Best New Books: Week of 4/23/2019

We have reached the time of year when it’s just the right temperature to sit down in an Adirondack chair outside and enjoy a great book, something I look forward to doing every chance I get. As usual, there is no shortage of titles to choose from ranging from a pair of World War II histories to some alternate reality sci-fi, and everything in between. So check out the list below and see if you can’t find your next favorite book!



FICTION



Machines Like Me by  Ian McEwan

machines like meMachines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma.

Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.

Description from Goodreads.

“[McEwan] is not only one of the most elegant writers alive, he is one of the most astute at crafting moral dilemmas within the drama of everyday life. Half a century ago, Philip K. Dick asked, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,’ and now McEwan is sure those androids are pulling the wool over our eyes. McEwan’s special contribution is not to articulate the challenge of robots but to cleverly embed that challenge in the lives of two people trying to find a way to exist with purpose. That human drama makes Machines Like Me strikingly relevant even though it’s set in a world that never happened almost 40 years ago.” – Washington Post

“Witty and humane . . . a retrofuturist family drama that doubles as a cautionary fable about artificial intelligence, consent, and justice.” – The New Yorker

“Reminds you of [McEwan’s] mastery of the underrated craft of storytelling. The narrative is propulsive, thanks to our uncertainties about the characters’ motives, the turning points that suddenly reconfigure our understanding of the plot, and the figure of Adam, whose ambiguous energy is both mysteriously human and mysteriously not . . . Morally complex and very disturbing, animated by a spirit of sinister and intelligent mischief that feels unique to its author.” – The Guardian

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook


The Mother-in-Law by  Sally Hepworth

mother-in-lawSomeone once told me that you have two families in your life – the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don’t choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they’ll never have the closeness she’d been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something…

From the bestselling author of The Family Next Door comes a new page-turner about that trickiest of relationships.

Description from Goodreads.

“A masterful depiction of how much is said in the silences…a winner for fans of Liane Moriarty and Megan Abbott.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Behold: the book that’ll make your subway ride an actual enjoyable experience! This suspenseful thriller is impossible to put down.” – Cosmopolitan

“Hepworth’s short, punchy chapters keep the pages quickly turning while effortlessly deepening her characters. Readers will race to the end of this clever novel to find the truth.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook


Like Lions by  Brian Panowich

like lionsClayton Burroughs is a small-town Georgia sheriff, a new father, and, improbably, the heir apparent of Bull Mountain’s most notorious criminal family.

As he tries to juggle fatherhood, his job and his recovery from being shot in the confrontation that killed his two criminally-inclined brothers last year, he’s doing all he can just to survive. Yet after years of carefully toeing the line between his life in law enforcement and his family, he finally has to make a choice.

When a rival organization makes a first foray into Burroughs’ territory, leaving a trail of bodies and a whiff of fear in its wake, Clayton is pulled back into the life he so desperately wants to leave behind. Revenge is a powerful force, and the vacuum left by his brothers’ deaths has left them all vulnerable. With his wife and child in danger, and the way of life in Bull Mountain under siege for everyone, Clayton will need to find a way to bury the bloody legacy of his past once and for all.

Description from Goodreads.

“Excellent . . . It’s the emotional complexity of Burroughs . . . as well as the brass knuckle punch of an ending that will have readers applauding. This is hillbilly noir at its finest.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Panowich is a terrific storyteller with a way with words . . . Fine country noir.” – Booklist

“Panowich salts his tale with evocative detail… Action and reflection are skillfully balanced in a vigorously written, trenchant tale.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

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SUSPENSE



I Know Who You Are by  Alice Feeney

i know who you areI Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress.

The next morning she goes for her morning run and then goes to her favorite coffee shop. But her card is denied. When she calls the bank they say her account has been emptied of $10,000. She immediately suspects her husband. But they say no, it was Aimee herself who closed out the account. And thus begins a bizarre rabbit hole into which Aimee finds herself falling where nothing is at it seems.

Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who wandered away from home. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers or bad things will happen. Well, bad things happen.

In I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney proves that she is a master at brilliantly complicated plots and twists after twists.

Description from Goodreads.

“Feeney is quickly establishing herself as a luminary of psychological thrillers, a reputation this novel is sure to bolster. This is suspense as it was meant to be written.” – CrimeReads

“…shock-filled… Fans of over-the-top psychological thrillers will be satisfied.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook



MYSTERY



The Missing Corpse by  Jean-Luc Bannalec

missing corpseAlong the picturesque Belon River, home of the world famous oyster beds, between steep cliffs, ominous forests and the Atlantic Ocean, a stubborn elderly film actress discovers a corpse. By the time Commissaire Dupin arrives at the scene, the body has disappeared. A little while later, he receives a phone call from the mystical hills of Monts d’Arree, where legends of fairies and the devil abound: another unidentified body has turned up. Dupin quickly realizes this may be his most difficult and confounding case yet, with links to celtic myths, a sand theft operation, and mysterious ancient druid cults.

Description from Goodreads.

“Delicious Brittany mysteries… If this isn’t heaven, it’s close enough.” – New York Times

“The usual food obsessions and Parisian fish-out-of-water tropes become more amusing with each installment, making Dupin something of a contemporary provincial Poirot.” – Publishers Weekly

“Bannalec offers a tidy puzzle and offbeat characters galore, but as usual, it’s Brittany itself that’s the star of the show.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

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HISTORICAL FICTION



Courting Mr. Lincoln by  Louis Bayard

courting mr lincolnWhen Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one’s shortlist to be president. Rough and reticent, he’s a country lawyer lacking money and manners, living above a dry goods shop, but with a gift for oratory. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with a tireless interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. “I can only hope,” she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, “that his waters being so very still, they also run deep.”

It’s not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: a man who, despite his awkwardness, is amiable and profound, with a gentle wit to match his genius and a respect for her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.

Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and rich with historical detail, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents.

Louis Bayard, a master storyteller at the height of his powers, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities.
 

Description from Goodreads.

“Bayard’s masterful command of language enchants and thrills; his meticulous, almost otherworldly, understanding of his historical subject awes and inspires . . . Courting Mr. Lincoln is Bayard at his absolute best. He offers more reasons to love one of the most admired presidents in U.S. history and proves yet again why he himself is one of the nation’s greatest literary gems.” – Shelf Awareness

“Thoroughly researched and thrillingly plotted . . . Filled with rich historical detail and compulsively readable, Courting Mr. Lincoln is a story of a best friend, a future wife, and the political legend that they came together to create, each leaving an indelible mark on the man that would one day become president. Fans of historical fiction will be up late into the night to uncover the next chapter of this fascinating time in history.” – New York Journal of Books

“Delightful . . . Readers will delight in Joshua and Mary, who provide unique reflections on a man who is deeply troubled about the path his country is on . . .This charming love story delicately reveals the emotional roller coaster of two inexperienced adults traversing the unknown realm of love while trying to meet the demands and expectations of society.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Wunderland by  Jennifer Cody Epstein

wunderlandEast Village, 1989
Things had never been easy between Ava Fisher and her estranged mother Ilse. Too many questions hovered between them: Who was Ava’s father? Where had Ilse been during the war? Why had she left her only child in a German orphanage during the war’s final months? But now Ilse’s ashes have arrived from Germany, and with them, a trove of unsent letters addressed to someone else unknown to Ava: Renate Bauer, a childhood friend. As her mother’s letters unfurl a dark past, Ava spirals deep into the shocking history of a woman she never truly knew.

Berlin, 1933
As the Nazi party tightens its grip on the city, Ilse and Renate find their friendship under siege–and Ilse’s increasing involvement in the Hitler Youth movement leaves them on opposing sides of the gathering storm. Then the Nuremburg Laws force Renate to confront a long-buried past, and a catastrophic betrayal is set in motion…

An unflinching exploration of Nazi Germany and its legacy, Wunderland is at once a powerful portrait of an unspeakable crime history and a page-turning contemplation of womanhood, wartime, and just how far we might go in order to belong.

Description from Goodreads.

“Epstein’s heartbreaking historical tour de force juxtaposes Nazi-era Germany and 1980s New York City to devastating effect. … Man’s inhumanity to man—and the redemptive power of forgiveness—is on stark and effective display in Epstein’s gripping novel, a devastating tale bound for bestseller lists.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A vividly written and stark chronicle of Nazism and its legacies.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
 
“[An] absorbing exploration of friendship, betrayal, and coming to terms with the past.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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HORROR



The Pandora Room by  Christopher Golden

pandora roomIn one ancient variation on the myth of Pandora’s Box, there were two jars, one for Pandora and one for her sister, Anesidora. One contained all the blessings of the gods, the other all the world’s curses. Now, in a subterranean city in Northern Iraq, archaeologist Sophie Durand has discovered a secret chamber covered in writing that confirms that version of the tale–a chamber which contains a single jar.

“Weird shit” expert Ben Walker joins Sophie’s team just as the mystery deepens and grows ugly. Those who believe the myth want to know which jar has been found in the Pandora Room, the one containing blessings, or the one full of curses. Governments rush to lay claim, but jihadi forces aren’t waiting for the dust to settle. Whatever the jar contains, they want it, no matter who they have to kill…or what will emerge when they open it. For Sophie, Walker, and the others, the Pandora Room may soon become their tomb.

Description from Goodreads.

“One of the best novels of the year.” – Cemetary Dance

“Solid prose and well-developed characters… Preston and Child fans will clamor for more of Walker.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] thrill ride of a story where you don’t know who will live or die…” – Red Carpet Crash

Available Formats:

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NONFICTION



The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by  Melinda Gates

moment of liftFor the last twenty years, Melinda Gates has been on a mission. Her goal, as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, one thing has become increasingly clear to her: If you want to lift a society up, invest in women.

In this candid and inspiring book, Gates traces her awakening to the link between women’s empowerment and the health of societies. She shows some of the tremendous opportunities that exist right now to “turbo-charge” change. And she provides simple and effective ways each one of us can make a difference.

Convinced that all women should be free to decide whether and when to have children, Gates took her first step onto the global stage to make a stand for family planning. That step launched her into further efforts: to ensure women everywhere have access to every kind of job; to encourage men around the globe to share equally in the burdens of household work; to advocate for paid family leave for everyone; to eliminate gender bias in all its forms.

Throughout, Gates introduces us to her heroes in the movement towards equality, offers startling data, shares moving conversations she’s had with women from all over the world—and shows how we can all get involved.

A personal statement of passionate conviction, this book tells of Gates’ journey from a partner working behind the scenes to one of the world’s foremost advocates for women, driven by the belief that no one should be excluded, all lives have equal value, and gender equity is the lever that lifts everything.

Description from Goodreads.

“An inspirational look at the need to empower women to make change in the world.” – Washington Post

“At a time when beneficial globalization is being threatened by nationalism, and women’s rights are in danger of being rolled back to nineteenth-century norms, Gates offers urgent reminders of why it’s necessary to help women everywhere achieve their full potential.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Part memoir, part call to action, Gates’s compassionate narrative underscores her determination to leave a positive mark on this world. She inspires and emboldens in this eloquently argued work.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by  Anna Quindlen

nanavilleIt’s a little challenging to suss out why exactly it can be so magical. . . . All I know is: The hand. The little hand that takes yours, small and soft as feathers. I’m happy our grandson does not yet have sophisticated language or a working knowledge of personal finance, because if he took my hand and said, “Nana, can you sign your 401(k) over to me,” I can imagine myself thinking, well, I don’t really need a retirement fund, do I? And besides, look at those eyelashes. Or the greeting. Sometimes Arthur sees me and yells “Nana!” in the way some people might say “ice cream!” and others say “shoe sale!” No one else has sounded that happy to see me in many many years.

Before blogs even existed, Anna Quindlen became a go-to writer on the joys and challenges of family, motherhood, and modern life, in her nationally syndicated column. Now she’s taking the next step and going full Nana in the pages of this lively, beautiful, and moving book about being a grandmother. Quindlen offers thoughtful and telling observations about her new role, no longer mother and decision-maker but secondary character and support to the parents of her grandson. She writes, “Where I once led, I have to learn to follow.” Eventually a close friend provides words to live by: “Did they ask you?”

Candid, funny, frank, and illuminating, Quindlen’s singular voice has never been sharper or warmer. With the same insights she brought to motherhood in Living Out Loud and to growing older in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, this new nana uses her own experiences to illuminate those of many others.

Description from Goodreads.

“This tender book should be required reading for grandparents everywhere.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“The author imparts sensible advice with self-deprecating humor and sincere gratitude for the bounty of her life. A warmhearted memoir sure to appeal to other new grandmothers—and Quindlen’s many fans.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…wise and endearing… This heartfelt and delightful work will especially appeal to readers already living within their own versions of ‘Nanaville.'” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | Playaway | eBook


Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales by  Oliver Sacks

everything in its placeOliver Sacks, renowned scientist and storyteller, is adored by readers for his neurological case histories, his fascination and familiarity with human behaviour at its most unexpected and unfamiliar. Everything in Its Place is a celebration of Sacks’s myriad interests, all told with his characteristic compassion, erudition, and luminous prose.

From the celebrated case history of Spalding Gray that appeared in The New Yorker four months before his death to reflections on mental asylums; from piercing accounts of Schizophrenia to a reminiscence of Robin Williams; from the riveting tale of a medical colleague falling victim to Alzheimer’s to the cinematography of Michael Powell, this volume celebrates and reflects the wondrous curiosity of Oliver Sacks.

Description from Goodreads.

“Eclectic and satisfying . . . Informative and engaging . . . Sacks writes with his characteristic compassion and attention to detail. . . This final posthumous collection provides one last peek into the author’s generous, curious, and brilliant mind.” – Library Journal

“Sacks further secures his legacy with this most recent collection of his work . . . The Shakespeare of science writing might suffice, but Sacks ultimately defies comparison to bygone or even contemporary authors. As readers we can rejoice that, while cancer may have claimed his body, his voice continues to ring out.” – The Scientist

“A fitting coda to an exemplary literary and medical career, displaying the essential humanity and spaciousness of mind that his readers have long come to expect . . . with a voice, breadth of curiosity and kinship with life all his own . . . passionate . . . [and] engrossing . . . [Sacks] will be keenly missed, not only for the elegance and potency of his writing, but for his critically important championing of science in an age of science denial . . . Warm, edifying, highly personal essays.” – The Charleston Post and Courier

Available Formats:

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The Last Job: “The Bad Grandpas” and the Hatton Garden Heist by  Dan Bilefsky

last jobOver Easter weekend 2015, four roguish thieves in their sixties and seventies came out of retirement. They planned one last career-topping heist that they hoped would land them in the history books. Perhaps not the smoothest of criminals, they nevertheless walked away with a stunning haul—more than $20 million in jewels, gold, diamonds, family heirlooms, and cash.

Veteran crime reporter and former London correspondent for the New York Times Dan Bilefsky offers a gripping account of how these unassuming criminal masterminds nearly pulled off one of the great heists of the century. Drawing on unrivaled access to the leading officers on the case at the Flying Squad, the legendary Scotland Yard unit that hunted the gang, and notorious criminals from London’s shadowy underworld, Bilefsky follows the villains as they plot, execute, and attempt to evade capture in a nail-biting game of cat-and-mouse.

Description from Goodreads.

“Bilefsky hits it out of the park… With a cinematic writing style and colorful cast of characters, this book tells the story behind the players and events surrounding the 2015 Hatton Garden Heist… True crime enthusiasts will be drawn in by the magnitude of this offense, as well as its masterminds’ personality quirks, motivations, and histories.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“A raucous account… Bilefsky combines humor, pathos, and technical nitty-gritty in a clearly written procedural… A well-researched, irreverent tale of a serious yet fascinating crime and the anachronistic underworld that sparked it.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Bilefsky provides just the right amount of detail in this real-life page-turner.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Defying Hitler: The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule by  Gordon Thomas & Greg Lewis

defying hitlerNazi Germany is remembered as a nation of willing fanatics. But beneath the surface, countless ordinary, everyday Germans actively resisted Hitler. Some passed industrial secrets to Allied spies. Some forged passports to help Jews escape the Reich. For others, resistance was as simple as writing a letter denouncing the rigidity of Nazi law. No matter how small the act, the danger was the same–any display of defiance was met with arrest, interrogation, torture, and even death.

Defying Hitler follows the underground network of Germans who believed standing against the Fuhrer to be more important than their own survival. Their bravery is astonishing–a schoolgirl beheaded by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi fliers; a German American teacher who smuggled military intel to Soviet agents, becoming the only American woman executed by the Nazis; a pacifist philosopher murdered for his role in a plot against Hitler; a young idealist who joined the SS to document their crimes, only to end up, to his horror, an accomplice to the Holocaust. This remarkable account illuminates their struggles, yielding an accessible narrative history with the pace and excitement of a thriller.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] well-researched volume that drills into the darkness to examine the lives of those within Third Reich who actively defied Hitler’s orders from 1933 to 1945, chronicling the major resistance movements such as the White Rose movement and Valkyrie plots as well as lesser-known subversions within the military intelligence circles… Highly recommended for those wishing to comprehend life in Nazi Germany and what courage it took not to surrender to authority. This masterful work will best serve general audiences and historians alike.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“This carefully researched book challenges the myth that the German people were virtually unanimous in support of Hitler… Defying Hitler is filled with almost unbearable suspense and drama.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“An engrossing and accessible history of Germans who risked, and mostly lost, their lives opposing the Nazi regime… An informative counterpoint to accounts of widespread German complicity with the Holocaust.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by  Sarah Rose

d-day girlsIn 1942, the Allies were losing, Germany seemed unstoppable, and every able man in England was fighting. Churchill believed Britain was locked in an existential battle and created a secret agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whose spies were trained in everything from demolition to sharp-shooting. Their job, he declared, was “to set Europe ablaze!” But with most men on the frontlines, the SOE did something unprecedented: it recruited women. Thirty-nine women answered the call, leaving their lives and families to become saboteurs in France. Half were caught, and a third did not make it home alive. 

In D-Day Girls, Sarah Rose draws on recently declassified files, diaries, and oral histories to tell the story of three of these women. There’s Odette Sansom, a young mother who feels suffocated by domestic life and sees the war as her ticket out; Lise de Baissac, an unflappable aristocrat with the mind of a natural leader; and Andrée Borrel, the streetwise organizer of the Paris Resistance. Together, they derailed trains, blew up weapons caches, destroyed power and phone lines, and gathered crucial intelligence—laying the groundwork for the D-Day invasion that proved to be the turning point in the war. Stylishly written and rigorously researched, this is an inspiring story for our own moment of resistance, in which women continue to play a vital role.

Description from Goodreads.

“Comprehensive and compelling . . . Readers get to know these amazing women as individuals as their duties unfold against the backdrop of the war. . . . Rose smoothly integrates developing events with biographical details and glimpses into French wartime society, creating a digestible and easy-to-follow story. This satisfying mix of social history and biography . . . should engage a wide audience.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

D-Day Girls, written with novelistic detail, weaves together five women’s narratives using historical research from contemporary periodicals, archives, and interview records. . . . [D-Day Girls is part of] a new library and a more robust approach to analyzing women’s essential role in war.” – Foreign Policy

“Rose delivers a swift moving . . . expert blow-by-blow account. . . . A readable spy thriller that fights against the idea of ‘the original sin of women at war.’” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

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