Invariably January means quiet time to read at my house and many others. The holiday hustle and bustle is over, company has exited the building, decorations are put away. It is finally time to put dinner in the crockpot, brew a cup of tea, and pick-up a good book. So what can we look forward to in 2014? Here are some of the books on my to-read list for the first month of 2014:
On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee is due out is this month. Many of Chang-rae Lee’s novels are grounded in reality, examining the worlds of displaced outsiders from the Korean War to the lives of immigrants in the present-day United States. His latest book is set in a dystopian American future where declining urban neighborhoods have been transformed into “highwalled, self-contained labor colonies,” whose Chinese immigrant residents work catching fish for the surrounding elites. As with any good dystopian work, it promises to highlight and draw parallels with growing inequalities in our own society, which might “change the way readers think about the world they live in.”
In Orfeo Richard Powers follows a retired music professor who’s built a DIY genetics lab where he finds musical patterns in DNA sequences. When his dog dies unexpectedly, the FBI seizes the lab, and he goes on the lam. It seems that DNA and music are inextricably paired for Powers, who noted in an essay on having his genome sequenced, “If the genome were a tune played at a nice bright allegro tempo of 120 beats per minute, it would take just short of a century to play.” Sounds interesting!
Sonja Condit’s book Starter House caught both my mother’s and my attention. Starter House is a debut novel and will come out in paperback. The book jacket description is of a “haunting and eerie ghost story about a newly wed couple whose new South Carolina home holds mysterious and deadly secrets that will threaten them and their unborn baby.” this book should appeal to fans of The Thirteenth Tale – that’s me. You can see how this book made it onto this list!
The Guardian‘s blurb about Dominion, C. J. Sansom’s new book, was enough to get me interested. It read, “An invented mid-20th-century Britain that has the intricate detail and delineation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s middle earth. Powerfully evoked. Tremendous.” I’ve been meaning to read Sansom for awhile. I think this will be the long-awaited opportunity.
James Rollins partnered with Rebecca Cantell for his newest offering. I have been a fan of James Rollins for awhile and I’m not sure how I feel about this partnership. I am not familiar with Cantrell and I really dislike romance, so will so this ruin it? Does Cantrell write romantic mysteries? I hope not. Anyway, Innocent Blood is part of The Order of the Sanguines series and is supposed to offer “international adventure, supernatural mystery, and apocalyptic prophecy.” No mention of romance, so it sounds pretty good to me.
Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball takes place in a small Japanese town. When eight people disappear from their homes with only a playing card marking their doors, one man, a thread salesman, confesses to the crimes and is put in jail, but refuses to speak. These disappearances form the mystery around which Jesse Ball’s fourth novel is constructed, and which obsess a journalist who shares Ball’s name. Interview transcripts make up the central text of a story ultimately concerned with speech, silence, and the control of information.
The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani is a crime novel set in Las Vegas. Salazar, a detective, is determined to solve a string of recent murders before he retires. He enlists the help of an expert in psychopathy, Dr. Sunil Singh, who is haunted by a betrayal of his loved ones in apartheid South Africa. “Here in Vegas,” Abani writes, “the glamor beguiled and blinded all but those truly intent on seeing, and in this way the tinsel of it mocked the obsessive hope of those who flocked there.” Abani’s prose is supposed to make this novel and especially good read.
Alena by Rachel Pastan is another mystery on my to-read list for the first month of 2014. This book is “both an homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and an insightful meditation on our obsessive preoccupation with death.” Alena opens as Bernard, Alena’s best friend and also his worst friend, recounts a dream about Cape Cod. On the cape Bernard owns a museum, which was curated by Alena, who died under mysterious circumstances two years earlier. On a trip to an international art show, Bernard finally finds a replacement curator for his museum and there the intrigue begins.
Now for the giveaway! I have an advance reader’s edition of Alena by Rachel Pastan to give away to one lucky reader in the United States. To enter, leave a comment telling me what new book you are looking forward to reading during January. If you subscribe to this blog, leave a second comment telling me that you subscribe. There are a maximum of two (2) entries per person. I will choose the winner randomly on or about January 23, 2014. This is the day Alena will be in the bookstores. Good luck!