Unbearable dreamworld of Champa the driver
This novel is about Champa, a chauffeur in Lhasa. He works for Chinese art collector Plum. The two soon start sleeping together and Champa’s simple life quickly becomes complicated. When Plum brings home a Tara Statue, Champa sets off on a trip across country to find its origins. The story has been described by UK Amazon as “…a rollicking road novel brimful of sensuality and danger. Underlying the optimism and humour of its hero is a shocking picture of racism and rough justice in modern Beijing.” The author Chan Koonchung is a Chinese writer whose previous novel The Fat Years is also on order. It is a dystopian scifi thriller, written in 2009 and set in 2013 Bejing. It was banned in China and you can read about Koonchung’s experience with it here.
The axeman’s jazz has some basis in reality – the Axeman was a serial killer from the early twentieth century New Orleans, who happened to like jazz. The killer was an American Jack the Ripper, in that they were never identified or caught, a real life murder mystery. This book takes the Axeman and creates the backdrop for an atmospheric crime story. Detective Michael Talbot is working to find the killer. As is his rival and ex-con Luca d’Andrea, who’s working for the Mafia. Add to that Ida, a secretary for the Pinkertons who’s obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, and you have an excellent thriller.
And speaking of Jack the Ripper, this crime story is set in the same era. In last year’s Mayhem we were introduced to Dr Thomas Bond a police surgeon. While helping with the Jack the Ripper murders he becomes obsessed with finding another killer - a killer who keeps disposing of headless, limbless bodies all over London. Now, one year on, Bond is recovering from the Ripper case and the other darker, evil murderer. But – uh oh! – more bodies start to appear in the Thames, this time children. More murder mystery ensues.
Something a little different this week as I’ve chosen to focus on an author. Clarice Lispector was recommended to me by the lovely team at Unity Books. Some of her work is currently being reprinted, but as well as the newer editions we have a collection of her novels in our Central Stack. (The stack books are available for loan or to reserve; the brand new books are yet to make it onto the catalogue so you’ll have to keep an eye out for those)
Why this world : a biography of Clarice Lispector / Benjamin Moser.
Clarice Lispector was a Brazilian writer who found fame in the 1950s. She was born in the Ukraine in 1920 to Jewish parents, who soon after relocated to Brazil. Lispector began writing in her 20s, after studying law and marrying a diplomat, with whom she travelled the world. Near to the Wild Heart was her first novel and Agua Vitae is considered her masterpiece. It was published near the end of her life; she died in 1977 from cancer. Lispector has been described as a complicated person, and according to some ‘unliterary’ and an ‘incorrigible liar’. Her writing has a mystical quality and her work is considered avant garde.
The Virgins / Pamela Erens.
I have to admit I found this a hard one to describe, but it sounds really interesting so I’ll give it a go. It’s about the doomed love affair between two students at an exclusive US boarding school in 1979. They are both slightly set apart from the other students due to their backgrounds, Jewish Aviva and Korean Seung. Because of their differentness they strike up a relationship, which only works to set them further apart from their contemporaries. It also pushes them further from the boundaries of societal expectations. Their story is narrated by Bruce Bennet-Jones, a fellow student and a bit of a voyeur. This novel sensitively tackles the subject of awkward teenage sexuality and writer Pamela Erens was shortlisted for awards for her first novel The Understory.
Best thing that never happened to me
On a competely different note is this lovely new romantic comedy about Holly. She let go of her first love Alex, but now has a second chance of rekindling their relationship when he moves back to her city for a new job. It has been described as similar to Notting Hill and Love Actually. Which may or may not be your thing, but it sounds good nonetheless and has recommendations from fellow chick-lit writer Paige Toon.
Hen who dreamed she could fly
This is by bestselling and award winning Korean writer Sun-Mi Hwang and is one the few novels of hers translated into English (the only one our library has). It’s a fable about motherhood, morality and life in general. And it is actually about a hen called Sprout (and a collection of other barnyard animals). The hen, described by Publisher’s Weekly as “philosophically restless” (how great is that?!) yearns to be a mother and to hatch one of her eggs which unfortunately are collected each day by the farmer. Eventually she escapes her cage and meets a duck, Straggler, who helps her hatch and nurture an egg they find, both discovering the joys of parenthood. How brilliant!
Hi everyone, I’m back after a small break for Easter and holidays and such. I’ve been selecting some lovely new fiction for you to enjoy. This week are some good, old, ever-popular crime novels.
(Remember these books aren’t ’shelf ready’, but they are due to arrive at the library in the next six months. And they are on the catalogue, available to reserve).
St Kilda blues
This novel is set in 1967 Melbourne and follows detective Charlie Berlin as he investigates the disappearance of a teenage girl, the daughter of a wealthy and prominent city figure. This is the third installment by Geoffrey McGeachin about detective Berlin, the first two installments won Australia’s Ned Kelly award for crime fiction.
This is the first time novel for Ariel Winter and is actually three short chronological novels, with each story written in the hard-boiler crime, noir style of either Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson or Georges Simenon. Each small novel is about a different subject – 1931 is set in a fictional town in France and is about the mysterious death of a prisoner; 1941 is about Rosenkrantz, an LA womaniser slash screenwriter, and his starlet wife; 1951 follows Rosenkrantz once again as he’s now a down-and-out alcoholic and his wife has been institutionalised.
Long way home
This is another police procedural, but this time with an interesting spin – it follows two detectives working in the Hate Crimes Unit. It’s set in Peterborough, a rather unassuming part of Eastern England, which is known for its population boom due to economic migrants looking for work in local factories. It’s from this background that detectives Ferreira and Zigic begin their investigation into the death of man, burnt alive in his garden shed. This is the debut novel for Eva Dolan who has been a name to watch online in crime writing in recent years and who was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger for unpublished authors.
Silence of the sea
Let’s face it, we still can’t get enough of our Scandinavian crime writers and therefore, this book is bound to be popular and I probably don’t need to mention it. But for those who don’t yet know, Yrsa Sigurdardottir is the latest, hottest, Icelandic crime novelist. This is her seventh novel and it is about Thóra Gudmundsdóttir who is sent to investigate when an unmanned luxury yacht crashes into the harbour in Reykjavík. Sigurdardottir is a best-seller and this story has been described as chilling – what more do you need to know?! Reserve it!
The Moon Sisters
It was the delightful cover that drew me to this one, however the story is anything but pretty and light. It’s about the relationship bewteen two sisters whose lives are thrown into turmoil after the suicide of their mother. Both sisters are very different from one another, with different approaches to life and struggle, and that’s where the trouble begins. The free-spirited sister Jazz decides to travel to an unknown town to lay her mother’s remains to rest. Her logical and sensible sister Olivia thinks this is a foolish quest, wanting to just get on with her life. This is a complex and atmospheric emotional drama – looks good!
Wow, this one sounds exciting! Espinonage, romance, drama, set in Egypt. With the CIA, assassinations, secrets and love affirs. It’s about the shooting of an American diplomat in Hungary and the repercussions from this, leading all the way to Cairo. And then it starts to get complicated. Described as a ‘spy procedural’ and John Le Carre-esque. It was an ‘Amazon Best Book of the Month’ in March.
This week I’ve chosen two new New Zealand fiction titles. Although they’re due fairly soon, they’re not on the shelves ready to be taken out yet. You can either keep an eye out for when they make it to the shelves or you can reserve them now.
Rosetta Allan is an Auckland based writer, who has already published two books of poetry. This is her first work of fiction and it is a ghost story of sorts. John Finnegan was murdered, along with his brothers and mother, and they were buried in the family’s garden. They are all stuck there to watch life unfold around them, including the life of their murderer James Stack. (The story is based on the gruesome true crime that occured in Otahuhu in 1865). I think it sounds great!
Confessions of a terrorist
Richard Jackson is a bit of an expert on terrorism - he’s Deputy Director at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University and has written several academic books about terrorism. This is also his first work of fiction. It’s a gripping psychological thriller centred around a terrorist and his interrorgator, a British intelligence officer. Looks good, and Jackson’s knowledge of the subject lends it a depth and drama.
Just one pick this week (which is not to say there isn’t heaps of great, new fiction being ordered!) I couldn’t resist mentioning this book, it looked too good to pass over and I knew it would be greatly enjoyed by Downton Abbey fans.
“On the grand Irish estate of Tyringham Park, Lady Edwina Blackshaw discovers her two- year-old daughter, Victoria, is missing. While everyone is searching, Charlotte, her eight-year-old daughter, is with her nanny, Dixon. Lord Waldron is in London at the war office and cannot be spared. What quickly comes to light in this masterful first novel is that nothing is as it seems. Edwina is a terrible wife and mother; Waldron is an alcoholic; Dixon is cruel beyond words; and Charlotte . . . well, Charlotte is damaged more than anyone knew, desperate for love but unable to see it when it comes. The tale spans from 1917 to 1943 and covers fox hunts, balls, art exhibitions, and sojourns in Australia. The mystery of Victoria is ever present and just when the reader thinks it is solved, it isn’t. Told in a dispassionate voice with rich descriptions and brilliant characters, the story holds the reader’s interest to the last page, with more than enough twists and turns.” (Booklist).
‘New adult’ is a new genre of fiction I’ve been hearing about lately. It tends to be relationship, social-life focused fiction aimed at twenty-somethings or young adults, but too racy for our Young Adult collections. I would call it an erotica-chick lit hybrid. Let’s take a look at some of these new emerging adult books.
Be With Me
J Lynn is a big name in this genre and we have a few of her New Adult books (Wait for You and Trust in Me, ebooks too in our Overdrive elibrary) . She also writes as Jennifer Armentrout, of the Lux Young Adult series. Be With Me follows Theresa Hamilton who “is having a rough year—she’s in love with her big brother’s best friend, but he hasn’t spoken to her since they shared a truly amazing, mind-blowing, life-changing kiss” (Amazon.com). The brother’s best friend and the story’s other protagonist is Jase Winstead who has a “huge secret that he’s not telling anyone—especially not his best friend’s incredibly beautiful sister. Even though he and Teresa shared the hottest kiss of his life, he knows that his responsibilities must take priority” (Amazon.com). And there you go! We learn of their tumultuous fledgling relationship and the mega-drama that ensues. Literary it’s not, but a jolly fun read it is.
This is a similar love, finding-one’s-self story. It’s about Ivy League graduate and musician Mia Kelly, who’s unsure about what career to pursue – music or business. Mia finds herself even more confused when her father dies and she decides to take over his cafe. The cafe is a frequent hangout for musicians and there Mia meets Will. Sexy, romance follows. The characters are enjoyable and the story well written (this is no 50 Shades of Grey).
Sound Bites, by Rachel K Burke (eBook)
This book is available as an ebook from the Overdrive elibrary. It’s recommended for fans of J Lynn and follows the same story as those above – a young woman with relationship woes, troubled bad-boy musicians and LOVE. A fun, slightly predictable, contemporary romance.
Just two quick choices for this week!
What I Had Before I Had You
This is a complex and literary novel about families, parents, mental illness, memories and love. Olivia Reed is a mother who returns home to the Jersey Shore after leaving years ago as a teenager. She brings her two children to meet her own mother, a troubled psychic. While there, Olivia’s bipolar son goes missing and as the story unfolds she is forced to confront her own childhood and past. This is Sarah Cornwell’s first novel, and it has been very well reviewed – described by Publishers Weekly as “a multigenerational coming-of-age story”.
The Last Dead Girl
This is a prequel to Harry Dolan’s ‘Bad Things Happen’, featuring the character David Malone (Loogan). In this book he meets a young woman named Jana and they spend ten days together. Of course, she ends ends up brutally murdered. And, of course, he becomes a suspect. From there Malone decides to try find her killer, which is not as straightfoward as it sounds as Jana works with an organisation helping free those wrongly accused of murder. This book has been similarly well reviewed and though the story seems simple (or obvious), the writing, characters and suspenseful plot make it more than worthwhile.
Three debuts for you this week.
Love like blood
Marcus Sedgwick is a popular and acclaimed teen fiction writer. This is his first novel for adults and it’s about blood. Yes, blood. But not in a Twilight-esque vampire novel way, more a scary, thrilling, moral tale way. Set in 1944 it follows a young captain in the Royal Army Medical Corp who walks in on a man who he believes to be drinking the blood of a murdered woman – yikes. The young captain later becomes a haematologist and haunted by what he thought he saw in 1944, decides to return to the scene and investigate. I’ll leave it at that!
On a completely different note is this lovely fictional book for foodies. Ruth Reichl is the former editor of Gourmet magazine and this is her fiction debut. She gives us a fascinating, insider’s look at how things work at a food magazine. It’s set at Delicious magazine where young Billie is working when the magazine shuts down. She gets to stay on, working on a project, when she discovers the locked library and some love letters written during WWII. Billie sets off on a mission to find the writer of the letters - and finds herself along the way.
Look who’s back.
This is the debut novel for Timur Vermes, a former journalist from Germany, who’s chosen a controversial subject – Hitler. (I think the great cover gives that away!) In 2011 Hitler wakes up and discovers that the war is over, he’s alive and things are very, very different now. The story is satirical and aims at unpicking the personality cult around Hitler (and celebrity in general). A bestseller in Germany, it has received a mixed response from critics (as you might imagine – read a bit about it here).