Up for Review: Books I’ve bought

Publishers using NetGalley occasionally fail to mention that their eARCs are in fact part of a series, but not the first book. These days I try and remember to double check before requesting a book, but in the past I’ve been too careless or excited to seek out more information before hitting the “Request!” button. As a result I’ve received a few second-in-series eARCs. This means very late reviews because I don’t have the first book, it takes a while to get it, and by then I have new ARCs to worry about. After failing to get copies from the publishers, I went and bought the books myself. In one case it would have helped if I’d waited a little longer, but hey, I’m impatient. And it’s always nice to have hardcopies 🙂

Anyway, here are some of the books I bought recently, so I can read and review them before moving on to their sequels. Eventually.

The Habitation of the Blessed (A Dirge for Prester John #1) by Catherynne M. Valente
Cat Valente is one of those authors I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, so I decided to read this one first and finished it on Monday. I was not disappointed. The Habitation of the Blessed is a beautiful, utterly enchanting novel. Review to follow next week.

This is the story of a place that never was: the kingdom of Prester John, the utopia described by an anonymous, twelfth-century document which captured the imagination of the medieval world and drove hundreds of lost souls to seek out its secrets, inspiring explorers, missionaries, and kings for centuries. But what if it were all true? What if there was such a place, and a poor, broken priest once stumbled past its borders, discovering, not a Christian paradise, but a country where everything is possible, immortality is easily had, and the Western world is nothing but a dim and distant dream?

Brother Hiob of Luzerne, on missionary work in the Himalayan wilderness on the eve of the eighteenth century, discovers a village guarding a miraculous tree whose branches sprout books instead of fruit. These strange books chronicle the history of the kingdom of Prester John, and Hiob becomes obsessed with the tales they tell. The Habitation of the Blessed recounts the fragmented narratives found within these living volumes, revealing the life of a priest named John, and his rise to power in this country of impossible richness. John’s tale weaves together with the confessions of his wife Hagia, a blemmye–a headless creature who carried her face on her chest–as well as the tender, jeweled nursery stories of Imtithal, nanny to the royal family. (Goodreads)

The Habitation of the Blessed was first published in March 2010 by Night Shade Books. The sequel, The Folded World, was published on 15 November 2011.

Germline (The Subterrene War #1) by T.C. McCarthy
This is a popular one. I actually could have requested it when it came out, but I was unsure of whether or not I’d like it. I found the synopsis of the sequel, Exogene, instantly appealing however, so I’m more confident about reading this.

Germline (n.) the genetic material contained in a cellular lineage which can be passed to the next generation. Also: secret military program to develop genetically engineered super-soldiers (slang).

War is Oscar Wendell’s ticket to greatness. A reporter for The Stars and Stripes, he has the only one way pass to the front lines of a brutal war over natural resources buried underneath the icy, mineral rich mountains of Kazakhstan.

But war is nothing like he expected. Heavily armored soldiers battle genetically engineered troops hundreds of meters below the surface. The genetics-the germline soldiers-are the key to winning this war, but some inventions can’t be un-done. Some technologies can’t be put back in the box.

Kaz will change everything, not least Oscar himself. Hooked on a dangerous cocktail of adrenaline and drugs, Oscar doesn’t find the war, the war finds him. (Goodreads)

Germline was first published on 26 July 2011. Its sequel, Exogene was published on 1 March 2012 by Orbit Books.

Of Blood and Honey (The Fey and the Fallen #1) by Stina Leicht

Liam never knew who his father was. The town of Derry had always assumed that he was the bastard of a protestant — his mother never spoke of him, and Liam assumed he was dead. But when the war between the fallen and the fey began to heat up, Liam and his family are pulled into a conflict that they didn’t know existed.

A centuries old conflict between supernatural forces seems to mirror the political divisions in 1970’s era Ireland, and Liam is thrown headlong into both conflicts! Only the direct intervention of Liam’s real father, and a secret catholic order dedicated to fighting “The Fallen” can save Liam… from the mundane and supernatural forces around him, and from the darkness that lurks within him. (Goodreads)

Of Blood and Honey was first published on 1 February 2011 by Night Shade Books. The sequel, And Blue Skies From Pain, was published on 6 March 2012.

Up for Review: Mythology and Folklore from NetGalley

NetGalley has been very good to me lately – I’ve got plenty of new books to add to a review pile that will keep me wonderfully busy for the next few months. This latest set of eARCs is full of folklore and mythology – Irish, Catholic, Greek, Norse, Middle Eastern.

And Blue Skies From Pain by Stina Leicht
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: 06 March 2012
Genre: mythology and folklore, fantasy

This was an auto-approved title (which means you can download it without waiting for the publisher’s approval) with a plot that intrigued me, so I took it without realising that it was the second in a series called The Fey and the Fallen. I really wish publishers using NetGalley would mention these things. Either way, it will looks like a good series, so I’ve requested a review copy of the first book, Of Blood and Honey. If I don’t get one, I’ll just buy a copy, but because I’ll have to read an extra book this review will most likely come some time after the publication date.

Here’s the marketing copy  for the novel:
It’s November of 1977: The punk rock movement is a year old and the brutal thirty-year war referred to as “The Troubles” is escalating.

According to Irish tradition, the month of November is a time for remembrance of the dead. Liam Kelly, in particular, wishes it were otherwise. Born a Catholic in Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland, Liam, a former wheelman for the Provisional IRA, is only half mortal. His father is Bran, a puca — a shape-shifting, ghostlike creature — and a member of the ancient Fíanna.

Liam must dodge both the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who want him for the car bombing that killed Constable Haddock, and the Provisional IRA, who want him for the deaths of Éamon Walsh and several others found ripped apart in a burned down farmhouse in Armagh. Fortunately for Liam, both the Ulster Constabulary and the Provisional IRA think he’s dead. On the other hand, the Militis Dei — a group of Roman Catholic priest-assassins, whose sole purpose is to dispose of fallen angels and demons found living on this earth — is very aware that Liam is alive, and very aware of his preternatural parentage.

With the help of his unlikely ally Father Murray — a Militis Dei operative who has known Liam since childhood — he must convince the Church that he and his fey brethren aren’t demonic in origin, and aren’t allied with The Fallen.

The Pillars of Hercules by David Constantine
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: 06 March 2012
Genre: Greek mythology, fantasy, adventure

Another auto-approved book from Night Shade, yay! And this one is a stand-alone too. So I hope to post a timely review.

Marketing copy:
Alexander, Prince of Macedon, is the terror of the world.  Persia, Egypt, Athens . . . one after another, mighty nations are falling before the fearsome conqueror.  Some say Alexander is actually the son of Zeus, king of the gods, and the living incarnation of Hercules himself.  Worse yet, some say Alexander believes this . . .             

The ambitious prince is aided in his conquest by unstoppable war-machines based on the forbidden knowledge of his former tutor, the legendary scientist-mage known as Aristotle.  Greek fire, mechanical golems, and gigantic siege-engines lay waste to Alexander”s enemies as his armies march relentlessly west–toward the very edge of the world.            

Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, past the gateway to the outer ocean, lies the rumored remnants of Atlantis: ancient artifacts of such tremendous power that they may be all that stands between Alexander and conquest of the entire world.  Alexander desires that power for himself, but an unlikely band of fugitives-including a Gaulish barbarian, a cynical Greek archer, a cunning Persian princess, and a sorcerer”s daughter-must find it first . . . before Alexander unleashes godlike forces that will shatter civilization.            

The Pillars of Hercules is an epic adventure that captures the grandeur and mystery of the ancient world as it might have been, where science and magic are one and the same.

Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt
Grove Press, an imprint of Grove/Atlantic
Publication Date: First published 06 September 2011. This edition: 01 February 2012
Genre:  Norse mythology, war

A modern retelling of an ancient myth? Why yes, I’d love that, thank you.

Marketing copy:
In this brilliant retelling of the Norse myth about the end of the world, the award-winning author of Possession and The Children’s Bookunleashes a story of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves. Just as Wagner used this dramatic and catastrophic struggle for the climax of his Ring Cycle, so A. S. Byatt now reinvents it in all its intensity and glory. 

As the bombs of the Blitz rain down on Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new wartime life. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods-a book of ancient Norse myths-and her inner and outer worlds are transformed. 

How could this child know that fifty years on, many of the birds and flowers she took for granted on her walks to school would become extinct? War, natural disaster, reckless gods, and the recognition of impermanence in the world are just some of the threads that Byatt weaves into this most timely of books. Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, Ragnarök is a landmark piece of storytelling from one of the world’s great writers.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
 Grove Press, and imprint of Grove/Atlantic
Publication Date: 03 July 2012
Genre: cyberpunk, Middle Eastern mythology

Cyberpunk and mythology? How could I possibly say no?

Marketing copy:
From the author of award–winning graphic novels comes a stunning and propulsive debut novel, blending cyberpunk adventure with the enchantment of Middle Eastern mythology.

Alif the Unseen is a masterful debut novel, an enchanting, incredibly timely adventure tale worthy of Neil Gaiman. In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker protects watched groups from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble—until he falls in love with the wrong woman and unleashes a forbidden text thought to be written by the jinn. 

As the book opens, Alif ’s computer has just been breached by the “Hand of God,” as the hackers call the state’s electronic security force, and he is scrambling to protect his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other vulnerable groups in autocratic states across the region. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and when it turns out the fiancé is the Hand, and the state security forces come after Alif with guns drawn, he must go underground, trying all the while to fight back against a piece of code he wrote to protect his lover but which the Hand is using to create the most sophisticated state surveillance the world has ever known. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days,the secret book of the jinn, has fallen into his hands and may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death. 

With shades of Neal Stephenson, Philip Pullman, and The Thousand and One Nights, Wilson’s Alif the Unseen is a tour de force that will enchant readers— a sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, religion, technology, and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner.  

Thanks so much to NetGalley, Night Shade Books, and Grove Press!

Up for Review: New from NetGalley

Check out these awesome eARCs I received via NetGalley:

Thieving Fear by Ramsey Campbell, from Dorchester Publishing

Something called Charlotte’s name that night.  Her sister and her cousins, comfortable in their sleeping bags, didn’t hear it, but it lured Charlotte to the edge of the cliff, to a secret trapdoor buried beneath dirt and grass.  Beyond the trapdoor lay only darkness-and two unblinking eyes.  Charlotte told herself it was only a dream.  But something escaped when the door was opened, something that tainted all of them.  And now, ten years later, it is drawing them back to that cliff, forcing them to once again peer beyond the trapdoor, to confront what waits for them in the darkness.

Thieving Fear was originally published in 2008, and was re-released by Dorchester on 15 November 2011

The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi, from Mulholland Books

Six severed arms are discovered, arranged in a mysterious circle and buried in a clearing in the woods. Five of them appear to belong to missing girls between the ages of eight and eighteen. The sixth is yet to be identified. Worse still, the girls’ bodies, alive or dead, are nowhere to be found.

Lead investigators Mila Vasquez, a celebrated profiler, and Goran Gavila, an eerily prescient criminologist, dive into the case. They’re confident they’ve got the right suspect in their sights until they discover no link between him and any of the kidnappings except the first. The evidence in the case of the second missing child points in a vastly different direction, creating more questions than it answers.

Vasquez and Gavila begin to wonder if they’ve been brought in to take the fall in a near-hopeless case. Is it all coincidence? Or is a copycat criminal at work? Obsessed with a case that becomes more tangled and intense as they unravel the layers of evil, Gavila and Vasquez find that their lives are increasingly in each other’s hands.

The Whisperer, described as a thought-provoking, intelligent literary thriller, has already become a bestseller across Europe. It’s won 5 international literary prizes and has been translated into several languaged. It was originally published in 2009. Mulholland Books is releasing their edition on 5 January 2012

Enormity by W.G. Marshall from Night Shade Books

Enormity is the strange tale of an American working in Korea, a lonely young man named Manny Lopes, who is not only physically small (in his own words, he’s a “Creole shrimp”), but his work, his failed marriage, his race, all conspire to make him feel puny and insignificant—the proverbial ninety-eight-pound weakling.

Then one day an accident happens, a quantum explosion, and suddenly Manny awakens to discover that he is big—really big. In fact, Manny is enormous, a mile-high colossus! Now there’s no stopping him: he’s a one-man weapon of mass destruction. Yet he means well.

Enormity takes some odd turns, featuring characters like surfing gangbangers, elderly terrorists, and a North Korean assassin who thinks she’s Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. There’s also sex, violence, and action galore, with the army throwing everything it has against the rampaging colossus that is Manny Lopes. But there’s only one weapon that has any chance at all of stopping him: his wife.

Enormity will be released on 7 February 2011

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett, from Orbit Books

George Carole ran away from home to join the Vaudeville circuit. Sixteen years old, uncommonly gifted at the piano, he falls in with a strange troupe — even for Vaudeville.

Under the watchful eye of the enigmatic figure of Silenus, George comes to realize that the members of the troupe are more than they appear to be. And their travels have a purpose that runs deeper than entertainment.

George must uncover the mysteries of Silenus’s Company before it is too late. He is already entangled in their web of secrets and if he doesn’t learn where they are taking him, he may never find his way out.

The Troupe will be released on 21 February 2012. In the meantime you can read the first chapter and check out the official website for the novel.

I’m hoping to review Thieving Fear  and The Whisperer soon. Reviews for Enormity and The Troupe will be posted closer to their release dates.

Thanks so much to the publishers and NetGalley for these ARCs – you guys rock!