Our November Books of the Month roundup is full of excitement, cheer and barnstorming reads. The return of Minette Walters with a historical novel is a welcome surprise, and we’re sure it’s going to be a big hit. Also, do look out for Sing, Unburied, Sing, about which reviewers and early readers have been raving. Enjoy!
BOOK OF THE MONTH
The Last Hours
Allen & Unwin
Minette Walters burst onto the scene in 1992 with The Ice House – a novel that introduced her unique blend of psychological insight and brilliant plotting. Twenty-five years later, The Last Hours sees her turn her hand to historical fiction. And it’s just as gripping as one would hope.
June, 1348: the Black Death enters England. In the Dorsetshire estate of Develish, Lady Anne decides to quarantine herself, bringing the serfs inside the walls. But Lady Anne’s plan causes conflicts, fear and uncertainty – and ultimately a dreadful event that threatens the uneasy status quo…
Superbly written and utterly convincing, The Last Hours is a historical epic not to be missed.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
Already a finalist for the US National Book Award, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a genuinely affecting, hauntingly written novel of family, home and hope. Jojo’s mother, Leonie, packs up the kids to drive them to collect their father, lately imprisoned in Mississippi. It’s a journey that will teach Jojo about what it means to be a son, a father and a man, as well as laying bare the battles and scars that his parents have lived. Important, immersive, and utterly distinctive, this is a bravura novel of modern America.
A sensation across Europe, The Mountain is an unusual and beguiling take on the cold case thriller. Distraught and depressed after a crash he caused, Jeremiah Salinger takes his daughter Clara to the Bletterbach – a canyon in the Dolomites. There he discovers that in 1985 three students were murdered there, their bodies savaged by a killer who was never found. Solving the mystery might be the only thing that can keep him sane. An atmospheric thriller for fans of Stephen King and Joël Dicker.
Heather, The Totality
US, CA Edition
Matthew Weiner is best known as the creator of the television classic Mad Men – and his forensic understanding of the dark hearts that lie beneath a veneer of wealth and sophistication are evident in this intense and menacing page-turner. The Breakstone family centre themselves around their daughter Heather, a perfect child with a perfect life. But as Heather grows, so does the darkness that surrounds her. A darkness that comes from home and from the street, where someone is watching…
An Almost Perfect Christmas
Nina Stibbe’s bestselling Love, Nina was full of wry humour, nostalgia and deft characterisation – and this festive book serves up more of her hilarious memories and musings. Stibbe is a natural heir to the late, great Sue Townsend, and An Almost Perfect Christmas cements her reputation as one of the funniest writers around. Whether it’s the dryness of turkey, round robin letters or the perils of re-gifting, Stibbe will show you the yule-tide horrors anew, and ensure you’re still laughing at New Year.
With high-profile endorsements from JK Rowling and Irvine Welsh, Poverty Safari is set to be one of the year’s most important and talked about books on modern Britain. Part memoir, part travelogue, part impassioned plea, Poverty Safari takes the reader deep into the invisible world of the systemically deprived, a world ignored and derided, a world that is caught between apathy and seething anger. It is an anger that society will have to get used to – unless something changes. Urgent, vital and startling, this is a must read.
The Secret of Vesalius
You’ve never seen Barcelona this way before – gothic, dangerous, romantic and diabolical – and The Secret of Vesalius will make you want to board a plane immediately. 1888: Called back to Barcelona from Oxford, expert linguist Daniel Amat is asked to help investigate a series of murders – all of which point to an ancient curse and a 16th Century anatomist, Vesalius. Amat is soon plunged into a deadly pursuit to stop the unravelling of Vesalius’s secret. A breath-taking, genre-busting enigma for fans of The Shadow of the Wind.
The Alphabet of Heart's Desire
It is a bold move to include a literary genius as your central character, but it’s one that Brian Keaney pulls off with aplomb. A young Thomas De Quincey collapses on Oxford Street and is nursed to health far from his safe, rich normal life. There he discovers another world, another realm where pleasure and pain constantly rub against each other. Keaney’s depiction of its denizens is pitch perfect, and its tale of love, desire and addiction utterly compelling.
The third in the Eddie Flynn series – though you can read them in any order – is another tightly, tensely plotted legal thriller with a difference. Former con-man turned criminal attorney, Flynn is the man you want in a crisis, and Leonard Howell is in crisis: his daughter is missing. Flynn vows to bring her home, but soon realises things are not quite what they seem. One of the best new mystery series around, this latest instalment is the best yet.
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night
From the bestselling author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops comes a magical, original and enthralling collection of modern fairy stories. Elegantly weaving the traditional with the contemporary, these twelve tales swirl with outsiders, enchantment, ghouls and ghosts, making for a haunting and often unnerving read. Fans of Angela Carter, Louise O’Neill and The Night Circus will down these stories like nectar.
As we inch closer to Christmas, big name authors jostle with the names of the future in our October roundup. There is a wide variety here – from celebrity autobiography to the best in literary fiction, from chilling crime to romance – so find your perfect winter read while the nights are still light!
Book of the Month
After the Fire
When Henning Mankell died in late 2015, the literary world was robbed of one of its most celebrated and prolific writers. His Wallander novels were international bestsellers, and often considered some of the best crime novels in recent memory. After the Fire is Mankell’s final novel, a compelling conclusion to a body of work few can rival.
Retired doctor Fredrik Welin lives a solitary life on a secluded Swedish island. It is a quiet life; quiet until he is woken in the night to find his house on fire. His possessions destroyed and his house in ruins, Fredrik must uncover the truth of the fire – if someone started it, who? And for what reason?
Two Kinds of Truth
The hugely successful television adaptation of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels has given the detective a huge new audience – and Two Kinds of Truth is the perfect example of why the book is even better than the screen. Harry is squeezed by the past and the present as a current murder investigation leads to the dangerous world of Big Pharma, while a killer from Bosch’s past claims Harry framed him. The two cases push Harry to the limit in his quest for the truth. But whose truth is it?
How to be Champion
In a few short years, Sarah Millican has become one of the UK’s most popular and beloved comedians. Her observational, quietly acerbic and utterly distinctive style has been filling arenas up and down the country, and now fills the pages of her hilarious and often moving memoir. Part autobiography, part self help, part confession, part celebration of being a common-or-garden woman, Millican’s wry portrait of herself is a mine of comedy gold and How to be Champion is sure to be a big bestseller.
Cara Delevingne is often considered the voice of her generation, and this first novel – written with bestselling writer Rowan Coleman – shows her understanding of the struggles and pitfalls of growing up. Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits, but their band, Mirror, Mirror, holds them together. That is until Naomi is pulled unconscious from the river. The police claim it was a suicide attempt, but her friends aren’t convinced. A powerful coming-of-age story for fans of We Were Liars and The Girls.
Don't Wake Up
Already attracting a huge buzz around it on NetGalley, Don’t Wake Up is shaping to become one of the big breakout thrillers of 2017 – but be warned, it is not for the faint of heart. Doctor Alex Taylor remembers going to meet her boyfriend, Patrick, after shift, but nothing more. So why is she on operating table? And what does the man who is not a doctor want with her? And why when she wakes again is there no evidence of the violence he has committed? Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, Alex begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind. And then she meets the next victim…
Edward St Aubyn
Edward St Aubyn’s Melrose novels – soon to be a television series starring Benedict Cumberbatch – cemented him as one of England’s finest prose stylists. Dunbar, his retelling of King Lear, shows all his panache and precision, in a novel of intense and brooding tension. Henry Dunbar has retired and left the family firm to his daughters. It is a decision he soon comes to regret, living out his days in a home with only an alcoholic comedian for company. Modernising any Shakespeare drama is always a fraught business, but Dunbar is an unsettling, powerful and an unqualified success.
Hortense and the Shadow
Natalia & Lauren O'Hara
There are some picture books which transcend their intended market; books that can delight anyone of any age. Hortense and the Shadow is one such book, a beautifully illustrated, beautifully told tale that is both timeless and timely. Hortense hates her shadow. Everywhere she goes, it follows. Everything she does, it does too. And every time night falls it grows tall and dark and crooked. But when Hortense decides her shadow must go, she finds herself alone in the wolfish woods. An exquisite fable of gothic imagination, this is essential reading for everyone who loves fairy stories.
There are few writers who can create real excitement when a new book arrives – but Jeffrey Eugenides is certainly one of them. His masterpieces, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, are two of the most celebrated novels of the last 25 years, and this new work of fiction shows him to be a master of the short story, as well as the long form. Beautifully written, original and always unusual, Fresh Complaint is a wholly satisfying read – even if you don’t usually get on with stories.
Seven Days of Us
With enthusiastic endorsements from the likes of Marian Keyes, Adele Geras and Rosamund Lupton, this Christmas-set family drama is poised to become a must-read festive treat. The Birch family come together in Norfolk to celebrate Christmas. But when aid worker Olivia is told she needs to stay in quarantine, the whole family are forced to stay home for a week together. No one can leave, no one can enter. And that’s when the secrets begin to emerge…
The Ninth Hour
Alice McDermott is one of America’s most compassionate and engaging writers, her stories of Irish-American life full of life, exuberance, tragedy and conflict. The Ninth Hour follows three generations of a family during the middle of the 20th Century in Brooklyn, their lives bound by the suicide of father Jim. His actions on that fateful day will have ramifications for all, testing the limit of their love, forgiveness and hope. An astonishing novel of power, subtly and grace.
One of the busiest months in the publishing calendar, September is always full of exciting new titles, as well as some surprises – we hope you’ll find plenty of both in this month’s top ten!
Book of the Month
Marian Keyes continues to delight and entertain with her insightful, romantic and always witty take on contemporary relationships – and The Break is Marian at her vintage best.
Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. It’s just a break – six months to lose himself in south-east Asia. But a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns – if he returns – will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn’t she?
This is a peerless novel about fighting for the future, savouring the present, and cherishing the past.
The Golden House
One of the world’s finest writers turns his acute eye to modern America in this heart-breaking and utterly compelling vision of one immigrant family. When powerful real-estate tycoon Nero Golden emigrates to the US under mysterious circumstances, he and his three adult children assume new identities and move into a grand mansion in downtown Manhattan. Theirs is the high life: the high life of money, of art and fashion, a sibling quarrel, an unexpected metamorphosis – and, later, betrayal and murder
The Growing Season
From the highly original writer of the much admired The Comet Seekers comes a speculative novel that asks what would happen if every woman could have a baby? FullLife’s biotech baby pouches have changed the world. Now every woman can have a risk-free guaranteed birth. But not everyone is convinced. A campaigner against the pouches, Eva, soon realises that something strange is happening at FullLife. As does her ex, Piotr, who alongside her searches for the truth. Perfect for fans of The Power.
I Am Behind You
John Ajvide Lindqvist
John Ajvide Lindqvist is best known for Let The Right One In – which was made into two films and a West End stage play – and this is an equally chilling slice of terror and heartbreak. At their holiday campsite, Molly wakes in the night. Around her, everything has disappeared, save for her family and three others. They have been brought to the place of no sun for a reckoning. And here they will be forced to face their darkest fears and face their demons. A disturbing, macabre and gripping horror story, this will set your heart racing.
Bloomsbury Children's Books
The Carneige-winning author of One returns with a devastating and fiercely compelling novel that explores the bonds of love, and the boundaries of trust. Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years. It’s far more than a family rift: Ed is a convicted killer, languishing on death row. But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and this might be the last summer they have together. So the two brothers meet once more, and are forced to confront the unimaginable. Unforgettable and unmissable.
The band Pussy Riot took the world by storm – but not just for their music. For standing up for what they believed in, they were arrested, sentenced and imprisoned in a penal colony in the Urals. Now, Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina recounts that time in a raw, hallucinatory, passionate account of standing up for freedom of speech. As she writes: ‘Revolution is history. If we decided to fall out of it, to disappear, that would mean it would not be our history, but theirs.’ Essential.
After Anna was one of the most well-received crime debuts of the last couple of years, and Copycat builds on the same sense of dread and paranoia. When Sarah Havenant discovers that there are two Facebook profiles in her name, she’s intrigued. Then perturbed. The second account is entirely accurate, down to pictures of her kids and husband. But this, it soon turns out, is just the beginning. It is only now – almost as though someone has been watching – that her problems really start…
Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love? A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide – confirming Kamila Shamsie, the Baileys Prize-shortlisted author of A God in Every Stone, as a master storyteller of our times.
Bestselling author Isabel Losada brings her unique blend of humour, curiosity and honesty to the bust the still existing taboos around sexuality. This is a brave, funny and often vulnerable quest to find out how we can make our sex life blissful. Irreverent yet open-minded, Sensation is for anyone who has ever been tempted to dip their toes in the deep waters of sexual exploration, but were a little unsure where to begin…
Miss Seeton Quilts the Village
For the first time in almost two decades, Miss Seeton is back on the case! To celebrate the wedding of Sir George Colveden’s son to the daughter of a French count, Miss Seeton lends her talents to help create a quilted ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ of local history. But her intuitive sketches reveal a startlingly different perspective – involving buried Nazi secrets, and links to the mysterious death of a diplomat. The crème de la crème of cosy crime.
As the country swelters, it’s the ideal time to look at the books that will bridge summer reads with the big Autumn titles. Few will be as big as the return of Nicole Krauss, whose Forest Dark is going to be one of the most reviewed novels of the year.
It was a very difficult selection this month, with debuts and established names jostling together, but we were always certain to include A Change is Gonna Come, a wonderful collection of YA from some of the best in BAME writers. Special mentions must also be made to the superb Simon Lelic, whose The House is a chilling slice of suspense, and also the return of Bernard MacLaverty with Midwinter Break – a novel sure to be on many prize lists in 2017. Enjoy!
Book of the Month
Nicole Krauss confirms her reputation as one of the great living American writers in this bravura novel of the changes that life throws at us, and how we deal with the fallout.
Two people walk away from their lives, both convening at the Tel Aviv Hilton. Sixty-eight-year-old Jules Epstein has been disappearing for years, while a novelist leaves her husband and children in Brooklyn. Looking out over the deep blue of the pool, both will embark on a journey that will change them, even more than their departure.
Witty, unusual and deeply moving, Forest Dark is a profound and constantly engaging novel of metamorphosis and empathy, one that will be one of the most praised of 2017.
One of our most inventive and acute mystery novelists returns with a question: What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime? Jack and Syd have found the ideal London home, the kind of place you only dream about. But when they make a grisly discovery in the attic, it turns into a nightmare. Especially when a body is discovered by the back door. Suspense at its very best.
A Change is Gonna Come
A brilliantly fresh collection of stories from some of the most exciting BAME authors on the Teen & YA scene, A Change is Gonna Come features Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga and Nikesh Shukla; as well as introducing four brand-new voices: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy. This is timely, essential reading.
My Absolute Darling
Already praised to the rooftops by Stephen King and Celeste Ng, My Absolute Darling looks like one of the most intriguing books of the year. Gabriel Tallent takes us deep into the fractured, unsettling world of 14-year-old Turtle Alveston. It is a world dominated by her father, a world that tells her that her daddy loves her more than anything. And he will do whatever it takes to keep her right there with him…
Train to Nowhere
UK, CA, AU Edition
Described as Nancy Mitford meets Martha Gellhorn, Train to Nowhere is a vivacious alternative take on war, seen through the cool lens of Anita Leslie, daughter of a Baronet and first cousin once removed of Winston Churchill. Through her service during WWII, Leslie describes with clarity and wit the absurdity and horror of the conflict – and women’s place in in it. Unflinching yet compelling it offers a new perspective on the experience of war.
A Man of Shadows
The brilliant, mind-bending return of one of SF’s most acclaimed visionaries. Under the neon skies of Dayzone, private eye John Nyquist takes on a runaway case, leading him to the permanent dark of Nocturna, As a serial killer known as Quicksilver haunts the dark streets, Nyquist starts to suspect the runaway holds the key to the city’s fate. And in the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone of Dusk.
Sixteen years after his last novel, and twenty after his classic Grace Notes, Bernard MacLaverty returns with a novel of power, subtlety and deep psychological acuity. Midwinter Break follows a retired couple from Scotland to Amsterdam as they undertake a weekend away. It is a time of unconscious reckoning, their safe relationship tested by the past, present and the future. This is the work of a master: true, still and shattering.
The Voynich Manuscript
Probably the world’s most perplexing manuscript – and the most mysterious book ever published, The Voynich Manuscript has intrigued and delighted readers for centuries – written as it is in a language and code that no one has yet been able to decipher. Beautiful and mesmerising, this is your chance to see what has baffled the brightest minds since the 15th Century!
The Susan Effect
Peter Hoeg’s internationally bestselling Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow was the original Scandi-crime thriller, and The Susan Effect is his welcome return to the mystery genre. Susan Svendsen has a talent. People open up to her. They feel compelled to reveal their deepest secrets to her. It’s a talent that could cost her her freedom, her family and ultimately her life.
The Wardrobe Mistress
Natalie Meg Evans
From the much-loved author of the award-winning The Dress Thief comes a compelling love story set amongst the grease-paint and drama of London’s theatre-land. Widow Vanessa Kingcourt is the Wardrobe Mistress at the Farren Theatre. But the theatre has its secrets, ones that come to light as she struggles with her blossoming feelings for the theatre manager, Alistair Redenhall.
As the start of holiday season, July is always a bumper month for fiction – and this year it’s a particularly fine crop. Matt Haig is back with another wise and warm novel, Lisa Jewell continues to be one of the UK’s most intriguing writers, Neel Mukherjee cements his reputation as a writer of consummate skill and invention, while The Upstairs Room introduces a compelling new voice in Kate Murray-Browne.
We think all of these books are going to be big news this summer, so don’t forget to read and review. Talking of which, be sure to check out our recent Reader Spotlight post, which features UK blogger Leonie Byrne. Enjoy!
BOOK OF THE MONTH
How to Stop Time
Matt Haig has become one of the UK’s most beloved authors – and the author of Reasons to Stay Alive and The Humans has done it again with How to Stop Time.
Tom Hazard looks like a normal, forty-something teacher. But as he takes lessons on witch-hunts and wars, he can’t tell his pupils the real truth. He was there to witness it all. Owing to a strange condition, Tom has been alive for centuries, seeing everything from Elizabethan England to Jazz-age Paris. All he wants now is a quiet life. But his past is catching up with him – just as he’s doing the one thing he must never do: fall in love.
Clever, unusual and romantically charged, this is a superb novel of how we change and how we stay the same.
The Upstairs Room
The Upstairs Room is a remarkable debut of unsettling power, introducing a writer of rare skill and empathy. It is supposed to be their dream house: a four-bedroom Victorian terrace in East London. But that dream is slowly turning sour. Richard seems overly interested in their enigmatic lodger, Zoe, while Eleanor is perturbed by the chilling atmosphere of their new home – especially the strange upstairs room, where the previous owner, Emily, has written her name hundreds of times. This is a expertly crafted novel of domestic disharmony and secrets.
A State of Freedom
Chatto & Windus
Neel Mukherjee’s second novel, The Lives of Others, was shortlisted for the Man-Booker Prize 2014, and heralded the arrival of one of the most compelling, sharp and innovative writers in world literature. A State of Freedom is his remarkable follow-up, a deeply affecting, stunningly written novel of India in all its fractured forms. Following five characters as they negotiate the shifting cultural and emotional spaces of their situations, Mukherjee teases out a devastating portrait of people caught between the lives they have and the lives they desire for themselves.
Then She Was Gone
Lisa Jewell first made her name with the iconic rom-com Ralph’s Party – but her more recent books, especially the bestselling I Found You, have combined her unerring sense of character with far darker and disturbing plots. Then She Was Gone is perhaps her most chilling book to date, and is Lisa’s best book yet. Laurel’s daughter, Ellie, disappeared at the age of 15, and a decade later, Laurel is still coming to terms with the loss. Despite this there’s a new man in her life and things seem to be looking up. But then she meets his daughter. And she is the spitting image of Ellie…
Flight of a Starling
Paper Butterflies was one of the most popular Teen & YA titles uploaded to NetGalley in 2016, and Flight of a Starling is sure to be an even bigger hit with readers and reviewers. Sisters Rita and Lo have spent their lives in the air, taking their trapeze act from town to town as part of the family circus. Their life of freedom, and their close family, means they never want to stay anywhere for too long. Until Lo meets a boy, triggering a sequence of events that will rock their circus community….
The Bedlam Stacks
Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street was an internationally bestselling novel of magic and intrigue, and this new novel draws on the same captivating world. India, 1859, Merrick Tremayne is sent to Peru to find chinchona bark, the only cure for the malaria that is plaguing the country. There he discovers a legacy left by two generations of explorers before him, one that will prove more dangerous and valuable than the India Office could ever have imagined.
Already creating a huge amount of buzz online and on NetGalley, Sarah Franklin’s Shelter is set to become one of the year’s hottest debuts. It is the Second World War and Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out home to become a ‘lumberjill’ in the Women’s Timber Corps. There she meets an Italian prisoner of war, Seppe; their relationship changing their lives for ever. Both must make a life-defining choice and try to discover their place in a world they hardly now recognise.
City of Saints & Thieves
Natalie C. Anderson
Rock the Boat
This unbearably tense thriller has earned comparisons with The Hunger Games and The Thief Lord, but the compelling and richly drawn setting of Kenya make City of Saints & Thieves stand out as a brilliantly accomplished work in its own right. In the shadows of Sangui City, street-thief Tina patiently plots her revenge on those she believes shot her mother. When an opportunity presents itself, she takes it with both hands. But things do not go quite as planned. And her desire to finally uncover the truth about why her mother was killed, will place her mortal danger…
Watling Street is a thought-provoking, vividly written and witty look at our island through the prism of just one road: one that runs from Dover to Anglesey. Watling Street (now built on as the A2, the A5 and the M6 Toll) is a road of witches and ghosts, of queens and highwaymen, of history and myth, of Chaucer, Dickens and James Bond. Along this route Boudicca met her end, the Battle of Bosworth changed royal history, Bletchley Park code breakers cracked Nazi transmissions and Capability Brown remodelled the English landscape. A fascinating journey well worth taking.
Conn Iggulden’s first foray into the world of fantasy is as breath-taking and as visceral as you might imagine. In the city of Darien, twelve families rule in a time of uneasy peace. Just one act will bring chaos and disorder: a plot to kill a king. It’s an act of treachery that will summon strangers to the city – Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt – and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all. Sparkling, immersive and utterly spell-binding.
As the promising summery weather is replaced by icy blasts and grey skies, it’s fitting we’re looking forward to the sunny rays of June – and ten superbly different books to lighten your life. We’re really proud of this month’s edition, and we’re very excited to be able to give you the chance to be amongst the first readers of what is one of the literary stories of the year – the second novel from Arundhati Roy. If you are approved, please do remember not to publish your review before 28th May though!
Other highlights include a mind-bendingly imaginative novel from Jeff VanderMeer; the return of Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us; and the new YA book from Laura Dockrill. Enjoy!
Book of the Month
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
In 1997, The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize and went on to become both a modern classic. Twenty years later, we can finally read her second novel.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness contains multitudes, spanning the entire Indian subcontinent, taking in the famous and infamous, the poor and the destitute, the loved and the lost. Its cast of unforgettable characters is brought to life with tenderness, understanding, humour and a deep knowledge of the pressures of the modern world. Few novels have been as awaited with such fervour, and few novels are as rich, replete and intensely rewarding as The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.
Please note that if you are approved for this title you must not discuss or publish reviews until after 28th May.
The Versions of Us was an instant bestseller when it was first published in 2015, and Greatest Hits is sure to please fans of that novel, while also reaching an even wider audience. The premise is simple, yet intriguing. A reclusive singer-songwriter – who bears something of a resemblance to Kate Bush – is sitting in her home studio, trying to come up with a track-listing for her Greatest Hits album. As she considers each song, we hear her life story: her loves and losses, her hits and misses. It is a clever, warm, wise and consistently engaging novel of the choices – both big and small – that we make in our lives.
Winnie M Li
Already being touted as one of the most promising crime debuts of 2017, Dark Chapter is a compelling, unsettling and partly autobiographical tale of the chance encounters that can change, shape and define the trajectory of our lives. On one of her periodic escapes from the pressures of life in London, Taiwanese-American Vivian is enjoying the sights and sounds of Belfast. Her cosmopolitan life could not be further from the day-to-day struggles of Johnny, a 15-year-old Irish youth, enduring a neglected life on the margins of society. But on a bright spring afternoon in West Belfast, their paths collide as a horrifying act of violence is committed…
One of Us is Lying
Karen M. McManus
A huge word-of-mouth sensation on NetGalley since it was first uploaded a month or so ago, One of Us is Lying is shaping up to be the YA/Crime crossover of the year. It’s like a very modern – and very dark – re-imagining of movie classic, The Breakfast Club, but while in that film the characters come to appreciate each other’s differences, in One of Us is Lying, one of them ends up dead. Simon is the geek who runs the notorious high school gossip app. He is in detention with brainiac Bronwyn, sportsman Cooper, bad-boy Nate and beauty-queen Addy. At the end, Simon is dead. Did one of his classmates really kill him?
From the team that brought you The Girl on the Train, The Widow and The Couple Next Door comes another huge bestseller. Lincoln is a good boy. He does what his mother says. He’s four years old, clever and well behaved. He and his mother are having a lovely day at the zoo. But it all changes in the blink of an eye. A gunman is on the loose and the only thing on Joan’s mind is getting her beloved son to safety. She will stop at nothing, nothing at all to save him, no matter the consequences. Unbearably tense.
No Good Deed
A scabrous, riotously funny cautionary tale from one of the UK’s most unflinching and hilarious writers, No Good Deed is a compelling satire on what it means to be good. When Alan drops a coin in a homeless man’s paper cup, he’s surprised that the man knows his name. It’s his old friend, Craig, who he hasn’t seen for twenty years. Alan doesn’t hesitate to take him home and help him get back on his feet. And Craig doesn’t hesitate to try to and claim Alan’s life as his own – wife, family, job and all…
Jeff VanderMeer is without question one of the finest writers of imaginative fiction at work today – and Borne is another stellar example of his unique vision. In a ruined, nameless city of the future, Rachel survives as a scavenger – but dangers lurk in every corner of her world. On one of her hunts, she discovers Borne, a green lump who might be a discard from the Company, which is rumoured to be creating new genetic mutations. Her discovery will change everything and everyone.
Hot Key Books
The much-loved Laura Dockrill returns to the setting of her incandescent and shimmering mermaid novel Lorali, for a spellbinding tale of power and revenge. Aurabel is a lowly Mer from the wrong side of the trench. After an attack by sea beasts, she is left tail-less and close to death. But her rage and determination means she comes back stronger than ever. Reinvented as a fearless, mechanical-tailed Mer, she seeks vengeance on everyone who has slighted her. Full of passion, imagination, adventure and turmoil, this is a mesmeric fantasy that’s as captivating as a mermaid’s smile.
Party Girls Die in Pearls
This knowing, clever and perfectly rendered novel is part mystery, part retro blowout. So 80s you can smell the hairspray, Party Girls Die in Pearls unfolds at Oxford University, where high society still reigns, and Ursula Flowerbutton is not exactly high society material. However, soon after the beginning of lectures, Ursula finds a body, and is determined to bag her first scoop for the famous student newspaper. Ursula enlists the help of glamorous American student Nancy Feingold to unravel the case – and the mystery only deepens. Witty and utterly addictive.
All the Good Things
In this bravura performance, Clare Fisher takes us into the dark and the light of a young mother’s mind. Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison, convicted of a crime so bad she can’t forgive herself. In an attempt to reach her, her counsellor, Erika, asks her to make a list of all the good things in her life. Her first foster father. Flirting at the cinema. The first time she smelled her baby’s head. As we discover more of Beth’s life, we move closer to what she did. What is the truth behind her crime? And can she ever be forgiven?
Another exceptional Top Ten, featuring another eclectic collection of writers and titles. While it’s always difficult deciding on the Book of the Month – especially with new novels from Colm Toibin, Arndaldur Indridason, and Joel Dicker – we absolutely could not resist Andrew Wilson’s A Talent for Murder, which places Agatha Christie herself at the heart of a plot filled with murder and blackmail.
It is a wonderful read. Please also look out for one of the most powerful books of the year, Man Alive
by Thomas Page McBee. It is timely, important and devastatingly written. Oh, and one last thing. If you’re interested in finding out what went on at the London Book Fair last week, be sure to check out our blog here
BOOK OF THE MONTH
A Talent For Murder
Simon & Schuster
Of all the mysteries Agatha Christie created, the one that remains unsolved is taken from her own life: what happened when she famously disappeared in December 1926?
Biographer Andrew Wilson has skilfully woven what is known about the case into a brilliantly atmospheric, utterly gripping novel of which Dame Agatha herself would have been proud. The delight of A Talent for Murder is in its ever-shifting plot, its exquisitely drawn inter-war setting, and a central character you won’t forget. Perfectly pitched, this is a crime novel to savour.
House of Names
The bestselling and award-winning Colm Tóibín returns with a new novel that is sure to be featured heavily in all the major literary prizes of 2017. Taking us back to Greek legend, Tóibín reframes and retells the shocking and murderous events of Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his own daughter in order to win a battle. Three years later, he returns to find his home beset with anger, grievances and thoughts of revenge. This is a bravura performance from one of our finest writers.
I'll Eat When I'm Dead
Already described as ‘The Devil Wears Prada meets American Psycho‘ by Louise O’Neill, this fierce, funny and fabulous debut really is one to watch. RAGE Fashion Book is the world’s most dynamic, ambitious magazine. Its influence is unparalleled. Until one of its editors is found, presumed to have starved herself to death. Her friend, Cat Ono, is not convinced however. But to prove it she’ll have to infiltrate a web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturiser that will change her forever.
Laline Paull’s The Bees was one of the most talked about and surprising debuts of recent years; and The Ice is just as engaging and compelling as its predecessor. The melting ice of the Midgard glacier expels the frozen corpse of Tom Cawson into the Barents Sea. He was lost in an accident on the glacier three years before and his best friend, explorer-turned-businessman Hugh Harding, was the last to see him alive. As the inquest begins, choices made by both men – in love and in life – are put on the stand.
The Baltimore Boys
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair was a phenomenal bestseller, and this part-sequel part-prequel catches up with novelist Marcus Goldman, struggling to write his third novel. Inspiration seems low on the ground until he runs into his first love, Alexandra Neville, now a successful singer. It takes him back to when he and his two cousins were known as The Baltimore Boys. And the burden of the past, its lies, jealousy and betrayal, must now be exposed.
Thomas Page McBee
From one of America’s most important and engaging voices comes a powerful, harrowing and thought-provoking memoir that poses the question: what does it mean to be a man. To answer this, Thomas Page McBee confronts his past: his father’s abuse of him, and the violent mugging which almost killed him as an adult. Standing at the brink of the life-changing decision to transition from female to male, McBee seeks to understand these examples of flawed manhood, and reclaim his body on his own terms.
The Shadow District
The international bestseller and star of Scandi-crime returns with a major new series that weaves the past and the present. A 90-year-old man is found murdered in his bed, smothered by his own pillows. Konrad, a retired detective, finds press cuttings in the dead man’s room relating to a brutal murder. In wartime Reykjavik, a young woman was found strangled behind the National Theatre, a rough and dangerous area of the city known as ‘the shadow district’. It’s a crime that Konrad remembers. But can he finally find the killer?
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
HarperCollins Children's Books
Mel Hannigan is mourning the death of her firework of a brother, as well as the loss of three friendships that used to mean everything. Struggling to deal with a condition that not even her closest friends know about, she has locked away her heart to numb the highs and lows. But things can change. And someone new shows her that it can be worth taking a risk, that opening up to life is what can make it glorious. A heart-breaking yet uplifting novel from the acclaimed author of Not If I See You First.
The Serpent Sword
In the mould of Bernard Cornwell comes a thrilling, blood-soaked historical adventure – the first book in The Bernicia Chronicles. In the wake of his brother’s almost-certain murder, Beobrand seeks revenge on his killer. It’s a quest that will lead him to the war-torn badlands of Northumbria – a place riven with distrust and violence as warlords attempt to take dominion. Can Beobrand avenge his brother’s death? And can he do so without losing his honour?
Abdulrazak Gurnah was shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize for Paradise, and Gravel Heart could easily go on to replicate that feat. It tells the story of Salim, who’s always believed his father doesn’t want him. Living in Zanzibar, in a house full of secrets, he is a bookish child, a dreamer haunted by night terrors. But when an uncle offers Salim an escape, the lonely teenager travels to London. Nothing can prepare him for the biting cold and seething crowds – or the devastating truths he will face.
It’s another exceptionally strong list this month – 2017 really is shaping up to be quite a year! Our top pick is a book that we’re passionate about here at NetGalley UK: Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13. We can’t recommend it highly enough. We’re also especially excited about the return of Hari Kunzru, an unexpected memoir from Richard Beard, and one of the hottest thrillers of the year, He Said/She Said. Enjoy!
BOOK OF THE MONTH
The author of Even the Dogs and If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, returns with a shattering, exceptionally written novel that is destined to be one of the most celebrated works of fiction this year.
Amongst the moorland and farmsteads of a rural town in the heart of England, a teenage girl suddenly disappears. The town is soon the focus of the country’s media, search parties sweeping every inch of the vicinity, hoping to find evidence of her survival. But as the months go by, the town must return to their normal lives, changed and unchanged by the tragic loss of the visiting girl.
Jon McGregor’s portrait of a community in the aftermath of events that bind them all is tender, devastating and written in sentences that reverberate with love, desire, fear and hope. By the novel’s close, it feels like you have lived the lives of the wide cast of characters, and taken your place amongst them.
Reservoir 13 is that rare bird: a novel of exceptional verve and style that has heart, soul and a deep understanding of humanity in the face of adversity. Powerful and moving, this is a British classic.
Hari Kunzru has long been one of our most inventive and innovative writers, and this long-awaited new novel is his finest work to date. Seth and Carter are two twenty-something music obsessives. But their passion leads them down a dangerous road – an old blues song the catalyst that will force them to confront ghosts real and imagined. This is an explosive, brilliantly conceived novel of America now and then, and a book that revels in its incandescent and luminous intelligence.
He Said/She Said
Hodder & Stoughton
Already causing a storm with NetGalley members, He Said/She Said is a controversial, brilliantly paced and plotted thriller that asks what – and who – do you really trust? In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura and Kit interrupt something awful. Laura is sure about what happened. Later, in a panic, she tells a little white lie – and four lives are changed irreparably. As the next eclipse draws near, Laura must confront the fallout from what she saw in the darkness…
The Day that Went Missing
Richard Beard’s family memoir will be one of the most moving, shocking and surprising books you read this year. In his trademark elegant prose, he describes the moment that changed his life: the death by drowning of his brother while on holiday. Incredibly the family return immediately to the same cottage – to complete the holiday. They soon stop speaking of the catastrophe. Their epic act of collective denial writes Nicky out of the family memory. This is the book that brings him back.
Pushkin Children's Books
This is a spectacular, dark and utterly spellbinding fantasy from one of our most exciting and talented new writers. Already acclaimed by the Bookseller as ‘an unforgettable feminist epic,’ Naondel takes us deep into the opulent palace of Ohaddin, where women have one purpose – to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. A truly visionary novel.
The Impossible Fortress
Faber & Faber
If you’ve watched Stranger Things and feel nostalgia for the films of the 1980s, this touching coming-of-age tale is the book for you. It’s 1987. Billy Marvin and his friends Alf and Clark see that Wheel of Fortune presenter Vanna White is on the cover of Playboy. They know that if they can get hold of the magazine, everything will change. As they set out on their mission to find the most wanted images in America, they’re blissfully unaware of the dangers, dramas and garbage dumpsters that lie ahead…
The Forever Court
In a NetGalley exclusive edition, read the first and second books in the award-winning Knights of the Borrowed Dark series! Denizen Hardwick doesn’t believe in magic, that is until he’s ambushed by a monster created from shadows and sees it destroyed by a word made of sunlight. In The Forever Court, Denizen is getting used to his new world, battling monsters in quiet Dublin bookshops, and mastering his new magical powers. Read with caution, for once you begin, you may never trust a bookseller again.
Lost for Words
An intriguing and unusual love story of mystery, redemption and the very best books. Spiky, sardonic, and reclusive Loveday Cardew has as many secrets as she does tattoos of famous lines from books. Finding refuge in an enchanting bookstore, she thinks the past is just that. Then a performance poet walks into her life, and mysterious packages begin arriving for her. Someone is trying to send Loveday a message, and she can’t hide any longer.
Ashes to Ashes
DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is one of the best new cops on the beat, and Ashes to Ashes is his latest – and possibly most brutal – case. A lone killer with a taste for fire is on the loose, his victims chosen at random and then burned alive. But that is only the beginning. John Sagan, a torturer for hire, is also at large – and Heck must return to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he vowed never to set foot in again – to put an end to Sagan’s reign of terror.
It was the game that changed the lives of millions in the early 1990s, made millionaires of its inventors, and changed the way people perceived gaming. Magic: The Gathering combined fiendishly complex game play with addictive collectability and redefined what it meant to be a geek. This compelling story, told with gusto by Titus Chalk, is not just the tale of how a card game devised in a Seattle basement conquered the world, but also how it birthed and empowered a generation.
It’s another exciting month with ten varied choices from all of March’s top titles. There are welcome returns for Nina George, author of The Little Paris Bookshop; Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, as well as the very last instalment in the Geek Girl series. We also have some incredible new discoveries, including our book of the month, the brilliant Stay with Me, and the mind-bending Fever Dream. Enjoy!
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Stay With Me
Already a favourite with NetGalley members, Stay with Me is a heart-breaking, compelling and engrossing tale of family, desire, marriage and the power of love.
Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, dances with prophets, appeals to God. But when her in-laws insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.
Set amongst the social and political turbulence of 80s Nigeria, this is an exceptional, richly emotional debut, exploring all aspects of the bonds of love.
Unlike anything you’re likely to read this year, Fever Dream is the first novel from the highly acclaimed Argentinian writer Samantha Schweblin – and it is a stunning work of the imagination. The premise is simple: a terminally ill woman tells the story of her recent life to a boy called David. It is the beginning of terrifying and deeply unsettling journey into maternal love and the strange nature of identity. Once read, never forgotten.
The Little Breton Bistro
The Little Paris Bookshop is one of the most treasured of recent novels, a huge seller with a huge heart. The Little Breton Bistro is another slice of French delight, a perfect blend of romance, gastronomy and je ne sais quoi. Marianne Messman longs to escape her loveless marriage, and after a failed suicide attempt, flees to a tiny Breton port, where she finds the perfect bistro – but will she find the perfect partner?
The Last Act of Hettie Hoffman
A cleverly structured thriller, viewed from three different perspectives, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is a fresh and inventive take on the small town with secrets mystery. Mindy Meija’s debut follows the aftermath of the brutal murder of Hattie Hoffman, a young woman loved by all, and known by none. Local sheriff Del Goodman vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers.
The Really Quite Good British Cookbook
Edited by William Sitwell
This is the perfect premise for a cookbook: assemble the very best food writers around – Nigella Lawson, Rick Stein, Yotam Ottolenghi, Jamie Oliver Gordon Ramsay, Delia Smith, Nigel Slater, Thomasina Miers, Mark Hix and Claudia Roden to name just a few – and ask them one question: what do you cook for the people you love? Their responses are a treasure trove of lip-smacking recipes, all published in one sumptuous volume.
HarperCollins Children's Books
The last ever Geek Girl book brings the series to a dramatic close, with Harriet Manners on an epic journey to Australia. On the trip of a lifetime Down Under, Harriet’s completely unprepared to see supermodel ex, Nick. With early-not-quite-boyfriend Jasper back home, is the fashion world about to turn ugly? It’s time for Harriet to face the future. Time to work out where her heart lies. To learn how to let go. A truly epic finale!
From one of the most singular and extraordinary voices of our time, comes a story of love, hope and war. Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their love story begins. Before too long, they will need to leave their homeland. They will join the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world. A vital piece of storytelling from the masterly author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
John Murray Press
Tim Glencross’s first novel, Barbarians, was widely lauded as a scabrous, devilishly funny satire of the world in which we live now. In this follow up, we are once again thrown into the murky world of the super-rich elite – this time with Hoffer as our guide, an establishment man with money worries and a past full of secrets – some of which are now coming back to haunt him. Perfectly constructed and elegantly written, this is a superior thriller.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Balli Kaur Jaswal
Nikki’s dreams of emancipating the women from the community she left behind as a teenager through a creative writing class look at first to be doomed. The women are barely literate, and do not seem to share her zeal for change. But as they begin to open up to one another, and share the stories of their lives, something seems to be stirring. But not everyone is happy with the results. Funny, touching and thought-provoking, this is a timely novel of crossed-cultures.
Sarah J Naughton
With so many twists and devastating implications, Tattletale is one of the most compelling and unputdownable thrillers you’ll read this year. Jody is haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. Then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility. Then Abe mysteriously ends up in hospital. Abe’s estranged sister Mags meets Jody and gradually begins to wonder whether all she says is true…
Deciding our Top Ten each month is always a tough yet hugely enjoyable process – but this month has proved to be the most difficult so far. There were so many exciting titles it took us much longer than usual to finalise the list – and even now it’s a shame that some titles didn’t quite make it.
That said, we really love these books and hope you’ll feel the same way. You’ll probably already recognise Ragdoll and The Girl Before – but do request if you haven’t before as they’ll be some of the most talked about thrillers in 2017. We’re also very keen on The Lonely Hearts Hotel and t hink it could go on to be something of sleeper hit. Do also look out for Pachinko which we think will be one of the books fighting for all the big literary prizes later in the year.
As this is the last Books of the Month for 2016, we’d just like to thank you for being part of NetGalley. We really appreciate your reviews and feedback – and we’d love to see even more in 2017. Wishing you warm and wonderful holidays!
BOOK OF THE MONTH
German Language Edition
Already a massive hit with NetGalley members, Ragdoll is shaping up to be the high-concept thriller of 2017. Its combination of suspense, gore and well-drawn, engaging characters is a real winner. This is mystery writing at its most intense.
When a body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, the press quickly name the horrific discovery the ‘ragdoll’. Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter. The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them. With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer with the eyes of the world watching their every move?
Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You In Your Life
Yiyun Li’s fiction is marked by telling details, acute insight into the human experience, and sublime sentences – all of which she brings to this searing and luminous memoir of a life lived with books and haunted by depression. Growing up in China, Li watched her mother suffer from mental health issues, and years later, as an immigrant in another country, she battles her own. Through it all she is sustained by her deep connection to literature, and by two central questions: why write? And why live?
My Sister's Bones
In a year that will be dominated by psychological thrillers, My Sister’s Bones already stands out as a complex and intriguing take on the genre. War reporter Kate Rafter is back from Syria, plagued by dreams of the horrors taking place there. But there are other painful memories, ones that her sister and Kate cannot quite escape. When their mother dies, they are forced back to the family home. A home full of deadly secrets waiting to be exposed. Twisty, compelling and consistently surprising.
The End of Eddy
On first publication in France, The End of Eddy became a sensation, winning plaudits for its writing, and provoking national debates on social inequality, sexuality and violence. Édouard Louis’s fictionalised account of his life escaping from his unbearable childhood is incendiary yet tender, compassionate yet visceral, and written with startling clarity and vigour. This is vital, unflinching and thought-provoking fiction – a novel that confronts the issues of our time head on .
The Girl Before
French Language Edition
The Girl Before takes domestic terror to a new level, in this spellbinding Hitchcockian thriller. Jane has found the rental opportunity of a lifetime. It’s a beautiful ultra-minimalist house, but it comes at a cost. She can live there so long as she abides by a long list of exacting rules created by the house’s architect. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before…
HarperCollins Children's Books
Taking all his experience from his award-winning radio show, Christian O’Connell’s first children’s book is a funny and sweet story of a boy who becomes a star in his own back yard. Spike’s an average 11-year-old, but after becoming the first person ever to be sacked from hospital radio, he sets up – with some help from his friends – a studio in the garden shed and starts broadcasting as Radio Boy. Week by week, word gets around and soon Spike is a star… if only people knew it was actually him…
The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Already lauded by the likes of Helen Oyeyemi, Miranda July and Emily St John Mandel, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a riot of invention, love and fairytales. From the underbellies of war-time Montreal and Prohibition New York to a theatre of magic where anything is possible, this is the story of two orphans, Rose and Pierrot, who dreamt as children of a whole invented world, and as adults are determined to make it real. Dazzling, glittering and bursting with imagination, this is a true spectacle of a novel.
Min Jin Lee
Head of Zeus
An epic story that encompasses eight decades and four generations, Pachinko is a novel to immerse yourself in, to follow the lives of these exceptionally drawn characters as they traverse the world and the brickbats that come their way. It begins with an unlikely marriage in early-Twentieth Century Korea, and the birth of a beloved daughter, Sunja. It is the beginning of a life that will take in war, immigration, love, death – and everything else life has to offer.
We Come Apart
Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan
Bringing together two of YA’s hottest new properties – Sarah Crossan (One) and Brian Conaghan (When Mr Dog Bites) – We Come Apart is a heart-breaking, beautifully told tale of love, identity and dreams of better lives. When Jess meets Nicu, she can’t imagine she’d ever fall for him. But as they get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can’t be together, forever, and stay safe – can they?
An international bestseller, Charlotte is based on the heart-breaking true story of an exceptional woman living through terrifying, deadly time. Charlotte Soloman is born into a family stricken by suicide, and in a country beset by war. She escapes through her gift for painting, and later through her love for a brilliant musician. But clouds are forming, not just in her own mind, but over the whole of Europe. And when the Nazi Party come to power, she knows she will have to flee…