Best New Books: Week of 7/18/23

“The world may be mean, but people don’t have to be, not if they refuse.” – Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

The Anniversary by Stephanie Bishop

fiction / mystery / suspense.

The AnniversaryNovelist J.B. Blackwood is on a cruise with her husband, Patrick, to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Her former professor, film director, and cult figure, Patrick is much older than J.B.. When they met, he seemed somehow ageless, as all gods appear in the eyes of those who worship them. But now his success is starting to wane and J.B. is on the cusp of winning a major literary prize. Her art has been forever overseen by him, now it may overshadow his.

For days they sail in the sun, nothing but dark water all around them. Then a storm hits and Patrick falls from the ship. J.B. is left alone, as the search for what happened to Patrick – and the truth about their marriage – begins.

Propulsive and fiercely intelligent, The Anniversary is exquisitely written with a swift and addictive plot. It’s a novel that asks: how legible, in the mind of the writer, is the line between reality and plot? How do we refuse the people we desire? And what is the cost, to ourselves, to others and to our art, if we don’t?

“…elegant and highly accomplished… dangerously readable… If only all novels were this engaging and this perceptive about human nature.” – Alexander Larman, The Guardian

“This novel goes beyond suspense, tackling gender power imbalances and slipping into metafiction… a compulsive yet redemptive book layered with nuances.” – Susie Mesure, Financial Times

The Anniversary is bejewelled with lovely moments and undeniably exquisite writing… an admirable and ambitious investigation into some troublesome contemporary things about men and women and the forces of desire, not just sexual but creative desire.” – Helen Elliott, Sydney Morning Herald

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Behold the Monster: Confronting America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by Jillian Lauren

nonfiction / true crime / memoir.

Behold the MonsterHe was sitting right across the table… and he would have killed her if he could. Jillian Lauren had no idea what she was getting into when she wrote her first letter to prolific serial killer Samuel Little. All she knew was her research had led her to believe he was guilty of many more murders than the three for which he had been convicted. While the two exchanged dozens of letters and embarked on hundreds of hours of interviews, Lauren gained the trust of a monster. After maintaining his innocence for decades, Little confessed to the murders of ninety-three women, often drawing his victims in haunting detail as he spoke. How could one man evade justice, manipulating the system for more than four decades? As the FBI, the DOJ, the LAPD, and countless law enforcement officials across the country worked to connect their cold cases with the confessions, Lauren’s coverage of the investigations and obsession with Little’s victims only escalated.

Lauren delivers the harrowing report of her unusual relationship with a psychopath–but this is more than a deep dive into the actions of Samuel Little. Lauren’s riveting and emotional accounts reveal the women who were lost to cold files, giving Little’s victims a chance to have their stories heard for the first time.

“Devastatingly sad and utterly unputdownable.” – Vannessa Cronin, Amazon

“[A] wildly original blend of narrative nonfiction and true crime reporting… harrowing… True crime fans will find this a unique and disturbing thrill ride.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…horrifying… Lauren is an engaging stylist, capable of blending gruesome forensic details with tender domestic moments… Behold the Monster offers a successfully panoramic tale of America’s worst serial-killer and his unrepented crimes.” – Samuel Rutter, The Telegraph

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Blight: Fungi and the Coming Pandemic by Emily Monosson

nonfiction / science.

BlightFungi are everywhere. Most are harmless; some are helpful. A few are killers. Collectively, infectious fungi are the most devastating agents of disease on earth, and a fungus that can persist in the environment without its host is here to stay. In Blight, Emily Monosson documents how trade, travel, and a changing climate are making us all more vulnerable to invasion. Populations of bats, frogs, and salamanders face extinction. In the Northwest, America’s beloved national parks are covered with the spindly corpses of whitebark pines. Food crops are under siege, threatening our coffee, bananas, and wheat―and, more broadly, our global food security. Candida auris, drug-resistant and resilient, infects hospital patients and those with weakened immune systems. Coccidioides, which lives in drier dusty regions, may cause infection in apparently healthy people. The horrors go on.

Yet prevention is not impossible. Tracing the history of fungal spread and the most recent discoveries in the field, Monosson meets scientists who are working tirelessly to protect species under threat, and whose innovative approaches to fungal invasion have the potential to save human lives. Delving into case studies at once fascinating, sobering, and hopeful, Blight serves as a wake-up call, a reminder of the delicate interconnectedness of the natural world, and a lesson in seeing life on our planet with renewed humility and awe.

“…unsettling… Blight emphasizes the decidedly unsalutary things that fungi can do.” – Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

“[A] startling warning… This wake-up call should not go unheeded.” – Publishers Weekly

“…fascinating… Monosson is a skilled writer, capable of translating complicated scientific topics into compelling layperson’s terms, and she crafts a thrilling narrative around even the less charismatic victims of fungal pathogens… An engrossing read with an urgent message about the next frontier of disease.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

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The Block Party by Jamie Day

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Block PartyThis summer, meet your neighbors.

The residents of the exclusive cul-de-sac on Alton Road are entangled in a web of secrets and scandal utterly unknown to the outside world, and even to each other.

On the night of the annual Summer block party, there has been a murder.

But, who did it and why takes readers back one year earlier, as rivalries and betrayals unfold—discovering that the real danger lies within their own block and nothing—and no one—is ever as it seems.

“Fans of Lucy Foley should not miss this well-plotted summer read that asks—and entertainingly answers—the question of whether we ever truly know anybody as well as we think we do.” – Vannessa Cronin, Amazon

“Day’s choice to withhold both victim and perpetrator ratchets up the tension nicely, and her jabs at suburban repression are sharp. This is wicked fun.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] delightful suburban thriller… A wickedly fun send-off of suburbia…” – Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle 

fiction / horror.

Camp DamascusThey’ll scare you straight to hell.

Welcome to Neverton, Montana: home to a God-fearing community with a heart of gold.

Nestled high up in the mountains is Camp Damascus, the self-proclaimed “most effective” gay conversion camp in the country. Here, a life free from sin awaits. But the secret behind that success is anything but holy.

“[A] well-crafted and surprisingly moving novel.” – Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

“[An] eerie but empowering queer horror story… this chilling page-turner should win Tingle a slew of new fans.” – Publishers Weekly

“This book is highly entertaining, cinematic, and filled with monsters, both human and supernatural, all of which will lure horror fans to its pages, but what holds it all together is the immense love at the heart of the novel. Two-time Hugo finalist Tingle has a huge cult following, and his brilliant mainstream debut does not disappoint. Suggest to fans of authors such as V. Castro and Hailey Piper, who take well-worn tropes and explore them through marginalized perspectives, creating something breathtaking and wholly new.” – Becky Spratford, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Camp Damascus is one of those rare reads that accomplishes what it sets out to do on multiple levels. Tingle nails the outward trappings of the horror genre, gradually spiraling things out of control until it feels perfectly natural that the world is now upside down, but like all good horror, he also nails the social commentary he was aiming for without it feeling preachy or hamfisted. The characterization is deftly plotted, both for Rose and all the other people in the book, and maybe the scariest part of it all is that if you met one of the members of Neverton on the street, you wouldn’t even look twice. In fact, they’re probably out walking around in your town as you read this.” – Chris Kluwe, Lightspeed

The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight by Andrew Leland

nonfiction / memoir / history.

The Country of the BlindWe meet Andrew Leland as he’s suspended in the liminal state of the soon-to-be blind: he’s midway through his life with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that ushers those who live with it from sightedness to blindness over years, even decades. He grew up with full vision, but starting in his teenage years, his sight began to degrade from the outside in, such that he now sees the world as if through a narrow tube. Soon—but without knowing exactly when—he will likely have no vision left.

Full of apprehension but also dogged curiosity, Leland embarks on a sweeping exploration of the state of being that awaits not only the physical experience of blindness but also its language, politics, and customs. He negotiates his changing relationships with his wife and son, and with his own sense of self, as he moves from his mainstream, “typical” life to one with a disability. Part memoir, part historical and cultural investigation, The Country of the Blind represents Leland’s determination not to merely survive this transition but to grow from it—to seek out and revel in that which makes blindness enlightening.

Thought-provoking and brimming with warmth and humor, The Country of the Blind is a deeply personal and intellectually exhilarating tour of a way of being that most of us have never paused to consider—and from which we have much to learn.

“Andrew Leland writes about his own gradual blindness using cultural histories and the politics of disability to upend what we assumed we knew. It’s one of the year’s best.” – Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

Believer editor Leland delivers a masterful exploration of disability in his brilliant debut… Enriched by its sparkling prose, this is an extraordinary and intellectually rigorous account of adapting to change.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] moving and fascinating account of the blind community—its politics, customs, and pioneers—and a personal exploration of making a sometimes frightening, sometimes invigorating life transition as a writer, husband, and father. A brilliant investigative memoir written with humor and heart.” – Literary Hub

Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead

fiction / historical fiction / mystery / suspense.

Crook ManifestoIt’s 1971. Trash piles up on the streets, crime is at an all-time high, the city is careening towards bankruptcy, and a shooting war has broken out between the NYPD and the Black Liberation Army. Amidst this collective nervous breakdown furniture store owner and ex-fence Ray Carney tries to keep his head down and his business thriving. His days moving stolen goods around the city are over. It’s strictly the straight-and-narrow for him — until he needs Jackson 5 tickets for his daughter May and he decides to hit up his old police contact Munson, fixer extraordinaire. But Munson has his own favors to ask of Carney and staying out of the game gets a lot more complicated – and deadly.

1973. The counter-culture has created a new generation, the old ways are being overthrown, but there is one constant, Pepper, Carney’s endearingly violent partner in crime. It’s getting harder to put together a reliable crew for hijackings, heists, and assorted felonies, so Pepper takes on a side gig doing security on a Blaxploitation shoot in Harlem. He finds himself in a freaky world of Hollywood stars, up-and-coming comedians, and celebrity drug dealers, in addition to the usual cast of hustlers, mobsters, and hit men. These adversaries underestimate the seasoned crook – to their regret.

1976. Harlem is burning, block by block, while the whole country is gearing up for Bicentennial celebrations. Carney is trying to come up with a July 4th ad he can live with. (“Two Hundred Years of Getting Away with It!”), while his wife Elizabeth is campaigning for her childhood friend, the former assistant D.A and rising politician Alexander Oakes. When a fire severely injures one of Carney’s tenants, he enlists Pepper to look into who may be behind it. Our crooked duo have to battle their way through a crumbling metropolis run by the shady, the violent, and the utterly corrupted.

“It’s not just crime fiction at its craftiest, but shrewdly rendered social history.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] masterful and entertaining page turner… Colson’s writing wraps around you like humidity on a hot day in Harlem in the 1970s, and when you finish the last page, you’ll be salivating for book three.” – Isaac Fitzgerald, Today

“Whitehead captures the menace and the beauty of the city in exhilarating detail within the many-faceted, rollicking plot that propels his second, magnificently vibrant and transcendent Ray Carney novel.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] a dazzling treatise, a glorious and intricate anatomy of the heist, the con and the slow game… Crook Manifesto gleefully detonates its satire upon this world while getting to the heart of the place and its people.” – Walter Mosley, New York Times

“Marlowe has LA, Morse Oxford: Carney’s Harlem deserves to be mentioned in the same breath… For my money, Whitehead’s crime series is one of the most enjoyable streaks in recent fiction. When so much celebrated contemporary literature is hobbled by angst and introspection, it’s a reminder of agile, more old-fashioned pleasures. Strange to admit, given that it involves murder, maimings and unrepentant malfeasance, but Crook Manifesto gave me something I had missed in recent reading: joy.” – Alex Diggins, The Telegraph

Cutting Teeth by Chandler Baker

fiction / suspense / mystery.

Cutting TeethDarby, Mary Beth, and Rhea are on personal quests to reclaim aspects of their identities subsumed by motherhood—their careers, their sex lives, their bodies. Their children, though, disrupt their plans when an unsettling medical condition begins to go around the Little Academy preschool: the kids are craving blood.

Then a young teacher is found dead, and the only potential witnesses are ten adorable four-year-olds.

Soon it becomes clear that the children are not just witnesses, but also suspects… and so are their mothers.

As the police begin to look more closely, the children’s ability to bleed their parents dry becomes deadly serious. Part murder mystery, part motherhood manifesto, Cutting Teeth explores the standards society holds mothers to—along with the ones to which we hold ourselves—and the things no one tells you about becoming a parent.

“Entertaining and engaging… Baker examines the complexity of female friendships and the expectations of mothers in particular, making Cutting Teeth relevant and thought-provoking… A hugely suspenseful and delicious enjoyable story. Cutting Teeth is going to bring Baker into the spotlight once again, and the praise is warranted.” – Erin Clemence, Mystery & Suspense

“Any parent who has imagined that their young children are draining the life out of them will both get the joke and feel the (piercing) pain… Red herrings abound and clues are dispensed tantalizingly. The building social tension is so good that the murder mystery can feel almost unnecessary… Gruesome, funny, jam-packed, sharp as baby teeth.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Dark secrets, retribution, and the lengths a mother will go to to protect her child all feature in this twisted, disturbing story that will keep readers off balance from beginning to end.” – Emily Melton, Booklist

The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

fiction / science fiction / mystery / suspense.

The Deep SkyThey left Earth to save humanity. They’ll have to save themselves first.

It is the eve of Earth’s environmental collapse. A single ship carries humanity’s last hope: eighty elite graduates of a competitive program, who will give birth to a generation of children in deep space. But halfway to a distant but livable planet, a lethal bomb kills three of the crew and knocks The Phoenix off course. Asuka, the only surviving witness, is an immediate suspect.

Asuka already felt like an impostor before the explosion. She was the last picked for the mission, she struggled during training back on Earth, and she was chosen to represent Japan, a country she only partly knows as a half-Japanese girl raised in America. But estranged from her mother back home, The Phoenix is all she has left.

With the crew turning on each other, Asuka is determined to find the culprit before they all lose faith in the mission—or worse, the bomber strikes again.

“It’s fast paced. It’s fun.” – Leandra Beabout, Reader’s Digest

“Creepy, but also plausible, required reading.” – Gabino Iglesias, Boston Globe

“[A] strong, character-driven, and accessible tale… Cerebral SF, tackling both humanitywide problems and the smaller but ever present conflicts closer to home.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…action-packed… a remarkable story of endurance and hope.” – Publishers Weekly

Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and the Golden Age of Fraud by Ben McKenzie with Jacob Silverman

nonfiction / economics / business / finance / technology / true crime.

Easy MoneyAt the height of the pandemic, TV star Ben McKenzie (The O.C., Gotham) was the perfect mark for a dad stuck at home with some cash in his pocket, worried about his family, armed with only the vague notion that people were making heaps of money on something he—despite a degree in economics—didn’t entirely understand. Lured in by the promise of taking power from banks, possibly improving democracy, and sure, a touch of FOMO, McKenzie dove deep into blockchain, Bitcoin, and the various other coins and exchanges on which they are traded.

But after scratching the surface, he had to ask, “Am I crazy, or is this all a total scam?” In Easy Money, McKenzie enlists the help of journalist Jacob Silverman for a caper and exposé that points in shock to the climactic final days of cryptocurrency now upon us. Weaving together stories of average traders and victims, colorful crypto “visionaries,” Hollywood’s biggest true believers, anti-crypto whistleblowers, and government agents searching for solutions at the precipice of a major crash, Easy Money is an on-the-ground look at a perfect storm of 2008 Housing Bubble–level irresponsibility and criminal fraud potentially ten times more devastating than Bernie Madoff.

“[A] probing new book.” – Talib Visram, Fast Company

“[A] zippy polemic… The crypto-curious will appreciate the authors’ accessible explanations of how digital currencies work, and the profiles illuminate how hype and irresponsible business practices inflated the crypto bubble for years before its inevitable burst. The result is a damning study of how and why the crypto market collapsed.” – Publishers Weekly

“Readers will be drawn into this easy-to-understand version of the crypto world and how it ties to banking, economics, and potential for economic ruin.” – Jennifer Adams, Booklist

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The Einstein Effect: How the World’s Favorite Genius Got Into Our Cars, Our Bathrooms, and Our Minds by Benyamin Cohen

nonfiction / history / science / comedy.

The Einstein EffectAlbert Einstein was the first modern-day celebrity and, decades after his death, still has the world’s most recognizable face. His influence is seen in much of the technology we use every day: GPS, remote controls, weather forecasts, even toothpaste. But it’s not just Einstein’s scientific discoveries that continue to shape our world. His legacy underpins the search for aliens, the rescue of refugees, the invention of time machines, and the debunking of fake news. He appears in new books, TV shows, and movies all the time―and fans are paying millions for Einstein relics at auction.

Award-winning author and journalist Benyamin Cohen has a bizarre side hustle as the manager of Einstein’s official social media accounts, which have 20 million followers―more than most living celebrities. In The Einstein Effect, Cohen embarks on a global quest to unearth Einstein’s ongoing relevance today. Along the way, he meets scientists and celebrities, speaks to dozens with the last name Einstein (including two rabbis), and even tracks down the brain of Einstein, stolen from his body during the autopsy. Cohen shows us the myriad ways the Nobel Prize winner’s influence is still with us, giving an in-depth―and often hilarious―look at the world’s favorite genius like you’ve never seen him before.

“Readers won’t find a livelier celebration of Einstein’s work and life. A great recommendation for teens and adults alike.” – Catherine Lantz, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“General readers will appreciate the simple explanations of Einstein’s innovations (‘The essence of the special theory of relativity… is that time is affected by speed’), and the wacky trivia amuses (Einstein sometimes wore flannel pajamas and shuffled ‘around his neighborhood like a Jewish Hugh Hefner’).” – Publishers Weekly

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The Fourth Turning Is Here: What the Seasons of History Tell Us About How and When This Crisis Will End by Neil Howe

nonfiction / economics / sociology / history.

The Fourth Turning Is HereTwenty-five years ago, Neil Howe and the late William Strauss dazzled the world with a provocative new theory of American history. Looking back at the last 500 years, they’d uncovered a distinct pattern: modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting roughly eighty to one hundred years, the length of a long human life, with each cycle composed of four eras—or “turnings”—that always arrive in the same order and each last about twenty years. The last of these eras—the fourth turning—was always the most perilous, a period of civic upheaval and national mobilization as traumatic and transformative as the New Deal and World War II, the Civil War, or the American Revolution.

Now, right on schedule, our own fourth turning has arrived. And so Neil Howe has returned with an extraordinary new prediction. What we see all around us—the polarization, the growing threat of civil conflict and global war—will culminate by the early 2030s in a climax that poses great danger and yet also holds great promise, perhaps even bringing on America’s next golden age. Every generation alive today will play a vital role in determining how this crisis is resolved, for good or ill.

Illuminating, sobering, yet ultimately empowering, The Fourth Turning Is Here takes you back into history and deep into the collective personality of each living generation to make sense of our current crisis, explore how all of us will be differently affected by the political, social, and economic challenges we’ll face in the decade to come, and reveal how our country, our communities, and our families can best prepare to meet these challenges head-on.

“…riveting… Skeptics may roll their eyes, but all readers should enjoy this wild ride by an entertaining writer who seems to have read every relevant source. A fascinating work of global history and look to the future.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

How Can I Help You by Laura Sims

fiction / suspense / mystery.

How Can I Help YouNo one knows Margo’s real name. Her colleagues and patrons at a small town public library only know her middle-aged normalcy, congeniality, and charm. They have no reason to suspect that she is, in fact, a former nurse with a trail of countless premature deaths in her wake. She has turned a new page, so to speak, and the library is her sanctuary, a place to quell old urges.

That is, at least, until Patricia, a recent graduate and failed novelist, joins the library staff. Patricia quickly notices Margo’s subtly sinister edge, and watches her carefully. When a patron’s death in the library bathroom gives her a hint of Margo’s mysterious past, Patricia can’t resist digging deeper—even as this new fixation becomes all-consuming.

Taut and compelling, How Can I Help You explores the dark side of human nature and the dangerous pull of artistic obsession as these “transfixing dual female narrators” (Kimberly McCreight) hurtle toward a stunning climax.

“I love a good unreliable narrator psychological thriller that explores what it means to be a psychopath/hero/anti-hero. I finished it in a single afternoon because I couldn’t put it down.” – Jenny Lawson, San Antonio Magazine

“[A] Highsmithian cat-and-mouth thriller featuring two librarians… Sims’s work harkens back to the complex personality studies of mid-century psychological fiction, and pays homage to middle-aged womanhood—serial killers age too, after all.” – Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

“Sims’ audacious story shifts between Margo and Patricia’s points of view in a battle of wits that’s mesmerizing. This exceptional novel is firmly in Highsmith territory and the ending is everything.” – Carole E. Barrowman, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong 

fiction / fantasy / romance.

Immortal LongingsEvery year, thousands in the kingdom of Talin will flock to its capital twin cities, San-Er, where the palace hosts a set of games. For those confident enough in their ability to jump between bodies, competitors across San-Er fight to the death to win unimaginable riches.

Princess Calla Tuoleimi lurks in hiding. Five years ago, a massacre killed her parents and left the palace of Er empty… and she was the one who did it. Before King Kasa’s forces in San can catch her, she plans to finish the job and bring down the monarchy. Her reclusive uncle always greets the victor of the games, so if she wins, she gets her opportunity at last to kill him.

Enter Anton Makusa, an exiled aristocrat. His childhood love has lain in a coma since they were both ousted from the palace, and he’s deep in debt trying to keep her alive. Thankfully, he’s one of the best jumpers in the kingdom, flitting from body to body at will. His last chance at saving her is entering the games and winning.

Calla finds both an unexpected alliance with Anton and help from King Kasa’s adopted son, August, who wants to mend Talin’s ills. But the three of them have very different goals, even as Calla and Anton’s partnership spirals into something all-consuming. Before the games close, Calla must decide what she’s playing for—her lover or her kingdom.

“[Gong’s] adult debut is about to become your new obsession.” – Tamara Fuentes, Cosmopolitan

“Spectacular worldbuilding, breathtaking action, and plenty of mischief.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“The morally ambiguous characters with complex motivations in this richly built dystopia make this debut a must-read.” – Frances Moritz, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Though this outing owes debts to both Shakespeare and The Hunger Games, the intricate magic system feels entirely fresh. Gong keeps the pages flying with pulse-pounding action, tension, and intrigue, creating an adventure that will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Measure of Our Age: Navigating Care, Safety, Money & Meaning in Later Life by M.T. Connolly

nonfiction / health / finance.

The Measure of Our AgeAs tens of millions of Americans are living longer lives, longevity is creating challenges that cut across race, class, and gender. Caregivers help older relatives for “free,” but with high costs to themselves in time, money, jobs, and health. Scammers target countless seniors. The institutions built to protect older people—like nursing homes and guardianship—too often harm them instead. And epidemics of isolation and loneliness make older people vulnerable to all sorts of harm.

In The Measure of Our Age, elder justice expert and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, M.T. Connolly investigates the systems we count on to protect us as we age. Weaving first-person accounts, her own experience, and shocking investigative reporting, she exposes a reality that has long been hidden and sometimes actively covered up. But her investigation also reveals reasons for hope within everyone’s grasp.

Connolly’s strategies and action plans for navigating the many challenges of aging will appeal to a wide range of readers—adult children caring for aging parents; policymakers trying to do the right thing; and, should we be so lucky as to live to old age, all of us. This book transforms how we think about aging.

“…lucid and thought-provoking… A book that deserves wide attention and discussion among aging readers and those who care for them.” – Kirkus Reviews

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

fiction / horror / historical fiction / mystery.

Silver NitrateMontserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood.

Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their lives—even if his tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into highly volatile silver nitrate stock sounds like sheer fantasy. The magic film was never finished, which is why, Urueta swears, his career vanished overnight. He is cursed.

Now the director wants Montserrat and Tristán to help him shoot the missing scene and lift the curse… but Montserrat soon notices a dark presence following her, and Tristán begins seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend.

As they work together to unravel the mystery of the film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city, Montserrat and Tristán may find that sorcerers and magic are not only the stuff of movies.

“[A] gripping and unusual tale of supernatural horror.” – Lisa Tuttle, The Guardian

Silver Nitrate is a dark and heart-pounding supernatural horror story that expertly weaves together elements of occultism, horror movies, Nazism, and mysticism. Perfect for horror movie buffs and fans of Silvia Moreno-Garcia.” – SciFiNow

“[A] powerful and chilling thrill ride… Combining real history with unsettling magic, Moreno-Garcia effortlessly ties explorations of misogyny, addiction, antisemitism, and racism into a plot that never falters from its breakneck pace… This is a knockout.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Moreno-Garcia’s quick pacing and thoroughly developed characters are aided by the author’s seamless blending of invented filmographies with references to actually existing niche titles (Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, anyone?) and era-appropriate moviemaking techniques (‘the Dunning method,’ ‘foley art’)… fantastic reading. An engaging, inventive story of moviemaking and the occult for film geeks and genre buffs.” – Kirkus Reviews

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson


Small WorldsThe one thing that can solve Stephen’s problems is dancing. Dancing at Church, with his parents and brother, the shimmer of Black hands raised in praise; he might have lost his faith, but he does believe in rhythm. Dancing with his friends, somewhere in a basement with the drums about to drop, while the DJ spins garage cuts. Dancing with his band, making music which speaks not just to the hardships of their lives, but the joys too. Dancing with his best friend Adeline, two-stepping around the living room, crooning and grooving, so close their heads might touch. Dancing alone, at home, to his father’s records, uncovering parts of a man he has never truly known.

Stephen has only ever known himself in song. But what becomes of him when the music fades? When his father begins to speak of shame and sacrifice, when his home is no longer his own? How will he find space for himself: a place where he can feel beautiful, a place he might feel free?

Set over the course of three summers in Stephen’s life, from London to Ghana and back again, Small Worlds is an exhilarating and expansive novel about the worlds we build for ourselves, the worlds we live, dance and love within.

“…masterful.” – Connie Ogle, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Small Worlds resonates and reverberates with the true language of our souls. Drop the needle on it.” – Irish Times

“[An] ode to the West African immigrant community in London, a coming-of-age tale of young love and yearning, and a quietly powerful meditation on intergenerational conflict and trauma… Small Worlds is an achingly tender, exquisitely rendered portrait of a truly beautiful soul.” – Dan Sheehan, Literary Hub

“Azumah Nelson’s characters are intelligent, and his poetic, elastic, bright prose has an uplifting energy, even when he’s writing about the pain of loneliness… Azumah Nelson is something new: an unashamedly clever, spiritual, angry, loving voice in fiction, just when we need it most. Small Worlds is a book for everyone… No one could fail to feel the message, of always striving for emotional honesty and hope, that is at the heart of this uplifting symphony of a summer read.” – Melissa Katsoulis, The Times

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Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

fiction / mystery / suspense.

Strange Sally DiamondReclusive Sally Diamond causes outrage by trying to incinerate her dead father. Now she’s the center of attention, not only from the hungry media and police detectives, but also a sinister voice from a past she does not remember. As she begins to discover the horrors of her early childhood, Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends, big decisions, and learning that people don’t always mean what they say.

But who is the man observing Sally from the other side of the world, and why does he call her Mary? And why does her new neighbor seem to be obsessed with her? Sally’s trust issues are about to be severely challenged…

“This is exquisite storytelling, harnessing a full palette of emotions. Darkness and humour, hope and despair. Sublime.” – Deadly Pleasures

“Tense and suspenseful and often creepy, Liz Nugent has delivered a haunting and poignant tale, one that won’t be easy to forget any time soon.” – Carolyn Scott, Mystery & Suspense

“Nugent outdoes herself in this chilling exploration of her title character’s pitch-black past… Nugent fashions an unforgettable protagonist in Sally, and never loses sight of her characters’ fundamental humanity, even as she piles on twists and steers the narrative into exceptional darkness. Inventive, addictive, and bold, this deserves a wide audience.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Strip Tees: A Memoir of Millennial Los Angeles by Kate Flannery

nonfiction / memoir.

Strip TeesAt the start of the new millennium, LA is the place to be. Hipster is a new word on the scene. Lauren Conrad is living her Cinderella story on The Hills on millions of television sets across the country. Paris Hilton tells us “That’s hot” from behind the biggest sunglasses imaginable, while beautiful teenagers fight and fall in love in The O.C.

Into this most glittering of supposed utopias, Kate Flannery arrives with a Seven Sisters diploma in hand and a new job at an upstart clothing company called American Apparel. Kate throws herself into the work, determined to climb the corporate fashion ladder. Having a job at American Apparel also means being a part of the advertising campaigns themselves, stripping down in the name of feminism.

She slowly begins to lose herself in a landscape of rowdy sex-positivity, racy photo shoots, and a cult-like devotion to the unorthodox CEO and founder of the brand. The line between sexual liberation and exploitation quickly grows hazy, leading Kate to question the company’s ethics and wrestle with her own.

Strip Tees captures a moment in our recent past that’s already sepia toned in nostalgia, and also paints a timeless portrait of a young woman who must choose between what business demands and self-respect requires.

“I couldn’t put this one down… Written like an edge-of-your-seat cinematic narrative, Strip Tees will make you think and feel.” – Zibby Owens, Good Morning America

“[A] funny, insightful look back at a defining moment and a meditation on the perils of growing up.” – Town & Country

“…raw and engaging. An intriguing read for those interested in the story behind the rise and fall of American Apparel and how a feminist can continue working in a place that does not support women.” – Rebekah J. Buchanan, Library Journal

The Summer Girl by Elle Kennedy

fiction / romance.

The Summer GirlCollege student Cassie Soul hasn’t spent an entire summer in Avalon Bay in years, not since her parents divorced and her mother spitefully whisked her away to Boston. Now that her grandmother is selling the boardwalk hotel that’s been in their family for five decades, Cassie returns to the quaint beach town to spend time with family, ring in her twenty-first birthday… and maybe find herself a summer fling.

On her first night in town, she finds the perfect candidate: Tate Bartlett, Avalon Bay’s fun-loving golden boy.

Tate, sailing instructor and lovable player, is no stranger to flings. In fact, he’s always down for a good time. But the moment he meets Cassie, he knows she’s not the girl you play games with. Cassie is gorgeous, hilarious, and, frankly, the coolest person he’s ever met. The last thing he wants to do is risk breaking her heart, and so he reluctantly puts her in the friend-zone… only to realize he made a huge mistake. Soon, his attraction to Cassie becomes impossible to ignore. He wants that fling now. Big-time.

And maybe even something more.

As Cassie and Tate walk the line between friends and lovers, they’re about to discover that their situation is the least complicated part of this equation. Because Avalon Bay is full of secrets—and their relationship might not survive when those secrets come to light.

“[A] perky depiction of first love that will have readers’ hearts fluttering.” – Publishers Weekly

“Young love, sizzling nights, and the welcoming characters of Avalon Bay make this a perfect beach read for anyone needing a sexy summer escape.” – Judy Garner, Library Journal

“[A] perfect summer romance… Definitely recommended as a great summer read, some spice, some emotion and great summery vibes.” – Amy, Novel Gossip

To Have and To Heist by Sara Desai

fiction / romance / suspense / mystery / comedy.

To Have and To HeistSimi Chopra is on a bad-luck streak. She’s lost yet another job, her student loan debt won’t stop growing, her basement apartment is a certifiable flood zone, and now her best friend has been accused of stealing a multimillion-dollar diamond necklace. To put it lightly, she’s desperate for a break—that’s right when Jack waltzes out of the bushes and into her life.

Jack is just as charming as he is mysterious. When he offers to help her find the missing necklace and steal it back, Simi jumps at the chance to clear her friend’s name and collect the substantial reward. But every good heist needs a crew. All she needs to do is transform a ragtag group of strangers into an elite heist crew, infiltrate a high-society wedding and steal the necklace from a dangerous criminal before the happy couple say “I do.” Meanwhile the bride is keeping secrets, a detective with a slow-burn smile keeps showing up at her door, and the ultimate robbery might not be the wedding con, but the way Jack is stealing her heart.

“Come for the crime; stay for the sizzling chemistry.” – Parade

“This hilarious, slow-burn romantic comedy features a full cast of fun, quirky characters and intriguing, likable protagonists… unputdownable…” – Heather Miller Cover, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Oceans 8 meets The Wedding Planner in this dazzling rom-com caper from Desai… Desai perfectly balances the lighthearted romance with a fun and twisty heist plot enacted by a kooky cast of indebted millennials. Romance lovers will devour this un-put-downable treat, and even readers generally wary of the genre will be swept away.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

A Twisted Love Story by Samantha Downing

fiction / suspense / mystery.

A Twisted Love StoryWes and Ivy are madly in love. They’ve never felt anything like it. It’s the kind of romance people write stories about.

But what kind of story?

Because when it’s good, it’s great. Flowers. Grand gestures. Deep meaningful conversations where the whole world disappears.

When it’s bad, it’s really bad. Vengeful fights. Damaged property. Arrest warrants.

But their vicious cycle of catastrophic breakups and head-over-heels reconnections needs to end fast. Because suddenly, Wes and Ivy have a common enemy–and she’s a detective.

There’s something Wes and Ivy never talk about–in good times or bad. The night of their worst breakup, when one of them took things too far, and someone ended up dead.

If they can stick together, they can survive anything–even the tightening net of a police investigation.

Because one more breakup might just be their last…

“Wes and Ivy were the worst kind of toxic, in the most entertaining way.” – Caroline, Bookends

“…this was one dark and twisted tale… [an] addictive read…” – Amy, Novel Gossip

“This is a great, twisty, soapy, well-written novel that only Samantha Downing can write. She has never written a bad novel, and this one is another winner.” – Red Carpet Crash

Zero-Sum: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates


Zero SumA brilliant young philosophy student bent on seducing her famous philosopher-mentor finds herself outmaneuvered; diabolically clever high school girls wreak a particularly apt sort of vengeance on sexual predators in their community; a woman stalked by a would-be killer may be confiding in the wrong former lover; a young woman is morbidly obsessed by her unfamiliar new role as “mother.” In the collection’s longest story, a much-praised cutting-edge writer cruelly experiments with “drafts” of his own suicide.

In these powerfully wrought stories that hold a mirror up to our time, Joyce Carol Oates has created a world of erotic obsession, thwarted idealism, and ever-shifting identities. Provocative and stunning, Zero-Sum reinforces Oates’s standing as a literary treasure and an artist of the mysterious interior life.

“…fantastic… dark, powerful new tales by the masterful literary icon.” – Christina Ianzito, AARP

“High-pitched, unnerving, and incisive.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist

“[A] captivating collection… haunting… Humanity in all its devilishness is on vibrant display in these short and potent flashes of life in bleak corners. Readers will be spellbound.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW


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