Book Recommendations

I read a lot of books, mostly in the fantasy and science fiction field, and I review most of the things I finish. (For the things I don’t finish, check out my ImmerseOrDie reports, where I write up brief summaries about the books I bail on, explaining why they didn’t hold my interest.)

But here on this page, I want to call particular attention to the books that held me for more than just the initial 40 minutes. These are the indie books I’ve read all the way through, and really enjoyed. The ones that I think my readers might enjoy, too. And since authors publishing with the bigger traditional houses get plenty of attention already, I only feature the indie and micro-press stuff. The titles that deserve a bit more attention than they might otherwise get. So if you’re looking for something new to read, I encourage you to check out any of these books. But read the reviews first. There are no spoilers, and I’ll tell you what I liked and didn’t like, so that you have a good sense of whether it might work for you or not. And if you read one of the reviewed books and disagree with my assessment, by all means, drop a note and tell me so.

The Good Stuff

  • Pay Me, Bug!

    PayMeBugMy Blurb: When Grif Vindh and his crew pull into the Tylaris system to celebrate after pulling off an impossible heist, all hands begin dreaming of what they’ll do next. But the one thing nobody expected was that they’d have to go back and do it all over again. And worse: this time, the mark knows they’re coming.

    My Review: If you told me that Mike Resnick was going to adapt The Sting, and set it in space, this is the book I’d expect him to deliver. Quite simply, it’s one of the best indie books I’ve ever read – and I’ve read hundreds. The only blight on the entire experience was the odd choices for title and cover art. Once you’ve read the book, the title makes perfect sense, as it’s a reference to a running gag in the story, but it sets entirely the wrong tone for what the story is actually about, which is probably causing a lot of potential readers to skip on past it. And the cover art, while professional looking, fails to convey the frenetic drama of the grown up action adventure that lies inside. (IMO, Resnick’s ... Read more

  • First Contact, by Michael R. Hicks

    firstcontacthicksMy Blurb: Ichiro Sato has committed a terrible sin. He survived. When the crew of the TNS Aurora makes unexpected first contact with a hostile race, midshipman Sato is spared from the slaughter in order to serve as the alien race’s Messenger, harbinger of humanity’s impending doom. They are going to invade. On the planet Keran. In two years. What kind of aliens are these? They kill everyone aboard and then give us enough warning to prepare for the coming fight? But is mankind ready to take the warning seriously? Or will politics and power jockeying leave us with our pants down when the fighting starts?

    My Review: I’ll start by saying that space war is not my usual thing, but even so, First Contact is a wild ride. One of the strongest indie books I’ve read in a while. This is an ensemble piece, with a number of POV characters carrying the camera through a frenetic interweaving of politics, military operations, and human drama. But despite the scope, it still manages to stay up close and focused on just a very few of those humans. The pace is excellent, the aliens are ... Read more

  • The Duchess of the Shallows, by McGarry and Ravipinto

    duchess-of-the-shallowsMy Blurb: After growing up in hiding, a letter with a peculiar talisman changes everything for a young baker’s girl named Duchess, and leads her into a dangerous world of thievery and intrigue, where the only thing she has at stake is her place in the world and the truth about that terrible childhood night in which she lost everything.

    My Review: Duchess of the Shallows is a deceptively simple book, but rich in details. The plot revolves around Duchess, once the youngest child of a wealthy family, but now living in secret, disguised as the daughter of a baker after the horrifying death of her father and family. The story is driven by a single mission – a heist – in which Duchess, assisted by her street-friend, Lysander, must pull off an impossible robbery in order to gain Duchess admission to the secret world of thieves.

    But despite the simplicity of the plot, the world woven around Duchess and the characters that inhabit her world with her, are anything but simple. Political maneuvring between different factions of society, and the power-players calling the shots, all serve to create a textured backdrop, giving ... Read more

  • Ships of My Fathers, by Dan Thompson

    shipsfathersMy Blurb: Growing up aboard a smuggler’s ship is exciting, but not Mal Reynolds or Han Solo exciting. So Michael Fletcher thought he was on course for a low-key kind of excitement in his life, working for his father aboard the Sophie’s Grace. But when his father dies unexpectedly, all his protections are stripped away and Michael is flung into a world of smugglers, cheats and family secrets. As Michael races to uncover the truth about who his father really was, his search drags him into the converging worlds of desperadoes, big business, and Navy Intelligence, all of whom seem anxious to get their hands on Michael himself.

    My Review: At its core, this is the story of one young man coming to terms with the sudden arrival of adulthood, and having to learn to stand on his own, despite the plans that everyone else seems to be making for his life. Ships is a well constructed tale set in a well-conceived universe, told simply, and with sensitivity for the protagonist and his situation. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    So what’s next? With Michael’s origin story out of the way, the stage is ... Read more

  • The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, by S. A. Hunt

    whirlwind coverA two-fisted, gunpowder punk, must-read!

    My Blurb: When a famous writer is murdered, his estranged son Ross returns for the funeral and is quickly plunged into the unfamiliar community of fantasy geeks and role playing nerds. So when he learns that the fantastical world of his father’s fiction actually exists, Ross quickly crosses over to hunt the killer down, but soon realizes that he may have acted too hastily, because he’s now lost in a world of gun-slingers and monsters where the rules make no sense. And Ross hasn’t read the books.

    My Review: Whirlwind is one of those rare indie books that pulls everything together. Its strong writing, vivid imagination and intriguing characters all combine to keep you riveted to the page. Hunt’s prose is a delightful surprise in the often plodding swampland of indie publishing, and his ear for language and turns of phrase are of a quality that I only expect to see from upper-echelon, traditionally published authors.

    Having said all that, I enjoyed the first half better than the second, and for this I blame the plot. Ross’s objective never properly emerges, and without a clear ... Read more