Quick Review: NIGHTCRAWLING by Leila Mottley (Knopf/Bloomsbury)

MottleyL-NightcrawlingUSHCA gripping, wrenching story of survival in modern America

A young Black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system…

Kiara Johnson and her brother Marcus are barely scraping by in a squalid East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Royal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent — which has more than doubled — and to keep the 9-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.

One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turns into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. And her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland police department.

Leila Mottley’s debut novel has been getting a lot of positive pre-publication buzz. I was luck enough to get a DRC, and am very happy to report that the buzz is justified: it’s a very well-written, engaging, and moving novel about a young woman’s attempts to survive in a modern America that has little compassion for people like her. Gripping, I was hooked from very early on.
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Upcoming: GROUPIES by Sarah Priscus (William Morrow)

PriscusS-GroupiesUSHCThere has been a string of novels over the past few years that take place in and adjacent to the 1970s music scene — most notably, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six, Emma Brodie’s Songs in Ursa Major, Jessica Anya Blau’s Mary Jane, and Glenn Dixon’s Bootleg Stardust, to name but four. As it happens, I’m a big fan of this (sub-)genre, so I’m very much looking forward to Sarah Priscus‘s debut novel, Groupies, which “shines a bright light on the grungy yet glittery world of 1970s rock ‘n’ roll and the women – the groupies – who unapologetically love too much in a world that doesn’t love them back.” Here’s the synopsis:

It’s 1977, and Faun Novak is in love with rock ‘n’ roll.

After her mother’s death, Faun, a naïve college dropout, grabs her Polaroid and hops a Greyhound to Los Angeles. In the City of Angels, she reconnects with her charismatic childhood friend Josie, now an up-and-coming model and muse. To make their reunion even sweeter, Josie is now dating Cal Holiday, the frontman of the superstar rock band Holiday Sun, and Faun is positively mesmerized.

Except it’s not just the band she can’t get enough of. It’s also the proud groupies who support them in myriad ways. Among the groupies are: a doting high school girl at war with her mother; a drug-dealing wife and new mom who longs to be a star herself; and a cynical mover-and-shaker with a soft spot for Holiday Sun’s bassist.

Faun obsessively photographs every aspect of this dazzling new world, struggling to balance her artistic ambitions with the band’s expectations. As her confidence grows for the first time in her life, her priorities shift. She becomes reckless with friendship, romance, her ethics, and her bank account.

But just as everything is going great and her boring, old life is falling away, Faun realizes just how blind she has been to the darkest corners of this glamorous musical dreamland as the summer heats up and everything spirals out of control…

Equal parts an evocative coming-of-age and a cutting look at fame, desire, and the media, Groupies is a novel that will have you turning the pages until the music- and drug-fueled end.

Sarah Priscus’s Groupies is due to be published in North America by William Morrow, on July 12th.

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Quick Review: THE JUSTICE OF KINGS by Richard Swan (Orbit)

SwanR-EotW1-JusticeOfKingsAn excellent start to a new fantasy series

NO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW

The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the imperial throne.

Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers and skill as a swordsman. In this he is aided by Helena Sedanka, his clerk and protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the empire.

When the pair investigate the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt must make a choice: will he abandon the laws he’s sworn to uphold in order to protect the empire?

I remember reading the synopsis for Richard Swan’s debut quite a while ago. “That sounds interesting,” I thought to myself, and made a note. The buzz for the novel grew over the next few months, as it was sent out to authors for blurbs. So, when I was able to read an early copy, I jumped at the chance. The Justice of Kings is a very strong debut, and an engaging start to a new fantasy/crime series. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading