Best New Books: Week of 7/6/21

“A mistake is a lesson, unless you make the same mistake twice.” – S.A. Cosby, Blacktop Wasteland


Dear Miss Metropolitan by  Carolyn Ferrell ★

Fern seeks refuge from her mother’s pill-popping and boyfriends via Soul Train; Gwin finds salvation in the music of Prince much to her congregation’s dismay and Jesenia, miles ahead of her classmates at her gifted and talented high school, is a brainy and precocious enigma. None of this matters to Boss Man, the monster who abducts them and holds them captive in a dilapidated house in Queens.

On the night they are finally rescued, throngs line the block gawking and claiming ignorance. Among them is lifetime resident Miss Metropolitan, advice columnist for the local weekly, but how could anyone who fancies herself a “newspaperwoman” have missed a horror story unfolding right across the street? And why is it that only two of the three girls–now women–were found? The mystery haunts the two remaining “victim girls” who are subjected to the further trauma of becoming symbols as they continuously adapt to their present and their unrelenting past.

Like Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, Ferrell’s Dear Miss Metropolitan gives voice to characters surviving unimaginable tragedy. The story is inventively revealed before, during, and after the ordeal in this singular and urgent novel.

Description from Goodreads.

“…innovative and harrowing… Effectively unpacks both individual and collective trauma. It’s blistering from page one.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Dear Miss Metropolitan feels like a book that many of us need to read, so that we can open our eyes to see what’s going on around us, so that we can relieve someone’s misery, solve a crime, and maybe save a life.” – A Bookish Type

“[A] powerful debut novel… This tale of pain and healing will keep readers fully engaged and discussion groups talking for a long time.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] book that isn’t to be missed… strikingly original writing. It’s delivered in sort of dreamlike snatches, sort of like magical thinking. And it can be lyrical in spots — it’s quite different from anything I’ve ever read.” –

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

The Paper Palace by  Miranda Cowley Heller ★

“This house, this place, knows all my secrets.”

It is a perfect July morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace”–the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside.

Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives. As Heller colors in the experiences that have led Elle to this day, we arrive at her ultimate decision with all its complexity.

Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace considers the tensions between desire and dignity, the legacies of abuse, and the crimes and misdemeanors of families.

Description from Goodreads.

“Beguiling.” – Vogue

“This one’s filled with secrets, love, lies and a summer beach house. What more could you ask?” – Parade

“A captivating debut… full of lush atmospheric details. This will keep the reader guessing all the way to the end.” – Publishers Weekly

“The moody and atmospheric setting of the shadowy paths and ponds of the Back Woods is described in lush detail that makes a sharp contrast to the colder, sharper elements of Elle’s story… From the first pages of her debut novel, Heller pulls no punches. Some of them just sneak up on you later on.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

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

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by  Emily Austin ★

Gilda, a twenty-something, atheist, animal-loving lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.

In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.

A delightful blend of warmth, deadpan humor, and pitch-perfect observations about the human condition, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a crackling exploration of what it takes to stay afloat in a world where your expiration—and the expiration of those you love—is the only certainty.

Description from Goodreads.

“The perfect blend of macabre and funny.” – Buzzfeed

“Hilarious, relatable, exasperating, and endearing. For all readers of fiction.” – Library Journal

“Readers will find themselves rooting for the lovable but traumatized heroine.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Exuberant… a brisk story underpinned by a vibrant cast.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Wayward by  Dana Spiotta

On the heels of the election of 2016, Samantha Raymond’s life begins to come apart: her mother is ill, her teenage daughter is increasingly remote, and at fifty-two she finds herself staring into the Mids–that hour of supreme wakefulness between three and four in the morning in which women of a certain age suddenly find themselves contemplating motherhood, mortality, and, in this case, the state of our unraveling nation.

When she falls in love with a beautiful, decrepit house in a hardscrabble neighborhood in Syracuse, she buys it on a whim and flees her suburban life–and her family–as she grapples with how to be a wife, a mother, and a daughter, in a country that is coming apart at the seams.

Dana Spiotta’s Wayward is a stunning novel about aging, about the female body, and about female difficulty–female complexity–in the age of Trump. Probing and provocative, brainy and sensual, it is a testament to our weird, off-kilter America, to reforms and resistance and utopian wishes, and to the beauty of ruins. Tremendous new work from one of the most gifted writers of her generation.

Description from Goodreads.

Wayward is a strikingly human and affecting story… gloriously cool, deftly assembled, brimming with mood… a hymn to iconoclasm, a piercing novel about what we lose and gain by when we step out of life’s deepest worn grooves.” – Vogue

“A furious and addictive new novel… Spiotta’s fiction is rightfully praised for its structural innovation, its stylish commentary on technology and ‘the moment—but her vision for the novel is fundamentally moral… Sam [is] an ideal guide—rash, funny, searching, entirely unpredictable, drawn with a kind of skeptical fondness… The local pleasures of Spiotta’s writing are sharp, and many… what a pleasure to encounter not just ideas about the thing, but the thing itself—descriptions that irradiate the pleasure centers of the brain, a protagonist so densely, exuberantly imagined, she feels like a visitation.” – New York Times

“Thrilling… Spiotta’s novels are unfailingly dense with life—the textures, digressions, and details thereof—and Wayward is no exception. The novel is at once satirical and earnest: Sam asks what she can do to atone for her thoughtless privilege, what role she might play as an agent of change. There’s much comedy in the asking, but the novel makes clear that the answers aren’t straightforward… For this reader, there is uncommon pleasure in the paradoxes of this climacteric tale.” – Harper’s

Available Formats:

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Shoulder Season by  Christina Clancy

The small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is an unlikely location for a Playboy Resort, and nineteen-year old Sherri Taylor is an unlikely bunny. Growing up in neighboring East Troy, Sherri plays the organ at the local church and has never felt comfortable in her own skin. But when her parents die in quick succession, she leaves the only home she’s ever known for the chance to be part of a glamorous slice of history. In the winter of 1981, in a costume two sizes too small, her toes pinched by towering stilettos, Sherri joins the daughters of dairy farmers and factory workers for the defining experience of her life.

Living in the “bunny hutch”—Playboy’s version of a college dorm, surrounded by a twelve-foot high barbed-wire fence (to keep the men out, and the girls in)—Sherri gets her education in the joys of sisterhood, the thrill of financial independence, the magic of first love, and the heady effects of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But as spring gives way to summer, Sherri finds herself caught up in a romantic triangle––and the tragedy that ensues will haunt her for the next forty years of her life.

Shoulder Season follows Sherri from her fledgling days as a bunny, when she tries to reinvent herself before she even knows who she is, to the woman she becomes years later. From the Midwestern prairie to the California desert, from Wisconsin lakes to the Pacific Ocean, this is a story of what happens when small town life is sprinkled with stardust, and what we lose—and gain—when we leave home. It’s about the brief but intoxicating experiences of our youth, and how they have the power to shape the rest of our lives. With a heroine to root for and a narrative to get lost in, Shoulder Season is a sexy, evocative tale, drenched in longing and desire, that captures a fleeting moment in American history with nostalgia and heart.

Description from Goodreads.

“A perfect beach read.” – Buzzfeed

“A striking portrayal of a glamorous piece of history.” –

“A story filled with tension, excitement, love, indulgence, tragedy, and redemption… Clancy doesn’t disappoint.” – Provincetown Banner

Available Formats:

Print Book

Variations on the Body by  María Ospina

A constellation of short stories illustrates the complex, interrelated lives of women in and around Bogotá, Colombia.

In six subtly connected vignettes, Variations on the Body explores the obsessions, desires, and idiosyncrasies of women and girls from every level of Colombian society. A former FARC guerilla fighter adjusts to urban life and faces the new violence of an editor co-opting her experiences. A woman documents a flea infestation with a catalog of the marks on her body. A child copes with anxiety about the adult world by concocting–and drinking–“dirt juice” every day in the garden. Combining humor, heartbreak, and unsettling violence, Ospina weaves a multifaceted picture of contemporary Bogotá in vibrant, gleaming prose.

Description from Goodreads.

“In Ospina’s smart, vibrant debut collection, women struggle to carve out lives for themselves… Ospina draws out the class distinctions among her characters with stark, incisive contrasts.” – Publishers Weekly

“An excellent example of a first book of fiction, Variations on the Body personalizes hardship through concrete individual actions, asking more of its readers with every sentence.” – World Literature Today

“It is not a catalog of all the ways a female body is blatantly battered by society, but rather a gentle and nuanced exploration of female physical existence in Bogotá. It will not leave you forlorn and exhausted as some women’s fiction does, but rather endeared by the peculiar characters, each with their own preoccupation.” – Slanted Spines

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

Together We Will Go by  J. Michael Straczynski

Mark Antonelli, a failed young writer looking down the barrel at thirty, is planning a cross-country road trip. He buys a beat-up old tour bus. He hires a young army vet to drive it. He puts out an ad for others to join him along the way. But this will be a road trip like no other: His passengers are all fellow disheartened souls who have decided that this will be their final journey—upon arrival in San Francisco, they will find a cliff with an amazing view of the ocean at sunset, hit the gas, and drive out of this world.

The unlikely companions include a young woman with a chronic pain sensory disorder and another who was relentlessly bullied at school for her size; a bipolar, party-loving neo-hippie; a gentle coder with a literal hole in his heart and blue skin; and a poet dreaming of a better world beyond this one. We get to know them through access to their texts, emails, voicemails, and the daily journal entries they write as the price of admission for this trip.

By turns tragic, funny, quirky, charming, and deeply moving, Together We Will Go explores the decisions that brings these characters together, and the relationships that grow between them, with some discovering love and affection for the first time. But as they cross state lines and complications to the initial plan arise, it becomes clear that this is a novel as much about the will to live as the choice to end it. The final, unforgettable moments as they hurtle toward the decisions awaiting them will be remembered for a lifetime.

Description from Goodreads.

“This novel challenges form and function and presents the meaning of life in a new, original way.” – Good Morning America

“Acclaimed creator Straczynski manages to strike a note that’s lighthearted, peculiar, poignant, and profound all at once.” – Newsweek

Available Formats:

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Falling by  T.J. Newman ★

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

Description from Goodreads.

“One of the year’s best thrillers… This novel is like the films Die Hard and Speed on steroids… Newman keeps up an extreme pace from the first page.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Brilliant… Incredibly suspenseful… With abundantly human characters, natural dialogue, and a plot that unleashes one surprise after another, this could be the novel that everyone is talking about this summer.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“The author, a former bookseller and flight attendant, seems to think of everything — every trick, every error, every advantage — in a plot that executes more barrel rolls than a stunt plane on the Fourth of July.” – Los Angeles Times

“High-octane drama… Newman’s background means Falling brings a freshness and depth to the genre. While the story is propelled by the impossible situation Bill and his captive family find themselves in, at its heart is the relationship between the tight-knit crew… It’s an eye-opening look into the reality of working on a plane.” – The Guardian

Available Formats:

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Razorblade Tears by  S.A. Cosby ★

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

Description from Goodreads.

“A tour de force – poignant, action-packed, and profound.” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“A visceral full-body experience, a sharp jolt to the heart, and a treat for the senses… Cosby’s moody southern thriller marries the skillful action and plotting of Lee Child with the atmosphere and insight of Attica Locke.” – NPR

“S.A. Cosby blew us away with last year’s searing heist thriller/rural noir Blacktop Wasteland, and with Razorblade Tears he’s done it again. In a heartbreaking tale of love, murder, vengeance, and acceptance, two ex-cons, one Black and one white, team up to find those responsible for the death of their sons, who were married to each other… Shattering and beautiful, this is a must-read for genre and literary fiction fans alike.” – CrimeReads

“A lean, mean crime story… Fast on its feet, by turns lethal and tender… This is a bloody good yarn with two compelling antiheroes you’ll root for from the start.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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The Stranger in the Mirror by  Liv Constantine ★

Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad…

In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she?

As these two lives intersect, The Stranger in the Mirror hooks readers with riveting drama, told with Liv Constantine’s hallmark blend of glamour, tense psychological thrills, and jaw-dropping twists.

Description from Goodreads.

“Exceptionally twisty… Devilishly smooth and deceptive.” – Toronto Star

“In true Liv Constantine fashion, nothing is as it seems… If a tense and twisted plot is your thing (it’s definitely mine) then you need to add this to your reading list right away!” – Suspense

“Another twisty and unsettling domestic psychological thriller… from established book-club favorite Liv Constantine… A tony drama, certain to appeal to fans of the genre.” – Booklist

“The well-worn trope of a person suffering amnesia receives a fresh update in The Stranger in the Mirror, thanks to appealing characters and Liv Constantine’s energetic storytelling… Constantine imbues this fifth novel with a brisk plot, solid twists and many surprises as the author blends the psychological thriller with a terrifying domestic drama.” – Sun-Sentinel

Available Formats:

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An Ambush of Widows by  Jeff Abbott

Henry North is a down-on-his-luck cybersecurity expert from New Orleans. Adam Zhang is the cofounder of one of Austin’s most successful venture capitalist firms. These two men didn’t know each other. They had never met. Yet they died together, violently, in a place neither had any business being.

When Henry doesn’t return from a business trip, his wife, Kirsten, panics—and then gets an anonymous phone call: “Your husband is dead in Austin.”

Flora Zhang knew her husband was keeping secrets. She suspected an affair, but she had decided she could forgive him for his weakness—until her husband ended up dead. And with no explanation for her husband’s murder, the police begin to suspect her.

Together, these two widows will face a powerful foe determined to write a false narrative about the murders. In doing so, neither Flora nor Kirsten will remain the women the world thought they were.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] taut thriller… Abbott adroitly shifts perspectives to raise the suspense. Lisa Unger fans will be pleased.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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The Grandmother Plot by  Caroline B. Cooney

Death isn’t unexpected in a nursing home. But murder is.

Freddy leads a life of little responsibility. His mother is dead, his sisters are far-flung across the globe, and he can’t quite work up enough motivation to find himself a girlfriend. Freddy has been forced to place his beloved grandmother, now deep in dementia, in a nursing home. Freddy visits her often, cherishing and also hating the time he spends with the grandmother he always adored, now a ghost of her former self.

When a fragile old woman already close to death is murdered in that nursing home, Freddy panics. His sources of income are iffy, as are his friends. He has to keep his grandmother safe, keep himself anonymous, and keep the police out of his life―or the complications could become deadly.

Description from Goodreads.

“The author does a remarkable job of combining tones, including sentimental and snarky, while being both wry and gently respectful… Cooney should win new fans with this one.” – Publishers Weekly

“More than a well-plotted mystery, which this is, this is a book that will make the reader think… to mull over issues long after they’ve finished the book. One strong recommendation, read the entire book, through to the very end. The final encounters are as thought provoking as the story itself.” – Mystery & Suspense

“Bestselling author Caroline B. Cooney has been perfecting the fine art of thriller writing for decades now, and her latest novel, The Grandmother Plot, will grip you from page one.” – PopSugar

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

The Temple House Vanishing by  Rachel Donohue

Perched high atop a seaside cliff in Ireland, a lonely Victorian mansion is home to Temple House School. And at Temple House, nothing is ever as it seems.

Louisa is the new, brilliant scholarship student. Finding most of the other students at the all-girls Catholic boarding school as icy and unfamiliar as the drafty mansion, she forms a fierce bond with the intense and compelling Victoria, an outlier and student provocateur.

Their close bond is soon unsettled by the young, charismatic art teacher, Mr. Lavelle—igniting tension and obsession in the cloistered world of the school. Then one day, Louisa and Mr. Lavelle disappear.

There is no trace of either one. It’s the unsolved mystery that captivates the whole country. Year after year, the media revisit it, and the conspiracy theories persist. Now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary, a journalist—a woman who grew up on the same street as Louisa—delves into the past to write a series of articles and uncover the truth. She finds stories of jealousy and revenge, power and class. But will she find Louisa and Mr. Lavelle, too?

Because remember—at Temple House, nothing is ever as it seems.

Told through alternating points of view, Rachel Donohue’s debut novel skillfully, gradually, lets the reader into the hearts and minds of both Louisa and the determined reporter. This page-turner is perfect for fans of Elisabeth Thomas’s Catherine House or Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa.

Description from Goodreads.

“With shades of everything from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Frost in May to Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Secret History, this is subtle, intriguing and very well written.” – The Guardian

“Evocative and mysterious… Sublime writing.” – Sunday Independent

“The creeping pace, melancholic tone, and full-bodied characters create a perfect snapshot of desperate youth amid oppressive tradition. This stands among the best of the current modern gothic trend.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

The Bone Code by  Kathy Reichs

A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past.

On the way to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognizes many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManch to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice—and comfort—of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan.

Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable.

Shockingly, Tempe eventually discovers that not only are the victims in both grisly murder cases related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause…

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] quality addition to Kathy Reichs’ iconic Temperence Brennan series.” – Booklover Book Reviews

“How Reichs brings everything together is the mark of an accomplished crime writer and fans of this series will be happy at how things progress… an entertaining read that’ll keep you guessing.” – Crime Fiction Lover

“[A] marvellous read, lots of tension, a clever and twisty plot… utterly compelling from start to finish.” – The Bookwormery

Available Formats:

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The Hollywood Spy by  Susan Elia MacNeal

Los Angeles, 1943. As the Allies beat back the Nazis in the Mediterranean and the United States military slowly closes in on Tokyo, Walt Disney cranks out wartime propaganda and the Cocoanut Grove is alive with jazz and swing each night. But behind this sunny façade lies a darker reality. Somewhere in the lush foothills of Hollywood, a woman floats, lifeless, in the pool of one of California’s trendiest hotels. When American-born secret agent and British spy Maggie Hope learns that this woman was engaged to her old flame, John Sterling, and that he suspects her death was no accident, intuition tells her he’s right. Leaving London under siege—not to mention flying thousands of miles—is a lot to ask. But John was once the love of Maggie’s life… and she won’t say no.

Maggie is shocked to find Los Angeles as divided as Europe itself—the Zoot Suit Riots loom large and the Ku Klux Klan casts a long shadow. As she marvels at the hatred in her home country, she can’t help but wonder what it will be like to see her lost love once again. But there is little time to dwell on memories once she starts digging into the case. As she traces a web of deception from the infamous Garden of Allah to the iconic Carthay Theater, she discovers things aren’t always the way they appear in the movies—and the political situation in America is more complicated, and dangerous, than the newsreels would have them all believe.

Description from Goodreads.

“…meticulously researched… fans of golden age Hollywood will find plenty to like.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] stellar novel. Elia MacNeal expertly braids the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with the chilling reality of the rise of American Nazis and the blatant racism against Blacks, Japanese, Germans and Italians.” – Lincoln Journal Star

Available Formats:

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Murder and Gold by  Ann Aptaker

New York City, 1954.

Two women are found murdered. One is Lorraine Quinn, Cantor Gold’s most recent one-night stand. The other is political power broker and aspiring New York socialite Eve Garraway, a regular client of Cantor’s stolen art trade.

Police nemesis, Lieutenant Norm Huber, wants to pin the murders on Cantor, send her to prison, and put her in the electric chair. He’ll get evidence on her any way he can. Into this cauldron of danger and death come two other women, each with ties to Cantor’s past. One hates her until passion intervenes; the other harbors darkly hidden feelings.

Set during the earliest stirrings of the Homosexual Rights Movement, Cantor begins to question her own tenuous identity, and the trade-offs she must make to get what she wants.

Cantor Gold, dapper butch art thief and smuggler for whom survival is everything, must now grapple with two fronts: surviving the shifting sands of the criminal underworld, and navigating the changing tides of society.

Description from Goodreads.

“There is a lot of action and intrigue, darkness and violence, mobster power play, high society being snooty, big hulking goons and Chivas neat… Aptaker makes my heart sing and I hope Cantor Gold has many more adventures to come.” – Lez Review Books

“Ann Aptaker’s series featuring… Cantor Gold is one of the best kept secrets of queer fiction today…” – CrimeReads

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


The Forest of Vanishing Stars by  Kristin Harmel

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel.

Description from Goodreads.

“…powerful… the narrative culminates in a terrifying climax. Along the way, the author impresses with descriptions of how Yona and the refugees survive. Harmel’s stirring adventure will captivate readers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…beautiful… Kristin Harmel proves to be a masterful storyteller, as she weaves a heart wrenching and harrowing tale of survival, courage and fortitude in the darkest of days… This novel will deservedly become the most sought-after novel by book clubs in July.” – Mystery & Suspense

“…wonderful… Unique and captivating. Harmel has delivered a WW2 tale unlike any other I’ve read.” – The Book Review Crew

Available Formats:

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Island Queen by  Vanessa Riley

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.

Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.

From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] spirited narrative… Riley has made a fascinating character out of Dorothy. Readers will enjoy Riley’s depiction of Dorothy’s unconventional life.” – Publishers Weekly

“…unearths the admirable story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas — a true icon of perseverance… Riley does the story of this majestic figure justice and then some.” – Paperback Paris

“Riley’s novel takes readers on a complex but emotionally fufilling journey which brings up serious historical questions on slavery, class, gender, and business ethics during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Riley’s novel is the answer for fans who feel recent historical dramas prioritize varying levels of whitewashing or escapism over featuring real Black history.” – Den of Geek

Available Formats:

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Out of Character by  Annabeth Albert

Jasper Quigley is tired of being everyone’s favorite sidekick. He wants to become the hero of his own life, but that’s not going to happen if he agrees to help out his former best friend turned king of the jocks, Milo Lionetti. High school was miserable enough, thanks, and Jasper has no interest in dredging up painful memories of his old secret crush.

But Milo’s got nowhere else to go. His life is spiraling out of control and he’s looking to turn things back around. Step one? Replace the rare Odyssey cards he lost in an idiotic bet. Step two? Tell his ex-best-friend exactly how he feels—how he’s always felt.

Jasper may be reluctant to reopen old wounds, but he never could resist Milo. There’s a catch, though: if Milo wants his help, he’s going to have to pitch in to make the upcoming children’s hospital charity ball the best ever. But as the two don cosplay for the kids and hunt for rare cards, nostalgia for their lost friendship may turn into something even more lasting…

Description from Goodreads.

“Closeted college dropout Milo Lionetti embarks on a journey of forgiveness, redemption, and self-discovery in Albert’s cute second True Colors romance… the slice-of-life plot and sweet, supportive romance that develops between them will have broad appeal. This is sure to please.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] cute, (former) friends-to-lovers romance featuring two likeable characters who have a lot to learn – and re-learn – about each other… charming and heart-warming… a low-angst, feel-good romance about second chances, being brave and being true to yourself and others…” – All About Romance

“A story of second chances, fun cosplay events and two main characters that will steal your heart, Out of Character is a sweet and restorative second installment in the True Colors series!” – The NERD Daily

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Six Crimson Cranes by  Elizabeth Lim

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

Description from Goodreads.

“Accessible dialogue and compassionately rendered family dynamics cohere in a nuanced, compelling cast. Seamlessly intertwining western and East Asian folklore, Lim embroiders a richly imagined landscape in this vibrant, fast-paced duology starter.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Intriguing departures from the beats of a typical fantasy-quest plot, well-laid red herrings and excellently sown seeds of future complications set Six Crimson Cranes apart. It radiates with Lim’s love for fairy tales and legends from around the world and takes readers on a well-paced adventure with a magic all its own.” – BookPage

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This Is Your Mind on Plants by  Michael Pollan ★

Of all the things humans rely on plants for–sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, flavor, fiber–surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate or calm, fiddle with or completely alter, the qualities of our mental experience. Take coffee and tea: People around the world rely on caffeine to sharpen their minds. But we do not usually think of caffeine as a drug, or our daily use as an addiction, because it is legal and socially acceptable. So, then, what is a “drug”? And why, for example, is making tea from the leaves of a tea plant acceptable, but making tea from a seed head of an opium poppy a federal crime?

In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs–opium, caffeine, and mescaline–and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, of our thinking about them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs while consuming (or, in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and then why do we fence that universal desire with laws and customs and fraught feelings?

In this unique blend of history, science, and memoir, as well as participatory journalism, Pollan examines and experiences these plants from several very different angles and contexts, and shines a fresh light on a subject that is all too often treated reductively–as a drug, whether licit or illicit. But that is one of the least interesting things you can say about these plants, Pollan shows, for when we take them into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging with nature in one of the most profound ways we can. Based in part on an essay published almost twenty-five years ago, this groundbreaking and singular consideration of psychoactive plants, and our attraction to them through time, holds up a mirror to our fundamental human needs and aspirations, the operations of our minds, and our entanglement with the natural world.

Description from Goodreads.

This Is Your Mind on Plants is an entertaining blend of memoir, history and social commentary that illustrates Pollan’s ability to be both scientific and personal. By relying on contextual history and focusing on three popular, if misunderstood, drugs, Pollan challenges common views on what mind-altering drugs are and what they can accomplish.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“Pollan is a master of breaking down complex science into an engaging story and challenging long-held societal beliefs. His newest offering, which follows his examination of the science of psychedelics in 2018’s How to Change Your Mind, aims to unpack our ideas about what constitutes a ‘drug’ and, fundamentally, why we seek them.” – TIME

“Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind, Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce… A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Blending artful exposition of the evolution and neurochemistry of botanical drugs, erudite history, and (usually) precise and evocative prose, this is an insightful take on plants’ beguiling sway over the human psyche.” – Publishers Weekly

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Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood by  Danny Trejo with  Donal Logue

On screen, Danny Trejo the actor is a baddie who has been killed at least a hundred times. He’s been shot, stabbed, hanged, chopped up, squished by an elevator, and once, was even melted into a bloody goo. Off screen, he’s a hero beloved by recovery communities and obsessed fans alike. But the real Danny Trejo is much more complicated than the legend.

Raised in an abusive home, Danny struggled with heroin addiction and stints in some of the country’s most notorious state prisons, including San Quentin and Folsom, from an early age, before starring in such modern classics as Heat, From Dusk till Dawn, and Machete. Now, in this funny, painful, and suspenseful memoir, Danny takes us through the incredible ups and downs of his life, including meeting one of the world’s most notorious serial killers in prison and working with legends like Charles Bronson and Robert De Niro.

In honest, unflinching detail, Danny recounts how he managed the horrors of prison, rebuilt himself after finding sobriety and spirituality in solitary confinement, and draws inspiration from the adrenaline-fueled robbing heists of his past for the film roles that made him a household name. He also shares the painful contradictions in his personal life. Although he speaks everywhere from prison yards to NPR about his past to inspire countless others on their own road to recovery and redemption, he struggles to help his children with their personal battles with addiction, and to build relationships that last.

Redemptive and painful, poignant and real, Trejo is a portrait of a magnificent life and an unforgettable and exceptional journey through tragedy, pain, and, finally, success that will transfix and inspire.

Description from Goodreads.

“This page-turner will thrill the legend’s huge fan base.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A story with compassion and unsparing candor… its enough to make you believe in the possibility of a Hollywood ending.” – New York Times Book Review

“This gripping autobiography recounts a flawed hero’s journey as Trejo digs his way out of tragedy, temptation, and the toxic masculinity of his youth. Trejo‘s true power far exceeds that of his tough-guys roles.” – Booklist

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The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It by  Helen Scales

“The oceans have always shaped human lives,” writes marine biologist Helen Scales in her vibrant new book The Brilliant Abyss, but the surface and the very edges have so far mattered the most. “However, one way or another, the future ocean is the deep ocean.”

A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway. Revolutionary studies in the deep are rewriting the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most amazing part of our planet, with a topography even more varied and extreme than its Earthbound counterpart. Teeming with unsuspected life, an extraordinary interconnected ecosystem deep below the waves has a huge effect on our daily lives, influencing climate and weather systems, with the potential for much more–good or bad depending on how it is exploited. Currently the fantastic creatures that live in the deep–many of them incandescent in a world without light–and its formations capture and trap vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise poison our atmosphere; and novel bacteria as yet undiscovered hold the promise of potent new medicines. Yet the deep also holds huge mineral riches lusted after by many nations and corporations; mining them could ultimately devastate the planet, compounded by the deepening impacts of ubiquitous pollutants and rampant overfishing.

Eloquently and passionately, Helen Scales brings to life the majesty and mystery of an alien realm that nonetheless sustains us, while urgently making clear the price we could pay if it is further disrupted. The Brilliant Abyss is at once a revelation and a clarion call to preserve this vast unseen world.

Description from Goodreads.

“Marine biologist Scales tours the lightless depths of the ocean and showcases its denizens in this show-stopping work… This vivid survey hits the mark as an awe-filled paean to the mysteries of the deep.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Brilliant Abyss is about the vast majority of the ocean that we never see, the watery places so deep you could stack 10 Empire State Buildings in them. But because of technological advances, we’re learning more: about the creatures that live there (worms that are nine feet long; the “slimehead,” a fish that can live up to 250 years); about the possible beginnings of life itself; and about the surprising ways in which we depend on ecosystems most of us could never visit.” – New York Times Book Review

“Written by a highly articulate expert in the field, [The Brilliant Abyss is] so comprehensive and insightful that it will be a long time before it’s surpassed… In the first half of her book, Scales does an excellent job of animating the almost unbelievable panoply of life in the deep. As an explorer herself, she has seen things first-hand that few others will ever witness. But it is the second part of her book, devoted to the human impacts on the abyss, which brought gasps to my throat… It is hard to imagine a more timely or important book than The Brilliant Abyss. Carefully conceived and luminously written, it is certain to be a bestseller, which gives me hope that its urgent message might help save the world.” – New Statesman

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The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans by  Cynthia Barnett

A compelling history of seashells and the animals that make them, revealing what they have to tell us about nature, our changing oceans, and ourselves.

Seashells have been the most coveted and collected of nature’s creations since the dawn of humanity. They were money before coins, jewelry before gems, art before canvas.

In The Sound of the Sea, acclaimed environmental author Cynthia Barnett blends cultural history and science to trace our long love affair with seashells and the hidden lives of the mollusks that make them. Spiraling out from the great cities of shell that once rose in North America to the warming waters of the Maldives and the slave castles of Ghana, Barnett has created an unforgettable account of the world’s most iconic seashells. She begins with their childhood wonder, unwinds surprising histories like the origin of Shell Oil as a family business importing exotic shells, and charts what shells and the soft animals that build them are telling scientists about our warming, acidifying seas.

From the eerie calls of early shell trumpets to the evolutionary miracle of spines and spires and the modern science of carbon capture inspired by shells, Barnett circles to her central point of listening to nature’s wisdom—and acting on what seashells have to say about taking care of each other and our world.

Description from Goodreads.

“Enthralling… [A] fascinating history of the shellmakers and of the multitude of ways they have interacted with and shaped human beings.” – Tampa Bay Times

“Well-researched, consistently illuminating… An absolutely captivating nature book.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Riveting… [A]n entertaining, colorful tour of a surprisingly dynamic part of nature.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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Stories to Tell: A Memoir by  Richard Marx

Richard Marx is one of the most accomplished singer-songwriters in the history of popular music. His self-titled 1987 album went triple platinum and made him the first male solo artist (and second solo artist overall after Whitney Houston) to have four singles from their debut crack the top three on the Billboard Hot 100. His follow-up, 1989’s Repeat Offender, was an even bigger smash, going quadruple platinum and landing two singles at number one. He has written fourteen number one songs in total, shared a Song of the Year Grammy with Luther Vandross, and collaborated with a variety of artists including NSYNC, Josh Groban, Natalie Cole, and Keith Urban. Lately, he’s also become a Twitter celebrity thanks to his outspokenness on social issues and his ability to out-troll his trolls.

In Stories to Tell, Marx uses this same engaging, straight-talking style to look back on his life and career. He writes of how Kenny Rogers changed a single line of a song he’d written for him then asked for a 50% cut—which inspired Marx to write one of his biggest hits. He tells the uncanny story of how he wound up curled up on the couch of Olivia Newton-John, his childhood crush, watching Xanadu. He shares the tribulations of working with the all-female hair metal band Vixen and appearing in their video. Yet amid these entertaining celebrity encounters, Marx offers a more sobering assessment of the music business as he’s experienced it over four decades—the challenges of navigating greedy executives and grueling tour schedules, and the rewards of connecting with thousands of fans at sold-out shows that make all the drama worthwhile. He also provides an illuminating look at his songwriting process and talks honestly about how his personal life has inspired his work, including finding love with wife Daisy Fuentes and the mystery illness that recently struck him—and that doctors haven’t been able to solve.

Stories to Tell is a remarkably candid, wildly entertaining memoir about the art and business of music.

Description from Goodreads.

Stories to Tell is ultimately the tale of a supremely talented, instinctual songwriter who rode the wave of MTV fame for a decade or so and then, when the heat dissipated, reinvented himself as a producer and songwriter for others.” – Associated Press

Stories To Tell is sufficiently uplifting and heartfelt to be one of Marx’s very best records.” – Louder Sound

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The Belle Époque: A Cultural History, Paris and Beyond by  Dominique Kalifa

The years before the First World War have long been romanticized as a zenith of French culture–the “Belle Époque.” The era is seen as the height of a lost way of life that remains emblematic of what it means to be French. In a vast range of texts and images, it appears as a carefree time full of joie de vivre, fanfare and frills, artistic daring, and scientific innovation. The Moulin Rouge shared the stage with the Universal Exposition, Toulouse-Lautrec rubbed elbows with Marie Curie and La Belle Otero, and Fantómas invented automatic writing.

This book traces the making–and the imagining–of the Belle Époque to reveal how and why it became a cultural myth. Dominique Kalifa lifts the veil on a period shrouded in nostalgia, explaining the century-long need to continuously reinvent and even sanctify this moment. He sifts through images handed down in memoirs and reminiscences, literature and film, art and history to explore the many facets of the era, including its worldwide reception. The Belle Époque was born in France, but it quickly went global as other countries adopted the concept to write their own histories. In shedding light on how the Belle Époque has been celebrated and reimagined, Kalifa also offers a nuanced meditation on time, history, and memory.

Description from Goodreads.

“American readers, especially those who came of age after World War II, will quickly call up Toulouse-Lautrec posters on their walls and memories of first touring Paris. Kalifa gives those memories historical footings and explains their origins, providing a useful, informative portrait for scholars and Francophiles alike. An evocative, critical work of cultural history that brings the near past alive.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…accessible and engaging but rich with references for readers who want to pursue the new avenues that Kalifa opens… Kalifa’s book is a work of insightful, thought-provoking scholarship that sheds new light on the Belle
Époque and its representations.” – H-France

Available Formats:

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The Hero’s Way: Walking with Garibaldi from Rome to Ravenna by  Tim Parks

In the summer of 1849, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italy’s legendary revolutionary, was finally forced to abandon his defense of Rome. He and his men had held the besieged city for four long months, but now it was clear that only surrender would prevent slaughter and destruction at the hands of a huge French army.

Against all odds, Garibaldi was determined to turn defeat into moral victory. On the evening of July 2, riding alongside his pregnant wife, Anita, he led 4,000 hastily assembled men to continue the struggle for national independence elsewhere. Hounded by both French and Austrian armies, the garibaldini marched hundreds of miles across the Appenines, Italy’s mountainous spine, and after two months of skirmishes and adventures arrived in Ravenna with just 250 survivors.

Best-selling author Tim Parks, together with his partner Eleonora, set out in the blazing summer of 2019 to follow Garibaldi and Anita’s arduous journey through the heart of Italy. In The Hero’s Way he delivers a superb travelogue that captures Garibaldi’s determination, creativity, reckless courage, and profound belief. And he provides a fascinating portrait of Italy then and now, filled with unforgettable observations of Italian life and landscape, politics, and people.

Description from Goodreads.

“A dream for armchair globetrotters… Parks intertwines his travelogue with thought-provoking contemplation on leadership, history, memory, politics, idealism and the true meaning of love of country.” – New Statesman

“A chronicle of wiliness in defeat and the unlikely escape of a shrinking ragtag volunteer army… [T]he central point of how a seeming military debacle gradually became viewed as ‘a glorious act of resistance’ is powerfully made.” – Seattle Times

“Soulful… This gripping account of Italy’s visionary past serves as a revealing window into its clouded present.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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We Are the Baby-Sitters Club: Essays and Artwork from Grown-Up Readers edited by  Marisa Crawford &  Megan Milks

In 1986, the first-ever meeting of the Baby-Sitters Club was called to order in a messy bedroom strewn with RingDings, scrunchies, and a landline phone. Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne launched the club that birthed an entire generation of loyal readers.

Ann M. Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club series featured a complex cast of characters and touched on an impressive range of issues that were underrepresented at the time: divorce, adoption, childhood illness, class division, and racism, to name a few.

In We Are the Baby-Sitters Club, writers and a few visual artists from the original BSC generation will reflect on the enduring legacy of Ann M. Martin’s beloved series, thirty-five years later—celebrating the BSC’s profound cultural influence.

Contributors include Paperback Crush author Gabrielle Moss, illustrator Siobhán Gallagher, and filmmaker Sue Ding, as well as New York Times bestselling author Kristen Arnett, Lambda Award–finalist Myriam Gurba, Black Girl Nerds founder Jamie Broadnax, and Paris Review contributor Frankie Thomas.

One of LitHub‘s Most Anticipated Books of 2021, We Are the Baby-Sitters Club looks closely at how Ann M. Martin’s series shaped our ideas about gender politics, friendship, fashion and beyond.

Description from Goodreads.

“One of my happiest moments of 2020 was binge-watching Netflix’s The Baby-sitters Club with my seven-year-old niece—it was the first time we ever watched something we were equally invested in. I’m excited to keep the BSC vibes going with this fun anthology, featuring work from Myriam Gurba, Kristen Arnett, and others.” – Literary Hub

“Poet Crawford (Reversible) and fiction writer Milks (Kill Marguerite and Other Stories) collect heartwarming reflections on the influence of Ann M. Martin’s famed Babysitters Club series in this reverent anthology… Sentimental but never cloying, this anthology will hit home for readers who grew up with the series.” – Publishers Weekly

“This vibrant collection reveals the impact of the series on its readers, who are now all grown up… We Are the Baby-Sitters Club is its editors’ own Great Idea. Like young adulthood, its entries are packed with big feelings—around longing, health issues, community, and loneliness. There are bursts of fierce, inclusive humor in this inspiring and enlightening trip back to Stoneybrook, Connecticut, where a group of young entrepreneurs still thrive in perennial tweendom.” – Foreword Reviews

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The Comfort Book by  Matt Haig

A small book for anyone in search of hope, looking for a path to a more meaningful life, or in need of encouragement.

Happiness occurs when you forget who you’re expected to be. And what you’re expected to do. Happiness is an accident of self-acceptance. It’s the warm breeze you feel when you open the door to who you are.

Years ago, Matt Haig began writing notes to his future self. These notes were meant as gifts to his future self: offerings of hope to help himself through anything from the darkest periods of his life to a not-so-great day. As time went on, he added new thoughts and stories, and he turned them into The Comfort Book so that everyone could draw on this well of reassurance and encouragement. Each of its short meditations gives a new perspective on life and all of its highs and lows–small islands of hope for anyone looking for a more fulfilling, more uplifting way through life. Incorporating a diverse array of sources from across the world, history, science, and his own experiences, Haig offers warmth and reassurance, reminding us to slow down and appreciate the beauty and unpredictability of existence.

Description from Goodreads.

“The bestselling author of Notes on a Nervous Planet and The Midnight Library offers earnest reflections in this thought-provoking, affirming collection that is both personal and universal… With Haig’s trademark empathy and celebration of the resilience of the human heart, this is a book we all need and deserve.” – Booklist

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