Intriguing new books in fiction and nonfiction

As usual, I’m sharing a collection of discoveries that have taken my interest, some already on the reading table. Short summaries provide a glimpse into plots. Titles can be clicked to access more information.

Rachel Heng’s new book is described as “a sweeping novel about one boy’s unique gifts and the childhood love that will complicate the fate of his community and country.” It takes place in Singapore during the 20th century and times of historic change. The boy, Ah Boon, grows up in a fishing village with his friend Siok Mei. The gift he’s enabled with is the ability to locate “bountiful, movable islands that no one else can find.” More from the book’s description:

By the time they are teens, Ah Boon and Siok Mei are caught in the tragic sweep of history: the Japanese army invades, the resistance rises, grief intrudes, and the future of the fishing village is in jeopardy.”

The plot embraces “aching love” and “powerful coming-of-age” stories with a 400+ page count. All of this hints The Great Reclamation just might be that engulfing, leave-me-alone reading experience that rarely comes along. (Pub Date: March 28)

Master storyteller Sebastian Barry’s Old God’s Time tells the story of policeman Tom Kettle newly retired and living a quiet life overlooking the Irish Sea. That is until former colleagues arrive with questions about a past, unsolved murder case. A priest under investigation for pedophilia has given information related to the murder. Kirkus Reviews* writes: “Much of the narrative is a very accessible stream of consciousness. Even as Kettle’s mind drifts, he also must deal with the hard realities that arise from police procedure, like evidence gathering, interviews at headquarters, and the suspicions of his former boss.” From the book’s description:

A beautiful, haunting novel, in which nothing is quite as it seems, Old God’s Time is about what we live through, what we live with, and what may survive of us.

With Sebastian Barry’s track record, including two Costa Awards, Old God’s Time promises to be unforgettable. (Pub Date: March 14)

Here’s a true story, Ralph White’s account of the rescue operation he took upon himself the final days of the Vietnam War; however, White wasn’t a soldier, rather an employee of Chase Manhattan Bank. He was transferred from Bangkok to Saigon in April 1975 with the assignment to close the Saigon branch and ensure the safety of senior South Vietnamese employees. He discovered more dire circumstances upon his arrival, including word that the North Vietnamese would execute everyone at the bank when they took over the city. (Saigon fell April 30, 1975.) I found this fabulous comment about Getting Out of Saigon: How a 27-Year-Old American Banker Saved 113 Vietnamese Civilians written in Kirkus Reviews*:

As he chronicles how he built his rescue plan and navigated the streets of the city with a briefcase containing a revolver and $25,000 in cash, White’s persona seems like something out of a Terry Southern or Ian Fleming novel–as does his writing.

This sounds to me like a must read. (Pub Date: April 4)

Another work of nonfiction has also caught my attention. All Things Move: Learning to Look in the Sistine Chapel was sent to me from Biblioasis, with a handwritten note from publisher Dan Wells: “When the manuscript to All Things Move first arrived in my inbox my first thought was who the hell needs another book on the Sistine Chapel? But it turns out that I did. Jeannie [Marshall] completely won me over: she just might you, too.” I opened to a random page in the middle of the book and read this.

Why this work, though, why the Sistine Chapel? It’s not as though I decided one day all at once to seek meaning in my rootless life within the Vatican Museums. But I had lost some people who were important to me around the time that I first started to visit, and these losses seemed terrible and poignant, and I found these feelings reflected in the artwork of the Italian Renaissance.

Dan was right. I’m hooked. The book’s description says “All Things Move is a quietly sublime meditation on how our lives can be changed by art, if only we learn to look.” (Pub Date: April 4)

I’ve long intended to tap into the Stewart Hoag Mystery Series written by David Handler. I even bought a first edition paperback of The Man Who Died Laughing, the first book in the series. (I thought I’d start at the beginning. I’ve carried it around with me for months, still unread.) What keeps drawing me to this mystery series is its countless raves, including the words that describe the books — funny, suspenseful, and highly entertaining, and then A.J. Finn’s “delectably clever, smoothly written, surprisingly poignant, altogether sparkling mysteries” on Crime Reads. The premise involves a sleuthing Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag who once shot to literary fame with his debut novel in the 1980s, but thereafter became paralyzed with debilitating writer’s block. Now he’s a celebrity ghostwriter. From David Handler’s website:

[Hoagy] and his faithful, neurotic basset hound Lulu dig out the celebrity secrets that people often want to stay safely buried.

In The Girl Who Took What She Wanted, Hoagie is given a lucrative assignment to ghostwrite a romance novel for Hollywood’s hottest reality TV star. Of course, dark secrets emerge and murder happens in this 14th installment. Publishers Weekly* says: “Fans of hard-edged whodunits set in La La Land will be riveted.” Sounds like a great place for me to finally start. (Pub Date: March 7)

*Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly are professional magazines devoted to the book publishing industry.

2 thoughts on “Intriguing new books in fiction and nonfiction

    1. Good to hear that you loved the Sebastian Barry. I’ll move it up on the TBR list. I’ve sensed, though, as you say here, it may be disturbing. Another thing about All Things Moved — it’s beautifully published with gorgeous images and also a lovely heft to the feel of the book.

      Liked by 1 person

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