New Books May 2016

Fiction

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio.  They work relentlessly to tame their patch of land so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property.  James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.  1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California, restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind.  In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England.  When Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.

Not Out of Hate by Ma Ma Lay
Not Out of Hate is the first Burmese novel to be translated into English and published outside of Myanmar.  Set in pre-World War II Burmese society, the story centers on the relationship and marriage of seventeen-year-old Way Way with U Saw Han, a much older Burmese agent for a British trading company.  The subtle but deep misunderstandings they experience mirror the cultural confrontation of Eastern and Western values in modern society, still evident in Burmese life today.

Mightier than the Sword: Clifton Chronicles Book 5 by Jeffrey Archer
Bestselling novelist Harry Clifton’s on a mission to free a fellow author who’s imprisoned in Siberia-even if doing so puts Harry’s own life, and life’s work, in danger.  Meanwhile, his wife Emma, chairman of Barrington Shipping, is facing the repercussions of an IRA bombing on the Buckingham.  In London, Harry and Emma’s son, Sebastian, is quickly making a name for himself at Farthing’s Bank, but the despicable Adrian Sloane is only interested in one thing: Sebastian’s ruin.  Sir Giles Barrington, now a minister of the Crown, looks set for even higher office-until a diplomatic failure in Berlin threatens his prospects.

The Ballroom by Anna Hope
England, 1911. At Sharston Asylum, men and women are separated by thick walls and barred windows.  But on Friday nights, they are allowed to mingle in the asylum’s magnificent ballroom.  Amid this heady ambience, John Mulligan and Ella Fay first meet.  Despite their grim circumstances, the unlikely pair strikes up a tenuous courtship.  During the week, he writes letters smuggled to her in secret, unaware that Ella cannot read.  She enlists a friend to read them aloud and gains resolve from the force of John’s words, each sentence a stirring incantation. And, of course, there’s always the promise of the ballroom.  Then one of them receives an unexpected opportunity to leave Sharston for good.

The Theoretical Foot by M.F.K. Fisher
It is late-summer idyll at the Swiss farmhouse of Tim and Sara, where guests have gathered at ease on the terrace next to the burbling fountain in which baby lettuces are being washed, there to enjoy the food and wine served them by this stylish American couple.  But all around these seemingly fortunate people, the forces of darkness are gathering: The year is 1939 and the paradise Tim and Sara have made is being besieged from within as Tim is about to suffer the first of the circulatory attacks that will cause him to lose his leg to amputation.

When Robert Lescher died in 2012 an unpublished manuscript of M.F.K. Fisher’s was discovered neatly packed in the one of the literary agent’s signature red boxes.  The Theoretical Foot is the master stylist’s first novel, published more than 20 years after her death.

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam by Bao Ninh
The Sorrow of War opens with a depiction of soldiers on a postwar mission to collect the bones of fallen comrades for reburial.  Thus begins the non-linear narrative by Kien, a North Vietnamese soldier during the Vietnam War, chronicling his loss of innocence, his love, and his anguish at the memories of war.  Kien rides in the truck searching for the remains of fallen soldiers and undergoes a series of flashbacks that tie the novel together.  The main theme tying these flashbacks together is the love affair between Kien and his childhood sweetheart, Phuong.

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
Ruth and Nat are orphans, packed into a house full of abandoned children run by a religious fanatic.  To entertain their siblings, they channel the dead.  Decades later, Ruth’s niece, Cora, finds herself accidentally pregnant.  After years of absence, Aunt Ruth appears, mute and full of intention.  She is on a mysterious mission, leading Cora on an odyssey across the entire state of New York on foot.  Where is Ruth taking them?  Where has she been?  And who — or what — has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road?

 

Mystery / Thriller

The Undesired by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Aldis hates working in a juvenile detention centre in rural Iceland.  The boys are unruly, the owners are unpleasant, and there are strange noises at night. And then two of the inmates die…  Decades later, single father Odinn is looking into alleged abuse at the centre. The more he finds out, though, the more it seems the odd events of the 1970s are linked to the accident that killed his ex-wife.  Was her death something more sinister?

The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker
Helen Graham is a new arrival in a tiny Yorkshire village, renting dilapidated Wildfell Hall.  The villagers are intensely curious – what makes her so jumpy and why is she so evasive?  Their interest is Helen’s worst nightmare.  Looking over her shoulder every day, she tries to piece together her past before it can catch up with her.  With everything she knows in fragments, from her marriage to her career as a war photographer, how can she work out who to trust and what to believe?  Most days she can barely remember who she is…

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
It’s London, 1960.  The Cold War is at its height, and a spy may be a friend or neighbor, colleague or lover.  Two colleagues, Giles Holloway and Simon Callington, face a terrible dilemma over a missing top-secret file.  At the end of a suburban garden, in the pouring rain, Simon’s wife, Lily, buries a briefcase containing the file deep in the earth.  She believes that in doing so she is protecting her family.  What she will learn is that no one is immune from betrayal or the devastating consequences of exposure.

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino
Yoshitaka, who was about to leave his marriage and his wife, is poisoned by arsenic-laced coffee and dies.  His wife, Ayane, is the logical suspect―except that she was hundreds of miles away when he was murdered.  The lead detective is immediately smitten with her and refuses to believe that she could have had anything to do with the crime.  His assistant, Kaoru Utsumi, however, is convinced Ayane is guilty. While Utsumi’s instincts tell her one thing, the facts of the case are another matter.  So she does what her boss has done for years when stymied―she calls upon Professor Manabu Yukawa.  But even the brilliant mind of Dr. Yukawa has trouble with this one, and he must somehow find a way to solve an impossible murder and capture a very real, very deadly murderer.

The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning
The Balkan Trilogy is the story of a marriage and of a war, a vast, teeming, and complex masterpiece in which Olivia Manning brings the uncertainty and adventure of civilian existence under political and military siege to vibrant life.  At the heart of the trilogy are newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle, who arrive in Bucharest—the so-called Paris of the East—in the fall of 1939, just weeks after the German invasion of Poland.  Guy, an Englishman teaching at the university, is as wantonly gregarious as his wife is introverted, and Harriet is shocked to discover that she must share her adored husband with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.  Romania joins the Axis, and before long German soldiers overrun the capital. The Pringles flee south to Greece, part of a group of refugees made up of White Russians, journalists, con artists, and dignitaries.  In Athens, however, the couple will face a new challenge of their own, as great in its way as the still-expanding theater of war.

 

Non-Fiction

33 Days by Leon Werth
In June of 1940, Leon Werth and his wife fled Paris before the advancing Nazis Army.  33 Days is his eyewitness account of that experience, one of the largest civilian displacements in history.  Encouraged to write 33 Days by his dear friend, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author ofThe Little Prince, Werth finished the manuscript while in hiding in the Jura mountains.  Saint-Exupéry smuggled the manuscript out of Nazi-occupied France, wrote an introduction to the work and arranged for its publication in the United States by Brentanos.  The publication never came to pass, and Werth’s manuscript would disappear for more than fifty years until the first French edition, in 1992.  After more than seventy years, 33 Days appears—complete and as it was fully intended.

Their Promised Land by Ian Buruma
During the almost six years England was at war with Nazi Germany, Winifred and Bernard Schlesinger were, like so many others, thoroughly sundered from each other. Their only recourse was to write letters back and forth. The thousands of letters between them were part of an inheritance that ultimately came into the hands of their grandson, Ian Buruma, who has woven his own voice in with theirs to provide the context and counterpoint necessary to bring to life, not just a remarkable marriage, but a class, and an age.  Winifred and Bernard inherited the high European cultural ideals and attitudes that came of being born into prosperous German-Jewish émigré families.  At its heart, Their Promised Land is the story of cultural assimilation. The Schlesingers were very British in the way their relatives in Germany were very German, until Hitler destroyed that option. The problems of being Jewish and facing anti-Semitism even in the country they loved were met with a kind of stoic discretion.  As the shadows of war lengthened again, the Schlesingers mounted a remarkable effort to rescue twelve Jewish children from the Nazis and see to their upkeep in England.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live.  When Breath Becomes Air chronicles his transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

1946: the Making of the Modern World by Victor Sebestyen
A powerful, revelatory book about the year that would signal the beginning of the Cold War, the end of the British Empire, and the beginning of the rivalry between the United States and the USSR.  Victor Sebestyen reveals the events of 1946 by chronologically framing what was taking place in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, with seminal decisions made by heads of state that would profoundly change the old order forever.  Whether it was the July 22 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the July 25 Bikini Atoll underwater atomic bomb test, or the August 16 Great Calcutta Killings in India, 1946 was a year of seismic and dramatic events.

 

Children’s Picture Books

The Night Gardener by Terry & Eric Fan
One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. In the following days, more topiaries appear, and each one is more beautiful than the last. Soon, William’s gray little town is full of color and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William—and his town—are changed forever.

Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano
Tokyo lives in a small house between giant buildings with his family and his cat, Kevin.  For years, highways and skyscrapers have been built up around the family’s house where once there were hills and trees.  One day, an old woman offers Tokyo seeds, telling him they will grow into whatever he wishes.  Tokyo and his grandfather are astonished when the seeds grow into a forest so lush that it takes over the entire city overnight.  Soon the whole city has gone wild, with animals roaming where cars once drove.  But is this a problem to be surmounted, or a new way of living to be embraced?

Peppa Goes Swimming by Neville Astley
Peppa and George are going swimming, but George is a bit scared.  How will Mummy and Daddy pig ever convince him to get in the pool?

Peppa Pig and the Busy Day at School by Neville Astley
Peppa is having a busy day at school learning numbers and letters, painting, making music, and playing outside.  Peppa can’t wait for Special Talent time, but her excitement turns to worry when all three of her special talents are chosen by others!  Luckily, Peppa can revert to her true specialty: jumping in muddy puddles!”

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea.  She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing!  She knows just how it will look and how it will work.  But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly.  Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad and she quits.  But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.

My Hand by Satoshi Kitamura
Kitamura introduces us to the wonders of something as simple as your hand – it can push, it can pull.  It can paint, it can pat.  And when your hand has a bad habit, it can pick your nose!

Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner
Louie the dog has just had a bath – and he is NOT happy about it.  He smells all wrong. Determined to get his Special Smell back, he goes on a hunt for it and meets lots of smelly things along the way – a fox, some interesting dustbins and a marvellously muddy puddle to roll in.  Will he ever get his smell back?  And, more importantly, will he be able to keep it this time…?

 

Children’s Fiction

The Cloud Castle by Thea Stilton
The Thea Sisters have received an urgent message from their friend Will Mystery.  The magical Land of Clouds is in danger.  The mouselets must find out why the clouds are disappearing!  Once they enter the kingdom through Mount Everest, the mice meet fairies, elves, and unicorns on their way to the majestic Cloud Castle.  But who can the Thea Sisters count on to help solve the mystery?  It’s an incredible journey to restore harmony to this enchanted land!