New Books September 2016

Fiction

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair…features as bunched as kissed fingertips,” is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts.  An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland.  In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly.  As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph.  By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover’s knot.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization.  The other thread follows Esi and her children into America.  From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
His mother calls him a worthless halfwit while his fellow drunks at the local bar ensure he’s the butt of all their jokes.  He spends his days whittling wood, counting pigeons and adding his own name to the list on the town war memorial.  So how could Germain possibly anticipate what a casual encounter on a park bench with eighty-five-year old Margueritte might mean?  That first conversation opens a door into a world Germain has never imagined—the world of books and ideas—and gives both him and Margueritte the chance of a happiness they thought had passed them by.

The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott
Ed and Taylor, both aspiring young writers, fall in love during a summer of aimless drinking and partying in their university town of Missoula, Montana.  Lonely and looking for love, they connect despite their profound differences.  Ed is brooding, ambitious and self-destructive, living in denial of a mysterious tumour spreading from his limbs to his brain.  Beautiful Taylor is a pure soul, positive, full of hope and emotional generosity.  Their difficult relationship is intense and exciting yet doomed from the start, complicated further when Taylor falls pregnant.  As Ed resists the harmony she brings to his life, Taylor’s need to protect herself and their child, until a dramatic finale.

Siamese Tears by Claire Keefe-Fox
Blue-stocking Julie Gallet is an independent-minded Parisian who has made what her English mother describes as an imprudent match.  Following her husband to the Far East, she comes to stay with Michael Crawfurd, her British diplomat cousin and discovers a glittering city of golden spires and colonial intrigue as the Kingdom is caught between France’s territorial ambitions and England’s quest for supremacy and influence in Asia.  Resisting her family’s entreaties to return home, Julie settles in Bangkok, becomes a French teacher to the ladies of the Royal Court and becomes passionately involved in Siamese life and affairs.  Her frank and irreverent journal recounts her growing political awareness along with the awakening of her sensuality.  While Paris and London play a game of global chess with the Siamese as their pawns, both she and Michael find their national and personal loyalties tested.  Their lives and loves take unexpected turns, and Siam struggles to retain its independence against a ruthless and formidable opponent.  Blending fact and fiction, Siamese Tears is a faithful account of the events leading up to the Paknam incident in 1893 through the eyes of those who witnessed them.

The Brotherhood of Kaeng Khoi by Uthis Haemamool
Young Lap is unhappy with just about every one and everything, and the world seems to feel the same way towards him.  He gets one view from the father who dominates his life, and quite another from his mother, who communes with the Thai spirit world of ghosts and demons.  Lap Lae and Kaeng Khoi are high-strung and headstrong brothers from a dysfunctionat household in a small Thai town in the late twentieth century.  In the Brotherhood of Kaeng Khoi, after tracing their family origins we share their struggless as they grow towards adulthood in a mountain monastery in a treehouse in the woods with the girls next door.  Can they negotiate the traps, calamities, and misadventures to emerge with integrity and a clear sense of who they are, and how to move forward with their lives?

Mad Dog & Co by Chart Korbjitti
Thai hippiedom in its 1980s heyday. First serialised in a women’s magazine, yet another masterpiece by the author of 1982 SEA Write Award winning The Judgment and 1994 SEA Write Award winning Time.

The Naga’s Journey by Tew Bunnag
Set in modern-day Bangkok, The Naga’s Journey chronicles the unlikely friendship of three people from disparate backgrounds, thrown together by a dramatic event at the cremation of a notorious public figure.  The consequence of their response sets in motion their relationship and reveals a past, connected to the dead man, which each of them has tried to avoid confronting.  Throughout the novel lurks the dark presence of the Naga, the unpredictable and powerful element of water, potentially both nurturing and destructive.  The tale reaches its climax when Bangkok, a city degenerating morally as well as physically, is threatened by a massive flood, an event that ends in tragedy and catharsis for the three friends.  The tales ultimate message of hope and reconciliation will be an inspiration for all.

 

Mystery/ Thriller

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer
On a black night in April 1912, fifteen hundred passengers and crew perish as the Titanic slowly sinks beneath the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.  Charting the same perilous course through the icebergs is the SS Californian, close enough for her crew to see the eight white distress rockets fired by the Titanic.  Yet the Californian fails to act, and later her crew insist that they saw nothing.  As news of the disaster spreads throughout America, journalists begin a feeding frenzy, desperate for stories.  Reporter John Steadman senses blood as he fixates on the Californian and his investigation reveals a tense and perplexing relationship between the ship’s captain and second officer, who hold the secrets of what occurred that night.  Slowly he peels back the layers of deception, and his final, stunning revelation of what happened while the Titanic sank will either redeem the men of the Californian, or destroy them.

I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers
After the sudden loss of his wife, Michael Turner moves to London to start again.  Living on a quiet street in Hampstead, he develops a close bond with the Nelson family next door: Josh, Samantha and their two young daughters.  The friendship at first seems to offer the prospect of healing, but then a devastating event changes all their lives, and Michael finds himself bearing the burden of grief and a terrible secret.

Behind Dead Eyes by Howard Linskey
A corpse is found: its identity extinguished in the most shocking manner imaginable.  Detective Ian Bradshaw can’t catch the killer if no one can ID the victim.  Out there, somewhere, a missing young woman may hold the answers.  Journalist Helen Norton is about to uncover a massive criminal conspiracy but she just needs the final piece of the puzzle.  Soon, she will learn the price of the truth.  True-crime writer Tom Carney receives letters from a convicted murderer who insists he is innocent.  His argument is persuasive – but psychopaths are often said to be charming…

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
A body of an ex-cop is discovered in an empty Atlanta warehouse.  Bloody footprints leading away from the scene reveal that another victim – a woman – has left the scene and vanished into thin air.  And, worst of all, the warehouse belongs to the city’s biggest, most politically-connected, most high-profile athlete – a local hero protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers.  Special Agent Will Trent has spent the last six months investigating on a brutal rape charge, but for Will – and also for Dr Sara Linton, the GBI’s newest medical examiner – the case is about to get even worse because an unexpected discovery at the scene reveals a personal link to Will’s troubled past.  The consequences will wreak havoc on his life and the lives of those he loves, those he works with, and those he pursues.  But Sara’s scene-of-the-crime diagnosis is that they only have a few hours to find the missing woman before she bleeds out . . .

Moskva by Jack Grimwood
Red Square, 1985. The naked body of a young man is left outside the walls of the Kremlin; frozen solid – like marble to the touch – missing the little finger from his right hand.  A week later, Alex Marston, the headstrong fifteen year old daughter of the British Ambassador disappears.  Army Intelligence Officer Tom Fox is asked to help find her but Russia is reluctant to give up the worst of her secrets.  As Fox’s investigation sees him dragged deeper towards the dark heart of a Soviet establishment determined to protect its own so his fears grow, with those of the girl’s father, for Alex’s safety.  And if Fox can’t find her soon, she looks likely to become the next victim of a sadistic killer whose story is bound tight to that of his country’s terrible past.

Burn What Will Burn by C. B. McKenzie
Bob Reynolds doesn’t recognise the body in the creek, but he does recognise the danger of it.  He’s a newcomer to town and has so far kept his head down, mostly over the bar at the Crow’s Nest.  But he has other interests than drinking and spending his inheritance, including one that goes by the name Tammy Fay Smith and who may have caught the sheriff’s eye as well.  Bob Reynolds would rather pretend he never saw the body, but when it disappears he begins to doubt what little he knew about his secretive town, one that seems to become more unwelcoming by the day.  But he can’t just forget the body, despite the advice he’s given to do so, and despite the evidence to suggest that he might be disappearing along with it.

The Marriage Tree by Christopher G. Moore
It’s okay for Thais to believe in ghosts but why is Vincent Calvino seeing ghosts, and why are they so angry?  Calvino is haunted by a series of deaths in Rangoon and Bangkok, when he stumbles onto a new murder case but is it a new case, or an old one returned from the dead?  A murder investigation leads Calvino inside an underworld network smuggling Rohingya out of illegal camps and detention centers.  Calvino looks for the killer in the mystical Thai world of sword and marriage trees.

Crack Down by Christopher G. Moore
Post-coup Thailand is the setting as high tech competes with traditional power in a battle for hearts and minds.  It is a noir landscape where Calvino finds himself ambushed as casualties from this battle leave behind a mystery or two. Calvino enters a world of ancient maps, political graffiti, student protestors and murder.  The finger points at Calvino as the killer.  He searches for allies who will help him prove his innocence.

9 Gold Bullets by Christopher G. Moore
A priceless collection of 9 gold bullet coins issued during the Reign of Rama V has gone missing along with a Thai coin collector.  Local police find a link between the missing Thai coins and Calvino’s childhood friend, Josh Stein, who happens to be in Bangkok on an errand for his new Russian client. This old friend and his personal and business entanglements with the Russian underworld take Calvino back to New York, along with Pratt.  The gritty, dark vision of 9 Gold Bullets is tracked through the eyes of a Thai cop operating on a foreign turf, and a private eye expatriated long enough to find himself a stranger in his hometown.  As the intrigue behind the missing coins moves between New York and Bangkok, and the levels of deception increase, Calvino discovers the true nature of friendship and where he belongs.

The Postmistress of Nong Khai by Frank Hurst
Mike Rawlin, an ambitious Customs Intelligence officer, is posted to the British Embassy in Bangkok, where he is tasked with infiltrating a dangerous band of drug smugglers in the infamous and remote Golden Triangle.  With the help of the Thai police and an Australian counterpart, Mike tracks down a notorious Dutch drug lord, Bart Vanderpool, who he has been hunting for years.  Bart is masterminding an elaborate plot to smuggle heroin from the Golden Triangle to Britain.  After tapping Bart’s phone as part of his surveillance operation, Mike is introduced to Lek, a beautiful Thai Airways hostess, from the Mekong River city of Nong Khai, who has inside information about the drug ring.  With Lek’s help Mike steals ever closer to trapping Bart, but in the process Lek becomes the object of his desire and the two embark on an emotional affair.  Mike’s personal and professional values begin to disintegrate as his infatuation for her grows.  Mike’s investigation leads to a climatic ending in which he must choose between the woman he loves and the capture of a man he has been hunting for over ten years.

 

Non-Fiction

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
Nancy Isenberg takes on our comforting myths about equality, uncovering the crucial legacy of the ever-present poor white trash.  The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement.  By the 1850s, the downtrodden included so-called clay eaters and sandhillers, known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.  Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America s supposedly class-free society where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility.  Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early nineteenth century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery.  Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics -a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization.  “Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been at or near the center of major political debates over the character of the American identity.”

Love from Boy : Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother by Roald Dahl
A whimsical, witty, and revealing collection of the legendary children’s author and writer Roald Dahl’s letters written to his mother, spanning four decades from early childhood through Dahl’s travels to Africa, his career in the Royal Air Force, his work in post-war Washington, D.C., and Hollywood, and the books that made him a literary star.  While Dahl’s books remain bestselling favorites for all ages, Love from Boy provides an unprecedented glimpse of the author through his own eyes—a life punctuated by tragedy, creative stagnation, unexpected fame, and fantastic adventure.

 

Young Adult Books

Rescued by Eliot Schrefer
Raja has been raised in captivity. Not behind the bars of a zoo, but within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet but now he’s grown up and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return.  John grew up with Raja.  The orangutan was his friend, his brother — never his pet.  When John’s parents split up and he moved across the country, he left Raja behind.  There’s one last chance to save Raja but it will force John to confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years.

 

Children’s Picture Books

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck
Sophia tries varied techniques to get the giraffe she wants more than anything in this playfully illustrated story about the nuances of negotiation.  Sophia has one true desire for her birthday but she has Four Big Problems in the way: Mom, Dad, Uncle Conrad and Grand-mama.  Will her presentations, proposals, and pie charts convince them otherwise?

The Grumpy Pets by Kristine A. Lombardi
Billy’s not like the other kids.  He’s a bit moody, a bit cranky, a bit grumpy.  In hopes of cheering him up, his mom takes him and his sister to the animal rescue one Saturday morning.  All the animals are cute and playful, but they’re a little too happy for Billy’s taste.  When Billy wanders into another section of the store, however, he stumbles across a different group of animals awaiting adoption.  These pets are grouchy and scruffy.  In fact, they seem downright grumpy—just like Billy!  He catches the eye of a particularly grumpy pup—could this be the friend Billy has been looking for?

The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond
The Blue Whale draws children into the life and world of this enormous whale by situating facts within a familiar context that is fun and engaging.  Here, readers are given the actual size of an eye right on the page, and we are informed how understand this whale’s body size in relation to trucks, cars, milk bottles, and hippos!  With an accurate and engaging text, fully vetted by a blue whale expert, and lyrically lovely illustrations, it invites children in and holds their attention.

 

Children’s Fiction Books

Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant
Stumpy Squirrel has just settled into a new nest in a magnificent pin oak in Gooseberry Park. It is the perfect spot for her babies to be born! When they arrive healthy and strong, Stump’s three good friends–a Labrador retriever, a wise hermit crab, and a bat who eats Chinese food–are thrilled.  But after a terrible ice storm destroys the pin oak, Stumpy disappears.  It takes a special combination of courage, humor, and tenacity for Stumpy’s friends to rescue her babies and bring her home again.

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari
Ever since twelve-year-old Charlie Price’s mom died, he feels like his world has been split into two parts. Before included stargazing and Mathletes and Saturday scavenger hunts with his family. After means a dad who’s completely checked out, comically bad dinners, and grief group that’s anything but helpful. It seems like losing Mom meant losing everything else he loved, too. Just when Charlie thinks things can’t get any worse, his sister, Imogen, starts acting erratically—missing school and making up lies about their mother. But everything changes when one day he follows her down a secret passageway in the middle of her bedroom and sees for himself.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her.  And she has a plan.  If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home.  To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest.  But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.