Aunty Lee's Delights

“No mere whodunnit—Aunty Lee’s Delights sparkles with insight…Rosie Lee is a terrifically originally heroine.”

“This delectable and witty mystery introduces Rosie ‘Aunty’ Lee, feisty widow, amateur sleuth, and proprietor of Singapore's best-loved home-cooking restaurant.

After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could have become one of Singapore's ‘tai tai,’ an idle rich lady. Instead, she is building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean meals are graciously served to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore's tourist havens and one of her guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two events are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson, Mark, his social-climbing wife, Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder are Police Commissioner Raja and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, who quickly discover that Aunty Lee's sharp nose for intrigue can sniff out clues that elude law enforcers.

Wise, witty, and charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship, and food in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities coexist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly consequences.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Ester Elbert for the suggestion.)

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The Collected Short Stories of Gopal Baratham

“The writer possesses a technically excellent prose style, so smooth that it slips down the reader’s throat like a well-made Singapore Sling.”— The Hindu

“This exciting collection brings together thirty-nine of the late Dr. Gopal Baratham’s characteristic and revered pieces. In his usual blunt, strong and controversial style, Baratham’s socio-political critiques are ‘peopled’ by characters from virtually every background and class—with their frustrated hopes, wild illusions and excesses.

Paired with a stylistic and evolving narrative voice, as seen in dialogue that fluctuates from poetic to quirky, this writer’s ambivalent medium is also his message. Readers are drawn into the depth of his work, and left with a sympathetic, sensitive understanding of events, people, actions and the complexities of relationships

(Submitted by Ivor Watkins, book club moderator.)

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Kappa Quartet

Shortlisted for the Singapore Book Awards (Best Book Cover Design)

Epigram Books Fiction Prize Longlist

”Kevin is a young man without a soul, holidaying in Tokyo; Mr. Five, the enigmatic kappa, is the man he so happens to meet. Little does Kevin know that kappas—the river demons of Japanese folklore—desire nothing more than the souls of other humans.

Set between Singapore and Japan, Kappa Quartet is split into eight discrete sections, tracing the rippling effects of this chance encounter across a host of other characters, connected and bound to one another in ways both strange and serendipitous. Together they ask one another: what does it mean to be in possession of something nobody has seen before?”

After reading this novel, some reviewers have cited a comparison to the author Murakami while others have noted some flashes of suppressed terror more Kafkaesque. Each section narrated by a different character loosely intertwined together is certainly reminiscent of David Mitchell's better work with that same thrill you find in connecting the characters & discovering different facets of the story.

(Submitted by Mia DeGiovine Chaveco, book club co-founder.)

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The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza

“With its deep probing look at the teaching profession, it unveils a rich array of themes and most compellingly, the nature of perhaps the most noble and difficult of vocations.” - Boey Kim Cheng, author of Clear Brightness

“One last time and on her birthday, Rose de Souza is returning to school to give a final lesson to her classroom of secondary school boys before retiring from her long teaching career. What ensues is an unexpected confession in which she recounts the tragic and traumatic story of Amir, a student from her past who overturned the way she saw herself as a teacher, and changed her life forever.

The stunning first novel from award-winning poet Cyril Wong, The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza is a tour de force, an exceptional examination of the power of choice and the unreliability of memory.”

(Submitted by Ivor Watkins, book club moderator.)

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Ponti

With perspectives from three different women & a narrative which jumps across different time periods, this novel experiments with an unusual and original construct to reflect the very fractured nature of relationships across space and time.

An award-winning fiction debut about the value of friendships in present-day Singapore—a surprising and powerful portrait of Asia that shows the unique blend of modern and traditional cultures coming together.

’I am Miss Frankenstein, I am the bottom of the bell curve.’ So declares Szu, a teenager living in a dark, dank house, at the beginning of this richly atmospheric and endlessly surprising tale of non-belonging and isolation.

Friendless and fatherless, Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress—who gained fame for her portrayal of a ghost—and now a hack medium performing séances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, an unlikely encounter develops into a fraught friendship that will haunt them both for decades to come.

With remarkable emotional acuity, dark comedy, and in vivid prose, Sharlene Teo’s Ponti traces the suffocating tangle the lives of four misfits, women who need each other as much as they need to find their own way. It is an astounding portrayal of the gaping loneliness of adolescence, the surrealness of the modern city, and the strangeness of living with and loving other people.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Patty Gilles Winpenny for the suggestion.)

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When There Were Tigers in Singapore

“Japan invades and captures the British colony of Singapore in 1942. All Europeans on the island are being interned. Edward Schirmer, the author’s grandfather, faces a dilemma—he is German, but born as a British subject. In a strange stroke of fortune, he finds himself friends with General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the famed ‘Tiger of Malaya’. Seeing the fate of the other Europeans, Edward reluctantly lets the Japanese assume he is a friendly German national. The secret of his true identity remains between the two men only…but when politics removes the protective Yamashita from the picture, betrayal ensues and Edward finds himself in prison, his family scattered.

Using the personal history from his family’s saga & extensive research to confirm his father’s account, the author then details the true-life account of Edward’s son (the author’s father)—a hellish tale of a six year-old boy’s quest for survival, alone on the streets of a war-torn vanquished nation.

Part autobiography, part microhistory of WWII with some lesser-known details of famous figures from the WWII era, but wholly the story of the fight for survival in and after the harshest of wars.

Where everyone is hungry and racial tension is rife.

Where martial law allows the occupiers to summarily execute at will.”

(Submitted by Beth McCrea, book club co-founder.)

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The Shadow of the Wind

“Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges for a sprawling magic show." -The NY Times Book Review

”Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets—an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.”

”Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should.” -The Washington Post

"Wonderous... masterful... The Shadow of the Wind is ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero." -Entertainment Weekly (Editor's Choice)

"One gorgeous read." - Stephen King

(A special thank you to book club member, Caity Greig for the suggestion.)

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Captain Alatriste

“The first action-packed historical adventure in the internationally acclaimed Captain Alatriste series of 6 books all translated into English, featuring a Spanish soldier who lives as a swordsman-for-hire in 17th century Madrid.

Needing gold to pay off his debts, Captain Alatriste and another hired blade are paid to ambush two travelers, stage a robbery, and give the travelers a fright. “No blood,” they are told.

Then a mysterious stranger enters to clarify the job: he increases the pay, and tells Alatriste that, instead, he must murder the two travelers. When the attack unfolds, Alatriste realizes that these aren’t ordinary travelers, and what happens next is only the first in a riveting series of twists and turns, with implications that will reverberate throughout the courts of Europe...”

“Splendidly paced and filled with a breathtaking but not overwhelming sense of the history and spirit of the age, this is entertainment at its best: the characters have weight and depth, the dialogue illuminates the action as it furthers the story and the film-worthy plot is believable throughout.” - Publisher’s Weekly

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Cat's Whirld

Winner of the Ignotus Award for Best Novel (the Spanish equivalent of the Hugo Awards)

Cat's Whirld is an intriguing conundrum of a novel that hurtles along at breakneck speed. This is a character-driven sci-fi thriller at it’s finest.

The neutral Convergence Space Station No. 1, known as the Whirld, is the unofficial, but deadly battleground in which several Galactic powers fight to obtain a certain piece of information that could inevitably determine their whole future. But then an all-powerful malevolent AI, for reasons known only to itself, also enters the game…

Cat's Whirld, a book indispensable for understanding the evolution of Spanish science fiction, is an original fusion of thriller, cyberpunk, and space opera, with unforgettable characters, and a frenetic pace and rhythm that never falter; a hybrid novel in which elements from distinct genres make a surprisingly harmonious whole.

Originally published in 1995, it was the first cyberpunk novel in Spanish; a specially remarkable achievement in that it was also the first of Rodolfo Martínez' many novels, and yet was not afraid to tread new ground, and, moreover, to do so with great narrative confidence. Twenty-five years later, the story still retains its power, as fresh and exciting as ever.”

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Confessions

“Drawing comparisons with Shadow of the Wind, The Name of the Rose and The Reader, and an instant bestseller in more than 20 languages, Confessions is an astonishing story of one man's life, interwoven with a narrative that stretches across centuries to create an addictive and unforgettable literary symphony.

I confess.

At 60 and with a diagnosis of early Alzheimer's, Adrià Ardèvol re-examines his life before his memory is systematically deleted. He recalls a loveless childhood where the family antique business and his father s study become the centre of his world; where a treasured Storioni violin retains the shadows of a crime committed many years earlier. His mother, a cold, distant and pragmatic woman leaves him to his solitary games, full of unwanted questions. An accident ends the life of his enigmatic father, filling Adrià's world with guilt, secrets and deeply troubling mysteries that take him years to uncover and driving him deep into the past where atrocities are methodically exposed and examined. Gliding effortlessly between centuries, and at the same time providing a powerful narrative that is at once shocking, compelling, mysterious, tragic, humorous and gloriously readable, Confessions reaches a crescendo that is not only unexpected but provides one of the most startling denouements in contemporary literature. Confessions is a consummate masterpiece in any language, with an ending that will not just leave you thinking, but quite possibly change the way you think forever.”

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The Happy City

“‘I feel terrible. Although he doesn't say it, I know he had been hoping the whole time that I would explain it all somehow; but I can't explain it, because I don't understand anything.’ These disturbing words, almost a distillation of the entire text, close the novel The Happy City by Elvira Navarro, who featured in Granta’s The Best of Young Spanish-language Novelists issue in 2010.

The stories of Chi-Huei—a Chinese boy whose family has come to Spain in search of a better life—and his friend Sara—a girl strangely fascinated by a homeless man—comprise two separate yet complementary sections, presenting the reader with a detailed account of their life circumstances and the nuances of their perspectives: the genuine, as-yet untamed voices through which the book’s pre-adolescent protagonists negotiate the world around them, their initial astonishment finally turning to frustration as they gaze upon their dehumanized society.

A pre-teen’s first faltering steps towards sexuality, social pressures, the way polarized outlooks on life coexist at the core of the same family, those first experiences of disillusionment as we awaken into the adult world: these are some of the themes that Navarro lays out for her readers in order to reveal, with razor-sharp control, the constant duality that exists between the outward appearance of things and their inner reality.”

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A Heart So White

Winner of the IMPAC Dublin Award, and widely considered Javier Marías's masterpiece, A Heart So White is a breathtaking novel about family secrets that chronicles the relentless power of the past using stream of consciousness writing.

Juan knows little of the interior life of his father Ranz; but when Juan marries, he begins to consider the past anew, and begins to ponder what he doesn't really want to know. Secrecy--its possible convenience, its price, and even its civility--hovers throughout the novel. A Heart So White becomes a sort of anti-detective story of human nature. Intrigue; the sins of the father; the fraudulent and the genuine; marriage and strange repetitions of violence: Marías elegantly sends shafts of inquisitory light into shadows and onto the costs of ambivalence.”

(A special thank you to book club member, Kimberley Palsat for the suggestion.)

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Night Watch

"Night Watch is an epic of extraordinary power." - Quentin Tarantino

“Brace yourself for [an adult version of] Harry Potter in Gorky Park. . . . The novel contains some captivating scenes and all kinds of marvelous, inventive detail.” -The Washington Post Book World

“An international bestseller [as] potent as a shot of vodka. . . . [A] compelling urban fantasy." -Publishers Weekly

“They are the ‘Others,’ an ancient race of supernatural beings—magicians, shape-shifters, vampires, and healers—who live among us. Human born, they must choose a side to swear allegiance to—the Dark or the Light—when they come of age.

For a millennium, these opponents have coexisted in an uneasy peace, enforced by defenders like the Night Watch, forces of the Light who guard against the Dark. But prophecy decrees that one supreme ‘Other’ will arise to spark a cataclysmic war.

Anton Gorodetsky, an untested mid-level Light magician with the Night Watch, discovers a cursed young woman—an Other of tremendous potential unallied with either side—who can shift the balance of power. With the battle lines between Light and Dark drawn, the magician must move carefully, for one wrong step could mean the beginning of annihilation.”

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Beauty in Mourning and Other Stories

“This collection of short stories and novellas are the first of Auezov's works ever to be translated into English. They were written in the 1920s in the author's youth, but have an assurance and maturity that have earned them widespread popularity throughout Kazakhstan and the Soviet Union. Gunshot at the Pass was made into a successful film and An Orphan's Lot, Beauty in Mourning, Savage Grey and Turbulent Times are works, which nearly every Kazakh knows and loves. These works are revered for their seminal influence on Kazakh literature and drama, the fascinating insights they provide on the culture and customs of the steppe but, above all, as truly great, universal stories that have exercised their power over the imaginations of generations of Kazakhs and are now finally available to a worldwide audience.

Mukhtar Auezov (1897-1961) is considered one of Kazakhstan's greatest and most revered writers. On the occasion of his 60th birthday in September 1957, Mukhtar Auezov was awarded the Order of Lenin and granted the title ‘Honoured Academic of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic"‘ In 1959, he was awarded the highly prestigious Lenin Prize for The Path of Abai. After his death in 1961, one of the main streets in Almaty (Kazakhstan's largest metropolis) was named in his honour, and later a whole district of the city. In 1963, his house on M. Tulebaev Street in Almaty was turned into an official museum to honour the writer's work and achievements.”

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Blood & Sweat

“We, the Kazakhs… So little is known about this people and their vast country, the world’s 9th largest, though the Kazakhs have seen much of man’s vast history. From their roots as traders and herdsmen during the Silk Route period to their modern experience with atomic bomb testing and space age triumph, the history of Kazakh culture remains relatively unexplored in the West.

Even less known is author Abdi-Jamil Nurpeisov, venerated sage of Kazakh and Russian literature, though his books have been published in translation worldwide. Nurpeisov exposes Kazakh life to Western readers as Tolstoy did with Russians, and Marquez – Colombians. Nurpeisov’s eye-opening novel unveils the largely unknown history, life and customs of the Kazakhs.

Blood and Sweat is a sweeping tale about the vanishing way of life of Kazakhs in a small rural village. It has been compared to Sholokhov’s epic And Quiet Flows the Don. Through a kaleidoscopic panorama of events, an ethnographic tapestry, and the sophisticated fabric of Kazakhs’ past, Nurpeisov’s novels come to life in an enjoyable and educational reading. The drama of Blood & Sweat takes the reader through the national turmoil of 1900-1922 at which Kazakh state was born and via the personal dramatic development of three people. The human fight against the cruel elements of nature are balanced with the struggle between good and evil of its main protagonists. A murder and its consequence parallels the issues raised by Dostoyevsky.

Blood and Sweat is the only novel that truly describes in soul of the Kazakh people, and the birth of a nation with defined boundaries. This is the first time Nurpeisov’s trilogy has been translated and publishing into the English language, based on the authorized 2010 translation by the renowned Russian writer and translator Yury Kazakov.

Nurpiesov has won numerous awards including the Laureate of the State Prize of the USSR, and given the honorary title ‘People’s Writer of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic.’ Nurpeisov is the founding president of PEN International in Kazakhstan.”

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The Great Thinkers of the Kazakh Steppe

“This book is a collection of biographies of great people from Kazakhstan's history. Some were real heroes of their time, some were not understood and were even thought to be traitors. However, their input into the future was very significant and their achievements cannot be diminished. Here, you will find out about the national composers-akyns, poets, and Khans. You will learn about the three judges that established the first legal system in Kazakhstan. Some of the characters might seem mythical, but the stories about them still live among us.

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Yerkebulan Dzhelbuldin was born in 1934 in Kazakhstan. He worked as a teacher in the Soviet Union for all his life and began gathering Kazakh materials for his book after Kazakhstan acquired its independence. Many facts were concealed from the Kazakh people and even Kazakhs did not know about their Khans and philosophers.

This book has never been published before. I translated Yerkebulan’s materials and put them into a book along with the sketches of all the characters. My name is Dana Jeteyeva and I specialize in translations of Kazakh fairy tales and other interesting facts about Kazakhstan. I want people all over the world to learn about my country—even though it is a big country in the middle of the large continent of Eurasia, few people know anything about it.”

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The Shining Light

“Poetry has always been in the Kazakh blood, and Galym Mutanov is one of the newly independent nation’s leading poets, a shining light in the Kazakh literary world. In the range of his poetry, Mutanov truly captures the essence of the Kazakh spirit – from the tough and ageless traditions of the wild steppe to moments of tender intimacy. The measured Islamic wisdom and deep sense of morality so intrinsic to Kazakh life of old shines through in verse after verse.

The figure of Abai, the 19th century visionary, the deeply spiritual poet of the steppe, looms large over Kazakh poetry. Mutanov takes up the challenge that Abai threw down – to create verse that is both steeped in the Kazakh tradition of oral verse yet rises to a new clarity and spirituality relevant today.

Mutanov wrote originally in Kazakh, but many Kazakhs speak only Russian. So his poems were translated into Russian by leading poets Vladimir Buryazev and M. Adibaeva. It is these Russian versions that provided the source for John Farndon’s translations with Olga Nakston for this collection.

A Kazakh poet Galymkair Mutanov is not only an interesting and gifted creative personality, but also a very original, distinctive philosopher. His poems are heartfelt, extraordinary and modest. The poems are the memories, reflections and advice of a truly wise and outstanding person. They are not trivial and vain, but really bright, with deep philosophical associations.

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Song of the Swans

Dulat Issabekov was the first writer to be awarded the State Prize of Independent Kazakhstan, the Prize of Kazakhstan’s Pen Club, and the Platinum Prize of the independent organization Tarlan. He also received an International Chingiz Aitmatov Award for Life Achievement in 2014 at the House of Lords, British Parliament.

Feature films have been made of Issabekov’s works and his plays continue to performed worldwide.

Included in this collection are some of Issabekov’s most popular plays: Song of the Swans, the Actress, A Man on a Mission, the Transit Passenger, and the Monument.

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Vita Nostra

Vita Nostra — a cross between Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian is the anti-Harry Potter you didn’t know you wanted.” -The Washington Post

Vita Nostra has the potential to become a modern classic of its genre, and I couldn’t be more excited to see it get the global audience in English it so richly deserves.” - Lev Grossman

Winner of Best Book from both Amazon & Paste Magazine

“The definitive English language translation of this internationally acclaimed novel—a brilliant dark fantasy combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.

Our life is brief . . .

Sasha Samokhina has been accepted to the Institute of Special Technologies.

Or, more precisely, she’s been chosen.

Situated in a tiny village, she finds the students are bizarre, and the curriculum even more so. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, it is their families that pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.

A complex blend of adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, filtered through a distinct Ukrainian sensibility, this astonishing work of speculative fiction—brilliantly translated by Julia Meitov Hersey—is reminiscent of modern classics such as Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Max Barry’s Lexicon, and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, but will transport them to a place far beyond those fantastical worlds.”

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Depeche Mode

“The Ukrainian version of Trainspotting, bluntly nihilistic and unexpectedly hilarious.

In 1993, tragic turbulence takes over Ukraine in the post-communist spin-off. As if in somnambulism, Soviet war veterans and upstart businessmen listen to an American preacher of whose type there were plenty at the time in the post-Soviet territory. In Kharkiv, the young communist head quarters are now an advertising agency, and a youth radio station creates a feature on the Irish folk band Depeche Mode and the role of the harmonica in the struggle against capitalist oppression. And so the Western songs make their way into ordinary Ukrainian homes of ordinary people.

In the middle of this craze, three friends—an anti-Semitic Jew Dog Pavlov, an unfortunate entrepreneur Vasia the Communist and the narrator Zhadan, nineteen years of age and unemployed—seek to find their old pal Sasha Carburator to tell him that his step-father shot himself dead. Characters confront elements of their reality, and, tainted with traumatic survival fever, embark on a sad, dramatic and a bit grotesque adventure.”

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