Who’s reading what? Our most popular Fiction

The avid readers of Wellington have been spending these long winter nights, chilly commutes, and chance sunny spells devouring the latest offerings of the fiction world.  What have been the most favourite titles this past season? Interest in Pip Adam’s new award winning title means The New Animals is in a favoured position amongst readers. Adam has received high praise for writing technique and her faceted nuanced characters that live beyond accepted palatable current Auckland stereotypes.

There is a decent helping of gritty mystery writing from the likes of Jo Nesbø and Donna Leon. Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth is one in the Hogarth Shakespeare series preceded by Edward St. Aubyn’s treatment of King Lear in Dunbar. North American President turned author Bill Clinton writing with James Patterson has also captured the capital’s attention, as have writing luminaries Ali Smith and Michael Ondaatje.  Below are the top 10 titles by issues in August.

1. Macbeth / Nesbø, Jo
“When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess. He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.But a man like him won’t get to the top. Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his. Unless he kills for it.” (Catalogue)

2. The woman in the window / Finn, A. J
“It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.
Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours.
But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?” (Catalogue)

3. The temptation of forgiveness / Leon, Donna
“As the twenty-seventh novel unfolds in Donna Leon’s exquisite chronicle of Venetian life in all its blissful and sordid aspects, Brunetti pursues several false and contradictory leads while growing ever more impressed by the intuition of his fellow Commissario, Claudia Griffoni, and by the endless resourcefulness and craftiness of Signorina Elettra, Patta’s secretary and gate-keeper. Exasperated by the petty bureaucracy that constantly bedevils him and threatens to expose Signorina Elettra, Brunetti is steadied by the embrace of his own family and by his passion for the classics.” (Catalogue

4. The new animals / Adam, Pip
Carla, Sharon and Duey have worked in fashion for longer than they care to remember — for them, there’s nothing new under the sun. They’re Generation X: tired, cynical and sick of being used. Tommy, Cal and Kurt are Millenials, they’ve come from nowhere, but with their monied families behind them they’re ready to remake fashion. They represent the new sincere, the anti-irony. Both generations are searching for a way out, an alternative to their messed-up reality. Pip Adam’s new novel walks the streets of Auckland city now, examining the fashion scene, intergenerational tension and modern life with an unflinching eye. From the the wreckage and waste of the 21st century, new animals must emerge.” (Catalogue)

5. The punishment she deserves / George, Elizabeth
“No. 1 New York Times best-selling George returns with the next mystery featuring DI Thomas Lynley and his partner DS Barbara Havers, who’s in the lead here. Approached by a Member of Parliament with a request to investigate the supposed suicide of a constituent’s son, New Scotland Yard’s assistant commissioner sees an opportunity to stick Havers with an impossible case and thence get rid of her. (He’s not a fan.) George’s last title was in 2015, so folks will be clamoring. Award-winning author Elizabeth George delivers another masterpiece of suspense in her Inspector Lynley series.” (Catalogue)

6. Dear Mrs. Bird : a novel / Pearce, A. J.
“London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.” (Catalogue)

7. The President is missing / Clinton, Bill
“The President is Missing. The world is in shock. But the reason he”s missing is much worse than anyone can imagine. With details only a President could know, and the kind of suspense only James Patterson can deliver.” (Catalogue)

8. An unsuitable match / Trollope, Joanna
“Rose Woodrowe is getting married to Tyler Masson – a wonderful, sensitive man who is head-over-heels in love with her. The only problem? This isn’t the first time for either of them, and their five grown-up children have strong opinions on the matter… Who to listen to? Who to please? Rose and Tyler are determined to get it right this time, but in trying to make everyone happy, can they ever be happy themselves?” (Catalogue

9. Winter / Smith, Ali
“Following Autumn, the first of four novels named for the seasons and drawing on their moods, Smith takes an icy look at the era of Brexit and fake news, examining themes of history and memory and celebrating our will to survive. Winter. It makes things visible. Ali Smith’s shapeshifting Winter casts a warm, wise, merry and uncompromising eye over a post-truth era in a story rooted in history and memory and with a taproot deep in the evergreens, art and love.” (Catalogue)

10. Warlight / Ondaatje, Michael
“In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined to protect, and educate… But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.” (Catalogue)

New contemporary fiction additions

Asymmetry book cover

The new additions to Wellington City Libraries general fiction collection has a breadth and depth spanning genres, authors and due to some classic reprints, time as well.  New writers have hit the ground running with popular titles such as Bearskin from James McLaughlin and the lauded Asymmetry from Lisa Halliday. The confident voice of Caitlin Moran explores youthful exuberance and gender justice in a very 90’s How To Be Famous.

Translated tales feature Finnish author Philip Teir, Sjón from Iceland with the new title CoDex 1962, and The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories showcases a variety of authors including work from Banana Yoshimoto and Yuko Tsushima. Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara/Wellington author Isa Pearl Ritchie’s family novel brings contemporary issues and familiar locations to life. Thrillers, human drama in the inter-war period and a quirky look at humans beholden to a hibernation pattern round out the selection from this month.

Bearskin / McLaughlin, James A
Bearskin is visceral, raw, and compelling-filled with sights, smells, and sounds truly observed. James McLaughlin expertly brings the beauty and danger of Appalachia to life. The result is an elemental, slow burn of a novel–one that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.
Rice Moore is just beginning to think his troubles are behind him. He’s found a job protecting a remote forest preserve in Virginian Appalachia where his main responsibilities include tracking wildlife and refurbishing cabins. But when Rice finds the carcass of a bear killed on the grounds, the quiet solitude he’s so desperately sought is suddenly at risk. More bears are killed on the preserve and Rice’s obsession with catching the poachers escalates.” (Catalogue)

Asymmetry / Halliday, Lisa
“Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. A stunning debut from a rising literary star, Asymmetry is an urgent, important, and truly original work that will captivate any reader while also posing arresting questions about the very nature of fiction itself. A debut novel about love, luck, and the inextricability of life and art.”(Catalogue)

All the lives we never lived / Roy, Anuradha
“In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.”  What took Myshkin’s mother from India to Dutch-held Bali in the 1930s, ripping a knife through his comfortingly familiar environment? Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, Myshkin comes to understand the connections between anguish at home and a war-torn universe overtaken by patriotism. Anuradha Roy’s enthralling novel is a powerful parable for our times, telling the story of men and women trapped in a dangerous era uncannily similar to the present. Impassioned, elegiac, and gripping, it brims with the same genius that has brought Roy’s earlier fiction international renown.” (Catalogue)

How to be famous / Moran, Caitlin
“I’m Johanna Morrigan, and I live in London in 1995, at the epicentre of Britpop. I might only be nineteen, but I’m wise enough to know that everyone around me is handling fame very, very badly. My unrequited love, John Kite, has scored an unexpected Number One album, then exploded into a Booze And Drugs Hell™️ – as rockstars do. And my new best friend – the maverick feminist Suzanne Banks, of The Branks – has amazing hair, but writer’s block and a rampant pill problem. So I’ve decided I should become a Fame Doctor. I’m going to use my new monthly column for The Face to write about every ridiculous, surreal, amazing aspect of a million people knowing your name.” (Catalogue)

The summer house / Teir, Philip
“The light greenery of the early summer is trembling around Erik and Julia as they shove their children into the car and start the drive towards the house by the sea on the west coast of Finland where they will spend the summer. The arrival of Julia’s childhood friend Marika – along with her charismatic husband Chris, the leader of a group of environmental activists that have given up hope for planet Earth… deepens the hairline cracks that had so far remained invisible. Around these people, over the course of one summer, Philip Teir weaves a finely-tuned story about life choices and lies, about childhood and adulthood. How do we live if we know that the world is about to end?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

CoDex 1962 / Sjón
“Taking refuge in a small-town as a Jewish fugitive in WWII, Leo discovers a young woman who nurses him back to health. Together they shape a piece of clay into a baby. Leo escapes to Iceland with the clay boy in a hatbox only to become embroiled in a murder mystery. It is not until 1962 that Jósef can be born. In modern-day ReykjavÍk, a middle-aged Jósef attracts the interest of a geneticist. Now what lies behind Josef’s tale emerges.” (Catalogue)

The Penguin book of Japanese short stories
This fantastically varied and exciting collection celebrates the art of the Japanese short story, from its origins in the nineteenth century to the remarkable practitioners writing today. Authors like Tanizaki, Akutagawa, Murakami, Mishima, Kawabata, and Yoshimoto, as well as many surprising new finds. From Yuko Tsushima’s ‘Flames’ to Banana Yoshimoto’s ‘Bee Honey.’ Edited by acclaimed translator Jay Rubin, who has himself freshly translated some of the stories, and with an introduction by Haruki Murakami, this book is a revelation.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fishing for Māui / Ritchie, Isa Pearl
“A novel about food, whanau, and mental illness. Valerie reads George Eliot to get to sleep just to take her mind off worries over her patients, her children, their father and the next family dinner. Elena is so obsessed with health, traditional food, her pregnancy and her blog she doesn’t notice that her partner, Malcolm the ethicist, is getting himself into a moral dilemma of his own making. Evie wants to save the world one chicken at a time. Meanwhile her boyfriend, Michael is on a quest to reconnect with his Maori heritage and discover his own identity. Rosa is eight years old and lost in her own fantasy world, but shes the only one who can tell somethings not right. Crisis has the power to bring this family together, but will it be too late?” (Catalogue)

Early riser / Fforde, Jasper
“Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies dangerously close to death as they enter an ultra-low metabolic state of utterly dreamless sleep. All humans, that is, apart from the Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens. Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen by a highflying hero Winter Consul to accompany him to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of Wales, to investigate a dream which is somehow spreading amongst those in the hibernational state, causing paranoia, hallucination and a psychotic episode that can end in murder. Worthing has been trained to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation, leaving only one or two skills and an incredible hunger; he’s been trained to stay alive through the bleakest and loneliest of winters – but he is in no way prepared for what awaits him in Sector Twelve. There are no heroes in Winter, Worthing has been told. And he’s about to find out why…” (Catalogue)

Pieces of her / Slaughter, Karin
“The electrifying new thriller from international bestseller Karin Slaughter explores the deadly secrets kept between a mother and daughter. What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all? Andrea Cooper’s mother, Laura, is the perfect small-town mum. It turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.” (Catalogue)

So much life left over / De Bernières, Louis
“From the acclaimed author of Corelli’s Mandolin: a powerfully evocative and emotional novel, set in the years between the two World Wars, about a closely-knit group of British men and women struggling to cope with the world–and the selves–left to them in the wake of World War I. They were inseparable childhood friends. Some were lost to the war. The others’ lives were unimaginably upended, and now, postwar, they’ve scattered: to Ceylon and India, France and Germany (and, inevitably, back to Britain)–each of them trying to answer the question that fuels this sweeping novel: “If you have been embroiled in a war… what were you supposed to do with so much life unexpectedly left over?” (Catalogue)

The Mars room : a novel / Kushner, Rachel
“It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.” (Catalogue)

Translated works of fiction new to Wellington City Libraries

Convenience Store Woman book cover

Voices from other cultures give us new windows to view the world through.  This month features a variety of contemporary fiction and a revealing translation from WWII. Anna Seghers’ The Seventh Cross written in 1942 tells the tale of concentration camp escapees and their encounters with citizens of the time.  Recently translated, this novel lends immediacy to the issues faced by those living in a totalitarian regime. Other tiles feature weird twists of imagination and how to live with, or in spite of the expectations of everyday society. Some great reads to edify and entertain through the winter evenings.

I always find you / Ajvide Lindqvist, John
“In September 1985, nineteen-year-old John Lindqvist moved into a dilapidated old building in Stockholm, planning to make his living as a magician. Something strange was going on in the locked shower room in the building’s basement–and the price of entry was just a little blood. I Always Find You is a horror story–as bizarre and macabre as any of Lindqvist’s earlier novels–but it’s also a melancholy meditation on being young and lonely, on making friends and growing up. It’s about magic, and the intensity of human connection–and the evil we carry inside.” (Catalogue)

Acts of infidelity / Andersson, Lena
“When Ester Nilsson meets the actor Olof Sten, she falls madly in love. Olof makes no secret of being married, but he and Ester nevertheless start to meet regularly and begin to conduct a strange dance of courtship. Ester, on the other hand, is convinced that things might change. To read Acts of Infidelity is to dive inside the mind of a brilliant, infuriating friend – Ester’s and Olof’s entanglements and arguments are the stuff of relationship nightmares. Cutting, often cruel, and written with razor-sharp humour, Acts of Infidelity is clever, painful, maddening, but most of all perfectly, precisely true.” (Catalogue)

Your second life begins when you realize you only have one / Giordano, Raphaëlle
“Nonfiction author Giordano makes her fiction debut with a go-find-yourself title that was a blockbuster best seller in her native France, with rights sold to 31 territories. In her late thirties and content with husband, job, and motherhood, Paris native Camille still nevertheless feels she’s missed her chance at happiness. Here’s how she finds it. A charming, feel-good, and universal story of one woman’s journey from boredom and dissatisfaction to happiness and fulfilment.” (Catalogue)

Convenience store woman / Murata, Sayaka
“Keiko isn’t normal. At school and university people find her odd, and her family worries she will never fit in. To make them happy, she takes a job at a convenience store. But in Keiko’s circle it just won’t do for an unmarried woman to spend her time stacking shelves and ordering green tea. As the pressure to find a new job – or worse, a husband – increases, Keiko is forced to take desperate action…” (Catalogue)

Woman at sea / Poulain, Catherine
“Lili is a runaway. She’s left behind a humdrum existence in France to go in search of freedom, of adventure, of life. Her search takes her to the island of Kodiak, Alaska, home to a rag-tag community of fishermen, army vets and drifters who man the island’s boats and trawlers. Despite her tiny frame, faltering English and total lack of experience, when the fishing season begins Lili lands a job on board the Rebel – one of the toughest gigs in town. Lili is tough and determined … she has nothing to lose after all, and at sea she finally finds the intensity of life she’s been looking for.” (Catalogue)

The seventh cross / Seghers, Anna
“A revelatory World War II novel about a German prisoner of war fleeing for the border and encountering a variety of Germans, good and bad and indifferent, along his way. Seven political prisoners escape from a Nazi prison camp; in response, the camp commandant has seven trees harshly pruned to resemble seven crosses: they will serve as posts to torture each recaptured prisoner, and capture, of course, is certain. Anna Seghers’s novel is not only a supremely suspenseful story of flight and pursuit but also a detailed portrait of a nation in the grip and thrall of totalitarianism. Margot Bettauer Dembo’s expert new translation makes the complete text of this great political novel available in English for the first time.” (Catalogue)

The occasional virgin / al-Shaykh, Hanan
“From a major novelist of the Arab world comes a bold, witty and highly contemporary novel about two women looking for love, set in Italy, Lebanon and London. Painting a refreshingly truthful picture of modern womanhood, The Occasional Virgin perceptively explores sexuality, Islam and cultural identity and the difficulty of finding a man who’ll call when he says he will. Frank, funny and fearless, it is the colourful, wickedly entertaining story of two unforgettable characters, and the bizarre lengths we’ll go to for love.” (Catalogue)

The last Weynfeldt / Suter, Martin
“Adrian Weynfeldt is an art expert in an international auction house, a bachelor in his mid-fifties living in a grand Zurich apartment filled with costly paintings and antiques. Always correct and well-mannered, he’s given up on love until one night — entirely out of character for him — Weynfeldt decides to take home a ravishing but unaccountable young woman. The next morning, he finds her outside on his balcony threatening to jump. Weynfeldt talks her down… As their two lives become entangled, Weynfeldt gets embroiled in an art forgery scheme that threatens to destroy everything he and his prominent family have stood for. This refined page-turner moves behind elegant bourgeois facades into darker recesses of the heart.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Our selection of the best new contemporary fiction

We are very proud to present our latest selection from our new fiction arrivals. In this month’s picks we have something to suit a wide variety of tastes from a new work by Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis de Bernieres to a new novel by Kate Mosse, and a fantastic new work by Patchwork Planet author Anne Tyler titled Clock Dance. We hope you find something in our top picks for this month that you will truly enjoy.

Syndetics book coverWhirlaway : the great American loony bin, horseplaying & record-collecting novel / Poe Ballantine.
“On the run, he holes up in a sheltered barrio on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean owned by his wealthy but unsympathetic father. Here he meets Sweets, the telepathic dog, laments the loss of Sofia, his madhouse lover, and plays the horses at the Del Mar Racetrack. Eventually he meets up with an old friend, Shelly Hubbard, a fellow horseplayer, record collector/dealer, and hardcore loner, who tells him about his brother, Donny, dead at the age of eighteen from a tragic dive off a thirty-foot La Jolla sea cliff known as the Clam.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBoy swallows universe / Trent Dalton.
“Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. It’s not as if Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already. He’s just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way – not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary Brisbane drug dealer. But Eli’s life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He’s about to fall in love. And, oh yeah, he has to break into Boggo Road Gaol on Christmas Day, to save his mum.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSo much life left over / Louis de Bernieres.
“Rosie and Daniel have moved to Ceylon with their little daughter to start a new life at the dawn of the 1920s, attempting to put the trauma of the First World War behind them, and to rekindle a marriage that gets colder every day. However, even in the lush plantation hills it is hard for them to escape the ties of home and the yearning for fulfilment that threatens their marriage. Back in England, Rosie’s three sisters are dealing with different challenges in their searches for family, purpose and happiness. These are precarious times, and they find themselves using unconventional means to achieve their desires. Around them the world is changing, and when Daniel finds himself in Germany he witnesses events taking a dark and forbidding turn.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVarina : a novel / Charles Frazier.
“In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War.
Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history–culpable regardless of her intentions. The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters, and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMotherhood / Sheila Heti.
“In Motherhood, Sheila Heti asks what is gained and what is lost when a woman becomes a mother, treating the most consequential decision of early adulthood with the candor, originality, and humor that have won Heti international acclaim and made How Should A Person Be? required reading for a generation. In her late thirties, when her friends are asking when they will become mothers, the narrator of Heti’s intimate and urgent novel considers whether she will do so at all. In a narrative spanning several years, casting among the influence of her peers, partner, and her duties to her forbearers, she struggles to make a wise and moral choice. After seeking guidance from philosophy, her body, mysticism, and chance, she discovers her answer much closer to home.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe very marrow of our bones / Christine Higdon.
“On a miserable November day in 1967, two women disappear from a working-class town on the Fraser River. The community is thrown into panic, with talk of drifters and murderous husbands. But no one can find a trace of Bette Parsons or Alice McFee. Even the egg seller, Doris Tenpenny, a woman to whom everyone tells their secrets, hears nothing. Ten-year-old Lulu Parsons discovers something, though: a milk-stained note her mother, Bette, left for her father on the kitchen table. Wally, it says, I will not live in a tarpaper shack for the rest of my life. Lulu tells no one, and months later she buries the note in the woods. At the age of ten, she starts running — and forgetting — lurching through her unraveled life, using the safety of solitude and detachment until, at fifty, she learns that she is not the only one who carries a secret.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to be famous / Caitlin Moran.
“I’m Johanna Morrigan, and I live in London in 1995, at the epicentre of Britpop. I might only be nineteen, but I’m wise enough to know that everyone around me is handling fame very, very badly. My unrequited love, John Kite, has scored an unexpected Number One album, then exploded into a Booze And Drugs Hell — as rockstars do. And my new best friend — the maverick feminist Suzanne Banks, of The Branks — has amazing hair, but writer’s block and a rampant pill problem. So I’ve decided I should become a Fame Doctor. I’m going to use my new monthly column for The Face to write about every ridiculous, surreal, amazing aspect of a million people knowing your name.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe burning chambers / Kate Mosse.
“Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE. But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverClock dance / Anne Tyler.
“Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life. In 1967, she is a schoolgirl coping with her mother’s sudden disappearance. In 1977, she is a college coed considering a marriage proposal. In 1997, she is a young widow trying to piece her life back together. And in 2017, she yearns to be a grandmother but isn’t sure she ever will be. Then, one day, Willa receives a startling phone call from a stranger. Without fully understanding why, she flies across the country to Baltimore to look after a young woman she’s never met, her nine-year-old daughter, and their dog, Airplane. This impulsive decision will lead Willa into uncharted territory–surrounded by eccentric neighbors who treat each other like family, she finds solace and fulfillment in unexpected places.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUpstate / James Wood.
“In the years since his daughter Vanessa moved to America to become a professor of philosophy, Alan Querry has never been to visit. He has been too busy at home in northern England, holding together his business as a successful property developer. His younger daughter, Helen–a music executive in London–hasn’t gone, either, and the two sisters, close but competitive, have never quite recovered from their parents’ bitter divorce and the early death of their mother. But when Vanessa’s new boyfriend sends word that she has fallen into a severe depression and that he’s worried for her safety, Alan and Helen fly to New York and take the train to Saratoga Springs.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Fiction from Aotearoa New Zealand

This Mortal Boy book cover

New to the world, or new to Wellington City Libraries, these titles from local authors showcase a range of talents, beginning with Fiona Kidman’s new book about the ‘jukebox killer’ in Auckland in 1955. These tales explore New Zealand influences through eras and locations influencing lives we can recognise and feel kinship with.

This mortal boy / Kidman, Fiona
“Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand. But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society’s reaction to outsiders?” (Catalogue)

The new animals / Adam, Pip
“Carla, Sharon and Duey have worked in fashion for longer than they care to remember, for them, there’s nothing new under the sun. They’re Generation X: tired, cynical and sick of being used. Tommy, Cal and Kurt are Millenials, they’ve come from nowhere, but with their monied families behind them they’re ready to remake fashion. They represent the new sincere, the anti-irony. Both generations are searching for a way out, an alternative to their messed-up reality. Pip Adam’s new novel walks the streets of Auckland city now, examining the fashion scene, intergenerational tension and modern life with an unflinching eye.” (Catalogue)

Death actually : Death. Love. And in between. / Fenwicke, Rosy
“Maggie never wanted to go into the family business, but when her parents die suddenly and her husband has abandoned her and their two children, what choice does she have? So she becomes a funeral director.” (Catalogue)
Set in Queenstown this book encompasses family trials and trivialities with good humour and great characters.

The new ships / Duignan, Kate
“Peter Collie is adrift in the wake of his wife’s death. His attempts to understand the turn his life has taken lead him back to the past, to dismaying events on an Amsterdam houseboat in the seventies, returning to New Zealand and meeting Moira, an amateur painter who carried secrets of her own, and to a trip to Europe years later with his family. An unexpected revelation forces Peter to navigate anew his roles as a husband, father and son. Set in Wellington after the fall of the Twin Towers, and traversing London, Europe and the Indian subcontinent, The New Ships is a mesmerising book of blood-ties that stretch across borders. A novel of acute moral choices, it is a rich and compelling meditation on what it means to act, or to fail to act.” (Catalogue)

Designer days : a story set in Thorndon, Wellington, 2009 / Mercer, R. D.
“‘Down into the dark cave’ Laura says to her baby, pushing the buggy into the underpass. Cave paintings? Yes, indeed, but among them some writing she does not expect to find. Laura and Eddie both resist being constrained by the timetables of office or school. They want the freedom to design their own days. Laura, an IT specialist, craves domesticity. Eddie resents being moved to High School in Wellington. Laura’s husband, Matt, begins to behave curiously.” (Catalogue)

The man who writes the dreams / Barrett, Pera
“A story about following dreams. People have stopped turning their dreams into done-things. Luckily for us, the man who writes the dreams is here to make things right.” (Catalogue)

Equinoctial gales : a story set in Wellington, 1939 / Mercer, R. D.
“There were those who liked to refer to the shopping area of Kelburn as ‘the village’. It gave it status. Did they have in mind some impossible idyll of an English village of established families, in which people knew their place and weather was predictable? The reality of Kelburn in 1930s New Zealand could not have been more different.  A chance event, a “sudden death”, connects the characters in one way or another… But no-one living in Wellington can ignore the weather. They are all affected by its fickleness, its days of violence and its days of blessed calm.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Alternative medicine / Solomon, Laura
“The stories in Alternative Medicine can be broadly defined as black comedy with a twist of surrealism… In ‘The Killing Jar’ a boy’s spider spies on his adulterous father and reports back to its owner. In ‘The New Heart’ a man experiences somebody else’s memories after receiving a heart transplant. The story ‘Mandy’ features a strangely obsessed protagonist. Everyday sadness at a refugee going blind is sketched out in ‘Blindness’. Childhood relationships are depicted in the short story ‘Pets’ and in ‘Piano Lessons/War Stories’ the narrator reflects upon her grandfather’s time fighting in World War 2.  The stories show human life in various forms and endeavours.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Hilary and David / Solomon, Laura
“In Hilary and David, David, a lonely elderly struggling novelist, contacts Hilary, with whom he has a friend in common, via Facebook, and an unlikely friendship develops via a series of messages. The two begin to share details of their past and current lives. Hilary is a solo mother with two children. One of the children has Down’s Syndrome and the other has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Both are struggling… Through a series of messages, Hilary and David share their thoughts on life, the universe, men, women and everything else in between and provide companionship and advice for one another.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

New Contemporary fiction

Stories We Tell Ourselves book cover

We’ve had some fantastic new additions to the fiction collection, certain to entertain and intrigue through these long winter evenings. These titles bring diverse voices from an ex-president to a documentary maker turned author. A reprint of Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop shows the insight this British writer has for social politics, recently adapted into film. New action and suspense have real life experiences from Bill Clinton and outdoor adventurer Bear Grylls, and retellings from WWII yield mystery and humour with Warlight by Michael Ondaatje and Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce.

Warlight / Ondaatje, Michael
“In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth.  A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.” (Catalogue)

The President is missing / Clinton, Bill
“The President is Missing. The world is in shock. But the reason he’s missing is much worse than anyone can imagine. With details only a President could know, and the kind of suspense only James Patterson can deliver.”  (Catalogue)

Stories we tell ourselves / Françoise, Sarah
“Frank and Joan’s marriage is at breaking point. Having spent three decades failing to understand each other in their unfinished house in the French alps, Joan’s frustrations with her inattentive husband have reached breaking point. Frank, retreating ever further into his obscure hobbies, is distracted by an epistolary affair with his long-lost German girlfriend. Things are getting tense. But it’s Christmas, and the couple are preparing to welcome home their three far-flung children.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Census / Ball, Jesse
“A widower with only a short time to live worries about the son he loves deeply, who has Down syndrome, and hopes he can give them more time together by signing up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau. The road trip that results leaves him with as many questions as answers.” (Catalogue)

Night-gaunts : and other tales of suspense / Oates, Joyce Carol
A collection of eerie tales from this prolific American author feature “an unusual game of Russian roulette involving a pair of Wedgewood teacups, a strong Bengal brew, and a lethal concoction of medicine. A Sunday school teacher’s corpse. A young outsider, Horace Phineas Love, Jr., is haunted by apparitions at the very edge of the spectrum of visibility after the death of his tortured father in Night-Gaunts, a fantastic ode to H.P. Lovecraft.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The bookshop / Fitzgerald, Penelope
“In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too. Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dear Mrs. Bird : a novel / Pearce, A. J.
“London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.” (Catalogue)

In our mad and furious city / Gunaratne, Guy
“For Selvon, Ardan and Yusuf, growing up under the towers of Stones Estate, summer means what it does anywhere: football, music, freedom. But now, after the killing of a British soldier, riots are spreading across the city, and nowhere is safe. While the fury swirls around them, Selvon and Ardan remain focused on their own obsessions, girls and grime. Their friend Yusuf is caught up in a different tide, a wave of radicalism surging through his local mosque, threatening to carry his troubled brother, Irfan, with it.” (Catalogue)

They know not what they do / Valtonen, Jussi
“Joe Chayefski has got what he always wanted: a reputation as one of America’s top neuroscientists, a beautiful wife and two perfect daughters. But his carefully created idyll is threatened when his lab is targeted by animal rights activists. The attack is followed by a phone call from Joe’s ex-wife in Finland. Two decades have passed since he abandoned Alina and their young son, Samuel, returning to America to advance his career. Joe struggles to protect his new family from the increasing threat of violence – he is forced to reconsider his priorities and take drastic action to save those he loves.” (Catalogue)

The world goes on / Krasznahorkai, László
“A Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls, at the edge of the abyss in his own mind, wanders the chaotic streets of Shanghai. A traveller, reeling from the sights and sounds of Varanasi, encounters a giant of a man on the banks of the Ganges ranting on the nature of a single drop of water. A child labourer in a Portuguese marble quarry wanders off from work one day into a surreal realm utterly alien from his daily toils.  In The World Goes On, a narrator first speaks directly, then tells twenty-one unforgettable stories, and then bids farewell.”(Adapted from Catalogue)

Obscura / Hart, Joe
“In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis–memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The hunt / Grylls, Bear
“1945, and the Nazis’ grand plans are in disarray. Defeat is imminent, so in a last attempt to protect their legacy, the high command hides their store of uranium deep underground, ready for them to fight another day. 2018, and ex-SAS soldier Will Jaeger stumbles upon this horrible truth. But the uranium is missing and, when he learns his wife Ruth has also been kidnapped, he’s certain the enemy is on the move once more…  But the enemy is always one step ahead, pushing Jaeger to the limit of his endurance. The danger is real, and the people who hold Ruth have a score to settle. It’s a race against time. And the clock is ticking.” (Catalogue)

Find a new favourite in our contemporary fiction picks

Folk

The picks of the contemporary fiction this month feature a range of authors who work will enfold or re-enfold you in their worlds. They include debut novelists recommended for their construction and characters and a reprint of an Australian author’s exploration of mortality. Some of these authors are award winners or listed for literary prizes. Intrigue, insight, deception, mystery, invention and sardonic humour can be found in the library’s new fiction additions.

Syndetics book coverTangerine / Christine Mangan.
“Obsession intersects two love triangles in this tale of devotion gone wrong. Twisted passion, perceived betrayal, and a fight for survival are written into the exotic, colourful, and dangerous backdrop of 1950s Tangier, Morocco. Alice Shipley and Lucy Mason are introverted college roommates who quickly become best friends. But when Alice finds romance with Tom, odd things happen, ending with a car accident that tears their lives apart. Trying to forget Lucy and their tainted past, Alice marries a man she hardly knows and moves to Tangier–a place that holds the promise of adventure laced with the thrill of danger but that proves too threatening for Alice. When Lucy discovers that Alice’s marriage is far from happy, she decides to rescue the woman she’d loved in college, once again claiming her as her own.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAdjustment day / Chuck Palahniuk.
“People pass the word only to those they trust most: Adjustment Day is coming. They’ve been reading a mysterious book and memorizing its directives. They are ready for the reckoning. Adjustment Day, the author’s first novel in four years, is an ingeniously comic work in which Chuck Palahniuk does what he does best: skewer the absurdities in our society. When Adjustment Day arrives, it fearlessly makes real the logical conclusion of every separatist fantasy, alternative fact, and conspiracy theory lurking in the American psyche.” (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. Hadi soon realizes he’s created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive–first from the guilty, and then from anyone in its path.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe executor / Blake Morrison.
“What matters most: marriage or friendship? fidelity or art? the wishes of the living or the talents of the dead? Matt Holmes finds himself considering these questions sooner than he thinks when his friend, the poet Robert Pope, dies unexpectedly. Bestselling novelist and poet Blake Morrison creates a biting portrait of competitive male friendship, sexual obsession and the fragile transactions of married life. The Executor innovatively interweaves poetry and prose to form a gripping literary detective story.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe eight mountains / Paolo Cognetti ; translated from the Italian by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre.
“The international sensation about two young Italian boys from different backgrounds who meet in the mountains every summer, and the men they grow to become. Pietro, a lonely city boy, spends his childhood summers in a secluded valley in the Alps. Bruno, the cowherd son of a local stonemason, knows the mountains intimately. A modern Italian masterpiece, The Eight Mountains is a lyrical coming-of-age story spanning three decades; a novel about the power of male friendships and a meditation on loyalty, being in nature, and finding one’s place in the world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverProperty : stories between two novellas / Lionel Shriver.
“A striking new collection of ten short stories and two novellas that explores the idea of property in every meaning of the word. Lionel Shriver’s first collection explores property in both senses of the word: real estate and stuff. These pieces illustrate how our possessions act as proxies for ourselves, in Lionel Shriver’s world, we may possess people and objects and places, but in turn they possess us. Exhibiting a satisfying thematic unity unusual for a collection, this masterful work showcases the biting insight that has made Shriver one of the most acclaimed writers of our time.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFolk / Zoe Gilbert.
“The remote island village of Neverness is a world far from our time and place. The air hangs rich with the coconut-scent of gorse and the salty bite of the sea. Harsh winds scour the rocky coastline. The villagers’ lives are inseparable from nature and its enchantments. Tales of this island community interweave over the course of a generation, their earthy desires, resentments, idle gossip and painful losses create a staggeringly original world. Verlyn Webbe, born with a wing for an arm, unfurls his feathers in defiance of past shame; Plum is snatched by a water bull and dragged to his lair; little Crab Skerry takes his first run through the gorse-maze; Madden sleepwalks through violent storms, haunted by horses and her father’s wishes.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBreath / Tim Winton.
“When paramedic Bruce Pike is called out to deal with another teenage adventure gone wrong, he knows better than his colleague, better than the kid’s parents, what happened and how. Thirty years before, that dead boy could have been him. A relentlessly gripping and deeply moving novel about the damage you do to yourself when you’re young and think you’re immortal. Originally published in 2008.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDead men’s trousers / Irvine Welsh.
“Mark Renton is finally a success. An international jet-setter, he now makes significant money managing DJs, but the constant travel, airport lounges, soulless hotel rooms and broken relationships have left him dissatisfied with his life. He’s then rocked by a chance encounter with Frank Begbie, who appears to have reinvented himself as a celebrated artist. Sick Boy and Spud are intrigued to learn that their old friends are back in town, but when they enter the bleak world of organ-harvesting, things start to go so badly wrong. One of these four will not survive to the end of this book. Which one of them is wearing Dead Men’s Trousers?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTwisted prey / John Sandford.Twisted Prey
“Taryn Grant had run successfully for the U.S. Senate, where Lucas had predicted she’d fit right in. He was also convinced that she’d been responsible for three murders, though he’d never been able to prove it. Once a psychopath had gotten that kind of rush, though, he or she often needed another fix, so he figured he might be seeing her again. He was right. A federal marshal now, with a very wide scope of investigation, he’s heard rumours that Grant has found her seat on the Senate intelligence committee, and the contacts she’s made from it, to be very…useful.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPanic room / Robert Goddard.
“Sometimes the danger is on the inside… High on a Cornish cliff sits a vast uninhabited mansion, uninhabited except for Blake, a young woman of dubious background, secretive and alone, currently acting as house sitter. The house has a panic room. Even Blake doesn’t know it’s there. She’s too busy being on the run from life, from a story she thinks she’s escaped. But her remote existence is going to be invaded when people come looking for the house’s owner, missing rogue pharma entrepreneur, Jack Harkness.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverThe woman in the woods / John Connolly.
“The new thrilling instalment of John Connolly’s popular Charlie Parker series. It is spring, and the semi-preserved body of a young Jewish woman is discovered buried in the Maine woods. It is clear that she gave birth shortly before her death. But there is no sign of a baby. Private detective Charlie Parker is engaged by the lawyer Moxie Castin to shadow the police investigation and find the infant, but Parker is not the only searcher. Someone else is following the trail left by the woman, someone with an interest in more than a missing child, someone prepared to leave bodies in his wake. And in a house by the woods, a toy telephone begins to ring. For a young boy is about to receive a call from a dead woman…” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New and recommended contemporary fiction

Image from Syndetics

All the novels in this month’s selection of new contemporary fiction come highly recommended. With psychological thrillers, translated novels, romantic fiction, historical and gothic fiction, this selection will provided hours of enjoyable reading. This selection includes new novels from some highly acclaimed authors, and several debut novels that will surely secure these authors’ future writing careers.

Syndetics book coverThe Tuscan child / Rhys Bowen.
“In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal. Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation. Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history–and maybe come to understand herself as well.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe good doctor of Warsaw / Elisabeth Gifford.
“Deeply in love and about to marry, students Misha and Sophia flee a Warsaw under Nazi occupation for a chance at freedom. Forced to return to the Warsaw ghetto, they help Misha’s mentor, Dr Korczak, care for the 200 children in his orphanage. As Korczak struggles to uphold the rights of even the smallest child in the face of unimaginable conditions, he becomes a beacon of hope for the thousands who live behind the walls. This novel is based on the true accounts of Misha and Sophia, and on the life of one of Poland’s greatest men, Dr. Korczak.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTemplar silks / Elizbeth Chadwick.
“William Marshal has reached the end of his long and glorious life. On his deathbed at his manor in Caversham, he has one final task for his loyal servant: to fetch the silks William had woven in Jerusalem as a young man. William made a solemn promise to the Order of the Templars and he intends to leave the world as a member of that order. As he waits to perform to his last knightly duty, William is swept back into his own past. Determined to fulfil his last vow to his beloved Prince, William set forth on a quest to Jerusalem, which led him down dark and twisting paths, and brought him great passion and great loss… In the holiest and most dangerous of cities, William Marshall became the Greatest Knight.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKintu / Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.
“The year is 1750. Making his way to the capital to pledge allegiance to the new leader of the Buganda Kingdom, Kintu Kidda unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations. As the centuries pass, the tale moves down the bloodline, exploring the lives of four of Kintu’s descendants. Although the family members all have their own stories and live in very different circumstances, they are united by one thing – the struggle to break free from the curse and escape the burden of the family’s past.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAfter Anna / Lisa Scottoline.
“Dr. Noah Alderman, a widower and single father, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie Ippolitti, and for the first time in a long time, he and his young son are happy. Maggie is happy too, and she’s even more overjoyed when she unexpectedly gets another chance to be a mother to the child she thought she’d lost forever, her only daughter Anna. Anna turns out to be a gorgeous seventeen-year-old who balks at living under their rules, though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble brewing in a once-perfect marriage and home. Riveting and disquieting, After Anna is a groundbreaking domestic thriller, as well as a novel of emotional justice and legal intrigue. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe thief : a novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood / J.R. Ward.
“New enemies rise and desire burns in the next thrilling novel of the #1 New York Times bestselling paranormal romance series the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Sola Morte, former cat burglar and safecracker, has given up her old life on the wrong side of the law. Her heart, though, is back up north, with the only man who has ever gotten through her defenses: Assail, son of Assail, who never meant to fall in love–and certainly not with a human woman. Fate, however, has other plans for them. When Assail falls into a coma and lingers on the verge of death, his cousins seek out Sola and beg her to give him a reason to live. The last thing she wants is a return to her past, but how can she leave him to die?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Apothecary’s Shop : A Novel of Venice 1118 A.D.
“The young Costanza, of the noble Grimani family, has disappeared. Edgardo, the family scribe, vows to return the girl to her family, an ambitious enterprise considering his failing eyesight. Physical ailments and emotional torment hinder Edgardo’s search, for as he undertakes this perilous investigation, images of his own lost love–Kallis, a slave from the Far East who disappeared in a storm years ago–are resurrected. Help arrives in the form of Abella, the only female doctor in Venice. From her, Edgardo learns of occult medical practices and of Sabbatai’s Apothecary, where the city’s most desperate citizens seek heretical remedies and concoctions to sooth their suffering. It is here, however, where the secret of Constanza’s disappearance may lie.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe cutting edge : a Lincoln Rhyme novel / Jeffery Deaver.
“In the early hours of a quiet, weekend morning in Manhattan’s Diamond District, a brutal triple murder shocks the city. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs quickly take the case. Curiously, the killer has left behind a half-million dollars’ worth of gems at the murder scene, a jewelry store on 47th street. As more crimes follow, it becomes clear that the killer’s target is not gems, but engaged couples themselves. The Promisor vows to take the lives of men and women during their most precious moments–midway through the purchase of an engagement ring, after a meeting with a wedding planner, trying on the perfect gown for a day that will never come. Soon the Promiser makes a dangerous mistake: leaving behind an innocent witness, Vimal Lahori, who can help Rhyme and Sachs blow the lid off the case.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Fallen
“Something sinister is going on in Baronville. The rust belt town has seen four bizarre murders in the space of two weeks. Cryptic clues left at the scenes–obscure bible verses, odd symbols–have the police stumped. Amos Decker and his FBI colleague Alex Jamison are in Baronville visiting Alex’s sister and her family. It’s a bleak place: a former mill and mining town with a crumbling economy and rampant opioid addiction. Decker has only been there a few hours when he stumbles on a horrific double murder scene. Then the next killing hits sickeningly close to home. And with the lives of people he cares about suddenly hanging in the balance, Decker begins to realize that the recent string of deaths may be only one small piece of a much larger scheme–with consequences that will reach far beyond Baronville.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSail away / Celia Imrie.
“The phone hasn’t rung for months. Suzy Marshall is discovering that work can be sluggish for an actress over sixty – even for the former star of a 1980s TV series. So when she’s offered the plum role of Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest in Zurich, it seems like a godsend. Until, that is, the play is abruptly cancelled in suspicious circumstances, and Suzy is forced to take a job on a cruise ship to get home. Meanwhile Amanda Herbert finds herself homeless in rainy Clapham. Her flat purchase has fallen through, and her children are absorbed in their own dramas. Then she spots an advertisement for an Atlantic cruise, and realises a few weeks on-board would tide her over – and save her money – until the crisis is solved. As the two women set sail on a new adventure, neither can possibly predict the strange characters and dodgy dealings they will encounter – nor the unexpected rewards they will reap.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGreeks bearing gifts : a Bernie Gunther thriller / Philip Kerr.
“1957, Munich. Bernie Gunther’s latest move in a long string of varied careers sees him working for an insurance company. It makes a kind of sense: both cops and insurance companies have a vested interest in figuring out when people are lying to them, and Bernie has a lifetime of experience to call on. Sent to Athens to investigate a claim from a fellow German for a ship that has sunk, Bernie takes an instant dislike to the claimant. When he discovers the ship in question once belonged to a Greek Jew deported to Auschwitz, he is convinced the sinking was no accident but an avenging arson attack. Then the claimant is found dead, shot through both eyes. Strong-armed into helping the Greek police with their investigation, Bernie is once again drawn inexorably back to the dark history of the Second World War.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Contemporary fiction picks featuring award-winning authors

Image from Syndetics

New contemporary fiction selected from the recently received new titles includes award winners Julian Barnes and Jim Crace. Highly recommended is the much acclaimed chilling novel from French author Leila Slimani titled Lullaby.

Syndetics book coverThe only story / Julian Barnes.
“First love has lifelong consequences, but Paul doesn’t know anything about that at nineteen. At nineteen, he’s proud of the fact his relationship flies in the face of social convention. As he grows older, the demands placed on Paul by love become far greater than he could possibly have foreseen.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThree things about Elsie / Joanna Cannon.
“84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe melody / Jim Crace
“Alfred Busi is mourning the recent death of his wife and quietly living out his days in the large villa he has always called home. Then one night Busi is attacked by a creature he disturbs as it raids the contents of his larder. Busi is convinced that what assaulted him was no animal, but a child, and his words fan the flames of old rumour, of an ancient race of people living in the bosk surrounding the town, and new controversy: the town’s paupers, the feral wastrels at its edges, must be dealt with, once and for all.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSweet bean paste / Durian Sukegawa ; translated by Alison Watts.
“Sentaro has failed: he has a criminal record, drinks too much, and hasn’t managed to fulfill his dream of becoming a writer. Instead, he works in a confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with a sweet paste made of red beans. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days listlessly filling the pastries. Until one day an elderly, handicapped woman enters the shop. Tokue makes the best bean paste imaginable, and begins to teach Sentaro her art. But as their friendship flourishes, societal prejudices become impossible to escape, in this quietly devastating novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe pope of Palm Beach / Tim Dorsey.
“Growing up, Serge was enthralled by the Legend of Riviera Beach, aka Darby, a welder at the port who surfed the local waves long before the hot spots were hot. A god on the water, the big-hearted surfer was a friend to everyone, the younger surfers, cops, politicians, wealthy businessmen and ordinary Joes, a generosity of spirit that earned him the admiration of all. Meanwhile, there was a much murkier legend that made the rounds of the schoolyards from Serge’s youth,that of the crazy hermit living in a makeshift jungle compound farther up the mysterious Loxahatchee River than anyone dared to venture. Then Serge moved away. But never forgot. Now he’s back, with those legends looming larger than ever in the rearview mirror of his memory. As his literary odyssey moves north from Key West, closer and closer to his old stomping grounds, Serge digs into the past as only Serge can.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hush / John Hart.
“It’s been ten years since the events that changed Johnny Merrimon’s life and rocked his hometown to the core. Since then, Johnny has fought to maintain his privacy, but books have been written of his exploits; the fascination remains. Living alone on six thousand acres of once-sacred land, Johnny’s only connection to normal life is his old friend, Jack. They’re not boys anymore, but the bonds remain. What they shared. What they lost. But Jack sees danger in the wild places Johnny calls home; he senses darkness and hunger, an intractable intent. Johnny will discuss none of it, but there are the things he knows, the things he can do. A lesser friend might accept such abilities as a gift, but Jack has felt what moves in the swamp: the cold of it, the unspeakable fear.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSunburn : a novel / Laura Lippman.
“They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays, drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other, dangerous, even lethal, secrets. Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverI’ll keep you safe / Peter May.
“Husband and wife Ruairidh and Niamh Macfarlane co-own Ranish Tweed: a Hebridean company that weaves its own special variety of Harris cloth, which has become a sought-after brand in the world of high fashion. But when Niamh learns of Ruairidh’s affair with Russian designer Irina Vetrov, then witnesses the pair killed by a car bomb in Paris, her life is left in ruins. Along with her husband’s remains, she returns home to the Isle of Lewis, bereft. The Paris police have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder, making Niamh the prime suspect, along with Irina’s missing husband, Georgy. And so French Detective Sylvie Braque is sent to the island to look into Niamh’s past, unaware of the dangers that await her. As Braque digs deeper into the couple’s history, Niamh herself replays her life with Ruiairidh, searching her memory for those whose grievances might have led to murder.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTurning for home / Barney Norris.
“Every year, Robert’s family come together at a rambling old house to celebrate his birthday. Aunts, uncles, distant cousins, it has been a milestone in their lives for decades. But this year Robert doesn’t want to be reminded of what has happened since they last met and neither, for quite different reasons, does his granddaughter Kate. Neither of them is sure they can face the party. But for both Robert and Kate, it may become the most important gathering of all.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLullaby / Leïla Slimani ; translated from the French by Sam Taylor.
“When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties. The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Contemporary Fiction

In this selection of new contemporary fiction there are debut novels by three very talented writers. One is set in Korea during the Japanese occupation in WWII, another set on an English country estate in the winter of 1969, and the third is set in Paris and Puerto Rico. These, with the other novels in this selection will provide many hours of entertaining and thought provoking reading.

Syndetics book coverWhite chrysanthemum / Mary Lynn Bracht.
“Hana and her little sister Emi are part of an island community of haenyeo, women who make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea. One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day’s catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore. So begins the story of two sisters suddenly and violently separated by war. Switch-backing between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverYear of the drought / Roland Buti ; translated by Charlotte Mandell.
“Europe is in the grip of the worst drought in living memory. The Sutter household teeters on the brink of ruin. The farmer and father of the family has invested his entire fortune in 10,000 chickens and a modern barn. But the barn’s cooling systems are failing, and the chicks are dying off in the heat. Meanwhile his wife invites the mysterious Cecile to stay at the farm. Their son, 13-year-old Gus, observes helplessly as both his family and his carefree childhood dissolve in the heat.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAfter the snow / Susannah Constantine.
“Christmas morning, 1969. All eleven-year-old Esme Munroe wants for Christmas is for her mother to be on one of her ‘good’ days and, secretly, for a velvet riding hat. So when she finds an assortment of wet towels and dirty plates in her stocking, she’s just relieved Father Christmas remembered to stop at The Lodge this year. But later that day Esme’s mother disappears in the heavy snow. Even more mysteriously, only the Earl of Culcairn seems to know where she might have gone. Torn between protecting her mother and uncovering the secrets tumbling out of Culcairn Castle’s ornate closets, Esme realises that life will never be the same again after the snow.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe girl who lied / Sue Fortin.
“Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret, one Erin has kept for over a decade, and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies. When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out?.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMary Rose / Geoffrey Girard.
“Mary Rose Moreland and Simon Blake are the perfect couple: successful young professionals in Philadelphia, attractive, madly in love, and ready to start a life together. When they travel to England for Simon to ask her parents’ permission to marry Mary Rose, he learns an unsettling secret: Mary Rose disappeared when she was a little girl while the family was vacationing on a remote Scottish island. She reappeared mysteriously thirty-three days later in the exact same spot without a scratch on her and no memory of what had happened. After Simon hears about this disturbing episode in Mary Rose’s childhood, he becomes obsessed with finding out what happened. He proceeds to launch his own investigation and arranges during their honeymoon for them to visit the island where she disappeared. But as Mary Rose’s behavior gets stranger after their engagement, the need for Simon to unlock the truth about her past grows even more urgent. What he uncovers is beyond his most terrifying fears.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHistories / Sam Guglani.
“Histories” is a hypnotic portrait of life in one hospital, over one week. In the corridors and consulting rooms, by the bedside, through the open curtain, we witness charged encounters within the emotional and physical world of medicine. Old insecurities surface as junior doctors try to save a man from dying; an enraged chaplain picks a fight with a consultant; a porter waxes lyrical on his invisibility. These are only some of the stories that so seamlessly connect, collide and create an unforgettable panorama of being.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA field guide to the North American family : concerning chiefly the Hungates and Harrisons, with accounts of their habits, nesting, dispersion, etc., and full description of the plumage of both adult and young, within a taxonomic survey of several aspects of domestic life / by Garth Risk Hallberg ; with sixty-three illustrations done by various artists.
“For years, the Hungates and the Harrisons have coexisted peacefully in the same Long Island neighborhood, enjoying the pleasures and weathering the pitfalls of their suburban habitat. But when the patriarch of one family dies unexpectedly, the survivors face a stark imperative: adapt or face extinction. In sixty-three interlinked vignettes and striking accompanying photographs, the novella cuts multiple paths–which can be reconstructed in any order, through the lives of its richly imagined characters.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUselessness : a novel / Eduardo Lalo ; translated by Suzanne Jill Levine.
“The streets of Paris at night are pathways coursing with light and shadow, channels along which identity may be formed and lost, where the grand inflow of history, art, language, and thought, and of love, can both inspire and enfeeble. For the narrator of Eduardo Lalo’s Uselessness, it is a world long desired. But as this young aspiring writer discovers upon leaving his home in San Juan to study, to live and be reborn in the city of his dreams, Paris’s twinned influences can rip you apart.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Reservoir Tapes / Jon McGregor.
“Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home. But the aftershocks of Becky Shaw’s disappearance have origins long before then, and those in the village have losses, and secrets, and stories of their own. Fresh hurts open old wounds; salvation comes from unexpected quarters and chance encounters release long-buried memories.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe miranda : a novel / Geoff Nicholson.
“Joe’s got a lot to think about, and time on his hands to do it, since divorcing his wife and quitting his job training volunteers for a shadowy government agency. The otherwise nondescript house he’s just moved into boasts one key feature: a circular path in an overgrown backyard, on which Joe plans to walk twenty-five miles a day for a thousand days. Joe figures that walking the circumference of the Earth, safely on his own patch of territory, might just be the thing he needs to move on with his life. But curious neighbours keep sharing their troubles and preoccupations, looping Joe into mundane intrigues, and unwittingly triggering Joe to use the unique problem-solving skills he learned on his old job.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)