Sunday, November 24, 2013

Books Received (November 2013)


Another impressive book-haul, this month. Also rather varied, too, which is always nice. As per usual, I can’t read them all instantaneously, so here is an initial, first-look at the books that are coming soon to the blog and to bookstores/-shelves near you.

Anon-SagaOfTheVolsungsAnonymous & James L. Byock (trans,), The Saga of the Volsungs (Penguin)

Legends from the Ancient North: Five classics of Norse literature that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic vision in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Legendary fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien spent much of his life studying, translating, and teaching the ancient tales of northern Europe at Oxford and drew on them for his own writing. These epic stories, with their wizards and knights, dragons and trolls, cursed rings and magic swords, are as fascinating today as they were thousands of year ago. Reading them brings us as close as we will ever get to the magical worlds of the Vikings and the origins of their twentieth-century counterpart: Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Based on Viking Age poems and composed in thirteenth-century Iceland,The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend, and sheer human drama in telling of the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires runic knowledge from one of Odin's Valkyries. Yet the saga is set in a very human world, incorporating oral memories of the fourth and fifth centuries, when Attila the Hun and other warriors fought on the northern frontiers of the Roman empire. In his illuminating introduction Jesse L. Byock links the historical Huns, Burgundians, and Goths with the extraordinary events of this Icelandic saga. With its ill-fated Rhinegold, the sword reforged, and the magic ring of power, the saga resembles the Nibelungenlied and has been a primary source for such fantasy writers as J.R.R. Tolkien and for Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle.

Viking mythology? Love it. Really looking forward to reading this ASAP.


CarverW-DeadSetWill Carver, Dead Set (Arrow)

Following on from Girl 4 and The Two, Det. Inspector January David is back in a fantastic new thriller.

Detective Inspector January David doesn’t love me.

He loves his missing sister. He loves his job.

But he doesn’t love me. Not in the way he should.

I am his wife. I am still his wife.

And I will do anything for him.

No matter what I have to sacrifice.

A British crime series’ latest instalment heads to New York. I haven’t read the previous books in the series, but I am rather intrigued. I do have a tendency to prefer US-based Thrillers (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned on here many times), so something that straddles both the US and UK? Well, this could be interesting.


Crilley-T&N2-TheOsirisCursePaul Crilley, The Osiris Curse (Pyr)

Steampunk Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files with a dash of romantic tension and a large dose of adventure.

When Nikola Tesla is murdered and blueprints for his super weapons are stolen, Tweed and Nightingale are drawn into a global cat and mouse chase with his killers. What’s more, it seems that the people who shot Nikola Tesla are the same people responsible for Octavia’s mother’s disappearance. As the two cases intertwine, Tweed and Nightingale’s investigations lead them to a murdered archeologist and a secret society called The Hermetic Order of Set. Fleeing the cult’s wrath, they go undercover on the luxury airship, The Albion, setting out on her maiden voyage to Tutankhamen’s View, a five star hotel built in the hollowed-out and refurbished Great Pyramid of Giza.

In Egypt, the duo begin to unravel the terrible truth behind Tesla’s death, a secret so earth-shattering that if revealed it would mean rewriting the entire history of the world. But if the cult’s plans aren’t stopped, Britain may lose the future.

The second Tweed & Nightingale Adventure. I haven’t been swept up by the steampunk revival. From my (admittedly brief) look at synopses, they do seem to be rather same-y. True, a lot of fantasy and sci-fi novels are also striking me as similar/derivative. I do, however, really like Egyptian mythology and history, so maybe a steampunk-ification of same might be enough to get me hooked? We’ll see.


Fultz-SevenSorcerersJohn R. Fultz, Seven Sorcerers (Orbit)

The Almighty Zyung drives his massive armies across the world to invade the Land of the Five Cities. So begins the final struggle between freedom and tyranny.

The Southern Kings D’zan and Undutu lead a fleet of warships to meet Zyung’s aerial armada. Vireon the Slayer and Tyro the Sword King lead Men and Giants to defend the free world. So begins the great slaughter of the age...

lardu the Shaper and Sharadza Vodsdaughter must awaken the Old Breed to face Zyung’s legion of sorcerers. So begins a desperate quest beyond the material world into strange realms of magic and mystery.

Yet already it may be too late...

This is the third novel in Fultz’s epic fantasy series, one I have sadly not been able to get around to. Part of this is because I heard very mixed things when the first book (Seven Princes) came out. I am, nevertheless, somewhat interested in giving this a try. I’ll have to dig out my copy of the first book.

Also on CR: Interview with John R. Fultz


HartC-CastleRock-2014Carolyn Hart, Castle Rock (Seventh Street)

A young woman is convinced she’s living with a murderer among family members, lodgers, and ranch hands in New Mexico.

Serena Mallory came to the huge New Mexico ranch of Castle Rock as a twelve-year-old orphan. She grew up as the ward of owner Dan McIntire. Now in her early twenties, Serena watches the ranch’s idyllic summer charm disappear when Dan dies in a riding accident. The night before his accident, she overheard him arguing with someone, and since his death, a series of strange accidents has plagued the ranch. Convinced that Dan’s accident was anything but, Serena sets out to find the guilty party.

The latest re-issue from Seventh Street Books. Hart’s novels are all well-crafted, enjoyable, and pretty quick reads. Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus (who also own Pyr), have been doing a wonderful job of re-issuing classic crime and thriller novels, alongside a roster of new authors as well. If you haven’t checked any of their books out yet, I would strongly recommend you do.


HelmreichWB-NewYorkNobodyKnowsWilliam B. Helmreich, The New York Nobody Knows (Princeton University Press)

As a kid growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father they called “Last Stop.” They would pick a subway line and ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood there. Decades later, Helmreich teaches university courses about New York, and his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever.

Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs--an astonishing 6,000 miles. His epic journey lasted four years and took him to every corner of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Helmreich spoke with hundreds of New Yorkers from every part of the globe and from every walk of life, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former mayors Rudolph Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Edward Koch. Their stories and his are the subject of this captivating and highly original book.

We meet the Guyanese immigrant who grows beautiful flowers outside his modest Queens residence in order to always remember the homeland he left behind, the Brooklyn-raised grandchild of Italian immigrants who illuminates a window of his brownstone with the family's old neon grocery-store sign, and many, many others. Helmreich draws on firsthand insights to examine essential aspects of urban social life such as ethnicity, gentrification, and the use of space. He finds that to be a New Yorker is to struggle to understand the place and to make a life that is as highly local as it is dynamically cosmopolitan.

It’s no secret how much I love New York City. I have lived there three times, and I wish I could move there semi-permanently. After reading (and loving) Sudhir Venkatesh’s Floating City, I was really interested in reading more books about the city. Luckily, Princeton University Press offered this one. I’ll be starting it as soon as I finish The Bully Pulpit (another superb history book from Doris Kearns Goodwin).


Tanya Huff, Valour’s Choice & The Better Part of Valour (Titan Books)


VC: In the distant future, humans and several other races have been granted membership in the Confederation – at a price. They must act as soldier/protectors of the far more civilized races who have long since turned away from war...

BPoV: Best known for her Quarters series and vampire novels, Tanya Huff stunned critics and fans with Valour’s Choice, her first military science fiction novel. This thrilling sequel follows the Confederation's investigation of a seemingly abandoned alien spaceship.

I’ve only recently mentioned these two novels on the blog (in Upcoming posts). They look, on the surface, like great, fun military sci-fi novels – must-reads for fans of Jack Campbell, Rachel Bach and many others. I do like that the genre is starting to get more attention in the UK, and Titan Books in particular have been releasing some of the best available. Hopefully, other publishers will get in on the act, too, and bring some more of the great authors writing in the sub-genre to our shores.


HuffT-TheSilveredTanya Huff, The Silvered (Titan Books)

The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off defending the border, it falls to Mirian Maylin and Tomas Hagen — she a low-level mage, he younger brother to the Pack-leader — to save them. Together the two set out on the kidnappers’ trail, racing into the heart of enemy territory. But with every step the odds against their survival, let alone their success, grow steeper...

Fantasy, Werewolves, and a dash of Steampunk? That sounds pretty cool… True, as I mentioned above, I’m not the largest steampunk fan. But, given how well-received this novel has been, not to mention how great Huff is as an author, I’m really looking forward to diving into this one.


Lloyd-1-MoonsArtificeTom Lloyd, Moon’s Artifice (Gollancz)

In a quiet corner of the Imperial City, Investigator Narin discovers the result of his first potentially lethal mistake. Minutes later he makes a second.

After an unremarkable career Narin finally has the chance of promotion to the hallowed ranks of the Lawbringers – guardians of the Emperor's laws and bastions for justice in a world of brutal expediency. Joining that honoured body would be the culmination of a lifelong dream, but it couldn't possibly have come at a worse time. A chance encounter drags Narin into a plot of gods and monsters, spies and assassins, accompanied by a grief-stricken young woman, an old man haunted by the ghosts of his past and an assassin with no past.

On the cusp of an industrial age that threatens the warrior caste's rule, the Empire of a Hundred Houses awaits civil war between noble factions. Centuries of conquest has made the empire a brittle and bloated monster; constrained by tradition and crying out for change. To save his own life and those of untold thousands Narin must understand the key to it all – Moon’s Artifice, the poison that could destroy an empire.

Tom Lloyd. The fantasy author who hasn’t received nearly as much attention on CR as he deserves. With the start of this new series, though, I really have no excuse not to get in early. Hopefully very soon. (Oh, I’ve said that a lot, recently…)

Also on CR: Interview with Tom Lloyd, Catch-Up Interview,
Guest Post (on Terry Pratchett)


untitledDavid Logan, The League of Sharks (Quercus)

In a world where humans have disappeared, sharkmen are the ultimate predators.

Junk’s sister has been stolen.

Snatched from her bed in the dead of night, Ambeline doesn’t stand a chance. No one believes Junk saw a monster take his sister. No one believes he’s not to blame.

So begins Junk’s quest to find Ambeline’s kidnapper. His journey will take him to a future world where animal species have evolved, and where the cult of the League of Sharks – the cult that stole Junk’s sister – is etched into folklore…

The publisher offered this to me, and I was rather confused by the premise. So I said sure, I’ll take a look. Still not 100% sure what to expect from it, but it’s a YA novel that isn’t too long, so I may read this in between Big Book Fantasies, or if I need a genre-palette-cleanser. The publicity materials make a big deal about his previous novel, but I must admit I’d never heard of him before this came onto my radar.


Olson-AdventureTimeEncyclopaediaMartin Olson, The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia (Titan Books)

Written by the Lord of Evil Himself, Hunson Abadeer (a.k.a. Marceline the Vampire Queen's dad), to instruct and confound the demonic citizenry of the Nightosphere, The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia is perhaps the most dangerous book in history. Although seemingly a guidebook to the Land of Ooo and its postapocalyptic inhabitants, it is in fact an amusing nightmare of literary pitfalls, bombastic brain-boggles, and ancient texts designed to drive the reader mad.

Complete with secret lore and wizard spells, fun places you should visit and places where you will probably die, advice on whom to marry and whom not to marry, and how to make friends and destroy your enemies, this volume includes hand-written marginalia by Finn, Jake, and Marceline.

Arguably the greatest encyclopaedia ever written since the beginning of the cosmos, it is also an indispensable companion to humans and demons who know what time it is: Adventure Time!

I must admit, the Adventure Time craze took me completely by surprise. I’ve had access to review copies of the comic since before it was released by Boom Studios. But… it never clicked for me. Maybe I should give it another go. This book, which I have already dipped into, is rather fun. Recommended for your Christmas lists!


Pratchett-40-RaisingSteamTerry Pratchett, Raising Steam (Doubleday)

To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it’s soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital... but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse...

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails...

Does Terry Pratchett really need an introduction? He’s my favourite author. I have read and re-read all of the Discworld novels at least twice, and some (Vimes novels) four or five times. I really enjoyed Going Postal and Making Money (ah, that’s one I’ve only read once, actually…), so it’ll be nice to be re-united with Moist. That being said, I struggled with Snuff, so I hope this is a return to form.


ReillyM-TheTournamentMatthew Reilly, The Tournament (Orion)

The year is 1546.

Europe lives in fear of the powerful Islamic empire to the East. Under its charismatic Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, it is an empire on the rise. It has defeated Christian fleets. It has conquered Christian cities.

Then the Sultan sends out an invitation to every king in Europe: send forth your champion to compete in a tournament unlike any other.

We follow the English delegation, selected by King Henry VIII himself, to the glittering city of Constantinople, where the most amazing tournament ever staged will take place.

But when the stakes are this high, not everyone plays fair, and for our team of plucky English heroes, winning may not be the primary goal. As a series of barbaric murders take place, a more immediate goal might simply be staying alive…

I am a big fan of Reilly’s novels. I’ve read a number of the Scarecrow novels, and all three Shane West novels (so much fun). With The Tournament, he seems to be doing something a little different – a wholly historical novel, rather than a contemporary adventure rooted in history. I’m really looking forward to reading this, so expect this on the blog very soon. Having lived in Istanbul, too, it’ll be interesting to see how the author realises the historical city on the page. It’s a fascinating city, with such a turbulent history. This is very promising. Before Christmas, hopefully.


ResnickM-DoctorAndTheDinosaursMike Resnick, The Doctor and the Dinosaurs (Pyr)

Welcome to a Steampunk wild west starring Doc Holliday, with zombies, dinosaurs, robots, and cowboys.

The time is April, 1885. Doc Holliday lies in bed in a sanitarium in Leadville, Colorado, expecting never to leave his room again. But the medicine man and great chief Geronimo needs him for one last adventure. Renegade Comanche medicine men object to the newly-signed treaty with Theodore Roosevelt. They are venting their displeasure on two white men who are desecrating tribal territory in Wyoming. Geronimo must protect the men or renege on his agreement with Roosevelt. He offers Doc one year of restored health in exchange for taking on this mission.

Welcome to the birth of American paleontology, spearheaded by two brilliant men, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, two men whose genius is only exceeded by their hatred for each other's guts.

Now, with the aid of Theodore Roosevelt, Cole Younger, and Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday must save Cope and Marsh not only from the Comanches, not only from living, breathing dinosaurs, but from each other. And that won't be easy.

I am woefully behind on this series. I’ve read the first book, The Buntline Special, which I found rather fun, but then I’ve just been unable to keep up-to-date. This sounds fun, too, though. I’ll endeavour to get caught up.


RichardJ-SuicideExhibitionJustin Richards, The Suicide Exhibition (Del Rey UK)

A groundbreaking alternate history World War 2 thriller.

The threat is not new. The aliens have been here before – if indeed they are aliens. Obsessed with the Occult, Hitler and other senior Nazis believed they were destined to inherit the Earth. To this end, they are determined to recover ‘their’ ancient artifacts – the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny. When Dunkirk veteran and Foreign Office trouble-shooter Major Guy Pentecross stumbles across a seemingly unbelievable conspiracy, he, together with pilot and American spy Sarah Diamond and SOE operative Leo Davenport, enter the shadow world of Section Z. All three have major roles to play as they uncover the Nazis' insidious plot to use the alien Vril’s technology to win the war... at any cost.

This is The Thirty-Nine Steps crossed with Indiana Jones and Quatermass. Justin Richards has an extremely credible grasp of the period’s history and has transformed it into a groundbreaking alternate reality thriller.

This sounds pretty cool. I love alternate history, and Secret History. Having recently read and adored Lavie Tidhar’s The Violent Century and Ian Tregillis’s three Milkweed novels, I’m rather hoping this is another great addition to the sub-genre. I hadn’t heard of Richards before this arrived, but as it turns out, he is another alumnus of the Dr. Who novel-writing stable. I’m looking forward to this.


WareD-EckoBurningDanie Ware, Ecko Burning (Titan Books)

Ruthless and ambitious, Lord Phylos has control of Fhaveon city, and is using her forces to bring the grasslands under his command. His last opponent is an elderly scribe who's lost his best friend and wants only to do the right thing.

Seeking weapons, Ecko and his companions follow a trail of myth and rumour to a ruined city where both nightmare and shocking truth lie in wait.

When all of these things come together, the world will change beyond recognition.

Back in London, the Bard is offered the opportunity to realise everything he has ever wanted – if he will give up his soul.

A series that I have sadly not read, yet. It sounds great, and the premise makes it sound pretty original, too. I must make time to give this a try.

Also on CR: Interview with Danie Ware


WilliamsJ-CopperPromiseJen Williams, The Copper Promise (Headline)

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…

Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.

For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him… and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.

Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

A debut, and another one I hadn’t heard of before it turned up in the mail. Sounds pretty interesting. I’ll hopefully get to it ASAP. (I recently got a copy of Headline’s new catalogue – there are some really interesting titles coming from them in the near future! Watch this space for more information…)


WilliamsM-3TowerBrokenMazarkis Williams, The Tower Broken (Jo Fletcher Books)

The world is at breaking point. The nothing, a terrible darkness caused by the festering wounds of a god, bleeds out the very essence of all, of stone, silk – and souls. Emperor Sarmin thought he had stopped it, but it is spreading towards his city, Cerana – and he is powerless to halt the destruction. Even as Cerana fills with refugees, the Yrkmen armies arrive with conquest in mind, but they offer to spare Sarmin’s people if they will convert to the Mogyrk faith. Time is running out for Sarmin and his wife, Mesema: the Mage’s Tower is cracked; the last mage, sent to find a mysterious pattern-worker in the desert, has vanished; and Sarmin believes his kidnapped brother Daveed still has a part to play. The walls are crumbling around them...

The first novel in this series, The Emperor’s Knife, was pretty interesting. It started incredibly strong, but some of the steam was lost as the novel went on. Then, when the second novel was released, I ended up moving, and it got lost in the mix. (I do still have Knife Sworn, though, which will make it easier to catch up.)

Also on CR: Interview with Mazarkis Williams


ZuckermanG-TheFrackersGregory Zuckerman, The Frackers (Portfolio/Penguin)

Everyone knew it was crazy to try to extract oil and natural gas buried in shale rock deep below the ground. Everyone, that is, except a few reckless wildcatters – who risked their careers to prove the world wrong.

Things looked grim for American energy in 2006. Oil production was in steep decline and natural gas was hard to find. The Iraq War threatened the nation’s already tenuous relations with the Middle East. China was rapidly industrializing and competing for resources. Major oil companies had just about given up on new discoveries on U.S. soil, and a new energy crisis seemed likely.

But a handful of men believed everything was about to change.

Far from the limelight, Aubrey McClendon, Harold Hamm, Mark Papa, and other wildcatters were determined to tap massive deposits of oil and gas that Exxon, Chevron, and other giants had dismissed as a waste of time. By experimenting with hydraulic fracturing through extremely dense shale — a process now known as fracking — the wildcatters started a revolution. In just a few years, they solved America’s dependence on imported energy, triggered a global environmental controversy — and made and lost astonishing fortunes.

No one understands these men — their ambitions, personalities, methods, and foibles — better than the award-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman. His exclusive access enabled him to get close to the frackers and chronicle the untold story of how they transformed the nation and the world. The result is a dramatic narrative tracking a brutal competition among headstrong drillers. It stretches from the barren fields of North Dakota and the rolling hills of northeastern Pennsylvania to cluttered pickup trucks in Texas and tense Wall Street boardrooms.

Activists argue that the same methods that are creating so much new energy are also harming our water supply and threatening environmental chaos. The Frackers tells the story of the angry opposition unleashed by this revolution and explores just how dangerous fracking really is.

The frackers have already transformed the economic, environmental, and geopolitical course of history. Now, like the Rockefellers and the Gettys before them, they’re using their wealth and power to influence politics, education, entertainment, sports, and many other fields. Their story is one of the most important of our time.

That’s quite the epic-length synopsis… An issue that has fascinated me for years, I’m very glad I was able to get a review copy of this book. Hopefully get to it very soon.


Michael Crichton’s Pulp Novels (Hard Case Crime)

There are just too many to write about them individually, so I’ll just say – these are a lot of fun. Slightly dated, but in an amusing way. I have four of them to give away, too, so keep an eye open for that giveaway post coming up next week.

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