“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” – Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir; translated by Brian Fitzgibbon
In the days leading up to Christmas, Dómhildur delivers her 1,922nd baby. Beginnings and endings are her family trade; she comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and a long line of undertakers on her father’s. She even lives in the apartment that she inherited from her grandaunt, a midwife with a unique reputation for her unconventional methods.
As a terrible storm races towards Reykjavík, Dómhildur discovers decades worth of letters and manuscripts hidden amongst her grandaunt’s clutter. Fielding calls from her anxious meteorologist sister and visits from her curious new neighbour, Dómhildur escapes into her grandaunt’s archive and discovers strange and beautiful reflections on birth, death, and human nature.
With her singular warmth and humor, in Animal Life Ólafsdóttir gives us a beguiling novel that comes direct from the depths of an Icelandic winter, full of hope for spring.
“[A] rich slice of life.” – Publishers Weekly
“At times poetic and philosophical, Animal Life is a uniquely crafted novel that concerns itself with light and darkness, purpose and coincidence, fear and hope.” – Booklist
“Covering a great deal of philosophical ground while at times very funny, this Icelandic treat is highly recommended.” – Library Journal
A Dangerous Business by Jane Smiley
fiction / historical fiction / mystery.
Monterey, 1851. Ever since her husband was killed in a bar fight, Eliza Ripple has been working in a brothel. It seems like a better life, at least at first. The madam, Mrs. Parks, is kind, the men are (relatively) well behaved, and Eliza has attained what few women have: financial security. But when the dead bodies of young women start appearing outside of town, a darkness descends that she can’t resist confronting. Side by side with her friend Jean, and inspired by her reading, especially by Edgar Allan Poe’s detective Dupin, Eliza pieces together an array of clues to try to catch the killer, all the while juggling clients who begin to seem more and more suspicious.
Eliza and Jean are determined not just to survive, but to find their way in a lawless town on the fringes of the Wild West—a bewitching combination of beauty and danger—as what will become the Civil War looms on the horizon. As Mrs. Parks says, “Everyone knows that this is a dangerous business, but between you and me, being a woman is a dangerous business, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…”
“Pulitzer-winning Smiley’s evocative sense of place and nuanced exploration of women’s roles in nineteenth-century American life nicely complement the portrait of Eliza and her determined effort to forge her own path… Highly recommended.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
“…watching a canny young woman find her way in the world makes this vivid, nuanced, and keenly observed novel a delightful business.” – Amazon
“A remarkable story… The vivid historical details and vibrant characters bring Smiley’s setting to glorious life. This seductive entertainment is not to be missed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED & BOXED REVIEW
A Dash of Salt and Pepper by Kosoko Jackson
fiction / romance.
Xavier Reynolds is doing less than stellar. He just got dumped, was passed over for a prestigious fellowship, and to top it all off he’s right back home in Harper’s Cove, Maine (population: 9,000). The last thing he wants to do is to work as a prep chef in the kitchen of the hip new restaurant in town, The Wharf. Especially since the hot, single-father chef who owns it can’t delegate to save his life.
Logan O’Hare doesn’t understand Xavier or why every word out of his mouth is dipped in sarcasm. Unfortunately, he has no choice but to hire him–he needs more help in the kitchen and his tween daughter, Anne, can only mince so many onions. It might be a recipe for disaster, but Logan doesn’t have many options besides Xavier.
Stuck between a stove and a hot place, Logan and Xavier discover an unexpected connection. But when the heat between them threatens to top the Scoville scale, they’ll have to decide if they can make their relationship work or if life has seasoned them too differently.
“You won’t be able to put down this charming small town romance.” – Library Reads
“[A] charming romance… Jackson seasons his rom-com with quippy dialogue and oodles of pop culture references… readers will eat this up.” – Publishers Weekly
“Jackson’s sexy grumpy/sunshine romantic comedy will grab readers from the first page. Highly recommended.” – Library Journal
Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit and Glamour of an Icon by Kate Andersen Brower
nonfiction / biography / film.
No celebrity rivals Elizabeth Taylor’s glamour and guts or her level of fame. She was the last major star to come out of the old Hollywood studio system and she is a legend known for her beauty and her magnetic screen presence in a career that spanned most of the twentieth century and nearly sixty films. But her private life was even more compelling than her Oscar-winning on-screen performances. During her seventy-nine years of rapid-fire love and loss she was married eight times to seven different men. Above all, she was a survivor–by the time she was twenty-six she was twice divorced and once widowed. Her life was a soap opera that ended in a deeply meaningful way when she became the first major celebrity activist to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS. A co-founder of amfAR, she raised more than $100 million for research and patient care. She was also a shrewd businesswoman who made a fortune as the first celebrity perfumer who always demanded to be paid what she was worth.
In the first ever authorized biography of the Hollywood icon, Kate Andersen Brower reveals the world through Elizabeth’s eyes. Brower uses Elizabeth’s unpublished letters, diary entries, and off-the-record interview transcripts as well as interviews with 250 of her closest friends and family to tell the full, unvarnished story of her remarkable career and her explosive private life that made headlines worldwide. Elizabeth Taylor captures this intelligent, empathetic, tenacious, volatile, and complex woman as never before, from her rise to massive fame at age twelve in National Velvet to becoming the first to negotiate a million-dollar salary for a film, from her eight marriages and enduring love affair with Richard Burton to her lifelong battle with addiction and her courageous efforts as an AIDS activist.
Here is a fascinating and complete portrait worthy of the legendary star and her legacy.
“A well-researched, gossipy portrait of a star… Brower chronicles Taylor’s career, illnesses, marriages, affairs, and notoriously lavish lifestyle.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Brower convincingly depicts Taylor as a complex woman whose glamour, even today, is ‘intoxicating.’ The result is a mesmerizing appreciation of a legendary star.” – Publishers Weekly
“In this first authorized biography of the last of the great Hollywood studio-system stars, Brower mines previously unpublished interviews, personal letters, and diary entries as well as input from hundreds of friends and family to offer a comprehensive and intimate biography of a true icon… Taylor’s tumultuous life unfolds in Brower’s portrait like one of her own epic screen adventures. A must-read for Taylor’s legions of fans and all who savor well-told and well-documented tales of Old Hollywood.” – Booklist
Fake Money, Blue Smoke by Josh Haven
fiction / suspense.
When former platoon sergeant Matt Kubelsky is paroled from Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institute in upstate New York, he’s surprised to find his ex-girlfriend waiting for him out in the parking lot. An ex-girlfriend he’s spent years pining for after she dumped him and stopped answering his letters. An ex-girlfriend who wonders if her apparently criminally-hardened ex-boyfriend can help her out of some extra-legal difficulty of her own.
During the years Matt was in prison, Kelly Haggerty discovered she couldn’t earn a satisfactory living as an artist, so she turned her artistic talents to counterfeiting foreign currency—and ended up embroiled in an international money laundering intrigue. Now she hopes she can get herself out of trouble with a cleverly-plotted theft and one last enormous score.
The missing ingredient is someone Kelly can trust to do the dirty work, recruiting career criminals who won’t flinch at the opportunity to make good money by whatever means necessary. And Matt is happy to oblige, as it seems like the perfect opportunity to settle the score with the men responsible for ruining his life and putting him away for a crime he didn’t commit. The heist—a horseback robbery of valuable artwork from a speeding Amtrak train—seems to be going perfectly, until one of the players starts to suspect he’s been paid in counterfeit bills…
Pulse-pounding suspense, wholly original action scenes, and enough double-crosses to leave readers reeling make this caper a must-read for fans of fast, adrenaline-fueled crime fiction. The first thriller from the author whose seafaring adventure novels are published as J.H. Gelernter, Fake Money, Blue Smoke announces an exciting new voice in the genre.
“Rat-a-tat dialogue, concise character delineation, and brisk pacing will remind readers of Elmore Leonard… A rip-roaring roller coaster ride from a fresh new voice.” – Kirkus Reviews
“…exceptional… Haven stitches all this together seamlessly, and just when it seems that the story could be wrapping up, he piles on more action and twists. In addition, the various locales and the little flourishes (executioner’s scimitar, anyone?) raise this to the book equivalent of a blockbuster movie. It’s not to be missed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“Reading Haven’s novel is akin to watching a Coen brothers film: it’s darkly funny, horrifically violent, packed with bizarre twists, and full of outrageous schemes, brutal double crosses, and sadistic revenge. It’s not for the squeamish, but it’s a powerful book—tightly written, with an original plot, compelling characters, and a stunning conclusion.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
The Ingenue by Rachel Kapelke-Dale
fiction / suspense / mystery.
When former piano prodigy Saskia Kreis returns home to Milwaukee after her mother’s unexpected death, she expects to inherit the family estate, the Elf House. But with the discovery that her mother’s will bequeathed the Elf House to a man that Saskia shares a complicated history with, she is forced to reexamine her own past–and the romantic relationship that changed the course of her life–for answers. Can she find a way to claim her heritage while keeping her secrets buried, or will the fallout from digging too deep destroy her?
Set against a post #MeToo landscape, The Ingenue delves into mother-daughter relationships, the expectations of talent, the stories we tell ourselves, and what happens when the things that once made you special are taken from you. Moving between Saskia’s childhood and the present day, this dark, contemporary fairy tale pulses with desire, longing, and uncertainty, as it builds to its spectacular, shocking climax.
“Exceptional… surprising, exhilarating… This suspense-filled tale of revenge and redemption is hard to put down.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“Kapelke-Dale crafts a twisted suspenseful tale of expectations and identity, of love and vengeance, that will leave readers breathless.” – Library Journal
“Kapelke-Dale’s absorbing novel delves into the repercussions of sexual abuse, interspersing tantalizing extracts from Evie’s feminist fairy-tale retellings and fragments of Saskia’s teen years with present events that crescendo to a stunning conclusion. Aptly compared to Kate Elizabeth Russell’s much-buzzed-about My Dark Vanessa, The Ingenue is poised to garner similar attention.” – Booklist
Ms. Demeanor by Elinor Lipman
fiction / romance.
Jane Morgan is a valued member of her law firm–or was, until a prudish neighbor, binoculars poised, observes her having sex on the roof of her NYC apartment building. Police are summoned, and a punishing judge sentences her to six months of home confinement. With Jane now jobless and rootless, trapped at home, life looks bleak. Yes, her twin sister provides support and advice, but mostly of the unwelcome kind. When a doorman lets slip that Jane isn’t the only resident wearing an ankle monitor, she strikes up a friendship with fellow white-collar felon Perry Salisbury. As she tries to adapt to life within her apartment walls, she discovers she hasn’t heard the end of that tattletale neighbor–whose past isn’t as decorous as her 9-1-1 snitching would suggest. Why are police knocking on Jane’s door again? Can her house arrest have a silver lining? Can two wrongs make a right?
“[A] breezy fun read with a dash of romance and mystery for fans of Tom Perrotta and Jennifer Weiner.” – Library Reads
Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood by Jessica Grose
nonfiction / parenting / self-help.
Close your eyes and picture the perfect mother. She is usually blonde and thin. Her roots are never showing and she installed that gleaming kitchen backsplash herself (watch her TikTok for DIY tips). She seamlessly melds work, wellness and home; and during the depths of the pandemic, she also ran remote school and woke up at 5 a.m. to meditate.
You may read this and think it’s bananas; you have probably internalized much of it.
Journalist Jessica Grose sure had. After she failed to meet every one of her own expectations for her first pregnancy, she devoted her career to revealing how morally bankrupt so many of these ideas and pressures are. Now, in Screaming on the Inside, Grose weaves together her personal journey with scientific, historical, and contemporary reporting to be the voice for American parents she wishes she’d had a decade ago.
The truth is that parenting cannot follow a recipe; there’s no foolproof set of rules that will result in a perfectly adjusted child. Every parent has different values, and we will have different ideas about how to pass those values along to our children. What successful parenting has in common, regardless of culture or community, is close observation of the kind of unique humans our children are. In thoughtful and revelatory chapters about pregnancy, identity, work, social media, and the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, Grose explains how we got to this moment, why the current state of expectations on mothers is wholly unsustainable, and how we can move towards something better.
“Stirring… Mothers struggling to keep their heads above water will find camaraderie in this empathetic outing.” – Publishers Weekly
“Grose’s fiery compassion is matched by her profoundly complex understanding of the material and her trenchant, witty prose… A deeply researched and highly relatable analysis of American motherhood, past and present.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“It’s hard to imagine a mother (or other) who won’t feel seen somewhere in Grose’s accessible, empathetic, data-driven report.” – Booklist
Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy ★
fiction / historical fiction.
1972, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: Alicia Western, twenty years old, with forty thousand dollars in a plastic bag, admits herself to the hospital. A doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alicia has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she does not want to talk about her brother, Bobby. Instead, she contemplates the nature of madness, the human insistence on one common experience of the world; she recalls a childhood where, by the age of seven, her own grandmother feared for her; she surveys the intersection of physics and philosophy; and she introduces her cohorts, her chimeras, the hallucinations that only she can see. All the while, she grieves for Bobby, not quite dead, not quite hers.
Told entirely through the transcripts of Alicia’s psychiatric sessions, Stella Maris is a searching, rigorous, intellectually challenging coda to The Passenger, a philosophical inquiry that questions our notions of God, truth, and existence.
“A companion to McCarthy’s The Passenger that both supplements and subverts it… Enigmatic… A grand puzzle, and grandly written at that, about shattered psyches and illicit dreams.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“At 89, [McCarthy is] still riffing, like a jazz virtuoso, on the American Nightmare, Faulkner’s mythmaking, and the cadences of Joyce. McCarthy’s flame burns bright and clear in two new works… The Passenger, wondrous in its architecture, and a companion piece, Stella Maris, a minimalist, edgy novella… McCarthy toggles between books and across decades, sketching the contours of a love that dare not say its name. McCarthy’s art is transcendent even as it takes no prisoners, an achievement akin only to the oeuvres of his greatest peers, Toni Morrison and Philip Roth. He will endure.” – Oprah Daily
“[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… It’s the humid, fevered, magniloquent, Bible-cadenced, comma-starved, word-drunk prose of what some fans consider his masterwork, Suttree… There’s a lot here. It might make your head spin… What it all adds up to—perhaps surprisingly—is a doomed and unsettling love story, a Platonic tragedy… Electric and thunderous… An astonishing pair of novels… Taken together, The Passenger and Stella Maris are an intellectually breathtaking achievement.” – Garden & Gun
“…casts its predecessor in an intriguing new light… quite remarkable… the book takes in topology, physics, ethics, Schopenhauer, Grothendieck, religion, music and at times wonders if mathematics is something we impose on the universe or a set of truths that would exist without any consciousness to comprehend them… a staggering achievement.” – The Scotsman
A Streetcar Named Murder by T.G. Herren
fiction / mystery.
When the mysterious letter arrives by courier, Valerie Cooper doesn’t know what to make of it. She’s become the beneficiary of her late husband’s estranged uncle’s will—a man she never knew—and inherited a majority partnership in the family’s company, New Orleans Fine Antiques. Valerie knows nothing about antiques, but she decides to learn the business and become an active partner. She’s also got her hands full fending off Collette, a woman who wants to sell the huge old house in the Irish Channel neighborhood Valerie and her husband painstakingly renovated.
Valerie isn’t interested in selling—but when her best friend Lauren, drags her to a costume party for the women’s Mardi Gras club, the Krewe of Athena, she stumbles over Collette’s body, a jeweled dagger sticking out of her chest. In a rush of panic, Valerie recognizes the dagger from her shop—and before she knows it, she’s become murder suspect number one.
Egged on by Lauren, she starts digging into Collette’s business dealings, and the deeper she digs, the dirtier it gets. Now all fingers are pointing at Valerie. In a desperate bid to clear her name, Valerie frantically tries to find who could have gotten hold of the dagger. But among a cadre of guests in full costume, it could be impossible to find the thief—and unmask the real killer.
“…breezy [and] highly entertaining… works as a story about the power of female friendships and a look at the cultures, nooks and crannies of New Orleans… The brisk pace of A Streetcar Named Murder is augmented by Herren’s affinity for wit and his skills at creating real, appealing characters. Valerie is the kind of character readers will want to be friends with.” – South Florida Sun Sentinel
“This well-plotted debut cozy is nicely framed by the antique trade.” – Booklist
“[A] lively debut and series launch… satisfying… Big Easy culture and traditions provide a colorful backdrop. Fans of Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild mysteries will want to check this out.” – Publishers Weekly
The Sunshine Girls by Molly Fader
fiction / historical fiction.
1967 Iowa. Nursing school roommates BettyKay and Kitty don’t have much in common. A farmer’s daughter, BettyKay has risked her family’s disapproval to make her dreams come true away from her small rural town. Cosmopolitan Kitty has always relied on her beauty and smarts to get by and to hide a devastating secret from the past that she can’t seem to outrun. Yet the two share a determination to prove themselves in a changing world, forging an unlikely, powerful bond on a campus unkind to women.
Before their first year is up, tragedy strikes, and the women’s paths are forced apart. But against all odds, a decades-long friendship forms, persevering through love, marriage, failure and death, from the jungles of Vietnam to the glamorous circles of Hollywood. Until one snowy night leads their relationship to the ultimate crossroads.
Fifty years later, two estranged sisters are shocked when a famous movie star shows up at their mother’s funeral. Over one tumultuous weekend, the women must reckon with a dazzling truth about their family that will alter their lives forever…
“Cuddle up with a blanket and settle in for this epic tale spanning 50 years. Fans of transcending friendship stories, will love this pager-turner full of sisterhood and secrets… an overall inspirational tale of strength and perseverance. Great for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Lives of Evelyn Hugo or Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner.” – Amazon
“The Sunshine Girls will have readers sitting on the edge of their seats while learning all about BettyKay’s life alongside that of her daughters. Jane Green and Jennifer Weiner fans will enjoy this novel about two unlikely friends and the secrets that united them.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
“[The] message from the book is that life events shape us but never have to define us. We have the power to reinvent ourselves at any point – we just need the strength and support system to help us make ourselves the best people we can be. Molly Fader has a real winner in The Sunshine Girls. It’s women’s fiction that shouldn’t be missed.” – Fireflies and Free Kicks
Tom Clancy Red Winter by Marc Cameron
fiction / suspense / historical Fiction.
A top secret F117 aircraft crashes into the Nevada desert. The Nighthawk is the most advanced fighting machine in the world and the Soviets will do anything to get their hands on its secrets.
In East Berlin, a mysterious figure contacts the CIA with an incredible offer—invaluable details of his government’s espionage plans in return for asylum.
It’s an offer they can’t pass up… if it’s genuine, but the risks are too great to blindly stumble into a deal. With the East German secret police closing in, someone will have to go to behind the Berlin Wall to investigate the potential defector. It’s a job Deputy Director James Greer can only trust to one man–Jack Ryan.
Ryan is a former Marine and a brilliant CIA analyst who’s been the architect of some of the CIA’s biggest coups but this time he’s in enemy territory with a professional assassin on his tail. Can he get the right answers before the Cold War turns into a Red Winter?
“Cameron is but one of the authors who so skillfully maintains the Clancy legacy that began in the 1980s. The many characters are all spot-on, the scope is wide-ranging, and the action reaches to the dreaded Hohenschönhausen Prison—readers are guaranteed to hate the freckle-faced guard Mitzi Graff as much as they will admire Ryan and Foley. So well-adapted to the entire series, this could have been the late Tom Clancy’s second novel.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“Marc Cameron writes a lean and mean genuine Clancy thriller wonderfully adapted for the modern audience with a deathly-fast pace and riveting action… Cameron continues to display his prowess at writing multiple simultaneous plotlines without losing track of the big picture… the excitement factor ratchets up by the page… a breathtakingly exciting throwback to the chaotic final days of the Cold War era. Marc Cameron truly transports you to another time with his engrossing writing… the Clancy-verse remains in the good hands of a writer with the panache of tackling fan-favorite characters and making them even more intriguing and human.” – The Best Thriller Books
“…winning… Cameron has fun with the period references, including cell phones the size of bricks, Farrah Fawcett posters, IBM Selectrics, and dot matrix printers. This return to earlier days opens the field to further adventures of the young Jack Ryan. Readers will eagerly await the next.” – Publishers Weekly
The Tudors in Love: Passion and Politics in the Age of England’s Most Famous Dynasty by Sarah Gristwood
nonfiction / history.
The dramas of courtly love have captivated centuries of readers and dreamers. Yet too often they’re dismissed as something existing only in books and song–those old legends of King Arthur and chivalric fantasy.
Not so. In this ground-breaking history, Sarah Gristwood reveals the way courtly love made and marred the Tudor dynasty. From Henry VIII declaring himself as the ‘loyal and most assured servant’ of Anne Boleyn to the poems lavished on Elizabeth I by her suitors, the Tudors re-enacted the roles of the devoted lovers and capricious mistresses first laid out in the romances of medieval literature. The Tudors in Love dissects the codes of love, desire and power, unveiling romantic obsessions that have shaped the history of the world.
“Gristwood’s prose is as seductive as the subject matter. Be prepared to fall in love.” – Wall Street Journal
“The disconnection between romance and realpolitik is brutally and entertainingly illuminated by Gristwood.” – The Times
“An engrossing look at how the Tudor dynasty employed the ‘stylish and stylised game’ of courtly love… fascinating incidental details add insight and reveal personal connections between historical figures. The result is a fresh and tantalizing look at a much-scrutinized dynasty.” – Publishers Weekly
Wicked Dreams by Lisa Jackson & Nancy Bush
Fiction / suspense / mystery.
The note pinned to the dead body found on the remote beach has no name, just Ravinia Rutledge’s phone number and the words “Next of Kin.” Ravinia insists she doesn’t recognize the man on the mortuary slab, but she suspects Detective Nev Rhodes doesn’t believe her. He can tell that she’s one of them–the Siren Song women.
Five years after moving away from The Colony, Ravinia has carved out a life as a private investigator whose specialty is helping others locate their missing loved ones. Yet sometimes, it’s better if the missing are never found. “Good Time Charlie” is the name given to a monster from her past, a man whom she and her sisters hoped was gone forever. But the dead man on the beach is a sign that Charlie has merely been waiting, preparing to fulfill his mission to rid the world of the Siren Song women–and anyone else who gets in his way.
Rhodes has his own reasons for being fascinated with The Colony and its surroundings–a place marked by unexplained deaths and tragedies. Rhodes plays by the rules, but there are forces at work here that defy notions of law and order. And despite Ravinia’s reluctance to team up with Nev, it’s the only way to stop an adversary determined to see that each and every member of The Colony will die at his hands…
“…builds to a fiery conclusion.” – Publishers Weekly