Thursday, August 21, 2014

Upcoming: BELZHAR by Meg Wolitzer (Dutton)

WolitzerM-BelzharUSI’ve only read a little bit of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. While I thought it was very well written, it just wasn’t for me. Then I spotted this novel, which I thought sounded interesting. Here’s the synopsis:

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

Belzhar is due to be published in the US by Dutton (Penguin), on September 30th, 2014; and in the UK by Simon & Schuster, on October 9th (for some reason, I could not find a UK cover for the novel – given how close it is to publication, this is rather baffling).

US Cover: THE SKULL THRONE by Peter V. Brett (Del Rey)

Brett-TheSkullThroneUS

Holy crap I’m excited about this novel’s release! Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle novels are easily among my all-time favourites, and knowing that the release of THE SKULL THRONE is inching ever-closer has me positively giddy with excitement and anticipation.* I found the cover over on SF Signal, but there does not appear to be a detailed synopsis available just yet. The novel will be published in the US by Del Rey, and in the UK by Voyager. No doubt, it will not take long for it to appear in translation in so very many countries.

Brett-MessengersLegacyOh, and let’s not forget Brett’s latest novella, Messenger’s Legacy, will also be out soon! Here’s the cover and synopsis…

Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. Each night, the world is overrun by demons — bloodthirsty creatures of nightmare that have been hunting the surface for over 300 years. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once proud civilization, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel the demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers brave the night to keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace.

Briar Damaj is a boy of six in the small village of Bogton. Half Krasian, the village children call him Mudboy for his dark skin. When tragedy strikes, Briar decides the town is better off without him, fleeing into the bog with nothing but his wits and a bit of herb lore to protect him.

After twenty years, Ragen Messenger has agreed to retire and pass on his route to his protégé, Arlen Bales. But for all that he’s earned the rest, he has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. When he learns Briar, the son of an old friend, is missing, Ragen is willing to risk any danger to bring him safely home.

I wonder what the UK cover is going to look like – or if they’re going to use the same one. Larry Rostant has done a great job again.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold, The Daylight War

* Was that too much excitement? Perhaps… But, seriously: I can’t wait.

Brett-DC4-TheSkullThroneUS-Wrap

Upcoming: THE MYSTERIES by Lisa Tuttle (Jo Fletcher Books)

I’ve never read anything by Lisa Tuttle, but I receive a press release a few days ago for The Mysteries, and I was quite taken by the cover. It’s really quite excellent:

untitled

The novel is due to be published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books, on September 4th, 2014. Here’s the synopsis:

Laura Lensky’s daughter, Peri, has been missing for two years. For the police it’s a closed case – she wanted to run away – but for her mother and boyfriend, Hugh, it’s a different story.

When Laura hires private investigator Ian Kennedy, it is a last-ditch attempt to find her daughter before she leaves for America.

Drawn in by strange parallels to an obscure Celtic myth and his first, almost unexplainable case, Ian takes the job. But his beliefs are about to be stretched to their limit – there are darker and more devious forces at work here than any of them imagined.

JFB have done a great job with the design for the novel (something the publisher is invariably good at, actually). And, while it’s got a larger palette than her previous books, it fits rather nicely with her other works, many of which will be released as eBooks in the coming weeks/months.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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

INTERSTELLAR

DRACULA UNTOLD

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES

THE GIVER

Upcoming: PRINCE LESTAT by Anne Rice (Chatto & Windus)

RiceA-PrinceLestatUK2Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles remain some of my favourite novels – as I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times already on CR, I consider The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned among my top five favourite novels (as one selection – they have to be read together). It was with much excitement, therefore, that I saw that Rice was returning to the series after 11 years away – 2003’s Blood Canticle was the last novel until now. As with any long-running series, it had its ups and downs, and while certain elements of the later novels didn’t work for me, I nevertheless eagerly purchased and read them on their publication days. Prince Lestat will be no different, I’m sure (unless I can get a review copy…). Here’s the synopsis:

The vampire world is in crisis – their kind have been proliferating out of control and, thanks to technologies undreamed of in previous centuries, they can communicate as never before. Roused from their earth-bound slumber, ancient ones are in thrall to the Voice: which commands that they burn fledgling vampires in cities from Paris to Mumbai, Hong Kong to Kyoto and San Francisco. Immolations, huge massacres, have commenced all over the world.

Who – or what – is the Voice? What does it desire, and why?

There is only one vampire, only one blood drinker, truly known to the entire world of the Undead. Will the dazzling hero-wanderer, the dangerous rebel-outlaw Lestat heed the call to unite the Children of Darkness as they face this new twilight?

Anne Rice’s epic, luxuriant, fiercely ambitious new novel brings together all the worlds and beings of the legendary Vampire Chronicles, from present-day New York and Ancient Egypt to fourth-century Carthage and Renaissance Venice; from Louis de Pointe du Lac; Armand the eternally young; Mekare and Maharet; to Pandora and Flavius; David Talbot, vampire and ultimate fixer from the Secret Talamasca; and Marius, the true child of the Millennia. It also introduces many other seductive supernatural creatures, and heralds significant new blood.

Prince Lestat is due to be published in the UK by Chatto & Windus, on October 30, 2014; and in the US by Knopf, on October 28th, 2014. Below are the US and earlier UK covers (according to the author’s Facebook page, the latter has been replaced by the image at the top of this post):

RiceA-PrinceLestat

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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.

*

Monday, August 18, 2014

Upcoming: FALLOUT (Capstone) and GIRL ON A WIRE (Skyscape) by Gwenda Bond

BondG-FalloutI stumbled across Gwenda Bond’s Fallout on NetGalley, and was very much intrigued by the premise:

Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over--and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won't be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bond interprets the Lois Lane character. I’m not sure if/how this ties in at all with the DC Comics character, though (Capstone do publish other DC Comics-related books). Fallout is due to be published in the US in January 2015.

Note: I couldn’t find any mention of this novel on Bond’s website, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t another author of the same name.

BondG-GirlOnAWireNext up, Skyscape will be publishing Bond’s other upcoming novel, Girl On A Wire, in October 2014. Here’s the premise:

A ballerina, twirling on a wire high above the crowd. Horses, prancing like salsa dancers. Trapeze artists, flying like somersaulting falcons. And magic crackling through the air. Welcome to the Cirque American!

Sixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies.

Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque.

As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall.

Gwenda Bond is also the author of Blackwood and The Woken Gods, which were published by Strange Chemistry.

Also on CR: Interview with Gwenda Bond; Review of Blackwood

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

New Books (August #1)

BooksReceived-20140814

Featuring: David Annandale, Anne Blankman, Christopher Fowler, Felix Gilman, Emmi Itäranta, Philip Kerr, M.A. Lawson, Peter Liney, Caitlin Moran, Haruki Murakami, Lauren Owen, Greg Rucka, Brian Ruckley, Adelle Waldman, Will Wiles, Tad Williams

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guest Post: “Setting as a Character” by Patty Templeton

PattyTempleton-AuthorPicI have a great many tattoos. Entire appendages are coated in ink. One of my favorites is a small arsenic bottle and a sprig of blackberries on my left arm. It was inspired by the book We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson. Geez. That woman. Though We Have Always Lived in the Castle is my favorite novel of hers – and the novel that inspired the tattoo, The Haunting of Hill House is what Jackson is most known for. Made famous by two movie adaptations and lauded by Stephen King as one of only two “great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years,”[1] The Haunting of Hill House was the first novel that made me aware of Setting as a Character.

If you are unfamiliar with The Haunting of Hill House, the main story thread is thus: four psychically-inclined characters (two women and two men) visit an 80-year-old mansion named Hill House to study the supernatural activity that may or may not be happening there. Strange. Events. Occur. Is it all in the minds of the slightly terrified inhabitants, do ghosts roam the halls, or can a place actually be alive and evil?