Quick Review: GROWN UPS / ADULTS by Emma Jane Unsworth (Gallery/Scout / Borough Press)

UnsworthEJ-GrownUpsUSAn amusing, observant novel

Jenny McLaine’s life is falling apart. Her friendships are flagging. Her body has failed her. She’s just lost her column at The Foof because she isn’t the fierce voice new feminism needs. Her ex has gotten together with another woman. And worst of all: Jenny’s mother is about to move in. Having left home at eighteen to remake herself as a self-sufficient millennial, Jenny is now in her thirties and nothing is as she thought it would be. Least of all adulthood.

Told in live-wire prose, texts, emails, script dialogue, and social media messages, Grown Ups is a neurotic dramedy of 21st-century manners for the digital age. It reckons with what it means to exist in a woman’s body: to sing and dance and work and mother and sparkle and equalize and not complain and be beautiful and love your imperfections and stay strong and show your vulnerability and bake and box…

But, despite our impossible expectations of women, Emma Jane Unsworth never lets Jenny off the hook. Jenny’s life is falling apart at her own hands and whether or not she has help from her mother or her friends, Jenny is the only one who will be able to pick up the pieces and learn how to, more or less, grow up. Or will she?

This novel received a good deal of buzz before it was released. Pitched in part as being akin to Fleabag, it promised to be a funny, honest and maybe painful look at modern life. As it turns out, it is. I quite enjoyed this. Continue reading

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

FlynnKM-CompanionsUSAn unsettling novel about a future in which 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.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Companions. The premise was intriguing, and dipping into the first pages suggested it was going to be a very well written, thought-provoking novel. I was not disappointed, and I found this to be an excellent, even moving read about life, how we define it, who has autonomy, and a powerful will to survive. 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: THE THREE SECRET CITIES by Matthew Reilly (Gallery/Orion)

ReillyM-ThreeSecretCitiesUSThis November, Jack West Jr. returns! The Three Secret Cities is Matthew Reilly’s fifth novel featuring the soldier-turned-adventurer. I’ve enjoyed all of the novels in the series (as well as Reilly’s loosely-connected Scarecrow series), and so I am very much looking forward to this latest thriller. Here’s the synopsis:

A shadow world behind the real world

When Jack West, Jr. won the Great Games, he threw the four legendary kingdoms into turmoil.

A world with its own history, rules and prisons

Now these dark forces are coming after Jack… in ruthless fashion.

That is reaching into our world… explosively

With the end of all things rapidly approaching, Jack must find the Three Secret Cities, three incredible lost cities of legend.

It’s an impossible task by any reckoning, but Jack must do it while he is being hunted… by the greatest hunters in history.

The Three Secret Cities is published in November 2018 by Gallery in North America and Orion in the UK.

Also on CR: Guest Post on “Four Kingdoms and Twelve Labours: Turning Myths into Reality”; Reviews of Six Sacred Stones, Five Greatest Warriors and The Great Zoo of China (I thought I had reviewed The Four Legendary Kingdoms, but I can’t find the review — I’ll try to post one up soon.)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

New Books: March #2

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A few more thrillers this time around, most of which I bought – this has been part of a conscious decision on my part to read more non-SFF books. Mainly because I think I’m overdosing on those genres, and I feel like I’m missing out on authors I ordinarily would love to read.

Featuring: Zachary Brown, Kristi Charish, Harlan Coben, Eve Darrows, Lindsey Davis, Christopher Golden, Richard Kadrey, Robert Karjel, Paul S. Kemp, Shane Kuhn, Owen Laukkanen, Mike Lawson, Tim Lebbon, Scott McCloud, Keija Parssinen, Dan Simmons, Lachlan Smith, Sue Tingey

[GIF from Black Books – a fantastic, curmudgeonly UK TV comedy series. Recommended.] Continue reading

New Books (Jan-Feb 2015)

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Featuring: Dave Bara, J.L. Bourne, Peter V. Brett, Patricia Briggs, Royce Scott Buckingham, Ally Carter, Sara B. Elfgren, Chris Evans, Neil Gaiman, Wayne Gladstone, Erika Johansen, Caitlin Kittredge, Michael Moorcock, Naomi Novik, Mats Strandberg, Mark Stay, E.J. Swift, Erika Swyler, Ian Tregillis, Ben Tripp, Will Wiles, Dick Wolf Continue reading

New Books (2015 Inaugural Edition)

BooksReceived-20150113

Featuring: Louis Bayard, Pierce Brown, Gail Carriger, Tom Doyle, Alan Finn, James Grady, Simon R. Green, Kevin Hearne, Jim C. Hines, Deborath Install, Ha Jin, Michael Moorcock, Haruki Murakami, Daniel José Older, Anthony Reynolds, Brandon Sanderson, Beth Shapiro, Brian Staveley, Olen Steinhauer, Ferrett Steinmetz, Duane Swierczynski, David Walton, Susan Wilkins Continue reading