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Kerry’s fiction picks

Hi everyone, I’m one of the fiction selectors for Wellington City Libraries.  Along with Susannah and Christine, I spend a lot of time reading about, and choosing, lovely new fiction for you to enjoy.

This week I thought I’d look at the new, interesting Australian fiction on order and due in the new year.  Australian fiction has its own distinct voice and flavour, and Aussie authors certainly know how to do a great police thriller or romance!

Here’s my choices from the new bunch:

Syndetics book coverDeserving death.
This book follows detective Ella Marconi as she investigates the murders of two female paramedics in Sydney.  How crazy is that?!  A clever premise I think and another enjoyable police thriller.

Syndetics book coverLove is the answer.
When Peach Avenel’s marriage breaks up and her world starts to fall apart she begins to reassess her entire life.  Peach decides to take on doing up a tumbled down house with a neglected garden and starts on a journey of renovations, gardening and self discovery.  This one sounds more like a story about finding yourself than love, with some romance thrown in – more relationship-lit than chick-lit.  I’m interested!

Syndetics book coverHeart radical.
This novel is told from the point of view of eight year old Su-Lin Tan, living in 1950s war-torn Malaysia.  It’s her story of following her father, a defence barrister, to court during a controversial case involving the leader of the jungle rebels.  From a bestselling author, it definitely sounds intriguingly unique.

Syndetics book coverOne boy missing.
Another police drama, this time about detective Bart Moy who’s trying to ascertain whether a boy has been abducted – kidnapping or just an angry father bundling his son into their car? The story follows Moy’s struggles with his own family life as well as the boy’s family and those who perpetrated the ‘crime’.  This one’s been called a ‘new departure in literary crime’ and it sounds a bit like Wallander / Erlendur to me.

Kerry’s fiction picks

Hi everyone, I’m one of the fiction selectors for Wellington City Libraries.  Along with Susannah and Christine, I spend a lot of time reading about, and choosing, lovely new fiction for you to enjoy.

“Fiction Picks” is an old feature I hope to revive and update every week.  It’s just a couple of books that have been ordered during the week that have caught our eye.  The books won’t be ’shelf ready’, but they will be due to be published in the next six months.  And they’ll be on the catalogue, available to reserve.  I’m going to write a couple of sentences about what the books are about and why we think they’re interesting.
You’ll have to be the judge of whether they’re a good read or not – we’d love to hear your comments!

This week it’s Susannah’s choices:

Syndetics book coverSomerset
Part of a series by Leila Meacham, Somerset is the prequel.  And aside from its awesome cover, this book is one jolly good family saga!  Covering the antebellum South, the Civil War and slavery (very topical considering the upcoming Oscar-buzz movie ’12 Years a Slave’), it’s an historical romance set in Texas.

Syndetics book coverThe After WifeThe after Wife: A Novel
Another romance, this time set in modern day LA.  This is by the author of The Starter Wife and follows the relationship woes of widower Hannah.  Apparently similar in style to Jennifer Weiner of In Her Shoes fame.

Deborah and Kerry’s Picks

Hi everyone, Deborah and I are the fiction selectors for Wellington City Libraries and we spend a lot of time reading about, and choosing, lovely new fiction for the library.

Every few weeks we pick just a couple of books that we’ve ordered during the week that have really caught our eye and profile them here. They won’t be ’shelf ready’ as one says, but they will be due to published in the next six months and you can find them on the catalogue, available to reserve.

So, onto this week’s picks!

Syndetics book coverDiary of a mad fat girl.
If you’re a fan of Janet Evanovich, you’re going to love getting to know Gracelia “Ace” Jones. Ace is a feisty, sassy Southern lady, a Stephanie Plum-type character who, along with best friends Chloe and Linda, wrecks delicious havoc righting the wrongs in small-town Bugtussle. At the end of all the high jinks – some sleuthing. a little breaking and entering, a spot of dressing up as drag queens – the sisterhood expose the lies, the double-standards and dodgy goings-on in Bugtussle, Lots of fun – let’s hope we hear more of Ace and her friends in the future!

Syndetics book coverNun / Simonetta Agnello Hornby
If you like your historical romances to have exotic locations, depth and complexity, you’re going to want to read this book. We follow Agata Padellini, who after her father’s death, is sent by her mother into a convent to separate her from the man she loves. Agata initially accepts her fate, and we learn much about the rituals, the jealousies and the intrigue of convent life in nineteenth-century Sicily. But this is a romance, so we can be sure that Agata will find a way to break her vowels and leave the convent for true love. A predictable plot? Not entirely, and not least because her eventual true love isn’t her first love. There are twists and turns and serendipitous happenings along the way in Agata’s story to keep you turning the pages far into the night.

Syndetics book coverArcadia / Lauren Groff.
What happens when the ideal of the rural hippy life, full of warm, hard-working people with similar ideals and living off the land, fails to fulfil its promise? Bill Stone is a little boy, being lovingly raised by Adam and Hannah in Arcadia, a commune in the western reaches of New York State. But ideals are hard to live up to, and nothing lasts forever. As the 1960s progress, Arcadia becomes a magnet for people seeking the hippy experience, inevitably bringing the drugs, political debates and influences of the counter-culture movement that eventually destroy the dream. Core members leave – but adapting to the real world is harder for some than for others. Bill himself must find his place in this changed world. Lovely writing, apparently, and highly recommended by reviewers.

Deborah and Kerry’s fiction picks

Hi everyone, Deborah and I are the fiction selectors for Wellington City Libraries and we spend a lot of time reading about, and choosing, lovely new fiction for the library.

Every few weeks we pick just a couple of books that we’ve ordered during the week that have really caught our eye and profile them here. They won’t be ’shelf ready’ as one says, but they will be due to published in the next six months and you can find them on the catalogue, available to reserve.

So, onto this week’s picks!

Syndetics book coverAngelmaker.
Angelmaker is the second book by Londoner, and son of John Le Carré, Nick Harkaway.  It’s been described as a crazy, comedic, sci-fi, noir (urban fantasy?)  i.e. genre defying.  About an antique clock repairman Joe Spork and the kindly old lady (or is she?!) he helps, who might just hold the key to a mysterious clock Spork has been trying to fix.  Is it a 1950s doomsday clock?  Why is he being watched by spies?  Will they save the world? The book is already generating a lot of interest and it just sounds so good!  (Check out the review from The Guardian).

Syndetics book coverHawk quest.
This is the first novel by Robert Lyndon, who is also a falconer, and it’s set in 1072 after the Normans have captured England.  A warrior called Vallon must save a Norman knight who’s been kidnapped by the Turks by capturing four rare hawks.  This quest sets him on a journey around the world and on the adventure of a lifetime.   Labelled a ‘historical adventure epic’ and described as well written, evocative and filled with wonderful period detail and characters, it sounds too good to miss.   In fact several reviewers have said it was the best book they had read in a long time – so reserve it now!

Deborah and Kerry’s fiction picks

There’s an Asian theme to this week’s top picks – perhaps because we’re still in the headspace of getting excited about the shortlist for the Man Asian Literary Prize. They all sound so good, you’ll want to reserve them straight away!

Syndetics book coverForgotten country.
This is a beautifully written debut novel set around the lives of two sisters. Growing up in the American Midwest, the older and more dutiful Janie has borne the lion’s share of the responsibility of looking after the younger, more lovable but manipulative Hannah. These ties are suddenly cut, however, when Hannah inexplicably but purposefully disappears while away at College. Jamie sets out to find her, mindful of her grandmother’s warning that ever since the Japanese invasion of Korea, the family has lost a daughter in every generation. This is not a mystery story; rather it is a story of one family’s survival through the turbulent and cruel years of twentieth century Korea, their adjustment to life in a foreign land, and of their reconciliation with the past and their future.

Syndetics book coverAll the flowers in Shanghai.
Also a debut novel, this is the story of Feng and her life in the turbulent years of mid-20th Century China. Beginning in the 1930s, Feng is a 17-year-old schoolgirl, living a charmed life in Shanghai. Her world is shattered, however, when her older sister, who was engaged, dies. Feng must now take her sister’s place and marry the fiancé, becoming the First Wife of a First Son in a prominent Shanghai business family. Naive and unworldly, Feng struggles to make a place for herself in her husband’s household, where she must deal with a cold and powerful father-in-law and his unpleasant extended family, and produce an heir. In the process, she makes terrible compromises and choices which haunt her all her life. Meanwhile, the world around Feng is changing. The glamour and glitz of her life can’t continue under Communist China, and Feng, grown used to her privileged life, must face the changes forced on her. While critics have hailed this poetic work, readers may struggle to empathise with Feng and her shifts in morality and personality that she makes to secure her place in her world.

Syndetics book coverThe orphan master’s son : a novel / Adam Johnson.
In his novel, Adam Johnson explores if it is possible to maintain a sense of self and humanity in the deeply conformist, controlling and terrifying world that is North Korea. Pak Jun Do lives with his blind father in a North Korean camp for orphans. Orphans are routinely assigned to the most unpleasant and dangerous work and Jun Do is assigned to be a tunnel soldier, trained to fight in complete darkness in the tunnels underneath the DMZ. He is then reassigned as a kidnapper, snatching Japanese citizens who have particular skills which are needed in North Korea. Failure in any mission will result in being sent to the prison mines. The author does not spare the reader in portraying the truly, unimaginably, dreadful world of everyday life in North Korea. But in the midst of this awfulness, Jun Do falls in love, and in a clever and unexpected way, manages to propel himself into being able to take his fate into his own hands. This novel, part-adventure, part-thriller, part-romance, is compelling, “a masterpiece” says author David Mitchell (The thousand autumns of Jacob De Zoet).

Deborah and Kerry’s fiction picks

I’ve been ordering a lot of chick lit recently as it’s a perennially popular section of our fiction collection.  Covering broken relationships and new motherhood – classic chick lit themes – these two new books do so with humour.  Which I think is very important if you’re looking for something light and enjoyable to read!

Both are expected to arrive at the library fairly soon.

Syndetics book coverPear shaped.
This is the first novel by Stella Newman and it is about two very important things – romance and food.  The heroine is a chef, who meets a bloke and I think you can guess the rest – it doesn’t all go to plan!  The story has been described as well written, funny and unputdownable.  Good reviews too.

Syndetics book coverJust another manic mum-day.
This is the second novel for Mink Elliott (we have her other book too).  It’s actually a follow-up to her previous book, using the same characters - Roxy and her small family.  In this story Roxy and family have just moved to Sydney and are finding it hard to settle in and adjust to the new home.  Roxy decides to open a cafe for mums, for her friends and to help her to find the support network she needs – just to add to her stresses!  Of course, it does all work out in the end – this is chick lit! – but Roxy is an enjoyable character and relatable mum.

Deborah and Kerry’s fiction picks

This week’s choices are both due in early 2012 (February and March respectively) and are written by young, female American writers.  Snow Child is the debut novel of Alaskan Eowyn Ivey whilst Arcadia is Lauren Groff’s third publication – we have her other books here and here.  Both these books have been well received and glowingly reviewed!

Syndetics book coverSnow child : a novel.
“Here’s a modern retelling of the Russian fairy tale about a girl, made from snow by a childless couple, who comes to life. Or perhaps not modern-the setting is 1920s Alaska-but that only proves the timelessness of the tale and of this lovely book. Unable to start a family, middle-aged Jack and Mabel have come to the wilderness to start over, leaving behind an easier life back east. Anxious that they won’t outlast one wretched winter, they distract themselves by building a snow girl and wrap her in a scarf. The snow girl and the scarf are gone the next morning, but Jack spies a real child in the woods. Soon Jack and Mabel have developed a tentative relationship with the free-spirited Faina, as she finally admits to being called. Is she indeed a “snow fairy,” a “wilderness pixie” magicked out of the cold? Or a wild child who knows better than anyone how to survive in the rugged north? Even as Faina embodies a natural order that cannot be tamed, the neighborly George and Esther show Jack and Mabel (and the rest of us) how important community is for survival. VERDICT A fluid, absorbing, beautifully executed debut novel; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/21/11.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverArcadia.
“Groff’s dark, lyrical examination of life on a commune follows Bit, aka Little Bit, aka Ridley Sorrel Stone, born in the late ’60s in a spot that will become Arcadia, a utopian community his parents help to form. Despite their idealistic goals, the family’s attempts at sustainability bring hunger, cold, illness, and injury. Bit’s vibrant mother retreats into herself each winter; caring for the community literally breaks his father’s back. The small, sensitive child whose purposeful lack of speech is sometimes mistaken for slowness finds comfort in Grimms’ fairy tales and is lost in the outside world once Arcadia’s increasingly entitled spiritual leader falls from grace and the community crumbles. Split between utopia and its aftermath, the book’s second half tracks the ways in which Bit, now an adult (he’s 50 when this all ends, in 2018), has been shaped by Arcadia; a career in photography was the perfect choice for a man who “watches life from a good distance.” Bit’s painful experiences as a husband, father, and son grow more harrowing as humanity becomes increasingly imperiled. The effective juxtaposition of past and future and Groff’s (Delicate Edible Birds) beautiful prose make this an unforgettable read. Agent: William Morris Endeavor. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly)

Deborah and Kerry’s fiction picks

Syndetics book coverElegy for Eddie. Maisie Dobbs, an ex-VAD nurse, runs a private detective agency in London with the assistance of Billy, a World War I veteran. This is the sixth book in a compelling, edgy series, set in the late 1920s and early 1930s, just as the Depression begins to bite. In Elegy for Eddie, Masie accepts a case investigating the brutal killing of a street peddler. It leads Masie and Billy on a twisting and convoluting trail through some of the meanest neighbourhoods in London and into the highest echelons of society and power. There is nothing shallow and predictable about these detectives. Jacqueline Winspear gives us characters of complexity and depth, and she portrays with great skill the vanished world of pre-war London with all its complicated layers of class and customs which have long since disappeared.

Syndetics book coverAmerican dervish. Hayat Shah is a 10-year-old son of a Pakistani family living in Milwaukee in the 1980s. The family is already rivven with underlying tension as the novel begins: his determinedly secular neurologist father is best friends with a Jewish colleague, Nathan, and having an affair with another woman, much to the resentment of his mother. Into this volatile environment comes his mother’s best friend, recently divorced by her husband for her “fast mouth”. It is she who introduces Hayat to the beauty of the Qu’ran. But when she falls in love with the Jewish Nathan, Hayat, now a teenaged Muslim fundamentalist commits a terrible act of betrayal that he deeply regrets as he moves into adulthood. This fine debut novel is essentially a coming-of-age family drama, with all its conflicts, and generational differences, with the added nuance of growing up Muslim in the United States.

Deborah and Kerry’s fiction picks

Hi everyone, Deborah and I are the fiction selectors for Wellington City Libraries and we spend a lot of time reading about, and choosing, lovely new fiction for our customers.

This is a new feature we hope to update every week – just a couple of books that we’ve ordered during the week that have really caught our eye.  They won’t be ’shelf ready’ as one says, but they will be due to published in the next six months and on the catalogue, available to reserve.  We’re going to write a couple of sentences about what the books are about and why we think it’s interesting.

You’ll have to be the judge of whether it’s a good read or not – we’d love to hear your comments!

So onto this week’s picks.

Syndetics book coverPure.
A postapocalyptic horror novel, already considered to be one of the best of this genre. Set after the ‘detonations’, the protagonist is a young teenage girl who is a survivor – disfigured and living separate from the ‘pures’ (those left unscathed). Sounds a bit like John Wyndham to me and tipped to be the next Hunger Games.

Syndetics book coverRook.
This book is described as a high-action supernatural thriller. Not normally my kind of thing, but opening premise got me hooked – waking up in park surrounded by dead men all wearing latex gloves! It sounds a bit like (the TV series) Spooks to me, but with a humorous sci-fi twist, and I love that show – can’t wait.

Sentences, Wales, Gypsies and some really cute dogs.

Escape the winter doldrums with a sneak peek at an eclectic selection of new books.  (These books are not on the shelf yet they are available for you to reserve).

Syndetics book coverPhotobooth dogs.
“This one-of-a-kind collection celebrates the age-old bond between dogs and their people. Featuring happy and clearly beloved pets in more than 100 portraits taken in photobooths over the last 80 years, these images are a testament to the devotion people have felt and will always feel for their dogs.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDestiny disrupted : a history of the world through Islamic eyes / Tamim Ansary.
“A sweeping narrative history by the acclaimed author of “West of Kabul, East of New York” illuminates how Muslims have seen the history of the world–and what western world history leaves out.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNew gypsies.
“Photographer Iain McKell offers an extraordinary – and breathtakingly beautiful – glimpse into the lives of a real and raw group of present-day nomads whose culture is built around ideals of freedom, nature, and simplicity.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA cook’s year in a Welsh farmhouse / Elisabeth Luard ; photography by Clare Richardson.
In an old farmhouse on the slopes of a mountain lying between Tregaron and Aberystwyth, Elisabeth Luard brings the produce of the land into her kitchen and turns it into delicious food. This book is her response to the changes she sees in her garden and the surrounding countryside throughout the seasons, with distinctive recipes at the end of each month’s chapter. It is the story of a year spent planting and picking in the garden, roaming the countryside with her grandchildren and introducing them to the pleasures of rural living.  With full colour photography by Clare Richardson that perfectly captures the sense of life in the Welsh countryside, this is a unique and beautiful book. (globalbooksinprint summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One
“”New York Times” columnist Fish presents an entertaining, erudite celebration of language and rhetoric drawing on a wide range of examples from Hobbes to Scalia to Elmore Leonard.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAll My Friends Are Dead
“If you’re a dinosaur, all of your friends are dead. If you’re a pirate, all of your friends have scurvy. If you’re a tree, all of your friends are end tables. Each page of this laugh-out-loud illustrated humor book showcases the downside of being everything from a clown to a cassette tape to a zombie. Cute and dark all at once, this hilarious children’s book for adults teaches valuable lessons about life while exploring each cartoon character’s unique grievance and wide-eyed predicament. From the sock whose only friends have gone missing to the houseplant whose friends are being slowly killed by irresponsible plant owners (like you), All My Friends Are Dead presents a delightful primer for laughing at the inevitable.” (Syndetics summary)

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