New Releases in Fiction - June 2019!

Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Jun 19, 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!

Blake Crouch caused many eyebrows to raise with his 2016 sleeper hit DARK MATTER. Writing a Michael Crichton-ish science thriller but with a postmodern twist and with a ton of heart made him an author to watch. He’s back with RECURSION, a mind-bending thriller that features Dr. Helene Smith, a neuroscientist conducting cutting-edge research on the ability to restore and possibly implant missing memories in Alzheimer’s patients, using the funding of a mysterious Elon Musk-style billionaire. A few years later, NYC detective Barry Sutton investigates a rash of suicides where people are overwhelmed by memories of alternate lives that never existed and which the media dubs “False Memory Syndrome.” Crouch connects the dots in a smart and engaging thriller that will hook even that most casual of readers. This has the cinematic feel of a prestige HBO or Netflix show and should dominate bestseller charts throughout the summer. 

Everybody has a particular type or genre of book that they are complete suckers for. The site Book Riot even has a term for this: “genre kryptonite.” Just like Superman cannot resist his weakness for the glowing green meteorites, there are readers who simply cannot resist the pull of a Regency romance, or a windswept historical fiction set in the Great Plains, or a twisty spy thriller set in the depths of the Cold War. As a librarian, I admit to having several of these weaknesses - I love novels set in academies, boarding schools, or universities. I also love novels featuring magic and magicians in contemporary settings. And I adore brooding investigative procedurals featuring a hard-bitten PI piecing together clues while fighting their own demons. Happily, Sarah Gailey’s MAGIC FOR LIARS manages to combine all of these into one package. Ivy Gamble has a twin sister who is a professor at a secret magic academy. Ivy herself lacks the ability to do magic, and masks her bitterness behind a bottle of booze and barely scraping by working as a private investigator. But when a murder occurs at that magical academy, Ivy’s decidedly non-magic skills are called to action, and an opportunity for redemption arises. Gailey writes with equal parts wonder, noir, and wit, and Ivy Gamble is a memorable character who I’d love to see again. If you liked the cynical magical world of Lev Grossman’s THE MAGICIANS or wondered if Tana French could ever write fantasy, you’ll be in the ballpark.

Historical fiction always has to have a strong sense of place to make the novel work. CALL YOUR DAUGHTER HOME by Deb Spera, set in the pre-Great Depression years of Branchville, South Carolina, draws together three determined yet interconnected women. There’s Gertrude, who is looking to escape her abusive husband and flees in the middle of the night with her four children in tow. Annie is the wealthy matriarch of a family-owned plantation nearby that’s struggling with the aftermath of a boll weevil infestation. And Retta is Annie’s housekeeper, a first-generation freed slave with a few secrets. This novel is told through alternating voices as the characters meet, collide, and interact. Each woman is connected to the others by shared heartbreak and their desire to keep their families together under difficult circumstances. Readers who are looking for a slower, more immersive pace will find much to love as Spera paints a vivid picture of the American South and the interconnectedness of the women’s lives, relationships, and possibilities for redemption. Make sure you keep this title on your radar for book groups.

AYESHA AT LAST by Uzma Jalaluddin is a delightful “Pride and Prejudice” style romance set in a modern Muslim-Canadian community. Ayesha Shamsi is a newly minted teacher who works long hours so she can repay her uncle who put her through college while living with her large - and very nosy - family. Her younger (and flightier) cousin has turned down yet another marriage proposal when Ayesha meets Khalid, a handsome yet infuriatingly traditional man, and sparks immediately fly. Jalaluddin creates three-dimensional characters full of humor and warmth, and you will root for the brash and opinionated Ayesha and the tight-lipped yet passionate Khalid as they circle each other, get to know each other, and above all, banter with each other. (Oh, the banter.) A wonderfully charming story with characters that feel real should absolutely be on everyone’s summer reading list, and AYESHA AT LAST does not disappoint. (And as someone who usually does not read romance, I was completely taken with this book. Be sure to give it a shot.) 

Every indication of Ocean Vuong’s debut novel ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS is clear he’s an immense, multidimensional literary talent with a coming-of-age story written in a part-letter, part-fictional memoir style from a queer Vietnamese son to his illiterate mother. Vuong, a poet, uses every tool from his toolbox to create an immersive waterfall of words and imagery that encompasses the immigrant experience, the risks of falling in love, and growing up in a world that sometimes has little room for him but is filled with transcendent moments. Brilliant, fractured, and stuffed with words of white-hot rawness, ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS will be a contender for several year-end best-of lists. 

That's it for this month! Be sure to check back soon for another edition, and be sure to follow our staff on the blog, in the catalog, on the podcast, and on our website for more great books. 

Reviewed by Gregg W.
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