August 2023


Kirkness, Jessica LeighThe house with all the lights on
Kneen, KrissyFat girl dancing
Pick-Goslar, HannahMy friend Anne Frank
Return to top


Brandi, MarkSouthern Aurora
Comey, James B.Central Park West
deWitt, PatrickThe librarianist
Gosling, SharonThe Lighthouse Bookshop
Gunaratne, GuyMister, Mister
Hanks, TomThe making of another major motion picture masterpiece
Hannah, KristinAnother life
Hwang, Sok-YongMater 2-10
Jafari, PiroozForty nights
Janson, JulieMadukka the river serpent
Kepnes, CarolineFor you and only you
Lee, Mirinae8 lives of a century-old trickster
McCarten, AnthonyGoing zero
McGinnis, KerryBloodwood Creek
McGregor, FionaIris
Michallon, ClemenceThe quiet tenant
Mukherjee, OindrilaThe dream builders
Oates, Joyce Carol48 clues into the disappearance of my sister
Pericic, MarijaExquisite corpse
Perkins, EmilyLioness
See, LisaLady Tan’s circle of women
Shapiro, JosieEverything is beautiful and everything hurts
Straight, SusanMecca
Sylva, TashaThe guest room

8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster by Mirinae Lee

Lee debuts with an ambitious if overwrought chronicle of a Korean woman who has survived a century of famine and wars. The episodic narrative is framed as a series of interviews between an obituary writer and the elderly Ms. Mook, whose harrowing experiences began at an early age. She describes poisoning her father in 1938, to save her mother from his abuse, and her kidnapping by Japanese soldiers who force her into sexual slavery at a Comfort Station. There, she forms a bond with Yongmal, who helps her endure the violence. When the Americans bomb the station, Ms. Mook escapes. During the Korean War, she works as a translator at the Monkey House, a brothel where Korean girls are forced to have sex with American soldiers. Eventually, she frees the surviving girls and burns the place down. She makes her way to Yongmal’s husband in 1955 and allows him to believe she’s his long-lost wife, who died at the station from tuberculosis. Though the prose is a bit strained (“The sun was an ebullient eye in the middle of the acid-blue sky”), the protagonist’s harrowing and vibrant stories are hard to turn away from. This doesn’t always work, but when it does, it hits hard. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2023


Going Zero by Anthony McCarten

In screenwriter McCarten’s strong debut, Fusion, a Silicon Valley company led by flawed genius Cy Baxter, is competing for a $90 billion contract to provide the federal government with a massive new surveillance system, promoted as a public good but concealing several nefarious features. To test the system, Fusion picks 10 contestants from the public, gives each a two-hour head start, and promises anyone $3 Emillion if they can stay undetected for 30 days. One builds a hidden room in his house; another holes up in a storage locker; a third tries to blend in with the homeless. One contestant, Boston librarian Kaitlyn Day, does more than hide. On day 28, Kaitlyn stuns Baxter with a zinger: use Fusion’s power to locate her lost husband, believed to have disappeared in Iran three years earlier on a CIA mission, or she’ll reveal the company’s deceptive promises to the government. McCarten taps into the current fascination—and revulsion—with modern advances in facial recognition, AI, and location data, though chase story fans may like more chase and less techno navel-gazing. This is an edgy, compulsively readable thriller. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023


The Dream Builders by Oindrila Mukherjee

Mukherjee’s sweeping debut charts the rampant class differences in the fictional Indian city of Hrishipur over the course of the summer of 2018. To name a few of the 10 major characters: Maneka, a creative writing professor at a small Midwest college, is back in India to spend her summer break with her newly widowed father; her school friend Ramona, who has recently miscarried, suspects her globe-trotting entrepreneur husband, Salil, is having affairs; Jessica, a caterer and single mother, hustles to take care of her adopted daughter; Pinky gives facials and massages to the wealthy and learns their secrets; and Rajesh, the driver for Ramona and Salil, longs for a better life. Looming over them all is a nearly completed Trump Towers luxury apartment building, representing the country’s wealth, modernity, and progress to some of the narrators, and for others poisonous corruption. By the end, a major disaster impacts everyone. Though some of the many points of view add more insight than others, the author does a great job capturing the setting and exploring the fateful power dynamics. On balance, it’s a penetrating look at the fast-growing country’s shaky façade. Publisher’s Weekly, October 2022


The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks

Actor Hanks explores the making of a superhero film epic in his entertaining debut novel (after the collection Uncommon Type). In 1947, Bob Falls finds it difficult to adapt back to civilian life after returning from the battlefields of WWII. In 1970, his artist nephew, Robby Andersen, creates a comic book series titled The Legend of Firefall inspired by his uncle’s experiences wielding a flamethrower in the Pacific theater. In the present, writer-director-producer Bill Johnson decides to use Andersen’s comic as the basis for a superhero film. Cast as Firefall is O.K. Bailey, an actor whose ego knows no bounds, while the female lead, Wren Lake, is as savvy as she is beautiful and talented. The shoot gets underway in Robby’s hometown of Lone Butte, Calif., where the production is complicated by marital disharmony between a rising star actor and his neglected wife, the unexpected death of a beloved character actor, and a stalker who threatens Wren’s life. Pages from Firefall, illustrated by R. Sikoryak, appear throughout and are a hoot (in one panel, Firefall’s sergeant gives the order “light ’em up” while lighting Firefall’s cigarette). Neither slashing satire nor moody melodrama, this sincerely Hanksian paean to the people behind the scenes of a movie production comes to life with great characters. It’s a winner. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023

Return to top


Ayliffe, TimKiller traitor spy
Banville, JohnThe lock-up
Byron, EllenWined and died in New Orleans
Chowdhury, AjayThe waiter
Fields, HelenThe Institution
Gard, RhysFour dogs missing
Hannah, MariThe scandal
Hickey, MargaretBroken Bay
Lapena, ShariEveryone here is lying
Maxwell, AlyssaMurder at Ochre Court
Meyrick, DenzilThe death of remembrance
Robinson, BrookeThe interpreter
Slaughter, KarinAfter that night
Ware, RuthZero days
Willingham, StacyAll the dangerous things
Quigley, MindyAshes to ashes, crust to crust

The Interpreter by Brooke Robinson

In this stellar debut thriller from playwright Robinson, London-based interpreter Revelle Lee considers the consequences of sabotaging a murder investigation. Revelle, who speaks several languages, has made a career translating for trials and criminal investigations. One afternoon, six-year-old Elliott—whom Revelle is fostering and planning to adopt—is sent home sick from school, and she leaves him in the care of a security guard outside the Old Bailey while she finishes interpreting for a murder trial. When she goes to collect Elliott, she learns the guard has passed him off to Sandra Ramos, a servant of the accused, and Revelle strikes up a conversation with Ramos before taking Elliott home. A short time later, Ramos is murdered, and Revelle is assigned to her case. Invested in taking down the prime suspect, Revelle deliberately mistranslates his alibi to make him look guilty, and he’s arrested. Then she starts receiving threatening messages from someone who claims to know not only what she did, but also a secret from her past that could jeopardize her chances of adopting Elliott. Robinson is marvelous at mining the moral murk of Revelle’s choices, and chapters from the perspective of her stalker ratchet up the suspense. Minnette Walters fans will be delighted. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2023


All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Journalist Isabelle Drake, the narrator of this lyrical thriller from bestseller Willingham (A Flicker in the Dark), is struggling with overwhelming grief and guilt a year after her toddler son, Mason, disappeared one night from their Savannah, Ga., home. She’s tried just about anything to find Mason, even addressing conventions of true crime addicts, but these emotionally draining efforts don’t seem to be making any more headway than the stalled police investigation—which is why the usually guarded Isabelle agrees to cooperate with podcaster Waylon Spencer in hopes of persuading any listeners with possible leads to come forward. Answering Waylon’s painfully probing questions, including ones delving into the childhood tragedy that ended her father’s congressional career, could either provide the fresh perspective the podcaster promises—or prove one of her worst decisions ever. Though some of the climactic twists don’t quite convince, Isabelle’s vivid memories of a past she’s coming to question nicely intersect with her increasingly dangerous drive for answers. This involving, thought-provoking page-turner raises disturbing questions about the nature of the stories people tell themselves to make sense of the world. Willingham remains a writer to watch. Publisher’s Weekly, October 2022

Return to top


Kennedy, JonathanPathogenesis
Le Guin, Ursula K.No time to spare
Leece, GermaineReading the seasons
Maynard, JeffThe frontier below
Whitehead, AnneParadise mislaid

No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin

Fantasy and SF author Le Guin (The Lost and the Found) mines her blog in these short, punchy, and canny meditations on aging, literature, and cats. Prompted by an alumni survey from her alma mater, Radcliffe, that asks how she occupies her spare time, she takes issue with the idea that any time occupied by living—whether that means reading, writing, cooking, eating, cleaning, etc.—can be considered spare. Moreover, with her 81st birthday fast approaching, Le Guin declares, ”I have no time to spare.” One of the most personal pieces lovingly describes Le Guin’s adoption of a kitten from the local Humane Society, describing how the “vivid little creature” eventually settled in the house and became her “pard” (partner.) On literary topics, Le Guin contests the preoccupation with finding the next Great American Novel—“We have all the great novels we need and right now some man or woman is writing a new one we won’t know we needed till we read it”—and responds to a reader’s question about the meaning of one of her books by responding that its meaning is up to the reader. In a prescient 2012 essay on lying and politics, she wonders whether America can “go on living on spin and illusion, hot air and hogwash, and still be my country.” Le Guin reveals no startling insights but offers her many fans a chance to share her clear-eyed experience of the everyday. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2017

Return to top


Kinsella, JohnCellnight
Return to top


Hunter, MadelineHeiress in red silk

Heiress in Red Silk by Madeline Hunter

Hunter’s second A Duke’s Heiress Regency romance is sure to satisfy fans who fell for Heiress for Hire’s thoughtful love story and clever leads. Struggling milliner Rosamund Jameson’s life is upended when she learns she is the second surprise beneficiary of the late, eccentric Duke of Hollinburgh. In addition to a fortune, Rosamund inherits the duke’s 50% stake in his nephew Kevin Radnor’s fledgling manufacturing company. Kevin, fiercely protective of his vision and accustomed to working alone, is unprepared for his lovely new business partner to play an active role in the company’s future. A practical marriage to Rosamund could be the ideal solution for Kevin to ensure control of his enterprise, but a shared attraction and growing attachment threaten this convenient plan. Hunter skillfully renders the difficult conversations and compromises that are the stuff of real-life romance, showing Kevin and Rosamund learning to make decisions together both as lovers and business partners. Lively scenes featuring Kevin’s awful family, as well as a fun, steamy business trip to Paris, balance out the discussions of contracts nicely. The ongoing mystery of the first installment is mostly tabled, but readers open to the lighter premise here will be rewarded with another smart pairing and a genuinely romantic ending. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2021

Return to top


Adam, PipAudition
Hendrix, GradyHow to sell a haunted house
Lawrence, MarkThe book that wouldn’t burn

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence

Lawrence (the Broken Empire trilogy) draws readers into a vast subterranean library in this thrilling romantic fantasy and Library Trilogy series launch. After monstrous sabbers attack Livira Page’s village in the backwater known as the Dust, she finds refuge in the big city, where she adjusts quickly despite prejudice against “dusters.” Meanwhile, Evar Eventari and his four siblings live in the mysterious library that stretches beneath the city. It’s the only home they’ve ever known and they share it with a mysterious Mechanism that transforms books into “something to be physically experienced, walked through, partaken in, interrogated, shared.” The quintet spent decades trapped inside the Mechanism before being spit back out again, though they did not age a day in all that time. Each of the siblings gained skills and knowledge from the books they brought into the Mechanism except for Evar, who emerged only with the vague knowledge that he is missing something—or someone—and now he needs to find her. Told over the course of years for Livira and mere days for Evar, this tale of knowledge and its cost flies by thanks to the gripping mystery and beautiful worldbuilding, ending on a devastating cliffhanger. Readers will be desperate for more. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023


How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

Grief, generational trauma, and some sinister puppets animate this wildly entertaining haunted house tale from bestseller Hendrix (Final Girl Support Group). Hyper-competent single mother Louise Joyner and her estranged layabout brother, Mark, come together in the wake of their parents’ death, a reunion that consists largely of miscommunicating, airing simmering resentments, and bickering over their parents’ estate. Their Charleston childhood home was left to Mark, but their mother’s extensive puppet collection and whimsically creepy artworks went to Louise, meaning they’ll have to work together to clear the house out before selling it. After chapters of weird vibes and possibly moving dolls, it’s both refreshing and hilarious when the siblings get a realtor to the house and she frankly declares, “Your house is haunted and I’m not selling it until you deal with that.” Mark accepts the haunting as fact immediately, while Louise refuses to believe in the supernatural, even when the evidence is right in front of her. Hendrix does a fantastic job shading the sibling relationship, making the love, pain, and fundamental misunderstandings between them clear even before their intense backstory is revealed. The blurring of the supernatural and the psychological, meanwhile, is an effective engine for both suspense and humor on the way to a bloody confrontation. This is a gem. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023

Return to top


McIntosh, Rachael MoganPardon my French
Return to top

New additions to eBooks at SMSA

eBooks & Audiobooks help


BiographyKang, MyeongseokBeyond the story
General novelsGrenville, KateRestless dolly maunder
General novelsLuo, SusiePaper names
General novelsMcCausland, VanessaDreaming in French
General novelsOakley, ColleenThe Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise
HistoricalMeissner, SusanOnly the Beautiful
MysteryAdams, ElleryThe Book of Candlelight
MysteryLando, VeronicaThe drowning girls
MysteryMascarenhas, KateHokey pokey
MysterySwanson, PeterA kind worth saving
Science Fiction and FantasySanderson, BrandonTress of the Emerald Sea

The Book of Candlelight by Ellery Adams

In Adams’s delightful third Secret, Book, and Scone Society mystery (after 2018’s The Whispered Word), Nora Pennington, the owner of Miracle Books in Miracle Springs, N.C., spots the body of Cherokee Danny, a potter she met the day before at the local flea market, floating in the town’s river, which recent rains have swollen. Danny evidently drowned, but Nora and Sheriff Grant McCabe suspect foul play. Meanwhile, remodeling by innkeepers Louisa “Lou” Simmons and Patty Meacham turns up more than one secret hiding place in the old inn, including a diary kept by an ancestor of Lou more than a century ago. Drawings in the diary of red birds, besides suggesting a link between the past and the present, offer clues to information worth killing for. When a second body is found, Nora knows a killer is loose and lays a trap Sheriff McCabe reluctantly agrees to participate in. A guest stranded at the inn by the wet weather, the charming Sheldon Vega, provides part-time help at the bookstore and more. Adams has a knack for creating endearingly imperfect characters. Cozy fans will be well satisfied. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2020


The Kind Worth Saving by Peter Swanson

Bestseller Swanson (Nine Lives) cleverly plays with genre conventions in this twist-filled mystery. Boston PI Henry Kimball’s two previous jobs had bad endings. He’d been a Massachusetts high school English teacher but left after a student pulled a gun and killed a classmate before turning the weapon on himself, leaving Kimball tormented by thoughts he could have prevented those deaths. His time with the Boston PD ended after he formed an unhealthy obsession with a homicide suspect, penning “multiple unsavory limericks about her.” Kimball’s past resurfaces when he’s retained by former student Joan Whalen, who wants him to prove that her real estate broker husband, Richard, is unfaithful. The detective isn’t convinced that his client is being completely truthful. Flashbacks to the couple’s first interactions when they were teenagers and their families were both vacationing in Maine up the ante, as does Kimball’s discovery of two bodies in an uninhabited house with a for sale sign outside. Swanson’s especially good at capturing the complexity of Kimball’s inner life. Readers will be hard-pressed not to devour this in one sitting to ascertain whether, and how, past and present connect. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023


The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley

Oakley (The Invisible Husband of Frick Island) draws on Thelma and Louise for this delightful story of an elderly woman and her caregiver who go on the run. After Louise Wilt breaks her hip, her children insist she have someone help her around the house. Louise hires Tanner Quimby, 21, a former college soccer player who lost her scholarship and ability to play after falling off a two-story balcony. Tanner, a dogged rules follower, is intensely angry and regretful over the accident, which happened at a party she didn’t want to go to. At first, Louise seems to Tanner like a harmless old lady. Then Tanner sees a mug shot of her new employer on the news proclaiming her a jewel thief who pulled off a 1975 robbery. Tanner decides to throw caution to the wind and goes on the lam with Louise. Meanwhile, an FBI agent is determined to catch up with the duo, ratcheting up the tension. Oakley keeps readers guessing about Louise’s motives for her long-ago heist and those of her best friend George, whom they’re on the way to see, delivering a suspenseful ending readers won’t see coming. The antics of this unlikely duo makes for an entertaining buddy drama. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023


Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner

Meissner (The Last Year of the War) unfurls an emotionally rich narrative involving a young woman in 1930s California and a nanny in WWII Austria. Rosie Maras is orphaned at 16 when her parents and younger brother die in car accident. Her family had been living and working on a California vineyard owned by Truman and Celine Calvert, who become her temporary guardians. Celine is cold and distant, while Truman takes advantage of Rosie’s vulnerability, seducing her and getting her pregnant. Celine discovers the pregnancy and banishes her to a state infirmary, where she faces forced sterilization. Meanwhile, in Vienna, Truman’s sister Helen, who met Rosie, cares for a disabled child named Brigitta Maier. When Brigitta is taken from her home by the German government for their T4 euthanasia program, the Maiers and Helen are devastated. After the war, Helen returns to California and a widowed Celine bitterly reveals Truman’s infidelity, prompting Helen to set out to find Rosie and her niece, the only family she has left. Meissner seamlessly unites the two narratives, drawing striking parallels between Germany’s forced euthanasia of disabled people and eugenics in the U.S. Readers will be riveted. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023

Return to top


General novelsBenedict, MaryThe first ladies
General novelsChange, ElyshaA quitter’s paradise
General novelsHoover, ColleenFinding Cinderella
MysterySullivan, TimThe politican
MysteryRyan, AnneliseA death in Door County
MysteryBlacke, OliviaA fatal groove
MysteryThompson, VictoriaMurder in Murray Hill 
MysteryMizushima, MargaretStriking range
RomanceBalogh, MaryRemember love
Science Fiction and FantasyWeaks, CharissaThe witch collector

The First Ladies by Marie Benedict

Benedict and Murray (The Personal Librarian) deliver a dazzling narrative of the friendship between first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Black educator Mary McLeod Bethune. The two women meet at a conference in 1927, when Eleanor runs a progressive girls’ school and Mary serves as president of a college. Eleanor, who is estranged from her husband, Franklin, because of his affair with Lucy Mercer, joins Mary’s campaign to stop lynching and secure greater civil rights for Black people. After Franklin becomes president, he stymies Eleanor and Mary’s efforts by taking advice from powerful allies who caution against upsetting a Southern Democratic base that supports segregation and resists anti-lynching efforts. Mary, dubbed “the first lady of struggle” by Eleanor, is confident, transactional, and unafraid of “audacious asks,” however, and persuades Eleanor to intercede with the president on Mary’s behalf. Although Mary accomplishes much for African Americans, including the appointment of the first Black Air Force general, she is accused of pandering to the Roosevelts by younger activists who want to march on Washington, D.C., when Franklin doesn’t live up to his promise of ending discrimination in the military. Eleanor intervenes again, convincing Franklin to issue an executive order. The heart of the story lies in its rich portrayal of such historical events and figures as the rise of fascism, WWII, the internment of Japanese Americans, and Billie Holiday. This is a potent tale of two crusading women’s accomplishments. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2023

A Quitter’s Paradise by Elysha Chang

Chang debuts with the understated and quietly devastating story of a grieving 20-something woman. In 2013 New York City, Eleanor Liu is on track to fulfill her late mother Rita’s low expectations, having dropped out of a neuroscience graduate program to work in her classmate-turned-husband’s lab. But, bored and unfulfilled both matrimonially and professionally, Eleanor soon has an affair with a colleague. In the months following her mother’s death, Eleanor makes increasingly risky and bizarre choices, such as spending unsanctioned time with a primate from the lab, before decamping for her childhood home in New Jersey, where she goes through Rita’s belongings and begins to grasp a greater sense of her life. Eleanor’s narration alternates with flashbacks to her childhood and adolescence—notably her relationship with her troubled older sister—and of her parents’ emigration from Taipei in the late 1970s. The somewhat pensive tone is broken up by moments of levity, but always returns to questions of family history and the impossibility of understanding someone else’s story when one’s own memories are so unreliable. Chang is off to a promising start. Publisher’s Weekly, March 2023


Remember Love by Mary Balogh

Bestseller Balogh (the Westcott series) launches her Ravenswood series with a stunningly emotional Regency romance. Devlin Ware, heir to the Earl of Stratton, appears to come from the perfect family. Every summer, his parents and siblings host a fete for the local community around their estate, Ravenswood Hall, in Hampshire. The summer of 1808 holds special promise, as Devlin discovers that his neighbor Gwyneth Rhys, whom he’s long pined for in secret, believing her to be entangled with his brother, returns his affection. But Devlin’s idyllic world is shattered when he discovers his father’s infidelity. When upstanding Devlin reveals the earl’s bad behavior to society, he’s banished from the family. Forced to leave home, he joins the fight against Napoleon in France—and leaves a broken hearted Gwyneth in his wake. Six years later, a battle-scarred and embittered Devlin returns to claim his inheritance after his father’s death—and though neither he nor Gwyneth have forgotten each other, Devlin’s wounds may be too deep for love to heal. Balogh again proves her mastery of Regency romance, expertly revealing her characters’ psychological depths. This second-chance love story proves impossible to put down. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2022


Striking Range by Margaret Mizushima

In Mizushima’s entertaining seventh Timber Creek K-9 mystery (after 2020’s Hanging Falls), Deputy Mattie Cobb is at last on the verge of interviewing John Cobb, the chief suspect in her father’s murder 30 years earlier, in the Colorado state prison where he’s serving time for a recent attempt to kill her and other crimes. Before she can do so, Cobb, who also abducted Mattie at age two and gave her his last name, is found dead in his cell. A book of Timber Creek County hiking trails in the cell has handwritten Xs along one trail. Curious about their significance, Mattie decides to visit the spots indicated. The discovery of the body of a teenager who just gave birth interrupts Mattie’s quest, and she surmises that the killer may have taken the victim’s newborn baby. Her investigations lead her and her valiant German shepherd partner, Robo, into the snowy wilderness and a thrilling face-off with a devious killer. Jolly visits to the office of Mattie’s veterinarian boyfriend, Cole Walker, provide relief from the grim detective work. Series fans will hope Mattie returns soon. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2023

Return to top

Subscribe to stay up-to-date