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2023 Wrap Up

I have been absolutely terrible at keeping up with social media and my website and promoting my book and promoting other authors and pretty much anything having to do with being publicly visible. Between the devastating reality check that comes in the wake of debuting as a no-name author, drafting new books, editing other new books, reading to keep up with what's new, trying to read for fun, and working a full-time job while maintaining a healthy home life...well, I often forget to engage online (see also: completely ignore it).

I'm trying to be better. And what better way to do just that than by lifting others up?


Every year I keep a running list of the books I've read just for S&Gs. (I don't bother much with Goodreads or anything like that because, again, online stuff). I also don't read nearly as many books as others out there, but I do what I can. That said, much of my reading list is comprised of both old and new titles. Them's just the facts.

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite reads this year:

(Be sure to click the link in the photos to learn more about each author and where to get their books!)



By Gabino Iglesias

(Description from cover copy)

Buried in debt due to his young daughter’s illness, his marriage at the brink, Mario reluctantly takes a job as a hitman, surprising himself with his proclivity for violence. After tragedy destroys the life he knew, Mario agrees to one final job: hijack a cartel’s cash shipment before it reaches Mexico. Along with an old friend and a cartel-insider named Juanca, Mario sets off on the near-suicidal mission, which will leave him with either a cool $200,000 or a bullet in the skull. But the path to reward or ruin is never as straight as it seems. As the three complicated men travel through the endless landscape of Texas, across the border and back, their hidden motivations are laid bare alongside nightmarish encounters that defy explanation. One thing is certain: even if Mario makes it out alive, he won’t return the same.

This one is tense, dark, and violent. Exactly what you'd expect from a book about gangsters and dark magic and people who'd go to incredible lengths to get what they want...And at the same time it's nothing at all like you'd expect. Not for the squeamish, but if you're brave enough, it's so worth the read.



By S.A. Barnes

(Description from cover copy)

Titanic meets Event Horizon in this SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn't yet ended.

Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed—made obsolete—when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.

What they find is shocking: the Aurora, a famous luxury spaceliner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick search of the ship reveals something isn’t right.

Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Messages scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold on to her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate.

A great space-horror mystery that legitamately had me creeped out. Even on a starship you still need to check under the bed...



By Michael Mammay

(Description from cover copy)

In 2108, Colony Ship Voyager departed Earth for the planet of Promissa with 18,000 of the world’s best and brightest on board. 250 years and 27 light years later, an arrival is imminent.

But all is not well.

The probes that they’ve sent ahead to gather the data needed to establish any kind of settlement aren’t responding, and the information they have received has presented more questions than answers. It’s a time when the entire crew should be coming together to solve the problem, but science officer Sheila Jackson can’t get people to listen.

With the finish line in sight, a group of crewmembers want an end to the draconian rules that their forebearers put in place generations before. However, security force officer Mark Rector and his department have different plans. As alliances form and fall, Governor Jared Pantel sees only one way to bring Voyager’s citizens together and secure his own power: a full-scale colonization effort. Yet, he may have underestimated the passion of those working for the other side...

Meanwhile, a harsh alien planet awaits that might have its own ideas about being colonized. A battle for control brews, and victory for one group could mean death for them all.

One of the interesting things about this book (and there are many) is that Generation Ship moves away from the military aspect that Mammay has so expertly proven he knows, and dives head-first into the complexities of a timely political thriller, set in space.



By T.R. Hendricks

(Description from cover copy)

Derek Harrington, retired Marine Force Recon and SERE instructor, is barely scraping by teaching the basics of wilderness survival. His fledgling bushcraft school is on the cusp of going out of business and expenses are piling up fast. His only true mission these days? To get his ailing father into a full care facility and to support his ex-wife and their son.

When one of his students presents him with an opportunity too good to be true—$20,000 to instruct a private group for 30 days in upstate New York—Derek reluctantly takes the job, despite his reservations about the group's insistence on anonymity. But it isn't long before the training takes an unexpected turn—and a new offer is made.

Reaching out to an FBI contact to sound his concerns, Derek soon finds himself in deep cover, deep in the woods, embroiled with a fringe group led by a charismatic leader who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. When what he wants becomes Derek's head, the teacher is pitted against his students as Derek races against time to stop what could very well be the first attack by the domestic terrorist cell.

Hendricks is a former US Army tank platoon commander, and it's clear he knows his stuff. But beyond the intense action and edge-of-your-seat suspense is an impressive layer of humanity that really brings Derek Herrington to life. He is the hero, but he's vulnerable, fallible, complicated...The best kind of hero.



By Blake Crouch

(Description from cover copy)

Reality is broken.

At first, it looks like a disease. An epidemic that spreads through no known means, driving its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. But the force that’s sweeping the world is no pathogen. It’s just the first shock wave, unleashed by a stunning discovery—and what’s in jeopardy is not our minds but the very fabric of time itself.

In New York City, Detective Barry Sutton is closing in on the truth—and in a remote laboratory, neuroscientist Helena Smith is unaware that she alone holds the key to this mystery . . . and the tools for fighting back.

Together, Barry and Helena will have to confront their enemy—before they, and the world, are trapped in a loop of ever-growing chaos.

I listened to the audiobook version, and the narrators, Jon Lindstrom and Abby Craden, did an incredible job bringing this story to life. Not to mention Crouch's writing is like Philip K. Dick meets Michael Crichton, and if you know anything about me you know that's my jam. Crouch takes wild sci-fi ideas and presents them with plausible techno-thriller style.



By S.A. Cosby

(Description from cover copy)

A Black sheriff. A serial killer. A small town ready to combust.

Titus Crown is the first Black sheriff in the history of Charon County, Virginia. In recent decades, quiet Charon has had only two murders. But after years of working as an FBI agent, Titus knows better than anyone that while his hometown might seem like a land of moonshine, cornbread, and honeysuckle, secrets always fester under the surface.

Then a year to the day after Titus’s election, a school teacher is killed by a former student and the student is fatally shot by Titus’s deputies. As Titus investigates the shootings, he unearths terrible crimes and a serial killer who has been hiding in plain sight, haunting the dirt lanes and woodland clearings of Charon.

With the killer’s possible connections to a local church and the town’s harrowing history weighing on him, Titus projects confidence about closing the case while concealing a painful secret from his own past. At the same time, he also has to contend with a far-right group that wants to hold a parade in celebration of the town’s Confederate history.

Charon is Titus’s home and his heart. But where faith and violence meet, there will be a reckoning.

I picked up S.A. Cosby's Blacktop Wasteland when it came out and absolutely blown away. Anything he writes is an auto-purchase for me now. Gritty southern gothic crime noir, Cosby has an undeniable style and voice that speaks so much pain and truth you can't help but stay glued to the page. All The Sinners Bleed is his newest installment that resonates with strong True Detective vibes.



By J.S. Dewes

(Description from cover copy)

J. S. Dewes, author of The Last Watch and The Exiled Fleet, returns with another science fiction space opera, Rubicon, that melds elements of Scalzi's Old Man's War with Edge of Tomorrow.

Sergeant Adriene Valero wants to die.

She can't.

After enduring a traumatic resurrection for the ninety-sixth time, Valero is reassigned to a special forces unit and outfitted with a cutting-edge virtual intelligence aid. They could turn the tide in the war against intelligent machines dedicated to the assimilation, or destruction, of humanity.

When her VI suddenly achieves sentience, Valero is drawn into the machinations of an enigmatic major who’s hell-bent on ending the war—by any means necessary.

I had the pleasure of meeting J.S. Dewes at Worldcon last year and she was kind enough to give me an ARC (advance reader copy) of her latest book, which I really liked. Rubicon has an intriguing concept that explores the complexities of PTSD and self-identity, played out in an epic space military sci-fi setting. Action-packed, and heartfelt with some great twists.



By Alma Katsu

(Description from cover copy)

An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division–one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered–including one of her own–and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it…

A lot of thrillers involve hyper-fictionalized three letter agency operatives running around dodging bullets and getting into car chases. RED WIDOW has all of the intrigue, tension, and suspense you'd expect from a thriller about CIA operatives, but it's presented in such a realistic atmosphere that it's truly a breath of fresh air in the genre. In the world of espionage, so much happens in the unseen spaces between the lines that the average person is never even aware of, yet those unseen things have such profound effect on the world. And since Katsu worked in intelligence for over 30 years, she knows a thing or two about how it all goes down.



By Nicholas Sansbury Smith

(Description from cover copy)

No power. No rules. No help coming. The end of the world is just the beginning of the hunt …

Estes Park Police Chief Marcus Colton and tracker Sam ‘Raven’ Spears have never liked one another, but when a young girl goes missing in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colton hires Spears to help find her. Their search ends after a night of catastrophic events. When word reaches Estes Park that the nation has been hit by a coordinated electromagnetic pulse attack, Colton and Spears are forced to work together again. But they quickly realize they aren’t just tracking a killer–they are tracking a madman during the middle of a war on American soil.

Halfway across the country, Senator Charlize Montgomery awakes to find the nation’s capital has gone dark. Forced to set off on foot, she treks across a city that has woken to a new world, and as the night progresses, she learns the EMP attack was just the beginning of the horror.

The explosive Trackers series is a harrowing story of survival and a realistic depiction of what an EMP attack and the aftermath might look like from former Homeland Security Disaster Mitigation Officer and New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sansbury Smith.

Frightening. Plausible. Brutal...and human. I'm on the third book of this series already (just started it in December) and it doesn't let up. Make no mistake, this isn't a doomsday prepper's's a realistic look at what it will take to survive in a world where some people want to help, most people want to take, and very few actually know what to do.


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