August 2022


Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week.

There are characters we know can hold their own and kick some butt, but then there are characters who are simply deadly in their skill set and seem almost undefeatable. For today’s prompt, let’s focus on characters who we consider skilled fighters and do more than just “hold their ground.”

The choice was again pretty difficult because there are just so many fighters in fiction. But here are my current favorites:

1, Benedict by Roger Zelazny

In Zelazny’s Amber books, the rulers of Amber are all immortal and so have many skills. Dominic is the master tactician and fighter.

2, Drizzt Do’Urden by R. A. Salavatore

Drizzt is a drow (a dark elf) in the Forgotten Realms books. He’s extremely good with two swords.

3, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin by Peter of O’Donnell

Modesty and her best friend Willie are extremely good at all forms of combat. Even if they are beaten, they will come back and kick your ass.

4, Batman by DC Comics

A master tactician and hand-to-hand combatant.

5, Xena the Warrior Princess

The second book in the urban fantasy Heartstrikers where the main characters are dragons.

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Publication year: 2015

Format: Audio

Running time: 18 hours, 35 minutes
Narrator: Vikas Adam

This was an excellent sequel to the Nice Dragons Finish Last. Julius is the youngest dragon in the Heartstriker clan. He’s also a genuinely nice person which the other dragons don’t understand because they believe that might makes right. Julius’ siblings have bullied him all his life. Now, Julius is in Detroit which is ruled by a powerful spirit who hates dragons. But Julius’ ruthless mother, who is the head of the clan, sent him there and sealed him in a human form. Julius survived her mother’s plans and even made a few friends and some enemies, as well.

Now, Estella, one of the three dragon seers, is gunning for Julius’ mother forcing her powerful sisters to work ruthlessly against the Heartstriker. No matter how cruel Julius’ mother is, he must try to help her. Meanwhile, his business partner Marci is kidnapped. A spirit who has killed many dragons knows about Julius and wants to kill him.

I love the characters and the world-building is excellent. Aaron deepens it a lot, especially dragon history. Some readers might not like that so much info is given in dialog but I liked the history bits a lot.

Julius is a genuinely kind character if somewhat too angsty. He’s also in love with Marci but doesn’t want to endanger their friendship so he doesn’t say anything. Marci is a competent mage with a mercenary side. She’s also very attracted to Julius but thinks that she doesn’t have a chance. I also enjoyed Marci’s familiar Ghost, the spirit of a dead cat. He shows quite a new side to himself.

Many of the cast returns and we’re also introduced to a couple of new characters. The writing style continues to be light and fun, with plenty of exciting battles. The only thing I didn’t really care for was the romance between Marci and Julius. The ending was a surprise and I dove right into the next book.

The second book in the humorous heist book series the League of Pensioners.

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Publishing year: 2014

Finnish publication year: 2017

Format: Print

Finnish publisher: S&S

Page count: 363

Finnish translator: Outi Menna

Märtha Anderson and her friends want to rob a Las Vegas casino and give the money to worthy causes in Sweden, such as the downsized schooling system and privatized elderly homes. So, they plan and execute a heist. However, their paths cross with another gang and suddenly Märtha and her friends have stolen diamonds in their hands. They decide to return to Sweden rather than wait for the bigger criminals to sniff them out. They smuggle the diamonds to their homeland in a golf bag.

They’re still wanted from their previous heist so they use made-up names and social security numbers. But things go wrong: they lose the golf bag, and the diamonds, in the customs. Then they realize that a hacker has redirected the money they wanted to donate. So, they need to do another heist and, of course, try to find out just where their stolen money has gone.

To make matters more interesting, their neighbors are two large men in a motorbike gang. Their other neighbor is a Tarot-reading younger woman (in her sixties) and one of the League members becomes very attracted to her, bringing friction to the team.

This was a fun and quick read with plenty of twists and no violence. The writer also criticizes modern privatization and downsizing trends. It’s similar to the first book, so if you liked that one, you’ll probably like this one, too.

Of course, their antics aren’t believable. Too bad, because I wouldn’t mind spending my old age like this.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week.

School is about to be back in session for many, and with it, new beginnings! Whether it’s the start of a new grade or a new adventure in a fantasy world, let’s share about stories with the theme of new beginnings! (This could even be a second chance at new beginnings too!)

Quite a few series starts with a new beginning for the main character(s), so it was difficult to choose just five but here goes:

1, Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

Penric is a young man who is going to get married because his family wants him to. Instead, he meets a dying woman on the road and his life chances.

2, The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Nahri is a thief and a conwoman. When she performs a mock-summoning, something very strange happens: she summons a powerful spirit. That act also brings strange and strong enemies who can even summon the dead.

3, Of Mages and Murders by Nikki Haverstock

When Ella’s father died, she inherits his building in Rambler, Nevada and moves there. She also finds out that she’s a witch. And get a big black cat as a familiar.

4, Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Amelia Peabody’s father died and left her a small fortune. She’s always been interested in Egypt but has never had the money to travel. Now, she can travel and so she heads to Egypt. Little does she know that she’ll meet a certain fiery tempered Egyptologist who will change her whole life.

 5, A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

John Carter sees Mars in the black sky and the planet beckons to him. The next moment, he stands naked on the red plains of Barsoom.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Completed Series I Wish had More Books.

I’m in the middle of quite a few series, so this was harder than I thought. And looking up some series, I realized that more books have come out! Here are the series with delightful characters I’d love to read more about:

1, Lois McMaster Bujold: the Vorkosigan series

2, Randall Garrett: Lord Darcy short stories

3, Anne Logston: Shadow

4, Naomi Novik: Temeraire

5, Liz Williams: Detective Inspector Chen

6, Peter O’Donnell: Modesty Blaise

7, Elizabeth Peters: Amelia Peabody

8, C. J. Cherryh: Chanur series

9, Theodora Goss: the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club

10, Roger Zelazny: Amber

Apex Magazine has a subscription drive for the year 2023 through Kickstarter. It’s already funded and has three days to go

Zombies Need Brains is funding four new SFF anthologies through Kickstarter.

23 days to go.

“In DRAGONESQUE, you’ll experience an anthology of fantasy and science fiction stories told from, or through, or with, the dragon’s point of view. High fantasy, sword & sorcery, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, magical realism, and of course science fiction…DRAGONESQUE will feature a wealth of genres that even a dragon would be tempted to horde.”

“In GAME ON!, we’re looking for unique science fiction and fantasy takes on games, game playing, and games in culture. A game or games—real or imagined—should be central to the story in some fashion.” Not sports, though.

“SOLAR FLARE will envision a future where humanity has embraced the Earth and learned to co-exist with it, not simply on it, where sustainability is a way of life, not merely a catch phrase. Join us as these stellar authors share their visions of a hopeful tomorrow.”

“Art is everywhere. Our drive and ability to create for the sake of creativity defines us as a species and enriches our cultures, our societies, our lives. The best of these works of art, from novels to paintings to statues to music, are imbued with a special kind of magic. But when that magic is literal—when Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray ages instead of the actual man, and Mozart’s Magic Flute plays its protective song—art takes on a whole new meaning. In ARTIFICE & CRAFT, we invite writers of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and other speculative fiction to spin their own tales of works of art that have been enchanted, hexed, charmed, or cursed.”

The first book in the SF series Mickey7.

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Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 9 hours, 15 minutes
Narrator: John Pirhalla, Katherine Chin

Mickey7 is an Expendable, an employee whose consciousness is downloaded to a new clone body after he dies. So, he does all the most dangerous jobs and especially those where he is sure to be killed. There can only be one version of an Expendable at a time. Also, it’s easier to grow a new body than replace an expensive drone or other equipment, so that’s why people who have space-age technology use expendable humans.

He and the rest of the crew are colonists on Niflheim, a planet that was supposed to be able to support life easily. When the ship arrived, they saw that the planet was ice and snow. It also has dangerous animals which were dubbed creepers. The colony is struggling and resources are low.

On a routine mission, Mickey7 falls down a ravine and is left for dead. That doesn’t surprise him. However, he manages to return to the base, and to his astonishment and dismay, Mickey8 is already in his bed.

This was a fun and quick romp. Every other chapter is present day and the other chapters are either from Mickey’s past or he tells us some significant piece of history. The book is about space colonization and cloning.

Mickey has a girlfriend but only one close friend on the base. The commander is a religious man who thinks that cloning is an abomination, so he uses any excuse to punish Mickey. While the parts of the story are pretty dark, the overall tone is light and humorous.

Collects issues 1-12 of the Strange Adventures maxiseries.

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Writer: Tom King

Artist: Mitch Gerards, Evan “Doc” Shaner

Publisher: DC

Adam Savage is the hero of the planet Rann. He and Rann’s defenders protected the planet from invaders out of space, the Pykkts. Now, he has returned to Earth and is selling his book. He’s a celebrity.

However, some people don’t agree. They accuse Adam of mass murder during the war. JLA wants to investigate him and Adam and his wife Alanna. Batman appoints Mr. Terrific because Mr. Terrific lost his child and Adam and Alanna lost their daughter during the last days of the war.

The story has two timelines: one in the present and one in the past, during the Rann war. The past storyline has clear influences from pulp science fantasy stories (and no doubt the original Adam Savage tales which I haven’t read). Adam and Alanna must first unite Rann’s sentient species against the invaders and then lead the horrible war against the Pykkts.

The present is very much a modern story, where people doubt their heroes. Themes include war and what should and shouldn’t be done in wars.

The art is gorgeous. It also makes clear if we’re seeing the past or the present. Shaner draws the past parts in a style that is reminiscent of older comic book styles. It jars with the more violent scenes, but in a good way. Gerards’ present is darker and the characters’ faces more expressive.

No doubt this is a great read for people who enjoy deconstructing heroes. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the art, I wasn’t too wild about the storyline.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Books I Love That Were Written Over Ten Years Ago.

Most of the books I’ve read were published over ten years ago. Here are some of my favorites:

1, Lois McMaster Bujold: Barrayar

2, Steven Brust: Issola

3, Anne Logston: Shadow

4, Naomi Novik: Temeraire (or His Majesty’s Dragon)

5, Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters

6, Liz Williams: Snake Agent

7, Kerry Greenwood: Cocaine Blues

8, Elizabeth Peters: The Last Crocodile Died at Noon

9, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Diving into the Wreck

10, Connie Wills: To Say Nothing of the Dog or How We Found the Bishop’s Birdstump Again

The first book in Legendborn YA fantasy series.

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Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 18 hours, 54 minutes
Narrator: Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Bree Matthews lost her mother a few months ago and she can’t get over it. She hates living in a house where everything reminds her of her mother. She has applied to a residential program for bright high schoolers at a university and both she and her best friend Alice are accepted. Despite her father’s misgivings, Bree and Alice attend.

But during the first night, Bree and Alice participate in a party that is outside the campus. Bree sees something unexpected: a supernatural creature attacking. Some of the other students use bows and arrows and swords to take it down. Bree hides.

This was an entertaining read and a new twist on the King Arthur legend. It has the descendants of various knights who belong to a secret order. It also points out that all the descendants and members are white. Some of them have been slave owners. And Bree is black.

The main themes of the book are grief and racism. Bree’s grief over her mother was beautifully and realistically described. Her reactions, too. When she realizes that she might not have died in a simple car accident, she won’t allow anything to stop her from finding out what really happened. She’s brave and determined and also wants to protect her friends and dad. She does have flaws, as well. Also, she’s only 16.

While racism is shown through some people’s actions and words, there are also heartbreaking scenes where Bree realizes that she always feels out of place. For example, because buildings and places aren’t for her (race) even though most likely black workmen (or slaves) have built them, but for white people. Or because she doesn’t know her family history. There are also a couple of flashbacks to her foremothers who were slaves.

Themes are more important than the plot. So the plot has a leisurely pace.

Despite the strong themes, the story succumbs to some YA tropes. The love interests and the love triangle. I didn’t care for the triangle. I kind of like the love interests as characters, though.

Bree doesn’t know anything about the magic at the start of the book. When people tell her about it, there are quite a few info dumps, which I didn’t mind. The Arthurian stuff comes up later, so I don’t want to spoil it. I enjoyed most of it but was dubious about some things.

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