Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Thriller Review: The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland

The 3rd Woman is a solid mesh of murder mystery and political thriller, with just a slight sci-fi sort of edge to it. The very near future, as Jonathan Freedland imagines it, sees the United States of America so crippled by debt that it's had to sell off some of its sovereignty and accept the military presence of its largest debtor - China - on its home soul. It's not all that far-fetched, and the speculative aspect largely stops there, although Freedland does take some liberties with the future of social media.

Madison Webb is your typical journalistic heroine, an obsessive loner who can't resist the puzzle of a good mystery, especially when it's a murder so close to her heart. She's damaged goods - there's a whole subplot dedicated to the mystery of what her mother's illness is hiding - and she's not above using anyone or anything in her pursuit of answers. She's not necessarily likable or sympathetic, but she is someone with whom the reader can empathize.

While I understand it's a genre convention, I felt it was a shame that the entire story is told solely from her perspective. It really denies us any deeper insights into the whole political situation, which was (admittedly) the primary draw for me. We do get bits of context throughout the novel, revealing the new racial tensions and potential for civil unrest along the West coast, but I wanted something a bit deeper. It's not necessarily a complaint, just an observation on my own particular interest in the tale.

As for the murder mystery, it's well played out with plenty of red herrings, double crosses, and twist developments. Although motives are always suspect in these kinds of stories, the political aspect, the fear of the Chinese oppressors, and the pressures of a mayoral political campaign certain add to the tension. It all gets a little bogged down towards the end, especially with the resolution of that family mystery, but for the most part it works.

Even if The 3rd Woman isn't quite as speculative or as political as I anticipated, it's a solid mystery, with a good cast, propelled along by a well-written narrative that races along, but still takes time to provide all the details.


Hardcover, 480 pages
Expected publication: August 4th 2015 by Harper

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration.This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my honest review.

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About the Author

31437About Jonathan Freedland

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, a number one bestselling author, and a broadcaster. He is the Guardian's executive editor for Opinion and also writes a weekly column. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, and presents BBC Radio 4's contemporary history series The Long View. In 2014 he won the Orwell special prize for journalism.

Find out more about Jonathan at his website, and connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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About the Book

The 3rd Woman (429x648)About The 3rd Woman

• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: Harper (August 4, 2015)

The first two murders went unnoticed. The third will change everything. . . .

She can't save her sister.

Journalist Madison Webb is obsessed with exposing lies and corruption. But she never thought she'd be investigating her own sister's murder.

She can't trust the police.

Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail's death was an isolated crime. She uncovers evidence that suggests her sister was the third victim in a series of killings hushed up as part of a major conspiracy.

She can expose the truth.

In a United States that now bows before the People's Republic of China, corruption is rife—the government dictates what the "truth" is. With her life on the line, Madison must give up her quest for justice—or face the consequences. . . .

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Tor Books Presents Vienna by William S. Kirby (PROMO)

Vienna by William S. Kirby

Vienna is a unique and unforgettable novel. . . . Inspired by a classic Sherlock Holmes story, Vienna reimagines Holmes and Watson for the 21st century.

It started as nothing more than a one-night stand . . .

Justine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she’s never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she’s never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.

When Justine’s current beau is murdered in the bathroom of her hotel room, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a deadly conspiracy focusing on a set of antique wooden mannikins—the same ones that are the centerpieces of the photo shoot.

What secret do the mannikins hide, and why is it worth killing over?

Drawn together by an attraction neither of them can explain, Justine and Vienna are pursued across Europe by paparazzi, tabloid headlines . . . and the mystery of Vienna’s own shadowy past, which holds the key to everything.


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About the Author

WILLIAM S. KIRBY has written for television, newspapers, and magazines. Kirby has traveled widely to such places as Great Britain, Fiji, New Zealand, France, Iceland, Belgium, Austria, Hawai'i, the U. S. and British Virgin Islands, Taiwan, Mexico, and the Canadian Rockies. Vienna is a direct result of his travels in Europe. Kirby lives with his wife in Louisville, Colorado.




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Saturday, August 29, 2015

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

A quiet week on pretty much all fronts, but still some interesting stuff going on (and coming in), including a big giveaway . . .


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Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

A bit of a mixed bag this week with 1 new review title, a pair of purchases, and a pair of Kindle freebies (because I don't already have enough books to read - LOL).


Vienna by William S. Kirby

Vienna is a unique and unforgettable novel. . . . Inspired by a classic Sherlock Holmes story, Vienna reimagines Holmes and Watson for the 21st century

It started as nothing more than a one-night stand . . .

Justine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she’s never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she’s never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.

When Justine’s current beau is murdered in the bathroom of her hotel room, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a deadly conspiracy focusing on a set of antique wooden mannikins—the same ones that are the centerpieces of the photo shoot.

What secret do the mannikins hide, and why is it worth killing over?

Drawn together by an attraction neither of them can explain, Justine and Vienna are pursued across Europe by paparazzi, tabloid headlines . . . and the mystery of Vienna’s own shadowy past, which holds the key to everything.


The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

You know how all those old fairy tales take you through lots of scary adventures till you finally reach that inevitable line: "And they lived happily ever after..." Guess what? It's not true. Life in never-never land isn't all sweetness and light. Cinderella - whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas) - does marry Prince Armand. And (if you can ignore the pigeon incident) their wedding is a dream-come-true.

But not long after the "happily ever after," Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia - otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty - comes to the rescue (she's a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.

That's when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting.

Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland's most nefarious villains?


Brutal Passions by J.E. Keep & M. Keep

“You don’t take it easy on a fella, do you?”

Ruki’s powerful. Strong. And she's on an adventure of her very own, seeking out greatness and tales worthy of song.

She thirsts for glory, and when she stumbles upon a pretty young man in the wreckage of a caravan, it's the beginning of the biggest challenge in her life. Can she save the boy or will she instead be tempted by the muscle-bound dragon-warrior that's in pursuit of him?


The Atomic Sea: Volume One by Jack Conner

Epic adventure in a strange world by bestselling author Jack Conner. A thousand years ago, the sea began to change, and the change spread. Now the boiling, toxic, lightning-wreathed Atomic Sea has encompassed every ocean on the planet, and the creatures that live in it have become mutated and unnatural. The sea's taint can infect any human who comes in contact with it or with unprocessed seafood, killing them . . . or altering them. No one knows why the sea has become this way or what it portends, only that it's irrevocably changed the world.

Meanwhile, world war has erupted, and the small country of Ghenisa, like many others, is tottering on the brink of collapse under the onslaught of the Empire of Octung. Dr. Francis Avery, a middle-aged widower, is aboard a military whaling ship far out on the Atomic Sea when a series of murders onboard propels him down the rabbit-hole of danger and terror unlike any other. Soon he becomes aware of a spy on the ship, but that's just the beginning. With the help of the grizzled whaler Janx and a mysterious woman named Layanna, he will embark on an epic quest to save Ghenisa from Octung and unravel the secrets of the Atomic Sea. This is the opening volume of a multi-volume saga of adventure and high stakes in an awe-inspiring world unlike any you've ever seen before. Welcome to the world of the Atomic Sea.


Lost Oasis by T.M. Bown

An Ancient Persian army lost in the desert for 2,500 years...the fabulous, legendary lost oasis of Zerzura!

After he discovers a Persian gold coin deep in the Egyptian desert, geologist John Cavanaugh leads a team of archaeologists back to the site, unknowingly triggering the rebirth of a multitude of long forgotten horrors. But as the expedition approaches its goal, Cavanaugh realizes the worst: each of his crew members is along for a different reason. Fame, riches, love, and remnants of a dark past fuel their actions and lead them to individual fates that none of them bargained for.

Lost Oasis is a dark, fast-paced adventure thriller that takes the reader on two unique safaris 2,500 years apart, through a surreal, malevolent desert where they encounter friendship and betrayal, ambition and oblivion, discovery and loss, joy and terror, love and death.

TM Bown is a PhD consulting geologist who has participated on 48 overseas expeditions, including twenty-two seasons in Egypt and ten elsewhere in the Middle East. In addition to his geologic studies, he has co-authored four articles on the oldest road in the world (IV Dynasty of Pharaonic Egypt), and he was scientific consultant for the English Channel 4 TV Documentary Series “Ends of the Earth” on the 2002 program, entitled The Lost Army of King Cambyses. Dr. Bown lives near Denver, Colorado, where he is working on a second novel which also partly takes place in ancient Egypt.

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey continues to be my read of leisure, and while it had a slow start, I'm really enjoying where the story is taking us; The Crimson Corset by Alistair Cross has a more leisurely pace than I expected at the start, but it's a fascinating small-town vampire tale; and finally I've decided to throw caution to the wind, ignore release dates, and dive into Crimson Shore by Preston & Child simply because I can.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, August 28, 2015

WTF Friday: Naked Serial Killers in Volkswagens by Catfish McDaris

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.



They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

This week we're once again turning the WTF keys over to Donald, who reviews the funniest book he's read in a long time . . .


Catfish McDaris takes us on a cross country train ride in just because. Is this an "auto biography" with some slap stick, bizarro humor? If you know a few things about the man they call "Catfish McDaris" then you will actually draw a mental picture of his main character Barge. Along the way on this crazy adventure Barge comes across one of those famous serial killers naked in a different color Volkswagen, like a "Forest Gump" scene digitally placed into the moment.

A man named Barge - his friends call him Bag - is dubbed the one for a mission. After a tribe takes him under their wing and helps him defeat some strange man eating creatures, Barge starts his cross country train ride.....sex, drugs and just out of this world rock and roll.

Twin sisters who makes sandwiches wiping their bodily fluids on the bread, shaved armpit and vagina hairs, masturbating with vacuum attachments, A recipe for a party goer that won't go home, toilet paper soaked in hot pepper juices, dicks sliced off by a lawn mower and stitched back on. All this and much more and the ending question.....Whatever happen to Barge?

Read this humor, gut wrenching entertainment with cameos from David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy & Charles Manson (to name a few) in one helluva ride.


Paperback, 50 pages
Published August 15th 2015 by Weekly Weird Monthly

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley
Expected publication: March 15th 2016 by Tor Books

The climactic third and final novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne

The trilogy that began with The Emperor's Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire.

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all--Valyn, Adare, and Kaden--come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.


Yes, we're looking ahead to next Spring already. Brian announced on Facebook last week that the book is finished and off to the copyeditor, 12 years after he began work on the trilogy. It's already available for pre-order, and the first 2 books were amazing, so what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fantasy Review: The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic (GIVEAWAY)

Although it shares the same world as The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, Andy Remic's first book in The Blood Dragon Empire is an entirely different. While those books were very much high-stakes epic fantasies, complete with massive battles and bloodshed, The Dragon Engine is more of a traditional quest tale - albeit one that subverts the usual tropes.

For starters, our heroes seem to be the typical gang of adventurers - complete with barbarian, archer, cleric, assassin, and more - but they're actually retired war veterans whose quest days are comfortably behind them. As it turns out, one of them is dying of cancer, one is drinking his sorrows away, and several are nursing broken hearts. While all but one would have turned down an adventure based solely on greed, they find a common purpose in seeking out a magical cure for their dying companion.

While you don't need any prior knowledge of the two Rage of Kings novels to enjoy this, fans will be pleased to discover that King Yoon is still in control, and as debauched as ever. He has serious competition for the most over-the-top, scene-chewing villain however, in the form of First Cardinal Skalg, High Priest of the Church of Hate. While the Dwarves here are hearty and stoic, as you'd expect, they're also sadistically prejudiced against the surface, exceptionally cruel, and on the brink of civil war. They're also presumed long-extinct, which poses a challenge for our heroes, who intend to help themselves to their forgotten treasures.

Where the story takes a sharp left turn in terms of both plot and tone is in the second half of the novel, following the heroes arrival beneath the mountain. What began a fun adventures becomes very dark, very quickly, as our heroes are taken captive. Without saying too much, the torture they endure at the hands of the Dwarves is not for the squeamish - it's cruel, it's painful, and it crosses lines that will make some readers very uncomfortable. What's important is that it's not done merely for shock value. Remic has established his heroes, exposed their faults and their flaws, and also pointed out their all-too-human weaknesses. It's important that they be tested, if not broken, if they're to shake off the complacency of retirement and become the heroes that the world needs once again.

The final chapters are some of the most powerful Remic has ever written, with the core conflicts coming together in a climactic clash. It is here that the true significance of the The Dragon Engine comes clear, leaving us with a cliffhanger that poses a dire threat for the world above. It is a very different story arc than the Rage of Kings, but readers who appreciate a more mature, more adult, no-hold-barred kind of fantasy that rivals any big screen R-rated action flick will once again find a lot to enjoy here.

Bring on Twilight of the Dragons!


ebook, 267 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by Angry Robot

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration.This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my honest review.

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GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the awesome gang at Angry Robot Books, we have five (5) copies of The Dragon Engine to giveaway to some lucky readers (winner's choice of paperback or e-book). Enter below . . . and good luck!