Quick Review: THREE-RING CIRCUS by Jeff Pearlman (HMH)

PearlmanJ-ThreeRingCircusUSAn amusing, irreverent account of the Lakers of Kobe, Shaq, and Phil Jackson

The story of the Lakers dynasty from 1996 through 2004, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal combined — and collided — to help bring the Lakers three straight championships and restore the franchise as a powerhouse 

In the history of modern sport, there have never been two high-level teammates who loathed each other the way Shaquille O’Neal loathed Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bryant loathed Shaquille O’Neal. From public sniping and sparring, to physical altercations and the repeated threats of trade, it was warfare. And yet, despite eight years of infighting and hostility, by turns mediated and encouraged by coach Phil Jackson, the Shaq-Kobe duo resulted in one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. Together, the two led the Lakers to three straight championships and returned glory and excitement to Los Angeles.

I’m not sure I can remember a time when I didn’t know the names “Kobe Bryant” and, especially, “Shaquille O’Neal”. This despite not having access to NBA games (in person or on TV) until Kobe’s final year in the League, and after Shaq had retired. I knew they’d won the championship together at least twice, but that was it. When Pearlman’s Three-Ring Circus popped up on my radar, I knew I had to read it. And I’m very glad I did: it’s a detailed, irreverent and (seemingly) balanced account of the tense years leading up to and including the Lakers’ three-peat. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Excerpt: SHADOW OF THE HAWK by David Gilman (Head of Zeus)

GilmanD-MoW7-ShadowOfTheHawkThe seventh book in David Gilman‘s Master of War series, Shadow of the Hawk, is due out next week. Head of Zeus were kind enough to provide an excerpt to share in advance of its release. Here’s the novel’s synopsis:

Winter, 1364.

The King is dead.

Defeated on the field of Poitiers, Jean Le Bon, King of France, honoured his treaty with England until his death. His son and heir, Charles V, has no intention of doing the same. War is coming and the predators are circling.

Sir Thomas Blackstone, Edward III’s Master of War, has been tasked with securing Brittany for England. In the throes of battle, he rescues a young boy, sole witness to the final living breaths of the Queen of Castile. The secret the boy carries is a spark deadly enough to ignite conflict on a new front – a front the English cannot afford to fight on.

So Blackstone is ordered south to Castile, across the mountains to shepherd Don Pedro, King of Castile, to safety. Accompanied only by a small detachment of his men and a band of Moorish cavalrymen loyal to the king, every step takes Blackstone further into uncertain territory, deeper into an unyielding snare.

For the Master of War, the shadow of death is always present.

The excerpt is after the break.

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Excerpt: THE BEST OF WORLD SF, VOLUME 1, by Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus)

TidharEd-BestOfWorldSFNext week, Head of Zeus is due to publish The Best of World SF, Volume 1 — a collection of science fiction stories by authors from around the world, it was collected and edited (and in some instances, translated) by award-winning author Lavie Tidhar. The publisher has kindly provided me with an excerpt to share. But, first, here’s the synopsis:

Twenty-six new short stories representing the state of the art in international science fiction, selected by Lavie Tidhar.

The Best of World SF draws together stories from across the spectrum of science fiction – expect robots, spaceships and time travel, as well as some really weird stuff – representing twenty-one countries and five continents.

Lavie Tidhar has selected stories that range from never-before-seen originals to award winners; from authors at every stage of their career; and a number of translations, including a story translated from Hebrew by Tidhar himself.

A full Table of Contents can be found at the end of this post — it’s an impressive line-up, too: I’ve already read three of them (de Bodard’s, Tidbeck’s and Moreno-Garcia’s), so if the rest are as good, then this will be an excellent read. Read on for an excerpt taken from the introduction to the collection, by Lavie Tidhar. Continue reading

New Books (February-March)

NewBooks-20210320

Featuring: John Appel, Rosecrans Baldwin, C.F. Barrington, E.J. Beaton, Jessica Anya Blau, Tom Bradby, Christopher Buehlman, A.A. Dhand, Carolyn Ferrell, Jackson Ford, Alexander Freed, Ben Golliver, Sam Hill, Graham Hurley, Kim Bo-Young, M.J. Kuhn, Derek Künsken, Corry L. Lee, David Liss, Marjorie Liu, Richard Marx, G. R. Matthews, Benjamin Percy, Chris Power, Robert V.S. Redick, Jason Schreier, A. J. Smith, David Swinson, Catherynne M. Valente, Martha Wells, Django Wexler

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Quick Review: MARY JANE by Jessica Anya Blau (Custom House)

BlauJA-MaryJaneUSA young woman finds herself during a momentous summer

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job — helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

This novel is pitched as “Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six” — one of my favourite movies, and one of my favourite recent novels. So, of course, my interest was piqued. After finishing it, I think it’s a pretty apt comparison, but this novel stands very much on its own, too. Mary Jane is a warm-hearted, well-written story of Mary Jane’s coming-of-age in 1970s Baltimore, during a momentous summer. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Progression Fantasy – A Merger of Genres?” by Alex Knight

KnightA-AuthorPicFantasy, as we know it, is an ever-evolving genre. It’s wild, sprawling, and impossible to pin down for any length of time. It’s the beauty of the genre.

At the present, though, I believe we’re seeing a relatively unique evolution in progress.

In recent years, the genre of LitRPG has exploded on the indie and small press scene – and is now reaching into traditional publishing and media. For those that don’t know LitRPG, there are a bunch of definitions, but the one that’s always helped me is this: LitRPG is any story where the characters go into a video game OR the story takes place in a game world OR the story takes place in a world where game logic and mechanics replace physics. Continue reading

Upcoming: THIEF OF SOULS/CITY OF ICE by Brian Klingborg (Minotaur/Headline)

KlingborgB-LF1-ThiefOfSoulsUSI spotted Brian Klingborg‘s upcoming novel in a catalogue a little while ago, and have been looking forward to reading it ever since. Earlier this week, I found the UK cover, so I decided to share the details here. Published in North America as Thief of Souls, and in the UK as City of Ice, it looks like an intriguing start to a new Chinese crime/mystery series. Here’s the synopsis:

The brutal murder of a young woman in a rural village in Northern China sends shockwaves all the way to Beijing — but seemingly only Inspector Lu Fei, living in exile in the small town, is interested in justice for the victim.

KlingborgB-LF1-CityOfIceUKLu Fei is a graduate of China’s top police college but he’s been assigned to a sleepy backwater town in northern China, where almost nothing happens and the theft of a few chickens represents a major crime wave. That is until a young woman is found dead, her organs removed, and joss paper stuffed in her mouth. The CID in Beijing — headed by a rising political star — is on the case but in an increasingly authoritarian China, prosperity and political stability are far more important than solving the murder of an insignificant village girl. As such, the CID head is interested in pinning the crime on the first available suspect rather than wading into uncomfortable truths, leaving Lu Fei on his own.

As Lu digs deeper into the gruesome murder, he finds himself facing old enemies and creating new ones in the form of local Communist Party bosses and corrupt business interests. Despite these rising obstacles, Lu remains determined to find the real killer, especially after he links the murder to other unsolved homicides. But the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery, the more he puts himself and his loved ones in danger.

Brian Klingborg’s first Inspector Lu Fei novel is due to be published on May 4th, 2021, in North America by Minotaur Books, as Thief of Souls; and in the UK by Headline as City of Ice.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Annotated Excerpt: THE UNBROKEN by C. L. Clark (Orbit)

ClarkCL-MotL1-UnbrokenToday, I’m very happy to be able to share with you an annotated excerpt from The Unbroken by C. L. Clark. One of the most hotly-anticipated fantasy debuts of the year, and the first novel in the Magic of the Lost series, it is the story of two women who “clash in a world full of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire”. Due out next week, here’s the synopsis:

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.

And now, on with the excerpt…!

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Quick Review: WINDHALL by Ava Barry (Pegasus Books)

BarryA-WindhallUSAn intriguing, well-written mystery about the long tail of a Golden Age Hollywood murder

An investigative journalist in modern Los Angeles attempts to solve the Golden Age murder of a Hollywood starlet.

1940s Hollywood was an era of decadence and director Theodore Langley was its king. Paired with Eleanor Hayes as his lead actress, Theo ruled the Golden Age of Hollywood. That ended when Eleanor’s mangled body was discovered in Theo’s rose garden and he was charged with her murder. The case was thrown out before it went to trial and Theo fled L.A., leaving his crawling estate, Windhall, to fall into ruin. He hasn’t been seen since.

Decades later, investigative journalist Max Hailey, raised by his gran on stories of old Hollywood, is sure that if he could meet Theo, he could prove once and for all that the famed director killed his leading lady. When a copycat murder takes place near Windhall, the long reclusive Theo returns to L.A., and it seems Hailey finally has his chance.

When Hailey gets his hands on Theo’s long-missing journals, he reads about Eleanor’s stalkers and her role in Theo’s final film, The Last Train to Avalon, a film so controversial it was never released to the public. In the months leading up to her death, something had left her so terrified she stopped coming to work. The more Hailey learns about Avalon, the more convinced he becomes that the film could tell him who killed Eleanor and why she had to die. But the implications of Avalon reach far beyond Eleanor’s murder, and Hailey must race to piece together the murders of the past and present before it’s too late.

What really happened to Eleanor Hayes, all those years ago at Theodore Langley’s party? Was she murdered? And by whom? Has Langley got away with murder for all these years? When the case is thrust back into the spotlight, journalist Max Hailey dig deeper than anyone else ever has to get to the truth. Windhall is an interesting, engaging, and enjoyable mystery novel set in old and contemporary Los Angeles. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: KG: A TO Z by Kevin Garnett (Simon & Schuster)

GarnettK-KGAtoZAn interesting and unorthodox memoir from one of Boston’s Big Three

A unique, unfiltered memoir from the NBA champion and fifteen-time all-star ahead of his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Kevin Garnett was one of the most dominant players the game of basketball has ever seen. He was also one of its most outspoken. Over the course of his illustrious twenty-one-year NBA career, he elevated trash talk to an art form and never shied away from sharing his thoughts on controversial subjects. In KG A to Z, published ahead of Garnett’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he looks back on his life and career with the same raw candor.

Garnett describes the adversity he faced growing up in South Carolina before ultimately relocating to Chicago, where he became one of the top prospects in the nation. He details his headline-making decision to skip college and become the first player in two decades to enter the draft directly from high school, starting a trend that would be followed by future superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. He shares stories of playing with and against Bryant, James, Michael Jordan, and other NBA greats, and he chronicles his professional ups and downs, including winning a championship with the Boston Celtics. He also speaks his mind on a range of topics beyond basketball, such as fame, family, racism, spirituality, and music.

Garnett’s draft decision wasn’t the only way he’d forever change the game. His ability to play on the perimeter as a big man foreshadowed the winning strategy now universally adopted by the league. He applies this same innovative spirit here, organizing the contents alphabetically as an encyclopedia. If you thought Kevin Garnett was exciting, inspiring, and unfiltered on the court, just wait until you read what he has to say in these pages.

Kevin Garnett — long-time Minnesota Timberwolves star, member of the Boston Celtics championship-winning Big Three. KG is one of my in-laws’ favourite players. As I’ve mentioned (probably too frequently, now), I grew up loving the game of basketball, but completely cut off from access to the NBA. So, after reading Michael Holley’s The Big Three, I was keen to learn more about the eponymous trio. Garnett’s memoir, which I ‘read’ as an audiobook, offers an interesting, well-told, and engaging insight into one of the NBA’s great players. Continue reading