The Paris Opera, Dogs, and a Dystopian Finland: Winter 2015 Fiction Preview

The Paris Opera, Dogs, and a Dystopian Finland: Winter 2015 Fiction Preview

Baby, it’s cold outside. So snuggle up indoors with one of these hotly-anticipated novels. If you need a little more music in your life, Alexander Chee’s newest book will thrill you with tales of intrigue at the Paris Opera. If you are into dystopians, then The Core of the Sun will hit the spot. And if you’re a dog lover with a taste for danger, Suzanne Berne’s latest will be a perfect fit. So what are you waiting for? Take off that jacket and grab a mug of hot chocolate. It’s time to read.

The Merman

Under the sea

We all know about the little mermaid, Ariel, but how often do any of us think about mermen? Carl-Johan Vallgren is here to change that with this incredibly dark fairy tale about what happens when some Swedish teenagers capture a merman and hold him captive. Readers should be warned that this book is very violent, so it isn’t for the faint of heart. Vallgren’s tale is startling but meditates seriously on empathy (and the lack thereof) and pain, and is sure to stick with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.

On shelves: December 7

The Relic Master

Relic of the past

If you’ve heard of Christopher Buckley, this new novel will likely surprise you. This is not another book about our nation’s capital; rather, it is a book about the hunt for religious relics in Europe in the 1500s. Kirkus writes, “What ensues might be pitched Hollywood-style as The Princess Bride meets Ocean’s XIII.” Many familiar figures from European history make appearances: Martin Luther,  Durer, and Frederick of Saxony. The book’s hero, Dismas, encounters these characters and more in his search for one of the most famous religious relics in the world.

On shelves: December 8


The Private Life of Plants

Oh brother

There is buzz in the literary world that Lee Seung-U could be Korea’s strongest candidate for a Nobel Prize, and this book makes us agree. The Private Lives of Plants is, on its surface, a conventional love story about two brothers. One has been injured and lost both legs in an accident, and the other brother assumes a caretaking role for him, which includes hiring prostitutes to keep his brother company. But things get more complicated when both brothers fall in love with a beautiful singer. You won’t want to miss this novel that Le Figaro is calling “[a]n Asian Romeo and Juliet.”

On shelves: December 18

The Children’s Home

The man in the mask

Halloween is over, and for most of us, that’s kind of a relief. But if you didn’t get a good enough scare in October, Charles Lambert can definitely help with that. Morgan Fletcher has shut himself up in a large home with only a housekeeper. He has been in an accident, and he doesn’t want to interact with the outside world anymore. But then children begin appearing at his home, and while he is glad for the company, Fletcher can sense that something is definitely not quite right. This is a seriously unsettling ghost story, complete with eerie children, a strange mask, and lots more spooky touches.

On shelves: January 5


A May-September romance

Thomas Hardy superfans, look no further. This novelization of the famous author’s later years follows the love story between Hardy (who was 84 at the time) and his wife, Florence, who was just over half his age. Florence has a tendency to be jealous, particularly after she finds Hardy’s newest writings, in which he appears to be writing about being in love with someone new. Set in Dorchester in 1924, this story will reward Hardy fans, and anyone else who loves to read about how relationships change over time, and the mark we leave on those we love.

On shelves: January 5

The Core of the Sun

Hot stuff

If you love a good dystopian, then listen up. In The Core of the Sun, Johanna Sinisalo tells the tale of Finland in the not-so-distant future, where traditional gender roles are enforced in a very big way. Cigarettes, booze, and chili peppers are illegal, smart women (“morlocks”) are sterilized, and men rule. What happens when Vanna, a morlock, gets caught up in buying and selling chili peppers on the black market? You’ll have to read this alarming but addictive novel to find out.

On shelves: January 5

My Name Is Lucy Barton

Like mother, like daughter

This new (and slim) novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout is an incisive account of the relationships we maintain with our family and loved ones. Lucy Barton gets her appendix removed, but then a fever keeps her in the hospital for almost two more months. Lucy’s mother comes to see her while she is sick, and their relationship forms the emotional core of this novel. Strout doesn’t waste any words: Her language is dense and compact in a way that heightens the emotional tenor of the story without sacrificing plot or context. From sickness to abuse to class differences, this book tackles tough subjects with grace.

On shelves: January 12


Good People

Complicated morality

Whatever you believe about what separates good people from bad ones, forget it. Robert Lopez will challenge all of those assumptions in this arresting short story collection that Kirkus claims is “a thought-provoking path to feeling awful.” The stories address suicide, neurosis, abuse, and misogyny, among other dark topics. Reader, be warned: If you aren’t cool with unhappiness and general dreariness of Beckett-ian proportions, this probably isn’t the collection for you. If you want to be uplifted, best look elsewhere.

On shelves: January 12

The Dogs of Littlefield

Good dog

Littlefield is supposed to be a wonderful Massachusetts town to live in, but its residents are getting more than they bargained for. The first dog to go is Feldman, a huge bull mastiff, who is found dead near a park in town. Dogs keep dying, and Littlefield residents–including sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins–don’t know who is poisoning them. Life in the quiet town changes as the dog poisonings continue, and Berne’s keen eye for social interactions makes scenes between town residents jump off the page. Party comedy of manners, part mystery, this novel will make you giggle and want to keep your dog in at night.

On shelves: January 12

The Queen of the Night

Lady of the opera

You don’t have to be a fan of opera to enjoy the latest novel from Alexander Chee. Lilliet Berne is living the dream: She is a glamorous and respected soprano at the Paris Opera. But when she is offered a brand new role, she is alarmed to discover that her own secrets are written into the libretto. Who did this, and how could they have found her? Drama and intrigue ensue in this utterly engrossing novel about opera, obsession, and the secrets we keep from others. You won’t want to miss this.

On shelves: February 2



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