Best New Books: Week of 11/3/2020

“As a child I assumed that when I reached adulthood, I would have grown-up thoughts.” – David Sedaris, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls



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FICTION



White Ivy by  Susie Yang ★

Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates.

Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.

Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.

Filled with surprising twists and offering sharp insights into the immigrant experience, White Ivy is both a love triangle and a coming-of-age story, as well as a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.

Description from Goodreads.

“A truly addictive read.” – Glamour

“Yang’s dark, spellbinding debut gives insight into the immigrant experience and life in the upper class, challenging the stereotypes and perceptions associated with both. The surprising twists, elegant prose, and complex characters in this coming-of-age story make this a captivating read.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“What begins as a story of a young woman’s struggles to assimilate quickly becomes a much darker tale of love, lies, and obsession, in which there are no boundaries to finding the fulfillment of one’s own dreams. Yang’s skill in creating surprising, even shocking plot twists will leave readers breathless.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Electrifying… Part immigrant story, part elitist takedown, part contemporary novel of wicked manners, White Ivy is an unpredictable spectacle… Ivy Lin proves to be the antihero readers will love to hate in debut novelist Susie Yang’s assured, deft, biting novel of (manipulative) manners.” – Shelf Awareness

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


The Harpy by  Megan Hunter

Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy has set her career aside in order to devote her life to the children, to their finely tuned routine, and to the house itself, which comforts her like an old, sly friend. But then a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy’s husband, Jake. The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but make a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage–she will hurt him three times.

As the couple submit to a delicate game of crime and punishment, Lucy herself begins to change, surrendering to a transformation of both mind and body from which there is no return.

Told in dazzling, musical prose, The Harpy is a dark, staggering fairy tale, at once mythical and otherworldly and fiercely contemporary. It is a novel of love, marriage and its failures, of power, control and revenge, of metamorphosis and renewal.

Description from Goodreads.

“An unquenchable thirst for revenge drives Lucy, a wife and mother, to the brink of madness in Hunter’s sleek, supernatural thriller… Lucy’s narration is irresistible… Hunter maintains suspense until the final act of her satisfactory tale.” – Publishers Weekly

The Harpy‘s anodyne setting – a peaceful English town – brings into stark relief the way women are alienated and dehumanised by society (or, to put it more bluntly: by men) when they take on the mantle of ‘mother’…  It culminates in a startling, effective, and eerie climax where mimesis meets mythology.” – Locus

The Harpy asks its readers to consider whether emotional violence can be uncoupled from its physical counterpart, and whether one can justify the other. By blurring the boundaries of the two – a mild poisoning and revenge pornography occupy the same textual category of harm – the novel sketches out the unsettling psychological terrain that can lie beneath bourgeois marital composure.” – The Guardian

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | Hoopla eBook


Miss Benson’s Beetle by  Rachel Joyce

She’s going too far to go it alone.

It is 1950. London is still reeling from World War II, and Margery Benson, a schoolteacher and spinster, is trying to get through life, surviving on scraps. One day, she reaches her breaking point, abandoning her job and small existence to set out on an expedition to the other side of the world in search of her childhood obsession: an insect that may or may not exist–the golden beetle of New Caledonia. When she advertises for an assistant to accompany her, the woman she ends up with is the last person she had in mind. Fun-loving Enid Pretty in her tight-fitting pink suit and pom-pom sandals seems to attract trouble wherever she goes. But together these two British women find themselves drawn into a cross-ocean adventure that exceeds all expectations and delivers something neither of them expected to find: the transformative power of friendship.

Description from Goodreads.

“As ever, Rachel Joyce made me laugh out loud, then weep for the battered majesty of ordinary human beings. Two unlikely heroines, their strange love, a pitiful villain, and a life-affirming search for miraculous beauty… all combine in a wild, hopeful picaresque journey into the soul.” – The Daily Mail

“It’s an excellent premise, and one that pans out almost as heartwarmingly as you’d expect, but with some powerful, moving and sometimes violent surprises en route… a joy of a novel, with real insight into the lives of women, the value of friendship and the lasting effects of war.” – The Guardian

“Joyce’s sparkling latest pops with grit, resilience, and the power of friendship… Joyce’s graceful touch and cutting humor undercut the potential for mawkishness and give the characters a rich complexity and depth. With a plucky protagonist and plenty of action, this is a winner.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Thirty Names of Night by  Zeyn Joukhadar

Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.

One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.

As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.

Featuring Zeyn Joukhadar’s signature “magical and heart-wrenching” (Christian Science Monitor) storytelling, The Thirty Names of Night is a timely exploration of how we all search for and ultimately embrace who we are.

Description from Goodreads.

“A fable of being and belonging… Joukhadar’s prose style–folkloric, lyrical, and emotionally intense–creates its own atmosphere.  Gorgeous and alive.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Stunning… vivid, visceral, and urgent… This clarifying and moving tale has far-reaching significance and appeal.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Quietly lyrical and richly imaginative… this is a stirring portrait of an artist as a young man.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Silence of the Chagos by  Shenaz Patel

Every afternoon a woman in a red headscarf walks to the end of the quay and looks out over the water, fixing her gaze “back there”: to the small island in the Indian Ocean that she and her people have been deported from. But the island is “closed,” there is no going back. Charlesia waits in vain for a ship to take her and her fellow Chagossians back to their home on Diego Garcia. With no explanation, and only an hour to pack, the Chagossians are deported from Diego Garcia and relocated to Mauritius. Charlesia mourns the loss of her life on Diego Garcia, where she spent her days working on a coconut plantation and her nights listening to séga music with her family and friends. But most urgently, Charlesia seeks answers for how and why this injustice happened to her people.

As Charlesia struggles to come to terms with her life on Mauritius, she crosses paths with Désiré, a young man born on the one-way journey to Mauritius. Désiré has never set foot on Diego Garcia, but as Charlesia unfolds the dramatic story of his people, he learns of the home he never knew, taken from him before he was born and transformed into a military base.

Shenaz Patel artfully reconstructs the lives of the Chagossians, whose cries for a return to their homeland are no longer being silenced. With the sovereignty of Chagos currently being debated on an international judiciary level, Silence of the Chagos is an important and timely examination of the rights of individuals in the face of governmental corruption.

Description from Goodreads.

“Forced expulsions have long been part of man’s history, motivated by politics, prejudice, geography, human-made disasters, and natural forces. Virtually unknown is the full-scale eviction of the Chagossians, a Creole-speaking native ethnic group with African and Asian ancestry, from Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Indian Ocean’s Chagos archipelago…. Patel seeks to right wrongs and secure overdue justice.” – Booklist

“Shenaz Patel’s Silence of the Chagos testifies to the effects of that secret exchange through three Chagossians’ experiences of displacement and the story of the ill-fated ship that transported human cargo during the island’s surprise evacuation. Dreamy and lyrical, the novel fictionalizes their experiences and captures the formless ennui of a grieving people denied not only their home, but their identity… Patel’s compelling afterword adds a nonfiction precis that fills in many of the imagined narrative’s telling omissions…. Stateless yet forbidden to return to their island home, the Chagossians have given up on silence; Patel’s book bears witness to their struggle.” – Foreword Reviews

“This is a beautifully written and translated story of the people of the islands of Chagos and their continuing fight to return to their homeland… Mauritian author Shenaz Patel relates this traumatic story with gentle yet unflinching clarity of the effects of forced displacement on body, memory, relationships and identity.” – Ms. Magazine

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook



SUSPENSE



The Dirty South by  John Connolly

It is 1999, and someone is slaughtering young women in Burdon County, Arkansas.

But no one in the Dirty South wants to admit it.

In an Arkansas jail cell sits a former NYPD detective, stricken by grief. He is mourning the death of his wife and child, and searching in vain for their killer. Obsessed with avenging his lost family, his life is about to take a shocking turn.

Witness the dawning of a conscience.

Witness the birth of a hunter.

Witness the becoming of Charlie Parker.

Description from Goodreads.

“Supernatural noir fans will relish Connolly’s excellent 18th thriller featuring PI Charlie Parker, an origin story set in 1999… Brilliant descriptions of the setting (a lake ‘seemed to consume light’) enhance this intelligent and subtle suspense novel. Connolly is writing at the top of his game.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A most satisfying read for crime buffs.” – Kirkus Reviews

“In The Dirty South, we find Connolly weaving together Southern Gothic with Irish Noir for another great supernatural thriller.” – CrimeReads

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook



MYSTERY



The Russian Pink by  Matthew Hart

When “The Russian Pink”—a stunningly large rose-hued diamond—makes a surprise appearance around the neck of Honey Li, the wife of surging presidential candidate Harry Nash, Alex Turner, an investigator for the Treasury Department’s diamond division and former C.I.A. agent, finds himself spiraling down a seemingly endless rabbit hole.  A diamond like that always carries secrets, but the web of mystery behind “The Pink” is more complex than Alex could ever imagine.   

Starting with the trail of damage from a botched sting operation, Alex wavers between legal and illegal tactics, friends, family, and foes to find out why a mysterious Russian double agent betrayed him and the diamond ended up on a potential path to the White House. For wherever the Russian Pink goes, secrecy, deception, and death surely follow.

With echos of both John Le Carré and Jason Matthews, The Russian Pink is a stylish and fresh page-turner that catapults the reader into the world of blood diamond trading, a world that Matthew Hart, the author of the critically acclaimed Diamond, navigates with authoritative authenticity and wit.
 

Description from Goodreads.

“A diamond is no one’s best friend in this fast-paced debut novel filled with greed, violence, and politics… The author writes with skill, wit, and evident knowledge about the diamond industry—who knew there were such things as diamond pipes? Top-quality storytelling for thriller fans.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Intriguing… [An] original premise and assured prose…” – Publishers Weekly

“A rare gem, punning aside. The Russian Pink will enthrall fans of Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne, and leave them hoping for more Alex Turner.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook



YOUNG ADULT



The Enigma Game by  Elizabeth Wein

A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves.

Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it.

Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out.

Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating.

The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town…

Description from Goodreads.

“…engrossing… a code-cracking mission of epic proportions.” – PopSugar

“Wein returns with another emotional flight through World War II, this time in Scotland… Another soaring success.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…immersive… Wein again seamlessly weaves extensive research into a thriller populated by fully dimensional characters. Late in the novel, Jamie’s sister, Julie, makes a cameo as a newly minted intelligence officer, a poignant reminder to readers of Code Name Verity that the war will get much worse before it ends.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook



NONFICTION



The Best of Me by  David Sedaris

For more than twenty-five years, David Sedaris has been carving out a unique literary space, virtually creating his own genre. A Sedaris story may seem confessional, but is also highly attuned to the world outside. It opens our eyes to what is at once absurd and moving about our daily existence. And it is almost impossible to read without laughing.
 
Now, for the first time collected in one volume, the author brings us his funniest and most memorable work. In these stories, Sedaris shops for rare taxidermy, hitchhikes with a lady quadriplegic, and spits a lozenge into a fellow traveler’s lap. He drowns a mouse in a bucket, struggles to say “give it to me” in five languages, and hand-feeds a carnivorous bird.
 
But if all you expect to find in Sedaris’s work is the deft and sharply observed comedy for which he became renowned, you may be surprised to discover that his words bring more warmth than mockery, more fellow-feeling than derision. Nowhere is this clearer than in his writing about his loved ones. In these pages, Sedaris explores falling in love and staying together, recognizing his own aging not in the mirror but in the faces of his siblings, losing one parent and coming to terms—at long last—with the other.
 
Taken together, the stories in The Best of Me reveal the wonder and delight Sedaris takes in the surprises life brings him. No experience, he sees, is quite as he expected—it’s often harder, more fraught, and certainly weirder—but sometimes it is also much richer and more wonderful.
 
Full of joy, generosity, and the incisive humor that has led David Sedaris to be called “the funniest man alive” (Time Out New York), The Best of Me spans a career spent watching and learning and laughing—quite often at himself—and invites readers deep into the world of one of the most brilliant and original writers of our time.

Description from Goodreads.

“Sedaris’s brilliant knack for observational humor is on full display in this terrific retrospective essay collection… Sedaris finds ample fodder for his keen satiric sense in his life and the lives of those around him. Sedaris can take even the most serious subject and evoke both empathy and laughter. He can also be just plain hilarious… This is the perfect introduction for the uninitiated, while Sedaris’s fans will enjoy rediscovering old favorites.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook


Particulate Matter by  Felicia Luna Lemus

In concise and distilled prose, Lemus presents a collection of still lifes, landscapes, and portraits of a challenging year that threatened all she loved most.

Particulate Matter is the story of a year in Felicia Luna Lemus’s marriage when the world turned upside down. It’s set in Los Angeles, and it’s about love and crisis, loss and grief, the city and the ocean, ancestral ghosts and history haunting. Nature herself seemed to howl. Fires raged and covered the house Lemus and her spouse shared in ash. Everything crystallized. It was the most challenging and terrifying time she had ever gone through, and yet it was also a time when the sublime beauty of the everyday shone through with particular power and presence.

Description from Goodreads.

“An unforgettable meditation on [Felicia Luna Lemus’s] experiences… Lemus bears an unmatched precision of the craft. This succinct mic drop of a personal story begs to be read over and over again.” – Booklist

“With playful and warm prose, Lemus takes readers into the most difficult year of her life and marriage. Set in Los Angeles, it chronicles her [spouse’s] sudden and serious adult-onset asthma, and the literal and figurative fires that raged that year over their lives.” – Autostraddle

Particulate Matter is a small book that accomplishes in remarkably few words a deeply felt narrative — that is, an exploration of the simultaneity of delight, yearning, grief and confusion of being in love with a person and a place. Of being alive at all.” – San Francisco Chronicle

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook



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