Best New Books: Week of 1/12/2021

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” – Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give


Siri, Who Am I? by  Sam Tschida ★

siri who am iMia might look like a Millennial but she was born yesterday. Emerging from a coma with short-term amnesia after an accident, Mia can’t remember her own name until the Siri assistant on her iPhone provides it. Based on her cool hairstyle (undercut with glamorous waves), dress (Prada), and signature lipstick (Chanel), she senses she’s wealthy, but the only way to know for sure is to retrace her steps once she leaves the hospital. Using Instagram and Uber, she arrives at the pink duplex she calls home in posts but finds Max, a cute, off-duty postdoc supplementing his income with a house-sitting gig. He tells her the house belongs to JP, a billionaire with a chocolate empire. A few texts later, JP confirms her wildest dreams: they’re in love, Mia is living the good life, and he’ll be back that weekend.

But as Mia and Max work backward through her Instagram and across Los Angeles to learn more about her, they discover a surprising truth behind her perfect Instagram feed, and evidence that her head wound was no accident. Who was Mia before she woke up in that hospital? And is it too late for her to rewrite her story?

Description from Goodreads.

“A strong debut that’s fun and funny, perfect for lovers of modern romantic comedies and light mysteries.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Tschida’s debut is a millennial Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Legally Blonde.” – Booklist

“Keen character work and a unique premise distinguish Tschida’s riotously funny, remarkably assured debut… Tschida is a writer to watch.” – Mystery Scene

“Wry and witty with surprising depth, Siri, Who Am I? is a satire of our Instagram-obsessed world, but it’s also a sweet love story and an incisive look at one young woman’s decision to change her life after it’s been changed for her.” – Shelf Awareness

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Detransition, Baby by  Torrey Peters ★

detransition babyReese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

Description from Goodreads.

Detransition, Baby’s warmth and wit feel both familiar and utterly new: a tale of love, loss, and self-discovery as singular as it is universal, and all the sweeter for it.” – Entertainment Weekly

“[This conversation-shifting, taboo-busting novel] should be on your reading list… It’s an exuberant novel of ideas, desire and life’s messy ironies.” – Evening Standard

“A world so lovable and complex, it’s hard to let go.” – Publishers Weekly

“Irresistible… Witty, elegant and rigorously plotted… although it renders the specificity of trans community and subjectivity in vivid, electric prose, its real appeal is much wider. Detransition, Baby insists on the psychic and social commonalities of cis and trans experience.” – The Guardian

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The Children’s Blizzard by  Melanie Benjamin

children's blizzardThe morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a long cold spell, warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats–leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At just the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard struck without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions: keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn’t get lost in the storm?

Based on actual oral histories of survivors, the novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers–one who becomes a hero of the storm, and one who finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It’s also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It is Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed immigrants to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told them to get them there–or whose land it originally was.

At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents’ choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today–because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.

Description from Goodreads.

“In this piercingly detailed drama, riveting in its action and psychology, Benjamin reveals the grim aspects of homesteading, from brutal deprivations to violent racism toward Native Americans and African Americans, while orchestrating, with grace and resonance, transformative moral awakenings and sustaining love.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…delves into the dark realities of immigrant life in the American West.” – Washington Post

“Benjamin revisits the Children’s Blizzard that killed 235 people in January 1888 in this sprawling, well-told story… There’s great suspense inherent to the events. Benjamin achieves a balance of grand drama and devastatingly intimate moments.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Summerwater by  Sarah Moss

summerwaterThey rarely speak to each other, but they take notice—watching from the safety of their cabins, peering into the half-lit drizzle of a Scottish summer day, making judgments from what little they know of their temporary neighbors. On the longest day of the year, the hours pass nearly imperceptibly as twelve people go from being strangers to bystanders to allies, their attention forced into action as tragedy sneaks into their lives.

At daylight, a mother races up the mountain, fleeing into her precious dose of solitude. A retired man studies her return as he reminisces about the park’s better days. A young woman wonders about his politics as she sees him head for a drive with his wife, and tries to find a moment away from her attentive boyfriend. A teenage boy escapes the scrutiny of his family, braving the dark waters of the loch in a kayak. This cascade of perspective shows each wrapped up in personal concerns, unknown to each other, as they begin to notice one particular family that doesn’t seem to belong. Tensions rise, until nightfall brings an irrevocable turn.

Description from Goodreads.

“This broodingly suspenseful and engagingly intimate novel is a miniature portrait of family life in various forms, of old age and childhood, framed by wild nature, which becomes a character in itself… With consummate skill, the author reveals the inner lives of a handful of characters, their meditations by turns intensely moving and laconically humorous… while conjuring up both landscape and atmosphere with lyrical delicacy. The novel that began at dawn ends at nightfall with a satisfying though awful denouement that steers clear of melodrama.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Building up a sense of dread in a novel is a subtle art, and Sarah Moss is an absolute master of it… Part of the genius of Summerwater is the way it makes you question whether there is even going to be a storm at all… It certainly feels like an accurate reflection of our confused, scared, angsty present. Perhaps Moss’s point, though, is that we’re all so busy worrying about the things we can’t influence we’ve lost sight of the things we can.” – The Scotsman

“Moss heaps up the pointers to something terrible with the cruel skill of a horror technician. By the midpoint, reading feels as stressful and claustrophobic as any wet-weather getaway, and just as impossible to get out of before the appalling end… The world is getting worse. Moss, though, only seems to be growing more brilliant.” – The Times

Available Formats:

Hoopla eAudiobook


Before the Ruins by  Victoria Gosling ★

before the ruinsThat summer, there were four of them, all on the cusp of adulthood: Andy, her boyfriend Marcus, her best friend Peter, and Em, whiling away the hours in a deserted manor house with a rich, sordid history. Sorely without the ambition and opportunities that her friends have always counted on, Andy finds herself terrified of a future that will take them all down very different paths. Her newfound fears make her reckless, resulting in increasingly destructive behavior. Then David shows up. Magnetic, worldly, and on the run from the police, David presents an irresistible lure for both Andy and Peter, pitting the two lifelong friends against each other for the first time. When the group learns that a diamond necklace, stolen fifty years ago, might still be somewhere on the manor grounds, the Game—half treasure hunt, half friendly deception—begins. But the Game becomes much bigger than the necklace, growing to encompass years of secrets, lies, and, ultimately, one terrible betrayal.

Decades later, Andy and Peter struggle to maintain their friendship, meeting only to drink to the past and trying not to talk about what happened at the manor. But when Peter goes missing, Andy is thrust back to that summer—with all of its frantic energy, yearning, and loss—and the mysteries that still haven’t been solved.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] stellar debut… The gorgeous, poetic prose perfectly complements the suspenseful plot. Gosling is off to a terrific start.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“The elements of mystery serve to provide narrative tension, but the real point here is Gosling’s examination of the disappointment of modern living, the emptiness of adulthood, and the notion of the fake diamond necklace so many of us spend our lives searching for… Come for the missing person mystery, stay for the existential ennui.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This debut novel–a mystery harboring a friendship saga–takes the ingredients of the English-country-house caper and spikes the recipe with details that would make Miss Marple blush.” – Shelf Awareness

Available Formats:

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Waiting for the Night Song by  Julie Carrick Dalton

waiting for the night songCadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie’s memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.

Description from Goodreads.

“Dalton’s debut is a story of friendship, family, and the consequences of acting out of fear, especially when those actions are performed to protect those we love. The storytelling is made even more vivid by the way the novel practically breathes the woods of New Hampshire.” – Booklist

“Stirring… a taut novel that builds suspense to the very end.” – Publishers Weekly

“…a beautiful debut… The diverse characters were an asset to the story, bringing in perspectives that aren’t always part of fiction.” – The NERD Daily

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook | Hoopla eAudiobook

The Scorpion’s Tail by  Douglas Preston Lincoln Child

scorpion's tailFollowing Old Bones, the second “happily anticipated” (Booklist) new thriller in Preston & Child’s new series will once again feature Nora Kelly, archaeologist at the Santa Fe Archeological Institute, and FBI Agent Corrie Swanson investigating a new case that requires both their skills.

After a shoot-out Swanson is involved in leaves a senior FBI agent gravely wounded, Corrie finds herself under investigation. Her supervisor assures her she’s not to blame and the black mark on her record will be cleared in short order. But Corrie finds herself shaken by her overwhelming guilt.

As a distraction, she takes on a new case involving a fifty-year-old, mummified corpse discovered in a hidden enclave at High Lonesome, a long-abandoned New Mexico ghost town. Quickly out of her depth, she quickly realizes she needs the help of her foe-turned-ally, archaeologist Nora Kelly, who soon uncovers a startling truth: the deceased had been poisoned, and died clutching a priceless artifact from outside High Lonesome.

Description from Goodreads.

“This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…enjoyable… The authors do their usual solid job of maintaining suspense throughout. Their two capable female leads are well-suited to sustain a long series.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] mummified corpse found in a New Mexico ghost town is hiding a 16th century Spanish gold cross, and that kicks off an investigation that quickly gathers momentum, with a fascinating blend of American history, archaeology, treasure-looting, and a police procedural, set against the fabulous backdrop of the mountains of New Mexico.” – Amazon Book Review

Available Formats:

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The Captive by  Fiona King Foster

captiveIn a secessionist rural state that has cut itself off completely from urban centers, where living is hardscrabble and poor but “free,” Brooke Holland runs a farm with her husband, Milo, and two daughters. Their life at the fringes of modern society is tenuous—they make barely enough from each harvest to keep going—yet Brooke cherishes the loving, peaceful life they have carved out for themselves. She has even begun to believe she is free from the violent history she has kept a secret from her family.

When escaped criminal Stephen Cawley attacks at the farm, Brooke’s buried talents surface, and she manages to quickly and harshly subdue him. She is convinced that he has come in retribution for the blood feud she thought she escaped years ago. Brooke sets out to bring Cawley to justice, planning to use the bounty on his head to hide her family far from danger. Fearing that other members of Cawley’s infamous family will soon descend, Brooke insists Milo and the girls flee with her, travelling miles on foot across an unforgiving landscape to reach the nearest marshal. Their journey, started at the onset of winter with little preparation, brings already strained family dynamics to the breaking point. As Brooke’s ghosts—both real and imagined—close in, the ruthlessness that let her survive her past may become the biggest threat to her hopes for a different future. What follows is a harrowing exploration of family loyalty, trauma, and resilience.

As haunting and propulsive as it is powerfully written, The Captive is a thrilling debut novel about the impossible choices we make to survive and protect the ones we love.

Description from Goodreads.

“Beguiling… Part adventure novel and part crime novel… Foster keeps the tension high… [Foster] effectively keeps readers in suspense all the way through.” – BookPage

“[A] suspenseful, tightly written country noir… Foster reinvigorates the familiar perilous journey trope as she portrays Brooke’s steely determination to save her loved ones. Exuding that irresistible blend of courage and vulnerability that defined Daniel Woodrell’s Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone, Brooke drives this propulsive wilderness adventure, made all the more chilling by its shockingly realistic vision of a country ravaged by culture wars.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Captive is a well written, descriptive, rural noir that falls along the lines of a ‘road’ or ‘pursuit’ novel, with Foster introducing interesting, three dimensional characters.” – Mystery & Suspense

Available Formats:

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The Perfect Guests by  Emma Rous

perfect guests1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family… until they ask her to help them with a harmless game–and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined–even with damage from a fire decades before–but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone… including her.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] delicious, twisty novel…” – The NERD Daily

“As seductive but secretly treacherous as Raven Hall itself, this novel delivers devour-in-a-day diversion… Rous has upped her game with this one.” – Publishers Weekly

“The reader must carefully shuffle the puzzle pieces into a perfect fit until the very end and one more visit to Raven Hall, when the entire board is undone. This is a party suspense fans are advised to crash.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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Sleep Well, My Lady by  Kwei Quartey

sleep well my ladyHard-hitting talk show host Augustus Seeza has become a household name in Ghana, though plagued by rumors of lavish overspending, alcoholism, and womanizing. He’s dating the imposing, beautiful Lady Araba, who leads a self-made fashion empire. Araba’s religious family believes Augustus is after her money and intervenes to break them up. A few days later, just before a major runway show, Araba is found murdered in her bed. Her driver is arrested after a hasty investigation, but Araba’s favorite aunt, Dele, has always thought Augustus Seeza was the real killer.

Almost a year later, Dele approaches Emma Djan, who has finally started to settle in as the only female PI at her agency. To solve Lady Araba’s murder, Emma must not only go on an undercover mission that dredges up trauma from her past, but navigate a long list of suspects with solid alibis. Emma quickly discovers that they are willing to lie for each other—and that one may still be willing to kill.

Description from Goodreads.

“Terrific… Stops at the morgue and a forensic lab, as well as an ongoing search for a unique murder weapon, contribute to the dark atmosphere. Along the way, Quartey skewers Ghanaian politics, religion, and the law. Smooth prose complements the well-wrought plot. This distinctive detective series deserves a long run.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Brilliantly executed… Quartey, also the author of the Darko Dawson series, is one of the strong voices in the current wave of African crime fiction.” – Booklist

“A gripping setup, some workaday sleuthing, and a neatly turned solution.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book

Robert B. Parker’s Someone to Watch Over Me by  Ace Atkins

someone to watch over meTen years ago, Spenser helped a teenage girl named Mattie Sullivan find her mother’s killer and take down an infamous Southie crime boss. Now Mattie–a college student with a side job working for the iconic private eye–dreams of being an investigator herself. When Mattie’s childhood friend from the South Boston housing projects, Chloe Turner, is found dead, she decides to take on the case for the family. Taking a cue from her boss, Mattie has a knack for asking the right questions of the wrong people.

Soon Spenser and Mattie find ties between Turner and dozens of other girls from poor families to an eccentric billionaire with a massive home along Commonwealth Avenue. The man owns properties and businesses throughout Massachusetts with connections to local politicians, the state house, and beyond. As a bleak winter bears down on Boston, Spenser and trusted ally Hawk must again watch out for Mattie as she unravels a massive sex-trafficking ring that will take them from Boston to the Bahamas, crossing paths with local toughs and an old enemy of Spenser’s–the Gray Man–for a final epic showdown.

Description from Goodreads.

“In this latest in his continuation of Robert B. Parker’s beloved Spenser series, Atkins continues to do the late author proud… The talented Atkins delivers another engrossing thriller.” – Booklist

“Addictive… Atkins expertly revives the verve and muscular prose of the early books.” – Seattle Times

“Another top notch novel from beginning to end.” – Red Carpet Crash

Available Formats:

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The House on Vesper Sands by  Paraic O’Donnell ★

house on vesper sandsLondon, 1893: high up in a house on a dark, snowy night, a lone seamstress stands by a window. So begins the swirling, serpentine world of Paraic O’Donnell’s Victorian-inspired mystery, the story of a city cloaked in shadow, but burning with questions: why does the seamstress jump from the window? Why is a cryptic message stitched into her skin? And how is she connected to a rash of missing girls, all of whom seem to have disappeared under similar circumstances?

On the case is Inspector Cutter, a detective as sharp and committed to his work as he is wryly hilarious. Gideon Bliss, a Cambridge dropout in love with one of the missing girls, stumbles into a role as Cutter’s sidekick. And clever young journalist Octavia Hillingdon sees the case as a chance to tell a story that matters—despite her employer’s preference that she stick to a women’s society column. As Inspector Cutter peels back the mystery layer by layer, he leads them all, at last, to the secrets that lie hidden at the house on Vesper Sands.

By turns smart, surprising, and impossible to put down, The House on Vesper Sands offers a glimpse into the strange undertow of late nineteenth-century London and the secrets we all hold inside us.

Description from Goodreads.

“Stellar… Fans of Sarah Perry (not to mention Dickens and Wilkie Collins) will be captivated by this marvelous feat.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Chilling… an atmospheric mystery that casts a keen eye on power imbalances and gender inequality.” – Foreword Reviews

The House on Vesper Sands is not a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but Paraic O’Donnell’s sophomore effort is the next best thing… O’Donnell brings his story’s humor and darker themes into richly rewarding alignment.” – Shelf Awareness

“Dickens is whirling enviously in his grave… Read by a fire on a cold winter evening.” – The Irish Times

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Forever Girl by  Jill Shalvis

forever girlWhen Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.

Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery.

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger.

Description from Goodreads.

“Fans of the TV drama series This Is Us as well as love stories ripe with secrets waiting to be spilled will devour Shalvis’s latest in the series.” – Library Journal

“…Shalvis capably weaves the complex, intertwining relationships into an appealing story of second chances. This is sure to satisfy.” – Publishers Weekly

“With The Forever Girl, Jill Shalvis has created a wonderfully touching story about family, love, and second chances that will tug on the heartstrings and take readers on an emotional journey. Readers both new and old to the series are for a treat with this book.” – Harlequin Junkie

Available Formats:

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Concrete Rose by  Angie Thomas ★

concrete roseIf there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.

Description from Goodreads.

“This is the perfect example of a narrative that straddles the beauty and pain of belonging and having the courage to make your own choices… Thomas writes with a depth of humor and clarity that really allows readers to bond with the characters.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give… Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Thomas brings her trademark wit, nostalgic love of the 1990s and all things R&B and hip-hop, and her penchant for heartfelt characterization to this first-person exploration of Maverick Carter’s coming-of-age.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Thomas delivers a poignant prequel to The Hate U Give… Maverick’s story is one that offers hope, encouragement, and optimism.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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You Have a Match by  Emma Lord ★

you have a matchWhen Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie… although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

Description from Goodreads.

“A bright summer tale of connection and self-discovery.” – Booklist

“This book serves up intriguing family drama, beautiful sensory details, and a swoony romance.” – School Library Journal

“The story and characters have depth and emotion, touching on topics of broken friendships, losing a loved one, deception, social media, and pursuing what you love… A cute, feel-good coming-of-age story.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Lord really gets social media and writes about it well… reading this was a ray of sunshine after the year we just had!” – The NERD Daily

Available Formats:

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Aftershocks: A Memoir by  Nadia Owusu ★

aftershocksNadia Owusu grew up all over the world—from Rome and London to Dar-es-Salaam and Kampala. When her mother abandoned her when she was two years old, the rejection caused Nadia to be confused about her identity. Even after her father died when she was thirteen and she was raised by her stepmother, she was unable to come to terms with who she was since she still felt motherless and alone.

When Nadia went to university in America when she was eighteen she still felt as if she had so many competing personas that she couldn’t keep track of them all without cracking under the pressure of trying to hold herself together. A powerful coming-of-age story that explores timely and universal themes of identity, Aftershocks follows Nadia’s life as she hauls herself out of the wreckage and begins to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one she writes into existence.

Description from Goodreads.

“In a literary landscape rich with diaspora memoirs, Owusu’s painful yet radiant story rises to the forefront. The daughter of an Armenian-American mother who abandoned her and a heroic Ghanaian father who died when she was thirteen, Nadia drifted across continents in a trek that she renders here with poetic, indelible prose.” – O, The Oprah Magazine

Aftershocks is a stunning, visceral book about the ways that our stories—of loss, of love, of borders—leave permanent marks on our bodies and minds.” – Booklist

“Enthralling… readers will be moved by this well-wrought memoir.” – Publishers Weekly

Aftershocks is an intimate work told in an imaginative style, with the events that shaped its author rippling throughout her nonlinear story. The structure mimics the all-consuming effect that a moment–a personal earthquake–can have on a life.” – BookPage

Available Formats:

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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by  George Saunders ★

swim in a pond in the rainFrom the New York Times bestselling, Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December comes a literary master class on what makes great stories work and what they can tell us about ourselves—and our world today.

For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.

In his introduction, Saunders writes, “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?” He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.

Description from Goodreads.

“…wonderful… This book is a delight, and it’s about delight too. How necessary, at our particular moment.” – The Guardian

“A master of contemporary fiction joyously assesses some of the best of the 19th century.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…superb… Saunders’s generous teachings—and the classics they’re based on—are sure to please.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain generates more fun, more wit, more sympathetic sense, than we have any right to hope for from a 400-page critical study.” – The Arts Desk

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Walking with Ghosts: A Memoir by  Gabriel Byrne ★

walking with ghostsAs a young boy growing up in the outskirts of Dublin, Gabriel Byrne sought refuge in a world of imagination among the fields and hills near his home, at the edge of a rapidly encroaching city. Born to working class parents and the eldest of six children, he harbored a childhood desire to become a priest. When he was eleven years old, Byrne found himself crossing the Irish Sea to join a seminary in England. Four years later, Byrne had been expelled and he quickly returned to his native city. There he took odd jobs as a messenger boy and a factory laborer to get by. In his spare time, he visited the cinema where he could be alone and yet part of a crowd. It was here that he could begin to imagine a life beyond the grey world of 60s Ireland.

He reveled in the theatre and poetry of Dublin’s streets, populated by characters as eccentric and remarkable as any in fiction, those who spin a yarn with acuity and wit. It was a friend who suggested Byrne join an amateur drama group, a decision that would change his life forever and launch him on an extraordinary forty-year career in film and theatre. Moving between sensual recollection of childhood in a now almost vanished Ireland and reflections on stardom in Hollywood and Broadway, Byrne also courageously recounts his battle with addiction and the ambivalence of fame.

Walking with Ghosts is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking as well as a lyrical homage to the people and landscapes that ultimately shape our destinies.

Description from Goodreads.

“Dreamy, lyrical, and utterly unvarnished. Writes passionately about first love and hilariously about life as an actor.” – Irish Times

“[Byrne] writes with much more depth than the typical celebrity memoirist, accessing some of Heaney’s earthiness and Joyce’s grasp of how Catholic guilt can shape an artist… possesses a winning dry humor that reads as authentically humble… Byrne is an impressive chronicler. A melancholy but gemlike memoir, elegantly written and rich in hard experience.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Actor Byrne channels his fellow countrymen and Ireland’s literary masters–Beckett, Heaney, Joyce, Yeats–to create an exceptionally lyrical and expressive memoir about his childhood and early career… Bracingly revealing about his struggle with alcoholism, achingly passionate about the Ireland of his youth, and piercingly frank about his acting life, Byrne is a vivid, evocative, and sumptuously compelling memoirist.” – Booklist

Walking With Ghosts is lavish with lyricism, but presents a pretty unvarnished version of its author… The book is also a conscious departure: stylistically ambitious, purposefully (and successfully) so.” – The Guardian

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You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by  Amber Ruffin Lacey Lamar

you'll never believe what happened to laceyNow a writer and performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers and host of The Amber Ruffin Show, Amber Ruffin lives in New York, where she is no one’s First Black Friend and everyone is, as she puts it, “stark raving normal.” But Amber’s sister Lacey? She’s still living in their home state of Nebraska, and trust us, you’ll never believe what happened to Lacey.

From racist donut shops to strangers putting their whole hand in her hair, from being mistaken for a prostitute to being mistaken for Harriet Tubman, Lacey is a lightning rod for hilariously ridiculous yet all-too-real anecdotes. She’s the perfect mix of polite, beautiful, petite, and Black that apparently makes people think “I can say whatever I want to this woman.” And now, Amber and Lacey share these entertainingly horrifying stories through their laugh-out-loud sisterly banter. Painfully relatable or shockingly eye-opening (depending on how often you have personally been followed by security at department stores), this book tackles modern-day racism with the perfect balance of levity and gravity.

Description from Goodreads.

“Both maddening and funny, an eye-opening look at how its daily targets cope with racism.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Featuring the authors’ razor-sharp wit and limitless brilliance, these true tales of injustice are a gift to readers.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…expertly balancing laugh-out-loud humor and descriptions of deplorable actions… This is an excellently executed account, rich with vivid insight.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust by  James Comey

saving justiceJames Comey might best be known as the FBI director that Donald Trump fired in 2017, but he’s had a long, varied career in the law and justice system. He knows better than most just what a force for good the US justice system can be, and how far afield it has strayed during the Trump Presidency.

In his much-anticipated follow-up to A Higher Loyalty, Comey uses anecdotes and lessons from his career to show how the federal justice system works. From prosecuting mobsters as an Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York in the 1980s to grappling with the legalities of anti-terrorism work as the Deputy Attorney General in the early 2000s to, of course, his tumultuous stint as FBI director beginning in 2013, Comey shows just how essential it is to pursue the primacy of truth for federal law enforcement. Saving Justice is gracefully written and honestly told, a clarion call for a return to fairness and equity in the law.

Description from Goodreads.

“…Comey writes from a place of deep sincerity about the moral code that Justice Department employees must follow as people who are above politics and doing their best ‘to find and tell the American people the truth.'” – Washington Post

“Comey’s book is paean to America’s institutions at a time when they need reinforcement… Saving Justice makes a heartfelt case for fealty to the rule of law and the constitution. Such lessons demand repetition.” – The Guardian 

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The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology by  Susan Shapiro

forgiveness tour“To err is human; to forgive divine.” But what if the person who hurt you most refuses to apologize or express any regret?

That’s the question haunting Manhattan journalist Susan Shapiro when her trusted advisor of fifteen years repeatedly lies to her. Stunned by the betrayal, she can barely eat or sleep. She’s always seen herself as big-hearted and benevolent, someone who will forgive anyone anything – as long as they’re remorseful. Yet the addiction specialist who helped her quit smoking, drinking and drugs after decades of self-destruction won’t explain – or stop – his ongoing deceit, leaving her blindsided. Her crisis management strategy is becoming her crisis.

To protect her sanity and sobriety, Shapiro ends their relationship and vows they’ll never speak again. Yet ghosting him doesn’t end her distress. She has screaming arguments with him in her mind, relives their fallout in panicked nightmares and even lights a candle, chanting a secret Yiddish curse to exact revenge.

In her entrancing, heartfelt new memoir The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology, Shapiro wrestles with how to exonerate someone who can’t cough up a measly “my bad” or mumble “mea culpa.” Seeking wisdom, she explores the billion-dollar Forgiveness Industry touting the personal benefits of absolution, where the only choice on every channel is: radical forgiveness. She fears it’s all bullshit.

Desperate for enlightenment, she surveys her old rabbis, as well as religious leaders from every denomination. Unable to reconcile all the confusing abstractions, she embarks on a cross country journey where she interviews people who suffered unforgivable wrongs that were never atoned: victims of genocides, sexual assault, infidelity, cruelty and racism. A Holocaust survivor in D.C. admits he’s thrived from spite. A Michigan man meets with the drunk driver who killed his wife and children. A daughter in Seattle grapples with her mother – who stayed married to the father who raped her. Knowing their estrangement isn’t her fault, a Florida mom spends eight years apologizing to her son anyway -with surprising results. Does love mean forever having to say you’re sorry?

Critics praised Shapiro’s previous memoir Lighting Up: How I Stopped Smoking, Drinking and Everything Else I Loved in Life Except Sex as fiercely honest, fascinating, funny and “a mind-bendingly good read.” Now the bestselling author and popular writing professor returns with a darker, wiser follow up, addressing the universal enigma of blind forgiving.

Shapiro’s brilliant new gurus sooth her broken psyche and answer her burning mystery: How can you forgive someone without an apology? Does she? Should you?

Description from Goodreads.

“Enlightening and universally relevant, the book shows us how to forgive even when it might be impossible to forget.” – Kirkus Reviews

” [A] deep, perceptive look at forgiveness… wise and inspiring…” – Forbes

“Susan Shapiro’s latest book might just be the tonic for our fractured, angry times…” – The Detroit News

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Murder in Canaryville: The True Story Behind a Cold Case and a Chicago Cover-Up by  Jeff Coen

murder in canaryvilleThe grandson and great-grandson of Chicago police officers, Chicago Police Detective James Sherlock was CPD through-and-through. His career had seen its share of twists and turns, from his time working undercover to thwart robberies on Chicago’s L trains to his years as a homicide detective. He thought he had seen it all.

But on this day, he was at the records center to see the case file for the murder of John Hughes, who was seventeen years old when he was gunned down on Chicago’s Southwest Side in 1976. The case’s threads led everywhere: Police corruption. Hints of the Chicago Outfit. A crooked judge. Even the belief that the cover-up extended to “hizzoner” himself—legendary Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley.

A murder that had roiled the city and had been investigated for years had been reduced to a few reports and photographs. What should have been a massive file with notes and transcripts from dozens of interviews was nowhere to be found. Sherlock could have left the records center without the folder and cruised into retirement, and no one would have noticed.

Instead, he tucked the envelope under his arm and carried it outside.

Description from Goodreads.

“…riveting… With this fascinating survey, Coen burnishes his reputation as a top-notch crime writer.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Fans of true crime and of police procedurals will find much to relish here.” – Booklist

“In-depth and compelling investigative journalism that will resonate with those interested in organized crime and Chicago history and politics.” – Library Journal

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