Today's releases include a magical historical novel set in 1930s Malaysia, two dystopian thrillers, a wonderfully quirky coming-of-age memoir, and the story of one of the grossest miscarriages of justice in Cleveland's history.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Some readers will be intrigued by apprentice dressmaker Ji Lin and her strongminded pursuit to achieve more with her life than her old-fashioned family will condone. Others will be hooked on the premise of a young houseboy named Ren trying to find the severed finger of his former master, who might or might not also be a weretiger. Still others will gravitate toward the mythologies, food, traditions, and culture of 1930s colonial Malaysia under British rule. Once Ji Lin comes in possession of the mummified finger that Ren seeks, they are destined to collide, even as a deadly tiger roams the edges of town. Whatever your entry point to The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo will win you over with her newest historical novel, and you'll find yourself embracing everything she hurls onto the page, including a number of curveballs that contain the perfect amount of surprise. Too often historical novels can feel overstuffed or simply stuffy. The Night Tiger is supple and powerful, like the predator that stalks the shadows of Choo's ensnaring tale. --Adrian Liang
Jasper Fforde has a way with words and worlds. His latest novel is set in an alternate Wales where most of the human population hibernates through the deadly winter months. A few people—members of the Winter Consul Service—stay awake to watch over the sleepers and to ensure that everyone has a peaceful winter. Enter Charlie Worthing, who is embarking on his first winter and attempting to navigate the ins and outs of his new job, complete with intense isolation, nebulous Wintervolk, and the stray zombified aristocrat. The last thing Charlie is equipped for is a visit to Sector Twelve. The story is told, of course, with Fforde’s particular brand of winking humor, which fans of his previous books will love. All in all, this book is a delightful romp through an eye-blinkingly new world. --Alison Walker
True story: A poor, young Appalachian woman heads to an Ivy League with ambitions of becoming a concert violinist. When she gets there, she learns that she’s not nearly good enough, and she’s killing herself to make tuition. Still, she answers a job listing on a message board for a seat in some kind of “ensemble,” and she’s hired without an audition. Her first gig is selling CDs by a man only identified as The Composer at a booth in a craft fair while two other musicians (one on violin, the other on penny whistle) play low under loudly broadcast New Age-y music, which sounds vaguely, or maybe a lot, like the Titanic soundtrack. Soon she’s onstage with The Composer himself, touring the country in a derelict RV with a select “ensemble,” miming the music emanating from a hidden CD player for adoring crowds—an act Hindman dubs “Milli Violini.” In our new age of malleable facts and fungible truth, Sounds Like Titanic hits some trenchant notes on the nature of truth and uncomfortable observations on gender. She anguishes over both the deception (and an overwhelming fear of being caught) and what feels like the betrayal of a lifetime of support from family and her small-town community. But it’s also entertaining. Hindman somehow avoids any meanness of spirit, even while having a lot of fun at the Yanni-like Composer’s expense. (We’re never given the his real name, but one will speculate.) “Fake it till you make it”—a phrase Hindman never writes, probably consciously—might not be so bad, after all. --Jon Foro
In the distant future, humans leave Earth on a spaceship and colonize a hostile planet that barely sustains human life. One side of the planet faces unending sun, while the other half is constantly trapped in cold darkness. Humans have settled on the light side of the planet, while the original inhabitants, dismissed by humans as mere animals, are wary of the visitors. The City in the Middle of the Night is a vividly wrought novel full of wonder, terror, and hope. Charlie Jane Anders weaves together the stories of three human women to create a complex tapestry of politics, love, and friendship amidst a crumbling society. The emotional richness and immediacy of the characters paired with Anders’s impeccable world-building creates a fully realized novel that can’t help but leave readers breathless. --Alison Walker
"This story is about more than three lives unjustly stolen; it's also about how a city can finally face down—and fix—its ugly past," says journalist Kyle Swenson about his investigation of three black teenagers arrested and convicted in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1970s for a crime they didn't commit. Good Kids, Bad City probes how these three young men became the victims of the sometimes overboiling racial tensions in Cleveland, and how a city's culture can sabotage justice. Still, a city's attitude is created—and changed—by the people who live there, and Good Kids, Bad City also celebrates the citizens who strive to make Cleveland a place they can be proud to call home. Much like Matthew Desmond's Evicted and Anna Clark's The Poisoned City, Swenson's connection to his subjects—the convicted men and their loved ones—is what delivers an emotional jab to the gut. This harrowing slice of urban dwellers' lives will affect readers who reside far beyond Cleveland's city limits. —Adrian Liang
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