Best New Books: Week of 2/22/22

“But no matter what happens, life is only a series of days. You can’t control more than a single day.” – Lucy Foley, The Guest List

The Berlin Exchange by  Joseph Kanon

Fiction / Mystery / historical fiction.

Berlin. 1963. The height of the Cold War. An early morning spy swap, not at the familiar setting for such exchanges, or at Checkpoint Charlie, where international visitors cross into the East, but at a more discreet border crossing, usually reserved for East German VIPs. The Communists are trading two American students caught helping people to escape over the wall and an aging MI6 operative. On the other side of the trade: Martin Keller, a physicist who once made headlines, but who then disappeared into the English prison system. Keller’s most critical possession: his American passport. Keller’s most ardent desire: to see his ex-wife Sabine and their young son.

The exchange is made with the formality characteristic of these swaps. But Martin has other questions: who asked for him? Who negotiated the deal? The KGB? He has worked for the service long enough to know that nothing happens by chance. They want him for something. Not physics—his expertise is out of date. Something else, which he cannot learn until he arrives in East Berlin, when suddenly the game is afoot.

Filled with intriguing characters, atmospheric detail, and plenty of action Kanon’s latest espionage thriller is one you won’t soon forget.

Description from Goodreads.

“In Joseph Kanon’s skillful telling, Keller’s elaborate scheme for escaping with his family to the West is heart-poundingly suspenseful.” – Washington Post

“[A] riveting tale of a spy forced to go back into the cold as a way of reclaiming his life… Genuine suspense, including an exciting variation on the border-crossing theme, combine beautifully with moving psychological drama.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A novel that gives paranoia a new name, Kanon’s latest in a brilliant collection—including Leaving Berlin (2014) and Istanbul Passage (2012)—may be his most tightly rendered. The suspense builds quietly, almost stealthily, before tightening its grip. Another supersophisticated spy thriller from a ranking master.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Black Cloud Rising by  David Wright Faladé

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

By fall of 1863, Union forces had taken control of Tidewater, Virginia, and established a toehold in eastern North Carolina, including along the Outer Banks. Thousands of freed slaves and runaways flooded the Union lines, but Confederate irregulars still roamed the region. In December, the newly formed African Brigade, a unit of these former slaves led by General Edward Augustus Wild–a one-armed, impassioned abolitionist–set out from Portsmouth to hunt down the rebel guerillas and extinguish the threat.

From this little-known historical episode comes Black Cloud Rising, a dramatic, moving account of these soldiers–men who only weeks earlier had been enslaved, but were now Union infantrymen setting out to fight their former owners. At the heart of the narrative is Sergeant Richard Etheridge, the son of a slave and her master, raised with some privileges but constantly reminded of his place. Deeply conflicted about his past, Richard is eager to show himself to be a credit to his race. As the African Brigade conducts raids through the areas occupied by the Confederate Partisan Rangers, he and his comrades recognize that they are fighting for more than territory. Wild’s mission is to prove that his troops can be trusted as soldiers in combat. And because many of the men have fled from the very plantations in their path, each raid is also an opportunity to free loved ones left behind. For Richard, this means the possibility of reuniting with Fanny, the woman he hopes to marry one day.

With powerful depictions of the bonds formed between fighting men and heartrending scenes of sacrifice and courage, Black Cloud Rising offers a compelling and nuanced portrait of enslaved men and women crossing the threshold to freedom.

Description from Goodreads.

“Tensely wrought… A masterful depiction of the precarious nature of Black life during the war and of slavery’s unrelenting assault on human dignity.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A rousing novel… a straight-up page-turner… There’s blood and sinew in the story he tells.” – New York Times

“The story of the African Brigade, a unit of Black freedmen who fought for the Union during the Civil War, gets its due in this superior adult debut from Faladé… [Richard] Etheridge is made a fascinating figure, well suited to serve as the focal point for Faladé’s exploration of the complexities of Etheridge and his comrades’s rapid shift from powerlessness to armed military duty. Engrossing and complex, this will have readers riveted.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Caramel Pecan Roll Murder by  Joanne Fluke

Fiction / Mystery.

Embracing a sweet escape from her usual routine at The Cookie Jar, Hannah gets asked for her help in baking pastries at the local inn for a flashy fishing competition with big prizes and even bigger names. But the fun stops when she spots a runaway boat on the water and, on board, the lifeless body of the event’s renowned celebrity spokesperson…

Famed TV show host Sonny Bowman wasn’t humble about his ability to reel in winning catches, and no one knew that better than his tragically overworked sidekick, Joey. Did Joey finally take bloody revenge on his pompous boss—or was Sonny killed by a jealous contestant?

With goodies to bake and a mess of fresh challenges mixed into her personal life, it’s either sink or swim as Hannah joins forces with her sister, Andrea, to catch a clever culprit before another unsuspecting victim goes belly up…

Description from Goodreads.

“A good puzzle, lots of delicious recipes, and time spent with Hannah’s beloved fan-favorite cat, Moishe… Fluke reinforces her place as the queen of culinary cozies.” – Publishers Weekly

“While fans of the long-running cozy series will enjoy the baking frame, the delicious-sounding recipes interspersed throughout the story, and the opportunity to reconnect with the large cast of entertaining Lake Eden residents… A final twist will have Fluke’s many fans eagerly awaiting the next installment.” – Booklist

Dead Collections by  Isaac Fellman

Fiction / Romance / FANTASY.

When archivist Sol meets Elsie, the larger than life widow of a moderately famous television writer who’s come to donate her wife’s papers, there’s an instant spark. But Sol has a secret: he suffers from an illness called vampirism and hides from the sun by living in his basement office. On their way to falling in love, the two traverse grief, delve into the Internet fandom they once unknowingly shared, and navigate the realities of transphobia and the stigmas of carrying the “vampire disease.”

Then, when strange things start happening at the collection, Sol must embrace even more of the unknown to save himself and his job. Dead Collections is a wry novel full of heart and empathy, that celebrates the journey, the difficulties, and the joys in finding love and comfort within our own bodies.

Description from Goodreads.

“…thoughtful, acerbic, bracingly hopeful book…” – New York Times

“…this book delivers… His previous novel, The Breath of the Sun, was a book about mountain climbing — a book so beautifully written that the author blurb had to include the words, ‘He does not climb mountains.’ Dead Collections is a similar literary achievement, a book so firmly anchored in space and time, and so rooted in queer and trans intimacy that it achieves the same hyperreal quality.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“…delightfully eccentric… Rife with dry humor and a creative mix of narration, texts, emails, and Facebook threads, the novel expertly balances the humorous and the heartfelt. Fellman thoughtfully examines gender, sexuality, and belonging through an unforgettable main character, who explores what it means to truly embody himself. This bold and self-aware story delivers the goods.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

the déjà vu: black dreams & black time by  Gabrielle Civil

Nonfiction / Current Events / History / Art.

Emerging from the intersection of pandemic and uprising, the déjà vu activates forms both new and ancestral, drawing movement, speech, and lyric essay into performance memoir. As Civil considers Haitian tourist paintings, dance rituals, race at the movies, black feminist legacies, and more, she reflects on her personal losses and desires, speculates on black time, and dreams into expansive black life. With intimacy, humor, and verve, the déjà vu blurs boundaries between memory, grief, and love; then, now, and the future.

Description from Goodreads.

“In this radiant work, poet and performance artist Civil pays tribute to a legacy of Black artists while contending with the ‘twin moments of pandemic and uprising’ after the murder of George Floyd… Taken together, [Civil’s] musings act as a radical reclamation of place and identity, and challenge the ‘pandemic of white supremacy.’ The result is an evocative work of art that brings to life an era ripe for a revolution.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An exuberant collection of texts and artifacts by a Black feminist performance artist… An unwavering commitment to upholding a unique personal aesthetic while exploring black dreams is the driving force behind this unusual book, a kind of archive or scrapbook of performance pieces, scripts, poems, conversations, collaborations, lectures, and essays… To be read, as the author suggests, like a dream: Garner what you can, and hopefully something new will unfurl in your mind.” – Kirkus Reviews

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by  Ashley Herring Blake

Fiction / Romance.

Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her.

When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.

Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise… at first. Though they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other—so Claire is unsettled when Delilah figures out exactly what buttons to push. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to…

Description from Goodreads.

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care is a steamy romp with a warm heart at its center.” – PopSugar

“There’s family drama, trauma, childhood memories, love, romance, diverse relationships between not just the main couple, but everyone in the book, that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.” – USA Today

“Blake’s well-crafted adult debut Delilah Green Doesn’t Care combines everything you could want in a sapphic romance—snark, steam and sweetness—with an intricate exploration of what it means to love someone and how we choose to show it, all spearheaded by its unforgettable protagonist Delilah who you’ll simultaneously want to be and be with forever. Fans of Alexandria Bellefleur and Talia Hibbert won’t want to miss out on this emotional extravaganza.” – The Nerd Daily

Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World by  Jennie Allen

Nonfiction / Christianity / Self-Help.

In a world that’s both more connected and more isolating than ever before, we’re often tempted to do life alone, whether because we’re so busy or because relationships feel risky and hard. But science confirms that consistent, meaningful connection with others has a powerful impact on our well-being. We are meant to live known and loved. But so many are hiding behind emotional walls that we’re experiencing an epidemic of loneliness.

In Find Your People, bestselling author Jennie Allen draws on fascinating insights from science and history, timeless biblical truth, and vulnerable stories from her own life to help you:

– overcome the barriers to making new friends and learn to initiate with easy-to-follow steps
– find simple ways to press through awkward to get to authentic in conversations
– understand how conflict can strengthen relationships rather than destroy them
– identify the type of friend you are and the types of friends you need
– learn the five practical ingredients you need to have the type of friends you’ve always longed for

You were created to play, engage, adventure, and explore–with others. In Find Your People, you’ll discover exactly how to dive into the deep end and experience the full wonder of community. Because while the ache of loneliness is real, it doesn’t have to be your reality.

Description from Goodreads.

“This is a book that can change your life. Change your relationships. Change the way you feel lonely and unknown and empty… Find Your People will speak to your deep longing to know others well and be known well by others. To be really yourself and part of true community.” – The Uncommon Normal

“Jennie does an amazing job of sympathizing with her readers and creating a culture of grace while still pushing us outside of our comfort zones and sharpening us ‘as iron sharpens iron.'” – Literature Approved

Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals by  Laurie Zaleski

Nonfiction / Memoir / Animals / New JErsey.

Laurie Zaleski never aspired to run an animal rescue; that was her mother Annie’s dream. But from girlhood, Laurie was determined to make the dream come true. Thirty years later as a successful businesswoman, she did it, buying a 15-acre farm deep in the Pinelands of South Jersey. She was planning to relocate Annie and her caravan of ragtag rescues–horses and goats, dogs and cats, chickens and pigs–when Annie died, just two weeks before moving day. In her heartbreak, Laurie resolved to make her mother’s dream her own. In 2001, she established the Funny Farm Animal Rescue outside Mays Landing, New Jersey. Today, she carries on Annie’s mission to save abused and neglected animals.

Funny Farm is Laurie’s story: of promises kept, dreams fulfilled, and animals lost and found. It’s the story of Annie McNulty, who fled a nightmarish marriage with few skills, no money and no resources, dragging three kids behind her, and accumulating hundreds of cast-off animals on the way. And lastly, it’s the story of the brave, incredible, and adorable animals that were rescued.

Description from Goodreads.

“This story of grit and resilience is 100 percent inspiring.” – Real Simple

“[A] heartwarming debut… Zaleski masterfully illustrates how one person can rise above difficult circumstances to do substantial good. Lovers of the furry and feathery will revel in this feel-good story.” – Publishers Weekly

“The author expertly balances humor and vulnerability while sharing the details of her harrowing childhood, making the book feel like a conversation between friends… the book, both heartwarming and heartbreaking, is an enjoyable read.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by  Axie Oh

Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy.

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] majestic magical marvel of a book.” – BuzzFeed

“Nicely paced and beautifully written, this engrossing fantasy is packed with memorable characters, starting with the headstrong Mina, and including the mysterious Shin, with whom she becomes inexplicably tied… A perfect for fit readers who love Spirited Away.” – Booklist

“Oh weaves an intricate and engaging tale… Captivated readers will long to be pulled deeper into the story. A fantastical world to get lost in.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Harbor by  Katrine Engberg, translated by  Tara F. Chace

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

When fifteen-year-old Oscar Dreyer-Hoff disappears, the police assume he’s simply a runaway—a typically overlooked middle child doing what teenagers do all around the world. But his frantic family is certain that something terrible has happened. After all, what runaway would leave behind a note that reads:

He looked around and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward. He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain left upon it. It was bright and glistened. As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free.

It’s not much to go on but it’s all that detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner have. And with every passing hour, as the odds of finding a missing person grow dimmer, it will have to be enough.

Description from Goodreads.

“One of the best armchair travelogues in ages… It is the absolute humanity of the storytelling that makes the book a masterpiece of Nordic noir.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[E]ngrossing… The plot takes some unexpected turns as the detectives unearth some shocking secrets… en route to the satisfying conclusion. Readers will eagerly await Jeppe and Anette’s next case.” – Publishers Weekly

I’m So (Not) Over You by  Kosoko Jackson

Fiction / Romance.

It’s been months since aspiring journalist Kian Andrews has heard from his ex-boyfriend, Hudson Rivers, but an urgent text has them meeting at a café. Maybe Hudson wants to profusely apologize for the breakup. Or confess his undying love… But no, Hudson has a favor to ask–he wants Kian to pretend to be his boyfriend while his parents are in town, and Kian reluctantly agrees.

The dinner doesn’t go exactly as planned, and suddenly Kian is Hudson’s plus one to Georgia’s wedding of the season. Hudson comes from a wealthy family where reputation is everything, and he really can’t afford another mistake. If Kian goes, he’ll help Hudson preserve appearances and get the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in media. This could be the big career break Kian needs.

But their fake relationship is starting to feel like it might be more than a means to an end, and it’s time for both men to fact-check their feelings.

Description from Goodreads.

“This nuanced romance marks Jackson as a writer to watch in the adult sphere.” – Publishers Weekly

“Putting a fun twist on the beloved fake dating trope, Jackson’s romcom debut I’m So (Not) Over You offers snappy writing, complex characters and an ode to pop culture!” – The Nerd Daily

“[A] delightfully outrageous romantic comedy full of pop culture references, strong families, and a ride-or-die BFF.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

The Lady Tempts an Heir by  Harper St. George

Fiction / Romance / Historical Fiction.

Tall, dark, and brooding—to say that American Maxwell Crenshaw stood out in the glittering ballrooms of London, is an understatement. He vowed never to set foot in England again, but when a summons from his father, along with an ultimatum to secure his legacy, has him crossing the Atlantic for the last time, reuniting him with the delectable Lady Helena March, he can’t deny the temptation she presents. Or the ideas she inspires…

Lady Helena March is flirting with scandal. Instead of spending her time at teas and balls in search of another husband, as is expected of a young widow, Helena pours her energy into The London Home for Young Women. But Society gives no quarter to unmarried radicals who associate with illegitimate children and fallen women, and Helena’s funding is almost run out. So when the sinfully seductive Crenshaw heir suggests a fake engagement to save them both—him from an unwanted marriage and her from scorn and financial ruin—Helena finds herself too fascinated to refuse the sexy American.

As their arrangement of convenience melts oh so deliciously into nights of passion, their deception starts to become real. But if Max knew the true reason Helena can never remarry, he wouldn’t look at her with such heat in his eyes. Or might the Crenshaw heir be willing to do whatever it takes to win the one woman he’s never been able to forget…

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] luscious historical romance…” – PopSugar

“Hits all the right notes.” – Library Journal

“The central couple’s palpable devotion is sure to delight. Series fans will not be disappointed.” – Publishers Weekly

Manhunt by  Gretchen Felker-Martin ★

Fiction / Horror.

Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they’ll never face the same fate.

Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: other people aren’t safe.

After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics―all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.

Manhunt is a timely, powerful response to every gender-based apocalypse story that failed to consider the existence of transgender and non-binary people, from a powerful new voice in horror.

Description from Goodreads.

“An audacious dystopian story… destined to be one of the year’s most talked-about novels.” – Electric Lit

“Felker-Martin’s horror chops are top-notch… A ballsy post-apocalyptic tale.” – Publishers Weekly

“I dub this the great Terf-pocalypse novel… I cannot underscore enough how much I love this novel.” – CrimeReads

“A sensual, tender, honest, and inspirational story of imperfect but well-meaning people banding together in an attempt to not only survive but thrive. This novel confidently plants a flag declaring its place among the greatest band-of-survivor zombie tales.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

The Paradox Hotel by  Rob Hart

Fiction / Science Fiction / Mystery.

January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.

Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting to catch their “flights” to the past.

Or where proximity to the timeport makes the clocks run backward on occasion—and, rumor has it, allows ghosts to stroll the halls.

None of that compares to the corpse in room 526. The one that seems to be both there and not there. The one that somehow only January can see.

On top of that, some very important new guests have just checked in. Because the U.S. government is about to privatize time-travel technology—and the world’s most powerful people are on hand to stake their claims.

January is sure the timing isn’t a coincidence. Neither are those “accidents” that start stalking their bidders.

There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. A reason why she’s the only one who can catch a killer who’s operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once.

But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and as her past, present, and future collide, she finds herself confronting not just the hotel’s dark secrets but her own.

At once a dazzlingly time-twisting murder mystery and a story about grief, memory, and what it means to—literally—come face-to-face with our ghosts, The Paradox Hotel is another unforgettable speculative thrill ride from acclaimed author Rob Hart.

Description from Goodreads.

“Funny, thrilling, poignant, and profound.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Stellar. The twists keep coming… in this impressive melding of creative plotting and three-dimensional characters. Hart remains a writer to watch.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“This wildly ambitious, well-executed genre-bender is suspenseful, clever, and funny.” – Booklist

The Paris Apartment by  Lucy Foley ★

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

Description from Goodreads.

“As you patiently await season two of Only Murders in the Building, cozy up with Lucy Foley’s latest whodunnit.” – Parade

“Will keep you guessing until the very end…This whodunnit will have you saying, ‘Oh mon Dieu!’” – E!

“An enticing Parisian locked room mystery with enough twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned of thriller fans guessing.” – PopSugar

“Another well-paced, suspenseful locked-room mystery with shifting points of view.” – Library Journal

Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Presuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free by  Sarah Weinman ★

Nonfiction / True Crime / History.

In the 1960s, Edgar Smith, in prison and sentenced to death for the murder of teenager Victoria Zielinski, struck up a correspondence with William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review. Buckley, who refused to believe that a man who supported the neoconservative movement could have committed such a heinous crime, began to advocate not only for Smith’s life to be spared but also for his sentence to be overturned.

So begins a bizarre and tragic tale of mid-century America. Sarah Weinman’s Scoundrel leads us through the twists of fate and fortune that brought Smith to freedom, book deals, fame, and eventually to attempting murder again. In Smith, Weinman has uncovered a psychopath who slipped his way into public acclaim and acceptance before crashing down to earth once again.

From the people Smith deceived–Buckley, the book editor who published his work, friends from back home, and the women who loved him–to Americans who were willing to buy into his lies, Weinman explores who in our world is accorded innocence, and how the public becomes complicit in the stories we tell one another.

Scoundrel shows, with clear eyes and sympathy for all those who entered Smith’s orbit, how and why he was able to manipulate, obfuscate, and make a mockery of both well-meaning people and the American criminal justice system. It tells a forgotten part of American history at the nexus of justice, prison reform, and civil rights, and exposes how one man’s ill-conceived plan to set another man free came at the great expense of Edgar Smith’s victims.

Description from Goodreads.

“Wholly compelling reading.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Weinman does an impeccable job with this wild story of murder, celebrity, politics, and the American ability to put unsavory characters on a pedestal.” – Literary Hub

“Enthralling… The book is a must-read for true crime fans, but it will appeal to nonfiction readers across genres for its thrilling blend of crime, media, and politics in mid-century America… An immediately absorbing story.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“In this mesmerizing account, Weinman does a masterly job resurrecting a stranger-than-fiction chapter in American criminal justice… [An] instant classic.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Swimmers by  Julie Otsuka ★


The swimmers are unknown to each other except through their private routines (slow lane, fast lane), and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief.

One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese internment camp in which she spent the war. Narrated by Alice’s daughter, who witnesses her stark and devastating decline, The Swimmers is a searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters, and the sorrows of implacable loss, written in spellbinding, incantatory prose.

The most commanding and unforgettable work yet from a modern master.

Description from Goodreads.

“Award-winning, best-selling Otsuka is averaging one book per decade, making each exquisite title exponentially more precious. Here she creates a stupendous collage of small moments that results in an extraordinary examination of the fragility of quotidian human relationships… Once more, Otsuka creates an elegiac, devastating masterpiece.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Once per decade we are graced with a new book by Otsuka, the award-winning author of 2012’s The Buddha in the Attic and 2003’s When the Emperor Was Divine. This year’s novel starts as a catalogue of spoken and unspoken rules for swimmers at an aquatic center but unfolds into a powerful story of a mother’s dementia and her daughter’s love. If Otsuka doesn’t write another novel for several years, it will be okay. This is one to be savored and reread.” – Washington Post

“Otsuka’s prose is powerfully subdued: She builds lists and litanies that appear unassuming, even quotidian, until the paragraph comes to an end, and you find yourself stunned by what she has managed, your throat tight with the beautiful detail… This is a novel of not just accumulation, but repetition, scenes looping in the way that the mind does, or the way swimmers swim laps. Compounded, these accretions build to an incredible feeling of loss, and too-late-ness… In a time of monotony and chaos, when death is as concrete as it is unimaginable, and when cracks can and do appear in the pool for no discernible reason, The Swimmers is an exquisite companion.” – New York Times

“Distinguished best-selling novelist Otsuka’s latest is an introspective work that examines life’s journeys from a multitude of perspectives… Otsuka’s spare, dreamlike writing offers readers a deeply touching exploration of the impact on Alice’s Japanese American family (particularly her daughter) of caring for a loved one with dementia. Otsuka is noteworthy for her skilled storytelling and her ability to immerse readers in her characters’ emotional journeys. Essential reading for those already familiar with Otsuka’s work; those who haven’t read her are likely to be duly impressed.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

This Might Hurt by  Stephanie Wrobel

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

Welcome to Wisewood. We’ll keep your secrets if you keep ours.

Natalie Collins hasn’t heard from her sister in more than half a year.

The last time they spoke, Kit was slogging from mundane workdays to obligatory happy hours to crying in the shower about their dead mother. She told Natalie she was sure there was something more out there.

And then she found Wisewood.

On a private island off the coast of Maine, Wisewood’s guests commit to six-month stays. During this time, they’re prohibited from contact with the rest of the world–no Internet, no phones, no exceptions. But the rules are for a good reason: to keep guests focused on achieving true fearlessness so they can become their Maximized Selves. Natalie thinks it’s a bad idea, but Kit has had enough of her sister’s cynicism and voluntarily disappears off the grid.

Six months later Natalie receives a menacing e-mail from a Wisewood account threatening to reveal the secret she’s been keeping from Kit. Panicked, Natalie hurries north to come clean to her sister and bring her home. But she’s about to learn that Wisewood won’t let either of them go without a fight.

Description from Goodreads.

“Wrobel once again proves to be a master at crafting thrillers.” – Shondaland

“The mastermind behind last year’s Darling Rose Gold returns with a second, equally sinister feat… Fans of Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers will adore this.” – Newsweek

“It’s hard not to fall under the spell of Wisewood, or Wrobel’s mesmerizing, edge-of-your-seat storytelling. A deep dive into psychological abuse and manipulation and their long-lasting emotional and mental tolls; will certainly leave a mark.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Tripping Arcadia by  Kit Mayquist

Fiction / Mystery / Horror / Romance.

Med school dropout Lena is desperate for a job, any job, to help her parents, who are approaching bankruptcy after her father was injured and laid off nearly simultaneously. So when she is offered a position, against all odds, working for one of Boston’s most elite families, the illustrious and secretive Verdeaus, she knows she must accept it—no matter how bizarre the interview or how vague the job description.

By day, she is assistant to the family doctor and his charge, Jonathan, the sickly, poetic, drunken heir to the family empire, who is as difficult as his illness is mysterious. By night, Lena discovers the more sinister side of the family, as she works overtime at their lavish parties, helping to hide their self-destructive tendencies… and trying not to fall for Jonathan’s alluring sister, Audrey. But when she stumbles upon the knowledge that the Verdeau patriarch is the one responsible for the ruin of her own family, Lena vows to get revenge—a poison-filled quest that leads her further into this hedonistic world than she ever bargained for, forcing her to decide how much—and who—she’s willing to sacrifice for payback.

The perfect next read for fans of Mexican Gothic, Tripping Arcadia is a page-turning and shocking tale with an unforgettable protagonist that explores family legacy and inheritance, the sacrifices we must make to get by in today’s world, and the intoxicating, dangerous power of wealth.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] salacious tale of family drama, corporate dealings, dangerous secrets, and poison… A 21st-century Gothic with a fascinating botanical frame and an escalating sense of dread that will be savored by fans of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Now You’re One of Us by Asa Nonami, and Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer.” – Library Journal

“All I have ever wanted is a revival of the romantic, gothic thriller, and thanks to the incredible success of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, I may have finally gotten my wish. 2022 is replete with creepy tales of degenerate families in crumbling manors, and Mayquist’s is one of the most promising of the lot.” – BookPage

“I have never read a book like this before. It is at once dark, deep, and opulent… The ending is surprising with a twist I did not see coming. It is almost impossible to believe that this is Kit Mayquist’s debut novel. I can’t wait to see what he writes next.” – Mystery & Suspense

The Verifiers by  Jane Pek ★

Fiction / Mystery.

Claudia Lin is used to disregarding her fractious family’s model-minority expectations: she has no interest in finding either a conventional career or a nice Chinese boy. She’s also used to keeping secrets from them, such as that she prefers girls—and that she’s just been stealth-recruited by Veracity, a referrals-only online-dating detective agency.

A lifelong mystery reader who wrote her senior thesis on Jane Austen, Claudia believes she’s landed her ideal job. But when a client goes missing, Claudia breaks protocol to investigate—and uncovers a maelstrom of personal and corporate deceit. Part literary mystery, part family story, The Verifiers is a clever and incisive examination of how technology shapes our choices, and the nature of romantic love in the digital age.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] funny and touching modern detective story.” – Harper’s Bazaar

“A commentary on love in the time of iPhones, a thrilling ride to discover what was really going on with the client that disappeared, and a look at one family making their way through all types of distance.” – Good Morning America

“Pek’s first novel is a whip-smart and super charming techno thriller that feels at once contemporary and classic.” – Electric Lit

“I was so taken in by [Pek’s] descriptive language and lush, immersive imagery… She’s adept at crafting the rich inner world of her characters.” – Literary Hub

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by  Stephanie Foo

Nonfiction / Memoir / Mental health.

“Every cell in my body is filled with the code of generations of trauma, of death, of birth, of migration, of history that I cannot understand… I want to have words for what my bones know.”

By age thirty, Stephanie Foo was successful on paper: She had her dream job as an award-winning radio producer at This American Life and a loving boyfriend. But behind her office door, she was having panic attacks and sobbing at her desk every morning. After years of questioning what was wrong with herself, she was diagnosed with complex PTSD–a condition that occurs when trauma happens continuously, over the course of years.

Both of Foo’s parents abandoned her when she was a teenager, after years of physical and verbal abuse and neglect. She thought she’d moved on, but her new diagnosis illuminated the way her past continued to threaten her health, relationships, and career. She found limited resources to help her, so Foo set out to heal herself, and to map her experiences onto the scarce literature about C-PTSD.

In this deeply personal and thoroughly researched account, Foo interviews scientists and psychologists and tries a variety of innovative therapies. She returns to her hometown of San Jose, California, to investigate the effects of immigrant trauma on the community, and she uncovers family secrets in the country of her birth, Malaysia, to learn how trauma can be inherited through generations. Ultimately, she discovers that you don’t move on from trauma–but you can learn to move with it.

Powerful, enlightening, and hopeful, What My Bones Know is a brave narrative that reckons with the hold of the past over the present, the mind over the body–and examines one woman’s ability to reclaim agency from her trauma.

Description from Goodreads.

“This is a work of immense beauty.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Foo’s writing is shrewdly insightful. In telling her story so compellingly, she joins authors such as Anna Qu and Ly Tran in adding nuance to the ‘model minority’ myth, if not actively subverting it… Highly recommended.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“As Foo sheds necessary light on the little-discussed topic of C-PTSD, she holds out the hope that while ‘healing is never final… along with the losses are the triumphs’ that can positively transform a traumatized life… A sharp, insightful, and stirring memoir.” – Kirkus Reviews

When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East by  Quan Barry ★


Tasked with finding the reincarnation of a great lama somewhere in the vast Mongolian landscape, the young monk Chuluun seeks the help of his identical twin, Mun, who was recognized as a reincarnation himself as a child, but has since renounced their once shared monastic life.

Harking back to her vivid and magical first novel set in Vietnam, Quan Barry carries us across a landscape as unforgiving as it is beautiful and culturally varied, from the stark Gobi Desert to the ancient capital of Chinggis Khan. As their country stretches before them, questions of the immortal soul, along with more earthly matters of love, sex, and brotherhood, haunt the twins, who can hear each other’s thoughts.
Are our lives our own, or do we belong to something larger? When I’m Gone is a stunningly far-flung examination of our individual struggle to retain faith and discover meaning in a fast-changing world, and a paean to Buddhist acceptance of what simply is.

Description from Goodreads.

“A wholly original, enlightening read.” – Time

“This novel couldn’t be any more different from Quan Barry’s deliciously irreverent 2020 novel We Ride Upon Sticks—except that it is similarly excellent, and similarly immersive, a full-throated plunge into a very specific, fascinating world.” – Literary Hub

“A dreamlike and lyrical journey steeped in the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“An imaginative tour de force… Evincing the same dazzling talents that won high critical praise for We Ride upon Sticks, Barry vastly expands readers’ horizons, both geographical and metaphysical… Readers’ most transformative experience comes by reflecting—through Chulun’s thoughts, strangely tangled with Mun’s—on the Four Noble Buddhist Truths and the Eight-Fold Path… Though the narrative focuses on Mongolian Buddhism, readers learn how Buddhists everywhere have suffered as Chinese communists have persecuted the faith rooted in Tibet.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW


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