June Book Haul

Sunday, 1 July 2018


June was... not a successful month. Not in terms of book buying, or reading, or reviewing. It turns out that a bout of food poisoning can really knock you off your game, so I have ended this month with the mentality to push the old one aside and start anew in July with a sense of joie de vie. This means that I have only acquire ten (yes, you read that right - TEN) new books, which means that this will be the shortest and not-at-all-sweetest of my book hauls yet.


First-century Rome. Senator Gaius Lucius Nerva is taken ill at a dinner party and dies a few days later. His heartbroken wife, Flavia, is told it was a natural death. Calidus, Nerva’s recently freed slave, suspects otherwise. As he embarks upon the funeral ceremonies, Calidus becomes more and more convinced that his master was murdered and begins an investigation, seeking out everyone who had attended the dinner party. His enquiries lead him to rub shoulders with the ‘great and good’ of Rome; senators, soldiers, even the ruthless and mercurial Emperor Nero. And his former lover, Julia Eusabia, who seems intent on rekindling their romance and luring him away from his wife and daughter. Calidus’ quest is by no means easy or safe as he encounters the darkest and most dangerous people in Rome. But he knows he must keep searching for the person responsible, to bring justice to the master he had loved.

This is almost a love story. Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more. But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between? This is almost a love story. But it's not as simple as that.

A man hangs from the ceiling of an art gallery. A woman spells out messages to her sister using her own hair. Children deemed "bad" are stolen from their homes. In Hardly Children, Laura Adamczyk's rich and eccentric debut collection, familiar worlds--bars, hotel rooms, cities that could very well be our own--hum with uncanny dread. The characters in Hardly Children are keyed up, on the verge, full of desire. They're lost, they're in love with someone they shouldn't be, they're denying uncomfortable truths using sex or humor. They are children waking up to the threats of adulthood, and adults living with childlike abandon.

The sprawling, mysterious castles of England are incredible sights to behold, but even more captivating are the ghosts that dwell within them. This book invites you to explore more than eighty English castles and meet the spirits that roam their grounds, from the tallest towers to the deepest tunnels. Discover fascinating stories, photos, and eye-witness accounts of hauntings across England, from the Tower of London to Oxford Castle to Castle Keep. Experience ghoulish prisoners rattling their chains, ghostly maidens in shimmering gowns, and gallant knights charging on their spectral steeds. Organized by region, Haunted Castles of England provides the history of each structure, reported hauntings, and more.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival. There have been many books about the Holocaust - and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov's incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive - not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also - almost unbelievably - a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story - their story - will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances. Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story. 

Twelve-year-old Patryk knows little of the world beyond his tiny Polish village; the Russians have occupied the land for as long as anyone can remember, but otherwise life is unremarkable. Patryk and his friends entertain themselves by coming up with dares — some more harmful than others — until the Germans drop a bomb on the schoolhouse and the Great War comes crashing in. As control of the village falls from one nation to another, Jurek, the ringleader of these friends, devises the best dare yet: whichever boy steals the finest military button will be king. But as sneaking buttons from uniforms hanging to dry progresses to looting the bodies of dead soldiers — and as Jurek’s obsession with being king escalates — Patryk begins to wonder whether their “button war” is still just a game. When devastation reaches their doorstep, the lines between the button war and the real war blur, especially for the increasingly callous Jurek. 

May, 1471. The Wars of the Roses are reaching their bitter and bloody climax. Edward of York has claimed the English throne, and his supporters are extracting a savage revenge on all who supported the Lancastrian cause. Surrounded by enemies wherever she turns, the position of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and mother to Henry Tudor, the last remaining hope of the House of Lancaster, is precarious to say the least. Determined to protect her son whatever it takes, Margaret must rely on her sharp-witted clerk Christopher Ulswicke to be her eyes and ears. When four bodies are discovered in a London tavern, their throats slit, and Margaret herself is suspected of being behind the crime, it’'s up to Ulswicke to prove his mistress' innocence and unmask the real killer.

Who says you can't run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can't say yes--it would be too awkward--and you can't say no--it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world. QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town? ANSWER: You accept them all. What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last. Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, LESS is, above all, a love story.

Sapiens showed us where we came from. Homo Deus looked to the future. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century explores the present. In this new book, Harari helps us to grapple with a world that is increasingly hard to comprehend. How can we protect ourselves from nuclear war, ecological cataclysms and technological disruptions? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news? Which civilization dominates the world – the West, China, Islam? What can we do about terrorism? With his trademark clarity and vision, Harari takes us on a thrilling journey into today’s most urgent issues as well as turning to more individual concerns. The golden thread running through this exhilarating new book is the challenge of maintaining our focus and attention in the face of constant and destabilising change. Ultimately what we and our children will need is mental stability, compassion, resilience and reason. This is a crucial part of our ongoing education in the 21st Century.

You can’t have your best friend be famous if you’re not famous. It doesn’t work. You’re emotional pen-friends. You can send each other letters—but you’re not doing anything together. You live in different countries. Johanna Morrigan (AKA Dolly Wilde) has it all: at eighteen, she lives in her own flat in London and writes for the coolest music magazine in Britain. But Johanna is miserable. Her best friend and man of her dreams John Kite has just made it big in 1994’s hot new BritPop scene. Suddenly John exists on another plane of reality: that of the Famouses. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Johanna hatches a plan: she will Saint Paul his Corinthians, she will Jimmy his Pinocchio—she will write a monthly column, by way of a manual to the famous, analyzing fame, its power, its dangers, and its amusing aspects. In stories, girls never win the girl—they are won. Well, Johanna will re-write the stories, and win John, through her writing. But as Johanna’s own star rises, an unpleasant one-night stand she had with a stand-up comedian, Jerry Sharp, comes back to haunt in her in a series of unfortunate consequences. How can a girl deal with public sexual shaming? Especially when her new friend, the up-and-coming feminist rock icon Suzanne Banks, is Jimmy Cricketing her?


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.

No comments :

Post a Comment