COVER REVEAL: Corridors of Time by Vinay Krishnan

Blurb:
Corridors of Time tracks the story of a sensitive young man who grows from carefree childhood to eventful manhood – one who stumbles before learning to stride through those dark and dense passages.

Set in Bangalore – a city of paradoxes. of gardens and garbage heaps. of technology and traffic snarls. of friendly people and failing infrastructure. when bungalows had gardens and pavements were meant for pedestrians. this is a narrative of the human spirit.

Rohan, an idealistic young sports lover experiences rejection, dark dejection and isolation and hurtles down the path to self-destruction.

Shyla, attractive and successful is everything his heart yearns for and his body desires, except, she is married!
Chandrika, simple and devoted fails to understand the man she loves.

The shuklas long for justice denied by the system.

And khalid fears nothing and no one …anymore.

About the Author:

Vinay Krishnan describes himself as a ‘complete Bangalorean’. A student of Clarence High School, he graduated in Humanities from St Joseph’s College. Earning a diploma in Business Administration, he began his career at Usha International Ltd and rose to a position of Senior Sales manager. Vinay has now set up a construction firm of his own. He also writes and devotes his time to an NGO assisting people with disability. The city of his dreams, Bangalore, where he stays with his wife and daughter, continues to inspire and exasperate him. He can be reached at – vinaykrshnn@yahoo.com.

Praises for the Book:

The book is simple in style and content, for often it is this simplicity that bewilders and rouses Interest.
~ Shri S . Rajendra Babu, Former Chief Justice of India

The book has excellent literary craftsmanship, passion humour and adventure. Highly recommended.
~ Mr. Namboodiri, former Asst. Editor, Deccan Herald

This charming book about old Bangalore is written in a racy easy-to-read style.
~ Deccan Herald, Bangalore.

This Cover Reveal is brought to you by Author’s Channel in association with b00k r3vi3ws
 
 

 

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Pub Day Repost: Where Night Stops by Douglas Light

Where Night StopsWhere Night Stops

by Douglas Light
eARC, 252 pg.
Rare Bird/Vireo, 2018
Read: January 12 – 13, 2018

She smells of lemons and warm cinnamon and isn’t very pretty. Sliding onto the barstool next to me, she says, “Can I sit here?”

The bartender, the woman, and me — we’re the only people in the bar. She can sit anywhere. It’s not just a seat she wants.

I study her a moment then catch the bartender’s eye, the order is placed without a word. Whatever the woman wants. Alcohol, like long marriages, has a language of its own, one not composed of speech.

Now, that’s how you start a novel.

So, our narrator is orphaned the night after his high school graduation — however odd it may feel to call someone on the cusp of adulthood an orphan, he is one (and the back of the book says so). Suddenly his college dreams, plans for the future are gone, as is his past (other than memories). He finds his way from Iowa to Seattle and takes up residence in a homeless shelter. The closest thing he has to a friend there sets him up with a way to make some money — more than he’d been able to scrape together from an under-the-table gig at a gas station.

It’s obviously not above-board, but it’s good money. What else is a kid with no ties to society, no dreams, no means and nothing better to do? We bounce back and forth between the opening scene (and what follows) in the bar and his burgeoning criminal career. He bounces all of the globe playing small roles in what are likely significant crimes. The resulting story is a combination of tragedy, comedy of errors and Bildungsroman. All of which leads up to a concluding scene that is at once unexpected and the only appropriate thing that could’ve happened.

As a reader. you’re never impressed with our narrator’s choices. You may understand them, but it’s hard to be behind them. Especially because after a certain point, our young man makes a giant mistake. The reader knows this — and has to hope that whatever he does, he figures out his mistake or gets out of this life soon.

The plot’s decent and will carry you along well enough. But it’s not why you will stick with this book (at least not primarily), it’s Light’s writing. In the middle of all this, there are sentences like, “Walking the empty night street, my kidneys rattled with anxiety.” I’m pretty sure this is biologically nonsensical (I haven’t bothered to check with my son’s nephrologist, but I was tempted to), but that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly effective — you know precisely what Light’s going for there, and in the moment, your kidneys felts a little weird. There’s something to his writing that made me stop every so often to re-read a sentence or paragraph or passage — not because I missed something or didn’t understand what was happening, but because Light captured a moment, an idea, or phrase in such an engaging way that I didn’t want to move on.

I’m not sure if this is a very literary thriller, or a literary novel playing with thriller tropes. Nor am I sure that I care, but this is the kind of book that can appeal to both target audiences. It’s a good example of either genre, and a better example of why the distinctions are specious. There’s an interesting crime story here; a character study; a look at what happens to someone who has no connection to his future, society, or his past — oh, and it’s a good read, too.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion about the novel, I appreciate the opportunity, but it didn’t influence the above.

—–

4 Stars

Like a Champion by Vincent Chu

Like a ChampionLike a Champion

by Vincent Chu

eARC, 238 pg.
7.13 Books, 2018

Read: January 31 – February 2, 2018

The man across from Henriette read a book. It was a very big book, a Hunger Games or Game of Thrones kind, with a sword and flame and chess piece on the cover. Dean had never read such a big book. The man was on the very last page and Dean felt guilty suddenly for spying on him during this personal moment, but he did not stop. It was not often, he reasoned, that he would get the opportunity to observe another person at the exact moment they finished a book, a big one at that. But, after the last page, the man, without so much as a satisfied nod or pensive stare, shut the thing and immediately put in his iPhone buds. This disappointed Dean.

That’s just one of any number of paragraphs throughout these stories that don’t advance the plot, reveal or describe much in the way of character — but man, the little bit of flavor they add to the story makes it worth it. And don’t you just want to shake the man who finished the book by the shoulders and ask what is wrong with him? The guy appears for one paragraph, and I have a strong reaction to him. With short stories, you don’t typically get to do that kind of thing the way you can with novels, because every word has to count — and typically, that’s what Vincent Chu does, but every now and then, he stretches a bit. Typically, like the best short fiction writers, Chu gets his bang for his buck when it comes to his words — tight, economical prose that strikes just the right tone each time.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Like a Champion is a collection of eighteen short stories featuring all sorts of people — underdogs in one sense or another — getting a taste of victory. Some of this victory is very short-lived, some is quite Pyrrhic, but it’s there. The stories are varied in tone, in voice, in setting, in types of character — and that’s such a strength. Some will make you smile, some laugh, some are sad, some are tragic, some are somber, all are incredibly human.

There’s a lot I could talk about — if I could, I’d spend a few hundred words on “Squirrels”, the fourth story in the collection. I don’t know why, but that one sealed me appreciation for this book, and it stands out as a high point for me. There’s just something about it that worked for me, the same kind of thing that lead me to write three papers for three separate courses in college about one Updike short story. There were a couple of other stories that I could point to that were as as outstanding, but I’ll stick with “Squirrels” — a story about one man’s childhood basketball triumph in the midst of defeat — because I enjoyed it more.

With one exception (at least one that I noticed, I might have missed others), these are independent of each other. The two stories that are connected are so different in tone and subject matter that it takes you by surprise when you notice the connection — but it really works (and the connection is of a lesser importance, that not much changes if you don’t make the connection). It was a nice little touch, I would’ve liked a part three, however.

I’m not crazy about Chu’s depiction of older characters. Maybe if I only got one of the stories in this collection featuring an older character — I wouldn’t have commented. Or if I took a few more days to read this than I did, it wouldn’t have stood out to me as much, but when you get the same note or two being played so often with elderly characters it sticks out.

I don’t usually spend much time talking about the publisher of the books I post about, but when it comes to some indie presses, I should. A couple of months ago, I know I posted a link to a profile of 7.13 Books in a Saturday Miscellany, and before that I talked about another short story collection they put out. And come to think of it, I have one more book from them on my schedule in the coming weeks. If Like a Champion is indicative of what they are publishing (and it seems to be), there’s something in the water there, folks, keep an eye out for their books.

Like with every collection — be it full of short stories, essays, poems — there are some in this collection that don’t work for me — two because I didn’t get what he was going for; a couple that I’m pretty sure I got what he was going for, and just didn’t care for it. And I’m very sure that many people will get those I didn’t and will like the ones I didn’t care for — and even dislike the stories that I enjoyed, and maybe even someone’s nuts enough to not care for the ones that filled me with joy. There’s enough variety in these to appeal to all sorts of tastes — and that’s a compliment, Chu’s nothing if not versatile. But on the whole, this is a great collection of short stories, full of compassion, humanity, and talent. You’d do well to grab this one.

Note: I received a copy of this eARC in exchange for my honest opinions as expressed above.

—–

4 Stars

Profane Fire at the Altar of the Lord by Dennis Malley

Revised after being inspired by a comment from Bookstooge to talk about something I really should’ve included initially.

Profane Fire at the Altar of the LordProfane Fire at the Altar of the Lord

by Dennis Maley


Kindle Edition, 314 pg.
Jublio, 2018

Read: January 19 – 23, 2018


Infamous papal indulgence-seller, Tetzel is falling out of favor with the German people — which means economic trouble for him, as well as those he’s paying to assist him. One such person is David, a little person (“dwarf” in sixteenth-century eyes), a con man, juggler, and entertainer. He gets himself in some legal trouble and draws upon his dubious ethnicity and a character he played to some success in the past and convinces the court that he’s a member of one of the Lost Tribe of Israel, living in Arabia, sent to Europe to secure partners in a new Crusade. To stay out of legal trouble, he has to embark on a tour of various cities to try to recruit the help of assorted kings, bankers and Bishops of Rome. Along the way, David finds a kindred spirit in Diogo, a womanizing actor hiding out as a deckhand on a merchant ship. Diogo joins David as an assistant, translator, and more.

The backdrop to these antics is a loose survey of early sixteenth-century history of Europe — the politics, diplomacy, and wars the characterize the relations between France, Spain, England, the Holy Roman Empire, German princes, German peasants, and the Popes. As I said, it’s a loose recounting, told mostly in summary form with a conversational tone.

Watching these two lie, deceive and sneak their way through the hearts and purses of Europe is a good time. I could have used a couple of female characters that were better drawn, but David and Diogo are an amusing pair. At one point, a rift between the two arises and one of them begins to believe their own press (among other things) and their lives get more interesting.

Despite the title, there’s really nothing that is satirical about religion — true believers, anyway. David and Diogo are shown as scoundrels throughout. Tetzel’s appearance is fairly matter-of-fact about what he did, Tyndale and Luther are mentioned frequently, but only for what they actually did (true, colored by popular mis-characterizations of their work, but not done to insult/defame/mock them). The various Popes and Cardinal Wolsey are discussed in terms of their political machinations (mostly having to do with becoming/staying Pope). When it comes to people of actual religious belief (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Jewish or Kabbalistic), Maley is pretty-hands off, he doesn’t comment at all about the belief — yeah, several people are duped by these scoundrels, but that doesn’t mean that their faith isn’t real.

In the Acknowledgements, the author states that this “book’s purpose is to entertain. The standard of its scholarship is low. I am not a historian.” It’d be nice if that came before the text, so I didn’t spend so much time hemming and hawing about some of the history/depictions of historical characters.

Actually, now that I mention it — this novel would’ve been stronger without all the historical ramblings — yes, they were amusingly told. But it added nothing to the story. Not just because as a reader, you need to take his history with a generous helping of salt; but all the history primarily served to distract the reader and detract from the story of these con men. Yes, some of it — some — was helpful for some context, but the other 97-95% of the historical material could have been excised to help the rest of the novel.

Nevertheless, this was a funny story with some amusing characters. This wasn’t a typical religious-fraud satire, although it easily could’ve been — and that’s to be commended. Like many satires, Maley had some trouble toward the end and the plot threatened to get away from him — but he was able to bring things back into shape by the conclusion, which is a pretty neat trick, too. Flawed, but entertaining, it’s worth a shot.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion in this post. I thank him for the shot.

—–

3 Stars

The Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your Mother by Preston Randall

The Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your MotherThe Unbelievable Story of How I Met Your Mother

by Preston Randall
Kindle Edition, 40 pg.
BookRix, 2016

Read: January 20, 2018


Daniel Zurenski is 40 (or so) and lives in the same basement room he’s been in since he moved out of the crib, he has an okay job (not that many coworkers are aware he exists, but the job is okay), and is pretty out-of-shape. He seems to be an all-right guy who maybe has a problem with emotional eating, zero love life, and a less-than-healthy attachment to his mother. He’s on a little bit of a fitness kick at the moment — he ran a 5K with people from his office a few weeks back and now finds himself signed up for the city marathon.

But before he can get there, comedy strikes. Poor Daniel. But ultimately, good for Daniel (see the title, you know it’s going to have a happy ending). But before the good, comes a lot of . . . well, things he can laugh about later — and the reader can laugh at now.

Before we get to that, however, we have to get through some more character introductions, which are really just ways for Randall to set up some dominoes to knock over when the time is right. This is done pretty well, at a certain point, you understand just what he’s setting things up for, and the details approach overkill. But stay with him — they’re really not that bad, and everything he sets up has a purpose. Once he starts knocking over dominoes, it’s all worth it.

The humor is gross, quite simply. And very slap-sticky. But if you can handle the gross, and enjoy the slap-stick, it’s really well done (not the easiest thing in the world to pull off, either). And then after the slap-stick comes the title event, which is nice. I think the epilogue-esque material could lose a couple of paragraphs and be better off for it, but that’s a minor quibble.

It’s short, it’s cute, it’s more narratively satisfying than another recent work with a similar title. Randall’s short story is worth the time, give it a shot.

—–

3 Stars

Where Night Stops by Douglas Light

Where Night StopsWhere Night Stops

by Douglas Light

eARC, 252 pg.
Rare Bird/Vireo, 2018

Read: January 12 – 13, 2018

She smells of lemons and warm cinnamon and isn’t very pretty. Sliding onto the barstool next to me, she says, “Can I sit here?”

The bartender, the woman, and me — we’re the only people in the bar. She can sit anywhere. It’s not just a seat she wants.

I study her a moment then catch the bartender’s eye, the order is placed without a word. Whatever the woman wants. Alcohol, like long marriages, has a language of its own, one not composed of speech.

Now, that’s how you start a novel.

So, our narrator is orphaned the night after his high school graduation — however odd it may feel to call someone on the cusp of adulthood an orphan, he is one (and the back of the book says so). Suddenly his college dreams, plans for the future are gone, as is his past (other than memories). He finds his way from Iowa to Seattle and takes up residence in a homeless shelter. The closest thing he has to a friend there sets him up with a way to make some money — more than he’d been able to scrape together from an under-the-table gig at a gas station.

It’s obviously not above-board, but it’s good money. What else is a kid with no ties to society, no dreams, no means and nothing better to do? We bounce back and forth between the opening scene (and what follows) in the bar and his burgeoning criminal career. He bounces all of the globe playing small roles in what are likely significant crimes. The resulting story is a combination of tragedy, comedy of errors and Bildungsroman. All of which leads up to a concluding scene that is at once unexpected and the only appropriate thing that could’ve happened.

As a reader. you’re never impressed with our narrator’s choices. You may understand them, but it’s hard to be behind them. Especially because after a certain point, our young man makes a giant mistake. The reader knows this — and has to hope that whatever he does, he figures out his mistake or gets out of this life soon.

The plot’s decent and will carry you along well enough. But it’s not why you will stick with this book (at least not primarily), it’s Light’s writing. In the middle of all this, there are sentences like, “Walking the empty night street, my kidneys rattled with anxiety.” I’m pretty sure this is biologically nonsensical (I haven’t bothered to check with my son’s nephrologist, but I was tempted to), but that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly effective — you know precisely what Light’s going for there, and in the moment, your kidneys felts a little weird. There’s something to his writing that made me stop every so often to re-read a sentence or paragraph or passage — not because I missed something or didn’t understand what was happening, but because Light captured a moment, an idea, or phrase in such an engaging way that I didn’t want to move on.

I’m not sure if this is a very literary thriller, or a literary novel playing with thriller tropes. Nor am I sure that I care, but this is the kind of book that can appeal to both target audiences. It’s a good example of either genre, and a better example of why the distinctions are specious. There’s an interesting crime story here; a character study; a look at what happens to someone who has no connection to his future, society, or his past — oh, and it’s a good read, too.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion about the novel, I appreciate the opportunity, but it didn’t influence the above.

—–

4 Stars

My Favorite Fiction of 2017

Is he ever going to stop with these 2017 Wrap Up posts? I know, I know…I’m sick of them. But I’ve already done most of the work on this one, I might as well finish…Also, it was supposed to go up Friday, but formatting problems . . .

Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1. Also, none of these are re-reads, I can’t have everyone losing to my re-reading books that I’ve loved for 2 decades.

I truly enjoyed all but a couple of books this year (at least a little bit), but narrowing the list down to those in this post was a little easier than I expected (‘tho there’s a couple of books I do feel bad about ignoring). I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½-Star books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

(in alphabetical order by author)

In The StillIn The Still

by Jacqueline Chadwick
My original post

Chadwick’s first novel is probably the most entertaining serial killer novel I’ve ever read. Without sacrificing creepiness, suspense, horror, blood, guts, general nastiness, and so on — she gives us a story with heart, humor and humanity. The second novel, Briefly Maiden is arguably better, but I liked this one a teensy bit more — and I’m genuinely nervous about what’s going to happen in book 3 (not that I won’t read it as soon as I possibly can).

4 1/2 Stars

The Hangman's Sonnet Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet

My original post

How do you possibly follow-up 2016’s Debt to Pay, especially with that ending, without dramatically altering the Jesse Stone flavor? I’m still not sure how Coleman did it, but he did — Jesse’s dealing with Debt to Pay in a typically self-destructive way, but is keeping his head mostly above water so he can get his job done, mostly by inertia rather than by force of will. Reflexes kick in however, and while haunted, Jesse can carry out his duties in a reasonable fashion until some friends and a case can push him into something more.

Coleman’s balancing of long-term story arcs and character development with the classic Jesse Stone-type story is what makes this novel a winner and puts this one on my list.

4 1/2 Stars

A Plague of GiantsA Plague of Giants

by Kevin Hearne

This sweeping — yet intimately told — epic fantasy about a continent/several civilizations being invaded by a race nobody knew existed is almost impossible to put into a few words. It’s about people stepping up to do more than they thought possible,more than they thought necessary, just so they and those they love can survive. It’s about heroes being heroic, leaders leading, non-heroes being more heroic, leaders conniving and failing, and regular people finding enough reason to keep going. It’s everything you want in an epic fantasy, and a bunch you didn’t realize you wanted, too (but probably should have).

5 Stars

Cold ReignCold Reign

by Faith Hunter

My original post
Hunter continues to raise the stakes (yeah, sorry, couldn’t resist) for Jane and her crew as the European Vamps’ visit/invasion gets closer. Am not sure what’s more intriguing, the evolution in Jane’s powers or the evolution of the character — eh, why bother choosing? Both are great. The growth in the Younger brothers might be more entertaining — I appreciate the way they’ve become nearly as central to the overall story as Jane. I’m not sure this is the book for new readers to the series, but there are plenty before it to hook someone.

5 Stars

Once Broken FaithOnce Broken Faith

by Seanan McGuire
My original post

Poor planning on my part (in 2016) resulted in me reading two Toby Daye books this year, both just excellent, but this one worked a little bit better for me. Oodles and oodles of Fae royalty and nobility in one spot to decide what they’re going to do with this elf-shot cure leading to a sort-of closed room mystery (it’s just a really big, magical room) with peril on all side for Toby and her found family.

5 Stars

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness
My original post

There were so many ways this could’ve been hacky, overly-sentimentalized, brow-beating, or after-school special-y and Ness avoids them all to deliver a heart-wrenching story about grief, death, love, and the power of stories — at once horrifying, creepy and hopeful.

4 1/2 Stars

Black and BlueBlack and Blue

by Ian Rankin
My original post

Rankin kicked everything into a higher gear here — there are so many intricately intertwining stories here it’s hard to describe the book in brief. But you have Rebus running from himself into mystery after mystery, drink after drink, career-endangering move after career-endangering move. Unrelenting is the best word I can come up with for this book/character/plot — which makes for a terrific read.

5 Stars

SourdoughSourdough

by Robin Sloan
My original post

This delightful story of a programmer turned baker turned . . . who knows what, in a Bay Area Underground of creative, artisanal types who will reshape the world one day. Or not. It’s magical realism, but more like magical science. However you want to describe it, there’s something about Sloan’s prose that makes you want to live in his books.

Do not read if you’re on a low carb/carb-free diet. Stick with Sloan’s other novel in that case.

4 1/2 Stars

The Hate U Give (Audiobook)The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas, Bahni Turpin (Narrator)

My original post

This was a great audiobook –and I can’t imagine that the text version was as great, I just didn’t have time for it. It’s the story about the aftermath — socially, personally, locally, nationally — of a police shooting of an unarmed black male as seen through the eyes of a close friend who was inches away from him at the time.

I think I’d have read a book about Starr Carter at any point in her life, honestly, she’s a great character. Her family feels real — it’s not perfect, but it’s not the kind of dysfunctional that we normally see instead of perfect, it’s healthy and loving and as supportive as it can be. The book will make you smile, weep, chuckle and get angry. It’s political, and it’s not. It’s fun and horrifying. It’s . . . just read the thing. Whatever you might think of it based on what you’ve read (including what I’ve posted) isn’t the whole package, just read the thing (or, listen to it, Turpin’s a good narrator).

5 Stars

The ForceThe Force

by Don Winslow
My original post

There may be better Crime Fiction writers at the moment than Don Winslow, but that number is small, and I can’t think of anyone in it. In this fantastic book, Winslow tells the story of the last days of a corrupt, but effective (in their own corrupt and horrible way), NYPD Task Force. Denny Malone is a cop’s cop, on The Wire he’s be “real police” — but at some point he started cutting corners, lining his pockets (and justifying it to himself), eventually crossing the line so that he’s more “robber” than “cop.” Mostly. And though you know from page 1 that he’s dirty and going down, you can’t help get wrapped up in his story, hoping he finds redemption, and maybe even gets away with it.

But the book is more than that. In my original post I said: “This book feels like the love child of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities and Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy. You really feel like you understand how the city of New York is run — at least parts of it: the police, elements of the criminal world, and parts of the criminal justice system. Not how they’re supposed to run, but the way it really is. [Winslow] achieves this through a series of set pieces and didactic pericopes.”

A police story, a crime thriller, a book about New York — oh, yeah, possibly the best thing I read last year.

5 Stars

There were a few that almost made the list — almost all of them did make the Top 10 for at least a minute, actually. But I stuck with the arbitrary 10 — these were all close, and arguably better than some of those on my list. Anyway, those tied for 11th place are: <

Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey (my original post), Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (my original post), Briefly Maiden by Jacqueline Chadwick (yes, again) (my original post), The Twisted Path by Harry Connolly (my original post), Bound by Benedict Jacka (my original post), The Western Star by Craig Johnson (my original post), The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire (see? Another Toby Daye) (my original post), The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh (my original post), Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells(my original post).