Best New Books: Week of 10/25/22

“You can be miserable before you have a cookie and you can be miserable after you eat a cookie but you can’t be miserable while you are eating a cookie.” – Ina Garten

Ghost Town by  Kevin Chen


Ghost TownChen Tien-Hong, the only and desperately yearned for son of a traditional Taiwanese family with seven daughters, runs away from the oppression of his village to Berlin in the hope of finding acceptance as a young gay man.

The novel begins a decade later, when Chen has just been released from prison for killing his boyfriend. He is about to return to his family’s village, a poor and desolate place. With his parents gone, his sisters married, mad, or dead, there is nothing left for him there. As the story unfurls, we learn what tore this family apart and, more importantly, the truth behind the murder of Chen’s boyfriend.

Told in a myriad of voices, both living and dead, and moving through time with deceptive ease, Ghost Town weaves a mesmerizing web of family secrets and countryside superstitions, the search for identity and clash of cultures.

Ghost Town is a masterpiece of twenty-first century Taiwanese ‘native soil’ literature.” – United Daily News

“This slow burn of a multigenerational family saga, told from multiple perspectives and going back and forth through time, unfolds delicately while pulling readers ever deeper into its web… It’s a hypnotic and unforgettable read.” – BuzzFeed

“Kevin Chen has done a masterful job of managing his material, creating multidimensional characters, a beautifully realized setting, and an apposite surprise ending. Meanwhile, Chen and his family’s stories are uniformly interesting, and seamless in their portrayal of the characters’ intersecting lives… this resulting book is excellent.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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Go-To Dinners: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by  Ina Garten

nonfiction / cooking.

Go-To DinnersEven Ina Garten, America’s most-trusted and beloved home cook, sometimes finds cooking stressful. To make life easy she relies on a repertoire of recipes that she knows will turn out perfectly every time. Cooking night after night during the pandemic inspired her to re-think the way she approached dinner, and the result is this collection of comforting and delicious recipes that you’ll love preparing and serving. You’ll find lots of freeze-ahead, make-ahead, prep-ahead, and simply assembled recipes so you, too, can make dinner a breeze.

In Go-To Dinners, Ina shares her strategies for making her most satisfying and uncomplicated dinners. Many, like Overnight Mac & Cheese, you can make ahead and throw in the oven right before dinner. Light dinners like Tuscan White Bean Soup can be prepped ahead and assembled at the last minute. Go-to family meals like Chicken in a Pot with Orzo and Hasselback Kielbasa will feed a crowd with very little effort. And who doesn’t want to eat Breakfast For Dinner? You’ll find recipes for Scrambled Eggs Cacio e Pepe and Roasted Vegetables with Jammy Eggs that are a snap to make and so satisfying. Ina’s “Two-Fers” guide you on how to turn leftovers from one dinner into something different and delicious the second night.

And sometimes the best dinner is one you don’t even have to cook! You’ll find Ina’s favorite boards to serve with store-bought ingredients, like an Antipasto Board and Breakfast-for-Dinner Board that are fun to assemble and so impressive to serve. Finally, because no meal can be considered dinner without dessert, there are plenty of prep-ahead and easy sweets like a Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie and Beatty’s Chocolate Cupcakes that everyone will rave about.

For Ina, “I love you, come for dinner” is more than just an invitation to share a meal, it’s a way to create a community of friends and family who love and take care of each other, and we all need that now more than ever. These go-to recipes will give you the confidence to create dinners that will bring everyone to your table.

“Whenever possible, she offers make ahead and pre-prep options to keep things streamlined, whether you’re having company, or just want to keep your evening simple. If you loved the vibe of her giant mid-pandemic cocktail video, this book will be up your alley.” – Edible Inland Northwest

“[A] delicious, no-nonsense collection of weeknight recipes that are ‘simple to follow and work every time’… Practical and practically faultless, this is a real treat.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“These recipes are low stress, comforting, and, of course, delicious… Another pleaser from Garten; sure to be in demand.” – Library Journal

Inside Bridgerton by  Shonda Rhimes &  Betsy Beers

nonfiction / television.

Inside BridgertonInside Bridgerton is the intimate behind-the-scenes story of the hit Shondaland series on Netflix. Shondaland executive producers Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers offer exclusive insights, and introduce you to the series writers, producers, directors, cast, crew, and talented creatives who brought Julia Quinn’s beloved novels to the screen. Full-color and beautifully designed, Inside Bridgerton is the official book about the show, and includes never-before-seen photographs, firsthand accounts on casting, insight into the decisions behind the costumes and sets, directors’ accounts on filming your favorite scenes, and more from the creative minds that launched a cultural phenomenon.

“[An] unprecedented look at what it takes to bring this Reency world to life.” – Entertainment Weekly

“[A] bold and beautiful book… Inside Bridgerton brims with conversational comfort that translates to candid insights and insider details…” – Shondaland

“The perfect holiday gift for the Bridgerton fanatic…” – Town & Country

Into the Riverlands by  Nghi Vo

Fiction / fantasy.

Into the RiverlandsWandering cleric Chih of the Singing Hills travels to the riverlands to record tales of the notorious near-immortal martial artists who haunt the region. On the road to Betony Docks, they fall in with a pair of young women far from home, and an older couple who are more than they seem. As Chih runs headlong into an ancient feud, they find themselves far more entangled in the history of the riverlands than they ever expected to be.

Accompanied by Almost Brilliant, a talking bird with an indelible memory, Chih confronts old legends and new dangers alike as they learn that every story—beautiful, ugly, kind, or cruel—bears more than one face.

“A thrilling, wuxia-style addition to the series.” – BuzzFeed

“A delicious bonbon of a novella about stories and their unreliable narrators, who wink at their listeners (or readers), fully expecting us to catch on.” – Wall Street Journal

“Spellbinding… Vo expertly weaves myths and histories of this fantastical land throughout, while also offering readers a deeper understanding of Chih themself, a character who may have been left as a framing device in lesser hands. The result is a pitch-perfect series installment.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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Livid by  Patricia Cornwell

Fiction / Mystery / suspense.

LividForensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta has just inherited one of the most notorious cases of her career. Two years ago, a former beauty queen’s body washed up on the shore of Wallops Island, Virginia. She was last seen on a boat with her fiancé, who has since been held in jail while awaiting trial.

Scarpetta must act as the expert witness for the case—an investigation previously botched by another forensic pathologist. After a grueling cross-examination by the prosecutor, Scarpetta leaves the court only to discover that the sister of the judge on her case has been found dead.

Scarpetta ultimately finds herself facing a powerful, invisible enemy who’s planning the unthinkable…

“[A] certain bestseller…” – The Telegraph

“The Scarpetta series has had its ups and downs, but the last few books have been right on target, and this one continues the hot streak. Cornwell once again seems fully in sync with the character she created more than 30 years ago, and the story is guaranteed to keep the reader guessing.” – Booklist

“[A]nother great thriller featuring Kay Scarpetta… Filled with great supporting characters, including Marino (my personal favorite), readers of the series will be happy with this one.” – Red Carpet Crash

No Plan B by  Lee Child & Andrew Child

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

No Plan BIn Gerrardsville, Colorado, two witnesses to the same tragedy give two different accounts. One guy sees a woman throw herself in front of a bus in what authorities will call a suicide. The other witness is Jack Reacher. And he sees what actually happened: A man in a gray hoodie and jeans, moving like a shadow, pushed the victim to her death—before swiftly grabbing the dead woman’s purse and strolling away.

Reacher follows the killer on foot, not knowing that he is part of something much bigger and far-reaching… a secret conspiracy with many moving parts, with powerful people on the take, all involved in an undertaking that leaves no room for error. If any step is compromised, the threat will have to be quickly and quietly and permanently removed.

Because when the threat is Reacher, there is No Plan B…

“Relentless pacing, big action sequences, and a masterfully plotted adventure… one of the best books in the series to date… Whatever you’re looking for in a thriller, you can find it here.” – The Real Book Spy

“…relentlessly paced… [The Authors] provide all the familiar elements Reacher fans expect: the slow reveal of Minerva’s massive secret, plenty of violence, Reacher’s unique approach to dispensing justice, and a thrilling denouement. Who could ask for more?” – Publishers Weekly

“[The] writing is as crisp as it was in the very first novel, 1997’s Killing Floor. Reacher continues to be one of thrillerdom’s most compelling characters… Reacher still rules, even with two names on the title page.” – Booklist

The Passenger by  Cormac McCarthy ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Mystery.

The Passenger1980, PASS CHRISTIAN, MISSISSIPPI: It is three in the morning when Bobby Western zips the jacket of his wetsuit and plunges from the boat deck into darkness. His divelight illuminates the sunken jet, nine bodies still buckled in their seats, hair floating, eyes devoid of speculation. Missing from the crash site are the pilot’s flightbag, the plane’s black box, and the tenth passenger. But how? A collateral witness to machinations that can only bring him harm, Western is shadowed in body and spirit – by men with badges; by the ghost of his father, inventor of the bomb that melted glass and flesh in Hiroshima; and by his sister, the love and ruin of his soul.

Traversing the American South, from the garrulous bar rooms of New Orleans to an abandoned oil rig off the Florida coast, The Passenger is a breathtaking novel of morality and science, the legacy of sin, and the madness that is human consciousness.

“This gripping mystery is sure to satisfy readers of one of our most acclaimed living authors.” – Chicago Review of Books

“[McCarthy] reigns as a titan of American lit–an undisputed heir to Melville and Faulkner, the subject of infinite grad-school theses, and a hard-nosed dispenser of what Saul Bellow called ‘life-giving and death-dealing’ sentences… Electric and thunderous… astonishing… an intellectually breathtaking achievement.” – Garden & Gun

“After sixteen years of characteristic seclusion, McCarthy returns with a one-two punch… The Passenger is an elegiac meditation on guilt, grief, and spirituality. Packed with textbook McCarthy hallmarks, like transgressive behaviors and cascades of ecstatic language, it’s a welcome return from a legend who’s been gone too long.” – Esquire

“Chilling and masterly… His prose frequently approaches the Shakespearean, ranging from droll humor to the rapid-fire spouting of quotable fecundity. Dialogues click into place like a finely tuned engine. McCarthy has somehow added a new register to his inimitable voice. Long ensconced in the literary firmament, McCarthy further bolsters his claim for the Mount Rushmore of the literary arts.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Photo Finished by  Christin Brecher

Fiction / Mystery.

Photo FinishedWhile some people escape into books or music, Liv escapes through her camera’s lens, which inspires her to jump into things she might otherwise have no business tackling—like moving to New York City. Hustling to make her dreams come true as a portrait photographer, she runs a pocket-sized studio below her grandparents’ West Village brownstone and a key shop. She’s down to the end of her savings as the holidays approach, but everything changes in a flash when elite events photographer, Regina Montague, invites Liv to shoot with her at New York City’s most exclusive socialite event of the year—the Holiday Debutante Ball.

Liv jumps at the opportunity, convinced that a job with Regina will launch her career. But when her fabulous new gig ends with the murder of billionaire Charlie Archibald, and Regina framed for murder, her dream job may never develop. Now, between cracking the world of high society—and the attentions of a handsome stranger—Liv must hustle once again to expose the true killer… before she gets cropped from the picture.

“Brecher’s series debut is right in focus.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] sparkling series launch… Distinctive characters complement a well-paced plot that takes several unexpected twists and turns. Brecher has upped her game with this superior cozy.” – Publishers Weekly

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The Ransomware Hunting Team: A Band of Misfits’ Improbable Crusade to Save the World from Cybercrime by  Renee Dudley &  Daniel Golden

nonfiction / true crime / technology.

The Ransomware Hunting TeamScattered across the world, an elite team of code-cracking techies is working tirelessly on your behalf to thwart the most notorious cyber scourge of our time. You’ve probably never heard of them. But if you work for a school, a business, a hospital, or a municipal government, especially if its cybersecurity is imperfect, chances are that you’re painfully familiar with the group’s sworn enemy: ransomware. Again and again, these ordinary people, mostly self-taught and often struggling to make ends meet, have outwitted the shadowy networks of hackers and criminal gangs that lock computer networks and extort huge payments in return for the key.

The Ransomware Hunting Team is the incredible true story of a band of misfits who have used their extraordinary skills to save millions of ransomware victims from paying billions of dollars to criminals. Working in their free time from bedrooms and back offices, they offer their services pro bono to those whom the FBI, other government agencies, and the private sector are unwilling or unable to help. This book follows the teammates as they respond to dire calls for help—and tracks the ups and downs of their work as they race to rescue precious files and communicate directly with their adversaries. Urgent, uplifting, and entertaining, Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden’s The Ransomware Hunting Team is a real-life technological thriller set in a dangerous new era of cybercrime.

“Dudley and Golden are both respected journalists, and their writing reflects their acclaimed careers. With the pacing of an action-packed thriller, The Ransomware Hunting Team is loaded with page-turning moments… [This] is a book that should not be overlooked by anyone who wishes to better understand the complex cyberworld we inhabit.” – Open Letters Review

“Journalists Dudley and Golden explore with verve and fascinating detail the assorted group of unpaid, self-taught experts in the U.S. and Europe who make it their duty to protect the innocent from ransomware… [They create] vivid portraits of several brilliant, occasionally socially awkward members of the loosely organized team… Anyone with internet access should find this intriguing, and a little horrifying.” – Booklist

“…intriguing… Dudley and Golden render their subjects―some of whom endured poverty and bullying in their teens―with warmth and admiration while acknowledging that competition between hacker gangs and ransomware hunters has helped spur more sophisticated viruses and bigger paydays. Readers will put down this engrossing underdog story just long enough to back up their own files.” – Publishers Weekly

The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by  Stacy Schiff ★

nonfiction / biography / history / politics.

The Revolutionary Samuel AdamsThomas Jefferson asserted that if there was any leader of the Revolution, “Samuel Adams was the man.” With high-minded ideals and bare-knuckle tactics, Adams led what could be called the greatest campaign of civil resistance in American history.

Stacy Schiff returns Adams to his seat of glory, introducing us to the shrewd and eloquent man who supplied the moral backbone of the American Revolution. A singular figure at a singular moment, Adams amplified the Boston Massacre. He helped to mastermind the Boston Tea Party. He employed every tool available to rally a town, a colony, and eventually a band of colonies behind him, creating the cause that created a country. For his efforts he became the most wanted man in America: When Paul Revere rode to Lexington in 1775, it was to warn Samuel Adams that he was about to be arrested for treason.

In The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams, Schiff brings her masterful skills to Adams’s improbable life, illuminating his transformation from aimless son of a well-off family to tireless, beguiling radical who mobilized the colonies. Arresting, original, and deliriously dramatic, this is a long-overdue chapter in the history of our nation.

“Step aside, Thomas Jefferson; let’s talk about the man whose devotion to resistance behavior makes him, for some, the most essential figure in the American Revolution. Samuel Adams comes to electrifying life through this Pulitzer Prize-winning historian’s meticulous research and dynamic storytelling as a man of principle and persuasion.” – Los Angeles Times

“A beautifully crafted, invaluable biography… Schiff ingeniously connects the past to our present and future, underscoring the lessons of Adams while reclaiming our nation’s self-evident truths at a moment when we seemed to have forgotten them.” – Oprah Daily

“[With] exquisite, fact-based prose… Stacy Schiff has produced a delightfully enthralling and insightful account of an elusive Founding Father. A tour de force.” – Wall Street Journal

“Revelatory and frequently riveting… Throughout, Schiff vividly recounts major events in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, including the Stamp Act Crisis, the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party, and draws incisive sketches of Loyalist governor Thomas Hutchinson, Patriot lawyer James Otis, and others. Fast-paced and enlightening, this is a must-read for colonial history buffs.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED & BOXED REVIEW

The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human by  Siddharta Mukherjee ★

nonfiction / science / biology / health / history.

The Song of the CellMukherjee begins this magnificent story in the late 1600s, when a distinguished English polymath, Robert Hooke, and an eccentric Dutch cloth-merchant, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek looked down their handmade microscopes. What they saw introduced a radical concept that swept through biology and medicine, touching virtually every aspect of the two sciences, and altering both forever. It was the fact that complex living organisms are assemblages of tiny, self-contained, self-regulating units. Our organs, our physiology, our selves—hearts, blood, brains—are built from these compartments. Hooke christened them “cells”.

The discovery of cells—and the reframing of the human body as a cellular ecosystem—announced the birth of a new kind of medicine based on the therapeutic manipulations of cells. A hip fracture, a cardiac arrest, Alzheimer’s dementia, AIDS, pneumonia, lung cancer, kidney failure, arthritis, COVID pneumonia—all could be reconceived as the results of cells, or systems of cells, functioning abnormally. And all could be perceived as loci of cellular therapies.

In The Song of the Cell, Mukherjee tells the story of how scientists discovered cells, began to understand them, and are now using that knowledge to create new humans. He seduces you with writing so vivid, lucid, and suspenseful that complex science becomes thrilling. Told in six parts, laced with Mukherjee’s own experience as a researcher, a doctor, and a prolific reader, The Song of the Cell is both panoramic and intimate—a masterpiece.

The Song of the Cell blends cutting-edge research, impeccable scholarship, intrepid reporting, and gorgeous prose into an encyclopedic study that reads like a literary page-turner.” – Oprah Daily

“Tying together what might otherwise be a disjointed narrative, Mukherjee frequently invokes the patient’s journey. We hear their voices throughout, reminding the reader that however great our knowledge, there is still much to learn… A great read with which it is hard not to hum along.” – Science

“An extraordinarily gifted storyteller… The author’s ideas about the near future of medicine (one in which medicine will ‘perhaps even create synthetic versions of cells, and parts of humans’) are both convincing and inspiring, and woven throughout his narrative are accessible explanations of cell biology and immunology. This is another winner from Mukherjee.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Mukherjee, a physician, professor of medicine, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author (The Emperor of All Maladies), has a knack for explaining difficult ideas in terms that are both straightforward and interesting… A luminous journey into cellular biology… Another outstanding addition to the author’s oeuvre, which we hope will continue to grow for years to come.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Strike the Zither by  Joan He

Fiction / young Adult / fantasy / historical fiction.

Strike the ZitherThe year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves.

But Zephyr knows it’s no contest.

Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged—while Ren’s honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren’s followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one—and not all of them are human.

“Military stratagems, qi-infused zither duets, and divine interference come together in this tightly crafted reimagining of the Chinese classic Three Kingdoms… A riveting series opener.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“The protagonist’s clever narration and boundless ambition, coupled with He’s powerful, action-packed prose, quick pacing, anticipatory atmosphere, and immersive worldbuilding, exemplify the origins of the source material while developing a distinct and evocative adventure.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Unfogettable… an exciting epic fantasy where no one—neither human nor god—is to be trusted… fuses classical literature, high-stakes military moments, and the fantastical reminder that humans are not the only ones vying for kingdoms; there’s much more at stake than meets the eye.” – Booklist

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Ted Kennedy: A Life by  John A. Farrell

Nonfiction / Biography / history / politics.

Ted KennedyOver five years in the making, John A. Farrell’s magnificent biography of Edward M. Kennedy is the first single-volume life of the great figure since his death. Farrell’s long acquaintance with the Kennedy universe and the acclaim of his previous books, including his New York Times-bestselling biography of Nixon, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, helped garner him access to a remarkable range of new sources, including Kennedy’s personal diary. But new sources are only as valuable as the mind that is sifting through them, and John A. Farrell is without question one of America’s greatest political biographers, and a storyteller of deep wisdom and empathy. The upshot is a book that does full justice to this famously epic and turbulent life, one of almost unimaginable tragedy and triumph.

As the fourth son of the close-knit but fiercely competitive Kennedy clan, little Teddy was almost an afterthought, the runt of the litter–if he didn’t disappoint, it was because so little was expected of him. Expelled from Harvard for cheating, Teddy was a fun-loving playboy who served his brothers loyally and effectively, but no one would have anticipated his being voted into the Senate at the age of 30 in a special election to fill his brother Jack’s seat on his own merit. It was easy to take Teddy lightly, and many did. John Farrell candidly depicts all the good reasons people had to gauge the youngest Kennedy brother as a reckless good time boy. But in the United States Senate, something happened that surprised many people: he found his home, and he found his calling. Not immediately, and not without setbacks, but over time, he would build arguably the most significant career of any Senator in American history. Through raging storms, the Senate was his safe harbor.

Ted Kennedy’s life was buffeted by relentless heartbreak: the violent deaths of his three older brothers, his own terrible plane crash, his children’s bouts with cancer, and of course the hideous self-inflicted wounds of Chappaquiddick and stretches of drunken womanizing that inflicted irreparable damage on an already fragile first marriage and his vulnerable children. Farrell is unflinching in probing the life’s darker chapters. Those wounds scarred Teddy terribly. But they also tempered his character, and especially after he discarded his ambitions to become President, he embarked in the last quarter century of his life on a run as legislator, party elder, and paterfamilias of the Kennedy family, that would bring him enormous satisfaction and change America for the better in a number of ways. It is John A. Farrell’s great accomplishment to bring us the man as he was, in strength and weakness, his profound but complicated inheritance and his vital legacy, as only a great biographer can do. Without the story this book tells, no understanding of modern America can be complete.

“[A] masterful account… The book shines in its vivid accounts of backroom political dealmaking, as Farrell enlivens his exhaustive research and expert analysis with a novelist’s pacing. The result is the definitive one-volume biography of a consequential American lawmaker.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[An] engrossing narrative… An exemplary study of a life of public service with more than its share of tragedies and controversies.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“With hundreds of books published about the Kennedy dynasty, it may seem that there is nothing new to be learned, yet Farrell’s focused and canny research produced a fresh, multifaceted portrait of a man conflicted by history, stalked by demons, and dedicated to ideals. Equitable and discerning, Farrell’s nuanced biography is a valuable addition to the Kennedy canon.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

A Trace of Poison by  Colleen Cambridge

fiction / mystery / historical fiction.

A Trace of PoisonIn England’s stately manor houses, murder is not generally a topic for polite conversation. Mallowan Hall, home to Agatha Christie and her husband, Max, is the exception. And housekeeper Phyllida Bright delights in discussing gory plot details with her friend and employer…

The neighboring village of Listleigh has also become a hub of grisly goings-on, thanks to a Murder Fête organized to benefit a local orphanage. Members of The Detection Club—a group of celebrated authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha herself—will congregate for charitable events, including a writing contest for aspiring authors. The winner gets an international publishing contract, and entrants have gathered for a cocktail party—managed by the inimitable Phyllida—when murder strikes too close even for her comfort.

It’s a mystery too intriguing for Phyllida to resist, but one fraught with duplicity and danger, for every guest is an expert in murder—and how to get away with it.

“Cambridge takes inspiration from several of Christie’s most celebrated novels in devising her agreeably intricate plot.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Cambridge balances Downton Abbey–style period charm with a tight plot that twists and turns right until the end, with utter believability… The real-life historical players make only brief cameos, but Cambridge creates such a compelling cast of fictional characters that they are hardly missed. Reminiscent of Jessica Ellicott’s ‘Beryl & Edwina’ series, this novel will please readers with its historical world and a plot that would satisfy Poirot.” – Library Journal

“Cambridge weaves in just the right amount of historical detail and references to classic Christie novels while placing Phyllida and her intelligent sleuthing skills front and center… Fans of traditional mysteries will appreciate the author’s sometimes tongue-in-cheek adherence to the conventions of the genre, particularly the denouement where all is revealed. Dame Agatha would be proud.” – Publishers Weekly

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The White Mosque: A Memoir by  Sofia Samatar

nonfiction / memoir / history / travel / religion.

The White MosqueIn the late nineteenth century, a group of German-speaking Mennonites traveled from Russia into Central Asia, where their charismatic leader predicted Christ would return.

Over a century later, Sofia Samatar joins a tour following their path, fascinated not by the hardships of their journey, but by its aftermath: the establishment of a small Christian village in the Muslim Khanate of Khiva. Named Ak Metchet, “The White Mosque,” after the Mennonites’ whitewashed church, the village lasted for fifty years.

In pursuit of this curious history, Samatar discovers a variety of characters whose lives intersect around the ancient Silk Road, from a fifteenth-century astronomer-king, to an intrepid Swiss woman traveler of the 1930s, to the first Uzbek photographer, and explores such topics as Central Asian cinema, Mennonite martyrs, and Samatar’s own complex upbringing as the daughter of a Swiss-Mennonite and a Somali-Muslim, raised as a Mennonite of color in America.

A secular pilgrimage to a lost village and a near-forgotten history, The White Mosque traces the porous and ever-expanding borders of identity, asking: How do we enter the stories of others? And how, out of the tissue of life, with its weird incidents, buried archives, and startling connections, does a person construct a self?

“An enthralling memoir.” – Time

“Few of us can match [Samatar’s] education in contemporary Mennonite identity. None of us can make those issues more universal, poetic and prophetic… [The White Mosque] should be required reading.” – Anabaptist World

“The term memoir doesn’t seem capacious enough to capture what Samatar has achieved with her latest: This book is simultaneously a deep study of faith, identity, art, and the enduring power of stories. It is a grand achievement, and with it, Samatar has cemented her status as one of our most alluring and essential thinkers.” – Vulture

You Don’t Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl from Ukraine by  Yeva Skalietska

nonfiction / memoir / current events.

You Don't Know What War IsYeva Skalietska’s story begins on her twelfth birthday in Kharkiv, where she has been living with her grandmother since she was a baby. Ten days later, the only life she’d ever known was shattered. On February 24, 2022, her city was suddenly under attack as Russia launched its horrifying invasion of Ukraine. Yeva and her grandmother ran to a basement bunker, where she began writing this diary. She describes the bombings they endured while sheltering underground, and their desperate journey west to escape the conflict raging around them. After many endless train rides and a prolonged stay in an overcrowded refugee center in Western Ukraine, Yeva and her beloved grandmother eventually find refuge in Dublin. There, she bravely begins to forge a new life, hoping she’ll be able to return home one day.

“Records the immediate sounds and sensations of explosions, sirens, and panic… A firsthand account that shows courage.” – Kirkus Reviews

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