The Best of New Fiction Releases for February

Spring is just around the corner, and it’s a great time to grab a new novel or start lining up your summer reading list. Several really good novels have just come out or are due out this month.  I’ve read them all and gave all of them five-star ratings.

Here’s my list of the best of the new fiction for early 2019:

Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin: Great light but meaningful reading. Set in a seniors’ community in Florida, a newly divorced young woman moves in with her grandma. We see Kate renew childhood friendships with her grandma’s friends and with her own high school BFF- all set against a project to re-unite a group of mermaid showgirls. The cultural references of this book – especially the musical references – are spot on. I could “hear” the B-52s and other music mentioned in this book as I read along. This will be a great selection for book clubs and for beach readers.

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts: A beautiful, well-written story-behind-the-story of The Wizard of Oz. Narrated from the perspective of Frank Baum’s wife, Maud, you see the inspiration behind the scarecrow, the tin man, the Emerald City, and Dorothy herself. The novel has two plots line: one set during the filming of the movie in 1939, and the other chronicles the lives of Maud and Frank Baum during the 1880’s and 1890’s. The story of the Baum’s is the stronger of the two, as a young Maud tries to become her own person and follow her love for Frank in the face of a suffragette mother bent on making a scholar of her daughter. Maud follows Frank through a theatre career and through several failed businesses before he puts all their joys and heartbreaks into his first novel, The Wizard of Oz.

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella: As a longtime fan of the Shopaholic books, I was eager to dig into Sophie Kinsella’s new book. I devoured this new book in just a couple of days, and I actually liked it a bit more than the Shopaholic books. A family in complete disarray struggles against each other to work out their “stuff” and try to get along after the father of the family passes away, leaving the family with a long-established housewares business. While the Shopaholic books pictured fantasy lives of shopping sprees and quirky but lovable family and friends, this new book features more realistic family members with more serious but relatable problems: business failures, depression, infertility, money problems, widowhood. For American readers, the charming use of English words we don’t use adds character to the book (and gives you several new words to look up on your e-reader’s online dictionary).

The Secrets of the Tea Gardenby Janet MacLeod Trotter: Set in the UK and in India at the time the British quit India, a dual plot line follows a group of Brits who struggle to find their ways as their home countries undergo vast change in the years immediately after WWII. In one plot line, a young woman who grew up in India returns there to re-connect with her father and urge him to return home to Britain. In a parallel plot line, a young couple newly arrived in Britain from India struggle to put past issues to rest and heal their marriage. Unlike many books and television series set at this time, these British characters seem at home and comfortable living among the Hindu and Muslim Indians. The book chronicles the lives of Brits in India who genuinely loved the country and the people and struggle to find their roles and places in the country as British occupation of the country ends. The plot lines were strong and keep you guessing what will happen until the end. This is the last in a series of books, but this novel stood quite well on its own.

And in Young Adult….

Roam by C.H. Armstrong: I really enjoyed this book. Cinderella of the 21st century is a homeless teen, new in town, and living with her family in the parking lot of Walmart. The novel beautifully contrasted the differences between teens growing up in poverty and those growing up in suburban abundance. The wealthy kids in the novel blithely take their new cars, multiple prom dresses, and their phones for granted, while the main character watches in something between envy and amazement. This would be a great choice for upper middle grade and high school English classes.

Cynthia Coe is the author of the novels Ginger’s Reckoning and Runaway Kitty. Please follow this blog for advance notice of new publications, book reviews, and thought pieces.

Thanks to NetGalley and all the publishers and authors of these novels for pre-publication copies! I truly enjoyed them all and hope my followers will too!


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