The second book in the historical mystery series starring the young Musketeer Charles de la Forêt.

Format: ebook

Publishing year: 2023

Wordcount: 277

In the first book in this series, Charles caught a murderer during his first mission. His success brings more work. First, he and his fellow musketeers help to free a kidnapped young woman. Then, Charles is summoned to the presence of Cardinal Richelieu. A wealthy count has been murdered, poisoned. Charles and one of the Cardinal’s guards, Henry Reynard, must find out who did it, and quickly. The guards and the Musketeers have a long-standing rivalry so Charles is unhappy when he’s forced to work with Henri. But you don’t say no to the Cardinal.

The count died at a dinner party with other nobles and a moneylender. The two men head out to question them. Of course, the suspects are influential people who can’t be accused lightly. Also, while their mission is supposed to be a secret, someone has sent assassins after Charles.

This was a fun historical mystery set in 17th-century Paris. It has vivid historical detail. Charles is from a small town but has now become more accustomed to Parisian life. The story has twists and turns and kept me guessing. It also has a little bit of romance but more action scenes.

This is a very good sequel. Familiar characters return, even though the majority of the characters are new. Most are related to the case but some are Charles’ fellow Musketeers. The tone is similar to the first book so if you enjoyed it, you’re likely to enjoy this one, too. However, it can be read as a stand-alone.

The sixth X-Files book.


Publication year: 1998

Format: Audio

Running time: 8 hours, 29 minutes
Narrator: Patrick Lawlor

A mild-mannered college professor receives a skin transplant after an accident. He goes on a rampage, killing a nurse and fleeing the hospital. Nobody knows why he did it, so Mulder and Scully are sent to the scene. Scully thinks that the skin transplant is the reason; that it has a disease. But Mulder isn’t convinced. They investigate the donor corpse but it turns out that the body is not in the morgue anymore and the two interns who harvested the skin are also ill. The investigation has twists and turns and eventually, the duo ends up in Thailand.

This is one of the better tie-in novels I’ve read I and recommend it to any X-Files fan who liked the early seasons of the show the best. It feels like a monster-of-the-week episode. My only complaint is that the first chapter is really long, around 40 minutes, and it doesn’t feature Mulder and Scully. Instead, it lays down the foundations for the story’s medical mystery. And the ending seemed rushed.

Scully gets to rely on her doctor’s training which is always interesting.

Collects comics issues 1-9.


Writer: Bill Willingham

Artist: Cezar Razek

Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

This comic gathers up many of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ heroes, and some villains, too.

Jason Gridley invented the Gridley wave through which people can communicate between planets and lost worlds. He was invited to speak at a gathering of scientists but is kidnapped instead. He manages to escape on an alien spaceship and crashlands near Tarzan’s home. Tarzan and his wife Jane are friends of Jason. He tells them that a villain from another world kidnapped him and is now going to take over several worlds when he uses the Gridley wave as a weapon. Jason wants to stop him and of course, Tarzan and Jane want to help. While the alien ship is repaired, Tarzan gathers up a crew of heroes. They’re about to embark on a momentous journey.

The cast is huge: 18 people from various ERB’s books are on the crew. I was familiar with Tarzan, his wife Jane, and his son Korak, and also with Ulysses Paxton from “The Master Mind of Mars” in addition to Jason Gridley. Unfortunately, as is usual with a large cast of characters, most of them are just faces in the crowd. I didn’t know most of them but I also didn’t get to know them during this story. The main hero is Tarzan and of course our narrator Jason Gridley. John Carter and Dejah Thoris appear about halfway through. The story takes us to many of ERB’s worlds, such as Caspak, Pellucidar, and eventually Barsoom.

The crew has originally five women who have been updated to modern times. Jane and Mariam, Korak’s wife, are good with guns and fight alongside the men. The others are Victoria Custer, Virginia Maxon, and Shannon Burke. The other men are Billy Byrne, the Bridge, the Oskaloosa Kid, Barney Custer, Jim Stone, Townsend Harper, Johnny la Fitte, and the Rider. All seem to be seasoned adventurers.

We get a little bit of interaction between the characters and even jealousy because La of Opar joins the crew. She’s the ruler of Opar and is convinced that Tarzan is her mate.

The artwork is good but sometimes it’s hard to tell the characters apart.

This was a fun romp but I think it could have worked better with fewer characters.

Dean Wesley Smith has a Case Card: A Cold Poker Gang Kickstarter project. It has two new books in his mystery series where retired Las Vegas police officers solve cold cases. One is the newest novel, Case Card, and the other is a short story collection: Action.

It’s funded and reached the third stretch goal, so readers get more books and writers get “a brand-new series of classes called HOW TO WRITE PERFECT CRIMES THROUGH THE AGES.” They start in the 1700s. Of course, the pledges have two crime writing workshops.

Seven days to go.

The first book in a fantasy series.


Publication year: 2021

Format: Audio

Running time: 10 hours

Narrator: Zoe Mills

A dreaded assassin called the Butcher, a master of disguise, a smuggler, a young card cheater, ad the former captain of the guard. None of them trust each other and most of them don’t like each other. Yet, they must work together. All of them have secrets and their own agendas, in fact, they’re all planning to betray each other.

This was a fun, fast-paced heist book. The characters live in a city that is ruled by gangs. Three gangs are struggling for power: the Saints, the Harpies, and the Crowns. The Butcher and the others work for the Saints, the smallest and least of the gangs.

The world has individuals who can work magic. They each seem to have just one talent, for example, telekinesis. However, other people don’t consider the magic users humans. A man called the Guildmaster has all the magic users under his control, literally, because they don’t have minds of their own; they just follow orders. They are called the Adepts. The Guildmaster sells the Adepts when he wants to.

This is a brutal, dangerous world. The book has five point-of-view characters who are very distinct from each other. The Butcher, Riya, is running from her past and is used to being on her own. The smuggler, Nash, calls herself the Empress of the Sea and will do anything for money. The master of disguise, Ivan, needs also money but to free his brother. Evelyn, the former guard captain, is only working with the gang so that she can capture the Butcher afterward. The con man Tristan is hiding his real identity and is being blackmailed into betraying the others.

The story leaves a lot of loose ends and the final chapter is a cliffhanger.

Kristen at Fantasy Cafe is hosting Women in SF&F Month 2023. The posts in previous years have been great and it’s wonderful to see that so many people, men and women, are again celebrating women writers.

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

“Friendship is worth celebrating.” While many of us may love romance, let’s take some time for today’s prompt to feature some of our favorite non-romantic friendships we’ve read about in fiction!

Luckily, there are a lot to choose from:

1, Miles Vorkosigan and Ivan Vorpatril by Lois McMaster Bujold

2, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

3, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee by J. R. R. Tolkien

4, Fafhard and the Grey Mouser by Fritz Leiber

5, Temeraire and his Captain Will Laurence by Naomi Novik

In comics:

1, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garwin by Peter O’Donnell

2, Kitty Pryde and Ororo Munroe by Chris Claremont in the X-Men

3, Oracle and the Black Canary from DC’s Birds of Prey

4, Cutter and Skywise from Elfquest

5, Spider-Man and the Human Torch by Marvel

Collects 30 steampunk short stories.


Format: print

Publisher: Robinson

Page count: 498

Publishing year: 2012

Fixing Hanover by Jeff VanderMeer: The main character works as a blacksmith in a remote village. He’s running away from his past. When a metal man is found washed up at the shore, the MC has a bad feeling about it. But the village council’s leader orders the MC to fix it.

The Steam Dancer (1896) by Caitlin R. Kierman: Missouri Banks lost an eye and a leg to a disease when she was young. But a mechanic found her and fell in love with her. He gave her a mechanical leg and an eye. Now they’re married and Missouri loves to dance at the local brothel.

Icebreaker by E. Catherine Tobler: Muriel is the widow of a famous adventurer and inventor. She’s determined to bury her husband’s remains in the frozen north. But the sea has monsters.

Tom Edison and his amazing telegraphic harpoon by Jay Lake: Tom Edison and his freedman and friend Salmon Goodberry live in the moving steam city of City of Hoboken. The shores of Mississippi are dangerous not just because of the natives but Clarke’s Army which has now recruited flying monsters out of the Bible.

The Zeppelin Conductors’ Society Annual Gentlemen’s Ball by Genevieve Valentine: The Zeppelin Conductors have lived in the helium balloon so long that their bodies have grown long, and in the eyes of society, deformed. They can only be at peace among their own kind.

Clockwork Fairies by Cat Rambo: Claude is a very proper professor at a London university. He’s engaged with a mixed-race daughter of an Earl. She’s also an engineer and inventor but he thinks that she will grow out of it once they have children. Because she’s mixed race, she thinks she doesn’t really have any other choice but to marry Claude. But does she?

The mechanical aviary of Emperor Jala-ud-din Muhammad Akbar by Shweta Narayan: The Emperor of the World has subjects both made of flesh and metal. But his prized possession is his mechanical aviary where his clockwork smith works. She’s a mechanical bird herself. Told in a fable style.

Prayers of Forges and Furnaces by Aliette de Bodard: The short story is set in a future where mechanical gods have overthrown the Aztec empire’s blood-thirsty gods. Xochipil has a lame leg and because of that the only work she can get is scavenging from the surface of the earth. One day, a stranger from the outside comes to her.

The effluent engine by N.K. Jemisin: In this alternate universe short story, Haiti is a free nation because it can build airships. But they know they can’t do that for long. So they send a spy to New Orleans to ask for aid from an inventor so that he can build a machine to make a better source of energy.

The clockwork goat and the smokestack magi by Peter M. Ball: Another story told as a fable. A clockwork goat comes to the door of the Smokestack Magi, bringing an offer of truce from the Magi’s enemy. But the Magi is suspicious and takes too long to decide what to do.

The Armature of Flight by Sharon Mock: Leo is the son of a Lord and in time he’s expeted to marry and produce an heir. But while he’s still relatively free, he can enjoy his male lover. Leo ignores the future but his lover must have a plan for it.

The Anachronist’s Cookbook by Catherynne M. Valente: Jane Swallow is an orphan, a pickpocket, a former prisoner. She also distributes pamphlets to wake up the exploited people to rise up against their rich oppressors.

Numismatics in the Reigns of Naranh and Viu by Alex Dally MacFarlane: The story of a nation told through different coins. A sister and brother ruled for a day but then the brother rose against the sister who was forced to flee. She recruits people to her cause through coins. Her cause is to give the gifts from the steam gods freely to everyone, while her brother would like to keep them for himself.

Zeppelin City by Eileen Gunn & Michael Swanwick: The Naked Brains control Zeppelin City from their Zeppelins. The city’s most favored sport is autogyro racing. Amelia Spindizzy is one of the best racers, a real daredevil. But when she gets ready for her newest race, the Brains require her autogyro to be changed and she doesn’t like that. Radio Jones is a poor woman but she’s also an inventor. Her newest invention, a universal radio receiver, could change communication for everyone. Red Rudy tries to recruit people to join the revolution against the oppressive Brains.

The People’s Machine by Tobias S. Buckell: Ixtli is a priest and an inquisitor. It’s his job to hunt down anyone who still practices the bloody rites of the old Aztec gods. Now, someone has killed a young man in New Amsterdam in a way that suggests a heretic. The Mexica government sends Ixtli to find out the truth.

The hands that feed by Matthew Kressel: Jessica Rosen owns a pawn shop in a steampunk Manhattan. She has made seven small mechanical creatures which she sends out in the evening. By day, young and beautiful Divya helps her in the shop. Divya is engaged to a corrupt man who wants to become the Mayor. He despises Jessica and all Jewish people and wants to shut down the pawn shops. Jessica loves Divya but doesn’t know if they could have a future together.

Machine Maid by Margo Lanagan: The main character is a young woman who is very interested in mechanics and mechanical people. However, her mother forbids her to even read about such un-ladylike things. The main character married a rich cattle rancher despite the fact that she despises him. She also dislikes their home at the frontier. When her husband goes away for several weeks, she starts to tinker with her very lifelike machine maid. What she finds, surprises and enrages her.

To Follow the Waves by Amal El-Mohtar: Hessa is a dream sculptor. She builds a dream in her mind and puts it into a jewel so someone else can dream it. But now a very highborn client wants a dream about the sea. Unfortunately, Hessa has never been to the sea. She tries everything she can think of to try to invoke strong warm feelings about the sea. But then she sees a mysterious, beautiful woman in a cafe and can’t stop thinking about her.

Clockmaker’s Requiem by Barth Anderson: Krina is a clockmaker. In this world, clocks make individual time. But now an apprentice has invented a clock that can count time for everyone. Krina knows that it will destroy the world.

Dr. Lash remembers by Jeffrey Ford: A strange sickness has taken many of Dr. Lash’s patients and he can’t do anything about it. Still, he relieves their pain as much as he can. A trusted colleague tells him that the steam engines are producing the gas that makes people ill. Unfortunately, the government isn’t going to stop using the engines. Also, some people hallucinate before they die.

Lady Witherspoon’s Solution by James Morrow: A ship captain finds a paradise-like island where Neantherdals still live. But one of the Neantherdals has a journal that reveals a darker story.

Reluctance by Cherie Priest: Walter McMullin is a teenaged boy, a former soldier, and now he flies mail in a single-seater airship. One of his legs is mechanical. When the night starts to fall and his ship starts to lose fuel, he lands in a small town called Reluctance. But nobody is around.

A Serpent in the Gears by Margaret Ronald: A scientific expedition is flying to the isolated, almost mythical land of Aaris. But on this ship, few people are who they say they are.

The Celebrated Carousel of the Margravine of Blois by Megan Arkenberg: Antoine de Saint-Pierre travels to Summerfall house which the ghost of Margravine of Blois is supposed to haunt. The story is told through de Saint-Pierre’s diary entries.

Biographical notes to ”A discourse on the nature of causality, with air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum by Benjamin Rosenbaum: Benjamin Rosenbaum is traveling on an airship and meets a Raja, a prince, who wants Ben to come to his country. Before Ben can decide what to do, an assassin attacks. Ben is a writer of plausible fables and he thinks a lot. Even in the middle of chasing the assassin, he thinks about philosophy. The world-building, which has Eastern steampunk, was interesting but the philosophy in the middle of actions scenes was a poor fit.

Clockwork Chickadee by Mary Robinette Kowal: The Chickadee can’t fly but a clockwork Sparrow can. The Sparrow constantly talks about himself as better than the others. The Chickadee has a plan to change that.

Cinderella Suicide by Samantha Henderson: The main character, Cinderella Superstar, and his three teammates are convicts in Australia. They’ve done their time and are now looking for a better-paying job.

Arbeitskraft by Nick Mamatas: It’s near the end of the 19th century. Karl Marx has just died but his friend Friedrich Engels is determined to continue speaking and acting for the proletariat. He’s also building a Dialectical Engine in his factory, hoping to rebuild Marx’s brain. Meanwhile, he realizes that some of the young girls working in match factories have been turned into monsters. When the phosphorus eats away the girls’ jaws, their employer, Bryant and May, have replaced flesh and blood with steel. Also, steam workers have started to replace human workers in the factories. This story deals with lots of issues.

To seek her fortune by Nicole Kornher-Stace: The Lady Explorer flies around the world in her airship with her son and her crew, looking for a fortune-teller who will tell her a death that she can accept.

The Ballad of the last human by Lavie Tidhar: Chancer is an adventurer, a philosopher, a trader, and occasionally a thief. He’s also a dog. He travels all over the world in his airship, trading or stealing. Then he meets Mot, a spider. Mot knows where the treasure is hidden and they agree to look for it.

This was a very interesting collection. Some of them are more slice-of-life stories and one is even a detective story. But most of them have themes of battling racism, classism, or sexism, as the punk aspect of steampunk. Some of them have societies in an uproar. However, the back cover says that the stories have “technology used to uplift rather than to oppress” and most don’t. Usually, only the rich and powerful get the benefits and the rest are left to starve or are even mutilated.

Some of the stories have very interesting alternative worlds that I’d love to read more about, such as “The Clockwork Fairies”, “the Effluent Engine”, “the People’s Machine”, “Biographical Notes to ”A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum”, “To Follow the Waves”, and “A Serpent in the Gears”. “Zeppelin City” was great but felt like it was a novel squeezed into a short story. Many of the stories are set in different worlds than the typical Victorian age. So, the stories are quite different from each other and show how different steampunk can be.

Humble bundle has SciFi comics from Boom!: “Return to The Expanse, based on the hit novels and Amazon series. Forge a bond with the giant robots of Mech Cadet Yu. Explore the mysteries of Seven Secrets, We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, and more, and help support Freedom to Read with your purchase!”

19 days left

Storybundle has the Weird West Bundle curated by Tammy Salyer:

For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in .epub format—WORLDWIDE.

  • The Devil’s Revolver by V.S. McGrath
  • Gnome on the Range by Tammy Salyer
  • Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger by KC Grifant
  • Bodacious Creed by Jonathan Fesmire

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $20, you get all four of the regular books, plus seven more books for a total of 11!

  • On Stolen Land by Stephanie Rabig
  • The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow by Rachel Aaron
  • Unicorn Western – The Complete Series (Books 1-9) by Platt and Truant
  • Not Enough Midnights by Michael Merriam
  • The Flash Gold Chronicles: Vol. I-III by Lindsay Buroker
  • Midnight Agency – Season One: The Obsidian Gate by Ken Hoover
  • Curse of the Ancients by Chuck Buda

The first book in the historical fantasy series the Shadow Histories.


Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 20 hours, 53 minutes
Narrator: Andrew Kingston

It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from Maximilien Robespierre calling for revolution in France to Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.

But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos.

The story follows three groups of people. In England, the young Prime Minister William Pitt, his friend and abolitionist William Wilberforce, and the people around them. They are working inside the system so that the commoners could use their magic. In France, Roberspierre and his friend Camille Desmoulins are working for the same goal. Roberspierre has mesmerizing powers himself and a mysterious benefactor encourages him to use them. In Jamaica, a girl was enslaved when she was six. She, and all the other slaves, are forcefully fed a drink that makes them helpless to resist mesmerizing magic and so they are easier to control. But little by little she starts to resist the drink and the magic.

This is a retelling of the French Revolution and the Saint Domingue slave rebellion with magic. The main characters are almost all real historical people. The events happened so if you know British and France history, you’ll know what will happen.

Magic is inborn. In both France and England, infants are tested for magic and if commoner children have a talent for it, they’re issued bracelets that prevent them from using magic. Nobles can use magic. There’s a mention of vampire wars when commoner soldiers used magic and now they’re forbidden to use it. The Knights Templar is the organization that tests for magic. They also arrest and imprison people who use it without permission.

The story is meticulously researched and magic is very well infused into the historical events. However, it’s not an adventure story. Instead, it focuses on the politics of the time. The story starts with the description of the little girl being enslaved. The slavery descriptions are brutal.

The magicians seem to have just one or two talents: mesmerizing, fire magic, weather magic, blood magic, shadow magic, etc.

This was a nice change of pace for me and I will probably read the next book, too.