In search of something good to read? USA TODAY's Barbara VanDenburgh scopes out the shelves for this week’s hottest new book releases.
1. “Almost Just Friends,” by Jill Shalvis (William Morrow, fiction, on sale Jan. 21)
What it’s about: After her parents died, tough-as-nails Piper Manning raised her younger siblings, who are now all grown. Now, at 30, she’s ready to sell the house and move on to live life on her own terms. But a fling with a charming Drug Enforcement Administration agent with his own trauma threatens to upend her plans.
The buzz: “Shalvis will immediately grab the reader’s attention with a strong heroine and caring connection between two wounded souls," says Publishers Weekly.
2. “A Long Petal of the Sea,” by Isabel Allende (Ballantine, fiction, on sale Jan. 21)
What it’s about: The best-selling author of “The House of Spirits” returns with a historical epic spanning decades and continents. Roser, a pregnant young widow, and her dead love’s brother, Victor, are forced into an unwanted marriage as they flee the Spanish Civil War to start a new life in South America.
The buzz: “This decades-spanning drama is readable and engrossing throughout,” says Kirkus Reviews.
3. “The Blaze,” by Chad Dundas (G.P. Putnam's Sons, fiction, on sale Jan. 21)
What it’s about: Matthew Rose, a combat vet who lost his memory to an IED in Iraq, returns to his Montana hometown after his estranged father’s suicide. A fire and a death spark a memory, and Matthew will have to confront his forgotten past to resolve long-unsolved mysteries.
The buzz: “The plot soars with each believable twist and realistic characters worth rooting for,” says a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
4. “The Majesties,” by Tiffany Tsao (Atria Books, fiction, on sale Jan. 21)
What it’s about: Gwendolyn is the sole survivor after her sister, Estella, poisons everyone in their rich Chinese-Indonesian family. Now in a coma, Gwendolyn’s restless mind tries to make sense of the mass murder, digging deep into the darkness and dysfunction of extreme wealth.
The buzz: “This is a bold and dramatic portrayal of characters on the cusp of an impossible choice between complicit self-preservation and total annihilation,” says Publishers Weekly.
5. “Processed Cheese,” by Stephen Wright (Little, Brown and Co., fiction, on sale Jan. 21)
What it’s about: A couple comes into some money when a bag of cash literally drops from the sky. The couple goes on a spending spree, buying all the things they ever thought would bring them happiness. But the owner of the bag wants it back, and the result is a wry satire of a money-obsessed society.
The buzz: “This dark, harrowing, and wildly funny novel somehow both challenges and affirms that tried-and-true adage: Money isn’t everything,” says a starred review in Kirkus Reviews.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 5 new books: Isabel Allende, 'Almost Just Friends' by Jill Shalvis