New to BooksPlease

New in today is Patronage by Maria Edgeworth, thanks to the publishers Sort of Books.

Maria Edgeworth (1768 – 1849) was a contemporary of Jane Austen, publishing novels at the same time – Patronage was published just 5 months before Mansfield Park in 1814. It will be a while before I read this book, which is to be published on 6 July 2011, because there are already quite a few in my reading queue. But it does look interesting, described as

… one of the most eagerly anticipated novels of Jane Austen’s day. It sold out within hours of publication.

… an adventurous soap opera about the trials and fortunes of two neighbouring families in Regency England, both of which had sons and daughters setting out in the world. … a bright and mischievous critique of the way young men gained careers and young women gained husbands. (from the back cover)

I might just have to bump it up the list.

I also received newbooks magazine a few days ago. This has all sorts of book news, interviews  and articles, plus lots of reviews and extracts from six novels – you can choose one for just the cost of p&p. This issue the free books are:

  • Tony & Susan by Austin Wright, his fourth and overlooked novel, originally published in 1993, about a divorced couple. Tony asks Susan to read the manuscript of his first novel.
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, about the link between food and our emotions.
  • Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller, in which Sylvia finds herself following in her mother’s footsteps into an affair she feels powerless to resist.
  • Drums on the Night Air: a Woman’s Flight from Africa’s Heart of Darkness by Veronica Cecil, set in the Congo in the early 1960s as civil war breaks out.
  • Collusion by Stuart Neville, a crime novel featuring DI Jack Lennon caught up in a web of official secrets and lies as he tries to find the whereabouts of his daughter.
  • The Collaborator by Margaret Leroy, in which Vivienne decides to escape from Guernsey to England in June 1940, as the German invasion is threatened, but stays and finds herself in danger.

Tony & Susan looks interesting, as does Drums on the Night Air, but I think I’m going to get The Collaborator.

My Sunday Selection – Reading Today

I probably won’t be reading very much today as the sun is shining, the sky is a cloudless blue – and the garden needs lots of attention. At the moment I’m having a rest from mowing the lawn.

But there will be time to look at newbooks magazine – the latest copy of newbooks magazine arrived here a couple of days ago. This issue is full of interesting articles and a Crime Supplement, with short extracts from a number of books and author interviews.

Some that look interesting from the Crime Supplement are:

  • The Whispers of Nemesis by Anne Zouroudi – Hermes Diaktoros, ‘the inimitable Greek Detective’ in a story of long-kept secrets and of pride coming before the steepest of falls.
  • The House at Seas End by Elly Griffiths – the third Ruth Galloway investigation. In this one the mystery goes back to the Second World War with Britain threatened with invasion.
  • 1222 by Anne Holt – ‘a snowbound mountain pass, a derailed train, a mysterious carriage, an apocalyptic storm, an ancient hotel, murder and state secrets.’ Phew!!

The main magazine has as usual longer extracts from the free books (you have to pay the postage though) on offer. The one that takes my fancy is:

  • Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld, about a deadly attack on Wall Street in 1920. this begins: ‘Death is only the beginning; afterward comes the hard part.’

More Crime Fiction

The current issue of newbooks magazine included a Crime Supplement, which I’ve just got round to looking at. This is a really useful source of information on crime fiction for someone like me who has only relatively recently ventured into this genre. In the past my knowledge of crime fiction has been rather limited, although it did expanded rapidly over the last 8 months through taking part in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet.

In this supplement a few books caught my eye, all by writers who are new to me, such as:

  • Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson. This is her first novel, described as an eighteenth-century manor house murder mystery. The manor house in question is Thornleigh Hall, the seat of the Earl of Sussex and the murder mystery concerns a dead man found with his throat has cut and the death of Alexander Adams killed in a London music shop.
  • A Time of Mourning by Christobel Kent. This is set in a rainy Florence, a menacing and dark story of the death of  an elderly Jewish architect and the disappearance of a young English art student. As private detective Sandro Cellini investigates the cases the connections between them get increasingly complex.
  • Two more historical whodunnits by Shirley McKay –  Hue and Cry and Fate and Fortune, both set in Edinburgh in the sixteenth century. These are the Hew Cullen Mysteries. In Fate and Fortune Hew is reluctant to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer and ends up in the middle of a long-hidden mystery, an abduction and a brutal murder.
  • No Sorrow to Die by Gillian Galbraith. Another book set in Edinburgh, this one featuring Dectective Sergeant Alice Rice investigating a murder in the course of a burglary that is complicated by the fact that the victim was terminally ill.

There are articles by and about authors such as barrister-turned-author M R Hall, and a “Biography of Agatha Raisin“, M C Beaton’s fictional sleuth. I’ve only read one Agatha Raisin book and wasn’t impressed. Maybe I should give them another chance as apparently they are very popular books – there are plenty of them!

Then there is the programme of  2010 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate 0n 22 – 25 July with a whole host of crime fiction writers, including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Joanne Harris. Full details are at www.harrogate-festival.org.uk/crime. I’m not going but I’d love to be there.

Sunday Salon – Which Free* Book to Choose?

 Newbooks magazine arrived on Friday and as usual there are extracts from six books to read before deciding which one (if any) I’ll choose as my ‘free’ copy (*paying just for the post and packing). I haven’t read any of the extracts yet.

These are my initial thoughts on the books:

I have The Angel’s Game out on loan from the library so I probably won’t choose this one. It’s the second novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and like his first The Shadow of the Wind is set in Barcelona. It’s a stand-alone story about a writer of sensationalist novels in the 1920s; a tale about the magic of books. The author writes that it is a book to make you step into the storytelling process and become part of it.

This  is also a second novel, narrated by a sensitive thirteen-year old boy. It’s set in the 1960s in a small mining town in Australia and is a “coming-of-age” story. Silvey writes that he wanted to capture the thrill of that age, where everything seems bigger and the stakes seem higher. It’s a time of burned innocence. Infinite dangers. Fresh experiences that are never forgotten.

This was shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize and I borrowed it from the library last year. I read the beginning but it didn’t grab me then and I returned it unfinished. It’s based on the real-life story of the poet John Clare and the time he spent in an asylum in the 1840s. I was disappointed I couldn’t connect with this book, maybe it was just the wrong time for me to read it.

This one appeals to me. It’s Mari Strachan’s first novel and it’s about Gwenni, a Welsh girl growing up in the 1950s who is bookish, loves playing detective and can fly in her sleep. Mari Strachan writes about her contentment with quietude in the magazine and if her writing in the novel is anything like this I want to read her book. She writes

Quietude is a place in my mind that I travel towards on my own, a place that no one else is able to enter, a place far away from the babble of the world. It’s the place Yeats found in ‘The Lake Isle  of Innisfree’ where ‘peace comes dropping slow’, and the place Wordsworth described as his ‘inward eye that is the bliss of solitude’.

This book appeals to me too. I’ve read one of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano Mystery books and enjoyed it. This is his tenth one and like the others it’s set in Sicily. Montalbano investigates the murder of a young girl whose body is discovered in a trunk. There is an article in the magazine by Stephen Sartarelli on translating Camilleri’s books. He writes:

They are written in a language that is not ‘just’ Sicilian dialect, but a curious pastiche of that particular Sicilian of Camilleri’s native region (Agrigento province) combined with ‘normal’ Italian, contemporary slang, comic stage dialogue, lofty literary flourishes, and the sort of manglings of proper Italian made by provincials who have never learned it correctly.

This is a novel about the Brontes, which also appeals to me. I know nothing about Jude Morgan’s books but looking on Amazon I see he writes historical fiction. In the magazine he writes that he doesn’t ‘dislike contemporary fiction, but too much of  it is preoccupied with the earth-shaking problem of finding the right sexual partner in NW1.’  I like historical fiction, so maybe this would be the one to choose.

Today’s reading will be the extracts from these books which I hope will help me decide which one to pick.

The Sunday Salon – newbooks magazine

tssbadge1My copy of ‘newbooks’ magazine arrived the other day. This is perhaps the one magazine that I always read from cover to cover. The editorial highlights the changes in publishing in the last decades with

… the conglomeration first of publishing houses and then bookselling, and the negative contribution made by literary agents pedalling a ‘stifling excess of lucrative junk’, hand-in-hand with Google and Amazon’s rapid growth in influence. … ‘No one can predict how books and readers will survive.

The trend seems to be away from books in print, with not only independent bookshops dwindling but also the high street bookshops in decline, towards the on-line digital era. Whilst this is something that has been debated extensively online before, it did strike me that this could mean that in future magazines like ‘newbooks’ would not be issued physically but only available on line and how would I like that?

Well, I wouldn’t – I like it dropping through the letterbox onto the doormat and then flicking through its pages before settling down to read it. Maybe there won’t be any letterboxes in future – everything will be done online? I have no problem with reading somethings online – after all I write this blog and read lots of other blogs quite happily. But I’m not up to reading whole books on screen, nor do I want to print them off and read them that way and the same goes for magazines – I want the physical object – books in print please. Although I do buy some books from online boksellers I prefer to go to a bookshop and browse the books. So I hope the complete change doesn’t come soon.

newbooks-augustIn the meantime I’m happy reading and choosing which book to pick as my free book from ‘newbooks’. Will it be An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay, The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday, Antigona and Me by Kate Clanchy, The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark, or The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery?

Mog commented on my previous post that she has chosen The Book of Unholy Mischief and I’m very tempted  by that one too. It’s set in Venice in 1498, where an ancient book, rumoured to contain heresies and secrets of immeasurable power, is hidden. Luciano, a chef’s apprentice in the doge’s palace is drawn into the search leading him into a perilous maze to the centre of an intrigue concerning some of the most powerful and dangerous men in Venice.

I’m also drawn to The Girl on the Landing, which is about Michael and his wife Elizabeth. Michael spots a painting whilst staying at a friend’s country house in Ireland. In the background of the painting he see a woman clad in a dark green dress, except his hosts say there is no woman in the picture and indeed when he looks again she is not there.

There is also an interview with Paul Torday in the magazine in which Zoe Fairbairns reveals that its the nature of Britishness and Englishness that is debated furiously in this book as Michael, on medication which he then refuses to take, plummets towards breakdown. She writes:

If identity and personality are so fragile, how can anyone said to be ‘truly’ British, ‘truly’ anything? It’s disturbing stuff, but compulsively readable, which is what Torday wants: ‘My perfect reader is someone who picks the book up and goes on reading it until it’s late at night.’

That could be me!