Keeping up with the Jones: new mysteries in our collection

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Welcome to this month’s selection of newly acquired detective and thriller titles. There is a host of goodies on offer this month but the title that caught our eye was The Wharton Plot by Mariah Fredericks, in which the acclaimed author and socialite Edith Wharton solves a tricky mystery.

Author Edith Wharton is perhaps better known as the chronicler of America’s gilded age, approximately the mid-1870s to the late 1890s, through which Edith Wharton lived.  This time in America’s history is known for its rapid economic expansion, materialistic excess and associated political corruption – in short, a perfect period and location in which to set a detective story.

Edith Wharton was born in 1862 into New York aristocracy. Her family name was Jones and their  wealth was such that it led to the phrase, still in use today, “keeping up with the Jones” being coined about them. She became a hugely gifted writer, realistically portraying the morals and lives of her time. Her novel The Age of Innocence won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and she was the first ever female recipient of the prize. She went on to write numerous other well-known novels such as The House of Mirth and her ghost stories are highly recommended. She passed in 1937 and was posthumously inducted  into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

Our other top tips in this month’s selection can be viewed below.

The Wharton plot : a novel / Fredericks, Mariah
“New York City, 1911. Edith Wharton, almost equally famed for her novels and her sharp tongue, is bone-tired of Manhattan. Finding herself at a crossroads with both her marriage and her writing, she makes the decision to leave America, her publisher, and her loveless marriage. And then, dashing novelist David Graham Phillips–a writer with often notorious ideas about society and women’s place in it–is shot to death outside the Princeton Club. Edith herself met the man only once, when the two formed a mutual distaste over tea in the Palm Court of the Belmont hotel. When Phillips is killed, Edith’s life takes another turn, as she becomes obsessed with solving a crime.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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The wonderful land of Oz: New science fiction and fantasy


Welcome to this our February selection of recently acquired science fiction and fantasy titles. This month, to celebrate the release of Wicked author Gregory Maguire’s latest sortie into the world of Oz, we present to you a short piece on this magical land in literature and beyond.

The first book to journey to the marvellous land of Oz was L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, released in 1901. The book was an instant runaway success from the start, quickly selling out its first edition of 10,000 copies and undergoing numerous reprints, often under the title The Wizard of Oz. This success quickly spawned a hugely successful early musical stage show in 1902 and a further thirteen additional Oz books by L. Frank Baum followed.

The land of Oz has of course a long and magical legacy in film as well as literature, from the classic 1939 live-action film to The Wiz — a 1970s musical financed by Motown records and by Universal Pictures and starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor as the Wizard, set in African American culture.

All of which brings us to the modern cultural phenomenon of the Wicked book series and the unstoppable globetrotting multi-award winning musical that is also soon to be released as two major Hollywood movies. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire is the first in the hugely popular series of books that reimagine the Oz story. The other books in the series are: Son of a Witch,  A Lion Among Men and Out of Oz. There is also a Wicked sequel trilogy consisting of The Brides of Maracoor , The Oracle of Maracoor and the newly released The Witch of Maracoor. As well, there’s also a Wicked childhood prequel called Elphie: A Wicked Childhood, due out in October 2024.

Baum himself cited writer Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm as influences on the book.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been described by the Library of Congress as “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale”.

Incidentally the stories have become such an important part of American culture that the Ruby slippers from the 1939 movie are now housed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History.

Below is a link to The Witch of Maracoor and our other selected titles for this month.

The witch of Maracoor : a novel / Maguire, Gregory
“Following a confrontation with her reclusive great-grandfather, the one-time Wizard of Oz, Rainary Ko — the granddaughter of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West — has re-upped in a mission to settle a few scores and right a wrong or two. Her memory and her passions reviving, Rain turns her gaze back to her native Oz. Though the Grimmerie, which she had cast into the sea, retains its arcane power over her, the lover she left behind in Oz proves no less haunting. Traveling companions and arrivistes can befuddle a young witch coming into her own, but Rain marshals a steely determination to stare her troubles in the eye and see who blinks first.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Witchwood Knot / Atwater, Olivia
“The faeries of Witchwood Manor have stolen its young lord. His governess intends to steal him back. Victorian governess Winifred Hall knows a con when she sees one. When her bratty young charge transforms overnight into a perfectly behaved block of wood, she soon realises that the real boy has been abducted by the Fair Folk. Unfortunately, the lord of Witchwood Manor is the only man in England who doesn’t believe in faeries-which leaves Winnie in the unenviable position of rescuing the young lord-to-be all by herself. Witchwood Manor is bigger than its inhabitants realise, however, and full of otherworldly dangers…” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook – The Witchwood Knot

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The Lost Sunflower: our latest fiction titles

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Welcome to another selection of new fiction titles. As is now customary, we like to pick one aspect of one of the books on offer and explore it a bit further. The title that caught our eye this month was The Lost Van Gogh by Jonathan Santlofer – a novel which revolves around the discovery of a long-lost Vincent Van Gogh self portrait and the mysteries surrounding it.

The premise to this book is entirely fictional but in reality, there is a lost Van Gogh masterpiece. As well as his self-portraits Van  Gogh was, of course, famous for his luminous paintings of sunflowers . He painted eight in total; six are in major public collections, one in private hands and one is lost.

In 1920 a Japanese collector bought a Vincent Van Gogh painting called Six Sunflowers, painted in 1888, and they took it to Japan shortly after its purchase. It was quite unlike any of the other sunflower paintings – being influenced by Van Gogh’s interest in Japanese woodblock art, and it was framed in a bright orange frame, revolutionary for the time, that complimented the colours used in the work.  Tragically, this masterwork was destroyed in the Osaka fire bombings at the end of World War II in 1945. We are, however, fortunate that some photographs of the painting were taken before it was lost and you can see one of those photographs here.

Van Gogh loved the perceived coarse and unrefined nature of sunflowers’ structure. As well as their colours and relationship with the sun, he also intended them to symbolise gratitude. Indeed, he decorated Paul Gauguin’s room with sunflower paintings when he stayed with him at the yellow house in Place Lamartine in Arles southern France.

We also have copies of  the already heavily  acclaimed Lioness by Emily Perkins just in and a host of other goodies.

The lost Van Gogh : a novel / Santlofer, Jonathan
“For years, there have been whispers that, before his death, Van Gogh completed a final self-portrait. Curators and art historians have savored this rumor, hoping it could illuminate some of the troubled artist’s many secrets, but even they have to concede that the missing painting is likely lost forever. But when Luke Perrone, artist and great-grandson of the man who stole the Mona Lisa, and Alexis Verde, daughter of a notorious art thief, discover what may be the missing portrait, they are drawn into a most epic art puzzles. When only days later the painting disappears again…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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Fables, Haruki Murakami and office jobs in space: New graphic novels

Fables, Haruki Murakami and office jobs in space. This month’s new graphic novels have a wide range of stories for you to enjoy. From the darker things in life to funny light-hearted stories, the variety in graphic novels is endless. Check out some of our new graphic novels and see where they take you!

The mysteries / Watterson, Bill
“In a fable for grown-ups, a long-ago kingdom is afflicted with unexplainable calamities. Hoping to end the torment, the king dispatches his knights to discover the source of the mysterious events. Years later, a single battered knight returns. From Watterson and Kascht comes a mysterious and beautifully illustrated fable about what lies beyond human understanding.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Haruki Murakami manga stories / Deveney, Jean-Christophe | eBook available for Haruki Murakami manga stories
“Haruki Murakami’s novels, essays and short stories have sold millions of copies worldwide and been translated into dozens of languages. Now for the first time, many of Murakami’s best-loved short stories are available in graphic novel form in English. With their trademark mix of realism and fantasy, centering around Murakami’s characteristic themes of loss, remorse and confusion.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Space job / Goodman, David A.
“Each day is an exciting new adventure in incompetence aboard the Bush. The Captain with self-centered priorities spends more time on space eBay than in command, the Chief Engineer can’t even fix a chair, the Operations Officer would rather be anywhere else, and the Communications Officer only seems to take personal calls. It’s a wonder they get anything done at all, but surely they can handle a simple cargo run. What could go wrong?” (Catalogue)

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A feast of new Aotearoa New Zealand fiction

Welcome to our first round up of newly acquired fiction titles for 2024.

To start the year off we have  a veritable feast of daring, diverse and adventurous Aotearoa fiction titles, most of which have only just been released. The breadth, range, genres employed and subjects explored, not to mention different styles, in evidence is stunning and shows what a rich literary community we have in Aotearoa.

The novels range from Booker-nominated Anna Smaill’s second novel Bird Life, to a collection of short stories by Edmond Murray about Auckland called Aucklanders, a book in the same vein as James Joyce’s Dubliners.

Other Aotearoa picks include a historical romance called The Girl from London by Olivia Spooner. There is also Joy Holley’s much anticipated debut collection of short stories, Dream Girl, plus a climate change novel called Dear Tui by M . C Ronen. Also, just in from our own fair shores there is Checkerboard Hill by Jade Kake, Landed by Sue McCauley and, to round things off on the Aotearoa front, Everything I Have by Tammy Robinson.

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Puns galore: New mystery titles

We love a good pun at the library and it appears that many cosy crime writers do too, especially when it comes to the titles of their books. This pun-tastic obsession comes into play even more so when it comes to seasonal releases.

This month’s selection of slightly out of season titles sees several books that fit this bill including, Let it crow! Let it crow! Let it crow! by Donna Andrews, Up on the woof top by Spencer Quinn, and our favourite this month ‘Twas the bite before Christmas by David Rosenfelt; a “seasonally themed canine detective tale.”

Incidentally our all-time favourite title in this field of wordplay is Dachshund through the snow.

There were several other titles that caught our attention, such as the new book by the multi-award-winning Aotearoa crime writer Paul Cleave called His favourite graves. We also have The new detective by Peter Steiner, a novel set in Germany before, during and after World War One.

Let it crow! Let it crow! Let it crow / Andrews, Donna
” Meg has been roped into participating in a blacksmithing competition, a kind of Forged in Fire wannabe organized by a blacksmith friend. Meg originally turned down his invitation to participate, but when Faulk, her blacksmithing mentor, breaks his wrist the night before filming begins, Meg agrees to step in as his replacement to keep the project from failing. She’s not thrilled that the filming will take place during December–Christmas is already a crazy time for her. At least she doesn’t have to abandon Michael and their twin sons during the filming, since that’s taking place on Ragnarsholm, the picturesque estate that her friend Ragnar, the retired heavy metal drummer, is turning into a Goth castle…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

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