New Releases in Fiction - February 2019!

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Reviewer's Rating
Feb 8, 2019

Hello and welcome to our look at some new releases at the Johnson County Library! Each month we look at five fiction titles making their debut that we think you should know about. You might not find these books on the bestseller lists, but that's okay, as we love putting the spotlight on books you might not have heard about. Give one - or more - of these titles a chance to make it in your hold list. We hope you find something new!

In this emotionally haunting and masterful debut, THE CARE AND FEEDING OF RAVENOUSLY HUNGRY GIRLS by Anissa Gray is this month’s must-read and destined to be a book club favorite. A tale of families and their secrets unfolds as the matriarch of the Butler family, Althea, is in jail awaiting sentencing for fraud. The rest of the family reunites to care for Althea’s children, and we discover that Althea was the one responsible for the family when she was twelve years old when her mother ran off and left her in charge of her three sisters. As she grew up and found support, she became a pillar of the community until her sudden arrest. Anissa Gray carefully balances the coming-of-age tale of the Butler siblings with the present-day tale of the family in chaos. Filled with secrets, lies, trauma, and above all, family love, people who liked Tayari Jones’ AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE or THE MOTHERS by Brit Bennett will find much to love here.

We talked a bit last month about the psychological thriller genre that’s still churning out books that hit the bestseller lists just when everyone thinks there’s no more twists to be had. If you’re looking for this year’s thriller that dominates the charts and the book conversation, the smart money just might be on a debut novel by author Alex Michaelides: THE SILENT PATIENT. This novel of secrets and obsession begins with an emerging female artist found with the murdered body of her fashion photographer husband at her feet. Refusing to communicate, she is committed to an asylum, where a young doctor, fascinated by the case, tries to get the famous “silent patient” to talk. Whether Alicia Berenson is silent out of trauma, abuse, or calculated for her own purposes is an answer that I certainly won’t share with you, but it’s absolutely an absorbing, exhilarating read, a fast-paced investigative thriller, and just about as finely crafted as anything on the bookshelves. This is a great followup for those who love Ruth Ware, B.A. Paris, or Paula Hawkins. Jump on this before the movie rights get sold, so you, too, can complain to your friends what the movie version got wrong. 

Some readers want their books in clearly defined genre definitions: they want their cozy mysteries not mixed with their rollicking space operas that must not touch with their historical romances. THE NIGHT TIGER by Yangsze Choo is a combination of several different fictional genres, all mixed in the same spicy, satisfying broth: historical fiction meets mystery meets folklore meets magical realism. And that’s just for starters: THE NIGHT TIGER is set in 1930s colonial Malaysia and brings two different characters together: one is a young servant with a master who is tasked with a mission - find the master's lost finger, cut off and lost years ago, and reunite it with his body. The other character is a young apprentice dressmaker who spends her nights as a dance hall girl to make extra money to help pay off her mother’s debts. But one night, she stumbles across a mysterious severed finger that leads her into a dark world of adventure. Oh, and a weretiger is involved. Seriously. Perfect for someone who wants something well-written, atmospheric, and very, very different than almost every other novel out there. Give this one a try, as Choo also wrote 2013’s well-received sleeper hit THE GHOST BRIDE.

There’s a certain subsection of science-fiction stories that have a ton of heart that’s written for a mainstream audience - I’m thinking of novels like Audrey Niffenegger’s THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, Elan Mastai’s ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS, or Blake Crouch’s DARK MATTER. Mike Chen’s HERE AND NOW AND THEN fits neatly in the category. Kin Stewart is a husband and father, who lives a normal life and a normal job in a San Francisco suburb, but he’s holding a secret - he’s actually an agent from the future who went back in time to track down a criminal but was trapped here due to a malfunction with his homing beacon. But he had to get on with his life, and put the past - our, more correctly, our future - behind him. When his compatriots finally track him down, eighteen years later, to take him back to his own time, his daughter is left behind.  Kin risks both his future and his past to be reunited with her. Despite all the time travel shenanigans, this is a story that, at its core, is about the bond between a father and daughter that keeps the reader completely invested in every twist, turn, and plot device along the way. Not just a sci-fi thriller, not just a family story - this combines many threads into a satisfying whole.

A stunning Hollywood actress whose beauty was celebrated around the world is also a scientist who helped develop a technology that was used against the Nazis in World War Two and still exists in the cell phones that millions of us carry in our pockets. Sounds like something out of a movie, right? Actually, this novel is based on the very true story of Jewish (and Austrian-born) actress Hedy Lamarr. In THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM by Marie Benedict, Lamarr, born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, began as an actress in her home country who caused a sensation with her provocative films and eventually married an arms manufacturer who did business with Germany. Lamarr, having a sharp and analytical mind who enjoyed tinkering with electronics as a hobby between acting gigs, was present at dinner parties and business meetings where Nazi plans were discussed. She eventually flees her controlling husband and carves out a successful career in Hollywood, but she has to work hard to overcome the stereotype that a beautiful woman can’t also have a brilliant mind, as her plans involve a frequency-hopping technology that overcomes German attempts at jamming Allied torpedoes. Years later, it becomes a crucial element in developing Bluetooth technology in many cell phones. Benedict crafts a can’t-miss historical novel that encompasses both Hollywood and the battlefronts of WWII, and delves deep into a quietly important historical figure who had to struggle to be heard despite her worldwide fame. 

Thank you for joining us as we look at some of this month's new releases! Be sure to rate and comment on items you like in the catalog, and be sure to ask your friendly neighborhood library staff what they think you'd like. 

Reviewed by Gregg W.
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