February 2023


Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 9 hours, 37 minutes
Narrators: Paul L. Coffey, Kirsten Leigh, Ryan Jordan McCarthy

Set in the Chaco Navajo reservation. Ben Dejooli is a Navajo Nation police officer with a troubled past; his little sister vanished six years ago and his best friend Joey Flatwood was accused of it. Ben was convinced that Joey knew what had happened and testified against him. Joey refused to say anything and was banished. Many people blame Ben for it. Of course, being a cop doesn’t help. That day crows started following Ben but tries to ignore them. After a fight, he faints and is brought to the local hospital.

Caroline Adams is a nurse at the Navajo hospital. She’s plagued by self-doubt, especially when the patients curse her and she wonders if they’re right. However, she has a special talent she hasn’t told anyone about: she can see a color surrounding every person, except herself. When Ben is brought to the hospital, he’s surrounded by angry colors which means he’s seriously ill. But he refuses treatment. She’s immediately attracted to him and wants to find a way to help him.

Owen Bennet is a doctor working in the Navajo hospital. He’s close to burnout, working long days. He’s also in love with Caroline but has never said anything because he screws up relationships. When he notices that she’s very worried about Ben, he wants to help them both.

This isn’t an adventure book. It starts slowly, building the characters, the setting, and the mystery of the crows and what happened to the little girl. We get to know how the Navajos live on the reservation. We also get to see a couple of their old rituals, too. However, Ben is an outsider who doesn’t believe in the rituals but rather is humoring the people around him. His grandmother is a real interesting character who refuses to speak in English and otherwise despises white people. She’s a follower of the “old ways”. His sister’s disappearance broke his dad who mostly drinks. His mom left the reservation and hasn’t contacted them.

The supernatural elements are used sparingly at first but they become very prominent near the end. The story is told from the first-person POV of the three main characters. We get to know each one very well.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Favorite Book Heroines.

It was hard to choose just ten but here goes:

1, Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan by Lois McMaster Bujold

We get only three books from Cordelia’s POV but she’s a significant secondary character in the rest of the Vorkosigan series. When we first meet her, she’s an exploration starship captain, in charge of a group of scientists. She’s practical and level-headed, as you might expect. Later, when she’s getting used to quite a different culture, she uses her scientific mind to make it easier. The first book: Shards of Honor, now available in the omnibus Cordelia’s Honor.

2, the Boss by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

We never get to know the Boss’s real name. She explores very old spaceships. She prefers to work alone but during the first book (Diving into the Wreck) she realizes that she needs a team.

3, Irene Winters by Genevive Cogman

Irene is a Librarian in the Library that exists between alternate worlds. Her mission is to save books from various worlds. To do that, she often has to use cover identities and get into places where she shouldn’t be. While she can fight, more often she uses her wits to get out of dangerous situations. The first book: the Invisible Library.

4, Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde

Another quick-thinking heroine, Thursday is a literary detective; she goes into books.

The first book: the Eyre Affair

5, October “Toby” Daye by Seanan McGuire

Toby is a half-human, half-faerie woman; her father was a human and her mother is a Daoine Sidhe. In the mortal world, she’s a private investigator and in the faerie world, she’s a Knight in her own right which is almost unheard of for a half-blood. At the beginning of the first book, Toby loses her husband and daughter. After that, she’s a loner. Or tries to be; during the series, she gathers a quirky group of friends around her.

The first book: Rosemary and Rue

6, Amelia Peabody Emerson by Elizabeth Peters

Amelia is a very opinionated woman living in Victorian times. She loves Egyptology and Egypt. No wonder then, that she married Radcliffe Emerson who is an Egyptologist. Being a woman, she can only be an amateur Egyptologist. She and her husband solve murders while excavating.

7, Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell

In contrast to the other heroines on this list, Modesty doesn’t age or change. She’s a master martial artist and a crack shot. She used to lead a criminal organization, the Network but is now retired. She sometimes works for MI7 but sometimes trouble just finds her and her right-hand man Willie Garvin.

The first book: Modesty Blaise

8, Phryne Fisher by Kerry Greenwood

Another independent and outrageous woman, the Phryne Fisher books are set in 1920s Australia. She’s currently independently wealthy and the first female detective in Melbourne. However, she was poor for a long time so she knows what it’s like and she tries to help poor people, especially women.

The first book: Cocaine Blues

9, Sethra Lavode by Steven Brust

Sethra is the Enchantress of the Dzur Mountain, a very long-lived Dragaeran, and also a vampire. She’s the oldest character in her world. She’s also the most powerful wizard and best military general. However, she had a side that the vast majority of people don’t know about.

10, Colonel Turyin Mulaghesh by Robert Jackson Bennett

In the second book in the Divine Cities fantasy series (City of Blades), Mulaghesh has retired from her governor’s post. However, the prime minister send her to the distant city of Voortyashtan to find out what happened to the PM’s previous spy. Mulaghesh is tortured by her past and must confront it in Voortyashtan. She’s a career soldier and over fifty.

She’s a minor character in the first book, City of Stairs, and the main character in the second book.

Collects four short stories.


Publication year: 1991

Format: Audio

Running time: 3 hours, 2 minutes
Narrator: Connie Willis

“Even the Queen”: Tracey’s daughter has chosen to join the Cyclists and the whole family is in an uproar. Tracey’s mom is especially upset and tries to make Tracey talk her out of it. After all, Tracey is a judge and should be able to prevent her own daughter from doing stupid things.

Winner, 1992 Nebula Award and 1993 Hugo Award, Best Short Story.

“At the Rialto”: Dr. Ruth Barringer is one the physicists who have arrived in Hollywood for a quantum physics conference. She’s trying to get into her room but the receptionist who is really an actress/model gets confused. Also, Ruth is trying to avoid David who draws her into distractions like moonlight walks rather than attending the lectures.

Winner, 1989 Nebula Award, Best Short Story.

“Death on the Nile”: The MC, her husband Neal, and a group of friends are going to Egypt for a vacation. But one of MC’s friends is trying to seduce Neal and that’s just the first thing that goes wrong. I enjoyed the excerpts from the “Egypt Made Easy” tour guide.
Winner, 1994 Hugo Award, Best Short Story.

“Why the World Didn’t End Last Tuesday”: A committee tries to plan Armageddon.

“Close Encounter”: The main character is in a hospital heavily drugged.

These were funny and fun short stories and easy to listen to. The first one was the best but I also really enjoyed “Death on the Nile”.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have a new Kickstarter project a new Diving novel:

The Court-Martial of the Renegat Renegades is an entry-point book. It may be appearing years after I started the series, but you can start with this one easily. It stands alone.

First-timers will have a different reading experience than someone who is familiar with the series, but that’s okay. In some ways, this little book was designed that way.

I’m proud of Court-Martial. It’s a science fiction legal thriller, something most writers don’t attempt. I had a great deal of fun writing it. I think you’ll have fun reading it.

It’s already funded and reached the first stretch goal which means everyone gets Fiction River: The Universe Between short story collection. The stretch goals have fun writing classes for science fiction writers and the pledges have two SF classes: Creating Science Fiction Technologies and How to Create Ships as Characters.

13 days to go.

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

There are plenty of amazing books that have been getting published in recent years, but let’s take some time to spotlight books that were released before the 2000s! These titles could be debuts, sequels, or a mix of both. Have fun sharing your love for “old” published goodies!

Most of my favorite books belong to this category so it was difficult to choose just five but here goes:

1, Lois McMaster Bujold: Cordelia’s Honor (1996)

This is an omnibus of the first two books in her Vorkosigan series. The main character is Cordelia Naismith, an exploration starship captain.

2, Anne Logston: Shadow (1991)

”Never trust an elf, a thief, or a woman. Shadow is all three… Shadow, a light-hearted (and light-fingered) elven thief, returns to her homeland after several centuries’ absence only to find that a great human trade city has grown up next to the forest in which she was born. Now the elves and the humans maintain an uneasy alliance, but when Shadow steals a magical bracelet, she finds herself caught in the middle of a plot that may tear the city-and the alliance-apart forever. ”

3, Steven Brust: The Book of Jhereg (1983)

Another omnibus, this time of three books.”The Book of Jhereg follows the antics of the wise-cracking assassin Vlad Taltos and his dragon-like companion through their first three adventures: Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla. From his rookie assassin days to his selfless feats of heroism, the dauntless Vlad will hold readers spellbound and The Book of Jhereg will take its place among the classic compilations in fantasy.”

4, Elizabeth Peters: The Last Camel Died at Noon (1991)

The sixth book in the historical mystery series starring the inimitable Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson. They and their friends and family solve murders in Victorian Egypt.

5, Kerry Greenwood: Cocaine Blues (1991)

Another historical mystery, this one is set in 1920s Australia. Phryne Fisher is the first lady detective in Australia. Good thing she isn’t easily intimidated.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Valentine’s Day freebie.

Here in Finland Valentine’s Day is Friendship day, I chose to list best friends. Because male friendships are more common in fiction (at least in SFF), here are some female best friends:

1, Leetah and Nightfall from Elfquest

Leetah is a gentle healer and Nightfall is a fierce hunter. Since Leetah saved the life of Nightfall’s lifemate, Nightfall has been a faithful friend to the healer.

2, Phoenix and Storm from the X-Men

Jean Grey and Ororo Munroe grew close during Chris Claremont’s era and they’re still best friends.

3, Huntress and Power Girl from DC

In the World’s Finest from 2013 (New 52) Huntress and Power Girl are from an alternate Earth. They managed to escape from it just before it was destroyed. They understand each other in a way that nobody else can.

4, Oracle and the Black Canary from DC

The backbone of the Birds of Prey team (and comic) Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance support each other through everything.

5, Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman from Marvel

Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew have been friends in comics for decades.

6, Storm and Shadowcat from the X-Men

When Ororo Munroe and Kitty Pryde first met, Kitty was quite young and Ororo was like a big sister to her. Kitty has matured over the years. Ororo has sometimes had trouble accepting that and Kitty had trouble accepting changes in Ororo, but now they’re both X-Men leaders.

7, Starfire and Wonder Girl from New Teen Titans

The alien Koriand’r and the Amazon Donna Troy were best friends when they were in the Teen Titans together.

8, Shadowcat and Magick from the X-Men / the New Mutants

Kitty Pryde and Illyana Rasputin were roommates and close in age. When Illyana was thought to be dead, her Soulsword and armor came to Kitty (in 1990’s comics, I think). They’re still very good friends.

9, Shadowcat and Phoenix from Excalibur and the X-Men

Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers were in the Excalibur together and went through a lot.

10, Buffy and Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Nuff’ said.

The second X-Files book.


Publication year: 1994

Format: Audio

Running time: 5 hours, 42 minutes
Narrator: Patrick Lawlor

A bunch of early X-Files audiobooks were available for free from Audible last year and I grabbed them.

Scully brings to Mulder’s attention a mutilation case. First cattle, but now people. People who don’t seem to have any connections to each other except that they were mutilated in the same way. Mulder agrees to investigate, and they head to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The local sheriff isn’t cooperative and neither are the local people. Konochine Indians live on the mesa and are hostile to everyone but especially to the FBI.

This was a quick monster-of-the-week mystery and an okay read. Grant spends a lot of time establishing the local people and unfortunately, I wasn’t really interested in them. We get chapters from the POVs of future victims (with grisly descriptions of the deaths) and a couple of other local people some of whom are never seen again. Donna Faulkner is a major secondary character. She sells Konochine items but the tribe doesn’t like her. So she gets them from a Konochine who isn’t in good graces with his tribe because he was in jail.

These people were necessary, of course, to build the mystery but I was just impatient to get back to Mulder and Scully. The mystery centers on Native American magic but I don’t think Grant is a Native American.

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


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


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

3, Wendy Pini and Richard Pini: Elfquest comic


A wonderful fantasy comic that is also available online.

4, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: Good Omens


“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


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

The third novella in the Dispatcher urban fantasy series.


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.


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.

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