Best New Books: Week of 11/14/17


Written in Blood by  Layton Green

written in bloodDetective Joe “Preach” Everson, a prison chaplain turned police officer, is coming home. After a decade tracking down killers in Atlanta, and with a reputation as one of the finest homicide detectives in the city, his career derailed when he suffered a mental breakdown during the investigation of a serial killer who was targeting children.

No sooner does Preach arrive at home in Creekville, North Carolina–a bohemian community near Chapel Hill–than a local bookstore owner is brutally killed, the first murder in a decade. The only officer with homicide experience, Preach is assigned to the case and makes a shocking discovery: the bookstore owner has been murdered in exactly the same manner as the pawnbroker in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

With the help of Ariana Hale, a law student and bibliophile who knew the victim, Preach investigates the local writer’s community. As their questions increase, a second body is found, this time eerily resembling the crime scene in a famous Edgar Allan Poe novella. Preach and Ariana realize that their adversary is an intelligent, literate killer with a mind as devious as it is disturbed–and one or both of them may be his next target.

Description from Goodreads.

MysteryPeople bookstore Pick of the Month

“Green’s gripping police procedural introduces a conflicted detective who doubts himself at times. His fast-paced story, with its flawed protagonist, literary allusions, and unexpected turns, should attract Karin Slaughter’s fans.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A dark, small-town procedural with an unusual and engaging premise.” – Booklist

“Engrossing…a satisfying page-turner for readers who appreciate literary references and existential questions with their corpses.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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The Liar in the Library by  Simon Brett

The Liar in the LibraryWhen an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery.

Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death.

More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbor Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Description from Goodreads.

“Readers fond of wry, offhand wit will be rewarded.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Heaven’s Crooked Finger by  Hank Early

heavens crooked fingerEarl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamental rule of his father RJ’s church–a church built on fear, penance, and the twisting, writhing mass of snakes. But then an ominous photo of RJ is delivered to Earl’s home. The photograph is dated long after his father’s burial, and there’s no doubt that the man in the picture is very much alive.

As Earl returns to Church of the Holy Flame searching for the truth, faithful followers insist that his father has risen to a holy place high in the mountains. Nobody will talk about the teenage girls who go missing, only to return with strange tattoo-like marks on their skin. Rumors swirl about an old well that sits atop one of the mountains, a place of unimaginable power and secrets. Earl doesn’t know what to believe, but he has long been haunted by his father, forever lurking in the shadows of his life. Desperate to leave his sinful Holy Flame childhood in the past, Earl digs up deeply buried secrets to discover the truth before time runs out and he’s the one put underground in Heaven’s Crooked Finger.

Description from Goodreads.

“You won’t put down this powerful and painful tale…a gripping mystery.” – Kirkus, Starred Review

“A skillfully crafted southern gothic page-turner. Ophidiophobes, beware.” – Booklist

“Atmospheric…Readers with a taste for raw, intense mysteries will be rewarded.” – Publishers Weekly

“Gritty and riveting…Distinct pacing, a redolent sense of place, and striking characters. The mystery is suspenseful and action packed. Fans of James Lee Burke and John Hart will want to take note.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

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The Boyfriend Swap by  Meredith Schorr

boyfriend swapIs Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.

Description from Goodreads.

“…the author manages to easily reel readers in from the start, especially with quintessential girl-next-door Robyn and chivalrous lawyer Will. Pieces of the puzzle are thoroughly and appealingly mixed up in this well-paced tale, and younger readers and fans of sweet romance will appreciate that the action on the page is limited to innocent kissing.” – Publishers Weekly

“With a premise that rivals the best film rom-coms, The Boyfriend Swap is filled with romance, humor and heart — a delight from beginning to end. Meredith Schorr delivers chick lit gold!” – Jamie Brenner, USA Today bestselling author of The Forever Summer

Available Formats:

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Future Home of the Living God by  Louise Erdich

future home of the living godThe world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Thirty-two-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

Description from Goodreads.

“A dazzling work of dystopian fiction a la Handmaid’s Tale.” – Real Simple

“Masterful…a breakout work of speculative fiction…Erdrich enters the realm of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale…A tornadic, suspenseful, profoundly provoking novel of life’s vulnerability and insistence…with a bold apocalyptic theme, searing social critique, and high-adrenaline action.” – Booklist, Starred Review

“Dreamlike, suspenseful…this novel is bracing, humane, dedicated to witnessing the plight of women in a cruel universe, and full of profound spiritual questions and observations. Like some of Erdrich’s earlier work, it shifts adroitly in time and has a thoughtful, almost mournful insight into life on a Native reservation…There is much to rue in this novel about our world but also hope for salvation.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Available Formats:

Print Book / CD Audiobook / Playaway / Ebook

Artemis by  Andy Weir

artemisJazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

Description from Goodreads.

Everything you could hope for in a follow-up to The Martian: another smart, fun, fast-paced adventure that you won’t be able to put down.” – Ernest Cline, New York Times bestselling author of Ready Player One

“Narrated by a kick-ass leading lady, this thriller has it all – a smart plot, laugh-out-loud funny moments, and really cool science.”  – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A superior near-future thriller…with a healthy dose of humor.”  – Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Available Formats:

Print Book / CD Audiobook / Playaway / Ebook


The Newcomers: Learning a New Language and Making a New Home in a Place Called America by  Helen Thorpe

newcomersFrom an award-winning, “meticulously observant” (The New Yorker) writer comes a powerful and moving account of how refugee teenagers at a Denver public high school learn English and become Americans.

The Newcomers follows the lives of twenty-two immigrant teenagers throughout the course of the 2015-2016 school year as they land at South High School in Denver, Colorado, in an English Language Acquisition class created specifically for them. Speaking no English, unfamiliar with American culture, their stories are poignant and remarkable as they face the enormous challenge of adapting. These newcomers, from fourteen to nineteen years old, come from nations convulsed by drought or famine or war. Many come directly from refugee camps, after experiencing dire forms of cataclysm. Some arrive alone, having left or lost every other member of their original family.

At the center of The Newcomers is Mr. Williams, the dedicated and endlessly resourceful teacher of South’s very beginner English Language Acquisition class. If Mr. Williams does his job right, the newcomers will leave his class at the end of the school year with basic English skills and new confidence, their foundation for becoming Americans and finding a place in their new home.

With the US at a political crossroads around questions of immigration, multiculturalism, and America’s role on the global stage, Helen Thorpe presents a fresh and nuanced perspective.The Newcomers is a transformative take on these timely, important issues.

Description from Goodreads.

“Extraordinary. . . . The Newcomers puts a human face on the refugee question. The book is a journalistic triumph. Thorpe . . . pens a masterful book that lets readers see the humanity instead of the facts and figures and politics of the immigration debate.”  – The Denver Post

“Helen Thorpe has taken policy and turned it into literature.” – Malcolm Gladwell

“Meticulously researched, thoughtful and timely, The Newcomers provides a vital and joyous window into the lives of teenagers searching for a new home in the U.S., and asks important questions about Americans’ willingness to welcome the stranger.”  – Shelf Awareness

“Thorpe provides a layered portrait of the students and explains the daunting refugee crisis in America and elsewhere . . . . [and] puts an agonizing human face on a vast global problem.”  – Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Available Formats:

Print Book

It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by  A.J. Jacobs

it's all relativeNew York Times bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs undergoes a hilarious, heartfelt quest to understand what constitutes family—where it begins and how far it goes—and attempts to untangle the true meaning of the “Family of Humankind.”

A.J. Jacobs has received some strange emails over the years, but this note was perhaps the strangest: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in our database.”

That’s enough family members to fill Madison Square Garden four times over. Who are these people, A.J. wondered, and how do I find them? So began Jacobs’s three-year adventure to help build the biggest family tree in history.

Jacobs’s journey would take him to all seven continents. He drank beer with a US president, found himself singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and unearthed genetic links to Hollywood actresses and real-life scoundrels. After all, we can choose our friends, but not our family.

“Whether he’s posing as a celebrity, outsourcing his chores, or adhering strictly to the Bible, we love reading about the wacky lifestyle experiments of author A.J. Jacobs” (Entertainment Weekly). Now Jacobs upends, in ways both meaningful and hilarious, our understanding of genetics and genealogy, tradition and tribalism, identity and connection. It’s All Relative is a fascinating look at the bonds that connect us all.

Description from Goodreads.

“Esquire contributing editor Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically) muses on the nature of family and the interconnectedness of humanity in this entertaining introduction to the world of genealogy…With short, lively chapters and an easygoing voice, Jacobs keeps the story flowing.” – Publishers Weekly

“Whether the author is being ruminative or rollicking, he is consistently thought-provoking in his “adventure in helping to build the World Family Tree,” and his natural gift for humor lightens the mood of even the most serious discussion. A delightful, easy-to-read, informative book.” – Kirkus, Starred Review

“Whimsical but also full of solid journalism and eye-opening revelations about the history of humanity, the book is a real treat.” – Booklist, Starred Review

“A.J. Jacobs’ latest book embraces an entertaining and heartwarming search to discover “Family”. His adventure is the natural curiosity in all of us to know where we are from. This book takes you along for the ride as A.J. discovers his family, and works to connect with all of us. His efforts culminate at the world’s largest Global family reunion. The reader if not already a family historian, will become one after reading this fascinating and amazing tale.” – David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist, New England Historic Genealogical Society

Available Formats:

Print Book

The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth by  Elizabeth Tasker

planet factoryTwenty years ago, the search for planets outside the Solar System was a job restricted to science-fiction writers. Now it’s one of the fastest-growing fields in astronomy with thousands of exoplanets discovered to date.

These new worlds are more alien than anything in fiction. Planets larger than Jupiter with years lasting one week, planets circling the dead remains of stars, others with two suns lighting their skies or with no sun at all. These locations hint at Earth-sized worlds but with split hemispheres of perpetual day and night, waterworlds drowning under global oceans and volcanic lava planets spewing seas of magma.

The Planet Factory tells the story of these exoplanets. The specks of dust that circle a young star come together in a violent building project that can form colossal worlds hundreds of times the size of the Earth. The changing orbits of young planets risk dooming the life forming on neighboring worlds or alternatively, can deliver the key ingredients needed to seed its beginnings. It is one of the greatest construction schemes in the Universe and it occurred around nearly every star you see. Each result is an alien landscape, but is it possible that one of these could be like our own home?

Description from Goodreads.

“An irresistible subject, and readers will find Tasker’s richly detailed account entirely satisfactory.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Tasker entertains as she engagingly expounds on the menagerie of exoplanets, both basic and bizarre.” – Publishers Weekly

“Detailed yet accessible and cheerful, and based on the latest findings, Tasker’s made-for-science-geeks narrative presents the nearly limitless configurations and compositions of stars, planets, and moons.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book

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