Excerpt: A LITTLE BIT OF LOVING by Jane Yolen (Tachyon) – From THE SCARLET CIRCUS

YolenJ-ScarletCircusToday we have an excerpt from The Scarlet Circus, a new short story collection by Jane Yolen. Specifically, it’s an excerpt from “A Little Bit of Loving”. Due to be published by Tachyon Publications in February 2023, here’s the synopsis for the collection:

A rakish fairy meets the real Juliet behind Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. A jewelry artist travels to the past to meet a successful silver-smith. The addled crew of a ship at sea discovers a mysterious merman. More than one ignored princess finds her match in the most unlikely men.

From ecstasy to tragedy, with love blossoming shyly, love at first sight, and even love borne of practical necessity — beloved fantasist Jane Yolen’s newest collection celebrates romance in all its glory.

This bewitching assemblage, with an original introduction from Brandon Sanderson, is an ideal read for anyone who appreciates witty, compelling, and classic romantic fantasy.

Now, read on for a taste of A Little Bit of Loving

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Quick Review: PETE AND ALICE IN MAINE by Caitlin Shetterly (Harper)

ShetterlyC-PeteAndAliceInMaineUSHCA marriage under strain, during the pandemic…

Reeling from a painful betrayal in her marriage as the Covid pandemic takes hold in New York City, Alice packs up her family and flees to their vacation home in Maine. She hopes to find sanctuary—from the uncertainties of the exploding pandemic and her faltering marriage.

Putting distance between herself and the stresses and troubles of city life, Alice begins to feel safe and relieved. But the locals are far from friendly. Trapped and forced into quarantine by hostile neighbors, Alice sees the imprisoning structure of her life in this new predicament. Stripped down to the bare essentials of survival and tending to the needs of her two children, she can no longer ignore all the ways in which she feels limited and lost—lost in the big city, lost as a wife, lost as a mother, lost as a daughter and lost as a person.

As the world shifts around her and the balance in her marriage tilts, Alice and her husband, Pete, are left to consider if what keeps their family safe is the same thing as what keeps their family together.

An interesting and well-written novel about a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of the chaotic spring of 2020. Shetterly does an excellent job of exploring the challenges of not only the pandemic, but also marriage and family when everything seems to be going wrong, and populating the novel with three-dimensional and realistic characters. I quite enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: SING HER DOWN by Ivy Pochoda (MCD)

PochodaI-SingHerDownUSHCIn May 2023, MCD is due to publish the highly-anticipated new novel by Ivy Pochoda: Sing Her Down. Pochoda’s previous two novels — Wonder Valley and These Women — are superb, dark and thought-provoking literary thriller novels, and I have very high hopes for Sing Her Down, which has a very intriguing premise:

Florence “Florida” Baum is not the hapless innocent she claims to be when she arrives at the Arizona women’s prison—or so her ex-cellmate, Diosmary Sandoval, keeps insinuating.

Dios knows the truth about Florida’s crimes, understands the truth that Florence hides even from herself: that she wasn’t a victim of circumstance, an unlucky bystander misled by a bad man. Dios knows that darkness lives in women too, despite the world’s refusal to see it. And she is determined to open Florida’s eyes and unleash her true self.

When an unexpected reprieve gives both women their freedom, Dios’s fixation on Florida turns into a dangerous obsession, and a deadly cat-and-mouse chase ensues from Arizona to the desolate streets of Los Angeles.

With blistering, incisive prose, the award-winning author Ivy Pochoda delivers a razor-sharp Western. Gripping and immersive, Sing Her Down is a spellbinding thriller setting two indelible women on a path to certain destruction and an epic, stunning showdown.

Really looking forward to this. Ivy Pochoda’s Sing Her Down is due to be published by MCD in North America on May 23rd, 2023.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: GONE TO THE WOLVES by John Wray (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

WrayJ-GoneToTheWolvesUSHCAs a life-long metalhead, my eyes must be tuned to spot “metal script”, as they did on the cover of John Wray‘s upcoming new novel, Gone to the Wolves. “What’s that about?” I wondered. The new novel from the author of The Lost Time Accidents and Godsend, it delves into “the wild, risky world of heavy metal in the 1980s and ’90s”. Here’s the synopsis:

Kip, Leslie, and Kira are outliers—even in the metal scene they love. In arch-conservative Gulf Coast Florida in the late 1980s, just listening to metal can get you arrested, but for the three of them the risk is well worth it, because metal is what leads them to one another.

Different as they are, Kip, Leslie, and Kira form a family of sorts that proves far safer, and more loving, than the families they come from. Together, they make the pilgrimage from Florida’s swamp country to the fabled Sunset Strip in Hollywood. But in time, the delicate equilibrium they’ve found begins to crumble. Leslie moves home to live with his elderly parents; Kip struggles to find his footing in the sordid world of LA music journalism; and Kira, the most troubled of the three, finds herself drawn to ever darker and more extreme strains of metal. On a trip to northern Europe for her twenty-second birthday, in the middle of a show, she simply vanishes. Two years later, the truth about her disappearance reunites Kip with Leslie, who in order to bring Kira home alive must make greater sacrifices than they could ever have imagined.

In his most absorbing and ambitious novel yet, John Wray dives deep into the wild, funhouse world of heavy metal and death cults in the 1980s and ’90s. Gone to the Wolves lays bare the intensity, tumult, and thrill of friendship in adolescence—a time when music can often feel like life or death.

I’m really looking forward to reading this. John Wray’s Gone to the Wolves is due to be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in North America on May 2nd, 2023.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: by Tom Hanks THE MAKING OF ANOTHER MAJOR MOTION PICTURE MASTERPIECE (Knopf/Hutchinson Heinemann)

HanksT-MakingOfAnotherMajorMotionPictureMasterpieceUSHCAnnounced just a few days ago, Tom Hanks‘s new novel The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece is due out next year! Reading the synopsis, it’s almost as if the actor/author asked me what kind of novel I’d like him to write… This really does sound tailor-mode for my fiction interests. Here’s the synopsis:

A novel about the making of a star-studded, multimillion-dollar superhero action film… and the humble comic books that inspired it. Funny, touching, and wonderfully thought-provoking, while also capturing the changes in America and American culture since World War II.

Part One of this story takes place in 1947. A troubled soldier, returning from the war, meets his talented five-year-old nephew, leaves an indelible impression, and then disappears for twenty-three years.

HanksT-MakingOfAnotherMajorMotionPictureMasterpieceUKHCCut to 1970: The nephew, now drawing underground comic books in Oakland, California, reconnects with his uncle and, remembering the comic book he saw when he was five, draws a new version with his uncle as a World War II fighting hero. 

Cut to the present day: A commercially successful director discovers the 1970 comic book and decides to turn it into a contemporary superhero movie.

Cue the cast: We meet the film’s extremely difficult male star, his wonderful leading lady, the eccentric writer/director, the producer, the gofer production assistant, and everyone else on both sides of the camera.

The book will also be published with bonus material: “Interspersed throughout are three comic books that are featured in the story — all created by Tom Hanks himself — including the comic book that becomes the official tie-in to this novel’s ‘major motion picture masterpiece.'” I really can’t wait to read this. The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece is due to be published by Knopf in North America and Hutchinson Heinemann in the UK, on May 9th, 2023.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Instagram

Quick Review: EXTINCTION by Bradley Somer (Harper Voyager)

SomerB-ExtinctionUKHCAn atmospheric wilderness mystery, set in the near future

In a lonely valley, deep in the mountains, a ranger watches over the last surviving grizzly bear.

With the natural world exhausted and in tatters, Ben has dedicated himself to protecting this single fragment of the wild.

One night, he hears voices in the valley – poachers, come to hunt his bear.

A heart-pounding chase begins, crossing forests and mountainsides, passing centuries of human ruins. Sometimes hunter, sometimes prey – Ben must choose the bear’s fate and his own.

Is he willing to lay down his life for a dying breed?

Is he willing to kill for it?

I spotted this novel what feels like a very long time ago — it was the cover, really, as well as the suggestion of an environmentally damaged near-future (at the time, the full synopsis wasn’t available). I read it shortly before it was published, and enjoyed it quite a bit. A shorter novel, and one that focuses more on atmosphere and place than plot (though there is one, so no fear), it was an excellent introduction to Somer’s work. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE PUNISHING JOURNEY OF ARTHUR DELANEY by Bob Kroll (ECW Press)

KrollB-PunishingJourneyOfArthurDelaneyToday, we have an excerpt from Bob Kroll‘s upcoming novel The Punishing Journey of Arthur Delaney, which is due to be published by ECW Press on June 7th. Here’s the synopsis:

A 19th-century tale of a father’s greatest regret and path to redemption

Devastated at his wife’s death and stricken at raising two girls and a boy on his own, Arthur Delaney places his children in a Halifax orphanage and runs off to join the Union Army in the American Civil War. The trauma of battle and three years in a disease-ridden prisoner-of-war prison changes his perspective on life and family.

After the war, Delaney odd-jobs his way up the American east coast and catches a schooner to Halifax. There he discovers the orphanage has relocated to a farm in rural Nova Scotia. His children are not there. They and others had been sold and resold as farm workers and house servants through the Maritime provinces, as well as Quebec and Ontario. Their whereabouts is unknown. Arthur Delaney sets out on a punishing 20-year journey across Canada to find them.

This is a heartbreaking, beautifully told story of a father’s attempt to reconnect with his children.

Read on for the excerpt…

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Upcoming: PLEASE REPORT YOUR BUG HERE by Josh Riedel (Henry Holt)

RiedelJ-PleaseReportYourBugHereUSHCI spotted Josh Riedel‘s debut novel in a catalogue, and the synopsis caught my attention, as did the rather colourful cover. Pitched as “For fans of Severance and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” (heard great things about the former, enjoyed the latter), it certainly sounds rather intriguing. Here’s the synopsis for Please Report Your Bug Here:

Once you sign an NDA it’s good for life. Meaning legally, I shouldn’t tell you this story. But I have to.

A newly minted college grad with the six-figure debt to prove it, Ethan Block views San Francisco as the place to be. Yet his job at hot new dating app DateDate is a far cry from what he envisioned. Instead of making the world a better place, he reviews bottomless flagged photo queues, overworked and stressed out. But that’s about to change.

Reeling from a breakup, Ethan decides to view his algorithmically-matched soulmate on DateDate. He overrides the system and clicks on the generated profile. Then, he disappears. One minute, he’s in a windowless office, and the next, he’s in a field of endless grass, gasping for air. When Ethan snaps back to DateDate HQ, he’s convinced an issue in the coding caused the blip. Except for anyone to believe him, he’ll need evidence.

As Ethan embarks on a wild goose chase through the Bay Area, moving from dingy startup think tanks to the chrome-slick office of the Corporation, Silicon Valley’s dominant tech conglomerate, it becomes clear that there’s more to DateDate than meets the eye. With the stakes rising, and a new world at risk, Ethan must choose who — and what — he believes in.

Adrenaline packed and hyper timely, Please Report Your Bug Here is an inventive millennial coming-of-age story, a dark exploration of the corruption now synonymous with Big Tech, and, above all, a testament to the power of human connection in our digital era.

Josh Riedel’s Please Report Your Bug Here is due to be published by Henry Holt in North America and in the UK, on January 17th, 2022.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: PORTRAIT OF A THIEF by Grace D. Li (Tiny Reparations)

LiGD-PortraitOfAThiefUSHCDiaspora, History, Heists, and Ennui

History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.

Will Chen plans to steal them back.

A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible — and illegal — job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.

His crew is every heist archetype one can imag­ine — or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.

Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars — and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted at­tempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

Who doesn’t like a heist story? I love them, so when I had the chance to read and review Grace D. Li’s debut novel, I jumped at the chance. Five amateur thieves thrown together by a wealthy benefactor, on a mission to retrieve stolen Chinese antiques. This had a lot of promise, and I’m happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. I very much enjoyed this.
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Review: TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin (Knopf)

ZevinG-TomorrowAndTomorrowAndTomorrowUSHCA thought-provoking novel about friendship and our misperceptions of others’ inner lives

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Gabrielle Zevin’s latest novel has been the recipient of a fair amount of pre-publication buzz, so I was very happy to received a review copy a little while back. The synopsis had caught my attention, and what I found was an interesting, nuanced, and thoughtful examination of friendship, jealousy, and misperception. I enjoyed this quite a bit. Continue reading