What happens when a closeted jock, a scrawny nerd, and a pair of bratty cheerleaders develop superpowers in a small-town high school? can they stop a pair of super-powered classmates hellbent on reshaping the student body in a darker image? Or will teen angst, jealousy, and ill-timed romance doom them all?
Steven Bereznai is a former magazine editor, recreational water polo player, fan of science fiction, avid TV viewer, and author of a wide range of books - several of which have been reviewed here at ThePageisPrinted.
I'd wanted to read "Queeroes" for some time - having loved both "I Want Superpowers" and "How a Loser like me survived the Zombie Apocalypse", I was really keen to read the author's earlier work - especially as I'm such a big fan of the superhero genre in general. Luckily, Steven was kind enough to send me copies of both "Queeroes" and the sequel "Queeroes 2", and I spent a happy weekend transported to yet another clever, funny and moving world that Steven Bereznai has created.
This is a man who knows his pop culture - and Queeroes is set in a high school, meaning that Bereznai is free to explore the various tropes, cliques and groups that come with such a setting. He does so with great care - peppering his pages with knowing references and nods to existing works, but always keeping things fresh - he's not an author who relies on tropes but instead utilises them when needed to great effect. His character voices are spot on too - reminding me of my teenage years, but also bringing to mind witty, quippy high school environments such as those in which beloved pieces of pop culture like Buffy and Clueless were set. All in all, "Queeroes" blend the everyday with the fantastical in a way that's both original and hugely readable. Bereznai is a skilled author who constantly produces work that combines heart, wit and plot to make for brilliant reads. His love for pop culture blended with sheer skill for writing mean he's an author who I always enjoy - and the Queeroes series will take you head first into a brilliantly realised world full of high school drama, earthshaking battles, and high school drama.
Pages of a weathered original sonata manuscript - the gift of a Czech immigrant living in Queens - come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. The gift comes with the request that Meta find the manuscript's true owner -a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart - and make the three-part Sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvorak and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn't the only one seeking the music's secrets.
Bradford Morrow is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and editor of literary journal Conjunctions. He teaches at Bard College - a private college based in the state of New York. In "The Prague Sonata" he's written an epic, continent spanning book that's as evocative as it is moving - a book that's been years in the making but is absolutely worth your time.
My lack of knowledge regarding the history of the Czech Republic is shamefully limited, and it's not a country I'd ever visited - so had little idea of the events that would form the backdrop of "The Prague Sonata". Morrow not only informs the reader, but brings Prague to life in such vivid fashion that it becomes an important character in the book - as living and breathing as the two women who take most of the plot. As someone with a background that featured music heavily, I loved quite how integral music is to the plot too - and it helps to make this book a sensory experience in terms of time, place and sound. The characters are excellent, and the plot gripping - although slightly meandering at times. My only slight grumble is that it can be hard to initially grasp what time period a chapter is set in, leading to some initial confusion - but once the reader gets to know the characters better it becomes far easier to sense in whose company your spending a chapter. Apparently it took the author over ten years to research and write this - and it really shows, with words carefully chosen and technical terms with what is clearly a high level of expertise. At its heart though, "The Prague Sonata" is a tale about humanity - both the good and the bad, and takes the readers on a journey that's as well written as it is memorable. Here's hoping we don't have to wait a decade for Morrow's next book!
Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present, and takes in a wide range of locales - travelling from Sydney to Paris and Sri Lanka, with the reader being introduced to an intriguing cast of characters along the way
Michelle de Kretser is an Australian novelist, born in Sri Lanka but having lived in Australia since the age of 14. Her first novel was published in 1999, and she's grown in success since then - her second novel winning the Tasmania Pacific Prize, and her third and fourth novels nominated and winning several hugely impressive literary awards. A former editor for travel guide company Lonely Planet, de Kretser clearly loves to learn about different countries and cultures - as "The Life to Come" sends the reader between Australia, France and Sri Lanka, and described them with a startling effectiveness - making it a read that's transportive and immediate.
Pippa is the lead character here, and the one who links the themes and characters of the story together. She's interesting enough, but it's in the smaller characters where de Kretser's writing really shines - glimpses of fascinating people met in wonderfully described places. The book almost reads like a collection of novellas with an overarching theme - and that worked well for me, making it an easy read and enabling Kretser to introduce as many themes and concepts as she likes without them becoming too overbearing, as they perhaps could in one straightforward narrative. In fact, several historical moments touched upon were completely new to me, which added a new layer of interest - but at times I did feel that I perhaps missed moments of humour or satire due to my not being Australian - this is a book that deals with Australian culture and society head on, and as someone whose experience of Australia essentially extends to watching Neighbours as a child, I feel that there were aspects I didn't appreciate as much as I should have done.
However, this is a highly enjoyable read written by a skilled author - compelling, clever, and constantly encouraging the reader to question the decisions of the characters and the society they find themselves in - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered in front of them. The terrifying assassin abducts all three girls to the world of Faerie, where Jude is installed in the royal court but mocked and tormented by the Faerie royalty for being mortal.
As Jude grows older, she realises that she will need to take part in the dangerous deceptions of the fey to ever truly belong.
But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looming over all is the infuriating, arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan . . .
Holly Black is an American author, probably best known for "The Spiderwick Chronicles" which she writes with author Tony DiTerlizzi. Here she begins a new Young Adult Fantasy trilogy - set to continue with a second book in 2019 and a third in 2020. However, worlds full of faerie's, intrigue and strong female characters are ten a penny at the moment, so does "The Cruel Prince" have the staying power to hook audiences in for the long run?
In short - it's a yes. Holly Black isn't messing around here - she pulls the audience into her story with a brutal attack, before delving into a complicated and cleverly built fantasy world that the reader can't help but be pulled into.
This isn't for young audiences - the plot is violent, adult and impressively complex - leading the reader into directions that are utterly unexpected - not least the fantastic ending that leads things wonderfully open-ended for the sequel.
It's in character that Black excels here - every single one encountered in "The Cruel Prince" is layered and complex - no stereotypes here but three-dimensional characters who breathe life into the pages of this novel. Jude especially is deliciously complex - not always likeable and not always understandable, but always hugely readable and a strong, compelling and driven lead who I'm sure readers everywhere will be loving.
With brave world building, complex characters and an intriguing plot all piled into one novel, this is a huge success - "The Cruel Prince" is sure to fly off the shelves upon its release, and I for one cannot wait for the sequel. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Still tormented by the disappearance of his wife, ex-intelligence agent James Ryker sets out on a personal mission of revenge, prepared to go to any lengths in search of the truth.
The trail takes him from the crystal waters of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, back to a place he thought he would never set foot again - his country of birth, England. But there he discovers more than even he bargained for. Stumbling across a terrorist attack targeted against his old employers - the secretive Joint Intelligence Agency -the faint clues to many events in his recent past are all seemingly linked to one mysterious character; The Silver Wolf.
But just who is the Silver Wolf, and why is he hell-bent on punishing not just Ryker, but his closest allies at the JIA too?
Has Ryker finally met his match?
Rob Sinclair is a West Midlands based author, known for his bestselling "Enemy" and "James Ryker" series of thrillers. He began writing in 2009 and has been producing brilliantly fast paced reads ever since - with "The Silver Wolf" continuing Ryker's story with pace, tension, and skill.
The "Enemy" series followed Carl Logan - and after retiring under the new identity of James Ryker, he swiftly found himself drawn back into the action in both "The Red Cobra" and "The Black Hornet" - and again here in "The Silver Wolf". He's a massively compelling character, and having followed him through the series, it's rather hard not to be attached to him - he has a strength and grit that's immensely readable, and Sinclair isn't afraid to make him a flawed, developed character rather than the one dimensional leads who one often finds cropping up in thrillers.
Sinclair plunges the reader deep into the action in "The Silver Wolf" within a few pages - the reader is transported to exotic climes and into a high stakes plot that, due to the way the reader has got to know Logan/Ryker over these series, feels immensely personal. This in turn leads to a thrilling climax that's almost cinematic in its scope - and ends on what feels like the end of a chapter for Ryker - although I sincerely hope not the end of his story.
Huge fun - "The Silver Wolf" is perhaps my favourite of the Logan/Ryker stories, with a culmination of plot threads, explosive action and a focus on just how Ryker is coping with all that life has thrown at him. These are high quality, superbly written books - give them a read and you'll be sure to have a wild ride with Ryker.
June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.
In the estate of Develish, Lady Anne takes control of her people's future - including the lives of two hundred bonded serfs. Strong, compassionate and resourceful, Lady Anne chooses a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. Together, they decide to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside the walls. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.
Lady Anne's people fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls?
And how safe is anyone in Develish when a dreadful event threatens the uneasy status quo..?
Minette Walters is best known as a writer of Crime novels - since the publication of "The Ice House" in 1992, she's won the Crime Writer's Association John Creasey award for best first novel, the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award, and the CWA Gold Dagger. Walter's now turns her considerable talents to another genre - moving into the realm of Historical Fiction with "The Last Hours", and sweeping her readers into the deadly, turbulent and terrifying world of a plague ridden middle ages England.
One thing that made Walter's crime books stand out was her grasp of character, and the viewpoints she used to tell her stories - they were never straightforward books packed with gore and violence, but often offered intriguing political and social commentaries alongside thrilling plots. That's something that, you'd think, would be somewhat trickier when plunging almost a millennia into the past and looking at the Black Death - but Walters is able to combine a truly engaging and well researched historical story with characters and threads that remind the reader of contemporary life.
A big part of this, is character - and the characters of Lady Anne, Thaddeus Thurkell and Giles Startout allow Walters to explore class, gender, race and religion in fascinating, compelling fashion whilst always ensuring that these themes are integral parts of the story rather than added on to give the book a contemporary relevance. Written with an urgent prose that pulls the reader through a vividly described landscape of death and destruction, the mix of rather incredibly drawn characters embroiled in a plot that, in its essence is a genuine battle for life and survival against the odds makes this a read that I was unable to put down.
Historical detail, a thrilling, fascinating plot and vivid, relatable characters, made this a read that I'll be recommending to all and sundry. I should warn that several plot strands are left very much open-ended, but that's only served to fill me with excitement for the upcoming sequel. Bravo Minette Walters - a brave change of genre, but one that has paid off in spades!
After a devastating breakup, loser Marty Melon doggedly reassembles his shattered self. Confidence-boosting Ted Talks, muscle-crushing kettlebell swings, and key episodes of "The Golden Girls" transform him from zero to b-list hero. This suicidal reject, turned pickup artist, turned sensitive new age guy, finally has it all: a house, the quirky woman of his dreams, and abs.
F#%k you, world, he thinks with alpha confidence.
“Challenge accepted,” the world replies, and everything goes to zombie crap.
Will Marty make it? He’s no longer an average frustrated chump. He’s in the best mental and physical shape of his life. "Ninja" bro-crush and gay-best-friend Gary is at his side. But to triumph in the end-of-days, Marty must defeat his most dangerous foe of all—the woman who broke him in the first place.
Steven Bereznai is an author, Travel Writer, Wellness practitioner, recreational water polo player and a big fan of science fiction. I've previously read (and loved) his "I Want Superpowers" - a dark dystopian YA tale that blended all the best elements of the X-Men with The Hunger Games into a compellingly plotted story with a fantastically strong lead character.
As a result, I was particularly excited when my copy of "How A Loser Like Me Survived The Zombie Apocalypse" - I read the opening chapters a few months ago, and was rather delighted to see that my comments had made it to the back cover of the book!
It's the mark of a good author that they're able to write in a variety of genres - many successful authors have stumbled trying to enter new markets or take on challenges too big for them. However, Steven Bereznai does so with aplomb - moving from the dark, intense world of "I Want Superpowers" to the slightly lighter world of "How A Loser Like Me Survived The Zombie Apocalypse". Zombie novels are ten a penny these days, but Bereznai makes sure his is at the top of the pile by ensuring that his tale is told with prose that’s immensely readable, leading to a page turning plot filled with compelling characters. Those characters are where Bereznai really gets to shine – following an everyman throughout a Zombie Apocalypse, Bereznai avoids falling into cliché, and instead creates a real heart for his story – you’ll laugh and cry with these characters, and that’s quite an achievement. There’s also a wonderful thread of dark humour running through the book too - it’s knowing and witty –even when things seem bleak for the characters and allows for the reader to be enjoying themselves in spite of the circumstances, carried through on a wave of warmth and goodwill for characters like Marty, Heidi and Gary. They're built up well throughout the book - and whilst there's bleak humour to be found everywhere, Bereznai also explores exactly how people would react in a situation like the Zombie Apocalypse, with remarkable depth - there's a real empathy and humanity at the core of this book. Bereznai is also skilled at throwing in many a pop culture reference, and they’re well targeted – landing accurately and cleverly on target – no misfires here. If you’re a fan of the Zombie genre – then “How A Loser Like Me Survived the Zombie Apocalypse” should go straight to the top of your pile. If you’re not, but enjoy compelling and exciting tales told with intelligent prose and no end of interesting characters – then you should give it a go too. Anyone with a brain, half a brain, or a penchant for eating brains will have a bloody good time with this book - I certainly did, and I'm not undead (yet).
When Anita Naakka jumps in front of an oncoming train, her daughter, Norma, is left alone with the secret they have spent their lives hiding: Norma has supernatural hair, sensitive to the slightest changes in her mood–and the moods of those around her–moving of its own accord, corkscrewing when danger is near. And so it is her hair that alerts her, while she talks with a strange man at her mother’s funeral, that her mother may not have taken her own life. Setting out to reconstruct Anita’s final months–sifting through puzzling cell phone records, bank statements, video files–Norma begins to realize that her mother knew more about her hair’s powers than she let on: a sinister truth beyond Norma’s imagining.
Sofi Oksanen is a Finnish writer and playwright, and has published over five novels - "Purge" and "When the Doves Disappeared" the best known in the English speaking world
Kate Thompson - glamorous housewife-turned-MP - surprises everyone with her meteoric rise at Westminster. When Kate is sent as a trade minister to India, she hopes it will be her moment to shine. But, embroiled in a personal scandal, she gets drawn into a dangerous world of corruption and political intrigue...
Billionaire Deepak Parrikar - head of an Indian arms technology company - is magnetically drawn to the beautiful British minister. But while their relationship deepens, India's hostilities with Pakistan reach boiling point, causing more than just business and politics to collide. In the race to prevent disaster, can their conflicting loyalties survive being tested to the limit?
Vince Cable (yes, that Vince Cable!) was born in York in 1943. Having worked as a lecturer and an economist, he entered the House of Commons in 1997, and has been a well liked and respected figure in politics ever since - his return as leader of the Liberal Democrats a well awaited one. And now... he's written his first novel. I've never been a huge fan of novels written by politicians - my hometown is the place in Lincolnshire that first elected Jeffrey Archer to power so I've always felt a misplaced sense of guilt for unleashing his constant stream of books on to the world.
Cable has experience as a writer though - both his memoir and his account of the financial crisis are well reviewed. Losing his seat in Parliament in 2015, Cable focused on writing "Open Arms" - and it's clear that this a novel from a man who felt his career in politics was perhaps open - as it's honest, adult, and at times rather scathing of the political system that Cable spent many years in. What's reassuring though, is that dealing with all of the major political parties to an extent (his own, the Liberal Democrats are, much like in current politics, rather sidelined), Cable never veers into caricature - allowing the actions of his characters to speak for themselves, and even making me like a Tory minister - not something I ever thought all that likely!
In terms of plot, it's very much a political thriller, but one with pace, action and intriguing themes at the centre of it - and stakes that only escalate as the plot goes on. The prose isn't particularly elegant, but it certainly isn't clunky either - it does the job and drives the plot along well - a plot that Cable juggles with considerable skill.
A great debut from a legend of politics, "Open Arms" sets the readers pulse racing with a terrific plot drawn straight from the corridors of power. Perfect holiday reading - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
1792: the blood begins to drip from the guillotine. The French Revolution is entering its most violent phase, and threatens all Europe with chaos. In the age of the mob, no individual is safe.
The spies of England, France and Prussia are fighting their own war for survival and supremacy. Somewhere in Paris is a hidden trove of secrets that will reveal the treacheries of a whole continent.
At the height of the madness a stranger arrives in Paris, to meet a man who has disappeared. Unknown and untrusted, he finds himself the centre of all conspiracy. When the world is changing forever, what must one man become to survive?
Robert Wilton works as an author and, rather surprisingly, an international diplomat. Over the years he's worked in both Kosovo and Albania, and it's clear that his experience in international relations and the internal workings of countries allows him to create books full of fascinating, complex characters and well developed worlds for those characters to live in.
His latest, "Treason's Spring" is a prequel to "Treason's Tide" - a book set during the Napoleonic Wars. Here Wilton takes things back to the French Revolution - a turbulent period evoked remarkably well by the author. Into this world, Wilton throws in mysteries, murders, and characters so vital they draw the reader swiftly into the plot, forming a tight grip on them as they move through the fast paced and often thrilling events that occur. Page turners like this can often be high in plot but rather low in quality - but there's no cause for concern here. Wilton's writing has a rich, slightly old fashioned feel to it, which when combined with his eye for historical accuracy leads to a read that's as informative as it is thrilling and transportive. Set to be the first part of a trilogy, I'm looking forward to book two - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.