Quick Review: STEVE KERR by Scott Howard-Cooper (William Morrow)

HowardCooperS-SteveKerrUSHCThe definitive biography of Steve Kerr, the championship-winning basketball player and head coach of the record-breaking Golden State Warriors

Few individuals have had a career as storied, and improbable, as Steve Kerr. He has won eight NBA titles — five as a player and three as a coach — for three different franchises. He played alongside the best players of a generation, from Michael Jordan to Shaquille O’Neal to Tim Duncan, and learned the craft of basketball under four legendary coaches. He was an integral part of two famed NBA dynasties. Perhaps no other figure in basketball history has had a hand in such greatness.

In Steve Kerr, award-winning sports journalist Scott Howard-Cooper uncovers the fascinating life story of a basketball legend. Kerr did not follow a traditional path to the NBA. He was born in Beirut to two academics and split his childhood between California and the Middle East. Though he was an impressive shooter, the undersized Kerr garnered almost no attention from major college programs, managing only at the last moment to snag the final scholarship at the University of Arizona. Then, during his freshman season at Arizona, tragedy struck. His father, Malcolm, then the president of the American University of Beirut, was assassinated in Lebanon by terrorists. Forged by the crucible of this family saga, Steve went on to chart an unparalleled life in basketball, on the court and on the sidelines.

The only coach other than Red Auerbach to lead a team to the Finals five consecutive seasons, Kerr seems destined for the Basketball Hall of Fame. Steve Kerr is his incredible story, offering insights into the man and what it takes to be — and make — a champion. Drawing upon Scott Howard-Cooper’s years covering the Warriors, deep archival research, and original interviews with more than one hundred of the central characters in Kerr’s life, this is basketball biography at its finest.

I first learned who Steve Kerr was during the Golden State Warriors’ championship runs from 2014-19 (a run the Raptors ended). Over those years, I picked up bits and pieces of information about his playing career — specifically, that he was on the Chicago Bulls during Michael Jordan’s post-baseball years back on the team. It wasn’t until The Last Dance docu-series that I learned a bit more about his pre-Warriors life. With Scott Howard-Cooper’s Steve Kerr: A Life, I’ve been able to fill in the gaps. This is a very good picture of Kerr’s fascinating life, on and off the court. Continue reading

Quick Review: MARY JANE by Jessica Anya Blau (Custom House)

BlauJA-MaryJaneUSA young woman finds herself during a momentous summer

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job — helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

This novel is pitched as “Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six” — one of my favourite movies, and one of my favourite recent novels. So, of course, my interest was piqued. After finishing it, I think it’s a pretty apt comparison, but this novel stands very much on its own, too. Mary Jane is a warm-hearted, well-written story of Mary Jane’s coming-of-age in 1970s Baltimore, during a momentous summer. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: MEET ME IN ANOTHER LIFE by Catriona Silvey (Voyager)

SilveyC-MeetMeInAnotherLifeUSI only recently stumbled across information about Catriona Silvey‘s upcoming debut novel, Meet Me in Another Life. It was mentioned with a comparison to Kate Atkinson, Audrey Niffenegger, and Claire North, so I decided to check it out. I can see why those comparisons make sense, but the synopsis suggests something quite different, but equally intriguing:

Two people. Infinite lifetimes. One impossible choice.

Thora and Santi are strangers in a foreign city when a chance encounter intertwines their fates. At once, they recognize in each other a kindred spirit — someone who shares their insatiable curiosity, who is longing for more in life than the cards they’ve been dealt. Only days later, though, a tragic accident cuts their story short.

SilveyC-MeetMeInAnotherLifeUKBut this is only one of the many connections they share. Like satellites trapped in orbit around each other, Thora and Santi are destined to meet again: as a teacher and brilliant student; a caretaker and dying patient; a cynic and believer. In numerous lives they become friends, colleagues, lovers, and enemies. As blurred memories and strange patterns compound, Thora and Santi come to a shocking revelation — they must discover the truth of their mysterious attachment before their many lives come to one, final end.

By turns joyful, devastating, and quietly profound, Meet Me in Another Life is a spectacularly compelling page-turner filled with astonishing twists that affirms the power of love to connect us beyond time and space.

Catriona Silvey’s Meet Me in Another Life is due to be published by William Morrow in North America (April 27th) and Voyager in the UK (July 8th). Really looking forward to reading this.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: MARY JANE by Jessica Anya Blau (Custom House)

BlauJA-MaryJaneUSThere have been quite a few novels released in the past couple of years (and upcoming) with music at the heart of them. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six and David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue are notable stand-outs and successes. In 2021, we can add Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau to this genre, and also to my growing list of most-anticipated novels of the year. Pitched as “Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones and the Six“, here’s the synopsis:

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job — helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

Jessica Anya Blau’s Mary Jane is due to be published by Custom House in North America (May 11th) and in the UK (May 27th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: THE UNRAVELING OF CASSIDY HOLMES by Elissa R. Sloan (William Morrow)

SloanER-UnravelingOfCassidyJonesUSThe dark side of celebrity and early success

Cassidy Holmes isn’t just a celebrity.

She is “Sassy Gloss,” the fourth member of the hottest pop group America has ever seen. Hotter than Britney dancing with a snake, hotter than Christina getting dirrty, Gloss was the pop act that everyone idolized. Fans couldn’t get enough of them, their music, and the drama that followed them like moths to a flame—until the group’s sudden implosion in 2002. And at the center of it all was Sassy Cassy, the Texan with a signature smirk that had everyone falling for her. 

But now she’s dead. Suicide.

The world is reeling from this unexpected news, but no one is more shocked than the three remaining Glossies. Fifteen years ago, Rose, Merry, and Yumi had been the closest to Cassidy, and this loss is hitting them hard. Before the group split, they each had a special bond with Cassidy — truths they told, secrets they shared. But after years apart, each of them is wondering: what could they have done?

I’m very fond of novels set in and around the entertainment industry. Elissa R. Sloan’s debut novel was pitched as being in the same vein as Taylor Jenkins Reid’s (superb) Daisy Jones & the Six, so my attention was immediately grabbed. I read this very soon after receiving it, and I’m happy to say I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS / RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS by Peter Swanson (William Morrow / Faber)

SwansonP-EightPerfectMurdersAn intriguing new mystery about a bookseller who finds himself at the centre of an FBI investigation…

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack — which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders” — chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move — a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects… and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead — and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

The synopsis for this caught my attention, and the publishers were kind enough to approve my request to review it (both the North American and UK publisher gave me access to DRCs). Strangely, given how interesting Swanson’s novels sound, this is the first of his that I’ve read. An engaging and gripping read, I zipped through this in just a couple of very enjoyable sittings. Continue reading

Quick Review: HOUR OF THE ASSASSIN by Matthew Quirk (William Morrow)

QuirkM-HourOfTheAssassinUSA very fast-paced, political conspiracy thriller

Framed and on the run for his life, a former Secret Service agent discovers how far some men will go to grasp the highest office in the land…

As a Secret Service agent, Nick Averose spent a decade protecting the most powerful men and women in America and developed a unique gift: the ability to think like an assassin. Now, he uses that skill in a little-known but crucial job. As a “red teamer,” he poses as a threat, testing the security around our highest officials to find vulnerabilities — before our enemies can. He is a mock killer, capable of slipping past even the best defenses.

His latest assignment is to assess the security surrounding the former CIA director at his DC area home. But soon after he breaches the man’s study, the home’s inner sanctum, Nick finds himself entangled in a vicious crime that will shake Washington to its foundations — as all the evidence points to Nick.

Nick knows he’s the perfect scapegoat. But who is framing him, and why? To clear his name, he must find the truth — a search that leads to a dark conspiracy whose roots stretch back decades. The prize is the most powerful position in the world: the Oval Office.

To save himself and the people he loves, Nick must stop the men who rule Washington before they bury him along with their secrets. 

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Quirk’s novels ever since I got my hands on an ARC of his debut, The 500. I blitzed through it in one long, gloriously entertaining sitting (staying up way into the night). Since then, I’ve read most of his novels and each has been a fast-paced thriller set in and around American politics — often in and around D.C., specifically. Hour of the Assassin is exactly the kind of novel I expected from Quirk: fast-paced, entertaining, and filled with commentary on the state of modern politics. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE NIGHT AGENT by Matthew Quirk (William Morrow)

QuirkM-NightAgentUSA fast-paced, gripping political conspiracy thriller

To find a Russian mole in the White House, an FBI agent must question everything… and trust no one

No one was more surprised than FBI Agent Peter Sutherland when he’s tapped to work in the White House Situation Room. From his earliest days as a surveillance specialist, Peter has scrupulously done everything by the book, hoping his record will help him escape the taint of his past. When Peter was a boy, his father, a section chief in FBI counterintelligence, was suspected of selling secrets to the Russians — a catastrophic breach that had cost him his career, his reputation, and eventually his life.

Peter knows intimately how one broken rule can cost lives. Nowhere is he more vigilant than in this room, the sanctum of America’s secrets. Staffing the night action desk, his job is monitoring an emergency line for a call that has not — and might never — come.

Until tonight.

At 1:05 a.m. the phone rings. A terrified young woman named Rose tells Peter that her aunt and uncle have just been murdered and that the killer is still in the house with her. Before their deaths, they gave her this phone number with urgent instructions: “Tell them OSPREY was right. It’s happening…”

The call thrusts Peter into the heart of a conspiracy years in the making, involving a Russian mole at the highest levels of the government. Anyone in the White House could be the traitor. Anyone could be corrupted. To save the nation, Peter must take the rules into his own hands and do the right thing, no matter the cost. He plunges into a desperate hunt for the traitor — a treacherous odyssey that pits him and Rose against some of Russia’s most skilled and ruthless operatives and the full force of the FBI itself.

Peter knows that the wider a secret is broadcast, the more dangerous it gets for the people at the center. With the fate of the country on the line, he and Rose must evade seasoned assassins and maneuver past jolting betrayals to find the shocking truth — and stop the threat from inside before it’s too late.

That surprisingly long synopsis does set up the plot for Matthew Quirk’s latest fast-paced thriller rather well. Peter Sutherland is languishing in the basement of the White House, working for two prominent administration staffers, in a strange, important-yet-unexciting job. Then, with a single phone call, his job and life is thrown completely out of whack. What follows is 400~ pages of breakneck paced thriller action and conspiracy. This is an entertaining, well-written thriller. Continue reading

Upcoming: AMERICAN POP by Snowden Wright (William Morrow)

WrightS-AmericanPopUSI already have a review copy of Snowden Wright‘s upcoming American Pop — the fictionalized story of the Forsters, the founders of America’s first major soft-drink company. I’ll probably be reading it very soon, though I’ll be holding off on posting a review until closer to its release date (it’s now due to hit shelves until next year…) Now that there’s a cover, though, I decided to feature it on CR. Here’s the synopsis, which caught my attention:

The story of a family.

The story of an empire.

The story of a nation.

Moving from Mississippi to Paris to New York and back again, an epic saga of family, ambition, passion, and tragedy that brings to life one unforgettable Southern dynasty — the Forsters, founders of the world’s first major soft-drink company — against the backdrop of more than a century of American cultural history.

The child of immigrants, Houghton Forster has always wanted more — from his time as a young boy in Mississippi, working twelve-hour days at his father’s drugstore; to the moment he first laid eyes on his future wife, Annabelle Teague, a true Southern belle of aristocratic lineage; to his invention of the delicious fizzy drink that would transform him from tiller boy into the founder of an empire, the Panola Cola Company, and entice a youthful, enterprising nation entering a hopeful new age.

Now the heads of a preeminent American family spoken about in the same breath as the Hearsts and the Rockefellers, Houghton and Annabelle raise their four children with the expectation they’ll one day become world leaders. The burden of greatness falls early on eldest son Montgomery, a handsome and successful politician who has never recovered from the horrors and heartbreak of the Great War. His younger siblings Ramsey and Lance, known as the “infernal twins,” are rivals not only in wit and beauty, but in their utter carelessness with the lives and hearts of others. Their brother Harold, as gentle and caring as the twins can be cruel, is slowed by a mental disability — and later generations seem equally plagued by misfortune, forcing Houghton to seriously consider: who should control the company after he’s gone?

An irresistible tour de force of original storytelling, American Pop blends fact and fiction, the mundane and the mythical, and utilizes techniques of historical reportage to capture how, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s words, “families are always rising and falling in America,” and to explore the many ways in which nostalgia can manipulate cultural memory — and the stories we choose to tell about ourselves.

American Pop is due to be published by William Morrow on February 5th, 2019. (As far as I can tell, it will be available on import in the UK, but not sure if it’s getting a full release.) The novel has already been getting some great advance praise. For example, this blurb from Jonathan Dee:

“The House of Forster is built on bubbles; watching each wealth-addled generation try not to blow the family fortune and/or disgrace its name provides not only excellent Gothic fun but a panoramic tour of the American Century — and Snowden Wright’s voice has all the Southern charm and lightly worn wisdom you’d expect from a writer with a name like Snowden Wright.”

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Interview with JAMEY BRADBURY

BradburyJ-AuthorPic (Brooke Taylor)Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Jamey Bradbury?

I’m a Midwesterner by birth and an Alaskan by choice whose cat, at the moment, keeps getting in the way of my keyboard. And I’m a writer who likes smashing genres into each other to see what happens. I have been, in the past, a receptionist, an actor with a dinner theater company, a volunteer, a CPR instructor, and a professional poop-scooper. Right now, I happily divide my life between writing fiction and doing storytelling for an Alaska Native social services organization.

Your debut novel, The Wild Inside, was published by William Morrow in March. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s partly a horror novel, partly a suspense novel, partly a coming-of-age story, set against the backdrop of sled dog racing in Alaska. Plot-wise, it’s about a girl with a love for hunting who has to contend with a pair of strangers who show up on her doorstep, one of whom is mortally wounded — something that may or may not have been her fault. At its heart, though, The Wild Inside is about whether it’s really possible for people to truly know each other. Continue reading