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Monday, December 12, 2011

Haul of Books 2.0: Books Received Vol. 6

It's been a while for a Haul of Books feature, which means it's time for catching up!  And that's what this post is all about.

What I want to know is:
What have you purchased recently?
Which books below most interest you?
Here's the list:
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Little, Brown)
Each story in this jubilantly acclaimed collection pays testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing circumstances.  
A family living in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya scurries to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday. A Rwandan girl relates her family’s struggles to maintain a facade of normalcy amid unspeakable acts. A young brother and sister cope with their uncle’s attempt to sell them into slavery. Aboard a bus filled with refugees—a microcosm of today’s Africa—a Muslim boy summons his faith to bear a treacherous ride across Nigeria. Through the eyes of childhood friends the emotional toll of religious conflict in Ethiopia becomes viscerally clear.  
Uwem Akpan’s debut signals the arrival of a breathtakingly talented writer who gives a matter-of-fact reality to the most extreme circumstances in stories that are nothing short of transcendent.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Harcourt)
At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . . 
Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite valuation firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore. 
But in the wake of september 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.
A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Washington Square Press)
Award-winning screenwriter Malla Nunn delivers a stunning and darkly romantic crime novel set in 1950s apartheid South Africa, featuring Detective Emmanuel Cooper -- a man caught up in a time and place where racial tensions and the raw hunger for power make life very dangerous indeed. 
In a morally complex tale rich with authenticity, Nunn takes readers to Jacob's Rest, a tiny town on the border between South Africa and Mozambique. It is 1952, and new apartheid laws have recently gone into effect, dividing a nation into black and white while supposedly healing the political rifts between the Afrikaners and the English. Tensions simmer as the fault line between the oppressed and the oppressors cuts deeper, but it's not until an Afrikaner police officer is found dead that emotions more dangerous than anyone thought possible boil to the surface. 
When Detective Emmanuel Cooper, an Englishman, begins investigating the murder, his mission is preempted by the powerful police Security Branch, who are dedicated to their campaign to flush out black communist radicals. But Detective Cooper isn't interested in political expediency and has never been one for making friends. He may be modest, but he radiates intelligence and certainly won't be getting on his knees before those in power. Instead, he strikes out on his own, following a trail of clues that lead him to uncover a shocking forbidden love and the imperfect life of Captain Pretorius, a man whose relationships with the black and coloured residents of the town he ruled were more complicated and more human than anyone could have imagined. 
The first in her Detective Emmanuel Cooper series, A Beautiful Place to Die marks the debut of a talented writer who reads like a brilliant combination of Raymond Chandler and Graham Greene. It is a tale of murder, passion, corruption, and the corrosive double standard that defined an apartheid nation.
Modem Times 2.0 by Michael Moorcock (PM Press)
Jerry Cornelius—Michael Moorcock’s fictional audacious assassin, rockstar, chronospy, and possible Messiah—is featured in the first of two stories in this fifth installment of the Outspoken Author series. Previously unpublished, the first story is an odyssey through time from London in the 1960s to America during the years following Barack Obama's presidency. The second piece is a political, confrontational, comical, nonfiction tale in the style of Jonathan Swift and George Orwell. An interview with the author rounds out this biting, satirical, sci-fi collection.
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith (Abacus)
Welcome to 44 Scotland Street, home to some of Edinburgh's most colorful characters. There's Pat, a twenty-year-old who has recently moved into a flat with Bruce, an athletic young man with a keen awareness of his own appearance. Their neighbor, Domenica, is an eccentric and insightful widow. In the flat below are Irene and her appealing son Bertie, who is the victim of his mother’s desire for him to learn the saxophone and italian–all at the tender age of five. 
Love triangles, a lost painting, intriguing new friends, and an encounter with a famous Scottish crime writer are just a few of the ingredients that add to this delightful and witty portrait of Edinburgh society, which was first published as a serial in The Scotsman newspaper.
The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Anchor Books)
Meet Mma Ramotswe, the endearing, engaging, simply irresistible proprietress of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the first and only detective agency in Botswana. With persistent observation, gentle intuition, and a keen desire to help people with the problems of their lives, she solves mysteries great and small for friends and strangers alike.
Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (Grove Press)
From the author of MASTER AND MARGARITA, BLACK SNOW and DIABOLIAD, a novel which features a Moscow professor who befriends a stray dog and transplants into it the testicles and pituitary gland of a dead man, unleashing a human dog which turns the professor's life into a nightmare beyond endurance.
Eyes of the Calculor by Sean McMullen (Tor)
Imagine a glittering, dynamic, and exotic Earth two thousand years in the future, where librarians fight duels to settle disputes, there is no electricity, fuelled engines are banned by every major religion in Australia, humanity has split into two species, and intelligent cetezoids rule the oceans. Fundamentally, unexpectedly, things are changing everywhere. As catastrophe looms and civilization begins to crumble, the Dragon Librarians have just one means left to hold their world together: to kidnap every numerate person on the continent and rebuild their out-of-date human-powered computer-the Calculor.
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner)
Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls’ aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie. 
The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including—perhaps—their aunt.

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