This short list of five books releasing in February has something for everyone, from those seeking childlike whimsy, to thrillers in the Scottish Highlands, to the true story of a Cambodian genocide survivor.
This punchy, poignant story follows Ricki Wilde. She might be part of the Atlanta dynasty that is the Wilde family, but she has a hard time living up to her socialite sisters. She’s more artistic, more of a free spirit, so when she gets the chance to rent the bottom floor of a Harlem brownstone from a woman in her nineties, Ricki jumps at the chance for a new beginning. This novel is a romance with the characters of modern Harlem, the Harlem renaissance, and, naturally, a handsome and mysterious stranger.
Sergeant Hamish Macbeth still serves in the rural policing capacity in his Scottish village of Lochdubh… even though he recently helped identify a Russian spy ring that led to solving a murder. In this installment, he’s not sure how his new assistant officer will go over with the locals. James Bland is an exchange policeperson from Chicago, arrived on the pretext of studying British policing methods, but Hamish knows the real reason for Bland’s arrival is to help identify any members or accessories to that Russian spy network. When a string of robberies escalates into extreme violence, the men are pressed to use all their resources to identify the criminal. Is it possible that the crimes are related?
In this whimsical, illustrated children’s book, Emma Wen grows up as a quiet girl in a loud family. After reading a magical story about living inside a blue whale, she makes a boat herself, and sails from her bedroom straight into the whale’s belly. The peace and quiet there are all she’s dreamed of, until another child, who is as boisterous as her family, sets up camp there with her. How will they learn to live alongside each other?
From the author of the series of essays, The Empathy Exams, comes a debut memoir examining Leslie Jamison’s own intimate relationships. She excavates her obsessive love for her daughter, the problems of a marriage once so promising, and even the wake of her own parents’ relationship.
Chantha Nguon is an ethic Vietnamese girl living in Cambodia when two revolutions, two civil wars, and the dictator Pol Pot’s genocide rips her country apart in the 1960s. She moves to Saigon, where she loses her mother, brother, and sisters, and then flees to a refugee camp in Thailand. This memoir tells this full story, plus the details of her two decades spent in exile, when she survives as a cook in a brothel, a cocktail waitress in a nightclub, a street food vendor, a suture nurse, and a silk weaver. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the writing—even with so many turns of the narrative—is that the form of this lyrical memoir takes the shape of recipes. It’s sure to be an illuminating read.
Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She hosts the podcast about women in true crime, The Greatest True Crime Stories Ever Told. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.