Best New Books: Week of 1/19/2021

“Prejudice begets prejudice, you see. Knowledge does not always evolve into wisdom.” – Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Witch


The Divines by  Ellie Eaton ★

divinesCan we ever really escape our past?

The girls of St. John the Divine, an elite English boarding school, were notorious for flipping their hair, harassing teachers, chasing boys, and chain-smoking cigarettes. They were fiercely loyal, sharp-tongued, and cuttingly humorous in the way that only teenage girls can be. For Josephine, now in her thirties, the years at St. John were a lifetime ago. She hasn’t spoken to another Divine in fifteen years, not since the day the school shuttered its doors in disgrace.

Yet now Josephine inexplicably finds herself returning to her old stomping grounds. The visit provokes blurry recollections of those doomed final weeks that rocked the community. Ruminating on the past, Josephine becomes obsessed with her teenage identity and the forgotten girls of her one-time orbit. With each memory that resurfaces, she circles closer to the violent secret at the heart of the school’s scandal. But the more Josephine recalls, the further her life unravels, derailing not just her marriage and career, but her entire sense of self.

Suspenseful, provocative, and compulsively readable, The Divines is a scorching examination of the power of adolescent sexuality, female identity, and the destructive class divide. Exposing the tension between the lives we lead as adults and the experiences that form us, Eaton probes us to consider how our memories as adults compel us to reexamine our pasts.

Description from Goodreads.

“At times both sharp and haunting, this novel embodies the awkwardness and regret of adolescence… A layered and complex debut.” – Booklist

“Eaton’s debut combines three of my favorite things—boarding school, ‘vicious’ teenage girls, and long-buried secrets that haunt for years.” – Literary Hub

“A provocative meditation on our obsession with youth—including our own—and an exploration into the power and perversity of teenage girls, The Divines is perfectly twisted in its reflection of an utterly toxic environment, making it impossible to put down till you get to its end.” – Refinery 29

“[G]ripping… Jumping between modern-day Los Angeles and 1990s Britain, The Divines examines destructive bonds and lingering traumas.” – E! Online

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

My Grandmother’s Braid by  Alina Bronsky

my grandmother's braidMax lives with his grandparents in a residential home for refugees in Germany. When his grandmother—a terrifying, stubborn matriarch and a former Russian primadonna—moved them from the Motherland it was in search of a better life. But she is not at all pleased with how things are run in Germany.

His grandmother has been telling Max that he is an incompetent, clueless weakling since he was a child. While he may be a dolt in his grandmother’s eyes, Max is bright enough to notice that his stoic and taciturn grandfather has fallen hopelessly in love with their neighbour, Nina. When a child is born to Nina that is the spitting image of Max’s grandfather, things come to a hilarious if dramatic head. Everybody will have to learn to defend themselves from Max’s all-powerful grandmother.

Description from Goodreads.

“Alina Bronsky brilliantly keeps the mood funny and uplifting throughout with quirky characters and irreverent humor. My Grandmother’s Braid celebrates the power of forgiveness and the strength of the human spirit.” – Apple Books

“Alina Bronsky has written a little masterpiece. Filled with dark humor, at times cynical, My Grandmother’s Braid is an extraordinarily readable novel, rich in dialogue, and extremely entertaining.” – Gießener Allgemeine

“A marvellous tragicomedy told with such lightness as if the author were hovering a few inches above the ground.” – Sächsische Zeitung

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


Before She Disappeared by  Lisa Gardner

before she disappearedFrankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own–and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.

Description from Goodreads.

“[An] outstanding crime novel… Gardner pulls no punches in this socially conscious standalone.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Fans of this incredible author, police procedurals, timely immigrant stories, strong determined women, and tales that are not tied up with a pretty bow at the end will not be able to get enough of this intense page-turner.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“The pace of Before She Disappeared makes it a faster read than the number of pages would suggest. For me, it fell into ‘couldn’t put it down’ territory, and of all Gardner’s books that I’ve read, I think this was the best.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The Mitford Trial by  Jessica Fellowes

mitford trialIt’s former lady’s maid Louisa Cannon’s wedding day, but the fantasy is shattered shortly after when she is approached by a secretive man asking her to spy on Diana Mitford – who is having an affair with the infamous Oswald Mosley – and her similarly fascist sister Unity.

Thus as summer 1933 dawns, Louisa finds herself accompanying the Mitfords on a glitzy cruise, full of the starriest members of Society. But the waters run red when a man is found attacked, with suspects everywhere.

Back in London, the case is taken by lawyer Tom Mitford, and Louisa finds herself caught between worlds: of a love lost to blood, a family divided, and a country caught in conflict.

Description from Goodreads.

“Inspired by the larger-than-life Mitford family and a real-life murder, Fellowes delivers a ripping-good read.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook


Shiver by  Allie Reynolds

shiverWhen Milla accepts an off-season invitation to Le Rocher, a cozy ski resort in the French Alps, she’s expecting an intimate weekend of catching up with four old friends. It might have been a decade since she saw them last, but she’s never forgotten the bond they forged on this very mountain during a winter spent fiercely training for an elite snowboarding competition.

Yet no sooner do Milla and the others arrive for the reunion than they realize something is horribly wrong. The resort is deserted. The cable cars that delivered them to the mountaintop have stopped working. Their cell phones—missing. And inside the hotel, detailed instructions await them: an icebreaker game, designed to draw out their secrets. A game meant to remind them of Saskia, the enigmatic sixth member of their group, who vanished the morning of the competition years before and has long been presumed dead.

Stranded in the resort, Milla’s not sure what’s worse: the increasingly sinister things happening around her or the looming snowstorm that’s making escape even more impossible. All she knows is that there’s no one on the mountain she can trust. Because someone has gathered them there to find out the truth about Saskia… someone who will stop at nothing to get answers. And if Milla’s not careful, she could be the next to disappear…

Description from Goodreads.

“Deep in the breathtaking winter bleakness of the French Alps, revenge—and perhaps even murder—is most definitely afoot… This suspenseful debut thriller by a former freestyle snowboarder contains both style and substance.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Will chill you to the bone.” – New York Post

“[A] buzzy debut… The story alternates between the present and 10 years prior, ratcheting up the suspense and spooling out a cast of intriguing characters drawn together atop a picturesque yet deadly mountain. Reynolds, a former international snowboarder, delivers the thrills in her must-read debut.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


The City of Tears by  Kate Mosse

city of tearsAlliances and Romance

August 1572: Minou Joubert and her husband Piet travel to Paris to attend a royal wedding which, after a decade of religious wars, is intended to finally bring peace between the Catholics and the Huguenots.

Loyalty and Deception

Also in Paris is their oldest enemy, Vidal, in pursuit of an ancient relic that will change the course of history.

Revenge and Persecution

Within days of the marriage, thousands will lie dead in the street, and Minou’s family will be scattered to the four winds…

Description from Goodreads.

“Vibrant… The fascinating historical detail fuels the drama and keeps the plot zipping along.” – Publishers Weekly

“Thrills aplenty as readers await the next installment of this well-researched series.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Mosse presents another absorbing historical yarn that mixes intrigue, action, and family drama with aplomb.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book | Hoopla eAudiobook

Meet Me in Bombay by  Jenny Ashcroft

meet me in bombayIt’s New Year’s Eve in Bombay, 1913, and Madeline Bright, new to the sweltering heat of colonial India, is yearning for all she has left behind in England. Then, at the stroke of midnight, Maddy meets Luke Devereaux, and as the year changes so do both their lives.

Bold and charismatic, Luke opens her eyes to the wonders of Bombay, while Maddy’s beauty and vivacity captures his heart. Only her mother disapproves, preferring the devoted Guy Bowen as a match for her daughter.

But while Maddy and Luke are falling in love, the world is falling apart. World War I is on the horizon, and Luke will be given no choice but to fight. They will be continents apart, separated by danger and devastating loss, but bound by Luke’s promise that they will meet again in Bombay.

Description from Goodreads.

“An irresistible romantic tour de force… The author employs evocative prose and taut plotting, and the final twist will come as a surprise to those who think they have the story figured out. Ashcroft keeps readers turning the pages.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook | Hoopla eAudiobook


Remote Control by  Nnedi Okorafor ★

remote control“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­–a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks–alone, except for her fox companion–searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

Description from Goodreads.

“This imaginative, thought-provoking story uses elements of the fantastic to investigate the complexities of gender and community outside of a European, colonial imagination. Readers will be blown away.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Okorafor builds a stunning landscape of futuristic technology and African culture, with prose that will grab readers from the first sentence.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“A beautiful, sad, enthralling novella set in a futuristic Africa, Remote Control is a refreshing oasis of creativity… I implore you to discover this lovely, captivating story for yourself.” – BookPage

“[Okorafor] has a rare ability to open the reader’s mind to various futures while creating complex characters and communities… A captivating world, a tragic tale, and a dangerous future.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Wench by  Maxine Kaplan

wenchTanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] funny and fast-paced epic fantasy.” –

“What begins as a lightly parodic medieval adventure grows darker—and more exciting—by the page, with Tanya’s unexpected turn to sorcery raising the stakes. Kaplan’s setting, echoing stock fantasy worlds, offers some freshness through a magic system that cleverly plays to the strengths of the author’s heroine, who has a mind for order and organization. The root concept of an adventuring barmaid in a feminist fantasy world will be enough to pull readers in, and Tanya’s energy and determination will win them over along the way.” – Booklist

“[The] powerfully depicted feminine characters are a joy to see develop…” – School Library Journal

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

This Will Be Funny Someday by  Katie Henry

this will be funny somedayA girl walks into a bar… then onto a stage, and up to the mic.

Sixteen-year-old Izzy is used to keeping her thoughts to herself—in school, where her boyfriend does the talking for her, and at home, where it’s impossible to compete with her older siblings and high-powered parents—but when she accidentally walks into a stand-up comedy club and performs, the experience is surprisingly cathartic. After the show, she meets Mo, an aspiring comic who’s everything Izzy’s not: bold, confident, comfortable in her skin. Mo invites Izzy to join her group of friends and introduces her to the Chicago open mic scene.

The only problem? Her new friends are college students—and Izzy tells them she’s one, too. Now Izzy, the dutiful daughter and model student, is sneaking out to perform stand-up with her comedy friends, and she can hardly remember all the lies she’s telling to keep her two lives separate.

Her controlling boyfriend is getting suspicious, and her former best friend knows there’s something going on. But Izzy loves comedy and this newfound freedom. As her two parallel lives collide—in the most hilarious of ways—Izzy must choose to either hide what she really wants and who she really is or, finally, truly stand up for herself.

Description from Goodreads.

“Henry delivers a complex coming-of-age narrative of a teenager gaining the courage to be her true self. Comedy nerds and novices alike will enjoy Isabel’s introduction to the stand-up scene, but the story’s core value lies in Isabel finding her voice and coming to terms with her abusive relationship. Readers unfamiliar with the insidious cycle of emotional abuse will gain insight as they witness Alex’s toxic behavior and the ways Isabel rationalizes it.” – School Library Journal

“Isabel is achingly and sympathetically flawed and her growth, realistic; readers will undoubtedly connect with her journey. Honest truths delivered with humor and heart.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Henry’s background as a playwright shines. Readers will enjoy watching [Isabel] undergo the process of self-transformation, one punch line at a time.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women – and Women to Medicine by  Janice P. Namura ★

doctors blackwellElizabeth Blackwell believed from an early age that she was destined for a mission beyond the scope of “ordinary” womanhood. Though the world at first recoiled at the notion of a woman studying medicine, her intelligence and intensity ultimately won her the acceptance of the male medical establishment. In 1849, she became the first woman in America to receive an M.D. She was soon joined in her iconic achievement by her younger sister, Emily, who was actually the more brilliant physician.

Exploring the sisters’ allies, enemies, and enduring partnership, Janice P. Nimura presents a story of trial and triumph. Together, the Blackwells founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, the first hospital staffed entirely by women. Both sisters were tenacious and visionary, but their convictions did not always align with the emergence of women’s rights—or with each other. From Bristol, Paris, and Edinburgh to the rising cities of antebellum America, this richly researched new biography celebrates two complicated pioneers who exploded the limits of possibility for women in medicine. As Elizabeth herself predicted, “a hundred years hence, women will not be what they are now.”

Description from Goodreads.

“This nonfiction story of the first hospital staffed entirely by women could not be more timely.” – Entertainment Weekly

“A riveting dual biography of America’s first female physicians… A compellingly portrayed and vividly realized biography of triumph and trailblazing.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Nimura shocks and enthralls with her blunt, vivid storytelling. She draws on the writings of Elizabeth and Emily in an intimate way that makes it feel like she knew the sisters personally. Alongside glaring descriptions of culturally ingrained sexism and discrimination, the biography also touches on how our standards of medicine have changed over the decades, showing how even the most scientific of professions are subject to major culture shifts.” – Discover

“Nimura writes fluidly, and her book is an engaging and meticulously documented guide not only to the sisters’ lives but also to the medical practices of their time. We hear about obsolete medical treatments (intravaginal leeches), student ingenuity (stuffing medical textbooks under clothes to avoid paying taxes) and New York trivia (the Blackwell’s infirmary on Bleecker Street was a former Roosevelt residence). But the greater part of Nimura’s achievement lies in how she brings new life to the story of two extraordinary and idiosyncratic physicians who forever changed the medical profession.” – American Scholar

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World by  Simon Winchester

landLand—whether meadow or mountainside, desert or peat bog, parkland or pasture, suburb or city—is central to our existence. It quite literally underlies and underpins everything. Employing the keen intellect, insatiable curiosity, and narrative verve that are the foundations of his previous bestselling works, Simon Winchester examines what we human beings are doing—and have done—with the billions of acres that together make up the solid surface of our planet.

Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World examines in depth how we acquire land, how we steward it, how and why we fight over it, and finally, how we can, and on occasion do, come to share it. Ultimately, Winchester confronts the essential question: who actually owns the world’s land—and why does it matter?

Description from Goodreads.

“The latest sweeping, satisfying popular history from the British American author and journalist, this time covering a topic that many of us take for granted… Engaging revelations about land and property, often discouraging but never dull.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Winchester amasses a wealth of intriguing factoids and arcana… an entertaining and erudite roundup of humanity’s ever-evolving relationship with terra firma.” – Publishers Weekly

“A veteran journalist presents a fascinating survey of the subject of land: how we own it, divide it and try to master it… One couldn’t ask for a more accessible or comprehensive treatment of the subject than Simon Winchester’s book.” – Shelf Awareness

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher by  Charlotte Bismuth

bad medicineIn 2010, a brave whistleblower alerted the police to Dr. Stan Li’s corrupt pain management clinic in Queens, New York. Li spent years supplying more than seventy patients a day with oxycodone and Xanax, trading prescriptions for cash. Emergency room doctors, psychiatrists, and desperate family members warned him that his patients were at risk of death but he would not stop.

In Bad Medicine, former prosecutor Charlotte Bismuth meticulously recounts the jaw dropping details of this criminal case that would span four years, culminating in a landmark trial. As a new assistant district attorney and single mother, Bismuth worked tirelessly with her team to bring Dr. Li to justice. Bad Medicine is a chilling story of corruption and greed and an important look at the role individual doctors play in America’s opioid epidemic.

Description from Goodreads.

“A gripping read tailor-made for the silver screen.” – Kirkus Reviews

“In what she calls ‘a memoir from the trenches,’ former prosecutor Bismuth shares her recollections of working on the four-year investigation and 18-week trial of a pill-pushing medical doctor… The takeaways? Prosecutors are human, and bad doctors can destroy lives.” – Booklist

“Bismuth builds tension expertly, and offers hope that the tools of law enforcement can be used to reign in the worst abuses of the medical industry. This gritty page-turner offers a unique perspective on America’s opioid crisis.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Reel Bay: A Cinematic Essay by  Jana Larson

reel bayWhat was Takako Konishi really doing in North Dakota, and why did she end up dead? Did she get lost and freeze to death, as the police concluded, while searching for the fictional treasure buried in a snowbank at the end of the Coen Brothers’ film Fargo? Or was it something else that brought her there: unrequited love, ritual suicide, a meteor shower, a far-flung search for purpose?

The seed of an obsession took root in struggling film student Jana Larson when she chanced upon a news bulletin about the case. Over the years and across continents, the material Jana gathered in her search for the real Takako outgrew multiple attempts at screenplays and became this remarkable, genre-bending essay that leans into the space between fact and fiction, life and death, author and subject, reality and delusion.

Description from Goodreads.

“A captivating blend of memoir, true-crime, meditation on women in film, and fantasy played out through the pages of screenplays that will never be completed… What begins as a cataloguing of a ravenous, journalistic hunt becomes a mesmerizing exercise in projection and subjectivity… With this essay, Larson captures both the fanaticism of creative fixation and the listlessness of artistic existential dread with clarity and empathy… There is something inherently defiant in Larson’s exploration of those who are lost and deluded, and something freeing in bearing witness as she becomes the true subject of her art.” – The Arkansas International

“Fittingly, Larson softens the divisions separating genres by interweaving memoir, travelogue and screenplay. While unconventional, it works, and the result is a cleverly aberrant narrative structure dealing with the creative process and the difficult search for meaning.” – Star Tribune

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook

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