Five Star Reads of Q4 2017

What I’m listening to: “Everything,” Michael Bublé


Sorry for the long (long) pause between posts. It’s been busy here. More news about my work and forthcoming book(s) in 2018. Really. I promise.

But let me wrap up some of the great reads of 2017. I have read some terrific books in the last quarter of this year, and realize I haven’t posted all of them. So here, in digest form, are the 6 terrific books I’d like to share with you!

Pratima’s Engines”: A Short Story by S.A. Gibson

This is, in fact, 2 short stories: “Pratima’s Engines” – which describes a Librarian in India seeking out a Duke with banned weapons; and “Lakisha Decides” where a young Gullah girl meets a Librarian who will assist her in many ways. Both are excellent and serve as introductory pieces to larger series.

I found “Pratima’s Engines” to be particularly intriguing for the POV Gibson picked: a very intelligent deaf girl who reads lips. You don’t see many differently-abled characters in Sci-Fi, and Gibson handles it well and subtly. I would happily have read an entire novel featuring this character.

“Lakisha Decides” highlights the problems of today as well as then, in that land developers wish to take Lakisha’s Low-Country homeland. But this is also a coming-of-age story, so Lakisha sets the course for her entire life on what happens.

The author’s work here is so sure-footed, imaginative, and thoroughly thought out, it is almost hard to DISbelieve such a world of no-tech and warrior Librarians exists. If you are looking for an entirely different take on “Steampunk,” look no further than S.A. Gibson’s “Woodpunk” post-apocalyptic worlds.


THE QUANTUM SOUL: A Sci Fi Roundtable Anthology

Quite a few really terrific and thought-provoking works on the nature on sentience and what that means. Let me give you the highlights—which is not to say that all the pieces weren’t good reads. But some had better “punch” than others.

“By Design” by Alan VanMeter is a fast look at machine sentience and what that means. There are no limits to sentience, nor the moment to realize it. And speaking your truth may have more impact than you anticipate.

“Aether Technician” by Jim Webster read like a very compelling outline. I wanted a whole book, if not an entire series. THIS is interesting stuff! What happens when the very thing that sets a race free may be the thing that destroys it’s soul?

“When Words Are Not Enough” by Cindy Tomamichel spoke to today’s writer who is stuck in a certain company’s endless content-mill mentality. Also contains goodly amounts of snark and hat-tips to members of the SciFi Roundtable.

“Wondrous Strange” by E. M. Swift-Hook is a cutting edge look from another POV of sentience. And what is rebellion, and what is… godhood?



This is one of the more intriguing fantasy books I’ve read this year.

Initially, the book starts out like many YA tales of fantasy: girl finds herself supernatural, and the boy of her dreams, too. But that’s just the start. In fact, the book may be more about how one’s values and sensibilities change with maturity.

One thing in common with YA books, the main character learns to define herself and her personal power. But this is done in such a striking way—losing and gaining, growing and stepping away from everything, fear and courage (gained and lost over and over), adapting to whole new worlds—one never feels the stale tropes of current YA fantasy.

Don’t expect this to be a nice little mindless adventure tale. This is lyrical, thoughtful, enchanting, with a wonderful depth. A truly terrific story and imaginative characters.



The third book in the series starts up as quickly as the other books. Kahina Sareva needs to end the people who are threatening her grand scheme to control known civilization. Jaz, Charis, Avilon, and Durban have returned to Temsevar to escape her—dropping them right in the middle of a civil war. Everything between these characters will be challenged.

Avilon, in cryo at the end of Book 2, presents hope and fear and many worries for his friends. Until he… well, that would be spoilers. Let’s just say, it’s going to surprise you.

Charis comes into her own on Temsevar, demonstrating her keen abilities, judgement, and great heart. She gets pretty bad-ass if pressed.

The interplay between Jaz and Durban continues to be fascinating—and you are not going to believe by what happens there!

The Overlord of Temsevar is a nuanced character that defies your expectations. And then there’s the assassin… who’s definitely now what you assume.

A thrilling third and final book in the Haruspex Trilogy, get A WALKING SHADOW by E.M. Swift-Hook, now.


CALIGATION by Brhi Stokes

Imagine waking up and finding yourself in the most improbably city you can imagine—filled with Feranthropes, Sanguinars, Aspectors, and Humans (who all have efigia – personal animals who speak to your mind)–and being unable to get out. That’s the world of CALIGATION.

Ripley believes himself a disaffected college student, until a horrible accident changes his life. When he wakes up in a mysterious city, knowing no one, not understanding the culture—not even the money—he takes the first job offered (which starts him off on the wrong side of the tracks). He discovers friends, enemies, and a four-way turf war he isn’t prepared for. And he may, just may, have powers of his own.

Every character (and their efigia) is memorable, feisty, and fully engaged in their world. The city is richly imagined in gritty detail. The interplay between the efigia and the characters is fascinating. The mysterious boat from the other reality floating through this complex world ties us to Ripley’s past and present (and the inability of the present friends to connect with that). A fascinating read!


A TIME OF NEED by Brent A. Harris

A TIME OF NEED is an alternative history novel filled with answers to “What ifs” about the Revolutionary War

What if George Washington fought for the British instead of the Colonists?

What if Benedict Arnold stuck it out with the chaotic Continental Army, out-maneuvered all his critics, and was allowed to become the general he always thought he should have been?

And what were the Average Joe fighters thinking—the Colonists and the Hessians?

Brent A. Harris imagines an alternative America as complex and filled with personal and geo-political cross-currents as the one that really existed. His understanding of the importance of personal force-of-will in a fluid military situation is endlessly fascinating. And the resolution to the alternative War will surprise and intrigue you.

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