New Books (March-April)

NewBooks-20220506

Featuring: Olivia Atwater, David Baldacci, Fiona Barnett, Andy Borowitz, Ryan Britt, Guy Haley, Darius Hinks, Isabel Kaplan, Rich Larson, Stephen Markley, Dervla McTiernan, Jason Mosberg, Brian Phillips, C. L. Polk, Eddie Robson, John Sandford, Erich Schwartzel, Lisa Taddeo, Jerry West, Alex White, Rebecca Zahabi, Zou Jingzhi

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AtwaterO-RFT1-HalfASoulOlivia Atwater, HALF A SOUL (Orbit)

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment — an unfortunate condition that leaves her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season — but when Elias Wilder, the strange, handsome, and utterly ill-mannered Lord Sorcier, discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into peculiar and dangerous faerie affairs.

If her reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all high society, then she and her family may yet reclaim their normal place in the world. But the longer Dora spends with Elias, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love even with only half a soul.

This is the first novel in the author’s series of Regency Faerie Tales, which will be published over the course of this year. Half a Soul is out now, published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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BaldacciD-620ManUSHCDavid Baldacci, THE 6:20 MAN (Grand Central)

A cryptic murder pulls a former soldier turned financial analyst deep into the corruption and menace that prowl beneath the opulent world of finance…

Every day without fail, Travis Devine puts on a cheap suit, grabs his faux-leather briefcase, and boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan, where he works as an entry-level analyst at the city’s most prestigious investment firm. In the mornings, he gazes out the train window at the lavish homes of the uberwealthy, dreaming about joining their ranks. In the evenings, he listens to the fiscal news on his phone, already preparing for the next grueling day in the cutthroat realm of finance. Then one morning Devine’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous email: She is dead.

Sara Ewes, Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend, has been found hanging in a storage room of his office building — presumably a suicide, at least for now — prompting the NYPD to come calling on him. If that wasn’t enough, before the day is out, Devine receives another ominous visit, a confrontation that threatens to dredge up grim secrets from his past in the army unless he participates in a clandestine investigation into his firm. This treacherous role will take him from the impossibly glittering lives he once saw only through a train window, to the darkest corners of the country’s economic halls of power… where something rotten lurks. And apart from this high-stakes conspiracy, there’s a killer out there with their own agenda, and Devine is the bull’s-eye.

Another new Baldacci! He seems to be publishing very frequently, these past few years — which, of course, means that I’m falling ever-more behind! This is a stand-alone, though, which might make it easier to stay a little bit caught up. Really looking forward to reading it. The 6:20 Man is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing in North America (July 12th) and Macmillan in the UK (August 4th).

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Review copy received via NetGalley

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BarnettF-DarkBetweenTheTreesUKHCFiona Barnett, THE DARK BETWEEN THE TREES (Solaris)

1643: A small group of Parliamentarian soldiers are ambushed in an isolated part of Northern England. Their only hope for survival is to flee into the nearby Moresby Wood… unwise though that may seem. For Moresby Wood is known to be an unnatural place, the realm of witchcraft and shadows, where the devil is said to go walking by moonlight…

Seventeen men enter the wood. Only two are ever seen again, and the stories they tell of what happened make no sense. Stories of shifting landscapes, of trees that appear and disappear at will… and of something else. Something dark. Something hungry.

Today, five women are headed into Moresby Wood to discover, once and for all, what happened to that unfortunate group of soldiers. Led by Dr Alice Christopher, an historian who has devoted her entire academic career to uncovering the secrets of Moresby Wood. Armed with metal detectors, GPS units, mobile phones and the most recent map of the area (which is nearly 50 years old), Dr Christopher’s group enters the wood ready for anything.

Or so they think.

Wasn’t familiar with the author before the publisher sent this. Sounds like it might be interesting, though. The Dark Between the Trees is due to be published by Solaris Books in North America and in the UK, on October 11th.

Follow the Author: Goodreads
Review copy received from publisher

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BorowitzA-ProfilesInIgnoranceUSHCAndy Borowitz, PROFILE IN IGNORANCE (Avid Reader Press)

Andy Borowitz examines the intellectual deterioration of American politics, from Ronald Reagan to Dan Quayle, from George W. Bush to Sarah Palin, to its apotheosis in Donald J. Trump.

The winner of the first-ever National Press Club award for humor, Andy Borowitz has been called a “Swiftian satirist” (The Wall Street Journal) and “one of the country’s finest satirists” (The New York Times). Millions of fans and New Yorkerreaders enjoy his satirical news column “The Borowitz Report.” Now, in Profiles in Ignorance, he offers a witty, spot-on diagnosis of our country’s political troubles by showing how ignorant leaders are degrading, embarrassing, and endangering our nation.

Borowitz argues that over the past fifty years, American politicians have grown increasingly allergic to knowledge, and mass media have encouraged the election of ignoramuses by elevating candidates who are better at performing than thinking. Starting with Ronald Reagan’s first campaign for governor of California in 1966 and culminating with the election of Donald J. Trump to the White House, Borowitz shows how, during the age of twenty-four-hour news and social media, the US has elected politicians to positions of great power whose lack of the most basic information is terrifying. In addition to Reagan, Quayle, Bush, Palin, and Trump, Borowitz covers a host of congresspersons, senators, and governors who have helped lower the bar over the past five decades.

Profiles in Ignorance aims to make us both laugh and cry: laugh at the idiotic antics of these public figures, and cry at the cataclysms these icons of ignorance have caused. But most importantly, the book delivers a call to action and a cause for optimism: History doesn’t move in a straight line, and we can change course if we act now.

I’m quite familiar with the Borowitz Report, but haven’t read anything particularly long by the author. When I saw this was available for review, I thought I’d give it a try. Profiles in Ignorance is due to be published by Avid Reader Press in North America (September 13th) and in the UK (September 13th, eBook; October 27th, print)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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BrittR-PhasersOnStunUSHCRyan Britt, PHASERS ON STUN! (Plume)

Chronicles the entire history of Star Trek, revealing that its enduring place in pop culture is all thanks to innovative pivots and radical change.

For over five decades, the heart of Star Trek’s pro-science, anti-racist, and inclusive messaging has been its willingness to take big risks. Across thirteen feature films, and twelve TV series — including five shows currently airing or in production — the brilliance of Star Trek is in its endless ability to be rethought, rebooted, and remade.

Author and Star Trek expert Ryan Britt charts an approachable and entertaining course through Star Trek history; from its groundbreaking origins amid the tumultuous 1960s, to its influence on diversifying the space program, to its contemporary history-making turns with LGBTQ+ representation, this book illuminates not just the behind-the-scenes stories that shaped the franchise but the larger meaning of the Final Frontier.

Featuring over 100 exclusive interviews with actors and writers across all the generations, including Walter Koenig, LeVar Burton, Dorothy Fontana, Brent Spiner, Ronald D. Moore, Jeri Ryan, and many more, Britt gets the inside story on all things Trek, like Spock’s evolution from red devil to the personification of logical empathy, the near failure to launch of The Next Generation in 1987, and how Trekkie outrage has threatened to destroy the franchise more than once. The book also dives deep with creators like Michael Chabon (co-creator of Star Trek: Picard) and Nicholas Meyer (director, The Wrath of Khan). These interviews extend to the bleeding edge of contemporary Star Trek, from Discovery to Picard to Lower Decks, and even the upcoming highly anticipated 2022 series, Strange New Worlds.

For fans who know every detail of each Enterprise bridge, to a reader who has never seen a single minute of any Star Trek, this book aims to entertain, inform, and energize. Through humor, insight, archival research, and unique access, this journey through the Star Trek universe isn’t just about its past but a definitive look at its future.

Thought this sounded really interesting. I’ve never been as big a Star Trek fan as I am a Star Wars fan, but I’ve seen plenty and always enjoyed what I liked. I enjoyed Britt’s previous book, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read, and I’m looking forward to his take on Star Trek and its history and impact. Phasers on Stun! is due to be published in North America by Plume, on May 31st. (This book not to be confused with Marcus Berkmann’s Set Phasers to Stun.)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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HaleyG-DoF3-ThroneOfLightGuy Haley, THRONE OF LIGHT (Black Library)

Roboute Guilliman has broken the orkish advance that threatened Fenris, but an ancient foe has returned to threaten the very heart of humanity – the Segmentum Solar.

The Indomitus Crusade continues its war across the stars. The primarch Roboute Guilliman has finally broken through the orkish threat bedevilling the sectors near Fenris, and makes ready to push on his bid to stabilise the Imperium Sanctus – but old and bitter foes stand in his way.

Kor Phaeron, the Dark Cardinal, threatens the previously stable core of the Segmentum Solar. Waves of rebellion instigated by his infiltrating priests suggest an imminent, large-scale invasion by the Word Bearers Legion. Worse yet, the Dark Cardinal’s warriors are targeting the Black Ships, threatening to starve Terra of the pyskers the Emperor needs to survive.

Through this turbulent warzone Inquisitor Rostov continues his search for the Hand of Abaddon. Yet when strange, miraculous visions are traced back to the astropathic relay on Srinagar, his quest is diverted – for the visions foretell hope for the Imperium, a hope the fanatical worshippers of Chaos will do anything to snuff out…

The fourth novel in the Dawn of Fire series. Haley seems to have been given the lion’s share of the task of moving the WH40k story forward, and he’s been doing a great job of it so far. It’s been an interesting story, so far, with some surprises (the depressed Logan Grimnar, for example…). Looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. Throne of Light is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK.

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HinksD-G3-SoulslayerDarius Hinks, SOULSLAYER (Black Library)

Gotrek marches to war alongside his newfound kin, the Fyreslayers. Yet the Slayer’s soul burns brightly enough to spark the interest of the Idoneth Deepkin…

Gotrek Gurnisson is the greatest Slayer of the age. He is a furious relic of a dead world, a sworn enemy of Chaos and a stranger in the Mortal Realms. Now, reborn and hungry for vengeance, he crosses the war-torn lands of Chamon armed with new oaths, pitting himself against the forces of evil.

Accompanied by the lethal aelven assassin Maleneth Witchblade, Gotrek marches to war with the Fyreslayers of the Grymm Peak Mountains, revelling in his newfound sense of purpose. The fire in the Slayer’s soul has not gone unnoticed, however. Far beneath the sea, the Idoneth Deepkin are stirring, summoning an ancient power from the abyss – and their sights are set on Gotrek!

The latest novel in the Gotrek Gurnisson series. Still enjoying his exploration of the Mortal Realms (still also sad that Felix is no more). Looking forward to reading this novel soon. Soulslayer is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK.

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KaplanI-NSFWUSHCIsabel Kaplan, NSFW (Henry Holt)

From the outside, the unnamed protagonist in NSFW appears to be the vision of success. She has landed an entry-level position at a leading TV network that thousands of college grads would kill for. And sure, she has much to learn. The daughter of a prominent feminist attorney, she grew up outside the industry. But she’s resourceful and hardworking. What could go wrong?

At first, the high adrenaline work environment motivates her. Yet as she climbs the ranks, she confronts the reality of creating change from the inside. Her points only get attention when echoed by male colleagues; she hears whispers of abuse and sexual misconduct. Her mother says to keep her head down until she’s the one in charge — a scenario that seems idealistic at best, morally questionable at worst. When her personal and professional lives collide, threatening both the network and her future, she must decide what to protect: the career she’s given everything for or the empowered woman she claims to be.

Fusing page-turning prose with dark humor and riveting commentary on the truths of starting out professionally, Isabel Kaplan’s NSFW is an unflinching exploration of the gray area between empowerment and complicity. The result is a stunning portrait of what success costs in today’s patriarchal world, asking us: Is it ever worth it?

This novel has been getting a fair amount of good pre-publication buzz, so I’m very much looking forward to trying it. I hope to read it very soon (may even be starting it tomorrow, if I get my current read finished as expected). NSFW is due to be published by Henry Holt in North America (July 5th) and Michael Joseph in the UK (August 4th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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LarsonR-VW2-YmirRich Larson, YMIR (Orbit)

Yorick never wanted to see his homeworld again. Thirty years later, he finds himself sent back to the icy mining colony as a company man — and he can’t leave this frozen rock in the dust until he neutralizes the threat. A vicious, long-forgotten machine has newly thawed from the ice, and it seems to have a mind of its own.

But as Yorick plumbs the depths of of the mines and his own past, he finds a tangled conspiracy that’s much more than he bargained for — and its source is closer to home than he ever could have guessed.

This is the second novel in Larson’s Violet Wars series, following Annex. It’s pitched as a “gripping, far-future retelling of Beowulf“. I still need to get caught up on that first book (so. far. behind), but I’m very much looking forward to doing so — I’ve enjoyed everything else of Larson’s that I’ve read, so I have high hopes for this series. Ymir is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on July 12th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received via NetGalley

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MarkleyS-DelugeUSHCStephen Markley, THE DELUGE (Simon & Schuster)

An American epic charting a near future approaching collapse and a nascent but strengthening solidarity.

In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while a patient but unrelenting ecological crisis looms. America is in upheaval, battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become bound to a stunning cast of characters — a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor turned religious zealot, and a brazen young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.

From the Gulf Coast to Los Angeles, the Midwest to Washington, DC, their intertwined odysseys unfold against a stark backdrop of accelerating chaos as they summon courage, galvanize a nation, fall to their own fear, and find wild hope in the face of staggering odds. As their stories hurtle toward a spectacular climax, each faces a reckoning: what will they sacrifice to salvage humanity’s last chance at a future?

Markley’s 2018 novel, Ohio was one of my favourite reads of that year, so when I saw that he had a new novel on the way, I jumped at the chance to read and review it. After opening the DRC, I noticed it was over 900 pages long… Which I hadn’t been expecting. I may have mentioned already on CR that I am very wary of novels over 500 pages, for the simple reason that I haven’t found many that justified such length. Still, given how much I like Markley’s writing (fiction and non-fiction), I remain very keen to read this. The Deluge is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in North America and in the UK, on January 10th, 2023.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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McTiernanD-MurderRuleUSHCDervla McTiernan, THE MURDER RULE (William Morrow)

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

McTiernan’s latest novel has been getting some good pre-publication buzz, so I’m very much looking forward to reading this as soon as possible. (It arrived the day after I started another novel I really wanted to read, so it’ll have to wait just a couple more days.) I really enjoyed it, and look forward to reading more by McTiernan in the future (any new novels, and also the author’s backlist). You can read my review hereThe Murder Rule is due to be published by William Morrow in North America (May 10th) and Harper Collins in the UK (May 12th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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MosbergJ-MyDirtyCaliforniaUSHCJason Mosberg, MY DIRTY CALIFORNIA (Simon & Schuster)

A young man descends into the Los Angeles underworld to find his family’s killer — aided by a group of strangers with their own shadowy pasts.

When Marty returns to Pennsylvania after living in California for ten years, he’s happily welcomed by his father and older brother, Jody. The joyful reunion is short-lived. Two days later, Jody enters the house to find his father and Marty shot dead as their masked killer flees out the back door. Without any answers from the local police, Jody heads to Los Angeles looking for who murdered his family and why.

Soon, he finds a trove of strange videos recorded by his brother that leads him into the city’s most dangerous corners, where he comes up against drug dealers, crooked cops, surf gangs, and black-market profiteers. As his investigation expands, it also intersects with Pen, a documentary filmmaker who suspects humanity is living in a simulation and that her missing father found a portal to escape; Renata, an undocumented immigrant who might have evidence to support Pen’s theory; and Tiph, a young mother whose desperate efforts to support her only child via a stolen art stash could prove the key to answering all these mysteries.

Thought this sounded interesting, and I was pre-approved for a DRC. Looking forward to reading it ASAP. My Dirty California is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in North America and in the UK, on August 30th.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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PhillipsB-ImpossibleOwlsUSPBBrian Phillips, IMPOSSIBLE OWLS (FSG Originals)

A globe-spanning, ambitious book of essays from one of the most enthralling storytellers in narrative nonfiction

In his highly anticipated debut essay collection, Impossible Owls, Brian Phillips demonstrates why he’s one of the most iconoclastic journalists of the digital age, beloved for his ambitious, off-kilter, meticulously reported essays that read like novels.

The eight essays assembled here — five from Phillips’s Grantland and MTV days, and three new pieces — go beyond simply chronicling some of the modern world’s most uncanny, unbelievable, and spectacular oddities (though they do that, too). Researched for months and even years on end, they explore the interconnectedness of the globalized world, the consequences of history, the power of myth, and the ways people attempt to find meaning. He searches for tigers in India, and uncovers a multigenerational mystery involving an oil tycoon and his niece turned stepdaughter turned wife in the Oklahoma town where he grew up. Through each adventure, Phillips’s remarkable voice becomes a character itself — full of verve, rich with offhanded humor, and revealing unexpected vulnerability.

Dogged, self-aware, and radiating a contagious enthusiasm for his subjects, Phillips is an exhilarating guide to the confusion and wonder of the world today. If John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead was the last great collection of New Journalism from the print era, Impossible Owls is the first of the digital age.

Phillips is the author of one of my favourite pieces of NBA journalism. Written in the wake of the Raptors’ 2019 championship victory, it has provided quite a few phrases that my family has added to our everyday lexicon. For my birthday, Alyssa found this book, which I had managed to somehow miss entirely. I started reading it right away, and very much enjoyed it. It offers a good mix of topics, styles, and themes, and is always interesting and engaging. Impossible Owls is out now, published by FSG Originals in North America, and Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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PolkCL-EvenThoughIKnewTheEndC. L. Polk, EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END (Tor.com)

A magical detective dives into the affairs of Chicago’s divine monsters to secure a future with the love of her life. This sapphic period piece will dazzle anyone looking for mystery, intrigue, romance, magic, or all of the above.

An exiled augur who sold her soul to save her brother’s life is offered one last job before serving an eternity in hell. When she turns it down, her client sweetens the pot by offering up the one payment she can’t resist — the chance to have a future where she grows old with the woman she loves.

To succeed, she is given three days to track down the White City Vampire, Chicago’s most notorious serial killer. If she fails, only hell and heartbreak await.

I hadn’t heard of this one before I spotted it on NetGalley (at least, I don’t think I’d heard of it). The cover caught my attention, and then so did the synopsis. Looking forward to reading it soon. Even Though I Knew the End is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on November 8th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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RickertM-LuckyGirlM. Rickert, LUCKY GIRL, HOW I BECAME A HORROR WRITER (Tor.com)

Ro, a struggling writer, knows all too well the pain and solitude that holiday festivities can awaken. When she meets four people at the local diner — all of them strangers and as lonely as Ro is — she invites them to an impromptu Christmas dinner. And when that party seems in danger of an early end, she suggests they each tell a ghost story. One that’s seasonally appropriate.

But Ro will come to learn that the horrors hidden in a Christmas tale — or one’s past — can never be tamed once unleashed.

This sounds rather interesting. Haven’t read anything by Rickert before, but the publisher offered me a review copy and I thought I’d give it a try. Lucky Girl, How I Became a Horror Writer is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on September 13th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received from publisher

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RobsonE-DrunkOnAllYourStrangeNewWordsEddie Robson, DRUNK ON ALL YOUR STRANGE NEW WORDS (Tor.com)

A locked room mystery in a near future world of politics and alien diplomacy.

Lydia works as translator for the Logi cultural attaché to Earth. They work well together, even if the act of translating his thoughts into English makes her somewhat wobbly on her feet. She’s not the agency’s best translator, but what else is she going to do? She has no qualifications, and no discernible talent in any other field.

So when tragedy strikes, and Lydia finds herself at the center of an intergalactic incident, her future employment prospects look dire — that is, if she can keep herself out of jail!

But Lydia soon discovers that help can appear from the most unexpected source…

The new book from the author of Hearts of Oak, I thought this sounded really interesting, and potentially quirky. Looking forward to giving it a try. Drunk On All Your Strange New Words is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on June 28th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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SandfordJ-P32-RighteousPreyUSHCJohn Sandford, RIGHTEOUS PREY (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are up against a powerful vigilante group with an eye on vengeance…

“We’re going to murder people who need to be murdered.” So begins a press release from a mysterious group known only as “The Five,” shortly after a vicious predator is murdered in San Francisco. The Five is believed to be made up of vigilante killers who are very bored… and very rich. They target the worst of society — rapists, murderers, and thieves — and then use their unlimited resources to offset the damage done by those who they’ve killed, donating untraceable Bitcoin to charities and victims via the dark net. The Five soon become the most popular figures on social media, a modern-day Batman…though their motives may not be entirely pure.

After a woman is murdered in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are sent in to investigate. And they soon have their hands full — the killings are smart and carefully choreographed, and with no apparent direct connection to the victims, The Five are virtually untraceable. But if anyone can destroy this group, it will be the dynamic team of Davenport and Flowers.

The 32nd novel in the Prey/Davenport series! Quite the milestone. I’ve been reading Sandford’s novels for about 20 years, now, and each new novel is a must-read for me. There’s an interesting dynamic emerging between Davenport, Flowers and other recurring characters, and I was interested in seeing how it continues to develop. I read this pretty soon after receiving the DRC, and very much enjoyed it (review soon). Righteous Prey is due to be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, on October 4th. (No UK publisher details at time of writing, but the rest of the series has been published by Simon & Schuster in the UK.)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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SchwartzelE-RedCarpetUSHCErich Schwartzel, RED CARPET (Penguin Press)

An eye-opening and deeply reported narrative that details the surprising role of the movie business in the high-stakes contest between the U.S. and China

From trade to technology to military might, competition between the United States and China dominates the foreign policy landscape. But this battle for global influence is also playing out in a strange and unexpected arena: the movies.

The film industry, Wall Street Journal reporter Erich Schwartzel explains, is the latest battleground in the tense and complex rivalry between these two world powers. In recent decades, as China has grown into a giant of the international economy, it has become a crucial source of revenue for the American film industry. Hollywood studios are now bending over backward to make movies that will appeal to China’s citizens — and gain approval from severe Communist Party censors. At the same time, and with America’s unwitting help, China has built its own film industry into an essential arm of its plan to export its national agenda to the rest of the world. The competition between these two movie businesses is a Cold War for this century, a clash that determines whether democratic or authoritarian values will be broadcast most powerfully around the world.

Red Carpet is packed with memorable characters who have — knowingly or otherwise — played key roles in this tangled industry web: not only A-list stars like Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, and Richard Gere but also eccentric Chinese billionaires, zany expatriate filmmakers, and starlets who disappear from public life without explanation or trace. Schwartzel combines original reporting, political history, and show-biz intrigue in an exhilarating tour of global entertainment, from propaganda film sets in Beijing to the boardrooms of Hollywood studios to the living rooms in Kenya where families decide whether to watch an American or Chinese movie. Alarming, occasionally absurd, and wildly entertaining, Red Carpet will not only alter the way we watch movies but also offer essential new perspective on the power struggle of this century.

This is very much in my wheel-house. As a long-time researcher into US-China relations, I’ve been fascinated by the influence China has been able to exert over American entertainment industries (not just Hollywood, but also the NBA — a topic I’ve been learning about over this past year). I’ll be reading this very soon. Red Carpet is out now, published by Penguin Press in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

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TaddeoL-GhostLoverUSHCLisa Taddeo, GHOST LOVER (Avid Reader Press)

An electrifying collection of fearless and ferocious short stories.

Behind anonymous screens, an army of cool and beautiful girls manage the dating service Ghost Lover, a forwarding system for text messages that promises to spare you the anguish of trying to stay composed while communicating with your crush. At a star-studded political fundraiser in a Los Angeles mansion, a trio of women compete to win the heart of the slick guest of honor. In a tense hospital waiting room, an inseparable pair of hard-partying friends crash into life’s responsibilities, but the magic of their glory days comes alive again at the moment they least expect it.

In these nine riveting stories — which include two Pushcart Prize winners and a finalist for the National Magazine Award — Lisa Taddeo brings to life the fever of obsession, the blindness of love, and the mania of grief. Featuring Taddeo’s arresting prose that continues to thrill her legions of fans, Ghost Lover dares you to look away.

Taddeo’s third book, and first collection of short stories. Started reading this a day or two after I got it, and rather enjoyed it — Taddeo is a fantastic writer, and has a gift for writing characters in all their complexity, and never shies away from shining a light on their more dark/twisted qualities. Ghost Lover is due to be published by Avid Reader Press in North America and Bloomsbury Circus in the UK, on June 14th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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WestColeman-WestByWestUSPBJerry West & Jonathan Coleman, WEST BY WEST (Little, Brown)

One is one of basketball’s towering figures: “Mr. Clutch,” who mesmerized his opponents and fans. The coach who began the Lakers’ resurgence in the 1970s. The general manager who helped bring “Showtime” to Los Angeles, creating a championship-winning force that continues to this day.

Now, for the first time, the legendary Jerry West tells his story-from his tough childhood in West Virginia, to his unbelievable college success at West Virginia University, his 40-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and his relationships with NBA legends like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant. Unsparing in its self-assessment and honesty, West by West is far more than a sports memoir: it is a profound confession and a magnificent inspiration.

Ok, not a new book, but it’s been on my wish list for some time. After the recent news that Jerry West was considering suing the producers of Winning Time, the eBook plummeted in price on Kobo (no reason not to take advantage of a news story), so I snapped it up. I’ve certainly be surprised by the portrayal of West on the HBO show (which, as a whole, I really enjoy). Looking forward to reading it. West by West is out now, published by Little, Brown in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author (Coleman): Goodreads, Twitter

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WhiteA-SS1-AugustKitkoAndTheMechasFromSpaceUSHCAlex White, AUGUST KITKO AND THE MECHAS FROM SPACE (Orbit)

When an army of giant robot AIs threatens to devastate Earth, a virtuoso pianist becomes humanity’s last hope in this bold, lightning-paced, technicolor space opera series…

Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards–ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine.

But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens — the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus’s swan song becomes humanity’s encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity.

This sounds rather fun. The first in the Starmetal Symphony series, August Kitko and the Mechas From Space is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on July 12th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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ZahabiR-CollarboundUKHCRebecca Zahabi, THE COLLARBOUND (Gollancz)

A MAN MARKED BY MAGIC. A WOMAN MARKED BY HER PAST.

On the other side of the Shadowpass, rebellion is brewing and refugees have begun to trickle into the city at the edge of the world. Looming high on the cliff is The Nest, a fortress full of mages who offer protection, but also embody everything the rebellion is fighting against: a strict hierarchy based on magic abilities.

When Isha arrives as a refugee, she attempts to fit in amongst the other mages, but her Kher tattoo brands her as an outcast. She can’t remember her past or why she has the tattoo. All she knows is that she survived. She doesn’t intend to give up now.

Tatters, who wears the golden collar of a slave, knows that this rebellion is different from past skirmishes. He was once one of the rebels, and technically, they still own him. He plans to stay in the shadows, until Isha appears in his tavern. He’s never seen a human with a tattoo, and the markings look eerily familiar…

As the rebellion carves a path of destruction towards the city, an unlikely friendship forms between a man trying to escape his past and a woman trying to uncover hers, until their secrets threaten to tear them apart.

There’s been a lot of great buzz for this novel. Sounds interesting, and Zahabi is a new author to me, so I’m very much looking forward to reading it. The Collarbound is due to be published by Gollancz in the UK, on May 12th. [Check back next week for an annotated excerpt from the novel!]

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received from publisher

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ZouJ-NinthBuildingUKZou Jingzhi, NINTH BUILDING (Honford Star)

Ninth Building is a fascinating collection of vignettes drawn from Zou Jingzhi’s experience growing up during the Cultural Revolution, first as a boy in Beijing and then as a teenager exiled to the countryside. Zou poetically captures a side of the Cultural Revolution that is less talked about — the sheer tedium and waste of young life, as well as the gallows humor that accompanies such desperate situations. Jeremy Tiang’s enthralling translation of this important work of fiction was awarded a PEN/Heim Grant.

Hadn’t heard of this before the publisher reached out about it. Looking forward to giving it a try. Ninth Building is due to be published by Honford Star in the UK, on May 16th.

Review copy received from publisher

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