Books To Watch Out For In January



I know I'm slightly late off the mark as we're over half way through January, but I've just been looking at the first quarter's new publishing and thought I'd do a run down of the top picks. They might not be the best, they might not be the publishers wannabe bestsellers, but they're the ones that intrigued me.

So here we go... blurb first, my waffle second!

All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders 9781785650550

Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths... When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world and live up to his reputation in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repair the earth's ever growing ailments. As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia's shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone. A magical, darkly funny examination of life, love and the apocalypse, by the editor in chief of io9.com.

I don't know how you could read that blurb and not be curious to read the book. It sounds wonderfully whacky, but even if you don't fancy reading it, I'm more or less certain that you're wondering what the point of a two second time machine is. I love the cover on this one, I'm not sure that it goes with the book that is described above, but then I'm not sure I know what cover it should have.

All The Rage by Courtney Summers 9781509817597

"The footsteps stop but the birds are still singing, singing about a girl who wakes up on a dirt road and doesn't know what happened to her the night before..." Romy Grey wears her lipstick like armour, ever since the night she was raped by Kellan Turner, the sheriff's son. Romy refuses to be a victim, but speaking up has cost her everything. No one wants to believe Kellan is not the golden boy they thought he was, and Romy has given up trying to make herself heard. But when another girl goes missing after a party, Romy must decide whether the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 14+

YA fiction is where it's at, it covers so many issues and so many genres... it doesn't hurt that most of it is fantastically written too. There is always debate about what content should and shouldn't be put out there for this age group, I come firmly down on the side of let the reader decide. They know what they are, and aren't, ready for. From a shorter blurb than that above I knew this would be on my list. Strong female character and a topic that is something that teen girls could benefit from reading about.

American Housewife by Helen Ellis 9781471153792

Meet the women of American Housewife… They smoke their eyes and paint their lips. They channel Beyoncé while doing household chores. They drown their sorrows with Chanel No. 5 and host book clubs where chardonnay trumps Charles Dickens. They redecorate. And they are quietly capable of kidnapping, breaking and entering, and murder. These women know the rules of a well-lived life: replace your tights every winter, listen to erotic audio books while you scrub the bathroom floor, serve what you want to eat at your dinner parties, and accept it: you’re too old to have more than one drink and sleep through the night. Vicious, fresh and darkly hilarious, American Housewife is a collection of stories for anyone who has ever wondered what really goes on behind the façades of the housewives of America… Ellis is behind the American Housewife twitter account @whatidoallday.

I love to think that behind the scenes of all my well thought out and perfect friends and acquaintances there is a seedy and slightly sinister side lurking. We'd all love to see behind the curtain and I'm hoping that this collection of short stories is a punchy way to deliver that. I have also just had to follow the account on Twitter, it's a new one to me but I do love a bit of entertainment.

The Art Of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson 9781910200520

Two boys. Two secrets. David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he's gay. The school bully thinks he's a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth - David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal - to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year 11 is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long. 14+

Another great looking cover to this one, and another topic that is wonderful to see in YA fiction. I don't want to go off on a pro-diversity speech, needless to say, I hope that we see more like this throughout the year.

The Box of Demons by Daniel Whelan 9781447273738

Ben Robson can't remember a time before he had the box, with its three mischief-making demon occupants: smelly, cantankerous Orf, manically destructive Kartofel and fat, slobbering greedy-guts Djinn. When Ben was a kid it was fun, and he enjoyed their company. Now he's twelve they're nothing but trouble. Then one day Ben has an angelic visitor who tells him that he can be rid of the box forever if he sends it back to hell. There's only one catch - the box has other plans . . . The Box of Demons by Daniel Whelan was the winner of the 2012 Write Now! Prize. It is now available in paperback with a gorgeous illustrated cover by Chris Riddell. 12+

Another one that caught me for the intrigue value... box of demons? I'm in... well, not in the box, that would be foolish... but the book, I'm all over it!

Death of Wolverine by Charles Soule 9780785191636

Logan is no stranger to death. He's killed thousands. He's watched teammates, friends and lovers die. Now, stripped of his healing factor, the X-Man and Avenger faces his own date with the reaper. There's a bounty on his head, a price big enough to put a horde of enemies and assassins on his trail. The race is on to find Wolverine, but who put out the contract? Sabretooth? Viper? Or someone even worse? When Logan discovers that his mystery foe wants him alive, he turns on the offensive. With artwork by Steve McNiven.

Graphic novels are one of my loves, and not so guilty secrets. I actually read this one as a four issue comic book and really enjoyed it. For those of you who like Wolverine it is, of course, a must. There were some Logan spin-off series from the Death of Wolverine but I'm not overly enthusiastic about recommending them. I will be giving them another try because sometimes a second read sorts things out, but at the moment I'd just stick with this one.

Changers Book 1: Drew by T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper 9780349002422

Some teenagers worry about who they'll wake up next to. Others worry about who they'll wake up as... Ethan Miller is about to start high school in a brand-new town. He's finally sporting a haircut he doesn't hate, has grown two inches since middle school, and can't wait to try out for the soccer team. At last, everything is looking up in life. Until the next morning. When Ethan awakens as a girl. 12+

Another one for my intrigue pile. What the blurb above leaves out, and what I think really takes the book to the step above "that might be good" is that the Changers are an ancient race of humans that change every year over four years and live out a different life each time. Sounds like a very odd ancient tradition there, that makes me want to read about why... I sense that I could be in for a wait on the why as this is listed as book one.

The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer 9780571313266

Shortlisted for the 2015 Costa First Novel Award. Eight-year-old Carmel has always been different - sensitive, distracted, with an heartstopping tendency to go missing. Her mother Beth, newly single, worries about her daughter's strangeness, especially as she is trying to rebuild a life for the two of them on her own. When she takes Carmel for an outing to a local festival, her worst fear is realised: Carmel disappears into the crowd. Unable to accept the possibility that her daughter might be gone for good, Beth embarks on a mission to find her. Meanwhile, Carmel begins an extraordinary and terrifying journey of her own. But do the real clues to Carmel's disappearance lie in the otherworldly qualities her mother had only begun to guess at? (Technically this came out at the end of December, but I'm calling an exception.)

This taps briefly on one of my niggles of the book world, and that's the similarity of titles and covers. There are plenty that do it and it happens but you'd have thought someone would have thought "The Girl in the Red Coat, hmmm, kind of reminds me of the Dragon Tattoo book, maybe we should change it a bit." But, anyway, this one sounds promising from the blurb, and choices for the first novel award are usually quite good, so I'll be keeping my eye on this one.

River of Ink 1: Genesis by Helen Dennis 9781444920437

What if a teenage boy washed up on the banks of the River Thames, soaked to the skin and unable to explain who he is? What if the only clue to the boy's identity is a sketch he made of a strange symbol? Who would help him? Who would hunt him? Who is River Boy? When a mystery teenage boy emerges from the River Thames drenched, distressed and unable to remember anything about himself, he becomes the focus of worldwide media speculation. Unable to communicate, the River Boy is given paper and a pencil and begins to scribble. Soon a symbol emerges, but the boy has no idea why he has drawn it even thought it's the only clue to the mystery of his identity... As the boy begins to build a new life under a new name, the hunt for his real identity begins. A hunt which will lead him on a dangerous QUEST that he has only one year to complete... Introducing the first book in a thrilling new series packed with adventure and mystery. 9-11

I don't know if any of you have seen the series Blindspot, but it starts with a bag being found in the middle of the city. They call in the bomb squad to see what it is and when they open it they find a woman curled up. She's covered in tattoos and has no memory of who she is or how she got there. This book sounds like it could be the child friendly version of that, and I think that sounds great.

MARTians by Blythe Woolston 9781406341393

Sharp and satirical, this dark comedy will appeal to fans of M.T. Anderson's groundbreaking dystopia, Feed. Last girl Zoë Zindleman, numerical ID 009-99-9999, is starting work at AllMART, where "your smile is the AllMART welcome mat". Her living arrangements are equally bleak: she can wait for her home to be repossessed now that AnnaMom has left, or move to the Warren, an abandoned shopping centre, to live with the other left-behind children. As Zoë struggles to find her place in a world that has consumed itself beyond redemption, she realizes she isn't ready to disappear into the AllMART abyss quite yet. Zoë wants to live.

I got to the end of the blurb and felt a little confused to start off with. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the book. But I read it again, and was feeling very Demolition Man about the whole thing so want to give it a go.

A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled by Ruby Wax 9780241186480

500 years ago no-one died of stress: we invented this concept and now we let it rule us. We might have evolved to be able to miraculously balance on seven-inch heels, but as far as our emotional development is concerned we're still swimming with the pond scum. If we don't advance our more human qualities then we're doomed evolution-wise to become cyborgs, with an imprint of an 'Apple' where our hearts used to be. Ruby Wax shows us a scientific solution to these modern problems: mindfulness. I know what you're thinking - what if I don't want to stare at a butterfly wing or hear the single ting of a wind chime? My definition of mindfulness isn't about sitting erect on a hillock, legs in a knot, humming a mantra that's probably the phone book sung backwards, it's something that can help us all: learning to notice your thoughts and feelings so you can truly experience life. Outrageously witty, smart and accessible, Ruby Wax shows ordinary people how and why to change for good. With mindfulness advice for relationships, for parents, for children and for teenagers, and a six-week course based on her studies of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy with Mark Williams at Oxford University, A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled is the only guide you need for a healthier, happier life.

I came across this one before looking at the new titles for January and wrote down the ISBN with a mind to buying it. Books like this can help people overcome some very difficult times, but often they can be quite stodgey and difficult to get through. I've got my fingers crossed that Ruby Wax adds a little touch of her own sparkle to help us through.

Summoner Book 1: The Novice by Taran Matharu 9781444923995

Fletcher was nothing more than a humble blacksmith's apprentice, when a chance encounter leads to the discovery that he has the ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, he must travel with his demon to the Vocans Academy, where the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. The academy will put Fletcher through a gauntlet of gruelling lessons, training him as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire's war against the savage orcs. Rubbing shoulders with the children of the most powerful nobles in the land, Fletcher must tread carefully. The power hungry Forsyth twins lurk in the shadows, plotting to further their family's interests. Then there is Sylva, an elf who will do anything she can to forge an alliance between her people and Hominum, even if it means betraying her friends. Othello is the first ever dwarf at the academy, and his people have long been oppressed by Hominum's rulers, which provokes tension amongst those he studies alongside. Fletcher will find himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with nothing but his demon Ignatius to help him. As the pieces on the board manoeuvre for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. 9-11

For those of you who wonder about the power of writing and the internet you need look no further than Taran Matharu. Matharu took part in NaNoWriMo and at the same time published his writing on Wattpad. His book took off in a big way and publishers were competing to publish him. I want to say "so many readers can't be wrong", but it is each to their own (I've been fooled in the past), I'm sure he'll be an author to watch though.

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan 9781473212961

A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-winning author. Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over. And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities. Tricia Sullivan returns to the genre with a book that will define the conversation within the genre and will show what it is capable of for years to come. This is the best book yet from a writer of exceedingly rare talent who is much loved in the genre world.

It sounds... well...extraordinary is definitely the word. With such high praise as to say it "will define the conversation within the genre" it surely is a must read.

Private Sydney by James Patterson and Kathryn Fox 9781784750534

This is the 9th novel in the Private series. Even for Private Investigations, the world’s top detective agency, it’s tough to find a man who doesn’t exist... Craig Gisto has promised Eliza Moss that his elite team at Private Sydney will investigate the disappearance of her father. After all, as CEO of a high-profile research company, Eric Moss shouldn’t be difficult to find. Except it’s not just the man who’s gone missing. Despite the most advanced technology at their disposal, they find every trace of him has vanished too. And they aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Powerful figures want Moss to stay ‘lost’, while others just as ruthlessly want him found. Meanwhile, a routine background check becomes a frantic race to find a stolen baby and catch a brutal killer – a killer Private may well have sent straight to the victim’s door

I'm sure you've got to this point in my list and seen this title and wondered, "what on earth is she thinking?" This isn't one quite the same level as anything else I've recommended, it's very mass market. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but mass market can tend to be very predictable. James Patterson novels have a very familiar way about them that works and I enjoy immensely. I read one of the books from this series while I was away on holiday and yet again Patterson has got a winning formula. This one has made it onto the list, not because of him, but because of Kathryn Fox. She is one of my favourite authors and I am really looking forward to seeing where her style works with Patterson's format.

R.I.P. by Nigel Williams 9781472118585

Retired bank manager George Pearmain is, apparently, dead. According to the behaviour of everyone around him, it would seem that he is no more. Not only that, but his mother has also passed away too - and on the eve of her 99th year, poor dear. Not only that, it could be that they were both murdered. He feels fine otherwise. As George's family gather for the birthday-celebration-that-never-was, he hovers around the house, watching and listening, entirely unseen. As a result, he makes all sorts of discoveries about himself, his wife Esmeralda and his supposedly happy family... Screamingly funny and strange, it asks the question: What if you could bear witness to your own demise?

It sounds like a hoot, in a morbid kind of way. Not sure about the cover though, it seems a bit non-fictiony to me.

Science For Life by Brian Clegg 9781785780257

In Science for Life acclaimed science writer Brian Clegg cuts through the vested interests and confusing contradictory statements that litter the media and the internet, to give a clear picture of what science is telling us right now about changing our lives for the better. Discover the much-advertised antioxidants that aren't good for you, the truth about fat and sugar and why one of the healthiest foods contains carcinogens and 21 E-numbers. Find out what does and what doesn't enhance brainpower - from the failure of playing Mozart to babies to the surprising abilities of caffeine and nicotine. Understand the tools that advertisers use to persuade us and how to turn the psychological pressure back on them. From the shortcomings of the five second rule to the truth about phone masts and nuclear power, kept up-to-date on a partnering website, Science for Life is your guide to surviving and thriving in the modern world.

I'm always a sceptic when it comes to things like fad diets [that's why I don't diet... hahaha... no, that's because chocolate tastes so good] and what is and isn't good for me. If we believed everything they told us we wouldn't even be breathing the air right now. This is one that will be filled with useful information to throw at people who are telling you "you simple must try this thing I read about in Marie Claire."

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett 9781474600897

What if you had said yes..? Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future - together, and apart - as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day. The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow. What if one small decision could change the rest of your life?

There's always something in our lives that makes us wonder... what if... this is probably the closest we'll get to any sort of answers of our own.

Who Wants To Be The Prince Of Darkness by Michael Boatman 9780857663979

Lucifer has retired, and Hell is almost empty. The new ruler, through a campaign of black magic, deception and cutting-edge media strategies, conceives a plot to use humanity's greatest, and most terrifying weapon against them: Reality Television. Millions of souls of the living are stolen and sent to direct to Hell, and the race is on to find their champion in the (literally) hottest show around: Who wants to be the Prince of Darkness? (This one came up in my January new titles but I'm also finding March dates for publication... we might need to put a pin in it for a while.)

No cover on this one so I've put a picture of the author in... you may recognise him from Spin City [and other things, but the other things aren't better than Spin City]. Reality TV was getting a bit stale, I think this might heat it up a bit.

So that's my round up for January, I have my list for February hot on it's heels and you should see it next week. Do let me know if you read any of these as in all likelihood I'll still be reading my current TBR pile until 2019!

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