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.

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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

Excerpt: THE HALF-LIFE OF RUBY FIELDING by Lydia Kang (Lake Union)

KangL-HalfLifeOfRubyFieldingToday, we have an excerpt from Lydia Kang‘s The Half-Life of Ruby Fielding, a historical mystery that takes place in 1942 Brooklyn. Here’s the synopsis:

A spellbinding historical mystery about hidden identities, wartime paranoia, and the tantalizing power of deceit.

Brooklyn, 1942. War rages overseas as brother and sister Will and Maggie Scripps contribute to the war effort stateside. Ambitious Will secretly scouts for the Manhattan Project while grief-stricken Maggie works at the Navy Yard, writing letters to her dead mother between shifts.

But the siblings’ quiet lives change when they discover a beautiful woman hiding under their back stairs. This stranger harbors an obsession with poisons, an affection for fine things, and a singular talent for killing small creatures. As she draws Will and Maggie deeper into her mysterious past, they both begin to suspect she’s quite dangerous ― all while falling helplessly under her spell.

With whispers of spies in dark corners and the world’s first atomic bomb in the works, the visitor’s sudden presence in Maggie’s and Will’s lives raises questions about who she is and what she wants. Is this mysterious woman someone they can trust ― or a threat to everything they hold dear?

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Quick Review: YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)

ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUSHCAn engaging, varied collection of short fiction

A love triangle plays out over decades on a Montana dude ranch. A hurdler and a gymnast spend a single night together in the Olympic village. Mistakes and mysteries weave an intangible web around an old man’s deathbed in Paris, connecting disparate destinies. On the slopes of an unfinished ski resort, a young woman searches for her vanished lover. A couple’s Romanian honeymoon goes ominously awry, and, in the mesmerizing title story, a former child actress breaks with her life in a Hollywood cult.

Last year’s Great Circle was the first of Shipstead’s novels that I read. I loved her style and the way she wrote her characters. So, I was very much looking forward to reading her next book (as well as her back-catalogue). In You Have Got a Friend in 10A, Shipstead presents readers with a varied portrait of humanity, and the ways many of us cope with our situation and choices. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: SIREN QUEEN by Nghi Vo (Tor.com)

VoN-SirenQueenThe magic and horror of movie-making…

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill — but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes — even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

“The magic of movie-making”: we’ve all heard people say and write things about Hollywood that sprinkle stardust and the otherworldly metaphors onto filmmaking. In Siren Queen, Nghi Vo asks readers to consider what if it wasn’t actually metaphorical? A clever novel that follows the career of screen star Luli Wei, I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE HALF LIFE OF VALERY K by Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)

PulleyN-HalfLifeOfValeryKUSHCI spotted Natasha Pulley‘s next novel, The Half Life of Valery K, while browsing NetGalley this morning. Pulley is an author I still have yet to read (no idea why), even though I’ve bought all of her books — each of which sounds fantastic. (I blame Kindle Out-of-Sight Syndrome.) I hope to get caught up as soon as I can. The author’s new novel, apparently based on real events, sounds particularly intriguing. Here’s the synopsis:

An epic Cold War novel set in a mysterious town in Soviet Russia.

In 1963, in a Siberian prison, former nuclear specialist Valery Kolkhanov has mastered what it takes to survive: the right connections to the guards for access to food and cigarettes, the right pair of warm boots, and the right attitude toward the small pleasures of life so he won’t go insane. But one day, all that changes: Valery’s university mentor steps in and sweeps him from the frozen camp to a mysterious unnamed city. It houses a set of nuclear reactors, and surrounding it is a forest so damaged it looks like the trees have rusted from within.

In City 40, Valery is Dr. Kolkhanov once more, and he’s expected to serve out his prison term studying the effect of radiation on local animals. But as Valery begins his work, he is struck by the questions his research raises. Why is there so much radiation in this area? What, exactly, is being hidden from the thousands who live in the town? And if he keeps looking for answers, will he live to serve out his sentence?

Natasha Pulley’s The Half Life of Valery K is due to be published by Bloomsbury in North America and in the UK, on July 26th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: WALK THE VANISHED EARTH by Wein Swan (Viking)

SwanE-WalkTheVanishedEarthUSHCIt was the cover for Erin Swan‘s upcoming new novel, Walk the Vanished Earth, that originally caught my attention. However, pitched as being “in the tradition of Station Eleven, Severance and The Dog Stars” (two of which I’ve read and very much enjoyed), the synopsis further cemented my interest in it. Due out in May, here’s what it’s about:

A beautifully written and emotionally stirring dystopian novel about how our dreams of the future may shift as our environment changes rapidly, even as the earth continues to spin.

The year is 1873, and a bison hunter named Samson travels the Kansas plains, full of hope for his new country. The year is 1975, and an adolescent girl named Bea walks those very same plains; pregnant, mute, and raised in extreme seclusion, she lands in an institution, where a well-meaning psychiatrist struggles to decipher the pictures she draws of her past. The year is 2027 and, after a series of devastating storms, a tenacious engineer named Paul has left behind his banal suburban existence to build a floating city above the drowned streets that were once New Orleans. There with his poet daughter he rules over a society of dreamers and vagabonds who salvage vintage dresses, ferment rotgut wine out of fruit, paint murals on the ceiling of the Superdome, and try to write the story of their existence. The year is 2073, and Moon has heard only stories of the blue planet — Earth, as they once called it, now succumbed entirely to water. Now that Moon has come of age, she could become a mother if she wanted to–if only she understood what a mother is. Alone on Mars with her two alien uncles, she must decide whether to continue her family line and repopulate humanity on a new planet.

A sweeping family epic, told over seven generations, as America changes and so does its dream, Walk the Vanished Earth explores ancestry, legacy, motherhood, the trauma we inherit, and the power of connection in the face of our planet’s imminent collapse.

This is a story about the end of the world — but it is also about the beginning of something entirely new. Thoughtful, warm, and wildly prescient, this work of bright imagination promises that, no matter what the future looks like, there is always room for hope.

Really looking forward to reading this. Erin Swan’s Walk the Vanished Earth is due to be published by Viking in North America, on May 31st. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a UK edition.)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf)

MandelESJ-SeaOfTranquilityUSHCAn intriguing, gripping novel of time travel, family, and humanity

A novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal — an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

The highly anticipated new novel from the author of Station Eleven. The premise for Sea of Tranquility, I thought, was really interesting, so I eagerly requested a review copy. It’s the fourth of the author’s novels that I’ve read, and exceeded my high expectations. I read it shortly after receiving it, and I am very happy to report that it’s an excellent read. For some reason, I also found it rather tricky to review…
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