Best New Books: Week of 1/17/2023

“Experience is something you get… after you need it.” – Jill Shalvis, Simply Irresistible

The Backup Plan by Jill Shalvis

fiction / romance.

The Backup PlanWhen Alice receives a call about an unexpected windfall, she’s stunned to learn the gift is a falling-apart-at-the-seams old Wild West B&B she once considered home–and she’s inherited it along with two strangers. Except they weren’t always strangers. Once upon a time, they were friends. One is her ex-BFF Lauren. The other is Knox, the only guy to ever break her heart, all while never even knowing she existed.

It turns out their lives are unknowingly entangled because they once separately helped the same woman without expecting anything in return. Years later, Alice, Lauren, and Knox are broken in their own way, with their own history–and secrets– causing them to start out on the wrong foot with each other. But according to the will, they must renovate and be partners in the inn for one year or else lose their inheritance.

Stuck together, they make a list of rules to keep the peace–rules that end up doing the opposite, but by some miracle they find what they didn’t even know they were looking for–acceptance, true friendship, and in a case (or two!), true love.

“A solid story perfect for readers who enjoy introspection, emotional resolution, and found-family alongside their romance.” – Elizabeth Gabriel, Library Journal

“Shalvis shines in her endearing [novel]… Readers will easily fall for Shalvis’s well-shaded characters and heart-filled plot. This is the literary equivalent of comfort food.” – Publishers Weekly

“…so much more than just the typical romance that follows two people as they fall in love… There are so many layers here and I loved every single one. I ran through so many emotions while reading this, from laughter to empathy and understanding this one took me on a sweet and heartfelt ride… an absolute delight.” – Novel Gossip

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

fiction / mystery / suspense / science fiction / fantasy.


Astoundingly, Constance has found a way back to the place of her origins, New York City in the late 1800s, leaping at the chance, although it means leaving the present forever.


Constance sets off on a quest to prevent the events that lead to the deaths of her sister and brother. But along the road to redemption, Manhattan’s most infamous serial killer, Dr. Enoch Leng, lies in wait, ready to strike at the slightest provocation.


Meanwhile, in contemporary New York, Pendergast feverishly searches for a way to reunite with Constance—but will he discover a way back to her before it’s too late?

“The Pendergast novels have always had elements of the supernatural—or the just plain weird—but lately the authors have really been leaning into the weird stuff, with spectacular results. This book is a lot of fun. The writing is crisp and lightly ornate, as usual, and the story is inventive and suspenseful. Kudos!” – David Pitt, Booklist

“This dual timeline tale will appeal to fans of police procedurals, historicals, and magical realism, and those intrigued by quantum mechanics.” – K.L. Romo, Library Journal

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng will keep you up at night… Preston and Child masterfully draw the reader in and keep them wanting more as a fascinating and often harrowing story unfolds that adds depth to the series as a whole, while filling out the backstory of at least one major character.” – The Fiction Review

Decent People by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

fiction / historical fiction / mystery.

Decent PeopleIn the still-segregated town of West Mills, North Carolina in 1976, Marian, Marva, and Lazarus Harmon-three enigmatic siblings-are found shot to death in their home. The people of West Mills-on both sides of the canal that serves as the town’s color line-are in a frenzy of finger-pointing, gossip, and wonder. The crime is the first reported murder in the area in decades, but the white authorities don’t seem to care or have any interest in solving the case.

Fortunately, one person is determined to do more than talk. Ms. Jo Wright has just moved back to West Mills from New York City to retire and marry a childhood sweetheart, Olympus “Lymp” Seymore. When she discovers that the murder victims are Lymp’s half-siblings, and that Lymp is one of West Mills’ leading culprits, she sets out on a transformative manhunt to prove his innocence.

As Jo begins to investigate those who might know the most about the Harmons’ deaths, she starts to discover darker secrets than she’d ever imagined, and a pattern of cover ups-of racial incidents, homophobia, and medical misuse-that could upend the reputations of many.

For readers of American Spy and Bluebird, Bluebird, Decent People is a powerful new novel about shame, race, money, and the reckoning required to heal a fractured community.

“Winslow returns to the fictional Southern town of West Mills for a second time in this expertly-plotted and character-driven follow-up to his award-winning debut novel… A haunting, page-turning mystery, Decent People makes a must-read on anyone’s literary list.” – Jianan Qian, The Millions

“The novel is a straight up whodunit, but Winslow cleverly has the police recede into the background as the questions Jo asks around town set off gossip, finger-pointing, speculation, and rumor. And it’s through those conversations that the townspeople reveal their painful prejudices, shameful secrets, and dark histories in this smart, canny, and page-turning historical Southern mystery. ” – Vanessa Cronin, Amazon

“Anyone who adored Charmaine Wilkerson’s Black Cake and Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s Take My Hand, take note. De’Shawn Charles Winslow invites readers on a satisfying ride that, through his keen observations of human nature, leads to deeper considerations of the glacial progress of racial equality.” – Alice Cary, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“Winslow chronicles the aftermath of a triple homicide that rocks a segregated Southern community in his dynamic latest… There are a trove of surprises along the way to the well-earned resolution, and Winslow entrances readers with strong characters, impeccable prose, and brisk pacing. As a character-driven mystery, it delivers the goods.” – Publishers Weekly

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

fiction / mystery / suspense / comedy.

Everyone In My Family Has Killed SomeoneEveryone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but it is the truth. Some of us are good, others are bad, and some just unfortunate.

I’m Ernest Cunningham. Call me Ern or Ernie. I wish I’d killed whoever decided our family reunion should be at a ski resort, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Have I killed someone? Yes. I have.

Who was it?

Let’s get started.

“An ingenious and hilarious meta-murder mystery.” –Mark Sanderson, The Times

“Everyone is going to be talking about Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone, because it’s fiendishly clever, dryly funny (well as funny as a crime novel with a very high body count is going to get), complicated without being overly so, different, and well, relatable, in a weird sort of way… hugely entertaining… It’s so well crafted, brilliantly executed, entertaining, different and utterly engaging, and I hope somebody supplied the typesetters and ebook generators with enough antacid to get them through.” – Karen Chisholm, AustCrime

“[An] exceptionally clever and amusing mystery… hooks the reader immediately… Stevenson carries off this tour de force with all the aplomb of a master magician who conducts his tricks in plain view.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Funny and ingenious, this is an exemplary contribution to the detective genre… With a set of finely crafted characters, and a plot that is equal parts guile, humour, and ingenuity, this is a book that promises to satisfy readers from all points on the mystery writing compass, and to do so in ways that will almost certainly guarantee Stevenson the award he narrowly missed out on with each of his first two novels.” – Craig Buchanan, Arts Hub

The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House by Chris Whipple

nonfiction / politics.

The Fight of His LifeIn January of 2021, the Biden administration inherited the most daunting array of challenges since FDR’s presidency: a lethal pandemic, a plummeting economy, an unresolved twenty-year war, and the aftermath of an attack on the Capitol that polarized the country. Waves of crises followed, including the fallout from a divisive Supreme Court, raging inflation, and Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Now, in The Fight of His Life, prizewinning journalist Chris Whipple takes us inside the Oval Office as the critical decisions of Biden’s presidency are being made. With remarkable access to both President Biden and his inner circle—including Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and CIA Director William Burns—Whipple pulls back the curtain on the internal power struggles and back-room compromises. Featuring shocking new details about how renegade Trump officials enabled the transfer of power, which key staffers really make the White House run (it’s probably not who you think), why Joe Biden no longer speaks freely around his security detail, and what he really thinks of Vice President Kamala Harris, the press, and living in the White House, The Fight of His Life delivers a stunning portrait of politics on the edge.

“Whipple’s book is plenty revealing.” – Politico

“[A] losely observed account… There’s more to the current administration than meets the eye, and Whipple is a reliable, readable interpreter.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] fascinating insider’s account of the first two years of the Biden administration… Whipple provides a balanced assessment of the administration’s successes and failures… Distinguished by Whipple’s impressive access and incisive character sketches, this is a valuable first draft of history.” – Publishers Weekly

Glitterland by Alexis Hall

fiction / romance.

GlitterlandOnce the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on hope, happiness, and―most of all―himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter throws him into the path of Essex-born Darian Taylor. Flashy and loud, radiant and full of life, Darian couldn’t be more different… and yet he makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of his anxiety. But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can no longer see a way out. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can someone who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?

“[R]evised and expanded… brings freshness to this formerly published hit.” – Becky Meloan, Washington Post

“[T]here’s a reason this book, which is the first in the cult favorite Spires series, has had avid readers for years… A shimmery and sexy start to the reissuing of a beloved m/m contemporary romance series.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Think Savile Row meets Jersey Shore. Hall’s debut novel captures the roller-coaster ride of bipolar disorder through Ash, a man not always easy to like but one readers can understand. Writing short, focused paragraphs denoting depression and disinterest and longer, disjointed paragraphs denoting mania and obsession, Hall provides a view of bipolar disorder from the inside. In addition, Darian’s character is a joy, with his simple albeit humorously shallow outlook on life. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and tragically sad, Hall’s novel draws readers into this wonderful glitter-ball of a world. Highly recommended.” – Melanie C. Duncan, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

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How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

fiction / horror / mystery / suspense.

How to Sell a Haunted HouseEvery childhood home is haunted, and each of us are possessed by our parents.

When their parents die at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, Louise and Mark Joyner are devastated but nothing can prepare them for how bad things are about to get. The two siblings are almost totally estranged and couldn’t be more different. Now, however, they don’t have a choice but to get along. The virus has passed, and both of them are facing bank accounts ravaged by the economic meltdown. Their one asset? Their childhood home. They need to get it on the market as soon as possible because they need the money. Yet before her parents died they taped newspaper over the mirrors and nailed shut the attic door.

Sometimes we feel like puppets, controlled by our upbringing and our genes. Sometimes we feel like our parents treat us like toys, or playthings, or even dolls. The past can ground us, teach us, and keep us safe. It can also trap us, and bind us, and suffocate the life out of us. As disturbing events stack up in the house, Louise and Mark have to learn that sometimes the only way to break away from the past, sometimes the only way to sell a haunted house, is to burn it all down.

“Hendrix’s book sets the high watermark for horror.” – Becky Spratford, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A little horror, a little humor, How to Sell a Haunted House is a delight… ingenious.” – Carol Memmott, Washington Post

“Skillfully balances complete creep outs and moments of outright hilarity. The down-home charm of the Charleston family is on point, and the scares are fun and frequent, while the author almost painfully captures sibling dynamics. Readers will be completely sucked in by Hendrix’s adept prose… Hendrix is a best-seller for a reason, and this new novel shows he is only getting better with age.” – Jeremiah Paddock, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] spectacularly terrifying blast from the past… nicely emulat[es] [Stephen King’s] penchant for everyday human drama while elevating the creep factor with his own disquieting imagination… the combination of Hendrix’s trippy take on the stages of grief and a plethora of nightmare fuel delivers a retro wallop for those in the mood. Warm up the VCR and fire up the air popper for a most bitchin’ horror story by a gifted practitioner of these dark arts.” – Kirkus Reviews

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Marisa Crane

fiction / science fiction.

In a United States not so unlike our own, the Department of Balance has adopted a radical new form of law enforcement: rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second (and sometimes, third, fourth, and fifth) shadow as a reminder of their crime—and a warning to those they encounter. Within the Department, corruption and prejudice run rampant, giving rise to an underclass of so-called Shadesters who are disenfranchised, publicly shamed, and deprived of civil rights protections.

Kris is a Shadester and a new mother to a baby born with a second shadow of her own. Grieving the loss of her wife and thoroughly unprepared for the reality of raising a child alone, Kris teeters on the edge of collapse, fumbling in a daze of alcohol, shame, and self-loathing. Yet as the kid grows, Kris finds her footing, raising a child whose irrepressible spark cannot be dampened by the harsh realities of the world.

With a first-person register reminiscent of the fierce self-disclosure of Sheila Heti and the poetic precision of Ocean Vuong, I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is a bold debut novel that examines the long shadow of grief, the hard work of parenting, and the power of queer resistance.

“A masterclass in gorgeous writing that sings while also punching you in the gut. Expect to read a novel like you’ve never experienced before and walk away feeling changed forever.” – Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful

“There’s a lot going on in Crane’s hard-to-classify, hard-to-put down debut novel, but at its heart, beneath the gorgeous sentences and gallows humor and speculative-fiction machinations, it’s a survival story.” – Patrick Rapa, Philadelphia Inquirer

“A thought-provoking, inventive examination of queer motherhood, forgiveness, redemption, punishment, surveillance, and so much more… It’s a brilliant, disturbing read, yet full of heart, love, and found family.” – Margaret Kingsbury, BuzzFeed

“A remarkable feat of speculative fiction, its premise so strangely familiar that to call it speculative feels like a misnomer… The emotional truths it untangles are so sharp that its intricate world building feels less like fiction and more like an excavation of the country we already live in… On the surface, it’s all explosive force; underneath, it’s introspective and intimate. And always, Crane’s prose is gorgeous… Some books have the power to wake you up, shake you out of the old and push you toward something new and exciting and a little scary. This is one.” – Laura Sackton, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

I’m No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts: Mini-Meditations for Saints, Sinners, and the Rest of Us by Kristin Chenoweth

nonfiction / comedy / memoir.

I'm No Philosopher, But I Got ThoughtsAristotle. Socrates. Descartes. And now, Chenoweth. (How about some women, am I right?)

From television actress, Broadway star, and New York Times bestselling author Kristin Chenoweth comes I’m No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts, an inspiring high-design, colorful book featuring philosophical-ish musings on connection, creativity, loss, love, faith, and closure. Just like Kristin’s grandmother inspired her to trust her heart and develop her own belief system, you’ll be inspired to develop your own life philosophies, as you journey through some of Kristin’s most vulnerable and humorous personal stories, in her constant pursuit to make the most out of life.

In each chapter, you’ll find:

• Behind-the-scenes stories from Kristin’s personal life
• High-design, colorful pages of inspirational quotes
• Engaging prompts, prayers, and inspiring quotes

Oh, and a warning: There will be Bible verses. There will be f-bombs. Read responsibly.

“In this humorous volume, actor Chenoweth opines on how to handle life’s hurdles… this benefits greatly from the author’s effortless charm, plucky attitude, and humorous candor. Chenoweth’s fans will be enchanted.” – Publishers Weekly

Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo

nonfiction / biography / history.

Master, Slave, Husband, WifeIn 1848, a year of international democratic revolt, a young, enslaved couple, Ellen and William Craft, achieved one of the boldest feats of self-emancipation in American history. Posing as master and slave, while sustained by their love as husband and wife, they made their escape together across more than 1,000 miles, riding out in the open on steamboats, carriages, and trains that took them from bondage in Georgia to the free states of the North.

Along the way, they dodged slave traders, military officers, and even friends of their enslavers, who might have revealed their true identities. The tale of their adventure soon made them celebrities, and generated headlines around the country. Americans could not get enough of this charismatic young couple, who traveled another 1,000 miles criss-crossing New England, drawing thunderous applause as they spoke alongside some of the greatest abolitionist luminaries of the day—among them Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.

But even then, they were not out of danger. With the passage of an infamous new Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, all Americans became accountable for returning refugees like the Crafts to slavery. Then yet another adventure began, as slave hunters came up from Georgia, forcing the Crafts to flee once again—this time from the United States, their lives and thousands more on the line and the stakes never higher.

With three epic journeys compressed into one monumental bid for freedom, Master Slave Husband Wife is an American love story—one that would challenge the nation’s core precepts of life, liberty, and justice for all—one that challenges us even now.

“An engaging tale of one enslaved couple’s journey to freedom and a love that conquered all… a gripping adventure… Refreshingly, the text ‘is not fictionalized. Every description and line of dialogue originates in historic sources’… Throughout, Woo’s narrative is suspenseful and wonderfully told. A captivating tale that ably captures the determination and courage of a remarkable couple.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“In this superbly researched and masterfully written book, Woo gives William and Ellen Craft’s story the detailed attention it so richly deserves. She expertly places their tale, especially their experiences as abolitionist speakers facing hostile and sometimes violent crowds, in the social conditions of antebellum America. Readers interested in studies about the enslaved, abolitionism, and antebellum history should read this insightful new work.” – Chad E. Statler, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Woo seamlessly knits together an in-depth portrait of antebellum America and a thrilling account of an enslaved couple’s escape to freedom… Throughout, Woo expertly portrays the gruesome details of slave auctions; the rigors of the antislavery lecture circuit, where protestors subjected speakers to the ‘abolitionist baptism’ of ‘rotten eggs and fist-sized stones’; and the exploits of antislavery activists including William Still and Mifflin Wistar Gibbs. This novelistic history soars.” – Publishers Weekly

The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict

fiction / historical fiction.

The Mitford AffairBetween the World Wars, the six Mitford sisters dominate the English political, literary, and social scenes. Though they’ve weathered scandals before, the family falls into disarray when Diana divorces her husband to marry a fascist leader and Unity follows her sister’s lead, inciting rumors that she’s become Hitler’s own mistress.

Novelist Nancy Mitford is the only member of her family to keep in touch with Diana and Unity after their desertion, so it falls to her to act when her sisters become spies for the Nazi party.

Probing the torrid political climate of World War II and the ways that sensible people can be sucked into radical action, The Mitford Affair follows Nancy’s valiant efforts to end the war and the cost of placing loyalty to her country above loyalty to her family.

“Benedict captures the mood of a certain element of upper-class England in the years leading up to World War II. Appearances by historical figures like Winston Churchill and Evelyn Waugh round out the story. Fans of World War II historical fiction will be fascinated.” – Terry Lucas, Library Journal

“…captivating… This engaging tale of genteel spies shifts easily between the sisters’ perspectives and provides timely insight on British fascists and supporters of appeasement. Benedict’s silky-smooth page-turner is sure to please her fans.” – Publishers Weekly

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The Mitford Secret by Jessica Fellowes

fiction / mystery / historical fiction.

The Mitford SecretIt’s 1941, and the Mitford household is splintered by the vicissitudes of war. To bring the clan together—maybe for one last time, Deborah invites them to Chatsworth for Christmas, along with a selection of society’s most impressive and glamorous guests, as well as old family friend Louisa Cannon, a private detective.

One night, a psychic arrives, and to liven things up Deborah agrees she may host a séance. But entertainment turns to dark mystery as the psychic reveals that a maid was murdered in this very same house—and she can prove it.

Louisa steps forward to try to solve the cold case. But with a house full of people who want nothing more than to bury their secrets, will she be able to unmask the murderer? And how deep does the truth lie?

“Fellowes neatly balances period detail and fair cluing. Fans will be happy to see this series going out on a high note.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] fun, well-written novel.” – Red Carpet Crash

Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

fiction / comedy.

Really Good, ActuallyMaggie is fine. She’s doing really good, actually. Sure, she’s broke, her graduate thesis on something obscure is going nowhere, and her marriage only lasted 608 days, but at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Maggie is determined to embrace her new life as a Surprisingly Young Divorcée™.

Now she has time to take up nine hobbies, eat hamburgers at 4am, and “get back out there” sex-wise. With the support of her tough-loving academic advisor, Merris; her newly divorced friend, Amy; and her group chat (naturally), Maggie barrels through her first year of single life, intermittently dating, occasionally waking up on the floor and asking herself tough questions along the way.

Laugh-out-loud funny and filled with sharp observations, Really Good, Actually is a tender and bittersweet comedy that lays bare the uncertainties of modern love, friendship, and our search for that thing we like to call “happiness”. This is a remarkable debut from an unforgettable new voice in fiction.

“[A] tender yet sharp novel that tells the heartbreaking and hilarious tales of a young woman going through a divorce.” – Calie Schepp, Entertainment Weekly

“Heisey perfectly captures the realities of a big, bad breakup, and it couldn’t be more refreshing. Add that to the downright loveable cast and you’ve got the perfect anti-rom com.” – Bust

“A prime example of how a storyteller’s voice can pull you right in and keep you clinging to every sentence… This is a book I would/will give to my closest girlfriends and say, ‘You have to read this.’” – Zibby Owens, Good Morning America

“Comedian and TV writer Heisey delivers an appealing debut novel (after the essay collection I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better) about a 28-year-old stalled PhD candidate left adrift after her divorce… Even in its darkest moments the book is very funny, and Heisey’s inspired skewering of urban millennial life hits the mark. Readers will gobble up this Bridget Jones’s Diary for the smartphone era.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Rikers: An Oral History by Graham Rayman & Reuven Blau

nonfiction / history.

RikersWhat happens when you jam almost a dozen jails, bulging at the seams with society’s cast-offs, onto a spit of landfill purposefully hidden from public view? Prize-winning journalists Graham Rayman and Reuven Blau have spent two years interviewing more than 130 people comprising a broad cross section of lives Rikers has touched–from incarcerated people and their relatives, to officers, lawyers, and commissioners, with stories spanning the 1970s to present day. The portrait that emerges calls into question the very nature of justice in America.

Offering a 360-degree view inside the country’s largest detention complex, the deeply personal accounts–featured here for the first time–take readers on a harrowing journey into every corner of Rikers–a failed society unto itself that reflects society’s failings as a whole.

Dr. Homer Venters was shocked by the screams on his first day working at Rikers: “They’re in solitary, just yelling… the yelling literally never stops.” After a few months, though, your ears adjust to the sounds. Nestor Eversley recalls how detainees made weapons from bones. Barry Campbell recalls hiding a razor blade in his mouth just in case.

These are visceral stories of despair, brutality, resilience, humor, and hope, told by the people who were marooned on the island over the course of decades. As calls to shutter jails and reduce the number of incarcerated people grow louder across the country, with the movement to close the island complex itself at the forefront, Rikers is a resounding lesson about the human consequences of the incarceration industry.

“[A] stunning look inside the Rikers Island prison complex… Throughout, Rayman and Blau provide eye-opening statistics and history lessons, while letting the voices of their interviewees take center stage. It’s a must-read for anyone interest in criminal justice reform.” – Publishers Weekly

“…horrifying… If there were ever an argument for prison reform, it’s in these pages.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Saving Aziz: How the Mission to Help One Became a Calling to Rescue Thousands from the Taliban by Chad Robichaux with David L. Thomas

nonfiction / history.

Saving AzizIt was the right thing to do. And someone had to do it.

Aziz was more than an interpreter for Force Recon Marine Chad Robichaux during Chad’s eight deployments to Afghanistan. He was a teammate, brother, and friend. More than once, Aziz saved Chad’s life. And then he needed Chad to save his.

When President Joe Biden announced in April 2021 that the United States would be making a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, Robichaux knew he had to get Aziz and his family out before Taliban forces took over the country. As the rescue team he’d pulled together began to go to work, they became aware of thousands more–US citizens, Afghan allies, women, and children–facing persecution or death if they were not saved from the Taliban’s terrorist regime. Chad began leading the charge that would go on to rescue 17,000 evacuees within a few short weeks–12,000 of them within the first ten days.

This gripping account of two heroes and a daring mission puts human hearts and names alongside the headlines of one of the most harrowing moments in our history, giving you a closer look at:

• The resilience of Afghanistan and its people
• Chad’s direct interactions with the Taliban
• The twenty-year war that took place under four presidents

Saving Aziz is a story of war and rescue. It is a story of a mission accomplished and work still to be done. It is a story of how looking into a stranger’s eyes breaks down prejudice and apathy–and why risking it all is worth it when it comes to loving one another.

“This book, Saving Aziz, is a must read that reminds us that when the situation seems hopeless there is courage that prevails.” – Chad Prather, The Chad Prather Show

“This saga of brotherhood, loyalty, and raw courage will make you proud to be an American.” – Gen. James T. Conway, U.S.M.C. (Ret.), 34th Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps

“Chad Robichaux’s story is a must read for every American. It is a book of unparalleled bravery, heroism, valor and incredible determination by a select few individuals.” – Howard Kazanjian, producer of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Sense of Wonder by Matthew Salesses


The Sense of WonderAn Asian American basketball star walks into a gym. No one recognizes him, but everyone stares anyway. It is the start of a joke but what is the punchline? When Won Lee, the first Asian American in the NBA, stuns the world in a seven-game winning streak, the global media audience dubs it “The Wonder”—much to Won’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Won struggles to get attention from his coach, his peers, his fans, and most importantly, his hero, Powerball!, who also happens to be Won’s teammate and the captain. Covering it all is sportswriter Robert Sung, who writes about Won’s stardom while grappling with his own missed hoops opportunities as well as his place as an Asian American in media. And to witness it all is Carrie Kang, a big studio producer, who juggles a newfound relationship with Won while attempting to bring K-drama to an industry not known to embrace anything new or different.

The Sense of Wonder follows Won and Carrie as they chronicle the human and professional tensions exacerbated by injustices and fight to be seen and heard on some of the world’s largest stages. An incredibly funny and heart-rending dive into race and our “collective imagination that lays bare our limitations before blasting joyfully past them” (Catherine Chung). This is the work of a gifted storyteller at the top of his game.

“What Salesses does here is a remarkable feat of artistic prowess that somehow blends the themes of K-drama with the spectacle of sports drama in a way that resets our frame of reference for the Korean American experience. Indeed, it’s a move that doesn’t seem entirely possible until you see the jump yourself.” – Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Throughout The Sense of Wonder, Salesses refuses to shy away from frank discussions of race or racism, even as he centers the hopes and fears, frustrations and professional triumphs, of his protagonists. Salesses also declines to bench a complex formal device that would, in the hands of a lesser writer, dissolve under pressure as the clock runs out. Above all, the novel chooses itself. Like ‘the Wonder’ or ‘Linsanity,’ you may just have to see it to believe.” – Kristen Evans, Boston Globe

“A brilliant and scathing chronicle of two Asian Americans as they try to find their place in contemporary sports and media… Salesses fills the page with all the bold, kinetic confidence of an athlete striding onto the court.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Salesses moves, fakes and pivots his narrative with practiced, sly expertise. He cracks inappropriate jokes, waxes philosophical, details (biological and adopted) family dysfunction, confronts cultural history, deciphers the tropes and plots complex dramas, all while deftly exposing pervasive racism and sexism in two of the worst, inequitable industries. And yet, he also manages to impart an easy, welcoming bluntness: ‘What Won made Asian Americans feel was mimetic wonder.’ Social ills notwithstanding, who can argue with that?” – Shelf Awareness

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis

Fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Shards17-year-old Bret is a senior at the exclusive Buckley prep school when a new student arrives with a mysterious past. Robert Mallory is bright, handsome, charismatic, and shielding a secret from Bret and his friends even as he becomes a part of their tightly knit circle. Bret’s obsession with Mallory is equaled only by his increasingly unsettling pre-occupation with The Trawler, a serial killer on the loose who seems to be drawing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them–and Bret in particular–with grotesque threats and horrific, sharply local acts of violence. The coincidences are uncanny, but they are also filtered through the imagination of a teenager whose gifts for constructing narrative from the filaments of his own life are about to make him one of the most explosive literary sensations of his generation. Can he trust his friends–or his own mind–to make sense of the danger they appear to be in? Thwarted by the world and by his own innate desires, buffeted by unhealthy fixations, he spirals into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between The Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles inexorably toward a collision.

Set against the intensely vivid and nostalgic backdrop of pre-Less Than Zero LA, The Shards is a mesmerizing fusing of fact and fiction, the real and the imagined, that brilliantly explores the emotional fabric of Bret’s life at 17-sex and jealousy, obsession and murderous rage. Gripping, sly, suspenseful, deeply haunting and often darkly funny, The Shards is Ellis at his inimitable best.

“A thrilling page turner from Ellis, who revisits the world that made him a literary star with a stylish scary new story that doesn’t disappoint.” – Town & Country

“Breathtaking… a compulsively readable novel informed by suspense… The setting is beautifully realized not only by its evocation of place, but also by its myriad references to popular music of the day. Sometimes horrifying, sometimes nostalgic and even poignant, Ellis’s latest is an unqualified success.” – Michael Cart, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Ellis is a true literary craftsman, and the novel’s imagery is lush and gorgeous… there is an exciting new vulnerability in Ellis’s latest book, inviting the reader more profoundly into the emotional realm of the protagonist than he has with his previous characters… the narration loops back on itself in a way that not only builds suspense, but also creates a visceral sensation of the slowness of time for a 17-year-old who feels trapped in a life that is not his own.” – Melissa Broder, New York Times

“Reading The Shards you get a sense that Ellis is very much in a new stage of his writing career. It is both the most conventional novel he’s ever written, and his most personal… a treat. Ellis is less interested in the shock tactics of his past and more interested in producing a Novel, and the result absolutely pays off.” – Barry Pierce, Big Issue

Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes by Stephen A. Smith

nonfiction / memoir / Television / sports.

Straight ShooterStephen A. Smith has never been handed anything, nor was he an overnight success. Growing up poor in Queens, the son of Caribbean immigrants and the youngest of six children, he was a sports-obsessed kid who faced a number of struggles, from undiagnosed dyslexia to getting enough cereal to fill his bowl. As a basketball player at Winston-Salem State University, he got a glimmer of his true calling when he wrote a newspaper column arguing for the retirement of his own Hall of Fame coach, Clarence Gaines.

Smith hustled and rose up from a high school reporter at Daily News (New York) to a general sports columnist at The Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1990s, before getting his own show at ESPN in 2005. After he was unceremoniously fired from the network in 2009, he became even more determined to fight for success. He got himself rehired two years later and, with his razor-sharp intelligence and fearless debate style, found his role on the show he was destined to star in: First Take, the network’s flagship morning program.

In Straight Shooter, Smith writes about the greatest highs and deepest lows of his life and career. He gives his thoughts on Skip Bayless, Ray Rice, Colin Kaepernick, the New York Knicks, the Dallas Cowboys, and former President Donald Trump. But he also pulls back the curtain and talks about life beyond the set, sharing authentic stories about his negligent father, his loving mother, being a father himself, his battle with life-threatening COVID-19, and what he really thinks about politics and social issues. He does it all with the same intelligence, humor, and charm that has made him a household name.

Provocative, moving, and eye-opening, this book is the perfect gift for lovers of sports, television, and anyone who likes their stories delivered straight to the heart.

“The memoir is a distillation of [his] competitive ethos. He renders ESPN auditions and politics as game-seven material.” – Dan Adler, Vanity Fair

“[A] warts-and-all self-portrait of himself and the business… The best part of the book is his nuanced portrait of how the sports journalism world works, with its almost nonstop personality clashes and sometimes unlikely alliances—and the constant scheming of executives to shake things up for better ratings and bigger money… An inside-baseball look at the business of TV sports through the eyes of a veteran, sometimes controversial presence.” – Kirkus Reviews

You Should Smile More by Anastasia Ryan

fiction / romance / Comedy.

You Should Smile MoreTelemarketer Vanessa Blair isn’t in love with her job. It pays the bills and feeds her foster kittens, but offers only one other perk: her friendships with Jane Delaney and Trisha Lam. But, as mind-numbing as her job is, things are about to get worse. Xavier Adams, her self-absorbed boss, calls Vanessa into the conference room and fires her. The reason? Her facial expressions. Apparently, her resting bitch face is wide awake, and it doesn’t matter that her sales numbers are stellar or that she organizes office events.

After a girls’ night of schnapps and imagining retribution, Vanessa awakens to find that Trisha is more literal than she thought, and has implemented a revenge strategy based on the classic business book The Art of War by Sun Tzu. At first, Vanessa wants nothing to do with it. She wants to file for unemployment and move on with her life, possibly with Carter Beckett, the cute, cat-loving unemployment rep assigned to her case. But when Xavier contests her unemployment and ruins her shot at her dream job, Vanessa is all in…

“Ryan’s debut is a funny novel of fraud, kittens, and romance… A quirky coming-of-age tale and sweet romance with unique characters and improbable situations. Great for readers who want a happily-ever-after with a cozy twist.” – Kristen Stewart, Library Journal

“Reminiscent of The Office and 9 to 5, Ryan’s debut is a slapstick blend of comedy and heart, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and strong female heroines… A wacky ode to the resting bitch face.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[An] absolute delight… If you’re looking for something to make you laugh, smile, and get irrationally angry, You Should Smile More fits the bill. No matter how you intend on feeling, this book is a lot of fun…” – Rebecca Mills, Culturess

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