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Bookshelf, Spring 2024

Another season, another list of the novels on my bookshelf—some recently read but only now officially released, others yet to be enjoyed. This particular group combines historical fiction with a touch of fantasy and a book that goes back and forth between its 1980s present and the past. All the authors are scheduled for interviews, either here or on my New Books Network podcast channel. And I have many more waiting in the wings, not all of them destined for interviews, when I next come up for air.

An intricate gold pattern of locks & keys surrounds a keyhole centered around the silhouette of a jay and the words "A House Like an Accordion"

Audrey Burges, A House Like an Accordion (Berkley, 2024)

Even literary heroines seldom face the existential trauma that afflicts Keryth Miller one morning as she is brushing her teeth.

Keryth has a good life on the surface. She married her college sweetheart, whose AI technology made them both a fortune she could not have imagined in her cash-strapped youth. But on that morning in the bathroom, thirty-nine-year-old Keryth notices that her hand has disappeared. She realizes right away that her father, whom she thought long gone, is alive, that he is drawing her, and that if she can’t track him down and make him stop, she will cease to exist.

The result is a long and intricate journey into Keryth’s complicated past, in which we discover the fates of her family members and the particular gift passed down through her family. It’s a fast-paced and ultimately rewarding tale, driven by what reads almost like a conversation between her present and her past. I plan to host an interview with the author on this blog in late May, when the book appears.

A young Chinese girl in a silk robe against a blue background including the outline of a bird; cover of Eve J. Chung's Daughters of Shandong

Eve J. Chung, Daughters of Shandong (Berkley, 2024)

This novel, due out next month, follows the fortunes of a mother and her four daughters left behind by their family as the Chinese Communists approach in 1948. Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, the book traces their journey from their home in Shandong along a thousand-mile journey to Taiwan. I can’t say much more, as I have just started reading it, but what drew me to the novel was its focus on China—still under-represented in fiction despite its four-thousand year history. Based on the rave reviews, I expect to finish it well in time to draw up questions for my New Books Network interview with the author in late June.

A figure in a tall hat, mounted on a horse and armed. Above a stylized image of a deer shows against a golden brown background; cover of Akmaral by Judith Lindbergh

Judith Lindbergh, Akmaral (Regal House, 2024)

The tradition of women warriors on the steppes of Eurasia goes way back. Here Akmaral, a prince of the Sauromatae (Sarmatians), fights off an attack by male-dominated Scythian horsemen only to face an internal rebellion from her own people, whose men are set on overturning their tradition of matriarchal rule.

My Nasan and Firuza would be cheering their ancestress on (although by their time matriarchal rule, if it ever existed, was far in the past). I’ll be hosting the author on the blog around the time of the book’s release in May.

An abstract image of a woman in an elegant dress, seated behind a table holding one glass of white wine and a plate of three oysters with a lemon slice; cover of The Paris Novel by Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl, The Paris Novel (Random House, 2024)

Stella St. Vincent, a thirty-something copy editor in New York City, has survived a relationship with her mother, Celia, so complicated that even the words “my daughter” give Stella pause. Celia lived life to the fullest, reinventing herself and discarding the parts of her life that no longer pleased her—including Stella’s father, whom Celia refused even to name. And when Stella rebels by becoming the exact opposite of her mother—disciplined, buttoned-down, reliant on schedules to guarantee safety—Celia does her best to push her daughter out of that comfort zone. When she dies, she leaves Stella a ticket to Paris, some cash, and instructions to spend all the money before returning home.

Stella resists until her employer forces her to take a leave of absence. Even then, Stella spends weeks in Paris scheduling every meal and sightseeing tour—until an encounter with a strange shopkeeper intent on selling a beautiful dress designed by Yves St. Laurent sends Stella on a journey that will expose her to a lost nineteenth-century painting, the artist who created it, her own past, and the sensory experiences that she has denied herself for so long. I’ll be interviewing Ruth Reichl on the New Books Network in late April, when the book comes out.

A man and a woman in 1940s dress stand outside, framed by palm trees and sunset; cover of Under the Paper Moon by Shaina Steinberg

Shaina Steinberg, Under the Paper Moon (Kensington, 2024)

Evelyn Bishop, the central character of the novel, has no obvious reason to leave her privileged home in Los Angeles to join the OSS and parachute into France on intelligence-gathering missions. Yet she does, at first to find her brother, Matthew, but then because the work challenges and rewards her in ways she could not have imagined as a rich debutante. Her romantic relationship with her colleague Nick Gallagher ends badly, but she returns home and puts him out of her mind, reuniting with her childhood sweetheart.

Or so she thinks, until the murder of one of her father’s business partners throws her and Nick together again. As they investigate, the threads they uncover lead them close to home and, at the same time, back to the incident that led Evelyn to join the OSS in the first place. I’m scheduled to interview this author on the New Books Network in May, not long after the book’s release.

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