Review: MY FAVOURITE MANSON GIRL by Alison Umminger (Atom/Flatiron)

UmmingerA-MyFavouriteMansonGirlUKA lost teenager looking for purpose in all the wrong places…

Anna has had a miserable year. Everything feels wrong with her life. And rather than stay and face the mess, she steals a credit card and books herself a seat on the first flight out of town to Los Angeles, to crash with her sister. But soon after she lands, cold reality soon dawns on her: Hollywood isn’t the escape she needs. She is trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket.

When she’s offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a dubious film, she reluctantly accepts — she needs the money. But soon enough, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous…

This is not going to be the summer Anna had in mind.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. I’d heard some very good pre-publication buzz, and was interested in reading something different to my usual fare. What I found was not quite the novel as described, but nevertheless an interesting, engaging and sometimes thought-provoking novel. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Interview with MARGARET KILLJOY

KilljoyM-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Margaret Killjoy?

I’m an author who comes out of the DIY tradition of zines and has recently been making headway into traditional publishing. I’m recently-out as a transwoman and I’m a longtime anarchist organizer. I’ve spent most of my adult life traveling but just recently decided to hang my hat in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Your new novella, The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, will be published by Tor.com in August. It looks rather fascinating: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is the first book in my Danielle Cain series, which follows a group of squatter-punk demon hunters. In the first book, our protagonist heads to a utopian town to figure out what happened to her dead best friend and stumbles upon magic and demons. It’s hard to describe the themes of a book without offering spoilers, but it’s a book about the ways in which we wield power over one another and it’s a book about a traveler trying to find home.

Continue reading

Quick Review: SHOPGIRL by Steve Martin (Hyperion/W&N)

MartinS-ShopgirlUSAn interesting, enjoyable novella

Mirabelle is the ‘shopgirl’ of the title, a young woman, beautiful in a wallflowerish kind of way, who works behind the glove counter at Neiman Marcus, selling things that nobody buys anymore…?

Mirabelle captures the attention of Ray Porter, a wealthy businessman almost twice her age. As they tentatively embark on a relationship, they both struggle to decipher the language of love — with consequences that are both comic and heartbreaking. Filled with the kind of witty, discerning observations that have brought Steve Martin critical success, Shopgirl is a work of disarming tenderness.

I picked this up on a whim the other week, and started reading it right away. It’s an interesting, short glimpse of a Los Angeles life. Mirabelle’s story is not one of Hollywood or celebrity life/excess. Rather, it is a calm story of a young woman looking for a place in Los Angeles life. She’s working a job that is not, to say the least, scintillating. She is dating a rather dull, narcissistic wannabe, but falls into the orbit of a wealthy Seattle businessman who lives part-time in LA. It’s an endearing, well-told story that I very much enjoyed. Continue reading

Review: MAGNUS THE RED by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HHP3-MagnusTheRedOn a fracturing world, Magnus and his Sons’ powers are unleashed…

Lord of the mystical and uncanny, Magnus the Red has long studied the ancient crafts of sorcery. A psyker without peer, save only for the Emperor himself, he commands his loyal followers of the Thousand Sons Legion in the Great Crusade, though also vigilant for any lost knowledge they might recover from the remains of dead human civilisations.

Now, fighting alongside his brother Perturabo of the Iron Warriors, Magnus begins to foresee an approaching nexus of fate — will he remain true to their mutual aims, or divert his own efforts towards furthering his own mastery of the warp?

This third novel in Black Library’s Horus Heresy: Primarchs series offers readers a glimpse of insight into Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Legion. Framed as a reminiscence of Magnus, it tells the story of a particular campaign and the terrible foe the Thousand Sons and Iron Warriors faced together in the early years of the crusade. Continue reading

Review: THE SECOND GIRL by David Swinson (Mulholland)

SwinsonD-SecondGirlUSOne of the strongest crime series beginnings in many years

He’s a good detective… with a bad habit.

Frank Marr knows crime in Washington, DC. A decorated former police detective, he retired early and now ekes out a living as a private eye for a defense attorney. Frank Marr may be the best investigator the city has ever known, but the city doesn’t know his dirty secret.

A longtime drug addict, Frank has lent his considerable skills to hiding his habit from others. But after he accidentally discovers a kidnapped teenage girl in the home of a local drug gang, Frank becomes a hero and is thrust into the spotlight. He reluctantly agrees to investigate the disappearance of another girl — possibly connected to the first — and the heightened scrutiny may bring his own habits to light, too.

Frank is as slippery and charming an antihero as you’ve ever met, but he’s also achingly vulnerable. The result is a mystery of startling intensity, a tightly coiled thriller where every scene may turn disastrous. The Second Girl is the crime novel of the season and the start of a thunderous new series from an author who knows the criminal underworld inside and out.

I was rather slow getting around to reading this novel, and damn was that a stupid idea. The Second Girl is easily one of the strongest starts to a crime series that I’ve read in years. The characters, story, pacing… all of it worked perfectly. I was hooked from the opening scene, and all I wanted to do was keep reading. Continue reading

Quick Review: WAITING FOR LIPCHITZ AT CHATEAU MARMONT by Aris Janigian (Rare Bird Books)

JanigianA-WaitingForLipchitzSomeone does not like Hollywood/Los Angeles culture and society…

Set in two iconic locales — Hollywood’s legendary Chateau Marmont and luxurious Fresno’s Forestiere’s Underground Garden — Waiting for Lipchitz at Chateau Marmont is a bold and colorful critique of the California Dream through the perspective of a once-upon-a-time successful screenwriter and the wealth that taunts him. Caught between John O’Brien’s Better and, perhaps, a Christopher Guest adaptation of Waiting for Godot, Janigian’s Lipchitz is a new take on the absent protagonist and what’s inevitably illuminated by its void.

This is a strange novel. I enjoyed reading it, but I didn’t love it. There are plenty of interesting and sharp observations about the fickleness and shallowness of Los Angeles and, particularly, Hollywood life, culture and business practices. It’s a well-written novel, but one that I didn’t find as satisfying as I had hoped. Continue reading

Interview with SAM PETERS

PetersS-FromDarkestSkiesUKLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Sam Peters?

Sam Peters is a writer and a… something else that is kind of hard to pin down exactly but right now is somewhere on the boundaries of a mathematician or a physicist (except not the sort who actually pushes the boundaries of anything new) and an engineer (except not the sort who actually makes anything). The sort of technology middleman who might have ended up on the Golgafrincham second ship if real physicists and real engineers ever actually got together. Right now Sam is something of an expert on Fast Fourier Transforms, which should have everyone zoning out right about now so unless you want to discuss the Cooley-Tukey algorithm and optimization of the Split Radix method let’s talk about something else, quick!

Your debut novel, From Darkest Skies, will be published by Gollancz in April. It looks rather fabulous: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

I’d call it a Science Fiction thriller wrapped around a love story. It’s partly Keon’s search for the truth about what happened to his missing wife Alysha and partly about him coming to terms with her loss and the consequences of where his grief has taken him – the recreation of Alysha as a simulacrum wrapped around an Artificial Intelligence. Keon and Alysha were basically spooks so the truth he’s looking for turns out to be a lot more complicated than he first thinks. A lot more complicated and a lot more dangerous. Continue reading