Best New Books: Week of 1/18/22

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by  Kendra James ★

Nonfiction / Memoir / Biography.

Early on in Kendra James’ professional life, she began to feel like she was selling a lie. As an admissions officer specializing in diversity recruitment for independent prep schools, she persuaded students and families to embark on the same perilous journey she herself had made—to attend cutthroat and largely white schools similar to The Taft School, where she had been the first African-American legacy student only a few years earlier. Her new job forced her to reflect on her own elite education experience, and to realize how disillusioned she had become with America’s inequitable system.

In Admissions, Kendra looks back at the three years she spent at Taft, chronicling clashes with her lily-white roommate, how she had to unlearn the respectability politics she’d been raised with, and the fall-out from a horrifying article in the student newspaper that accused Black and Latinx students of being responsible for segregation of campus. Through these stories, some troubling, others hilarious, she deconstructs the lies and half-truths she herself would later tell as an admissions professional, in addition to the myths about boarding schools perpetuated by popular culture.

With its combination of incisive social critique and uproarious depictions of elite nonsense, Admissions will resonate with anyone who has ever been The Only One in a room, dealt with racial microaggressions, or even just suffered from an extreme case of homesickness.

Description from Goodreads.

“[James] offers sharp-witted insight, incisive reflections and an intense indictment of the cutthroat world of elite prep schools.” – Parade

“[A]n eye-opening examination of race, class, and privilege in America.” – Publishers Weekly

“Thorough, necessary, and overdue… boldly nam[es] the confusion, fear, and trauma that can so often come with being the only person who looks like you in any given room.” – Vogue

“James’ social commentary and sparkling wit shine throughout this absorbing and insightful coming-of-age memoir.” – Booklist

Electric Idol by  Katee Robert

Fiction / Romance / Fantasy.

He was the most beautiful man alive.
And if I wasn’t careful, he was going to be my death.

In the ultra-modern city of Olympus, there’s always a price to pay. Psyche knew she’d have to face Aphrodite’s ire eventually, but she never expected her literal heart to be at stake… or for Aphrodite’s gorgeous son to be the one ordered to strike the killing blow.

Eros has no problem shedding blood. But when it comes time to take out his latest target, he can’t do it. Confused by his reaction to Psyche, he does the only thing he can think of to keep her safe: he marries her. Psyche vows to make Eros’s life a living hell until they find a way out of this mess. But as lines blur and loyalties shift, she realizes he might take her heart after all… and she’s not sure she can survive the loss.

Description from Goodreads.

“Sensational… This satisfies on every level.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Like an amusement-park ride through a new Olympus.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…sizzling… Sexy, cunning and entertaining… will leave readers breathless.” – The NERD Daily

Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today by  Valerie Bertinelli

Nonfiction / Memoir / Biography / Cooking.

Valerie Bertinelli shares an inspiring blueprint that offers women in midlife support and hope. She shares personal stories that many women will relate to from her past decade: hitting her fifties, taking care of her dying mother, the evolving relationship with her husband, a career change, her relationship with food, and the battle to believe in herself as she is.

Despite her success receiving Emmys for her Food Network show and critical praise for her books and cookbook, Bertinelli still judged herself harshly if she gained a pound or showed too many wrinkles. But after her mother died, she found an old recipe box with notes of the strong women that came before her, reminding her that she has to find out who she is and take care of herself. Saying, “enough already!” Bertinelli set out on a journey to love herself and see that perfection is not the goal; it’s the joy we can find every day in our lives, our loved ones, and the food we share. Recipes and advice will be sprinkled throughout the book.

Description from Goodreads.

“The actor and Food Network host dishes up delightful recipes as she reflects on how she learned to see beyond a troubled self-image and embrace joy… this thoughtful, bighearted book is sure to be a hit with Bertinelli fans and those with an appetite for stories of hard-won self-acceptance. A warmly intimate memoir.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…brutally frank… As Bertinelli works through her pain, she offers rewards in the form of sumptuous recipes—including, notably, her spinach-crab dip, her mother’s unbeatable lasagna, and Sicilian Chocolate Love Cake. By turns raw and inspiring, this contains a little bit of wisdom for everyone.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Good Son by  Jacquelyn Mitchard


What do you do when the person you love best becomes unrecognizable to you? For Thea Demetriou, the answer is both simple and agonizing: you keep loving him somehow.

Stefan was just seventeen when he went to prison for the drug-fueled murder of his girlfriend, Belinda. Three years later, he’s released to a world that refuses to let him move on. Belinda’s mother, once Thea’s good friend, galvanizes the community to rally against him to protest in her daughter’s memory. The media paints Stefan as a symbol of white privilege and indifferent justice. Neighbors, employers, even some members of Thea’s own family turn away.

Meanwhile Thea struggles to understand her son. At times, he is still the sweet boy he has always been; at others, he is a young man tormented by guilt and almost broken by his time in prison. But as his efforts to make amends meet escalating resistance and threats, Thea suspects more forces are at play than just community outrage. And if there is so much she never knew about her own son, what other secrets has she yet to uncover—especially about the night Belinda died?

Description from Goodreads.

“An engaging journey through redemption, forgiveness, and a mother’s devotion.” – Library Journal

“An emotionally intense drama of guilt, forgiveness, and motherhood.” – Kirkus Reviews

How High We Go in the Dark by  Sequoia Nagamatsu ★

Fiction / Science Fiction / Fantasy.

In 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika Crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.

Once unleashed, the Arctic plague will reshape life on Earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects—a pig—develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.

From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resilience of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.

Description from Goodreads.

“This hauntingly beautiful story focuses on how the human spirit perseveres through it all… it’s a lyrical adventure that feels fantastical yet familiar.” – Good Housekeeping

“Both epic and deeply intimate, Nagamatsu’s debut novel is science fiction at its finest, rendered in gorgeous, evocative prose and offering hope in the face of tragedy through human connection.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“An absorbing and heartbreaking contemplation on the very nature of life, death, and what it means to be human. Stretching across eons and worlds, these stories provide the power of short narratives, while each builds on the larger text. The novel-in-stories is a form that many writers attempt; Nagamatsu clearly ranks among the masters. Beyond the sheer joy of reading a well-formed text, this novel also presents massive themes in smaller, intimate stories. This form allows us to become immersed in the details of characters’ everyday lives, individual struggles, and personal grief, leaving us willing to absorb the larger whole rather than being alienated… It is a book as full of hope, humanity, and possibility as the grief and loss of climate disaster and pandemic laid unflinchingly bare.” – The Brooklyn Rail

“Exceptional… Nagamatsu masterfully folds more conceptual dystopian stories—reminiscent of George Saunders’s early 2000s short story work—into the novel’s broader climate and pandemic fiction story line, stacking his narratives and lending a sheen of surreality to even the most science-heavy moments. The result is an appealing mélange of literary and science fiction, with rich, mournful language aiding the imaginative strokes. This work reflects the best of what short fiction can accomplish, sketching memorable characters and settings with economy, but Nagamatsu manages to excel equally in the long form, subtly linking his narratives into a handsome whole. If at the end there’s no denying the bleakness, Nagamatsu importantly resists nihilism, consistently finding beauty and meaning in the darkness, even at the end of the world… A frightening, moving work about what it means to be human while staring down our own extinction. Essential.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Joan Is Okay by  Weike Wang ★


Joan is a thirtysomething ICU doctor at a busy New York City hospital. The daughter of Chinese parents who came to the United States to secure the American dream for their children, Joan is intensely devoted to her work, happily solitary, successful. She does look up sometimes and wonder where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white coat makes her feel needed, or with her family, who try to shape her life by their own cultural and social expectations.

Once Joan and her brother, Fang, were established in their careers, her parents moved back to China, hoping to spend the rest of their lives in their homeland. But when Joan’s father suddenly dies and her mother returns to America to reconnect with her children, a series of events sends Joan spiraling out of her comfort zone just as her hospital, her city, and the world are forced to reckon with a health crisis more devastating than anyone could have imagined.

Deceptively spare yet quietly powerful, laced with sharp humor, Joan Is Okay touches on matters that feel deeply resonant: being Chinese-American right now; working in medicine at a high-stakes time; finding one’s voice within a dominant culture; being a woman in a male-dominated workplace; and staying independent within a tight-knit family. But above all, it’s a portrait of one remarkable woman so surprising that you can’t get her out of your head.

Description from Goodreads.

“In a novel that butts up against the early pandemic, Wang wryly crafts a story of family, otherness, and becoming.” – AV Club

“Profound… Wang offers candid explorations of family dynamics… Joan’s empathy for her patients, as well as her disapproving brother and sister-in-law, are consistently refreshing. It adds up to a tender and enduring portrayal of the difficulties of forging one’s own path after spending a life between cultures.” – Publishers Weekly

“Joan is such an idiosyncratic character, and Wang’s style so wry and piercing, that the novel is its own category: a character study about otherness set partly against the backdrop of early-pandemic anti-Asian sentiment that manages to be both profound and witty. A novel as one of a kind as its memorable main character.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] narrator I could read forever… Weike Wang, author of the award-winning Chemistry, not only meets this pandemic moment with a story of identity and isolation but does so with such bright comedy and care that it is impossible not to feel protective over Joan and humanity as a whole. In other words, Joan is Okay, is another brilliant novel from Wang.  – Amazon Book Review

Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor’s Fight for Fairness by  Laura Coates

Nonfiction / Memoir / Law.

When Laura Coates joined the Department of Justice as a prosecutor, she wanted to advocate for the most vulnerable among us. But she quickly realized that even with the best intentions, “the pursuit of justice creates injustice.”

Through Coates’s experiences, we see that no matter how fair you try to fight, being Black, a woman, and a mother are identities often at odds in the justice system. She and her colleagues face seemingly impossible situations as they teeter between what is right and what is just.

On the front lines of our legal system, Coates saw how Black communities are policed differently; Black cases are prosecuted differently; Black defendants are judged differently. How the court system seems to be the one place where minorities are overrepresented, an unrelenting parade of Black and Brown defendants in numbers that belie their percentage in the population and overfill American prisons. She also witnessed how others in the system either abused power or were abused by it—for example, when an undocumented witness was arrested by ICE, when a white colleague taught Coates how to unfairly interrogate a young Black defendant, or when a judge victim-blamed a young sexual assault survivor based on her courtroom attire.

Through these revelatory and captivating scenes from the courtroom, Laura Coates explores the tension between the idealism of the law and the reality of working within the parameters of our flawed legal system, exposing the chasm between what is right and what is lawful.

Description from Goodreads.

“Coates clearly demonstrates how our sense of justice is conditioned by who we are… Sobering reading and an eloquent case for reform for a more equitable distribution of justice.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A personal, heartfelt, eloquent, and sobering examination of the nexus of justice and humanity.” – Booklist

“The book reveals the complexities and often heartbreaking realities of her experiences.” – Off the Shelf

Made in Manhattan by  Lauren Layne

Fiction / Romance.

Violet Townsend has always been a people pleaser. Raised in the privileged world of Upper East Side Manhattan, she always says the right things, wears the right clothes, and never rocks the boat. Violet would do anything for the people closest to her, especially her beloved grandmother. So when she asks Violet to teach the newly-discovered grandson of her friend how to fit in with New York City’s elite, Violet immediately agrees. Her goal? To get Cain Stone ready to take his place as heir to his family company… but to say he’s not exactly an eager student is an understatement.

Born and raised in rural Louisiana and now making his own way in New Orleans, Cain Stone is only playing along for the paycheck at the end. He has no use for the grandmother he didn’t know existed and no patience for the uppity Violet’s attempts to turn him into a suit-wearing, museum-attending gentleman.

But somewhere amidst antagonistic dinner parties and tortured tux fittings, Cain and Violet come to a begrudging understanding—and the uptight Violet realizes she’s not the only one doing the teaching. As she and Cain begin to find mutual respect for one another (and maybe even something more), Violet learns that blindly following society’s rules doesn’t lead to happiness… and that sometimes the best things in life come from the most unexpected places.

Description from Goodreads.

“This lighthearted read includes witty banter, a ‘phew, that’s hot’ romance, and the author’s adept ability to bring her characters and their experiences off the page and into your life. New York’s never felt more real than it does in Layne’s Made in Manhattan.” – USA Today

“Layne brings a light touch to this delightful, gender-swapped My Fair Lady tale in which the city itself is a nuanced character… [It] is sure to tug readers’ heartstrings. Layne has a skill for building unique heroines, and Violet… adds depth to this contemporary. Layne’s fans are sure to be pleased.” – Publishers Weekly

“With amusing minor characters and dialogue that’s both clever and steamy, Layne delivers a satisfying HEA with this standalone novel.” – Booklist

Manifesto: On Never Giving Up by  Bernardine Evaristo ★

Nonfiction / Memoir / Biography.

Bernardine Evaristo’s 2019 Booker Prize win was a historic and revolutionary occasion, with Evaristo being the first Black woman and first Black British person ever to win the prize in its fifty-year history. Girl, Woman, Other was named a favorite book of the year by President Obama and Roxane Gay, was translated into thirty-five languages, and has now reached more than a million readers.

Evaristo’s astonishing nonfiction debut, Manifesto, is a vibrant and inspirational account of Evaristo’s life and career as she rebelled against the mainstream and fought over several decades to bring her creative work into the world. With her characteristic humor, Evaristo describes her childhood as one of eight siblings, with a Nigerian father and white Catholic mother, tells the story of how she helped set up Britain’s first Black women’s theatre company, remembers the queer relationships of her twenties, and recounts her determination to write books that were absent in the literary world around her. She provides a hugely powerful perspective to contemporary conversations around race, class, feminism, sexuality, and aging. She reminds us of how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. In Manifesto, Evaristo charts her theory of unstoppability, showing creative people how they too can visualize and find success in their work, ignoring the naysayers.

Both unconventional memoir and inspirational text, Manifesto is a unique reminder to us all to persist in doing work we believe in, even when we might feel overlooked or discounted. Evaristo shows us how we too can follow in her footsteps, from first vision, to insistent perseverance, to eventual triumph.

Description from Goodreads.

“Part memoir and part meditation on determination, creativity, and activism… A beautiful ode to determination and daring and an intimate look at one of our finest writers.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“What a fascinating life Evaristo has led… An inspiring yet unassuming memoir from a woman of indomitable creative energy.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A rallying cry… Manifesto combines the personal with the practical to powerful effect… Unconventional as it may be, the format works: the autobiographical parts of the book serve as vivid lessons about the power of change, growth and self-confidence… Entertaining as well as instructive.” – The Guardian

“Fans of Evaristo’s work will discover in Manifesto the passionate core of this unstoppable force in 21st-century literature… Evaristo’s personal manifesto, summarized at the end of this remarkable book, is ripe with inspiration for those who come after her, her advice timeless and applicable to readers at every stage of their artistic endeavors… A Booker Prize-winning British author’s soulful memoir captures the essence of her creativity and offers inspirational guidance to emerging writers.” – Shelf Awareness

The Mirror Man by  Lars Kepler

Fiction / Suspense.

Seventeen-year-old Jenny is abducted in broad daylight and taken to a dilapidated, isolated house where she is chained and caged along with several other girls. Their captor is unpredictable, and as wily as he is cruel: he foils every one of their desperate attempts to escape… and once caught they rarely survive their punishment.

Five years later, Jenny is found dead in a public park, and the police are scrambling to find a lead among the scant evidence. But Detective Joona Linna realizes that this murder has an eerie connection to a death that was declared a suicide years before. And now when Mia, a seventeen-year-old orphan, goes missing, it becomes clear to Joona that they are dealing with a serial killer—and the murderous rampage has just begun.

As the police close in on the killer, Mia and her fellow captives are plunged into ever greater danger, and Joona finds himself in a seemingly impossible race against time to save their young lives.

Description from Goodreads.

“Stellar… The ability of Kepler (the pen name of Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril) to ratchet up the tension en route to a stunning reveal and an eminently fair solution is remarkable. This merits comparisons with the best of Thomas Harris.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A bar-raising entry in a series that unfailingly blends streamlined plotting, smart psychological suspense, and explosive conclusions with gritty portrayals of human evil.” – Booklist

Must Love Books by  Shauna Robinson

Fiction / Romance.

Meet Nora Hughes—the overworked, underpaid, last bookish assistant standing. At least for now.

When Nora landed an editorial assistant position at Parsons Press, it was her first step towards The Dream Job. Because, honestly, is there anything dreamier than making books for a living? But after five years of lunch orders, finicky authors, and per my last emails, Nora has come to one grand conclusion: Dream Jobs do not exist.

With her life spiraling and the Parsons staff sinking, Nora gets hit with even worse news. Parsons is cutting her already unlivable salary. Unable to afford her rent and without even the novels she once loved as a comfort, Nora decides to moonlight for a rival publisher to make ends meet… and maybe poach some Parsons’ authors along the way.

But when Andrew Santos, a bestselling Parsons author no one can afford to lose is thrown into the mix, Nora has to decide where her loyalties lie. Her new Dream Job, ever-optimistic Andrew, or… herself and her future.

Your next book club read touching on mental health, happiness, and the peaks and perils of being a young woman just trying to figure it all out. Nora Hughes is the perfect heroine for anyone looking to get past their own chapter twenty-something and build their storybook life.

Description from Goodreads.

Must Love Books by Shauna Robinson is an absolute must-read.” – PopSugar

“If you are, or have ever been, a twenty-something searching for meaning, identity or your happy ending, you will love this book. ” – Ms.

“It’s refreshing to read a book about publishing with a half-Black heroine who’s wryly aware of the way she stands out in a very White field.” – Kirkus Reviews

On a Night Like This by  Lindsey Kelk

Fiction / Romance.

Within days of wishing she could change her life, Fran Cooper is acting assistant to a celebrity, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, and en route to a tiny Italian island and the glittering Crystal Ball, along with the world’s rich and famous.

When she – quite literally – bumps into a handsome American called Evan, a man able to keep his cool in the face of chaos, the magic really begins.

Evan makes her a promise: no last names, no life stories, just one unforgettable night. Yet Evan belongs at the Crystal Ball and Fran is a gatecrasher. They may be soulmates, but their homes are an ocean apart, and their lives a world apart. They’ll never meet again – unless, on a night like this, everything can change forever…

Description from Goodreads.

“[It] might just make you believe in magic.” – PopSugar

“Cinderella vibes, proper belly laughs and all the girl-power feels.” – The Sun

“[A] sparkling rom-com readers will devour… Kelk serves up humor, heart, and a satisfying happily-ever-after, with a bonus peek into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Meanwhile, solid supporting characters—especially Fran’s bestie, Jess, and Juliette’s type A manager, Sarah—underpin the narrative. Rom-com fans will adore this contemporary ‘Cinderella’ story.” – Publishers Weekly

One Step Too Far by  Lisa Gardner

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

Frankie Elkin, who readers first met in Before She Disappeared, learns of a young man who has gone missing in a national forest. Law enforcement has abandoned the search, but a crew of people led by the young man’s father are still looking. Sensing a father’s desperation, Frankie agrees to help–but soon sees that a missing person isn’t all that’s wrong here. And when more people start to vanish, Frankie realizes she’s up against something very dark–and she’s running out of time.

Description from Goodreads.

“…gripping… winds toward a surprising conclusion.” – Publishers Weekly

“It’s not often that a thriller so deeply casts us into the darkness of both nature and the human heart… Terrifying, primal, and very, very tense. Read it with your heart in your throat—but read it.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Gardner’s latest series continues to excel; instinctual, tragedy-driven Frankie is one of crime fiction’s most intriguing new sleuths.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Putting the Rabbit in the Hat: A Memoir by  Brian Cox

Nonfiction / Memoir / Biography.

From Hannibal Lecktor in Manhunter to media magnate Logan Roy in HBO’s Succession, Brian Cox has made his name as an actor of unparalleled distinction and versatility. We are familiar with him on screen, but few know of his extraordinary life story. Growing up in Dundee, Scotland, Cox lost his father when he was just eight years old and was brought up by his three elder sisters in the aftermath of his mother’s nervous breakdowns and ultimate hospitalization. After joining the Dundee Repertory Theatre at the age of fifteen, you could say the rest is history — but that is to overlook the enormous effort that has gone into the making of the legend we know today.

Rich in emotion and meaning, with plenty of laughs along the way, this seminal autobiography captures both Cox’s distinctive voice and his very soul.

Description from Goodreads.

“The versatile actor’s voice rings loud in this no-holds-barred memoir that traces his rags-to-riches story.” – USA Today

“Wisdom, a modicum of modesty, and delicious gossip make for an entertaining memoir.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[C]andid and engaging… Theater fans and viewers of Succession will enjoy the personal stories this accomplished actor and raconteur has to tell.” – Booklist

Real Easy by  Marie Rutkoski

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

It’s 1999 and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s not used to mixing work and friendship―after all, between her jealous boyfriend and his young daughter, she has enough on her plate. But the newest dancer is so clueless that Samantha feels compelled to help her learn the hustle and drama of the club: how to sweet-talk the boss, fit in with the other women, and make good money. One night, when the new girl needs a ride home, Samantha agrees to drive: a simple decision that turns deadly.

Georgia, another dancer drawn into the ensuing murder and missing person investigation, gathers information for Holly, a grieving detective determined to solve the case. Georgia just wants to help, but her involvement makes her a target. As Holly and Georgia round up their suspects, the story’s point of view shifts between dancers, detectives, children, club patrons―and the killer.

Drawing on her experience as a former dancer, Marie Rutkoski immerses us in the captivating world of the club, which comes alive with complicated people trying their best to protect themselves and those they love. Character-driven and masterfully plotted, Real Easy gets to the heart of the timeless question: How do women live their lives knowing that men can hurt them?

Description from Goodreads.

“Rutkoski’s writing… emphasize[s] a larger point: that even in ugliness, loss, and tragedy, there is humanity. Though the killer is unmasked, the takeaway is much more universal―and satisfying―than just finding out whodunit: This is a story about flawed people just doing the best they can to live their lives and find love. Vulnerable yet steely, this thriller rises above the rest.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Rutkoski… paint[s] moving portraits of desperate lives on both sides of the law.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Rutkoski’s writing is a pleasure here; she weaves well-calibrated suspense with gritty portrayals of dancers and detectives that hold strikingly parallel themes of loneliness, painful pasts, and heavy doses of distrust.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Reminders of Him by  Colleen Hoover

Fiction / Romance.

After serving five years in prison for a tragic mistake, Kenna Rowan returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But the bridges Kenna burned are proving impossible to rebuild. Everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out, no matter how hard she works to prove herself.

The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter. But if anyone were to discover how Ledger is slowly becoming an important part of Kenna’s life, both would risk losing the trust of everyone important to them.

The two form a connection despite the pressure surrounding them, but as their romance grows, so does the risk. Kenna must find a way to absolve the mistakes of her past in order to build a future out of hope and healing.

Description from Goodreads.

“Hoover delves deep into grief and guilt to create a multifaceted redemption story for a cast of characters who fight as fiercely as they love. Fans won’t be disappointed.” – Publishers Weekly

“With captivating dialogue, angsty characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.” – Kirkus Reviews

“An angsty, emotionally-charged novel about finding forgiveness and redemption for past mistakes, Reminders of Him took Colleen Hoover’s already evocative writing to a whole new level… An intimate, sometimes painfully real, reading experience like no other.” – Harlequin Junkie

Such a Pretty Smile by  Kristi DeMeester

Fiction / Suspense / Horror.

There’s something out there that’s killing. Known only as The Cur, he leaves no traces, save for the torn bodies of girls, on the verge of becoming women, who are known as trouble-makers; those who refuse to conform, to know their place. Girls who don’t know when to shut up.

2019: Thirteen-year-old Lila Sawyer has secrets she can’t share with anyone. Not the school psychologist she’s seeing. Not her father, who has a new wife, and a new baby. And not her mother—the infamous Caroline Sawyer, a unique artist whose eerie sculptures, made from bent twigs and crimped leaves, have made her a local celebrity. But soon Lila feels haunted from within, terrorized by a delicious evil that shows her how to find her voice—until she is punished for using it.

2004: Caroline Sawyer hears dogs everywhere. Snarling, barking, teeth snapping that no one else seems to notice. At first, she blames the phantom sounds on her insomnia and her acute stress in caring for her ailing father. But then the delusions begin to take shape—both in her waking hours, and in the violent, visceral sculptures she creates while in a trance-like state. Her fiancé is convinced she needs help. Her new psychiatrist waves her “problem” away with pills. But Caroline’s past is a dark cellar, filled with repressed memories and a lurking horror that the men around her can’t understand.

As past demons become a present threat, both Caroline and Lila must chase the source of this unrelenting, oppressive power to its malignant core. Brilliantly paced, unsettling to the bone, and unapologetically fierce, Such a Pretty Smile is a powerful allegory for what it can mean to be a woman, and an untamed rallying cry for anyone ever told to sit down, shut up, and smile pretty.

Description from Goodreads.

“Darkly visceral… will leave readers doubting reality as the uncanny merges with the real-world horrors of a young girl coming of age.” – Publishers Weekly

“DeMeester’s storytelling is ferociously and unashamedly feminine… very satisfying.” – Mystery & Suspense

“…empowering, engaging, and intense… will leave readers looking over their shoulders… An obvious choice for fans of female-driven psychological horror.” – Library Journal

This Will Be Funny Later: A Memoir by  Jenny Pentland

Nonfiction / Memoir.

Growing up, Jenny Pentland’s life was a literal sitcom. Many of the storylines for her mother’s smash hit series, Roseanne, were drawn from Pentland’s early family life in working-class Denver. But that was only the beginning of the drama. Roseanne Barr’s success as a comedian catapulted the family from the Rockies to star-studded Hollywood–with its toxic culture of money, celebrity, and prying tabloids that was destabilizing for a child in grade school.

By adolescence, Jenny struggled with anxiety and eating issues. Her parents and new stepfather, struggling to help, responded by sending Jenny and her siblings on a grand tour of the self-help movement of the ’80s–from fat camps to brat camps, wilderness survival programs to drug rehab clinics (even though Jenny didn’t take drugs). Becoming an adult, all Jenny wanted was to get married and have kids, despite Roseanne’s admonishments not to limit herself to being just a wife and mother.

In this scathingly funny and moving memoir, Pentland reveals what it’s like to grow up as the daughter of a television star and how she navigated the turmoil, eventually finding her own path. Now happily married and raising five sons on a farm, Pentland has worked tirelessly to create the stable family she never had, while coming to terms at last with her deep-seated anxiety.

This Will Be Funny Later is a darkly funny and frank chronicle of transition, from childhood to adulthood and motherhood–one woman’s journey to define herself and create the life she always wanted.

Description from Goodreads.

“Pentland has a scathing, unapologetic wit, and it’s on full display throughout her chronicle of navigating the ‘parallel-reality version’ of her tumultuous adolescence and eventually finding her real-life happily-ever-after with her husband and sons. This intimate portrayal of the dark side of Hollywood is hard to put down.” – Publishers Weekly

“This complex, scathingly funny memoir about dealing with the toxic glow of fame offers an intimate look at a woman’s struggle to shape a life on her own terms… A mordantly poignant memoir of finding oneself amid hectic external forces.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The daughter of comedian Roseanne Barr recounts her unusual childhood with humor and self-deprecation… Offers plenty of heart and laughs, especially for children of the 1980s and 1990s.” – Booklist

Tides by  Sara Freeman


After a sudden, devastating loss, Mara flees her family and ends up adrift in a wealthy seaside town with a dead cellphone and barely any money. Mired in her grief, Mara detaches from the outside world and spends her days of self-imposed exile scrounging for food and swimming in the night ocean. In her state of emotional extremis, the sea at the town’s edge is rendered bleak, luminous, implacable.

As her money runs out and tourist season comes to a close, Mara finds a job at the local wine store. There, she meets Simon, the shop’s soft-spoken, lonely owner. Confronted with the possibility of connection with Simon and the slow return of her desires and appetites, the reasons for her flight begin to emerge.

Reminiscent of works by Rachel Cusk, Jenny Offill, and Marguerite Duras, Tides is a spare, visceral debut novel about the nature of selfhood, intimacy, and the private narratives that shape our lives. A shattering and unforgettable debut.

Description from Goodreads.

“Freeman hammers her paragraphs down into perfected, indivisible units… A poignant evocation of a woman adrift in the wake of tragedy.” – The Guardian

Tides is concerned with what is intentionally hidden, flickering or muddied, waiting to be excavated… As the story unfolds in short sections sometimes only a sentence long (calling to mind Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation and Weather) what’s most hypnotic is what’s revealed beneath the waves of language: the impossibility of leaving one’s past behind… Just as the tides are something we can count on, our life events are imprinted inside of us, fossilized and imperfect shells swirling with their own kind of broken beauty.” – Boston Globe

“Charismatic… With an intricate narrative and in deceptively simple language, Freeman captures the full extent of loss. Complicated and enchanting, this prismatic examination of emotional endurance is a winner.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays by  Zora Neale Hurston, edited by  Henry Louis Gates Jr. &  Genevieve West ★

Nonfiction / History.

“One of the greatest writers of our time.” – Toni Morrison

One of the most acclaimed artists of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston was a gifted novelist, playwright, and essayist. Drawn from three decades of her work, this anthology showcases her development as a writer, from her early pieces expounding on the beauty and precision of African American art to some of her final published works, covering the sensational trial of Ruby McCollum, a wealthy Black woman convicted in 1952 for killing a white doctor. Among the selections are Hurston’s well-known works such as “How It Feels to be Colored Me” and “My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience.”

The essays in this essential collection are grouped thematically and cover a panoply of topics, including politics, race and gender, and folkloric study from the height of the Harlem Renaissance to the early years of the Civil Rights movement. Demonstrating the breadth of this revered and influential writer’s work, You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays is an invaluable chronicle of a writer’s development and a window into her world and time.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] showstopping collection… Her pride in the richness of Black American life is evident throughout… Hurston’s work stands out for its wit and range. This will delight her fans, and should garner her some new ones.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Vigorous writings from a controversial and important cultural critic.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This volume enables readers both steeped in and new to Hurston to discover her acerbic wit, her crisp prose, and the breadth of her artistic ability and interests… an invaluable nonfiction companion to the collection of Hurston’s short stories.” – Booklist

“Reading Hurston, you always wonder what shape her dignity will take next. Her style and spark were her own. When she was in high spirits, she felt ‘as snooty as the lions in front of the 42nd Street Library.’ She wrote at the end of a different essay: ‘Thems my sentiments and I am sticking by them.'” – New York Times


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