There are so many books coming out or recently released that have me salivating and wiggling in my seat with excitement! Here are my top 13 picks:
Published February 4, 2014
In a small rural village
in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian
soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire
to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in
the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will
forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned
hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the
For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an
unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on
additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five
extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the
intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these
three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story
of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.
Why I'm loving it: I like "cultural" stories, occurring in places like Serbia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. I like "quaint" stories that take place in villages and little cabins in the woods. And I like mysteries and breadcrumb trails of information. What's with the blue suitcase? I'm looking forward to finding out. This one is on the way to me.
The Bully of Order by Brian Hart
September 2, 2014
Set in a logging town
on the lawless Pacific coast of Washington State at the turn of the
twentieth century, a spellbinding novel of fate and redemption—told with
a muscular lyricism and filled with a cast of characters Shakespearean
in scope—in which the lives of an ill-fated family are at the mercy of
violent social and historical forces that tear them apart
Bully of Order does what only the best works of fiction can do: it
brilliantly imagines those parts of life that history all too often
fails to record. This is a thoroughly engrossing story told in
mesmerizing prose.” —Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
to make his fortune, Jacob Ellstrom, armed with his medical kit and new
wife, Nell, lands in The Harbor—a mud-filled, raucous coastal town
teeming with rough trade pioneers, sawmill laborers, sailors, and
prostitutes. But Jacob is not a doctor, and a botched delivery exposes
his ruse, driving him onto the streets in a plunge toward alcoholism.
Alone, Nell scrambles to keep herself and their young son, Duncan, safe
in this dangerous world. When a tentative reunion between the couple—in
the company of Duncan and Jacob’s malicious brother, Matius—results in
tragedy, Jacob must flee town to elude being charged with murder.
later, the wild and reckless Duncan seems to be yet another of The
Harbor’s hoodlums. His only salvation is his overwhelming love for
Teresa Boyerton, the daughter of the town’s largest mill owner. But
disaster will befall the lovers with heartbreaking consequences.
across town, Bellhouse, a union boss and criminal rabble-rouser, sits
at the helm of The Harbor’s seedy underbelly, perpetuating a cycle of
greed and violence. His thug Tartan directs his pack of thieves, pimps,
and murderers, and conceals an incendiary secret involving Duncan’s
mother. As time passes, a string of calamitous events sends these
characters hurtling towards each other in an epic collision that will
shake the town to its core.
Why I'm loving it: I love books that take place in the Pacific Northwest, and I love stories of rugged life and "rabble-rouser" characters. This book is actually on its way to me.
Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes
Published January 22, 2014
A terrible loss. A desperate journey.
A mother seeks the truth.
In December of the year 1377, five children were
burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers
traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for
their children’s deaths.
Sinful Folk is the
story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has
lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in
this isolated village.
For years, she has concealed herself
and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to
claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her
journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption.
Why I'm loving it: I love "old-timey" books, taking place hundreds of years ago. Books of loss and trials, quirky twists like a nun "who has lived...disguised as a mute man". This one is also on its way to me.
The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith
Expected release is August 26, 2014
Set in a small coastal
town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American
Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of
family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave,
characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war,
kidnapping, slavery, and love
“The best novel I have read all
year. . . . The arresting prose, vividly original characters, and
narrative drive with which Smith tells this story of desperate familial
love on a long-ago coast provided this reader with several hours of pure
pleasure and a rare glimpse of grace in a fictional world.”
to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small
coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate
voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen,
John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts
yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his
daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt
air will heal her.
Years before, Helen herself was raised by a
widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his
daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely
on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship.
Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls
grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier,
she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll,
meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is
her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the
bounds of slavery.
In this elegant, evocative, and haunting
debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and
child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in
the name of renewal.
Why I'm loving it: Coastal towns, marshes, slavery, loss. A haunting atmosphere. Sounds like my kind of story. And another one that is one its way to me.
California by Edan Lepucki
Published July 8, 2014
The world Cal and Frida
have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los
Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness,
working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation
and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for
a past they can't reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other.
But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into
doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant.
Terrified of the
unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and
Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid
community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but
Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses its own dangers. In this
unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a
threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.
A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California
imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes
between mankind's dark nature and irrepressible resilience force us to
question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
Why I'm loving it: I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic, man's survival-against-all-odds-type stories. What about that settlement? Can they be trusted? I spotted this one recently at the book store.
The High Divide by Lin Enger
Expected release is September 23, 2014
In 1886, Gretta Pope
wakes one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has
left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota’s western prairie,
with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or
where he’s headed. It doesn’t take long for Gretta’s young sons, Eli and
Danny, to set off after him, following the scant clues they can find,
jumping trains to get where they need to go, and ending up in the rugged
badlands of Montana.
Short on money and beleaguered by a
treacherous landlord, Gretta has no choice but to seek out her sons and
her husband as well, leading her to the doorstep of a woman who seems
intent on making Ulysses her own. While out in the wilderness, the boys
find that the closer they come to Ulysses’s trail, the greater the
perils that confront them.
Enger’s breathtaking portrait of the
vast Plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters’
emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events—the turmoil of
expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the
subjugation of the Plains Indians—blend seamlessly with the story of a
family’s sacrifice and devotion.
Why I'm loving it: I love stories about "the wilderness" and the mountains and the prairie. Stories that weave in our nation's history, and even our shameful moments. And then you've got this mystery surrounding why this man would just up and leave his family.
The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan
Expected release is September 30, 2014
A young sheriff
and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this
mesmerizing first novel set on the plains of Montana
Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan's The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.
the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer
awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each
other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John
Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77,
has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine
Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws
the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage
further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds
himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something
essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn
with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by
the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.
Why I'm loving it: I'm surprised to find as I get older that I like a certain kind of western. A literary-type of western. A hard western. The type where it's good vs. evil. This one seems to fit the bill!
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Expected release is October 2, 2014
From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a masterfully written novel that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s.
On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two
days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert, gunmen
stormed his house, machine guns blazing. The attack nearly killed the
Reggae superstar, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others.
Marley would go on to perform at the free concert on December 5, but he
left the country the next day, not to return for two years.
Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of
characters—assassins, journalists, drug dealers, and even ghosts—A Brief History of Seven Killings is
the fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time and its
bloody aftermath, from the streets and slums of Kingston in the '70s, to
the crack wars in '80s New York, to a radically altered Jamaica in the '90s. Brilliantly inventive and stunningly ambitious, this novel is a
revealing modern epic that will secure Marlon James’ place among the
great literary talents of his generation.
Why I'm loving it: Bob Marley, assasins, machine guns blazing, Jamaica. What isn't there to love? The premise sounds fascinating!
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Expected release is October 28, 2014
dedicated missionary, and loving husband to his wife, Bea-has just
accepted a demanding and perilous new job. He's to travel to a new
planet, Oasis, to work for a mysterious corporation called USIC. He's
tasked with reaching out to the indigenous race, to make sure they are
as peaceful as they seem. Resolutely devout and strengthened by his
letters from Bea at home, Peter undertakes his job with complete focus.
The Oasans are shockingly open to his teachings, but things start to
unravel when Bea's missives from Earth take a dark tone. Earth appears
to be coming apart at the seams: typhoons and earthquakes are
devastating whole countries and governments are crumbling. Even the
hospital where she works has ceased to function. Their unearthly divide
is testing Peter and Bea's relationship to a startlingly degree. Peter
is thrown into crisis. USIC might be hiding its true motives in
developing Oasis, and the Oasans themselves are frustratingly opaque.
Bea's desperate letters are only fomenting his doubt. Peter is suddenly
faced with an impossible-and dangerous-decision: to follow his faith, or
follow his heart. His life depends on it.
Why I'm loving it: This is another interesting premise. Sci-fi and religion and aliens and apocalypse? Yes, please! And it's getting pretty good reviews.
The Undertaking by Audrey Magee
Published February 6, 2014
Desperate to escape the
Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries
Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met; it is a marriage of
convenience that promises 'honeymoon' leave for him and a pension for
her should he die on the front. With ten days' leave secured, Peter
visits his new wife in Berlin; both are surprised by the attraction that
develops between them.
When Peter returns to the horror of the
front, it is only the dream of Katharina that sustains him as he
approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her
desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into the Nazi
party hierarchy, wedding herself, her young husband and their unborn
child to the regime. But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls,
Peter and Katharina, ordinary people stained with their small share of
an extraordinary guilt, find their simple dream of family increasingly
hard to hold on to...
Why I'm loving it: A hard storyline. War brings murder, brutality, rape and deprivation, but I'm still drawn to the story. I'm curious where the story goes, what happens with these two strangers who find themselves married to one another?
Published July 18, 2013
central Russia. The Red Terror tightens its hold. Kolya has deserted
his Red Army unit and returns home to bury his brother and reunite with
his wife and sons. But he finds the village silent and empty. The men
have been massacred in the forest. The women and children have
In this remote, rural Russian community the folk
tales that mothers tell their children by candlelight take on powerful
significance, and the terrifying legend of Koschei, The Deathless One,
begins to feel very real. Kolya sets out on a journey through dense,
haunting forests and across vast plains against the bitter winter, in
the desperate hope he will find his wife and two boys-and find them
alive. But there are very dark things in Kolya's past. And, as he
strives to find his family, there's someone-or something-following his
trail . . .
Why I'm loving it: This is another one that caught my eye at the book store. (Why it was on the "new fiction" shelf when the publish date is 2013, I don't know!) A deserter of the Russian Red Army returns to find his entire village empty, and his wife and children gone? There's a creepy desolation I find intriguing.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published May 13, 2014
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
Why I'm loving it: Because it's so vague. A little eerie, unsettling. Love and lies. I don't even know what it's about, and I still want to read it! They've done a great job at marketing it!
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Expected release is July 15, 2014
“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he
never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter
waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good
The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world
where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or
swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds
they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any
court of nobles could.
Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.
Why I'm loving it: It sounds very different from anything else I've ever read, and it's getting really good buzz. And as a Game of Thrones series fan, I can't dismiss the similarity to Jamie Lannister.