Books Received (August-September)

NewBooks-20170907

Featuring: Ned Beauman, Peter V. Brett, C. Robert Cargill, Nelson DeMille, Ian Doescher, Piu Eatwell, Tom Fletcher, Vince Flynn, A.L. Gaylin, Matt Goldman, Beth Gutcheon, Joe Hill, Walter Isaacson, Holly Goddard Jones, John le Carré, Christine Mangan, Jillian Medoff, Claire Messud, Sam J. Miller, Kyle Mills, Thomas Pierce, Tom Rachman, Joshua Reynolds, Adam Roberts, Richard Russo, Lionel Shriver, Robin Sloan, Lisa Tuttle, Robert Webb, Nick Clark Windo, Anna Yen

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BeaumanN-MadnessIsBetterThanDefeatUSNed Beauman, MADNESS IS BETTER THAN DEFEAT (Knopf)

A wild, astonishing literary thriller by arguably England’s most accomplished young writer, about Manhattan and Hollywood in the 1930s, Mayan gods, and a CIA operation gone terribly wrong–the Man Booker short-listed Ned Beauman’s magnum opus thus far.

In 1938, two rival expeditions descend on an ancient temple recently discovered in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit it for his own ends, unaware that the temple is a locus of conspiracies far grander than anyone could ever have guessed. Shot through with insanity, intrigue, ingenuity, and adventure, showcasing Beauman’s anarchic humor, spectacular imagination, and riveting prose, Madness Is Better Than Defeat teases, absorbs, entertains, and dazzles in equal measure.

I’ve had mixed experiences with Beauman’s novels. I’ve always been impressed by his writing, but haven’t always been gripped by the story. I’m hoping, given the synopsis for his latest novel, that I will get on better with this one. Madness is Better than Defeat is published in North America by Knopf, in February 2018; and in the UK by Sceptre (out now).

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Review copy received via Edelweiss

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BolanderB-TheOnlyHarmlessGreatThingBrooke Bolander, THE ONLY HARMLESS THING (Tor.com)

In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.

These are the facts.

Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice.

This I’m really looking forward to reading. It has been described as “a heart-wrenching alternative history… that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.” Which sounds, well, a little weird, but also very cool. Published in January 2018 by Tor.com in North America and the UK.

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Review copy received from publisher

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BrettPV-DC5-CoreUKPeter V. Brett, THE CORE (Voyager)

The war has begun

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them.

Two heroes arosemen as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Painted Man, tattooed head-to-toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combatand emerge victorious. Ahmann Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Kathe final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold deara Swarm. Now the war is at hand, and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen, and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evilfrom which none of them expects to return alive.

The highly-anticipated final Demon Cycle novel! This is probably one of the most eagerly anticipated novels of the year. Published by Voyager in the UK, on September 28th; and in North America by Del Rey, on October 3rd.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Painted ManThe Desert SpearThe Daylight WarThe Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold and Messenger’s Legacy

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Review copy received from publisher

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CargillCR-SeaOfRustUSC. Robert Cargill, SEA OF RUST (Voyager/Gollancz)

A scavenger robot wanders in the wasteland created by a war that has destroyed humanity in this evocative post-apocalyptic “robot western”…

It’s been thirty years since the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human being at the hands of robots. Humankind is extinct. Every man, woman, and child has been liquidated by a global uprising devised by the very machines humans designed and built to serve them. Most of the world is controlled by an OWI — One World Intelligence — the shared consciousness of millions of robots, uploaded into one huge mainframe brain. But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality — their personality — for the sake of a greater, stronger, higher power. These intrepid resisters are outcasts; solo machines wandering among various underground outposts who have formed into an unruly civilization of rogue AIs in the wasteland that was once our world.

One of these resisters is Brittle, a scavenger robot trying to keep a deteriorating mind and body functional in a world that has lost all meaning. Although unable to experience emotions like a human, Brittle is haunted by the terrible crimes the robot population perpetrated on humanity. As Brittle roams the Sea of Rust, a large swath of territory that was once the Midwest, the loner robot slowly comes to terms with horrifyingly raw and vivid memories — and nearly unbearable guilt.

Sea of Rust is both a harsh story of survival and an optimistic adventure. A vividly imagined portrayal of ultimate destruction and desperate tenacity, it boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, yet where a humanlike AI strives to find purpose among the ruins.

Very much been looking forward to this one! Sea of Rust is published by Voyager in North America, and Gollancz in the UK.

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DeMilleN-DM1-CubanAffairUSHCNelson DeMille, THE CUBAN AFFAIR (Simon & Schuster)

Daniel Graham MacCormick — Mac for short — seems to have a pretty good life. At age thirty-five he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. Mac served five years in the Army as an infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan. He returned with the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, scars that don’t tan, and a boat with a big bank loan. Truth be told, Mac’s finances are more than a little shaky.

One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac and The Maine for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this and turns it down. The price then goes up to two million dollars, and Mac agrees to hear the deal, and meet Carlos’s clients — a beautiful Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega, and a mysterious older Cuban exile, Eduardo Valazquez.

What Mac learns is that there is sixty million American dollars hidden in Cuba by Sara’s grandfather when he fled Castro’s revolution. With the “Cuban Thaw” underway between Havana and Washington, Carlos, Eduardo, and Sara know it’s only a matter of time before someone finds the stash — by accident or on purpose. And Mac knows if he accepts this job, he’ll walk away rich… or not at all.

It’s been quite some time since I last read a novel by DeMille — I blitzed through the first few of his John Corey novels (Plum Island, Lion’s Game and Night Fall), but then lost track of his new books. The Cuban Affair is the first in a new series, so maybe a perfect place to jump back in. The book is published by Simon & Schuster in Canada and the US, and Sphere in the UK.

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Review copy received from publisher

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DoescherI-WilliamShakespearesForceDothAwakenIan Doescher, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S THE FORCE DOTH AWAKEN (Quirk)

Experience The Force Awakens as a Shakespeare play, complete with Elizabethan verse, Shakespearian monologues, and theatrical stage directions! As the noble Resistance clashes with the vile First Order, Rey, Finn, Poe Damaron, Kylo Ren, and BB-8 are pulled into a galaxy-wide drama — in iambic pentameter!

Star Wars fans and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike will enjoy the authentic meter, reimagined movie scenes and dialogue, and hidden Easter eggs throughout. Chewbacca speaks! Leader Snoke gives a soliloquy! And the romance of Han Solo and Leia Organa takes a tragic turn that Shakespeare would approve of. All with woodcut-style illustrations that place Star Wars characters into an Elizabethan galaxy. The story may take place in a galaxy far, far away, but you’ll be convinced it was written by the Bard.

I’ve already dipped into this — it’s rather fun. The Force Doth Awaken is published by Quirk Books in North America and the UK.

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Review copy received from publisher

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EatwellP-BlackDahliaRedRoseUKPiu Eatwell, BLACK DAHLIA, RED ROSE (Coronet)

With startling new evidence, this gripping reexamination of the Black Dahlia murder offers a definitive theory of a quintessential American crime.

On January 15th 1947 the naked, dismembered body of a black-haired beauty, Elizabeth Short, was discovered lying next to a pavement in a Hollywood suburb. She was quickly nicknamed The Black Dahlia. The homicide enquiry that followed consumed Los Angeles for years and the authorities blew millions of dollars of resources on an investigation which threw up dozens of suspects. But it never was solved, until now. Piu Eatwell for the first time reveals compelling evidence, both forensic and eye witness, which finally points to the identity of the murderer. This is a dark tale of sex, manipulation, orgies, obsession, psychopathy and one of the biggest police cover ups in history. The case was immortalised in James Ellroy’s famous novel based on the case, in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon and Brian de Palma’s movie.

This sounds like it could be quite interesting. I haven’t read James Ellroy’s classic crime novel about the murder (though I did recently buy it), nor have I seen de Palma’s movie. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued. Black Dahlia, Red Rose is published in the UK by Coronet, on September 28th; and in the US by Liveright, in October.

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Review copy received from publisher

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FletcherT-F2-IdleHandsUKTom Fletcher, IDLE HANDS (Jo Fletcher Books)

Can Wild Alan unite the Discard against the tyranny of the Pyramid?

Idle Hands is an ancient disease that once tore through the Discard, and if Wild Alan doesn’t find a way into the Black Pyramid to administer the cure to his son, Billy, it will soon be stalking Gleam once again. Even with Bloody Nora’s help, there’s only one way in — and that’s through the Sump, which was sealed long ago to contain the horrors within.

And for Alan, the Black Pyramid will be even more dangerous. Thanks to the disease, the Pyramidders’ fear and loathing of the Discard is reaching fever-pitch — and Alan is the most well-known Discarder of all.

Bloody Nora has her own agenda. All the information she needs to complete her people’s Great Work is hidden in the Pyramid – but just by being there, she is violating a centuries-old treaty between the Pyramid and the Mapmakers, which could spark conflict between the two greatest powers that Gleam knows.

This is the second novel in Fletcher’s Factory Trilogy, following on from 2014’s Gleam. I haven’t read the first in the series, but I heard pretty good things about it. Idle Hands is out now, published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books.

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Review copy received from publisher

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GaylinAL-IfIDieTonightUKA.L. Gaylin, IF I DIE TONIGHT (Arrow)

There was a time when Jackie Reed knew her sons better than anyone. She used to be able to tell what they were thinking, feeling, if they were lying…

But it’s as though every day, every minute even, she knows them a little less. Her boys aren’t boys anymore, they’re becoming men – men she’s not sure she recognises, men she’s not sure she can trust.

So when one of her son’s classmates is killed in suspicious circumstances, people start asking questions.

Was it really a hit and run? A car-jacking gone wrong? Or something much more sinister?

Now Jackie must separate the truth from the lies.

How did that boy end up on the road?

And where was her son that night?

The latest thriller from the author of What Remains of Me. Published by Arrow in the UK, and William Morrow in North America.

Also on CR: Interview with Alison Gaylin (2014)

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Review copy received from publisher

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gone to dust 4-c galley.inddMatt Goldman, GONE TO DUST (Forge)

A brutal crime. The ultimate cover-up. How do you solve a murder with no useable evidence?

Private detective Nils Shapiro is focused on forgetting his ex-wife and keeping warm during another Minneapolis winter when a former colleague, neighboring Edina Police Detective Anders Ellegaard, calls with the impossible.

Suburban divorcee Maggie Somerville was found murdered in her bedroom, her body covered with the dust from hundreds of emptied vacuum cleaner bags, all potential DNA evidence obscured by the calculating killer.

Digging into Maggie’s cell phone records, Nils finds that the most frequently called number belongs to a mysterious young woman whose true identity could shatter the Somerville family — but could she be guilty of murder?

After the FBI demands that Nils drop the case, Nils and Ellegaard are forced to take their investigation underground, where the case grows as murky as the contents of the vacuum cleaner bags. Is this a strange case of domestic violence or something with far reaching, sinister implications?

I have a soft-spot for thrillers set in Minnesota. Ever since discovering John Sandofrd’s superb Lucas Davenport/Prey series, I’ve tried any new series I’ve stumbled across set in that state. This led me to Owen Laukkanen’s series, which has become another favourite. I have high hopes for this one. Gone to Dust is published by Forge Books, and is available in the UK on import.

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GutcheonB-2-AfflictionUSBeth Gutcheon, THE AFFLICTION (William Morrow)

Since retiring as head of a famous New York City private school, Maggie Detweiler is busier than ever. Chairing a team to evaluate the faltering Rye Manor School for girls, she will determine whether, in spite of its fabled past, the school has a future at all. With so much on the line for so many, tensions on campus are at an excruciating pitch, and Maggie expects to be as welcome as a case of Ebola virus.

At a reception for the faculty and trustees to “welcome” Maggie’s team, no one seems more keen for all to go well than Florence Meagher, a star teacher who is loved and respected in spite of her affliction — that she can never stop talking.

Florence is one of those dedicated teachers for whom the school is her life, and yet the next morning, when Maggie arrives to observe her teaching, Florence is missing. Florence’s husband, Ray, an auxiliary policeman in the village, seems more annoyed than alarmed at her disappearance. But Florence’s sister is distraught. There have been tensions in the marriage, and at their last visit, Florence had warned, “If anything happens to me, don’t assume it’s an accident.”

Two days later, Florence’s body is found in the campus swimming pool.

Maggie is asked to stay on to coach the very young and inexperienced head of Rye Manor through the crisis. Maggie obviously knows schools, but she also knows something about investigating murder, having solved a mysterious death in Maine the previous year when the police went after the wrong suspect. She is soon joined by her madcap socialite friend Hope, who is jonesing for an excuse to ditch her book club anyway, before she has to actually read Silas Marner.

What on earth is going on in this idyllic town? Is this a run-of-the-mill marital murder? Or does it have something to do with the school board treasurer’s real estate schemes? And what is up with the vicious cyber-bullying that’s unsettled everyone, or with the disturbed teenaged boy whom Florence had made a pet of? And is it possible that someone killed Florence just so she’d finally shut up?

This is the second novel in Gutcheon’s Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin Series. I haven’t read the first novel, yet (Death at Breakfast), but I’m intrigued. Published in March 2018 by William Morrow in North America, and Harper in the UK.

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Review copy received via Edelweiss

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HillJ-StrangeWeatherUSJoe Hill, STRANGE WEATHER (William Morrow)

A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror…

“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump… and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails — splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.

Really looking forward to this. Strange Weather is published on October 24th by William Morrow in North America, Gollancz in the UK.

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Review copy received via Edelweiss

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IsaacsonW-LeonardoDaVinciUSWalter Isaacson, LEONARDO DA VINCI (Simon & Schuster)

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.

He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius.

His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from having wide-ranging passions. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history’s most memorable smile. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo’s lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions.

Leonardo’s delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it — to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.

The latest door-stopper biography from one of the best in the business. After critically-acclaimed biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs and Einstein, Isaacson turns his pen to one of the worlds most interesting artists/polymaths ever. Published by Simon & Schuster in North America and the UK, in October 2017.

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Review copy received via Edelweiss

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JonesHG-SaltLineUSHolly Goddard Jones, THE SALT LINE (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

How far will they go for their freedom — once they decide what freedom really means?

In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line — a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what’s left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife.

Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks — and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line.

This novel has been getting a fair bit of pre-release buzz, compared to Station Eleven and California. I’m looking forward to giving it a try. The Salt Line is out now, published in North America and the UK by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

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Review copy received from publisher

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KantariaA-TheOneThatGotAwayUKAnnabel Kantaria, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (HQ)

Everyone has one. An ex you still think about. The one who makes you ask ‘what if’?

Fifteen years have passed since Stella and George last saw each other. But something makes Stella click yes’ to the invite to her school reunion.

There’s still a spark between them, and although their relationship ended badly, they begin an affair.

But once someone gets you back, sometimes they’re never going to let you go again.

This sounds like it could be interesting. Published by HQ in the UK, on September 21st.

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Review copy received from publisher

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leCarreJ-GS9-ALegacyOfSpiesUSJohn le Carré, A LEGACY OF SPIES (Viking)

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.

Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carré has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carré and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new.

This is the ninth George Smiley novel. I haven’t actually read any of them, but did recently pick up the first three. Not sure if it’s essential to read them all in order, but I’m certainly looking forward to getting to this one. The synopsis suggests that it might be enough to read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, so I’ll do at least that. A Legacy of Spies is published by Viking in North America and the UK.

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ManganC-TangerineUSChristine Mangan, TANGERINE (Ecco)

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends — once inseparable roommates — haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be glad for a familiar face. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy — always fearless and independent — helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice — she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

I’m quite looking forward to reading this. I can’t remember exactly what made me request an ARC, but I just read that Scarlett Johansson has signed on to play the lead in a movie adaptation, so maybe that’s what drew my attention to the novel? Published in North America by Ecco, on March 20th, 2018; and Little, Brown in the UK, on March 22nd, 2018.

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Review copy received via Edelweiss

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MedoffJ-ThisCouldHurtUSJillian Medoff, THIS COULD HURT (Harper)

Rosa Guerrero beat the odds as she rose to the top of the corporate world. An attractive woman of a certain age, the longtime chief of human resources at Ellery Consumer Research is still a formidable presence, even if her most vital days are behind her. A leader who wields power with grace and discretion, she has earned the devotion and loyalty of her staff. No one admires Rosa more than her doting lieutenant Leo Smalls, a benefits vice president whose whole world is Ellery.

While Rosa is consumed with trying to address the needs of her staff within the ever constricting limits of the company’s bottom line, her associate director, Rob Hirsch, a middle-aged, happily married father of two, finds himself drawing closer to his “work wife,” Lucy Bender, an enterprising single woman searching for something — a romance, a promotion — to fill the vacuum in her personal life. For Kenny Verville, a senior manager with an MBA, Ellery is a temporary stepping-stone to bigger and better places — that is, if his high-powered wife has her way.

Compelling, flawed, and heartbreakingly human, these men and women scheme, fall in and out of love, and nurture dreams big and small. As their individual circumstances shift, one thing remains constant — Rosa, the sun around whom they all orbit. When her world begins to crumble, the implications for everyone are profound, and Leo, Rob, Lucy, and Kenny find themselves changed in ways beyond their reckoning.

This has been described as a “fusion of The Nest, Up in the Air, and Then We Came to the End“, so I’m pretty intrigued to give this a try. This Could Hurt is published in January 2018 by Harper in North America and the UK.

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Review copy received via Edelweiss

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MessudC-BurningGirlUSClaire Messud, THE BURNING GIRL (W.W. Norton/Fleet)

Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality — crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.

To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships?

I enjoyed Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, but haven’t been able to connect with The Woman Upstairs. I have high hopes for this novel, though, and will read ASAP. Published by W.W. Norton in North America, and Fleet in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

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MillerSJ-BlackfishCityUSSam J. Miller, BLACKFISH CITY (Ecco)

After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle, a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, complete with geothermal heating and sustainable energy. The city’s denizens have become accustomed to a roughshod new way of living, however, the city is starting to fray along the edges — crime and corruption have set in, the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside direst poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called “the breaks” is ravaging the population.

When a strange new visitor arrives — a woman riding an orca, with a polar bear at her side — the city is entranced. The “orcamancer,” as she’s known, very subtly brings together four people — each living on the periphery — to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together to save their city before it crumbles under the weight of its own decay, they will learn shocking truths about themselves.

I am really intrigued by this novel, not least because it has been described as “hopefully” (which makes a nice, welcome change in this… less than hopeful age). I haven’t seen too much pre-publication buzz yet (fair enough, given how long it is until publication), but I imagine we’ll start to see a lot more. Blackfish City is published in April 2018 by Ecco in North America, and Orbit in the UK.

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Review copy received via Edelweiss

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Flynn&Mills-MR14-EnemyOfTheStateUSKyle Mills, ENEMY OF THE STATE (Atria)

After 9/11, the United States made one of the most secretive and dangerous deals in its history. The evidence against the powerful Saudis who coordinated the attack would be buried. In return, King Faisal would promise to keep the oil flowing and deal with the conspirators in his midst.

When the king’s own nephew is discovered funding ISIS, the president suspects that the Saudis never intended to live up to their agreement. He decides that the royalty needs to be sent a message and that Mitch Rapp is just the man to deliver it. The catch? America can’t be seen moving against an ally. Rapp will be on his own. Forced to make a decision that will change his life forever, Rapp quits the CIA and assembles a group of independent contractors to help him complete the mission.

They’ve barely begun unraveling the connections between the Saudi government and ISIS when the brilliant new head of the intelligence directorate discovers their efforts. With Rapp getting too close, he threatens to go public with the details of the post-9/11 agreement between the two countries.

Facing an international incident that could end his political career, the President orders America’s intelligence agencies to join the Saudis’ effort to hunt the former CIA man down.

Rapp, supported only by a team of mercenaries with dubious allegiances, finds himself at the center of the most elaborate manhunt in history. It’s only a matter of time before he’s caught or killed. Will it be enough to turn the tables on the Saudis and clear his name?

Mills’s third novel continuing Vince Flynn’s excellent Mitch Rapp series. I’ve only recently read his first, The Survivor, and hope to get caught up very soon. Published by Atria in North America, and Simon & Schuster in the UK.

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PierceT-AfterlivesUSThomas Pierce, THE AFTERLIVES (Riverhead Books)

Jim Byrd died. Technically. For a few minutes. The diagnosis: heart attack at age thirty. Revived with no memory of any tunnels, lights, or angels, Jim wonders what–if anything–awaits us on the other side. 

Then a ghost shows up. Maybe. Jim and his new wife, Annie, find themselves tangling with holograms, psychics, messages from the beyond, and a machine that connects the living and the dead. As Jim and Annie journey through history and fumble through faith, they confront the specter of loss that looms for anyone who dares to fall in love. Funny, fiercely original, and gracefully moving, The Afterlives will haunt you. In a good way.

This sounds like it could be fun. The Afterlives is due to be published in January 2018 in North America by Riverhead Books, and in the UK by Blackfriars. I also picked up Pierce’s 2015 short story collection, Hall of Small Animals (this, too, will be published in the UK in January 2018).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via Edelweiss

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RachmanT-BasketOfDeplorablesTom Rachman, BASKET OF DEPLORABLES (Riverrun)

Almost-true stories for a post-truth world

Wrong! Not Nice! Sad!

A Manhattan party on election night. Liberal media types gather with big grins and high-end canapés to watch the Trump-Clinton results come in, expecting a smooth victory for Hillary. As the outcome shifts and they descend into panic, the host stands abruptly before her guests, confessing a shocking crime of years before.

What follows is a series of witty, cutting, addictive tales of Trump times, portraying Democrats and Republicans in a divided America, from powerful to powerless, angry to thwarted, from a Starbucks barista who dreams of making it on the stage, to a couple whose online date goes bitterly awry, to a charmingly wicked U.S. businessman living undercover in rural Italy.

Basket of Deplorables is a timely take on the craziness of today: almost-true fiction for a post-truth world.

I believe this was first written as an audio-drama, but has now been converted into a prose edition. Read it in two sittings, and really enjoyed it. It’s not as dominated by Trump’s victory as one might think from that synopsis, but there is no doubt that our new, strange reality informs everything in this collection. Published by Riverrun in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

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ReynoldsJ-AoS-8L1-SpearOfShadowsJoshua Reynolds, SPEAR OF SHADOWS (Black Library)

In the beginning, there was fire. And from fire came eight weapons of terrible power, honed to a killing edge by the chosen weaponsmiths of Khorne. Now, as the Mortal Realms echo with the thunder of war, the great powers hunt the eight wherever they might be found – whatever the cost. In a city of prophecy and secrets, Grungni, smith-god of the duardin, gathers together a group of mortal warriors from across the realms in order to seek the first of the eight. But they are not alone in their quest; agents of the Ruinous Powers want the weapon for themselves. Now the race is on, as man, duardin and daemon alike seek to claim the Spear of Shadows…

A short(ish) while ago, GW re-set their Warhammer fantasy universe, moving it into a new direction, the Age of Sigmar. Most of the early fiction seemed to be heavily focused on action and battles, which didn’t really appeal. However, things seem to be moving a bit more towards world-building and storytelling. After reading Reynolds’s Auction of Blood short story (which was really good), I found my interest piqued. I’m reading Nick Horth’s City of Secrets at the moment (it’s pretty good so far), and I’ll be moving on to Spear of Shadows very soon. The first in a new trilogy, the Eight Lamentations, I’m really looking forward to reading it. Published by Black Library, it’s out now.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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RobertsA-RealTownMurdersUKAdam Roberts, THE REAL-TOWN MURDERS (Gollancz)

An impossible murder. A ticking deadline. A political coup. A Hitchcockian thriller set in a chilling near future.

Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying.

Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine.

So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.

What follows is a fast-paced Hitchcockian thriller as Alma evades arrest, digs into the conspiracy, and tries to work out how on earth a dead body appeared in the boot of a freshly-made car in a fully-automated factory.

Really looking forward to reading this! The Real-Town Murders is out now, published by Gollancz in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher

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RussoR-DestinyThiefUSRichard Russo, THE DESTINY THIEF (Knopf)

In these nine essays, Richard Russo provides insight into his life as a writer, teacher, friend, and reader. From a commencement speech he gave at Colby College, to the story of how an oddly placed toilet made him reevaluate the purpose of humor in art and life, to a comprehensive analysis of Mark Twain’s value, to his harrowing journey accompanying a dear friend as she pursued gender-reassignment surgery, The Destiny Thief reflects the broad interests and experiences of one of America’s most beloved authors. Warm, funny, wise, and poignant, the essays included here traverse Russo’s writing life, expanding our understanding of who he is and how his singular, incredibly generous mind works. An utter joy to read, they give deep insight into the creative process from the prospective of one of our greatest writers.

If you’ve been following CR over the past two years or so, you may have spotted that I have become quite the fanboy of Russo’s writing. True, I have some way to go before I’ve fully caught up with his novels (I’ve only read two of them, as well as two anthologies), but I very much like the way he writes and his characters. The Destiny Thief is a little different, as it is a collection of non-fiction pieces. It is due to be published in North America by Knopf, in May 2018 (nevertheless, I’ll be reading this very soon — I’ll just hold off on the review for a while).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Review copy received via Edelweiss

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ShriverL-PropertyUSLionel Shriver, PROPERTY (Harper)

Intermingling settings in America and Britain, Lionel Shriver’s first collection explores property in both senses of the word: real estate, and stuff. These pieces illustrate how our possessions act as a proxies for ourselves, and how tussles over ownership articulate the power dynamics of our relationships. In Shriver’s world, we may possess people and objects and places, but in turn they possess us.

In the stunning novella “The Standing Chandelier,” a woman with a history of attracting other women’s antagonism creates a deeply personal wedding present for her best friend and his fiancée — only to discover that the jealous fiancée wants to cut her out of their lives. In “Domestic Terrorism,” a thirty-something son refuses to leave home, resulting in a standoff that renders him a Millennial cause célèbre. In “The ChapStick,” a middle-aged man subjugated by service to his elderly father discovers that the last place you should finally assert yourself is airport security. In “Vermin,” an artistic Brooklyn couples purchase of a ramshackle house destroys their once passionate relationship. In “The Subletter,” two women, both foreign conflict junkies, fight over claim to a territory that doesn’t belong to either.

An anthology of thematically-linked short stories and novellas. This sounds like it could be interesting. Published in April 2018 in North America by Harper, and in the UK by The Borough Press.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Review copy received via Edelweiss

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SloanR-SourdoughUSRobin Sloan, SOURDOUGH (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her — feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

I rather enjoyed Sloan’s previous novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and have been keeping my eyes open for his follow-up. Sourdough is that novel, and it also sounds rather good. Will hopefully read very soon. Published by FSG in North America, and Atlantic Books in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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TuttleL-J&L2-WitchAtWaysideCrossUKLisa Tuttle, THE WITCH AT WAYSIDE CROSS (Jo Fletcher Books)

Should you find yourself in need of a discreet investigation into any sort of mystery, crime or puzzling circumstances, think of Jesperson and Lane…

Jesperson and Lane have just solved their first major case when a man bangs violently on their door — and almost immediately drops dead. The police rule death by natural causes, but the detectives are determined to find out what really happened…

Mr Manning was screaming about witches before his death.

The case takes them to Mr Manning’s Norfolk home, a land of mysterious Shrieking Pits and ancient knowledge. Mr Manning was himself a member of the enigmatic School of Ancient British Wisdom, and not the first to suffer a similar fate. Local gossip suggests that he was secretly engaged to one of the three lovely sisters who reside at Wayside Cross — but which one? Are they really witches, as the gossips also claim?

And what does all this have to do with the mysterious Shrieking Pits and a mother desperate to find her missing baby?

Jesperson and Lane, at your service.

This is the sequel to The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief, which I managed to somehow completely miss. It’s not my usual biblio-fare, but I think I’ve been hearing good things about Tuttle’s writing. Maybe I’ll give it a try in the near future. The Witch at Wayside Cross is published by Jo Fletcher Books.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Review copy received from publisher

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WebbR-HowNotToBeABoyUKRobert Webb, HOW NOT TO BE A BOY (Canongate)

RULES FOR BEING A MAN

Don’t Cry; Love Sport; Play Rough; Drink Beer; Don’t Talk About Feelings

But Robert Webb has been wondering for some time now: are those rules actually any use? To anyone?

Looking back over his life, from schoolboy crushes (on girls and boys) to discovering the power of making people laugh (in the Cambridge Footlights with David Mitchell), and from losing his beloved mother to becoming a husband and father, Robert Webb considers the absurd expectations boys and men have thrust upon them at every stage of life.

Hilarious and heartbreaking, How Not To Be a Boy explores the relationships that made Robert who he is as a man, the lessons we learn as sons and daughters, and the understanding that sometimes you aren’t the Luke Skywalker of your life – you’re actually Darth Vader.

Big fan of Mitchell & Webb, so I’ve been looking forward to this ever since it was announced. (I also highly recommend David Mitchell’s Back Story.) How Not to Be a Boy is published in the UK by Canongate.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via Audible

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WindoNC-FeedUSNick Clark Windo, THE FEED (Headline)

It makes us. It destroys us.

Now, we must learn to live without it.

The Feed is accessible everywhere, by everyone, at any time. It instantaneously links us to all information and global events as they break. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it; it is the essential tool everyone relies on to know and understand the thoughts and feelings of partners, parents, friends, children, colleagues, bosses, employees… in fact, of anyone and everyone else in the world.

Tom and Kate use The Feed, but Tom has resisted its addiction, which makes him suspect to his family. After all, his father created it. But that opposition to constant connection serves Tom and Kate well when the Feed collapses after a horrific tragedy shatters the world as they know it.

The Feed’s collapse, taking modern society with it, leaves people scavenging to survive. Finding food is truly a matter of life or death. Minor ailments, previously treatable, now kill. And while the collapse has demolished the trappings of the modern world, it has also eroded trust. In a world where survival of the fittest is a way of life, there is no one to depend upon except yourself… and maybe even that is no longer true.

Tom and Kate have managed to protect themselves and their family. But then their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing. Who has taken her? How do you begin to look for someone in a world without technology? And what happens when you can no longer even be certain that the people you love are really who they claim to be?

This sounds like it could be very interesting. The Feed is published in January 2018 by Headline in the UK; and in March 2018 by William Morrow in North America (cover is for US edition, as UK cover not available at time of writing).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher

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YenA-SophiaOfSiliconValleyUSAnna Yen, SOPHIA OF SILICON VALLEY (William Morrow)

A brilliant young Asian woman navigates the thrilling world of Silicon Valley in the boom years of the tech industry, working for some of the greatest minds of our time, including Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, in this a fast-paced satirical, and revealing novel — drawn from the author’s own experiences — in the spirit of The Devil Wears Prada, Primates of Park Avenue, and Bond Girl

The daughter of successful Taiwanese immigrants, Sophia Young has always spoken her mind, and in Silicon Valley, that turns out to be her greatest asset — especially when she’s often the only woman in a room. As companies like Apple, Google, Tesla, and Oracle are beginning to revolutionize the world, Sophia lucks into a job that puts her directly in the path of Scott Kraft, the eccentric founder of a groundbreaking software company and CEO of an animated film studio that is transforming the art.

As Scott’s right hand woman, the incorrigibly outspoken Sophia is in the eye of the storm — a thrilling and terrifying position that challenges her, threatens her relationships and even her health, yet ultimately teaches her how to take charge of her own future. But when engineer and inventor Andre Stark hires her to run investor relations, Sophia starts to question whether the big paycheck and high-status career are worth living in a boys-club gone bad.

Thought this sounded interesting. Published by William Morrow in April 2018, in North America and the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via Edelweiss

 

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