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Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015

German author Jenny Erpenbeck has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015 with her book The End of Days, a story about five possible alternative lives of a girl born in Austria-Hungary at the start of the 20th century.

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The Girl on the Train

Airport thriller will keep you gripped on the train

Touted as this year’s Gone Girl and While you were Sleeping, The Girl on the Train accosts you on her daily commute to and from London. A dubious narrator from the start, she hangs on to you, desperately, confidential, erratically. Interlaced time frames and equally questionable narrators, build the tension and, while it is hardly high-brow, I was gripped with anxiety. Suffice it to say, it might be imperfect and disposable, but it is also thrilling entertainment and perfect for that commute to work….

 

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Myself a Mandarin – Memoirs of a Special Magistrate

Highly amusing Hong Kong anecdotes of a local magistrate

Out of print and a cult book amongst long-term Hong Kong devotees, it will take more time to locate a copy than to read it. We follow the young Coates, a civil servant from London, who is posted to Hong Kong in 1949 and learns by trial and error how to fulfill his role as “Special Magistrate”. Recounted with great humour and humility, it is insightful, witty, and judicious. A must read for anyone with ties or interest in Hong Kong – and any modern day want-to-be Solomon. Good luck finding it though (although they seem to have a few copies on Amazon.co.uk).

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Blood River – A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart

Gripping tale about a journalist's trip down the Congo river

Blood River is the extraordinary story of journalist Tim Butcher’s brave journey down the Congo River in the footsteps of legendary H.M. Stanley. It’s the tale of  a country which has regressed, where traces of a civilisation (one built during the brutal Belgian King Leopold’s ‘reign’ of the country): train tracks, decrepit abandoned cities can be found if you scrape the earth. Fear lingers everywhere, to the extent that Congo’s inhabitants rely on the fast growing vegetable cassava as their main food, simply because they might be chased away from their homes any time.  Butcher’s passion for Congo and compassion for the Congolese shines through in his great writing. I read this book many years ago and it has stayed with me ever since and, I fear, is still as relevant today as it was in 2007. Gripping reading!

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New on Bookstoker! Snap Judgements.

Just what it says on the tin.  Snap judgements are our immediate responses to books we have read recently. They are meant as a tool for you to quickly assess wether or not you would like to read them too. There will be a link to the full review for those books we have written a more in-depth recommendation of. Over time, it will become an archive where you can look up a book you’re considering to read to see if we think it’s worth your time.

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The Truth

Palin’s eco thriller examines the Meaning of Truth

The book’s epigraph is “Truth is a very complex thing.” Indeed it is and Michael Palin’s second novel tackles that question within the world of publishing and environmental causes. Given the title of the book (and the hint in the epigraph) it is hardly a spoiler to suggest that nothing is quite what it seems. Thus the stage is set for Michael Palin’s eco-thriller, which raises some relevant questions about the definition of truth, the price of truth, and the meaning of being “true to oneself”.

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The Discreet Hero

Funny and sensual from Nobel Prize winner Vargas Llosa

Peruvian Nobel Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa is a rarity amongst Nobel Prize winners: a funny, accessible writer. I really enjoyed his erotic novel In Praise of the Stepmother, a tale of sexual morality and loss of innocence. His latest book The Discreet Hero is a page-turning mystery story written with humour and sensuality. It probably won’t be considered Vargas Llosa’s most important book, but it’s definitively worth the read.

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