January Preview

Well I’m a bit late with my look at this month’s releases, but I was out of town so now I’m trying to catch up. I was in Colorado for a memorial service of a dear friend I worked with at an indy bookstore in the late 1980s.

It was sort of a sad way to start off the new year, but the service was very heartwarming with so many amazing speeches about my friend that I feel quite blessed to have known and kept in touch with him over the years. Being a huge reader and music buff, he shared with me great books and music long ago — and pointed me in the right direction. I leave this photo of Colorado in his memory, one of my favorite places to go. Despite this shot of the backcountry, the ski areas are in desperate need of snow, which apparently is at its lowest levels there since 1977.

Now onto fiction releases. There’s apparently quite a few notable thrillers out this month, such as: A.J. Finn’s “The Woman in the Window,” Karen Cleveland’s “Need to Know,” Alafair Burke’s “The Wife,” Sarah Vaughan’s “Anatomy of a Scandal,” and Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen’s “The Wife Between Us.” Oh my, if I read all these at once, I’m sure my head would spin amid their dire situations, though admittedly I’m a sucker for such page-turners as much as the next person. I’ll probably throw a few into the mix this winter in order to get through the cold season here. And boy, is it freezing right now — with three days of below zero temps, ouch!

As for literary fiction releases, there’s a couple of debut novels that I’d like to check out, the first being: Mira T. Lee’s “Everything Here Is Beautiful,” which Celeste Ng’s says: is a “tender but unflinching portrayal of the bond between two sisters — one that’s frayed by mental illness and stretched across continents, yet still endures.”

The novel seems to be getting a lot of high praise and apparently deals with a sensitive subject with empathy and courage. As Kirkus Reviews sums it up: “the tumult of loving someone with a chronic mental illness can exhaust even the most caring person.” Count me in — as I’ve had a friend suffer from this and would like to hear how it’s handled here.

I’m also game for Xhenet Aliu’s debut novel “Brass,” which Huffington Post says “interweaves the stories of a mother and a daughter living in a fading Connecticut town they both hopelessly long to escape from.” It’s apparently very well written and told in parallel gripping narratives with a biting wit.

Kirkus Reviews calls it a glimmering debut that “reflects on mother-daughter connections, abandonment and resilience, and dreams that endure despite the odds.” I like trying out upcoming new authors — apparently she’s a native of Waterbury, Conn. with an Albania father and a Lithuanian American mother — so count me in for “Brass.”

Next up, I’m curious about Gregory Blake Smith’s new historical fiction novel “The Maze at Windermere,” which The Washington Post’s critic Ron Charles gave 5 stars to. Wow a 5-star book so soon in the season, can it be true? Apparently the novel includes five separative stories spread over three centuries that are all set in the seaside town of Newport, R.I. — from its beginnings as a British colony to its later incarnation as the playground of the very rich.

Hmm it sounds a bit complex with its many characters, eras, and broad range, but it’s received some strong hype too. I can’t tell if I’ll like the story, or if I’m just drawn to the book cover, which seems to be rather fetching — regardless, I plan to try it out.

Lastly in fiction, I probably can’t pass up Rachel Joyce’s new novel “The Music Shop,” which Publishers Weekly calls a winner with its deceptively simple love story about Frank, owner of a London hole-in-the-wall music store selling vinyl records in 1988. Apparently Frank has the ability to select the perfect song to ease each customer’s spiritual crisis… until one day a mysterious young woman comes into his store.

Hmm, I’m a bit of a sucker for music-inspired novels and this one reminds me slightly of Nick Hornby’s endearing 1995 novel “High Fidelity,” so I’m game to check it out. I enjoyed Joyce’s first novel “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” and this one seems similarly heartwarming.

As for movies coming out this month, I still plan to see “The Post,” which I highlighted in December, and perhaps “Molly’s Game,” which looks like a slick morality tale about a real-life woman (played by Jessica Chastain) who at one point ran the richest poker game in the world (not that I’m into that).

Chastain has played similar icy strong-willed characters before in such movies as “Miss Sloane” and “Zero Dark Thirty” and I liked those. Also since Aaron Sorkin adapted the screenplay from the book by Molly Bloom and directed the film, it should be quite decent. We will see.

Though perhaps instead I’ll see the war drama “12 Strong” about the U.S. Special Forces team that went into Afghanistan immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and joined up with forces there to battle the Taliban. I know it seems rather ghoulish to see (or like?) combat war films, but if you live with a male — and even if you don’t — you sometimes find yourself going to  these things.

I think I’ve seen my share of recent ones including: “Lone Survivor,” “Restrepo,” “Black Hawk Down,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “American Sniper” among others. They’re all rather intense and I suspect “12 Strong” will be too. The Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth leads the pack in this war flick, which seems a bit different with its modern-day mission on horseback.

In album releases for January, there’s new ones by Canadian singer-songwriters Bahamas and Jim Cuddy (from the group Blue Rodeo), both of whom I like. Also Irish songwriter Glen Hansard has a new album called “Between Two Shores,” which I’m sure I’ll check out — along with American musician Anderson East’s new album called “Encore.” He has sort of a blues-soul sound about him that I’ve been listening to recently. I’ll pick East’s  album for my choice this month.

What about you — which book, movie, or music releases this month are you most interested in?

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18 Responses to January Preview

  1. Judy Krueger says:

    That is quite a line up of new books. I am pretty deeply dug into finishing the books on my 1963 list which includes Joan Didion’s first novel (I watched the documentary on Netflix about her the other day), my first Pynchon novel, V, and some other authors I am following through the years. I’ve got Home Fire and The Resurrection of Joan Ashby from the library, two books I meant to get to last year.
    I am so sorry to hear about your friend. He sounds like a guy who influenced many people.
    Did I ever ask you what bookstore you used to work at and where it was located?
    Happy reading!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Judy, my friend was really outstanding & had many friends. I should watch the Joan Didion documentary; I’m fascinated by her books, especially the journalism: The White Album & Slouching Toward Bethlehem. I hope you like Home Fire, hmm. It’s supposed to be a modern-day rendering of Antigone. And the bookstore was called Explore Booksellers on Main Street in Aspen, Co. The owner was Katharine Thalberg, who was the daughter of MGM’s Irving Thalberg. She was quite a boss, a titan of industry! She has passed away now, and the bookstore is owned by someone else, but it is still there. Quite a time in life.

      • Judy Krueger says:

        OK! Aspen. Lots of movie people there, right? We camped near there on our hippy “honeymoon” road trip in 1969. That was husband #1. We were young and disdainful but still awed by Aspen. Maybe someday we can meet and tell stories!

        • Susan Wright says:

          Sure Judy, sounds good. It’s still a special place & the Rockies scenery is wonderful, though it must have been something a bit different in 1969. A sleepy ski town? Or a place to congregate?

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    I am sorry to hear about your friend.

    Many of these releases sound good. The Maze at Windermere sounds particularly interesting. Books that take place over different time periods are popular these days. But I think the concept has a lot of potential.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Brian, my friend’s passing was sudden & unexpected. I agree The Maze novel sounds intriguing, spanning 3 centuries; I think I have to check it out.

  3. So sorry to hear about your friend.

    The Woman in the Window is a bestseller already. I want to read it soon but am kind of afraid of the hype now. Brass sounds really good – I think I’d like it.

    I’ve heard Molly’s Game is good. I’m going to see The Greatest Showman (or whatever it’s called) today.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Kathy. I hope you’ll tell us on your site about the Hugh Jackman movie. Was it any good? I’m on some long wait list at the library for The Woman in the Window — maybe I’ll get it in Feb, ha. Meanwhile good idea to check out Brass.

  4. That’s a difficult way to start the new year… very sorry to hear about your friend.

    Your preview posts always have me adding to my wish list. The literary fiction titles are all new to me and I’ve added both Everything Here is Beautiful and Brass.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks JoAnn, a somber way to start the year; makes me reflect a lot. And I agree those 2 debuts look worth finding & I’ve got my name on the waiting list for them at the library. Hope your year is off to a good start; I’ll stop by your site to see if you’re in Florida now. Hope so.

  5. Ti says:

    I’m sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. Everyone seems to be starting the year off with a funeral or memorial service. It is hard to start the year off like that. And then of course the flooding in Montecito and the surrounding burn areas is like a double whammy for those affected. One of my book blogger friends is right in the heart of it. It has to be incredibly hard.

    As for reading, I have a copy of The Music Shop but I have a few more review copies before it so I’ll read it soon.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Ti. Yeah the tragedy at Montecito is horrifying; I can’t believe that many people are still missing. It gives me chills looking at the pictures of it. First the fires, now this? Ugh. I hope you are okay where you are. I think I’m on the library wait list for the Music Shop, hope it’s good.

  6. Carmen says:

    Sorry to hear about your friend’s unexpected passing. However, it seems the memorial service rightly celebrated his life and impact on others.

    I read a rather short but great endorsement of The Wife Between Us. It made me curious, but I tend to read thrillers and mysteries more towards the summer and fall rather than at this time of the year. I’ll keep it in mind just in case.

    I don’t think it is ghoulish to like war movies. My father loves them, so I’m forced to watch them rather frequently. I would watch them anyways considering so many of them compete at the Oscars, and I tend to watch most movies that compete in the major categories.

    I read an excellent review of Molly’s Game. It referred to Jessica Chastain’s performance as ‘magnetic’, thus it could be her year for a very overdue Oscar statuette (I hope!)…Of course, there is also Frances MacDormand and Sally Hawkins to consider. 🙁

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks for your comments Carmen. Good to know all of these things. I did catch some of the Golden Globe Awards and was interested to see that Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies did very well along with Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri. Perhaps I’ll try to see that this weekend. Chastain’s performances are usually very strong; I’m sure she’ll get the Oscar sometime. Will it be this year or will Frances get it? Hmm. Gary Oldman as Churchill is tough to beat.

  7. So many delightful books and movies ahead…I hope to see The Post this weekend, and Molly’s Game is on my list.

    As you know, I am reading Anatomy of a Scandal and plan to read The Woman in the Window soon. The Wife is on my list as well.

    The Wife Between Us was a favorite in December, and Need to Know is another on my list.

    Enjoy your week! Thanks for visiting my blog.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Laurel, you get to all the best page-turners. It’s pretty incredible all of these notable thrillers came out at once. I will try to sprinkle them in & look forward to seeing what you think of them at your site. Thanks. Need to Know looks pretty good too. Hmm.

  8. I’ve seen The Maze at Windermere around, but I had no idea of its premise or that it was set in Rhode Island. Time to look a little closer at it. The previews I’ve seen of Molly’s Game look wonderful, although there’s little chance that I’ll get to watch it in a movie theatre. If you tell me it’s good, then I’ll watch for it to be shown on TV. 🙂
    I hope the rest of the year will be much better than its sad beginning!

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