The first book in a new SF series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 and 31 minutes
Narrator: Mia Barron
Publisher: Saga Press

Adda is a hacker/software engineer and Iridian is a former soldier who’s now a mechanical engineer. They’re a couple and have just graduated and found out that jobs are hard to get after an interstellar war. So, they decide to become space pirates. In order to make a great impression on their intended captain, they hijack a colony ship, dreaming of living in luxury on the Barbary Station. They have little trouble with the hijacking, but before they reach the station Adda’s brother Pel, who has recently joined the pirates, sends them an urgent message asking them not to come. But the message comes too late.

When the lovers arrive at the station, they find out that pirate life is not like they imagined it. In fact, it’s a far cry from what the pirates themselves keep telling people. The pirates, and the civilians left behind in the station’s evacuation, are trying to survive as best they can with too little spare parts and even less expertise with repairs. They’re suspicious of all new-comes who have to prove themselves worthy of staying. Also, the station’s AI is trying to kill them. Adda and Iridian have their work cut out for themselves.

Despite both being engineers, Adda and Iridian have distinct personalities. Adda is an introvert who’s more comfortable with computers than people. People can make her uncomfortable, except for Iridian and Pel. She’s happiest when working hard alone and takes a drug that helps her concentrate harder than usual. Iridian is far more sociable and even enjoys the people. She’s the one who tries to make friends with the motley crew of pirates while Adda works alone. Most of the rest of the cast are left pretty vague, except for Adda’s younger brother Pel who is trying to be useful any way he can. The pirates’ captain Sloane is a very interesting character, but we don’t know much about them, not even their gender. The rest of the crew are colorful.

This was a fun ride. It’s has lots of stuff I’ve wanted to read about, such as an established couple (instead of courtship romance) working together, a sibling relationship, and cool space pirates. Some of the world-building stuff was pretty vague which might irritate other people. The techie talk went way over my head and I have no idea if it’s made up or real. And in an audiobook it went by pretty fast.

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Collects Birds of Prey issues 12-21 and Nightwing 45-46 (1999-2000).

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Artist: Dick Giordano, Jordi Ensign, Patrick Zircher, Greg Land, Drew Geraci, Butch Guice, Jackson Guice

The collection starts with a bang, when Dinah is sneaking to a train guarded by heavily armored U. S. Marshalls. It turns out that they’re escorting supervillains and Oracle has been tipped off that someone is going to try to stop the train and get the villains. Also, Catwoman is on the train, too, which causes a misunderstanding between the Marshalls and Dinah. However, when a Boomtube brings the whole train to Apokolips, Dinah, the Marshalls, and Catwoman must combine forces to find a way out. Oracle is left behind. She contacts Power Girl but even Karen can’t follow Dinah to another planet. The story runs for three issues and we also find out who was the mysterious being who has manipulated Oracle lately.

In the next issue, a long-running subplot comes to an end when Barbara finally meets the person she’s been “seeing” on-line. The meeting takes place in a sci-fi convention which allows for a few gags. Meanwhile, Dinah finds out that her neighbor is in an abusive relationship and tries to intervene. On the background, news are talking about escalating conflict at the border Quarac and Karrocan emirate and in the final page we see a surprise envoy from that region who turns out to be none other than the Joker!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the next issue deals with the Joker and how he got involved in the foreign conflict. He also reveals to his interrogator that Quarac has armed missiles trained to New York.

In the next issue, Power Girl and the Black Canary try to destroy the missiles. However, some are launched and Oracle has to call in help from the US Government, in fact from the same people who are hunting her on-line. PG also reveals that she’s worked with Oracle before and that didn’t end well. Apparently, she’s still holds a grudge. This is an older version of PG without the infamous boob window and powers which come from Atlantean magic.

Next, Dinah is in Transbelvia, caught in an air raid. She and a group of locals are trapped on an underground station and she’s caught up between the two local groups of people who have different languages and customs, and a long-running and deep-seated hatred towards each other. While this is a serious and deserving issue, the story felt unconnected with the rest of the storyline.

In the next issue, Barbara is hanging out with the men in her life. Robin (Tim Drake although Barbara doesn’t know his identity) is helping her to wire her new VR room where she intends to train herself again for the field. Dick comes calling and soon both Ted Kord and Jason Bard come along, too. Meanwhile, Dinah is working in Hasaragua to stop an arms deal.

Then the longest storyline in the series starts. It’s a cross-over with Nightwing. Oracle has been stealing her funds from a Gotham crime boss Blockbuster and now he’s determined to find out and eliminate Oracle. His cronies Lady Vic and Brutale have ambushed the Black Canary in Hasaragua. He’s also captured Nightwing and his strange sidekick Tad and is torturing Dick for any information about Oracle. Meanwhile, Oracle is on the run. Blockbuster’s hired computer experts Giz and the Mouse are tracking her down.

This collection ends in a huge cliffhanger and it seems that the rest of the issues haven’t been collected (yet?). For the most part these were fun, action-packed issues but the abrupt ending is, of course, a disappointment when there’s no follow-up collection. So next I’m going to move to Gail Simone’s collected run.

Since the Joker is the one who shot Barbara and put her into the wheelchair, some sort of confrontation between them was inevitable. But this didn’t bring any closure. Of course, I didn’t expect Barbara to kill him or anything but… somehow the personal level just didn’t come through. Then again maybe I was expecting too much considering that both characters’ lives must continue the same.

The first book in a modern thriller series about assassin Will Robie.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Page count: 423

Will Robie is an assassin working for the US government. And not just any assassin, but the best they have. We see two of his jobs right at the start of the story. Both targets are vile men, one a drug lord in Mexico and another rich and powerful Saudi-Arabian prince who wants to return the whole world to Middle Ages, especially for women. In work, Robie is ruthless, meticulous, and utterly focused. In his civilian life, he’s alone and prefers that way because his job would make it extremely hard to maintain any relationships and they could be used against him. But an attractive young woman has moved next door and Robie is attracted to her. He’s also just turned 40 and is wondering how he can continue to do his physically very demanding job and what could he possibly do instead.

However, during the next jo, everything goes wrong. Robie is assigned to kill someone he thinks is a terrorist cell member right in D.C. But when he goes to her home he finds out that she’s a government employee and a single mother to two young children. In the end, he can’t kill her, but a back-up sniper does the job for him. Robie didn’t know about the back-up. He leaves the surviving baby with a neighbor and under alias boards a bus to New York. He knows that his former employers are now after him.

Meanwhile, Julie Getty is a 14-year old who is in and out of foster care because of her parents’ drug abuse habits. But now her mother has sent her a note that they’ll all go to New York and start a life together. Julie escapes from her foster parents, who also drug users and take kids in just for the money, and sneaks to home. But she returns only to see her parents killed by a strange man. Julie runs and boards the bus going to New York. The same bus where Robie is.

Robie notices that a man tries to kill the girl and he stops it. They get off the bus and moments later it explodes. What is going on and whom can they trust?

This was a quick, fast-paced read. The twists come quickly and make it impossible to know whom to trust. The bad guys seem to have infinite pockets and the ability to turn even trusted government agents into enemies. The writing style is terse with little descriptions. The dialog, too, is quite trimmed down. This fits the story and make the mood tenser and keeps the reader turning pages.

Robie works with FBI agent Nicole Vance but has to constantly watch what he tells her. Vance is a great character: dedicated to her job and competent. Julie is quite mature for a teenager because she knows that her parents are struggling with drug-use, and she’s seen quite a lot of nasty things in the foster care system. She acts tough. She’s very focused on finding her parents’ killer, even going into danger to get them.

Baldacci touches on some serious real-life issues, such as US Army veteran treatments and homeless people.

This was pretty entertaining read and a nice change of pace.

This year I want to read more of the books I already own and to make me do that, I’m joining Mount TBR reading challenge by My Reader’s Block Blog.
Challenge Levels:

Pike’s Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

And the rules:
*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you’re on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade. All books counted for lower mountains carry over towards the new peak.

*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2018.

*You may sign up anytime from now until November 1st, 2018.

*Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2018. No library books. If you’re looking for a library book challenge or one that counts books on your non-owned TBR list, then there may be challenges out there that do that. This one does not.

I’m choosing a light start with 24 books, Mount Blanc, but I’m hoping to increase the goal later this year. At first, I was only going to include print books, even though I have a lot of ebooks and ebook collections which have been waiting for… years in some case. However, I’m also going to include ebooks from Storybundle.com’s bundles because then it’s easy to remember when I bought them and how long they’ve been waiting.

Hopefully, some of my books in this challenge will cross-over with the action heroine challenge but we’ll see.

Happy reading, everyone!
Books read:
1, Andrew Vachss: Batman: the Ultimate Evil
2,

Collects Birds of Prey issues 1-11 and Birds of Prey: Ravens 1 (from 1998).

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Greg Land, Drew Geraci, Nelson DeCastro, Peter Krause,

The first Birds of Prey run collected! The teamwork of Oracle and the Black Canary strengthens and so does their friendship, even though Dinah still doesn’t know who Oracle is.

In the first three issues Oracle sends Dinah to the small, tropical island of Rheelasia. The local warlord was deposed, and other men are trying to usurp his former position. Oracle has noticed that the place is attracting the scum of the world and sends Dinah there to sort things out. However, Dinah stumbles upon a very nasty man and his slave ring. She also stumbles upon Jason Bard, Oracle’s former fiancé. They’re captured together, and Dinah has to use all of her skills and ingenuity to get them free.

Next, we’re introduced to the Ravens, a group of bloodthirsty female mercenaries lead by Cheshire who is planning to betray her group right from the start. The four women are going after a huge bomb and not to disarm it, but to use it for themselves. At first, this seemed rather strange, and quite bloody, interlude but the Ravens are in the next storyline, too.

Then we return to the regular Birds of Prey. Dinah is taking a vacation at Lake Mackachithoo. Unfortunately for her, international crime syndicate Kobra has employed the three remaining Ravens to retrieve something for them at the same place. Also, the locals think that there’s a monster in the lake. This was good fun with time-travel to boot!

Then we have a couple of one-shot issues. First, Oracle sends Dinah to free a general from lynching. He’s a war criminal. Oracle wants him to get a fair trial which he isn’t likely to get without Dinah’s help. Dinah is, understandably, less than thrilled about her mission and the general. But she does her best.

Next one-shot guest-stars Nightwing when Dick and Barbara have a night out and go to a circus. They discuss their various lives and possibly maybe getting together again, but Babs doesn’t want that. (Too bad. While I’m always team Dick and Kory, Dick and Babs are very cute together, too.)

In the final storyline, Oracle sends Dinah to Koroscova to free a man who has been imprisoned unjustly. Unfortunately, that turns out to be a ruse by the Kobra Prime. Guest-starring Joe Gardner, Guy Gardner’s alien clone!

While all this is happening, Oracle is texting with someone on the internet and some (else?) is watching her through cameras. The latter was rather creepy but ended well. Also, she’s hacking a lot into the US government computers and using their satellites. This doesn’t go unnoticed and a team of US hackers assemble to take her down.

This was a fun read even though it touches on more somber stuff, like slavers and international human rights violations. Dinah and Oracle have their own battles. Oracle supports Dinah as much as she can but when the jewelry through which Oracle communicates is removed, Dinah is on her own. Of course, since Barbara refused to tell Dinah who she is, she’s also on her own.

Even though Greg Land is these days doing rather pornographic and/or blandly generic art, here he’s still better, rougher and more individual. Still, there’s a lot of cheesecake especially in the first storyline where we have Dinah running around in just a couple of skimpy, tattered rags. Then again, in the Ravens storyline, most of them have costumes that cover them completely! However, the way that the Ravens ended up stranded in time was really strange. Maybe they got their own comic with time travel adventures? I don’t know.

Booking through Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Bookish Resolutions/Goals.

I don’t have ten goals, but I do have a few:

1, I only join reading challenges I intend to finish
I’ve actually been pretty good with this for a couple of years. This year, I’ve only joined four challenges: Action Heroines, Pick & Mix, Mount TBR, and comics.

2, I need to read books I own already
I’m going to read at least 24 books from my TBR shelves. That’s only two books a month, not counting my audiobooks and the ever expanding ebook collection.

3, Series catch-up
I’m going to catch up on the series I love. I already got City of Miracles by Bennett and after that it’s Cogman’s The Lost Plot and Ada Palmers books (two already out! When did that happen??).

4, Read more non-fiction
I haven’t read much non-fiction in previous years so it’s time to start again.

And in order to keep those goals:
5, Less time on the internet, more time reading

The first book in the science fiction (romance) series Confluence.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Blue Bedlam Science Fiction
Page count: 368

Alan Bergen is an astronaut and a scientist. He’s also one of the few people on Earth who knows that an alien vessel has been in the Greater Asteroid Belt since 1960s at least. It seems to just be drifting and no activity has been recorded in that time. It’s huge, the size of a city. However, now an asteroid is in a collision course with it and so NASA is in a hurry to send a team there. Bergen is one of the team members.

Dr. Jane Holloway is a brilliant linguist and has also survived in tough situations on Earth. NASA sends Bergen to persuade her to join the small team. Jane almost says no because she’s not too keen on going to space, after all. However, finally she agrees. Publicly, the team is going to Mars but heads to the vessel.

The book starts when the team has reached the vessel after a ten month journey in the capsule Providence, but we get flashbacks about Jane and Alan’s relationship before launch. Jane (and this reader at least) expects to put her linguistics skills and instincts to good use, deciphering an alien language and if there’s anyone alive possibly even communicating with it. However, quite soon Jane realizes that someone on the ship, possibly the ship’s A. I., is mentally communicating with her. She decides not to tell that to the rest of the team. While she does some deciphering of alien language, she does it almost by magic.

So, this book turned out to be quite different from what I expected. Instead of doing actual linguistic work, Jane interacts with the alien presence in her mind. During those times, she’s unconscious or asleep. Not surprisingly, the other team members start to be suspicious of her. Except for Alan. The story has a strong romantic element between Alan and Jane. It seems that Alan fell for Jane on Earth and has been pushing away his feelings during the long voyage to the asteroid belt while Jane is attracted to Alan but is very cautious about romance because of the way her ex-husband treated her. Alan’s reputation as a womanizer also turns Jane off.

The story does have the team exploring the alien ship which was quite interesting. The rest of the team consist of Commander Mark Walsh who is quite militaristic and suspicious of everything, a young astronaut Ronald Gibbs, an experienced astronaut Thomas Compton, and a female doctor Ajaya Varma.

The story focuses on Alan and Jane and their budding relationship. Alan is a driven in his profession but quite insecure with Jane, unlike with the other women he’s had before. Also, he’s almost insanely trusting of Jane which turns out to be a good thing because Jane’s the main character. He’s also quite protective of her, even against the other team members once they start to be suspicious of her.

Jane seems like a confident person at first but she’s really out of her depth here. She also has some issues in her past which she hasn’t dealt with. She’s unsure of herself and not sure why Bergen would be attracted to her. She seemed like a much young person that she’s supposed to be.

Unfortunately, what the team encounters on the ship is quite predictable, if you’ve seen a few horror-sci-fi movies.

The book doesn’t really have an ending. It just stops.

The book has an interesting premise but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to it. Or I was just expecting a different kind of book.