action heroine


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.

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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.

The first book in a space opera series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: Audio
Running time: 13 hours and 45 minutes
Narrator: Cynthia Holloway

Kylara Vatta is the youngest of the Vatta family who owns a very successful space shipping firm. But Ky wants to be a soldier and so she goes to the military academy even over her family’s objections. However, another cadet tricks her and she’s kicked out in disgrace. She’s now an embarrassment to her family so they want her out of sight. At least until everyone forgets her troubles and her mother can marry her off.

However, her father and brother conspire to give her a star ship to captain. The ship is an old one and in fact Ky is expected to take it to a scrapyard. But along the way, she finds opportunities to trade and takes them. Unfortunately, the ship breaks down and leaves her and her crew in the middle of a war, without a functioning FTL drive, so Ky will have to grow up fast and think quick.

This is Ky’s coming of age story as a captain. For her maiden voyage, she’s been given a very experienced crew. She knows that and learns to rely on them, even though at first she wants to do herself everything she can. Her previous experience at the academy serves her well and even though she isn’t a teenager, she still has some flaws to overcome. Other people don’t expect much from her because of her youth and those who know about her previous blunders think that she wants too much to help other people. But she’s very resourceful and a no-nonsense character. She also has a dark side.

The other major characters are the crew members. One of them Ky has known off and on her whole life. I also rather enjoyed a certain senior Vatta captain when he made an appearance later in the book. Ky’s family is very supportive of her but they definitely treat her like a little princess who needs to be rescued. But that did mean that even if Ky had screwed up, her family would have bailed her out which diminished the danger somewhat.

However, only Ky herself is really a memorable character. Also, the story devotes more time to business dealings and trying to get enough money for repairs than action. I was a bit thrown by the fact that this universe uses ansibles for communication because I though Ursula Le Guin invented them.

Even though this is the first book in the series, it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. But I enjoyed the book enough that I’ll continue with the series.

Stand-alone graphic novel.

Writer and artist: Jill Thompson

This graphic novel follows the path of princess Diana from a spoiled child to a superhero. It’s quite different from other WW origin stories.

Diana grows up the only child in Themyscira and therefor she’s spoiled. Almost all the Amazons love her and try to please her anyway they can. They also give into her whims. This seems a bit strange, given the Amazon’s history and because they are often depicted valuing humility. But there’s one Amazon who doesn’t adore her and so Diana becomes obsessed with trying to make Alathea her friend.

Unfortunately, this story makes Diana a bad person: someone who verbally abuses her sister Amazons and even lies and cheats. This does make her more a human, of course, so she wasn’t born with an infallible moral compass; instead she has to learn to do good things. However, it also makes this Diana a fundamentally different person from the canon Wonder Woman. She’s motivated by trying to atone for past sins rather than by compassion.

The artwork is lush and gorgeous. It looks like painted pages rather than a comic book, which suits the Amazons and their mythical story well.

Collects Angels we have seen on high, MacGuffins, BtVS: Ring of Fire and Dust Waltz, BtVS: Spike & Drue 3: The Queen of Heart and Paint the Town Red, and BtVS 60-63.

Writers: Christopher Golden, Dan Brereton, Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Jen van Meter, Doug Petrie, James Masters

Artists: Cliff Richards, Jeff Matsuda, Brian Horton, Ryan Sook, Hector Gomez, Sandy Florea

These stories range wildly in quality, execution, and also in place during the series. Definitely aimed at fans of the show.
The first story “Angels we have seen on high” is a really short and takes place before the series. Dawn is in danger in an amusement park while Buffy is chasing after some vampires. The art is quite blocky and doesn’t resemble the actors at all. But it’s a fun little story.

“A stake through the heart” is also set before the series. Buffy and Dawn’s parents are in the middle of breaking up and this upsets the whole family. Angel and Whistler are creepily watching them from the shadows and Angel tries to help, trying to banish the terrible feelings through a magical ritual. Instead, he manages to manifest them as demons who then prey on the family. We also get cameos by Cordelia, Harmony, and other characters.

“MacGuffins” is set sometime during the series. Buffy is at her dad’s place where someone sends a couple of gremlins and she has to figure out how to get rid of them, alone.

In “Queen of Hearts” Spike and Drusilla are driving to Sunnydale but they pause for a snack. This leads them to a river boat called a queen of hearts and quite a lot of trouble.

“Ring of Fire” is set during the second season when Angel is Angelus and has just killed Jenny. I’ve read this as a separate comic before. It has some great moments, like the return of Kendra and the snark between Spike and Angelus.

“Paint the Town Red” is another Spike and Drusilla story set after they left the show in second season. They’ve settled into a nice little town. But Dru dreams about Angel and Spike’s jealousy drives him to assault Dru and leave her. Of course, she follows but with a surprise.

“The Dust Waltz”: Vampire Queen Lilith and her sister have come to Sunnydale, which means trouble to the gang. Also, Giles’ niece Jane comes to town as well. She’s an archeology student which is interesting but she doesn’t really add anything to the story. Lilith and her sister are powerful and would have made interesting continuing enemies.

Most of the stories are nice but pretty average. Enough the make me want to rewatch the earlier seasons.

Collects Captain Marvel 1-5 (2016).

Writer: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters
Artists: Kris Anka, Felipe Smith

Marvel is clearly concentrating more on Carol and I’m happy about it. Carol’s life after Secret Wars continues as high-profile as before, but this time in space!

Alpha Flight is now serving aboard Alpha Flight space station and Carol has been asked to command the station. She was (mostly) happy to take a two-year assignment. She thinks that the job is mostly going to be a desk job. But she’s wrong: immediately she has to start being a diplomat and a combat leader. The diplomat role she’s happy to hand to Agent Abigail Brand while she leads the Alpha Flight into a battle against a mysterious space ship – which carries Carol’s Hala star. When Carol leads a small group to investigate the ship, it turns out to be organic. And that’s when the troubles start.

I’ve no idea why the Alpha Flight has become a space organization, or rather a part of it. Sasquatch, Puck, and Aurora are the only members left and none of them have powers usable in space. Instead, they use small space fighters. I also really enjoyed a new character Wendy Kawasaki who is the lead scientist on the station and she thinks her commander and job are very cool. Agent Brand I’m less thrilled about but she is a formidable character and of course we need someone to bring in friction, jump to conclusions, and challenge Carol all the time.

This is basically Star Trek: DS9 with superheroes. And for me, that a good thing! Pretty much the only thing I didn’t like was that Carol’s powers started to diminish. It’s such an old plot device and more often used on female characters. But hopefully that’s now done and we’ll see other adventures. The space station is Earth’s first line of defense against threats from space so there’s no shortage of possible plots.

The second book in the wonderful fantasy series Divine Cities.

Publication year: 2016
Format: print
Page count: 442
Publisher: Jo Fletcher books

The story starts about five years after the ending of the previous book, City of Stairs. Colonel Turyin Mulaghesh who was the polis governor of Bulikov has been promoted to general and joined the Saypuri Military Council. But recently she has retired to chase her dream of living beside the sea and enjoying life. Sadly, that dream hasn’t come true. She lives by the sea but in a hovel and has to chase local bandits off her property. She also has flashbacks to the Battle of Bulikov. When an old associate comes to her bearing a letter from the current Saypuri Prime Minister, Mulaghesh is at first annoyed. However, she agrees reluctantly to become the Prime Minister’s spy.

The PM’s previous investigator Choudhry has disappeared and it’s Mulaghesh’s job to go to the city where she vanished and find out what happens to her. Also, the Saypuri have discovered a metal in that same city that not only conducts electricity 100% but it also seems to augment the electricity. This shouldn’t be possible and the PM is concerned that something Divine is behind it. What really irritates Mulaghesh is where she’s going: Voortyashtan which is the “ass-end of the universe, armpit of the world” as she calls it. Voortyashtan was built by the sea but the port is currently extremely dangerous to use because of debris from the time when the Continent’s gods vanished (in the event called the Blink). The city was also the capital of Voortya, goddess of war, death, and destruction. She was the first divinity killed and none of her miracles work. But her followers, her sentinels, were hated by the Saypuri and they don’t treat the remaining people at all nicely. In fact, beside Voortyashtan is the Fort Thinadeshi which has guns trained on the city all the time. And the weather is miserable.

Mulaghesh is tortured by her past and she can’t escape it here because the fort’s commander is also her old commander. Mulaghesh finds out that the disappeared woman had started to act strangely and was considered insane by some. She comes into the middle of a politically hot situation: the invading Saypuris are constantly harassed by the locals whom the Saypuri’s hate. Also, northern Draylings have been hired to clear and rebuild the harbor. Both Saypuris and the locals cautiously trust them, as long as they don’t do anything weird.

City of Blades continues in the wonderful footsteps of the previous book: an investigation in a new city. Many of the elements which made the previous book great are here, too. I through enjoyed Mulaghesh as the main character and her journey in this book is more personal than Shara’s in the previous book. Mulaghesh is a career soldier and over fifty. She smokes cigarillos, drinks, and curses a lot. She has a tortured past and yet she has uncompromising principles.

However, this is a grimmer book than the first one; there’s little hope of complete victory, just keeping to your ideals while the world goes to hell. The theme of the book centers on war and soldiers. It also contains some gruesome violence. I’m also not sure if I agree with the ending for even though it was rather impressive.

We also get to know some more about the history of Saypur, how it rose after the gods were killed and about the horrible way the Continentals kept the Saypuri slaves before the gods were killed.

Great, wonderful continuation of the series!

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