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

By Kate Whiting

New Fiction

We're Flying by Peter Stamm is published in hardback by Granta Books, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.25). Available now.

After crafting this skilful and refined collection of short stories, Peter Stamm's name deserves to be up there with great masters of the genre.

His magic lies in elevating the interior lives of his characters, everyday people going about their everyday business, into narratives about the very nature of life itself.

There is a moment of transformation in each of these sparkling gems of seemingly mundane stories - a man waiting for results of medical tests, a nursery worker deciding to take home a child whose parents are late in collecting him, a young couple moving in together, a tale of unrequited love.

When that happens, there really is a moment of take-off, as referenced by the title of the Swiss writer's stories, translated here by Michael Hofmann.

His language cannot be faulted and his characters, for all their apparent subtlety, root in the mind. This thoughtful and thought-provoking collection deserves to be widely read.


(Review by Lauren Turner)

The Score by Howard Marks is published in hardback by Harvill Secker, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.51). Available now.

Howard Marks, aka "Mr Nice", returns with his follow-up to 2011's Sympathy For The Devil, with DS Catrin Price on admin duty while recovering from the trauma of her last case.

Cryptic contact with a troubled friend reignites her thirst for duty, taking her to the desolate environment of the Brecon Beacons.

A missing girl, with few leads bar a YouTube video, the discovery of bodies at an abandoned mine shaft and a possible connection with a lauded drugs baron sees Price end up in London, where reminders of her previous life lie in waiting.

An engaging, well-paced crime novel, Marks teases out enough intrigue and clues to keep the reader interested, with the paranoia and mental state of Price a key element as the narrative progresses.

The writer's influences are dotted throughout - the name checking of obscure bands, a penchant for Nick Drake, the drug references.

The harsh imagery of rural Wales is also significant to the story, mirroring the emotional turmoil of the protagonist.

Critics may tire of some stereotypical elements, particularly within the force - an alcoholic detective who's handy with his fists - but overall this is a worthy addition to the genre.


(Review by James Cleary)

Swear Down by Russ Litten is published in paperback by Tindal Street, priced £12.99 (ebook £4.74). Available now.

This intriguing and hard-hitting novel focuses on the topic of loyalty.

Recently promoted Detective Sergeant Ndekwe is faced with an unusual case when two men confess to the murder of a young gang leader, while each insisting the other is completely innocent.

Carlton McKenzie - a teenager with proven links to the deceased - appears the more obvious suspect, yet Ndekwe is determined to discover why an ex-merchant seaman in his seventies is also willing to take the rap.

Overcoming the laziness and bigotry of his colleagues, Ndekwe gradually unearths a complex chain of events.

Yet while there is enough mystery from author Russ Litten to keep the reader interested throughout, it could be argued that the intensity of the storyline drops somewhat as the confessions of both suspects are pored over in detail.

A dramatic conclusion with more than one clever twist helps to make up for this and sets the pulse racing once again.


(Review by Chris Devine)

The Mouseproof Kitchen by Saira Shah is published in hardcover by Harvill Secker, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.51). Available now.

Award-winning film-maker and former Channel 4 News reporter Saira Shah has turned her hand to fiction with her debut novel The Mouseproof Kitchen.

Chef Anna and her composer husband Tobias are stunned when their first child, Freya, is born with severe mental disabilities.

Immediately they are overwhelmed at the prospect of a lifetime of caring, but they also come to realise what being parents to Freya will mean for their own dream of moving to rural France.

However, they take the radical decision to buy a crumbling mansion in Languedoc, complete with a rodent-infested kitchen.

This brave novel confronts the seemingly endless highs and lows of caring for a disabled child, and is at times unsettling yet also deeply moving.

Shah, whose own daughter has cerebral palsy, says the novel is not autobiographical but her love for her own child is palpable in her heartrending depiction of Freya.

Shah's beautiful debut will have every mother and father looking at their child through new eyes, but will also leave them with uncomfortable questions about the lengths they would go to as parents.


(Review by Sarah Reid)

Fobbit by David Abrams is published in hardback by Harvill Secker, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.26). Available now.

One man plays solitaire. Another sends waffling round-robin emails. Meanwhile, a woman deliberates over a second helping of cake. This could be any workplace but instead it's David Abrams's vision of the desk-bound US army public affairs office in his satirical debut novel Fobbit.

Abrams served in the US army for 20 years and in 2005 worked in the public affairs team in Iraq.

Based on his diary entries, Fobbit focusses on the day-to-day lives of the staff - or as they're dismissively known, the Fobbits - at the Forward Operating Base Triumph (FOB).

Each chapter is devoted to one of five Fobbits and while this offers a rounded view, the numerous protagonists and military jargon can be overwhelming.

That said, the bleak humour and depictions of ordinary office life in this extraordinary environment are lively enough to make Fobbit an enjoyable and alternative take on war.


(Review by Keeley Bolger)

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith is published in hardback by Headline, priced £10.99 (ebook £5.49). Available now.

Imagine you received an email by accident. Would you delete it or reply? Imagine that email was from a teenage film star as famous as Robert Pattinson. What would you do if your email correspondent arrived in the small town where you lived to shoot a movie?

This is what happens to Ellie O'Neill, who lives in the peaceful town of Henley on the Maine coast.

Graham Larkin persuades his film's production company to relocate there for his new blockbuster.

After a false start at introducing himself to Ellie, Graham finally makes the acquaintance of the 17-year-old he's been sharing his innermost thoughts with.

Everything looks to be going swimmingly until an unexpected complication raises its head...

Whatever your age, the fourth book from Jennifer E Smith is a perfect read for the beach.


(Review by Rachel Howdle)


Silt Road: The Story Of A Lost River by Charles Rangeley-Wilson is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £16.99 (ebook £10.87). Available now.

Angler and conservationist Charles Rangeley-Wilson investigates the fate of the river Wye, which created the town of High Wycombe only to end up buried beneath it.

What might seem a strictly local loss is also the focus for an elegy to England's chalk streams, and the landscapes they once nourished, where idyllic rustic scenes have too often been replaced by car parks and shopping precincts.

Some of the resulting digressions, on pioneers of geology and irrigation, fit the mood perfectly; others (especially regarding the introduction of trout to Tasmania) somewhat stretch the premise.

The author has a fine eye for the telling detail, and an even finer ear; the human noise which drowns out the gentler sounds of nature has seldom been anatomised better.

It's an intermittently frustrating read, but mostly a moving personal essay on how the neglect of rivers can impoverish us.


(Review by Alex Sarll)

Keeping Hope Alive: How One Somali Woman Changed 90,000 Lives by Dr Hawa Abdi is published in paperback by Virago, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99). Available now.

Sometimes a story can knock you sideways. No matter what happens in your day, you struggle to get the words on the page out of your mind, and this is precisely what happens when you begin Keeping Hope Alive.

Dr Hawa Abdi describes the crisis in Somalia and her journey of keeping more than 90,000 people alive over the 20-year conflict.

At times it feels as if it is fiction, but then reality hits. The astounding and humbling memoir not only describes what it is like to live in a country with no government, where you can trust nobody, but also the personal struggle she faced with the separation of her family.

It is just about as raw as a book can be, and Dr Hawa Abdi's bravery will continue to astound until the very last word, armed with an important exposition of true humanity.

Everybody must read this book.


(Review by Rebecca Flitton)

Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is published in paperback by Random House, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.51). Available now.

Chip and Dan Heath are New York Times best-selling authors whose previous publications include Made To Stick and Switch.

As the title illustrates, Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work aims to help readers make good decisions.

It does this by offering a formula to apply in any situation: by widening our options, reality-testing our assumptions, attaining distance before deciding and preparing to be wrong.

The book elaborates on each step, suggesting a range of strategies and demonstrating each of these with real-life examples - both within the workplace and in personal spheres.

Ignore the 'self-help' cover and you will find this book is well laid out and easy to read, even injecting a little humour where it can.

Throughout the text, you will notice there is an underlying thread of reducing the decision to its 'rawest' form, removing all notions of emotion, ego and bias.

While perhaps a little black-and-white for some personal choices, this book is a must-read for those in senior commercial positions or those simply looking for a calculated approach to decision-making.


(Review by Lynley Myers)

Ziggyology: A Brief History Of Ziggy Stardust by Simon Goddard is published in hardback by Ebury Press, priced £20 (ebook £11.39). Available now.

With the release of his first new album in 10 years, a sold-out exhibition at the V&A, and countless radio and TV tie-ins, David Bowie mania has once again hit Britain in 2013.

Music journalist Simon Goddard's Ziggyology, therefore, is timely. Bowie created his alter-ego Ziggy and his Spiders from Mars early in 1972, and killed them off in front of a shocked Hammersmith Odeon crowd just 18 months later.

But if their time on earth was brief, Goddard, who has previously written biographies of Morrissey and The Smiths, has no trouble filling the pages with fascinating Ziggy-related material.

In the first part of the book, we are taken through the influences that led to the character of Ziggy, from cross-dressing non-conformists in 17th century Japan to weird late-night sci-fi shows that the young Bowie would sneakily watch.

In part two, the life and death of Ziggy is documented: the adulation; the chart success; and, of course, nailing that red mullet. But it wasn't all a smooth ride. After suffering depression on an American tour in 1973, for example, a frail Bowie collapsed on stage.

It's a riveting read, and even if Goddard lays it thick with melodrama - there are references at various points as to how many days Ziggy has left to 'live' - it feels totally in keeping with the theatrics of Bowie's character himself.

A must for even mild Bowie enthusiasts.


(Review by Oliver Jones)

Last Trains: Dr Beeching And The Death Of Rural England by Charles Loft is published in hardback by Biteback, priced £20 (ebook £9.95). Available now.

Although his report published 50 years ago led to more than 2,000 towns and villages losing their rail service, ICI scientist and former British Rail chairman Dr Beeching emerges with only a small part of the blame for what some have called "senseless destruction" in this thoughtful and well-researched analysis by historian and policy adviser Charles Loft.

Loft explains that post-war nationalisation of the big four companies which previously ran the railways slowly highlighted miles of track with only a handful of customers.

There was also a growing belief among governing classes on both the Left and Right that drastic modernisation of both our industry and infrastructure was needed to get the British economy going again after the Second World War.

Enigmatic transport minister (and road builder by profession) Ernest Marples rapidly convinced any waverers in Whitehall that it was high time to usher in the age of the motorcar.

However, by focussing on local disputes which the policy created - on the Isle of Wight, in Westerham, Kent, and in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk - Loft cleverly underlines his point that a policy which might have made some sense nationally had hideous and damaging effects locally, not least because a shut-down railway line is almost impossible to reopen.

This has had the effect of making Beeching's Axe look more misguided as the years go by, as we are forced to accept that car travel has its limits in both practical and environmental terms.


(Review by Jeremy Gates)

Best-sellers for the week ending April 6


1 Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

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

3 Gangsta Granny, David Walliams

4 The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

5 Skios, Michael Frayn

6 Tom Gates Is Absolutely Fantastic (At Some Things), Liz Pichon

7 The Fault In Our Stars, John Green

8 A Game of Thrones: A Song Of Ice And Fire, George RR Martin

9 Peaches For Monsieur Le Cure, Joanne Harris

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

(Compiled by Waterstone's)


1 Light, Michael Grant

2 Levels Of Life, Julian Barnes

3 The Maleficent Seven (From The World Of Skulduggery Pleasant), Derek Landy

4 The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

5 Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

6 Paul Hollywood's Bread, Paul Hollywood

7 Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, Jeff Kinney

8 The Golden Egg, Donna Leon

9 Best Kept Secret, Jeffrey Archer

10 Race The Wind, Lauren St John

(Compiled by Waterstone's)


1 Little Girl Lost, Brian McGilloway

2 That Liverpool Girl, Ruth Hamilton

3 The Perfect Retreat, Kate Forster

4 Finding Emma, Steena Holmes

5 The French House, Nick Alexander

6 White Bones, Graham Masterton

7 The Misremembered Man, Christina McKenna

8 Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

9 A Deeper Sleep, Dana Stabenow

10 Missing You, Louise Douglas

(Compiled by the Kindle store at Amazon.co.uk)