Other Birds

Best New Books: Week of 8/30/22

“I’m under absolutely no obligation to make sense to you.” Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Carrie Soto Is Back by  Taylor Jenkins Reid ★

Fiction / Historical fiction / Romance.

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet.

“Don’t worry if you’re not big on sports stories; this is, ultimately, a heart-filled novel about an iconic and persevering father and daughter.” – Time

“In her latest must-read novel, Reid artfully weaves narratives of self-doubt, parental expectations, smoldering romance, and the heavy price of sacrificing it all for athletic greatness… This should make your list of the most-anticipated books of 2022.” – Reader’s Digest

“Reid writes about the game with suspense, transforming a tennis match into a page-turner even for readers who don’t care about sports… Reid has scored another victory and created another memorable heroine with Carrie Soto, a brash, often unlikable character whose complexity makes her leap off the page… Readers will root for her both on and off the court. A compulsively readable look at female ambition.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Reid captures the excitement of elite sports in her descriptions of Carrie’s games, as well as the struggle that women athletes face when their ambition and confidence is ‘too much.’ But the most affecting moments are when Carrie lets her guard down and shows the woman behind the myth… It’s another triumph for bestselling author Reid, and her growing number of fans will be thrilled to see cameo appearances from characters from her earlier books… Reid’s previous works… have been phenomenal hits, so expect no less from her latest.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Daisy Darker by  Alice Feeney

Fiction / suspense / Mystery.

After years of avoiding each other, Daisy Darker’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s crumbling gothic house on a tiny tidal island. Finally back together one last time, when the tide comes in, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours.

The family arrives, each of them harboring secrets. Then at the stroke of midnight, as a storm rages, Nana is found dead. And an hour later, the next family member follows…

Trapped on an island where someone is killing them one by one, the Darkers must reckon with their present mystery as well as their past secrets, before the tide comes in and all is revealed.

With a wicked wink to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Daisy Darker’s unforgettable twists will leave readers reeling.

“Come for the dysfunctional family fun. Stay for the wicked twist at the end.” – The Optionist

“Evocative prose, fully realized characters, and an intimate, insightful first-person narrative. Flashbacks add depth while expanding the suspect list, and twists abound. Sarah Pinborough fans, take note.” – Publishers Weekly

“A dark, twisty tale about a dysfunctional family… Feeney’s nod to Agatha Christie’s classic mystery And Then There Were None adds a delightful twist to this quirky thriller. Aficionados of locked-room stories and family dramas (plus Feeney’s large fan base) will enjoy this highly recommended title.” – Library Journal

Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta by  James Hannaham ★


Carlotta Mercedes has been misunderstood her entire life. When she was pulled into a robbery gone wrong, she still went by the name she’d grown up with in Fort Greene, Brooklyn—before it gentrified. But not long after her conviction, she took the name Carlotta and began to live as a woman, an embrace of selfhood that prison authorities rejected, keeping Carlotta trapped in an all-male cell block, abused by both inmates and guards, and often placed in solitary.

In her fifth appearance before the parole board, Carlotta is at last granted conditional freedom and returns to a much-changed New York City. Over a whirlwind Fourth of July weekend, she struggles to reconcile with the son she left behind, to reunite with a family reluctant to accept her true identity, and to avoid any minor parole infraction that might get her consigned back to lockup.

Written with the same astonishing verve of Delicious Foods, which dazzled critics and readers alike, Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta sweeps the reader through seemingly every street of Brooklyn, much as Joyce’s Ulysses does through Dublin. The novel sings with brio and ambition, delivering a fantastically entertaining read and a cast of unforgettable characters even as it challenges us to confront the glaring injustices of a prison system that continues to punish people long after their time has been served.

“Like the transformed city she navigates to great comic effect, Carlotta is irrepressible. She endures. James Hannaham won multiple accolades for his previous outing, Delicious Foods; with Carlotta, it’s a good bet more are on the way.” – AV Club

“Timely, gripping, and compellingly written… this book had me from the first page… Hannaham introduces us to the distinct narrative voice of Carlotta, who’s willing to cut through all the noise to tell her truth in her own distinctly hilarious way… This is a book that deserves to be read by anyone who’s interested in how public policy affects the everyday lives of marginalized communities in America.” – BuzzFeed

“Razor-sharp… A hilarious, righteous transgender remix of The Odyssey… Carlotta’s bold voice hooks readers from the beginning, making them willing ride-or-dies… Hannaham hasn’t merely given the classics an update; he has given readers an unforgettable glimpse into the injustices the carceral system heaps on women like Carlotta—and deftly made space in literature for a distinctive voice that deserves a place in the modern literary pantheon.” – Los Angeles Times

“Captivating… Hannaham’s bumper-car narrative astonishes… Carlotta is irrepressible. No matter how much the prison system has abused her, regardless of the coldblooded stipulations of her parole, she is brave enough to be guided by the woman inside her tireless heart… At a time when families with trans and gay children feel persecuted by state governments, Hannaham makes Carlotta heroic. Don’t let the title of this wondrous novel fool you. Hannaham cares deeply about Carlotta. From a mash-up of perspectives, he writes like a guardian angel.” – New York Times

Enjoy Me Among My Ruins by  Juniper Fitzgerald

Nonfiction / Memoir / Pop Culture.

Combining feminist theories, X-Files fandom, and personal memoir, Enjoy Me Among My Ruins draws together a kaleidoscopic archive of Juniper Fitzgerald’s experiences as a queer sex-working mother. Plumbing the major events that shaped her life, and interspersing her childhood letters written to cult icon Gillian Anderson, this experimental manifesto contends with dominant narratives placed upon marginalized bodies and ultimately rejects a capitalist system that demands our purity and submission over our survival.

“A lyrical, innovative memoir about sex, parenting, and addiction.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Experimental in the best way, connecting dots and drawing parallels that make for a stunning read.” – Them

“This gorgeous memoir from Fitzgerald is a collage of the author’s most potent writing… equal parts rock ‘n’ roll and lyrical musings, with sharp, jagged truths and moments of gooey softness.” – Booklist

The Final Gambit by  Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Fiction / Young Adult / Mystery / Suspense / romance.

To inherit billions, all Avery Kylie Grambs has to do is survive a few more weeks living in Hawthorne House. The paparazzi are dogging her every step. Financial pressures are building. Danger is a fact of life. And the only thing getting Avery through it all is the Hawthorne brothers. Her life is intertwined with theirs. She knows their secrets, and they know her.

But as the clock ticks down to the moment when Avery will become the richest teenager on the planet, trouble arrives in the form of a visitor who needs her help—and whose presence in Hawthorne House could change everything. It soon becomes clear that there is one last puzzle to solve, and Avery and the Hawthorne brothers are drawn into a dangerous game against an unknown and powerful player.

Secrets upon secrets. Riddles upon riddles. In this game, there are hearts and lives at stake—and there is nothing more Hawthorne than winning.

The Final Gambit is a thrilling conclusion to the The Inheritance Games series… a consuming and mysterious journey that ultimately leaves readers equally satisfied and reeling.” – YA Books Central

The House of Fortune by  Jessie Burton

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Mystery / Fantasy.

Amsterdam in the year 1705. It is Thea Brandt’s eighteenth birthday. She is ready to welcome adulthood with open arms, but life at home is increasingly difficult. Her father Otto and her Aunt Nella argue endlessly over their financial fate, selling off furniture in a desperate attempt to hold on to the family home.

As catastrophe threatens to engulf the household, Thea seeks refuge in Amsterdam’s playhouses. She loves the performances, and the stolen moments afterwards are even better. In the backrooms of her favorite theater, Thea can spend a few precious minutes with her secret lover, Walter, the chief set-painter, a man adept at creating the perfect environments for comedies and tragedies to flourish. The thrill of their hidden romance offers Thea an exciting distraction from home. But it also puts her in mind of another secret that threatens to overwhelm the present: Thea knows her birthday marks the day her mother, Marin, died in labor. Thea’s family refuses to share the details of this story, just as they seem terrified to speak of “the miniaturist” – a shadowy figure from their past who is possessed of uncanny abilities to capture that which is hidden.

Aunt Nella believes the solution to all Thea’s problems is to find her a husband who will guarantee her future. An unexpected invitation to Amsterdam’s most exclusive ball seems like a golden opportunity. But when Thea finds, on her doorstep, a parcel containing a miniature figure of Walter, it becomes clear that someone out there has another fate in mind for the family…

A feat of sweeping, magical storytelling, The House of Fortune is an unputdownable novel about love and obsession, family and loyalty, and the fantastic power of secrets.

“A beautifully written and wholly engrossing tale. New readers will be delighted that they can enjoy this book without having read the first one, but they’ll probably seek it out to spend a bit more time in Burton’s magical Amsterdam.” – Library Journal

“Captivating… the vibrant period detail, the characters’ vibrant inner lives, and Thea’s fulfilling journey to maturity make for a winning combination. Readers will relish the return of Nella and her world.” – Publishers Weekly

“…captivating… Burton’s narrative talents shine at full brilliance in The House of Fortune, offering a heady, hypnotic immersion into Thea’s world that readers will be reluctant to leave.” – Shelf Awareness

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by  Ellen Marie Wiseman

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Mystery / suspense / Horror.

Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.

Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.

Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined…

“…disturbing… a very compelling read.” – The Book Review Crew

“Best read with the lights on and the doors locked. A chilling, propulsive novel that blends fact with fiction, and transports you to the infamous WIllowbrook State School on Staten Island in the 1970s… If you’re a fan historical fiction, horror or true crime—or you’re just looking for the next discussion-worthy book club pick, don’t miss this shocking mash-up of Girl, Interrupted mixed with American Horror Story.” – Barnes & Noble

Nothing More to Tell by  Karen M. McManus

Fiction / Young Adult / Mystery / Suspense.

Be sure to keep your friends close… and your secrets closer.

Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favorite teacher—a story that made headlines after the teacher’s body was found by three Saint Ambrose students in the woods behind their school. The case was never solved. Now that Brynn is moving home and starting her dream internship at a true-crime show, she’s determined to find out what really happened.

The kids who found Mr. Larkin are her way in, and her ex–best friend, Tripp Talbot, was one of them. Without his account of events, the other two kids might have gone down for Mr. Larkin’s murder. They’ve never forgotten what Tripp did for them that day. Just like he hasn’t forgotten that everything he told the police was a lie.

Digging into the past is bound to shake up the present, and as Brynn begins to investigate what happened in the woods that day, she begins to uncover secrets that might change everything—about Saint Ambrose, about Mr. Larkin, and about her ex-best friend, Tripp Talbot.

Four years ago someone got away with murder. The most terrifying part is that they never left.

“An edge-of-your-seat page-turner; the strongest yet from a master of the genre.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“McManus never gives readers a moment to relax, drawing out suspects and secrets in rapid succession… Brimming with twists and turns.” – BookPage

“[McManus] brings that signature blend of high-stakes high-school drama and murderous twists readers won’t see coming.” – Booklist

Other Birds by  Sarah Addison Allen

Fiction / Fantasy / ROMANCE.

Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits—a stunning old cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment on an island outside of Charleston she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a girl on the run, two estranged middle-aged sisters, a lonely chef, a legendary writer, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

“Whimsical, wise, and delightfully mysterious.” – Real Simple

“Allen skillfully weaves the various threads, as vignettes narrated by ghosts of former building residents provide further context as the plot unfurls… This will move readers.” – Publishers Weekly

“The biggest challenge for the reader is to try to not turn the pages so quickly in order to extend the fun. Intriguing details and magical realism are hallmarks of Allen’s fiction, along with a slow-burn mystery that connects the past and present. Once again, she mixes those alluring elements together in the perfect ratio to create an outstanding reading experience. Readers who enjoy a Southern story, a touch of the unexplained, and works by Fannie Flagg and Karen White will all be delighted by this novel.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

A Taste of Gold and Iron by  Alexandra Rowland

Fiction / Fantasy / Romance.

Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.

To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.

“Rowland delivers a breathtakingly intimate narrative in this gorgeous fantasy, in which the political intrigue of a kingdom serves as backdrop to a romance between the softest of hearts… In exploring what monarchs owe their people, and what individuals owe each other, this achingly tender fantasy wows.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A beautifully detailed world, the power to touch-taste metal, political schemes, and a slow-burn romance wrap together in a lush fantasy. Rowland’s latest continues to showcase their captivating prose, immersive details, and complicated characters.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Kadou’s coping with anxiety and personal growth are a joy to watch as he fully embraces his talents and comes out of his shell with the help of Evemer, his bodyguard. The slow-burn romance between them is beautifully done and adds a thrilling element to the story that readers will savor.” – Booklist


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