Quick Review: ORMESHADOW by Priya Sharma (Tor.com)

SharmaP-OrmeshadowA moving novella about family, story, and overcoming hardship

Burning with resentment and intrigue, this fantastical family drama invites readers to dig up the secrets of the Belman family, and wonder whether myths and legends are real enough to answer for a history of sin.

Uprooted from Bath by his father’s failures, Gideon Belman finds himself stranded on Ormeshadow farm, an ancient place of chalk and ash and shadow. The land crests the Orme, a buried, sleeping dragon that dreams resentment, jealousy, estrangement, death. Or so the folklore says. Growing up in a house that hates him, Gideon finds his only comforts in the land. Gideon will live or die by the Orme, as all his family has.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ormeshadow when started reading it. I wasn’t familiar with the author’s other work, but the synopsis caught my attention. The fantasy elements are rather more in the background until later, but the thing that stood out to me was Sharma’s writing and characters: both a quite excellent, and I was quickly hooked. Continue reading

Quick Review: CHANCES ARE… by Richard Russo (Knopf/Allen & Unwin)

RussoR-ChancesAreUSFriends for decades, three men reunite for a summer and a mystery from their past resurfaces…

One beautiful September day, three men convene on Martha’s Vineyard, friends ever since meeting in college circa the sixties. They couldn’t have been more different then, or even today — Lincoln’s a commercial real estate broker, Teddy a tiny-press publisher, and Mickey a musician beyond his rockin’ age. But each man holds his own secrets, in addition to the monumental mystery that none of them has ever stopped puzzling over since a Memorial Day weekend right here on the Vineyard in 1971: the disappearance of the woman each of them loved — Jacy Calloway. Now, more than forty years later, as this new weekend unfolds, three lives are displayed in their entirety while the distant past confounds the present like a relentless squall of surprise and discovery. Shot through with Russo’s trademark comedy and humanity, Chances Are… also introduces a new level of suspense and menace that will quicken the reader’s heartbeat throughout this absorbing saga of how friendship’s bonds are every bit as constricting and rewarding as those of family or any other community.

Chances Are… is the latest novel by one of my favourite authors. This time, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls (among many other great novels and short stories) adds an element of mystery into his fiction. It’s very well done, but his sharp observation and characterization remains at the core of this novel. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE COMPANIONS by Katie M. Flynn (Scout Press/Gallery)

FlynnKM-CompanionsUSI stumbled across The Companions by Katie M. Flynn while browsing a Simon & Schuster catalogue. Pitched as “Station Eleven meets Never Let Me Go“, I thought it sounded really intriguing and also rather unsettling. Naturally, this means I really want to read it. Here’s the synopsis:

An unsettling near future where the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.

In the wake of a highly contagious virus, California is under quarantine. Sequestered in high rise towers, the living can’t go out, but the dead can come in — and they come in all forms, from sad rolling cans to manufactured bodies that can pass for human. Wealthy participants in the “companionship” program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families. The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people — a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will.

Sixteen-year-old Lilac is one of the less fortunate, leased to a family of strangers. But when she realizes she’s able to defy commands, she throws off the shackles of servitude and runs away, searching for the woman who killed her.

Lilac’s act of rebellion sets off a chain of events that sweeps from San Francisco to Siberia to the very tip of South America. While the novel traces Lilac’s journey through an exquisitely imagined Northern California, the story is told from eight different points of view — some human, some companion — that explore the complex shapes love, revenge, and loneliness take when the dead linger on.

The Companions is due to be published by Scout Press/Gallery in North America, on March 3rd, 2020. (I couldn’t find any information about a UK publisher or release.)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: AGENCY by William Gibson (Berkley/Viking)

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William Gibson needs no introduction. But, just in case: he is one of the father’s of Cyberpunk, and author of the acclaimed Neuromancer (among many other classics). Next year, he returns with a new novel, Agency. (Two very different covers, up there.) Here’s the synopsis:

A science fiction thriller heavily influenced by our most current events.

Verity Jane, gifted app whisperer, takes a job as the beta tester for a new product: a digital assistant, accessed through a pair of ordinary-looking glasses. “Eunice,” the disarmingly human AI in the glasses, manifests a face, a fragmentary past, and a canny grasp of combat strategy. Realizing that her cryptic new employers don’t yet know how powerful and valuable Eunice is, Verity instinctively decides that it’s best they don’t.

Meanwhile, a century ahead in London, in a different time line entirely, Wilf Netherton works amid plutocrats and plunderers, survivors of the slow and steady apocalypse known as the jackpot. His boss, the enigmatic Ainsley Lowbeer, can look into alternate pasts and nudge their ultimate directions. Verity and Eunice are her current project. Wilf can see what Verity and Eunice can’t: their own version of the jackpot, just around the corner, and the roles they both may play in it.

I’m really looking forward to this. Agency is due to be published in January 2020 by Berkley (North America) and Viking (UK).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: THE GLASS HOTEL by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf)

MandelESJ-GlassHotel

Like many readers, I absolutely loved Emily St. John Mandel‘s Station Eleven. I was, therefore, extremely happy to learn about the author’s follow-up, The Ghost Hotel. We still have quite some time to wait before it arrives in bookstores (curses!), but I wanted to give it a quick shout-out here, just in case you’d missed it. Here’s the synopsis:

From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts, and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it.

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass-and-cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent’s half brother, Paul, scrawls a note on a windowed wall of the hotel: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company named Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship.

Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.

The Glass Hotel is due to be published by Knopf in North America (March 24th, 2020) and Picador in the UK (April 30th, 2020).

Also on CR: Review of Station Eleven and Last Night in Montreal

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Audio Excerpt: SWEET SORROW by David Nicholls (W.F. Howes)

NichollsD-SweetSorrowUKAUDToday, W.F. Howes publishes the audiobook edition of Sweet Sorrow, the new novel by David Nicholls. I’ve enjoyed a few of Nicholls’s past novels, starting with Starter for Ten and The Understudy which I read during a summer at college (can’t remember exactly when, but it’s been quite a while). The excerpt is below, and here’s the synopsis…

One life-changing summer, Charlie meets Fran… David Nicholls’s highly anticipated new novel, narrated by Rory Kinnear.

In 1997, Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. His exams have not gone well. At home he is looking after his father, when surely it should be the other way round, and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread.

Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.

But if Charlie wants to be with Fran, he must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the Company. And if the Company sounds like a cult, the truth is even more appalling.

The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare. Poignant, funny, enchanting, devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.

The excerpt is narrated by Olivier award-winning actor Rory Kinnear.

The print and eBook editions of the  novel are out now in the UK, published by Hodder & Stoughton; the US edition is still a while away, due to be published by Mariner Books in May 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Interview with SOPHIE TANNER

TannerS-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Sophie Tanner?

Hiya! Who is she indeed? Well, I grew up in Devon and Dorset so I’m a west country girl. I was an animal-loving, day-dreaming child who went on to become a Britpop-obsessed cider-lover as a teenager. It was a bit of a culture shock when I went to uni in London but I loved it! I studied Theatre and English then worked in tourism, then went travelling to Mexico and Africa, which was mind incredible.

When I returned to Blighty, I fancied living near the beach and so headed straight for Brighton and, 12 years later, I’ve never left! I love the laid back, anything-goes vibe here and there’s always so much going on — music, theatre, street parties, every fitness class you can imagine etc. I live in a little flat near the sea with my bumptious Labrador, Ella. We spend a lot of time on the beach and roaming the Sussex Downs. I try to stay quite active — I like going to Kung Fu and trapeze class. As well as being an author I also work as a freelancer in PR and content writing. I just turned 40 and so far, so good!

Your debut novel, Reader, I Married Me, was recently published by Trapeze. It looks rather fun: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

I often introduce it as a romcom without the ‘rom’! It’s a light-heartedly subversive challenge to the traditional romcom narrative which suggests you need an ‘other half’ in order to be truly happy. I’d say it’s an uplifting, feel-good read if you’re in need of a boost. Continue reading