Best New Books: Month of 12/2020

“Life is hard, and a lot of people come home tired from work. If they’re gonna spend half an hour reading, they want some entertainment and a sense of achievement. So that’s what I give them. That’s all I’m trying to do. Is that really so wrong?” – James Patterson


Normally this is a weekly post, but during the month of December, the number of notable releases takes a bit of a nosedive, so this time we will be covering the best new books coming out for the entire month. We will return to a weekly format in January and look forward to seeing you again then! In the meantime, happy holidays and happy reading!



FICTION



Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley ★

perestroika in parisParas, short for “Perestroika,” is a spirited racehorse at a racetrack west of Paris. One afternoon at dusk, she finds the door of her stall open and–she’s a curious filly–wanders all the way to the City of Light. She’s dazzled and often mystified by the sights, sounds, and smells around her, but she isn’t afraid. Soon she meets an elegant dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Frida, who knows how to get by without attracting the attention of suspicious Parisians. Paras and Frida coexist for a time in the city’s lush green spaces, nourished by Frida’s strategic trips to the vegetable market. They keep company with two irrepressible ducks and an opinionated raven. But then Paras meets a human boy, Etienne, and discovers a new, otherworldly part of Paris: the ivy-walled house where the boy and his nearly-one-hundred-year-old great-grandmother live in seclusion. As the cold weather and Christmas near, the unlikeliest of friendships bloom. But how long can a runaway horse stay undiscovered in Paris? How long can a boy keep her hidden and all to himself? Jane Smiley’s beguiling new novel is itself an adventure that celebrates curiosity, ingenuity, and the desire of all creatures for true love and freedom.

Description from Goodreads.

“A comforting read at the end of a difficult year—a winter’s tale full of wit, warmth, and charm… Immersive… Beguiling.” – The Economist

“This is the perfect book for those for whom the real world, wracked with pandemic and politics, has become something to avoid… In her fable-like travels around Paris [the racehorse Paras] encounters a wise raven who dispenses advice, an eight-year-old orphan who can hide a horse, and plenty of happy endings—not just for the animals, but for the people they encounter, especially if they, like Paras, are open to seeing the wonders of the world.” – Publishers Weekly

“A remarkable novel that splits the difference between Charlotte’s Web and Animal Farm… Perestroika in Paris takes its place alongside the likes of Through the Looking-Glass, in that it will reward both precocious young readers and their parents with a sense of wonder and whimsy.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats [12/1]:

Print Book | eBook



MYSTERY



Shed No Tears by Caz Frear

shed no tearsGrowing up in a London family with ties to organized crime, Detective Constable Cat Kinsella knows the criminal world better than most cops do. As a member of the city’s Metropolitan Police, she’s made efforts to distinguish herself from her relatives. But leading an upstanding life isn’t always easy, and Cat has come close to crossing the line, a fact she keeps well hidden from her superiors.

Working their latest case, Cat and her partner Luigi Parnell discover a connection to a notorious criminal: serial killer Christopher Masters, who abducted and killed several women in 2012. Though the cops eventually apprehended him, his final victim, Holly Kemp, was never found and he never confessed to her murder, despite the solid eyewitness testimony against him. Now, six years later, the discovery of Holly’s remains near Cambridge seems to be the definitive proof needed to close the case.

Still, a few key items of evidence don’t quite line up. As Cat and Parnell look closer, they find discrepancies that raise troubling questions. But someone will do anything to keep past secrets hidden—and as they inch closer to the truth, they may be putting themselves in jeopardy… 

Description from Goodreads.

“Another fun visit with Cat and crew.” – Red Carpet Crash

“…well-plotted… Frear skillfully guides Shed No Tears to a solid conclusion that is as believable as it is surprising.” – South Florida Sun Sentinel

“Frear creates an atmosphere of tension among the detectives and witnesses and in Cat’s personal life that will make readers want to devour this mystery in one sitting.” – Library Journal

Available Formats [12/1]:

Print Book | eBook


Lazarus by Lars Kepler

lazarusSweden’s most notorious serial killer.

Jurek Walter was shot and killed years ago. The police moved on and managed to forget the darkness that had tainted their lives.

Has come back from the dead.

But now someone is leaving a trail of broken bodies across Sweden and the clues all point to Walter. Detective Joona Linna is convinced his worst nightmare is becoming a reality: the man who tore apart his family has returned to finish the job.

He doesn’t just kill you. He buries your loved ones alive.

When Joona’s partner is taken – and locked inside an underground coffin – he finds himself with an impossible choice: leave her to die or walk into the trap set by the only man he ever feared.

Description from Goodreads.

“Kepler maintains an almost unbearable level of tension throughout and does an outstanding job of making readers fear that anyone could die a horrible death at any time. Fans of serial killer fiction won’t want to miss this one.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
  
“Kepler combines explosive action with masterfully developed tension. Readers already on board with this standout series will find a bar-raising entry here, and reassurance that the door is open for Joona’s return. Strongly recommended for fans of Nicci French, Stieg Larsson, and Jussi Adler-Olsen.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Lazarus is written in the fast and furiously paced present in short, bitty chapters that move quickly between characters and scenes to ramp up tension. This gives them an intense, cinematic feel. Characters, even minor ones, are well-developed and credibly flawed with painful pasts. The plot is pretty twisty too, so why these books haven’t been turned into mainstream movies or a TV boxed set is anyone’s guess.” – Evening Standard

Available Formats [12/1]:

Print Book



SUSPENSE



The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher

wrong familyHave you ever been wrong about someone?

Juno was wrong about Winnie Crouch.

Before moving in with the Crouch family, Juno thought Winnie and her husband, Nigel, had the perfect marriage, the perfect son—the perfect life. Only now that she’s living in their beautiful house, she sees the cracks in the crumbling facade are too deep to ignore.

Still, she isn’t one to judge. After her grim diagnosis, the retired therapist simply wants a place to live out the rest of her days in peace. But that peace is shattered the day Juno overhears a chilling conversation between Winnie and Nigel…

She shouldn’t get involved.

She really shouldn’t.

But this could be her chance to make a few things right.

Because if you thought Juno didn’t have a secret of her own, then you were wrong about her, too.

From the wickedly dark mind of bestselling author Tarryn Fisher, The Wrong Family is a taut new thriller that’s riddled with twists in all the right places.

Description from Goodreads.

“This book rates a 10 out of 10 on the creepiness scale. Readers will be peering over their shoulders with trepidation as their paranoia levels soar. Suspense fans will love being frightened by this twisty plot. Fisher’s goosebump-inducing book will spook readers long after the final pages are turned.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“…gripping… Vivid prose and well-drawn characters keep the pages turning.” – Publishers Weekly

“Another addictive page-turner from Fisher…” – Where the Reader Grows

Available Formats [12/29]:

eBook | eAudiobook


Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane

pretty little wifeLila Ridgefield lives in an idyllic college town, but not everything is what it seems. Lila isn’t what she seems. A student vanished months ago. Now, Lila’s husband, Aaron, is also missing. At first these cases are treated as horrible coincidences until it’s discovered the student is really the third of three unexplained disappearances over the last few years. The police are desperate to find the connection, if there even is one. Little do they know they might be stumbling over only part of the truth…

With the small town in an uproar, everyone is worried about the whereabouts of their beloved high school teacher. Everyone except Lila, his wife. She’s definitely confused about her missing husband but only because she was the last person to see his body, and now it’s gone.

Description from Goodreads.

“Debut mystery author Kane blends tense domestic suspense with procedural details and legal thriller–like verbal sparring. A page-turner built on skillfully layered plotting and an intriguing protagonist.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Intriguing… Kane is off to a promising start.” – Publishers Weekly

“If you’re looking for one of the best and tightly-plotted thrillers you’ll read this year, let me introduce you to Pretty Little Wife. This domestic thriller that will leave you gasping for air.” – Mystery & Suspense

Available Formats [12/29]:

eBook



ROMANCE



How to Fail at Flirting by  Denise Williams

how to fail at flirtingOne daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.

When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check… almost.

Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.

Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.

Description from Goodreads.

“Williams debuts with a quirky, delightful rom-com… Jam-packed with laugh-out-loud banter and heart-fluttering romance, this is a knockout.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] steamy romance… Williams blends rom-com fun with more weighty topics in her winsome debut.” – Washington Post

“Naya and Jake’s relationship is both sexy and sweet as these two people, who love their work but are not skilled at socializing or romance, find their way forward. Academia is vividly portrayed, and readers will await the next book from Williams, a talented debut author and a PhD herself.” – Booklist

Available Formats [12/1]:

eBook


Layla by Colleen Hoover

laylaWhen Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

Description from Goodreads.

“Surprising and emotionally tense, this paranormal romance is sure to entertain.” – Publishers Weekly

“The love between Leeds and Willow has a very appealing, slow build, while the many plot turns will keep readers guessing through to the shocking resolution.” – Booklist

“Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. …the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read. A unique story of transcendent love.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats [12/8]:

Print Book


This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

this time next yearWhen Minnie meets Quinn at a NYE party, it’s clear that they’ve got nothing in common – except for the strange fact of their being born in the same place at the same time on New Year’s Eve. A crazy coincidence, but not a reason to pursue a friendship, and definitely not an excuse for Quinn to hope for something more.

He is a privileged party boy who believes the world is his for the taking. She is a hard-working realist, whose lack of confidence tends to hold her back.

Opposites don’t really attract… it’s not like this is a rom-com, right?

The clock strikes midnight, their moment passes, and another year begins. But if Quinn and Minnie are from different worlds, why do they keep bumping into each other? And why is it that each frustrating interaction somehow seems to push their lives in the right direction? Could it be that instead of clashing, their different outlooks might complement each other?

Perhaps now is the time for them to finally come together…

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] touching debut… Flashbacks to New Year’s past and subplots… add depth, while hilarious secondary characters inject levity in just the right places… Cousens’s debut is ripe with both emotional vulnerability and zaniness.” – Publishers Weekly

This Time Next Year is a clever, offbeat romantic comedy… Cousens’s colorful, quirky cast becomes embroiled in big, memorable scenes… Rom-com readers will revel in Cousens’s wry, lively story, which probes themes of self-discovery, acceptance and forgiveness, and the abiding nature of friendship.” – Shelf Awareness

“…an absolute pleasure to read… This is a very character-driven book, and whilst the story is great, what makes you really love the book is the characters themselves. All of them were different but equally loveable and relatable… a heartwarming, funny, and uplifting story. The sort of feel-good romantic read to forget the rest of the world for a little while. It offers the perfect dose of escapism, which is something we all need right now.” – The NERD Daily

Available Formats [12/1]:

Print Book | eBook



HISTORICAL FICTION



The Arctic Fury by  Greer Macallister

arctic furyIn early 1853, experienced California Trail guide Virginia Reeve is summoned to Boston by a mysterious benefactor who offers her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: lead a party of 12 women into the wild, hazardous Arctic to search for the lost Franklin Expedition. It’s an extraordinary request, but the party is made up of extraordinary women. Each brings her own strengths and skills to the expedition- and her own unsettling secrets.

A year and a half later, back in Boston, Virginia is on trial when not all of the women return.

Told in alternating timelines that follow both the sensational murder trial in Boston and the dangerous, deadly progress of the women’s expedition into the frozen North, this heart-pounding story will hold readers rapt as a chorus of voices answer the trial’s all-consuming question: what happened out there on the ice?

Description from Goodreads.

“Suffused with a spine-tingling aura of dread, Greer Macallister’s complex, riveting historical novel The Arctic Fury includes tantalizing glimpses of nineteenth-century women’s lives… a riveting historical novel that conflates two contemporaneous events, capturing the past with gritted teeth and a pounding heart.” – Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] cracking good story… Macallister’s book, written in prose as crisp as an Arctic summer, reminds us that women had all kinds of adventures during this period, from heading out into the frontier to holding conventions for women’s rights and writing antislavery books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” – BookPage

“…gripping… Through their varied experiences and often contentious interactions, Macallister examines sexism and racism in the pre-Civil War United States, and builds a compelling mosaic of a story. She also deftly uses their multiple viewpoints to call into question the notion of truth: what it really is, who gets to tell it, how it may be buried, elided or co-opted under tense circumstances… Readers who love historical fiction, strong women and unusual settings will find all three–as well as a couple of truly inventive twists–in Macallister’s novel.” – Shelf Awareness

Available Formats [12/1]:

Hoopla eBook



HORROR



The Blade Between by  Sam J. Miller

blade betweenRonan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge. 

Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable. 

Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] gripping mashup of psychological suspense and horror… The novel lifts off toward an exciting conclusion. Insightful social commentary is a bonus. Thriller fans will welcome Miller as a fresh new voice.” – Publishers Weekly

“The book is full of moments of slowly rising dread that end in shocking revelations, all of them building to a nightmarish town festival where the growing horror finally reveals its true face and intent.” – Nightmare Magazine

“Miller’s sprawling novel encapsulates the complex web of feelings brought on by witnessing the destruction of a town that made adolescence hell for a gay or trans teen… Raw and volatile… Highly recommended for anyone looking for a queer-themed, sea salt–laced dark fantasy.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats [12/1]:

eBook


Red Hands by Christopher Golden

red handsWhen a mysterious and devastating bioweapon causes its victims to develop Red Hands, the touch of death, weird science expert Ben Walker is called to investigate.

A car plows through the crowd at a July 4th parade. The driver climbs out, sick and stumbling, reaching out… and everyone he touches drops dead within seconds. Maeve Sinclair watches in horror as people she loves begin to die and she knows she must take action. But in the aftermath of this terror, it’s Maeve who possesses that killing touch. Fleeing into the mountains, struggling with her own grief and confusion, Maeve faces the dawning realization that she will never be able to touch another human being again.

“Weird s**t expert” Ben Walker is surprised to get a call from Alena Boudreau, director of the newly restructured Global Science Research Coalition. There’s an upheaval in the organization and she needs to send someone she can trust to Jericho Falls. Whoever finds Maeve Sinclair first will unravel the mystery of her death touch, and many are willing to kill her for that secret.

Walker’s assignment is to get her off the mountain alive. But as Maeve searches for a hiding place, hunted and growing sicker by the moment, she begins to hear an insidious voice in her head, and the yearning, the need… the hunger to touch another human being continues to grow. When Walker and Maeve meet at last, they will unravel a stunning legacy of death and betrayal, and a malignant secret as old as history.

Description from Goodreads.

“The neck-whipping action and shifting points of view give the reader a wide-angle perspective… invoking maximum terror on every page… For fans of horror-thriller series like those by Jonathan Maberry and Mira Grant.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…another winner from Golden that will undoubtedly wind up on the Stoker finalists list. The story explodes off the page in a manner that many thrillers attempt to do and few succeed. The horror hits almost as hard.” – Cemetery Dance

“Golden again maintains engagement by making even secondary characters feel real and well-rounded. Series fans will be pleased by this solid installment.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats [12/8]:

Print Book



YOUNG ADULT



Admission by Julie Buxbaum

admissionIt’s good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer. She’s headed off to the college of her dreams. She’s going to prom with the boy she’s had a crush on since middle school. Her best friend always has her back, and her mom, a B-list Hollywood celebrity, may finally be on her way to the B+ list. It’s good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer–at least, it was, until the FBI came knocking on her front door, guns at the ready, and her future went up in smoke. Now her mother is under arrest in a massive college admissions bribery scandal. Chloe, too, might be facing charges, and even time behind bars. The public is furious, the press is rabid, and the US attorney is out for blood.

As she loses everything she’s long taken for granted, Chloe must reckon not only with the truth of what happened, but also with the examination of her own guilt. Why did her parents think the only way for her to succeed was to cheat for her? What did she know, and when did she know it? And perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to be complicit?

Description from Goodreads.

“Deft, page-turning, and fresh as the latest college admissions gossip.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[Buxbaum’s] assessment of the entitled 1% feels spot-on.” – Publishers Weekly

“Whether or not readers are familiar with the real-life events that inspired the story, they’re likely to find it captivating; the novel goes behind the headlines to add humanity and complexity to a juicy national scandal.” – The Horn Book

Available Formats [12/1]:

Print Book | eBook



NONFICTION



Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by  Ijeoma Oluo ★

mediocreAfter the election of Donald Trump, and the escalation of white male rage and increased hostility toward immigrants that came with him, New York Times-bestselling author Ijeoma Oluo found herself in conversation with Americans around the country, pondering one central question: How did we get here?

In this ambitious survey of the last century of American history, Oluo answers that question by pinpointing white men’s deliberate efforts to subvert women, people of color, and the disenfranchised. Through research, interviews, and the powerful, personal writing for which she is celebrated, Oluo investigates the backstory of America’s growth, from immigrant migration to our national ethos around ingenuity, from the shaping of economic policy to the protection of sociopolitical movements that fortify male power. In the end, she shows how white men have long maintained a stranglehold on leadership and sorely undermined the pursuit of happiness for all.

Description from Goodreads.

“Nuanced, uncomfortable, and illuminating.” – Washington Post

“Ijeoma Oluo’s sharp yet accessible writing about the American racial landscape made her 2018 book, So You Want to Talk About Race, an invaluable resource for anyone looking to understand and dismantle racist structures. Her new book, Mediocre, builds on this exemplary work, homing in on the role of white patriarchy in creating and upholding a system built to disenfranchise anyone who isn’t a white male.” – TIME

“[Oluo has written] a bold, incisive book on heavy topics with a call to action for a more equitable future that doesn’t center White men.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Erudite yet accessible, grounded in careful research as well as Oluo’s personal experiences of racism and misogyny, this is an essential reckoning.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats [12/1]:

eBook | eAudiobook


The Last Days of John Lennon by  James Patterson with  Casey Sherman &  Dave Wedge

last days of john lennonWith the Beatles, John Lennon surpasses his youthful dreams, achieving a level of superstardom that defies classification. “We were the best bloody band there was,” he says. “There was nobody to touch us.” Nobody except the original nowhere man, Mark David Chapman. Chapman once worshipped his idols from afar—but now harbors grudges against those, like Lennon, whom he feels betrayed him. He’s convinced Lennon has misled fans with his message of hope and peace. And Chapman’s not staying away any longer. 

By the summer of 1980, Lennon is recording new music for the first time in years, energized and ready for it to be “(Just Like) Starting Over.” He can’t wait to show the world what he will do. 

Neither can Chapman, who quits his security job and boards a flight to New York, a handgun and bullets stowed in his luggage. 

The greatest true-crime story in music history, as only James Patterson can tell it. Enriched by exclusive interviews with Lennon’s friends and associates, including Paul McCartney, The Last Days of John Lennon is the thrilling true story of two men who changed history: One whose indelible songs enliven our world to this day—and the other who ended the beautiful music with five pulls of a trigger.

Description from Goodreads.

Available Formats [12/8]:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


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