The best of the best: must reads from this month’s fiction selections

The following titles have been chosen from our monthly new fiction selections. They are all highly recommended for great reading

Syndetics book coverThe earth cries out / Bonnie Etherington.
An exciting, brilliantly written debut novel.

Syndetics book coverRolling blackouts : dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq / Sarah Glidden.
The impact of the Iraq War on Middle Eastern inhabitants is told through a two-month journey through Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. This is a precise and topical graphic novel from an award winning writer.

Syndetics book coverExit west : a novel / Mohsin Hamid.
An amazing story of love and hope from an internationally acclaimed writer.

Syndetics book coverSnowblind / Ragnar Jónasson ; translated by Quentin Bates.
An extraordinary debut novel, from a new Iceland writer, filled with gripping suspense and terror.

Syndetics book coverThe collapsing empire / John Scalzi.
A bawdy, brutal, and brilliant political adventure from one of Science Fiction’s, best writers.

Fiction Newsletter for May

Welcome to the Fiction Newsletter for May. Here we are almost into the middle of the year, with short days and long colder nights. One of the pleasures of winter is being able to spend long hours reading some great fiction. We hope that you will find much enjoyment from our selection of recently received new material, and that a new author may become a favourite.

Library News

Contemporary fiction

There is a fabulous selection of new contemporary fiction this month, illustrating the diversity of theme, plot, location and protagonist in modern fiction. The three novels chosen for this newsletter truly illustrate this diversification

Syndetics book cover The heart’s invisible furies / John Boyne.
“Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from, and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Harmless like you / Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.
“Set across New York, Berlin, and Connecticut, following Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront the mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old. The novel opens when Yuki is sixteen and her father is posted back to Japan. Though she and her family have been living as outsiders in New York City, Yuki opts to stay, intoxicated by her friendship with the beautiful aspiring model Odile, the energy of the city, and her desire to become an artist. But when she becomes involved with an older man and the relationship turns destructive, Yuki’s life is unmoored.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Exit west : a novel / Mohsin Hamid.
“In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet, sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors, doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. Exit West follows the couple as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Graphic novels

With some amazing art work enhancing the brilliant story lines in the New Graphic novels selection this month, it has been difficult to select titles for this newsletter. Hopefully the three chosen will be not only visually pleasing, but will also provide some great thought provoking reading.

Syndetics book cover Hubert / Ben Gijsemans ; translated from the Dutch by Julia Blackburn and Sandra van Beek.
“Hubert is a solitary man who shapes his life by going to museums. He talks to few people and only about museums and art. When his neighbor downstairs, a lonely woman, tries to seduce him, he doesn’t understand. He takes photos of the pictures he likes, usually of beautiful women, and paints copies of the paintings at home. There is only one real woman who fascinates him; she lives in the opposite building and he can see her balcony from his window.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Lucia / Andy Hixon.
“Lucia is a hard town, full of hard people. It stands looking out across the unforgiving sea that is slowly swallowing it. Its people are all unemployed, with nothing to live for but a pint and fight. Among them are Brick and Morty, one a disabled, heartbroken divorcee and aspiring writer, the other his best friend and protector, a fantasist and aspiring Ultimate Fighting Welterweight Champion of the world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Garbage / Mathew Reichertz ; [introduction by Benjamin Woo ; afterword by Robin Metcalfe].
“Garbage is an architectural-scale series of panels that transform a gallery into a comic book. Taken together the paintings tell the story of neighbours in Halifax’s North End and a mysterious couch which shows up one morning on the narrator’s front curb. As the narrator confronts his neighbours, asking where it came from, he gains insight into their lives as well as his own. Garbage collects these paintings into a graphic novel with a commentary by curator Robin Metcalfe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Mysteries

New mysteries from some very popular writers of this genre have been added to the library fiction collection. We are sure all avid mystery readers will enjoy many of these new titles.

Syndetics book cover The trespasser / Tana French.
“Being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point. Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. There’s nothing unusual about Aislinn Murray–except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before, and that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover For time and all eternities / Mette Ivie Harrison.
“Mormon bishop’s wife Linda Wallheim knows a bit about the LDS church’s history of polygamy, but for mainstream Mormons, that epoch ended in the 1890s. However, there are still sects of fundamentalist Mormons who still practice ‘the Principle of plural marriage’, in fact, some of them are living in plain sight here in Utah. Linda’s son Kenneth is marrying a young woman who was raised in a polygamist family, and tragically one of her family members is found murdered.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Who watcheth / Helene Tursten ; translation by Marlaine Delargey.
“A woman is found dead in a cemetery, strangled and covered in plastic. Just a few days before her death, the victim had received a flower, an unintelligible note, and a photograph of herself. Detective Inspector Irene Huss and her colleagues on the Goteborg police force have neither clue nor motive to track in the case, and when similar murders follow, their search for the killer becomes increasingly desperate.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science fiction/fantasy

The imagination goes wild, as always in novels in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. This month’s selection from our recently receive new material is no exception. With subjects ranging from cloning to slave trading, spiders to reincarnation, there always something new and exciting for devotees of this genre.

Syndetics book cover Spaceman of Bohemia / Jaroslav Kalfař.
“Orphaned as a boy, raised in the Czech countryside by his doting grandparents, Jakub Procha has risen from small-time scientist to become the country’s first astronaut. When a dangerous solo mission to Venus offers him the chance at heroism he’s dreamt of, he ventures boldly into the vast unknown. But in so doing, he leaves behind his devoted wife, Lenka, whose love, he realizes too late, he has sacrificed on the altar of his ambitions. Alone in Deep Space, Jakub discovers a possibly imaginary giant alien spider, who becomes his unlikely companion. Over philosophical conversations about the nature of love, life and death, and the deliciousness of bacon, the pair form an intense and emotional bond. Will it be enough to see Jakub through a clash with secret Russian rivals and return him safely to Earth for a second chance with Lenka?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Six wakes / Mur Lafferty.
“It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood. At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone; her first memory was of how she died. Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover New York 2140 / Kim Stanley Robinson.
“As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal, every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city. There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear, along with the lawyers, of course. There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home, and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine. Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)

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Other genres

Psychological thrillers are the featured this month in our ‘Other Genres” category. These novels will ensure the reader is gripped in suspense, with at times moments of unease and menace.

Syndetics book cover Rattle / Fiona Cummins.
“A psychopath more frightening than Hannibal Lecter. He has planned well. He leads two lives. In one he’s just like anyone else. But in the other he is the caretaker of his family’s macabre museum. Now the time has come to add to his collection. Jakey Frith and Clara Foyle have something in common. They have what he needs for his collection. So begins is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between the sinister collector, Jakey’s father and Etta Fitzroy, a troubled detective investigating a spate of abductions.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The black sheep / Sophie McKenzie.
“Francesca was widowed a year ago. Since then she has focused on her children, trying to soothe their grief as well as her own. Her husband and father never quite saw eye to eye but no one could have cared more for her in the past year than her close-knit family. Finally, she feels she might be ready to move on with life. Until she is contacted out of the blue by someone who says he must get information to her. That her husband’s death wasn’t what it seemed and that her family knows more than they say. Who can Francesca trust? What will happen to her if she puts her faith in the wrong person?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Image from Amazon.com Fever dream / Samanta Schweblin ; translated by Megan McDowell.
“A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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New Graphic Novels for May

This month’s selection of recently received new Graphic Novels includes the first volumes in three new series with one by the prolific Brian Wood. There is also the continuation of the award winning graphic memoir by Riad Sattouf, The Arab of the Future 2: a graphic memoir: a childhood in the Middle east (1984-1985)

Syndetics book coverBecoming Andy Warhol / by Nick Bertozzi ; illustrated by Pierce Hargan.
“Celebrated during his lifetime as much for his personality as for his paintings, Andy Warhol (1928-87) is the most famous and influential of the Pop artists, who developed the notion of 15 minutes of fame, and the idea that an artist could be as illustrious as the work he creates. This graphic novel biography offers insight into the turning point of Warhol’s career and the creation of the Thirteen Most Wanted Men mural for the 1964 World’s Fair, when Warhol clashed with urban planner Robert Moses, architect Philip Johnson, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeath of the artist : a graphic novel / by Karrie Fransman and friends.
“On 13 August 2013 graphic novelist Karrie Fransman invited four old friends from university to an isolated cottage on the misty moors of the Peak District to join her for a week of hedonism and creativity. Like Shelley and Byron before them, they would use the retreat to tell stories. Except these would be comics, collected together in this very book. The theme would be The Death of the Artist. None of the five friends realised how appropriate this theme would become.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRolling blackouts : dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq / Sarah Glidden.
“Cartoonist Sarah Glidden accompanies her two friends, reporters and founders of a journalism non-profit, as they research potential stories on the effects of the Iraq War on the Middle East and, specifically, the war’s refugees. Joining the trio is a childhood friend and former Marine whose past service in Iraq adds an unexpected and sometimes unwelcome viewpoint, both to the people they come across and perhaps even themselves. As the crew works their way through Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, Glidden observes the reporters as they ask civilians, refugees, and officials, “Who are you?” Everyone has a story to tell: the Iranian blogger, the United Nations refugee administrator, a taxi driver, the Iraqi refugee deported from the US, the Iraqis seeking refuge in Syria, and even the American Marine.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMarch. Book one / John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell.
“This graphic novel is Congressman John Lewis’ first-hand account of his lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. Book One spans Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a climax on the steps of City Hall.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHead Lopper. Vol. 1, The island or A plague of beasts / written and drawn by Andrew Maclean.
“The Head Lopper, Norgal, and the nagging severed head of Agatha Blue Witch arrive on the Isle of Barra to find it overrun with beasts; minions of the Sorcerer of the Black Bog. When Queen Abigail hires Norgal and Agatha to slay the Sorcerer, they trek across the island relieving the horrors of their heads, and playing right into the hands of a master manipulator.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe discipline. Volume 1, The seduction / writer, Peter Milligan ; artist, Leandro Fernández ; colorist, Cris Peter ; letterer, Simon Bowland.
“When frustrated Manhattan wife Melissa Peake allows herself to be seduced by a mysterious stranger, she is drawn into an ancient war between The Discipline and the creatures known as The Stalkers. She must discover previously unimagined potential within herself to survive, but at what cost?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEquinoxes / Pedrosa ; translation by Joe Johnson.
“In an equinox, day is as long as night, as if the world found perfect equilibrium between shadow and light, a fleeting equilibrium, similar to the stakes of our human destinies. Segmented into four tableaux for four seasons, unrelated people of all social backgrounds seeking equilibrium cross paths with other solitudes, weaving in and out of one another’s lives- all captivated and tormented by the enigmatic meaning of life.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Arab of the future 2 : a graphic memoir : a childhood in the Middle East (1984-1985) / Riad Sattouf ; translated by Sam Taylor.
“Riad has settled in his father’s hometown of Horms, gets to go to school, where he dedicates himself to becoming a true Syrian in the country of the dictator Hafez Al-Assad. Told simply yet with devastating effect, Riads story takes in the sweep of politics, religion, and poverty, but is steered by acutely observed small moments: the daily sadism of his schoolteacher, the lure of the black market, with its menu of shame and subsistence, and the obsequiousness of his father in the company of those close to the regime. As family strains to fit in, one chilling, barbaric act drives the Sattoufs to make the most dramatic of changes.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDisillusioned illusions : a graphic novel / Greg Stump.
“When a pair of washed-up silhouettes abandon the optical illusion business to make a graphic novel, they desperately hope the book will rocket them to fame and fortune. They’ll do just about anything to finish their project, anything, that is, except put forth any kind of effort whatsoever. Instead, they enlist a Juilliard-trained actor named Rodney to bear the burden of the work while they bicker, smoke, and relax in the break room. But their ingenious attempts at evading the hard labors of proper storytelling backfire when the three become entangled in a labyrinthine narrative of deception, adoption, and betrayal. Alliances and identities are forged and discarded with the turn of a page as the trio hurtles towards a thrilling courtroom conclusion that threatens to pull back the curtain on closely-guarded secrets and conspiracies” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlack Road. Vol. 1. The holy North / story, Brian Wood ; art and cover, Garry Brown ; colors, Dave McCaig ; lettering and production, Steve Wands.
“1000 A.D. The Christian conversion of pagan lands is well underway, turning the Viking north into a bleak war zone of occupation and violence. Magnus The Black is an ex-warrior turned fixer for the Church, only looking to ease his people through this painful time. But when a Vatican official under his care is murdered on the infamous “Black Road”, he uncovers a secret, something so big it threatens to change the balance of power in all of Europe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The best of the best: must reads from this month’s fiction selections

The following titles have been chosen from our monthly new fiction selections. They are all highly recommended for great reading.

Syndetics book coverHubert / Ben Gijsemans ; translated from the Dutch by Julia Blackburn and Sandra van Beek.
Translated from the Dutch, Hubert is a visual treat, a simple story with much pathos.

Syndetics book coverSpaceman of Bohemia / Jaroslav Kalfař.
Amazing debut novel, exciting, humorous and surprising.

Syndetics book coverThe black sheep / Sophie McKenzie.
A fast moving psychological thriller, leading to some shocking twists.

Syndetics book coverLillian Boxfish takes a walk / Kathleen Rooney.
A potted history of New York, the changing roles of women, told in a sharp and very witty manner by the protagonist.

Syndetics book coverWho watcheth / Helene Tursten ; translation by Marlaine Delargey.
A gripping, very suspenseful mystery, a great read.

The Best of the Best: must reads from the latest fiction selections

The following titles have been chosen from our monthly new fiction selections. This time we have a bumper selection of books, chosen from arrivals in recent weeks. They are all highly recommended for great reading.

Syndetics book coverGeneral theory of oblivion / José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn.
A novel set in post-colonial Angola, by an award winning Portuguese writer, that will be remembered long after the last page is read.

Syndetics book coverThe march of the foxgloves / Karyn Hay.
A fascinating historical novel, with a plot that is highly entertaining and very amusing.

Syndetics book coverMansfield and me : a graphic memoir / Sarah Laing.
A very clever, very New Zealand story that is quite brilliant.

Syndetics book coverNormal / Warren Ellis.
A gripping intelligent techno-thriller set in the near future.

Syndetics book coverBlack water lilies / Michel Bussi ; translated from the French by Shaun Whiteside.
This French best seller is guaranteed to keep readers hooked until the final pages with their astounding revelations.

Syndetics book coverCarthago / [Christophe Bec, writer ; Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic, artists].
Fabulous illustrations, and a gripping multi-layered story.

Syndetics book coverDear Mr. M : a novel / Herman Koch ; translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett.
A literary thriller, that will keep the reader in suspense until the last page.

Syndetics book coverFear / Dirk Kurbjuweit ; translated from the German by Imogen Taylor.
This is a murder story, a psychological thriller, and something more, a gripping and thought-provoking read.

Syndetics book coverCity of strangers : a novel / Louise Millar.
With well-drawn characters and increased suspense to a roaring conclusion that ties the two plot threads together, this is a very satisfying thriller.

Syndetics book coverEmpire games / Charles Stross.
This is a continuation of Stross’s popular Merchant Princes series and is more a high-tech thriller than a fantasy about walking between worlds in a multiverse, this first of three alternate histories. All the brilliance of imagination readers have come to expect with this writer.

5 minutes with Dylan Horrocks: Comicfest feature

ComicFest is back for 2017! This Saturday May 6th at the Central Library there will be panels and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on the day and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! Head over to the ComicFest Facebook event for all the details, and to receive event updates.

Syndetics book coverNext in our Q&A line-up is Dylan Horrocks, author of several graphic novels, his latest titled Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen. At Comicfest, Dylan will be in conversation with Sarah Laing in the Creating Graphic Novels panel from 12-1pm. Dylan is also hosting a critique session for comic creators which we’re sure will be absolutely invaluable. Spots for this workshop have already been filled, but you can email us at enquiries@wcl.govt.nz if you would like to be added to the workshop waitlist.

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: Apparently my first words were “Donald Duck,” so whatever it was, it happened so early I can’t remember! There were always good comics around the house, because my father has been into comics since he was a kid. So I grew up on a steady diet of Tintin, Asterix, Robert Crumb, Carl Barks, and many more. My parents were always happy to feed me more comics…

Q: What is your average day like?
A: It depends on the day, and what’s on my plate at the time. If I’m writing, I divide my time between the computer and a notebook; when I get stuck, I change media (and sometimes location), because sometimes that helps shift my state of mind and get going again. If I’m drawing, I’m usually sitting at my drawing board in the studio, lost in the process. I love the way drawing is a physical craft: you’re making something with your hands, out of paper, pencil and ink. There’s nothing like sitting back at the end of the day and looking at a page you made yourself.

From "Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen"
From “Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen”

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: The most recent thing I’ve published is a short mini-comic called ‘Faultlines,’ which I drew in a single day in my sketchbook, a week after the November earthquake (and floods, tornadoes, Trump winning the US election, etc!). It’s about living with uncertainty in a fragile, damaged world, and it felt good to get it onto paper.

From "Faultlines"
From “Faultlines”

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: No, and I’m open to suggestions. Sometimes it’s difficult to get started…. I have two quotes on the wall over my desk that help. One is a sticker I was given at Chromacon in Auckland last month: “We’re not here to be perfect.” The other is from a wonderful American cartoonist called Leela Corman: “We can be feral. We are the wilderness. We don’t need to go inside.” Both are excellent advice for artists and writers of all kinds.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: There are so many, and they wax and wane in importance over time. But some who have stayed significant for decades are Hergé (Tintin), Robert Crumb, Tove Jansson (the Moomins), Charles Schulz (Peanuts), and my family.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: An all-time favourite – and a big influence – is Barry Linton. There’s a big book of his comics (from the early 1970s to the present) coming out soon from Pikitia Press, and I can’t recommend it enough. Also, Bob Kerr (Terry & the Gunrunners), who I’m lucky enough to share a studio with. Tim Bollinger, a great Wellington cartoonist. Sophie MacMillan, Timothy Kidd, Karl Wills, Adam Jamieson, and so many more. There are too many great New Zealand cartoonists to mention them all! Ant Sang, Sarah Laing, Toby Morris, Cornelius Stone, Roger Langridge – all these people have inspired and influenced me at various times.

To The I Land - An appreciation of Barry Linton
To The I Land – An appreciation of Barry Linton

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: The ones I’m working on at the moment. That’s why I’m working on them!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: What I’m most looking forward to is seeing other people’s work at the workshop.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Sam Zabel – because all I’d have to do is take off my glasses.

Check out Dylan’s website at http://hicksvillecomics.com/
Dylan is on Twitter too – find him @dylanhorrocks

5 minutes with Sarah Laing: ComicFest feature

ComicFest is back for 2017! On Saturday May 6th at the Central Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on the day and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! Head over to the ComicFest Facebook event for all the details, and to receive event updates.

Sarah Laing self-portraitFirst up on the blog we have an interview with Sarah Laing, who recently authored her first graphic novel, Mansfield and Me. At ComicFest, Sarah is running a character design workshop from 10-11am, and from 12-1pm Sarah will be in conversation with Dylan Horrocks discussing how they each create longform graphic novels. It’s a super exciting line-up, and we hope to see you there!

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: We always had comics at my house – the usual suspects – Tintin and Asterix, Donald Duck, Charlie Brown, Footrot Flats. I grew up reading them. My interest was rekindled in my 20s through Tank Girl and Julie Doucet, and later by Marjane Satrapi, coinciding with the rising popularity of graphic novels, a contentious term in comics circles! It did mean that there were more comics to get out from the library.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I drop my kids off to school then I come home and mess about a bit – I tidy up and read stuff on social media, hating myself a bit as I do it. If I have paid work – an illustration or comics commission – I’ll work on that, or else I will draw comics for my blog or work on my big project, which right now is a kids’ comic about the houseboat and giant stingray world of post-climate-change New Zealand. I try to work on paper, since I spend too much time on screens, but I find myself using digital media all the time, whether it’s google images for picture reference or it’s spotify or my podcast list for stuff to listen to as I draw.

Page from Mansfield & Me
A page from ‘Mansfield & Me’ by Sarah Laing

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: Last year my graphic memoir Mansfield and Me was published by VUP and I’m still recovering from that! It’s about me wanting to be a writer, and Katherine Mansfield, NZ’s most famous writer, and how our lives overlap. I like to think that Mansfield would’ve been a comics fan too.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I always feel like I should have tea and toast at 10am and when I get to the inking/colouring stage I get to binge listen to podcasts. I just finished S-town, which is a fascinating character study of an ordinary/extraordinary life in small-town America. I am also driven by a completion complex so once I get momentum up I work quite quickly. I try to update my blog weekly now that I’ve got a Patreon page, and I generally dedicate Tuesday or Wednesday to those comics.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: My biggest inspiration is life, observed, around me.

Flowers for the Teacher comic
Flowers for the Teacher comic from Sarah’s blog “Let Me Be Frank”

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: I hate picking favourites! And in fact I’m not sure if I believe in the concept. There are creators whose work I always really enjoy – the obvious ones, like Dylan Horrocks, Toby Morris and Ant Sang. When I was co-editingThree Words I got to know work by lots of amazing women – Giselle Clarkson, Sophie Watson, Jem Yoshioka, Sally Bollinger, Zoë Colling for starters. Indira Neville’s comics are always hilariously irreverent, and she’s just co-curated an amazing collection of LP-sized comics that go with music, Sonic Comic. Last year I enjoyed Ross Murray’s series about anxiety, Rufus Marigold. And Jonathan King’s comics are gloriously surreal. Arrgh! So many people! I’m missing people out! I always feel a low punch in the gut when I don’t see my name on a list.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I have never collaborated on comics and I think I’d really like to try that out. You know how collaborations in music always work out better? Lennon and McCartney, Morrissey and Marr… I want to find somebody or something to spark off.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I am really looking forward to talking with Dylan Horrocks about writing longform comics – his process is quite different from mine and I always find how to talks quite inspiring – they give you a fresh perspective on your niggling or roaring narrative problems.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: I don’t know, Björk? Or maybe Rachael from Blade Runner – she had the most amazing suits and hair.

You can find Sarah online in the following places:
Twitter: @sarahelaing
Instagram: @sarahelaing
Blog: https://sarahelaing.com/

New Graphic Novels for April

There are some great graphic novels included in this month’s selection from our recently received new material. Two visually stunning works come highly recommend, Hubert by Ben Gijsemans and Garbage by Mathew Reichertz. There is also a new graphic novel from the very talented Jason Shiga that is brilliant.

Syndetics book coverJohn Milton’s Paradise lost / Pablo Auladell ; translated from the Spanish by Ángel Gurría.
“Paradise Lost , Milton’s epic poem, charts humanity’s fall from grace and the origin of the struggle between God and Satan, good and evil, life and death. In the aftermath of the Angels’ devastating defeat in the war for Heaven, Satan determines to seek his revenge. First published nearly 350 years ago, Paradise Lost has now been reimagined by the Spanish artist Pablo Auladell.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHubert / Ben Gijsemans ; translated from the Dutch by Julia Blackburn and Sandra van Beek.
“Hubert is a solitary man who shapes his life by going to museums. He talks to few people and only about museums and art. When his neighbor downstairs, a lonely woman, tries to seduce him, he doesn’t understand. He takes photos of the pictures he likes, usually of beautiful women, and paints copies of the paintings at home. There is only one real woman who fascinates him; she lives in the opposite building and he can see her balcony from his window.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLucia / Andy Hixon.
“Lucia is a hard town, full of hard people. It stands looking out across the unforgiving sea that is slowly swallowing it. Its people are all unemployed, with nothing to live for but a pint and fight. Among them are Brick and Morty, one a disabled, heartbroken divorcee and aspiring writer, the other his best friend and protector, a fantasist and aspiring Ultimate Fighting Welterweight Champion of the world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStardust nation / [written by] Deborah Levy ; [illustrated by] Andrzej Klimowski.
“For the high-flying, heavy-drinking advertising boss Tom Banbury, the art of persuasion relies on an infiltration of the consumer’s mind. In the case of his colleague and confidante Nikos Gazidis, the overdeveloped sense of empathy that makes him so well suited to the business has resulted in a strange psychiatric condition. Nick has unwittingly crashed into the consciousness of his boss. While Tom drinks to forget the troubles of his earthly life, Nick is forced to confront a past that is not his own. But can this peculiar bond be broken? Or has Nikos Gazidis taken an empathetic leap too far?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSP4RX / Wren McDonald.
“SP4RX is the story of mankind clawing for survival. Set in a future where a class system has emerged, the world is divided into four levels, with the elite ruling from the extravagant top level. SP4RX, a young hacker who lives off grid, hacks into corporations and sells stolen data to wealthy buyers on the black market – just your average thief. Mega Corporation Structus Industries introduces a welfare program called the “Elpis Program”, which allows the working class to apply for Cybernetic implants to make workers more efficient. On the surface, it seems like a program to empower the poor and allow them to rise to the ranks of the elite. But SP4RX soon discovers all is not as it seems.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLast gang in town / Simon Oliver, writer ; Rufus Dayglo, artist.
“1976: the country coming apart at its flared corduroy seams, a decade after the Great Train Robbery, when British crime has gone decidedly soft in the middle. Time for a new generation of criminals to rise: a band of snotty nosed heroes driven by destiny and cheap cider, who will strike fear back into the establishment, put art back into crime and crime back into art, and pull off what will become known as the heist of the century.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKill six billion demons. Book one / created by Tom Parkinson-Morgan.
“In this the first story collection of the popular web comic Kill Six Billion Demons, sorority sister Allison Ruth must travel to Throne, the ancient city at the center of the multiverse, in an epic bid to save her boyfriend from the clutches of the seven evil kings that rule creation.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGarbage / Mathew Reichertz ; [introduction by Benjamin Woo ; afterword by Robin Metcalfe].
“Garbage is an architectural-scale series of panels that transform a gallery into a comic book. Taken together the paintings tell the story of neighbours in Halifax’s North End and a mysterious couch which shows up one morning on the narrator’s front curb. As the narrator confronts his neighbours, asking where it came from, he gains insight into their lives as well as his own. Garbage collects these paintings into a graphic novel with a commentary by curator Robin Metcalfe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMirror : the mountain / by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim.
“A mysterious asteroid hosts a collection of strange creatures, man-animal hybrids, mythological creatures made flesh, guardian spirits, cursed shadows, and the humans who brought them to life. But this strange society exists in an uneasy truce, in the aftermath of uprisings seeking freedom and acceptance that have only ended in tragedy. As the ambitious, the desperate and the hopeful inhabitants of the asteroid struggle to decide their shared fate, a force greater than either animal or human seems to be silently watching the conflict, waiting for either side to finally answer the question: what is worthy of being human?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDemon. Volume 1 / Jason Shiga.
“No matter how hard he tries, Jimmy Yee cannot die. A noose around his neck, a razor across his wrist, and even a bullet to his head all yield the same results: he awakes from each suicide attempt, miraculously unharmed, in his shabby room at the Sunbeam Motel. Has he gone mad? Or has he truly died and found himself in hell? Jimmy is willing to tear the world down around him to get at the truth. Highly analytical and utterly unscrupulous, he is uniquely suited to unraveling this bizarre mystery.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Reading across genres – April Fiction Newsletter

Welcome to the latest Fiction Newsletter from WCL. We have highlighted three of the most tempting reads from each genre that in turn demonstrates the diversity and depth of Wellington City Libraries fiction collection. This is also demonstrated by the debut novels selected for this month’s ‘Other Genre’ category. We do hope you will find some great reading, and perhaps a new author to enjoy.

Library News

Contemporary fiction

This month’s new Contemporary Fiction includes new novels from several award winning authors. One of these is George Saunders with his first novel, titled Lincoln in the bardo. He will be a guest at the Auckland Writers Festival in May.

Syndetics book cover 4 3 2 1 : a novel / Paul Auster.
“On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson’s story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid twentieth-century America.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Days without end : a novel / Sebastian Barry.
“Thomas McNulty, barely seventeen and having fled the Great Famine, signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. With his brother in arms, John Cole, Thomas fights in the Indian Wars and, ultimately, the Civil War. Orphans of terrible hardships, the men find these days to be vivid and alive, despite the horrors they see and are complicit in.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Lincoln in the bardo : a novel / George Saunders.
“February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.
Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Graphic novels

The Graphic Novel collection always provides a wide range of genres, a large variation in writing style and art work, so that devoted readers will find endless hours of entertaining reading. This month’s selection, with debut graphic novelist to the first volumes of new series again confirms the scope and diversity of this collection.

Syndetics book cover Carthago / [Christophe Bec, writer ; Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic, artists].
“The megalodon, the prehistoric ancestor of the great white shark, was the most ferocious predator of the seas, an 80-foot killing machine extinct for millions of years. But when divers drilling in an underwater cave are attacked by this living fossil, oceanographer Kim Melville discovers that this creature may not only have survived, but thrived, and is reclaiming its place at the top of the food chain.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Flying couch : a graphic memoir / Amy Kurzweil.
“Amy Kurzweil’s debut, tells the stories of three unforgettable women. Amy weaves her own coming-of-age as a young Jewish artist into the narrative of her mother, a psychologist, and Bubbe, her grandmother, a World War II survivor who escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto by disguising herself as a gentile.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Huck [1] : All-American / Mark Millar, writer ; Rafael Albuquerque, artist ; created by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque.
“In a quiet seaside town, a gas station clerk named Huck secretly uses his special gifts to do a good deed each day. But when his story leaks, a media firestorm erupts, bringing him uninvited fame. As pieces of Huck’s past begin to resurface, it’s no longer clear who his friends are, or whose lives may be in danger.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Mysteries

This month’s selection of new mystery novels included many characters with a diverse range of occupations investigating crime and murder. These together with the very popular police procedural mysteries provide a great choice for readers.

Syndetics book cover Right behind you : a novel / Lisa Gardner.
“Eight years ago, Sharlah May Nash’s older brother beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat in order to save both of their lives. Now thirteen years old, Sharlah is about to be adopted by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner. A call comes in about a double murder at a local gas station, followed by reports of an armed suspect shooting his way through the wilds of Oregon. As Quincy and Rainie race to assist, they are forced to confront mounting evidence: The shooter may very well be Sharlah’s older brother, Telly Ray Nash, and it appears his killing spree has only just begun.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover City of strangers : a novel / Louise Millar.
“When Grace and her childhood sweetheart Mac come home from their honeymoon in Thailand, they’re shocked to find a dead body beside their pile of unopened wedding presents. The police are unable to ID the man, so it is assumed that he was a burglar who died from natural causes. Little do they know that evidence for a rather different story is hidden right beneath their apartment.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science fiction/fantasy

In the new Science Fiction and Fantasy selection for this month there were new novels from several very popular writers. Greg Bear, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Charles Stross, just to name a few.

Syndetics book cover Take back the sky / Greg Bear.
“The conclusion to an epic interstellar trilogy of war. Marooned beneath the icy, waxy crust of Saturn’s moon, Titan, Skyrine Michael Venn and his comrades face double danger from Earth and from the Antagonists; both are intent on wiping out their growing awareness of what the helpful alien Gurus are really doing in our solar system. The former combatants must now team up with their enemies, forget their indoctrination and their training, and journey far beyond Pluto to the fabled Planet X, the Antagonists’ home world, a Sun-Planet in the comet-generating Kuiper belt. It’s here that Master Sergeant Venn will finally understand his destiny and the destiny of every intelligent being in the solar system-including the enigmatic Gurus.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover A closed and common orbit / Becky Chambers.
“Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so alone. But she’s not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world, because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over. Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Empire games / Charles Stross.
“The year is 2020. It is seventeen years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire. But Miriam Burgeson, commissioner in charge of the shadowy Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence, has a problem. For years, she’s warned everyone: “The Americans are coming.” Now their drones arrive in the middle of a succession crisis. In another timeline, the U.S. has recruited Miriam’s own estranged daughter to spy across timelines in order to bring down any remaining world-walkers who might threaten national security. Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies try to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Other genres

The new ‘Other Genres’ category this month features Debut Novelists. All the first novels selected have received excellent reviews with great promise and expectation for future work.

Syndetics book cover Barking dogs / Rebekah Clarkson.
“If you took a bird’s-eye view of Mount Barker, you’d see ordinary Australians living on their ordinary suburban blocks in an ordinary regional town. Get closer. Peer through a window. You might see Nathan Long, obsessively recording the incessant bark of a neighbourhood dog, or the Wheeler family sitting down for a meal and trying to come to terms with a shocking discovery. If you listen, you may hear tales of fathers and their wayward sons, of widows who can’t forgive themselves, of children longed for and lost, of thwarted lust and of pure, incorruptible love. Within the shadows is an unspeakable crime.” (Adapted from Book cover)
Syndetics book cover Nina is not ok / Shappi Khorsandi.
“Nina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t?Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all. And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before, then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend. But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Fish in exile / Vi Khi Nao.
“How do you bear the death of a child? with fish tanks and jellyfish burials, Persephone’s pomegranate seeds, and affairs with the neighbors. Fish in Exile spins unimaginable loss through classical and magical tumblers, distorting our view so that we can see the contours of a parent’s grief all the more clearly.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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New Graphic Novels for March

This month’s selection form the recently received new Graphic Novels includes the first volumes in two new series by popular writers, Huck by Mark Millar and Dragon Ace by Greg Rucka. Also included are two debut graphic novelists, one a memoir by American Amy Kurzweil, and the other by Argentinean Lucas Varela.

Syndetics book coverCarthago / [Christophe Bec, writer ; Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic, artists].
“The megalodon, the prehistoric ancestor of the great white shark, was the most ferocious predator of the seas, an 80-foot killing machine extinct for millions of years. But when divers drilling in an underwater cave are attacked by this living fossil, oceanographer Kim Melville discovers that this creature may not only have survived, but thrived, and is reclaiming its place at the top of the food chain.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency : a spoon too short / written by Arvind Ethan David ; art by Ilias Kyriazis.
“After the many and conflicting versions of the legendary Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams created Dirk Gently: a detective with a belief in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, a troubled relationship with the laws of probability and quantum physics, and a love of cats and pizza. Dirk finds himself investigating a bizarre case of poaching, dumbstruck tourists, and the inner membranes of a rhinoceros’ nose.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMooncop / Tom Gauld.
“The lunar colony is slowly winding down, like a small town circumvented by a new super highway. As our hero, the Mooncop, makes his daily rounds, his beat grows ever smaller, the population dwindles. A young girl runs away, a dog breaks off his leash; an automaton wanders off from the Museum of the Moon. Each day that the Mooncop goes to work, life gets a little quieter and a little lonelier.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOne hundred nights of hero / Isabel Greenberg.
“A feminist fairy-tale of betrayal, loyalty, madness, bad husbands, lovers both faithful and unfaithful, wise old crones, moons who come out of the sky, musical instruments that won’t stay quiet, friends and brothers and fathers and mothers and above all, many, many sisters.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPrivate beach / David Hahn ; with a new foreword by Jeff Parker.
“Everyday life takes on touches of the bizarre in these tales of sexy and cynical Trudy Honeyvan and her circle of twenty-something friends. From oddball coincidences to occasional UFO sightings to an ominously cryptic message from a Magic 8 Ball, Trudy’s world is becoming increasingly weird, right up to the point when a pair of mysterious men in black ask her to “lend ambiance” to a nightclub called Heaven’s Rift.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFlying couch : a graphic memoir / Amy Kurzweil.
“Amy Kurzweil’s debut, tells the stories of three unforgettable women. Amy weaves her own coming-of-age as a young Jewish artist into the narrative of her mother, a psychologist, and Bubbe, her grandmother, a World War II survivor who escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto by disguising herself as a gentile.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHuck [1] : All-American / Mark Millar, writer ; Rafael Albuquerque, artist ; created by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque.
“In a quiet seaside town, a gas station clerk named Huck secretly uses his special gifts to do a good deed each day. But when his story leaks, a media firestorm erupts, bringing him uninvited fame. As pieces of Huck’s past begin to resurface, it’s no longer clear who his friends are, or whose lives may be in danger.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBurning fields / written by Michael Moreci & Tim Daniel ; illustrated by Colin Lorimer.
“Dana Atkinson, a dishonorably discharged army investigator, is pulled back to the Middle East when a group of American oil technicians disappears under bizarre circumstances. With the help of an Iraqi investigator, Dana discovers a series of unusual incidents at the drill site, which lead her and an unlikely ally to discover a mythic evil that has been released, one that threatens both the lives of the entire region and the fragile peace that exists.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDragon Age [1] : magekiller / script, Greg Rucka ; pencils, Carmen Carnero ; inks, Terry Pallot.
“Tessa and Marius are mercenary partners united by an unbreakable bond and compelled to eliminate those who use magic to hurt others. When they betray a powerful patron who intended to kill them once their job was completed, they’re forced to run and join the Inquisition. With the breach in the sky tearing the world apart, there’s more to fear than Venatori and an angry former employer. Can Tessa, Marius and the Inquisition overcome the greatest threat Thedas has ever faced?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe longest day of the future / Lucas Varela.
“In a futuristic city, two mega-companies share power, while indulging in a thankless war to eliminate the other, by any means necessary. The crash of an extraterrestrial flying saucer will, perhaps, change that. This masterfully crafted, witty and irreverent graphic novel is Argentine cartoonist and graphic designer Lucas Varela’s debut.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)