We’ve made it through the first month of the new year, and that means there’s a whole batch of new books on the horizon. February is a short month, and so historically there are fewer releases this month than can be expected at nearly any other time in the year, but the ones that are coming out look really good. There’s a ton of debut authors on this list, so read on to find your new favorite author before everyone starts talking about them:
The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont (Feb. 1st)
I haven’t read that many Agatha Christie books, a fact which is probably embarrassing to admit, but one which this book has forced me to just the same. Still, Christie is a legend, and even a fictional book about her is worth reading. I’m pretty excited about this book, although I’ll probably wait to hear what other people think of it before diving in, since it feels very hit or miss especially for someone that’s only read 1 book by Agatha Christie in the past.
Goodreads Summary: So begins The Christie Affair, told from the point of view of Miss Nan O’Dea, a fictional character but based on someone real. In 1925, she infiltrated the wealthy, rarified world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. A world of London townhomes, country houses, shooting parties, and tennis matches. Nan O’Dea became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife. In every way, she became a part of their world–first, both Christies. Then, just Archie.
The question is, why?
And what did it have to do with the mysterious eleven days that Agatha Christie went missing?
The answer takes you back time, to Ireland, to a young girl in love, to a time before The Great War. To a star-crossed couple who were destined to be together–until war and pandemic and shameful secrets tore them apart.
What makes a woman desperate enough to destroy another woman’s marriage?
What makes someone vengeful enough to hatch a plot years in the making?
What drives someone to murder?
These questions and more are explored in Nina de Gramont’s brilliant, unforgettable, lush, and powerful novel.
Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson (Feb. 1st)
I love a good mystery, and Wilkerson’s debut novel looks like it’s going to be good! Character driven stories always draw me in, and even from the Goodreads description I can tell this is going to be one of those books where we learn just as much about Byron and Benny as we do about the woman who disappears. Plus, it’s present day mixed with history, which gives me the best of both worlds.
Goodreads Summary: We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child, challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage, and themselves.
Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch
The Violin Conspiracy, by Brendan Slocumb (Feb. 1st)
This is Slocumb’s debut novel and it is already getting rave reviews! It seems like a pretty classic contemporary book, and it’s centered around a black man in classical music, which is very cool and not something we get a lot of in literature. I don’t know much about this book other than that, and honestly I am not a music expert (I’m just a girl who hates classical music) but it still looks good and there’s a clear mystery/problem that needs to be solved, so it seems like a fun piece to read if you’re interested.
Goodreads Summary: Ray McMillian loves playing the violin more than anything, and nothing will stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional musician. Not his mother, who thinks he should get a real job, not the fact that he can’t afford a high-caliber violin, not the racism inherent in the classical music world. And when he makes the startling discovery that his great-grandfather’s fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, his star begins to rise. Then with the international Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music—fast approaching, his prized family heirloom is stolen. Ray is determined to get it back. But now his family and the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray’s great-grandfather are each claiming that the violin belongs to them. With the odds stacked against him and the pressure mounting, will Ray ever see his beloved violin again?
Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman, by Kristen R. Lee (Feb. 1st)
I cannot tell whether this book is specifically for white people, because it seems very “look at all the racism” in its marketing, but I do know that I am excited to read the book. Lee is a black debut novelist who is writing about the experience of a black woman attending what seems to be a PWI (predominantly white university) as opposed to the HBCU she had been aiming for. We very rarely see new adult aged books nowadays, so I’m excited to finally read about a college character!
Goodreads Summary: Savannah Howard sacrificed her high school social life to make sure she got into a top college. Her sites were set on an HBCU, but when she is accepted to the ivy-covered walls of Wooddale University on a full ride, how can she say no?
Wooddale is far from the perfectly manicured community it sells on its brochures, though. Savannah has barely unpacked before she comes face-to-face with microagressions stemming from racism and elitism. Then, Clive Wilmington’s statue is vandalized with blackface. The prime suspect? Lucas Cunningham, Wooddale’s most popular student and son to a local prominent family. Soon, Savannah is unearthing the hidden secrets of Wooddale’s racist history. But what’s the price for standing up for what is right? And will telling the truth about Wooddale’s past cost Savannah her own future?
A stunning, challenging, and timely debut about racism and privilege on college campuses.
Jawbone, by Mónica Ojeda (Feb. 8th)
This book was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into English by Sarah Booker. Ojeda is also a poet, but it looks like this is written in prose? I’m unclear. Either way, it’s a high school hostage situation with a SECRET SOCIETY!?!? Sign me up. This sort of reminds me of the “Private” series I read in middle school? It was so long ago that I can’t actually confirm if it has anything to do with that series or even if that’s the name of the series, but that’s the energy Jawbone is giving me. Also a few people tagged it as LGBT on Goodreads, so there’s probably some rep somewhere.
Goodreads Summary: Fernanda and Annelise are so close they are practically sisters: a double image, inseparable. So how does Fernanda end up bound on the floor of a deserted cabin, held hostage by one of her teachers and estranged from Annelise?
When Fernanda, Annelise, and their friends from the Delta Bilingual Academy convene after school, Annelise leads them in thrilling but increasingly dangerous rituals to a rhinestoned, Dior-scented, drag-queen god of her own invention. Even more perilous is the secret Annelise and Fernanda share, rooted in a dare in which violence meets love. Meanwhile, their literature teacher Miss Clara, who is obsessed with imitating her dead mother, struggles to preserve her deteriorating sanity. Each day she edges nearer to a total break with reality.
Interweaving pop culture references and horror concepts drawn from from Herman Melville, H. P. Lovecraft, and anonymous “creepypastas,” Jawbone is an ominous, multivocal novel that explores the terror inherent in the pure potentiality of adolescence and the fine line between desire and fear.
The Nineties, by Chuck Klosterman (Feb. 8th)
Putting a white man on my list of recommended books that I haven’t read yet goes against my general policy, but when I came across this book I deperately wanted to read it and so I assume some of you will too. This book talks about all of nineties culture, and as a ’99 baby who grew up with parents relatively opposed to giving children technology too young, I’m pretty sure I’m going to relate. It does say that Klosterman talks about race/class/sexuality, so we’ll see how that’s handled, but I’m still very excited to read this!
Goodreads Summary: It was long ago, but not as long as it seems: The Berlin Wall fell and the Twin Towers collapsed. In between, one presidential election was allegedly decided by Ross Perot while another was plausibly decided by Ralph Nader. In the beginning, almost every name and address was listed in a phone book, and everyone answered their landlines because you didn’t know who it was. By the end, exposing someone’s address was an act of emotional violence, and nobody picked up their new cell phone if they didn’t know who it was. The 90s brought about a revolution in the human condition we’re still groping to understand. Happily, Chuck Klosterman is more than up to the job.
Beyond epiphenomena like Cop Killer and Titanic and Zima, there were wholesale shifts in how society was perceived: the rise of the internet, pre-9/11 politics, and the paradoxical belief that nothing was more humiliating than trying too hard. Pop culture accelerated without the aid of a machine that remembered everything, generating an odd comfort in never being certain about anything. On a 90’s Thursday night, more people watched any random episode of Seinfeld than the finale of Game of Thrones. But nobody thought that was important; if you missed it, you simply missed it. It was the last era that held to the idea of a true, hegemonic mainstream before it all began to fracture, whether you found a home in it or defined yourself against it.
In The Nineties, Chuck Klosterman makes a home in all of it: the film, the music, the sports, the TV, the politics, the changes regarding race and class and sexuality, the yin/yang of Oprah and Alan Greenspan. In perhaps no other book ever written would a sentence like, “The video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was not more consequential than the reunification of Germany” make complete sense. Chuck Klosterman has written a multi-dimensional masterpiece, a work of synthesis so smart and delightful that future historians might well refer to this entire period as Klostermanian.
When I’m Gone, Look for Me Back East, by Quan Barry (Feb. 22nd)
I’m currently reading a (fantasy, YA) book about a monk, She Who Became the Sun, so this will be a very fun switch into almost real life for me. Once again, this seems like an extremely character driven novel with a cool premise, and I’m not sure what else I can say except that I’m excited to read this book. At the time of writing this, it’s only gotten 2 reviews, and one said that it didn’t use a judeo-christian framework at all, which makes sense to me based on the fact that it’s centered on a Buddhist monk. The fact that it’s not catering to a Judeo-Christian audience makes it more appealing to me and the reviewer, but I guess it’s something you should know before diving in maybe?
Goodreads Summary: Tasked with finding the reincarnation of a great lama somewhere in the vast Mongolian landscape, the young monk Chuluun seeks the help of his identical twin, Mun, who was recognized as a reincarnation himself as a child, but has since renounced their once shared monastic life.
Harking back to her vivid and magical first novel set in Vietnam, Quan Barry carries us across a landscape as unforgiving as it is beautiful and culturally varied, from the stark Gobi Desert to the ancient capital of Chinggis Khan. As their country stretches before them, questions of the immortal soul, along with more earthly matters of love, sex, and brotherhood, haunt the twins, who can hear each other’s thoughts.
Are our lives our own, or do we belong to something larger? When I’m Gone is a stunningly far-flung examination of our individual struggle to retain faith and discover meaning in a fast-changing world, and a paean to Buddhist acceptance of what simply is.
The Paris Apartment, by Lucy Foley (Feb. 22nd)
You guys have probably heard by now that I absolutely loved The Guest List, which was also by Lucy Foley. Psychological Thrillers are addicting, and although I’m always wary of going into a second novel by the same person with high expectations, I truly do have high expectations for this one. I just want to be surprised by the twists, and based on the Guest List I have faith that Foley can do that for me in this one. Also, it’s centering a sort-of-a-mess female protagonist, which y’all know means it’s guaranteed at least 4 stars from me (knock on wood this isn’t the book that breaks the streak).
Goodreads Summary: Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.
The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.
The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge
Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling
Influenced Love, by Shellee Marie (Feb. 22nd)
This is the one book on the list that I’ve actually read (shoutout Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC) and I really enjoyed it! I published a full review that you can read here, but Influenced Love was an adorable love story romance that made me feel like love could be real. Shellee Marie is a debut author and wants to focus on writing Black love stories! If you’re looking for a lighthearted romance with a love triangle, you should definitely add this to your list.
Goodreads Summary: After a scandal threatens her reputation, popular beauty influencer, Alivia Fae, attempts to distract her followers by polling them to pick her date. When they pair her up with a fellow influencer, Moe Gava, he takes notice and asks her out. Unfortunately, she soon realizes he’s not as desirable as he seems online.
Despite her disinterest, when it’s suggested that she and Moe start a fake dating relationship, to keep up engagement with their fans, she begrudgingly agrees. As the plan unfolds, she begins to grow closer to his low-key assistant, Travis. Leading her to re-evaluate what she truly wants to influence her life—love.
Shellee Marie’s debut novel is the first book in her Black Beauty in Love series and is perfect for fans of Amy Lea and Alisha Rai.
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care, by Ashley Harring Blake (Feb. 22nd)
This is the first book in a new queer romance series about Delilah Green, a girl who’s returning to a hometown she never wanted to visit again. I don’t do romance, but I do do anything gay, and so I will absolutely be needing to read this book once it comes out. It seems interesting and fun and although there’s a 1% chance I read the whole series, there’s a pretty good chance I end up reading this book! Also Blake is another debut author!
Goodreads Summary: Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her.
When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.
Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise…at first. Though they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other—so Claire is unsettled when Delilah figures out exactly what buttons to push. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to…