2021 mount tbr

I completed all my challenges!

Mount TBR

My goal was Mount Blanc: 24 book. I read 26.

1, Kim Newman: Anno Dracula

2, Kristine Kathryn Rusch ed.: Fiction River Special Edition: Spies

3, Hannu Rajaniemi: Summerland

4, Seeley James: Element 42

5, Duane Lindsay: The Grifter’s Daughter

6, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Moon Maid

7, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Escaping Amnthra

8, Shawn McGuire: Original Secrets

9, K. C. Hunter: Kana Cold and the Case of the Shinigami

10, Genevieve Cogman: The Secret Chapter

11, Jefferson Smith: The Brotherhood of Delinquents

12, Steven Saylor: Roman Blood

13, William Goldman: The Princess Bride

14, Michael White: The Equinox

15, Indrek Hargia: Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf’s Church

16, Sylvain Neuvel: Sleeping Giants

17, Sylvain Neuvel: Waking Gods

18, Alex Archer: Rogue Angel 1: Destiny

19, Max Brooks: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

20, Jeffrey Lang: Immortal Coil

21, Robert J. Sawyer: Time: Complete Short Fiction volume 3

22, Gwyneth Gibby ed.: Fiction River Presents: Time Travelers

23, Timothy Zahn: Conquerors’ Pride

24, Stefon Mears: Twisted Timelines

25, Leonard Goldberg: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes

26, Melanie Karsak: Wolves and Daggers

Action/Adventure Bingo card

My goal was one bingo. I read 16 books and got two bingos.

Pick&Mix challenge

My goal was 10 books. I read that easily, most of them audio books.

Action heroine reading challenge

My goal was originally 30 reads and I upgraded it to 50. I read that, too. Most of my reads for this challenge were comics.

I read 54 books in 2021. I reviewed 46 comics but read much more of them.

Out of those 54 books, 22 were fantasy, 19 were science fiction, four were thrillers, five mystery, two historical fiction, and three were multigenre short story collections.

Twenty were new to me authors.

The first book in the historical mystery series about Holmes’ daughter.


Finnish publisher: Bazar

Publishing year: 2017

Format: Print

Finnish translator: Marja Helonen

Page count: 329

London 1914. John Watson Jr. is the first-person narrator. He’s the son of John Watson and also a doctor, although a pathologist. His dad helps investigate the murder. The elder Watson still lives at 221 B Baker Street and that’s where the story starts. Mary Harrelston comes to see him, looking for help because her brother has just died, and everyone thinks it’s a suicide. But Mary doesn’t think so. Watson and his son agree to look into it. Apparently, two people witnessed Mr. Harrelston’s plunge to death and their statements disagree. One is a gardner and one is a ten-year-old boy. The boy is the son of Joanna Blalock, a young widow.

Watson knows that Joanne is the daughter of Holmes and Irene Adler. He tells about her to his son but swears him to secrecy. They meet with Joanna, and the younger Watson is immediately smitten with her. She has incredible deductive powers and insists on helping with the case. The case turns out to be, as usual, far more than what you see at the first glance.

This book felt like fan fiction. The trio meets Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade who is the son of the original Lestrade. He needs a little persuasion in letting Joanne join the investigation. They also need the help of Toby Two, descended from Holmes’ Toby and young Ms. Hudson is Dr. Watson’s housekeeper.

The plot is nicely twisted, but not too complicated. The mystery isn’t who murdered the man, but how and why and how can our heroes prove it. Joanne explains her deductions thoroughly, partly to convince the men around her. She reads a lot and has a very good memory. As a woman, she has a very limited choice of professions so she’s a nurse. Her ten-year-old son is the spitting image of young Holmes and is also very perceptive and makes excellent deductions. The younger Watson also praises Joanne’s looks all the time, in his thoughts, which can be a bit tiresome. There’s a romance between them.

It’s a light and easy mystery read if you don’t mind (or especially if you like) the many connections to the Holmes stories.

Ten short stories about different timelines. Part of Storybundle’s the Big Time Bundle I bought in 2020.


Publication year: 2020

Publisher: Thousand Faces Publishing

Format: ebook

Page count from Amazon: 160

The short stories are mostly SF (depending on how you categorize time travel) and a couple of fantasy stories. Almost all of them are written in the first person and start either in the middle of the action or right before it.

The Face of Trouble: The main character wakes up in a new body, once again. They hop from body to body without knowing who they are in or when, so that they can change the future. But this time, another body hopper is after them.

Forty Years Among the Elves: After driving for many hours, the main character stops to sleep. But first, he takes a walk around the trees. He feels that someone is watching. Someone is: a jaw-droppingly gorgeous man. The main character follows him further into the forest.

Frozen: The main character is a teenager who has just gotten a date with a girl he admires, so he drives rather recklessly. His car is about to slam into another car, when time freezes.

If You Kill Hitler…: When the news tells everyone that time travel is now possible, Willie doesn’t believe it will change anything for the normal people, just for the rich and powerful. But he’s a former soldier and what he did still haunts him.

No Shortcuts to Fame: Holland is the lead singer of a metal band climbing their way up to fame. He wakes at 4 AM staring at his own face. A second him standing next to his bed.

Reversing Ill Fortune: Tyler has had an abysmal year, culminating in a car accident where his girlfriend died. He desperately needs change. So he puts his trust in a booklet he found on the internet, goes to a secluded mountain, and starts the spell.

The Night of Absinthe and Regret: The main character made a stupid mistake and now he has a chance to fix it.

Trapped in Sepia: A red Corvette almost hits Kevin when he’s crossing the street. Everything slows down and he just manages to dodge. But then everything is sepia-toned. And people walk right through him.

The Side-Effect Staircase: The main character lives on the 12th floor of his building. He’s lived there for six months so he knows the staircase well. One day, the steps continue up and he can’t resist them.

Paradox. Lost.: A (black) scientist has invented time travel. Now, he’s drifting through time, trying to find back home.

These were all entertaining and fast-paced. My favorites are ”Face of Trouble” and ”Trapped in Sepia”. I think both have possibilities for further stories. The last one is very brief and I think it works best for people who have already read or watched many time travel stories.

Some of the stories have different theories about time travel. In some, you can make changes, in others you can’t, while some create alternate timelines instead of changing your own life. Some of the characters travel through time intentionally, others by accident. So, this was a good mix of stories.

The first book in a space opera SF trilogy the Conquerors Saga.


Publisher: Bantam Books

Publishing year: 1995

Format: Print

Page count: 389

Humans have spread out to space and live more or less peacefully with four non-human species, Pawolians, Yycromae, Mrachanis, and Suundali, in a Commonwealth of planets. The species each have their own culture. Indeed, Yycromae were about to conquer the Mrachanis when the humans interfered. The human Peacekeepers patrol space.

One of the strongest Peacekeeper groups meets four unknown alien ships. The humans send a greeting, but without provocation the aliens attack, wiping out the force seemingly easily. Afterward, the aliens destroy every escape pod launched, slaughtering everyone. Except for one man. Commander Pheylan Cavanaugh is taken captive.

Pheylan’s father Lord Steward Cavanaugh, a former member of the Commonwealth’s Parliament, takes his son’s supposed death hard. When he tries to get Pheylan’s body back, he hears that the body and the escape pod have disappeared without a trace. He refuses to believe Pheylan is dead and his remaining children agree with him. Unfortunately, without any evidence the Peacekeeper Command must assume Pheylan is dead and so can’t look for him. The Cavanaughs’ take the matter into their own hands.

It’s very dangerous for civilian ships to go to the attack site. Cavanagh employs several former Peacekeepers, and he uses their ties and his own influence to secretly gather ships and a group of elite soldiers under false orders to go and look for his son. His other son, Aric, joins the mission even though Aric runs the Cavanagh’s business and doesn’t have any military training. Cavanagh puts one of his bodyguards, and former Peacekeeper officer, in charge. Melinda Cavanagh is a doctor and she heads to the outpost nearest the attack site and brings supplies. At the same time, Cavanagh and his bodyguards head to one of the alien Mrachani’s worlds to find out more about the mysterious attackers. The Mrachani have legends about encountering them.

The book has two main plotlines: Pheylan is a captive and is sent to a world that the attackers control. He learns a little bit about his captors’ culture and the reasons behind the attack. Of course, he tries to escape. Meanwhile, Pheylan’s dad, brother, and sister are scheming to mount a rescue operation. The senior Cavanaugh’s political enemies are watching him carefully and try to block him at every turn.

The book has many POV characters. While there are some action scenes, most of the story is politics. While a couple of main things are resolved at the end, the war is just heating up and many things are left open.

Cavanaugh and his family know that they’re potentially committing treason, but they are still determined to find Pheylan. Unfortunately otherwise, they weren’t really memorable characters.

World-building is the book’s strongest point. All the several aliens have their own cultures and customs. Many of them resent humans who the aliens think are quite imperialistic and arrogant. The humans have also a superweapon, CIRCE, which they’ve used only once and then dismantled, only to be assembled again when the Commonwealth is in grave danger. The threat of CIRCE keeps the more aggressive aliens peaceful. This is, of course, reflective of the state of the world in 1995 when the book was first published.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it when I was younger.

This is a collection of eight time-traveling stories that have been published before in previous Fiction River anthologies: Pulse Pounders, Recycled Pulp, and Christmas Ghosts.

Publication year: 2020


Publisher: WMG Publishing

Format: ebook

Time travel is one of my favorite SF elements and I enjoyed this collection a lot.

Thomas K. Carpenter: ”Tower One”: Set on September 11th in the World Trade Center during the strike. One of the main character’s friends died there and she traveled back in time to see her one more time.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch: “September at Wall & Broad”: Philippa is an agent for the United States’ Time Division of the Justice Department. She’s sent from the year 2057 back to September 16th 1920, just before a terrorist bombing of Wall Street. For some reason, New York at that time is under an unofficial time shield. Philippa goes in to find out who or what has done it. But she doesn’t return.

Scott William Carter: “The Elevator in the Cornfield”: Hank lives on his farm with his youngest son Timmy. One morning a blue elevator stands in the cornfield. Hank doesn’t want anything to do with it.

Kelly Cairo: “Sacred Poet from the Future”: Tess goes to see her grandfather in a home he lives in. He has had a stroke and can be quite forgetful. This time, one of grandpa’s old friends has come to see him, too. Except that grandpa calls him Arnie who is Tess’ younger brother. Surely grandpa is just confused…

Dean Wesley Smith: “The Wages of the Moment”: The Garden Lounge has a jukebox that can make people travel through time. Stout is the former owner of the bar. When an older version of himself appears next to the jukebox, he knows things are getting weird.

Chuck Heinzelman: “Three Strikes”: Jackson is at a baseball game, waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. He’s about to propose to her. Instead, he gets a phone call: he has half an hour to get a package and deliver it or she will die.

Lisa Silverthorne: “Christmas, Interrupted”: Mallory isn’t looking forward to Christmas: her family is far away and she broke up with her boyfriend over a year ago. Last year, she was about to go out with her high school crush, Rowan. But he never showed up. Only now she finds out that he was murdered last year on Christmas Day. But she might be able to save him.

Sharon Joss: “Love in the Time of Dust and Venom”: Keiko’s grandfather is 97 years old. He had to move away from Japan after the nuclear plant disaster, but both his son and wife died there, so he wants to return so that he can die there. But the only way to return is to travel through time. He doesn’t want to go to the past. Instead, he wants to travel a hundred years to the future. Keiko is afraid of losing him, but must obey his wishes.

This is an excellent collection of time travelers even though not all of them are told from the point of view of the traveler. The stories have quite a lot of variety including a couple of race against the clock -stories, mysteries through times, people wrestling with their emotions, and a sweet Christmas love story. Most of them have mystery elements. They all have very human characters who have very human motivations.

I’ve read Sharon Joss’ story a couple of times and it still moves me. “Three Strikes” has a time travel trope I really enjoy and haven’t read enough of, but I won’t spoil it here. I enjoyed almost all of the stories. “Love in the Time of Dust and Venom”, “September at Wall & Broad”, and “Three Strikes” are my favorites.

Sawyer’s collected short stories with the theme of time.


Publication year: 2019

Publisher: SFWRITER.COM Inc

Format: ebook

Page count from GoodReads: 218

All of the thirteen short stories were commissioned for different collections including Future War, Men Writing Science Fiction as Women, Down These Dark Spaceways, Dark Destiny III: Children of Dracula, and Star Colonies.

Some are set in the future and a couple involves time travel. Some of them deal with time differences and how society has changed during that time.

Just Like Old Times: This story was originally written for Dinosaur Fantastic. It starts when Cohen’s mind is sent to the past, inside a Tyrannosaur Rex.

Immortality: The main character returns for her 60th class reunion. A lot has changed from 1963 to 2023. The main character must confront the biggest mistake she has done in her life.

If I’m here, Imagine Where They Sent My Luggage: a 250-word story that (again) has dinosaurs and time travel.

On the Surface: A homage to H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. The Morlocks are using time machines.

Relativity: Cathy is one of the few humans who travels to another planet, to explore it. The journey takes seven years, from her perspective. But Earth, a lot more time has passed. Will she even recognize her husband and children?

Forever: Cholo is an astronomer in the Shizoo queendom. He wants to find an unknown planet so that everyone will remember his name forever. Instead, he notices a huge asteroid hurtling toward Earth.

Iterations: Erik knows that he lives in a computer simulation. That he himself is also a simulation. What really drives him crazy is the thought, the knowledge, that in other simulations versions of him are doing unspeakable things.

The Right’s Tough: This story first appears in Vision of Liberty where the world is a better place without governments. The main character lives in such a world. After being in hibernation for 250 years, a crew of the only off-solar system spaceship is returning home.

E-Mails from the Future: This story was written in 2008 for a collection that looked at business a decade down the road. Sawyer’s (imaginary) agent sends him emails. Through them, we can see how far more mercenary businesses will be.

Identity Theft: Alexander Lomax is a private detective in New Klondike, the only town on Mars. It’s small and under a dome. Most of the people who have come here are looking for fossils, but they’re rare, so very few people can get rich. Most just stay in the town hoping to find at least something or they simply don’t have the money to leave anymore. A missing husband should be easy to find, but the case turns out to be more complex than Lomax expected.

Biding Time: Set in the same setting as the previous story, this time Alex Lomax is trying to find out why someone killed an old woman who has just transferred her mind to an artificial body.

Peking Man: 130,000-year-old bones of Peking Man were discovered in 1927 near Beijing. During WWII they were supposed to be smuggled out of China and to the USA. But the remains disappeared. What really happened?

The Shoulders of Giants: 50 people have been in cryosleep for 1,200 years traveling to Tau Ceti and to the planet which is in the habitable zone. Now they’re close enough that they’re being revived so that they can finally see if the planet is habitable.

These were all entertaining reads. I like the two Marsian stories the best, but the two dinosaur stories were lots of fun, too. “Iterations” has also a fascinating idea.

The stories all have a strong central idea. Often, the main character is written in the first person and they aren’t too different from each other. The atmosphere of the stories varies a lot from a detective story to regret about things the MC has done in the past to an MC killing gleefully.

“Identity theft” was apparently expanded to a novel, “Red Planet Blues”, and I’m very curious to read it.

The 64th Star Trek: the Next Generation book set after the movie First Contact.


Publisher: Pocket Books

Publishing year: 2002

Format: Print

Page count: 332

The book starts with an intriguing little scene seventy years previously where two young students Noonien Soong and Ira Graves are mountain climbing with their professor Emil Vaslovik. They stumble on a body… that turns out to be thousands of years old and an artificial being.

In the present, Data is returning to the Enterprise-E with the body of his ”mother”. His emotion chip is fully active and he’s struggling with grief and his emotional realization that he will outlive all of the people dear to him. However, then the Enterprise-E is summoned to Galor IV where Commander Maddox, Reginald Barcley, and professor Vaslovik are working on creating a sentient android, but with one that has a holomatrix brain. Just when they were going to active the android, there was an accident that left Maddox is in a coma, Vaslovik vaporized, and the new android destroyed. Of course, the Enterprise investigates.

This book is a delight to an old fan because it references a lot of Data-centric TNG episodes, such as “the Offspring”, “the Measure of a Man”, “the Schizoid Man”, and “Descent part II”. It also mentions many secondary characters, such as Soong and Lore, and even brings back characters we’ve only seen once, such as Admiral Haftel. It also uses as an inspiration three of the original Star Trek episodes and ties them to TNG.

The overall theme is sentience in artificial beings. While the episode the Measure of a Man establishes that Data is a sentient being, TNG has a surprising number of other sentient artificial intelligences whose right to choose hasn’t been so clear, such as the Exocomp and even a hologram Moriarty. While Picard is concerned with, and acknowledges, their sentience, not everyone feels the same way. Another theme is Data growing close to a new female crew member so the book also has a ”romance of the week” subplot (which I don’t really like. Since the new character doesn’t appear in the show or movies, we know that she’s going to leave or die, so it feels pointless. Doubly so if I like the romance character which I did this time. Such an interesting character wasted. Oh well).

The book has some elements I’m not sure would actually work, but for the most part, I enjoyed it, despite the inevitable downer ending. It does a wonderful job of tying together all the themed elements. Data has a working emotion chip almost the whole book so he’s a bit different than what I’m used to, but I think this was also done well.

Recommended for TNG fans. Will you be able to enjoy it without watching the show? I don’t know, but I recommend watching the integral episodes first.

A stand-alone zombie book.


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.


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.


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.

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