First of all, a big Congratulations to Lisa Moore whose novel February won Canada Reads 2013 today!! I haven’t read it yet, but I have copies of all the books from the competition (though Awake hasn’t arrived yet) and plan to read them all – so far I’ve only read The Age of Hope, which was the first book eliminated, on Monday.
Prepare yourselves: this got long. Totally didn’t mean that to happen, it just crept up on me.
I’ve separated the books that have been sent straight to Tasmania, the ones that have already arrived. And summaries are taken from Goodreads – it’s just easier to copy and paste than to write something in my own words. It’s hard enough to summarise a novel, let alone to paraphrase a summary!!
I thought I’d start with Romance this time – not, funnily enough, because it’s Valentines Day today; I actually started writing this post several days ago. It just worked out that way!
Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready – Romance; Time Travel.
I’m a huge fan of Gwyn Cready, so I’m always excited to get a new book by her. “Two years after losing her husband, overworked librarian Panna Kennedy battles to distract herself from crushing grief. During a routine search within the library, Panna opens an obscure, pad-locked door and finds herself transported to the magnificent, book-filled quarters of a handsome, eighteenth-century Englishman. The man is Colonel John Bridgewater — the historic English war hero whose larger-than-life statue looms over her desk. However, the life of the dashing Bridgewater is not at all what she imagined. He’s under house arrest for betraying England, and now looks upon her as a possible spy. Despite bad first impressions, Bridgewater warms to Panna. She is thrown into a whirlwind of high-stakes intrigue that sweeps her from Hadrian’s Wall to a forbidding stone castle in Scotland.”
Beneath Outback Skies by Alissa Callen – Romance.
E-book via Netgalley. “A captivating rural romance featuring an indomitable young woman determined to save her family farm, and the city-boy who is not all he seems… Paige Quinn will let nothing and no one distract her from caring for her crippled father, Connor, and fighting for her remote, drought-stricken property, Banora Downs. Least of all a surprise farm-stay guest named Tait Cavanaugh, whose smooth words are as lethal as his movie-star smile. Except Paige can’t help noticing that, for a city-boy, Tait seems unexpectedly at home on the land. And he does ask a lot of questions… It doesn’t matter how much he helps out or how much laughter he brings into her life, she soon suspects he is harbouring a big secret – the real reason he has come to Banora Downs…”
What Love Sounds Like by Alissa Callen – Romance.
Received for review from the author via Amazon. “Outback speech pathologist, Mia Windsor, believes her morning from hell is over. Then suited-up, city-boy Kade Reid strides into her office and announces he and his wide-eyed niece are the clients that she will be living with for the fortnight. Kade Reid adheres to a single edict — money is as important as breathing. But when he becomes an instant father to four-year-old Tilly, he escapes to the only place he was allowed to be a child…the family property of Berrilea. As Mia and Kade work together to help Tilly overcome her speech delay, can they face their fears in order to give Tilly the family she so desperately needs?”
When She Said I Do by Celeste Bradley – Historical Romance.
First book in the Worthington series. This cover is so pink! “Caught in a rainstorm, Miss Calliope Worthington takes shelter in a seemingly abandoned mansion. But when she finds a string of pearls in a dusty chest, she is caught red-handed by the house’s reclusive owner—Mr. Ren Porter—a fiery demon of a man who demands that Callie pay for the necklace…with her innocence. When he first lays eyes on the beautiful trespasser, Ren mistakes her for an angel. But when he realizes Callie is a thief, he strikes a bargain she cannot refuse. She must take his hand in marriage and pay him back in full: one night of passion for each stolen pearl. But when Callie surrenders to his desires—night after wicked night—he awakens something deep inside of her. Something powerful and passionate. Like a fairy tale come true, the monster she married has become the man she loves…when she said I do.”
Unforgettable by Elise K Ackers – Romance.
Gifted to me by the author. “In hospital following a near-fatal accident, Connor has temporary retrograde amnesia, and there’s a blank slate where the last three years of his life should be. It’s a woman with haunted eyes and secrets who offers to help him rediscover his past. Colleague, friend and ex-lover, Emma warns him they must be discreet. No one knows about their past relationship, and for the sake of their jobs, no one can. She reintroduces him to his life and the fascinating redevelopment project they are working on, and the more time Connor spends with her, the more he wants a future with her in it. But Emma blames herself for Connor’s accident and she won’t confess to what broke their relationship in the past. Now Connor is fighting for love, for his job, and for another chance. A story about second chances, a second look, and the futility of fighting fate, Unforgettable explores the concept of walking a path already traveled and learning from your mistakes.”
Arranged to Love by Elizabeth Dunk – Romance.
E-book from Amazon (Escape Publishing) – currently only $0.99! “All her life, Madhuri Singh has been sure she’ll make an arranged marriage with an Indian man. But when the opportunity arrives at the same time that a past lover returns to her life, Maddie finds herself torn between her culture and her desire. All his life, Jack Faulkner has been obsessed with being the one his father chooses to take over the reins of Faulkner Publications. When it seems it’s finally within his grasp, he finds himself face to face with the one woman who can make him forget everything. What will win out—the dreams they’ve always held for their futures, or the passion that even after seven years apart cannot be contained. Will they remain blinded to the truth—that they will only be happy if they can be together?”
The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff – Historical Fiction.
“Paris, 1919.The world’s leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly. Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital, where she is still looked upon as the enemy. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Stefan, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all. Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job—and also a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie. Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford.”
The Typewriter Girl by Alison Atlee – Historical Fiction.
“In Victorian London, there’s only so far an unmarried woman can go, and Betsey Dobson has relied on her wits and cunning to take herself as far as she can—to a position as a typewriter girl. But still, Betsey yearns for something more…so when she’s offered a position as the excursions manager at a seaside resort, she knows this is her chance for security, for independence, for an identity forged by her own work and not a man’s opinion. Underqualified for the job and on the wrong side of the aristocratic resort owner, Betsey struggles to prove herself and looks to the one person who can support her new venture: Mr. Jones, the ambitious Welshman building the resort’s pleasure fair. As she and Mr. Jones grow ever closer, Betsey begins to dream that she might finally have found her place in the world—but when her past returns to haunt her, she must fight for what she’s worked so hard…or risk losing everything.”
The Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover – Fiction; Romance.
The sequel to Slammed, which I quite liked even though it was pretty melodramatic. “Hardships and heartache brought them together…now it will tear them apart. Layken and Will have proved their love can get them through anything; until someone from Will’s past re-emerges, leaving Layken questioning the very foundation on which their relationship was built. Will is forced to face the ultimate challenge … how to prove his love for a girl who refuses to stop ‘carving pumpkins.’” ['Carving pumpkins' refers to Layken's standard avoidance technique, when she doesn't want to discuss something or deal with it.]
Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell – Historical Fiction.
Received for review from the publisher (I’ll be reading this next). “In 1002, fifteen-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son. Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life. Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Shadow on the Crown introduces readers to a fascinating, overlooked period of history and an unforgettable heroine whose quest to find her place in the world will resonate with modern readers.”
The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermot – Fiction.
Another book I’ve been wanting to read for ages but had to wait for; I’ve heard only good things about this one. “Jason Prosper grew up in the elite world of Manhattan penthouses, Maine summer estates, old-boy prep schools, and exclusive sailing clubs. A smart, athletic teenager, Jason maintains a healthy, humorous disdain for the trappings of affluence, preferring to spend afternoons sailing with Cal, his best friend and boarding-school roommate. When Cal commits suicide during their junior year at Kensington Prep, Jason is devastated by the loss and transfers to Bellingham Academy. There, he meets Aidan, a fellow student with her own troubled past. They embark on a tender, awkward, deeply emotional relationship. When a major hurricane hits the New England coast, the destruction it causes brings with it another upheaval in Jason’s life, forcing him to make sense of a terrible secret that has been buried by the boys he considers his friends. Set against the backdrop of the 1987 stock market collapse, The Starboard Sea is an examination of the abuses of class privilege, the mutability of sexual desire, the thrill and risk of competitive sailing, and the adult cost of teenage recklessness. It is a powerful and provocative novel about a young man finding his moral center, trying to forgive himself, and accepting the gift of love.”
We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen – Historical Fiction.
An impulse buy at Chapters one day. “Hailed in Europe as an instant classic, We, the Drowned is the story of the port town of Marstal, Denmark, whose inhabitants sailed the world from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of the Second World War. The novel tells of ships wrecked and blown up in wars, of places of terror and violence that continue to lure each generation; there are cannibals here, shrunken heads, prophetic dreams, and miraculous survivals. The result is a brilliant seafaring novel, a gripping saga encompassing industrial growth, the years of expansion and exploration, the crucible of the first half of the twentieth century, and most of all, the sea.”
The Antagonist by Lynn Coady – Fiction.
I’ve been wanting to read this since I first heard of it through the Giller prize in, what, 2011? “The Antagonist tells the story of Gordon Rankin (“Rank”), a former hockey enforcer driven to seek revenge on a old friend who has published a novel revealing Rank’s deepest secret. The hulking Gordon Rankin has spent his life cast as an enforcer, a goon — by his classmates, his coaches, and especially his own father, Gordon Senior, an unfortunate victim of small man syndrome. Rank duly accepts his role and spends the majority of his high school and university years implementing the violent commands of others. Until one day tragedy strikes, with only Rank to blame. With nobody to turn to, he disappears. But almost twenty years later Rank discovers that an old, trusted friend — the only person to whom he has ever confessed his sins – has published a novel mirroring Rank’s life. The betrayal cuts to the deepest core of him, and forces Rank to confront the tragic true story from which he’s spent his whole life running. A diatribe, a prayer, an ode to what it means to be a man, Rank’s painful, suspenseful, and often hilarious journey grabs us by the throat and the heart and never lets us go. This is Rank’s turn to finally set the record straight.”
Y by Marjorie Celona – Fiction.
I’ve been wanting to read this since it came out, so when I saw the hardback for sale at Chapters I decided to get it, even though I prefer paperbacks. “‘My life begins at the Y…’ so starts Shannon’s story, a newborn baby dumped at the doors of the local YMCA. Bounced between foster homes, Shannon longs to uncover her roots. Where is she from? Who is her mother? And why would she abandon Shannon on the day she was born? The answers lie in the heartbreaking tale of her mother’s family, and their flawed and desperate fate. Through Marjorie Celona’s intimate observations and quirky wit, present and past converge to shape a unique and lasting story of identity and inheritance. A novel that asks us to consider the ‘why’ of our lives, even as it reveals that the answer isn’t always clear.”
City of God by Paulo Lins – Fiction.
To read in September for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Brazil). I’ve saw the film of this book years ago and really liked it; I have the soundtrack too, which I love, but until now I’d never even thought of getting the book. “The searing novel on which the internationally acclaimed hit film was based, City of God is a gritty, gorgeous tour de force from the Brazilian street. Cicade de Deus, the City of God, is one of Rio’s most notorious slums. Yet it is also a place where samba rocks till dawn, where the women are the most beautiful on earth, and where one young man wants to escape his background and become a photographer. City of God is a sprawling, magnificently told epic about gang life in Rio’s favelas, based on years of research and Pualo Lins’s firsthand experience growing up in Cicade de Deus. A book that gives voice to the dispossessed of multiethnic Brazil, City of God will earn Paulo Lins more well-deserved international acclaim.”
Minaret by Leila Aboulela – Fiction.
“Leila Aboulela’s American debut is a provocative, timely, and engaging novel about a young Muslim woman – once privileged and secular in her native land and now impoverished in London – gradually embracing her orthodox faith. With her Muslim hijab and down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans in London. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper-class Westernized Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. But a coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. Soon orphaned, she finds solace and companionship within the Muslim community. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love.”
Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam – Fiction.
Again, not sure how I came across this – a publisher’s newsletter perhaps – but I love these kinds of unsettling stories. “Lamb traces the self-discovery of David Lamb, a narcissistic middle aged man with a tendency toward dishonesty, in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, he turns his attention to Tommie, an awkward and unpopular eleven-year-old girl. Lamb is convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness, and even comes to believe that his devotion to Tommie is in her best interest. But when Lamb decides to abduct a willing Tommie for a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies, planning to initiate her into the beauty of the mountain wilderness, they are both shaken in ways neither of them expects.”
The Paper Eater by Liz Jensen – Speculative Fiction; Science Fiction.
“Welcome to the island paradise where utopianism and human greed are set to collide – with catastrophic results… The whole world is beginning to fall in love with Atlantica. Miles from anywhere, the man-made island is a true twenty-first century vision. With a thriving economy based on global waste disposal and an infrastructure run by advanced software, politician-free Atlantica is the envy of other nations and a consumer paradise. But even Utopia has its outcasts. Meet Harvey Kidd, petty criminal, papier mâché craftsman, forlorn lover and holder of an explosive secret. Is the system about to discover that it spat out its most difficult customer too soon?”
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies – Historical Fiction.
One of the books I’ll be reading in March for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Wales). “Set in the stunning landscape of North Wales just after D-Day, Peter Ho Davies’s profoundly moving first novel traces the intersection of disparate lives in wartime. When a POW camp is established near her village, seventeen-year-old barmaid Esther Evans finds herself strangely drawn to the camp and its forlorn captives. She is exploring the camp boundary when the astonishing occurs: Karsten, a young German corporal, calls out to her from behind the fence. From that moment on, the two foster a secret relationship that will ultimately put them both at risk. Meanwhile, another foreigner, the German-Jewish interrogator Rotherham, travels to Wales to investigate Britain’s most notorious Nazi prisoner, Rudolf Hess.”
While the Sun is Above Us by Melanie Schnell – Fiction.
Read in February for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Sudan) – it was really good too. “While The Sun Is Above Us takes readers deep into the extraordinary world of Sudan through the intertwined narratives of two women. In the midst of a bloody civil war, Adut is brutally captured and held as a slave for eight years. Sandra, fleeing her life in Canada, travels to South Sudan as an aid worker but soon finds herself unwittingly embroiled in a violent local conflict. When chance brings Adut and Sandra together in a brief but profound moment, their lives change forever.”
The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari – Memoir.
To read this month (February) for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Sudan). “The young life of Daoud Hari-his friends call him David-has been one of bravery and mesmerizing adventure. “The Translator” is a suspenseful, harrowing, and deeply moving memoir of how one person has made a difference in the world, an on-the-ground account of one of the biggest stories of our time: the brutal genocide under way in Darfur.
In 2003, Daoud Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman, was among the hundreds of thousands of villagers attacked and driven from their homes by Sudanese-government-backed militia groups. Though Hari’s village was burned to the ground, his family decimated and dispersed, he himself escaped, eventually finding safety across the border. With his high school knowledge of languages, Hari offered his services as a translator and guide. In doing so, however, he had to return to the heart of darkness-and he has risked his life again and again to help ensure that the story of his people is told while there is still time to save them.”
By Blood by Ellen Ullman – Historical Fiction.
“San Francisco, the 1970s. A disgraced professor takes an office in an old downtown building to plot his return. But he is distracted by the sounds coming from the next room, the office of a psychiatrist. He overhears the therapy sessions of a young lesbian who is in search of her adoptive family. Enraptured by the sound of her voice and obsessed with her story, the professor takes up the patient’s quest as his own and discovers the disturbing truth about her origins. As he sends each new revelation to the patient – disguised as correspondence from an adoption agency – she is energized by the information, but finds herself unmoored from everything she thought she knew about herself. With ferocious intelligence and enthralling, magnetic prose, Ellen Ullman’s By Blood is a dark and brilliant novel about connection, identity, history, and the terrible desire to influence another life.”
I Have the Right to Destroy Myself by Young-ha Kim – Fiction.
To read in June for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (South Korea). “I don’t encourage murder. I have no interest in one person killing another. I only want to draw out morbid desires, imprisoned deep in the unconscious. This lust, once freed, starts growing. Their imaginations run free, and they soon discover their potential… They are waiting for someone like me. A spectral, nameless narrator haunts the lost and wounded of big-city Seoul, suggesting solace in suicide. Wandering through the bright lights of their high-urban existence, C and K are brothers who fall in love with the same woman – Se-yeon. As their lives intersect, they tear at each other in a struggle to find connection in their fast-paced, atomized world.”
Tongue by Kyung Ran Jo – Fiction.
To read in June for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (South Korea). “Emotionally raw and emphatically sensual, Tongue is the story of the demise of an obsessive romance and a woman’s culinary journey toward self-restoration and revenge. When her boyfriend of seven years leaves her for another woman, the celebrated young chef Jung Ji-won shuts down the cooking school she ran from their home and sinks into deep depression, losing her will to cook, her desire to eat, and even her ability to taste. Returning to the kitchen of the I talian restaurant where her career first began, she slowly rebuilds her life, rediscovering her appreciation of food, both as nourishment and as sensual pleasure. She also starts to devise a plan for a final, vengeful act of culinary seduction.”
The Misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst – Fiction.
To read in May for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Belgium). Well the author is from Belgium so I can only hope the book is set there too! “Sobriety is an alien concept to the men in Dimmy’s family. Useless in all other respects, his three uncles have a rare talent for drinking, a flair for violence, and an unwavering commitment to the pub. Growing up amid the fumes of stale beer, Dimmy seems doomed to follow in his uncle’s low-life footsteps, until, one day, he realises that it’s time to sober up.”
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz – Historical Fiction.
I stupidly had this book mailed to me in Canada instead of to Tassie, which means I either don’t read it for the challenge or I make it one of several books I have to cart down in my suitcase (Egypt is in November). First book in the Cairo Trilogy. “This is a sweeping and evocative portrait of both a family and a country struggling to move toward independence in a society that has resisted change for centuries. Set against the backdrop of Britain’s occupation of Egypt immediately after World War I, Palace Walk introduces us to the Al Jawad family. Ahmad, a middle-class shopkeeper runs his household strictly according to the Qur’an while at night he explores the pleasures of Cairo. A tyrant at home, Ahmad forces his gentle, oppressed wife and two daughters to live cloistered lives behind the house’s latticed windows, while his three very different sons live in fear of his harsh will.”
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandell – Historical Fiction.
E-book from Netgalley. “The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect. When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville. As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.”
The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez – Fiction.
Originally published as A Cup of Friendship. “After hard luck and heartbreak, Sunny finally finds a place to call home—in the middle of an Afghanistan war zone. There, the thirty-eight-year-old serves up her American hospitality to the expats who patronize her coffee shop, including a British journalist, a “danger pay” consultant, and a wealthy and well-connected woman. True to her name, Sunny also bonds with people whose language and landscape are unfamiliar to most Westerners, but whose hearts and souls are very much like our own: the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultratraditional son; and Yazmina, a young Afghan villager with a secret that could put everyone’s life in jeopardy.”
Minion by LA Banks – Urban Fantasy.
First book in the Vampire Huntress Legend. “All Damali Richards ever wanted to do was create music and bring it to the people. Now she is a spoken word artist and the top act for Warriors of Light Records. But come nightfall, she hunts vampires and demons – predators that people tend to dismiss as myth or fantasy. Damali and her Guardian team cannot afford such delusions, especially now, when a group of rogue vampires has been killing the artists of Warriors of Light and their rival, Blood Music. When strange attacks erupt within the club drug-trafficking network and draw the attention of the police, Damali realizes these killings are a bit out of the ordinary, even for vampires. Instead of neat puncture marks in the neck showing where the blood has been drained from the body, these corpses are mutilated beyond recognition, indicating a blood lust and thirst for destruction that surpasses any Damali has encountered before. Soon she discovers that behind these brutal murders is the most powerful vampire Damali has ever met – a seductive beast who is coming for her next…”
Reflections: Dissecting the Modern Day Degenerate by John Dodsworth – Short Stories.
E-book from Amazon. This is only 39 pages long. “Reflections is a collection of short stories that deals with a variety of social issues; from working in an office, to lost love and broken families, or dealing with an apathetic society. The stories follow a stream of consciousness narrative and often end with a dark and sometimes horrifying twist. Reader beware, these stories are not meant for the weak of heart.”
Bossypants by Tina Fey – Memoir.
“Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true. At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon – from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.”
The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge – Memoir.
E-book from Netgalley. “Twenty-seven-year-old Sarah Thebarge had it all – a loving boyfriend, an Ivy League degree, and a successful career – when her life was derailed by an unthinkable diagnosis: aggressive breast cancer. After surviving the grueling treatments – though just barely – Sarah moved to Portland, Oregon, to start over. There, a chance encounter with an exhausted African mother and her daughters transformed her life again. A Somali refugee whose husband had left her, Hadhi was struggling to raise five young daughters, half a world a way from her war-torn homeland. Alone in a strange country, Hadhi and the girls were on the brink of starvation in their own home, “invisible” to their neighbors and to the world. As Sarah helped Hadhi and the girls navigate American life, her outreach to the family became a source of courage and a lifeline for herself.”
Teaching Study Skills & Supporting Learning by Stella Cottrell – Non-fiction: Education; Psychology.
I have a whole bunch of great education/teaching reference books, but this series – the Palgrave Study series – is really good (well some of them are, like the one on Critical Thinking Skills). This focuses on tertiary education (university/higher education) but much of what it talks about will still be really helpful for me, as a secondary school teacher.
Parallel by Lauren Miller – YA Fantasy.
Received for review from the author (scheduled for early March). “Abby Barnes had a plan. Get into a great college, major in journalism, and land her dream job at a major newspaper. But on the eve of her 18th birthday, she’s stuck on a Hollywood movie set instead, wishing she could rewind her life. But the next morning, she’s in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. A collision of parallel worlds has left Abby living a new reality every time her younger parallel self makes a new decision. Forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn’t choose, Abby must let go on her plans for the future and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that’s finally in reach.”
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi – YA Apocalyptic Fantasy.
The sequel to Shatter Me, which I really enjoyed. “tick tick tick tick tick it’s almost time for war. Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts — and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance. She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch. Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible. In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.”
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke – YA Science Fiction.
It’s about a robot! “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist. There’s never been anyone – or anything – quite like Finn. He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is to tutor Cat. When the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.”
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta – YA Fiction.
I didn’t realise this was a kind of follow-on novel to Saving Francesca, which I haven’t read yet (I would but I’ve shipped it already). “After Thomas Mackee’s favourite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can’t forget. Shooting for oblivion, he’s hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is either?”
The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd – YA Historical Fiction; Horror.
I’ve never read the original that inspired this, though I did see the movie once. “Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London, working as a maid and trying to forget the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumours about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he’s alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she’s determined to find out if the accusations were true. Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward, Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the secret of her father’s new life: He experiments on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius – and madness – in her own blood.”
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – YA Fantasy; Steampunk.
“Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other. Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive – when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana. As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and a new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner . . .”
SENT DIRECTLY TO TASMANIA
A Factory of Cunning by Philippa Stockley – Historical Fiction.
My sister recommended this to me a few years ago (she absolutely loved it) but I couldn’t get it at the time. “Set in late eighteenth-century England, Philippa Stockley’s American debut gives us a wickedly delightful but deadly serious battle of the wills and the sexes. It begins with the arrival in London of the mysterious Mrs. Fox — on the run from a scandalous French past—who takes a new identity, determined to reinvent herself. She must pit her formidable skills for revenge against Earl Much, a British aristocrat with no less notorious a past and easily her match in sinfulness and intrigue. Between these two swirls a story featuring venal lords, wronged maidens, and reprobate clergymen, transporting readers from bawdy houses to country estates—places where the pleasures of the flesh are both high comedy and serious business.”
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks – Historical Fiction.
This seems to be THE Faulks novel everyone should read. They were discussing it on the radio recently which motivated me to get it; previously I’ve only read one of his books, Charlotte Grey, which I lent to someone and never got back. “In 1910 a young Englishman, Stephen Wraysford, goes to Picardy, France, to learn the textile business. While there he plunges into a love affair with the young wife of his host, a passion so imperative and consuming that it changes him forever. Several years later, with the outbreak of World War I, he finds himself again in the fields of Picardy, this time as a soldier on the Western Front. A strange, occasionally bitter man, Stephen is possessed of an inexplicable will to survive. He struggles through the hideously bloody battles of the Marne, Verdun, and the Somme (in the last named, thirty thousand British soldiers were killed in the first half hour alone), camps for weeks at a time in the verminous trenches, and hunkers in underground tunnels as he watches many of the companions he has grown to love perish. In spite of everything, Stephen manages to find hope and meaning in the blasted world he inhabits. Sixty years after war’s end, his granddaughter discovers, and keeps, Stephen’s promise to a dying man. Sebastian Faulks brings the anguish of love and war to vivid life, and leaves the reader’s mind pulsating with images that are graphic and unforgettable.”
Habits of the House by Fay Weldon – Classics.
First book in the Love and Inheritance Trilogy by the writer behind the TV show Upstairs and Downstairs. “As the summer of 1899 gives way to autumn, Lord Dilberne’s decision to remain in Belgrave Square rather than move the household to the ancestral acres of Dilberne Court sends out ripples of concern. His gamble on mining shares in the Transvaal has brought no financial relief to an already mortgaged estate. The novel explores how change affects the lives above stairs and below. But as it unfolds, the novel also becomes a love story, precipitated by the arrival of Minnie, an unmarried American heiress, and her resourceful mother. With wit and sympathy – and no small measure of mischief – Ms Weldon plots the interplay of restraint and desire, manners and morals, reason and instinct.”
The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood – Fiction.
“The Bellwether Revivals opens and closes with bodies. The story of whose bodies and how they come to be spread about an elegant house on the river near Cambridge is told by Oscar, a young, bright working class man who has fallen in love with an upper-class Cambridge student, Iris, and thereby become entangled with a group of close friends, led by Iris’s charismatic, brilliant, possibly dangerous brother. For Eden Bellwether believes he can heal – and perhaps more – through the power of music. In this masterful debut, we too are seduced by this gilded group of young people, entranced by Eden’s powerful personality and his obvious talent as a musician, and caught off guard by the strangeness of Iris and Eden’s parents. And we find ourselves utterly unsure as to whether Eden Bellweather is a saviour or a villain, and whether Oscar will be able to solve this mystery in time to save himself, if not everyone else.”
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen – Fiction.
Y’know, I think this book might be set in Wales, though I’m only just now finding that out – and it’s sitting in my parents’ house in Tasmania, so no help for me for the challenge! “Judith and her father don’t have much – their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she’s never known. But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land – little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon, luminous stars and a mirror sea – a world of wonder that Judith calls The Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving foam and cotton wool and cellophane) there will be no school on Monday…Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. She has performed her first miracle. And that’s when her troubles begin. With its intensely taut storytelling and gorgeous prose, The Land of Decoration is a heartbreaking story of good and evil, belief and doubt.”
The Innocents by Francesca Segal – Fiction.
“What if everything you’d ever wanted was no longer enough? Adam and Rachel are getting married at last. Childhood sweetheartswhose lives and families have been intertwined for years; theirs is set to be the wedding of the year. But then Rachel’s cousin Ellie makes an unexpected return to the family fold. Beautiful, reckless and troubled, Ellie represents everything that Adam has tried all his life to avoid – and everything that is missing from his world. As the long-awaited wedding approaches, Adam is torn between duty and temptation, security and freedom, and must make a choice that will break either one heart, or many.”
Asleep in the Sun by Adolfo Bioy Casares – Fiction.
To read in December for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Argentina). “Lucio, a normal man in a normal (nosy) city neighborhood with normal problems with his wife (not the easiest person to get along with) and family and job (he lost it) finds he has a much bigger problem: his wife is a dog. At first, it doesn’t seem like such a problem, because the German shepherd inhabiting his wife’s body is actually a good deal more agreeable than his wife herself, now occupying the body of the same German shepherd in a mental hospital run by scientists who, it appears, have designs on the whole neighborhood. But then Lucio has a sense, however confused, of what’s right, which is an even bigger problem yet.”
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh – Historical Fiction.
“1878. South Africa. A country torn apart by greed. Frances Irvine, left destitute by her father’s sudden death, is forced to travel from the security and familiarity of her privileged English life to marry Edwin Matthews, an ambitious but penniless young doctor in South Africa. They are posted to a smallpox station on the vast, inhospitable plains of the Karoo but she is so caught up in her own sense of entitlement and loss of status that she cannot recognise its hidden beauty nor the honour and integrity of the man she has married. All her hopes for happiness seem destroyed when her husband exposes the epidemic that is devastating the native community in the diamond-mining town of Kimberley. Here, the gleaming houses of the rich disguise the poverty of a labour force under coercion, and Frances is drawn into a ruthless world of wealth and opportunity, where influential men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Passionately caught up with the man her husband is fighting to bring down, she must make a fateful choice.”
The Story of the Night by Colm Toibin – Fiction.
To read in December for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Argentina). Y’know, I’ve never read anything by Toibin before and I feel like that’s a really glaring gap. “Richard Garay lives alone with his mother, hiding his sexuality from her and from those around him. Stifled by a job he despises, he finds himself willing to take considerable risks. Set in Argentina in a time of great change, The Story of the Night is a powerful and moving novel about a man who, as the Falklands War is fought and lost, finds his own way to emerge into the world.”
Gold by Chris Cleave – Fiction.
I wanted to read this as soon as it came out but didn’t want to get the hardback – it’s new(ish) in paperback and I’m happy to wait to read it a bit longer. “Gold is the story of Zoe and Kate, world-class athletes who have been friends and rivals since their first day of Elite training. They’ve loved, fought, betrayed, forgiven, consoled, gloried, and grown up together. Now on the eve of London 2012, their last Olympics, both women will be tested to their physical and emotional limits. They must confront each other and their own mortality to decide, when lives are at stake: What would you sacrifice for the people you love, if it meant giving up the thing that was most important to you in the world?”
Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May – Fiction.
“Billy’s mother is dead. He knows-because he reads about it in magazines-that people die every day in ways that are more random and tragic and stupid than hers, but for nineteen-year-old Billy and his little brother, Oscar, their mother’s death in a bungled street robbery is the most random and tragic and stupid thing that could possibly have happened to them. Now Billy must be both mother and father to Oscar, and despite what his well-meaning aunt, the PTA mothers, social services, and Oscar’s own prodigal father all think, he feels certain that he is the one for the job. The boys’ new world – where bedtimes are arbitrary, tidiness is optional, and healthy home-cooked meals pile up uneaten in the freezer – is built out of chaos and fierce love, but it’s also a world that teeters perilously on its axis. As Billy’s obsession with his mother’s missing killer grows, he risks losing sight of the one thing that really matters: the only family he has left.”
Canada by Richard Ford – Fiction.
I’ve been interested in reading this since it came out (the paperback became available recently), especially after Bree’s enthusiasm. “When fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank, his sense of normal life is forever altered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life into before and after, a threshold that can never be uncrossed. His parents’ arrest and imprisonment mean a threatening and uncertain future for Dell and his twin sister, Berner. Willful and burning with resentment, Berner flees their home in Montana, abandoning her brother and her life. But Dell is not completely alone. A family friend intervenes, spiriting him across the Canadian border, in hopes of delivering him to a better life. There, afloat on the prairie of Saskatchewan, Dell is taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic and charismatic American whose cool reserve masks a dark and violent nature. Undone by the calamity of his parents’ robbery and arrest, Dell struggles under the vast prairie sky to remake himself and define the adults he thought he knew. But his search for grace and peace only moves him nearer to a harrowing and murderous collision with Remlinger, an elemental force of darkness.”
Life Form by Amélie Nothomb – Fiction.
I honestly can’t remember where I saw this but the premise struck me immediately. “One morning, Nothomb receives a letter from one of her readers, am American soldier called Melvin Mapple, who is fighting in Iraq. Horrified by the endless violence around him, he takes comfort in over-eating. Over-eating until his fat starts to suffocate him and he can barely fit into his XXXXL clothes. Disgusted with himself, but unable to control his eating, he takes his mind off his ever-growing bulk by naming it Scheherazade and pretending that he is not alone at night with his flesh. Although initially repulsed, Nothomb is fascinated and begins exchanging letters in earnest with Mapple.”
Cries in the Drizzle by Yu Hua – Historical Fiction.
To read in October for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (China). “The middle son of three, Sun Guanglin is constantly neglected ignored by his parents and his younger and older brother. Sent away at age six to live with another family, he returns to his parents’ house six years later on the same night that their home burns to the ground, making him even more a black sheep. Yet Sun Guanglin’s status as an outcast, both at home and in his village, places him in a unique position to observe the changing nature of Chinese society, as social dynamics — and his very own family — are changed forever under Communist rule.”
The First Century After Beatrice by AMin Maalouf – Speculative Fiction.
I’m sorry about the poor quality of the cover image – since I don’t have the book on hand I can’t scan it to get a better one. It’ll have to wait. “What would happen if a drug could guarantee the birth of male children? The First Century After Beatrice chronicles the events following the development of just such a chemical. The female birth rate drops as the use of the drug spreads, at first clandestinely, from the turn of the 21st century. Women are sold on the black market and men despair facing a future without them. Meanwhile, governments use the drug as a weapon for ethnic cleansing, threatening entire communities with annihilation. Societies crumble as populations tragically justify their xenophobia and take up arms. The First Century After Beatrice is, paradoxically, the lyrical memoir of a French entomologist and intellectual who leads the campaign to eradicate the drug. Interwoven is the story of his love for the two women with whom he shares his life: his companion and lover, Clarence, and their prized daughter, Beatrice.”
Varamo by César Aira – Fiction.
To read in December for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Argentina). “Unmistakably the work of César Aira, Varamo is about the day in the life of a hapless government employee who, after wandering around all night after being paid by the Ministry in counterfeit money, eventually writes the most celebrated masterwork of modern Central American poetry, The Song of the Virgin Boy. What is odd is that, at fifty years old, Varamo ‘hadn’t previously written one sole verse, nor had it ever occurred to him to write one.’”
The Seamstress and the Wind by César Aira – Fiction.
To read in December for the Around the World in 12 Books Challenge (Argentina). “A seamstress who is sewing a wedding dress for the pregnant local art teacher fears that her son, while playing in a big semitruck, has been accidentally kidnapped and driven off to Patagonia. Completely unhinged, she calls a local taxi to follow the semi in hot pursuit. When her husband finds out what’s happened, he takes off after wife and child. They race not only to the end of the world, but to adventures in desire — where the wild Southern wind falls in love with the seamstress, and a monster child takes up with the truck driver. Interspersed are Aira’s musings about memory and childhood, and his hometown of Coronel Pringles, with a compelling view of the hard lot of this working-class town, situated not far from Buenos Aires.”
Dance of Shadows by Yelana Black – YA Fantasy.
“Vanessa doesn’t believe that her sister is a runaway. She wouldn’t leave her family behind without saying a word. The only way Vanessa can discover the truth behind her mysterious disappearance is to follow in Margaret’s footsteps, but to do so she risks her sanity and maybe even her life… Vanessa Adler is one of the talented few to get a place at the acclaimed New York Ballet Academy. Between backbreaking rehearsals for the school’s production of The Firebird she desperately tries to find out what happened to her sister before she vanished. There are rumors that the pressure of performing the lead role, the same role Vanessa is now rehearsing for, drove her mad. Other girls have gone missing too. Can the role be cursed? Vanessa’s new relationship with leading-man Zep only seems to complicate things further. What is he hiding from her and can she really trust him? Black Swan meets Gossip Girl in this thrilling first book in a new series.”
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – YA Fantasy.
“Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift – one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.”
Changeling by Philippa Gregory – YA Historical Fiction.
“The year is 1453 and all signs point to it being the end of the world. Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, handsome seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of times across Europe. Commanded by sealed orders, Luca is sent to map the fears of Christendom and travel to the very frontier of good and evil. Seventeen-year-old Isolde, a Lady Abbess, is trapped in a nunnery to prevent her from claiming her rich inheritance. As the nuns in her care are driven mad by strange visions, walking in their sleep, and showing bleeding wounds, Luca is sent to investigate and driven to accuse her. Forced to face the greatest fears of the dark ages—witchcraft, werewolves, madness—Luca and Isolde embark on a search for truth, their own destinies, and even love as they take the unknown ways to the real historical figure who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.”
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – YA Fiction.
So far, I am not a fan of John Green – but that’s only based on the one book of his I’ve read so far (Looking For Alaska). I also still have An Abundance of Katherines to read as well, and I’m not yet ready to write him off, especially since it seems like EVERYONE loved this book. “Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”
NEW IN HUGH’S LIBRARY
These books are HUGELY popular with the kids.
Shake a Leg! by Constance Allen – Picture Book.
A very silly book, lots of fun.
It’s My Birthday by Helen Oxenbury – Picture Book.
Very sweet story about a little boy whose animal friends help him make his birthday cake – has a recipe in the back too.