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It's almost Christmas, and a book is the world's second best gift (after a book voucher. I always grab a few spares in case I've forgotten someone). I thought I'd share some of the books I enjoyed most this year. As always, I'd encourage you to support your local bookstore, but if you don't have one, the books are also available online.

Frey is the daughter her despotic father never cared about, raised to be her twin sister's bodyguard. When she's sent to a hostile country, posing as her sister, Frey is the only one who knows she has no value as a hostage, and that therefore everyone around her is in danger.
It's hard to do justice to a premise this good, but Scott Westerfeld makes it look easy. Impostors performs a kind of literary judo, flipping you over every time you think you've guessed the next twist. With spy dust, flash tattoos and jump mines, the world is full of wonder and menace. Frey is a damaged, determined and dangerous heroine – I can’t wait to read more about her. Impostors is the best YA I've read in years, and the sequel, Shatter City, is out now.
Trust No One

Jerry is a crime novelist with early-onset Alzheimers who starts to suspect that he might be killing people during his frequent blackouts and memory lapses. I've been trying to think of other novels to compare it to - Still Alice and Before I Go To Sleep come to mind, as does Fight Club - but there's nothing else quite like it. Imagine Stephen King wrote Memento, and you're halfway there. Trust No One has the sort of premise that leaves other writers envious, and takes the "unreliable narrator" concept to unsettling new heights. The plotting is so tight you could garrote someone with it.
Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve And/Or Ruin Everything

This is the perfect book for people who find most pop science either too gloomy or too optimistic. The authors have gone to enormous trouble to explain emerging technologies in a cautiously hopeful way, with plenty of little-known details and some gleefully childish jokes along the way.
Even if you already think you know what a space elevator is, or who Dr Gerald Bull was, or what augmented reality can do, or how 3D printers might revolutionise housing, I strongly recommend it.
Of course, I've published some books of my own this year too. So if those three above don't seem quite right, you could try:

If you know a reluctant reader aged 10+ who likes action, they might enjoy LIARS, my five-book series about a kid who invents a lie detector app and becomes the target of a criminal empire.
If you know an adult reader who likes their crime with a generous splash of noir, they might like Hangman, or its sequel, Hunter (published in North America as Just One Bite). Both are about Timothy Blake, an ingenious FBI consultant who eats people. No, really.
One more thing. Two, actually.

Did I already use these flash fictions in a previous mailout? I don't remember. I need a better system for keeping track. But surely I didn't use both! Enjoy.
The Railbed

"My fault?" Edwina demanded. "MY fault? If you hadn't lost those tickets, we would be on a cruise ship right now. I'd be getting a sandalwood oil massage from some preposterously muscular guy named Sven. I'd be--"
"Keep talking," Freya said, holding up her phone. "I'm recording you right now. I'm sure your future husband would love to hear you fantasising about other men."
She wasn't recording. Her phone wasn't even switched on. But she thought the idea of being watched might make Edwina pull herself together. Focus on getting them out of this, instead splashing blame around like it was going out of style.
It didn't work. Edwina slapped the phone out of Freya's hand. It hit the concrete hard, cracks immediately spiderwebbing across the screen, and skittered off the edge of the deserted platform onto the tracks.
"And now we can't even call David for help," Freya snapped. "Good thinking, Edwina. Nice work."
Edwina looked abashed. "I didn't mean to do that. I'm sorry."
They both stared down into the darkness of the railbed for a moment. Freya could see the broken phone between the sleepers, half-buried in the gravel.
"We could get it back."
Edwina was already climbing off the edge of the platform. "I'll just be a second."
"Edwina, no!"
This second one's a little gruesome:
The Time Before That

The commandante drew his sword. Dark stains blemished the leather handle. The blade was chipped from hundreds of duels, but still looked lethally sharp. As he spoke, Salma saw that half of his teeth had been replaced with silver. Most people would prefer to leave the gaps. He must have an almost superhuman tolerance for pain.
"I do not fear death." His breath smelled of mutton and curdled wine. "Do you?"
Salma smiled sadly.
Perturbed, the commandante swung the sword. It stopped a fraction of an inch from her throat. She was almost disappointed.
"You should withdraw," he said. "And not just for your own sake. Tomorrow, in the dome, I will eviscerate you. Do you understand? I will slit your belly and pull out the child for the princess to see."
Under his beard, Salma saw scar tissue. His throat had been cut. Unlike her, he had survived the injury. In other circumstances, they might have bonded over the experience.
But it was not to be. If he killed her tomorrow, she would be back, just like the time before, and the time before that. He wasn't the one who could end this.
Her unborn son would be back, too. She would know him. She always did.
She pushed the commandante's sword away from her throat. "You should get some sleep," she said. "I'll see you in the dome."
Thanks very much for your support this year. It makes a huge difference - without you buying my books, reading them and recommending them to your friends, I couldn't keep doing this job I love.

I'll be back next year with 200 Minutes of Danger, 200 Minutes of Mystery, Stunt Kid and lots more. (And Hangman 3 will be out in 2021.) In the meantime, happy holidays! I'm always happy to hear from you on social media: @jackheathwriter.

And hey, do you like this newsletter? If so, please spread the word. I don't have very many subscribers. Echo echo echo echo...
Copyright © 2019 Jack Heath, All rights reserved.

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