action/adventure


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.

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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.

A classic which has languished on my shelves for far too long.

Publication year: 1894
Format: print
Publisher: Penguin Books
Page count: 140

This is an old swashbuckling romance story which has been filmed several times and also referred to in many books. It’s quite short and plot-driven.

Rudolf Rassendyll is a British gentleman of leisure who loves his leisure. His sister-in-law cajoles him into going abroad and he decides to visit Ruritania from because his great-grandmother is from there. The new king of Ruritania is about to be crowned and Rudolf thinks it would be fun to go to the coronation. He sets off.

But when he stops at a small inn in Zenda, strange things start to happen. He hears about the conflict between the new king, Rudolf, and his half-brother Michael, called Black Michael. They both want the throne also their beautiful cousin princess Flavia. When Rudolf strolls in the forest, he stumbles upon the king and his two loyal men. The king marvels because Rudolf looks almost exactly like the king. The king invites him to dinner. In the morning, when the king should continue to the coronation, Rudolf and the two guards find him drugged. Quickly, they decide that Rudolf should take the king’s place which he does. Unfortunately, when they return to get the king, after the coronation, they find out that the king has been kidnapped – no doubt by Black Michael. Rudolf has no choice but to continue the charade and also woo the beautiful princess.

This was short and quick read. It moves along quickly. While it’s mostly a fun adventure story, it also a love story. It’s sent in a time where duty and loyalty are regarded more than love so it’s not a happy romance.

The characters are very basic: Fritz and Sapt are loyal armsmen to the king and they keep Rudolf (mostly) out of trouble in the court. Michael is a jealous and scheming villain and he has the Six, a group of nefarious minions to do his bidding. Kind Rudolf is a drunk who cares more about his own pleasures than his kingdom. Flavia is at times a wilting flower or a head-strong princess, whichever serves the plot better. The plot is also quite simple and straight-forward. Still, this was an entertaining read.

The second book in the alternate world thriller Roma Nova series. I strongly recommend reading the first book, Inceptio, first because the characters and their relationships are introduced there.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 and 54 minutes
Narrator: Caitlin Thorburn

Perfiditas starts seven years after the end of Inceptio. Karen Brown is now a Roma Nova citizen and has fully embraced her life as a member of the highly politically powerful Mitela family, as Carina Mitela. She’s also a captain in Roma Nova’s elite military force, the Praetorian Guard Special Forces (PGSF). She’s also married to Conrad(us) and they have three kids. Their life is complicated by the fact that Conrad is Carina’s boss in work but otherwise as a member of the Mitela family, Carina is Conrad’s social superior. Conrad has also other children from his previous union with none other than the Imperatrix herself.

Someone shows Carina’s emergency token to the Guard and when Carina hurries to meet her, for her surprise she finds out Mossia who is extremely worried about an employee, Aidan, whom she’s also been sleeping with. Aidan has apparently left her leaving behind a strange note. Both Mossia and Aidan are behaving very strangely, and Carina starts to investigate Aidan. The clue leads her on the trail of a plot to overthrow the Nova Roman way of life. Meanwhile, Conrad has just been promoted to legate and the boss of the whole PGSF. This makes him a target for the conspirators, too.

Most of the book centers on a plot to overthrow the matriarchal leaders of the Roma Nova. They also threaten the Imperatrix’s and Conrad’s children. A couple of PGSF members are apparently part of the plot: one tries to stab Carina and another frames her. Carina realizes that she has far better chance of catching the plotters when she returns to her previous role as an underworld figure Pulcheria. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know whom she can trust so she doesn’t tell anyone at the PGSF. From the guards’ point-of-view, she has really turned traitor and while some of the criminal contacts still trust her, some are very suspicious.

The end of the book deals with the aftermath of Carina’s decisions. They threaten not only her career and professional relationships but her marriage and her family, as well.

The bad guys are frustrated because they’re denied political influence because of the gender and have decided to take over. However, the majority of the male characters in the book don’t feel that way, thankfully. This was a nice reversal of the trope of an entire gender rising up against the other. The plot is mostly fast paced with schemes and counterschemes following each other very quickly. In fact, I found them a bit confusing although that could be because I listened an audio book and didn’t concentrate on it fully. Politics also play a big part.

I was disappointed with Conrad. I expected him to trust Carina and support her fully. Instead, he’s suspicious of her motives and character. Indeed, it felt to me that he doesn’t really know her even after seven years together. At times, it felt to me that he (and some other officers) were more concerned with following regulations than getting the bad guys. In fact, Carina’s long-time friend Flavius (who was part of the same criminal organization as Pulcheria and now is also a PGSF officer) was the one who supported and helped Carina fully. He accompanied her back to the criminal world and faces the same charges as her. This actually perfectly fits their characters in the first book and creates more tension to Carina’s life, so I understand why Morton chose to write that.

Carina herself is an excellent character and action heroine. She’s smart and flexible in her thinking and isn’t afraid to bend the rules and take chances when needed. This is something that Conrad doesn’t do well and can sour their relationship.

Still, this was a very good continuation to the series and I’m definitely reading the next book, Successio.

A military thriller set in the near future.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: Lulu Publishing Services
Page count: 442 in GoodReads

Sarah Dharmawan is a highly competent police officer in the Indonesia police and also a member of Densus-88, Indonesia’s special forces counter-terrorism squad. She comes from a family of military officers.

At the start of the story Sarah is assigned to Britain to help bring down one of the largest drug Cartels in the world. There’s evidence that the Cartel has a drug lab in Indonesia even though it’s headed by Irish and British people. Sarah joins a group of people who come from all sorts of British and Irish police and military branches. They’re all used to working in secret and are highly competent and skilled. But their enemies are equally formidable.

The Cartel is made up of former soldiers, some of them even special forces soldiers. They also have one member who loves torturing men and women. A short time ago, they kidnapped one of the anti-terrorist group members and tortured her to death. They’re also not against killing or maiming innocent people to get what they want. Their favorite tactic is to snatch someone and torture them for information (or for fun…). That means that Sarah and her colleagues must be always vigilant and ready to defend themselves at all times.

But life isn’t just work for Sarah. Among her new colleagues is a man who both irritates and intrigues her.

The story is set in 2026 but I don’t think it has any actual science fiction elements. In 2020, Britain reduced the size of their armed forces a lot and that’s why many of the former soldiers have had to look employment elsewhere, including criminal circles.

Sarah is a highly competent action heroine. She’s proficient in firearms and unarmed combat and is in extremely good shape. She’s also a quick learner and a good leader. She speaks six languages and is extremely beautiful. She’s also a fitness model and men almost swoon when they see her. She’s always eager to learn new things and when she realizes that she’s made a mistake, she willingly admits it and learns better. As a policewoman she hates criminals and when she has to, she kills to defend herself and the people close to her. She’s ambitious and passionate at her work and is always working to excel at it. She’s also a mix-race character: her father is Indonesian and mother Spanish/English.

The book is written in present tense which heightens the tension, especially in combat scenes. It’s also written in third person omniscient point of view which felt a little strange at first to me. In this POV, the narrator can access any character’s thoughts and even give hints about what’s going to happen in the future. It’s not very common these days, so it was good to read something a bit different for a change. The vocabulary has a lot of military acronyms and British slang. Fortunately, there’s a glossary at the end.

The books stars with the bad guys torturing a woman to death. One of the bad guys really likes torture so there a couple of more torture scenes. The fights scenes are furious, and a lot of people get killed in this book. I was a bit surprised at first that Sarah’s colleagues execute their enemies after a fight, instead of getting them alive for questioning. But this book is really about war against drug dealers.

I really liked Sarah. She has a younger sister and older brother. I loved her relationship with them because very often action heroines are only children and even orphans. The other team members also grew on me quickly, as I love competent characters.

Some readers have said that the beginning is slow. It’s true that the first five chapters concentrate on setting the characters, the conflict, and the setting. However, this also means that when the fight scenes arrive, they’re furious and the stakes are high. I much more prefer that than reading a book where a fight scene (or any scene) is there just because a formula demanded it. When the fighting does start, the tension level doesn’t really ease off until the end. The book has also a very strong romantic element.

While the focus on tactics and guns certainly gave the book realism, I was sometimes a bit frustrated with them because I’m not a military person at all and it felt a bit too much. I also thought that the author, and the characters, focused a bit too much on Sarah’s looks. Otherwise, this was quite an enjoyable read with highly competent characters.

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