2021 a/a bingo


The first book in the Primordia modern day fantasy (or sci-fi, depending on how you look at it) series.

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Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 58 minutes
Narrator: Sean Mangan

Ben Cartwright is a former Special Forces soldier who quit after a couple of tours. When his father died suddenly from a heart attack, he returns home to comfort his mom. There, he meets again his high school sweetheart Emma and his other old friends.

While going through his father’s stuff, Ben stumbles on letters between his great-grandfather and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It seems that the men were friends. Ben’s great-grandfather, also called Benjamin, was an explorer and an adventurer. He even died during one of his adventures: looking for a valley full of dinosaurs in Venezuela! He wrote about the search to Doyle who was inspired to write a book called the Lost World.

Ben and his friends decide to search for the hidden plateau. One of his friends is a tech millionaire so it’s easy for him to finance the trip. But first, they need to go to England to find Ben senior’s journal for the clues to find the hidden place.

The modern-day narration, in 2018, is interrupted from time to time by the short adventures of Ben senior in 1908 when he’s running from terrible danger among strange creatures. In addition to the two Bens, the book has several other POV characters, including their adversary who is determined to find the place first.

Our heroes are an usual group for an adventure book. Emma is a rock climbing instructor. She’s in excellent condition and no damsel in distress even though she’s the love interest. Andrea the actress wants to come, too, because she wants to become famous if they find the lost plateau. Dan is the bored millionaire who finances the trip. Steve comes because Andrea is coming. Later, a zoologist joins them. Even though they are in their thirties, luckily none of them have obligations that stop them from leaving in a couple of days’ notice.

This was a fast-paced adventure, once you get past the beginning. The second half of the book is a constant battle for survival against both humans and other enemies. I haven’t read Doyle’s the Lost World, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I had read it first. It ends in a cliffhanger.

This a light adventure story and I quite enjoyed it.

A stand-alone urban fantasy book.

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Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours 21 minutes
Narrator: Kevin T. Collins

I’m a huge fan of Brust’s Vlad Taltos books so I guess I was expecting something similar. The Good Guys isn’t a Taltos book.

Donovan Longfellow, Marci, and Susan are a field team for the Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to keeping the existence of magic a secret from the regular people. They also train magic users and hire them for minimum wage. The trio considers themselves the good guys.

Donovan is told about a new murder possibly done with magic because it was done in bright daylight in a restaurant and nobody saw a thing. When the trio gets to the site, Marci finds out that very powerful magic has been used to murder the victim. A time-stopping spell from an artifact. Donovan and the team must find out who the killer is and where do they get their magical artifacts. However, when the team realizes that the killer is after quite bad men, they start to wonder if they are, indeed, the good guys.

This was an entertaining read. The characters are quite distinct but for some reason, I just didn’t connect with any of them. Donovan has some FBI training so he’s very good at police work. He’s also black. Marci is a new sorceress but unlike the other two, she has a personal life. Susan is an experienced sorceress and quite formidable with both her magical talents and physical skills. I wanted to like them more.

However, I don’t think the format of the book was best for audio. The story has many, many POV characters. One of them is in the first person and the rest in the third person. The scenes are quick and the POV character changes often. It was a bit difficult to follow in the audiobook for me.

The world was interesting and I feel there could be more stories in it. Brust plays around with quite a few tropes. For example, Donovan knows that torture isn’t an effective way to get reliable information, so the team simply talks with people, even those who try to kill them. Also, Susan is the team’s muscle.

This is the third book based on the SF TV-show Firefly. It’s set after the show but before the movie Serenity.

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Publication year: 2020
Format: Audio
Running time: 8 hours 15 minutes
Narrator: James Anderson Foster

This was a strange story. It begins with Mal, Zoe, and Jayne meeting a small posse of men to pick up a sealed crate for Badger. But Mal gets a really bad feeling. The meeting goes sour and turns into a gunfight. After the fight, Mal doesn’t want to take the cargo, even though the crew desperately needs the money. But Jayne wants to take the cargo. Mal flat out refuses to take it to the Mule. Even though he’s wounded, Jayne walks back, carrying the crate all the way. During the walk, he starts to hallucinate about his mom and younger brother.

Jayne manages to get to the ship. Simon promptly confines him to the sick bay. But in the middle of the night, Jayne slips out and brings the crate inside and hides it. This is, of course, a very bad move.

River flips out but she can’t communicate with the rest of the crew well enough to tell them that the crate is dangerous. Wash lifts Serenity off the planet. But during the flight, every crew member slips to a dream where he or she lives through their fondest dreams… which turns into their most horrible nightmares.

Inara and the Shepard have left the ship so they’re not among the crew. Almost all the other crew members get their own subplot in their dream so they all get their chance to shine. Unfortunately, when the dreams turn to nightmares, most of them are very graphically gory. While some Firefly episodes have torture (War Stories comes to mind…) this was a bit too much.

Also, I’m not sure that Mal would have forced a wounded crew member to walk back to the ship.

I have quite mixed feelings about this story. I enjoyed most of it. I think the dreams were quite appropriate for each character, although I felt sorry for a couple of characters. But they ended up too dark for me.

The sixth book in the Invisible Library fantasy series.

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Publisher: Ace

Publication year: 2020
Format: print

Page count: 336

This sixth book in the Invisible Library series is just as entertaining as the previous books and I’m looking forward to the next.

This time our Librarian/spy/book acquirer Irene Winters is sent to retrieve the only copy of a book written in Ancient Egypt (a scroll, really). The Library needs the book so that they can stabilize a world that is important to Irene, so she’s anxious to get it. However, the current owner of the book is a powerful Fae, a canny negotiator who owns a lot of precious items. In exchange for the book, he wants another item, a painting. Irene, Kai, another dragon, and a group of Fae must steal the painting from another world. Of course, things go wrong.

Kai, who is a dragon prince, isn’t too happy about working with the Fae. In this series, dragons are order incarnate and the Fae are chaos. Each Fae personifies an archetype from stories and behaves according to their archetype. The group also includes another dragon but Kai doesn’t care for her at all.

This was a fun and fast-paced heist story. Unlike the previous books in the series, it doesn’t have much politics, so it’s a change of pace. We also get to meet Irene’s parents, if only briefly. However, from the end, it seems that politics will continue to play a larger role in the next books. I’m also surprised that nobody has strongly objected to Kai and Irene’s relationship, so far, given their important roles in the current politics between the dragons and the Fae.

The cast of characters is mostly new, but they are rather distinctive. I hope we’ll meet them again.

This is a really fun series with dragons, the Fae, many, many alternate realities, and fast-paced adventure. On the other hand, the adventures don’t leave time for character development. Also, this book hints at a larger plot, but I’m not sure if Cogman will ever return to it because she has left previous larger plot hints open. I enjoy the worlds and the characters enough that I don’t really mind that, though.

The first book in the Chaos of the Covenant science fiction series.

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Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours 16 minutes
Narrator: Jeff Hayes

This is military SF set during a war between the Republic and the Outworlders. The Republic has a lot more resources that the other side. We get POVs from both sides of the conflict but our heroine is a Republic soldier.

Lieutenant Abigail Cage is a breaker, a hacker. She’s also a mother, looking forward to retiring and spending time with her daughter. She’s assigned to a team which is dropped to enemy territory. She does have some experience with combat so she’s more worried about the couple of less experienced soldiers. But during the mission, something goes wrong and she finds a code she can’t break. Soon after they get back, the whole team is arrested. Abby protests that whatever the others might have done, she’s not part of it. Very quickly, the whole team is sentenced to a maximum security prison called Hell. And she’s put on one of the most difficult levels on the whole prison. She must fight constantly to survive.

However, the book moved on quickly to a point where it became more interesting to me.

In addition to Abby we have several other POVs. This world has aliens but they seem to be Star Trek types rather than completely alien aliens. Abby is a capable fighter and becomes even better during the book. She’s a patriot but she mostly just wants to get back to her daughter.

This was a fast-paced story with both fierce combat scenes and a complex scheme in the background which one of the other characters is trying to solve. The Republic has recently finished building two starships, Fire and Brimstone, which are so powerful that nothing can stand against them. But they have been stolen and of course the Republic is frantic to get them back.

I have the first four books in audio and I’ll likely continue to the next one. This first book ends in a huge cliffhanger.

The first book in a science fantasy trilogy but can be read as a stand-alone.

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Publication year: 1926
Format: print
Page count: 175
Publisher: Tandem

To my surprise, I found an unread Burroughs book from my shelves. It has quite an elaborate backstory, especially for such a slim book.

As is usual for ERB, the story starts with the writer as the narrator and he meets the main character of the main story. This time Burroughs gives us future history which alone would have been enough for most SF writers. The book is set in 1960s when a terrible decades-long war has finally ended. Humanity turns to the stars. They receive a radio transmission from Mars, from Barsoom. Humanity sends spaceships to Mars in order to meet with the people of Helium. Also, the main narrator of the story, Julian, knows the future because he’s already lived it. He can remember his descendants’ future history because he’s reborn to the future.

Julian is the captain of the second spaceship. However, his bitter rival Orthis is also aboard. Orthis sabotages the ship and it goes to the Moon instead. But Julian and the others find that the Moon isn’t a barren place. Instead, beneath the Moon’s crust is a world with not just atmosphere but people. After our heroes explore this world a little, savage, centaur-like people capture Julian and Orthis.

As usual for ERB, this story has lots of adventure with strange creatures and alien landscapes. It’s quite enjoyable if you can ignore the blatant classism. (The descendants of nobility are good and heroic, the descendants of lower classes are the bad guys without a shred of decency.)

Structurally, the Moon Maid is very similar to the Princess of Mars. Julian is unexpectedly thrust to an alien and savage world, he explores the exotic places and people, and he falls in love with the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Like John Carter, Julian is a heroic fighting man; even though he prefers firearms, he’s also a good swordsman.

The Moon races are strange. The centaur-like people (No-Vads) are nomads yet they live in villages which are never described. They’re carnivores but they can’t eat the few animals, so they hunt and eat other tribes and also the one other intelligent race, which looks like humans. The “humans” on this world are remnants of a great civilization. They have two cities which are at war with each other.

The book has surprisingly little description. I would have liked quite a bit more. I was also rather uncomfortable with intelligent races eating each other.

Otherwise this was quite an enjoyable old science fantasy book.

The fifth book in the Robert Langdon series but it can be read without reading the others.

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Publication year: 2017
Finnish publisher: WSOY
Format: print
Fnnish translator: Jorma-Veikko Sappinen
Page count: 463

I’ve read the DaVinci Code but that was years ago. Fortunately, Origin doesn’t require the reader to know anything about the previous books. There are a few references here and there but nothing crucial.

Edmond Kirch is a forty year old tech genius who has impressed the world again and again with his inventions and accurate prophecies in the tech world. He invites hundreds of people to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to see his newest presentation which he promises will change the world by answering two profound questions: where do we come from and where we are going.

Harvard Professor Robert Langdon is one of Kirch’s teachers and he’s also coming to the presentation. He’s not sure what to think of it all but is curious. But just before Edmond is about to tell his astonishing revelations, he’s assassinated in front of everyone.

Astonishingly beautiful Ambra Vidal who is the Museum’s curator fears that she knows who was behind it. She convinces Langdon to flee with her before they can be the next targets.

This was an entertaining and fast-paced read. The chapters are short and often end in cliffhangers. Most of the story takes place in Barcelona and takes us to Gaudi’s famous buildings, La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila. In fact, the setting in clearly a character by itself. The theme is rather old, though: religion vs science. The book has an element of near-future science fiction.

Even though Langdon is nominally the main character, the book has many other POV characters. In fact, the book starts with the POV of one of the bad guys. He’s actually depicted quite sympathetically: his family died horrifically and he can’t get over it. He thinks he’s working for a good cause. It’s ironic that he knows how people in his position can be manipulated but can’t see it when it’s done to him.

If you’ve read a Langdon book before, you’ll likely know what happens in this one. But if you like this sort of thriller/mystery, it’s very entertaining.

Currently the first book in the Sabel Security thriller series.

Publication year: 2015
Publisher: Machined Media
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 365

Jacob Sterne is an Army veteran. Now, he’s employed by Sabel Security, an international security organization. He has some problems, though. He hears the voice of Mercury, the Roman god of messages in his head. Mercury usually warns him about danger but sometimes he just makes snarky comments about how soft Jacob is, unlike tough old Romans in the good old days. Jacob knows that Mercury is most likely a reaction to trauma but they still banter. He also has problems with women: he wants to sleep with all of them.

Pia Sabel is a former Olympic level soccer player. Now she’s a multimillionaire and runs the security company. She has her own problems because she saw her parents murdered when she was very young. Her adoptive father owned the security company, among other firms, and gave it to her. She’s headstrong and used to getting her own way. But she also wants to do what’s right, no matter if that’s cutting off body parts from rapists or tracking down corporation which are trying to poison millions of people. Jacob is in love with her but considers her way out of his league.

The story begins in Borneo where Pia Sabel is building a school. But she and her team manages to get on the nerves of the local tough guys and they must leave quickly. On the road, Pia meets a young girl who is carrying her sick younger brother. Pia insists that they stop to help, even though Jacob is against it. The team finds a place they think is a hurriedly built hospital full of local sick people. But the place has guards with guns and the medics are too nervous. Jacob steals three vials. Jacob, Pia, and the team are forced out and to leave the girl and her brother behind. Later, they hear that everyone in that camp are dead. Worse, someone tipped off the media that Pia and her company were there.

Pia is determined to find out who killed the people and why. Also, killers are determined to get back the vials Jacob took.

This is a fast-paced story with lots of violence but the plot is surprisingly complex. Sabel Security seems to employ almost exclusively former soldiers so they also swear like soldiers. The hunt for the bad guys takes Jacob all over the world. However, it does have a couple of gruesome torture scenes. And a lot of people are shot. Sabel Security actually uses dart guns with tranquilizers but their enemies don’t and Jacob and the others change to regular weapons when needed and when Pia isn’t around.

Jacob is a first person narrator for most of the book, but there are two other POV characters in third person. One of them is one of the bad guys so we get a pretty good picture of how they operate and bit about why. Still the full explanation for the reasons of all this came as a surprise to me in the end.

Surprisingly many of the secondary characters are women, in addition to Pia. Two of them are actually Jacob’s ex-girlfriends and he isn’t very comfortable working with them, at first.  Many of the women are former soldiers who are just as good in a fight as Jacob and the other men.

This was like a summer action flick with lots of action and some humor. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters but it was entertaining.

While the book is labeled as the first in the series, there are references to past events. In fact, near the end one plot point is dependent on them.  Apparently, this is the third book about these characters. The first two books are now called Sabel Origins series. But that’s a pretty minor point.

I’ve joined up in GoodReads in the Action/Adventure group’s Bingo card 2021 challenge, where the aim is to complete a bingo with books. They can be any genre as long as they’re action/adventure and fulfill the square.

This year the categories are these:

1. Read a book that involves a Cyber Crime
2. Read a book with a Female Heroine: Genevieve Cogman: The Secret Chapter
3. Read a book that involves a Mystery
4. Read a book that includes a Lost World: Greig Beck: In Search of the Lost World
5. Read a book from a Series
6. Read a book that involves Survival: Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Moon Maid
7. Read a book that involves Magic
8. Read a book with a Two Word Title: Steven Brust: The Good Guys
9. Author and Title begin with Same Letter
10. Read a book involving Outer Space: M.R. Forbes: Hell’s Rejects
11. Read a book with a Hot Environment
12. Read a book that involves Archaeology
13. Read an action/adventure Book of your Choice
14. Read a book that involves a Team
15. Read a book that has a Green Cover
16. Read an AAA Group Read Book past or present: Dan Brown: Origin
17. Read a book with Organized Crime: T.L. Heinrich: Fire&Ice
18. Read a book of Short Stories
19. Read a book involving a Journey
20. Read a book involving Fantasy
21. Read a book that involves Vengeance
22. Read a book that involves Travel
23. Read a book published in 2021
24. Read a book that is a New to You Author: Seeley James: Element 42
25. Read a book involving a Spy

I managed to get two bingos last year. I’m aiming for one to start with.