Wednesday, 7 March 2012

'Berkley UK' Sampler

There’s no getting away from the simple fact that, for someone who loves his genre fiction, my head is well and truly buried in the sand sometimes. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t got other stuff going on but… a whole new publisher in the UK (since late last year) and I completely missed it.

Liz got there first with her post but Berkley UK very kindly sent me a sampler (five current titles and one forthcoming) and I thought it could be fun to quickly nip through them and give you my initial thoughts. From what I can see, Berkley’s list is very top heavy on the Urban Fantasy (American titles that you may have already read) but what list isn’t these days? I’m hoping they make good on their promise to give us a little more sci-fi and fantasy in the near future.

So, here goes…

‘The Pack’ – Jason Starr

When Simon Burns is fired from his job without warning, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son. But his reluctance pushes his already strained marriage to the limit. In the nestled playgrounds of the Upper West Side, Simon harbors a simmering rage at his boss's betrayal.

Things take a turn when he meets a tight-knit trio of dads at the playground. They are different from other men Simon has met, stronger and more confident, more at ease with the darker side of life- and soon Simon is lured into their mix. But after a guys' night out gets frighteningly out of hand, Simon feels himself sliding into a new nightmarish reality.

Intriguing if only because I’ve worked in a similar office to Simon Burns. Seriously though, this one looks like it could be worth a look as I’m always interested in Urban Fantasy with male leads; doesn’t seem to be enough of that around (as far as I can see)

‘The Iron Duke’ – Meljean Brook

After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power - and fear - of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans - and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.

Hmmm… Cover art really is the first impression you get of a book and the art here looks like it’s designed to appeal to fans of romance rather than Steampunk. Go take a look and you’ll see what I mean. The preview didn’t really do a lot for me with a female lead who is obviously being set up for some romance, a little too obviously if you know what I mean. There didn’t seem to be a lot else to her…
‘Zombie infested wastelands’ though… I don’t know. Has anyone else read ‘The Iron Duke’? Worth a look?

‘Dust’ – Joan Frances Turner

After she was buried, Jessie awoke and tore through the earth to arise, reborn, as a zombie. Jessie's gang is the Fly-by-Nights. She loves the ancient, skeletal Florian and his memories of time gone by. She's in love with Joe, a maggot-infested corpse. They fight, hunt, dance together as one-something humans can never understand. There are dark places humans have learned to avoid, lest they run into the zombie gangs.

But now, Jessie and the Fly-by-Nights have seen new creatures in the woods-things not human and not zombie. A strange new illness has flamed up out of nowhere, causing the undeads to become more alive and the living to exist on the brink of death. As bits and pieces of the truth fall around Jessie, like the flesh off her bones, she'll have to choose between looking away or staring down the madness-and hanging onto everything she has come to know as life . . .

Not going to say too much about this title as I’m looking to give you guys a full review sooner rather than later. What? It’s a zombie book, what did you expect? ;o) Has anyone else here already read it?

‘Magic to the Bone’ – Devon Monk

Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user, maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying and they Offload the cost onto innocents. When that happens, it falls to a Hound to identify the spell's caster - and Allie Beckstrom is the best there is.

Daughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune - and the strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magic Offload that has her father's signature all over it, Allie is thrown into the high stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic ...

I liked the concept but it felt like another cookie cutter urban fantasy where I could just tell what was going to happen to our heroine. I’ll pass on this one I think.

‘Night Life’ – Rob Thurman

Cal Leandros is 19. He eats junk food, he doesn't clean up after himself and fights with his half brother Niko. It's a fairly normal life, but for the fact that Cal and Niko are constantly on the run. Cal's father has been after him for the last four years. And given that he's a monster whose dark lineage is the stuff of nightmares they really don't want him and his entire otherworldly race catching up with them. But Cal is about to learn why they want him, why they've always wanted him - he is the key to unleashing their hell on earth.

This one though… Let me clear a little room on the reading pile and I’d love to give this a shot. The set up is familiar but the character of Cal Leandros really got me thinking that I’d like to get to know him more.

‘Grave Witch’ – Kalayna Price

As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she's on good terms with Death himself, nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high-profile murder when she's attacked by the ghost she is raising - which should be impossible. Then, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, thwarted only by Death's intervention. You know you're having a bad day when Death is saving your life . . .

I’m sorry but this one left me feeling nothing whatsoever, certainly no inclination to read the rest of the book. Short and sweet, sometimes that’s all there is to it.

So, a couple of titles that I’d take a look at with the potential for many more to come. Any of those take your fancy? Should I give ‘Grave Witch’ a go? Leave a comment underneath the post and let me know what you think… :o)


Jessica Strider said...

Night Life is a great book. I haven't read any of the others though.

SQT said...

I got "The Pack" and I'm interested in seeing what that's like. I've already read several of these, Rob Thurman being my favorite. "Grave Witch" is just okay-- I think "Magic to the Bone" is better but, like you said, still somewhat cookie cutter. I haven't read "Dust" yet-- but that's one I'd like to get to.

Civilian Reader said...

Huh. I managed to miss this one completely as well. Weird...

bubbasmom said...

Yes, definitely read the Cal Leandros series! I've liked 'em all so far.

Rob has a new one out, too, the Trixa series. I've only read one of these, but it has promise.

Boo said...

I'd recommend Night Life. The Cal books read a little bit like Supernatural and he's a great character. I've read nearly all the others in the series.