Best New Books: Week of 6/20/23

“You’re never alone when you’re reading a book.” – Susan Wiggs

Adult Drama: And Other Essays by Natalie Beach

nonfiction / memoir.

Adult DramaNatalie Beach became an internet sensation when her essay on her toxic friendship with Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway went viral. Now, for the first time, and in her own indelible voice, Beach offers a revelatory glimpse into her own life alongside a broader cultural criticism of the world today. Through stories of heartbreak, odd jobs, political activism, existential crises and low-rise jeans, Natalie Beach explores the high stakes and absurdist comedy of coming of age in a world gone mad.

Effervescent, hilarious and unflinchingly self-aware, Adult Drama marks the arrival of an electrifying new literary voice.

“Beach’s voice is a synthesis of whip-smart cultural commentary and vulnerable self-reflection as she searches for an identity she can call hers — contractor, shopgirl, estate-sale junkie, memoirist. Adult Drama is an unflinching self-portrait by an artist who’s done with telling any story that isn’t hers.” – Sarah Bramer, Booklist

“[An] elegant memoir-in-essays… Beach’s wide-eyed honesty and utter lack of pretense (‘There’s no good way to end a memoir, short of elegantly dropping dead after you write the final sentence,’ she muses at one point) contribute to the sense that she’s mined every inch of her experience for these pieces. Incisive and candid, this is a must-read.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter Who Forever Changed British History by Tracy Borman

nonfiction / biography / history.

Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth IAnne Boleyn is a subject of enduring fascination. By far the most famous of Henry VIII’s six wives, she has inspired books, documentaries and films, and is the subject of intense debate even today, almost 500 years after her violent death. For the most part, she is considered in the context of her relationship with Tudor England’s much-married monarch. Dramatic though this story is, of even greater interest – and significance – is the relationship between Anne and her daughter, the future Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth was less than three years old when her mother was executed. Given that she could have held precious few memories of Anne, it is often assumed that her mother exerted little influence over her. Nothing could be further from the truth. Elizabeth knew that she had to be discreet about Anne, but there is compelling evidence that her mother had a profound impact on her character, beliefs and reign. Anne’s radical religious views shaped those of her daughter, and as a woman who wielded power over a male-dominated court, she provided an inspiring role model for Elizabeth’s queenship. Even during Henry’s lifetime, Elizabeth dared to express her sympathy for her late mother by secretly wearing Anne’s famous ‘A’ pendant when she sat for a painting with her father and siblings.

Piecing together evidence from original documents and artefacts, this book tells the fascinating, often surprising story of Anne Boleyn’s relationship with, and influence over her daughter Elizabeth. In so doing, it sheds new light on two of the most famous women in history and how they changed England forever.

“Beautifully envisioned and full of insight, this is a must-read for Tudor history buffs.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Highly recommended for readers interested in British history, royalty, and the Tudor era.” – Tracy Borman, Library Journal

“Accessible while academic, Borman’s extensively researched work dispels the notion that Elizabeth was ashamed of her mother and enhances our appreciation of England’s most extraordinary—and prolifically written-about—queen, examining the life of Queen Elizabeth I through the lens of her mother’s life, death, and legacy.” – Karen Clements, Booklist

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The Brightest Star by Gail Tsukiyama

fiction / historical fiction.

The Brightest StarAt the dawn of a new century, America is falling in love with silent movies, including young Wong Liu Tsong. The daughter of Chinese immigrants who own a laundry, Wong Liu and her older sister Lew Ying (Lulu) are taunted and bullied for their Chinese heritage. But while Lulu diligently obeys her parents and learns to speak Chinese, Wong Liu sneaks away to the local nickelodeons, buying a ticket with her lunch money and tips saved from laundry deliveries. By eleven-year-old Wong Liu is determined to become an actress and has already chosen a stage name: Anna May Wong. At sixteen, Anna May leaves high school to pursue her Hollywood dreams, defying her disapproving father and her Chinese traditional upbringing—a choice that will hold emotional and physical consequences.

After a series of nothing parts, nineteen-year-old Anna May gets her big break—and her first taste of Hollywood fame—starring opposite Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad. Yet her beauty and talent isn’t enough to overcome the racism that relegates her to supporting roles as a helpless, exotic butterfly or a vicious, murderous dragon lady while Caucasian actresses in “yellowface” are given starring roles portraying Asian women. Though she suffers professionally and personally, Anna May fights to win lead roles, accept risqué parts, financially support her family, and keep her illicit love affairs hidden—even as she finds freedom and glittering stardom abroad, and receives glowing reviews across the globe.

Powerful, poignant, and imbued with Gail Tsukiyama’s warmth and empathy, The Brightest Star reimagines the life of the first Asian American screen star whose legacy endures—a remarkable and inspiring woman who broke barriers and became a shining light in Hollywood history.

“…riveting… Wong’s intimate voice, in this imagined account, rings so clear that readers may be tempted into believing they’re reading an actual memoir… this stirring story about the drive and courageous spirit of a talented, barrier-breaking American icon works magnificently.” – Sarah Johnson, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Devil’s Playground by Craig Russell

fiction / horror / historical fiction / mystery.

The Devil's Playground1927: Mary Rourke—a Hollywood studio fixer—is called urgently to the palatial home of Norma Carlton, one of the most recognizable stars in American silent film. Norma has been working on the secret film everyone is openly talking about… a terrifying horror picture called The Devil’s Playground that is rumored to have unleashed a curse on everyone involved in the production. Mary finds Norma’s cold, dead body, and she wonders for just a moment if these dark rumors could be true.

1967: Paul Conway, a journalist and self-professed film aficionado, is on the trail of a tantalizing rumor. He has heard that a single copy of The Devil’s Playground —a Holy Grail for film buffs—may exist. He knows his Hollywood history and he knows the film endured myriad tragedies and ended up lost to time.

The Devil’s Playground is Craig Russell’s tour de force, a richly researched and constructed thriller that weaves through the Golden Age of Hollywood and reveals a blossoming industry built on secrets, invented identities, and a desperate pursuit of image. As Mary Rourke charges headlong through the egos, distractions, and traps that threaten to take her down with the doomed production, she discovers a truth far more sinister than she—or we—could have imagined.

“Intriguing and entertaining.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[An] excellent, engrossing historical horror novel… a terrifying tale of the true power in Hollywood… [Russell’s] precise, gorgeous prose shines…” – Danielle Trussoni, New York Times

“…extensively researched… A large cast of characters and extensive use of red herrings make this a complex and atmospheric novel, perfect for fans of Silvia Moreno-Garcia.” – Terri Lent, Library Journal

The Fear of Too Much Justice: Race, Poverty, and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Courts by Stephen B. Bright & James Kwak

nonfiction / current events / politics.

The Fear of Too Much JusticeGlenn Ford, a Black man, spent thirty years on Louisiana’s death row for a crime he did not commit. He was released in 2014—and given twenty dollars—when prosecutors admitted they did not have a case against him.

Ford’s trial was a travesty. One of his court-appointed lawyers specialized in oil and gas law and had never tried a case. The other had been out of law school for only two years. They had no funds for investigation or experts. The prosecution struck all the Black prospective jurors to get the all-white jury that sentenced Ford to death.

In The Fear of Too Much Justice, legendary death penalty lawyer Stephen B. Bright and legal scholar James Kwak offer a heart-wrenching overview of how the criminal legal system fails to live up to the values of equality and justice. The book ranges from poor people squeezed for cash by private probation companies because of trivial violations to people executed in violation of the Constitution despite overwhelming evidence of intellectual disability or mental illness. They also show examples from around the country of places that are making progress toward justice.

With a foreword by Bryan Stevenson, who worked for Bright at the Southern Center for Human Rights and credits him for “[breaking] down the issues with the death penalty simply but persuasively,” The Fear of Too Much Justice offers a timely, trenchant, firsthand critique of our criminal courts and points the way toward a more just future.

“[A] searing, no-holds-barred analysis about where we stand and how we can go forward.” – Martha Anne Toll, NPR

“[An] urgent call to action… This is an invaluable resource for advocates of criminal justice reform.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] thorough examination, providing an abundance of examples and cases from across the country and also from court decisions on up to those of the U.S. Supreme Court… a passionate and eye-opening behind-the-scenes account of the world of criminal justice and the lives impacted by the system’s injustices, the men and women facing loss of liberty, loss of hope, and even death.” – Cynthia Dieden, Booklist

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Fresh Dirt From the Grave by Giovanna Rivero; translated by Isabel Aday

fiction / horror.

Fresh Dirt From the GraveShipwrecks, dive bars, possession, and science―this is where contemporary horrors and ancient terrors meet.

In Fresh Dirt from the Grave, a hillside is “an emerald saddle teeming with evil and beauty.” It is this collision of harshness and tenderness that animates Giovanna Rivero’s short stories, where no degree of darkness (buried bodies, lost children, wild paroxysms of violence) can take away from the gentleness she shows all violated creatures. A mad aunt haunts her family, two Bolivian children are left on the outskirts of a Metis reservation outside Winnipeg, a widow teaches origami in a women’s prison and murders, housefires, and poisonings abound, but so does the persistent bravery of people trying to forge ahead in the face of the world. They are offered cruelty, often, indifference at best, and yet they keep going. Rivero has reworked the boundaries of the gothic to engage with pre-Columbian ritual, folk tales, sci-fi and eroticism, and found in the wound their humanity and the possibility of hope.

“…assured… Rivero confidently and credibly gives voice to characters in harrowing situations. Fans of Latin American literature will be glad to encounter this worthy writer.” – Publishers Weekly

“With compassion and unflinching precision, Rivero sheds light on savage crimes in modern-day Bolivia, while also casting her gaze into the past and future.” – Liv Albright, The Millions

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The Glow by Jessie Gaynor

fiction / comedy.

The GlowJane Dorner has two modes: PR Jane, twenty-five, chummy, and eager to sell you a feminist vibrator or a self-care/bereavement subscription box; and Actual Jane, twenty-nine, drifting through mediocre workdays and lackluster dates while paralyzed by her crushing mountain of overdue medical bills. When her job performance is called into question, Jane’s last-ditch effort to preserve her livelihood and pay off her debt is to land a white whale of a client.

Enter the impossibly gorgeous Cass—whom Jane discovers scrolling through Instagram—and her unassuming husband, Tom—proprietors of a “wellness retreat” based out of a ramshackle country house that may or may not be giving off cult vibes. Suddenly Jane realizes she might have found the one ladder she can climb—if she can convince them that transforming Cass herself into a high-end wellness brand is the key to all three of their futures. Magnetic yet mysterious, Cass is primed to be an influencer: She speaks in a mix of inspirational quotes and Zen koans, eats only zucchini (the most spiritually nourishing vegetable), and has baby-perfect skin. Despite Tom’s reticence about selling out, Jane sets out to mold Cass into the kind of guru who can offer inner peace and make your skin glow—all at a hefty price, of course. As Jane reckons with her own long-dormant ambitions, she wonders: Can a person really “do good” for others while profiting off them? And what parts of our selves do we lose when we trade power, influence, and beauty?

Sparklingly plotted, deliciously deadpan, and irresistibly entertaining, The Glow is a razor-sharp sendup of an industry built on the peculiar intersection of money and wellness, where health is a commodity and self-care a luxury.

“A satire both cutting and careful in its approach, The Glow is a triumph…” – Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle

“[A] witty send-up of wellness culture and the perils of transforming people into brands… With pithy and poignant observations about the costs of treating people like products, Gaynor makes this shine.” – Publishers Weekly

“…very funny… Gaynor’s humor is deadpan and piercing, the world she lambasts particular and oh-so-familiar, and there is One Particular Scene that will stick in your memory forever—but my favorite thing about the novel is that it doesn’t at all go where you think it’s going to go, and instead winds up being much more contemplative and subtle than most of the books to which it will inevitably be compared. It’s the perfect summer read for literary people who still want great skin.” – Emily Temple, Literary Hub

Holding Pattern by Jenny Xie


Holding PatternHolding Pattern. Noun .
1. A state of suspended progress.
2. The awkward way your mother tries to hug you now that you live with her. Again.

Kathleen Cheng has blown up her life. She’s gone through a humiliating breakup, dropped out of her graduate program, and left everything behind. Now she’s back in her childhood home in Oakland, wondering what’s next.

To her surprise, her mother isn’t the same person Kathleen remembers. No longer depressed or desperate to return to China, the new Marissa Cheng is sporty, perky, and has been transformed by love. Kathleen thought she’d be planning her own wedding, but instead finds herself helping her mother plan hers—to a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur.

Grasping for direction, Kathleen takes a job at a start-up that specializes in an unconventional form of therapy based on touch. While she negotiates new ideas about intimacy and connection, an unforeseen attachment to someone at work pushes her to rethink her relationships—especially the one with Marissa. Will they succeed in seeing each other anew, adult to adult?

As they peel back the layers of their history—the old wounds, cultural barriers, and complex affection—they must come to a new understanding of how they can propel each other forward, and what they’ve done to hold each other back. Brilliantly observant, tender, and warm, Holding Pattern is a hopeful novel about immigration and belonging, mother-daughter relationships, and the many ways we learn to hold each other.

“With warmth and humor, Xie’s debut novel upends the expected immigrant-parent- and-first-generation-daughter narrative.” – Becky Meloan, Washington Post

“Xie’s novel is full of mother-daughter emotions and beautiful moments of love and light.” – Sabrina Szos, Booklist

“Driven by Xie’s irresistible voice, this is a warm and funny debut about longing and belonging, the mother-daughter bond, and finding intimacy in an increasingly alienated world.” – Lisa Wong Macabasco, Vogue

“[A] funny and sharp debut… Xie’s strong character work keeps the narrative bubbling along on its episodic arc, and her affectionate study of the ways Kathleen and Marissa madden and inspire each other adds depth. This author is off to a stellar start.” – Publishers Weekly

Hotel Laguna by Nicola Harrison

fiction / historical fiction / romance.

Hotel LagunaIn 1942, Hazel Francis left Wichita, Kansas for California, determined to do her part for the war effort. At Douglas Aircraft, she became one of many “Rosie the Riveters,” helping construct bombers for the U. S. military. But now the war is over, men have returned to their factory jobs, and women like Hazel have been dismissed, expected to return home to become wives and mothers.

Unwilling to be forced into a traditional woman’s role in the Midwest, Hazel remains on the west coast, and finds herself in the bohemian town of Laguna Beach. Desperate for work, she accepts a job as an assistant to famous artist Hanson Radcliff. Beloved by the locals for his contributions to the art scene and respected by the critics, Radcliff lives under the shadow of a decades old scandal that haunts him.

Working hard to stay on her cantankerous employer’s good side, Hazel becomes a valued member of the community. She never expected to fall in love with the rhythms of life in Laguna, nor did she expect to find a kindred spirit in Jimmy, the hotel bartender whose friendship promises something more. But Hazel still wants to work with airplanes—maybe even learn to fly one someday. Torn between pursuing her dream and the dream life she has been granted, she is unsure if giving herself over to Laguna is what her heart truly wants.

“[A] fascinating story…” – Cynthia Johnson, Library Journal

“Harrison’s story of self-determination is one to savor.” – Publishers Weekly

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore


I Am Homeless If This Is Not My HomeA teacher visiting his dying brother in the Bronx. A mysterious journal from the nineteenth century stolen from a boarding house. A therapy clown and an assassin, both presumed dead, but perhaps not dead at all…

With her distinctive, irresistible wordplay and singular wry humor and wisdom, Lorrie Moore has given us a magic box of longing and surprise as she writes about love and rebirth and the pull towards life. Bold, meditative, theatrical, this new novel is an inventive, poetic portrait of lovers and siblings as it questions the stories we have been told which may or may not be true. I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home takes us through a trap door, into a windswept, imagined journey to the tragic-comic landscape that is, unmistakably, the world of Lorrie Moore.

“[A] triumph of tone and, ultimately, of the imagination.” – Abhrajyoti Chakraborty, The Guardian

“[Moore] manages the impossible in her writing: every other sentence is a gut-punch or the funniest line you’ve ever read, and it coheres into some of the truest writing about life—for what is life if not constantly either hilarious or devastating, and often both? I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home is a ghost story, a love story, a family elegy, and a search for answers both tangible and ephemeral: it’s the world of Lorrie Moore, beckoning us back in.” – Julia Hass, Literary Hub

“Moore’s sterling literary reputation is anchored most firmly to her short stories, but in her long-awaited fourth novel, her prose is just as breathtakingly crystalline, her humor wily and piquant… Moore’s exhilarating dialogue is acrobatic, her descriptions ravishing… Moore’s unnerving, gothic, acutely funny, lyrically metaphysical, and bittersweet tale is an audacious, mind-bending plunge into the mysteries of illness, aberration, death, grief, memory, and love.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“The novel includes historical flashbacks – bleak letters to a sister from a Civil War–era woman ‘braced at every turn for disenchantment’ – and reflections on everything from mobile phone obsession to the mentality of a school shooting generation, all in Moore’s gorgeous prose. And Moore’s sharp wit underpins everything. I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home explores death, grief and the past in a way that is full of wisdom and empathy. I enjoyed so many moments in this novel… As with all the best fiction, Moore offers a way of looking at the world that brings a fresh perspective on something well worn. This is a time trip well worth taking.” – Martin Chilton, Independent

Mrs. S by K. Patrick

fiction / romance.

Mrs. SIn an elite English boarding school where the girls kiss the marble statue of the famous dead author who used to walk the halls, a butch antipodean outsider arrives to take up the antiquated role of “matron.” Within this landscape of immense privilege, where difference is met with hostility, the matron finds herself unsure of her role, her accent and her body.

That is until she meets Mrs. S, the headmaster’s wife, a woman who is her polar opposite—an assured, authoritative paragon of femininity. Over the course of a long, restless summer, their unspoken yearning blooms into an illicit affair of electric intensity. But, as the summer fades, a choice must be made.

Seductive, stylish, and disarmingly wry, K. Patrick’s bold and revelatory debut smolders with the heat of summer as it explores the queer experience and the force of forbidden love.

“…beautiful… A powerful and introspective novel that fans of queer literary fiction will savor.” – Jennifer Renken, Library Journal

“…revelatory… Patrick makes palpable the compromises required by secret love, and though the romance is aching and well crafted, what emerges above all is a fascinating character portrait, that of a woman obscure to the world but radiant inside. Patrick wrings the exotic world of privilege for all that it’s worth.” – Publishers Weekly

“The drama of the forbidden affair keeps the reader voraciously turning the pages, but on a deeper level, the novel also offers an incisive and nuanced reflection on self-evolution as the narrator navigates the complexities of gender identity, social power, and the dynamic tension between private and public selves. An erotic yet high-minded literary achievement.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

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The Only One Left by Riley Sager 

fiction / suspense / mystery / horror.

The Only One LeftAt seventeen, Lenora Hope
Hung her sister with a rope

Now reduced to a schoolyard chant, the Hope family murders shocked the Maine coast one bloody night in 1929. While most people assume seventeen-year-old Lenora was responsible, the police were never able to prove it. Other than her denial after the killings, she has never spoken publicly about that night, nor has she set foot outside Hope’s End, the cliffside mansion where the massacre occurred.

Stabbed her father with a knife
Took her mother’s happy life

It’s now 1983, and home-health aide Kit McDeere arrives at a decaying Hope’s End to care for Lenora after her previous nurse fled in the middle of the night. In her seventies and confined to a wheelchair, Lenora was rendered mute by a series of strokes and can only communicate with Kit by tapping out sentences on an old typewriter. One night, Lenora uses it to make a tantalizing offer—I want to tell you everything.

“It wasn’t me,” Lenora said
But she’s the only one not dead

As Kit helps Lenora write about the events leading to the Hope family massacre, it becomes clear there’s more to the tale than people know. But when new details about her predecessor’s departure come to light, Kit starts to suspect Lenora might not be telling the complete truth—and that the seemingly harmless woman in her care could be far more dangerous than she first thought.

The Only One Left might just be Riley Sager’s creepiest novel yet.” – Emily Martin, Book Riot

“Perennial thriller favorite Riley Sager is back with another page-turner this summer, this one riffing on one of America’s most famous and most notorious true crime cases… The kind of book you’ll stay up late into the night trying to finish.” – Matthew Jackson, Paste

“Claustrophobic and haunting, this is Sager at the top of his game.” – David Pitt, Booklist

“Always master of suspense, Sager had me gasping out loud and listening for sounds in my house. I loved this book and it may even be my new favorite of Sager’s.” – Chelsea Hofmann, Mystery & Suspense

The Quiet Tenant by Clémence Michallon

fiction / suspense / mystery / horror.

The Quiet TenantAidan Thomas is a hard-working family man and a somewhat beloved figure in the small upstate New York town where he lives. He’s the kind of man who always lends a hand and has a good word for everyone. But Aidan has a dark secret he’s been keeping from everyone in town and those closest to him. He’s a kidnapper and serial killer. Aidan has murdered eight women and there’s a ninth he has earmarked for death: Rachel, imprisoned in a backyard shed, fearing for her life.

When Aidan’s wife dies, he and his thirteen-year-old daughter Cecilia are forced to move. Aidan has no choice but to bring Rachel along, introducing her to Cecilia as a “family friend” who needs a place to stay. Aidan is betting on Rachel, after five years of captivity, being too brainwashed and fearful to attempt to escape. But Rachel is a fighter and survivor, and recognizes Cecilia might just be the lifeline she has waited for all these years. As Rachel tests the boundaries of her new living situation, she begins to form a tenuous connection with Cecilia. And when Emily, a local restaurant owner, develops a crush on the handsome widower, she finds herself drawn into Rachel and Cecilia’s orbit, coming dangerously close to discovering Aidan’s secret.

Told through the perspectives of Rachel, Cecilia, and Emily, The Quiet Tenant explores the psychological impact of Aidan’s crimes on the women in his life—and the bonds between those women that give them the strength to fight back. Both a searing thriller and an astute study of trauma, survival, and the dynamics of power, The Quiet Tenant is an electrifying debut thriller by a major talent.

“[A] dazzling debut… This is a smart, female-focused inversion of the serial killer thriller perfect for readers who otherwise wouldn’t give the genre a second look.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] gripping psychological suspense novel… Michallon’s riveting tale shows a killer through the eyes of the women in his life…” – Becky Meloan, Washington Post

“Cleverly constructed, well written and harrowing in the extreme from the very first page, this is an unforgettable debut. If this is a first novel, what’s the next going to be like? I dread to think literally. Congratulations to Clémence Michallon, queen of the psychological thriller. We’ll be waiting.” – Shots Magazine

“…hard to put down. A brutal, sad, heartbreaking story focused on resilience and survival. Recommended for fans of true crime stories, Gillian Flynn, or Jessica Knoll.” – Marianne Fizgerald, Library Journal

Rivermouth: A Chronicle of Language, Faith, and Migration by Alejandra Oliva

nonfiction / memoir / current events.

RivermouthIn this powerful and deeply felt polemic memoir, Alejandra Oliva, a Mexican-American translator and immigrant justice activist, offers a chronological document of her experience interpreting at the US-Mexico border, and of the people she has encountered along the way. Tracing her family’s long and fluid relationship to the border, each generation born on opposite sides of the Rio Grande, and having worked on asylum cases since 2016, she knows all too well the gravity of taking someone’s trauma and delivering it to the warped demands of the American immigration system.

In Rivermouth, Oliva focuses on the physical spaces that make up different phases of immigration and looks at how language and opportunity move through each of them; from the river as the waterway that separates the US and Mexico, to the table as the place over which Oliva prepares asylum seekers for their Credible Fear Interviews, and finally, to the wall as the behemoth imposition that runs along America’s southernmost border.

With lush prose and perceptive insight, Oliva encourages readers to approach the painful questions that this crisis poses with equal parts critique and compassion. By which metrics are we measuring who “deserves” American citizenship? What is the point of humanitarian systems that distribute aid conditionally? What do we owe to our most disenfranchised?

As investigative and analytical as she is meditative and introspective, sharp as she is lyrical, and incisive as she is compassionate, in Rivermouth, Oliva argues for a better world while guiding us through the suffering that makes the fight necessary and the joy that makes it worth fighting for.

“…excellent… With uncut rage and breathtaking prose, Oliva edifies, infuriates, and moves readers all at once. This is required reading.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…Rivermouth is one of the most thoughtful meditations on our nation’s immigration policy in recent memory. Oliva’s Kafkaesque portrayal of her work retelling the traumatic stories of migrants in English for asylum applications will linger long after you’re done reading.” – Leland Cheuk, Boston Globe

“A graceful meditation on the unresolved traumas of life in a land where one is often not welcome… A humane, elegantly written book that gives voice to the voiceless at our borders.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“As a Mexican American who grew up on the border, Oliva glides over and through memory, empathy, and rational thought in this lyrical testimonio as participant and witness to the broken immigration system… Undeterred by complexity, Oliva presents an accessible narrative electrified by transcripts of official exchanges, raw with emotion, that lay bare the tragic inadequacy of a sterile bureaucratic setting to ever do justice to petitioners in any ‘credible threat interview.’” – Sara Martinez, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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The Spare Room by Andrea Bartz

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Spare RoomKelly’s new life in Philadelphia has turned into a nightmare: She’s friendless and jobless, and the lockdown has her trapped in a tiny apartment with the man she gave up everything for, who’s just called off their wedding. The only bright spot is her newly rekindled friendship with her childhood friend Sabrina—now a glamorous bestselling author with a handsome, high-powered husband.

When Sabrina and Nathan offer Kelly an escape hatch, volunteering the spare room of their remote Virginia mansion, she jumps at the chance to run away from her old life. There, Kelly secretly finds herself falling for both her enchanting hosts—until one night, a wild and unexpected threesome leads the couple to open their marriage for her.

At first, Kelly loves being part of this risqué new world. But when she discovers that the last woman they invited into their marriage is missing, she starts to wonder if they could be dangerous… and if she might be next.

Packed with Andrea Bartz’s signature tension, twists, and toxic relationships, The Spare Room marks an edgy, boundary-pushing new direction from the “master of the ‘feminist thriller’” (Los Angeles Times).

“[A] cleverly plotted page-turner… Bartz expertly whips up a dizzying kaleidoscope of suspicion (including two truly game-changing twists)…” – Publishers Weekly

“The novel is delightfully salacious and rampant with suspense and sex, and there’s a reason why Bartz is known as a hitmaker in the field.” – Katie Tamola, Shondaland

“A shocking murder, hot sex, and twisty reveal highlight this great new novel from Andrea Bartz.” – Red Carpet Crash

“Andrea Bartz has returned to deliver. This suspense story set in a Virginia mansion features some eyebrow-raising twists, especially when protagonist Kelly finds herself charmed by her hosts—and welcomed into their bed.” – Lauren Puckett- Pope, Elle

The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy, and the Wild Life of an American Commune by Alexander Stille

nonfiction / history / true crime.

The SullivaniansIn the middle of the Ozzie and Harriet 1950s, the birth control pill became available and a maverick psychoanalytic institute, the Sullivan Institute for Research in Psychoanalysis, opened its doors in New York City. Its founders wanted to start a revolution, one grounded in ideals of creative expression, sexual liberation, and freedom from societal norms, and the revolution needed to begin at home. Dismantling the nuclear family–and monogamous marriage–would free kids from the repressive forces of their parents. The movement attracted many brilliant people as patients, including the painter Jackson Pollock and a swarm of other artists, the singer Judy Collins, and the dancer Lucinda Childs. By the 1960s, it had become an urban commune of hundreds of people, with patients living with other patients, leading a creative, polyamorous life.

By the mid-1970s, under the leadership of its cofounder Saul Newton, it devolved from a radical communal experiment into an insular cult, with therapists controlling virtually every aspect of their patients’ lives, from where they lived to how often they saw their children. Although the group was highly secretive, even after its dissolution in 1991, Alexander Stille has reconstructed the inner life of this hidden parallel world. Through countless interviews and personal papers, The Sullivanians reveals the nearly unbelievable story of a fallen utopia in the heart of New York City.

“[A] rip-roaring new book… The kind of compulsive read meant to be devoured on a fire escape in the sultriest August heat.” – Mattie Kahn, Town & Country

“[An] addicting, compassionate account of how earnest societal questions about community were quietly warped in broad daylight, through an ugly Manhattan cult (once the largest in the country) that splintered families for decades.” – Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

“Intensely readable… Through all phases of the story, from the kinky, free-love eccentricity of the early years to the insularity, paranoia, and criminality of the later years, Stille maintains an admirable, almost tenacious sympathy for his subjects… As the cognitive dissonance grows, so too does the tension, making [The Sullivanians] an improbable thriller, propelling us from chapter to chapter.” – Jon Zobenica, The American Scholar

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The Three Deaths of Willa Stannard by Susan Wiggs

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Three Deaths of Willa StannardIt’s not that they’ve been all that close in the past few years, but sisters Willa and Sawyer Stannard are bonded by the ups and downs of the life they’ve lived with their mercurial single mother. When Willa is found dead in her apartment from an apparent suicide, Sawyer just knows it’s not possible. A cryptic note from the acclaimed broadcast journalist leads police to rule out foul play. Shattered by grief—and obsessed by the idea that her sister’s death was not a suicide—Sawyer plunges into a search for the truth.

When Sawyer learns that Willa was writing an explosive true crime book about the decades-old disappearance of a toddler that rocked a small town hundreds of miles away, she’s even more convinced that Willa’s death is suspicious. Believing it is somehow connected to the research Willa was doing for the book, Sawyer begins to trace her sister’s steps, deep into a community she can’t begin to understand and to a truth that could destroy her as easily as it did Willa.

As she masterfully ratchets up the suspense, Robards never loosens her grip in a debut novel sure to keep readers guessing—and talking.

“A welcome debut that’s both a fleet thriller and a pathology of sisterhood at its most harrowing.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] great, thrilling psychological debut… She hits all the right notes…” – Red Carpet Crash

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Welcome to Beach Town by Susan Wiggs


Welcome to Beach TownEvery town has its secrets… In idyllic Alara Cove, a California beach town known for its sunny charm and chill surfer vibe, it’s graduation day at the elite Thornton Academy.

At Thornton, the students are the worldly and overindulged children who live in gated enclaves with spectacular views. But the class valedictorian is Nikki Graziola, a surfer’s daughter who is there on scholarship. To the shock of everyone in the audience, Nikki veers off script while giving her commencement address and reveals a secret that breaks open the whole community. As her truth explodes into the light, Alara Cove will face a reckoning. Nikki Graziola’s accusation shakes the foundation of Alara Cove, pitting her against the wealthy family whose money runs the town. Her new notoriety sends Nikki into exile for years, where she finds fame—but not fortune—overseas as a competition surfer… until a personal tragedy compels her to return to Alara Cove.

As Nikki struggles to rebuild her future, she finds that the people of the town have not forgotten her. But time has changed Alara Cove, and old friendships, rivalries, and an unexpected romance draw her back into the life of the beach town she’s never quite forgotten, and where joy and redemption may be possible after all.

“Full of surf, rediscovered love, and second chances, this perfect beach read will be enjoyed by Wiggs’ many fans.” – Lynnanne Pearson, Booklist

“[A] timely, unputdownable coming-of-age novel… Fans of the prolific Wiggs and of strong women protagonists will stay up all night to finish this speeding bullet to the best-seller list.” – Debbie Haupt, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Gripping and emotionally compelling, Welcome to Beach Town captures readers from the first chapter and doesn’t let go… With sun, waves, and the heart of a small town, Susan has written Welcome to Beach Town as the perfect companion wherever this summer takes you.” – The Gloss

What the Dead Know: Learning About Life as a New York City Death Investigator by Barbara Butcher

nonfiction / memoir / science / true crime.

What the Dead KnowBarbara Butcher was early in her recovery from alcoholism when she found an unexpected job at the Medical Examiner’s Office in New York City. The second woman ever hired for the role of Death Investigator in Manhattan, she was the first to last more than three months. The work was gritty, demanding, morbid, and sometimes dangerous – she loved it.

Butcher (yes, that is her real name, and she has heard all the jokes) spent day in and day out investigating double homicides, gruesome suicides, and most heartbreaking of all, underage rape victims who had also been murdered. In What the Dead Know, she writes with the kind of New York attitude and bravado you might expect from decades in the field, investigating more than 5,500 death scenes, 680 of which were homicides. In the opening chapter, she describes how just from the sheer luck of having her arm in cast, she avoided a boobytrapped suicide. Later in her career, she describes working the nation’s largest mass murder, the attack on 9/11, where she and her colleagues initially relied on family members’ descriptions to help distinguish among the 21,900 body parts of the victims.

This is the fascinating and stunning real-life story of a woman who, in dealing with death every day, learned surprising lessons about life—and how some of those lessons saved her from becoming a statistic herself. Fans of Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, and true crime won’t be able to put it down.

“Butcher’s life is right out of a novel, and a best-seller at that… harrowing and emotionally resonant. Butcher’s relaxed writing style allows her to show off her engaging personality, which often lends moments of humor despite the heavy topic…” – Jeff Connelly, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…riveting… she employs welcome doses of dark humor and makes even the more complicated aspects of her work fully accessible to a lay audience. Readers interested in how real-life CSI functions will be rapt.” – Publishers Weekly

“Butcher is funny, sarcastic, and honest, with stories that could only happen in a metropolis as sprawling and frenetic as New York… [she] is the expert called upon to offer her real-life experience to shape dramatized crime novels and TV series. But her truth is better than fiction.” – Lindsay Powers, Amazon

You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron

fiction / young aDULT / HORROR / MYSTERY.

You're Not Supposed to Die TonightCharity Curtis has the summer job of her dreams, playing the “final girl” at Camp Mirror Lake. Guests pay to be scared in this full-contact terror game, as Charity and her summer crew recreate scenes from a classic slasher film, Curse of Camp Mirror Lake. The more realistic the fear, the better for business.

But the last weekend of the season, Charity’s co-workers begin disappearing. And when one ends up dead, Charity’s role as the final girl suddenly becomes all too real. If Charity and her girlfriend Bezi hope to survive the night, they’ll need TO figure out what this killer is after. Is there more to the story of Mirror Lake and its dangerous past than Charity ever suspected?

“Like any good horror movie, this one is full of twists and turns, with one heck of a kicker at the end.” – Alex Brown, NPR

“Frightening thrills and bloody kills abound in this meta twist on classic horror films… Bayron’s abundant use of familiar twists and turns draws on the genre’s classic predecessors to craft a gory and darkly funny read that is sure to satisfy slasher fans.” – Publishers Weekly

“The overall campiness of the novel will appeal to fans of ’90s horror films and makes the book as fun as it is terrifying.” – Nashae Jones, Booklist

Zero Days by Ruth Ware

fiction / suspense / mystery.

Zero DaysHired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband, Gabe, are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their suspect—her.

Suddenly on the run and quickly running out of options, Jack must decide who she can trust as she circles closer to the real killer in this unputdownable and heart-pounding mystery.

“Ware’s latest thriller will not disappoint… The action and tension are relentless from the opening to the conclusion… [readers] will be captivated by this very original and very real protagonist.” – Jane Murphy, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] high-stakes, high-tech novel of Hitchcockian suspense (think The 39 Steps) that deftly demonstrates why she is the chameleon of crime fiction. From its resourceful, resilient protagonist to its seamlessly constructed, au courant plot, everything about Ware’s newest novel is guaranteed to keep her fans up way past their bedtimes.” – John Charles, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW


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