Fresh out of the box: 9 October

Hi folks! Here are books that have just hit the shelves that you might want to check out.

Seriously Funny and other Oxymorons – This book has a great cover, a take on Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Blotto and Twinks author Simon Brett looks at hilarious contradictions in media.

Deception Point – a new Dan Brown featuring Rachel Sexton and a rare object found in the Arctic Circle…

Cover of The Astronomy BookThe Astronomy Book caught my interest as I’ve been doing sciencey stuff – researching women in science for Ada Lovelace Day (10 October). This is an adult book in excellent format that answers the questions that keep us awake at night.

Two Steps Forward by husband and wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist is a fictional story of two very different people journeying to Cluny, France, to walk the El Camino – a well known place of pilgrimage. Each must come to terms with their past. Funny and romantic.

Cats in Art by well known anthropologist and zoologist Desmond Morris traces cats through the history of art, noting classic images in a way not unlike sharing pets on the internet. Charming, different and wonderful.

Cover of Small wondersMy favourite? A Small Wonders book!

“Have you ever thought that a bunch of broccoli or parsley would look like a forest? The art of making objects resemble something else is often called ‘Mitate’ or ‘likening.”

So says Tatsua Tanaka, author of Small Wonders.

Begun as a daily post that went viral on Instagram, Tastsua Tanaka sets out the coolest tiny dioramas ever seen in his new book, all taken from his Miniature Calendar site.

My absolute darling: Possession, Love and Redemption

My Absolute Darling is an endearment from anyone else’s lips, but from Martin Alveston to his daughter Turtle (real name Julie, aka Kibble), it is a term of possession and ownership of the worst kind.

This debut novel by American Gabriel Tallent, centres around Turtle and her father. Turtle’s mother died before she had a chance to remember her, and her father lives in survivalist mode in a run down filthy house, readying his 14 year old daughter for the end of the world. He also physically, verbally and sexually abuses her and Turtle sees no worth in herself when the book begins, everything is her fault and her future is fixed and non-negotiable.

She stands up out of the tub and sees her figure reflected in the picture window, Martin behind her, leaning forward in the chair, squinting, scraping his thumb down the side of his jaw, and both of them looking at her, long legs barred black and green with bruises. She takes a towel from the rack and wraps it around herself and walks past him, her gait lopsided and short.

The book is filled with detail, everything Turtle does, sees and lives through is described in infinate detail. This may drive some people crazy, I found it poetic and gripping at times, and at others, just too bleak and confronting. Many people have made a comparison to Cormac McCarthy, one of my absolute favourite authors. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s that good, but the similarities are there and subsequent novels may nudge him closer.

The book is set in Mendochino California, the northern coastal town where Tallent grew up. The winswept coasts, cliffs and forrests are described in detail and Turtle knows every inch of her Daddy’s land and beyond as she goes for long walks for days to escape despite what she knows is waiting for her when she gets home. She knows how to look after herself when she needs to, and when she meets up with two teenage boys lost in the woods, her skills come to the fore. Meeting them also provides a turning point for Turtle, offering her a new perspective, a chance to glimpse a life that might be different than she had always settled for and believed she had to endure.

There were moments in this book where I really cringed and felt uncomfortable and I admit to skipping a few pages that described a rather harrowing medical procedure in gory detail.

I was always deeply engaged in stories, novels, philosophy that talked about how to be a good person and how to live a just life in the face of injustice and tragedy,” Tallent said in an interview with Paste Magazine.

This book has certainly drawn mixed reviews, from ravings from Stephen King to reviews asserting this is yet another book written from a male perspective about the abuse of women for the titliation of the reader. I found it both compelling and disturbing in equal measure. Tallent certainly has an eye for detail and very descriptive prose and I did get the inner turmoil of Turtle, so attached to her father and so desperate for his love, but knowing, deep somewhere, it wasn’t how her life should be. I do recommend it and I felt it was worth reading. I was certainly gripped and found myself rooting for Turtle and wishing her a better life and relief from the horror that was her life. I would add a caveat that if you are disturbed by graphic abuse and cruelty, you may want to give it a miss however.

My Absolute Darling
by Gabriel Tallent
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008185220

New books for June

I love unpacking the new books from their boxes. These are my picks from the new book box:

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Dead Writers in Rehab is the second novel by British author Paul Basset Davies; also a writer for stage, radio, television and film. Protagonist Foster James wakes up in what he thinks is rehab. After a therapy session with several writers who are dead (Hunter S. Thompson, for example), he’s not so sure…

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman, is the story of Maggie, a maid in New York, who is left a house by one of her clients. She also inherits Edith, her former employer’s eighty-two year old mother. Erin Duffy recommends this as a book “you’ll want to devour in one sitting.”

John Grisham’s new offering Camino Island features the daring theft of five manuscripts belonging to F.Scott Fitzgerald’s novels. If you were a struggling writer, could you resist the offer to work with a historic manuscript, even if its origins are murky?

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Spaceman of Bohemia is the first novel by Jaroslav Kalfar. Highly recommended by Darin Strauss and Lisa McInerney, this is the story of Bohemian astronaut Jakub Prochazka’s ascent and personal journey through Space. With only an Arachnoid for company Jakub comes to terms with his relationships while he tries to find a way back home to his loved ones.

Tengoku, by Rae D. Magdon, is the story of a Japanese girl, Aozora Kaede, who runs away from her noble family, with only her wolf, Rin, for company. She is hired as a Yojimbo (bodyguard) for a young female Samurai, Homura Imari. The two share an adventure to replace Imari’s missing hand, confront Aozura’s past, and save the Empire of Akatsuki Teikoku from evil.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a prequel to Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. It’s set a century-ish before Game of Thrones, when the Targaryens are still in power… Featuring Ser Duncan the Tall, and his young Squire, Egg – who is really Aegon Targaryen. With illustrations!

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The Walworth Beauty is a new release from Man Booker Prize shortlisted Michele Roberts. The Independent newspaper is hailing her as “one of Britain’s best novelists.” The Times goes further to describe her as descended from Monet, Debussy and Woolf. The novel follows two characters linked by the search for human connection, but separated by time.

I love the title of this one. (The Last Person to Call Me) Sweet Pea (Ended Up Dead) is a first adult novel by C.J Skuse, known for her writing for children and young adults. Rhiannon appears to be normal, living a normal life. She lives with her boyfriend and her dog, normal. She hates her job, normal. She is making a kill list, normal. Wait what?! The driver who cuts her off every morning. The guy who bruises her apples at the supermarket. Is this underestimated girl going to get away with murder?

Lumber on an epic scale

cover of BarkskinsI discovered at the weekend with a rapidly beating heart, that one of my all time favourite writers,  Annie Proulx, has released a new novel.

Thirteen years since her last novel, Barkskins is, by all accounts, a rip snorter. According to what I can glean from good old Mr Google, it is 736 pages long, spanning 3 centuries, and tells the story of two French immigrants in the new land of America. They are bound to a feudal lord for three years and are sent to work in the dense and remote forests of the New World in exchange for a promise of land. The book follows them and their descendants from 1693 through to the 21st century and various family members travel all over the world, including to little old New Zealand.

Annie Proulx first caught my eye when I read The Shipping News, another great story of families, set in Newfoundland. I have never forgotten the ways she described snow and ice and barren landscapes and the families and eccentrics who lived amongst it.

Cover of The shipping news

Accordion Crimes was also a favourite, charting the lives of immigrants settling in America through the life of an accordion that is handed down through families; Jewish, Irish, Italian and many others.

Both The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain (a short story originally), were also made into movies, both well worth watching.

Ms Proulx, now in her eighties, was a bit of a late bloomer, with her first short stories published in her 50s and her first novel in 1992. She has gone onto to publish 13 works and win over twenty literary prizes, including a Pulitzer prize for The Shipping News.

Her novels and short storys are filled with hard bitten complex characters and landscapes that are wonderful described, I find I get immersed in her stories and I think this is because she herself has led a full and intense life, always on her own terms. She has been married and divorced three times and has raised three sons alone. She worked as postal worker and a waitress, and early on a writer of magazine articles on everything from chilli growers to canoeing.

She has two history degrees, drifted the countryside in her pickup truck, can fly fish, fiddle, and hunt game birds. But for all her life experience, she has said that she likes to write about what she doesn’t know, rather than draw on what she has already experienced. If you haven’t read her books, I strongly recommend them.

So, I’m on the library waiting list, hoping the book arrives quickly so I can again revel in her wondrous prose!

Sick bags and bedspreads: New titles from our Literature Selector

The Bloomsbury set just keep on delivering. Hard on the heels of the TV series (yet to be seen here) about the sexy carryings on of the Bloomsbury set comes a new biography of David Garnett called Bloomsbury’s Outsider. Garnett – scientist, writer, free love enthusiast, conscientious objector in WW1 and spy in WW2 – certainly had an interesting life which is covered in this new book.

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Some centuries back and we are in the world of Ancient Rome and Daisy Dunn, in a new biography, Catullus’ bedspread : the life of Rome’s most erotic poet, which looks at the life and poetry of the Catullus who put it about more than a bit.

More contemporary, but still not one for being prim, is Nick Cave whose new book The Sick Bag Song is described as a narrative song and poetry. It started its literary life being scribbled on airplane sick bags during a tour of America.

And the master of all writers, Mr Shakespeare himself, is covered in  a new biography called Worlds Elsewhere which has had enthusiastic pre-publicity from the likes of Anthony Holden and Margaret Drabble.

See more of our new titles.

Philip Tew
Fiction selector

The (very) long list

Cover of Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me DiesBooks I couldn’t resist adding to the For Later shelf this week.

Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me Dies: The Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini
Because the title is a deathless quote, because the cover features Gore Vidal with a cat on his shoulder, because the author has written a biography of William Faulkner.

Cover of Vintage Paua Shell JewelleryVintage Paua Shell Jewellery: Art Souvenir, Tourist Kitsch, Kiwi Icon by Elly van de Wijdeven
Because the words vintage, paua shell, art, souvenir, tourist, kitsch and kiwi are irrestistible. Icon is overused. Now where did I store all those collectible fern leaf brooches?

4 Real & True 2: Landscapes, Photographs by Wim Wenders
The great German director turned 70 in August. What better way to celebrate his birthday than by looking at some of the landscapes and images he has chosen to record with his analog camera?

Cover of The Memory of TimeThe Memory of Time: Contemporary Photographs at the National Gallery of Art by Sarah Greenough
Photography’s relationship to time, memory and history investigated by contemporary photographers. The main attraction is Sally Mann, whose Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs is one of my reads of 2015.

Cover of Diversity in Disney FilmsDiversity in Disney Films: Critical Essays on Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality and Disability
This should be interesting: Disney films explored with perspectives from critical whiteness studies and masculinity studies as well as old style race and gender.

Read my previous posts about the comings and goings on my For Later shelf.

Kids’ Books – picks from our November newsletter

Some great new titles and staff picks in our November Kids’ Books newsletter, including When Lunch Fights Back – “An awesomely gross book about weird wildlife”.

Cover of When Lunch Fights Back Cover of Dragons at Crumnling Castle Cover of The Iron Trial Cover of Colour Illusions Cover of How They Choked Cover of Space Case Cover of Teddy One-Eye Cover of Out of My Mind Cover of El Deafo

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight to your inbox.

For more great reads for kids, check out our Fun to Read page – it links you to reading lists, if you likes, interactive quizzes and lots more.

Biography and Memoir: picks from our November newsletter

Our November Biography and Memoir newsletter brings you a bumper crop of biographies and memoirs for your reading delectation.

Cover of Fatherland Cover of Born into The Children of God Cover of Daring Cover of Henare Wiremu Taratoa Cover of Carsick Cover of Love My Rifle More Than You Cover of Duchamp Cover of My Grandfather's Gallery Cover of Wild Westie

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight in your inbox.

For more great biographies and memoirs, check out our lists of winners of  the Costa Biography Award.

Fiction A to Z: picks from our November newsletter

What’s your pick from our November Fiction A to Z newsletter?

I am particularly intrigued by A Bad Character, which, as the title indicates, promises to be a departure from the cosier novels set in India which I have enjoyed in the past. The Telegraph describes it as a “a poignant and impressionistic portrait of the end of adolescence and a changing world”.

Cover of Henna House Cover of Full Measure Cover of The Zone of Interest Cover of Bathing the Lion Cover of The Ghost Apple Cover of We Are Called to Rise Cover of The Lost Art of Mixing Cover of Wide on the Run Cover of A Bad Character

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Thrillers and Suspense: picks from our November newsletter

In our November Thrillers and Suspense newsletter : Agent Scully from the X-Files debuts as an author and Sophie Hannah brings Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot back to life in a brand-new mystery.

Cover of Bitter Remedy Cover of The Day of Atonement Cover of A Vision of Fire Cover of The Golden Hour Cover of The Monogram Murders Cover of Hostage Cover of A Demon Summer Cover of The Prophet Cover of Trust Your Eyes

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight from your inbox.

For more great crime and thriller reads, check out our lists of winners of  the Crime Writers’ Association Awards and of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel.