Category: New Books
A thrilling chase for a secret buried for decades enlivens the Ancient Nine.
The Ancient Nine is a rumored fraternity inside a fraternity inside Harvard. Legend states they protect a secret called Harvard’s Holy Grail. Investigating the Grail has already cost one student his life.
Spenser Collins receives a mysterious invitation to join the esteemed Delphic Club at Harvard. Spenser, a poor basketball scholarship recipient from the South side of Chicago, is stunned. He immediately calls his best friend, Dalton, a fifth generation Harvard scholar with an uncaring father but oodles of money, for help. Dalton has an Uncle who was a member decades ago before lung disease and forgetfulness struck. The two friends investigate the club and the Grail as Spenser moves closer and closer to becoming a Delphic member himself.
The Harvard history is fantastic. Each building is described in detail and sounds beautiful. There is also much detail about the history of fraternities on the Harvard campus. Combining a tale set in 1927 with one in 1989 is brilliant. Seeing research done with books and in person was refreshing.
The Grail mystery is good though the book’s pacing seemed a bit slower than most thrillers. It is hard not to compare the Ancient Nine with other “reveal the secret” books/movies like the DaVinci Code and National Treasure. This book is not quite as good as those. I’m sure a good script writer could tighten up the plot and make this a 5-star movie. The Ancient Nine as written is a solid 4 stars!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: fraternities, Harvard, Sep 18 2018
We Sold Our Souls and all we got was this lousy band t-shirt. High concept but ultimately unsatisfying book about a fictional heavy metal band.
Kris, Scottie, Tuck, Terry and first JD and then Bill started Durk Wurk, a heavy metal band, in high school. They were good but not great. Terry, the male lead singer, breaks up the band one night by stealing their music and going solo as The Blind King in his (new band) Koffin. Terry becomes rich and famous while the other band members stumble through life.
Kris, the guitarist and song writer, decides to confront Terry during his final farewell tour show at Hellfest. As she contacts her other former band mates, she finds out more than just thievery may have happened the night the band broke up.
Similar to what occurred with the author’s Horrorstor, We Sold Our Souls has an intriguing and high concept plot. Unfortunately, its promise is never fully realized. The conclusion was exactly what was seen only a few pages into the story. There are also some credibility issues. I don’t listen to metal. But I know the Dead Kennedys and the Plasmatics were punk—not metal. I found it hard to believe that a guitarist could stop playing for years and immediately be able to play at the same level when she is handed a guitar. Also, while there are illusions to Hell, there were absolutely no scary moments in this book. If you are into heavy metal, you might enjoy this book. However, for me it only rates 3 stars.
Thanks to Quirk Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Horror, New Books Tagged with: Heavy metal music, Sep 18 2018
Drink Me! has 25 cocktail recipes all linked to the plot of Alice in Wonderland.
Each recipe comes with a brief explanation of how it relates to the Alice in Wonderland story. For example, the Unbirthday Cake Martini uses cake frosting-infused vodka, hazelnut and raspberry liqueurs, and pineapple and lemon juice. With the rainbow sprinkle topping, you will want to drink this martini on all 364 of your unbirthdays this year. Drink Me! also has recipes for creating the special infusions used in the book. I have never heard of a fat-washed infusion before but I can see its usefulness beyond the recipes in this book.
Drink Me! is such an innovative idea. I can’t wait to combine my love of exotic cocktails with my love of Alice in Wonderland by having a themed party on Halloween. A great book for amateur or profession bartenders but even better for Alice fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Rock Point, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Alice in Wonderland, cocktails, Sep 18 2018
Innovative plotting and world building fill the 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
What would make the replay of a day over and over immeasurably worse? How about also waking up as different people each time you fell asleep?
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a clever blend of fantasy and Agatha Christie. Not only does our first person narrator have to figure out how and why he keeps jumping from one person to another repeating the same day. He also must solve a murder that appears to be a suicide, while also racing against several other jumpers to win his freedom from the endless repetition. There are also mysterious players outside the action who may be friend or foe.
The mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle is relatively easy for armchair detectives to solve. However, the mystery of how and why the actions replay is more of a puzzler. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is recommended for amateur detective fans jaded by reading too many similar books. It is stunningly original though the middle dragged for me a bit. Still 4 1/2 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: fantasy, Sep 18 2018
Everyone Lies in this fast-paced rollercoaster ride of a thriller.
Joe and Mel have an ideal life. Happily married for almost ten years with a perfect young son, William. When Joe and William see Mel turn into a hotel garage, they follow. Joe sees her sitting in the hotel restaurant with her best friend’s upset husband, Ben.
Fearing the worst, Joe waits with William in their car for Mel to emerge. However, she drives away so quickly that Joe misses her. Instead he attempts to talk to Ben. Ben, still angry, pushes the larger Joe against the car. When Joe pushes Ben back, he stumbles and falls unconscious to the ground. Because William has come to see what is taking his Dad so long, he sees the blood seeping from Ben’s ear, which triggers an asthma attack. When Ben rushes back to the car, he can’t find an inhaler and so rushes home to get one.
Mel gives Joe an explanation of a freelance work project for Ben. Joe believes her. Joe decides to return to the hotel to ensure Ben is safe. Both Ben and his car are gone. However, Joe realizes so are his distinct leather bracelet and cell phone. When Joe’s Facebook is hacked, he suspects alpha male Ben. He changes his password, turns off the cell phone and assumes the problem is fixed.
The next day, Ben’s wife, Beth, comes to warn Mel and Joe that Ben came home late the previous night drunk, furious at Joe and vowing revenge. And he took one of the couple’s guns. So starts this mile-a-minute thrill ride.
I tore through Lies as fast as possible because I adored all the quick twists and turns. It’s a great read that is highly recommended to Gone Girl fans. 4 stars.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Family, Sep 11 2018
It’s a familar party game. Put your five favorite people, living or dead, on your Dinner List. This book speculates on what would happen if the dinner actually occurred.
Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner at a trendy restaurant. Seated at the table are the five guests she named. Audrey Hepburn, her college philosophy Professor Conrad, her ex-boyfriend Tobias, her estranged father Robert, and her college best friend Jessica are all relaxed and not surprised to be at dinner together. Sabrina is worried that she is either insane or dreaming.
During dinner, flashbacks show the history Sabrina has with these people and why they were added to her dinner list. However, the focus is Sabrina and Tobias’ relationship and why it ended.
I love the magical realism genre (I’m looking at you Haruki Murakami). This book has a magical atmosphere in a more realistic setting. It was innovative of the author to use an old party game as a plot driver. The conclusion is heartfelt and felt organic to the characters. Be aware that the Dinner List is sad in parts. Several of the dinner guests are dead so any revelations will be ultimately bittersweet with the knowledge unusable after the dinner ends. The Dinner List is highly recommended for fans of Me Before You and the Fault in our Stars. 5 stars!
Thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books Tagged with: magical realism, Sep 11 2018
Where are the haunts in Read and Gone, the second book in the Haunted Library series?
Carrie has her life on track. She has a boyfriend, a job as a library events coordinator and a cute cottage where the rent is cheap. So she isn’t happy when her thieving ex-con father, John, reappears one night after breaking into her house.
Within 24 hours, John is a person of interest in both a murder and a million dollar jewel heist. When he gets left for dead in a parking lot, he is hospitalized with a concussion for a week. John asks Carrie to find both the murderer and the gems stolen by the victim.
Since this is the second in the Haunted Library series, I expected more interaction with the resident ghost. She has basically a walk-on part. Her frequent clothing and hair styles changes are discussed. She dispenses some obvious advice and vanishes. Not having read the first in this series made it difficult to understand the motivations of the multitude of characters. I would highly recommend reading this series in order.
The lack of a paranormal plotline and an overly familiar mystery plot made Read and Gone a miss for me. 2 stars.
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Haunted Library, Sep 11 2018, series
Oblivion Song Vol 1 is a great sci-fi horror comic by the creator of The Walking Dead.
Oblivion was created ten years prior when Philadelphia was overrun by huge alien beasts from an alternate dimension. Unfortunately, the beasts like the taste of human flesh. 20,000 are missing and presumed dead.
Nathan works in a poorly funded facility that goes to Oblivion to rescue any remaining humans. When he catches two humans and teleports them back to Earth’s dimension, they tell him of 100 humans surviving in the countryside in Oblivion. Nathan is determined to help them despite government apathy, religious zealotry and aging equipment opposing him at every turn.
The plot, setting and world-building are terrific in Oblivion Songs Vol 1. Because this is only the first volume, the characters are rather thin but I’m sure they will be fleshed out in subsequent volumes. The highly saturated colors and use of stark shadows in some scenes contributes much to the atmosphere.
Is this the next Walking Dead? It’s too early to tell. However, it is good in its own right and definitely worth a read. 4 stars!
Thanks to Image Comics and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books, Science Fiction Tagged with: near future, Sep 12 2018
Guess Who is a mash-up of Saw and The Game, where nothing is what it appears.
Sheppard, a famous true crime television detective, wakes up handcuffed to the bed in a hotel room. He remembers nothing of how he arrived there. With him are five strangers: Mandy, Alan, Ryan, Constance and a nameless teenage girl wearing headphones. Worse, there is a dead body in the bathroom.
A mysterious horse-masked man appears on the television. He gives Sheppard three hours to determine which of the room’s occupants is the murderer. If he fails, the hotel will be destroyed.
As Sheppard investigates he realizes the game master knows more about him than is publicly known. Due to his drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, Sheppard struggles to solve the crime.
Guess Who reads like a movie script. It alternates between the present and the immediate past. The plot including the many twists and the ultimate reveal is good. However, the point of view changes abruptly toward the end from third person limited (Sheppard) to third person omniscient. Sometimes it was difficult to determine whose underlying motives were being revealed necessitating rereading. This threw me out of the story right before the climax. Also, some of the characters motivations were too over-the-top and unbelievable. For these reasons, 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Hanover Square Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: locked room mystery, Sept 18 2018
Hilarious serial killer thriller where no one wants to be the next #FashionVictim.
Everyone fantasizes about how to kill their office rivals (or maybe that’s just me). Few carry those fantasies out in real life. Anya is prepared to kill an intern for a pitying look. When the intern is found dead by shoe, Detective Hopper, who looks like a Calvin Klein model, investigates. In the meantime, La Vie (sounding suspiciously like Vogue) staffers are instagramming selfies with the corpse with #DeathbyAccessories, #KillerShoes and of course, #FashionVictim hashtags.
OMG, #FashionVictim is hilarious! It is perfect for Devil Wears Prada fans jaded by social media. It is also similar to American Psycho as you are dropped into a psychopath’s thoughts by the use of first person narration. 5 stars!
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Humor, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Sep 11 2018, serial killer
Rett and Bryn continually awaken in the apocalyptic future in the Echo Room.
Step 1: Rett wakes up in a locked metal room with no memory of how he got there. He has blood on his clothes and hands. Soon he sees Bryn, who is also locked in the room with no memory of how she got there. As they talk, they discover they are both from the government-run shelter for abandoned youth, Walling House. Rett tries to discover a way out of the room. He finds a broken lock on one door. He finds hidden doors to two other rooms. However, there is no food or water immediately available—just a bin filled with empty water bottles and another with strangely glowing green tubes. The only clue is the phrase “SCATTER 3” on one of the walls.
Step 2: Explore. Get scared. Repeat Step 1. Rett and Bryn learn a bit more with each repetition.
The mystery is intriguing. The setting in a wrecked near future world is eerily unsettling. Even though it’s marketed as young adult science fiction, the Echo Room works well as an adult thriller too. While the pacing slowed a bit in the middle, the plot kept the reader engaged. The book will make a great movie someday. It is perfect for fans of puzzles and intriguing situations like in the Maze Runner.
A sequel is hinted at toward the end. I’m looking forward to that book. This one deserves 4 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Tor Teen, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Science Fiction, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: apocalypse, locked room mystery, Sep 11 2018
If art is why you love comics, Batman/Catwoman: The Wedding Album is a must have!
Including only three stories, this comic is shorter than most compilations. It contains the Engagement, the Dress and the Big Day. It also adds a Wedding cover variant gallery, a sketchbook and a look at the script for the Dress, which includes the original comics that make up the flashback scenes from 1940 until 2003. Catwoman’s face and figure change dramatically beginning with a Jane Russell lookalike.
For the wedding, Batman and Catwoman decide to invite only one witness each. However, DC has invited 31 guest artists to tell the wedding story. It’s rare to see such divergent styles in one comic. It is fascinating to see how each artist highlights different aspects of the characters.
Batman/Catwoman: The Wedding Album is highly recommended for its artwork and flashbacks. The plot and bang up action are not the focus here. For that, read Batman: Preludes to the Wedding. But for art fans or aspiring comic artists, this is a great choice. 5 stars!
Thanks to DC Comics and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books Tagged with: batman, catwoman, Sep 11 2018
Batman: Preludes to the Wedding includes six stories providing background to the events that occur in Batman and Catwoman: The Wedding Album.
The first and last story describe how the Joker receives his wedding invitation. The last also includes Harley Quinn. From This Day Forward includes a scene of Damien Wayne getting his wedding suit tailored where he describes his history to his soon-to-be stepmom, Catwoman. Later after returning from her bachelorette party, Catwoman and Damien have a serious talk. For Richer or Poorer makes the reader feel a part of Batman’s, anything but tranquil, bachelor party. For Better or Worse tells the Riddler’s tale. In Sickness and In Health, Red Hood crosses paths with an Anarky terrorist plot while watching over Catwoman’s bachelorette party.
This is a great entry point for those either just entering the DC multiverse or returning after a long absence. Most tales include a short history of the main character. Even for long-time fans, Batman: Preludes to the Wedding builds excitement for the wedding itself and foreshadows some complications. It is a worthwhile companion purchase.
I loved these simple short stories that were reminiscent of the comic books of my youth. 5 stars!
Thanks to DC Comics and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books Tagged with: batman, catwoman, Sep 11 2018
The Jane Hawk series finally hits its stride with its fourth entry, The Forbidden Door.
The Techno Arcadians are upping their game by accusing Jane on a 60 Minutes-style show of murdering her beloved husband Matt and faking his suicide. The Arcadians set in motion a plan to kidnap or kill everyone dear to Jane. Ancel and Clare Hawk, Jane’s in-laws, must flee their farm. Jane and Matt’s five-year-old son, Travis, must flee across the desert. Even Jane is tracked by one of the Techno Arcadians as the net around Jane and all her loved ones is slowly tightened.
The villain this time is Egon Gottfrey. Egon believes in radical philosophical nihilism. Nothing is real. Only his mind exists guided by an Unknown Playwright. Why is he scarier than most villains? Because he has no fear of death. “Gottfrey has no objection to a shootout. His physical existence is an illusion; he can’t be killed.” Egon is also a vicious killer, who kills total strangers for fun. All without a nanobot implant. He is a world-class antagonist and the perfect foil to Jane’s over-the-top bada$$ery.
It is hard not to see the extremes of good and evil plus Jane’s incredible skills as a superhero tale. Finally, a Joker has been set against Jane’s Batman. This entry in the series is definitely the best so far. I would even recommend just reading this one rather than beginning with the first in the series. It is perfect for thriller fans. However, it would also work for superhero comic fans too. The Forbidden Door would make a great movie. Hopefully, it has already been optioned by someone. 5 stars!
Thanks to Bantam Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Jane Hawk, Sep 11 2018, series
The 21 Lessons for the 21st Century cover five broad areas: technology, politics, despair and hope, truth and resilience.
In the 1990s, it appeared that liberalism had won its war with communism and facism. Even Russia had become, nominally at least, democratic. During the Trump and Brexit era, liberalism is once again on the ropes. Trump has an agenda of liberty only for Americans with a wall forcing foreigners to stay out. England, with Brexit, is attempting to limit liberty to only their own citizens too.
What is replacing liberalism? Nationalism and nostalgia for each country’s most prosperous time in history is being felt by both the US, England and even Russia with Putin and his tsarist fantasies. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century attempts to give some suggestions for where we should go idealogically from here. Per the book, in the shadow of the coming biotech and infotech revolutions with the threat of ecological collapse looming, zenophobia will not be easy or effective.
During the industrial revolution, machines replaced mankind’s physical abilities by moving heavy objects and speeding up processes beyond what man could do. With the recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), machines may soon be able to replace mankind’s thinking abilities too. When that happens, what advantage will man have over machine? Worse, what jobs will be available?
Once AI advances to replace soldiers, what will prevent rich megalomaniacs from taking over the world? Once biotechnology allows the DNA manipulation of humans into superhumans, how will the rest of us survive? This and other ominous questions are asked throughout this book. Only the last few chapters have anything positive to say about mankind’s near future.
While this is an important book to read, its unfailingly grim view is tough to take on. Even though the future may not contain conscious robots like in the Terminator, it still seems pretty scary. While it seems credulous to say so, current times may be looked back on as the good ol’ days by our grandchildren.
If you lean toward depression or always see the glass as half empty, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century may not be a good reading choice. If you are staunchly religious, this book pushes secularism rather heavily. It goes so far as to call religion the most long lasting fake news. Also, if you are a Trump or Putin fan, be aware that both are demonized within this book. Because this book reflects more of the author’s views than any scholarly appraisal of trends or even actual events, I can only give it 2 stars. I think it will anger or scare most readers more than inform them. Such a shame and disappointment from the highly acclaimed author of Sapiens and Homo Deus.
Thanks to the publisher, Random House, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: history, near future, Sep 4 2018
In Die Me a River, the small rural town of Scumble River is still recovering from the tornado in the last book in this cozy mystery series.
The town is abuzz with complaints about the shady practices of Homestead Insurance. Claims are being reduced, denied and seldom paid timely. When their insurance inspector turns up dead in a bombing, Police Chief Wally must investigate a plethora of suspects. Wally would much rather be at home with his school psychologist wife, Skye, and their still unnamed newborn twins. Skye is on maternity leave. She is seemingly being stalked by a new town resident, Millicent Rose, who just wants to go the twins’ baptism. According to their priest, Millicent has gone to both of the other baptisms since she arrived in town and gave each baby some type of verbal gift.
Die Me a River is the second in the rebooted Scumble River series. However, there were nineteen books in the original series too. Despite never reading any of those books, I had no trouble catching up with the character’s backstories. This works well as a stand-alone.
Most readers, and I include myself, read cozies more for the ambience and characters than for the puzzle. This book does a great job pulling the reader into small town Illinois life. While there are a lot of characters here, each has such a diverse personality it is is easy to keep them separated.
The two mysteries are well-presented. I actually liked the fairy godmother sub-plot better than the insurance main plot but that was just personal preference. I enjoyed the minor mystery around the naming of the babies too.
Die Me a River is a great, relaxing cozy mystery. It is recommended for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in someone else’s life for a day. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: cozy mystery, Sep 4 2018, series