Upcoming: LETHAL WHITE by Robert Galbraith (Mulholland/Sphere)

GalbraithR-CS4-LethalWhiteI was one of the readers who was drawn to Robert Galbraith‘s Cormoran Strike series after it was revealed that “Robert Galbraith” is actually J.K. Rowling. Before that, I don’t think I’d seen anything about The Cuckoo’s Calling anywhere. As a fan of Rowling’s Harry Potter series, I decided to give Galbraith’s novels a try. Luckily, I really liked the first one, and very quickly read the follow-up The Silkworm and then the third, Career of Evil. The novels are slow-burn mysteries, and the main characters are great. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the fourth book, Lethal White, ever since it was announced that it was on the way. Here’s the synopsis:

“I seen a kid killed… He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott — once his assistant, now a partner in the agency — set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been — Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, Lethal Whiteis both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.

Lethal White is due to be published on September 18th, 2018, by Mulholland Books in North America and Sphere in the UK. The series has also been adapted into a BBC TV series, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet (it’s unclear where/how it’s available in Canada…).

Also on CR: Review of The Cuckoo’s CallingThe Silkworm and Career of Evil

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

New Books (August-September)

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Featuring: Paul Cornell, Patrick DeWitt, John French, John Grisham, Garth Risk Hallberg, Lauren Holmes, Chrissie Hynde, Michael Livingston, Jonathan Maberry, Joel McIver, Patrick Ness, Nnedi Okorafor, K.J. Parker, Daniel Polansky, Alter S. Reiss, Geoff Renoff, Anthony Reynolds, Jeffrey Rotter, F. Wesley Schneider, Angela Slatter, A.J. Smith, Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Michael R. Underwood, Matt Wallace, Chuck Wendig, Kai Ashante Wilson, Tom Wood, Sunil Yapa

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Upcoming from Little, Brown UK

Here’s a selection of upcoming titles from Little, Brown UK that have caught my eye. (It’s a bit more of a mix than usual.)

ArmstrongK-C3-DeceptionsUKKelley Armstrong, DECEPTIONS (August 18th, Sphere)

TRUST NO ONE

Olivia Jones is desperate for the truth. The daughter of convicted serial killers, she has begun to suspect that her parents are innocent of their crimes. But who can she trust, in a world where betrayal and deception hide in every shadow? 

RISK EVERYTHING

Liv does have one secret weapon: a mysterious sixth sense that helps her to anticipate danger. The trouble is, this rare power comes with its own risks. There are dark forces that want to exploit Liv’s talents – and will stop at nothing to win her to their side. 

FACE THE TRUTH

Now Liv must decide, before it’s too late. Who does she love? Who is really on her side? And can she save herself without burning down everything that matters most?

Book three in Armstrong’s Cainsville series — following Omens and Visions. All published in the US by Dutton.

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AryanS-BattlemageStephen Aryan, BATTLEMAGE (September 24th, Orbit)

An action-packed and magic-fuelled fantasy novel from a British debut author, Stephen Aryan’s Battlemage features mages fighting an empire-spanning war for a homeland that fears and despises them

‘I can command storms, summon fire and unmake stone,’ Balfruss growled. ‘It’s dangerous to meddle with things you don’t understand.’

BALFRUSS is a battlemage, sworn to fight and die for a country that fears his kind.

VARGUS is a common soldier – while mages shoot lightning from the walls of his city, he is down on the front line getting blood on his blade.

TALANDRA is a princess and spymaster, but the war will force her to risk everything, and make the greatest sacrifice of all.

Magic and mayhem collide in this explosive epic fantasy from a major new talent.

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AycliffeJ-TheLostJonathan Aycliffe, THE LOST (October 1st, Constable)

When a man is lost, who but his ghosts will find him?

British born Michael Feraru, scion of a long line of Romanian aristocrats, leaves his country of birth and his love, to reclaim his heritage — a Draculian castle deep in the heart of Transylvania. He plans to turn his inheritance into an orphanage in the new post-Ceausescu, post-communist country. There he enlists the help of a young local lawyer, Liliana Popescu, to search for the missing Feraru millions, and battle through the complex maze of old bureaucracy in the scam-rich, newly-born state.

Feraru describes his journey into the heart of the Romanian countryside, wasted by years of neglect and caught in a time-warp, as though the twentieth century had never reached it. When he eventually arrives at his inheritance, he finds the castle of the Ferarus, in a sunless valley in the Carpathian Mountains, is home to much more than memories…

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ButcherJ-CS1-AeronautsWindlassUKJim Butcher, THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS (September 29th, Orbit)

A new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors…

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion-to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake.

Published by Orbit in both the UK and US. This is the first in a new series, The Cinder Spires.

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ByrneM-GirlInTheRoadUKPBMonica Byrne, THE GIRL ON THE ROAD (September 3rd, PB, Blackfriars)

In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, a young woman sets out from her home in India on a desperate, profound journey of escape and discovery.

A young woman called Meena wakes up one morning covered in blood. There are mysterious snakebites across her chest. She knows she’s in danger but something has happened to her memory. All she can do is run — but why? And from whom?

As Meena plots her escape she hears of the Trail – an extraordinary, forbidden bridge that spans the Arabian sea, connecting India to Africa like a silver ribbon. Its purpose is to harness the power of the ocean — Blue Energy — but it also offers a subculture of travellers a chance for sanctuary and adventure.

Convinced the Trail is her salvation, Meena gathers supplies — GPS, a scroll reader, a sealable waterproof pod. And so begins her extraordinary journey — both physical and spiritual – from India to Ethiopia, the home of her birth. But as she runs away from the threat of violence she is also running towards a shocking revelation about her past and her family.

Still haven’t had the chance to read this, unfortunately. New paperback edition.

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ElliottK-CourtsOfFivesKate Elliott, COURT OF FIVES (August 27th, LB Young Readers)

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test Kal’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

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Fink&Cranor-WelcomeToTheNightValeJoseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor, WELCOME TO THE NIGHT VALE (October 20th, Orbit)

From the creators of the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves… no matter where we live. The Telegraph calls Night Vale a ‘cultural phenomenon’ and Time Out says it’s ‘as hilarious as it is macabre’. For fans of Stephen King, Serial, Twin Peaks and of course the number one iTunes podcast itself.

Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked ‘KING CITY’ by a mysterious man in a tan jacket. She can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City before she herself unravels.

Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: ‘KING CITY’. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures . . . if they can ever find it.

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GalbraithR-CS3-CareerOfEvilUKRobert Galbraith, CAREER OF EVIL (October 22nd, Sphere)

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, Career of Evil is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives. You will not be able to put this book down.

I loved the first two novels in Galbraith’s series — The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. Very much looking forward to Career of Evil. Oh, if you were somehow unaware of the fact, “Robert Galbraith” is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling.

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HarrisonK-D1-DrafterUKKim Harrison, THE DRAFTER (September 1st, Piatkus)

LIVE. DIE. REPEAT. 

Detroit 2030: Double-crossed by the person she loved and betrayed by the covert government organization that trained her to use her body as a weapon, Peri Reed is a renegade on the run. Don’t forgive and never forget has always been Peri’s creed. But her day job makes it difficult: she is a drafter, possessed of a rare, invaluable skill for altering time, yet destined to forget both the history she changed and the history she rewrote. 

When Peri discovers her name is on a list of corrupt operatives, she realizes that her own life has been manipulated by the agency. Her memory of the previous three years erased, she joins forces with a mysterious rogue soldier in a deadly race to piece together the truth about her fateful final task. With only her intuition to guide her, she’s on a vengeful mission to decide-who must she kill and who, including herself, can she trust?

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KnightJ-D1-Swords&ScoundrelsJulia Knight, SWORDS AND SCOUNDRELS (October 8th, Orbit)

The first book in the Duellist’s trilogy — a fast-paced adventure from one of the most exciting new British talents in fantasy

Gold is for fools, and dying is for amateurs… 

Vocho and Kacha are champion duellists: a brother and sister known for the finest swordplay in the city of Reyes. Or at least they used to be — until they were thrown out of the Duellist’s Guild. 

Now all that’s left to them is to become reluctant highwaymen. Well — it’s a living, and for Vocho it’s a way to win back some form of notoriety. But when they pick the wrong carriage to rob, their simple plans to win back fame and fortune go south fast. 

After facing down three armed men and barely besting a powerful magician, Vocho and Kacha make off with an immense locked chest. Vocho is convinced it must be worth a fortune, perhaps enough to buy him and his sister back the lives he lost for them when he inadvertently killed a priest. 

But the contents of the chest will bring them much more than they’ve bargained for — when they soon find themselves embroiled in a dangerous plot to return an angry king to power…

Julia Knight is also known as Francis Knight, the author of the Rojan Dizon trilogy (which is very good). Details of the second book in the Duellists trilogy, Legends and Liars (November 5th), are here. The covers for all three novels in the series can be seen in all their glory here.

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LygaFacinelliDeFranco-AfterTheRedRainUKBarry Lyga, Peter Facinelli & Robert DeFranco, AFTER THE RED RAIN (August 27th, LB Young Readers)

A post-apocalyptic novel with a cinematic twist from New York Times bestseller Barry Lyga, actor Peter Facinelli, and producer Robert DeFranco.

On the ruined planet Earth, where 50 billion people are confined to mega-cities, and resources are scarce, Deedra has been handed a bleak and mundane existence by the Magistrate she works so hard for. But one day, she comes across a beautiful boy struggling to cross the river. A boy with a secretive past and special abilities, who is somehow able to find comfort and life from their dying planet. A boy with an unusual name… Rose.

But just as the two form a bond, it is quickly torn apart by the murder of the Magistrate’s son, and Rose becomes the prime suspect. Little do they know how much their relationship will affect the fate of everyone who lives on the planet.

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ValenteCM-RadianceUKCatherine M. Valente, RADIANT (October 20th, Corsair)

Severin Unck is the headstrong young daughter of a world famous film director. She has inherited her father’s love of the big screen but not his exuberant gothic style of filmmaking. Instead, Severin makes documentaries, artful and passionate and even rather brave – for she is a realist in a fantastic alternate universe, in which Hollywood occupies the moon, Mars is rife with lawless saloons, and the solar system contains all manner of creatures, cults and colonies. 

For Severin’s latest project she leads her crew to the watery planet of Venus to investigate the disappearance of a diving colony there. But something goes wrong during the course of their investigations; and her crew limp home without her.

All that remains of Severin are fragments. Can these snippets of scenes and shots, voices and memories, pages and recordings be collected and pieced together to tell the story of her life – and shed light on the mystery of her vanishing? 

Clever, dreamy, strange and beautifully written – Radiance is a novel about how stories give form to worlds.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Upcoming: BITE by Nick Louth (Sphere)

LouthN-BiteOriginally self-published, Nick Louth‘s BITE will be published in paperback by Sphere in the UK next year (it is available now in eBook).

Tomorrow should be the greatest day of Erica Stroud-Jones’s life. In just 24 hours this brilliant young scientist will present her secret work to a conference in Amsterdam – research that promises to revolutionise the battle against a deadly tropical disease. Millions of lives could be saved; a Nobel Prize beckons.

Arriving to watch her are sceptics and rivals, admirers and enemies. Erica’s own eyes will be on sculptor Max Carver, her American new love to whom she will dedicate her achievement.

Tomorrow never comes.

Erica vanishes during the night. Max, desperate, terrified, sets out to find her, descending into an underworld full of malice and cunning. But even he is shocked by the dark terror he finds in the heart of the woman he loves.

This sounds intriguing. The synopsis doesn’t give much away at all, but that could be a good thing.

New Books (September/October)

BooksReceived-20141007

Featuring: Mitch Albom, Gillian Anderson, Kelly Armstrong, Lauren Beukes, Adam Brookes, Christopher Buehlman, Blake Butler, W. Bruce Cameron, Michael Carroll, Al Ewing, Tana French, Peter F. Hamilton, Michael Harvey, Lee Henderson, Steffen Jacobsen, Rajan Khanna, James Luceno, Todd Moss, Claire North, Pierre Pevel, John Sandford, Graeme Simsion, Matthew Smith, Peter Watts, Alec Worley Continue reading

“Created: The Destroyer” by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir (Sphere)

MurphyW-D01-CreatedTheDestroyerUKLong-running, mega-selling pulp thriller series makes it over to the UK

One legendary hero. One epic series.Sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, ex-cop Remo Williams is rescued from the electric chair at the eleventh hour and recruited by a secret government organisation named CURE. From this moment, he ceases to officially exist.From now on, he will be an assassin, targeting criminals who are beyond the law. Remo’s trainer is a grouchy old Korean named Chiun, whose mastery of the terrifyingly powerful martial art of Sinanju makes him the deadliest man alive.Together Remo and Chiun set forth on their epic, impossible mission to vanquish every enemy of democracy – every bad guy who thinks they can escape justice.This is a new era in man’s fight against the forces of evil.This is the time of the Destroyer.

According to the press release, this series (which clocks in at 50 books!) has sold more than 50 million copies. That’s pretty impressive. First published in 1971, Created: The Destroyer is an interesting first book in an early government assassin thriller series. A literary ancestor of Vince Flynn et al, the novel was interesting and, sadly, disappointing. Continue reading

Quick Reviews: THE CUCKOO’S CALLING and THE SILKWORM by Robert Galbraith (Sphere/Mulholland)

GalbraithR-CS1-CuckoosCallingUKJ.K. Rowling’s new series of London-based PI novels are fantastic.

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.

Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger…

I am not entirely sure how to review these novels. To discuss their plots at any length would ruin the plots – something that’s normal, but for some reason feels even more so the case here. The characters, however, are superb – and it is Cormoran Strike, Robin and their supporting cast that make these novels so good. If you haven’t read this series, yet, I strongly urge you to do so. Continue reading

Books Received… (June)

BooksReceived-20140628

Featuring: Megan Abbott, Robert Galbraith, Robert Goddard, Carl Hiaasen, Stephen King, J.F. Lewis, Richard K. Morgan, Warren Murphy, M.C. Planck, Kim Stanley Robinson, Thomas Sweterlitsch, Jon Wallace, Jo Walton

Abbott-DareMeMegan Abbott, Dare Me (Reagan Arthur Books)

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls – until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” – both with the team and with Addy herself.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death – and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

This came out when I was in the States last, and I thought it looked pretty interesting. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up at the time, though. Regardless, I picked it up last week, and have been hearing very good things about this and Abbott’s latest novel, The Fever, which I’d also like to read.

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GalbraithR-2-SilkwormUKRobert Galbraith, The Silkworm (Sphere)

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives – meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

Finished The Cuckoo’s Calling over the weekend, and really enjoyed it. I received this for review from Sainsbury’s eBook division (a pleasant surprise), and intend to read it very soon.

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GoddardR-WW2-CornersOfTheGlobeRobert Goddard, The Corners of the Globe (Bantam Press)

Spring, 1919. James ‘Max’ Maxted, former Great War flying ace, returns to the trail of murder, treachery and half-buried secrets he set out on in The Ways of the World. He left Paris after avenging the murder of his father, Sir Henry Maxted, a senior member of the British delegation to the post-war peace conference. But he was convinced there was more – much more – to be discovered about what Sir Henry had been trying to accomplish. And he suspected elusive German spymaster Fritz Lemmer knew the truth of it.

Now, enlisted under false colours in Lemmer’s service but with his loyalty pledged to the British Secret Service, Max sets out on his first – and possibly last – mission for Lemmer. It takes him to the far north of Scotland – to the Orkney Isles, where the German High Seas Fleet has been impounded in Scapa Flow, its fate to be decided at the conference-table in Paris. Max has been sent to recover a document held aboard one of the German ships. What that document contains forces him to break cover sooner than he would have wished and to embark on a desperate race south, towards London, with information that could destroy Lemmer – if Max, as seems unlikely, lives to deliver it

The sequel to The Ways of the World, this is a series I really want to read. But have been slow about getting around to. Hopefully I’ll address this very soon.

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HiaasenC-BadMonkeyUKCarl Hiaasen, Bad Monkey (Sphere)

When a severed arm is discovered by a couple on honeymoon in the Florida Keys, former police detective – now reluctant restaurant inspector – Andrew Yancy senses that something doesn’t add up. Determined to get his badge back, he undertakes an unofficial investigation of his own.

Andrew’s search for the truth takes him to the Bahamas, where a local man, with the help of a very bad monkey (who allegedly worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) is doing everything in his power to prevent a developer from building a new tourist resort on the island, with deadly consequences…

Outrageous, hilarious and addictive, this is the unique Carl Hiaasen at his absolute best. Bad Monkey will have you on the edge of your seat and laughing out loud.

It’s been a long time since I last read a novel by Carl Hiaasen. His novels are uniformly strange and amusing, although they haven’t always hit the mark for me. It’ll be interesting to return to his zany approach to crime stories after so long, and this could make a nice change from the more-serious-in-tone thrillers I usually read.

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KingS-MrMercedesStephen King, Mr. Mercedes (Hodder)

A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring a retired homicide detective who’s haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular – the pre-dawn slaughter of eight people among hundreds gathered in line for the opening of a jobs fair when the economy was guttering out. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. The plot is kicked into gear when Bill Hodges receives a letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. He taunts Hodges with the notion that he will strike again.

Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he’s preparing to kill again.

Only Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, can apprehend the killer in this high-stakes race against time. Because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.

I bought the eBook from Sainsbury’s after creating an account with them and getting a 20% off voucher. Last year was the first time I read one of King’s novels all the way through (The Shining), and this one sounds really interesting.

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LewisJF-GrudgebearerJ.F. Lewis, Grudgebearer (Pyr)

Kholster is the first born of the practically immortal Aern, a race created by the Eldrennai as warrior-slaves to defend them from the magic-resistant reptilian Zaur. Unable to break an oath without breaking their connection with each other, the Aern served the Eldrennai faithfully for thousands of years until the Sundering. Now, the Aern, Vael, and Eldrennai meet every hundred years for a Grand Conjunction to renew their tenuous peace.

While the tortures of slavery remain fresh in Kholster’s mind, most of the rest of the world has moved on. Almost six hundred years after the Sundering, an Eldrennai prince carelessly breaks the truce by setting up a surprise museum exhibit containing sentient suits of Aernese armor left behind, never to be touched, lest Kholster kill every last Eldrennai. Through their still-existing connection with their ancient armor, the Aern know instantly, and Kholster must find a way to keep his oaths, even those made in haste and anger. While Kholster travels to the Grand Conjunction with his Freeborn daughter and chosen successor Rae’en, his troops travel by sea, heading for war.

I’d never heard of this novel before it dropped through the mailbox. Sounds interesting, but also a little familiar. Not sure when I’ll get to this.

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MorganRK-LFH3-DarkDefilesUSRichard K. Morgan, The Dark Defiles (Del Rey)

Ringil Eskiath, a reluctant hero viewed as a corrupt degenerate by the very people who demand his help, has traveled far in search of the Illwrack Changeling, a deathless human sorcerer-warrior raised by the bloodthirsty Aldrain, former rulers of the world. Separated from his companions – Egar the Dragonbane and Archeth – Ringil risks his soul to master a deadly magic that alone can challenge the might of the Changeling. While Archeth and the Dragonbane embark on a trail of blood and tears that ends up exposing long-buried secrets, Ringil finds himself tested as never before, with his life and all existence hanging in the balance.

It feels like an absolute age since I read The Steel Remains. And even longer since I read Altered Carbon, which blew me away. This series has been met with a very wide array of criticism and praise. I’ve heard people say it’s ruined fantasy, or taken grimdark too far. Others sing its praises for breaking the boundaries of the (sub-)genre, being daring and forging a new path. I enjoyed The Steel Remains, and bought The Cold Commands (but haven’t read it yet – that may suggest something about how much I enjoyed the first novel, compared to other series I’ll buy and read each new installment as soon as possible). I hope to get caught up with this series pretty soon, given that this is the final volume. The series is published in the UK by Gollancz.

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MurphyW-D1-CreatedTheDestroyerWarren Murphy, Created the Destroyer (Orbit)

When you’re on death row, minutes from the electric chair, and a hook-handed monk offers to save your life if you’ll just swallow a simple little pill… what’ve you got to lose? You take the pill. Then you wake up, officially “dead,” in the back of an ambulance, headed for an undisclosed location. Welcome to your new life, working for CURE, the most secret, most deniable, most extra-judicial government agency ever to exist. Only the President knows about it, and even he doesn’t control it.

That’s what happened to Remo Williams, a New Jersey cop framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Framed by the very people who saved him, in fact. And now, trained in esoteric martial arts by Chiun, master of Sinanju, he’s going to become the ultimate killing machine. Remo will be America’s last line of defense against mad scientists, organized crime, ancient undead gods, and anything else that threatens the Constitution. Remo Williams is the Destroyer.

The first in a long-running thriller series, Orbit will be bringing it to the UK in the very near future. It sounds fun. So I’ll be reading this very soon.

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PlanckMC-SwordOfTheBrightLadyM.C. Planck, Sword of the Bright Lady (Pyr)

Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real-but bought at a terrible price.

A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.

To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.

But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher’s fate will save the world… or destroy it.

First heard about this novel via Staffer’s Book Review, as Justin was taking a look at the cover art. It sounds intriguing.

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SloanR-AjaxPenumbra1969UKRobin Sloan, Ajax Penumbra, 1969 (Atlantic Books)

It is August 1969. The Summer of Love is a fading memory. The streets of San Francisco pulse to the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Marvin Gaye. And of jackhammers: A futuristic pyramid of a skyscraper is rising a few blocks from City Lights bookstore and an unprecedented subway tunnel is being built under the bay. Meanwhile, south of the city, orchards are quickly giving way to a brand-new industry built on silicon.

But young Ajax Penumbra has not arrived in San Francisco looking for free love or a glimpse of the technological future. He is seeking a book – the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. The last record of the book locates it in the San Francisco of more than a century earlier, and on that scant bit of evidence, Penumbra’s university has dispatched him west to acquire it for their library. After a few weeks of rigorous hunting, Penumbra feels no closer to his goal than when he started. But late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles across a 24-hour bookstore, and the possibilities before him expand exponentially…

I really enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and so when I saw that Sloan had written this novella-length prequel, I knew I wanted to read it ASAP. It just took a little longer than normal for me to buy it. May read it as soon as I finish my current read.

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RobinsonKS-SotC2-FiftyDegreesBelowUKKim Stanley Robinson, Fifty Degrees Below  and Sixty Days & Counting (Voyager)

FDB: After years of denial and non-action, a near-future Earth faces a crossroad when it is threatened with the dire implications of global warming, an environmental crisis that ironically could unleash a devastating Ice Age on the planet.

*RobinsonKS-SotC3-SixtyDays&CountingUK

SD&C: By the time Phil Chase is elected president, the world’s climate is far on its way to irreversible change. Food scarcity, housing shortages, diminishing medical care, and vanishing species are just some of the consequences. The erratic winter the Washington, D.C., area is experiencing is another grim reminder of a global weather pattern gone haywire: bone-chilling cold one day, balmy weather the next.

But the president-elect remains optimistic and doesn’t intend to give up without a fight. A maverick in every sense of the word, Chase starts organizing the most ambitious plan to save the world from disaster since FDR – and assembling a team of top scientists and advisers to implement it.

For Charlie Quibler, this means reentering the political fray full-time and giving up full-time care of his young son, Joe. For Frank Vanderwal, hampered by a brain injury, it means trying to protect the woman he loves from a vengeful ex and a rogue “black ops” agency not even the president can control – a task for which neither Frank’s work at the National Science Foundation nor his study of Tibetan Buddhism can prepare him.

In a world where time is running out as quickly as its natural resources, where surveillance is almost total and freedom nearly nonexistent, the forecast for the Chase administration looks darker each passing day. For as the last – and most terrible – of natural disasters looms on the horizon, it will take a miracle to stop the clock… the kind of miracle that only dedicated men and women can bring about.

The second and third novels in Robinson’s Science in the Capitol series (for some reason, Forty Days of Rain is not available as an eBook). They’ve been on my Kindle Wish List for ages, and when I checked this morning they had dropped to just 99p. So, naturally, I bought them. Hope to read them soon. I also picked up Red Mars, which was also knocked down to 99p, but these two are higher on my priority list.

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SweterlitschT-TomorrowAndTomorrowThomas Sweterlitsch, Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Putnam)

A decade has passed since the city of Pittsburgh was reduced to ash.

While the rest of the world has moved on, losing itself in the noise of a media-glutted future, survivor John Dominic Blaxton remains obsessed with the past. Grieving for his wife and unborn child who perished in the blast, Dominic relives his lost life by immersing in the Archive – a fully interactive digital reconstruction of Pittsburgh, accessible to anyone who wants to visit the places they remember and the people they loved.

Dominic investigates deaths recorded in the Archive to help close cases long since grown cold, but when he discovers glitches in the code surrounding a crime scene – the body of a beautiful woman abandoned in a muddy park that he’s convinced someone tried to delete from the Archive – his cycle of grief is shattered.

With nothing left to lose, Dominic tracks the murder through a web of deceit that takes him from the darkest corners of the Archive to the ruins of the city itself, leading him into the heart of a nightmare more horrific than anything he could have imagined.

This has been described as a follower in the footsteps of William Gibson’s cyberpunk, which certainly caught my eye. Pretty intrigued by this.

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WallaceJ-BarricadeUKJon Wallace, Barricade (Gollancz)

Kenstibec was genetically engineered to build a new world, but the apocalypse forced a career change. These days he drives a taxi instead.

A fast-paced, droll and disturbing novel, BARRICADE is a savage road trip across the dystopian landscape of post-apocalypse Britain; narrated by the cold-blooded yet magnetic antihero, Kenstibec.

Kenstibec is a member of the “Ficial” race, a breed of merciless super-humans. Their war on humanity has left Britain a wasteland, where Ficials hide in barricaded cities, besieged by tribes of human survivors. Originally optimised for construction, Kenstibec earns his keep as a taxi driver, running any Ficial who will pay from one surrounded city to another.

The trips are always eventful, but this will be his toughest yet. His fare is a narcissistic journalist who’s touchy about her luggage. His human guide is constantly plotting to kill him. And that’s just the start of his troubles.

On his journey he encounters ten-foot killer rats, a mutant king with a TV fixation, a drug-crazed army, and even the creator of the Ficial race. He also finds time to uncover a terrible plot to destroy his species for good – and humanity too.

One of Gollancz’s 2014 debuts, I picked this up on the eBook promotion. His recent guest post for CR has caused a bit of a stir, too, and I really want to see what all the fuss is about (if, indeed, there’s something to cause a fuss about – I think his guest post has suffered from poor structuring and wording, which has led to some of the criticism he’s receiving. Can’t be sure until I read the novel, though). Will read this soon.

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WaltonJ-MyRealChildrenUKJo Walton, My Real Children (Corsair)

What if you could remember two versions of your life? My Real Children is an alternate history, in which a woman with dementia struggles to remember her two contradictory lives. It’s a book about life and love and choices and moonbases. The day Mark called, Patricia Cowan’s world split in two.

The phone call.

His question.

Her answer.

A single word.

“Yes.”

“No.”

It is 2015 and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War – those things are solid in her memory. Then that phone call and… her memory splits in two.

She was Trish, a housewife and mother of four.

She was Pat, a successful travel writer and mother of three.

She remembers living her life as both women, so very clearly. Which memory is real – or are both just tricks of time and light?

My Real Children is the story of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives – each with its loves and losses, sorrows and triumphs, its possible consequences. It is a novel about how every life means the entire world.

Another new book in the UK from Walton (she’s been enjoying a string of re-issues over here), and it sounds really interesting. I still haven’t got around to reading anything by her. Hope to do so soon.

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Books Received… (June)

BooksReceived-20140614

Another good week (creating something of an overwhelming situation, vis-à-vis my TBR mountain). Below are the books, eBooks and graphic novels I’ve either received for review or bought over the past two weeks.

Featuring: Adam Baker, Terry Brooks, Carol K. Carr, Malcolm Cross, Emily Gould, C.B. Harvey, Ben Peek, Jodi Picoult, Gabriel Roth, Maggie Shipstead, Scott Sigler, Matthew Spektor, Jon Steele, Adrian Tchaikovsky, & Graphic Novels

Baker-ImpactUKAdam Baker, Impact (Hodder)

The world is overrun by an unimaginable horror. The few surviving humans are scattered in tiny outposts across the world, hoping for reprieve – or death.

Waiting on the runway of the abandoned Las Vegas airport sits the B-52 bomber Liberty Bell, revving up for its last, desperate mission. On board – six crew members and one 10-kiloton nuclear payload. The target is a secret compound in the middle of the world’s most inhospitable desert.

All the crew have to do is drop the bomb and head to safety.

But when the Liberty Bell crashes, the surviving crew are stranded in the most remote corner of Death Valley. They’re alone in an alien environment, their only shelter the wreckage of their giant aircraft, with no hope of rescue. And death is creeping towards them from the place they sought to destroy – and may already reside beneath their feet in the burning desert sands.

I’m a relatively recent convert to Baker’s novels, as I’ve mentioned before on the blog. My first of his was Terminus, last year, which I really enjoyed. When this dropped through the mail, I was very excited – I had no idea it was on the way (it was only recently added to Goodreads, and I just haven’t seen any mention of it before). It has also upended my reading plans for the next couple of weeks. Because I’ve already started reading it…

Also on CR: Interview with Adam Baker, Guest Post

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BrooksT-DoS1-TheHighDruidsBladeUKTerry Brooks, The High Druid’s Blade (Orbit)

Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life – until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world… and rewrite his destiny.

When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him – and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.

But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.

It must be twenty years since I last read a Brooks novel. I believe it was either Sword of Shannara or Elfstones of Shannara. Maybe Magic Kingdom For Sale, Sold. Between then and my rediscovery of and happy disappearance down the rabbit hole of fantasy fiction in 2008, I also developed a very strong desire to only read series in order. Naturally, this caused some difficult when it came to Brooks’s continuing Shannara series. I can’t promise I’ll get around to this, but I would like to return to the world at some point. We’ll see.

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CarrCK-IB3-AndTheShadowsOfAnarchyUKCarol K. Carr, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy (Titan)

In Victorian London, India Black has all the attributes a high-class madam needs to run a successful brothel – wit, beauty, and an ability to lie with a smile. Luckily for Her Majesty’s Government, all these talents also make her a first-rate spy…

India Black, full-time madam and occasional secret agent, is feeling restless, when one of Disraeli’s men calls on her to meet the prime minister – alone. Even though all her previous meetings have been organized by the rakishly handsome spy French, it’s been decided this is a mission India must attempt on her own.

Revolt has spread across Europe and reached the shores of England – anarchists have begun assassinating lords and earls, one by one. Now India must infiltrate the ranks of the underground group responsible for those attacks, the sinister Dark Legion. To stop their dread plot, India will go from the murkiest slums of London to the highest levels of society, uncovering secrets that threaten her very existence…

An intriguing-looking steampunk, Victoriana spy series. I haven’t had the chance to read the first two books in the series, yet, but I am interested in checking it out.

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Various-JournalOfThePlagueYearMalcolm Cross, C. B. Harvey & Adrian Tchaikovsky, Plague Year (Abaddon)

The Cull swept the world in the early years of the twenty-first century, killing billions and ending civilisation as we know it. Only those fortunate to be blessed with the right blood were spared. In the latest instalment to the shared world of Afterblight Chronicles three fantastic authors lead us further into the apocalypse:

In Cross’ Orbital Decay, astronaut Alvin Burrows watches helplessly as the world collapses, and the crew on board the Space Station are murdered one by one.

In Harvey’s Dead Kelly, fugitive Kelly McGuire returns to the lawless city of Melbourne seeking revenge on his old gang mates.

In Tchaikovsky’s The Bloody Deluge (previously unpublished), biochemist Katy Lewkowitz and her friend Dr. Emil Weber seek refuge from the deadly cult of the New Teutonic Order.

Journal of the Plague Year is an omnibus collection of three unique novellas; it will thrill, enthral and horrify you in equal measures.

I have to admit that what sold me on this collection was the inclusion of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novella. It is, I believe, his first published sci-fi/dystopia fiction. Don’t mean to be disrespectful to the other two authors, of course, but I am a big fan of Tchaikovsky’s already. I haven’t read anything else in the Afterblight Chronicles, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have past experience with it. If nothing else, I’m going to read Adrian’s story ASAP, and then get back to the other two at a later date (alternating between this and full-length novels, perhaps).

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky, Guest Post by Adrian

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GouldE-FriendshipUKEmily Gould, Friendship (Virago)

Bev Tunney is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for New York bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living in a shared house, drowning in debt. Her friend Amy Schein is a charismatic and fiercely impetuous Brooklyn media darling still riding the tailwinds of early success, but reality is catching up with her – her job, her lease and her relationship are on the brink of collapse. And now Bev is unexpectedly pregnant.

As Amy and Bev are dragged into their thirties and genuine adulthood, they are forced to contemplate the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart. They want to help each other but can’t help themselves; want to make good decisions, but fall prey to their worst impulses; find their generosity overwhelmed by petty concerns. An unsettling encounter with an accomplished older woman, Sally, throws their problems into sharp relief.

Emily Gould’s dazzling debut novel traces the evolution of a friendship with wry sympathy, refreshing honesty and humour.

I like stories set in New York City. I’m in my thirties. Thought it might be a nice change to the SFF/thrillers I mainly read. I’ve been reading more in the contemporary and literary fiction genres, and I’ve found a lot that I like. True, there are certain tropes and structural consistencies across the genre, but I like them, too. Mostly. I’m looking forward to reading this.

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PeekB-C1-GodlessUKBen Peek, The Godless (Tor UK)

The Gods are dying. Fifteen thousand years after the end of their war, their bodies can still be found across the world. They kneel in forests, lie beneath mountains, and rest at the bottom of the world’s ocean. For thousands of years, men and women have awoken with strange powers that are derived from their bodies.

The city Mireea is built against a huge stone wall that stretches across a vast mountain range, following the massive fallen body of the god, Ger. Ayae, a young cartographer’s apprentice, is attacked and discovers she cannot be harmed by fire. Her new power makes her a target for an army that is marching on Mireea. With the help of Zaifyr, a strange man adorned with charms, she is taught the awful history of “cursed” men and women, coming to grips with her new powers and the enemies they make.

Meanwhile, the saboteur Bueralan infiltrates the army that is approaching her home to learn its terrible secret. Split between the three points of view, The Godless’s narrative reaches its conclusion during an epic siege, where Ayae, Zaifyr and Bueralan are forced not just into conflict with those invading, but with those inside the city who wish to do them harm.

I started reading this when I was really not in the mood for a new fantasy series. But, I read the first few pages while sorting out newly arrived books, and found it really well-written. Peek’s done a great job of crafting this world. I’ve put the book aside for a little bit, though, as I didn’t want to force myself to push throught he Fantasy Funk I’m in. I think I’m going to really like the rest of it. Watch this space for more.

Also on CR: Interview with Ben Peek

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PicoultJ-WhereTheresSmokeUKJodi Picoult, Where There’s Smoke (Hodder)

Even as a child, Serenity Jones knew she possessed unusual psychic gifts. Now, decades later, she’s an acclaimed medium and host of her own widely viewed TV show, where she delivers messages to the living from loved ones who have died. Lately, though, her efforts to boost ratings and garner fame have compromised her clairvoyant instincts.

When Serenity books a young war widow to appear as a guest, the episode quickly unravels, stirring up a troubling controversy. And as she tries to undo the damage – to both her reputation and her show – Serenity finds that pride comes at a high price.

I’ve never read anything by Picoult. Not really sure why, either. I spotted this in my Amazon recommendations, saw that it was a free short story, and jumped on the opportunity to give her work a try. It appears to tie in to Picoult’s upcoming full-length novel, too, so that could bode very well.

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RothG-TheUnknownsUKPBGabriel Roth, The Unknowns (Picador)

Eric has survived his ostracised teens in the school computer basement of the mid-80s and seems to have everything: the dot com millions, the beautiful apartment, the quick mind, and even passable looks. But he has never quite found love. Until, with all the glamorous alliteration of a movie star, Maya Marcom arrives on his horizon.

It’s not easy to pursue the most alluring woman in North America when you’re a misfiring circuit of over-analytical self-doubt and she has a killer line and a perfectly raised eyebrow. But as Eric refines his email technique, his date patter and his capacity to shut up after sex, he finds there’s more to Maya Marcom than meets the eye.

Will our loveable geek be able to conquer his dogged need to discover the whole truth about his lover – or will they continue in bliss and wonder? This is a story about the mysteries of the heart, and the ways in which one fragile human being is harder to really know than enough computer code to make a fortune.

I’d been hovering over buying this novel for some time. It sounded really fun and quirky. So, I eventually bought it. I’ll be reading it pretty soon, hopefully.

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ShipsteadM-SeatingArrangementsUKMaggie Shipstead, Seating Arrangements (Blue Door)

The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the New England island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to an impeccably appropriate young man. The weekend is full of lobster and champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust seep through the cracks in the revelry.

Winn Van Meter, father-of-the-bride, has spent his life following the rules of the east coast upper crust, but now, just shy of his sixtieth birthday, he must finally confront his failings, his desires, and his own humanity.

I’ve heard good things, and it was difficult to miss it for a while, if you spent any time in a UK bookstore. It then popped up as a Kindle Daily Deal, and I thought that left no excuse to give it a try.

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Sigler-3-PandemicScott Sigler, Pandemic (Hodder)

The alien intelligence that unleashed two horrific assaults on humanity has been destroyed. But before it was brought down in flames, it launched one last payload – a tiny soda-can-sized canister filled with germs engineered to wreak new forms of havoc on the human race. That harmless-looking canister has languished under thousands of feet of water for years, undisturbed and impotent… until now.

Days after the new disease is unleashed, a quarter of the human race is infected. Entire countries have fallen. And our planet’s fate now rests on a small group of unlikely heroes, racing to find a cure before the enemies surrounding them can close in.

I’ve always wanted to read this series, but it’s one of the ones that started when I was hopping across the Atlantic too frequently. This meant my copy of the first in the series got lost in the shuffle. I’ll be sure to pick the preceding two books ASAP so I can get around to this one. I’ve heard really good things about it and Sigler’s writing.

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SpektorM-AmericanDreamMachineUKPBMatthew Spektor, American Dream Machine (Sphere)

A big sweeping story of Los Angeles and of the rise and fall and rise of one man amongst the grit, glamour, desperation and ambition of the movie business in the ’60s and ’70s.

Beau Rosenwald – overweight, far from handsome, and improbably charismatic – arrives in Los Angles in 1962 with nothing but an ill-fitting suit and a pair of expensive brogues. By the late 1970s he has helped found the most successful agency in Hollywood.

Through the eyes of his son, we watch Beau and his partner go to war, waging a battle that will reshape an entire industry. We watch Beau rise and fall and rise again, forging and damaging remarkable relationships. We watch Beau’s partner, the enigmatic Williams Farquarsen, struggle to control himself and this oh-so-fickle world of movies. We watch two generations of men fumble and thrive across the LA landscape, revelling in their successes and learning the costs of their mistakes.

This sounds really good. I caught wind of it quite a while ago, but for some reason I never got around to reading it. It popped up this week on NetGalley, and my request was approved! So that’s nice. I’m hoping to get to it pretty soon.

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SteeleJ-A2-AngelCityUKJon Steele, Angel City (Corgi)

Jay Harper, one of the last “angels” on Planet Earth, is hunting down the half-breeds and goons who infected Paradise with evil. Intercepting a plot to turn half of Paris into a dead zone, Harper ends up on the wrong side of the law and finds himself a wanted man. That doesn’t stop his commander, Inspector Gobet of the Swiss Police, from sending him back to Paris on a recon mission… a mission that uncovers a truth buried in the Book of Enoch.

Katherine Taylor and her two year old son Max are living in a small town in the American Northwest. It’s a quiet life. She runs a candle shop and spends her afternoons drinking herbal teas, imagining a crooked little man in the belfry of Lausanne Cathedral, a man who believed Lausanne was a hideout for lost angels. And there was someone else, someone she can’t quite remember… as if he was there, and not there at the same time.

A man with a disfigured face emerges from the shadows. His name is Astruc, he’s obsessed with the immortal souls of men. Like a voice crying in the wilderness, he warns the time of The Prophecy is at hand… a prophecy that calls for the sacrifice of the child born of light…

This is the second book in Steele’s Angelus Trilogy, following on from The Watchers – which, as with so very many books, now, I have yet to read. I really like the new cover designs for the series, too. Very good decision. I’ve heard pretty mixed things about The Watchers – some have said it’s amazing, others have been cool on it. I’ll be sure to form my own opinion. Just… not sure when. It does sound interesting, though. Probably good for fans of Lou Morgan’s Blood and Feathers, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, and Anne Rice’s Seraphim duology.

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GRAPHIC NOVELS

Haven’t featured the graphic novels I’ve received for a while, so these go back a fair way. Some interesting ones, though…

BlackScience-Vol.01Black Science, Vol.1 – “How to Fall Forever” (Image)

Writer: Rick Remender | Art: Matteo Scalera, Dean White

Anarchist scientist Grant McKay has done the impossible! Using the Pillar, he has punched a hole through the barriers between dimensions, allowing travel to all possible universes. But now Grant and his team are trapped in the folds of infinity, the Pillar sending them careening through a million universes of unimaginable adventure, sanity-flaying danger and no way home…

Collects: Black Science #1-6

New science fiction series from Rick Remender, who’s doing some great work, recently. Therefore, I’m very interesting in reading this.

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Bunker-Vol.01The Bunker, Vol.1 (Oni Press)

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov | Art: Joe Infurnari

On their way to bury a time capsule, five friends – Grady, Heidi, Natasha, Daniel, and Billy – uncover a metal bunker buried deep in the woods. Inside, they find letters addressed to each of them… from their future selves.

Told they will destroy the world in the very near future, the friends find, over the next few days, growing further and further apart.

Though they’ve been warned against making the wrong choices, how do they know what the right ones are?

Can the future really be changed, or will an even darker fate engulf the world?

Collects: The Bunker #1-4

I met Fialkov in September 2011, at a signing in Los Angeles. He was very affable, and chatted with me for a bit about I, Vampire, his other work, and gave me a couple of suggestions. This is a new series of his, and it’s been doing really well with critics and fans alike. I’ve just been really slow about getting around to reading it. Looking forward to it.

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DeathSentence-Vol.01Death Sentence Vol.1 (Titan Comics)

Writer: Monty Nero | Art: Mike Dowling

What would you do with superpowers – and six months to live?

That’s the dilemma facing three people who’ve contracted the G+ Virus, an infectious agent that gives you incredible superpowers – before killing you!

What will struggling graphic designer Verity, failing indie guitarist Weasel and roguish media personality Monty do in the time that remains? Fade away – or go out in a blaze of glory?

And if they choose to kick back… will there be anything left of the world when they’re through?

From the streets of London to the North Atlantic, from intimate betrayals to the death of thousands, from muses lost and futures thrown away to the fall of society – DeathSentence is the jaw-dropping next step in superpowered storytelling!

Funny, fearless and frightening, packed with shocks, dialogue you can’t stop quoting, and the character finds of a generation – don’t miss this unforgettable comics debut!

The collection comes with 26-pages of exclusive commentary by the creators.

Collects: Death Sentence #1-6

This is a really interesting premise. I read the first issue after a ComiXology sale on Titan Comics, and really liked it. As I am wont to do, I promptly forgot to get the rest of the series, as I was distracted by many other things. With the collection coming out soon, I was happy to get this for review. Should be fun. I’m halfway through it already. It has some pretty interesting commentary in there, but it does lean a little bit towards the “shocking” (which isn’t really), which buries the thrust of the story a little bit. Still, it’s pretty good.

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ForeverEvil-HCForever Evil (DC Comics)

Writer: Geoff Johns | Art: David Finch

The Justice League is DEAD! And the villains shall INHERIT the Earth! In a flash of light, the world’s most powerful heroes vanish as the Crime Syndicate arrives from Earth-3! As this evil version of the Justice League takes over the DC Universe, no one stands in the way of them and complete domination… no one except for Lex Luthor.

Collects: Forever Evil #1-7

One of DC’s latest mega-event things. Not really sure what it’s about, or how it ties in with the main New 52 series (both DC and Marvel seem to have gone down the cross-over rabbit hole in 2013 and 2014). It’s a pretty big book, so should be a nice, long read. Johns does good work, for the main, so I am cautiously optimistic.

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Letter44-Vol.01Letter 44, Vol.1 – “Escape Velocity” (Oni Press)

Writer: Charles Soule | Art: Alberto Alburquerque

On Inauguration Day, newly elected President Stephen Blades hoped to tackle the most critical issues facing the nation: war, the economy, and a failing health care system. But in a letter penned by the outgoing President, Blades learns the truth that redefines “critical”: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt, and kept it a secret from the world. A stealth mission crewed by nine astronauts was sent to make contact, and they’re getting close – assuming they survive the long journey to reach their destination.

Today, President-elect Blades has become the most powerful man on the planet. This planet!

Collects: Letter 44 #1-6

I picked up the first issue in this series a couple months back, and rather enjoyed the premise and writing, and the artwork is pretty good, too. This is the first collection, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the story panned out.

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SupermanWonderWoman-Vol.01Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol.1 – “Power Couple” (DC Comics)

Writer: Charles Soule | Art: Tony Daniel

Beginning a bold new series that details the relationship between The Man of Steel and the Warrior Princess as writer Charles Soule (Swamp Thing) is joined by artist Tony S. Daniel (Batman) to tell the tale of a romance that will shake the stars themselves. These two super-beings love each other, but not everyone shares their joy. Some fear it, some test it – and some will try to kill for it. Some say love is a battlefield, but where Superman and Wonder Woman are concerned it spells Doomsday!

Collects: Superman/Wonder Woman #1-6

This was a controversial title, when it was first announced. I don’t actually think I’ve seen anyone review it, among the circle of reviewers I pay attention to. This means I’ll be coming at it with no preconceptions or expectations. I am still hoping for a good New 52 Superman title – Superman has become rather bland, and Action Comics suffered from… well, Grant Morrison. Please let this one not disappoint.

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Umbral-Vol.01Umbral, Vol.1 – “Out of the Shadows” (Image)

Writer: Antony Johnson | Art: Christopher Mitten

AN INCREDIBLE NEW DARK FANTASY STARTS HERE!

The young thief called Rascal witnesses the horrific and brutal murder of the royal family – now the world’s dark legends will be relived, and only Rascal even knows it’s happening!

Master worldbuilders ANTONY JOHNSTON (Wasteland, Daredevil) and CHRISTOPHER MITTEN (Wasteland, Criminal Macabre) bring you a new fantasy world rich in mythology, history, and blood!

Collects: Umbral #1-6

Image Comics hasn’t steered me wrong, recently. This is one of their new series, so of course I’m interested in checking it out. Looks weird and potentially creepy. Bodes well.

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