2021 mount tbr


A stand-alone zombie book.

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Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011

Format: print
Page count: 449

Finnish publisher: Johnny Kniga

Finnish translator: Helmi Keränen

This was very different from the movie. The book is a collection of interviews after the Zombie war is, well, not over, but when the humans have won. It’s split into several parts, starting with how the people in power ignored all the warning signs for political reasons. The first part of the book deals with how governments try to cover up zombies and the uncertainty people feel, or how people also turn a blind eye towards events that don’t affect them personally – until a zombie leaps into their living room. Then becomes the big panic: people lose faith in their governments and just try to survive as best they can. Then the war itself and finally the aftermath. Most of the stories are about war against an inhuman enemy or surviving. The vast majority of the characters are only interviewed once, so we see brief glimpses of events and people.

This structure means that the story doesn’t have main characters. We don’t get to know the interviewer, except through his choice of which interviews to keep.

The plot is showing how people cope, or no, globally. Also, Brooks explores all the changes that the war does globally, not just economically and politically, but culturally and religiously to several countries.

The people in power must make terrible choices so I don’t think I would have enjoyed this story must as a more traditional story. I understand why the movie had to be quite different, but I was surprised that the solution to the zombies isn’t from the book.

Also, the movie left out pretty much all the political allusions, such as rich Americans buying organs from China, pretending they aren’t coming from murdered political prisoners. Especially timely are the people who refuse to believe facts, fearing that they’re propaganda.

Overall, I was surprised how much I liked this.

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.

The first book in the Themis SF thriller trilogy.

Publication year: 2016
Finnish publisher: Like
Format: print
Finnish translator: Juha Ahokas

Page count: 351 plus a sample of the next book

The book has an unusual structure: every chapter is either a dialog between two people with no descriptions, just the dialog, or a report. This gives the reader a lot of freedom to imagine the characters and the setting, but it can be tough to read because it is so different. We also never get the name of the person doing the interviews. He seems to have a lot of power and money, but only because he can tap into a vast network of knowledge and can manipulate others well.

Rose was 11 years old when she falls from her new bike into a giant, mechanical hand that glows without an apparent energy source. Nobody knows what to make of the hand. Rose grows up to be a physicist. Years later, she heads a secret project which studies the hand. She realizes that it’s a part of a body and finds a way to locate the other parts. This is the start of the story.

The nameless interviewer picks two US military pilots for the project. The way to find the other parts of the mysterious giant body is to spread radioactive material in the atmosphere so the project needs pilots. Unfortunately, not all of the parts are in uninhabited areas.

Rose and a couple of other people continue to research the parts which start to form a body. But the robot is thousands of years old. How is that possible?

This was a fascinating concept and I enjoyed the novel way it was written, too. Of course, the structure distances the reader from the characters. So, this is a book where the concept and the plot are far more interesting and appealing than the characters. If you can stomach the writing style, try it.

The ending doesn’t give us closure, and the last chapter ends in a huge cliffhanger which raises even more questions.

The first book in a series of murder mysteries set in 15th century Tallinn.

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Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2019

Format: print
Page count: 320

Finnish publisher: Into

Finnish translator: Jouko Vanhanen

Melchior Wakenstede is the Apothecary in Tallinn, Estonia. His father was an apothecary before him. Melchior knows the people and the places of Tallinn. In the 15th century, the town is right on the edge of Christian lands. Indeed, the town and the time period take the center stage. The Dominican monastery, the guilds, and the alehouses are described lovingly, and for me, the mystery came second. The characters are fairly typical for the time and for a detective story, but entertaining enough.

When a Teutonic knight, who was the governor of Gotland, is visiting Tallinn, he gets really drunk and is murdered: his head is cut off with a sword and an old coin is shoved into his mouth. Of course, the town’s notable people are in an uproar. The town’s chief of police is used to petty robberies and so he calls on Melchior to help him. The curious and perceptive Melchior is happy to talk to people and deduce what happened and find the killer.

The book starts with the murder. It has quite a few POV characters and a large cast of characters. The female characters are pretty bland, though, especially Melchior’s wife Keterlyn, who seems to be there just so he can explain things to the reader. The ending is very Agatha Christie -style of gathering people together while Melchior explains what happened.

While Melchior is an educated man, he’s also a product of his times. For example, he thinks that only bloodletting can cure diseases, and he’s also quite religious. Also, he has a mysterious curse that will apparently drive him insane in time. Only his wife can ease the symptoms.

The Finnish translation uses older style words, probably for the atmosphere.

A stand-alone murder mystery set in Oxford.

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Publication year: 2007
Finnish publisher: Gummerus
Format: print
Finnish translator: Raimo Salminen

Page count: 373 (including about ten pages of the historical facts behind the book)

Someone is killing young women, taking an organ, and leaving a strange coin in the place where the organ used to be. The murderer doesn’t leave behind clues except that he or she seems to be very skilled. The police are desperate to catch them but don’t have anything to go on.

Laura Niven is a former New York crime journalist and now a writer who has come to Oxford to research her next book. She’s staying with Philip Bainbridge, her former lover and current friend. About twenty years ago, Laura became pregnant but chose to return to the USA rather than stay in London and marry Philip. Philip maintains contact with Laura and their daughter Jo. In fact, Jo is now in Oxford as a student.

Philip is a police photographer. He has just met Laura when he’s called to a crime scene. Laura is too curious and sees not only the body but the strange coin. Her curiosity is piqued and she researches it. The coin leads her to a historical trail. The murders seem to be related to alchemy and astrology and the famous Sir Isaac Newton who was as much an alchemist as a scientist.

This is an entertaining serial killer story inspired by history. It has multiple POV characters, including Newton himself and a couple of other men during his time. The killer is also a POV character, although they’re not identified in those passages, and the murders are quite gruesome. The ties to the occult were the most interesting part of the book. I also really enjoyed the short chapters set in the 17th century.

Philip and Laura are both pretty successful in their lives. Still, they have regrets about the choices they’ve made. They’re curious and pretty intelligent people. They’re both still attracted to each other but are content to just stay friends. Detective John Monroe is another significant POV character. He’s an experienced detective who has reasons to scoff at anything smelling of supernatural.

Apparently, White has written more than a few non-fiction books and knows the history of the occult pretty well. It shows.

A stand-alone satire of an adventure fantasy book. 30th-anniversary edition.

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Publisher: Mariner

Publication year: 2007
Format: print

Page count: 456 which includes two introductions, an explanation to Buttercup’s Baby, the short excerpt of Buttercup’s Baby, and Reading group discussion points.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Princess Bride movie so I decided to read the book, as well. It’s an odd book, as parodies tend to be. But I think most people know that already.

It shouldn’t work because of the structure, and according to GoodReads’ reviews, it didn’t work for a lot of people. I enjoyed it for the most part.

Goldman creates a construct of himself as the narrator of the book. He claims that Morgenstern wrote the actual books and he just cut off all the dull parts and made an abridgment. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on the reader, Goldman makes his narrator present pretty much all the time. At the beginning of every chapter, he tells us what he has cut and why. Then the ”good parts” of the chapter start. Unfortunately, that constantly interrupts the reading and reminds us that we are, indeed, reading a book.

The second point is that the characters are caricatures or archetypes. Buttercup is beautiful, Westley is a daring lover, Fezzik is a dumb giant, Inigo’s life is centered on fencing and getting revenge on the six-fingered man who murdered his father, Humperdinck is ruthless. We get a little bit more of them in the book, such as Fezzik’s and Inigo’s childhood. But they’re not three-dimensional characters. They’re not supposed to be. Yet, they’re endearing and memorable to many.

Well, ok. Fezzik get a surprising amount of depth in the book. But not the others. In fact, it seemed to me that if Buttercup had been plain, Westley wouldn’t have loved her. That’s not a message you want to send to all teeange girls watching or reading. Or boys, either. And in the book, Westley slaps Buttercup. Just no.

So, I ended up enjoying the movie more than the book. The narrator’s interruptions got on my nerves in the latter half of the book. I didn’t really care for the fictionalized Goldman in the book. He seemed very bitter. Maybe he was supposed to be a humorous character, a parody of a successful screenwriter who can’t write a novel of his own, but for me he instead sucked away humor.

Buttercup’s Baby is a sort of continuation. It’s not a short story but rather just the first chapter of a book, which again was rather frustrating.

If you like the movie and especially if you’d like to know more about Fezzik and Inigo, I think you can like the book, too. Just skip the introductions.

A historical murder mystery set in 80 BC in the Roman Republic. Can be read as a stand-alone but it’s the first book in the Roma Sub Rosa mystery series.

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Publisher: Minotaur books

Publication year: 1991
Format: print

Page count: 380

Gordianus is called the Finder because he’s an investigator. He’s a Roman citizen but hasn’t inherited wealth, so must work for his living. A young slave comes to him early in the morning, asking him to go and meet with the slave’s master, Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Gordianus has never heard of the young man who is just starting his career as an orator and a lawyer. So after dallying in his house for a while, curing his hangover, Gordianus and the slave, Tiro, head to Cicero’s house. Cicero has just accepted his first law case, involving a suspected patricide. Gordianus isn’t too keen to get mixed in such a case but he needs the money so he takes the case.

He inspects the place where the father was killed, interviews different kinds of people, walks up and down Rome itself, and even makes a short trip to the countryside. The case turns out to be quite a bit more complex than he thought at first.

The book has excellent descriptions of Rome and the culture at the time. Slaves are more numerous than free men. While the wealthy take shelter from the hot sun, the slaves toil away, doing all the real work. Saylor doesn’t sweep away the slavery but has ”good” owners and also the ones who berate and beat their slaves whenever they want. We also get to know that slaves can testify at court, but only under torture. Gordianus himself owns a half-Egyptian female slave, Bethesda, and he sleeps with her several times. She’s depicted as pretty headstrong woman so I guess Saylor implies that the sex is consensual on her part, too. But since she’s a slave, she can’t choose.

The mystery itself is pretty complicated and forces Gordianus to go around and meet all sorts of people, showcasing Rome and its people, both poor and rich. Gordianus lives near the Subura, the slums, and he goes through it several times.

I mostly enjoyed this one and enjoyed the historical detail, although the writing style is pretty dry. Interestingly enough, the mystery is based on Cicero’s first real case.

The first book in a planned YA fantasy series. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2015

Publisher: Creativity Hacker Press

Format: ebook
Page count in GoodReads: 203

Merrick is an apprentice to his da, the smith. However, he’s not a good smith’s apprentice. He thinks too slowly and his skills aren’t advancing. He sleeps in the smithy and when a blue-glowing ghost appears in the smithy, Merrick thinks of only defending his da’s place. When the ghost limps outside, Merrick follows. The ghost lures him to the area where wealthier people live. There, Merrick meets two other young men whom the ghost has also brought to this place. They find a buried box and three strange items from inside. Before they find out what they are, they must run away from the Watchstanders. They don’t know what is going on, but they agree to meet the next night, to find out.

This felt like a boys’ adventure novel with three teen boys who suddenly find themselves in the middle of very important and dangerous events. The adults around them are clueless at best, a threat at worst.

Merrick is the main POV character. The two other boys, Tam and Kern, are quite different from him. Tam is an orphan, living on the streets. He’s an excellent thief, curious and quick-witted. He’s also quick to insult others. Kern grew up on a family ship. But it sank, leaving Kern the only survivor. He’s now a baker’s apprentice but resents it. Aboard the ship, he was taught to fight.

The city of Deneigh is described well. It used to be a mighty fortress city, but has since fallen to disrepair. People are moving out of it. At least some of the Watchstanders are corrupt and take up the job so that they can shake people down for money. The second POV character is a young Watch officer who is also the son of the Reeve, the appointed governor of the city. The officer enjoys tormenting people.

This book is a quick and light read. The ending ties up plot threads but it’s clearly meant to lead to a series.

A stand-alone fantasy book.

Publisher: Del Rey

Publication year: 1992
Format: print

Page count: 308

Maggiar is a small and rural kingdom. Lately, it’s in trouble and king Stani’s old (and only) wizard Karoly insists that he must seek advice from his witch-sister. Nobody knew he has a sister or that she lives over the mountain where nobody ever goes. Except that Stani’s mother came from a country over the mountain. Trolls and goblins haunt the forests.

Stani agrees to send Karoly with the escort of guards, the master huntsman, and Stani’s two eldest sons. Bogdan is the heir, a brash and proud young man. Tamas is the middle son, quiet and studious. The youngest Yuri is just fourteen and over his protests, he needs to stay. Tamas doesn’t want to take his foundling dog, so he makes Yuri promise to look after him.

The journey up the mountain is hard. The weather is constantly against the small group and Karoly behaves oddly, speaking rarely and then in riddles. When they near Karoly’s sister’s tower, they are ambushed.

Meanwhile, Tamas’ dog runs away and Yuri decides to follow him. Yuri thinks that the dog is following Tamaes, so Yuri takes his pony and little provisions and follows the group.

Russian mythology has clearly influenced this story. The goblins and trolls aren’t what you’ll find in a European-inspired fantasy. Also, while the story has a lot of magic, it’s not clear-cut spell casting. It’s dreams and not being able to do or think what you want to. Willing things to happen and other people’s will is against you. It wasn’t really clear in the book, either.

Tamas and Yuri are the two main POV characters. Both are very young and trying to understand what’s happening around them. Tamas is trying to figure out who he can trust and that’s not easy. But he thinks things through rather than brashly leaping to conclusions. Yuri knows how to take care of himself in the woods, even though this is the first time he’s done it alone. He’s scared but determined to find the dog and later to find his brothers. For his age, he’s very brave. The third POV character is the master huntsman Nikolai, an experienced woodsman who is trying his best to protect the foolish people under his care. The other characters are quite distinctive, even the dead ones.

Most of the book has a claustrophobic, fearful atmosphere. The rambling, repetitive style adds to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it’s not very clear in places.

I liked the characters and the world, but the writing style didn’t really work for me.

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