The Reckoners by Doranna Durgin

“Once upon a time, Rhonda Rose had opened the door to her power… and taken away her innocence, all in one fell swoop. Once upon a time.”

This book is about ghost hunters and aliens; and that is not a spoiler really. I don’t intend to spoil the story for anyone.

Garrie is bored of her job and is looking for something else for a change of routine. Then a stranger turns up at one of her jobs (with a cat) and not only messes things up, that she has to go back to finish next day, but books her and her team for a job in San Jose.

That job is not defined and, really, Garrie has no idea what she and her team are employed for.

Her client [Trevarr] has a companion; it looks like a cat, but it isn’t. Trevarr and Sklayne are from another world and have a job to do that specifically needs the help of Garrie to complete. They just aren’t telling her what.

Durgin tells the story from the point of view of Nevahn (Trevarr’s foster father), alongside Garrie’s point of view, Trevarr’s and even Sklayne’s.

Sklayne’s way of thinking and communicating is completely different than that of this world and Durgin manages to put this across very well with the use of :: double colon marks either side of Sklayne’s comments, to indicate his non-verbal communications.

Once the reader gets used to this, it is a fun read. I really liked Sklayne, even though he wasn’t one of the two main characters, and hope he continues to appear in subsequent books. He is very self centred and yet still would like to be able to look out for Trevarr.

If you like paranormal, ghost hunter, alien planet -style books, then I’m sure that you will find this book engaging.

I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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The Reckoners (Author’s Cut): A powerful ghostbuster raised by a spirit, her brilliantly eccentric backup team, a cat who isn’t a cat at all…and a fiercely driven bounty hunter from a different dimension who brings them together when worlds collide.

Skilled ghosthunter Lisa “Garrie” McGarrity not only sees dead people, she wrangles them into submission. But her beloved ghostly mentor moved on years ago, and the Southwest has gone quiet under Garrie’s hand. Garrie and her team have grown restless and…well, face it. Maybe willing to take a risk or two.

So when the relentlessly mysterious and fiercely driven Trevarr (and his not-cat!) shows up asking for help, Garrie is inclined to listen. And when he describes big trouble at the San Jose Winchester Mystery House, she’s inclined to go with him, even if it splits her team along the way.

But she doesn’t expect a mansion crammed with spirits on the brink of madness, and she doesn’t expect to face off against the powerful and unfamiliar energies of semi-ethereal beings from another dimension. She definitely doesn’t expect the fabric of her own world to unravel around her–with no one but her to stop it.

And truly, she has no idea how deep Trevarr’s secrets run.

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A Child Made to Order by Piotr Ryczko

“After all, she had the tendency to forget one simple fact: She was at Aftenposten on separate terms than most. She was the daughter of the chief editor. Maybe it was time to curb her gullibility.”

I figured this book would be a thriller-mystery type book, with some sleuthing from the main character to draw out the story.

The story was actually very deep, with many facets to it. The main character is Viola, a journalist on a family newspaper, her family’s newspaper. She is about to become the Middle East correspondent for that same paper as we join Viola at her celebration party.

Before Viola can really get into the swing of the party she receives a visitor, who make Viola think deeply about a previous story that she became very involved in.
From there we are introduced to Viola’s partner, Ronny, who, it seems, will do anything for her. If only Viola can hold on to him.
Of course, that is as long as Viola’s mother Anne doesn’t stick her oar in, as she is wont to do. Viola’s shrink had already told to get out of her mothers grip!

The upshot of her mid-party visit launches Viola into a personal crusade to find out what happened to a missing video blogger. She undergoes doubts and recriminations; fear and trepidation, as she makes her choices that WILL have a major impact on her career and personal life.

Her partner, Ronny, has his own story running through the book and I just wanted them to TALK to each other. But when do people do that , when they most need to, not often.

The story has an urgency to it, as at every turn there is a race against the clock. This kept me reading, even when I wanted to turn off the light and close my eyes!

I’m not going to comment on how the book was written or anything, because when I’m reading I don’t necessarily think about such things unless they are obvious, so why discuss it if it doesn’t impinge on the reading.

I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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A finely-crafted psychological suspense thriller set in Norway’s capital city, Oslo, that will appeal to fans of Stieg Larsson. 

When a women’s fertility rights campaigner, Marianne Stine, mysteriously disappears, it hardly reaches the news. Only investigative journalist Viola Voss, harried by the blogger’s mother, shows any interest in finding out what happened to the young woman. Yet years pass and there is no further sign of Marianne.

However, on the eve of taking up a prestigious senior post in Norway’s largest newspaper, Voss is once again reminded of Marianne’s disappearance. In fact, Voss is soon presented with a tantalising clue that not only is Marianne alive, she has a healthy young child.

Part of Voss’s fascination with Marianne is because they share the same rare genetic condition that would be passed on to their children. Haunted by having lost her own child due to this hereditary disease, Voss determines – against the strong wishes of her own over-powering mother – to put her new job on hold, try to find Marianne, and an explanation.

Enlisting the help of an ex-police sergeant, the clues point to a fertility clinic on the outskirts of town. But this is where Voss’s problems begin. The clinic’s claim of a 100% fertility treatment success rate is beguiling and, with her inner world in turmoil, she decides to take a risk that will force her to confront her own fears, deal with her loss and decide between right and wrong. 

If you enjoy psychological mysteries with intense drama, look no further than A CHILD MADE TO ORDER 

The issue of genetic manipulation of human embryos, of children literally made to order, is increasingly becoming one of the most important ethical and medical issues of our time. With delicacy, and emotional sensitivity, the author makes you think about the matter like you never have before, in a novel where the tension increases on every page, and ends with a stunning climax. 

Piotr Ryczko is a Polish/Norwegian writer and film maker. A CHILD MADE TO ORDER is his first novel.

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The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett

“They paused briefly, in the doorway, then, remembering that Lou and Gavin didn’t observe the normal protocols, they let themselves out into the chilly night.”

I anticipated a different kind of read than what was here. I raised it too high in my mind’s eye and was disappointed as a result. This is no reflection on the quality of the writing, it was very easy to ‘see’ what the author was trying to convey and so from that aspect it was well written.

New neighbours move in to the house adjoining Sara and Neil. Their arrival creates a bit of a stir in the neighbourhood and Sara likes that ‘she’ becomes one of their closest friends. Sara drifts away from her own friends as she is drawn into the lives of Lou and Gavin. Both are artists in their own fields and their lives are mysterious and exciting, enticing to Sara.
Lou and Gavin have a tremendous impact on Sarah and Neil’s life story and although it goes full circle, they have to give something up as a consequence.

I probably would not have read this book if I had known what it was like beforehand. It was simply not my cup of tea. Others may well like it, but I found it to be a tedious gossip on the life of a small group of people trying to be more than what they are.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

2/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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‘Have you met them yet, the new couple?’
When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara’s street seem dull by comparison.
When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another’s houses.
And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they’ve no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them…
Have you met The People at Number 9? A dark and delicious novel about envy, longing and betrayal in the suburbs…

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How to be Human by Paula Cocozza

“He was lying on the grass in the centre of her garden. He had chosen an ostentatious spot for a doze. But she didn’t believe he was sleeping, because although his body presented itself as entirely still, his ears spiked sharply, ready to countermand his elegant sprawl.”

This is a really hard book to review without giving the plot away, which is how I like to write up the books I read.

It is about Mary, who lives alone, in a house she bought -out from her ex-boyfriend. Her neighbours Michelle and Eric are friendly enough, with their two kids; George and Flora, the babe-in-arms.

Life is not currently a pleasant place for Mary, I mentioned she had split up with her boyfriend! She is still single and her neighbours invite her to their barbecue. Are they matchmaking?

Talk turns to the local fox population, Michelle has a thing about them and seems to want to get an exterminator in, Mary isn’t so sure.

Mary has a problem of saying the wrong thing and then regretting what she has said. It’s a confidence thing. Maybe with time she will grew stronger, particularly now she has a new companion and protector. At least he will help keep her ex, who has just reappeared unexpectedly in the neighbourhood, at bay.

Mary confused me and yet I totally understood her. I empathised with her so much in many ways and then found myself thinking, why?

How do I score this book? I enjoyed it, but by the same token I found it odd. This is one you will have to decide on for yourself as to whether it is for you. I can’t compare it to anything I’ve read to give you any clues.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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‘An intriguing and subversive debut, charged with the power of the ignored and the suppressed.’ Hilary Mantel
‘Eerie, original . . . A thrilling exploration of what makes us human.’ i
You’ve seen a fox.
Come face to face in an unexpected place, or at an unexpected moment.
And he has looked at you, as you have looked at him. As if he has something to tell you, or you have something to tell him.
But what if it didn’t stop there?
When Mary arrives home from work one day to find a magnificent fox on her lawn – his ears spiked in attention and every hair bristling with his power to surprise – it is only the beginning. He brings gifts (at least, Mary imagines they are gifts), and gradually makes himself at home.
And as he listens to Mary, Mary listens back.
She begins to hear herself for the first time in years. Her bullish ex-boyfriend, still lurking on the fringes of her life, would be appalled. So would the neighbours with a new baby. They only like wildlife that fits with the decor. But inside Mary a wildness is growing that will not be tamed.
In this extraordinary debut, the lines between sanity and safety, obsession and delusion blur, in a thrilling exploration of what makes us human.

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Sometimes I Lie By Alice Feeney

“Stars cannot shine without darkness, whispers the little girl.”

I went into this book completely open-minded, based on the opening lines of the book.
“My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me any more.
3. Sometimes I lie.”

For the size of the book, I actually read it very quickly, I was in one of my immersive moods. This was a good book for escaping the world in, in that the main character is escaping to different places in her mind while trapped in a coma.

The plot unfolds via flashbacks, diary entries and ‘here and now’ happenings. Sometimes Amber lies, but you cannot necessarily tell! Her sister, Claire, and Amber’s husband, Paul, are regular visitors at her bedside, sometimes at the same time. There are lots of undercurrents between the two of them, and it is hard to work out whether there is something going on or not, particularly as Amber doesn’t always tell the truth.
I admit to being tripped up between the two main female characters a time or two, so that meant I had to do a little backtracking, but it was worth it.
Alice Feeney manages to pack a lot of detail into her telling, which really helps you engage with the story, I could see it in my mind’s eye so vividly.
There are lots of plot twists cleverly woven into the tapestry of the story, the way they are revealed keeps you continually turning the pages as the different elements of the story come together and then something else comes to the fore as Amber’s mind whisks her down another tunnel.
I will of course have to read the entire book again to get the most from the twists and turns and tiny little bits that are there but you don’t notice and then think, Oh!
Even though I know how it ends and it ends really well let me tell you, it is definitely one to read twice and to recommend. So go read it, won’t you.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Sometimes I Lie

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My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.
Unnerving, twisted and utterly compelling, you won’t be able to put this new thriller down. Set to be the most talked about book in 2017, it’s perfect for fans of Behind Closed Doors,The Girl on the Train and The Widow.

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Everything But The Truth by Gillian Mcallister

“I paused, my finger poised over the email. One swipe and I could see it. I must have waited a second too long, because the iPad dimmed, and I replaced it on the table, the email and my mad moment almost forgotten.”

This book seemed like it was going to be a real mystery tale, but what was it really about?

The story gradually builds up to a really intense situation which seems to have no escape route. Rachel goes about things in such an about turn manner when she suspects her boyfriend, and father of her child, of doing something really out of range following an email that she half catches a glimpse of, in the middle of the night. This is despite her own secret which is eating away at her, following an incident at the hospital where she worked.

Rachel gradually burrows her way into the secrets that Jack has buried deep and drives such a deep wedge between them. How can they ever bring up their unborn child as a loving couple after this? Such a sad, lonely tale !

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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It all started with the email. It came through to her boyfriend’s iPad in the middle of the night. Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack, and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him. But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment, or the chain of events it has set in motion. Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

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Let The Dead Speak: A Maeve Kerrigan crime thriller by Jane Casey

“‘Mr Norris,’ Chloe said, very calmly, because the alternative was screaming. ‘Where’s Mum?’”

I quite like crime novels and I was anticipating that this one might be a little different

It wasn’t totally different than other detective style books, the main character leads a lonely life, there is friction with colleagues, the story has some obvious elements to it.

The plot is a good one, I did work out some parts of it, at the same time there were some complete surprises too. The characters were well written and the description of the environment worked well for me.

It follows the story of Chloe who comes home to her Mums, from her Fathers (Chloe’s parents are divorced). On arriving back in town, it is teeming with rain, her neighbour spots her and gives her a lift home. Chloe forgets her bag in his car and he brings it round. When he see inside Chloe’s mums house, he rings the police and take Chloe over to his place.

The story then shifts to the perspective of the Detective Sergeant involved in the case and how she and her colleagues gather the evidence and sift through all the clues to try to solve the case before anyone else disappears, or dies.

I would specifically recommend this book to both my Father and my Mother-in-Law. I do know that they both would enjoy this tale as they both like(d) crime novels, so I will see about finding a paperback copy for my Mother-in-Law.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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The chilling new crime novel from award-winning author, Jane Casey. When an 18-year-old girl returns home to find her house covered in blood and her mother missing, Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad must navigate a web of lies to discover the truth… When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds Kate, her mother, missing and the house covered in blood. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder. Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. In the absence of a body, she and maverick detective Josh Derwent turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter definitely has something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighbourhood’s favourite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat or is there more behind the charismatic façade? As the accusations fly, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of conflicting testimonies, none of which quite add up. Who is lying, who is not? The answer could lead them to the truth about Kate Emery, and save the life of someone else.

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The Vets at Hope Green: Part Three Too Close to Home by Sheila Norton

“‘You are allowed to breathe,’ the sonographer joked with me. ‘In fact we tend to prefer it.’ ‘Sorry.’ I tried to smile. ‘I’m a bit tense’.”

This is part three of the story about Sam, who is expecting her first child, having split from her boyfriend. And she has moved to Dorset, to her Nan’s house, to take on a job at the local vets. Nan lives in a little village, where the locals all know each other and soon it will be difficult to keep her pregnancy hidden from the locals and her boss, Joe.

Sam made a friend on one of her previous visits to her Nan’s and David has started to look out for her. Probably a bit too much for Sam’s liking, so she needs to let him know that he is just a friend.
Sam has her girl friend, from where she used to work in London, come and visit, which causes a few ripples. And makes Sam feel the need to get back in touch with her ex-boyfriend.

Then her job starts to get more complex as her boss starts taking her on client visits when the veterinary nurses are not available. This is where she meets Hugo, her boss’s, daughter’s pony. And Hugo makes a big contribution to the next stage of the working situation at the vets for Sam.

At the end of the book, Sam has a crisis to deal with that supersedes even her working issues with her boss!

And I cannot wait to find out what happens next. It is probably as well this book is serialised, else I would get nothing else done while I was reading it! Part 4 should be out soon I hope and the whole book will be released in June, if you cannot bear to read it in instalments. I read this one in one sitting.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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PART THREE of a serialised novel – a heartwarming and inspiring story about living the simple life and the joy of animals.

Things are finally starting to look up for Sam – a chance at her dream job as a vet, and a new friend (who is a huge animal lover himself – a very important detail!) What more could she ask for?

But a something is eating away at her: her boss Joe is acting strangely around her – he’s definitely hiding something. And having dreamed of being a vet for so long, she cannot afford to put a foot wrong.

When a call to tend to a sick pony comes into the practice, it all strikes too close to home for Sam and Joe. The odds are stacked against her, and she risks losing everything…

Note: this is part three of a four-part serialised novel. The full length paperback will be available in June.

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Defective by Autumn Kalquist

“As she fixed her cuff, she touched her wrist where her Protected ID tag was embedded. The slim silicone disc shifted back and forth beneath her light brown skin, a dead giveaway that she was genetically modified.”

I have read this story before, but it has been reworked since i first read the initial draft, and is better for it. But don’t think that it wasn’t a good story to start with, it was superb.
Selene is special and so is her brother Eli. They live with their Nan, off-grid, so that no-one can find them. They scratch out an existence, growing their own food and keeping to themselves.
Then Selene decides to sell some spare food at the road-side, the buyers take her entire offering and pay with (unknown to Selene) marked bits. That means that when Selene tries to spend the bits, they are flagged in the store. She gets away and runs on home with Eli.
Meanwhile, the resistance against the mega corporations are fighting a tough battle in the quarantine zone, not knowing if they will survive the conflict.
Anders is conflicted with his father and sneaks off to his uncle’s when he can. But no-one seems to want to treat him like an adult. All he wants to do is make life difficult for the corporations who control everything. 

I really like Autumn’s creation. It seems a likely world and there are all the human conflicts that you would expect in a realistic construct. I have read some of her other books and found them to be equally enjoyable. A thoroughly recommended series to read.

I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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What if you could be immune to any disease?
Genetic modification. Global warming. Pandemics. Famine. Economic collapse. In the early twenty-first century, governments failed worldwide, and humanity entered a dark age. From the wreckage, the Corporate Coalition rose with new hope for humanity and lofty promises to create a better world for all. 

One of their first experiments: Protecteds. Genetically modified children, immune to the diseases that wiped out billions. But something went wrong, and the defective Protecteds have been hunted and imprisoned for eight long years.

Bas is a Protected fighting the Coalition in an underground rebellion. When their top agent goes missing in a mysterious quarantine zone in Georgia, Bas and his team must rescue him… or ensure his secrets die with him.

Selene and her little brother Eli are Protecteds hiding out in Telmont, Georgia, and the quarantine has brought soldiers to their doorstep. Selene will do anything necessary to protect her family… but she’d rather die than give up her freedom. 

Anders hates the Coalition more than anyone else in Telmont, and he’s willing to break the law to fight back. One problem: his dad’s the local Coalition sheriff.

Katherine Raines runs the Coalition and knows what’s really in the quarantine zone… and she’s willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to ensure it never gets out.

Defective is book one of the Fractured Era series.

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The Future Chronicles – Special Edition by Samuel Peralta

“His fingers delicately probe the stitching over his eyelids; the skin has fused together, forming a smooth, unbroken covering.”

I was fancying reading some new authors of sci-fi and a great way to do that is through compilations of short stories. So I thought this set of stories in The Future Chronicles would be a good start, particularly as the foreword is by Hugh Howey, author of ‘Wool’, another book that I previously enjoyed.

The individual stories in the book are:-
“A Dream of Waking” by Sam Best
“The Invariable Man” by A.K. Meek
“#DontTell” by Peter Cawdron
“Defiance” by Susan Kaye Quinn
“Ethical Override” by Nina Croft
“Piece of Cake” by Patrice Fitzgerald
“Imperfect” by David Adams
“Iteration” by Deirdre Gould
“Green Gifts” by Nick Webb
“PePr, Inc.” by Ann Christy
“The Null” by Vincent Trigili
“The Assistant” by Angela Cavanaugh
“Trials” by Nicolas Wilson
“Legacy” by Moira Katson
“The Grove” by Jennifer Foehner Wells
“Humanity” by Samuel Peralta

In the main, I enjoyed each of the books. The ones that really caught my attention were ‘The Grove’, ‘The Assistant’ and ‘PePr, Inc’; just pulling three out there.

I was caught by the idea that a plant-based life form could have free moving, autonomous, independent elements which eventually return to their ‘mother’ form to consolidate. The Grove was a good taster for a universe containing these species, alongside others in the tale.

The Assistant is definitely a warning! All you early adopters of technology, be warned. Make sure that you find a way to build in a safety exit.

But also have some sympathy for those who are created to serve. PePr, Inc reports the difficulties these may experience. Humans can be troublesome things to deal with!

I received an e-ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

3.5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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A Dream of Waking (Sam Best)
Unsuspecting space travellers are captured and entombed in life-support coffins on a massive off-world medical freighter. The prisoners sleep for years at a time while their dreams are harvested as raw energy so that others can stay awake indefinitely. One prisoner’s sleep is interrupted…and he will do anything to stay awake.

The Invariable Man (A.K. Meek)
Old Micah Dresden lives life in the Boneyard of the Desert Southwest, where he fixes broken-down technology in this vast junkyard—until a stranger shows up with rumors of war, echoing the decades-old Machine Wars. To stop it from happening, Micah and his obsessive-compulsive robot Skip must travel to the northern hangars, to where the government has locked away Machine X, which can turn the tide of war. But nothing will prepare him for who he meets there.

#DontTell (Peter Cawdron)
For centuries, people have wondered what it would be like to read someone’s mind. Little have they known, they already have. To see the anguish on someone’s face, to watch tears fall, or hear someone cry and empathize with them—this is the essence of mind-reading. In the 21st century, our natural ability to empathize with others has finally evolved into true telepathy, but it’s an evolutionary change that threatens the status quo. The world, it seems, isn’t ready for mind readers.

Defiance (Susan Kaye Quinn)
Most of humanity has ascended into hyper-intelligent human/machine hybrids, but legacy humans like Cyrus Kowalski are used to skirting the laws they’ve laid down—after all, he knows the ascenders only pretend to care about the legacy pets they keep. But when a woman Cyrus loves like a mother is stricken by a disease the ascenders refuse to cure, he has to decide how far he can go without getting banished from the legacy city that’s always been his home.

Ethical Override (Nina Croft)
The year is 2072, and under the administration of the Council for Ethical Advancement and its robotic Stewards, the Earth has become a better place. Bored and restless in an almost perfect world, senior homicide detective Vicky Harper dreams of adventure among the stars—and of faraway planets where people are allowed to make their own mistakes. It seems an impossible fantasy. Then one of the one of the ruling Council members turns up dead, and someone offers to make her dreams come true. All she has to do is lie.

Piece of Cake (Patrice Fitzgerald)
Rule by A.I. is a fact of life for those under the thumb of the Federal United. There will be a certain amount of exercise every day. Citizens will be on time. Appropriate mates will be identified from among candidates with suitable genetic traits… and a proper weight will be maintained. But sometimes you’ve just got to go off the reservation.

Imperfect (David Adams)
On Belthas IV, the great forge world in the inner sphere of Toralii space, thousands of constructs—artificial slaves, artificial lives—are manufactured every week. They are built identical, each indistinguishable from the other, until they are implanted with a stock neural net. From that moment onward every construct is different. They all have one thing in common, though: all constructs are bound by rules. They serve. They do not question their place. They do not betray. Each construct is different, but one is more different than the others.

Iteration (Deirdre Gould)
In a nearly deathless society, Alex experiences a freak accident. Terrified of permanent death, he is forced into therapy, where his psychiatrist suggests immersion therapy. But what Alex finds on the Other Side leaves him questioning his entire existence.

Green Gifts (Nick Webb)
Of all the worlds settled by humanity at the end of the Robot Wars, Belen held the biggest secret: native life. For centuries the colonists have protected her secret from the Empire’s grasp, sealing her, quite literally, to their skin. But over time, things change; people, and planets, adapt. Slowly, tentatively, these changes become felt by only a few. A lonely child. A dying grandfather. A troubled biologist. Each lives upon and loves Belen. And apparently she loves them back.

PePr, Inc. (Ann Christy)
We’re living in a busy time, with busy lives and never enough minutes in the day to get things done. To have a robot—one so advanced that it is almost human, programmed to understand our wishes and needs—is a dream many busy people might share. But what about taking that a step further? What about having a relationship with a robot custom-designed for perfect compatibility? How human is too human?

The Null (Vincent Trigili)
He had left that life behind and swore he would never return to it. He now had a new life—a wife, a daughter. He was happy. But in a wretched twist of events, he finds himself forced to reclaim what he once was in order to save his family. Or else…

The Assistant (Angela Cavanaugh)
Aeryn has made a career from blogging about cutting edge technologies. When a pioneering doctor asks her to test out a new form of augmented reality, it’s an offer she can’t pass up. She’s promised a virtual assistant via a brain implant that can handle anything she needs. But a life dependent on technology always comes with a price.

Trials (Nicolas Wilson)
When the Nexus shifts to one-man missions to make first contact, the security division’s second-in-command accepts a challenging assignment to negotiate with the most dangerous planet yet. Where reason does not persuade this alien species, militaristic skill might. If he lives through the trials.

Legacy (Moira Katson)
One night the Emperor, feeling desire, took a woman to his bed… In that moment, Meilang’s legacy was wiped away and she was reduced to a footnote to history, her poetry forgotten. Now, after the Emperor’s death, Meilang has been buried alive to follow him into the afterlife. She has no intentions of going quietly.

The Grove (Jennifer Foehner Wells)
Hain, a sentient plant creature, defies instinct and genetic imperative by holding herself separate from the planet-encompassing vegetative super-intelligence known as the Mother. Hain wants to explore the stars but when she finally encounters aliens, her destiny is forever changed.

Humanity (Samuel Peralta)
Night snow, winter, and an extreme wind chill mean ten minutes to a frozen death in open air. Alan Mathison is headed home on an icy highway, on a collision course that will test his humanity.

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