Excerpt: ACAPULCALYPSE NOW by Alison Littlewood (Robinson)

LittlewoodA-ZA-AcapulcalypseNowToday, Robinson has allowed me to share an excerpt from Alison Littlewood’s contribution the the publisher’s Zombie Apocalypse Series (created by Stephen Jones): ACAPULCALYPSE NOW. Here’s the synopsis:

The Hotel Baktun is an exclusive vacation complex that is about to open on the coast of Acapulco, Mexico. Owned by a mysterious multi-millionaire businessman, it is shaped like an ancient Mayan pyramid and its halls are lined with rare and expensive artefacts.

For Stacy Keenan, the hotel’s new Head of Security, things are already chaotic as the locals continue to put the finishing touches to the festivities while VIPs begin to arrive for the grand opening. When a Russian cruise ship turns along the shore and disgorges its cargo of flesh-eating zombies, the guests and staff soon fragment into various factions as they struggle to withstand the spread of HRV (Human Reanimation Virus).

As the armies of the dead conquer all that stand before them, and the human survivors prepare for a final battle against an unstoppable enemy, a horror even more ancient and terrible is revealed when ‘The Death’ comes to Paradise… Continue reading

Review: DEADLANDS by Lily Herne (Much-In-Little/Constable & Robinson)

Herne-MR1-DeadlandsAn interesting new Post-Zomebie-Apocalypse Series

Welcome to the Deadlands, where life is a lottery.

Since the apocalypse, Cape Town’s suburbs have become zombie-infested Deadlands. Human survivors are protected from the living dead by sinister, shrouded figures – the Guardians. In return, five teenagers are “chosen” and handed over to them for a mysterious purpose: this year, Lele de la Fontein’s name is picked.

But Lele will not stick around and face whatever shady fate the Guardians have in store for her. She escapes, willing to take her chances in the Deadlands.

Alone, exiled and unable to return home, she runs into a misfit gang of renegade teens: Saint, a tough Batswana girl; Ginger, a wise-cracking Brit; and handsome Ash, a former child soldier. Under their tutelage, Lele learns how to seriously destroy zombies and together they uncover the corruption endemic in Cape Town, and come to learn the sickening truth about the Guardians …

I first heard about the mother-daughter writing team Lily Herne at World Fantasy Con 2013 in Brighton. I was walking along the signing corridor and Jared of Pornokitsch pulled me aside and introduced me to them. Since then, I have read The Three by Sarah Lotz (the mother of the duo), which I think will most likely be one of my Top 5 reads of 2014. Then, despite having a signed copy of Deadlands, I spotted the first two books in the series on sale for Kindle. I snapped them both up, and started reading Deadlands right away. And, I must say, I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Guest Post: “How Did I Come To Write ‘What Makes This Book So Great?’” by Jo Walton

WaltonJ-WhatMakesThisBookSoGreatJo Walton is a prolific writer and reviewer of speculative fiction and more. One of her newest titles is a collection of essays, adapted from her work for Tor.com, What Makes This Book So Great? Here, Walton addresses how the book came about.

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The answer to the question “How did I come to write this book?” is that I didn’t. I never wrote it. I wrote a series of blog posts for Tor.com – hundreds and hundreds of them. In all of them I was burbling about books and the way people read. My brief on the blog is to say interesting things about books nobody else has thought about for ages. I read very fast, and I do re-read a lot. I read new things too, but I also enjoy re-reading – and the first thing I ever wrote for Tor.com was the first essay in the book about why I like to re-read. So I re-read old favourites and shared my enthusiasm about them, and along the way I examined some questions about what happens when you re-read a book and don’t enjoy it any more, and the question of why people love reading series. It was exciting to be able to draw people’s attention to books I love that seem neglected or under-rated, like Karl Schroeder’s Lady of Mazes and Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife. I had a lot of fun writing the posts and starting conversations.

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But all this was blogging, not writing a book. I didn’t think of the posts as the kind of thing that could be published in book form until Patrick Nielsen Hayden suggested that they could be. He and Teresa Nielsen Hayden came up to Montreal for a weekend and the three of us sat down together with a huge pile of printout of all my posts to select a representative and interesting sample to make into a book. We made a lot of selection decisions and also decided to keep the posts chronological, instead of organizing them by some other principle. Doing that selection was hard work but also a lot of fun. So I feel as if I wrote the posts and then assembled the book, but not that I really wrote the book, certainly not in the way I write fiction.

This isn’t a book of reviews – reviews are immediate reactions to new books, and by the nature of things a reviewer is going to feel negative about some of what they’re given to review. These are not first thoughts on books but second thoughts, thoughts after reflection. But I’ve also been a little disconcerted at people referring to it as a book of criticism. I don’t feel as if it’s that at all. Criticism is the kind of thing Gary Wolfe and Farah Mendlesohn and John Clute do – you have to be trained to do criticism. There are people writing wonderful SF criticism these days. It’s part of an academic conversation. This book is much more part of a fannish conversation. My qualification for writing these posts isn’t that I write fiction, it’s that I love reading. I’m not considering things objectively. I haven’t read secondary literature. This is a book of my thoughts about books. It’s  saying “This thing, this thing is interesting and important and this is why I love it – and you might love it too!”

Most of the books discussed are SF and fantasy, because I love SF and fantasy, and because that’s the main focus of Tor.com. But I read widely, and so though there are occasional pieces about other things, George Eliot and Dorothy Sayers and so on, but always with a genre sensibility. And despite what it says on the cover, they’re not all classics by any means. This isn’t an attempt at a history of genre fiction or a survey of the highlights or anything of that kind. It is what it says in the title – me explaining what, in my opinion, makes them so great.

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What Makes This Books So Great is published today by Corsair Books in the UK. Here’s what Patrick Neilsen Hayden, a senior editor at Tor Books, had to say about the volume’s content, in the announcement on Tor.com:

Included are discussions of books by authors ranging from Vernor Vinge, Robert A. Heinlein, and Jerry Pournelle, to Ursula K. Le Guin, Connie Willis, and Susanna Clarke. Several long series get examined in strings of essays; in particular, Jo re-reads and discusses all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Miles Vorkosigan” novels, and all of Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” books, in long multi-part considerations. There are examinations of books you’ve never heard of; there’s at least one essay about a book I’d never heard of. There are insightful and (sometimes) irreverent looks at established classics… and several sharp looks at why and how certain works of the sort that George Orwell called “first-rate second-rate books”… are sometimes exactly what we want to re-read. Taken together, the 130 essays in What Makes This Book So Great are a wonderful immersion in the mind of Jo Walton and a fantastic set of insights into what makes SF and fantasy tick.

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In related news, Jo Walton’s Small Change trilogy – FARTHING, HA’PENNY, and HALF A CROWN – are to be re-issued in paperback by Corsair in February 2014. Expect reviews of them in the not-too-distant future here on Civilian Reader. In the meantime, here are the synopsis for book one and three new covers…

Eight years after they overthrew Churchill and led Britain into a separate peace with Hitler, the upper-crust families of the “Farthing set” are gathered for a weekend retreat. Among them is estranged Farthing scion Lucy Kahn, who can’t understand why her and her husband David’s presence was so forcefully requested. Then the country-house idyll is interrupted when the eminent Sir James Thirkie is found murdered – with a yellow Star of David pinned to his chest.

Lucy begins to realize that her Jewish husband is about to be framed for the crime – an outcome that would be convenient for altogether too many of the various political machinations underway in Parliament in the coming week. But whoever’s behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn’t reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts and underdogs – and prone to look beyond the obvious as a result.

As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out – a way fraught with peril in a darkening world.

All three novels are already available as eBooks (and Farthing is at a real bargain-price on Amazon, at the time of writing).

WaltonJ-SmallChangeTrilogy2014

An Interview with PAULA BRACKSTON

Brackston-Author

Paula Brackston lives in a wild, mountainous part of Wales. She is an author and Visiting Lecturer. Before becoming a writer, Paula tried her hand at various career paths, with mixed success. These included working as a groom on a racing yard, as a travel agent, a secretary, an English teacher, and a goat herd. Everyone involved (particularly the goats) is very relieved that she has now found a job she is actually able to do properly – and that is, write fiction. Her latest ‘series’ is The Shadow Chronicles, the second book of which – The Winter Witch – is published tomorrow in the UK.

Who is Paula Brackston?

A descendent of the Witches of the Blue Well, possessed of dangerous magic and ancient knowledge, cunningly disguised as an ordinary mortal, mother of two, walker of the dog, maker of meals, who also writes a bit.

The Winter Witch, the sequel to The Witch’s Daughter, will be published tomorrow by Constable & Robinson. How would you introduce the series to a potential reader, and what can fans of the first expect in the second?

BrackstonP-2-WinterWitchAh, well, you see, there are no sequels, as yet. Each book in The Shadow Chronicles is a stand alone. They have in common an exploration of witches through the ages, following the experiences of a witch as the main character. All kinds of witches, in different eras and settings, each with their own distinct magic and story.

What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

I live in the Brecon Beacons National Park, so I wake up each day to the most inspirational landscape you could imagine. That certainly formed the basis of not just the setting for The Winter Witch, but the characters such a place produces too. More generally, I am inspired by wilderness and wildness, by individuals who make their own way in the world, and by courage. Particularly courage, I think, as I am such a timid creature. I love inhabiting brave characters who overcome adversity. It makes me feel stronger, and I hope that works for my readers as well.

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

As a reader I have never made a distinction between categories of fiction. I struggle with the whole idea of literary and commercial being two different things – surely a good book is a good book? That books will be written about different things, in various styles, traditions and settings, is what makes reading such an exciting experience.

Which is how I feel about writing, too. When I’m working on a story I don’t think about how it will sit in a certain genre, or how it will be seen. I am interested only in the story, and I strive to find the best way I can to tell it. The placing, categorising, and marketing of the finished thing I leave up to people who understand such things far better than I do.

How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

BrackstonP-1-WitchsDaughterI have the best job in the world! Maybe not the most important, prestigious, or well paid, but still the best. I get to spend all day dreaming things up and then writing them down, creating my own little world and peopling it with characters that move me, having them dash about doing all manner of stuff I’d never dare do. All this and shortbread – what’s not to like?

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I’ve always written, but it took me years to believe I could actually Be A Writer. Still feels strange when I tell people how it is I make my living and what it is I do. The turning point came when I was living and working in London and missing the mountains very much. I came up with a plan to ride a horse around Wales for a month or so and write about it. I pitched the idea to some publishers and one commissioned it. I had to breathe into a paper bag for a bit when I realised this meant I had to give up my job and my home, leave the city, find a horse, do the actual trekking and then write a Proper-Book-Someone-Might-Actually-Want-To-Buy. It all turned out rather well. The trek was a blast, the book found a small but appreciative readership, I relocated permanently to Wales, and somehow I had become a writer. There seemed no going back after that.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

See above.

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

If I listed them all you’d mark me down as some sort of butterfly-brained lunatic, so I’ll cherry pick. I’ve just started another Shadow Chronicles book. I love this stage of the process, as it’s all hope and expectation and excitement and hasn’t yet had a chance to be nibbled at by doubt and uncertainty.

I’m also putting together ideas for books three and four in my fantasy-crime series, but that’s another interview entirely!

And I’ve just had one of my screenplays short-listed for some production funding, so there will be work to be done there, too.

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

I’m currently half way through The Luminaries (by Eleanor Catton) and loving it, though I am having to pay very close attention to keep up. It thoroughly deserves its place as a Booker Prize contender. Last month I read and enjoyed The Potter’s Hand (gorgeous) by A.N. Wilson, May We Be Forgiven (deceptively deep) by A.M. Homes, and An Evening of Long Goodbyes (brilliantly funny) by Paul Murray.

Brackston-Reading

What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

In my twenties, I spent a year at an agricultural college learning how to drive tractors and train racehorses. Neither skill seems particularly useful at the moment, but I don’t like to think of time being wasted, so you can reliably expect both activities to pop up in my books at some point.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Ooh, what to pick? What to pick? There’s the publication of The Winter Witch in the UK right about now; The Witch’s Daughter coming out in paperback here in December; the German edition of the first in my fantasy-crime series due out just before Christmas; my next witchy book, The Midnight Witch, is out in hardback in the USA in March; I’m thoroughly enjoying writing the fourth book of The Shadow Chronicles at the moment…. I should imagine a little lie down sometime next summer would be very nice indeed.

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The Winter Witch is published by Corsair in the UK and Thomas Dunne Books in the US. To find out more about Paula Brackston and her novels, be sure to visit her website.

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Excerpt: THE WINTER WITCH by Paula Brackston (Constable & Robinson)

Very happy to be able to share this extract from Paula Brackston’s latest novel, The Winter Witch (the sequel to The Witch’s Daughter). The novel, part of the Shadow Chronicles series, is published today by Constable & Robinson in the UK.

BrackstonP-2-WinterWitch

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Chapter 4

How dare he touch my books! He was rifling through my possessions, as if they belong to him now. As, indeed, they do. As I belong to him, I suppose. Am I to be left nothing of myself ? I lift the lid from the crate once more, just to reassure myself that nothing has been taken. No, they are all here. He was looking at Pilgrim’s Progress. Has he ever read it, I wonder? Has he any interest in stories? I have seen no books in the house thus far. Perhaps he keeps them to himself, in his room. The room he will no doubt expect me to share with him one day. What would a man like Cai read? A man who has lived all his life in one place, save for droving, what would he choose to read?

Dada selected these books. Each and every one meant something to him; his choices were never whimsical or left to fate. He had his favourites. This one, with its fine red leather binding, he never tired of – Tales from the Thousand and One Nights. How he loved this book! And how I loved to hear him read from it, or to recount tales from memory, as he often did. The cover feels warm, as if my dada had just this minute left off reading it. As I run my thumb across it the title spells itself out to me, cut into the leather, even though the gilding has long been rubbed away by palm and lap. A heavy sadness settles upon me, as it so often does when I recall the pain of his leaving.

When I remember how he was one day there, and the next not. And how when he went away he took my voice with him.

Of a sudden I am overcome by weariness. The journey, the dragging sorrow of homesickness, this strange house, unfamiliar society, the heat… all have taken their toll so that now all I wish to do is sleep. And yet I fear still I will not be able to. If I clutch Dada’s book close against me, tight to my heart, it may be I can bring to mind some- thing of the warmth of his presence. Here, I will lay myself down on the rug in this pool of sunshine that brightens the colours of the woven wool. I close my eyes and wish I could go to where dear Dada is. But he is lost to me. So many times I have tried to find him, to travel as only I can to be near him. But he is gone. So completely. The only comfort left to me is to remember. To revisit those soft-edged images and rememberings of my time with him. To recall one of those precious moments my memory has entombed and preserved like an ancient treasure. A moment when he was close to me. I shut my ears to the cry of the serf ’s cuckoo outside. I curl myself around the book, burying my nose in the dry, powdery pages so as to keep away the bitter aroma of burnt vegetables and sulphurous coal fumes that drift up the stairs. I screw my eyes tight shut, allowing only the dappled dance of the sun on my lids. Slowly images appear. A dark night, still and warm. A fire, outside, at the far end of the garden. And at last, Dada, sitting beside it, his face illuminated by the flames. He always preferred to be out of the house, much to Mam’s displeasure. So long as the weather would allow it, after eating he would retreat to this quiet little place, assemble twigs and branches, and within minutes would be settled by a cheerful blaze, his clay pipe in his hand, an ease relaxing his shoulders. An ease which eluded him when he was forced to remain enclosed with slate or thatch separating him from the stars. I would clamour for him to tell me a tale and, after a token resistance, he would agree, sucking on his pipe, eyes raised to heaven as if looking for divine guidance for his story selection. And then he would begin. Oh, he was an excellent storyteller! My young mind, flexible as willow, would follow the twists and turns of the adventure, pictures flashing bright before my eyes, the howls of wolves or the singing of maidens filling the night sky around me. I was enthralled. Spellbound. Indeed, most of his best-loved tales turned upon some sort of magic. Magic, he told me, was some- thing to be taken seriously.

‘Travellers understand about magic,’ said he. ‘I’m not claiming they’re all sorcerers and such like, only that they know magic when they see it. Your Romany ancestors crisscrossed the globe, Morgana, and on their travels they saw many marvelous things and encountered many wonderful beings. That’s how they gained their knowledge, from distant lands and strange customs of even stranger people. Travelling was my habit, my natural state, you might say, until your mother caught me in her web.’ He laughed. ‘She’s a good woman, your mam, but she’s not like you and me, girl.’ He leaned forward, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial level. ‘You have the magic blood in you, Morgana. I’ve seen it. Do not fear it, as some do. It is a gift, though there are times you may not think it so.’ He sucked hard on his pipe, which had gone out. He paused to light a spill in the fire and touch the glowing end to the bowl of tobacco. Abundant smoke temporarily obscured him, slowly dispersing, wisps of it curling from his nose. I was seven years old and I had a dragon for a father.

‘If you are not able to travel,’ he told me, ‘the next best thing is to read. Read all you can, girl. And store up that knowledge, for you never know when you will need it.’ He paused, sitting straight, looking thoughtfully at me. I have often, over the years, tried to see what was behind that expression, what it was he was trying to tell me. ‘A person has to tread his own path, Morgana. Life will set things to pulling you in all directions, tugging you this way and that.’ He puffed once more, leaning back so that the light from the fire could scarcely reach him, two smokinesses rendering him faint, ghostlike. The only substantial thing about him was his voice. ‘Tread your own path,’ said he once more.

The next morning he was gone, and I never saw him again.

The memory lulls me to sleep and when I awake some hours have passed and the room is in darkness save for a short candle flickering on the windowsill. I am surprised to find the patchwork quilt has been taken from the bed and placed snugly over me. Cai must have done it. Must have come to speak with me, found me sleeping, and thought to make me more comfortable. The man is a riddle. I might sooner have expected him to wake me and tell me to make his supper. I rise and peer out of the window. The night is bright, constellations clear, the moon aglow. It is hard to judge the exact hour, but the house is quiet, as if I am the only one awake.

I drop the quilt on to the bed and snatch up my woollen shawl instead. I take the candle and lift the latch on my door carefully. Again, as I pass the door to Cai’s bedroom, I sense something out of kilter with the still silence of the night. I have the sensation of being observed. I pull my shawl tighter about me and continue downstairs. I have already identified those boards and stairs which complain at my footfalls, so I am able to descend to the kitchen quietly. The fire in the range is out. There is a faint smell of smoke lingering, but the unpleasant evidence of my calamitous attempt at cooking has gone. The table is cleared and everything returned to its proper place. Conflict unsettles me. I am glad proof of my clumsiness has been erased, but I am uncomfortable at the thought of my husband having to wash away the grime of my error. It should not fall to him. And now I feel strangely in his debt. Hunger rumbles in my stomach and I fetch a lump of cheese and a hunk of bread from the pantry. I am about to sit on the window seat when I see Cai is sleeping in the carver at the far end of the table. I wonder I have not woken him with my blundering about. How often, I wonder, has he fallen asleep down here? I remember after Dada went away I would sometimes find Mam in her chair by the kitchen range. She would explain it away as having been overtired and having drifted off. Only later did she admit to me she found her bed too lonely. Does he still miss his first wife so? Am I to compete with a ghost?

Now I notice the corgis curled at his feet. Bracken opens one eye, recognizes me, surely more by scent than sight in the dimly lit room, gives a half-hearted wag of his tail and goes back to his slumbers.

Hush, little one! Do not wake your master.

Cai is sleeping deeply. I am close enough to reach out and touch him. He looks younger, somehow. In repose his features lose something of the sternness that I see. Or at least, I see it when he looks at me. Am I so perpetually bothersome? His collarless shirt is of good quality, and that is a fine woollen waistcoat. I can see the fob and chain of a gold watch. He likes to look… respectable, I think. Even when at home, tending his livestock. Not the image some of the drovers have, with their long coats and rough ways. I admit, though, he has always presented himself well. On the occasions when I saw him at Crickhowell market he was well turned out, despite being on the move with the herds. Mam and I sold cheese there when we could, buying cheap milk from Spencer Blaencwm’s dairy where we worked. Mam would pick wild garlic and together we would churn it into creamy rounds to sell. Business was always good when the drovers came through. That is where Cai first saw me. He could have been under no illusions as to what I was. A dairy maid with a sometime cheese stall at the smallest market in the shire. He would come to inspect our wares on the evening of his arrival, and in the morning before the drove went on its way. Then he would visit on his return journey, when he was unencumbered by his many charges. A year and a half of passing through and pausing. Snatched moments in which to convince himself he had found a suitable bride. And to convince Mam my future lay with him. I will say, he purchased a large amount of cheese! Perhaps it was that which led him to believe I might be capable of cooking. I recall he did his best to look prosperous, sensible, dependable.

And now look at him. Longer eyelashes than a man should be blessed with. Skin tanned from the outdoor life, but not yet weathered. His hair is streaked gold by the summer sun. There are several years between our ages, yet as he sleeps I see the boy in him. Unsure of himself. Vulnerable. Oh! He is stirring. I have no wish to be found standing here, watching him. He mumbles something, his eyes still closed. Both dogs lift their heads from their paws. I hasten from the kitchen and back to my own room.

Some Books Received… (May 2013)

BooksReceived-20130514

A nice selection of books have arrived, recently (also some non-fiction books, but I’ll feature them over on the other website in the near future). So, here’s the latest selection of delectable and intriguing ARCs, etc., that have arrived…

Faye-SevenForASecretLynday Faye’s SEVEN FOF A SECRET (Headline)

Six months after the formation of the NYPD, its most reluctant and talented officer, Timothy Wilde, thinks himself well versed in his city’s dark practices—until he learns of the gruesome underworld of lies and corruption ruled by the “blackbirders,” who snatch free Northerners of color from their homes, masquerade them as slaves, and sell them South to toil as plantation property.

The abolitionist Timothy is horrified by these traders in human flesh. But in 1846, slave catching isn’t just legal—it’s law enforcement.

When the beautiful and terrified Lucy Adams staggers into Timothy’s office to report a robbery and is asked what was stolen, her reply is, “My family.” Their search for her mixed-race sister and son will plunge Timothy and his feral brother, Valentine, into a world where police are complicit and politics savage, and corpses appear in the most shocking of places. Timothy finds himself caught between power and principles, desperate to protect his only brother and to unravel the puzzle before all he cares for is lost.

I really enjoyed Faye’s previous novel in this historical crime thriller series, The Gods of Gotham. It’s set in 18th Century New York, and covers the early years of when an official, ‘professional’ police force was created. It’s a great series, and Faye has a great prose style and approach to her characters and plotting. Highly recommended.

Also on CR: Interview with Lyndsay Faye

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Gaiman-MakeGoodArtNeil Gaiman’s MAKE GOOD ART (Headline)

In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivered the commencement address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, in which he shared his thoughts about creativity, bravery, and strength. He encouraged the fledgling painters, musicians, writers, and dreamers to break rules and think outside the box. Most of all, he urged them to make good art.

The book Make Good Art, designed by renowned graphic artist Chip Kidd, contains the full text of Gaiman’s inspiring speech.

This is an interesting little book… I’ll review it in the next couple of days, hopefully. This weekend, perhaps.

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HandE-GenerationLoss2013Elizabeth Hand’s GENERATION LOSS (Constable & Robinson)

Cass Neary made her name in the 1970s as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and hangers on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, got her into art galleries and a book deal. But thirty years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out. Then an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. When she arrives Downeast, Cass stumbles across a decades-old mystery that is still claiming victims, and into one final shot at redemption.

Elizabeth Hand grew up in New York State. In 1975 she moved to Washington, DC, to study playwriting at Catholic University. After seeing Patti Smith perform, Hand flunked out and became involved in the DC and New York City nascent punk scenes. From 1979 to 1986 she worked at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; she returned to university to study cultural anthropology, and received her BA in 1985. The author of seven previous novels and the recipient of a Maine Arts Commission and an NEA Fellowship, she is a regular contributor to The Washington Post Book World. Hand lives with her family on the Maine coast.

I’ve never read anything by Elizabeth Hand. She writes both SFF and crime novels, and all the ones I’ve taken a look at have pretty intriguing premises. So, now that this one has arrived, I’ll definitely be taking a look as soon as possible.

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KristjanssonS-SwordsOfGoodMenSnorri Kristjansson’s SWORDS OF GOOD MEN (Quercus)

To Ulfar Thormodsson, the Viking town of Stenvik is the penultimate stop on a long journey in his riveting adventure of clashing Viking powers. Tasked with looking after his cousin after disgracing his father, he has traveled the world and now only wants to go home.

Stenvik is different: it contains the beautiful and tragic Lilja, who immediately captures Ulfar’s heart – but Stenvik is also home to some very deadly men, who could break Ulfar in an instant.

King Olav is marching on Stenvik from the East, determined to bring the White Christ to the masses at the point of his sword, and a host of bloodthirsty raiders led by a mysterious woman are sailing from the north.

But Ulfar is about to learn that his enemies are not all outside the walls.

I’ve written about this quite recently, so I’ve included it here for the sake of completeness. I’m really looking forward to getting around to it.

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Meltzer-FifthAssasinBrad Meltzer’s THE FIFTH ASSASIN (Hodder)

From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, there have been more than two dozen assassination attempts on the President of the United States.

Four have been successful.

But now, Beecher White discovers a killer in Washington, D.C., who’s meticulously re-creating the crimes of these four men. Historians have branded them as four lone wolves. But what if they were wrong?

Beecher is about to discover the truth: that during the course of a hundred years, all four assassins were secretly working together. What was their purpose? For whom do they really work? And why are they planning to kill the current President?

Beecher’s about to find out. And most terrifyingly, he’s about to come face-to-face with the fifth assassin.

I have had a mixed experience with Meltzer’s novels. I really enjoyed The Tenth Justice, his debut, and The First Daughter was pretty good. A couple of his others have been a bit weaker (and there was one DNF). This is the sequel to The Inner Circle, which wasn’t bad, had an interesting premise, but didn’t blow me away.

[I didn’t get sent this by the publisher, not did I buy it – I got it at the local library, but decided to feature it on here anyway.]

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Pinborough-FTN1-PoisonSarah Pinborough’s POISON (Gollancz)

POISON is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It’s fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more.

It’s Sarah Pinborough. Of course I’m interested in reading it. This one, though, I’ll actually make sure I read in a timely manner. It appears that Pinborough’s books (all of which sound awesome) have been suffering from my annoying Save For Later syndrome… I will remedy this. I will!

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ShannonS-BoneSeasonSamantha Shannon’s THE BONE SEASON (Bloomsbury)

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

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

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

I have heard nothing about this novel before, but according to the publicist’s blurb and information, it is going to be huge. It’s been optioned for the big screen, bought to be translated into 19 languages, and Bloomsbury seem to believe it’s going to be the next big thing, filling in the hole left by the end of Twilight and The Hunger Games. Colour me intrigued. [Also, I have no idea how they got my address/details…]