Best New Books: Week of 8/31/21

“Everything makes sense if you look at it long enough.” – Stephen Graham Jones, Mongrels



Be My Ghost by  Carol J. Perry

Fiction / Mystery / Cozy.

Maureen’s career as a sportswear buyer hits a snag just before Halloween, when the department store declares bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Finn’s lost his way as a guide dog after flunking his test for being too friendly and easily distracted. Sadly, only one of them can earn unemployment, so Maureen’s facing a winter of discontent in Boston–when she realizes she can’t afford her apartment.

Salvation comes when she receives a mysterious inheritance: an inn in Haven, Florida. A quaint, scenic town on the Gulf of Mexico hidden away from the theme parks, Maureen believes it’s a good place to make a fresh start with a new business venture. But she gets more than she bargained for when she finds a dead body on her property–and meets some of the inn’s everlasting tenants in the form of ghosts who offer their otherworldly talents in order to help her solve the mystery…

“…exceptional… The ghosts, in a refreshing departure from most paranormal cozies, don’t take center stage, and entertaining subplots, such as her efforts to discover why Miss Gray left her the inn, keep the pages turning. Readers will look forward to Maureen’s further adventures.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Perry’s new series kickoff smartly doesn’t give away its biggest mysteries.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Perry kicks off a character-rich series with this installment, which leaves unresolved Maureen’s mysterious connection to Penelope Gray, for future books. Readers of E. J. Copperman’s Haunted Guesthouse mysteries will enjoy this title.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

eBook | Hoopla eBook


The Heart Principle by  Helen Hoang ★

Fiction / Romance.

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.

“[An] emotionally moving novel…” – Kirkus Reviews

“There’s something about the way that Hoang writes her characters. They’re fully fleshed, vulnerable, sexual, and full of potential, and her newest novel proves no different.” – Real Simple

“Sensitive and sweet, The Heart Principle—a worthy follow-up to Hoang’s 2019 novel The Bride Test— explores a burgeoning romance built on undeniable chemistry.” – Time

“…beautifully melancholy and meditative… Hoang strikes a more somber tone in this outing, giving Anna daunting challenges to overcome, including some serious hang-ups around sex. Readers shouldn’t expect a typical rom-com, but many will still swoon for this sensitive love story.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


The Last Chance Library by  Freya Simpson

Fiction / Romance.

Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.

Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer’s feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won’t believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.

To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she’s determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself, too.

“A sweet testament to the power of reading, community, and the library.” – Booklist

“Author Sampson has created a gem of a book populated by vivid personalities and a story that weaves together heroes and villains, love and loss, mourning and growth as it follows June and the Chalcot community as they seek to save their library—which offers so much more than books. A delightful exploration of personal growth, inner strength, and the importance of family, friends, and love.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Fans of libraries and heartfelt, humorous women’s fiction with a powerful message and a hint of romance won’t want to miss this one! It’s so good that readers may very well devour it in one sitting.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


My Heart Is a Chainsaw by  Stephen Graham Jones ★

Fiction / Horror / Suspense.

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies… especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

“At once an homage to the horror genre and a searing indictment of the brutal legacy of Indigenous genocide in America, Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is a Chainsaw delivers both dazzling thrills and visceral commentary… Jones takes grief, gentrification and abuse to task in a tale that will terrify you and break your heart all at the same time.” – Time

“Stephen Graham Jones is a star when it comes to melding horror with literary fiction, exploring themes of colonialism and racisms alongside Indigenous experiences. He hasn’t been described as the Jordan Peele of horror fiction for nothing… A masterpiece.” – BookRiot

“Horror fans [will] be blown away by this audacious extravaganza.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Sneaking in right at the end of the summer is the best horror novel of the year… A loving homage to meta-horror classics like Scream and Cabin in the Woods. Hilarious at one turn and outrageously gruesome at the next, it’ll be the perfect book to read after dark over Labor Day weekend.” – GQ

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


The Riviera House by  Natasha Lester

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

Paris, 1939: The Nazis think Éliane can’t understand German. They’re wrong. They think she’s merely cataloging art in a Louvre museum and unaware they’re stealing national treasures for their private collections. They have no idea she’s carefully decoding their notes and smuggling information to the Resistance. But Éliane is playing a dangerous game. Does she dare trust the man she once loved with her secrets, or will he only betray her once again? She has no way to know for certain… until a trip to a stunning home on the French Riviera brings a whole new level of peril.

Present Day: Wanting to forget the tragedy that has left her life in shambles, Remy Lang heads to a home she’s mysteriously inherited on the Riviera. While working on her vintage fashion business, she discovers a catalog of the artworks stolen during World War II and is shocked to see a painting that hung on her childhood bedroom wall. Who is her family, really? And does the Riviera house hold more secrets than Remy is ready to face?

Natasha Lester brilliantly explores the impossible choices ordinary people faced every day during extraordinary circumstances, weaving fact with fiction and celebrating women who push the boundaries of their time.

“Fascinating.” – Red Carpet Crash

“[A] stunning and beautifully written story…” – The Bashful Bookworm

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Royals Next Door by  Karina Halle

Fiction / Romance.

Piper Evans: elementary school teacher by day–avid romance reader and anonymous podcaster by night. She lives a quiet, reclusive life, taking care of her mother, who struggles with mental illness, avoiding her regrettable ex, who bartends in town, and trying to make inroads in the tight-knit island community that still sees her, five years in, as an outsider.

And she’s happy with how things are–really–until British royals rent the property next to hers and their brooding bodyguard decides she’s a security threat. Piper quickly realizes that one person’s fairy tale is an ordinary woman’s nightmare as a media frenzy takes over the island and each run-in with Harrison Cole is hotter and more confusing than the last. But beneath Harrison’s no-nonsense exterior lies a soft heart, one that could tempt a woman who’s sworn off attachments into believing in white knights.

But when Piper finds herself smack in the middle of a royal scandal that rocks the island she’ll need more than Harrison’s strong arms to shield her–she’ll have to do a little rescuing herself. With careers, hearts, and friendships on the line, Piper and Harrison will have to decide what they’re willing to give up for a chance at their own happily ever after.

“Prepare to fall hard for The Royals Next Door.” – PopSugar

“A romance brimming with tension and fun, while putting mental health and trauma recovery at its center.” – Library Journal

“…brings all the fun, sweetness, and snark you need to make your summer great… With characters that leap off the page, an enchanting royal couple to root for and a slow-burn romance to make you ache, The Royals Next Door is the perfect summer read.” – The Nerd Daily

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Secret History of Food: Strange and True Stories About the Origins of What We Eat by  Matt Siegel

Nonfiction / Food / History.

Is Italian olive oil really Italian, or are we dipping our bread in lamp oil? Why are we masochistically drawn to foods that can hurt us, like hot peppers? Far from being a classic American dish, is apple pie actually… English?

“As a species, we’re hardwired to obsess over food,” Matt Siegel explains as he sets out “to uncover the hidden side of everything we put in our mouths.” Siegel also probes subjects ranging from the myths—and realities—of food as aphrodisiac, to how one of the rarest and most exotic spices in all the world (vanilla) became a synonym for uninspired sexual proclivities, to the role of food in fairy- and morality tales. He even makes a well-argued case for how ice cream helped defeat the Nazis.

The Secret History of Food is a rich and satisfying exploration of the historical, cultural, scientific, sexual, and, yes, culinary subcultures of this most essential realm. Siegel is an armchair Anthony Bourdain, armed not with a chef’s knife but with knowledge derived from medieval food-related manuscripts, ancient Chinese scrolls, and obscure culinary journals. Funny and fascinating, The Secret History of Food is essential reading for all foodies.

“Idiosyncratic essays that will give foodies much to digest.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] delightful and unusual look at the evolution of food… An invigorating culinary romp through time, this is a cheeky treat for history buffs and foodies alike.” – Publishers Weekly

” The former English professor takes an irreverent tone toward his subject, balancing dense research with snarky wit.” – Richmond Magazine

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory by  Roxane van Iperen

Nonfiction / Biography / History.

Eight months after Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Nazis roll into The Netherlands, expanding their reign of brutality to the Dutch. But by the Winter of 1943, resistance is growing. Among those fighting their brutal Nazi occupiers are two Jewish sisters, Janny and Lien Brilleslijper from Amsterdam. Risking arrest and death, the sisters help save others, sheltering them in a clandestine safehouse in the woods, they called “The High Nest.”

This secret refuge would become one of the most important Jewish safehouses in the country, serving as a hiding place and underground center for resistance partisans as well as artists condemned by Hitler. From The High Nest, an underground web of artists arises, giving hope and light to those living in terror in Holland as they begin to restore the dazzling pre-war life of Amsterdam and The Hague.

When the house and its occupants are eventually betrayed, the most terrifying time of the sisters’ lives begins. As Allied troops close in, the Brilleslijper family are rushed onto the last train to Auschwitz, along with Anne Frank and her family. The journey will bring Janny and Lien close to Anne and her older sister Margot. The days ahead will test the sisters beyond human imagination as they are stripped of everything but their courage, their resilience, and their love for each other.

Based on meticulous research and unprecedented access to the Brilleslijpers’ personal archives of memoirs and photos, Sisters of Auschwitz is a long-overdue homage to two young women’s heroism and moral bravery—and a reminder of the power each of us has to change the world.

“…spellbinding… Offering fascinating insights into Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter, the fate of the Frank family, and the bonds of sisterly devotion, this standout history isn’t to be missed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A truly worthwhile addition to the body of Holocaust studies.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“The sisters’ story is nothing short of astonishing… a compelling tale. Let’s hope it is just the start of bringing these two indomitable, courageous and heroic women to public attention.” – The JC

Available Formats:

Print Book | Large Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


A Slow Fire Burning by  Paula Hawkins ★

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?

Look what you started.

“The flaws of each character will surprise and perhaps even enchant you — and only a clairvoyant could anticipate the book’s ending.” – New York Times

“A dark, intricate tale of three women tied to a bloody murder on a London houseboat. You’ll be gobsmacked by the end.” – People

“Shocking, moving, full of heart… Laced with humour and packed with moments of sheer horror, A Slow Fire Burning shows a writer at the height of her powers.”  – The Observer

“From the author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water comes another read-it-in-one-night thriller… proves that revenge is actually a dish best served hot, simmering and smoldering.” – Town & Country

Available Formats:

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


These Toxic Things by  Rachel Howzell Hall

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

Mickie Lambert creates “digital scrapbooks” for clients, ensuring that precious souvenirs aren’t forgotten or lost. When her latest client, Nadia Denham, a curio shop owner, dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors the old woman’s last wish and begins curating her peculiar objets d’art. A music box, a hair clip, a key chain―twelve mementos in all that must have meant so much to Nadia, who collected them on her flea market scavenges across the country.

But these tokens mean a lot to someone else, too. Mickie has been receiving threatening messages to leave Nadia’s past alone.

It’s becoming a mystery Mickie is driven to solve. Who once owned these odd treasures? How did Nadia really come to possess them? Discovering the truth means crossing paths with a long-dormant serial killer and navigating the secrets of a sinister past. One that might, Mickie fears, be inescapably entwined with her own.

“Hall’s books are garnering evermore attention and buzz; this distinctive and intriguing tale may be her breakout title.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“This cleverly plotted, surprise-filled novel offers well-drawn and original characters, lively dialogue, and a refreshing take on the serial killer theme. Hall continues to impress.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A mystery/thriller/coming-of-age story you won’t be able to put down till the final revelation.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book


Three Rooms by  Jo Hamya

Fiction.

“A woman must have money and a room of one’s own.” So said Virginia Woolf in her classic A Room of One’s Own, but in this scrupulously observed, gorgeously wrought debut novel, Jo Hamya pushes that adage powerfully into the twenty-first century, to a generation of people living in rented rooms. What a woman needs now is an apartment of her own, the ultimate mark of financial stability, unattainable for many.

Set in one year, Three Rooms follows a young woman as she moves from a rented room at Oxford, where she’s working as a research assistant; to a stranger’s sofa, all she can afford as a copyediting temp at a society magazine; to her childhood home, where she’s been forced to return, jobless, even a room of her own out of reach. As politics shift to nationalism, the streets fill with protestors, and news drip-feeds into her phone, she struggles to live a meaningful life on her own terms, unsure if she’ll ever be able to afford to do so.

“A sharp statement on Millennial disenfranchisement and poverty.” – Ms.

“Sophisticated, spiky… Strikingly thoughtful… A phenomenal achievement. Perfectly judged set pieces at parties, offices and art galleries are infused with the illuminating and inquiring mind of an author who watches our society with an unflinching x-ray eye and tells its stories back to us with elegance and wit. And that, surely, is the mark of an excellent writer.” –  The Times

“Ultra-contemporary… Hamya’s observations are biting and truthful… This is a novel about precarious housing, precarious work and precarious mental health: all things that are connected… A polemical novel, in a tradition of women writing about the cost of freedom that includes Woolf and leads to novelists such as Deborah Levy and Rachel Cusk. But the book also belongs to a new genre of socially realist writing about millennial poverty and what that does to women’s ambitions (see Raven Leilani’s Luster, Lily King’s Writers & Lovers, and, most recently, Anna Glendenning’s An Experiment in Leisure)… [Hamya] is astute at portraying a new young precariat, rich in culture and education, but poor in housing and job opportunities… This is a novel in which disaffection feels real—and, at the novel’s end, the wraith-like heroine finds a heartstoppingly dramatic expression of her distress.” –  The Guardian

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Woods Are Always Watching by  Stephanie Perkins

Fiction / Young Adult / Horror / Suspense.

Bears aren’t the only predators in these woods.

Best friends Neena and Josie spent high school as outsiders, but at least they had each other. Now, with college and a two-thousand-mile separation looming on the horizon, they have one last chance to be together—a three-day hike deep into the woods of the Pisgah National Forest.

Simmering tensions lead to a detour off the trail and straight into a waking nightmare… and then into something far worse. Something that will test them in horrifying ways.

Stephanie Perkins, the bestselling author of There’s Someone Inside Your House, returns with a heart-stopping, gut-wrenching novel about friendship, survival, and navigating unmarked paths even as evil watches from the shadows.

“The fall’s spookiest YA novel.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Perkins crafts a lushly immersive natural setting, highlighting the tranquility of the Blue Ridge Mountains as her characters proceed through an escalating series of dire situations. Violence is quite present… but Perkins doesn’t linger on gratuitous gore, focusing instead on establishing tension and emotion in this rapidly paced dark thriller.” – Publishers Weekly

“Well-told, with strong characters and a chilling setting, The Woods are Always Watching will have you looking over your shoulder and listening for those things that go ‘bump’ in the night.” – Mystery & Suspense

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook



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