February Book Haul

Sunday, 25 February 2018


Is it nearly the end of the month already?
If I'm being honest, February has kind of gotten away from me - I have spent the last two or so weeks moving back to my beloved Cardiff and so haven't had the time/money to idly peruse books online as I usually would. Instead, I have bought only a few and been unexpectedly inundated with a staggering number of Netgalley ARCs. Yeah, I don't understand why they've sent me so many either... But yay, thank you so much to all of the publishers and I am beyond grateful. 
Is this a sign that they like my reviews? Oh, I hope so.

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, a party of moose hunters found his decomposed body. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild. Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and, unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw away the maps. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Everyone says the Elders family are nothing but cheats, thieves, and convicts—a fact nineteen-year old Jamie Elders has been trying desperately to escape. She may have the natural talent of a poker savant, but her dreams of going pro and getting the hell out of the tiny town of Parsons, New York are going nowhere fast. Especially once she lands in a huge pile of debt to her uncle Loyal. At Loyal’s beck and call until her debt is repaid, Jamie can’t easily walk away—not with her younger brother Toby left at his mercy. So when Loyal demands Jamie’s help cleaning up a mess late one night, she has no choice but to agree. But disposing of a dead man and covering up his connection to the town’s most powerful judge goes beyond family duty. When it comes out that the victim was a beloved athlete and Loyal pins the murder on Toby, only Jamie can save him. But with a dogged detective on her trail and her own future at stake, she’ll have to decide: embrace her inner criminal, or defy it—and face the consequences.

The Darkening Age is the largely unknown story of how a militant religion deliberately attacked and suppressed the teachings of the Classical world, ushering in centuries of unquestioning adherence to 'one true faith'. Despite the long-held notion that the early Christians were meek and mild, going to their martyr's deaths singing hymns of love and praise, the truth, as Catherine Nixey reveals, is very different. Far from being meek and mild, they were violent, ruthless and fundamentally intolerant. Unlike the polytheistic world, in which the addition of one new religion made no fundamental difference to the old ones, this new ideology stated not only that it was the way, the truth and the light but that, by extension, every single other way was wrong and had to be destroyed. From the 1st century to the 6th, those who didn't fall into step with its beliefs were pursued in every possible way: social, legal, financial and physical. Their altars were upturned and their temples demolished, their statues hacked to pieces and their priests killed. It was an annihilation.

To compose his stunning documentary film I Am Not Your Negro, acclaimed filmmaker Raoul Peck mined James Baldwin s published and unpublished oeuvre, selecting passages from his books, essays, letters, notes, and interviews that are every bit as incisive and pertinent now as they have ever been. Weaving these texts together, Peck brilliantly imagines the book that Baldwin never wrote. In his final years, Baldwin had envisioned a book about his three assassinated friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. His deeply personal notes for the project have never been published before. Peck s film uses them to jump through time, juxtaposing Baldwin s private words with his public statements, in a blazing examination of the tragic history of race in America.

August 1956. After a night of rage and terror, Anna Nassad wakes to find her abusive husband dead and instinctively hides her bruises and her relief. As the daughter of Syrian immigrants living in segregated Alabama, Anna has never belonged, and now her world is about to erupt. Days before, Anna set in motion an explosive chain of events by allowing the first black postman to deliver the mail to her house. But it’s her impulsive act of inviting him inside for a glass of water that raises doubts about Anna’s role in her husband’s death. As threats and suspicions arise in the angry community, Anna must confront her secrets in the face of devastating turmoil and reconcile her anguished relationship with her daughter. Will she discover the strength to fight for those she loves most, even if it means losing all she’s ever known?

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state. Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

Are the bonds of sisterhood strong enough to withstand some real home truths? Sensible Lyn is struggling to balance being a mother, wife and businesswoman without losing her mind. Cat, whose perfect marriage is the envy of all her friends, never suspects that her husband has been hiding a secret that will tear her life apart. Directionless Gemma changes jobs and boyfriends every few months and has just met a new man who could be the one to unlock her hidden past. Through everything, the bonds of the sisters are strong enough to withstand whatever life throws at them. That is until the night of their thirty-fourth birthday dinner, when home truths are revealed and things are said that can't be taken back...

In Those Turbulent Sons of Freedom, Wren overturns the myth of Ethan Allen as a legendary hero of the American Revolution and a patriotic son of Vermont and offers a different portrait of Allen and his Green Mountain Boys. They were ruffians who joined the rush for cheap land on the northern frontier of the colonies in the years before the American Revolution. Allen did not serve in the Continental Army but he raced Benedict Arnold for the famous seizure of Britain’s Fort Ticonderoga. Allen and Arnold loathed each other. General George Washington, leery of Allen, refused to give him troops. In a botched attempt to capture Montreal against specific orders of the commanding American general, Allen was captured in 1775 and shipped to England to be hanged. Freed in 1778, he spent the rest of his time negotiating with the British but failing to bring Vermont back under British rule.

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe. And then he sees the flying saucer. Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.  No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it. It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

Roxana Olsen has always dreamed of going to Paris, and after high school graduation finally plans to travel there on a study abroad program--a welcome reprieve from the bruising fallout of her parents' divorce. But a logistical mix-up brings Roxana to Copenhagen instead, where she's picked up at the airport by Soren, a twenty-eight year old guide who is meant to be her steward. Instantly drawn to one another, Roxana and Soren's relationship turns romantic, and when he asks Roxana to accompany him to a small town in the north of Denmark for the rest of the summer, she doesn't hesitate to accept. There, Roxana's world narrows and opens as she experiences fantasy, ritual, and the pleasures of her body, a thrilling realm of erotic and domestic bliss. But as their relationship deepens, Soren's temperament darkens, and Roxana finds herself increasingly drawn to a mysterious local outsider whom she learns is a refugee from the Balkan War.

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our life, health and longevity and yet it is increasingly neglected in twenty-first-century society, with devastating consequences: every major disease in the developed world - Alzheimer's, cancer, obesity, diabetes - has very strong causal links to deficient sleep. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why its absence is so damaging to our health. Compared to the other basic drives in life - eating, drinking, and reproducing - the purpose of sleep remained elusive. Now, in this book, the first of its kind written by a scientific expert, Professor Matthew Walker explores twenty years of cutting-edge research to solve the mystery of why sleep matters. Looking at creatures from across the animal kingdom as well as major human studies, Why We Sleep delves in to everything from what really happens during REM sleep to how caffeine and alcohol affect sleep and why our sleep patterns change across a lifetime, transforming our appreciation of the extraordinary phenomenon that safeguards our existence. 

On a stifling summer's day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack's in charge, she said. I won't be long. But she doesn't come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever. Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you. Meanwhile Jack is still in charge - of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they're alone in the house, and - quite suddenly - of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. But the truth can be a dangerous thing...

While many love the idea of wearing special underthings, lingerie can be intimidating. How is it supposed to fit? How do you take care of it all? Is lingerie really for me? In this beautiful and empowering guide, lingerie expert Cora Harrington demystifies intimate apparel, making it accessible to all sizes, ages, and budgets. Covering everything from basic bras and panties to special occasion wear, shapewear, hosiery, corsets, and more, this no-nonsense handbook empowers you to confidently buy, wear, and care for the underpinnings of your dreams. 

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind. Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away--and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

In Ayiti, a married couple seeking boat passage to America prepares to leave their homeland. A young woman procures a voodoo love potion to ensnare a childhood classmate. A mother takes a foreign soldier into her home as a boarder, and into her bed. And a woman conceives a daughter on the bank of a river while fleeing a horrific massacre, a daughter who later moves to America for a new life but is perpetually haunted by the mysterious scent of blood. These early stories showcase Gay's prowess as one of the voices of our age

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

When her missing boyfriend is found murdered, his body encased in cement inside a watering trough and dumped in a cattle field, a local sheriff’s deputy is arrested and charged with his murder. But as New York Times bestselling author and investigative journalist M. William Phelps digs in, the truth leads to questions about her guilt. 

Addled by grief and dissatisfaction, thirty-five-year-old mule breeder John Cyrus Bellman takes one step and then another. With a small compass and meager provisions, he sets off into the wild frontier beyond his small farm in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, on a doomed quest prompted by reports of colossal animal bones found in Kentucky. Promising to return in two years, Bellman leaves behind his only daughter Bess to the tender mercies of his taciturn sister Julie. With only a battered wall clock, her dead mother’s gold ring, and a barnyard full of miserable animals to call her own, Bess is forced to make her way in a deceptively hostile world, tracing her father’s path with arcane maps at the local subscription library and shrinking from the attentions paid to her and her aunt by their peculiar neighbor Elmer Jackson. Meanwhile, Bellman ventures farther into the harsh and alien landscape of the west, forging an uneasy but intimate fellowship with his guide, an American Indian boy who regards him with both suspicion and a piercing understanding. As father and daughter alike reach out into their own respective wildernesses, they find that the wilderness holds out its hands to them as well.

Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

We were so young when it all happened. Just 13-years-old, making the most of the long, hot, lazy days of summer, thinking we had the world at our feet. That was us – me, Fat Bobby, Jim and Tara – the four members of the Outsiders’ Club. The day we found a burnt-out car in the woods was the day everything changed. Cold, hard cash in the front seat, and a body in the trunk… it started out as a mystery we were desperate to solve. Then, the Collector arrived. He knew we had found his secret. And suddenly, our summer of innocence turned into the stuff of nightmares. Nothing would ever be the same again...


Women are leading the fight against feminism and women’s rights. The question is, why? From pop icons to working mothers, women are abandoning feminism in unprecedented numbers. Even scarier, they are also leading the charge to send it to its grave. Women head anti-feminist PR campaigns; they support anti-feminist politicians; they’re behind more than 70 lawsuits across North America to silence the victims of campus rape; they participated in Gamergate, the violent, vitriolic anti-women-in-technology movement; and they’re on the front lines of the fight to end reproductive rights. Everywhere we turn, there’s evidence anti-feminist bombs have exploded, sometimes detonated by the unlikeliest suspects. Between women who say they don’t need feminism and women who can’t agree on what feminism should be, the challenges of fighting for gender equality have never been greater. F-Bomb takes readers on a witty, insightful, and deeply fascinating journey into today’s anti-feminist universe as investigative journalist and feminist Lauren McKeon explores generational attitudes, debates over inclusiveness, and differing views on the intersection of race, class, and gender. She asks the uncomfortable question: If women aren’t connecting with feminism, what’s wrong with it? And she confronts the difficult truth: For gender equality to prevail, we first need to understand where feminism has gone wrong and where it can go from here. In a world where sexual harassment allegations regularly dominate news coverage and in which 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump, F-Bomb presents urgent and necessary discussion on women’s lives today.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Some “boys” will only wear dresses; some “girls” refuse to wear dresses; in both cases, as Ann Travers shows in this fascinating account of the lives of transgender kids, these are often more than just wardrobe choices. Travers shows that from very early ages, some at two and three years old, these kids find themselves to be different from the sex category that was assigned to them at birth. How they make their voices heard—to their parents and friends, in schools, in public spaces, and through the courts—is the focus of this remarkable and groundbreaking book. Based on interviews with transgender kids, ranging in age from 4 to 20, and their parents, and over five years of research in the US and Canada, The Trans Generation offers a rare look into what it is like to grow up as a trans child. From daycare to birthday parties and from the playground to the school bathroom, Travers takes the reader inside the day-to-day realities of trans kids who regularly experience crisis as a result of the restrictive ways in which sex categories regulate their lives and put pressure on them to deny their internal sense of who they are in gendered terms.  

A life no girl should endure. A father no daughter could love. A twist no one would predict. Ari Wilburn’s life ended long ago—the day she watched her little sister die in a tragic accident and did nothing to stop it. Crippled with self-blame and resented by her parents, she stumbles through life… and onto an unexpected clue that casts doubt on whether the death was accidental. Now a psychological wreck, Ari joins a suicide support group where she meets Tina, a sex-enslaved escapee who finds her long-lost father dead. Suicide, police ruled it. But Tina suspects foul play. As a bond develops between the women in their shared loss, they’re dragged into playing a dangerous game with a killer. Faced with a murderous wake-up call and two possibly linked deaths, Ari’s investigation puts her next on the killer’s list. But she’s never been one to back down from a fight. Needing closure, Ari must face her demons and the killer behind them… or lose everything she loves.

Jen’s fifteen-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days. When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and the police think the case is closed. The once-happy, loving family returns to London, where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely: refusing to go to school, and sleeping with the light on. With her daughter increasingly becoming a stranger, Jen is sure the answer lies in those four missing days. But will Lana ever reveal what happened?


Head on over to http://bit.ly/2y7JSWV for these books, as well as all of the others featured in my reviews, complete with the added bonuses of free worldwide shipping and bringing a little joy to my life.

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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