2022 action heroine reading challenge


A stand-alone science fiction book.

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Publication year: 2018

Format: Audio

Running time: 13 hours
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller

Nika Rik Terri is a famous body-modification artist. She redesigns people’s bodies and sometimes heals them, too, using machines made for it. She considers it both an art and a science. She’s obsessed with her work and has even invented the extraordinary machine that can put one person’s mind into the body of another. Unfortunately, she fell in love with a smooth-talking, ruthless criminal who treated her badly, and she plans to run from him. Then a mobster comes into her shop and forces Nika to use her machine so that the mobster will use Nika’s body to assassinate someone. Nika realizes she needs to run right then. On the way, she stumbles into a beginning body-modder Snow. She helps him against a violent man, but they both need to run.

Josune Arriola is a junior engineer aboard the cargo spaceship Road to the Goberlings. She keeps her head down and works as well as she can. But she has a secret of her own: she’s actually a member of the legendary exploration ship the Hassim. Her captain has sent her undercover to the Road so Josune can tell her captain where the Road is and the two ships can meet covertly.

Hammond Roystan is the captain of the Road. He is supposed to be happy ferrying goods around space, but slowly Josune starts to realize he’s not what he appears to be.

But then the Road encounter Hassim, drifting in space. Someone has attacked it. The Road’s crew are salivating at the chance to loot it, but Josune is heartbroken for her former crewmates. But the Hassim’s treasury of knowledge of undiscovered planets makes the Road a target for powerful enemies and also some of the Road’s crew members want more than just their share.

This was mostly a fast-paced space adventure with mystery. Nika and Josune are the two POV characters. Nika, Josune, and Roystan all have secrets to hide while they run from their enemies. The rest of the crew are entertaining, as well. For example, Jacq is a cook and makes special meals for his captain. I also liked the growing relationship between the beginner body-modder Snow and Nika. Her blunt manner and way of doing bodymods scandalizes Snow who is trying to soften her words and eventually even stop people from relying on Nika.

Nika is a very single-minded character. She speaks bluntly, seeing no reason to hide her skills or interest in other people’s modifications. Her obsession with trying to ”improve” people can feel offputting, even fatphobic. Josune is a seasoned fighter. Hassim was a target for greedy people and companies, so all the crew must be capable fighters. She’s attracted to Roystan but doesn’t believe he cares about her.

The first chapters are slower when Nika is doing her body-mod thing and we get a lot of details about it. The implications of being able to change your appearance on a whim, as long as you have the money of course, are fascinating. However, we don’t see enough of society to really see the impact. The focus is on the Road and its crew. Most of the power seems to be in the hands of 27 companies and freelancers like the Hassim or the Road must be constantly on their guard. Laws are only followed in legal zones but even they aren’t safe.

This was a fun, light space adventure. It’s a stand-alone, but has a sequel.

The seventh book in the fantasy series the Invisible Library.

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Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Publishing year: 2020

Format: Print

Page count: 318

Another delightful addition to the series! Assassins are after Irene, her former apprentice Kai, and their friend the detecive Peregrine Vale. The assassination attempts are most likely related to the new peace treaty between the chaotic Fae and the orderly Dragons, because Kai is the Dragons’ representative and Irene is the neutral party in that treaty.

Irene is also dealing with a new Fae apprentice Catherine who is resenting the attention that Kai gets from Irene, so Catherine wants to prove herself and her value to Irene. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean following orders to the letter, but instead coming up with her own ideas and following them.

The book is set in Vale’s world, which has magic, werewolves, and steampunk gadgets. However, the steampunk elements aren’t prominent. Indeed, one plotline revolves around artificial intelligence.

The plot is fast-paced, but it still has time for quieter moments between the characters. Most of the cast is familiar, but we also get new characters. Most prominent of them is Kai’s elder brother Shan Yuan who has his own interests and schemes to protect. Shan Yuan is a lot more rigid dragon than Kai and very aware of his status as the son of a dragon king. We also get some revelations which I’ve suspected for a while now.

The next book is the last one in the series. On the one hand, I’m sad to see the series end, but it’s great that Cogman is finishing while the series is still good. A lot of plot threads are left dangling so I’m very interested to see how it will end. Of course, given the vast number of alternate worlds and characters, it’s very possible that we’ll see a book or three focusing on another character. I’d love to see that, either from the Dragons side or Fae or someone else.

The first book in Silke’s Strike Force superhero series. It can be read as a stand-alone.

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Publication year: 2020

Format: ebook

Page count from Amazon: 303

Silke Butters is a supermodel. She’s also Indian-American so her way to the top wasn’t easy. She was often dismissed because she’s not blond and fair-skinned. But with determination, she clawed her way up and is now finally the face of Candy Girl Cosmetics

Now, she finally has what she wants. Then she starts getting strong headaches and seeing strange visions. One of them is of her father whom she hasn’t seen in many years. The next day, her adopted brother Joe comes to her and tells her that her father is dead.

Silke has mixed feelings, mostly regret. Her father was strongly against her modeling career so she hasn’t really talked with him after she left for New York when she was fifteen. Her father, Duke, was a soldier and after retiring from the Army, he started a private security firm, the Enforcer Factory, which is now doing extremely well. Joe is Duke’s partner in the firm. Joe also has secrets from Silke. For example, Joe himself is an Enhanced, person with superpowers.

And now, Silke has strange feelings and visions. Also, her attraction toward Joe is surfacing.

The ruthless, super-powered Sin Squad is targeting the Enforcer Factory. They’ve even infiltrated it. Now, they won’t stop for anything to get what they want.

This was a very interesting beginning to a series. It introduces us to a world where superpowered beings are mostly secret pawns in a larger game. Silke has no idea about them and the revelations in the book are a shock to her. It’s also her origin story; she’s learning about her powers and learning how to use them.

Silke is impulsive, but also very determined. Also, her life as a model needs her to be quite disciplined; she loves food but must restrict her diet. Also, Silke’s roots are from India which means that she’s no stranger to prejudice. However, these days she’s a famous model so she has to deal with her celebrity. There’s also a romance subplot: she was attracted to Joe before she left for New York, but never acted on it. Now, Joe has a girlfriend.

Joe is a stoic soldier who hero-worshipped Duke Butters who took Joe in after Joe’s parents died. Duke was sick for a while before his death, so it wasn’t a surprise to Joe. Joe has also promised that he doesn’t tell anything to Silke and he feels that he’s protecting her.

My favorite character, however, was Mackenzie ”Maki” Monroe whom Silke calls Mac n’ Cheese. She’s a computer expert. She’s also happily married with kids and heavily pregnant. But I feel I need to give a content warning about miscarriage.

The book has several POV characters, but Silke is the most prominent one. She’s mostly a very good main character who is trying to figure out what is happening to her and what’s happening around her. However, right at the start of the book, she makes some stupid choices: mixing painkillers and alcohol that felt out of character for her.

Also, the author does sometimes use more ”tell” than ”show”. Sometimes she just summarized the scene quickly rather than writing it out. It takes a long time until Silke gets any sort of handle for her powers. I’m also not a fan of plots where the main character is deliberately kept in the dark, especially ”for her own good”, so I didn’t really like that. Unfortunately, the book has also quite a few typos.

Still, it was an enjoyable and exciting read.

The second book in the humorous romantic the Saint of Steel fantasy series.

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Publication year: 2021

Format: Audio

Running time: 15 hours, 38 minutes
Narrator: Joel Richards

Clara is a lay sister of the Order of St. Ursa. She’s been through a terrible time. Her sisterhood of nuns was kidnapped and she was thrown out of the cage they were kept in and left as dead. She was rescued and nursed back to health, but ended up as a house slave, er, a servant who can’t leave. Now, she’s a battle forfeit to a mercenary. She was planning on escaping and looking for her sisters, but fortunately the mercenary group is going in the right direction. The captain also seems to respect nuns, although Clara is just a lay sister, as she repeatedly says. So, Clara joins the mercenary company as a guide. Just for the convenience of traveling with armed men, of course. The mercenary captain is attractive, but Clara has secrets and no man will want her after they find out what she is. So, he’s strictly a traveling companion until Clara finds her sisters and must try to free them, alone.

The Temple of the White Rat hired Istvhan, Galen, and a group of mercenaries to escort a man and his wagon, and also find the mysterious killers who appeared in the first book. Istvhan and Galen are former paladins. Their god, the Saint of Steel, is dead and they’re struggling to find meaning in their lives. Serving the White Rat is good enough. They are berserkers and their god kept them from hurting the innocent, so they don’t really advertise their paladinhood. So, Istvhan is content to let others think that he’s a mercenary captain. He’s not happy that he must allow Clara to join the group, because of local customs, but he also must help a nun. Clara is a very tall and strong woman, much like Istvhan is a tall and strong man, and he can’t help, but be attracted to her. But she’s a nun.

Istvhan pretty much stole the spotlight in the previous book, Paladin’s Grace, and I was really looking forward to the book where he’s the main character. Unfortunately, Kingfisher had to find a way for the couple not to get together until the very end, so Istvhan’s very practical and straightforward manner changed. Sadly, in this book he’s hesitant much in the same way as Stephen was in the first book. In fact, this Istvhan could have used a practical Istvhan-type character to give him advice! So I ended up being rather frustrated with the first half of the book where both Clara and Istvhan make up excuses not to speak their minds. Now, Clara has her secret which made her doubt feel more real, but Istvhan… not so much. He’s struggling with his attraction toward a nun, but she tells him repeatedly that she’s a lay sister and neither of them is in a celibate order so it felt really contrived to me.

Also, what’s wrong with letting them pair up early and continue the quests together as a couple??

Fortunately, the second half made up for that. Once the plot started rolling it, I enjoyed the story much more. The book also had some wonderful and mysterious (perhaps even horrific) moments that the writer does so well. The world-building was expanded and we get to see more of one of the secondary characters from Swordheart, which I loved. The book has its share of dark moments, but thankfully the nuns being raped wasn’t one of them.

Clara is a wonderful character. She’s tall and strong, especially for a woman, and is in her late thirties. It’s wonderful to have a romance with older characters who aren’t conventionally attractive. I also loved a pair of characters they run into about halfway through the book and I loved how Istvhan and Clara flirted by comparing the aches in their bodies. Hilarious!

Action Heroine Fans is a GoodReads group for people who like reading about action heroines. They have a reading challenge for this year, too, and I’ve joined it. However, since this year they only allow books, I have a more modest goal of six books.

1, Cynthia Vespia: Karma

2, T. Kingfisher: Paladin’s Strength

3, Genevieve Cogman: The Dark Archive

4, S. K. Dunstall: Stars Uncharted

5, P. Djeli Clark: A Master of Djinn

6, Rachel Aaron: One Good Dragon Deserves Another

7, Rachel Aaron: No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished

8,