Hello and welcome to this month’s look at new releases at Johnson County Library, where we look at five fiction books hitting shelves this month that we think you should know about. You might not find these books at the top of the bestseller lists. It’s not that we don’t like books on the bestseller lists – we do! – but those authors are likely those who you’ve already heard of. We love spotlighting books and authors that you might not be familiar with. So let’s get started!
Just like we like eating a meal that contains lots of different ingredients that combine into something delicious and complex, we librarians like it when a book comes along that crosses over to different genres. Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of these: start with two tablespoons investigative procedural, then three tablespoons legal thriller, and add half a cup of psychological thriller with a dash of intense character study. It begins with a journalist, still reeling from the sudden deaths of her husband and child, who reports on a high-profile Casey Anthony-style case where the defendant is accused of murdering her young daughter. Through the twists and turns of the case we learn about both the murder and the circumstances around the death of the journalists’ family. As the case unfolds and the defendant and the journalist start communicating with each other, a game of cat and mouse develops that pulls the characters - and readers - into a high-stakes game of half-truths and lies. Smart, playful, and NEVER quite going where you think it will, Trust Me establishes Ryan as a writer of meaty page turners that will keep you up past your bedtime.
A sprawling, moody, and atmospheric debut novel that explores the small Midwestern communities of northern Ohio is sure to be on several book club lists this fall. Ohio by Stephen Markley is divided into four sections, each told from the point of view of one of the four friends of a soldier. Rick, who was once a promising product of the community and full of potential, returns a corpse, killed in the oil fields of Iraq. The friends reunite at Rick's funeral and grapple with the town’s secrets, their pasts, and the possibilities of escaping a decaying way of life, where factories and middle-class promises of a better tomorrow have eroded into endless strip malls and a population riddled with opioid addiction. Markley is an author of nonfiction, but his words and characters shine in this debut novel. This is for readers who love sweeping yet gritty literary stories of small towns, or who are familiar with some of the modern-day blue-collar challenges described in J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.
Constructed like a delicate piece of origami, A Key To Treehouse Living by Elliot Reid is a slim, powerful little book that crawls inside your head and sticks with you for a bit. This coming-of-age novel about a boy without parents and raised by an uncle who sometimes isn’t around, isn’t told in a linear fashion, with your standard unfolding plot and narrative. This is assembled in a glossary format, as the boy, William, lists for the reader his definitions of the world, arranged in alphabetical order. As we go through his glossary and see the world through his eyes, containing equal parts innocence, wonder, and tragedy, little bits of his story shake out, to be assembled by the reader like puzzle pieces. (You don’t HAVE to put the pieces together, as this isn’t a mystery, but it’s part of the reading experience, as you read a section that connects to an offhand remark that he might have made thirty pages earlier that makes you go “oooooooooh!”) If you're looking for something different, unique, or experimental, this novel is a startling, eye-opening gem. (Make sure to thumb through it to read his entry on LIBRARY. It’s a hoot.)
Combination historical fiction and road novel that was nominated for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan is an adventure story with depth, passion, and heart that explores the relationship between two men: Christopher Wilde, a gentleman scientist and explorer in the 1830s, and Washington Black, a slave from Barbados. Wilde takes on Black as a manservant and an assistant while building a “cloud cutter,” based on the latest scientific discoveries - a modified hot air balloon. The upper-class and enlightened Wilde starts to recognize Black’s scientific and artistic potential, and the two escape Barbados and explore the wider world, while on the run from bounty hunters. Even though this is described as a adventure novel, Edugyan excels at her character work, painting both Wilde and Black as fully-formed characters of their time, and using the differences - and similarities - between the two as plot points and explorations on class, race, friendship, and scientific principles.
The latest in the “Victorian Rebels” series by Kerrigan Byrne, The Duke With The Dragon Tattoo is a steamy romance that will be sure to please fans of historical romance. Found nearly dead by the side of the road with no memory of who he is, a family takes in the mysterious man to nurse him back to health. A relationship blossoms between the man, renamed Ash, and the daughter of the family, Lorelai. Healed, Ash sets out, with a promise to come back to his love. Twenty years later, he does return, but circumstances have changed gentle Ash to the fierce Rook, a rogue and a pirate, now bearing scars both physical and emotional. Can the relationship be rekindled? Is the rift between the characters too large to heal? If you love old-school wounded heroes with dark backstories - and, y’know, pirates - you’ll love this novel. Perfect for fans of Christina Milan, Samantha James, and Lisa Kleypas.