Popular fiction reads over Christmas and New Years

The Survivors book cover

The holidays give us license to read for pleasure, having time to deep dive into fictional realities gives our hearts and minds a chance to explore different worlds and new experiences. It’s time to catch up on the titles people have been talking about, explore some new directions in fiction, or return to old favourites.

So Wellingtonians, what were the top reads over the holidays? The titles below are ranked from the most popular by issues.

Syndetics book coverTranscription / Kate Atkinson.
“In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHeads you win / Jeffrey Archer.
“Alexander Karpenko is no ordinary child, and from an early age, it is clear he is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, he and his mother will have to escape from Russia if they hope to survive. At the docks, they are confronted with an irreversible choice in a single moment, a double twist decides Alexander’s future. During an epic tale of fate and fortune, spanning two continents and thirty years, we follow his triumphs and defeats as he struggles as an immigrant to conquer his new world. As this unique story unfolds, Alexander comes to realize where his destiny lies, and accepts that he must face the past he left behind in Russia.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSnap / Belinda Bauer.
“On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long. But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever. Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe midnight line / Lee Child.The Midnight Line
“Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan. The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And return her ring. The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes. Turns out the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain. Powerful forces are guarding a vast criminal enterprise. Some lines should never be crossed. But then, neither should Reacher.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLess : a novel / Andrew Sean Greer.
“Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. Arthur decides he can’t witness the nuptials of his (still adored) younger lover and avoids the event by piecing together an around-the-world “ramshackle itinerary” of book-related gigs and a short teaching stint. Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.”(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStill me / Jojo Moyes.Still Me
“Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life. Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you find the courage to follow your heart–wherever that may lead?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverParis echo / Sebastian Faulks.
“Here is Paris as you have never seen it before – a city in which every building seems to hold the echo of an unacknowledged past, the shadows of Vichy and Algeria. American postdoctoral researcher Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq have little in common, yet both are susceptible to the daylight ghosts of Paris. Out in the migrant suburbs, Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. For him in his innocence each boulevard, Metro station and street corner is a source of surprise. In this urgent and deeply moving novel, Faulks deals with questions of empire, grievance and identity. With great originality and a dark humour, Paris Echo asks how much we really need to know if we are to live a valuable life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArcadia / Di Morrissey.
“A breathtaking Tasmanian tale of ancient forests; of art and science; of love and, above all, of friendship. In the 1930s, in an isolated and beautiful corner of southern Tasmania, a new young wife arrives at her husband’s secluded property – Arcadia. Stella, an artist, falls in love with Arcadia’s wild, ancient forest. And when an unknown predator strikes, she is saved by an unusual protector. Two generations later, Stella’s granddaughter, Sally, and her best friend, Jessica, stumble over Stella’s secret life in the forest and find themselves threatened in turn. What starts as a girls’ adventurous road trip becomes a hunt for the story of the past, to solve the present, and save their future. A modern mystery born in a timeless Tasmanian forest, from Australia’s favourite storyteller.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Survivors / Kate Furnivall.
“Germany, 1945. Klara Janowska and her daughter Alicja have walked for weeks to get to Graufeld Displaced Persons camp. In the cramped, dirty, dangerous conditions they, along with 3,200 others, are the lucky ones. They have survived and will do anything to find a way back home. But when Klara recognises a man in the camp from her past, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins. He knows exactly what she did during the war to save her daughter.
She knows his real identity. What will be the price of silence? And will either make it out of the camp alive?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrom the ashes / Deborah Challinor.
“Auckland, 1956. Allie Manaia works at Smith and Caughey’s department store. It’s been two years since the Dunbar and Jones fire, where some of her friends perished, but she still has nightmares. Allie’s neighbours have recently moved to suburban Auckland. Ana, now a housewife, misses her work on the farm, but she has her hands full, looking after her increasingly forgetful father-in-law. Kathleen Lawson – rich, lonely and bored – is one of Allies’ customers at the make-up counter. Kathleen takes a shine to Allie, but when she discovers Allie’s husband is Maori, Kathleen’s attitude changes. Sonny’s beautiful younger sister, Polly, is living a vibrant but wayward life as a waitress-model-goodtime girl while leaving her young daughter to be raised by her mother. Then one day Polly disappears.” (Syndetics summary)

 

Great picture books about friendship

Starting school and making friends can be scary. These fantastic books show how kindness makes everything better!

Mae’s first day of school / Berube, Kate
“From the author/illustrator of Hannah and Sugar comes a back-to-school tale about facing your fears As Mae’s first day of school approaches she decides she IS. NOT. GOING. School is scary What if the other kids don’t like her? Or what if she’s the only one who doesn’t know how to write? Or what if she misses her mom? Mae’s anxiety only builds as she walks to school. But then she meets Rosie and Ms. Pearl. Will making new friends show her that they can conquer their fears together?” (Catalogue)

Adrian Simcox does not have a horse / Campbell, Marcy
“Adrian Simcox brags about owning a horse, and Chloe just knows he’s making stuff up…until she learns an important lesson in empathy”– Provided by publisher.” (Catalogue)

Maddie’s first day / Matthews, P. E.
“It is Maddie’s first day of school and she has everything ready – her uniform, shoes, socks and hat. But there is one special thing that Maddie can’t leave behind – her blanky! Award winners Penny Matthews and Liz Anelli team up to bring us this wonderful picture book about the excitement of going to “big” school for the first time.” (Catalogue)

I walk with Vanessa : a story about a simple act of kindness / Kerascoët
“An elementary school girl witnesses the bullying of another girl, but she is not sure how to help. After talking with her friends she decides to act. A very simple story about the difference one child can make.” (Catalogue)

From far away / Munsch, Robert N.
“The classic story of an immigrant child adjusting to her new home, now with new illustrations. Askar immigrated with her family from war-torn Lebanon when she was seven years old. This picture book tells the story of how she must adjust to her new home in Canada. An ideal book to help kids empathize with immigrant children whose experiences are very similar to Askar’s. Full color.” (Catalogue)

The secret sky garden / Sarah, Linda
“A startlingly original book,  about a garden grown on an old car park roof, with beautiful illustrations by Fiona Lumbers.
Funni loves the old, disused car park, and spends a lot of time there flying her kite and playing her recorder. But something is missing. Definitely. So Funni decides to create a garden in the neglected space and after weeks of careful nurture, her garden in the sky takes shape. One day, a little boy, Zoo, spots the square of colour amongst the grey from an incoming flight, and decides to try to find it. And slowly, not only do Funni’s flowers bloom, but a very special friendship blossoms too.” (Catalogue)

Kindness is cooler, Mrs. Ruler / Cuyler, Margery
“When Mrs. Ruler asks five of her kindergarteners to miss recess, she’s got a special plan up her sleeve. She’s about to teach a new golden rule: KINDNESS IS COOL. Soon the entire class is doing so many good deeds that their kindness bulletin board barely fits their classroom. From clearing the table after dinner, to helping the elderly, one kindergarten class is proving that kids really can make a difference. Count along with Mrs. Ruler’s class. Can all their good deeds really add up to 100 acts of kindness?Acclaimed picture book author Margery Cuyler will inspire children of all ages to have a heart and save the world” (Catalogue)

Mermaid School / Wetzel, JoAnne
“Molly enjoys her first day at Mermaid School, where she makes new friends, learns new things, and hears a story about children with no tails. A rhyming story about starting school” (Catalogue)

Some of the novels we are looking forward to reading in 2019

The Rosie Result book cover

“…her own experience was beginning to tell her that an alert old age can be more keen than the cards.”
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

As we gaze into the crystal ball to see what literary delights are in store for us in 2019, there are already a few novels that we are very excited about, emerging from the tea leaves. These include the following:

Margaret AtwoodThe Testaments (a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale).
We don’t know much about this book but what we do know makes it one of the most anticipated books of 2019. What we know is that it is a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and it’s set fifteen years after the final scene of that book.

Joanne HarrisThe Strawberry Thief.
She shot to fame and wide spread popularity with her 1999 novel  “Chocolat”  this book is the fourth book in that sequence and it has been a long seven years since the third installment Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure came out.

Ian McEwanMachines Like Me .
Ian McEwan’s new book is a subversive re-imagining of 80’s Britain  in which the UK has lost the Falklands war and Alan Turing has developed sophisticated AI.

Mark HaddonThe Porpoise.
Coincidentally, it’s also been seven years since Mark Haddon last released a novel. In his new outing The Porpoise he finds inspiration from the world of Ancient Greece during its golden age and bases his new novel around the statesman, orator and general of Athens, Pericles.

Graeme SimsionThe Rosie Result.
The third instalment of the international bestselling comic series in which geneticist Don Tillman searches for love looks sure to please his legions of fans.

Jeanette WintersonFrankisstein.
Jeanette Winterson reworks Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for the 21st Century. Examining as she goes along gender, sexuality, technology and identity. Written, we are told, in Winterson’s unique unflinching style.

Tracy ChevalierThe Single Thread.
There’s not much released about this title yet but going from Chevalier’s track record it should be a major highlight of 2019.

Ali SmithSpring.
Spring is the  third installment of Ali Smith’s  much loved and acclaimed Seasonal Quartet cycle.

Soren SveistrupThe Chestnut Man.
Sveistrup, is the creator and writer of the award winning  Scandi Noir crime series  The Killing TV series. So expect super clever and unexpected plot twists and much Scandinavian bleakness.

Chigozie ObiomaAn Orchestra of Minorities.
From the Man Booker finalist and author of “The Fishermen” this novel  follows a Nigerian farmer on a quest to find love with the woman he loves.

Samanta SchweblinMouthful of Birds.
Schweblin’s Fever Dream was variously described as “rivetingly compelling”,”brilliant” and “terrifying”. This collection of twenty short stories is her first to be  translated into English and promises to be another eerie, surreal, dark thrill ride.

But if you can’t wait for these books to come out here is a selection of these authors’ previous works which are already published, and in the library just waiting to be discovered. Enjoy.

Syndetics book coverThe handmaid’s tale / Margaret Atwood
“The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and a tour-de-force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAtonement / Ian McEwan ; with an introduction by Claire Messud
“On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony’s sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge. By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had never before dared to approach and will have become victims of the younger girl’s scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will color her entire life.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe curious incident of the dog in the night-time / Mark Haddon.
“Fifteen-year-old Christopher has a photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can’t understand are other human beings. When he finds his neighbor’s dog lying dead on the lawn, he decides to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But what other mysteries will he end up uncovering?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFive quarters of the orange / Joanne Harris.
“Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake – but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liqueur, plies her culinary trade at the creperie – and lets memory play strange games.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Rosie project / Graeme Simsion.
Funny and heartwarming, a gem of a book.” (Marian Keyes)
A first-date dud, socially awkward, and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, Don Tillman has given up on love. Until a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire – a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire – to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling. And looking for her biological father – a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with. The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy like no other. It is arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, and it will make you want to drink cocktails.”(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOranges are not the only fruit / Jeanette Winterson.
“This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, intoxicating and tender, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a journey to the bizarre outposts of religious excess and an exploration of love.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lady and the unicorn / Tracy Chevalier.
“Set over the period 1490 to 1492, Tracy Chevalier’s novel moves between a chateau in Lyons and the cities of Paris and Brussels. The story concerns a series of six Flemish tapestries known as the lady and the unicorn tapestries.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWinter / Ali Smith.
“In Ali Smith’s Winter, life force matches up to the toughest of the seasons. In this second novel in her acclaimed Seasonal cycle, the follow-up to her sensational Autumn, Smith’s shape-shifting quartet of novels casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens- art, love, laughter.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fishermen : a novel / Chigozie Obioma.
“In a small town in western Nigeria, four young brothers – the youngest is nine, the oldest fifteen – use their strict father’s absence from home to go fishing at a forbidden local river. They encounter a dangerous local madman who predicts that the oldest brother will be killed by another. This prophesy breaks their strong bond, and unleashes a tragic chain of events of almost mythic proportions.
Passionate and bold, The Fishermen is a breathtakingly beautiful novel, firmly rooted in the best of African storytelling.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFever dream : a novel / Samanta Schweblin ; translated by Megan McDowell.
“A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Why I love picture book biographies : a librarian’s tale

This year, my daughter grabbed a book off the shelf in the children’s non-fiction section that I was sure was too old for her — and I was completely wrong. The book my daughter fell in love with is the first one pictured below — Shark Lady, about scientist Eugenie Clark.

One of the wonderful (and special) things about picture book biographies, is how approachable they make their subjects. The protagonists in the books below start as girls a bit older than my daughter — and that’s how she imagines them, not as fully formed women who’ve done amazing things (which would be much more intimidating). These stories are approachable and aspirational, and hopeful — and I love them for it, and hope you have a happy time sharing them too!

For more book recommendations about inspirational girls in many different fields (including many picture book biographies), the website A Mighty Girl is a great place to visit.

This is the book my daughter loves — she still talks about Eugenie, and the illustrations are beautiful:

Syndetics book coverShark lady : the true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean’s most fearless scientist / written by Jess Keating ; illustrations by Marta Álvarez Miguéns.
“This is the story of a woman who dared to dive, defy, discover, and inspire. This is the story of Shark Lady. Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary–and they didn’t think women should be scientists. Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLittle dreamers. Visionary women around the world / Vashti Harrison.
“Meet the little leaders. They’re brave. They’re bold. They changed the world. Featuring the true stories of 40 inspirational women creators – from writers to inventors, artists to scientists – this book is as inspirational as it is educational. Readers will meet trailblazing women such as revolutionary architect, Zaha Hadid, actor/inventor Hedy Lamarr, environmental activist Wangari Maathai, modernist painter and animator Mary Blair and physicist Chien-Shiung Wu. Some names will be familiar, some will not – but all these women had a lasting impact on their fields.” (Syndetics summary)

Below is a book I hope to share soon with my daughter — find out more about Margaret Hamilton here. The fact that this is illustrated by graphic novelist Lucy Knisley is just icing on the cake:

Syndetics book coverMargaret and the Moon : how Margaret Hamilton saved the first Lunar Landing / by Dean Robbins ; illustrated by Lucy Knisley.
“Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world. Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8. Apollo 9. Apollo 10. Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed. Dean Robbins and Lucy Knisley deliver a lovely portrayal of a pioneer in her field who never stopped reaching for the stars.” (Syndetics summary)

Half a Creature from the Sea: eBook Fiction for the Holidays!

Perfume eBook cover

When the food is done and the relatives have gone and you’ve finally cleaned away the dishes, the best bit of the holidays can finally begin: reading all your new books! But you don’t want to read just any book, you need one with the proper spirit–and that’s exactly what we’ve included in this list! From the snowy solstice of The Dark is Rising to the family politics of The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, each of these titles has a hint of holiday magic. Enjoy!

Overdrive cover The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper
“It is Midwinter’s Eve, the night before Will’s eleventh birthday. But there is an atmosphere of fear in the familiar countryside around him. Will is about to make a shocking discovery – that he is the last person to be born with the power of the Old Ones, and as a guardian of the Light he must begin a dangerous journey to vanquish the terrifyingly evil magic of the Dark.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
“Malcolm Polstead’s Oxford life has been one of routine, ordinary even. He is happiest playing with his daemon, Asta, in their canoe. But now as the rain builds, the world around Malcolm and Asta is, it seems, set to become increasingly far from ordinary. Finding himself linked to a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua, Malcolm is forced to undertake the challenge of his life and to make a dangerous journey that will change him and Lyra for ever…” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, by Joshua Braff
“It’s 1977. Jacob Green, a Jewish kid from suburban New Jersey, sits on the stairs during his family’s housewarming party, waiting for his father, Abram—charming host, everyone’s best friend and amateur emcee—to introduce him to the crowd. But when the confetti settles and the drapes are drawn, the affable Abram Green becomes an egotistical tyrant whose emotional rages rupture the lives of his family.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Johnny and the Dead, by Terry Pratchett
“Not many people can see the dead (not many would want to). Twelve-year-old Johnny Maxwell can. And he’s got bad news for them: the council want to sell the cemetery as a building site. But the dead have learnt a thing or two from Johnny. They’re not going to take it lying down . . . especially since it’s Halloween tomorrow. Besides, they’re beginning to find that life is a lot more fun than it was when they were . . . well . . . alive.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
“Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Perfume, by Patrick Süskind
“In 18th century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, immorality or wickedness, but because his sole ambition was restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: scent.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
“Grady Tripp is an over-sexed, pot-bellied, pot-smoking, ageing wunderkind of a novelist now teaching creative writing at a Pittsburgh college while working on his 2,000-page masterpiece, Wonder Boys. When his rumbustious editor and friend, Terry Crabtree, arrives in town, a chaotic weekend follows – involving a tuba, a dead dog, Marilyn Monroe’s ermine-lined jacket and a squashed boa constrictor.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover Half a Creature from the Sea–A Life in Stories, by David Almond
“An anthology of dark, powerful and moving short stories from master storyteller David Almond, inspired by his childhood in the north-east of England. These stories take place in a real world – but in fiction, real worlds merge with dreamed worlds. Real people walk with ghosts and figments. Earthly truth goes hand-in-hand with watery lies.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Overdrive cover The Other Wind, by Ursula K. Le Guin
“The sorcerer Alder fears sleep. He dreams of the land of death, of his wife who died young and longs to return to him so much that she kissed him across the low stone wall that separates our world from the Dry Land-where the grass is withered, the stars never move, and lovers pass without knowing each other. The dead are pulling Alder to them at night. Through him they may free themselves and invade Earthsea.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

Fresh words from far off places

Tropic of Violence book cover

Translated books can telescope the reader through to different cultures and eras; the English language seems so prolific, but it’s only one way the creative word is crafted. Many authors’ works don’t reach the English language audience until many years after publication.

Japanese award-winning author Mariko O’Hara is one such author — her Haiburiddo Chairudo was lauded in Japan back in 1991, with the Seiun Award for the best Japanese speculative fiction of the year. Finally translated in 2018 for the English reading audience, Hybrid child (link and review below) pivots on ideas of monstrosity and innocence, and is the first English translation of a major work of science fiction by a female Japanese author.

Slovenian author Jasmin Felih is another author whose book is just reaching an English language audience, albeit with a shorter publication gap — her book In/Half (below) was first published in 2013 and explores the way people connect and rely on using current communication systems, looking at three fragmented lives after ‘the Great Cut’.

Who we really bring into a relationship, and how the tensions of love and duty play out are the subject of Berta Isla, by Javier Marais, translated from Spanish (linked below).

In a totally different vein, Eva Meijer — a Dutch author, musician and philosopher — explores how, for some, human interaction is not a main driver. Her novel Bird Cottage is based on the figure of Gwendolen “Len” Howard, and is a fictional account of a turning point in her life. An accomplished musician, she pivots from life as a concert violinist to a solitary existence documenting her observations of the common birds that surround her cottage. Her musical background leads her to record their song as musical notation and she devotes herself to describing every aspect of the avian life around her. Perhaps most enigmatically, her two books on the subject — written in solitude — were bestsellers.

We’ve included these and other recently published titles in translation below. In January 2019 we will be further exploring the rich and diverse world of translated fiction in a special fiction showcase — ‘Not lost in translation’. We hope you enjoy this preview!

Hybrid child : a novel / Mariko Ōhara ; translated by Jodie Beck.
“A classic of Japanese speculative fiction that blurs the line between consumption and creation when a cyborg assumes the form and spirit of a murdered child. With the familiar strangeness of a fairy tale, Ohara’s novel traverses the mysterious distance between body and mind, between the mechanics of life and the ghost in the machine, between the infinitesimal and infinity. The child as mother, the mother as monster, the monster as hero: this shape-shifting story of nourishment, nurture, and parturition is a rare feminist work of speculative fiction. Hybrid Child is the first English translation of a major work of science fiction by a female Japanese author.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn/Half / Jasmin B. Frelih ; translated from the Slovenian by Jason Blake.
“Twenty-five years into the future, a glitch in the global communications network is ripping a previously united world apart at the seams. The millennials find themselves hardest hit, trapped in a crumbling world they did not want – among them childhood friends Evan, an addict theatre director; Kras, a family patriarch and ex-war-minister; and Zoja, an anarchist poet. As they each prepare to celebrate their fiftieth birthdays, the friends desperately try to recapture the magic of their former lives and hold on to some sort of sense of belonging. With its experimental style and sharp focus on the contradictions of modernity, In/Half is a powerful statement on the perils of the future.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe day I found you / Pedro Chagas Freitas ; Translated form the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
“The restaurant is crowded and noisy. The man sits by the window, watching the grey sky, bored, as he is every Monday morning. Suddenly he turns and she’s there, standing in front of him. Years have passed since he last saw her, since the day he left, without an explanation, without a reason. With his intimate, almost whispered style, Pedro Chagas Freitas takes the reader on a journey to explore the deepest layers of their feelings and to discover the truth about love; the kind of love that touches, grabs and thrills you, that discovers and conceals, that wounds and heals, that seizes you and sets you free.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBerta Isla / Javier Marías ; translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
“For a while, she wasn’t sure that her husband was her husband. Sometimes she thought he was, and sometimes not. Berta and Tomas meet in Madrid and, though both young, they decide to spend their lives together. Eighteen and betrothed, Tomas leaves to study at Oxford. His talent for languages quickly catches the interest of a certain government agency. After university he returns to marry her, knowing he won’t be able to stay for long. Gripping and intricate, Berta Isla is about a relationship built on secrets and lies – and the equal forces of resentment and loyalty at its core.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTropic of Violence / Nathacha Appanah, translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan.
“Marie, a nurse on the island of Mayotte, adopts an abandoned baby and names him Moïse, raising him as a French boy. As he grows up, Moïse struggles with his status as an “outsider” and to understand why he was abandoned as a baby. Narrated by five different characters, Tropic of Violence is an exploration of lost youth on the French island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean. Shining a powerful light on problems of violence, immigration, identity, deprivation and isolation on this island that became a French département in 2011, it is a remarkable, unsettling new novel that draws on the author’s own observations from her time on Mayotte.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBird cottage / Eva Meijer ; translated by Antoinette Fawcett.
“Len Howard, the daughter of a famous poet, and a successful concert violinist was forty years old when she decided to devote the rest of her life to her true love: birds. She bought a small cottage in Sussex, where she wrote two international bestsellers, astonishing the world with her observations on the tits, robins, sparrows and other birds that lived in and around her house, and would even perch on her shoulder as she typed. This moving, finely crafted novel tells the story of a remarkable woman’s life and loves, and of how she defied society’s expectations and changed our understanding of bird behaviour. It is also a wonderful evocation of the English countryside and the joy that can come from a living, breathing relationship with the natural world around us.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFour soldiers : a novel / Hubert Mingarelli ; translated from the French by Sam Taylor.
“Hubert Mingarelli’s simple, powerful, and moving stories of men in combat have established him as one of the most exciting new voices in international fiction. In Four Soldiers he tells the story of four young soldiers in 1919, members of the Red Army during the Russian civil war. It is set in the harsh dead of winter, just as the soldiers set up camp in a forest in Galicia near the Romanian front line. Due to a lull in fighting, their days are taken up with the mundane tasks of trying to scratch together what food and comforts they can find, all the time while talking, smoking, and waiting. Waiting specifically for spring to come. Waiting for their battalion to move on. Waiting for the inevitable resumption of violence.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe second rider / Alex Beer ; translated from the German by Tim Mohr.
“Most of the remaining population of Vienna–a city scarred by World War I in which the grandeur of the Habsburg Empire is a fading memory–is surviving by its wits, living hand to mouth in a city rife with crime, prostitution, and grotesquely wounded beggars. There are shakedowns on every street corner, the black market is the only market, and shortages of vital goods create countless opportunities for unscrupulous operators. Into this cauldron of vice comes Inspector August Emmerich, a veteran himself, whose ambitions lead him to break the rules when necessary and whose abiding wish is to join the Viennese major crimes unit. When a corpse is found in the woods outside the city and immediately labeled a suicide, Emmerich, convinced it was nothing of the sort, sees a chance to prove his mettle. His investigations will reveal an insidious and homicidal urge lurking in the city.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Katharina code / Jørn Lier Horst ; translated by Anne Bruce.
“Set between the icy streets and dark forests of Norway, The Katharina Code is a heart-stopping story of one man’s obsession with his coldest case. Twenty-four years ago Katharina Haugen went missing. All she left behind was her husband Martin and a mysterious string of numbers scribbled on a piece of paper. Every year on October 9th Chief Inspector William Wisting takes out the files to the case he was never able to solve. Stares at the code he was never able to crack. And visits the husband he was never able to help. But now Martin Haugen is missing too.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverE.E.G. / Daša Drndić ; translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth.
“Andreas Ban failed in his suicide attempt. Even as his body falters and his lungs constrict, he taps on the glass of history – an impenetrable case filled with silent figures – and tries to summon those imprisoned within. Mercilessly, fearlessly, he continues to dissect society and his environment, shunning all favours as he goes after the evils and hidden secrets of others. History remembers the names of perpetrators, not of the victims.” (Syndetics summary)

WCL’s Most Wanted of 2018

It’s that time of year for us to unveil the most wanted of 2018! Check out the top 10 most read books by the whole city of Wellington. Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children’s and Young Adult – here are your favourites.

Fiction

This year was all about thrillers for Wellington readers with Lee Child and John Grisham taking out 1st and 3rd place for most borrowed books, and newcomer A.J Finn sweeping in to take 2nd place for the most read fiction titles this year! For a fuller list broken down by genre and hand picked by our Fiction team check out ‘Ring out the old, ring in the new: the best novels of 2018!’.

Non-Fiction:

Drawn out takes the number 1 spot this year followed closely by Chelsea Winter’s and Dr Libby’s cookbooks coming in at 2nd and 3rd place. The top 10 was dominated by cookbooks with only few exceptions including the international best-seller Fire & Fury and local favourite Nikau Cafe by Kelda Hains.

Children’s

Children’s author Jeff Kinney takes out our number one place with his book the Last Straw and a further 7  places of our Top 10 this year, with popular children’s author Andy Griffiths managing to squeeze in for 2 spots taking out 6th and 10th place. For any parent this year’s top 10 will come as no surprise to see that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and those multi-storied tree houses are as popular as ever!

Young Adult Fiction

Movie adaptions have dominated the Young Adult top 10 this year with 7/10 either out or coming out any minute included on the list, with classics classics like  The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games remaining in the top 10 for another year! John Green’s new novel has taken the coveted number 1 spot though, with Mortal Engines following closely behind in second place spurred on by the upcoming release of Peter Jackson’s new action packed film and The Maze Runner taking out 3rd place.

Biographies

New Zealand author Diana Wichtel has taken the 1st place for Biographies 2018 with her book Driving to Treblinka with fellow NZ author Lilia Tarawa coming in 5th place with her book Daughter of Gloriavale. 2nd place went to the ever popular Educated : a memoir by Tara Westover with Shaun Bythell’s hilarious account The diary of a bookseller rounding out the top 3.

eBooks

Bestsellers dominated the eBook top 10 list this year with Margaret Atwoods The Handmaid’s Tale tand Lee Child’s The Midnight Line taking out 2nd and 3rd place respectively, but they couldn’t take the crown of 1st place from the charming little memoir Flat Broke with Two Goats from Jennifer McGaha, the only non-fiction book to make the ebook Top 10!

Overdrive cover Overdrive cover Overdrive cover

Stay tuned for the Best of 2018 – eLibrary edition… Coming Soon!

 

 

Ring out the old, ring in the new: the best novels of 2018!

“Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos… to celebrate a world that lies spread out around us like a bewildering and stupendous dream.” ― John Cheever

As the old year draws to a close and the new year begins it’s a good time to take stock of the best fiction releases of 2018. To do this, we’ve created a list of 100 books that we regard as amongst the finest releases of the year. We’ve selected titles from across the fiction spectrum, from science fiction to mysteries, best sellers to award-winners and all points in between. Amongst them is a growing trend of popular and commercially-successful books whose world views, ideas and perspectives originate from non-western backgrounds. China and the Middle Eastern countries were particularly strong, especially with books like Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif, Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk and Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri.

There have also been a few names who have either burst onto the fiction scene or have cemented their reputation, like Anna Burns with her Booker Prize-winning novel Milkman or Sally Rooney with Normal People. And finally we’ve seen some well-established writers creating masterful works like All This by Chance by Vincent O’Sullivan or Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.

All in all it’s been a fascinating and exciting year–roll on 2019!

Syndetics book coverRed birds / Mohammed Hanif.
“An American pilot crash lands in the desert and takes refuge in the very camp he was supposed to bomb. Hallucinating palm trees and worrying about dehydrating to death isn’t what Major Ellie expected from this mission. Still, it’s an improvement on the constant squabbles with his wife back home.
In the camp, teenager Momo ‘s money-making schemes are failing. His brother left for his first day at work and never returned, his parents are at each other’s throats, his dog is having a very bad day, and an aid worker has shown up wanting to research him for her book on the Teenage Muslim Mind.” (Adapted from  Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrankenstein in Baghdad : a novel / Ahmed Saadawi ; translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright.
” From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi–a scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local café–collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed.” (Adapted from  Syndetics summary)

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 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)

Syndetics book coverEmpire of sand / Tasha Suri.
” Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s  Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy. The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.”  (Adapted from  Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMilkman / Anna Burns.Milkman
In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.” (Adapted from  Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNormal people / Sally Rooney.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness.” (Adapted from  Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAll this by chance / Vincent O’Sullivan.
“If we don’t have the past in mind, it is merely history. If we do, it is still part of the present. Esther’s grandparents first meet at a church dance in London in 1947. Stephen, a shy young Kiwi, has left to practise pharmacy on the other side of the world. Eva has grown up English, with no memory of the Jewish family who sent their little girl to safety. When the couple emigrate, the peace they seek in New Zealand cannot overcome the past they have left behind. Following the lives of Eva, her daughter Lisa and her granddaughter Esther, All This by Chance is a moving multigenerational family saga about the legacy of the Holocaust and the burden of secrets never shared, by one of New Zealand’s finest writers.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWarlight / Michael Ondaatje.Warlight: A Novel
“London, 1945. The capital is still reeling from the war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister Rachel are abandoned by their parents who leave the country on business, and are left in the dubious care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. Nathaniel is introduced to The Moth’s band of criminal misfits and is caught up in a series of teenage misadventures, from smuggling greyhounds for illegal dog racing to lovers’ trysts in abandoned buildings at night. Years later Nathaniel, now an adult, begins to slowly piece together using the files of intelligence agencies – and through reality, recollection and imagination – the startling truths of puzzles formed decades earlier.” (Adapted from  Syndetics summary)

 

Staff Picks DVDs – Nov/Dec.

The last lot of Staff Pick DVDs for the year features a mix of Foreign films, indie Sci-Fi, new TV shows and a poignant tribute to actor Harry Dean Stanton.

Foxtrot.
Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz’s bold first feature Lebanon (2009) shocked the world, depicting warfare exclusively through the gunsight view from the tank. Eight years down the line, his new work appears slightly more conventional but equally impressive. A Tel Aviv couple are devastated to learn that their son, who is serving in the military, has been killed, but it turns out to be misinformation. Then, the story, which uniquely divided into three parts, unfolds with an unexpected twist. Without the scenes of conflicts or gun battles, Maoz deftly highlights the tragedy of war from the different angle. With a superb cinematography, it’s an immaculately crafted, flawless work. The only criticism may be the fact that the whole movie is too perfect and too structured. Nevertheless, it’s a remarkable achievement. (Shinji)

Radius.
A man (Diego Klattenhoff, Homeland, The Blacklist) wakes from a car crash with no memory. Seeking help he soon discovers that anyone who comes within a certain radius of him instantly drops dead. Retreating to his home he attempts to avoid all contact until a woman (also suffering from amnesia) finds him. She is immune to what is happening and they soon realize that she can nullify the effect he has on others – but ONLY if she remains 50 feet from him at all times. Together they attempt to get help and find out what has happened to them. Tense and low key with minimal use of effects, this is another great indie Sci-Fi film that proves that all you need is a really intriguing idea and a good script. Klattenhoff excels at straight arrow good guys, and is perfectly cast. Has a nasty twist at the end that you may not see coming. Solidly entertaining. (Mark)

Captain Fantastic.
This film came out about 2 years ago and went around the film festival circuit winning great reviews all around. If you are anything like me, one look at the cover and the story line will have you interested, yet will fill you with hesitation, this movie screams hard hitting. Rest assured this film is hard hitting, and at times intense, filled with big emotions and questions about life, how we live it and we view and judge each other for the choices they make. Put aside your understandable hesitation and make the time to watch Captain Fantastic. You are bound to be blown away! (Jess)

Upgrade.
More indie Sc-Fi with ‘Upgrade’ a mix of cyberpunk tech stylings and action. Logan Marshall-Green (Quarry) is Grey, an analogue guy in a near-future digital world, a mechanic who fixes classic cars for rich clients while his wife works for an advanced Tech company. When his wife’s self-driving car malfunctions one day in a deserted part of town they are attacked, his wife is murdered and he ends up as a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. After a suicide attempt by overdosing on medication, he is visited by a famous young tech innovator who offers to illegally surgically implant his latest creation, an AI chip called STEM, into his spine and restore motor functions to his body. Healing faster than expected Grey is surprised to hear STEM speak into his mind. STEM says it can help identify his wife’s attackers, and using his new found ‘upgraded’ abilities he decides to take revenge…’Upgrade’ comes off as a more action orientated take on a Black Mirror episode, depicting a world of human-computer augmentation and ubiquitous police drones that doesn’t seem that far off, however like most things in a Black Mirror type world, there is a price for everything… (Mark)

Lucky.
His career spanned more than six decades. Harry Dean Stanton appeared in countless movies, but played a rare substantial role – probably the first time since the memorable ‘Paris, Texas’ – in his final movie ‘Lucky’. In fact, the whole movie pays tribute to Stanton, who was 90 years old when it was shot and died not long after. Following an old man Lucky (Stanton), who lives alone in a small desert town, it’s a subtle study of facing mortality. Although nothing much happens in the movie, Stanton still has a remarkable screen presence, exquisitely expressing the complexity of the character, from loneliness to stubbornness to tenderness. Some of the casts are played by Stanton’s real life friends including David Lynch, who is the best supporting actor here. Harry Dean Stanton wasn’t the biggest name in the industry, but no one was given as good a send-off in this wonderful fashion. Well-deserved. (Shinji)

Rick and Morty. Season 3.
Anarchic animated comedy from the creator of Community, that follows the adventures of an eccentric alcoholic scientist and his good-hearted but fretful grandson across an infinite number of realities, with the characters travelling to other planets and dimensions through portals and Rick’s flying car. Hilariously sick and depraved. (Mark)

Room / a film by Lenny Abrahamson.
The heart-breaking story of a young woman and her five year old son who are kept prisoner in a shed, and what happens to them when they are ultimately freed. (Belinda)

 

The Americans. The complete final season.
Things seem grim at the outset of the final season of ‘The Americans’ set in 1987, three years after the last season, and nine weeks before the pivotal Reagan-Gorbachev summit. Philip has quit intelligence work and is now full-time travel agent, while Elizabeth is still a zealous operative, fulfilling increasingly dangerous missions and training Paige to follow in her footsteps. The cracks in their marriage are becoming increasingly wider, and only worsen as Elizabeth is recruited for a secret Mission by the anti-Gorbachev Soviet Military, and then Philip is asked to return to intelligence work to monitor what she is doing. As the summit deadline approaches can they move past their increasingly separate ideologies to save their marriage and, as FBI Agent (and neighbour) Stan Beeman’s suspicions start to solidify, can they even save themselves? A lot of series fail in the last episodes, but ‘The Americans’ delivers a fitting wrap up for each of its characters, though perhaps not always what you expect, and ends on the same level of high quality that sustained itS entire run. Recommended. (Mark)

Medieval mysteries: The whodunnit’s!

Night of the Lightbringer book cover

The Middle Ages, 500-1500 AD were a fascinating time, where the end of the Roman Empire led to a local reclaiming of power. Despite the early centuries of this era being coined the ‘Dark Ages’, travel and knowledge exchange lead to interesting encounters throughout Europe. Placing characters in these times leads to great storytelling, redolent with historical detail.

Lending some fact to your fiction… University of Cambridge criminologist Professor Manuel Eisner has loaded details from the original Corner’s rolls onto a digital map showing location and details of murders, 1300 to 1340AD. These illustrate personal vendettas and unfortunate results from tempers flaring in the streets. Whether a “game keeper fatally stabbed at dusk”, guild warfare or the dire consequences of littering with eel skins!

Syndetics book coverA twisted vengeance / Candace Robb.
“1399. York is preparing for civil war… with the city unsettled and rife with rumors, Eleanor Clifford’s abrupt return to York upon the mysterious death of her husband in Strasbourg is met with suspicion in the city. Her daughter Kate is determined to keep her distance, but it will not be easy–Eleanor has settled next door with the intention of establishing a house of beguines, or poor sisters. The brutal murder of one of Eleanor’s servants leads Kate to suspect that her mother’s troubles have followed her from Strasbourg. Is she secretly involved in the political upheaval?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverApothecary Melchior and the mystery of St Olaf’s Church / Indrek Hargla.
“The Apothecary Melchior series plunges the reader into 15th-century Tallinn when Estonia is at the edge of Christian lands and the last foothold before the East: a town of foreign merchants and engineers, dominated by the mighty castle of Toompea and the construction of St Olaf’s Church, soon to become the tallest building in the world. Apothecary Melchior is a divisive figure in the town: respected for his arcane knowledge and scientific curiosity but also slightly feared for his mystical witch-doctor aura. When a mysterious murder occurs in the castle, Melchior is called in to help find the killer and reveals a talent for detection.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNight of the lightbringer / Peter Tremayne.
“Ireland, AD 671. On the eve of the pagan feast of Samhain, Brother Edulf and the warrior, Aidan, discover a man murdered in an unlit pyre in the heart of Cashel. He has been dressed in the robes of a religieux and killed by the ritualistic ‘three deaths’. But in their search for the killer, Sister Fidelma and Eadulf will soon discover a darker shadow looming over the fortress. For their investigation is linked to a book stolen from the Papal Secret Archives which could destroy the New Faith in the Five Kingdoms… and Fidelma herself will come up against mortal danger before the case is unravelled.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe raven’s head / Karen Maitland.
“France, 1224. Vincent is an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. With the foolish arrogance of youth, he attempts blackmail but the attempt fails and Vincent finds himself on the run and in possession of an intricately carved silver raven’s head. Any attempt to sell the head fails …until Vincent tries to palm it off on the intimidating Lord Sylvain – unbeknown to Vincent, a powerful Alchemist with an all-consuming quest. Once more Vincent’s life is in danger because Sylvain and his neighbours, the menacing White Canons, consider him a predestined sacrifice in their shocking experiment.” (Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverTemplar’s Acre / Michael Jecks.
“The Holy Land, 1291.A war has been raging across these lands for decades. The forces of the Crusaders have been pushed back again and again by the Muslims and now just one city remains in Crusader control. That one city stands between the past and the future. One city which must be defended at all costs. That city is Acre. And into this battle where men will fight to the death to defend their city comes a young boy. Green and scared, he has never seen battle before. But he is on the run from a dark past and he has no choice but to stay. And to stay means to fight. That boy is Baldwin de Furnshill.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLand of shadows : a medieval mystery / Priscilla Royal.
“In March, 1279, Edward I takes a break from hammering the Welsh and bearing down on England’s Jews to vacation in Gloucestershire. The royal party breaks the journey at Woodstock Manor. And there one life begins as Queen Eleanor labors to birth a new daughter, and one draws to an end when apoplexy fells Baron Adam Wynethorpe. The royal manor is packed with troubling guests including a sinister priest, an elderly Jewish mother from nearby Oxford mourning a son hanged for the treason of coin-clipping, contentious and greedy courtiers, and a lusty wife engaged with more than one lover.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVeil of lies : a medieval noir / Jeri Westerson.
“In 1383, Guest is called to the compound of a merchant – a reclusive mercer who suspects that his wife is being unfaithful and wants Guest to look into the matter. Not wishing to sully himself in such disgraceful, dishonorable business but in dire need of money, Guest agrees and discovers that the wife is indeed up to something, presumably nothing good. But when he comes to inform his client, he is found dead, murdered in a sealed room, locked from the inside. Now Guest has come to the unwanted attention of the Lord Sheriff of London and most recent client was murdered while he was working for him. And everything seems to turn on a religious relic – a veil reported to have wiped the brow of Christ – that is now missing.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDevil’s wolf / Paul Doherty.
“1296: King Edward I has led his army to Scotland, determined to take the country under his crown. But the fierce Scots have no intention of submitting to their oppressor and violent and bloody war breaks out.
1311: Sir Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the Secret Seal, finds himself back in Scotland and is revisited by the horrors he witnessed there fifteen years ago.
An anonymous letter was delivered to the new king. It promised information about a fatal incident that could allow England to finally bow out of the war with the Scots. Tasked with finding out the truth about the murder, Corbett is forced to take risks he would rather avoid and put his faith in the words of strangers. But with an unknown traitor lurking in the shadows and danger around every corner, will Corbett be able to unravel the complex web of plots in time?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Rufus spy / Alys Clare.The Rufus Spy
“October, 1093. Two young men have been brutally beaten to death; a third viciously attacked. All three men are of similar appearance. But could there be another connection? Lassair meanwhile has agreed to accompany her former lover Rollo on a perilous journey north in search of King William. On their trail is a skilled, relentless and ruthless assassin. Who is he ? and why has he targeted Rollo? If they are to survive, the hunted must become the hunters: Rollo and Lassair must lure their pursuer to the treacherous fenland terrain Lassair knows so well and turn the tables on their would-be killer.” (Syndetics summary)