2018 mount tbr

1. Tell us how many miles you made it up your mountain (# of books read). If you’ve planted your flag on the peak, then tell us, take a selfie, and celebrate (and wave!). Even if you were especially athletic and have been sitting atop your mountain for months, please check back in and remind us how quickly you sprinted up that trail. And feel free to tell us about any particularly exciting book adventures you’ve had along the way.

I managed to reach my goal of Mount Blanc or 24 books near the end of December. While most of the books were two or three stars, I gave four stars (from five) to seven books:

Lee Killough: Deadly Silents
Set on an alien planet where the original inhabitants are telepathic.

Max Gladstone: Three Parts Dead
A new author and series for me. I will continue with it.

Kerri L. Hughs, ed.: Fiction River: Alchemy and Steam
Another wonderful short story collection. This one focuses on steampunk and magic.

Elizabeth Peters: The Serpent on the Crown
I love the Amelia Peabody historical mystery series and it was a treat to visit “old friends.”

Patrick Weekes: The Prophecy Con
Patrick Weekes: The The Paladin Caper
Books two and three in a fantasy trilogy which is essentially Ocean’s 11 in a fantasy world.

James S. A. Corey: Caliban’s War
The second book in the excellent Expanse science fiction series.

And of course N. K. Jemisin: The Stone Sky which is an excellent ending to a great (if grim) series. I gave it full five stars.

Thanks very much for hosting, Bev! I’m joining the challenge again in 2019 because I still have lots of books on my shelves.

The second book in the Expanse science fiction series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 595 + an excerpt of the next book, Abaddon’s Gate

This book has four POV characters and only James Holden is familiar from the first book, Leviathan Wakes. Holden and his small crew aboard the Rocinante have been working for the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance which the two big powers, Earth and Mars consider a terrorist organization) for a year cleaning out space pirates preying on smaller ships. This has hardened Holden.

However, the story starts with Mei Meng, a four year of girl who lives in Ganymede and is seriously ill; her immune system doesn’t work. Her doctor and a woman who is claiming to be her mother abduct her from daycare. Mei’s father, Praxidike Meng, is a botanist on Ganymede where most of the food for the Outer Planets is produced, inside agricultural domes. Her mother doesn’t live on Ganymede anymore.

Gunnery Sergeant Roberta Draper, Bobbie, is stationed in Ganymede, on the Marsian side of the border. After the tensions created by the Eros incident, the peace between Mars and Earth is tenuous but her Ganymede duty is quiet because who would attack Ganymede? The peace is shattered when a group of Earth soldiers are running towards the Marsian side. However, within moments Bobbie realizes that it’s not an attack; the soldiers are running from a monster. The monster turns out to be so powerful that even the combined weapons of the Earth and Mars marines can’t stop it. Bobbie is the only survivor and to her horror she witnesses Earth and Mars spaceships going to war.

Ganymede is bombarded in the fight and the crops domes are decimated. The population, mostly scientists and their families, are in terrible trouble, starving and fighting amongst themselves. But when Prax realizes that Mei has disappeared (along with her whole group of similarly sick children), his only goal is to find her. Luckily for him, Holden and his crew bring relief food to the station and they agree to help Prax.

Back on Earth, Chrisjen Avarasarala is a United Nations politician in an unassuming position but with a lot of behind the scenes power. She’s in her seventies so she knows quite a lot about politics and people. She’s also ruthless in her goal to keep the world safe for her grandchildren to grow up in. That’s surprising difficult with scheming powerful people and saber-rattling military men all around her. She swears a lot and often seems to work on pure adrenaline and tea. She quickly enlists Bobbie to help avert the war between Mars and Earth.

This is a very good continuation to Leviathan Wakes. I really enjoyed all the new POV characters: Prax’s single minded dedication to finding his daughter, Avarasala’s ruthless politicking, and Bobbie wrestling with her PTSD from the battle with the monster and her discomfort about being employed by her nation’s enemy, Earth. Holden’s struggle with his conscience rather pales in comparison. However, I rather like his romance.

However, the other characters are rather one-note. The bad guys are psychotic or so greedy that they can’t see straight. Some characters are, of course, incompetent while very few are actually good at their jobs. Especially the military leaders all around seem to just want any excuse to shoot at each other.

The action scenes are quick but the politicking scenes are just as important, if not more so. The alien virus is still definitely a threat.

I enjoyed this book as much as Leviathan wakes, if not more, and it ends in a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. However, this is definitely a sequel; you need to read Leviathan wakes first.

A stand-alone mystery book with some science fiction elements. This was part of a Storybundle which I bought in 2015.

Publication year: 2012
Format: ebook

This is a mystery book with some thriller elements. It starts with a group of mysterious people spying on special forces captain Hawkins when he and his wife are in a car accident. We don’t see an explanation for that until the end.

The book starts with a couple of disparate things, such as Vredefort Dome in South Africa. It’s the largest gold mine in the world but abuses the workers. Some of them have chosen to fight back and one man brings a nuclear bomb into the mine. It detonates, destroying the mine.

In Australia, a deep space communications center observes strange transmissions seemingly coming from Ayers Rock.

Hawkins, who a major now, leads a group of US soldiers in a secret mission to take out a drug lord in Colombia. He’s looking for a nuclear bomb but the drug lord doesn’t know anything about it. Then he’s ordered to Australia.

US government gathers together a group of different individuals: major Hawkins, geologist Don Batson, physicist Debra Levy, and Francine Volkers who uses statistical projection to, essentially, predict the future. They’re all brought to Australia where the US government has started drilling into Ayers Rock which is a holy place to the ingenious people there. A transmission from the rock named the four people. Unfortunately, nobody knows why.

The story weaves together some of the mysterious places on Earth, such as Tunguska in Siberia, Ayers Rock, and Arizona Meteor Crater. The characters have so wild theories about them, apparently from real-life conspiracy theories. It’s part military action/adventure, part supernatural conspiracy mystery story. X-Files seems to have been a large inspiration, along with real-life conspiracy theories.

Batson is a middle-aged man with a drinking problem. He’s considered very good at his job, so good that he’s part of the US government group of experts. Levy is only 23; she’s child prodigy who has difficulty relating to other people. Volkers’ predictions produce quite bleak results for humanity, so she’s gone through a depression and a nervous breakdown. Hawkins is a career military officer whose wife is a coma. However, they manage to work together, most of the time at least. Hawkins in the major POV character and he’s the only one we really get to know.

A decent read.

The first book in a romantic urban fantasy series Golgotham.

Publication year: 2010
Format: print
Publisher: Roc
Page count: 289

Tate was born into filthy rich family, but she loathes her parents and their lifestyle. She’s trying to make a career as a metal sculptor and her parents think that’s just a phase. So, she wants to show them and make a living with it. However, her current neighbors are complaining about the noise she makes while sculpting (with hammers and a blowtorch) so, she needs to move. Also, she caught her boyfriend/fiancé cheating on her in her apartment which is another reason to move.

Tate sees an ad about a cheap apartment but it’s in the Golgotham area of New York City. In this world, there are magical creatures living openly but they’re often live in the same area and in NYC that’s Golgotham. Tate goes to see the apartment and it’s bigger than her previous one. She also meets the landlord, a young man whom she’s instantly attracted to even though he’s a Kymeran, a six-fingered man who was born with magical powers. Hexe is a sorcerer but he only uses right hand magic, which means healing magic. Of course, he could make a lot more money by doing curses, like most other Kymerans. That’s why he needs renters. He also has a demon familiar which looks like a cat and can talk (disdainfully).

Tate decides to move but finds out quickly that normal humans don’t want to deal with Golgothamites at all, to the point where taxis and moving vans simply don’t go in to that area of the city. Fortunately, Hexe knows a lot of people in Golgotham who can help her.

Then Tate thinks the sees a cat or a puppy in distress, but when she goes out to help it, it turns out that the animal is much larger: a werecreature. Through him Tate and Hexe find about a despicable way that the local mafia boss is using magical people and creatures.

The story is set in New York so it’s definitely urban fantasy. In addition to the Kymerans, the world has plenty of fantasy creatures such as centaurs, who draw taxies, leprechauns, dryads, and dwarfs. Humans consider them exotically curious creatures, at least when they don’t have to deal with the magical races daily. Many humans are racist against them, though, and some magic creatures are similarly racist against humans.

The story is focused on exploring Golgotham and some of the people who live there. Hexe also has some secrets of his own, although I guessed most of them pretty early on. Tate and Hexe are immediately attracted to each other but Tate has trouble trusting a boyfriend candidate and some people can’t accept a human and Kymeran as a couple. An action plot doesn’t kick in until late in the novel; mostly it’s about Tate and Hexe getting to know each other.

I enjoyed this book because of the characters. Hexe is great: he has principles and isn’t afraid to stand by them. He’s also a healer who refuses to deal with curses. However, that refusal doesn’t really affect his finances; it would have definitely been far more impressive if it did. Tate is an artist and not the delicate little flower type. She’s impulsive and sometimes blurts out things when she shouldn’t. She’s also loyal and wants to protect animals. She also doesn’t know much about the Kymerans or the other magical races, but she’s not prejudiced against them and is willing to learn.

On the other hand, she’s not a martial artist nor does she have any magical powers. While it was somewhat refreshing it also unfortunately makes her a sideliner (or a hostage) in fights. I also really enjoyed Hexe’s familiar Scratch and his disdainful attitude towards, well, everyone.

The story has a more relaxed pace and far less battle than most UF. It can be read as a stand-alone.

The 50th Star Trek: TNG book.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 235 including two afterwords, one about writing science fiction and another about the Trek technology and a selected bibliography.

In the sixth season episode “Relics” Enterprise-D encounters a Dyson sphere but they didn’t have the time to much explore it. Now, about a year later the Enterprise is back with another Federation ship, the Darwin, to explore it more thoroughly. The Darwin is crewed by the Horta.

However, when Enterprise draws near the sphere, the sensors pick up a small wormhole from which emerges a neutron star. The star is on a collision course with the sphere so suddenly, the starships have only about two weeks to explore the huge surface area of the sphere.

Captain Picard, LaForge, and Troi join the Horta ship inside the sphere. The Enterprise will stay outside, to monitor the star and the help the Darwin out, if necessary. Picard, of course, is very excited to be exploring the sphere. The officers speculate about which race could have built the sphere and they wonder if it could be the early Borg. However, the sphere has some surprises for them.

This story is focused on exploration and then trying to control a disaster. It’s also focused on science, which isn’t a surprise considering that Pellegrino is a professional engineer and archaeologist. However, it’s different from other ST:TNG books so if you’re looking for fast-paced and light-hearted adventure, this is the wrong book. It also doesn’t have Montgomery Scott who was in the original episode. But it does give the reader something to think about, not just what can be done with science but about how small we humans really are and what sorts of wonders might wait for us out there.

From some of the other reviews on Amazon I understand that just before printing the book, someone took out about 20% of it. If that’s true, it’s unfortunate and puzzling.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Borg described like this, and quite fittingly: “It was ironic, Picard thought, that after progressing beyond the abuses of market economies, Earth’s clever and humane Federation should find among the stars the ultimate corporate nightmare, the Borg, who literally incorporated anything that moved and had something to offer, and destroyed anything that did not. The Borg appreciated any good thing they encountered. Picard had to give them that.”

Oh my goodness! Where does the time go? Last I checked, September was just starting….and now it’s gone and it’s time to get the third quarterly checkpoint up and running. Let’s see how our challengers are doing after they’ve got 9 months under the ol’ mountain-climbing belt.

For those who would like to participate in this checkpoint post, I’d like you to do two things:

1. Tell us how many miles you’ve made it up your mountain (# of books read). If you’re really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you’ve read correlates to actual miles up Pike’s Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc.

I’ve read 21 books so I’m actually one book ahead of my goal of Mount Blanc’s 24 books!

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:
A. Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.

It’s so hard to choose just one. 🙂 I’ve read so far two Elizabeth Peters books which have a cast of really great characters, including Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson. Also, I rather like the thieves in Patrick Weekes’ heist crew. And of course Batman is one of my favorite superheroes, although the book, Ultimate Evil, wasn’t my favorite.
But since I need to pick just one, I’m going with Dana Scully in the X-Files tie-in Ruins. For a long time she’s been one of my favorite characters because of her determination and loyalty.

B. Pair up two of your reads. But this time we’re going for opposites. One book with a male protagonist and one with a female protagonist. One book with “Good” in the title and one with “Evil.” Get creative and show off a couple of your books.

Kenneth Oppel: Airbornis written from the first-person point-of-view of Matt Cruise, a teenaged male. Penny Warner: Dead Body Language is written from the POV of Connor Westphal, an adult deaf woman.

Another pairing is Andrew Vachss: Batman: the Ultimate Evil and Patrick Weekes: The The Paladin Caper for evil and (supposed) holy warriors, the paladins.

The third and final book in the Rogues of Republic fantasy heist series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: print
Publisher: 47North
Page count: 480

Loch and her band of lovable rogues meet their ultimate challenge: the possible return of the ancients, who consider humans, and other races, at most tools to exploit. Loch wants to prevent that, of course. But unfortunately, the ancients have stupid, selfish, greedy people on their side. Also, they kidnap one of Loch’s friends as part of their plot and they’re also hitting Loch’s crew through their families. So, stakes are really high.

We get to know a bit about the background and families of Icy, Kail, and Tern. That was fun and added depth to them. The plot is as fast-paced, if not more, as in the previous books, with twists, turns, and death-defying plots flying around all the time.

The world-building is an interesting mix of old and new. The magic works on “magical energy” and crystals. Often enough, it felt to me that magic took the place of high tech, such as communication crystals instead of walkie-talkies or security crystals instead of security devices. But the fae creatures such as the unicorn Ululenia, pixies, or elves are said to come straight from magic and they react to magic in different ways. (Would this make them AI analogues? Hmm)

This was a satisfying and fun conclusion to the series. Few things annoyed me near the end a little bit but otherwise it was a fun ride.

Weekes does handle more weightier matters in this book, namely sexism, racism, and the racial tensions between white and black peoples. He’s made references to them in the previous book but here they were far more noticeable. Also, I’m sure that people wearing magical stuff which takes over their minds is, indeed, a fun riff on modern tech.

If you liked the first two books, this won’t disappoint, either. I’m certainly curious to see what the author will do next.

Part of the young adult Starfleet Academy series for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Publication year: 1996
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 104

This little book is aimed at younger readers. Geordi LaForge and William Riker are first-year cadets at the Starfleet Academy. Geordi is a roadie and mechanic for the Starfleet Academy Band. The Band’s trombonist has just quit the Academy without an explanation and the band’s frantically searching for another because in just a week, they’re going to participate in an intergalactic competition on Pacifica. Will Riker auditions and get the position. At first, he’s very happy but the older cadets start hazing him and he has hard time accepting that. Geordi is the only friend he makes in the band.

The Band heads to Pacifica but after the competition they’re kidnapped and plunged into a war zone.

This was a strange little story. The first half focuses on the Band and it’s very light, mostly about bullying Riker has to endure, but the second half is much darker because it’s set in the middle of a war zone. However, even their actions during the war are somewhat ridiculous. Geordi seems quite somber and focused on his work trying to find a way to make an alien musical instrument to work. Riker quickly picks up a grudge against the band members who do practical jokes on him and he tries to flirt with the female cadets.

Only for die-hard ST:TNG fans.

The second book in the Rogues of Republic fantasy heist series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Publisher: 47North
Page count: 500

Loch and her band of thieves are back! Three months after their previous adventure, in the Palace Job, Loch is now a Justiciar, essentially a police officer, for the Republic. She and her former scout lieutenant Kail are escorting a group of diplomats during a negotiating trip to the Empire. While the Empire and the Republic aren’t at war, their relations are strained, at best. What should be an easy trip turns out to be a trap for Loch. It seems that someone has claimed that Loch was responsible for the main problem in the previous book. So, the Imperials want to arrest her. She and Kail manage to escape.

It turns out that someone among the Republic’s leaders wants Loch to take the blame and for the Republic and the Empire to go to war. To stop the war, the Empire demands the return of a precious book which was stolen from them. It’s the same book that Loch and her friends were trying to steal in the first story. Unfortunately, the book was given to the elves and they’re not likely to just give it back. So, now Loch and the crew need to steal it back. Loch’s new boyfriend Pyvic finds out that the book is now in a dwarven city. Loch, Kail, alchemist Tern, and acrobat Icy head out to the city to get the book out of the heavily guarded museum. Meanwhile, Pyvic, illusionist Hessler, love priestess Desidora and her magical warhammer, and the unicorn Ululenia stay in the capital. They’re trying to find out just why everyone wants that particular book. However, magical creatures attack them.

Many enemies are on Loch’s tail. Imperial Princess Veiled Lighting, her bodyguard who has a magical axe, and the mysterious attendant want her head. Someone high up in the Republic has sent the Knights of Gedesar after the whole group. The Knights fight everything magical. They consider fairy creatures, such as unicorns, to be abominations and someone has convinced them that Loch’s group is the worst of all. Also, one devious elf gives a lot of trouble to Loch and her friends, and golems and other magical creatures attack the group, as well. Also, a few decisions from the first book come back to haunt Loch.

This is a very fast-paced book with lots of action and quick changes in POV characters. Several times Loch’s group is split up and fighting different enemies at the same time.

This is a very magic-heavy setting. For example, the dwarven trains run on magic and the Republic’s capital city floats in the air. Considering this, I thought the magic-hating knights were pretty strange. Especially since they used magic themselves, mostly charms against magic but still.

Kail and Desidora get the most character development. In the previous book, Kail was mind-controlled and forced to turn against his friends and he’s struggling with that. Desidora isn’t a death priestess any longer and she feels useless in fights. Some characters got together at the end of the previous book and I wasn’t too sure about that. But here we see them together and I really liked both parings. I also really liked the suf-gesuf tournament and that the enemies weren’t a monolithic evil but instead had different motivations and sometimes even fought other bad guys alongside the heroes.

The humor didn’t click with me as much this time as in the first book but otherwise I liked this sequel almost as much as the Palace job. The ending is unexpected and don’t forget to read the post-script at the very end, after acknowledgements!

The first book (or the third book in the internal chronology) of the fantasy Craft Sequence series. It was part of 2017 Hugo reader packet so I’m including it in the mount TBR challenge.

Publication year: 2012
Format: ebook
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 334

Kos Everburning is the last living god in the city of Alt Coloumb. After the God wars there aren’t any others left. Abelard is His technician, a junior priest who usually tends the fires of boiler room which gives warmth and energy to the whole city. Kos is the god of fire and without him the trains don’t move and steam engines will die. Then Kos doesn’t answer prayers anymore.

All Tara Abernathy ever wanted to be is a Craftswoman, a powerful sorcerer. When, after years of study, she was literally thrown out of the Hidden Schools, she must build her life again. She returns to her rural home and tries to fit into the sleepy town where people are afraid of anyone using magic. When raiders hit the town, she just wants to help her parents and the other townspeople, but they don’t want her there. Fortunately for Tara, a powerful Craftswoman Elayne Kevarian appears and offers her another option: become a junior associate in the very powerful and old necromantic law firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao. The offer is, of course, only valid if Tara can perform well on her first job which is to resurrect the last living God who has been murdered.

Tara needs to find out just what happened before Kos died. Also, Judge Cabot was murdered around the same time and Tara thinks that the events are linked. The young priest Abelard is horrified to heard about the death of his God but is assigned to help Tara.

Tara is a very determined and ruthless woman. She’s also very good at her job as a Craftswoman. Still, she also needs to be a detective to crack this case. She’s never been to Alt Coulumb and worships of gods is familiar to her only on an abstract level. Abelard is at his home but the foundations of his life have been shaken. He’s somewhat reluctant to work with a godless woman but is, of course, willing to help in any way. He chain-smokes constantly. This is his habit from serving a fire god but now he also feels the bad side effects from smoking. Apparently, when Kos was alive, He did away with the side effects.
Oh, no romance is even implied, which was great.

Along the way, we meet some other characters, such as Tara’s former teacher, a vampire pirate captain, and servants of blind justice. Lady Kevarian is another very efficient and ruthless woman who has been a Craftswoman for decades. She’s mostly a mentor figure but we also get her POV briefly. My favorites turned to be the gargoyles who were the servants of a goddess who is now dead. The gargoyles, Stone Men, were the city’s guardians while the goddess was alive and now they’re considered little more than animals. Now, the guardians of the city are the Blacksuits, ordinary men and women who are sometimes, when needed, overtaken by the will of the goddess of Justice. I found them fascinating, as well, especially since the goddess of Justice is a recreation of a dead deity.

Alt Coulumb is definitely a modern city with driverless carriages and steam trains, not at all like a Middle Aged or Renaissance city. We get to see mostly the seedy underside of the city, the clubs, warehouses, and the harbor. In contrast is the Church of Kos with quite wealthy-seeming priests and junior technicians. The magic, or craft, feels like a science with precise rituals and tools needed to do it.

The plot is fast-paced and the world is fascinating. I enjoyed the characters, too.

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