Old Babes in the Woods

Best New Books: Week of 3/7/23

“What if we spent less time shouting into the void and being washed over with shouting in return-and more time talking in rooms to those for whom our words are intended? If we have only so much attention to give, and only so much time on this earth, we might want to think about reinfusing our attention and our communication with the intention that both deserve.” – Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

All That Is Mine I Carry With Me by William Landay

fiction / mystery / suspense.

All That Is Mine I Carry With MeOne afternoon in November 1975, ten-year-old Miranda Larkin comes home from school to find her house eerily quiet. Her mother is missing. Nothing else is out of place. There is no sign of struggle. Her mom’s pocketbook remains in the front hall, in its usual spot.

So begins a mystery that will span a lifetime. What happened to Jane Larkin?

Investigators suspect Jane’s husband. A criminal defense attorney, Dan Larkin would surely be an expert in outfoxing the police.

But no evidence is found linking him to a crime, and the case fades from the public’s memory, a simmering, unresolved riddle. Jane’s three children–Alex, Jeff, and Miranda–are left to be raised by the man who may have murdered their mother.

Two decades later, the remains of Jane Larkin are found. The investigation is awakened. The children, now grown, are forced to choose sides. With their father or against him? Guilty or innocent? And what happens if they are wrong?

A tale about family–family secrets and vengeance, but also family love–All That Is Mine I Carry With Me masterfully grapples with a primal question: When does loyalty reach its limit?

“This is a toboggan ride of a novel, sometimes veering wildly, but its overall effect is exhilarating.” – Connie Fletcher, Booklist

“Part crime drama, part psychological suspense, Landay’s new novel is absolutely unputdownable, with an ingenious plot and a cast of comprehensive, accurately depicted characters… Fans of Megan Goldin and Hank Phillippi Ryan and those who like open endings, complex plots, stories about family dynamics, and convoluted whodunits will devour this novel.” – Debbie Haupt, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

fiction / suspense / mystery.

Birnam WoodFive years ago, Mira Bunting founded a guerrilla gardening group: Birnam Wood. An undeclared, unregulated, sometimes-criminal, sometimes-philanthropic gathering of friends, this activist collective plants crops wherever no one will notice: on the sides of roads, in forgotten parks, and neglected backyards. For years, the group has struggled to break even. Then Mira stumbles on an answer, a way to finally set the group up for the long term: a landslide has closed the Korowai Pass, cutting off the town of Thorndike. Natural disaster has created an opportunity, a sizable farm seemingly abandoned.

But Mira is not the only one interested in Thorndike. Robert Lemoine, the enigmatic American billionaire, has snatched it up to build his end-times bunker–or so he tells Mira when he catches her on the property. Intrigued by Mira, Birnam Wood, and their entrepreneurial spirit, he suggests they work this land. But can they trust him? And, as their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust each other?

A gripping psychological thriller from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries, Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its wit, drama, and immersion in character. A brilliantly constructed consideration of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is an unflinching examination of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.

“Persuasive and devastating.” – Laura McLean-Ferris, 4Columns

“Twisty and surprising, and Franzen-like in its rich character development and clear-eyed descriptions of social issues like cultural appropriation, class, wealth inequality, nature and the universal human desire to be liked.” – Samantha Schoech, San Francisco Chronicle

“[Eleanor] Catton has come roaring back with a propulsive thriller… [She] is merciless to her characters and extremely generous to her readers, deploying buoyant, seemingly effortless prose.” – James Tarny, Bloomberg

“Sharp, sizzling… Birnam Wood is tightly wound and psychologically thrilling, and Catton’s fans and readers new to her powers will savor it to the end.” – June Sawyers, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“As saturated with moral scrutiny and propulsive plotting as 19th-century greats; it’s a twisty thriller via Charles Dickens, only with drones… Readers will hold their breath until the last page… This blistering look at the horrors of late capitalism manages to also be a wildly fun read.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Confidence by Rafael Frumkin

fiction / comedy.

ConfidenceAt seventeen, Ezra Green doesn’t have a lot going for him. He is shorter than average, gap-toothed, internet-addicted, and halfway to being legally blind. He’s also on his way to Last Chance Camp, the final stop before juvie.

Ezra’s summer at Last Chance turns life-changing when he meets Orson, brilliant and Adonis-like, with a mind for hustling. Together, the two embark upon what promises to be a fruitful career of scam artistry. But when they try to pull off their biggest scam yet–NuLife, a corporation that promises its consumers a lifetime of bliss–things start to spin wildly out of control. Searing and charming, Confidence is a story for anyone who knows that the American Dream is just another pyramid scheme.

“Laugh-out-loud funny in the way it unapologetically skewers capitalism, the ‘American Dream,’ and the wellness industry, Confidence is a wild ride and the perfect read for anyone who loves watching true crime documentaries.” – David Vogel, BuzzFeed

“…exuberant… Frumkin’s sharp observations and clever plotting echo the Theranos scandal and the NXIVM cult… In the end, Frumkin advances the subversive notion that love might be the biggest con of all. For the reader, the deception is thoroughly enjoyable.” – Publishers Weekly

“A Gatsby for the 21st century, this book offers a satiric look at corporate-think, the desire for easy fixes, and the dissolution of the American Dream. Written with a dry, tongue-in-cheek wit, the novel also explores how the desire for love and connection can cause a kind of obliviousness. Perfect for fans of social satire and literary fiction.” – Elisabeth Clark, Library Journal

The Curator by Owen King

fiction / fantasy / horror / historical fiction.

The CuratorIt begins in an unnamed city nicknamed “the Fairest”, it is distinguished by many things from the river fair to the mountains that split the municipality in half; its theaters and many museums; the Morgue Ship; and, like all cities, but maybe especially so, by its essential unmappability.

Dora, a former domestic servant at the university has a secret desire—to find where her brother went after he died, believing that the answer lies within The Museum of Psykical Research, where he worked when Dora was a child. With the city amidst a revolutionary upheaval, where citizens like Robert Barnes, her lover and a student radical, are now in positions of authority, Dora contrives to gain the curatorship of the half-forgotten museum only to find it all but burnt to the ground, with the neighboring museums oddly untouched. Robert offers her one of these, The National Museum of the Worker. However, neither this museum, nor the street it is hidden away on, nor Dora herself, are what they at first appear to be. Set against the backdrop of a nation on the verge of collapse, Dora’s search for the truth behind the mystery she’s long concealed will unravel a monstrous conspiracy and bring her to the edge of worlds.

“An impeccably crafted, wildly imaginative world… at once fantastical and yet grounded in a too-familiar reality of corrosive greed and power grabs. With dark humor and a keen eye for detail, King invites readers into a genre-defying narrative that asks readers to imagine what might be and what could be, as a woman stands between two worlds of her own, asking the same.” – Kerry McHugh, Shelf Awareness

“King’s strange, terrifying novel is part gothic thriller and part absurd, Bulgakovesque government satire. Wildly creative, this novel weaves and dips into class struggle and resentment, dark comedy, and bittersweet romance that will delight fans of twisty dark fantasies.” – Leah von Essen, Booklist

“Sprawling, densely populated, intricately plotted… with vivid prose, excellent minor characters, and a scrappy, every-which-way inventiveness. Dickens novel meets Hieronymus Bosch painting—dark, chaotic fun.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

The Fifth Wound by Aurora Mattia

fiction / fantasy.

The Fifth WoundThe Fifth Wound is a phantasmagorical roman à clef about passion as a way of life. In one dimension, this is a love story–Aurora & Ezekiel–a separation and a reunion. In another, we witness a tale of multiple traumatic encounters with transphobic violence. And on yet another plane, a story of ecstatic visionary experience swirls, shatters, and sparkles. Featuring time travel, medieval nuns, knifings, and t4t romance, The Fifth Wound indulges the blur between fantasy and reality. Its winding sentences open like portals, inviting the reader into the intimacy of embodiment–both its pain and its pleasures.

“[A] strange book in all the best ways… Chocked full of winding, brilliant sentences sure to turn readers’ minds inside out, this is a tale of trans love and fantasy that engages with the full scope of the good, the frightening, and the profound.” – Isle McElroy, Vulture

“Mattia flouts genre conventions with a fierce debut about love, trauma, and the publishing industry’s gatekeepers… Aurora’s biting voice is undeniable… Lovers of experimental fiction will find what they’re looking for.” – Publishers Weekly

“The excesses of Aurora Mattia’s debut novel are also part of what makes it real… [the] hyperemotionality takes the reader on a fantastic journey that will leave them hopeful, sad and wrecked—in the possible best way.” – Ell Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, Xtra*

Button Hoopla Read

Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult by Michelle Dowd

nonfiction / memoir / true crime / religion.

ForagerMy family prepared me for the end of the world, but I know how to survive on what the earth yields.

As a child, Michelle Dowd grew up on a mountain in the Angeles National Forest. She was born into an ultra-religious cult—or the Field as they called it—started in the 1930s by her grandfather, a mercurial, domineering, and charismatic man who convinced generations of young male followers that he would live 500 years and ascend to the heavens when doomsday came. Comfort and care are sins, Michelle is told. As a result, she was forced to learn the skills necessary to battle hunger, thirst, and cold; she learned to trust animals more than humans; and most importantly, she learned how to survive in the natural world.

At the Field, a young Michelle lives a life of abuse, poverty, and isolation, as she obeys her family’s rigorous religious and patriarchal rules—which are so extreme that Michelle is convinced her mother would sacrifice her, like Abraham and Isaac, if instructed by God. She often wears the same clothes for months at a time; she is often ill and always hungry for both love and food. She is taught not to trust Outsiders, and especially not Quitters, nor her own body and its warnings.

But as Michelle gets older, she realizes she has the strength to break free. Focus on what will sustain, not satiate you, she tells herself. Use everything. Waste nothing. Get to know the intricacies of the land, like the intricacies of your body. And so she does.

Using stories of individual edible plants and their uses to anchor each chapter, Forager is both a searing coming-of-age story and a meditation on the ways in which understanding nature can lead to freedom, even joy.

“…poignant… While the subject matter is heavy, Dowd’s self-assured prose ensures that the reader is never crushed. Beautifully delicate illustrations and foraging tips also keep things bright. An inspiring and insightful tale of resilience in the face of adversity, this book is hard to put down.” – Michelle Ross, Booklist

“…moving and intense… enthralling… Heartbreaking and difficult to put down, this book lyrically chronicles an impressive rise out of illness, poverty, and indoctrination… A harrowing, engrossing story of survival amid painful circumstances.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] surprisingly plucky debut… an undeniably powerful saga of personal survival.” – Publishers Weekly

The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten

fiction / fantasy / romance.

The Foxglove KingWhen Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.

Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die.

Lore is thrust into the Sainted King’s glittering court, where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted. Guarded by Gabriel, a duke-turned-monk, and continually running up against Bastian, August’s ne’er-do-well heir, Lore tangles in politics, religion, and forbidden romance as she attempts to navigate a debauched and opulent society.

But the life she left behind in the catacombs is catching up with her. And even as Lore makes her way through the Sainted court above, they might be drawing closer than she thinks.

“[A] stunning fantasy… the fascinating magic system and ever-present danger keep the pages flying. Readers won’t want to miss this.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Whitten’s new novel showcases her witty dialogue and captivating prose. Romantic fantasy fans will enjoy this and await the next in the series.” – Kristi Chadwick, Library Journal

“With a system of dark magic; instant chemistry and tension among Lore, Gabriel, and Bastian; and revelations that bring to light new questions, this is an intriguing beginning to a series that effortlessly balances character development with plot and atmosphere. A perfect blend of shadowy gods, forbidden romance, and political court drama.” – Kirkus Reviews

The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland

fiction / fantasy / historical fiction / horror.

The God of EndingsCollette LeSange is a lonely artist who heads an elite fine arts school for children in upstate New York. Her youthful beauty masks the dark truth of her life: she has endured centuries of turmoil and heartache in the wake of her grandfather’s long-ago decision to make her immortal like himself. Now in 1984, Collette finds her life upended by the arrival of a gifted child from a troubled home, the return of a stalking presence from her past, and her own mysteriously growing hunger.

Combining brilliant prose with breathtaking suspense, The God of Endings serves as a larger exploration of the human condition in all its complexity, asking us the most fundamental question: is life in this world a gift or a curse?

“A masterful debut novel… Holland proves herself to be the god of endings as she ties everything together and delivers a multi-layered emotional punch at the end of the novel that both questions and affirms the nature of life and human existence… Let’s hope that [this] is just the beginning for Jacqueline Holland.” – John Mauro, Grimdark Magazine

“Holland debuts with a reflective and poetic take on the nature of immortality… Holland’s refreshing vampires lean philosophical as they struggle with immense grief and loneliness. The intrinsic magic of her worldbuilding, meanwhile, creates a consistent feeling of mystery. The result will especially wow fans of Katherine Arden and Sophie Anderson.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Holland’s well-crafted debut features atmospheric prose and excellent character development. Great for fans of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and V. E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.” – Leigh Verburg, Library Journal

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell

fiction / mystery / suspense.

The Golden SpoonProduction for the tenth season of Bake Week is ready to begin at the gothic estate of host and celebrity chef Betsy Martin, and everything seems perfect. The tent is up, the top-tier ingredients are aligned, and the crew has their cameras at the ready.

The six contestants work to prove their culinary talents over the course of five days, while Betsy is less than thrilled to share the spotlight with a new cohost—the brash and unpredictable Archie Morris. But as the baking competition commences, things begin to go awry. At first, it’s merely sabotage—sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high—but when a body is discovered, everyone is a suspect.

A deliciously suspenseful thriller for murder mystery buffs and avid bakers alike, The Golden Spoon will keep you guessing until the very last page.

“A delicious concoction: two shakes Agatha Christie and a cup of Great British Bake Off.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Byzantine chicanery seasoned with a dash of revenge greets six contestants gathered for Bake Week on the property of a crumbling Vermont manse, in Maxwell’s outstanding debut… Sweet and savory turns deadly sour in this fast-paced, entertaining romp scheduled for a Hulu miniseries. Maxwell is off to a great start.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A delectable tour de force of baking and mayhem, Maxwell’s debut mystery is one to savor… With meticulous plotting and the grand backdrop of a country home, this is a thoroughly entertaining, well-crafted read. Highly recommended for all mystery collections and for those who appreciate an ensemble cast in their whodunits.” – Amy Nolan, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

The Gospel of Orla by Eoghan Walls


The Gospel of OrlaA stunning debut novel from the Northern Irish poet Eoghan Walls, The Gospel of Orla is the coming-of-age story of a young girl, Orla, and the man she meets who has an astonishing and unique ability. It is also a road novel that takes us across the north of England after the two flee Orla’s village together. Here the mysteries of faith charge full bore into the vagaries of contemporary mores. A humorous, wise, deeply human and sometimes breathtaking work of lyrical fiction.

“[An] entrancing debut… full of pathos and humor… By blending a fable-like structure and Orla’s grittily realistic voice, Wells has created a consistently surprising, evocative, almost impossible to put down, and gloriously original work.” – Alexander Moran, Booklist

“[A] heartbreaking journey into adulthood and acceptance. Readers of this lyrical debut will wish spunky Orla all the best.” – Katharine Phenix, Library Reads

“Somehow, The Gospel of Orla is simultaneously zany and sincere, tackling both parental loss and a whimsical, yet heart breaking, look at a post-Christianity Jesus. This is a triumphant debut for Walls and makes me excited for his next work.” – Isaiah Scandrette, American Booksellers Association

Button Hoopla Read

The Kind Worth Saving by Peter Swanson

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Kind Worth SavingThere was always something slightly dangerous about Joan. So, when she turns up at private investigator Henry Kimball’s office asking him to investigate her husband, he can’t help feeling ill at ease. Just the sight of her stirs up a chilling memory: he knew Joan in his previous life as a high school English teacher, when he was at the center of a tragedy.

Now Joan needs his help in proving that her husband is cheating. But what should be a simple case of infidelity becomes much more complicated when Kimball finds two bodies in an uninhabited suburban home with a “for sale” sign out front. Suddenly it feels like the past is repeating itself, and Henry must go back to one of the worst days of his life to uncover the truth.

Is it possible that Joan knows something about that day, something she’s hidden all these years? Could there still be a killer out there, someone who believes they have gotten away with murder? Henry is determined to find out, but as he steps closer to the truth, a murderer is getting closer to him, and in this hair-raising game of cat and mouse only one of them will survive.

“Readers will be hard-pressed not to devour this in one sitting to ascertain whether, and how, past and present connect.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] spine-tingling quest to expose evil before evil wins. Psychological thriller fanatics will scramble to complete this satisfyingly twisty novel.” – Mary Todd Chesnut, Library Journal

“This isn’t exactly a sequel to Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing, though several of the characters, including the gloriously warped Lily Kintner, reappear here, but it does reprise the same creepy theme: sociopathic spiders and the not-quite-innocent flies they attempt to entrap in their labyrinthine webs (when they aren’t trapping one another). Only this time Swanson ups the ante dramatically… It isn’t so much plot twists that keep the reader reeling here (though there are plenty of those) as it is the growing realization of the horrors lurking within the minds of seemingly ordinary people.” – Bill Ott, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner

fiction / historical fiction / mystery / fantasy / suspense.

The London Séance Society1873. At an abandoned château on the outskirts of Paris, a dark séance is about to take place, led by acclaimed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire. Known worldwide for her talent in conjuring the spirits of murder victims to ascertain the identities of the people who killed them, she is highly sought after by widows and investigators alike.

Lenna Wickes has come to Paris to find answers about her sister’s death, but to do so, she must embrace the unknown and overcome her own logic-driven bias against the occult. When Vaudeline is beckoned to England to solve a high-profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy. But as the women team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve the mystery, they begin to suspect that they are not merely out to solve a crime, but perhaps entangled in one themselves…

“[A] captivating feminist gothic tale… [a] well-paced adventure [that] reaches an explosive climax… Penner expertly fits the pieces together. Fans of the genre will eat this up.” – Publishers Weekly

“A great choice for fans of historical European settings, the power of women, and the fringes of the paranormal.” – Alene Moroni, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Button Hoopla Listen

Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova

fiction / horror / fantasy.

MonstrilioGrieving mother Magos cuts out a piece of her deceased eleven-year-old son Santiago’s lung. Acting on fierce maternal instinct and the dubious logic of an old folktale, she nurtures the lung until it gains sentience, growing into the carnivorous little Monstrilio she keeps hidden within the walls of her family’s decaying Mexico City estate. Eventually, Monstrilio begins to resemble the Santiago he once was, but his innate impulses—though curbed by his biological and chosen family’s communal care—threaten to destroy this fragile second chance at life.

A thought-provoking meditation on grief, acceptance, and the monstrous sides of love and loyalty, Gerardo Sámano Córdova blends bold imagination and evocative prose with deep emotional rigor. Told in four acts that span the globe from Brooklyn to Berlin, Monstrilio offers, with uncanny clarity, a cathartic and precise portrait of being human.

“Bizarre and brilliant, Gerardo Sámano Córdova’s Monstrilio is a sort of modern Frankenstein…” – Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle

“Gerardo Sámano Córdova pens a creative, visionary, and fantastic examination of grief and love; parents and children; friends and lovers. Once you start the book, you won’t be able to un-read it. Unforgettable is the most perfect word here.” – Barnes & Noble

“[A] sly and unsettling debut… This creepy work of psychological horror gives readers plenty to chew on.” – Publishers Weekly

“Truly unsettling at times, the story often leans towards magical realism, depicting a reality where fantastical elements exist and tragic events become a palpable entity… Sámano Córdova creates complex characters who make difficult decisions that blur the lines between being human and being a monster. Fans of Eric LaRocca, Agustina Bazterrica, and Carmen Maria Machado will appreciate this unique take on the horror genre.” – Verónica N. Rodríguez, Booklist

A Most Intriguing Lady by Sarah Ferguson

fiction / historical fiction / mystery / romance.

A Most Intriguing LadyVictorian London was notorious for its pickpockets. But in the country houses of the elite, gentleman burglars, art thieves and con men preyed on the rich and titled. Wealthy victims–with their pride and reputation at stake–would never go to the police. What they needed was a society insider, one of their own, a person of discretion and finely tuned powers of observation, adept at navigating intrigue.

That person was Lady Mary Montagu Douglas Scott, the youngest child of Queen Victoria’s close friends the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. Bookish, fiercely intelligent, and a keen observer, Mary has deliberately cultivated a mousey persona that allows her to remain overlooked and significantly underestimated by all. It’s the perfect cover for a sleuth, a role she stumbles into when trying to assist a close friend during a house party hosted by her parents at their stately Scottish home, Drumlanrig Castle.

It is at this party where Lady Mary also meets Colonel Walter Trefusis, a distinguished and extremely handsome war veteran. Tortured by memories of combat, Walter, like Mary, lives a double life, with a desk job in Whitehall providing a front for his role in the British Intelligence Service. The two form an unlikely alliance to solve a series of audacious crimes–and indulge in a highly charged on-off romance.

Pacy, romantic, and fun, A Most Intriguing Lady documents one remarkable woman’s ability to be both the perfect lady, and a perfectly talented detective… and, of course, to find love too.

“[A] superior blend of mystery and romance from the Duchess of York… The author never lets the romantic plotline dominate and plausibly depicts the struggles of a capable woman who empowers herself to achieve her own potential. Claudia Gray fans will welcome a sequel.” – Publishers Weekly

“Richly evokes the estates, house parties, and diversions of the Victorian period.” – Kirkus Reviews

Night Flight to Paris by Cara Black

fiction / mystery / historical fiction / suspense.

Night Flight to ParisThree missions. Two cities. One shot to win the war.

October 1942: it’s been two years since American markswoman Kate Rees was sent to Paris on a British Secret Service mission to assassinate Hitler. Since then, she has left spycraft behind to take a training job as a sharpshooting instructor in the Scottish Highlands. But her quiet life is violently disrupted when Colonel Stepney, her former handler, drags her back into the fray for a dangerous three-pronged mission in Paris.

Each task is more dangerous than the next: Deliver a package of penicillin to sick children. Assassinate a high-ranking German operative whose knowledge of secret invasion plans could turn the tide of the war against the Allies. Rescue a British agent who once saved Kate’s life, and get out.

Kate will encounter sheiks and spies, poets and partisans, as she races to keep up with the constantly-shifting nature of her assignment, showing every ounce of her Oregonian grit in the process.

New York Times bestselling author Cara Black has crafted another heart-stopping thrill-ride that reveals a portrait of Paris at the height of the Nazi Occupation.

“Heart-racing… Chances that you’ll be able to put Black’s thriller down once you’ve picked it up Slim to none.” – Washington Post

“Beyond Black’s encyclopedic knowledge of Paris, her deft interweaving of WWII history and spycraft with a relatable female protagonist puts Three Hours in Paris on par with other top thrillers about botched missions followed by harrowing escapes.” – Paula Woods, Los Angeles Times

“[Black] excels at setting vivid scenes, creating lively characters and maintaining pulse-elevating suspense. Three Hours in Paris, with its timetable structure and its hunt for a covert operative, recalls such comparable works as Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal and Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle.” – Wall Street Journal

The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence by David Waldstreicher

nonfiction / biography / history / writing.

The Odyssey of Phillis WheatleyAdmired by George Washington, ridiculed by Thomas Jefferson, published in London, and read far and wide, Phillis Wheatley led one of the most extraordinary American lives. Seized in West Africa and forced into slavery as a child, she was sold to a merchant family in Boston, where she became a noted poet at a young age. Mastering the Bible, Greek and Latin translations, and the works of Pope and Milton, she composed elegies for local elites, celebrated political events, praised warriors, and used her verse to variously lampoon, question, and assert the injustice of her enslaved condition. “Can I then but pray / Others may never feel tyrannic sway?” By doing so, she added her voice to a vibrant, multisided conversation about race, slavery, and discontent with British rule; before and after her emancipation, her verses shook up racial etiquette and used familiar forms to create bold new meanings. Her life demonstrated that the American Revolution both strengthened and limited Black slavery. Indeed, she helped make it so.

In this new biography, the historian David Waldstreicher offers the deepest account to date of Wheatley’s life and works, correcting myths, reconstructing intimate friendships, and deepening our understanding of the revolutionary era. Throughout The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley, he demonstrates the continued vitality and resonance of a woman who wrote, in a founding gesture of American literature, “Thy Power, O Liberty, makes strong the weak / And (wond’rous instinct) Ethiopians speak.”

“[An] expansive new biography… The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley is a rich and necessary book…” – Farah Jasmine Griffin, Oprah Daily

“…magisterial… Waldstreicher excels at teasing out the subtle political messages within Wheatley’s poetry… The historical scholarship dazzles and the incisive analysis of Wheatley’s poetry suggests she had a more ‘liberatory political agenda’ than she’s often credited for. The result is an indispensable take on an essential early American poet.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[Waldstreicher] places Wheatley squarely in her times and shows how she navigated them… Waldstreicher vividly re-creates Wheatley’s Boston… His portrait of colonial-era slavery is chilling, and he makes expert use of documents to show its cruelty.” – Mary Ann Gwinn, Star Tribune

The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley… puts [Wheatley] smack in the middle of the raging debate over the relationship between the American Revolution and slavery… [Waldstreicher] is known for deeply researched, tightly written studies, which aim to complicate any comforting idealization of the founding… [The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley] is a founder biography of sorts, treating Wheatley not only as the progenitor of the African American literary tradition but an important political voice in the creation of the nation itself.” – Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times

Old Babes in the Woods: Stories by Margaret Atwood

fiction / fantasy.

Old Babes in the WoodsMargaret Atwood has established herself as one of the most visionary and canonical authors in the world. This collection of fifteen extraordinary stories–some of which have appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine–explore the full warp and weft of experience, speaking to our unique times with Atwood’s characteristic insight, wit and intellect.

The two intrepid sisters of the title story grapple with loss and memory on a perfect summer evening; “Impatient Griselda” explores alienation and miscommunication with a fresh twist on a folkloric classic; and “My Evil Mother” touches on the fantastical, examining a mother-daughter relationship in which the mother purports to be a witch. At the heart of the collection are seven extraordinary stories that follow a married couple across the decades, the moments big and small that make up a long life of uncommon love–and what comes after.

Returning to short fiction for the first time since her 2014 collection Stone Mattress, Atwood showcases both her creativity and her humanity in these remarkable tales which by turns delight, illuminate, and quietly devastate.

“Honest and artful depictions of aging and loss…” – Kirkus Reviews

“Atwood explores love and loss in this brilliant collection that mixes fantastical stories about the afterlife with realism… She’s writing at the top of her considerable powers here.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson


Pineapple StreetDarley, the eldest daughter in the well-connected, carefully guarded, old-money Stockton family, followed her heart, trading her job and inheritance for motherhood, sacrificing more of herself than she ever intended. Sasha, middle-class and from New England, has married into the Brooklyn Heights family and finds herself cast as the arriviste outsider, wondering how she might ever understand their WASP-y ways. Georgiana, the baby of the family, has fallen in love with someone she can’t (and really shouldn’t) have and must confront the kind of person she wants to be.

Rife with the indulgent pleasures of life among New York’s one-percenters, Pineapple Street is a smart escapist novel that sparkles with wit. It’s about the peculiar unknowability of someone else’s family, the miles between the haves and have-nots and everything in between, and the insanity of first love.

“This is a literary version of The Real Housewives. Filled with fun, sometimes sloppy, characters with an enchanting and enthralling plot. This is the perfect book to shake off the winter snow with. Hot, hot hot.” – Debutiful

“Love is at the heart of this sparkling debut novel by Jenny Jackson, which excavates old money and contemporary problems with satiric flair.” – Southern Living

“Every single character bursts off the page. Seriously. Pineapple Street is just the right witty, entertaining story to usher in spring.” – Real Simple

“A delicious new Gilded Age family drama—almost a satire—set in the leafy enclaves of Brooklyn Heights… A lighthearted book that captures a slice of New York society, a guilty pleasure that also feels like a sociological text, punctuated with very particular references to restaurants, preschools, nightclubs, and other pillars of urban life in 2023.” – Vogue

Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock by Jenny Odell

nonfiction / philosophy / psychology / self-help.

Saving TimeIn her first book, How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell wrote about the importance of disconnecting from the “attention economy” to spend time in quiet contemplation. But what if you don’t have time to spend?

In order to answer this seemingly simple question, Odell took a deep dive into the fundamental structure of our society and found that the clock we live by was built for profit, not people. This is why our lives, even in leisure, have come to seem like a series of moments to be bought, sold, and processed ever more efficiently. Odell shows us how our painful relationship to time is inextricably connected not only to persisting social inequities but to the climate crisis, existential dread, and a lethal fatalism.

This dazzling, subversive, and deeply hopeful book offers us different ways to experience time–inspired by pre-industrial cultures, ecological cues, and geological timescales–that can bring within reach a more humane, responsive way of living. As planet-bound animals, we live inside shortening and lengthening days alongside gardens growing, birds migrating, and cliffs eroding; the stretchy quality of waiting and desire; the way the present may suddenly feel marbled with childhood memory; the slow but sure procession of a pregnancy; the time it takes to heal from injuries. Odell urges us to become stewards of these different rhythms of life in which time is not reducible to standardized units and instead forms the very medium of possibility.

Saving Time tugs at the seams of reality as we know it–the way we experience time itself–and rearranges it, imagining a world not centered on work, the office clock, or the profit motive. If we can “save” time by imagining a life, identity, and source of meaning outside these things, time might also save us.

“[A] rigorous, wide-ranging examination of time… An erudite investigation of our culture’s understanding of time.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[An] electric call to reject the quantitative view of time in favor of a more expansive, less linear understanding that fosters interpersonal connection and social and ecological justice… This is a moving and provocative game changer.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] mix of history, philosophy and personal narrative… Odell isn’t trying to tell anyone what to do. She doesn’t see herself as ‘fixing anything,’ she said, but as mapping out a societal problem.” – Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times

“With Saving Time, Odell aims her incisive gaze more fully on our relationship with the panoptic concept of time… Odell mixes rigorously cited research, spanning philosophy, ecology, and indigenous history, with her own personal time sojourn… Saving Time is the rare book that does more than meet the current moment, it defines it.” – Jeff Connelly, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by KJ Charles

fiction / romance / historical fiction.

The Secret Lives of Country GentlemenAbandoned by his father as a small child, Sir Gareth Inglis has grown up prickly, cold, and well-used to disappointment. Even so, he longs for a connection, falling headfirst into a passionate anonymous affair that’s over almost as quickly as it began. Bitter at the sudden rejection, Gareth has little time to lick his wounds: his father has died, leaving him the family title, a rambling manor on the remote Romney Marsh…  and the den of cutthroats and thieves that make its intricate waterways their home.

Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. His family is his life… which is why when the all-too-familiar new baronet testifies against Joss’s sister for a hanging offense, Joss acts fast, blackmailing Gareth with the secret of their relationship to force him to recant. Their reunion is anything but happy and the path forward everything but smooth, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. It’s a long road from there—full of danger and mysteries to be solved—yet somehow, along the way, this well-mannered gentleman may at last find true love with the least likely of scoundrels.

“[A] dark and stunning love story… The author’s gift for historical fiction is on clear display, as Romney Marsh, Kent, is vividly evoked with both its scenic landmarks and local fauna… The few threads left dangling at the end only whet the appetite for future books. Readers will devour this.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Charles successfully balances a complicated suspense plot and an emotionally resonant romance… Charles skillfully sketches the early 19th-century Kentish marshes, allowing readers to understand the geography of the story without overwhelming them. This novel launches a delightful new Regency romance series from Charles; readers will be eagerly anticipating the next installment.” – Brigid Black, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“…action-packed and intrigue-filled… The various financial and internecine quarrels are convincingly rendered and the supporting characters and setting finely textured, but it’s the tenderness and steam that emanate from Gareth and Joss that really give the story its spark… Fans of Charles’ Society of Gentlemen series and new readers alike will adore this complex and emotional historical romance.” – Carole V. Bell, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

Button Hoopla ReadButton Hoopla Listen

Tweakerworld: A Memoir by Jason Yaman

nonfiction / memoir.

TweakerworldMeet Jason: a college educated documentary film producer, cat parent of two, and one of San Francisco’s top drug dealers.

After Jason’s world falls apart in LA, he moves to Berkeley for a fresh start with his kid brother. Just one problem: his long-closeted Adderall addiction has exploded into an out-of-control crystal meth binge. Within weeks, Jason plunges into the sprawling ParTy n’ ’Play subculture of the Bay Area’s gay community. It is a wildly decadent scene of drugs, group sex, and criminals, and yet it is also filled with surprising characters, people who are continually subverting Jason’s own presumptions of the stereotypical tweaker.

Soon Jason becomes a dealer on the pretense of researching this tweaker world for a project that will carry him, like a life raft, back to the shores of a normal life. But his friendly entrepreneurial spirit and trusting disposition disarm clients and rival dealers alike. The money begins to roll in as demand increases to frightening levels. Suddenly, Jason is in control of the entire crystal meth market for San Francisco’s gay community, even as he finds himself nodding off behind the wheel of his car, or walking down the sidewalk. As friends and family work frantically to steer him towards recovery, Jason resists, chasing something else: a sleepless nirvana fueled by sex, drugs, and the Tweakerworld.

With painful honesty, Jason Yamas has crafted a landmark narrative that is not just a personal account of addiction, but a portrait of a vulnerable, largely undocumented community of people who, for many reasons, have been marginalized to the point of invisibility.

“…compelling…” – Sophia June, Nylon

“Yamas describes the experience of living in the drug-fueled ‘party and play’ subculture in unflinching, gory detail from the unique perspective of both a one-time addict and drug dealer.” – Ben Goggin, NBC News 

“[A] turbulent memoir… Wisely, he chooses to avoid moralizing, focusing instead on his gripping ‘experiential journey’… a testament to resolve and a remarkable view of a multifaceted, and at-times destructive, subculture.” – Publishers Weekly

Button Hoopla Read

War Diary by Yevgenia Belorusets; translated by Greg Nissan

nonfiction / current events.

War DiaryA monumental, deeply penetrating document of life in Kyiv during the first forty-one days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The young artist and writer Yevgenia Belorusets was in her hometown of Kyiv when Putin’s “special military operation” against Ukraine began on the morning of February 24, 2022. With the shelling of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, and Kherson, the war with Russia had clearly, irreversibly begun: “I thought, this has been allowed to happen, it is a crime against everything human, against a great common space where we live and hope for a future.”

With power and clarity, War Diary documents the long beginning of the devastation and its effects on the ordinary residents of Ukraine; what it feels like to interact with the strangers who suddenly become your “countrymen”; the struggle to make sense of a good mood on a spring day; the new danger of a routine coffee run. First published in the German newspaper Der Spiegel and then translated and released each day on the site ISOLARII (and on Artforum), War Diary had an immediate impact worldwide: it was translated by an anonymous collective of writers on Weibo; read live by Margaret Atwood on International Women’s Day; adapted for an episode of This American Life on NPR; and brought to the 2022 Venice Biennale by President Zelensky as part of the pavilion “This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom.”

“How do you remain an artist at such a moment of terror? One answer might come in the form of Belorusets’s war diary which she began publishing as the invasion started and which has gained the appreciation of writers like Margaret Atwood and Miranda July. Through this act of documentation, in words and photographs, she is processing the total collapse of her world and keeping alive her openness, her powers of observation.” – Gal Beckerman, The Atlantic

“The surreal circumstances Belorusets depicts, both in her writing and in the accompanying color photographs, set against the drama of war, are quietly disturbing. By showing how the war forced people to adapt to create any semblance of normalcy, she creates a compelling portrait of a nation under siege as well as the inspiring resilience of ordinary Ukrainians… A soberingly spare and humane record of disastrous events.” – Kirkus Reviews

Weyward by Emilia Hart

fiction / historical fiction / fantasy.

WeywardI am a Weyward, and wild inside.

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she begins to suspect that her great aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family’s grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart’s Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.

Weyward is a bewitching historical fiction that will entrance fans of Alice Hoffman with its take on natural magic and sisterhood.” – Tierney Bricker, E!

“It seems to be the year of the witch book, and this is the best I’ve read so far. [A] gripping debut…” – Joanne Finney, Good Housekeeping

Weyward glows and glimmers with hidden powers, thrills and danger…[and] draws readers inexorably to a glorious conclusion that celebrates connectedness and the power of women and nature… A suspenseful, magical debut.”  – Shelf Awareness

“A triumphant debut… the magic harnessed by the characters feels completely real in this captivating outing.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jimenez

fiction / comedy / mystery.

What Happened to Ruthy RamirezThe Ramirez women of Staten Island orbit around absence. When thirteen‑year‑old middle child Ruthy disappeared after track practice without a trace, it left the family scarred and scrambling. One night, twelve years later, oldest sister Jessica spots a woman on her TV screen in Catfight, a raunchy reality show. She rushes to tell her younger sister, Nina: This woman’s hair is dyed red, and she calls herself Ruby, but the beauty mark under her left eye is instantly recognizable. Could it be Ruthy, after all this time?

The years since Ruthy’s disappearance haven’t been easy on the Ramirez family. It’s 2008, and their mother, Dolores, still struggles with the loss, Jessica juggles a newborn baby with her hospital job, and Nina, after four successful years at college, has returned home to medical school rejections and is forced to work in the mall folding tiny bedazzled thongs at the lingerie store.

After seeing maybe‑Ruthy on their screen, Jessica and Nina hatch a plan to drive to where the show is filmed in search of their long‑lost sister. When Dolores catches wind of their scheme, she insists on joining, along with her pot-stirring holy roller best friend, Irene. What follows is a family road trip and reckoning that will force the Ramirez women to finally face the past and look toward a future—with or without Ruthy in it.

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is a vivid family portrait, in all its shattered reality, exploring the familial bonds between women and cycles of generational violence, colonialism, race, and silence, replete with snark, resentment, tenderness, and, of course, love.

“A rollicking, heartfelt tale of family, grief, and intergenerational healing.” – Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle

“A funny and heartbreaking examination of sisterhood, generational trauma and the bonds that hold families together.” – Lupita Aquino, Today

“…witty… Sympathetic and fiery Latina characters shine in this warm and moving novel portraying a down-to-earth family with deep loyalty and longing for closure.” – Andrienne Cruz, Booklist

“[A] brilliant debut… The author perfectly harnesses the Ramirez women’s alternating viewpoints to illuminate how the years have worn on them, and in the stunning ending, she cannily reveal the truth behind Ruthy’s disappearance. This is a knockout.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

What Have We Done by Alex Finlay

fiction / suspense / mystery.

What Have We DoneTwenty five years ago, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico were the best of friends, a bond forged as residents of Savior House, an abusive group home for parentless teens. When the home was shut down—after the disappearance of several kids—the three were split up.

Though the trauma of their childhood has never left them, each went on to live successful, if troubled, lives. They haven’t seen one another since they were teens but now are reunited for a single haunting reason: someone is trying to kill them.

To save their lives, the group will have to revisit the nightmares of their childhoods and confront their past—a past that holds the secret to why someone wants them dead.

It’s a reunion none of them asked for… or wanted. But it may be the only way to save all their lives.

“Finlay could fashion a white-knuckle cliffhanger out of a trip to the store, so plan to start and finish this on the same day, maybe the same afternoon.” – Vannessa Cronin, Amazon

“[A] top-notch mystery thriller… Readers will eagerly follow the maze-like plot, with its many twists and turns, to the exciting conclusion. This isn’t to be missed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[Finlay’s] gripping tale delivers both heart-pounding action and plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing. A thoroughly entertaining ‘popcorn thriller’―just right for fans of Riley Sager’s Final Girls and Stacy Willingham’s A Flicker in the Dark.” – Stephanie Howes, Booklist

Who Gets Believed?: When the Truth Isn’t Enough by Dina Nayeri

nonfiction / psychology / history / politics / sociology.

Who Gets BelievedFrom the author of The Ungrateful Refugee—finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Kirkus Prize—Who Gets Believed? is a groundbreaking book about persuasion and performance that asks unsettling questions about lies, truths, and the difference between being believed and being dismissed in situations spanning asylum interviews, emergency rooms, consulting jobs, and family life

Why are honest asylum seekers dismissed as liars? Former refugee and award-winning author Dina Nayeri begins with this question, turning to shocking and illuminating case studies in this book, which grows into a reckoning with our culture’s views on believability. From persuading a doctor that she’d prefer a C-section to learning to “bullshit gracefully” at McKinsey to struggling, in her personal life, to believe her troubled brother-in-law, Nayeri explores an aspect of our society that is rarely held up to the light. For readers of David Grann, Malcolm Gladwell, and Atul Gawande, Who Gets Believed? is a book as deeply personal as it is profound in its reflections on morals, language, human psychology, and the unspoken social codes that determine how we relate to one another.

“Memoir, philosophy, and social history collide in this compelling examination… [A] powerful, clarifying book.” – Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

“An illuminating (and shocking) reflection on the unspoken social codes that determine how we relate to one another in society… Nayeri’s writing will make you question your views on believability.” – Salva Mubarak, Hello! India

“…genre-defying… Few books are as erudite, comprehensive, and intensely personal all at once. This is a riveting read that will be of interest to many, from those concerned with the plight of refugees and the biases built into many American institutions to anyone who loves unconventional memoirs and beautiful writing.” – Willem Marx, Library Journal

Button Hoopla Listen

Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began by Leah Hazard

nonfiction / science / health / history.

WombThe size of a clenched fist and the shape of a light bulb–with no less power and potential. Every person on Earth began inside a uterus, but how much do we really understand about the womb?

Bringing together medical history, scientific discoveries, and journalistic exploration, Leah Hazard embarks on a journey in search of answers about the body’s most miraculous and contentious organ. We meet the people who have shaped our relationship with the uterus: doctors and doulas, yoni steamers and fibroid-tea hawkers, legislators who would regulate the organ’s very existence, and boundary-breaking researchers on the frontiers of the field.

With a midwife’s warmth and humor, Hazard tackles pressing questions: Is the womb connected to the brain? Can cervical crypts store sperm? Do hysterectomies affect sexual pleasure? How can smart tampons help health care? Why does endometriosis take so long to be diagnosed? Will external gestation be possible in our lifetime? How does gender-affirming hormone therapy affect the uterus? Why does medical racism impact reproductive healthcare?

A clear-eyed and inclusive examination of the cultural prejudices and assumptions that have made the uterus so poorly understood for centuries, Womb takes a fresh look at an organ that brings us pain and pleasure–a small part of our bodies that has a larger impact than we ever thought possible.

“Hazard, a practicing National Health Service midwife, fearlessly tackles the myths, history, and science of the uterus in this new book… A revelatory, straightforward, and important work” – Tina Panik, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] bravura cultural history of the uterus and the politics that surround it… This is essential reading on the ‘most miraculous and misunderstood organ in the human body.'” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…engagingly and unabashedly shares the fascinating, sometimes gory details… easy-to-understand… Hazard presents a thought-provoking, information-packed celebration of the uterus.” – Karen Springen, Booklist


Curious how these lists are put together? CLICK HERE!

NOTE: The library does not receive any compensation for links TO OTHER SITES.


Leave a Reply