New Books June 2017

Fiction

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Anything is Possible tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, a successful New York writer who finally returns, after seventeen years of absence, to visit the siblings she left behind.

Ghachar Ghochar  by Vivek Shanbhag
A close-knit family is delivered from near-destitution to sudden wealth after the narrator’s uncle founds a successful spice company. As the narrator along with his sister, his parents, and his uncle move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house and encounter newfound wealth, the family dynamics begin to shift. Allegiances and desires realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Their world becomes ‘ghachar ghochar’ – a nonsense phrase that, to the narrator, comes to mean something entangled beyond repair.

Fever Dream by  Samanta Schweblin
A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. The two seem anxious. At David’s ever more insistent prompting, Amanda recounts a series of events from the apparently recent past. As David pushes her to recall whatever trauma has landed her in her terminal state, he unwittingly opens a chest of horrors, and suddenly the terrifying nature of their reality is brought into shocking focus.

Heretics  by Leonardo Padura
In 1939, the Saint Louis sails from Hamburg into Havana with hundreds of Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazi regime. From the docks, nine-year-old Daniel Kaminsky watches as the passengers, including his mother, father, and sister, become embroiled in a fiasco of Cuban corruption. But the Kaminskys have a treasure that they hope will save them: a small Rembrandt portrait of Christ. Yet six days later the vessel is forced to leave the harbor with the family, bound for the horrors of Europe. The Kaminskys, along with their priceless heirloom, disappear.

Nearly seven decades later, the Rembrandt reappears in an auction house in London, prompting Daniel’s son to travel to Cuba to track down the story of his family’s lost masterpiece. He hires the down-on-his-luck private detective Mario Conde, and together they navigate a web of deception and violence in the morally complex city of Havana.

 

Mystery

White Tears by Hari Kunzru
Two twenty-something New Yorkers – Seth, awkward and shy, and Carter, the trust fund hipster – have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Rising fast on the New York producing scene, they stumble across an old blues song long forgotten by history, and everything starts to unravel. Carter is drawn far down a path that allows no return, and Seth has no choice but to follow his friend into the darkness. Trapped in a game they don’t understand, Hari Kunzru’s characters move unsteadily across the chessboard, caught between black and white, performer and audience, righteous and forsaken. But we have been here before, oh so many times over, and the game always ends the same way.

Written in Bones by James Oswald
When a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height. Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message? The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist. As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people. And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city.

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan
L. is the kind of impeccable, sophisticated woman who fascinates Delphine; a woman with smooth hair and perfectly filed nails and a gift for saying the right thing. Delphine finds herself irresistibly drawn to her.  Their friendship grows as their meetings, notes and texts increase. But as L. begins to dress like Delphine, and in the face of Delphine’s crippling inability to write, L. even offers to answer her emails, their relationship rapidly intensifies. L. becomes more and more involved in Delphine’s life until she patiently takes control and turns it upside down: slowly, surely, insidiously.

The Pledge by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Set in a small town in Switzerland, The Pledge centers around the murder of a young girl and the detective who promises the victim’s mother he will find the perpetrator. After deciding the wrong man has been arrested for the crime, the detective lays a trap for the real killer; with all the patience of a master fisherman. But cruel turns of plot conspire to make him pay dearly for his pledge.

Prussian Blue: Bernie Gunther Thriller 12 by Philip Kerr
It’s 1956 and Bernie Gunther is on the run. Ordered by Erich Mielke, deputy head of the East German Stasi, to murder Bernie’s former lover by thallium poisoning, he finds his conscience is stronger than his desire not to be murdered in turn. Now he must stay one step ahead of Mielke’s retribution. The man Mielke has sent to hunt him is an ex-Kripo colleague, and as Bernie pushes towards Germany he recalls their last case together. In 1939, Bernie was summoned by Reinhard Heydrich to the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain home in Obersalzberg. A low-level German bureaucrat had been murdered, and the Reichstag deputy Martin Bormann, in charge of overseeing renovations to the Berghof, wants the case solved quickly. If the Fuhrer were ever to find out that his own house had been the scene of a recent murder, the consequences wouldn’t bear thinking about.

The Special Girls: Di Grace Fisher No. 3 by Isabelle Grey
A doctor is found beaten to death in woods close to a summer camp for young women with eating disorders. The camp is run by the charismatic Professor Chesham. DI Grace Fisher is called in, but is quickly pulled from the investigation to head up a cold case inquiry involving Chesham himself. Some years earlier, one of Chesham’s patients made allegations that he sexually assaulted her. As Grace uncovers the lies that led to the doctor’s murder, she discovers the full extent of the damage done to the special girls and the danger they are still in.

Agents of the State by Mike Nicol
Agent Vicki Kahn is in Berlin on her first foreign mission for the South African government, on the trail of an international child-trafficker. A complication she doesn’t need is that the President’s son is somewhere in the mix. When Vicki finds her contact on the kitchen floor with a hole in the head, all her instincts tell her to get out. But her handlers have her on a tight leash and getting out is not an option.

In Cape Town a rebel colonel from the Central African Republic is taken down in a spray of bullets on the steps of the city’s oldest cathedral. Next day, Vicki’s surfer boyfriend, PI ‘Fish’ Pescado, picks up a new brief; find out who killed my husband, even if it was the President. A brief like that, Fish knows he should say no. Only saying no isn’t his strong point.

The President is giving a party in the Bambatha Palace in Natal to celebrate his latest marriage. The great, the good and the not-so-good of the rainbow nation are all there. Also present are Agent Kahn and PI Pescado. The players are assembled. Now it’s show-time.

 

Non-Fiction

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In We Should All be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie proposed that if we want a fairer world we need to raise our sons and daughters differently. Here, in this remarkable new book, Adichie replies by letter to a friend’s request for help on how to bring up her newborn baby girl as a feminist. With its fifteen pieces of practical advice it goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century.

Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West–where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed–many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

The New Koreans: The Story of a Nation by Professor Michael Breen
In the course of a couple of generations, South Koreans took themselves out of the paddy fields and into Silicon Valley, establishing themselves as a democracy alongside the advanced countries of the world. Yet for all their ambition and achievement, the new Koreans are a curiously self-deprecating people. Theirs is a land with a rich and complex past, certain aspects of which they would prefer to forget as they focus on the future.

Having lived and worked in South Korea for many years, Michael Breen considers what drives the nation today, and where it is heading. Through insightful anecdotes and observations, he provides a compelling portrait of Asia’s most contradictory and polarized country. South Koreans are motivated by defiance, Breen argues: defiance of their antagonistic neighbour, North Korea, of their own history and of international opinion. Here is an overlooked nation with, great drive, determined to succeed on its own terms.

Hannah’s Dress: Berlin 1904-2014 by Pascale Hugues
Hannah′s Dress tells the dizzying story of Berlin′s modern history. Curious to learn more about the city she has lived in for over twenty years, journalist Pascale Hugues investigates the lives of the men, women and children who have occupied her ordinary street during the course of the last century. We see the street being built in 1904 and the arrival of the first families of businessmen, lawyers and bankers. We feel the humiliation of defeat in 1918, the effects of economic crisis, and the rise of Hitler′s Nazi party. We tremble alongside the Jewish families, whose experience is so movingly captured in the story of two friends, Hannah and Susanne. When only Hannah is able to escape the horrors of deportation, the dress made for her by Susanne becomes a powerful reminder of all that was lost.

In 1945 the street is all but destroyed; the handful of residents left want to forget the past altogether and start afresh. When the Berlin Wall goes up, the street becomes part of West Berlin and assumes a rather suburban identity, a home for all kinds of petite bourgeoisie, insulated from the radical spirit of 1968. However, this quickly changes in the 1970s with the arrival of its most famous resident, superstar David Bowie. Today, the street is as tranquil and prosperous as in the early days, belying a century of eventful, tumultuous history.

 

Children’s Books

Paddington’s Finest Hour by Michael Bond
Paddington – the beloved classic bear from Darkest Peru – is back in this fantastically funny, brand new illustrated novel from master storyteller Michael Bond! Hurrying forward, he held out a welcoming hand. “Sir Percival Rushmoor,” he said. “I’m invigilating.” “I’m sorry to hear that, Sir Percival,” said Paddington. “I hope you feel better very soon.” Paddington always finds himself in unusual situations so it is no surprise when he has a run-in with the police, appears in a TV cookery show, and gives one of his hard stares to a hypnotist!

Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies
Lots is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the concept of biodiversity for younger readers. There are living things everywhere: the more we look, the more we find. There are creatures on the tops of the tallest jungle trees, at the bottom of the coldest oceans, even under the feathers of birds and in boiling volcanic pools. So how many different kinds are there? One, two, three … lots! With beautiful words from Nicola Davies and exquisite illustrations by Emily Sutton, this groundbreaking book is certain to enchant and inspire children.

Mrs. Mole, I’m Home! By Jarvis
Morris has mislaid his spectacles and can’t find them anywhere. So, he decides to go on without them, trusting his instincts to lead him the right way home to his waiting family and delicious dinner of worm noodles. “Mrs Mole, I’m homeeee!” he sings as he burrows right into some poor unsuspecting rabbit family’s hole. Oh dear. Without his spectacles, Morris really can’t see a single thing.  How will he ever get home? With perfect comic timing and a whole lot of heart, Jarvis will have all readers rooting for Morris to find his family, and rejoicing in the idea that – glasses or no glasses – you can always make your way back to home sweet home.

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett
It’s a noisy night in this city building! The residents of each floor can hear their neighbours above them, and are wondering what’s going on above their heads. Climb floor by floor and page by page to find out whose singing, dancing, cheering, and cooing are keeping a grumpy old man awake. With innovative split-level spreads that offer the feeling of climbing an apartment building floor by floor, this clever and colourful collaboration between New York Times bestselling author Mac Barnett and gifted illustrator Brian Biggs offers an irresistible investigation of one noisy night.

Many Moons: Learn About the Different Phases of the Moon by Rémi Courgeon
Many Moons explores the different phases of the moon, from the new moon to a waning crescent, through beautiful, bright illustrations. Each spread features a specific phase of the moon, and compares it to different shapes, such as a cat’s tail, a banana, and a brilliant smile. Many Moons introduces young children to basic astronomy and is sure to instill a sense of curiosity about the world and the universe.

My Very Own Space by Pippa Goodhart
A little rabbit is trying to read his book in peace, but there’s so much going on around him! Maybe he needs some space just for himself. . .  With minimal text accompanying beautiful and sweet illustrations, this charming picture book explores ideas of personal space and sharing in a way that even very young children can enjoy.

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear
Meet Virginia, who is feeling particularly wolfish today. Somehow, her sister Vanessa must help her feel better. But how can one girl save another from turning into a grumpy, gobbling wolf? The only way to find out is to pick up a paintbrush and see where your imagination takes you.