Quick Review: THE MURDER RULE by Dervla McTiernan (William Morrow)

McTiernanD-MurderRuleUSHCA young law student tries to derail a murder trial

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

 They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Dervla McTiernan’s latest novel has been getting quite a bit of good buzz in the lead up to publication. The synopsis was intriguing, and I’m always on the look-out for new authors to follow. (Because, you know, I never have enough to read.) After receiving a review copy, I dove right in, and blitzed through it in just a few sittings. This is a well-paced, well-written, and gripping thriller. Continue reading

Upcoming: GROUPIES by Sarah Priscus (William Morrow)

PriscusS-GroupiesUSHCThere has been a string of novels over the past few years that take place in and adjacent to the 1970s music scene — most notably, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six, Emma Brodie’s Songs in Ursa Major, Jessica Anya Blau’s Mary Jane, and Glenn Dixon’s Bootleg Stardust, to name but four. As it happens, I’m a big fan of this (sub-)genre, so I’m very much looking forward to Sarah Priscus‘s debut novel, Groupies, which “shines a bright light on the grungy yet glittery world of 1970s rock ‘n’ roll and the women – the groupies – who unapologetically love too much in a world that doesn’t love them back.” Here’s the synopsis:

It’s 1977, and Faun Novak is in love with rock ‘n’ roll.

After her mother’s death, Faun, a naïve college dropout, grabs her Polaroid and hops a Greyhound to Los Angeles. In the City of Angels, she reconnects with her charismatic childhood friend Josie, now an up-and-coming model and muse. To make their reunion even sweeter, Josie is now dating Cal Holiday, the frontman of the superstar rock band Holiday Sun, and Faun is positively mesmerized.

Except it’s not just the band she can’t get enough of. It’s also the proud groupies who support them in myriad ways. Among the groupies are: a doting high school girl at war with her mother; a drug-dealing wife and new mom who longs to be a star herself; and a cynical mover-and-shaker with a soft spot for Holiday Sun’s bassist.

Faun obsessively photographs every aspect of this dazzling new world, struggling to balance her artistic ambitions with the band’s expectations. As her confidence grows for the first time in her life, her priorities shift. She becomes reckless with friendship, romance, her ethics, and her bank account.

But just as everything is going great and her boring, old life is falling away, Faun realizes just how blind she has been to the darkest corners of this glamorous musical dreamland as the summer heats up and everything spirals out of control…

Equal parts an evocative coming-of-age and a cutting look at fame, desire, and the media, Groupies is a novel that will have you turning the pages until the music- and drug-fueled end.

Sarah Priscus’s Groupies is due to be published in North America by William Morrow, on July 12th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: BLOOD, SWEAT & CHROME by (William Morrow)

BuchananK-BloodSweath&ChromeUSHCIs it just me, or are we living in a bit of a golden age for movie and TV oral histories? It’s still not a massive sub-field in publishing, true, but I’ve seen quite a few upcoming books announced, and have also read quite a few over the past couple of years. As someone who very much enjoys behind-the-scenes content, I fully support this. To that end, let me draw your attention to Blood, Sweat & Chrome by Kyle BuchananNew York Times pop culture reporter and “The Projectionist” (awards season columnist). It is the “wild and true” oral history of Mad Max: Fury Road!

A full-speed-ahead oral history of the nearly two-decade making of the cultural phenomenon Mad Max: Fury Road — with more than 130 new interviews with key members of the cast and crew, including Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and director George Miller, from the pop culture reporter for The New York Times, Kyle Buchanan.

It won six Oscars and has been hailed as the greatest action film ever, but it is a miracle Mad Max: Fury Road ever made it to the screen… or that anybody survived the production. The story of this modern classic spanned nearly two decades of wild obstacles as visionary director George Miller tried to mount one of the most difficult shoots in Hollywood history.

Production stalled several times, stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron clashed repeatedly in the brutal Namib Desert, and Miller’s crew engineered death-defying action scenes that were among the most dangerous ever committed to film. Even accomplished Hollywood figures are flummoxed by the accomplishment: As the director Steven Soderbergh has said, “I don’t understand how they’re not still shooting that film, and I don’t understand how hundreds of people aren’t dead.”

Kyle Buchanan takes readers through every step of that moviemaking experience in vivid detail, from Fury Road’s unexpected origins through its outlandish casting process to the big-studio battles that nearly mutilated a masterpiece. But he takes the deepest dive in reporting the astonishing facts behind a shoot so unconventional that the film’s fantasy world began to bleed into the real lives of its cast and crew. As they fought and endured in a wasteland of their own, the only way forward was to have faith in their director’s mad vision. But how could Miller persevere when almost everything seemed to be stacked against him?

With hundreds of exclusive interviews and details about the making of Fury Road, readers will be left with one undeniable conclusion: There has never been a movie so drenched in sweat, so forged by fire, and so epic in scope.

Really looking forward to reading this. Blood, Sweat & Chrome is due to be published by William Morrow in North America and in the UK, on February 22nd, 2022.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Very Quick Review: THE 6TH EXTINCTION by James Rollins (William Morrow)

RollinsJ-SF10-6thExtinctionUSPBThe tenth Sigma Force novel

A remote military research station broadcasts a frantic distress call that ends with a chilling message: Kill us all. When soldiers arrive to investigate, they discover everyone in the lab is dead — not just the scientists, but every living thing for fifty square miles is annihilated: every animal, plant, and insect, even bacteria. The land is completely sterile — and the blight is spreading.

To prevent the inevitable, Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma must decipher a threat that rises out of the distant past, a time when Antarctica was green and Earth’s life balanced on a knife edge. Following clues from an ancient map rescued from the lost Library of Alexandria, Sigma will make a shocking discovery involving a prehistoric continent, and a new form of death buried under miles of ice.

From millennia-old secrets out of the frozen past to mysteries buried deep in the darkest jungles of today, Sigma will face its greatest challenge yet: stopping the coming extinction of mankind.

But is it already too late?

I’ve been a long-time fan of James Rollins’s Sigma Force novels. I fell behind for a bit, though, and recently decided that it was time for me to get caught up. And so, I eagerly dove in to The 6th Extinction, hoping for some action-packed mystery and globe-trotting adventure. I was not at all disappointed. Continue reading

Quick Review: STEVE KERR by Scott Howard-Cooper (William Morrow)

HowardCooperS-SteveKerrUSHCThe definitive biography of Steve Kerr, the championship-winning basketball player and head coach of the record-breaking Golden State Warriors

Few individuals have had a career as storied, and improbable, as Steve Kerr. He has won eight NBA titles — five as a player and three as a coach — for three different franchises. He played alongside the best players of a generation, from Michael Jordan to Shaquille O’Neal to Tim Duncan, and learned the craft of basketball under four legendary coaches. He was an integral part of two famed NBA dynasties. Perhaps no other figure in basketball history has had a hand in such greatness.

In Steve Kerr, award-winning sports journalist Scott Howard-Cooper uncovers the fascinating life story of a basketball legend. Kerr did not follow a traditional path to the NBA. He was born in Beirut to two academics and split his childhood between California and the Middle East. Though he was an impressive shooter, the undersized Kerr garnered almost no attention from major college programs, managing only at the last moment to snag the final scholarship at the University of Arizona. Then, during his freshman season at Arizona, tragedy struck. His father, Malcolm, then the president of the American University of Beirut, was assassinated in Lebanon by terrorists. Forged by the crucible of this family saga, Steve went on to chart an unparalleled life in basketball, on the court and on the sidelines.

The only coach other than Red Auerbach to lead a team to the Finals five consecutive seasons, Kerr seems destined for the Basketball Hall of Fame. Steve Kerr is his incredible story, offering insights into the man and what it takes to be — and make — a champion. Drawing upon Scott Howard-Cooper’s years covering the Warriors, deep archival research, and original interviews with more than one hundred of the central characters in Kerr’s life, this is basketball biography at its finest.

I first learned who Steve Kerr was during the Golden State Warriors’ championship runs from 2014-19 (a run the Raptors ended). Over those years, I picked up bits and pieces of information about his playing career — specifically, that he was on the Chicago Bulls during Michael Jordan’s post-baseball years back on the team. It wasn’t until The Last Dance docu-series that I learned a bit more about his pre-Warriors life. With Scott Howard-Cooper’s Steve Kerr: A Life, I’ve been able to fill in the gaps. This is a very good picture of Kerr’s fascinating life, on and off the court. Continue reading

Quick Review: MARY JANE by Jessica Anya Blau (Custom House)

BlauJA-MaryJaneUSA young woman finds herself during a momentous summer

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job — helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

This novel is pitched as “Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six” — one of my favourite movies, and one of my favourite recent novels. So, of course, my interest was piqued. After finishing it, I think it’s a pretty apt comparison, but this novel stands very much on its own, too. Mary Jane is a warm-hearted, well-written story of Mary Jane’s coming-of-age in 1970s Baltimore, during a momentous summer. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: MEET ME IN ANOTHER LIFE by Catriona Silvey (Voyager)

SilveyC-MeetMeInAnotherLifeUSI only recently stumbled across information about Catriona Silvey‘s upcoming debut novel, Meet Me in Another Life. It was mentioned with a comparison to Kate Atkinson, Audrey Niffenegger, and Claire North, so I decided to check it out. I can see why those comparisons make sense, but the synopsis suggests something quite different, but equally intriguing:

Two people. Infinite lifetimes. One impossible choice.

Thora and Santi are strangers in a foreign city when a chance encounter intertwines their fates. At once, they recognize in each other a kindred spirit — someone who shares their insatiable curiosity, who is longing for more in life than the cards they’ve been dealt. Only days later, though, a tragic accident cuts their story short.

SilveyC-MeetMeInAnotherLifeUKBut this is only one of the many connections they share. Like satellites trapped in orbit around each other, Thora and Santi are destined to meet again: as a teacher and brilliant student; a caretaker and dying patient; a cynic and believer. In numerous lives they become friends, colleagues, lovers, and enemies. As blurred memories and strange patterns compound, Thora and Santi come to a shocking revelation — they must discover the truth of their mysterious attachment before their many lives come to one, final end.

By turns joyful, devastating, and quietly profound, Meet Me in Another Life is a spectacularly compelling page-turner filled with astonishing twists that affirms the power of love to connect us beyond time and space.

Catriona Silvey’s Meet Me in Another Life is due to be published by William Morrow in North America (April 27th) and Voyager in the UK (July 8th). Really looking forward to reading this.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: MARY JANE by Jessica Anya Blau (Custom House)

BlauJA-MaryJaneUSThere have been quite a few novels released in the past couple of years (and upcoming) with music at the heart of them. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six and David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue are notable stand-outs and successes. In 2021, we can add Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau to this genre, and also to my growing list of most-anticipated novels of the year. Pitched as “Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six“, here’s the synopsis:

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job — helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

Jessica Anya Blau’s Mary Jane is due to be published by Custom House in North America (May 11th) and in the UK (May 27th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: THE UNRAVELING OF CASSIDY HOLMES by Elissa R. Sloan (William Morrow)

SloanER-UnravelingOfCassidyJonesUSThe dark side of celebrity and early success

Cassidy Holmes isn’t just a celebrity.

She is “Sassy Gloss,” the fourth member of the hottest pop group America has ever seen. Hotter than Britney dancing with a snake, hotter than Christina getting dirrty, Gloss was the pop act that everyone idolized. Fans couldn’t get enough of them, their music, and the drama that followed them like moths to a flame—until the group’s sudden implosion in 2002. And at the center of it all was Sassy Cassy, the Texan with a signature smirk that had everyone falling for her. 

But now she’s dead. Suicide.

The world is reeling from this unexpected news, but no one is more shocked than the three remaining Glossies. Fifteen years ago, Rose, Merry, and Yumi had been the closest to Cassidy, and this loss is hitting them hard. Before the group split, they each had a special bond with Cassidy — truths they told, secrets they shared. But after years apart, each of them is wondering: what could they have done?

I’m very fond of novels set in and around the entertainment industry. Elissa R. Sloan’s debut novel was pitched as being in the same vein as Taylor Jenkins Reid’s (superb) Daisy Jones & the Six, so my attention was immediately grabbed. I read this very soon after receiving it, and I’m happy to say I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS / RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS by Peter Swanson (William Morrow / Faber)

SwansonP-EightPerfectMurdersAn intriguing new mystery about a bookseller who finds himself at the centre of an FBI investigation…

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack — which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders” — chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move — a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects… and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead — and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

The synopsis for this caught my attention, and the publishers were kind enough to approve my request to review it (both the North American and UK publisher gave me access to DRCs). Strangely, given how interesting Swanson’s novels sound, this is the first of his that I’ve read. An engaging and gripping read, I zipped through this in just a couple of very enjoyable sittings. Continue reading