Very Quick Review: GREENLIGHTS by Matthew McConaughey (Crown Publishing/Headline)

McConaugheyM-GreenlightsA lively, entertaining memoir

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.
 
Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges — how to get relative with the inevitable — you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights.”
 
So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.
 
Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.
 
It’s a love letter. To life.
 
It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights — and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.
 
Good luck.

An entertaining, quite uplifting memoir. I listened to the audiobook edition of the book, brilliantly and enthusiastically narrated by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron Books)

CosbySA-BlacktopWastelandUSA superb crime debut

A husband, a father, a son, a business owner…And the best getaway driver east of the Mississippi.

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic, a loving husband, and a hard-working dad. Bug knows there’s no future in the man he used to be: known from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida as the best wheelman on the East Coast.

He thought he’d left all that behind him, but as his carefully built new life begins to crumble, he finds himself drawn inexorably back into a world of blood and bullets. When a smooth-talking former associate comes calling with a can’t-miss jewelry store heist, Bug feels he has no choice but to get back in the driver’s seat. And Bug is at his best where the scent of gasoline mixes with the smell of fear.

Haunted by the ghost of who he used to be and the father who disappeared when he needed him most, Bug must find a way to navigate this blacktop wasteland… or die trying.

Cosby’s debut, Blacktop Wasteland has been getting a lot of positive attention since it was published. A perfect blend of heist story and character study, I’m very happy to report that this buzz is entirely justified. This is an excellent novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: GOLDILOCKS by Laura Lam (Wildfire)

LamL-GoldilocksUKDue to be published by Wildfire in April 2020, Laura Lam‘s Goldilocks is being pitched as “The Martian by way of Handmaid’s Tale“. That’s quite a pitch! Really looking forward to giving this a try. The cover was unveiled this week, and here’s the synopsis:

Ravaged by environmental disaster, greed and oppression, our planet is in crisis. The future of humanity hangs in the balance – and one woman can tip it over.

Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.

It’s humanity’s last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this – to step out of Valerie’s shadow and really make a difference.

But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi starts to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret – and realises time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared…

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Interview with TOM SWETERLITSCH

SweterlitschT-AuthorPic (c - Michael Ray)

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Tom Sweterlitsch?

I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m a science fiction writer living in Pittsburgh — that about sums me up. I’ve written two novels, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and The Gone World. I’ve also done a little bit of screenwriting, co-writing three short films with director Neill Blomkamp for Oats Studios: Rakka, Firebase and Zygote.

Your new novel, The Gone World, will be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in February. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

The Gone World is a time travel thriller about an NCIS special agent fighting to prevent the end of mankind. Continue reading

Quick Review: A HISTORY OF HEAVY METAL by Andrew O’Neill (Headline)

ONeillA-HistoryOfHeavyMetalUKAn entertaining romp through a comedian’s history of heavy metal

The history of heavy metal brings brings us extraordinary stories of larger-than-life characters living to excess, from the household names of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson and Metallica (SIT DOWN, LARS!), to the brutal notoriety of the underground Norwegian black metal scene and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It is the story of a worldwide network of rabid fans escaping everyday mundanity through music, of cut-throat corporate arseholes ripping off those fans and the bands they worship to line their pockets. The expansive pantheon of heavy metal musicians includes junkies, Satanists and murderers, born-again Christians and teetotallers, stadium-touring billionaires and toilet-circuit journeymen.

Award-winning comedian and life-long heavy metal obsessive Andrew O’Neill has performed his History of Heavy Metal comedy show to a huge range of audiences, from the teenage metalheads of Download festival to the broadsheet-reading theatre-goers of the Edinburgh Fringe. Now, in his first book, he takes us on his own very personal and hilarious journey through the history of the music, the subculture, and the characters who shaped this most misunderstood genre of music.

There is so much to love in Andrew O’Neill’s A History of Heavy Metal. O’Neill’s love for the genres is clear and rings true throughout. He’s opinionated, clear in his opinions, and damned funny. As he mentions at one point, metalheads are nerds, and this book is packed with nerdy details for all metal fans of any age. For me, it evoked my favourite music journalism from the ’90s and early 2000s, but with extra humour. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Unexpected Influences” by Jen Williams

WilliamsJ-AuthorPicAuthors are influenced by all sorts of things – their favourite writers, their childhoods, the amount of caffeine consumed at any one time. Sometimes though the influences that shape a book can come from stranger places, or show themselves in unusual ways. The Ninth Rain was a book that formed through an alchemy of oddities, so here are a few of the things that have their fingerprints on the first volume of the Winnowing Flame trilogy. Continue reading

Upcoming: DEFENDER by G.X. Todd (Headline)

ToddGX-1-DefenderUKThis is one I’m really looking forward to: G.X. Todd‘s upcoming debut, Defender, has been described as including “nods back to Stephen King’s The Stand“, and also influenced by Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. That’s a pretty impressive SFFH pedigree to which it’s being tied. The first in the four-part Voices series, in which “your inner voice might kill you”. Defender is due to be published in the UK by Headline in January 2017. Here’s the synopsis:

The primal battle between Good and Evil plays out in a new arena…

‘On the cusp of sleep, have we not all heard a voice call out our name?’

In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Defender pulls you on a wild ride to a place where the voices in your head will save or slaughter you.

For more news about Todd’s writing and novels, be sure to check out the author’s website, and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Quick Review: THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow/Headline)

GaimanN-ViewFromTheCheapSeatsUSA must-read collection of essays

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics — from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories — observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman — offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

What to say about a collection of excellent and far-ranging essays? It would be easy to pick through many of my favourites, and quote Gaiman at length, but I’m not sure that would make for a very good/interesting review. So, I’ll keep this very short instead.

GaimanN-ViewFromTheCheapSeatsUKIf you have any interest in Gaiman’s thought-processes when it comes to art, creativity, books, popular culture, specific works… Then you will undoubtedly find something fascinating in The View From The Cheap Seats. It’s a substantial collection of essays and speech transcripts. There is some overlap between certain pieces, which I thought was interesting — giving us some insight into those authors and books that most influenced Gaiman, and also the issues that have been most important to him at certain points during his career.

At no point was it a slog to get through, but it works just as well as both a binge-read and a book to dip in-and-out of at your leisure.

Erudite, informed, passionate, and sometimes amusing. This is an excellent collection. Very highly recommended.

*

The View from the Cheap Seats is published on May 31st, 2016, in North America by William Morrow, and in the UK by Headline.

New Books (January)

BBTHowardBeliveInMagic

Featuring: André Alexis, Jennifer Armstrong, Rob Boffard, Ezekiel Boone, Algis Budrys, Matthew de Abaitua, Patrick Flanery, Ian Graham, Elizabeth Greenwood, Sarah Hilary, Joe Hill, Gregg Hurwitz, Davide Mana, Samuel Marolla, Vonda N. McIntyre, A.D. Miller, Tim Murphy, Daniel José Older, Chris Pavone, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Adrian Selby, Nick Stone, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Fran Wilde

HanSoloUhm

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