January 2024


Creed, GrahamWeatherman goes bush
Dench, JudiShakespeare
Flanagan, RichardQuestion 7
Hsu, HuaStay true
Mackinnon, A. J.Quaint deeds
Mantel, HilaryA memoir of my former self
Margolyes, MiriamOh Miriam!
Shakespeare, NicholasIan Fleming
Taupin, BernieScattershot

Stay True by Hua Hsu

A Taiwanese American writer remembers an intimate but unexpected college friendship cut short by tragedy. Hsu, an English professor and staff writer at the New Yorker, began his undergraduate years at Berkeley with the intention of cultivating an alternative, punk persona consistent with his love of indie bands and his obsession with creating zines. “I saw coolness,” he writes, “as a quality primarily expressed through erudite discernment, and I defined who I was by what I rejected, a kitchen sink approach to negation that resulted in essays decrying Beverly Hills, 90210, hippies, private school, George Bush…and, after they became trendy, Pearl Jam.” Consequently, when he first met Japanese American fraternity brother Ken, he wrote him off as “a genre of person I actively avoided—mainstream.” As they got to know each other, to Hsu’s surprise, he and Ken grew very close. The two spent hours “debating the subversive subtext of movies” and penning a screenplay inspired by the cult classic film The Last Dragon, an experience that led them to long conversations about the nature of Black and Asian solidarity. Over time, their relationship grew increasingly personal. For example, Hsu sought out Ken for advice the night Hsu planned to lose his virginity, and, years later, Hsu tentatively referred to Ken as his best friend. Then, one night, Ken was killed in a carjacking, abruptly truncating a relationship that Hsu thought would last forever and sending him into a spiral of grief and self-blame that lasted for years. This memoir is masterfully structured and exquisitely written. Hsu’s voice shimmers with tenderness and vulnerability as he meticulously reconstructs his memories of a nurturing, compassionate friendship. The protagonists’ Asian American identities are nuanced, never serving as the defining element of the story, and the author creates a cast of gorgeously balanced characters. A stunning, intricate memoir about friendship, grief, and memory. Kirkus Review, June 2022

Scattershot by Bernie Taupin

Lyricist Taupin, best known for his long-standing collaboration with Elton John, bounces jauntily from anecdote to anecdote in his whirlwind debut memoir. Taupin was born in Lincolnshire, England, where he “learned nothing in school. My education came through my mother, her father, and in the grooves of vinyl albums.” At 17, he met Reg Dwight (who would soon change his name to Elton John) and shared the “fanciful” and “whimsical” songs he’d written. When John asked if he had more, the now-famous partnership was born. Taupin provides intimate glimpses into the genesis of some of his and John’s most well-known hits: he wrote “Your Song” in 10 minutes as John’s mother cooked breakfast, while “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” was inspired by his first night in New York City. Taupin wends his way through his artistic influences, several marriages, and drug use, but the clear highlights are the reflections about his craft—he sometimes wonders if he’s “just a messenger, delivering whimsical propositions,” adding that “what I became was, and always has been, an enigma to me.” Despite a tendency to ramble, Taupin’s candor and imagistic writing (“a cubicle the color of sick”) hold the reader’s attention. It’s an appealing complement to Elton John’s 2019 memoir Me. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2023

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Abbott, Megan E.Beware the woman
Arikawa, HiroThe goodbye cat
Briggs, KateThe long form
Caine, MichaelDeadly game
Cantor, JillianThe fiction writer
De Bernieres, LouisLight over Liskeard
Douglas, ClaireThe woman who lied
Flint, EmmaOther women
Grimwood, JackArctic sun
Isaka, KotaroThe Mantis
Lawton, JohnMoscow exile
Lester, NatashaThe disappearance of Astrid Bricard
Manning, KirstyThe hidden book
McIntosh, FionaThe Sugar Palace
McKay, Laura JeanGunflower
Morris, PriscillaBlack butterflies
Novak, BrendaThe seaside library
Patrick, PhaedraThe little Italian hotel
Scarrow, SimonDead of night
Skye, EvelynThe hundred loves of Juliet
Zevin, GabrielleTomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

The Hundred Loves of Juliet by Evelyn Skye

YA author Skye (The Crown’s Game) makes her adult debut with a swoony, Shakespeare-inspired fantasy romance that seamlessly imbues the Bard’s star-crossed lovers with a contemporary feel. Helene, 30 years old and fresh from being passed over for a promotion and in the midst of divorcing her narcissistic husband, flees to Alaska. It’s supposed to be a refuge, a place she can work on a manuscript linking the romantic vignettes she’s written ever since starring as Juliet in a middle school play. Her first night in town she meets local fisherman Sebastien—and recognizes him immediately as the hero of all her love stories. Sebastien knows Helene, too, and has known her under many different names. Originally, she was Juliet and he was Romeo. He’s been cursed to find her across lifetimes. Every time they fall in love, however, it ends in her death. The pair dance around each other—a flirtation that is both new and centuries old—as the oft-heartbroken Sebastien desperately searches for a way to change the ending. His melancholy is perfectly balanced by bold, courageous Helene’s sweetness. The result is a rich, heartfelt tale of love and loss and love again. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2023


Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Zevin (Young Jane Young) returns with an exhilarating epic of friendship, grief, and computer game development. In 1986, Sadie Green, 11, visits a children’s hospital where her sister is recovering from cancer. There, she befriends another patient, a 12-year-old Korean Jewish boy named Sam Masur, who has a badly injured foot, and the two bond over their love for video games. Their friendship ruptures, however, after Sam discovers Sadie’s been tallying the visits to fulfill her bat mitzvah service. Years later, they reconnect while attending college in Boston. Sam is wowed by a game Sadie developed, called Solution. In it, a player who doesn’t ask questions will unknowingly build a widget for the Third Reich, thus forcing the player to reflect on the impact of their moral choices. He proposes they design a game together, and relying on help from his charming, wealthy Japanese Korean roommate, Marx, and Sadie’s instructor cum abusive lover, Dov, they score a massive hit with Ichigo, inspired by The Tempest. In 2004, their virtual world-builder Mapletown allows for same-sex marriages, drawing ire from conservatives, and a violent turn upends everything for Sam and Sadie. Zevin layers the narrative with her characters’ wrenching emotional wounds as their relationships wax and wane, including Sadie’s resentment about sexism in gaming, Sam’s loss of his mother, and his foot amputation. Even more impressive are the visionary and transgressive games (another, a shooter, is based on the poems of Emily Dickinson). This is a one-of-a-kind achievement. Publisher’s Weekly, March 2022

Beware the Woman by Megan Abbott

In this spine-tingling suspense yarn from Edgar Award winner Abbott (The Turnout), pregnant second grade teacher Jacy learns there’s plenty she still doesn’t know about her taciturn artist husband Jed or the family he rarely mentions—maybe a dangerous amount. The action unfolds during the couple’s summer road trip from New York City to visit Jed’s father, a retired physician, at his cottage on Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula. At first, Jacy feels transported by the surroundings and her father-in-law’s near-courtly solicitousness. (His brusque caretaker, Mrs. Brandt, is a different story.) But things shift when Jacy has a miscarriage scare and, in the aftermath, Jed aligns with his father’s alarmingly old-school notions about women and pregnancy. Rightly or wrongly, Jacy starts to feel like a prisoner. Manipulating the sense of menace like a virtuoso violinist, Abbott expertly foreshadows the wrenching family secrets that are exposed in a ferocious finale. Sinewy prose and note-perfect pacing make this a masterful and provocative deep dive into desire, love, and gender politics. Readers will be left breathless. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023


Gunflower by Laura Jean Mckay

Mckay stimulates with this introspective and variegated collection. The narrator of “Flying Rods” reconciles with her infidelity after she’s bitten by a bug and undergoes a metamorphosis. In “Come and See It All the Way from Town,” a family is haunted by unknown voices speaking in a language they don’t understand. The voices turn out to be those of sentient rocks in search of the Indigenous people who once shared the land with them. The young female protagonist of “Smoko” leads a workplace uprising to earn back employee smoke breaks, while the title story follows a woman who leaves the state of Georgia for a ship floating in international waters so she can get an abortion. Onboard the ship, a metaphysical force disrupts her sense of reality. The family at the center of “The Two O’Clock” finds a portal inside the wall of their house, which takes them to an extravagant party. In “Ranging,” a woman forms a support group in a world where men have disappeared. Whether they’re rooted in reality or fantasy, Mckay’s narratives enthrall. This will stick with readers long after they’ve turned the last page. Publisher’s Weekly, November 2023


Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow

Scarrow’s gripping sequel to 2021’s Blackout again centers on German cop Horst Schenke as he seeks justice under the Nazis. In 1940, at the request of Ruth Frankel, a young Jewish woman trapped in Berlin who helped Schenke catch a serial killer the previous year, the inspector reopens the case of Manfred Schmesler, an SS doctor who’d been a Frankel family friend before he joined the Nazi Party. Even after he joined, Schmesler and his wife, Brigitte, helped the Frankels with food and money at great personal risk. Now, Schmesler is dead of an apparent suicide. He was found in his study with a gun near his hand and a note apologizing to his wife for taking his own life. Brigitte refuses to accept that her husband killed himself, and as Schenke digs into the evidence, he comes to agree. His unrelenting and dangerous search for the truth takes him into the dark heart of WWII-era Berlin. Scarrow keeps the pages turning with brisk action, well-drawn characters, and a gift for historical detail. Bernie Gunther fans looking for a new series to sink their teeth into should check this out. Publisher’s Weekly, October 2023

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Mazzola, AnnaThe clockwork girl
Shepherd-Robinson, LauraThe square of sevens

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Shepherd-Robinson (Daughters of Night) immerses readers in Georgian England, where a young fortune teller navigates a world leery of witchcraft and aims to uncover the truth about her deceased mother. Red learns the ancient art of the Square of Sevens, a form of cartomancy, from her father. After her father dies, she is taken in by his recent acquaintance Mr. Antrobus, who has a secret connection to Red’s mother. Red’s quest for answers about her mother’s true identity, and why her father was convinced her mother’s family was a danger to her takes her from Cornwall and Bath to the back alleys of London, where she tells fortunes at the chaotic Bartholomew Fair and becomes embroiled in a legal battle between Lords Seabrooke and De Lacy involving lost wills and last-minute codicils. Shepherd-Robinson presents perennial themes of truth and lies, love and loyalty, and chance and fate, sprinkling the narrative with historical figures (Robert Walpole is described as a “wretched inconvenience,” and Red studies the experiments of Brazilian-born naturalist and inventor Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmão) and literary references, from Cervantes’s Don Quixote, to the words of Seneca and more. This is a captivatingly complex tale of intrigue set in a world hesitantly blundering its way to being post-Newtonian. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2023

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Brookmyre, ChristopherThe cliff house
Childs, LauraA dark and stormy tea
Connally, CelesteAct like a lady, think like a lord
Cornwell, Patricia DanielsUnnatural death
Deaver, JefferyThe watchmaker’s hand
Douaihy, MargotScorched grace
Fennell, DavidThe silent man
Francis, FelixHands down
Glass, AvaThe traitor
Goldin, MeganDark corners
Gray, AlexQuestions for a dead man
Hallett, JaniceThe Christmas appeal
Heath, JackKill your husbands
Higashino, KeigoThe final curtain
Hilary, SarahBlack thorn
Hilary, SarahNever be broken
Hyland, AdrianThe wiregrass
Manansala, Mia P.Murder and mamon
Meyrick, DenzilNo sweet sorrow
Moncrieff, AdaMurder at Maybridge Castle
Mylet, J. B.The Homes
Parsons, TonyWho she was
Prose, NitaThe mystery guest
Shearer, L. T.The cat who caught a killer
Sigurdardottir, YrsaThe prey
Singh, NaliniThere should have been eight
Turner, A. K.Case sensitive
Webb, DebraThe nature of secrets
Woodland, GregThe carnival is over

The Cliff House by Chris Brookmyre

Tartan noir writer Brookmyre (The Cut) sets this satisfying closed-circle mystery on a private island in the U.K.’s Outer Hebrides. To celebrate her upcoming second marriage, Jen Dunne, 42, has invited six women—“some out of sentiment and nostalgia, some out of wishful thinking, and some out of obligation”—to join her for a weekend at a luxury island estate. Many of the guests don’t know each other, one may hate Jen, two certainly hate each other, and all of them harbor closely guarded secrets. With no cellphone service and their helicopter not due to return to the mainland for 72 hours, things quickly go from bad to worse. First, Joaquin, the handsome private chef Jennifer booked for the occasion, is found dead. Then one of the women disappears, and the rest begin receiving group email messages signed “The Reaper” that make increasingly threatening demands of Jen and her guests. As each woman’s secrets slowly come to the fore, they must find ways to band together, lest they become the next target. Brookmyre keeps the pages turning on the way to a stunning climax, offering ample opportunity for each of his characters to exhibit unexpected levels of grit and grace along the way. It’s exhilarating fun. Publisher’s Weekly, September 2023


Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord by Celeste Connally

This delightful Regency mystery series launch from Connally, a pseudonym for S.C. Perkins (the Ancestry Detective Mystery series), draws readers into the life of Lady Petra Forsyth, whose unconventional behavior and affinity for sleuthing is frowned upon by most of her acquaintances and, especially, her nosy uncle Tobias. After her fiancé dies and her dearest friend, Duncan, decamps to mainland Europe to work for his grandfather, Petra announces at age 24 that she’ll remain single, shocking the public and moving her contemporaries to label her a premature spinster. Despite the undue scrutiny, Petra takes an interest in some of the women in her social circle, particularly after she learns that Gwen, wife of Lord Milford, has died suddenly in a physician’s care. When Gwen’s footman swears he’s seen the woman days after her supposed death, Petra starts digging, and soon uncovers a growing network of wives who’ve disappeared from society’s upper crust under mysterious circumstances. Soon Duncan reappears in England, arousing Petra’s suspicions further, and her determination to get to the bottom of things may put her own life in danger. Petra is marvelously drawn—an easy-to-love, instantly memorable heroine—and Connally equips her with a brisk, page-turning adventure. This is catnip for historical suspense fans. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2023


The Traitor by Ava Glass

Intrepid spy Emma Makepeace hits the high seas in this gripping sequel to 2022’s Alias Emma from Glass (a pseudonym for YA author Christi Daugherty). At 28, Emma’s star is rising in the Agency, an elite, ultra-secret British intelligence collective. Emma learned the tricks of the trade from her grieving mother after her Russian father was killed for spying on behalf of the British. When an MI6 operative who’d been pursuing two Russian oligarchs trading in dangerous biological weapons is found dead in his apartment, the Agency decides to take over the investigation. Emma, who’s on a lifelong quest to avenge her father’s death, gladly accepts the dicey undercover job of joining the staff of a yacht owned by one of the Russians as it sails from the Cote d’Azur to Monaco. Operating without backup, Emma must prove the oligarchs guilty of arms dealing and unmask their third partner, whom she comes to suspect may be an MI6 mole. Enriching the narrative with meticulous spycraft, sound character development, and exquisitely realized settings, Glass has delivered an un-put-downable winner. Here’s hoping this series has a long life. Publisher’s Weekly, September 2023


The Final Curtain by Keigo Higashino

Tokyo police detective Kyoichiro Kaga discovers an unsettling personal connection to a tricky murder case in the brilliantly twisty fourth entry in Higashino’s series (after 2022’s A Death in Tokyo). Kaga’s cousin, Shuhei Matsumiya, a detective with a separate division of the Tokyo police, suspects that two strangulation murders may be linked, despite no evidence of a connection between the victims. In the first, an unidentified homeless man was believed to have perished in a fire until an autopsy revealed smoke-free lungs and strangulation marks on his neck. A few weeks later, cleaning contractor Michiko Oshitani’s decomposing remains are discovered in a spartan Tokyo apartment hundreds of miles from her home with apparent strangulation marks around her neck. Though the crimes are outside Kaga’s jurisdiction, Matsumiya seeks his cousin’s advice. Soon afterward, Matsumiya’s colleagues discover a calendar in the apartment where Oshitani died with phrases that hearken back to the death of Kaga’s mother more than a decade ago. She’d left Kaga’s father long before that to pursue another man, and among her effects was a note with the same phrases as the calendar, and in the same handwriting. Higashino metes out the plot’s surprises slowly, prioritizing Kaga’s emotional response to the investigation. This poignant fair-play whodunit is sure to thrill fans of golden age detective fiction. Publisher’s Weekly, September 2023

Murder and Mamon by Mia P. Manansala

A pair of new arrivals spell trouble for the indefatigable Filipina foodies of Shady Grove, Illinois. The first arrival is homegrown: the laundromat Lila Macapagal’s godmothers—Ninang April, Ninang Mae, and Ninang June—are about to open next door to the dry cleaner Ninang June inherited from her late husband. Ultima Bolisay, whose family owns the town’s only laundromat, isn’t happy about the opening, and neither is whoever decorates the Calendar Crew’s establishment with spray-painted injunctions to “MIND YOUR BUSINESS.” (Wonder if these could be the same person.) The other arrival has come from halfway around the world: Ninang April’s niece Divina de los Santos, an art school graduate who’s visiting from the Philippines because she wants to keep up with her relatives, or check out her career prospects, or flirt with the locals, or put some distance between herself and something that happened back home. Almost from the get-go, Lila thinks there’s something off about Divina, but the bad buzz isn’t nearly enough to explain why the visitor is killed one night inside the new laundromat. Afraid that they’ll never be able to open the place, Lila’s godmothers want her to investigate, and when Jonathan Park, the retired police detective whose brother, dentist Jae Park, is Lila’s boyfriend, agrees to work his contacts to help her, she agrees. The mystery, as in Lila’s first three cases, is so consistently upstaged by the frenzy of delectable dishes lovingly prepared and consumed at Tita Rosie’s Kitchen, which Lila’s grandmother owns, and the neighboring Brew-ha Cafe run by Lila and her friends Elena Torres and Adeena Awan, that readers will be doubly surprised at the surprise unmasking. Sorry, other food cozies. You can’t hold a candle to this mouthwatering franchise. Kirkus Review, July 2023

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Attenborough, DavidThe life of birds
Brooks, Arthur C.Build the life you want
Das, NandiniCourting India
Lim, LouisaIndelible city
Manser, PatriciaMore than words

Build the Life You Want by Arthur C. Brooks

An accessible road map to greater fulfillment, connection, and magnanimity. During the 2020 pandemic, Brooks, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Business School, began a column in the Atlantic, “How To Build a Life,” offering practical wisdom and tools for a purpose-driven, satisfying life. A fan of Brooks’ work, Winfrey writes, “This man was singing my song.” Over the course of this collaboration, Brooks presents “clear, science-based information about how your happiness works and then instructions on how to use this information in your life.” Winfrey contributes intermittent, brief notes about experiences and opinions—e.g., “It’s about happier—a relative, contextualized, fluid condition, not some perfect fixed ideal….Happier is not a state of being, but a state of doing—not a thing you wait around and hope for, but an achievable change you actively work toward.” After defining happiness (“a combination of enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose”), the authors focus on the benefits of and skills required for emotional self-management (“metacognition, emotional substitution, and adopting an outward focus”). Winfrey suggests writing down words to that effect and taping them to your refrigerator: “Your emotions are only signals. And you get to decide how you’ll respond to them.” Brooks delineates simple, actionable steps such as keeping a journal. “Spend more time enjoying things that amaze you,” he writes, emphasizing how to consciously cultivate gratitude, humor, hope, and compassion. An example of his advice includes, “Unfollow people you don’t know…whose posts you simply look at because they have what you want.” He posits that family, friendship, work, and faith “are the pillars on which a good life is based,” and he focuses the final four chapters on each of these. Brooks is masterful at synthesizing enormous quantities of research into a simple and supportive text. A quick read, this hopeful book will benefit readers searching for enriched well-being. Kirkus Review, July 2023

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Hunter, MadelineThe heiress bride

The Heiress Bride by Madeline Hunter

The mystery of the Duke of Hollinburgh’s murder comes to a suspenseful close in bestseller Hunter’s final A Duke’s Heiress Regency (after Heiress in Red Silk). The eccentric late duke left fortunes to three unrelated and unsuspecting women, much to his avaricious family’s chagrin. Two of these women have already accepted their inheritance, but Nicholas Radnor, the new duke, has yet to locate the third. So he’s shocked when she shows up at his door. Unaware that she was named in the duke’s will, Iris Barrington calls on Nicholas hoping to gain access to his library to search for a Psalter her grandfather was accused of stealing and so clear his name. While waiting for his solicitor to verify her identity, Nicholas hires Iris to appraise his library, hoping there’s enough value to clear his financial ailments. The pair are instantly attracted and quickly fall into bed, leading to some steamy scenes but not enough buildup to really get readers on board with their love story. Meanwhile, they’re both in danger from the duke’s murderer, who is still at large. The mystery far outshines the romance, but for fans who’ve been waiting for the killer to be revealed since book one, this is sure to satisfy. Publisher’s Weekly, March 2023

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Baldacci, DavidVega Jane and the end of time
Heartfield, KateThe chatelaine
Roberts, NoraInheritance
Tesh, EmilySome desperate glory

Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

World Fantasy Award winner Tesh (the Greenhollow duology of novellas) jumps from quiet fantasy to ambitious sci-fi in her raw and action-packed full-length debut. Raised on Gaea Station with the last of humanity, Valkyr has been indoctrinated from childhood into intense hatred of the majoda—the alien race that destroyed Earth—and thirsts for vengeance. When Kyr comes of age, however, she’s disappointed to be assigned to Nursery rather than combat, her body designated to breed future supersoldiers. Meanwhile, Kyr’s brother, Magnus, is assigned off-station to certain death. Kyr takes justice for humanity into her own hands to save Magnus—but once she’s away from Gaea Station, the principles she’s been fed her whole life are called into question. Tesh’s sweeping epic wrestles with the nature of hatred, vengeance, and radicalization. The political theme of breaking away from fascist ideology pairs beautifully with smart sci-fi worldbuilding—which encompasses shadow engine technology and time slips—and queer coming of age. This riveting adventure deserves a space on shelves alongside genre titans like Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023


Inheritance by Nora Roberts

A woman inherits a haunted seaside mansion in Maine from a long-lost relative. Sonya MacTavish isn’t having the best year. After finding her fiance in bed with another woman, she wonders why she ignored so many obvious red flags about him. Sonya eventually leaves the Boston graphic design firm where they both worked after months of harassment and gaslighting, but she’s determined to succeed despite these setbacks. One day a lawyer appears at her door, revealing that her late father, who was adopted as a newborn, had a twin brother he never knew about. This uncle left her a large, rambling mansion in a small coastal town in Maine, but his will stipulates that she must live in the house for three years in order to claim her inheritance. Sonya’s innate stubbornness and strong survival instinct come in handy after discovering the house is haunted by a bevy of ghosts, collectively known as the lost brides. In 1806, a woman was murdered inside the house on her wedding day by a jealous witch, creating a curse so powerful it has lasted generations. A total of seven women have been killed by the curse; their ghosts are a benevolent presence in the house, but the witch’s angry, vengeful ghost also inhabits the place and tries to scare Sonya away. While sleeping, Sonya experiences the memories of the murdered brides and realizes that the ghosts are providing her with clues she can use to finally break the curse. Roberts is in fine form here. Her lush, ethereal world of ghosts and spirits is the perfect foil for Sonya’s down-to-earth, almost spartan manner. Another Roberts hallmark is on display: her continuing thematic exploration of how an individual defeats evil—not by acting alone, but by forming a community and harnessing its members’ strength and power for the coming battle. Exciting launch for Roberts’ new trilogy, which promises to explore the mystical power of women to do both good and evil. Kirkus Review, September 2023

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New additions to eBooks at SMSA

eBooks & Audiobooks help


GeneralBeaumont, JackDark Arena
GeneralDixon, JoA Shadow at the Door
GeneralGodfrey, SierraThe second chance hotel
GeneralHillier, JenniferThe things we do in the dark
GeneralLowe, FionaThe Money Club
GeneralWoods, EvieThe lost bookshop
HistoricalCelestin, RayPalace of Shadows
MysteryCooper, CatherineThe Chalet
MysteryEllis, DavidLook closer
MysteryOsman, RichardThe Last Devil to Die

Look Closer by David Ellis

This byzantine thriller from bestseller Ellis (The Last Alibi) opens the day after Halloween 2022 with the discovery of the hanged body of Lauren Betancourt in her suburban Chicago house. Flashback to May 13, 2022, when pompous law professor Simon Dobias bumps into Lauren on the street. Simon and Lauren, who last saw each other 19 years earlier, embark on an affair about which Simon keeps a journal. Meanwhile, Simon’s wife, Vicky Lanier, a former sex worker, seduces aggressive financial adviser Christian Newsome with a scheme to steal her husband’s $21 million trust the day she gets access to it: their 10th wedding anniversary on November 3. Christian, a lonely-hearts scammer on his seventh victim, plots to get the money for himself. Vicky discovers the journal revealing Lauren’s pressure on Simon to divorce Vicky before their anniversary, and she encourages Christian to take drastic action. Ellis jumps between the tangle of relationships and the police’s unraveling of Simon’s questionable past. Though Simon’s personality is off-putting, the serpentine revelations will surprise even the cleverest mystery readers. This complex tale of triple-crossings and devious revenge should win Ellis new fans. Publishers Weekly, May 2022

Second Chance Hotel by Sierra Godfrey

Godfrey is back with another thirtysomething female protagonist who has lost her job and her boyfriend, much like the heroine in her debut, the women-centered A Very Typical Family (2022). Amelia Lang, fed up with her needy mom and disappointing life, takes an extended trip to Europe and in the last leg of her three-month trip ends up at a dilapidated Greek hotel that changes her life. She meets James, an attractive American guest, and sparks fly. The hotel proprietor, Takis, spies them together and invites them to a Greek wedding, and they somehow end up getting married themselves. Things get even more complicated when Takis dies and bequeaths the hotel to them. Not wanting to abandon incoming guests slated to arrive, James and Amelia scramble to accommodate hotel guests as they learn more about each other, the close-knit island community, and their complex arrangement as co-owners and newlyweds. There’s plenty to enjoy in this decidedly escapist fare. Booklist, July 2023


Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier

The violent death of a Seattle comedian looking for a comeback opens the door to a full-bore investigation of his wife, who has every reason to dread the spotlight. In his time, Jimmy Peralta was the star of the successful TV show The Prince of Poughkeepsie. His time was quite a while ago, but after years of retirement, a chance remark at an awards dinner has paved the way for Jimmy’s return on the streaming platform Quan…until he’s found in his bathtub with his femoral artery slashed. Also found in the bathroom is his fifth wife, yoga instructor Paris Peralta, who tells Jimmy’s oldest friend, attorney Elsie Dixon, that she returned from a work conference in Vancouver to find him dead and grabbed his straight-edged razor in confusion. Since the surveillance monitors that could confirm what time Paris crossed the border have gone dead, Elsie prepares her client to dig in for a difficult trial. The lawyer doesn’t know that this isn’t Paris’ first rodeo. She fled Toronto many years ago under an assumed name in the wake of a basement fire that claimed the life of stripper Joelle Reyes, whose mother, Ruby Reyes, was already doing time for killing her married lover, bank president Charles Baxter, under circumstances that left her with the nickname the Ice Queen. As Ruby, who’s about to be paroled after 25 years, sends Paris a series of escalating blackmail demands, journalist Drew Malcolm, who has his own uncomfortable ties to Joey Reyes, seizes on Paris’ arrest as fodder for his true-crime podcast, Things We Do in the Dark, that might help exorcise his personal demons. But that exorcism stands at the end of a long and twisty road. Gripping enough to make you accept every contrivance and beg for more. Kirkus Reviews, May 2022

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GeneralEason, LynetteDouble take
GeneralHuang, Ling LingNatural beauty
GeneralKrentz, Jayne AnnThe Night Island
GeneralParlato, TerriAll the Dark Places
MysteryCox, CharlyAll His Pretty Girls
MysteryDevlin, CaraSilence of Deceit
MysteryEccleston, M. H.Death on the Isle
MysteryRigby, SallyThe Lost Girls of Penzance
MysteryThompson, VictoriaMurder in the Bowery
Sci-fiArcher, C. J.The Watchmaker’s Daughter

Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang

A young Chinese American woman learns the secrets of a sinister wellness company in Huang’s incisive and disquieting debut. After the unnamed narrator’s parents are involved in a severe car accident, she abandons her classical music career to focus on their care. She receives an auspicious invitation to work at a Goop-esque Holistik outlet, where she becomes one of a bevy of salesgirls, hocking everything from face creams to emotional support ducklings, and her employer pressures her into taking the workplace name Anna for the ease of customers who struggled with her given name. As the narrator tries the treatments, she notices surreal changes to her appearance, including lighter skin, longer legs, and bigger breasts. She also forms a close friendship with Helen, the owner’s niece, and develops an attraction to Helen while giving her piano lessons. Eventually, Helen reveals clues about Holistik’s nefarious machinations. Insidious Western standards, fears about bodily autonomy, and queer desire intersect as Huang’s precise and subtle portrayal of the beauty industry builds to an explosive climax. Alternatingly poignant and deeply unsettling, this is an outstanding first outing for an immensely talented author. Publishers Weekly, February 2023.

Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson

Edgar-finalist Thompson’s entertaining 20th mystery set in gaslight-era New York City (after 2016’s Murder in Morningside Heights) finds private detective Frank Malloy looking for a missing newsie, one of the street urchins that hawk papers. Known on the street as Freddie Two Toes, the 13-year-old boy disappeared during the famous newsboys’ strike against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst in the summer of 1899. In his search for Freddie, Frank comes across the body of socialite Estelle Longacre, who apparently had a taste for the seedier side of New York. Unfortunately, Freddie’s body turns up, too, and Frank, along with his wife, Sarah Brandt, and other allies follow a trail that leads to Bowery crime boss Black Jack Robinson. Along the way, they uncover a cesspool of greed, selfishness, and incest within one of the city’s wealthiest families. Though the more astute will figure out the guilty party early on, the process of elimination, with missteps here and there, will keep readers turning the pages. Publishers Weekly, June 2017.

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