Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Released This Month: May 2016

Another month, another cracking array of newly and soon-to-be published books. With the usual mixture of fiction and non-fiction, if you find yourself in need of a new read this month, here are nine that I think could be worth looking into.

Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrad Conley • May 10th 2016, Riverhead Books
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When he was nineteen, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness. By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett  May 3rd 2016, Little Brown
When Margaret's fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings, the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec, struggle along with their mother to care for Michael's increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman  May 5th 2016, Little Brown 
The story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost. Opening with a suicide whose aftermath brings good girl Hannah together with the town's bad girl, Lacey, the two bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live. Unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable. But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it's a secret that will change everything...

LaRose by Louise Erdrich  May 10th 2016, Corsair
North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition, the sweat lodge, for guidance, and finds a way forward.

Following an ancient means of retribution, he will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal. But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole. Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler • May 24th 2016, Knopf
"Let's say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge..." This is how we meet unforgettable, twenty-two year old Tess. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, she's come to New York to look for a life she can't define, except as a burning drive to become someone and to belong somewhere. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a "backwaiter," on duty and off. Her appetites—for food, wine, knowledge, and every kind of experience—are awakened. And she's pulled into the magnetic thrall of two other servers, a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman she latches onto with an orphan's ardor. These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess's hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman  May 31st, Headline
The View from the Cheap Seats draws together, for the first time ever, myriad non-fiction writing by international phenomenon and Sunday Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman. From Make Good Art, the speech he gave at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia that went viral, to pieces on artists and legends including Terry Pratchett, Lou Reed and Ray Bradbury, the collection offers a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed writers of our time. 'Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation' Welcome to the conversation.

Neil Gaiman fled the land of journalism to find truths through storytelling and sanctuary in not needing to get all the facts right. Of course, the real world continued to make up its own stories around him, and he has responded over the years with a wealth of ideas and introductions, dreams and speeches. The View From the Cheap Seats will draw you in to these exchanges on making good art and Syrian refugees, the power of a single word and playing the kazoo with Stephen King, writing about books, comics and the imagination of friends, being sad at the Oscars and telling lies for a living.

Morgue: A Life in Death by Dr. Vincent DiMaio and Ron Franscell  May 17th, St Martin's Press
In this clear-eyed, gritty, and enthralling narrative, Dr. Vincent Di Maio and veteran crime writer Ron Franscell guide us behind the morgue doors to tell a fascinating life story through the cases that have made Di Maio famous. Beginning with his street-smart Italian origins in Brooklyn, the book spans 40 years of work and more than 9,000 autopsies, and Di Maio's eventual rise into the pantheon of forensic scientists. One of the country's most methodical and intuitive criminal pathologists will dissect himself, maintaining a nearly continuous flow of suspenseful stories, revealing anecdotes, and enough macabre insider details to rivet the most fervent crime fans.

Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips  May 31st 2016, Henry Holt and Co.
What if your perfect hermaphrodite match existed on another planet? What if you could suddenly see through everybody's skin to their organs? What if you knew the exact date of your death? What if your city was filled with doppelgangers of you? Forced to navigate these bizarre scenarios, Phillips' characters search for solutions to the problem of how to survive in an irrational, infinitely strange world. In dystopias that are exaggerated versions of the world in which we live, these characters strive for intimacy and struggle to resolve their fraught relationships with each other, with themselves, and with their place in the natural world. We meet a wealthy woman who purchases a high-tech sex toy in the shape of a man, a rowdy, moody crew of college students who resolve the energy crisis, and orphaned twin sisters who work as futuristic strippers. With Phillips' characteristic smarts and imagination, we see that no one is quite who they appear. By turns surreal, witty, and perplexing, these marvelous stories are ultimately a reflection of our own reality and of the big questions that we all face. Who are we? Where do we fit?

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe • May 24th 2016, Knopf
Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later and after years of absence, Lucas is newly involved in his daughter Vera's life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother's homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel who escaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth? Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a wildly accomplished, stunningly emotional book.


Saturday, 30 April 2016

#BookBuddyAthon 2016 TBR

It's time for another round of the #BookBuddyAthon and once again Bee and I have joined forces to get some books read. Created by Elena and Sam the #BookBuddyAthon is a week long readathon, with this round running from May 7th to May 13th, that encourages you to buddy up with someone and talk books, glorious books for a whole week. 

T H E   C H A L L E N G E S

1. Choose three books and have your buddy pick one for you to read. 
After giving Bee the choice between Veronika Decides to Die by Paolo Coelho, The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and Hotel World by Ali Smith, she chose the latter which I'm very pleased about - it was the one I was secretly hoping for. It was a recent charity shop find and I've been meaning to read some more Smith ever since finishing There But For The a little while ago.

Set in The Global Hotel in an unnamed northern English city five disparate yet interconnected characters inhabit Smith's mesmerising and dreamlike world. Sara is a chambermaid who has recently died at the hotel; Clare is her bereaved sister visiting the scene of Sara's death; Penny is an advertising copywriter staying in the room opposite; Lise is The Global's depressed receptionist; and homeless Else begs on the street outside. 

2. Buddy read a book with your buddy. 
Whether this is a bit ambitious for a readathon remains to be seen (because my reading pace this year so far has been slooooow!), but we're going with Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and I shall try my very best to make my way through during the week. Americanah is a book that deserves to be read.

As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship and people are leaving the country if they are able to. Ifemelu is self assured and goes to study in the United States. There she suffers defeats, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze is the quiet and thoughtful son of a professor and had hoped to join Ifemlu but post 9/11 America will not let him in. Instead he plunges into a dangerous and undocumented life in London. When Obinze and Ifemelu reconnect back in Nigeria years later they find themselves facing the toughest decisions of their lives. 

3. Read a book with your buddy's favourite colour on it. 
One of Bee's favourite colours is purple and I don't read enough YA so V for Violet by Alison Rattle seems to be a fitting choice for this challenge. The blurb doesn't sound particularly impressive (being totally honest it makes it sound a bit naff and typical), but I'm hoping for good things.  

Battersea, 1961 and London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing, but not for sixteen year old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced victory in Europe, but now she's just stuck in her family's fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. When Joseph, her long lost brother, returns just as young girls go missing and turning up murdered, Violet has a feeling that he's keeping a terrible secret.


4. Read a book where the title starts with the first letter of your buddy's name (or at least appears in the title!) 
We've accidentally maybe subconsciously on purpose used the question from last year which is read a book that your buddy gave five stars, because who doesn't want to read a book that someone whose taste you trust says it's bloody brilliant?! There's a copy of Perfume by Patrick Suskind currently (hopefully) on its way to me as I type. This is a book that has been on my radar for a long time but haven't ever got around to buying myself a copy, so this was the perfect opportunity.

In the slums of eighteenth century France Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift, an absolute sense of smell. As a boy he lives to decipher the the odours of Paris and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he doesn't stop there and becomes obsessed with capturing the scents of objects such as brass door knobs and freshly cut wood.  Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the ultimate perfume, the scent of a beautiful young virgin.

5. Read a book that you want to, just because. 
I was going to choose a short story collection to dip in and out of, but I'm really feeling a bit of mystery/thriller/shocking twisty kind of book so I'm going to pick up The Couple Next Door, which I'm hoping will be one of those 'I can't possibly put this down because I need to know what happens immediately' kind of stories.

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all, a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story. Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they've kept for years. What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist


- Here's Bee's TBR, she's chosen some cracking sounding titles!  

The #BookBuddyAthon starts on May 7th. Will you be joining in?

Friday, 15 April 2016

Weekend Reading.

It's Friday and so far today I've eaten two biscuits and a twirl chocolate bar. It's been one of those weeks. Dinner tonight is going to be an assortment of vegetables because otherwise I know my body will punish me for my poor choices by getting a cold or something, and I don't want that to get in the way of my quiet reading weekend. 

Alongside finishing A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell, which so far has made me laugh out loud on a packed and oddly quiet bus journey, I quite fancy the idea of delving into a collection of short stories. I've pulled both Cries for Help by Padgett Powell and Refund by Karen E. Bender from my unread books pile and I have a feeling I'll probably end up making a start on both of them.

What are your weekend reading plans?