The Best Books of the Moment

The Best Books of the Moment

So many books, so little time… We, the digital booksellers of 24symbols, are set on helping you make the best of your time. This is why each week we present you a book that has caught our special attention. This may be a book that everybody is talking about, the debut novel from an author one should look out for or a hidden gem that we were lucky enough to bring to light. Check out the best books of the moment and find your next read. We made sure to include something for everyone’s taste:

The Membranes 

Ta-wei Chi, translated by Ari Larissa Heinrich

Originally published in Chinese in 1995, this sci-fi novel is still able to sweep you off your feet. While quite a few elements that were far from usual in 1995 have already made it into our everyday lives (video calls, personal data tracking, drones) other ideas are pretty futuristic.

It is the late twenty-first century and humanity lives in domes at the bottom of the sea. Momo is a prominent skin-therapist but it is only in her professional life that she touches other peoples’ bodies. Apart from her work she keeps to herself and leads an isolated life. When she reunites with her distant mother, she starts questioning her past and the stories she has been told. These doubts take her on a mind-blowing quest for identity with many twists and surprises. Boundaries are softened in this narrative in more than one sense and even 25 years after its debut in Taiwan, this classic of queer speculative fiction still gives us plenty of food for thought.

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Every City Is Every Other City

John McFetridge

The master of crime fiction, John McFetridge, has just started a new promising book series: Gordon Stewart is a movie location scout, as well as a licensed private detective. Two jobs that complement each other wonderfully not only because of Gordon’s sense of direction but also because of his constant references to movie scripts and their incompatibility with real life.

Gordon leads an unspectacular life but is happy just the way it is. This changes when he accepts to help the movie production manager and starts looking for her missing uncle. Thanks to his connections in the private security sector, Gordon does get useful information on the uncle but in return he has to do some favors and is suddenly involved in a major sexual assault investigation. Just not on the side he would like to be on.

A witty novel with likeable characters and unexpected turns that explores serious topics such as depression, suicide and the #MeToo movement. We are sure looking forward to read more about Gordon Stewart. Or is it Stewart Gordon?

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Martha Moody

Susan Stinson

It is always a special pleasure when a book is being rediscovered and reissued. A great thank you to Small Beer Press for digging up this jewel by Susan Stinson and thus allowing us to enjoy her fantastic writing (pun intended).

Set during the times of the American frontier, this saucy Western celebrates female love and independence. Amanda is trapped in a desolate marriage but her spirits revive when starting an affair with Martha, the town’s majestic shop owner, who left her husband in order to move to the West. Inspired by her lover, Amanda writes magical tales about Martha and a flying cow, which eventually will get her into trouble.

Stinson’s powerful imagery draws you into the story from page one. She relishes in the descriptions of the erotic encounters and turns the pages into a luscious reading experience while keeping a humorous and playful tone. Absolutely delicious!

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The Day She Died

S. M. Freedman

A psychological thriller which explores the aftereffects of traumatic events while taking you on a spiraling journey through the subconscious mind. After a severe brain injury, Eve has to piece her life back together. Not only her body has been broken in countless parts, her memory is just as fragmented. Jumping back and forth between past and present, the story circles around a dark secret that Eve clearly does not want to remember. Yet it seems, that she needs to remember in order to be able to move on. As more and more suppressed memories rise to the surface, Eve is horrified of what she might discover. Haunting and unsettling, this is not only a must-read for all thriller fans but for everybody who loves a good plot with many twists and turns. A book you will not be able to put down until you have reached the last page.

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An I-Novel

Minae Mizumura, translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter

The bilingual novel that broke with Japanese literary tradition is now available in English. Twenty years after its publication in Japan, English readers finally may enjoy this experimental fictional autobiography. Minae Mizumura is one of Japan’s most acclaimed writers and playfully switches between English and Japanese in AN I-NOVEL. But no worries, even though some Japanese symbols have been kept when necessary, the novel is completely written in English and uses bolt letters to signal when English is used instead of Japanese in the original.

Uprooted from her Japanese home when twelve-years-old, Minae grew up in New York and always felt trapped between the two cultures. While her sister seemed to adapt easily to American life, Minae longed for Japanese traditions that have long become obsolete. On the 20th anniversary of their “Expodus”, Minae decides to return to Japan for good. She calls her sister to tell her the big news but instead of addressing the real subject they get lost in memories and it turns out that her sister feels just as confused about her cultural identity as does Minae.

A spectacular analysis of what it means to grow up in two very different cultures. And thanks to Juliet Winters Carpenter’s work, the bilingual experience has not been lost in translation.

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The Willow Wren

Philipp Schott

A WWII novel told from a very intimate perspective. The author himself states that this book is a memory of memories, a fictional account of his father’s life embellished with the writer’s imagination and power of observation.

Told in hindsight by the author’s father Ludwig, THE WILLOW WREN describes the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Ludwig was only ten at the peak of the war and thus his perception is often quite naïve. However, this is what makes the narrative stand out, especially as Ludwig adds his grown-up point of view to his childhood memories. Son of a senior Nazi, Ludwig does not care for the war and seeks refuge in books and nature. While this makes him an outsider during his time at the Hitler Youth, his knowledge comes in handy later on.

Through Ludwig’s memories we learn about life in Germany during the years before, during and after WWII. But above all, this is a book about how war affects individual citizens and about a small boy who has to grow up from one day to another in order to protect his family.

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Del Rio

Jean Rosenthal

Get ready for District Attorney Callie, a fierce woman who returned to her Californian hometown Del Rio to make a difference and boost her political career. Little did she expect to end up investigating a huge crime involving her own family that will change her view of life.

A fast-paced thriller crossing the Californian-Mexican border, DEL RIO looks at the relationship between the two countries and addresses racial injustice and discrimination. The plot is full of twists and surprises which will keep you glued to the page but the best part are the characters. Rosenthal takes great care to develop her main characters and both Callie and Nathan, a tour guide who helps Callie to discover the truth, undergo a major transformation throughout the story. In the end both have grown emotionally and are able to face life with a positive attitude.

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The Sound Between The Notes

Barbara Linn Probst

Last year we recommended Barbara Linn Probst’s debut novel, which is why we were especially intrigued to learn about her follow-up novel. Again Probst turns a quest for creative self-discovery into a more complex identification process.

After having paused her career as a pianist to take care of her son, Susannah is being offered to play at a major fundraiser that could get her noticed by the most important music critics. Determined to take this unique opportunity, which might well be her last, Susannah pours her every being into the preparation of the concert. When she learns that she has a hereditary disease which affects her fingers, and her play, she searches frantically for a solution. But the disease does not only put Susannah’s future in jeopardy, it also adds new questions to her past: She has never fully come to terms with the fact that she was adopted as an infant. Overwhelmed with fear, hope, memories and never-ending to-do-lists, Susannah realizes that her family’s harmony is beginning to suffer. Will she be able to keep her loved ones while reaching for the stars?

A multi-layered novel about identity, family, love and self-fulfillment. You can hear the music (and silence) on every single page.

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On the Line 

Joseph Ponthus, translation by Stephanie Smee

This is a very special book as you will notice right from the start. Ponthus writes in the industrial beat of the factories he describes. There is no punctuation because there is no end to the work on the line, it just never stops. The rhythm dictated by the machines takes over his body, his mind and his writing. In short, repetitive chapters you will get a good grasp of the stoic routines, the incessant sequences and hard physical labor.

It is a celebration of the worker but also of the life outside of work. Even though it seems that the center of the novel is the factory which devours its workers, Ponthus makes clear that what really matters is what takes place at home. The wife, the dog – a private life that is only adumbrated but which is the key motivator for him to keep returning to the factory. A small book with a big message – poetic, impressive and simply beautiful.

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The Club

Takis Würger, translation by Charlotte Collins

The debut novel of Germany’s rising literary star Takis Würger takes on fraternity rituals at Britain’s elite universities. THE CLUB starts like a fairy tale in which Hans grows up with loving parents in a German forest. However, it takes Würger only twenty pages to destroy the idyll and kill Hans’ parents to send him off to a lonely life at boarding school. His only relative is an aunt in England who has her own demons to deal with and is not apt to take Hans in but who offers to get him into Cambridge University if he helps her resolve a crime committed by one of their prestigious fraternities.

So Hans finds himself among the British elite with the mission to access their most inner circles. Being a journalist and member (or ex member?) of the Pitt Club portrayed in this novel, the author not only knows what he is talking about but also how to capture the reader’s attention. Fraternity clubs are known for their excesses and sadly the crimes committed in this novel may come as little surprise to most readers but Würger does a great job in crafting the plot and pulls you into the story from the very beginning. A real page-turner!

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UK Edition

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Untraceable

Sergei Lebedev, translation by Antonina W. Bouis

Lebedev is one of Russia’s most celebrated writers and his works have been translated into multiple languages. This is his first thriller and fans of the genre might need to be warned that Lebedev is clearly more interested in analyzing evil, temptation and human character than creating a fast-paced plot.

Tension builds up slowly as we get to know the protagonists: On the one hand there is Kalitin, a former Soviet chemist who did research on lethal toxins and defected after the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the other hand there is Shershnev, a special forces agent who is sent to kill Kalitin after Russian generals come to believe that Kalitin is helping Western agents to investigate the killing of another Russian defector. A perfect book for readers who care for an intelligent plot and who are interested in the moral conflicts of the characters.

UK edition

US edition

Apartment

Teddy Wayne

A brilliant novel set in the 90s about two aspiring writers from very different backgrounds struggling to make their way in New York. Despite their differences they bond and our nameless narrator invites his newfound friend to move into his apartment. Insecure and “invisibly damaged” he finds himself surprisingly at ease with Billy. However, there is a sense of doom in the air as economic and social differences clearly outweigh the two guys’ bonding over common fears.

Wayne skillfully creates tension between the two and intersperses clues that in the end trigger an emotional tsunami with severe consequences. A truly spellbinding read which explores the universal fears of loneliness and failure and shows that while privilege is certainly a career booster, it does not entitle you to success.

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All That We Carried 

Erin Bartels

The forest has always been a place worshipped for its beauty and peace. Especially in today’s hectic everyday life, it has become a much sought-after retreat where one can find inner calmness among the whispers of the trees.

So it seems like a good idea that Melanie suggests a hike in order to reconnect with her sister Olivia. The two have hardly spoken since the fatal accident of their parents ten years ago. Alone in the wilderness Melanie hopes to address a few important topics. But the forest is not only a place of tranquility, it also bears many dangers. Faced with nature’s unpredictability, the different characters of the two sisters emerge even more and it looks like the hiking trip is turning into a disaster. Each interprets the different events in her own way and, how could it be otherwise, their perspectives clash completely.

Bartels uses these differences to raise many questions about life that will give you food for thought. It is a story about loss, belief and forgiveness with complex characters and a beautiful ending which leaves room for interpretation.

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Passenger 23

Sebastian Fitzek, translation by Jamie Bulloch

Known for diving deep into the cruelties of humankind, Sebastian Fitzek has penned yet another disturbing but superb thriller. The German author is a real phenomenon in his homeland, where all his thrillers have been bestsellers and several of his books (including Passenger 23) have been adapted to the screen.

Passenger 23 is a code that is used to refer to persons that go missing on cruise ships – whether by accident or suicide – and which implies that no real investigation follows because usually the body is never found. Police psychologist Martin Schwartz knows this just too well, both his wife and son went overboard on a cruise ship vacation and officials simply closed the case as murder-suicide. Five years later he is called to investigate a Passenger 23 incident on the same cruise ship his family disappeared from and this time he is determined to find out the truth. A truth that is hard to digest.

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Love and Other Moods

Crystal Z. Lee

A novel that takes us to the exotic buzz of Shanghai, the city where nights are not meant for sleeping. Please do read the prologue, despite the slightly annoying enumeration of just about everything that could be put in a list, it perfectly captures the vibe of this thrilling city. Shanghai is home to more than 200.000 expats, the ideal setting for Lee to delve into the problems of cultural differences, relationships, identity crises and the feeling of having no place to call home.

Naomi has just broken up with her fiancée and finds herself without a partner, job or apartment in Shanghai. Instead of going back to the States she stays and makes the city her own. Along with Naomi we get to know a handful of other interesting characters who are all trying to find their place in the never-resting megacity. But above all this novel is a declaration of love for Shanghai and a homage to those who have grown up in different cultures.

Those who have been to Shanghai will rejoice in memories and those who have not will long to go. As for most traveling is out of the question these times, this is as good as it can get…

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The Way it Should Be

Christina Suzann Nelson

Life is a mess and the three protagonists of this book know it. Zara and Eve are twin sisters whose lives have separated but when Zara learns she has to take care of her sisters’ children, she jumps right in, even though se had no idea she was an aunt. Eve battles with addiction and is doing her best to free herself from the drugs. Luckily she is helped by Tiff, a woman who has lost her daughter to drug abuse and is now devoted to help others overcome their addiction.

Nelson talks about serious topics, not only drug addiction but also the difficulties of foster care, and does not shy away from portraying the shady sides of life. She does so in a realistic way and neither idealizes nor over-dramatizes her characters. Despite the dramatic themes of the novel, Nelson gives the read a warm and life-affirming message that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

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The Play’s the Thing

Jessica Barksdale Inclán

When thinking of romance, one cannot help but thinking of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The play, as well as the playwright, have inspired countless lovers, songwriters and, of course, other authors. Jessica Barksdale Inclán offers us a very different take on Shakespeare and his work. The result is an absolutely delightful novel that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster, while traveling in time and place.

English professor and Shakespeare scholar Jessica Randall suddenly finds herself in the chambers of the one and only William Shakespeare. She is not the only one who is baffled, the poet is just as perplex and together they try to adapt to the situation while giving their best not to fall in love. The result is extremely funny and sexy at the same time, especially if you have a thing for Shakespeare 🙂

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An Arsène Lupin Omnibus

Maurice Leblanc

Discover the stories that inspired the Netflix series Lupin. No wonder that Assane Diop, protagonist of the successful streaming series, is fascinated by Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin. The charming gentleman thief has not only found his way into our digital bookshelves but also into our hearts with his utterly French sense of humor.

This collection compiles four of the many volumes that feature the charismatic Frenchman, including some of his encounters with a certain Holmlock Shears. Sounds familiar? Yes, Leblanc loved a little joke and introduced the beloved English consulting detective to his series. Shears arrives in Paris to give the French Chief-inspector Ganimard a hand. And rightly so, for Ganimard is hilariously incompetent and has no chance against Lupin, who constantly fools the police (and the reader).

Perfect for all fans of detective stories who like a little laugh and of course for fans of the Netflix series who want to learn a little more about Lupin. With an introduction by Sherlock Holmes expert David Stuart Davies.

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Through the Waters and the Wild

Greg Fields

We have been anticipating Greg Fields’ follow-up novel to his much acclaimed ARC OF THE COMET. Once again, we meet Conor Finnegan, this time in his early forties, while he is facing a crisis. Conor thought he had it all figured out but it seems life had other plans for him. Neither his personal life nor his career fulfils him and he feels the increasing need to give meaning to his existence.

The novel explores existential matters such as the passing of time, being true to oneself, while living up to the expectations of others, dealing with past mistakes, etc. As he is searching for the purpose of life, Conor finds council in the letters of his grandfather. Those letters, as well as Conor’s own thoughts, almost overflow with highly accurate observations on life’s dynamics. It is a journey full of surprises, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and it is up to us to deal with these ups and downs. Conor’s story reminds us how easy it is to lose track of what really matters and that it is never too late to turn things around.

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Into the Woods

David Mark

If you are looking for a chilling, slightly supernatural thriller, this one is for you! David Mark excels at creating unusual plots and INTO THE WOODS is no exception.

Our protagonist Rowan is a writer in distress as the deadline for his second true crime novel is approaching and he has not produced a single page. But not only the page is blank, his mind is too, because he has not a clue what he could possibly write about. Seeking for inspiration in his sister’s remote lake house, he comes across a local disappearance case 30 years ago. Three girls went into the woods with a stranger but only two came out. The remaining girls did not remember what happened and the case was closed and buried in the town’s collective memory. Rowan starts investigating and digs out horrors that threaten his own safety.

This is the first novel of a trilogy and as such Mark takes his time to introduce a wide range of absolutely loveable characters. But don’t be fooled, even though the story is slow at first, it is intense and will glue you to the pages throughout the whole book! We cannot wait for the next part of the series and hope that Mark will not suffer the same writer’s block as his protagonist…

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The Girls in Blue

Fenella J. Miller

Historical fiction at its best! With dozens of books published, Miller is known for her excellent research and courageous protagonists. Jane is eighteen years old when the news break that the war has started. She takes her chances and escapes her violent father to join the fight, more specifically the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. This unique setting sets this book apart, as it allows Miller to introduce many interesting bits and pieces about women in WWII. Get ready to find out everything there is to know about the WAAF.

It is a very emotional read that will surely make you laugh and cry. Jane struggles to fight not only for her country but also for herself. She finds friends and love but is reluctant to give in to her feelings. Luckily Oscar is so smitten with her that he is determined to win her over at all costs. His resolution only grows when he learns about her troubled past. A terrific book that will hopefully be the start of a new WWII saga.

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One Night Two Souls Went Walking

Ellen Cooney

What is a soul? The nameless protagonist of Ellen Cooney’s latest novel is a chaplain and seeks for answers where maybe there are none. We accompany her on a nightshift that brings her to the side of many different patients. Some young, some old, some with severe health issues, others on their way to leave the hospital.

It is a beautifully quiet and uplifting novel that collects the experiences and attitudes of people in near-death situations. The protagonist is spiritual and at the same time down-to-earth, with a special gift to find the right words at the right time. She gives hope where there is very little left and concentrates on the important things of life. While this could easily turn sentimental, the protagonist is by no means a know-it-all who does everything right. Instead, she takes a pragmatic approach to her job and is not afraid of telling a little lie. A very special read that comes timely, as we can all use a big portion of hope!

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This Is Happiness

Niall Williams

Niall Williams is an exquisite storyteller who takes such great care in describing places and people that you feel as if you were right there with them.

Our protagonist Noel is a man in his 70s who remembers his youth when he returned to his grandparents’ village to recover from a crisis of faith (no small matter for an aspiring priest) and ends up making his first romantic experiences and finding true friendship. What makes this coming-of-age story so special is that it is told from the perspective of the aged Noel. His tender memories and reflections about time are poetic to say the least and make this book a perfect choice for the upcoming holidays!

US Edition

UK Edition

People of Abandoned Character

Clare Whitfield

What would you do if you thought the man you just married might be Jack the Ripper? What started out as a passionate love affair, soon turns into a true nightmare. Thomas, in the beginning quite the charming surgeon from a wealthy family, abuses Susannah physically and emotionally. He also disappears for days, only to return home with scratches on his face or blood-stained clothes. When Susannah realizes that his worrisome appearances coincide with the dates of the so-called Whitechapel murders, she fears that Thomas might be the man everybody is looking for. Or is her imagination running wild?

Clare Whitfield has delivered an astonishing debut novel that captures the atmosphere of London in the late 1880s with a modern and entertaining narrative voice. Susannah is a strong and very likeable character even though we cannot be sure how much of her account is influenced by the opium drops she takes to dull her senses. Prepare yourself for many surprising twists and turns that keep the reading pace fluid until the very end.

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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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If you are looking for books that have been previously presented in this article, have a look at our digital bookshelf 24symbols RECOMMENDS.