San Diego ~ 5943 Balboa Avenue, Suite #100, San Diego, CA 92111 ~ 858-268-4747
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San Diego ~ 5943 Balboa Avenue, Suite #100, San Diego, CA 92111 ~ 858-268-4747
Redondo Beach Satellite ~ 2810 Artesia Blvd., Redondo Beach, CA 90278 - 310-542-6000
Check out what we (MG staff and friends) have recently read and enjoyed, and other recommended reads. You can also check out our first newsletter dedicated to Reviews. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the pdf file there.
HOT OFF THE PRESS!
Check out the older not-so-hot-off-the-press reviews on the Newsletter menu.
You can also check out what each staff member is reading.
From our February 2015 Newsletter:
One of the many reasons I appreciate the Miles Vorkosigan saga novels is Lois McMaster Bujold’s ability to write a variety of genres within the overarching structure of her space opera universe. She has written mysteries, romances, and espionage adventures; her latest focuses on Vicereine Cordelia Naismith (of Cordelia’s Honor and more), and Admiral Oliver Jole, longtime companion and romantic interest of Cordelia’s deceased husband, Aral Vorkosigan, both prior to and after Aral and Cordelia fell in love. Granted, I am predisposed to have a positive response to a saga of adults of a certain vintage finding a fresh new love, but even if that weren’t the case, the multi-award-winning Bujold’s charming Austenesque tale of her title characters would still deserve praise. – Maryelizabeth
A poignant and heartbreaking tale of magic, humanity, and loss. When a unicorn wakes up one day to the realization that she is the very last unicorn, she leaves the safety of the enchanted forest to find out what's happened to the rest of her kind. Teamed up with the inadequate but lovable Schmendrick the magician and the fiery Molly Grue, she embarks on a journey to discover what happened to all the unicorns and face their mysterious enemy, the Red Bull. Fantasy readers will enjoy this book for its magical characters and setting, but ultimately it's the novel's look into loss, mortality, and time that will change you forever.
Read it in its classic book form, read it in its graphic novel form. Just read it. – Kelly
In today’s modern world everyone’s actions can be recorded with small devices in your pocket, even if you don’t want what you’ve done to be seen. Such is the case for assassin Roy Cooper. After performing his latest hit, he comes across an old man being murdered by some young gang members. Roy faces down the gangsters after they get the drop on him, and he manages to stay alive; and the entire thing is caught on a cell phone. The dead man was running for mayor in Los Angeles, and Roy becomes famous, which means death for an assassin. As Roy’s past and celebrity catch up with him, he is set on finding the young gangsters and distracted by his obsession, witnessing a baseball pitcher who’s about to break a record. This fast-paced, hardboiled thriller is quick, funny at times, and starts and ends with the most famous Los Angeles resident … earthquakes. – Emilio
Fans of Gregg’s runs writing the Batman and Punisher comics now have an original semi-vigilante protagonist’s adventures to follow with Evan Smoak, also known as The Nowhere Man, or Orphan X. Evan was recruited in his youth to be trained as part of a blacker than black ops government assassin program; after leaving the secret program, he has committed his lethal skills to helping those in need pro bono. Readers are introduced to Evan as his carefully structured life begins to go haywire, both in his professional life as his current rescue scenario becomes much more fraught than anticipated, and his personal life, as he recognizes the limitations of his ability to interact with others in a normal fashion. Another high-octane high tech ride! – Maryelizabeth
While the story line is about a missing hunter in the Colorado mountains and the search effort to find her, it is more poignantly about two women whose pasts are complicated and parallel in many ways. Amy Raye Latour has come to the mountains with two friends to hunt elk. She sets off early one morning, with a bow and arrow and a few other supplies, while her fellow hunters are sleeping, and makes her way to a specific place with a specific plan for making her last kill of the season. We know that she is running both to and from her past and it is this backstory that joins the narrative about her experience hunting and ultimately getting lost in the mountains.
Pru Hathaway is a single mom whose 17-year-old son lives with her in Rio Mesa, Colorado. Her job working for the Bureau of Land Management as an archaeological law enforcement ranger also qualifies her to do search and rescue missions. And, like Amy Raye, she has been brought up in the outdoors and is comfortable and competent in nature and survival. Her backstory of love, loss, and hope is also intertwined with the current mission to find Amy.
The wilds of Colorado are as much a character as a backdrop to this adrenaline-rich race against time, not just to find Amy Raye, but for both women to find themselves. – Terry
Tommy Wallach’s debut novel We All Looked Up was one of my favorites of 2015. I couldn’t wait to read his second and prayed he wouldn’t have that “sophomore slump” that befalls some writers. It proved to be an unnecessary concern. Thanks for the Trouble is another insightful coming-of-age story featuring 17-year-old Parker Santé, a cynical high school senior who hasn’t spoken since his dad’s accident five years ago. He communicates with sign language and journal writing. When he meets an odd silver-haired girl, Zelda, he steals her wad of cash only to feel guilty and brings it right back. She promises to give him the money if he applies to college. Once all the money is gone, she’ll leap off the Golden Gate Bridge but refuses to tell Parker why. What unfolds is much more than a madcap adventure of two teens bonding over troubled pasts. It’s a poignant story interspersed with fairy tales and touches of magic that brings the reader to one question: is a full life better than a long one? - Sarah
From Our January Newsletter:
Once Upon A Time a girl spoke with the birds, and a boy-genius built a wrist watch that could turn back time. Broken and outcast, they met and fell in love, aliens not from other worlds but from society, and more importantly, aliens within their own skins. So begins the journey of Patricia and Laurence, who respectively join tribes of witches and scientists bent on stopping global extinction. Science and Magic have different ideas of what salvation means, and the war between them may destroy all they hope to save. As they grow into their skins, so too grow their powers. Patricia, healer, shape-shifter and sometimes assassin harnesses the power of nature. Laurence develops inter-dimensional quantum tunneling, with the hope of implementing the “10 percent solution,” to send refugees to an alternate reality. Burning in the ashes of this apocalyptic story are hot coals of profound philosophy and keen observations about humanity, conveyed with Anders’ perfect-pitch ear for dialog, wit and flashes of absurdity. Fans of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians will love this debut novel by the managing editor of io9. – R.J. Crowther Jr.
If there is such a genre as “paranoid noir,” then The Gun is it. Fuminori Nakamura is making a name for himself here in the States and rightfully so. His first book to be translated to English, The Thief, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. The Gun isn’t for those readers who expect nonstop action. This is a book to be savored, and yes, you’ll white-knuckle it but not due to an adrenaline rush so much as the impending dread that something horrible is going to happen. And the ending doesn’t disappoint. An unremarkable Japanese university student happens upon a gun late at night and takes it. He obsesses over it, allowing it to consume his every thought and eventually it seeps into his entire persona, affecting his behavior with young women as well as his estranged family. It’s like watching a tortuous languid demon possession. The Gun is claustrophobic, drenched in atmosphere, and totally seductive. – Sarah
The first thing readers learn about Theophania Bogart is her present life, 5000 miles from home, is a lie. When she witnesses Tim Callahan take a dive from a third story window, Theo’s already complicated new life comes under intense scrutiny. Surrounded by neighbors and friends, Theo is the owner of a small bath and body shop as well as the building housing it. And she is constantly afraid her sordid past will be unearthed. What will a police investigation do to her carefully crafted identity? Inspector Lichlyter isn’t helping. The police woman suspects murder not suicide and she lists the entire neighborhood as suspects. When another body with direct ties to Theo turns up, Theo fears she is suspect number one. She is afraid for herself as well as Davie, the teenager who helps around her shop as his home life is shady. Theo finds a strange man in her house, strange boxes in her garage which are stolen, and gets a new renter at the worst possible time. This fast paced book is filled with humor, action, and colorful characters. If you like a good mystery, a feisty heroine, and laughter pick up this wacky mystery and savor it. A Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award-winning novel. – Guest Reviewer Sandra Hale
I have not read such a compelling novel in a while! A three-month-old baby girl is the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Swiss Alps on December 23, 1980. Two female infants were on board and all four parents perished in the fiery crash. Is the miracle baby Lyse-Rose, the granddaughter of multi-millionaire Léonce de Carville, or Emilie, the granddaughter of Pierre Vitral, the poor owner of a traveling food truck? Neither has spent much time if any with their infant granddaughter, and in 1980, DNA genetic testing was still in the early stages. Circumstantial evidence places her with the Vitrals, but Léonce and his wife, Mathilde, never give up and hire private detective Crédule Grand Duke to solve the mystery. After failing to do so, Grand Duke has decided to shoot himself at midnight on the so-called Emilie’s eighteenth birthday. A new clue suddenly comes to him that changes everything. This story of two decades of mystery, secret love, and murder is a hugely enjoyable adventure. – Bunny
Isabelle (Belle) McElroy is one smart lady. She is smart enough to be one of the few managing directors at her Wall Street firm. She seems to have it all, including three beautiful children and a handsome husband who is spending more time managing the home front than working, because she is the major bread winner in her household. But in her world, women are at an extreme disadvantage. Their talents and brains are often overlooked as their appearance receives overt attention in this testosterone-fueled business. Belle tends to overlook the oversights and sexual innuendoes encountered in her rise to the top of her profession and earning capacity, but some of the firm’s women are not as passive and are insisting that she join their ranks of resistance in their Glass Ceiling Club. Their activities are starting to be noticed just as Belle’s talents bring her to the forefront of some very big deals and very big money. Enter Belle’s ex-fiancé, a man who trounced on her heart many years ago. He is now working for one of her biggest clients. And then the financial crisis of 2008 hits. I simply could not put this down. – Terry
Welcome to the Witchlands, soon to be one of your favorite new fantastic worlds. Conservative commoner Iseult (a Threadwitch who sees the connections between the lives of others) and impulsive titled Safiya (a Truthwitch, a rare and sought-after magical trait) share a strong bond Threadsisters. Their enduring friendship is tested as the small independent nation of Nubrevna, ruled by Prince Merick (a Windwitch), is buffeted by empirical powers, and they and their allies strive to control their own destinies, and protect what matters to them. A wonderful magical land, great villains, including an infamous Bloodwitch, and solid female friendships all contribute to this superior fantasy. – Maryelizabeth
Cinder is back, with Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Cress, Captain Thorne, and Jacin Clay and this time they are bringing the fight to Queen Levana on Luna. Winter picks up where Cress left off. Princess Winter is aware that Queen Levana is plotting something drastic against her and she doesn’t know what to do. Winter is the fourth and final installment of Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. Meyer does not let her readers down, with her signature twists and turns and the fairy tale elements tweaked into something futuristic and new, Winter is just as much fun to read as Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. Be sure to pick up your copy today! FYI - The series makes an excellent gift for that favorite fan of modern day fairy tales. – Anne A
In The Tiara on the Terrace, the charming and much-awaited sequel to Kittscher’s Indie bestseller middle grade mystery, The Wig in the Window, Sophie Young and Grace Yang are back as the intrepid tween sleuths, along with the tech-savvy Trista Bottoms. The town of Luna Vista is gearing up for the annual Winter Sun Festival (patterned after the Pasadena Tournament of Roses), but preparations are dampened when the Festival president is killed by a s’more on the campfire float. The police rule it an accident, but Grace and Sophie suspect otherwise. Grace convinces the reluctant Sophie and Trista to be Royal pages so they can infiltrate the court and snoop around. As the trio digs deeper to identify the murderer, Sophie must also wrestle with her feelings of insecurity over trying to fit in as well as her growing feelings for Rod. The result is an engaging mystery with plenty of hilarious moments and surprising plot twists. – Sarah
Local author Kali joins teen horror subgenre authors like Gretchen McNeal, Kendare Blake, and Dan Wells with this strong debut. 17-year-old Breezy discovers a world of monsters when she awakens in her grave a year after her murder, with no clear memories of her own death, but the power to sense darkness in others – specifically those who have killed with intent – and mete out a vigilante justice of her own. Breezy has no interest in existing as a monster; she longs for a return to her time with her parents, sisters, and best girlfriend. Her search for information and assistance takes her down many a dark byway, as she encounters more monsters among both the human and non-human populace. Breezy’s struggle to define the terms of her unlife makes for a rewarding read, and there are some truly scary monsters to boot. – Maryelizabeth
Put together a 15-year-old teenage boy, the legendary sword Excalibur, and fast cars. What do you get? Rick Yancey’s re-published novel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. Alfred, an average teen boy who enjoys sitting in his room listening to music, crosses the symbolic threshold when his uncle forces him to participate in a high stakes theft. Yancey has created a fantastic modern take of the King Arthur legends with his Alfred Kropp series. Rest assured, after you finish the first tale, you can continue the quests of Kropp in: Alfred Kropp the Seal of Solomon and Alfred Kropp the Thirteenth Skull. Alfred Kropp is an excellent, fast paced series for fans of King Arthur and young adult adventure stories. -- Anne A
From our December Newsletter:
There have been numerous psychological thrillers that center around a missing child and the devastating toll it takes on the family. Therefore, it takes a lot for me to pay attention to a debut that utilizes this exact concept, but with Gilly Macmillan’s book, I was hooked from the start. There are expected plot devices, like the strained family dynamics and vicious social media attacks, but it’s done with such skill and confidence that I was completely sucked in. The story jumps between two POVs: Rachel, the distraught mother who loses her eight-year-old child, Ben, in the woods, and DI Jim Clemo, the primary investigator who shoulders the blame for the case’s misguided efforts. Both storylines are equally gripping and expertly-plotted. This is a suspenseful debut that fans of Linwood Barclay and Paula Hawkins will love. – Sarah
You’ll never watch the Food Network shows the same way after reading Beat, Slay, Love, as the members of the Thalia Press Author Co-Op (Lise McClendon, Katy Munger, Kate Flora, Gary Phillips, and Taffy Cannon) mix together a heady mixture of reality television, misbehaving foodies, murder most-creatively-foul, and determined sleuths. Some of my favorite scenes took place in a fictional La Jolla eatery, but I might be just a bit biased. Delicious over-the-top fun! – Maryelizabeth
Radiance is not your run of the mill SF. The story is set in an alternate history that spans across the early to mid-1900s, when space travel is possible and every planet in our solar system is habitable. Unlike many SF epics, Radiance is highly character-driven. The story revolves around Severin Unck, the daughter of a famous film director. Severin grows up under the Hollywood spotlight and eventually starts directing her own movies. While filming her latest documentary on the planet Venus, Severin goes missing. What follows is an intriguing search for one woman across an entire solar system. Radiance is beautifully written, with a poetic style that I have come to expect from the author. I really liked the novel’s intricate use of Hollywood gossip magazines, film scripts, and recorded conversations as a means to piecing together the puzzle of Severin’s story. Radiance is a truly unique novel. – Jared
Made to Kill is a hard-boiled, pulp SF thriller with Ray Electromatic, the last sentient robot, cast as an analog Philip Marlowe, who solves cases by day and turns hitman at night, when his memory tape gets switched by his boss, a chain-smoking supercomputer named Ada. Rip off your E-ticket and take this thrill ride, filled with black comedy, sultry femmes fatales, Soviet spies, and secret weapons of mind control. At stake is nothing less than the American Dream, cast in false light upon a silver screen. I loved the way Christopher took the retro SF tropes and filtered them through the lens of Raymond Chandler, parodying Chandler’s language and gritty noir style while capturing its essence in his weird comic love note. The odd choice of setting the book in alt-’65, despite the fact that everything but the date screams 1940s, makes cold war fears and McCarthyism’s chilling effect on Hollywood the real boogeymen of the story. As Ray hurtles down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, the grit and glitter blow back from existential themes of moral culpability and identity, making this pulp fiction a worthy read. – Rob
What I found most interesting was a comment from Adam Christopher. When asked what lost manuscript he would most like to find, his response was “Raymond Chandler’s long-lost, and quite nonexistent science fiction novel.” Despite Chandler’s documented disdain for the genre, Christopher’s quest to write such a book made reading the novel even more interesting to me. – Linda
From Our November 2015 Newsletter
Max’s debut is a near-roman a clef celebration of geekdom. Dahlia Moss is succeeding at life about as well as Scott Pilgrim at the beginning of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series. The struggling young geek is offered a substantial sum of money to track down a “stolen” item from a MMORPG; it seems a perfect match to her assorted skill set, composed largely of a vast knowledge of pop culture. The job gets deeply weird when Dahlia’s client is found murdered with a physical incarnation of the missing item. Dahlia and her friends are welcome new additions to the geek tribe. – Maryelizabeth
Daniel Kraus shows once again that he is a master of the beautiful macabre with his newest novel, The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch. In this epic adventure, Zebulon begins his sordid tale with his murder and continues to recount his life as a side-show freak, a doctor’s obsessed experiment, his quest for redemption during WWI, and as the love interest of a Hollywood starlet.
Kraus’s first person account creates a unique character that is tortured in death through his inability to live. Zebulon is a smart, brooding, troubled man that evolves with his experiences in life, always on the quest to find him self and stay true to those that matter.
What stood out within the novel was Kraus’ characterization of Zebulon. Finch is not a nice guy. He is a mobster who relishes in the pain he causes others and the torment he can bring to people. Through his experiences, Zebulon becomes human in his death, reflecting on his past wrongs, and attempting to do the right by those that matter.
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch will grab you and not let you go until the end. The ride is an incredible, beautifully written tale that will not let you down. – Anne
One of my personal standards for superior storytelling is when the story or characters manifest in my dreams. Margaret Stohl’s tale of Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow of Avengers fame, achieved just that. This would be a great “strong female character” novel even if the character didn’t have a 50-year history in the pop culture consciousness. Natasha and Ava Orlova meet when Natasha rescues Ava from the infamous Red Room – nearly a decade later, they are both drawn to Alex Monclair, a young fencer with no apparent connection to either, who is the target of deadly interest. And yes, this is the origin story for the Red Widow. – Maryelizabeth
This gritty debut took me on an adrenaline-fueled journey through the dark alleys of East Los Angeles to the dive bars of the South Bay. Greg Salem is a Virgil Heights cop who is still recognized by punk rock fans as Fred Despair, the lead singer of Bad Citizen Corporation. He still plays the occasional gig but his punk rock days are far behind him. At least that’s what he thought. After his guitarist/best friend is murdered, Salem vows to bring the killer to justice despite his recent suspension from the department. With the help of his drummer/friend Marco, Salem dives right back into the underworld of his hometown filled with greedy land developers, drug dealers, and old flings. BCC is hard core, in-your-face, blast-the-roof-off storytelling, and as a longtime Hermosa Beach resident, it’s about damn time a novel pays proper homage to the birthplace of Pennywise and Black Flag. – Sarah
Juniper Song is no longer an amateur detective; she is now a licensed detective and a partner with Chaz and Arturo at Lindley & Flores. She is managing her own cases now, and the one Rubina Gasparian, the daughter of Armenian immigrants, presents to her is most unusual. Rubina and her husband, Van, are unable to conceive a child and have hired her younger cousin, Lusig, as a surrogate, a fact that haunts Song as she sold some of her eggs in college and had not thought about it again until now. Lusig’s dear friend, Nora, has been missing for a month and Song’s job is to stop Lusig from looking for her and putting this much anticipated pregnancy at risk. The case soon changes into a search for a missing girl who was deeply involved in an ugly battle to erect an Armenian genocide memorial, a project severely contested by many. Are the tight knit Armenian community and those that antagonize them capable of murder? Step Cha pulls it all together in an unforgettable and entertaining manner with a tight plot and lots of emotion, presenting yet another great read. – Bunny
Sunfail, Akashic’s venture into speculative fiction, is a highly readable near future thriller in the vein of James Rollins. I very much liked the mix of POV characters, varied conspiracy/world mythos, and compelling storytelling, especially at a time when I am suffering a fair amount of apocalypse fiction fatigue. Savile is widely published in both suspense and SF in the UK, and this is a promising introduction for U.S. readers, even with a few stridency issues. – Maryelizabeth
A dark and gritty visit to Wonderland, opening with an adult Alice imprisoned in – and then escaping – a madhouse. She can’t remember what happened to her in Wonderland but she’s haunted by the few memories she has of it. As she goes through the Old City we see all of our favorite characters grimly reimagined. Dark and engaging. I loved this so much that I read in it in a single day! – Kelly
Former Confederation Marine Torin Kerr and her crew, known to readers of Huff’s Valor deep space series, embark on a completely off-the-books mission in the first in this new series. Tasked with intercepting the grave robbers who are intent on acquiring Elder Race ancient artifacts for aggressive use against the dominant powers in the Confederation, the team of Younger Race sentient beings must not only determine the possible source of the artifacts and confront the criminals, but also work to determine the mastermind behind the scheme. Huff’s aliens are truly alien, and completely empathetic at once, and the interpersonal relationships between characters – both protagonists and antagonizes – would make this a must-read, even if it didn’t have a spiffy adventure plot. Highly recommended. – Maryelizabeth