Top 5 Wednesday is a GoodReads group where people discuss a different bookish topic each week.

Author duos are increasingly becoming more and more common, especially within the indie author community. For today’s prompt let’s feature titles that are written by two or more authors!

This was a pretty difficult prompt but I managed to find five titles I’ve enjoyed a lot.

1, James S. A. Corey

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Two authors write the popular Expanse SF series: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Abraham wrote fantasy before tackling the Expanse and Franck was a screenwriter.

2, Phil Foglio and Kaga Foglio: the Girl Genius comic

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This is a fun steampunk/gaslight online comic. It’s available for free online.

3, Wendy Pini and Richard Pini: Elfquest comic

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A wonderful fantasy comic that is also available online.

4, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: Good Omens

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“The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” is a comedy playing with the apocalypse. It was made into a TV series, as well.

5, Matthew Costello, Neil Richards: Murder on the Thames

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They write a cozy mystery series set in the small village of Cherringham.

The third novella in the Dispatcher urban fantasy series.

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Publication year: 2022

Format: Audio

Running time: 3 hours, 43 minutes
Narrator: Zachary Quinto

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher: he kills people as humanely as possible. In this world, the vast majority of people who are intentionally killed, come back. The killed person disappears and so does any blood spatter. Clothes and all other items are left behind, though. The person reappears where ever they feel safest, usually at home. Also, any injuries suffered in the last couple of hours disappear.

The pandemic changed the dispatchers’ jobs a little because hospitals must have them on call now. The compassion act gives the right to families to dispatch a loved one. Unfortunately, most don’t know how it works; it’s not an instant cure. Tony works in a local hospital, usually with families.

Now, his fellow dispatcher and friend Mason is brought to the ER close to death. He jumped out of a moving car and right in front of another car. He’s asking to speak with Tony. The surgeon in charge thinks it’s best to dispatch him but Mason refuses. He tells Tony that he’s involved in something really dangerous and no place is safe for him. Tony assures him that Tony’s apartment is safe, and Mason slips something into Tony’s hand. Then Mason is dispatched.

When Tony returns home, Mason is waiting for him. But Mason refuses to tell Tony anything, saying it’s too dangerous. Soon, the police come asking for Tony, and people break into his apartment.

This was a very good addition to the series and I enjoyed it a lot. The story feels more modern because of the pandemic and some other things which I won’t spoil here. However, the plot is more complicated than in the previous novellas.

Detective Nora Langdon returns from the previous stories. She doesn’t fully trust Tony which makes her smart. I enjoyed Tony and Langdon working together. They’re friends but they know they have their differences. I’m hoping Scalzi will write more of these short crime stories.

A collection of SF short stories, novellettes, and two novellas. The second book in an SF anthology series.

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Format: ebook

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Pagecount from GoodReads: 590

Publishing year: 2021

The theme of the collection is aliens and in almost every story there are, indeed, aliens. But they’re not always in the center of the story. In fact, many of these stories feature aliens in an unconventional way. I was a bit disappointed that none of Rusch’s creepy and wonderful aliens from her Retrieval Artist series made it. But I ended up enjoying the stories. There were just different than what I expected.

Dean Wesley Smith

My Socks Rolled Down (2011): The main character has just one pair of Magic Socks. He has had them almost since he was born. Now, he’s watching the lottery on TV and his Magic Socks are going wild.

The Great Alien Vibration (2015): Jimmy has finally asked out his work colleague, Stephanie. They’re going to a mystery movie where Jimmy is the only man in the audience but that’s fine by him.

Sighed the Snake [Poker Boy • 7] (2010): Aliens last visited Earth in the late 1950s. Now they’re back and Poker Boy and his trusty sidekick and girlfriend Front Desk Girl must deal with them. The aliens love to gamble, that’s why they’ve returned to Las Vegas. It’s Poker Boy versus a sneaky alien at the poker table.

A Deal at the End of Time [The Seeders Universe] (2017) : When the Event killed off most of the people on Earth, Parker had been happily married and teaching law. Now, he lives alone and runs the End of Time Bar, Saloon, and Eatery. He’s mostly accepted the new normal. But then a beautiful woman appears right in his kitchen.

Me and Beans and Great Big Melons (2008): Innis is just looking for a hamburger and beer to watch a game. He never expected to run into an alien in the local supermarket.


Who’s Holding Donna Now? (2014): When three aliens start to gamble at Sandy’s bar, the owner gets really bad feeling about it.

Love with the Proper Napkin (1994): Two people write things on napkins in a bar. A hilarious story.


Dried Up [Poker Boy • 15] (2011): Poker Boy and his girlfriend Front Desk Girl wake up to electric static in their bed. Two gray-skinned beings with huge eyes stand next to them. The Silicon Suckers look like the Grays but they’ve lived on Earth longer than humans. They’re also quite powerful so Poker Boy is worried at first. But it turns out that they need his help.


The Last Man [Buckey the Space Pirate] (2017): Buckey goes into a simple costume pasty, expecting it to be boring. After all, it’s not an SF convention. Instead, he comes face to face with Maiden Molly, the Sex Queen of the planet Frost. She’s looking for the last man on Earth. Buckey jumps right to the chance.


Dinner on a Flying Saucer (2008) (a variant of Dinner on a Flyin’ Saucer): The nameless main character stumbles back home at 3 am, smelling of whisky and little red marks on his shirt collar. When he explains to his wife that little grey men had abducted him and served him dinner on their flying saucer, she doesn’t believe him.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch


Skin Deep (1988): Cullaene lives among the human colonists but hides his true self. When a group of people comes to question him about a body they found, Cullaene realizes he needs to leave, once again. But his human friend’s daughter is showing symptoms and without treatment, she will be disfigured or maybe she’ll even die. Cullaene could help her, but it could cost him his life.


Alien Influences [Alien Influences] (1992) / novelette: A continuation of the novellette Dancers Like Children in the first volume. John grew up in the colony Bountiful and the alien Dancers influenced him so much that he, and the other children, did crimes without realizing it. Now, John is an adult and a bounty hunter. A very rich client wants to hire him to find a stolen art object. The money is too good to pass up. But in order to solve the theft, John must face his past.

Glass Walls (1994): Beth is another one of the children of Bountiful, influenced by the alien Dancers. Now, she works at an interstellar hotel, sometimes with aliens. She and the staff makes sure that the guests get everything they want, including sex. She makes herself live in the now, like a Dancer, so the aliens wouldn’t influence her. But then a baby Minaran is brought to the hotel. Minaras are endangered, protected spiecies, so the Minaran shouldn’t be there, must less in full view of everyone.


The Injustice Collector (2005) / novelette: Humans have landed on an alien planet. The local people aren’t curious about them but indulge in the humans’ strange customs. However, something goes seriously wrong, children die, and the locals send for a Justice/Injustice hearing. The hearing is quite different from what humans are expecting. The story is the Injustice Collector’s record of the proceedings to a review board.


Broken Windchimes (2009) / novella: The main character is a human singer who lives among the alien Pané. The Pané have very sensitive hearing. They find human male sopranos very pleasant, but they demand perfection. The main character is a star: he has been singing for them for 22 years, ever since he was a small child. Now, his voice breaks.

Bonding (1999) / novelette: Marisa is an undercover agent and enjoys her life without any close ties. She’s one of the best, choosing her assignments. This time she’s after people who illegally capture and sell alien animals, the Ce’nark. The animals thrive in cold. The job goes sour when a young Ce’nark accidentally bonds with Marisa. It will die if the bondmate leaves it alone. Now, she must care for a vulnerable young animal. Luckily, it’s possible that the Ce’nark’s tribe could be nearby and they could accept the youngster back. If Marisa can find them on a frozen planet.


What Fluffy Knew (1998): A fun story told from the POV of a cat. Fluffy is a princess, a big white cat. Everything is right in her world: she has food, people to pet her, and comfortable places to sleep in. Then they came and everything changed.

Blind (1999) / novella: When Scott was ten years old, he and his older brother Richard snuck into the woods. In a fairy circle, they thought they saw a face in a fog, and Scott took pictures of it. Supernatural aficionados around the world took an interest and Richard was happy to be interviewed, but Scott wasn’t. Richard was convinced that a UFO was in the woods but Scott didn’t believe that. Later, Scott went to MIT and got so rich he could retire while Richard stayed in their home village and raised a family. Now, Richard is dead of exposure in the woods. Everyone believes he was cheating on his wife but Scott is convinced that something else happened. He investigates.


Fit to Print (1997) / novelette: Frank Butler is a veteran New York Times journalist. His grandmother came from a secluded little town of Bonner Bay. Frank loves it and still goes there every summer during his vacation. But this time something has changed. Small, strange pictures have been taped to many windows: a tiny person in a circle floating on the crest of a wave. Frank asks the mayor what is going on. She’s reluctant to tell him because he’s a reporter. But finally, she admits: aliens have arrived to Bonner Bay.


The End of the World (2007) / novella: A little girl is separated from her Momma in a frightened crowd. The girl is terrified but tries to do as she has been instructed: to change herself to resemble the sidewalk where she’s laying. But she’s so scared she’s not sure if it will work.

A hundred years later, a small-town detective Becca Keller gets a strange call from her ex and goes to meet him. His company is renovating an old building. And they’ve found a mass grave. It must be a hundred years old but a smell still lingers.

The two plotlines seem separate at first, but pretty soon I guessed how they would connect. Hope is a town with a proud history of accepting the black and the Chinese at a time when most of the US wouldn’t accept them. So, when a mass grave is found, that threatens to shake the whole town. Becca’s ex has also invested a lot of money in the renovation site and could go bankrupt.

Meanwhile, a hundred years ago, the little girl’s family is very different from the local people and they must always be alert for trouble. But at the beginning of the story, the girl is separated from them in a crowd that has grown violent.

At least in these stories, the writers have quite different styles. Rusch writes longer stories and they’re often more somber, melancholy, even pessimistic in tone. Since the stories are longer, she also focuses more on worldbuilding. Smith writes shorter and in a more humorous way. Some of them are quite whimsical and have less conventional aliens. I enjoyed both styles.

Storybundle has two very interesting bundles:

The Fantasy Steampunk Bundle:

Curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: The best steampunk gives us fantasy with an attitude and weird mechanical somethings or other. When we expect magic, we get machines. When we expect machines, we get magic. Sometimes we get both at the same time. We called this StoryBundle Fantasy Steampunk because most of the stories here are either steampunk, fantasy with steampunk elements, or fantasy that feels like steampunk.

The bundle includes three books exclusive to the bundle, all of them brand-new. The Victorians make a big appearance here, although we also have a story set in the Old West during the Victorian Era. A touch of H.G. Wells (the original steampunk writer) and some Orcs working in the Motor City, which, even though it’s set during Prohibition, feels steampunk to me…

21 days to go.

The Black Fantastic Bundle: curated by Zelda Knight: Every year, during Black History Month, we commemorate the achievements of Black people worldwide. This celebration encompasses all facets of Black life and culture, including the written word. By curating this bundle on storybundle.com, I hope to expose more readers to some of the best writing in the Black Fantastic tradition, including bestselling authors, award-winners, and rising stars.

The Black Fantastic is a catch-all term that transcends strict definition. It weaves together genres as diverse as Afro & African Futurisms, Horror Noire, Steamfunk, Sword & Soul, alternate histories, fables, spirituality, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and so much more.

28 days to go.

Humble Bundle has Winter Horror bundle of Image comics.

Hunting for some horror to keep your blood pumping the rest of winter? Bundle up with this collection of tales that will make you shiver, summoned forth from the twisted creative minds of Image Comics. Follow the curse of The Silver Coin as it’s exchanged through the ages. Beware the shadows in the haunting family saga of Shadecraft. Read Nocterra, Infidel, and dozens more chilling volumes, and help support BINC with your purchase.

14 days to go.

Top 5 Wednesday is a GoodReads group where people discuss a different bookish topic each week.

I happened to come across this reading prompt recently and thought it could be for a Top 5 Wednesday prompt! Go to your Goodreads “want to read” bookshelf and click on “avg rating.” It should organize titles on this shelf by either ascending or descending rating. Using this feature, share five of your highest reads on your want-to-read shelf! (If the feature isn’t working, share some of the highest reads you see instead.)

This was a fun prompt and made me realize that I have over 1500 books and comics on my want-to-read shelf. These are some of the top-rated books:

1, Lexie Dunne: How to Save the World

In the third book of Lexie Dunne’s action-packed Superheroes Anonymous series, Hostage Girl returns once again to save the world.

Gail Godwin—once so famous for being kidnapped by supervillains, the media still calls her Hostage Girl—is done with superheroes and their shadowy schemes. She’s got a cute boyfriend, a great roommate, and she’s even returned to her old job. For the first time in years, life is exactly what she wants it to be.

But when a figure from her past resurfaces, he brings with him a plague that changes the game for every superhero and villain out there. Now Gail must team up with both friend and foe to help save the world she thought she had left behind.

2, Paula Guran ed. the Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2016

The collection has nine novellas. I’ve read two of them elsewhere and really liked them.

3, Susan Jane Bigelow: Extrahumans

Being “The Sampler” isn’t easy. As the weakest member of the Extrahuman Union, Jill is overlooked by just about everyone. After all, no one cares about an Extrahuman who possesses every possible superpower, but can barely use any of them. Jill is a nobody, on the run and out of a job, with no home and barely any friends to her name.

To make ends meet, Jill turns back to one of her favorite jobs: stealing. When her latest job goes terribly wrong, Jill is left with a mysterious alien artifact—one that starts whispering to her, unlocks impossible powers, and shows her incredible things.

Now Jill is on a quest for answers that will take her from the high mountains of Valen to the depths of interstellar space; from a bizarre prison planet where old friends and enemies are held captive, to the roots of St. Val’s mysterious letters and decade-spanning plans. The fate of her friends, her world, a vanished alien species, and the entire Confederation will rest on Jill’s shoulders.

Extrahumans is a tale of superpowers and long-forgotten mysteries, and the fourth and final book in the critically acclaimed Extrahuman Union series.

4, Egan Brass: Esper Files

Set in London during the latter part of the 19th century. An experiment goes wrong at The Oxford Academy of Science, giving certain people extraordinary powers which turns them into ‘Espers’. An institute is set up to teach Espers how to control these power, and stop corrupt Espers from abusing theirs. Nathan and James, two agents from the Institute team up with Freya, a young Esper whose brother (gifted with the strange ability to manipulate emotions) is abducted by a ruthless Baron. The group has to fight against a dark threat to protect the fragile peace of Victorian London… And the rest of the world.

5, Chris C. Wright: Alliance

The Alliance lays the groundwork for a 6-volume science fiction series, combining both space opera and post-apocalyptic elements of Earth’s thrilling journey from dystopia to utopia to interstellar travel and space colonization, and the evolution of diverse societies—some human, some not—across the centuries, all in the shadow of a galactic menace.

There is a definite pattern here. 🙂 I really should read Superheroes Anonymous and Extrahumans. It’s rare to have 4 out of 5 ratings for the third and fourth books in a series.

The second novella in the Dispatcher urban fantasy series.

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Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Narrator: Zachary Quinto

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher: he kills people as humanely as possible. In this world, the vast majority of people who are intentionally killed, come back. The killed person disappears and so does any blood spatter. Clothes and all other items are left behind, though. The person reappears where ever they feel safest, usually at home.

Austerity politics has hit Tony personally and he has to take on private jobs. This one seems simple enough: a businessman needs to be on the other side of the world before a business opportunity goes sour. So, his lawyer contracts Tony to kill him. Tony hesitated but takes the job.

When he goes to deposit his payment to the bank, four robbers burst in. One of them knows Tony, calling him by name. Apparently, their exit plan is simple: one robber kills the others. Except that one robber stays dead. The remaining robber shoots the body several times and when he runs, the police are already outside and shoot him, too. Now, the police have a corpse as a lead. Also, Detective Nora Langdon thinks it’s a stupid strategy since the robbers couldn’t have taken their loot.

Turns out that Tony knew the dead robber, so he’s now a suspect. Also, people he knows start to die permanently and everything points to Tony.

This was a great continuation to the Dispatcher. It’s a neat little mystery and many of the characters from the first story return. It builds on the premise of the previous story.

A stand-alone SF novella.

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Format: print

Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency

Page count: 156

Publishing year: 2017, originally published in Asimov’s 2015

The novella is set in de Bodard’s Xuya universe.

Suu Nuoc is a general in the Viet Dai Empire and also the Empress’s former lover. Now, he’s an investigator. The Grand Master of Design Harmony Bach Cuc has disappeared from her lab, leaving behind only her memory implants. Bach Cuc is a scientist and she’s working on reaching the Citadel of the Weeping Pearls. The Citadel vanished thirty years ago along with its builder, the Empress’s eldest and most headstrong child, Bright Princess Ngoc Minh, and her staff. It’s rumored that the Citadel, a space station, had very advanced tech and weapons. Tech that could turn the tide of the upcoming war. But the return of the Bright Princess Ngoc Minh would upset the court and many are against that. Suu Nuoc works with a mindship, The Turtle’s Gold Claw. The mindship is the Empress’s granddaughter.

When the Empress hears about Bach Cuc’s disappearance, she orders Suu Nuoc to investigate. She knows that the general isn’t in favor of the court because of his low birth and straightforward manner. She’s trying to ward off a war with the Nam Federation. They have stolen some of the Empress’s mindships and warped them against her.

Diem Huong was six when the Citadel vanished, taking her mother with it. Since then, her father has become a drunkard and she has become a brilliant engineer. Together with another engineer, she’s building a machine that will, hopefully, take her back to the Citadel and her mother.

Ngoc Ha is a younger princess. She adored and resented her oldest sister Ngoc Minh. She’s not sure if she wants her back. Her only child is the mind of the mindship, the Turtle’s Golden Claw. She felt that she was in the shadow of the Bright Princess.

This is a story about mothers and daughters and about sisters. Court intrigue and interpersonal relationships take the center stage. It’s also a mystery and there’s a war brewing in the background. For such a short novella, it has a lot going on and four POV characters. Still, it works.

It’s beautifully written, as is usual for de Bodard. The setting is very well developed, for example, the mem-implants that allow the high-born to consult their ancestors. Suu Nuoc doesn’t have them because he’s a commoner.

The ending was a bit abrupt and some things are left hanging.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Top 10 new-to-me authors I discovered last year.

1, Alix E Harrow

I read her novella Spindle Splintered. It’s a very modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty and I loved it.

2, Adian Tchaikovsky

I’ve been meaning to read Tchaikovsky for quite some time and when I finally did, I wasn’t disappointed. Children of Time was a great read.

3, Blake Crouch

Dark Metter was a great thriller.

4, Lawrence Block

Another writer I’ve been meaning to try. The Burglar in the Closet was very entertaining.

5, Alexis Hall

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter was a very good homage to Sherlock Holmes and has a lot of weird fantasy elements, too.

6, S. K. Dunstall

Stars Uncharted was a fast-paced space opera with mystery. It has very entertaining characters.

7, Jason M. Hugh

Zero World is an SF thriller, set mostly in an alternate Earth.

8, Edward Ashton

Mickey7 is also a fast-paced SF adventure.

9, Matthew Costello, Neil Richards

These authors write a cozy mystery series set in a small English town of Charringham.

10, Tracey Deonn

Legendborn has a new twist in the King Arthur mythos.

The first novella in the Dispatcher series.

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Publication year: 2016

Format: Audio

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Narrator: Zachary Quinto

Tony Valdez is a dispatcher: he kills people legally and as humanely as possible. Because now 999 out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. Nobody knows how or why, but that’s the new reality. Everyone Tony has dispatched has come back. Tony is in a hospital, covering for another dispatcher when Detective Nora Langdon comes to see him. Turns out that one of the other Dispatchers had disappeared. In fact, the Dispatcher Tony is covering for.

Tony wants to find out what happened to his acquaintance. We find out about the less-than-legal jobs that some dispatchers take, for money of course. Most of the jobs aren’t too bad but then there are gigs for the mob, for example. I wondered why the mob or the other violent types would need dispatchers. Anyone could shoot someone and that someone would most likely come back. Maybe it’s that most likely. There’s still a small chance they won’t come back and the shooter would become a murderer. Dispatchers are trained for that possibility.

Tony used to do private gigs but he assures the detective that he doesn’t do them anymore. In fact, he tells the detective a lot about the less legal jobs.

The setting is very well developed. The one change reaches everywhere from wars to surgery.

This was an interesting, short mystery and I enjoyed it. Quinto is a surprisingly good reader.

The first book in the Checquy files.

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Publication year: 2012

Format: Audio

Running time: 17 hours, 46 minutes
Narrator: Susan Duerden

A young woman wakes up in a London park surrounded by bodies. She has no idea who she is and what happened. In her pocket is a letter that begins: ”Dear you, the body you are wearing used to be mine.” The letter is from her former self who knew that she would be attacked and left without memories. The letter gives her directions to a hotel and she goes there.

She finds out that she, or her previous persona, is a member of the Chequy, a secret organization that battles supernatural beings and events in Britain. However, even though she has a high rank, she’s an organizer, not a front-line fighter, even though she has a powerful supernatural ability. Many other members have supernatural abilities, as well. Someone from the organization has betrayed and attacked her. Oh and her name is Myfanwy Thomas.

The new Myfanwy is of course rather disoriented. At first, she wants nothing to do with the organization. But after she’s attacked, she realizes she has no choice but to pretend to be her former self and find out who betrayed her.

At first, I really enjoyed this book, the secret organization and people with superpowers. Every other chapter is a letter from the old Myfanwy teaching something about the world to the new person. The letters tell about Myfanwy’s own past, the organization’s history and members, as well as supernatural beings. Someone might find them infodumps but I mostly enjoyed them. However, near the end, I got impatient for the actual plot to get moving.

Every other chapter is from the new Myfanwy’s POV when she tries to navigate Checquy so that nobody notices that she’s lost her memory. She must rely on the letters to know who is who and what she’s supposed to be doing.

It was fascinating how different the two Myfanwys are. The older one (Thomas, as the new Myfanwy thinks of her) was a shy, timid woman, happy to work late nights and have no social life. Her talent is in administration. The new Myfanwy is more assertive and curious. She explores her supernatural abilities in a way that Thomas never did.

Overall, I enjoyed the book but the second half dragged a bit when the letters described events that had nothing to do with the current Myfanwy.