Like many people, I’ve been distressed by what’s going on in DC and have found it hard to focus on reading for pleasure. I also wondered if movie and book reviews are too frivolous to write at this time.
But then I realized books are never frivolous, and we need to support the arts right now because arts programs are at risk of being defunded. Arts are a part of culture, and our culture is our history.
So, with great pleasure, I present you this list of February releases we recommend.
From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, February 7)
I read The Refugees long before the travel ban executive order was written, but how stunningly appropriate that I can recommend it as my Nerdy Special List pick this month.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s collection of short stories is rich in complex characters and relationships, with identity playing a recurring theme throughout the stories. Nguyen’s skill encourages his readers to connect with characters who are likely very different from themselves. In the current political climate, we can all benefit from more of that because, after all, we don’t tend to fear what we understand.
Nguyen’s language and imagery are stunning, making this collection captivating and memorable. I’m certain that even those who don’t tend to favor short fiction will find themselves engrossed in these gorgeous stories.
From Rory at Fourth Street Review:
The Shimmering Road by Hester Young (Putnam, February 1)
A little over a year ago, I was in one of the biggest reading slumps of my adult life. On a whim, I picked up Hester Young’s The Gates of Evangeline and absolutely loved it.
So I was both excited and nervous to read The Shimmering Road, Young’s second book featuring journalist Charlie Cates. I am happy to report it’s an enthralling read and a solid follow-up to her first novel.
Charlie, expecting her first daughter, is now in Arizona, searching for clues that might help solve the murder of her mother and half sister. Plagued by recurring nightmares, she can’t help but worry about the fate of her unborn daughter and that of her half-sister’s daughter, even as she gets drawn further into the mystery surrounding the murders.
The novel is fast paced, unexpected, and a pleasure to read. The Shimmering Road, as is its predecessor, is everything a page-turner—with a supernatural flare—should be.
From Erin at In Real Life:
Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone, February 2)
I find the idea of taking a cruise both intriguing and terrifying, so Catherine Ryan Howard’s debut thriller Distress Signals was right up my alley.
Adam figures he has a pretty great life, right up until his girlfriend, Sarah, doesn’t come back from a cruise to Barcelona. Adam goes after her, and that’s where any predictability in this story ends.
Help from the police? Nope. Her family? Nah. Adam doesn’t know whether Sarah is gone permanently or temporarily, voluntarily or by force, and as his unease builds, it’s impossible not to be roped into a story that doesn’t let up until the final page.
This alone would make this a fantastic book. But Howard shows herself to be a masterful storyteller by creating a parallel story that ties together with Adam’s beautifully and in a way I can’t explain without giving too much away.
If you like stories brimming with suspense and plot twists you’ll never see coming, you’ll want to grab a copy of Distress Signals immediately.
From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:
Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith (Lee Boudreaux Books, February 7)
After an 11-year prison sentence, Russell Gaines returns home to McComb, Mississippi, where he tries to get on with his life, apologetic to no one.
Despite a supportive father, however, the pull of his ex-fiancée and the vengeful family whose lives he changed keep throwing a wrench in his plans. Maben, a woman on the run with her young daughter, seems permanently caught in a web of problems. When Russell’s bumpy path intersects Maben’s troubled one, their rough lives only get rougher.
Smith is a beautiful writer, and a sense of poetry underlies the straightforward nature of his words. He writes about the slog of everyday life with integrity and grace, making even the difficult parts beautiful to read. This is a fantastic follow-up to Smith’s wonderful debut, Rivers.
From Patti at Patti’s Pens & Picks:
August Snow by Stephen Mack Jone (Soho Crime, February 14)
August Snow is an amateur detective in what is hopefully a new series from Soho Crime. It’s set in Detroit, and is an excellent mystery in the tradition of Robert B. Parker. A bit of violence, a lot of smartass talk—set in my favorite city!
August is half Hispanic and half African American, and lives in the Mexicantown area of Detroit in the house his parents owned. He’s a former cop who went up against the department and was awarded 12 million dollars in a lawsuit.
He is asked to look into the business dealings of a private bank, and while he hesitates to take the case, the woman who wants to hire him is killed. August looks into her death, going up against the police department again, as well as hired thugs from the private bank.
August ends up with some great friends and/or teammates, and they work well together to take care of a variety of issues. He’s pretty firm about not being a private investigator, but I would be thrilled if he becomes one. Highly recommended!
A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong (Minotaur, February 7)
The first in the Casey Duncan series, City of the Lost, knocked me out last year, and Darkness is weird and menacing, too.
Casey is still the detective of Rockton, the off-the-grid town in Canada where people go to hide from someone or something. She and sheriff’s deputy Will find a woman who’s been kept in a hole in a cave for over a year. All Rockton residents have shady pasts but that’s just nasty. And almost anyone could be the sick bastard who abducted the woman (she never saw his face).
On top of the twisted plot and a heroine I continue to root for, the setting of blizzardy Rockton gives me the creeps, amplifying how isolated Casey is, and how if she gets in trouble, she’s on her own.
What are you excited to read this month?