New Releases in Fiction - January 2019!

Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Jan 17, 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!

Karen Thompson Walker is one of those authors who doesn't release a lot of books, or release them very often, but when she does, it’s always a good idea to sit up and take notice. Her latest is called THE DREAMERS, and it’s a stunning piece of literary fiction that is a must for your book club. The novel is set in a small college town in California, where a young student falls asleep after a night partying with her classmates - and doesn’t wake up. Soon more students succumb to the - virus? plague? pandemic? - that quickly sweeps through campus and then into the town itself, which is sealed off from the rest of the world by the authorities. But this is no “World War Z” style thriller - Thompson writes about the interior lives of the students and residents who are caught up in this slow-motion apocalypse, digging into the lives of characters who love, mature, fear for their future, and, of course, dream. Beautifully written, insightful, and stunning, this is perfect for those who liked her previous novel, THE AGE OF MIRACLES, and to authors like Emily St. John Mandel and Louise Erdrich.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are at least a hundred books on library shelves that are some version of Jane Austen’s PRIDE & PREJUDICE. One even features zombies! The latest to hit the shelves (and most definitely DOES NOT have any zombies) is UNMARRIAGEABLE by Soniah Kamal, set in modern-day Pakistan. Kamal takes the Jane Austen framework, updates it, and immerses it in another culture while adding Kamal’s dry wit, wordplay, and character work. Don’t mistake this for a carbon-copy knockoff, however: this stands alone as a charming, dazzling novel that both feels familiar and also gives the reader something new - a look at Pakistani customs, social norms, and family and courtship dynamics that can differ a bit from the 19th century British original. This is a book to savor, enjoy, and leave you with a smile on your face and is absolutely well worth seeking out.

With novels like LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK and A MAN CALLED OVE, stories of grumpy older folks looking back to review their lives, is almost its own genre at this point. Sofia Lundberg’s THE RED ADDRESS BOOK neatly fits into this genre and is a charming and witty book. The title refers to the address book that belongs to Doris, a 96-year-old Swedish woman, originally given to her by her father. She recorded the names and addresses of most everyone she’s ever met and now thumbs through the book as she recovers from an accident in a hospital, relating her life story to her American grandniece, Jenny. We trace Doris’ story from working as a servant girl in a wealthy household to the runways of Paris to fleeing Europe on the eve of World War 2 and up to the present day. Sweeping, poignant, and emotionally charged, Lundberg’s novel is laced with both joy and sadness. (After finishing this novel, you might run out to buy your own physical address book - a novel based on going though your Facebook Friends List doesn’t quite have the same feel.)

Seanan McGuire’s “Wayward Children” series is an absolute delight for those of us who read “The Chronicles of Narnia” when we were younger and sometimes still check the back of the clothes closet to see if any secret passageways to magical worlds might be waiting for us. McGuire’s series takes that concept and runs with it, and each novel is a marvel of magical realism and fantasy. Better still, each novel in the series is a standalone, so it’s not necessarily required to read the series in order. Here, IN AN ABSENT DREAM features Lundy, a very serious young girl who has all her life meticulously planned out for her by her parents - and that life decidedly does not include interesting things like adventures. So she finds her way to a magical realm called the Goblin Market, where everything is negotiated and bargained for, and where you always have to pay your debts. She finds friends, magic and adventure, but those things do come at a price, and sometimes at a price Lundy isn’t prepared to pay. McGuire’s writing is at times wistful, intoxicating, and knowing, and each of her novels (this is the fourth in this series - she has others) are things of wonder and delight.

Psychological thrillers show no sign of slowing down in 2019. Titles from the genre dominate the bestseller lists even though they’ve only been around for less than a decade. (Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL, arguably the novel that kicked off the modern trend, was published only seven years ago.) An early nomination for the year’s standout title is AN ANONYMOUS GIRL written by the tag team of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, authors of last year’s also excellent THE WIFE BETWEEN US. Here, the focus is on a makeup artist who is looking to make a few extra bucks by answering questions for a case study on ethics and morality given by a college professor. Finding herself to be an ideal candidate, she gets drawn in further into the study and into the life of its creator, Dr. Shields. Alternating from points of view between the two, the novel ratchets up the tension as the study veers into some dark corners as the novel goes from fairly conventional to OH MY GOD WHAT JUST HAPPENED within just a few chapters. Go ahead and block off a few hours after your usual bedtime, as you’ll be reading this one deep into the night.

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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