Upcoming: THIS BODY’S NOT BIG ENOUGH FOR BOTH OF US by Edgar Cantero (Doubleday)

CanteroE-ThisBodysNotBigEnoughForBothOfUsUSEdgar Cantero‘s latest novel, Meddling Kids has been widely praised. As a result, interest in his next work is understandably high. We do not have long to wait: This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us is due to be published by Doubleday in North America, on July 31st, 2018! And, as can perhaps be expected from the author of the aforementioned Meddling Kids, and also The Supernatural Enhancements, it sounds pretty interesting and original:

In a dingy office in Fisherman’s Wharf, the glass panel in the door bears the names of A. Kimrean and Z. Kimrean. Private Eyes. Behind the door there is only one desk, one chair, one scrawny androgynous P.I. in a tank top and skimpy waistcoat. A.Z., as they are collectively known, are twin brother and sister. He’s pure misanthropic logic, she’s wild hedonistic creativity. The Kimreans have been locked in mortal battle since they were in utero… which is tricky because they, very literally, share one single body. That’s right. One body, two pilots. The mystery and absurdity of how Kimrean functions, and how they subvert every plotline, twist, explosion, and gunshot — and confuse every cop, neckless thug, cartel boss, ninja, and femme fatale — in the book is pure Cantero magic.

Someone is murdering the sons of the ruthless drug cartel boss known as the Lyon in the biggest baddest town in California — San Carnal. The notorious A.Z. Kimrean must go to the sin-soaked, palm-tree-lined streets of San Carnal, infiltrate the Lyon’s inner circle, and find out who is targeting his heirs, and while they are at it, rescue an undercover cop in too deep, deal with a plucky young stowaway, and stop a major gang war from engulfing California. They’ll face every plot device and break every rule Elmore Leonard wrote before they can crack the case, if they don’t kill each other (themselves) first.

I don’t know who will be publishing the novel in the UK, but Meddling Kids was published by Titan Books — so, maybe, they’ll be picking this one up as well.

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Review: THE SHAKESPEARE REQUIREMENT by Julie Schumacher (Doubleday)

SchumacherJ-JF2-ShakespeareRequirementUSA fantastic follow-up to Dear Committee Members

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune keep hitting beleaguered English professor Jason Fitger right between the eyes in this hilarious and eagerly awaited sequel to the cult classic of anhedonic academe, the Thurber Prize-winning Dear Committee Members. Once more into the breach…

Now is the fall of his discontent, as Jason Fitger, newly appointed chair of the English Department of Payne University, takes arms against a sea of troubles, personal and institutional. His ex-wife is sleeping with the dean who must approve whatever modest initiatives he undertakes. The fearsome department secretary Fran clearly runs the show (when not taking in rescue parrots and dogs) and holds plenty of secrets she’s not sharing. The lavishly funded Econ Department keeps siphoning off English’s meager resources and has taken aim at its remaining office space. And Fitger’s attempt to get a mossbacked and antediluvian Shakespeare scholar to retire backfires spectacularly when the press concludes that the Bard is being kicked to the curricular curb.

Lord, what fools these mortals be! Julie Schumacher proves the point and makes the most of it in this delicious romp of satire.

Julie Schumacher’s previous novel, Dear Committee Members was one of my favourite novels of 2014: it was funny, warm-hearted, extremely well-written, and populated by familiar and endearing (albeit hapless) characters. In The Shakespeare Requirement, the author reunites readers with characters at Payne University. Written in a slightly different style, it is no less engaging, amusing and sharply observed. Another excellent novel. Continue reading

Upcoming: HEIRS OF THE FOUNDERS by H.W. Brands (Doubleday)

BrandsHW-HeirsToTheFoundersUSIn H.W. Brands‘s latest book, the acclaimed historian turns his attention to the three men whose political careers had lasting impact on the United States after the Founding generation had left the stage: Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster. (Sort of — they were all active during some of the founding administrations, but they outlasted them all.) As contemporary politics devolves into horrifying farce, there has rarely been a better time in which to revisit the early years of American politics: messy, contentious, often violent, and yet fascinating. Heirs to the Founders is due to be published by Doubleday in November 2018 (in North America and in the UK). Here’s the official synopsis:

The riveting story of how America’s second generation of political giants — Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun — battled to complete the unfinished work of the Founding Fathers and decide the shape of our democracy.

In the early days of the nineteenth century, three young men strode onto the national stage, elected to Congress at a moment when the Founding Fathers were beginning to retire to their farms. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, a champion orator known for his eloquence, spoke for the North and its business class. Henry Clay of Kentucky, as dashing as he was ambitious, embodied the hopes of the rising West. South Carolina’s John Calhoun, with piercing eyes and an even more piercing intellect, defended the South and slavery.

Together this second generation of American founders took the country to war, battled one another for the presidency, and tasked themselves with finishing the work the Founders had left undone. Above all, they sought to remedy the two glaring flaws in the Constitution: its fudge on where authority ultimately rested, with the states or the nation; and its unwillingness to address the essential incompatibility of republicanism and slavery. They wrestled with these issues for four decades, arguing bitterly and hammering out political compromises that held the union together, but only just. Then, in 1850, when California moved to join the union as a free state, “the three great men of America” had one last chance to save the country from the real risk of civil war. But by then they were never further apart.

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Review: NEED TO KNOW by Karen Cleveland (Ballantine / Doubleday / Bantam)

ClevelandK-NeedToKnowUSA fast-paced, gripping spy thriller

In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, CIA analyst Vivian Miller uncovers a dangerous secret that will threaten her job, her family — and her life. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her — her job, her husband, even her four children — is threatened.‎

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

This novel received a lot of pre-publication buzz. Russian sleeper cells infiltrating the CIA; movie rights sold to Universal Pictures, with Charlize Theron attached; and lots of praise from other thriller and mystery authors. All of this during a political environment characterized (in part) by Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. So, with expectations high, I’m glad to report that Need to Know exceeded my hopes. A gripping novel that I devoured in two sittings. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE ROOSTER BAR by John Grisham (Doubleday/Hodder)

GrishamJ-RoosterBarUSGrisham had an issue or two he wanted to talk about

Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.

But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, right?

As long-time readers of Civilian Reader will know, Grisham is one of my favourite authors — even though I think he’s quite inconsistent. Some of his novels have been excellent, while others feel either rushed or bloodless. I enjoyed Camino Island, a fun and quickly-paced caper-type novel. In The Rooster Bar he returns to the genre that has made him a global bestseller: a legal thriller. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this as much as I’d hoped. Continue reading

Review: CAMINO ISLAND by John Grisham (Doubleday)

GrishamJ-CaminoIslandUSAn enjoyable biblio-mystery

A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.

Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.

Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets.

But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise…

This is not your typical John Grisham thriller. For one thing, it’s mostly a novel about publishing, writing and bookselling with an overlying crime story to bring everything together. I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Some Quick Audiobook Reviews…

audiobookreviews-20170102

A quick round-up of six recent audiobook listens. Mostly, very good.

Featuring: Carrie Fisher, Frederick Forsyth, Anna Kendrick, Trevor Noah, Graham Norton, Nikki Sixx

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