So many books, so little time… Who hasn’t heard this before? We, the digital booksellers of 24symbols, are set on helping you make the best of your time and presenting you those books that everybody is talking about. However, this is more than just a bestseller list. We also want to point out hidden gems that have caught our special attention. Check out the best books of the moment and find your next read. We made sure to include something for everyone’s taste:
The Cutting Room
The writing duo Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper, aka Ashley Dyer, has published its second novel in the Lake/Carver detective series. With Murphy being a prize-winning novelist and Pepper a policing and forensics expert, the series is a must for those who like to get into the specifics of police procedurals and who do not mind if things get bloody.
In this gripping crime story the murderer kills men (interesting alternative to the usual serial killers of young women) to display their brains in a self-arranged art exhibition on a public street. Being told by the changing perspectives of the detectives Lake and Carver, as well as the so-called Ferryman, the book offers you a great insight of the characters’ motivations and perceptions. This is especially interesting in the case of the Ferryman who considers himself an artist whose art is destroyed by police investigation. As his fanbase grows on social media, his fans begin to sabotage the investigation in order to preserve the killer’s art. A truly intriguing read that is fun and disturbing at the same time.
Lifting Belly – An Erotic Poem
Gertrude Stein’s erotic poem is considered a lesbian classic among literary critics and has been reprinted by Counterpoint in honor of Pride Month. Stein wrote the almost 50-page poem for her life partner Alice B. Toklas between 1915 and 1917. At this time, the Great War was at its peak and the two women were on a constant move. So it is not surprising that LIFTING BELLY not only celebrates lesbian love but also examines the influence of war on love. LIFTING BELLY is an inspiring read for everybody, regardless of your sexual orientation!
This well researched historical novel by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini sheds light on a brave group of young women who risked everything to fight for justice and freedom in Nazi Germany. The so called Harnack cell has long been overlooked because they were thought to be communist sympathizers, as most of their information came from Soviet sources.
Chiaverini mixes historical figures such as the main heroine Mildred Harnack and her friends Greta Kuckhoff and Martha Dodd with fictive characters, the most important one being Sara Weitz, a Jewish student of American Literature. By adding the Jewish perspective, the story gains complexity and allows Chiaverini to intersperse different experiences. A thrilling read that will captivate you and that honours the courage of all those who are defending liberty in times of suppression.
Only the River
Anne Raeff is known for diving deep into the stories of her characters and ONLY THE RIVER is no exception. 13-year old Pepa escapes Vienna in 1938 and arrives with her family in El Castillo, Nicaragua, where her parents (both doctors) fight the yellow fever. While her parents long for winter and culture, Pepa connects with the jungle and falls in love with a boy from the village. However, she is uprooted again as the family moves to New York. Several decades later her daughter travels back to Nicaragua to look for answers to her brother’s death, who fought with the Sandinistas in the Nicaraguan Revolution. Raeff entangles many different lives and backgrounds into a beautiful and multilayered story about flight, war and the need to move on and especially, as one of the minor characters puts it, about the unanswerable questions of life. An engrossing read that will stay with you for a long time after you have reached the final page.
Sansei and Sensibility
This collection of short stories combines work of fiction and nonfiction, resulting in a fascinating portrayal of the Sansei community (third generation of Japanese immigrants in the Americas). In the first part of the book, Yamashita introduces the reader to historical, cultural and social aspects of Japanese American life. The second part consists of a Japanese American retelling of Jane Austen’s novels. What may sound like literary Kamikaze actually turns out to be hilarious thanks to Yamashita’s witty parallels between the British gentry of the late 18th century and Sansei upbringings in the suburbs of L.A.
Just as Jane Austen, Yamashita knows how to disclose society’s flaws and peculiarities, as is clearly demonstrated by Candy Yuasa in The Dentist and the Dental Hygienist or the biting letter exchange in Omaki-san (inspired by Jane Austen’s Lady Susan). An absolutely intriguing and fun read we cannot recommend enough!
Can you get away with murder? If you are a tenured professor at a renown university maybe you can… At least this is the theory. Daniel Waite is a spousal hire, the real academic star is his wife Abbie, but he is likeable and inoffensive and students enroll in his class because he goes easy on the grades. We learn all this after having discovered on the very first page that he is a murderer. So how did this happen? Will he be able to get away with it? You will sure hope so until things get real and a sense for justice kicks in. A cynic novel about elites and closed communities with brilliant movie references. If you are a filmophile or a fan of dark humor, PRIVILIGE is a must-read for you!
Misconduct of the Heart
The much acclaimed Canadian writer Cordelia Strube is back with another first-rate novel and she only needs one chapter to throw the reader into a swirl of traumatic experiences including PTSD, rape, alcoholism and capitalistic exploitation. What sounds like a depressing read is actually a darkly humorous story told by kitchen manager Stevie. Unable to emotionally connect with the people that surround her (or so she thinks) she is actually quite loveable herself. You cannot help but warm up to her biting sarcasm, her way of facing the challenges she encounters in life. Strube knows how to cover serious themes without being patronizing or judgemental and, most importantly, she reminds us that a good sense of humor may help with getting through the seemingly impossible.
Queen of the Owls
How do we want to be seen and what does it matter how others perceive us? Elizabeth is tired of her role as the brainy one, the responsible one who always has a plan and thinks everything through. At age 34 she is a mother, wife, PhD student and teacher but something is missing. Her marriage is a “polite co-existence” and she is yearning to be seen as a desirable woman, not just as the brilliant scholar. In a search for wholeness, she reenacts the nude portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe, the painter she is writing her dissertation on. The pictures go public and while everything Elizabeth has worked for seems to crumble before her eyes, she gets the chance to redefine the role she had been living so far.
Barabara Linn Probst raises questions about labels, perception and authenticity. Just as O’Keeffe did not like being described as Modernist or Woman Artist because it did not capture her whole being as an artist, Elizabeth does not want to be recognized only for her intellect.
When Nataša Kramberger published her debut novel in 2007, she was immediately recognized as a new powerful literary voice in Slovenia. In 2010, she was awarded the European Union Prize for Literature and since then the novel has been translated into multiple languages.
The two protagonists Jana and Bepi are both foreigners in Amsterdam. Jana is a young woman from the Slovenian countryside and Bepi an old man from Venice. Both have many stories to tell and these stories make up the novel. They complement each other, offer different perspectives on similar situations and give the author a great opportunity to engage with different voices. The result is a wildly creative use of language and a novel that is at times melancholic, at times comic but always beautiful.
The Book of Anna
Mexican writer Carmen Boullosa’s sequel to Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina is an incredibly smart take on fiction and reality. Merging the two, the novel is set in Saint Petersburg in 1905 and includes “real” as well as “fictional” characters, such as Anna’s son Sergei who is painfully aware of his condition. Sergei meets Tolstoy in his dreams and has trouble coming to terms with being a product of great novelist’s imagination. Full of clever twists and surprises, this book will make you smile at Boullosa’s crafty story line. While it is not necessary to have read Tolstoy’s version, this is a definite must read for all fans of Anna Karenina who long to know more.
Beautifully translated by Samantha Schnee.
Canadian multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya has delivered a stunning novel about being an artist in times of social media. The protagonist Sheela is a Toronto music legend who is proud to pour her entire being into her music. Her groundedness is being challenged, when youtuber RIK-MINI becomes popular overnight by covering one of Neela’s songs. The two women meet up and become friends but their relationship is build on fragile grounds. While friendship between artists has always been a roller coaster ride between mutual admiration and jealousy; social media is giving these feelings an explosive and unpredictable outlet. The novel’s underlying theme is not only rivalry and insecurity among artists but also (the lack of) communication and what it means to be a person of color performing for a mainstream – in other words white – audience.
Don’t forget to check out the book’s soundtrack! Yes, that’s right, Shraya recorded both versions of “Every Song” – the very reason for Neela’s and Rikmini’s friendship and conflict. We’ll leave it to you to decide which version you like best. But first, make sure to read the book!
As former environmental lobbyist, Heath is able to draw from his experience and delights us with this authentic and gripping eco-thriller. Meet Kit Olinsky, a single mom who works for the Alaska Environmental Lobby and is falsely charged for the death of a logger which was presumably caused by eco-terrorists. In order to prove her innocence (and keep her child’s custody), she turns to her ex-lover Rinn Vaness for help and might have to betray an old friend of hers. The result is a fast-moving novel that cleverly intertwines topical issues such as environmental politics, land management matters and Native American rights, while spicing things up with an unresolved love story.
Evie of the Deepthorn
The title of this peculiar novel has a different meaning for each of its three protagonists. For Kent, “Evie of the Deepthorn” is a cult movie, for Sarah a novel she wrote as a teenager and for Reza a poem by the deceased poet Kent Adler. What links them all is a deep emotional bond with the movie/novel/poem and maybe even more than that. The storyline seems to be straightforward as each character narrates his part one after the other and their lives start to overlap. Yet, things do not quite add up, or maybe we should rather say that time is a flexible concept in Babyn’s puzzling debut novel. In the end the reader will have to decide which interpretation of time to believe, the fictitious or the realistic one. A wonderful read that will surprise you with its experimental joy.
A powerful novel about gender, sexuality and power relations that will have you turn page after page without even realizing it. The main story is simple but fascinating: Three girls on the verge of adulthood have found a way to turn into boys. Thrilled by the experience, Kim, Momo and Bella start living as girls by day and boys by night. As boys, the three girls are treated differently by their peers and especially Kim is intrigued by her boyhood and the opportunities it offers. Suddenly her world changes from being objectified to being on the dominant side. At this point the novel gains depth and starts raising more complex questions about identity that will have you reconsider your own perspective on gender and identity.
Jessica Schiefauer is one of Sweden’s best-known authors for young adult fiction but don’t be fooled: GIRLS LOST is a must-read for teenagers and adults alike. Thanks to Saskia Vogel (translator and acclaimed author of PERMISSION) the poetic and empathetic voice of this novel has found its way into the English version.
Home is Nearby
A wonderful debut novel that transports you right to the tumultuous beginning of the Polish crisis in 1981. The main focus is on Ania, who moves to the city to study art and finds a new life, falls in love and experiences a creative awakening. Through her eyes you get to witness the political events of the era that lead to food scarcity and repression (of art and society alike) and serve as important background to the story. When Ania and her friends rebel against the authorities with their art, Ania starts wondering whether art can be a way to change the world. A captivating mix of art, history and love!
Set in the near future, HAPPY FAMILY revolves around an augmented reality game of the same name and shows how it affects the lives of different people, including its creator Tom Hannah. One of his biggest fans is Germaine, an art critic with a troubled childhood who is only able to express her feelings through HAPPY FAMILY. She plans to write her next book on Tom but after his mother’s death he moved to Spain and has shut himself off from the world. Germaine follows his trail and is forced to confront her own (made-up) reality while she is searching for the elusive artist. Wonderfully sarcastic and poetic, you will either love it or hate it but this book will not leave you indifferent.
Game of Numbers
This is the fresh and dynamic story of a young Mexican who faces the consequences of a credit which he took to pay for his brother’s university studies; a story that allows us to enjoy the warmth of family and friendship when in need. From the very first page, the reader is sucked into a spinning stream of thought which dances around the obligations of debt. The constant calculations of the protagonist’s red numbers are intertwined with a personal search as he balances his fraternal responsibility with his own interests in life. A heartwarming read that shows us to never give up!
Needless to say, this is a tough read, especially baring in mind that we are talking about real events, real lives that were affected by this perfidious crime. Nevertheless, we feel the need to recommend TOXIC LOVE not only because Tomás Guillén, as can be expected from a prize-winning, investigative journalist, gives us a well researched and detailed account of the happenings; but also because he recreates the suffocating feeling of helplessness while racing to search for answers. With the help of scientific, medical and forensic evidence, the murderer is eventually convicted but the story does not end there. First published in 1995, this new edition of Tomás Guillén’s gripping crime story features additional chapters that reveal the sad aftermath of the Ohama poisoning.
This collection of Nordic folklore takes us right to the home of Santa and his elves. With stories about humility, magic and love, this is a great read for the holiday season with curious stories for those who are looking for alternatives to Grimm’s fairytales. Let yourself surprise by the ancient wonders from the North!
The novel starts with a bombshell in the form of a letter that Mala left for her son Ronojoy to read after her death. In the letter she reveals that Ronojoy’s brother and he do not share the same father and asks him to decide whether to keep or disclose this secret. While this revelation explains many events of the past, it also pushes Ronojoy to further investigate his family’s history.
The story develops quickly and describes how one incident may affect many people in different ways and change their course of life dramatically. It is also a careful exploration of the mind, emotional heritage and family. Mukerjee is interested in the way our mind works to protect us from our darkest memories. In this sense, the dark circles under Ronojoys eyes reflect the dark circle his family is trying to break free from. Will he and his brother be able to defy the pattern?
Say hi to Major Ellie, a US pilot whose plane crashes in the desert and who finds shelter in the refugee camp he should have bombed. This awkward beginning already hints at the dark cynicism that sets the tone for RED BIRDS, a sharp-witted, sarcastic criticism of US military interventions in the Middle East.
Told from alternating perspectives, the observations are utterly comic until the brutal truth hits you and the laughter gets stuck in your throat. Add a good dose of absurdity and you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a post war zone where the missing are haunting the living and no-one can be sure to trust in what they see. Thankfully there’s a philosophical dog whose analysis of the situation puts things into perspective.
The Papaya King
In his second novel Pelzman offers us a sharp social study of our times. His protagonist Bobby Walser is a young introverted writer who seems to have sprung out of a Russian novel (Pelzman himself studied Russian literature) and is oddly out of place on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. While trying to find his feet as a writer he clashes with reality and clings to his romantic penmanship with Rose – an mysterious woman who might not even exist… When he discovers a new sculpture that confronts him with everything he despises about the 21st century, he realizes that it is time to man up and fight for his values. What on first sight may appear old-fashioned is really the core principle of civilization: mutual respect. A great novel to rethink today’s tendency for self-indulgence and social detachment.
In the Shadow of Wolves
We’ll be honest upfront: This is a tough, heartbreaking read but it also sheds light on a dark part of European history that deserves to be acknowledged in public memory. Toward the end of WWII, a group of German refugees tries to reach the Lithuanian border hoping for easier conditions. The journey is dreadful to say the least and mothers have to take decisions that no parent should have to take. Luckily, Slepikas tells their fate in a respectful and clear language rather than lapsing into a pitiful or voyeuristic portrayal. Interesting: Slepikas is a renowned actor and producer and originally wanted to turn the story into a movie. We’re happy we got to read the book first 🙂
The Lives of Others
A wonderful collection of portraits that shows how colorful the world is. When Panayides started this project for the Cypris Mail newspaper, the idea was to present a different celebrity each week. However, it turned out that it’s not the famous peoples’ stories that are most interesting, quite the contrary. This mosaic of (extra-)ordinary lives allows us to meet all kinds of people ranging from an aging circus clown over a street sweeper to a survivor of the Turkish Invasion (highly recommended). As all people are tied to Cyprus in one way or another, the collection also serves as a portrait of the Greek island with all its problems and joys.
Every day we receive thousands of new books and we carefully select the ones that we believe will interest you most. Our recipe? A great book should give food for thought, it should move, educate and fascinate the reader. A book is a door to another world, and it is while reading how we discover different perspectives and widen our horizon. A book can change a person but be no fool, because just as Edmund Wilson said, “no two persons ever read the same book.” That is another beauty of books. There is always room for interpretation, imagination and discussion. That is why we invite you to comment the books you read, recommend them to your friends and discuss them with fellow digital readers on 24symbols.
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