Seven Books to Read in the First Half of 2019

Editor’s Note:  As you may notice, this is a list heavy with white males.  This wasn’t a conscious effort on my part.  It just so happens that a lot of these authors are ones I truly enjoy and have read in the past.  These are just seven of the more than six dozen books I normally review each year.  As 2019 unfolds, you will see more and more novels from authors with diverse backgrounds, styles and ethnicity pop up on the blog.  Thanks to the annual Canada Reads competition, I usually get a chance to discover new authors and stories I would not normally pick up – so I am looking forward to the shortlist being unveiled next month.

** All book descriptions/teasers were lifted from the publisher.


Golden State – Ben H. Winters

Golden State – Ben H. Winters (Jan 22, 2019)

In a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else, Laszlo Ratesic is a nineteen-year veteran of the Speculative Service. He lives in the Golden State, a nation standing where California once did, a place where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life and governance impossible.

In the Golden State, knowingly contradicting the truth is the greatest crime–and stopping those crimes is Laz’s job. In its service, he is one of the few individuals permitted to harbor untruths, to “speculate” on what might have happened.

But the Golden State is less a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the truth requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance and recording. And when those in control of the facts twist them for nefarious means, the Speculators are the only ones with the power to fight back.

Winters is the author of one of my all-time favorite series in The Last Policeman trilogy. I was a little lukewarm on his last novel, Underground Airlines, but his new book Golden State sounds intriguing – a bizarre mashup of Minority Report and The Invention of Lying.


 

Vultures – Chuck Wendig

Vultures – Chuck Wendig (Jan 22, 2019)

Still reeling from the events of The Raptor and the Wren, Miriam must confront two terrifying discoveries: the Trespasser now has the power to inhabit the living as well as the dead, and Miriam is pregnant.

Miriam knows her baby is fated to die, but Miriam is the Fatebreaker. And if the rules have changed for her nemesis, her own powers are changing as well. Miriam will do whatever it takes to break her curse and save her child. But as Miriam once again finds herself on the hunt for a serial killer and in need of an elusive physic, she can feel the threads of her past coming together—and the pattern they’re forming is deadly.

To end the Trespasser’s influence in her world, Miriam must face her demon a final time. And, this time, one of them must die.

The sixth and final book in Wendig’s excellent Miriam Black series hits shelves next month. I’m very sad to see Miriam go, but if Chuck is content to finish the series here, then I certainly trust his judgment.


 

A Time to Scatter Stones – Lawrence Block

A Time to Scatter Stones – Lawrence Block (January 31st 2019)

More than 40 years after his debut and nearly a decade since his last appearance, one of the most renowned characters in all of crime fiction is back on the case in this major new novella by Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block.

Well past retirement age and feeling his years—but still staying sober one day at a time—Matthew Scudder learns that alcoholics aren’t the only ones who count the days since their last slip. Matt’s longtime partner, Elaine, tells him of a group of former sex workers who do something similar, helping each other stay out of the life. But when one young woman describes an abusive client who’s refusing to let her quit, Elaine encourages her to get help of a different sort.

Along with many other Lawrence Block fans (can we call ourselves Blockheads?), we thought we’d never see Matt Scudder return. However, Larry surprised us all last year when he announced a new Scudder novella schedule for 2019. I’m excited to check in with Scudder after nearly a decade on the bench.


 

The Border – Don Winslow

The Border – Don Winslow (Feb 26, 2019)

What do you do when there are no borders? When the lines you thought existed simply vanish?

How do you plant your feet to make a stand when you no longer know what side you’re on?

The war has come home.

For over forty years, Art Keller has been on the front lines of America’s longest conflict: The War on Drugs. His obsession to defeat the world’s most powerful, wealthy, and lethal kingpin―the godfather of the Sinaloa Cartel, Adán Barrera―has left him bloody and scarred, cost him the people he loves, even taken a piece of his soul.

Now Keller is elevated to the highest ranks of the DEA, only to find that in destroying one monster he has created thirty more that are wreaking even more chaos and suffering in his beloved Mexico. But not just there.

Barrera’s final legacy is the heroin epidemic scourging America. Throwing himself into the gap to stem the deadly flow, Keller finds himself surrounded by enemies―men who want to kill him, politicians who want to destroy him, and worse, the unimaginable―an incoming administration that’s in bed with the very drug traffickers that Keller is trying to bring down.

Art Keller is at war with not only the cartels, but with his own government. And the long fight has taught him more than he ever imagined. Now, he learns the final lesson―there are no borders.

In a story that moves from deserts south of the border to Wall Street, from the slums of Guatemala to the marbled corridors of Washington, D.C., Winslow follows a new generation of narcos, the cops who fight them, the street traffickers, the addicts, the politicians, money-launderers, real-estate moguls, and mere children fleeing the violence for the chance of a life in a new country.

A shattering tale of vengeance, violence, corruption and justice, this last novel in Don Winslow’s magnificent, award-winning, internationally bestselling trilogy is packed with unforgettable, drawn-from-the-headlines scenes. Shocking in its brutality, raw in its humanity, The Border is an unflinching portrait of modern America, a story of—and for—our time.

I am a big, big fan of Don Winslow. The preceding book in the trilogy, The Cartel, was my top read of 2015 and although it’s only been four years, it feels like I’ve been waiting decades for the follow-up. His 2017 novel, The Force, was more than a great hold-over, but I can’t wait to get back into the head of Art Keller and his battle against the Mexican drug lords.


 

Wanderers – Chuck Wendig

Wanderers – Chuck Wendig (Jul 2, 2019)

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival.

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and are sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Two Chuck books on this list? I must be a big fan or something. When I had the chance to meet Chuck and attend a few panels he was on during Hal-Con 2018, this book was the talk of the town. The Wanderers feels like a sprawling epic on par with The Stand. Can’t wait.


 

A Book of Bones – John Connolly

A Book of Bones – John Connolly (April 18, 2019)

He is our best hope.

He is our last hope.

On a lonely moor in the northeast of England, the body of a young woman is discovered near the site of a vanished church. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.

Each is a sacrifice, a summons.

And something in the shadows has heard the call.

But another is coming: Parker the hunter, the avenger. Parker’s mission takes him from Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border; from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London – he will track those who would cast this world into darkness.

Parker fears no evil.

But evil fears him . . .

How great does that sound? 2019 marks the tenth year since reading the book that started it all for me (Connolly’s Every Dead Thing), and I cannot wait to tear into another Parker book. This is the 17th book in the series and Connolly shows no sign of rust.


 

Motherland – Lauren Beukes

Motherland – Lauren Beukes (Spring 2019)

This is America, but not like you know it.

Years after the decimation of the male population by a super-virus, the country has refashioned itself with new laws, new customs, and new methods of shame and punishment. Now, hiding a living and healthy male is one of the gravest offenses, rivaled only by the murder of a man. Cole is a mother on the run, guilty of both crimes, and desperate to find a safe life for her adolescent boy Miles.

As the two drift throughout the transformed states of the West, they hide Miles’ identity while evading a mysterious, powerful man bent on justice. From a commune in the Rockies to a high security laboratory in the redwoods of northern California, the two tensely negotiate an existence on the fringes of a new America.

Cole’s goal for her son and herself is escape, a family in South Africa, a slim chance at a better life. Mother and child see their chance, at last, in the wanderings and secret goals of a cult–if only Cole can keep Miles’ true self hidden, and as long as they can stay one step ahead of an ex-boyfriend from hell.

I love a good post apocalyptic novel and Lauren Beukes seems to have one ready to go this Spring. I enjoyed two of her earlier books (Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls), so this is an instant purchase on my part.

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