James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Blog > Post

Books Received, March 9 — March 15

16 Mar, 2024

1 comment

Glass Houses

Glass Houses by Madeline Ashby (August 2024)

A masterful near future whodunit for fans of Glass Onion and Black Mirror; join a stranded start-up team led by a terrifyingly realistic charismatic billionaire, a deserted tropical island, and a mysterious AI-driven mansion – as the remaining members disappear one by one. 

A group of employees and their CEO, celebrating the sale of their remarkable emotion-mapping-AI-algorithm, crash onto a not-quite-deserted tropical island. 

Luckily, those who survived have found a beautiful, fully-stocked private palace, with all the latest technological updates (though one without connection to the outside world). The house, however, has more secrets than anyone might have guessed, and a much darker reason for having been built and left behind. 

Kristen, the hyper-competent chief emotional manager” (i.e., the eccentric boyish billionaire-CEO Sumter’s idea of an HR department) is trying to keep her colleagues stable throughout this new challenge, but staying sane seems to be as much of a challenge as staying alive. Being a woman in technology has always meant having to be smarter than anyone expects.…and Kristen’s survival skills are more impressive than anyone knows. 

Im Afraid Youve Got Dragons

I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons by Peter S. Beagle (May 2024)

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Unicorn comes a new novel with equal amounts of power and whimsy in which a loveable cast of characters trapped within their roles of dragon hunter, princess, and more must come together to take their fates into their own hands. 

Dragons are common in the backwater kingdom of Bellemontagne, coming in sizes from mouse-like vermin all the way up to castle-smashing monsters. Gaius Aurelius Constantine Heliogabalus Thrax (who would much rather people call him Robert) has recently inherited his deceased dad’s job as a dragon catcher/exterminator, a career he detests with all his heart in part because he likes dragons, feeling a kinship with them, but mainly because his dream has always been the impossible one of transcending his humble origin to someday become a prince’s valet. Needless to say, fate has something rather different in mind… 

In the Belly of the Whale

In the Belly of the Whale by Michael Flynn (May 2024)

In the Belly of the Whale is a gripping epic that takes readers on a profound voyage through time and space aboard an enormous generation ship. The narrative captures the poignant transformation of Earth’s finest minds into a stifling regime, their rigid rules sparking an uprising among the hard-pressed crew.

This provocative tale delves into the price of freedom, the metamorphosis of societies, and the repeating patterns of tyranny and liberation. Against this, Earth itself is undergoing a significant period of change, offering a layered, thought-provoking backdrop to the story. 

In the Belly of the Whale is a compelling exploration of humanity’s enduring pursuit of freedom, pushing the boundaries of the genre to offer a deeply insightful study of societal evolution and individual resilience. This is more than a space odyssey; it’s an invitation to delve into the heart of the human spirit and societal dynamics. 


Swordcrossed by Freya Marske (October 2024)

Brimming with steamy romance, charm and intrigue, Swordcrossed is a dazzling queer fantasy from the internationally bestselling author of The Last Binding trilogy.‘This is fantasy romance at its very best’ – Grace D. Li, author of Portrait of a ThiefLow stakes. High heat. Sharp steel …Mattinesh Jay, dutiful heir to his struggling family business, needs to hire an experienced swordsman to serve as best man for his arranged marriage. Sword-challenge at the ceremony could destroy all hope of restoring his family’s wealth, something that Matti has been trying – and failing – to do for the past ten years. What he can afford, unfortunately, is part-time con artist and full-time charming menace Luca Piere. 

Luca, for his part, is trying to reinvent himself in a new city. All he wants to do is make some easy money and try to forget the crime he committed in his home town. He didn’t plan on being blackmailed into giving sword lessons to a chronically responsible – and inconveniently handsome – wool merchant like Matti. 

However, neither Matti’s business troubles nor Luca himself are quite what – or who – they seem. As the days to Matti’s wedding count down, the two of them become entangled in the intrigue and sabotage that have brought Matti’s house to the brink of ruin. And when Luca’s secrets threaten to drive a blade through their growing alliance, both Matti and Luca will have to answer the question: how many lies are you prepared to strip away when the truth could mean losing everything you want? 

Desperation Reef

Desperation Reef by T. Jefferson Parker (July 2024)

In this high-stakes thriller by three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker, (“A marvel…hits the high-water mark for crime fiction every time out. 

” —Gregg Hurwitz), a big wave surfer and her sons compete in the same contest that killed her husband many years before. 

Jen Stonebreaker hasn’t entered into a big-wave surfing competition since witnessing her husband’s tragic death twenty-five years ago at the Monsters of the Mavericks. Now, Jen is ready to tackle those same Monsters with her twin sons Casey and Brock, who have become competitive surfers in a perilous sport. 

When he’s not riding waves, modeling for surfing magazines, or posting viral content for his many fans, Casey Stonebreaker spends his days helping with the family restaurant — catching fish in the morning and bartending at night. Casey’s love for the ocean and his willingness to expose illegal poachers on his platforms puts him on a collision course with a crime syndicate eager to destroy anyone threatening their business. 

Outspoken Brock Stonebreaker couldn’t be more different from his twin. The founder of Breath of Life, a church and rescue mission that assists with natural disasters that no one else will touch, Brock has lived an adventurous and sometimes violent life. Not everyone appreciates the work that Brock’s Breath of Life mission accomplishes, and threats to destroy his mission — and his family — swirl around him. 

As the big-wave contest draws closer, a huge, late fall swell is headed toward the Pacific coastline. Jen’s fears gnaw at her — fear for herself, for her sons, for what this competition will mean for the rest of her life. 

Times Agent

Time’s Agent by Brenda Peynado (August 2024)

A literary multiverse story of love, loss, time travel, and final-stage capitalism, written by award-winning author Brenda Peynado. 

Pocket World — a geographically small, hidden offshoot of our own reality, sped up or slowed down by time. 

Following humanity’s discovery of pocket worlds, teams of academics embarked on groundbreaking exploratory missions, eager to study this new technology and harness the potential of a seemingly limitless horizon. 

What would you do, given another universe, a do-over?”Archeologist Raquel and her wife Marlena once dreamed the pocket worlds held the key to solving the universe’s mysteries. But forty years later, pocket worlds are now controlled by corporations squeezing every penny out of all colonizable space and time, Raquel herself is in disgrace, and Marlena lives in her own pocket universe (that Raquel wears around her neck) and refuses to speak to her. 

Standing in the ruins of her dream and her failed ideals, Raquel seizes one last chance to redeem herself and confront what it means to save something — or someone — from time. 

Full Speed to a Crash Landing

Full Speed to a Crash Landing by Beth Revis (August 2024)

A high octane sexy space heist from New York Times-bestselling author Beth Revis, the first in a novella trilogy.

Ada Lamarr may have gotten to the spaceship wreck first, but looter’s rights won’t get her far when she’s got a hole in the side of her ship and her spacesuit is almost out of air. Fortunately for her, help arrives in the form of a government salvage crew — and while they reluctantly rescue her from certain death, they are not pleased to have an unexpected passenger along on their classified mission. But Ada doesn’t care — all that matters to her is enjoying their fine food and sweet, sweet oxygen — until Rian White, the government agent in charge, starts to suspect that there’s more to Ada than meets the eye. He’s not wrong — but he’s so pretty that Ada is perfectly happy to keep him paying attention to her — at least until she can complete the job she was sent to pull off. But as quick as Ada is, Rian might be quicker — and she may not be entirely sure who’s manipulating who until it’s too late…A phenomenally fun novella that kicks off a trilogy of sexy space heists and romantic tension, Full Speed to a Crash Landing is packed with great characters and full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. 

Mirrored Heavens

Mirrored Heavens by Rebecca Roanhorse (June 2024)

The interwoven destinies of the people of Meridian will finally be determined in this stunning conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Roanhorse’s Between Earth and Sky trilogy. 

Even the sea cannot stay calm before the storm. —Teek saying 

Serapio, avatar of the Crow God Reborn and the newly crowned Carrion King, rules Tova. But his enemies gather both on distant shores and within his own city as the matrons of the clans scheme to destroy him. And deep in the alleys of the Maw, a new prophecy is whispered, this one from the Coyote God. It promises Serapio certain doom if its terrible dictates are not fulfilled. 

Meanwhile, Xiala is thrust back amongst her people as war comes first to the island of Teek. With their way of life and their magic under threat, she is their last best hope. But the sea won’t talk to her the way it used to, and doubts riddle her mind. She will have to sacrifice the things that matter most to unleash her powers and become the queen they were promised. 

And in the far northern wastelands, Naranpa, avatar of the Sun God, seeks a way to save Tova from the visions of fire that engulf her dreams. But another presence has begun stalking her nightmares, and the Jaguar God is on the hunt. 

The Fall of Waterstone

The Fall of Waterstone by Lilith Saintcrow (June 2024)

An elemental witch and her shieldmaiden navigate a dangerous world of forgotten myth and deep magic in the second volume of New York Times bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow’s sweeping Norse-inspired epic fantasy series. Solveig and her shieldmaid have finally reached the fabled Elder sanctuary of Waterstone — a city of healing, restful beauty hidden from the Enemy’s gaze. Yet whispers race through the palace halls, and those they have come to tentatively trust have hidden intentions. For not only is the city a refuge for an elementalist, her protector, and a mortal prince, it also holds a great weapon, one that only Solveig’s kind may wield. Yet Sol’s faith in her own magic is perilously fractured. She can rely only her wits and skills of negotiation to be heard, or she will become a pawn in a dark game played by Elder and Enemy alike. The lord of the Black Land is mighty; treachery slithers amid Waterstone’s many wonders, and time is growing short. Before the darkness finds a way in, Sol must decide who to trust, where to turn for aid, and if she will take up a power she cannot hope to control. Even the right choice may doom not just the home she has left behind, but the entire world…


Ares by L. Neil Smith (June 2024)

Amidst political turmoil on Earth, a rescue mission to ailing colonists on Mars becomes a battle for power and survival in the harsh realities of space. As humanity explores space, political strife rips apart nations and increases social divides. US President Horton Willoughby III governs only Eastern America, and is seen as a political farce. Industrialist Richfield Chan sees opportunity in the fractured government, and plans to seize power. Chan rallies allies to send a seventh colony ship to Mars, hoping to undermine the current president. The Ngu family, responsible for terraforming and mining on Pallas, realize that any rescue mission from Earth will arrive too late. Four siblings launch a rescue mission from Pallas to save the ailing colonists with their expertise and better chosen implements. The Ngu siblings know their mission is one-way, and must teach the colonists to survive on the inhospitable planet or find a way to endure until another rescue ship arrives. The little people” refuse to be subject to incompetent governments any longer, and must make their own stand. 

The Fire Within Them

The Fire Within Them by Matthew Ward (June 2024)

The second book in Matthew Ward’s action-packed trilogy, the Soulfire Saga, The Fire Within Them is set in a world ruled by an immortal king, where souls fuel magic and a supernatural mist known as the Veil threatens to engulf the land. Perfect for readers of John Gwynne and Anthony Ryan. For the first time in a millennium, the kingdom of Khalad is divided. The Battle of Athenoch has fanned the spark of Bashar Vallant’s rebellion to a raging flame. Tyzanta, jewel of the east, has declared for his cause, and other cities have followed. Vallant, the people’s hero, may soon be powerful enough to challenge Caradan Diar, Khalad’s immortal king. But such power demands great personal sacrifice. Afflicted with omen rot after channeling the Deadwinds to save Athenoch from the koilos army, Kat searches for a means to stop the disease killing her as it did her mother. Her journey will uncover secrets long since buried – – secrets concerning her past, her family and the kingdom itself. Eventually she’ll learn that the past never stays buried in Khalad – – and that the truth can cut deeper than any blade.