New Books (May-June)


Featuring: Mark Adams, Tom Barbash, RJ Barker, Laird Barron, Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, Gail Carrier, Bill Clinton, Nadia Dalbuono, Sebastien de Castell, Nicholas Eames, Joseph Fink, Lauren Groff, Nick Harkaway, Max Hastings, Jon Hollins, A.M. Homes, Phil Kelly, Harrison Scott Key, Steve Kornacki, Dale Lucas, Brian McClellan, David Mealing, Lawrence Osborne, James Patterson, Joanne Proulx, Vivian Shaw, Anna Smith Spark, Tasha Suri, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tade Thompson, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Jennifer Wolfe


AdamsM-TipOfTheIcebergUSMark Adams, TIP OF THE ICEBERG (Dutton)

A fascinating and funny journey into Alaska, America’s last frontier, retracing the historic 1899 Harriman Expedition.

In 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman organized a most unusual summer voyage to the wilds of Alaska: He converted a steamship into a luxury “floating university,” populated by some of America’s best and brightest scientists and writers, including the anti-capitalist eco-prophet John Muir. Those aboard encountered a land of immeasurable beauty and impending environmental calamity. More than a hundred years later, Alaska is still America’s most sublime wilderness, both the lure that draws a million tourists annually on Inside Passage cruises and a natural resources larder waiting to be raided. As ever, it remains a magnet for weirdos and dreamers.

Armed with Dramamine and an industrial-strength mosquito net, Mark Adams sets out to retrace the 1899 expedition. Using the state’s intricate public ferry system, the Alaska Marine Highway System, Adams travels three thousand miles, following the George W. Elder’s itinerary north through Wrangell, Juneau, and Glacier Bay, then continuing west into the colder and stranger regions of the Aleutians and the Arctic Circle. Along the way, he encounters dozens of unusual characters (and a couple of very hungry bears) and investigates how lessons learned in 1899 might relate to Alaska’s current struggles in adapting to climate change.

I first came across Mark Adams’s work via Turn Right at Machu Picchu — it was, strangely, at a bookstore in Boston, shortly before I went back to Peru. Intending to read it on that trip, I bought it and promptly forgot all about it. (I rarely get much reading done in Peru.) I intend to read it pretty soon, though; as I do with this new book, which also sounds really interesting. Tip of the Iceberg is published by Dutton in North America and the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter


BarbashT-DakotaWintersUSTom Barbash, THE DAKOTA WINTERS (Ecco)

An evocative and wildly absorbing novel about the Winters, a family living in New York City’s famed Dakota apartment building in the year leading up to John Lennon’s assassination

It’s the fall of 1979 in New York City when twenty-three-year-old Anton Winter, back from the Peace Corps and on the mend from a nasty bout of malaria, returns to his childhood home in the Dakota. Anton’s father, the famous late-night host Buddy Winter, is there to greet him, himself recovering from a breakdown. Before long, Anton is swept up in an effort to reignite Buddy’s stalled career, a mission that takes him from the gritty streets of New York, to the slopes of the Lake Placid Olympics, to the Hollywood Hills, to the blue waters of the Bermuda Triangle, and brings him into close quarters with the likes of Johnny Carson, Ted and Joan Kennedy, and a seagoing John Lennon.

But the more Anton finds himself enmeshed in his father’s professional and spiritual reinvention, the more he questions his own path, and fissures in the Winter family begin to threaten their close bond. By turns hilarious and poignant, The Dakota Winters is a family saga, a page-turning social novel, and a tale of a critical moment in the history of New York City and the country at large.


BarbashT-LastGoodChanceUSTom Barbash, THE LAST GOOD CHANCE (Ecco)

A young man’s plan to revitalize his hometown leads four of its inhabitants down alternating paths of desire and deceit

When the charismatic Jack Lambeau returns to his hometown along Lake Ontario with an eye toward revitalizing its fading post-industrial waterfront into a tasteful commercial development for tourists and yuppies, the town of Lakeland quickly gets on board. At first glance, Jack seems to have it all: a successful urban planner, he’s also brought home his fiancée, Anne, a talented artist with whom he’s fiercely in love. But it doesn’t take long for cracks to appear in Jack’s idyllic life

Enter Steven Turner – exiled New Yorker, local reporter looking for a scoop, and Jack’s best friend in Lakeland. Between the two of them come Anne, who Steven grows close to, and Jack’s floundering brother Harris, who spends his nights breaking the law to bury the mistakes of the past that might derail Jack’s plans. As Steven’s personal and professional incursion into Jack’s life intensifies, all four characters find themselves starting to unravel.

This December, Tom Barbash has two new novels dropping: The Dakota Winters and The Last Good Chance. Both sounded really interesting, and maybe Richard Russo-esque, so I requested review copies. Both novels are due to be published by Ecco in North America; The Dakota Winters is also due to be published in the UK by ScribnerThe Last Good Chance is a re-issue of the author’s debut novel, but I couldn’t find a UK listing for it.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copies received via Edelweiss


BarkerRJ-3-KingOfAssassinsRJ Barker, KING OF ASSASSINS (Orbit)

The epic conclusion to a debut fantasy trilogy, set in a world ravaged by magic, featuring a cast of assassins, knights, and ambitious noblemen.

Many years of peace have passed in Maniyadoc, years of relative calm for the assassin Girton Club-Foot. Even the Forgetting Plague, which ravaged the rest of the kingdoms, seemed to pass them by.

But now Rufra ap Vthyr eyes the vacant High-King’s throne and will take his court to the capital, a rat’s nest of intrigue and murder, where every enemy he has ever made will gather and the endgame of twenty years of politics and murder will be played out in his bid to become the King of all Kings.

Friends become enemies, enemies become friends, and the god of death, Xus the Unseen, stands closer than ever – casting his shadow over everything most dear to Girton.

I have been eagerly awaiting this novel! I really enjoyed the first two books in the Wounded Kingdom series, and can’t wait to see how it ends. King of Assassins is due to be published by Orbit Books in August 2018, in North America and in the UK.

Also on CR: Interview with RJ Barker (2017); Reviews of Age of Assassins and Blood of Assassins

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


BarronL-01-BloodStandardUSLaird Barron, BLOOD STANDARD (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Isaiah Coleridge is a mob enforcer in Alaska — he’s tough, seen a lot, and dished out more. But when he forcibly ends the moneymaking scheme of a made man, he gets in the kind of trouble that can lead to a bullet behind the ear. Saved by the grace of his boss and exiled to upstate New York, Isaiah begins a new life, a quiet life without gunshots or explosions. Except a teenage girl disappears, and Isaiah isn’t one to let that slip by. And delving into the underworld to track this missing girl will get him exactly the kind of notice he was warned to avoid.

You may know Laird Barron’s name from his critically-acclaimed SFF work, but Blood Standard is his debut crime/thriller novel, and the first in the Isaiah Coleridge series. I’m really looking forward to reading it. Blood Standard is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in North America, and will be available in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter


BrooksT-FoS2-SkaarInvasionUKTerry Brooks, THE SKAAR INVASION (Orbit)

The Four Lands are under siege. Wielding a magical ability virtually impossible to combat, mysterious invaders defeat the most fearsome Troll armies, then focus their savagery on the Druid order — and all hope seems lost.

Eventually the invaders reveal a more human face, but understanding their motives in no way mitigates the brutality of their actions. Dar Leah, once the High Druid’s Blade, has crossed paths — and swords — with their ruthless leader before. So he knows that if any hope exists, it rests in the hands of the Druid Drisker Arc, now trapped inside vanished Paranor.

As Drisker races to find the ancient knowledge that could free him, Dar goes in search of Tarsha Kaynin, the young woman blessed with the powerful gift of the wishsong, whose magic could draw Drisker back into the world of the living. But little do they know that what appeared to be a formidable invading force may only be the forerunner of a much larger army — one intent on nothing less than total conquest.

This is the second novel in the Fall of Shannara four-part conclusion to Brooks’s classic, long-lived epic fantasy series. The Skaar Invasion is published by Orbit Books in the UK, and Del Rey in North America.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


ButcherJ-BriefCasesUKJim Butcher, BRIEF CASES (Orbit)

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Return to the world of the Dresden Files with Harry Dresden (the only wizard in the Chicago phone book) and friends as they solve supernatural mysteries, protect the helpless, and fight evil.

Brief Cases is a new collection of Dresden Files stories which will include an original novella, from international bestseller Jim Butcher.

Stories included in this collection: ‘Curses’, ‘AAAA Wizardry’, ‘Even Hand’, ‘B is for Bigfoot’, ‘I was a Teenage Bigfoot’, ‘Bigfoot on Campus’, ‘Bombshells’, ‘Jury Duty’, ‘Cold Case’, ‘Day One’, ‘A Fistful of Warlocks’, ‘Zoo Day’ (original novella taking place between Skin Game and Peace Talks)

A new collection of short stories in Butcher’s best-selling, popular Dresden Files series. It’s been quite some time since I last read one of the Dresden novels. I’ve heard they get better with each new one, so maybe I should dive back in. Brief Cases is out now, published in the UK by Orbit and in North America by Ace Books.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


CarrigerG-CP3-CompetenceUSGail Carriger, COMPETENCE (Orbit)

Accidentally abandoned!

All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail.

When she uncovers rumors of a new kind of vampire, Prim and the Custard crew embark on a mission to Peru. There, they encounter airship pirates and strange atmospheric phenomena, and are mistaken for representatives of the Spanish Inquisition. Forced into extreme subterfuge (and some rather ridiculous outfits) Prim must also answer three of life’s most challenging questions:

Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul?

Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez?

And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species?

This is the third novel in Carriger’s Custard Protocol trilogy, a follow-up to the best-selling, critically-acclaimed Parasol ProtectorateCompetence is published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, in July 2018.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


ClintonPatterson-PresidentIsMissingUSBill Clinton & James Patterson, THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING (Little, Brown)

The President Is Missing confronts a threat so huge that it jeopardizes not just Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street, but all of America. Uncertainty and fear grip the nation. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the Cabinet. Even the President himself becomes a suspect, and then he disappears from public view…

Set over the course of three days, The President Is Missing sheds a stunning light upon the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our nation. Filled with information that only a former Commander-in-Chief could know, this is the most authentic, terrifying novel to come along in many years.

Bill Clinton is famously fond of crime and thriller novels. He is also a best-selling author. James Patterson is one of the best-selling thriller authors ever. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that the two have collaborated on this novel. Usually, I find Patterson’s co-authored novels to be inferior to his solo-penned Alex Cross series. However, with Clinton as his co-author, this could be rather excellent. I started reading it on the day of release. The President is Missing is out now, published by Little, Brown in North America and Century in the UK.

Follow the Author, Clinton: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author, Patterson: Website, Goodreads, Twitter


DalbuonoD-LS2-AmericanUSNadia Dalbuono, THE AMERICAN (Scribe)

In breathtaking developments that link 9/11, America’s dirty wars, Vatican corruption, the Mafia, and Italy’s violence against its own people, Detective Leone Scamarcio has to deal with responsibilities far above his pay grade.

As autumn sets in, the queues outside the soup kitchens of Rome are lengthening, and the people are taking to the piazzas, increasingly frustrated by the deepening economic crisis.

When Detective Leone Scamarcio is called to an apparent suicide on the Ponte Sant’Angelo, a stone’s throw from Vatican City, the dead man’s expensive suit suggests yet another businessman fallen on hard times. But Scamarcio is immediately troubled by similarities with the 1982 murder of Roberto Calvi, dubbed ‘God’s Banker’ because of his work for the Vatican Bank.

When, days later, a cardinal with links to the bank is killed, and the CIA send a couple of heavies to warn him off the case, Scamarcio knows he’s onto something big.

As disturbing connections between 9/11, America’s dirty wars, Vatican corruption, the Mafia, and Italy’s violence against its own people begin to emerge in this tightly plotted mystery full of political intrigue, Scamarcio is forced to deal with responsibilities far above his pay grade.

This is the second novel in Dalbuono’s Leone Scamarcio series. I missed the first novel when it was published, not to mention the others: the series has been publishing in the UK for some time, and the fourth — The Extremist — will be out this year. The American is due to be published by Scribe in North America, on February 5th, 2018.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via Edelweiss


deCastell-S1-SpellslingerUSSebastien de Castell, SPELLSLINGER (Orbit)

A would-be mage with no magic of his own has to defeat powerful enemies with only cunning and deception in the first book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.

Kellen is moments away from facing his first duel and proving his worth as a spellcaster. There’s just one problem: his magic is fading.

Facing exile unless he can pass the mage trials, Kellen is willing to risk everything – even his own life – in search of a way to restore his magic. But when the enigmatic Ferius Parfax arrives in town, she challenges him to take a different path.

One of the elusive Argosi, Ferius is a traveller who lives by her wits and the cards she carries. Daring, unpredictable, and wielding magic Kellen has never seen before, she may be his only hope.


deCastell-S2-ShadowblackUSSebastien de Castell, SHADOWBLACK (Orbit)

A failed mage turned outlaw must use guile and a handful of spells to challenge a dangerous rival…

With a death sentence hanging over his head, Kellen is forced to abandon his clan and his home. Living as an outlaw, he relies on his wits and allies, the mysterious wanderer Ferius and thieving squirrel cat Reiches, to survive the unforgiving borderlands.

Then he meets Seneira, a young woman cursed with a deadly plague by a ruthless mage. Similarly afflicted Kellen is compelled to help, and it’s not long before he’s entangled in a conspiracy of magic, blackmail and murder. Loyalties are tested as Kellen races to find the mage responsible before he can claim any more victims.

The first two books in de Castell’s Spellslinger fantasy series. The first three are already out in the UK, published by Hot Key Books. The North American editions are due to be published on July 17th (Spellslinger) and August 21st (Shadowblack).

Also on CR: Interviews with Sebastien de Castell, 2014 and 2017; Guest Post on “Where Writers Get Their Groove”; Reviews of Traitor’s Blade and Knight’s Shadow

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copies received from publisher


EamesN-B2-BloodyRoseNicholas Eames, BLOODY ROSE (Orbit)

A standalone epic fantasy adventure featuring a band of legendary mercenaries set in the world of Kings of the Wyld…

Live fast, die young.

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.

When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.

It’s time to take a walk on the wyld side.

This is the second novel in Eames’s wildly popular, humorous fantasy series. Bloody Rose is due to be published by Orbit Books on August 28th in North America and in the UK.

Also on CR: Interview with Nicholas Eames (2017)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


FinkJ-AliceIsntDeadUSJoseph Fink, ALICE ISN’T DEAD (Harper Perennial)

A fast-paced thriller about a truck driver searching across America for the wife she had long assumed to be dead.

“This is not a story. It’s a road trip.”

Keisha Taylor lived a quiet life with her wife, Alice, until the day that Alice disappeared. After months of searching, presuming she was dead, Keisha held a funeral, mourned, and gradually tried to get on with her life. But that was before Keisha started to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead, and she is showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country.

Following a line of clues, Keisha takes a job with a trucking company, Bay and Creek Transportation, and begins searching for Alice. She eventually stumbles on an otherworldly conflict being waged in the quiet corners of our nation’s highway system—uncovering a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.

Why did Alice disappear? What does she have to do with this secret war between inhuman killers? Why did the chicken cross the road? These questions, and many more will be answered in Alice Isn’t Dead.

This is a new stand-alone novel set in the Night Vale universe. Alice Isn’t Dead is due to be published by Harper Perennial on October 30th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via Edelweiss


GroffL-FloridaUSLauren Groff, FLORIDA (Riverhead)

In her thrilling new book, Lauren Groff brings the reader into a physical world that is at once domestic and wild — a place where the hazards of the natural world lie waiting to pounce, yet the greatest threats and mysteries are still of an emotional, psychological nature. A family retreat can be derailed by a prowling panther, or by a sexual secret. Among those navigating this place are a resourceful pair of abandoned sisters; a lonely boy, grown up; a restless, childless couple, a searching, homeless woman; and an unforgettable, recurring character — a steely and conflicted wife and mother.

The stories in this collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida — its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind — becomes its gravitational center: an energy, a mood, as much as a place of residence. Groff transports the reader, then jolts us alert with a crackle of wit, a wave of sadness, a flash of cruelty, as she writes about loneliness, rage, family, and the passage of time. With shocking accuracy and effect, she pinpoints the moments and decisions and connections behind human pleasure and pain, hope and despair, love and fury — the moments that make us alive.

The new short story collection from the author of the critically-acclaimed, best-selling Fates and FuriesFlorida is published by Riverhead Books in North America and William Heinemann in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter


HarkawayN-GnomonUKPBNick Harkaway, GNOMON (Windmill)

Near-future Britain is a state in which citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ Every action is seen, every word is recorded and the System has access to thoughts and memories.

When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn’t Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter’s psyche.

Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.

Looking forward to trying this. (And how great is that cover?) Gnomon is published in the UK by Windmill (paperback out on July 12th), and in North America by Knopf (in December).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


HastingsM-VietnamUSMax Hastings, VIETNAM: AN EPIC TRAGEDY, 1945-75 (Harper)

An absorbing and definitive modern history of the Vietnam War.

Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max Hastings has spent the past three years interviewing scores of participants on both sides, as well as researching a multitude of American and Vietnamese documents and memoirs, to create an epic narrative of an epic struggle. He portrays the set pieces of Dienbienphu, the 1968 Tet offensive, the air blitz of North Vietnam, and also much less familiar miniatures such as the bloodbath at Daido, where a US Marine battalion was almost wiped out, together with extraordinary recollections of Ho Chi Minh’s warriors. Here are the vivid realities of strife amid jungle and paddies that killed two million people.

Many writers treat the war as a US tragedy, yet Hastings sees it as overwhelmingly that of the Vietnamese people, of whom forty died for every American. US blunders and atrocities were matched by those committed by their enemies. While all the world has seen the image of a screaming, naked girl seared by napalm, it forgets countless eviscerations, beheadings, and murders carried out by the communists. The people of both former Vietnams paid a bitter price for the Northerners’ victory in privation and oppression. Here is testimony from Vietcong guerrillas, Southern paratroopers, Saigon bargirls, and Hanoi students alongside that of infantrymen from South Dakota, Marines from North Carolina, and Huey pilots from Arkansas.

No past volume has blended a political and military narrative of the entire conflict with heart-stopping personal experiences, in the fashion that Max Hastings’ readers know so well. The author suggests that neither side deserved to win this struggle with so many lessons for the twenty-first century about the misuse of military might to confront intractable political and cultural challenges. He marshals testimony from warlords and peasants, statesmen and soldiers, to create an extraordinary record.

Strangely, given my long academic career studying US foreign policy, the conflict in Vietnam has never gripped me (maybe because there’s so much attention paid to it). I saw this book available for review, and I decided to give it a try, based on the reputation of the author. Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy is due to be published by Harper in North America (October 16th) and William Collins in the UK (September 20th)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via Edelweiss


HollinsJ-DL3-BadFaithJon Hollins, THE DRAGON LORDS: BAD FAITH (Orbit)

Will and his comrades went to war to overthrow the reign of dragons, winning battle after battle, and acclaim as conquering heroes.

But now they’ve angered the gods, and may just need the dragons to help them this time…

This is the third novel in Hollins’s Dragon Lords series. I still need to get caught up on the series, but I’ve heard good things and am really looking forward to giving it a read. Bad Faith is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on August 14th.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


HomesAM-DaysOfAweUSA.M. Homes, DAYS OF AWE (Viking)

With her signature humor and compassion, A.M. Homes exposes the heart of an uneasy America in her new collection – exploring our attachments to each other through characters who aren’t quite who they hoped to become, though there is no one else they can be.

In “A Prize for Every Player,” a man is nominated to run for president by the customers of a big box store, while he and his family do their weekly shopping. At a conference on genocide(s) in the title story, old friends rediscover themselves and one another – finding spiritual and physical comfort in ancient traditions. And in “Hello Everybody” and “She Got Away,” Homes revisits a Los Angeles family obsessed with the surfaces and frightened of what lives below.

In the nearly three decades since her seminal debut collection The Safety of Objects, Homes has been celebrated by readers and critics alike as one of our boldest and most original writers, acclaimed for her psychological accuracy and “satire so close to the truth it’s terrifying” (Ali Smith). Her first book since the Women’s Prize-winning May We Be Forgiven, Days of Awe is a major new addition to her body of visionary, fearless, outrageously funny work.

I’ve enjoyed Homes’s work in the past, so thought I’d try this new collection. Days of Awe is published by Viking in North America and Granta in the UK (July 5th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter


KellyP-SMC-WarOfSecretsPhil Kelly, WAR OF SECRETS (Black Library)

Lieutenant Xedro Farren is a Primaris Marine, stronger and more adept than even the Space Marines his brotherhood is sent to fight alongside. As the Dark Angels and the Primaris Marines fight a trauma-scarred force of T’au hellbent on destroying their former allies, the true quarry becomes clear – the shadowy instigator of a psychic curse that could plunge a string of Imperial planets into madness. As worlds burn in the fires of battle, an unthinkable pact is struck, with the Primaris Marines peeling back layer after layer of deceit to find the appalling truth. Can Farren hope to emerge from this web of lies without losing his honour – or come to that, his life?

The third novel in Black Library‘s new(ish) Space Marine Conquests series — so far, stand-alone novels focusing on different Space Marine chapters (Blood Angels, Space Wolves, and now Dark Angels). This novel is written by one of Games Workshop’s main background writers, so one should expect a good, detailed story. I’m looking forward to reading them all — so many books, so little time… War of Secrets is out now.

Follow the Author: Goodreads


KeyHS-CongratulationsWhoAreYouUSHarrison Scott Key, CONGRATULATIONS, WHO ARE YOU AGAIN? (Harper Perennial)

This funny and wise new memoir from Harrison Scott Key, winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, will inspire laughter and hope for anyone who’s ever been possessed by a dream of what they want to be when they grow up

Little-known author Mark Twain once said that the two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why. He’s talking about dreams here, the destiny that calls every living soul to some kind of greatness. What Mr. Twain doesn’t say is: A dream is also a monster that wants to eat you. Nobody tells you this part of the American Dream — until now. In this new memoir, Congratulations, Who Are You Again?, readers join Harrison Scott Key on his outrageous journey to becoming a great American writer.

As a young boy in Mississippi, Harrison possessed many special gifts, such as the ability to read and complete college applications. And yet, throughout young adulthood, he failed at many vocations, until one day, after drinking perhaps too many beers and dusting off his King James Bible, he stumbled across a passage about a lonely pelican, which burst into flame inside him. In a mad blaze of holy illumination, Harrison realized his dream: to set the world afire with the light inside him. He would write a funny book. This was his dream.

With unforgettable wit and tenderness, Congratulations, Who Are You Again? is Harrison’s instructive tale of pursuing his destiny with relentless and often misguided devotion, transforming his life beyond all comprehension: He becomes a signer of autographs, a doer of interviews, a casher of checks that are “worth more money than my father had ever imagined any of us might see, this side of a drug-related felony.”

On this journey, Harrison finds that as he gains the world, he stands on the precipice of losing everything that means the most: his family, his mind, his soul. Hilarious, honest, and absolutely practical, Congratulations Who Are You Again is a no-holds-barred look at the life of every ambitious human creature, whether you want to write books or make music, start a business or start a revolution. This is a book for the dreamers.

I’ve enjoyed what little I’ve read (so far) from Key’s first book, The World’s Largest Man, and thought this could be interesting. Harper were kind enough to approve my review request. Congratulations, Who Are You Again? is due to be published by Harper Perennial on October 17th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via Edelweiss


KornackiS-RedAndTheBlueUSSteve Kornacki, THE RED AND THE BLUE (Ecco)

From MSNBC correspondent Steve Kornacki, a lively and sweeping history of the 1990s — one that brings critical new understanding to our current political landscape.

In The Red and the Blue, cable news star and acclaimed journalist Steve Kornacki follows the twin paths of Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, two larger-than-life politicians who exploited the weakened structure of their respective parties to attain the highest offices. For Clinton, that meant contorting himself around the various factions of the Democratic party to win the presidency. Gingrich employed a scorched-earth strategy to upend the permanent Republican minority in the House, making him Speaker.

The Clinton/Gingrich battles were bare-knuckled brawls that brought about massive policy shifts and high-stakes showdowns — their collisions had far-reaching political consequences. But the ’90s were not just about them.  Kornacki writes about Mario Cuomo’s stubborn presence around Clinton’s 1992 campaign; Hillary Clinton’s star turn during the 1998 midterms, seeding the idea for her own candidacy; Ross Perot’s wild run in 1992 that inspired him to launch the Reform Party, giving Donald Trump his first taste of electoral politics in 1999; and many others. 

With novelistic prose and a clear sense of history, Steve Kornacki masterfully weaves together the various elements of this rambunctious and hugely impactful era in American history, whose effects set the stage for our current political landscape.

This book sounds very similar/close to a project of my own. So, my interest is both personal and professional. Kornacki is a good commentator, even if he is rather over-enthusiastic about his interactive charts. (I wonder if his approach started as a satirical commentary on CNN’s obsession with CGI tech-“wizardry”, but it ran away from him…?) The Red and the Blue is due to be published by Ecco in early October 2018 in North America (at the moment, I think it’s only available on import in the UK). I started reading it pretty soon after getting the ARC, and I’ve found it very interesting and packed with information and facts.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via Edelweiss


LucasD-FW2-FriendlyFireUSDale Lucas, THE FIFTH WARD: FRIENDLY FIRE (Orbit)

In the most dangerous district of the city, the Fifth Ward, Rem and Torval have been perfecting their good cop, bad cop routine while protecting residents from drug-dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, and humans being typical humans.

But when a perplexing case of arson leads to a series of gruesome, unsolvable murders, the two partners must challenge their own assumptions and loyalties if they are to preserve their partnership, wrest justice from the chaos, and keep their ward from tearing itself apart.

This is the second novel in Lucas’s Fifth Ward fantasy series — one I really want to get around to reading. It looks like fun, and maybe Pratchett-esque. Friendly Fire is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on August 7th.

Also on CR: Interview with Dale Lucas (2017)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


McClellanB-WarCryBrian McClellan, WAR CRY (

Teado is a Changer, a shape-shifting military asset trained to win wars. His platoon has been stationed in the Bavares high plains for years, stranded. As they ration supplies and scan the airwaves for news, any news, their numbers dwindle. He’s not sure how much time they have left.

Desperate and starving, armed with aging, faulting equipment, the team jumps at the chance for a risky resupply mission, even if it means not all of them might come. What they discover could change the course of the war.

I’m a big fan of McClellan’s work, so when I got my hands on a review copy, I ended up reading this novel that very evening. I’ll have a full review up soon, but the short version is: this is really good. War Cry is due to be published by on August 28th, in North America and in the UK.

Also on CR: Interview with Brian McClellan (2013); Guest Posts on “My Favourite Novel”, “Protagonist Ages in Epic Fantasy”; Excerpt from The Autumn Republic; Reviews of Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via NetGalley


MealingD-AC2-BloodOfTheGodsDavid Mealing, BLOOD OF THE GODS (Orbit)

The battle is over, but war lies ahead in the second book of the epic fantasy trilogy that pits humans against gods in a contest for the fate of the world.

The battle for the city is over, but the aftermath of a revolution is never simple…

Sarine begins to experience visions, ones which make her dragon familiar sicker every day. Erris pushes toward conquest and the need to expand her territory and restore her power. And, exiled from his tribe, Arak’Jur apprentices himself to a deadly master.

Faced with the threat of a return to the days of darkness, the heroes begin to understand the depth of the sacrifices required from them. To protect their world, they’ll have to stand and fight once more.

This is second novel in the Ascension Cycle, and the sequel to Soul of the World (another big-book fantasy debut I haven’t had a chance to read, yet). Blood of the Gods is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on August 21st.

Also on CR: Interview with David Mealing (2017)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


OsborneL-BeautifulAnimalsCALawrence Osborne, BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS (Hogarth)

On a hike during a white-hot summer break on the Greek island of Hydra, Naomi and Samantha make a startling discovery: a man named Faoud, sleeping heavily, exposed to the elements, but still alive. Naomi, the daughter of a wealthy British art collector who has owned a villa in the exclusive hills for decades, convinces Sam, a younger American girl on vacation with her family, to help this stranger. As the two women learn more about the man, a migrant from Syria and a casualty of the crisis raging across the Aegean Sea, their own burgeoning friendship intensifies. But when their seemingly simple plan to help Faoud unravels all must face the horrific consequences they have set in motion.

In this brilliant psychological study of manipulation and greed, Lawrence Osborne explores the dark heart of friendship, and shows just how often the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions.

This novel has been receiving a lot of positive reviews, so I decided to finally check it out. Beautiful Animals is published by Hogarth in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter


ProulxJ-WeAllLoveTheBeautifulGirlsUSJoanne Proulx, WE ALL LOVE THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS (Grand Central)

A propulsive literary breakout about three suburban families whose lives spiral dangerously out of control after tragedy strikes.

Who suffers when the privileged fall?

One frigid winter night, Mia and Michael Slate’s comfortable world dissolves in an instant when they discover that their best friend has cheated them out of their life savings. At the same time, a few doors down, their teenaged son passes out in the snow at a party — a mistake whose consequences will shatter not just their family, but an entire community.

In this arresting, masterful page-turner shot through with fierce, clear-eyed compassion and a sublime insight into human fragility, award-winning novelist Proulx explores the savage underpinnings of betrayal, infidelity, and revenge — and a multilayered portrait of love, in all its glory, that no reader will soon forget.

Thought this sounded like it could be interesting, and I was pre-approved for a review copy. We All Love the Beautiful Girls is due to be published in August by Grand Central in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via NetGalley


ShawV-2-DreadfulCompanyVivian Shaw, DREADFUL COMPANY (Orbit)

Contemporary fantasy starring Dr. Greta Helsing, whose family has been keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well for generations.

When Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, is unexpectedly called to Paris to present at a medical conference, she expects nothing more exciting than professional discourse on zombie reconstructive surgery and skin disease in bogeymen — and hopefully at least one uneventful night at the Opera.

Unfortunately for Greta, Paris happens to be infested with a coven of vampires — and not the civilized kind. If she hopes to survive, Greta must navigate the darkest corners of the City of Lights, the maze of ancient catacombs and mine-tunnels underneath the streets, where there is more to find than simply dead men’s bones.

This is the sequel to Strange Practice. I’m looking forward to trying this series. Dreadful Company is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on July 31st.

Also on CR: Interview with Vivian Shaw (2017)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


SparkAS-EoD2-TowerOfLivingAndDyingUSAnna Smith Spark, THE TOWER OF LIVING AND DYING (Orbit)

Marith has been a sellsword, a prince, a murderer, a demon, and dead. But something keeps bringing him back to life, and now there is nothing stopping him from taking back the throne that is rightfully his.

Thalia, the former high priestess, remains Marith’s only tenuous grasp to whatever goodness he has left. His left hand and his last source of light, Thalia still believes that the power that lies within him can be used for better ends. But as more forces gather beneath Marith’s banner, she can feel her influence slipping.

The second novel in Spark’s critically-acclaimed Empire of Dust grimdark fantasy series. The Tower of Living and Dying is is due to be published by Orbit in North America (August 7th) and Voyager in the UK (August 9th).

Also on CR: Interview with Anna Smith Spark (2017)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


SuriT-EmpireOfSandUSTasha Suri, EMPIRE OF SAND (Orbit)

A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods.

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda — and should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…

Empire of Sand is a “Mughal India-inspired” debut fantasy, which sounds really interesting. The novel is getting quite a bit of pre-publication buzz, and I’m looking forward to trying it. Empire of Sand is published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, in November 2018.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


Tchaikovsky-EotF3-HyenaAndTheHawkUKAdrian Tchaikovsky, THE HYENA AND THE HAWK (Tor)

They face a hunger that could consume the gods themselves

From the depths of myth an ancient enemy has returned: the Plague People, whose very presence obliterates whole villages; whose terror destroys minds. In their wake, nothing is left of the people, not their places, not their ways.

On the plains, the warriors and the wise of all tribes gather to confront the aggressor. Loud Thunder leads his great war-host south, even as Tecumet and Asman head north with the Sun River army. With Maniye Many Tracks, they plan to forge a new unity between the tribes such as the world has never seen. But will it be enough to stave off an oblivion that might devour even their gods?

Their adversary’s presence is like a wound in the world, and wakes all the old terrors and evils from the peoples’ stories. But before they can deal with the enemies without, they must conquer their demons within.

The third novel in Tchaikovsky’s Echoes of the Fall trilogy. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times on CR, Adrian is one of my favourite authors. However, he’s so damned prolific that I’ve fallen quite far behind on his novels — so, I have the whole of this series to catch up on! Which, now that I have all three books, I can do rather easily (in theory). The Hyena and the Hawk is published by Tor Books in the UK.

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012); Guest Posts on “Nine Books, Six Years, One Stenwold Maker”, “The Art of Gunsmithing”, “Looking for God in Melnibone Places”, “Eye of the Spider”; Excerpt from Guns of the Dawn; Reviews of Empire in Black and Gold, Guns of the Dawn, Spiderlight and Ironclads

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter


ThompsonT-RosewaterUSTade Thompson, ROSEWATER (Orbit)

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again — but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

I recently read (and loved) Thompson’s The Murders of Molly Southbourne, published by, and ever since I’ve been eager to read more of Thompson’s work. Rosewater, the first in a series set in Nigeria, is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, in September 2018 (the eBook is available now).

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


TomlinsonPS-GateCrashersUSPatrick S. Tomlinson, GATE CRASHERS (Tor)

The only thing as infinite and expansive as the universe is humanity’s unquestionable ability to make bad decisions.

Humankind ventures further into the galaxy than ever before… and immediately causes an intergalactic incident. In their infinite wisdom, the crew of the exploration vessel Magellan, or as she prefers “Maggie,” decides to bring the alienstructure they just found back to Earth. The only problem? The aliens are awfully fond of that structure.

A planet full of bumbling, highly evolved primates has just put itself on a collision course with a far wider, and more hostile, galaxy that is stranger than anyone can possibly imagine.

This sounds like it could be fun. Gate Crashers is out now, published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK. (I’ll have an interview with Patrick up on the site next week.)

Also on CR: Guest Post on “Intro to Genre”

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received from publisher


WolfeJ-WatchTheGirlsUSJennifer Wolfe, WATCH THE GIRLS (Grand Central)

I’ve been watched all my life. I’m used to being stared at. Observed. Followed.


Washed up teen star Liv Hendricks quit acting after her beloved younger sister inexplicably disappeared following a Hollywood party gone wrong. Liv barely escaped with her life, and her sister was never heard from again. But all this time, someone’s been waiting patiently to finish what was started…


Now fifteen years later, broke and desperate, Liv is forced to return to the spotlight. She crowdfunds a webseries in which she’ll pose as a real-life private detective — a nod to the show she starred on as a teen. When a mysterious donor challenges her to investigate a series of disappearances outside a town made famous by the horror movies filmed there, Liv has no choice but to accept.


Liv is given a cryptic first clue: Follow the white wolf. And now a darker game is about to begin. Through social media, someone is leaving breadcrumbs to follow. As Liv makes increasingly disturbing discoveries, her show explodes in popularity. A rapt internet audience is eager to watch it all–perhaps even at the cost of Liv’s own life…

Spotted this a while ago in a Grand Central catalogue, and the synopsis caught my attention. When it became available for review, I jumped at the chance. Hopefully I’ll be reading this very soon. Watch the Girls is to be published by Grand Central on July 10th, in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review copy received via NetGalley


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s