Book cover: Firebreak - Nicole Kornher-StaceMal dreams of living off streaming BestLife, the massive multiplayer version of reality. After snagging the first footage of an elusive SecOps NPC in weeks, a sponsor offers to pay her to do just that. The price is a quest that will put Mal face to face with real SecOps – and toe to toe with Stellaxis, the corporation that controls every aspect of her life…

Book cover: The Knave of Secrets - Alex LivingstonWhen an ex-magician turned card sharp is pressured into ensuring a nobleman loses his stake in a high profile tournament, Valen and his crew find themselves in possession of a secret that could upset the delicate political balance that keeps the island of Valtiffe independent. And, y’know, get them all killed.

I usually try to look at upcoming releases ahead of the month actually starting, but I ran out of puff towards the end of Wyrd & Wonder so I’m playing catch up today (what’s that? You thought I’d forgotten? Not a chance, your TBR is never safe around here). As ever, there’s lots coming our way, but these are the titles I’m most interested to make some room for…

It’s a truth rarely acknowledged that I get more out of SFnal short stories than fantasy. Novellas, on the other hand, are a favourite of mine regardless of genre. The best have just enough world-building to support their plot, and focus on characters and situation to deliver a thrilling adventure or emotionally resonant ride (or both! Both is good) – for today’s Fantastic Five, I’m sharing some favourites…