BY NICO VREELAND
[This feature is a brief summary of interesting books coming out each month. Click the title links to find these books at Goodreads.]
My arm is still broken, but this new dictation program is working like a champ. In other news, I recognize almost none of the authors in this month’s Book Radar, and those I do recognize have disappointed me in the recent past. So this month’s choices are all Maybes, as is almost everything else in the world. Let’s do this.
Schroder, by Amity Gaige (out 2/5)
This novel of identity centers around a young German boy who gives himself a non-German name at summer camp to fit in better. This is Amity Gaige’s fourth book; her first was a collection of photos and poems written when she was just 16. None of the previous books have attained notoriety, but this one is getting enough hype to have the chance to be Gaige’s breakout. Whether it will depends on her prose; it’s difficult to tell much from the premise thus far.
How to Lead a Life of Crime, by Kirsten Miller (out 2/21)
This book, on the other hand, will get most of its hype from its premise. Miller imagines a school for young criminals where all the problems of adolescence exacerbate the pressure of learning a difficult trade that also happens to be illegal. I will probably be giving this one a try, but I’m worried that it might be a little too soapy.
Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Ron Rash (out 2/19)
Ron Rash has delivered, during the life of this website, one of my favorite novels, and a rather disappointing short story collection. His latest is another story collection, which I suppose will break the tie. Rash’s fiction tends toward the modern Gothic, tales of gritty American life. Here’s hoping this collection comes through.
Midle Men: Stories, by Jim Gavin (out 2/12)
It’s got to be tough to market a short story collection. This one’s flap copy says that Gavin “delivers a hilarious and panoramic vision of California, portraying a group of men, from young dreamers to old vets, as they make valiant forays into middle-class respectability.” I’m not holding my breath on the promise of humor, but Gavin’s New Yorker credentials pique my interest.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell (out 2/12)
Karen Russell’s debut novel, Swamplandia!, had its moments, but I thought the inherent conflict between Russell’s fanciful style and her traumatic plot beats made for a disappointing read. (The selection committee for the Pulitzer did not share my opinion.) In any case, it should be interesting to see her work in short story form again. There’s every reason to believe at least a few of these stories will be great.
We Live in Water, by Jess Walter (out 2/12)
David Duhr very much liked Walter’s novel The Financial Lives of the Poets. The man must be prolific because he published another novel last summer, and already has another book out. In any case, this, his first collection of short stories, probably deserves a try, even in a month jam-packed with short story collections.
Dreams and Shadows, by C. Robert Cargill (out 2/26)
This novel carves out a pretty bold premise for a debut. Cargill creates a fantasy world called the Limestone Kingdom, which exists “just a hidden step away” from the real world. Two brothers who have left the Limestone Kingdom struggle to maintain normal lives in the mundane plane. Sounds like half Supernatural, and half Neil Gaiman.
Literary Rogues, by Andrew Shaffer (out 2/5)
This is the kind of book that used to get displayed in the impulse aisle at bookstores. A lighthearted collection of anecdotal entertainment about literature’s messiest drunks, drug addicts, and lechers.
Indiscretion, by Charles Dubow (out 2/5)
Indiscretion is your official overhyped literary debut novel for the month of February. It follows a power couple who can “engulf the attention of an entire room merely by occupying it.” It’s that kind of marketing doubletalk that makes me feel lukewarm about hyped new authors. But a lot depends on Dubow’s prose, so it could be worth a trial run. If worst comes to worst, at least there’s the implication of a three-way.
The Fate of Mercy Alban, by Wendy Webb (out 2/5)
A woman from a powerful family finds herself drawn back after long absence to solve the mystery of a writer who committed suicide at one of their scandalous parties. In my experience, these half-a-mysteries can fall to either side: too literary or too plotty. But if it lands in the middle, this is my favorite kind of novel.
Three Graves Full, by Jamie Mason (out 2/12)
This one, on the other hand, is more of a straight-ahead, plot-driven mystery. A “mild-mannered” man commits murder, and buries the body in his backyard. But when he gets a landscaping crew to try to cover up the grave, they discover a second body and then a third.