Kerry’s Final Fiction Picks

Hi everyone. This will be my last ‘fiction picks’.  I’m moving into a different job, so no more lovely fiction ordering for me!  I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind you of some of the blockbusting bestsellers on the way.  They might not need my promotion, but I thought you might need a reminder that they were due soon – keep an eye out!

Syndetics book coverGo set a watchman
A newly discovered novel by Harper Lee (author of To kill a mockingbird).  This apparently was the manuscript that Lee submitted to publishers in the 1950s before To kill a mockingbird, but it was then lost.  This book is somewhat controversial due to Lee’s age, mental faculties and the legalities of publishing the work she may not of consented to, but the furore about this has been cleared up.  This story contains the same characters as Lee’s bestseller.

Syndetics book coverGrey
This is the continuation of E L James’ 50 shades of grey series.  This time written from the point of view of the male protagonist Mr Christian Grey.  I don’t need to sell this one to you, but I will stress reserve it now before the waiting list gets too out of control.

Syndetics book coverChappy / Patricia Grace
This is written by New Zealand’s own Patricia Grace, her first novel in ten years, and I probably don’t need to say it’s much more literary than Grey!  Here’s a brief review “in this touching portrayal of family life, acclaimed writer Patricia Grace explores racial intolerance, cross-cultural conflicts and the universal desire to belong. Spanning several decades and several continents and set against the backdrop of a changing New Zealand, Chappy is a compelling story of enduring love.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGirl in the spider’s web
This is the fourth instalment in the Girl with the dragon tattoo series, containing most of the same characters, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.  The original author, Steig Larrsen, died and this new book continues the saga now written by German author David Lagercrantz.  His work has not really been translated much into English, but the library has his latest book The fall man of Wilmslow.

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

All the books I’ve chosen this time have different places in the title and are indeed set in different locations.

Syndetics book coverA guide to Berlin
There’s not too much information on this one, but it has a truly international cast of characters.  Travellers from Italy, America, Japan and Australia gather in an apartment complex in Berlin.  They bond over their shared love of Nabokov and tell stories.  (The title is taken from a Nabokov short story written in 1925).  An act of violence shatters the group’s connections and changes their lives’ paths.

Syndetics book coverVilla America
This one is written by a former New York Times journalist.  She’s chosen the couple who inspired Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night – Sara and Gerald Murphy.  They spent their heyday in the Riviera in the 1920s.  This is more a fictionalised biography of the couple.  “Liza Klaussman expertly evokes the 1920s cultural scene of the so-called “Lost Generation.” Ravishing and affecting, and written with infinite tenderness, Villa America is at once the poignant story of a marriage and of a golden age that could not last” (Amazon).

Syndetics book coverLast night in Montreal
This is one of the earlier works (her debut in fact) by Emily St Mandel, who’s had some success this year with Station Eleven.  It’s about Lilia who has spent her whole life, including childhood, travelling from city to city changing her identity.  She is unable to remember her early childhood after her father turned up on her doorstep and took her from her mother.  Lilia feels she is being followed by something or someone (maybe tracked by a private detective), so she keeps on disappearing from friends and partners.  Finally, her last boyfriend becomes determined to find out her story and secrets, following her from New York to Montreal.  What mystery does he uncover?!


Kerry’s Fiction Picks

This week’s picks are a selection of debut novels, including one that’s from an acclaimed Chinese writer making their English debut and another that’s actually by two popular writers who’ve combined skills to make one new ‘author’.

Syndetics book coverFrench Concession
This is by an acclaimed Chinese novelist and though this book didn’t sell exceptionally well in China it’s success is that it has a Western publishing deal.  It’s pitched as a literary noir and is very fitting with the current taste for espionage.  The story is set in 1930s Shanghai and involves “an electrifying, decadent world of love, violence, and betrayal filled with femme fatales, criminals, revolutionaries, and spies.” (Amazon).  It’s about Hseuh a Franco-Chinese photographer, his fascination with the beautiful, but missing Leng , his relationship with his lover Therese and a very complicated plot.  But then what do you expect from a spy novel?!

Syndetics book coverThe hand that feeds you : first and All Subsequent : a novel / A.J. Rich.
This one is by authors Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment.  They have combined forces to produce an exciting psychological thriller, which isn’t anything too different plot-wise.  Morgan is completing her thesis at a college of criminal justice and engaged to Bennett.  One day she returns home to find Bennett dead and slowly she uncovers that he wasn’t who he said he was.  She is not his only finance and he begins to looks more and more like a sociopath.  Then his other girlfriends start to be murdered and Morgan has to put her skills and knowledge to the test to solve the mystery of Bennett and save her own life.  Says Amazon “Unsettling and highly suspenseful, this is a brilliant collaboration between two outstanding writers”.

Syndetics book coverThe Swede / Robert Karjel ; translation from the Swedish by Nancy Pick and Robert Karjel.
This book caused a sensation at the Frankfurt book fair and the TV rights have already been sold.  Pretty good for a debut novel!  It’s by a Swedish author Robert Karjel, who’s a former member of the Swedish air force.  The book is described as a literary thriller.  It’s about a Swedish secret service agent who goes to an American military base in the Atalantic Ocean to interview a detainee, at the request of a CIA agent.  From there his investigation takes him from the Thailand tsunami to terrorist attacks to Kansas, along the way he learns that things aren’t as he seems.  “The Swede fuses the psychological tension of Jo Nesbø’s thrillers with the gripping international intrigue of I Am Pilgrim and Red Sparrow.” (Amazon)

Syndetics book coverThe Watchmaker of Filigree Street
This novel is set in the nineteenth century, in Victorian London and Japan.  It’s the debut work for Natasha Pulley, who’s only 24.  The story is about Thaniel who finds a tiny watch on his bed after he returns home on evening.  How it got there and who put it there is a mystery.  But even more mysterious are the events that are put into action after he discovers the watch.  He meets up with it’s maker Keita Mori, a Japanese man, who takes Thaniel on a journey through different times and destinies.  “Electrifying . . . a triumph of speculative fiction. It captures the frenetic energy of a world undergoing extraordinary changes” (Publisher’s Weekly)

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

Three distinctly different books for this set of ‘picks’. I suppose you could call them genre fiction – one Chinese science fiction, then more scifi in the form of a romance by a well known chick-lit author, and a good old American western with a twist.

Syndetics book coverThe three-body problem / Cixin Liu ; translated by Ken Liu.
Liu Cixin is a well regarded and award winning Chinese author and this book is his first English language translation.  It is the first instalment in his apocalyptic space opera trilogy.  It sounds fantastic!  He has received a lot of press too in the English speaking media as he is so successful in China (here’s a great piece from the New York Times).  The story is set during the Cultural Revolution and centres around a government space program that is attempting to communicate with aliens.  Ye Wenjie is a woman who is so disgusted by the atrocities she sees committed by the regime she hijacks the program and uses it to encourage aliens to attack earth.  “This is a must-read in any language” (Booklist).

Syndetics book coverResistance is futile
Jenny Colgan is better known as a successful chick-lit writer, and this is her new book described as a scifi rom-com.   One of the oddest book genre mash-ups ever possibly?  But it definitely sounds great!  (Apparently Colgan is a huge fan of the romances that often appear in the scifi  genre).  Briefly, this story is about a mathematician who discovers an alien intelligence and falls in love with it.  Connie is the mathematician and she is working with Luke on a secret code breaking project, but just what the code is for and who Luke is becomes what Connie’s keen to unravel.

Syndetics book coverThe Winter family / Clifford Jackman.
This is another genre mixing novel, although mainly a western, it’s also described as noir or horror.  It is extremely violent, so watch out!  It follows a group of outlaws as they travel across America during the 1860s to 1880s.  They have their start in the Civil War, a group of scouters working ahead of Sherman’s army, following Augustus Winter, their ruthless leader.  It ultimately ends with a bloody showdown in Oklahoma Territory.  Says Amazon ”  With its haunting, hard-edged style, The Winter Family is a feverishly paced meditation on human nature, violence and the deep contradictions of progress.”

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

For my picks today I’ve chosen books with women as the focus, as the main protagonists and drivers of the storyline. These three are sort of thing you might enjoy if you like chicklit, but want something a bit more juicier and satisfying. I think they sound quite unique, are about modern life and relationships and will appeal to ALL readers.

Syndetics book coverLuckiest girl alive : a novel / Jessica Knoll.
This is about Ani. She’s a young woman with a seemingly perfect life – a blue-blood banker finacee, glamorous job at a magazine, designer clothes.  But at high school Ani suffered a humiliating event that made her desperate to transform herself.  Not only that, lurking in her past Ani has another dark secret from that time that she hopes remains hidden.  When a documentary is being made about a violent incident from her high school, Ani decides to make peace with her demons.  Says Kirkus “Knoll’s debut thriller is a dark, cynical psychological comment on our culture of excess and violence”.

Syndetics book coverDietland / Sarai Walker.
This quote best describes this pick, “Dietland is a bold, original, and funny debut novel that takes on the beauty industry, gender inequality, and our weight loss obsession—from the inside out, and with fists flying” (Amazon).  It is certainly topical!  It’s about Plum, who is fat and lives her life waiting to lose weight and become her ‘true thin self’.  But along the way she is intercepted by a an underground community of women who accept themselves – and others- for who they really are.  They force Plum to address her issues about her size and her perception of beauty.  At the same time a guerrilla group called the Jennifers begin waging war on society’s mistreatment of women.  Says Kirkus (again) “Part Fight Club, part feminist manifesto, an off-beat and genre-bending novel that aims high—and delivers.”

Syndetics book coverImprobability of love
This one sounds a bit like a Mills and Boon gone awry, only due to the cast of pursuers (Russian billionaire, sheik) that are after main character Annie.  But it’s not really Annie they want, but a painting she bought at a junk shop not knowing what it was.  She inadvertently buys a lost painting by Watteau called  the ‘Improbability of love’ for  her lover – who ends up standing her up, capping off her already miserable life (dead-end job, broken relationship).  However, the painting throws Annie into a new world, the art world, where she not only learns about the painting, but European history, symbolism, love and herself.  Author Hannah Rothschild has written for many British publications and is also a documentary maker.

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

This week’s picks cover some odd, grim, gross themes and might be considered a bit horror-esque in style.  Some have new perspectives on well-worn subjects (political thrillers in Pleasantville, love and relationships in New World, this time involving decapitation and cryogenics – of all things!)  Some take old tropes and give them a modern spin (zombies in Positive and serial killers in Normal ).  All sound very good – reserve away!

Syndetics book coverNormal
Normal follows a serial killer, who is nameless, as he comes to grips with his humanity.  (Obviously Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter springs to mind).  The killer has all the hall marks of a serial killer – abandoned by his mother, bad childhood and the need to stalk and kill young women.  He keeps them captive in his basement and where he is holding his latest victim Erica.  This is a black comedy so don’t get too worried about the grimness of it!  Whilst out buying food for Erica, the killer finds himself captivated by and then infatuated with the checkout operator.  He then ends up saving his next intended victim from being raped and helps out a prostitute.  Unfortunately this new found kindness comes to a calamitous end involving Erica and the police.  “In a big departure from the standard serial killer trope, he begins nonpredatory relationships with three different women. He even falls in love with one of them. Those who have no trouble accepting a humanized serial killer will be most satisfied” (Publishers Weekly).

Syndetics book coverPositive
This is about Finn, a young man who is a second generation survivor of a zombie apocalypse – an epidemic that wiped out most of the population, turning them into zombies.  Finn is marked positive, which is a sign that he carries the disease, and is therefore exiled form the city into the wild lands beyond.  The story is about Finn’s survival beyond the city and his struggle with the violence of humanity, rather than just the zombies.  It has been well reviewed and is much more complex than Wellington’s other zombie novels.  Says Publishers Weekly “If John Wyndham had written a zombie novel, it might very well have resembled Wellington’s clever apocalyptic thriller”.

Syndetics book coverThe Dead Lands
This one is also post-apocalyptic, set one hundred years plus after a super flu and nuclear fallout have wiped out most of the world.  It’s a thriller about a group of remaining surviors, living in a sheltered community, who are encouraged by a stranger from the outside world to set off across America for better land.  (It’s been called a Lewis and Clark saga).  Library Journal says it best “Percy’s outing is not only a compelling postapocalyptic adventure populated by fascinating characters but a clever riff on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Fans of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven will embrace this literary vision of humanity’s first steps back up the ladder of civilization after near-extinction disasters”.

The extras:

Syndetics book cover Syndetics book cover Syndetics book cover

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

Some serious reading for you this time. These picks offer social commentary and tackle grim, dark subjects. (There are some good old scares thrown in too, just to keep it slightly low-brow.)

Syndetics book coverWoman of the dead
This book is a smash hit form Austria and is the first in a trilogy (and yes it could be your new Girl with the dragon tattoo).  It’s a thriller and has been likened to Jo Nesbo and Jussi Adler-Olsen. The female protagonist, Blum, is a mortician and married with a small family.  One day her husband is killed in front of her in a hit and run.  But what seems to be tragic accident is actually a whole lot more, and Blum discovers that somebody wanted her husband dead.  She vows to hunt down her husband’s killers and have her revenge.  Apparently the author trained as a mortician just to add the extra air of authenticity – yikes!

Syndetics book coverThe Valley / John Renehan.
This is a new war novel about Afghanistan. War is considered the new hot genre, mainly because of all the really good novels coming out on the subject lately. (The author, John Renehan, was a soldier himself having served in Iraq).  This book has been compared to the acclaimed Fives and twenty fives of last year and has been really well reviewed – high praise from Amazon “The Valley is a riveting tour de force that changes our understanding of the men who fight our wars and announces John Renehan as one of the great American storytellers of our time.”  It’s a thriller about Lieutenant Black, a junior officer, who’s mainly desk-bound but is sent to investigate possible wrongdoings (shooting livestock) at an American outpost in the mountains of Afghanistan.  It soons becomes apparent that something more has been going on.  The story has been likened to Apocalypse Now.

Syndetics book coverAll Involved : A Novel of the 1992 L.A. Riots
Now this book has been likened to The Wire (best TV show EVER!) and called “a literary tour de force that catapults this edgy writer into the ranks of such legendary talents as George Pelacanos, Dennis Lehane, and Hubert Selby, Jr.” (Amazon)  The title itself tells you the basis of what this book’s about, but it’s much more complex than that, touching on the subjects of class, race and crime in modern America.  It covers multiple stories from diverse characters (nurses, gang members, business owners) and tries to tell what happened during the riots from different perspectives than we would have heard in the news.  The author lived in LA at the time and draws on his own experiences.

Syndetics book coverThe Wolf Border
This book is about Rachel Caine a zoologist working in a wildlife recovery program in Idaho.  It’s a solitary life and she’s mostly estranged from her family in England.  However, Rachel’s called back to England by the Earl of Annadale who wants her to reintroduce the grey wolf to the British countryside, in particular the his country estate.  This takes Rachel close to where she grew up and close to her elderly mother.  The story tackles the politics, if you will, of Rachel’s task and the complex emotions sparked by her return to her home, and to society in general.  Author Sarah Hall was Man Booker short listed for her earlier novel The electric Michelangelo.

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

Some disparate choices this week, I couldn’t find a connecting theme.  Maybe too much choice is the theme?  But, let’s take this as a good sign!  That’s because there are too many good books coming out that I just want to share them all with you.

Syndetics book coverDisclaimer
A psychological thriller with female protagonist. Catherine, a wife and mother to a grown up son, starts reading a book that appears on her bedside table. Unfortunately the book ends up being about a dark secret from Catherine’s past. An incident that she’s ashamed of and that she thought only one person knew about – and they’re long dead. Described as creepy and film rights have already been sold!

Syndetics book coverGorsky
This is about a Russian billionaire (Gorsky) who decamps to London (of course!) to try and woo his Russian sweetheart Natalia (who happens to be married to someone else). But this is not a book about love or glamorous lifestyles. That’s because it’s narrated by the bookseller Gorsky hires to help him create an impressive library in his mansion, a Serbian immigrant to London. The bookseller sets about acquiring all the first editions he can, seeing all the wealth and privilege, before a tragedy strikes. Amazon says “a captivating tale of big money, Russian beauty and good books.”

Syndetics book coverAt hawthorn time
This story starts with a car accident in the British countryside. It involves Howard and Kitty, an older couple who moved to the countryside to escape London and patch their failing marriage; Jamie an young car enthusiast who’s lived in the area the whole time; and Jack a vagrant farm worker. Their works literally collide and the book looks at their interconnectedness and their connections to the land. “At Hawthorn Time is both a clear-eyed picture of rural Britain, and a heartbreaking exploration of love, land and loss.” (Amazon)

Here’s some extras that sound good too:

Syndetics book cover Syndetics book cover Syndetics book cover

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

The books selected this week all have children, parenting and families as their theme.  Despite that they are all quite a diverse bunch, with the complexities of fatherhood and motherhood, difficult childhoods and fantastic, historical settings just some of the subjects explored.

Syndetics book coverHonours
This is the debut novel for Tim Clare, who is famous as a stand up poet in England.  Its protagonist is 13 year old Delphine and her story is set in 1935 Norfolk at Alderberen Hall, where she lives with her parents. She’s intrigued by the mysterious hall, it’s elite society and the hold it has over her parents. So Delphine sets out to uncover it’s secrets, but finds something more dark and dangerous than she could have ever imagined. “The Honours is a dark, glittering and dangerously unputdownable novel which invites you to enter a thrilling and fantastical world unlike any other” (Amazon UK).

Syndetics book coverAfter birth / Elisa Albert.
After birth is a very modern examination of motherhood and the impacts on an intellectual, professional woman.  The story is about Ari, who has given birth to her son Walker a year ago, and how she befriends another woman in her town.  The book tackles Ari’s new friendships, something she’s always struggled with, as well as her navigation of new-motherhood.  Says Amazon  “with piercing insight, purifying anger, and outrageous humor, Elisa Albert issues a wake-up call to a culture that turns its new mothers into exiles, and expects them to act like natives”.

Syndetics book coverLast night in earth
This one is about Jay, who struggles with his relationships and his abilities as a father.  He adores his little daughter Bonnie, but after he and her mother separate he is parted from her.  He remains committed to having a good relationship with her despite the troubles that come his way throughout the novel.  And he even sets out to repair the damaged relationship with his own mother.  Kevin Maher is an Irish writer who lives in London and also writes for The Times.

Syndetics book coverJakob’s colours
This is recommended to fans of The Book Thief and it does share some similarities.  It’s about Jakob, an eight year old gypsy boy who lives in Austria in 1942.  He is escaping Nazi persecution and the coming war, but running away is a way is life for Jakob.  The story switches between Jakob, evading WW2 and his parents during WW1, looking at their interlinked stories and family legacies.  “A haunting book, dealing with a little-known part of history, told in luminous and poetic prose” (Amazon).

Kerry’s Fiction Picks

I’ve chosen three new books, that are still on order (you can reserve them) BUT you can take out the brand new eBook right now!  They’re currently available through our Overdrive eBook service; the books themselves are due in the next couple of months.

Syndetics book coverSingle, carefree, mellow : stories / Katherine Heiny.
This is the debut collection of short stories for Heiny, all about women and their daily lives.  Heiny explores their relationships and feelings, but humorously, looking at the things they do to sabotage their plans to achieve the lives they want.  With praise from Lena Dunham, the current arbiter of young-female-funny, Amazon calls it a “rare and wonderful thing: a debut that is superbly accomplished, endlessly entertaining, and laugh-out-loud funny.”
Find the ebook here.

Syndetics book coverThe Whites
Richard Price is actually the writer of this novel, using the name Harry Brandt.  Price is a well respected American writer (he writes screenplays too), who’s best known for Lush lifeThe Whites is about New York police officer Billy, who works in the uneventful night shift team.  Relegated there after accidentally killing a child in a shoot-out.  Of course, all this changes when he has to go to a murder call out one night.  With a murder to solve Billy launches back into his old life as a detective.  This book has been called the crime novel of the year and described as “razor-sharp and propulsively written, The Whites introduces Harry Brandt—a new master of American crime fiction” (Amazon).  eBook here.

Syndetics book coverBefore He Finds Her
This story centres around a murder and a father and daughter.  In the 90s a man murders his family and gets away with it.  However, unknown to him,  his young daughter survives and enters the witness protection programme.  When  she reaches 18, and just pregnant, she decides she no longer wants to live in hiding. She returns to her hometown to track down her father and make him pay for what he did.  It has been very well reviewed (called good material for book groups!) and is considered a break-out hit for 2015 (already).  eBook here.