New Books (September #1)

BooksReceived-20140913

Featuring: Kelley Armstrong, Greg Bear, Sandra Brown, Steven Erikson, Liu Cixin, Sergei Lukyanenko, Alexander Maskill, Amy McCulloch, David Mitchell, Joseph O’Neill, Alice Peterson, Cherie Priest, Mike Resnick, Jamie Schultz, Adam Sternbergh, Jeff VanderMeer

Armstrong-OtherworldNightsUKKelley Armstrong, Otherworld Nights (Orbit)

A suspenseful, sexy new collection of stories and novellas, both original and curated by the author from her short fiction.

Sunday Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong captivated readers with her Women of the Otherworld series of supernatural thrillers. In this new anthology, favourite characters return in stories of drama, danger and desire. Legendary werewolf partners Elena and Clay stalk the pages of this book, along with vampires, witches, half-demons and sorcerers.

Filled with fan favourites and rarities, Otherworld Nights concludes with a brand-new novella, “Vanishing Act”: This thrilling longer story is set after series finale 13, and features much-loved characters Savannah and Adam as they begin a new life – and a mysterious new case – together.

I have never read any of Armstrong’s novels, despite being really interested in them. I remember having a quick look at Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic years ago, but it was around the time I started getting review copies – therefore, I was still going through the, “Oh, well, I can’t buy more books yet, because I have to read and review these ones…” I have since got over that. And so, I went out and picked up the aforementioned Dime Store Magic (I know that’s not technically the first novel in the Women of the Otherworld series, but I think it sounds like a more interesting starting point than Bitten).

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BearG-WarDogsGreg Bear, War Dogs (Orbit)

One more tour on the red. Maybe my last.

They made their presence on Earth known thirteen years ago.

Providing technology and scientific insights far beyond what mankind was capable of. They became indispensable advisors and promised even more gifts that we just couldn’t pass up. We called them Gurus.

It took them a while to drop the other shoe. You can see why, looking back.

It was a very big shoe, completely slathered in crap.

They had been hounded by mortal enemies from sun to sun, planet to planet, and were now stretched thin – and they needed our help.

And so our first bill came due. Skyrines like me were volunteered to pay the price. As always.

These enemies were already inside our solar system and were moving to establish a beachhead, but not on Earth.

On Mars.

Military science fiction, from a respected author – but yet another I have never read before. Looking forward to this.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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BrownS-MeanStreakUSSandra Brown, Mean Streak (Grand Central)

Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.

While police suspect Jeff of “instant divorce,” Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won’t even tell her his name. She’s determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive.

Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can’t turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law. Wrong becomes right at the hands of the man who strikes fear, but also sparks passion.

As her husband’s deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer from those who wish her dead – and from heartbreak.

Combining the nail-biting suspense and potent storytelling that has made Sandra Brown one of the world’s best loved authors, MEAN STREAK is a wildly compelling novel about love, deceit, and the choices we must make in order to survive.

Never read anything by Brown before. This looks interesting, so I picked it up.

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EriksonS-WillfulChildUSSteven Erikson, Willful Child (Tor)

From the New York Times Bestselling author Steven Erikson comes a new science fiction novel of devil-may-care, near calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space.

These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the…

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.’

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an SF novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

Erikson is likely know to the vast majority of readers of CR as the author of the Malazan series. Which I have never read (though I think I probably should at some point). This seems to be an entirely different kettle of fish – a humorous Sci-Fi romp. Certainly intrigued. Will go in with an open mind.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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CixinL-ThreeBodyProblemLiu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem (Tor)

Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

Don’t know much about it, other than the fact that it sounds interesting. So… that was enough for me to request it.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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LukyanenkoS-TheGenomeSergei Lukyanenko, The Genome (Open Road Media)

Five months after the horrific accident that left him near death and worried that he’d never fly again, master-pilot Alex Romanov lands a new job: captaining the sleek passenger vessel Mirror. Alex is a spesh – a human who has been genetically modified to perform particular tasks. As a captain and pilot, Alex has a genetic imperative to care for passengers and crew – no matter what the cost.

His first mission aboard Mirror is to ferry two representatives of the alien race Zzygou on a tour of human worlds. His task will not be an easy one, for aboard the craft are several speshes who have reason to hate the Others. Dark pasts, deadly secrets, and a stolen gel-crystal worth more than Alex’s entire ship combine to challenge him at every turn. And as the tension escalates, it becomes apparent that greater forces are at work to bring the captain’s world crashing down.

I never read Night Watch or any of the novels in that series. I did see the movie, and thought it was pretty interesting. Didn’t love it, though. This, on the other hand (which I think I first heard about via SF Signal) sounds pretty interesting. I’ll hopefully get to it pretty soon, when I get a jonesing for Sci-Fi.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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MaskillA-HiveConstructUKAlexander Maskill, The Hive Construct (Doubleday)

Situated deep in the Sahara Desert, New Cairo is a city built on technology – from the huge, life-giving solar panels that keep it functioning in a radically changed, resource-scarce world to the artificial implants that have become the answer to all and any of mankind’s medical problems.

But it is also a divided city, dominated by a handful of omnipotent corporate dynasties.

And when a devastating new computer virus begins to spread through the poorest districts, shutting down the life-giving implants that enable so many to survive, the city begins to slide into the anarchy of violent class struggle.

Hiding amidst the chaos is Zala Ulora. A gifted hacker and fugitive from justice, she believes she might be able to earn her life back by tracing the virus to its source and destroying it before it destroys the city. Or before the city destroys itself…

With its vivid characters, bold ideas and explosive action, The Hive is science fiction at its most exciting, inventive and accessible.

The Hive Construct is the latest winner of the Terry Pratchett Prize. I seem to have missed this year’s prize announcement, etc., so this was a nice surprise. I’m intrigued, but I can’t say I’ll be getting to it in a timely manner (I just have so many books to get caught up on, plus work to plan around).

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McCullochA-2-ShadowsCurseAmy McCulloch, The Shadow’s Curse (Doubleday)

Raim is no closer to figuring out the meaning of the broken vow that sentenced him to exile for life. But with his former best friend now a tyrannical Khan who is holding the girl Raim loves captive, he finds it hard to care. Every day, he and Draikh learn more about their powers, but it quickly becomes clear that he will never be able to stop Khareh and free Wadi unless he can free himself from the ultimate taboo of his people. Reluctantly, Raim begins the long journey down to the dangerous South, to find the maker of his oath.

In Khareh’s camp, Wadi is more than capable of devising her own escape plan, but she’s gradually realizing she might not want to. The more she learns about Khareh, the more confused she becomes. He’s done unquestionably bad things, horrific even, but he’s got big dreams for Darhan that might improve their dire situation. What’s more, rumours of a Southern king massing an army to invade Darhan are slowly gaining ground. Only if the Northern tribes can come together under a single ruler will they have the strength to fight the South – but what if that ruler is an impulsive (albeit brilliant) young man, barely able to control his ever-growing power, and missing the one part of him that might keep him sane?

Whoever conquers the desert, wins the war. And the secret to desert survival lies in Lazar, which is set to become the heart of a great battle once again.

I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, and I’m really looking forward to completing the story. And seeing if my theory is correct…

Also on CR: Interview with Amy McCulloch

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MitchellD-BoneClocksUSDavid Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (Knopf)

Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life.  But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences  reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence; a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting from Occupied Iraq; a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list: all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.

Another critically-acclaimed author I’ve never read. This was released. It seemed like a good time to see what everyone else was talking about.

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978-0-307-37823-1.JPGJoseph O’Neill, The Dog (Knopf)

Distraught by a breakup with his long-term girlfriend, our unnamed hero leaves New York to take an unusual job in a strange desert metropolis. In Dubai at the height of its self-invention as a futuristic Shangri-la, he struggles with his new position as the “family officer” of the capricious and very rich Batros family. And he struggles, even more helplessly, with the “doghouse,” a seemingly inescapable condition of culpability in which he feels himself constantly trapped – even if he’s just going to the bathroom, or reading e-mail, or scuba diving. A comic and philosophically profound exploration of what has become of humankind’s moral progress, The Dog is told with Joseph O’Neill’s hallmark eloquence, empathy, and storytelling mastery. It is a brilliantly original, achingly funny fable for our globalized times.

This sounded really interesting. So I bought it.

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48790_One Step Closer To You_PB.inddAlice Peterson, One Step Closer To You, By My Side and Monday to Friday Man (Quercus)

OSCTY: After Polly ends her relationship with the father of her young son, Louis, she is determined to move on. All she wants is to focus on her job, her friends and to be a good mum. No more looking over her shoulder. No more complications…

Then Polly meets Ben.

Ben is guardian of his niece, Emily. They become close, with Polly teaching Ben how to plait Emily’s hair, and Ben playing football with Louis. Their friendship is unexpected. Polly’s never been happier.

But when Louis’s dad reappears in their life, all Polly’s mistakes come back to haunt her and her resolve weakens when he swears he has changed.

Will she give herself a second chance to love?

Haven’t read anything by Peterson before. Not entirely sure why they were sent to me, but I’m willing to give them a try.

PetersonA-2Books

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Priest-BD1-MaplecroftCherie Priest, Maplecroft (Roc)

Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one…

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.

The first in Priest’s new series, the Borden Dispatches. Enjoyed Boneshaker (despite some flaws) and also Clementine. Really need to get caught up on the steampunk novels. So very far behind…

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Resnick-DE1-FortressInOrionUSMike Resnick, Fortress in Orion (Pyr)

The Democracy is at war with the alien Traanskei Coalition. War hero Colonel Nathan Pretorius has a record of success on dangerous behind-enemy-lines missions, missions that usually leave him in the hospital. Now he’s recruited for a near-impossible assignment that may well leave him dead.

At the cost of many lives, the Democracy has managed to clone and train General Michkag, one of the Traanskei’s master strategists. Colonel Pretorius and a hand-picked team must kidnap the real Michkag if they can, assassinate him if they can’t, but no matter which, put the clone in his place, where he will misdirect the enemy’s forces and funnel vital information to the Democracy.

Against the odds, Pretorius, along with Cyborg Felix Ortega, computer expert Toni Levi, convict and contortionist Sally “Snake” Kowalski, the near-human empath Marlowe, the alien Gzychurlyx, and Madam Methuselah – the Dead Enders – must infiltrate the Fortress in Orion, accomplish their mission, and escape with their lives.

The start of a new sci-fi series. Haven’t read much by Resnick in the past. Could be a good intro-proper.

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SchultzJ-PremonitionsJamie Schultz, Premonitions (Roc)

Two million dollars…

It’s the kind of score Karyn Ames has always dreamed of — enough to set her crew up pretty well and, more important, enough to keep her safely stocked on a very rare, very expensive black market drug. Without it, Karyn hallucinates slices of the future until they totally overwhelm her, leaving her unable to distinguish the present from the mess of certainties and possibilities yet to come.

The client behind the heist is Enoch Sobell, a notorious crime lord with a reputation for being ruthless and exacting — and a purported practitioner of dark magic. Sobell is almost certainly condemned to Hell for a magically extended lifetime full of shady dealings. Once you’re in business with him, there’s no backing out.

Karyn and her associates are used to the supernatural and the occult, but their target is more than just the usual family heirloom or cursed necklace. It’s a piece of something larger. Something sinister.

Karyn’s crew, and even Sobell himself, are about to find out just how powerful it is… and how powerful it may yet become.

Didn’t know anything about the novel, really, but the author reached out, and I thought I’d give it a try. Hopefully very soon.

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Near Enemy RD 3c selects2_NEWbAdam Sternbergh, Near Enemy (Crown)

It’s a year after Shovel Ready. Persephone is ensconced with her newborn upstate; Simon the Magician is struggling to keep control of Harrow’s evangelical empire; and Spademan has accepted a seemingly routine job: to snuff out a no-good bed-hopper named Lesser. Lesser has been causing headaches all over the limnosphere, racking up enemies left and right. But Lesser comes back from the dream with a wild claim: that the terrorists have found a way to infiltrate the limnosphere, to hijack the luxury virtual escape from the inside. And they’re doing it from somewhere in New York.

Spademan is not used to having enemies – his foes usually end up dead pretty quickly – but he tries to stay vigilant about the dangers that lurk right under our noses. He’s about to find out just how close these new enemies are – and how dangerous they can be.

Shovel Ready, the first book in this series, was pretty good – the writing was tight and plotting was brisk. My only real issue with that novel, though, was that there wasn’t a whole lot of world-building. Hopefully, with this second installment, we’ll get to see a bit more. Expect a review soon.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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Jeff VanderMeer, Authority & Acceptance (Harper Collins)

Vandermeer-SouthernReach2&3US

Authority: For thirty years, a secret agency called the Southern Reach has monitored expeditions into Area X — a remote and lush terrain mysteriously sequestered from civilization. After the twelfth expedition, the Southern Reach is in disarray, and John Rodriguez (aka “Control”) is the team’s newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and more than two hundred hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves — and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he’s promised to serve.

The second and third books in the author’s Southern Reach trilogy. Now that I have all three, I have a feeling I’m going to blitz through them. I’ve never read a novel by VanderMeer, so this will be interesting.

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New Books (August #2)

BooksReceived-20140831

This is proving to be the Summer Flood of Many Exciting Books… Although, this installment also contains a fair few books I’ve bought myself.

Featuring: Lauren Beukes, Gwenda Bond, Amanda Carlson, Stephan Eirik Clark, Tony Earley, Joshua Ferris, Tom Fletcher, Bill Granger, Michael Hastings, Emily St. John Mandel, Ann Leckie, Carol O’Connell, Mark Pryor, John Scalzi, Julie Schumacher, Jeremy Spencer, Peter Swanson, Lavie Tidhar, Andy Weir, Django Wexler

Beukes-BrokenMonstersUSLauren Beukes, Broken Monsters (Mulholland)

A criminal mastermind creates violent tableaus in abandoned Detroit warehouses…

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?

If you’re Detective Versado’s geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe – and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.

A genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.

I loved The Shining Girls, and have been anticipating this novel with bated breath. Will read very soon.

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BondG-FalloutGwenda Bond, Fallout (Capstone)

Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over – and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight.

As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy.

Lois Lane in high school. Could be really interesting. And I am familiar with Bond’s previous novels, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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CarlsonA-JM4-RedBloodedAmanda Carlson, Red Blooded (Orbit)

Jessica is going to Hell.

After settling a fragile truce between the vampires, werewolves and witches, the last thing Jessica wants to do is face the demons head on. But when the Prince of Hell kidnapped her brother, he set into motion a chain of events that even Jessica doesn’t have the power to stop.

Now, Jessica must go into battle again. But hell is a whole new beast – new rules, more dangerous demons, and an entirely foreign realm. And when Jessica is dropped into the Underworld too soon, without protection or the help of her friends, she must figure out just how powerful she can be… or she will never make it out alive.

The fourth novel in the Jessica McClaine series – which I really must catch up on ASAP. I don’t read much urban fantasy, and I do want to try more. This has been getting good reviews from reviewers I follow, so I have high hopes for it.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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ClarkSE-Sweetness9Stephan Eirik Clark, Sweetness #9 (Little, Brown)

It’s 1973, and David Leveraux has landed his dream job as a Flavorist-in-Training, working in the secretive industry where chemists create the flavors for everything from the cherry in your can of soda to the butter on your popcorn.

While testing a new artificial sweetener – “Sweetness #9” – he notices unusual side-effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a generalized dissatisfaction with life. David tries to blow the whistle, but he swallows it instead.

Years later, Sweetness #9 is America’s most popular sweetener – and David’s family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter suffers from a generalized dissatisfaction with life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David’s failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition?

David’s search for an answer unfolds in this expansive novel that is at once a comic satire, a family story, and a profound exploration of our deepest cultural anxieties.

Wickedly funny and wildly imaginative, Sweetness #9 questions whether what we eat truly makes us who we are.

Yes, I heard about this because Edan Lepucki mentioned it on The Colbert Report… The Colbert Bump is a real thing. Sounds interesting.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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EarleyT-MrTallTony Earley, Mr. Tall (Little, Brown)

Two decades after his debut collection Here We Are in Paradise (LB, 2/94) heralded Tony Earley as one of the most accomplished writers of his generation, the rueful, bittersweet, and riotous stories of Mr. Tall reestablish him as a mythmaker and tale spinner of the first rank. These stories introduce us not only to ordinary people seeking to live extraordinary lives, but also to the skunk ape (a southern variant of Bigfoot), the ghost of Jesse James, and a bone-tired Jack the Giant Killer. Whether it’s Appalachia, Nashville, the Carolina Coast, or a make-believe land of talking dogs, each world Earley creates is indelible.

It sounded interesting. And I haven’t been reading many anthologies, recently, so I thought it might offer a nice change.

Review copy via NetGalley.

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FerrisJ-ToRiseAgainAtADecentHourUSJoshua Ferris, To Rise Again At A Decent Hour (Little, Brown)

Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God.

Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the real thing. As Paul’s quest to learn why his identity has been stolen deepens, he is forced to confront his troubled past and his uncertain future in a life disturbingly split between the real and the virtual.

I’ve never read anything by Ferris, but I’m intrigued by the social media aspect of this story, so I picked it up.

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FletcherT-G1-GleamUKTom Fletcher, Gleam (Jo Fletcher Books)

The gargantuan Factory of Gleam is an ancient, hulking edifice of stone, metal and glass ruled over by chaste alchemists and astronomer priests.

As millennia have passed, the population has decreased, and now only the central district is fully inhabited and operational; the outskirts have been left for the wilderness to reclaim. This decaying, lawless zone is the Discard; the home of Wild Alan.

Clever, arrogant, and perpetually angry, Wild Alan is both loved and loathed by the Discard’s misfits. He’s convinced that the Gleam authorities were behind the disaster that killed his parents and his ambition is to prove it. But he’s about to uncover more than he bargained for.

Really looking forward to trying this. Expect it to feature on the site again soon.

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GrangerB-NM5-ZurichNumbersUSBill Granger, The Zurich Numbers (Grand Central)

They are immigrants, working in American laboratories and universities. They are Soviet spies, forced into a network of terror, with their families dangling as hostages. When Devereaux – the November Man – uncovers the brutal scheme, the forces of both East and West mark him and the woman he loves for death.

From California to Chicago to Switzerland, the November Man tracks the cold-blooded mastermind who controls the numbers. In a vicious maze of power, murder, and greed, every enemy may be a friend – and every friend, a sudden traitor.

Grand Central has been releasing the eARCs for these in a rather strange order – I can’t tell if it has been the first, second and third, or some random order… The problem with so many editions, and changing titles over the decades… I suppose I’ll just have to read them to find out! (Oh, what hardship…)

Review copy via NetGalley.

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9780399169946_LastMagazineThe_JK_r2.inddMichael Hastings, The Last Magazine (Blue Rider Press)

The year is 2002. Weekly newsmagazines dominate the political agenda in New York and Washington. A young journalist named Michael M. Hastings is a twenty-two- year-old intern at The Magazine, wet behind the ears, the only one in the office who’s actually read his coworker’s books. He will stop at nothing to turn his internship into a full-time position, and he’s figured out just whom to impress: Nishant Patel, the international editor, and Sanders Berman, managing editor, both vying for the job of editor in chief. While Berman and Nishant try to one-up each other pontificating on cable news, A. E. Peoria—the one reporter seemingly doing any work—is having a career crisis. He’s just returned from Chad, where, instead of the genocide, he was told by his editors to focus on mobile phone outsourcing, which they think is more relevant. And then, suddenly, the United States invades Iraq—and all hell breaks loose. As Hastings loses his naïveté about the journalism game, he must choose where his loyalties lie—with the men at The Magazine who can advance his career or with his friend in the field who is reporting the truth.

Big fan of Hastings’s non-fiction writing – this is his only novel, published post-humously – which satirises his time at Newsweek. So I was very happy that it was widely available in Canada when I moved here from the UK. I picked it up this past week.

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MandelESJ-StationElevenUSEmily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Knopf)

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleventells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

One of my most-anticipated reads of the year, I’m very happy my Edelweiss request was approved! And, as it happens, I have already finished it. Review hopefully in the next couple of days…

Review copy via Edelweiss.

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LeckieA-2-AncillarySwordAnn Leckie, Ancillary Sword (Orbit)

JUSTICE FOR ALL

Breq – the soldier who used to be a spaceship – is serving the emperor she swore to destroy. She’s been given her own warship, her own crew and ordered to the only place in the galaxy she would have agreed to go: to Athoek Station, to protect the family of the lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.

Athoek was annexed by the Empire some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully “civilised”. Or should be – but everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station’s A.I. is restless and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what’s going on. With no guarantees that their interest is benevolent.

Leckie’s debut novel is the first to win a clean sweep of the major SFF awards – Clarke, Nebula and Hugo. It has received a lot of attention, which suggests that the awards are entirely justified. The flood of reviews and discussion did, of course, make me less likely to review it in a timely manner – not because I wasn’t interested, but because I like giving attention to books that maybe won’t get a ton of coverage. Or, at the very least, haven’t got a lot of coverage yet. So, I decided to wait on Ancillary Justice. And wait. And wait… With the release of the second book coming up, I may have to get my skates on and get caught up. I’m not the biggest fan of “hard” science fiction to begin with, though, so I’m not sure how quickly I’ll get around to this. It is definitely on my To Read list, though.

Review copy via NetGalley.

*

Carol O’Connell, Mallory’s Oracle and The Man Who Lied To Women (Headline)

OConnellC-KM-Group01UK

Detective Kathy Mallory. New York’s darkest. You only underestimate her once.

When NYPD Sergeant Kathy Mallory was an eleven-year-old street kid, she got caught stealing. The detective who found her was Louis Markowitz. He should have arrested her. Instead he adopted her, and raised her as his own, in the best tradition of New York’s finest.

Now Markowitz is dead, and Mallory the first officer on the scene. She knows any criminal who could outsmart her father is no ordinary human. This is a ruthless serial killer, a freak from the night-side of the mind.

And one question troubles her more than any other: why did he go in there alone?

This is one of three thriller/suspense series that is getting the re-issue treatment in the UK and US. And, I must say, I have the highest hopes for this one. I will read the first book in the series ASAP.

*

Pryor-HM3-ButtonManMark Pryor, Button Man (Seventh Street Books)

In this prequel to The Bookseller, Hugo must find a reviled movie star lost in the English countryside, before a killer with a penchant for the noose finds him first.

Hugo Marston has just joined the State Department as head of security at the US Embassy in London. His task is to protect a pair of spoiled movie stars, Dayton Harper and his wife Ginny Ferro, whose reckless driving killed a prominent landowner in rural England.

The job turns from routine to disastrous almost immediately. Before Hugo has a chance to meet them, he finds out that Ferro has disappeared, and soon her body is found hanging from an oak tree in a London cemetery. Hours later a distraught Harper slips away from his protector, and Hugo has no idea where he’s going.

Teaming up with a secretive young lady named Merlyn, Hugo’s search leads to a quaint English village. There, instead of finding Harper, another body turns up in the church graveyard.

But now the killer knows he’s being tailed. At one of England’s most famous tourist spots, the self-appointed executioner prepares for the final act of his murderous spree. And Hugo arrives just in time to play his part…

I enjoyed The Bookseller, so it’ll be interesting to read this prequel. If you haven’t tried Pryor’s novels, yet, I strongly recommend them – he does a great job with characterisation and writing Paris. I have no doubt he’ll do a great job with the UK, too.

*

Scalzi-LockInJohn Scalzi, Lock In (Gollancz)

Imagine a plague that incapacitates almost 1.7 million people – and now imagine a cure that is even worse.

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves “locked in” – fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

1% doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the US that’s 1.7 million people “locked in” – including the President’s wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can fully restore the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora”, where the locked-in can interact with other humans, whether locked-in or not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, allowing those who are locked in to occasionally “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…

I liked Red Shirts rather a lot, and I’ve been seeing a lot of good reviews of this popping up on other sites and blogs that I follow. So, with any luck, I’ll read it relatively quickly.

*

SchumacherJ-DearCommitteeMembersUSJulie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members (Random House)

Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the Midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can’t catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work “Accountant in a Bordello”, based on Melville’s Bartleby.

In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.

I heard about this quite some time ago (although I can’t remember where), and have kept my eye open for it ever since. I’d heard some very good things from others who have already reviewed it in the lead up to its release. When I finally got my mitts on it, I dove right in, and finished it in a couple of days. You can find the review here. It was a lot of fun.

*

SpencerJ-DeathPunchdJeremy Spencer, Death Punch’d (Dey Street Books)

From the cofounder of Five Finger Death Punch, a fascinating inside account of one of the most successful heavy-metal bands of the past decade, and a revealing personal journey through the wild highs and terrifying lows of the rock and roll lifestyle—a wry and rollicking tale of music, addiction, and recovery

Hailed by the New York Times as one of the most unexpectedly consistently popular bands on the rock charts, Five Finger Death Punch has become the new heavyweight champ of the metal scene. In this high-energy memoir, Jeremy Spencer, the band’s cofounder and drummer, takes us onstage and behind the scenes, on tour and into the studio to tell the band’s story and his own.

Death Punch’d is a detailed in-depth account of the group’s origins and influences, as well as the infighting and tensions that, when channeled properly, result in the music fans love. It is also the hard-charging, laugh-out-loud tale of how a mischievous boy rose from small-town Indiana to rock royalty—and how he nearly destroyed it all for a good time.

Told in his unique, self-deprecating voice, filled with his twisted and humorous take on living the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll dream turned nightmare, and including dozens of photos, Death Punch’d is a lively, no-holds-barred ride and an inspiring cautionary tale that offers lessons for us all.

Something a bit different to what I normal look for, but I’m a huge fan of Spencer’s band, Five Finger Death Punch (could there be a more metal name than that?). If you haven’t checked them out, yet, I strongly recommend that you do – if you have any interest in rock music with groove, power and melodies, then FFDP is a must-listen.

Review copy via Edelweiss.

*

coverPeter Swanson, The Kind Worth Killing (William Morrow)

A devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder that is a modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train.

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.

But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda’s demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.

Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

Swanson’s debut novel – The Girl With A Clock For A Heart – received rave reviews pretty much from everyone who came into contact with it. So, when I spotted this on Edelweiss, I requested it on a whim. It sounds really interesting, though, so I hope to get around to reading it as soon as I can, work and other reading commitments permitting.

Review copy via Edelweiss.

*

Tidhar-AManLiesDreaming-AnimatedLavie Tidhar, A Man Lies Dreaming (Hodder)

Deep in the heart of history’s most infamous concentration camp, a man lies dreaming. His name is Shomer, and before the war he was a pulp fiction author. Now, to escape the brutal reality of life in Auschwitz, Shomer spends his nights imagining another world – a world where a disgraced former dictator now known only as Wolf ekes out a miserable existence as a low-rent PI in London’s grimiest streets.

An extraordinary story of revenge and redemption, A Man Lies Dreaming is the unforgettable testament to the power of imagination.

Been waiting to get my hands on this. I loved The Violent Century, and this sounds equally interesting. Hopefully get to it soon.

*

WeirA-TheMartianUKPBAndy Weir, The Martian (Del Rey UK)

I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth.

I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m screwed.

Paperback release. Still haven’t had the chance to read it. Really need to, though – many people have told me it’s brilliant. I’ll do my best to get to it ASAP.

*

WexlerD-2-ShadowThroneUKDjango Wexler, The Shadow Campaign (Del Rey UK)

The King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries.

But politics knows no loyalties, especially for Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and spymaster of the empire. The most feared man in the Vordan will bow his knee to no Queen, unless she is firmly under his influence.

Freshly returned from their recent victories in the colonies, Colonel Janus, Marcus and Winter must play a new and far deadlier game than the open warfare of the front, using all their talents, earthly or supernatural.

Already bought this book as an eBook when it was first published in the UK. Still, it’s nice to have a physical edition to sit on the shelf next to book one. Will read it as soon as I can. I really like Wexler’s writing and characters, so I have very high hopes for this one.

*

New Books (August #1)

BooksReceived-20140814

Featuring: David Annandale, Anne Blankman, Christopher Fowler, Felix Gilman, Emmi Itäranta, Philip Kerr, M.A. Lawson, Peter Liney, Caitlin Moran, Haruki Murakami, Lauren Owen, Greg Rucka, Brian Ruckley, Adelle Waldman, Will Wiles, Tad Williams

Annandale-HH30-DamnationOfPythosDavid Annandale, The Damnation of Pythos (Black Library)

In the aftermath of the Dropsite Massacre at Isstvan V, a battered and bloodied force of Iron Hands, Raven Guard and Salamanders regroups on a seemingly insignificant death world. Fending off attacks from all manner of monstrous creatures, the fractious allies find hope in the form of human refugees fleeing from the growing war, and cast adrift upon the tides of the warp. But even as the Space Marines carve out a sanctuary for them in the jungles of Pythos, a darkness gathers that threatens to consume them all…

This is the 30th book in the Horus Heresy series. Kind of cool that it’s lasted this long. Annandale is one of Black Library’s best new(ish) writers, and I’ve enjoyed all of his work. Lately, he has just been getting better and better, too, so I have very high hopes for this novel. I’ll be reading the 29th book in the series – Graham McNeill’s Spirit of Vengeance – first, even though this is set earlier in the chronology. (My series OCD is at play…) Hopefully I’ll get to this beginning of September.

Also on CR: Interview with David Annandale; Guest Post on David’s Favourite Novel

*

BlankmanA-PrisonerOfNightAndFogUSAnne Blankman, Prisoner of Night and Fog (Harper Collins)

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth – even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

A harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed… and to trust her own heart instead.

I spotted this while still in the UK, and have been keeping my eye open for it ever since. I found it in the Toronto Public Library, so will hopefully read it ASAP. Like the premise, and have heard nothing by good things about it. Hitler seems to be quite the popular protagonist or subject, recently – see also Timur Vermes’s Look Who’s Back and Lavie Tidhar’s upcoming A Man Lies Dreaming.

*

Christopher Fowler, Nyctophobia (Solaris)

FowlerC-Nyctophobia

Isolated and beautiful, Hyperion House is a house of eerie symmetry; uniquely designed to ensure that one half remains always in the light and one half always in the dark.

When new owner Callie Shaw begins to uncover the house’s strange history she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the shrouded servant’s quarters at the back of the house, increasingly convinced that someone is living a half-life among the darkness there…

This sounds like it has the potential to be deliciously spooky.

*

GilmanF-RevolutionsUKPBFelix Gilman, The Revolutions (Corsair)

In 1893 a storm sweeps through London, while Arthur Shaw – a young astronomer with a side career writing fiction – is at work in British Museum Reading Room. The storm wreaks unprecedented damage throughout London. Its aftermath of the storm Arthur’s prime literary market closes, owing him money, and all his debts come due at once. His fiancé Jo takes a job as a stenographer for some of the fashionable spiritualist and occult societies of fin de siècle London society. Meanwhile, Arthur deciphers an encoded newspaper ad seeking able young men. It seems to be a clerking job doing accounting work, but the mysterious head man Mr. Gacewell offers Arthur a starting position at a salary many times what any clerk could expect. The work is long and peculiar, and the men spend all day performing unnerving calculations that make them hallucinate or even go mad… but the salary is compelling.

Things are beginning to look up when the wages of dabbling in the esoteric suddenly come due: a war breaks out between competing magical societies, and Arthur interrupts Jo in the middle of an elaborate occult exploration. This rash move turns out to be dire, as Jo’s consciousness is stranded at the outer limits of the occultists’ psychic day trip. Which, Arthur is chagrinned…

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a negative review of a Felix Gilman novel. This has been on my radar for some time, so I have very high hopes. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

*

ItärantaE-MemoryOfWaterEmmi Itäranta, Memory of Water (Voyager)

In the far north of the Scandinavian Union, now occupied by the power state of New Qian, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio studies to become a tea master like her father. It is a position that holds great responsibility and a dangerous secret. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that once provided water for her whole village. When Noria’s father dies, the secret of the spring reaches the new military commander… and the power of the army is vast indeed. But the precious water reserve is not the only forbidden knowledge Noria possesses, and resistance is a fine line.

Threatened with imprisonment, and with her life at stake, Noria must make an excruciating, dangerous choice between knowledge and freedom.

I’ve seen a lot of positive buzz about this book, and so I’m quite looking forward to trying it. Sounds really interesting.

*

praying-hands copyPhilip Kerr, Research (Quercus)

If you want to write a murder mystery, you have to do some research… In a luxury flat in Monaco, John Houston’s supermodel wife lies in bed, a bullet in her skull. Houston is the world’s most successful novelist, the playboy head of a literary empire that produces far more books than he could ever actually write. Now the man who has invented hundreds of best-selling killings is wanted for a real murder and on the run from the police, his life transformed into something out of one of his books. And in London, the ghostwriter who is really behind those books has some questions for him too…

Sounds like a great thriller. I’ve never read anything by Kerr, but he’s another of the established thriller/crime/fiction writers that is often recommended to me.

Review copy from NetGalley.

*

LawsonMA-KH1-RosaritoBeachUSM.A. Lawson, Rosarita Beach (Blue Rider Press)

Bold, brash, and beautiful, Kay Hamilton is not your average DEA agent — she’s as infuriating as she is irresistible. Having recently moved to San Diego after a case in Miami brought her more notoriety than medals, Kay once again finds herself embroiled in an international bust.

Tito Olivera, younger brother of drug czar Caesar Olivera, is within her grasp. If she takes down Tito, Kay is positive that Caesar will follow — and when Caesar falls, so does the largest and most vicious drug cartel in Mexico. But when a mysterious stranger shows up on her doorstep, all of Kay’s carefully laid plans are thrown out the window. The Olivera case suddenly becomes far more personal — not to mention dangerous — and Kay must be willing to sacrifice everything to get her man. Rosarito Beach is an explosive, action-packed thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seats until the final moments of the epic conclusion.

This is actually a pen-name for one of my favourite thriller authors, Mike Lawson (not sure why he decided to go with a slight pseudonym for this one). It’s a separate series from his best-selling Joe DeMarco series, and I’m looking forward to trying it out. The second book in the series, Viking Bay, is due out in January 2015.

*

LineyP-D2-IntoTheFirePeter Liney, Into the Fire (Jo Fletcher Books)

Having escaped the Island – a wasteland that housed those no longer able to contribute to society – ageing ‘Big Guy’ Clancy thought his fight was over. But they have returned to the mainland to find that it is not the haven they anticipated.

With the punishment satellites that kept them on the Island – and the city under control – gone, hell has been unleashed. A mysterious organisation has begun to decimate the population; those it doesn’t kill outright are herded into the streets and then set free to run – for the rich and powerful to hunt. Clancy is about to discover that his work is far from over. The fires of hell don’t burn much hotter than this.

The sequel to The Detainee (which I shamefully still haven’t read…), this is a series I really want to get caught up with. Hopefully I’ll manage it soon.

Review copy from Edelweiss.

Also on CR: Interview with Peter Liney; Guest Post by Liney; Excerpt of The Detainee

*

MoranC-HowToBuildAGirlCaitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl (Harper)

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes — and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde — fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer — like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontës — but without the dying-young bit.

By sixteen, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realizes she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks enough to build a girl after all?

I’ve read some of Moran’s journalism, but for some reason have never got around to reading any of her books. This novel, though, caught my eye a few months back, and I was very happy to find it on Edelweiss for review. Expect more soon.

Review copy from Edelweiss.

*

Murakami-ColorlessTsukuruTazakiUSHaruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage (Doubleday)

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it.

One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.

Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.

I have never read anything by Murakami. I’m not sure why. I guess I just never got around to it, and surrounded by review copies I never felt a need to go out and buy it (although, that hasn’t stopped me in other situations…). With this just arrived, though, I think I’ll have to make this my first read. I’ve been told he’s brilliant, so I have high hopes.

*

NichollsD-UsUKDavid Nicholls, Us (Harper)

I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.”

Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?”

Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home.

He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together.

So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.

It’s been a long time since I last read a novel by Nicholls – I remember reading Starter for Ten and The Understudy back-to-back when I was younger. Since then, I have been well and truly distracted by SFF and thrillers, so Nicholls’s novels always seemed to pass me by. This sounded fun, though, so I’ll hopefully get back into reading his books, and do some catching up as well.

Review copy from Edelweiss.

*

OwenL-TheQuickUKPBLauren Owen, The Quick (Vintage)

You are about to discover the secrets of The Quick –

But first, reader, you must travel to Victorian England, and there, in the wilds of Yorkshire, meet a brother and sister alone in the world, a pair bound by tragedy. You will, in time, enter the rooms of London’s mysterious Aegolius Club – a society of the richest, most powerful men in England. And at some point – we cannot say when – these worlds will collide.

It is then, and only then, that a new world emerges, a world of romance, adventure and the most delicious of horrors – and the secrets of The Quick are revealed.

Another book I’ve seen mentioned on most of the blogs I still read, and almost always positively (or, at least, impressed and intrigued). Sounds interesting, so I’ll hopefully get to it soon.

*

RuckaG-JB2-BravoUSGreg Rucka, Bravo (Mulholland Books)

In the wake of a failed attack on America’s premier theme park which put his own daughter at risk, Special Forces operator Jad Bell is sent after the man who arranged it. But it soon becomes clear that capturing him is just the start: his employer, known only as the Architect, has already set something far worse in motion.

At the centre of it all are two women deep under cover. One is an American spy whose intel is the only hope they have, but who has lived a lie for so long she cannot be trusted. And the other is a woman as beautiful as she is deadly, already living in the States, and poised to execute the Architect’s plans at a moment’s notice.

The stakes are even higher, the clock is ticking, and this time the enemies are hiding in plain sight…

I love Rucka’s comics work, but have never read any of his prose fiction. I also have the first book in this series, Alpha, and I intend to read them both pretty close together, and hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

*

RuckleyB-TheFreeBrian Ruckley, The Free (Orbit)

A warrior of legend. A warrior to be feared.

The famed Yulan is leader of The Free, the last remaining band of mercenaries in the Hommetic Kingdom. Feared and revered, they were once seen as a threat to the Hommetic Kingdom’s power – until they outlasted it in the course of a bloody rebellion.

With the oppressive monarch overthrown, The Free plan to finally lay down their weapons, hoping for a chance of peace at last – until Yulan is offered one final contract that he is unable to refuse. The target is the very man responsible for the worst atrocity Yulan has ever witnessed, one that has haunted him ever since. And now is his last chance to right that wrong.

But as Yulan and his companions embark on their last journey, a potent mix of vengeance, love and loyalty is building to a storm. It is a storm so violent it is likely to destroy the last of the free companies. And only then will they discover the true price of freedom.

I’m a big fan of Ruckley’s novels. This is the start of a new series (perhaps? It may be a stand-alone), and I’m eager to get around to it.

Review copy from NetGalley.

Also on CR: Interview with Brian Ruckley

*

WaldmanA-LoveAffairsOfNathanielPUSAdelle Waldman, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. (Picador)

Writer Nate Piven’s star is rising. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women: Juliet, the hotshot business reporter; Elisa, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, “almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice,” who holds her own in conversation with his friends. When one relationship grows more serious, Nate is forced to consider what it is he really wants.

In Nate’s 21st-century literary world, wit and conversation are not at all dead. Is romance? Novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a flawed, sometimes infuriating modern man—one who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgment, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety, who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down in ways that may just make him an emblem of our times.

I read the short-story prequel to this and thought it was pretty good. It left me wanting more – partly because it felt incomplete, but also because I thought the characterisation was interesting.

*

WilesW-TheWayInnUSWill Wiles, The Way Inn (Harper Perennial)

Neil Double is a “conference surrogate,” hired by his clients to attend industry conferences so that they don’t have to. It’s a life of budget travel, cheap suits, and out-of-town exhibition centers — a kind of paradise for Neil, who has reconstructed his incognito professional life into a toxic and selfish personal philosophy. But his latest job, at a conference of conference organizers, will radically transform him and everything he believes as it unexpectedly draws him into a bizarre and speculative mystery.

In a brand new Way Inn — a global chain of identikit mid-budget motels — in an airport hinterland, he meets a woman he has seen before in strange and unsettling circumstances. She hints at an astonishing truth about this mundane world filled with fake smiles and piped muzak. But before Neil can learn more, she vanishes. Intrigued, he tries to find her — a search that will lead him down the rabbit hole, into an eerily familiar place where he will discover a dark and disturbing secret about the Way Inn. Caught on a metaphysical Mobius strip, Neil discovers that there may be no way out.

I only heard about this novel from Christopher Priest’s positive review of it. (Which was, in turn, only found through a Twitter link.) It sounds interesting, so I requested it on Edelweiss.

Review copy from Edelweiss.

*

WilliamsT-BD3-SleepingLateOnJudgementDayUKTad Williams, Sleeping Late (Hodder)

Bobby Dollar thinks he’s seen it all – after all, he’s been to Hell and back again. Literally.

But he has another think coming. Sleeping Late on Judgement Day will find Bobby back in his adopted hometown of San Judas, California, trying to stay out of trouble… and failing. His love life is still a mess, there are one too many people who have it out for him, and drowning his sorrows in a nice glass of whisky won’t keep the demons at bay forever.

Bobby’s going to have to pull himself together and make a few tough decisions before time runs out. The problem is, time could run out at any moment. In the final Bobby Dollar novel in Tad Williams’s groundbreaking epic fantasy trilogy, fallen angel Bobby Dollar will finally be force to confront the one problem he can’t talk his way out of: his own.

This is the final volume in Williams’s Bobby Dollar supernatural/urban fantasy series, following The Dirty Streets of Heaven and Happy Hour in Hell. I haven’t read either of the first two volumes, much to my confusion. This sounds right up my alley. Maybe because I’ve been devouring Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, which is in the same sub-genre. Maybe after I finish the latest Slim novel, I’ll get started on Bobby Dollar’s (mis)adventures.

*

New Books… (July/August)

BooksReceived-20140729

Featuring: Guy Adams, Scott K. Andrews, Edward Cox, Matthew Dunn, Maria & Sergey Dyachenko, Ian C. Esslemont, William Gibson, Bill Granger, Lev Grossman, Marc Guggenheim, Jim C. Hines, Mark Hodder, James Lovegrove, Andy Miller, Fredrik T. Olsson, Gaie Sebold, Tricia Sullivan, David Shafer

AdamsG-CS2-RainSoakedBrideUKGuy Adams, The Rain-Soaked Bride (Del Rey UK)

How do you stop an assassin that can’t be killed?

When several members of the diplomatic service die in seemingly innocent, yet strangely similar

circumstances, it seems a unique form of murder is being used.

Toby Greene is part of Section 37, known as The Clown Service, a mostly forgotten branch of British Intelligence tasked with fighting exactly this kind of threat.

However, the Rain-Soaked Bride is no ordinary assassin. Relentless, inexorable and part of a larger game, merely stopping this impossible killer may not be enough to save the day…

This is the sequel to Adams’s The Clown Service, which I have not yet read. It sounds pretty interesting, though.

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AndrewsSK-1-TimebombScott K. Andrews, Timebomb (Hodder)

New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.

Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.

On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.

Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

Sounds interesting. Looks like it hops back-and-forth in time quite frequently. Could work. Or could not. We’ll see.

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CoxE-RG1-RelicGuild2014Edward Cox, The Relic Guild (Gollancz)

In the sealed Labyrinth, a young woman must find a way to control her magic and escape her prison in this remarkable debut fantasy.

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls a hundred feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

I read an early draft of this, and I’m very eager to get stuck in to read this final, fully-edited version of the story. I have very high hopes for this novel and series.

Also on CR: Interview with Edward Cox

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DunnM-S4-DarkSpiesUSMatthew Dunn, Dark Spies (William Morrow)

On the run from the CIA, intelligence operative Will Cochrane heads to the U.S. to uncover a diabolical spymaster at the center of an international conspiracy in this thrilling follow up to Slingshot.

When Will Cochrane encounters a Russian spymaster – codenamed Antaeus – who everyone believes is dead, he is thrust into a deadly game set in motion by powerful players deep inside the U.S. intelligence community. Will has worked with the CIA for years and knows them all. But now he knows there’s no one he can trust.

His orders from Langley are clear: ANTAEUS MUST NOT BE TOUCHED. FURTHER INQUIRIES REQUIRE PROJECT FERRYMAN CLEARANCE. But as Antaeus and his men then attempt to execute the CIA’s best agents, Will decides to take his own shot at the spymaster, knowing it will make him a marked man.

Now, the only way to save his career – and his life – is to get into the U.S. and expose the truth about Project Ferryman. But to accomplish that he’s got to outmaneuver four deadly Russian assassins and an elite FBI team controlled by shadowy officials who will stop at nothing to keep their sins and secrets safe.

This is the fourth novel in Dunn’s Spycatcher series. A series I have not actually yet read. It has, however, been on my radar for a very long time, and so I’ve bought the first three books in the series to catch up on – I’m hoping to do a number of thriller-series-binges over the next few months. So, expect these to feature soon. (I also received the novella for review, which falls between books three and four.)

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Dyachenko-VitaNostraMaria & Sergey Dyachenko, Vita Nostra

The words VITA NOSTRA, or “our life,” come from an old Latin student anthem Gaudeamus : “Vita nostra brevis est, Brevi finietur” or “Our life is brief, It will shortly end …”

The heroine of the novel has been forced into a seemingly inconceivable situation. Against her will, she must enter the Institute of Special Technologies. A slightest misstep or failure at school – and the students’ loved ones pay a price. Governed by fear and coercion, Sasha will learn the meaning of the phrase “In the beginning was the word …”

VITA NOSTRA is a thrilling journey into the deepest mysteries of existence, a dizzying adventure, an opening into a world that no one has ever described, a world that frightens and attracts the readers of the novel.

The novel combines the seemingly incongruous aspects – spectacular adventures and philosophical depth, incredible transformations and psychological accuracy, complexity of ethical issues and mundane details of urban life.

VITA NOSTRA enjoyed a considerable critical acclaim in Russia. It has received eight major literary prizes and has been named the best novel of the twenty first century in the sci-fi/fantasy genre (Prize of Prizes, Eurocon-2008, Moscow). It has been translated into several languages.

Information about this novel is pretty limited in the English-speaking world. I heard about it via Aliette de Bodard’s Twitter feed and a short blog post she wrote about it. More a press release than a synopsis, what it above is pretty much all I’ve been able to find outside of other review. (Lev Grossman provided the blurb on the cover, which further increased my interest.) It does sound pretty interesting. I picked it up for my Kindle (it’s very cheap for a new, 500+ page novel) and also The Scar – the authors’ previous novel, an epic fantasy that was published in the US by Tor Books.

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Esslemont-AssailIan C. Esslemont, Assail (Transworld)

Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern and now adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. And all they have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait – hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword – and should you make it, beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history’s very beginnings.

Into this turmoil ventures the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. Not drawn by contract, but by the promise of answers: answers that Shimmer, second in command, feels should not be sought. Also heading north, as part of an uneasy alliance of Malazan fortune-hunters and Letherii soldiery, comes the bard Fisher kel Tath. With him is a Tiste Andii who was found washed ashore and cannot remember his past and yet commands far more power than he really should. It is also rumoured that a warrior, bearer of a sword that slays gods and who once fought for the Malazans, is also journeying that way. But far to the south, a woman patiently guards the shore. She awaits both allies and enemies. She is Silverfox, newly incarnate Summoner of the undying army of the T’lan Imass, and she will do anything to stop the renewal of an ages-old crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent and beyond. Casting light on mysteries spanning the Malazan empire, and offering a glimpse of the storied and epic history that shaped it, Assail brings the epic story of the Empire of Malaz to a thrilling close.

The final book in the Malazan world, I believe. A series I have not read. Still. Now that the epic is complete – both Esslemont’s and Erikson’s novels – maybe I’ll give it a try.

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GibsonW-DistrustThatParticularFlavorWilliam Gibson, Distrust That Particular Flavour (Putnam)

“The future’s already here: it’s just not evenly distributed.”

William Gibson was writing fiction when he predicted the internet. And as his stories bled into reality so he became one of the first to report on the real-world consequences of cyberspace’s growth and development.

Now, with the dust settling on the first internet revolution, comes Gibson’s first collection of non-fiction – essays from the technological and cultural frontiers of this new world.

Covering a variety of subjects, they include: Metrophagy – the Art and Science of Digesting Great Cities; An account of obsession in “the world’s attic” – eBay; Reasons why “The Net is a Waste of Time”; Singapore as “Disneyland with the Death Penalty”; A primer on Japan, our default setting for the future…

These and many other pieces, collected for the first time in Distrust that Particular Flavour, are studded with revealing autobiographical fragments and map the development of Gibson’s acute perceptions about modern life. Readers of Neal Stephenson, Ray Bradbury and Iain M. Banks will love this book.

Some non-fiction by William Gibson. Should be interesting.

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Bill Granger, November Man Series #1-3 (Grand Central)

GrangerB-NovemberMan-1to3

The president learned long ago that the CIA could not be trusted. And so he created his own group of deadly efficient men to gather independent intelligence: a watchdog organization to keep the CIA in check. R Section was born.

“There are no spies…”

Until he heard those four simple words, Devereaux thought he’d left his days in R Section behind. He was no longer The November Man, an American field officer in the vice-grip of duty and danger – and the most brilliant agent R Section had ever produced. When he receives the cryptic message from Hanley, his former handler, Devereaux has no idea he’s about to be reactivated into a mission to save both his life and R Section itself. He’s not aware that a beautiful KGB agent has been ordered to stalk and kill him-or that Hanley is now in a government-subsidized asylum for people with too many secrets. And he doesn’t know that zero hour ticks closer for an operation to catch a master spy… with Devereaux the designated pawn.

What The November Man doesn’t know can kill him.

Code Name November, Schism, and The Shattered Eye are the first three novels in Bill Granger’s long-running November Man series, which is being re-issued to celebrate the upcoming release of the Pierce Brosnan-starring movie based on the first book. I’m quite intrigued, I must say. It sounds like a classic espionage thriller. High hopes.

Confusingly, Code Name November was previously published as The November Man, and originally published as There Are No Spies.

CORRECTION: I actually have The November Man, which is the seventh title in the November Man series – that is the novel that has been adapted into a movie starring Pierce Brosnan.

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GrossmanL-3-MagiciansLandLev Grossman, The Magician Land (Penguin)

Quentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams that he once ruled. Everything he had fought so hard for, not to mention his closest friends, is sealed away in a land Quentin may never again visit. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him. Meanwhile, the magical barriers that keep Fillory safe are failing, and barbarians from the north have invaded. Eliot and Janet, the rulers of Fillory, embark on a final quest to save their beloved world, only to discover a situation far more complex – and far more dire – than anyone had envisioned.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young magician with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. His new life takes him back to old haunts, like Antarctica and the Neitherlands, and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers buried secrets and hidden evils and ultimately the key to a sorcerous masterwork, a spell that could create a magical utopia. But all roads lead back to Fillory, where Quentin must face his fears and put things right or die trying.

I just finished The Magician King, which was excellent (if a tad slow to get going). I’m taking a short break from this setting, but will hopefully get this reviewed for the week of release. If you haven’t tried Grossman’s series, yet, then you really should – it does a wonderful job of deconstructing the fantasy genre (especially that pioneered by C.S. Lewis).

Also on CR: Interview with Lev Grossman

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GuggenheimM-OverwatchMarc Guggenheim, Overwatch (Mulholland)

A young CIA lawyer uncovers a dangerous worldwide conspiracy, masterminded by forces within the US intelligence community.

Alex Garnett has spent his life in the shadow of his father, a former Chief of Staff and Solicitor General to two presidents who’s been responsible for getting Alex every job he ever had, including his latest: attorney for the CIA. However, a seemingly routine litigation leads to a series of unexpected events, including poison, kidnapping, torture and murder. As casualties pile up, it becomes clear Alex is the final target in someone’s blood-soaked attempts to cover their tracks.

With the help of a neurotic hacker, Alex unravels a conspiracy older than the CIA itself. The trail of clues reveals the presence of unseen forces that are bringing this nation to the brink of war – and Alex’s life is only one of many in danger.

This novel has been on my radar for a while, and I’m very happy that I finally have my hands on it. Guggenheim is quite the accomplished writer of TV (Law & Order, Brothers & Sisters) and comics (Spider-Man, Wolverine, etc.), not to mention the fact that he is also a co-creator of Arrow, one of my favourite new TV shows. And this is a political thriller. So I’m really looking forward to reading this. It may have to be my next read, after I finish Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (another Mulholland title – details below).

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HinesJC-MEL2-CodexBornUKJim C. Hines, Codex Born (Del Rey UK)

They’re back. And they want revenge…

Sent to investigate the brutal slaughter of a wendigo in the north Michigan town of Tamarack, Isaac Vainio and his companions find they have wandered into something far more dangerous than a simple killing.

A long established werewolf territory, Tamarack is rife with ancient enemies of Libriomancy who quest for revenge. Isaac has the help of Lena Greenwood, his dryad bodyguard born from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, but he is not the only one in need of her unique and formidable powers…

The second novel in Hines’s Magic El Libris series. I enjoyed the first one, Libriomancer – though it was slightly flawed, it was a lot of fun, especially for genre fans and fantasy bibliophiles.

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Hodder-TheReturnOfTheDiscontinuedManUKMark Hodder, The Return of the Discontinued Man (Del Rey UK)

Burton and Swinburne return in a new wildly imaginative steampunk adventure, and this time they’re facing their greatest foe…

Leicester Square, London. Blood red snow falls from the sky and a strange creature, disorientated and apparently insane, materialises out of thin air. Spring Heeled Jack has returned, and he is intent on one thing: hunting Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Burton is experiencing one hallucination after another; visions of parallel realities and future history plague his every thought. These send him, and his companions, on an unimaginable expedition – a voyage through time itself…

An author I have never got around to reading, this is the latest in Hodder’s Burton & Swinburne steampunk series. I have never really been taken with steampunk. But, given how popular this series is, I may just have to give it a go.

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Lovegrove-WorldOfFireJames Lovegrove, World of Fire (Solaris)

Dev Harmer, reluctant agent of Interstellar Security Solutions, wakes up in a newly cloned host body on the planet Alighieri, ready for action. It’s an infernal world, so close to its sun that its surface is regularly baked to 1000 degrees centigrade, hot enough to turn rock to lava. But deep underground there are networks of tunnels connecting colonies of miners who dig for the precious helium-3 regolith deposits in Alighieri’s crust.

Polis+, the AI race who are humankind’s great galactic rivals, want to claim the fiery planet’s mineral wealth for their own. All that stands between them and this goal is Dev. But as well as Polis+’s agents, there are giant moleworms to contend with, and a spate of mysterious earthquakes, and the perils of the surface where a man can be burned to cinders if he gets caught unprotected on the day side…

Sounds a little like Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, only set on a really hot planet. Could be cool – Lovegrove is a great author, after all.

Also on CR: Interview with James Lovegrove; Guest Posts – Age of Godpunk, Pantheon Inspirations; Excerpt from Age of Shiva

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MillerA-TheYearOfReadingDangerouslyUSAndy Miller, The Year of Reading Dangerously (William Morrow)

An editor and writer’s vivaciously entertaining, and often moving, chronicle of his year-long adventure with fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones) – a true story about reading that reminds us why we should all make time in our lives for books.

Nearing his fortieth birthday, author and critic Andy Miller realized he’s not nearly as well read as he’d like to be. A devout book lover who somehow fell out of the habit of reading, he began to ponder the power of books to change an individual life – including his own – and to the define the sort of person he would like to be. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey of mindful reading and wry introspection. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, these are books Miller felt he should read; books he’d always wanted to read; books he’d previously started but hadn’t finished; and books he’d lied about having read to impress people.

Combining memoir and literary criticism, The Year of Reading Dangerously is Miller’s heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader. Passionately believing that books deserve to be read, enjoyed, and debated in the real world, Miller documents his reading experiences and how they resonated in his daily life and ultimately his very sense of self. The result is a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.

Why this book is interesting probably doesn’t need an explanation.

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OlssonFT-ChainOfEventsUKFredrik T. Olsson, Chain of Events (Sphere)

Nothing would make me keep a diary.

Except for one thing.

The realisation that soon there won’t be anyone around to read it.

William Sandberg. A broken genius, snatched from his home.

Christina Sandberg, his ex-wife. She does not believe their lies.

Our future hangs on their survival. If they fail, we are all lost.

To be honest, I don’t know much about this novel, but it has been on my radar for some time. It’s created a fair bit of stir and seems to be picking up international publishers left and right. As I’m going to be reading and featuring more thrillers in the coming months, this should fit in very nicely. Expect more pretty soon.

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Sebold-ShanghaiSparrowGaie Sebold, Shanghai Sparrow (Solaris)

The British Empire is at war, both within and without. Eveline Duchen was once a country child, touched by the magic that clings to the woods. Now she is a street urchin in a London where brutal poverty and glittering new inventions exist side by side, living as a thief and a con-artist. Caught in an act of deception, Eveline is faced with Mr Holmfirth, who offers her a stark choice. Transportation, or an education – at Madam Cairngrim’s school for female spies.

The school’s regime is harsh, but she plans to take advantage of everything they can teach her, then go her own way. But in the fury of the Opium Wars, the British Empire is about to make a devil’s bargain. Eveline’s choices will change the future of her world, and reveal the truth about the death of her sister Charlotte. Shaghai Sparrow is set in an alternative England and China.

I finally got around to buying this. I loved Sebold’s debut novel, Babylon Steel, and this sounds even more like something I’d like (being a Chinese history fan). Hopefully get to this pretty soon.

Also on CR: Interview with Gaie Sebold

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ShaferD-WhiskeyTangoFoxtrotDavid Shafer, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Mulholland)

The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using radical politics, classic spycraft, and technology that makes Big Data look like dial-up. Into this secret battle stumbles an unlikely trio: Leila Majnoun, a disillusioned non-profit worker; Leo Crane, an unhinged trustafarian; and Mark Deveraux, a phony self-betterment guru who works for the Committee.

Leo and Mark were best friends in college, but early adulthood has set them on diverging paths. Growing increasingly disdainful of Mark’s platitudes, Leo publishes a withering takedown of his ideas online. But the Committee is reading – and erasing – Leo’s words. On the other side of the world, Leila’s discoveries about the Committee’s far-reaching ambitions threaten to ruin those who are closest to her.

In the spirit of William Gibson and Chuck Palahniuk, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is both a suspenseful global thriller and an emotionally truthful novel about the struggle to change the world in- and outside your head.

I’ve heard and read a lot of positive murmers about this novel. I’m reading it at the moment, and enjoying it a good deal. Shafer writes very well, and, while I’m not entirely sure where the story is headed, it’s well-paced and engaging. Very good characters, too.

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SullivanT-1-ShadowboxerTricia Sullivan, Shadowboxer (Solaris / Ravenstone)

Jade Barrera is a 17-year-old champion martial arts fighter; when she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents – but in real life she’s out of control. After a confrontation with a Hollywood star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment.

Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

As Jade’s world collides with that of ten-year-old refugee Mya, can she keep her cool and remember the training camp’s lessons when she enters the ring for the fight of her life? A fight that will seal not only her own fate, but Mya’s too…

Sounds like an interesting novel. Not sure if it’s the first of a series or a stand-alone, but I hope to get to it soon.

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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.

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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…

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.]

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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.

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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.

*

Books Received… (Amazon Associates Pay-Back)

BooksReceived-20140630-AmazonAssoc

I’ve been signed up to the Amazon Associates programme for what feels like forever, but this month was the first time I’ve earned enough to receive pay-back. So, as I always intended to do, that money will be going towards books that I will be reviewing here. Given the timing, some of this money will go towards buying eBooks of ARCs I’ve received and won’t be able to take with me to Canada. (Sad.) Much like the “Books Received” posts, therefore, I thought I’d share details on the books I bought (so far) with the Amazon credit…

Featuring: Megan Abbott, Edward Cox, Mark Charan Newton, Joanna Rakoff, Django Wexler

AbbottM-QueenpinUKMegan Abbott, Queenpin (Simon & Schuster)

A young woman hired to keep the books at a down-at-heel nightclub is taken under the wing of the infamous Gloria Denton, a mob luminary who reigned during the Golden Era of Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. The moll to end all molls, Gloria is notoriously cunning and ruthless. She shows her eager young protégée the ropes, ushering her into a glittering whirl of late-night casinos, racetracks, betting parlours, inside heists and big, big money. Suddenly, the world is at her feet — as long as she doesn’t take any chances, like falling for the wrong guy.

It all falls to pieces with a few turns of the roulette wheel, as both mentor and protégée scramble to stay one step ahead of their bosses and each other.

In the tradition of hardboiled potboilers such as Double Indemnity and The Grifters and mob tales such as Goodfellas, Queenpin offers a feminine twist on a classic story of underworld seduction and greed, or tortured loyalty and inevitable betrayal.

I still haven’t read anything by Abbott, but I now have four of her novels – Dare Me, The End of Everything, and The Fever as well as this one. I’ve heard nothing but excellent things.

*

CoxE-RG1-RelicGuild2014Edward Cox, The Relic Guild (Gollancz)

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls 100 feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

Because I read an early version, loved it, and can’t wait to read the final version. It’s also available as part of Gollancz’s 2014 Debuts eBook Promotion, so it’s only £1.99.

*

NewtonMC-DrakenfeldPBMark Charan Newton, Drakenfeld (Tor UK)

The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive…

Receiving news of his father’s death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered – her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power. Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.

I have no idea why I haven’t read this, yet. I loved Newton’s first series, The Legends of the Red Sun, after all. I think it arrived during one of my fantasy-fatigue moments, so got put back. Now I have no excuse.

Also on CR: Interview with Mark Charan Newton; Catch-Up Interview; Reviews of The Nights of Villjamur, City of Ruin, The Book of Transformations, and The Broken Isles

*

RakoffJ-MySalingerYearUKJoanna Rakoff, My Salinger Year (Bloomsbury)

At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J.D. Salinger. She spends her days in the plush, wood-panelled agency, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches, and at night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Brooklyn apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend.

Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities and struggling to trust her own artistic sense, Joanna is given the task of answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back…

I’m actually reading this at the moment, having started it last night. In fact, I should have it finished tonight, and reviewed by the end of the week. It’s a… strange read. I can’t stop reading it, and the prose is very breezy, but at the same time I can’t figure out if I like it or find it really irritating. Hopefully I’ll have figured this out by the time I review it. My Salinger Year is not what I was expecting – in some ways, this is very disappointing, while in others it has been better than expected.

*

WexlerD-2-ShadowThroneUKDjango Wexler, The Shadow Campaign (Del Rey UK)

Anyone can plot a coup or fire an assassin’s bullet. But in a world of muskets and magic, it takes considerably more to seize the throne.

The ailing King of the Vordan lies on his deathbed. When he dies, his daughter, Raesinia Orboan, will become the first Queen Regnant in centuries – and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. The most dangerous of these is Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and master of the secret police. Having meticulously silenced his adversaries through intimidation, imprisonment, and execution, Orlanko is the most feared man in the kingdom.

And he knows an arcane secret that puts Raesinia completely at his mercy.

Exposure would mean ruin, but Raesinia is determined to find a way to break herself – and her country – out of Orlanko’s iron grip. She finds unlikely allies in the returning war hero Janus bet Vhalnich, fresh from a brilliant campaign in the colony of Khandar, and his loyal deputies, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Lieutenant Winter Ihernglass.

As Marcus and Winter struggle to find their places in the home they never thought they would see again, they help Janus and Raesinia set in motion events that could free Vordan from Orlanko’s influence – at the price of throwing the nation into chaos. But with the people suffering under the Duke’s tyranny, they intend to protect the kingdom with every power they can command, earthly or otherwise

Really enjoyed the first novel in the series, The Thousand Names, and also the short story The Penitent Damned. I am, therefore, very much looking forward to reading this. It’s out on July 3rd. The Shadow Campaign has already been garnering good reviews, so I’m rather excited about starting this ASAP. Maybe on Thursday, as soon as it’s delivered to my Kindle…

Also on CR: Interview with Django Wexler; Reviews of The Thousand Names and The Penitent Damned; Guest Post on Terry Pratchett

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Books Received… (June)

BooksReceived-20140628

Featuring: Megan Abbott, Robert Galbraith, Robert Goddard, Carl Hiaasen, Stephen King, J.F. Lewis, Richard K. Morgan, Warren Murphy, M.C. Planck, Kim Stanley Robinson, Thomas Sweterlitsch, Jon Wallace, Jo Walton

Abbott-DareMeMegan Abbott, Dare Me (Reagan Arthur Books)

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls – until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” – both with the team and with Addy herself.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death – and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

This came out when I was in the States last, and I thought it looked pretty interesting. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up at the time, though. Regardless, I picked it up last week, and have been hearing very good things about this and Abbott’s latest novel, The Fever, which I’d also like to read.

*

GalbraithR-2-SilkwormUKRobert Galbraith, The Silkworm (Sphere)

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives – meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

Finished The Cuckoo’s Calling over the weekend, and really enjoyed it. I received this for review from Sainsbury’s eBook division (a pleasant surprise), and intend to read it very soon.

*

GoddardR-WW2-CornersOfTheGlobeRobert Goddard, The Corners of the Globe (Bantam Press)

Spring, 1919. James ‘Max’ Maxted, former Great War flying ace, returns to the trail of murder, treachery and half-buried secrets he set out on in The Ways of the World. He left Paris after avenging the murder of his father, Sir Henry Maxted, a senior member of the British delegation to the post-war peace conference. But he was convinced there was more – much more – to be discovered about what Sir Henry had been trying to accomplish. And he suspected elusive German spymaster Fritz Lemmer knew the truth of it.

Now, enlisted under false colours in Lemmer’s service but with his loyalty pledged to the British Secret Service, Max sets out on his first – and possibly last – mission for Lemmer. It takes him to the far north of Scotland – to the Orkney Isles, where the German High Seas Fleet has been impounded in Scapa Flow, its fate to be decided at the conference-table in Paris. Max has been sent to recover a document held aboard one of the German ships. What that document contains forces him to break cover sooner than he would have wished and to embark on a desperate race south, towards London, with information that could destroy Lemmer – if Max, as seems unlikely, lives to deliver it

The sequel to The Ways of the World, this is a series I really want to read. But have been slow about getting around to. Hopefully I’ll address this very soon.

*

HiaasenC-BadMonkeyUKCarl Hiaasen, Bad Monkey (Sphere)

When a severed arm is discovered by a couple on honeymoon in the Florida Keys, former police detective – now reluctant restaurant inspector – Andrew Yancy senses that something doesn’t add up. Determined to get his badge back, he undertakes an unofficial investigation of his own.

Andrew’s search for the truth takes him to the Bahamas, where a local man, with the help of a very bad monkey (who allegedly worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) is doing everything in his power to prevent a developer from building a new tourist resort on the island, with deadly consequences…

Outrageous, hilarious and addictive, this is the unique Carl Hiaasen at his absolute best. Bad Monkey will have you on the edge of your seat and laughing out loud.

It’s been a long time since I last read a novel by Carl Hiaasen. His novels are uniformly strange and amusing, although they haven’t always hit the mark for me. It’ll be interesting to return to his zany approach to crime stories after so long, and this could make a nice change from the more-serious-in-tone thrillers I usually read.

*

KingS-MrMercedesStephen King, Mr. Mercedes (Hodder)

A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring a retired homicide detective who’s haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular – the pre-dawn slaughter of eight people among hundreds gathered in line for the opening of a jobs fair when the economy was guttering out. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. The plot is kicked into gear when Bill Hodges receives a letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. He taunts Hodges with the notion that he will strike again.

Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he’s preparing to kill again.

Only Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, can apprehend the killer in this high-stakes race against time. Because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.

I bought the eBook from Sainsbury’s after creating an account with them and getting a 20% off voucher. Last year was the first time I read one of King’s novels all the way through (The Shining), and this one sounds really interesting.

*

LewisJF-GrudgebearerJ.F. Lewis, Grudgebearer (Pyr)

Kholster is the first born of the practically immortal Aern, a race created by the Eldrennai as warrior-slaves to defend them from the magic-resistant reptilian Zaur. Unable to break an oath without breaking their connection with each other, the Aern served the Eldrennai faithfully for thousands of years until the Sundering. Now, the Aern, Vael, and Eldrennai meet every hundred years for a Grand Conjunction to renew their tenuous peace.

While the tortures of slavery remain fresh in Kholster’s mind, most of the rest of the world has moved on. Almost six hundred years after the Sundering, an Eldrennai prince carelessly breaks the truce by setting up a surprise museum exhibit containing sentient suits of Aernese armor left behind, never to be touched, lest Kholster kill every last Eldrennai. Through their still-existing connection with their ancient armor, the Aern know instantly, and Kholster must find a way to keep his oaths, even those made in haste and anger. While Kholster travels to the Grand Conjunction with his Freeborn daughter and chosen successor Rae’en, his troops travel by sea, heading for war.

I’d never heard of this novel before it dropped through the mailbox. Sounds interesting, but also a little familiar. Not sure when I’ll get to this.

*

MorganRK-LFH3-DarkDefilesUSRichard K. Morgan, The Dark Defiles (Del Rey)

Ringil Eskiath, a reluctant hero viewed as a corrupt degenerate by the very people who demand his help, has traveled far in search of the Illwrack Changeling, a deathless human sorcerer-warrior raised by the bloodthirsty Aldrain, former rulers of the world. Separated from his companions – Egar the Dragonbane and Archeth – Ringil risks his soul to master a deadly magic that alone can challenge the might of the Changeling. While Archeth and the Dragonbane embark on a trail of blood and tears that ends up exposing long-buried secrets, Ringil finds himself tested as never before, with his life and all existence hanging in the balance.

It feels like an absolute age since I read The Steel Remains. And even longer since I read Altered Carbon, which blew me away. This series has been met with a very wide array of criticism and praise. I’ve heard people say it’s ruined fantasy, or taken grimdark too far. Others sing its praises for breaking the boundaries of the (sub-)genre, being daring and forging a new path. I enjoyed The Steel Remains, and bought The Cold Commands (but haven’t read it yet – that may suggest something about how much I enjoyed the first novel, compared to other series I’ll buy and read each new installment as soon as possible). I hope to get caught up with this series pretty soon, given that this is the final volume. The series is published in the UK by Gollancz.

*

MurphyW-D1-CreatedTheDestroyerWarren Murphy, Created the Destroyer (Orbit)

When you’re on death row, minutes from the electric chair, and a hook-handed monk offers to save your life if you’ll just swallow a simple little pill… what’ve you got to lose? You take the pill. Then you wake up, officially “dead,” in the back of an ambulance, headed for an undisclosed location. Welcome to your new life, working for CURE, the most secret, most deniable, most extra-judicial government agency ever to exist. Only the President knows about it, and even he doesn’t control it.

That’s what happened to Remo Williams, a New Jersey cop framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Framed by the very people who saved him, in fact. And now, trained in esoteric martial arts by Chiun, master of Sinanju, he’s going to become the ultimate killing machine. Remo will be America’s last line of defense against mad scientists, organized crime, ancient undead gods, and anything else that threatens the Constitution. Remo Williams is the Destroyer.

The first in a long-running thriller series, Orbit will be bringing it to the UK in the very near future. It sounds fun. So I’ll be reading this very soon.

*

PlanckMC-SwordOfTheBrightLadyM.C. Planck, Sword of the Bright Lady (Pyr)

Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real-but bought at a terrible price.

A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.

To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.

But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher’s fate will save the world… or destroy it.

First heard about this novel via Staffer’s Book Review, as Justin was taking a look at the cover art. It sounds intriguing.

*

SloanR-AjaxPenumbra1969UKRobin Sloan, Ajax Penumbra, 1969 (Atlantic Books)

It is August 1969. The Summer of Love is a fading memory. The streets of San Francisco pulse to the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Marvin Gaye. And of jackhammers: A futuristic pyramid of a skyscraper is rising a few blocks from City Lights bookstore and an unprecedented subway tunnel is being built under the bay. Meanwhile, south of the city, orchards are quickly giving way to a brand-new industry built on silicon.

But young Ajax Penumbra has not arrived in San Francisco looking for free love or a glimpse of the technological future. He is seeking a book – the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. The last record of the book locates it in the San Francisco of more than a century earlier, and on that scant bit of evidence, Penumbra’s university has dispatched him west to acquire it for their library. After a few weeks of rigorous hunting, Penumbra feels no closer to his goal than when he started. But late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles across a 24-hour bookstore, and the possibilities before him expand exponentially…

I really enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and so when I saw that Sloan had written this novella-length prequel, I knew I wanted to read it ASAP. It just took a little longer than normal for me to buy it. May read it as soon as I finish my current read.

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RobinsonKS-SotC2-FiftyDegreesBelowUKKim Stanley Robinson, Fifty Degrees Below  and Sixty Days & Counting (Voyager)

FDB: After years of denial and non-action, a near-future Earth faces a crossroad when it is threatened with the dire implications of global warming, an environmental crisis that ironically could unleash a devastating Ice Age on the planet.

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SD&C: By the time Phil Chase is elected president, the world’s climate is far on its way to irreversible change. Food scarcity, housing shortages, diminishing medical care, and vanishing species are just some of the consequences. The erratic winter the Washington, D.C., area is experiencing is another grim reminder of a global weather pattern gone haywire: bone-chilling cold one day, balmy weather the next.

But the president-elect remains optimistic and doesn’t intend to give up without a fight. A maverick in every sense of the word, Chase starts organizing the most ambitious plan to save the world from disaster since FDR – and assembling a team of top scientists and advisers to implement it.

For Charlie Quibler, this means reentering the political fray full-time and giving up full-time care of his young son, Joe. For Frank Vanderwal, hampered by a brain injury, it means trying to protect the woman he loves from a vengeful ex and a rogue “black ops” agency not even the president can control – a task for which neither Frank’s work at the National Science Foundation nor his study of Tibetan Buddhism can prepare him.

In a world where time is running out as quickly as its natural resources, where surveillance is almost total and freedom nearly nonexistent, the forecast for the Chase administration looks darker each passing day. For as the last – and most terrible – of natural disasters looms on the horizon, it will take a miracle to stop the clock… the kind of miracle that only dedicated men and women can bring about.

The second and third novels in Robinson’s Science in the Capitol series (for some reason, Forty Days of Rain is not available as an eBook). They’ve been on my Kindle Wish List for ages, and when I checked this morning they had dropped to just 99p. So, naturally, I bought them. Hope to read them soon. I also picked up Red Mars, which was also knocked down to 99p, but these two are higher on my priority list.

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SweterlitschT-TomorrowAndTomorrowThomas Sweterlitsch, Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Putnam)

A decade has passed since the city of Pittsburgh was reduced to ash.

While the rest of the world has moved on, losing itself in the noise of a media-glutted future, survivor John Dominic Blaxton remains obsessed with the past. Grieving for his wife and unborn child who perished in the blast, Dominic relives his lost life by immersing in the Archive – a fully interactive digital reconstruction of Pittsburgh, accessible to anyone who wants to visit the places they remember and the people they loved.

Dominic investigates deaths recorded in the Archive to help close cases long since grown cold, but when he discovers glitches in the code surrounding a crime scene – the body of a beautiful woman abandoned in a muddy park that he’s convinced someone tried to delete from the Archive – his cycle of grief is shattered.

With nothing left to lose, Dominic tracks the murder through a web of deceit that takes him from the darkest corners of the Archive to the ruins of the city itself, leading him into the heart of a nightmare more horrific than anything he could have imagined.

This has been described as a follower in the footsteps of William Gibson’s cyberpunk, which certainly caught my eye. Pretty intrigued by this.

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WallaceJ-BarricadeUKJon Wallace, Barricade (Gollancz)

Kenstibec was genetically engineered to build a new world, but the apocalypse forced a career change. These days he drives a taxi instead.

A fast-paced, droll and disturbing novel, BARRICADE is a savage road trip across the dystopian landscape of post-apocalypse Britain; narrated by the cold-blooded yet magnetic antihero, Kenstibec.

Kenstibec is a member of the “Ficial” race, a breed of merciless super-humans. Their war on humanity has left Britain a wasteland, where Ficials hide in barricaded cities, besieged by tribes of human survivors. Originally optimised for construction, Kenstibec earns his keep as a taxi driver, running any Ficial who will pay from one surrounded city to another.

The trips are always eventful, but this will be his toughest yet. His fare is a narcissistic journalist who’s touchy about her luggage. His human guide is constantly plotting to kill him. And that’s just the start of his troubles.

On his journey he encounters ten-foot killer rats, a mutant king with a TV fixation, a drug-crazed army, and even the creator of the Ficial race. He also finds time to uncover a terrible plot to destroy his species for good – and humanity too.

One of Gollancz’s 2014 debuts, I picked this up on the eBook promotion. His recent guest post for CR has caused a bit of a stir, too, and I really want to see what all the fuss is about (if, indeed, there’s something to cause a fuss about – I think his guest post has suffered from poor structuring and wording, which has led to some of the criticism he’s receiving. Can’t be sure until I read the novel, though). Will read this soon.

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WaltonJ-MyRealChildrenUKJo Walton, My Real Children (Corsair)

What if you could remember two versions of your life? My Real Children is an alternate history, in which a woman with dementia struggles to remember her two contradictory lives. It’s a book about life and love and choices and moonbases. The day Mark called, Patricia Cowan’s world split in two.

The phone call.

His question.

Her answer.

A single word.

“Yes.”

“No.”

It is 2015 and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War – those things are solid in her memory. Then that phone call and… her memory splits in two.

She was Trish, a housewife and mother of four.

She was Pat, a successful travel writer and mother of three.

She remembers living her life as both women, so very clearly. Which memory is real – or are both just tricks of time and light?

My Real Children is the story of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives – each with its loves and losses, sorrows and triumphs, its possible consequences. It is a novel about how every life means the entire world.

Another new book in the UK from Walton (she’s been enjoying a string of re-issues over here), and it sounds really interesting. I still haven’t got around to reading anything by her. Hope to do so soon.

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