New Books March 2017

Fiction

Black Bread by Emili Teixidor
In the rough hill country of rural Catalonia, the Spanish Civil War is over and the villagers live under occupation by the fascist Civil Guard. With his father in jail facing possible execution as a subversive, and his mother working long hours in a factory, eleven-year-old Andreu is sent to live with his grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins in a farmhouse in a remote valley. His inquisitive, self-taught grandmother encourages him to study, but who will Andreu become? He doesn’t want to be a farmhand, or work in a factory, or flee into exile in France like his uncle and aunt. His cousin Nuria invites him to play sex games with her in the woods, but Andreu cannot stop thinking about a young man he sees lying naked in a monastery garden. Confronted on all sides by the need to define himself, Andreu must make a difficult decision. One of the major novels of contemporary Spain, Black Bread brings to life a rural world of mythical force as it traces with piercing psychological insight, in gorgeous prose, the movements of a boy’s psyche as he contemplates growing into an adult.

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Harmless Like You is set across New York, Berlin and Connecticut, following the stories of Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old. The novel opens when Yuki is sixteen and her father is posted back to Japan. Though she and her family have been living as outsiders in New York City, Yuki opts to stay, intoxicated by her friendship with the beautiful aspiring model Odile, the energy of the city, and her desire to become an artist. But when she becomes involved with an older man and the relationship turns destructive, Yuki’s life is unmoored. Harmless Like You is a suspenseful novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships, and familial bonds that asks—and ultimately answers—how does a mother desert her son?

The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam
When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis’s life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud – a fellow architect – is caught in the crossfire and dies before she can confess to him her greatest secret. Under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband’s American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people’s secrets from the minarets of the city’s mosques and, in a country where the accusation of blasphemy is a currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike. Against this background of violence and fear, two outsiders – the young Christian woman Helen and the mysterious Imran from Kashmir – try to find an island of calm in which their love can grow.

City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan
In 1945, with no homes to return to, Jewish refugees by the tens of thousands set out for Palestine. Those who made it were hunted as illegals by the British mandatory authorities there and relied on the underground to shelter them; taking fake names, they blended with the population, joining the wildly different factions fighting for the independence of Israel. City of Secrets follows one survivor, Brand, as he tries to regain himself after losing everyone he’s ever loved. Now driving a taxi provided like his new identity by the underground, he navigates the twisting streets of Jerusalem as well as the overlapping, sometimes deadly loyalties of the resistance. Alone, haunted by memories, he tries to become again the man he was before the war honest, strong, capable of moral choice. He falls in love with Eva, a fellow survivor and member of his cell, reclaims his faith, and commits himself to the revolution, accepting secret missions that grow more and more dangerous even as he begins to suspect he’s being used by their cell’s dashing leader, Asher. By the time Brand understands the truth, it’s too late, and the tragedy that ensues changes history.

 

Mystery / Thriller

The Dying Detective by Leir G.W. Persson
Retired Chief of the National Crime Police and Swedish Security Service Lars Martin Johansson has just suffered a stroke. He is paying the price for a life of excess – stress, good food and fine wine. With his dangerously high blood pressure, his heart could fail at the slightest excitement.  In the hospital, a chance encounter with a neurologist provides an important piece of information about a 25-year-old murder investigation and alerts Lars Martin Johansson’s irrepressible police instincts. The period for prosecution expired just weeks earlier and that isn’t the only limitation. Lars Martin Johansson is determined to solve the atrocious crime – from his deathbed.

The Fall Guy by James Lasdun
It is summer, 2012. Charlie, a wealthy banker with an uneasy conscience, invites his troubled cousin Matthew to visit him and his wife in their idyllic mountain-top house. As the days grow hotter, the friendship between the three begins to reveal its fault lines, and with the arrival of a fourth character, the household finds itself suddenly in the grip of uncontrollable passions. Who is the real victim here? Who is the perpetrator? And who, ultimately, is the fall guy?

 

Non-Fiction

Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North by Robert Ferguson
The Scandinavians are regarded as Europe’s most tolerant and peace-loving people. So how was it that one of the worst acts of political terror ever witnessed on this continent was committed by a Norwegian – against his fellow countrymen?  Scandinavia is the epitome of cool: we fill our homes with cheap but stylish Nordic furniture; we envy their health-giving outdoor lifestyle; we glut ourselves on their crime fiction; even their strangely attractive melancholia seems to express a stoic, common-sensical acceptance of life’s many vicissitudes. But how valid is this outsider’s view of Scandinavia, and how accurate our picture of life in Scandinavia today?  Robert Ferguson digs down through two millennia of history to tell stories of extraordinary events, people and objects – from Norwegian Death Metal to Vidkun Quisling, from Agnetha Fältskog to Greta Garbo, from Lurpak butter to the Old Norse rune stones – that richly illuminate our understanding of modern Scandinavia, its society, politics, culture and temperament.

Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities by Bettany Hughes
Istanbul has always been a place where stories and histories collide and crackle, where the idea is as potent as the historical fact. From the Qu’ran to Shakespeare, this city with three names – Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul – resonates as an idea and a place, and overspills its boundaries – real and imagined. Standing as the gateway between the East and West, it has served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires. For much of its history it was known simply as The City, but Istanbul is not just a city, but a story. In this epic new biography, Hughes takes us on a dazzling historical journey through the many incarnations of one of the world’s greatest cities. As the longest-lived political entity in Europe, over the last 6,000 years Istanbul has absorbed a mosaic of micro-cities and cultures all gathering around the core. At the latest count archaeologists have measured forty-two human habitation layers. Phoenicians, Genoese, Venetians, Jews, Vikings, Azeris all called a patch of this earth their home. Based on meticulous research and new archaeological evidence, this captivating portrait of the momentous life of Istanbul is visceral, immediate and scholarly narrative history at its finest.

A Great Place to have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA  by Joshua Kurlantzick
The untold story of how America’s secret war in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s transformed the CIA from a loose collection of spies into a military operation and a key player in American foreign policy. In 1960, President Eisenhower was focused on Laos, a tiny Southeast Asian nation few Americans had ever heard of. Washington feared the country would fall to communism, triggering a domino effect in the rest of Southeast Asia. So in January 1961, Eisenhower approved the CIA’s Operation Momentum, a plan to create a proxy army of ethnic Hmong to fight communist forces in Laos. While remaining largely hidden from the American public and most of Congress, Momentum became the largest CIA paramilitary operation in the history of the United States. The brutal war, which continued under Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, lasted nearly two decades, killed one-tenth of Laos’s total population, left thousands of unexploded bombs in the ground, and changed the nature of the CIA forever. Joshua Kurlantzick gives us the definitive account of the Laos war and its central characters, including the four key people who led the operation–the CIA operative who came up with the idea, the Hmong general who led the proxy army in the field, the paramilitary specialist who trained the Hmong, and the State Department careerist who took control over the war as it grew.

 

Children’s Picture Books

The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee
From the moment the baby arrived, it was obvious that he was the boss. The boss baby is used to getting his way – drinks made to order 24/7, his private jet plane, and meetings around the clock. But when his demands aren’t getting proper responses, he has to go to new lengths to achieve the attention he deserves.

The Journey by Francesca Sanna
With haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
‘The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears and paws …and the child saw A CAT, and the dog saw A CAT, and the fox saw A CAT. Yes, they all saw the cat.’ In simple, rhythmic prose and ingeniously stylised pictures, Brendan Wenzel takes young readers on a walk alongside a cat. But is it really a story about the cat, or is it about the creatures who see it? This is a glorious celebration of observation, curiosity and imagination.

Pond by Jim LaMarche
The joy of the seasons, the wonder of discovery, and the appreciation and respect for the natural world is at the heart of this book. When Matt is out for a late winter hike he sees a trickle of water in the old deserted and junk filled dirt pit at the edge of his neighborhood. With quiet appreciation, Matt can imagine the pond that must once have been there, shining in the early spring light, freezing in the winter for skating and the perfect place for swimming in the summer. Can Matt’s discovery transform a forgotten pond to its natural wonder? With his idea of making the pond whole again, Matt rallies his friends, Katie and Pablo, and together they work through the spring, clearing debris, moving rocks to hold the water, and looking for leaks. But would there be enough water to fill the pond? Can they bring the pond back?

 

Children’s Fiction

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
A moving story of the extraordinary friendship between a boy and his fox, and their epic journey to be reunited. Pax was only a kit when his family was killed and he was rescued by ‘his boy’, Peter. Now the country is at war and when his father enlists, Peter has no choice but to move in with his grandfather. Far worse than leaving home is the fact that he has to leave Pax behind. But before Peter spends even one night under his grandfather’s roof he sneaks out into the night, determined to find his beloved friend. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their journeys back to each other as war rampages throughout the country.

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Gjertsen Malone
Seventh grader Jeremy Miner has a girl problem. Or, more accurately, a girls problem. 475 of them to be exact. That’s how many girls attend his school, St. Edith’s Academy. Jeremy is the only boy left after the school’s brief experiment in co-education. And he needs to get out. But his mother–a teacher at the school–won’t let him transfer, so Jeremy takes matters into his own hands: he’s going to get expelled. Together with his best friend Claudia, Jeremy unleashes a series of hilarious pranks in hopes that he’ll get kicked out with minimal damage to his permanent record. But when his stunts start to backfire, Jeremy has to decide how far he’s willing to go and whom he’s willing to knock down to get out the door.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Eleven-year-old Perry was born and raised by his mom at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska. His mom is a resident on Cell Block C, and so far Warden Daugherty has made it possible for them to be together. That is, until a new district attorney discovers the truth–and Perry is removed from the facility and forced into a foster home. When Perry moves to the “outside” world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from . . . but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?

 

Young Adult 

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first – her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right. That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son, and to start at a new school where she knows no one. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help? In a leap of faith–or an act of complete desperation–Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?