Hands up all those who love browsing what’s new in books and the upcoming fiction releases? Many of the best books I read last year were fiction titles that caught my eye from the 2020 new books lists, and 2021 is shaping up as another great year for reading.
Bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power.Jen Campbell
And, while we love nothing more than popping into our local bookstores, browsing curated 2021 new release books lists online is really the best alternative when we are not able.
Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Note links will take readers in the US, UK or Canada to their local Amazon store (if available) and in all other cases, to an online book retailer that ships the title to your region.
Join me on my adventures browsing the new books in 2021
Here each month in 2021, I will discuss my top picks of the new books published and the upcoming fiction releases. Links in this article will take you to more detail about each title and, when I have been lucky enough to read it, open up my full review in a new tab.
So read on to see which new books and upcoming releases have caught my attention so far this year.
Top Picks of the New Release Books in September 2021
September 2021 sees highly anticipated new releases from reader favourites like Sally Rooney, Liane Moriarty, Chris Hammer and Anthony Doerr, along with some intriguing new speculative fiction.
Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies, Nine Perfect Strangers, The Last Anniversary) was a worldwide #1 bestseller well before the recent award-winning TV series adaptations. In her new novel Apples Never Fall, Joy Delaney and husband Stan have done well for themselves. Four wonderful grown-up children. A family business to envy. The golden years of retirement ahead of them. So when Joy vanishes – no note, no calls, her bike missing – it’s natural that tongues will wag. How did Stan scratch his face? And who was the stranger who entered and suddenly left their lives? What are they all hiding? But for the Delaney children there is a much more terrifying question: did they ever know their parents at all? Find out more >>
Chris Hammer’s Martin Scarsden crime series (Scrublands, Silver, Trust) has earned him a legion of fans who, like me, will be eager to get their hands on a copy of his new standalone novel, Treasure & Dirt. In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable young people and billionaires do as they please. Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straightforward, not even who found the body. Sydney homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan. Find out more >>
Speculative fiction releases in September
According to early reviewers, Guy Morpuss’ speculative debut novel 5 Minds is brilliantly inventive and a must read for fans of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The Earth’s population has been controlled. Lifespans are limited to 80 years, except for those who agree to become a commune. Five minds sharing one body, each living for four hours at a time, but with a combined lifespan of nearly 150 years. Alex, Kate, Mike, Sierra and Ben have already spent 25-years together in what was once Mike’s body, their frequent personality clashes leading to countless arguments. Wanting to buy upgrades for their next host body, they travel to a Death Park where time can be gambled like money. But things go very wrong when Kate accepts a dangerous offer, and one of them disappears. It’s hard enough to catch a murderer. It’s almost impossible when you might be sharing a body with them. Find out more >>
The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being) is about grief, resilience, creativity and psychological difference. It is about the importance of reading, and an observation of the mess consumer culture has got us into. It is an affirmation of the power of community. It is funny, kind, wise, urgent and completely irresistible. After his father dies, Benny Oh finds he can hear objects talking: teapots, marbles and sharpened pencils, babbling in anger or distress. His mother starts collecting things to give her comfort. Overwhelmed by the clamour of all the stuff, Benny seeks refuge in the beautiful silence of the public library. There, the objects speak only in whispers. There, he meets a homeless poet and a mesmerising young performance artist. There, a book reaches out to him. Not just any book: his own book. And a very important conversation begins. Find out more >>
Immersive literary fiction
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (All The Light We Cannot See) is dedicated to ‘the librarians then, now and in the years to come’ and sounds like a modern classic in the making. Bound together by a single ancient text, the unforgettable characters in this ambitious novel are dreamers and outsiders figuring out the world around them: thirteen-year-old Anna and Omeir, an orphaned seamstress and a cursed boy, on opposite sides of the formidable city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour and octogenarian Zeno in an attack on a public library in present-day Idaho; and Konstance, decades from now, who turns to the oldest stories to guide her community in peril. Find out more >>
Shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, Bewilderment by Richard Powers (The Overstory) has been described as a ‘taut ecological parable’. Robbie is a 9-year old boy with Asperger’s-like traits, a precocious intelligence, a prodigious memory and exquisitely tuned to loss. His father, Theo, is an astrobiologist, consumed with finding signs of life in the cosmos and raising Robbie alone after the tragic death of his wife. As Robbie’s behaviour grows more unmanageable, Theo seeks out an experimental treatment that enables Robbie to pattern his emotional responses on the recorded brainwave activity of his late mother. But as government funding is pulled, Robbie suffers a precipitous decline with heart-breaking consequences. Find out more >>
Beautiful World, Where Are You is the highly anticipated new contemporary drama from Salley Rooney (Normal People, Conversations With Friends). Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young―but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world? Find out more >>
Portrait of a Scotsman (A League of Extraordinary Women Book 3) by Evie Dunmore sounds like the perfect antidote to the current bombardment of ‘deep and meaningful’ in the media. Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist and Oxford scholar but when the aspiring artist and banking heiress Hattie Greenfield finds herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone what else is she to do? When the bewitching daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian, a self-made man holding vast wealth but little power, sees political opportunity. He has no room for his new wife’s romantic notions… until a journey to Scotland paints everthing in a different light. Find out more >>
Recent Book Releases
What’s New in Books in August 2021
There are some big industry names releasing new books and several intriguing debuts that will be difficult for bookish souls to resist. Here are my top picks of the new book releases in August 2021.
Fresh literary fiction
2020 was a breakout year for Aussie author Charlotte McConaghy with her epic climate fiction title Migrations (aka The Last Migration) topping the international bestseller lists. Now she is back with another suspenseful literary fiction release, Once There Were Wolves.
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team tasked with reintroducing fourteen grey wolves into the remote Highlands, despite fierce opposition from the locals. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove them out of Alaska. When Inti’s wolves surprise everyone by thriving, she begins to let her guard down, even opening up to the possibility of love. But when a local farmer is found dead, she’s unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, and makes a reckless decision to protect them, testing every instinct she has. Find out more >>
Tracey Lange’s debut We Are the Brennans is receiving high praise from early reviewers. When 29-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. She’d deserted them all―and her high school sweetheart―five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. A richly layered, deft exploration of the staying power of shame―and the redemptive power of love―in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets. Find out more >>
Sara Nisha Adam’s debut The Reading List has been described “a quietly beautiful novel about the magic of books and the joy of human connection” by Newsweek. West London widower Mukesh is grieving his wife. Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library, who discovers a list of novels she’s never heard of before in a returned book and sets out to read them all. These books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home. When Mukesh enters the library, seeking to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, she shows him the list and these shared reading experiences build a connection between two lonely souls. Find out more >>
Freya Sampson’s debut The Last Chance Library sounds like another heartwarming fiction release tailor-made for bookish souls. June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way. Find out more >>
August 2021 mystery thrillers
While authors Joanne Harris (Chocolat, Five Quarters of the Orange) and Stephen King (The Shining, Mr Mercedes) have distinctly different writing styles, common to both are loyal fan bases eager to get their hands on copies of their new books.
A Narrow Door marks an incendiary moment for St Oswald’s school. For the first time in its history, a headmistress is in power, the gates opening to girls. Rebecca Buckfast has spilled blood to reach this position. Barely forty, she is just starting to reap the harvest of her ambition. As the new regime takes on the old guard, the ground shifts. And with it, the remains of a body are discovered. But Rebecca is here to make her mark. She’ll bury the past so deep it will evade even her own memory, just like she has done before. After all… You can’t keep a good woman down. Find out more >>
Billy Summers is a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong? How about everything… This can’t-put-it-down novel features a compelling and surprising duo who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption. Find out more >>
Six friends. One college reunion. One unsolved murder. Told in racing dual timelines, with a dark campus setting and a darker look at friendship, love, obsession, and ambition, In My Dreams I Hold A Knife is an addictive, propulsive read. Find out more >>
Historical mystery & coming of age
Set in 1944 Chicago, Edgar Award-winner Naomi Hirahara’s eye-opening new mystery Clark and Division about a young woman searching for the truth about her revered older sister’s suspicious death, brings into focus the struggles of one Japanese American family released from mass incarceration at Manzanar during World War II. A heartbreakingly real crime fiction plot with rich period detail inspired by true events. Find out more >>
What does it mean to feel at home in the world? To find our true family? In Allison Larkin’s new book The People We Keep a young songwriter steals a car, hits the road, and struggles against all odds to try to find the answer. About the people we choose—and even more importantly the people who choose us—this novel is both a profound love letter to creative resilience and a reminder that sometimes even tragedy can be a kind of blessing. Find out more >>
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What’s New in Books in July 2021
Whether you are in lockdown or out and about enjoying holiday down-time, the new release books in July are sure to interest a wide range of readers. Here are my picks of the best new fiction books out this month.
New thrillers and suspense novels
One of the biggest name book releases in July 2021 is bestselling thriller author Lisa Jewell’s The Night She Disappeared exploring the power of toxic relationships, obsession and the murkier reaches of the human psyche.
Teenage mother Tallulah goes out on a date while her mother Kim babysits, but never returns. Desperate to find her, Kim contacts her friends and learns Tallulah and her boyfriend were last seen heading to a party at an abandoned mansion in the woods the locals call Dark Place. Over a year on their disappearance remains unsolved, but could a note discovered in the woods lead to the truth about what happened that night? Read my review >>
A Voice in the Night by Sarah Hawthorn is an addictive thriller of twists and turns from a striking new voice.
Following a bitter separation, Lucie moves to London to take up a position with a prestigious law firm. It seems an optimistic new beginning, until one day she receives a hand-delivered note with the strange words: At last I’ve found you. A shock I‘m sure. But in time I‘ll explain. Martin. As a young intern in New York, Lucie had fallen in love with a married man called Martin, who was tragically killed in the 9/11 attacks. Could her long-dead lover have staged his own disappearance under the cover of that fateful day 20 years ago? Or is someone else stalking her, or her vivid imagination is playing tricks? Read my review >>
More new literary mysteries in July 2021
In Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, an interpreter has come to The Hague to escape New York and work at the International Court. A woman of many languages and identities, she is looking for a place to finally call home but she’s drawn into simmering personal dramas: her lover is still entangled in his marriage, her friend witnesses a ‘seemingly’ random act of violence, and she’s pulled into an explosive political controversy when she’s asked to interpret for a former president accused of war crimes. Find out more >>
Alison Booth (The Philosopher’s Daughters) is back with new mystery novel The Painting. When Anika Molnar flees Hungary not long before the break-up of the Soviet Union, she carries only a small suitcase and a painting from her family’s hidden collection. Living with her aunt in Sydney, the painting hangs in pride of place in her bedroom, until one day it is stolen. As sinister secrets from her family’s past cast suspicion over the painting’s provenance, she embarks on a gripping quest to uncover the truth. Read my review >>
July 2021 Historical Fiction
An evocative coming-of-age World War II story about an isolated and lonely but resourceful young woman Yona who was brought up by an old woman in the Eastern European wilderness after being kidnapped from her wealthy German parents as a child, who after learning what’s now happening in the outside world, uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything. Find out more >>
July’s fresh science fiction
In novella A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot #1) from Hugo award-winning Becky Chambers… It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools, and wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; now just urban legend. One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They’re going to need to ask it a lot. Find out more >>
Matt Bell’s Appleseed is being described as a breakout novel and a pulse-pounding novel of ideas. Set over 3 timelines – in eighteenth-century apple orchards in Ohio, fifty years from now when climate change has ravaged the Earth and a thousand years into the future when North America is covered by a massive sheet of ice – this novel is part speculative epic, part tech thriller, part reinvented fairy tale, and an unforgettable meditation on climate change; corporate, civic, and familial responsibility; manifest destiny; and the myths and legends that sustain us all. Sounds epic. Find out more >>
Book releases to warm the heart
In Home by Penny Parkes, Anna Wilson travels the world as a professional housesitter – stepping into other people’s lives – caring for their homes, pets and sometimes even neighbours. But growing up in foster care, all she has ever really wanted is a proper home of her own, filled with family, love and happy memories. Her friends may have become her family of choice, but Anna is still stuck in that nomadic cycle, looking for answers, trying to find the courage to put down roots and find a place to call home. Find out more >>
Kim Lock’s The Other Side of Beautiful has been described as Lost & Found meets The Rosie Project. Mercy Blain’s house has just burnt down, and since she hasn’t left that house for 2-years, this goes beyond the disaster it would be for most people. She goes to her not-quite-ex-husband Eugene’s house, but it turns out she can’t stay there, either. So, after the chance purchase of a cult classic camper van, Mercy embarks on a road trip with her sausage dog, Wasabi, and a mysterious box of cremated remains. Find out more >>
What’s New in Books in June 2021
Whether you are looking forward to your summer holidays or snuggling up with a rug and hot chocolate like I am here in the southern hemisphere, June is a great month for reading. Here’s my selection of the best new fiction books on offer.
New romance novels
Most book lovers will have heard of Graeme Simsion’s breakout bestselling non-neurotypical rom-com trilogy starring Don Tillman – The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and The Rosie Result. But did you know that in 2017, Simsion teamed up with his wife author Anne Buist to write Two Steps Forward, a soup-for-the-soul midlife romance set on the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s trail?
Two Steps Onwards is the pair’s wise, witty and wine-filled follow-up, set on the less-travelled Chemin d’Assise and Via Francigena trail to Rome. It’s about helping the people you love, and knowing when to let go. Figuring out what you really want in life. And seizing your chances, before it’s too late. Read my review >>
In Very Sincerely Yours, the new romantic comedy from Kerry Winfrey (‘Waiting for Tom Hanks’) newly single vintage toy store assistant Theodora has a crush on children’s show host Everett St James, and summons up the courage to write to him, just like his much younger fans do – after all, he always gives them sound advice. Low and behold, he starts writing back! Hard for a booklover to resist a sweet epistolary novel. Find out more >>
Bestselling romance author Paige Toon’s latest happy-tear-jerker, Someone I Used To Know, is a heart-wrenching and romantic story about Leah, George and Theo, at fifteen and then what seems like a lifetime later. It’s about healing scars, second chances, love for the family we’re born into and the one we build along the way, and discovering the courage to love again. Recommended for fans of Beth O’Leary and Sally Thorne. Find out more >>
New thrillers and mysteries in June
Falling by TJ Newman, a former bookseller, now experienced flight attendant, is one of the most raved about debut thrillers of June 2021 — like the films Die Hard and Speed on steroids (Library Journal) and Jaws at 35,000 feet (Don Winslow).
You just boarded a flight to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. Enjoy the flight… An early contender for my best book of 2021. Read my review >>
Related Read: Another June 2021 book release set in the sky is Hostage by Clare Mackintosh.
In Gold Dagger winner Michael Robotham‘s new standalone novel When You Are Mine, Philomena McCarthy (the daughter of a London gangster) has defied the odds and become a promising junior officer with the Metropolitan Police. Called to the scene of a domestic assault, she rescues Tempe Brown, the girlfriend of a decorated detective. The incident is hushed up, but Phil has unwittingly made a dangerous enemy with powerful friends. For me, the most intriguing of the June 2021 psychological thriller releases. Find out more >>
Mrs England is a new gripping feminist mystery from bestselling author Stacey Halls (The Familiars and The Foundling). West Yorkshire, 1904. Young nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of wealthy couple Charles and Lilian England. As she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, Charles is welcoming but it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Hard for this booklover to look past a Rebecca-esque Edwardian mystery. Find out more >>
Literary and historical fiction releases
In her 2021 release Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase, her titular character is grieving the loss of her husband. Jack had two dying wishes: that his wife scatter his ashes somewhere ‘exotic’, and that she not give up on life once he was gone. He intended to spur her on to new adventures, but despite clinging to her red suitcase, Geraldine Verne hasn’t left the house for 3-months. It takes an accident for her to accept help and heartbroken Meals on Wheels volunteer Lottie brings with her more than cottage pie. A gloriously unlikely friendship blossoms. Read my review >>
My pick of June 2021’s more literary book releases is Still Life by Sarah Winman (Tin Man, When God Was a Rabbit). It moves from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End and spans four decades, and is described as a big-hearted story of two people brought together by love, war, art and the ghost of E.M. Forster. When Joanna Cannon calls a new book ‘utterly beautiful’ and Graham Norton says it is ‘sheer joy’, it goes straight on my wishlist. Find out more >>
From bestselling historical fiction author Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, comes The Personal Librarian – a fictional account of the remarkable true story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, a Black American woman who became famous in high-society for her intellect, style, and wit, all while forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to retain the role she deserved and leave a lasting legacy. Love reading fiction based on fact. Find out more >>
What’s New in Books in May 2021
As a rule, May usually turns out a bumper crop of new books, with 2021 is proving no exception. There really is a wonderfully diverse range of books in the new fiction releases lists for us to discuss this month.
Highly anticipated literary fiction
Amongst the most highly anticipated of the May 2021 book releases is Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle. With a title as grand as its scope, settings and page count, and superlatives such as ‘breathtaking epic’ and ‘masterpiece’ being bandied about, this is on my ‘must-make-time-to-read’ list.
An unforgettable story of Marion, a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost and, a century later, a vibrant canny Hollywood actress determined to bring her story to life on the big screen and liberate herself in the process —this emotional, meticulously researched novel spans Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles. Find out more >>
More noteworthy literary fiction releases:
How Lucky by Will Leitch – Remember what I said about diversity? This debut about a fiercely resilient young man living with a severe physical disability and his efforts to solve a crime mystery that unfolds right outside his house, is being described as ‘as suspenseful and funny as it is moving,’ and earning high praise for the authenticity of its first-person narrative. Find out more >>
Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau – Described as Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones & The Six, this tale of a 14-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her straight-laced family and the progressive one she nannies for—who are secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer—sounds like a great holiday read. Find out more >>
Upcoming releases – science fiction & fantasy
The Kingdoms, a new release genre-bender from bestselling author Natasha Pulley (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street) is being compared the writing of Stuart Turton and David Mitchell, some of my favourite authors.
In a London occupied by the French empire, Joe Tournier is a British slave. He has a job, a wife, a baby daughter. But he also has flashes of a life he cannot remember, in a world where English is spoken in England, and not French. Then he receives a postcard of a lighthouse built just six months ago, that was first written nearly one hundred years ago by a stranger who seems to know him very well. “Come home, if you remember.” Joe’s journey to unravel the truth will take him to a remote Scottish island, and back through time itself as he battles for his life – and for a very different future. Find out more >>
One of the most original new fiction releases this month is The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He. It’s described as ‘a gripping and heartfelt YA sci-fi with mind-blowing twists’.
Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for 3 years and 17 days without any memories of how she arrives or her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, she has a sister named Kay that she is desperate to find. In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return. Find out more >>
New crime thrillers – May 2021
There’s rarely a shortage of new crime fiction and mystery thrillers, so popular is the genre, but the deeper psychological intrigue offered by these upcoming releases particularly caught my attention.
Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz – 18yr-old Alice arrived in New York carrying only cash and a camera. One month later, she is an unidentified murder victim. Ruby Jones is also trying to start over but lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice’s body by the Hudson River. Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life – and death. And Ruby finds herself unable to let Alice go. Find out more >>
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave – Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his new wife, Hannah: protect her. He means his 16-year-old daughter who lost her mother tragically as a child; who wants nothing to do with her new stepmother. Hannah soon realises that Owen isn’t who he said he was, and his daughter might hold the key to discovering his true identity, and why he disappeared. Find out more >>
Finally, we turn our attention to some of the best of May’s lighter new releases, books that will give you the warm and fuzzies.
May 2021 Contemporary Romance Novels
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry – Poppy and Alex have nothing in common but have been the best of friends since college. They live far apart, but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together. Until 2 years ago, when they ruined everything and haven’t spoken since. Now realising that’s when she was last truly happy, and determined to fix everything, Poppy convinces Alex to join her on one more vacation. Find out more >>
The Beautiful Fall by Hugh Breakey – Every 179 days Robbie forgets everything. He knows this because last time it happened he wrote himself a letter explaining it all. To survive the forgetting, Robbie leads a solitary, regimented life. Speaks to no one if he can avoid it. But then, with twelve days left before his next forgetting, Julie invades his life. Young, beautiful—the only woman he can ever remember meeting. Read my review >>
What Was New in Fiction in April 2021
Drama & romance
Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed. But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier. Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. Sounds like the perfect romantic comedy setup. I cannot wait to read this one. Find out more >>
Other Women by Cathy Kelly has been described as “a refreshingly honest story about female friendship and marriage – and all the great loves of our life”.
Three women. Three secrets. Three tangled lives… Sid wears her independence like armour. So when she strikes up a rare connection with unlucky-in-love Finn, they are both determined to prove that men and women can just be friends. Can’t they? Marin has the perfect home, attentive husband, two beloved children – and a secret addiction to designer clothes. She has it all, so why can’t she stop comparing herself to other women? Bea believes that we all have one love story – and she’s had hers. Now her life centres around her son and support group of fierce single mums – the women she shares everything with. Well, apart from the one secret she can’t tell anyone… Find out more >>
More April 2021 chick lit releases sure to tug on the heartstrings:
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle – Maybell Parrish lives in her head, her real life full of painful disappointments. So, inheriting an old manor from an eccentric Great Aunt provides her a chance to change things. If she can find a way to get on with grouchy but gorgeous groundskeeper and co-inheritor Wesley. Find out more >>
Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez – Vanessa’s mother and sister never saw the age of 30, so she’s been living every moment as if it were her last. But after her half sister suddenly leaves her in custody of her baby, life goes from “daily adventure” to “next-level bad” (now with bonus baby vomit in hair). Enter the surprisingly helpful hot lawyer next door, Adrian and his geriatric Chihuahua. Find out more >>
New historical & mystery fiction
There are many intriguing new historical fiction titles being released in April 2021.
While Pip Williams’ award-winning The Dictionary of Lost Words was released in Australia last year, I just wanted to highlight that it is now being released worldwide.
In this remarkable debut based on actual events, as a team of male scholars compiles the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of their daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they omit… Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement with the Great War looming, Esme’s ‘Dictionary of Lost Words’ reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Read my review >>
The Plague Letters by V L Valentine – London, 1665. Within the growing pile of plague-ridden corpses in his churchyard, Rector Symon Patrick discovers one that’s unique. Someone is performing terrible experiments upon the dying. Desperate to discover who, Symon joins a society of eccentric medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague… Find out more >>
The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin – Inspired by the true WWII history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, this is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature. Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace Bennett discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed. Find out more >>
New in crime & mystery thrillers – April 2021
When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain – Detective Anna Hart is hiding away from the world. But then a series of local disappearances reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal? This deeply affecting new crime mystery weaves together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical. Find out more >>
Missing Pieces by Tim Weaver – This chunky new thriller has earned rave early reviews. Rebekah Murphy knows too much… She knows she’s alone on an abandoned island with a killer on her trail. She knows that to get home, she must live to understand why this is happening. She knows someone tried to kill her for a secret. What she doesn’t know is what that secret is… . Find out more >>
March 2021 Book Releases
Haunting historical fiction
March is Women’s History Month, and quite fittingly there are some fantastic new historical fiction releases with strong female leads on offer.
First up, the highly anticipated The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray. This chunky new fiction is based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy. I love multiple time/narrative perspectives, and this novel features three – a founding mother (1774), a daring visionary (1914) and a reluctant resistor (1940). Described as “an intricately woven and powerfully told, sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we take from those who came before us” this sounds like a must-read. Find out more >>
Sarah Penner’s ‘subversive and intoxicating’ debut The Lost Apothecary, has featured in all the ‘highly anticipated 2021 fiction’ lists. Could this cover be any more beautiful?
In eighteenth-century London, secret apothecary shop owner Nella sells women well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But her fate is jeopardized when a young patron makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries. In present-day London, when aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London 200 years prior, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive. Find out more >>
New mystery and literary suspense
The Vines by Shelley Nolden – A shuttered hospital on New York’s North Brother Island, the site of century-old quarantines and human experiments. When Finn, a young urban explorer, glimpses an enigmatic beauty through the foliage, intrigue turns to obsession as he seeks to uncover her past–and his own family’s dark secrets. Find out more >>
Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews – A ‘stylish and sharp’ character-driven literary suspense thriller set in mysterious Marrakesh, about a secretive famous novelist and ambitious assistant locked in a struggle for fortune and fame. Described by Maria Semple as ‘part Patricia Highsmith, part All About Eve and pure fun’. Find out more >>
New romance and drama releases
In The Last Bookshop by Emma Young, Cait’s best friends have always been books – along with the rare souls who love them as much as she does, like grandmotherly June. When Cait set up her bookshop right in the heart of the city, she thought she’d skipped straight to ‘happily ever after’, but things are changing fast. When June’s sudden interest in Cait’s lacklustre love life and a handsome ‘Mystery Shopper’ force her to concede there may be more to life than her shop and cat, luxury chain stores are circling the prime location and a personal tragedy is brewing. Soon Cait is questioning the viability of both the shop and life she’s shaped around it. An unlikely band of allies are determined she won’t face these questions alone; but is a love of books enough to halt the march of time and progress? Read my review of this heartwarming novel >>
The Speed of Light by Elissa Grossell Dickey – A provocative debut novel told in intersecting timelines over a tumultuous, defining year in one woman’s life. After an MS diagnosis and walking away from “a fixer” but possibly the love of her life, one morning at the university where Simone works, gunshots ring out. In a temporary safe place and terrified, her mind racing, her past year comes into focus. Find out more >>
Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne – From the bestselling author of The Hating Game comes the clever and funny story of a muscular, tattooed, ‘selfish rich boy’ hired as an assistant to two eccentric 90yr-old women, under the watchful eye of ‘serious’ hardworking retirement home manager Ruthie. Find out more >>
Also new in books in March 2021:
Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – The latest novel from this Nobel and Booker Prize-winner, features an unforgettable narrator. From her place in a store Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches the behaviour of those who come in to browse and who pass on the street outside, remaining hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Find out more >>
Infinite by Brian Freeman – Car crash victim Dylan is haunted by glimpses of himself. A psychiatrist claims he’s undergoing a hypnotherapy treatment based on every choice he makes creating an infinite number of parallel universes, and Dylan’s doppelgänger has staked a claim to his world. Find out more >>
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February 2021 New Release Books
The romance of reading
It seems appropriate that we kick off my top picks of the new books in February with some romance.
First up, a delightful Victorian romance with a feisty leading lady. A Lady’s Formula for Love is Elizabeth Everett’s debut novel and the first book in a planned series, The Secret Scientists of London. Lady Violet is keeping secrets. She founded a clandestine sanctuary for England’s most brilliant female scientists and she is using her genius on a confidential mission for the Crown. But the biggest secret of all is the feelings she has for her solitary and reserved protection officer Arthur Kneland. Find out more >>
Related reading: My Top Intelligent Rom-Com Novels
The Things We Leave Unfinished by Rebecca Yarros – A divorcee starting over clashes with a bestselling writer seeking to complete her grandmother’s unfinished novel. Told in alternating timelines, this story examines the risks we take for love, the scars too deep to heal, and the endings we can’t bring ourselves to see coming. Find out more >>
The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez – From the author of the bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, comes a modern story about four different women, of forbidden love, secrets and revelations, set in a country steeped in honour and tradition. Read my review >>
Sarah Pearse’ debut gothic novel The Sanatorium is earning her high praise from early reviewers. ‘This spine-tingling, atmospheric thriller has it all: an eerie Alpine setting, sharp prose, and twists you’ll never see coming’ according to Richard Osman, and the Irish Times are calling it ‘genuinely scary’.
Elin Warner has taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement she has little choice but to accept. But the venue, an isolated hotel (recently renovated sanatorium) high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place she wants to be, particularly when a storm threatens and people start vanishing… Find out more >>
The Paris Affair by Pip Drysdale – From the bestselling author of The Sunday Girl and The Strangers We Know, a new thriller set in Paris starring Harper Brown an arts journalist who dreams of being a hard-hitting reporter. She’s hot on the trail of a murderer – and the scoop of a lifetime…That’s if the killer doesn’t catch her first. Read my review >>
The Spiral by Iain Ryan – A ‘rollercoaster crime noir thriller’ (Independent) with the inventiveness of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. After being shot twice by a colleague (now dead), Emma’s quest for answers set her on a dangerous, spiralling journey into the heart of darkness. Read my review >>
Literary and historical fiction
Helen Fisher’s Space Hopper (published as Faye, Faraway in the US) is one of the most highly anticipated new releases of 2021. A heartfelt, spellbinding, and irresistible debut novel for fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander (tick and tick!) that examines loss, faith, and love.
Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. In an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother? Read my review >>
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles – Another release with lots of buzz recommended for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife. This story of romance, friendship, family and the power of literature to bring us together, is based on the true WWII story of heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris. Find out more >>
My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee – From award-winning author of Native Speaker and On Such a Full Sea, an exuberant, provocative story about a young American life transformed by an unusual Asian adventure – and about the human capacities for pleasure, pain, and connection. Find out more >>
January 2021 New Fiction Releases
Thrilling new page-turners
Rachel Hawkins’ The Wife Upstairs is one of the most hotly-anticipated new books of 2021. A modern retelling of the gothic classic Jane Eyre, this is the story of Jane (a broke, light-fingered dog-walker working in a wealthy gated-community in Alabama) who sees an opportunity in the recently widowed, rich, brooding and handsome Eddie Rochester. His wife, Bea, a beautiful and successful businesswoman had drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Can she, plain Jane, win Eddie’s heart before her past–or his–catches up to her?
Apparently with ‘a fresh feminist sensibility’ this novel ‘flips the script’ on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. Find out more >>
Related reads: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
In Shiver by Allie Reynolds, things turn deadly when five snowboarding friends reunite for a weekend in the French Alps. Someone has deliberately stranded them together at the remote mountaintop resort to find out the truth about Saskia’s mysterious disappearance a decade prior. Milla’s not sure what’s worse: the increasingly sinister things happening around her or the looming snowstorm that’s making escape even more impossible. All she knows is that there’s no one on the mountain she can trust…
From Reynolds, a former competitive snowboarder, authenticity of subject and setting (one ideal for a locked-room thriller) is assured. This is a chilling dramatic thriller. Read my full review >>
More new psychological crime thrillers:
The Coffinmaker’s Garden by Stuart McBride – Ex-DI Ash Henderson races to catch a serial killer while a storm batters the Scottish Coast and a garden with buried human remains is falling into the North Sea.
January 2021 literary mystery & historical fiction
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz is described as a delicious hybrid of mystery, drama, and elegance: rich with detail, lush in language, and capable of keeping you on the edge of your seat.
With a narrative alternating between two time periods and distinctly different settings, Bangkok 1972 and Washington DC 2019, this novel depicts the secret lives and affairs of young elegant parents Genevieve and Robert Preston, and now daughters Laura and Bea as adults seeking answers to their brothers’ childhood disappearance while their once formidable mother slowly slides into dementia. This sounds like an enthralling and moving story about sibling love, rivalry and loyalty. Find out more >>
More thought-provoking literary fiction releases:
Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton – A novel about childhood friendships ruptured by the high price of long-held secrets; a love song to the natural beauty around us and call to fight for what we believe in.
The Price of Two Sparrows by Christy Collins – Her award-winning novella The End of Seeing was deeply moving, so expectations are high for Collins’ first full-length work exploring issues of community and prejudice, religion and nature in the modern world. Read my review >>
Science fiction & fantasy in January 2021
Sci-fi dystopian novels were notably absent from my Best Books of 2020 list due to my recent avoidance of the genre… the real news being worrisome enough! But as we collectively look toward brighter horizons, this new January 2021 science fiction release The Effort by Claire Holroyde sounds too good to let pass by.
Featuring a diverse ensemble cast of characters from around the globe and exploring the question, ‘How would we respond if we knew an asteroid equivalent to that which ended the reign of the dinosaurs were on a collision course with earth?’, Publishers Weekly have said its deeper themes about human nature make this apocalyptic thriller more than escapist reading. Can this small highly skilled team find a way to neutralize the greatest threat the world has ever seen before mass hysteria hits or world leaders declare World War III? Sounds provocative. Find out more >>
The last of my picks of January’s new book releases is the quirky fantasy novel We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen.
Jamie wakes up with no memories but can read and erase other people’s—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books. Zoe is also searching for her past and uses her abilities of speed and strength to deliver fast food and occasionally beat up bad guys. When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the key to revealing their hidden pasts and saving countless people may be trusting each other, and themselves.