Best New Books: Week of 3/28/23

“Unsupervised reading is a blessing for a certain kind of child.” – Victor LaValle, The Changeling

TRIGGER WARNING: This week’s list includes a book that features frank and extensive discussion about suicide, including in its title. Reader discretion is advised.

if you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 for the suicide & crisis lifeline, or reach out to the national suicide prevention lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by texting “home” to 741741. 

Above Ground by Clint Smith

nonfiction / poetry.

Above GroundClint Smith’s vibrant and compelling new collection traverses the vast emotional terrain of fatherhood, and explores how becoming a parent has recalibrated his sense of the world. There are poems that interrogate the ways our lives are shaped by both personal lineages and historical institutions. There are poems that revel in the wonder of discovering the world anew through the eyes of your children, as they discover it for the first time. There are poems that meditate on what it means to raise a family in a world filled with constant social and political tumult. Above Ground wrestles with how we hold wonder and despair in the same hands, how we carry intimate moments of joy and a collective sense of mourning in the same body. Smith’s lyrical, narrative poems bring the reader on a journey not only through the early years of his children’s lives, but through the changing world in which they are growing up—through the changing world of which we are all a part.

Above Ground is a breathtaking collection that follows Smith’s first award-winning book of poetry, Counting Descent.

Above Ground is a beautiful meditation not only on Smith’s own journey as a dad, but also on the effect our ever-changing world has on the way we raise our children.” – Shannon Carlin, Time

“Smith’s poems are rich with fond nods to prenatal doctor’s appointments and Dr. Seuss and exacting odes to phenomena as tiny as an infant hiccup.” – Diego Báez, Booklist

“[M]any of us became familiar with [Smith’s] writing through the brilliant How the Word is Passed. Or maybe it’s his work for The Atlantic magazine. Smith has a way with words – to inform, inspire and push us to know the world and ourselves better. The poetry in Above Ground does all that. We are big fans of anyone who helps set our sights with compassion and an open heart to each other.” – Barnes & Noble

“I long for a literature—especially a poetry—of joy; life is too short and bland without it. Smith’s new poetry collection teems with images of love and fatherhood. Great poetry comes in many modes and subjects, but there’s something unique about a book of verse that makes me want to hold my own children a little tighter, as I think of his description of delivering a bear hug: ‘my arms are still / open like a universe / in need of a planet / to make it worth / something.’ Juxtaposed with lines of grief and recognition—’men attempting / to unlearn the anger on their father’s / tongues, the heat in their hands’—Smith’s songs of joy are that much sweeter.” – Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions

Carmageddon: How Cars Make Life Worse and What to Do About It by Daniel Knowles

nonfiction / current events / technology / history.

CarmageddonThe automobile was one of the most miraculous inventions of the 20th century. It promised freedom, style, and utility. But sometimes, rather than improving our lives technology just makes everything worse. Over the past century cars have filled the air with toxic pollutants and fueled climate change. Cars have stolen public space and made our cities uglier, dirtier, less useful, and more unequal. Cars have caused tens of millions of deaths and injuries. They have wasted our time and our money.

In Carmageddon, journalist Daniel Knowles outlines the rise of the automobile and the costs we all bear as a result. Weaving together history, economics, and reportage, Knowles traces the forces and decisions that normalized cars and cemented our reliance on them. He takes readers around the world to show the ways car use has impacted people’s lives—from Nairobi, where few people own a car but the city is still cloaked in smog, to Houston, where the Katy Freeway has a mind-boggling 26 lanes and there are 30 parking spaces for every resident, enough land to fit Paris ten times. With these negatives, Knowles shows that there are better ways to live, looking at Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Tokyo, and New York City.

“Journalist Knowles offers a fresh look at the impact of the automobile… Readers will find this perspective enlightening and maybe they’ll think twice the next time they think of hopping in their cars.” – Jennifer Adams, Booklist

“Car culture comes under furious attack in this high-spirited jeremiad… sharply argued and solidly supported…” – Publishers Weekly

“[An] astute, powerful pitch to ditch the automobile… As Knowles’ title makes clear, this book is a jeremiad. He argues that while the prevailing and deep-seated belief is that cars equal freedom, the truth is that they have made cities uglier and more dangerous at an overwhelming cost to health, equity, climate and pocketbook.” – Allison Arieff, San Francisco Chronicle

Button Hoopla Read

The Great Reclamation by Rachel Heng

fiction / historical fiction.

The Great ReclamationAh Boon is born into a fishing village amid the heat and beauty of twentieth-century coastal Singapore in the waning years of British rule. He is a gentle boy who is not much interested in fishing, preferring to spend his days playing with the neighbor girl, Siok Mei. But when he discovers he has the unique ability to locate bountiful, movable islands that no one else can find, he feels a new sense of obligation and possibility–something to offer the community and impress the spirited girl he has come to love.

By the time they are teens, Ah Boon and Siok Mei are caught in the tragic sweep of history: the Japanese army invades, the resistance rises, grief intrudes, and the future of the fishing village is in jeopardy. As the nation hurtles toward rebirth, the two friends, newly empowered, must decide who they want to be, and what they are willing to give up.

An aching love story and powerful coming-of-age that reckons with the legacy of British colonialism, the World War II Japanese occupation, and the pursuit of modernity, The Great Reclamation confronts the wounds of progress, the sacrifices of love, and the difficulty of defining home when nature and nation collide, literally shifting the land beneath people’s feet.

“[An] exquisitely written, heartbreakingly beautiful tale of love and war.” – Karla J. Strand, Ms.

“Rachel Heng’s moving, mighty novel grapples with the cultural unmooring that accompanies personal and collective change.” – Christian Science Monitor

“Heng wrings a great deal of emotion from Boon’s experiences and relationships… This epic undertaking is not to be missed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] story scaffolded against a sweeping backdrop—the politics of colonialism, World War II in Southeast Asia, ecology, the inexorable forces of development and modernization—with very little of that ever mentioned, instead focusing on the experiences of the characters in language of perfect simplicity… Heng’s development of [Ah Boon] is absolutely brilliant and deserves wide notice. Like a drop of rain that holds the reflection of the world, crystalline and beautiful.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Hang the Moon by Jeanette Walls

fiction / historical fiction.

Hang the MoonSallie Kincaid is the daughter of the biggest man in a small town, the charismatic Duke Kincaid. Born at the turn of the 20th century into a life of comfort and privilege, Sallie remembers little about her mother who died in a violent argument with the Duke. By the time she is just eight years old, the Duke has remarried and had a son, Eddie. While Sallie is her father’s daughter, sharp-witted and resourceful, Eddie is his mother’s son, timid and cerebral. When Sallie tries to teach young Eddie to be more like their father, her daredevil coaching leads to an accident, and Sallie is cast out.

Nine years later, she returns, determined to reclaim her place in the family. That’s a lot more complicated than Sallie expected, and she enters a world of conflict and lawlessness. Sallie confronts the secrets and scandals that hide in the shadows of the Big House, navigates the factions in the family and town, and finally comes into her own as a bold, sometimes reckless bootlegger.

You will fall in love with Sallie Kincaid, a feisty and fearless, terrified and damaged young woman who refuses to be corralled.

“A rollicking adventure set in the Virginia mountains during Prohibition, starring the unforgettable Sallie Kincaid. To say she is bold and fearless would be unjust to her wit and vulnerability. This is a fun and thrilling read.” – Sarah Goddin, Indie Next

“Walls’ third novel races along with Sallie at the wheel in a barreling tale of perpetual and baroque family melodrama, dynastic struggles, suspenseful showdowns, and all-out warfare. Drawing once again on family history, Walls has created a magnetic, irreverent dynamo in Sallie, whose transporting narration is incandescent with incisive observations, moral dilemmas, and startlingly gorgeous descriptions… With its fireworks illumination of the bootlegging world and irresistible characters, Hang the Moon is vital, provocative, and intoxicating.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…breathtaking… The thrilling plot culminates in bombshell revelations and massive conflagrations, and through it all Sallie makes for an indelible heroine as she fights for her life and livelihood. This is a stunner.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“History buffs will enjoy the many hints Walls sprinkles to show that Tudor England is her novel’s template (the Duke’s marriage to his brother’s widow; his banished daughter, Mary, and short-lived heir, Edward; the Kincaids’ counselor Cecil, etc.). Television buffs will smile at the Kincaids’ resemblance to the Roys of Succession. A rollicking soap opera that keeps the pages turning with a surfeit of births, deaths, and surprising plot reveals.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Her Lost Words by Stephanie Marie Thornton

fiction / historical fiction.

Her Lost Words1792. As a child, Mary Wollstonecraft longed to disappear during her father’s violent rages. Instead, she transforms herself into the radical author of the landmark volume A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she dares to propose that women are equal to men. From conservative England to the blood-drenched streets of revolutionary France, Mary refuses to bow to society’s conventions and instead supports herself with her pen until an illicit love affair challenges her every belief about romance and marriage. When she gives birth to a daughter and is stricken with childbed fever, Mary fears it will be her many critics who recount her life’s extraordinary odyssey…

1818. The daughter of infamous political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, passionate Mary Shelley learned to read by tracing the letters of her mother’s tombstone. As a young woman, she desperately misses her mother’s guidance, especially following her scandalous elopement with dashing poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary struggles to balance an ever-complicated marriage with motherhood while nursing twin hopes that she might write something of her own one day and also discover the truth of her mother’s unconventional life. Mary’s journey will unlock her mother’s secrets, all while leading to her own destiny as the groundbreaking author of Frankenstein.

A riveting and inspiring novel about a firebrand feminist, her visionary daughter, and the many ways their words transformed our world.

“Thornton writes lyrically about the two Marys, and readers will sympathize, deeply, with their struggles to find their own paths.” – Jennie Mills, Library Journal

“[A] stirring narrative… Thornton brings a sense of urgency to the women’s inner lives, as well as a fair amount of insight into their work. Much has been written about the authors, but Thornton does justice to their singular lives.” – Publishers Weekly

“[An] engaging biographical novel… Thornton deftly maneuvers through her subjects’ lives in alternating chapters, highlighting the ways both women defy expectations regarding marriage, motherhood, and women’s roles in society. Readers who enjoy sweeping, emotional biographical fiction about iconoclastic women will be hooked.” – Nanette Donohue, Booklist

Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller

fiction / romance / historical fiction / mystery.

Hotel of SecretsIt’s ball season in Vienna, and Maria Wallner only wants one thing: to restore her family’s hotel, the Hotel Wallner, to its former glory. She’s not going to let anything get in her way – not her parents’ three-decade-long affair; not seemingly-random attacks by masked assassins; and especially not the broad-shouldered American foreign agent who’s saved her life two times already. No matter how luscious his mouth is.

Eli Whittaker also only wants one thing: to find out who is selling American secret codes across Europe, arrest them, and go home to his sensible life in Washington, DC. He has one lead – a letter the culprit sent from a Viennese hotel. But when he arrives in Vienna, he is immediately swept up into a chaotic whirlwind of balls, spies, waltzes, and beautiful hotelkeepers who seem to constantly find themselves in danger. He disapproves of all of it! But his disapproval is tested as he slowly falls deeper into the chaos – and as his attraction to said hotelkeeper grows.

“[A] page-turning confection, with humor that sparkles like the crystals in the Hotel Wallner’s restored ballroom.” – Susan Maguire, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] perfect jewel-box world set in 19th-century Vienna… I wanted intrigue from this book, and I got it ― but there was also more charm and sly humor than I was expecting. Maria is the kind of character who, when she learns her guests are having trysts in the linen closet, dreams up cunning ways to make the linen closets more tryst friendly. Eli, our American agent, is the perfect uptight foil for her sumptuous creativity and one of the year’s best grumps; it was a pleasure to watch him unravel.” – Olivia Waite, New York Times

“Biller transports readers to sparkling 19th century Vienna for a unique and wonderful tale of intrigue and espionage… Biller’s eclectic cast brings the refreshing setting to vibrant life while the intriguing mystery and mounting passion between the leads unite to keep the pages turning. Historical romance readers—especially those looking for a break from Regency England—will be dazzled.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Button Hoopla Listen

A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

fiction / horror / mystery / comedy.

A House with Good Bones“Mom seems off.”

Her brother’s words echo in Sam Montgomery’s ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone.

She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam’s excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.

But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.

To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.

“Impressively weird, nerve-wracking… [The] climax is strange, scary and unforgettable. That being said, don’t write off this book if you’re not a horror enthusiast—A House With Good Bones is also laugh-out-loud funny.” – Chris Pickens, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“Highly recommended for lovers of Southern gothics, readers who like their horror to sneak up on them, and anyone who appreciates the voice of Kingfisher (What Moves the Dead), no matter what genre she’s currently writing.” – Marlene Harris, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“…combines Lovecraftian horror with a charming sense of humor… Kingfisher has crafted an irresistibly delightful narrator in Samantha Montgomery… Her droll and somewhat garrulous sense of humor kept me chuckling on almost every page… a charming and highly entertaining read.” – John Mauro, Grimdark Magazine

“…hilarious and gruesome… Sam makes a charmingly kooky narrator, and Kingfisher remains the best in the business at using horror and fantasy to explore abusive relationships and how to escape them. Horror fans who like a little whimsy on the way to a chilling climax won’t want to miss this.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

How Not to Kill Yourself: A Portrait of the Suicidal Mind by Clancy Martin

nonfiction / memoir / psychology.

How Not to Kill Yourself“If you’re going to write a book about suicide, you have to be willing to say the true things, the scary things, the humiliating things. Because everybody who is being honest with themselves knows at least a little bit about the subject. If you lie or if you fudge, the reader will know.”

The last time Clancy Martin tried to kill himself was in his basement with a dog leash. It was one of over ten attempts throughout the course of his life. But he didn’t die, and like many who consider taking their own lives, he hid the attempt from his wife, family, coworkers, and students, slipping back into his daily life with a hoarse voice, a raw neck, and series of vague explanations.

In How Not to Kill Yourself, Martin chronicles his multiple suicide attempts in an intimate depiction of the mindset of someone obsessed with self-destruction. He argues that, for the vast majority of suicides, an attempt does not just come out of the blue, nor is it merely a violent reaction to a particular crisis or failure, but is the culmination of a host of long-standing issues. He also looks at the thinking of a number of great writers who have attempted suicide and detailed their experiences (such as David Foster Wallace, Yiyun Li, Akutagawa, Nelly Arcan, and others), at what the history of philosophy has to say both for and against suicide, and at the experiences of those who have reached out to him across the years to share their own struggles.

The result combines memoir with critical inquiry to powerfully give voice to what for many has long been incomprehensible, while showing those presently grappling with suicidal thoughts that they are not alone, and that the desire to kill oneself–like other self-destructive desires–is almost always temporary and avoidable.

“[A] disturbing, thoughtfully composed self-analysis… Disquieting, deeply felt, eye-opening, and revelatory.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“A book called How Not to Kill Yourself is not only tough to read on the subway in hardcover, it also seems, at first blush, possibly dangerous for a depressed or suicidal person to read. But even as Martin spares no detail about his depressive episodes or suicide attempts, the book lives up to its ambitious title. Inherent to the hopeful message is Martin’s overarching philosophy that we as a society must eliminate the idea that suicidal or depressive or addictive people are bad or sinful, an idea that’s baked so deeply into our culture we may not even realize it’s there.” – Emily Gould, Vulture

“[A] disturbing and transfixing dissection of suicide and its circumstances… Funny but never flippant, Martin takes into account throughout the weight of his subject, even when describing his own grisly attempts, or those of his friends, without platitude or sentiment… This provocative dive into a difficult subject shouldn’t be missed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

if you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 for the suicide & crisis lifeline, or reach out to the national suicide prevention lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by texting “home” to 741741. 

The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts by Soraya Palmer

fiction / fantasy.

The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential GhostsSisters Zora and Sasha Porter are drifting apart. Bearing witness to their father’s violence and their mother’s worsening illness, an unsettled Zora escapes into her journal, dreaming of being a writer, while Sasha discovers sex and chest binding, spending more time with her new girlfriend than at home.

But the sisters, like their parents, must come together to answer to beings greater than themselves, and reckon with a family secret buried in the past. A tale told from the perspective of a mischievous narrator, featuring the Rolling Calf who haunts butchers, Mama Dglo who lives in the ocean, a vain tiger, and an outsmarted snake, The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter & Other Essential Ghosts is set in a world as alive and unpredictable as Helen Oyeyemi’s.

Telling of the love between sisters who don’t always see eye to eye, this extraordinary debut novel is a celebration of the power of stories, asking, what happens to us when our stories are erased? Do we disappear? Or do we come back haunting?

“Palmer weaves folktales and magical realism in her moving debut… This will stick with readers.” – Publishers Weekly

“The long and winding name of this assertive debut matches the magnitude of the stories within, which draw on folklore to capture the dynamic between two sisters, Zora and Sasha Porter. Their mother’s illness and their father’s violence has fractured their relationship, but their bond is reforged as an old family secret—and a surrounding cache of remarkable tales—roars to the surface.” – Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle

“In Soraya Palmer’s The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts, the fantastical plot flowers more like a century-old fable than a standard work of fiction, made up of colorfully strange characters… One cannot help but experience curiosity about this tale of two sisters who begin to live very different lives as they grow older. If you’re interested in colorful African American folklore, this book is unlikely to disappoint.” – Jordannah Elizabeth, New York Amsterdam News

Button Hoopla Listen

Into the Light by Mark Oshiro

fiction / young adult / mystery / suspense.

Into the LightIt’s been one year since Manny was cast out of his family and driven into the wilderness of the American Southwest. Since then, Manny lives by self-taught rules that keep him moving—and keep him alive. Now, he’s taking a chance on a traveling situation with the Varela family, whose attractive but surly son, Carlos, seems to promise a new future.

Eli abides by the rules of his family, living in a secluded community that raised him to believe his obedience will be rewarded. But an unsettling question slowly eats away at Eli’s once unwavering faith in Reconciliation: Why can’t he remember his past?

But the reported discovery of an unidentified body in the hills of Idyllwild, California, will draw both of these young men into facing their biggest fears and confronting their own identity—and who they are allowed to be.

For fans of Courtney Summers and Tiffany D. Jackson, Into the Light is a ripped-from-the-headlines story with Oshiro’s signature mix of raw emotions and visceral prose—but with a startling twist you’ll have to read to believe.

“An edge-of-your-seat mystery… gripping and raw… this mystery’s proximity to reality is viscerally nauseating, a testament to the author’s skill… An important and searing read on the value of family, agency, and belief.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Oshiro’s storytelling is unsettling and even upsetting, in the best possible way… Into the Light is a thoughtful, beautiful, riveting thriller that fans of dynamic character building, gritty mystery, and searing social commentary will devour in a heartbeat.” – Rob Bittner, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Via a deliberately plotted, nonlinear timeline, this potent speculative thriller from Oshiro builds a harrowing image of a queer adoptee navigating religious trauma while combatting white saviorism… While retaining space for authentic representations of faith and spirituality, this breathtaking indictment of corrupted religion’s consequences presents a standout, deeply felt portrait of a teenager’s longing for connection.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Lone Women by Victor LaValle

fiction / horror / historical fiction / mystery.

Lone WomenAdelaide Henry carries an enormous steamer trunk with her wherever she goes. It’s locked at all times. Because when the trunk is opened, people around her start to disappear…

The year is 1914, and Adelaide is in trouble. Her secret sin killed her parents, and forced her to flee her hometown of Redondo, California, in a hellfire rush, ready to make her way to Montana as a homesteader. Dragging the trunk with her at every stop, she will be one of the “lone women” taking advantage of the government’s offer of free land for those who can cultivate it—except that Adelaide isn’t alone. And the secret she’s tried so desperately to lock away might be the only thing keeping her alive.

Told in Victor LaValle’s signature style, blending historical fiction, shimmering prose, and inventive horror, Lone Women is the gripping story of a woman desperate to bury her past—and a portrait of early twentieth-century America like you’ve never seen.

“If you haven’t read a LaValle novel, prepare to stock up. You’ll want more once you’ve sped through this propulsive concoction of genre tropes—from western themes to gothic twists… LaValle combines chills with deep insights into our country’s divides.” – Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times

“[A] tense horror novel that’ll have you flipping pages faster than you can say ‘keep the lights on’… A well-plotted, genre-blending tale that ratchets up the suspense and weaves mystery throughout (what, we ask, is in that trunk?), Lone Women is must-read fiction.” – Lynnette Nicholas, Reader’s Digest

“Victor LaValle is one of the most exciting authors working in the horror genre today, and with this new novel he turns his skills at suspense and terror to the American West. Hold your breath as you read, but LaValle has built a brutal and compelling portrait of early-twentieth-century America that may just keep you up at night.” – Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books

“LaValle’s vivid, three-dimensional characters are always a draw, and this fascinating cast is a real treat, plus he introduces lesser-known pieces of American history in a way that never feels didactic… Highly recommended for historical fiction readers just as much as die-hard horror fans.” – Emily Hughes, Vulture

Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline

fiction / historical fiction / mystery / suspense.

LoyaltyFranco Fiorvante is a handsome lemon-grower who has toiled for years on the estate of boss Baron Zito. Franco dreams of owning his own lemon grove, but the rigid class system of Sicily thwarts his ambitions. Determined to secure a prosperous future, Franco will do anything to prove his loyalty to the Baron. But when Baron Zito asks him to arrange the kidnapping of a little boy, Franco crosses the point of no return, setting in motion the making of the world’s first Mafia family.

Gaetano Catalano is an idealistic young lawyer, whose devotion for justice is a calling. Gaetano is a member of the Beati Paoli, a real-life secret society of aristocrats who investigate crime, since corruption riddles Palermo. Gaetano and the Beati Paoli set out to find the boy and bring him home, but for Gaetano, the mission turns to obsession. He risks everything to right the wrong and bring justice to his beloved city.

The kidnapped boy, Dante, grows up in a madhouse without even knowing his last name. He doubts his own sanity until he meets Lucia, a girl with a tragic past of her own. They fall in love, then set out to find Dante’s kidnapper and learn his true identity.

“[An] emotional, action-packed epic of love and justice, set during the rise of the Mafia.” – Karen Troutman, Library Reads

“[A] mafia magnum-opus… Loyalty is an epic novel about the rise of the mafia in 19th century Sicily.” – Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

“Every scene is a full sensory experience, as Scottoline weaves lemon-scented breezes, the ocean’s sounds, and sun-baked piazza stones into a timeless, tragedy-strewn story of love, power, and redemption.” – Christine Tran, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…intriguing… Scottoline brings her characters to life, instilling them with wit and intellect as they navigate the corruption of Sicily’s law enforcement. Historical crime fiction fans will be riveted.” – Publishers Weekly

The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley

fiction / mystery / suspense / romance / comedy.

The Mostly True Story of Tanner & LouiseTwenty-one-year-old Tanner Quimby needs a place to live. Preferably one where she can continue sitting around in sweatpants and playing video games nineteen hours a day. Since she has no credit or money to speak of, her options are limited, so when an opportunity to work as a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman falls into her lap, she takes it.

One slip on the rug. That’s all it took for Louise Wilt’s daughter to demand that Louise have a full-time nanny living with her. Never mind that she can still walk fine, finish her daily crossword puzzle, and pour the two fingers of vodka she drinks every afternoon. Bottom line — Louise wants a caretaker even less than Tanner wants to be one.

The two start off their living arrangement happily ignoring each other until Tanner starts to notice things—weird things. Like, why does Louise keep her garden shed locked up tighter than a prison? And why is the local news fixated on the suspect of one of the biggest jewelry heists in American history who looks eerily like Louise? And why does Louise suddenly appear in her room, with a packed bag at 1 a.m. insisting that they leave town immediately?

Thus begins the story of a not-to-be-underestimated elderly woman and an aimless young woman who—if they can outrun the mistakes of their past—might just have the greatest adventure of their lives.

“With a wild road trip, a classic car, and a love interest reminiscent of a young Brad Pitt, The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise is tailor-made for fans of Thelma and Louise.” – Elizabeth Heath, Reader’s Digest

“…delightful… Oakley keeps readers guessing about Louise’s motives for her long-ago heist and those of her best friend George, whom they’re on the way to see, delivering a suspenseful ending readers won’t see coming. The antics of this unlikely duo makes for an entertaining buddy drama.” – Publishers Weekly

“Tanner and Louise’s growing bond is funny and heartwarming and gives heart to Oakley’s latest, but the sharp, witty dialogue and plotting keep the story from becoming too saccharine. A great read-alike for fans of the television show Hacks.” – Jane Jorgenson, Library Journal

Murder Under a Red Moon by Harini Nagendra

fiction / mystery / historical fiction.

Murder Under a Red MoonWhen new bride Kaveri Murthy reluctantly agrees to investigate a minor crime to please her domineering mother-in-law—during the blood moon eclipse, no less—she doesn’t expect, once again, to stumble upon a murder.

With anti-British sentiment on the rise, a charismatic religious leader growing in influence, and the fight for women’s suffrage gaining steam, Bangalore is turning out to be a far more dangerous and treacherous place than Kaveri ever imagined—and everyone’s motives are suspect.

Together with the Bangalore Detectives Club—a mixed bag of street urchins, nosy neighbors, an ex-prostitute, and a policeman’s wife— Kaveri once again sleuths in her sari and hunts for clues in her beloved 1920s Ford.

But when her life is suddenly put in danger, Kaveri realizes that she might be getting uncomfortably close to the truth. So she must now draw on her wits and find the killer… before they find her.

“I’m pleased to report that Murder Under a Red Moon exceeds all my expectations. Against a roiling political backdrop — the women’s suffrage movement is growing, as is anti-British sentiment — Kaveri and Bhargavi come to a deeper understanding of each other.” – Sarah Weinman, New York Times

“…superb… Assured pacing matches equally assured prose, and Nagendra brings the political tensions of India’s colonial period to life without overwhelming the crafty whodunit plot.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Here’s an amateur detective to cheer for… excruciatingly exciting and entirely believable… Splendid.” – Connie Fletcher, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Button Hoopla Read

The New Earth by Jess Row


The New EarthFor fifteen years, the Wilcoxes have been a family in name only. Though never the picture of happiness, they once seemed like a typical white Jewish clan from the Upper West Side. But in the early 2000s, two events ruptured the relationships between them. First, Naomi revealed to her children that her biological father was actually Black. In the aftermath, college-age daughter Bering left home to become a radical peace activist in Palestine’s West Bank, where she was killed by an Israeli Army sniper.

Now, in 2018, Winter Wilcox is getting married, and her only demand is that her mother, father, and brother emerge from their self-imposed isolations and gather once more. After decades of neglecting personal and political wounds, each remaining family member must face their fractured history and decide if they can ever reconcile.

Assembling a vast chorus of voices and ideas from across the globe, Jess Row “explodes the saga from within–blows the roof off, so to speak, to let in politics, race, theory, and the narrative self-awareness that the form had seemed hell-bent on ignoring” (Jonathan Lethem). The New Earth is a commanding investigation of our deep and impossible desire to undo the injustices we have both inflicted and been forced to endure.

“…magisterial… Moments of levity draw the reader in, and the author pulls off many moving metafictional moments. This is Row’s best work yet.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…stupendously good… Each character’s story is a fascinating portal into contemporary life, adding up to a deeply moving, wonderfully engaging, and truly remarkable novel of the times.” – Alexander Moran, Booklist

“[A] deeply ambitious, genre-defying work, which hops back and forth in time, shifts between various points of view, and incorporates a massive amount of politics and theory on race, Zen Buddhism, climate change, the history of Israel and Palestine, and, among other things, the novel itself as a literary form… A deeply ambitious saga that takes on many of the thorniest questions of 21st-century American life.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

The Perfumist of Paris by Alka Joshi

fiction / historical fiction.

The Perfumist of ParisParis, 1974. Radha is now thirty-two and living in Paris with her husband, Pierre, and their two daughters. She still grieves for the baby boy she gave up years ago, when she was only a child herself, but she loves being a mother to her daughters, and she’s finally found her passion—the treasure trove of scents.

When her friend’s grandfather offered her a job at his parfumerie, she quickly discovered she had a talent—she could find the perfect fragrance for any customer who walked in the door. Now, ten years later, she’s working for a master perfumer, helping to design completely new fragrances for clients and building her career one scent at a time. She only wishes Pierre could understand her need to work. She feels his frustration, but she can’t give up this thing that drives her.

Tasked with her first major project, Radha travels to India, where she enlists the help of her sister, Lakshmi, and the courtesans of Agra—women who use the power of fragrance to seduce, tease and entice. She’s on the cusp of a breakthrough when she finds out the son she never told her husband about is heading to Paris to find her—upending her carefully managed world and threatening to destroy a vulnerable marriage.

“Lush descriptions and complex characters lead to a wholly satisfying conclusion to Joshi’s stand-out Jaipur trilogy… Filled with the rich and evocative scents of India and Paris, this novel will transport readers to Radha’s world as she deals with heartaches and triumphs on her journey to wholeness.” – Portia Kapraun, Library Journal

“…intoxicating… One can smell and taste the story. This novel is so descriptive the reader is able to experience it all… The Perfumist of Paris is a satisfying end to a complicated trilogy of family and relationships in two disparate countries that allow readers to enjoy both. When Joshi writes about the portraits that inspire Radha’s work, women will understand.” – Catherine Ford, Calgary Herald

“Alka Joshi’s lush third novel, The Perfumist of Paris, takes readers on a multi-sensory journey from a pristine Parisian perfume lab to the bustling markets of Agra in India… Though Radha’s story is set nearly half a century ago, her struggle to carve out a life for herself while fulfilling her role in her family feels sharply contemporary… Beautifully written and thought-provoking, The Perfumist of Paris continues a compelling family saga, immerses readers in the world of perfume, and asks important questions about the desires and possibilities available to women.” – Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness

Button Hoopla Listen

Sea Change by Gina Chung

fiction / science fiction.

Sea ChangeRo is stuck. She’s just entered her thirties, she’s estranged from her mother, and her boyfriend has just left her to join a mission to Mars. Her days are spent dragging herself to her menial job at a mall aquarium, and her nights are spent drinking sharktinis (mountain dew and copious amounts of gin, plus a hint of jalapeno). With her best friend pulling away to focus on her upcoming wedding, Ro’s only companion is Dolores, a giant Pacific octopus who also happens to be Ro’s last remaining link to her father, a marine biologist who disappeared while on an expedition when Ro was a teenager.

When Dolores is sold to a wealthy investor intent on moving her to a private aquarium, Ro finds herself on the precipice of self-destruction. Wading through memories of her youth, Ro has one last chance to come to terms with her childhood trauma, recommit to those around her, and find her place in an ever-changing world.

“[A] stellar debut novel… Gina Chung writes about the marvels of marine life with such intense care and beauty… Sea Change is sure to make a splash! (Sorry.) Get ready to dive in!” – Katie Yee, Literary Hub

Sea Change is a standout of the 2023 debut class. It will pull you in from the first page and not let go as you traverse through a sea of originality. It’s filled with stunning and scrumptious prose.” – vitcavage, Debutiful

“[A] charmingly offbeat debut… The self-hating young woman is a familiar figure in recent fiction, but the specifics of Ro’s situation and her friendship with Dolores, along with the speculative elements, make Sea Change stand out.” – Rebecca Foster, Shelf Awareness

Sea Change tells the story of a woman trying to find her way in the world, encapsulating all the heartbreak and healing along the way… Readers will find themselves deeply immersed in this brilliant tale.” – Barnes & Noble

Tombs by Junji Ito

fiction / graphic novel / horror.

TombsThree-time Eisner Award winner Junji Ito invites you to the horrific Tomb Town and beyond.

Countless tombstones stand in rows, forming a bizarre town. What fate awaits a brother and sister after a traffic accident in this town of the dead? In another tale, a girl falls silent, her tongue transformed into a slug. Can a friend save her? Then, when a young man moves to a new town, he finds the house next door has only a single window. What does his grotesque neighbor want, calling out to him every evening from that lone window?

Fresh nightmares brought to you by horror master Junji Ito.

“Junji Ito is the master of Japanese horror manga.” – Liberty Hardy, Book Riot

“This is a collection that will please any Ito fan and may even intrigue newcomers to his distinctive work and style.” – Ashley Hawkins, Booklist

“This trick-or-treat bag of terror tales from horror master Ito is spiked with dark humor and dream-logic absurdity… As always, Ito’s fine-lined art has an elegant neo-gothic appeal… this is one of the stronger selections of his short manga, one that Ito’s and all horror fans won’t want to miss.” – Publishers Weekly

White Cat, Black Dog: Stories by Kelly Link; illustrated by Shaun Tan

fiction / fantasy / horror.

White Cat, Black DogSeven ingeniously reinvented fairy tales that play out with astonishing consequences in the modern world, from one of today’s finest short story writers–MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Kelly Link, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Get in Trouble.

Finding seeds of inspiration in the Brothers Grimm, seventeenth-century French lore, and Scottish ballads, Kelly Link spins classic fairy tales into utterly original stories of seekers–characters on the hunt for love, connection, revenge, or their own sense of purpose.

In “The White Cat’s Divorce,” an aging billionaire sends his three sons on a series of absurd goose chases to decide which will become his heir. In “The Girl Who Did Not Know Fear,” a professor with a delicate health condition becomes stranded for days in an airport hotel after a conference, desperate to get home to her wife and young daughter, and in acute danger of being late for an appointment that cannot be missed. In “Skinder’s Veil,” a young man agrees to take over a remote house-sitting gig for a friend. But what should be a chance to focus on his long-avoided dissertation instead becomes a wildly unexpected journey, as the house seems to be a portal for otherworldly travelers–or perhaps a door into his own mysterious psyche.

Twisting and winding in astonishing ways, expertly blending realism and the speculative, witty, empathetic, and never predictable–these stories remind us once again of why Kelly Link is incomparable in the art of short fiction.

“Link is a genius… [This book is] pure modern folklore—eccentric, taut and tapped into the collective subconscious.” – Bethane Patrick, Los Angeles Times

“The Brothers Grimm meet Black Mirror meets Alice in Wonderland… In seven remixed fairy tales, Link delivers wit and dreamlike intrigue.” – Laura Zornosa, Time

“Thought-provoking and wonderfully told… so seamlessly entwines the real with the surreal that the stories threaten to slip into reality, resonating long after reading… thought-provoking and wonderfully told.” – Margaret Kingsbury, BuzzFeed

“Fans of Station Eleven, speculative fiction or simply anyone who needs a brief escape from the hard, cold world will find the prose here magically transporting… wild, wicked, and utterly unforgettable.” – Alison Stine, Salon


Curious how these lists are put together? CLICK HERE!

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

One comment

Leave a Reply