action/adventure


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.

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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!

The 16th book in the Amelia Peabody historical mystery series. However, this time it’s not a murder mystery, rather an adventure story.

Publication year: 2005
Format: print
Publisher: Avon
Page count: 420

This time, we return to the past to the (until now) missing 1907-1908 season when the Emersons didn’t have an excavation. Instead they return to the Lost Oasis or Holy Mountain, as the locals call it. It’s a hidden place where the culture is mixture of Meroitic and Egyptian cultures. That place was introduced in the “Last Camel Died at Noon”, the 6th book in the series.

The Emersons are in England planning the next season of excavation, or rather Emerson wants to work in the Valley of the Kings but because of his temper he lost that chance and it’s likely they can’t work at all. But that changes when Merasen appears. He’s an arrogant young man who claims to be the young brother of king Tarek who is ruling the Holy Mountain these days. But a disease is rampant; it has struck both Tarek and his young son. So, Tarek has sent Merasen to Emersons to get help. The Emersons want to help but they’re skeptical about not only about Merasen and his motive, but if they can help at all because Merasen’s journey to them has taken months and the return trip will also take many months. But in the end, Nefret demands to help and the Emersons’ leave. The journey is dangerous, not only because of the dangers in desert but also because the Emersons’ don’t want to lead any other people there. And also, many of them wonder if they can trust Merasen or is he leading them into a trap?

This time, Ramses is hopelessly in love with Nefret but he thinks he doesn’t have any chance with her, so he hasn’t told her. In fact, he’s planning to go to Germany and study there for a year, hoping to forget his feelings during that time. But of course he joins his parents, Nefret, Merasen, and loyal Daoud and Selim in their journey to the Holy Mountain. He’s strangely tentative and hesitant, rather than his usual confident self. Nefret is also not her usual self.

During the journey, we meet a group of colorful and interesting characters, most of them suspicious in some way such as a boisterous and rude big game hunter who is very interested to know where the Emersons are going and a suave military captain who seems to know a bit too much about the Emersons’ plans.

This time the story isn’t a murder mystery but in the line of old pulp adventures where white men discover “new” places. Except that the Holy Mountain isn’t a new place to the Emersons but instead they’re worshipped almost as godly figures there. That was a lot of fun. However, I don’t think this was one of the best in the series. It was fun to revisit Holy Mountain but not much actually happens there. I also didn’t really care for the way that Ramses was pining after Nefret especially since we know that they’ll get married.

Otherwise, it was great to see the familiar characters a bit younger.

The second book in the Chase Baker action/adventure series. I haven’t read the first one, but this was part of the Action/Adventure bundle way back in 2015 at Storybundle.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook
Publisher: Bear Media
Page count: 174 at GoodReads

This is marketed as Indiana Jones -type book and it’s not far off. Chase is also an archeologist who has wild adventures at exotic locations. He’s also a writer who writes about his own adventures.

The book starts with a short passage from 1939 about a man who has crash landed in Amazon’s jungle and sees a golden airplane which seems to be over a thousand years old. Yes: possible evidence that extraterrestrial aliens have visited Earth long ago and that we’re possibly even descended from them!

In 2014, Chase returns to New York and meets with his literary agent Leslie. She’s actually not doing so well and when Chase accidentally burns down her office during sex, she’s left with almost nothing. Her rich fiancée also breaks off with her. A mysterious old man, Peter Keogh III, has sent an invitation letter to Chase and soon both Chase and Leslie, along with two of Keogh’s men, head to South American jungles. Keogh’s father was in the beginning passage.

This is a short and fast-paced book written in first person, present tense. It has short chapters which often end in a cliffhanger. It also has lots of action, both sex and violence kinds, and about half of the book is set in deep jungle which is a very dangerous place. It’s set in 2014 so our intrepid heroes have modern tech, like cell phones. The story also has hostile native tribes, indeed the word headhunter was used for them, which I have difficulty believing. Like the Indy films, this story also deals with some interesting religious thoughts and items.

It’s good for a couple of hours of entertainment.

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