Adult Fiction,  book stack

8 Must-Read New Books Out on 03 January

New books hit the shelves pretty much every week, but some weeks seem to be bigger than others. Over the past few months as I’ve started to have an eye on new releases for January 2024, I noticed more than a few titles I’m super keen for were coming out on 3 January. I thought I’d share them here in case you’re looking for some summer beach reads, or perhaps have gift voucher to use at your favourite local bookshop. Check out my list below of 8 new books I’m excited to see released next week.

Love, Just In by Natalie Murray

Sydney TV news reporter Josie Larsen is approaching thirty and coming dangerously close to failing at life. Lost in a vortex of other people’s career milestones, engagement parties and baby showers, Josie is perennially single, abandoned by her globetrotting family, and invisible to her boss – except for the one time he tuned in while she was mid-panic-attack on live TV. As punishment, Josie is shipped off to cover another reporter’s six-month leave at a regional bureau in Newcastle.

But Josie has more waiting for her in Newcastle than yawn-inducing stories about bicycle lane protests. The city is also the domain of Zac Jameson – her best friend since high school. This should be a happy turn of events, but Zac has barely spoken to Josie for the past two years. Not since a tragic event caused him to leave Sydney to try and cope with his grief.

Now thrown back into each other’s lives, Josie and Zac have to navigate their neglected friendship and secret attraction to each other while struggling with their careers and mental health.

This is a sweet and beachy, friends to lovers contemporary romance perfect for reading at the beach.

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Not Here to Make Friends by Jodi McAlister

Reality TV producer Murray O’Connell is the showrunner for reality dating show Marry Me, Juliet, and that means he’s the boss: he controls the cast, the crew and the story. Until Lily Fireball turns up.

Lily is everything viewers love to watch: she’s feisty, dramatic, and never backs down from a fight. Her villain narrative should be easy to pull off, but Murray keeps getting in her way. Because before she was Lily Fireball, she was Lily Ong – Murray’s best friend, and he’s determined to stop her blowing up her life on television.

As the season unfolds, Lily and Murray go head to head. Lily just wants to have some fun with her role, and Murray just wants to film the show he planned. Why won’t she listen to him? And why can’t Murray focus on the job, instead of the woman he thought was just a friend?

Not Here to Make Friends is the third and final (sad face) book in Jodi McAlister’s Marry Me Juliet series. I adored all three of the book in this series. McAlister is an academic specialising in the representation of love in popular culture and fiction, and is the queen of Bachelor/ette recaps in Australia, and she absolutely nails this behind the scenes look at romance reality tv. While you could read these books as standalones, I really think the way McAlister has built the story from the first book to the third is so perfect that I recommend reading them through in order (you can thank me later.) You can read my reviews of Here for the Right Reasons here and Can I Steal you for a Second here.

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Sisters of Sword and Shadow by Laura Bates

Destined for an arranged marriage, Cass dreams of freedom. So when a fierce and beautiful leather‑clad woman rides up and offers to take her away, Cass doesn’t hesitate to join her.

She is introduced to the Sisters of Sword and Shadow – a group of female knights training to fight, protect their community and right the wrongs of men.

Drawn into a world of ancient feuds, glorious battles, and deadly intrigue, Cass soon discovers she holds a power that could change not only her own fate but that of her entire sisterhood.

I devoured this fierce and feminist Arthurian fantasy novel in a little over 24 hours. It’s the perfect read for anyone wanting a YA adventure in a world populated with strong female characters, and I was so thrilled to find out it’s the first book in a duology – I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters!

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Sidelines by Karen Viggers

When a violent brawl erupts at a suburban junior soccer game, some onlookers are shocked. But others saw it coming. Rivalry, parental pressure, coaching bias, inequity, and many other factors have played a part in turning Saturday mornings into a pressure cooker.

Thirteen-year-old Audrey is a talented young football player. But does she want to play for Australia or does she just want to please her father, Ben, whose own thwarted sporting career looms large in his ambitions for his daughter? Audrey’s mother, Jonica, doesn’t know whether to be more concerned about her anxious daughter, her overbearing husband, or the only other girl on the team, Katerina, who is causing trouble on and off the field. And Katerina’s mother, Carmen, is so busy looking for opportunities to give Katerina more game time that she fails to notice what is really capturing her daughter’s attention. 

When Griffin, a naturally gifted player with spectacular skills, arrives, the tension within the team reaches boiling point. But who is going to crack first – the parents or the players?

I’ve had my eye on this newest novel from Canberra author Karen Viggers since it was announced, and it didn’t disappoint. I’ll have more to say in my full review, but for now I just have to tell you I could not put this one down (I read the entire thing in a day!) I was all in on this story and loved the use of different points of view as the story unfolded – I felt like I was on everyone’s side and feeling all of their feelings!
You can see my review of Viggers’ previous novel, The Orchardist’s Daughter, here.

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The Porcelain Maker by Sarah Freethy

Germany, 1929.
When Max, a Jewish architect, and Bettina, a beautiful and celebrated German avant-garde artist, meet at a party their attraction is instant. In love with each other and the art they create, their talent transports them to the dazzling lights of Berlin. But Germany is on the brink of terrible change, and their bright beginning is soon dimmed by the rising threat of Nazism.

When Max is arrested and sent to the Dachau concentration camp, it is only his talent at making the exquisite porcelain figures so beloved by the Nazis that stands between him and certain death. At first, Bettina has no idea where Max has been taken but when she learns of his fate, she is determined to rescue him whatever the cost.

Now, a lifetime later, Bettina’s daughter, Clara, sets out on a journey to uncover the truth about her identity. As she weaves together the fabric of her past, she discovers the terrible secret her mother wanted hidden forever.

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Heart of the River by Cheryl Adnams

Mildura, Northern Victoria – 1956

Isabel Hayward has ambitions of being a great chef. But cooking for the locals at the country pub she and her mother run doesn’t really allow for experimenting with haute cuisine.

When she meets local Italian farmer Matteo Sorrenti, their connection is instant and intense – much to the displeasure of Ross Burrows, one of the region’s wealthiest sons, who has been keen on Isabel since they were kids.

Isabel and Matteo’s blossoming relationship has challenges to overcome: their cultural differences, prejudice, Ross’s jealousy, and the worst flood in Australia’s history.

As the Murray River rises to its peak, threatening the Sorrentis’ farm and the Haywards’ pub, secrets are revealed that show Matteo, Isabel and Ross are inextricably linked by their fathers’ wartime experiences. Will the secrets their fathers kept threaten Isabel and Matteo’s relationship? Or can their love break down the remnants of prejudice left behind by the war?

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It’s Probably You by Jayne Denker

Gillian has been happily single for several years and, after trying a few dating apps, prefers to stay that way. Navigating her way through dates with fat-shamers and lacklustre men has left her with no desire to do anything other than spend time in her garden. Who needs rude comments and awkward first dates when soft roses and vibrant tulips are so much better?

Then Noah moves in next door. Moody, grumpy and way too opinionated, her new neighbour threatens to turn her peaceful sanctuary into a war zone. But with a gardening contest fast approaching, Gillian needs to keep her eye on the prize – and cultivate her happy place on her own terms.

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The Blue Gum Camp by Léonie Kelsall

Charity Farrugia is too sensible to believe she’ll find love in a paddock.

After all, at thirty-four, she’s the responsible one with the secure career and the mortgage. The one who raised her two sisters when their mother got sick. The cautious one with strong reservations about Faith and Hope spending a weekend in the country at a Bachelors and Spinsters Ball.

Lachlan MacKenzie might be divorced, but his cheating ex isn’t why he avoids dating—only his brother Hamish knows that secret. But keeping an eye out for Hamish has become part of Lachlan’s life, so he reluctantly permits himself to be dragged to the local B&S.

Charity has no intention of allowing her chaperone duties to be side-tracked. But meeting the intriguing farmer—who seems as reluctant as her to be at the B&S—might be an opportunity to prove to her sisters that she does have a wild side after all.

But will she discover that what happens in the country sometimes refuses to stay in the country?

Léonie Kelsall is one of my absolute favourite writers of Australian rural romance, and I was so excited to see that she had a new novel coming out again already! I haven’t read The Blue Gum Camp yet, but you can see me reviews of some of her previous novels here:
The Wattle Seed Inn
The Farm at Peppertree Crossing

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Not only do these all sound like fabulous reads, but you might also notice that most of them are by Australian authors, so there is plenty to choose from if you’re an Aussie looking to keep your summer reading local! At the time of me posting this I’ve read 4 of them already, so keep an eye out for my full reviews, and I’ll be picking up the others as soon as I can manage too.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any of these on your radar too, or there are other books out in January that you are looking forward to.

xo Bron

Big thanks as always to the publishers for sending through early copies of these titles for my enjoyment and consideration for review!

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