2021 a/a bingo


The first book in the fantasy series Rogue Angel.

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Publisher: Golden Eagle

Publishing year: 2006

Format: Print

Page count: 346

The book starts with a brief scene in 1430 England where an impassionate young woman is burned at the stake and her sword shatters.

Then we move to the modern-day. Annja Creed is an archeologist. Because it’s not easy to get funding for excavations, she also works for Chasing History’s Monsters, a TV show about mythical beasts around the world. She does her research and narrates her own episodes. This time she’s in France, hunting la Bete, a supposedly werewolf-type creature that killed people in the 1760s. However, she soon finds that someone is shadowing her, and then she is attacked in broad daylight.

She continues her search, heading to the mountains. There she encounters a mysterious older man who calls himself Roux. Her assailants continue to follow her.

The book has multiple POV characters, including the main villain who is ruthless after la Bete because he thinks it will lead him to treasure. A hidden order of monks is also involved.

This was a fun and fast-paced action/adventure. It has a good mix of historical detail and fantasy.

Annja is a good main character who reminds me of Sidney Fox, from the TV show Relic Hunter. She has a lot of skills but unlike many heroines these days, she’s personable and gets along with most people, even though at times she can be a bit too blunt. She knows how to shoot and learned karate from an early age. She’s an orphan who learned to take care of herself.

I also found Roux a fascinating character but I won’t spoil his story here.

The second book in the Themis SF thriller trilogy.

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Publication year: 2017
Finnish publisher: Like
Format: print
Finnish translator: Niina Kainulainen

Page count: 389

Waking Gods opens ten years after the end of the previous book, the Sleeping Giants. Structurally it’s similar. It has interviews, conversations, mission logs, and diary entries. But it doesn’t have conventional prose which, again, creates distance between the reader and the characters.

In the ten years, the world has grown accustomed to the giant space robot called Themis. It, and its two drivers, are controlled by the Earth Defense Corps which is supposed to protect Earth if the aliens ever came back. When a new giant alien robot appears in London, the population takes it calmly. The new robot just stands there while people film it. The drivers inside, if it had drivers, don’t try to communicate in any way. Doctor Rose Franklin and her team are still figuring out how to contact them when the robot makes a move. And kills most of the people around it. More robots appear in Earth’s most populated cities. Rose and her team must find a way to defeat them before more people die.

Like the first one, Waking Gods was fast-paced and a quick read, probably because of the structure. Almost all of the familiar characters return. The plot has quite a few twists and the ending is also a huge cliffhanger.

I was really not expecting the turn of events. This is a book where humanity confronts terrible beings they can’t defend against. Millions of people die. So, things are pretty bleak. Unfortunately, I don’t really care for that right now. But I guess the next book is supposed to be an uplifting story of how humans triumph against all odds, so I’ll read that. But I’ve already read so many books about war that I don’t think I would have picked up this series if I had known it would lead to a war, once again.

Also, some of the characters make really stupid choices just so the plot can unfold. Also, it has a precocious child because of their genetics. Not a fan of that, either. Still, the premise continues to fascinate me and I’m looking forward to reading the end.

A stand-alone humorous fantasy adventure/romance book.

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Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 hours 32 minutes
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky

I’m not a romance reader. I usually must tolerate them in most books, but rarely is it the most enjoyable thing in a book. This was very close to being a romance I actually enjoy reading. Unfortunately, it did have far too many jealousy moments, especially near the end. I loath jealousy, especially in a will they or won’t they couple who haven’t even told each other about their feelings. But otherwise, this is a near-perfect romance for me.

Halla is a respectable widow of 36. She’s the housekeeper to her wealthy great-uncle (from her late husband’s side). Said great-uncle was elderly and she took care of him. But when he dies, it is still sudden. Halla is very surprised to find out that the moody old man left everything to her. His relatives are furious. The old man isn’t buried yet when Halla’s aunt Malva (from her late husband’s side) declares that Halla must marry Malva’s clammy-handed son. Halla detests him and refuses. So Malva imprisons Halla in her own room.

Halla is desperate to find a way out. The only thing she can think of is to kill herself. There is a large sword in her room and she draws it. But to her astonishment, the Spirit of the Sword manifests, scandalized by her lack of clothing.

Sarkis was a mercenary before his spirit was bound to the enchanted sword. Most of his owners know his story and think he’s a traitor who deserves to be used as a tool, nothing more. And Sarkis agrees. But now he’s somewhere in the decadent Southern lands, among strange people who have even stranger customs. And his wielder isn’t a warrior, but a middle-aged housekeeper trying to kill herself. Instead, Sarkis convinces her to go to the servants of the White Rat who can help her. Provided that they can get out of the house and survive a several days journey without any supplies to the Temple.

Halla and Sarkis play off each other very well. Sarkis is a stranger to the decadent Southern lands and is learning the local customs. All of his wielders have died, sometimes despite his best efforts. He’s used to being a tool instead of a person. But he still does his best to protect his wielder. He’s jaded and battle-weary. Halla is very curious about him… and about everything really. She’s bright and loyal but she’s also used to pretending to be stupider than she is, because that’s safer. Her marriage wasn’t exactly an unhappy one, but her husband died several years ago and she doesn’t miss him. Her life has been a pretty sheltered one.

The book has also other enjoyable characters, including a gender-neutral priest. Initially, I didn’t really think that Malva and her son were a big threat but in the end, I was proven wrong.

The dialog is hilarious, playing the differences to the hilt. Yes, there are a couple of terrible romance tropes, such as misunderstandings which lead to very stupid decisions, but otherwise I really enjoyed the book.

My biggest problem is that I want the second book. I want a series of Halla and Sarkis bantering happily and working together to solve… any problem, really. The ending hints at a possible continuation and I really, really hope we’ll get it.

The narrator, Jess Vilinsky gave Sarkis a Scottish accent which I adored. I really enjoyed their narration.

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.

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