2019 Mount TBR


The first book in the Star Trek: Discovery series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: Gallery Books
Page count: 370

The book is set a year before the events in the Discovery’s pilot. It’s set mostly on the USS Shenzhou. It starts with Shenzhou’s second and first officer leaving for other posts. Captain Georgiou must promote people to fill in the gaps. She chooses Lieutenant Burnham for first officer and Lieutenant Saru for second officer. She knows that the two are fierce rivals and don’t have the best working relationship. She makes the posts temporary, to see how they will adjust to the change.

Saru is bitter that Burnham was promoted ahead of him. After all, he went through Starfleet Academy while Burnham didn’t. He also resent the time and attention that the captain lavishes on her and feels neglected. Burnham is eager to show her worth to her captain.

But sinister things are happening. An independent colony is in danger, when a drilling rig has woken an ancient alien construct, dubbed the Juggernaut. It sends flying drones to attack the cities. The governor and her citizens don’t want Starfleet protection (I guess they want to own slaves or something, I wasn’t really clear on why) but they aren’t armed so they must call for help. However, when Starfleet Command hears about the situation, they send in also USS Enterprise, captained by Christopher Pike. Pike has strict orders that the alien construct isn’t allowed to leave the planet or it will destroy other colonies nearby. The starships must destroy the thing, even if it means destroying the planet – and the colony on it.

This is what I wanted when Discovery started so I very must enjoyed the book. We get to know the crew of the Shenzhou, somewhat at least, and get to see captain Georgiou in action with Burnham as her first officer. However, the focus of the book isn’t so much on Georgiou and Burnham’s relationship. Instead, we witness the rivalry between Saru and Burnham and when the Enterprise arrives, the focus shifts to the relationship between Burnham and young Spock who is Pike’s science officer.

The book has lots of POV characters on Shenzhou, Enterprise, and among the colonists. I’m afraid that I don’t have much sympathy for the colonists; they seemed very self-centered and stupid (which doesn’t make them unrealistic characters – quite the opposite, unfortunately).

The story line pits Pike’s devotion to duty against Georgiou’s principles. I found SC’s orders more than a bit unbelievable; Picard would never have followed them, either. I also had some trouble putting together the aesthetics of Discovery and TOS. Mack does try to explain away the differences between the uniforms, the technology, and ships. Shenzhou is the old warhorse while Enterprise is one of the newest ships, which doesn’t really work for me. There was also some quite unnecessary explanations, perhaps to drive up the word count. Otherwise, I quite enjoyed the book.

It’s quite possible that the details in the book, especially about the background of the central characters, will be made non-canon by Discovery’s later seasons. I’ve only watched the first one.

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A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publication year: 1988
Format: print
Publisher: Baen
Page count: 345

This is apparently Kate Elliott’s first book.

Sanjay Mukerji and Chryse Lissagaray are newly wed. They’re surprised to find a beautiful deck of tarot cards as one of their wedding gifts. They’re even more surprised when the cards transport them to a fantasy land.

Anglia is troubled. The ruler is Regent, Princess Blessa, the aunt to the 15-year old Heir, Princess Georgianna. Also, many of the rich exploit the poor people ruthlessly and many of the poor people are rising up for their rights, because they’re too desperate to do anything else. They also loath the Regent and many assume that she’s going to do anything she can to stay in power. And they’re right: the Regent is a gifted mage and she uses her own deck of tarot cards, her connections, and her ability to manipulate people to get rid of the Heir in a way that she can’t be implicated.

But Chryse and Sanjay have more immediate problems because they’re trying to find a way back to home. However, while fleeing rioters, they stumble upon Julian and his dear old friend Kate. Both are drunk but agree to help the couple. At the Vole house, Chryse and Sanjay meet Lady Trent who takes an interest in them. Lady Trent is Julian’s grandaunt and she knows many people. She advises the couple to seek an appointment with a famous seer. When they finally meet with the seer, she gives them a task: to find her the treasure from the mythical Labyrinth.

But others are also after the treasure. The Regent is one them and another is the infamous Earl of Elen. He’s arrogant, cold, and has a terrible reputation for abusing everyone he can. Another is Professor Farr. He’s an elderly archaeology professor obsessed with the Labyrinth and it’s history.

This is a mystery fantasy and I quite enjoyed it. It’s not a thriller. It does have a lot of characters. Chryse is the main POV character but there a lot of others, such as the Regent and Maretha who is the only daughter of Professor Farr. Earl of Elen demands that Maretha marries him and she has no choice.

This book has a lot of things I really liked. Of course, Chryse and Sanjay are already an established couple and lovely together. Archaeology is another: most of the book is an excavation trip to the ancient city where the Labyrinth is supposed to be. Tarot cards used as magic is a third.

Also, the book has a wonderful wealth of interesting and different women characters. Kate is a tomboy who dresses in men’s clothing and isn’t afraid to say what she means. She’s an aristocrat but has been disinherited by her parents. Lady Trent is in her eighties and has seen a lot of life. Chryse is a musician and a composer. Maretha is devoted to her father. She’s a very capable archaeologist in her own right but is in her father’s shadow. Maretha’s orphan cousin Charity is living with the Farrs. She’s demure but also vain about her looks and we find quite interesting things about her at the end. And of course the Regent who manipulates everyone around her. Basically, where a more common fantasy book would have male characters, we get woman. Which was great.

On the other hand, the world-building was more common. The world has other creatures than humans, such as ogres and fairies, but we saw them only briefly. Mostly, we got street urchins who don’t look like humans. While most of the magic is done through the cards, there are other magical forces in the world, too. The Earl uses them quite casually. In place of great men, we again got women. For example, Shakespeare and Mozart where both women in this world and so were most of the rulers of Anglia. Also, I couldn’t puzzle the religion together: people talked of the Bible but seemed to revere Queen of Heaven who has both a Son and a Daughter. The Daughter is the Queen of the Underworld who is also called the Sinner. Fascinating but not enough details.

The third book in the Pellucidar (science) fantasy series.

Publication year: 1929
Format: print
Publisher: Tandem
Page count: 219

I read the first two Pellucidar books decades ago and clearly they’ve (also) left an impression because I remembered surprising much about them.

Burroughs himself and a young man Jason Gridley, who is wealthy and a radio enthusiast, receives a strange radio signal. It turns out to come from the underground world of Pellucidar and from Perry, one of the two first Western man to find Pellucidar. He sends them the strange tale of Tanar.

Tanar is the young son of a chief who is allied with David Innes who has declared himself the emperor of Pellucidar. However, Tanar was caught when the cruel Korsars raided David’s lands and when the Korsars sailed away, they took Tanar with them.

The Korsar chief The Cid spares Tanars’ life because he believes that Tanar can show the Korsars how to make the more effective weapons that David’s men use. Tanar doesn’t know how to make them but plays along, hoping for a chance to escape from the ship. He meets The Cid’s lovely daughter Stellara who is destined to be the mate of The Cid’s second-in-command, an ugly but very strong man. She loathes him.

However, a terrible storm drives all of the Korsars from the ship, leaving Tanar and Stellara behind. Stellara tells him that her mother was a captive from another island and that she’s really not The Cid’s daughter but that her mother’s original mate is her father. The ship drifts to an island which turns out to be Stellara’s mother’s home. However, the people there don’t believe Stellara and the two are again captured. By chance they are able to flee and Tanar tried to find a way home through dangerous country with hostile people.

The book is mostly action/adventure although it does have Burroughs-style romance. That means jealousy, misunderstandings, and rivals. No less that three women declare their love for Tanar and Stellara, too, has four other suitors in addition to Tanar (most of them brutish louts). Almost the moment Tanar realizes that he loves Stellara, she’s kidnapped.

Tanar’s people are cavemen but David has brought them better weapons. Still, Tanar mostly uses spears and bow and arrows. Many of the animals are prehistorical, such as saber-tooth tigers. In addition, we’re introduced to the Buried People, the terrible Coripies who live underground and have no eyes. They live very unhappy lives, filled with violence, just like another tribe of humans which Tanar meets. Yet, a woman are able to rise above her abusive culture and Tanara credits her blood for that; her mother was captured from another culture. Similarly, Tanar notes that Stellara doesn’t behave like the brutish Korsars because of her parents’ blood.

Tanar is a native Pellacidarian and knows how to live in that world, of course. He’s mostly driven by desire to survive and later to find Stellara. He’s not eager to help other people, except when it’s in his own best interests. In that way, he’s different from most of Burroughs’ heroes. Stellara is a typical Burroughs heroine: proud and stubborn. She isn’t afraid to tell her opinions but she’s also liable to jump to conclusions, when given half a chance. She’s more compassionate than the Korsars which attracts Tanar to her in the first place. Yet, she’s helpless to fight against any of her kidnappers.

Pretty standard Burroughs tale. It’s ends in a cliffhanger, but not for Tanar and Stellara. Poor David is left as a captive at the end of the book.

The fourth Vicky Bliss mystery book.

Publication year: 2000
Format: print
Publisher: Avon
Page count: 354

Vicky Bliss works for Professor Schmidt at the Munich National Museum. She’s also a part-time sleuth and Schmidt loves to take part in her cases. It’s been some months since their last case in Sweden and they don’t know if Vicky’s mysterious sometime-boyfriend John Smythe, who is also a gentleman thief, is alive or not. In fact, Schmidt has even erected a statue for Smythe’s memory. Then someone sends Vicky a picture of Frau Schliemann who is wearing the Troyan gold jewelery her husband found. And yet, on closer inspection the woman isn’t Mrs. Schliemann and the picture is much more current. The envelope has a large stain of blood but no return address, no notes, no letters. The gold vanished during WW II and Schmidt is increasingly convinced that now he and Vicky have a way to find it. Then a mysterious man follows Vicky.

Many of Vicky’s old friends (or ”friends”) turn up. Tony, the arrogant historian and Dieter the practical jokester are both fun but they both just assume that Vicky is sexually available for them. Luckily, Vicky is a tall and strong woman who can handle herself. Schmidt is in top form here, trying to sneak around and shadow people in increasingly ludicrous outfits.

The setting is around Christmas time and the book has a couple of nice descriptions of the German festivities in the nearby Bad Steinbach.

This is a fun, at time farcical, story. The mystery isn’t as dominant as the jokes and witty dialog. It’s the fourth book in the series and I recommend reading the previous books first. While I personally like the early Amelia Peabody books the best (so far) I do enjoy the Bliss books a lot, too.

The third book in the Expanse series.

Publication year: 2013
Format: print
Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 542 + an excerpt of the next book, Cibola Burn

Abaddon’s Gate starts some months after the ending of the previous book, Caliban’s War. Holden and his crew have a lot of money, even after repairing the Rocinante, and they’re celebrating their good fortune. However, something is disturbing Holden a lot.

Meanwhile, the protomolecule has created a massive ring construct, called the Ring, near the orbit of Uranus. It appears to lead Somewhere Else, perhaps to that part of the universe where the molecule’s alien designers are. Mars and Earth are sending ships to investigate. From Mars they’re most of the military which was left after the previous book but Earth has sent a group of religious leaders, artists, and other civilians together with the military. OPA can’t afford to be left out. So, they’ve done their best to hurriedly change the Nauvoo to a military ship the Behemoth. Nauvoo was the massive ship that was going to be used for colonizing a planet outside the solar system. It’s not built for war and it might fall apart when the massive rail guns are fired the first time. But the Behemoth is joining Mars and Earth fleets at the Ring.

Holden really don’t want to go anywhere near the Ring. He’s looking for any excuse to go the other way. However, Mars has sued him for Rocinante. The only way Holden can keep his ship, which is like a home to him and his crew, is to accept aboard a documentary maker and her crew and head to the Ring. So, that’s what he does.

Like in the previous book, Holden is just one of the four POV characters. Bull, Carlos Baca, is a retired marine who is supposed to be the second-in-command of the Behemoth. But Bull is an Earther, even though he’s spent a lot of time in space, and so a Belter is appointed to that position. Bull becomes the head of security, instead. Bull doesn’t like nor respect captain Ashford whom he thinks isn’t capable of really commanding the ship and he fears that the captain will be a liability if things go wrong. So, he must play political games on the ship. But he owes everything to Fred Johnson so he does his duty as best he can.

Another POV character is Annushka Volovodov, Anna. She’s a Methodist minister to a small congregation on Europa. She’s also married to a woman and they have a child. She’s asked to join Earth’s civilians in the journey to the Ring and after a short hesitation, she accepts. Through her we see a side of the population we haven’t seen before. She loathes violence and tries to prevent it when she can. She also wants to unite the different factions and show them that they have more in common than they think. Her wife and child travel to Earth and Anna misses them a lot.

The final POV is Clarissa Mao, Julia Mao’s sister. She wants to get revenge on Holden by first framing him for a monstrous act and then killing him. She’s very angry and obsessed with her revenge. She doesn’t have as much money as she had before but still enough to get herself a false identity as Melba Koh, a technician, on a ship which is part of the Earth fleet. Her body has been enhanced to a killing machine and so she can, briefly, take out several armed men, as we see in her first chapter. She does sometimes wonder if simply killing Holden is worth the awful things she does.

This story starts with introducing the people. Slowly it gathers momentum until it escalates to the end. None of the POV characters were as compelling to me as Bobbie and Avarasarala in the previous book. In fact, my favorite character was Tilly, Anna’s friend. This book also has quite frank discussion of Christian religion which will probably alienate some readers.

Politics are a huge part of the book, especially in the latter half. People are doing stupid things because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of other people, fear of what other people would do or will do, fear of losing face.

Personally, I would have loved it if this book would have explored the aliens and the places beyond the Ring but that didn’t happen here. It’s focused on humans and what they’re doing. Mostly squabbling and then shooting at each other.

Quotes:
“Violence is what people do when they run out of good ideas. It’s attractive because it’s simple, it’s direct, it’s almost always available as an option. When you can’t think of a good rebuttal for your opponent’s argument, you can always punch them in the face.”

“They’d made a plan, and so far everything was more or less going the way they’d hoped. The thought left Holden increasingly terrified.”

A multiple author short story collection.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebooks
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Page count: 273 (at GoodReads)

All of the main characters in this collection are young, high school age or younger. They all feel like they’re the underdog: powerless in their lives and often also unattractive. Almost all of the stories are written from first person POV.

“Villainous Aspirations” by Stefon Mears is a story about young man who is waiting to get his superpowers. You see, he’s the son of two famous superheroes. He’s writing essays at school so this is all in first person. However, he thinks that his parents are stupid for helping other people for free, so he’s going to use his powers for personal gains.

“A Kiss Too Sweet” by Eric Kent Edstrom: Monica is a high school girl who finds out that she has diabetes. Soon after, when she kisses a girl she doesn’t like on the cheek she finds out that she also has a superpower: anyone she kisses becomes devoted to her. However, that’s not just a good thing.

“The Clunkety” by Brenda Carre: Gretti’s mother was a great hedge-witch so it was not surprise that Gretti is a witch, too. After a hard childhood, Gretti gets together with the young man she loves and even his kin grudgingly accepts her. But then her past comes back to haunt them both.

“Power Trip” by Lee Allred: in this world, enough people get superpowers in high school that there are whole training programs for superpowered people. Sammy is a nerd but gets powers so powerful that he can’t show them, so he’s still bullied. The POV character is envious but still hopeful that he’ll get powers, too. However, he doesn’t want to use them for good, or evil for that matter. He would just want to continue with his life rather than going to the Supers Training Program and serving the government the rest of his life.

“Pocket Full of Ashes” by Anthea Sharp: Kit is one of Victorian London’s street urchins. She steals for Old Nellie who keeps everyone in a tight leash. Kit was sick for three days but is now pickpocketing again. Only now, she finds out to her amazement that she can shoot fire from her fingertips. However, Kit is growing up and Old Nellie has noticed it – and Kit is in danger of become a scarlet woman of the streets. Kit must get away and her new power could help her.

“The Ordinary” by Valerie Brook: The black monk has kidnapped boys from nearby villages. He forces them to learn how to manifest their inner spiritman and telekinetic powers. Tomas is the only one who can’t do that. If he can’t do it tomorrow, the monk will kill him and his parents.

“Dawn” by Jody Lynn Nye & Rebecca Moesta: Aurora, the young goddess of dawn, is late to her duties for the fifth morning in row. That’s because she loves to stay up late to listen to the poets which is far more exciting than her dull duties. But inspiration is the arena of her friends, the muses, and her siblings Apollo and Artemis expect Aurora to do her job well.

“Fatty Boombalatty” by Kerrie L. Hughes: Matilda Bloom is at a summer camp and it’s awful. Her former best friend Kiley has abandoned her for two rich, mean girls and even started the horrible nickname, Fatty Boombalatty. She doesn’t have any friends and must see the camp counselor. But then the counselor gives her a friendship bracelet and tells her that with it she can hear other people’s thoughts.

“Passion for the Game” by Brigid Collins: Jimmy has superpowers and he’s using them to play baseball. However, he’s starting to think that he should be helping people instead of just playing a game. But for his older brother Jimmy’s games are a path to freedom for both of them, and their mother who’s in rehab. Then Jimmy’s powers disappear.

“Just Stop It!” by David H. Hendrickson: Amy’s parents are arguing again. She tries to ignore it but finally they say so hurtful things that she yells at them to stop it. Incredibly, they do that. In fact, they’re quite civil after that. Amy decides to try this new power at her school.

“Normal Boy” by Rebecca M. Senese: Ellis and Miguel are the only two normal people in Super High where everyone else has powers. But some of the most powerful supers are bullying them. So, Ellis decides to do something about it.

“Sophie Rosenblatt, Hero At Large” by Annie Reed: Sophie in an unassuming, normal girl in a world were solar radiation has given some kids powers. For a while, Sophie was sure that her beautiful best friend would get powers but she didn’t. However, when Sophie has been home sick for three days, something unexpected happens.

“Flowers in Winter” by Kelly Washington: In this world, everyone has powers, usually inherited from their parents. Mattie is a systemizer; she can organize small things very quickly. However, her mother and sister can control water. Her sister, Justine, has started to tease Mattie mercilessly about her lack of impressive powers and also about Mattie’s bum leg.

“Hidden Talents” by Dayle A. Dermatis: Tilly has enough magical talents to be accepted to Miss Rosina Wakenshaw’s School for Talented Girls. Unfortunately, her own particular talent hasn’t surfaced and in two days time, the whole class will be represented to Queen Mary so that their magical talents can be put to proper use. Tilly is seriously considering leaving behind, especially because she’s become so clumsy lately. But her best friend Gwendolyn won’t let her.
I’d love to read more of Tilly and Gwen’s adventures!

“The Ballad of Osmosis McGuire” by Travis Heerman: Oswin McGuire is terribly bullied at school by the stars of the wrestling team so he can’t do anything about it. But one day, he feels an electric snap go through him and everything changes.

These are all uplifting stories about teens overcoming bullies, their own low self-esteem or finding their inborn talents. None of the powers are overwhelming; they all are limited or have down sides.

However, they also highlight the bad sides of Western school system, namely that it seems that people don’t want to put an end to bullying.

It’s more YA focused than I expected. Otherwise this is a fine collection with superpowers and some magic thrown in, as well.

I enjoyed the Mount TBR challenge last year and managed to reach my goal of 24 books. But I still have lots and lots of unread books so I’m going to
join Mount TBR 2019 with the same goal of 24 books.

Like last year, I’m adding my Fiction River e-books and StoryBundle e-books into the TBR pool in addition to the physical copies but not audiobooks even though I have still unlistened audiobooks from last year.

The Rules:

Challenge Levels:

Pike’s Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

The Rules:
*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you’re on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade. All books counted for lower mountains carry over towards the new peak.

*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2019.

*You may sign up anytime from now until November 1st, 2019.

*Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2019. No library books~. If you’re looking for a library book challenge or one that counts books on your non-owned TBR list, then please see my new Virtual Mount TBR Challenge.

*Audiobooks and E-books may count if they are yours and they are one of your primary sources of backlogged books.]

*You may count any “currently reading” book that you begin prior to January 1–provided that you had 50% or more of the book left to finish when January 1 rolled around. I will trust you all on that.

Books read:
1, Rebecca Moesta, ed: Fiction River: Superpowers
2, James S. A. Corey: Abaddon’s Gate
3, Elizabeth Peters: Trojan Gold
4, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Tanar of Pellucidar
5, Alis S. Rasmussen: The Labyrinth Gate
6, David Mack: Desperate Hours
7, Kowal: calculating stars
8, kowal: fated sky
9,