Of the debut novels going on sale next week, Swamplandia!, by New Yorker “20 Under 40″ writer Karen Russell, looks like one of the most promising. It builds on a short story from her 2006 collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and tells the tale of the Bigtree family, operators of an alligator wrestling tourist attraction deep in the Everglades, after their star wrestler dies of cancer.

EW gives it an A- for “its effortless prose and its small, beautifully drawn cast of characters…while the novel deals in ghosts, whether actual ectoplasms or just unexorcisable memories, the characters, and their tale of family lost and found, remain triumphantly alive.”

Libraries we checked are showing orders in line with holds.

Karen Russell
Retail Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2011-02-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0307263991 / 9780307263995

Usual Suspects

Deep Black: Death Wave by Stephen Coonts and William H. Keith (St. Martin’s) follows NSA operatives trying to stop a terrorist plot to cause a cataclysmic landslide in the Canary Islands. PW is not impressed: “Coonts and Keith employ a laundry list of familiar elements in their ho-hum third Deep Black thriller.”

Fatal Error: A Novel by J.A. Jance (Touchstone), the sixth mystery with journalist-turned-police officer Ali Reynolds, gets love from PW: “the plot never stalls and leads to a logical and exciting finale.”

In Fire Forged: Worlds of Honor V by David Weber (Baen) continues the science fiction Honor Harrington series.

Young Adult Novels

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (HarperCollins), the follow-up to the bestselling debut Before I Fall (2010), takes place in a dystopian near future where love is considered a disease and is erradicated by mandatory medical procedures. PW says, “Oliver’s nightmare future lacks a visceral punch, primarily because of the weakness of the world-building. Her America has undergone a seismic shift, but the economic, religious, and cultural ramifications are all but ignored.”

Silverlicious by Victoria Kann (HarperCollins) continues the Pinkalicious children’s book series. PW says, “ungrateful Pinkalicious eventually learns that real sweetness comes from inside, but readers may wonder why it takes so long for the heroine to change her tune.”

Also Worth Watching

Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino (Minotaur)  is the U.S. debut of one of Japan’s bestselling crime novelists, about a woman who kills her abusive ex-husband, and hides the body with her neighbor, while seeking the ultimate logical alibi. The Wall St. Journal says, “Whether it amounts to math, philosophy, psychology or cosmology, The Devotion of Suspect X is an elegant literary experiment. It suggests, among much else, that a lot of bad behavior is forgiven in the name of genius—and then even a genius can push the envelope just so far before it breaks.”

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas (HarperCollins) is a debut novel about a child prodigy in 19th century Turkey who has a profound effect on itspolitical and cultural leaders. Baker & Taylor included it in its Galley Mailing for November, and librarians are giving it enthusiastic early reads. LJ says “first novel by a promising young writer is both vivid historical fiction and a haunting fable. It will appeal to a wide range of readers.”

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale (Twelve) is the fictional memoir of a talking, reading chimpanzee held for murder, who goes on the lam with a woman who becomes his lover. It was highlighted at the BEA Editors Buzz Panel by Associate Publisher Cary Goldstein. And despite the questionable premise, it gets an enthusiastic review in New York Newsday, which calls it “one rollicking story. Adventure tale, love story, science fiction, novel of ideas – this one’s got it all.”

Prayers and Lies by Sherri Wood Emmons (Kensington) is a debut novel about two young girls and a family secret, set in the Coal River Valley of West Virginia. LJ says it’s “a bit like a West Virginia version of the 1998 Todd Solondz film “Happiness”—technically good, but everyone will need a quick jolt of antidepressants afterward. Readable, but only for those with a penchant for realistic, dark stories.”

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