Nobel Prize for literature announced

In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.
― William Blake

The Nobel Prize for literature has just been announced recently and we were very pleased to see one of our favourite modern writers Olga Tokarczuk was one of the reciprocates. Known for her dreadlocked look, staunch ecological, feminist stances and lets not forget her mind expanding exceptional books.  Olga Tokarczuk  has courted controversy with Nationalist elements of her home country.  As her books have on occasion dealt with some of the uncomfortable moments in her countries past. Indeed her publishers have had to hire bodyguards to protect her from right wing threats.

Flights her book loosely about travel in all its forms, both to places beyond and within ourselves, propelled her to international fame and acclaim. It had taken ten years from the Polish publication of Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead  (her William Blake infused Eco thriller) to be translated into English. Her most recent work, The Books of Jacob a 1000 page historical epic, though published in Poland in 2014 and already winning Poland’s highest literary honour, will not be fully translated into English until 2021, her English translator saying she is working flat out to deliver it by then. Olga Tokarczuk recently pondered if her life would have been easier if her works had been translated into English earlier.

Both Flights and Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead are available to borrow from our libraries but alas unless you speak polish we, like everyone else, will have to wait till 2021 before we can get to read The Book of Jacob. Enjoy.

Syndetics book coverDrive your plow over the bones of the dead / Olga Tokarczuk ; translated from the Polish by Antonia Llyod-Jones.Server ErrorYour request could not be completed.Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel
” Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead takes place in a remote Polish village, where Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, she becomes involved in the investigation. Duszejko is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars, and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake, from whose work the title of the book is taken.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary) Also available as an eBook.

Syndetics book coverFlights / Olga Tokarczuk ; translated by Jennifer Croft.Flights
“Flights is a series of imaginative and mesmerising meditations on travel in all its forms, not only the philosophy and meaning of travel, but also fascinating anecdotes that take us out of ourselves, and back to ourselves.Olga Tokarczuk brilliantly connects travel with spellbinding anecdotes about anatomy, about life and death, about the very nature of humankind.  Many consider Tokarczuk to be the most important Polish writer of her generation and Flights is one of those rare books that seems to conjure life itself out of the air.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary. )Also available as an eBook.

Overdrive cover Poems, William Blake (ebook)
SELECTED AND INTRODUCED BY PATTI SMITH
William Blake is one of Britain’s most fascinating writers, who, as well as being a groundbreaking poet, is also well known as a painter, engraver, radical and mystic. Although Blake was dismissed as an eccentric by his contemporaries, his powerful and richly symbolic poetry has been a fertile source of inspiration to the many writers and artists who have followed in his footsteps. In this collection Patti Smith has collected together her personal selection of Blake’s poems, including the complete poems from the famous Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, to give a singular picture of this unique genius. (Overdrive description)

October’s Science Fiction and Fantasy showcase

I like the truth, even when it does trouble me.
― Juliet Marillier, Wildwood Dancing

Our latest crop of newly acquired science fiction and fantasy books  feature a wide variety of novels that can loosely be described as epic space operas, fantasy novels with vast sweeping kingdoms steeped in ancient magic, steam punk and urban fantasy. And also feature a child Empress and an exciting fantasy fiction debut “The tigers daughter” .  And to top it all we have bestselling New Zealand author Juliet Marillier’s latest highly anticipated historical fantasy outing The harp of kings.  In which a young woman warrior bard goes on a for dangerous mission to recover a missing ancient harp. Enjoy!

The harp of kings / Marillier, Juliet
“Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies. Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The cruel stars / Birmingham, John
” The galaxy was once terrorized by the Sturm, a group of “species purists” intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements. Fashioning themselves as the one true “Human Republic,” the Sturm cut a bloody swath across the stars, killing billions before finally being defeated and driven into the far reaches of Dark Space. Centuries of peace bred complacency. Everyone believed the Sturm had died out in the Dark. They were wrong. The enemy has returned and five flawed, reluctant heroes must band together to prevail against a relentless enemy and near-impossible odds.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Reticence / Carriger, Gail
” Percival Tunstell loves that his sister and her best friend are building themselves a family of misfits aboard their airship, the Spotted Custard. Of course, he’d never admit that he belongs among them. He’s always been on the outside – dispassionate, aloof, and hatless. But accidental spies, a trip to Japan, and one smart and beautiful doctor may have him renegotiating his whole philosophy on life. Except hats. He’s done with hats. Thank you very much.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The first girl child / Harmon, Amy
”  Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok. Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk. Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The ten thousand doors of January / Harrow, Alix E
“In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world and the mystery behind a magical door in this captivating debut. In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe sword saint / C. F. Iggulden.
“Cities have been broken before. Empires have fallen. But this is the end of an age.
The city of Darien’s power has grown, but not without a price. Victory has drawn the gaze of a fierce enemy from the North. The Feal Empire is determined to claim Darien’s magic and use it to take the throne. With nowhere else to turn, the twelve families enlist the help of the Sword Saint. Alongside five outcasts – a gambler, a hunter, a young thief, a sorceress and a battle-scarred warrior – the sword saint must travel into the very heart of the invading army. Darien was once the Empire of Salt’s greatest stronghold – now it will be the final battleground. And the Sword Saint their last hope.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The Phoenix Empress / Rivera, K. Arsenault
“Since she was a child, the divine empress O Shizuka has believed she was an untouchable god. When her uncle, ruler of the Hokkaran Empire, sends her on a suicide mission as a leader of the Imperial Army, the horrors of war cause her to question everything she knows. Thousands of miles away, the exiled and cursed warrior Barsalyya Shefali undergoes trials the most superstitious would not believe in order to return to Hokkaran court and claim her rightful place next to O Shizuka.  As the distance between disgraced empress and blighted warrior narrows, a familiar demonic force grows closer to the heart of the empire. Will the two fallen warriors be able to protect their home?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The tiger’s daughter / Rivera, K. Arsenault
“The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach–but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 

The 2019 Booker Prize winners are Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo!

To leave a whisper of myself in the world, my ghost, a magna opera of words.

― Bernardine Evaristo, The Emperor’s Babe

Just another day in the life of Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.  Or perhaps not, as judges break the rules to jointly award the two authors the 2019 Man Booker Prize! Both Atwood and Evaristo were hotly tipped to win, and judges said they just couldn’t come to a final call so they decided to break tradition and jointly award the prize. Congratulations both!

Syndetics book coverThe testaments / Margaret Atwood.
“** Joint winner of the  2019 BOOKER PRIZE **
“More than 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot. At this crucial moment, the lives of three women converge. Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice–a woman who wields power through secrets.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary) Also available as an Ebook.

Syndetics book coverGirl, woman, other / Bernardine Evaristo.
“”** Joint winner of the  2019 BOOKER PRIZE **
“Teeming with life and crackling with energy – a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood. Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary) Also available as an Ebook. 

Miss Marple to Mma Ramotswe: Books to Read after Agatha Christie

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.
– Agatha Christie

Ever since she was first published, Agatha Christie has been one of the most heavily borrowed authors in the world. But what do you do when you run out of Agatha’s to read? Which authors can you turn to to fill the gap? Don’t fret–help is at hand! Below is our selection of authors who we feel in some aspect fill the Christie gap. And as you can see, some are old, some are new, some are well known and some less so–but all we think are marvelous! Enjoy.

Gunpowder plot : a Daisy Dalrymple mystery / Dunn, Carola
“A magazine assignment takes a murderous turn for intrepid sleuth, the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher, in this delightful new addition to Dunn’s mystery series, set in 1920s England. Martins Press. In 1924 Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher travels to a friend’s home to witness the estate’s famous Guy Fawkes celebration. However, she gets more than she bargained for – family tensions, murder and an apparent suicide.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Malice at the palace / Bowen, Rhys
“The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and the Queen wants Georgie to be her companion: showing her the best of London and dispelling any rumors about George’s libertine history. The prince is known for his many affairs with women as well as men including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when one of his supposed mistresses is murdered. The Queen wants the whole matter hushed.” (Catalogue)

Swing, brother, swing / Marsh, Ngaio
“Lord Pastern and Baggot is a classic English eccentric, given to passionate, peculiar enthusiasms. His latest? Drumming in a jazz band. His wife is not amused, and even less so when her daughter falls hard for Carlos Rivera, the band’s sleazy piano player. Aside from the young woman, nobody likes Rivera very much, so there’s a wealth of suspects when he is shot during a performance. Happily, Inspector Alleyn is in the audience.” (Catalogue)

The seagull / Cleeves, Ann
“A visit to her local prison brings DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy: former detective superintendent, and now inmate, John Brace. Brace was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper – and Vera played a part in his downfall. Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious wheeler-dealer, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Saturday big tent wedding party / McCall Smith, Alexander
“As the countdown to Mma Makutsi’s wedding begins, all is not as it should be at the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. While investigating unpleasant occurrences on a southern cattle-post, Mma Ramotswe has reason to reflect on Rule No.3 of The Principles of Private Detection: never lie to the client. But as friends and family gather under starry African night skies, it turns out that even the most perplexing of apparitions – and the most shocking of crimes – may yield to rational explanation.” (Catalogue)

The monogram murders / Hannah, Sophie
“Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffee house is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done. Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at the fashionable Bloxham Hotel have been murdered, a cufflink placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman?” (Adaptede from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The unexpected inheritance of Inspector Chopra / Khan, Vaseem
“On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries. The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant. As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought.” (Catalogue)

Talent for murder / Wilson, Andrew
“The details of Agatha Christie’s sudden disapperance in the winter of 1926 remain unknown. What actually happened to her in those ten days? In his new novel Andrew Wilson tells a compelling story about what may have happened.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Afrofuturism in the world of music

Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation. ‘I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,’ says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator and Afrofuturist.”

― Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

One of the most exciting genres emerging in science fiction, film, art and music at the moment is Afrofuturism. But whilst this dynamic and rather fabulous genre is having a real explosion of creativity, it’s by no means new. Indeed especially in the world of music Afrofuturism has a long and distinguished past, commonly accepted as emerging in the music world in the 1950s. This blog is a very brief look at some of Afrofuturism’s key musical proponents both old and new.

One of the first musical explorers in this universe was the legendary jazz musician Sun Ra. In the late 1950s Sun Ra created his own new synthesis of jazz, designed to reflect and link both the leading edge of the space age and African culture–especially that of African Egypt.

His ideas were taken up in the 1970s in the funk world by George Clinton’s funk outfits Parliament and Funkadelic. Reggae and hip hop also embraced these ideas, with artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Scientist and Afrika Bambaataa. And in the world of rock, Jimi Hendrix was also regarded by some reviewers as an Afrofuturist.

In the 21st century artists as diverse as Solange, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and the Wu-Tang Clan have been influenced by this movement, with perhaps  Janelle Monáe the best known for embracing the genre. Enjoy!


Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
“Fire’s positive and negative associations are referenced by many of Ellison’s other collaborators here. While the album begins with a crackle and ends with a poetic epilogue about its lasting effects, fire’s role in the album elsewhere is either nonexistent or negligible.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Dirty computer. / Monae, Janelle
“Monáe and her Wondaland partners twist and flip new wave-leaning pop with booming bass drums and rattling percussion. They transmit defiant jubilance in response to those ‘from the traphouse to the White House who make the lives of little brown girls so damn hard.’ Almost every track is densely packed with quotables delivered in approaches that shift from easygoing elegance to hard-fought, triumphant conviction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
“‘Inclues Cricket on the moon’, ‘Run evil spirit’, ‘Let it rain’, ‘House of angels’, ‘Makumba rock’, ‘African starship’, ‘Kill them dreams money worshippers’, ‘Children of the light’ and ‘Autobiography of the upsetter’.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Spores, Don’t Even Breathe: our interview with Douglas Parker – Part One

We recently had the pleasure of a surprise visit from Wellington-born writer Douglas Parker. His book Spores, Don’t Even Breathe has been gathering some fabulous reviews from readers: as one said, “A cracking good read–easy yet gripping”. It’s always good to see a new author emerge, and when we heard that NaNoWriMo had been a key part of his creative journey to publication we just couldn’t resist an interview. So here for your delight, edification and enjoyment is part one of our interview with Douglas Parker. Enjoy!

You finished your first draft of the novel in 30 days based on the “No plot, no worries” approach and were involved with NaMoWriMo (which Wellington City Libraries is also involved in). Could you elaborate on the process and advantages of writing so quickly?

I had always wanted to write a novel, but I assumed I would have to dedicate myself to it exclusively, and for a long time. A mortgage, full time job, and family commitments prevented that.

Then I happened across the NaNoWriMo book, No Plot, No Problem. With its promise of completing a first draft in 30 days it was too good to ignore. In the book I found a no-nonsense, practical approach that was clearly based on years of experience. Thousands of people had done this already, so why not me?

The thing that attracted me most to the NaNoWriMo approach was its determinedly anti-perfectionist stance. The book has many practical tips about writing, and writing fast. But for me the best piece of advice was “don’t get it right, get it written!” Accepting at the start that whatever I wrote, I knew it needed to be worked on after the 30 days were up.

This had the wonderful effect of freeing me from worrying that my writing might not be ‘good enough’. Whenever my mind wandered in that direction, I could remind myself that all I had to do was be creative and write something. I could decide later if it was any good or not.

The NaNoWriMo challenge was to complete a 50,000 word first draft in 30 days. At the end of the 30 days I had 65,000 words, but I was nowhere near the end of the story. So I’d succeeded on one measure, but failed on the other.

Family and friends were very supportive, but when the 30 days were up, they deserved some attention. So I continued to work at a slower pace and after three months I reached the end of my first draft.

My wife was the first person to read it. She disappeared for a whole day and on returning announced “It’s just like a real book!” I took that as a compliment, I’d been trying to write a real book, and perhaps I’d succeeded.

Could you perhaps go way back and tell us about the creative origins of Spores, Don’t Even Breathe?

My wife grew up in California, a hot and dry climate. She loves New Zealand, but to her it seems cold and damp. She often comments on the mildew, and I will often reply with comments like “watch out for the spores!” So when I was looking for a topic, spores were one of the first things that came to mind.

We had also recently been through the bird flu ‘epidemic’. This was accompanied by a lot of misinformation in the news media and a good dose of outright fear-mongering from them, politicians and businesses with products to sell.

If you want to manipulate people, fear is a powerful tool. What could be scarier than invisible spores, floating in the air. To catch them, all you have to do is breathe.

As for my characters, I adopted the NaNoWriMo approach and largely left them up to chance. I only made broad decisions about them before I started to write them in. My main goal was to make the story interesting. A novel is entertainment more than anything else.

I decided on small town U.S.A. for a setting and the Chief of Police for my main character. When folks start dyin’ of them spores, well the Chief of Police has got to be involved. I made the chief a woman, simply because I thought that would be more interesting than yet another story about men running around and saving the world.

The other characters came about the same way, always just trying to keep the mix interesting.

Did you have internal conversations with your characters when you were in the writing phase? If not, what process do you use to generate dialogue?

I found the writing process to be surprisingly visual so I found myself watching my characters rather than talking to them. I usually knew where I wanted the story to go, so I’d just sit and imagine them heading off in that direction, then I’d do my best to write down what they’d done.

Sometimes this was easy. Sometimes it was very difficult to find the right words to describe what I’d imagined and lots of frustrating re-writing would result.

A superb cornucopia of Scandi Noir, cosy crime and other mystery gems in this month’ s mystery fiction showcase

Everything you do leaves traces, doesn’t it. The life you’ve lived is written all over you, for those who can read.”
― Jo Nesbø, Flaggermusmannen

The ever popular crime genre of Scandi Noir is well represented in this month’s recently acquired mystery fiction showcase with newly acquired books by Scandi Noir luminaries Anne Holt and Jo Nesbo. There are also some new delicious Cosy crime novels by Rebecca Tope and Susan Wittig Albert. And to round up this month’s acquisitions we also have the remarkable critically lauded masterpiece of modern writing Drive your plow over the bones of the dead by Man Booker Prize winning Polish author Olga Tokarczuk. Enjoy


Knife / Nesbø, Jo
” KNIFE sees Harry Hole waking up with a ferocious hangover, his hands and clothes covered in blood. Not only is Harry about to come face to face with an old, deadly foe, but with his darkest personal challenge yet. The twelfth instalment in Jo Nesbo?s internationally bestselling crime fiction series.” (Catalogue)

Overdrive coverA grave for two / Holt, Anne
“Selma Falck’s personal life and career as a lawyer have hit rock bottom. That is until Hege Chin Morell – Norway’s best female skier – approaches her desperate to overturn a doping charge. With two months to the Winter Olympics, Selma faces the seemingly almost impossible task of clearing Morell’s name. However, when a male skier is found dead after a training accident, it becomes clear to Selma that there is something more serious at risk.  As Selma’s race against time begins, she realizes that more lives are at stake.” (Adapted from Catalogue)Also available as an eBook.

Syndetics book coverSecrets in the Cotswolds / Rebecca Tope.
“Thea Slocombe is struggling to entertain her stepchildren through the long summer holiday while her husband Drew works, so she keenly accepts a new job house-sitting in Barnsley. However, her commission proves to be far from relaxing when she stumbles across a woman hiding among some bushes. The woman’s story is thin and incoherent, but Thea agrees to offer her sanctuary for the night.When her guest is found dead the next morning Thea turns to the police for help. As she digs deeper into the deceased’s background, she discovers a tangled web of lies, secrets and at least three very likely suspects …” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

A plain vanilla murder / Albert, Susan Wittig
“​China and Ruby Wilcox are presenting their annual “Not Just Plain Vanilla Workshop,” always a huge hit with customers at Thyme & Seasons Herb Shop. But someone involved with the workshop is driven by a deadly motive, and China soon finds herself teaming up with the very pregnant Pecan Springs police chief Sheila Dawson to solve a vanilla-flavored murder. There’s no shortage of other suspects: a betrayed lover, a disgruntled graduate student, jealous colleagues, and a gang of orchid smugglers. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead / Tokarczuk, Olga
” Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead takes place in a remote Polish village, where Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, she becomes involved in the investigation. Duszejko is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars, and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake, from whose work the title of the book is taken. ” (Catalogue)  Also available as an eBook.

Syndetics book coverThe shameless / Ace Atkins.The Shameless
” Twenty years ago, teenager Brandon Taylor walked into the Big Woods north of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, and never returned. For former Army Ranger-turned-sheriff Quinn Colson, the Taylor case has particular meaning. As a ten-year-old, Colson had been lost in those same woods, and came back from them alive and a local legend. Years later, bones of a child are found in the woods, confirming for many the end to the Taylor story.  Quinn’s search for answers will upset the corruption that’s plagued his home since before he came back from Afghanistan. ” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Love and death among the cheetahs / Bowen, Rhys
“Georgie is excited when Darcy announces out of the blue that they are flying to Kenya for their extended honeymoon. It is only after they arrive that she suspects he has actually been sent there on an assignment. Shocked at the completely decadent lifestyle that involves wild parties and rampant infidelity. One of the leading lights in the community, Lord Cheriton, is found dead along a lonely stretch of road.  It seems the Happy Valley community wants to close the case, but as Georgie and Darcy investigate, almost everyone has a motive to want Lord Cheriton dead.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Palm Beach, Finland / Tuomainen, Antti
“Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village–the “hottest beach in Finland.” The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our latest Science Fiction and Fantasy showcase of newly acquired books.

“Well, all information looks like noise until you break the code.”
– Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

With the 2019 Hugo award nominees recently announced and it now being just under a year until the Hugo awards ceremony here in Wellington at CoNZealand, it is great to see two newly acquired science fiction and fantasy books that have connections to the Hugos. The first is Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik which is on the 2019 Hugo long list. The second is Mercedes Lackey’s Eye Spy. Mercedes Lackey is one of the guests of honour at CoNZealand next year.

There were lots of other new titles that caught our attention including the continuing rise of the awesome Afro Futurism genre as represented in this month’s list by Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection. There is also Neal Stephenson’s latest magnum opus Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, described by the New York Times no less as “a staggering work of imagination”. And as if that wasn’t enough two new books from acknowledged fantasy masters Stephen Donaldson and Tad Williams as well as a whole plethora of other science fiction and fantasy goodies to enjoy.

Overdrive cover Spinning Silver / Novik, Naomi (print) (eBook)
“Miryem was brought up in a snowbound village, on the edge of a charmed forest. She comes from a family of moneylenders, but her kind father shirks his work. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, his family faces poverty – until Miryem intercedes. Hardening her heart, she sets out to retrieve what’s owed, and her neighbours soon whisper that she can turn silver into gold. Then an ill-advised boast attracts the cold creatures that haunt the wood. Nothing will be the same again, for words have power.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Eye spy / Lackey, Mercedes
“In this second installment of the Family Spies series, set in the bestselling world of Valdemar, the children of Heralds Mags and Amily must follow in their parents’ footsteps to protect the realm. When Abi senses the imminent collapse of a bridge only moments before it happens, she saves countless lives, including that of her best friend, Princess Katiana. The experience, though harrowing, uncovers her unique Gift–an ability to sense the physical strains in objects.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Rosewater insurrection / Thompson, Tade
“All is quiet in the city of Rosewater as it expands on the back of the gargantuan alien Wormwood. Those who know the truth of the invasion keep the secret. The government agent Aminat, the lover of the retired sensitive Kaaro, is at the forefront of the cold, silent conflict. She must capture a woman who is the key to the survival of the human race. But Aminat is stymied by the machinations of the Mayor of Rosewater and the emergence of an old enemy of Wormwood…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fall, or, Dodge in hell : a novel / Stephenson, Neal
Fall, or Dodge in Hell is pure, unadulterated fun: a grand drama of analog and digital, man and machine, angels and demons, gods and followers, the finite and the eternal. In this exhilarating epic, Neal Stephenson raises profound existential questions and touches on the revolutionary breakthroughs that are transforming our future. Combining the technological, philosophical, and spiritual in one grand myth, he delivers a mind-blowing speculative literary saga for the modern age.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The war within / Donaldson, Stephen R
“It has been twenty years since Prince Bifalt of Belleger discovered the Last Repository and the sorcerous knowledge hidden there. At the behest of the repository’s magisters, and in return for the restoration of sorcery to both kingdoms, the realms of Belleger and Amika ceased generations of war. But an ancient enemy has discovered the location of the Last Repository, and a mighty horde of dark forces is massing to attack the library and take the magical knowledge it guards. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Empire of grass / Williams, Tad
“The kingdoms of Osten Ard have been at peace for decades, but now, the threat of a new war grows to nightmarish proportions. Their allies in Hernystir have made a pact with the dreadful Queen of the Norns to allow her armies to cross into mortal lands. The ancient, powerful nation of Nabban is on the verge of bloody civil war, and the fierce nomads of the Thrithings grasslands have begun to mobilize, united by superstitious fervor and their age-old hatred of the city-dwellers.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Exhalation / Stories / Chiang, Ted (print) (eBook)
“This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Triumphant / Campbell, Jack (print) (eBook)
“The recently colonized world of Glenlyon has learned that they’re stronger when they stand with other star systems than they are on their own. But after helping their neighbor Kosatka against an invasion, Glenlyon has become a target. An attack is launched against Glenlyon’s orbital facility with forces too powerful for fleet officer Rob Geary to counter using their sole remaining destroyer, Saber. Mele Darcy’s Marines must repel repeated assaults while their hacker tries to get into the enemy systems to give Saber a fighting chance.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Agatha Christie meets the Tour de France in our latest fiction mysteries showcase

“It’s incredible… Many Colombians have tried before, we’ve had great cyclists in the past. But I’m the first one to win the Tour! Colombia deserves it.” – Egan Bernal 2019 Tour de France winner.

With the 2019 Tour de France over and the first ever Colombian rider Egan Bernal winning the race, it is very timely that Mexican author Jorge Zepeda Patterson has just released an Agatha Christiesque murder mystery, where riding for the coveted yellow jersey takes a deadly turn. Other intriguing new acquisitions in this month’s showcase include The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – a compendium of tales of fictional detectives that were written during the same era as the deer stalker-topped sleuth. We also have a new novel by top Scottish crime writer Alex Grey as well as new works by R.J. Ellory and Katherine Hall Page.

The black jersey : a novel / Zepeda Patterson, Jorge
“Marc Moreau, a professional cyclist with a military past, is part of a top Tour de France team led by his best friend, an American star favored to win this year’s Tour. But the competition takes a dark turn when racers begin to drop out in a series of violent accidents: But as the victim count rises, the number of potential murderers–and potential champions–dwindles.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The rivals of Sherlock Holmes : the greatest detective stories: 1837-1914
“If “Rue Morgue” was the first true detective story in English, the title of the first full-length detective novel is more hotly contested. Two books by Wilkie Collins–The Woman in White (1859) and The Moonstone (1868)–are often given that honor, with the latter showing many of the features that came to identify the genre: a locked-room murder in an English country house; bungling local detectives outmatched by a brilliant amateur detective; a large cast of suspects and a plethora of red herrings; and a final twist before the truth is revealed.” (Catalogue)

The darkest goodbye / Gray, Alex
“When newly fledged DC Kirsty Wilson is called to the house of an elderly woman, what appears to be a death by natural causes soon takes a sinister turn when it is revealed that the woman had a mysterious visitor in the early hours of that morning – someone dressed as a community nurse, but with much darker intentions. As Kirsty is called to another murder she finds herself pulled into a complex case involving vulnerable people and a sinister service that offers them and their loved ones a ‘release’.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Three bullets / Ellory, Roger Jon
“It was the shot heard around the world. On 22nd November 1963, John F. Kennedy’s presidential motorcade rode through Dealey Plaza. But what if it missed? Mitch Newman is a photojournalist based out of Washington, D.C. His phone never rings. When it does, a voice he hasn’t heard in years will tell him his former fiancée Jean has taken her own life. Jean was an investigative reporter working the case of a lifetime. Somewhere in the shreds of her investigation is the truth behind her murder.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The body in the wake / Page, Katherine Hall (print) (eBook)
“For the first time in years, Faith Fairchild has time for herself. Her friend Sophie Maxwell is also spending the summer on Sanpere Island, hoping for distractions from her worries that she isn’t yet pregnant.  Faith has her hands full. And that’s before a body with a mysterious tattoo and connections far away from small Sanpere Island appears in the Lily Pond. Once again, Faith will get to the bottom of this strange case–and whip up a delicious blueberry buckle on the side.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Girls like us / Alger, Cristina
“FBI Agent Nell Flynn hasn’t been home in ten years. When Martin Flynn dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she grew up to spread her father’s ashes and close his estate. At the behest of her father’s partner, Detective Lee Davis, Nell becomes involved in an investigation into the murders of two young Latina women in Suffolk County. The further Nell digs, the more likely it seems to her that her father should be the prime suspect.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A summer of murder / Bottini, Oliver
“When the local fire brigade is called to a burning farm shed, a volunteer is killed as a weapons cache beneath it explodes. Louise Bonì, back with Freiburg Kripo after a period of withdrawal, is assigned to the task force dealing with the case. The meagre evidence they gather points to a possible connection with German neo-Nazis or illegal arms dealers from the former Yugoslavia, but the appearance of secret service agents marking out the forest suggests more is at stake.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The roadhouse / McGinnis, Kerry
“When aspiring actress Charlie Carver learns that her cousin Annabelle has died, she immediately leaves Melbourne to fly home. The reunion, however, is interrupted when Molly suffers a heart attack. With her mother airlifted out for life-saving surgery, Charlie is left to take the reins of the struggling family business. The authorities declare Annabelle to have taken her own life, but when a woman’s body turns up at an abandoned mine site, Charlie begins to wonder what else is being covered up, and why.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Toni Morrison: a Personal Reflection

After the recent death of Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, our fiction selector Neil reflects on his memorable meeting with the literary great.

Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison has died at the age of 88. Many years ago I had the great privilege of running a book signing event for one of her novels. What I best remember is the way she could communicate to her audience even the darkest of events with great humanity and compassion. Though it was a long time ago, I can still recall how her presence lit up the room and how the audience hung rapt on every word she said.

Born in 1931, she said to biographers “Storytelling was part of family life.” After gaining a master’s degree at Cornell University she started a teaching and editing career before publishing her first novel, The Bluest Eye in 1970. What followed was a remarkable stream of stunning works, with razor sharp dissections of slavery and racism and their consequences for individuals and society. She was awarded just about every literary award available, including the Nobel Prize, the French Legion of Honour and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In our ever more divided world, her messages about the corrosive power of racism and slavery are as powerful and important as they ever were. For more reflections on Toni Morrison, visit The Guardian tribute page.