Readers Choice fiction selections

Reviews from library patrons are a great way to find out what people have loved reading from the new additions to the fiction collection. These selections are highlighted with Reader’s Choice stickers so that others can find great reading material.  You can find slips for Reader’s Choice reviews in new books, or ask staff for one if you have a review or recommendation to embellish the library collection.

Here are some recent reviews featuring an interesting mix of subjects and genres: mysteries, historical novels, science fiction, humour, psychological fiction, thrillers and New Zealand environmental activism.

The changeling : a novel / LaValle, Victor D.Book Jacket for: The changeling : a novel
“This captivating retelling of a classic fairy tale imaginatively explores parental obsession, spousal love, and the secrets that make strangers out of the people we love the most. It’s a thrilling and emotionally devastating journey through the gruesome legacies that threaten to devour us and the homely, messy magic that saves us, if we’re lucky.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “Excellent. An unusual voice, but marvellous blend of modernity and fairy-tale, with powerful themes and insight.  Very Satisfying.” (5/5 stars)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Jacket for: Stranded

Stranded / MacLeod, Bracken
“Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was suspenseful, gripping and well researched. Doesn’t lean on the numerous clichés of the horror genre which makes it so engaging.  A great read!” (4/5 stars)
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Jacket for: Hanna who fell from the skyHanna who fell from the sky / Meades, Christopher
“With lush, evocative prose, award-winning author Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world–and, along the way, brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “What a well written novel, thoroughly enjoyed it, well worth reading. Never read any of Meades novels before would love to read more of his material.” (5/5 stars)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Jacket for: The last hoursThe last hours / Walters, Minette
“When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “Well written, engaging, couldn’t put down – read all night. Can’t wait for the sequel this year.” (5/5 stars)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Jacket for: EurekaEureka / Quinn, Anthony
“Summer, 1967. As London shimmers in a heat haze and swoons to the sound of Sergeant Pepper, a mystery film – Eureka – is being shot by German wunderkind Reiner Kloss. The screenwriter, Nat Fane, would do anything for a hit but can’t see straight for all the acid he’s dropping.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “Was an enjoyable read, especially in it’s evocation of London in the ‘swinging sixties’.” (4/5 stars)
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Jacket for: KrusoKruso / Seiler, Lutz
“It is 1989, and a young literature student named Ed, fleeing unspeakable tragedy, travels to the Baltic island of Hiddensee. Long shrouded in myth, the island is a notorious destination for hippies, idealists, and those at odds with the East German state.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was compelling.  Via fantasy and fact Seiler deftly weaves a story about East German idealists, refugees and escapists told through the perspective of a challenged young man” (5/5 stars)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Eye of the songbird / Munro, Michael
“What happens when a New Zealand team of scientists find one of the world’s largest flawless diamonds on the last piece of sovereign-less land, Antarctica?” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “A highly relevant New Zealand thriller with it’s plot centred on one of the big issues of the day; climate change.  Highly recommended” (4/5 stars)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The miranda : a novel / Nicholson, G. J.
“The Miranda is at turns a biting satire about the secrets we keep from our neighbors, and about the invisible and unceasing state of war in which most Westerners unconsciously live.” (Catalogue)

Reader’s review: “I thought this book was like a Coen Brothers movie: darkly satirical. The detachment of the protagonist is key to this novel – he was a psychologist turned government agent training operatives to withstand torture. He is not disaffected, quite the reverse, but he is clinical , perceptive and interesting. A good dark read.” (4/5 stars)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kamila Shamsie: Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018

Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018. The prize was previously known as the Bailey’s and the Orange Prize. The author is described as creating a book that “spoke for our times. Home Fire is about identity, conflicting loyalties love and politics.” Commended for her mastery, the book is written in five parts, each voicing their truth in the tale. Based on the struggles of Antigone who wrestled with loyalty to family or the ruling elite, this modern setting places characters sensitive to ethnicity, religion and ideologies. British Muslim characters, with family connections to extremism, face prejudice and personal dilemma in reaction to family, the state and justice.

Home fire / Shamsie, Kamila
“Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London – or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love? A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide – confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.” (Catalogue)

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)

Browse our top picks from this month’s fiction arrivals in our latest newsletter

It’s the beginning of a new year and we have selected some fabulous new fiction from our recently received material for your enjoyment. In the ‘Other Genres’ category this month we are highlighting thrillers, which are guaranteed tensely suspenseful reading.

Library News

Contemporary fiction

This month we received new novels from so many brilliant writers it was difficult to select only ten for our Recent Picks selection. We do hope you will explore the complete list and that the three chosen for this newsletter will definitely be a temptation to do so.

Syndetics book cover The hearts of men / Nickolas Butler.
“Camp Chippewa, 1962. Thirteen-year-old Nelson, loner and over-achiever, is nicknamed the Bugler as he proudly sounds the reveille each morning. This is the summer that everything changes, marking the beginning of Nelson’s uncertain friendship with a popular boy named Jonathan, and the discovery of his father’s betrayal, which tears his family apart. As time moves on, Nelson, irrevocably scarred from the Vietnam War, becomes Scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan marries, divorces, and transforms his father’s business. When something unthinkable happens during a visit from Jonathan’s grandson and daughter-in-law, the aftermath tests the depths and the limits of Nelson’s selflessness and bravery.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Future home of the living god : a novel / Louise Erdrich.
“Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. For twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant. As society begins to disintegrate, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation. There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women, of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The threat level remains severe / Rowena Macdonald.
“House of Commons secretary Grace has been counting the tea breaks in the same dull job for a decade. Brett, the new boy is on a mission to shake up the dusty backrooms of power and set to collide with Grace. Office life begins to look up when Grace receives some mysterious emails.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Graphic novels

As always the graphic novel collection provides readers with a multitude of choice with the variation of narrative, both visual and textual. For this month’s newsletter we have chosen examples of this diversification.

Syndetics book cover Josephine Baker / written by José-Louis Bocquet ; art by Catel Muller ; historical consultant, Jean-Claude Bouillon-Baker.
“Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was nineteen years old when she found herself in Paris for the first time in 1925. Overnight, the young American dancer became the idol of the Roaring Twenties, captivating Picasso, Cocteau, Le Corbusier, and Simenon. In the liberating atmosphere of the 1930s, Baker rose to fame as the first black star on the world stage, from London to Vienna, Alexandria to Buenos Aires. After World War II, and her time in the French Resistance, Baker devoted herself to the struggle against racial segregation, publicly battling the humiliations she had for so long suffered personally. A victim of racism throughout her life, Josephine Baker would sing of love and liberty until the day she died.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover On the Camino / Jason.
“Northwestern Spain, observed with the eye of an artist, chronicling both the good (people, conversations) and the bad (blisters, bedbugs) he encountered on his journey. Full of quiet incidents, odd encounters, small triumphs, and the occasional setback, On the Camino is the first implicitly autobiographical long-form work by a master cartoonist.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Rise of the dungeon master : Gary Gygax and the creation of D&D / David Kushner and Koren Shadmi.
Rise of the Dungeon Master tells, in graphic form, the story of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and; Dragons, one of the most influential games ever made. Like the game itself, the narrative casts the reader into the adventure from a first person point of view, taking on the roles of the different characters in the story. Gygax was the son of immigrants who grew up in Lake Geneva, WI, in the 1950s. An imaginative misfit, he escaped into a virtual world based on science fiction novels, military history and strategic games like chess. In the mid-1970s, he co-created the wildly popular Dungeons & Dragons game, determining the rules and inventing the signature 20-sided dice. Starting out in the basement of his home, he was soon struggling to keep up with the demand.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Mysteries

In the selection of new mystery fiction this month there were several translated novels, giving an international flavour to this genre. Readers will enjoy the different cultures and societies represented in each mystery. A great way to enjoy armchair travel, providing the suspense and tension is not too disturbing.

Syndetics book cover The girl in the fog / Donato Carrisi ; translated by Howard Curtis.
“A man is arrested in the small town of Avechot. His shirt is covered in blood. Could this have anything to do with a missing girl called Anna Lou? What really happened to the girl? Detective Vogel will do anything to solve the mystery surrounding Anna Lou’s disappearance. When a media storm hits the quiet town, Vogel is sure that the suspect will be flushed out. Yet the clues are confusing, perhaps false, and following them may be a far cry from discovering the truth at the heart of a dark town.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Madness treads lightly / Polina Dashkova ; translated by Marian Schwartz.
“As a working mother, Lena Polyanskaya has her hands full. She’s busy caring for her two-year-old daughter, editing a successful magazine, and supporting her husband, a high-ranking colonel in counterintelligence. She doesn’t have time to play amateur detective. But when a close friend’s suspicious death is labeled a suicide, she’s determined to prove he wouldn’t have taken his own life. As Lena digs in to her investigation, all clues point to murder and its connection to a string of grisly cold-case homicides that stretches back to the Soviet era. When another person in her circle becomes a victim, Lena fears she and her family may be next. She’s determined to do whatever it takes to protect them. But will learning the truth unmask a killer or put her and her family in even more danger?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The Anthill murders / Hans Olav Lahlum ; translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson.
“1972. Across Oslo, a serial killer is hunting down young women. Each body found strangled and with a peculiar calling-card placed upon her body: a cut-out picture of an ant. The first victim is a timid theology student, the next a jazz singer, followed by the heir to one of the largest fortunes in Oslo. But despite Inspector K2’s best efforts to find a link, the only thing connecting them seems to be their murder. With assistant Patricia’s intellect put to the test and increasing pressure from his boss as the clock ticks down to the next possible killing, K2 is in danger of losing his position as Oslo’s leading homicide detective.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science fiction/fantasy

The selection from our new science fiction and fantasy novels included several that were dystopian themed, and several novels that had immediate problems facing the world woven into the plots, such as global warming, animal rights and pandemics.

Syndetics book cover The city of brass / S. A. Chakraborty.
“Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by, palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing, are all tricks. But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale about Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. When Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Beacon 23 / Hugh Howey.
“For centuries, men and women have manned lighthouses to ensure the safe passage of ships. It is a lonely job and a thankless one for the most part, until something goes wrong, until a ship is in distress. In the 23rd century, this job has moved into outer space. A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at many times the speed of light. These beacons are built to be robust. They never break down. They never fail. At least, they aren’t supposed to.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Dogs of war / Adrian Tchaikovsky.
My name is Rex. I am a good dog. Rex is also seven foot tall at the shoulder, bulletproof, bristling with heavy calibre weaponry and his voice resonates with subsonics especially designed to instil fear. Rex is a genetically engineered Bioform, a deadly weapon in a dirty war. He has the intelligence to carry out his orders and feedback implants to reward him when he does. All he wants to be is a Good Dog. And to do that he must do exactly what Master says and Master says he’s got to kill a lot of enemies. But who, exactly, are the enemies? What happens when Master is tried as a war criminal? What rights does the Geneva Convention grant weapons? Do Rex and his fellow Bioforms even have a right to exist? And what happens when Rex slips his leash?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Other genres

This is another month featuring New Zealand writers in our ‘Other Genre’ category. Hopefully this is an indication that New Zealand writing and publishing is flourishing. Almost all genres are represented, from historical fiction to mysteries and short stories, and with a New Zealand flavour.

Syndetics book cover Soldier’s son / by Ian Dodds.
“David sees his father’s World War II 2 ex-soldier macho behavior as being destructive and abusive. When his father gives up alcohol he sees that he could change himself too, and be a more sensitive man than his father has been. When he goes to Teachers College the seventies feminist wave is filtered through his feminist friends. This results in giving him the tools he needed to be the kind of father he wished he’d always had earlier in his life enabling him to be in tune with the roles of husband and father.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Salt picnic / Patrick Evans.
“All the time on the island there had been something she was looking for. She knew she had to keep this in mind, and that she’d know what it was when she found it, whatever it proved to be. It’s 1956 and Iola arrives on the island of Ibiza, on the fringes of Franco’s Spain, with little more than a Spanish phrasebook. Soon she meets a fascinating American photographer who falls in and out of focus: is he really a photographer, and who exactly is the German doctor he keeps asking her about? The mysterious doctor, when he appears, takes Iola for a picnic on a salt island, where she learns how easily the world can be obscured.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Baby / Annaleese Jochems
“Cynthia is twenty-one, bored and desperately waiting for something big to happen when her bootcamp instructor, the striking Anahera, suggests they run away together. With stolen money and a dog in tow they buy ‘Baby’, an old boat docked in the Bay of Islands, where Cynthia dreams they will live in a state of love. But there is an intruder waiting to upset Cynthia’s plans and when a trip to an island utopia goes horribly wrong, a rot sets in on their relationship.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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New Contemporary Fiction for January

The selection of new contemporary fiction this month includes some brilliant writers, and some spell-binding narratives. Included are new novels from Louise Erdrich, Marcel Theroux and Ali Smith, and the best seller from Japanese writer Hiro Arikawa, titled The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Highly recommended is Nickolas Butler’s second novel, titled The hearts of Men.

Syndetics book coverThe travelling cat chronicles / Hiro Arikawa ; translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.
“It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side. Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say. Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and striking humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLove & fame / Susie Boyt.
“Eve, a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Across town, tabloid journalist Rebecca Melville is burning all her bridges while her devoted sister Beatrice, a therapist, tries her hardest not to intervene. How far can Eve and Rebecca go without losing the admiration of the people they love? This funny and heartbreaking story asks: do we get what we deserve in life? Must the show always go on?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hearts of men / Nickolas Butler.
“Camp Chippewa, 1962. Thirteen-year-old Nelson, loner and over-achiever, is nicknamed the Bugler as he proudly sounds the reveille each morning. This is the summer that everything changes, marking the beginning of Nelson’s uncertain friendship with a popular boy named Jonathan, and the discovery of his father’s betrayal, which tears his family apart. As time moves on, Nelson, irrevocably scarred from the Vietnam War, becomes Scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan marries, divorces, and transforms his father’s business. When something unthinkable happens during a visit from Jonathan’s grandson and daughter-in-law, the aftermath tests the depths and the limits of Nelson’s selflessness and bravery.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFuture home of the living god : a novel / Louise Erdrich.
“Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. For twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant. As society begins to disintegrate, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation. There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women, of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn unremarkable body / Elisa Lodato.
“Katharine is found dead at the foot of the stairs by her 30-year-old daughter Laura. The medical examiner’s report, in which precious parts of her mother’s body are weighed and categorized, motivates Laura to write her own version of events. To bear witness to the unbearable blank space between each itemized entry. What emerges are a series of stories in which Laura attempts to discover how and why her mother died, as well as make sense of her own grief, by piecing her mother’s body back together. In doing so, she is forced to confront a woman silenced by her own mother and wronged by her husband, a woman who felt shackled by motherhood and unable to love freely.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe threat level remains severe / Rowena Macdonald.
“House of Commons secretary Grace has been counting the tea breaks in the same dull job for a decade. Brett, the new boy is on a mission to shake up the dusty backrooms of power and set to collide with Grace. Office life begins to look up when Grace receives some mysterious emails.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Zanzibar wife / Deborah Rodriguez.
“Set both in Oman and on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, the ancient land of frankincense, wind-swept deserts, craggy mountaintops and turquoise seas. This is a place where tales of evil spirits and eerie phenomena abound. Into this magical nation come three remarkable but very different women, each facing a crossroad in her life. Rachel, a troubled American war photographer, Ariana Khan, a bubbly British woman struggling to keep up with the glitz of Dubai and ready to give up on love, and Miza, a young woman living far from her beloved homeland of Zanzibar. As the second wife of Tariq, an Omani man, she remains a secret from his terrifying ‘other’ wife, Maryam. Until one day, when Tariq fails to come home. As the three women journey together across this weird and wonderful land, they are forced to confront their darkest fears and their deepest wishes. Because here in Oman, things aren’t always what they appear to be.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret books / Marcel Theroux.
“Seeking adventure, a young man flees the drudgery of shop keeping in Tsarist Russia to make a new life among the bohemians and revolutionaries of 19th century Paris. Travelling undercover in the mountains of British India, he discovers a manuscript that transforms the world’s understanding of the historical Jesus. Decades later, in a Europe threatened by unimaginable tragedy, he makes a despairing attempt to right a historic injustice.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFlights / Olga Tokarczuk ; translated by Jennifer Croft.
Flights is a series of imaginative and mesmerizing meditations on travel in all its forms, not only the philosophy and meaning of travel, but also fascinating anecdotes that take us out of ourselves, and back to ourselves, about life and death, about the very nature of humankind. Thrilling characters and stories abound, the Russian sect who escape the devil by remaining constantly in motion; the anatomist Verheyen who writes letters to his amputated leg; the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes its journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt; the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teen but must now return in order to poison her terminally ill high-school sweetheart.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWinter / Ali Smith.
“Winter? Bleak and cold, frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes with the shortest days, and the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering, the summer’s leaves? Dead litter.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New contemporary fiction from award-winning authors

Among the fantastic selection of new Contemporary Fiction there are new novels by many much acclaimed award winner authors. These include Isabel Allende, John Banville, Peter Carey, and Ali Smith. Along with very popular authors, Lee Child and John Grisham, this month’s selection promises many hours of wonderful holiday reading

Syndetics book coverIn the midst of winter : a novel / Isabel Allende ; translated by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson.
“A minor traffic accident becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmasterm, a 60-year-old human rights scholar, hits the car of Evelyn Ortega,a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz, a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile, for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe death of the Fronsac / Neal Ascherson
“In 1940, during the Phoney War, a French destroyer blows up in the Firth of Clyde. The disaster is witnessed by Jackie, a young girl who, for a time, thinks she caused the explosion by running away that day from school; by her mother Helen, a spirited woman married to a dreary young officer; and by a Polish officer, whose country has just been erased from the map by Hitler and Stalin. Their lives, and the lives of many others, are changed by the death of the Fronsac. This is a story about divided loyalties, treachery, and exile; about people in flight from the destinies that seemed to be theirs before the war disrupted the world they knew.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMrs. Osmond : a novel / John Banville.Mrs. Osmond
“A novel that extends the story of Isabel Archer, the heroine of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady, into unexpected territory. Isabel Archer is a young American woman, swept off to Europe in the late nineteenth century by an aunt who hopes to round out the impetuous but naive girl’s experience of the world. When Isabel comes into a large, unexpected inheritance, she is finagled into a marriage with the charming, penniless, and as Isabel finds out too late, cruel and deceitful Gilbert Osmond, whose connection to a certain Madame Merle is suspiciously intimate. On a trip to England to visit her cousin Ralph Touchett on his deathbed, Isabel is offered a chance to free herself from the marriage, but nonetheless chooses to return to Italy.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA long way from home / Peter Carey.
“Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in western Victoria. Together they enter the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the ancient continent over roads no car will ever quite survive. With them is their lanky fair-haired navigator, Willie Bachhuber, a quiz show champion and failed schoolteacher whose job it is to call out the turns, the grids, the creek crossings on a map that will finally remove them, without warning, from the lily-white Australia they know so well. This thrilling, high-speed story starts in one way and then takes you someplace else. Set in the 1950s amid the consequences of the age of empires, this brilliantly vivid and lively novel reminds us how Europeans took possession of a timeless culture, the high purpose they invented and the crimes they committed along the way.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe midnight line / Lee Child.The Midnight Line
“Jack Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan. The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And find the woman. And return her ring. So begins a harrowing journey that takes Reacher through the upper Midwest, from a lowlife bar on the sad side of small town to a dirt-blown crossroads in the middle of nowhere, encountering bikers, cops, crooks, muscle, and a missing persons PI who wears a suit and a tie in the Wyoming wilderness. The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes and the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGo, went, gone / Jenny Erpenbeck ; translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky.
“A newly retired, widowed classics professor involves himself in the lives of African refugees in Berlin, getting an education in geography, linguistics, and human suffering as well as a chance to reexamine the various displacements in his life. Initially just curious about the men demonstrating at Alexanderplatz and living in a tent city in Kreuzberg, solitary, Richard listens to harrowing stories. Fascinated by the starkness of the refugees’ circumstances and their resilience, Richard discovers new compassion within himself. But there isn’t much he can do to stop the bureaucratic grind of the German legal system or the cruelties of EU immigration policy.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rooster bar / John Grisham.
“ Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam. But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, , well, yes and no.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The passage of love / Alex Miller.
“Sitting in a New York park, an old man holds a book and tries to accept that his contribution to the future is over. Instead, he remembers a youthful yearning for open horizons, for Australia, a yearning he now knows inspired his life as a writer. Instinctively he picks up his pen and starts at the beginning. At twenty-one years, Robert Crofts leaves his broken dreams in Far North Queensland, finally stopping in Melbourne almost destitute. It’s there he begins to understand how books and writing might be the saving of him. They will be how he leaves his mark on the world. He also begins to understand how many obstacles there will be to thwart his ambition. When Robert is introduced to Lena Soren, beautiful, rich and educated, his life takes a very different path. But in the intimacy of their connection lies an unknowability that both torments and tantalises as Robert and Lena long for something that neither can provide for the other.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDunbar / Edward St. Aubyn.
” Henry Dunbar, the once all-powerful head of a global corporation, is not having a good day. In his dotage he hands over care of the corporation to his two eldest daughters, Abby and Megan, but as relations sour he starts to doubt the wisdom of past decisions. Imprisoned in a care home in the Lake District with only a demented alcoholic comedian as company, Dunbar starts planning his escape. As he flees into the hills, his family is hot on his heels. But who will find him first, his beloved youngest daughter, Florence, or the tigresses Abby and Megan, so keen to divest him of his estate?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWinter / Ali Smith.
“Winter? Bleak,frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes, the shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The world shrinks; the sap sinks. But winter makes things visible. And if there’s ice, there’ll be fire. It’s the season that teaches us survival.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

New contemporary fiction featuring Aussie award winners

This month’s selection of new contemporary fiction show cases the best latest works from several well-known, much acclaimed writers. There are three debut authors, whose novels have been much praised. Also two award winning Australian writers, Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan and this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award winner Josephine Wilson. These come highly recommended, as do all the novels in this selection.

Syndetics book coverFirst person / Richard Flanagan.
“A young and penniless writer, Kif Kehlmann, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl proposes a deal, $10,000 for Kehlmann to ghost write his memoir in six weeks. But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him, his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder, who is Siegfried Heidl and who is Kif Kehlmann?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMunich / Robert Harris ; [map by Gemma Fowlie].
“September 1938 Hitler is determined to start a war. Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace. The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there. Munich. As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Fuhrer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own. Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power; they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again. When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray, your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAffections / Rodrigo Hasbún ; translated by Sophie Hughes.
“The eccentric, fascinating Ertl clan, headed by the egocentric and extraordinary Hans, was once the cameraman for the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Shortly after the end of World War II, Hans and his family flee to Bolivia to start over. There, the ever-restless Hans decides to embark on an expedition in search of the fabled lost Inca city of Paititi, enlisting two of his daughters to join him on his outlandish quest into the depths of the Amazon, with disastrous consequences.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStandard deviation / Katherine Heiny.
“Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife, Audra, is everything his first wife was not. She considers herself privileged to live in the age of the hair towel, talks non-stop through her epidural, labour and delivery, invites the doorman to move in and the eccentric members of their son’s Origami Club to Thanksgiving. She is charming and spontaneous and fun but life with her can be exhausting.In the midst of the day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s, his first wife, Elspeth, reenters Graham’s life. Former spouses are hard to categorize, are they friends, enemies, old flames, or just people who know you really, really well? Graham starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverElmet / Fiona Mozley.
“Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned menacing and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them in the woods with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. Cathy was more like their father: fierce and full of simmering anger. Daniel was more like their mother: gentle and kind. Sometimes their father disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home, he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverActs of vanishing / Fredrik T. Olsson, translation by Michael Gallagher.
“It was ten past four on the afternoon of the third of December. Everything was darkness and ink, and the snow falling turned to water. Through it ran Sara Sandberg, the girl who was about to die, and somewhere in the cold, lead-grey hell that was Stockholm was a man who called himself her father. In her rucksack, she had a warning for him. Now whether he would receive it or not was all down to her.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMan with a seagull on his head / by Harriet Paige.
“Under the intense summer sun on the Essex coast a gull falls from the sky and strikes an unassuming local council worker sitting on the beach below. From that moment on he is obsessed, a crazed visionary repeatedly depicting the scene and the unknown figure within in it which filled his view at the moment of impact. The mysterious beauty of his creations draws others to him but can they lay hold of that which possesses him and what of his anonymous muse?”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last hours / Minette Walters ; [maps by Janet Hunt].
“When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness. But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. With her brutal husband absent from Develish when news of this pestilence reaches her, she takes the decision to look for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. The people of Develish are alive but for how long and what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverExtinctions / Josephine Wilson.
“Professor Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, world expert on concrete, and connoisseur of modernist design, has quarantined himself from life by moving to a retirement village. His wife, Martha, is dead and his two adult children are lost to him in their own ways. Surrounded and obstructed by the debris of his life-objects he has collected over many years and tells himself he is keeping for his daughter, he is determined to be miserable. When a series of unfortunate incidents forces him and his neighbour, Jan, together, he begins to realise the damage done by the accumulation of a lifetime’s secrets and lies, and to comprehend his own shortcomings. Finally, Frederick Lothian has the opportunity to build something meaningful for the ones he loves.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New contemporary fiction featuring your favourite authors

Some of contemporary fictions most popular, much acclaimed writers are included in this month’s selection of new contemporary fiction. Included are the much awaited new novels from Dan Brown, Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan, Alan Hollinghurst and John Le Carre. There is much to enjoy.

Syndetics book coverOrigin : a novel / Dan Brown.
“In keeping with his trademark style, Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, interweaves codes, science, religion, history, art, and architecture into this new novel. Origin thrusts Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon into the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions, and the earthshaking discovery that will answer them.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSmile / Roddy Doyle.
“Who is unreliable? Just moved in to a new apartment, alone for the first time in years, Victor Forde goes every evening to Donnelly’s pub for a pint, a slow one. One evening his drink is interrupted. A man in shorts and pink shirt brings over his pint and sits down. He seems to know Victor’s name and to remember him from school. Says his name is Fitzpatrick. Victor dislikes him on sight, dislikes too the memories that Fitzpatrick stirs up of five years being taught by the Christian Brothers. He prompts other memories too, of Rachel, his beautiful wife who became a celebrity, and of Victor’s own small claim to fame, as the man who says the unsayable on the radio. But it’s the memories of high school, and of one particular Brother, that he cannot control and which eventually threaten to destroy his sanity.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverManhattan Beach : a novel / Jennifer Egan.
“This novel begins in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a nightclub, she chances to meet Dexter Styles again, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Image from Mightyape.co.nzThe Sparsholt affair / Alan Hollinghurst.
“In 1940, Dax and David, two young men from very different backgrounds, meet at Oxford University. Hollinghurst’s masterly novel takes us through several generations and across key periods of change in British society. From the darkest days of WWII, it moves to the socially and sexually liberated London of the 1960s, before landing in the mid-1970s.” (Adapted from Syndtics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rules of magic / Alice Hoffman.
“In New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverForest dark : a novel / Nicole Krauss.
“Jules Epstein, a man whose drive, avidity, and outsized personality have, for sixty-eight years, been a force to be reckoned with, is undergoing a metamorphosis. In the wake of his parents’ deaths, his divorce from his wife of more than thirty years, and his retirement from the New York legal firm where he was a partner, he’s felt an irresistible need to give away his possessions, alarming his children and perplexing the executor of his estate. With the last of his wealth, he travels to Israel, with a nebulous plan to do something to honor his parents. In Tel Aviv, he is sidetracked by a charismatic American rabbi planning a reunion for the descendants of King David who insists that Epstein is part of that storied dynastic line. He also meets the rabbi’s beautiful daughter who convinces Epstein to become involved in her own project, a film about the life of David being shot in the desert, with life-changing consequences. But Epstein isn’t the only seeker embarking on a metaphysical journey that dissolves his sense of self, place, and history.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA legacy of spies / John Le Carré.
“Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized under disturbing criteria by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe golden house : a novel / Salman Rushdie.
“When the aristocratic Golden family moves into a self-contained pocket of New York City, a park in Greenwich Village called “The Gardens,” their past is an absolute mystery. They seem to be hiding in plain sight: Nero Golden, the powerful but shady patriarch, and his sons Petya, a high functioning autistic and recluse; Apu, the successful artist who may or may not be profound; and D, the enchanting youngest son whose gender confusion mirrors the confusion and possibilities of the world around him. And finally there is Vasilisa, the Russian beauty who seduces the patriarch to shape their American stories. An aspiring filmmaker decides the Golden family will be his subject. He gains the trust of this strange family, even as their secrets gradually unfold. Meanwhile, an insane Presidential Candidate known as only The Joker grows stronger and stronger, and America itself grows mad.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHome fire / Kamila Shamsie.
“Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London that is worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to or defy. Is he to be a chance at love, the means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?” (Adpated from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSing, unburied, sing : a novel / Jesmyn Ward.
“ Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise. This novel grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)