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Latest Acquisitions (March 2023)

A photograph of a stack of books against a blurred bookshelf background. The books stacked are Warsan Shire's Bless The Daughter Raised By A Voice In Her Head, Raven Leilani's Luster, Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half, and Peng Shepherd's The Cartographers. Two book covers are superimposed on either side of the stack, they are Orlando Ortega-Medina's The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants and Amanda Prowse's All Good Things.

Another reason for excitement last month: I started getting myself back into the swing of things in regards to new books. I went to Netgalley to look up the details of Lisa See’s Lady Tan’s Circle Of Women and picked up a ‘read now’ book; I responded to an email; I bought a few of the books I had come across on my various quick looks at news during the last couple of years.

There’s a book left off this list – Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights. I accounted for it last week… and I may have forgotten to add it to the stack when taking the above photo. (For transparency’s sake I will note the image above is a composite as I have the books at the sides in ebook format.)

Amanda Prowse: All Good Things – This is the ‘read now’ book, which I chose because of a slightly-relatable fact: at least until a few years ago, Amanda Prowse was one of the few big authors to visit Southampton for a signing, and this made me make a note to read one of her books one day. As we all know, putting an author on your to-be-read, especially without naming a book, is a sure-fire way to ensure you remember them only sporadically. I saw the book, I remembered, and I’m doing it now. This is effectively from the publisher for review.

Book cover of Amanda Prowse's All Good Things

Daisy Harrop has always felt like she exists in the background, and since her mother stopped getting out of bed, her life has come to a complete standstill. Daisy would give anything to leave the shabbiest house on the street and be more like the golden Kelleways next door, with their perfectly raked driveway and flourishing rose garden…

Winnie Kelleway is proud of the beautiful family she’s built. They’ve had their ups and downs – hasn’t everyone? But this weekend, celebrating her golden wedding anniversary is truly proof of their happiness, a joyful gathering for all the neighbours to see.

But as the festivities get underway, are the cracks in the ‘perfect’ Kelleway life beginning to show? As one bombshell revelation leads to another and events start to spiral out of control, Daisy and Winnie are about to discover that things aren’t always what they seem.

Brit Bennett: The Vanishing Half – I have read a little about Brit Bennett; she’s a name I’ve seen around a lot, and I could do with becoming reacquainted with prize shortlists again, in this case the Women’s Prize for Fiction. (This book won the GoodReads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction in 2020.)

Book cover of Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Orlando Ortega-Medina: The Fitful Sleep Of Immigrants – This will be the fourth book by the author I’ve read, and it’s his third novel. I have read it, and would say it’s the most accessible of his books yet; the others are all excellent but this one has more mainstream appeal. From the author for review.

Book cover of Orlando Ortega-Medina's The Fitful Sleep Of Immigrants

Attorney Marc Mendes, the estranged son of a prominent rabbi and a burned-out lawyer with addiction issues, plots his exit from the big city to a more peaceful life in idyllic Napa Valley. But before he can realize his dream, the US government summons his Salvadoran life-partner Isaac Perez to immigration court, threatening him with deportation.

As Marc battles to save Isaac, his world is further upended by a dark and alluring client, who aims to tempt him away from his messy life. Torn between his commitment to Isaac and the pain-numbing escapism offered by his client, Marc is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils while confronting his twin demons of past addiction and guilt over the death of his first lover.

Peng Shepherd: The Cartographers – I came across the author and fell in love with the cover of this book (I’ll note it was the US edition, which has a library on it) and simply kept it in mind. It’s time.

Book cover of Peng Shepherd's The Cartographers

Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence… because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one – along with anyone who gets in the way.

But why?

To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps…

Raven Leilani: Luster – For a while, I was seeing Leilani’s name everywhere and The Guardian in particular seemed rather taken with her work so while I was away from books and reading I noted her name down for when I was back.

Book cover of Raven Leilani's Luster

Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.

Warsan Shire: Bless The Daughter Raised By A Voice In Her Head – A couple of weeks ago I read about the line-up for this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize, was happy to see poetry included, and got Shire’s collection very soon after. Award-nominated, current, poetry, and a new-to-me poet? Yes please.

Book cover of Warsan Shire's Bless The Daughter Raised By A Voice In Her Head

With her first full-length poetry collection, Warsan Shire introduces us to a young girl, who, in the absence of a nurturing guide, makes her own stumbling way towards womanhood. Drawing from her own life and the lives of loved ones, as well as pop culture and news headlines, Shire finds vivid, unique details in the experiences of refugees and immigrants, mothers and daughters, Black women, and teenage girls. In Shire’s hands, lives spring into fullness. This is noisy life: full of music and weeping and surahs and sirens and birds. This is fragrant life: full of blood and perfume and shisha smoke and jasmine and incense. This is polychrome life: full of henna and moonlight and lipstick and turmeric and kohl.

What books have you bought/borrowed/acquired recently?

Latest Acquisitions (December 2019 – January 2020)

This Christmas I asked for books; first time in a while. And this current month has been fairly busy; I’m reading review copies a few months ahead of their publication, and it’s been a lot of fun. (I’m also managing to put that ‘read by month’ goal to good use; it’s only January, still, but I’m happy to have started the year this way.) I should have an early review this week. I’m excited about the below books in general, and plan to get them all read within a short time.

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Bernadine Evaristo: Girl, Woman, Other – This was on my Christmas wishlist. I’ve never wanted to read a Man Booker win as much as this one. I am purposefully not finding out what it’s about, though the title does give you an idea.

Camilla Bruce: You Let Me In – From the publisher; to be published on the 5th March. This is a Gothic thriller by a Norwegian writer. A novelist has got away twice with murder, so when she disappears, leaving only a letter, her family suspect her conscience has got to her. But the letters tell two stories that make them question it all.

E C Fremantle: The Poison Bed – I had read Fremantle’s previous four books (under Elizabeth Fremantle) and had had this on my list; bought it this month so that we could talk about it on the podcast, which is out next Monday. The book is about the factual case of Frances Howard and Robert Carr who are arrested for a murder.

Imogen Hermes Gowar: The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock – I’ve wanted this one ever since it was published and then, later, it was on the Young Writer of the Year shortlist. Received for Christmas. Like the Evaristo, I only know so much and am keeping away from the specifics, but it looks at antiques, museums, and the murky past.

Nicola Cornick: The Forgotten Sister – This will be published in April and I plan to review it later this week. It’s a dual plot novel revolving around the death of the wife of Elizabeth I’s favourite – Amy Robsart, who was married to Robert Dudley – an event that is still a mystery today.

Did you receive or buy any books over the holiday period?

Latest Acquisitions (September – November 2019)

It’s been a busy few months for me and books; if I included books I’d already reviewed in these posts we’d be looking at a good few more, but this way is far more manageable and less repetitious. I’m really looking forward the books below, some will feature here shortly, others a little later; it’s a good mix of genres and types as well as reasons for reading.

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Deirdre Le Faye (ed.): Jane Austen’s Letters – It started in January; I wanted to write about Jane Austen but needed some primary sources. I needed her letters. Using the library would require many renewals. Having a book of Charlotte Brontë’s letters, I decided to research the theme from the later writer’s perspective. (I ended up writing about her sisters’ influence on her instead of the original topic, but it was still interesting.) Over the last several months I’ve had two further Jane Austen ideas that would require a copy of her letters so I finally added it to a year-round wishlist and thank my family very much.

Lillian Li: Number One Chinese Restaurant – A family tries to work itself out when their restaurant suffers disaster. I’m a couple of chapters into this one; it’s on the back-burner and I hope to finish it within a few months. It was on the Women’s Prize longlist and I received it from the UK publisher.

Nancy Bilyeau: The Blue – This is Bilyeau’s fourth book over all and second effective story, her previous three being a trilogy. It’s set a couple of centuries later than her Joanna Stafford books and is about the porcelain industry in 1700s Europe and the construction of blue pigment, one woman’s journey to learn about it in order to be given the chance at becoming an artist.

Robert Galbraith: Lethal White – The continuing story of Comoran Strike, It’s true that I’m still to read the previous three books in this series; I’ve got this one early because I’m collecting the hardbacks, but I will get to them.

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Seishi Yokomizo: The Honjin Murders – From the publisher, this is a murder mystery first published in the 1940s set at the time of a village wedding. Yokomizo was a famous Japanese novelist so I do have this on my too-be-read.

Stein Riverton: The Iron Chariot – A Norwegian classic crime novel first published in 1909 about a murder at a holiday guesthouse where the narrator (the last person to see the victim) joins the investigation after having heard the noise of chains post-incident, a noise known to foreshadow death. From the publisher.

Susmita Bhattacharya: Table Manners – A short story collection that travels all around the globe, looking at love and loneliness in cities. Bhattacharya is a well-respected local writer; I’ve heard her read and her use of language and concepts for the poem performed was lovely.

What books have come into your life recently?

Latest Acquisitions (April 2019 – Thanks To My Sister)

A photograph of the books: Anya Seton's Avalon, Dragonwick, and Katherine; Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists Of Avalon; Jean Plaidy's Royal Road To Fotheringhay, and Murder Most Royal; Victoria Holt's My Enemy The Queen; Agatha Christie's Death On The Nile; Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Linger, Forever, and Sinner

Considering this is a different sort of post and also considering I wrote a latest acquisitions a couple of weeks ago, I’ll keep this short. Suffice to say, as I imagine you’ll all understand, I was excited to see the above books in the collection. Victoria Holt and Jean Plaidy are one and the same; as Holt the writer’s books can be difficult to get hold of and I’d been recommended them. The Christie is several books into the series, but if what I’ve read is correct, the stories can stand alone – is that right? I’ve wanted to read Anya Seton for years but never knew where to start; that the copy of Katherine has been incredibly well-read made me look it up online and it sounds as though it’s a favourite of her readers. I’d also been wanting to read Maggie Stiefvater but after losing track of her publications I put her books on the ‘maybe’ list; I’m now able to move them back up.

I’m guessing almost all of you will have read at least one of these books or other books by the same authors. Where should I start?

Latest Acquisitions (March – April 2019)

Although I provide a brief summary of the story when I publish my monthly round ups, I think there’s value in adding a bit of synopsis here too. Previously it has just been a book cover and a vague sentence or two because I don’t tend to include books I’ve already read, so I’m mixing it up a bit and adding more factual information.

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Anne Melville: The House Of Hardie – A story of two sets of Victorian siblings, one from a trading family and one higher class, this book is the first in a series and was originally published in 1987. It’s being republished in ebook form next week by Agora Books. (Formally Ipso Books – they previously published Laura Pearson’s Missing Pieces which I raved about because it’s set in my home city, more famous as a place from which to depart rather than live in.) Melville, who died in 1998 aged 72, wrote under many pseudonyms, of which Anne was one – her actual name was Margaret Edith Newman.

Dan Richards: Outpost – In this, his second travel/adventure memoir, Richards visits various ‘wild ends of the earth’, continuing in the spirit of his great-great aunt Dorothy who inspired his travels for Climbing Days, and following in the path of his father. Journeys include Svalbard, Norway (perhaps most commonly known as the place where children were taken in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights), and Desolation Peak in the USA.

Guy Stagg: The Crossway – Looking for peace and hope in the idea of a ritual pilgrimage following mental illness, Stagg journeys from Canterbury to Jerusalem, a non-believer on a religious road. The Crossway is one of the eight books shortlisted for this year’s Rathbones Folio Prize and the one I hope wins – admittedly I’ve not read much of it yet (current read) but it’s the one that interests me the most; there were a few travel/nature books on the longlist but the judges picked this one and there must be a reason. (I’m gaining a firm interest in this sort of non-fiction for which I probably have to ‘blame’ my father and his Michael Palin, Levison Wood, Bill Bryson… I also have a thing about photographing churches which is also his fault…)

Nicola Cornick: The Woman In The Lake – Cornick’s third time-slipping novel following her successful numerous regency romances, this book takes the reader to both the 1700s and the present day. It’s inspired by Lady Diana Spencer (the 18th century painter). Lydiard Park is the setting; I visited it a couple of years ago. I ordered this book before knowing the story – Cornick’s excellent House Of Shadows led to me putting her on my ‘buy any new novels by this person’ list, and her The Lady And The Laird set it in stone.

Orlando Ortega-Medina: The Death Of Baseball – Moments after Marilyn Monroe dies, a Japanese American called Clyde is born into a dysfunctional family. As he grows up in the abusive house he learns about Monroe and feels a particularly strong connection to her – her death and his birthday are not a coincidence, and he must be her reincarnated form. Meanwhile a very troubled Jewish teenager is sent back to Israel by his parents who hope the change will do him good; there he discovers the films of James Dean. One day, the two teens will meet. (Presumably, ‘Marilyn’ will also meet Joe DiMaggio – I’m really looking forward to seeing how Ortega-Medina uses this aspect of Monroe’s real life story.) Ortega-Medina is the writer of the short story collection Jerusalem Ablaze.

In terms of reviews, the Melville will likely be featured next week. The Stagg will be featured in one way or another on Monday, be it a review or just a generally more detailed post – it all depends on how much reading time I can nab between now and then. The Ortega-Medina is set for early June, a little before the release date. And the last two will be within the next couple of months – the Richards was published a few weeks ago, the Cornick a few months, but regardless of the dates I’d like to read them sooner rather than later.

What books did you recently acquire and do you have any plans in mind as to when you’ll read them? (Perhaps you’re reading them now?)


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