Quick Review: WHERE TOMORROWS AREN’T PROMISED by Carmelo Anthony & D. Watkins (Gallery)

AnthonyC-WhereTomorrowsArentPromisedUSHCAn interesting memoir about family, struggle, and basketball

A raw and inspirational memoir about growing up in the housing projects of Red Hook and Baltimore — a brutal world Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised.

For a long time, Carmelo Anthony’s world wasn’t any larger than the view of the hoopers and hustlers he watched from the side window of his family’s first-floor project apartment in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He couldn’t dream any bigger than emulating his older brothers and cousin, much less going on to become a basketball champion on the world stage.

He faced palpable dangers growing up in the housing projects in Red Hook and West Baltimore’s Murphy Homes (a.k.a. Murder Homes, subject of HBO’s The Wire). He navigated an education system that ignored, exploited, or ostracized him. He suffered the untimely deaths of his closely held loved ones. He struggled to survive physically and emotionally. But with the strength of family and the guidance of key mentors on the streets and on the court, he pushed past lethal odds to endure and thrive.

By the time Carmelo found himself at the NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden in 2003 preparing to embark on his legendary career, he wondered: How did a kid who’d had so many hopes, dreams, and expectations beaten out of him by a world of violence, poverty, and racism make it here at all?

Carmelo’s story is one of perseverance and determination; of dribbling past players bigger and tougher than him, while also weaving around vial caps and needles strewn across the court; where dealers and junkies lined one side of the asphalt and kids playing jacks and Double Dutch lined the other; where rims had no nets, and you better not call a foul — a place Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised.

I didn’t know that much about Carmelo Anthony before reading Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised. As someone who follows the NBA, I’d of course heard his name and that he was a star. In January 2020, shortly before the pandemic rolled in, he snatched victory away from the Toronto Raptors in the last live game I saw. (It was a superb, albeit frustrating, shot.) So, when I had the opportunity to read his new memoir, I jumped at the chance. And I’m glad I did — this wasn’t the memoir I was expecting, but it it is an excellent glimpse into the mind and early life of a basketball All-Star. Continue reading

Upcoming: AMONG THIEVES by M. J. Kuhn (Gallery/Saga Press)

KuhnMJ-AmongThievesUSAmong Thieves, M. J. Kuhn‘s debut novel, is pitched as “a high-stakes heist novel set in a gritty world of magic and malice”. It’s not clear if it’s the first in a planned series or a stand-alone, but it looks pretty interesting (I do love a good heist story). Here’s the synopsis:

In just over a year’s time, Ryia Cautella has already earned herself a reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the dockside city of Carrowwick — not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

For the past six years, a deadly secret has kept her in hiding, running from town to town, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster — the sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms of Thamorr. No matter how far or fast she travels, his servants never fail to track her down… but even the most powerful men can be defeated.

Ryia’s path now leads directly into the heart of the Guildmaster’s stronghold, and against every instinct she has, it’s not a path she can walk alone. Forced to team up with a crew of assorted miscreants, smugglers, and thieves, Ryia must plan her next moves very carefully. If she succeeds, her freedom is won once and for all… but unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own.

Among Thieves is due to be published by Gallery/Saga Press in North America and in the UK, on September 7th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

Upcoming: BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

RoanhorseR-BEaS1-BlackSunUSI first heard about Rebecca Roanhorses‘s upcoming novel when I spotted the cover on Twitter — and, like all good covers, John Picacio’s artwork caught my attention and made me want to find out more about the book.

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, Black Sun is “inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.” Check out the synopsis:

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.

This sounds really interesting, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Black Sun is due to be published by Saga Press in North America and in the UK, on October 13th, 2020.

The author’s acclaimed, award-winning Sixth World duology is also published by Saga Press in North America, and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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

UnsworthEJ-GrownUpsUSHCAn 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