Best New Books: Week of 5/10/22

“When I was five I learned to read. Books were a miracle to me – white pages, black ink, and new worlds and different friends in each one. To this day, I relish the feeling of cracking a binding for the first time, the anticipation of where I’ll go and whom I’ll meet inside.” – Jennifer Weiner, Good in Bed

2 A.M. in Little America by  Ken Kalfus

Fiction / Suspense.

From “an important writer in every sense” (David Foster Wallace), a novel that imagines a future in which sweeping civil conflict has forced America’s young people to flee its borders, into an unwelcoming world.

One such American is Ron Patterson, who finds himself on distant shores, working as a repairman and sharing a room with other refugees. In an unnamed city wedged between ocean and lush mountainous forest, Ron can almost imagine a stable life for himself. Especially when he makes the first friend he has had in years–a mysterious migrant named Marlise, who bears a striking resemblance to a onetime classmate.

Nearly a decade later–after anti-migrant sentiment has put their whirlwind intimacy and asylum to an end–Ron is living in “Little America,” an enclave of migrants in one of the few countries still willing to accept them. Here, among reminders of his past life, he again begins to feel that he may have found a home. Ron adopts a stray dog, observes his neighbors, and lands a repairman job that allows him to move through the city quietly. But this newfound security, too, is quickly jeopardized, as resurgent political divisions threaten the fabric of Little America. Tapped as an informant against the rise of militant gangs and contending with the appearance of a strangely familiar woman, Ron is suddenly on dangerous and uncertain ground.

Brimming with mystery, suspense, and Kalfus’s distinctive comic irony, 2 A.M. in Little America poses several questions vital to the current moment: What happens when privilege is reversed? Who is watching and why? How do tribalized politics disrupt our ability to distinguish what is true and what is not? This is a story for our time–gripping, unsettling, prescient–by one of our most acclaimed novelists.

Description from Goodreads.

“Kalfus is one of contemporary literature’s best-kept secrets. He’s a writer’s writer through and through, but with 2 A.M. in Little America, he’s poised to make a major crossover into the mainstream… Kalfus explores powerful questions about tribalization, alienation, and exile.” – Esquire

“From the undersung Kalfus, another tonally intricate triumph, this one about the bewilderment, alienation, and sheer strangeness of being a refugee… A strange, highly compelling tale about what happens when American privilege and insulation get turned inside out.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“As it progresses, [this] tale becomes a potent warning about the consequences of ideological fervor. Heartbreaking and sobering, the dystopian novel 2 A.M. in Little America has the makings of a modern classic.” – Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Ali’s Well That Ends Well: Tales of Desperation and a Little Inspiration by  Ali Wentworth


Like many, Ali Wentworth spent the pandemic seesawing between highs, lows, and baking an unnecessary amount of chocolate cake. Between binging every TV show in existence to conquering TikTok to becoming a (semi) empty-nester, Ali experienced her share of turmoil (including an early case of Covid), but she also grew a little, learned a lot, and found comfort in some unexpected people and places.

In Ali’s Well That Ends Well, Wentworth turns her gimlet eye to the year no one saw coming. With her signature irreverent style, she shares the most hysterical, absurd, and sometimes trying episodes that her family endured during the terrible global pandemic. Thoroughly relatable, absolutely charming, and filled with moments both hilarious and poignant, this terrific collection once again showcases the comedic genius of a beloved star who is “the girlfriend you want to have a glass of wine with, the one who makes you laugh because she sees the funny and the absurd in everything (Huffington Post).”

Description from Goodreads.

“Laugh-out-loud… A light, amusing work for fans of Wentworth’s quirky sense of humor.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Wentworth strikes gold in this hilarious, touching, and wonderfully frank look at her life during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic… Throughout, Wentworth delivers her quips and quibbles with a perceptive insight that’s sure to keep fans entertained while knowingly nodding their heads. Life for Wentworth is one big adventure, and lucky for readers, she brings them along for the ride.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Bad Actors by  Mick Herron

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

A governmental think-tank, whose remit is to curb the independence of the intelligence service, has lost one of its key members, and Claude Whelan—one-time head of MI5’s Regent’s Park—is tasked with tracking her down. But the trail leads straight back to the Park itself, with Diana Taverner as chief suspect. Has Diana overplayed her hand at last? What’s her counterpart, Moscow’s First Desk, doing in London? And does Jackson Lamb know more than he’s telling?

Over at Slough House, with Shirley Dander in rehab, Roddy Ho in dress rehearsal, and new recruit Ashley Khan turning up the heat, the slow horses are doing what they do best, and adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation…

There are bad actors everywhere, and they usually get their comeuppance before the credits roll. But politics is a dirty business, and in a world where lying, cheating and backstabbing are the norm, sometimes the good guys can find themselves outgunned.

Description from Goodreads.

“Confirms Mick Herron as the best spy novelist now working.” – NPR

“If le Carré brought moral ambiguity to the spy novel in place of Bondian glamour, Herron one-ups the master by showing us that ambiguity has its uncouth comedic side.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“An outstanding mix of arch humor, superb characterizations, and trenchant political observations.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by  Brad Listi

Fiction / ComEDY.

A darkly funny meditation on creativity and family, Be Brief and Tell Them Everything tracks the life of a middle-aged author who is struggling to write his next novel while trying to come to grips with his son’s disabilities, set against a backdrop of ecological catastrophe and escalating human insanity in contemporary Los Angeles. A beautiful, powerful, concise work of autofiction that is reminiscent of My Struggle and Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Be Brief documents the stops and starts of adulthood and marriage, and the joys and challenges of parenting, while defining what it means to be a good man, and a good writer.

Description from Goodreads.

“…affecting… the writing is funny and honest, and includes some brilliant descriptions of Los Angeles… Listi has found his stride and climbed his smallest mountain in this engaging and moving chronicle of melancholia and joy. This pulses with life.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] compelling book about self-examination and life’s general struggles… I enjoyed this book so much I wish he wasn’t so brief.” – The Big Smoke

Bitter Orange Tree by  Jokha Alharti


Bitter Orange Tree tells the story of Zuhur, an Omani student at a British university who is caught between the past and the present. As she attempts to form friendships and assimilate in Britain, she reflects on the relationships that have been central to her life. Most prominent is her bond with Bint Amir, a woman she has always thought of as her grandmother, who passed away just after Zuhur left the Arabian Peninsula. Bint Amir was not, we learn, related to Zuhur by blood, but by an emotional connection far stronger.

As the historical narrative of Bint Amir’s challenged circumstances unfurls in captivating fragments, so too does Zuhur’s isolated and unfulfilled present, one narrative segueing into another as time slips, and dreams mingle with memories.

Description from Goodreads.

“Imaginative… a bittersweet, non-linear exploration of social status and a young woman’s agency.” – Time

“In probing history, challenging social status, questioning familial bonds and debts, Alharthi’s multilayered pages beautifully, achingly unveil the haunting aloneness of women’s experiences.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A gorgeous and insightful story of longing… The bittersweet narrative, intuitively translated by Booth, is chock-full of indelible images… This solidifies Alharthi’s well-earned literary reputation.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Every Summer After by  Carley Fortune

Fiction / Romance.

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

Description from Goodreads.

“The magic and romance of summer is palpable.” – PopSugar

“In the mood for summertime nostalgia (cottage summers, young crushes, sandy nights)? Carley Fortune brings those lakeshore towns and emotional memories to life in Every Summer After, about haunting past choices and second-chance love.” – Parade

“A spectacular debut… Alternating between the past and present, the story flawlessly conveys the lovers’ growth both together and apart, and the summery setting provides an idyllic backdrop to their path back to each other. Centered on redemption and forgiveness, this sweeping, heartfelt romance proves impossible to put down.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

First Time for Everything by  Henry Fry


Danny Scudd is absolutely fine. He always dreamed of escaping the small-town life of his parents’ fish-and-chip shop, moving to London, and becoming a journalist. And, after five years in the city, his career isn’t exactly awful, and his relationship with pretentious Tobbs isn’t exactly unfulfilling. Certainly his limited-edition Dolly Parton vinyls and many (maybe too many) house plants are hitting the spot. But his world is flipped upside down when a visit to the local clinic reveals that Tobbs might not have been exactly faithful. In fact, Tobbs claims they were never operating under the “heteronormative paradigm” of monogamy to begin with. Oh, and Danny’s flatmates are unceremoniously evicting him because they want to start a family. It’s all going quite well.

Newly single and with nowhere to live, Danny is forced to move in with his best friend, Jacob, a flamboyant nonbinary artist whom he’s known since childhood, and their eccentric group of friends living in an East London “commune.” What follows is a colorful voyage of discovery through modern queer life, dating, work, and lots of therapy–all places Danny has always been too afraid to fully explore. Upon realizing just how little he knows about himself and his sexuality, he careens from one questionable decision (and man) to another, relying on his inscrutable new therapist and housemates to help him face the demons he’s spent his entire life trying to repress. Is he really fine, after all?

Description from Goodreads.

“Fry brings a refreshing voice to the queer coming-of-age novel with characters whose stories don’t revolve around trauma. Instead, everyday experiences are portrayed with drama and delight.” – Washington Post

“An entertaining, fast-paced read… a queer coming-of-adulthood story told with humor, tenderness, and quirk.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Tender and funny… As Danny weathers one wild episode after another, Fry leavens moments of despair with acid humor… Throughout, this effervescent chronicle rings true.” – Publishers Weekly

Forbidden City by  Vanessa Hua

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

On the eve of China’s Cultural Revolution and her sixteenth birthday, Mei dreams of becoming a model revolutionary. When the Communist Party recruits girls for a mysterious duty in the capital, she seizes the opportunity to escape her impoverished village. It is only when Mei arrives at the Chairman’s opulent residence—a forbidden city unto itself—that she learns that the girls’ job is to dance with the Party elites. Ambitious and whip-smart. Mei makes a beeline toward the Chairman.

Mei gradually separates from the other recruits to become the Chairman’s confidante—and paramour. As he fends off political rivals, Mei faces down schemers from the dance troupe who will stop at nothing to take her place, as well as the Chairman’s imperious wife, who has schemes of her own. When the Chairman finally gives Mei a political mission, she seizes it with fervor, but the brutality of this latest stage of the revolution makes her begin to doubt all the certainties she has held so dear.

Forbidden City is an epic yet intimate portrayal of one of the world’s most powerful and least understood leaders during the most turbulent period of modern Chinese history. Mei’s harrowing journey toward truth and disillusionment raises questions about power, manipulation, and belief, as seen through the eyes of a passionate teenage girl.

Description from Goodreads.

“…provocative… Hua masterly presents Mei’s attempts to leave the Lake Palaces with their ‘power, secrecy, and isolation’ behind as she processes her trauma. This finds a brilliant new perspective on familiar material via its story of a young woman’s brush with power. It’s magnificent.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Hua brilliantly conveys the emotional and physical reverberations of the rivalries among the girls, who are more vulnerable and less worldly than they understand. Similarly, Hua keenly portrays the discord among Mao’s underlings… By its end, Forbidden City has brought the reader into the beating heart of human history. It is literary historical fiction at its finest.” – BookPage

“…captivating… a new classic… Historical fiction, at its best, is a visceral, not academic, enterprise. It provides dual pleasures to the reader: the pleasure of time travel and the pleasure of time’s echo. It’s one thing to know intellectually that history repeats itself and another to see history enacted through a well-crafted, defamiliarizing narrative. The echoes I heard in Forbidden City — narcissistic leadership, a revenge-thirsty body politic, women and girls treated as things — both unsettled and compelled me to consider the present anew. I can think of no higher praise for this ambitious and impressive novel.” – San Francisco Chronicle

Ill Feelings by  Alice Hattrick

Nonfiction / Memoir.

Ill Feelings blends memoir, medical history, biography and literary non-fiction to uncover untold case histories of medically unexplained and invisible illness.

In 1995 Alice’s mother collapsed with pneumonia. Her lungs were infected, which caused flu-like symptoms: fatigue, headache, chest pain, fever. She never fully recovered and was eventually diagnosed with ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Then Alice got ill. Her symptoms mirrored her mother’s and appeared to have no physical cause; she received the same diagnosis a few years later. Since this time, neither of them have been well, even if, at times, they believed they were well-enough.

Structured around the narrative of the author and her mother’s own ill feelings, Alice Hattrick’s collective biography of illness branches out into the records of ill health women have written about in diaries and letters. Her cast of characters includes Virginia Woolf and Alice James, the poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Emily Dickinson, Ruskin’s lost love Rose La Touche, and the artist Louise Bourgeois. Following in the footsteps of Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams and Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self, Ill Feelings is a moving and defiant debut from a bold new voice in narrative non-fiction with a generative, transcendent rage of its own.

Description from Goodreads.

“Complex and brilliant.” – Review 31

”Happily, Hattrick, in addition to being a gifted writer, is a fierce advocate for their own instinctive understanding of their body, with one of Ill Feelings’ most radical qualities being its unabashed anger.” – Brixton Review of Books

Ill Feelings offers spellbinding reality unlike anything I have ever read. It conquers the sense of grief that we have to learn to live with; this deep guttural fear in humanity is addressed compassionately.” – Buzz

Jameela Green Ruins Everything by  Zarqa Nawaz

Fiction / Comedy.

Jameela Green only has one wish.

To see her memoir on the New York Times bestseller list. When her dream doesn’t come true, she seeks spiritual guidance at her local mosque. New imam and recent immigrant Ibrahim Sultan is appalled by Jameela’s shallowness, but agrees to assist her on one condition: that she perform a good deed.

Jameela reluctantly accepts his terms, kicking off a chain of absurd and unfortunate events. When the person the two do-gooders try to help is recruited by a terrorist group called D.I.C.K.—Dominion of the Islamic Caliphate and Kingdoms—the federal authorities become suspicious of Ibrahim, and soon after, the imam mysteriously disappears.

Certain that the CIA have captured Ibrahim for interrogation via torture, Jameela decides to set off on a one-woman operation to rescue him. Her quixotic quest soon finds her entangled in an international plan targeting the egomaniacal leader of the terrorist organization—a scheme that puts Jameela, and countless others, including her hapless husband and clever but disapproving daughter, at risk.

For fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and My Sister, the Serial Killer, Jameela Green Ruins Everything is a whip-smart black comedy about the price of success, ​​and a biting look at what has gone wrong with American foreign policy in the Middle East. It is a compulsively readable, yet unexpectedly touching novel about one woman’s search for meaning and connection, and about the lengths we go for those we love.

Description from Goodreads.

“Nawaz’s understated humour shines in this lovely comedy of errors—and faith.” – Maclean’s

“[An] entertaining book that reminds us that just about any challenge can be conquered if we just learn to laugh at the absurdity of it all.” – I’ve Read This

“[A] dark, deeply personal and extremely funny first novel that humanizes Muslim lives.” – Everything Zoomer

The Lioness by  Chris Bohjalian

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

Tanzania, 1964. When Katie Barstow, A-list actress, and her new husband, David Hill, decide to bring their Hollywood friends to the Serengeti for their honeymoon, they envision giraffes gently eating leaves from the tall acacia trees, great swarms of wildebeests crossing the Mara River, and herds of zebra storming the sandy plains. Their glamorous guests—including Katie’s best friend, Carmen Tedesco, and Terrance Dutton, the celebrated Black actor who stars alongside Katie in the highly controversial film Tender Madness—will spend their days taking photos, and their evenings drinking chilled gin and tonics back at camp, as the local Tanzanian guides warm water for their baths. The wealthy Americans expect civilized adventure: Fresh ice from the kerosene-powered ice maker, dinners of cooked gazelle meat, and plenty of stories to tell over lunch back on Rodeo Drive.

What Katie and her glittering entourage do not expect is this: A kidnapping gone wrong, their guides bleeding out in the dirt, and a team of Russian mercenaries herding them into Land Rovers, guns to their heads. As the powerful sun gives way to night, the gunmen shove them into abandoned huts and Katie Barstow, Hollywood royalty, prays for a simple thing: To see the sun rise one more time. A blistering story of fame, race, love, and death set in a world on the cusp of great change, The Lioness is a vibrant masterpiece from one of our finest storytellers.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] devastatingly cunning suspense novel… Bohjalian does a superb job of judiciously rolling out information of how past transgressions may have led to the heart-stopping episodes of chaos and carnage as the shocking, twist-filled plot builds up to the revelation of ‘the real reasons for the safari nightmare.’ This brilliant whydunit is not to be missed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“The novel’s opening action may burst forth with a deadly ambush but Bohjalian doesn’t blindside loyal readers who have come to expect his signature combination of exotic locations, titillating characters, and energetic pacing. Stark and dark, violent and vivid, this may be versatile Bohjalian’s most harrowing work since Skeletons of the Feast. Intimately researched, the Serengeti’s beauty and brutality are vibrantly infused in every scene, a grounding counterpoint to the competing dynamics of human cruelty and compassion.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Another tour de force from Bohjalian… Hollywood elite become the hunted as their instinctual fight for survival takes priority over all else. Fans of character-driven narratives will relish traipsing through both the [Serengeti] and the souls and psyches of Bohjalian’s characters.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Mustique Island by  Sarah McCoy

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

It’s January 1972 but the sun is white hot when Willy May Michael’s boat first kisses the dock of Mustique Isle. Tucked into the southernmost curve of the Caribbean, Mustique is a private island that has become a haven for the wealthy and privileged. Its owner is the eccentric British playboy Colin Tennant, who is determined to turn this speck of white sand into a luxurious neo-colonial retreat for his rich friends and into a royal court in exile for the Queen’s rebellious sister, Princess Margaret—one where Her Royal Highness can skinny dip, party, and entertain lovers away from the public eye.

Willy May, a former beauty queen from Texas—who is also no stranger to marital scandals—seeks out Mustique for its peaceful isolation. Determined to rebuild her life and her relationships with her two daughters, Hilly, a model, and Joanne, a musician, she constructs a fanciful white beach house across the island from Princess Margaret—and finds herself pulled into the island’s inner circle of aristocrats, rock stars, and hangers-on.

When Willy May’s daughters arrive, they discover that beneath its veneer of decadence, Mustique has a dark side, and like sand caught in the undertow, their mother-daughter story will shift and resettle in ways they never could have imagined.

Description from Goodreads.

Mustique Island by Sarah McCoy is an absolute dream come true for literary enthusiasts.” – Lone Star Lit

“If you’re looking forward to a summer of beach books, Mustique Island is the perfect tropical treat to whet your appetite.” – Augusta Chronicle

“It’s the early 1970s, and it’s perfectly acceptable to name-drop visiting royalty, whether rock (Mick Jagger) or Windsor (Princess Margaret)… sun-drenched and frequently frothy, McCoy’s underlying tale of women-in-crisis who claw their way back to strength carries sobering messages about the importance of family loyalty and resiliency.” – Booklist

My Wife is Missing by  D.J. Palmer

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

A family vacation turns into a nightmare for Michael Hart when he discovers his wife and two children have disappeared from their New York City hotel room. Horrified, he fears they’ve been kidnapped.

Michael’s frantic search to find them takes a shocking turn when he discovers that his wife, Natalie, appears to have left quite willingly, taking their children with her. The police want to know why, and so does Michael. But there may be a reason why Natalie ran, something Michael can’t tell the police — the truth about his past. While untangling his deceptions might be the key to locating Natalie, Michael knows it could also be his undoing. To find his wife, he must now turn to the one person capable of exposing all that he’s been hiding.

Natalie thinks she has Michael all figured out and has hatched a plan to escape from him permanently. One detail, though, threatens to derail her efforts: sleep — or more accurately, the lack of it. Since the moment the shocking revelations about her husband came to light, Natalie’s insomnia has worsened to the point that she now suffers from delusions. Are her fears about Michael valid — or a symptom of her condition?

With her children’s lives at risk, the stakes for Natalie could not be higher. On her own, running low on energy and resources, avoiding increasingly close calls with Michael — who is on the hunt and closing in fast — Natalie needs someone to turn to for help. But who can she trust when she can’t even trust herself?

Description from Goodreads.

My Wife Is Missing lays all its cards on the table, and then like a good ole’ mystery novel, it manages to subvert readers’ expectations.” – AV Club

“[An] ingenious guessing game… Palmer once again shows he’s a master of suspense.” – Publishers Weekly

“No one’s really innocent in this story, making it all the more complicated and gripping… an exciting thriller to add to your list.” – Manhattan Book Review

Overboard by  Sara Paretsky

Fiction / Mystery.

On her way home from an all-night surveillance job, V.I. Warshawski’s dogs lead her on a mad chase that ends when they discover a badly injured teen hiding in the rocks along Lake Michigan. The girl only regains consciousness long enough to utter one enigmatic word. V.I. helps bring her to a hospital, but not long after, she vanishes before anyone can discover her identity. As V.I. attempts to find her, the detective uncovers an ugly consortium of Chicago powerbrokers and mobsters who are prepared to kill the girl. And now V.I.’s own life is in jeopardy as well.

Told against the backdrop of a city emerging from its pandemic lockdown, Overboard lays bare the dark secrets and corruption buried in Chicago’s neighborhoods in masterly fashion.

Description from Goodreads.

“Not just murder, but adultery, hate crime, fraud, elder abuse, police misconduct, and dysfunctional families. Enjoy.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Paretsky’s clever plotting and storytelling crusades against corruption remain unchanged in this particularly evocative visit to Vic’s world.” – Booklist

“Propulsive… The tale’s relentless pacing, sky-high stakes, and strong social justice advocacy should keep readers invested in the expertly crafted characters’ fates. Series fans will get their money’s worth.” – Publishers Weekly

Saint Sebastian’s Abyss by  Mark Haber


“What I wanted more than anything was to be standing beside Schmidt, in concert with Schmidt, at the foot of Saint Sebastian’s Abyss along with Schmidt, hands cupped to the sides of our faces, debating art, transcendence, and the glory of the apocalypse.”

Former best friends who built their careers writing about a single work of art meet after a decades-long falling-out. One of them, called to the other’s deathbed for unknown reasons by a “relatively short” nine-page email, spends his flight to Berlin reflecting on Dutch Renaissance painter Count Hugo Beckenbauer and his masterpiece, Saint Sebastian’s Abyss, the work that established both men as important art critics and also destroyed their relationship. A darkly comic meditation on art, obsession, and the enigmatic power of friendship, Saint Sebastian’s Abyss stalks the museum halls of Europe, feverishly seeking salvation, annihilation, and the meaning of belief.

Description from Goodreads.

“…poses huge questions that tax the heart as much as the brain… Haber’s slim volume quietly contemplates a possible distinction of art and not-art, as well as the nature of authority and of elitism. Taut as a drum, it also calls to mind the early novellas of Roberto Bolaño and reads, at times, like an outtake from William Gaddis’s The Recognitions.” – The Brooklyn Rail

“A delightful and dizzying excursion into the relationship between art and criticism, and all the ways that we often deceive ourselves about the things and people we love. Concise and deftly rendered, it moves forward like a rocket—or more accurately, like the transatlantic flight his unnamed American narrator takes to visit his friend and nemesis Schmidt in Berlin… In each of their lives, the painting has become a kind of mirror, reflecting their ideas and their assertions back upon themselves.” – Alta Journal

“Haber writes in a deliberately hyperbolic literary style that is a lot of fun, provided you’re the type of person who has a sense of humor about your own pretensions. His work reads like it has been translated from a Balkan language by an unfunny academic, which makes it, paradoxically, utterly engaging. This, Haber’s second novel, takes on art, professional rivalry, and male friendship. It is an all-too-brief delight!” – Publishers Weekly

Set on You by  Amy Lea

Fiction / Romance.

Curvy fitness influencer Crystal Chen built her career shattering gym stereotypes and mostly ignoring the trolls. After her recent breakup, she has little stamina left for men, instead finding solace in the gym – her place of power and positivity.

Enter firefighter Scott Ritchie, the smug new gym patron who routinely steals her favorite squat rack. Sparks fly as these ultra-competitive foes battle for gym domination. But after a series of escalating jabs, the last thing they expect is to run into each other at their grandparents’ engagement party.

In the lead up to their grandparents’ wedding, Crystal discovers there’s a soft heart under Scott’s muscled exterior. Bonding over family, fitness, and cheesy pick-up lines, she just might have found her swolemate. But when a photo of them goes viral, savage internet trolls put their budding relationship to the ultimate test of strength.

Description from Goodreads.

“Lea’s steamy debut romance features well-developed, likeable characters with slow-build chemistry… Hand this one to fans of Helen Hoang and Talia Hibbert.” – Library Journal

“Lea debuts with a heartwarming rom-com centered on body positivity… Lea’s prose is clear, witty, and powerful, delivering an ode to all those who struggle with self-acceptance… Lea is a writer to watch.” – Publishers Weekly

“Lea’s debut romance is a terrific rom-com that offers an essential message about accepting oneself, and it is a pleasure to read… Fans of Jennifer Weiner may enjoy this, and all who read it will look forward to more romance from Lea.” – Booklist

A Show for Two by  Tashie Bhuiyan

Fiction / Young Adult / Romance.

Mina Rahman has a plan for her future:
• Finally win the Golden Ivy student film competition
• Get into her dream school across the country
• Leave New York City behind once and for all

Mina’s ticket to winning the competition falls into her lap when indie film star—and known heartbreaker—Emmitt Ramos enrolls in her high school under a secret identity to research his next role. When Mina sets out to persuade Emmitt to join her cause, he offers her a deal instead: he’ll be in her short film… if she acts as a tour guide to help him with a photography contest.

As Mina ventures across the five boroughs with Emmitt by her side, the city she grew up in starts to look different and more like home than it ever has before. With the competition deadline looming, Mina’s dreams—which once seemed impenetrable—begin to crumble, and she’s forced to ask herself: Is winning worth losing everything?

Description from Goodreads.

“A love letter to finding your passion without losing yourself.” – School Library Journal

“An endearing story of rediscovery that brings out tears of both laughter and heartbreak.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Bhuiyan’s tale covers Mina’s emotional journey, ranging from heart wrenching to joyous… Many teens will relate to Mina’s struggle and resolution.” – Booklist

Siren Queen by  Nghi Vo ★


“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

Description from Goodreads.

“In this stellar novel, Vo turns Hollywood into a fairyland―the kind from the old stories, sharp and dangerous―and laces the sparkling silver romance of the movies with a dark, exploitative, hungry greed… Pair that vivid world with the stubborn, passionate Luli and a pace that turns from slow and delightfully sexy to vast and terrifying with the turn of a page and you have the brilliantly searing Siren Queen.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Vo’s spellbinding latest solidifies her position as a force to be reckoned with in speculative fiction. [Her] hypnotic prose blends metaphor with magic so seamlessly that reality itself becomes slippery. Her dazzling voice, evocative scene setting, and ambitious protagonist make this a knockout.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Movie magic is made manifest, beguiling, and deadly in Vo’s tale about Luli, a Chinese American girl who is determined to realize her dreams of movie stardom… Luli is a compelling character both on and off the screen in this story that takes the mythmaking of Hollywood and transforms it and her into something transcendent. Highly recommended.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Vo’s world is one of vivid description and a mystical realism so well-written it all falls into place like facts… an absolute joy… triumphant.” Lightspeed

The Summer Place by  Jennifer Weiner

Fiction / Romance.

When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah’s mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family’s beach house on Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.

But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life. Sarah’s twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is—questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah’s husband, Eli, who’s been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.

When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.

From “the undisputed boss of the beach read” (New York Times), The Summer Place is a testament to family in all its messy glory; a story about what we sacrifice and how we forgive. Enthralling, witty, big-hearted, and sharply observed, this is Jennifer Weiner’s love letter to the Outer Cape and the power of home, the way our lives are enriched by the people we call family, and the endless ways love can surprise us.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] funny, tender read. A new novel from Weiner heralds the start of beach reading season, so prepare your collections accordingly.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A family’s secrets and entanglements flare up during a Cape Cod wedding in this first-rate page-turner from Weiner. [She] is a master of emotionally complicated narratives, and her smart and witty writing is on full display here. This engrossing novel will please her legions of fans.” – Publishers Weekly

“Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition… even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family… [a] poignant look at family bonds.” – Kirkus Reviews


One comment

  1. Although Bad Actors meanders a bit, it is still almost as compelling a read as Slow Horses. Mind you, that’s not surprising: on Amazon, Mick Herron is described as “The John Le Carré of our generation” and it’s all to do with bad actors and slow horses. Who would have thought le Carré might be associated with “any generation”! In terms of acclaimed spy novels, Herron’s Slough House series has definitely made him Top Of The Pops in terms of anti-Bond writers. For Len Deighton devotees that ends a long and victorious reign at number one.

    Raw noir espionage of the Slough House quality is rare, whether or not with occasional splashes of sardonic hilarity. Gary Oldman’s performance in Slow Horses has given the Slough House series the leg up the charts it deserved. Will Jackson Lamb become the next Bond? It would be a rich paradox if he became an established anti-Bond brand ambassador. Maybe Lamb should change his name to Happy Jack or Pinball Wizard or even Harry Jack. After all, Harry worked for Palmer as might Edward Burlington for Bill Fairclough in another noir but factual spy series, The Burlington Files.

    Of course, espionage aficionados will know that both The Slough House and Burlington Files series were rejected by risk averse publishers who didn’t think espionage existed unless it was fictional and created by Ian Fleming or David Cornwell. However, they probably didn’t know that Fairclough once drummed with Keith Moon in their generation in the seventies.

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