Quick Review: YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY by Steph Cha (Ecco/Faber)

ChaS-YouHouseWillPayUSTwo families, connected by a decades-old tragedy

A powerful and taut novel about racial tensions in Los Angeles, following two families — one Korean-American, one African-American — grappling with the effects of a decades-old crime

In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She’s distraught that her sister hasn’t spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace’s understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale.

But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.

This is the second of Steph Cha’s novels that I’ve read — the first being the author’s debut, Follow Her Home (which is also rather good). Your House Will Pay takes a look at race relations from the perspective of members from two minorities — Korean- and African-Americans. It’s sharp, often emotionally wrenching and thought-provoking. It’s also difficult to review without spoilers, but I will do my best. In short, though: I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: OPPO by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco)

RosenstielT-3-OppoUSThe third Rena & Brooks Washington, D.C., thriller

The story of a senator who is offered the vice presidential slot by both parties’ presidential nominees and then gets ominous threats

It’s presidential primary season in Washington, DC, and both parties are on edge. At campaign rallies for all the candidates around the country, there are disturbing incidents of violence and protest and shocking acts of civil disobedience. Rena and Brooks are happy to sit it out.

Against this backdrop, Wendy Upton, the highly respected centrist senator, must make a choice: she’s been offered the VP slot by both parties’ leading candidates. When she receives an anonymous, unnerving threat that could destroy her promising career, she hires Peter Rena to investigate her past and figure out which side is threatening her and what they are threatening her with.

As Rena digs through the senator’s seemingly squeaky-clean past, he must walk the tightrope between two parties at war with each other and with themselves, an electorate that is as restive as it has ever been, and a political culture that is as much driven by money as it is by ideology.

In this third outing for Rosenstiel’s political fixers Peter Rena and Brooks, the fixers are hired to investigate a threat made against a centrist Republican senator who has been approached by frontrunners in both parties offering her the VP slot on their respective tickets. An examination of the devolution of American (presidential) politics, and the dark forces that manipulate the electorate and process, I enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Upcoming: THESE WOMEN by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco)

PochodaI-TheseWomenUSThe next novel by Ivy Pochoda, the author of the acclaimed Wonder Valley (which I still have to read), has been unveiled: These Women, a new crime novel that is described as “a serial killer story like you’ve never seen before — a literary thriller of female empowerment and social change”. Due to be published by Ecco in April 2020, I’m really looking forward to this one. Here’s the synopsis:

In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they’re referred to as “these women.” These women on the corner… These women in the club… These women who won’t stop asking questions… These women who got what they deserved…

In her masterful new novel, Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

Pochoda’s Wonder Valley, also published in North America by Ecco, is available in the UK published by The Indigo Press. I couldn’t find anything about a UK release for These Women, at the time of writing.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

 

Upcoming: THE RUTHLESS by Peter Newman (Voyager)

NewmanP-D2-RuthlessUKFor some reason, I missed this series when the first book was published, but I find myself intrigued. The Ruthless, sequel to Peter Newman‘s The Deathless, is due to be published by Voyager in June 2019. The series has a new cover style, too, which I really like: it’s much more eye-catching than the original cover. Here’s the synopsis for The Ruthless:

Are you ready to return to The Wild?

Return to a world of crystal armour, savage wilderness, and corrupt dynasties.

That’s… not especially illuminating. So, here’s the synopsis for The Deathless, which gives us a bit more about the world/series:

The demons…

In the endless forests of the Wild, humanity scratches a living by the side of the great Godroads, paths of crystal that provide safe passage and hold back the infernal tide. Creatures lurk within the trees, watching, and plucking those who stray too far from safety.

The Deathless…

NewmanP-1-DeathlessUKPBIn crystal castles held aloft on magical currents, seven timeless royal families reign, protecting humanity from the spread of the Wild and its demons. Born and reborn into flawless bodies, the Deathless are as immortal as the precious stones from which they take their names. For generations a fragile balance has held.

And the damned…

House Sapphire, one of the ancient Deathless families, is riven by suspicion and madness. Whole villages are disappearing as the hunting expeditions holding the Wild at bay begin to fail.

Then, when assassins strike, House Sapphire shatters.

Nothing lasts forever.

The paperback edition of The Deathless is due to be published by Voyager on May 2nd.

Also on CR: Interview with Peter Newman (2015)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: THE GRAND DARK by Richard Kadrey (Voyager)

KadreyR-GrandDarkUSWell, that cover is rather fantastic. I’d spotted the synopsis for this novel a short while before the cover was unveiled, and my interest has only grown with that gorgeous cover. I know, “don’t judge a book by its cover” — I’m not, really, as I’m already a big fan of Richard Kadrey‘s novels, and have routinely recommended and cheered each and every new novel he’s written and had published. (Shamefully, that hasn’t stopped me from falling behind…) The Grand Dark is “a lush, dark, stand-alone fantasy… a subversive tale that immerses us in a world where the extremes of bleakness and beauty exist together in dangerous harmony in a city on the edge of civility and chaos.” That sounds pretty intriguing! It has also been described as akin to the work of China Miéville and M. John Harrison. Here’s the full synopsis:

The Great War is over. The city of Lower Proszawa celebrates the peace with a decadence and carefree spirit as intense as the war’s horrifying despair. But this newfound hedonism — drugs and sex and endless parties — distracts from strange realities of everyday life: Intelligent automata taking jobs. Genetically engineered creatures that serve as pets and beasts of war. A theater where gruesome murders happen twice a day. And a new plague that even the ceaseless euphoria can’t mask.

Unlike others who live strictly for fun, Largo is an addict with ambitions. A bike messenger who grew up in the slums, he knows the city’s streets and its secrets intimately. His life seems set. He has a beautiful girlfriend, drugs, a chance at a promotion — and maybe, an opportunity for complete transformation: a contact among the elite who will set him on the course to lift himself up out of the streets.

But dreams can be a dangerous thing in a city whose mood is turning dark and inward. Others have a vision of life very different from Largo’s, and they will use any methods to secure control. And in behind it all, beyond the frivolity and chaos, the threat of new war always looms.

The Grand Dark is due to be published by Voyager in North America and in the UK, on June 11th, 2019. That’s quite a long wait, but it does mean I’ll have time to get caught up on the excellent, highly-recommended Sandman Slim series.

Also on CR: Reviews of Sandman SlimKill the DeadAloha From HellDevil in the Dollhouse, Devil Said Bang and Kill City Blues.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: I’LL BE THERE FOR YOUR by Kelsey Miller (Hanover Square Press/HQ)

MillerK-IllBeThereForYouUSA “definitive” history of the TV show Friends

I’ll Be There For You is the definitive retrospective of the classic TV phenomenon. From its low-profile debut in 1994, Friends grew over the next decade to be the must-watch prime-time hit of a generation, and a certified classic.

Join Kelsey Miller as she relives the show’s most iconic moments, examines some of its controversies, and shines a light on the many trends it inspired from oversized coffee cups to the much-copied 90s haircut, The Rachel’.

Weaving incisive commentary, revelatory interviews and behind-the-scenes anecdotes involving high-profile guest stars, I’ll Be There for You is the most comprehensive take on Friends yet, and the ultimate book for fans everywhere.

I have been a fan of Friends since, I think, the end of season one. It is a comfort watch, and a series I often have on in the background. When I still lived in the UK, it was almost impossible to go a day (an hour?) without being able to find an episode on one of the digital channels. It’s a huge show, and continues to be so even a decade-plus since it ended. I was very interested, therefore, when I heard that someone had written a book about the show, purporting to be the definitive story. I was lucky enough to get a review copy. I found it to be a mixed reading experience. Continue reading

Interview with KRISTEN CICCARELLI

CiccarelliK-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Kristen Ciccarelli?

Kristen Ciccarelli is a shy Canadian who lives in the far North. You can often find her baking bread, wandering the shores of the North Atlantic, or hiking with her dog in the headlands near her house. She loves to write and read and daydream (usually in front of her wood stove).

Your latest novel, The Caged Queen, is due out this month via Gollancz. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

The Caged Queen is both a sequel and a companion novel in that it follows sequentially after the first book (The Last Namsara) but it also stands alone, meaning you can read the series out of order if you want to. The protagonist of The Last Namsara is a dragon-slayer named Asha, while the protagonist of The Caged Queen is a young outlander queen named Roa, and both girls show up in each other’s books. Continue reading