Well, we certainly got our weeks mixed up. We thought last week was this week, and so we're going to back up and make like last week is this week. Just so no one gets confused.
Because some were confused why we weren't jumping up and down about an actual Murderbot novel. That's because Network Effect came out last week, and we were busy edging into the future last week. But we're not now, and since we're doing the sleight-of-hand thing about last week this week, you'll pretend this is new news and not last week's news, right?
Anyway, Martha Wells has finally published a Murderbot novel. Actually, to say "finally" is to sound like we've been tapping our toes over here, being all fussy, but the truth is, Wells has doled out four novellas already. We've just wanted more Murderbot.
What's the big deal about Murderbot? Well, he's sentient, for one, and he shouldn't be. He has free will, which he shouldn't, but he does because he turn off that thingie in his head that kept him compliant. He can't tell anyone, of course, because if the fleshy ones find out, they'll hunt him down. And thirdly, he likes those human soap operas. There's nothing better than downloading 8,000 hours of scenery-chewing drama for a long trip between human-habited planets, and not having to deal with anyone at all during those 8,000 hours.
Murderbot likes the quarantine model, apparently.
Naturally, the human folk who Murderbot would consider to be friends keep getting into trouble, and this time around, they've really gone and done it. Now that she's working at novel-length, Wells is able to give the story some breathing room and really sink us into some fabulous world-building and character interactions.
And speaking of hilarious spit-takes on humanity, Christopher Moore is back with Shakespeare for Squirrels. The setting is Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream (kind of), which is already wacky. Moore ups the ante with shapeshifting squirrels, pirates, giants, monkeys named Jeff, and lots of bawdy humor. Sure, Shakespeare was already pretty bawdy, but Moore thinks that Shakespeare was holding back. A problem Moore definitely doesn't have.
We're delighted to see Poisoned Pen Press putting out a classic John Dickson Carr novel. Carr, who not only wrote more novels than we care to count, was a stylist of the highest order as well as a very clever plotter. Castle Death is a classic locked room mystery, but the room in question is inside a gothic castle that has been refitted by a famous stage magician. Macabre murder in a creepy castle, during a tumultuous thunderstorm! It's perfect!
Meanwhile, J. Todd Scott is continuing to put out excellent modern day crime novels. Scott has more than twenty years under his belt as an actual DEA agent, which suffuses his Texas-based thrillers with a great deal of verisimilitude. And sure, there's lots of action and things blowing up and people being terrible to one another in This Side of Night, but what sets Scott's books a cut above the rest is how deeply infused these books are with the stories of people. It's not all drugs and guns and trailers full of cash. It's heartbreak and families falling apart and the hard choices people have to make in order to survive. It's like Cormac McCarthy meets Craig Johnson.
Here's a cool book. Donald R. Prothero is going to tell us how the world came to be with The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks. Each of the chapters in this book talk about an important discovery or realization in the history of geology, highlighting both a specific geological puzzle and the people who figured them out. We live on a very complicated and rather mysterious ball of water and rock, you know. Prothero traces what we know through the course of The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks. It's engaging! It's got rocks! It'll make you wonder about the ground you walk on!
And speaking of the ground around us, David McCullough's The Pioneers is now out in paperback. McCullough, of course, is a national treasure, and the reasons why are on ample display here. McCullough makes history interesting with his incredible attention to historical research and his breezy style that makes these history lessons read like adventure fiction. In The Pioneers, McCullough traces the early expansion of American settlers as they venture east from New England shortly after the Revolutionary War.
We bet you've been wondering what James Patterson has been up to. So have we! Well, it will come as no surprise when we tell you that he's been publishing books. His latest release (co-written with Maxine Paetro) is The 20th Victim, which is—wait for it—the twentieth book in the Women's Murder Club series. Who dies in this one? Well, let's see . . . there are three bodies early on, and each body is found in a different city, which leads our clever protagonist, Sergeant Lindsay Boxer on a cross-country hunt for a mysterious killer who has a terrifying plan.
And speaking of a dash of mystery, Jennifer Weiner is back with Big Summer. Last year, she had some success with adding a bit of mystery to her contemporary fiction plot (with Mrs. Everything), and there's no reason to change something that is working, right? In Big Summer, Weiner throws together a mix of an awkward wedding, a little death, a social media savvy heroine, old bitterness, Etsy crafts, and sponsored Instagram posts. It's deliciously snarky, filled with mouth-watering descriptions of food, and rife with moments that will make you snort with glee. We all need a backyard summer read, don't we? Well, here you go.
Meanwhile, Katherine Applegate returns with The One and Only Bob, a sequel of sorts to her classic The One and Only Ivan. This time around, the focus is on spunky rescue pup Bob, who was once tossed out of a car for being, well, a dog. Bob, who talks large for being such a small dog, likes to visit Ivan in his wildlife sanctuary, where he gets to hang out with the gorilla and Ruby, Ivan's elephant pal. It may seem like a book about talking animals, hanging out and kitbitzing (and who doesn't love talking animals, right?), but Applegate ups the stakes with a hurricane that ravages the sanctuary. Suddenly, Bob and Ivan and the rest of the animals have to find a way to safety, and along the way, they discover something about friendship, family, and trust.
And speaking of trust issues, Amanda Quick offers Close Up, a steamy novel about Vivian Brazier, who is an art photographer by day and who shoots crime scene photos for the cops at night. She meets Nick Sundridge, a private eye with a penchant for seeing things a little differently. Naturally, a killer takes an interest in Brazier's talent for snapping pics, and she and Sundridge have to figure out how to work together before the killer strikes again. This all happens in the glamorous 1930s, adding another layer of glitzy allure to a cleverly crafted romantic suspense novel.
And speaking of glittery period pieces, Kiera Cass is back with the first book of a new duology. The Bethrothed follows Lady Hollis Brite, who is charming, headstrong, and caught between her arranged marriage to the next king and her attraction to the roguish son of a rival family who has come to the kingdom, seeking asylum. Fans of Cass's previous novels (of which there are a few) know what they are in for, and Cass delivers.
And speaking of the familiarity of constant things, Robert B. Parker's Sunny Randall is back this week. Parker, much like William W. Johnstone, has been gone for awhile, but his series are being carried on by carefully selected writers. In the case of Sunny Randall, Parker's scrappy and independent Boston-based PI, her story is being continued by Mike Lupica. In Grudge Match, the eighth Sunny Randall book, Sunny is asked to look for a gangster's missing girlfriend, with all the requisite complications.
And speaking of series being carried on after the death of their original writer, the new Lisbeth Salander novel is out in paperback this week. David Lagercrantz has now written as many Salander novels as Stieg Larsson, and he appears to be settling in just fine. In The Girl Who Lived Twice, Lisbeth is hot on the trail of her mysterious twin sister, Camilla, and she's gone dark. Mikael Blomkvist needs her help, but he's going to have to make an unimaginable sacrifice in order to find Lisbeth. Will it be enough to save them both?
And finally, here's Dirt, Bill Buford's memoir of trying to figure out how to become a French chef. He moves his family to Lyon, thinking that he'll totally find a job, because he's, you know, not a total n00b. Well, it turns out this is a bad idea, and as we know, bad ideas make for great opportunities for character growth. Buford is no stranger to hilarious embarrassment in the pursuit of self-improvement (see his previous cooking memoir, Heat, which detailed his late-in-life desire to experience the gritty and sweaty life of restaurant cooking), which makes Dirt a delightful journey that you get to enjoy without, you know, getting your hands dirty.
And with that, we are out for the week. Get your hands dirty, dear readers, even if it is merely moving some soil around in your yards, or dusting off the bookshelves and making some room. Remember to howl at the moon when you can, and stay awake long enough in the evening to see the stars. We are doing well for each other. Let's continue the hard work.