Wartime stories, weird and wonderful flights of fancy; from the bones beneath our feet to the clues in the night-time skies, we offer our selection of the best of May’s publishing.
As British summer finally edges into view, May’s publishing offers plenty of fresh publishing to keep you reading into the long evenings. In fiction, we start with an ending. William Trevor has long been recognised as one of his generation’s leading short story writers and Last Stories - published posthumously - is a fittingly peerless curtain. There are welcome returns too from Michael Ondaatje, back with compelling Second World War drama, Warlight - his first novel since The Cat’s Table - and Rachel Cusk, rounding off the trilogy begun with Outline and Transitwith the unflinchingly powerful finale, Kudos. Ruth Hogan also neatly picks up the baton from her bestselling debut The Keeper of Lost Thingsin The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes. A quirky novel of kindness and second chances, perceptive and full of heart; fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine should certainly add it to their reading lists. James Bond fans, meanwhile, can set their sights on Anthony Horowitz’s Forever and a Day, a lightning-paced prequel to Casino Royale that reveals how Bond earned his 00 stripes.
Completed not long before his death, William Trevor’s final story collection is the crowning achievement of a writer of unusual depth and sensitivity. Combining his trademark wit, eloquence, comic timing and probing insight into the human condition, this, his last collection, is a worthy swansong to an exceptional literary career.
In his first novel since The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje relates a story of lives built and undone in the closing hours and long aftermath of the Second World War. In 1945 two children are abandoned by their parents to an enigmatic man named The Moth. As they grow up they begin to question their life story and whether they are really what and who they claim to be.
How can a person reconnect with their sense of self? How do we reconstruct a family? How might we rebuild a broken country? In the unflinching and powerful conclusion of her ‘Faye’ trilogy, Rachel Cusk considers the demands placed on us on modern life and how to live – and live as a woman – in such a world.
Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, Masha’s life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. But then a chance encounter introduces her to two extraordinary women - the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, opening up a new world of possibilities and the chance that she might, somehow, learn to live all over again.
One body. Three bullets. 007 floats in the waters of Marseilles, killed by an unknown hand. It's time for a new agent to step up. It's time for a new weapon in the war against organised crime. It's time for James Bond to earn his licence to kill. This is the story of the birth of a legend, in the brutal underworld of the French Riviera from the bestselling author of Trigger Mortis.
Crime and Thrillers
Heading up a strong parade of crime fiction and thrillers, Emma Healey – who made waves with her lauded debut, Elizabeth is Missing – serves up an equally strong follow-up in the atmospheric story of a gone girl’s return, Whistle in the Dark. Peppered with misdirection and false leads, it’s a compelling take on domestic detection that demonstrates how little we might know of the ones we love most. It’s a theme echoed in Belinda Bauer’s Snap. A leading exponent of clever, thought-provoking thrillers, Bauer’s latest takes on the intriguing premise of several lives irrevocably altered by a single, hair-trigger choice and the result is a novel that haunts long after the final page. There’s an equal bite to Jessica Knoll’s The Favourite Sister, which pulls readers into a slow-descending whirlpool of cut-throat ambition and female rivalry in the public gaze. As with her last novel, The Luckiest Girl Alive, this is a compelling story that asks difficult questions and offers no easy answers.
After the bestselling, Costa First Novel award-winning Elizabeth is Missing comes Whistle in the Dark... How do you rescue someone who has already been found? Jen's fifteen-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days. When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over...
Praised as 'the best crime novel I've read in a very long time.' by Val McDermid, Snap is a whip-sharp investigation into the devastating long-term impact of a single decision. Eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. But she never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.
A riveting follow-up to Jessica Knoll’s debut, The Luckiest Girl Alive. Five women, one viciously competitive reality TV show and a no-holds-barred race to the top. Vicious backstabbing, scathing social media attacks and finely-tuned scripting draw in the viewing public every week, all orchestrated by the show's omnipotent producers. But even they don't know that season four will end in murder.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
May also sees a plethora of brilliant new fantasy and science fiction, beginning with two books which – in truth – defy categorisation altogther. Hailed as Harry Potter for grown-ups and the first in a trilogy, Andrew Caledecott’s Rotherweird (published in paperback this month) combines Ghormenghastian fantasy, Dickensian mystery, and spirited historical fiction to create something wonderfully new. Described in the Independent as, ‘a remarkable achievement’ and ‘extremely funny, in a typically British sort of way’, its equally satisfying sequel Wyntertide is also out this month. There are series returns too from Sylvain Neuval with Only Human - the finale of the speculative Themis Files Trilogy - and Joanne M. Harris, on marvellously playful form in The Testament of Loki as she pits her god of trickery against the challenges of the modern age. Louise O’Neill also turns her hand to traditional storytelling with a new edge, giving The Little Mermaid a voice of her own in her epic, salt-swept re-imagining, The Surface Breaks. And the master of horror, Stephen King, also makes a welcome comeback, combining suspense and supernatural storytelling in his new standalone novel The Outsider.
Twelve gifted children are banished to the town of Rotherweird. Four and a half centuries on, the town of Rotherweird is still bound by the Elizabethan laws that keep it isolated from the rest of England. Then an outsider arrives: a man of unparalleled wealth and power, enough to buy the town of Rotherweird... A brilliantly original new series, described as ‘Harry Potter for grown-ups’.
Welcome back to Rotherweird. Disturbing omens multiply: a funeral delivers a cryptic warning; an ancient portrait speaks; the Herald disappears - and democracy threatens the uneasy covenant between town and countryside. Wynter is coming. Offering glimmering echoes of Gormenghast, Edward Gorey and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Wyntertide is a festival of arcane delights; a novel to be savoured.
We always thought the biggest threat to humanity would come from the outside. We were wrong. Only Human is the gripping, edge-of-your-seat finale to the ground-breaking Themis Files trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel.
Playful, entertaining and daring, this follow-up to Joanne M. Harris’s bestselling The Gospel of Loki pits the Norse gods against the challenges of a modern world where nothing is quite as they expect. Ragnarok was the End of Worlds. Asgard fell, the old gods were defeated but Loki was never one to take his fate lying down. Now he must use his trickery and wit to reclaim all that he has lost.
In Louise O’Neill’s The Surface Breaks, The Little Mermaid is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, featuring the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans.
When an eleven-year-old boy is found murdered in a town park, reliable eyewitnesses undeniably point to the town's popular Little League coach, Terry Maitland, as the culprit. But Maitland has an alibi... A man cannot be in two places at the same time. Can he? A compelling and chilling suspense novel, which will delight all readers of King's bestselling Hodges Trilogy.
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The Outsider (Hardback)
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Our non-fiction selection is marshalled by Antony Beevor’s much-anticipated Arnhem, a revisionist history of the battle for the bridges that bursts open the much-mythologised canon. There are lessons too from our ancient past in Steve Brusatte’s engaging and extremely readable introduction to the extraordinary insights of modern-day palaeontology, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs; a book to waken the fossil-hunter in everyone. Elsewhere, a book with its feet on the ground and its eyes on the stars, Wild Signs and Star Paths is Tristan Gooley’s excellent guide to the language of nature. Known as the ‘Natural Navigator’ Gooley opens doors to a new lexicon, told through astronomy and the markers and signs in flora and fauna that human beings once comprehended as easily as roadsigns. It's eye-opening reading.
Then, we’ve three books that offer lessons in how we live and treat ourselves and others. Recently non-fiction has been replete with a flurry of excellent new books giving insights into the medical profession, mostly concentrating on the experience of clinicians. Opening the door to the essential – but often overlooked - work of the nursing profession, Christie Watson’s The Language of Kindness is an outstanding counterpoint; a memoir that offers vital insights into the value of compassion. There are lessons in kindness too from Bryony Gordon in her new book, Eat, Drink, Run, in particular the kindness we all-too-often fail to offer ourselves. A book about overcoming fear and pursuing what makes you happy, it's recommended reading for anyone who has ever wanted to try something new but felt put-off by thinking they don’t fit the mould. And not fitting the mould also provides much food for thought in Robert Webb’s funny, thoughtful and thought-provoking autobiography, How Not to Be a Boy, which is released this month in paperback.
Lastly, we’ve something to set taste-buds alight as the weather warms up. Dan Toombs – aka The Curry Guy – cooked up a storm with his debut recipe book, bringing take-away favourites home to the amateur cook’s kitchen. His follow-up, The Curry Guy Easy, goes one-step further, with much-loved dishes that need minimal preparation, leaving plenty of time free to enjoy the sunshine (or read another book).
The great airborne battle for the bridges in 1944, by Britain's bestselling historian. The British fascination with heroic failure has clouded the story of Arnhem in myths. Antony Beevor, using often overlooked sources from Dutch, British, American, Polish and German archives, has reconstructed the terrible reality of the fighting, looking into the very heart of war.
66 million years ago the dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the earth. Today, Dr. Steve Brusatte, one of the leading scientists of a new generation of dinosaur hunters, armed with cutting edge technology, is piecing together the complete story of how the dinosaurs ruled the earth for 150 million years.
Opening up a pathway to a near-lost art, Tristan Gooley, author of The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs and How to Read Water, shows how it is possible to achieve a whole new level of outdoors awareness. This guide will enable you to sense direction from stars and plants, forecast weather from woodland sounds and predict the next action of an animal from its body language - instantly.
Christie Watson was a nurse for twenty years. Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, The Language of Kindness is a remarkable account of a profession defined by acts of care, compassion and kindness. An astonishing memoir about nursing and an urgent call for compassion and kindness An amazing book - terrifying at times, but tender and truthful.
Bryony Gordon was not a runner. A loafer, a drinker, a smoker, yes. A runner, no. She started to realise that getting outside, moving her body and talking to others might actually help her. A book for anyone who has wanted to try something new but have worried that they ‘just don’t fit the mould’, Eat, Drink, Run is a funny, inspirational read about learning to live well in the skin you're in.
Looking back over his life, from schoolboy crushes (on girls and boys) to discovering the power of making people laugh (in the Cambridge Footlights with David Mitchell), and from losing his beloved mother to becoming a husband and father, Robert Webb considers the absurd expectations boys and men have thrust upon them at every stage of life.
One of Waterstones bookseller’s favourite go-to cookery books, Dan Toombs’s first book The Curry Guy became a national bestseller. Now he’s back with a host of new recipes to make making the perfect curry even easier. Here he shares long-awaited recipes for the likes of Chicken 65, Black Dhal, Aloo Chaat, Simple Dosas, Prawn Balti, Lamb Keema Saag, and many more mouth-watering favourites.
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