Hello and welcome to this month's look at the new releases at the Johnson County Library, where 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 and unexpected.
First up is NOVEMBER ROAD by Lou Berney, who also wrote THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, a low-level fixer for the New Orleans mob realizes he has ties to the killing and goes on the run as people around him start disappearing. Meanwhile, a small-town wife and mother from Oklahoma packs her kids in a car and flees her alcoholic husband. When the two meet on the road, the fixer sees a chance to blend in, but fleeing isn't an attractive option when innocents are at stake. Wistful and complex, Berney's confident portrait of a roadside America traumatized by Kennedy's death gives the novel literary heft, while the ticking clock of the mob closing in on the family to settle accounts lends a genre bite. Perfect for fans of Don Winslow or Dennis Lehane.
Most us have been to a major sporting event where a camera will roam the crowd, looking for people to kiss and put up on the big screen. In Jasmine Guillory's whip-smart THE PROPOSAL, it's not just a kiss, but a wedding proposal that drives the story. When writer Nikole goes to a baseball game and gets a VERY public proposal from her hipster actor/model boyfriend, she's a bit taken aback - not only by the suddenness and the immediate public pressure to say yes to something she's not prepared for, but there's also the fact he spelled her name wrong on the scoreboard. She avoids a public shaming with the quick thinking and help of her friends - and a handsome stranger at the game who happens to step in at a crucial moment. A tentative romance blossoms with Nik and the stranger while they deal with the public fallout. Guillory's followup to her equally astounding THE WEDDING DATE is winner, filled with razor-sharp dialogue and a distinctly modern social media feel. Readers who love character-driven titles with wit, warmth and a heavy dash of spice like Susan Mallery or Helen Hoang will devour this.
Claire Fuller's BITTER ORANGE is set in a sagging, aging English country manor in 1969, where an American buyer hires an architecture student, Frances Jellico, to survey the property. Frances is tentative and a bit awkward but is committed to her job and takes a residence in the manor's cramped attic. She soon finds a hole that peers down to the room of a couple hired to do an inventory of the estate's holdings, and quickly a bond forms between the three which then escalates to something more.... until Frances discovers that all is not right with the couple, and uncovers the secrets that they have kept hidden. This novel starts off a bit slow but then ramps up to the twists and turns, but this is in no way a psychological thriller, where twists and turns usually start before the bottom of the first page. Here, the pace is more leisurely, literary, with the tension set to a high level. Fuller weaves a spell that is worth falling under, and since BITTER ORANGE is a fairly slim book, readers will soon be clamoring for more.
If you're not familiar with writer Joe Ide's award-winning series of books featuring private detective Isaiah "IQ" Quintabe, you're in for an absolute treat. WRECKED is his newest and third book in the series and is a great place to jump aboard if you're new to the series. IQ is an amateur sleuth who serves his local community of Long Beach, California, assisted by his streetwise friend with a slightly shady past, Dodson. Each book is structured like a classic mystery but with a delightfully unique mix of urban noir, psychological thriller, and Quentin Tarantino-like bursts of action. Here, IQ is becoming more and more known but still has trouble getting paid. Enter local artist Grace, who hires IQ to track down her mother, a witness to a murder who has mysteriously disappeared, and he finds himself in competition with a group of Blackwater-style military mercenaries who are after her as well - for their own murky reasons. As the plot unfolds, IQ meets an Oxford-educated mind that might be the equal to his own, a Moriarty to IQ and Dodson's Holmes and Watson. Ide provides a multi-faceted, cinematic mystery that provides a kick of adrenaline that both stuns and hooks the reader in. (Come on, Hollywood, I'd love to see IQ on the big screen or next up on the Netflix queue.)
For those who like their sci-fi gritty and realistic and their action propulsive and non-stop, be sure to check out S.L. Huang's ZERO SUM GAME. This debut novel features Cas Russell, a young woman who can visualize vector calculus equations at superhuman speed, which means she knows the precise angle a bullet needs to travel to strike a target, knows where punches will land right as they're being thrown, and can instantly map out the path of a speeding motorcycle going the wrong way through a busy intersection while being chased by a van full of goons with submachine guns. (Who knew that advanced mathematics can help a person kick serious butt? Stay in school, kids.) How Cas got her powers is a bit of a mystery to her, but when a job to rescue a kidnapped victim goes sideways, she has to tangle with a villain with psychic powers who might have an idea. Action-packed, crisply written, and fun - hey, the main character is a superhero who's power is, essentially, science - this is a novel full of smart mayhem that will get you out of your reading slump. Or, maybe, inspire you to pick up that calculus textbook you haven't looked at since high school.