Best New Books: Week of 8/11/2020

“God bless the Reference Librarians.” – James Lee Burke


A House is a Body: Stories by  Shruti Swamy

house is a bodyIn two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In “Earthly Pleasures,” Radika, a young painter living alone in San Francisco, begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s moment of crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy and the sense of a new beginning. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.

Description from Goodreads.

“Swamy’s debut short story collection is rich, mesmeric, and often mournful, blurring the boundaries between dreams and reality, and making time less linear and more pliable… These are nuanced and quietly powerful stories about our most urgent and deeply felt experiences — grief, love, and desire.” – BuzzFeed

“Spanning the geographical and social distance between India and the U.S., Swamy’s 12 tales illuminate her characters’ imperfections and struggles, ultimately forming an attuned and mystical exploration into the enigmas of being human.” – Booklist

“Swamy’s pulsating prose produces riveting narratives. Her stories twist in subtle yet unexpected ways… The fallible characters in Swamy’s ravishing book are always falling into something and bravely grasping what they can on their way down in a frenetic attempt to pull themselves back up. A dazzling and exquisitely crafted collection.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook

The Shame by  Makenna Goodman

shameAlma and her family live close to the land: they raise chickens and sheep, they make maple syrup. Every day Alma’s husband leaves for his job at a nearby college while she stays home with their young children, cleans, searches for secondhand goods online, and reads books by the women writers she adores. Then, one night, she abruptly leaves it all behind–speeding through the darkness, away from their Vermont homestead, bound for New York.

In a series of flashbacks, Alma reveals the circumstances and choices that led to this moment. The joys and claustrophobia of their remote life through the passing of each season. Her fears and uncertainties about motherhood. The painfully awkward faculty dinners. Her feelings of loneliness and failure. And her growing fascination with Celeste: the mysterious ceramicist and self-loving doppelganger whose story begins as inspiration for Alma before turning into a powerful obsession.

A fable both blistering and surreal, The Shame is a propulsive, funny, and thought-provoking debut about a woman in isolation, whose mind–fueled by capitalism, motherhood, and the search for meaningful art–attempts to betray her.

Description from Goodreads.

“An intimate, compelling portrait of a woman under psychological tension.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Those who feel like they’re losing themselves in the daily grind will appreciate Alma’s escape fantasy.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] swift and sensual debut… Goodman’s sentences pulse, they are alive, with the mess and ambivalence and artistic ambition and desire for more that saturates Alma’s mind as it asks, with fear: Is this all? Is this enough?” – Boston Globe

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


We Are All the Same in the Dark by  Julia Heaberlin

we are all the same in the darkIt’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Her pretty face still hangs like a watchful queen on the posters on the walls of the town’s Baptist church, the police station, and in the high school. They all promise the same thing: We will find you. Meanwhile, her brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah in the desolation of the old family house, cleared of wrongdoing by the police but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion and in a new documentary about the crime.

When Wyatt finds a lost girl dumped in a field of dandelions, making silent wishes, he believes she is a sign. The town’s youngest cop, Odette Tucker, believes she is a catalyst that will ignite a seething town still waiting for its own missing girl to come home. But Odette can’t look away. She shares a wound that won’t close with the mute, one-eyed mystery girl. And she is haunted by her own history with the missing Tru.

Desperate to solve both cases, Odette fights to save the lost girl in the present and to dig up the shocking truth about a fateful night in the past–the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town’s dark, violent mythology.

In this twisty psychological thriller, Julia Heaberlin paints unforgettable portraits of a woman and a girl who redefine perceptions of physical beauty and strength.

Description from Goodreads.

“[Julia Heaberlin] once again brilliantly captures the atmosphere and rough beauty of a strange and divided state.” – CrimeReads

“Exceptional… After a devastating twist halfway through, the intense plot builds to an emotional finale. Heaberlin sensitively addresses issues of survival and vulnerability in this heart-wrenching gothic tale.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…a clever tale full of emotional depth… an absorbing slow-burn thriller that delivers in spades on its small town full of secrets setting, while elevating that familiar backdrop with her rich characterisation and the way she casts light on real-life issues that don’t always get a lot of prominent coverage…” – Crime Watch

Available Formats:


Lone Jack Trail by  Owen Laukkanen

lone jack trailA body washes up on the shore near Deception Cove. It belongs to “Bad” Brock Boyd, a disgraced former professional athlete from Makah County who recently finished a prison sentence for dogfighting. Marine veteran Jess Winslow, now a trainee deputy in Deception Cove, is assigned to help investigate the suspicious death. But when it comes out that her friend, ex-convict Mason Burke, had a run-in with the victim on the day of his death, she’s forced to question whether everything she thinks she knows about Burke is wrong.

As prime suspect in the case, Burke is forced to go on the run. Jess is torn between the man she could love and the facts of the case, which seem to point squarely at him.

Description from Goodreads.

“Laukkanen brilliantly integrates psychological depth into a suspenseful whodunit… The sophisticated characterizations elevate this above similarly themed books. This thriller ranks with the best work of Reed Farrel Coleman and Michael Koryta.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“They complement each other perfectly: the veteran’s toughness, the ex-con’s humanity, and the dog’s unconditional adoration of both. All of Laukkanen’s crime novels have tense action and layered characters.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


A Private Cathedral by  James Lee Burke

private cathedralThe Shondell and Balangie families are longtime enemies in the New Iberia criminal underworld and show each other no mercy. Yet their youngest heirs, Johnny Shondell and Isolde Balangie, rock and roll-musician teenagers with magical voices, have fallen in love and run away after Isolde was given as a sex slave to Johnny’s uncle.

As he seeks to uncover why, Detective Dave Robicheaux gets too close to both Isolde’s mother and the mistress of her father, a venomous New Orleans mafioso whose jealousy has no bounds. In retribution, he hires a mysterious assassin to go after Robicheaux and his longtime partner, Clete Purcel. This hitman is unlike any the “Bobbsey Twins from Homicide” have ever faced. He has the ability to induce horrifying hallucinations and travels on a menacing ghost ship that materializes without warning. In order to defeat him and rescue Johnny and Isolde, Robicheaux will have to overcome the demons that have tormented him throughout his adult life—alcoholism, specters from combat in Vietnam, and painful memories of women to whom he opened his heart only to see killed.

A Private Cathedral, James Lee Burke’s fortieth book, is his most powerful tale, one that will captivate readers—mixing crime, romance, mythology, horror, and science fiction to produce a thrilling story about the all-consuming, all-conquering power of love.

Description from Goodreads.

“An imaginative blend of crime and other genres, Burke’s existential drama is both exquisitely executed and profoundly moving.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Burke has concocted his usual gumbo of thrills and chills, stirred it with gusto and seasoned it with plenty of local superstition and rumor. What makes these books so enduring (this is the 23rd Robicheaux novel) and the storytelling so seductive is that Burke has the voice to do justice to the region’s ancient curses and its modern crimes.” – New York Times Book Review

“You can always count on Burke, the prolific best-selling author and two-time winner of the Edgar Award, to deliver a white-hot page-turner.” – AARP Magazine

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

Choppy Water by  Stuart Woods

choppy waterStone Barrington and his friends are vacationing in Maine when their leisure is suddenly disrupted by extreme weather. To make matters worse, the inclement conditions allow for a menacing adversary to sneak in unnoticed and deliver a chilling message. Soon it becomes clear that the target of the incident is one of Stone’s closest companions, and that these enemies have a grander scheme in mind.

From the bustling streets of New York City to the sun-drenched shores of Key West, Stone intends to nab the criminals that appear behind him at every step. But his search only leads him further down a trail of peril and corruption, and he’ll soon find that at the end of the road is a more dangerous foe than he could have imagined…

Description from Amazon.

“…exciting… The action builds to a satisfying double climax. With its high political stakes, this is one of the better recent entries in this long-running series.” – Publishers Weekly

“This is prime Woods… Slick, reliable, action-oriented escapism, just right for troubled times.” – Booklist

“…thrilling… one of the better novels in the recent series.” – Red Carpet Crash

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook


Kiss My Cupcake by  Helena Hunting

kiss my cupcakeBlaire Calloway has planned every Instagram-worthy moment of her cupcake and cocktails shop launch down to the tiniest detail. What she didn’t plan on? Ronan Knight and his old-school sports bar next door opening on the very same day. He may be super swoony, but Blaire hasn’t spent years obsessing over buttercream and bourbon to have him ruin her chance at success.

From axe throwing (his place) to frosting contests (hers), Blaire and Ronan are constantly trying to one-up each other in a battle to win new customers. But with every clash, there’s also an undeniable chemistry. When an even bigger threat to their business comes to town, they’re forced to call a temporary time-out on their own war and work together. And the more time Blaire spends getting to know the real Ronan, the more she wonders if it’s possible to have her cupcake and eat it too.

Description from Goodreads.

“It’s cupcakes and cocktails vs. beer and pub grub in this delicious romantic comedy about feuding Seattle bar owners from Hunting… Light and fluffy with the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, this is a winning confection.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Charming, ‘lumberjack sexy’, and witty, Kiss My Cupcake will make you crave both Blaire’s excellent cupcake creations and her handsome beau Ronan in one go.” – The NERD Daily

“The hero and heroine’s attraction is front and center, the emotional layers are real and earnestly felt, and the hilarious, awkward moments always land with a laugh.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Unreality of Memory: And Other Essays by  Elisa Gabbert ★

unreality of memoryWe stare at our phones. We keep multiple tabs open. Our chats and conversations are full of the phrase “Did you see?” The feeling that we’re living in the worst of times seems to be intensifying, alongside a desire to know precisely how bad things have gotten—and each new catastrophe distracts us from the last.

The Unreality of Memory collects provocative, searching essays on disaster culture, climate anxiety, and our mounting collective sense of doom. In this new collection, acclaimed poet and essayist Elisa Gabbert explores our obsessions with disasters past and future, from the sinking of the Titanic to Chernobyl, from witch hunts to the plague. These deeply researched, prophetic meditations question how the world will end—if indeed it will—and why we can’t stop fantasizing about it.

Can we avoid repeating history? Can we understand our moment from inside the moment? With The Unreality of Memory, Gabbert offers a hauntingly perceptive analysis of our new ways of being and a means of reconciling ourselves to this unreal new world.

Description from Goodreads.

“Elisa Gabbert’s The Unreality of Memory is one of those joyful books that send you to your notebook every page or so, desperate not to lose either the thought the author has deftly placed in your mind or the title of a work she has now compelled you to read. The essays encompass sickness and trauma, anesthesia and memory, politics and political apathy, but owing to the force of Gabbert’s attention, the book remains determinedly cohesive. Written before COVID-19 altered all our lives so irretrievably, it is also a work of uncanny prescience.” – The Paris Review

“Searing… In shattering essays, Gabbert explores if and how and why certain threats register more than others, and how even seemingly immutable facts are subject to spin from our imprecise recollections. There’s a chapter on pandemics, and yes, it is chilling.” – Vulture

“Deeply contemplative but accessible… Whatever the chosen topic, Gabbert’s essays manage to be by turns poetic, philosophical, and exhaustively researched. This is a superb collection.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Available Formats:

Hoopla eAudiobook

Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by  Omid Scobie & Carolyn Durand

finding freedomWhen news of the budding romance between a beloved English prince and an American actress broke, it captured the world’s attention and sparked an international media frenzy. But while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have continued to make headlines—from their engagement, wedding, and birth of their son Archie to their unprecedented decision to step back from their royal lives—few know the true story of Harry and Meghan.

For the very first time, Finding Freedom goes beyond the headlines to reveal unknown details of Harry and Meghan’s life together, dispelling the many rumors and misconceptions that plague the couple on both sides of the pond. As members of the select group of reporters that cover the British Royal Family and their engagements, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand have witnessed the young couple’s lives as few outsiders can.

With unique access and written with the participation of those closest to the couple, Finding Freedom is an honest, up-close, and disarming portrait of a confident, influential, and forward-thinking couple who are unafraid to break with tradition, determined to create a new path away from the spotlight, and dedicated to building a humanitarian legacy that will make a profound difference in the world.

Description from Goodreads.

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

AOC: The Fearless Rise and Powerful Resonance of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez edited by  Lynda Lopez

aocIn the vein of Notorious RBG, seventeen writers explore the multiple meanings of a young Latina politician who has already made history.

From the moment Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat a ten-term incumbent in the primary election for New York’s 14th, her journey to the national, if not world, stage, was fast-tracked. Six months later, as the youngest Congresswoman ever elected, AOC became one of a handful of Latina politicians in Washington, D.C. Just thirty, she represents her generation, the millennials, in many groundbreaking ways: proudly working class, Democratic Socialist, of Puerto Rican descent, master of social media, not to mention of the Bronx, feminist—and a great dancer.

AOC investigates her symbolic and personal significance for so many, from her willingness to use her imperfect bi-lingualism, to the threat she poses by governing like a man, to the long history of Puerto Rican activism that she joins. Contributors span a wide range of voices and ages, from media to the arts and politics.

Description from Goodreads.

“Urgent and timely… holds power by demonstrating the path that AOC has carved for so many of us who rarely saw ourselves in the leaders around us growing up… I recommend this book to anyone feeling downtrodden or weary with the state of the world.” – Medium

“This anthology of essays explores everything about the living legend Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez―from her symbolic significance as a political figure to her contributions to a history of Puerto Rican activism.” – Cosmopolitan

“This book dives deep into [AOC’s] background, image, and ideas, and comes up with important insights.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Hoopla eAudiobook

Leave a Reply