Category Archives: Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

The first suggestion comes from Koethi Zan. Koethi is the author of The Never List. Her latest novel, The Follower, was published by Vintage in ebook format on 23 February 2017 and is out in paperback on 18 May 2017. Koethi has suggested Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Falluda, published by Penguin as part of their Modern Classics range under the title Alone in Berlin and translated by Michael Hofmann.

Inspired by a true story, Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin is the gripping tale of an ordinary man’s determination to defy the tyranny of Nazi rule. This Penguin Classics edition contains an afterword by Geoff Wilkes, as well as facsimiles of the original Gestapo file which inspired the novel.

Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels’ necks …

Read more on the Penguin website.

Here’s what she has to say:

“I would recommend EVERY MAN DIES ALONE by Hans Falluda, written in 1947, but only translated into English in 2009. I’m constantly buying copies of it and shoving it in my friends’ hands. It’s about a working class couple who dare to participate in the German Resistance, and I guarantee it is one of the most suspenseful books ever written.”

The next suggestion is from J.S. Monroe, who’s novel Find Me was published by Head of Zeus on 9 February 2017.

He has suggested Shake Off by Mischa Hiller published by Mulholland Books.

An internationally acclaimed thriller of love, espionage and subterfuge, in which Middle East meets West with dangerous consequences.
Years of training have transformed Michel Khoury into a skilled intelligence operative. A refugee whose family was murdered by extremists, he has one mission: the peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict that upended his life.
An alluring enigma, he attracts the attention of Helen, a pretty English girl who lives in the adjacent apartment. As their relationship develops, Michel is unable to tell Helen about his past–or the collection of passports and unmarked bills he’s concealed in the bathroom they share.
When Michel’s secrets turn deadly, Helen and Michel find themselves pursued through the streets of London, Berlin and the Scottish countryside, on the run from the very people they thought they could trust.
A critically celebrated novel that “recalls the cool detachment and compelling eye for ordinary detail that characterized the early thrillers of Graham Greene” (“Independent on Sunday”), SHAKE OFF is that rare breed of riveting tale–of intrigue and suspense, love and betrayal–that announces a bold new voice for our increasingly global times. (Image and synopsis from Amazon)

Here’s what he had to say:

“A cracking spy story with a unique voice and perspective that deserves to be an international bestseller.”

So there we have it, two books that had certainly passed me by. Have you read either of them or do you have a quiet book you want to shout about?

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Filed under Under the Reader's Radar - celebrating the quiet novel

Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

Today’s first suggestion is from Susmita Bhattacharya, author of The Normal State of Mind. Her suggestion is The Village by the Sea by Anita Desai, published by Puffin.

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“A story of survival set in a small fishing villlage near Bombay. Lila and Hari, aged 13 and 12, struggle to keep the family, including two young sisters, going when their mother is ill and their father usually the worse for drink. When Hari goes to Bombay to find work, Lila seems to be responsible for everything. Although the book paints a picture of extreme poverty, it demonstrates the strength of the family even in the most extreme circumstances and offers a powerful picture of another culture.”
Read more on the Puffin website.

Here’s what she had to say about it:

“I love Anita Desai’s The Village by the Sea. It was part of our school syllabus 25 years ago, but even now, it draws me in. The story, about two young children surviving in the big, bad city of Bombay (as it was called then) still has a charm that has not quite diminished. It is a pleasure to read it with my children, as the themes cross continents and cultures. And Anita Desai is one of my favourite writers.” 

The second suggestion is by Kate Frost, author of The Butterfly Storm. Her suggestion is Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, published by Black Swan.

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“When Israel Finch and Tommy Basca, the town bullies, break into the home of school caretaker Jeremiah Land, wielding a baseball bat and looking for trouble, they find more of it than even they expected. For seventeen-year-old Davey is sitting up in bed waiting for them with a Winchester rifle. His younger brother Reuben has seen their father perform miracles, but Jeremiah now seems as powerless to prevent Davey from being arrested for manslaughter, as he has always been to ease Reuben’s daily spungy struggle to breathe. Nor does brave and brilliant nine-year-old Swede, obsessed as she is with the legends of the wild west, have the strength to spring Davey from jail. Yet Davey does manage to break out. He steals a horse, and disappears. His family feels his absence so sorely, the three of them just pile into their old Plymouth, towing a brand new 1963 Airstream trailer, and set out on a quest to find him. And they follow the outlaw west, right into the cold, wild and empty Dakota Badlands. Set in the 1960s on the edge of the Great Plains, PEACE LIKE A RIVER is that rare thing, a contemporary novel with an epic dimension. Told in the touching voice of an asthmatic eleven-year-old boy, it revels in the legends of the West, resonates with a soul-expanding sense of place, and vibrates with the possibility of magic in the everyday world. Above all, it shows how family, love, and faith can stand up to the most terrifying of enemies, the most tragic of fates” (Image and synopsis from Amazon)

Here’s what she had to say about it:

“He’s only written two books and this was his debut and a stunning one it is. Set in Minnesota and North Dakota in the 1960s and told from the perspective of Reuben, an asthmatic nine year-old boy, it’s in turn evocative, heartbreaking and uplifting and the characters simply ooze off the page, particularly Reuben’s nine year-old sister, Swede. It was one of those rare books that I kept thinking about when I wasn’t reading it and the characters and story haunted me long after finishing the last page.” 

So there we have it, two more books that may have passed you by, but which could find a home on your bookshelf. Do let me know if you’ve uncovered any hidden gems that you think should be more widely read.

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Filed under Under the Reader's Radar - celebrating the quiet novel

Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

Today’s first suggestion is from M.J Carter, author of The Stranger Vine and The Printer’s Coffin. Her latest novel, The Devil’s Feast, was published by Fig Tree on 27 October 2016 . Her suggestion is A Sultry Month by Alethea Hayter, published by Faber and Faber.

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June 1846 was a month of fierce heat and political crisis in London. This sultry month was also a time of personal crisis for Carlyle and his wife, for Browning and Elizabeth Barrett and notably for the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon. A cross-section of the close-textured life of literary London in the 1840s is tellingly portrayed. Dickens, Tennyson, Browning, the Carlyles, Monckton Milnes, the actor Macready, Mary Russell Mitford, Wordsworth and Samuel Rogers frequently met during these sweltering weeks, particularly since many of them felt constrained to give parties for the best-selling German novelist, the preposterous, one-eyed Grafin Hahn-Hahn, and her travelling companion Oberst Baron Adolph von Bystram.

The secret crises and decisive actions of the members of this group affected them all, as did the weather and the political situation. The catastrophe which overcomes Haydon is, however, the central leitmotif. A fascinating and stimulating book based on contemporary letters, diaries, memoirs and newspapers, A Sultry Month pioneered a new form of group biography when it was first published in l965, which has since influenced many writers and scholars.

Here’s what she had to say:

“I’m a great fan of a book called A Sultry Month, by Alethea Hayter. It’s not a novel – but it reads like (a wonderful) one and is about a community of writers and artists. First published in 1965, and currently reissued by Faber Finds it’s an account of the swelteringly hot month of June 1846, told entirely using the letters and diaries of a series of great literary and artistic figures. It was the month Elizabeth Barrett ran away with the poet Robert Browning, the great historian Robert Carlyle and his wife Jane (who wrote the most brilliant letters) thought they might split up, and the famously appalling—and tragic-comic—history painter Benjamin Haydon decided he was a failure and tried to commit suicide. Dickens, Tennyson and others feature, and it’s all pulled together to tell a great: a perfect miniature masterpiece.”  

The next suggestion is by Kate Blackadder whose novel Stella’s Christmas Wish was published by Black and White Publishing on 3 November 2016. Her suggestion is The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger, published by Penguin.

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“Amina Mazid is twenty-four when she leaves Bangladesh for Rochester, New York, and for George Stillman, the husband who met and wooed her online. It’s a twenty-first-century romance that echoes ancient traditions – the arranged marriages of her home country. And though George falls for Amina because she doesn’t ‘play games’, they will both hide a secret, and vital, part of their lives from each other.

A brilliantly observed, wry and yet deeply moving novel about the exhilerations – and complications – of getting, and staying, wed, The Newlyweds is a tour de force – a novel as rich with misunderstandings as it is with unlikely connections.”
Read more on the Penguin website.

Here’s what she had to say:

“It’s about an American man and a Bangladeshi woman who meet online and get married. There’s a culture clash inevitably as well as the getting-to-know each other but it’s subtly done, sometimes heartbreaking, and often very funny.  The novel was inspired by a chance meeting Nell Freudenberger had on a plane with a Bangladeshi woman who’d just arrived in America to marry a man she’d met on the internet. NF subsequently visited Bangladesh with the woman – the last third of the book is set there.

Highly recommended.”

So there we have it, two books that had certainly passed me by but which require further investigation. Have you read either of these? Do let me know if you’ve discovered any quiet novels you want to shout about.

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Filed under Under the Reader's Radar - celebrating the quiet novel

Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

Today’s first suggestion is from Mason Cross. Mason is the author of the Carter Blake series and his latest novel The Time to Kill was published by Orion on 30 June 2016. Mason’s suggestion is A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin.

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“Dorothy meets a handsome young man with an eye for her inheritance while she is in her sophomore year. They are to be married and her life will be blissful; but Dorothy is pregnant and her fiancé’s plans are ruined, for Dorothy would be disinherited if her father discovered the truth.

So the young man provides his bride to be with some pills that will solve the problem. Soon there will be no baby – and perhaps no Dorothy either…
A Kiss before Dying, Levin’s first novel, earned him the 1954 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and is regarded as a modern classic.”

(image and synopsis from Amazon and for the ebook edition published by Corsair)

Here’s what he has to say about it:

“He’s famous for Rosemary’s Baby and Stepford Wives, but this was his first novel. It’s just a great thriller, but one of the standout things is the innovative structure. He tells the first part of the book through the killer’s eyes, never revealing his name, and then flips the perspective so that you don’t know which of the characters he is.”

The next suggestion is from Aimee Alexander, author of The Accidental Life of Greg Millar. Her suggestion is Once by Morris Gleitzman, published by Puffin.

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“Once by Morris Gleitzman is the story of a young Jewish boy who is determined to escape the orphanage he lives in to save his Jewish parents from the Nazis in the occupied Poland of the Second World War.

Everybody deserves to have something good in their life. At least Once.

Once I escaped from am orphanage to find Mum and Dad.

Once I saved a girl called Zelda from a burning house.

Once I made a Nazi with a toothache laugh.

My name is Felix. This is my story.

Once is the first in a series of children’s novels about Felix, a Jewish orphan caught in the middle of the Holocaust, from Australian author Morris Gleitzman – author of Bumface and Boy Overboard. The next books in the series Then, Now and After are also available from Puffin.”
Read more on the Puffin website.

Here’s what she had to say:

“Once, by Morris Gleitzman is wonderful. It’s the story of a boy leaving an orphanage in Nazi German to rescue his parents. Heartbreaking, real and beautifully told. Never got the acclaim of The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas. More than deserved to.”

So there we have it, two more books that had passed me by but which sound intriguing. Have you read either of them or have you discovered a quiet novel you want to shout about? Do let me know if you have.

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Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

The first suggestion this week comes from Dan Micklethwaite. Dan is the author of The Less Than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote, published by Bluemoose Books and which was recently shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize. Dan’s suggestion is The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill, published by Canongate.

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Five thousand years on – and the Minotaur, or M as he is known to his colleagues, is working as a line chef at Grub’s Rib in Carolina, keeping to himself, keeping his horns down, trying in vain to put his past behind him. He leads an ordered lifestyle in a shabby trailer park where he tinkers with cars, writes and re-writes to-do lists and observes the haphazard goings on around him. Outwardly controlled, M tries to hide his emotional turmoil as he is transported deeper into the human world of deceit, confusion and need.

Here’s what he has to say:

“I’d like to suggest The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, by Steven Sherrill. I understand it got quite a bit of notice in America upon its release, but seems to have gone under the radar in the UK, and I so rarely run into anyone else who’s read it – unless I’ve already lent it to them! It’s about the Minotaur of ancient Greek myth, and how he’s ended up after all the long centuries working as a fry-cook in the American mid-west. The way Sherrill writes him, the character becomes one of the most unique and poignant studies of an outsider I’ve ever come across, and the people he interacts with are so superbly and deftly drawn, as well, that I find myself returning to it again and again. A gem of a novel, well-deserving of a wider audience.”  

The next suggestion is from Anna Chilvers, author of Tainted Love, also published by Bluemoose Books. Anna’s suggestion is St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, published by Vintage.

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“Charting loss, love, and the difficult art of growing up, these stories unfurl with wicked humour and insight. Two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab; a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to ‘Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers’ (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Insomniacs; Cabin 3, Somnambulists. . . ); a Minotaur leads his family on the trail out West, and finally, in the collection’s poignant and hilarious title story, fifteen girls raised by wolves are painstakingly re-civilised by nuns.”
Read more on the Penguin website.

Here’s what Anna had to say about her choice:

“I really love the work of American writer Karen Russell, and I would like to recommend her book of short stories, St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. Her blend of the real and the imaginary worlds appeals to me and also inspires me. And I must confess that one of the stories in this –  from Children’s Reminiscences of the Western Migration  – was part of the inspiration for Tainted Love.”

So there we have it, two books that I admit I’ve never come across and which sound completely different to each other. Have you read either of this week’s suggestions? Let me know what you make of the books highlighted this week. And do let me know your quiet read,

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Filed under Under the Reader's Radar - celebrating the quiet novel

Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

The first suggestion this week comes from Jon Teckman. Jon is the author of Ordinary Joe, published by Borough Press. Jon’s suggestion is Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie, published by Jacaranda Books.

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“After the sudden death of  her mother, London photographer Joy struggles to pull the threads of her life back together, with the support of her kind but mysterious neighbour Mrs Harris. Joy’s fortune begins to change when she receives an unexpected inheritance from her mother: a huge sum of money, her grandfather’s diary and a unique brass warrior’s head from the nineteenth century kingdom of Benin.

Joy’s search for the origins of the head take us on a journey through time as dark family secrets come to light. Joy unearths the ties between her mother, grandfather, the wife of the king, and the brass head’s pivotal connection to them all.

A spiritual successor to the tales of Marquez, Butterfly Fish masterfully combines elements of traditional Nigerian storytelling and magical realism in a multigenerational take of the legacy of inheritance.

Haunting and compelling, Butterfly Fish is a richly told story of love and hope, of family secrets, power, political upheaval, loss and coming undone.”

Here’s what he has to say:

“I met Irenosen at an author’s event and we swapped signed copies of our books and I was absolutely knocked out by her skill in telling what is, in many ways, a straightforward tale of a young Nigerian girl in London but interwoven with many other strands, including a wonderful magical element.  It couldn’t be any more different from Ordinary Joe but I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes a good story told in effortlessly brilliant prose.”

Butterfly Fish recently won the 2016 Betty Trask award, an annual award given to a debut author under the age of 35.

The second suggestion is from Tracey Sinclair. Tracey is the author of the Cassandra Bick Chronicles, Dark Date, Wolf Night and Angel Falls. Tracey’s suggestion is Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, published by Abacus.

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“A special twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Katherine Dunn’s extraordinary cult classic, with a new introduction by the author.

Lil Binewski, born a Boston aristocrat, was in her time the most stylish of geeks. That is to say she made her living by biting the heads off live chickens in front of a carnival audience. This she gave up for doting motherhood, because she and her fairground-owning husband had a money spinning idea. Throughout each pregnancy Lil gobbles pesticides, experiments with drugs and douses herself with radiation to ensure that she prodcues infants grotesque enough to keep the turnstiles clicking. She does.

Arturo the Aqua Boy is a limbless megalomaniac, Electra and Iphigenia are musically gifted Siamese twins with a penchant for prostitution and Fortunato is possessed of stange telekinetic powers. Their story- by turns shocking, tender, touching and cruel- is narrated by their sister Olympia. She is a bald, hunchbacked, albino dwarf.”

Here’s what Tracey had to say about Geek Love:

“Put aside any thoughts of Rainbow Rowell type heroines, of nerdy girls in glasses trying to find romance – Katherine Dunn’s classic American novel may seem misleadingly titled now, unconcerned as it is with popular culture and cute, quirky girls who like gaming and Star Wars, but it has nothing to do with modern geek culture. She is using ‘geek’ in one of its earlier, uglier incarnations – a ‘carney folk’ term for a sideshow entertainer who makes their money biting the heads off live chickens.

If that hasn’t deterred you already, read on. Geek Love is superficially a grotesque and brutal book, based on a central idea many would find sick, if not actively appalling – Lil, a carnival geek, and her fairground owning husband decide to deliberately spawn their own freak show, with Lil sabotaging her pregnancies so as to have children whose deformities can be monetised in their travelling show. But out of such a disturbing idea, Dunn crafts a book that is simply stunning.

In part a story of unrequited love, at its heart it is a surprisingly tender but unflinching examination of family. And although this particular family may be more outlandish than most, trapped together in the unique, fast disappearing world of the carnival, they offer a microcosm of ego, jealously, thwarted ambition and petty rows that will be familiar to all. It is a challenging, thought provoking novel – particularly around issues of disability and sexuality – and it’s certainly not for everyone. But it’s not a book you can be ambivalent about: you may well discard it in the opening pages, disgusted by the very idea – but for those who allow themselves to fall under its sway, it’s a story you’ll never forget.”

So there we have it, two more books that had passed me by but which sound great. Have you read either Butterfly Fish or Geek Love? Let me know what you make of this week’s suggestions and do let me know if you have a quiet book you’d like to champion.

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Filed under Under the Reader's Radar - celebrating the quiet novel

Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

The first suggestion this week comes from author Tara Lyons. She has suggested Beyond Reasonable Doubt by Linda Prather, which was self published via Amazon.

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“Assistant DA, Jenna James took an oath to uphold the law, administer justice, deter crime and ensure the safety of the community. Her job isn’t easy, but it has always been black and white—criminals versus victims. Now she is the victim, and the very system she’s fought to uphold is suddenly corrupt, the lines between good and bad are blurred and her world has turned upside down. She’s always known that world existed—a world of power so immense that a single phone call can result in people disappearing or political offices being vacated, a world where doctors are available at a moment’s notice. She’s never been part of that world—never wanted to be. The body count is rising, and unless she finds proof beyond a reasonable doubt against a corrupt former federal judge, and a notorious criminal defense attorney, it will continue.”

Here’s what Tara had to say about it:

“I loved the short, sharp chapters and devoured this book. It kept my interest, and I thoroughly enjoyed the main character being a DA and finding out about crimes from her point of view. The author obviously knows her stuff!”

Tara’s novel, In the Shadows was published on 17 March 2016

The second suggestion is from author Lyn G Farrell. Lyn has suggested We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, (the edition shown is published by Penguin).

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“A seminal work of dystopian fiction that foreshadowed the worst excesses of Soviet Russia, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We is a powerfully inventive vision that has influenced writers from George Orwell to Ayn Rand. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Russian with an introduction by Clarence Brown.

In a glass-enclosed city of absolute straight lines, ruled over by the all-powerful ‘Benefactor’, the citizens of the totalitarian society of OneState live out lives devoid of passion and creativity – until D-503, a mathematician who dreams in numbers, makes a discovery: he has an individual soul. Set in the twenty-sixth century AD, We is the classic dystopian novel and was the forerunner of works such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It was suppressed for many years in Russia and remains a resounding cry for individual freedom, yet is also a powerful, exciting and vivid work of science fiction.

Clarence Brown’s brilliant translation is based on the corrected text of the novel, first published in Russia in 1988 after more than sixty years’ suppression.

Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) was a naval engineer by profession and writer by vocation, who made himself an enemy of the Tsarist government by being a Bolshevik, and an enemy of the Soviet government by insisting that human beings have absolute creative freedom. He wrote short stories, plays and essays, but his masterpiece is We, written in 1920-21 and soon thereafter translated into most of the languages of the world. It first appeared in Russia only in 1988.”
Read more on the Penguin website.

Here’s what she has to say:

“I’m choosing this book because it slipped under my radar for years….The astonishing book that gave both Orwell and Huxley inspiration for their own dystopian novels. Well written, well plotted, keeps you rapt from start to finish. What gives it, for me, the status of ‘one of the best books I’ve read’ is that it could have been written today, so well imagined is the world that the author creates. I can still, to this day, see the buildings and the way people interacted with each other, in my mind. A book that can transcend the decades and seem contemporary is a work of genius.
A terrifying tale of utter powerlessness and submission to a brutal ruling class. One of my favourite ever novels.”  

Lyn won the Luke Bitmead bursary for her novel The Wacky Man, which was published by Legend Press on 2 May 2016 and was recently long-listed for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize.

So there we have it, two more novels that have passed me by but have now made it onto my radar. Have you read either of these? What are you thoughts on today’s suggestions? Do let me know if you have a book to shout about.

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Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

The first suggestion this week comes from blogger Christina Philippou. Christina has picked Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey, published by Bloomsbury.

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“‘An astonishing memoir’ Sonali Deraniyagala, author of Wave’Oh, what can I not do, in my dreams. In my dreams I travel on trains and climb mountains, I play concerts and swim rivers, I carry important documents on vital missions, I attend meetings which become song-and-dance routines. My body lies boxed in darkness, but beneath my closed eyelids there is colour, sound and movement, in glorious contrast to the day; mad movies projected nightly in the private theatre of my skull.’ Anna Lyndsey was living a normal life. She enjoyed her job; she was ambitious; she was falling in love. Then the unthinkable happened.It began with a burning sensation on her face when she was exposed to computer screens and fluorescent lighting. Then the burning spread and the problematic light sources proliferated. Now her extreme sensitivity to light in all forms means she must spend much of her life in total darkness. During the best times, she can venture cautiously outside at dusk and dawn, avoiding high-strength streetlamps. During the worst, she must spend months in a darkened room, listening to audiobooks, inventing word-games and fighting to keep despair at bay. Told with great beauty, humour and honesty, Girl in the Dark is the astonishing and uplifting account of Anna’s descent into the depths of her extraordinary illness. It is the story of how, through her determination to make her impossible life possible and with the love of those around her, she has managed to find light in even the darkest of places.”

See more on the Bloomsbury website.

This is what Christina had to say:

“I’m not normally one for memoirs, but this book is an exquisitely written, beautifully structured, heart-wrenching-yet-hopeful masterpiece…..I got lost in the prose, in the way one does with good thrillers, and often found myself blinking up at the light, having been transported into a darkened hell….”

You can read Christina’s full review here.

Girl in the Dark has over 30 five star reviews on Amazon.

The second choice today comes from Eve Seymour, author of Beautiful Losers. Eve’s suggestion for a novel not to be missed is Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, published by Bloomsbury.

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“In 1954 a fisherman is found dead in the nets of his boat, and a local Japanese-American man is charged with his murder. In the course of his trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man’s guilt. For on San Piedro, memories grow as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries – memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and a Japanese girl; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbours watched.”

See more on the Bloomsbury website.

Here’s what Eve had to say about it:

“It’s one of those classic stories within a story.  There are big themes of love and death and racism.  With a slow burn narrative, it made quite an impression on me at the time.  I thought it beautifully crafted and it certainly inspired me to want to write.” 

Snow Falling on Cedars won the PEN/Faulkner award and has over 50 five star reviews on Amazon.

So there we have it, two more books that I’ll admit had passed me by. Have you read either of them? Do let me know if you have a book you think should make it onto readers radars.

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Filed under Under the Reader's Radar - celebrating the quiet novel

Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

The first suggestion comes from Rosy Thornton. Rosy is the author of The Tapestry of Love, More Than Love Letters, Ninepins and Hearts and Minds and her latest book, a collection of short stories entitled Sandlands, was published by Sandstone Press on 21 July 2016.

Rosy’s choice is Hot Kitchen Snow by Susan Rickards, published by Salt Publishing.

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Typically we lie to each other four times a day and the commonest lie told is, ‘I’m fine.’ The characters in Hot Kitchen Snow go one step further: they lie to themselves. This collection explores the gap between how others see us and how we see ourselves. Teenage Euan is guest of honour at a mystery funeral; teacher Joseph Mutabe gives up a lifetime’s morals to earn extra money for a new sofa by tutoring the children of a military dictator; door-to-door dog-food seller Greg sets out to find the girl whose life he once saved, to lessen his sense of failure. The tiny everyday shifts and decisions that account for some of life’s biggest developments are charted here, often represented by an emblematically charged scrap from nature: In ‘Life Pirates’ a lecherous drunk steals a rare sapling for a suicidal woman; in ‘Mango’, an exotic fruit reunites a family after near-lethal electric shock; a fall of snow from a skylight reminds a city banker of everything he lacks in ‘Hot Kitchen Snow’, and in ‘Odissi Dancing’, scarlet chrysanthemums sewn into a fat college administrator’s hair by her affectionate pupils assure her of what she never knew she had. Here the bad do good and the pious wreak havoc. No one is as they seem or as they think they are. Ultimately, Hot Kitchen Snow is a collection about the restorative powers in life, about warmth, forgiveness and acceptance.

(image and synopsis from Amazon)

Here’s what Rosy has to say about Hot Kitchen Snow:

“This vivid, quirky, thought-provoking and subversive collection of short stories is beautifully written and packed with surprises, and was one of the books which inspired me to have a go at writing a collection of my own.”

You can read a Q&A with Rosy here.

The next choice is suggested by Hemmie Martin. Hemmie is the author of  The Divine Pumpkin, Attic of the Mind, In the Light of Madness, Rightful Owner and Garlic and Gauloises. Her latest novel, What Happens After was published by Winter Goose Publishing on 8 March 2016.

Hemmie’s choice is The Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, published by Penguin and Virago Modern Classics.

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In 1914 Vera Brittain was eighteen and, as war was declared, she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life – and the life of her whole generation – had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain’s account of how she survived the period; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world. A passionate record of a lost generation, it made Vera Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time.

 

Here’s what Hemmie had to say about it:

…it is a fascinating, and sometimes heart-breaking insight into the life of a young woman during the period of the First World War. I read it when I was about twelve, and it has stayed with me for almost forty years.”

You can read a Q&A with Hemmie here.

So there you have it, two diverse reads, yet both sound intriguing and two that had certainly slipped my radar. What are your thoughts on this week’s suggestions? Let me know if you’ve read either of them. And don’t forget to share any quiet books you want to shout about.

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Filed under Under the Reader's Radar - celebrating the quiet novel

Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

The first book to be highlighted this week is The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, published by Oneworld Publications.

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“On her fiftieth birthday and now deemed economically worthless, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material: a state-of-the-art facility where she will make new friends, enjoy generous recreational activities and live out her remaining days in comfort. The price? Her body – harvested piece by piece for the ‘necessary’ ones, until the day comes when she must make her Final Donation. But Dorrit finds her days at the Unit peaceful and consoling: she no longer feels like an outsider, a single woman in a world of married couples with children. Until she unexpectedly falls in love – and everything changes.”

The Unit was suggested by Rebecca Bradley. Rebecca is the author of Shallow Waters and her latest novel feature DI Hannah Robbins, Made to be Broken, was published on 30 June 2016.

Here’s what Rebecca had to say about The Unit:

“It’s stunningly well told in a simple and straightforward way, conveying the sense of how normal this situation is. The undercurrent of fear is woven in with the calm and natural friendships that arise within a group of people who are not at all dissimilar….The reality of reading gave me a sense of calm and concerning unease at the same time. It’s smoothly and expertly told and I absolutely loved it.”

You can read Rebecca’s full review here.

Also back this week to recommend another book is Bettina from Tripfiction. If you haven’t visited her fabulous site where you can find fiction to cover anywhere in the world then I highly recommend you do.

Today Bettina recommends The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer, published by Vintage.

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“Shortlisted for the 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature
Winner of the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2014

The Scatter Here Is Too Great heralds a major new voice from Pakistan with a stunning debut – a novel told in a rich variety of distinctive voices that converge at a single horrific event: a bomb blast at a station in the heart of the city.

Comrade Sukhansaz, an old communist poet, is harassed on a bus full of college students minutes before the blast. His son, a wealthy middle-aged businessman, yearns for his own estranged child. A young man, Sadeq, has a dead-end job snatching cars from people who have defaulted on their bank loans, while his girlfriend spins tales for her young brother to conceal her own heartbreak. An ambulance driver picking up the bodies after the blast has a shocking encounter with two strange-looking men whom nobody else seems to notice. And in the midst of it all, a solitary writer, tormented with grief for his dead father, struggles to find words.

In a style that is at once inventive and deeply moving, Tanweer reveals the pain, loneliness and longing of these characters and celebrates the power of the written word to heal individuals and communities plagued by violence. Elegantly weaving together a striking portrait of a city and its people, The Scatter Here Is Too great is a love story written to Karachi – as vibrant and varied in its characters, passions, and idiosyncrasies as the city itself.”

Read more on the Penguin website.

Here’s what Tripfiction had to say about it:
“This is a very impressive book. Bilal Tanweer was born and raised in Karachi… and it shows. The city comes through on every page of the book – the filth, the mass of humanity, the constant traffic jams, the charm of many of its people – and the nastiness of others….Tanweer loves the city and its people. The people he writes about are real (if flawed…) and Karachi is absolutely at the heart of the book. It is a vibrant and challenging portrayal of the place and its inhabitants.”
You can read the full review on the Tripfiction website here.
So there we have it, two new books that may have passed you by. I haven’t read either of them, but I think that may have to change. What do you make of today’s suggestions? Do you have any quiet books that you think should be more widely read? If so do let me know.

 

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