Best New Books: Week of 8/8/23

“A man who doesn’t trust cannot be trusted.” – James McBride, Deacon King Kong

The Blonde Identity by Ally Carter

fiction / romance / mystery / suspense / comedy.

The Blonde IdentityIt’s the middle of the night in the middle of Paris and a woman just woke up with no memory.

She only knows three things for certain:

1. She has a splitting headache.

2. The hottest guy she has (probably) ever seen is standing over her, telling her to run.

And oh yeah…

3. People keep trying to kill her.

She doesn’t know who. Or why. But when she sees footage of herself fighting off a dozen men there’s only one explanation: obviously… she’s a spy!

Except, according to Mr. Hot Guy, she’s not. She’s a spy’s identical twin sister.

Too bad the only person who knows she’s not the woman they’re looking for is this very grouchy, very sexy, very secret agent who (reluctantly) agrees to help her disappear.

That’s easier said than done when a criminal organization wants you dead and every intelligence service in the world wants you caught. Luckily, no one is looking for a pair of lovesick newlyweds on their honeymoon. And soon they’re lying their way across Europe–dodging bullets and faking kisses as they race to unravel a deadly conspiracy and clear her sister’s name.

But with every secret they uncover, the truth shifts, until she no longer knows who to trust: the twin she can’t remember or the mysterious man she can’t let herself forget…

“Fun and pulse-pounding, The Blonde Identity will keep readers turning pages.” – Elizabeth Held, Parade

“Want a grumpy-sunshine romance with plenty of delightful banter and a spy plot? Cha-ching. Ally Carter’s got you covered.” – Kelly Jensen, Book Riot

“…Carter serves up an irresistible cocktail of danger and passion in her un-put-downable adult debut… This snappy and suspenseful romance fires on all cylinders.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Bridge by Lauren Beukes

fiction / science fiction / suspense / mystery / horror.

BridgeIt was a game they played; the other worlds, the other lives. It was part of her mom’s grand delusions. It wasn’t real. Unless it was… 

Bridget Kittinger has always been paralyzed by choices. It has a lot to do with growing up in the long shadow of her mother, Jo, a troubled neuroscientist. Jo’s obsession with one mythical object, the “dreamworm”—which she believed enabled travel to other worlds—led to their estrangement.

Now, suddenly, Jo is dead. And in packing up her home, Bridge finds a strange device buried deep in Jo’s freezer: the dreamworm. Against all odds, it actually can open the door—to all other realities, and to all other versions of herself, too. Could Bridge find who she should be in this world, by visiting the others? And could her Jo still be alive somewhere? But there’s a sinister cost to trading places, and others hunting the dreamworm who would kill to get their hands on it…

Across a thousand possible lives, from Portland to Haiti, from Argentina to the alligator-infested riverways of North Carolina, Bridge takes readers on a highly original thrill ride, pushing the boundaries of what we know about mothers and daughters, hunters and seekers, and who we each choose to be.

“Effective as metaphor but mostly ass-kicking, mind-bending entertainment.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Takes the reality-shattering, time-warping power of grief to new dimensions—literally… flashing between different timelines, realities, and perspectives, Lauren Beukes constructs a fast-paced and masterfully kaleidoscopic tale that nails grief in all its humor, absurdity, and tenderness.” – Charley Burlock, Oprah Daily

“This isn’t just mind-bending sci-fi; it’s a thriller driven by a frenetic search for both love and answers. Beukes’ trademark balance between horror and thriller, with a focus on character, is on full display.” – Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

California Golden by Melanie Benjamin

fiction / historical fiction.

California GoldenSouthern California, 1960s: endless sunny days surfing in Malibu, followed by glittering neon nights at Whisky A-Go-Go. In an era when women are expected to be housewives, Carol Donelly is breaking the mold as a legendary female surfer struggling to compete in a male-dominated sport–and her daughters, Mindy and Ginger, bear the weight of her unconventional lifestyle.

The Donnelly sisters grow up enduring their mother’s absence–physically, when she’s at the beach, and emotionally, the rare times she’s at home. To escape questions about Carol’s whereabouts–and chase their mom’s elusive affection–they cut school to spend their days in the surf. From her first time on a board, Mindy shows a natural talent, but Ginger, two years younger, feels out of place in the water.

As they grow up and their lives diverge, Mindy and Ginger’s relationship ebbs and flows. Mindy finds herself swept up in celebrity, complete with beachside love affairs, parties at the Playboy Club, and USO tours to Vietnam. Meanwhile, Ginger–desperate for a community of her own–is tugged into the vibrant counterculture of drugs and cults. Through it all, their sense of duty to each other survives, as the girls are forever connected by the emotional damage they carry from their unorthodox childhood.

A gripping, emotional story set at a time when mothers were expected to be Donna Reed, not Gidget, California Golden is an unforgettable novel about three women living in a society that was shifting as tempestuously as the breaking waves.

“Melanie Benjamin pairs the surf culture of the Beach Boys with the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll of Daisy Jones & the Six… Benjamin’s novel is a portrait of three women beset by shifting cultural tides and a shimmering rendering of the promises and heartbreak of Southern California.” – Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly

“With the charm and nostalgia of Beth Harbison’s Confessions of the Other Sister and Amy Mason Doan’s Lady Sunshine, Benjamin’s novel also shows what the sun-kissed highlight reels so often missed.” – Stephanie Turza, Booklist

“This sun-soaked novel is wonderfully awash in the music, television, and fashion of the ’60s as well as the counterculture movement that touted drugs and dropping out.” – Kirkus Reviews

Cave of Bones: A True Story of Discovery, Adventure, and Human Origins by Lee Berger & John Hawks

nonfiction / science / anthropology / history.

Cave of BonesIn the summer of 2022, Lee Berger lost 50 pounds in order to wriggle though impossibly small openings in the Rising Star cave complex in South Africa—spaces where his team has been unearthing the remains of Homo naledi, a proto-human likely to have coexisted with Homo sapiens some 250,000 years ago. The lead researcher on the site, still Berger had never made his way into the dark, cramped, dangerous underground spaces where many of the naledi fossils had been found. Now he was ready to do so.

Once inside the cave, Berger made shocking new discoveries that expand our understanding of this early hominid—discoveries that stand to alter our fundamental understanding of what makes us human. So what does it all mean?

Join Berger on the adventure of a lifetime as he explores the Rising Star cave system and begins the complicated process of explaining these extraordinary finds—finds that force a rethinking of human evolution, and discoveries that Berger calls “the Rosetta stone of the human mind.”

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Congratulations, the Best is Over!: Essays by R. Eric Thomas

nonfiction / memoir / comedy.

Congratulations, the Best is Over!After going viral “reading” the chaotic political news, having one-too-many awkward social encounters, and coming to terms with his intersecting identities, R. Eric Thomas finally knew who he was and where he was going. He was living his best life.

But then everything changed.

In this collection of insightful and hilarious essays, Thomas moves back to his perpetually misunderstood hometown of Baltimore (a place he never wanted to return, even to be buried) and behaving completely out of character. They say you can’t go home again, but what if you and home have changed beyond recognition? From attending his twenty-year high school reunion and discovering another person’s face on his name badge, to splattering an urgent care room with blood à la The Shining, to being terrorized by a plague of gay frogs who’ve overtaken his backyard, Thomas provides the nitty, and sometimes the gritty, details of wrestling with the life he thought he’d left behind while trying to establish a new one.

With wit, heart, and hope for the future, Congratulations, The Best Is Over! is the not-so-gentle reminder we all need that even when life doesn’t go according to plan, we can still find our way back home.

“[Thomas is] fun, funny, vulnerable and one hell of a storyteller.” – Alice Cary, BookPage

“…hilariously candid… The unfailingly entertaining essays burst with personality and amount to a full-fleshed portrait of all the beauty and difficulty of coming home again. This tender memoir captivates.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Thomas is so insightful, hilarious, smart, honest, and real—whether he’s writing about gardening or racism, fishing or religion, the pandemic or shopping, Oprah or his depression, parental death or frogs. And he makes all these topics… funny?! Certainly relatable, prodding you to examine your thoughts on each… Not a word is wasted on these pages—even the acknowledgements are a joy to read.” – Lindsay Powers, Amazon

Cruel Seduction by Katee Robert

fiction / romance / fantasy.

Cruel SeductionHe was my enemy. My lover. My husband.

And the one man I swore by all Olympus I would destroy.

Aphrodite has never flinched at getting her perfectly manicured hands dirty, and she’s not about to start now—even if that means marrying Olympus’s enemy number one, the new Hephaestus. She has a wicked plan to keep her deadly new husband off-balance, seducing the one person he seems to care about most in this world: Pandora, a woman as beautiful as she is sweet.

Two can play the seduction game, however, and Hephaestus is all too happy to put his new wife in her place. Her ex, Adonis, seems like he’ll do the trick. It doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous in the way of fallen angels, either.

The only problem with using seduction as a weapon? Hearts are all too quick to get involved. With Hephaestus and Aphrodite trading venomous strikes that feel a whole lot like foreplay, lines become blurred and emotions entangled. But a broken heart may be the least of their worries. With unrest in Olympus reaching new heights, these bedroom games may have deadly consequences for themselves, their city, and everyone they’ve come to love.

“…electrifying… This sizzling story will spark readers’ desire for more erotic fare from the Dark Olympians.” – Publishers Weekly

“Robert masterfully writes characters who are physically intimate but emotionally withholding, and this novel is no exception. This retelling of Greek myth is a delicious polyamorous enemies-to-lovers romance.” – Katherine Sleyko, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

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Dark Corners by Megan Goldin

fiction / suspense / mystery.

Dark CornersRachel Krall, the true crime podcaster star of Megan Goldin’s acclaimed Night Swim returns to search for a popular social media influencer who disappeared after visiting a suspected serial killer.

Terence Bailey is about to be released from prison for breaking and entering, though investigators have long suspected him in the murders of six women. As his freedom approaches, Bailey gets a surprise visit from Maddison Logan, a hot, young influencer with a huge social media following. Hours later, Maddison disappears, and police suspect she’s been kidnapped—or worse. Is Maddison’s disappearance connected to her visit to Bailey? Why was she visiting him in the first place?

When they hit a wall in the investigation, the FBI reluctantly asks for Rachel’s help in finding the missing influencer. Maddison seems only to exist on social media; she has no family, no friends, and other than in her posts, most people have never seen her. Who is she, really? Using a fake Instagram account, Rachel Krall goes undercover to BuzzCon, a popular influencer conference, where she discovers a world of fierce rivalry that may have turned lethal.

When police find the body of a woman with a tattoo of a snake eating its tail, the FBI must consider a chilling possibility: Bailey has an accomplice on the outside and a dangerous obsession with influencers, including Rachel Krell herself. Suddenly a target of a monster hiding in plain sight, Rachel is forced to confront the very real dangers that lurk in the dark corners of the internet.

“Author Megan Goldin excels at misdirection and crafting intricate plots. But those aren’t the only tricks up her sleeve. Multiple points of view, a steaming hot FBI agent, and an in-depth take on the complicated, cutthroat world of influencers kept me flipping the pages of her new novel Dark Corners in a frenzy.” – Sarah Pekkanen, Book of the Month

“…thrilling… A solid new thriller for author Goldin, with a very likeable character in Rachel Krall… [and] a twist you don’t see coming.” – Red Carpet Crash

The Night Swim was quite a good novel, but this one is more complex, more frightening. Goldin keeps readers on their toes, offering tantalizing clues to what’s really going on but keeping the truth a closely-guarded secret until it’s time to reveal it. A third Rachel Krall novel would be most welcome.” – David Pitt, Booklist

The Detective Up Late by Adrian McKinty

fiction / mystery / suspense.

The Detective Up LateSlamming the door on the hellscape of 1980s Belfast, Detective Inspector Sean Duffy hopes that the 1990s are going to be better for him and the people of Northern Ireland. As a Catholic cop in the mainly Protestant RUC he still has a target on his back, and with a steady girlfriend and a child the stakes couldn’t be higher.

After handling a mercurial triple agent and surviving the riots and bombings and assassination attempts, all Duffy wants to do now is live. But in his final days in charge of Carrickfergus CID, a missing persons report captures his attention. A fifteen-year-old traveler girl has disappeared and no one seems to give a damn about it. Duffy begins to dig and uncovers a disturbing underground of men who seem to know her very well. The deeper he digs the more sinister it all gets. Is finding out the truth worth it if DI Duffy is going to get himself and his colleagues killed? Can he survive one last case before getting himself and his family out over the water?

“Is it just us, or is Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series the most underrated set of novels in the business?” – Crime Fiction Lover

“Before the riveting thrillers The Chain and The Island, Adrian McKinty wrote The Cold Cold Ground, the start of the Sean Duffy Detective Series. We are ecstatic over this iconic protagonist’s return!” – Barnes & Noble

Forged by Blood by Ehigbor Okosun

fiction / fantasy.

Forged by BloodIn the midst of a tyrannical regime and political invasion, Dèmi just wants to survive: to avoid the suspicion of the nonmagical Ajes who occupy her ancestral homeland of Ife; to escape the King’s brutal genocide of her people—the darker skinned, magic wielding Oluso; and to live peacefully with her secretive mother while learning to control the terrifying blood magic that is her birthright.

But when Dèmi’s misplaced trust costs her mother’s life, survival gives way to vengeance. She bides her time until the devious Lord Ekwensi grants her the perfect opportunity—kidnap the Aje prince, Jonas, and bargain with his life to save the remaining Oluso. With the help of her reckless childhood friend Colin, Dèmi succeeds, but discovers that she and Jonas share more than deadly secrets; every moment tangles them further into a forbidden, unmistakable attraction, much to Colin’s—and Dèmi’s—distress.

The kidnapping is now a joint mission: to return to the King, help get Lord Ekwensi on the council, and bolster the voice of the Oluso in a system designed to silence them. But the way is dangerous, Dèmi’s magic is growing yet uncertain, and it’s not clear if she can trust the two men at her side.

A tale of rebellion and redemption, race and class, love and trust and betrayal, Forged by Blood is epic fantasy at its finest, from an enthusiastic, emerging voice.

“[A] fast-paced adventure that fans of Rebecca Ross and Tomi Adeyemi will enjoy.” – Leigh Verburg, Library Journal

“Dèmi is powerful, strong, and smart, with a kind heart—just the kind of main character readers will celebrate… spot on world building and political complications [ensure] fantasy readers will find something to enjoy in this powerful work.” – Emily Whitmore, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Okosun’s stunning debut puts a Nigerian spin on epic fantasy tropes to create an addictive tale of political intrigue, love, loss, betrayal, and magic… an impressive and refreshingly original page-turner that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the second volume.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Girls Who Fought Crime: The Untold Story of the Country’s First Female Investigator and Her Crime Fighting Squad by Maj. Gen. Mari K. Eder (U.S. Army, Retired)

nonfiction / history / biography / true crime.

The Girls Who Fought CrimeMary “Mae” Foley was a force to be reckoned with. On one hip she held her makeup compact, on the other, her NYPD badge. When women were fighting for the vote, Mae was fighting crime in the heart of New York City – taking down rapists, boot-leggers, Nazis, and serial killers. One of the first women to be sworn into the police force, Mae not only fought crime in the city that never sleeps, but also did something much bigger – challenged the patriarchal systems that continually tried to shut her and other women down. The result of her efforts? A long career that helped over 2,000 women join her auxiliary police force, the ‘Masher Squad.’ Mae Foley is proof that women can do anything men can do, all while wearing corsets and the perfect shade of rouge.

“[A] rousing tale…” – Beth Kanell, Historical Novel Society

“An inspiring work about a persistent woman who succeeded in a challenging profession.” – Kirkus Reviews

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The Handyman Method by Nick Cutter & Andrew F. Sullivan

fiction / horror.

The Handyman MethodWhen a young family moves into an unfinished development community, cracks begin to emerge in both their new residence and their lives, as a mysterious online DIY instructor delivers dark subliminal suggestions about how to handle any problem around the house. The trials of home improvement, destructive insecurities, and haunted house horror all collide in this thrilling story perfect for fans of Nick Cutter’s bestsellers The Troop and The Deep.

“[A] brutal yet modern twist on the haunted-house story… This story is full of moments, from the descriptive body horror to the cringeworthy acts committed by this seemingly normal family, that will burrow under readers’ skin.” – James Gardner, Library Journal

“[A] wickedly brutal horror novel… that provides a heinous twist on the classic haunted house theme while delivering equal doses of hilarity and horror… a riotous ride, delivering both a terrifying haunted house story and a biting satire of the male chauvinism that pervades home improvement culture.” – John Mauro, Grimdark Magazine

“Surreal and disturbing, The Handyman Method is a diabolical tale of toxic masculinity gone awry, narrated by a set of youtube videos featuring an evil handyman. Cutter and Sullivan clearly had a lot of fun writing this together, and I’d declare it a collaborative triumph (as well as a hilarious send up of Home Depot guys. You know the ones).” – Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

fiction / historical fiction.

The Heaven and Earth Grocery StoreIn 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.

As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community–heaven and earth–that sustain us.

Bringing his masterly storytelling skills and his deep faith in humanity to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride has written a novel as compassionate as Deacon King Kong and as inventive as The Good Lord Bird.

“A stunning page turner… and an utterly captivating, compassionate story.” – Real Simple

“Heartfelt and engrossing… an ode to the power of community in the face of oppression.” – Time

“McBride’s pages burst with life… This endlessly rich saga highlights the different ways in which people look out for one another.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] boisterous hymn to community, mercy, and karmic justice… If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

I Hear You’re Rich: Stories by Diane Williams


I Hear You're RichIn Williams’ stories, life is newly alive and dangerous; whether she is writing about an affair, a request for money, an afternoon in a garden, or the simple act of carrying a cake from one room to the next, she offers us beautiful and unsettling new ways of seeing everyday life. In perfectly honed sentences, with a sly and occasionally wild wit, Williams shows us how any moment of any day can open onto disappointment, pleasure, and possibility.

“Guaranteed to shift the world around you, if only for a moment.” – Emily Temple, Literary Hub

“Miniscule stories from a master of the form… In story after story, she upends what readers have grown to expect from traditional narratives… Mysterious, gemlike, and strange…” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] distinctive collection… Williams’s blend of precision and understatement make her insights on her characters’ fears and limitations cut deeply while leaving the stories open to interpretation. This will leave readers aching in all the best ways.” – Publishers Weekly

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The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America by Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer, & Timothy J. Nelson

nonfiction / history / current events.

The Injustice of PlaceThree of the nation’s top scholars ­– known for tackling key mysteries about poverty in America – turn their attention from the country’s poorest people to its poorest places. Based on a fresh, data-driven approach, they discover that America’s most disadvantaged communities are not the big cities that get the most notice. Instead, nearly all are rural. Little if any attention has been paid to these places or to the people who make their lives there.

This revelation set in motion a five-year journey across Appalachia, the Cotton and Tobacco Belts of the Deep South, and South Texas. Immersing themselves in these communities, pouring over centuries of local history, attending parades and festivals, the authors trace the legacies of the deepest poverty in America—including inequalities shaping people’s health, livelihoods, and upward social mobility for families. Wrung dry by powerful forces and corrupt government officials, the “internal colonies” in these regions were exploited for their resources and then left to collapse.

The unfolding revelation in The Injustice of Place is not about what sets these places apart, but about what they have in common—a history of raw, intensive resource extraction and human exploitation. This history and its reverberations demand a reckoning and a commitment to wage a new War on Poverty, with the unrelenting focus on our nation’s places of deepest need.

“…essential… This eye-opening account provides a powerful lens with which to view contemporary inequality in America.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Every few years, an academic work arrives that transcends genre, combining unparalleled research skills with engaging storytelling. The Injustice of Place is undoubtedly one such book… [it] harnesses the most powerful aspects of big data while diving into historic narratives that continue to inform and instruct.” – Sara Beth West, Shelf Awareness

“A powerful, alarming portrayal of how poverty remains entrenched in unfairly forgotten places across America.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward 

fiction / horror / suspense / mystery.

Looking Glass SoundIn a cottage overlooking the windswept Maine coast, Wilder Harlow has begun the last book he will ever write.

It is the story about the sun-drenched summer days of his youth in Whistler Bay, and the blood-stained path of the killer that stalked his small vacation town. About the terrible secret he and his companions, Nat and Harper, discovered entombed in the coves off the bay. And how the pact they swore that day echoed down the decades, forever shaping their lives.

But the more Wilder writes, the less he trusts himself and his memory. He starts to see things that can’t be real – notes hidden in the cabin, from an old friend now dead; a woman with dark hair drowning in the icy waters below, calling for help; entire chapters he doesn’t recall typing, appearing overnight. Who, or what, is haunting Wilder?

No longer able to trust his own eyes, Wilder begins to fear that this will not only be his last book, but the last thing he ever does.

“Readers will question every word as Ward expertly weaves together an enigmatic story of friendship, young love, obsession, and horror.” – Rachael Conrad, Polygon

“Put simply, Looking Glass Sound is a multilayered masterpiece of speculative fiction and proof that a horror novel can reach the greatest of literary heights.” – John Mauro, Grimdark Magazine

“In this Rubik’s Cube of a novel, unreliable narrators compel readers to determine what is fact, what is fiction, and who wrote the book that rules their lives.” – K.L. Romo, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] physically unsettling reading experience both because of the uncomfortable stylistic choices Ward makes and how the story itself cannot be trusted until the very last page. A tale dripping with existential dread, one that asks readers to contemplate how they tell their own stories.” – Becky Spratford, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Mister Magic by Kiersten White

fiction / horror / mystery.

Mister MagicThirty years after a tragic accident shut down production of the classic children’s program Mister Magic, the five surviving cast members have done their best to move on. But just as generations of cultishly devoted fans still cling to the lessons they learned from the show, the cast, known as the Circle of Friends, have spent their lives searching for the happiness they felt while they were on it. The friendship. The feeling of belonging. And the protection of Mister Magic.

But with no surviving video of the show, no evidence of who directed or produced it, and no records of who—or what—the beloved host actually was, memories are all the former Circle of Friends has.

Then a twist of fate brings the castmates back together at the remote desert filming compound that feels like it’s been waiting for them all this time. Even though they haven’t seen each other for years, they understand one another better than anyone has since.

After all, they’re the only ones who hold the secret of that circle, the mystery of the magic man in his infinitely black cape, and, maybe, the answers to what really happened on that deadly last day. But as the Circle of Friends reclaim parts of their past, they begin to wonder: Are they here by choice, or have they been lured into a trap?

“A terrifyingly creepy and realistic tale.” – Ninoshka Aviles, Library Reads

“This is my favorite book I’ve read this year. I love how the book plays with the idea of collective nostalgia, and how insidious things can be passed off as wholesome. A haunting, creepy, and propulsive read!” – Ann Branson, Indie Next

“Grappling with religious trauma and childhood abuse, this suspenseful tale from White calls to mind old-school internet creepypastas… questions keep the pages flying on the way to a climax that satisfies even while not delivering typical horror action and gore. Both eerie and surprisingly heartwarming, White’s examination of the perils of nostalgia is sure to win fans.” – Publishers Weekly

“The allure and untrustworthiness of memory and childhood experiences are deftly explored in this compelling and eerie slow burn… Prose with natural tenderness and well-placed interstitial chapters that provide glimpses into both the nostalgia and a conspiracy theory will have readers simultaneously desperate for answers and fearful of what more will be revealed.” – Emily Vinci, Library Journal

None of This is True by Lisa Jewell

fiction / suspense / mystery.

None of This is TrueCelebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summers crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.

A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.

But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.

Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?

“Dark characters, sudden plot twists, and a moody—and perfect—ending should keep Jewell’s fans happy, while also earning her new readers. Consider yourself warned: be prepared to have a buddy to dissect the plot with when you’re done!” – Sarah Gelman, Amazon

“On the heels of first-rate thrillers, The Night She Disappeared and The Family Remains, Jewell’s newest could be her best yet… A terrific novel from a consistently satisfying writer.” – David Pitt, Booklist

“Jewell’s many fans will be clamoring for her latest thriller. The twists and turns in this one will not disappoint.” – Carrie Voliva, Library Journal

“Jewell devotees who love the author’s signature twisted characters and acidic cultural commentary—here focused on the travails of internet celebrity—will be satisfied by this pitch-black outing and its shocking climax… Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins fans, this one’s for you.” – Publishers Weekly

The Perfection Trap: Embracing the Power of Good Enough by Thomas Curran

nonfiction / psychology / self help.

The Perfection TrapToday, burnout and depression are at record levels, driven by a combination of intense workplace competition, oppressively ubiquitous social media encouraging comparisons with others, the quest for elite credentials, and helicopter parenting. Society continually broadcasts the need to want more, and to be perfect.

Gathering a wide range of contemporary evidence, Curran calls for both introspection and broader, societal change. He shows what we can do as individuals to resist the modern-day pressure to be perfect, and in so doing, win for ourselves a more purposeful and contented life.

The Perfection Trap is for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by the soul-crushing need to not just compete but compete to a level beyond reason. In place of an ever-moving treadmill, it offers the relief of letting go to focus on what matters most.

“[The] author delivers many useful lessons and valuable insights, and that might be quite good enough. Depression and anxiety are at epidemic levels; this book offers an alternative path to a fulfilling, productive life.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Supported by scholarly research and down-to-earth personal anecdotes, Curran’s explication is smart, thorough, and reassuring. The burned-out will find solace here.” – Publishers Weekly

“We’re delighted with this debut from UK professor Thomas Curran. Entertaining and educational, he guides us through the pitfalls of perfectionism to a happier, less anxious life.” – Barnes & Noble

Pet by Catherine Chidgey

fiction / mystery / suspense.

PetLike every other girl in her class, twelve-year-old Justine is drawn to her glamorous, charismatic new teacher and longs to be her pet. However, when a thief begins to target the school, Justine’s sense that something isn’t quite right grows ever stronger. With each twist of the plot, this gripping story of deception and the corrosive power of guilt takes a yet darker turn. Young as she is, Justine must decide where her loyalties lie.

Set in New Zealand in the 1980s and probing themes of racism, misogyny and the oppressive reaches of Catholicism, Pet will take a rightful place next to other classic portraits of childhood The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Go-Between, Heavenly Creatures, and Au Revoir Les Enfants among them.

“[A] compelling psychological novel… probes the power of deception, betrayal, religion, and childhood in every twist of its mesmerizing plot.” – Merle Jacob, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Damn this book is good. Pet is at once a brilliant coming-of-age thriller and a sharp dissection of racism and misogyny in 1980s New Zealand.” – Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

“This is a captivating and often unsettling read… a literary novel with not only nuanced characterisation, vivid descriptions, pitch-perfect dialogue and artful language but also a dramatic story with a propulsive narrative momentum.” – Sue Reidy, New Zealand Review of Books

Prophet by Sin Blaché Helen Macdonald

fiction / science fiction / mystery.

ProphetYour happiest memory is their deadliest weapon.


It knows when you were happiest. It gives life to your fondest memories and uses them to destroy you. But who has created it? And what do they want?

An all-American diner appears overnight in a remote British field. It’s brightly lit, warm and inviting but it has no power, no water, no connection to the real world. It’s like a memory made flesh – a nostalgic flight of fancy. More and more objects materialise: toys, fairground rides, pets and other treasured mementos of the past.

And the deaths quickly follow.

Something is bringing these memories to life, then stifling innocent people with their own joy. This is a weapon like no other. But nobody knows who created it, or why.

Sunil Rao seems a surprising choice of investigator. Chaotic and unpredictable, the former agent is the antithesis of his partner Colonel Adam Rubenstein, the model of a military man. But Sunil has the unique ability to distinguish truth from lies: in objects, words and people, in the past and in real time. And Adam is the only one who truly knows him, after a troubled past together. Now, as they battle this strange new reality, they are drawn closer than ever to defend what they both hold most dear.

For Prophet can weaponise the past. But only love will protect the future.

“A beautiful, tense, strange, and heartfelt first collaboration from a duo not to be missed.” – Kerry McHugh, Shelf Awareness

“…sinuous and transfixing… The well-matched authors make good on their audacious premise.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“The first novel by writer and musician Blaché and Macdonald of H is for Hawk fame is shrewdly imagined, sharply crafted, witty, chilling, psychologically lush, grotesque, and romantic.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist

“I had heard Prophet (accurately) described as a genre mash-up, blending the best of techno-noir, dystopian sci-fi, and espionage procedural (with a dash of queer romance). And while it is all those things, at its heart Helen Macdonald and Sin Blaché’s tightly wound (yet somehow tender?) mystery-sci-fi-thriller is a philosophical novel… What is life without mystery? And at what point does nostalgia grow so strong it derails our lives?” – Jonny Diamond, Literary Hub

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

fiction / fantasy / romance.

Shark HeartFor Lewis and Wren, their first year of marriage is also their last. A few weeks after their wedding, Lewis receives a rare diagnosis. He will retain most of his consciousness, memories, and intellect, but his physical body will gradually turn into a great white shark. As Lewis develops the features and impulses of one of the most predatory creatures in the ocean, his complicated artist’s heart struggles to make peace with his unfulfilled dreams.

At first, Wren internally resists her husband’s fate. Is there a way for them to be together after Lewis changes? Then, a glimpse of Lewis’s developing carnivorous nature activates long-repressed memories for Wren, whose story vacillates between her childhood living on a houseboat in Oklahoma, her time with a college ex-girlfriend, and her unusual friendship with a woman pregnant with twin birds. Woven throughout this bold novel is the story of Wren’s mother, Angela, who becomes pregnant with Wren at fifteen in an abusive relationship amidst her parents’ crumbling marriage. In the present, all of Wren’s grief eventually collides, and she is forced to make an impossible choice.

A sweeping love story that is at once lyrical and funny, airy and visceral, Shark Heart is an unforgettable, gorgeous novel about life’s perennial questions, the fragility of memories, finding joy amidst grief, and creating a meaningful life. This daring debut marks the arrival of a wildly talented new writer abounding with originality, humor, and heart.

“[A] sweet and heartbreaking tale highlighting the hiccups of marriage, motherhood, and grief.” – Melanie Curry, Cosmopolitan

“[A] stunning debut which grabs you with its unique style, holds you within its vulnerability and leaves you with a bittersweet aching. This is not just a story of love, it’s a story of goodbyes… Habeck delivers an innovative and inspirational story that emotionally captures its readers until the end.” – Nils Shukla, Fantasy Hive

“…Habeck’s debut explores the nature of grief through deft and beautiful writing… This affecting story may appeal to readers of Shelby Van Pelt’s Remarkably Bright Creatures for its unusual premise.” – Cari Dubiel, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Unnecessary Drama by Nina Kenwood

fiction / young adult / romance / comedy.

Unnecessary DramaEighteen-year-old Brooke is the kind of friend who not only remembers everyone’s birthdays, but also organizes the group present, pays for it, and politely chases others for their share. She’s the helper, the doer, the maker-of spreadsheets. She’s the responsible one who always follows the rules―and she plans to keep it that way during her first year of college.

Her student housing only has one rule: “no unnecessary drama.” Which means no fights, tension, or romance between roommates. When one of them turns out to be Jesse, her high-school nemesis, Brooke is determined she can handle it. They’ll simply silently endure living together and stay out of each other’s way. But it turns out Jesse isn’t so easy to ignore.

With Unnecessary Drama, Nina Kenwood perfectly captures the experience of leaving home for the first time, dealing with the unexpected complications of life, and somehow finding exactly what you need.

“The hilarious scenes are cinematically portrayed, and the first-person narrative is heightened by Brooke’s funny, anxious, distinctive inner monologue… Sidesplitting comic writing and an appealingly messy protagonist to root for.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“A fun rom-com, featuring characters you root for to be together.” – Red Carpet Crash

“Kenwood has perfectly captured the unique mixture of fear, joy, anxiety, freedom, and overwhelming responsibility that is those first few months out of home as a young adult… This is a fun and deeply enjoyable YA rom-com about moving out and growing up, with a sweet enemies-to-lovers arc alongside the coming of age as a young adult plot.” – Jemimah Brewster, Arts Hub

Whalefall by Daniel Kraus

fiction / suspense / science fiction.

WhalefallJay Gardiner has given himself a fool’s errand—to find the remains of his deceased father in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Monastery Beach. He knows it’s a long shot, but Jay feels it’s the only way for him to lift the weight of guilt he has carried since his dad’s death by suicide the previous year.

The dive begins well enough, but the sudden appearance of a giant squid puts Jay in very real jeopardy, made infinitely worse by the arrival of a sperm whale looking to feed. Suddenly, Jay is caught in the squid’s tentacles and drawn into the whale’s mouth where he is pulled into the first of its four stomachs. He quickly realizes he has only one hour before his oxygen tanks run out—one hour to defeat his demons and escape the belly of a whale.

“…one of the most intense — and moving — stories that will grace the bookstores in 2023… what Daniel Kraus has created here is something that can’t be quantified.” – Dave Simms, Cemetery Dance

“[A] crazy, and crazily enjoyable, beat-the-clock adventure story about fathers, sons, guilt and the mysteries of the sea… [Kraus] brings the rigor of a scientist and the sensibility of a poet to his descriptions of the undersea world… I was absolutely gripped, unsure to the very end whether Jay would prevail.” – Sarah Lyall, New York Times

“The pacing is relentless, the awe astounding, and the tension palpably constricting, even as Kraus takes time to provide necessary details both scientific and visceral. However, it is Jay’s constant growth throughout the story that makes this novel shine, allowing its beauty to emerge and leave its mark on all who encounter it.” – Becky Spratford, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW


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