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New Release Wishlist

Since I’ve stopped reviewing books for other websites and publications, I’ve found myself rather out of the loop when it comes to knowing about new releases.  Yes, I can find not-yet-released books on Netgalley easily enough, but it’s not quite the same as browsing book websites and blogs and building that delicious anticipation.  Thus, I have scoured the Internet to bring you a list of ten new releases which I am coveting.

1. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy 51chitfapol-_sx336_bo1204203200_
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness transports us across a sub-continent on a journey of many years. It takes us deep into the lives of its gloriously rendered characters, each of them in search of a place of safety— in search of meaning, and of love.  ​In a graveyard outside the walls of Old Delhi, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby suddenly appears, just after midnight. In a snowy valley, a bereaved father writes a letter to his five-year-old daughter about the people who came to her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, a lone woman chain-smokes as she reads through her old notebooks. At the Jannat Guest House, two people who have known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around one another, as though they have just met.  A braided narrative of astonishing force and originality, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is at once a love story and a provocation—a novel as inventive as it is emotionally engaging. It is told with a whisper, in a shout, through joyous tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Its heroes, both present and departed, have been broken by the world we live in—and then mended by love. For this reason, they will never surrender.’

 

2. Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss 514dlw-rjgl-_sx323_bo1204203200_
‘Jules Epstein has vanished from the world. He leaves no trace but a rundown flat patrolled by a solitary cockroach, and a monogrammed briefcase abandoned in the desert.  To Epstein’s mystified family, the disappearance of a man whose drive and avidity have been a force to be reckoned with for sixty-eight years marks the conclusion of a gradual fading. This transformation began in the wake of Epstein’s parents’ deaths, and continued with his divorce after more than thirty-five years of marriage, his retirement from a New York legal firm, and the rapid shedding of possessions he’d spent a lifetime accumulating. With the last of his wealth and a nebulous plan, he departs for the Tel Aviv Hilton.  Meanwhile, a novelist leaves her husband and children behind in Brooklyn and checks into the same hotel, hoping that the view of the pool she used to swim in on childhood holidays will unlock her writer’s block. But when a man claiming to be a retired professor of literature recruits her for a project involving Kafka, she is drawn into a mystery that will take her on a metaphysical journey and change her in ways she could never have imagined.  Bursting with life and humour, this is a profound, mesmerising, achingly beautiful novel of metamorphosis and self-realisation – of looking beyond all that is visible towards the infinite.’

 

97817864847343. Five Get Beach Body Ready by Bruno Vincent
‘Enid Blyton’s books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new series of Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy are keen to hone their physiques ready for the summer holidays. All it will take is a bit of effort and willpower …and pulling together as a team. What could possibly stand in their way? True to form, the path to the body beautiful is less straightforward than they hope! ‘

 

4. St Petersburg: Three Centuries of Murderous Desire by Jonathan Miles 9780091959463
‘From Peter the Great to Putin, this is the unforgettable story of St Petersburg – one of the most magical, menacing and influential cities in the world. St Petersburg has always felt like an impossible metropolis, risen from the freezing mists and flooded marshland of the River Neva on the western edge of Russia. It was a new capital in an old country. Established in 1703 by the sheer will of its charismatic founder, the homicidal megalomaniac Peter-the-Great, its dazzling yet unhinged reputation was quickly fashioned by the sadistic dominion of its early rulers. This city, in its successive incarnations – St Petersburg; Petrograd; Leningrad and, once again, St Petersburg – has always been a place of perpetual contradiction. It was a window on to Europe and the Enlightenment, but so much of the glory of Russia was created here: its literature, music, dance and, for a time, its political vision. It gave birth to the artistic genius of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, Pavlova and Nureyev. Yet, for all its glittering palaces, fairytale balls and enchanting gardens, the blood of thousands has been spilt on its snow-filled streets. It has been a hotbed of war and revolution, a place of siege and starvation, and the crucible for Lenin and Stalin’s power-hungry brutality. In St Petersburg, Jonathan Miles recreates the drama of three hundred years in this absurd and brilliant city, bringing us up to the present day, when – once more – its fate hangs in the balance. This is an epic tale of murder, massacre and madness played out against squalor and splendour. It is an unforgettable portrait of a city and its people. ‘

 

97807553909535. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
‘The unforgettable and achingly tender new novel from Sarah Winman, author of the international bestseller WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT and the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS. ‘Exquisite’ Joanna Cannon It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things. And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael, who are inseparable. And the boys become men, and then Annie walks into their lives, and it changes nothing and everything. Tin Man sees Sarah Winman follow the acclaimed success of When God Was A Rabbit and A Year Of Marvellous Ways with a love letter to human kindness and friendship, loss and living.’

 

6. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong 512bsgqt67tl-_sx331_bo1204203200_
‘Freshly disengaged from her fiance and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.   Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.’

 

510v2bugqkyl-_sx333_bo1204203200_7. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
‘The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you.
Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her.  At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.   Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, not after what they did. It’s time for the women to get their story straight…’

 

8. The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne 51-bhijiful-_sx306_bo1204203200_
‘Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.’

 

51e4ckmnrbl-_sx331_bo1204203200_9. The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson
‘From the publisher of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, the first in a new series of distinctive, standalone crime stories, each with a literary bent. In 1950s London, a literary agent finds fame when he secretly steals a young woman’s brilliant novel manuscript and publishes it under his own name, Lewis Carson. Two days after their meeting, the woman is found strangled on Peckham Rye Common: did Lewis purloin the manuscript as an act of callous opportunism, or as the spoils of a calculated murder?’

 

10. Two Stories by Virginia Woolf and Mark Haddon 51skmqr3jdl-_sx351_bo1204203200_
‘Virginia Woolf was one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. With her husband, Leonard Woolf, she started the Hogarth Press in 1917: the list ranged widely in fiction, poetry, politics and psychoanalysis, and published all Virginia Woolf’s own work.   Its first publication appeared in 2017: Two Stories, bound in bright Japanese paper, contained a short story from both Virginia and Leonard. Typeset and bound by Virginia, with illustrations by Dora Carrington, 134 copies were printed by Leonard using a small handpress installed in the dining room at Hogarth House, Richmond.  To celebrate the 100th anniversary of ‘Publication No. 1’ this new edition of Two Stories takes the original text of Virginia’s story, ‘The Mark on the Wall’ (with illustrations by Dora Carrington), and pairs it with a new story, ‘St Brides Bay’, by Mark Haddon, a lifelong reader of Virginia Woolf.  TWO STORIES also includes a portrait of Virginia Woolf by Mark Haddon, and a short introduction from the publisher about the founding of the Press.’

 

Which new releases are you most excited about?  Will you be reading any of these?

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‘A Year of Marvellous Ways’ by Sarah Winman ****

I very much enjoyed Sarah Winman’s debut novel, When God Was a Rabbit, so when an unsolicited copy of her second book, A Year of Marvellous Ways, was delivered by the postman, I found myself rather eager to read it immediately.

Whilst I was (somehow) entirely unaware of its publication, I was pleased to see that A Year of Marvellous Ways has been incredibly well received.  Patrick Gale says that the book is ‘like Dylan Thomas given a sexy rewrite by Angela Carter’, and Emylia Hall writes: ‘Folkloric, poetic, gorgeous.  All I needed was a campfire and a bottle of moonshine’.  The novel’s blurb heralds it ‘a glorious, life-affirming story about the magic in everyday life and the pull of the sea, the healing powers of storytelling and sloe gin, love and death and how we carry on when grief comes snapping at our heels’.

In terms of the storyline, A Year of Marvellous Ways is rather different to that of When God Was a Rabbit, but Winman has still placed her focus entirely upon her characters and their relationships, something which I feel that she does incredibly well.  The novel is set ‘in the wilds of Cornwall’ following the Second World War, and tells of a relatively unusual friendship, ‘between an old woman coming to the end of her life and a young soldier who sees little point in going on with his’.

Marvellous Ways is the main protagonist of the piece.  She has just begun her ninetieth year, and still lives beside the remote Cornish creek close to the hamlet of St Ophere, where she has spent the majority of her days: ‘It had been a destination village on account of its bread.  Now, in 1947, it was nothing more than a desolate reminder of the cruel passing of time’.  When Francis Drake, a young soldier, comes to the creek, intent upon an important task, ‘broken in body and spirit’, she comes to his aid without any hesitation: ‘Marvellous Ways spent a good part of her day waiting, and not for death, as you might assume, given her age.  She wasn’t sure what she was waiting for because the image was incomplete.  It was a sense, that’s all, something that had come to her on the tail feather of a dream’.

Marvellous’ world comes to life immediately; the places which she knows and loves are so well evoked.  When placed against them, she herself becomes more of a realistic character, and one can easily imagine her bumbling down to the creek and swimming, or gathering her supper.  Winman’s writing is strong, and her descriptions are gorgeous; Marvellous, for example, has eyes, ‘as blue and fickle as the sea’.  Startling occurrences and imagery come almost out of nowhere, and immediately capture the attention.  Winman’s initial descriptions conjure vivid images in the mind’s eye: ‘She had watched him go into the church as a shadow, and when he had emerged he was still a shadow with deep hues of mauve emanating from his dark skin, and from his mouth the glowing tip of a cigarette pulsed like the heart of a night insect’.  She has a marvellous way, too, of using all of the senses to add both realism and a dreamlike feel to the whole: ‘at the solid crunch of earth’, ‘a thick crust of hoar frost’ and ‘the brittle light’, for example.  The tranquillity of Cornwall also provides a sharp and much-needed contrast to the mud-filled battlefields of the Second World War.

As well as learning about Marvellous’ 1947 present, details about her past are also woven in.  Her life has been a sad one, filled with heartbreak. Of a past relationship, Winman writes, ‘… and they kissed and she wished they hadn’t because she could taste his sadness on his breath.  Could taste his other life and his other women too, and that’s why she knew he wouldn’t stay’.  The element of relationship building, which is an intrinsic portion of the plot, is both realistic and rather beguiling: ‘And that was the night they began to share dreams because that’s what happens when you both know the weight of another’s soul’.

The third person perspective has been used to good effect, and it certainly allows Winman to follow each of her protagonists here.  Personally, however, I found Marvellous’ story far more intriguing than Drake’s.  Those portions of Drake’s story which should have been packed with emotion felt a little detached.  Whilst Winman has a good grasp of her omniscient voice within A Year of Marvellous Ways, it is nowhere near as captivating as the voice which so vividly comes to life within When God Was a Rabbit.

Despite this, A Year of Marvellous Ways is a strong novel, which demonstrates the extent of how enduring friendships and promises can be.  The structure which Winman has made use of does work to her advantage, incorporating as it does both the present and the past, along with elements of magical realism.  Her characters are, for the most part, memorable constructions, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Flash Reviews (11th October 2013)

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken ***
I still adore reading children’s books, and had had The Wolves of Willoughby Chase written onto my wishlist for quite some time before I purchased it.  I found within its pages elements and echoes which reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Enid Blyton and, oddly, Daphne du Maurier, which was a most interesting amalgamation.  The storyline was intriguing, and I liked the way in which Aiken had woven in a Gothic darkness.  There was also an overriding sense of melancholy, which made itself known almost at the outset.  Whilst I very much enjoyed the imagined historical setting, I wasn’t quite expecting the storyline which Aiken presented me with in this book.  I enjoyed it on the whole, but the rather insipid characters who peopled its pages at times have ensured that it does not feature amongst my favourite children’s stories, by any means.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky *****
I read this marvellous book at least once every year (yes, I have been known to read it twice in just a few months), and have lost count of the number of times I have immersed myself in its pages.  I cannot express my adoration of it enough.  It is a stunning, perfect, lovely book, which will leave you with fond memories and the most wonderful narrator in the guise of adorable Charlie.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman ****
I have been most intrigued by the title of this novel ever since I first spotted it in Waterstones, and it was from a series of great reviews and a recommendation that I decided to purchase it on a whim.  When God Was a Rabbit tells the story of Eleanor Maud (darling name!) and her brother Joe as they meander from children to adults.  The story was unexpected at times, and it really pulled me in.  The style of it, told in a series of vignettes, worked marvellously.  It gave me the feeling that what was being written about were fragmented memories, coherent only to the narrator.  For a novel told in retrospect, this was a marvellous touch.  I really liked Elly’s narrative voice throughout, and her growing up within its pages was done believably. The balance of humour and sadness was perfect, and the characters were all built up wonderfully.  I loved learning little bits and pieces about them as the book went on.  Jenny Penny and Arthur were absolute sweethearts, and I very much enjoyed the eccentricity which Winman wove into them.  This novel comes highly recommended, and if you are after an absorbing and surprising read, look no further.

A Tree With a Bird In It by Margaret Widdemer **
I downloaded this onto my Kindle along with several other Widdemer books.  I liked the idea of the collection, in which a singular view of a tree in Widdemer’s garden inspired each poet.  The entirety of the book is rather odd and there were many poems which I didn’t much enjoy, but there were some sweet additions throughout.  My favourites were ‘The Bird Misunderstood’ by Robert Frost, ‘Frost and Sandburg Tonight’ by Edith M. Thomas, ‘At Autumn’ by Sara Teasdale, ‘The Sighing Tree’ by Margaret Widdemer, ‘Ballade of Spring Chickens’ by Richard Le Gallienne, and ‘Tea o’ Herbs’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay.