It’s always exciting to have a month when I have a hard time narrowing down my list of books to watch list to a reasonable post size. This was definitely one of those months when the list of potential books to talk about was whittled down until only a few remained. These ones look like gems in a month packed with exciting releases: pick up one of these, or tell us the February Fiction release you’re excited about in the comments below.
Dancing to the Flute (M)
by Manisha Jolie Amin (Feb 5).
For readers who were captivated by the lives depicted in Katherine Boo’s nonfiction book Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Amin’s debut novel may be of interest. Boo’s book gave a glimpse into the lives of urban slum dwellers in India, while Amin’s novel shines a similar light on an impoverished rural area.
“Abandoned as a young child, Kalu, a cheeky street kid, has carved out a life for himself in rural India. In the quiet village of Hastinapore, Kalu has also found friends: Bal, the solitary boy who tends the local buffaloes, and Malti, a gentle servant girl, who with her mistress, Ganga Ba, has watched over Kalu since he first wandered into the small town. One day, perched high in the branches of a banyan tree, Kalu chooses a leaf, rolls it tightly, and as he’s done for as long as he can remember, blows through it. His pure, simple notes dance through the air and attract a traveling healer, whose interest will change Kalu’s life forever, setting him on a path he would never have dreamt possible and testing his belief in himself and his sense of identity.”
Frances and Bernard (M)
by Carlene Bauer (Feb 5).
It’s been a couple of years since The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society sparked a renewed interest in the epistolary novel: I think we might be ripe for a new one to take hold, and Frances and Bernard may just be it.
“In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at an artists’ colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take over—and change the course of—our lives.”
Vampires in the Lemon Grove (M)
by Karen Russell (Feb 12).
I am so very excited for the next collection of short stories from American author Russell. Her 2011 novel Swamplandia! was one of my favourites that year: set in the Florida Everglades in a family run alligator park. Russell has a wonderful sense of the absurd, a mind for quirky characters and an way of making her settings ripple with magic. I saw her read back in 2011 and she was positively a delight, shy but friendly with an infectious laugh. You’ll probably be hearing a lot about Russell this year, she’s considered an up-and-coming young author: named in the New Yorker’s 20 under 40 (authors to watch) list in 2010 and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in the controversial year when no winner was awarded. I’ll be blogging about her again later this year, her first collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is in my To Be Read reading challenge this year.
by Roger Hobbs (Feb 12).
For fans of thrillers, this first novel was the source of much excitement when it debuted at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2011.
“When a casino robbery in Atlantic City goes horribly awry, the man who orchestrated it is obliged to call in a favor from someone who’s occasionally called Jack. While it’s doubtful that anyone knows his actual name or anything at all about his true identity, or even if he’s still alive, he’s in his mid-thirties and lives completely off the grid, a criminal’s criminal who does entirely as he pleases and is almost impossible to get in touch with. But within hours a private jet is flying this exceptionally experienced fixer and cleaner-upper from Seattle to New Jersey and right into a spectacular mess: one heister dead in the parking lot, another winged but on the run, the shooter a complete mystery, the $1.2 million in freshly printed bills god knows where and the FBI already waiting for Jack at the airport, to be joined shortly by other extremely interested and elusive parties. He has only forty-eight hours until the twice-stolen cash literally explodes, taking with it the wider, byzantine ambitions behind the theft.”
“Stunningly dark, hugely intelligent and thoroughly addictive, Ghostman announces the arrival of an exciting and highly distinctive novelist” Expect to hear more about this one.
Office of Mercy (M)
by Ariel Djanikian (Feb 26).
Few reviews of this forthcoming first novel get beyond the first sentence without making a comparison to The Hunger Games (me too it seems!). And with many of the original teen readers of that series now in adulthood (not to mention the adults who read the books too), it seems smart that publishers are reaching out with a novel for them.
“Twenty-four-year-old Natasha Wiley lives in America-Five—a high-tech, underground, utopian settlement where hunger and money do not exist, everyone has a job, and all basic needs are met. But when her mentor and colleague, Jeffrey, selects her to join a special team to venture Outside for the first time, Natasha’s allegiances to home, society, and above all to Jeffrey are tested. She is forced to make a choice that may put the people she loves most in grave danger and change the world as she knows it.” Lots of big names being thrown around as readalikes for this one, the publisher says it will “will thrill fans of Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood, Justin Cronin, and Kazuo Ishiguro”.