Love is in the air! Well, book love, that is. We’ve rounded up all the new releases coming in February that we’re truly looking forward to. From a family drama that promises to pull out all the stops to a romance read with a twist, these books bring exciting new stories and characters to the table.
Heather’s Pick #1: Everyone has personal struggles, even when they aren’t readily apparent to the outside world, and everyone wants to escape their daily lives sometimes. This is one of the ideas at the heart of JJ Bola’s THE SELFLESS ACT OF BREATHING, in which British-Congolese teacher Michael Kabongo reaches a breaking point and makes an impromptu decision to move to America for a fresh start. As he journeys across the country from New York City all the way out to San Francisco, Michael embraces new people and experiences, but also faces some of the same old prejudices that contributed to his heartbreaking past. This book sounds beautiful and devastating in equal measure, which means I must have it.
A heartbreaking, lyrical story for all of those who have fantasized about escaping their daily lives and starting over.
Michael Kabongo is a British-Congolese teacher living in London on the cusp of two identities. On paper, he seems to have it all: He’s beloved by his students, popular with his coworkers, and the pride and joy of a mother who emigrated from the Congo to the UK in search of a better life. But behind closed doors, he’s been struggling with the overwhelming sense that he can’t address the injustices he sees raging before him—from his relentless efforts to change the lives of his students for the better to his attempts to transcend the violence and brutality that marginalizes young Black men around the world.
Then one day he suffers a devastating loss, and his life is thrown into a tailspin. As he struggles to find a way forward, memories of his fathers’ violent death, the weight of refugeehood, and an increasing sense of dread threaten everything he’s worked so hard to achieve. Longing to escape the shadows in his mind and start anew, Michael decides to spontaneously pack up and go to America, the mythical “land of the free,” where he imagines everything will be better, easier—a place where he can become someone new, someone without a past filled with pain.
On this transformative journey, Michael travels everywhere from New York City to San Francisco, partying with new friends, sparking fleeting romances, and splurging on big adventures, with the intention of living the life of his dreams until the money in his bank account runs out.
Written in spellbinding prose, with Bola’s trademark magnetic storytelling, The Selfless Act of Breathing takes us on a wild ride to odd but exciting places as Michael makes surprising new connections and faces old prejudices in new settings.
Emily’s Pick #1: This book is set up to be a perfectly unsettling read. Gina is on a European honeymoon trip with her husband, Duncan, but she has blips of amnesia that cause her to forget moments from the past year of her life. Interspersed with her present trip—which includes eerie looks and conversations with her husband and others—are episodes in which we go back in time to see how her relationship with Duncan started at Yale. I’m already anticipating the many different avenues the plot could go down; I can’t wait to read it and see how it all unravels.
A psychologically suspenseful, cunning love story following a young dancer unable to recall the last year of her life after suffering a head injury on her honeymoon, revealing an intimate portrait of love’s powers—as well as its dangers.
The year is 1996—a time before cell phones, status updates, and location tags—when you could still travel to a remote corner of the world and disappear, if you chose to do so. This is where we meet Gina Reinhold and Duncan Lowy, a young artistic couple madly in love, traveling around Europe on a romantic adventure. It’s a time both thrilling and dizzying for Gina, whose memories are hazy following a head injury—and the growing sense that the man at her side, her one companion on this strange continent, is keeping secrets from her.
Just what is Duncan hiding and how far will he go to keep their pasts at bay? As the pair hop borders across Europe, their former lives threatening to catch up with them while the truth grows more elusive, we witness how love can lead us astray, and what it means to lose oneself in love... The End of Getting Lost is “atmospheric, lyrical, and filled with layered insights into the complexities of marriage” (Susie Yang, New York Times bestselling author of White Ivy). “Kirman is wonderfully deft with suspense and plot” (Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks) in this “electric page-turner” (Courtney Maum, author of Costalegre and Touch), a novel that is both a tightrope act of deception as much as it is an elegant exploration of love and marriage, and our cherished illusions of both. With notes of Patricia Highsmith, Caroline Kepnes, and Lauren Groff, Robin Kirman has spun a delicious tale of deceit, redemption, and the fight to keep love alive—no matter the costs.
Heather’s Pick #2: How could I not be intrigued by Anna Pitoniak’s OUR AMERICAN FRIEND? It may be categorized as a thriller, but the novel has a little something for every type of reader, whether your interests lie in Cold War history, suspense, romance, or travel. The adventure begins with journalist Sofie Morse, a former White House correspondent who’s totally burned out but unable to resist the opportunity to write the official biography of First Lady Lara Caine. After all, the whole world is curious about this enigmatic woman who was born in Soviet Russia, grew up in Paris, and worked as a model before immigrating to the US and marrying a future president. Sofie’s work with the First Lady leads to shocking revelations, including her family’s involvement with the KGB in the 1970s. In fact, Sofie starts to worry that she’s being pulled into some modern-day spy games and that she’s in way, way over her head. Sounds thrilling, right?!
A mysterious first lady.
The intrepid journalist writing her biography.
And the secret that could destroy them both.
Tired of covering the grating dysfunction of Washington and the increasingly outrageous antics of President Henry Caine, White House correspondent Sofie Morse quits her job and plans to leave politics behind. But when she gets a call from the office of First Lady Lara Caine, asking Sofie to come in for a private meeting with Lara, her curiosity is piqued. Sofie, like the rest of the world, knows little about Lara—only that Lara was born in Soviet Russia, raised in Paris, and worked as a model before moving to America and marrying the notoriously brash future president.
When Lara asks Sofie to write her official biography, and to finally fill in the gaps of her history, Sofie’s curiosity gets the better of her. She begins to spend more and more time in the White House, slowly developing a bond with Lara—and eventually a deep and surprising friendship with her.
Even more surprising to Sofie is the fact that Lara is entirely candid about her mysterious past. The First Lady doesn’t hesitate to speak about her beloved father’s work as an undercover KGB officer in Paris—and how he wasn’t the only person in her family working undercover during the Cold War.
As Lara’s story unfolds, Sofie can’t help but wonder why Lara is rehashing such sensitive information. Why to her? And why now? Suddenly Sofie is in the middle of a game of cat and mouse that could have explosive ramifications.
For fans of The Secrets We Kept and American Wife, Our American Friend is a propulsive Cold War-era spy thriller crossed with a fictional biography of a First Lady. Spanning from the 1970s to the present day, traveling from Moscow and Paris to Washington and New York, Anna Pitoniak’s novel is a gripping page-turner—and a devastating love story—about power and complicity and how sometimes, the fate of the world is in the hands of the people you’d never expect.
Sara’s Pick: Ask one hundred people, and just about all of them would love to pick up their lives and move to a lavish Parisian apartment. Okay, so, that’s not a scientific fact or anything, but it’s definitely a fantasy many of us share. But mystery writer Lucy Foley turns that dream into a nightmare in her latest book, THE PARIS APARTMENT. Jess needs a new lease on life, and a new lease in general. She decides to stay with her half brother, Ben, in his surprisingly nice Paris apartment, even though Ben isn’t around. As Jess continues to stay in the apartment and interact with Ben’s weird neighbors, she starts to get worried that his absence is a permanent one. Pick up this chilling thriller set in the City of Lights for a little French intrigue.
Heather’s Pick #3: Copenhagen homicide detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner are back, and not a moment too soon. As a fan of moody Scandinavian crime stories in general and Katrine Engberg’s books in particular, I already have my bags packed for a return trip to Denmark. THE HARBOR, which follows the events of THE TENANT and THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE, finds Kørner and Werner on the trail of a missing teenager named Oscar Dreyer-Hoff. While his family knows from the very start that Oscar wouldn’t run away, it’s the bizarre note he leaves behind about a murder that gives the police a place to start their investigation. This one’s sure to be another twisty mystery you can’t put down.
From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Butterfly House, called “brazen and original” by The Toronto Star, comes a timely, suspenseful, and darkly original new novel about a missing child and the web of lies that has threatened his life—and may prevent him from ever being found.
When fifteen-year-old Oscar Dreyer-Hoff disappears, the police assume he’s simply a runaway—a typically overlooked middle child doing what teenagers do all around the world. But his frantic family is certain that something terrible has happened. After all, what runaway would leave behind a note that reads:
He looked around and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward. He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain left upon it. It was bright and glistened. As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free.
It’s not much to go on but it’s all that detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner have. And with every passing hour, as the odds of finding a missing person grow dimmer, it will have to be enough.
Holly’s Pick: There’s nothing more refreshing than a cleaning spree. One minute you’re washing dishes, then five hours later you’re color-coordinating your sweatpants. That’s sort of how Stevie’s journey begins. After helping her mother move houses, Stevie feels so inspired that she opens her own decluttering business. Along with her thriving new endeavor, Stevie rekindles old relationships, stops sleeping with undesirable men, and even quits drinking. Her life is on the upswing, but no matter how good things get, she can’t seem to outrun her complicated past. Stevie invites readers to come to terms with their messy lives, just as she does, and embark on a journey of self-acceptance.
The author of the “sparkling dark romance” (Redbook) We Could Be Beautiful brings her “wit and verve” (The New York Times Book Review) to this quirky, feel-good novel about one woman’s messy journey from self-delusion to self-acceptance.
At thirty-seven, Stevie Green has had it with binge drinking and sleeping with strange men. She’s confused about her sexuality and her purpose in life. When her mother asks her to return to her hometown of La Jolla to help her move into a new house, she’s desperate enough to say yes. The move goes so well that Stevie decides to start her own decluttering business. She stops drinking. She hires her formerly estranged sister, Bonnie, to be her business partner. She rekindles a romance with her high school sweetheart, Brad. Things are better than ever—except for the complicated past that Stevie can’t seem to outrun.
Who was responsible for the high school scandal that caused her life to take a nosedive twenty years earlier? Why is she so secretive about the circumstances of her father’s death? Why are her feelings for her ex-friend, Chris, so mystifying? If she’s done drinking, then why can’t she seem to declutter the mini wine bottles from her car?
A winsome, fast-paced read, Getting Clean With Stevie Green is about coming to terms with who you are, resolving the pain of your past, and accepting the truth of your life in all its messy glory.
Kelly’s Pick: I’m so excited to hear STAR TREK: PICARD: NO MAN’S LAND. This original audio drama features stars of the hit TV series Star Trek: Picard Michelle Hurd as Raffi and Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, along a full ensemble cast! Picking up right after the action-packed conclusion of season 1 of Star Trek: Picard, NO MAN’S LAND begins with Raffi and Seven of Nine enjoying some much-needed R&R in Raffi’s remote hideaway. Suddenly their downtime is interrupted by an urgent cry for help. This amazing production features a soundscape crackling with Star Trek: Picard sound effects—think transporters and other shipboard technology, weapons, and more—creating a truly immersive listening experience. You cannot miss this one!
Discover what happens to Raffi and Seven of Nine following the stunning conclusion to season one of Star Trek: Picard with this audio exclusive, fully dramatized Star Trek adventure featuring the beloved stars of the hit TV series Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan.
Star Trek: No Man’s Land picks up right after the action-packed season one conclusion of Star Trek: Picard. While Raffi and Seven of Nine are enjoying some much-needed R&R in Raffi’s remote hideaway, their downtime is interrupted by an urgent cry for help: a distant, beleaguered planet has enlisted the Fenris Rangers to save an embattled evacuation effort. As Raffi and Seven team up to rescue a mysteriously ageless professor whose infinity-shaped talisman has placed him in the deadly sights of a vicious Romulan warlord, they take tentative steps to explore the attraction depicted in the final moments of Picard season one.
Star Trek: No Man’s Land is a rich, fully dramatized Star Trek: Picard adventure as Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan pick up their respective characters once more. Written for audio by Kirsten Beyer, a cocreator, writer, and producer on the hit Paramount+ series Star Trek: Picard, and Mike Johnson, a veteran contributor to the Star Trek comic books publishing program, this audio original offers consummate Star Trek storytelling brilliantly reimagined for the audio medium.
In addition to riveting performances from Hurd and Ryan exploring new layers of Raffi and Seven’s relationship, Star Trek: No Man’s Land features a full cast of actors playing all-new characters in the Star Trek: Picard universe, including Fred Tatasciore, Jack Cutmore-Scott, John Kassir, Chris Andrew Ciulla, Lisa Flanagan, Gibson Frazier, Lameece Issaq, Natalie Naudus, Xe Sands, and Emily Woo Zeller, and is presented in a soundscape crackling with exclusive Star Trek sound effects. Drawing listeners into a dramatic, immersive narrative experience that is at once both instantly familiar and spectacularly new, Star Trek: No Man’s Land goes boldly where no audio has gone before as fans new and old clamor to discover what happens next.
Emily’s Pick #2: This reimagining of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV follows Leo Chao and his three adult sons in their small Wisconsin town. The universally hated owner of the Fine Chao restaurant, Leo is found murdered on the night of the annual family Christmas party. As the murder trial commences, one of Leo’s sons is accused of the crime. We see the prejudices of the small town emerge as the spotlight falls on this Chinese American family, and the struggle within the family as they walk the fine line between pride and shame, grief and relief, and more.
Emily’s Pick #3: I guess I’m in the mood for murder mysteries because here’s yet another one on my list of most anticipated February releases. January Cole is the top security guard at a hotel for time travelers while they wait for their “flights” to various time periods throughout history. But when time streams begin acting up and the looming privatization of the technology jeopardizes their safety, January’s job becomes a bit more stressful. I love anything to do with time travel, and this plot seems especially primed for some good weaving of time lines.
Emily’s Pick #4: SPANISH LOVE DECEPTION exploded on BookTok last year and is now being released in a gorgeous paperback package. When Catalina Martín’s insufferable colleague, Aaron Blackford, agrees to be her plus one at her sister’s wedding, she expects to be miserable, but is willing to suffer through it to keep up the lie that she’s in a relationship—and to avoid her family’s persistent questions. So Catalina and Aaron fly from New York to Spain, navigate her boisterous family, and inevitably discover that they actually enjoy each other’s company. Complete with all the antics you expect at a big international wedding, this enemies-to-lovers romance is so much fun and will give you all the feels.
A TikTok sensation, this rom-com about a young woman who agrees to fake date a colleague and bring him to her sister’s wedding has “everything you could want in a romance” (Helen Hoang, New York Times bestselling author).
Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. Especially since her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiralled out of control. Now everyone she knows—including her ex and his fiancée—will be there and eager to meet him.
She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic and aid in her deception. New York to Spain is no short flight and her raucous family won’t be easy to fool.
Enter Aaron Blackford—her tall, handsome, condescending colleague—who surprisingly offers to step in. She’d rather refuse; never has there been a more aggravating, blood-boiling, and insufferable man.
But Catalina is desperate, and as the wedding draws nearer, Aaron looks like her best option. And she begins to realize he might not be as terrible in the real world as he is at the office.
Sabrina’s Pick #1: CIRCUS OF WONDERS takes readers back to Victorian Europe, during a time when freak shows were a socially acceptable form of entertainment for both royalty and peasantry. After Nell’s desperate father sells her to Jasper Jupiter’s traveling circus, Nell becomes famous for her leopard-like birthmarks and ethereal performances, eventually earning a headlining spot as Nellie Moon. At the circus, a secret relationship grows between Jasper’s brother, Toby, and Nell. Toby believes himself to be utterly boring and ordinary, but he harbors a dark secret he thinks will tear them apart—if Jasper’s greedy schemes don’t do the job first. In Elizabeth Macneal’s extraordinary world, there’s a fine line between independence and exploitation, and physical differences can designate someone a “monster” and doom them to public display, but the real monsters blend in with the crowd. Readers will find beauty in destitution and a bit of horror, feminism, and romance threaded through this work of historical fiction.
From the #1 internationally bestselling author of the “lush, evocative Gothic” (The New York Times Book Review) The Doll Factory comes an atmospheric and spectacular novel where one woman’s life is transformed by the arrival of a Victorian circus of wonders.
Step up, step up! In 1860s England, circus mania is sweeping the nation. Crowds jostle for a glimpse of the lion-tamers, the dazzling trapeze artists and, most thrilling of all, the so-called “human wonders.”
When Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders pitches its tent in a poor coastal town, the life of one young girl changes forever. Sold to the ringmaster as a “leopard girl” because of the birthmarks that cover her body, Nell is utterly devastated. But as she grows close to the other performers, she finds herself enchanted by the glittering freedom of the circus, and by her own role as the Queen of the Moon and Stars.
Before long, Nell’s fame spreads across the world—and with it, a chance for Jasper Jupiter to grow his own name and fortune. But what happens when her fame begins to eclipse his own, when even Jasper’s loyal brother Toby becomes captivated by Nell? No longer the quiet flower-picker, Nell knows her own place in the world, and she will fight for it.
A gorgeously wrought exploration of celebrity, power, and belonging, this is a historical novel unlike any other, with an unforgettable heroine at its heart.
Sabrina’s Pick #2: Hidden away deep in the woods, an abandoned octagonal house creates an eerie connection to those who even come close to the property. Young girls, specifically, are drawn to this decaying structure, and by the time the reason for their attraction starts to materialize, it’s too late to return to normal life. Clare fell under the house’s spell as a child but escaped. Now a series of events has brought her back to the scene to try to save a childhood friend. BENEATH THE STAIRS is a haunting novel that will get under your skin and have you eyeing every door, corner, and shadow in your home, questioning what’s real. Jennifer Fawcett skillfully merges paranormality and suspense in this one-sitting read; you won’t want to put it down.
“An enthralling debut by a gifted storyteller!” —Wendy Walker, author of Don’t Look for Me
In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.
Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.
Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.
An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.
Heather’s Pick #4: I’ll be the first to admit I don’t read enough historical fiction set in America, but I’m going to work on that, starting with Kianna Alexander’s CAROLINA BUILT. It’s inspired by the life of the remarkable businesswoman Josephine N. Leary, who was born into slavery on a plantation and ended up creating a real estate empire in Edenton, North Carolina. The story follows an emancipated and newly married Josephine as she works to start fresh in her new town, where she struggles to balance the everyday needs of her family with her entrepreneurial dreams. I haven’t even met Josephine Leary yet and I’m already in awe of her grit.
A vivid and moving novel based on the incredible life of real estate magnate Josephine N. Leary—a previously untold story of passion, perseverance, and building a legacy after emancipation in North Carolina.
Josephine N. Leary is determined to build a life of her own and a future for her family. When she moves to Edenton, North Carolina from the plantation where she was born, she is free, newly married, and ready to follow her dreams.
As the demands of life pull Josephine’s attention—deepening her marriage, mothering her daughters, supporting her grandmother—she struggles to balance her real estate aspirations with the realities of keeping life going every day. She teaches herself to be a business woman, to manage her finances, and to make smart investments in the local real estate market. But with each passing year, it grows more and more difficult to focus on building her legacy from the ground up.
Moving and inspiring, Josephine Leary’s untold story speaks to the part of us that dares to dream bigger, tear down whatever stands in our way, and build something better for the loved ones we leave behind.
Emily’s Pick #5: Roxane Gay gave this book four stars on Goodreads so that’s an automatic read right there for me! The unnamed narrator is an English professor who finds herself infatuated with a young married novelist, newly arrived on the campus of the small liberal arts college where she and her husband teach. Meanwhile, several of her husband’s former students have come forward with misconduct allegations. As tensions build, the novel explores unreliable narrators and obsessions. I’ve never read LOLITA, but with obvious parallels to the classic novel, I’m thinking VLADIMIR and LOLITA might be an interesting pairing to read together—perhaps even for a book club if you’re feeling daring.
A provocative, razor-sharp, and timely debut novel about a beloved English professor facing a slew of accusations against her professor husband by former students—a situation that becomes more complicated when she herself develops an obsession of her own...
“When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.”
And so we are introduced to our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose charismatic husband at the same small liberal arts college is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. The couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extra-marital pursuits, but with these new allegations, life has become far less comfortable for them both. And when our narrator becomes increasingly infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their tinder box world comes dangerously close to exploding.
With this bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured debut, author Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the boundaries of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Vladimir perfectly captures the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the nuances and the grey area between power and desire.
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