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7:00am Saturday 16th February 2013 in NewsXtra
A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.
By Kate Whiting
House Of Earth by Woody Guthrie is published in hardback by Fourth Estate, priced £14.99. Available now.
Folk legend Woody Guthrie is best known for songs, but his recently discovered novel House Of Earth showcases another extraordinary talent.
The plot centres around simple farming couple Tike and Ella May Hamlin, and their struggle to build a "fireproof, windproof, rainproof, sweatproof, bugproof, foolproof, everything proof" adobe dwelling on land they don't own.
Co-editors Johnny Depp and Douglas Brinkley claim that House Of Earth is the literary companion to Guthrie's most famous song, This Land Is Your Land, and there are certainly comparisons to be made.
Guthrie uses the story to rail against the big banks and business conglomerates that bought up huge swathes of the Texas Panhandle in the post-Depression years, in an echo of some of his most popular folk anthems.
Guthrie completed the book in 1947, but it is only now being published. Casually erotic and extremely left-leaning, it would have created quite a stir in 1940s/1950s America, although a post-50 Shades audience will probably find it quite tame.
Gritty, vulgar and aspirational, House Of Earth tells a fascinating story of life in 1930s Dust Bowl America.
9/10 (Review by Kathryn Gaw) Revenge by Yoko Ogawa is published in paperback by Harvill Secker, priced £10.99. Available now.
From award-winning Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa, Revenge provides snapshots of the lives of several characters and their unsettling tales, woven together in a seamless web of elegant narrative.
These eccentric stories include that of a woman who returns ritualistically to the same bakery to purchase her son's favourite cake; although he died in an accident some time ago, and an inventor who becomes the curator of a museum of implements of torture, and not forgetting the Bengal Tiger in the garden...
There are no perfect endings and certainly no heroes, just a series of interconnected lives in the city, as strange and as morbid as each other but absorbing and beautiful in equal measure.
Ogawa's novel is unique and oddly refreshing, plunging through the warm and safe banality of day-to-day life into a core that is cold and unsettling.
Given the quality of the writing, it can perhaps be assumed that not much has been lost in Stephen Snyder's translation from the original Japanese-language book.
9/10 (Review by Natsayi Sithole) Orkney by Amy Sackville is published in hardback by Granta Books, priced £12.99. Available February 7.
Amy Sackville's Orkney tells the story of a literature professor and his unnamed bride - his most gifted and enthusiastic student of the past year - on their honeymoon.
Over the two weeks, during which the story unfolds, the professor spends his days attempting to write a book while being distracted by his enigmatic wife, who whiles away the hours by staring out to sea.
Every night, the increasingly besotted professor asks her questions in a bid to uncover who she is and why she wanted to honeymoon on a barren Orkney isle.
Sackville's beautifully descriptive prose - told from the professor's point of view - transports the reader to a chilling landscape, allowing them to experience the taste of each sip of whisky, every touch of the young wife's skin.
The reader is left asking questions right to the last page: who is this mysterious woman and why is she so obsessed with the sea and what lies beneath?
It's a haunting page-turner that must be read.
9/10 (Review by Victoria Burt) This Is The Way by Gavin Corbett is published in hardback by Fourth Estate, priced £14.99. Available now.
Gavin Corbett is an Irish author with a Midas touch on the written word.
In his debut novel, he brings us into the world of Anthony Sonaghan, an Irish Traveller whose heritage is as mythical as it is deadly.
Born to two people whose clans have a bitter hatred of each other, Anthony had grown up away from his family, and knew little of the feud, that is until the feud finds him.
It's while he is lying low in Dublin that we first meet Anthony and Corbett writes in the character's dialect. He's a man of simple pleasures and a willingness to better himself.
His uncle, Arthur, who forms the role of protector and guide, opens up the secrets of his nephew's family that are intertwined with intriguing traditional folk tales.
Each page paints vivid colours of disturbing truths, gentle innocence and sly humour.
9/10 (Review by Phil Robinson) The Surprising Life Of Charlie Glass (Size 18 And A Bit) by Angela Woolfe is published in paperback by Arrow, priced £6.99. Available now.
Angela Woolfe, best known as the teen fiction author responsible for the Avril Crump series, releases her first foray into the adult fiction market with chick-lit archetype Charlie Glass.
Charlie is admittedly overweight. Having spent the last decade caring for her dying father, she is unhappy with her looks and her family's opinions of her.
Sparked by the inheritance of her father's shoe emporium, she heads to boot-camp to get her life in shape, returning thin, blonde and glamorous.
This modern retelling of the classic Cinderella story comes complete with wicked stepmother, bitter half-sisters and even a hilariously cliched glass slipper.
However, Disney this is not - where Cinderella's stepmother wouldn't let her go to the ball, the mistreatment here is plainly abusive - and readers will get frustrated by how often the protagonist lets people insult her.
Though the story is generally lighthearted and satisfyingly witty, the 'beauty is only skin deep' moral message is heavy-handed, and you never root for the protagonist in the way you want to.
5/10 (Review by Holly McKenzie) The Sixth Soul by Mark Roberts is published in hardback by Corvus, priced £7.99. Available now.
"I did not come out of darkness. I am darkness itself," utters the killer in this debut crime thriller from Mark Roberts.
Having worked as a teacher for 30 years, and after receiving an award for the best new play of the year, The Sixth Soul is Roberts's first novel aimed at adults.
The story centres around Detective Rosen and his investigation into a serial killer dubbed by the media as 'Herod' - a sadistic killer haunting the streets of London, abducting and mutilating pregnant women.
The book opens as the fifth woman is taken and as the story progresses, the plot twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.
Many will find the subject matter disturbing but the book is a real page-turner, with lots of very short chapters, making it an easy read.
It is by no means a literary masterpiece, as the ending becomes rather predictable and some of the characters are a little cliched, but it is an enjoyable read nonetheless.
6/10 (Review by Rachael Dunn) Children's book of the week Survive by Alex Morel is published in paperback by Egmont, priced £6.99. Available now.
Teenager Jane Solis is suicidal and has planned for six months how she will kill herself.
She will comply with doctors in the institute in which she is being treated, so will earn enough trust to be allowed home for Christmas. But she'll never get home as she will take a concoction of pills on the plane and die mid-air.
However, as she tries to take the tablets in a toilet, the jet crashes in snowy mountains and she is one of only two survivors, alongside surfer Paul Hart.
Now it is a fight to live - and for the first time in years she wants to take on the challenge.
New Jersey author Alex Morel's debut novel of a journey to recovery is believable and heartbreaking.
Teenagers will relate to likeable Jane's fears and anxieties and will be eagerly cheering every step she takes with her new friend Paul.
8/10 (Review by Caroline Davison) Non-fiction Green Philosophy: How To Think Seriously About The Planet by Roger Scruton is published in paperback by Atlantic Books, priced £12.99. Available now.
Whether you are a global-warming alarmist, predicting all manner of environmental catastrophes, or someone who simply scoffs at such fears, there is plenty of material here to provoke thought about what many regard as probably the most important challenge that faces humanity today.
Professor Roger Scruton, one of our leading philosophers, and one who leans somewhat to the right in much of his thinking, takes a long, hard - and overall a constructive and calming - look at the problem.
His fundamental principle is that the state should be prevented from undertaking tasks in this area that can be better performed by the citizens and private initiatives.
It is, in short, a conservative's viewpoint on this issue.
As you would expect of a philosopher, Scruton examines all the arguments adduced by those who fear global warming and those who deny it, and produces a whole series of common-sense ideas which he hopes will satisfy both sides of the debate.
But I do wish he would avoid using words, or non-words, such as "oikophilia" (and conversely "oikophobia"), which detract from the otherwise smooth flow of his arguments.
6/10 (Review by Chris Moncrieff) The Lion Sleeps Tonight And Other Stories Of Africa by Rian Malan is published in hardback by Grove Press, priced £16.99. Available now.
In a follow-up to his memoir My Traitor's Heart (first published 20 years ago), Journalist Rian Malan looks at the steps - and missteps - taken to try to build a new South Africa.
Two decades ago, Malan, who grew up in a middle-class and pro-apartheid Afrikaner family in a white suburb of Johannesburg, tracked his family's 400-year history and shared his own feelings about race.
Here he traces the history of the titular world-famous song back to a recording from 1930 by a Zulu singer called Solomon Linda, touches on the trial of Winnie Mandela and stumbles upon the explosive controversy over President Mbeki's Aids policies of the 1990s.
Malan's sardonic narration offers a succinct picture of South Africa today.
6/10 (Review by Rachel Howdle) The Future by Al Gore is published in hardback by WH Allen, priced £25. Available now.
Al Gore, the world's most famous almost-US president, has written a laundry list about The Future.
Detailing every factor that may shape the future and then some, the majority of the book is an encyclopedic analysis of our current global catastrophes, with the usual suspects of big business and globalisation.
Though comprehensive, this chunk is dull and not very well planned, with Gore regularly flipping between topics with abandon - at one point covering multinationals, the eurozone crisis and the concept of the nation state over the space of three pages.
Where this book hits its stride is in the last chapter, The Edge, which looks at why we're handling climate change so badly.
It's a compelling and powerful account - and one well worth sticking out for.
7/10 (Review by Tobias Chapple)
Best-sellers for the week ending February 2
Paperbacks 1 The Great Comic Relief Bake Off: 13 Easy Recipes Perfect For A Bake Sale, Great British Bake Off 2 The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer 3 Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn 4 HHhH, Laurent Binet 5 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson 6 The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce 7 Waiting For Sunrise, William Boyd 8 Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel 9 Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain 10 Capital, John Lanchester Hardbacks 1 Queenie, Jacqueline Wilson 2 Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, Jeff Kinney 3 Wonders Of Life, Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen 4 Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel 5 A Memory Of Light: The Wheel Of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 6 The Examined Life: How We Lose And Find Ourselves, Stephen Grosz 7 Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, Jamie Oliver 8 The Legend Of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma 9 The Return Of A King: The Battle For Afghanistan, William Dalrymple 10 Close To The Bone, Stuart MacBride EBooks 1 Life Of Pi, Yann Martel 2 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson 3 Safe House, Chris Ewan 4 The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer 5 Eleven, Mark Watson 6 Thursdays In The Park, Hilary Boyd 7 Dark Winter, David Mark 8 The Expats, Chris Pavone 9 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson 10 Take Two (A Crime Thriller With A Killer Twist),Stephen Leather :: Note to editors: This is a re-send of the book column, including the latest chart from Waterstone's
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