Best New Books: Week of 5/19/2020

“I always worried someone would notice me, and then when no one did, I felt lonely.” – Curtis Sittenfeld, Prep


Rodham by  Curtis Sittenfeld ★

rodhamIn 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.

In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.

But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.

Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.

Description from Goodreads.

Rodham is a provocative, bitingly funny re-imagining of what a woman’s life could be if she didn’t need to compromise her own ambitions in support of her partner’s. Sittenfeld has written a nuanced, astute portrait of one of modern history’s most contentious figures, and never shies away from either the thornier aspects of her character, or those of our society.” – Refinery29

“Sittenfeld movingly captures Hillary’s awareness of her transformation into a complicated public figure… Often funny, mostly sympathetic, and always sharp.” – Publishers Weekly
“Daring, seductive, and provocative… [an] exhilaratingly trenchant, funny, and affecting tale… Sittenfeld orchestrates a gloriously cathartic antidote to the actual struggles women presidential candidates face in a caustically divided America.” – Booklist
“It’s enjoyable to hear [this Hilary] think about her own desires, her strengths and weaknesses, her vulnerabilities and self-justifications; it’s also fun to see how familiar events would still occur under different circumstances.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

Drifts by  Kate Zambreno ★

driftsBeguiling and compulsively readable, Drifts is an intimate portrait of reading, writing, and creative obsession. At work on a novel that is overdue to her publisher, spending long days alone with her restless terrier, corresponding ardently with fellow writers, the novel’s narrator grows obsessed with the challenge of writing the present tense, of capturing time itself. Entranced by the work of Rilke, Dürer, Chantal Akerman, and others, she photographs the residents and strays of her neighborhood, haunts bookstores and galleries, and records her thoughts in a yellow notebook that soon subsumes her work on the novel. As winter closes in, a series of disturbances—the appearances and disappearances of enigmatic figures, the burglary of her apartment—leaves her distracted and uncertain… until an intense and tender disruption changes everything.

A story of artistic ambition, personal crisis, and the possibilities and failures of literature, Drifts is a dramatic step forward for one of our most daring writers.

Description from Goodreads.

“Zambreno’s charm and wit dance off the page… Intimate, fiercely intelligent, and reliably provocative, Drifts is Zambreno at her best.” – Refinery29

“Intricate and finely tuned… There’s an improvisatory quality to the text, like a wet-painted brushstroke… brilliantly evokes a hazy state of self-isolation.” – The New Republic

“Captures the fitful stops, starts, shame, joy, and boredom that go into creating a work of art.” – The Paris Review

“A free-spirited, essayistic novel exploring the complex links among art, parenthood, and making a living… The charm of this novel is how it makes this deep uncertainty feel palpable and affecting. [The result is] a lyrical, fragmentary, and heartfelt story about the beauty and difficulty of artistic isolation.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

The Motion of the Body Through Space by  Lionel Shriver

motion of the bodyAfter an ignominious early retirement, Remington announces to his wife Serenata that he’s decided to run a marathon. This from a sedentary man in his sixties who’s never done a lick of exercise in his life. His wife can’t help but observe that his ambition is “hopelessly trite.” A loner, Serenata disdains mass group activities of any sort. Besides, his timing is cruel. Serenata has long been the couple’s exercise freak, but by age sixty, her private fitness regimes have destroyed her knees, and she’ll soon face debilitating surgery. Yes, becoming more active would be good for Remington’s heart, but then why not just go for a walk? Without several thousand of your closest friends?

As Remington joins the cult of fitness that increasingly consumes the Western world, her once-modest husband burgeons into an unbearable narcissist. Ignoring all his other obligations, he engages a saucy, sexy personal trainer named Bambi, who treats Serenata with contempt. When Remington sets his sights on the legendarily grueling triathlon, MettleMan, Serenata is sure he’ll end up injured or dead. And even if he does survive, their marriage may not.

The Motion of the Body Through Space is vintage Lionel Shriver written with psychological insight, a rich cast of characters, lots of verve and petulance, an astute reading of contemporary culture, and an emotionally resonant ending.

Description from Goodreads.

“Lionel Shriver is an exuberant novelist, fertile in ideas, robust in argument and disdainful of economy. Her faults are venial. She writes bold and fearless comedy and delights in slaughtering the sacred cows of the stupid times we live in. Few novelists now raise a laugh. Shriver does so time and again.” – The Scotsman

“…scabrously funny…” – The Guardian

“…enjoyably abrasive… a compelling read…” – Evening Standard

Available Formats:

Print Book

Happy & You Know It by  Laura Hankin

happy and you know itAfter her former band shot to superstardom without her, Claire reluctantly agrees to a gig as a playgroup musician for overprivileged infants on New York’s Park Avenue. Claire is surprised to discover that she is smitten with her new employers, a welcoming clique of wellness addicts with impossibly shiny hair, who whirl from juice cleanse to overpriced miracle vitamins to spin class with limitless energy.

There is perfect hostess Whitney who is on the brink of social-media stardom and just needs to find a way to keep her perfect life from falling apart. Caustically funny, recent stay-at-home mom Amara who is struggling to embrace her new identity. And old money, veteran mom Gwen who never misses an opportunity to dole out parenting advice. But as Claire grows closer to the cool women who pay her bills, she uncovers secrets and betrayals that no amount of activated charcoal can fix.

Filled with humor and shocking twists, Happy and You Know It is a brilliant take on motherhood—exposing it as yet another way for society to pass judgment on women—while also exploring the baffling magnetism of curated social-media lives that are designed to make us feel unworthy. But, ultimately, this dazzling novel celebrates the unlikely bonds that form, and the power that can be unlocked, when a group of very different women is thrown together when each is at her most vulnerable.

Description from Goodreads.

“For readers who want the fun of reality TV but the heart of a good drama.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A dramatic and immensely entertaining page-turner about secrets, lies, and mom culture.” – Kirkus Reviews

“With deeply drawn and relatable characters, this is an excellent read.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

Shooting Down Heaven by  Jorge Franco

shooting down heavenAfter twelve years away, Larry comes home to his native country of Colombia after his father, an old associate of Pablo Escobar, is murdered. Larry returns to collect his remains from a mass grave and give him a proper burial… but not before a reunion with his childhood friend, Pedro. Pedro picks him up at the airport to take him directly to the Alborada celebration―a popular festival where fireworks explode over Medellín, and the entire city loses its inhibitions. This is where Larry’s story really begins.

His long-awaited homecoming quickly becomes a rude awakening. The years of luxury living in bodyguard-surrounded mansions are now firmly in the past, as Larry watches his family―including his ex-beauty queen mother and troubled brother―fall deeper into depression, drug addiction, and the traps of the family business.

Faced by an uncertain reality, Larry is forced to confront his family’s turbulent history and reclaim himself from the dark remnants of a city still trying to rediscover itself. Unflinching and remarkably controlled, Jorge Franco creates a stunning portrait of a generation wounded by their parents’ mistakes.

Description from Goodreads.

“A cheerless but supremely well-crafted story that proves Franco to be among the best Latin American writers at work today.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Set amid the ruling class of Colombia’s drug cartels, this sleek, slick novel (translated from the Spanish) offers a grim assessment of the next generation’s opportunity for escape.” – New York Times

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


These Women by  Ivy Pochoda ★

these womenIn West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they’re referred to as “these women.” These women on the corner… These women in the club… These women who won’t stop asking questions… These women who got what they deserved…

In her masterful new novel, Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

Written with beauty and grit, tension and grace, These Women is a glorious display of storytelling, a once-in-a-generation novel.

Description from Goodreads.

“Pochoda turns grief, suffering and loss into art, crafting a literary thriller that is no less compelling for its deep emotional resonance.” – Vogue

“Heartbreaking… This deep dive into the lives of women too often unseen in the shadows makes them vividly unforgettable.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Pochoda stuns with this disquieting literary thriller rife with descriptive street language and violence. It is complex, intense, and enthralling.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“With raw, visceral prose, Pochoda vividly evokes L.A.’s distinctive cityscape and the burdens and threats women face there.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook | Hoopla eAudiobook

The Wife Stalker by  Liv Constantine

wife stalkerBreezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirtysomething Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets… but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them?

Description from Goodreads.

“The Constantine sisters have done it again: crafted a psychological thriller that keeps readers squirming until the last harrowing page, as it alternates between the two voices. Readers will enjoy the twists, turns, and surprises as the story unfolds.” – Library Journal

“Liv Constantine is back with their next great thriller… a sordid tale with twists and turns you don’t see coming. Liv Constantine is officially a force to be reckoned with in the thriller genre!” – Red Carpet Crash

“[For] readers who love to be tricked by an unreliable narrator…” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

The Sunday Girl by  Pip Drysdale

sunday girlSome love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.

Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge. Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle, he’d slowly dissembled… stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again. So Taylor consulted The Art of War and made a plan. Then she took the next step – one that would change her life forever.

Then things get really out of control – and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.

Description from Goodreads.

“The Girl On The Train meets Before I Go To Sleep, you won’t be able to resist turning the page” – Family Circle

“A gripping psychological thriller…” – The Daily Telegraph

“A gripping rollercoaster ride of a story… exciting, darkly humorous, and at times disturbing, and I loved it.” – The Listener

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook

The New Girl by  Harriet Walker

new girlMargot is the object of every woman’s envy: as an editor at Haute, she has a glamorous job, a beautiful new baby girl, a seemingly perfect life. But when Margot’s lifelong friend, Winnie, loses her own newborn boy, their shared dream of pushing strollers together turns to ash. And then there is the matter of Margot’s maternity temp: bright, plucky, ambitious Maggie–the young woman Margot chose, but who now seems to be trying to eclipse her in every possible way.

When a cyber-stalker emerges, mocking Margot’s façade of perfection and threatening to expose a dark secret she’s spent years repressing, Margot feels attacked from all sides. Soon, the innocent preoccupations of motherhood spiral quickly–and perhaps lethally–into a frightening and irretrievable paranoia.

The New Girl is whiplash-paced, and a harrowing look into the profound sense of insecurity that prowls deep in the psyches of women everywhere.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] searing debut… The author, the fashion editor for The Times of London, movingly portrays the fragility of friendship and the corrosive effect of mistrust and recriminations in a wickedly funny psychological thriller that’s in turn brutal and tender.” – Publishers Weekly

“Fusing society’s heavy reliance on social media with a plot that is both pacy and rich with tension and a cast of unreliable and flawed characters, The New Girl is suspenseful and stylish writing at its very best.” – The Literary Edit

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


Beach Read by  Emily Henry ★

beach readAugustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Description from Goodreads.

“Once I started Beach Read I legit did not put it down.” – Betches

“A heartfelt look at taking second chances, in life and in love.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Henry hits all the right notes with this clever, compassionate contemporary romance… Readers are sure to fall hard for this meta, heartfelt take on the romance genre.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by  Suzanne Collins ★

ballad of songbirds and snakesIt is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined – every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] sleek, well-constructed prequel… Fans will remember Coriolanus Snow as the psychotic president of Panem; here we discover his backstory in a novel that discusses the corrupting influence of the societies into which Collins’s characters are born. Nature, nurture, or both?… Collins’s themes of friendship, betrayal, authority and oppression, as well as the extra layers of lore about mockingjays and Capitol’s history, will please and thrill.” – The Guardian

“People who love finding out the back stories in fictional universes — why Sherlock Holmes wears a deerstalker hat; where Indiana Jones got his scar — will relish the chance to learn these details.” – New York Times

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes builds on the original series’ overt critique of violence and those who perpetuate it, again in terms that speak to a more mature audience than their young-adult marketing might suggest… Collins shines most as she weaves in tantalizing details that lend depth to the gruesome world she created in the original series and Coriolanus’s place in its history.” – TIME

“…raise[s] questions about privilege, the uses of violence, and the futility of war… Will everybody be reading Ballad this summer? The odds appear to be ever in its favor.” – People

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook | Hoopla eAudiobook


Stray: A Memoir by  Stephanie Danler ★

strayAfter selling her first novel–a dream she’d worked long and hard for–Stephanie Danler knew she should be happy. Instead, she found herself driven to face the difficult past she’d left behind a decade ago: a mother disabled by years of alcoholism, further handicapped by a tragic brain aneurysm; a father who abandoned the family when she was three, now a meth addict in and out of recovery. After years in New York City she’s pulled home to Southern California by forces she doesn’t totally understand, haunted by questions of legacy and trauma. Here, she works toward answers, uncovering hard truths about her parents and herself as she explores whether it’s possible to change the course of her history.

Lucid and honest, heart-breaking and full of hope, Stray, is an examination of what we inherit and what we don’t have to, of what we have to face in ourselves to move forward, and what it’s like to let go of one’s parents in order to find a peace–and family–of one’s own.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] fierce, unsparing memoir… In Danler’s evocation of California’s complicated history and the darkness that lurks under its sunny exterior, Stray brings to mind the work of Joan Didion, and her frank portrayal of the nightmare of addiction is akin to Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering. But in its painful candor and hard-earned wisdom, Stray is every bit its own vivid creation.” – BookPage

“Against a backdrop of geographic beauty—the cliffs of California’s Palos Verdes Estates with her mother, the glacier lakes of Rocky Mountain National Park with her father, a pilgrimage on foot across Spain in the aftermath of her divorce—Danler captures both the tragedy of inherited trauma, and the remarkably human ability to amount to something far greater than the sum of our own wrongdoings and the misfortunes we’ve suffered.” – Vogue

“Acknowledging both the tribute of memory and the mercy of forgetting with one distinctive voice, this is a rare and skillfully structured view of an artist’s love, grief, and growth.” – Booklist

“Danler’s first memoir is as well-written as her novel was… [A] moving text in which writing is therapeutic and family trauma is useful material.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

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