Best New Books: Week of 4/25/23

“Is there anything better than iced coffee and a bookstore on a sunny day? I mean, aside from hot coffee and a bookstore on a rainy day.” – Emily Henry, Book Lovers

Ascension by Nicholas Binge

fiction / science fiction / horror / suspense / mystery.

AscensionAn enormous snow-covered mountain has appeared in the Pacific Ocean. No one knows when exactly it showed up, precisely how big it might be, or how to explain its existence. When Harold Tunmore, a scientist of mysterious phenomena, is contacted by a shadowy organization to help investigate, he has no idea what he is getting into as he and his team set out for the mountain.

The higher Harold’s team ascends, the less things make sense. Time moves differently, turning minutes into hours, and hours into days. Amid the whipping cold of higher elevation, the climbers’ limbs numb and memories of their lives before the mountain begin to fade. Paranoia quickly turns to violence among the crew, and slithering, ancient creatures pursue them in the snow. Still, as the dangers increase, the mystery of the mountain compels them to its peak, where they are certain they will find their answers. Have they stumbled upon the greatest scientific discovery known to man or the seeds of their own demise?

Framed by the discovery of Harold Tunmore’s unsent letters to his family and the chilling and provocative story they tell, Ascension considers the limitations of science and faith and examines both the beautiful and the unsettling sides of human nature.

“[An] accomplished and clever speculative thriller that explores the limits of human knowledge…” – Jessie Lethaby, The Times

Ascension is a pastiche of august influences. The epistolary structure is borrowed from Dracula. The doomed expedition that drives Harold mad is akin to H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Even the frame of Ben publishing his brother’s wild tale is reminiscent of the children’s classic Bunnicula. Binge earns his place among these literary lights with an expert story of creeping dread and cosmological horror.” – Anthony Aycock, Booklist

“The incredible premise of this superlative science fiction thriller from Binge gains credibility through the adroit presentation of the main narrative through letters and the pitch-perfect characterization of the brilliant lead… Binge’s superlative imagining of how the mind-blowing scientific discoveries, which have global implications, would affect his characters elevates this above similar genre fiction.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Podcast (The Book) edited by Scott Aukerman

nonfiction / comedy.

comedy bang bangIn Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Book, Scott Aukerman transports readers inside the zany world of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast. The book features brand-new anecdotes and opinions from the show’s wild cast of recurring characters, and matches the show in tone and wackiness, with essays, lists, plays, nods to running bits, and four-color illustrations throughout, helping to bring the zany, satirical, undefinable world of Comedy Bang! Bang! to life in new and surprising ways!

The book is curated by Aukerman and includes introductions, forewords, and prefaces by legends Patton Oswalt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bob Odinkirk, Tatiana Maslany, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and Jack Quaid. It also features pieces from Bobby Moynihan, Paul F. Thompkins, Ben Schwartz, Mary Holland, Andy Daly, Lauren Lapkis, Paul Brittain, Jessica McKenna, Ego Nwodim, and many more, all reprising roles of characters they’ve created for the podcast, taking readers even deeper inside the lives of these off-the-wall personalities. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Solo Bolo or wondered what makes Bob Ducca tick, this book is chock full of inside jokes, character studies, and hilarity!

“[The] wit of the series in a handsomely-designed package.” – William Earl, Variety

“Devotees will love the origin stories and comedy bits from the series’ beloved characters, and the collection’s creative structure may land the show some new fans as well.” – Kirkus Reviews

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Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater

fiction / suspense / mystery.

Death of a BooksellerRoach would rather be listening to the latest episode of her favorite true crime podcast than assisting the boring and predictable customers at her local branch of the bookstore Spines, where she’s worked her entire adult life. A serious true crime junkie, Roach looks down her nose at the pumpkin-spice-latte-drinking casual fans who only became interested in the genre once it got trendy. But when Laura, a pretty and charismatic children’s bookseller, arrives to help rejuvenate the struggling bookstore branch, Roach recognizes in her an unexpected kindred spirit.

Despite their common interest in true crime, Laura keeps her distance from Roach, resisting the other woman’s overtures of friendship. Undeterred, Roach learns everything she can about her new colleague, eventually uncovering Laura’s traumatic family history. When Roach realizes that she may have come across her very own true crime story, interest swiftly blooms into a dangerous obsession.

A darkly funny suspense novel, Death of a Bookseller raises ethical questions about the fervor for true crime and how we handle stories that don’t belong to us.

“Slater’s debut is a very dark, character-driven, slow-burn suspense novel… This highly original, whip-smart first novel will have crime lovers second-guessing their next read.” – Jayme Oldham, Booklist

“…compelling… You may never feel the same way about bookstores again.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…Slater delivers a twisty exploration of society’s fascination with the macabre. Fans of Simone St. James’s The Book of Cold Cases, take note.” – Publishers Weekly

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Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You: A Memoir by Lucinda Williams

nonfiction / memoir / music.

Don't Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told YouLucinda Williams’s rise to fame was anything but easy. Raised in a working- class family in the Deep South, she moved from town to town each time her father—a poet, a textbook salesman, a professor, a lover of parties—got a new job, totaling twelve different places by the time she was eighteen. Her mother suffered from severe mental illness and was in and out of hospitals. And when Williams was about a year old she had to have an emergency tracheotomy—an inauspicious start for a singing career. But she was also born a fighter, and she would develop a voice that has captivated millions.

In Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You, Williams takes readers through the events that shaped her music—from performing for family friends in her living room to singing at local high schools and colleges in Mexico City, to recording her first album with Folkway Records and headlining a sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall. She reveals the inspirations for her unforgettable lyrics, including the doomed love affairs with “poets on motorcycles” and the gothic southern landscapes of the many different towns of her youth, including Macon, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Williams spent years working at health food stores and record stores during the day, so she could play her music at night, and faced record companies who told her that her music was “not finished,” “too country for rock and too rock for country.” But her fighting spirit persevered, leading to a hard-won success that spans seventeen Grammy nominations and a legacy as one of the greatest and most influential songwriters of our time.

Raw, intimate, and honest, Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You is an evocative reflection on an extraordinary woman’s life journey.

“The veteran singer/songwriter captures the essence of her life and career [in] this revealing memoir… A poignant, plainspoken life story from a dedicated musician.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Williams flexes her linguistic chops in her soulful debut memoir… Raw and honest, this must-read account soars on the back of Williams’s hard-won wisdom about making art and overcoming struggle. Fans and non-fans will be rapt.” – Publishers Weekly

“While her fans would expect nothing less, songwriter-musician Williams’ memoir is remarkable for its true insight into the author as a person and as an artist. Love affairs and failed flirtations, bad hangovers and bad press, day jobs and speechless-moment meetings with idols like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen—it’s all fair game… Reading like it was written on a series of cocktail napkins in the absolutely best way, this ever-quotable memoir of a born songsmith has something to offer nearly any grownup who has listened to music for the last half-century.” – Annie Bostrom, Booklist

The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants by Orlando Ortega-Medina

fiction / Suspense.

The Fitful Sleep of ImmigrantsAttorney Marc Mendes, the estranged son of a prominent rabbi and a burned-out lawyer with addiction issues, plots his exit from the big city to a more peaceful life in idyllic Napa Valley. But before he can realize his dream, the US government summons his Salvadoran life-partner Isaac Perez to immigration court, threatening him with deportation.

As Marc battles to save Isaac, his world is further upended by a dark and alluring client, who aims to tempt him away from his messy life. Torn between his commitment to Isaac and the pain-numbing escapism offered by his client, Marc is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils while confronting his twin demons of past addiction and guilt over the death of his first lover.

“Full of twists and turns, this novel explores the inhumanity found in immigration law and the true meaning of loyalty.” – Lupita Aquino, Today

“[A] potent legal thriller that doesn’t shy from major personal and societal issues.” – Daniel A. Olivas, Los Angeles Times

“Ortega-Medina’s novel works on many levels—as a twisty romantic melodrama; as an exposé of the cruelties of immigration law; and as a meditation on family and homeland… A riveting yarn with a charismatic tempter.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

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For You and Only You by Caroline Kepnes

fiction / suspense.

For You and Only YouJoe Goldberg is ready for a change. Instead of selling books, he’s writing them. And he’s off to a good start. Glenn Shoddy, an acclaimed literary author, recognizes Joe’s genius and invites him to join a tight-knit writing fellowship at Harvard. Finally, Joe will be in a place where talent matters more than pedigree, where intellect is the great equalizer and anything is possible–even happy endings. Or so he thinks, until he meets his already-published, already-distinguished peers, who all seem to be cut from the same privileged cloth.

Thankfully, Wonder enters the picture. They have so much in common. No college degrees, no pretensions, no stories from prep school or grad school. Just a love for literature. If only Wonder could commit herself to the writing life they could be those rare literary soulmates who never fall prey to their demons. There is so much they’re up against, but Joe has faith in Wonder. He will sacrifice his art for hers. And if he has to, he will kill her darlings for her.

With her trademark satirical, biting wit, Caroline Kepnes explores why vulnerable people bring out the worst in others as Joe sets out to make this small, elite world a fairer place. And if a little crimson runs in the streets of Cambridge who can blame him? Love doesn’t conquer all. Often, it needs a little push.

“Joe Goldberg might be a narcissistic, manipulative, murderous, utterly unreliable narrator, but he’s damn entertaining.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Joe sets his razor-sharp narration on the literati swanning about in Cambridge, Mass… Joe is an addictively charming antihero, and after four books, he still feels fresh and original.” – Karin Tanabe, Washington Post

“Kepnes waggishly satirizes the publishing industry, and her outsized characters’ egos and anxieties lay the foundations for delightfully deranged plot twists… Joe’s stream-of-consciousness narration engages throughout, rendering readers both confidante and accomplice. Kepnes reliably entertains.” – Publishers Weekly

Happy Place by Emily Henry

fiction / romance / COMEDY.

Happy PlaceHarriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up six months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing the largest bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blue week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week… in front of those who know you best?

“This sexy and profoundly romantic novel will satisfy fans of best-selling Henry’s thrilling trademark mix of witty banter and intensely emotional storylines.” – Migdalia Jimenez, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“…delightful… The chemistry between Wyn and Harriet is addictive, and both display some refreshing vulnerability. The lovable friend group, unusual but welcome in a Henry novel, help push the narrative forward and provide plenty of wit. This has the makings of a rom-com classic.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Happy Place is absolute magic, bottled up and delivered in the form of saccharine summer days, happiness, teary moments, and newfound longing. Emily Henry is the master of the romance novel and Happy Place is her best one yet!” – Robin Limeres, Indie Next

“Once again, Henry dazzles and delights by brilliantly deploying her considerable skills in comic timing and crafting characters with relatable, realistically messy lives. Effortlessly toggling between the present-day fauxmance playing out between her protagonists and the origins of their love a decade earlier, Happy Place is a romance that delivers on both style and substance.” – John Charles, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Honey, Baby, Mine: A Mother and Daughter Talk Life, Death, Love (and Banana Pudding) by Laura Dern & Diane Ladd

nonfiction / memoir / film.

Honey, Baby, MineWhat happens when we are brave enough to speak our truths to the ones we love the most?

Laura Dern and Diane Ladd always had a close relationship, but the stakes were raised when Diane developed a sudden life-threatening illness. Diane’s doctor prescribed long walks to build back her lung capacity. The exertion was challenging, and Laura soon learned the best way to distract her mom was to get her talking and telling stories.

Their conversations along the way began to break down the traditional barriers between mothers and daughters. They discussed the most personal love, sex, marriage, divorce, art, ambition, and legacy. In Honey, Baby, Mine, Laura and Diane share these conversations, as well as reflections and anecdotes, taking readers on an intimate tour of their lives. Complementing these candid exchanges, they have included photos, family recipes, and other mementos. The result is a celebration of the power of leaving nothing unsaid that will make you want to call the people you love the most and start talking.

“[A] very full and generous picture of a mother and daughter, imbued with genuine gratitude… It’s quite special to witness.” – Annie Bostrom, Booklist

“[A] warm and engaging memoir… Generously illustrated with family photos, this book will be a treat for fans of celebrity memoirs.” – Phillip Oliver, Library Journal

“If you’re in it for the stargazing, you’ll be rewarded with plenty — but that’s not what lingers most after the telling. As actors, Dern and Ladd have spent decades peeling back layers to reveal their characters’ fears and desires. It’s when they turn that focus to each other and themselves that something remarkable emerges… They yell, grow quiet, accuse and forgive, allowing us to witness their relationship evolving, walk by walk.” – Mary Laura Philpott, New York Times

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

fiction / fantasy / science fiction.

In the Lives of PuppetsIn a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots–fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio-a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

Author TJ Klune invites you deep into the heart of a peculiar forest and on the extraordinary journey of a family assembled from spare parts.

“For a book that’s inhabited by androids and machines, this is one of the most human books I’ve read in a long time! Klune always creates works of art and this was no different. It’s right up there with The House in the Cerulean Sea.” – Kristen Kessler, Indie Next

“…gripping and heartfelt… Klune makes the central question of what it means to be human feel direct, urgent, and fresh. Both very funny and deeply touching, this evocative retelling will delight Klune’s fans and newcomers alike.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] charming reinterpretation of The Adventures of Pinocchio… Readers who loved Klune’s (Under the Whispering Door) previous works will find plenty of the author’s trademark charm, heart, and bittersweetness, while those looking for more hopeful robot stories, like A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, will find this interpretation of a robot-future different but just as compelling.” – Marlene Harris, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Klune’s style is endlessly captivating, conveying the ethereality of the fairytale setting which he quickly strips of any naïveté… Klune’s novel is, understandably, rather profound. Its greatest appeal seems to stem from its unpredictability; as though, by aiming to unsettle itself, the narrative seeks to simulate the course of a human lifetime… a tale of tenderness and passion, camaraderie and family, courage and resilience, as well as hope for a more conscious and benevolent co-existence.” – Neil Czeszejko, Delphic Reviews

The Last Word by Taylor Adams

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Last WordEmma Carpenter lives in isolation with her golden retriever Laika, house-sitting an old beachfront home on the rainy Washington coast. Her only human contact is her enigmatic old neighbor, Deek, and (via text) the house’s owner, Jules.

One day, she reads a poorly written—but gruesome—horror novel by the author H. G. Kane, and posts a one-star review that drags her into an online argument with none other than the author himself. Soon after, disturbing incidents start to occur at night. To Emma, this can’t just be a coincidence. It was strange enough for this author to bicker with her online about a lousy review; could he be stalking her, too?

As Emma digs into Kane’s life and work, she learns he has published sixteen other novels, all similarly sadistic tales of stalking and murder. But who is he? How did he find her? And what else is he capable of?

“…deliciously terrifying… Adams’ plotting is relentless, making The Last Word one of the scariest mysteries of the year.” – Oline H. Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“[An] outstanding psychological thriller… As the tension rises, spectacular plot twists open up new possibilities while effectively demolishing existing expectations. Along with the nail-biting suspense, the book provides some genuine fun by treating readers to overwrought excerpts from a unpublished manuscript about the crimes that take place at Strand Beach. Adams remains a writer to watch.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Adams does a phenomenal job of using classic horror tropes to poke fun at the way some authors write… This is another fast-paced, action packed thriller with fantastic writing and a badass final girl. You can’t count anyone out, and even when you think you know where the story is going, Adams throws in one more twist. I recommend this book to people who love a terrifying thriller with humor sprinkled in to cut the tension.” – Chelsea Hofmann, Mystery & Suspense

Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge

fiction / mystery / historical fiction.

Mastering the Art of French MurderAs Paris rediscovers its joie de vivre, Tabitha Knight, recently arrived from Detroit for an extended stay with her French grandfather, is on her own journey of discovery. Paris isn’t just the City of Light; it’s the city of history, romance, stunning architecture… and food. Thanks to her neighbor and friend Julia Child, another ex-pat who’s fallen head over heels for Paris, Tabitha is learning how to cook for her Grandpère and Oncle Rafe.

Between tutoring Americans in French, visiting the market, and eagerly sampling the results of Julia’s studies at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Tabitha’s sojourn is proving thoroughly delightful. That is, until the cold December day they return to Julia’s building and learn that a body has been found in the cellar. Tabitha recognizes the victim as a woman she’d met only the night before, at a party given by Julia’s sister, Dort. The murder weapon found nearby is recognizable too—a knife from Julia’s kitchen.

Tabitha is eager to help the investigation, but is shocked when Inspector Merveille reveals that a note, in Tabitha’s handwriting, was found in the dead woman’s pocket. Is this murder a case of international intrigue, or something far more personal? From the shadows of the Tour Eiffel at midnight, to the tiny third-floor Child kitchen, to the grungy streets of Montmartre, Tabitha navigates through the city hoping to find the real killer before she or one of her friends ends up in prison… or worse.

“Cambridge’s newest series has everything going for it… A first-rate traditional mystery with strong characterization that is certain to appeal to a broad readership, especially fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Rhys Bowen, and Cambridge’s own Phyllida Bright series.” – Brian Kenney, First Clue

“[An] enchanting series launch… expect to leave this vacation hoping for a return trip.” – Publishers Weekly

“Agatha Christie meets cozy mystery in this fun tale from Cambridge. Historical fiction readers and fans of cozy suspense will want to add this mystery to their to-be-read pile.” – Jane Blue, Library Journal

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Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer

nonfiction / art / culture / history.

MonstersIn this unflinching, deeply personal book that expands on her instantly viral Paris Review essay, What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men? Claire Dederer asks: Can we love the work of Hemingway, Polanski, Naipaul, Miles Davis, or Picasso? Should we love it? Does genius deserve special dispensation? Is male monstrosity the same as female monstrosity? Does art have a mandate to depict the darker elements of the psyche? And what happens if the artist stares too long into the abyss?

She explores the audience’s relationship with artists from Woody Allen to Michael Jackson, asking: How do we balance our undeniable sense of moral outrage with our equally undeniable love of the work? In a more troubling vein, she wonders if an artist needs to be a monster in order to create something great. And if an artist is also a mother, does one identity inexorably, and fatally, interrupt the other? Highly topical, morally wise, honest to the core, Monsters is certain to incite a conversation about whether and how we can separate artists from their art.

“[A] vital, exhilarating book… Although Dederer has done her homework, her style is breezy and confessional… Monsters leaves us with Dederer’s passionate commitment to the artists whose work most matters to her, and a framework to address these questions about the artists who matter most to us.”  – Lisa Zeidner, Washington Post

“…conversational, clear and bold without being strident… Dederer showcases her critical acumen… In this age of moral policing, Ms. Dederer’s instincts to approach such material with an open mind—and heart—are laudable.” – Heller McAlpin, Wall Street Journal

“Smart, funny, and surprisingly forgiving… You can’t read it without thinking of your own literary loves and hates—and wondering how to know the difference.” – Julie Phillips, 4Columns

“The masterstroke of Dederer’s book is that she doesn’t seek to duck her ambivalence. She doesn’t try to magic it away by finding an expert or thinking harder, although her book has crystalline intellectual force… Denounce Allen or Polanski all she wants, she realizes, their work still calls to her, and from that stubborn fact she has fashioned a book of depth and candor about what it is to be heartbroken by an artist whose work we also happen to love… So on point is Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma about the historical moment in which we currently find ourselves, you want to carry it around with you and whip it out at every bar or dinner party.” – Tom Shone, Avenue

The Partisan by Patrick Worrall

fiction / suspense / historical fiction / mystery.

The PartisanSummer 1961: The brutal Cold War between East and West is becoming ever more perilous. Two young prodigies from either side of the Iron Curtain, Yulia and Michael, meet at a chess tournament in London. They don’t know it, but they’re about to compete in the deadliest game ever played. Shadowing them is Greta, a ruthless Lithuanian resistance fighter who is hunting down some of the most dangerous men in the world. Men who are also on the radar of Vassily, perhaps the USSR’s greatest spymaster. A man of cunning and influence, Vassily is Yulia’s minder during her visit to the West, but even he could not foresee the consequences of her meeting Michael. When the world is accelerating towards an inevitable and catastrophic conflict, what can just four people do to prevent it?

“[An] ambitious debut thriller… a compelling and – given the current situation in Ukraine – tragically resonant story.” – Laura Wilson, The Guardian

The Partisan is a classic Cold War tale… a very engaging thriller.” – Robert Goodman, The Blurb

Dr. Zhivago meets James Bond in British author Worrall’s ambitious debut… Worrall expertly weaves complex backstories and crossed narratives while vividly depicting the paranoia of everyday Soviet life, the barbarism of war, and shrewd old-fashioned spycraft. Fans of intricate Cold War–era spy thrillers will be enthralled.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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Rosewater by Liv Little

fiction / romance.

RosewaterElsie is a sexy, funny, and fiercely independent woman in south London. But, at just 28, she is also tired. Though she spends her days writing tender poetry in her journal, her nights are spent working long hours for minimum wage at a neighborhood dive bar. Not even sleeping with her alluring coworker, Bea, can quell her existential dread. The difficulty of being estranged from her family, struggle of being continually rejected from jobs, and fear of never making money doing what she loves is too great. But Elsie is determined to keep the faith, for a little longer at least. Things will surely turn around. They have to.

But when Elsie is suddenly evicted from her social housing, her fragile foundations threaten to collapse entirely. With nowhere left to go, Elsie turns to her childhood friend, Juliet, for help.

Among Juliet’s mismatched cushions and shelves lined with trinkets, Elsie is able to breathe for the first time in years. But between their reruns of Drag Race and nights smoking on the balcony, something else soon begins to glimmer in Elsie’s heart… Sometimes what you’ve been searching for has been there all along. Can Elsie see it in time?

Featuring the incredible poetry of Kai-Isaiah Jamal, Rosewater is a story of intergenerational love, healing, and one woman’s journey home. A remarkable debut by an exciting new talent, readers are sure to be enchanted by Liv Little’s distinctive and captivating contemporary voice.

“[A] lyrical, keenly-observed novel.” – Maggie Lange, Bustle

“[A] queer coming-of-age story capturing the existential, aimless dread of the moment.” – Sophia June, Nylon

“This vividly rendered story of a dynamic young woman finding her way is a compelling and engaging read for fans of Talia Hibbert, Sally Rooney, and Candice Carty-Williams.” – Alene Moroni, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane

fiction / mystery / historical fiction / suspense.

Small MerciesIn the summer of 1974 a heatwave blankets Boston and Mary Pat Fennessy is trying to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors. Mary Pat has lived her entire life in the housing projects of “Southie,” the Irish American enclave that stubbornly adheres to old tradition and stands proudly apart.

One night Mary Pat’s teenage daughter Jules stays out late and doesn’t come home. That same evening, a young Black man is found dead, struck by a subway train under mysterious circumstances.

The two events seem unconnected. But Mary Pat, propelled by a desperate search for her missing daughter, begins turning over stones best left untouched—asking questions that bother Marty Butler, chieftain of the Irish mob, and the men who work for him, men who don’t take kindly to any threat to their business.

Set against the hot, tumultuous months when the city’s desegregation of its public schools exploded in violence, Small Mercies is a superb thriller, a brutal depiction of criminality and power, and an unflinching portrait of the dark heart of American racism. It is a mesmerizing and wrenching work that only Dennis Lehane could write.

“You’ll be lucky if you read a more engaging novel this year.” – James Owen, The Times

“Lehane is now well established as one of America’s finest crime writers, who superbly blends uncompromising social history with uncompromising tales of what people driven to the limit will do. As ever, Small Mercies is populated with a wide-ranging collection of unforgettable people.” – James Walton, Reader’s Digest

“Racial tensions provide the powder keg for this explosive mystery… This taut, gripping mystery is also a novel of soul-searching, for the author and reader alike.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] masterful historical thriller… One world-shattering realization leads to another… Lehane makes Mary Pat’s transformation utterly convincing, thanks to his ability to invest his characters with a bedrock humanity that defies easy answers. A complex, multidimensional tragedy of epic proportions… this is [Lehane’s] best work so far.” – Bill Ott, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Tasting History: Explore the Past Through 4,000 Years of Recipes by Max Miller

nonfiction / food / cooking / history.

Tasting HistoryWhat began as a passion project when Max Miller was furloughed during Covid-19 has become a viral YouTube sensation. The Tasting History with Max Miller channel has thrilled food enthusiasts and history buffs alike as Miller recreates a dish from the past, often using historical recipes from vintage texts, but updated for modern kitchens as he tells stories behind the cuisine and culture. From ancient Rome to Ming China to medieval Europe and beyond, Miller has collected the best-loved recipes from around the world and has shared them with his fans. Now, with beautiful photographs portraying the dishes and historical artwork throughout, Tasting History compiles over sixty dishes such as:
-Tuh’u: a red beet stew with leeks dating back to 1740 BC
-Globi: deep-fried cheese balls with honey and poppy seeds
-Soul Cakes: yeasted buns with currants from circa 1600
-Pumpkin Tourte: a crustless pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon and sugar on top from 1570
-And much more.

Including the original recipe and Miller’s modern recreation, this cookbook is a must-have for any avid cook or history fan looking to experience delicious recipes from the past.

“Even if we never make these dishes of ancient times, Miller’s book is a fascinating read.” – Jane Simon Ammeson, New York Journal of Books

“[An] innovative debut… Throughout, Miller skillfully balances history with tantalizing recipes, and manages to make even ancient fare accessible with suggested ingredient substitions and an inviting tone. The result is a fascinating outing that will entice history buffs and home cooks alike.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Delving deeply into ancient foods, Miller has scoured old documents to produce cogent directions for recreating ancestral dishes in contemporary kitchens… A great sense of humor tempers Miller’s erudition and encourages curious cooks to serve up some of these historical foods to entertain families and guests and provoke dinner table conversation.” – Mark Knoblauch, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham

fiction / young adult / horror / mystery.

This Delicious DeathThree years ago, the melting of arctic permafrost released a pathogen of unknown origin into the atmosphere, causing a small percentage of people to undergo a transformation that became known as the Hollowing. Those impacted slowly became intolerant to normal food and were only able to gain sustenance by consuming the flesh of other human beings. Those who went without flesh quickly became feral, turning on their friends and family. However, scientists were able to create a synthetic version of human meat that would satisfy the hunger of those impacted by the Hollowing. As a result, humanity slowly began to return to normal, albeit with lasting fear and distrust for the people they’d pejoratively dubbed ghouls.

Zoey, Celeste, Valeria, and Jasmine are all ghouls living in Southern California. As a last hurrah before their graduation they decided to attend a musical festival in the desert. They have a cooler filled with hard seltzers and SynFlesh and are ready to party.

But on the first night of the festival Val goes feral, and ends up killing and eating a boy. As other festival guests start disappearing around them the girls soon discover someone is drugging ghouls and making them feral. And if they can’t figure out how to stop it, and soon, no one at the festival is safe.

“[A] gripping, layered novel… Riveting horror combined with savvy social commentary.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“This author’s novel begs for a film rendition and leaves fans salivating for more.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, STARRED REVIEW

“Cottingham weaves a fresh take on the zombie meta in this blood-curdling horror novel… impressively explores solidly teen issues regarding self-image against the backdrop of a haunting mystery and mystifying illness. Visceral horror depictions, a climbing body count, and socially conscious prose elevate this jaw-dropping chiller.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Essays on Desire and Consumption by Katy Kelleher

nonfiction / psychology / history.

The Ugly History of Beautiful ThingsKaty Kelleher has spent much of her life chasing beauty. As a child, she uprooted handfuls of purple, fragrant little flowers from the earth, plucked iridescent seashells from the beach, and dug for turquoise stones in her backyard. As a teenager she applied glittery shimmer to her eyelids after religiously dabbing on her signature scent of orange blossoms and jasmine. And as an adult, she coveted gleaming marble countertops and delicate porcelain to beautify her home. This obsession with beauty led her to become a home, garden, and design writer, where she studied how beautiful things are mined, grown, made, and enhanced. In researching these objects, Kelleher concluded that most of us are blind to the true cost of our desires. Because whenever you find something unbearably beautiful, look closer, and you’ll inevitably find a shadow of decay lurking underneath.

In these dazzling and deeply researched essays, Katy Kelleher blends science, history, and memoir to uncover the dark underbellies of our favorite goods. She reveals the crushed beetle shells in our lipstick, the musk of rodents in our perfume, and the burnt cow bones baked into our dishware. She untangles the secret history of silk and muses on her problematic prom dress. She tells the story of countless workers dying in their efforts to bring us shiny rocks from unsafe mines that shatter and wound the earth, all because a diamond company created a compelling ad. She examines the enduring appeal of the beautiful dead girl and the sad fate of the ugly mollusk. With prose as stunning as the objects she describes, Kelleher invites readers to examine their own relationships with the beautiful objects that adorn their body and grace their homes.

And yet, Kelleher argues that while we have a moral imperative to understand our relationship to desire, we are not evil or weak for desiring beauty. The Ugly History of Beautiful Things opens our eyes to beauty that surrounds us, helps us understand how that beauty came to be, what price was paid and by whom, and how we can most ethically partake in the beauty of the world.

“Kelleher has always been obsessed with beauty, and this poetic book is a careful study of its ambiguity and meaning.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The author’s perceptive analysis and self-reflection raise intriguing questions about consumerism, aesthetics, and gendered understandings of beauty. The result is a thoughtful offering as precious as the goods studied.” – Publishers Weekly

“Through personal revelation and scholarly research, Kelleher’s engrossing essays cogently explore the unsettling dichotomy between the precious and the problematic, the seedy and the sublime to vividly reveal the pleasures and perils in pursuit of ideal beauty.” – Carol Haggas, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Combining elements of science, history, consumerism and mysticism, Kelleher’s prose is lively, informative and, at times, humorous. Her personal attachment to the concept of beauty turns what could have been a dry, aesthetic exploration into something soul-cleansing and restorative.” – Becky Libourel Diamond, BookPage

The Way of the Bear by Anne Hillerman

fiction / mystery.

The Way of the BearAn unexpected death on a lonely road outside of Utah’s Bears Ears National Park raises questions for Navajo Tribal Police officers Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito. Why would a seasoned outdoorsman and well-known paleontologist freeze to death within walking distance of his car? A second death brings more turmoil. Who is the unidentified man killed during a home invasion where nothing seems to have been taken? Why was he murdered?

The Bears Ears area, at the edge of the Navajo Nation, is celebrated for its abundance of early human habitation sites and the discovery of unique fossils which revolutionized the scientific view of how early animals dealt with their changing world. For Chee and Bernie, the area glows with geological interest and spiritual insight. But their visit to this achingly beautiful place is disrupted by a current of unprecedented violence that sweeps them both into danger.

An illicit business, a fossilized jaw bone, hints of witchcraft, and a mysterious disappearance during a blizzard add to the peril. It will take all of Manuelito’s and Chee’s experience, skill, and intuition to navigate the threats that arise beneath the twin buttes that give Bears Ears its name and to see justice served.

“The mysteries begin with the first sentence and keep building…” – David Steinberg, Albuquerque Journal

“An intriguing plot matches the well-developed, reflective leads. As always, the real strength of this series lies in its authentic atmosphere, evocative descriptions of the landscape, and fascinating details of Navajo life. Hillerman consistently satisfies.” – Publishers Weekly

“Besides offering an involving mystery, Hillerman delivers meaty insights on the natural world, paleontology, ancient and enduring Navajo customs and traditions, and the role of Indigenous people in preserving the land and nature’s bounty.” – Emily Melton, Booklist

With My Little Eye by Joshilyn Jackson

fiction / suspense / mystery.

With My Little EyeIt started with the letters…

For actress Meribel Mills, disturbing fan mail is part of the price of fame. So when she starts getting creepy letters written in fruit-scented marker she is mostly unphased and diligently files them along with her other messages from unhinged fans. After all, she’s a single mom approaching forty, not the kind of hot young celeb who sparks dangerous obsessions. But there’s something different about Marker Man…

He’s been in her home…

Meribel’s sheets smell of unfamiliar cologne, and objects have gone missing around the house. Plus, the letters have become more perverse, with drawings of a naked Meribel tied up or chopped into pieces. While the police insist that stalkers hardly ever escalate to violence, Meribel has played the dead girl one too many times on TV to risk becoming her in real life. She and her daughter move from Los Angeles to Atlanta for a fresh start—but no distance is great enough.

He’s watching her…

Years of being in front of a camera have given Meribel a superpower—she can feel eyes on her, a creeping sensation like bees inside her skin. And someone definitely has her in their sights. Could Marker Man have followed her all the way across the country?

Who else might be watching—her ex-husband? The lover she left behind in LA? Her new neighbor? Suddenly, every man in her life is a suspect, but she can’t keep herself and her daughter safe from a monster she can’t identify. When the paths of all of these men collide, Meribel will find herself alone in the fight of her life, desperate to protect those she loves as danger closes in from all sides.

“Jackson, a former actor herself, wryly describes the actor’s life while providing just enough twists… Those looking for escapist fun will be rewarded.” – Publishers Weekly

“Wow! A roller coaster ride combining Dungeons and Dragons with Agatha Christie. Joshilyn Jackson continues to refine her mystery/suspense cred in this compelling whodunnit. Great for beach reading or any other time!” – Diana Robinson, Indie Next

“[A] creepy psychological thriller… Readers will be as hard-pressed as Meribel to discover the identity of Marker Man, with Jackson throwing in red herrings aplenty and keeping Meribel mystified and unnerved until the cataclysmic conclusion. Psychologically damaged but charismatic characters, a riveting plot, and taut suspense make this a fine pick for suspense fans.” – Emily Melton, Booklist

Zora Books Her Happy Ever After by Taj McCoy

fiction / romance.

Zora Books Her Happy Ever AfterZora has committed every inch of her life to establishing her thriving DC bookstore, making it into a pillar of the community, and she just hasn’t had time for romance. But when a mystery author she’s been crushing on for years agrees to have an event at her store, she starts to rethink her priorities. Lawrence is every bit as charming as she imagined, even if his understanding of his own books seems just a bit shallow. When he asks her out after his reading, she’s almost elated enough to forget about the grumpy guy who sat next to her making snide comments all evening. Apparently the grouch is Lawrence’s best friend, Reid, but she can’t imagine what kind of friendship that must be. They couldn’t be more different.

But as she starts seeing Lawrence, and spending more and more time with Reid, Zora finds first impressions can be deceiving. Reid is smart and thoughtful—he’s also interested. After years of avoiding dating, she suddenly has two handsome men competing for her affection. But even as she struggles to choose between them, she can’t shake the feeling that they’re both hiding something—a mystery she’s determined to solve before she can find her HEA.

“I’m of the opinion that the best romances involve bookstores, and Zora’s love triangle is just proof of that concept.” – Rachel Strolle, BuzzFeed

“In the hands of a lesser author, the love-triangle element could feel completely predictable, but McCoy capably avoids tired clichés and gives readers a new perspective on the trope. The romance’s secondary characters are funny, supportive, and intrinsic to the success of this outstanding novel…” – Nicole Williams, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“McCoy doesn’t miss a romantic beat in her swoonworthy sophomore rom-com… McCoy expertly crafts a well-balanced love triangle between empathetic and passionate characters—and delivers plenty of comic relief in the form of Zora’s lovable matchmaking grandmother. Readers will delight in cheering on this strong heroine.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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