Our Exclusive Q and A with Ben Aaronovitch

This is your brain on magic.

Ben Aaronovitch

We recently approached international bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch about the possibility of doing a Q and A, very much expecting a polite ‘no’ in response. So when he kindly agreed, we were thrilled!

Thinking about how best to compile some really good questions for Ben, the answer was obvious: we would ask our library patrons to send in their questions for Ben. The questions we received ranged widely — from enquiries about the Rivers of London series, to examples of how to do research, to experiences writing for Doctor Who.

So, below we now present our interview with Ben Aaronovitch. In our opinion, he was hugely entertaining, insightful and really funny to interview and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We wish to extend our most heartfelt thanks to Ben, and of course to our users for supplying the questions. Enjoy!


False value / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with émigré Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s brand new London start up – the Serious Cybernetics Company. Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous “silicon roundabout”, Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant’s favourite son.” (Catalogue)

The October man / Aaronovitch, Ben
“If you thought magic was confined to one country-think again. Trier: famous for wine, Romans, and being Germany’s oldest city. When a man is found dead with his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth. But fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything. Enter Tobias Winter, an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the branch of the German Federal Criminal Police which handles the supernatural.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rivers of London [3] : black mould / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Something dark and slimy is dripping through the walls of suburban London. Not the usual stuff that smells funny and can be hell on the lungs, this mould is possessed by some dark power full of bad intentions. Looks like it’s another case for London’s one and only trainee wizard cop, Police Constable Peter Grant, and his reluctant partner, Sahra Guleed.  Black Mould ties directly into the Rivers of London continuity, set between Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Remembrance of the Daleks, Ben Aaronovitch (ebook)
“With unfinished business to attend to, the Seventh Doctor returns to where it all began: Coal Hill School in 1963. Last time he was here, the Doctor left something behind – a powerful Time Lord artefact that could unlock the secrets of time travel. Can the Doctor retrieve it before two rival factions of Daleks track it down? And even if he can, how will the Doctor prevent the whole of London becoming a war zone as the Daleks meet in explosive confrontation?” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

For more information on Ben Aaronovitch’s books visit his website. And again, a big thank you to Ben!

Everything Ben Aaronovitch on our Catalogue

The Wild Card: Our Interview with Ngaio Marsh Finalist Renée

This year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards shortlist is full of outstanding New Zealand novels that cover a wide range of styles and tones in stories entwined with crime, mystery, thrills, and suspense. And it is going to be a really difficult task for the judges to pick a winner.

Amongst the shortlist for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards is New Zealand writing icon and legend Renée. Born in 1929 in Napier. After she left school age 12 Renée went on to work in a wide variety of jobs including in a dairy, as a cleaner in an Auckland’s Theatre and as a feature writer and reviewer. After completing a BA in 1979 Renée became more closely involved in community theatre and started writing for the stage. Having written so far over twenty  plays many of them featuring women in leading roles and works that often humanise working-class people.

Renée describes herself as a ‘lesbian feminist with socialist working-class ideals’ and nearly all of her written works expound these beliefs.

As well as numerous plays Renée has published nine fiction works and in 2018 was awarded the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement. And her fascinating, funny and insightful memoir These Two Hands, initially published in 2017 is due to be reissued with further chapters added in the very near future.

Renée has also tutored creative writing classes and also presents an annual writing guide for those who have or have had cancer and want to write about that experience.

Astonishingly The Wild Card is her first crime novel. Ruby the female lead in The Wild Card is a strong rounded character and the plot revolves round a crime against a Māori state ward. Described by reviewers as “Superb… a gripping read that covers some brutal topics”.

We wish to extend our most heartfelt thank you to Renée for her time and such a great interview. And we wish her and his fellow shortlisted authors good luck in the final awards ceremony.

The finalists will be celebrated, and the winners announced, as part of a special event at this year’s WORD Christchurch Festival, held from 29 October to 1 November. Enjoy!

The wild card / Renée
“Ruby Palmer has been dealt a rough hand. She was left in a kete at the back door of the Porohiwi Home for Children when she was a baby, and then at seven she discovered that Betty who stopped the bad stuff happening to Ruby at the Home has drowned. Now in her thirties, Ruby suspects her friend was murdered ¿ her only lead is a notebook that uses the symbols on playing cards to tell a story she can’t understand, but there are other clues too: the man in the balaclava who attacks her when she starts to investigate, and break-ins at the local theatre where Ruby is playing Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. As Ruby goes deeper into the mystery of Betty’s death, she starts to find answers to questions about herself that she hadn’t dared ask before. ” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The skeleton woman : a romance / Renée
“A baby on the doorstep, a skeleton woman biding time before the truth comes out. Rose Anthony’s life has just become much more complicated. Renee’s latest novel carries the reader on an entertaining roller coaster ride of mystery and intrigue. A rich tapestry of a tale guaranteed to keep the reader hooked from start to finish. Rose Anthony’s life has just become more complicated. There’s a baby abandoned on her doorstep, and long-kept secrets are about to fly into the open…A tightly plotted literary lesbian romance, delightfully told by New Zealand writer Renee.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Kissing shadows / Renée
“When Vivvie Caird is faced by the sight of her beautiful, strong-willed mother lying limp and speechless in a hospital bed, she feels empowered to begin unlocking the mystery that is her fathers legacy. Vivvies nave undertaking soon finds a parallel in her mothers own account of what happened when her husband left home one day, never to return. A family, and a court must confront a devastating event that occurred in the midst of the hard times of last century. This fast-paced, page-turning novel takes the reader into an absorbing and moving world of shadowy relationships and intrigue.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Wednesday to come : trilogy / Renée
” In Wednesday To Come Renee takes four women of four generations in a single family and looks at how they cope with the Great Depression of the 1930s. In Pass It On, Jeannie and Cliff, the two adolescents joined the hunger march in Wednesday to Come, have each grown up and married. Pass It On explores the very different experiences of Jeannie, the political activist, and Cliff’s wife Nell, and traces their relationship from initial distrust to a firm allegiance against the political and economic forces which threaten their families. Jeannie Once, tells the story of Jeannie’s great grandmother living in Victorian era Dunedin.” (Catalogue)

These two hands : a memoir / Renée
“Renee Paule lives in Otaki and teaches her Your Life, Your Story and her Poem a Week workshops there. This is just one version of her life, her story, told in patches, like a quilt.” (Catalogue)

 

 

And below some of the books Renée mentions in her interview.

Gaudy Night : A Lord Peter Wimsey mystery with Harriet Vane / Sayers, Dorothy L.
” The third Dorothy L. Sayers classic to feature mystery writer Harriet Vane, Gaudy Night features an introduction by Elizabeth George, herself a crime fiction master. Gaudy Night takes Harriet and her paramour, Lord Peter, to Oxford University, Harriet’s alma mater, for a reunion, only to find themselves the targets of a nightmare of harassment and mysterious, murderous threats.
Chicago Tribune ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an Audiobook.

And then there were none / Christie, Agatha
“Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide. The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again… and again…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Artists in crime / Marsh, Ngaio
“In the movies, it’s known as a “meet cute.” But for Inspector Alleyn and Miss Agatha Troy, it’s more like irritation: On the ship back to England, she finds him tedious and dull; he thinks she’s a bohemian cliché. They may be destined for romance, but there’s a murder in the way: No sooner has Alleyn settled in to his mother’s house, eager for a relaxing end to his vacation, then he gets a call that a model has been stabbed at the artists’ community down the road. And the artistic Miss Troy is one of the community’s most prominent and outspoken members. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The mind readers / Allingham, Margery
“Sam Ferris is an ordinary English schoolboy. Well, except for a few things. One: His father is an eminent scientist, based on a military research island off the English coast. Two: Sam is about to be interviewed by a solicitor, giving evidence, in a serious legal matter, against one of his favorite teachers. And three: Sam can read minds. But there’s a four: Sam’s uncle is Albert Campion. And Sam’s story, in all its seemingly unrelated elements, gives his Uncle Albert quite a lot to be curious about. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The broken shore / Temple, Peter
” Shaken by a scrape with death, big-city detective Joe Cashin is posted away from the Homicide Squad to a quiet town on the South Australian coast. Carrying physical scars and not a little guilt, he spends his time playing the country cop, walking his dogs, and thinking about how it all was before. When a prominent local is attacked and left for dead in his own home, Cashin is thrust into a murder investigation. The evidence points to three boys from the nearby aboriginal community, whom everyone wants to blame. Cashin is unconvinced, and soon begins to see the outlines of something far more terrible than a simple robbery gone wrong.”(Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Being the first lady? New general fiction

Every moment wasted looking back, keeps us from moving forward…In this world and the world of tomorrow, we must go forward together or not at all.”  – Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.

What if Hillary Diane Rodham hadn’t married Bill Clinton? Well this big “what if” is at the heart of Rodham a brilliant alternative political history by author Curtis Sittenfeld whose previous novels include American wife: a novel an alternative reality version of the life of another First Lady Laura Bush.

Rodham is just one of the intriguing and enthralling books in this month’s new books list; others include Antkind the fiction Debut of Charlie Kaufman screen writer of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And two titles from South Korea Almond and Disaster tourist. Finally, we have Sex and vanity the latest romantic comedy novel from bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians Kevin Kwan.

A mixture of new releases that really does have something for everyone. Enjoy!

Rodham : a novel / Sittenfeld, Curtis
“‘Awfully opinionated for a girl’ is what they call Hillary as she grows up in her Chicago suburb. Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that’s the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader- and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm No. How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Antkind : a novel / Kaufman, Charlie
” B. Rosenberger Rosenberg, neurotic and underappreciated film critic (failed academic, filmmaker, paramour, shoe salesman who sleeps in a sock drawer), stumbles upon a hitherto unseen film by an enigmatic outsider – a three-month-long stop-motion masterpiece that took its reclusive auteur ninety years to complete. Convinced that the film will change his career trajectory and rock the world of cinema to its core, that it might possibly be the greatest movie ever made, B. knows that it is his mission to show it to the rest of humanity. The only problem: the film is destroyed, leaving him the sole witness to its inadvertently ephemeral genius.”  (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Almond : a novel / Son, Wŏn-p’yŏng
“Yunjae was born with a brain condition  that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends–t–but his devoted mother and grandmother provide him with a safe and content life. Then on Christmas Eve–Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday a shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school, and they develop a surprising bond. As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people–including a girl at school–something slowly changes inside him. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The disaster tourist : a novel / Yun, Ko-ŭn
“Jungle is a cutting-edge travel agency specializing in tourism to destinations devastated by disaster and climate change. And until she found herself at the mercy of a predatory colleague, Yona was one of their top representatives. Now on the verge of losing her job, she’s given a proposition: take a paid “vacation” to the desert island of Mui and pose as a tourist to assess the company’s least profitable holiday. When she uncovers a plan to fabricate an extravagant catastrophe, she must choose: prioritize the callous company to whom she’s dedicated her life, or embrace a fresh start in a powerful new position? ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sex and vanity / Kwan, Kevin
” On her very first morning on the jewel-like island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George Zao and she instantly can’t stand him. She can’t stand it when he gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with her so that she can have a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, she can’t stand that he knows more about Casa Malaparte than she does, and she really can’t stand it when he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins of a Roman villa.  But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton, where Lucie is weekending with her new fiance, she finds herself drawn to him again. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bitter chocolate / Lokko, Lesley Naa Norle
“Three girls in search of a missing piece of their lives; three girls who will change their world to find it. In a story that begins in the relentless heat of a Haitian summer and sweeps through the luxurious homes of America’s elite, from elegant dinner parties in North London, to the colourful chaos of the East End, Bitter Chocolate is a tale of the quest for love, marriage and finding a place to belong.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Small pleasures / Chambers, Clare
“1957, south-east suburbs of London Jean Swinney is a feature writer on a local paper, disappointed in love and – on the brink of forty – living a limited existence with her truculent mother.When a young Swiss woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. But the more she investigates, the more her life becomes strangely (and not unpleasantly) intertwined with that of the Tilburys: But they are the subject of the story Jean is researching for the newspaper, a story that increasingly seems to be causing dark ripples across all their lives.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Double agent / Bradby, Tom
“Kidnapped in Venice by a Russian defector, Kate knows she’s in trouble. But all is not as it seems. The spy offers her conclusive evidence that the British Prime Minister is a live agent working for Moscow. Kate’s holiday quickly becomes the start of her next mission.With proof of the PM involved in a sordid scandal and a financial paper trail that undeniably links him to the Russians, the evidence seems bulletproof. But the motives of the defector are anything but clear. And, more worryingly, it seems that there are key people at the heart of the British Establishment who refuse to acknowledge the reality in front of them.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Tugga’s Mob: Our Interview with Ngaio Marsh Finalist Stephen Johnson

Continuing our short feature series on this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards, we are delighted to have an exclusive interview and reading by debut novelist and Ngaio Marsh shortlisted author of Tugga’s Mob, Stephen Johnson.

Stephen has a fascinating background, first as a courier and driver for Topdeck Travel, taking passengers from London to Istanbul and then as a television producer for some of New Zealand’s most iconic news and sports programmes. Both of these life experiences inform many of the dramatic devices and locations Stephen uses in this novel. For example, the novel’s investigators are a television current affairs crew rather than the traditional detectives or private investigators.

Stephen describes himself as an accidental author who wrote the book whilst on an empty nest tour of Europe. The plot revolves around Judy Williams, a young backpacker whose dream of exploring Europe on her OE ends tragically in her murder. It is only the discovery of her diary thirty years later that leads to the investigation that finally puts matters to right. Tugga’s Mob has been described by many reviewers as a “compulsive page turner” that vividly brings to life some of Europe’s top tourist destinations.

We want to extend our biggest thank you to Stephen for his time and such a great interview. And we wish him and his fellow shortlisted authors good luck in the final awards ceremony. The finalists will be celebrated, and the winners announced, as part of a special event at this year’s WORD Christchurch Festival, held from 29 October to 1 November. Enjoy!

Below are some of the books that influenced Stephen Johnson and were mentioned in his interview:

Secret Seven on the trail / Blyton, Enid
“Something mysterious is going on at Tigger’s Barn, and the Secret Seven are intrigued. Peter thinks it’s all just gossip, but Jack isn’t so sure when he overhears a strange conversation. It looks like the Seven are on the trail of another exciting adventure! Solve the mystery!This edition features the classic text and comes with a Bonus Blyton section at the back with quizzes, puzzles and other bonus extras! .” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Call for the dead / Le Carré, John
“After a routine security check by George Smiley, civil servant Samuel Fennan apparently kills himself. When Smiley finds Circus head Maston is trying to blame him for the death, he begins his own investigation, meeting Fennan’s widow. On the very day Smiley is ordered off the enquiry he receives an urgent letter from the dead man. Do the East Germans – and their agents – know more about this man’s death than the Circus previously imagined?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The Ipcress file / Deighton, Len
“Len Deighton’s classic first novel, whose protagonist is a nameless spy – later christened Harry Palmer and made famous worldwide in the iconic 1960s film starring Michael Caine. The Ipcress File was not only Len Deighton’s first novel, it was his first bestseller and the book that broke the mould of thriller writing. For the working class narrator, an apparently straightforward mission to find a missing biochemist becomes a journey to the heart of a dark and deadly conspiracy.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The Bourne identity : a novel / Ludlum, Robert
” His memory is a blank. His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip. Even his name is a mystery. Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators–led by Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him. (Adapted from Catalogue)

Headhunters/ Nesbø, Jo
“Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter, but one career simply can’t support his luxurious lifestyle. At an art opening one night he meets Clas Greve, who is not only the perfect candidate for a major CEO job, but also, perhaps, the answer to his financial woes: Greve just so happens to mention that he owns a priceless Peter Paul Rubens painting–and Roger Brown just so happens to dabble in art theft. But when he breaks into Greve’s apartment, he finds more than just the painting.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

A place of execution / McDermid, Val
In the village of Scardale, thirteen-year-old girls didn’t just run away. So when Alison Carter vanished in the winter of ’63, everyone knew it was a murder. Catherine Heathcote remembers the case well. A child herself when Alison vanished, decades on she still recalls the sense of fear. Now a journalist, she persuades DI George Bennett to speak of the hunt for Alison, the tantalizing leads and harrowing dead ends. But when a fresh lead emerges, Bennett tries to stop the story… ‘” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook

The faceless / Symon, Vanda
“Bradley is a middle-aged man trapped in middle-class New Zealand. One day, Bradley picks up a teenage hooker. Unfortunately he can’t keep it up and then she laughs at him. That was a mistake. He beats her, ties her up and takes her to an abandoned warehouse. Max is homeless. He eats from rubbish bins, bums cigarettes from anyone and anywhere, including the footpath. But Max has one friend and she has gone missing. If he is to find her he is going to have to call on some people from his past life and re-open old wounds.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

When she was good / Robotham, Michael
“Criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac return. Who is Evie, the girl with no past, running from? She was discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Her ability to tell when someone is lying helped Cyrus crack an impenetrable case. Now, the closer Cyrus gets to uncovering answers about Evie’s dark history, the more he exposes Evie to danger, giving her no choice but to run. Ultimately, both will have to decide if some secrets are better left buried and some monsters should never be named…” (Catalogue)

For more information on Stephen click here.

Our current obsession with pandemic fiction

How quickly one accepts the incredible if only one sees it enough.”

― Richard Matheson, I Am Legend

In the strange and uncertain times we find ourselves living in many commentators have said that the  world feels more like a Science Fiction story than normal reality. And given this fact it is not surprising that pandemic fiction has become suddenly very popular. Perhaps by reading about something we understand it more and fear it less.  There is a rich literary tradition of writing novels about plagues and pandemics that range from Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron written in 1353, right up to the remarkable president The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue released earlier year but written before the Covid 19 outbreak. Here is a list of some of the most notable pandemic reads.

The decameron / Boccaccio, Giovanni
“The year is 1348. The Black Death has begun to ravage Europe. Ten young Florentines–seven women and three men–escape the plague-infested city and retreat to the countryside around Fiesole. At their leisure in this isolated and bucolic setting, they spend ten days telling each other stories–tales of romance, tragedy, comedy, and farce–one hundred in all. The result, called by one critic “the greatest short story collection of all time” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an audiobook. 

The plague / Camus, Albert
“The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr Rieux, resist the terror. The Plague is in part an allegory of France’s suffering under the Nazi occupation, and a story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence. “ (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an audiobook. 

I am legend / Matheson, Richard
“Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth…but he is not alone. Every other man, woman, and child on Earth has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville’s blood. By day, he is the hunter, stalking the sleeping undead through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn. How long can one man survive in a world of vampires?” (Catalogue) Also available as an audiobook.

The book of M / Shepherd, Peng
In the middle of a market in India, a man’s shadow disappears. As rolling twenty-four-hour news coverage tries to explain the event, more cases are discovered. The phenomenon spreads like a plague as people learn the true cost of their lost part: their memories. Two years later, Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods in Virgina. They have settled into their new reality, until Max, too, loses her shadow. ” (Catalogue) Also available as an audiobook.

Overdrive cover The Transmigration of Bodies and Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera (ebook)
Hilarious and horrifying, Yuri Herrera’s The Transmigration of Bodies is a gritty, feverish novella, written in dazzling prose that is both bawdy and poetic. A plague has brought death to the city. Two feuding crime families with blood on their hands need our hard-boiled hero, The Redeemer, to broker peace. Both his instincts and the vacant streets warn him to stay indoors, but The Redeemer ventures out into the city’s underbelly to arrange for the exchange of the bodies they hold hostage. (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Station eleven / Mandel, Emily St. John
“‘ The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%. WEEK TWO – Civilization has crumbled.YEAR TWENTY – A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The year of the flood / Atwood, Margaret
“After ecological disaster hits, trapeze dancer Ren and Toby, leader of a group called God’s Gardeners, are the only survivors-except for some scary gene-spliced life forms. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners, predicted the waterless flood. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. By turns dark, tender, violent, & hilarious.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The Old Drift : a novel / Serpell, Namwali
“Those buzzing mosquitoes? They’re a Greek chorus. As the generations pass through Old Drift , their lives–their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes–emerge through a panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines. ” (Catalogue) Also available as an audiobook.

The pull of the stars / Donoghue, Emma
“.In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

A novel for all seasons

That’s what winter is: an exercise in remembering how to still yourself then how to come pliantly back to life again.”

― Ali Smith, Winter

The concluding instalment of Ali Smiths much praised Seasonal Quartet series has just been released. Summer like the previous works in the series is a stand-alone novel but all of the books in the series are interlinked as their titles suggest by the seasons. However Ali Smith is by no means the first author to find inspiration from our seasons indeed regularly a large number of the books in the summer bestseller charts have summer as their back drop. And the distinctive characteristics of the other seasons has fired the creative imagination of many an author. Below are just a few of the novels that have found their origins in the seasons. Enjoy!

Summer : a novel / Smith, Ali
“From the Man Booker short-listed author of Autumn, Winter, and Spring comes Summer, the highly anticipated fourth novel in her acclaimed Seasonal Quartet. Here is the exciting culmination of Ali Smith’s celebrated Seasonal Quartet, a series of stand-alone novels, separate but interconnected (as the seasons are), wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The summer book / Jansson, Tove
“An elderly artist and her six-year-old grand-daughter are away on a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. As the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings, a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the very island itself.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The history of bees / Lunde, Maja
“This  novel follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees–and to their children and one another–against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis. England, 1852. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive. George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation. China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

Outline / Cusk, Rachel
“A novel in ten conversations, Outline follows a novelist teaching creative writing during an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling, meets other writers for dinner, and swims in the Ionian Sea with a man she met on the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sag Harbor : a novel / Whitehead, Colson
“Every summer, Benji escapes to the Hamptons, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own. Because their parents come out only on weekends, he and his friends are left to their own devices for three glorious months. And although he’s just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates the rest of the year, he thinks that maybe this summer things will be different. If all goes according to plan, that is.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The left hand of darkness / Le Guin, Ursula K.
” When the human ambassador Genly Ai is sent to Gethen, the planet known as Winter by those outsiders who have experienced its arctic climate, he thinks that his mission will be a standard one of making peace between warring factions. Instead the ambassador finds himself wildly unprepared. For Gethen is inhabited by a society with a rich, ancient culture full of strange beauty and deadly intrigue – a society of people who are both male and female in one, and neither. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The tenderness of wolves / Penney, Stef
” The year is 1867. Winter has just tightened its grip on Dove River, a tiny isolated settlement in the Northern Territory, when a man is brutally murdered. A local woman, Mrs. Ross, stumbles upon the crime scene and sees the tracks leading from the dead man’s cabin north toward the forest and the tundra beyond. It is Mrs. Ross’s knock on the door of the largest house in Caulfield that launches the investigation. Within hours she will regret that knock with a mother’s love – for soon she makes another discovery: her seventeen-year-old son Francis has disappeared and is now considered a prime suspect.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Autumn : a novel / Smith, Ali
” Autumn 2016- Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. And the UK is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer. Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand in hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever. Here is time, ever-changing, ever cyclical. Here comes Autumn.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Ask Ben Aaronovitch a Question!

We are very excited to announce that in October we will be doing a pre-recorded Question and Answer online event with the international bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch–and we need your help with the questions!

Ben Aaronovitch is one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy writers in the world today. His Rivers of London series has been translated into 14 languages worldwide, with every one of the novels becoming a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller. Ben has been a screenwriter for Doctor Who, Casualty and has written spin-off novels for Doctor Who and Blake 7. His work has even been adapted into a fantastic graphic novel series.

So if you’ve ever wanted to ask Ben Aaronovitch a question, now’s your chance!

Simply send us your questions via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email and we’ll do our best to ask them during the event. And in the meantime, check out the selection of Ben’s work we have available to borrow throughout our libraries. Enjoy!

False value / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with émigré Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s brand new London start up – the Serious Cybernetics Company. Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous “silicon roundabout”, Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant’s favourite son.” (Adapted from  Catalogue)

The October man / Aaronovitch, Ben
“When a man is found dead with his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth. But fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything.Enter Tobias Winter, an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the branch of the German Federal Criminal Police which handles the supernatural. His aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger, and paperwork.” (Catalogue)

Foxglove summer / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Ben Aaronovitch takes Peter Grant out of whatever comfort zone he might have found and takes him out of London – to a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children. But while you can take the London copper out of London you can’t take the London out of the copper. Peter soon finds himself caught up in a deep mystery and having to tackle local cops and local gods.” (Catalogue). Also available as an Audiobook. 

The furthest station / Aaronovitch, Ben
” Traumatised travellers have been reporting strange encounters on their morning commute, with strangely dressed people trying to deliver an urgent message. Stranger still, despite calling the police themselves, within a few minutes the commuters have already forgotten the encounter – making the follow up interviews rather difficult. So with a little help from Abigail and Toby the ghost hunting dog, Peter and Jaget are heading out on a ghost hunting expedition…” (Catalogue)

Lies sleeping / Aaronovitch, Ben
“The Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring him to justice. But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that the Faceless Man, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan.” (Catalogue)

The hanging tree / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of Police Constable Peter Grant or the Folly–London’s police department for supernatural cases–even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the flats of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But the daughter of Lady Ty, influential goddess of the Tyburn river, was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favor. Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, a sensible young copper would keep his head down. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.” (Catalogue)

Rivers of London [1] : body work / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Peter Grant, having become the first English apprentice wizard in fifty years, must immediately deal with two different but ultimately inter-related cases. In one he must find what is possessing ordinary people and turning them into vicious killers, and in the second he must broker a peace between the two warring gods of the River Thames.  The graphic novel is based on the bestselling novel “Rivers of London.” (Catalogue)

Rivers of London [2] : night witch / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Press-ganged into helping a Russian oligarch hunt his missing daughter, PC Peter Grant and his boss, Thomas Nightingale, London’s only wizarding cops, find themselves caught up in a battle between Russian gunmen, a monstrous forest creature – and their nemesis: The Faceless Man. But as Grant and Nightingale close in on the missing girl, they discover that nothing about this case is what it seems!” (Catalogue)

Graphic novelist Sarah Laing’s self-isolation diary to go on show

Image copyright Sarah Laing.

‘Isn’t life,’ she stammered, ‘isn’t life–‘ But what life was she couldn’t explain. No matter. He quite understood.

‘Isn’t it, darling?’ said Laurie.

Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party and Other Stories

During lockdown, award-winning Wellington based author, graphic novelist and cartoonist Sarah Laing reacted to the situation with creativity — starting her own autobiographical COVID-19 diary. Fans of her work will instantly recognize the unique visual descriptions of her experience of self-isolation — the work is profound, domestic, honest and funny all at the same time and was updated daily. Done in Sarah’s own unique and wonderful style you can see all the  instalments of her COVID-19 diary by visiting her forthcoming exhibition (opening Monday 7 September) or by visiting her website.

A big thank you to Sarah for letting us re-post her work!


Mansfield and me : a graphic memoir / Laing, Sarah
“Katherine Mansfield is a literary giant in New Zealand–but she had to leave the country to become one. Mansfield hung out with the modernists, lost her brother in World War I and spent her last days in a Fontainebleu commune with Olgivanna, Frank Lloyd Wright’s future wife. She was as famous for her letters and diaries as for her short stories. Sarah Laing wanted to be a real writer, too. A writer as famous as Katherine Mansfield, but not as tortured. Mansfield and Me charts her journey towards publication and parenthood against Mansfield’s dramatic story, it examines how our lives connect to those of our personal heroes.” (Catalogue)

Let me be frank : comics 2010-2019 / Laing, Sarah
“Let Me Be Frank brings Sarah Laing’s popular autobiographical comic series together for the first time. Sarah Laing began blogging her comics in 2009 as a way to shed light on her fiction writing and to record life before it evaporated. The comics soon had a large audience, eager for the next installment about Sarah’s parenting fails and successes, writing, her obsession with Katherine Mansfield, her family’s history, pet mice, sex, clothes and more.” (Catalogue)

The fall of light : a novel / Laing, Sarah
“An excitingly contemporary and innovative blend of a beautifully written novel with pictures by a critically acclaimed author. Rudy is a successful architect, but life is not as happy as it should be. His work leaves him artistically frustrated, his wife and two young daughters have moved out of the house he designed for them, and his pushy young associate is vying for design supremacy. When a Vespa accident puts him into hospital and forces him to recuperate at home, he looks in danger of losing everything, but it is then that his repressed artistic yearnings start to make their presence felt.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Dead people’s music : a novel / Laing, Sarah
“Classical is karaoke – just playing covers of dead people’s music – or so Wellingtonian Rebecca concluded at her London conservatorium. She’s sabotaged her scholarship there, but wants to keep playing the cello, like her grandmother, Klara. Now unmoored from her classical training, she’s in New York City, where Klara grew up. As Rebecca investigates her Jewish-refugee heritage, she starts to compose her own songs, but has to contend with diabetes and other burning issues- is she with the right man, or should she swap stability for lust? And how much longer can she live with a neurotic, junk-scavenging flatmate, on the verge of murdering another zebra fish?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Glasgow novels

I love summer in Glasgow, it’s my favourite day of the year.

Fuad Alakbarov

It may not be Scotland’s capital city, but Glasgow is easily Scotland’s most populous — it was once one of the industrial powerhouses of Victorian Britain. The decline of these industries sadly led to many deep seated social issues that exist to this day, but nowadays Glasgow is known for its vibrant world-class art scene, its rich, comic outlook on life, some remarkable architecture and buildings — and of course deep fried mars bars and legions of novels written about or featuring life in the city.

In many of these books, the character and atmosphere of the city itself often lurks like an extra character. This year’s Booker Prize shortlist features one such novel — Shuggie Bain. Set in a run-down Glasgow housing estate in the 1980s, it revolves around a lonely outsider boy and his struggle to fit in, to be accepted, and to survive.

While many novels about Glasgow focus on the darker side of the city, others show the myriad of different aspects of the city and its inhabitants. Below you’ll find a selection of novels that feature Glasgow at their core and show the many faceted nature of this marvellous city. Enjoy.


Shuggie Bain [paperback] / Stuart, Douglas
“It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain  dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright. But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A small weeping / Gray, Alex
“The body of a prostitute is found at Glasgow’s Queen Street station, her hands, pointing towards her feet, placed as if in prayer, a small flower pressed between the palms. Psychologist Solomon Brightman is called to assist DCI Lorimer in the murder hunt. But before any conclusions can be drawn, the body of a nurse is discovered at The Grange, a private clinic. Aside from the careful arrangement of the corpses, there is no obvious connection between the victims. Then a third body turns up, and it seems increasingly clear that they have a serial killer on their hands.” (Catalogue)

The special dead / Anderson, Lin
” When Mark is invited back to Leila’s flat and ordered to strip, he expects the experience of his life. Waking later to find Leila gone, he opens the wrong door and finds he’s entered a nightmare; behind the swaying Barbie dolls that hang from the ceiling is the body of the girl he just had sex with. Rhona Macleod’s investigation reveals the red silk cord used to hang Leila to be a cingulum, a Wiccan artifact used in sex magick. Sketches of sexual partners hidden in the dolls provide a link to nine men, but who are they? ” (Catalogue)

The cutting room / Welsh, Louise
“An auctioneer by profession, Rilke is an acknowledged expert in antiques. When he comes upon a hidden collection of violent, and highly disturbing, erotic photographs, Rilke feels compelled to unearth more about the deceased owner who coveted them. What follows is a compulsive journey of discovery, decadence and deviousness.” (Adapted from Catalogue). Also available as an eBook

Buddha Da / Donovan, Anne
“Painter and decorator Jimmy McKenna develops  an keen interest in Buddhism after a chance meeting in a Glasgow sandwich bar with a Buddhist monk, but how will Jimmy’s family react to his new found faith and how will this new approach to life change Jimmy?”  (Adapted from Catalogue)

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine / Honeyman, Gail
” Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Espedair Street / Banks, Iain
“Daniel Weir used to be a famous – not to say infamous – rock star. At thirty-one he has been both a brilliant failure and a dull success. He’s made a lot of mistakes that have paid off and a lot of smart moves he’ll regret for ever (however long that turns out to be). Daniel Weir has gone from rags to riches and back, and managed to hold on to them both, though not to much else. His friends all seem to be dead, fed up with him or just disgusted – and who can blame them? And now Daniel Weir is all alone. As he contemplates his life, Daniel realises he has only two problems: the past and the future. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The sacred art of stealing / Brookmyre, Christopher
” Angelique had enough to be fed up about before the embarrassment of being a cop taken hostage by the most bizarrely unorthodox crooks ever to set foot in Glasgow. Disillusioned, disaffected and chronically single, she’s starting to take stock of the sacrifices she’s made for a job that’s given her back nothing but grief. So when her erstwhile captor has the chutzpah to phone her at work and ask her out on a date, Angelique finds herself in no great hurry to turn him in. She knows now that the cops will never love her back, but maybe one of the robbers will.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

New Zealand’s new publishing sensation, Rose Carlyle

I feel like everybody else is an author, and I’m just an ordinary person who wrote a book. And my book’s kind of about that impostor syndrome, of feeling like you’re not really the real thing.

Rose Carlyle, 2020.

Debut New Zealand author Rose Carlyle is living every budding writer’s dream — her first novel, The girl in the mirror, has had book publishers competing and major Hollywood studios vying to snap up the film rights. A lawyer who lives in Auckland with her three children, she wrote her debut novel early in the morning before work and family life.

Several commentators have already said she looks set to be the next big thing in New Zealand publishing. Be one of the first to read what the fuss is about by reserving a copy!

The girl in the mirror / Carlyle, Rose
“Identical twins only look the same … Beautiful twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beyond what the eye can see lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of open-hearted Summer’s seemingly never-ending good fortune, including her perfect husband Adam. Called to Thailand to help sail the family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris nurtures her own secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But when she unexpectedly finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)