Book Highlights for October 2016
Hurrah, Halloween month is here at last! The leaves are changing, the mornings are almost freezing and the winter coats are being shaken out. I’ll have a full-on Halloween books blog post coming up soon but here’s a mix of some of the interesting, beautiful and downright lust-worthy books to hits the shops this October.
I adored Jennifer Niven’s previous YA novel, All the Bright Places, adding that to the premise for this novel and the neurological tones (something else I love to read about) it’s high up there on my ‘must read’ list.
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world – theirs and yours.
Buy your copy of Holding up the Universe from Amazon here.
Death, intrigue, fantasy and folklore make The Hidden People sound like a great tale and I can’t wait to read it. I would also highly recommend treating yourself to a physical copy of this rather than digital as the book itself is a thing of beauty.
Pretty Lizzie Higgs is gone, burned to death on her own hearth – but was she really a changeling, as her husband insists? Albie Mirralls met his cousin only once, in 1851, within the grand glass arches of the Crystal Palace, but unable to countenance the rumours that surround her murder, he leaves his young wife in London and travels to Halfoak, a village steeped in superstition.
Albie begins to look into Lizzie’s death, but in this place where the old tales hold sway and the ‘Hidden People’ supposedly roam, answers are slippery and further tragedy is just a step away . . .
Buy your copy of The Hidden People from Amazon here.
The wonderful Margaret Atwood was on my Highlights for September 2016 list with her graphic novel Angel Catbird and she’s back this month with her latest novel, Hagseed. Atwood’s retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest has already received rave reviews and hopefully, I can add mine to that list soon.
‘It’s got a thunderstorm in it. And revenge. Definitely revenge.’
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.
Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge.
After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
Margaret Atwood’s novel take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, revenge and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.
Buy your copy of Hagseed from Amazon here.
If you follow any of the literary world on Twitter then you’ll know it’s been impossible to miss the overwhelmingly positive response this novel has had within the literary community and when The Guardian describes it as ‘luminous, furious and wildly inventive’ then it has to be read.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.
In Whitehead’s razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.
Buy your copy of The Underground Railroad from Amazon here.
Anyone that follows my blog will know that James Smythe is simply one of my favourite authors of all time, so his final instalment of his YA Australia Trilogy, Dark Made Dawn, is a novel I’ll be treating myself to asap. Check out my review for the first novel, Way Down Dark, here.
There was one truth on Australia, the derelict ship on which Chan was born and raised: you fight or you die. Usually both.
But everything on Australia was a lie. Abandoned and alone, Chan was forced to live a terrible existence on the fringes of society, Australia’s only survivor after a terrible crash-landing on Earth.
But Chan discovered she was not alone. Together with the unlikeliest of allies, Chan carved out a place for herself on Earth. And now the time has come: she’s finally found a reason to keep going. But friends have become enemies, and enemies have become something worse. It’s time for Chan to create her own truths, and discover a life beyond fighting and death.
A life beyond Australia.
Buy your copy of Dark Made Dawn from Amazon here.
I cannot even begin to pretend I know anything about poetry but when I saw Kate Tempest for the first time, performing at a Picador publishing event, she melted my cold old heart to a point that I was almost in tears. Saying she has a way with words would be the understatement of the year.
Let Them Eat Chaos, Kate Tempest’s new long poem written for live performance and heard on the album release of the same name, is both a powerful sermon and a moving play for voices. Seven neighbours inhabit the same London street, but are all unknown to each other. The clock freezes in the small hours, and, one by one, we see directly into their lives: lives that are damaged, disenfranchised, lonely, broken, addicted, and all, apparently, without hope. Then a great storm breaks over London, and brings them out into the night to face each other – and their last chance to connect. Tempest argues that our alienation from one another has bred a terrible indifference to our own fate, but she counters this with a plea to challenge the forces of greed which have conspired to divide us, and mend the broken home of our own planet while we still have time. Let Them Eat Chaos is a cri de coeur and a call to action, and, both on the page and in Tempest’s electric performance, one of the most powerful poetic statements of the year.
Buy your copy of Let Them Eat Chaos from Amazon here.
This brand new edition of the Costa Book of the Year 2015, YA novel The Lie Tree comes with all-new illustrations by Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell. If you haven’t treated yourself to a copy yet then this edition is likely to change that.
It was not enough. All knowledge- any knowledge – called to Faith, and there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen.
Faith has a thirst for science and secrets that the rigid confines of her class cannot supress. And so it is that she discovers her disgraced father’s journals, filled with the scribbled notes and theories of a man driven close to madness. Tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will uncover a truth: the greater the lie, the greater the truth revealed to the liar. Faith’s search for the tree leads her into great danger – for where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .
Buy your copy of The Lie Tree from Amazon here.
This memoir sounds like it’ll have me sobbing like a baby but the punch of the title caught my attention and the description had me adding it to my wishlist.
What matters most in life? How do you build a happy life when terrible things happen? What is left behind when you lose the person you love the most?
One night last winter, Antoine Leiris was at home looking after his son while his wife, Hélène, was at a concert with friends. Suddenly he started receiving text messages asking if he was ok. Turning on the TV, Antoine watched the terrorist attacks in Paris unfolding around him and tried to call Hélène. She didn’t answer. That night Hélène was killed, along with 88 other people, at the Bataclan Theatre.
Three days later, Antoine wrote an open letter to his wife’s killers on Facebook. He refused to be cowed or to let his 17-month-old son’s life be defined by their acts. ‘For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom,’ he wrote. Instantly, that short post caught fire and was shared thousands of times around the world.
You Will Not Have My Hate is an extraordinary and heartbreaking memoir about how Antoine, and his baby son Melvil, endured after Hélène’s murder. With courage, moral acuity, and absolute emotional honesty, he finds a way to answer the question, how can I go on? This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience. This book is a guiding star for us all in perilous times.
Buy your copy of You Will Not Have My Hate from Amazon here.
If the word feminism scares, angers or generally peeves you…then you’re in the wrong place, please trot on. It’s undeniable that the media and society as a whole are obsessed with the female trainwreck and this book takes a look into why.
Widely-admired journalist and feminist Sady Doyle looks at the phenomena of the female trainwreck – from Mary Wollstonecraft and Charlotte Brontë to Billie Holiday and Britney Spears – and why we are fascinated by her.
The female trainwreck is a familiar figure to us all: she’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is as old (and as powerful) as feminism itself, and Doyle’s book is a fierce, intelligent, deeply-researched investigation of a centuries-old phenomenon. Who is the trainwreck? What are her crimes? And, in an age when social media makes public figures of us all, what does it mean for the rest of us?
TRAINWRECK is a heavily-researched, game-changing cultural history of feminism, gender politics, and the way social media is changing both.
In the 2016 election season, gender equality, the new Women’s Equality Party and the possibility of America’s first female president are sure to take centre stage. TRAINWRECK includes a very thoughtful analysis of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Doyle is a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Buy your copy of Trainwreck from Amazon here.
As an eighties baby, I am a fully fledged member of the Tetris generation and this graphic novel on the history of the game sounds right up my street.
It is, perhaps, the perfect video game. Simple yet addictive, Tetris delivers an irresistible, unending puzzle that has players hooked. Play it long enough and you ll see those brightly coloured geometric shapes everywhere. You ll see them in your dreams. Alexey Pajitnov had big ideas about games. In 1984, he created Tetris in his spare time while developing software for the Soviet government. Once Tetris emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, it was an instant hit. Nintendo, Atari, Sega game developers big and small all wanted Tetris. A bidding war was sparked, followed by clandestine trips to Moscow, backroom deals, innumerable miscommunications, and outright theft. “New York Times” bestselling author Box Brown untangles this complex history and delves deep into the role games play in art, culture, and commerce. For the first time and in unparalleled detail, “Tetris: The Games People Play” tells the true story of the world s most popular video game.”
As always, if you have anything to add to my list don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below.