action heroine

The 12th book in the October “Toby” Daye urban fantasy series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 29 minutes
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

This are not well in Toby’s small found family. The two people who were kidnapped in the previous story are still trying to recover from their nightmarish experiences. One of them is Toby’s beloved Tybalt, who has closed himself off from Toby. He doesn’t talk to her and he doesn’t even visit her anymore. Toby desperately wants to help but she doesn’t know what to do.

Then her ex boyfriend Cliff and his wife Miranda come to Toby’s door, accusing her of kidnapping Gillian, Toby and Cliff’s daughter. Gillian goes to Berkley collage and she’s disappeared, leaving behind her car. When Toby’s recovered enough to spring into action, she promises to do everything she can to find her daughter. Even though Gillian is now a human, Toby suspects that someone is trying to hurt her through Gillian. Cliff and Miranda have come during the morning which is a bad time for the fae. Toby still wakes her squire Quentin and her twin/death omen May demands to come along, too.

At the collage, they find Gillian’s strange roommate who apparently is part-fae and hero worships Toby. Toby and her friends start to really dislike her but she brings them to Gillian’s abandoned car. Then things get a lot stranger and worse.

I love Toby’s extended family. This time, they’re somewhat scattered which makes things a bit harder for Toby. But she’s willing to do anything for her daughter, of course. And so will May who has all of Toby’s memories and so in a way, she’s also Gillian’s mother. May’s girlfriend Jazz was also kidnapped and she’s also suffering but we don’t see her much.

This book is more somber is tone. But we get to find out some very interesting things about people close to Toby and about how the current relations between the fae and the humans came to be. Toby’s life changes again. Also, things from previous books come back to haunt our heroes. However, the book also has lot of exposition which felt rather needless.

This is another good addition to the series, even if it’s not one of the best. Once again, I wanted to reread the series to both enjoy them close together and also to pick up any clues I missed.


The fifth and final book in the Vatta’s War science fiction series.

Publication year: 2008
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours 40 minutes
Narrators: Cynthia Holloway

Ky has gathered allies and is getting ready to confront the ruthless pirate captain who is behind her family’s fall. But she’s starting to understand just how large the enemy fleet is and that the pirates have undercover agents in many places. They’ve managed to get some enemy communications but they can’t interpret them. The pirate captain in threatening entire planets.

Meanwhile on Cascadia, the young engineering genius Toby has fallen hard for a local girl, but her parents aren’t happy about Toby being an outsider and belonging to an impoverished family. Stella remembers her days of being desperately in love while being very young and is trying to help. However, soon she notices things that might point towards the girl’s family being involved with the pirates. Stella is also running Vatta Enterprises.

Rafe, Rafael Dunbarger, is now the CEO of ISC (the firm that has so far had monopoly on interstellar communications). The firm is also the biggest one in the system, in fact, so huge that the government let ISC almost run the planet. But his troubles are far from over. His father is still fixated on Vatta being the bad guys and the firm is riddled with spies, embezzlers, and traitors. Also, both people inside the firm and outside it are blaming Rafe for the company’s current compromised position and are trying to replace him. Rafe is trying to deal with these people. Also, this is the first time he’s really expected to be a respectable man. He needs to act quite differently than what he’s used to during his years as undercover agent.

For the most part, this was a good read and it’s a good conclusion to the series. I particularly enjoyed Rafe’s younger sister, Penny, and her road to recovery from the kidnapping and the murder of her family which happened in the previous book, Command Decision. Aunt Grace is her own formidable self, but she isn’t seen much. Ky needs to make some very difficult choices.

Unfortunately, there were also a couple of things I didn’t really care for. We got a few new POV characters and I didn’t really care for most of them. The young romance between Toby and his girlfriend was one of them, especially since it was so obvious that her family were up to no good. Also, another new POV I didn’t care at all and felt that it was mostly a waste of time. Ky’s and Rafe’s sudden romance also rubbed me the wrong way. When they were together, a couple of books since, I didn’t get any great romantic feelings from them, almost the contrary. But longer they were apart, the more warmly they thought about each other. Also, other people accuse them of being attracted to each other and that influencing their choices which I was really tired of. It seemed like the more vehemently Ky and Rafe denied it, the more their feelings grew to each other. They also did have the perfect means to be in touch secretly but didn’t use it. That especially seemed very strange to me: if they’re in love, surely they would have used that means.

But still, I was mostly happy with the way this series ended.

Collects Batgirl issues 0, 7-13. It’s part of the New 52.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Ed Benes, Alitha Martinez

The collection starts with a recap of Barbara’s life until now. It turns out that she was Batgirl for only one year before giving it up (the reason wasn’t given) for a while and then the Joker shot her. We also got to see her in action wearing the Bat-costume for the first time, which was very nice.

Then she battles villain after villain and deals with some personal problems while other problems are brewing.

First, she has a quick run-in with Grotesque who has energy powers and casually kills a man for a bottle of wine. Batgirl pursues him but finds out that one of his henchmen was with Joker when he shot her. She ends up letting him go which I found really strange at first but was nicely explained.

Then Babs confronts her mother who has come back after ten years and we find out that Babs has a young brother, James Jr., who’s apparently a serial killer. He’s supposed to be in Arkham but he’s out and seeing Bab’s new roommate.

Then we get a cross-over with the Batman’s Court of Owls storyline. I’ve only read the first collection, so I know a little bit of them but not much. The court wants to show Gotham that they’re the only salvation. So, they blackmail the commissioner into inaction by threatening Barbara while they assassinate the city’s leaders and send bombs to the city. Batgirl confronts one of the assassins, Talon. This was pretty well done. Even though the assassinations don’t play much part in Babs’ life, we get an interesting backstory for the Talon reaching back to 1944.

Next, the villain Knightfall and their cronies appear. While beating down car thieves, Babs wonders if it’s really the right thing to do, to protect rich people’s property from the poor. One of the thieves tries to get away and he steps into a bear trap. There’s a new vigilante group in Gotham and that’s the way they operate: Knightfall and the Disgraced want to kill (almost) every criminal in the city to get rid of crime, including young kids stealing cars. Babs, of course, fights them.

Knightfall is Babs’ new nemesis. Knightfall and the Disgraced all have tragic backstories; they aren’t in it just to get rich or to do evil. This sets them up as mirrors for Babs and I think we’re going to get a lot of debate and thinking about what is justified vigilantism. Batwoman also makes an appearance.

I liked this volume more than the previous one. Again, I loved Bab’s relationship with her dad. We don’t actually see them interact much but in the first story it’s clear who much dad means to Babs. I’m a bit dubious about the whole James Jr. and Babs’ mother storylines. Knightfall is a great adversary to Babs and I’m looking forward to their next match. The collection ends with a new rogues gallery for Batgirl which was great. However, the next collection is apparently another tie-in for Batman: Death of the family which (sigh) again stars the Joker. Hopefully, Babs gets to kick his ass once and for all, but I’m not really optimistic.

The art work is mostly very nice.

The fourth book in the Vatta’s War science fiction series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours 3 minutes
Narrator: Cynthia Holloway

Kylara is finally on the trail of the space pirates who’re responsible for killing most of her family and the family business. She’s in command of three vessels and she’s trying to get more people, and governments, to stand up for the powerful and ruthless pirates. However, her small force needs supplies and repairs. With ansibles down, many planets don’t have a way to communicate with one another. And some are taking advantage of the lack of info. Gretna Station’s people are pretty despicable to begin with; they’re raging racists who don’t have any respect for anyone whose appearance doesn’t match they very specific criteria. Now, they’re also slavers. When Ky arrives there she fortunately gets a quick warning about what could happen.

Meanwhile, Rafe, Rafael Dunbarger, is finally returning home in the hope of patching things up with his father, who just happens to be the CEO of ISC, the company who owns that ansibles and therefore has a monopoly on interstellar communication. They had a falling out when Rafe has just a child and he has rarely seen his family after that. But when Rafe arrives, working undercover as he’s used to doing for many years, he doesn’t find his family and any attempts to contact them are blocked. Slowly, he finds out that two of his three sisters are dead, and the rest of his family have been kidnapped. He’s able to hire a competent team to rescue them, but’s that’s only the beginning of his problems: he needs to get the person who is behind this and who wants to control ICS himself.

Kylara’s cousin Stella is reeling with the news she received at the end of the previous book, Engaging the Enemy. Stella isn’t sure she has any place in the Vatta family, but Ky assures her that she wants her to continue building the business back. We also see a little of Aunt Gracie in her new position in the Slotter Key government.

This was a fast-paced continuation to the series. We finally get to see just what is wrong with ISC and why. We also get to see the (monetary) reasons behind their draconian way of dealing with anyone else who tries to repair the ansibles, despite them having been down for many months. I loved seeing Aunt Grace again and Stella is really coming in to her own. Rafe become a much more complex character in this book. Both Rafe and Grace have to deal with government/big company bureaucracy idiocy.

While Ky is still the main character of the series, we saw a little less of her in this book than in the previous book. Moon seems to have a way of giving her characters what they want and but not in the way that the characters want them. Ky gets more allies but she’s quite skeptical about them (I thought they were great). Ky wants a warship and gets a merchant ship modified into a warship, but not without problems. Stella wants to be seen as competent adult and not just the family idiot.

A great continuation to the series and a lead-up to the final book.

Collects Batgirl issue 1-6. It’s part of the New 52.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes

I love Oracle. I’m sure I’m not the only fan who was unhappy with DC’s decision to give Barbara back the use of her legs and return her to Batgirl. This was done 2011 with the New 52 relaunch of DC comics and I waited until now to read this new Batgirl (who is already obsolete because the Rebirth made her apparently into a teenager…). But the writer is Gail Simone and I really enjoyed her long run on the Birds of Prey, so I shouldn’t have been worried. However, it’s clear that Barbara hasn’t been Oracle for all those many years. In fact, it’s stated that she was Oracle for only three years. Now, thanks to surgery and intensive physical therapy, she’s back as Batgirl.

Even though she was Batgirl before, she’s been out of the game for (at least) three years. So, she’s rusty and makes mistakes. She also freezes when faced with a gun because the Joker shot her. This makes her a very human character, especially since she doesn’t have any superpowers.

In the first storyline, a mystery man in black costume is killing people on a list. The last name on the list is Barbara Gordon. It turns out that he’s killing people who have miraculously survived when they should have died. Babs has to confront her own miraculous recovery to defeat him. The second storyline starts with a man killing his three sons and shouting 338. Someone is making people do very uncharacteristic things.

We also get a couple of subplots. Babs has moved away from her dad and has a roommate. Nightwing returns and so does Babs’ mother who walked out on her and her dad when she was a child. In the first story, because of Babs’ inaction, a police officer is killed and his partner is going after Batgirl, blaming her for his death. Instead of, you know, the actual person who killed him.

I enjoyed these stories more than I thought I would. I was dreading Batman sweeping in and taking over, well, everything since we are in Gotham. But the two final issues with Batman were very nicely done: it’s clear that Bruce respects Babs and will give her space to grow back to her hero role.

On the other hand, I feel that Babs is somewhat out of character. After years seeing her meticulously plan almost everything, here she is, rushing in without plans. Granted, when there’s a home invasion or mugging in process, she can’t really stop and do a Google search on the perps. But still it feels somewhat strange. Of course, this is a far younger Babs than the one in Birds of Prey. I’m also not a fan of continued romantic tension. I’d love to see Dick and Babs together and fighting crime together. (sigh)

Still, this turned out to be an interesting read and take on Batgirl. I already have the next in the series.

Oh and I loved the art!

The second book in the five-part Vatta’s War science fiction series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 hours and 21 minutes
Narrators: Cynthia Holloway

This book starts soon after then first book, “Trading in Danger”. After she was drummed out of military academy, Kylara Vatta, Ky, is now the captain of a small and old trade space ship. She survived her first voyage on it, but not without losses. Ky refuses to return to the arms of her family, the wealthy Vatta who have made their fortune through interstellar trade. Instead, she’s determined to make it on her own, no matter how boring it’s going to be. But then someone tries to rob her ship and she’s attacked in public.

Someone has launched an attack against Vatta Transport Ltd. Their home is bombed killing many of the family members, including some very close to Ky. The attacks also sever interstellar communications, the ansibles. Furthermore, the government of Slotter Key is blaming the Vatta family and so shutting down their resources. Many of the other trading companies also feel that Vatta is to blame and refuse to deal with them.

The surviving family sends one of the own to find Ky and to find out who their enemy is. Ten years ago, Stella made a grievous error and was branded as the family black sheep ever since. She’s the most unlikely person to investigate anything, so she’s sent. However, she’s a determined and level-headed woman. She has already learned to work undercover, as a spy of sorts, and now her skills are put to a test. Her former lover Rafe soon joins her. He’s a lovable rogue with plenty of talents and secrets of his own.

Ky’s familiar cast returns. I enjoyed them more this time around although their attitudes towards Ky don’t change. She hires a couple of new men and while I could see what’s going to happen with (at least) one of them, it was still a nice ride. I also really enjoyed Ky and Stella’s interactions. However, Ky doesn’t really have time to mourn her family and the story has very convenient coincidences.

This was a nice continuation to the series and definitely raises the stakes for Ky and the surviving Vatta family. Now, Ky has to work with no safety net which she had in the first book.

Collects Marvel’s Star Wars: Princess Leia issues 1-5.

Writer: Mark Weid
Artists: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson

The comic starts right at the end of A New Hope. Leia has just given a very short eulogy to her own world, Alderaan, and her adoptive parents. One of the fighter pilots, Evaan, who is also from Alderaan, doesn’t like how cold Leia seems. There’s a large price on Leia’s head and the generals wants to keep her safe on the new base. Also, the Empire wants to round out all the surviving Aldraanians. But Leia has a plan of her own: she’s going to travel around and gather all the remaining Alderaanians and take them to someplace safe where they can continue their life style of peace and arts. To do that she needs to sneak off the Rebel base. She recruits the reluctant pilot Evaan and R2-D2.

Some of the Aldraanians are happy to see their princess, but not all. And the Empire is dogging them at every turn.

This was a nice quick read which moves at a decent clip. However, we don’t get any new insight about Leia. Which is fine by me, I enjoy reading about her anyway. But the ending was too abrupt and it’s clear that a mission like this isn’t going to be accomplished in just five issues. The story has a nice subplot about two sisters.

We don’t actually know much about Alderaan through the movies. Just that it’s a peaceful place which doesn’t have any weapons. Yet, Leia is no pacifist: she fights right alongside the others and is clearly trained to use weapons. And since this is a Star Wars comic, there’s a quite a bit of fighting in the story line, in addition to sneaking around.

The Alderaan in this comic is noted for arts. Many of the surviving Aldraanians are peaceful artists. But some of them are far from peaceful and defend themselves aggressively. A few of them are even traitors, so we get quite a variety of Alderaanins in the story. We also get a small glimpse into Leia’s childhood where she was reared to be a hereditary monarch. Her parents are shown as wise and respected, which we already knew from the prequels.

Evaan is the other notable Alderaanian in the comic. As a fighter pilot, she’s clearly no pacifist, either. It was nice to see her development in the story. She starts with reluctantly honoring Leia because of her parents and status. Of course, this being an SW comic, you know that’s not the case at the end.

Oh, I really like Dodsons’ art. It flows smoothly. However, the Dodsons have their own style with faces and Leia doesn’t look much like Carrie Fisher.

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