Life in the Lower Levels... THE COURIER by Gerald Brandt

Jump on a motorbike with courier Kris Ballard in San Angeles, the multi-leveled California super-city of tomorrow where massive corporations control the upper levels and rule with an iron fist, pushing the poor down and far from the open sky.

Kris is a low level messenger that picks up a dubious end-of-shift delivery that puts her right in the middle of a murder-in-progress, making her wish she never picked up that package in the first place. Then she is in for the fight of her life. 

Set in an imaginative world where most people at the lower levels don't get to see sun or the night sky, THE COURIER is action-packed and moves in high gear. 

A welcome addition to the cyberpunk tradition; filled with tech-cities and ruthless corporations built within a complex multi-leveled super-city, Brandt kept me enthralled until the very last page. I'd like to see more from him. 

End game.



Author Manuel Gonzales takes you way underground, to a top secret location, where a clandestine group of enhanced assassin-warrior women guard the world against evil. This book tells the tale of the day that this Regional Office, as its called, comes under attack.

Told in an mixture of flashback, snippets of the attack, and through sections of a report prepared analyzing the theories behind said attack, REGIONAL OFFICE keeps the pace moving as the back story is filled in and smashes toward the conclusion.

First we meet Rose, a member of the team attacking the Regional Office. We then meet the Regional Office's defending point-of-view character, Sarah, as the gapes are filled in on how they got to their respective places in the conflict as well as blow-by-blow accounts of their part in the assault on the office.

Gonzales' witty dialogue, keen use of flashback and grasp of female angst is both charming, well done and fun to read. I dare you to not like his playful writing style, weaving in pop culture references as he goes. There is also a wonderful section about midway through the book, an "interlude" which fills in even more gaps in the tale of the assault on the Regional Office, adding even more layers of complexity to the story.

I was hooked, taken with this tale of female assassins trained for top secret missions, oracles brought on board to help detect global threats, intriguing shifts of perspective, questionable kidnappings; all of which had me constantly wondering just who is good and who is evil. Who am I rooting for? The book is a worthy gamble, an exciting adventure to take to get to the very end and see how it all plays out.

Also it reminded me of a favorite novel from 2006, Austin Grossman's SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE, which was the tale of an evil genius bent on world domination and a superhero team and the internal dynamics of that group. (If you haven't read that, also seek it out, it's terrific). I mean this as a fine compliment, as both works are intricately woven, humorous and well done.

Also what both books have in common are spectacular titles. I plan to post a follow up to this review with my top five favorite titles (soon, I promise).

I think THE REGIONAL OFFICE IS UNDER ATTACK! is a worthy read, a fun adventure which would make a spectacular film. I sense this is a one-off type of novel but I would certainly read more in this world. 

And I totally want a badass, mechanical arm.

Disclosure: The above title is published by Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin Random House. I work at DK, also an imprint at Penguin Random House. There I said it. I was not asked to write this review. I had heard about this book and sought out a copy. This is my personal blog, sometimes I talk about books from work, sometimes I talk about books from across the publishing industry. I only write about books I think are worth talking about.


A D&D Giveaway from @theFranconian archives

Every now and then even a bookish fellow like myself needs to make room on my shelves. And where I still have many of my original Dungeons & Dragons manuals and modules, I also still have some samples that had been sent to me while an acquiring editor at the ol' SFBC. 

This set of three: Monster Manual, Players Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide, all version 3.5 have been sitting on my shelves for a number of years, untouched, if not a bit dusty. They are in excellent condition and I was planning to sell them but thought it would make for a better giveaway, or 3 giveaways, for any gamer who might have been looking for the 3.5 editions to add to their reference library.

The rules are simple, in the comments section simply retell a brief D&D encounter, adventure or battle, or simply share an image of a miniature that you painted, with a little background about it. Its that simple. Have fun with it. Only open to U.S. Residents. I'll choose 1 to 3 winners that are my favorite to be announced April 20th, wherein there I will contact said winner[s] for mailing information.


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys on-sale today!

On-sale today is the amazing story of courage and survival, SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys. At Penguin Random House, where I work, my colleagues on the sales teams across the company selected this new release from Philomel as our #TitleWave, a book we were all super excited to share with the world.

The novel is set in 1945 and was inspired by one of the greatest tragedies in naval history. It follows four teenagers as they desperately try to escape the harsh theater of war. It is a great read for both young or old, especially if you're looking for an incredible story of survival in the closing days of World War II.


2016 is here and the reading carries on.

First post of 2016, as as I commute into work for the first time in almost two weeks, I'm getting back in the groove and have a trusty book nearby. I had started reading William Gibson's NEUROMANCER (I know, finally) in December, but hadn't finished and after a week plus of vegging out, I'm on the bus and back in the thick of it. 

Only half way through and amazed that this book was written in 1984. It is clear that NEUROMANCER influenced an entire genre within science fiction and I'm humbled as I glide through the story. Sure my eleven year old self would not have likely picked this up when first published, it would have been way over my head, but it also somehow elluded me while I was working at the SFBC like so many other master works. Although I like to look at it as every new year presents the opportunity to read something old as well as find new works to enjoy. So here is to 2016, may it be filled with great reading adventures in this world and beyond.


I've finished A LITTLE LIFE and it was quite a journey

After picking it up, putting it down for a while, then picking it up again; I've finally finished A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara. It may be the saddest, most beautiful novel I've ever read.

At work (I work at Penguin Random House, specifically for DK), my colleagues in the sales department starting talking about this book, about how it spoke to them, it moved them, and how sad it was--and my curiosity was peaked. 

It was a substantial novel, the hardcover coming in just over 700 pages. I started reading it, but due to my habit of picking up more than one book at the same time, it sat for a while.

Back in May of 2015, I got the opportunity to meet the author as she was in the Random House midtown office, where a small group of us got the chance to discuss the novel with the author and her editor. 

They spoke like an old married couple, arguing about everything from the cover choice, which Hanya advocated for, even if it was a topic of strong opposing points of view. It is an photo by photographer Peter Hujar, entitled The Orgasmic Man, and the close-up, the squinting of pleasure or is it pain? It is definitely a conversation starter. 

When I had the chance to talk with the author briefly as she signed a copy for me, I told her how excited I was to read it, and mentioned our enthusiasm across the sales department. She was gracious, and echoed the sentiment on the title page, "Dear Jay, Thank you so much for your support. I so appreciate it," along with her signature. She was very inspiring. Also, I follow her on instagram where she posts great photos with accompanying text.

But it wound up taking a train ride down to Baltimore earlier this month that allowed me the time to finally sit with the novel and plow through it and get emotionally attached in the process.

When a colleague recently asked me why, why would I want to read something so sad I tried to explain, paraphrasing here. Sometimes the journey is something you can't turn away from. As sad as it can be, you get attached to the characters, in this case: JB, Malcolm, Willem and of course, Jude. You follow the four friends over the years and want to see them get through it, want to see how it all turns out. 

This was a tough one, but well worth the trip and investment, the characters will stay with me for some time.


"Out there, past them trees..." A short review of CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki

A subtle tale of life in the post-apocalyptic; in California by Edan Lepucki, a couple survives in isolation in the wilds of a broken world, fearful of what remains of civilization just beyond their reach.

Then the novel shifts as Cal and Frida discover then attempt to become part of a  community called The Land, which is somehow connected to their lives before the fall.

The novel is about the strength of a marriage at the edge of the world, the twisted bonds of family and the question of what one must do to survive and somehow retain some civility.

I marvel that this is a first novel, the author clearly had worked her way through revisions, honing her skills to create a beautiful and enthralling read.

There was something wonderful about the pacing of the novel, it really fit well with the story, discovering bits of backstory and what was really going on in The Land. I really enjoyed it.