LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Famously Firsts | Fall/Winter 2014/15 First Novels

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All authors have stories, and the authors on this list have first stories—debut novels published in the fall 2014/winter 2015 season that are proving to be the most exciting of a big, big bunch. All authors also have back­stories, as evidenced by our cover, which features a handful of debut authors whose own life stories are particularly colorful and well known. Fiction titles don’t come out of nowhere but—if they’re any good—are suffused with an author’s particular background, perspective, experience, and skill.

Consider the voice a fine actor like Gillian Anderson should give her rousing sf tale, or the polished writing accomplished nonfiction authors Caitlin Moran, Ben Mezrich, and John Vaillant bring to their first fiction forays. Miranda July, who has conquered the worlds of short stories, film, performance art, and apps, can be expected to look at novel writing a little differently. And former professional skateboarder Michael Christie definitely brings an edgy rush to his writing. These are just some of the “Authors You’ve Met” featured in this roundup, and you’ll get to know more.

With backgrounds ranging from journalist (Joe Gannon) and diplomat (Tod Moss) to Armani model (CB McKenzie) and, yes, librarian (Minerva Koenig, Ashley Weaver), this list also features authors whose names fiction readers might be unfamiliar with now—but that will change in the future. The fall titles featured here have already shown that they have considerable staying power, but it pays to look ahead to what should be the most talked-about debuts of the new year. Peter Buwalda’s Bonita Avenue, Robert Repino’s Mort(e), M.O. Walsh’s My Sunshine Away, and Krassi Zourkova’s The Wildalone—all are backed by powerful publisher conviction; substantial interest from librarians, booksellers, and the media; and/or strong early reviews, whether from here or abroad. Check out all these titles for some very good reading.

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Anderson, Gillian & Jeff Rovin. A Vision of Fire. Simon451: S. & S. (EarthEnd Saga, Bk. 1). Oct. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781476776521. $25. SF

Famed as X-Files Special Agent Dana Scully, Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Anderson helps launch the publisher’s cutting-edge imprint Simon 451 with the transcendent story of a Manhattan psychiatrist investigating inexplicable behavior by children worldwide that could spell real trouble. “A lot of tension…the mystical elements are further out there than any X-Files episode.” (LJ 9/15/14)

Christie, Michael. If I Fall, If I Die. Hogarth: Crown. Jan. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9780804140805. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804140812. LITERARY

Canadian author Christie made his name as a sponsored skateboarder before getting an MFA; The Beggar’s Garden: Stories won the 2011 City of Vancouver Book Award. This partly autobiographical debut novel features Will, kept inside by a severely agoraphobic mother, who finally ventures forth and discovers skateboarding. Christie writes lushly but exactly; in the scary Outside, the bronze sun “tosse[s] a billion luminous knife blades,” and the sidewalk beneath Will’s feet is “toilet-bowl cool.”

Cronenberg, David. Consumed. Scribner. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781416596134. $26. POP FICTION

Cronenberg is a consummate director, but can he write? “His skills as a prose author are not to be discounted” (PW); in this tale of two social media–obsessed lovers competitively following down lurid stories, he proves to be a “gangbusters novelist” (Booklist) who peers into “wonderfully unsettling corners” (LJ). Oddly, no other reivews on this September title at press time. (LJ 9/15/14)

Israel, Steve. The Global War on Morris. S. & S. Jan. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9781476772233. $26. POP FICTION/POLITICAL

U.S. Representative for New York’s 3rd congressional district, busy Israel also chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee but found time to write a debut novel with a message: unassuming pharmaceutical salesman Morris Feldstein is tracked by the government’s top-secret surveillance program after he hastily charges a non­business expense to his company credit card. National tour.

July, Miranda. The First Bad Man. Scribner. Jan. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781439172568.

$25. LITERARY

Filmmaker, performance artist, and award-winning story writer July finally assays long fiction, and as you’d expect it’s “a compelling novel [that] will delight the open-minded reader looking for something new.” Middle-aged Cheryl is upended by a carefree young houseguest and an inappropriate crush; you’ll love her wry, mousily determined voice (“Therapy is for couples. So is Christmas”). (LJ 9/15/14)

Metcalf, Ben. Against the Country. Random. Jan. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9781400062690. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812996531. LITERARY

This publisher’s debut to beat—Metcalf is the former literary editor of Harper’s Magazine—features an angry young man “schooled in the subtle untruths and blatant lies of a half-life in the American countryside, all because my parents did not trust that I would mature to their specifications in town.” Acid insights, raw energy.

Mezrich, Ben. Seven Wonders. Running Pr. Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780762453825. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780762453832. THRILLER

Having triumphed with the New York Times best-selling Bringing Down the House and The Accidental Billionaires, made into the big-news films 21 and The Social Network, respectively, Mezrich launches a thriller connecting the ancient and modern Seven Wonders of the World. “Rollicking” (PW), “imaginative” (Booklist), yet “grounded in a thorough knowledge of classical literature” (LJ 7/14).

Moran, Caitlin. How To Build a Girl. Harper. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062335975. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062335999. LITERARY FICTION

Award-winning London Times columnist Moran, famed for the eye-opening nonfiction How To Be a Woman, gets personal again to craft a first novel about a teenager who remakes herself. Slate, Jezebel, the Rumpus, New York, NPR.org, and Time are among the 30 venues that have already scheduled write-ups. “Poignant and laugh-out-loud fun” (LJ 9/15/14).

Otto, Shawn Lawrence. Sins of Our Fathers. Milkweed. Nov. 2014. 356p. ISBN 9781571311092. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781571319128. THRILLER

When he’s not writing screenplays, e.g., for the Academy Award–nominated House of Sand and Fog, which he also coproduced, Otto is a science advocate who’s won IEEE-USA’s National Award for Distinguished Public Service. His first-fiction protagonist embezzles from his small-town Minnesota bank and must choose between prison and working to thwart a Native American competitor. “Wonderfully vivid” (PW).

Vaillant, John. The Jaguar’s Children. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780544315495. $26. LITERARY

Vaillant, whose international best sellers include The Golden Spruce (a Governor General’s Award winner) and The Tiger, a memorably burning-bright book, turns to fiction with results that are “riveting.” Here, 15 immigrants are trapped in a water truck as they try to cross the U.S.–Mexican border. An LJ Editors’ BEA pick. (LJ 9/1/14)

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Buwalda, Peter. Bonita Avenue. Hogarth: Crown. Jan. 2015. 544p. ISBN 9780553417852. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780553417869. LITERARY

Translated into seven languages, nominated for 12 prizes (winning five), and an enormous best seller in the author’s native Holland, this depiction of a bourgeois family’s implosion is an “addictive” (Independent, UK), “uncompromising” (Daily Mail, UK) “tour de force” (Die Zeit, Germany).

Davis, Brooke. Lost & Found. Dutton. Jan. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780525954682. $26.95. CD: Penguin Audio. POP FICTION

Davis’s story of how seven-year-old Millie survives abandonment by her mother in a department store started out as a PhD dissertation on grief but reads like an engagingly direct letter to readers. Winner of numerous awards (e.g., the Allen & Unwin Prize for Prose Fiction) and sold to 23 countries.

Hawkins, Paula. The Girl on the Train. Riverhead. Jan. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9781594633669. $26.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER

Introduced with fanfare at LJ’s Day of Dialog’s Editors’ Picks panel and subsequently an LJ Editors’ BEA pick, this British-set psychological thriller is buzzing in-house and selling rights worldwide. And it’s cinematic enough to have been acquired by DreamWorks: on her commute, Rachel regularly spots a couple breakfasting, then worries when the woman disappears.

Hooper, Emma. Etta and Otto and Russell and James. S. & S. Jan. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781476755670. $26. LITERARY

Having never seen the sea, Etta leaves a note for her husband and sets forth, though she’s 82 years old and the sea is 3,232 kilometers away. The narrative has a fable-like feel of grounded whimsy, resulting in a “quietly powerful story whose dreamlike quality lingers long after the last page is turned.” (LJ 9/15/14)

Oakley, Colleen. Before I Go. Gallery: S. & S. Jan. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781476761664. $24.99. WOMEN’S FICTION

When 27-year-old Daisy’s cancer returns with a vengeance, she decides to find a next wife for her brilliant but clueless husband. “Readers will want simultaneously to hug Daisy and give her a good shake when she goes off the rails…. Highly recommended for laugh-out-loud fans and the tearjerker set.” (LJ 10/1/14)

Repino, Robert. Mort(e). Soho. Jan. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781616954277. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616954284. FANTASY

A house cat named Mort(e) joins an uprising against humans led by giant ants who instruct their young: “You will avenge our people,/ by the light of your wisdom/ and the darkness of your heart.” This spooky literary sf novel was such a big hit at the American Library Association annual conference that the author signing stretched to two hours, with all 400 copies snatched up.

Ritchell, Ross. The Knife. Blue Rider. Feb. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780399173400. $25.95. LITERARY

Big promotion already launched last summer signals belief in this novel by a former soldier with a U.S. Special Operations Command team in the Middle East. Told in realistically tough, spare language—“His head and hands throbbed, the ground seemed to pulse up and down”—it focuses on a team leader plunging his soldiers deep into insurgent territory.

Scotton, Chris. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth. Grand Central. Jan. 2015. 480p. ISBN 9781455551927. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781455551934; lib. ebk. ISBN 9781455558803. CD: Hachette Audio. POP FICTION/FAMILY

Big interest at BEA. An author appearance at AAP’s Bookalicious Breakfast at ALA. Formidable bookseller response. And a 100,000-copy first printing. Sounds as if this coming-of-age story, written by a venture capitalist and set in environmentally devastated Appalachia, has a strong lead-in.

Seskis, Tina. One Step Too Far. Morrow. Jan. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780062340078. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062340108. THRILLER

Self-published in the UK, this edgy thriller about a woman who’s walked out on her life morphed overnight into a No. 1 best seller; when rights were sold to 14 countries, it became an international best seller as well. Great expectations, with this in-house assessment: “as the twists keep coming, it turns into something truly original, smart, and frankly mind-blowing.”

Walsh, M.O. My Sunshine Away. Putnam. Feb. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780399169526. $26.95. CD: Penguin Audio. LITERARY

In a Louisiana town during the long, hot summer of 1989, the teenager narrator finds himself suspected in a crime that’s rocked the neighborhood. Launched as a BEA Buzz Book, this title will get further push this fall at independent booksellers association conferences in the South and Northern ­California.

Zander, Joakim. The Swimmer. Harper. Feb. 2015. 432p. ISBN 9780062337245. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062337283. ESPIONAGE

A European Parliament aide is on the run after seeing something she shouldn’t, with the CIA agent father who abandoned her trying to help. Rights for this Swedish best seller have been sold to nearly 30 territories, and the reviews sparkle: “Nothing short of brilliant” (Litteratursiden, Denmark), it “richly deserves its reputation” (Daily Mail, UK). Zander once worked for the European Parliament.

Zourkova, Krassi. Wildalone. Morrow. Jan. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780062328021. $25.95. OCCULT & SUPERNATURAL

Like Bulgarian-born Princeton grad Zourkova, Bulgarian-born Princeton student Theodora Slavin gets caught up in tales of the samodivi, or wildalones—forest witches of her country’s folklore who ensnare men. Think Twilight and A Discovery of Witches; the fluid, pulsing, gothic narrative seems right for the screen.

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Freeman, Philip. Saint Brigid’s Bones: A Celtic Adventure. Pegasus. Oct. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781605986326. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605987187. MYSTERY

Wake up, Sister Fidelma fans; here’s a mystery set in sixth-century Ireland that features Sister ­Deirdre, a nun at the Monastery of Holy Brigid in Kildare who was also a trained bard, thanks to her Druid grandmother. Now she’s after the saint’s bones stolen from the monastery’s chapel. “A strong atmosphere and absorbing, well-drawn characters.” (LJ 8/14)

Gannon, Joe. Night of the Jaguar. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250048028. $25.95. MYSTERY

A freelance journalist in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution, the setting of this book, Gannon introduces police captain Ajax Montoya, a revolutionary hero who served in state security but has been forced into homicide investigations. At least he recognizes the execution style of an old enemy at the latest crime scene. “Readers will eagerly await Gannon’s next book” (PW).

Hoffman, Patrick. The White Van. Atlantic Monthly. Sept. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780802123046. $24. thriller

Russian émigré Sophia forces some folks to help her rob a San Francisco bank, and their haul proves tempting to a cash-strapped officer with the SFPD Gang Task Force. Hoffman, who spent nine years working as a PI in San Francisco, makes the story real. A Shout’n’Share title at BEA; “outstanding” (PW).

Koenig, Minerva. Nine Days. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781250051943. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466852662. MYSTERY

Living in the witness protection program in Azula, TX, Julia Kalas is surprised to discover that the buildings near the bar where she works are mostly owned by a shell company; she ends up investigating the sheriff’s murder. “Atmospheric and entertaining”; an LJ Mystery Debut of the Month by an architect who once worked as a librarian. (LJ 9/1/14)

Moss, Todd. The Golden Hour. Putnam. Sept. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780399168604. $26.95. THRILLER

Once deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of African Affairs, Moss can write persuasively about a state department official in Mali when a coup erupts. Media coverage connected to this political thriller will range from NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show to the Washington Post and the Huffington Post; “a page-turner of the highest order” (PW).

Norman, Andreas. Into a Raging Blaze. Quercus. Nov. 2014. 480p. tr. from Swedish by Ian Giles. ISBN 9781623658021. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781623658038. THRILLER

When Swedish civil servant Carina Dymek is given a USB stick containing a troubling (and supersecret) European Union Commission report, then shares it with her boss, she and her Egyptian Swedish lover end up in heaps of trouble. “A first-rate debut thriller that asks: Who watches the watchers if they don’t choose to be seen?” (LJ 9/15/14)

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Christie, Alix. Gutenberg’s Apprentice. Harper. Sept. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780062336019. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062336033. LITERARY/HISTORICAL

Compelled by his foster father to become an apprentice to Johann Gutenberg, Peter Schoeffer is soon a printing-press advocate and eventually founds the Frankfurt Book Fair. Great excitement at BEA and ALA and mostly starred prepublication reviews, with LJ’s reviewer seeing this “admirable outing” as a “slow-paced debut [but] rich in historical detail.” (LJ 8/14)

Darnielle, John. Wolf in the White Van. Farrar. Oct. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780374292089. $25. LITERARY/SF

A man horribly disfigured in an accident conceives of a mail-in strategy game and discovers that maybe accidents don’t happen after all. Darnielle, who belongs to the indie band the Mountain Goats, offers “beautifully written psychological fiction for ­sophisticated readers, with not much else like it out there.” (LJ 10/1/14)

Granville, Eliza. Gretel and the Dark. Riverhead. Oct. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781594632556. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698145085. LITERARY/HISTORICAL

A starved young woman arrives in 1899 Vienna “to find the monster”; her narrative alternates with that of Krysta, a child of the Third Reich. This eerie blend of fairy tale and chilling historical fact received UK raves; coverage here ranges from Marie Claire to Faeire Magazine. “Granville’s bittersweet first novel will keep readers hooked.” (LJ 7/14)

Lerner, George. The Ambassadors. Pegasus. Oct. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781605986203. $24.95. LITERARY

Jacob Furman is committed to helping victims of genocide—now he’s in Africa, where Tutsis are seeking revenge for the slaughter committed by Hutus—but he’s ended up alienating his wife. “Amazingly balanced insights” from a journalist who has covered genocide in Africa and a fine depiction of love gone awry; “a page-turner of a debut.” (LJ 10/1/14)

Magee, Audrey. The Undertaking. Grove. Sept. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780802122452. $25. LITERARY/HISTORICAL

Short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize, this work by Irish author Magee depicts a soldier and his wife in World War II Germany. It’s “all the more fascinating as related entirely from the Nazi viewpoint…. [O]ne of the most riveting accounts of love in time of war that this reviewer has ever read.” Look for New York Times Book Review coverage. (LJ 7/14).

Rojstaczer, Stuart. The Mathematician’s Shiva. Penguin. Sept. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780143126317. pap. $16. LITERARY

Sasha’s brilliant mathematician mother reputedly solved a big math problem before dying but didn’t reveal the solution; now her colleagues are trying to find it, disrupting the family as they sit shiva. This “multi­layered story of family, genius, and loss” (PW) is “both comedic and compelling” (LJ 9/15/14).

Venturini, Fred. The Heart Does Not Grow Back. Picador. Nov. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250052216. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781250052223. LITERARY/SF

A high school milquetoast discovers that he can regenerate his organs and limbs and later uses this superpower to save a young woman from her abusive husband. Published by Blank Slate Press in 2011, the novel has gone through substantive revision. Buzzfeed called it one of “15 Highly Anticipated Books from Mostly Small Presses,” and Chuck Palahniuk is a fan.

Yang Huang. Living Treasures. Harvard Square. Oct. 2014. 322p. ISBN 9780989596053. pap. $19.95. LITERARY

A finalist for the Bellwether Prize in 2008, this book opens with young Gu Bao encountering a panda, then takes her to law school during the Tiananmen Square protests as she faces some tumultuous life decisions. “The characters are thoughtfully well rounded, the plotlines are true to life, and the narrative focuses refreshingly on the human spirit.” (LJ 7/14)

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Dev, Sonali. A Bollywood Affair. Kensington. Nov. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781617730139. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781617730146. ROMANCE

Married at age four to a boy named ­Virat, Mili now attends college in America while waiting for the husband she has never met. Alas, he has a pregnant wife in India and sends his gorgeous Bollywood director brother to Mili with divorce papers. A 2013 Golden Heart finalist “told with a light touch and lots of sizzle.” (LJ 9/15/14)

Eskens, Allen. The Life We Bury. Seventh Street. Oct. 2014. 300p. ISBN 9781616149987. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616149994. MYSTERY

Given an assignment to write a brief biography of a stranger, college student Joe Talbert finds Carl Iverson at a nursing home and learns some dangerous truths as he tries to understand how this heroic Vietnam vet could also be a convicted rapist/murderer. Much buzzed at ALA and an LJ Editors’ Fall Pick (ow.ly/BoDed), this book also made the October LibraryReads list.

Giltrow, Helen. The Distance. Doubleday. Sept. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780385536998. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385537001. THRILLER

Sophisticated socialite Charlotte Alton secretly doubles as Karla, who operates a high-tech information network. Now, a hit man she once helped comes to her with a seemingly impossible assignment. “A hard-hitting read with many intricate layers” that was a September LibraryReads pick. (LJ 9/15/14)

McKenzie, CB. Bad Country. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781250053541. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466856004. MYSTERY

A retired bronco buster raised on Arizona’s Pascua Yaqui Reservation, PI Rodeo Grace Garnet investigates a surprising string of murders. Winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize and “a master class on how to create a vivid sense of place”; adding to the charm, the Texas-based author is a rhetoric professor who once worked as a male model for Armani. (LJ 10/1/14)

Manko, Vanessa. The Invention of Exile. Penguin Pr. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781594205880. $26.95. LITERARY/HISTORICAL

When early 1900s Russian immigrant Austin Voronkov trips over his English when accused of attending an anarchist gathering, he and his American family must flee first to revolutionary Russia, then Mexico. A Discover Great New Writers fall pick and short-listed for the Center for Fiction’s 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

Weaver, Ashley. Murder at the Brightwell. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781259946369. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466846531. MYSTERY

In 1930s England, wealthy Amory Ames has thrown herself into a marriage that’s proving less than satisfactory, as her roguish husband comes and goes as he pleases. So she heads to a seaside resort to help her former fiancé and gets embroiled in a murder investigation. Librarian Weaver has whipped up a delightful British charmer; an October LibraryReads pick.

Willis, Lynn Chandler. Wink of an Eye. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781250053190. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466855519. MYSTERY

Following a case, Las Vegas PI Michael “Gypsy” Moran ends up in Wink, TX, investigating the suspicious suicide of a former police deputy while engaging in a risky affair with an old flame. Winner of the Minotaur Books/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Competition, this book delivers “an engrossing story, told with a great eye for the details.” (LJ 10/1/14)

Zupan, Kim. The Ploughmen. Holt. Oct. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780805099515. $26;

ebk. ISBN 9780805099522. LITERARY

Grizzled John Gload is a bullet-hard killer finally captured and awaiting trial in a Montana county jail; he’s guarded by skittish newbie deputy Valentine Millimaki. Surprisingly, the two men establish an uneasy but revealing rapport. A Discover Great New Writers fall pick; “Zupan’s literary future looks exceptionally promising.” (LJ 7/14)

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Dutton, Elizabeth. Driftwood: A California Road Trip Novel. Skyhorse. Nov. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781629144993. $24.95. COMING OF AGE

Clem (Clementine) Jasper is at loose ends when her rock-star father dies, leaving her a pile of sealed letters that will launch her on a road trip through California that helps her find herself. “A stellar, thought-provoking novel about life, death, California, music, and more.” (LJ 10/1/14)

Hepner, Braden. Pale Harvest. Torrey House. Sept. 2014. 360p. ISBN 9781937226398. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781937226343. LITERARY

Dazzlingly laconic, making poetry of the sheer sweat and physicality of everyday life in a worn-out landscape, this novel introduces 20-year-old Jack Selvedge, who works his family’s dairy farm in a dying Utah town. The return of Rebekah Rainsford promises relief like cool rain. Winner of some prepublication stars; it’s a “sweeping elegy” (PW) to the American West.

Landis, Dylan. Rainey Royal. Soho. Sept. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781616954529. $25; ebk. ISBN 978161695453. LITERARY

Rebellious 14-year-old Rainey Royal lives a knocked-about life with her jazz musician father in 1970s Greenwich Village. “A captivating and unnerving novel,” said the New York Times, “[that] smolders with these loaded questions: How far will an adolescent girl go to gain a sense of belonging; and how can her unaimed sexual power put others, and herself, at risk?” (LJ 8/14)

Lovett, Andrew. Everlasting Lane. Melville House. Jan. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781612193809. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612193816. COMING OF AGE

Good to know that Lovett’s debut about shadows falling over a golden 1970s English childhood was published by England’s up-and-coming Galley Beggar Press. “The strong points in this sometimes meandering tale of a British childhood are the absorbing literary writing, the vibrancy of Anna-Marie, and the dynamic among the three friends.” (LJ 9/15/14)

Meginnis, Mike. Fat Man and Little Boy. Black Balloon. Oct. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9781936787203. pap. $16. LITERARY

Winner of the 2013 Horatio Nelson Prize for Fiction, this narrative portrays nuclear devastation by personifying the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as brothers: “Two soldiers tall and short at the edge of what was a city…. Two soldiers search for living things and dead.” The result is “imaginative…surprising, and incisive” (PW).

Moshfegh, Ottessa. McGlue. Fence. Oct. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781934200858. pap. $15.95. LITERARY

“I wake up. My shirtfront is stiff and bibbed brown. I take it to be dried blood and I’m a dead man. The ocean air persuades me to doubt.” So begins Moshfegh’s story of a sailor imprisoned in the hold, so drunk the previous night that he can’t remember whether he killed a man. Deservedly winner of the inaugural Fence Modern Prize in Prose.

Mukasonga, Scholastique. Our Lady of the Nile. Archipelago. Sept. 2014. 248p. tr. from French by Melanie Mauthner. ISBN 9780914671039. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9780914671046. LITERARY

Rwanda-born Mukasonga settled in France two years before the genocide of the Tutsis, which cost the lives of 27 family members. This quietly courageous novel, set 15 years before the genocide at an elite Catholic girls’ school where social tensions already reverberate, has won numerous awards, e.g., the French Voices Grand Prize.

Noxon, Christopher. Plus One. Prospect Park. Jan. 2015. 294p. ISBN 9781938849428. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781938849435. POP FICTION

After years of happy and constructively balanced marriage, Alex Sherman-Zicklin finds himself living in the shadow of wife Ziggy as her Emmy Award–winning writing career takes off. “For fans of Rainbow Rowell and similar keenly insightful truth tellers, this fresh male take on modern relationships is too smart, focused, and funny to pass up.” (LJ 9/1/14)

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Cato, Beth. The Clockwork Dagger. Harper Voyager. Sept. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780062313843. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062313850. FANTASY

Octavia Leander has tremendous healing powers, so why does someone try to kill her while she is traveling aboard the airship Argus? At least handsome airship steward Alonzo Garret is on hand to help her. “The action is pretty much nonstop in this debut steampunk fantasy”; an LJ SF Debut of the Month. (LJ 8/14)

Khanna, Rajan. Falling Sky. Pyr: Prometheus. Oct. 2014. 260p. ISBN 9781616149826. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9781616149833. SF

With a dread disease turning people into Ferals, Ben Gold frequently uses his airship Cherub to escort virologists such as Miranda. Then his airship is stolen. This LJ SF Debut of the Month is “solid and memorable” (PW); “ postapocalyptic sf is a heavily traveled genre, as is steampunk, but they are combined quite well here” (LJ 9/15/14).

Lacey, Rachel. Unleashed. Forever: Grand Central. Nov. 2014. 351p. ISBN 9781455582099. pap. $6. ROMANCE

In this first in a trilogy (“Love to the Rescue”) dealing with dog rescues, Cara Medlen generously fosters rescue dogs but wants to take on her alluring neighbor on a more permanent basis. As LJ romance columnist Kristin Ramsdell says, “Serious issues, nice pace, and engaging, likable ­characters.”

Sugg, Zoe. Girl Online. Keywords: Pocket. Nov. 2014. 324p. ISBN 9781476797458. $17.95. POP FICTION

Check out this first book in the publisher’s Keywords imprint, dedicated to putting digital celebrities into print. English fashion/beauty vlogger Sugg, who’s won awards, e.g., Cosmopolitan’s Best Established Beauty Blog, offers a crossover story featuring high schooler Penny’s GirlOnline outpourings. At press time, ranked 147 on Amazon.co.uk, but will it sell here?

Szarlan, Chrysler. The Hawley Book of the Dead. Ballantine. (Revelation Quartet, Bk. 1). Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780345545022. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345545039. FANTASY

Having returned to her New England hometown with her daughter after losing her husband during their Las Vegas magic act, Revelation “Reve” Dyer discovers special power and danger in the Hawley Book of the Dead. Some prepublication stars for this first in a quartet; “enthralling” (Booklist) and “assured” (PW); “the core narrative is strong” (LJ 8/14).

This article was published in Library Journal's October 1, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.