New books at Backbeat

New Books - May 5

It’s been a while since we’ve done a new book post…all of the books went out in the sunshine for their photo op today since it’s so nice out here in beautiful Perth! Stop on by while you’re out for a stroll…

– “Three Souls” by Janie Chang
We have three souls, or so I’d been told. But only in death could I confirm this … So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends.

As Leiyin delves back in time with the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party, she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and instantly falls in love with him.

When Leiyin defies her father to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth—that she is powerless over her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife, Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she thought.

Suffused with history and literature, Three Souls is an epic tale of revenge and betrayal, forbidden love, and the price we are willing to pay for freedom.

– “Lost & Found” by Brooke Davis
Millie Bird is a seven-year-old girl who always wears red wellington boots to match her red, curly hair. But one day, Millie’s mum leaves her alone beneath the Ginormous Women’s underwear rack in a department store, and doesn’t come back.

Agatha Pantha is an eighty-two-year-old woman who hasn’t left her home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven years old and once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife’s skin. He sits in a nursing home, knowing that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.

Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie’s mum. Along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life.

– “Young Skins” by Colin Barrett
Making a remarkable entrance onto the Irish and UK literary scene with rave reviews in The Sunday Times and The Guardian, Colin Barrett’s Young Skins is a stunning introduction to a singular voice in contemporary fiction.

Enter the small, rural town of Glanbeigh, a place whose fate took a downturn with the Celtic Tiger, a desolate spot where buffoonery and tension simmer and erupt, and booze-sodden boredom fills the corners of every pub and nightclub. Here, and in the towns beyond, the young live hard and wear the scars. Amongst them, there’s jilted Jimmy, whose best friend Tug is the terror of the town and Jimmy’s sole company in his search for the missing Clancy kid; Bat, a lovesick soul with a face like “a bowl of mashed up spuds” even before Nubbin Tansey’s boot kicked it in; and Arm, a young and desperate criminal whose destiny is shaped when he and his partner, Dympna, fail to carry out a job. In each story, a local voice delineates the grittiness of Irish society; unforgettable characters whose psychological complexities and unspoken yearnings are rendered through silence, humor, and violence.

With power and originality akin to Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned and Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn these six short stories and one explosive novella occupy the ghostly, melancholic spaces between boyhood and old age. Told in Barrett’s vibrant, distinctive prose, Young Skins is an accomplished and irreverent debut from a brilliant new writer.

– “Hausfrau” by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband Bruno and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters into with an ease that surprises even her. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there’s no going back.

– “Inside the O’Briens” by Lisa Genova
From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.

– “Against a Darkening Sky” by Lauren B. Davis
From the author of the acclaimed Our Daily Bread and The Empty Room comes a rich and fascinating new novel of mysterious, magic-riddled 7th-century England: Against A Darkening Sky transports the reader to a rich yet violent past where a young woman is torn between her deepest beliefs and her desire to belong in a changing world.

Wilona, the lone survivor of a plague that has wiped out her people, makes her way across the moors to a new life in the village of Ad Gefrin, where she is apprenticed to Touilt, a revered healer and seeress. She blossoms under Touilt’s tutelage and will one day take her place, but as an outsider, she is viewed with suspicion by all except Margawn, a warrior in the lord’s hall. When the king proclaims a conversion to the new Christian religion, Ad Gefrin becomes a dangerous place for Wilona and Touilt. Their very lives are at risk as the villagers embrace the new faith and turn against the old ways, even as Wilona’s relationship with Margawn grows. Wilona’s fate becomes intertwined with that of Egan, a monk sent to Ad Gefrin as part of the Christian mission; both will see their faith and their loyalties tested.

Torn between her deepest beliefs and a desire to belong in a confusing, changing world, Wilona must battle for survival, dignity and love against overwhelming odds. Seamlessly combining timeless choices and struggles and rich, nuanced historical detail that brings pagan Britain to life, Against a Darkening Sky is an exquisitely rendered work of fiction from one of Canada’s most acclaimed and celebrated novelists.

– “We All Looked Up” by Tommy Wallach
Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels:
The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever.

But then we all looked up and everything changed.

They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end.

Two months to really live.

– “Milk Bar Life” by Christina Tosi
Go off the clock with Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar as she bakes one-bowl treats, grills with skills, and embraces simple, nostalgic—and often savory—recipes made from everyday ingredients.

For anyone addicted to crack pie®, compost cookies®, and cake truffles, here are their savory counterparts— Kimcheezits with Blue Cheese Dip, Burnt Honey–Butter Kale with Sesame Seeds, and Choose Your Own Adventure Chorizo Burgers—along with enough make-at-home sweets to satisfy a cookie-a-day habit. Join Christina and the Milk Bar team as they cook their way through “weak nights,” sleepovers, and late-night snack attacks to make mind-blowingly delicious meals with whatever is in the pantry.

– “Serafim and Claire” by Mark Lavorato
From one of Canada’s brightest emerging writers comes an unforgettable tale of love, art, and life. Set in the vividly imagined streets of 1920s Montreal, Serafim and Claire is the beautiful, moving, and compulsively readable story of two dreamers whose worlds become forever connected.

Claire Audette is a dancer whose reputation in the vaudeville houses of 1920s Montreal is rapidly on the rise. Serafim Vieria is a photographer and lonely immigrant, wandering the streets of the same city haunted by memories of a lost love in his native Portugal. Around them, the Twenties are roaring, and the metropolis is simmering: corrupt politicians, the burgeoning of jazz, the emerging suffragette movement, trouble in the Red Light, fascism in the Italian community, with the English/French divide cleaving through it all. And as Serafim and Claire’s lives begin to intertwine, a dangerous plot forms that could boost both their fortunes. Can their naïve yet cunning plan succeed? Can they make their own luck? And, if they fail, what will become of their budding love? Serafim and Claire is the unforgettable story of two idealistic yet flawed dreamers being drawn together, and of the vibrant city and times in which they live. In lush and beautiful prose, Mark Lavorato brings an entire world vividly to life.

– “Newford Stories: Crow Girls” by Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint’s readers have been asking him to put together story collections featuring their favourite Newford characters. The crow girls are among his best-loved characters, so de Lint obliged by gathering their stories all under one roof, so to speak. Some other members of the Newford repertory company show up here, but at the forefront of each story are these two little wild girls with their big personalities.

– “Our Endless Numbered Days” by Claire Fuller
Peggy Hillcoat is eight years old when her survivalist father, James, takes her from their home in London to a remote hut in the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Deep in the wilderness, Peggy and James make a life for themselves. They repair the hut, bathe in water from the river, hunt and gather food in the summers and almost starve in the harsh winters. They mark their days only by the sun and the seasons.

When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest and begins a search for their owner, she unwittingly unravels the series of events that brought her to the woods and, in doing so, discovers the strength she needs to go back to the home and mother she thought she’d lost.

After Peggy’s return to civilization, her mother begins to learn the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.

– “Man” by Kim Thuy
Following on the Giller Prize-nominated and Governor General’s Literary Award-winning success of Ru, Kim Thúy’s latest novel is a triumph of poetic beauty and a moving meditation on how love and food are inextricably entwined.

Mãn has three mothers: the one who gives birth to her in wartime, the nun who plucks her from a vegetable garden, and her beloved Maman, who becomes a spy to survive. Seeking security for her grown daughter, Maman finds Mãn a husband–a lonely Vietnamese restaurateur who lives in Montreal.

Thrown into a new world, Mãn discovers her natural talent as a chef. Gracefully she practices her art, with food as her medium. She creates dishes that are much more than sustenance for the body: they evoke memory and emotion, time and place, and even bring her customers to tears.

Mãn is a mystery–her name means “perfect fulfillment,” yet she and her husband seem to drift along, respectfully and dutifully. But when she encounters a married chef in Paris, everything changes in the instant of a fleeting touch, and Mãn discovers the all-encompassing obsession and ever-present dangers of a love affair.

Full of indelible images of beauty, delicacy and quiet power, Mãn is a novel that begs to be savoured for its language, its sensuousness and its love of life.

– “The Truth Commission” by Susan Juby
Open secrets are the heart of gossip—the things that no one is brave or clueless enough to ask. That is, except for Normandy Pale and her friends Dusk and Neil. They are juniors at Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, and they have no fear.

They are the Truth Commission.

Then, one of their truth targets says to Normandy: “If you want to know about the truth, you might want to look a little closer to home.” And that means facing Keira, Normandy’s brilliant older sister, the creator of a bestselling graphic novel series, who has left college and come home under mysterious circumstances, and in complete silence.

Even for a Truth Commissioner, there are some lines that cannot be crossed.

This dryly funny, knife-sharp novel, written as “narrative nonfiction” by Normandy herself, features footnotes, illustrations, and a combination mystery/love story that will capture readers from the first page.

– “Battle Bunny” by Jon Scieszka & Mac Barnett
Encourage creativity with this wildly entertaining picture book mash-up from the minds of Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett.

Alex has been given a saccharine, sappy, silly-sweet picture book about Birthday Bunny that his grandma found at a garage sale. Alex isn’t interested – until he decides to make the book something he’d actually like to read. So he takes out his pencil, sharpens his creativity, and totally transforms the story!

Birthday Bunny becomes Battle Bunny, and the rabbit’s innocent journey through the forest morphs into a supersecret mission to unleash an evil plan – a plan that only Alex can stop.

Featuring layered, original artwork that emphasizes Alex’s additions, this dynamic exploration of creative storytelling is sure to engage and inspire.

– “The Cats of Tanglewood Forest” by Charles de Lint (**signed copies**)
Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest she imagines full of fairies. She sees not a wisp until the cats brave Black Panther, Father of Cats, to save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Is T.H. Fox trustworthy? to guide her to Old Mother Possum, then Mother Manan of the Bear People? Lavish greens dotted with Lillian’s red hair, Fox’s red fur, adorn pages.

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