Brother & Sister Enter the Forest

Best New Books: Week of 3/14/23

“Art didn’t have to provide answers. It only had to ask questions.” – Christopher Bollen, Orient

48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates

fiction / mystery / suspense.

48 Clues Into the Disappearance of My SisterMarguerite, a beautiful woman, has disappeared from her small town in Upstate New York. But is foul play involved? Or did she merely take an opportunity to get away for fun, or finally make the decision to leave behind her claustrophobic life of limited opportunities?

Her younger sister Gigi wonders if the flimsy silk Dior dress, so casually abandoned on the floor, is a clue to Marguerite’s having seemingly vanished. The police examine the footprints made by her Ferragamo boots leaving the house, ending abruptly, and puzzle over how that can help lead to her. Gigi, not so pretty as her sister, slowly reveals her hatred for the perfect, much-loved, Marguerite.

Bit by bit, like ripping the petals off a flower blossom, revelations about both sisters are uncovered. Subtly, but with the unbearable suspense at which Joyce Carol Oates excels, clues mount up to bring to light the fate of the missing beauty.

“In 48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister, Oates has added another disturbing character to her bountiful cast of strange people and devised another chilling work, one that will slot into the vast canon for which she is justly renowned.” – New York Journal of Books

“[An] exquisite novel of suspense… This elegant, captivating tale is un-put-downable.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Oates’ latest foray into crime fiction is another masterpiece of storytelling from a writer who jumps between genres and styles with amazing aplomb… So much more than the kind of standard-issue unreliable narrator that dominates current crime fiction, Georgene is a vastly complex character whose every word, every use of parentheses and italics, must be examined closely for intent. A thematically and stylistically ambitious novel that displays the author’s literary gifts to their maximum effect.” – David Pitt, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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The Angel Makers: Arsenic, a Midwife, and Modern History’s Most Astonishing Murder Ring by Patti McCracken

nonfiction / true crime / history.

The Angel MakersThe horror occurred in a rustic farming enclave in modern-day Hungary. To look at the unlikely lineup of murderesses–village wives, mothers, and daughters–was to come to the shocking realization that this could have happened anywhere, and to anyone. At the center of it all was a sharp-minded village midwife, a “smiling Buddha” known as Auntie Suzy, who distilled arsenic from flypaper and distributed it to the women of Nagyrév. “Why are you bothering with him?” Auntie Suzy would ask, as she produced an arsenic-filled vial from her apron pocket. In the beginning, a great many used the deadly solution to finally be free of cruel and abusive spouses.

But as the number of dead bodies grew without consequence, the killers grew bolder. With each vial of poison emptied, a new reason surfaced to drain yet another. Some women disposed of sickly relatives. Some used arsenic as “inheritance powder” to secure land and houses. For more than fifteen years, the unlikely murderers aided death unfettered and tended to it as if it were simply another chore–spooning doses of arsenic into soup and wine, stirring it into coffee and brandy. By the time their crimes were discovered, hundreds were feared dead.

Anonymous notes brought the crimes to light in 1929. As a skillful prosecutor hungry for justice ran the investigation, newsmen from around the world–including the New York Times–poured in to cover the dramatic events as they unfolded.

The Angel Makers captures in expertly researched detail the entirety of this harrowing story, from the early murders to the final hanging–the story of one of the most sensational and astonishing murder rings in all of modern history.

“…compulsively readable… This is a must for true crime fans.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“The only thing more astonishing than Suzy’s murder ring is author McCracken’s skill in pairing a reporter’s magpie eye for detail with truly first class storytelling. The result is a terrifying look at normalization on a mass scale, and a truly entertaining single-sitting read no true crime fan should miss.” – Vannessa Cronin, Amazon

“This is journalist McCracken’s first book, and it is simply excellent… dramatic and compassionate… feels like it was written by someone who cares deeply about the victims of the crimes… As much as it is possible to do so a century later, McCracken separates the wheat from the chaff and arrives at a representation of events that seems to tell the real story of the crimes—both who committed them, how they did it (distilling arsenic from flypaper), and how Auntie Suzy and her gang were finally apprehended.” – David Pitt, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream by Alissa Quart

nonfiction / politics / history / economics / sociology.

BootstrappedThe promise that you can “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is central to the story of the American dream. It’s the belief that if you work hard and rely on your own resources, you will ultimately succeed. However, time and again we have seen the way this foundational myth, with its emphasis on individual determination, brittle self-sufficiency, and personal accomplishment, does not help us. Instead, as income inequality rises around us, we are left with shame and self-blame for our condition.

Acclaimed journalist Alissa Quart argues that at the root of our suffering is the misplaced belief in our own independence and the conviction that we must rely on ourselves alone, a do-it-yourself ethos. Looking at a range of delusions and half solutions—from “grit” to the deceptions of hyper-capitalist philanthropy, from the false Horatio Alger story to the rise of GoFundMe—Quart reveals how we were steered away from robust social programs that would address the root causes of our problems. Meanwhile, the responsibility for survival has been shifted onto the backs of ordinary people, burdening generations with debt instead of providing free higher education or universal health care.

Insightful, sharply argued, and characterized by Quart’s lively writing and deep reporting, Bootstrapped is a powerful examination of what ails us at a societal level and how we can free ourselves of these self-defeating narratives.

“A provocative, important repudiation of gig-economy capitalism that proposes utopian rather than dystopian solutions.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[An] impassioned and historically grounded argument for more economic and social interdependence in American society… reveals the unexamined advantages and government assistance behind the self-made myths of public figures… Quart’s vision of an America where no one needs to put on ‘codified theatrical performances via social media’ to get the help they need is a breath of fresh air. This eloquent and incisive call to action inspires.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Bootstrapped is at its strongest when Quart tells the stories of people discovering the value of interdependence and using that knowledge to create social change… promotes a new narrative, recognizing that humans are naturally dependent on one another and rejecting the idea that needing help is a source of shame.” – Akil Vicks, Jacobin

Brother & Sister Enter the Forest by Richard Mirabella


Brother & Sister Enter the ForestAfter years of severed communication, Justin appears on his sister’s doorstep needing a place to stay. The home he’s made for himself has collapsed, as has everything else in his life. When they were children, Willa played the role of her brother’s protector, but now, afraid of the chaos he might bring, she’s reluctant to let him in.

Willa lives a carefully ordered life working as a nurse and making ornate dioramas in her spare time. As Justin tries to connect with the people she’s closest to—her landlord, her boyfriend, their mother—she begins to feel exposed. Willa and Justin’s relationship has always been strained yet loving, frustrating and close. But it hits a new breaking point when Justin spirals out of control, unable to manage his sobriety and the sustained effects of a brain injury.

Years earlier, in high school, desperate to escape his home life and his disapproving, troubled mother, Justin falls into the hands of his first lover, a slightly older boy living on his own who offers Justin some semblance of intimacy and refuge. When Justin’s boyfriend commits a terrifying act of violence, the two flee on a doomed road trip, a journey that will damage Justin and change his and his family’s lives forever.

Weaving together these two timelines, Brother & Sister Enter the Forest unravels the thread of a young man’s trauma and the love waiting for him on the other side.

“A strange, beautiful, and memorable book.” – Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful

“Mirabella’s debut novel—about a pair of once-close siblings and how the bruises of their youth swell into adulthood—is both bracing and a balm, his softly disarming sentences like cotton puffs that absorb the pain of deep cuts.” – Michelle Hart, Electric Literature

“Told with an incredibly steady hand, this novel dissects a tense sibling relationship. Carefully detangling life-shattering events from the pair’s past, the book manages to look straight at its characters and show the shadows behind them. Like the careful dioramas that the sister makes in her spare time, this book is an exquisite creation, made carefully and precisely.” – Maggie Lange, Bustle

“Mirabella writes about the strange land between fable and reality, and this novel deftly explores the surreal undertones of familiar themes like love and loyalty. Part fantastical horror, part road trip narrative, Brother & Sister Enter the Forest is an uncanny portrait of the lengths we go to protect the people we love.” – Isle McEroy, Vulture

Daughters of Nantucket by Julie Gerstenblatt

fiction / historical fiction.

Daughters of NantucketNantucket in 1846 is an island set apart not just by its geography but by its unique circumstances. With their menfolk away at sea, often for years at a time, women here know a rare independence—and the challenges that go with it.

Eliza Macy is struggling to conceal her financial trouble as she waits for her whaling captain husband to return from a voyage. In desperation, she turns against her progressive ideals and targets Meg Wright, a pregnant free Black woman trying to relocate her store to Main Street. Meanwhile, astronomer Maria Mitchell loves running Nantucket’s Atheneum and spending her nights observing the stars, yet she fears revealing the secret wishes of her heart.

On a sweltering July night, a massive fire breaks out in town, quickly kindled by the densely packed wooden buildings. With everything they possess now threatened, these three very different women are forced to reevaluate their priorities and decide what to save, what to let go and what kind of life to rebuild from the ashes of the past.

“Gerstenblatt’s debut, a beautiful historical novel, is an engrossing and emotional nineteenth-century tale centered on three women living on Nantucket… With some characters inspired by actual historical figures, Gerstenblatt’s distinctive tale, a triumph in storytelling, celebrates the courage and tenacity of women.” – Patricia Smith, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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Heart Sutra by Yan Lianke; translated by Carlos Rojas

fiction / comedy.

Heart SutraUnable to be published in his native China, Yan Lianke’s latest novel is a wryly humorous and deeply moving story of modernity, tradition, and the struggle for expression. At the Religious Training Center on the campus of Beijing’s National Politics University, disciples of China’s five main religions—Buddhism, Daoism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Islam—gather for a year of intensive study and training. In this hallowed yet jovial atmosphere, the institute’s two youngest disciples—Yahui, a Buddhist jade nun, and Gu Mingzheng, a Daoist master—fall into an uneasy acquaintance that might bloom into something more.

Meanwhile, the worldly Director Gong has a project of his own: he has organized tug-of-war competitions between the religions. The fervor of competition offers excitement for the disciples, as well as a lucrative source of fundraising, but Yahui looks on the games with distrust: her beloved mentor collapsed after witnessing one of these competitions. In addition to his studies, Gu Mingzheng is also intent on discovering the identity of his unknown father. As the two young disciples grow closer and fall in love, it soon becomes clear that corruption is seeping ever more deeply into the foundation of the institute under Director Gong’s watch. Yahui and Gu Mingzheng will be forced to ask themselves whether it is better to stay committed to an increasingly fraught faith or to return together to secular life forever—and nothing less than the fate of the gods itself is at stake.

Illustrated throughout with beautiful original papercuts, animated by Yan Lianke’s characteristically incisive sense of humor, Heart Sutra is a stunning and timely novel that highlights the best and worst in mankind and interrogates the costs of division.

“Open up to the first page of any Yan Lianke novel, beautifully translated by Carlos Rojas, and you’ll feel confident that you’re in the hands of an assured and timeless storyteller. There’s always something deeply psychological about his books—like he’s probing at a desperate part of the psyche that most prefer to leave alone.” – Katie Yee, Literary Hub

“[A] subversive satire of the collision of Chinese state bureaucracy, academia, and religion… Picaresque, but with serious matters of faith, love, and political wrangling at its fast-beating heart.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“With beautiful papercut illustrations, satirical humor, and allegorical prose, Lianke’s brilliantly reimagined campus novel showcases the author’s masterful storytelling, which uses realism and fantasy to explore the intersection between religious and secular beliefs.” – Emily Park, Booklist

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Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano


Hello BeautifulWilliam Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household.

But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?

Vibrating with tenderness, Hello Beautiful is a gorgeous, profoundly moving portrait of what’s possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.

“Napolitano’s latest novel investigates the deep, maddeningly frustrating, and ever-present love of family, whether tied by genetics or by choice.” – Stephanie Turza, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“This sumptuous family saga is one of those rare novels whose singular characters are so beautifully rendered, it’s as if they’re your best friends, and you’re grateful to be in their orbit. Napolitano’s homage to Little Women, albeit set in late-20th-century Chicago, will prompt you to slow down as you read, never wanting the book to end. When it does, prepare for tears.” – Oprah Quarterly

“Napolitano writes with gusto and compassion about the transition from idyllic youth to the complexities of adulthood: love and loss, cutting words and secrets, which both hold people together and tear them apart. Hello Beautiful offers big emotion and that’s exactly what makes it so powerful, and so page-turning.” – Al Woodworth, Amazon

Hello Beautiful is perfect for readers who enjoy emotionally tender stories about complicated families… If you enjoyed Ask Again Yes, you will love this one.” – Jessica Nock, The Southern Bookseller Review

How to Think Like a Woman: Four Women Philosophers Who Taught Me How to Love the Life of the Mind by Regan Penaluna

nonfiction / philosophy / history.

How to Think Like a WomanAs a young woman growing up in small-town Iowa, Regan Penaluna daydreamed about the big questions: Who are we and what is this strange world we find ourselves in? In college she fell in love with philosophy and chose to pursue it as an academician, the first step, she believed, to becoming a self-determined person living a life of the mind. What Penaluna didn’t realize was that the Western philosophical canon taught in American universities, as well as the culture surrounding it, would slowly grind her down through its misogyny, its harassment, its devaluation of women and their intellect. Where were the women philosophers?

One day, in an obscure monograph, Penaluna came across Damaris Cudworth Masham’s name. The daughter of philosopher Ralph Cudworth and a contemporary of John Locke, Masham wrote about knowledge and God, and the condition of women. Masham’s work led Penaluna to other remarkable women philosophers of the era: Mary Astell, who moved to London at age twenty-one and made a living writing philosophy; Catharine Cockburn, a philosopher, novelist, and playwright; and the better-known Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote extensively in defense of women’s minds. Together, these women rekindled Penaluna’s love of philosophy and awakened her feminist consciousness.

In How to Think Like a Woman, Regan Penaluna blends memoir, biography, and criticism to tell the stories of these four women, weaving throughout an alternative history of philosophy as well as her own search for love and truth. Funny, honest, and wickedly intelligent, this is a moving meditation on what philosophy could look like if women were treated equally.

How to Think Like a Woman is a much-needed revelation.” – Eliza Smith, Literary Hub

“Thought-provoking… Engaging… A considerable achievement.” – Kathleen McBroom, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Incisive… Penaluna skillfully captures the thinking of these four women in impassioned prose as she challenges sexism in the canon… Lucid and frank, this blend of memoir, biography, and criticism makes a solid case for why representation matters.” – Publishers Weekly

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I Will Find You by Harlan Coben

fiction / suspense / mystery.

I Will Find YouDavid and Cheryl Burroughs were living the dream life when tragedy struck. Now, five years after that terrible night, Cheryl is remarried. And David is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison for the brutal murder of their son.

Then Cheryl’s sister, Rachel, arrives unexpectedly during visiting hours and drops a bombshell. She’s come with a photograph that a friend took on vacation at a theme park with a boy in the background who has a familiar, distinctive birthmark… and even though David and Rachel realize it can’t be, they both just know. It’s David’s son, Matthew, and he’s still alive.

David plans a harrowing escape from prison, determined to do what seems impossible–save his son, clear his own name, and discover the real story of what happened that devastating night.

“…bristles with the irresistible storytelling nous that is Coben’s purview… It’s no surprise that TV and the cinema have come knocking at the writer’s door, so acutely visual is his work.” – Barry Forshaw, Financial Times

“A series of twists and turns highlights another Great Harlan Coven novel. Nobody writes these kinds of novels better than him. This is one you will not want to put down.” – Red Carpet Crash

I Will Find You is a whirlwind… [an] action-packed novel full of jaw-dropping reveals, prison escapes and crazy twists… so action packed, you will find yourself taking a break just to catch a breath… A must read for fans of Harlan Coben.” – Cara DiCostanzo, Mystery & Suspense

The Lost Americans by Christopher Bollen

fiction / mystery / suspense.

The Lost AmericansWhen the lifeless body of Eric Castle, a weapons technician for a major American defense contractor, is found under his hotel balcony, both his employer and the Egyptian authorities quickly declare his death a suicide. But the dead man’s sister, Cate, doesn’t believe Eric took his own life and is determined to get to the truth. Traveling to Egypt she begins to piece together her brother’s life in Cairo with the help of a handsome, young, gay Egyptian man named Omar, who yearns to escape the brutality of his nation’s harsh, restrictive government.

Unfortunately, Cate’s quest raises more questions–and problems–than she ever imagined, as she takes on not only the arms company’s top brass but the Egyptian military, secret police, and a slew of American expats with their own reasons to keep the dead buried once and for all. Soon she’s in over her head, and it’s not clear if either she or Omar will get out alive. This riveting thriller set in the loud, boisterous Cairo of Americans lost and found showcases Bollen’s depth of characterization and haunting descriptive powers.

“[A] sharp new literary thriller.” – Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair

“A bold plot twist bolsters the story’s gritty realism, revealing that the villainy behind Eric’s death shields a lot of human complexity. Bollen, known for setting thrillers in alluring locales, skillfully captures Cairo’s beauty and palpable tension, and Cate and Omar’s courage in facing hard truths gives this memorable thriller extra frisson.” – Christine Tran, Booklist

“A gripping thriller with lingering emotional effects… Bollen takes real risks with the story, making it more haunting than the reader may be prepared for. The scarcity of civil rights in contemporary Egypt is captured to shadowy effect, extending to the targeting of gay citizens like Cate’s guide and driver, Omar… Cut from the same mold as Robert Stone’s great political thrillers with its international intrigue, darkly atmospheric setting, and compromised characters.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Paris: The Memoir by Paris Hilton

nonfiction / memoir.

ParisParis Hilton rose to prominence as an heiress to the Hilton Hotels empire, but cultivated her fame and fortune as the It Girl of the aughts, a time marked by the burgeoning twenty-four-hour entertainment news cycle and the advent of the celebrity blog. Using her celebrity brand, Paris set in motion her innovative business ventures, while being the constant target of tabloid culture that dismissively wrote her off as “famous for being famous.” With tenacity, sharp business acumen, and grit, she built a global empire and, in the process, became a truly modern icon beloved around the world.

Now, with courage, honesty, and humor, Paris Hilton is ready to take stock, place it all in context, and share her story with the world. Separating the creation from the creator, the brand from the ambassador, Paris: The Memoir strips away all we thought we knew about a celebrity icon, taking us back to a privileged childhood lived through the lens of undiagnosed ADHD and teenage rebellion that triggered a panicked–and perilous–decision by her parents. Led to believe they were saving their child’s life, Paris’s mother and father had her kidnapped and sent to a series of “emotional growth boarding schools,” where she survived almost two years of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. In the midst of a hell we now call the “troubled teen industry,” Paris created a beautiful inner world where the ugliness couldn’t touch her. She came out, resolving to trust no one but herself as she transformed that fantasy world into a multibillion-dollar reality.

Recounting her perilous journey through pre-#MeToo sexual politics with grace, dignity, and just the right amount of sass, Paris: The Memoir tracks the evolution of celebrity culture through the story of the figure at its leading edge, full of defining moments and marquee names. Most important, Paris shows us her path to peace while she challenges us to question our role in her story and in our own. Welcome to Paris.

“…revealing… Affecting and triumphant, this is a must-read for Little Hiltons.” – Publishers Weekly

“One of the world’s most recognizable personalities delivers a memoir with surprising depth and purpose… tender and triumphant… furiously candid… inspiring and empowering… Delivering a master class in owning your story, Hilton shows how to live with purpose, compassion, and beauty.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

So Shall You Reap by Donna Leon

fiction / mystery.

So You Shall ReapOn a cold November evening, Guido Brunetti and Paola are up late when a call from his colleague Ispettore Vianello arrives, alerting the Commissario that a hand has been seen in one of Venice’s canals. The body is soon found, and Brunetti is assigned to investigate the murder of an undocumented Sri Lankan immigrant. Because no official record of the man’s presence in Venice exists, Brunetti is forced to use the city’s far richer sources of information: gossip and the memories of people who knew the victim. Curiously, he had been living in a small house on the grounds of a palazzo owned by a university professor, in which Brunetti discovers books revealing the victim’s interest in Buddhism, the revolutionary Tamil Tigers, and the last crop of Italian political terrorists, active in the 1980s.

As the investigation expands, Brunetti, Vianello, Commissario Griffoni, and Signora Elettra each assemble pieces of a puzzle–random information about real estate and land use, books, university friendships–that appear to have little in common, until Brunetti stumbles over something that transports him back to his own student days, causing him to reflect on lost ideals and the errors of youth, on Italian politics and history, and on the accidents that sometimes lead to revelation.

So Shall You Reap is another truly awesome Brunetti mystery.” – Mostly Mysteries

“As usual, the rich backdrop of Venice complements the well-designed plot. Leon shows no signs of losing steam.” – Publishers Weekly

“As always, Brunetti’s sensitivity to the human factor in his work—apparent in his sense of responsibility to the victims and his empathy with nearly all those he encounters—is what draws the reader to care for this character in a way that is very different from how we respond to most fictional sleuths. Add to that the richness of Brunetti’s domestic life—loving but never sentimental, defined more by a raised eyebrow than a rhetorical flourish—and you begin to see why this series occupies a very special place in the crime-fiction world.” – Bill Ott, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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Take What You Need by Idra Novey


Take What You NeedSet in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia, Take What You Need tracks the aftermath of a long estrangement between a stepmother and daughter. Leah is a web editor and young mother who’s sought an urban life and clean break from her rural childhood. But with her stepmother Jean’s death, Leah must return to sort through what’s been left behind.

What Leah discovers is astonishing: Jean has filled the house with giant sculptures she’s welded from scraps of the area’s industrial history. There’s also a young man now living in the house who’s played an unknown role in Jean’s last years and in her art.

With great verve and humor, Idra Novey zeroes in on the joys and difficulty of family, the ease with which we let distance mute conflict, and the power we can draw from creative pursuits.

Passionate and resonant, Take What You Need explores the continuing mystery of the people we love most, and what can be built from what others have discarded–art, unexpected friendship, a new contentment of self. This is Idra Novey at her very best.

“A tender, touching tale of family, art, and love.” – People

“[A] powerful, compassionate, thoughtful consideration of art, family, and inherent bias. Easily my favorite book of the year so far.” – David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy

“Not all books about art can capture the power of such a pursuit without slipping into saccharine platitudes, but Idra Novey’s Take What You Need is sharp and invigorating.” – Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle

“Ms. Novey… is adept at spooling out tensions to keep readers eagerly turning pages. More important, she knows how to forge ‘some new kind of beauty’ by fusing disparate materials—scrap metal, fractured mirrors, camera lenses—that reflect shattered families and egos, dead-end poverty, divisive disdain and distrust, hope and love. Take What You Need is a heart-rending book, but it’s also a beautiful celebration of ‘the glorious pleasure of erecting something new,’ be it a work of art or a human connection.” – Heller McAplin, Wall Street Journal

The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Vulnerable, Important Profession by Alexandra Robbins

nonfiction / education / current events.

The TeachersAlexandra Robbins goes behind the scenes to tell the true, sometimes shocking, always inspirational stories of three teachers as they navigate a year in the classroom. She follows Penny, a southern middle school math teacher who grappled with a toxic staff clique at the big school in a small town; Miguel, a special ed teacher in the western United States who fought for his students both as an educator and as an activist; and Rebecca, an East Coast elementary school teacher who struggled to schedule and define a life outside of school.

Interspersed among the teachers’ stories–a seeming scandal, a fourth-grade whodunit, and teacher confessions–are hard-hitting essays featuring cutting-edge reporting on the biggest issues facing teachers today, such as school violence; outrageous parent behavior; inadequate support, staffing, and resources coupled with unrealistic mounting demands; the “myth” of teacher burnout; the COVID-19 pandemic; and ways all of us can help the professionals who are central both to the lives of our children and the heart of our communities.

“A riveting, must-read, year-in-the-life account of three teachers, combined with reporting that reveals what’s really going on behind school doors.” – Panio Gianopoulos, Next Big Idea Club

“[A] poignant, behind-the-scenes exploration of America’s public schools… This deeply researched and impressive study brings home the fact that America underinvests in the education of its children—and that teachers step in to fill the gaps.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A revealing exploration of the current state of the teaching profession… An important and eye-opening book that all parents, teachers, and educational administrators should read.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

A Tempest at Sea by Sherry Thomas

fiction / mystery / historical fiction.

A Tempest at SeaAfter feigning her own death in Cornwall to escape from Moriarty’s perilous attention, Charlotte Holmes goes into hiding. But then she receives a tempting offer: Find a dossier the crown is desperately seeking to recover, and she might be able to go back to a normal life.

Her search leads her aboard the RMS Provence, sailing from Southampton for the eastern hemisphere. But on the night Charlotte makes her move to retrieve the dossier, in the midst of a terrifying storm in the Bay of Biscay, a brutal murder also takes place on the ship.

Instead of solving the crime, as she is accustomed to doing, Charlotte must take care not to be embroiled in this investigation, lest it become known to those who harbor ill intentions that Sherlock Holmes is abroad and still very much alive.

“Who doesn’t enjoy a murder mystery at sea?… an amusing look at characters fans have grown to love.” – Laurel Bliss, Library Journal

“The seventh Lady Sherlock mystery is another fun, well-written novel in the series.” – Red Carpet Crash

“Reminiscent of forced-proximity stories like Christie’s Death on the Nile or the game and miniseries Clue, the novel is an entertaining read for its wheels-within-wheels structure and the drips of knowledge we are given. Fans of the Victorian lady detective will enjoy her resurrection.” – Kirkus Reviews

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

fiction / mystery / suspense / comedy.

Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for MurderersVera Wong is a lonely little old lady–ah, lady of a certain age–who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. She likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her Gen-Z son is up to.

Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing–a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera doesn’t know what comes over her, but after calling the cops like any good citizen would, she sort of… swipes the flash drive from the body and tucks it safely into the pocket of her apron. Why? Because Vera is sure she would do a better job than the police possibly could, because nobody sniffs out a wrongdoing quite like a suspicious Chinese mother with time on her hands. Vera knows the killer will be back for the flash drive; all she has to do is watch the increasing number of customers at her shop and figure out which one among them is the killer.

What Vera does not expect is to form friendships with her customers and start to care for each and every one of them. As a protective mother hen, will she end up having to give one of her newfound chicks to the police?

“Death shouldn’t be funny or sweet or heartwarming, except maybe in a new cozy series starring Vera Wong…” – Terry Hong, Booklist

“Sutanto is back with another charmer… Sutanto excels at skewering with affection, and an earnest hilarity shines through in this entertaining whodunit.” – Becky Meloan, Washington Post

“[A] stellar mystery… The engrossing plot, which is full of laugh out loud humor and heartfelt moments, builds to a satisfying conclusion that will leave readers eager for more Vera. Sutanto has outdone herself with this cozy with substance.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Written with wickedly sharp humor and a tightly woven plot, the book is also about the hurt that families can give and the unexpected joys of found-family.” – Laura Eckert, Library Reads

We’re All Lying by Marie Still

fiction / suspense / mystery.

We're All LyingSomeone is hunting Cass.

Cass lives an enviable life: a successful career, two great kids, and a handsome husband. Then an email from her husband’s mistress, Emma, brings the façade of perfection crumbling around her, setting off a chain of events where buried secrets come back to haunt her.

A taunting email turns into stalking and escalates into much worse. Ethan and Cass try to move on, then Emma disappears.

No longer considered a victim, Cass finds herself the prime suspect and center of the investigation. Her dark secrets—including ones she didn’t know existed—threaten to destroy everything they’ve worked for.

A fast-paced psychological thriller with jaw-dropping twists, the novel examines buried family secrets and how desperation can lead to fatal mistakes when We’re All Lying.

“There is drama and thrill in every page of the book; you’ll complete this mystery in no time!” – Pranjali Wakde, Booked for Books

“Perfect for fans of Mary Kubica and Lisa Unger’s twisty novels.” – Shireen Hakim, BuzzFeed

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  1. I look forward to your reviews each week. Very helpful in finding new authors!
    Lorraine Leonard

  2. Thank you! I look forward to it as well, though it does mean that my “to-read” list has gotten a little out of hand lol

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