England, 1976: Heatwave

If you spend enough time around books – reading books, reading reviews, shelving books – you start to notice trends, and sometimes they’re very specific. (For example in the first half of 2019, there were at least two books with main characters in comas reassessing their lives: The Inbetween Days and The Book of Dreams). Sometimes, of course, an event is so significant that it resonates through the stories people tell for years afterward. But it doesn’t have to be something world-changing, like World War II or the current COVID-19 pandemic. It can be something smaller that nonetheless reverberates. In that vein, I bring you three books that all take place in England during the summer of 1976, a year there was such an epic heatwave it continues to be evoked in fiction.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
In a small English town during the sweltering summer of 1976, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly entertain themselves wandering the neighborhood as the adults take refuge inside homes with curtains shut against the sun. When kind Mrs. Creasy disappears, Grace and Tilly go in search of clues as to what may have happened to her. As long-held secrets come to light, Grace and Tilly discover a history of deception which they grapple to understand. In their starred review, Booklist called it an “understated, somewhat quirky debut novel … remarkable for its structure, characterizations, pitch-perfect prose, touches of humor, and humanity.” Continue reading “England, 1976: Heatwave”

Fiction eBooks – Available NOW!

Hundreds of Always Available fiction eBooks are now available until June 30th due to the generosity of several publishers and distributors. Check some out while you wait for your holds to be filled and for the library to reopen.

This collection is particularly a boon for fans of translated fiction. Some highlights include Sayaka Murata’s breakout English-language debut Convenience Store Woman, a spare novel that questions the push to conform to societal expectations as seen through the experiences of 36-year-old convenience store clerk Keiko Furukawa. Hotel Silence by Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir is a tender, lighthearted novel with a dark premise, as suicidal Icelander Jonas Ebeneser travels to a war-torn country only to find himself needed by a brother and sister duo operating the titular Hotel. The translation of Argentinian writer Silvina Ocampo’s debut collection of short stories Forgotten Journey (published 1937), is full of short, dreamlike vignettes populated by singular characters and evocative of Argentina’s landscape, both urban and rural. Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou is an incisively witty coming-of-age novel set in the Republic of the Congo from the 1970s-1990s. And if you’re looking for a classic, check out The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Continue reading “Fiction eBooks – Available NOW!”

Girl, someone is out to get you

“Woman in peril” is a plot device as old as time, and one that enjoys continued popularity. In this reader’s opinion, when it’s done well you get a great female character with agency to make her own decisions, fighting to save herself. Here are three suggestions for recent thrillers that follow women as they puzzle out how to escape the trouble at their heels.

Conviction by Denise Mina
On the day her husband leaves her for her best friend, Anna has her true identity outed on social media, an act that puts her in danger from the people who tried to kill her 15 years earlier. She decides to go on the run with Fin, the husband her best friend abandoned, to follow the breadcrumbs of a true crime podcast that unexpectedly revolves around the mysterious death of an acquaintance. As her past races to catch up with her present, Anna sprints across Europe to stay one step ahead. Continue reading “Girl, someone is out to get you”

New Fiction Roundup, February 2020

Coming-of-age stories, a life lived out-of-order, baseball in a dystopian United States, queer librarian spies on horseback, and a dedicated Victorian detective – February has some gems waiting for you to discover!

2/4: Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham – A family saga follows one family over two decades in Nigeria, as each sibling searches for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life.

2/4: Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump – In this coming of age novel, Claude McKay Love leaves the South Side of Chicago for college, only to discover that there is no safe haven for a young Black man in today’s America.

2/4: The Resisters by Gish Jen –In a near-future world ruthlessly divided between the employed and unemployed, a once-professional couple gives birth to an athletically gifted child whose transition from an underground baseball league to the Olympics challenges the very foundations of their divided society. A Peak Pick!

2/4: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd – In Victorian London, a female sleuth is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of an extraordinary child.

 2/4: Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing. Continue reading “New Fiction Roundup, February 2020”