|Jaclyn first fell in love with books after reading The Phantom Tollbooth as a child and hasn't looked back since. She reads across all genres that MGRB carries, but is a particular sucker for books that are bittersweet, crushingly grim, or madcap genre-benders.|
|Galaxy Gal at WonderCon 2013|
Stephen Blackmoore's sophmore effort, Dead Things, exists
in that exciting place where urban fantasy and noir meet for a late-night tryst. After spending fifteen years in
exile as necromancer for hire, Eric Carter's not great at dealing with the
living. Back in LA to find out who's behind his sister's brutal murder, Carter
is thrown back into a world that has moved on without him, and depending on
friends who he can't seem to trust. As Carter unravels the big ugly sweater
that his life has become, he discovers some things don't stay dead, some
friends don't stay honest, and some unsavory alliances can be convenient, even
if there's hell to pay later. Blackmoore has a talent for setting scenes that
pack visual punch, and I found myself loving the smartass, gallows humor of Dead
Things, and enjoying the clever, tiny ways magic and reality intertwine. I
flew through this book eager to see what would happen next. Stephen Blackmoore
is definitely someone to watch out for, and with Dead Things, I predict
Good Things in his future. – Jaclyn
Come see Stephen at his launch party for Dead Things on February 5th, more information here.
George Saunders’ new collection of short stories is full of masterful tales, some sad, some sweet, some tense and frightening, and others that are outright bizarre and disturbing. Which is to say, Tenth of December is everything I like a short story collection to be. When I found myself riveted and sitting at the edge of my seat while reading “Victory Lap,” a short story about an abduction, I was hooked. Many of Saunders’ stories have a distinctly American flavor, and he has a skill for writing characters that have analogues in your daily life, and who invoke empathy. Many of his characters are unenviable, so to still identify with them and sympathize with them as a reader I think reflects great skill on the part of Saunders as a writer. Tenth of December is great choice for fans of short form.--Jaclyn
When I first heard
about Terminal Island, a horror novel
set on Catalina Island, I was jumping at the chance to read it. Written by
former Torrance-dweller Walter Greatshell, Terminal
Island is a disturbing read, especially when you’ve visited Catalina. While
my experience was pretty horrific, it was more due to sun poisoning than a
sacrificial cult (wear sunscreen, kids!). Henry, a former Catalina resident and
veteran whose career was sidelined by a terrible car accident, returns to the
island to track down his mother, who has ceased all communication. Haunted by
terrible memories, Henry’s world begins to unravel as we question whether these
events are really happening, or are the result of a man who is losing his mind.
Greatshell is also the author of the Xombies
In A Death in Valencia, Jason Webster's follow-up to Or the Bull Kills You, a recently promoted Chief Inspector Max Cámara investigates the murder of a locally acclaimed paella chef. A simple crime of passion, or a murder linked to the grass roots campaign the victim waged against wealthy backers of a redevelopment scheme? Or could it be a smaller piece of a fight between local police and national police who are tied to a failed coup in the early 80s? Cámara must answer these questions, as well as grapple with his own hang-ups and personal tragedies. Webster has created a character rich in flaws, and effective in his investigations; an interesting mix to read, and sure to satisfy fans of police procedurals set abroad.
Liz Williams thrillingly integrates fantasy, science fiction, and police procedural in Snake Agent, the first Detective Inspector Chen novel. I found this book to be a refreshing mix of comfortable standbys and novel (heh) takes on world building. Singapore 3's Detective Inspector Chen has a demon wife, works in a department that has the collective willies over what he does, and is pursuing a case of missing innocent souls. During his investigations he uncovers what may prove to be the link to a larger conspiracy to disrupt the carefully crafted balance between Hell, the living world, and the celestial spheres. Solving this mystery and maintaining the balance may involve ticking off his patron goddess, and getting help in unlikely places. A clever mix of humor, drama, horror, and action; Liz Williams writes in a dynamically visual way. Great for urban fantasy and science fiction readers, as well as for fans of characters like John Constantine.
Despite all of the improvements that future technology has brought the human race, the abolishment of jury duty isn’t one of them--and so Huw’s nightmare begins. Huw’s excitement at having a spot on the jury tasked with giving a yay-or-nay on the latest tech from the cloud quickly turns into panic when he finds out he’s been lined up as the unwitting guinea pig for said technology. What follows is a mind- and gender-bending romp through a Libya democratized to an almost comical degree, a rabidly Christian America that has come under siege of sentient ants and bio-engineered petrol swamps, and the cloud, the absolute last place a technophobe like Huw wants to end up--all with the added pressure of having to save humanity from an alien threat! I loved this book. It has digital jinni concierge teapots and an angry judge-turned-Dalek! Brilliant. The Rapture of the Nerds is funny, imaginative, challenging, and a page-turner; Doctorow and Stross have outdone themselves.Meet Cory at MGRB in October!
Philip Kim has a job with a San Francisco-based social network that provides generic emotional e-support to recently dumped (and subscription-paying) men. It's fairly mind-numbing work for an MFA holder, and when he begins receiving well-written emails from characters in Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho's violent play, Philip assumes it's a harmless, if crass, prank from a coworker. Able to attribute his neighbor's shooting death to the random risks of living in a not-quite-gentrified neighborhood, Philip finds it more difficult to feel safe once other social networking start-up employees in the city start turning up dead. Crossing social and racial boundaries, The Dead Do Not Improve paints San Francisco as the city of half-failed ideals and clashing communities--local surfers angry with clueless and rude out-of-towners, hipsters trying to gentrify gang neighborhoods, and violent (and vegan) hippies with a mad anti-internet, anti-porn bent, among others. Combine this complex take on a city with Philip's experience as the American child of Korean immigrants just trying to fit in and his almost apathetic "waiting" for his life to direct him, as opposed to the other way around, and you have an intriguing mystery for the new century.
Princess Alexandrina, daughter of the Maharaja and an Englishwoman, has been left penniless and with little hope for a bright future after her father's scandalous death. Granted reprieve by the Queen and permitted to live as a grace-and-favor resident, the Princess aka Mink, moves into a damp and cheerless cottage with her servant Pooki. When a fellow resident dies conspicuously after eating a pigeon pie Pooki has made for an Easter picnic, the Princess must work to clear Pooki's name. Fearing the assigned investigator's willing incompetence will see her last friend hanged for a crime she did not commit, Mink pursues all avenues available to her and uncovers a variety of grievances and motives in her neighbor's death. A funny and smart read, this book is great for fans of Jane Austen and Victorian era mysteries. This book should also appeal to fans of cozies!
Albert is a platypus on a mission. After spending the majority of his life in captivity at the Adelaide zoo, Albert escapes in pursuit of the "Old Australia," a place where animals live as they used to, free from human interference. Albert of Adelaide reads like an anthropomorphic take on the Wild West, and Howard Anderson's protagonist is quietly philosophical and accepting in his search for a land that may be more myth than memory. With the help of new friends (and enemies), Albert learns to survive in a world that is both harsh and invigorating to someone used to endless days of being on display. A wonderful debut that I found almost bittersweet; highly recommended.
Tarquin Hall’s latest Vish Puri mystery starts quickly with the murder of a prominent Pakistani figure and father to a famous young cricketer. At the behest of an organization keen to clean up match fixing in cricket, Most Private Investigator Puri is on the case, soon to find that things are not always as clear cut as they seem. Touching on issues of corruption, the human costs of the Indo-Pakistan border conflict, mustache theft, and “Chubby” Puri’s unflappable appetite, The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken has just the right mix of gravity and humor. I really enjoyed the local flavor of this book and the light conflict between Puri and his Mummy Ji, who has a personal reason for carrying on a parallel investigation of her own. If you are a fan of mysteries with quirky detectives and foreign settings, this is the book for you. Immensely enjoyable and a great vacation read.
Alif is a hacker with a problem: his girlfriend is getting married off to someone else...who happens to be the head of his country's network security apparatus. To make matters worse, he's just been given a book (written by jinn!) that his rival is willing to kill for, believing it has the key to writing a program that will shut down all online dissent. When the state comes for him, Alif is forced to flee with the unlikely help of his neighbor Dina, a man (or is he?) called Vikram the Vampire, an American convert, a sheikh, and a 26th-in-line prince who probably shouldn't have a driver's license. G. Willow Wilson challenges her characters to see what has been in front of them all along and recognize that they may not understand their own motivations, or religion, or the people they love (or think they love) - but that they can learn, and become better people in the process. Fantastical, gripping, and funny, Alif the Unseen is a book unlike anything I've read, and left me ready for the next adventure. I think it will leave you feeling that way, too.
“A loving homage to the redshirt-wearing, barely-knew-him-before-he-got-eaten-by-an-evil-space-pickle away team members of TV past. Fun, surprising, and a delight, both to fans of Star Trek, and to the rest of you who haven’t come ‘round to our cult-like fandom…yet.” --Jaclyn
Jack Spratt, head detective of Reading's perennially-underfunded Nursery Crime Division, has just landed a new partner...and a new murder case. Humpty Dumpty has shattered to pieces, and Spratt, along with his new Detective Sergeant Mary Mary, must determine who's behind the philanthropically-minded-but-mildly-criminal egg's murder. Fame-seeking former partners, Humpty's numerous lovers, a footcare takeover conspiracy, magic beans, a visit from the Jellyman, and a Titan lodger (literally), all manage to complicate Jack's investigation. Fun, clever, and full of shifting suspects, <i>The Big Over Easy</i> is a great read for people who like a little fantastical twist to their mysteries.
Very rarely do I find a book difficult to put down. The Age of Miracles, however, was that kind of book. We follow Julia and her life after the announcement that the Earth’s rotation has begun to slow dramatically. We feel Julia’s loneliness, her frustration with her mother’s increasing panic about the slowing, and her adjustment to the shifts in interpersonal relationships that occur in response to extended daytime, food panics, electricity rationing, and radiation. But despite these radical changes, The Age of Miracles is ultimately a story about an eleven-year-old girl growing up, and Karen Thompson Walker has managed to capture the essence of that age without sanitizing or sensationalizing the experience. A strong debut novel from an author to watch. – Jaclyn
The Sadness of the Samurai is like a blazing car accident you can’t look away from, but in a good way. There’s not much hope for anyone involved, but you have the perverse need to know how it ends, regardless. Set in both post-Civil War, pro-Nazi Spain, as well as the post-Franco Spain of the early 1980s, The Sadness of the Samurai follows the fates of two women connected across a generation by a failed assassination plot, and the no-innocents-spared fallout that event creates. As a native Spanish-speaker, I found this book to be deftly translated, to my great relief, and the beauty of del Árbol’s prose tempers the tragedy that unfolds. Grim, tense, and downright brutal at times, The Sadness of the Samurai isn’t for the faint of heart, but the payoff is the pleasure of reading a well-wrought novel.
Priest masterfully creates a world in which the survival of Earth City, in its constant struggle to reach
the seemingly arbitrary place known as “optimum,” dominates everything – interpersonal relationships,
education, governance, and even basic terms used to describe time. Complex issues of sexism,
transparency, exploitation, and personal sacrifice are seriously addressed, but without dogmatism;
Inverted World makes space for multiple perspectives to exist and be challenged. Priest provides a
protagonist whose perception is suspect, but who also fulfills the Campbellian hero archetype, and this
contrast really contributes to the quality of the novel. Despite first being published in 1974, Inverted
World remains contemporary, making it a worthwhile revisit for the 21st Century and essential for any
fan of the genre who needs a break from made-for-movie narratives. -- JMT
Emperor Mollusk, loved by Terrans, reviled by the inhabitants of just about every other planet in the system, has got the would-be-villain of the galaxy out for his former title as boss of the sauce! Funny, irreverent, and squishy, Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain is sure to make you laugh and wish you had a benevolent tentacled overlord in a exosuit looking out for your interests.
Ptolemy Grey is a nonagenarian wading through the confusion of dementia, lost within moments of fear, anger, sadness, and simple joy. When his caretaker-nephew Reggie is killed in a seemingly random act of violence, Ptolemy's life is upturned and transformed. With the help of his new advocate Robyn, a strong young woman who is willing to guide him out of darkness, Ptolemy is able to get an experimental treatment that renews his mind—and his desire to see youthful pledges fulfilled and heartbreaking wrongs set right. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey explores the intersection of past and present, with Walter Mosley skillfully blending the two to make a poignant narrative that ultimately asks us to define family and loyalty, and in asking breathes new life into our notions of obligation and love.
A high-profile murder on a quiet island retreat reveals a slew of motives and suspects, and an unexpected danger arises for Dagliesh and his team. Multifaceted characters make finding the murderer a challenge and this book a pleasure to read.
An intensely creepy read. Danielewski weaves together multiple narratives, and fluctuates between horror, autobiography, and academia. Uncertainty as to what is "real" and what is fiction adds to the delightful sense of unease this book provokes. House of Leaves will have you feeling like childhood fears of the nameless, unseen monster hiding under your bed or in the closet weren't so unreasonable after all.
Huxley/Orwell light, with an absurd and seemingly benevolent colortocracy calling the no-spoons-allowed shots. Color perception dictates one's status, and the frequently comical squabbles within the hue-ararchy (hah!) serve to distract from the more sinister and troubling mysteries of life within the Collective. A fun work of high-concept science fiction and mystery, recommended for mature teens and adults alike. Shades of Grey is the first of a forthcoming trilogy, and Jasper Fforde's voice is reminiscent of Douglas Adams'.
Margary's book explores the economic and societal consequences of a cure to age-related death. Fascinating and full of dark humor, The Postmortal begs the question, would you want the cure?
Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan is a curious, sometimes sad, sometimes funny tale of time, love, and missed opportunities, with a Martian invasion to boot. Clever and thought-provoking, it's a must-read.
A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint is a quick, quirky and satisfying read where motives of love, greed, revenge and eco-consciousness abound in the death of millionaire Alan Lee, with Malaysia serving as the multicultural backdrop.
Octavia Butler's time-travel novel Kindred is a thoughtful study of racial identity and family in 1970s America and antebellum America. Butler’s ability to write about these complex issues and successfully transmit Dana’s fear that she will never return home makes it clear why she won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
Containing two separate tales 100 years apart, Asimov continues the Foundation series to explore the social and political evolution of man throughout the galaxy. The Empire has collapsed into barbarian states and a mutant with the ability to manipulate emotions to gain the information he seeks threatens the Foundation.
Shadow has just gotten out of prison and has nothing to lose. After entering the employ of an unscrupulous man named Mr. Wednesday, Shadow meets various incarnations of "gods" who have immigrated to America via their followers and assists his new boss in rallying their support for an impending war against the new gods of suburban malaise and consumerism. Like Shadow, this war is not everything it seems, and Gaiman executes his tale with beautiful detail and plotting. Urban fantasy at its finest, American Gods is quintessential for fans of the genre. Recommended for adults.