October 2021

The first book in the urban fantasy DFZ series.


Publication year: 2018

Format: Audio

Running time: 9 hours, 45 minutes
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller

Opal Yong-ae has a Master’s in magical art history. She’s also a mage, even though not a very good one. She’s never understood the intricacies of spell casting; instead she just throws raw magic at problems and they usually explode. She lives in Detroit Free Zone that is ruled by a goddess who upholds very few laws (slavery and murder are still wrong), but otherwise, the inhabitants can do whatever they please. The goddess also sometimes moves the buildings and streets around which makes even driving… quite interesting.

Opal is a cleaner. She’s a freelance agent who clears out apartments and houses when the renter has been evicted. Usually, she finds enough good stuff that she’s been able to pay her debt. But for the last six months, she’s had horrible luck and she really needs a good score so that she can make her next payment. Unfortunately, in her latest apartment instead of valuable items, she finds a body that has been rotting for a month. After her initial shock, she calls the organizer who convinces her to just clean the apartment of anything valuable. Since the body has been there for a month, it’s unlikely that anyone will come to claim it and the property.

However, Opal’s bad luck continues: while she finds a magic formula that could make her rich, she has no idea where very valuable ingredients are. But then she gets wind of where the formula might be… except that to get them, she has to use almost her last penny. And she’s not the only one chasing the riches.

This was a fun and fast-paced urban fantasy story. It combines tech and magic. The world is technologically more advanced than ours: (almost) all cars drive themselves and Opal has a personal AI, Sibyl, who takes care of paying her bills and also supports her emotionally. I rather liked Sibyl. People can also graft cyborg parts into their bodies. The world also has magic and dragons.

Opal is quite a pragmatic character, so I was wondering how and why she has a huge debt. But this is, of course, modeled after the US system where both education and healthcare can literally bankrupt a person. Even though Opal does most things in her life purely for money, she has a clear moral compass and won’t cross it, no matter how desperate she is. She also has a very interesting backstory, but I won’t spoil it here.

She runs into fellow cleaner Nick Kos who saves her from a couple of goons. Nick has guessed that she’s after something good and he wants in. Essentially, he bullies himself into protecting Opal. He’s far more mercenary than she and starts not trusting him, in fact, she thinks that he’s creepy and he’s done pretty bad things. The more we know about him, the quirkier he becomes. They’re pretty adversarial, but I guess they will become romantically attached in later books.

This series seems to be a spin-off of Aaron’s Heartstrikers series, but I had no problem understanding the world and characters. I haven’t read Heartstrikers, but the main characters there are apparently dragons so I’m going to take a look.

On November 1st we can again enjoy a full month of SF goodness!

SciFiMonth is an annual celebration of all things science fictional, exploring unknown futures and parallel timelines as the crew read, watch, listen, and play their way through one of our favourite genres. Lisa and Imyril will be your co-captains for this online event, helping you navigate the crew’s blog posts, Booktubes, Bookstagrams, Litsy posts, Booktok, Twitch streams and above all a great deal of chatter on Twitter.

I’ve loved reading others’ posts in the previous year and I’m participating this year, too. I’m planning to write some of the daily prompts and some reviews, as well. I’ll be reading older SF books, again. The read-along will be Everina Maxwell’s debut space opera Winter’s Orbit that sounds very interesting.

The read-along will be Everina Maxwell’s debut space opera Winter’s Orbit that sounds very interesting.

Happy reading!

WMG Publishing is bringing us a Holiday Spectacular this year , too!

“Dean Wesley Smith here introducing Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the editor for this really fun yearly project. And wow, after this last year plus, we all need a bunch of fun.

Now, it is a huge understatement to say that Kris loves short fiction. There is no great secret about that, since she has written so many award-winning short stories and edited acclaimed short fiction magazines and anthologies.

Plus, I can attest firsthand that she loves holidays and anything sparkly and glittery. And just about any holiday meal and all the trappings.”

In this project, you get an original story every day from November 25th through January 1st.

I enjoyed last year’s Holiday calendar a lot and the year before that, and I’m sure this year’s short story calendar will be just as great.

It’s already funded and, as usual for WMG Publishing, the stretch goals are full of ebooks and pop-ups for writers. 9 more days to go.

Collects X-Men (2019) issue 1-6.


Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Lenil Francis Yu

Publisher: Marvel

Publication year: 2020

This was an interesting start to the next stage of X-Men. Most mutants live in the island paradise of Krakoa where they are immortal and happy. Except that the rest of the world still views them with suspicion and that the most powerful and experienced mutants must protect the rest.

A case in point is the Orchis, made up of the remains of many villainous human organizations, such as Hydra, A.I.M., and even S.H.I.E.L.D. They have an orbiting base where they’re creating weapons against mutants. Storm, Magneto, Polaris, and Cyclops attack them. They free captured mutants but also one who is apparently ”posthuman”.

The issue starts with a bang and a fight. Later we get to see our heroes in a more relaxed setting. Summer House in on the Moon. The Summers clan live there: Scott, Havok, Jean, Rachel, Nathan… and Logan. Corsair and the Starjammers are visiting.

In the next issue, another island approaches Krakoa. Scott, Nathan, and Rachel investigate. We get a couple of nice moments between them, but mostly they fight the locals. However, Krakoa and the next island merge so now the paradise island has dangerous new places. The mutants’ Silent Council is introduced. In retrospect, Scott made grave tactical errors in this issue.

In the next issue, four mysterious figures invade the island. I rather enjoyed the new villains, the Hordeculture and their confrontation with Scott and Sebastian Shaw. On the other hand, the new villains made our mutants look like incompetent idiots.

Issue four centers on politics. Krakoa is a new nation but already so powerful that the human nations are afraid of it, and for a good reason. Still, Krakoa’s representatives are asked to join a summit between nations. Magneto, Professor X, and Apocalypse are the diplomats while Cyclops and Gorgon are security. Once again, humans appear friendly, but assault squads are ready. I loved how Magneto flat out told the humans that Krakoa is soon going to be the economic powerhouse of the world because of the awful way that humans treat each other and others.

The next issue shows us that having a paradise island isn’t without a cost. Cyclops and Logan send three mutants to investigate the Vault, a place where time flows differently. They’ve chosen three who are most likely to survive it: X-23, Darwin, and Synch. While Storm and Cyclops attack the Vault as a distraction, the three try to infiltrate it. If they succeed, they could be inside for hundreds of years form their perspective. If they don’t, they die.

The final issue continues the shadowy dealings, this time with Mystique who has infiltrated the Orchid and tries to sabotage them as best she can. She’s doing it to get back Destiny. While she made a deal with Xavier and Magneto, they have no intention of keeping the deal. This feels huge out of character for both of them. Of course, Mystique has her own plots.

This was a very interesting beginning, showing us both a paradise for most mutants and yet it has a clear dark side, as well. This clearly starts off long storylines. Issue five ends in a cliffhanger and nothing is really resolved.

I enjoyed seeing most of the characters relatively happy and I’m very intrigued to see that Logan lives with the Summers clan.

The mutants have a lot of things going for them: five mutants who can resurrect apparently any mutant, Krakoa’s flowers which can create instant gateways between Krakoa and any place, medicines and healers, relatively safe place to heal and live. To balance it out, they also have a lot of enemies, including some nations.

A stand-alone zombie book.


Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011

Format: print
Page count: 449

Finnish publisher: Johnny Kniga

Finnish translator: Helmi Keränen

This was very different from the movie. The book is a collection of interviews after the Zombie war is, well, not over, but when the humans have won. It’s split into several parts, starting with how the people in power ignored all the warning signs for political reasons. The first part of the book deals with how governments try to cover up zombies and the uncertainty people feel, or how people also turn a blind eye towards events that don’t affect them personally – until a zombie leaps into their living room. Then becomes the big panic: people lose faith in their governments and just try to survive as best they can. Then the war itself and finally the aftermath. Most of the stories are about war against an inhuman enemy or surviving. The vast majority of the characters are only interviewed once, so we see brief glimpses of events and people.

This structure means that the story doesn’t have main characters. We don’t get to know the interviewer, except through his choice of which interviews to keep.

The plot is showing how people cope, or no, globally. Also, Brooks explores all the changes that the war does globally, not just economically and politically, but culturally and religiously to several countries.

The people in power must make terrible choices so I don’t think I would have enjoyed this story must as a more traditional story. I understand why the movie had to be quite different, but I was surprised that the solution to the zombies isn’t from the book.

Also, the movie left out pretty much all the political allusions, such as rich Americans buying organs from China, pretending they aren’t coming from murdered political prisoners. Especially timely are the people who refuse to believe facts, fearing that they’re propaganda.

Overall, I was surprised how much I liked this.

Top 5 Wednesday is GoodReads group where people discuss different bookish topic each week. Yesterday, the topic was Monsters.

Vampires, goblins, crytpids, oh my! What are some of your favorite reads that include monsters? Share as many different (or same) monsters for this prompt!

I don’t read much horror but I do enjoy the odd undead, especially in a fantasy setting. And of course dragons, faeries, and other fantasy monsters.

1, Tanya Huff: The Blood Books

This is one of my favorite monster series. Victoria “Vicky” Nelson is a former police detective and now a private investigator. She and her two love interests encounter one classic monster in each book. In the first book “Blood Trail” it was a serial killer who drains his (or her) victims of blood. In the second book, “Blood Price”, Vicky agrees to help a family of werewolves.

2, Bram Stoker: Dracula

Dracula was published in 1897 so the book’s structure is somewhat different from the modern style, but it still works.

3, Richard Matheson: I am Legend

This is the closest to pure horror on my list. The book is quite different from the movie. It’s different from most other vampire books but works very well.

4, Anne Rice: Interview with a Vampire

I’ve read 10 books in this series so I really liked the first one, too. The main characters are vampires, of course.

5, Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library

This fantasy series has both fae and dragons, as significant secondary characters. Irene Winters is the main character who is both a librarian and a spy.

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 Ten Favorite Book Settings.

I have lots of favorite settings, it was hard to choose just ten.

1, Libraries
Libraries actually aren’t very common, outside of mysteries. Two of my favorite libraries are Dream’s Library in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic book and the Invisible Library which exists between alternate realities in Genevieve Cogman’s fantasy series. Dream’s Library contains not just every book written but also the ones dreamed about while the Invisible Library has almost all books from dozens of alternate worlds.

2, Space
I love space opera. Lots and lots of books and series are set in space ships, not the least the various Star Trek and Star Wars books. Also, Becky Chamber’s Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is set on a spaceship, the Wayfarer. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving into the Wreck has a main character who dives old spaceships.

3, Magical cities
Lots of urban fantasy feature real-life cities with magic or magical creatures, but lots of books also have purely imagined cities, such as Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs and Roger Zelazny’s Amber series.

4, Historical London
Another city which is used quite a lot in books. I love Marie Brennan’s Onyx Court series which starts with Midnight Never Come. In this series, there’s a faerie court underneath London.

5, Alternate worlds
Another very broad subject. My favorites include Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, where elves (called Dragaerans) rule the world and humans are second-class subjects, and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

6, Mars
No matter if the setting is fictional, a far future, or near-future Mars I’ve always been fascinated with it. I love Edgar Rice Burroughs’ planetary romance Barsoom and also Andy Weir’s the Martian.

7, Parallel Worlds
I love parallel worlds stories in SF shows but they’re far rarer in books. Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library books has alternate versions of worlds but not so much characters. V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic has four parallel worlds which are quite different from each other.

8, Alien Planets
Another setting that covers a lot of books and depending on the planet, the reading experience is quite different. Martha Wells’ All Systems Red is set on a rather hostile planet.

9, Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt has fascinated me since I was a child. One of my favorite murder mystery series in Egypt is Lynda S. Robinson’s Lord Meren series which starts with Murder at the Place of Anubis.

10, Time travel
Not really a setting but I love time travel stories, even when they’re cheesy. Connie Wills’ To Say Nothing of the Dog or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last is one of my favorite comedies and mostly set in Victorian England. On the other hand, Forever War by Joe Haldeman has some profound things to say about war and human nature.

A historical fantasy book that can be read as a stand-alone.


Publication year: 2016

Format: Audio

Running time: 14 hours, 22 minutes
Narrator: Julia Whelan

The book is set in 1880 in New York when Cleopatra’s Needle is traveling by train toward New York.

Eleanor St. Clair and Adelaide Thom own together Tea and Sympathy. Eleanor is a witch and a former medical student while Adelaide used to travel the country with a sideshow but now she’s a fortune teller who can really see ghosts and futures. They help women who come to their shop with tea, medical knowledge, and more mystical gifts. However, Adelaide thinks that Eleanor is working too much and so she advertises for a shop-girl: ”Respectable Lady Seeks Dependable Shop Girl. Those averse to magic need not apply.”

17-year-old Beatrice Dunn lives with her aunt in a small town near New York. When she sees the ad, she’s determined to start her independent life as a shop-girl. She knows a little bit about magic and dreams about being a witch herself. She travels to New York and after a couple of mishaps arrives at the tea shop. Then she starts to see people others can’t see.

However, some (religious) people know that Adelaide and Eleanor have strange powers, and even worse, are independent women. So they are convinced that the two are in league with Satan. These people want to stop Adelaide and Eleanor at any cost.

Eleanor, Beatrice, and Adelaide are the main characters of the book but lots of other POV characters, as well. Most of their lives intertwine somehow with the three women.

Adelaide has a dark past, which haunts her. When she was a child, her mother sold her to be a lady’s maid. But Adelaide ended up as a child prostitute before she ran away. Then, a woman threw acid on her face so one side of her face is burned and the eye is gone. Eleanor admired her Gypsy mother who taught her magic. Eleanor wants to help women and that why’s she studied medicine. But she soon noticed that her mom knew more about medicine than what passes for modern medicine, so she returned to her mother’s teachings. Beatrice loves her aunt but lost her parents when she was little. She loves to read and dreams about writing. The three are endearing main characters. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t really care for most of the many side characters. And the few that I did care about just disappeared without a proper ending.

Most of the people opposing the three are doing so because of their religious beliefs. So all of the bad guys in this book are Christians or using the Bible as an excuse to act on their bigoted views. Of course, in 1880 women were considered barely second-class citizens and many men simply ignored anything women said or did. A few scenes have Suffragettes and the Christian women oppose them.

The historical setting was done very well, both the characters and their opinions as well as the historical city itself. I was intrigued by the few scenes that had dearlies or fairies that brought dreams to humans. But we didn’t get to know much about them.

Most of the book has a cute and fluffy atmosphere but in contrast is also has the cruder side of NYC, such as whores and the insane asylum. They seemed strangely out of place compared to the tone of the rest of the book. Also, Adelaide’s past is very dark compared to the tone of most of the book.

Overall this was mostly an interesting read for the atmosphere of the historical New York City and the main characters. Adelaide is apparently from one of McKay’s previous books, the Virgin Cure, but I haven’t read it and I don’t think I missed out on anything.

The first book in the fantasy series Rogue Angel.


Publisher: Golden Eagle

Publishing year: 2006

Format: Print

Page count: 346

The book starts with a brief scene in 1430 England where an impassionate young woman is burned at the stake and her sword shatters.

Then we move to the modern-day. Annja Creed is an archeologist. Because it’s not easy to get funding for excavations, she also works for Chasing History’s Monsters, a TV show about mythical beasts around the world. She does her research and narrates her own episodes. This time she’s in France, hunting la Bete, a supposedly werewolf-type creature that killed people in the 1760s. However, she soon finds that someone is shadowing her, and then she is attacked in broad daylight.

She continues her search, heading to the mountains. There she encounters a mysterious older man who calls himself Roux. Her assailants continue to follow her.

The book has multiple POV characters, including the main villain who is ruthless after la Bete because he thinks it will lead him to treasure. A hidden order of monks is also involved.

This was a fun and fast-paced action/adventure. It has a good mix of historical detail and fantasy.

Annja is a good main character who reminds me of Sidney Fox, from the TV show Relic Hunter. She has a lot of skills but unlike many heroines these days, she’s personable and gets along with most people, even though at times she can be a bit too blunt. She knows how to shoot and learned karate from an early age. She’s an orphan who learned to take care of herself.

I also found Roux a fascinating character but I won’t spoil his story here.