action/adventure


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.

The first book in the Fatal duology. Part of the action/adventure bundle I bought from Storybundle in 2015.
It’s a modern-day thriller/mystery.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook
Publisher: Reprobatio ltd.
Page count: 345 at Adobe Digital Editions

Another country, Myanmar in this case, is counterfeiting American hundred dollar bills. Unfortunately for them, someone on the inside decides to take their own cut and takes a million of the counterfeit dollars to US and buys some valuable antiques with them. The fakes are so good that they get through an airport currency exchange office. When the Myanmar finance minister realizes what has happened, he sends a pair of very efficient killers on the trail of the money to get it back.

Tess is a former computer programmer who didn’t like working with tight deadlines in a cubicle at all. So, now she’s a bike messenger for Red Caps, in New York. She loves the freedom at her work, has casual sex with musician Nick, and doesn’t worry about tomorrow. However, someone starts to murder female bike messengers in a very gruesome way and she becomes unwittingly embroiled in the counterfeiting scheme and becomes a target twice over.

Ron Stanford is a detective in the NYPD, specializing in serial killers. He starts to investigate the gruesome murders of the bike messengers and is immediately attracted to Tess. But he puts his feelings aside and concentrated on the murderer who kills more and more quickly. He also consults on other strange murders which seem to be the work of a professional or a pair of professionals.

Despite how different these two storylines are, they work together surprisingly well. However, since the plots are joined only but a couple of characters, that means that the cast of characters is quite large. There are many, many viewpoint characters, including the serial killer and the two Asian killers. However, I had no trouble following the stories or the characters. Only one other POV character besides Tess is a woman and she’s seen very briefly.

Tess is an interesting character for the most part, despite being drop-dead gorgeous, like very many female characters tend to be. She’s living day-to-day, enjoying her life and not worrying much about anything else. In contrast, Ron has been through a recent divorce and is a career cop. Their courtship was thankfully very understated.

The book has quite graphic torture scenes, enough so that I skipped over most of them. The thoughts of the killer are also quite disturbing, which they should be. Then ending was perhaps a bit too easy and while the romance was understated it still managed to get some jealousy scenes. Also, the reason why the serial killer killed is left quite vague.

The scenes are short and change quickly from character to character which keeps the pace quick.

Overall, this was a good read, delivering excitement, mystery, and some interesting characters.

The second book in the historical superhero series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Page count: 308

The book starts two years after the climatic ending of the first book, Serpent’s Sacrifice. It’s 1962 and Alice lost a lot at the end of the previous book. Her two best friends, and fellow superheroes, have left, her mentor is dying, and Alice herself was crippled. During the two years she’s managed to whip her body back into full mobility but emotionally she’s in a bad place. She’s wracked by guilt because she couldn’t stop her nemesis Phantasm’ horrible scheme, and a lot of innocent people died. She’s also deeply hurt by the way her friends abandoned her and already mourning her mentor. She did inherit a large business and the wealth from her mentor, but she has to pretend to be a clueless heiress during the day. Her friend Rose is part of the civil right movement, but Alice is too obsessed with catching Phantasm to notice it. Alice’s new trainer and secretary Miss Jones is very capable; she even goes undercover to spy on Phantasm and trains Alice mercilessly.

Powered children are being born every day and Phantasm and the cabal she works with have nefarious plans for them. They’re kidnapping some of the kids. When a couple of kids disappear from an orphanage Alice is funding, Alice feels responsible and tries to find out what happened to them. At the same time, she’s working to undermine Phantasm’s plans.

Serpent’s Bite is a more violent and darker book than the previous one. Emotionally Alice is in a dark place and some people die despite her best efforts. Also, her friend Lionel seems to be in league with Alice’s nemesis. Rose and Alice’s relationship is also strained.

The characters are well-developed. Alice herself doesn’t have any powers but she has a Kevlar suit and her batons and martial artist’s skills. Rose also make a couple of other gadgets to her. Rose has her own passions, too, she isn’t just a gadget inventor. Uncle Logan and the healer Gerard are also well-drawn.

The story was fast-paced and had some surprises. I really liked most of the book except for the romance elements. However, there were far less romance elements than in the previous book. While the story is mostly told from Alice’s third person point-of-view, there are a couple of short chapters from her nemesis’ POV which told us nicely what the opposition was doing.

I had fun figuring out the references to comics. The mansion where Alice now lives is, of course, a nod to Avengers’ and Xavier’s mansions. Some very familiar names also popped up: Mrs. Frost, Mr. Marsden, Mr. Parker, and of course Uncle Logan. Of course, the whole mentor/student thing is an older troupe than comics and so is going undercover in high society (shades of Zorro here).

I thoroughly enjoyed this second book and recommend the series to any superhero fan.

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