Well, how’s this year starting off? Lots of new books, of course, because the lackidaisical days of holiday breaks are over. It’s time to get back to reading, says the publishing world. No slackers this year. 

In fact, we’re banging out of the gate with a new Dave Robicheaux novel from James Lee Burke, titled—wait for it—Robicheaux. [The publishing world aren’t entirely jerks. They do offer a ‘gimme’ now and again.] We’re going to swipe the opening line of Kirkus Reviews' commentary of the book because it’s spot-on: “Five years after his last case in far-off Montana (Light of the World, 2013), sometime sheriff's detective Dave Robicheaux returns to Iberia Parish, Louisiana, for another 15 rounds of high-fatality crime, alcohol-soaked ruminations, and heaven-storming prose.” Isn’t this the truth. No one writes like Burke when it comes to Shakespearing up the noir landscape, and we’re delighted to see Robicheaux returning to Louisiana. 

And speaking of returning favorites, The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi’s first book in his new space opera series, is out in paperback this week. We read it last year when it was all heavy-like, and we’re also delighted that it is now out in this handy portable format. Scalzi is a breezy wit, and his approach to science fiction is refreshing in its lack of mind-numbing technical speak (early on, his entire discussion of the science behind the Flow is basically “Look, the scientists don’t even understand how this works, so I’m not going to bother trying to boil it down to a few paragraphs”). Throw in a bunch of colorful characters, some very pointed snark in the naming of starships, and lots of inter-family intrigue, and you’ve got a delightful romp to start the year. 

And speaking of romps, over here we have Tyrell Johnson’s debut, The Wolves of Winter, which checks all sorts of boxes as it charges along in its brightly attired pop-commercial supra-charged wagon. After a nuclear war [check] and bird flu [check], Lynn and her family retreat to an unspoiled wilderness in the far north [check], where they hunt for what they need and read Walt Whitman to pass the time [check]. Lynn happens to be exceptionally good with a bow [check], and the family’s idyllic existence is threatened by the arrival of a stranger with a dog named “Wolf” [check] and a bunch of secrets [eye-roll and check]. Naturally, this stranger is pursued by bad men, but it’s okay because he’s really good at throwing knives [check]. Naturally, romance blooms [check] and tough choices must be made. 

What? Not every book has to reinvent literature. It’s early in the year. Let’s ease into things a bit. We’ve got a week before Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury comes out. 

[Ed. note: Actually, Henry Holt, the publisher, moved up the release date of Fire and Fury, Wolff's scathing exposé of daily life at the White House, to today. And yes, we have copies.]

And speaking of high concept popcorn fun, we also have A. J. Finn’s debut novel, The Woman in the Window, which, yes, is very much like Gone Girl/Girl on the Train meets Rear Window. [We’re just happy that female characters are allowed to be “women” now.] You really don’t need to know anything more than that pitch line (neither did Hollywood, apparently). Just throw a log or two on the fire, open a bottle of wine, and keep a box of band-aids handy for when you get paper cuts from turning the pages too fast. 

Now, if you’d like something a little less frantic, we’ve got Rachel Joyce’s The Music Shop, which is the story of a mild-mannered vinyl record store owner who provides therapy to his customers by always knowing exactly what record they need. Naturally, a woman comes into his life, who is a) unavailable, and b) woefully lacking in her musical experience. Frank—our musical guru—sets out to explain the heart song of the record to her, and along the way, well, he might discover love for himself. 

What? It’s a story about misfits, finding each other, set against a pop culture landscape. It’s worked for years. Why should Joyce reinvent the modern love story? Geez. Don’t get ahead of yourselves, my dears. Take it slow. 2018 is going to be here all year. 

Okay, okay, so you starved yourself during the holidays and you want something a little meatier. Fine. Fine. We’ve got The Dry, Jane Harper’s crackling crime debut, in paperback. This is one of those “old small town secrets don’t stay secret forever” plots, and is set in a small town that is suffering from the worst drought in remembered history. Naturally, tensions are going to run high and all sorts of things are going to crack and break. 

And speaking of things slipping through the cracks, Pegusas Books has a great new collection of crime fiction. Compiled by Leslie Kliner, In the Shadow of Agatha Christie is a bunch of short fiction by female crime writers who were supposedly lost to time when Agatha Christie became a household name. The premise isn’t entirely accurate, as all of these stories were published before Christie started writing, but that doesn’t detract from the fabulous writing that was going on during the Victorian era. 

And speaking of strong Victorian women, this week’s historical fiction debut is from Clarissa Harwood and is called Impossible Saints. Set in 1907, Impossible Saints follows Lilia Brooke as she personifies the new ideas that women are exploring during the Suffragette Movement. Counterpoint to her is an Anglican priest, who Brooke has known since childhood, but when they meet again as adults, well, therein lies romance. 

Oh, come on! Historical romance has been time-tested for centuries. 

Fine. You pick a book then. There’s only 34,749 other titles that came out this week. 


Some administrative notes about events: Our Not Like Any Other Book Club* is still going strong (our next meeting will be on Feb 22nd, and we’ll be reading N K Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, which won the Hugo Award two years ago), and we’ve got another edition of our Salon night happening on January 18th. Our salon is a fun little evening of quick presentations about interesting things from folks who are not professional experts, but who are highly passionate hobbyists and fans (meaning you can’t talk about stuff you do for a living). 

We're also adding two more events to our roster. The first is WRITE TIME, which is a routine and somewhat unstructured opportunity for writers of all ages and genres to come hang out and be creative. The upcoming meeting on January 23rd is the first, and in the beginning, we’re going to provide the space and some prompts, but mostly, we’re looking to give writers and creatives a place to hang out. As this series moves along, we’ll start adding more concrete activities, but it’s totally going to be driven by what the participants want. And we know a few writers; we’ll talk them into showing up on occasion as well. 

And secondly, STAR-CROSS'D is going to be a quarterly event that is somewhere between a book club and a salon evening. This will be a ticketed event, but you’ll get a book (or two) from the featured author (who will be present), and we’ll have some presentations and discussions that will be related to the books being featured. It’s like a smart and talky book party. This first session (on February 1st) will be in support of Bronwyn Scott’s new historical fiction series, the Russian Royals of Kuban. In fact, attendees of the event will receive copies of the first TWO books in the series. How’s that for a deal? 

*Technically, it's our 'It's Winter and We Can't Do a Campfire, So We're Calling it "Worst Book Club Ever. Seriously. Don't Go." In the Interim, Which is a Total Lie But Looks Good on a Poster' book club, but that's, like, three levels of quote marks and an entire paragraph, so Not Like Any Other Book Club is probably best. 

Overheard At The Store »»

ALICE: Oh, hello, I was looking for a copy of Tim Wirkus’s The Infinite Future.

COLBY: I don’t think we have that yet. Oh, yes, it doesn’t come out until the middle of the month. You’re a couple of weeks early.

ALICE: I see . . . 

COLBY: What? 

ALICE: You’ve done something . . . up top—with your hair. 

COLBY: It’s very natural. 

ALICE: It’s a . . . it looks like a wig. 

COLBY: Extensions. Thank you very much. 

ALICE: So, um, why does a marmot need extensions? 

COLBY: I’m going to be part of a local theater production of Alice in Wonderland. 

ALICE: And you’ll be playing . . . ? 

COLBY: Alice, of course. Why else would I have all this extra hair? 

ALICE: Oh, I thought . . . never mind. It looks . . . I suppose it looks somewhat natural. 

COLBY: <sigh> 

ALICE: It’s fine. Really. It is. 

COLBY: The director is coming by the store today. I wanted to make a good impression. 

ALICE: It’s very . . . impressionable. 

COLBY: You make that sound like I’m going to sit for Cézanne or something. 

ALICE: He wasn’t much for portraits. Plus he’s dead. Maybe . . . what’s her name? She does the cat portraits. 

COLBY: Susan Herbert. 

ALICE: Yes. Her. Well, in fact, I don’t know much about art, really. Or the theater. 

COLBY: Didn’t you storm the bookstore once and threaten to keelhaul Ferdie? 

ALICE: Oh, that’s just part of my job. 

COLBY: I thought you retired. 

ALICE: Well, it’s seasonal work now, what with global warming. 

COLBY: I . . . what? Uh, did you want me to order that book for you? The Wirkus? 

ALICE: Yes, please. 

COLBY: Okay. It’ll be here later this month. 

ALICE: All right. I’ll be back. Good luck with your audition. 

COLBY: It’s not an audition. It’s an impression. 

ALICE: Oh, right. Well, good luck. 

COLBY: You don’t like it, do you?

ALICE: It’s not for me to say, marmot. 

COLBY: But you don’t like it. 

ALICE: A grown woman like myself could pull off braids like that. But a marmot . . . ? 

COLBY: Drat. 

ALICE: Just be yourself, dear. Simple honesty always makes a better impression. 


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