Very Quick Review: WE THE NORTH by Doug Smith (Viking)

SmithD-WeTheNorthA reporter reflects on 25 years of the Toronto Raptors

When the Toronto Raptors first took the court back in 1995, the world was a very different place. Michael Jordan was tearing up the NBA. No one had email. And a lot of people wondered whether basketball could survive in Toronto, the holy city of hockey.

Twenty-five years later, the Raptors are the heroes not only of the 416, but of the entire country. That is the incredible story of We the North, told by Doug Smith, the Toronto Star reporter who has been covering the team since the press conference announcing Canada’s new franchise and the team’s beat reporter from that day on.

Comprising twenty-five chapters to mark the team’s twenty-five years, We the North celebrates the biggest moments of the quarter-century–from Vince Carter’s amazing display at the dunk competition to the play-off runs, the major trades, the Raptors’ incredible fans, including Nav Bhatia and Drake, and, of course, the challenges that marked the route to the championship-clinching Game 6 that brought the whole country to a standstill.

We the North: 25 Years of the Toronto Raptors tells the story of Canada’s most exciting team, charting their rise from a sporting oddity in a hockey-mad country to the status they hold today as the reigning NBA champions and national heroes.

I’ve written about how I quickly became a Raptors fan after moving to Toronto in 2014, and how the greater access to NBA games (on TV and also, occasionally in-person) made me somewhat addicted to the sport. Like many (most?) people in the city, I was swept up by the excitement of the 2019 championship run and victory. I have also been enjoying the many stories from my in-laws, who have been avid Raptor fans since the franchise was launched, who have provided some interesting and useful lessons in the franchise’s history. Doug Smith has been there from the start: the first reporter on the Raptors beat. We the North is a collection of short essays, covering various aspects of the team and its history. It’s an engaging read. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE MALEFICENT SEVEN by Cameron Johnston (Angry Robot)

JohnstonC-MaleficentSevenThis morning, the cover for Cameron Johnston‘s upcoming new novel, The Maleficent Seven, caught my eye on Twitter. Looking up the synopsis, I got some vibes similar to those I found in Ari Marmell’s The Conqueror’s Shadow (which I really enjoyed). I’m really looking forward to trying this one. Here’s the synopsis:

When you are all out of heroes, all that’s left are the villains.

Black Herran was a dread demonologist, and the most ruthless general in all Essoran. She assembled the six most fearsome warriors to captain her armies: a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish warleader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. Together they brought the whole continent to its knees… Until the day she abandoned her army, on the eve of total victory.

40 years later, she must bring her former captains back together for one final stand, in the small town of Tarnbrooke — the last bastion against a fanatical new enemy tearing through the land, intent on finishing the job Black Herran started years before.

Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope.

Cameron Johnston’s The Maleficent Seven is due to be published by Angry Robot Books in North America and in the UK, on August 10th, 2021.

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Interview with ELLY BANGS

BangsE-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Elly Bangs?

I’m a Seattle-based science fiction and fantasy author. I’ve been writing stories and novels since I was a kid, but I only started seriously sending my work out into the world in 2017; around that time I was lucky enough to find a day job that lets me scrape by while still leaving me time to write. Since then I’ve had about a dozen stories out in publications including ClarkesworldBeneath Ceaseless Skies, and Escape Pod. What else? I live with my partner and two cats. I treasure my friendship with my Clarion West class. I enjoy bicycling, tinkering with circuitry, and baking pies — though not at the same time. Continue reading

Quick Review: ASTRAL SEASON, BEASTLY SEASON by Tahi Saihate (Honford Star)

SaihateT-AstralSeasonBeastlySeasonUKAn interesting novel about obsession, violence, and grief

The story follows Morishita and Yamashiro, two high-school boys approaching the age in life when they must choose what kind of people they want to be. When their favourite J-pop idol kills and dismembers her boyfriend, Morishita and Yamashiro unite to convince the police that their idol’s act was in fact by them. This thrilling novel is a meditation on belonging, the objectification of young popstars, and teenage alienation.

This is the first novel I’ve read published by Honford Star. Their mission is to publish major, overlooked-in-English East Asian authors, and also modern authors who combine both literary and genre sensibilities. Astral Season, Beastly Season is a more contemporary novel, and one that examines how obsession can twist someone to commit horrific and violent acts, and also the fall-out of such violence. It’s an interesting read. Continue reading

Upcoming: WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Doubleday/Harper Collins UK)

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUSBest known as one of the most charismatic, capable, and compelling American politicians of the day, Stacey Abrams is also an author of fiction, and has been for quite some time. I haven’t had a chance to read any of her novels, yet, but While Justice Sleeps — due out later this year — looks very interesting. I’m really looking forward to reading this one:

Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together — excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn — the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases — has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court — a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUKAs political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.

Stacey Abrams’s While Justice Sleeps is due to be published by Doubleday in the US and Canada (May 11th), and Harper Collins in the UK (May 27th).

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH by Cassandra Khaw (Tor Nightfire)

Nothing But Blackened 4c.inddCassandra Khaw is going to have a pretty busy 2021, it seems. In addition to the print/eBook edition of Walk Among Us, and The All-Consuming World, the author’s creepy-looking Nothing But Blackened Teeth will also arrive just in time for Halloween. The awesome cover was unveiled earlier today, and it certainly looks like the perfect novel to read (with the lights on):

A gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends.

But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is due to be published by Tor Nightfire in North America and in the UK, on October 19th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Very Quick Review: THE LAW OF INNOCENCE by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown/Orion)

ConnellyM-MH7-LawOfInnocenceUSMickey Haller, murderer?

On the night he celebrates a big win, defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a former client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is immediately charged with murder but can’t post the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.

Mickey elects to represent himself and is forced to mount his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles. All the while he needs to look over his shoulder — as an officer of the court he is an instant target, and he makes few friends when he reveals a corruption plot within the jail.

But the bigger plot is the one against him. Haller knows he’s been framed, whether by a new enemy or an old one. As his trusted team, including his half-brother, Harry Bosch, investigates, Haller must use all his skills in the courtroom to counter the damning evidence against him.

Even if he can obtain a not-guilty verdict, Mickey understands that it won’t be enough. In order to be truly exonerated, he must find out who really committed the murder and why. That is the law of innocence.

Just wanted to post a very quick review of Michael Connelly’s latest thriller. I read it in two late-night sittings, on tenterhooks: I just had to know how Mickey Haller was going to get himself out of his latest predicament. If you’re a fan of Connelly’s novels, then you’ll no doubt have already picked up/read this one. If you still haven’t given Connelly’s thrillers a try, then I can’t recommend them highly enough. Gripping, well-paced, and another excellent read, The Law of Innocence did not disappoint. Continue reading

Upcoming: TOWER by Bae Myung-hoon (Honford Star)

BaeMH-TowerUKI only heard about Bae Myung-hoon‘s Tower when a review copy arrived in the mail. I’m very glad it did, though, because not only does it have a gorgeous cover, but it also sounds really interesting. (I think I’ll also be exploring more of Honford Star’s titles, too — their “mission is to publish the best literature from East Asia, be it classic or contemporary.”) Very much looking forward to giving it a try. Here’s the synopsis:

Tower is a series of interconnected stories set in Beanstalk, a 674-story skyscraper and sovereign nation. Each story deals with how citizens living in the hypermodern high-rise deal with various influences of power in their lives: a group of researchers have to tell their boss that a major powerbroker is a dog, a woman uses the power of the internet to rescue a downed fighter pilot abandoned by the government, and an out-of-towner finds himself in charge of training a gentle elephant to break up protests. Bae explores the forces that shape modern life with wit and a sly wink at the reader.

Bae Myung-hoon’s Tower is due to be published by Honford Star in the UK, on February 15th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Goodreads

Upcoming: BLINDSPACE by Jeremy Szal (Gollancz)

SzalJ-C2-BlindspaceLast year, Jeremy Szal‘s debut novel Stormblood made quite a splash when it was published. It is one of the novels that is rapidly climbing my never-ending TBR mountain, but now I have a target: get it read before Blindspace is published. Really looking forward to reading both of these novels. Here’s the synopsis:

Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper: a bio-enhanced soldier fighting for the Harmony, against a brutal invading empire. He’s still fighting now, on a different battlefield: taking on stormtech. To make him a perfect soldier, Harmony injected him with the DNA of an extinct alien race, altering his body chemistry and leaving him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. But although they meant to create soldiers, at the same time Harmony created a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

Now, Vakov may have walked away from Harmony, but they still know where to find him…

Jeremy Szal’s Blindspace is due to be published by Gollancz in the UK, on October 28th, 2021.

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Upcoming: ISLAND REICH by Jack Grimwood (Michael Joseph)

GrimwoodJ-IslandReichUKI’ve been a fan of Jack Grimwood‘s writing for some time. I enjoyed his  Assassini series (an atmospheric horror/vampire trilogy), and was intrigued when he decided to move into historical thrillers. His first Cold War thriller/mystery, Moskva was great, and introduced readers to Tom Fox (who also appears in Nightfall Berlin). This year, Penguin are due to publish a new stand-alone World War II mystery, Island Reich, which also sounds really interesting:

An unlikely spy.

July 1940. As Britain braces itself for invasion, ex-Tommy and safecracker Bill O’Hagan is glad to have escaped the battlefield. But when a job goes wrong, he finds himself forced to serve his country once more.

A former king.

Spurned by his government and fearing for his life, the Duke of Windsor flees to Portugal with the woman for whom he abdicated the throne, Wallis Simpson. As a web of Nazi trickery threatens to ensnare him, his fate and the fate of Britain rest on one man.

The fate of a nation in their hands.

Dropped on an occupied Channel Island without backup, Bill must crack an enemy safe and get its contents to safety. Failure will devastate any hope Britain has of winning the war.

But with the layers of deception and intrigue drawing ever more tightly around them, Bill and the Duke both learn they aren’t the only players in this game. And Berlin – which has the Duke in its own sights — is plotting its greatest move yet…

Jack Grimwood’s Island Reich is due to be published by Penguin in the UK, on May 27th, 2021. (Couldn’t find any information about a North American release, at the time of writing.)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter