Happy New Year! I had a wonderful bookish 2016 (you can read all about it here and here) but I'm already looking ahead to all the exciting releases in the new year. Below are 20 January book releases that caught my eye. (Blurbs are adapted from Goodreads and Barnes and Noble.)
1. Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay Gay returns with a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America.
2. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes" tells the true story of Grace Humiston, the detective and lawyer who turned her back on New York society life to become one of the nation’s greatest crimefighters during an era when women weren’t involved with murder investigations. This is the first-ever narrative biography of this singular woman the press nicknamed after fiction's greatest detective. This poignant story reveals important corollaries between missing girls, the role of the media, and the real truth of crime stories.
3. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in the beautiful, austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outlander at school, Linda is drawn to the enigmatic, attractive Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is charged with possessing child pornography, the implications of his arrest deeply affect Linda as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong.
4. Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh Set in Kenya in the 1950s against the fading backdrop of the British Empire, a story of self-discovery, betrayal, and an impossible love. After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.
5. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (I've read -- and enjoyed -- an advance copy of this and will be posting a review soon!) A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s "Uprooted." At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind -- she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. As danger circles nearer, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed -- this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
6. The River at Night by Erica Ferencik (I'm reading this one right now!) A high stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.
7. A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell #2) by Deanna Raybourn (If you haven't read the first book in the series, "A Curious Beginning," I urge you to do so! I loved it and I'm so excited for book 2!) London, 1887. Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. From a Bohemian artists colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed...
8. Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson The author of the wildly popular "The Kind Worth Killing" returns with an electrifying and downright Hitchcockian psychological thriller involving a young woman caught in a vise of voyeurism, betrayal, manipulation, and murder.
9. Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran Eighteen years old and fizzing with optimism, Solimar Castro-Valdez embarks on a perilous journey across the Mexican border. Weeks later, she arrives in Berkeley, California, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. Kavya Reddy has created a beautiful life in Berkeley, but then she can’t get pregnant and that beautiful life seems suddenly empty. When Soli is placed in immigrant detention and her son comes under Kavya’s care, Kavya finally gets to be the singing, story-telling kind of mother she dreamed of being. "Nacho" to Soli, and "Iggy" to Kavya, the boy is steeped in love, but his destiny and that of his two mothers teeters between two worlds as Soli fights to get back to him. "Lucky Boy" is a moving and revelatory ode to the ever-changing borders of love.
10. The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away? Inspired by a true incident, this saga conjures the era with uncanny immediacy.
11. The Dry by Jane Harper A small Australian town hides big secrets in "The Dry," an atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery. After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke
12. Huck Out West by Robert Coover At the end of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, on the eve of the Civil War, Huck and Tom Sawyer decide to escape "sivilization" and "light out for the Territory." In "Huck Out West," the boys do just that, riding for the famous but short-lived Pony Express, then working as scouts for both sides in the war. They are suddenly separated when Tom decides he’d rather own civilization than leave it, returning east with his new wife to learn the law from her father. Huck hires himself out to "whosoever." He rides shotgun on coaches, wrangles horses on a Chisholm Trail cattle drive, joins a gang of bandits, guides wagon trains, gets dragged into U.S. Army massacres, and suffers a series of romantic and barroom misadventures.
13. Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth (young adult) Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in Roth’s stunning new science-fiction fantasy series. On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not -- their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?
14. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk. As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be -- in surprising moments of generosity and grace. A love letter to city life -- however shiny or sleazy -- "Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk" paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
15. The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight -- a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of "Band of Brothers" with the emotional resonance of "The Nightingale."
16. The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of "A Certain Age" in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz Age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family.
17. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan. Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her.
18. Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she's just about out of options. She recently graduated from high school and is pregnant with her art teacher's baby. So when Dr. Grind offers her a space in The Infinite Family Project, she accepts. Housed in a spacious compound in Tennessee, she joins nine other couples, all with children the same age as her newborn son, to raise their children as one extended family. Grind's theory is that the more parental love a child receives, the better off they are. This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families is upset and it all starts to disintegrate: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy's feelings for Dr. Grind, who is looking to expunge his own painful childhood, make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.
19. The Girl Before by JP Delaney An enthralling psychological thriller that spins one woman’s seemingly good fortune, and another woman’s mysterious fate, through a kaleidoscope of duplicity, death, and deception. Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life. The request seems odd, even intrusive -- and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.
20. Caraval by Stephanie Garber (young adult) A sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game. Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. As soon as they arrive, Scarlett's sister, Tella, is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.