action/adventure


The first book in the second Roma Nova trilogy. It can be read without reading the other books first. In fact, if you don’t like spoilers, I recommend starting with this book because it’s a prequel to the first trilogy.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Publisher: Pulcheria Press
Page count: 370

It’s 1960s and Aurelia Mitela is one of the elite Praetorian guards in Roma Nova. Her mother, the leader of the politically powerful Mitela family, is trying to make her to contract with Caius Tellus whose family is also politically powerful. Contracting is sort-of like marrying except that the man doesn’t own the woman’s property and the man joins the woman’s family. Aurelia has known him from childhood but she also knows that he’s not a good man; in fact he might be a psychopath. So, she firmly tells her mother no.

Aurelia’s assigned to a training exercise at the mountains bordering Prussia and Roma Nova. By accident, her group almost catches a group of smugglers but the last of the smugglers gets away, leaving only derisive laughter echoing behind him. Aurelia is notified that her mother, Felicia, was in an accident. It leaves Felicia mentally incapable of doing much at all. Aurelia tries to take over for her, but when she exhausts herself trying to do everything, she pretty much retires to do just the family paperwork. However, imperatrix of Roma Nova sends her to Berlin. She’s sent to find out who is behind a silver smuggling ring and to generally spy on the Germans.

In Berlin, the pace quickens and the plot has many twists and turns.

If you already like Morton’s style, you’re also going to love this one. It’s terrific alternate history thriller where Aurelia must fight for her own life on several occasions. It’s also full of interesting female characters, from Roma Nova’s empress to various soldiers. Most of the action happens outside Roma Nova in the 1960s, so Aurelia and the women around her are subjected to quite a lot of sexism, too.

Aurelia is actually quite similar to Carina because they’re both soldiers dedicated to the nation and they’re also both tough, competent, and (most of the time) sure of themselves. However, Aurelia has lived her whole life on Roman Nova and in a very wealthy and privileged family and she has a complex relationship with her mother Felicia who isn’t a soldier and can’t understand that world. Aurelia already has a 5-year-old daughter but her father isn’t seen in the book. There’s just a mention that he was unsatisfactory partner. Her daughter is also ill a lot. Aurelia encounters the love of her life in this book, but that aspect doesn’t take over. In fact, he isn’t seen much and remains a very distant character. Also, Aurelia doesn’t have any criminal contacts and isn’t tempted to go outside the system the way that Carina often does.

Her main enemy is similarly very intimidating and competent at playing havoc in Aurelia’s life. We find out some more about Roma Novan economy where silver seems to play a large part. While the previous books had some futuristic equipment, this one has 1960s technology.

Another very enjoyable Roma Nova book. Since the events are in Carina’s past, we already know how things are going to end up but we don’t know any of the details, just the broad strokes. It can be read as a stand-alone book.

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I received the whole serial eARC free from the publisher! I’m going to review it one episode a week. I haven’t read a serial before so it’s a new experience for me. The Triangle has 10 episodes, all available from The Triangle’s page at Serial Box starting April 24th.

Publisher: Serial Box 2019
Writers: Dan Koboldt, Mindy McGinnis, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley.
Format: eARC

“Since two massive hurricanes hit the Bermuda Triangle region, ships and planes have disappeared, leaving behind a trail of haunting radio transmissions. A covert task force investigates, but finds themselves caught in a third hurricane and shipwrecked on an uncharted island. They discover something shocking there—and not just that they aren’t alone on the island. Can they survive long enough to escape the Triangle and tell the world?“

The first episode, of course, introduces us to the setting and the characters. The Triangle setting seems to be our modern world. However, there are hints that something supernatural or maybe alien is going on.

Tessa Dumont investigates plane crashes at the NTSB. She’s very good at her job, noticing small details that others miss. She’s also not comfortable around people or enclosed spaces. When retired Navy Vice Admiral David Segarra wants her to join his team of experts, she’s doesn’t want to go. But when he tells her that the target is the famous Bermuda Triangle and that even more ships and planes than usual have disappeared, and plays back the strange last transmission of one of the planes, she can’t resist joining the team.

Michael Hammond is a data recovery specialist. But after his fiancee died in a plane crash, he’s been unable to concentrate on anything. He distrusts anyone from NTSB because they ruled the crash an accident but he’s convinced that it couldn’t have been an accident. But when Segarra tells him about the mystery of the disappearances he joins the team.

But when the small team arrives on the secret underground base in the Caribbeans, they get another member over Segarra’s objections. Flamboyant Alastair McBride is an expert of Bermuda Triangle but he’s also a conspiracy theorist who loves to dig dirt about US government. Hammond loves his book while Segarra hates him and Dumont thinks his book is garbage. However, Segarra’s superiors order him to include McBride.

When it’s time to work, they each have theirs specialties and are able to put their differences behind them. They listen transmissions from the missing ships and planes, and find out that many of the pilots mentioned seeing a golden or orange light just before their transmissions end.

Among the missing is a whole battleship with more than 1000 people. Another is a private plane with two passengers, a father and his five-year old daughter. In the final transmission the child, Olivia, talk about someone she calls Mr. Babbit. It vanished five years ago.

The first episode does a good job of establishing the characters and their conflicts between each other and how they are still able to work together. I’m sure we also get to know much more about the characters as the story advances. They’re all professionals in their own areas, which is something I really like.

It also gives us a very good understanding of the mystery. I’ve heard of Bermuda Triangle, of course, and seen the X-Files episode about it, but I don’t know much beside it. We hear some of the last transmissions the planes and ships sent and the characters wonder about possible natural explanations but must dismiss that.

This is a very promising start. The first episode did its job and enticed me to read more.

The first book in the Pandora Project trilogy. It’s also the fourth Vigilantes book, a historical superhero series set in 1960s US.

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Publisher: Beautiful Fire
Page count: 329

Colleen Knight’s mother Tina leads a mob family. Colleen’s grandfather tried to make Colleen into a mobster as well; he even threatened to hurt Colleen’s lover unless she did was he wanted. That’s why Colleen left Karen without a word six years ago. However, now her grandfather is dead and she’s trying to distance herself from her mother’s job. Colleen is also afraid of her fire powers; she’s killed people before and now she’s trying to avoid it.

But when Tina asks a favor from Colleen, she can’t say no, especially when she’s asked to save another powered person. To do that, she goes undercover on a river boat, assuming the role of a mistress of a known playboy.

Karen Gray is a spy for a government agency, the Bulwark. She believes that she’s doing good work when she hunts down powered people, sometimes killing them. However, she’s been deep undercover for some years now, as the fiancee of David James, the son of a rich man and powerful man. Karen is given the mission to retrieved yet another powered person from a river boat.

When Karen and Colleen meet unexpectedly, they can’t trust each other and their history together, especially the abrupt break-up, comes between them. But when they find out that the powered person they both need to retrieve is a black child, the mission taken another turn. Colleen and Karen must band together, for a while at least.

Colleen is a black woman and Karen is white. Through Colleen, we see the bigotry of 1960s USA, especially because the river boat is in southern US. But Colleen doesn’t let other people’s attitudes stop her even if sometimes she must bow her head and hide herself. She’s fierce and fights for what she believes in. Karen has also had to fight hard to be accepted as an agent and when she must face the growing evidence that her job might not be what she thought it is, she must decide what’s more important to her: her career or conscience.

Regular people know about powered people and some are afraid of them. Some people, especially the rich and the powerful, want to use powered people as weapons, no matter what that powered person thinks of that.

This is a fast-paced story with twists and turns. The characters are believable and they struggle with both personal feelings and with larger moral issues. The fight scenes are detailed and great. However, the story (as Heinrich’s other books, too) are more bloody than comics; both main characters kill people, sometimes in rather grisly way, while fighting for their lives.

There are some references to DC/Marvel comics, in addition to the names of main characters. I personally got a kick out of Liefeld.

I’m not a romance reader but this time I didn’t mind how old feelings rekindled in Colleen and Karen. Neither has forgotten the other and both were deeply wounded by their break-up. Of course, in 1962 their romance must be a secret.

It’s possible to read the story as a stand-alone but I’d recommend reading from the start. Colleen was introduced in “Shadow Dreams”.

The book starts with a short story “Mizuchi” where Alice as Serpent and Marco as Shadow Master confront a girl who can control water. She’s killing people and the local police are overwhelmed. However, things become more complicated when Alice and Marco realized that she’s barely a teenager who is only killing men who belong to the local Chinese mob.

The book doesn’t quite end in a cliffhanger but the story isn’t finished.

Writer and artist: Yukito Kishiro

Originally started publishing in 1991. Finnish translation started in 2006.

Alita meets Yugo, a teenager who is living by himself and working very hard to support himself. Alita is immediately attracted to him, his brash manner, and the way he admires Zalem, the city in the sky where the wealthy people live. When a criminal Alita is tracking attacks, Alita conceals her fighting abilities from Yugo, which I found very strange. Alita softens up the criminal behind Yugo’s back (literally) but Yugo kills him and claims the head. Alita has been disgusted with the practice of bringing in heads to get paid but when Yugo tells her that he needs to gather 10 million credits so that he can go to Zalem, Alita decides to help him. Yep, Alita has fallen in love with Yugo. Unfortunately for her, he doesn’t feel the same way, focusing on his jobs instead.

However, trouble is on the horizon, because Yugo is the infamous “spine thief”. Spines are very expensive. Yugo and his group of two other young thieves knock out cyborgs and steal their spines. However, Yugo leaves them always alive. But when the local big crime boss Vector notices what Yugo and his friends are doing, he wants to expand the operation, working quicker and killing the victims afterward.

Meanwhile, one of the bounty hunters whom Alita battled and humiliated earlier, wants revenge. He realizes what Yugo is doing and is determined to put a bounty on Yugo’s head, forcing Alita to kill her love or to defend him and make herself a rogue bounty hunter, fair game for the other hunter-warriors.

We also get to see Yugo’s life and what makes him tick.

This second collection deepens the world and the characters. It’s also not focused as much on combat, but instead on Alita and Yugo’s growing relationship (or rather Alita’s growing obsession over him), Alita’s insecurity because she’s not a ‘real girl’, and Ito’s concern over her. Alita is faced with tough choices and also feelings about herself. She worries that because her cyborg body is so much stronger than a human body, she can never be with Yugo.

I didn’t care for Yugo and it seemed like Alita fell for the first boy near her own (emotional) age. But of course they’re both teenagers and so very focused on themselves. I’m also not sure where her impulse to hide her artificial body and her combat skills came from. Ido surely didn’t teach her that. I guess it’s just a means to create conflict in her. While I didn’t care for the main story line, I still really like Alita, her determination and loyalty. She’s also very proud and quick to anger.

The second collection in English seems to have the chapters 8 through 12. The comic ends at an natural break in the plot.

The Finnish edition (Gunnm 2: Rautaneito) has chapters 7-11. It ends with a cliffhanger.

The third book in the alternate history action/adventure/thriller Roma Nova series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebooks
Publisher: SilverWood Books
Page count: 297

Set eight years after the end of the second book, Carina Mitela is now a major in the Roma Nova’s elite military force, the Praetorian Guard Special Forces (PGSF). She’s also the head of her powerful family now that her formerly formidable grandmother Aurelia is suffering from late-stage cancer. Carina’s husband Conrad is a legate in the military forces and therefore her commanding officer. They have managed to make it work, though, because they love each other and because they’re both committed to serving the state. They have three children.

But when they suddenly find out that Conrad has a daughter he never knew existed, their life is torn apart. The girl, Nicola, is already 25 years old and she’s in the British military. When she comes to Roma Nova, she wants everything she can get. Carina strongly suspects that the girl is manipulating Conrad but he won’t hear of it. He turns his back to his existing family, refusing any help from his wife. When Carina finds out that Nicola is a drug dealer who almost gets Carina and Conrad’s oldest daughter killed, Conrad refuses to hear of it. When Nicola gets the Roman Novan Imperial heir into trouble, Conrad still sides with Nicola, feeling guilty and that he must try to make up for the lost years.

This story is quite a roller coaster, involving the people closest to Carina. Nicola threatens not only Conrad and Carina’s relationship but also their children. Conrad siding with Nicola hurts Carina deeply but she does her best to serve the country. Also, Carina’s eldest daughter Allegra is 15 and in trouble. The imperial heir, Stella, is also a teenager. She’s unsure of what she wants to do in life and is used to being pampered. When she rebels against her mother, it’s more serious than an average teenager’s rebellion.

Also, Carina’s beloved grandmother is dying of cancer and Carina needs to step up as the leader of her extended family. All of this makes the story seem complicated but it’s written very well and I had no problem following the different plots. However, I was really very dubious about Conrad’s actions (once again) even though we do get an explanation, of sorts.

The series has a lot of secondary characters and we get to see most of them this time, too. Carina’s friends in the military play a big role but we get to see the others, as well. Stella and Allegra have their own character arcs, and while the girls could have been very similar, both reared up is rich, privileged families, they are actually quite different. I’ve enjoyed the cast of characters in the previous books and I enjoyed them a lot this time, too.

This is a great end to Carina’s story. There’s still a novella about her which I haven’t read. While “Successio” can be read as a stand-alone, I think it’s best to read “Inceptio” and “Perfiditas” first. The next book in the series “Aurelia” follows Carina’s grandmother’s story and I’m eager to read it.

The first novella in the Bulletproof Witch series which is a Fantasy Western.

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Publisher: Lily & Rose Publishing LLC
Page count: 124
Artist: Jin A. Lee

The novella has six black and white interior drawings which reflect the mood very well.

Temperance Whiteoak is the granddaughter of a famous pistol warlock James ”Brimstone” Whiteoak. However, after her family was killed, she doesn’t advertise her connections. She’s a bounty hunter, hunting daemons. Now, she’s on the trail of Belial, a powerful daemon. She wants both information from him and the bounty. But when she hunts him down, she must fight him and gets very little info for her trouble. When she brings the daemon (in a magical tube) to the closest town, her troubles only start: the sheriff doesn’t have enough money to pay her. However, a Federation marshal is just bringing in a prisoner and needs a partner to transport the prisoner to the nearest big city, a week away. Temperance doesn’t want to go there but she has not choice. However, the sheriff didn’t tell her about the real difficulties: the prisoner is a warlock and his gang of criminals will try to rescue him and that Temperance must follow the rules for Federation marshals, which means no killing.

Temperance has nothing but scorn for the marshals and their rules. Luckily, her telepathic horse Astor is there to help her, along with the hexbullets she inherited from her family. Temperance and Astor are trying to get revenge on the people, or daemons, who killed Temperance’s family and Astor isn’t happy about the dangerous detour.

She knows how to make hexbullets which, combined with the right word or words, produce different magic effects. However, they’re not cheap to make and take a lot of time, too. To her disgust, the marshal doesn’t know much about hexbullets or magic. Most people seem to use ordinary bullets. Also, while pistol warlocks are legal, other forms of magic seem to be illegal.

The story is set in a fantasy world of Korvana. There’s a reference that the local inhabitant are descended from island or another continent called Galinor. Still, at least some of the current people seem think of those who came recently from Galinor as foreigners. People know about daemons which seem to be able to take over a human body. The Church pays a bounty on them.

Temperance is a very determined young woman who has only recently turned 17. However, she’s quite mature for her age because she’s had to face danger since she was quite young. She’s also been alone for several years, except for Astor. She has secrets and so avoids people who want to question her.

This was a quick and fun read. I haven’t read many weird western books but I liked this one quite a lot. I’m going to read the next novella in the series.

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!

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