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Fiction

The Secret Dead

The Secret Dead book cover, a single monk on a white background.

This is a short mystery, set in a Dominican monastery in 16th century Naples. The mystery part is not particularly surprising, but the story is still enjoyable to read. The historical setting is well-drawn, the characters are interesting, and the writing moves you through the story even once you have guessed the ultimate outcome. It is great escapism, because it draws you completely into the the setting that is completely removed from our modern world.

Author: 

S.J. Parris

Mister Mottley and the Kiss of Death

Mister Mottley and the Kiss of Death book cover

This is the second Mister Mottley short mystery I have read, and it is just as enjoyable as the first (Mister Mottley and the Key of D). It is a light-hearted and quick moving mystery set among the British upperclass in the 1930s. If you're looking for some fun distraction, the Mister Mottley mysteries deliver it. However, this particular mystery is very short, and light on character development.

Author: 

Ellen Seltz

Zero Station

Zero Station book cover

This enjoyable novella tells a first contact story, with the twist that the story is told twice. The first half of the book is the story from the viewpoint of the humans, and the second half is the story from the viewpoint of the extraterrestrial species that has crash landed in Antarctica. The second telling is not repetitive. Instead it expands and deepens the story, and answers some of the questions raised in the first telling.

Author: 

Amanda Hamm

Caresaway

Caresaway book cover

This is a near future "inside your head" thriller about a scientist who discovers what seems like a miracle cure for depression, only to find that it comes with a terrible cost, both to himself and to the world. This tautly written novelette will make you ask yourself questions about how far you'd go for success. If there was a pill that made you successful, would you take it? What if it also made you a psychopath?

Author: 

DJ Cockburn

Tower of Babylon

Tower of Babylon book cover

The is an excellent re-imagining of the biblical story of the tower of Babylon, told from the viewpoint of a miner called in to help tunnel through to the vault of heaven once the tower has reached it. To tell you more would ruin the joy of this book, but I recommend it highly.

Author: 

Ted Chiang

Only the Animals

Each story in this quirky and interesting collection is told in the voice of an animal who has died. All of the animals die due to human folly, mostly involving war, but somehow this does not make the book depressing. Instead, it illuminates the common thread of humanity that makes us worth the trouble despite all of our flaws. This is an engrossing and entertaining book, but one that I think is best read slowly, to allow plenty of time to think about and absorb each story before moving on to the next.

Author/Editor: 

Ceridwen Dovey

The Ruins

The Ruins book cover

This well-written novella is set in seventh century England, when the borders with Wales were still dangerous and a new religion called Christianity was starting to gain prominence among the ruling class. It is at its heart a coming of age story, about a young man sent from the borderlands to learn the ways of the court and the new religion. But it is also about how to find your way in a time of great change, and I always have a soft spot for stories set in times of great societal change.

Author: 

Daniel Bristow-Bailey

Spin-Off Cité

This short book of flash fiction is a wide-ranging, fun, and at times thought-provoking collection of snapshots of the human condition. If you like flash fiction, definitely check this one out. If you've never tried flash fiction, this is a good choice of a book to give it a try. The characters are sharply drawn, which is important is such short stories, and the stories themselves are interesting.

Author/Editor: 

Papatia Feauxzar

Dragon Sisters

Dragon Sisters

This is the story of a girl, a daughter of an Emperor, who is starting to learn how to navigate and survive palace intrigue, and the dragon who comes to help her. The story's pacing felt a bit odd to me at times, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of it, and I wondered if what was odd to me was normal in the Chinese culture in which this story is set. Pacing that feels odd to me is a small price to pay for expanding the perspectives I read, and the story itself is quite good.

Author: 

Joyce Chng

The Presence of Men

The Presence of Men book cover

This charming story is a fairly standard post-divorce "finding yourself" story, but the unusual characters and strong sense of place make it a standout example of the form, and also something a little more. Throughout the story, there are themes of the meaning of community and identity, and how these two things interrelate. In short, this is a good story, that you can read and enjoy just for the surface story, but if you're so inclined, it will leave you things to think about when you're done.

Author: 

Francesca Marciano

In Her Head, In Her Eyes

In Her Head, In Her Eyes

This is an intriguing retelling of a Japanese fairy tale. A translation of the original tale is included, and reading it for comparison does add to your appreciation of the retelling, but the retelling also stands on its own as an interesting, if a bit odd, short story. It is set in a fascinating world, too, and my only complaint is that the world did not feel completely imagined. Even in a short ebook, the world-building can feel complete, if not completely explored. In this book, the world felt like a sketch of what it could be.

Author: 

Yukimi Ogawa

The Mystery of the Skelton Diamonds

The Mystery of the Skelton Diamonds book cover

This is a satisfying mystery that is a lot of fun to read. You aren't likely to be surprised by the resolution of this mystery, but you will probably enjoy the process of reaching it, and might find yourself tempted to pick up one of the longer books that feature the same detectives. In short, if you're looking for some quality escapist reading and enjoy period British mysteries, this is a good choice for you.

Author: 

Karen Charlton

Small and Spooky

This is a collection of six classic short ghost stories. It is the third "taster flight" I've published via Annorlunda Books, and like the other two (Missed Chances and Love and Other Happy Endings), it has a unifying theme. In this case, the theme is that all of these ghost stories feature a child in some way, which I think gives a certain undertone of sweetness to the spooky stories.

Author/Editor: 

M.R. Nelson

Untethered

This is a fun anthology of stories that all feature an iPhone with some extra capabilities. The magic the iPhones perform varies widely across the stories, and part of the fun of the anthology is seeing all the different ways the authors address the theme. The stories are all interesting and well-written, too, and work on their own and not just as part of the anthology. All in all, this is a a great book to pick up if you're in the mood for some diverting fantasy that might just make you look at your smartphone in a slightly different light.

Author/Editor: 

Janine A. Southard

Mister Mottley and the Key of D

Mister Mottley and the Key of D book cover

This short mystery reads a bit like a cross between Jeeves and Wooster and Sherlock Holmes, and somehow this really works. There is nothing deep here, but there is a fast-paced plot, crisp writing, and a lot of fun. As a bonus, right now you can give it a try for free.

Author: 

Ellen Seltz

The Drowning Eyes

The Drowning Eyes book cover

This is a thoroughly enjoyable novella about a young woman who buys passage on a small fishing boat with a rag-tag crew, and sets off on a quest we come to understand is incredibly important and dangerous. The characters are delightful, and the world is interesting and believable. It is not fully described, but that feels more like room for future exploration than an absence in this story. The plot is perhaps not up to the level of the rest of the writing, but it is not ridiculous, either, and overall this book is well worth your time.

Author: 

Emily Foster

Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large: Walking the Line

Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large cover image

This is a fun, quick read with interesting characters and a fast-paced plot. It is a noirish story that could be called a detective story, but that doesn't really do the originality of its premise justice. Rather than try to categorize it, just read it and enjoy.

Author: 

Walter Mosley

Engraved on the Eye

This is a collection of fantasy short stories, all of which contain some element of Islam or the Middle East. Beyond that one unifying aspect, though, the stories are wide-ranging, encompassing a cowboy story, a story set in modern LA, a story set in the far future, and stories set in fantasy worlds. All of the stories are well told, inventive, and entertaining, and while some are stronger than others, even the weakest story is fun to read.

Author/Editor: 

Saladin Ahmed

Your Orisons May Be Recorded

Your Orisons May Be Recorded

What if your prayers were answered by a call center staffed with angels and demons? That is the premise of this charming short story. It is at times funny, at times achingly true about the human condition, and at times both at once. I can't tell you much about the plot without giving away part of the charm of the story, but it is short and just $0.99, so you can just buy it and see for yourself. Note that there is some strong language, sex, and other adult themes. It has a light-hearted tone, but is not really a light-hearted story.

Author: 

Laurie Penny

The Lilies of Dawn

The Lilies of Dawn book cover

This is the story of a young woman who has to find strength she didn't know she had to save her village and her people. Kai's village relies on the yearly harvest of dawn lilies, but that harvest is being decimated by mysterious cranes. Kai would normally turn to her mother, the Dawn Priestess for advice and leadership, but her mother is in the grips of an illness that only the dawn lily harvest can cure, so Kai must find her way on her own. It is a beautifully written and well-paced novelette that is a true joy to read.

Author: 

Vanessa Fogg

As Good As New

As Good As New book cover

This is a fun story about a woman who is the sole survivor of an apocalypse. Really! To tell you much more about the plot of this light-hearted short story would ruin some of the fun, so I won't do that. But if you enjoy speculative fiction at all, this short story is worth your time.

Author: 

Charlie Jane Anders

Underwater Restorations

A fun heist caper... set in a dystopic future in which a lot of the things worth heisting are underwater and the authorities are even less sympathetic than usual. This is a well-executed sci fi story with interesting characters, set in an intriguing world.

Author: 

Jeffery A. Ballard

After the Beauties

After the Beauties book cover

This is a slightly surreal story, set on an island paradise that was "discovered" by the global 'in" crowd... then abandoned when a disease hit. Now, one islander is trying to find the lost dog of one of the rich former guests so that he can collect the reward money and maybe put his life back together, but a hurricane is coming. It is a thoroughly entertaining story that sneaks in a couple of things for you to think about while you're distracted by the action.

Author: 

Julia LoFaso

A Dead Djinn in Cairo

A Dead Djinn in Cairo book cover

This is a fast-paced mystery set in Cairo, in a world in which a portal has been opened allowing magical creatures like djinn to coexist with humans. Fatma is an investigator with the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, called in to investigate a dead djinn. The plot unfolds from there much like a "regular" mystery/action story, but set in a world that is as interesting as the mystery. This story has some aspects of alternate history, some aspects of steampunk, some aspects of fantasy...

Author: 

P. Djeli Clark

The September Letters

The September Letters book cover

This is a charming short story about strangers who happen to meet in an airport: a woman breaking up with her boyfriend, an older couple who help her, and the bartenders who witness it all. They decide to keep in touch and exchange letters once a year. This chance meeting and the subsequent letters catalyze change in all their lives, and the charm of the story is seeing how this change plays out.

Author: 

Maeve Binchy

Papercuts 1: The Dead and the Quick

Papercuts: The Dead and the Quick book cover

This is a delightful short book about a journalist who returns home to attend his first mentor's funeral, and finds himself caught up in the struggles of the local newspaper his mentor was running. The author has a background in crime writing. He has brought that fast-paced style to this story, and it works well. The characters and plot are both really enjoyable. My only complaint is that there is both a series of "Papercuts" stories and a novel-length book coming out later this year, and it is not immediately clear how they related.

Author: 

Colin Bateman

Seismic Shift

In the aftermath of an earthquake, a mother and father struggle to reach their young son. The mother also finds herself on a journey through memories long buried, which might shed some light on her failing marriage. The external events add extra drama to what is essentially an internal plot of coming to understand the reasons for your own emotions.

Author: 

Carolyn Nash

The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know

The most famous philosopher in the world wants to sell his soul to buy 20 more years for his work, and the demon sent to complete the transaction is suspicious that he's trying to pull a trick of some sort. But what? The "mystery" aspect of the plot is fun, and the fantasy world in which the action is set is interesting (particularly for the glimpses of the bureaucracy of Hell...) but the real joy in this novella is the character of the demon and what the attempt to understand the philosopher's motives does to him.

Author: 

K.J. Parker

The World That Forgot How to Dance

The World That Forgot How to Dance book cover

This story is set in a world where dancing can summon magic, and where both the dancing and the magic are banned. The story follows a young woman who loves to dance, and wants to bring it back into the world. Her first attempt to do this goes wrong, and she ends up in jail. There, she meets a fellow prisoner who makes her change how she thinks about her experience, which sets in motion events that will force her to confront her fears and find strengths she didn't know she had.

Author: 

Olivia Berrier

The Terracotta Bride

The Terracotta Bride book cover

Once I started reading this wonderful story, I could not stop. It is set in the afterlife, with characters whose main goal is to avoid rebirth, because that is the ultimate end of their selves. The main character is a woman who died young, and who is married off to a wealthy long-time resident of the tenth court of hell. When her husband brings home a new bride, it sets a chain of events in motion that changes how she views essentially everything.

Author: 

Zen Cho

Satya

Satya book cover

This short story does a great job of transporting the reader into the weird, liminal space of a first pregnancy. The main character hasn't found her footing yet, and neither does the reader, really. Despite leaving you feeling slightly off balance, the story is enjoyable to read.

Author: 

Jessica Pishko

The Other Week

The Other Week book cover

This is a quirky and fun story, with a little more going on than first meets the eye. The central theme is life's surprises, and the various ways we respond and keep going in the face of those surprises, but the characters are so interesting that it is easy to overlook the theme and just enjoy the story.

Author: 

Joy Williams

Love and Other Happy Endings

This is a collection of five classic short stories that have a "happy ending." They are all love stories, but they are quite different from each other, ranging from humorous (Akin to Love) to heartwarming (The Other Man's Wife) to a bit bittersweet (Head and Shoulders). This is the second "taster flight" of classic short stories that I have published via my Annorlunda Books imprint. (The first was Missed Chances.) Once again, I really enjoyed reading the stories over and over as I prepared the book.

Author/Editor: 

M.R. Nelson

Binti

Book cover of Binti

This novella works on many levels. It is an interesting and well-plotted story, that drew me in and made me want to keep reading. It has fascinating and believable characters, so that even without the action in the story, I would have wanted to keep reading to learn more about the lead character in particular. The universe Okorafor constructed is also fascinating, and discovering more about it also made me want to keep reading.

Author: 

Nnedi Okorafor

Villa Bohème

Villa Boheme book cover

This is a fun and entertaining story that will also leave you thinking about how our lives can land us in places we never expected to be, and how much control we do or do not have over that process. The main character is a teenage boy, just starting to figure out what sort of person he wants to be. He is a likeable lead character, but the real insights come from contrasting him with the adults who make up the rest of the cast.

Author: 

Kevin A. González

The SEA Is Ours

This is a collection of steampunk short stories set in Southeast Asia, written and edited by Southeast Asian authors. It takes steampunk beyond its usual setting of pseudo-Victorian England or America, and opens it up to the wider world. Half of the fun of this collection is exploring the different worlds invented in these stories- they are interesting and well built. The other half of the fun is the stories themselves, which are generally well-plotted and well told.

Author/Editor: 

Jaymee Goh

Joyce Chng

The Devil in America

The Devil in America book cover

This is a beautifully told and heart-breaking story of a girl who has powers she does not fully understand. The powers run in her family, but most knowledge of them was lost when the family was brought to America as slaves. The story takes place during Reconstruction, and Wilson expertly weaves his fantasy into the all too horrific real events of the time—and although the story is firmly rooted in the past, it echoes into our time, as well.

Author: 

Kai Ashante Wilson

A Market Tale

A Market Tale book cover

This charming story is written in the world of a larger mystery series, but is not itself a mystery. There is a love interest, but it isn't really a love story, either. It is a character-driven peak into life in the French countryside, and it is a delight to read.

Author: 

Martin Walker

The Floral Underworld

The Floral Underworld book cover

This is a fun, well-written steampunk story. It has the action-packed plot and hint of romance that I've come to associate with the genre. The best thing, though, is the world the author has created, in which technology as well as much of the culture is based on plants. As much as I enjoyed the story itself, if I go on to read the other books in the series, it will largely be because I find this world fascinating, and want to spend more time in it.

Author: 

E.A. Deverell

Joy to the Worlds

The unifying theme of this fun collection of speculative fiction stories is Christmas, but each story has a completely different approach to the theme. Also, no story is dominated by the theme, so these stories would be as fun to read in June as they are in December. All of the stories are well-written and enjoyable. Some are darker than others, but none kept me awake at night, and a couple were quite light-hearted, making this a great holiday-time read.

Author/Editor: 

Maia Chance

Janine A. Southard

Raven Oak

G. Clemans

Missed Chances

Long time readers are probably familiar with the "taster flights" I post here from time to time. I decided to take that concept a step further and produce a "taster flight" book. The result is Missed Chances: Short Love Stories with a Hint of What Might Have Been. This is a collection of five classic love stories that all feature "the one that got away" in some fashion. They range from humorous (Aunt Philippa and the Men, by L.M.

Author/Editor: 

M.R. Nelson

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn book cover

This is a really enjoyable and unusual book. At first, I thought this was going to be a fairy tale like story, told as a reminiscence from a grandfather, but then it turned into a story of a young man finding his own place in the world away from his family, And then it turned again- one of the delights of this book is that you never really know what is coming next. The plot held my attention through all the turns, and I was rooting for the main character to figure it all out, whatever I thought "it" was at that point in the story.

Author: 

Usman T. Malik

Kia and Gio

This is an urban fantasy story, but at its heart it is a story about love and loss, and learning to move on. It is also beautifully written, with interesting and believable characters. In short, it is definitely worth your time.

Author: 

Daniel José Older

Elephants and Corpses

Elephants and Corpses book cover

This action-packed short story is set in a world in which people can learn how to inhabit corpses and others can learn to talk to the dead. The world-building is wonderful, particularly for such a short story, and the characters are interesting and believable. The plot follows a corpse-jumper and his assistant as they struggle to deal with the consequences when someone takes an interest in their most recently acquired corpse.

Author: 

Kameron Hurley

First Flight

First Flight book cover

A historical society wants footage of the first real flight by the Wright brothers. The only problem is, it doesn't exist. A new invention provides a solution: they can send someone back in time to capture the footage, but there's a catch. You can only go back in time as far as your birth day. And that is how Eleanor Louise Jackson comes to be sent back in time. To tell anymore risks ruining this delightful short story, which really shows how much a talented author can do with the form.

Author: 

Mary Robinette Kowal

The Steampowered Globe

This is a collection of steampunk stories set in Singapore and Malaysia, written by local authors. The stories are inventive and fun to read. This collection is definitely worth your time if you like steampunk.

Author/Editor: 

Rosemary Lim

Maisarah Bte Abu Samah

Firestarter Yukawa

Firestarter Yukawa book cover

This is a wonderful, character-driven story, translated from the Japanese. It reminds me a bit of film noir: The main character is an average guy, trying to get by in a life that hasn't given him many advantages, but then a beautiful and somewhat mysterious young woman rents one of the small rooms in the apartment building he manages, and strange and disturbing things start happening.

Author: 

Eiichi Nakata

The Assassin and the Underworld: A Throne of Glass Novella

The Assassin and the Underworld book cover

This is another installment in the action-packed and fun Throne of Glass novella series. It has all of the same elements of the earlier books: fast-paced plot, likable main characters, and witty dialogue. If you've read and liked the earlier installments, you'll almost certainly enjoy this one, too. If you're new to the series, The Assassin and the Pirate Lord is the first book, although The Assassin and the Desert is still my favorite.

Author: 

Sarah J. Maas

Claimed

Claimed book cover

This is the fourth installment in the Flash Gold series. If you've enjoyed the other installments, you'll enjoy this one, too. If you haven't tried the series yet, and think that a fast-paced, fun, smart-alecky steampunk action adventure sounds like a good read, you could start here (the story stands on its own), but do yourself a favor and start with Flash Gold, the first book in the series. Don't worry, you'll find yourself reading this installment before you know it.

Author: 

Lindsay Buroker

Cafe Deux Mondes

Cafe Deux Mondes book cover

Two women from very different backgrounds meet, become friends, and somehow decide to open a restaurant. This is a story about friendship, and how it can grow between people who don't seem to have much in common, and it is a story about the value of doing somewhat audacious things. At its heart, though, it is the story about two women you'll wish you could meet, and a restaurant you'll wish you could visit.

Author: 

Catherine Browder

Long Hidden

This is a fantastic collection of speculative fiction stories, all featuring characters that are often excluded from the stories we read. It is the sort of collection that you want to both devour and read slowly, because each story demands some time to settle before you go on to the next, and each new story pulls you into its world, which is completely believable and completely different from the world of the last story. I have picked a favorite story, but it was difficult, because the stories were all so good. If you like speculative fiction, you should not miss this collection.

Author/Editor: 

Rose Fox

Daniel José Older

We, the People of the Clouds

We, the People of the Clouds book cover

Marlon is enjoying his afterlife spending Perpetual Sunday relaxing on Infinite Beach, when a glitch in the system spurs him to action and leads him to discover some important details about the beforelife that he'd forgotten. This book isn't the first to explore the idea of achieving an eternal afterlife by storing human consciousness in computers, but it is a well-executed story that adds some interesting aspects to the basic idea.

Author: 

Simon Kewin

Full House

Full House book cover

This is a quick-reading novella about a woman who is feeling taken for granted by her adult children, who are still living in their modest family home in Dublin. Binchy has a knack for capturing everyday life, and this book is no exception, which makes it an enjoyable read even though sometimes the story feels like more of a sketch than a fully formed story. When it is a sketch, it is at least a very good sketch!

Author: 

Maeve Binchy

An Etiquette Guide to the End Times

An Etiquette Guide to the End Times book cover

The dystopic near term future imagined in this book is so believable it is a little bit scary, but the light-hearted and down to earth tone of the first person narration makes this a fun and engaging read nonetheless. Set in Toronto a few years after the consequences of ignoring global warming become obvious, the story follows Olive as her already rearranged world is rattled again when the somewhat authoritarian central city government wants her to turn her successful internet etiquette column into a state-sponsored radio show.

Author: 

Maia Sepp

The Nun, The Gun, and Tom Mix

The Nun, The Gun, and Tom Mix book cover

The plot of this charming novella sounds surreal when summarized: a somewhat unsuccessful American man whose mother always told him that his father was Tom Mix falls in love with the music of a Mexican band called Los Gatos Negros, and when he hears that they are in danger from the drug cartels, decides to head to Mexico to rescue them. Meanwhile, the head nun in a convent in a little Mexican town is struggling to deal with the departure of their priest, and the head of one of the drug cartels is longing to leave that all behind and live the life of an artist.

Author: 

Suda J. Prohaska

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

The plot of this story is fun, but the real charm is the lead character, who is well-drawn, believable, and downright delightful. Jade Yeo is an ambitious young writer, recently arrived from Malaysia, and working to make a life for herself in London. This is a romance story set in 1920s London, and like many romances, there is some sex- but if that is not your thing, you can easily skip that scene.

Author: 

Zen Cho

Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart

Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart book cover

This is a fun steampunk short story set in an alternative history America in which phlogiston actually exists and powers all sorts of machines- even robots like one of the main characters. The story follows two Pinkerton agents in their attempt to bring in a fugitive. The characters are interesting, the alternative world is well-drawn, and the plot is paced such that you'll want to read the entire story in one sitting.

Author: 

Cat Rambo

Far As You Can Go

Far As You Can Go book cover

This is a quest story set in a post-apocalyptic future, but with a slight twist: our hero's companion is a robot. This changes how we view the events of the story- or does it? In the end, this well-written and entertaining story is also a thought-provoking exploration of our human need for friendship.

Author: 

Greg van Eekhout

Inside Job

Inside Job book cover

When a professional skeptic runs into a medium who seems to be the real thing, he finds his beliefs tested in more than one way... This well-written story has interesting characters and a fun plot. It is a quick but satisfying read.

Author: 

Connie Willis

Murder in Ancient China: Two Judge Dee Mysteries

Murder in Ancient China book cover

This short ebook consists of two short stories, both murder mysteries set in ancient China with Judge Dee as the protagonist. They are solid mystery stories, and the historical setting makes them even more enjoyable: they are like police procedurals in a police department whose rules you do not know. Overall, this was a fun and satisfying quick read.

Author: 

Robert van Gulik

The Life in Papers of Sofie K

The Life in Papers of Sofie K.

This fascinating story follows the life of a young Russian girl in the 1800s who has a love of mathematics. She persists despite society's obstacles and studies mathematics at a German university, before finally ending up as a professor in Sweden. It is based on the life of Sofia Kovalevskaya, and is organized around her papers. The writing is engaging and almost lyrical at times, and the story has fantastical elements, making this more of an exploration of the motivations and costs of circumventing society's obstacles than a simple fictionalized biographical sketch.

Author: 

Octavia Cade

Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You

The stories in this collection all feature women whose hopes and dreams are in some way thwarted by the circumstances of life. Given that, there is a melancholy feeling to the stories, but also a beauty, as Munro masterfully captures the spirit that allows her main characters to endure and even at times thrive.

Author/Editor: 

Alice Munro

Scales Beneath My Skin

Scales Beneath My Skin book cover

This is a story of a young Hawaiian girl growing up and learning her family's secrets, but also of making peace with the past and the danger in refusing to do so. It is a beautifully told story with a strong sense of place, interesting characters, and a thread of Hawaiian mythology woven in.

Author: 

Ka'ili Marie Britos

Old Girls in Low Cotton

Old Girls in Low Cotton

A bittersweet but funny story about a woman who sets out to start over after her husband is killed, but finds herself sharing a trailer with her mother-in-law instead. The characters are believable and ultimately likable, the sort you wish you could reach into the book and help sort through the mess they're making.

Author: 

Helen Childress

Wikiworld

Wikiworld

This is a lighthearted story of love and adventure, set in a not-quite dystopic future in which government is by wiki. The world-building is inventive, believable, and thought-provoking, and the story is fun and satisfying.

Author: 

Paul Di Filippo

Tin Cat

Tin Cat

This is the story of a comic store owner who has had to adjust to life in a wheelchair after an accident, but whose ideas about what her life will be like are upended by the arrival of a cat and a handsome time-traveling stranger. The blend of sci-fi and romance elements leads to a fast-paced and fun read

Author: 

Misa Buckley

The Man Who Owns Little

The Man Who Owns Little book cover

This is an epistolary story examining the end of a friendship between two men. Pothier has a genius for portraying the difficulties and beauty of human relationships, and this story does not disappoint in that regard.

Author: 

Mark Ernest Pothier

Monstress

The stories in this collection are about the Filipino experience, both in the US and in the Philippines. They tend to examine the darker side of this experience, but they often include a glimmer of hope, where the reader can see a path forwards to happiness that the characters could take. The writing is beautiful, and the author's insights into human nature are keen, and focused on characters and aspects of life that we often overlook.

Author/Editor: 

Lysley Tenorio

Burning Girls

Burning Girls cover

Magic and history combine in this engrossing story of two Jewish sisters who flee Poland to come to America, only to find that the demon they thought they'd left behind came, too.

Author: 

Veronica Schanoes

The Tale of the Wicked

The Tale of the Wicked

This is a standard space fight short story- with a hell of a twist. In typical John Scalzi fashion, the story will entertain you AND leave you thinking.

Author: 

John Scalzi

Normally Special

The stories in this collection are mostly dark, and often disturbing, but they are always compelling. They explore how people react to difficult situations, and the characters' reactions are far from perfect. But the characters are more believable for this, and the sympathy with which they are treated ultimately makes this collection less dark than a summary of the stories would imply.

Author/Editor: 

xTx

Pretty Bird

Pretty Bird

This is an unsettling story, but it is well told and the fast-paced plot draws you in. It is set in a dystopic future in which all animals have been killed due to a plague of some sort, which makes it very strange for a bird to show up on our protagonist's front porch. Things just get weirder from there.

Author: 

Eli Nixon

The Martini of Destiny

The Martini of Destiny

This is a page-turner of a story, set in an intriguing world in which certain bartenders can nudge their patrons towards their fates. The story follows what happens when a mysterious stranger comes into the bar of one such bartender. The ending leaves you hanging a bit, but the story is fun enough that I forgave that, and will just look for the next installment in the series.

Author: 

Anthony St. Clair

Life after Wartime

This collection of short stories is set in a universe in which Earth has colonized the outer planets and moons of our solar system... and fought a war with the colonies. These stories are set after that war, and explore various facets of life, including the aftermath of the war. The universe and characters are believable and feel real, and the stories are inventive.

Author/Editor: 

Paul McAuley

Requiem Duet, Concerto for Flute and Voodoo

Requiem Duet, Concerto for Flute and Voodoo

This story about a teenage girl struggling to fit in at a new school is also a beautiful story about learning to accept and cope with grief.

Author: 

Eugie Foster

Peacemaker

Peacemaker book cover

This is another fun and satisfying entry in the Flash Gold series. If you liked the earlier entries (Flash Gold and Hunted), you'll like this one, too. If you've never tried steampunk and are curious about the genre, this is an excellent series to try.

Author: 

Lindsay Buroker

Monk

Set in a universe in which a religious sect has discovered how to transfer a person's soul to a cybernetic monk so that the monk can perform penance for the soul's misdeeds, this story follows the efforts of one monk, whose soul has a particularly heavy penance to perform. It is an intriguing premise, and the story explores themes of the meaning of "self," sentience, and self-determination while also delivering an interesting and engaging plot.

Author: 

Gregg Vann

AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Authors

This is a large and enjoyable collection of sci-fi short stories from African authors. The stories span the continent and the various sub-genres of sci-fi, presenting interesting and thought-provoking visions of the future from an African point of view. All are thoroughly readable and well-written, and some are truly wonderful.

Author/Editor: 

Ivor W. Hartmann

The Last Black Man

The Last Black Man

This is a gripping and harrowing story about a successful British man attending his first polo match. No, really, it is- because the successful man is the black son of working class parents whose sacrifices he is only now understanding, and whose life is not at all as secure and idyllic as it seems. The action in this masterfully told story is primarily in the protagonist's head, and the result is a story I will not soon forget.

Author: 

M. B. Munroe

Unlocked

Unlocked

This is an invented oral history of the appearance of a terrible new disease, and how one nation (the United States) responded to the crisis. It is the back story for an upcoming novel, but it stands on its own as an interesting, engrossing, and all too believable story. Although the events are more than a little horrifying- the disease leaves an unpredictable subset of its victims "locked in" (conscious but unable to move)- the story is ultimately hopeful, as the nation manages to move past the usual political bickering and rise to the challenge.

Author: 

John Scalzi

Hunted

Hunted

This is the second book in a series that starts with Flash Gold, and it is just as much fun as the first book. The characters introduced in Flash Gold continue to develop in believable ways, and the plot is fast-paced and full of swashbuckling fun.

Author: 

Lindsay Buroker

Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2011 Edition

A solid collection of short fiction from Tor.com, with some truly outstanding entries.

Author/Editor: 

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Liz Gorinsky

Assumptions

Assumptions

This is an enjoyable short story about growing up and losing your illusions about the world and the grown ups who live in it.

Author: 

James Mulhern

The Sourwood

The Sourwood book cover

This is an inventive story with an unusual premise: its characters are all insects, who have organized to survive in a post-human world. The story follows Fig, as a series of bad luck and bad decisions cause him to question his most basic beliefs. The world the characters inhabit is fully-formed and quite believable. This book is the first in a series of novellas, and the ending is a cliffhanger more than an end, but the writing was good enough and the story was enjoyable enough that I am willing to overlook that, and just move on to the next book in the series.

Author: 

Richard Wolanski

Natural Selection

Natural Selection

The action in this story flashes between Earth, where the lead character was a middle school student, and a planet called Kurra, where she is about to go through the traditional coming-of-age ceremony. It is set in the same universe as a couple of longer books by the same author, but this well-written story stands on its own, exploring themes about growing up. I liked the characters, enjoyed the writing, and am intrigued by the universe in which the story is set, so the longer books are now on my to-read list, too.

Author: 

Malinda Lo

Sister of the Hedge

This is a collection of engaging stories, ranging from a re-imagined fairy tale to a zombie story to a touching paranormal-tinged story about a mother's loves and fears.

Author/Editor: 

Jim C. Hines

The Bone Knife

The Bone Knife

A story about a young girl who rises to the challenge posed by the presence of a magical visitor in her family's home. The author describes this as an introductory story about the lead character, who will go on to have greater adventures in future books, and the ending does feel like a pause more than an end to the story. However, the beautifully drawn characters and intriguing world-building more than make up for that weakness, making this a delightful short read.

Author: 

Intisar Khanani

Improving Slay Times in the Common Dragon

Improving Slay Times in the Common Dragon

This fun and funny story about a graduate student in magic is interspersed with excerpts from a research paper describing a study on improving slay times in the common dragon. The jokes will be especially resonant for people who have worked in research, but the story is likely to be enjoyed by even those who have never set foot in a lab.

Author: 

Catherine Shaffer

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

This is a wonderful collection of loosely linked stories each showing an aspect of life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The stories vary in tone and focus, but are all moving and well-written, with characters you'll care about.

Author/Editor: 

Sherman Alexie

The Sixth

The Sixth

This story is hard to describe- it is magical in feel, but grounded in scientific ideas. It is sweeping in scope, but about a single man. It is also hard to categorize. I have put it in the Sci-Fi category, but I am not sure that is a good fit. Honestly, I could spend more time trying to describe it than it would take you to just read it and see for yourself.

Author: 

Ali Imran Zaidi

Day Breaks

Day Breaks

A fun and fast-paced mash-up of fantasy and crime story, set in a fictional city in which the police force have goblins and other magical creatures to contend with as well the usual problems of crime.

Author: 

Mathew Reuther

The Best We Can

The Best We Can

In this enjoyable and well-written first contact story, contact doesn't immediately up end life as we know it, and the scientist whose project uncovered the evidence of extraterrestrial life struggles to deal with that fact.

Author: 

Carrie Vaughn

Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula

Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula

A simple, heartbreaking, and beautifully written story about a woman whose life has not turned out the way she had hoped.

Author: 

Lindsay Hunter

Of Oysters, Pearls and Magic

An interesting blend of sci-fi and fantasy set on a colonized planet, long after the colonization from Earth has receded into distant history and when magic has become as important as technology. The main character is from a coastal community descended from a settler group from Asia, but leaves her home in search of acceptance, which gives us a chance to visit several different communities and trace how they evolved from their own settler groups.

Author: 

Joyce Chng

Oomph: A Little Super Goes a Long Way

A wonderful collection of stories about people who have a little superpower. The protagonists can all do something extraordinary- but on a smaller scale than in most super hero stories. The different authors take this premise in many different directions, always with interesting and highly readable results. The collection of all of these different takes on the idea of limited superpower made me think about what it means to have power and what it really takes to make a difference.

Author/Editor: 

Bart R. Leib

Kay T. Holt

Problems with a Girl and a Unicorn

Problems with a Girl and a Unicorn

This is a very surreal story that is, as the title says, about a guy who has problems with a girl and a unicorn, who are both his roommates. I was convinced as I read it that any story with a unicorn roommate in it must have a deeper meaning, but it eluded me- and yet, I find myself thinking about the story months and months after reading it. (The edition I read did not have other stories in it, but that edition no longer seems to be available. I have not read the other two stories in the currently available edition.)

Author: 

Nick Earls

Seventy

Seventy

A well-executed and enjoyable colonization story, in which colonists are fleeing aliens and must face hardship on their new planet and uncertainty about events elsewhere.

Author: 

Liana Brooks

Ayiti

The stories in this collection paint portraits of varied aspects of Haitian life. They are powerful, sometimes hauntingly beautiful, and always well-written. Although each story stands on its own, they combine to something more than disparate stories, creating very moving and satisfying book.

Author/Editor: 

Roxane Gay

These Convergent Stars

These Convergent Stars

A novella set in a universe in which Earth is no more and the Terrans have created a breed of shapeshifters to help them find suitable new homes. The story follows the events that unfold after one of these shapeshifters is embroiled in a case of mistaken identity on a planet she has been sent to check for suitability. It is action-packed, tinged with romance, and just plain fun.

Author: 

Janine A. Southard

A Shard Glows in Brooklyn

A Shard Glows in Brooklyn

A fast-paced and fun mix of fantasy and noir, set in an interesting alternative New York City populated with monsters and wizards.

Author: 

Alex Shvartsman

Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2012 Edition

A collection of Sci-Fi and Fantasy stories that covers many different approaches to these genres. All of the stories were well-written and enjoyable.

Author/Editor: 

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Liz Gorinsky

David G. Hartwell

After Life

After Life

A mind-bending, intriguing, and suspenseful story that asks the reader to consider what is consciousness, and what defines "self."

Author: 

Simon Funk

Pleased to Be Otherwise

Pleased to Be Otherwise

This is a quirky coming of age story in which it is not just the main character (Timi, a teenager in Uzbekistan) who learns some life lessons. Timi's village has been the recipient of a gift of camels from a Western aid organization- and the camel-related hijincks are only one source of laughs. There's also a Mexican soap opera dubbed into Uzbek and the general randomness of life.

Author: 

Gina Ochsner

Chicken Little

Chicken Little

Set in a not too distant future, when some people have become so wealthy that they have become literal corporations, this story follows one of the many designers working to develop a product that will capture the fancy of one of these people/companies. The world the story builds is detailed and believable, and more than a little horrifying, and the story itself is intriguing and entertaining.

Author: 

Cory Doctorow

Don't Eat Cat

Don't Eat Cat

Set in a dystopian near future in which the question may not be why some people take a drug that is known to induce a zombie-like state, but why everyone doesn't, this story is light in tone, but with deeper currents underneath the surface. Regular life continues, despite environmental and other man-made catastrophes, and after unwittingly starting a fresh outbreak of zombie-related trouble, our hero finds himself digging up parts of his past that he thought he'd left behind, and sets off on a literal and figurative voyage of discovery.

Author: 

Jess Walter

The First Light of Evening

A sweet and bittersweet story about a man who finds himself alone when he never expected to be, and has to figure out what to do next and who he really is. There are moments of real beauty in this story, and perhaps some notes of warning, too.

Author: 

Mark Ernest Pothier

Flash Gold

Flash Gold

A rollicking story of a young inventor who enters her "dogless sled" into a race hoping to win the prize and buy her way out of the Yukon, the stranger who shows up offering to hire on as protection, for motives that are not at all clear, and the adventure they have together.

Author: 

Lindsay Buroker

It's Better This Way

It's Better This Way

A post-apocalyptic alien invasion story that turns out to be something more: a thought-provoking look at the culture humans have built with technology, and what might happen if we had to start over.

Author: 

Travis Hill

When a Camel Breaks Your Heart

When a Camel Breaks Your Heart

A surreal story about a woman whose boyfriend turns into a camel. His literal transformation and the problems, confusion and distance it creates is a metaphor for their relationship, which is between a white American woman and a first-generation American Muslim man. It has funny moments, and, if you read with the right mindset, sharp insights into relationships both personal and political.

Author: 

Kodi Scheer

Nothing of Me

An intriguing mashup of the classic myth of Scylla and Beauty and the Beast, reimagined into a modern setting in a telling that draws the reader in from the start.

Author: 

Eugie Foster

The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - For a Little While

The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland

An absolutely delightful story of a girl who just wants to keep to herself and study her magic, but who finds herself drawn into events and ends up fighting the king of Fairyland.

Author: 

Cathrynne M. Valente

Midnight's Tale

Midnight's Tale

A story about a goat. Yes, a goat. But you really want to read it- it is funny, and insightful, and you'll find yourself thinking about it long after you finish it.

Author: 

George Berger

Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist

Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist

A woman prepares for an important visitor, and the visitor is not as expected. Note that this story can also be bought as part of a collection of the same name.

Author: 

Kathleen Alcalá

The Assassin and the Desert: A Throne of Glass Novella

Assassin in the Desert

In the second in the Throne of Glass novella series, our heroine is sent to visit the Silent Assassins in the Red Desert as punishment for disobeying her master's wishes.

Author: 

Sarah J. Maas

Wool - Part One

Wool book cover

A haunting and inventive story about a society of people living underground after some sort of apocalypse, the rules that they have evolved to make this life possible, and what happens when you begin to doubt those rules.

Author: 

Hugh Howey

Coke with a Twist (A Mercy Watts Short)

Coke with a Twist book cover

A diverting mystery in which the lead character is the daughter of a private investigator, recruited by her father to help him solve a case involving an attack on a young woman.

Author: 

A. W. Hartoin

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord: A Throne of Glass Novella

Assassin and the Pirate Lord book cover

Celaena Sardothien is an accomplished and beautiful assassin, sent by her master to collect a debt from the Lord of Pirates. She is horrified to learn that the debt is to be paid in slaves, and feels compelled to act against her orders.

Author: 

Sarah J. Maas

Nordic Fairies (Nordic Fairies #1)

Nordic Fairies book cover

A story with the intriguing premise that young men and women with the right character are recruited to be fairies, with eternal life, paired with their true love. It follows the female half of one such pair through an incarnation in which her true love seems to be breaking the rules.

Author: 

Saga Berg

Dead Pig Collector

Dead Pig Collector book cover

An oddly appealing story about an extremely professional hit man and what happens when his latest job takes an unexpected turn.

Author: 

Warren Ellis

CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love

CRASH cover image

A satire about the European sovereign debt crisis, CRASH follows the troubles of Jude, an Irish farmer who finds himself at the center of a surreal series of events when the powers that be decide that his roofless henhouse needs to become too big to fail.

Author: 

Julian Gough

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