I know I'm supposed to be reading more books from my TBR this year as part of my New Year's resolution, but I'm still keeping my eye out for new releases — and February looks to be a bumper month.
Here's a handful of books that have caught my attention. They have been arranged in alphabetical order according to author's surname.
"When Lara was 12, and her younger brother Alfie eight, their father died in a helicopter crash. A prominent plastic surgeon, and Irishman, he had honed his skills on the bomb victims of the Troubles. But the family grew up used to him being absent: he only came to London for two weekends a month to work at the Harley Street Clinic, where he met their mother years before, and they only once went on a family holiday together, to Spain, where their mother cried and their father lost his temper and left early. Because home, for their father, wasn't Earls Court: it was Belfast, where he led his other life . . . Narrated by Lara, nearing 40 and nursing her dying mother, All the Beggars Riding is the heartbreaking portrait of a woman confronting her past."
I admit I had never heard of Belfast-born Lucy Caldwell until I attended a Faber & Faber preview evening last month. She had 90 seconds to talk about her book in front of a captive audience of mainly journalists and book sellers, and I was immediately hooked about her tale of people who lead double lives. I got talking to her afterwards and she did an extraordinary amount of research, meeting people who had first-hand experience of double lives and some of what she told me was jaw-dropping. I really can't wait to read this book. It will be serialised on Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4 in early March.
"It's Christmas Eve in Manhattan. Harrison Hanafan, noted plastic surgeon, falls on his ass. 'Ya can't sit there all day, buddy, looking up people's skirts!' chides a weird gal in a coat like a duvet. She then kindly conjures the miracle of a taxi. While recuperating with Franz Schubert, Bette Davis, and a foundling cat, Harrison adds items to his life's work, a List of Melancholy Things (puppetry, shrimp-eating contests, Walmart...) before going back to rhinoplasties, liposuction, and the peccadilloes of his obnoxious colleagues. Then Harrison collides once more with the strangely helpful woman, Mimi, who bursts into his life with all her curves and chaos. They soon fall emphatically in love. And, as their love-making reaches a whole new kind of climax, the sweet smell of revolution is in the air. By turns celebratory and scathing, romantic and dyspeptic, Mimi is a story of music, New York, sculpture, martinis, public speaking, quilt-stealing, eggnog and, most of all, love."
It's about Manhattan. And cocktails. And music. Three of my favourite things.
"A woman in her thirties is released from prison, with a new name and not much else. She begins to make a fresh start but the present is soon invaded by fragments from her past. Unsettling, hallucinatory and without precedent, Mountains of the Moon is the tragic account of a broken life, but, against all expectation, it amounts to something utterly beautiful."
This book, which was first released in hardcover last year, sounds quite intriguing. I don't usually pay much attention to Amazon reviews, but every review for this one has garnered five stars. It sounds like a must-read.
"Deep within the Balou mountains lies a small rural town populated by disabled people. Blind, deaf and disfigured, the 197 citizens of the Village of Liven have until now enjoyed a peaceful, mutually supportive life out of sight and mind of the government. But when an unseasonal snowstorm wipes out that year's crops, a county official dreams up a scheme that will raise money for the district and boost his career. He convinces the villagers to set up a travelling freak-show, to include Blind Tonghua's Acute Listening Act, Guess the Age of the Old Man, Deafman Ma's Firecrackers-on-the-Ear and One-Eye's Needle Threading. With the money, he intends to buy Lenin's embalmed corpse from an ailing Russia and install it in a splendid mausoleum in the mountains to attract tourism to this sleepy district. However, as we all know, even the best intentions can go awry. Provocative and funny, Lenin's Kisses melds fable, history and satire into a fantastical cautionary tale about contemporary China's all-consuming desire for power and wealth."
I absolutely loved the sound of this book from the first moment I heard about it. Then I saw Lisa Hill's brilliant review on ANZLitLovers and I knew I had to read it sooner rather than later. If only the hardcover wasn't so heavy — this isn't a book I can read on public transport!
"On a remote island in Orkney, a curiously-matched couple arrive on their honeymoon. He is an eminent literature professor; she was his pale, enigmatic star pupil. Alone beneath the shifting skies of this untethered landscape, the professor realises how little he knows about his new bride and yet, as the days go by and his mind turns obsessively upon the creature who has so beguiled him, she seems to slip ever further from his yearning grasp. Where does she come from? Why did she ask him to bring her north? What is it that constantly draws her to the sea?"
Most people will know Amy Sackville from her prize-winning novel The Still Point (which I never read). There already seems to be quite a bit of a buzz about this one, so expect it popping up on longlists very soon. I love the setting and themes of this one — it seems to be based on the Scottish selkie myth.
Please note that the release dates quoted are for the UK and are subject to change.
Are there any on this list that have piqued your interest?