Best New Books: Week of 11/9/21

“When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.” – Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves



The Dark Hours by  Michael Connelly

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

There’s chaos in Hollywood on New Year’s Eve. Working her graveyard shift, LAPD Detective Renée Ballard seeks shelter at the end of the countdown to wait out the traditional rain of lead as hundreds of revelers shoot their guns into the air. As reports start to roll in of shattered windshields and other damage, Ballard is called to a scene where a hardworking auto shop owner has been fatally hit by a bullet in the middle of a crowded street party.

It doesn’t take long for Ballard to determine that the deadly bullet could not have fallen from the sky. Ballard’s investigation leads her to look into another unsolved murder—a case at one time worked by Detective Harry Bosch.

Ballard and Bosch team up once again to find out where the old and new cases intersect. All the while they must look over their shoulders. The killer who has stayed undetected for so long knows they are coming after him.

Description from Goodreads.

“A masterpiece… Meticulous about actual police procedure, Connelly makes the fundamentals of detective work engrossing while providing plenty of suspense and action.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“The fourth Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch novel is the best yet… Ballard has evolved into one of crime fiction’s richest, most complex characters.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Stellar… no one who follows Ballard and Bosch to the end will be disappointed. A bracing test of the maxim that ‘the department always comes first. The department always wins.’” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

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


Five Tuesdays in Winter: Stories by  Lily King ★

Fiction.

By the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Writers & Lovers, Lily King’s first-ever collection of exceptional and innovative short stories.

Told in the intimate voices of unique and endearing characters of all ages, these tales explore desire and heartache, loss and discovery, moments of jolting violence and the inexorable tug toward love at all costs. A bookseller’s unspoken love for his employee rises to the surface, a neglected teenage boy finds much-needed nurturing from an unlikely pair of college students hired to housesit, a girl’s loss of innocence at the hands of her employer’s son becomes a catalyst for strength and confidence, and a proud nonagenarian rages helplessly in his granddaughter’s hospital room. Romantic, hopeful, brutally raw, and unsparingly honest, some even slipping into the surreal, these stories are, above all, about King’s enduring subject of love.

Description from Goodreads.

“These are stories of outsiders finding their people, of new perspectives, and they place King—already one of our most poignant and moving contemporary novelists—among Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, and Mary Gaitskill as one of our great short-story writers as well.” – Vogue

“A masterful, enchanting collection of stories illuminating the spectrum of human love—the platonic, the unrequited, the forbidden and the unconditional.” – People

“The acclaimed author of Writers & Lovers returns with ten shimmering stories, each one a gemlike exploration of love, loss, and grief… Each masterful story reminds us that King is one of our finest cartographers of the human heart.” – Esquire

“These stories crackle and shine, and King is a master of the thumbnail portrait: she can create a fully realized life in a single paragraph and then alter it in breathtaking ways. This is a must for fans of the short story.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | Hoopla eBook


Just Haven’t Met You Yet by  Sophie Cousens

Fiction / Romance.

Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t exactly off to a great start. After unceremoniously dumping everything in her bag in front of the most attractive man she’s ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel only to realize she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation? The irresistibly appealing contents of the case: a copy of her favorite book; piano music; and a rugged, heavy knit fisherman sweater only a Ryan Gosling lookalike could pull off. The owner of this suitcase is Laura’s dream man–she’s sure of it. Now, all she has to do is find him.

The mix-up seems written in the stars. After all, what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same remote island where her mom and dad had first fallen in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their epic romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. And if beneath Ted’s gruffness lies a wit that makes their cab rides strangely entertaining, so much the better. But as Laura’s long-lost luggage soulmate proves difficult to find–and as she realizes that the love story she’s held on a pedestal all her life might not have been that perfect–she’ll have to rethink her whole outlook on love to discover what she really wants.

Description from Goodreads.

“Sweet [and] funny… It’s just the story to offer a little romantic escapism during the holiday season.” – CNN

“A delightfully romantic tale of one woman’s search for her happily ever after in the form of the owner of a swapped suitcase.” – PopSugar

“Cousens creates a world full of lovable characters who are all trying their best to be happy despite life’s many obstacles. Although all the characters are dealing with their own hardships, Cousens imbues the entire story with an uplifting sense of hope… The Jersey setting creates a cozy, wind-swept background to the deliciously slow-burn romance. A warm, witty, and absolutely charming seaside holiday that’s perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months That Transformed the Supreme Court by  Linda Greenhouse

Nonfiction / Politics / Law.

At the end of the Supreme Court’s 2019-20 term, the center was holding. The predictions that the court would move irrevocably to the far right hadn’t come to pass, as the justices released surprisingly moderate opinions in cases involving abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, and how local governments could respond to the pandemic, all shepherded by Chief Justice John Roberts. By the end of the 2020-21 term, much about the nation’s highest court has changed. The right-wing supermajority had completed its first term on the bench, cementing Donald Trump’s legacy on American jurisprudence.

This is the story of that term. From the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the rise of Amy Coney Barrett, from the pandemic to the election, from the Trump campaign’s legal challenges to the ongoing debate about the role of religion in American life, the Supreme Court has been at the center of many of the biggest events of the year. Throughout Justice on the Brink, legendary journalist Linda Greenhouse, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her Supreme Court coverage, gives us unique insight into a court under stress, providing the context and brilliant analysis readers of her work in The New York Times have come to expect.

Ultimately, Greenhouse asks a fundamental question relevant to all Americans: Is this still John Roberts’s Supreme Court, or does it now belong to Donald Trump?

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] probing examination of recent decisions… Distinguished by Greenhouse’s vivid profiles of the justices and lucid unraveling of their knotty legal theories, this is a revelatory study of the Supreme Court in flux.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book


Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction from 20 Authors of Color edited by  Abby L. Vandiver

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

From a simple robbery gone horribly wrong to a grisly murder in a secret love dungeon, this stellar collection of crime fiction short stories showcases some of today’s finest young voices.

Edited by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Abby Vandiver, this anthology will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Welcome to Midnight Hour

Jennifer Chow: Midnight Escapade
After years of silence, two women decide to meet up in a unique escape room but get trapped in a deadly game from which there may be no escape.

Tracy Clark: Lucky Thirteen
A gun. A last meal. And only one survivor. Sometimes the stars align–but only for the lucky one–as predator and prey come face-to-face one fateful New Year’s Eve.

H. C. Chan: Murderer’s Feast
Techpreneur John Manley left a trail of duped investors and damaged women in his wake. What happens when two hundred of his closest enemies gather for a five-day gourmet retreat?

Christopher Chambers: In the Matter of Mabel and Bobby Jefferson
It’s almost midnight, it’s snowing, and a bored call center worker catches a customer inquiry that smells of murder. Is he a knight rescuing the intended victim or someone else’s pawn?

Plus, stories by Ritchie Narvaez, Frankie Bailey, E. A. Aymar, Faye Snowden, Tina Kashian, and many more.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] wonderful all-original anthology… Full of varied voices, this volume is a must read for mystery aficionados.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An excellent collection of stories told from many different viewpoints.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


My Body by  Emily Ratajkowski ★

Nonfiction / Memoir / Essays.

Emily Ratajkowski is an acclaimed model and actress, an engaged political progressive, a formidable entrepreneur, a global social media phenomenon, and now, a writer. Rocketing to world fame at age twenty-one, Ratajkowski sparked both praise and furor with the provocative display of her body as an unapologetic statement of feminist empowerment. The subsequent evolution in her thinking about our culture’s commodification of women is the subject of this book.

My Body is a profoundly personal exploration of feminism, sexuality, and power, of men’s treatment of women and women’s rationalizations for accepting that treatment. These essays chronicle moments from Ratajkowski’s life while investigating the culture’s fetishization of girls and female beauty, its obsession with and contempt for women’s sexuality, the perverse dynamics of the fashion and film industries, and the grey area between consent and abuse.

Nuanced, fierce, and incisive, My Body marks the debut of a writer brimming with courage and intelligence.

Description from Goodreads.

My Body is a memoir, but it’s also a slow, complicated indictment of a profession and the people who propel it. Ratajkowski doesn’t so much direct blame at any one person or organization as paint a personal picture of what it was like for her to be young, naive, ambitious, and smart―and to feel reduced, far too often, to a collection of body parts… [My Body] will deliver a more nuanced and introspective rendering of her interior than those who come to it with surface interests might expect.” – Vogue

“Scalpel-sharp… Ratajkowski’s raw book of essays will change the way you see the supermodel. And, just maybe, yourself.” – Elle

“No stranger to discourse and scrutiny over women’s bodies, Emily Ratajkowski brings nuanced insight to questions about empowerment versus commodification of women’s bodies and sexuality. Blending cultural criticism and personal stories, My Body is smart and powerful.” – Time

“An intimate and accomplished essay collection that tackles big questions about internalized misogyny, the male gaze, female empowerment, and the commodification of sexuality… Enriched by Ratajkowski’s insider perspective on the modeling industry and her willingness to wrestle with the power of the male gaze rather than outright rejecting it, this is an astute and rewarding mix of the personal and the political.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


Never by  Ken Follett

Fiction / Thriller.

In the Sahara Desert, two elite intelligence agents are on the trail of a powerful group of drug-smuggling terrorists, risking their lives–and, when they fall desperately in love, their careers–at every turn. Nearby, a beautiful young widow fights against human traffickers while traveling illegally to Europe with the help of a mysterious man who may not be who he says he is.

In China, a senior government official with vast ambitions for himself and his country battles against the older Communist hawks in the government, who may be pushing China–and its close military ally, North Korea–to a place of no return.

And in the United States, Pauline Green, the country’s first woman president, navigates terrorist attacks, illegal arms trading, and the smear campaigns of her blustering political opponent with careful and deft diplomacy. She will do everything in her power to avoid starting an unnecessary war. But when one act of aggression leads to another, the most powerful countries in the world are caught in a complex web of alliances they can’t escape. And once all the sinister pieces are in place, can anyone–even those with the best of intentions and most elite skills–stop the inevitable?

Never is an extraordinary thriller, full of heroines and villains, false prophets and elite warriors, jaded politicians and opportunistic revolutionaries. It brims with cautionary wisdom for our times, and a delivers a visceral, heart-pounding read that transports readers to the brink of the unimaginable.

Description from Goodreads.

“Terrific… A powerful, commanding performance from one of the top writers in the genre.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A complex, scary thriller that feels too plausible for comfort. You’ll be so absorbed in the story threads that you’ll follow them anywhere—and you’ll suddenly realize you’ve read hundreds of pages… On one level, it’s great entertainment; on another, a window into a sobering possibility.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Absolutely compelling… A smart, scary, and all-too-plausible thriller.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

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


The Perishing by  Natashia Deón ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Science Fiction.

Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles, nearly naked and with no memory of how she got there or where she’s from, only a fleeting sense that this isn’t the first time she’s found herself in similar circumstances. Taken in by a caring foster family, Lou dedicates herself to her education while trying to put her mysterious origins behind her. She’ll go on to become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times, but Lou’s extraordinary life is about to become even more remarkable. When she befriends a firefighter at a downtown boxing gym, Lou is shocked to realize that though she has no memory of ever meeting him she’s been drawing his face since her days in foster care.

Increasingly certain that their paths have previously crossed–perhaps even in a past life–and coupled with unexplainable flashes from different times that have been haunting her dreams, Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent to this place and time for a very important reason, one that only others like her will be able to explain. Relying on her journalistic training and with the help of her friends, Lou sets out to investigate the mystery of her existence and make sense of the jumble of lifetimes calling to her from throughout the ages before her time runs out for good.

Set against the rich historical landscape of Depression-era Los Angeles, The Perishing charts a course through a changing city confronting racism, poverty, and the drumbeat of a coming war for one miraculous woman whose fate is inextricably linked to the city she comes to call home.

Description from Goodreads.

“Pick this one up and I promise… you will not be able to put it down.” – Book of the Month

“Natashia Deón’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Grace, ushered in a brand-new literary talent whose fans have been waiting five long years to see what she would do next. It’s clear within the first few pages of her new novel, The Perishing, that the wait has been well worth it… The Perishing is a downright masterpiece. Welcome to the world of literary stardom, Natashia Deón.” – Shondaland

“Tantalizing, intoxicating, and fantastical… Déon creates a haunting and atmospheric tale of immortality and mystery grounded in Black history and tradition.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Who are we, if not the sum of our experiences? If the body keeps score, how is history written on our flesh? Natashia Deón’s time-bending novel, The Perishing, artfully considers these questions and more… Deón’s cultural observations are as sharp and arresting as her use of descriptive language. Physical places, like people, have character, distinct features that speak to the life (or lack thereof) within… The Perishing is not a novel that’s largely preoccupied with the physical mechanics of time travel. Instead, time travel is a device used to examine philosophical questions that are embedded in mankind’s search for meaning.” – Literary Hub

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages by  Dan Jones

Nonfiction / History.

When the once-mighty city of Rome was sacked by barbarians in 410 and lay in ruins, it signaled the end of an era–and the beginning of a thousand years of profound transformation. In a gripping narrative bursting with big names–from St. Augustine and Attila the Hun to the Prophet Muhammad and Eleanor of Aquitaine–Dan Jones charges through the history of the Middle Ages. Powers and Thrones takes readers on a journey through an emerging Europe, the great capitals of late Antiquity, as well as the influential cities of the Islamic West, and culminates in the first contact between the old and new worlds in the sixteenth century.

The medieval world was forged by the big forces that still occupy us today: climate change, pandemic disease, mass migration, and technological revolutions. This was the time when the great European nationalities were formed; when our basic Western systems of law and governance were codified; when the Christian Churches matured as both powerful institutions and the regulators of Western public morality; and when art, architecture, philosophical inquiry and scientific invention went through periods of massive, revolutionary change. At each stage in this story, successive western powers thrived by attracting–or stealing–the most valuable resources, ideas, and people from the rest of the world.

The West was rebuilt on the ruins of an empire and emerged from a state of crisis and collapse to dominate the region and the world. Every sphere of human life and activity was transformed in the thousand years of Powers and Thrones. As we face a critical turning point in our own millennium, the legacy and lessons of how we got here matter more than ever.

Description from Goodreads.

“Despite the immensity of the task, renowned historian Jones makes the 1,000-year history of the Middle Ages accessible and utterly fascinating. He does so by consistently applying two techniques, strategic use of primary source material and relatable comparisons to modern times… The book’s subtitle includes the word new, and deservedly so. This is a refreshing take on a long, complex period in the human story.” – Booklist

“A terrifically colourful and compelling narrative history, with all the confidence, bravura and swift judgements essential to an overview of such a vast time span… A hugely impressive achievement, bustling and sizzling with life on every page… This is now simply the best popular history of the Middle Ages there is.” – The Sunday Times

“This gripping history manages to bring novelty to a well-trod subject, spanning the Dark Ages and the globe. Traversing crises and empires and shedding new light on famous subjects, this archive of a fascinating time enthralls till the final page.” – Newsweek

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Sentence by  Louise Erdrich ★

Fiction.

Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, The Sentence, asks what we owe to the living, the dead, to the reader and to the book. A small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted from November 2019 to November 2020 by the store’s most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls’ Day, but she simply won’t leave the store. Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading with murderous attention, must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation, and furious reckoning.

The Sentence begins on All Souls’ Day 2019 and ends on All Souls’ Day 2020. Its mystery and proliferating ghost stories during this one year propel a narrative as rich, emotional, and profound as anything Louise Erdrich has written.

Description from Goodreads.

“The irreverent and funny Tookie grapples with the ghost, then the pandemic, then the protests. Her journey, captured in Erdrich’s expert prose, is a cathartic and comforting story that book lovers will gobble up.” – Real Simple

“Imaginative, boldly honest… This novel’s persistent search for meaning reveals astonishing, sublime depths… Erdrich’s prose, layered with unforgettable flourishes of detail… enhances and deepens this growing sense of a larger collective haunting… The Sentence is a staggering addition to Erdrich’s already impressive body of work.” – BookPage

“Scintillating… More than a gripping ghost story, The Sentence offers profound insights into the effects of the global pandemic and the collateral damage of systemic racism. It adds up to one of Erdrich’s most… illuminating works to date.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“The many-hued, finely patterned weave of Erdrich’s funny, evocative, painful, and redemptive ghost story includes strands of autobiography… Erdrich’s insights into what her city Minneapolis experienced in 2020 are piercing; all her characters are enthralling, and her dramatization of why books are essential to our well-being is resounding.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | Large Print Book | eBook


A Snake Falls to Earth by  Darcie Little Badger

Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy.

Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She’s always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.

Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he’s been cast from home. He’s found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake.

Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli’s best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven’t been in centuries.

And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.

Darcie Little Badger introduced herself to the world with Elatsoe. In A Snake Falls to Earth, she draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure to weave another unforgettable tale of monsters, magic, and family. It is not to be missed.

Description from Goodreads.

“[An] atmospheric, world-straddling, dual-narrative tale laced with themes of climate change, family, and identity… A modern-day fable with real-world significance, perfect for magical realism fans and fantasy lovers alike.” – School Library Journal

“Evokes the timeless feeling of listening to traditional oral storytelling.”- Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Magical, stunning, and wholly original.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


They Called Us “Lucky”: The Life and Afterlife of the Iraq War’s Hardest Hit Unit by  Ruben Gallego with  Jim DeFelice

Nonfiction / War.

At first, they were “Lucky Lima.” Infantryman Ruben Gallego and his brothers in Lima Company—3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, young men drawn from blue-collar towns, immigrant households, Navajo reservations—returned unscathed on patrol after patrol through the increasingly violent al Anbar region of Iraq, looking for weapons caches and insurgents trying to destabilize the nascent Iraqi government. After two months in Iraq, Lima didn’t have a casualty, not a single Purple Heart, no injury worse than a blister. Lucky Lima.

Then, in May 2005, Lima’s fortunes flipped. Unknown to Ruben and his fellow grunts, al Anbar had recently become a haven for al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The bin Laden-sponsored group had recruited radicals from all over the world for jihad against the Americans. On one fateful day, they were lured into a death house; the ambush cost the lives of two men, including a platoon sergeant. Two days later, Ruben’s best friend, Jonathon Grant, died in an IED attack, along with several others. Events worsened from there. A disastrous operation in Haditha in August claimed the lives of thirteen Marines when an IED destroyed their amphibious vehicle. It was the worst single-day loss for the Marines since the 1983 Beirut bombings. By the time 3/25 went home in November, it had lost more men than any other single unit in the war. Forty-six Marines and two Navy Corpsmen serving with the battalion in Iraq were killed in action during their roughly nine-month activation.

They Called Us “Lucky” details Ruben Gallego’s journey and includes harrowing accounts of some of the war’s most costly battles. It details the struggles and the successes of Ruben—now a member of Congress—and the rest of Lima Company following Iraq, examining the complicated matter of PTSD. And it serves as a tribute to Ruben’s fallen comrades, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Description from Goodreads.

“A deeply felt, swift-moving account of war and its complex aftermath.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] powerful, grunt’s-eye view of modern combat and the struggle to readjust to life back home… This searing autobiography leaves a mark.” – Publishers Weekly

“…Gallego briskly tells a story of combat and service that his colleagues… ought to hear, but too rarely do.” – Harvard Magazine

Available Formats:

Print Book


Will by  Will Smith &  Mark Manson

Nonfiction / Memoir / Movies / Television / Music.

One of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life, in a brave and inspiring book that traces his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned. Along the way, Will tells the story in full of one of the most amazing rides through the worlds of music and film that anyone has ever had.

Will Smith’s transformation from a fearful child in a tense West Philadelphia home to one of the biggest rap stars of his era and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, with a string of box office successes that will likely never be broken, is an epic tale of inner transformation and outer triumph, and Will tells it astonishingly well. But it’s only half the story.

Will Smith thought, with good reason, that he had won at life: not only was his own success unparalleled, his whole family was at the pinnacle of the entertainment world. Only they didn’t see it that way: they felt more like star performers in his circus, a seven-days-a-week job they hadn’t signed up for. It turned out Will Smith’s education wasn’t nearly over.

This memoir is the product of a profound journey of self-knowledge, a reckoning with all that your will can get you and all that it can leave behind. Written with the help of Mark Manson, author of the multi-million-copy bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Will is the story of how one person mastered his own emotions, written in a way that can help everyone else do the same. Few of us will know the pressure of performing on the world’s biggest stages for the highest of stakes, but we can all understand that the fuel that works for one stage of our journey might have to be changed if we want to make it all the way home. The combination of genuine wisdom of universal value and a life story that is preposterously entertaining, even astonishing, puts Will the book, like its author, in a category by itself.

“It’s easy to maneuver the material world once you have conquered your own mind. I believe that. Once you’ve learned the terrain of your own mind, every experience, every emotion, every circumstance, whether positive or negative, simply propels you forward, to greater growth and greater experience. That is true will. To move forward in spite of anything. And to move forward in a way that brings others with you, rather than leave them behind.” – Will Smith

Description from Goodreads.

“The global superstar opens up about his life… inspirational…” – USA Today

“There are many… complicated and nuanced stories in Will… powerful…” – People

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook



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