Upcoming: THE KINGDOMS by Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)

PulleyN-KingdomsUSIn May, Bloomsbury is due to publish The Kingdoms, the new novel by Nastasha Pulley. The author of the acclaimed, best-selling Watchmaker of Filigree Street duology and The Bedlam Stacks. It looks like an intriguing mash-up of alternative history/reality and fantasy. Here’s the synopsis:

Come home, if you remember.

The postcard has been held at the sorting office for ninety-one years, waiting to be delivered to Joe Tournier. On the front is a lighthouse – Eilean Mor, in the Outer Hebrides.

Joe has never left England, never even left London. He is a British slave, one of thousands throughout the French Empire. He has a job, a wife, a baby daughter.

But he also has flashes of a life he cannot remember and of a world that never existed – a world where English is spoken in England, and not French.

And now he has a postcard of a lighthouse built just six months ago, that was first written nearly one hundred years ago, by a stranger who seems to know him very well.

Joe’s journey to unravel the truth will take him from French-occupied London to a remote Scottish island, and back through time itself as he battles for his life – and for a very different future.

Natasha Pulley’s The Kingdoms is due to be published on May 25th by Bloomsbury Publishing in North America and in the UK. Really looking forward to reading this one.

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Upcoming: THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides (Celadon/W&N)

MichaelidesA-MaidensUSThe Maidens by Alex Michaelides has been getting a fair amount of pre-publication buzz. It’s the author’s second novel (his debut was The Silent Patient). The synopsis suggests an intriguing campus thriller, and certainly piqued my interest:

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike-particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

MichaelidesA-MaidensUKMariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything-including her own life.

Alex Michaelides’s The Maidens is due to be published by Celadon Books in North America (June 15th) and W&N in the UK (June 10th). Looking forward to reading this.

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Upcoming: HELL OF A BOOK by Jason Mott (Dutton/Trapeze)

MottJ-HellOfABookUSHell of a Book, the upcoming novel by Jason Mott, has been getting some pretty good pre-publication buzz online recently (UK review copies must have just gone out). I haven’t read anything else by Mott, but this sounds really interesting. Pitched as “both incredibly funny and heartfelt”, it’s a novel that “goes to the heart of racism, police violence, and the hidden costs exacted upon Black Americans, and America as a whole.” Really looking forward to reading this. Here’s the synopsis:

In Hell of a Book, an African-American author sets out on a cross-country book tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives the novel and is the scaffolding of something much larger and urgent: since the novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

MottJ-HellOfABookUKThroughout, these characters’ stories build and build and as they converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art, and money, there always is the tragic story of a police shooting playing over and over on the news.

Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably powerful, an electrifying high-wire act, ideal for book clubs and the book Mott says he has been writing in his head for ten years, Hell of a Book in its final twists truly becomes its title.

Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book is due to be published by Dutton in North America and Trapeze in the UK, on August 10th, 2021.

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Quick Review: MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Hutchinson/Ballantine)

ReidTJ-MalibuRisingUKA superb novel about family

A lifetime holding it together.
One party will bring it crashing down.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over-especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control.
By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames.

But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.

Like many people, I loved Taylor Jenkins Reid’s previous novel, Daisy Jones & the Six. As soon as I finished that novel, I went out and picked up The Seven Husband of Evelyn Hugo, and eagerly awaited the author’s next new novel. That new novel is Malibu Rising, due out in May. I was lucky enough to get a DRC, and I read it as soon as I could. I’m very happy to report that it is another excellent, character-driven story of family, love, loss and life. Continue reading

Quick Review: AFTERPARTIES by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco)

SoAV-AfterpartiesUSAn engaging collection of short stories

Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.

A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.

Afterparties is the first and only book by Anthony Veasna So, who tragically passed away in December. I hadn’t read any of his short stories (many of which have been published elsewhere) before learning of this collection. As someone who is fascinated by California and an avid reader of fiction set in that state, I was intrigued by the alternative perspective this collection promised. I was not disappointed: Afterparties is an engaging, oft-endearing read. Continue reading

Quick Review: ASTRAL SEASON, BEASTLY SEASON by Tahi Saihate (Honford Star)

SaihateT-AstralSeasonBeastlySeasonUKAn interesting novel about obsession, violence, and grief

The story follows Morishita and Yamashiro, two high-school boys approaching the age in life when they must choose what kind of people they want to be. When their favourite J-pop idol kills and dismembers her boyfriend, Morishita and Yamashiro unite to convince the police that their idol’s act was in fact by them. This thrilling novel is a meditation on belonging, the objectification of young popstars, and teenage alienation.

This is the first novel I’ve read published by Honford Star. Their mission is to publish major, overlooked-in-English East Asian authors, and also modern authors who combine both literary and genre sensibilities. Astral Season, Beastly Season is a more contemporary novel, and one that examines how obsession can twist someone to commit horrific and violent acts, and also the fall-out of such violence. It’s an interesting read. Continue reading

Upcoming: TOWER by Bae Myung-hoon (Honford Star)

BaeMH-TowerUKI only heard about Bae Myung-hoon‘s Tower when a review copy arrived in the mail. I’m very glad it did, though, because not only does it have a gorgeous cover, but it also sounds really interesting. (I think I’ll also be exploring more of Honford Star’s titles, too — their “mission is to publish the best literature from East Asia, be it classic or contemporary.”) Very much looking forward to giving it a try. Here’s the synopsis:

Tower is a series of interconnected stories set in Beanstalk, a 674-story skyscraper and sovereign nation. Each story deals with how citizens living in the hypermodern high-rise deal with various influences of power in their lives: a group of researchers have to tell their boss that a major powerbroker is a dog, a woman uses the power of the internet to rescue a downed fighter pilot abandoned by the government, and an out-of-towner finds himself in charge of training a gentle elephant to break up protests. Bae explores the forces that shape modern life with wit and a sly wink at the reader.

Bae Myung-hoon’s Tower is due to be published by Honford Star in the UK, on February 15th, 2021.

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Upcoming: ISLAND REICH by Jack Grimwood (Michael Joseph)

GrimwoodJ-IslandReichUKI’ve been a fan of Jack Grimwood‘s writing for some time. I enjoyed his  Assassini series (an atmospheric horror/vampire trilogy), and was intrigued when he decided to move into historical thrillers. His first Cold War thriller/mystery, Moskva was great, and introduced readers to Tom Fox (who also appears in Nightfall Berlin). This year, Penguin are due to publish a new stand-alone World War II mystery, Island Reich, which also sounds really interesting:

An unlikely spy.

July 1940. As Britain braces itself for invasion, ex-Tommy and safecracker Bill O’Hagan is glad to have escaped the battlefield. But when a job goes wrong, he finds himself forced to serve his country once more.

A former king.

Spurned by his government and fearing for his life, the Duke of Windsor flees to Portugal with the woman for whom he abdicated the throne, Wallis Simpson. As a web of Nazi trickery threatens to ensnare him, his fate and the fate of Britain rest on one man.

The fate of a nation in their hands.

Dropped on an occupied Channel Island without backup, Bill must crack an enemy safe and get its contents to safety. Failure will devastate any hope Britain has of winning the war.

But with the layers of deception and intrigue drawing ever more tightly around them, Bill and the Duke both learn they aren’t the only players in this game. And Berlin – which has the Duke in its own sights — is plotting its greatest move yet…

Jack Grimwood’s Island Reich is due to be published by Penguin in the UK, on May 27th, 2021. (Couldn’t find any information about a North American release, at the time of writing.)

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Quick Review: GOOD COMPANY by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Ecco)

SweeneyCD-GoodCompanyUSA novel about friendship, marriage, and managing the challenges life presents

Flora Mancini has been happily married for more than twenty years. But everything she thought she knew about herself, her marriage, and her relationship with her best friend, Margot, is upended when she stumbles upon an envelope containing her husband’s wedding ring — the one he claimed he lost one summer when their daughter, Ruby, was five.

Flora and Julian struggled for years, scraping together just enough acting work to raise Ruby in Manhattan and keep Julian’s small theater company — Good Company — afloat. A move to Los Angeles brought their first real career successes, a chance to breathe easier, and a reunion with Margot, now a bona fide television star. But has their new life been built on lies? What happened that summer all those years ago? And what happens now?

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest was one of the best novels I read in 2016, so I’ve been looking forward to reading the author’s follow-up ever since. I was lucky enough to get a DRC of Good Company, and I’m very pleased to report that it lived up to my high expectations. A novel about family, friendship, secrets, and life in general. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SUN by Alexandra Kleeman (Fourth Estate)

KleemanA-SomethingNewUnderTheSunUSI stumbled across this in a catalogue, and the synopsis caught my attention. Alexandra Kleeman‘s second novel — following the debut novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine and the short story collection Intimations — looks really interesting. Something New Under the Sun is a near-future story that takes a look at the darker side of Hollywood. Really looking forward to reading this. Here’s the full synopsis:

A novelist discovers the dark side of Hollywood and reckons with ambition, corruption, and connectedness in the age of environmental collapse and ecological awakening…

East Coast novelist Patrick Hamlin has come to Hollywood with simple goals in mind: overseeing the production of a film adaptation of one of his books, preventing starlet Cassidy Carter’s disruptive behavior from derailing said production, and turning this last-ditch effort at career resuscitation into the sort of success that will dazzle his wife and daughter back home. But California is not as he imagined: Drought, wildfire, and corporate corruption are omnipresent, and the company behind a mysterious new brand of synthetic water seems to be at the root of it all. Partnering with Cassidy — after having been her reluctant chauffeur for weeks — the two of them investigate the sun-scorched city’s darker crevices, where they discover that catastrophe resembles order until the last possible second.

In this poised and all-too-timely story, Alexandra Kleeman grapples with the corruption of our environment in the age of alternative facts. She does so with a meticulous and deeply felt accounting of our very human anxieties, liabilities, dependencies, and, ultimately, our responsibility to truth.

Alexandra Kleeman’s Something New Under the Sun is due to be published by Hogarth in North America (August 3rd) and Fourth Estate in the UK (June 10th).

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