Best New Books: Week of 4/11/23

“You don’t have to be in love to have love in your life. Take stock of everything—and everyone—that fills your heart.” – Maggie Smith, Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change

The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton

fiction / historical fiction / mystery.

The Cuban heiressNew York heiress Catherine Dohan seemingly has it all. There’s only one problem. It’s a lie. As soon as the Morro Castle leaves port, Catherine’s past returns with a vengeance and threatens her life. Joining forces with a charismatic jewel thief, Catherine must discover who wants her dead—and why.

Elena Palacio is a dead woman. Or so everyone thinks. After a devastating betrayal left her penniless and on the run, Elena’s journey on the Morro Castle is her last hope. Steeped in secrecy and a burning desire for revenge, her return to Havana is a chance to right the wrong that has been done to her—and her prey is on the ship.

As danger swirls aboard the Morro Castle and their fates intertwine, Elena and Catherine must risk everything to see justice served once and for all.

“Nothing is what it seems in Cleeton’s latest gripping historical novel… Handsome con men, clever thieves, desperate rebels, and our valiant heroines all convene on this elegant but doomed ocean liner.” – Sara Martinez, Booklist

“[A] twisty, soapy voyage at sea… another great historical fiction novel from Chanel Cleeton (who never writes a bad novel), based on the real-life ship, and what happened to it.” – Red Carpet Crash

Going Zero by Anthony McCarten

fiction / suspense / science fiction.

Going ZeroIn the name of national security, the CIA in partnership with Silicon Valley wunderkind Cy Baxter have created the ultimate surveillance program known as FUSION. Ahead of its roll out, ten Americans have been carefully selected to Beta test the groundbreaking system.

At the appointed hour, each of the ten will have two hours to “Go Zero”—to turn their cellphones off, cut ties with friends and family, and use any means possible to disappear. They will then have 30 days to evade detection and elude the highly sophisticated Capture Teams tasked to find them using the most cutting-edge technology. The goal is to see if it is possible to successfully go “off the grid” and escape detection.

The stakes are immense. If FUSION is a success, Cy Baxter will secure a coveted 10-year, $100 billion dollar government contract and access to intelligence resources he truly believes will save lives. For any participant who beats the massive surveillance, it means a $3 million cash prize.

Among the contestants is an unassuming Boston librarian named Kaitlyn Day. She’s been chosen as the gimme, the easy target expected to be found first. But Kaitlyn excels at confounding expectations. Her talents at this particular game are far more effective than all the security experts suspect, and her reasons for playing far more personal than anyone can imagine…

Going Zero is clever, intelligent, action-packed, exciting and full of surprises. This novel belongs on top of your TBR list!” – Linda Hitchcock, BookTrib

“[A] full-throttle, high-stakes political thriller, complete with a white-knuckle ending… if the prospect of a digital Big Brother wasn’t terrifying you up until now, allow Going Zero to rectify that.” – Vanessa Cronin, Amazon

“A story that is timely, frightening, exciting, suspenseful, and surprising… There are a lot of well-crafted characters… and secrets and neck-wrenching plot twists abound… The subject of high-tech surveillance has become a hot-button issue, and McCarten cleverly and plausibly extrapolates from today’s technology to what we may well see tomorrow. An outstanding thriller.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

It. Goes. So. Fast.: The Year of No Do-Overs by Mary Louise Kelly

nonfiction / memoir.

It. Goes. So. Fast.The time for do-overs is over.

Ever since she became a parent, Mary Louise Kelly has said “next year.” Next year will be the year she makes it to her son James’s soccer games (which are on weekdays at 4 p.m., right when she is on the air on NPR’s All Things Considered, talking to millions of listeners). Drive carpool for her son Alexander? Not if she wants to do that story about Ukraine and interview the secretary of state. Like millions of parents who wrestle with raising children while pursuing a career, she has never been cavalier about these decisions. The bargain she has always made with herself is this: this time I’ll get on the plane, and next year I’ll find a way to be there for the mom stuff.

Well, James and Alexander are now seventeen and fifteen, and a realization has overtaken Mary Louise: her older son will be leaving soon for college. There used to be years to make good on her promises; now, there are months, weeks, minutes. And with the devastating death of her beloved father, Mary Louise is facing act three of her life head-on.

Mary Louise is coming to grips with the reality every parent faces. Childhood has a definite expiration date. You have only so many years with your kids before they leave your house to build their own lives. It’s what every parent is supposed to want, what they raise their children to do. But it is bittersweet. Mary Louise is also dealing with the realities of having aging parents. This pivotal time brings with it the enormous questions of what you did right and what you did wrong.

This chronicle of her eldest child’s final year at home, of losing her father, as well as other curve balls thrown at her, is not a definitive answer―not for herself and certainly not for any other parent. But her questions, her issues, will resonate with every parent. And, yes, especially with mothers, who are judged more harshly by society and, more important, judge themselves more harshly. What would she do if she had to decide all over again?

Mary Louise’s thoughts as she faces the coming year will speak to anyone who has ever cared about a child or a parent. It. Goes. So. Fast. is honest, funny, poignant, revelatory, and immensely relatable.

“[R]eaders will relate to her tug-of-war between doing what she loves and being with the people she loves. No advice here, just illuminating reflections and engaging stories… exceptional…” – Jane Harper, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] touching memoir… showcases Kelly’s knack for connecting with audiences through snappy prose and affecting candor, and she beautifully captures the chaos and pathos of parenting… Parents will cherish this.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

LeBron by Jeff Benedict

nonfiction / biography / sports.

LeBronLeBron James is the greatest basketball player of the twenty-first century, and he’s in the conversation with Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time. The reigning king of the game and the first active NBA player to become a billionaire, LeBron wears the crown like he was born with it. Yet his ascent has been anything but effortless and predetermined— the truth is vastly more interesting than that.

What makes LeBron’s story so compelling is how he won his destiny despite overwhelmingly long odds, in a drama worthy of a Dickens novel. As a child, he was a scared and lonely little boy living a nomadic existence in Akron, Ohio. His mother, who had LeBron when she was sixteen, would sometimes leave him on his own. Destitute and fatherless, he missed close to one hundred days of school in the fourth grade. Desperate, his mother placed him with a family that gave him stability and put a basketball in his hands.

LeBron tells the full, riveting saga of how a child adrift found the will to become a titan. Jeff Benedict, the most celebrated sports biographer of our time, paints a vivid picture of LeBron’s epic origin story, showing the gradual rise of a star who, surrounded by a tight-knit group of teenage friends and adult mentors, accelerated into a speeding comet during high school. Today LeBron produces Hollywood films and television shows, has a social media presence that includes more than one hundred million followers, engages in political activism, takes outspoken stances on racism and social injustice, and transforms lives through his visionary philanthropy. He went from a lost boy in Akron to a beloved hero who uses his fortune to educate underprivileged children and lift up needy families—and brought home Cleveland’s first NBA championship.

But LeBron is more than just the origin story of a GOAT or a recap of his multi-championship, multi-MVP, gold medal–decorated career on the court. Benedict delves into LeBron’s relationship with fame and power: how he has cultivated it, harnessed it, suffered from it, and leveraged it. In these pages, we go behind the scenes of LeBron’s grappling with his seismic celebrity, from appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school junior to The Decision, which briefly turned the nation against him. We also watch his evolution from a player who avoided politics and was widely criticized for not joining his teammates in protesting China’s role in the Darfur genocide to becoming an athlete who partnered with President Obama; campaigned for Hillary Clinton; became an advocate against gun violence, racism, and voter suppression; and openly clashed with President Trump, empowering other athletes to speak out against social injustice.

To capture LeBron’s extraordinary life, Benedict conducted hundreds of interviews with the people who were involved with LeBron at different stages of his life. He also obtained thousands of pages of primary source documents and mined hundreds of hours of video footage. Destined to be the authoritative account of LeBron’s life, LeBron is a gripping, inspiring, and unprecedented portrait of one of the world’s most captivating figures.

“[An] absorbing chronicle of talent, character, pluck, and luck.” – Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal

“…engrossing… This authoritative account renders the athlete’s life in fascinating, fine-grained detail… Even devoted fans will emerge with a greater understanding of the superstar.” – Publishers Weekly

“Americans love our stories of underdogs, villains, and heroes, and this page-turning biography of LeBron James has all three… You’ll tremble, weep, pump your fists, and feel your heart grow as James hones his power on and off the court, marries his high school sweetheart, grapples with unfathomable wealth, and builds a legacy that will last long after he hangs up his jersey.” – Lindsay Powers, Amazon

Life Sentence: The Brief and Tragic Career of Baltimore’s Deadliest Gang Leader by Mark Bowden

nonfiction / biography / true crime.

Life SentenceSandtown is one of the deadliest neighborhoods in the world; it earned Baltimore its nickname Bodymore, Murderland, and was made notorious by David Simon’s classic HBO series The Wire. Drug deals dominate street corners, and ruthless, casual violence abounds.

Montana Barronette grew up in the center of it all. He was the leader of the gang “Trained to Go,” or TTG, and when he was finally arrested and sentenced to life in prison, he had been nicknamed “Baltimore’s Number One Trigger Puller.” Under Tana’s reign, TTG dominated Sandtown. After a string of murders are linked to TTG, each with dozens of witnesses too intimidated to testify, three detectives set out to put Tana in prison for life. For them, this was never about drugs: It was about serial murder.

Now an acclaimed journalist who spent his youth in the white suburbs of Baltimore, Mark Bowden returns to the city with exclusive access to the FBI files and unprecedented insight into one of the city’s deadliest gangs and its notorious leader. As he traces the rise and fall of TTG, Bowden uses wiretapped drug buys, police interviews, undercover videos, text messages, social media posts, trial transcripts, and his own ongoing conversations with Tana’s family and community to create the most in-depth account of an inner-city gang ever written.

With his signature precision and propulsive narrative, Mark Bowden positions Tana – as a boy, a gang leader, a killer, and now a prisoner – in the context of Baltimore and America, illuminating his path for what it really was: a life sentence.

“…gripping… The masterful yarn is a riveting true narrative… Bowden paints a vivid picture of life in Baltimore…” – Anita Snow, Associated Press

“[A] scorching true-crime narrative… This account of ‘young men growing up in a place where murderous violence has become a way of life’ will haunt readers long after they finish it. Admirers of The Wire will be riveted.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A gripping and revealing glimpse into Baltimore gang life and the city’s efforts to combat street violence… Making a case for the near inevitability of Tana’s fate without denying or minimizing his brutal actions, Bowden presents a damning indictment of the city’s treatment of its most precarious constituents… A powerful, nuanced depiction of gang violence in America that makes a strong case for meaningful reform beyond policing.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

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The Lioness of Boston by Emily Franklin

fiction / historical fiction.

The Lioness of BostonBy the time Isabella Stewart Gardner opened her Italian palazzo-style home as a museum in 1903 to showcase her collection of old masters, antiques, and objects d’art, she was already well-known for scandalizing Boston’s polite society. But when Isabella first arrived in Boston in 1861, she was twenty years old, newly married to a wealthy trader, and unsure of herself. Puzzled by the frosty reception she received from stuffy bluebloods, she strived to fit in. After two devastating tragedies and rejection from upper-society, Isabella discovered her spirit and cast off expectations.

Freed by travel, Isabella explores the world of art, ideas, and letters, meeting such kindred spirits as Henry James and Oscar Wilde. From London and Paris to Egypt and Asia, she develops a keen eye for paintings and objects, and meets feminists ready to transform nineteenth century thinking in the twentieth century. Isabella becomes an eccentric trailblazer, painted by John Singer Sargent in a portrait of daring décolletage, and fond of such stunts as walking a pair of lions in the Boston Public Garden.

The Lioness of Boston is a portrait of what society expected a woman’s life to be, shattered by a courageous soul who rebelled and was determined to live on her own terms.

The Lioness of Boston is a captivating story of a significant woman in Boston’s history who left that city a cultural legacy to last the ages. This beautiful novel will appeal to those who love masterful historical fiction, literary fiction, and stories of triumphant women who leave an indelible mark.” – New York Journal of Books

“Franklin’s lyrical, erudite style befits Belle and grabs readers’ attention.” – Vicki L. Gregory, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] vivid narrative… The novel brims with pitch-perfect period details, such as Isabella’s ability to shock New England society merely by wearing blue shoes, and Franklin cannily captures Gardner’s ambition, independence, and quirks. Fans of strong female protagonists and Gilded Age historicals will enjoy this.” – Publishers Weekly

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Losing Music: A Memoir by John Cotter

nonfiction / memoir / health.

Losing Music“I was in the car the first time music seemed strange: the instruments less distinct, the vocals less crisp.

John Cotter was thirty years old when he first began to notice a ringing in his ears. Soon the ringing became a roar inside his head. Next came partial deafness, then dizziness and vertigo that rendered him unable to walk, work, sleep, or even communicate. At a stage of life when he expected to be emerging fully into adulthood, teaching and writing books, he found himself “crippled and dependent,” and in search of care.

When he is first told that his debilitating condition is likely Ménière’s Disease, but that there is “no reliable test, no reliable treatment, and no consensus on its cause,” Cotter quits teaching, stops writing, and commences upon a series of visits to doctors and treatment centers. What begins as an expedition across the country navigating and battling the limits of the American healthcare system, quickly becomes something else entirely: a journey through hopelessness and adaptation to disability. Along the way, hearing aids become inseparable from his sense of self, as does a growing understanding that the possibilities in his life are narrowing rather than expanding. And with this understanding of his own travails comes reflection on age-old questions around fate, coincidence, and making meaning of inexplicable misfortune.

A devastating memoir that sheds urgent, bracingly honest light on both the taboos surrounding disability and the limits of medical science, Losing Music is refreshingly vulnerable and singularly illuminating—a story that will make readers see their own lives anew.

“Cotter makes clear in his remarkable memoir, Losing Music, one of Ménière’s cruelest elements is its imprecision… It’s unclear to Cotter―and any of us―how much time we have left to consume, love, and share art. Through describing that uncertainty, Cotter reveals its value.” – Mark Athitakis, On the Seawall

“[A] bracing memoir… a poignant reflection on disability.” – Publishers Weekly

“Understatedly elegant… In articulating what is now gone, Mr. Cotter vibrantly evokes the sensations of life before the beginning of the end of his hearing… Losing Music comes closer to expressing the transcendent sensation by nearly being music itself. Its author turned adversity into quiet triumph. Evidence that Mr. Cotter’s ear is still keen for the melodies of language sings from every page.” – Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Wall Street Journal

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The Nanny by Lana Ferguson

fiction / romance.

The NannyAfter losing her job and being on the brink of eviction, Cassie Evans finds herself with two choices: get a new job (and fast) or fire up her long-untouched OnlyFans account. But there are no jobs to be found, and as for OnlyFans… Well, there are reasons she can’t go back. Just when all hope seems lost, an ad for a live-in nanny position seems the solution to all her problems. It’s almost too perfect—until she meets her would-be employer.

Aiden Reid, executive chef and DILF extraordinaire is far from the stuffy single dad Cassie was imagining. She is shocked when he tells her she’s the most qualified applicant he’s met in weeks, practically begging her to take the job. With hands that make her hindbrain howl and eyes that scream sex, the idea of living under the same roof as Aiden feels dangerous, but with no other option, she decides to stay with him and his adorably tenacious daughter, Sophie.

Cassie soon discovers that Aiden is not a stranger at all, but instead someone who is very familiar with her—or at least, her body. She finds herself at a loss for what to do, given that he doesn’t remember her. As their relationship heats to temperatures hotter than any kitchen Aiden has ever worked in, Cassie struggles with telling Aiden the truth, and the more terrifying possibility—losing the best chance at happiness she’s ever had.

“[An] equally sexy and endearing debut… Ferguson makes the will-they-won’t-they sing with complex emotional shading and a strong sense of inevitability to her protagonists’ connection.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Everything about The Nanny is enjoyable: the plot, the pacing, the characters and especially Ferguson’s wise and funny voice. It’s also refreshing to see sex-positive characters who approach intimacy with maturity… If you’re a fan of dirty talk and slow-burning chemistry, you’ll love The Nanny.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“This steamy, romantic comedy puts a modern spin on traditional tropes, bringing the falling-for-the-nanny and secret-past storylines into the 21st century… Readers who enjoyed Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone’s A Merry Little Meet Cute will adore this positive, upbeat, sex-filled romp.” – Heather Miller Cover, Library Journal

The Only Survivors by Megan Miranda

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Only SurvivorsA decade ago, two vans filled with high school seniors on a school service trip crashed into a Tennessee ravine—a tragedy that claimed the lives of multiple classmates and teachers. The nine students who managed to escape the river that night were irrevocably changed. A year later, after one of the survivors dies by suicide on the anniversary of the crash, the rest of them make a pact: to come together each year to commemorate that terrible night.

To keep one another safe.
To hold one another accountable.
Or both.

Their annual meeting place, a house on the Outer Banks, has long been a refuge. But by the tenth anniversary, Cassidy Bent has worked to distance herself from the tragedy, and from the other survivors. She’s changed her mobile number. She’s blocked the others’ email addresses. This year, she is determined to finally break ties once and for all. But on the day of the reunion, she receives a text with an obituary attached: another survivor is gone. Now they are seven—and Cassidy finds herself hurling back toward the group, wild with grief—and suspicion.

Almost immediately, something feels off this year. Cassidy is the first to notice when Amaya, annual organizer, slips away, overwhelmed. This wouldn’t raise alarm except for the impending storm. Suddenly, they’re facing the threat of closed roads and surging waters… again. Then Amaya stops responding to her phone. After all they’ve been through, she wouldn’t willfully make them worry. Would she?

And—as they promised long ago—each survivor will do whatever he or she can do to save one another. Won’t they?

“Author of heartstopping titles like Such a Quiet Place and The Last to Vanish, Megan Miranda continues to shock readers with her latest lock-box mystery, The Only Survivors.” – Iyana Jones, PopSugar

“[A] tempestuous, emotionally wrenching tale of courage, betrayal, guilt, and just maybe forgiveness… The suspense and danger escalate as the narrative alternates between the present and the night of the tragedy… an evocative excursion into darkness.” – Publishers Weekly

“It would be hard to concoct a more promisingly sinister setting… Miranda uses [it] to maximum effect, both as a plot device and as a way to inject steady droplets of terror into the narrative… Masterfully suspenseful.” – Connie Fletcher, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking’s Final Theory by Thomas Hertog

nonfiction / science / physics.

On the Origin of TimePerhaps the biggest question Stephen Hawking tried to answer in his extraordinary life was how the universe could have created conditions so perfectly hospitable to life. In order to solve this mystery, Hawking studied the big bang origin of the universe, but his early work ran into a crisis when the math predicted many big bangs producing a multiverse—countless different universes, most of which would be far too bizarre to ​harbor life.

Holed up in the theoretical physics department at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking and his friend and collaborator Thomas Hertog worked on this problem for twenty years, developing a new theory of the cosmos that could account for the emergence of life. Peering into the extreme quantum physics of cosmic holograms and venturing far back in time to our deepest roots, they were startled to find a deeper level of evolution in which the physical laws themselves transform and simplify until particles, forces, and even time itself fades away. This discovery led them to a revolutionary idea: The laws of physics are not set in stone but are born and co-evolve as the universe they govern takes shape. As Hawking’s final days drew near, the two collaborators published their theory, which proposed a radical new Darwinian perspective on the origins of our universe.

On the Origin of Time offers a striking new vision of the universe’s birth that will profoundly transform the way we think about our place in the order of the cosmos and may ultimately prove to be Hawking’s greatest legacy.

“…immensely rewarding…” – Lewis Dartnell, The Times

“…provocative… Hertog’s visionary ideas have the potential to upend traditional notions of causality and physical laws… those who stick around through the complicated physics will be rewarded with a bold and stimulating take on the fundamentals of the universe.” – Publishers Weekly

“A spectacular synopsis of Hawking’s final theory… Hertog effectively guides the reader through mind-boggling possibilities that describe the origin and make-up of the universe, from nine-dimensional space in string theory to an infinitely diverging multiverse… [he] approaches each scientific development with academic rigor and a story-teller’s touch… In a pioneering work that is both grounded in science and deeply profound, Hertog carefully unfolds Hawking’s final perspective and grand design for the universe in a compelling blend of science and story.” – Arielle C. Frommer, The Harvard Crimson

Standing in the Shadows by Peter Robinson

fiction / mystery / suspense.

Standing in the ShadowsIn November 1980, Nick Hartley returns home from a university lecture to find his house crawling with police. His ex-girlfriend, Alice Poole, has been found murdered, and her new boyfriend Mark Woodcroft is missing. Nick is the prime suspect. The case quickly goes cold, but Nick cannot let it go. He embarks on a career in investigative journalism, determined to find Alice’s murderer–but his obsession leads him down a dangerous path.

Decades later, in November 2019, an archaeologist unearths a skeleton that turns out to be far more contemporary than the Roman remains she is seeking. Detective Superintendent Alan Banks and his team are called in to investigate, but there is little to be gleaned from the remains themselves. Left with few clues, Banks and his team must rely on their wits to hunt down a killer.

As the two cases unfurl, the investigations twist and turn to an explosive conclusion.

“The 28th, and possibly final novel (author Peter Robinson passed away last year), is another thrilling ride with Inspector Banks and his crew… Fans of the series will love this one.” – Red Carpet Crash

“Readers will love getting a fascinating primer in both modern forensics and archaeological techniques… As usual, Banks’ steadfast, multifaceted character holds his team and the story itself together… The ending, in which the two narratives join, is a stunner.” – Connie Fletcher, Booklist

“…excellent… As always in the Banks novels, readers will enjoy the details of pop culture and social history. This is an intelligent and satisfying procedural.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Trackers by Charles Frazier

fiction / historical fiction / mystery.

The TrackersHurtling past the downtrodden communities of Depression-era America, painter Val Welch travels westward to the rural town of Dawes, Wyoming. Through a stroke of luck, he’s landed a New Deal assignment to create a mural representing the region for their new Post Office.

A wealthy art lover named John Long and his wife Eve have agreed to host Val at their sprawling ranch. Rumors and intrigue surround the couple: Eve left behind an itinerant life riding the rails and singing in a western swing band. Long holds shady political aspirations, but was once a WWI sniper–and his right hand is a mysterious elder cowboy, a vestige of the violent old west. Val quickly finds himself entranced by their lives.

One day, Eve flees home with a valuable painting in tow, and Long recruits Val to hit the road with a mission of tracking her down. Journeying from ramshackle Hoovervilles to San Francisco nightclubs to the swamps of Florida, Val’s search for Eve narrows, and he soon turns up secrets that could spark formidable changes for all of them.

In The Trackers, singular American writer Charles Frazier conjures up the lives of everyday people during an extraordinary period of history that bears uncanny resemblance to our own. With the keen perceptions of humanity and transcendent storytelling that have made him beloved for decades, Frazier has created a powerful and timeless new classic.

“Frazier is in top form for his fifth novel… the locales feel period-authentic, and the writing hums with spectacular word-images… The Old West still lingers in this propulsive tale of individualistic characters striving to beat the odds.” – Sarah Johnson, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Trackers captures the essence of Depression-era America… has a cinematic quality… More than anything, the lit geek in me loved the underlying philosophical questions this novel prompts about the nature of art itself and its subjects, and how and if they (subjects of an artwork) can ever be tracked down as they were in real life, and if so, would we want them to be?” – K.E. Creighton, Daily Drafts & Dialogues

“[R]eaders who loved Frazier’s previous novels will find echoes of those works in his new one… the new novel is awash in era-appropriate research from automobiles to art and architecture to the politics of the New Deal… The Trackers expertly employs noir tropes like tight, scene-driven dialogue and dark, ominous settings… complex and rich…” – Wiley Cash, Walter

True West: Sam Shepard’s Life, Work, and Times by Robert Greenfield

nonfiction / biography / history / THEATER / film.

True WestTrue West: Shepard’s Life, Work, and Times is the story of an American icon, a lasting portrait of Sam Shepard as he really was, revealed by those who knew him best. This sweeping biography charts Shepard’s long and complicated journey from a small town in Southern California to become an internationally known playwright and movie star. The only son of an alcoholic father, Shepard crafted a public persona as an authentic American; the loner, the cowboy, the drifter, the stranger in a strange land. Despite his great critical and financial success, he seemed, like so many of his characters, to remain perpetually dispossessed.

Much like Robert Greenfield’s biographies of Jerry Garcia and Timothy Leary, this book delves deeply into Shepard’s life as well as the ways in which his work illuminates it. True West takes readers through the world of downtown theater in Lower Manhattan in the early sixties; the jazz scene at New York’s Village Gate; fringe theater in London in the seventies; Bob Dylan’s legendary Rolling Thunder tour; the making of classic films like Zabriskie Point, Days of Heaven, and The Right Stuff; and Broadway productions of Buried Child, True West, and Fool for Love .

For this definitive biography, Greenfield interviewed dozens of people who knew Shepard well, many of whom had never before spoken on the record about him. While exploring his relationships with Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Jessica Lange across the long arc of his brilliant career, Greenfield makes the case for Shepard as not just a great American writer but a unique figure who first brought the sensibility of rock ’n’ roll to theater.

“…fascinating… Impressively, the author accomplishes his biographical investigation without diminishing Shepard’s legacy as one of America’s greatest playwrights. A masterful look at the wild life of an enigmatic artist that shows how captivating the truth can be.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Sardonic, haunted, brilliant, and elusive, Shepard needed to be free and loved, while his dramatic quest was at once personal, reflective of the times, and steeped in humankind’s ceaseless paradoxes.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] riveting account… Greenfield doesn’t shy away from the less savory aspects of Shepard’s character, such as the marginalization of women in his work, and the keen attention to Shepard’s psychology makes for an illuminating portrait of a larger-than-life figure. Few readers will leave being unimpressed with Shepard, or this biography.” – Publishers Weekly

Wings Once Cursed & Bound by Piper J. Drake

fiction / fantasy / romance.

Wings Once Cursed & BoundMy wings unbound, I am the Thai bird princess
The kinnaree
And no matter the cost,
I will be free.

Bennet Andrews represents a secret organization of supernatural beings dedicated to locating and acquiring mythical objects, tucking them safely away where they cannot harm the human race. When he meets Peeraphan Rahttana, it’s too late—she has already stepped into The Red Shoes, trapped by their curse to dance to her death.

But Bennet isn’t the only supernatural looking for deadly artifacts. And when the shoes don’t seem to harm Peeraphan, he realizes that he’ll have to save her from the likes of creatures she never knew existed. Bennett sweeps Peeraphan into a world of myth and power far beyond anything she ever imagined. There, she finds that magic exists in places she never dreamed—including deep within herself.

“Drake’s new novel is highly recommended for lovers of fantasy romance and urban fantasy rooted in myths and legends.” – Marlene Harris, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“The budding relationship between Peeraphan and Bennet builds organically through their adventure as they struggle to balance their romantic expectations with different life spans. This is a delightful read that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next book in the Mythwoven series.” – Frances Moritz, Booklist

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You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir by Maggie Smith

nonfiction / memoir.

You Could Make This Place Beautiful“Life, like a poem, is a series of choices.”

In her memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful, poet Maggie Smith explores the disintegration of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself in lyrical vignettes that shine, hard and clear as jewels. The book begins with one woman’s personal, particular heartbreak, but its circles widen into a reckoning with contemporary womanhood, traditional gender roles, and the power dynamics that persist even in many progressive homes. With the spirit of self-inquiry and empathy she’s known for, Smith interweaves snapshots of a life with meditations on secrets, anger, forgiveness, and narrative itself. The power of these pieces is cumulative: page after page, they build into a larger interrogation of family, work, and patriarchy.

You Could Make This Place Beautiful, like the work of Deborah Levy, Rachel Cusk, and Gina Frangello, is an unflinching look at what it means to live and write our own lives. It is a story about a mother’s fierce and constant love for her children, and a woman’s love and regard for herself. Above all, this memoir is an argument for possibility. With a poet’s attention to language and an innovative approach to the genre, Smith reveals how, in the aftermath of loss, we can discover our power and make something new. Something beautiful.

“Smith is a poet — a good one — and this memoir is a lush but unflinching look at the anger, grief and sadness she experiences as her marriage falls apart. A coming-of-age in middle age.” – Suzanne Perez, NPR

“Careful to remind readers that this isn’t a tell-all, but a ‘tell-mine,’ Smith opens her heart like a book, dog-earing moments both painful and joyous… Smith’s conjuring of beauty through pain and her special blend of vulnerability and encouragement go down like a healing tonic.” – Annie Bostrom, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Through self-interrogation, Smith crafts her experiences into ones that connect to the larger struggles of women’s lives and how people work to create something new out of places in their lives that have ghosts and hold secrets. This innovative memoir will attract readers who are drawn to poetry hidden in well-written prose and memoirs and will appeal to those who seek meaning in reinventing their lives.” – Rebekah J. Buchanan, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“If any readers remain uncertain as to whether personal challenges inspire the best art, Maggie Smith’s You Could Make This Place Beautiful may win some over… Her poetic capacity to succinctly capture and convey her emotions combined with an ability to deepen the bond with her audience allows her voice to shine through… beautiful precisely because it luxuriates in the complicated and painful emotions that Smith has spent her career encapsulating in verse.” – Carmine J. Passarella, The Harvard Crimson

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

fiction / romance.

Yours TrulyDr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants? Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale. But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game… by sending Briana a letter.

And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likeable guy who’s terrible at first impressions. Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses. But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly sexy new doctor… especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse.

“[A] must-read.” – Katie Bowlby, Country Living

“Abby Jimenez once again flexes her ability to tackle big feelings and sensitive topics in this slow-burn romance.” – Mishal Cazmi, Elle

“Fans of Jimenez will clamor for this book, and first-time readers of hers will want to explore her backlist.” – Heather Miller Cover, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“As with her previous superbly crafted romances, Jimenez once again, with empathic finesse and keen insight, ingeniously brings some of life’s more serious topics to a heartrending, heart-melting romance. Yours Truly celebrates both the life-changing importance of finding someone who loves you for the person you really are as well as the not-to-be-underestimated power of a handwritten note.” – John Charles, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW


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