New Books (April-May)

NewBooks-20200515

Featuring: A. Deborah Baker, William Boyle, Trudi Canavan, Jim Carrey, P. Djèlí Clark, Susan Eisenhower, T.C. Farren, Thomas Frank, Sarah Gailey, Daniel Hornsby, S. L. Huang, Phil Klay, Derek Künsken, Jenn Lyons, John P. Murphy, Robert Pobi, Alastair Reynolds, Jane Routley, John Sandford, Sara Sligar, Wright Thompson, Rufi Thorpe, Sarah Tolmie, Dana Vachon, Vanessa Veselka, Erin K. Wagner, Jess Walter, C L Werner, Rachel Winters, Julian E. Zelizer

*

BakerAD-OverTheWoodwardWallA. Deborah Baker, OVER THE WOODWARD WALL (Tor.com)

A world of talking trees and sarcastic owls, of dangerous mermaids and captivating queens…

If you trust her you’ll never make it home.

Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.

Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.

They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.

On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.

And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.

A new novella by Seanan McGuire, written under another pen name. Sounds like it could be interesting. Over the Woodward Wall is due to be published by Tor.com on October 6th, 2020, in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

BoyleW-CityOfMarginsUSWilliam Boyle, CITY OF MARGINS (Pegasus)

A vivid new cast of characters collide in gritty 1990s Brooklyn, in this latest from acclaimed neo-noir author William Boyle.

In City of Margins, the lives of several lost souls intersect in Southern Brooklyn in the early 1990s. There’s Donnie Parascandolo, a disgraced ex-cop with blood on his hands; Ava Bifulco, a widow whose daily work grind is her whole life; Nick, Ava’s son, a grubby high school teacher who dreams of a shortcut to success; Mikey Baldini, a college dropout who’s returned to the old neighborhood, purposeless and drifting; Donna Rotante, Donnie’s ex-wife, still reeling from the suicide of their teenage son; Mikey’s mother, Rosemarie, also a widow, who hopes Mikey won’t fall into the trap of strong arm work; and Antonina Divino, a high school girl with designs on breaking free from Brooklyn. Uniting them are the dead: Mikey’s old man, killed over a gambling debt, and Donnie and Donna’s poor son, Gabe.

These characters cross paths in unexpected ways, guided by coincidence and the pull of blood. There are new things to be found in the rubble of their lives, too. The promise of something different beyond the barriers that have been set out for them. This is a story of revenge and retribution, of facing down the ghosts of the past, of untold desires, of yearning and forgiveness and synchronicity, of the great distance of lives lived in dangerous proximity to each other. City of Margins is a Technicolor noir melodrama pieced together in broken glass.

I saw some good early buzz for this novel, and added it to my watch list. Picked it up shortly after publication. Looking forward to reading it. City of Margins is published in North America by Pegasus (out now) and No Exit Press in the UK (September 24th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

*

CanavanT-MR4-MakersCurseTrudi Canavan, MAKER’S CURSE (Orbit)

Together, Rielle and Tyen face a dazzling world of political intrigue, treacherous villains, and unforgettable magic in this powerful and thrilling final novel of the Millennium’s Rule series.

Rielle is now the Maker, restorer of worlds. She has lost count of the number of worlds she has been sent to save. Tyen has cast off his old identity. No longer a spy, he now attempts to teach new sorcerers and find ways to counteract the war-machines that are spreading throughout the worlds.

But when an old enemy brings news of something worse than magically dead worlds and dangerous sorcerers — a threat unlike anything the worlds have faced before — Rielle and Tyen must reunite if they are to have any chance of saving humanity.

The fourth novel in Canavan’s Millennium’s Rule series. Sounds interesting, and I’ll try to get to it soon-ish. Maker’s Curse is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on May 19th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

*

CarreyVachon-Memoirs&MisinformationUSJim Carrey & Dana Vachon, MEMOIRS AND MISINFORMATION (Knopf)

“None of this is real and all of it is true.” – Jim Carrey

Meet Jim Carrey. Sure, he’s an insanely successful and beloved movie star drowning in wealth and privilege–but he’s also lonely. Maybe past his prime. Maybe even . . . getting fat? He’s tried diets, gurus, and cuddling with his military-grade Israeli guard dogs, but nothing seems to lift the cloud of emptiness and ennui. Even the sage advice of his best friend, actor and dinosaur skull collector Nicolas Cage, isn’t enough to pull Carrey out of his slump.

But then Jim meets Georgie: ruthless ingénue, love of his life. And with the help of auteur screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, he has a role to play in a boundary-pushing new picture that may help him uncover a whole new side to himself–finally, his Oscar vehicle! Things are looking up!

But the universe has other plans.

Memoirs and Misinformation is a fearless semi-autobiographical novel, a deconstruction of persona. In it, Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon have fashioned a story about acting, Hollywood, agents, celebrity, privilege, friendship, romance, addiction to relevance, fear of personal erasure, our “one big soul,” Canada, and a cataclysmic ending of the world–apocalypses within and without.

I’m quite intrigued by this book. It is a fictionalized memoir by an actor whose work I very much enjoy. I’ll be reading this very soon. Memoirs and Misinformation is due to be published by Knopf in North America and in the UK, on July 7th, 2020.

Follow the Author (Carrey): Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Vachon): Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

*

ClarkPD-RingShoutP. Djèlí Clark, RING SHOUT (Tor.com)

A dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror

D. W. Griffith is a sorcerer, and The Birth of a Nation is a spell that drew upon the darkest thoughts and wishes from the heart of America. Now, rising in power and prominence, the Klan has a plot to unleash Hell on Earth.

Luckily, Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword and a head full of tales. When she’s not running bootleg whiskey through Prohibition Georgia, she’s fighting monsters she calls “Ku Kluxes.” She’s damn good at it, too. But to confront this ongoing evil, she must journey between worlds to face otherworldly nightmares — and her own demons. Together with a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter, Maryse sets out to save a world from the hate that would consume it.

Thoroughly enjoyed Clark’s previous two novellas for Tor.com — The Black Gods’ Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015 — so I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the author’s next book ever since. And this one sounds like a doozy! I’ll be reading this very soon. Ring Shout is due to be published by Tor.com on October 13th, 2020, in North America and in the UK.

Also on CR: Interview with P. Djèlí Clark (2018); Review of The Haunting of Tram Car 015

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

EisenhowerS-HowIkeLedUSSusan Eisenhower, HOW IKE LED (Thomas Dunne Books)

How Dwight D. Eisenhower led America through a transformational time — by a DC policy strategist, security expert and his granddaughter.

Few people have made decisions as momentous as Eisenhower, nor has one person had to make such a varied range of them. From D-Day to Little Rock, from the Korean War to Cold War crises, from the Red Scare to the Missile Gap controversies, Ike was able to give our country eight years of peace and prosperity by relying on a core set of principles. These were informed by his heritage and upbringing, as well as his strong character and his personal discipline, but he also avoided making himself the center of things. He was a man of judgment, and steadying force. He sought national unity, by pursuing a course he called the “Middle Way” that tried to make winners on both sides of any issue.

Ike was a strategic, not an operational leader, who relied on a rigorous pursuit of the facts for decision-making. His talent for envisioning a whole, especially in the context of the long game, and his ability to see causes and various consequences, explains his success as Allied Commander and as President. After making a decision, he made himself accountable for it, recognizing that personal responsibility is the bedrock of sound principles.

Susan Eisenhower’s How Ike Led shows us not just what a great American did, but why — and what we can learn from him today.

I haven’t read many books about Eisenhower. I guess he’s so often eclipsed by his predecessor and successor. I’m interested in learning more about his presidency, however, so I’m looking forward to reading this one. How Ike Led is due to be published by Thomas Dunne Books in North America and in the UK, on August 11th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

*

FarrenTC-BookofMalachiT.C. Farren, THE BOOK OF MALACHI (Titan Books)

Malachi Dakwaa has survived civil war but he’s now mute, after his tongue was cut out. Disengaged from his world, he’s performing mind-numbing work in a factory when he gets an extraordinary job offer. In exchange for six months as a warden on a top-secret organ-farming project, Frasier Pharmaceuticals will graft a new tongue for him.

Far out to sea, Malachi finds himself among warlords and mass murderers like the kind who ruined him. But are the prisoners as evil as Frasier says? Do they deserve their fate?

As doubt starts to grow, Malachi’s own memories rise until he is faced with a terrible choice. Should he remain silent and let the prisoners suffer, or risk his life to set them free?

I hadn’t heard of this novel before the publicist reached out to me. It does sounds pretty interesting. The Book of Malachi is due to be published by Titan Books in North America and in the UK, on October 13th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received from publisher

*

FrankT-ThePeopleNoThomas Frank, THE PEOPLE, NO (Henry Holt)

Rarely does a work of history contain startling implications for the present, but in The People, No Thomas Frank pulls off that explosive effect by showing us that everything we think we know about populism is wrong. Today “populism” is seen as a frightening thing, a term pundits use to describe the racist philosophy of Donald Trump and European extremists. But this is a mistake.

The real story of populism is an account of enlightenment and liberation; it is the story of American democracy itself, of its ever-widening promise of a decent life for all. Taking us from the tumultuous 1890s, when the radical left-wing Populist Party—the biggest mass movement in American history—fought Gilded Age plutocrats to the reformers’ great triumphs under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Frank reminds us how much we owe to the populist ethos. Frank also shows that elitist groups have reliably detested populism, lashing out at working-class concerns. The anti-populist vituperations by the Washington centrists of today are only the latest expression.

Frank pummels the elites, revisits the movement’s provocative politics, and declares true populism to be the language of promise and optimism. The People, No is a ringing affirmation of a movement that, Frank shows us, is not the problem of our times, but the solution for what ails us.

The latest book by the author of What’s The Matter With Kansas, The Wrecking Crew (a book that might seem positively quaint compared to what the Trump administration’s denizens have done), and Listen, Liberal. Looking forward to reading this. The People, No is due to be published by Metropolitan Books in North America (July 14th) and Scribe in the UK (on September 10th, as People Without Power).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

*

GaileyS-EchoWifeUSSarah Gailey, THE ECHO WIFE (Tor Books)

Evelyn Caldwell’s husband Nathan has been having an affair — with Evelyn Caldwell.

Or, to be exact, with Martine, a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn’s own award-winning research.

But that wasn’t even the worst part.

When they said all happy families are alike, I don’t think this is what they meant…

That is a fascinating premise. Gailey has been writing a lot of great novels and novellas recently, and this one sees the author take a crack at another (sub-)genre. Really looking forward to reading this, but I’ll hold off on posting a review until closer to its still-distant release date. The Echo Wife is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on February 16th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

HornsbyD-ViaNegativaUSDaniel Hornsby, VIA NEGATIVA (Knopf)

A heartfelt, daring, divinely hilarious debut novel in which a priest embarks on the journey of a lifetime with a pistol in his pocket and an injured coyote in his backseat

Father Dan is homeless. Dismissed by his conservative diocese for eccentricity and insubordination, he’s made his exile into a kind of pilgrimage, transforming his Toyota Camry into a mobile monk’s cell. Like the ascetic religious philosophers he idolizes, he intends to spend his trip in peaceful contemplation. But then he sees a minivan sideswipe a coyote. Unable to suppress his Franciscan impulses, he takes the wild animal in, wrapping its broken leg with an old t-shirt and feeding it Spam with a plastic spoon.

With his unexpected canine companion in the backseat, Dan makes his way west, encountering other offbeat travelers and stopping to take in the occasional roadside novelty (MARTIN’S HOLE TO HELL, WORLD-FAMOUS BOTTOMLESS PIT NEXT EXIT!). But the coyote is far from the only oddity fate has delivered into this churchless priest’s care: it’s also given him a bone-handled pistol, a box of bullets, and a letter from his estranged friend Paul–a summons of sorts, pulling him forward.

By the time Dan gets where he’s going, he’ll be forced to reckon once and for all with the great mistakes of his past. And he will have to decide: is penance better paid with revenge or with redemption?

I was pre-approved for this on NetGalley, and thought it sounded intriguing. I’ll hopefully read this relatively soon. Via Negativa is due to be published by Knopf on August 11th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

HuangSL-BurningRosesS. L. Huang, BURNING ROSES (Tor.com)

A gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods…

When Rosa (aka Red Riding Hood) and Hou Yi the Archer join forces to stop the deadly sunbirds from ravaging the countryside, their quest will take the two women, now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of age, into a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.

Thought this sounded interesting, and I’ve enjoyed Huang’s work in the past. Burning Roses is due to be published by Tor.com on September 29th, 2020, in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

KlayP-MissionariesUSPhil Klay, MISSIONARIES (Penguin Press)

Neither Mason, a U.S. Army Special Forces medic, nor Lisette, a foreign correspondent, has emerged from America’s long post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unscathed. Yet war also exerts a terrible draw that neither can shake–the noble calling, the camaraderie, the life-and-death stakes. Where else in the world can such a person go? All roads lead to Colombia, where the US, with its patented fusion of intelligence dominance and quick-striking special operators, has partnered with local government to stamp out a vicious civil war and keep the predatory narco gangs at bay. Mason, now a liaison to the Colombian military, is ready for the good war, and Lisette is more than ready to cover it.

For Juan Pablo, Mason’s counterpart in the Colombian officer corps, translating reality into a language the Americans can understand requires a cartoonist’s gift for caricature, but it’s child’s play next to the challenge of navigating the viper’s nest of factions bidding for power, in the capital and far out in the field. And if Juan Pablo’s view is dark, the outlook of Abel, a lieutenant in the militia Los Mil Jesuses, which controls territory in rural Norte de Santander, a region on the Venezuelan border where the writ of law scarcely runs, is positively Stygian. Abel has lost everything he loves in the carnage that for his entire life has flowed unceasingly in this region, where the lines between drug cartels, militias, and the state are semi-permeable. It is Abel’s cruel fate to find safety only by serving a man he has come to fear and loathe.

This has been getting a fair bit of pre-publication buzz, and I’ve been looking forward to reading it. Very happy to get a DRC of the novel. Missionaries is due to be published by Penguin Press in North America (October 6th), and by Canongate in the UK (October 29th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

*

KunskenD-TheHouseOfStyxDerek Künsken, THE HOUSE OF STYX (Solaris)

Life can exist anywhere. And anywhere there is life, there is home.

In the swirling clouds of Venus, the families of la colonie live on floating plant-like trawlers, salvaging what they can in the fierce acid rain and crackling storms. Outside is dangerous, but humankind’s hold on the planet is fragile and they spend most of their days simply surviving.

But Venus carries its own secrets, too. In the depths, there is a wind that shouldn’t exist.

And the House of Styx wants to harness it.

The first in a new sci-fi series by the author of acclaimed The Quantum Evolution duology. The House of Styx is due to be published by Solaris Books in North America and in the UKeBook on August 20th, and print in April 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

*

LyonsJ-CoD3-MemoryOfSoulsUSJenn Lyons, THE MEMORY OF SOULS (Tor Books)

THE LONGER HE LIVES
THE MORE DANGEROUS HE BECOMES

Now that Relos Var’s plans have been revealed and demons are free to rampage across the empire, the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies — and the end of the world — is closer than ever.

To buy time for humanity, Kihrin needs to convince the king of the Manol vané to perform an ancient ritual which will strip the entire race of their immortality, but it’s a ritual which certain vané will do anything to prevent. Including assassinating the messengers.

Worse, Kihrin must come to terms with the horrifying possibility that his connection to the king of demons, Vol Karoth, is growing steadily in strength.

How can he hope to save anyone when he might turn out to be the greatest threat of them all?

The third novel in Lyons’s acclaimed A Chorus of Dragons series. (It’s unclear to me if this is a trilogy or if there are more books still to come in the series.) I haven’t had a chance to read the first two novels, yet, but I’ve heard very good things and hope to do so soon. The Memory of Souls is due to be published by Tor Books in North America (August 25th) and in the UK (September 3rd).

Also on CR: Interview with Jenn Lyons (2019)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

MurphyJP-RedNoiseJohn P. Murphy, RED NOISE (Angry Robot Books)

Caught up in a space station turf war between gangs and corrupt law, a lone asteroid miner decides to take them all down.

When an asteroid miner comes to Station 35 looking to sell her cargo and get back to the solitude she craves, she gets swept up in a three-way standoff with gangs and crooked cops. Faced with either taking sides or cleaning out the Augean Stables, she breaks out the flamethrower.

This sounds quite fun. Red Noise is due to be published by Angry Robot Books in North America and in the UK, on June 9th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

PobiR-LP2-UnderPressureUSRobert Pobi, UNDER PRESSURE (Minotaur)

A series of deadly explosions rock the city of New York and with too many victims and no known motive, the F.B.I. turns once again to Dr. Lucas Page…

On a beautiful October evening, New York City’s iconic Guggenheim Museum is closed for a tech company’s private gala. Until an explosion rocks the night, instantly killing 702 people, including every single attendee — yet the damage to the building itself was minimal.

An explosion of that precision was no accident and, in response, the FBI mobilizes its entire team — but the sheer number of victims strains their resources. Were all 702 victims in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was there only one target and 701 unlucky bystanders? That many victim files is a staggering amount of data to sort through and Brett Kehoe, Special Agent in Charge of Manhattan, decides that he can’t do this without more computational power.

Dr. Lucas Page, astrophysicist, university professor, and former FBI agent, is uniquely gifted for the task at hand — he can visualize a crime scene as if he was a bystander and can break down any set of data at a glance. Even though Page wants nothing to do with the FBI, with his city under attack and his family at risk, he steps in to find a killer in a haystack before they strike again.

The second novel in Pobi’s Lucas Page series, which started with the excellent City of Windows. I devoured that first novel in just a couple of sittings — interesting, gripping, and excellently paced, it was everything I look for in a thriller. I started reading Under Pressure pretty soon after getting the review copy, and I’m happy to report that it is very good (I finished it very quickly — I’ll get a review up ASAP). Under Pressure is due to be published by Minotaur Books on August 4th, 2020.

Also on CR: Review of City of Windows

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

ReynoldsA-R3-BoneSilenceUSAlastair Reynolds, BONE SILENCE (Orbit)

The thrilling finale to the Revenger Trilogy tells a desperate tale of greed, piracy, shadow governments, and ancient secrets that could unravel all of civilization

The Ness sisters ran away from home to become the most fearsome pirates in the twenty thousand worlds of the Congregation. They’ve plundered treasures untold, taken command of their own ship, and made plenty of enemies. But now they’re being hunted for crimes they didn’t commit by a fleet whose crimes are worse than their own. To stay one step ahead of their pursuers and answer the questions that have plagued them, they’ll have to employ every dirty, piratical trick in the book…

This is the third novel in Reynolds’s Revenger trilogy. Inexplicably, I’ve let the series fall by the wayside. I have no excuse not to get caught up, now! Bone Silence is out now, published by Orbit Books in North America and Gollancz in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received from publisher

*

RoutleyJ-ShadowInTheEmpireOfLightJane Routley, SHADOW IN THE EMPIRE OF LIGHT (Solaris)

A magical novel of intrigue, mystery and family drama…

Shine’s life is usually dull: an orphan without magic in a family of powerful mages, she’s left to run the family estate with only an eccentric aunt and telepathic cat for company.

But when the family descend on the house for the annual Fertility Festival, Shine is plunged into intrigue; stolen letters, a fugitive spy and family drama mix with an unexpected murder, and Shine is forced to decide both her loyalties and future…

This sounds like it could be fun, and a spot of levity in these otherwise difficult times. Looking forward to giving this a try. Shadow in the Empire of Light is due to be published by Solaris Book in North America and in the UK — eBook on August 6th, 2020; print on January 21st, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received from publisher

*

SandfordJ-LD30-MaskedPreyUSJohn Sandford, MASKED PREY (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Lucas Davenport investigates a vitriolic blog that seems to be targeting the children of U.S. politicians…

The daughter of a U.S. Senator is monitoring her social media presence when she finds a picture of herself on a strange blog. And there are other pictures… of the children of other influential Washington politicians, walking or standing outside their schools, each identified by name. Surrounding the photos are texts of vicious political rants from a motley variety of radical groups.

It’s obviously alarming–is there an unstable extremist tracking the loved ones of powerful politicians with deadly intent? But when the FBI is called in, there isn’t much the feds can do. The anonymous photographer can’t be pinned down to one location or IP address, and more importantly, at least to the paper-processing bureaucrats, no crime has actually been committed. With nowhere else to turn, influential Senators decide to call in someone who can operate outside the FBI’s constraints: Lucas Davenport.

The 30th novel in Sandford’s superb Prey/Lucas Davenport series. I’ve loved all of them, so this was an immediate must-buy for me. I read this pretty much as soon as I got it, and very much enjoyed it — it didn’t have the strongest start, but quickly found its feet. An interesting novel, and one in which Sandford seems to be channeling a good range of frustrations with American culture and politics (social media obsession, and also the sheer number of guns floating around in the country). Masked Prey is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in North America (out now) and Simon & Schuster in the UK (May 28th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

*

SligarS-TakeMeApartUSSara Sligar, TAKE ME APART (MCD)

When the famed photographer Miranda Brand died mysteriously at the height of her career, it sent shock waves through Callinas, California. Decades later, old wounds are reopened when her son Theo hires the ex-journalist Kate Aitken to archive his mother’s work and personal effects.

As Kate sorts through the vast maze of material and contends with the vicious rumors and shocking details of Miranda’s private life, she pieces together a portrait of a vibrant artist buckling under the pressures of ambition, motherhood, and marriage. But Kate has secrets of her own, including a growing attraction to the enigmatic Theo, and when she stumbles across Miranda’s diary, her curiosity spirals into a dangerous obsession.

A seductive, twisting tale of psychological suspense, Take Me Apart draws readers into the lives of two darkly magnetic young women pinned down by secrets and lies. Sara Sligar’s electrifying debut is a chilling, thought-provoking take on art, illness, and power, from a spellbinding new voice in literary suspense.

Picked this up on a whim, because I thought it sounded interesting — I’ll hopefully read it soon. Take Me Apart is out now, published by MCD in North America.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

*

ThompsonW-PappylandUSWright Thompson, PAPPYLAND (Penguin Press)

The story of how Julian Van Winkle III, the caretaker of the most coveted cult Kentucky Bourbon whiskey in the world, fought to protect his family’s heritage and preserve the taste of his forebears, in a world where authenticity, like his product, is in very short supply.

As a journalist said of Pappy Van Winkle, “You could call it bourbon, or you could call it a $5,000 bottle of liquified, barrel-aged unobtanium.” Julian Van Winkle, the third-generation head of his family’s business, is now thought of as something like the Buddha of Bourbon – Booze Yoda, as Wright Thompson calls him. He is swarmed wherever he goes, and people stand in long lines to get him to sign their bottles of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve, the whiskey he created to honor his grandfather, the founder of the family concern. A bottle of the 23-year-old Pappy starts at $3000 on the internet. As Julian is the first to say, things have gone completely nuts.

Forty years ago, Julian would have laughed in astonishment if you’d told him what lay ahead. He’d just stepped in to try to save the business after his father had died, partly of heartbreak, having been forced to sell the old distillery in a brutal downturn in the market for whiskey. Julian’s grandfather had presided over a magical kingdom of craft and connoisseurship, a genteel outfit whose family ethos generated good will throughout Kentucky and far beyond. There’s always a certain amount of romance to the marketing of spirits, but Pappy’s mission statement captured something real: “We make fine bourbon – at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.” But now the business had hit the wilderness years, and Julian could only hang on for dear life, stubbornly committed to preserving his namesake’s legacy or going down with the ship.

Then something like a miracle happened: it turned out that hundreds of very special barrels of whiskey from the Van Winkle family distillery had been saved by the multinational conglomerate that bought it. With no idea what they had, they offered to sell it to Julian, who scrambled to beg and borrow the funds. Now he could bottle a whiskey whose taste captured his family’s legacy. The result would immediately be hailed as the greatest whiskey in the world – and would soon be the hardest to find.

But now, those old barrels were used up, and Julian Van Winkle faced the challenge of his lifetime: how to preserve the taste of Pappy, the taste of his family’s heritage, in a new age? The amazing Wright Thompson was invited to be his wingman as he set about to try. The result is an extraordinary testimony to the challenge of living up to your legacy and the rewards that come from knowing and honoring your people and your craft. Wright learned those lessons from Julian as they applied to the honest work of making a great bourbon whiskey in Kentucky, but he couldn’t help applying them to his own craft, writing, and his upbringing in Mississippi, as he and his wife contemplated the birth of their first child. May we all be lucky enough to find some of ourselves, as Wright Thompson did, in Julian Van Winkle, and in Pappyland.

I was pre-approved for this, and I thought it might be something different and interesting. (Especially given that I’ve decided to spend some of this self-isolating period exploring whisky and bourbon…) No idea what to expect, but I’m looking forward to giving it a try. Pappyland is due to be published by Penguin Press on November 10th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received via Edelweiss

*

ThorpeR-KnockoutQueenUSRufi Thorpe, THE KNOCKOUT QUEEN (Knopf)

Bunny Lampert is the princess of North Shore⁠ — beautiful, tall, blond, with a rich real-estate-developer father and a swimming pool in her backyard. Michael⁠⁠ — with a ponytail down his back and a septum piercing⁠ — lives with his aunt in the cramped stucco cottage next door. When Bunny catches Michael smoking in her yard, he discovers that her life is not as perfect as it seems. At six foot three, Bunny towers over their classmates. Even as she dreams of standing out and competing in the Olympics, she is desperate to fit in, to seem normal, and to get a boyfriend, all while hiding her father’s escalating alcoholism.

Michael has secrets of his own. At home and at school Michael pretends to be straight, but at night he tries to understand himself by meeting men online for anonymous encounters that both thrill and scare him. When Michael falls in love for the first time, a vicious strain of gossip circulates and a terrible, brutal act becomes the defining feature of both his and Bunny’s futures⁠ — and of their friendship.

With storytelling as intoxicating as it is intelligent, Rufi Thorpe has created a tragic and unflinching portrait of identity, a fascinating examination of our struggles to exist in our bodies, and an excruciatingly beautiful story of two humans aching for connection.

Thought this sounded interesting — I think I spotted it in a catalogue a while ago, and have been keeping my eyes open for it. Another one picked up on a whim, not sure what to expect but looking forward to finding out. The Knockout Queen is out now, published by Knopf.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

*

TolmieS-FourthIslandSarah Tolmie, THE FOURTH ISLAND (Tor.com)

Dark, mournful, and beautiful… a moving and unforgettable story of life and death on the hidden Irish island of Inis Caillte.

Huddled in the sea off the coast of Ireland is a fourth Aran Island, a secret island peopled by the lost, findable only in moments of despair. Whether drowned at sea, trampled by Cromwell’s soldiers, or exiled for clinging to the dead, no outsiders reach the island without giving in to dark emotion.

Time and again, The Fourth Island weaves a hypnotic pattern with its prose, presaging doom before walking back through the sweet and sour moments of lives not yet lost. It beautifully melds the certainty of loss with the joys of living, drawing readers under like the tide.

How gorgeous is that cover? Novella also sounds interesting, of course, and one shouldn’t judge a book on just its cover — but that’s a really nice cover. The synopsis also grabbed my attention, and I’m looking forward to giving this a try. The Fourth Island is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on October 20th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

VeselkaV-GreatOffshoreGroundsUSVanessa Veselka, THE GREAT OFFSHORE GROUNDS (Knopf)

A wildly original, cross-country novel that subverts a long tradition of family narratives and casts new light on the mythologies — national, individual, and collective — that drive and define us.

On the day of their estranged father’s wedding, half sisters Cheyenne and Livy set off to claim their inheritance. It’s been years since the two have seen each other. Cheyenne is newly back in Seattle, crashing with Livy after a failed marriage and a series of dead ends. Livy works refinishing boats, her resentment against her freeloading sister growing as she tamps down dreams of fishing off the coast of Alaska. But the promise of a shot at financial security brings the two together to claim what’s theirs. Except, instead of money, what their father gives them is information — a name — which both reveals a stunning family secret and compels them to come to grips with it. In the face of their new reality, the sisters and their adopted brother each set out on journeys that will test their faith in one another, as well as their definitions of freedom.

Moving from Seattle’s underground to the docks of the Far North, from the hideaways of the southern swamps to the storied reaches of the Great Offshore Grounds, Vanessa Veselka spins a tale with boundless verve, linguistic vitality, and undeniable tenderness.

I was pre-approved for this on NetGalley. It’s Veselka’s second novel, and I didn’t know anything about the author’s work. I did some Googling, which led me to a Book Riot cover reveal, which in turn led me to Veselka’s debut, Zazen. I had a quick read of the first couple of pages and it caught my attention (and the third paragraph was very funny). So, I decided to add this to my TBR and also buy the aforementioned debut. Looking forward to reading them both soon. The Great Offshore Grounds is due to be published by Knopf on August 25th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

WagnerEK-AnUnnaturalLifeErin K. Wagner, AN UNNATURAL LIFE (Tor.com)

The cybernetic organism known as 812-3 is in prison, convicted of murdering a human worker but he claims that he did not do it. With the evidence stacked against him, his lawyer, Aiya Ritsehrer, must determine grounds for an appeal and uncover the true facts of the case.

But with artificial life-forms having only recently been awarded legal rights on Earth, the military complex on Europa is resistant to the implementation of these same rights on the Jovian moon.

Aiya must battle against her own prejudices and that of her new paymasters, to secure a fair trial for her charge, while navigating her own interpersonal drama, before it’s too late.

Thought this sounded interesting, and started reading it pretty soon after I got the DRC. I’ll have a full review up soon, but the TL;DR version is that it’s an interesting and well written look at civil rights, AIs, and justice (who gets it, how that looks, and so forth). I enjoyed it, and I think many others will, too. An Unnatural Life is due to be published by Tor.com on September 15th, 2020, in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

*

WalterJ-ColdMillionsUSJess Walter, THE COLD MILLIONS (Harper)

The Dolan brothers live by their wits, jumping freight trains and lining up for day work at crooked job agencies. While sixteen-year-old Rye yearns for a steady job and a home, his dashing older brother Gig dreams of a better world, fighting alongside other union men for fair pay and decent treatment. Enter Ursula the Great, a vaudeville singer who performs with a live cougar, and who introduces the brothers to a far more dangerous creature: a powerful mining magnate who will stop at nothing to keep his wealth and his hold on Ursula.

Dubious of his brother’s idealism, Rye finds himself drawn to a fearless nineteen-year-old activist and feminist named Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, her passion sweeping him into the workers’ cause. But a storm is coming, threatening to overwhelm them all, and Rye will be forced to decide where he stands. Is it enough to win the occasional battle, even if you cannot win the war?

An intimate story of brotherhood, love, sacrifice and betrayal set against the panoramic backdrop of an early twentieth-century century America that eerily echoes our own time, The Cold Millions offers a stunning, kaleidoscopic portrait of a nation grappling with the chasm between rich and poor, between harsh realities and simple dreams. Featuring an unforgettable cast of cops and tramps, suffragists and socialists, madams and murderers, it is a powerful and moving tour de force.

An intriguing premise. It’s a historical novel, and one by an author I keep meaning to read. (Richard Russo, one of my all-time favourites really likes Walter’s novels, so that’s partly why he’s on my radar.) The Cold Millions is due to be published by Harper on October 6th, 2020 — at the time of writing, there wasn’t any news that I could see about a UK edition, but his novels have been published by Penguin UK, recently.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

*

WintersR-WouldLikeToMeetUKPBRachel Winters, WOULD LIKE TO MEET (Trapeze)

Long-suffering assistant Evie Summers will lose her job unless she can convince her film agency’s biggest and most difficult client, Ezra Chester, to finish the script for a Hollywood romcom. The catch? He hasn’t started writing it.

Suffering from ‘writer’s block,’ he will only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. Forget internet dating, Evie can only meet a man the way that Sally met Harry, or Hugh Grant meets anyone. Cue her entering into one ridiculous romcom scenario after another. But can life ever be like the movies?

Of course, real life is never that straightforward…

I picked this up after I saw Ben Aaronovitch Tweet about it. Thought it sounded interesting and fun, and quite different to most of what I normally read. And then the price plummeted, so I had no excuse not to give it a try. Would Like to Meet is out now, published by Trapeze in the UK and Putnam in North America.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

*

ZelizerJE-BurningDownTheHouseUSJulian E. Zelizer, BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE (Penguin Press)

The story of how Newt Gingrich and his allies tainted American politics, launching an enduring era of brutal partisan warfare

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, President Obama observed that Trump “is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party.” In Burning Down the House, historian Julian Zelizer pinpoints the moment when our country was set on a path toward an era of bitterly partisan and ruthless politics, an era that was ignited by Newt Gingrich and his allies. In 1989, Gingrich brought down Democratic Speaker of the House Jim Wright and catapulted himself into the national spotlight. Perhaps more than any other politician, Gingrich introduced the rhetoric and tactics that have shaped Congress and the Republican Party for the last three decades. Elected to Congress in 1978, Gingrich quickly became one of the most powerful figures in America not through innovative ideas or charisma, but through a calculated campaign of attacks against political opponents, casting himself as a savior in a fight of good versus evil. Taking office in the post-Watergate era, he weaponized the good government reforms newly introduced to fight corruption, wielding the rules in ways that shocked the legislators who had created them. His crusade against Democrats culminated in the plot to destroy the political career of Speaker Wright.

While some of Gingrich’s fellow Republicans were disturbed by the viciousness of his attacks, party leaders enjoyed his successes so much that they did little collectively to stand in his way. Democrats, for their part, were alarmed, but did not want to sink to his level and took no effective actions to stop him. It didn’t seem to matter that Gingrich’s moral conservatism was hypocritical or that his methods were brazen, his accusations of corruption permanently tarnished his opponents. This brand of warfare worked, not as a strategy for governance but as a path to power, and what Gingrich planted, his fellow Republicans reaped. He led them to their first majority in Congress in decades, and his legacy extends far beyond his tenure in office. From the Contract with America to the rise of the Tea Party and the Trump presidential campaign, his fingerprints can be seen throughout some of the most divisive episodes in contemporary American politics. Burning Down the House presents the alarming narrative of how Gingrich and his allies created a new normal in Washington.

I’ve read a couple of Zelizer’s books already, and I enjoyed them. In his latest book, he takes on a subject that I’ve long been interested in (but have been singularly incapable of writing about, apparently): the impact of Newt Gingrich on America and its politics. He is, in my opinion, the source of so much of what is wrong with that country. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to reading this. Burning Down the House is due to be published by Penguin Press in North America and in the UK, on July 7th, 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s