Fall is the busiest time of year for new book releases. It can be overwhelming, even for those of us who follow these sorts of things. Here is what I have been reading, and what is new and coming soon.
I reviewed both The Wonders and The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini, which were released in early November. They are illuminating nonfiction works that highlight some of the interesting people who chose the stage as a profession.
The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North
from the publisher: South Africa in the 1880s. A young and naive English doctor by the name of William Abbey witnesses the lynching of a local boy by the white colonists. As the child dies, his mother curses William. William begins to understand what the curse means when the shadow of the dead boy starts following him across the world. It never stops, never rests. It can cross oceans and mountains. And if it catches him, the person he loves most in the world will die.
I was hoping for a bit more suspense and otherworldliness from this. I’ve read the author’s other books and liked them. Though well-written, this is not my type of novel. Those who like romance and drama will enjoy it. I read this title via NetGalley.
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Orbit (November 12, 2019)
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams
from the publisher: The year is 1871. In Ashwell, Massachusetts, at the farm of Samuel Hood and his daughter, Caroline, a mysterious flock of red birds descends. Samuel, whose fame as a philosopher has waned in recent years, takes the birds’ appearance as an omen that the time is ripe for his newest venture. He will start a school for young women, guiding their intellectual development as he has so carefully guided his daughter’s. Despite Caroline’s misgivings, Samuel’s vision–revolutionary, as always; noble, as always; full of holes, as always–takes shape. It’s not long before the students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms. Rashes, fits, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. In desperation, the school turns to the ministering of a sinister physician.
I really, really wanted to like this novel. It’s Victorian, it about a boarding school, it has early medicine — all the things I like. But somehow the writing never quite gels together. Those who like impressionistic, non-narrative fiction may enjoy it. I read this title via NetGalley.
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (February 11, 2020)
Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
The Penguin Book of Mermaids Edited by Cristina Bacchilega and Marie Alohalani Brown
from the publisher: Among the oldest and most popular mythical beings, mermaids and other merfolk have captured the imagination since long before Ariel sold her voice to a sea witch in the beloved Disney film adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” As far back as the eighth century B.C., sailors in Homer’s Odyssey stuffed wax in their ears to resist the Sirens, who lured men to their watery deaths with song. More than two thousand years later, the gullible New York public lined up to witness a mummified “mermaid” specimen that the enterprising showman P. T. Barnum swore was real.
I always enjoy the editions of this Penguin Classics series. They take something mythical and make it real — or at least show the real story behind the legend. This delightful and far-reaching collection stirs the imagination. I read this title via NetGalley.
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics (October 8, 2019)
Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era By Gareth Russell
from the publisher: In April 1912, six notable people were among those privileged to experience the height of luxury—first class passage on “the ship of dreams,” the RMS Titanic: Lucy Leslie, Countess of Rothes; son of the British Empire, Tommy Andrews; American captain of industry John Thayer and his son Jack; Jewish-American immigrant Ida Straus; and American model and movie star Dorothy Gibson. Within a week of setting sail, they were all caught up in the horrifying disaster of the Titanic’s sinking, one of the biggest news stories of the century. Through their intertwining lives, he examines social, technological, political, and economic forces such as the nuances of the British class system, the explosion of competition in the shipping trade, the birth of the movie industry, the Irish Home Rule Crisis, and the Jewish-American immigrant experience while also recounting their intimate stories of bravery, tragedy, and selflessness.
I am about halfway through this account of the Titanic’s history. Russell does a great job of placing the ship in its era and showing the reader what was going on throughout the world at the time. The writing style can be a bit fussy at times but I am easily able to look past it in order to learn more. I am reading this title via NetGalley.
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (November 19, 2019)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
The Library of the Unwritten by AJ Hackwith
from the publisher: Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing — a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.
I am about a third of the way through this novel. It is amusing but it reminds me too much of the Thursday Next series. I plan to keep reading and see if it finds its own path or continues to follow in another’s footsteps. I am reading this via NetGalley.
Series: A Novel from Hell’s Library (Book 1)
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Ace (October 1, 2019)
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
What are you reading this fall?