Hyde, they find 14 year old Diana Hyde. She’s abrasive and scornful of the nuns so the Society doesn’t want to keep her anymore, so they foist her on Mary.

Mary also gets some letters that were addressed to her father and using the clues in them, she finds out that there’s a secret society in London that is doing something horrible. With the help of Holmes and Watson, Mary and her friends start to unravel the mystery. Holmes is also trying to solve horrible murders in Whitechapel. Could Hyde be responsible?

I adored the idea of this book. The daughters (and other creations) of famous male literary figures coming together and having adventures as friends. Some of them view themselves as “monsters” who don’t have really a place in society, especially in the Victorian era.

They’re all very practical women. Most of them must be, to survive. Mary has taken over the household money because her mother had been seriously ill for years. Diana lived practically on the streets for some years. Catherine Moreau had to keep a level head to survive on Moreau’s island and later to simply support herself alone. The other two had similar circumstances. They all express their frustration with the limits that the Victorian culture puts on women. Yet, the book has a lot of humor, too. For once, Sherlock and Watson are clearly both the sidekicks to these colorful women.

I had a lot of fun listening this book and Kate Reading’s narration was as wonderful as ever.

The book has lots of quotable parts.
“No wonder men did not want women to wear bloomers. What could women accomplish if they did not have to continually mind their skirts, keep them from dragging in the mud or getting trampled on the steps of an omnibus? If they had pockets! With pockets, women could conquer the world!”

A realistic historical fiction which kind of glances at the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

Publication year: 1956
Format: print
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2013
Finnish translator: Kirsi Nisula
Finnish publisher: Kirjapaja
Page count: 304 including two introductions to the book.

I’m familiar with the original myth but it’s been so long since I read it that it was great that one of the introductions has a brief recounting of it. It’s also fascinating to see the differences in the myth and Lewis’s version.

The story is told through the eyes of Orual, the eldest of Psyche’s sisters. If you’re expecting to see Cupid or much of the other gods, you’ll be disappointed. Also, Cupid is barely seen and Psyche is absent for most of the tale so I can’t really call this a retelling. Rather, a story inspired by the myth.

In this story, the Greek gods are very much out of the picture, rarely seen or heard, and not interacting with the humans. Even their famous tempers and desires are gone, apparently invented by humans. Although, some manner of jealousy might be seen near the end. Indeed, this reads like a historical fiction. The brief scenes where the deities are seen can be interpreted as dreams or visions.

Orual wrote this book when she is an old woman, as a memoir of what happened to her and her sister. She loved her sister very much and is bitter that the gods have twisted their story.

Orual is the eldest daughter of the king of Glome. Much to the king’s disappointment, she’s a girl and worse yet, ugly. Her sister Redival, however, is pretty. But the king’s wife died soon after Redival’s birth and he does his best to get another bride. The king is very temperamental and cruel. His kingdom is poor and he doesn’t have many allies. However, he manages to get another bride who dies giving birth to Psyche who even as a child is so beautiful that everything changes. Because Psyche’s mother is dead, Orual raises.

While Glome isn’t a real, it’s described as a realistic place. The people worship Ungit who requires sacrifices, mostly animals. Orual describes the scent of “holiness” as thick and pungent with blood.

The book has allusions to Christian thought, especially at the end. So, it can be read as a historical fiction, fantasy, or even Christian allegory. But it’s not too heavy handed, except at the end. But it has other themes as well, such as the difference between jealous, selfish love and selfless love which only wants the other’s happiness. Another is a the difference between “pagan” thought and Greek philosophy. Fox, Orual’s Greek tutor, teaches the “barbarians” Greek philosophy and tries to lift Orual and Psyche out of their barbarism.

The Finnish translation is excellent.

Storybundle again has two very tempting bundles:
Time travel for 13 days and Sorcery and Steam for six days.

I’ve read and enjoyed Einstein’s Secret by Irving Belatche in the Time travel bundle.

The Fiction River presents issue, which is in the Sorcery and Steam bundle, has short stories from some previous Fiction River books. I’ve read some of them and really enjoyed Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “The Scottish Play”.

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