Best New Books: Week of 11/8/22

“You took care of people by not letting them know how badly you wanted your life to be different.” – Kevin Wilson, Nothing to See Here

The Age of Goodbyes by Li Zi Shu; translated by YZ Chin

fiction / historical fiction.

The Age of GoodbyesIn the summer of 1969, in the wake of Malaysia’s deadliest race riots, a woman named Du Li An secures her place in society by marrying a gangster. In a parallel narrative, a critic known only as The Third Person explores the work of a writer also named Du Li An. And a third storyline is in the second person; “you” are reading a novel titled The Age of Goodbyes. Floundering in the wake of “your” mother’s death, “you” are trying to unpack the secrets surrounding “your” lineage.

The Age of Goodbyes—which begins on page 513, a reference to the riots of May 13, 1969—is the acclaimed debut by Li Zi Shu. The winner of multiple awards and a Taiwanese bestseller, this dazzling novel is a profound exploration of what happens to personal memory when official accounts of history distort and render it taboo.

“Loaded with vibrant cultural details, wry anecdotes, and literary conundrums, it’s a challenging and often downright mystifying tale, but never less than absorbing.” – Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“A beguiling metafictional English-language debut with a kaleidoscope of stories about and perspectives on Malaysian life over the past 50 years.” – Publishers Weekly

“A lesson on the haunting nature of history, both personal and political.” – Booklist

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Anon Pls. by DeuxMoi


Anon PlsWhen Cricket Lopez, assistant to one of the most notorious celebrity stylists, revamps her old style Instagram account and turns it into a celebrity gossip blog on a drunken whim, she never thinks it will become anything. It’s just a way to blow off steam after a terrible, terrible day at work where her nightmarish boss screams at her and blames her for some 18-year-old influencer’s screw-up. But when the account grows overnight and, even wilder, when she starts getting gossip from fans – juicy gossip – she has to face facts: her Instagram is now famous. She is now famous.

Though no one knows that she is behind the account, its newfound success is affecting her real life. Her boss wonders why she’s disappearing on the job, her friends are increasingly irritated by her dedication to the account, and she has celebrities, investors, and journalists approaching her with bright-eyed interest. Plus, there’s a steamy new love interest who she meets through her online persona–except she has no idea if she can truly trust his motives. But as the account grows and becomes more and more famous, she has to wonder: is it – the fame, the insider access, the escape from real life – really worth losing everything she has?

“Written by the brains behind the real @DeuxMoi, this roman à clef and debut novel has an addictive story and strong Devil Wears Prada vibes… Peppered with news clippings, Instagram posts, and a whole bunch of brand-name dropping, Anon Pls. will appeal to readers looking for a dishy, juicy ride.” – Booklist

“For DeuxMoi fans, this novel will be a solid extension of the brand’s coming-of-age story, and they’ll especially enjoy the inside jokes and liberal quotes from the real-life account, which helps create the tantalizing-yet-relatable tone. For nonfans, this autofiction is reminiscent of other of-the-moment bad-boss books like Leigh Stein’s Self Care. A candid, unexpected critique of celebrity, hanger-on, and enabler culture.” – Kirkus Reviews

Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

fiction / young adult / fantasy / romance.

BloodmarkedThe shadows have risen, and the line is law.

All Bree wanted was to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death. So she infiltrated the Legendborn Order, a secret society descended from King Arthur’s knights—only to discover her own ancestral power. Now, Bree has become someone new:

A Medium. A Bloodcrafter. A Scion.

But the ancient war between demons and the Order is rising to a deadly peak. And Nick, the Legendborn boy Bree fell in love with, has been kidnapped.

Bree wants to fight, but the Regents who rule the Order won’t let her. To them, she is an unknown girl with unheard-of power, and as the living anchor for the spell that preserves the Legendborn cycle, she must be protected.

When the Regents reveal they will do whatever it takes to hide the war, Bree and her friends must go on the run to rescue Nick themselves. But enemies are everywhere, Bree’s powers are unpredictable and dangerous, and she can’t escape her growing attraction to Selwyn, the mage sworn to protect Nick until death.

If Bree has any hope of saving herself and the people she loves, she must learn to control her powers from the ancestors who wielded them first—without losing herself in the process.

“[Committed] to presenting unflinching truths about the cyclical insidiousness of racism. A worthy successor to an explosive debut.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Pulling a sword from stone feels like child’s play compared to facing the demon hoards stalking this Legendborn sequel… gripping… An action-packed page-turner that’ll make you question how one comes to terms with destiny when chosen. Is there space to choose yourself? Prepare to feel all the feelings and want to start a reread as soon as you finish the last page!” – Book of the Month

“It’s refreshing to have a main character who is compassionate, kind, and loving, but who also doesn’t shy away from her very justified anger… excellent… Much like a roller coaster, it is a slow, tension-filled rise that gives way to the most thrilling of drops, turns and loops. The kind that will have you ready to go again the minute it’s over.” – The Geeky Waffle

Desert Star by Michael Connelly

Fiction / mystery / suspense.

Desert StarA year has passed since LAPD detective Renée Ballard quit the force in the face of misogyny, demoralization, and endless red tape. Yet, after the chief of police himself tells her she can write her ticket within the department, Ballard takes back her badge, leaving “the Late Show” to rebuild the cold case unit at the elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

For years, Harry Bosch has been working a case that haunts him but that he hasn’t been able to crack—the murder of an entire family by a psychopath who still walks free. Ballard makes Bosch an offer: come work with her as a volunteer investigator in the new Open-Unsolved Unit, and he can pursue his “white whale” with the resources of the LAPD behind him.

The two must put aside old resentments to work together again and close in on a dangerous killer. Propulsive and unstoppable, this new novel demonstrates once again why “Connelly is the real deal” (Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review).

“Readers will be glad to know that Connelly is still bringing the same intensity and atmosphere to his iconic series.” – CrimeReads

“Thrilling… Both cases require deep dives into the past; both lead to great action scenes; and, as always, Connelly displays his encyclopedic knowledge of the latest forensics… ranks up there with Connelly’s best.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Another home run for Connelly… an exceptional piece of crime drama… Bosch and Ballard rock every page.Fans of police procedurals, dark cat-and-mouse mysteries, and Connelly’s iconic characters will find this soon-to-be-best-seller absolutely unputdownable.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Flight by Lynn Steger Strong ★


FlightIt’s December twenty-second and siblings Henry, Kate, and Martin have converged with their spouses on Henry’s house in upstate New York. This is the first Christmas the siblings are without their mother, the first not at their mother’s Florida house. Over the course of the next three days, old resentments and instabilities arise as the siblings, with a gaggle of children afoot, attempt to perform familiar rituals, while also trying to decide what to do with their mother’s house, their sole inheritance. As tensions rise, the whole group is forced to come together unexpectedly when a local mother and daughter need help.

With the urgency and artfulness that cemented her previous novel Want as “a defining novel of our age” (Vulture), Strong once again turns her attention to the structural and systemic failings that are haunting Americans, but also to the ways in which family, friends, and strangers can support each other through the gaps. Flight is a novel of family, ambition, precarity, art, and desire, one that forms a powerful next step from a brilliant chronicler of our time.

“Richly painted and powerfully poignant.” – Good Housekeeping

“A compelling portrait of how love and resentment are often twin sides of the same coin… Steger Strong has a raw and unflinching originality.” – Vogue

“With deft, discerning prose, Strong writes beautifully about mothers and the struggles, fears, and joys of motherhood… As the novel comes to a close, Strong offers moments of connection among the family members that feel genuine and earned. A quiet domestic novel that soars.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[Strong’s] characters feel both familiar and unique, and she is skilled at creating subtly devastating moments mixed with hope and tenderness. Written during a time of intense isolation, Flight reminds us that there is power in community, family, and those special times in which we don’t have to do anything but be human.” – Booklist

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Last PartyIt’s a party to end all parties, but not everyone is here to celebrate.

On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests. His vacation homes on Mirror Lake are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbors.

But by midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.

On New Year’s Day, Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects. The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbors, friends and family—and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead… but who finally killed him.

In a village with this many secrets, murder is just the beginning.

“A superb blend of psychological thriller and police procedural… A gripping portrait of two fractured people merges with believable plot twists, and the author perfectly captures the ennui of a small town where gossip can destroy lives. Mackintosh consistently entertains.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Layers of historical and social context deepen the allure of this icy murder mystery set in North Wales… Come to meet the interestingly dysfunctional characters; stay to cheer them on with a full heart.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Like the TV series Broadchurch and the novels of Ann Cleeves, this wonderful novel takes the reader―through twists and turns, and red herrings aplenty―deep within a community. Crime fiction is a whole lot better now that DC Ffion Morgan has arrived.” – First Clue

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The Magic Kingdom by Russell Banks

fiction / historical fiction.

The Magic KingdomIn 1971, a property speculator named Harley Mann begins recording his life story onto a reel-to-reel machine. Reflecting on his childhood in the early twentieth century, Harley recounts that after his father’s sudden death, his family migrated down to Florida’s swamplands–mere miles away from what would become Disney World–to join a community of Shakers. Led by Elder John, a generous man with a mysterious past, the colony devoted itself to labor, faith, and charity, rejecting all temptations that lay beyond the property. Though this way of life initially saved Harley and his family from complete ruin, when Harley began falling in love with Sadie Pratt, a consumptive patient living on the grounds, his loyalty to the Shakers and their conservative worldview grew strained and, ultimately, broke. As Harley dictates his story across more than half a century–meditating on youth, Florida’s everchanging landscape, and the search for an American utopia–the truth about Sadie, Elder John, and the Shakers comes to light, clarifying the past and present alike.

A dazzling tapestry of love and faith, memory and imagination, The Magic Kingdom questions what it means to look back and accept one’s place in history. With an expert eye and stunning vision, Russell Banks delivers a wholly captivating portrait of a man navigating Americana and the passage of time.

“A fascinating tale narrated over half a century.” – New York Post

“Banks dazzles in this story of a Floridian Shaker community torn apart from within and without.” – Los Angeles Times

“Banks’s penetrating dissection of the American dream and its frequently unfulfilled promises is consistently profound. This is his best work in some time.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Never Name the Dead by D.M. Rowell

fiction / mystery.

Never Name the DeadNo one called her Mud in Silicon Valley. There, she was Mae, a high-powered professional who had left her Kiowa roots behind a decade ago. But a cryptic voice message from her grandfather, James Sawpole, telling her to come home sounds so wrong that she catches the next plane to Oklahoma. She never expected to be plunged into a web of theft, betrayal, and murder.

Mud discovers a tribe in disarray. Fracking is damaging their ancestral lands, Kiowa families are being forced to sell off their artifacts, and frackers have threatened to kill her grandfather over his water rights. When Mud and her cousin Denny discover her grandfather missing, accused of stealing the valuable Jefferson Peace medal from the tribe museum—and stumble across a body in his work room—Mud has no choice but to search for answers.

Mud sets out into the Wildlife Refuge, determined to clear her grandfather’s name and identify the killer. But Mud has no idea that she’s about to embark on a vision quest that will involve deceit, greed, and a charging buffalo—or that a murderer is on her trail.

“D.M. Rowell’s Never Name the Dead captures the heartbreaking fears of marginalized communities in this biting mystery.” – PopSugar

“[A] debut wrapped in Kiowa history, stories, and culture… Recommended for readers of David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s Winter Counts.” – Library Journal

“Rowell’s Never Name the Dead is an impressive debut, charting a woman’s return from Silicon Valley to her roots, the Kiowa tribal land in Oklahoma, where she finds a divided tribe, land threatened by fracking, and her own grandfather missing and possibly framed for a crime she knows he didn’t commit. The novel then becomes a detective story with a deep sense of place and history. Rowell brings notes of poetry to the dark tale of corruption.” – CrimeReads

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Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami

nonfiction / memoir / writing.

Novelist as a VocationHaruki Murakami’s myriad fans will be delighted by this unique look into the mind of a master storyteller. In this engaging book, the internationally best-selling author and famously reclusive writer shares with readers what he thinks about being a novelist; his thoughts on the role of the novel in our society; his own origins as a writer; and his musings on the sparks of creativity that inspire other writers, artists, and musicians. Readers who have long wondered where the mysterious novelist gets his ideas and what inspires his strangely surreal worlds will be fascinated by this highly personal look at the craft of writing.

“In this winsome volume, one of our greatest novelists invites readers into his creative process. The result is a revealing self-portrait that answers many burning questions about its reclusive subject… Novelist as a Vocation is a rare and welcome peek behind the curtain of a singular mind.” – Esquire

“Murakami has written 14 acclaimed novels, including Hear the Wind Sing, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, and his best-selling IQ84; dozens of short stories; and over a dozen books of essays and other nonfiction… Novelist is indeed his true vocation, and in this collection of 11 interconnected essays, he tells would-be fiction writers, struggling novelists, and his many devoted readers about the path he’s followed and the ideas and thoughts he’s had in the process… Although this is a concrete and practical guide, as Murakami intended, it is also a fascinating personal and professional memoir.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] stellar essay collection… Lighthearted yet edifying, the anecdotes make for a fantastic look at how a key literary figure made it happen. Murakami’s fans will relish these amusing missives.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson ★


Now is Not the Time to PanicSixteen-year-old Frankie Budge—aspiring writer, indifferent student, offbeat loner—is determined to make it through yet another sad summer in Coalfield, Tennessee, when she meets Zeke, a talented artist who has just moved into his grandmother’s unhappy house and who is as lonely and awkward as Frankie is. Romantic and creative sparks begin to fly, and when the two jointly make an unsigned poster, shot through with an enigmatic phrase, it becomes unforgettable to anyone who sees it. The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.

The posters begin appearing everywhere, and people wonder who is behind them. Satanists, kidnappers—the rumors won’t stop, and soon the mystery has dangerous repercussions that spread far beyond the town. The art that brought Frankie and Zeke together now threatens to tear them apart.

Twenty years later, Frances Eleanor Budge—famous author, mom to a wonderful daughter, wife to a loving husband—gets a call that threatens to upend everything: a journalist named Mazzy Brower is writing a story about the Coalfield Panic of 1996. Might Frances know something about that? And will what she knows destroy the life she’s so carefully built?

A bold coming-of-age story, written with Kevin Wilson’s trademark wit and blazing prose, Now Is Not the Time to Panic is a nuanced exploration of young love, identity, and the power of art. It’s also about the secrets that haunt us—and, ultimately, what the truth will set free.

“This is a wildly funny, wonderfully sincere — and a little bit devastating — story of art, our limitless past, future nostalgia and all those perfectly imperfect ways we continually come of age. Kevin Wilson’s books are so full of heart. They’re utterly indelible.” – Washington Post

“It’s the kind of book your cool English literature teacher would recommend when you showed an interest in writing, the type of coming-of-age story that would have been equally destined for a banned books list and a summer reading list.” – Vulture

“Wilson has developed a story that is a precise capture of adolescence and of two vibrant teens whose everyday dilemmas, weaknesses, and triumphs are utterly endearing… Crisp dialogue and [a] zipping story line.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“We’re huge fans of Kevin Wilson’s big-hearted novels (Nothing to See Here, The Family Fang), and his latest will make you grin from ear to ear… There’s so much to love about this book: the big questions it raises about art as social transformation and culpability (are you responsible for just what you make or the effect is has on people’s lives?) but the best part is reading about two kids who are having the time of their lives. Their sense of adventure, joyous obsessions, and life-altering friendship is infectious.” – Amazon

The Pasta Queen: A Just Gorgeous Cookbook by Nadia Caterina Munno with Katie Parla

nonfiction / cooking.

The Pasta QueenIn the first-ever cookbook from TikTok star and social media sensation Nadia Caterina Munno—a.k.a. The Pasta Queen—she is opening the recipe box from her online trattoria to share the dishes that have made her pasta royalty. In this delectable antipasto platter of over 100 recipes, cooking techniques, and the tales behind Italy’s most famous dishes (some true, some not-so-true), Nadia guides you through the process of creating the perfect pasta, from a bowl of naked noodles to a dish large and complex enough to draw tears from the gods. Whether it’s her viral Pasta Al Limone, a classic Carbonara, or a dish that’s entirely Nadia’s—like her famous Assassin’s Spaghetti—The Pasta Queen’s recipes will enchant even the newest of pasta chefs.

Featuring a colorful tour of Italy through stunning photographs and celebratory tales of the country’s rich culinary heritage, along with stories about Nadia’s own life and family, The Pasta Queen is a cookbook that will warm your heart, soothe your soul, and spice up your life. And best of all? It’s just gorgeous.

“[A] luscious debut… Thorough and infectiously jubilant, this spirited celebration of Italy’s most famous food is a winner.”- Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“This ‘just gorgeous’ cookbook is truly that, and its assortment of recipes will please a variety of readers looking for bona fide Italian food for all occasions.” – Library Journal

“Transport yourself to Italy via this debut cookbook by Nadia Caterina Munno, better known to her 2.5 million TikTok followers as The Pasta Queen. The book is a love letter to her homeland, full of culinary history, noodle-making tips, and, of course, Munno’s beloved pasta recipes.” – Forbes

The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett

fiction / mystery / suspense.

The ResemblanceNever betray the brotherhood.

On a chilly November morning at the University of Georgia, a fraternity brother steps off a busy crosswalk and is struck dead by an oncoming car. More than a dozen witnesses all agree on two things: The driver looked identical to the victim, and he was smiling.

Detective Marlitt Kaplan is first on the scene. An Athens native and the daughter of a UGA professor, she knows all its shameful histories, from the skull discovered under the foundations of Baldwin Hall to the hushed-up murder-suicide in Waddel. But in the course of investigating this hit-and-run, she will uncover more chilling secrets as she explores the sprawling, interconnected Greek system that entertains and delights the university’s most elite and connected students.

The lines between Marlitt’s policework and her own past increasingly blur as Marlitt seeks to bring to justice an institution that took something precious from her many years ago. When threats against her escalate, and some long-buried secrets threaten to come to the surface, she can’t help but question whether the corruption in Athens has run off campus and into the force and how far these brotherhoods will go to protect their own.

“Nossett delivers a scathing indictment of Greek life cloaked in a twisty mystery rife with red herrings.” – Publishers Weekly

“…genuinely surprising… a fun read with some surprising twists that will keep readers on their toes.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A solid police thriller, with plenty of twists to keep the reader engaged.” – Red Carpet Crash

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger

fiction / suspense / mystery.

Secluded Cabin Sleeps SixWhat could be more restful, more restorative, than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, complete with spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s loving and generous tech-mogul brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’s his birthday gift to Hannah and includes their spouses and another couple. The six friends need this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R, far from the chatter and pressures of modern life.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare. A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep. How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? And who is the new boyfriend, crashing their party? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact a payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?

“Hidden history and 21st-century technology collide in a breathtaking thriller.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Embedded in a riveting novel of suspense is a revealing examination of the dangers inherent in public DNA sharing…[Lisa Unger] is in good form here, in her twentieth outing, and her fans will be eager to dive right in.” – Booklist

“Genetics and nature-versus-nurture take the spotlight in Unger’s 20th novel… Readers will revel in the search for genealogical justice amid best-kept secrets, while wondering who will live and who will die.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

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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

“This unforgettable reimagining of the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms pays homage to the original while adding fresh elements, ultimately building off of its foundation to craft 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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