“Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues”: Our selection of new fiction titles

“Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues; you can tell by the way she smiles.”

— Bob Dylan

Is the Mona Lisa portrait hanging in the Louvre a fake?

This is the intriguing premise of The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer, one of our recently acquired general fiction titles. It’s a premise not without some substance as the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911. The initial suspicion for the theft fell on the painter Pablo Picasso, and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire both were taken in for questioning and later released without charge. The real culprit was an Italian patriot Vincent Peruggia, with connections to a known forger who strongly believed the painting belonged in Italy. His cunning and successful plan involved hiding in a broom cupboard, wrapping the painting around a smock, tucked it under his arm, and walking out a staff door. Ironically it was this theft that was to make the painting world famous; up to that point it was relatively unheralded. He was only caught when he attempted to sell the picture to the Uffizi nearly two years later.  And since that time rumours about the authenticity of the picture hanging in the Louvre have persisted.

The Mona Lisa itself is over 500 years old, thought to have been started by Leonardo da Vinci around 1503 and completed sometime around 1517. It is now the world’s most famous and recognisable painting and is rumoured to be insured for over 870 million dollars.  It once hung in Napoleon’s bedroom and is now owned by the French republic.

Other selected titles in this months newly acquired general fiction list include Colm Tóibín’s The Magician, a fictionalised biography about the German writer Thomas Mann, Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel called Crossroads, set in 1970’s Chicago and a debut novel from American New Zealander Dana C Carver called Two Truths.

The last Mona Lisa : a novel / Santlofer, Jonathan
“August, 1911: The Mona Lisa is stolen by Vincent Peruggia. Exactly what happens in the two years before its recovery is a mystery. Many replicas of the Mona Lisa exist, and more than one historian has wondered if the painting now in the Louvre is a fake, switched in 1911. Present day: art professor Luke Perrone digs for the truth behind his most famous ancestor: Peruggia. His search attracts an Interpol detective with something to prove and an unfamiliar but curiously helpful woman. Soon, Luke tumbles deep into the world of art and forgery, a land of obsession and danger. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The magician / Tóibín, Colm
“When the Great War breaks out in 1914 Thomas Mann, like so many of his fellow countrymen, is fired up with patriotism. He imagines the Germany of great literature and music, which had drawn him away from the stifling, conservative town of his childhood, might be a source of pride once again. But his flawed vision will form the beginning of a dark and complex relationship with his homeland, and see the start of great conflict within his own brilliant and troubled family. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Crossroads / Franzen, Jonathan
“It’s December 23, 1971, and heavy weather is forecast for Chicago. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless — unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire with moral absolutism, having taken an action that will shatter his father. Clem’s sister, Becky, long the social queen of her high-school class, has sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh graders, has resolved to be a better person.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook

Two truths / Carver, Dana C
“On a wintry day long ago, Renee Morgan walked into the snowy mountains of Lake Tahoe, where she met a man who changed her world forever. Now, nearly half a century later, she must face the facts of who the man was and, ultimately, face the truth about herself. After the mysterious death of her husband, Renee’s daughters – Brett, Sara and Hadley – become increasingly determined to explore the circumstances of his death, and in doing so tread a dangerous path. If Renee is to protect them, she must evolve in a way she has spent a lifetime avoiding. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

I love you but I’ve chosen darkness / Watkins, Claire Vaye
” Claire, a writer, gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump-and a creeping case of postpartum depression. But what begins as a temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends soon mutates into an extended flight from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the depths of the past.  Claire can’t go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, she finally finds a way to make herself at home in the world. .” (Adapted from Catalogue)

She wouldn’t change a thing / Adlakha, Sarah
” A second chance is the last thing she wants. When thirty-nine year old Maria Forssmann wakes up in her seventeen-year-old body, she doesn’t know how she got there. All she does know is she has to get back: to her home in Bienville, Mississippi, to her job as a successful psychiatrist and, most importantly, to her husband, daughters, and unborn son. But she also knows that, in only a few weeks, a devastating tragedy will strike her husband, a tragedy that will lead to their meeting each other. Can she change time and still keep what it’s given her? Exploring the responsibilities love lays on us, the complicated burdens of motherhood, and the rippling impact of our choices.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Something new under the sun : a novel / Kleeman, Alexandra
“East-coast novelist Patrick Hamlin has come to Hollywood with simple goals in mind: overseeing the production of a film adaptation of one of his books, preventing starlet Cassidy Carter’s disruptive behavior from derailing said production, and turning this last-ditch effort at career resuscitation into the sort of success that will dazzle his wife and daughter back home. But California is not as he imagined: drought, wildfire, and corporate corruption are omnipresent, and the company behind a mysterious new brand of synthetic water seems to be at the root of it all…..” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Revelator / Gregory, Daryl
” In 1933, nine-year-old Stella is left by her father in the care of her grandmother, Motty, in the backwoods of Tennessee. The remote hills of the Smoky Mountains are home to dangerous secrets, and upon her arrival, Stella wanders into a dark cavern where she encounters the presence of the family’s personal god, an entity known only as Ghostdaddy. Fifteen years later, after a tragic incident causes her to flee, Stella–now a professional moonshiner and bootleg runner–returns for Motty’s funeral, finds a mysterious ten-year-old girl named Sunny living on the property. Though she appears innocent enough, Sunny is more powerful than Stella can ever know and a direct link to Stella’s buried past. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Debut novelist Rachel Kerr’s NaNoWriMo tips!

NaNoWriMo celebrates the power of creativity, and is the ideal way of firing up your writing neurons. It also connects you to fellow writers, focuses your writing efforts by setting milestones and is a fantastic way to help budding writers create new worlds and stories!

To help you begin, we asked various authors to share their tips, hints and general advice for new writers. First up: debut novelist Rachel Kerr, who shares her advice on both the writing process and also how to get published.

Rachel’s book Victory Park revolves round a young mum who lives in council flats with her young son. The truth of her daily existence is that it is threadbare and unpromising. That is until the mysterious Bridget moves in to the flats, bringing with her unexpected friendship, glamour and wild dreams. But is all as it seems?

Rachel said that when she heard that Victory Park had arrived from the printer, she grabbed a carry bag and jumped on a bus and came straight down. “Nothing like holding your first novel in your hands and realising the words you sweated over for years are there, locked in, ready for others to read”.

Below is a short video with Rachel’s tips. We’d like to extend our thanks to Rachel for doing this!

Victory Park has now been published and will soon be available to borrow from our libraries–and is of course available from all good bookshops.

NaNoWriMo runs throughout the month of November in many of our branches. For full details see below.

Branches hosting “Come Write In” spaces for NaNoWriMo:

  • Newtown Library  Special one off event on Monday 9th November 4.00pm
  • Kilbirnie  Special one off on Monday the 16th at 4.00pm
  • Te Awe Library – Monday – Friday 5.30pm – 7.30pm; Saturday – Sunday 12.00 – 2.00pm
  • Arapaki Library – Thursdays and Fridays 5.00 – 7.00pm
  • Mervyn Kemp (Tawa) Library – Wednesdays 10.00am – 2.00pm
  • Johnsonville Library – Tuesdays 4.00 – 6.30pm and Sundays 10.00am – 4.00pm
  • Karori Library – Fridays 3.00pm – 5.00pm and Saturdays 10.00am – 1.00pm
  • Cummings Park (Ngaio) Library – Mondays 5.00pm – 7.00pm and Wednesdays 2.00 – 5.00pm

Below is a selection of the many writing guides available from our collection that may help you on the way. Enjoy!

Overdrive cover How Not to Write a Novel, Howard Mittelmark (ebook)
“How not to Write a Novel, authors Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman distill their 30 years combined experience in teaching, editing, writing, and reviewing fiction to bring you real advice from the other side of the query letter. Rather than telling you how or what to write, they identify the 200 most common mistakes unconsciously made by writers . As funny as it is useful, this essential how-NOT-to guide will help you get your manuscript out of the slush pile and into the bookstore. (Adapted Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Write Your Novel in a Month, Jeff Gerke (ebook)
One of these days, I’m going to sit down and write that novel…. Everyone thinks about doing it, yet most people who do start a novel end up stalling after a few chapters. Where do these would-be novelists go wrong? Are the characters dull and cliched? Did the story arc collapse? Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or simply hoping to complete a draft over winter break, this book covers the entire scope of writing a novel. (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, Jessica Brody (ebook)
Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 “beats” (plot points) that comprise a successful story, this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate—and a novel that will sell. (Adapted from Overdrive description)

How to write short stories and get them published / Lister, Ashley
How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published is the essential guide to writing short fiction. It takes the aspiring writer from their initial idea through to potential outlets for publication and pitching proposals to publishers. Along the journey this guide considers the most important aspects of creative writing, such as character, plot, point of view, description and dialogue. All of these areas are illustrated with examples of classic fiction, and accompanied by exercises that will help every writer hone their natural skill.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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.

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

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

Syndetics book coverCooking for Picasso : a novel / Camille Aubray.
Art, food, music love and mystery all on the French Riviera, delightful page turning escapism.

Syndetics book coverDark matter : a novel / by Blake Crouch.
A skillfully plotted science fiction technothriller about multiple realities, great edge of the seat reading.

Syndetics book coverHeroes of the frontier : a novel / Dave Eggers.
A fast–paced topical,truly entertaining funny novel, from a highly acclaimed writer.

Syndetics book cover5,000 km per second / Manuele Fior ; translated from Italian by Jamie Richards.
This Italian award winning graphic novel, with stunningly beautiful artwork, is full of emotion, sad, yet hopeful.

Syndetics book coverA rising man / Abir Mukherjee.
A gripping, atmospheric historical crime novel.