Upcoming SFF Movies… (Trailers)

I was browsing on IMDb and watched a few trailers for upcoming movies that I think will appeal to readers of CR. Here they are…

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3174411289/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=480

INTERSTELLAR

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2284039193/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=480

DRACULA UNTOLD

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi210742297/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=480

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi137931801/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=480

THE GIVER

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3018304537/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=480

Quick Reviews: Megan Abbott, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kaufman

I’m falling quite behind on my reviews, so I thought I would put together a quick, three-novel round-up. As you will see, this is not a reflection on how much I enjoyed the books, but rather a reflection of a lack of time. So, without further ado, here are the reviews…

Abbott-DareMeMegan Abbott, Dare Me (Picador)

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 is the first novel by Abbott that I’ve read, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a slow-burn, psychological thriller told from Addy’s perspective. Through her teenage eyes, we see her mentor-crush on Coach develop, and her friendship with Beth become strained. Told solely from Addy’s POV, we get a rather limited – but no less interesting – glimpse into the lives of these characters and the unfolding events. We see second hand the ambitions and insecurities of the cheerleaders; their narrow hopes and dreams, their petty rivalries and also close friendships. Coach’s addition into the squad’s dynamic is immediate, with Addy drawn to her charisma and apparent experience and poise, while Beth is repelled by this interloper who could very well (and does) usurp her control over the other cheerleaders.

Overall, Abbott has written a very good, engaging novel about youth and its strengths and weaknesses. Excellent prose, great observations and characterisation. Definitely recommended. I’ll be reading the author’s latest, The Fever, very soon.

*

GuggenheimM-OverwatchMarc Guggenheim, Overwatch (Mulholland)

A young CIA lawyer uncovers a dangerous worldwide conspiracy, masterminded by forces within the US intelligence community.

Alex Garnett has spent his life in the shadow of his father, a former Chief of Staff and Solicitor General to two presidents who’s been responsible for getting Alex every job he ever had, including his latest: attorney for the CIA. However, a seemingly routine litigation leads to a series of unexpected events, including poison, kidnapping, torture and murder. As casualties pile up, it becomes clear Alex is the final target in someone’s blood-soaked attempts to cover their tracks.

With the help of a neurotic hacker, Alex unravels a conspiracy older than the CIA itself. The trail of clues reveals the presence of unseen forces that are bringing this nation to the brink of war – and Alex’s life is only one of many in danger.

From one of the writer-creators of Arrow, this is a highly entertaining political thriller. Focused on telling a great, fast-paced story, Overwatch is rather classic in feel: a shadowy organisation pulling strings behind the metaphorical curtain, manipulating global events in service to their twisted agenda. Our protagonist stumbles across the conspiracy rather fortuitously, and finds himself in a race against time to stop a war. Guggenheim writes well, and his characters are interesting, pretty varied, and interesting to read about. There were a couple of moments that raised an eyebrow – incredible near-misses, surprising coincidences – but none of them derailed my enjoyment of the story. Things move almost too fast for readers to notice the small leaps.

Interestingly, the main relationship side-narrative is not about Garnett and his fiancée, but rather his relationship with his father. This made a very nice change to the more common love interest. It was presented rather nicely, especially at the end.

I’d certainly be interested in reading more novels featuring Alex Garnett. Recommended for fans of quick-paced thrillers, in the vein of James Patterson and Kyle Mills.

*

Kaufman-AllMyFriendsAreSuperheroesAndrew Kaufman, All My Friends are Superheroes (Coach House)

All Tom’s friends really are superheroes. There’s the Ear, the Spooner, the Impossible Man. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding, the Perfectionist was hypnotized (by ex-boyfriend Hypno, of course) to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, she’s sure that Tom has abandoned her. So she’s moving to Vancouver. She’ll use her superpower to make Vancouver perfect and leave all the heartbreak in Toronto. With no idea Tom’s beside her, she boards an airplane in Toronto. Tom has until the wheels touch the ground in Vancouver to convince her he’s visible, or he loses her forever.

This novella was a bit of a disappointment. I’d had very high hopes, so that might account for some of my disappointment. That being said, it’s still an enjoyable, oft-amusing diversion. At just over 100 pages, it doesn’t take long to read, and Kaufman has populated his story with some interesting and tongue-in-cheek “superheroes”. The story moves surprisingly slowly, though, given its length. Perhaps this impatience was a result of knowing how short it is, and wanting it to get a move on. It’s an interesting premise, successfully executed; and one with a nice, heart-warming ending.

You really feel Tom’s aggravation and despair, as he tries everything he can think of to get his wife’s attention, and genuinely feel for them both. At the same time, it felt a little bit like Kaufman wanted to devise as many silly superheroes as possible, many of which derive their powers from aspects of early-twenties ennui, hipsterism, and somewhat-student-lifestyles. They are, for the main, amusing, but after half of those presented here, the idea becomes a little tired. Thankfully, the story ends before it becomes tiresome.

Recommended if you’re looking for something quick and speculative.

*

Upcoming: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel (Picador/Knopf)

I’m a bit late to the party, mentioning this on the site – there has been a lot of advance excitement surrounding the publication next month of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. I haven’t read the novel (trying to track down a review copy), but I’ve heard from a couple of people who have and they sing its praises. One of those people is someone who is very difficult to please. The novel will be published on September 9th in the US (Knopf) and 10th in the UK (Picador). The two publishers have taken very different cover approaches, too:

MandelESJ-StationEleven

Station Eleven Covers: UK (Picador), US (Knopf)

Which do you prefer? Personally, I like them both, but I may be leaning towards liking the UK cover just a little bit more. I like the overall composition, use of negative space, and the framing is all very nicely done. The US cover, also very nice, is a little more subtle, I think – it doesn’t speak as much to the premise as the Picador cover.

Here’s the (UK) synopsis:

DAY ONE

The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.

News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

WEEK TWO

Civilization has crumbled.

YEAR TWENTY

A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.

But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

STATION ELEVEN

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan – warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.

Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything – even the end of the world

Poster Unveiled for THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

I was rather unimpressed by the first two movies in this trilogy (which should never have been a trilogy to begin with). Nevertheless, one thing they are is visually stunning. Peter Jackson sure knows how to shoot beautiful movies. The poster for the third and final instalment does not disappoint. Check it out:

Hobbit3-Poster

Smaug does not look like a happy bunny… (Found via IGN.)

Upcoming & New Cover Art: THE CITY STAINED RED by Sam Sykes (Orbit US)

SykesS-4-TheCityStainedRedUSShamelessly pinching this from Justin at Staffer’s Book Review (shameless, I say!), here’s the US cover for Sam Sykes’s upcoming fourth novel, The City Stained Red. To be published by Orbit in October 2014 (eBook) and January (print), here’s the synopsis, from the author’s website

Every city has its secrets, every man has his demons.

The city of Cier’Djaal has grown rich from the silk its horse-sized spiders spin.  From their unimaginable wealth, the fasha ruling class built a city the likes of which legends strain to capture: spires that glitter gold in the desert sunlight, streets choked with people carrying burdens of coin and silk, a world where the differences between thieves and nobles are so small that an outsider might not even know.

And where there is wealth, there is war.

A radical upstart cult has risen from the slums and sewers of the city, intent on toppling its wealthy masters and spilling their gold upon the streets for the downtrodden.  The ruling thieves’ guild has come to meet them with fire and blade, intent on preserving the rule of their own bloody law.  Foreign armies intent on conquering the city and their opportunity to use the violence as an excuse to seize the city’s vast wealth for itself.  And beneath human heels, the tribal shicts and ferocious tulwar clans seethe, waiting to strike back against the society that has trampled them underfoot.

And into this, Lenk comes seeking a new life.  A life where he can set his sword down and leave the violence of his adventuring life behind him.

But there are whispers of something darker behind the wars, a sinister hand moving pieces across a board, intent upon ushering in a new world, free of gods, of fear, of humanity.  And its gaze has just settled upon Lenk.

I read a very early draft of the novel, in 2013, and really liked it. I enjoyed the first two of Sam’s novels – Tome of the Undergates and Black Halo – and this was even better. The City Runs Red will be published in the UK by Gollancz (only, as “A…” rather than “The…”).

Book Received … (July)

BooksReceived-20140705

Featuring: Annie Hauxwell, David Hosp, C.C. Humphreys, David Ignatius, Tim Lebbon, Rebecca Levene, D.J. Molles, Marie Phillips, William Shaw, & graphic novels

HauxwellA-AMorbidHabitUKAnnie Hauxwell, A Morbid Habit (William Heinemann)

The hands were warm. Soft fingers, but flesh inflected with iron. Squeezing. The tongue lolled and protruded from the mouth. Vertebrae fragmented, one, two, three, until finally the hands relaxed and the limp body slid from their embrace.

Blood turned to ice and sealed the nostrils.

It’s the week before Christmas. Catherine Berlin sits alone gazing at a bank of monitors, each capturing a slice of a vast industrial estate. A van appears: two men delivering crates, moving quickly. Her boss tells her to ignore them, but she can’t.

Berlin’s scars have faded, but she still walks with a limp. She’s broke and working nights as a relief CCTV operator, and looking for something more substantial. Her heroin habit is under control – only just.

The night shifts end, but now Berlin herself is being watched. When an old friend offers her a job in Russia, she quickly agrees. The details are vague: a mysterious businessman with money to spend, a UK company offering a high fee for Berlin to investigate. Easy enough.

But Berlin arrives in Moscow to find that her problems are only just beginning. She is soon forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about her past, and her present. A body is found at the airport: a man clutching a sign with her name on it. Her pursuers reappear, and her guide, a Brit named Charlie, has secrets to hide. When Berlin’s businessman goes missing, she realises that she cannot trust anyone or anything, if she is to survive.

I’ve never heard of Hauxwell’s work, but this sounds pretty interesting. We’ll see.

*

HospD-GameOfDeathUKDavid Hosp, Game of Death (Macmillan)

When a dark and thrilling fantasy becomes a terrifying reality

The first thing I notice is her face. It is so perfect it seems unlikely that it could ever exist in the real world. Her white skin is flawless, her features perfectly symmetrical, her lips red and wet and full, parting with every gasp. It is her eyes that hold me, though. They are a shade of blue I have never seen, with flecks of gold and crystal, and they are so penetrating it feels as though they are reaching out straight through his eyes into mine, begging me for… something I can’t quite make out. It’s like those eyes have captured the dialectic of every human emotion that ever mattered – love and hate; ecstasy and terror; comfort and jealousy – and rolled them into a single glance that could level entire cities. I am slaughtered.

Imagine being able to create and experience your deepest dreams and your darkest fantasies…

Boston entrepreneur and techno whizz-kid, Nick Caldwell with the help of his long-time friend and colleague, Yvette, has worked on a programme where people can do just that – all from the safety and comfort of their home.

NextLife is an exciting young company which promises its subscribers the chance to experience anything they want. Climb Everest. Dive off the Barrier Reef. Go to a 1970s Rolling Stones concert. Walk the Great Wall of China.

But it seems that one of their clients has much more sinister desires.

And it involved the girl with the wonderful blue eyes…

David Hosp is an author I’ve been aware of for years, but for some inexplicable reason haven’t got around to reading before… This novel, however, sounds really good (even more so than his other, really-good-sounding novels), so I may read this next-but-one. Or certainly this month, anyway.

*

HumphreysCC-PlagueC.C. Humphreys, Plague (Century)

London, May 1665.

On a dark road outside London, a simple robbery goes horribly wrong – when the gentlemanly highwayman, William Coke, discovers that his intended victims have been brutally slaughtered.

Suspected of the murders, Coke is forced into an uneasy alliance with the man who pursues him – the relentless thief-taker, Pitman.

Together they seek the killer – and uncover a conspiracy that reaches from the glittering, debauched court of King Charles to the worst slum in the city, St Giles in the Fields.

But there’s another murderer moving through the slums, the taverns and palaces, slipping under the doorways of the rich.

A mass murderer.

Plague…

Another author I’ve been familiar with, but haven’t read… There are an ever-growing number of those, too… I hope to get to this soon. I haven’t read much historical fiction, recently, so it’ll be nice to start mixing up the genres a bit more. I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about Humphreys, too.

*

untitledDavid Ignatius, The Director (Quercus)

A MAN WITH SOMETHING TO CHANGE.

Graham Weber, the new director of the CIA, is tasked with revolutionising an agency in crisis. Never intimidated by a challenge, Weber intends to do just that.

A HACKER WITH SOMETHING TO EXPOSE.

Weber’s task greatens when a young computer genius approaches the CIA with proof their systems have been compromised. There is a breach. There is a mole.

A WOMAN WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE.

The agent who takes this walk-in is K. J. Sandoval – a frustrated yet ambitious base chief desperate to prove her worth to the agency and its new director.

Weber must move quickly. And he must choose his allies carefully, if he is to succeed in identifying an enemy that is inside the gates, and out to destroy him.

Yet another author I’m very familiar with – but, in this case, more his non-fiction and journalism. All of this novels and short stories have looked pretty interesting. I don’t really know why I haven’t given them a try, though… This is his latest, and I’m really interested in the politics/issues he’s looking at here.

*

SW-DotJ-IntoTheVoid(Lebbon)Tim Lebbon, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void (Arrow)

Taking place thousands of years before the time of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. On the remote world Tython ancient philosophers and scientists share their mystical knowledge and study the ways of the Force. They establish the order of the Je’daii – which, in years to come, will become the Jedi. But first these visitors from so many different planets must colonize a dangerous new homeworld and surmount societal conflicts as the burgeoning Rakatan Empire prepares to conquer the known galaxy.

Lebbon is a pretty good writer. Sadly, though, I’m not particularly interested in Star Wars fiction set before episode IV. I also didn’t particularly care for the Dawn of the Jedi comic books – it felt a bit… I don’t know. The only thing I can come up with is the rather ineloquent “meh”…

*

LeveneR-HG1-SmilersFairUKRebecca Levene, Smiler’s Fair (Hodder)

Yron the moon god died, but now he’s reborn in the false king’s son. His human father wanted to kill him, but his mother sacrificed her life to save him. He’ll return one day to claim his birthright. He’ll change your life.

He’ll change everything.

Smiler’s Fair: the great moving carnival where any pleasure can be had, if you’re willing to pay the price. They say all paths cross at Smiler’s Fair. They say it’ll change your life. For five people, Smiler’s Fair will change everything.

In a land where unimaginable horror lurks in the shadows, where the very sun and moon are at war, five people – Nethmi, the orphaned daughter of a murdered nobleman, who in desperation commits an act that will haunt her forever. Dae Hyo, the skilled warrior, who discovers that a lifetime of bravery cannot make up for a single mistake. Eric, who follows his heart only to find that love exacts a terrible price. Marvan, the master swordsman, who takes more pleasure from killing than he should. And Krish, the humble goatherd, with a destiny he hardly understands and can never accept – will discover just how much Smiler’s Fair changes everything.

This is a really nice-looking hardcover – not only in terms of the story, but also the physical object. Really nicely put together. I should have got around to reading this already (I received an ARC a while ago), but I’ve just been in a really weird reading-mood these past couple of months.

*

Molles-R2-AftermathD.J. Molles, The Remaining: Aftermath (Orbit)

A SOLDIER’S MISSION IN A WORLD GONE TO HELL: SURVIVE, RESCUE, REBUILD

Nothing has gone according to plan.

To Captain Lee Harden, Project Hometown feels like a distant dream and the completion of his mission seems unattainable.

Wounded and weaponless, he has stumbled upon a group of survivors that seems willing to help. But a tragedy in the group causes a deep rift to come to light and forces him into action. In the chaos of the world outside, Lee is pursued by a new threat: someone who will stop at nothing to get what he has.

The second installment in Molles’s originally-self-published zombie apocalypse series with a difference. Now published in eBook and print by Orbit Books, I do really want to read this ASAP. I have a soft-spot for the genre, but I’m also really particular about what I like within it (V.M. Zito and Adam Baker have been my favourites so far). We’ll see. Still need to read the first book, too.

*

PhillipsM-TableOfLessValuedKnightsUKMarie Phillips, The Table of Less Valued Knights (Jonathan Cape)

Sir Humphrey du Val of the Table of Less Valued Knights – Camelot’s least prestigious table, with one leg shorter than the others so that it has to be propped up with a folded napkin – doesn’t do quests … until he meets Elaine, a damsel in distress with a secret to hide.

Meanwhile, Queen Martha of Puddock is on the run from an arranged marriage to the odious Prince Edwin of Tuft. But an encounter with the Locum of the Lake (standing in for the full-time Lady) leaves her with a quest of her own: to find her missing brother, long believed dead.

The two quests collide, introducing a host of Arthurian misfits, including a freakishly short giant, a twelve-year-old crone, an amorous unicorn, and a magic sword with a mind of her own.

“With Gods Behaving Badly Marie Phillips showed that she has a rare gift for comedy, giving the Greek Gods an ingenious contemporary twist. In The Table of Less Valued Knights it’s Camelot’s turn, and you’ll never see a knight in shining armour in the same way again.”

*

ShawW-AHouseOfKnivesWilliam Shaw, A House of Knives (Quercus)

London, November 1968. The decade is drawing its last breath. In Marylebone CID, suspects are beaten in the cells and the only woman is resigning. Detective Sergeant Breen has a death threat in his in-tray and a mutilated body on his hands.

The dead man was the wayward son of a rising MP with the ear of the home office – and everywhere Breen turns to investigate, he finds himself obstructed and increasingly alienated. But PR wary politicians can’t stop him talking to the art dealer Robert ‘Groovy Bob’ Fraser; whose glamorous parties mask a spreading heroin addiction among London’s young and beautiful.

He begins to see that the abuse of power is at every level of society. And when his actions endanger those at the top, he becomes their target. Out in the cold, banished from a corrupt and fracturing system, Breen is finally forced to fight fire with fire.

Don’t know much about this novel, or the author. This sounded pretty cool, though, so I requested it via NetGalley. I’m really behind on my Quercus/Jo Fletcher Books reviews, though. Quite shameful. I’m hoping to catch up over the next couple of months, though.

*

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Alex-Ada-Vol.1Alex + Ada, Vol.1 (Image)

Writer: Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn | Artist: Jonathan Luna

The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.

Picked up the first issue during one of Image Comics’ first issue sales on ComiXology (it was actually free, along with a whole bunch of others), and really liked it. Far more than I’d anticipated, too. So, when it appeared on NetGalley, I snapped it up. Should read it very soon. (Oh, those famous last words…)

*

JusticeLeagueOfAmerica-Vol.02Justice League America, Vol.2 – “Survivors of Evil” (DC New 52)

Writer: Matt Kindt | Artist: Doug Mahnke & others

As the smoke clears from the Trinity War, one thing looks disturbingly clear­, the members of the Justice League of America are dead, betrayed by one of their own.  But as with the Trinity War, all is not what it seems. Martian Manhunter and Star Girl have lived to fight another day and find themselves trapped on an alien world that is under the control of a group of super-villains.  The key to their survival may lie in the hands of the super-villain Despero, but will these heroes be able to find it within themselves to trust someone who is supposed to be their mortal enemy?

Now, I was actually not particularly taken by Justice League of America, Volume 1 (which I bought). I’m always willing to give series a look a little way beyond when I think they drop off in quality (or never meet it) – there have been a couple of series that have improved after a writer finds his or her feet. So, I’m hoping this series picks up. Despite having already been canned, to be replaced (sort of) by Justice League International (or, JL Canada, as I like to call it, for reasons).

*

RocketGirl-Vol.1Rocket Girl, Vol.1 – “Times Squared” (Image)

Writer: Brandon Montclare | Artist: Amy Reeder

A teenage cop from a hightech future is sent back in time to 1986 New York City. Dayoung Johansson is investigating the Quintum Mechanics megacorporation for crimes against time. As she pieces together the clues, she discovers the “future” she calls home – an alternate reality version of 2014 – shouldn’t exist at all!

This series has been garnering a lot of attention, recently. I picked up the first issue via ComiXology, but I got the first collection via NetGalley. Expect a review very soon.

*

RogueTrooper-Vol.01 (Ruckley)Rogue Trooper, Vol.1 (IDW)

Writer: Brian Ruckley | Artist: Alberto Ponticelli

Nu-Earth, just another planet ravaged by a galaxy-wide war, its atmosphere poisoned by chemical weapons. Created to fight in such conditions were the G.I.s – genetically engineered infantrymen. But now only one remains, the man known as… Rogue Trooper.

Years ago – years! – I had a subscription to 2000AD. One of my favourite characters and series therein was Rogue Trooper. Not only that, I’ve really enjoyed Brian Ruckley’s fiction Edinburgh Dead in particular). So when I learned that he was writing a Rogue Trooper story, I was very intrigued indeed. I picked up this ARC from NetGalley.

*

The World According to Wolverine & Spider-Man, by Matthew K. Manning & Daniel Wallace (Bantam)

Two interesting diversions for fans of the characters

WorldAccordingToWolverineTHE WORLD ACCORDING TO WOLVERINE

Writer: Matthew K. Manning | Illustrations: Stephen Mooney

In The World According to Wolverine, Marvel Comics’ favorite stoic loner finally opens up on a range of topics that are close to his mutant heart. With helpful tips on everything from clawed combat to outdoor survival and dealing with the agony of adamantium implantation, this book will delight fans who want to learn how to be just like the headstrong hero. Also featuring Logan’s ruminations on an extremely long and checkered life, his global travels, and the art of picking the perfect partner, The World According to Wolverine will offer unparalleled insight into one of the most fascinating and mysterious characters in the Marvel Comics universe. The book will also come with a number of removable items, including a postcard from Madripoor, snapshots of Wolverine’s lost loves, a wanted poster for Dog Logan, an exclusive Wolverine poster, and much, much more.

WorldAccordingToSpiderManTHE WORLD ACCORDING TO SPIDER-MAN

Writer: Daniel Wallace | Illustrations: Mirco Pierfederici

It’s not easy being a Super Hero when you’ve got a steady job to hold down and girlfriend problems to deal with. Somehow, Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) manages to do it while regularly saving New York City from a rogues’ gallery of super villains. In The World According to Spider-Man, the wisecracking hero spills the beans on how he balances his two lives and manages to keep his trademark sense of humor, even while he’s tangling with Doc Ock or the Green Goblin. The book comes with a wealth of incredible inserts, including clippings from the Daily Bugle, snapshots taken by Spidey on his adventures, a letter from Oscorp, a note from Mary Jane Watson, a page from Uncle Ben’s diary, schematics showing how the web-shooters work, and much, much more.

I hadn’t heard of these two books before they arrived in the mail. As a fan of both of these characters, but also one who hasn’t read as widely as I might of their varied exploits, these books proved rather fun and informative. They’re also pretty funny, and I think both Manning, Wallace and their illustrators have done a great job.

I’ve been trying to figure out for whom these books would be best suited. And I’m finding it a little difficult to identify the best audience clearly. Dedicated and long-term followers of Wolverine and Spider-Man will most likely know a lot of the information contained within, so they will be unlikely to be confronted by surprises. At the same time, new converts will likely miss a fair number of the inside jokes and references in these books. Of these two groups, the dedicated would probably enjoy them more, while the newcomer would find them good reference texts.

Each of the books is filled with lots of details on each of these characters, their closest comrades and respective rogues’ galleries. We get their origin stories, presented with original material from the comics, and also details of their evolutions and different aspects over their long, illustrious careers. Also included are amusing bits of ‘pull-out’ material. For example, in the Spider-Man volume, we have Peter Parker’s dismissal letter from J. Jonah Jameson, Jr. (“Parker, this is a difficult letter for me to write, since I’d much rather be delivering it in person so I could throttle your skinny little neck…”), Spider-Man’s New York Driving Licence, and also Spidey-related headlines. In the Wolverine book, we have a Wanted poster, a Canadian Central Railroad ticket from 1909, Logan’s CIA identity card, and also an email from Tony Stark (asking Logan to keep scarce because he doesn’t want his Iron Man suit from being scuffed or damaged – signing off, “xoxo… P.S. In all seriousness, please don’t stab me”).

There’s good strain of humour running through both of the books – clearly, the authors are big fans of their respective subjects, and while they are perfectly capable of seeing the absurdities of each, they present it with an obvious fondness and love for Logan and Peter, their legacies and quirks.

If you are a fan of either of these characters, then I strongly recommend you check these two books out. They aren’t long reads, but they offer some great background and source material, tinged with an air of nostalgia that should appeal to comic fans, young and old.

Books Received (May/June)…

BooksReceived-20140604

A quieter couple of weeks, thankfully. This gives me some (miniscule) hope of catching up a little bit…

Featuring: Samit Basu, Joanna Briscoe, Troy Denning, Kevin Hearne, Hugh Howey, Bruce McCabe, Sandra Newman, Karin Slaughter, Anne Thayer, Angus Watson, Louise Welsh

Basu-T2-ResistanceSamit Basu, Resistance (Titan)

Eleven years after the passengers of flight BA142 from London to Delhi developed extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires, the world is overrun with supers. Some use their powers for good, others for evil, and some just want to smash up iconic monuments and get on TV. But now someone is hunting down supers, killing heroes and villains both, and it’s up to the Unit to stop them…

This actually turned up at my old address in New York (which I left in January 2013…). I still need to get around to reading Turbulence, but I am very much looking forward to catching up and reading this.

*

BriscoeJ-TouchedJoanna Briscoe, Touched (Hammer)

1963: Rowena Crale and her family have recently moved into an old house in a small English village.

But the house appears to be resisting all attempts at renovation.

Walls ooze damp. Stains come through layers of wallpaper. Ceilings sag. And strange noises – voices – emanate from empty rooms.

As Rowena struggles with the upheaval of builders while trying to be a dutiful wife to her husband and a good mother to her five small children, her life starts to disintegrate.

And then her eldest and prettiest daughter goes missing.

Out in the village, a frantic search is mounted – while inside the house reveals its darkest secret: a hidden room with no windows and no obvious entrance.

Boarded up, it smells of old food, disinfectant – and death…

Set in a world where appearances are everything, and nothing is as it seems, Touched is unsettling, claustrophobic, and utterly gripping.

Never heard of the novel before it arrived in the mail. Could be interesting. May get to it.

*

SW-Crucible(Denning)PBTroy Denning, Crucible (Arrow)

Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, and Luke Skywalker return in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which will challenge them in ways they never expected – and forever alter their understanding of life and the Force.

When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes – and far deadlier consequences.

Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. They will stop at nothing to control the lucrative Outer Rim mining trade – and ultimately the entire galactic economy. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.

I remain woefully behind on my Star Wars reading. I just couldn’t get into Apocalypse, the final book in the final (I hope) nine-book arc that comes just before this (and Mercy Kill). I hope, at some point, to finish off Apocalypse, in order to get to this novel. It sounds good, and I like the prospect of a stand-alone after so many multi-book stories.

*

Hearne-7-ShatteredKevin Hearne, Shattered (Orbit)

For nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth – Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is finally a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern name Owen Kennedy.

And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki – or merely a pain in the arse.

As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time… three’s a charm.

This is the seventh book in Hearne’s Iron Druid series. I’ve only read the first two – both of which I very much enjoyed – so I’ll have to get my arse in gear to get caught up.

*

HoweyH-SandUKHugh Howey, Sand (Century)

The old world is buried. A new one has been forged atop the shifting dunes. Here in this land of howling wind and infernal sand, four siblings find themselves scattered and lost.

Palmer has never been the same since his father walked out twelve years ago. His elder sister, Vic, is trying to run away from the past; his younger brothers, Connor and Rob, are risking their lives to embrace it. His mother, left with nothing but anger, is just trying to forget.

Palmer wants to prove his worth, not only to his family, but to himself. And in the barren, dune-covered landscape of his home, there is only one way to earn respect: sand-diving. Plunging deep below the desert floor in search of relics and scraps of the old world. He is about to embark on the most dangerous dive of his young life, aiming to become the first to discover the rumoured city below.

Deep within the sand lies the key to bringing his family together – and tearing their world apart.

Still haven’t read anything by Hugh Howey. I am intrigued by the whole Wool saga. I just never got my hands on the first one when I could read it, so it’s fallen by the wayside. This seems to be a standalone, or the start of a new series, so I think I may start with this one.

*

McCabeB-SkinjobUKMcCabe, Skinjob (Transworld)

A bomb goes off in down town San Francisco. Twelve people are dead. But this is no ordinary target. This target exists on the fault line where sex and money meet.

Daniel Madsen is one of a new breed of federal agents armed with a badge, a gun and the Bureau’s latest piece of technology. He’s a fast operator and his instructions are simple: find the bomber – and before he strikes again.

In order to understand what is at stake, Madsen must plunge into a sleazy, unsettling world where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable, exploitation is business as usual, and the dead hand of corruption reaches all the way to the top. There’s too much money involved for this investigation to stay private…

This sounds like an interesting thriller. I’ve seen mixed responses from others, but I’m intrigued enough that I’m going to give it a try.

*

Newman-CountryOfIceCreamStarSandra Newman, The Country of Ice Cream Star (Knopf)

A post-apocalyptic literary epic in the tradition of The Handmaid’s Tale, Divergent and Cloud Atlas, and a breakout book in North America for a writer of rare and unconventional talent.

From Guardian First Book Award finalist Sandra Newman comes an ambitious and extraordinary novel of a future in which bands of children and teens survive on the detritus – physical and cultural – of a collapsed America. When her brother is struck down by Posies – a contagion that has killed everyone by their late teens for generations – fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star pursues the rumour of a cure and sets out on a quest to save him, her tribe and what’s left of their future. Along the way she faces broken hearts and family tragedy, mortal danger and all-out war – and much growing up for the girl who may have led herself and everyone she loves to their doom.

That first paragraph in the synopsis gets rather close to raising expectations rather too high… Nevertheless, this is a novel I’ve known about for a while. It sounds interesting, so I’ll try to get to it relatively soon. In fact, perhaps very soon, as I’m currently experiencing some post-novel What-To-Read-Next indecisiveness…

*

SlaughterK-CopTownUKKarin Slaughter, Cop Town (Century)

An epic story of a city in the midst of seismic upheaval, a serial killer targeting cops, and a divided police force tasked with bringing a madman to justice.

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way – wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

Relentlessly paced, acutely observed, wickedly funny, and often heartbreaking, Cop Town is Karin Slaughter’s most powerful novel yet – a tour de force of storytelling from our foremost master of character, atmosphere, and suspense.

This is apparently Slaughter’s first stand-alone novel. Which is handy, as I’ve never read anything by the author buy have always wanted to. My series OCD means I would always want to go back to the beginning. This sounds pretty good, though, so I may be able to get to this rather soon. Maybe even next, I still can’t decide what I’m going to read next (currently reading non-fiction only, because I couldn’t decide).

*

Anna Thayer, The Traitor’s Heir & The King’s Hand (Lion Fiction)

Thayer-KnightOfEldaran-1to2

In an epic and mystical tale that resonates with modern times, the young Eamon Goodman goes on a journey of discovery. A journey which sees him taking an increasingly pivotal role in the battle between the rival forces of the king and the master, and takes him from being a young soldier in his home of Edesfield to being a fast-rising hero in the dense and rotten city of Dunthruik.

Under the watchful eye of Lord Cathair, in the loving arms of Lady Alessia Turnholt, and torn between enemy forces, Eamon’s experiences lead him to question the nature and true meaning of some of the most important things in life – love and friendship, loyalty and honour, and who he really is. But will the answers he finds lead him to become true to himself and true to his name? Will they lead him to become a good man?

These could be interesting. If maybe a bit derivative. The author is a lecturer on and scholar of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, apparently.

*

WatsonA-AgeOfIronAngus Watson, Age of Iron (Orbit)

LEGENDS AREN’T BORN. THEY’RE MADE.

Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary traveling south to join up with King Zadar’s army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people.

First Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar’s most fearsome warriors, who has vowed revenge on the king for her sister’s execution.

Now Dug’s on the wrong side of the thousands-strong army he hoped to join – and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one small child, and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that’s going to get them all killed…

Another new grimdark fantasy? Well, yes. And no. It seems to be a fantasy version of the Iron Age, with Britons versus Romans. This could be very cool, in other words.

*

WelshL-ALovelyWayToBurnUKLouise Welsh, A Lovely Way To Burn (Hodder & Stoughton)

It doesn’t look like murder in a city full of death. A pandemic called “The Sweats” is sweeping the globe. London is a city in crisis. Hospitals begin to fill with the dead and dying, but Stevie Flint is convinced that the sudden death of her boyfriend Dr. Simon Sharkey was not from natural causes. As roads out of London become gridlocked with people fleeing infection, Stevie’s search for Simon’s killers takes her in the opposite direction, into the depths of the dying city and a race with death.

A Lovely Way to Burn is the first outbreak in the Plague Times trilogy. Chilling, tense and completely compelling, it’s Louise Welsh writing at the height of her powers.

Actually got this a while ago via NetGalley, but I couldn’t get the PDF eARC to work. It suddenly dropped quite dramatically in price for Kindle, though, so I snapped it up. I’ll get to it pretty soon, I’m sure.

Music Interlude: Within Temptation’s “And We Run”

One of my favourite bands, Within Temptation last week released their new single and accompanying music video, “And We Run”. It features, rather interestingly (and perhaps unexpectedly) Xzibit. And it’s actually pretty good. The song is from their latest album, Hydra.

WithinTemptation-Hydra

Trailer: “This is Where I Leave You”

A bit of a departure from the usual trailer fare that I share on CR, but I think this looks like it could be fun. A stellar cast, too – Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Dax Shepherd, the alcoholic congressman from season one of House of Cards, and other good actors! I’ve never read any of Jonathan Tropper’s novels, but I did recently pick up a couple of them on sale. So, hopefully I’ll get around to reading them relatively soon. Here’s the trailer…

Tropper-ThisIsWhereILeaveYouAnd the novel’s synopsis…

The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family – including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister – have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public.

Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.

As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant.

This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper’s most accomplished work to date, a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind – whether we like it or not.