January 2023

The second novella in the Dispatcher urban fantasy series.


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.


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.


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.


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.

2023 Big Fun In A Little Package novella challenge sounds fun and I joined it.

Initially, I’ll select the level Tiny which means six novellas read. Hopefully, I’ll read more.


1, John Scalzi: The Dispatcher

2, Aliette de Bodard: The Citadel of Weeping Pearls

3, John Scalzi: Murder by Other Means

4, John Scalzi: Travel by Bullet



1, Mirror Mended

Use a random generator or letter of your choice to share five titles that start with that said letter! (Example: If you choose or randomly choose the letter “L,” then all five of your picks would start with the letter “L.”)

I chose the letter M.

1, Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan

Years ago, Elizabeth I forged a pact with Invidiana, her faerie counterpart and ruler of the Onyx Court, to secure both of their thrones. Now that alliance is in danger.

The first book in a historical fantasy series.

2, Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

In this book, Pratchett tackles Hollywood. Victor Tugelbend (“Can’t sing. Can’t dance. Can handle a sword a little”) and Theda Withel (“I come from a little town you’ve probably never even heard of”) battle the forces of evil and cinema advertising. But the real star of the book is Gaspode the wonder dog.

3, Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

An archaeologist’s wife is murdered on the shores of the River Tigris in Iraq.

It was clear to nurse Amy Leatheran that something sinister was going on at the Hassanieh dig, something associated with the presence of ‘Lovely Louise’, the wife of the celebrated archaeologist Dr. Leidner. But she couldn’t pinpoint it.

In a few days’ time Hercule Poirot was due to drop in at the excavation site. With Louise suffering terrifying hallucinations, and tension within the group becoming almost unbearable, Poirot might just be too late…

4, Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

The dwarfish, fetally damaged yet brilliant Miles Vorkosigan has more than his share of troubles. Having recently escaped an assassination plot whose tool was a brainwashed clone of himself, Miles has set the clone, Mark, free for a new chance at life. But when he decides to let his clone brother assume his secret identity and lead the Dendarii Free Mercenary on an unauthorized mission to liberate other clones from the outlaw planet of Jackson’s Whole, things get really messy.

The mission goes awry, Miles’ rescue attempt goes even more wrong, and Miles ends up killed and placed in cryogenic suspension for future resuscitation. Then, as if that weren’t bad enough, the cryo-container is lost! Now it is up to the confused, disturbed Mark to either take Miles’ place as heir of the Vorkosigan line or redeem himself by finding and saving Miles.

5, Murder in the place of Anubis by Lynda S. Robinson

Who has dared to desecrate the sacred place of embalming with a murdered corpse? Pharaoh Tutankhamun orders Lord Meren, his chief investigator, to find out quickly, before power-mad priests use the incident to undermine his royal authority.
Everyone is a suspect, for the body belongs to the notorious scribe Hormin, hated by all who knew him. However, Lord Meren is no mere courtier but the Eyes and Ears of the living god. In the terrifying Place of Anubis, where unquiet spirits dwell, in the sunstruck city of Thebes, where Hormin’s sons and his beautiful concubine plot, and in the royal court, where intrigues abound, Lord Meren hunts his quarry, peeling back the secrets of nobles and slaves in his quest for the truth. But more important by far is Meren’s responsibility to protect the young Pharaoh from his enemies — who are no farther away than the length of a dagger . . . .

A collection of fantasy and SF short stories. Originally published as a hardcover, this is the third softcover.


Format: print

Publisher: TOR

Page count: 370

Publishing year: 2014

Bombshells by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files): Harry Dresden’s apprentice Molly has had a hard time after Harry died. She’s trying to take over for Harry as a wizard but thinks that she’s not good enough. Then one of her friends asks for help searching for a missing boyfriend, who is a vampire.

I enjoyed this story, although the three dangerous women used their looks and breasts a bit too much to be taken seriously.

City Lazarus by Diana Rowland: Danny is a corrupt cop in New Orleans. Ever since the river left, the city has become a cesspool for criminals, the desperate, and a few very rich men. Danny works for one of the rich men. But then he meets a woman, a stripper, and starts to have feelings for her.

This one didn’t really have a dangerous woman, except as a manipulator.

Hell Hath No Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon: Four friends are looking for ghosts, real ones. They arrive at an abandoned town with their equipment. However, one of the four has actual psychic powers and makes contact with the ghost who is very angry.

This has a very familiar storyline, but I enjoyed the ghost and her story.

Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie (Red Country): Shy’s have a really bad day. Her horse just fell and died. Her band of desperados has turned on her and is hunting her. She runs to a town, hoping to get help, but it’s abandoned. She has only a knife and her wits to defend herself.

The most action-packed story in the collection with a great Western setting.

The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass (Imperials): The only SF story in the collection. The main character is depressed about his chances of getting a promotion because of his low birth. But an older man in the bar tells his story of how things could be much worse.

Another one where the woman is a manipulator, using her looks and sex. The SF setting seems rather dated with women as stay-at-home moms or whores and advancement at least in the military is based on family connections.

Caretakers by Pat Cadigan: Val is in her mid-fifties and lives with her sister Gloria who is 15 years younger. Their mother has dementia and lives in an assisted living home. Gloria has always been pretty aimless. Val is relieved with Gloria starts to volunteer at their mom’s home. But then Gloria becomes convinced that something strange is going on at the home and Val doesn’t believe her.

This was strange. Once again, the dangerous woman was a minor secondary character. The main tension was between Val and her sister.

Novella: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson (The Cosmere): Silence runs a waystop in the Forests of Hell where the shades of dead people hunt the living. Secretly, she’s also a bounty hunter. When a ruthless criminal with a huge bounty on his head steps into her station, Silence is determined to get him. She also has a far more personal reason to take him down. It’s going to be a hard battle.

This was the best story in the collection. The setting is great. The Forests have shades who can kill and maim if you don’t obey the three rules: don’t kindle flame, don’t shed the blood of another, and don’t run at night. Silence is also a great character.

The stories were different than what I was expecting. I guess after watching Xena and Buffy I’m just not that interested in female characters whose only option is to use their looks and sex to get what they want. Still, it has a couple of good stories, too.

I didn’t reach my goal in 2022 so this time I’m joining with a modest goal.

Mount TBR 2023 challenge post.

This year I’m joining with the goal of 12 books, hoping to climb Pike’s Peak.

Books read:

1, George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, ed: Dangerous Women 3

2, Aliette de Bodard: The Citadel of Weeping Pearls

3, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith: Colliding Worlds, vol. 2

4, Charles Grant: Whirlwind

5, Connie Willis: Even the Queen and other short stories

6, B. B. Griffith: Follow the Crow

7, Kris DeLake: Killer Advice


Here is the post where I list all the books and comics I’ll read this year.


Mount TBR (12) 6

Novella (6) 4


1, George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, ed: Dangerous Women 3 (tbr)

2, Daniel O’Malley: The Rook

3, John Scalzi: The Dispatcher (novella)

4, Aliette de Bodard: The Citadel of Weeping Pearls (tbr, novella)

5, John Scalzi: Murder by Other Means (novella)


6, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith: Colliding Worlds, vol. 2 (tbr)

7, John Scalzi: Travel by Bullet (novella)

8, Charles Grant: Whirlwind (tbr)

9, Connie Willis: Even the Queen and other short stories (tbr)

10, B. B. Griffith: Follow the Crow (tbr)


11, Kris DeLake: Killer Advice (tbr)

12, H.G. Parry: A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians (tbr)

13, Carola Dunn: Death at Wentwater Court

14, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Recovering Apollo 8


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