Book Preview – The Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije

The Eternal Audience of One by Rémy NgamijeThe descriptions for books are too often overlooked and underrated. If you’re unfamiliar with an author or are looking for a new book without the recommendation of a reliable friend, you really only have the cover and the description to go by (and they do say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, though the cover is invaluable when it comes to catching a potential reader’s attention). In the case of Rémy Ngamije’s The Eternal Audience of One, yes, the cover caught my eye but it was the description that truly captured my interest. Lifting two sentences from the first page of the first chapter about the nature of stories and the characters’ relationships to both beginnings and endings, the description provided the smallest taste of the prose and narrative voice and that alone was enough to get me hooked as a reader. Luckily, that taste was not a manipulative tease but a wonderful encapsulation of Ngamije’s humorous and clever approach to a story that demonstrates the ways we confront and hide from difficult realities about our lives, our situations and ourselves.

Séraphin, a university student in Cape Town, faces the all-too-familiar prospect of an uncertain future as his graduation from law school looms just a few months away. His family back in Namibia have high hopes and expectations for him, especially his parents who have had to compromise and sacrifice since fleeing Rwanda for the safety of their young family. Luckily, his close circle of friends is incredibly understanding and supportive of his lack of direction as they plot their futures with varying degrees of drive and direction themselves. But the uncertainty, the stress of school, and coming from such different backgrounds also force some rifts among the group of friends to the surface. Continue reading

Book Preview – All Together Now by Matthew Norman

All Together Now by Matthew NormanWhen I read Matthew Norman’s Last Couple Standing early last year, I enjoyed it enough to keep an eye out for more of his work. So, when I saw that he had a new novel coming out, I jumped at the chance to preview it if possible. Like Last Couple Standing, Matthew Norman’s new novel, All Together Now, focuses on what time can do to long-lasting relationships – especially friendships – and what it takes to reconnect with our past selves so we can be proud of (and recognize) who we’ve become. In this case, it takes being confronted with the lies you’ve told yourself (and others) as well as the possibility of losing everything.

Robbie Malcolm is a thirty-five-year-old math genius who’s turned his gift for numbers and prediction into a billion-dollar business. But no amount of money can buy Robbie more time. He has late stage pancreatic cancer and only months to live. So, Robbie decides to go out with a bang and fix for his best friends what he can’t fix for himself – their futures. Getting television producer Cat, freelance artist and suburban mom Blair, and failed novelist Wade to travel out to Fenwick Island (one of their favorite summertime getaways from their high school days) Robbie reunites the Baltimore Prep Rejects for a weekend they won’t forget. It’s the first time they’ve been in the same place in six years and the survival of their friendship (as well as their personal lives) is at stake. But confronting the truth can be painful, even when you have your best friends at your side.

As is to be expected, grief is a heavy theme in this book, but it probably isn’t the grief most would expect to feature most prominently. While the friends – and Robbie – must come to terms with the news of his illness and what it means, the four Baltimore Prep Rejects spend most of the novel facing the fact that the dreams they had when they were in high school aren’t going to come true – or if they do, not in the ways they imagined them. What’s more, the newer “dreams” they have for themselves – and, in some cases, lie about to each other – also need to be faced and grieved. It’s only when they let those illusions go that they are truly able to look to the future and build themselves into the people they want to be.

One thing Matthew Norman does so well is on full display in All Together Now – he builds truly believable friendships, complete with deep history and connection. The story of how these four came to be friends and the circumstances of how they then became the Baltimore Prep Rejects is thoroughly and genuinely relatable, it’ll make you want to break out the yearbook (and then Facebook) to catch up with how your own high school friends are doing. The four have drifted a bit and aren’t in regular contact anymore but their old ways of communicating and being together come back so quickly. And like the deepest of friendships, they fight and hold each other to account while also completely supporting one another in the ways that they need – not always the ways that they want.

Though it follows some predictable patterns, All Together Now has a solid foundation that reinforces the idea that no one is perfect but it’s never too late to try and do better, and that having the right people in your life can make all the difference.

All Together Now will be available June 15, 2021.

Book Preview – Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland by Rivers SolomonI was enthralled with Rivers Solomon’s The Deep when I read it back at the end of 2019 so when I saw that Solomon had another book publishing soon, I jumped at the chance to read this one too. While the novel played out in a very different way than I expected from when I first read the description, it reminded me so much of one of my other favorite writers (Octavia Butler) that I was in no way disappointed. Brutal and fantastic in every meaning of those words, Sorrowland explores themes of power and oppression as well as resilience, resistance, and duality, challenging many of the norms that society accepts and perpetuates.

Vern’s been living in the woods and evading the fiend hunting her for two months since her escape from Cainland and its “Blessed Acres” compound where she’d grown up. But as she goes into labor and births her twin sons, the dangers of her situation truly hit home with more than herself to protect. As time goes by, however, Vern begins to notice changes in her body and her abilities, starting with inhuman strength, endurance, and healing. Between the changes and her own desires – both to be a good mother to her boys but also to remain her own, sometimes selfish, person – Vern starts to venture beyond the woods and into the white man’s world that Cainland had taught her to loathe and avoid. But the threats there and those from Cainland may not be as different as she’d once thought. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Widow Queen by Elżbieta Cherezińska

The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska It isn’t too many generations back on my father’s side that my family migrated from Poland and the last few years I’ve found myself drawn to learn more about that part of my heritage. Since fiction has always helped drive my interest in history (and vice versa), when I saw a novel about a Polish princess who became a commanding queen, I jumped at the chance to read it. Elżbieta Cherezińska’s The Widow Queen is the first of her two novels about Świętosława to be translated into English (with the second hopefully being released in 2022). Inspired by figures from 10th century history (a period where the historical record has quite a few gaps), The Widow Queen has done what my favorite historical novels always do: it’s inspired me to search out and learn more.

Świętosława, her brother, and their half-sisters are all expected to play their part in their father Duke Mieszko’s plans to expand his rule and influence in what will become Poland. But Świętosława has never been one to simply do what she’s told. Earning herself a nickname meaning “bold,” Świętosława proves adept at navigating the treacherous waves of warring kingdoms and shifting alliances in the North and Baltic Seas, though she learns quickly that the price of her power and safety is almost always paid in personal sacrifice and that choice can be a powerful illusion.

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Book Preview – When Stars Rain Down by Angela Jackson-Brown

book cover - when stars rain downI don’t remember what it was about the description for Angela Jackson-Brown’s upcoming When Stars Rain Down that first caught my attention but I’m always a sucker for good historical fiction and am trying not to always go for the same eras and places. There have been a few novels set in the 1930s that I’ve read and probably even one or two set in the rural south. But most of those were personal family dramas about white people coping with the aftermath of the Great Depression, hardly touching upon race relations in any way other than simply setting the scene, creating the atmosphere of the time and place. When Stars Rain Down captures the perpetual exhaustion and toll of racism on Black people – particularly on Black women – and shows that while almost a century has passed, some things still haven’t changed.

Opal Pruitt is proud to help her Granny as a housemaid for a white family in Parsons, Georgia in the late 1930s. As her eighteenth birthday approaches, Opal finds herself confronted with a lot of change. First, there’s a boy, Cedric Perkins, who shows an interest in courting Opal – though her Granny and uncles don’t seem too keen on the idea. Secondly, when there’s a warning that the Klan plan to cause mischief in Colored Town, Opal isn’t sure whether she believes the best course of action is to lie low like Granny and many of the church elders suggest or if it would be better to fight back like Cedric and some of the other young men in the community want to. Opal must learn when and how to listen to her instincts as well as how and when to bear the burdens of others’ good intentions. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

The Arsonists' City by Hala AlyanFamily dramas can be some of the most compelling stories around… or the most tedious. I wasn’t sure what to expect when the description for Hala Alyan’s upcoming The Arsonists’ City first caught my attention, but the premise was enough to draw me in: the father wishes to sell his own father’s ancestral home in Beirut while his wife and children are opposed to the move. Hala Alyan’s tale most definitely fell into the former category of family drama for me. Largely a tale of secrets, hopes, and disappointments, The Arsonists’ City packed emotional punches on every front, taking predictable plot twists and leading them down unfamiliar paths to avoid the usual clichés.

When Idris Nasr’s father passes away, he decides the time has come to sell the family home in Beirut. But his wife, Mazna, opposes the idea and wields all the guilt she can muster to get her two oldest children to travel to Beirut with them. Ava is a biology professor and mother of two young children having marital problems. Mimi is a restaurant manager who still dreams of hitting it big with his band despite so many others moving on to other dreams. Their youngest sister, Najla, is already in Beirut and reluctant to have the rest of them visit, having moved there for university before deciding to stay for good and embrace her own musical success and the safe distance from her judging (and occasionally resentful). Having the entire family (and extended family) in the same place for the first time in years forces each of them to confront the problems in their own lives and leaves long-buried secrets peeking out of the dirt, tempting further excavation. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Conductors by Nicole Glover

The Conductors by Nicole GloverSo many things drew my attention to Nicole Glover’s upcoming The Conductors. I’ve been trying to read more books by Black writers and realized how many books I had read set around the Civil War and the experiences of escaped slaves had actually been written by white authors. I also really enjoy when fantasy elements get layered into historic fiction. The Conductors manages to bring magic into the post-Civil War years in truly brilliant ways, losing none of the racial tensions or stakes at play while emphasizing the unique issues faced by the freed population.

Hetty and Benjy Rhodes are famous in their Philadelphia community. Powerful practitioners of Celestial magic, they used their skills as they helped lead others to freedom on the eve of the Civil War and even through the fighting. In the years since the war ended, the married couple have become the go-to pair for their community in matters requiring investigation where the local authorities aren’t trusted (which is most cases). But when a late-night call to examine a dead body in an alley turns out to be a friend of theirs and his corpse bears a legendary cursed mark, Hetty and Benjy begin questioning how well they really know their circle of friends. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick

The Forgotten Sister by Nicola CornickAfter having been so pleasantly surprised by Nicola Cornick’s The Phantom Tree two years ago, I jumped at the chance to preview her latest novel, The Forgotten Sister. Similarly rooted in the historical intrigue of side players in Tudor England, The Forgotten Sister also uses supernatural elements to weave together lives lived across centuries. But where The Phantom Tree enchanted me with its originality and compelling characters, The Forgotten Sister fell short. I wanted so badly to like it but was instead left disappointed and a bit bored.

Lizzie Kingdom grew up in the spotlight as a child-star turned successful television presenter and everyone loves her. Or they did until her good friend Dudley’s wife, Amelia, dies in a tragic accident. That’s when the rumors about her and Dudley start to swirl and Amelia’s family start pointing fingers and asking questions – was it an accident, or murder? In the sixteenth century, Amy Robsart marries Robert Dudley after a whirlwind romance but it soon becomes clear that while she may be his wife, the woman he has truly devoted himself to is Princess Elizabeth. When Elizabeth takes the throne, Amy can’t tolerate her husband’s behavior anymore and decides to take action.

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Book Preview – The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani ChokshiWhen I read The Gilded Wolves last year, I was undecided about whether or not I would bother continuing with the series when the next book was released. It’d been underwhelmed given how much I adored Roshani Chokshi’s other books and how much I’d built up my expectations based on the premise. But, as I expected, my abiding affection and need for a new Chokshi book had me requesting a preview copy as soon as The Silvered Serpents showed up with a release date and I’m ashamed by my earlier hesitance because of course she delivered on the premise that had me so intrigued. The Silvered Serpents raises the stakes of the series while delving deeper into the characters and their personal struggles, especially around loss and power – or really, powerlessness.

It’s been a few months since Séverin and his team of friends lost one of their own to the Fallen House’s attempts to rise again and disrupt (and eventually destroy) the others in the Order of Babel. While they initially had a purpose – tracking down the Fallen House’s treasures, purportedly located at their lost Sleeping Palace – the leads they had dried up along with the patronage of the Order, and the members of the group went their separate ways. But Séverin hasn’t given up his determination to find the Sleeping Palace and the Book of Divine Lyrics that is rumored to be among the treasures – a book that can be wielded to transform people into gods. He refuses to be in a position where he might lose anyone else that he loves, but sometimes that means pushing people away. Bringing everyone back for one final push, Séverin and the others confront their grief over the loss of Tristan and must decide what sacrifices they’re willing to make for friendship and their larger goals. Continue reading

Book Preview – Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney

Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. CooneyCaroline B. Cooney is one of those writers whose work I grew up reading. I devoured The Face on the Milk Carton series as well as the Both Sides of Time books. But it’s been many years since reading those as a pre-teen. It wasn’t until seeing that there was a new Caroline B. Cooney novel coming out – Before She Was Helen – that I realized she wrote books for an adult audience too. With so many fond memories of reading her work and a thoroughly intriguing description, I had to see what it was like to read her work as an adult. While I didn’t enjoy Before She Was Helen as much as I did her YA literature when I was growing up, her skill when tackling the parent/child relationship is as strong and nuanced as ever.

Clementine “Clemmie” Lakefield has been living in a retirement community for a few years but all of her friends and neighbors know her as Helen Stephens. In stumbling upon a neighbor’s secret, she’s happy to speculate to herself but prefers to let sleeping dogs lie. Except a photo she sends to her family threatens to expose her double identity. Or maybe the murder victim discovered next door a few days later will blow her cover. As the events of the present unfold, her anxiety about being discovered drags up memories of why she became Helen in the first place. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun KimWhile in graduate school, I took a class called ‘the Immigrant Experience.’ In the years since then, I’ve read many novels that center around immigrant characters – usually immigrants to the United States, often set during the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries – but because of so many commonalities, after a while the stories themselves begin to blend together. That won’t be the case with Nancy Jooyoun Kim’s upcoming The Last Story of Mina Lee. Her novel breaks from so many of the usual patterns and tropes, helping it to stand out and better conveying the harsher realities of life in America for so many immigrants because of her approach.

While helping a friend move to LA, Margot Lee decides she should visit her mother, Mina. Their relationship has never been an easy one and lately she’s had trouble getting her mother to answer the phone. When she finds her mother’s body on the floor of the apartment where she grew up, Margot has so many questions. Dealing with her guilt by searching for answers, Margot begins to learn more about her mother than she ever felt she had a right to ask – questions about her father, about why her mother left Korea, about whether her mother’s death was really an accident. As she digs, Margot learns that there was so much more to her mother than she ever realized and she’s desperate to find a channel for her grief. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Sea of the Dead by Amy Kuivalainen

The Sea of the Dead by Amy KuivalainenUpon finishing Amy Kuivalainen’s The Immortal City last year and discovering it was the first in an intended series, I decided it was promising enough to keep an eye out for the second book. With most of the world building out of the way, that second book, the upcoming The Sea of the Dead moves a lot smoother. While the plot does advance the larger arc of the series a few steps, the main focus is on Penelope’s adjusting to the life she’s chosen as the Archivist and the repercussions that decision (and the war the magicians are fighting) has on her existing friends.

One of Penelope’s friends from college, Tim, is an archaeologist as determined to find more fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls as Penelope was to find the rest of her Atlantis tablet. But what he finds sets dangerous people after him and he does the only thing he can think of – he mails his discovery to Penelope for safe keeping. Soon, Penelope learns that Tim is missing and that means flying their mutual friend Carolyn in from Australia to help with the search… and figuring out what – if anything – to tell both of them about her new life and magician friends. Continue reading

Book Preview – Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-GarciaI wanted to preview Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s upcoming novel, Mexican Gothic for two main reasons. First, I’ve been trying to include more writers of color (especially women of color and Hispanic/Latinx writers) in my reading habits. And secondly, I was feeling nostalgic for my gothic literature class in graduate school. So, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to indulge that craving without relying on the old, white, and usually male writers that we covered so thoroughly in that class. The book very much succeeds in many of the aspects that define gothic literature and the circumstances, in many ways, acknowledge the genre’s origins and golden age. But for me, it veered more toward the fantasy/science-fiction end of the Gothic spectrum than I was expecting (and I found the central character a bit more infuriating than I was expecting).

Noemí Taboada is the daughter of a wealthy paint and dye manufacturer in 1950s Mexico City. She’s considered stubborn and lively, bordering on difficult in her parents’ eyes as she pushes to study at university rather than settle into finding a husband they approve of and settling down. But a strange letter from her recently married cousin has her father sending Noemí off on a visit with the hopes of ascertaining just how ill (perhaps mentally ill) her cousin truly is. Upon arriving at the family home of her cousin’s husband and his family, Noemí senses something is off about the Doyles. An old English family who owned the local (now defunct) silver mine, they don’t allow challenges to how they choose to do things – but challenging the way things are done is just who Noemí is. Continue reading

Book Preview – How to Bury Your Brother by Lindsey Rogers Cook

How to Bury Your Brother by Lindsey Rogers CookI don’t remember what it was about the description for Lindsey Rogers Cook’s upcoming How to Bury Your Brother that first interested me. It’s her first novel, so I wasn’t already a fan of her work (sure am now, though). Possibly the promise of angst and family drama. Whatever it was that caught my attention and made me want to preview this novel, I’m glad I did. It packed a hearty emotional punch, and not in a way that felt manipulated or contrived. Largely focused on grief, guilt, and honesty, How to Bury Your Brother examines the ripple effect that secrets can have within a family and how they can contort one’s mental and emotional health when left alone too long.

Alice adored her older brother, Rob, when she was younger. But when he was just a teenager, he ran away and she never saw him alive again. While the questions about what happened and why he left begin to surface for her at his funeral, it isn’t until almost a decade after that when her father is died and her mother’s dementia leaves Alice with the task of clearing out the family house. A bigger mess than she anticipated, Alice discovers boxes with her brother’s things, letters he wrote to friends and relatives, and a pile of papers that appear to be about him as well. Refusing help from her father’s adopted brother, Alice decides it’s finally time to figure out just what happened to her brother – why he left, where he went, and the truth about how he died. Continue reading

Book Preview – Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England by Annie Whitehead

Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England by Annie WhiteheadIt’s silly and obvious to say this, but there are many periods of history I know little about. In the case of the Dark Ages in Europe, it’s just not something I’ve come across too often in my reading and it wasn’t one of the time periods we covered in any history classes I’ve taken over the years. But it is a period I want to know more about. So, when I read the description for Annie Whitehead’s upcoming Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England, I jumped at the chance to preview it. Not only is it a time period I’d like to learn more about, it’s focused on the women who are all too often pushed to the background of what little is taught about the period. However, the book proved to be far from what I was expecting and I can’t recommend it to anyone who only has a rudimentary or basic understanding of the place, time period, and major players.

Moving in a largely chronological order, Whitehead looks at the women who wielded the most power through the various kingdoms of what make up the modern United Kingdom. Starting in the 500s and progressing through to the Norman invasion in 1066 (and a little beyond), most of the figures Whitehead includes are the mothers, wives, and daughters of kings. Many of those women also played key roles in the spreading of Christianity through the British Isles, whether by retiring to religious institutions or sponsoring them. Even for these women in prestigious positions with the possibility for wielding power, there is very little in the historical record for Whitehead and other scholars to work from ­– and many of the sources that do exist were written with obvious bias and intent, often contradicting one another and rarely providing a complete or accurate portrait.

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Book Preview – Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman

Last Couple Standing by Matthew NormanThe description for Matthew Norman’s upcoming, Last Couple Standing, was too entertaining not to try and get my hands on a copy. While I was pretty sure it would be one of those ‘just plain fun’ reads, I was pleasantly surprised by just how deep it went. I was also surprised by some of the secondary characters that weren’t alluded to in the description and the roles they ultimately played (surprised in a good way, to be clear). Last Couple Standing takes a look at how the two people who built a marriage and family together, thoroughly test both together as well.

Mitch and Jessica Butler have been friends with three other couples since college. The ‘Core Four’ spent almost twenty years going through all of life’s milestones together from dating and marriage to kids and moving to the suburbs. But one by one, the ‘Core Four’ couples have been splitting up until only Mitch and Jessica are left together. Beginning to wonder if their marriage might be next, they decide to get ahead of things and save their marriage before it can fall apart. By going to couple’s counseling? Nope. By creating a few new rules about what they’re each allowed to do with other people outside the marriage bed. And, as their newly-divorced friends are discovering, a lot about dating has changed since any of them were last single.

I was a little surprised there wasn’t more done early in the novel to establish the ‘Core Four’ and their relationships with each other, both as individual couples and as a group of friends. Not knowing the others better at the start makes the introductory scenes with them in the wake of the latest breakup more awkward. But it’s actually brilliantly reflective of the situation Mitch and Jessica are in themselves — they no longer completely recognize their friends or know how they should behave around them because now they’re the ones in the minority as the only ones not single. As happens with tight knit family and friends, the experiences of those around them begin to impact their perception of their own situation. Would they have begun to question their own relationship if not for their friends’ marriages falling apart?

When I began reading, I was not expecting the characters of Luke and Scarlett to figure so prominently. Two of the high school students in one of Mitch’s English class, Luke lives next door and babysits the Butler kids while Scarlett also happens to be one of Jessica’s therapy patients. The two teens help provide each of the adults with some perspective, serving as a different kind of mirror than their longtime friends. It is only when Mitch and Jessica can really examine themselves apart from what they’d once been (the ‘Core Four’) and as individuals in their marriage that they can see what they want.

There is a lot of humor throughout Last Couple Standing, including some delightfully obvious symbolism in the Butler’s broken bed and the joys and frustrations of young children afraid of E.T. At the same time, there are some moments that threaten to go to unexpectedly difficult emotional places. I’m pleased that the ride wasn’t entirely what I expected.

Last Couple Standing will be available starting March 17, 2020.

Book Preview – Cartier’s Hope by M. J. Rose

Cartier's Hope by M. J. RoseCartier’s Hope by M. J. Rose manages to bridge several genres and subjects. Part historic fiction novel, part confidence story, part romance, and even part social justice piece, the novel covers a lot of ground and does so pretty deftly. While there were times it felt like what was coming was obvious and the narrator was being unbelievably naïve or obtuse, the story managed to subvert my expectations just enough that I found myself charmed instead.

As the daughter of a department store magnate, Vera Garland is a member of high society in early twentieth century New York. Her mother wants nothing more than for Vera to find a husband and settle down. But Vera doesn’t want to bow to society’s whims. With her father’s encouragement and a handy alter-ego, she works as a reporter for one of the city’s papers, going undercover like her hero Nellie Bly to expose injustice and inequality in the hopes of helping to change the world. But after a series of misfortunes, including her father’s death, Vera is struggling. While going through her father’s things, Vera discovers a secret about him that gets her back to work but in ways that brings her carefully separated personal and professional lives closer and closer. With deception coming so easily, Vera has to figure out if there is a line she won’t cross to get what she wants. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The Deep by Rivers SolomonThe algorithms are getting better and better at predicting which books I’m going to like. The upcoming novella The Deep by Rivers Solomon (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes) popped up in my book recommendations in several places. With so many computer systems suggesting it to me and a teaser description that promised a multitude of elements to intrigue me, I jumped at the chance to preview it. The Deep manages to speak to so much in a way that is unique, succinct and direct. It conveys incredible depths of emotion and humanity through creatures that only exist because their ancestors’ humanity was rejected and devalued. So, they became something else. Something that remembers. Sort of.

Yetu is one of the wajinru—perhaps, the most important of the wajinru. She is the Historian. She holds the collective memories of all the wajinru who came before her stretching six hundred years back to the first of her kind. She remembers that her people were born of the pregnant, enslaved African women who were cast overboard during the crossing of the Atlantic. The rest of her kind are spared the pain of the specific knowledge. They only have vague emotional impressions of their history, allowing them to live and thrive in the present. And they have. Their society in the deepest parts of the ocean is strong and ready for the annual Remembering. Yetu is frayed, however. It isn’t just the knowledge of the memories she carries; it’s their ancestors’ very essence and the weight of it threatens to overtake her completely and erase who she is. So, when the time comes to temporarily transfer that essence to the gathered wajinru during the sacred ceremony, Yetu does something selfish and rash. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen

The Immortal City by Amy KuivalainenI’m always up for a bit of fantasy, especially when that fantasy overlaps with existing history and legends. Amy Kuivalainen’s upcoming The Immortal City promises to be the start of a series that brings various fantastical theories about the lost Atlantis and its inhabitants to life. But this first novel isn’t a straightforward fantasy; its pacing and narrative patterns follow those more likely to be found in murder mysteries, especially through the first part of the book.

When a gruesome and apparently ritualistic murder occurs in Venice, the text found at the scene inspires Inspector Marco Dandolo to reach out for the expertise of academic Penelope Bryne. The text is similar to that on a tablet she found on a dive—a tablet that she believes is a relic of the lost Atlantis. It’s a theory that has made her a laughing stock in many of her professional circles and, in the absence of funding, her research has stalled. So, Penelope hops on a plane and deftly inserts herself into the investigation. But once she’s in Venice, the case begins to affect her in strange ways. She sees a man in a vision while meditating and then runs into that man on the street. Attempts are made on her life that appear to be linked to the Atlantis tablet and the secrets she’s close to uncovering. And that man who was more than a vision, turns out to be more than just an ordinary man. Continue reading

Book Preview – Ever Alice by H. J. Ramsay

Ever Alice by HJ RamsayI often enjoy retellings and re-imaginings of classic children’s stories, whether they’re from fairy tales or are based on children’s books. Reading H.J. Ramsay’s upcoming, Ever Alice, I came to a realization, however. I don’t care for the story or characters of Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t care for the Disney movie as a child but as I got older, I thought it was because I hadn’t read the original story. I did eventually read the original story but I read it to my niece when she was a baby so I didn’t read it consistently. I’ve read a few books inspired by and using the Alice in Wonderland characters, but with the exception of Marissa Meyer’s Heartless, I end up finding them tedious. Ever Alice helped me realize that it’s really just that the stories aren’t to my taste. I can and do enjoy the fanciful, but the outright ridiculous, not so much.

Alice has struggled since her return from Wonderland. Her parents finally broke down and had her institutionalized for treatment. When Alice’s doctors bring her to another hospital in Switzerland for an experimental procedure, the White Rabbit appears before it can be carried out and she’s whisked back to Wonderland where the Queen of Hearts’ reign of terror and paranoia is getting out of hand and Alice’s old friends give her a mission: kill the Queen of Hearts. Continue reading

Book Preview – After the End by Clare Mackintosh

After the End by Clare MackintoshI first came to Clare Mackintosh’s work when I had the chance to preview I Let You Go several years ago. Until now, I’d only read her work that might be considered thrillers or suspense. Her upcoming After the End is different from what I’ve read by her in the past, but in an incredibly moving way. While I’d wavered after reading Let Me Lie last year, I couldn’t put After the End down. From the unique narrative approach to a difficult topic, through the emotional upheaval of such well-developed characters, After the End is unlike anything I’ve read before (or am likely to read again for a very long time).

Philippa “Pip” and Max Adams are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Their son, Dylan, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at two-and-a-half years old and he’s been in the PICU following treatment. Just when they’re hoping to be able to take him home, they receive worse news: the tumor is back and growing again and the medical staff believe that the best course is to stop treatment and limit their efforts to palliative care. The final decision is up to Pip and Max. But they disagree on what they should do and the issue ultimately ends up in court. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea BobotisEvery once in a while, I read a book that really makes me miss college and the discussions we would have in my English classes and seminars. Andrea Bobotis’ upcoming The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is one of those books. The plot isn’t overly complicated and the characters aren’t particularly compelling, but there is so much to analyze and talk about and right up to the last pages, I found myself surprised by the level of layers the text contains.

Judith Kratt takes immense pride in the house her father built along with everything inside it. As she starts to feel her seventy plus years, she tells Olva (who’s lived at the house with her since her father died) that she is going to make an inventory of everything in the house. But before Judith gets too far in her list, her younger sister Rosemarie reappears after having run away sixty years before, following the death of their brother, Quincy, under circumstances that shook the Kratt family and everyone in their small town of Bound. Her arrival disrupts the household but also brings the newspaperman, Marcus, and his daughter, Amaryllis, into a more prominent place in their lives (Marcus being the great-grandson of the man everyone believes killed Quincy). Judith makes her list, the items in the house bring back memories and stories of those weeks before her brother’s death along with a number of family secrets and the roles they played.

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Book Preview – The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack by H. M. Naqvi

The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack by HM NaqviI can’t remember what it was about the description for H. M. Naqvi’s upcoming novel, The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack that first attracted my attention, and now that I’ve finished reading it, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Abdullah lives at the old family estate, the Lodge, along with his youngest brother (Babu) and that brother’s family. Babu along with two of his other brothers are pushing Abdullah to agree to join them in selling the Lodge (probably to a developer). At seventy years old, however, Abdullah clings to the family homestead having been convinced that he would one day die there as their father did before them. With the hope that his fifth and final brother will side with him, Abdullah works to avoid and thwart his siblings and their plans. At the same time, Abdullah has taken in his friend’s grandson, Bosco, to keep safe while his neighborhood endures a turf war between some local gangsters. Another new acquaintance of Abdullah’s, however, threatens to bring that very turf war to the Lodge when Abdullah meets the enchanting Jugnu and tries to pursue her romantically. Continue reading

Book Preview – Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

Here and Now and Then by Mike ChenI’m a sucker for a good time travel story so the synopsis I read for Mike Chen’s upcoming Here and Now and Then immediately caught my attention. Add a dash of family drama and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. While it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting, that wasn’t a bad thing at all. There was far more attention to the emotional ramifications of everything and less emphasis on the high-stakes thriller side of the story, and for me it worked out better than I initially would have thought.

Kin Stewart works for a secret organization that protects the timelines of history from interference, usually in the form of people hiring mercenaries to rig financial systems in their favor but occasionally from those who would alter history more drastically with assassinations. On one such mission to the mid 1990s, Kin’s retrieval equipment is damaged and he finds himself stranded. With no choice but to wait for his team from 2142 to find him, he clings to what hope he can find. But it’s eighteen years before that retrieval team finally locates him to bring him back and in those intervening years, Kin didn’t hunker down enough. He married and had a daughter whom his bosses now consider timeline corruptions. He has no choice but to go back to his original time and leave the clean-up team to explain his disappearance. Once he’s ‘home’ however, the need to check in on the family he left behind is irresistible and what Kin finds leads to ripples that will put his daughter in danger. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine ArdenI wish I’d had enough time to go back to the beginning of Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy to reread the first two novels before going into the upcoming final novel, The Winter of the Witch… but I also wouldn’t have been patient enough to do that with my preview copy just waiting to be read. I’ll have to settle for rereading all three in a row with the series’ end in mind. While I’m often left a little disappointed by the end of a series, whether it’s the execution or the simple fact it’s over, The Winter of the Witch is too satisfying to even be too disappointed there won’t be more.

This final installment picks up the action precisely where The Girl in the Tower left off, with the aftermath of the fire in Moscow and Father Konstantin looking to find an outlet for the frustrating contradictions growing in his faith—and he quickly locates a suitable target in Vasya. Riling up the people of Moscow who want vengeance for their own losses and suffering, Father Konstantin turns the mob to the terem where Vasya, her sister, and her sister’s children and ladies are recovering from their own ordeal. Vasya turns herself over to save the others, but there are other forces at work seeking to spare her, leaving her to pursue a greater purpose in the larger battles being fought—between the new religion and the older pagan traditions, between the principalities of Russia and the Tatar threat… Continue reading