Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: ten debut fiction titles to look forward to in 2014

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

2014 is already serving up a bevy of titles to satiate every literary appetite. I'm currently reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, and am loving it. Alongside already established artists of the written word with new titles being released this year, we can also look forward to a number of breakout titles by debut authors. I, for one, could not be more excited!

Here are ten, in order of release date, that sound like pretty darn great reads:

Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma: A Novel by Kerry Hudson  
genre: Literary Fiction
release date: 1/28/14

cover: Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma: a Novel
Reminiscent of early Roddy Doyle, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma begins with our singular heroine’s less- than-idyllic birth and quickly moves to a spectacular fight that lands Janie and her mother in a local women’s shelter. From there it’s on to a dodgy council flat and a succession of unsuitable men, including the hard-drinking, drug-dealing, ice cream-buying Tony Hogan. Kerry Hudson’s arrestingly original debut will enthrall readers with Janie’s tragicomic and moving story about coming of age in a nontraditonal family amid the absurdities of the 1980s and Thatcherite Britain.

Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. Growing up in a succession of council estates provided her with a keen eye for idiosyncratic behaviors, and plenty of material for this, her first novel. She lives and writes in London.

Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year
For readers of The Death of Bees and Salvage the Bones, with potential for YA crossover
Visit kerryhudson.co.uk and follow @kerryswindow on Twitter

Queen Sugar: A Novel by Natalie Baszile
genre: Women's Fiction
release date: 2/6/14
cover: Queen Sugar: a novel by Natalie Baszile
A mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana

Why exactly Charley Bordelon’s late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of sugarcane land in rural Louisiana is as mysterious as it was generous. Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles.

They arrive just in time for growing season but no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: as her judgmental but big-hearted grandmother tells her, cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.

Penguin has a rich tradition of publishing strong Southern debut fiction—from Sue Monk Kidd to Kathryn Stockett to Beth Hoffman. In Queen Sugar, we now have a debut from the African American point of view. Stirring in its storytelling of one woman against the odds and initimate in its exploration of the complexities of contemporary southern life, Queen Sugar is an unforgettable tale of endurance and hope.

The Wives of Los Alamos: A Novel by TaraShea Nesbit
genre: literary fiction
release date: 2/25/14

cover: The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit
A bold and emotionally charged debut novel told in the collective voices of the wives of the men who created the atom bomb.

Their average age was twenty-five. They came from Berkeley, Cambridge, Paris, London, Chicago--and arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret, including what their husbands were doing at the lab. They lived in barely finished houses with a P.O. Box for an address in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of a project that didn’t exist as far as the public knew. Though they were strangers, they joined together--adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery.

And while the bomb was being invented, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up, and Los Alamos gradually transformed from an abandoned school on a hill into a real community. One that was strained by the words they couldn’t say out loud, the letters they couldn’t send home, the freedom they didn’t have. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges to the people of Los Alamos, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind.

THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS is a window into one of the strangest and most monumental research projects in modern history, and a testament to a remarkable group of women who carved out a life for themselves, in spite of the chaos of the war and the shroud of intense secrecy.
TaraShea Nesbit’s writing has been featured in the Iowa Review, Quarterly West, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and other literary journals. She teaches creative writing and literature courses at the University of Denver and the University of Washington in Tacoma. A graduate of the M.F.A. program at Washington University in St. Louis, she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of Denver. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Shotgun Lovesongs: A Novel by Nickolas Butler
genre: literary fiction
release date: 3/11/14

cover: Shotgun Lovesongsy by Nikolas Butler
Welcome to Little Wing.

It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friends—all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town—it is home. And now they are men, coming into their own, or struggling to do so.

One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.

Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stresses—between the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.

Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which, in Nickolas Butler’s hands, emerges as a vibrant character in the story. Shotgun Lovesongs is that rare work of fiction that evokes a specific time and place yet movingly describes the universal human condition. It is, in short, a truly remarkable book—a novel that once read will never be forgotten.
Young God: A Novel by Katherine Faw Morris
genre: Literary Fiction
release date: 5/6/14

cover: Young God by Katherine Faw Morris
Stripped down and stylized—Winter’s Bone plus Less Than Zero—the sharpest, boldest, brashest debut of the year

Meet Nikki, the most determined young woman in the Carolina hills. She’s determined not to let the expectations of society set her future; determined to use all the limited tools at her disposal to shape the world to her will; determined to preserve her family’s domination of the local drug trade despite the fact that her parents are gone. Nikki is thirteen years old.
     Opening with a death-defying plunge off a high cliff into a tiny swimming hole, Young God refuses to slow down for a moment as it charts Nikki’s battles against the powers that be. Katherine Faw Morris has stripped her prose down to its bare essence—certain chapters are just a few words long—resulting in an electric, electrifying reading experience that won’t soon be forgotten. She quickly gets to the core of Nikki, her young heroine, who’s only just beginning to learn about her power over the people around her—learning too early, perhaps, but also just soon enough, if not too late.
Evoking the staccato, telegraphic storytelling style of James Ellroy but with the literary affect of a young Denis Johnson and a fierce sense of place worthy of Flannery O’Connor or Donna Tartt, Morris is a debut novelist who demands your attention—and Nikki is a character who will cut you if you let your attention waver.
The Untold by Courtney Collins
genre: literary/historical fiction
release date: 5/29/14
cover: The Untold by Courtney Collins
With shades of Water for Elephants and True Grit, a stunning debut novel set in the Australian outback about a female horse thief, her bid for freedom, and the two men trying to capture her.
It is 1921. In a mountain-locked valley, Jessie is on the run.
 Born wild and brave, by twenty-six she has already lived life as a circus rider, horse and cattle rustler, and convict. But on this fateful night she is just a woman wanting to survive though there is barely any life left in her.
Two men crash through the bushland, desperate to claim the reward on her head: one her lover, the other the law.
But as it has always been for Jessie, it is death, not a man, who is her closest pursuer and companion. And while all odds are stacked against her, there is one who will never give up on her—her own child, who awaits her.
Flying Shoes: A Novel by Lisa Howorth  
genre: Literary Fiction  
release date: 6/17/14
cover: Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth
“Those of us who have waited a long time for this book celebrate its arrival.” —Ann Patchett
Thirty years after her stepbrother’s unsolved murder, a detective’s call forces a reluctant Mary Byrd Thornton to return to her family and again confront the crime’s irremovable stain. A stunning debut novel from the cofounder of the legendary Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi.
Lisa Howorth was born in Washington, D.C., where her family has lived for four generations. She moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where she married her husband, Richard, and raised their three children. They opened Square Books (named by Publishers Weekly as the 2013 Bookstore of the Year) in 1979. She received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1996 and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship in 2007. Her writing has appeared in Garden and Gun and the Oxford American. This is her first novel.
Last Night at the Blue Angel: A Novel by Rebecca Rotert
genre: literary/historical fiction
release date: 7/1/14
cover: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert
Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s Chicago jazz scene, a highly ambitious and stylish literary debut that combines the atmosphere and period detail of Amor Towles' Rules of Civility with the emotional depth and drama of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, about a talented but troubled singer. precocious ten-year-old daughter, and their heartbreaking relationship.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is a city of uneasy tensions-segregation, sexual experimentation, free love, the Cold War-but it is also home to one of the country's most vibrant jazz scenes. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. Finally, her big break arrives-the cover of Look magazine. But success has come at enormous personal cost. Beautiful and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive woman whose charms are irresistible and dangerous for those around her. No one knows this better than Sophia, her precocious ten-year-old daughter.

For Sophia, Naomi is the center of her universe. As the only child of a single, unconventional mother, growing up in an adult world, Sophia has seen things beyond her years and her understanding. Unsettled by her uncertain home life, she harbors the terrible fear that the world could end at any moment, so she compulsively keeps a running list of practical objects she will need to reinvent once nuclear catastrophe strikes. Her one constant is Jim, the photographer who is her best friend, surrogate father, and protector. But Jim is deeply in love with Naomi-a situation that adds to Sophia's anxiety.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, their powerful and wrenching story unfolds in layers, revealing Sophia's struggle for her mother's love with Naomi's desperate journey to stardom and the colorful cadre of close friends who shaped her along the way.

Sophisticated yet poignant, Last Night at the Blue Angel is an unforgettable tale about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. It is a story ripe with surprising twists and revelations, and an ending that is bound to break your heart.
Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks

genre: literary/historical fiction
release date: 8/5/14

In the mid-1950s, America was flush with prosperity and saw an unbroken line of progress clear to the horizon, while the West was still very much wild. In this ambitious, incandescent debut, Malcolm Brooks animates that time and untamed landscape, in a richly textured, sweeping tale of the modern and the ancient, of love and fate, and of heritage threatened by progress.

Catherine Lemay is a young archaeologist on her way to Montana, with a huge task before her—a canyon “as deep as the devil’s own appetites.” Working ahead of a major dam project, she has one summer to prove nothing of historical value will be lost in the flood. From the moment she arrives, nothing is familiar—the vastness of the canyon itself mocks the contained, artifact-rich digs in post-Blitz London where she cut her teeth. And then there’s John H, a former mustanger and veteran of the U.S. Army’s last mounted cavalry campaign, living a fugitive life in the canyon. John H inspires Catherine to see beauty in the stark landscape, and her heart opens to more than just the vanished past

Reminiscent of Jim Harrison, Wallace Stegner, Thomas McGuane, Annie Proulx, and Michael Ondaatje, Painted Horsessends a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest, sings a love song to the horseman’s vanishing way of life, and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future often make strange bedfellows. It establishes Malcolm Brooks as an extraordinary new talent.
2 a.m. at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
genre: Literary Fiction
release date: 8/5/14
cover 2 am at the Cat's Pajamas
A sparkling, enchanting and staggeringly original debut novel about one day in the lives of three unforgettable characters

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer. As she mourns the recent death of her mother, she doesn’t realize that on Christmas Eve Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia's legendary jazz club The Cat's Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat's Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night. A vivacious, charming and moving debut, 2 AM AT THE CAT'S PAJAMAS will capture your heart and have you laughing out loud.
Here's to some terrific reading in 2014.



  1. 2am at the Cat's Pajamas sounds very interesting. I love the title Flying Shoes. Queen Sugar also sounds like a novel I will enjoy. Thanks so much for sharing all these wonderful books that will be coming out.

    1. Reading author's debuts is so much fun. I'm glad to share. Thanks so much for coming by.

  2. Thanks for your comment on my top ten.
    I hope you read al these books in this new year. And I hope they are awesome.


    1. Thanks, Mariska. Hope your year is filled with great reading too :)

  3. Last Night at the Blue Angel looks really interesting! Great list!

  4. So informative! I'm ashamed to say I had no idea about any of these books but now I am so looking forward to (hopefully) reading all of them. I especially love the sound of Last Night at the Blue Angel! -Izzy

    1. I'm pretty excited to read Shotgun Lovesongs as it's set in my home state of Wisconsin, but all sound like great reads. I love the spin you put on this week's Top Ten. Thanks for stopping by, Izzy.

  5. O you've given me some cool stuff to look up.

  6. So many interesting books to look forward to!

  7. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing these!

  8. Love finding new titles to check out. Flying Shoes sounds intriguing!


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