Quick Review: STRANGERS ON THE PRAIA by Paul French (Blacksmith Books)

FrenchP-StrangersOnThePraiaAn interesting and well-written history of the Wartime immigrant experience in Macau

Based on true stories and new research, Paul French weaves together the stories of those Jewish refugees who moved on from wartime Shanghai to seek a possible route to freedom via the Portuguese colony of Macao – “the Casablanca of the Orient”.

The delicately balanced neutral enclave became their wartime home, amid Nazi and Japanese spies, escaped Allied prisoners from Hong Kong, and displaced Chinese.

Strangers on the Praia relates the story of one young woman’s struggle for freedom that would ultimately prove an act of brave resistance.

It should come as no surprise to long-time CR readers that I’m a fan of Paul French’s work. He has carved out a niche for himself as one of the best historians of inter-war China and, in particular, Shanghai. In Strangers on the Praia, he takes a slightly different tack, and gives readers a short, engaging look at the life of refugees in wartime Macao. Well-written, informative, and an excellent read. Continue reading

Quick Review: AVENGING SON by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-DoW1-AvengingSonGo back to the start of the Indomitus Campaign…

As the Indomitus Crusade spreads out across the galaxy, one battlefleet must face a dread Slaughter Host of Chaos. Their success or failure may define the very future of the crusade – and the Imperium.

A great darkness has befallen the galaxy, and the armies of Chaos are rampant. To survive, humanity must retaliate and take back what they have lost. By the will of the reborn primarch, Roboute Guilliman, is the Indomitus Crusade launched – a military undertaking that eclipses all others in known history. From the Throneworld of Terra does the Avenging Son hurl his fleets, their mission the very salvation of mankind.

As vessels in their thousands burn through the cold void, the attention of Fleetmistress VanLeskus turns to the Machorta Sound – a region under attack by a dreaded Slaughter Host of the Dark Gods. The success of the Indomitus Crusade will be determined by this conflict, and the desperate mission of Battlegroup Saint Aster, led by Space Marine Lieutenant Messinius. Even then it is but a prelude to the forthcoming bloodshed.

Avenging Son is the first novel in a new nine-part series, which tells the story of Roboute Guilliman’s Indomitus Crusade. I was surprised when this series was announced, set as it is prior to Haley’s Dark Imperium novels. Originally pitched as the start of the “new” WH40k meta-story, and set during the Indomitus Crusade, the Dark Imperium novels dropped readers into the action some decades into the Crusade. So, the fact that Black Library commissioned this series, before the Dark Imperium trilogy was completed, was interesting: perhaps they thought they needed to go back, fill in a bunch of details in order to better-situated fans of the franchise? No idea. Regardless, it’s a strong start to a series, and I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: THE LAW OF INNOCENCE by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown/Orion)

ConnellyM-MH7-LawOfInnocenceUSMickey Haller, murderer?

On the night he celebrates a big win, defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a former client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is immediately charged with murder but can’t post the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.

Mickey elects to represent himself and is forced to mount his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles. All the while he needs to look over his shoulder — as an officer of the court he is an instant target, and he makes few friends when he reveals a corruption plot within the jail.

But the bigger plot is the one against him. Haller knows he’s been framed, whether by a new enemy or an old one. As his trusted team, including his half-brother, Harry Bosch, investigates, Haller must use all his skills in the courtroom to counter the damning evidence against him.

Even if he can obtain a not-guilty verdict, Mickey understands that it won’t be enough. In order to be truly exonerated, he must find out who really committed the murder and why. That is the law of innocence.

Just wanted to post a very quick review of Michael Connelly’s latest thriller. I read it in two late-night sittings, on tenterhooks: I just had to know how Mickey Haller was going to get himself out of his latest predicament. If you’re a fan of Connelly’s novels, then you’ll no doubt have already picked up/read this one. If you still haven’t given Connelly’s thrillers a try, then I can’t recommend them highly enough. Gripping, well-paced, and another excellent read, The Law of Innocence did not disappoint. Continue reading

Quick Review: DARKNESS IN THE BLOOD by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-WH40k-BA3-DarknessInTheBloodDante settles into his role as Imperial Regent, while Mephiston’s powers threaten to overtake him… and everyone else

The galaxy is in flames. Chaos is in the ascendant across the stars. The Great Rift has split the holdings of the Imperium in twain, isolating entire sectors from the light of Holy Terra.

But all hope is not lost. The Primarch Roboute Guilliman has returned from deathless sleep, and appointed Commander Dante, lord of the Blood Angels, as Regent and Warden of the newly dubbed Imperium Nihilus.

In the Baal system, the shattered holding of the Chapter is being rebuilt, and Dante plans the greatest campaign of his long life, to retake half an empire. And yet at this moment of rebirth there are dangers close to home that could overwhelm all those who carry the blood of Sanguinius in their veins, stopping Dante’s noble endeavour before it has even begun.

The Flaw in Sanguinius’ sons is growing. As the twin curses of the Red Thirst and the Black Rage threaten everything, the hardest ordeal will fall upon Mephiston, twice-born Lord of Death and Chief Librarian of the Blood Angels. Among the mighty lords of Baal, perhaps only he can save them all, by mastering the darkness in the blood…

First released as a special edition, I’ve been looking forward to Darkness in the Blood for some time. Continuing the story of the Blood Angels begun in The Devastation of Baal and in Darius Hinks’s Mephiston trilogy, it presents an important piece in the puzzle that is the Angels’ place in the changed universe. With new allies, technology, and challenges, it has plenty of action as well as quieter moments that really add to our understanding of the Blood Angels and their heroes. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Interview with ESSA HANSEN

HansenE-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Essa Hansen?

I’m a writer and also a sound designer on science fiction and fantasy films such as Big Hero 6, Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, and Pixar’s Onward. My day job is to make up sounds for mythical beasts, aliens, robots, magic, spaceships, and future technology. Perfect, right? I’ve been writing/storytelling for as long as I can remember, but only pursued publishing in the past few years.

I grew up in backcountry areas of the West Coast and Canada, spending a lot of time out in nature. No surprise that my stories are filled with lush environments, biotech, and creatures. I still enjoy backpacking, and while time for hobbies is thin right now, I’ve covered many of the fantasy ones: horsemanship, swordsmanship, some archery, and falconry. Continue reading

Music Review: CLAYMAN 20th Anniversary Edition by In Flames (Nuclear Blast)

InFlames-Clayman20thIn Flames revisits their groundbreaking sixth album

I discovered In Flames shortly after they released their seventh album, Reroute to Remain. As I later learned, it marked quite a dramatic evolution of the band’s sound that helped catapult them onto a larger stage. Without sacrificing their intensity and much of their heaviness, the album featured more varied and interesting vocal stylings from Anders Fridén (one of my favourite metal vocalists). Clayman was released two years before Reroute to Remain, and in its singles, one could just about hear the seeds of their impending evolution. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: THE DOORS OF EDEN by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit/Tor UK)

TchaikovskyA-DoorsOfEdenUSAn intriguing, twisty portal fantasy

They thought we were safe. They were wrong.

Four years ago, two girls went looking for monsters on Bodmin Moor. Only one came back.

Lee thought she’d lost Mal, but now she’s miraculously returned. But what happened that day on the moors? And where has she been all this time? Mal’s reappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed by MI5 officers either, and Lee isn’t the only one with questions.

Julian Sabreur is investigating an attack on top physicist Kay Amal Khan. This leads Julian to clash with agents of an unknown power – and they may or may not be human. His only clue is grainy footage, showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.

Dr Khan’s research was theoretical; then she found cracks between our world and parallel Earths. Now these cracks are widening, revealing extraordinary creatures. And as the doors crash open, anything could come through.

In his latest novel, Adrian Tchaikovsky takes his imagination into a new area of SFF: portal fantasy. It quickly becomes clear that this is more evidence that the author really can turn his hand to anything. An intriguing mix of mystery, fantasy and science fiction. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Interview with KIMBERLY UNGER

UngerK-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Kimberly Unger?

Kimberly Unger is a gift box of contradictions topped with a big yellow bow. She grew up on the beaches of Southern California but is not a fan of avocados, she is deeply entrenched in games and technology but avoids wearing hoodies and conference giveaway t-shirts. She spent almost a decade working in high finance, twice as long in games and entertainment and has just made the jump to virtual reality. All of this has gone towards making her fairly well-rounded and has long-fed her desire to learn new things.

Your debut novel, Nucleation , will soon be published by Tachyon. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Operator Helena Vectorovich managed to botch humanity’s first contact with an alien species. She goes from a woman on top of her game to being sidelined by tragedy and, while fighting her way back to the top was within her scope, that tragedy opened a door for her and she stepped right through it. The book is a standalone, but there are plenty of other stories to tell about Helen so if there’s interest, I’ve got more in my pocket. Continue reading

Quick Review: BOX 88 by Charles Cumming (Harper)

196232-1_BOX 88_HB_REV_ii.inddAn excellent espionage thriller

An organisation that doesn’t exist.

A spy that can’t be caught.

Years ago, a spy was born…

1989: The Cold War will soon be over, but for BOX 88, a top secret spying agency, the espionage game is heating up. Lachlan Kite, recruited from an elite boarding school, is sent to France, tasked with gathering intelligence on an enigmatic Iranian businessman implicated in the Lockerbie bombing. But what Kite uncovers is more terrifying than anyone expected…

Now he faces the deadliest decision of his life…

2020: MI5 hear rumours of BOX 88’s existence and go after Kite – but Iranian intelligence have got to him first. Taken captive and brutally tortured, Kite has a choice: reveal the truth about what happened in France thirty years earlier – or watch his family die.

In a battle unlike anything he has faced before, Kite must use all his skills to stay alive.

Long time readers of CR will know that I am a big fan of Charles Cumming’s spy thrillers. Ever since Typhoon, I’ve eagerly anticipated each new novel from the author. Box 88 was no different, and I’m very happy to report that it lived up to my high expectations. Really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: BUT WHAT I REALLY WANT TO DO IS DIRECT by Ken Kwapis (St. Martin’s Griffin)

KwapisK-ButWhatIReallyWantToDoIsDirectUSAn interesting blend of memoir and advice for budding directors

For over three decades, director Ken Kwapis has charted a career full of exceptional movies and television, from seminal shows like The Office to beloved films like He’s Just Not That Into You.

He is among the most respected directors in show business, but getting there wasn’t easy. He struggled just like everyone else. With each triumph came the occasional faceplant. Using his background and inside knowledge, But What I Really Want To Do is Direct tackles Hollywood myths through Ken’s highly entertaining experiences. It’s a rollercoaster ride fueled by brawls with the top brass, clashes over budgets, and the passion that makes it all worthwhile.

This humorous and refreshingly personal memoir is filled with inspiring instruction, behind-the-scenes hilarity, and unabashed joy. It’s a celebration of the director’s craft, and what it takes to succeed in show business on your own terms.

In But What I Really Want to Do is Direct, Ken Kwapis draws on decades of experience as a director of television and movies, sharing what he’s learned behind the camera and also some interesting and often amusing experiences and stories. Continue reading