“It’s great to be a blonde. With low expectations it’s very easy to surprise people.” – Pamela Anderson
8 Rules of Love: How to Find It, Keep It, and Let It Go by Jay Shetty
nonfiction / self-help.
The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Think Like a Monk offers a revelatory guide to every stage of romance, drawing on ancient wisdom and new science.
Nobody sits us down and teaches us how to love. So we’re often thrown into relationships with nothing but romance movies and pop culture to help us muddle through. Until now.
Instead of presenting love as an ethereal concept or a collection of cliches, Jay Shetty lays out specific, actionable steps to help you develop the skills to practice and nurture love better than ever before. He shares insights on how to win or lose together, how to define love, and why you don’t break in a break-up. Inspired by Vedic wisdom and modern science, he tackles the entire relationship cycle, from first dates to moving in together to breaking up and starting over. And he shows us how to avoid falling for false promises and unfulfilling partners.
By living Jay Shetty’s eight rules, we can all love ourselves, our partner, and the world better than we ever thought possible.
“[A] refreshing look at love as a daily practice… insightful and easy to parse… Shetty combines spiritual wisdom and down-to-earth guidance in a surprisingly seamless way, making for lessons that have real staying power. Those looking to start or strengthen relationships will find this well worth a look.” – Publishers Weekly
Central Places by Delia Cai ★
Audrey Zhou left Hickory Grove, the tiny town in central Illinois where she grew up, as soon as high school ended, and she never looked back. She moved to New York City and became the person she always wanted to be, complete with a high-paying, high-pressure job and a seemingly faultless fiancé, Ben. But if she and Manhattan-bred Ben are to build a life together, in the dream home his parents will surely pay for, Audrey can no longer hide him, or the person she’s become, from those she left behind.
But returning to Hickory Grove is… complicated. Audrey’s relationship with her parents has been soured by years of her mother’s astronomical expectations and slights. The friends she’s shirked for bigger dreams have stayed behind and started families. And then there’s Kyle, the easygoing stoner and her unrequited crush from high school that she finds herself drawn to again. Ben might be a perfect fit for New Audrey, but Kyle was always the only one who truly understood her growing up, and being around him again after all these years has Old Audrey bubbling up to the surface.
Over the course of one disastrous week, Audrey’s proximity to her family and to Kyle forces her to confront the past and reexamine her fraught connection to her roots before she undoes everything she’s worked toward and everything she’s imagined for herself. But is that life really the one she wants?
“Delia [Cai] does an incredible job of capturing the complicated feelings that returning home can evoke—especially when an old boyfriend is involved. I love this intergenerational immigrant tale and Delia’s sharp social commentary about identity, and cultural differences. Delia Cai is an exciting new voice in fiction.” – Emily Giffin, Today
“[A] luminous depiction of the complications of relationships with friends, old and new romantic loves, and immigrant parents.” – R.O. Kwon, Electric Literature
“A meet-the-parents comedy of manners! A town-mouse-country-mouse premise! A well-observed study of a provincial Manhattanite! Central Places has it all. It brims with charm, zippy observations, and the troublesome task of squaring who you are with who you were and who you want to be.” – Maggie Lange, Bustle
Chain of Thorns by Cassandra Clare
fiction / young adult / fantasy / romance.
Cordelia Carstairs has lost everything that matters to her. In only a few short weeks, she has seen her father murdered, her plans to become parabatai with her best friend, Lucie, destroyed, and her marriage to James Herondale crumble before her eyes. Even worse, she is now bound to an ancient demon, Lilith, stripping her of her power as a Shadowhunter.
After fleeing to Paris with Matthew Fairchild, Cordelia hopes to forget her sorrows in the city’s glittering nightlife. But reality intrudes when shocking news comes from home: Tatiana Blackthorn has escaped the Adamant Citadel, and London is under new threat by the Prince of Hell, Belial.
Cordelia returns to a London riven by chaos and dissent. The long-kept secret that Belial is James and Lucie’s grandfather has been revealed by an unexpected enemy, and the Herondales find themselves under suspicion of dealings with demons. Cordelia longs to protect James but is torn between a love for James she has long believed hopeless, and the possibility of a new life with Matthew. Nor can her friends help—ripped apart by their own secrets, they seem destined to face what is coming alone.
For time is short, and Belial’s plan is about to crash into the Shadowhunters of London like a deadly wave, one that will separate Cordelia, Lucie, and the Merry Thieves from help of any kind. Left alone in a shadowy London, they must face Belial’s deadly army. If Cordelia and her friends are going to save their city—and their families—they will have to muster their courage, swallow their pride, and trust one another again. For if they fail, they may lose everything—even their souls.
“Fiendishly romantic.” – Kirkus Reviews
Exiles by Jane Harper ★
fiction / mystery / suspense.
At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.
A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.
Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems.
Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.
An outstanding novel, a brilliant mystery and a heart-pounding read from the author of The Dry, Force of Nature, The Lost Man and The Survivors.
“…lyrically written, immersive and slow-burning… powerful…” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW
“With this book, Harper may well have given her legions of readers exactly what they have been waiting for: a beautifully observed crime novel about regional life featuring the reticent and endearing federal policeman, Aaron Falk… Quietly and inevitably, the secrets and deceptions are unraveled as Falk finds himself deftly woven into the weft of this small community. In Exiles, Falk may at last have come home.” – Sue Turnbull, Sydney Morning Herald
“Another all-consuming mystery from Harper… Fans will relish Falk’s intuitive ‘spider sense’ moments here, and they will be amazed at the simultaneously shocking and tender ending.” – Jane Murphy, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
“Stellar… Writing at the top of her game, Harper effectively uses whodunit tropes to explore her characters’ hidden lives. Readers interested in literate and nuanced mysteries will be eager to see more of Falk.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano
fiction / mystery / suspense / comedy.
Author and single mom Finlay Donovan has been in messes before―after all, she’s a pro at removing bloodstains for various unexpected reasons―but none quite like this. When Finlay and her nanny/partner-in-crime Vero accidentally destroyed a luxury car that they had “borrowed” in the process of saving the life of Finlay’s ex-husband, the Russian mob did her a favor and bought the car for her. And now Finlay owes them.
Mob boss Feliks is still running the show from behind bars, and he has a task for Finlay: find and identify a contract killer before the cops do. The problem is, the killer might be an officer themself.
Luckily, hot cop Nick has just been tasked with starting up a citizen’s police academy, and combined pressure from Finlay’s looming book deadline and Feliks is enough to convince Finlay and Vero to get involved. Through firearm training and forensic classes (and some hands-on research with a tempting detective), Finlay and Vero use their time in police academy to sleuth out the real contract killer to free themselves from the mob’s clutches―all the while dodging spies, confronting Vero’s past, and juggling the daily trials of parenthood.
“A spiral staircase of imaginative twists and captivating characters, Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun never disappoints. And Cosimano continues to burnish her bona fides as she runs the gamut from murder to mirth.” – Jay Strafford, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
“Sassy, ludicrous, sexy… Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is another great addition to this marvelous series. If you’re a fan of crazy off-the-wall antics and hysterical comedy, sexy tension laden chemistry, and an outstanding who’s-the-bad-guy mystery, [this] is for you! Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys highly entertaining mysteries.” – Sandra Hoover, Mystery & Suspense
“The plot moves fast, with lots of action and moments where readers will wonder how a situation will end… Readers who love fast-paced, action-packed mysteries should pick this up.” – Lisa Wieczorek, Library Journal
Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson
nonfiction / memoir.
IS A WICKED DANCE.
MY DREAMS OFTEN COME TRUE–
AND A BLESSING.
Pamela Anderson’s blond bombshell image was ubiquitous in the 1990s. Discovered in the stands during a Canadian football game, she was quickly launched into superstardom, becoming Playboy‘s favorite cover girl and an emblem of Hollywood glamour and sex appeal. Yet the Pamela Anderson we think we know was created through happenstance rather than careful cultivation. Love, Pamela brings forth her true story: that of a small-town girl getting tangled up in her own dream.
Growing up on Vancouver Island, the daughter of young, wild, and unwittingly stylish parents, Pamela lived a hardscrabble childhood but developed a deep love for nature, populating her world with misfits, apparitional friends, and injured animals. Eventually overcoming her natural shyness, Pamela’s restless imagination propelled her into a life few can dream of, from the beaches of Malibu to the coveted scene at the Playboy Mansion. As her star rose, she found herself a fixture of tabloid fodder, at the height of an era when paparazzi tactics were bent on destroying a person’s image and self-esteem.
Pamela forged ahead with grace, finding sanctuary in her love of art and literature, and emerged a devoted mother and activist. Now, having returned to the island of her childhood, after a memorable run starring as Roxie in Chicago on Broadway, Pamela is telling her story, a story of an irrepressible free spirit coming home and discovering herself anew at every turn. With vivid prose interspersed with bursts of original poetry, Love, Pamela is a pensive, layered, and unforgettable memoir.
“[A] pensive memoir… This poetic and free-spirited narrative reflects both Anderson’s naivete and her wild spirit.” – Publishers Weekly
“[An] intimate and well-written journey of self-discovery, uncovering the layers that make up her complicated past and sharing her lifelong thirst for knowledge… Anderson fully takes control of her own story, addressing the salacious aspects but also sharing inspiring tales of survival, motherhood, and activism.” – Lisa Henry, Library Journal
“The iconic Anderson uses a mixture of poetry and prose to present an impressionistic view of a fascinating life… Though there are plenty of wild stories, like getting kicked out of Vegas with her cadre of artist friends, the book also reveals a more serious side… There are still some surprises, despite a life lived in the public eye, and the book paints a picture of a wild spirit, a proud mother, and a seeker that will draw in fans and those who have misunderstood this complicated woman.” – Susan Maguire, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW0
The Love You Save: A Memoir by Goldie Taylor
nonfiction / memoir.
Aunt Gerald takes in anyone who asks, but the conditions are harsh. For her young niece Goldie Taylor, abandoned by her mother and coping with trauma of her own, life in Gerald’s East St. Louis comes with nothing but a threadbare blanket on the living room floor.
But amid the pain and anguish, Goldie discovers a secret. She can find kinship among writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. She can find hope in a nurturing teacher who helps her find her voice. And books, she realizes, can save her life.
Goldie Taylor’s debut memoir shines a light on the strictures of race, class and gender in a post–Jim Crow America while offering a nuanced, empathetic portrait of a family in a pitched battle for its very soul.
Profoundly moving, exquisitely rendered and ultimately uplifting, The Love You Save is a story about hidden strength, perseverance against unimaginable odds, the beauty and pain of girlhood, and the power of the written word.
“Painful and inspiring, Goldie’s memoir is important and unique.” – Zibby Owens, Good Morning America
“…indelible… This powerful examination of survival and self-forgiveness is an emotional reckoning.” – Publishers Weekly
“Taylor’s narrative flows beautifully (even the parts that are hard to read) and integrates seamlessly with her reflections on love, care, and forgiveness. A beyond-compelling testimonial.” – Kathleen McBroom, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
Maame by Jessica George ★
Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.
It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.
When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts”: She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils––and rewards––of putting her heart on the line.
Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.
“George has fashioned an appealing hero here: You can’t help but root for Maddie’s emancipation. Funny, awkward, and sometimes painful, her blossoming is a real delight to witness. A fresh, often funny, always poignant take on the coming-of-age novel.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“A wry, compassionate debut novel… Full of dry humor and entirely relatable moments, Maame is a warmhearted, often hilarious account of one woman’s journey through her awkward yet exciting 20s. Readers will root for Maddie to find self-confidence and happiness, both at work and in her personal life… George’s narrative is a tribute to all women who make the effort––no matter how difficult or confusing––to take control of their own lives.” – Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness
“[A] pitch-perfect debut… The work’s ample magnetism resides in the savvy portrayal of Maddie as a complicated, sharp, and vulnerable person who is trying to figure out adulthood. Readers will revel in this.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“Masterfully balancing comedy, tragedy and tenderness, Maame is a nuanced and powerful coming-of-age story. George candidly captures the false starts, heartbreak and awkwardness of early adulthood with empathy and a necessary dose of humor. Like Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones, Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie Jenkins and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant before her, Maddie is a good reminder that through all of life’s hardships, we can be the authors of our own happy endings, and it is never too late to become who you might have been.” – Stephenie Harrison, BookPage
Night Letter by Sterling Watson
fiction / mystery.
Eighteen-year-old Travis Hollister is always the stranger who comes to town.
As a twelve-year-old escaping a disordered and unhappy home and parents who loved hard but couldn’t make it work, Travis left the Midwest to spend a summer with his grandparents in the Deep South. There he met Delia, the love of his life, who, tragically, was beyond his reach for two reasons—she was his aunt and she was sixteen years old. That summer made Travis guilty of crimes discovered and undiscovered. For his public wrongs, he did time, six years in a Nebraska reform school. For his undiscovered wrongs, he suffers mightily and wants desperately to be shriven. Can he achieve redemption or is he bound for the hell on earth he can imagine all too well?
Driven by his need to rejoin the human community, he becomes the stranger who arrives in Panama City, Florida, searching for Delia, the aunt who was the idol of his twelve-year-old passion. Who is she now? What have the years done to her? Will she welcome the return of Travis or fear it? What will she do about the return of the stranger she once held to her teenage heart.
Jean Paul Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” In the course of this story, Travis learns that other people can also be salvation. Amid a cast of characters struggling with their own needs, desires, tragedies, and, yes, crimes, Travis finds violence, hatred, vengeance, and, in greater measure, friendship, honor, loyalty, and at least a glimpse of the road to redemption.
“An atmospheric coming-of-age story equally touched by noir and Southern soul.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“Compelling… Watson crafts the plot of Night Letter skillfully, keeping the tension between Travis’s past and present tight. Key to that tension is the narrative voice, which draws us into Travis’s struggle to understand his obsession and the danger it can unleash… Memory, he discovers, is a slippery thing, and what emerges from the past has shocking reverberations in the present, and into the future.” – Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
“Watson evocatively blends the dreamy, hormonally addled banality of teen life with the existential anxieties of lost innocence and regret. Fans of S.E. Hinton’s rough-hewn teens and the gothic noir of Tennessee Williams will welcome this bittersweet tale of redemption.” – Publishers Weekly
Waco Rising: David Koresh, the FBI, and the Birth of America’s Modern Militias by Kevin Cook
nonfiction / history / true crime / politics.
In 1993, David Koresh and a band of heavily armed evangelical Christians took on the might of the US government. A two-month siege of their compound in Waco, Texas, ended in a firefight that killed seventy-six, including twenty-five children. America is still picking up the pieces, and we still haven’t heard the full story.
Kevin Cook, who revealed the truth behind a mythic, misunderstood murder in his 2014 book Kitty Genovese, finally provides the full story of what happened at Waco. He gives readers a taste of Koresh’s deadly charisma and takes us behind the scenes at the Branch Davidians’ compound, where “the new Christ” turned his followers into servants and sired seventeen children by a dozen “wives.” In vivid accounts packed with human drama, Cook harnesses never-reported material to reconstruct the FBI’s fifty-one-day siege of the Waco compound in minute-to-minute detail. He sheds new light on the Clinton administration’s approval of a lethal governmental assault in a new, definitive account of the firefight that ended so many lives and triggered the rise of today’s militia movement. Waco drew the battle lines for American extremists—in Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s words, “Waco started this war.” With help from sources as diverse as Branch Davidian survivors and the FBI’s lead negotiator during the siege, Cook draws a straight line from Waco’s ashes to the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol and insurrections yet to come.
Unmissable reading for anyone interested in the truth of what happened in Texas three decades ago, Waco Rising is chillingly relevant today. Here is the spark that ignited today’s antigovernment militias.
“In describing the standoff with exquisite detail and care, Cook masterfully portrays the scope of the violence and heartbreak on all sides. The author’s meticulous history and character portraits also serve as timely reminders of the danger of homegrown militias and the cultlike figures who often lead them. Unfortunately, this material is still fertile ground in America. A thorough, engaging work that reminds us of the humanity behind the tragedy.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“[F]ast-paced… Drawing from extensive interviews with surviving group members, Cook is at his strongest when discussing the day-to-day life of the Davidians under their unstable, self-appointed prophet, David Koresh.” – Publishers Weekly
“Cult leaders are fascinating creatures, not only for their undeniable charisma but also for their powerful hold on their followers and their tendency to self-destruct… In chilling detail, Cook describes Koresh’s descent into religious paranoia, putting him on the path that would lead to his confrontation with the FBI.” – Booklist