This is how I’ll survive another harsh Cleveland winter: lots of fires, lots of books. Here are a few I’m looking forward to next month.

 

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

In the coldest, most miserable part of the winter when the snow never stops and it feels like the sun will never warm my face again, I like to build a roaring fire, snuggle under a blanket, and watch classic Old Hollywood beauties. It helps me remember that life is short, winter is shorter, and the sun will shine again. So maybe the only thing better than being transported to another time and place for two hours is snuggling up with re-creations of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard for an entire audiobook. In A Touch of Stardust, Kate Alcott (of The Dressmaker and The Daring Ladies of Lowell fame) takes us behind the scenes of the tumultuous filming of Gone with the Wind. Zeroing in on the controversial but widely acknowledged relationship between still-married leading man Clark Gable and profane, free-spirited Carole Lombard, Alcott gives us all the romance and drama of a Hollywood couple at the peak of their careers, the filming of an iconic film fraught with setbacks, and enough details of Old Hollywood to make New Hollywood seem almost sane.

Audio published by Random House Audio. Available 2/17/2015.

 

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

Sometimes we like authors for reasons having nothing to do with their work. For example, I like Rachel Joyce because she’s a mum of four who didn’t publish her first novel until she was in her 40s, which is so refreshing in this age of “30 under 30” lists and our cultural obsession with achieving great heights of success at the youngest age possible. (What I’m saying is she makes me feel better about my own unfinished novel languishing next to the diapers and preschool artwork at home.) And what a first novel it was! An international bestseller, long-listed for the Man Booker, and named one of The Washington Post’s Best Books of the Year, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry won the hearts of critics and readers alike. Now we get the parallel story of Queenie Hennessy, the old friend whose letter sent Harold Fry on his journey. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy promises to delight both old and new fans with Joyce’s tender, emotional story and pitch-perfect writing. The only thing left to ask is when can we expect movie news?!

Audio published by Random House Audio. Available 2/24/2015.

 

Dove Arising by Karen Bao

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the comforting, real-life success story of Rachel Joyce, is Karen Bao, a 19-year-old environmental biology student whose debut novel Dove Arising is generating lots of buzz. I’d be tempted to sneer dismissively at her out of a misplaced sense of envy for her youth and success if it weren’t for the fact that her book sounds so darn compelling. After years of YA science fiction being overrun with dystopian futures and vampires/werewolves/zombies/mythical-creature-of-the-week, I’m so excited for the youth of America to have a shot at reading a new novel that takes after the classic sci-fi of Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. A lunar colony, a shady government, attacks by desperate Earth-dwellers … and that cover! *swoon*

Audio published by Random House Audio. Available 2/24/2015.

 

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Gayle Forman took the world by storm with If I Stay and now readers can’t get enough. I Was Here should feed fans’ need for more of her realistic, heart-felt stories. Focusing on a teenager’s struggle to make sense of her best friend’s suicide and piece together the last months of her friend’s life, Forman explores survivor’s guilt, grief, and love with an authenticity that teens will clamor for.

Audio published by Random House Audio. Available 2/2/2015.

 

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

With three starred reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and The Horn Book), Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s newest historical novel is likely to appear on award lists. Set in World War II England, The War that Saved My Life tells a story of the London evacuation of children during the Blitz but it’s not the story you might expect. Rather than focusing on the tumult that forced the evacuation, or a story of children missing their parents, Bradley gives us Ada, a 9-year-old girl abused both physically and emotionally by her mother, who has never been allowed to leave their flat before because of the humiliation her club foot brings to her mother. When plans are made for her brother to evacuate to the countryside, Ada escapes with him and finally has a chance at life, learning to read, ride a pony, and to love. Rather than the focus of the story, Bradley’s vivid historical details form the backdrop, reminding us that even in the midst of historical events of terrible import, real lives are lived and war is a piece of life, not the whole life. Readers young and old will cheer for Ada’s triumphs and ache for her heartbreaks.

Audio published by Random House Audio. Available 2/2/2015.