Friday, July 12, 2019

Buzz Books 2019: Fall/Winter Book Previews

Nothing to Declare


I've been a huge fan of the Buzz Books preview collections for years. They're available twice a year, and they contain extracts from upcoming releases, including some highly anticipated ones. There's an adult version and a YA version, I'll have the YA one up tomorrow. Each collection contains dozens of extracts from yet-to-be-published books from various genres. At the end of most of these extracts, there will be either a link to a Netgalley widget to read the book, or a link to the Netgalley request page for the book. I've written a post about Netgalley here, it's a site available to anyone who is willing to review in exchange for early access to titles. 

Below, I'm going to list all the books featured in this edition and tell you whether or not I want to read them, based on the extracts. Please don't take these as endorsements or oppositions, they're just my own first impressions and I mean no harm to any author, some genres just aren't for me but others will love them. These extracts are free for everyone and can be accessed by anyone - go to Publishers Lunch to download it and have a read for yourself so you can begin building your Fall/Winter reading list. 

Release dates are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. 


The Divers' Game by Jesse Ball (published September 10th)
The struggle for equality has been abandoned; the world divided into two groups: Pats and Quads. The Pats may (and do) kill the Quads as they wish. The Quads have no comeback. This is supposed to be a look at society and what will happen if we don't change our ways. 

First Impression: I feel like there has been a flood of dystopian fiction over the past five years, do I really want to read another one? Based on the extract, no. I found the absence of quotation marks really confusing, and kept mistaking massive chunks of dialogue for narration. 

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman (published October 8th)
Ella and her daughter Jessica are accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Their story becomes an urban legend and eventually a movie. The movie ruins the career and life of Amber, the woman who plays Jessica. Her only chance for redemption is to tell her story via a true crime podcast. 

First Impression: I mean going by the synopsis alone, GIVE IT TO ME. Witchcraft, urban legends AND a true crime podcast?! Come ON. This is going straight on my list. 

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky (published October 1st)
From the author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes a tale about seven-year-old Christopher and his imaginary friend. This is only Chbosky's second novel. 

First Impression: The extract is actually really engaging and makes me want to read more - I'm getting a kind of Will from Stranger Things vibe from Christopher, and his mother seems like she has a really good back story. She's definitely on the run from something. 720 pages though??!!! 

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier (published September 17th)
A story about a woman who refuses to accept a life of spinsterhood in 1932 after the Great War claimed both her brother and beloved fiancé. She moves to Winchester and becomes involved with a group of women who must fight for their new lives. 

First Impression:
Not my type of thing at all, unfortunately, but an incredibly popular writer so fans will probably be delighted. 

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton (published September 10th)
A pre-WWII era novel based on the true story of the Kindertransport rescue of ten thousand children from Nazi-occupied Europe and one brave woman who helped them escape.

First Impression:
An incredible story, very descriptive and engaging writing but not something I'm interested in reading at the moment.

Highfire by Eoin Colfer (published January 28th 2020)
A story about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives in the Louisiana Bayou, and his adventures with a 15 year old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff. 

First Impression:
I don't think I've willingly picked up a story about a dragon in about three decades - it's so ludicrous that I almost want to read it? The writing is witty and sharp, the plot is interesting, and the pop culture references are drawing me in. 

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (published January 21st 2020)
Lydia Quixano Perez lives in Acapulco and runs a bookstore. When her journalist husband publishes a tell-all about one of Mexico's biggest drug lords, Lydia and her family have to flee - but as they try to cross the border with so many others, what awaits?

First Impression:
Yes, I'd absolutely read this in its entirety. Books like this are necessary to show the real dangers facing migrants right now. The writing is immediately engaging, I've only read 6 minutes worth of it and I feel like I know this family already. 

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison (published December 31st)
Ash Carlisle is attending an exclusive prep school in Virginia. She is running from a dark secret and hopes to put it behind her, but when she becomes involved with a secret society and gets on their bad side, everything she has built for herself is at risk of destruction.

First Impression:
I've read several books about secret societies and exclusive schools so I'll probably leave this one, although the writing is really engaging. I could see this being popular with fans of Donna Tartt or E. Lockhart.

Takes One to Know One by Susan Isaacs (published January 10th 2020)
Corie Geller has left her life as an FBI agent behind for marriage and motherhood. When she senses something's off, she decides to use her skills to find out what's happening. 

First Impression:
From the chapters in the extract, I didn't really feel like I was interested enough in Corie to follow her story, but I could see this being really popular and making a great TV drama series. 

Synapse by Steven James (published October 8th)
Set thirty years in the future, a pastor in Cincinnati witnesses a terror attack and needs to stop a second attack along with her robot.

First Impression:
The writing is super engaging and I already want to know more about this woman. The plot initially reads a little like that episode of Black Mirror where the woman got an AI version of her dead husband, but I think the addition of a terror attack might change the pace a bit and I'd really like to read the rest of it. 

The Bear by Andrew Krivak (published February 11th 2020)
A fable about a father and daughter, the last two humans on Earth.

First Impression:
Very pretty, descriptive writing, but again this doesn't use quotation marks for dialogue which puts me off. Plot wise, I'm not sure there's much of one, so I don't think I'll be following this up. Fans of The Road may enjoy, although this doesn't appear to be nearly half as bleak. 

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (published January 10th 2020)
A family drama set in the American Midwest in the late 1990s. It follows a senior at Topeka High School and his family, and deals with feminism, identity crises amongst young white men, toxic masculinity and the tyranny of the New Right. 

First Impression:
Honestly I found the extract very heavy but I think this will be an important and valued book when it's published. I have to wonder how much of it is autobiographical given the similarities between the author and main character but for now, I won't be adding this to my TBR, especially as it is the third in a trilogy. 

Just Watch Me by Jeff Lindsay (published December 3rd)
A master thief plots to steal the Iranian Crown jewels. 

First Impression:
Not for me at all, I have no interest in heist novels. I presume fans of stuff like I Am Pilgrim might like this. The author was the creator of the novels that led to the TV show Dexter

Long Bright River by Liz Moore (published Jan 7th 2020)
Set in Philadelphia during the opioid crisis, this is a tale about an addict who goes missing and her police officer sister trying to find her. 

First Impresion:
Another one without quotation marks for dialogue. The story seems good but nothing unique enough to make me want to request it or add it to my TBR. Fans of Karin Slaughter or police prodecurals may enjoy this a lot.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (published October 8th 2019)
Set in Depression-era America, this is the story of five women and their journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.

First Impression:
Not the kind of book I expected from Jojo Moyes, but I've read several of her previous books and enjoy her writing style a lot. From this extract, one of the women (Margery) reminded me a lot of Renée Zellweger's character Ruby in the movie Cold Mountain (who I loved), and I think that this will be a wonderful novel about female friendship. I'm not sure if it's entirely my thing, but I'll probably read it at some stage. 

The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson (published March 12th 2020)
The story of a nun whose past returns to haunt her due to her involvement years before with a convent in Iceland and a mysterious death.

First Impression:
Given that the synopsis is so short, I wasn't sure what genre this falls into - horror or mystery. Going by the extract, it appears to be some kind of tale about a nun going to a convent in Iceland to investigate allegations of abuse. This is another one without quotation marks (what is happening, is this a thing now?!) and I'm not really able to stomach anything involving abuse in relation to children so this one isn't for me unfortunately. 

Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff (published September 10th) 
Claire Abrams lost her little boy when she passed on a genetic mutation. Now, desperate for another chance at motherhood, she consults with a top fertility doctor to arrange something never seen before - the worlds first baby with three genetic parents. However, there's only room for one mother. And she knows best. 

First Impression:
I was sold before I had even read the extract, this story really appeals to me as it's a different, fresh take on the very enormous psychological thriller genre. AND it has quotation marks! I'm going to apply for the ARC and if I'm unsuccessful I'll read it after publication day because it sounds so intriguing. 

The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong (published September 3rd)
The reimagined life of a celebrated writer's life told through three women who knew him best.

First Impression:
I've absolutely no interest in sagas, unfortunately. It seems to be very well written but I just don't care about anyone involved, this is one of those books that's immediately too clever for me and I'm totally fine with that. Fans of this kind of sweeping, beautifully worded novel will adore it. 

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (published November 5th)
A moving novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with disabilities.

First Impression:
OK. I read the synopsis and thought "meh". We've seen this before. Only - we really haven't. Lillian and Madison were inseperable at school, but now they're grown up and they live very different lives. Madison begs Lillian for help with her twin stepchildren - they have rather unique affliction. Whenever they're agitated, they spontaneously combust. Literally. They go on fire. SIGN. ME. UP. 

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (available now, published in the US on October 1st)
In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor falls in love with a professor. Meanwhile, a divorced man is about to make his fortune selling sex dolls to lonely men. Somewhere in Arizona, a cryogenics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are waiting to be returned to life.

First Impression:
No quotation marks again, ARE YOU SHITTING ME?! I was looking forward to this one in particular because it was released here in May - I just haven't gotten around to reading it. But honestly reading that excerpt was painful, and I'm gutted, because it looks like something I'd really enjoy were it not so physically hard for me to read. 

The Years After You by Emma Woolf (published September 10th)
An affair. Wife, mistress, the man in the middle.

First Impression:
I cheated (ironically) a little with this, I went to Goodreads to see what people had said about it. Apparently it's a very well written book about relationships and love but I'm not interested in reading anything in which cheating is a main arc. If you're willing to put that aside, it's beautifully written and focuses on love and loss. 

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts (published October 22nd)
It's the 1950s and Brighton Turner has been incarcerated in a rural Pennsylvania asylum since childhood. Along with her friend Angel, they fight for their release and try to make it to Michigan to find a home. 

First Impression:
We're in 1990, so clearly Brighton has made it through a difficult childhood. She's a very engaging character straight off, she comes across full of life and it's clear that she has a story to tell. To me this is coming across as some kind of hybrid of Girl, Interrupted and The Notebook which I'm here for. 


The Other's Gold by Elizabeth Ames (published August 27th)
A novel following the friendships of four women who meet at college and the different experiences they go through.

First Impression:
It was fine, I'm sure it'll do well, it's very readable - I just didn't care about any of them enough to want to read about their lives, but for fans of character-driven novels this will be a welcome addition to your late Summer TBR.

Followers by Megan Angelo (published January 14th 2020)
Two dream-chasing friends and the dark choices they make in an effort to achieve success. 

First Impression:
Obsession, celebrity, influence, satire - I should love this?! But unfortunately it didn't grab me and I wasn't a fan of the writing style. I've seen it described as being similar to Black Mirror, which I love, but right now it's not for me. I may come back to it at some point just purely because it's so unique.

142 Ostriches by April Dávila (published February 25th 2020)
A young woman is desperate to escape life on her family's ostrich farm in the Mojave desert but becomes the sole heir when her Grandmother dies under suspicious circumstances. She is forced to face her dysfunctional family head on and figure out why the birds have stopped laying.

First Impression:
A kooky family drama - the writing flows easily. I'm not hugely interested in family sagas or relationships, but for people who like that sort of thing this is an interesting and original take on the genre and I think it's very much worth a shot. 

How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann (published January 14th 2020)
The Dry meets The Silence of the Lambs (quite the claim) in a tale of madness and obsession set in Alaska. 

First Impression:
We open in 1941 where Elisabeth is dreaming about the disappearance of her sister many years before. I've read so many books about missing siblings recently that I'm not compelled to watch out for this one, but the plot is fairly gripping and things get moving quite quickly going by the excerpt.

Cold Storage by David Koepp (published September 3rd)
This debut novel from the screenwriter of Jurassic Park is a terrifying adventure about three strangers who must work together to contain a highly contagious deadly organism.

First Impression:
This wouldn't normally be the type of book I would read but it read, unsurprisingly, like a movie and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the excerpt. I'm not sure if I'd go to the extent of requesting an early copy but I would borrow it from the library.

There You Are by Mathea Morais (published October 22nd)
Octavian Munroe is haunted by the life and death of his older brother in one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. Mina Rose has never quite fit in and wishes she was anything but white. Once lovers, now estranged, they both head back to St. Louis when they find out that the record shop that was such an integral part of their teens is to close. 

First Impression:
From the synopsis I wasn't bothered about it, but the writing hooked me in immediately. There are many characters but each one is filled with individuality and a fully formed personality. There's also a phenomenal soundtrack ( I loved the chapters that I read, and I'm very much looking forward to reading the entire novel. 

All That's Bright and Gone by Eliza Nellums (published December 10th)
Six year old Aoife just wants to know what happened to her big brother Theo, but nobody will tell her. With the help of her invisible friend and her nosy next door neighbour, Aoife is determined to bring Theo back and bring her mother home from hospital.

First Impression:
I'm not a huge fan of adult novels told from the perspective of children so this one didn't grab me but I think it's one to watch out for if you're into that sort of book. 

On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl (published November 5th)
A lonely newlywed and her brother-in-law follow divergent & dangerous paths through the postwar American West.

First Impression:
This doesn't really interest me, I feel like I've read a thousand of these trekking-across-the-postwar-landscape novels. For those who like this kind of story, the writing was excellent and really descriptive. 

The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor (published August 27th)
Brussels, 1943. Twelve-year-old street orphan Helene survives by living as a boy and selling copies of a Nazi propaganda newspaper. She becomes involved with a network of underground journalists who are determined to undermine the Reich.

First Impression:
Not something I'm interested in reading but I understand that it's based on a very important true event which is worth researching as these people did something amazingly brave at the time. 

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (published January 7th 2020)
A story of race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter who is accused of kidnapping the chidren she minds for her privileged white employer & former blogger Alix Chamberlain.

First Impression:
I liked Emira, the babysitter, instantly. The scene at the grocery store was fantastically written, and the little bit we learn about Alix in the excerpt made me want to know all about her immediately. I will be reading this one in full. 

Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin (published February 4th 2020)
A psychological drama about a young girl whose older sister vanishes on a luxury Caribbean vacation and, years later, a chance encounter with one of the suspects.

First Impression:
While the story sounds good, I wasn't in love with the writing style. It's all in the present tense and I found it hard to connect with. If that's something that's not an issue for you, you might really like this one. The opening chapters reminded me of the atmosphere in the opening episodes of The Sinner on Netflix. 

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup (published September 3rd)
From the creator of the TV show The Killing comes the debut thriller about the race to find a serial killer terrorizing Copenhagen.

First Impression:
A well written crime thriller, perfect for fans of the genre. I'm not sure if it's different enough for me to want to read the entire thing, but it's always nice to find a new crime writer, especially one of this calibre. 


Dark Waters: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam by Jake Anderson
(published February 25th 2020)
Elisa Lam was just 21 years old when she was found dead in a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. This is a case that has caught my attention for years, and I really want to read this.

Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender and Parenting in America by Nefertiti Austin
(published September 24th)
The story of a single African-American woman and the prejudice she faced not only from the adoption community but from her own family and friends when she wanted to adopt a black baby boy from the foster care system. I think we could all learn something from reading this.

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me by Adrienne Brodeur
(published October 15th)
When Adrienne was fourteen, her mother began an affair with her husband's friend and chose to confide in Adrienne. As a result, Adrienne's life was changed drastically. I don't really have any interest in reading this.

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
(published November 5th)
A history of a dramatic medical experiment that changed modern medicine forever. I had never heard of this, in which a group of 8 people went into mental institutions undercover as patients in the 1970s to test the validity of psychiatric labels and treatments. This seems really interesting and I probably will read it at some point. 

The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg
(published January 21st 2020)
A deeply researched and stunningly written investigation of the murder of two young women in 1980 and how the brutal crime has reverberated through a West Virginia community where the author lives. This sounds similar to some podcasts that I enjoy so I'll give it a read at some point. 

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything by B.J Fogg, Ph.D
(published December 31st)
Based on twenty years of research, this book claims to crack the code of habit formation. An expert in behaviour science, the author guides you to find the small changes that can change everything in your life. I'm hugely sceptical. 

999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune MacAdam
(published December 31st)
On March 25, 1942, nearly a thousand unmarried young Jewish women boarded a train to Auschwitz from Slovakia, believing they were travelling to work for the Government. Instead, they were sold as into slave labour. Only a few survived. Often forgotten, the story of  women of the first Jewish transport is now told and is an important part of Holocaust history. I will read this when I'm in the right headspace.

Denali: A Man, a Dog, and the Friendship of a Lifetime by Ben Moon
(published January 14th 2020)
The story of Ben Moon and his dog Denali. After Denali succumbed to cancer, Ben and some friends made a short film as a tribute. The film struck a chord with millions of dog lovers all over the world, and this is the story behind the story. This one doesn't interest me but I'm sure it will be very popular.

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper
(published October 8th)
A memoir of the author's experiences growing up in and deciding to leave the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. This group of people have always intrigued me so I will definitely read this, I've read similar books about former Scientology members and gained a lot of insight so I'll put this on my list, even though I'm sure it won't make for the easiest read. 

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power
(published September 19th)
Pulitzer Prize winner and human rights advocate Samantha Power writes about her journey from Irish immigrant to United States Ambassador to the United Nations. On face value I never would have picked this up but the writing drew me in and I really felt an immediate warmth towards Samantha. I liked her from the first page and think I would enjoy reading her story. 

Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares by Aarti Namdev Shahani
(published January 10th 2020)
The story of the the authors' immigrant family from the American Dream of coming to the States to the nightmare of being wrongly accused of money laundering for a drug cartel. I'm sure it's an incredibly interesting story but not something that interests me right now. 

If you've read all that, I adore you. 

The standouts for me were:

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Synapse by Steven James
Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
There You Are by Mathea Morais
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Dark Waters: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam by Jake Anderson
Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving & Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper

In the unlikely event of anyone reading this post, do please let me know if any of the titles have jumped out at you! Have you spotted anything you want to read, or anything you're really looking forward to? Don't forget to download your own free copy of the Buzz Books extracts to read at your own leisure. 

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