Best New Books: Week of 9/22/2020

“Unfounded gossip can turn into sanctioned history if it falls into the hands of the right storyteller.” – Laila Lalami, The Moor’s Account


The Book of Two Ways by  Jodi Picoult ★

Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She’s on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband, but a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.

Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, her beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, where she helps ease the transition between life and death for patients in hospice.

But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a job she once studied for, but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.

After the crash landing, the airline ensures the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation wherever they want to go. The obvious option for Dawn is to continue down the path she is on and go home to her family. The other is to return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways–the first known map of the afterlife.

As the story unfolds, Dawn’s two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried beside them. Dawn must confront the questions she’s never truly asked: What does a life well-lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices… or do our choices make us? And who would you be, if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are right now?

Description from Goodreads.

“…incredibly thought-provoking… a provocative exploration into monumental questions: about the life we are living, who we want to be with when we die, and whether it’s possible—and acceptable—to change our mind, return to the trailhead, and go another way.” – Amazon Book Review

“…offers keen insight on the limits of love. Picoult’s fans will appreciate this multifaceted, high-concept work.” – Publishers Weekly

“With vivid, descriptive prose and extensive research, Picoult’s portrayal of the intersection of lives, whether in the present or with ancient souls, is a believable premise. This tale can be seen as magical, in the sense that magic encompasses envisioning and believing in what we can’t actually see but can sense, feel, and guide others through. Similar to Alice Hoffman’s depiction of complex family ties, Picoult’s latest (after A Spark of Light) stretches the importance of recognizing our bonds to those we love. Highly recommended for open-minded readers.” – Library Journal

“The best-selling Picoult’s fans will be more than ready for this puzzle of a novel.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

Hench by  Natalie Zina Walschots

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy? As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured.  And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.

Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing.  And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.

It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.

Description from Goodreads.

“In this refreshing, subversive, and darkly humorous debut novel, poet and journalist Walscholts slowly reveals the nuances of her superpower-filled world, keeping readers guessing. Hench reads like a comic without the illustrations and is packed with subplots and rapid-fire wit. With a diverse and inclusive cast of characters, Walschots’ original tale performs a brilliant and exciting variation on the superhero trope and is not to be missed.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Walschots playfully pokes at both office politics and comic book absurdity while offering gripping action and gut-wrenching body horror. The inventive premise, accessible heroine, and biting wit will have readers eager for more from this talented author.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Smart, witty, and at times bloody, this book will please comic book fans who wish to take a jab at the superhero tropes, as well as readers who enjoy dark humor with a bit of satire tossed into the mix.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


And Now She’s Gone by  Rachel Howzell Hall ★

Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets — and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive. Description from Goodreads.

“Smart, razor-sharp… Full of wry, dark humor, this nuanced tale of two extraordinary women is un-put-downable.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…perceptive and unique… Howzell Hall’s smart plotting is fueled by the razor-sharp characters whose motives are believable… takes her writing to another level.” – South Florida Sun Sentinel

“…complex, emotionally charged… keeps to a fast pace and has plenty to say during the ride, offering a strong, likable sleuth… Questions abound and should confound readers as much as they do Gray. The twisted answers will likely appeal to Gone Girl fans. And Now She’s Gone combines heart, smarts and wit in one package.” – Shelf Awareness

“…one exceptional thriller… A layered, intricate plot and a compelling protagonist you’ll hope to see more of in the future make this thriller a must-read. ” – Crime by the Book

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

To Tell You the Truth by  Gilly Macmillan

Bestselling mystery writer Lucy Harper’s talent for invention has given her fame, fortune, and an army of adoring readers. It has also saddled her with dependents, namely her fawning husband Dan.

When Dan suddenly goes missing, his disappearance evokes dark memories that take Lucy back more than thirty years—to the day her brother vanished without a trace. That’s when Lucy began conjuring stories. The police investigation revealed few confirmed details, so she created tales to fill in the gaps, to explain what happened that day her brother disappeared—and young Lucy was the only witness.

Now decades later, with the whole world watching, Lucy’s past and present are colliding, and this bestselling author skilled in telling stories is losing control of her own narrative.

Where is Dan? What happened to Lucy’s brother? And is the brilliant mystery writer—an expert in devising red herrings and hidden clues—revealing all she knows about both disappearances?

With twists and turns, Gilly Macmillan reveals the answers in this clever and compulsively readable mystery sure to thrill fans of Ruth Ware and Shari LaPena.

Description from Goodreads.

“This deliciously multilayered tale provides genuine, shocking surprises that culminate in a satisfying and unexpected conclusion. Macmillan is a master of misdirection.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An atmospheric, fast-paced read with an unreliable narrator right at its center.” – Popsugar

“…features the ultimate in unreliable narrators… a unnerving psychological thriller in which it’s not always clear what Lucy actually sees and what she can only imagine.” – Nut Press

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Mortmain Hall by  Martin Edwards

“You died once,” Rachel Savernake whispered. “Tell me who arranged your resurrection, or before the day’s out, you’ll be dead forever.”

1930. At her remote coastal estate of Mortmain Hall, enigmatic heiress and amateur sleuth Rachel Savernake is hosting a gathering – at the bequest of an eccentric criminologist – of people who have cheated the gallows. But the house party culminates in tragedy when a body is found beneath the crumbling cliffs.

The verdict is accidental death, but Rachel determines to foil an ingenious plot to get away with murder. She encounters an eclectic mix of suspects and victims, including a radical publisher risen from the grave, a fake medium with a sinister past, and a cricketer mauled to death by an escaped lion.

Rachel sets out to uncover the labyrinthine secrets of Mortmain Hall, but her relentless quest might just bring down the British establishment…

Who can we turn to, if justice betrays us?

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] triumph, from its tantalizing opening, in which an unnamed dying man begins to explain an unspecified perfect crime, through its scrupulously fair final reveal… impressively channels Agatha Christie.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook


Next to Last Stand by  Craig Johnson

One of the most viewed paintings in American history, Custer’s Last Fight, copied and distributed by Anheuser-Busch at a rate of over two million copies a year, was destroyed in a fire at the 7th Cavalry Headquarters in Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1946.

Or was it?

When Charley Lee Stillwater dies of an apparent heart attack at the Wyoming Home for Soldiers & Sailors, Walt Longmire is called in to try and make sense of a piece of a painting and a Florsheim shoebox containing a million dollars, sending the good sheriff on the trail of a dangerous art heist.

Description from Goodreads.

“After Depth of Winter and Land of Wolves, Johnson lightens the atmosphere in this complex, thought-provoking mystery that highlights art and Western history, emphasizing the contrast between Native accounts and white history. The author’s poetic turns of phrase, witty dialog, and one of the funniest, most memorable chase scenes in a novel combine to make this a winner.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Johnson knows it’s Walt his readers crave, and he delivers.” – Booklist

“Vietnam War vet Walt shows few signs of age in this consistently entertaining series.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook

Make Them Cry by  Smith Henderson & Jon Marc Smith

It’s hard to make Diane Harbaugh flinch. A former prosecutor notorious for her aggressive tactics, she’s now a DEA agent who interrogates witnesses so effectively, she has them confessing in tears. But when she hears from Gustavo, a high-ranking cartel member with an invaluable secret about the international black market, she’s thrown for a loop. She heads to Mexico to meet him, and her entire understanding of justice and duty is thrown into question.

Gustavo sends her down a rabbit hole that leads to a criminal conspiracy more pervasive than anything she and the DEA ever suspected. She teams up with Ian Carver, a disillusioned CIA agent, and begins to unravel layers of deceptions, grifts, and schemes that date back to the beginnings of the Afghanistan War. As they learn more, they become the target of cartel assassins, embittered spies, and even their own government. They are at the center of an international manhunt with world-changing consequences—and the only way out is for Diane to do the one thing she promised herself she’d never do. Stylishly written and relentlessly plotted, Make Them Cry is an action-packed thriller of unimaginable stakes.

Description from Goodreads.

“Flawed, flesh-and-blood characters provide nuance and depth, and the authors’ grasp of global politics is on full display.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Plenty of flaws in the main character but few in this satisfying thriller.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…kinetic… What starts as a violent thriller flips over and becomes an examination of the aftermath of armed conflict, in which sorting the good guys from the bad is less about uniforms and codes and more about personal morality.” – Los Angeles Times

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Here We Are by  Graham Swift

It’s the summer of 1959, and something magical can be witnessed at the end of the pier in beach town Brighton, England. Jack Robbins, Ronnie Deane, and Evie White are performing in a seaside variety show, starring as Jack Robinson the compere comedian, and The Great Pablo and Eve: a magic act. By the end of the summer, Evie’s glinting engagement ring will be flung to the bottom of the ocean and one of the trifecta will vanish forever.

All three friends begin their path toward the end of Brighton’s pier early in life. Evie and Jack’s mothers always trumpeting the support that is trademark of stage mothers, while Ronnie’s mother sends her son out in the child evacuations to Penny and Eric Lawrence for safety from the London blitz. It’s within the safety and love of Evergrene, the Lawrences’ estate, that magic creeps into Ronnie’s life for the first time and starts the intricate intertwining of fate, chance, and show business.

Magic and reality share the stage in this masterly and devastating story that pulls back the curtain on the power of love, family, and the touchstones of our memories.

Description from Goodreads.

“A jewel of a novel… Saturated with images and metaphors that recur like melodies… Swift’s brief, magical tale demonstrates one more brilliant example of his talent for pulling universal themes out of the hats of ordinary lives.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Brilliant… This is a beautiful, gentle, intricate novella, the kind of book that stays with you despite not appearing to do anything particularly new or special. In fact, perhaps that’s what makes it so very good: Here We Are smuggles within the pages of a seemingly commonplace tale depths of emotion and narrative complexity that take the breath away.” – The Observer

“A magical piece of writing: the work of a novelist on scintillating form… As enthralling as anything that will be published this year… The book wonderfully captures the experience of evacuation during the second world war. It’s also a profoundly important story to tell in its own right… I don’t know quite how Swift does it.” – The Guardian

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook


Tools of Engagement by  Tessa Bailey

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

Description from Goodreads.

“If you adore romance and HGTV, this is just the book for you.” – O, The Oprah Magazine

“Bailey brings the heat… Though it’s full of steamy scenes, the book is more than a romp, as Wes reveals himself to Bethany and vice versa, with emotions that will pull on readers’ heartstrings. Excellent as both a stand-alone and part of the series.” – Booklist

“…sweet and super-spicy… Chick-lit lovers will flip for this sexy, heartwarming story.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Well Played by  Jen DeLuca

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

Description from Goodreads.

“The laughs are frequent and the plot charms… the fresh setting and unusual twist make this well worth the time of any rom-com fan.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] fast-paced, cute, quirky romance with two very likable main characters set during a Renaissance Faire. The chemistry between them is believable, the angst makes total sense, and even the support cast was solid.” – The Alliterates

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by  Laila Lalami ★

What does it mean to be American? In this starkly illuminating and impassioned book, Pulitzer Prize-finalist Laila Lalami recounts her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, using it as a starting point for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship. Tapping into history, politics, and literature, she elucidates how accidents of birth–such as national origin, race, and gender–that once determined the boundaries of Americanness still cast their shadows today.

Lalami poignantly illustrates how white supremacy survives through adaptation and legislation, with the result that a caste system is maintained that keeps the modern equivalent of white male landowners at the top of the social hierarchy. Conditional citizens, she argues, are all the people with whom America embraces with one arm and pushes away with the other.

Brilliantly argued and deeply personal, Conditional Citizens weaves together Lalami’s own experiences with explorations of the place of nonwhites in the broader American culture.

Description from Goodreads.

“In this eloquent and troubling account, novelist and National Book Award–finalist Lalami (The Other Americans) draws on her personal history as ‘an immigrant, a woman, an Arab, and a Muslim’ to argue that becoming a U.S. citizen does not necessarily mean becoming ‘an equal member of the American family’… This profound inquiry into the American immigrant experience deserves to be widely read.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Consistently thoughtful and incisive, the book confronts the perils of our modern age with truths to inspire the coalition-building necessary to American cultural and democratic survival. A bracingly provocative collection perfect for our times.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] wonderfully readable series of essays touching on all the different ways American citizens who were born in another country, who have a nonwhite skin color, a non-Christian religion, a non-English language, or non-dominant cultural traditions are mistreated and disenfranchised in the land that once begged the world to give us its hungry masses yearning to breathe free… This is Lalami’s first nonfiction book after four novels, one of them a National Book Award finalist, and it is exciting to hear her address the issues she has touched on in fiction with rigor and focus.” – Star Tribune

“For citizens planning to exercise the franchise this fall, Conditional Citizens clarifies the stakes of the most crucial American election season of the 21st century thus far.” – Boston Globe

Available Formats:

Print Book

The Virginia Dynasty: Four Presidents and the Creation of the American Nation by  Lynne Cheney

A vivid account of leadership focusing on the first four Virginia presidents–George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe–from the bestselling historian and author of James Madison.

From a small expanse of land on the North American continent came four of the nation’s first five presidents–a geographic dynasty whose members led a revolution, created a nation, and ultimately changed the world. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe were born, grew to manhood, and made their homes within a sixty-mile circle east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Friends and rivals, they hammered out the United States Constitution, built a working republic, and established the Bill of Rights. Acting together, they doubled the territory of the United States. From their disputes came American political parties and the weaponizing of newspapers, the media of the day. In this elegantly conceived and insightful new book from bestselling author Lynne Cheney, the four Virginians are not marble icons, but vital figures deeply intent on building a nation where citizens could be free.

Focusing on a series of key episodes in the intersecting roles these men played as warriors, intellectuals, and statesmen, Cheney takes us back to an exhilarating time when the Enlightenment opened new vistas for humankind. But even as the Virginians advanced liberty, equality, and human possibility, they held slaves. They saw the contradiction, knew that slavery was wrong–and were slave owners when they died. The transcendent principles that they advanced endured, even through bloody civil war. They inspired Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and today undergird the freest nation on earth.

Taking full measure of strengths and failures in the personal as well as the political lives of the men at the center of this book, Cheney offers a concise and original exploration of how the United States came to be.

Description from Goodreads.

“An accessible group portrait of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe… Cheney selects anecdotes wisely and writes gracefully. The result is an informative introduction to four of America’s most important founding fathers.” – Publishers Weekly

“An edifying introduction to the lives of four presidents of the U.S.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Bringing these men together as a group draws attention to how their thought and action unfolded in response to new challenges and dispels any illusion that they were a monolithic bloc. Cheney is an adept writer who makes no wrong steps. Perfect for history buffs…” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Solutions and Other Problems by  Allie Brosh

For the first time in seven years, Allie Brosh—beloved author and artist of the extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller Hyperbole and a Half—returns with a new collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays.

Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh’s childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life.

This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features all-new material with more than 1,600 pieces of art. Solutions and Other Problems marks the return of a beloved American humorist who has “the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian” (Bill Gates).

Description from Goodreads.

“Through it all, she is refreshingly vulnerable and honest. In trying to overcome her weaknesses, by spending a night alone in the woods, she reminds us that it’s okay not to be okay. Another standout from Brosh that is both heartening and heartbreaking.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Gut-busting… Like a millennial James Thurber, Brosh has a knack for seeding a small, choice detail that snowballs into existential chaos… [Her] spidery and demented digital portraits, a visual expression of fun-house mirror anxiety, fits her material perfectly… This achingly accurate and consistently hilarious comic memoir finds Brosh moving forward and becoming a stronger, braver storyteller page by page.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Brosh’s storytelling is so distinctive and compelling it’s like suddenly running in to a friend you feared was lost forever… [She] reliably channels the simplicity of a child or the innocence of an animal and tells raucous, heartbreaking stories that reflect the hidden parts of us all… For Brosh’s millions of fans, this is well worth the wait.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Pie for Everyone: Recipes and Stories from Petee’s Pie, New York’s Best Pie Shop by  Petra “Petee” Paradez

New York’s beloved Petee’s Pie Company serves up more than 80 recipes for the best pies you can make at home

Petra (Petee) Paredez shares her personal repertoire of impeccable baking techniques that have made her pie shops, Petee’s Pie Company and Petee’s Café, New York darlings. At the heart of it all, the goal is simple—a tender, flaky crust and perfectly balanced filling—and this cookbook leads the way with easy-to-follow, step-by-step guidance. A champion of locally sourced ingredients, Paredez features some of the best farms and producers in profiles throughout the book, inspiring us to seek out the very best ingredients for our pies wherever we may live. Filled with vibrant photography and recipes for just about every pie imaginable, from fruit and custard to cream and even savory, Pie for Everyone invites us to share in the magic and endless appeal of pie.

Description from Goodreads.

“If you’re not a pie person, then clearly you’ve never had a slice of Petra Paredez’s black-bottom almond chess pie… whether you’re a fan of Petee’s Pie or you’ve never been, bakers and pie lovers will appreciate learning from Paredez, a baker for whom pie-making is a ribbon-worthy feat every single time.” – Eater

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

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