Drop-Dead Gorgeous new Bloomsbury Covers…

DKP4_4MUQAAxRSh.jpg-large

These covers are doing the rounds online, but damn if it isn’t easy to see why. Above you can see (small) images of all ten new Bloomsbury Modern Classics covers. Below, I’ve included larger versions of my favourites, as well as information about the novels. Continue reading

Advertisements

Review: JONATHAN UNLEASHED by Meg Rosoff (Bloomsbury/Viking)

RosoffM-JonathanUnleashedUKA sometimes endearing NYC novel…

Jonathan Trefoil’s boss is unhinged, his relationship baffling and his apartment just the wrong side of legal. His girlfriend wants to marry someone just like him – only richer and more organised with a different sense of humour. 

On the plus side, his two flatmates are determined to fix his life – or possibly to destroy it altogether. It’s difficult to be certain as they only speak dog.

Poor Jonathan. He doesn’t remember life being this confusing back in the good old days before everyone expected him to act like a person. But one thing he knows for sure: if he can make it in New York City, he can make it anywhere.

Will he get out of advertising, meet the girl of his dreams and figure out the gender of his secret crush?

Given how it’s going so far, probably not.

I had high hopes for this novel. It was getting a lot of positive buzz and reviews, and so when it popped up on sale on Amazon, I decided to give it a try. Despite some amusing and very well-written passages, the novel ultimately did not live up to the hype. Continue reading

Review Round-Up: LITTLE KNOWN FACTS and THE HOPEFULS

Two novels. Two families. Two very different reactions.

SneedC-LittleKnownFactsLITTLE KNOWN FACTS by Christine Sneed (Bloomsbury USA)

The people who orbit around Renn Ivins, an actor of Harrison Ford-like stature — his girlfriends, his children, his ex-wives, those on the periphery — long to experience the glow of his flame. Anna and Will are Renn’s grown children, struggling to be authentic versions of themselves in a world where they are seen as less-important extensions of their father. They are both drawn to and repelled by the man who overshadows every part of them.

A story of the fallout of fame and fortune on family members and others who can neither fully embrace nor ignore the superstar in their midst. A story of influence and affluence, of forging identity and happiness and a moral compass; the question being, if we could have anything on earth, would we choose correctly?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Little Known Facts. I’d been looking for something new and different to read, and this looked like it might fit the bill. Sneed’s prose is very good, and pulled me through the novel nicely. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, and the novel works its way through the experiences of those who have been swept up into Renn Ivins’s orbit. Sneed does an excellent job giving each character their own distinct voice, and luckily all of them worked.

As can perhaps be predicted, there’s a fair amount of bad behaviour in this novel — especially when it comes to infidelity and philandering (Renn’s behaviour is quite reprehensible in some cases). Each of the characters is flawed, of course, in their own way. Each of them is trying to carve their own identity separate from Renn, while also being unable to resist the allure of proximity and what that conveys and enjoying some of the perks.

I really enjoyed reading this novel. And, despite some flaws, would recommend it to anyone who wants to read a good story about family, fame and celebrity (but mostly focused on what’s going on with the individual family members).

Little Known Facts is published by Bloomsbury.

*

CloseJ-HopefulsUSTHE HOPEFULS by Jennifer Close (Knopf)

The story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to D.C., a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among young Washington’s aspiring elite. 

When Beth arrives in Washington, D.C., she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn’t work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunch, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, their friendship – and Beth’s relationship with Matt – is threatened by jealousy, competition and rumors.

A glorious send-up of young D.C. and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

I think “glorious send-up” means something different to me than to the writer of the synopsis. I had high hopes for this novel, but unfortunately it didn’t deliver. There’s nothing wrong with Close’s prose — there’s a very good flow, and I read the novel pretty quickly. But, ultimately, the story was dull. Things happen, of course, but so much of what I think might have been interesting takes place off-stage. Beth is basically floating through this novel, a mere observer to… well, very little.

Maybe if you’ve lived and worked in DC, you’ll “get” this. There’s certainly a “knowing” tone to some of the scenes. I just think it’s not being quite as clever as it thinks it is. There was nothing particularly original, and nothing particularly interesting in the novel. There was only one moment that made me chuckle (a dream about Mitt Romney). Most of the points to be made — young DC workers are self-involved, form their own tribal rituals and rules, are too earnest for their own good, and are also highly competitive and jealous — is repeated so often, with little variation. The characters felt flat, and Beth’s self-involvement blinded her to potentially interesting observations (maybe that was the point — if Beth was meant to be a boring character, then job well done).

Most of the elements of the novel felt half-baked — if things had just been followed through, then it could have been a very good novel. As it stands, it’s unfortunately quite bland.

The Hopefuls is published by Knopf in July 2016.

Upcoming: THE HEART GOES LAST by Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury)

AtwoodM-HeartGoesLastUKSad to say, I’ve still never read anything by Margaret Atwood… This is a shocking state of affairs. Anyway, the author has a new novel coming out in September 2015 — The Heart Goes Last (Bloomsbury) — and it sounds rather interesting:

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

The information I’ve found on Goodreads (but nowhere else) suggests that this is a collection of four serialized stories originally published separately: I’m Starved for YouChoke CollarErase Me and The Heart Goes Last.

According to Amazon, the book is to be published by Nan A. Talese/Knopf in the US, but I couldn’t find mention of it on the publisher’s website.

New Books … (July #2)

BooksReceived-20140711

Featuring: Daniel Abraham, Katherine Addison, David Annandale, John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Richard Ford, John French, Gary Gibson, Howard Jacobson, D.J. Molles, James Rollins, Neely Tucker, Brent Weeks, Jaye Wells, & anthologies

Abraham-D&C-4-TheWidowsHouseDaniel Abraham, The Widow’s (Orbit)

THE RISE OF THE DRAGON AND THE FALL OF KINGS

Lord Regent Geder Palliako’s war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love – or her destruction.

Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall.

And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.

I really enjoyed the first novel in this series, The Dragon’s Path. The second one came out during a period of frequent moving for me, however, and as a result it slipped by the way-side. Sadly, this has meant I’m really starting to fall behind on the story! I will endeavour to catch up ASAP.

*

AddisonK-GoblinEmperorKatherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor (Tor)

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

Went into Bakka Phoenix in Toronto, had a nice chat with the two staff members. Both talked about this, said it was really good. So, naturally, I picked it up. What really convinced me, though, was the fact that I asked about another critically-acclaimed series, and they gave me an honest opinion, rather than a hard-sell. They very well could have said this other novel was brilliant, and guaranteed another sale. So, yeah. My new favourite place in Toronto. I will spend much of my monies there…

*

Annandale-Yarrick4-TheGallowsSaintDavid Annandale, Yarrick: The Gallows Saint (Black Library)

Fresh from his victory against traitors on Mistral, Commissar Yarrick deploys to Abydos to watch a great triumph in honour of the forces who liberated the world from the grip of the alien tau. But when the planet’s governor is assassinated, Yarrick is drawn into a political game with deadly consequences for himself, his Steel Legion troops and Abydos itself. Can he unravel the mystery and reveal the true traitors on the world before it is too late?

A short story featuring Commissar Yarrick, who seems to be at the centre of a substantial new series (hurrah!) by Annandale. Bought this as soon as I saw it was available. Love the character and think Annandale is doing great things with him. Now I just need to get myself caught up (still haven’t got around to reading the first full-length novel).

*

Connolly&Ridyard-ConquestUKHCJohn Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard, Conquest (Headline)

Earth is no longer ours. It is ruled by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilised yet ruthless alien species. But humankind has not given up the fight, and Paul Kerr is one of a new generation of young Resistance leaders waging war on the invaders.

Syl Hellais is the first of the Illyri to be born on Earth. Trapped inside the walls of her father’s stronghold, hated by the humans, she longs to escape.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Syl’s life is about to change forever. She will become an outcast, an enemy of her people, for daring to save the life of one human: Paul Kerr. Only together do they have a chance of saving each other, and the planet they both call home.

For there is a greater darkness behind the Illyri conquest of Earth, and the real invasion has not yet even begun…

I think I got this as a Hardcover, too, but it was passed over because… well, I’m not really sure. It does sound interesting, and I’ve heard some great things about Connolly’s writing (he has his own series as well). I’ll try to get to this at some point soon.

*

DembskiBowden-Abaddon-ChosenOfChaosAaron Dembski-Bowden, Abaddon: Chosen of Chaos (Black Library)

In the aftermath of battle, a group of Black Legion warlords – traitors to mankind, drawn from across the Legions of Chaos and sworn to the Warmaster – torture a prisoner, a captain of the Space Marines. Defiant to the last, the son of the Emperor is prepared to die, his duty fulfilled. But Abaddon, the Chosen of Chaos, has other plans for this brave warrior…

Aaron DB is one of my favourite science fiction authors. What he can do with anti-heroes is really quite amazing. Whether it’s his Night Lords trilogy, or his contributions to the Horus Heresy series, his writing has never disappointed so far. This short story is a prequel of sorts for his new series, focusing on Abaddon the Despoiler – the sort-of leader of the Traitor Marines in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The first full novel comes out later this year. Can. Not. Wait.

*

Richard Ford, Independence Day & The Lay of the Land (Bloomsbury)

FordR-FrankBascombeTrilogy

ID: Frank Bascombe, in the aftermath of his divorce and the ruin of his career, has entered an “Existence Period,” selling real estate in Haddam, New Jersey, and mastering the high-wire act of normalcy. But over one Fourth of July weekend, Frank is called into sudden, bewildering engagement with life.

Both of these (and a whole bunch of other books by Ford) were only 51p on Kindle. Couldn’t figure out why, but I think Bloomsbury were running a quiet promotion. Anyway, I have The Sportswriter (the first novel featuring Frank Bascombe) and Canada by Ford, and thought this price point was too good to pass up on. Independence Day won the Pulitzer Prize. [NB: This author should not be confused with the other Richard Ford, who is the author of the fantasy novel Kultus, Herald of the Storm and The Shattered Crown.]

*

FrenchJ-Ahriman-TheDeadOracleJohn French, Ahriman: The Dead Oracle (Black Library)

Ctesias, an ancient Space Marine and former prisoner of Amon of the Thousand Sons, tells the tale of one of the events that led him to his destiny. After Amon’s demise, Ctesias comes into the service of Ahriman, the exiled First Captain of the broken Legion, and is given power undreamed of – and drawn into a plot involving the otherworldly daemons of the warp, the machinations of Ahriman and the mysterious dead oracle.

A short story featuring Ahriman, the most important sorcerer of the Thousand Sons Traitor Legion. Despite buying it early, I still haven’t read the first full-length novel featuring Ahriman (Exile). French told me this follows the novel, but that it is independently intelligible. I may save it for after the novel, so it may not be reviewed for a little while. No rush, though, as I bought it so there’s no review pressure.

*

GibsonG-ExtinctionGameGary Gibson, Extinction Game (Tor)

When your life is based on lies, how do you hunt down the truth?

Jerry Beche should be dead. Instead, he’s rescued from a desolate Earth where he was the last man alive. He’s then trained for the toughest conditions imaginable and placed with a crack team of specialists. Every one of them is a survivor, as each withstood the violent ending of their own alternate Earth. And their new specialism? To retrieve weapons and data in missions to other apocalyptic worlds.

But what is ‘the Authority’, the shadowy organization that rescued Beche and his fellow survivors? How does it access other timelines? And why does it need these instruments of death?

As Jerry struggles to obey his new masters, he begins to distrust his new companions. A strange bunch, their motivations are less than clear, and accidents start plaguing their missions. Jerry suspects the Authority is feeding them lies, and team members are spying on him. As a dangerous situation spirals into catastrophe, is there anybody he can trust?

An author I have always wanted to read, but for some reason never have. Not a clue why. This sounds really interesting, so I’ll hopefully get to it ASAP.

*

JacobsonH-JHoward Jacobson, J. (Crown)

Set in the future, a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited, J. is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying.

Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn’t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It wasn’t then, and isn’t now, the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. He doesn’t ask who hurt her. Brutality has grown commonplace. They aren’t sure if they have fallen in love of their own accord, or whether they’ve been pushed into each other’s arms. But who would have pushed them, and why?

Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe – a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened.

For some reason, I always thought Howard Jacobson was American. Probably because his novels seem so widely available in the US bookstores I’ve visited. Anyway, this sounded interesting, and I think Alyssa will like it, too. So I requested it via NetGalley and was approved.

*

Molles-R4-FracturedD.J. Molles, The Remaining: Fractured (Orbit)

A SOLDIER’S MISSION IN A WORLD GONE TO HELL: SURVIVE, RESCUE, REBUILD

This is the destiny of those who stand for others.

Their honour will be bought in blood and pain.

The Camp Ryder Hub is broken. Captain Lee Harden is nowhere to be found, and his allies are scattered across the state, each of them learning that their missions will not be as easy as they thought. Inside the walls of Camp Ryder, a silent war is brewing between those few that still support Lee’s vision of rebuilding and the majority who support Jerry’s desire for isolation. But this war will not remain silent for long. And in this savage world, everyone will have to make a choice.

This series is being published much faster than I can read it. Well, faster than I can start it, as I still haven’t cracked open book one. This is book four. Anyone read it, yet? Is it good? I do tend to like some apocalyptic zombie dystopia from time to time.

*

Rollins-SF10-6thExtinctionUSJames Rollins, The 6th Extinction (William Morrow)

A military research station buried in the remote Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California broadcasts a frantic distress call that ends with a chilling order:

“This is sierra, victor, whiskey. There’s been a breach. Failsafe initiated. No matter the outcome: Kill us… kill us all.”

The site is part of TECOMM, the U.S. Army Test Command. When help arrives to investigate, they discover that everyone in the lab is dead – not just the scientists, but every living thing for fifty square miles is annihilated: every animal, plant, and insect, even bacteria. The land is completely sterile – and the blight is spreading.

Only one team on earth has the scientific knowledge and military precision to handle this mission: Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma. The dead scientists were working on a secret project, researching radically different forms of life on Earth, life that could change our understanding of biology and humanity itself. But something set off an explosion in the lab, and now Sigma must contend with the apocalyptic aftermath.

To prevent the inevitable, they must decipher a futuristic threat that rises out of the distant past – a time when Antarctica was green and life on Earth was balanced on a knife’s edge. Following a fascinating trail of clues buried in an ancient map rescued from the lost Library of Alexandria, Sigma will make a shocking discovery involving a prehistoric continent and a new form of life and death buried under miles of ice. Gray Pierce and his dedicated team must race through eons of time and across distant continents to decipher millennia-old secrets out of the frozen past and untangle mysteries buried deep in the darkest jungles of today, as they face their greatest challenge yet: stopping the Sixth Extinction – the end of humankind.

But is it already too late?

The tenth novel in the Sigma Force series, I’m really looking forward to getting to this one. However… I haven’t yet read the two previous novels in the series, despite having them – Bloodline and The Eye of God. Maybe I’ll have a bit of a Sigma-Binge this month or next? Really enjoyed all of the books I’ve read, so I have high hopes that I’ll enjoy this one, too.

The Sixth Extinction is published in the UK by Orion.

*

TuckerN-WaysOfTheDeadUKNeely Tucker, The Ways of the Dead (Cornerstone)

TRUE DETECTIVE meets HOUSE OF CARDS in the electrifying first novel of a new crime series from a veteran Washington, D.C., reporter

The body of the teenage daughter of a powerful Federal judge is discovered in a dumpster in a bad neighbourhood of Washington, DC. It is murder, and the local police immediately arrest the three nearest black kids, bad boys from a notorious gang.

Sully Carter, a veteran war correspondent with emotional scars far worse than the ones on his body, suspects that there’s more to the case than the police would have the public know.

With the nation clamouring for a conviction, and the bereaved judge due for a court nomination, Sully pursues his own line of enquiry, in spite of some very dangerous people telling him to shut it down.

Spotted this on Amazon, as a Recommended Read based on something else I was looking at. Looked interesting, so I bought it. Hopefully it’ll be read soon, as I’m really in the mood for thrillers at the moment, and especially DC/politics-based ones. My usual go-to authors for that sub-genre are in between novels, so this should fill the gap rather nicely.

*

Weeks-BrokenEyeHCBrent Weeks, The Broken Eye (Orbit)

As the old gods awaken and satrapies splinter, the Chromeria races to find the only man who might still end a civil war before it engulfs the known world. But Gavin Guile has been captured by an old enemy and enslaved on a pirate galley. Worse still, Gavin has lost more than his powers as Prism – he can’t use magic at all.

Without the protection of his father, Kip Guile will face a master of shadows as his grandfather moves to choose a new Prism and put himself in power. With Teia and Karris, Kip will have to use all his wits to survive a secret war between noble houses, religious factions, rebels, and an ascendant order of hidden assassins called The Broken Eye.

I’m SO BEHIND! Still need to read the second novel in this series. Shameful, really, given how much I enjoy Weeks’s writing – the Night Angel Trilogy were the first books I got to review from Orbit, and they helped me develop a fondness and loyalty, not to mention trust in Orbit’s publishing taste. Ever since, I have rarely been disappointed in one of their novels. Weeks is one of my favourite fantasy authors, and I really can’t figure out why I’ve let this series slide…

*

WellsJ-PW2-CursedMoonJaye Wells, Cursed Moon (Orbit)

MAGIC IS A DRUG. IT’LL COST MORE THAN YOU CAN PAY.

When a rare Blue Moon upsets the magical balance in the city, Detective Kate Prospero and her Magical Enforcement colleagues pitch in to help Babylon PD keep the peace. Between potions going haywire and everyone’s emotions running high, every cop in the city is on edge. But the moon’s impact is especially strong for Kate who’s wrestling with guilt over falling off the magic wagon.

After a rogue wizard steals dangerous potions from the local covens, Kate worries their suspect is building a dirty magic bomb. Her team must find the anarchist rogue before the covens catch him, and make sure they defuse the bomb before the Blue Moon deadline. Failure is never an option, but success will require Kate to come clean about her secrets.

This novel, and the one before it in the series, just sound like a lot of fun, good-quality Urban Fantasy. Expect them to be read soon.

*

Various-FearsomeMagicsVarious, Fearsome Magics (Solaris)

A cabinet of magic! A cavalcade of wonder! A collection of stories both strange and wondrous, of tales filled with wild adventure and strange imaginings. Fearsome Magics, the second New Solaris Book of Fantasy, is all these things and more. It is, we think, the best book you will read all year.

Award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan has invited some of the best and most exciting writers working in fantasy today to let their imaginations run wild and to deliver stories that will thrill and awe, delight and amuse. And above all, stories that are filled with fearsome magic! Authors commited to take part include Christopher Priest, Garth Nix, Catherine M. Valente, Ellen Klages, Isobelle Carmody, Nalo Hopkinson, Frances Hardinge, Scott Lynch, Robert Shearman, Justina Robson, Christopher Rowe, Karin Tidbeck and KJ Parker.

Interesting mix of authors, including a fair number I’ve never read befor but would like to try.

*

deBodard-SolarisRising3Various, Solaris Rising 3 (Solaris)

Following the exceptionally well received Solaris Rising 1, 1.5 (e-only) and 2, series editor Ian Whates brings even more best-selling and cutting-edge SF authors together for the latest extrordinary volume of new original ground-breaking stories.

These stories are guaranteed to surprise,thrill and delight, and continue our mission to demonstrate why science-fiction remains the most exciting, varied and inspiring of all fiction genres. In Solaris Rising 1 and 2 we showed both the quality and variety that modern science fiction can produce. In Solaris Rising 3, we’ll be taking SF into the outer reaches of the universe. Aliette de Bodard, Tony Ballantyne and Sean Williams are just three of the exciting names to appear.

See commnet above, as it is relevant here, too.

*

Various-221BakerStreetsVarious, Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets (Solaris)

The world’s most famous detective, as you’ve never seen him before! This is a collection of original short stories finding Holmes and Watson in times and places you would never have expected!

A dozen established and up-and-coming authors invite you to view Doyle’s greatest creation through a decidedly cracked lens.

Read about Holmes and Watson through time and space, as they tackle a witch-trial in seventeenth century Scotland, bandy words with Andy Warhol in 1970s New York, travel the Wild Frontier in the Old West, solve future crimes in a world of robots and even cross paths with a young Elvis Presley…

Set to include stories by Kasey Lansdale, Guy Adams, Jamie Wyman, J E Cohen, Gini Koch, Glen Mehn, Kelly Hale, Kaaron Warren, Emma Newman and more.

Uh… ditto. Again.

*

Recently Received Titles…

BooksReceived-201404-01

Featuring: Anne Bishop, Carole K. Carr, Joël Dicker, Charlaine Harris, Tanya Huff, Mark Millar, Gary Meehan, Isla Morley, Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, Tom Rachman, Samantha Shannon, Joel Shepherd, F.R. Tallis, David Wingrove

Bishop-BJ2-HeirToTheShadowsUKAnne Bishop, Heir to the Shadow (Jo Fletcher Books)

Witch – the Queen who would bring freedom to the realms – has come, but now she is lost in darkness, and has a long road to recovery ahead of her.

While her adopted father, Saeten, waits for her to return to the living world, the third side of the triangle needed to complete the prophecy – the lover, Daemon – walks in the Twisted Kingdom on the edge of madness.

As insidious whispers and dark schemes ferment treachery and betrayal, Jaenelle must make a choice: to protect those she loves, she must be more than an heir, she must become a Queen.

The second novel in Bishop’s Black Jewel trilogy, available in the UK for the first time (as a non-import).

*

Carole K. Carr, India Black & India Black and the Widow of Windsor (Titan Books)

CarrCK-IndiaBlack1and2UK

When Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, Madam India Black is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.

Blackmailed into recovering the missing documents by the British spy known as French, India finds herself dodging Russian agents, seducing spies and embarking on midnight sleigh rides, not to mention ignoring the attraction she starts to feel for her handsome and exasperating British co-conspirator.

These are the first two novels in Carr’s A Madam of Espionage series (of four, with also a couple of short stories). I am quite intrigued by the series, as it looks both fun and different to what I normally read.

*

DickerJ-TruthAboutTheHarryQuebertAffairUKJoël Dicker, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (MacLehose Press)

August 30, 1975. The day of the disappearance. The day a small New Hampshire town lost its innocence.

That summer Harry Quebert fell in love with fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan. Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard along with a manuscript copy of his career-defining novel. Quebert is the only suspect.

Marcus Goldman – Quebert’s most gifted protégé – throws off his writer’s block to clear his mentor’s name. Solving the case and penning a new bestseller soon blur together. As his book begins to take on a life of its own, the nation is gripped by the mystery of “The Girl Who Touched the Heart of America”. But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.

This is one of my most-anticipated novels of the year. I’ll be reading it next-but-one (it’s always dependent on my mood, as long-time readers will know). Because before that, I’ll be reading (and have actually already started)…

*

HarrisC-MT1-MidnightCrossroadUKCharlaine Harris, Midnight Crossroad (Gollancz)

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (where someone lives in the basement and runs the store during the night). There’s a diner (although those folk who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident: Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

If you stop at the one traffic light in town, then everything looks normal. But if you stay a while, you might learn the truth…

The start of a brand new urban fantasy series from mega-selling author of the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series. This will actually be my first read by Harris, and I will be starting it within a couple days.

*

HuffT-C4-ValoursTrialUKTanya Huff, Valour’s Trial (Titan)

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is a Confederation Marines marine. She’s survived more deadly encounters and kept more of her officers and enlistees alive than anyone in the Corps. Unexpectedly pulled from battle, Torin finds herself in an underground POW camp that shouldn’t exist, where her fellow marine prisoners seem to have lost all will to escape. Now, Torin must fight her way not only out of the prison but also past the growing compulsion to sit down and give up not realizing that her escape could mean the end of the war.

This is the fourth novel in Huff’s Confederation series – an ass-kicking military sci-fi series. It’s been available in the States for some time, but Titan have been releasing the series over the course of the past couple of years in the UK – and I’m very happy they did!

*

SecretService-KingsmanMark Millar, Secret Service: Kingsman (Titan Comics)

The world’s greatest secret agent is on the most exciting case of his career. But will the end of the world as we know it take a back seat to training his street-punk nephew to be the next James Bond?

Meanwhile, what’s the secret link between a series of kidnapped sci-fi stars, the murder of an entire town, and a dark secret from inside Mount Everest? Under Uncle Jack’s supervision, Gary’s spy skills and confidence blossom – but when the duo learn what’s behind the celebrity kidnappings, the knowledge comes at a price. The conspiracy begins to unravel, but who can be trusted when so many prominent figures seem to be involved?

I read the first issue of Secret Service when it first came out in the US. It was pretty good. I don’t really know why I didn’t keep reading it… Well, now I have the opportunity to get the whole story.

*

MeehanG-TrueFireGary Meehan, True Fire (Quercus)

Sixteen-year-old Megan is pregnant.

As she prepares to tell her family, the unthinkable happens. Her village is razed by soldiers: her grandfather murdered, her twin sister taken.

On a desperate mission to rescue her beloved Gwyneth, Megan discovers a terrifying truth – that the destruction of her old life is inextricably linked to her unborn child. The feared witch soldiers, vanquished a generation ago, have returned to see the fulfilment of a prophecy: one that will put Megan and her new friends – Eleanor, a fiery ex-aristocrat, and Damon, a wayward charmer – at the heart of the greatest war her world has ever known.

This could be interesting. Not sure how quickly I’ll get around to it, but I do hope to read this relatively soon.

*

MorleyI-AboveIsla Morley, Above (Two Roads)

I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in – the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promising and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice – between survival and freedom.

Never heard anything about this book or author, before it arrived in the mail. Guess I’ll just have to dive in, see what I find…

*

PratchettBaxter-TheLongWarTerry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, The Long War (Transworld)

A generation after the events of The Long Earth, mankind has spread across the new worlds opened up by Stepping. Where Joshua and Lobsang once pioneered, now fleets of airships link the stepwise Americas with trade and culture. Mankind is shaping the Long Earth – but in turn the Long Earth is shaping mankind… A new “America”, called Valhalla, is emerging more than a million steps from Datum Earth, with core American values restated in the plentiful environment of the Long Earth – and Valhalla is growing restless under the control of the Datum government…

Meanwhile the Long Earth is suffused by the song of the trolls, graceful hive-mind humanoids. But the trolls are beginning to react to humanity’s thoughtless exploitation… Joshua, now a married man, is summoned by Lobsang to deal with a gathering multiple crisis that threatens to plunge the Long Earth into a war unlike any mankind has waged before.

The second volume in Pratchett and Baxter’s shared science fiction series, The Long Earth. I haven’t read the first in the series, but I’m willing to give the series a try.

*

RachmanT-Rise&FallOfGreatPowersTom Rachman, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (Sceptre)

Tooly Zylberberg, the American owner of an isolated bookshop in the Welsh countryside, conducts a life full of reading, but with few human beings. Books are safer than people, who might ask awkward questions about her life. She prefers never to mention the strange events of her youth, which mystify and worry her still.

Taken from home as a girl, Tooly found herself spirited away by a group of seductive outsiders, implicated in capers from Asia to Europe to the United States. But who were her abductors? Why did they take her? What did they really want? There was Humphrey, the curmudgeonly Russian with a passion for reading; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who sowed chaos in her wake; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader whose worldview transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he disappeared.

Years later, Tooly believes she will never understand the true story of her own life. Then startling news arrives from a long-lost boyfriend in New York, raising old mysteries and propelling her on a quest around the world in search of answers.

I’ve only read one of Rachman’s short stories, but I’m really looking forward to giving this a try.

*

ShannonS-BoneSeasonSamantha Shannon, The Bone Season (Bloomsbury)

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city – Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly – as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

I’m hoping to read this pretty soon – I’ve been dragging my feet. I’ve heard mixed things, but I’m going to go in with an open mind.

*

ShepherdJ-CK2-OperationShieldUSJoel Shepherd, Shield (Pyr)

Part military SF, part cyberpunk, part grand-scale space opera, and part techno-psychological thriller, the Cassandra Kresnov novels transcend the recently narrow segmentation of the science fiction genre.

In 23 Years on Fire, Cassandra discovered that the technology that created her has been misused in her former home and now threatens all humanity with catastrophe. Returning home to Callay, she finds that Federation member worlds, exhausted by the previous thirty-year-war against the League, are unwilling to risk the confrontation that a solution may require. Some of these forces will go to any lengths to avoid a new conflict, including taking a sledgehammer to the Federation Constitution and threatening the removal by force of Cassandra’s own branch of the Federal Security Agency.

More frighteningly for Sandy, she has brought back to Callay three young children, whom she met on the mean streets of Droze, discovering maternal feelings she had not known she possessed. Can she reconcile her duty as a soldier, including what she must do as a tactician, with the dangers that those decisions will place upon her family-the one thing that has come to mean more to her than any cause she now believes in?

I’ve been aware of Joel Shepherd for a little while, having seen his name and novels mentioned in Pyr’s catalogues and on their website for a while. And yet, for some reason I’ve never picked one up. They seem to be in the same sub-genre of science fiction as Justina Robson’s Quantum Gravity series (also published by Pyr in the US, and Gollancz in the UK). This is the second in the series, so I’m not sure how long it will take me to catch up and read the first one before moving on to this. It does sound cool, though…

*

SmytheJ-NoHarmCanComeToAGoodManJames Smythe, No Harm Can Come to a Good Man (Borough Press)

How far would you go to save your family from an invisible threat?

ClearVista is used by everyone and can predict anything. It’s a daily lifesaver, predicting weather to traffic to who you should befriend.

Laurence Walker wants to be the next President of the United States. ClearVista will predict his chances. It will predict whether he’s the right man for the job. It will predict that his son can only survive for 102 seconds underwater. It will predict that Laurence’s life is about to collapse in the most unimaginable way.

This has a really intriguing premise. I’ve dipped in already, and am not sure what I think. I’ll come back to it when I’m more in the mood for something along these lines. Hopefully won’t be too long.

*

TallisFR-VoicesF.R. Tallis, The Voices (Pan Macmillan)

In the scorching summer of 1976 the hottest since records began Christopher Norton, his wife Laura and their young daughter Faye settle into their new home in north London. The faded glory of the Victorian house is the perfect place for Norton, a composer of film soundtracks, to build a recording studio of his own. But soon in the long, oppressively hot nights, Laura begins to hear something through the crackle of the baby monitor. First, a knocking sound. Then come the voices. For Norton, the voices mark an exciting opportunity. Putting his work to one side, he begins the project of a lifetime a grand symphony incorporating the voices and becomes increasingly obsessed with one voice in particular. Someone who is determined to make themselves heard…

I’ve never read anything by Tallis. Not sure when (or if) I’ll be able to get around to this one, but it does sound interesting.

*

Wingrove-1-TheEmpireOfTimeDavid Wingrove, The Empire of Time (Del Rey UK)

There is only the war.

Otto Behr is a German agent, fighting his Russian counterparts across three millennia, manipulating history for moments in time that can change everything.

Only the remnants of two great nations stand and for Otto, the war is life itself, the last hope for his people.

But in a world where realities shift and memory is never constant, nothing is certain, least of all the chance of a future with his Russian love…

Wingrove is the author of the multi-volume Chung Kuo series. I have the first book in that series, but for some reason I just never got around to reading it. This novel has a really intriguing premies, though, so I may get to this far sooner than the author’s previous series.

*

Which of these has caught your eye? Any other books you’ve received recently that you’re excited to get started on?

Book Trailer: “The Bone Season” by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury)

I mentioned a few days back that a copy of The Bone Season had arrived unexpectedly. I’m looking forward to reading the novel, and may also host an interview with the author, closer to the release date. Check out the trailer (above), and the synopsis (below)…

Welcome to Scion, no safer place.

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing. It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, kidnapped and drugged, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite creature with dark honey skin and heavy-lidded yellow eyes. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

The Bone Season will be published in the UK by Bloomsbury, on August 20th 2013.

ShannonS-BoneSeason