Chess at Auschwitz, Balkans War, & Friendship Via Wikipedia | Eleven Big Fiction Debuts, May 2015, Pt.

Acampora, Lauren. The Wonder Garden. Grove. May 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780802123558. $24. SHORT STORIES
A real estate agent contemplates yet another tackily enlarged house. A group of suburban women gather to reveal themselves briefly to one another and condescend to the rest of the world. A father-to-be abandons a successful career at the urging of his spirit animal. Yes, suburbia is crazy, and in her first collection, Acampora, who’s published in places like the Paris donoghuejReview, makes it even more deliciously so. Big in-house excitement.

Donoghue, John. The Death’s Head Chess Club. Farrar. May 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780374135706. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374713973. LITERARY
I’m hearing excellent things about this tale of guilt, friendship, and forgiveness (or not). When SS Obersturmführer Paul Meissner sets up a chess club at Auschwitz, he’s pressured to match the best German players against a Jewish prisoner called the Watchmaker, undefeated among the inmates. They develop an uneasy relationship, but things don’t go so smoothly when they meet ten years after the war and Meissner, now a bishop, attempts reconciliation.

Knight, Renée. Disclaimer. Harper. May 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780062362254. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062362278. THRILLER
With publishing rights sold in over 20 territories and film rights swept away by Twentieth Century Fox, you can expect to be hearing about this creepy thriller, which is being compared to S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep. The novel that documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft has just discovered on her bedside table isn’t such a pleasure to read, as it replicates a dark secret that’s trapped her for years—and was known by only one other person, who’s dead. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Knoll, Jessica. Luckiest Girl Alive. S. & S. May 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781476789637. $25. WOMEN’S FICTION
Though protagonist Ani FaNelli can claim success as an up-and-comer at The Women’s knollMagazine and the fiancée of patrician Luke Harrison, she’s been running from a traumatic incident that occurred long ago at her fancy prep school. Now she’s ready to turn around and face it, but there will be consequences. A key title from the publisher, slated for a big push; Knoll is a senior editor at Cosmopolitan.

Massey, Jeremy. The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley. Riverhead. May 2015. NAp. ISBN 9780698177857. $25.95. LITERARY
What’s a poor Dublin undertaker to do when he inadvertently crosses the Irish Mob? To find out, you’ll have to read Massey’s debut novel, but I can tell you that one very offbeat dog and the disappearance of 200,000 Euros are part of the mix. Massey is a second-generation undertaker, so he’ll get those details right, and an initial read shows that his dark and zany humor is anchored by some serious reflection.

Miller, Michelle. Underwriting. Putnam. May 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780399174858. $26.95. THRILLER
In this corporate thriller, which started out as a 12-episode e-series published and distributed exclusively on, hotshot Wall Streeter Todd Kent is tasked with leading the IPO of a booming new dating app called Hook. He puts together a team that includes old college beloved Tara, but the $14 billion deal is jeopardized by a young woman’s death on the Stanford campus. Miller has published YA before, but this is her first adult novel; billed as thrilling and sexy.

Nović, Sara. Girl at War. Random. May 2015. 336p. ISBN 9780812996340. $26; ebk ISBN novic9780812996357. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Ten-year-old Ana Juric loves running about the streets of Zagreb, but it’s 1991, and civil war will soon break out. When the awful violence strikes close to home, a devastated Ana must negotiate sniper fire, child soldiering, and, eventually, a daring escape to America. Ten years later, in New York and in denial, she determines to return home to Croatia and reclaim her past. Nović, the fiction editor of Blunderbuss magazine, does the same by writing this novel.

Parry, Leslie. Church of Marvels. Ecco. May 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780062367556. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062367570. HISTORICAL
Strange happenings in 1895 New York: a night soiler rescues an abandoned newborn, a woman who awakens to find herself locked in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum befriends a mute but angelically beautiful young inmate on her ward, and Odile Church desperately searches for her lost sister, Belle, with whom she performed at their mother’s Coney Island sideshow, Church of Marvels, now burnt to the ground. These stories all come together in this feisty historical, an Indies Introduce Debut Authors pick for Winter/Spring 2015.

Perry, Michael. The Jesus Cow. Harper. May 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780062289919. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062289995. LITERARY
Humorist Perry, whose nonfiction has made the New York Times best sellers list, now aims to grab audiences with this funny fiction debut about the ways spirituality and commerce cross in America. Unassuming farmer Harley Jackson finds himself in love, battling a nasty developer, and tending a calf that bears the image of Jesus Christ on its mottled hide. He’d like to keep the calf quiet, but word gets out (when the calf does), and soon Harley’s farm has become an international spiritual theme park. Maybe then he can pay off the developer and win his true kovitelove? The farm theme comes with Perry’s territory; his much-visited website is named

Robinson, Christopher & Gavin Kovite. War of the Encyclopaedists. Scribner. May 2015. 448p. ISBN 9781476775425. $26. LITERARY
The authors blend their perfectly balanced talents and experiences—Robinson is a MacDowell Colony fellow and a Yale Younger Poets Prize finalist and Kovite a former infantry platoon leader in Baghdad who’s published in various literary magazines—to highlight a new generation’s burdens of choice. At 23, best friends Mickey Montauk and Halifax Corderoy are ready for graduate school in Boston when Mickey discovers that his National Guard unit will deploy to Baghdad at summer’s end. Meanwhile, Halifax’s girlfriend Mani really needs his help, just as he’s preparing to leave her. As they face unexpected swerves in the road, the two friends continue to connect by editing a Wikipedia article about themselves. With an author tour to Boston, New York, Portland, and Seattle; the publisher’s big spring fiction debut.

Sykes, Lucy & Jo Piazza. The Knockoff. Doubleday. May 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780385539586. knockoff$24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385539593. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. WOMEN’S FICTION
Formerly a fashion director at Marie Claire and now purveyor of her own children’s clothing line, Sykes is also the sister of Bergdorf Blondes author Plum Sykes, in case you were wondering. Piazza, meanwhile, is the managing editor of Yahoo Travel. Nice connections to help with the promotion, and the book deal made news. The juicy story features Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who returns after a six-month break to find that former assistant Eve has taken over, firing veteran staff, abolishing landlines, and instituting all-night hackatons and mandatory dancing to Beyoncé. Can Imogen fight back? You bet!

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @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.


  1. Bettye says:

    Why do you give the 1st printing numbers in only a few of the new books.