Best New Books: Week of 4/4/23

“I always worried someone would notice me, and then when no one did, I felt lonely.” – Curtis Sittenfeld, Prep

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker

fiction / young adult / fantasy / mystery.

Blood DebtsThirty years ago, a young woman was murdered, a family was lynched, and New Orleans saw the greatest magical massacre in its history. In the days that followed, a throne was stolen from a queen.

On the anniversary of these brutal events, Clement and Cristina Trudeau—the sixteen-year-old twin heirs to the powerful, magical, dethroned family—are mourning their father and caring for their sick mother. Until, by chance, they discover their mother isn’t sick—she’s cursed. Cursed by someone on the very magic council their family used to rule. Someone who will come for them next.

Cristina, once a talented and dedicated practitioner of Generational magic, has given up magic for good. An ancient spell is what killed their father and she was the one who cast it. For Clement, magic is his lifeline. A distraction from his anger and pain. Even better than the random guys he hooks up with.

Cristina and Clement used to be each other’s most trusted confidant and friend, now they barely speak. But if they have any hope of discovering who is coming after their family, they’ll have to find a way to trust each other and their family’s magic, all while solving the decades-old murder that sparked the still-rising tensions between the city’s magical and non-magical communities. And if they don’t succeed, New Orleans may see another massacre. Or worse.

“[A] searing debut… a standalone urban fantasy with characters you’ll root for, even when things get messy.” – Christina Orlando,

“A complex and intriguing fantasy that is sure to be popular with teens.” – Ness Shortley, School Library Journal

“Riveting and relevant… [A] bewitching contemporary fantasy… realistic, magically charged political intrigue surrounds this high-suspense mystery… Benton-Walker develops each character with emotional complexity… This page-turning debut demands a sequel.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] scintillating debut… Steeped in spiritual lore that takes cues from the rich cultural history of the Black diaspora, Walker paints an evocative picture of an enchanted New Orleans as earthly as it is divine. Walker effectively parallels contemporary politics with heady alternate magical history to create a layered world that is more than the sum of its mercurial characters and its many moving parts.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Built to Move: The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully by Kelly Starrett & Juliet Starrett

nonfiction / health / self-help.

Built to MoveAfter decades spent working with pro-athletes, Olympians, and Navy Seals, mobility pioneers Kelly and Juliet Starrett began thinking about the physical well-being of the rest of us. What makes a durable human? How do we continue to feel great and function well as we age? And how do we counteract the effects of technology-dependence, sedentary living, and other modern ways of life on our body’s natural need for activity?

The answers lie in an easy-to-use formula for basic mobility maintenance: 10 tests + 10 physical practices = 10 ways to make your body work better

This book is full of foundational wisdom for everyone from beginners to professional athletes and everyone in between. Built to Move introduces readers to a set of simple principles and practices that are undemanding enough to work into any busy schedule, lead to greater ease of movement, better health, and a happier life doing whatever it is you love to do—and want to continue doing as long as you live. This book is your game plan for the long game.

“A highly informative book about staying limber, Built to Move is an accessible guide for gym lovers and haters alike.” – Brittany Bunzey, Barnes & Noble

“[A] useful program… Eschewing intensive workouts, the Starretts focus on boosting mobility through simple exercises… Helpful illustrations demonstrate how to perform the exercises and the low intensity of the workouts will appeal to those intimidated by more demanding regimens. Even couch potatoes will be motivated to get moving.” – Publishers Weekly

Buried Treasures: The Power of Political Fairy Tales by Jack Zipes

nonfiction / history / literature / biography.

Buried TreasuresJack Zipes has spent decades as a “scholarly scavenger,” discovering forgotten fairy tales in libraries, flea markets, used bookstores, and internet searches, and he has introduced countless readers to these remarkable works and their authors. In Buried Treasures, Zipes describes his special passion for uncovering political fairy tales of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, offers fascinating profiles of more than a dozen of their writers and illustrators, and shows why they deserve greater attention and appreciation.

These writers and artists used their remarkable talents to confront political oppression and economic exploitation by creating alternative, imaginative worlds that test the ethics and morals of the real world and expose hidden truths. Among the figures we meet here are Édouard Laboulaye, a jurist who wrote acute fairy tales about justice; Charles Godfrey Leland, a folklorist who found other worlds in tales of Native Americans, witches, and Roma; Kurt Schwitters, an artist who wrote satirical, antiauthoritarian stories; Mariette Lydis, a painter who depicted lost-and-found souls; Lisa Tetzner, who dramatized exploitation by elites; Felix Salten, who unveiled the real meaning of Bambi’s dangerous life in the forest; and Gianni Rodari, whose work showed just how political and insightful fantasy stories can be.

Demonstrating the uncanny power of political fairy tales, Buried Treasures also shows how their fictional realities not only enrich our understanding of the world but even give us tools to help us survive.

“Zipes is one of our most venerable and important fairy tale scholars; a new book from him is always something to anticipate for those interested in the form.” – Emily Temple, Literary Hub

“[A] revealing study… Zipes’s careful attention to how fairy tales reflect the concerns of their time recovers their subversive potential, and biographical sketches of the authors show how they strived through their works to imagine brighter outcomes. This is a potent testament to the power of stories.” – Publishers Weekly

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Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh

fiction / historical fiction / mystery.

Cursed BreadStill reeling in the aftermath of the deadliest war the world had ever seen, the small town of Pont-Saint-Esprit collectively lost its mind. Some historians believe the mysterious illness and violent hallucinations were caused by spoiled bread; others claim it was the result of covert government testing on the local population.

In that town lived a woman named Elodie. She was the baker’s wife: a plain, unremarkable person who yearned to transcend her dull existence. So when a charismatic new couple arrived in town, the forceful ambassador and his sharp-toothed wife, Violet, Elodie was quickly drawn into their orbit. Thus began a dangerous game of cat and mouse – but who was the predator and on whom did they prey?

Audacious and mesmerising, Cursed Bread is a fevered confession, an entry into memory’s hall of mirrors, and an erotic fable of transformation. Sophie Mackintosh spins a darkly gleaming tale of a town gripped by hysteria, envy like poison in the blood, and desire that burns and consumes.

“…compelling… By choosing a historical mystery from 1951 as the setting for her third novel, Sophie Mackintosh has given her strange and intriguing imagination the opportunity to flourish. There is tension on every page… an engaging and immersive read.” – Henry Oliver, Prospect

“A vivid and visceral account of a postwar French village and its sudden descent into the grip of madness… This novel is a masterclass in observation, of fracturing personalities but also in its tight and nuanced portrait of the rituals and minutiae of small-town life. Afterwards, you’ll want to devour it all over again. 10/10.” – Hannah Colby, The Independent

“[Cursed Bread] peels away the surface of reality and offers us something stranger and more vivid… Mackintosh’s prose is eerie but minimalist – dreamlike yet grounded. Her style elevates plot to the status of fable or allegory without resorting to straightforward metaphor. This a story shrouded in mist, thick with meaning.” – Anna Leszkiewicz, New Statesman

Eat, Drink and Drop Dead by T.C. Lotempio

fiction / mystery.

Eat, Drink and Drop DeadFood critic and blogger Tiffany Austin has the best job in the world: she gets to eat for a living. At least, she hopes she has a job. Her trial period at Southern Style magazine is up – and rumors are swirling that management are making a choice between Tiffany and a rival columnist: the ambitious Jenny Lee Plumm.

Former chef Tiffany knows she has a battle on her hands… but she didn’t realize it was to the death! When her rival’s body is discovered after the two have a very public argument, Tiffany finds herself the prime suspect in a murder investigation. The lead detective might be very hot – but Tiffany’s definitely not ready to go down for a crime she didn’t commit.

Ably assisted by Hilary, her best friend and partner in (non) crime, and bolstered by the unconditional love of her Siamese cat Lily and King Charles Cavalier puppy Cooper, Tiffany plunges into an investigation of her own. After all, she has a degree from the CIA – the Culinary Institute of America – and she’s not afraid to use it. But can she find the real killer before she’s served up to the cops on a silver platter?

“[A] delightful series launch… Captivating characters and plenty of intrigue help drive this tale of professional jealousy. Culinary cozy fans will look forward to Tiffany’s further adventures.” – Publishers Weekly

“This light-hearted series debut has oodles of charm, mouth-watering descriptions of southern cuisine (with recipes), and a sassy, savvy heroine. Foodie mystery fans will enjoy it from first course to last.” – Emily Melton, Booklist

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Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad


Enter GhostAfter years away from her family’s homeland, and reeling from a disastrous love affair, actress Sonia Nasir returns to Haifa to visit her older sister Haneen. This is her first trip back since the second intifada and the deaths of their grandparents: while Haneen made a life here commuting to Tel Aviv to teach at the university, Sonia stayed in London to focus on her acting career and now dissolute marriage. On her return, she finds her relationship to Palestine is fragile, both bone-deep and new.

At Haneen’s, Sonia meets the charismatic and candid Mariam, a local director, and finds herself roped into a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. Sonia is soon rehearsing Gertude’s lines in classical Arabic and spending more time in Ramallah than in Haifa, along with a dedicated group of men from all over historic Palestine who, in spite of competing egos and priorities, each want to bring Shakespeare to that side of the wall. As opening night draws closer it becomes clear just how many violent obstacles stand before a troupe of Palestinian actors. Amidst it all, the life Sonia once knew starts to give way to the daunting, exhilarating possibility of finding a new self in her ancestral home.

A stunning rendering of present-day Palestine, Enter Ghost is a story of diaspora, displacement, and the connection to be found in family and shared resistance. Timely, thoughtful, and passionate, Isabella Hammad’s highly anticipated second novel is an exquisite feat, an unforgettable story of artistry under occupation.

“Hammad presents a lyrical meditation on Palestinian endurance, the role of theater as political protest, and the undeniable pull of home.” – Lesley Williams, Booklist

“A thorough and thoughtful exploration of the role of art in the political arena unfolds as Sonia and the troupe work through rehearsals toward performing a tragedy with contemporary resonance. Hammad provides a brutal update on a classic theme.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…soul-stirring and dramatic… The layered text, rich in languages and literary references, dives deep into Sonia’s consciousness, illustrating her hopes for what art can accomplish. This deeply human work will stay with readers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them by Timothy Egan

nonfiction / history / true crime.

A Fever in the HeartlandThe Roaring Twenties–the Jazz Age–has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson.

Stephenson was a magnetic presence whose life story changed with every telling. Within two years of his arrival in Indiana, he’d become the Grand Dragon of the state and the architect of the strategy that brought the group out of the shadows – their message endorsed from the pulpits of local churches, spread at family picnics and town celebrations. Judges, prosecutors, ministers, governors and senators across the country all proudly proclaimed their membership. But at the peak of his influence, it was a seemingly powerless woman – Madge Oberholtzer – who would reveal his secret cruelties, and whose deathbed testimony finally brought the Klan to their knees.

A Fever in the Heartland marries a propulsive drama to a powerful and page-turning reckoning with one of the darkest threads in American history.

“[A] shocking, horrifying history… [it] seem disturbingly familiar and undeniably chilling. An excellently rendered, unsettling narrative of America at its worst.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“With a probing vibrancy, Egan, winner of the Carnegie Medal, Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Award, unfurls this powerful tale of a psychopathic zealot who came dangerously close to reshaping America in his warped image. This riveting exposé of a sordid chapter in U.S. history has frightening parallels to present conflicts.” – Carol Haggas, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Egan’s riveting page-turner offers profound insights to readers willing to peer into layers of American hypocrisy, intolerance, malignant indifference, and public culpability.” – Thomas J. Davis, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“…shocking… evocative… Dramatic twists of fate and vivid character sketches distinguish this harrowing look at a forgotten chapter of American history. It’s a certifiable page-turner.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Homecoming by Kate Morton

fiction / historical fiction / mystery / suspense.

HomecomingAdelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of the grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia.

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital.

Nora has always been a vibrant and strong presence: decisive, encouraging, young despite her years. When Jess visits her in the hospital, she is alarmed to find her grandmother frail and confused. It’s even more alarming to hear from Nora’s housekeeper that Nora had been distracted in the weeks before her accident and had fallen on the steps to the attic—the one place Jess was forbidden from playing in when she was small.

At loose ends in Nora’s house, Jess does some digging of her own. In Nora’s bedroom, she discovers a true crime book, chronicling the police investigation into a long-buried tragedy: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the book that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime—a crime that has never been resolved satisfactorily. And for a journalist without a story, a cold case might be the best distraction she can find…

An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, and how we protect the lies we tell. It explores the power of motherhood, the corrosive effects of tightly held secrets, and the healing nature of truth. Above all, it is a beguiling and immensely satisfying novel from one of the finest writers working today.

Homecoming provides the perfect atmosphere and suspense to immerse readers in a tale of family both lost and found. The book will take you on a trip down under to a rich, satisfying and surprising conclusion.” – Betsy Von Kerens, Indie Next

“Readers will think they know the connection between the two story lines, but Morton keeps the secrets coming, leading up to a powerful, emotional conclusion. This is storytelling at its finest.” – Susan Maguire, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[An] eerie epic… Jess’s gripping inquiry into what happened brings up staggering revelations. Along the way, there are beautiful descriptions of the region’s landscape and canny insights into the neighborhood’s tight-knit community. This is Morton’s best yet.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“One of the delights for readers of a mystery is picking up little crumbs of evidence along the way. As Homecoming gallops toward its close, you may think you know what’s coming, and the foreknowledge is both ghastly and thrilling.” – BookPage

The House Is on Fire by Rachel Beanland

fiction / historical fiction / mystery.

The House Is on FireRichmond, Virginia 1811. It’s the height of the winter social season. The General Assembly is in session, and many of Virginia’s gentleman planters, along with their wives and children, have made the long and arduous journey to the capital in hopes of whiling away the darkest days of the year. At the city’s only theater, the Charleston-based Placide & Green Company puts on two plays a night to meet the demand of a populace that’s done looking for enlightenment in a church.

On the night after Christmas, the theater is packed with more than six hundred holiday revelers. In the third-floor boxes, sits newly widowed Sally Henry Campbell, who is glad for any opportunity to relive the happy times she shared with her husband. One floor away, in the colored gallery, Cecily Patterson doesn’t give a whit about the play but is grateful for a four-hour reprieve from a life that has recently gone from bad to worse. Backstage, young stagehand Jack Gibson hopes that, if he can impress the theater’s managers, he’ll be offered a permanent job with the company. And on the other side of town, blacksmith Gilbert Hunt dreams of one day being able to bring his wife to the theater, but he’ll have to buy her freedom first.

When the theater goes up in flames in the middle of the performance, Sally, Cecily, Jack, and Gilbert make a series of split-second decisions that will not only affect their own lives but those of countless others. And in the days following the fire, as news of the disaster spreads across the United States, the paths of these four people will become forever intertwined.

Based on the true story of Richmond’s theater fire, The House Is on Fire offers proof that sometimes, in the midst of great tragedy, we are offered our most precious—and fleeting—chances at redemption.

“[A] riveting historical fiction…” – Brittany Bunzey, Barnes & Noble

“Beanland enlivens the smart and suspenseful narrative with fully developed protagonists that illuminate the community’s response to mass catastrophe. Readers will relish this.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…powerful… Moving at a propulsive pace, the novel rotates through the perspectives of [its] main characters–two men and two women; two white people and two enslaved Black people–caught up in the tragedy and its aftermath… Painstakingly researched and full of historical detail and full-blooded characters, Beanland’s novel dramatizes the range of responses to tragedy and how people rebuild their lives.” – Rebecca Foster, Shelf Awareness

“Seamlessly interweaving historical facts and her own narrative, Beanland follows these four characters through the fire, the immediate, chaotic aftermath, and the subsequent investigation. Fully realized characters and gripping prose makes for an excellent, riveting novel…” – Lynnanne Pearson, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

House of Cotton by Monica Brashears

fiction / horror / mystery / suspense.

House of CottonNineteen years old, broke, and effectively an orphan, Magnolia doesn’t have much to look forward to. She feels stuck and haunted: by her overdrawn bank account, by her predatory landlord, by the ghost of her late grandmother Mama Brown.

One night while working at her dead-end gas station job, a mysterious, slick stranger named Cotton walks in and offers to turn Magnolia’s luck around. He offers her a lucrative “modeling” job at his family’s funeral home. Magnolia accepts. But despite things looking up, Magnolia’s problems fatten along with her wallet. When Cotton’s requests become increasingly weird, Magnolia discovers there’s a lot more at stake than just her rent.

Sharp as a belted knife, this sly social commentary cuts straight to the bone, revealing the aftermath of the American plantation and what it means to be poor, Black, and a woman in the God fearing south.

“[A] haunting and macabre debut… Magnolia is a wonderfully complex character… This is a fine testament to resilience.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] great, macabre, spicy Black Southern gothic novel. It is real and unreal, strange and familiar — that perfect liminal space book.” – Anton Bogomazov, Indie Next

“…engrossing… Brashears’s prose style is sharp and incisive, and the entrancing, distinctive voice of her protagonist is by turns weary, sardonic and yearning. A haunting story and unusual perspective make this a memorable and thought-provoking debut… Brashears offers a fresh new perspective on Appalachia and the American South, and Magnolia’s rich voice will echo with readers long after the pages are closed.” – Julia Kastner, Shelf Awareness

“Startling, vivid, and impressive… Brashears has written a lush, pictorial, and often steamy novel with an indelible heroine. Coupling classic gothic elements with a realistic portrayal of the issues facing a young, poor, Black woman with few options, the novel’s many strengths culminate in a powerful and original story that will appeal to a variety of readers across fiction genres.” – Booklist

The Last Heir to the Blackwood Library by Hester Fox

fiction / historical fiction / fantasy / mystery.

The Last Heir to the Blackwood LibraryWith the stroke of a pen, twenty-three-year-old Ivy Radcliffe becomes Lady Hayworth, owner of a sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Ivy has never heard of Blackwood Abbey, or of the ancient bloodline from which she’s descended. With nothing to keep her in London since losing her brother in the Great War, she warily makes her way to her new home.

The abbey is foreboding, the servants reserved and suspicious. But there is a treasure waiting behind locked doors: a magnificent library. Despite cryptic warnings from the staff, Ivy feels irresistibly drawn to its dusty shelves, where familiar works mingle with strange, esoteric texts. And she senses something else in the library too, a presence that seems to have a will of its own.

Rumors swirl in the village about the abbey’s previous owners, about ghosts and curses, and an enigmatic manuscript at the center of it all. And as events grow more sinister, it will be up to Ivy to uncover the library’s mysteries in order to reclaim her own story—before it vanishes forever.

“Immersive historical detail and a gripping, intricate plot combine to plunge readers headlong into a rags-to-riches tale laced with betrayal and intrigue. This is a treat for bibliophiles.” – Publishers Weekly

“Combining history, the occult, human greed, and a touch of feminism, this is a fine addition to the gothic genre.” – Danise Hoover, Booklist

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Linghun by Ai Jiang

fiction / horror.

LinghunFrom acclaimed author Ai Jiang, follow Wenqi, Liam, and Mrs. to the mysterious town of Home, a place where the dead live again as spirits, conjured by the grief-sick population that refuses to let go.

This edition includes a foreword by Yi Izzy Yu, translator of The Shadow Book of Ji Yun, the essay “A Ramble on Di Fu Ling & Death” by the author, and two bonus short stories from Jiang: “Yǒngshí” and “Teeter Totter.”

“A strange and melancholy story about grief and loss and how it can cling to a person until obsession has taken over.” – Kate, The Library Ladies

“[A] modern gothic masterpiece… Jiang’s fiction bears distinctive, telltale flourishes… experimental and surreal… The feelings she conjures are painful yet so beautiful… The terror of the ghosts of Linghun is not the harm they mean to do us but the pain they already represent. Linghun is a story of hope and loss, of how the death of identity and home can be the most painful of all.” – Zach Rosenberg, Horror DNA

“[A] haunting investigation into home and grief… a gothic ghost story like no other. Lexical gaps and misinterpretation feed into a pervasive sadness which lingers over the characters… Linghun explores language not only as a tool for communication but as a way of telling and preserving our stories and heritage. This is integral to the idea of home, not only a place but something we carry with us, much like grief.” – Katalina Watt, The Skinny

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A Living Remedy: A Memoir by Nicole Chung ★

nonfiction / memoir.

A Living RemedyIn this country, unless you attain extraordinary wealth, you will likely be unable to help your loved ones in all the ways you’d hoped. You will learn to live with the specific, hollow guilt of those who leave hardship behind, yet are unable to bring anyone else with them.

When Nicole Chung graduated from high school, she couldn’t hightail it out of her overwhelmingly white Oregon hometown fast enough. As a scholarship student at a private university on the East Coast, no longer the only Korean she knew, she found a sense of community she had always craved as an Asian American adoptee – and a path to the life she’d long wanted.

But the middle class world she begins to raise a family in – where there are big homes, college funds, nice vacations – looks very different from the middle class world she thought she grew up in, where paychecks have to stretch to the end of the week, health insurance is often lacking, and there are no safety nets. When her father dies at only sixty-seven, killed by diabetes and kidney disease, Nicole feels deep grief as well as rage, knowing that years of financial instability and lack of access to healthcare contributed to his premature death. And then the unthinkable happens – less than a year later, her beloved mother is diagnosed with cancer, and the physical distance between them becomes insurmountable as Covid descends upon the world.

Exploring the enduring strength of family bonds in the face of hardship and tragedy, A Living Remedy examines what it takes to reconcile the distance between one life, one home, and another – and sheds needed light on some of the most persistent and tragic inequalities in American society.

“[A] delicate, painful, magnificent book.” – Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle

“[A] devastating, radiant memoir.” – R.O. Kwon, Electric Literature

“[A Living Remedy] stands to spark a major and essential conversation… Chung excels at excavating both the personal and the systemic.” – Eliza Smith, Literary Hub

“In Nicole Chung’s memoir about the deaths of her parents, she absorbs hard times with fury and compassion, making the universal experience of grief vividly personal… a beautiful but difficult journey of loss… She gives these hard times a purpose, absorbing them with both fury and compassion, making them part of her own legacy to pass along to her daughters. For her, this is indeed a living remedy.” – Priscilla Kipp, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang

fiction / horror.

Natural BeautyOur narrator produces a sound from the piano no one else at the Conservatory can. She employs a technique she learned from her parents—also talented musicians—who fled China in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. But when an accident leaves her parents debilitated, she abandons her future for a job at a high-end beauty and wellness store in New York City.

Holistik is known for its remarkable products and procedures—from remoras that suck out cheap Botox to eyelash extensions made of spider silk—and her new job affords her entry into a world of privilege and a long-awaited sense of belonging. She becomes transfixed by Helen, the niece of Holistik’s charismatic owner, and the two strike up a friendship that hazily veers into more. All the while, our narrator is plied with products that slim her thighs, smooth her skin, and lighten her hair. But beneath these creams and tinctures lies something sinister.

A piercing, darkly funny debut, Natural Beauty explores questions of consumerism, self-worth, race, and identity—and leaves readers with a shocking and unsettling truth.

“This is a darkly absurd and hilarious skewering of the luxury beauty industry, as well as a heart-wrenching story of a woman left alone in the world. It’s definitely not one to miss.” – Kirby Beaton, BuzzFeed

“…incisive and disquieting… Insidious Western standards, fears about bodily autonomy, and queer desire intersect as Huang’s precise and subtle portrayal of the beauty industry builds to an explosive climax. Alternatingly poignant and deeply unsettling, this is an outstanding first outing for an immensely talented author.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…haunting and immersive… The writing is lyrical even when plot events are profoundly tragic, and the protagonist’s journey will captivate readers throughout. Highly recommended.” – Cari Dubiel, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility edited by Rebecca Solnit & Thelma Young Lutunatabua

nonfiction / current events / science / nature / politics.

Not Too LateAn energizing case for hope about the climate comes from Rebecca Solnit, called the voice of the resistance by the New York Times, and climate activist Thelma Young Lutunatabua, along with a chorus of voices calling on us to rise to the moment.

Not Too Late is the book for anyone who is despondent, defeatist, or unsure about climate change and seeking answers. As the contributors to this volume make clear, the future will be decided by whether we act in the present–and we must act to counter institutional inertia, fossil fuel interests, and political obduracy.

These dispatches from the climate movement around the world feature the voices of organizers like Guam-based lawyer and writer Julian Aguon; climate scientists like Dr. Jacquelyn Gill and Dr. Edward Carr; poets like Marshall Islands activist Kathy Jetnil-Kijner; and longtime organizers like The Tyranny of Oil author Antonia Juhasz.

Guided by Rebecca Solnit’s typical clear-eyed wisdom and enriched by photographs and quotes, Not Too Late leads readers from discouragement to possibilities, from climate despair to climate hope.

“…inspiring… A book that provides some brightness, passion, and intelligence in dark times.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] collection of climate hope messages from climate scientists, organisers, and activists, who challenge us to recognise that the future is yet to be decided and that our actions do matter. Rebecca Solnit opens the collection in a powerful manner, saying of the current state of affairs: ‘It is late. We are deep in an emergency. But it is not too late, because the emergency is not over. The outcome is not decided. We are deciding it now.’” – Brian McHugh, Yorkshire Bylines

“Ever-enlightening writer-of-conscience Solnit joined forces with climate activist Thelma Young Lutunatabua in this clarifying and empowering climate anthology… This is an emergency kit, Solnit avers, providing voices and visions, information and ideas, and stories cautionary and galvanizing to support our essential participation in humankind’s most consequential calling.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist

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Panther Gap by James A. McLaughlin

fiction / suspense / mystery.

Panther GapSiblings Bowman and Summer were raised by their father and two uncles on a remote Colorado ranch. They react differently to his radical teachings and the confusions of adolescence. As young adults, they become estranged but are brought back together in their thirties by the prospect of an illegal and potentially dangerous inheritance from their grandfather. They must ultimately reconcile with each other and their past in order to defeat ruthless criminal forces trying to extort the inheritance.

Set in the rugged American West and populated by drug cartels, shadowy domestic terrorists, and nefarious business interests, Panther Gap shows James McLaughlin’s talents on full display: gorgeous environmental writing, a white-knuckle thriller plot, and characters dealing with legacy, identity, and their own place in the world.

“…impressive… McLaughlin does a fine job making his characters’ reactions to traumatic events and perils believable. Fans of Breaking Bad will be satisfied.” – Publishers Weekly

Panther Gap comes alive in James A. McLaughlin’s hands, growing and shifting until, by the end, you feel like you could step right into it.” – BookPage

“[A] riveting thriller… blends the beauty of the American Southwest with the dark forces that threaten it.” – Kristina Wright, BookBub

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

fiction / romance / comedy.

Romantic ComedySally Milz is a sketch writer for The Night Owls, the late-night live comedy show that airs each Saturday. With a couple of heartbreaks under her belt, she’s long abandoned the search for love, settling instead for the occasional hook-up, career success, and a close relationship with her stepfather to round out a satisfying life.

But when Sally’s friend and fellow writer Danny Horst begins dating Annabel, a glamorous actor who guest-hosted the show, he joins the not-so-exclusive group of talented but average-looking and even dorky men at the show—and in society at large—who’ve gotten romantically involved with incredibly beautiful and accomplished women. Sally channels her annoyance into a sketch called the “Danny Horst Rule,” poking fun at this phenomenon while underscoring how unlikely it is that the reverse would ever happen for a woman.

Enter Noah Brewster, a pop music sensation with a reputation for dating models, who signed on as both host and musical guest for this week’s show. Dazzled by his charms, Sally hits it off with Noah instantly, and as they collaborate on one sketch after another, she begins to wonder whether there might actually be sparks flying. But this isn’t a romantic comedy; it’s real life. And in real life, someone like him would never date someone like her… right?

With her keen observations and trademark ability to bring complex women to life on the page, Sittenfeld explores the neurosis-inducing and heart-fluttering wonder of love, while slyly dissecting the social rituals of romance and gender relations in the modern age.

“Sittenfeld’s meta-romance is an utterly perfect version of itself, a self-aware and pandemic-informed love story that’s no less romantic for being either.” – Annie Bostrom, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“There’s nothing romantic about writing funny gags, but in Sittenfeld’s quick-paced prose, the work becomes terrifically exciting and reminds us how rarely we get to see what people actually do at the office… What makes all this particularly delightful is that the woman narrating Romantic Comedy is hyper-aware of the conventions of romantic comedy, and she knows full well that real life is no fairy tale. But could it be this time? Can anything make Sally realize, ‘I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, Noah loves me’? I’m a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.” – Ron Charles, Washington Post

“With an Austen-esque eye for social nuance, the author… deftly teases out the currencies of Sally’s world—physical attractiveness, talent, celebrity, youth—and explores how these elements intersect with gender… the work is a pleasure, balancing probing analysis with an absorbing narrative. Romance artfully and entertainingly deconstructed.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[The] author’s zingy new novel tackles celebrity, lockdown and frustrated love lives with ambition and panache… the novel’s command of structure, pace and dialogue is faultless… affable, intelligently crafted tale of work and love.” – Anthony Cummins, The Guardian

The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown

fiction / horror / science fiction.

The Scourge Between StarsAs acting captain of the starship Calypso, Jacklyn Albright is responsible for keeping the last of humanity alive as they limp back to Earth from their forebears’ failed colony on a distant planet.

Faced with constant threats of starvation and destruction in the treacherous minefield of interstellar space, Jacklyn’s crew has reached their breaking point. As unrest begins to spread throughout the ship’s Wards, a new threat emerges, picking off crew members in grim, bloody fashion.

Jacklyn and her team must hunt down the ship’s unknown intruder if they have any hope of making it back to their solar system alive.

“Brown’s debut novella progresses at lightning speed, making it a quick one-shot read. Nothing is missing from Brown’s masterful storytelling.” – Carrie Rasak, Booklist

“Brown’s eerie debut takes readers aboard a doomed generation ship… The claustrophobic, locked-in environment of a generation ship makes an ideal setting for this tense, gory, and genuinely creepy novella. Brown handles the astronomy and exobiology equally as competently as the interpersonal dynamics and trauma. The result is a sci-fi horror mash-up that holds its own with the classics of the genre.” – Publishers Weekly

“The creeping horrors are all too real… Following in Jack’s desperate footsteps will have SF, horror, and thriller readers on the edge of their seats waiting to see what explodes out of where next… Brown’s debut novella is highly recommended for readers who like their science-fictional thrills to be both real and out of this world at the same time.” – Marlene Harris, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken

fiction / young adult / fantasy.

Silver in the BoneTamsin Lark didn’t ask to be a Hollower. As a mortal with no magical talent, she was never meant to break into ancient crypts, or compete with sorceresses and Cunningfolk for the treasures inside. But after her thieving foster father disappeared without so much as a goodbye, it was the only way to keep herself—and her brother, Cabell—alive.

Ten years later, rumors are swirling that her guardian vanished with a powerful ring from Arthurian legend. A run-in with her rival Emrys ignites Tamsin’s hope that the ring could free Cabell from a curse that threatens both of them. But they aren’t the only ones who covet the ring.

As word spreads, greedy Hollowers start circling, and many would kill to have it for themselves. While Emrys is the last person Tamsin would choose to partner with, she needs all the help she can get to edge out her competitors in the race for the ring. Together, they dive headfirst into a vipers’ nest of dark magic, exposing a deadly secret with the power to awaken ghosts of the past and shatter her last hope of saving her brother…

“The blend of horror, urban fantasy, and Arthurian lore is intriguing and original, and the fast pacing and humor entertain… A gripping, thought-provoking, and inventive dark fantasy.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Fans of Lore will be excited to see Bracken’s dark take on Arthurian legend in this adrenaline-fueled contemporary fantasy.” – School Library Journal

“Bracken valiantly blends contemporary fantasy and Arthurian legend to explore issues of faith, fate, and family in this captivating series launch… Elaborate worldbuilding complements a serpentine plot, which balances horror and heartbreak with humor and tenderness. Heady romance blooms between Tam and Emrys, but it’s pessimistic Tam’s rewarding journey toward hope, trust, and self-acceptance that serves as the story’s heart.” – Publishers Weekly

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The SoulmateThere’s a cottage on a cliff. Gabe and Pippa’s dream home in a sleepy coastal town. But their perfect house hides something sinister. The tall cliffs have become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Night after night Gabe comes to their rescue, literally talking them off the ledge. Until he doesn’t.

When Pippa discovers Gabe knew the victim, the questions spiral… Did the victim jump? Was she pushed?

And would Gabe, the love of Pippa’s life, her soulmate… lie? As the perfect facade of their marriage begins to crack, the deepest and darkest secrets begin to unravel.

“Hepworth’s follow-up to The Mother-In-Law and The Younger Wife will have you up past your bedtime.” – Kate Bowlby, Country Living

“[A] twisty psychological thriller… Short, crisp chapters narrated by Pippa and by Amanda—depicting events both before and after her death—keep the momentum going, and the repressed friction between the Gerards and the Camerons helps build tension… Fans of domestic suspense will be satisfied.” – Publishers Weekly

“Sympathetic characters combined with powerful themes of guilt, love, and loyalty will lead readers to consider the power of self-delusion. Recommended for fans of Liane Moriarty and Fiona Barton.” – Christine Tran, Booklist

“Sally Hepworth doesn’t disappoint with this latest domestic thriller. She hooked me from the first few pages and shows how any of us can question what we think we see and believe about our spouses.” – Jennifer O’Neal-Rojas, Indie Next

This Bird Has Flown by Susanna Hoffs

fiction / romance / comedy.

This Bird Has FlownJane Start is thirty-three, broke, and recently single. Ten years prior, she had a hit song—written by world-famous superstar Jonesy—but Jane hasn’t had a breakout since. Now she’s living out of four garbage bags at her parents’ house, reduced to performing to Karaoke tracks in Las Vegas. Rock bottom.

But when her longtime manager Pippa sends Jane to London to regroup, she’s seated next to an intriguing stranger on the flight—the other Tom Hardy, an elegantly handsome Oxford professor of literature. Jane is instantly smitten by Tom, and soon, truly inspired. But it’s not Jane’s past alone that haunts her second chance at stardom, and at love. Is Tom all that he seems? And can Jane emerge from the shadow of Jonesy’s earlier hit, and into the light of her own?

In turns deeply sexy, riotously funny, and utterly joyful, This Bird Has Flown explores love, passion, and the ghosts of our past, and offers a glimpse inside the music business that could only come from beloved songwriter Susanna Hoffs.

“[A] total knockout… the smart, ferocious rock-star redemption romance you didn’t know you needed.” – Beatriz Williams, New York Times

“Hoffs writes with a snappy wit that recalls rom-com favorites like Bridget Jones’s Diary… A fun read that’s perfect for lovers of pop music, classic books, and romantic comedies.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The characters in Hoffs’s sexy, fun debut are relatable, and their struggles feel real. It shows readers that celebrities and musicians, regardless of fame and fortune, have relatable problems.” – Alicia Cerone, Library Journal


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