New Releases in Fiction - February 2020!

Covers of books.
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Tuesday, Feb 4, 2020

Hello and welcome to our look at some new releases in the fiction section at the Johnson County Library! Every month we look at five titles making their debut that we think you absolutely need to know about. Give one - or more - of these titles a chance to make it in your hold list. We hope you find something new!

Stephen Moore, known for his densely-plotted historical fiction like The Sherlockian or The Last Days of Night, makes a shift toward the bestseller lists with his newest novel, a smart, sharp contemporary legal thriller that seems primed for a movie deal. (Considering that Moore also won an Academy Award for Adapted Screenplay for the 2014 movie The Imitation Game, it might not be that far from the truth.) The action of THE HOLDOUT focuses on Maya Seale, a young Los Angeles defense attorney who was herself once a juror in a controversial murder case where she was the holdout vote who convinced her other jurors to vote not guilty. Years later, the jurors are reunited in a documentary of the trial when one of the other jurors who had since recanted and was researching evidence on his own, is found dead, and Maya has to go on the run to prove her own innocence and unravel hidden details of the origional murder. This one will keep you turning pages, as the twists and turns pile up but never feel silly or outrageous. (It’s okay if you mentally cast the roles in your head as you read - I did as well.)

Danny is an illegal immigrant from Sri Lanka, spending the last three years carefully constructing a new life for himself in Sydney, Australia, where the immigration laws are much stricter than ours here in the States in the novel AMNESTY by Aravind Adiga. Working hard and living out of a grocery storeroom, holding a menial but steady job, and artfully hiding his accent, he seems to be on the path to disappear in a country that he has grown to love when a friend of his is found murdered - and he thinks he knows who the killer is based on evidence left behind at the scene. However, to step forward to the authorities, he risks everything he carefully built, as his identity will quickly be found out. What to do? Danny must weigh what is legal against what is moral in this propulsive and surprisingly witty novel that takes the reader through the point of view of an immigrant trying to do the best he can in very stressful circumstances.

Epic fantasy is a genre that gets checked out quite a bit in libraries, but you don’t see much of them on book displays or the staff picks shelf. But good ones are out there, from Brandon Sanderson to N.K. Jemisin to S.A. Chakraborty, and whether you cut your literary teeth on the Lord of the Rings or if you’re still looking for a show that scratches that Game of Thrones/Witcher itch, we have tons of books to help you. An excellent debut hits the shelves this month: THE UNSPOKEN NAME by A.K. Larkwood starts with a familiar fantasy trope - a young woman is prepared to be sacrificed to a local god, but right before the event, she is given a way out - a mysterious person appears and gives her the option of traveling with him, becoming educated, and becoming his personal assassin. She takes the chance. (I certainly would have.) However, the god she was promised to has a long memory - and an even longer reach - so she must deal with the consequences. Larkwood gives us memorable characters and a lightning-fast plot, where different races live in amazing cities in realms accessible by magic corridors navigated by airships. (Which, I don’t know about you, but sounds AWESOME to me.) Readers of fast-paced high fantasy absolutely need to snap this up.

A dazzling debut you should absolutely keep your eyes on is SAINT X by Alexis Schaitkin. The novel begins as a seven-year-old Claire goes on vacation with her family to a Carribean island with a resort. Her teenages sister disappears and is later found dead. Two resort workers were arrested for the crime, but later released due to a lack of evidence. Years later, when Claire is working for a publisher in New York City, she sees one of the suspects, now driving a taxicab. She follows him, looking for any indication if he really did the crime he was accused of so long ago, as well as any connection to her sister who seems, years later, as a distant memory. Crisp and dreamlike, the novel is a meditation on family, loss, and how a traumatic event echoes unexpectedly through the lives of all those involved. SAINT X is an excellent book group pick, too, as Shaitkin’s literary chops and interior character work make this novel both readable and discussable, similar to Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN or Christine Mangan’s TANGERINE.

Carolina Santos is a bright, beautiful, determined, and very in-demand wedding coordinator in Washington, DC. She also recently got left at the altar herself, so she’s looking to rebound and to climb back to the top of her profession. An opportunity working with a high-profile hotel might just be the project she needs to clear her head and take her career to the next level, until she discovers that she’ll have to work alongside the best man of the ex who jilted her - the handsome yet annoying Max Hartley, who’s working an angle of his own. THE WORST BEST MAN by Mia Sosa is a delightful romance along the lines of Jasmine Guillory and Alisha Rai, ideal for those who like contemporary enemies-to-loves romances where sparks - and wordplay - fly.

Gregg W.

Written by Gregg W.

Fun fact: I have surprisingly strong opinions about comic book characters.