Bookcase

Droitwich Advertiser: Bookcase Bookcase

A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.

By Kate Whiting


New fiction

NW by Zadie Smith is published in hardback by Hamish Hamilton, priced £18.99. Available now.

Zadie Smith's fourth novel centres around four Londoners who grew up on the same NW council estate.

It follows them as they make their way in the world, influenced by characters they encounter along the way.

It's by no means an easy read. In particular, the first part of the story is written as a stream of consciousness, interspersed with the odd poem even.

The reader has to work to keep up with who is talking and what is happening. To find that the majority of the novel is written in a more conventional narrative comes as a relief.

Despite the demanding start, it's hard not to be impressed by Smith's ability to paint a vivid picture and her razor-sharp observations that succeed in cutting through pretensions to get the heart of people and situations.

NW rewards those who make it through with characters and plot that intrigue. It's just a shame that the ending fails to tie up the various strands in a satisfying conclusion.

6/10

(Review by Stephanie Murray)


Philida by Andre Brink is published in hardback by Harvill Secker, priced £14.99. Available now.

Philida is the latest novel from Andre Brink, one of South Africa's most celebrated writers,

The eponymous heroine of Philida is a slave in 19th century South Africa, where the abolishment of slavery is tantalisingly almost at hand.

Philida has borne four children fathered by her owner's son, Francois Brink. When he reneges on his promises of freeing her, she attempts to seek legal redress. This results in life-changing and unexpected consequences for both slave and masters.

Brink writes beautiful prose peppered with evocative descriptions of historic and often tragic Cape life.

This is made even more effective when his acknowledgements at the end reveal that Philida was an actual slave who served the author's very own ancestors.

However, the book as a whole is unfortunately missing a meaty enough storyline, which, paired with a lack of suspense, means it is sometimes, well, boring.

It is no surprise then, that although longlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize, it failed to make the shortlist.

5/10

(Review by Zahra Saeed)


This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz is published in paperback by Faber and Faber, priced £12.99. Available now.

As the title suggests, this short story collection offers a downbeat meditation on love and lost love.

But while each tale becomes more heartbreaking than the last, Junot Diaz's colourful and often crude language elevates it into something lyrical and even funny.

Most of the stories are linked by the same narrator, Yunior, who recounts a different break-up tale in each chapter.

Yunior, an awkward adolescence in Diaz's previous collection Drown (although this book stands alone), has graduated here into full and fallible manhood.

Lusty and prone to affairs - despite how much he loves his current girlfriend - Yunior's infidelity is his eventual downfall.

But he's a man shaped by experience and, as the stories progress, we learn about a difficult childhood and a problematic dynamic between him and his older brother Rafa.

Diaz raises the point that, despite the partners who come and go, sometimes it's our family relationships which truly define us.

8/10

(Review by Lisa Williams)


Zoo by James Patterson is published in hardback by Century, priced £18.99. Available September 27.

A master of suspense, James Patterson times his novels down to the last beat.

Zoo is no different. The standalone story follows Jackson Oz, a university dropout, who has a theory. He has noticed a change in animal behaviour across the world.

On a whole it appears that creatures across the globe are changing to become hyperaggressive towards one particular animal - humans. He calls this theory HAC or Human-Animal Conflict.

Oz gets word from a contact in Botswana that a village has been wiped out by unprovoked lions. What has made these beasts act so out of nature?

Soon it becomes apparent that it is not just large wild animals that are being affected as domestic pets and other smaller animals become increasingly aggressive.

Nothing and no one is safe anymore. This is a fast-paced and addictive biology-driven tale.

9/10

(Review by Rachel Howdle)


Breed by Chase Novak is published in paperback by Mulholland Books, priced £13.99. Available now.

Breed is Scott Spencer's debut novel under the pen name Chase Novak. Here, he tells a story of horror and family secrets.

After three years of marriage, wealthy Alex and Leslie Twisden have tried everything for a baby, but without success. Their lives take a drastic turn when another childless couple suddenly become pregnant.

They then travel to Slovenia to undertake an experimental procedure which begins to affect them almost immediately. Soon they are celebrating the birth of twins.

At first, all is well in children Adam and Alice's lives, but as the years roll by, their parents begin to act strangely.

Night after night, they are locked in their room, but it is not long before the sounds from their parents' room get louder and louder.

Adam fears for his life and plans to get him and Alice out of the house. However, their parents have other ideas...

8/10

(Review by Julie Cheng)


The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid is published in hardback by Little, Brown, priced £16.99. Available now.

Steph Harker is travelling through security at Chicago's O'Hare Airport when the pins holding her shattered leg together set off the alarms.

She's taken into a perspex box to be searched, leaving her son waiting outside - and then she witnesses him being led away by the hand of a man in uniform.

Thus begins the 26th novel from best-selling author Val McDermid. And if you think it sounds tame, then you're much mistaken.

As Steph tells her story to the FBI, it becomes clear that Jimmy isn't her child - and that her close relation with a reality TV star could hold the key to the identity of his abductor.

This is a standalone novel and although it is written with McDermid's customary flair for characterisation, the subject matter is a little different from her usual fare.

Be warned, though, the final pages contain more twists and turns than a king-sized corkscrew.

8/10

(Review by Sandra Mangan)


Non-fiction

Slavery Inc: The Untold Story Of International Sex Trafficking by Lydia Cacho is published by Portobello Books, priced £14.99. Available now.

It takes a brave reporter to explore and tackle the issue of sex trafficking, which is exactly what Mexican investigative journalist Lydia Cacho is.

Over a period of five years, she put her life in danger as she travelled around the world, visiting countries such as Turkey, Japan and Burma, to try to uncover some of the most harrowing tales from kidnapped victims as well as traffickers themselves and those who have saved and protected the innocent children and women who are smuggled into countries and abused as sex slaves.

These include members of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), policemen and informants who aim to halt the practice of human smuggling.

Cacho's mission has come with its own perils and challenges: she had to flee a Cambodian casino run by Chinese Triads, where girls under the age of 10 were bought and sold, and under a false identity, grabbed coffee with a Filipino trafficker in Cambodia.

A nun disguise also allowed her to walk through one of Mexico City's most dangerous neighbourhoods, controlled by powerful smugglers.

Informative and compelling, while at times shocking, Cacho's book proves why this topic needs to be addressed by governments and authorities immediately.

8/10

(Review by Shereen Low)


Between The Lines: My Autobiography by Victoria Pendleton is published in hardback by HarperSport, priced £20. Available now.

On the face of it, this is a story of a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a multi-time world champion track cyclist. Underneath it is a tale of the self-deprecation, self-harm and insecurity of a 'girl's girl' trying to make it in the previously masculine world of the velodrome.

Intertwined with her on-track exploits - which ended at the London Games - are frequent accounts of emotional struggle.

The recurring theme is her desire to earn her father's love - she essentially discovered she was proficient on two wheels by mirroring his love of the sport - and eventually her own deep but ultimately fractious relationship with one of her coaches in the national set-up.

Written beautifully with William Hill Sports Book of the Year winner Donald McRae, Victoria Pendleton's story gives a firm nod to the commitment involved in being an elite athlete, before showing how that mental desire can also help turn around personal problems as well.

9/10

(Review by Wayne Gardiner)


The Secret Lives Of Numbers: The Curious Truth Behind Everyday Digits by Michael Millar is published in hardback by Virgin Books, priced £9.99. Available now.

Finance journalist Michael Millar's new book is all about numbers and the interesting stories behind them.

From the 'nine' behind cloud nine and the 'seven-day' week to the '5' in the popular Chanel No 5 fragrance, The Secret Lives Of Numbers delves into the origin and background of the numbers we encounter in our everyday lives.

In an attempt to deconstruct 'the facts behind the figures', Millar explains what the digits in products such as suncream factors, barcode scanners and the A4 paper mean, and how they came into existence.

So if you want to know the maths behind footballers' sports shirts, why the number 13 is considered unlucky (or lucky by some), why the purest form of gold is in 24 carat, or even the psychology behind retail product pricing, this coffee-table book might have the answers.

Maybe you'll also get an insight into why this book has been priced at £9.99!

6/10

(Review by Nilima Dey Sarker)


Eminent Elizabethans: Rupert Murdoch, Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher & Mick Jagger by Piers Brendon is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £17.99. Available now

These mini-biographies of four famous modern "Elizabethans" - Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, Rupert Murdoch and Mick Jagger - contain enough vitriol to float a battleship.

Piers Brendon, a Fellow of the Churchill College, Cambridge, is a prolific author of outspoken books and seems to delight in courting controversy. He certainly knows how to despise.

His latest work is a sequel to his best-selling Eminent Edwardians and he writes with an apparent determination to pulverise his subjects.

Their real or perceived failings are mercilessly dissected in elegant, rapier-sharp prose. For good measure, a mini demolition job on the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is thrown in too.

Any virtues possessed, or good deeds performed, by Rupert, Charles, Diana, Maggie and Mick are either ignored, or glossed over.

Vicious gossip, especially about one's betters, is horribly alluring, however. Readers of this book will find it compulsively readable and often hilarious, and most will emerge refreshed from the experience.

8/10

(Review by Anthony Looch)


Best-sellers for the week ending September 15

Paperbacks

1 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

2 Fifty Shades Of Grey, EL James

3 Double Cross: The True Story Of The D-Day Spies, Ben Macintyre

4 Fifty Shades Freed, EL James

5 Thinking, Fast And Slow, Daniel Kahneman

6 Fifty Shades Darker, EL James

7 The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, Sue Townsend

8 Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

9 Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford

10 The Hairy Dieters: How To Love Food And Lose Weight, Dave Myers and Si King


Hardbacks

1 Dodger, Terry Pratchett

2 The Life, Martina Cole

3 A Wanted Man, Lee Child

4 Superworm, Julia Donaldson

5 Lorraine Pascale's Fast, Fresh And Easy Food, Lorraine Pascale

6 My Animals And Other Family, Clare Balding

7 A Possible Life, Sebastian Faulks

8 Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan

9 Winter Of The World, Ken Follett

10 Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom Of The Wicked, Derek Landy

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