Upcoming: MOONGLOW by Michael Chabon (Harper)

ChabonM-MoonglowUSMichael Chabon‘s highly-anticipated next novel, Moonglow, is due out in November! Chabon’s Pulitzer-prize winning The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is one of the best novels ever written, in my humble opinion. I didn’t love Telegraph Avenue, but I did enjoy Wonder Boys. This new novel sounds pretty interesting. Here’s the synopsis for Moonglow:

In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to his mother’s home in Oakland, California to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon’s grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis for the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon. 

Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact — and the creative power — of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies. A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the twentieth century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific, Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Boy’s Life. Along the way Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigor and the radiant moonglow of his prose, a secret history of his own imagination.

From the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York’s Wallkill Prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of “the American Century,” Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional non-fiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.

Quick Review: WHY WE CAME TO THE CITY by Kristopher Jansma (Viking)

JansmaK-WeCameToTheCityUSA moving story of friendship, loss and life in New York

December, 2008. A heavy snowstorm is blowing through Manhattan and the economy is on the brink of collapse, but none of that matters to a handful of guests at a posh holiday party. Five years after their college graduation, the fiercely devoted friends at the heart of this richly absorbing novel remain as inseparable as ever: editor and social butterfly Sara Sherman, her troubled astronomer boyfriend George Murphy, loudmouth poet Jacob Blaumann, classics major turned investment banker William Cho, and Irene Richmond, an enchanting artist with an inscrutable past.

Amid cheerful revelry and free-flowing champagne, the friends toast themselves and the new year ahead — a year that holds many surprises in store. They must navigate ever-shifting relationships with the city and with one another, determined to push onward in pursuit of their precarious dreams. And when a devastating blow brings their momentum to a halt, the group is forced to reexamine their aspirations and chart new paths through unexpected losses.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, when I started Why We Came to the City. I had picked up Jansma’s previous novel a couple of years back, but hadn’t had the chance to read it, yet. There was something about this one, though, that caught my attention and never really let go. I started reading the novel very shortly after I received a review copy from the publisher, and despite taking just a little while to get used to the style and rhythm, I was hooked. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE CITY OF MIRRORS by Justin Cronin (Doubleday/Orion)

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The City of Mirrors is the long-awaited, highly-anticipated final book in Justin Cronin’s post-apocalyptic supernatural thriller. I remember when the first novel, The Passage, was released in the UK: the pre-publication publicity blitz was insane, far more widespread than anything I’d seen not related to Harry Potter. I was certainly intrigued, but also a little wary. So, I kept putting off reading it, and before I knew it The Twelve was almost out. I picked up an ARC at BEA in 2012, which I also ended up not getting around to — although, this time it was because I moved. Twice. And so, as with so many books and series of 2011-13, Cronin’s novels ultimately slipped me by. I think it’s time I rectified this. Here’s the synopsis for the third book…

In the wake of the battle against The Twelve, Amy and her friends have gone in different directions. Peter has joined the settlement at Kerrville, Texas, ascending in its ranks despite his ambivalence about its ideals. Alicia has ventured into enemy territory, half-mad and on the hunt for the viral called Zero, who speaks to her in dreams. Amy has vanished without a trace.

With The Twelve destroyed, the citizens of Kerrville are moving on with life, settling outside the city limits, certain that at last the world is safe enough. But the gates of Kerrville will soon shudder with the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, and Amy — the Girl from Nowhere, the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years — will once more join her friends to face down the demon who has torn their world apart… and to at last confront their destinies.

The City of Mirrors is due to be published on May 24th by Doubleday in Canada and the US; and on June 16th in the UK, by Orion. As I mentioned earlier, I have both of the already-available novels — I wonder if I’ll be able to catch up?

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Review: AND AGAIN by Jessica Chiarella (Touchstone)

ChiarellaJ-AndAgainUSAn engrossing, beautifully written novel about what makes us who we are

Would you live your life differently if you were given a second chance? Hannah, David, Connie, and Linda — four terminally ill patients — have been selected for the SUBlife pilot program, which will grant them brand-new, genetically perfect bodies that are exact copies of their former selves — without a single imperfection. Blemishes, scars, freckles, and wrinkles have all disappeared, their fingerprints are different, their vision is impeccable, and most importantly, their illnesses have been cured.

But the fresh start they’ve been given is anything but perfect. Without their old bodies, their new physical identities have been lost. Hannah, an artistic prodigy, has to relearn how to hold a brush; David, a Congressman, grapples with his old habits; Connie, an actress whose stunning looks are restored after a protracted illness, tries to navigate an industry obsessed with physical beauty; and Linda, who spent eight years paralyzed after a car accident, now struggles to reconnect with a family that seems to have built a new life without her. As each tries to re-enter their previous lives and relationships they are faced with the question: how much of your identity rests not just in your mind, but in your heart, your body?

What would you do if you were given a second chance? Not only a second chance, but a second body — fresh, new, cloned. Completely clear of defective genes, and devoid of the scars and weathering of everyday life. This is, in part, the premise of Jessica Chiarella’s fantastic debut novel, And Again. It is also one of the first must-reads of the year. Continue reading

Quick Review: FIFTEEN DOGS by André Alexis (Coach House)

A marvellous, thought-provoking, and moving novel

— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.

— I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.

When I first started reading Fifteen Dogs, I was worried I wasn’t going to like it. It took me longer than it should have to realize what Alexis was doing — namely, the fact that the canines in the title, while gifted with human intelligence, were not also gifted with human knowledge. It may seem like a common sense thing, but it’s not something I’ve seen in other novels in which animals are or become anthropomorphized. As a result, the first fifty pages or so were pretty blunt, and the writing didn’t exhibit the lyricism or depth that I’d been led to expect. But after that point… it really started to shine. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE MIRROR THIEF by Martin Seay (Melville House)

SeayM-MirrorThiefUSAnother novel that has frequently popped up in my Goodreads and Amazon recommendations, as well as a number of “Most Anticipated Books of 2016” lists, The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay sounds pretty fascinating:

A globetrotting, time-bending, wildly entertaining literary masterpiece in the tradition of Cloud Atlas.

One of the most audacious and confident debuts in years, The Mirror Thief is a masterful puzzle: a genre-hopping novel that combines an intricate, fast-paced mystery with serious literary ambition. Set in three cities in three eras, The Mirror Thief calls to mind David Mitchell and Umberto Eco in its serendipitous mix of entertainment and literary merit.

The core story is set in Venice in the sixteenth century, when the famed makers of Venetian glass were perfecting one of the old world’s most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination — was it reflecting simple reality, or something more spiritually revealing? — the Venetian mirrors were state of the art technology, and subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals world-wide. But for any of the development team to leave the island was a crime punishable by death. One man, however — a world-weary war hero with nothing to lose — has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the city’s terrifying enforcers of the edict, the ominous Council of Ten …

Meanwhile, in two other iterations of Venice — Venice Beach, California, circa 1958, and the Venice casino in Las Vegas, circa today — two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to get away with a secret…

All three stories will weave together into a spell-binding tour-de-force that is impossible to put down — an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel that, in the end, returns the reader to a stunning conclusion in the original Venice… and the bedazzled sense of having read a truly original and thrilling work of literary art.

The Mirror Thief is due to be published by Melville House, in May 2016.

Upcoming: THE LOST TIME ACCIDENTS by John Wray (Canongate/FSG)

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John Wray‘s next novel, The Lost Time Accidents sounds fascinating:

Every moment that passes is a

Lost Time Accident.

Close your eyes, Children,

when you want

to stop Time…

Haunted by a failed love affair and the darkest of family secrets, Waldemar ‘Waldy’ Tolliver wakes one morning to discover that he has been exiled from the flow of time. The world continues to turn, and Waldy is desperate to find his way back.

In his ambitious and fiercely inventive new novel, John Wray takes us from turn-of-the-century Viennese salons buzzing with rumours about Einstein’s radical new theory to the death camps of the Second World War, from the golden age of post-war pulp science fiction to a startling discovery in a modern-day Manhattan apartment packed to the ceiling with artefacts of contemporary life.

The Lost Time Accidents is a bold and epic saga set against the greatest upheavals of the twentieth century.

Both the UK and US cover have been popping up on my Goodreads and Amazon recommendations. I’m certainly intrigued. The Lost Time Accidents is published in the UK on June 16th, by Canongate (above, left); and on February 9th in the US, by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Wray is also the author of Lowboy (published by Canongate), The Right Hand of Sleep and Canaan’s Tongue (published by Vintage).

Review: IF I FORGET YOU by Thomas Christopher Greene (Thomas Dunne)

GreeneTC-IfIForgetYouUSA beautifully written, engaging novel

Twenty-one years after they were driven apart by circumstances beyond their control, two former lovers have a chance encounter on a Manhattan street. What follows is a tense, suspenseful exploration of the many facets of enduring love.

Told from altering points of view through time, If I Forget You tells the story of Henry Gold, a poet whose rise from poverty embodies the American dream, and Margot Fuller, the daughter of a prominent, wealthy family, and their unlikely, star-crossed love affair, complete with the secrets they carry when they find each other for the second time.

Thomas Christopher Greene‘s previous novel, The Headmaster’s Wife, was a sleeper hit when it came out. I picked it up shortly after, but haven’t had the chance to read it, yet. I spotted If I Forget You on NetGalley, though, and started reading it as soon as I got a review copy. I had high expectations, and they were mostly met. Greene’s prose is exceptionally good, often lyrical. Continue reading

Covers: The Gorgeous UK Jackets of David Mitchell

MitchellD-NewUK2016

Sceptre has published David Mitchell’s novels in the UK with some truly gorgeous covers (above) — it’s a little hard to tell which of these are recent re-jackets, but I’m pretty sure a number of them are new.

I have still not read anything by Mitchell. I really don’t know why, to be honest. Alyssa’s mother waxes lyrical about his novels on a weekly basis, and I have to say she has excellent taste (I also bought Slade House for her for Xmas). I’ve heard such great things from so very many people about The Bone Clocks, but apparently reading Slade House will point out that they are all (at least in some small way) connected.

Despite writing the other week that I wasn’t going to set any reading goals in 2016, maybe I should propose one: read David Mitchell.

Here are links to the books: Ghostwritten, number9dream, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, The Thousand Lives of Jacob de Zoet and The Bone Clocks.

Mini-Review: CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki (Little, Brown)

LepuckiE-CaliforniaUKPBAn interesting, different dystopian novel

The sunshine state lies in darkness.

Los Angeles is in ruins, left to the angels now.

And the world Cal and Frida have always known is gone.

Cal and Frida have left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can’t reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant. 

Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realise this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

Edan Lepucki’s debut rocketed to the top of bestseller lists when it received the Colbert Bump — in the midst of the Hachette-Amazon feud, Stephen Colbert mentioned the novel as a debut that people should check out, but one that was not available to pre-order (very important for debuts) because of the ongoing battle between the retailer and publisher. As a fan of dystopian fiction, I was naturally intrigued. It’s taken me a while to get around to reading it, though. It’s an interesting take on the sub-genre, with some interesting things to say, too. Continue reading