January 2020

The fifth book, and the second in the second trilogy, in the Roma Nova alternative reality action/thriller series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Print
Page count: 296
Publisher: Pulcheria Press

The book is set at the beginning of 1980s. Roma Nova was founded by refugees from Roman Empire and has thrived during the centuries. However, it’s not a democracy. Power is in the hands of the heads of the twelve families, all women, and the imperatrix who is always a woman.

Aurelia Mitela is in her forties and at the height of her career. She’s the foreign minister and the head of the twelve families who together advice the imperatrix. 13 years ago, she set Caius Tellus to prison in Germany after he assaulted her and killed people. However, now he’s served his sentence and is back. Aurelia tries to fight it, but to her horror, outdated laws let Caius walk. He manages to influence the head of the Tella family and eventually even the impratrix herself to worm his way to the highest levels of government.

At the same time, some people are rioting. Aurelia suspects that Caius is behind it but can’t find any proof. When her 19-year-old daughter is attacked, she takes her and flees to her farm but even that place has been attacked. When riots continue, led by Roman Nationalist movement which calls for return to the “natural” male leadership, the Roman Novan government itself is in danger.

For some readers, the beginning is slower because it’s focused on Aurelia’s personal life, her alienation from her daughter, and fears of Caius. Of course, if you’ve read the previous book (which I recommend) you know just how dangerous Caius is so it’s great foreshadowing. But when the action starts, it’s relentless. It also felt like the darkest book in the series so far.

This was a great book in the series. The characters are great and it’s so rare but wonderful to see a woman over 40 as the main character of an action book. Aurelia is a former special forces Major so she’s more than capable of fighting with both hand-to-hand and weapons.

Aurelia a passionate character; she cares deeply for the people in her life and also for Roma Nova itself. The current ruler Severina is a weak person and therefore a bad ruler but Aurelia tries her best to guide her, even when Severina doesn’t want that guidance. Severina is more than a plausible character and so is Aurelia’s daughter who is becoming increasingly uncomfortable of her mother’s protection.

While the main plot of overthrowing the matriarchal leaders of the nation is very similar to the plot in the second book of the series, Perfiditas, the execution was completely different. The revolutionaries take advantage of the people’s prejudices and ignorance in addition to lazy or corrupt government officials, set in their ways. It’s all frighteningly realistic.

The book ends in a cliffhanger so I’m going to get the next book soon.

Collects Terra Incognita issues 1-6.

Writers: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
Artists: Tony Shasteen, Àngel Hernández, Carlos Nieto

This is a continuation to the Tipton’s two Mirror universe Trek comics “Mirror Broken” and “Through the Mirror”. However, you don’t need to read them because until the final issue the only mirror universe element is that Reg Barclay has come over to the TNG universe. He’s keeping the usual Barclay tied up in his quarters and taken over his duties on Enterprise-D. We follow the Enterprise crew when they try to negotiate a peace with the Cardassians and through a couple of other adventures.

The first issue centers on Barclay. He resents the way that the others treat him (or rather the original Barclay) and is determined to better his career. When the USS Hood needs help with their warp engines, Barclay seizes his opportunity.

In the second issue, the Enterprise takes over the Hood’s mission. The Hood was carrying Vulcan diplomats to critical negotiations with the Cardassians. After Starfleet’s battle with the Borg in Wolf 359, their fleet was greatly diminished and they really need the peace with the Cardassians. They want to negotiate away from large battleships, so two of the Vulcans and Deanna Troi take a shuttle. They meet with two of the Cardassian negotiators and head down to the planet. Of course, the shuttle crashes and the Vulcans and the Cardassians must work together to get to safety.

In the third issue, Vulcan doctor Selar takes the center stage. The lead Vulcan negotiator is dying and only Selar’s expertise might help him. We also find out about Selar’s childhood.

In the fourth issue, Riker, Wesley, the mirror-Barclay, and ensign Shannon Gilson meet the representatives of the Faundori who want to join the Federation. The Faundori are known for their engineering skills so the Federation needs them. However, things aren’t what they seem.

In the fifth issue, the Enterprise answers a distress call from the Lolligans, humanoids who have tentacles instead of arms. They’re suffering from a wide-spread disease which makes them break out in homicidal rage. If doctor Crusher can’t find a cure for them, the entire species must be transported and put to stasis until a cure can be found. If it’s found. Crusher, Data, Worf, and the Mirror-Barclay investigate on the Lolligans’ planet.

In the final issue, characters from the Mirror universe come to fetch Mirror-Barclay back. They consider him a deserter so they aren’t gentle. However, I don’t think you need to read the previous collections to understand what’s going on.

For the most part, I enjoyed these stories. It was great to return to the TNG crew and they’re in character. The only thing that I didn’t care for was that nobody suspected Mirror-Barclay. Not even when he rolled up the sleeves of his uniform and the crew had already seen the sleeveless Mirror universe uniforms. Not even Troi. I also though that Mirror-Barclay was up to something sinister, but apparently not. Of course, this made him more relateble than most of the ruthless Mirror universe people.

Still, this was an enjoyable ride and the last pages promise more to come.

The fourth and final volume in the Planet of Adventure science fantasy series.

Publication year: 1970
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 23 hours 3 minutes
Narrator: Elijah Alexander

The previous book ended when Earth man Adam Reith and his two companions, barbarian teenager Traz and renegade Dirdirman Ankhe at afram Anacho, captured a shady businessman Woudiver who sold them out to their enemies. Even though Woudiver is their captive, he manages to signal the fourth alien race on the planet, the Pnume, about Reith and arrange his kidnapping. Reith is captured and taken to the vast underground tunnels where the aliens and their human slaves live. He manages to free himself but now has the task of avoiding the Pnume and their human slaves, the Pnumekin, and finding a way to the surface. To do that, he in turn captures a young Pnumekin woman and forces her to show him the way.

This time the book has distinctive two parts: the first part is set in the underground tunnels exploring the Pnumekin culture and the other is set on the surface where Reith must educate the woman about the surface culture. For me, the first part was more fun: I like characters sneaking around and it wasn’t easy to make several chapters of it fun.

The Pnumekin were weird. The Pnume strip them of personality and sexuality with culture and drugs. The woman Reith kidnaps doesn’t even have a name; he calls her Zap 210 based on the area where he found her. Her growth has been stunted with drugs and she has no knowledge of human sexuality or how different genders behave toward each other. She calls it “boisterous conduct” and doesn’t want to even hear about it. Reith must educate her and while he’s considerate enough, I found myself rolling my eyes at the scenes.

The Pnume themselves are curious and collect samples of life, including humans.

Still, this was a good ending to the series, even if the wrap-up was pretty abrupt.

A stand-alone fantasy / steampunk novella.

Publication year: 2019
Format: Print
Page count: 130
Publisher: Tor

The story is set in an alternative 1912 Cairo. Around 1860, djinns were set loose on the world and the world hasn’t been the same. Egypt is now an independent republic and their representatives are about to vote if women should get the vote.

Against this backdrop, senior agent Hamed al-Nasr and his fresh off the academy partner agent Onsi, both from the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, are handed a case of the haunted tram car. Hamed is convinced that the culprit isn’t a ghost but an irate djinn. But when Ramses Station’s superintendent refuses to pay for the agents’ services, Hamed and Onsi must come up with something different than the usual exorcism.

This was a charming short book. The background is fascinating and I’d love to read more stories in this world. Happily, I haven’t yet read the first short story, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, so I have that to look forward to. I’m a fan of Amelia Peabody books so one fictional Cairo is somewhat familiar to me. Clark describes the city and the people vividly.

Hamed is an experienced agent and while he at first resents his new partner, he quickly realizes how necessary it is for Onsi to get more field experience. Onsi is also a useful agent and not just there to wonder what’s going on. Both are very rational agents, used to dealing with magical beings.

The suffragette side plot runs parallel to the main plot and introduces us to many colorful female characters. Novella length was perfect for the story.

A Buffy the Vampire slayer book, set in the third season.

Publication year: 2000
Format: Print
Page count: 178
Publisher: Pocket books

The story starts with a young woman, Heidi, who is chased by two vampire men, twins in fact. They catch her and take her back to their “home”, to their mother who is also a vampire. Together they drink from the girl and kill her.

Buffy and her mom Joyce are in the mall, having a nice day together. Then Buffy realizes that someone is following them. It turns out to be Suz Tompkins, one of the “tough girls” in Sunnydale High. She asks Buffy for help, nearly crying because her best friends have gone missing and she suspects something really bad has happened to them. Heidi’s own mom doesn’t care and the police think that Heidi has just run away or joined a gang.

Buffy agrees to help and the vampire twins arrive in the Bronze. Buffy lures them out. She and Angel attack them. She kills one of them and then their vampire mom arrives just in time to see her kill the other. The vampire mom summons the Greek goddess of revenge, Nemesis, and asks for revenge against Buffy. Nemesis puts Buffy on trial.

This was a fun Buffy story, except she does more contemplation than usual. The Scooby Gang are in character and pretty funny. It has several references to earlier episodes, which I quite enjoyed. Overall, I enjoyed the story.

A lecture series in the Great Courses series.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours 19 minutes
Narrator: Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

I love spy fiction so when this course was in one of Audibles two listens for one credit, I took it.

This is an overview of espionage through the ages, starting from ancient world all the way to the modern era. The period that I was most interested in, the ancient world, got just one lecture so it was way too brief for my tastes, but otherwise I greatly enjoyed this. (Of course, modern times have way, way more sources.) It’s a very good starting place. Liulevicius gives us a lot of examples of all the eras he touches on and there are a couple of chapters about spy fiction, too. We don’t actually get to know much about what the spies did, in day to day spying, though. He makes it clear that literally anyone could be a spy: a silk merchant, a dancer, a highly respected general.

He doesn’t much mention the morals or ethics of spying as a profession but offers some insight into why certain people become spies.

The course includes the pdf course guidebook.

In GoodReads, the Action Heroine group is once again doing the
Action heroine fans yearly challenge. I’ve joined it with the initial goal of 20 books.

This will be the third year that I’m participated in this challenge. You can count in comics, books, novellas, reread, library books, tbr books, collections, so it’s pretty easy.

Just before Christmas, I bought five Buffy books from a second hand bookstore and I have a stack of Buffy comics, too, so I’m starting with them.

Books read
1, Cameron Dokey: Here be Monsters
2, Alison Morton: Insurrectio
3, Jana DeLeon: Lethal Bayou Beauty
4, Mel Odom: Unnatural Selection
5, Kevin J. Anderson, ed: Fiction River: Pulse Pounders: Countdown
6, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: The Gabriel Set-Up
7, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: The Black Pearl
8, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: Top Traitor
9, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: Mister Sun
10,Christopher Golden: Sins of the Father
11, Captain Marvel vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More
12, Brent Nichols: Gears of a Mad God: A Steampunk Lovecraft Adventure
13, Peter O’Donnell and Enrique Romero: Green-Eyed Monster
14, Peter O’Donnell, Jim Holdaway, and Enrique Romero: The Hell-Makers
15, Peter O’Donnell, Jim Holdaway, and Enrique Romero: The Death Trap
16, Peter O’Donnell and Enrique Romero: the Puppet Master
17, Peter O’Donnell and Enrique Romero: Green-Eyed Monster
18, Judith Tarr: A Wind in Cairo
19, Peter O’Donnell: Dead Man’s Handle
20, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: the Double Agent

21 ,Alison Morton: Retalio

22, Peter O’Donnells and Enrique Romero: Million Dollar Game

23, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: Sweet Caroline

24, Excalibur by Tini Howard vol. 1

25, Star Wars vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon

26, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: Death in Slow Motion

27, Jacqueline Carey: Starless

28, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: the Scarlet Maiden

29, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: the Lady Killers


The third book in the science fantasy series Planet of Adventure.

Publication year: 1969
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 23 hours 3 minutes
Narrator: Elijah Alexander

Human Adam Reith from Earth was stranded on the alien world Tschai in the first book “the City of the Chasch”. He’s still trying to get a space ship and return to Earth. However, that’s very difficult. He’s failed twice and now he’s going to build a space ship from scratch. His previous adventures have brought him to the attention of the Dirdir, panther-like aliens who hunt and kill men for sport. They’ve taken exception to Reith’s successes and his claim that humans originate from another planet. So, they’ve sent a murder squad called the “Initiative” after him. Reith manages kill them but his friend, and a renegade Dirdirman, Ankhe at afram Anacho tells him that more will come.

Reith needs a lot of money for the spaceship and what better place to gather them than where the crystals, from which the local money is made, grow. However, that place is the Dirdir hunting preserve where they hunt the men who try to get the crystals. So, Reith, Anacho, and teenager Traz, who is a former barbarian chief, head to the preserve. They, in turn, do what the local humans thought would be impossible: hunt and kill the Dirdir and take the money they’ve gathered from their victims.

However, Reith still needs to build the spaceship. They go to a huge city and engage the services of an unscrupulous businessman Woudiver who doesn’t miss a chance to squeeze every penny out of them. Woudiver also threatens to give them over to the Dirdir who are now furious at Reith.

The first half of the book is pretty solid, if violent, adventure with Reith and his two companions fighting Dirdir and their henchmen. However, the rest of the book is quite different, mostly Reith dealing with Woudiver.

Most humans regard Reith insane because he claims that he, and humans in general, come from another planet. This time Reith doesn’t encourage the various human societies to revolt against their alien masters, but he claims that humans are superior to the aliens.

We don’t actually get to know much about the Dirdir. Anacho tells us that they have multiple sexes of both males and females. Not all of them are compatible. We also know that they hunt in packs despite being a space faring species. They also think of men as subhumans who can be killed and exploited at will and they keep the Dirdirmen in thrall by telling them that they might be able to become actual Dirdir some day. But most of this was explained in the previous books, so not much is new. The Dirdir seem to exist just to be the enemies. At least they look impressive:

“impressive creatures, harsh, mercurial, decisive. They stood approximately at human height, and moved with sinister quickness, like lizards on a hot day. Their dermal surfaces suggested polished bone; their crania raised into sharp blade-like crests, with incandescent antennae streaming back at either side. The contours of the faces were oddly human, with deep eye-sockets, the scalp crests descending to suggest nasal ridges. They half-hopped, half-loped, like leopards walking erect.”

This is the post where I gather all my reviews for this year.

reading challenges
action heroines (31) 31
vintage (2) 2
mount tbr (24) 24
pick&mix (10) 10
action/adventure bingo 14

1, Jack Vance: The Dirdir (vintage)
2, Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius: Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History
3, Cameron Dokey: Here be Monsters (tbr, aa)
4, Jack Vance: The Pnume (p&m, vintage, aa)
5, P. Djèlí Clark: The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (p&m)
6, Alison Morton: Insurrectio (tbr, ah, a/a)

1, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Terra Incognita

7, Sean Parnell: Man of War (a/a)
8, Trevol Swift: Justicar Jhee and the Cursed Abbey
9, Jana DeLeon: Lethal Bayou Beauty (ah)
10, Dorothy Gilman: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

2, Star Trek: TNG: the Space Between
3, Keiichi Arawi: Nichijou

11, Carrie Vaughn: The Immortal Conquistador
12, Martin H. Greenberg, ed.: The Further Adventures of Batman (tbr)
13, Mel Odom: Unnatural Selection (tbr, ah)
14, Kevin J. Anderson, ed.: Fiction River: Pulse Pounders: Countdown (tbr)
15, Brent Nichols: Gears of a Mad God: A Steampunk Lovecraft Adventure

4, Hikaru Miyoshi: Inspector Akane Tsunemori
5, Ranmaru Kotone: your name
6, Takuma Morishige: My Neighbour Seki vol. 1-3
7, The Expanse: Origins
8, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: The Gabriel Set-Up

16, Stan Lee and Kat Rosenfield: A Trick of Light
17, Lauren Gunderson: the Half-Life of Marie Curie
18, Shawn McGuire: Family Secrets (tbr)
19, T. Kingfisher: The Clockwork Boys
20, James S. A. Corey: Cibola Burn (tbr)
21, Christopher Golden: Sins of the Father (tbr, ah)

9, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: Mister Sun
10, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: Top Traitor
11, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: The Black Pearl
12, Avengers by Jason Aaron vol: 1 The Final Host

22, Garth Nix: Sabriel
23, Shawn McGuire: Kept Secrets
24, Daniel Abraham: A Shadow in Summer (TBR)
25, Judith Tarr: Dragons in the Earth (TBR)
26, Judith Tarr: A Wind in Cairo (tbr)

13, Captain Marvel vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More
14, Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway: Bad >Suki
15, Peter O’Donnell, Jim Holdaway, and Enrique Romero: The Hell-Makers
16, Chris Claremont, John Bolton: The Black Dragon
17, Bone by Jeff Smith
18, Peter O’Donnell and Enrique Romero: Green-Eyed Monster

Three fantasy series about books

27, S. A. Chakraborty: The Kingdom of Copper
28, Martha Wells: The Element of Fire (tbr)
29, Max Gladstone: Two Serpents Rise (tbr)
30, T. Kingfisher: The Wonder Engine (p&m)

31, Joseph Nassise: the Heretic
32, James S. A. Corey: Nemesis Games (p&m)
33, Sophie Hannah: Closed Casket

19, Peter O’Donnell and Enrique Romero: the Puppet Master
20, Peter O’Donnell, Jim Holdaway, and Enrique Romero: The Death Trap
21, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: the Lady Killers

34, Martha Wells: Exit Strategy (p&m)
35, Peter O’Donnell: Dead Man’s Handle (TBR)
36, Jacqueline Carey: Starless
37, David B. Coe and Joshua Palmatier ed.: Galactic Stew

22, Powers of X/House of X
23, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: the Scarlet Maiden

38, Claudia Grey: Leia: Princess of Alderaan (p&m)
39, Stephanie Dray: Lily of the Nile (tbr)
40, Stacey Alabaster: A Pie to Die For  (tbr)
41, Cherie Priest: Jacaranda (tbr)

24, That time I got Reincarnated as a Slime vol. 1
25, Star Trek/X-Men
26, Star Trek: TNG: Perchance to Dream

42, Christy Murphy: Mango Cake and Murder
43, Christy Murphy: Apple Pies and Alibis
44, Martha Wells: Network Effect

27, Star Trek TNG/DS9: The Landmark Crossover
28, Fantastic Four/Avengers: Domination Factor
29, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: Sweet Caroline
30, Peter O’Donnell and Neville Colvin: the Double Agent


The Gifted seasons 1 and 2
45, Michael Moorcock: Lord of the spiders
(tbr) 46, Dean Wesley Smith: A Hard Rain
47, M.C. Frank: Hood
48, Russ Linton: Crimson Son

49, Alex White: A Big Ship at the Edge of Universe


31, Star Wars vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon
32, Star Wars: Vader Down

33, Excalibur by Tini Howard vol. 1
34, Star Trek: TNG: Intelligence Gathering
35, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto: Neon Genesis Evangelion vol. 1 and 2
36, Star Wars vol. 3: Rebel Jail


Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger: Season 1

50, Nikki Haverstock: There’s no Business Like Mage Business (tbr)

51, Carmen Carter: The Devil’s Heart (tbr)

52, Heist with Michael Caine

53, Alison Morton: Retalio

54, Mark Hodder: The Strange Affair of the Spring Heeled Jack

55, Kim Harrison, Melissa Marr, Jeanine Frost, Vicki Pettersson, Jocelynn Drake: Unbound


37, Peter O’Donnells and Enrique Romero: Million Dollar Game

38, Excalibur by Tini Howard vol. 2

39, Thanos vol. 3: Thanos Wins

I’m again joining the Pick&Mix reading challenge but my initial goal is only 10 books.

I’ve quite a few books for the Mount TBR challenge so I’m aiming to read less from the library. However, any new audiobooks or ebooks will go to this challenge, too.

Books read:
1, Jack Vance: The Dirdir
2, P. Djèlí Clark: The Haunting of Tram Car 015
3, Jack Vance: The Pnume
4, T. Kingfisher: The Wonder Engine
5, James S. A. Corey: Nemesis Games
6, Claudia Grey: Leia: Princess of Alderaan
7, Martha Wells: Exit Strategy
8, Jacqueline Carey: Starless
9, Jacqueline Carey: Santa Olivia
10, Martha Wells: Network Effect

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