Monday, June 30, 2014

Short Fiction Review: “The Bloody Deluge” by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Abaddon)

Various-JournalOfThePlagueYearA very good post-apocalyptic story from the author of the Shadows of the Apt series


The Cull swept the world in the early years of the twenty-first century, killing billions and ending civilisation as we know it. Only a fortunate few, blessed with the right blood, were spared. But in times of need, heroes rise. Leaders, soldiers, rebels – even children – take a stand, to hold back the tide of savagery and set a light in the darkness…

Katy Lewkowitz and her friend and old tutor Dr. Emil Weber, fleeing the depredations of the so-called New Teutonic Order, take refuge among the strangely anachronistic survivors at the monastery of Jasna Góra in Western Poland. A battle of faith ensues, that could decide the future of humankind…

This is the first non-fantasy story of Tchaikovsky’s that I’ve read. It is also the first story I’ve read from Abaddon Books’ Afterblight series. With that in mind, I approached it concerned that I would be lost, missing important backstory and context for this post-apocalyptic world. However, I was very pleased to discover that this works perfectly well without past experience with the series. It’s very well-written, and moves at a pretty brisk pace. This is a good story.

Books Received… (Amazon Associates Pay-Back)


I’ve been signed up to the Amazon Associates programme for what feels like forever, but this month was the first time I’ve earned enough to receive pay-back. So, as I always intended to do, that money will be going towards books that I will be reviewing here. Given the timing, some of this money will go towards buying eBooks of ARCs I’ve received and won’t be able to take with me to Canada. (Sad.) Much like the “Books Received” posts, therefore, I thought I’d share details on the books I bought (so far) with the Amazon credit…

Featuring: Megan Abbott, Edward Cox, Mark Charan Newton, Joanna Rakoff, Django Wexler

“The Target” by David Baldacci (Macmillan)

Baldacci-WR3-TargetUKThe third Will Robie thriller sets him and Jessica Reel on a collision courts with the Hermit Kingdom…

The President knows it’s a perilous, high-risk assignment. If he gives the order, he has the opportunity to take down a global menace, once and for all. If the mission fails, he would face certain impeachment, and the threats against the nation would multiply. So the president turns to the one team that can pull off the impossible: Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel.

Together, Robie and Reel’s talents as assassins are unmatched. But there are some in power who don’t trust the pair. They doubt their willingness to follow orders. And they will do anything to see that the two assassins succeed, but that they do not survive.

As they prepare for their mission, Reel faces a personal crisis that could well lead old enemies right to her doorstep, resurrecting the ghosts of her earlier life and bringing stark danger to all those close to her. And all the while, Robie and Reel are stalked by a new adversary: an unknown and unlikely assassin, a woman who has trained her entire life to kill, and who has her own list of targets – a list that includes Will Robie and Jessica Reel.

The Target is another great addition to this relatively-new series from Baldacci. Taking the popular central character of government assassin, the author has managed to forge a somewhat original path. The novel is gripping, excellently-paced, and well-researched. As has become the norm with Baldacci’s novels, I really enjoyed reading this.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Books Received… (June)


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

Fantastic Artwork by Mehrdad Isvandi (Apex Magazine, April 2014)

Posting this just now makes me rather slow, but I stumbled across this cover for Apex Magazine’s April 2014 issue last night on Twitter, and had to share it. The artwork is by Iranian-born artist Mehrdad Isvandi. I love pretty much everything about the piece…


Friday, June 27, 2014

Quick Review: “The Innocent” by Taylor Stevens (Arrow)

StevensT-M2-TheInnocentUKReviewed by H.

The second Vanessa Michael Munroe thriller

Eight years ago, a man walked five-year-old Hannah out the front doors of her school and spirited her over the Mexican border, taking her into the world of a cult known as The Chosen.

Now, after years of searching, childhood survivors of the group have found the girl in Argentina. But getting her out is a whole new challenge.

For the rescue they need someone who is brilliant, fearless and utterly ruthless.

They need Vanessa Michael Munroe.

This is the second novel featuring the tough, highly-competent private detective Vanessa Michael Munroe (after The Informationist). It’s a great, gripping read – fast-paced and thought-provoking, this should certainly appeal to fans of Stieg Larsson and Robert Ludlum, and anyone looking for a thriller series with a strong female protagonist.

Drawing on her own experiences with a cult, Stevens does a fantastic job of highlighting the sinister influence and nature of such groups. The novel also fleshes out Munroe’s own past, expands and deepens the relationships she has with her friends and colleagues. The coersive tactics, the brainwashing that make those taken in… It’s very well explained and brought to creepy life on the page.

Stevens does a really fantastic job, here. Her prose is tightly-written, the plot very well-paced (I read this very quickly), and her characters three-dimensional, realistic and developing well. This is a superb series, and if you haven’t discovered Munroe’s adventures, yet, then I strongly urge you do so. It’s not necessary to start with The Informationist, though, as this is an independently intelligible sequel. There are more novels to come, and also an eBook novella available. I can’t wait to read the third novel, The Doll.

Very highly recommended.

Also on CR: Interview with Taylor Stevens

Thursday, June 26, 2014

News: Vince Flynn’s MITCH RAPP Series to Continue!

Last September, I wrote a piece about how the movie Olympus Has Fallen bore some incredible similarities to Vince Flynn’s Transfer of Power. The piece was pretty short, but I also mentioned in it the fact that Flynn passed away in June 2013. It was also reported, through Flynn’s newsletter, that the planned next novel in the series, The Survivor, had been indefinitely suspended.

Since then, however, some very interesting news has arrived in my inbox! On June 22nd, Flynn’s Newsletter announced that “Mitch Rapp series will continue; The Survivor Tentatively Scheduled for 2015”!

As it turns out, one of my favourite thriller authors, Kyle Mills, has been selected to continue the series by Flynn’s estate and Emily Bestler, Senior VP and Editor-in-Chief of Emily Bestler Books. From the press release:

Mills will complete The Survivor, the book Flynn was writing at the time of his death on June 19, 2013, and then write two additional Mitch Rapp novels. The Survivor is tentatively scheduled to release in the fall of 2015.

“I’m really honored to have been asked to continue the Mitch Rapp series,” Mills said, “Vince was a great guy who helped me out in my career and as a diehard Rapp fan, I know how devastated his readers are. They’re big shoes to fill, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of continuing an iconic thriller character.”

“Vince and Mitch Rapp are so beloved by readers,” Bestler said, “It’s wonderful that we’ve found just the right partner to uphold the legacy of both.”

“To Vince’s wonderful fans, thank you for your love, support and patience,” Vince’s widow, Lysa Flynn said, “Vince was very proud of his team and we are confident that Kyle Mills will be a great addition. God bless and keep the faith!”

Mills is the author of the Mark Beamon thrillers and a handful of stand-alone thrillers. Most recently, he wrote The Immortalists (which, I am ashamed to admit, I have not read yet) and also The Ares Decision, The Utopia Experiment, and the upcoming The Von Neumann Machine – books 8, 10 and 1? of Tom Clancy’s Covert-One series. Many of Mills’s novels are very hard to find in the UK, which I think is a crime. It is also why it has always taken me a long time to get around to reading them – I discovered his novels well before CR was ever a thing.


Mark Beamon Series: Rising Phoenix, Storming Heaven, Free Fall, Sphere of Influence and Darkness Falls


Stand-Alone Novels: Burn Factor, Smoke Screen, Fade, The Second Horseman, Lords of Corruption, The Immortalists


Upcoming: “Gray Mountain” by John Grisham (Doubleday)

Grisham-GrayMountainUSI’m a big fan of John Grisham’s novels. They don’t all click for me, but many of them have been thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining. Today, details of his next thriller were unveiled! The novel, Gray Mountain, is due to be published in the US in October 2014 (not sure about the UK, yet). Here’s the description from Grisham’s website:

The Great Recession of 2008 left many young professionals out of work. Promising careers were suddenly ended as banks, hedge funds, and law firms engaged in mass lay-offs and brutal belt tightening. Samantha Kofer was a third year associate at Scully & Pershing, New York City’s largest law firm. Two weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, she lost her job, her security, and her future. A week later she was working as an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic deep in small town Appalachia. There, for the first time in her career, she was confronted with real clients with real problems. She also stumbled across secrets that should have remained buried deep in the mountains forever.

Upcoming: “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” by Jill Lepore (Knopf)

LeporeJ-SecretHistoryOfWonderWomanI am a huge fan of Jill Lepore’s writing – both long-form and also her journalism and shorter pieces. A professor of American History at Harvard University (and a staff writer at The New Yorker), Lepore has written extensively about history and how we interpret, teach, and read the history of the United States. Last year, I read the paperback edition of The Story of America, which was easily one of the best books I read in 2013. Perhaps of more interest to the readers of Civilian Reader, though, her upcoming work is about the fan-favourite Amazon warrior from the Justice League: Wonder Woman. Due to be published on October 28th, 2014 by Knopf. Here’s the rather long synopsis:

Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, no superhero has lasted as long or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. In the more than seven decades since she first appeared, her comic books have never been out of print. In years of interviews and archival research, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Lepore has discovered that, from Marston’s days as a Harvard undergraduate, he was influenced by early suffragists and feminists, starting with the British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst, who was banned from speaking on campus in 1911, when Marston was a freshman. In the 1920s, Marston and his wife brought into their home, as Marston’s mistress, the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century. The Marston family story – a house of one man, three women, and four children-is a story of drama, intrigue, and irony. In the 1930s, Marston and Sanger’s niece together wrote a regular column for Family Circle celebrating conventional family life, even as they pursued a life of extraordinary nonconformity. No less fascinating is Marston’s role as the inventor of the lie detector. Internationally known as an expert on truth, he lived a life of secrets-only to spill them on the pages of the Wonder Woman comics he began writing in 1941.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a tour-de-force of intellectual and cultural history, explaining not only the mysterious origins of the world's most famous female superhero, but solving some of the most vexing puzzles in the American past. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights – a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.

Given how prominent the character has been in not only the comics and SFF communities (specifically the absence of plans for a Wonder Woman big-budget movie), but in pop-culture and gender studies communities, this is a very timely book. I’m really looking forward to this.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Interview with RACHEL POLLACK

PollackRachel-2014Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Rachel Pollack?

I’m a 68 year old writer living in the Hudson Valley of New York, after 19 years living in Europe primarily Amsterdam. THE CHILD EATER is my 36th book, coming right on the heels of 35, a non-fiction guide to a new oracle card deck, called The Burning Serpent, conceived and developed with artist Robert M. Place. This is fitting, since my first novel, Golden Vanity, was published at the same time, summer of 1980 as my first Tarot book, 78 Degrees of Wisdom. Golden Vanity is available now from Gollancz as an e-book (along with all my previous SF books), but otherwise long out of print. 78 Degrees has never been out of print, and is sold all around the world. My novel Unquenchable Fire won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, while Godmother Night won the World Fantasy Award. Temporary Agency was short-listed for the Nebula. I’ve published seven novels, plus two collections of short stories, one of reprints and one of all-new stories. I’ve also had a chapbook of poetry published, and created a Tarot deck, The Shining Tribe, drawing all the cards myself. A few years ago I co-translated the ancient Greek play Oedipus Rex, working with a scholar of ancient languages named David Vine. Our version is called Tyrant Oidipous.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Interview with ALISON GAYLIN


Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Alison Gaylin?

Hmm, I’m still trying to figure that one out.  For the purposes of this blog, I am a suspense writer and reader of all sorts of things.

Your next novel, Stay With Me, the third in your Brenna Spector Trilogy, is due to be published in June by Harper. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader? What can fans of the series expect?

STAY WITH ME is the third book in the Brenna Spector suspense series, and the culmination of what readers of the series would know as the “Clea Trilogy.” Brenna is a private investigator blessed – and cursed – with hyperthymesia (perfect autobiographical memory.) It makes her pretty great at her job, but it wreaks havoc on her relationships with others. (How can you forgive and forget when you can never forget?) She specializes in missing persons cases, but the one missing person she’s never been able to find is her older sister Clea, who got into a blue car 28 years ago when she was 17, never to appear again. That event triggered Brenna’s hyperthymesia at the age of 11 and has haunted her ever since. In STAY WITH ME, Brenna’s life is turned upside down when her 13-year-old daughter, Maya, disappears. Also in the book, the mystery of Clea – which plays a major role in the first two books, AND SHE WAS and INTO THE DARK – is finally solved.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Guest Post: “Writing Real Women” by Jon Wallace

WallaceJon-AuthorPicI reckon that one of the hardest things in the world, when you’re starting out as a writer, is when a friend critiques something you’ve written. You’ve put (what you regard) as a lot into it, you’re convinced it’s unparalleled genius, and when you meet to discuss your work you sit there confidently expecting praise.

Your friend normally starts off by giving you what you want: “I loved this, that bit was cool, I really enjoyed the way you did such and such”. You sit there, nod in agreement that it’s all great and think: Excellent, my skill is acknowledged. Then come the words:

“The only thing is…”

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Spotted this on ComiXology’s “Pre-Order” page, and just really liked the cover. While the series sounds great, I haven’t read any, yet (waiting for the collections). It’s been getting rave reviews across the board, though.


The cover is by Adrian Alphona, and the series is written by G. Willow Wilson. Ms. Marvel #5 will be published on June 25th, 2014. Here’s the synopsis:

How does a young girl from Jersey City become the next biggest super hero? Kamala has no idea either. But she’s comin’ for you, New York.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An Interview with KENDRA LEIGHTON

LeightonK-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Kendra Leighton?

I’m a YA writer and chocolatier living in Cambridge. I run an organic chocolate company called Rawr Chocolate with my partner during the day, and the rest of the time I’m either reading or writing YA (usually whilst eating chocolate).

Your debut novel, Glimpse, is due to be published tomorrow by Much-In-Little. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?

Glimpse is a YA paranormal novel inspired by Alfred Noyes’ classic poem “The Highwayman”. It isn’t a retelling, but relies on the events of the poem to tell a whole new story. The main character, Liz, is a seventeen year old girl with numerous problems, the biggest being the ability to see things that shouldn’t exist. When her grandfather dies, she inherits his home – the five-hundred year old Highwayman Inn – and moves there with her dad, hoping for a fresh start. Her problems only get worse…

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cover Art: Constantine #15 (DC New 52)

I haven’t been keeping up-to-date on single issues from any of DC Comics’ New 52 series for quite some time. I did, therefore, only just spot this piece, which graces the cover of Constantine #15. The artist is Juan E. Ferrevra. I particularly liked the silhouette effect.


The issue is written by Ray Fawkes, and internal artwork is by ACO, Richard and Tanya Horie.

Here’s the synopsis:

John Constantine witnesses the horrifying reach of magic when he meets the world's wealthiest mage – a woman who’s been draining all the good luck out of her home city of Hong Kong and benefiting from the suffering of millions.

Upcoming: “Broken Monsters” by Lauren Beukes (Harper)

Beukes-BrokenMonstersUKI’m a latecomer to the excellence that is Lauren Beukes’s work. Last year, I was quickly sucked into The Shining Girls, and since then I’ve been eagerly awaiting her next novel. Now, BROKEN MONSTERS is on the horizon! Published in the UK on July 31st by Harper.

In the city that’s become a symbol for the death of the American dream, a nightmare killer is unravelling reality…

Broken city, broken dreams

In Detroit, violent death – along with foreclosure and despair – is a regular occurrence. But the part-human, part-animal corpses that have started appearing are more disturbing than anything Detective Gabriella Versado has ever seen.

As Gabriella works the case, her teenage daughter Layla embarks on a secret crime-fighting project of her own – hunting down online paedophiles – but it all goes horribly wrong…

TK has learned how to make being homeless work for him and his friends, but something evil is threatening the fragile world he’s constructed on the streets…

Ambitious blogger Jonno is getting desperate. The big four-oh isn’t that far away, and he’s still struggling to make his mark. But then he stumbles across some unusual and macabre art, which might just be the break he needs to go viral…

Broken Monsters lays bare the decaying corpse of the American Dream, and asks what we’d be prepared to do for fifteen minutes of fame, especially in an online world.

Can’t wait to read this! Broken Monsters is published by Mulholland Books in the US, and Umuzi in South Africa. Here are the other two covers…


Quick Review: “Happy Accidents” by Jane Lynch (Audible / Harper)

LynchJ-HappyAccidentsAUDA great memoir by a great comedienne and actress

In the summer of 1974, a fourteen-year-old girl in Dolton, Illinois, had a dream. A dream to become an actress, like her idols Ron Howard and Vicki Lawrence. But it was a long way from the South Side of Chicago to Hollywood, and it didn’t help that she'd recently dropped out of the school play, The Ugly Duckling. Or that the Hollywood casting directors she wrote to replied that “professional training was a requirement.”

But the funny thing is, it all came true. Through a series of Happy Accidents, Jane Lynch created an improbable and hilarious path to success. In those early years, despite her dreams, she was also consumed with anxiety, feeling out of place in both her body and her family. To deal with her worries about her sexuality, she escaped in positive ways such as joining a high school chorus not unlike the one in Glee but also found destructive outlets. She started drinking almost every night her freshman year of high school and developed a mean and judgmental streak that turned her into a real- life Sue Sylvester.

Then, at thirty-one, she started to get her life together. She was finally able to embrace her sexuality, come out to her parents, and quit drinking for good. Soon after, a Frosted Flakes commercial and a chance meeting in a coffee shop led to a role in the Christopher Guest movie Best in Show, which helped her get cast in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Similar coincidences and chance meetings led to roles in movies starring Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, and even Meryl Streep in 2009's Julie & Julia. Then, of course, came the two lucky accidents that truly changed her life. Getting lost in a hotel led to an introduction to her future wife, Lara. Then, a series she'd signed up for abruptly got canceled, making it possible for her to take the role of Sue Sylvester in Glee, which made her a megastar.

Today, Jane Lynch has finally found the contentment she thought she’d never have. Part comic memoir and part inspirational narrative, this is a book equally for the rabid Glee fan and for anyone who needs a new perspective on life, love, and success.

While listening to this audiobook, I realised I’ve seen a hell of a lot more of Jane Lynch’s TV and movie work than I originally thought I had. And, it must be said, she’s brilliant in everything. That’s quite the detailed synopsis, above, and I think I will actually not go into too much detail about the topics and projects Lynch goes into, here. I really, really enjoyed listening to this.

Monday, June 16, 2014

“You” by Austin Grossman (Mulholland Books)

GrossmanA-YouAn interesting, engaging look at growing up and the evolution of the computer game

When Russell joins Black Arts games, brainchild of two visionary designers who were once his closest friends, he reunites with an eccentric crew of nerds hacking the frontiers of both technology and entertainment. In part, he’s finally given up chasing the conventional path that has always seemed just out of reach. But mostly, he needs to know what happened to Simon, his strangest and most gifted friend, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts’ breakout hit.

As the company’s revolutionary next-gen game is threatened by a software glitch, Russell finds himself in a race to save his job, Black Arts’ legacy, and the people he has grown to care about. The deeper Russell digs, the more dangerous the glitch appears – and soon, Russell comes to realize there's much more is at stake than just one software company’s bottom line.

It took me a while to get around to reading You. I picked it up at the same time that I picked up Soon I Will Be Invincible, Grossman’s novel that preceded this one. I had tried to read that one when I was very much not in the mood. As a result, You was unfairly pushed back on my TBR pile. Then I read Myke Cole’s short review of the novel on Goodreads, I was convinced to read it. And I am very, very happy I did. This is a great novel.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Books Received… (June)


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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Quick Review: Batgirl, Vol.4 – “Wanted” (DC Comics)

Batgirl-Vol.4Series continues strongly into its fourth collection

Writer: Gail Simone, Marguerite Bennett (#25) | Artist: Fernando Pararin, Jonathan Glapion, Daniel Sampere (#20), Carlos Rodriguez (#20), Vicente Cifuentes (#20)

Batgirl struggles to continue fighting crime after being emotionally drained by the death of her brother, James, Jr. With her relationships with Batman and her father strained, Batgirl face one of Batman’s most ruthless villains, The Ventriloquist, alone.

Collects: Batgirl #19-26, Ventriliquist #1

Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl has been critically acclaimed from seemingly all quarters. As, actually, has most of her work. This was the first series written by her that I’ve tried, and it has been a favourite of the New 52 titles ever since. That being said, though, I’m not really sure how to write about it. So, I’ll keep this brief and to the point… It’s really good. Ok, that was a bit too brief…

Manifest Destiny, Vol.1 (Skybound/Image)

ManifestDestiny-Vol.1An interesting beginning to an alternate history series

Writer: Chris Dingess | Artist: Matthew Roberts

In 1804, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark set out from St. Louis, Missouri with the intent of blazing a trail to the western coast of North America – a trip that would set the foundation for the future of the United States of America.

But what the history books don’t tell you is the true purpose of Lewis and Clark’s journey to the west…

In this imaginative retelling of their famous trek, Lewis and Clark embark on a secret mission under direct orders from President Thomas Jefferson.

They are going to do more than explore the wild frontier: they’re going to catalog exotic life and eliminate the monsters that stand in the way of the safe and rapid expansion of the United States.

Collects: Manifest Destiny #1-6

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I’m fascinated by American history, and particularly its early history. Not only that, I do rather like comics. This meant Manifest Destiny piqued my interest as soon as I read about it on the Image Comics’ website. I enjoyed this a lot and I think this is a great start to a new series.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Upcoming: IMPACT by Adam Baker (Hodder)

Baker-ImpactUKI came rather late to Adam Baker’s novels. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog, for some reason I never got around to reading Outpost or Juggernaut. That changed with Terminus, which I read and loved last year. This morning, I was greeted with a lovely surprise when Impact arrived in the mail from Hodder. I hadn’t been aware it was on the way (it’s not listed on Goodreads, yet), and I am very eager to get it. I’ll probably read it next week. It sounds great…

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.

Impact is published in the UK by Hodder on July 3rd, 2014.

Also on CR: Interview with Adam Baker, Guest Post

Quick Review: “The Truth of Valour” by Tanya Huff (Titan)

HuffT-C5-TruthOfValourUKReviewed by H.

The fifth Torin Kerr/Conferderation novel

Having left the Marine Corps, former Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is attempting to build a new life with salvage operator Craig Ryder. Turns out, civilian life is a lot rougher than she’d imagined. Torin is left for dead when pirates attack their spaceship and take Craig prisoner. But “left for dead” has never stopped Torin. Determined to rescue Craig, she calls in her Marines. And that’s when her mission expands from stopping the pirates to changing the balance of power in known space.

I am a big fan of Tanya Huff’s writing, and have read almost all of the novels Titan Books has issued in the UK. The Silvered was a very good fantasy novel (more please!) and the Torin Kerr/Confederation novels have been particularly excellent. The Truth of Valour sees some major changes to Torin’s life and adventures. While I didn’t think it was quite as good as the first four novels in the series, it was nevertheless a gripping, entertaining read.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Interview with BEN PEEK

ben peekLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Ben Peek?

I’m an author who lives in Sydney, Australia with my partner, Nikilyn Nevins, who is a photographer.

THE GODLESS – the first book in my Children Trilogy – is my fifth book. My previous books are Black Sheep, Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, and Above/Below, with Stephanie Campisi. My collection, Dead Americans and Other Stories, was released earlier this year. In addition to that, I’ve done a few other things, such as a psychogeography pamphlet, an autobiographical comic, and lectured and taught at various places.

I also may, or may not, be listening to the Velvet Underground as I reply to this.

Your next novel, The Godless, is published in July by Tor UK and St. Martin’s Press in the US. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?

The book is the first in a fantasy trilogy, and takes place in a world where, fifteen thousand years ago, a war between the gods took place. In its aftermath, the sun was broken into three, the ocean turned black with blood and rose, and the bodies of the gods fell to the ground, where they lay in a state best described as both dead and dying. In the centuries that followed, their powers seeped into the world, altering it, and altering some of the people who lived there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

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

Two interesting diversions for fans of the characters


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.


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.

Monday, June 09, 2014

“The Incorruptibles” by John Hornor Jacobs (Gollancz)

JacobsJH-IncorruptiblesUKAn intriguing, well-executed fantasy with a difference

In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way upstream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it – from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do.

In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together.

For Fisk and Shoe – two tough, honourable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other – their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky. And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.

I’ve been looking forward to this novel for a good while. So, when it arrived last week, I knew I had to dive right into it. And so I did. And devoured it in just over a day. The novel starts off with quite a blizzard of new terminology and an unusual world, but I quickly settled into it. This is a very good fantasy story with a difference.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Books Received…


Featuring: Rachel Aaron, Tanya Huff, Charlie Human, John Hornor Jacobs, Matthew K. Manning, Rachel Pollack, Robert Rotstein, Kieran Shea, Taylor Stevens, Daniel Wallace

Friday, June 06, 2014

Upcoming: CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki (Little, Brown)

LepuckiE-CaliforniaUSHurt by Amazon, but Helped by the Colbert Bump?

I’m a huge fan of Stephen Colbert, and I’ve always found his show amusing. A few years back, I believe, he first mentioned the phenomena of the “Colbert Bump”, which saw some authors and musicians enjoying a spike in sales after appearing or featuring on his show. Last night, while checking Facebook, I came upon a mention of Edan Lepucki’s novel, California, having received a bump, too. I’m sad to say I hadn’t clocked the novel before I saw the article – whether this is an example of how well celebrity endorsements work, or just my general oblivious aspect, who knows. Anyway, it sounds interesting, so I thought I’d feature it here. It appears to be another recent example of “literary dystopia” fiction. Here’s the synopsis…

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they’ve left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can’t reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant.

Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind’s dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

California will be published in the US in early July 2014, by Little, Brown. It is not available on Amazon, as they continue to strong-arm all Hachette US imprints. I couldn’t find any details about a UK publisher. Here’s hoping it comes to these shores soon, though. It’s available for request via NetGalley. The author is on Goodreads and Twitter.

Below is a still from The Colbert Report, in which the host promoted California, and urged viewers to buy the novel, and also offered the URL to buy the book from Powell’s Books. “We’re going to prove I can sell more books than Amazon,” he said. Oregon Live also had a video clip (US-only, sadly).


Upcoming: THE SHADOW’S CURSE by Amy McCulloch (Corgi)

McCullochA-2-ShadowsCurseThe action-packed sequel to The Oathbreaker’s Shadow

I really enjoyed Amy McCulloch’s debut novel, and have been itching to get my hands on the follow-up, to find out what happens next for Raim et al. After finishing The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, I thought I’d figured out a possible upcoming twist, so I really want to know if I was right…

Here’s the synopsis:

Raim is no closer to figuring out the meaning of the broken vow that sentenced him to exile for life. But with his former best friend now a tyrannical Khan who is holding the girl Raim loves captive, he finds it hard to care. Every day, he and Draikh learn more about their powers, but it quickly becomes clear that he will never be able to stop Khareh and free Wadi unless he can free himself from the ultimate taboo of his people. Reluctantly, Raim begins the long journey down to the dangerous South, to find the maker of his oath.

In Khareh’s camp, Wadi is more than capable of devising her own escape plan, but she’s gradually realizing she might not want to. The more she learns about Khareh, the more confused she becomes. He’s done unquestionably bad things, horrific even, but he’s got big dreams for Darhan that might improve their dire situation. What’s more, rumours of a Southern king massing an army to invade Darhan are slowly gaining ground. Only if the Northern tribes can come together under a single ruler will they have the strength to fight the South – but what if that ruler is an impulsive (albeit brilliant) young man, barely able to control his ever-growing power, and missing the one part of him that might keep him sane?

Whoever conquers the desert, wins the war. And the secret to desert survival lies in Lazar, which is set to become the heart of a great battle once again.

The Shadow’s Curse is due to be published in July 2014 by Corgi in the UK and Canada; and on August 15th in Australia and New Zealand.

Also on CR: Interview with Amy McCulloch

Audio Review: “Bonkers: My Life in Laughs” by Jennifer Saunders (Audible / Viking)

SaundersJ-BonkersPBAn excellent, amusing memoir

“As the steady march of time takes its toll on my memory and the vultures circle, I thought I should have a stab at recollecting how it all happened…”

Jennifer Saunders’s brilliant comic creations have brought joy to millions for three decades. From Comic Strip to Comic Relief, from Bolly-swilling Edina in Absolutely Fabulous to Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia, her characters are household names.

But it’s Jennifer herself who has a place in all our hearts. This is her funny, touching and disarmingly honest memoir, filled with stories of friends, laughter and occasional heartache – but never misery.

From her childhood on RAF bases, where her father was a pilot, to her life-changing encounter with a young Dawn French, on to success and family, the book charts her extraordinary story, including the slip ups and battles along the way.

I have been a fan of Saunders’s ever since I was a kid, and my father introduced me to Absolutely Fabulous. The series, which is excellent and everyone should watch, had a lasting impact on my family’s and my own lexicon. Countless times we have made comments to each other, instinctively knowing its origin. Hilarity ensues, strangers shuffle away. Anyway, I picked up Bonkers, and although it started off a little strangely, I thought it was a brilliant, honest, amusing memoir from one of Britain’s greatest comics.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Upcoming US Edition: THE VIOLENT CENTURY by Lavie Tidhar (Thomas Dunne/St Martin’s Press)


I am a big fan of Lavie Tidhar’s The Violent Century. Unusual and gripping, it is one of my favourite novels from last year. [Review.] Until recently, though, it was only available in the UK, published by Hodder and PS Publishing (limited edition). Now, though, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press will be releasing it in the US! It will be published in late February 2015. Mark your calendars!

There is that rather nice new cover, too – I like the way they kept the core elements of the UK cover (Brandenburg Gate, silhouetted fellow in trench-coat and hat, rubble in foreground), but also made it distinct.

Here’s the synopsis…

They’d never meant to be heroes.

For seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.

But there must always be an account… and the past has a habit of catching up to the present.

Now, recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism – a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms, of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields – to answer one last, impossible question: What makes a hero?

Interview with GRAEME SHIMMIN

ShimminG-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Graeme Shimmin?

I’m spy thriller novelist, and the author of the award-winning novel A Kill in the Morning. I also run a website where I review spy thrillers and advise aspiring authors about writing and getting published.

Your debut novel, A Kill in the Morning, is due to be published in June by Transworld. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?

A Kill in the Morning is an action-packed, fun spy thriller that has been compared to Robert Harris’s Fatherland and Ian Fleming’s Thunderball – if you like classic spy thrillers, you’ll love it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

“Prince of Fools” by Mark Lawrence (Voyager UK / Ace Books)

Lawrence-RQW1-PrinceOfFoolsUKA new trilogy, a hero, and still just as good…

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other.

Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north.

In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

Experience does not lend Jalan wisdom; but here and there he unearths a corner of the truth. He discovers that they are all pieces on a board, pieces that may be being played in the long, secret war the Red Queen has waged throughout her reign, against the powers that stand behind thrones and nations, and for higher stakes than land or gold.

Mark Lawrence returns with the first in a great new trilogy set in the same world as his critically-acclaimed Broken Empire trilogy. As long-time readers of the blog will know, I really enjoyed Lawrence’s debut, Prince of Thorns. He is without doubt one of the best new fantasy authors, and if you like your fantasy dark, twisty, and very well-written, then you really do need to give his work a try. Prince of Fools introduces us to a new pair of heroes – Prince Jalan and his Viking companion, Snorri. I really enjoyed this novel.

Books Received (May/June)…


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