“Every life has its kernel, its hub, its epicentre, from which everything flows out, to which everything returns.” – Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet
All the Women in My Brain: and Other Concerns by Betty Gilpin
Nonfiction / Memoir / Comedy.
Betty Gilpin has a brain full of women. There’s Blanche VonFuckery, Ingrid St. Rash, and a host of others—some cowering in sweatpants, some howling plans for revolution, and some, oh God, and some… slowly vomiting up a crow without breaking eye contact? Jesus. These women take turns at the wheel. That’s why Betty feels like a million selves. With a raised eyebrow and a soul-scalpel, she tells us how she got this way.
Betty has depression, Betty has a dream, Betty has tits the size of printers. She has debilitating shame and then, impossibly, a tiny voice saying what if. She takes us from wild dissections of modern womanhood to boarding school to the glossy cringe of Hollywood. We laugh through the failures (monologue to beagle! Ancient mentors proposing fellatio!) and quietly hope with her for the dream. Whether that dream is love or liberation or enough iMDb credits to tase the demon snapping at her ankles, we won’t know until the shit-fanning end. There’s Hamlet, there’s self-sabotage, there’s PTSD from turkey. Stunning, candid, and laugh-out-loud funny, All the Women in My Brain is perfect for any reader who’s ever felt like they were more, or at least weirder, than the world expected.
“Working with the material of her own life as an actor… Gilpin critiques societal expectations that circumscribe creative women to docile beings, while suggesting that it’s the unruly parts of women’s minds that should be tended to as wellsprings of creativity.” – Publishers Weekly
“Gilpin is genuinely funny as a commentator on her own misadventures… The writing comes alive… when the author digs into the specific indignities she endured during her journey through the gauntlet of endless auditions and the merciless whims of those who orchestrated them.” – Kirkus Reviews
The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas ★
Fiction / Romance.
Rosie Graham has a problem. A few, actually. She just quit her well paid job to focus on her secret career as a romance writer. She hasn’t told her family and now has terrible writer’s block. Then, the ceiling of her New York apartment literally crumbles on her. Luckily she has her best friend Lina’s spare key while she’s out of town. But Rosie doesn’t know that Lina has already lent her apartment to her cousin Lucas, who Rosie has been stalking—for lack of a better word—on Instagram for the last few months. Lucas seems intent on coming to her rescue like a Spanish knight in shining armor. Only this one strolls around the place in a towel, has a distracting grin, and an irresistible accent. Oh, and he cooks.
Lucas offers to let Rosie stay with him, at least until she can find some affordable temporary housing. And then he proposes an outrageous experiment to bring back her literary muse and meet her deadline: He’ll take her on a series of experimental dates meant to jump-start her romantic inspiration. Rosie has nothing to lose. Her silly, online crush is totally under control—but Lucas’s time in New York has an expiration date, and six weeks may not be enough, for either her or her deadline.
“This friends-to-lovers trope will have readers rooting for the couple as things turn steamy. Though it’s a follow-up to The Spanish Love Deception, Armas’s contemporary romance can be read as a stand-alone; perfect for readers who love Emily Henry and Tessa Bailey.” – Library Journal
“Armas’s adorable follow-up to Booktok sensation The Spanish Love Deception will delight fans even as it stands on its own… Armas does a fantastic job showing her characters’ developing feelings and allowing the romantic tension to drive the plot. This is a treat.” – Publishers Weekly
“Author Elena Armas will surely have your heart skipping a beat with this modern, sensual romance that was achingly sweet and absolutely delightful.” – Harlequin Junkie
“Move over, Lina and Aaron! There’s a brand new book couple coming, and we can’t get enough of them… the book that’ll absolutely make you wish you were moving in with your best friend’s hot cousin.” – Cosmopolitan
Book of Extraordinary Tragedies by Joe Meno
Aleksandar and Isobel are siblings and former classical music prodigies, once destined for greatness. As the only Eastern European family growing up on their block on the far South Side of Chicago, the pair were inseparable until each was forced to confront the absurdity of tragedy at an early age: Aleks lives with hearing loss, while Isobel struggles with preposterous expectations from herself and her family.
Both now in their twenties, they find themselves encountering ridiculous jobs, unfulfilling romantic relationships, and the outrageousness of ordinary life. Doomed by fate, a family history of failure, an odd mother, an absent father, and a younger brother with a peculiar fondness for catastrophes, the two siblings have all but given up.
But when an illness forces Isobel to move back into the family home with her three-year-old daughter, everything changes for Aleks. Over the course of several months, he becomes deeply involved in the endless challenges that surround his relatives. Once Isobel begins playing cello again and announces her intention to audition for an amateur symphony, Aleks comes to see a world of possibility and wonder in the lives of his extraordinarily complicated family.
Told in Aleks’s exuberant voice, and full of as much comedy as tragedy, this entertaining novel asks, is it ever truly possible to separate our fates from those we’ve come to love?
“[D]espite the long odds stacked against his characters, Meno keeps their story buoyant… They’re hopelessly optimistic in their own twisted way… What this story gets so right is how so many of us live in the past and the present all at once.” – Chicago Reader
“[A] richly embroidered coming-of-age story… An uplifting and interesting exploration of one family’s struggle for existence in the United States, against the backdrop of history, classical and popular music, and the financial crisis of 2007–08; highly recommended.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“As in all his tender and edgy fiction, Meno’s poetic prose is infused with sweet compassion and sharp protest as he marvels over ‘the beautiful failure of all human beings struggling against their own glorious mistakes’ while, somehow, finding a way forward.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
The Deceptions by Jill Bialosky
Something terrible has happened and I don’t know what to do.
An unnamed narrator’s life is unraveling. Her only child has left home, and her twenty-year marriage is strained. Anticipation about her soon-to-be-released book of poetry looms. She seeks answers to the paradoxes of love, desire, and parenthood among the Greek and Roman gods at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As she passes her days teaching at a boy’s prep school, spending her off hours sequestered in the museum’s austere galleries, she is haunted by memories of a yearlong friendship with a colleague, a fellow poet, struggling with his craft. As secret betrayals and deceptions come to light, and rage threatens to overwhelm her, the pantheon assume remarkably vivid lives of their own, forcing her to choose between reality and myth in an effort to free herself of the patriarchal constraints of the past and embrace a new vision for her future.
The Deceptions is a page-turning and seductively told exploration of female sexuality and ambition. It is also a brilliantly conceived investigation of a life caught between the dueling magnetic poles of intimacy in a marriage and the privacy necessary for creative endeavor. Celebrated poet, memoirist, and novelist Jill Bialosky has reached new and daring heights in her boldest work yet.
“Poetry and inspiration, obsession and divinity, all come under Bialosky’s purview in her elegantly constructed fable of trying to create while everything else falls apart.” – The Millions
“A stunning tale of entitlement, betrayal, creativity, and true power.” – Booklist
“Bialosky’s sensuous evocation of longing and regret will no doubt linger in readers’ minds.” – Publishers Weekly
Destination Unknown by Bill Konigsberg
Fiction / Young adult / Historical Fiction / Romance.
The first thing I noticed about C.J. Gorman was his plexiglass bra.
So begins Destination Unknown. It’s 1987 in New York City, and Micah is at a dance club, trying to pretend he’s more out and outgoing than he really is. C.J. isn’t just out–he’s completely out there, and Micah can’t help but be both attracted to and afraid of someone who travels so loudly and proudly through the night.
A connection occurs. Is it friendship? Romance? Is C.J. the one with all the answers… or does Micah bring more to the relationship that it first seems? As their lives become more and more entangled in the AIDS epidemic that’s laying waste to their community, and the AIDS activism that will ultimately bring a strong voice to their demands, whatever Micah and C.J. have between them will be tested, strained, pushed, and pulled–but it will also be a lifeline in a time of death, a bond that will determine the course of their futures.
In Destination Unknown, Bill Konigsberg returns to a time he knew well as a teenager to tell a story of identity, connection, community, and survival.
“With care, emotional depth, and a myriad of period music references, Konigsberg expertly balances Micah’s wonder, fear, despair, and outrage at coming out during the AIDS crisis… It’s sure to be an emotional eye-opener for those who did not live through this time and a resonant picture of resilience, community, and activism for those who did… Historical fiction at its finest.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“…touching… Konigsberg’s keen sense of time and place, coupled with an optimistic atmosphere, make for both a swoony romance and a sensitive, nuanced look into a tumultuous period in history.” – Publishers Weekly
“A poignant story about what it was like to come of age during the AIDS epidemic in 1980s New York City, Destination Unknown is at times funny, ecstatic, gut-wrenching, devastating, life-affirming and most of all, a timely reminder that while love might not cure all ills, it certainly is the best thing we humans do.” – The Nerd Daily
Do You Take This Man by Denise Williams
Fiction / Romance.
Divorce attorney RJ would never describe herself as romantic. But when she ends up officiating an unplanned wedding for a newly engaged couple in a park, her life is turned upside down. The video of the ceremony goes viral, and she finds herself in the unlikely position of being a sought-after local wedding officiant. Spending her free time overseeing “I dos” isn’t her most strategic career move, but she enjoys it, except for the type A dude-bro wedding planner she’s forced to work with.
Former pro-football event manager Lear is a people person, but after his longtime girlfriend betrayed him, he isn’t looking for love. He knows how to execute events and likes being in control, so working with an opinionated and inflexible officiant who can’t stand him is not high on his list. He’s never had trouble winning people over, but RJ seems immune to his charms.
Surrounded by love at every turn, their physical attraction pulls them together despite their best efforts to stay an arm’s length apart. Lear refuses to get hurt again. RJ refuses to let herself be vulnerable to anyone. But when it comes to happily ever after, their clients might not be the only ones saying “I do.”
“[A] really enjoyable read with a fun and sexy feel.” – Novel Gossip
“…steamy… another fun rom-com, with characters you root for and want to be together.” – Red Carpet Crash
“…sizzling… Their bickering adds a spicy undercurrent to even the sweetest moments.. Lear’s a swoonworthy hero and the pair earn their happy ending. Williams’s fans will not be disappointed.” – Publishers Weekly
Fairy Tale by Stephen King ★
Fiction / fantasy / Horror.
Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. Then, when Charlie is seventeen, he meets Howard Bowditch, a recluse with a big dog in a big house at the top of a big hill. In the backyard is a locked shed from which strange sounds emerge, as if some creature is trying to escape. When Mr. Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie the house, a massive amount of gold, a cassette tape telling a story that is impossible to believe, and a responsibility far too massive for a boy to shoulder.
Because within the shed is a portal to another world—one whose denizens are in peril and whose monstrous leaders may destroy their own world, and ours. In this parallel universe, where two moons race across the sky, and the grand towers of a sprawling palace pierce the clouds, there are exiled princesses and princes who suffer horrific punishments; there are dungeons; there are games in which men and women must fight each other to the death for the amusement of the “Fair One.” And there is a magic sundial that can turn back time.
A story as old as myth, and as startling and iconic as the rest of King’s work, Fairy Tale is about an ordinary guy forced into the hero’s role by circumstance, and it is both spectacularly suspenseful and satisfying.
“King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy—and his dog—must lead the battle.” – Book Reporter
“Stephen King’s new book is the best kind of page-turner… You’ll inhale Fairy Tale in big 100-page swathes without the slightest effort or strain, and you’ll be grateful that there are 600-plus pages of it to remind you several times over how much fun that kind of reading experience is.” – Slate
“Magnificent… classic King, and clearly written with joy. He is one of the best writers on childhood and teenagers, which continues in Fairy Tale.” – The Sunday Times
“Spellbinding… Packed with glorious flights of imagination and characteristic tenderness about childhood, Fairy Tale is vintage King at his finest.” – Esquire
“Just as full of magic, adventure, and the temptations of treasure as the title implies… In Fairy Tale, King takes tropes and twists them, making for a highly entertaining read.” – AV Club
The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish
Fiction / Romance.
Greta Russakoff loves her tight-knit family and tiny Maine hometown, even if they don’t always understand what it’s like to be a lesbian living in such a small world. She desperately needs space to figure out who she is.
Truman Belvedere has just had his heart crushed into a million pieces when he learned that his boyfriend of almost a year has a secret life that includes a husband and a daughter. Reeling from this discovery, all he wants is a place to lick his wounds far, far away from New Orleans.
Enter Greta and Truman’s mutual friend, Ramona, who facilitates a month-long house swap. Over the winter holidays, each of them will have a chance to try on a new life… and maybe fall in love with the perfect partner of their dreams. But all holidays must come to an end, and eventually Greta and Truman will have to decide whether the love they each found so far from home is worth fighting for.
“…charming… the believable stakes and strong sense of place in both settings keep the romance grounded throughout. This is a fluffy wintertime treat.” – Publishers Weekly
“Readers will be captivated by the atmospheric settings, the witty dialogue, and the well-developed, adorably quirky characters in this stand-alone novel from queer Jewish novelist Parrish.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery ★
In the 1970s, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami as political violence consumes their native Kingston. But America, as the couple and their two children learn, is far from the promised land. Excluded from society as Black immigrants, the family pushes on through Hurricane Andrew and later the 2008 recession, living in a house so cursed that the pet fish launches itself out of its own tank rather than stay. But even as things fall apart, the family remains motivated, often to its own detriment, by what their younger son, Trelawny, calls “the exquisite, racking compulsion to survive.”
Masterfully constructed with heart and humor, the linked stories in Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You center on Trelawny as he struggles to carve out a place for himself amid financial disaster, racism, and flat-out bad luck. After a fight with Topper–himself reckoning with his failures as a parent and his longing for Jamaica–Trelawny claws his way out of homelessness through a series of odd, often hilarious jobs. Meanwhile, his brother, Delano, attempts a disastrous cash grab to get his kids back, and his cousin, Cukie, looks for a father who doesn’t want to be found. As each character searches for a foothold, they never forget the profound danger of climbing without a safety net.
Pulsing with vibrant lyricism and inimitable style, sly commentary and contagious laughter, Escoffery’s debut unravels what it means to be in between homes and cultures in a world at the mercy of capitalism and whiteness. With If I Survive You, Escoffery announces himself as a prodigious storyteller in a class of his own, a chronicler of American life at its most gruesome and hopeful.
“A ravishing debut… There’s peacocking humor, capers, and passages of shuddering eroticism. The book feels thrillingly free… [Escoffery’s] stories also stress the ebullience, the possibility, that can emerge from in-betweenness.” – The New Yorker
“[A] vibrant and varied debut… This charged work keeps a tight hold on the reader.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“A blazing success… A profoundly authentic vision of family dynamics and racism in America… These eight stories are completely immersive, humorous yet heartbreaking… Escoffery brings an imaginative, fresh voice to his deep exploration of what it means to be a man, son, brother, father and nonwhite immigrant in America.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW
“One of the most refreshing fiction debuts I’ve read in years… With effortlessly transporting language and characters that are unforgettable in their singularity, this book charmed its way into my heart, where it will stay for a long time.” – BuzzFeed
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell ★
Fiction / Historical Fiction.
Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and to devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Moderna and Regio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.
Full of the drama and verve with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life, and offers an unforgettable portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.
“Finely detailed…. This beguiling tale of power, politics and one woman’s fight for agency is yet another masterpiece by the author of Hamnet.” – The Globe and Mail
“O’Farrell pulls out little threads of historical detail to weave this story of a precocious girl sensitive to the contradictions of her station… You may know the history, and you may think you know what’s coming, but don’t be so sure. O’Farrell and Lucrezia, with her ‘crystalline, righteous anger,’ will always be one step ahead of you… O’Farrell [is] one of the most exciting novelists alive.” – Washington Post
“Thrilling… As the novel’s two timelines draw together, O’Farrell builds intense suspense. As always, her prose is beautiful, her characters finely drawn, her story wonderfully surprising. Browning’s Alfonso might have closed a curtain over the portrait of his duchess to declare her his possession, but O’Farrell rips that curtain away and gives her a life.” – Tampa Bay Times
“A vivid depiction of the harsh manners and rigid expectations for women within ducal courts in 16th-century Italy… O’Farrell is a marvelous stylist, and The Marriage Portrait is full of the same kinds of intense details that made Hamnet come alive. Her characters are captivating and believable, and the landscape of Renaissance Italy is a veritable gift to the senses, so powerfully does O’Farrell evoke the sights, sounds and smells of forest, castle and barnyard.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW
One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World by Michael Frank; illustrated by Maira Kalman
Nonfiction / Memoir / BIOGRAPHY / History.
With nearly a century of life behind her, Stella Levi had never before spoken in detail about her past. Then she met Michael Frank. He came to her Greenwich Village apartment one Saturday afternoon to ask her a question about the Juderia, the neighborhood in Rhodes where she’d grown up in a Jewish community that had thrived there for half a millennium.
Neither of them could know this was the first of one hundred Saturdays over the course of six years that they would spend in each other’s company. During these meetings Stella traveled back in time to conjure what it felt like to come of age on this luminous, legendary island in the eastern Aegean, which the Italians conquered in 1912, began governing as an official colonial possession in 1923, and continued to administer even after the Germans seized control in September 1943. The following July, the Germans rounded up all 1,700-plus residents of the Juderia and sent them first by boat and then by train to Auschwitz on what was the longest journey—measured by both time and distance—of any of the deportations. Ninety percent of them were murdered upon arrival.
Probing and courageous, candid and sly, Stella is a magical modern-day Scheherazade whose stories reveal what it was like to grow up in an extraordinary place in an extraordinary time—and to construct a life after that place has vanished. One Hundred Saturdays is a portrait of one of the last survivors drawn at nearly the last possible moment, as well as an account of a tender and transformative friendship that develops between storyteller and listener as they explore the fundamental mystery of what it means to collect, share, and interpret the deepest truths of a life deeply lived.
“Saturday after Saturday, Stella Levi’s story forms the lively, tragic tale that is One Hundred Saturdays. This is the best book I’ve read all year, and with Maira Kalman’s brilliant illustrations it may be the best book of the decade.” – Indie Next
“…compelling and unique… An essential read for Jewish history and memoir fans. Stella is a compelling character for anyone to meet.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“Incandescent… Distilled through Frank’s intelligent prose and enlivened with eye-catching illustrations from Kalman, Levi’s recollections bring to vivid life the unique culture of the Juderia, its complicated colonial history, and her colorful, multilingual family as she describes how, under Italian Fascist rule in the 1920s and ’30s, all traces of Judaism vanished from the public eye… Frank’s narrative shines with an ebullience, thanks to the ‘unusually rich, textured, and evolving’ life of his utterly enchanting muse. The result provides an essential, humanist look into a dark chapter of 20th-century history.” – Publishers Weekly
On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Fiction / Historical Fiction.
At home they are just sisters, but on stage, they are The Salvations. Ruth, Esther, and Chloe have been singing and dancing in harmony since they could speak. Thanks to the rigorous direction of their mother, Vivian, they’ve become a bona fide girl group whose shows are the talk of the Jazz-era Fillmore.
Now Vivian has scored a once-in-a-lifetime offer from a talent manager, who promises to catapult The Salvations into the national spotlight. Vivian knows this is the big break she’s been praying for. But sometime between the hours of rehearsal on their rooftop and the weekly gigs at the Champagne Supper Club, the girls have become women, women with dreams that their mother cannot imagine.
The neighborhood is changing, too: all around the Fillmore, white men in suits are approaching Black property owners with offers. One sister finds herself called to fight back, one falls into the comfort of an old relationship, another yearns to make her own voice heard. And Vivian, who has always maintained control, will have to confront the parts of her life that threaten to splinter: the community, The Salvations, and even her family.
“It will get inside your heart, break it wide open and stay there for a long time.” – Good Housekeeping
“Sexton does a wonderful job of capturing the complicated love that binds Vivian and her daughters. She also beautifully depicts the jealousies and rivalries that can tear once-close sisters apart… A heartfelt tale of family and community.” – Kirkus Reviews
“A masterful examination of family and community that celebrates the legacy of Black dreams and determination… Sexton’s work entertains and inspires at the same time, and with On the Rooftop, she urges us to find comfort in the triumphs of our past.” – BookPage
The Red Widow: The Scandal that Shook Paris and the Woman Behind It All by Sarah Horowitz
Nonfiction / history / true crime / biography.
Paris, 1889: Margeurite Steinheil is a woman with ambition. But having been born into a middle-class family and trapped in a marriage to a failed artist twenty years her senior, she knows her options are limited.
Determined to fashion herself into a new woman, Meg orchestrates a scandalous plan with her most powerful resource: her body. Amid the dazzling glamor, art, and romance of bourgeois Paris, she takes elite men as her lovers, charming her way into the good graces of the rich and powerful. Her ambitions, though, go far beyond becoming the most desirable woman in Paris; at her core, she is a woman determined to conquer French high society. But the game she plays is a perilous one: navigating misogynistic double-standards, public scrutiny, and political intrigue, she is soon vaulted into infamy in the most dangerous way possible.
A real-life femme fatale, Meg influences government positions and resorts to blackmail-and maybe even poisoning-to get her way. Leaving a trail of death and disaster in her wake, she earns the name the “Red Widow” for mysteriously surviving a home invasion that leaves both her husband and mother dead. With the police baffled and the public enraged, Meg breaks every rule in the bourgeois handbook and becomes the most notorious woman in Paris.
“This hits the sweet spot between true crime and women’s history.” – Publishers Weekly
“A dazzling yet nuanced portrait of femme fatale Marguerite Steinheil… Fans of true crime and women’s history will find this a page-turning read.” – Booklist
“[An] interesting and readable look at belle époque society and the scandal that shook it little more than a century ago.” – blogcritics.org
Sacrificio by Ernesto Mestre-Reed
Fiction / Historical Fiction.
Rafa, an Afro-Cuban orphan, moves to Havana with nothing to his name and falls into a job at a café. He is soon drawn into a web of bizarre, ever-shifting entanglements with his boss’s son, the charismatic Renato, leader of the counterrevolutionary group “Los Injected Ones,” which is planning a violent overthrow of the Castro government during Pope John Paul II’s upcoming visit.
When Renato goes missing, Rafa’s search for his friend takes him through various haunts in Havana: from an AIDS sanatorium, to the guest rooms of tourist hotels, to the outskirts of the capital, where he enters a phantasmagorical slum cobbled together from the city’s detritus by Los Injected Ones.
A novel of cascading prose that captures a nation in slow collapse, Sacrificio is a visionary work, capturing the fury, passion, fatalism, and grim humor of young lives lived at the margins of a society they desperately wish to change.
“Flourishing in its suspense and realism, the novel tells a story of recovery and resistance; Rafa puts his grief to work as he grapples with the political deeds of the deceased and the death-dealing of the state that looms over them all.” – Vulture
“…imagines an extreme counterrevolutionary movement during desperate times… To Rafael’s bildungsroman amid half-cocked terrorists and a love triangle with their leaders, add a spy-novel parody, a kaleidoscopic Christ narrative, a battery of literary references and a portrait of Cuban life under socialism.” – New York Times
“A sprawling historical novel that manages to be intimate in its humanity, Sacrificio drew me in and held me in its grip until the very last page… Funny and daring, with a plot that will keep readers guessing until the very end, this is the perfect read for anyone looking for fiction that is epic and socially conscious. Its length may seem daunting at first, but trust me, you won’t be able to put it down.” – BuzzFeed
Solito: A Memoir by Javier Zamora
Nonfiction / memoir / CURRENT EVENTS.
Trip. My parents started using that word about a year ago–“one day, you’ll take a trip to be with us. Like an adventure.”
Javier’s adventure is a three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border. He will leave behind his beloved aunt and grandparents to reunite with a mother who left four years ago and a father he barely remembers. Traveling alone except for a group of strangers and a coyote hired to lead them to safety, Javier’s trip is supposed to last two short weeks.
At nine years old, all Javier can imagine is rushing into his parents’ arms, snuggling in bed between them, living under the same roof again. He does not see the perilous boat trips, relentless desert treks, pointed guns, arrests and deceptions that await him; nor can he know that those two weeks will expand into two life-altering months alongside a group of strangers who will come to encircle him like an unexpected family.
A memoir by an acclaimed poet that reads like a novel, Solito not only provides an immediate and intimate account of a treacherous and near-impossible journey, but also the miraculous kindness and love delivered at the most unexpected moments. Solito is Javier’s story, but it’s also the story of millions of others who had no choice but to leave home.
“Zamora’s storytelling is crafted with stunning intimacy, and you’ll feel so close to the boy he was then that you’ll think about him long after the book is done. It’s impossible not to feel both immersed in and changed by this extraordinary book.” – Los Angeles Times
“[A] beautifully wrought work that renders the migrant experience into a vivid, immediately accessible portrayal.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“A stirring portrait of the power of human connection… an immensely moving story.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West
Fiction / Historical Fiction.
Sara King has nothing, save for her secrets and the baby in her belly, as she boards the bus to Memphis, hoping to outrun her past in Chicago. She is welcomed with open arms by Mama Sugar, a kindly matriarch and owner of the popular boardinghouse The Scarlet Poplar.
Like many cities in early 1960s America, Memphis is still segregated, but change is in the air. News spreads of the Freedom Riders. Across the country, people like Martin Luther King Jr. are leading the fight for equal rights. Black literature and music provide the stories and soundtrack for these turbulent and hopeful times, and Sara finds herself drawn in by conversations of education, politics and a brighter tomorrow with Jonas, a local schoolteacher. Romance blooms between them, but secrets from Mama Sugar’s past threaten their newfound happiness with Sara and Jonas soon caught in the crosshairs, leading Sara to make decisions that will reshape the rest of their lives.
With a charismatic cast of characters, The Two Lives of Sara is an emotional and unforgettable story of hope, resilience, and unexpected love.
“Focusing on the interplay between generations as she did in her debut (Saving Ruby King) West writes with charming precision and intention. Every character is a beautiful, relatable complication. Both masterfully suspenseful and certain to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, The Two Lives of Sara solidifies West as a literary force.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
“West has written a book that seems made to be filmed: Weighty conversations about living with segregation and trying to survive despite all the difficulties drive the story. A raw look at life for a Black woman in the segregated South.” – Kirkus Reviews
“This storyline is designed to take you apart at the seams… The book is beautifully crafted, the characters are authentic… the Greek tragedies of old have nothing on this gem of a tale. I have read many books that tell the world about love lost, innocence damaged beyond repair, and hearts that strive to heal, but I have never been presented with a narrative so encompassing the gamut of emotions that humans are capable of.” – Red Carpet Crash
The Unfolding by A.M. Homes
Fiction / Politics / Comedy.
The Big Guy loves his family, money and country. Undone by the results of the 2008 presidential election, he taps a group of like-minded men to reclaim their version of the American Dream. As they build a scheme to disturb and disrupt, the Big Guy also faces turbulence within his family. His wife, Charlotte, grieves a life not lived, while his 18-year-old daughter, Meghan, begins to realize that her favorite subject–history–is not exactly what her father taught her.
In a story that is as much about the dynamics within a family as it is about the desire for those in power to remain in power, Homes presciently unpacks a dangerous rift in American identity, prompting a reconsideration of the definition of truth, freedom and democracy–and exploring the explosive consequences of what happens when the same words mean such different things to people living together under one roof.
In her first novel since the Women’s Prize award-winning May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Homes delivers us back to ourselves in this stunning alternative history that is both terrifyingly prescient, deeply tender and devastatingly funny.
“Homes’ incisive satire is galvanizing in its insights, sharply hilarious, and thoughtfully, even hopefully, compassionate.” – Booklist
“[A] sharply observed, wickedly funny political satire by the reliably brilliant A.M. Homes.” – New York Times
“Ms. Homes is good at exploiting holiday gatherings for seriocomic set pieces… Ms. Homes restlessly shifts between serious political critique, rollicking Pynchon-style absurdity and unabashed displays of sentiment. If the mixture leaves The Unfolding feeling somewhat gangly and unresolved it also saves it from falling into the ruts of ideological narrative. Beyond being good or bad, the characters in this impressive book are, above all things, unpredictable.” – Wall Street Journal
A Visible Man by Edward Enninful
Nonfiction / Memoir / fashion.
When Edward Enninful became the first Black editor-in-chief of British Vogue, few in the world of fashion wanted to confront how it failed to represent the world we live in. But Edward, a champion of inclusion throughout his life, rapidly changed that.
Now, whether it’s putting first responders, octogenarians or civil rights activists on the cover of Vogue, or championing designers and photographers of colour, Edward Enninful has cemented his status as one of his world’s most important changemakers.
A Visible Man traces an astonishing journey into one of the world’s most exclusive industries. Edward candidly shares how as a Black, gay, working-class refugee, he found in fashion not only a home, but the freedom to share with people the world as he saw it. Written with style, grace, and heart, A Visible Man shines a spotlight on the career of one of the greatest creative minds of our times. It is the story of a visionary who changed not only an industry, but how we understand beauty.
“[This] memoir truly shines… A Visible Man is about a life in the media and fashion worlds, but it is also about a man of many identities finding his voice in a world that has not always wanted to hear it. Enninful is making that world a more beautiful and welcoming place than he found it.” – New York Times
“In his not-to-be-missed memoir, Ghanaian British stylist Enninful charts a determined path to his current dual role as editor-in-chief of British Vogue and European editorial director for Condé Nast… Expressive and forthright, Enninful’s memoir is lush with visual storytelling and generous personal refrains, such as the author’s deep work ethic and appreciation for powerful women, his battles with impostor syndrome and racism, and his embrace of change and commitment to lifting up fellow Black creatives at every opportunity.” – Booklist, STARED REVIEW
“A dazzling debut… Readers will relish Enninful’s glamorous ascent as much as they will his willingness to detail the ‘ceaseless struggle’—’rejections, aggressions both macro- and micro-, overnight flights’—it took to build a ‘bolder, more inclusive’ industry. Fashion mavens and forward thinkers alike will be mesmerized.” – Publishers Weekly
The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris
Fiction / Historical fiction.
As a little girl raised amid the hardships of Michigan’s Copper Country, Fenna Vos learned to focus on her own survival. That ability sustains her even now as the Second World War rages in faraway countries. Though she performs onstage as the assistant to an unruly escape artist, behind the curtain she’s the mastermind of their act. Ultimately, controlling her surroundings and eluding traps of every kind helps her keep a lingering trauma at bay.
Yet for all her planning, Fenna doesn’t foresee being called upon by British military intelligence. Tasked with designing escape aids to thwart the Germans, MI9 seeks those with specialized skills for a war nearing its breaking point. Fenna reluctantly joins the unconventional team as an inventor. But when a test of her loyalty draws her deep into the fray, she discovers no mission is more treacherous than escaping one’s past.
Inspired by stunning true accounts, The Ways We Hide is a gripping story of love and loss, the wars we fight—on the battlefields and within ourselves—and the courage found in unexpected places.
“Heart-wrenching, charged, and atmospheric!” – What’s Better Than Books?
“[A] remarkable tale of intrigue and illusion inspired by several actual events… spellbinding… poignantly told from Fenna’s point of view and smartly structured…” – Blue Stocking Reviews
The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
Fiction / Young adult / Horror / mystery.
When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation… Maddy did it.
An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.
After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.
But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret… one that will cost them all their lives.
“Jackson skillfully explores internalized and externalized anti-Blackness in this striking horror novel. Bone-chilling. Expertly utiliz[es] current true-crime fanaticism to form a powerfully socially conscious narrative that showcases the intense structural racism still inherent in society.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“Jackson’s nod to Stephen King’s Carrie incorporates racially charged social justice themes into a narrative featuring her signature twisty suspense. Supernatural portions of the book are explosive and riveting, while the racist realistic parts are even more horrifying. Readers will be hooked from page one of Maddy’s intense journey that detonates on prom night.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“Jackson’s expert reshaping of this tale highlights the genuine horrors of both internalized and externalized anti-Blackness. Horror done right.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW