New Releases - November 2016

Zadie Smith
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Nov 4, 2016

Welcome to a quick look at some new releases that will be hitting the bookshelves of a library near you!

Zadie Smith’s deep, enriching novels have been mainstays of book clubs for years, and her newest, Swing Time, follows that very same course charted in novels like White Teeth and On Beauty. Here, a young mixed-race girl in 1980s underclass London meets another brown girl and they bond over their shared love of dancing and obsession over the movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The novel follows our unnamed narrator through her teen years and twenties as the two friends drift apart, eventually ending up as an assistant to a famous Australian pop star who builds a girls’ school in a poor West African country and who collects adopted children. Smart, witty, and utterly absorbing, with insights on race, class, and character, Smith always keeps you thinking and turning pages.

Bestselling novelist Daisy Goodwin, author of The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter, is back with Victoria, a fictional account of a the first few years of a young Queen Victoria’s reign. Based on the Queen’s own diaries, and also the subject of an upcoming PBS/Masterpiece miniseries written and created by Goodwin, this is going to be a sought-after title, especially for historical fiction fans. Starting from just days before her coronation, the novel highlights Victoria’s deeply strong character and will – not only eighteen years old when she was crowned, but stood under five feet high. With the responsibility of commanding the British Empire at its height, the young queen is a fascinating subject and in Daisy Goodwin’s deft and able hands, this is sure to be a must-read.

Also coming out this month – as long as we’re talking about Queen Victoria – is Julia Baird’s biography of the Queen: Victoria, The Queen: An Intimate Biography Of The Woman Who Ruled An Empire. Baird, a former editor of Newsweek magazine, brings a journalistic eye to the queen, and seems not overly concerned with policies and the movements of armies on a map but pays more attention to the woman herself - her struggles, her triumphs, her flaws, and her relationships. In an era where women were still considered property of their husbands, reigning an empire and doing it well required a vast array of skills. This is readable yet also deeply researched; there’s over a hundred and twenty pages of footnotes, if you’re into that sort of thing. However, this biography should please both academic fans and a broader public.

Be sure to check out the final book in Erika Johansen trilogy that comes out this month, The Fate Of The Tearling. This well-written and engaging series is a wonderful mix of genres – there are dystopian and fantasy elements that come across more like historical fiction but also includes some coming-of-age moments, court drama, and plenty of action scenes to move the plot along, all revolving around a headstrong yet visionary young queen who has plenty of book knowledge but has to learn real-world application on the fly. This has crossover appeal, not only from historical fiction to fantasy fans, but adult to YA audiences as well.

Most readers know about the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child – over twenty books published in the past ten years will do that, as well as two movies starring Tom Cruise. Child’s novels have been praised as thoughtful thrillers, with the hero, ex-military man Reacher, relying on strategy and skill as opposed to wading into conflict with fists flying and guns blazing. Faced with a long series, however, many patrons are confused about order – do you start at the beginning, or can you pick up any of his books and jump in? The good news is that for the most part, the Reacher series does not have to be read in order, as the series itself jumps around in Reacher’s timeline. Child’s newest, Night School, takes place early in Reacher’s career, as he is put on assignment with two operatives from the FBI and CIA. If you’ve never tried a Reacher novel, this is a great time to jump on board. 

Reviewed by Gregg W.
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