action heroine


The first book in the steampunk/science fiction series Peridot Shift. I got an ARC from the publisher.

Publication year: 2018, in March
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Parvus Press
Page count: 535 on Goodreads

Talis is the captain of Wind Saber, a small airship with a total crew of four people. To keep her vessel in the air, Talis is sometimes forced to take jobs which are borderline legal, or outright illegal. Like the one that starts the story. One of the few fences Talis trusts offered her a job that looked easy enough. An old ring needed to be retrieved from the wreckage of an airship. Talis agreed to the job even though the payment barely covers for the cost of the equipment needed for diving the wreck. However, she thinks that she can do similar jobs in the future, so the cost is really an investment. Her crew agreed. The only problem is that anything found from wrecks are the property of the Cutter Empire, so they’ll have to be fast and silent.

Unfortunately, only moments after Talis gets the ring, an Imperial warship appears, and its captain is none other than Hankirk with whom Talis had a fling years ago when they were both in the Imperial Academy, and now they loath each other. After a battle, which will no doubt put Wind Sabre on the Imperial most wanted list, the Wind Sabre manages to escape. But when Talis tries to bring the ring to the fence, she and her crew are attacked and later they find the fence murdered. Talis has no idea what’s going on, but she needs to get rid of the ring and with a price that will cover some of her losses.

This was a very enjoyable read. The world-building is good and very interesting. The planet Peridot was destroyed in the past and only the powers of the five gods, the Divine Alchemists, kept the world together as islands of floating lands. The Divine Alchemists recreated the plants, animals, and everything and created five races, each in the image of one of the alchemists. Two of them look pretty much human while the rest are somewhat different. The world has also aliens which use starships to come from different planets. The people of Peridot don’t really know much about them.

In addition to two lift balloons and maneuvering and stunsails, the airships have steam engines, too, to propel them across the skies and between different islands. The planet has been divided into five areas, one for each race. There’s the Cutter Empire and the Bone islands are ruled by a sort of tribal council.

The crew of Wind Saber includes Dug who is a fearsome warrior, the first mate, and Talis’ best friend, Sophie who is the wrench, or mechanic, and Tisker who is the pilot and a former street urchin. They’re quite a close-knit group. They each have their own pasts and personalities. Talis is the only point-of-view character so we naturally get to know her the best. She seems like an experienced captain, very protective of her crew (especially Dug) but not so great at long-time planning. She also has a dry sense of humor. All of the crew are able to defend themselves and can kill people when necessary. I also really enjoyed the deep friendship between Dug and Talis: they’re friends through thick and thin but not lovers.

Besides Talis and Sophie the book has several interesting female characters. But for me the aliens almost steal the show. We get to know a bit more about them, but I’d love to know more. For example, they use pronouns not to identify gender but class, and they have over fifty pronouns. Also, the story doesn’t include romance which I really appreciated because courtship romances are so very common that’s noteworthy to find a book without one.

I’m eagerly waiting for the next book and really hoping that it will be just as good.

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Collects Birds of Prey issues 12-21 and Nightwing 45-46 (1999-2000).

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Artist: Dick Giordano, Jordi Ensign, Patrick Zircher, Greg Land, Drew Geraci, Butch Guice, Jackson Guice

The collection starts with a bang, when Dinah is sneaking to a train guarded by heavily armored U. S. Marshalls. It turns out that they’re escorting supervillains and Oracle has been tipped off that someone is going to try to stop the train and get the villains. Also, Catwoman is on the train, too, which causes a misunderstanding between the Marshalls and Dinah. However, when a Boomtube brings the whole train to Apokolips, Dinah, the Marshalls, and Catwoman must combine forces to find a way out. Oracle is left behind. She contacts Power Girl but even Karen can’t follow Dinah to another planet. The story runs for three issues and we also find out who was the mysterious being who has manipulated Oracle lately.

In the next issue, a long-running subplot comes to an end when Barbara finally meets the person she’s been “seeing” on-line. The meeting takes place in a sci-fi convention which allows for a few gags. Meanwhile, Dinah finds out that her neighbor is in an abusive relationship and tries to intervene. On the background, news are talking about escalating conflict at the border Quarac and Karrocan emirate and in the final page we see a surprise envoy from that region who turns out to be none other than the Joker!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the next issue deals with the Joker and how he got involved in the foreign conflict. He also reveals to his interrogator that Quarac has armed missiles trained to New York.

In the next issue, Power Girl and the Black Canary try to destroy the missiles. However, some are launched and Oracle has to call in help from the US Government, in fact from the same people who are hunting her on-line. PG also reveals that she’s worked with Oracle before and that didn’t end well. Apparently, she’s still holds a grudge. This is an older version of PG without the infamous boob window and powers which come from Atlantean magic.

Next, Dinah is in Transbelvia, caught in an air raid. She and a group of locals are trapped on an underground station and she’s caught up between the two local groups of people who have different languages and customs, and a long-running and deep-seated hatred towards each other. While this is a serious and deserving issue, the story felt unconnected with the rest of the storyline.

In the next issue, Barbara is hanging out with the men in her life. Robin (Tim Drake although Barbara doesn’t know his identity) is helping her to wire her new VR room where she intends to train herself again for the field. Dick comes calling and soon both Ted Kord and Jason Bard come along, too. Meanwhile, Dinah is working in Hasaragua to stop an arms deal.

Then the longest storyline in the series starts. It’s a cross-over with Nightwing. Oracle has been stealing her funds from a Gotham crime boss Blockbuster and now he’s determined to find out and eliminate Oracle. His cronies Lady Vic and Brutale have ambushed the Black Canary in Hasaragua. He’s also captured Nightwing and his strange sidekick Tad and is torturing Dick for any information about Oracle. Meanwhile, Oracle is on the run. Blockbuster’s hired computer experts Giz and the Mouse are tracking her down.

This collection ends in a huge cliffhanger and it seems that the rest of the issues haven’t been collected (yet?). For the most part these were fun, action-packed issues but the abrupt ending is, of course, a disappointment when there’s no follow-up collection. So next I’m going to move to Gail Simone’s collected run.

Since the Joker is the one who shot Barbara and put her into the wheelchair, some sort of confrontation between them was inevitable. But this didn’t bring any closure. Of course, I didn’t expect Barbara to kill him or anything but… somehow the personal level just didn’t come through. Then again maybe I was expecting too much considering that both characters’ lives must continue the same.

Collects issues 1-6 of Xena: Warrior Princess volume 2.

Writer: Genevieve Valentine
Artists: Ariel Medel, Julius Gopez

This limited series is set during season 6 when Xena and Gabrielle have already faced Rome and the current Caesar, Augustus, has made Xena into a champion of Rome, at least in bards’ tales. Xena and Gabrielle team up with a group of fierce female warriors to combat Rome’s cruel ways.

The comic references a lot of stuff from the show, such as Gabrielle’s friendship with Augustus, Xena’s relationship with Borias, and Ares’ obsession with Xena. It’s definitely aimed at fans of the show and I’d recommend watching season 6 at least before reading this. I, uh, really want to rewatch the show after reading this (but I’m in the middle of Flash’s third season and then have Legends of Tomorrow to watch…)

It’s very much in the sprit of the show, although it’s made clear that Gabrielle and Xena are more than friends (which the show didn’t).

I liked the first artist more than the second one. The shift was in the middle of fourth issue and it felt quite jarring to me since the styles are quite different. There’s some unnecessarily revealing female “armor” but no more than is usual to the show.

I didn’t love the comic but liked it quite a lot, especially because it includes our heroes going undercover (which on the show I either loved or cringed through one episode and never watched again). Recommended to fans only.

The first book in an alternate reality series set in modern times.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook, kindle
Publisher: Silver wood books
Page count: 319 (at GoodReads)

The story starts in the present-day New York but in another reality. Karen Brown is a pretty ordinary young woman with a low-level job at a marketing firm. But her real passion is her volunteer work at the Kew Park. However, when she asks a group of young men to stop harassing an old Native man she has no idea what sort of trouble she finds herself in. One of the men has very influential parents and Karen is banned from the park. But soon she has a lot of other things to think. Strange men follow her, and she meets a particularly handsome man who seems to take a special interest in her. Then she finds out that her family isn’t quite whom she thought them to be. Her mother, who passed away years ago, left her a legacy which her uncle and aunt have kept a secret from her after her father’s death. Soon, government agents are harassing her, and her only ally is that handsome man from Nova Roma. Should she trust him?

This is a modern-day thriller but set in an alternate reality where a group of powerful Roman families established their own country, Roma Nova, which survived to the modern day. However, the Roman customs had to give way to more practical considerations and in this country, and world, women are able to rise to powerful positions and do so. Even though Karen’s mother is from Roma Nova, she doesn’t know anything about the country and we find out alongside her. However, we don’t really see much about the day-to-day customs which was a small disappointment. I would have loved to see more of the ordinary Roma Novans.

The first part of the book is a fast-paced thriller but in the second part things slow down quite a bit and Karen’s character development takes the center stage. She chooses to change quite a lot and becomes responsible for her own life and choices. While she isn’t a timid person at the start, she is quite a normal young woman without any experience with criminal matters or anything like that, so she feels quite out of control and even a victim at times. Later the pace quickens again somewhat but not as much as it was at the start. That’s not a complaint, though. Karen’s life changes quite a bit and it’s natural that it doesn’t do so in just a few days.

In fact, the story has been divided into four parts, which correspond with how Karen’s life changes. They’re almost episodic, like a miniseries instead of a continuous story (again not a complain but an observation). Unfortunately, there were a couple of things I didn’t care for. One of them was how quickly Karen becomes a fighter and not just an ordinary fighter but with some very special skills which I doubt can be learnt in just a couple of months. Also, Karen’s change in circumstances seems like wish fulfillment.

The cast of characters changes three times in the book while Karen’s life changes, too. At first, she has only one friend in the ad agency and any friends she made at the park do not contact her again. Later, we get quite intriguing characters, a couple of them powerful and elderly women.

The story has the obligatory romance, too. I didn’t mind it at first, because we didn’t get the usual nonsense reasons stopping them from getting together. Unfortunately, those reasons did come up later. But even though I’m not a romance reader, I wasn’t too annoyed by Karen’s romantic entanglements. In fact, I was content with the ending.

The story is written in first person POV. There are also brief chapters from the POV of the main antagonist, a high ranking and very skilled man who has a personal grudge against Karen.

Some of the next books in the series are in audio, so I’m going to try the next book, Perfiditas, in that format.

The novelization of the first Underworld movie.

Publication year: 2003
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket star books
Page count: 375

I really enjoyed Selene, the gothic setting, and the world building in the movie Underworld. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for the romance which was the linchpin to the plot.

In the novelization the romance is present right at the start. Right at the beginning, before the gunfight at the subway station, Selene and Michael notice each other among the crowds and are immediately taken by each other. Unfortunately, I don’t find their romance in the book any more convincing than in the movie. Oh, I can just about believe that Selene, who has been a stoic werewolf hunter for 600 years without any romantic feelings at all, could find Michael attractive. But for her to quite suddenly abandon her coven for him in just an afternoon… is less believable. Then again, I’d also want any excuse to get away from Kraven, if I were Selene.

The book is very faithful to the movie, for the most part. There are some scenes which aren’t in the movie though it could be that they were cut afterwards or cut from the script. Since the book has multiple POV characters, we get to see the thoughts of most of the characters who appear in the film. Even though Selene is outwardly calm, she goes through more emotions in the book than in the movie. I understand that a stoic character can be difficult to make appealing to a reader. Unfortunately, her stoic get-the-job done attitude is one of the things I really liked in the movie, so the book kind of undermines that.

The book has around dozen different POV characters and unfortunately Selene was the only one who appealed to me. I didn’t care for Kraven in the movie either but his POV here is almost excruciating. He lusts after Selene but abuses her and everyone else around him.

The scenes are short with rapidly changing POVs. We do find out a few interesting details about vampire life which weren’t in the movie but otherwise it’s just a movie in a book form.

The first book in an action and adventure series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: Turning Leaf Productions
Page count: 218 and the first chapter of the next book

Poppy McVie is a new US Fish and Wildlife Service Agent. In fact, she still has a little bit of training to do when she’s assigned to her first undercover job. Poppy is training with an old agent in Michigan. She’s relentlessly tracking down bear poachers when her boss calls her and she has to return to service headquarters. She’s nervous at first that she’s going to be fired, but to her amazement given her first undercover assignment. However, she’s less thrilled when she finds out that she’s been given the mission because of her gender. Agent Dalton’s backstory calls for a wife.

Dalton is in Costa Rica tracking down a local wildlife smuggler and seller. Two other male agents are there, as well, but one of them hasn’t reported in when he should have. Poppy’s boss gives her strict orders to obey Dalton and just play the rich wife. Poppy thinks that Dalton is going to be a middle-aged agent but much to her surprise and delight, he turns out to be hot ex-SEAL. However, Dalton isn’t thrilled to see her and just orders her to hang out at the beach and stay out of his way. But Poppy is very smart, dedicated, and ruthless when she has to be. So, she investigates on her own.

Poppy is passionate about catching and convicting animal abusers. Unfortunately, as a US agent, she has no jurisdiction in Costa Rica. But that doesn’t stop her. She investigates on her own and puts herself and Dalton in danger by doing so. In fact, she’s rather reckless and sometimes I wondered if she was too trusting. Also, she clearly doesn’t respect her superiors because she doesn’t obey their orders. Her poor judgement skills put her in danger a couple of time but she’s able to save herself with quick thinking.

Dalton is an ex-SEAL and somewhat a loner type. He doesn’t know Poppy and he doesn’t trust her. He has a mission which he’s focused on and Poppy is an unknown element. In other words, he doesn’t trust her training as a fellow agent. He also comes across as liking Poppy as an attractive woman but keeping her at an arm’s length.

There’s another very handsome man whom Poppy is interested in and whom she trusts rather quickly. There was some jealousy between him and Dalton which I thought was absurd. Similarly, near the end Poppy was jealous about Dalton which was also absurd. So, while most of the romance bits were ok, I didn’t really care for the whole jealousy aspect.

Overall, this was fun, well-paced book with lots of action. There’s also a grimmer theme under the fun story, about how animal poachers and smugglers would be out of business without their clients.

The second book in the series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours and 23 minutes
Narrator: Jordanna Max Brosky and Robert Petkoff

It’s Christmas time and three months has gone by since the end of the previous book. Theo and Selene are still together and their relationship is pretty much the same; Selene struggling with her feelings and keeping Theo at an arm’s length away.

Selene isn’t a fan of Christmas, indeed, she loathes it. Fortunately, there are some women in distress whom she can help instead of beating up Christmas tree sellers. But soon, the police calls her and Theo to a grisly murder scene and they have so much investigative work on their hands that they almost forget the upcoming holiday, especially when they realize that the murdered man was a former Greek god.
And when a man in a winged cap attacks Selene, she realizes that her extended family is in danger.

Selene DiSilva is Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunt and the protector of the innocent. She’s remained chaste and alone for hundreds, thousands of years. It’s hard for her to be in a relationship and she doesn’t take Theo into account of her plans at all when he’s somewhere else. She’s fierce and fiercely independent. She’s also a shitty girlfriend and I’m not talking about sex or the lack of it, but her complete lack of consideration for Theo and his feelings. I began to wonder why he puts up with her. Granted, the book actually addresses this which is great.

Theo is the same nerdy ancient history professor. He does research and also gets to be pretty heroic. He’s very accommodating of Selene and her standoffishness but fortunately, he does have his limits, too. He also has two female friends whom I enjoyed a lot.

This time we get to see more of Selene’s celestial family. Her twin is a rock star and they have a strained relationship at best. Many other (former) gods appear, too. I really enjoyed them.

The book is mostly told from the POV of Selene or Theo. There are also some shorter chapters from the POV of one of the conspirators. This structure worked well. The audiobook has two narrators and they change according to the POV.

The book has a couple of things I don’t really care for, such as jealously and the female friend who turns out to be in love with her male friend. Also, I’m not a fan of bickering couples. But overall I really enjoyed this second book, too. It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, exactly, but I’m very excited for the next book.

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