New Books (January-February 2023)

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Nicely varied selection, from thrillers to history. In an unusual twist, I’ve already read a few of them, too. Any of these upcoming titles catch your eye?

Featuring: David Baldacci, Sarah Clegg, Gareth Hanrahan, Nash Jenkins, Cassandra Khaw, Hannah Kaner, Ian McDonald, Aimee Ogden, Megan E. O’Keefe, Adrian Tchaikovsky, David Wellington

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Excerpt: A LITTLE BIT OF LOVING by Jane Yolen (Tachyon) – From THE SCARLET CIRCUS

YolenJ-ScarletCircusToday we have an excerpt from The Scarlet Circus, a new short story collection by Jane Yolen. Specifically, it’s an excerpt from “A Little Bit of Loving”. Due to be published by Tachyon Publications in February 2023, here’s the synopsis for the collection:

A rakish fairy meets the real Juliet behind Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. A jewelry artist travels to the past to meet a successful silver-smith. The addled crew of a ship at sea discovers a mysterious merman. More than one ignored princess finds her match in the most unlikely men.

From ecstasy to tragedy, with love blossoming shyly, love at first sight, and even love borne of practical necessity — beloved fantasist Jane Yolen’s newest collection celebrates romance in all its glory.

This bewitching assemblage, with an original introduction from Brandon Sanderson, is an ideal read for anyone who appreciates witty, compelling, and classic romantic fantasy.

Now, read on for a taste of A Little Bit of Loving

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New Books (January 2023)

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Featuring: Leigh Bardugo, Brian Michael Bendis (w. Matthew Wilson), Sarah Bowring, Kevin Chong, S. A. Cosby, Max Gladstone, Rudy Gobert (w. Hellef Bay), Lee Goldberg, Rachel Howzell Hall, Daniel Polansky, James Swallow, Keziah Weir

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Quick Review: THE TYRANNY OF FAITH by Richard Swan (Orbit)

SwanR-EotW2-TyrannyOfFaithIncreased stakes, increased danger, an Empire in peril… but a little less focus?

A Justice’s work is never done.

The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumors that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.

Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped – and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined.

Richard Swan’s The Justice of Kings was one of my favourite reads last year, and certainly one of my favourite new fantasy books of a few yeast (joining Mike Shackle’s We Are the Dead as a best debut in a few years). The Justice of Kings was a great blend of mystery and fantasy, focusing on a conspiracy in a regional town, far from the politics and action of an imperial capital. Swan’s story was character-focused, interesting, and well-paced. The Tyranny of Kings was, therefore, one of my most-anticipated novels of 2023. I’m happy to report that I quite enjoyed it. Continue reading

New Books (November-December)

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The final New Books posts for titles received in 2022. It’s been a pretty great year for reading: plenty of great new books, as well as plenty of great advance review copies. I’ve already made quite a dent in my 2023 reading, which is a nice change — I’m still too prone to “saving for later” when it comes to books, even ones I am most anticipating or eager to read. No idea why I keep doing this. I guess one of my resolutions is to read what I want, when I want. There’s no reason why I have to stick to any kind of schedule.

So, a fond farewell to 2022, and here’s to a great 2023 of reading!

Featuring: Nicole Arend, M. R. Carey, Christopher Farnsworth, Rebecca Fraimow, K. J. Parker, Deena Mohamed, Kirthana Ramisetti, Scott J, Shapiro, Caitlin Shetterly, Richard Swan, Daniel Torday, Chris Wraight

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Quick Review: PETE AND ALICE IN MAINE by Caitlin Shetterly (Harper)

ShetterlyC-PeteAndAliceInMaineUSHCA marriage under strain, during the pandemic…

Reeling from a painful betrayal in her marriage as the Covid pandemic takes hold in New York City, Alice packs up her family and flees to their vacation home in Maine. She hopes to find sanctuary—from the uncertainties of the exploding pandemic and her faltering marriage.

Putting distance between herself and the stresses and troubles of city life, Alice begins to feel safe and relieved. But the locals are far from friendly. Trapped and forced into quarantine by hostile neighbors, Alice sees the imprisoning structure of her life in this new predicament. Stripped down to the bare essentials of survival and tending to the needs of her two children, she can no longer ignore all the ways in which she feels limited and lost—lost in the big city, lost as a wife, lost as a mother, lost as a daughter and lost as a person.

As the world shifts around her and the balance in her marriage tilts, Alice and her husband, Pete, are left to consider if what keeps their family safe is the same thing as what keeps their family together.

An interesting and well-written novel about a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of the chaotic spring of 2020. Shetterly does an excellent job of exploring the challenges of not only the pandemic, but also marriage and family when everything seems to be going wrong, and populating the novel with three-dimensional and realistic characters. I quite enjoyed this. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: WORKING by Robert A. Caro (Knopf)

carora-workingusA glimpse into what it takes to write epic non-fiction

From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson: an unprecedented gathering of vivid, candid, deeply moving recollections about his experiences researching and writing his acclaimed books.

Now in paperback, Robert Caro gives us a glimpse into his own life and work in these evocatively written, personal pieces. He describes what it was like to interview the mighty Robert Moses and to begin discovering the extent of the political power Moses wielded; the combination of discouragement and exhilaration he felt confronting the vast holdings of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas; his encounters with witnesses, including longtime residents wrenchingly displaced by the construction of Moses’ Cross-Bronx Expressway and Lady Bird Johnson acknowledging the beauty and influence of one of LBJ’s mistresses. He gratefully remembers how, after years of working in solitude, he found a writers’ community at the New York Public Library, and details the ways he goes about planning and composing his books.

Caro recalls the moments at which he came to understand that he wanted to write not just about the men who wielded power but about the people and the politics that were shaped by that power. And he talks about the importance to him of the writing itself, of how he tries to infuse it with a sense of place and mood to bring characters and situations to life on the page. Taken together, these reminiscencessome previously published, some written expressly for this bookbring into focus the passion, the wry self-deprecation, and the integrity with which this brilliant historian has always approached his work.

A few days ago, a friend of mine shared a link to Robert A. Caro’s 2019 New Yorker essay, “The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives”. I found it to be a fascinating glimpse of what it takes to write the kind of histories that Caro is known for. As I read, I was reminded that I actually had Working, and decided to dive right in. It’s a fascinating memoir about researching, writing, and interviewing. A very rewarding read, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: EVERYBODY KNOWS by Jordan Harper (Mulholland)

HarperJ-EverybodyKnowsUSHCA fearless black-bag publicist exposes the belly of the L.A. beast…

Welcome to Mae Pruett’s Los Angeles, where “Nobody talks. But everybody whispers.” As a “black-bag” publicist tasked not with letting the good news out but keeping the bad news in, Mae works for one of LA’s most powerful and sought-after crisis PR firms, at the center of a sprawling web of lawyers, PR flaks, and private security firms she calls “The Beast.” They protect the rich and powerful and depraved by any means necessary.

After her boss is gunned down in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel in a random attack, Mae takes it upon herself to investigate and runs headfirst into The Beast’s lawless machinations and the twisted systems it exists to perpetuate. It takes her on a roving neon joyride through a Los Angeles full of influencers pumped full of pills and fillers; sprawling mansions footsteps away from sprawling homeless encampments; crooked cops and mysterious wrecking crews in the middle of the night.

Jordan Harper writes superb neo-noir novels, and Everybody Knows is a perfect example. It’s an incisive, gritty examination of how the Hollywood business can erode a person’s morals and standards, all in service to The Beast. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE INVESTIGATOR by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

SandfordJ-LD1-InvestigatorUSHCLetty Davenport steps into the spotlight, and into danger, in this first novel in a great new spin-off series

By age twenty-four, Letty Davenport has seen more action and uncovered more secrets than many law enforcement professionals. Now a recent Stanford grad with a master’s in economics, she’s restless and bored in a desk job for U.S. Senator Colles. Letty’s ready to quit, but her skills have impressed Colles, and he offers her a carrot: feet-on-the-ground investigative work, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

Several oil companies in Texas have reported thefts of crude, Colles tells her.  He isn’t so much concerned with the oil as he is with the money: who is selling the oil, and what are they doing with the profits? Rumor has it that a fairly ugly militia group might be involved. Colles wants to know if the money is going to them, and if so, what they’re planning.

Letty is partnered with a DHS investigator, John Kaiser, and they head to Texas.  When the case quicky turns deadly, they know they’re on the track of something bigger.  The militia group has set in motion an explosive plan… and the clock is ticking down.

Letty is the adopted daughter of Lucas Davenport, the main character in Sandford’s bestselling Prey series. Letty first appeared in Naked Prey (2003), and had been slowly getting more page-time in the series as it progressed. Now, in The Investigator, she gets her first solo outing; and luckily, it’s a solid start to a new series, one that certainly justifies many more. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming/Quick Review: GOTHAM CENTRAL by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka (DC Comics)

GothamCentral-Omnibus2023Writers: Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka | Art: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, & Michael Clark

This isn’t really a review. But, I’ve been reading the Gotham Central series over the last couple of weeks, and I wanted to just give it a quick mention on the website. I also noticed that DC Comics are publishing a new omnibus edition next year (something they’ve been doing for a number of their classic, best-selling, and completed series). First, here’s the synopsis:

Gotham City: a town teeming with corrupt cops, ruthless crime lords, petty thieves… and just a small handful that would oppose them. Grizzled veteran Harvey Bullock, Captain Maggie Sawyer, Detective Renee Montoya and the GCPD are the law force that stands between order and complete anarchy. 

Gotham’s Finest work around the clock to not only keep the world’s most psychotic criminals off the street… but also cleaning up the mess left behind by Batman’s one-man war on crime. 

This Eisner Award-winning series follows the detectives of Gotham City’s Special Crimes Unit as they navigate against the city’s greatest villains–in the shadow of Batman himself. Collects issues #1-40.

If you are a fan of crime fiction, and certainly if you’re a fan of Brubaker’s crime, thriller, and mystery comics, then I think you’ll find a lot to love in this series. It focuses on the lives and work of Gotham City’s M.C.U. (major crimes unit), and follows them as they navigate their jobs in a city that has become overrun by “freaks” (meta-humans and super-criminals). As with all of Brubaker’s and Rucka’s best work, it is also as much about the characters’ personal lives as it is about chasing the Joker, the Mad Hatter, or other villains. The series provides a fascinating and engaging glimpse into how law enforcement operates in the shadow of the Batman — both grateful that he is able to do things that they can’t, but also angry that he often gets in the way, or makes them look bad. Continue reading