New Books / Reviews

Listings and Reviews of New Books Winter 2024

Book reviews are sourced from various publishers and distributors.

With nothing left to lose, he’s prepared to risk it all!

Used-car salesman Gary Braswell owes thousands to a violent loan shark. Desperate to save his skin, he joins forces with a ruthless Russian crime syndicate that doesn’t take too kindly to being double-crossed. As his life spirals further out of control, Gary’s inflated ego can only land him in more trouble.

Dodgy real estate agents, nouveau riche Russian émigrés, corrupt federal cops and femme fatales, Sold’s characters jump off the page.

 

The novel opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles.

The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife Katia, and the times in which they lived—World War 1, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile.

Utopia Avenue is the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folk singer Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet, and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief, blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and drafty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, and on to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome, and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell’s captivating new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us?

Roya Hakakian was twelve years old in 1979 when the revolution swept through Tehran. The daughter of an esteemed poet, she grew up in a household that hummed with intellectual life. Family gatherings were punctuated by witty, satirical exchanges and spontaneous recitations of poetry.  But the Hakakians were also part of the very small Jewish population in Iran who witnessed the iron fist of the Islamic fundamentalists increasingly tightening its grip. It is with the innocent confusion of youth that Roya describes her discovery of a swastika, “a plus sign gone awry, a dark reptile with four hungry claws”, painted on the wall near her home. As a schoolgirl she watched as friends accused of reading blasphemous books were escorted from class by Islamic Society guards, never to return. Only much later did Roya learn that she was spared a similar fate because her teacher admired her writing.

Hakakian relates in the most poignant, and at times painful, ways what life was like for women after the country fell into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who had declared an insidious war against them, but we see it all through the eyes of a strong, youthful optimist who somehow came up in the world believing that she was different, knowing she was special.

The extraordinary true story of a boy’s journey from starvation at sea to becoming one of Australia’s best-loved comedians. A story of true inspiration.

 

Morally bereft popular historian Patrick Renmark flees London in disgrace after the accidental death of his infant son. With one card left to play, he reluctantly takes a commission to write the biography of his legendary pioneering adventurer-anthropologist grandfather.

With no enthusiasm and even less integrity, Patrick travels to Jesustown, the former mission town in remote Australia where his grandfather infamously brokered ‘peace’ between the Indigenous custodians of the area and the white constabulary. He hasn’t been back there since he was a teenager when a terrible confrontation with his grandfather made him vow never to return.

Of course nothing is as it seems or as Patrick wants it to be. Unable to lay his own son to rest, Patrick must re-examine the legacy of his renowned grandfather and face the repercussions of his actions on subsequent generations. Will what he finds bring him redemption or add to the vault of family secrets and terrible guilt he keeps uncovering?

 

Morally bereft popular historian Patrick Renmark flees London in disgrace after the accidental death of his infant son. With one card left to play, he reluctantly takes a commission to write the biography of his legendary pioneering adventurer-anthropologist grandfather.

With no enthusiasm and even less integrity, Patrick travels to Jesustown, the former mission town in remote Australia where his grandfather infamously brokered ‘peace’ between the Indigenous custodians of the area and the white constabulary. He hasn’t been back there since he was a teenager when a terrible confrontation with his grandfather made him vow never to return.

Of course nothing is as it seems or as Patrick wants it to be. Unable to lay his own son to rest, Patrick must re-examine the legacy of his renowned grandfather and face the repercussions of his actions on subsequent generations. Will what he finds bring him redemption or add to the vault of family secrets and terrible guilt he keeps uncovering?

 

In the heat of a long summer Ned hunts rabbits in a river valley, hoping the pelts will earn him enough money to buy a small boat. His two brothers are away at war, their whereabouts unknown. His father and older sister struggle to hold things together on the family orchard, Limberlost.Desperate to ignore it all Ned dreams of open water.

As his story unfolds over the following decades, we see how Ned’s choices that summer come to shape the course of his life, the fate of his family and the future of the valley, with its seasons of death and rebirth.

Along the Great Barrier Reef, having fun in the sun, lived a mother dolphin and her little calf one.

‘Leap,’ said the mother. ‘I leap,’ said the one, as they leapt out of the water and had fun in the sun.

Join the little dolphin calf and many more familiar ocean animals in this vivid counting book based on the classic rhyme ‘Over in the Meadow’.

In a narrative tour de force, Simon Winchester dramatises the life story of the Atlantic Ocean, from its birth in the farther recesses of geological time to its eventual extinction millions of years in the future.

“In Sea of Many Returns, master storyteller Arnold Zable delivers a cavalcade of stories, characters and places. He takes us to the island of Ithaca, the Ionian Sea, Kalgoorlie and Melbourne, as well as Port Said, the Black Sea and Danube River ports. The stories are told by Mentor, an Ithacan who arrives in Kalgoorlie in 1916 as a young man, and by his Melbourne-born granddaughter, Xanthe. Through them we meet many people and hear their stories, spanning more than a century. Like Homer’s Odysseus, they left Ithaca to journey to distant places. We follow the lives of two brothers, who, as teenagers in the 1930s, build a boat and ferry freight and passengers across the Ionian Sea until one brother leaves for Australia. We meet Antonios Lekatsas and learn of his partnership with architect Walter Burley Griffin to design some of Melbourne’s most creative buildings. And we hear the stories of the women who waited on Ithaca while their men sought fortune in Australia. Sea of Many Returns is a moving novel exploring the immigrant experience and our connection with place.”–Provided by publisher.

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