Upcoming: ALICE ISN’T DEAD by Joseph Fink (Harper Perennial)

FinkJ-AliceIsntDeadUSI must be one of the few fans of SFFH who hasn’t fallen down the Nightvale rabbit hole. I just haven’t had the time to check out the podcast properly (although I know many people who love it, and have enjoyed the snippets I’ve caught). Anyway, I spotted a listing for this novel on Edelweiss and it caught my attention. Joseph Fink‘s Alice Isn’t Dead is due to be published by Harper Perennial on October 30th, 2018. Here’s the synopsis:

“This is not a story. It’s a road trip.”

Keisha Lewis lived a quiet life with her wife, Alice, until the day that Alice disappeared. After months of searching, presuming she was dead, Keisha held a funeral, mourned, and gradually tried to get on with her life. But that was before Keisha started to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead, and she is showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country.

Following a line of clues, Keisha takes a job with a trucking company, Bay and Creek Transportation, and begins searching for Alice. She eventually stumbles on an otherworldly conflict being waged in the quiet corners of our nation’s highway system — uncovering a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.

Why did Alice disappear? What does she have to do with this secret war between inhuman killers? Why did the chicken cross the road? These questions, and many more will be answered in Alice Isn’t Dead.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: THE MAN BETWEEN by Charles Cumming (Harper)

CummingC-ManBetweenUKThe cover for Charles Cumming‘s upcoming new novel has been unveiled! The Man Between is due to be published in June by Harper (UK). I’m a big fan of Cumming’s novels, and have read every one of his novels since 2009’s Typhoon. If you’re a fan of spy fiction, then you really need to read Cumming’s books. Here’s the synopsis for The Man Between, one of my most-anticipated novels of the year:

He risked it all to become a spy. Now he must pay the price.

One simple task for British Intelligence takes him into a world of danger.

Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invite him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown.

But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism.

Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West.

As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.

No news of an American publisher at the time of writing, but some of his previous novels have been published by St. Martin’s Press.

Also on CR: Guest Post on “A Colder War”; Reviews of Typhoon, The Trinity Six, A Foreign Country and A Colder War

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review: NATCHEZ BURNING by Greg Iles (William Morrow)

ilesg-pc1-natchezburningcaThe evil that men do…

Raised in the southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering the African American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses even to speak in his own defense.

Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only one thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez’s oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles’ crosshairs.

With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?

This series past me by, when Natchez Burning was first published. With the highly-anticipated final volume in the trilogy due out later this year, though, I was happy to get the opportunity to take part in the blog tour in honour of that upcoming release. Natchez Burning is a hefty book; packed with intrigue, mystery, secrets and violence. It’s an immersive, gripping and sometimes chilling novel. Continue reading

Upcoming: MOONGLOW by Michael Chabon (Harper)

ChabonM-MoonglowUSMichael Chabon‘s highly-anticipated next novel, Moonglow, is due out in November! Chabon’s Pulitzer-prize winning The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is one of the best novels ever written, in my humble opinion. I didn’t love Telegraph Avenue, but I did enjoy Wonder Boys. This new novel sounds pretty interesting. Here’s the synopsis for Moonglow:

In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to his mother’s home in Oakland, California to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon’s grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis for the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon. 

Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact — and the creative power — of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies. A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the twentieth century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific, Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Boy’s Life. Along the way Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigor and the radiant moonglow of his prose, a secret history of his own imagination.

From the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York’s Wallkill Prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of “the American Century,” Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional non-fiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.

Review: GIRLS ON FIRE by Robin Wasserman (Harper/Little Brown)

WassermanR-GirlsOnFireUSA powerful, twisty tale of passion, obsession and growing up…

On Halloween, 1991, a popular high school basketball star ventures into the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, and disappears. Three days later, he’s found with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand — a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of Satanic worship in the region.

In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshiping bad influence in lip gloss and Doc Martens. The charismatic, seductive Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image and unleashing a fierce defiance that neither girl expected. But as Lacey gradually lures Dex away from her safe life into a feverish spiral of obsession, rebellion, and ever greater risk, an unwelcome figure appears on the horizon — and Lacey’s secret history collides with Dex’s worst nightmare.

This is Robin Wasserman’s first novel for adults, and it’s a powerful one. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m very glad I gave it a try. This is a powerful, gripping novel about a friendship between two polar-opposite girls with secrets and insecurities. It’s atmospheric, realistic and extremely satisfying.
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New Books! (December, Pre-Xmas)

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Featuring: Stefan Ahnhem, Cristina Alger, Ros Barber, Clifford Beal, Stephen Birmingham, Eric Brown, Robin Burcell, Sarah Cain, Matt Carter, Toby Clements, Michael Cobley, Jamie Doward, Michael Ebner, Dan Fesperman, Alison Gaylin, Steven Gore, Ian Graham, Samantha Hunt, Mary Robinette Kowal, Joe R. Lansdale, Helen Lowe, Andrew Marr, Charles McCarry, Peter Newman, K.J. Parker, Daniel Polansky, Stephen S. Power, Terry Pratchett, Jamie Sawyer, Victoria Schwab, Charlotte Silver, Anna Small, A.F.E. Smith, Jean Stein, Tricia Sullivan, Michael Thomas, Ilija Trojanow, Catherynne M. Valente, Jo Walton, Hester Young

FireflyCurseInevitableBetrayal

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New Books (May)

ColbertReadSoDontTalkToPeople

Featuring: Michael Arnold, Rob Boffard, Mike Brooks, James L. Cambias, Wesley Chu, John Henry Clay, James S.A. Corey, Cindy Dees, Bill Flippin, David Hair, Laurell K. Hamilton, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrew Michael Hurley, N.K. Jemisin, Chuck Klosterman, Gayle Lynds, K.M. McKinley, David Mitchell, Keith Richards, Slash, Bradley Somer, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Mick Wall, Django Wexler, Bill Willingham Continue reading

A Few Audiobook Reviews

Here are short reviews for six audiobooks I’ve listened to recently. An interesting, mixed bag, I think. Thanks to Audible UK for the review copies.

CryerJ-SoThatHappenedSO THAT HAPPENED by Jon Cryer (NAL)

If it can happen in show business, it’s happened to Jon Cryer. Now he’s opening up for the first time and sharing his behind-the-scenes stories in a warmly endearing, sharply observed, and frankly funny look at life in Hollywood.

In 1986, Jon Cryer won over America as Molly Ringwald’s loyal and lovable best friend, Duckie, in the cult classic Pretty in Pink in a role that set the tone for his three-decade-long career in Hollywood. He went on to establish himself as one of the most talented comedic actors in the business, ultimately culminating in his current turn as Alan Harper on the massively popular sitcom Two and a Half Men.

With the instincts of a natural storyteller, Cryer charts his extraordinary journey in show business, illuminating his many triumphs and some missteps along the way. Filled with exclusive behind-the-scenes anecdotes, Cryer offers his own endearing perspective on Hollywood, the business at large, and the art of acting.

Cryer has worked with some of the biggest and most provocative names in the business, and here, for the first time, he details his experiences with Charlie Sheen, John Hughes, Robert Altman, Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, and Christopher Reeve, among many others. He shares the intimate details of his friendships and relationships, pays tribute to his mentors, and explores the peculiar combination of heart, talent, and wisdom it takes to survive not just the bad times in a notoriously fickle industry but even the good times.

In this revealing, humorous, and introspective memoir, Cryer offers readers a front-row seat as he reminisces about his life and experiences in showbiz over the past thirty years.

This was a very good memoir and audiobook. I did not realize how eventful Cryer’s career has been. I of course knew him from Two and a Half Men (a series I’ve seen a fair bit of, but also one that I felt was all over the map in terms of quality). Many people will be most interested in Cryer’s comments on Charlie Sheen’s warlock/wizard meltdown, and there’s plenty in the book about that — Cryer gives a chronological account, expressing his mixed feelings about his former co-star, his attempts to help and also eventual disappointment. It’s interesting, even-handed, and well-written. The rest of the book is also great — from his recounting of the making of Pretty in Pink, his small roles in Superman 4 and Hot Shots (his first brush with Sheen) — Cryer is witty, candid. He is self-deprecating without it being affected, he peppers the book with quips and cheeky remarks that never feel mean-spirited. Highly recommended, even if you aren’t that familiar with Cryer’s work: So That Happened has plenty of insight and commentary on the movie and TV business, from someone who has tasted success and disappointment.

So That Happened is published in print by New American Library in the US.

*

DenchJ-AndFurthermoreUKAND FURTHERMORE by Judi Dench (W&N)

From the moment Judi Dench appeared as a teenager in the York Mystery Plays it was clear that acting would be her career. Trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama it was her performance in her twenties as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s memorable Old Vic production that turned her into a star. In the theatre since she has played every classic role from Titania to Cleopatra.

She first became a household name via television, thanks initially to a sitcom, A FINE ROMANCE, in which she played alongside the actor Michael Williams, whom she married in 1971. She has since made nine series of another sitcom, AS TIME GOES BY (with Geoffrey Palmer), as well as plays and classic serials such as CRANFORD. In the cinema her films have ranged from LADIES IN LAVENDER (opposite Maggie Smith) through NOTES ON A SCANDAL with Cate Blanchett to SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, in which she played Queen Elizabeth, a role which gained her a Hollywood Oscar. But it is her role as ‘M’ in seven James Bond films that has gained her worldwide recognition.

This book is, however, much more than a career record. Her marriage to Michael Williams, their daughter, and her impish sense of humour contribute vividly to her account of more than half a century as Britain’s best-loved actress.

This was a bit of a disappointment. It’s not that it’s uninteresting, it just wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped. It’s well-written and performed (by Samantha Bond), but I never really sank into it. It’s a little bland, I suppose. Which I’m sad to say. Dench’s wit still comes through on occasion, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. Perhaps it’s because Dench was not entirely sold on the idea of a memoir in the first place (as she suggests in her foreword). It was nice to learn about Dench’s history in the theatre and so forth, considering she is easily one of Britain’s best actresses. If you’re a fan of Dench’s work, then it’s still worth checking out, but perhaps in printed format, rather than audio? Perhaps also one mainly for theatre lovers and those more knowledgable about the plays in which Dench got her start and excelled at.

And Furthermore is published in print by Weidenfeld & Nicholson in the UK.

*

HoweS-MarvelComicsUKPBMARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY by Sean Howe (Harper Perennial)

In the early 1960s, a struggling company called Marvel Comics presented a cast of brightly costumed characters distinguished by smart banter and compellingly human flaws: Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men. Over the course of half a century, Marvel’s epic universe would become the most elaborate fictional narrative in history and serve as a modern American mythology for millions of readers.

For the first time, Marvel Comics reveals the outsized personalities behind the scenes, including Martin Goodman, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and generations of editors, artists, and writers who struggled with commercial mandates, a fickle audience, and — over matters of credit and control — one another. Marvel Comics is a story of fertile imaginations, lifelong friendships, action-packed fistfights, and third-act betrayals — a narrative of one of the most extraordinary, beloved, and beleaguered pop-cultural entities in America’s history.

Who hasn’t read a Marvel comic? Or seen one of the recent mega-blockbusters based on Marvel IP? This is a great book, and a must-read/-listen for any fan of the books and comics. It’s exhaustive, so there are moments when Howe takes us on long(ish) tangents. There are many names thrown out that non-afficionados/fanboys may not know, and it was sometimes tricky to remember exactly who was who. That’s not a big issue, though, as Howe’s narrative is a fascinating look into the forces that have driven the world’s largest comic publisher from its founding. There have been plenty of scandals, bust-ups, “betrayals”, a sea of ups and downs, and plenty of colourful and interesting people involved. There has also been a massive amount of money… Howe includes the creative origin stories of many of Marvel’s most famous characters, and also a number of smaller, but still fan-beloved characters. (Oh, so very much radiation and so many accidents in science labs…) Stephen Hoye’s narration is very well-suited to the tale, and I was genuinely gripped for most of it. There were times when my attention wandered, as some minutiae were discussed, but I was always drawn back in. Definitely recommended for fans of the books and movies, and also anyone interested in the history of publishing — this offers some interesting insights into a small segment of that industry. It’s also must-read if you are a fan of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is published in print by Harper Perennial.

*

KiedisA-ScarTissueUKSCAR TISSUE by Anthony Kiedis (Sphere)

In SCAR TISSUE Anthony Kiedis, charismatic and highly articulate frontman of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, recounts his remarkable life story, and the history of the band itself. Raised in the Midwest, he moved to LA aged eleven to live with his father Blackie, purveyor of pills, pot, and cocaine to the Hollywood elite. After a brief child-acting career, Kiedis dropped out of U.C.L.A. and plunged headfirst into the demimonde of the L.A. underground music scene. He formed the band with three schoolfriends – and found his life’s purpose. Crisscrossing the country, the Chili Peppers were musical innovators and influenced a whole generation of musicians.

But there’s a price to pay for both success and excess and in SCAR TISSUE, Kiedis writes candidly of the overdose death of his soul mate and band mate, Hillel Slovak, and his own ongoing struggle with an addiction to drugs.

SCAR TISSUE far transcends the typical rock biography, because Anthony Kiedis is anything but a typical rock star. It is instead a compelling story of dedication and debauchery, of intrigue and integrity, of recklessness and redemption.

I’m not sure if I actually know anyone who doesn’t own a Red Hot Chili Peppers album… For me, Californication was when I took note. It’s one of my favourite albums, and still stands up today. During my many years reading myriad rock and music magazines (Kerrang!, Metal HammerRock Sound, Hit Parader and more), I gleaned some of the Chilis members stories. I was therefore very interested in this memoir — I remember when it came out it received much praise. One thing that becomes clear very quickly: Kiedis has put his body through hell. The sheer amount of drugs he seems to have put into his body is titanic. He’s brutally honest about his exploits, his mistakes, but also his luck and love for his bandmates, friends and family. There is, therefore, a lot of great content in Scar Tissue. However, the litany of drug (ab)use does seem to dominate the story, and it became a little dull to hear about another binge, or another near-overdose, etc. It’s laudable that Kiedis wants to be honest and so candid about his mistakes, but after a while the book became a little repetitive. I think I would have preferred it if that side of Kiedis’s story was pared back, and instead focussed on the story of the band and its music and history. Nevertheless, this is still a good book, and a must-read/-listen for any fan of the band. Rider Strong’s narration is very good, and suited the story.

Scar Tissue is published in print by Sphere in the UK.

*

PeggS-NerdDoWellUKNERD DO WELL by Simon Pegg (Cornerstone)

Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having blasted onto the small screens with his now legendary sitcom Spaced, his rise to nation’s favourite son status has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronnic, but mostly just plain great.

From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with Star Wars, his often passionate friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his 12-year-old classmates, this is a joyous tale of a homegrown superstar and a local boy made good.

I was actually a relative latecomer to the work of Simon Pegg. I missed Spaced when it aired, and it took me rather long to get around to Shaun of the Dead. After I started watching his work, however, I became hooked: Hot FuzzedPaul and his roles in the new Mission: Impossible and Star Trek movies have all been great. It was with great anticipation, therefore, that I started listening to Nerd Do Well. It’s an abridged version, which was a bit disappointing, but it is nevertheless a tightly-written, exceptionally well-performed and produced memoir. Pegg is on top form, and he speaks candidly and accessibly about his journey to stardom and success — from the early days of his acting at community theatres (where his mother also performed), to his discovery of Star Wars and the road to becoming a Nerd Do Well. This is a funny, interesting book, and if you’re even a little bit of a fan of Pegg’s work, then I highly recommend you check this out. I’ll be buying the book, soon, so I can read the full text.

Nerd Do Well is published in print by Cornerstone in the UK.

*

RonsonJ-SoYouveBeenPubliclyShamedUKSO YOU’VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED by Jon Ronson (Picador)

‘It’s about the terror, isn’t it?’

‘The terror of what?’ I said.

‘The terror of being found out.’

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us – people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know they’re being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job.

A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice. But what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.

Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws – and the very scary part we all play in it.

A very interesting idea, given the changing nature of internet culture today (“Let’s call out everyone for everythingall the time!“). Ronson is an interesting writer, and one with a knack for finding interesting topics on which to write. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is certainly intriguing, but I think maybe the subject matter doesn’t justify quite as long a book as this one? Ronson’s point is quickly made, and as each example is presented and described, one can’t help but feel that he’s flogging the point a bit. It’s all interesting, and individually the examples and case studies are interesting in their own ways (some certainly more than others). Ultimately, though, I was not gripped throughout, and my interested gradually diminished as I listened. There were moments that brought me back in, of course (otherwise I wouldn’t have finished it), but it was far from the best audiobook I’ve listened to. Which is a pity. Worth checking out if you’re interested in internet culture and society.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is published in print by Picador in the UK, and Riverhead Books in the US.

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New Books (April-May)

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Featuring: Kate Atkinson, Jenny T. Colgan, Sebastien de Castell, Jeffery Deaver, Nelson DeMille, Katie Disabato, Richard Ford, Jonathan Freedland, S.L. Grey, Charlaine Harris, Aleksandar Hemon, Chris Holm, Jason LePier, Duff McKagan, Todd Moss, K.J. Parker, Joe Perry, John Sandford, Stephanie Saulter, Stefan Spjut, Sabaa Tahir, Dan Wells, Robert Charles Wilson Continue reading

New Books (Jan-Feb 2015)

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Featuring: Dave Bara, J.L. Bourne, Peter V. Brett, Patricia Briggs, Royce Scott Buckingham, Ally Carter, Sara B. Elfgren, Chris Evans, Neil Gaiman, Wayne Gladstone, Erika Johansen, Caitlin Kittredge, Michael Moorcock, Naomi Novik, Mats Strandberg, Mark Stay, E.J. Swift, Erika Swyler, Ian Tregillis, Ben Tripp, Will Wiles, Dick Wolf Continue reading