July 2022


Bigar, SylvieCassoulet confessions
Moore, WayetuThe dragons, the giant, the women
Willson, SandraBetween me and myself

Cassoulet confessions / Sylvie Bigar

“A few days of solo travel through France with a delicious purpose” occasions self-discovery in this enticing debut from Swiss French travel writer Bigar. Despite her privileged Swiss upbringing in the 1970s, dysfunctional family dinners in their Geneva home loomed large, served by a Spanish butler in a dining room that, Bigar recalls, “felt as convivial as a pretty morgue.” By the time she had two children of her own in the 2000s, Bigar longed for an escape from her life in New York City to write about the “unsung cooks, forgotten spices, and secret culinary traditions” she’d reported on over the years. That desire manifested in a writing assignment in 2008 that took Bigar to the Southern French region of Occitanie, home of the cassoulet, a “slow-cooked carnivorous orgy of pork, lamb, duck, beans, and herbs.” As Bigar recalls the details of her trip in mouthwatering descriptions, she writes of having lunch with the “Pope of Cassoulet,” French chef Eric Garcia—who teaches her his secrets to making the dish from scratch (the recipe for which is included)—while steeping readers in a rich history of the stew alongside a personal investigation into her fraught family history and love affair with food. This bittersweet guide is as satisfying as it is soulful. Publishers Weekly, June 2022


The dragons, the giant, the women / Wayétu Moore

A lyrical reckoning with the aftermath of civil war. The first Liberian civil war was a disaster for the people of Liberia, including Moore and her family. Only 5 years old at the time, she was forced to flee her home on foot alongside her family as rebels advanced down her street, guns firing. After weeks of walking, they found relative safety in the village of Lai, near the border with Sierra Leone, where they would remain for seven months. When a rebel arrived in Lai promising to sneak Moore’s family into Sierra Leone, the author breaks the narrative, jumping ahead 25 years to the mid-2010s. At that time, she lived in Brooklyn, and things were not going well. She was stalled on a novel (perhaps her acclaimed 2018 book She Would Be King). Amid the racial tensions following the highly publicized deaths of black citizens at the hands of police officers, she broke up with her white boyfriend after he insulted her, and she was having nightmares and considering returning to Liberia for the first time since she was a girl. This section drags a bit, as Moore’s problems take on a developed-nation air, especially in light of the chapters that preceded them. But for the remainder of the book, the author confronts the legacy of the war for her family and her country, trying in particular to understand the rebel woman who led her surviving family to safety. As Moore conducts this investigation in earnest, she writes a long section of the text in the voice of her mother. It reads like fiction in the sense that the author’s inhabiting of her mother’s character is absolute. Nonfiction purists might balk at this liberty, but the resulting intimacy is profound. Here and throughout, Moore’s control of language is impressive. Formally dazzling yet coolly reflective prose makes for a refined memoir. Kirkus Review, June 2020

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Mancuso, DanielYiayia next door

Yiayia Next Door / Daniel and Luke Mancuso

Gestures of neighborly love give rise to soulful recipes in this collection of Greek comfort foods. In the family home where their mother’s life was tragically cut short by domestic violence when they were young, the Australian brothers were the beneficiaries of pastries, soups, and casseroles passed over the fence by a neighbor they called yiayia (“grandmother” in Greek). Here, they share her recipes and their “Mum’s,” as well as memories of their own Greek heritage cuisine. While the classics are covered in recipes that often draw upon vegetables fresh from the brothers’ backyard garden (eggs with peppers, spanakopita, avgolemono soups), there are novelties, too, like lamb racks glazed with a strawberry jam and red wine sauce. Though “yiayia” prefers to keep her identity private, step-by-step photos show her hands working translucent filo dough for cheese pie, and braiding Easter bread. Her kitchen tips, meanwhile, reflect a no-fuss, no-waste sensibility: home cooks are encouraged to wash and reuse foil and zip-top bags, while excess chilies from the garden are strung together and hung to dry. Cooking recipes like their Mum’s cannelloni “helps fill a void in our hearts,” the Mancusos say, and their book is sure to do the same for others. This delivers the goods on every level. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2022

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Bailey, JackieThe eulogy
Bervoets, HannaWe had to remove this post
Brooks, GeraldineHorse
Cannon, JoannaA tidy ending
Connell, D. J.The improbable life of Ricky Bird
Emezi, AkwaekeYou made a fool of death with your beauty
Fisher, TarrynAn honest lie
Geard, AmandaThe midnight house
Ghani, ZahedaPomegranate and fig
Giacco, FrancescaSix days in Rome
Goldberg, AshleyAbomination
Grisham, JohnSparring Partners
Hausmann, RomyDear Child
Jordan, JackDo no harm
Kassab, YumnaAustraliana
Manning, MelissaSmokehouse
McAllister, GillianWrong place, wrong time
McKenzie, MosesAn olive grove in Ends
McLean, FelicityRed
Pierce, NellA place near Eden
Piper, SallyBone memories
Purman, VictoriaThe nurses’ war
Saint, JenniferElektra
Shipstead, MaggieYou have a friend in 10A
Straub, EmmaThis time tomorrow
Swallow, JamesAirside
Taddeo, LisaGhost Lover
Ward, SophieThe Schoolhouse
White, KierstenHide

Sparring Partners / John Grisham

Three Grisham novellas show the less glorious side of the legal profession. In the first, Homecoming, Jake Brigance is a lawyer in a small Mississippi town with too many lawyers. One day, his office receives an envelope containing a note and enough cash for a one-week vacation to Costa Rica for Jake and his wife. All he’s asked to do is convey a message and relay the response. The offer/request is from Mack Stafford, an attorney who’d skipped town three years earlier with $400,000 of his clients’ money, leaving behind his wife, two teenage daughters, and clients who still don’t even know they’ve been bilked. Now he feels bad and wants to come home and reestablish contact with family. Will they want anything to do with him? No startling twists, but Mack is surprisingly sympathetic given what he’s done. In Strawberry Moon, 29-year-old Cody Wallace sits on death row for a botched robbery-turned-murder committed when he was 14. His brother had pulled the trigger on the homeowners and was killed in the shootout. Over the years, Cody’s lawyer has tried every legal trick and delaying tactic he could, and now it’s execution day. The only hope left is clemency from the governor. Meanwhile, Cody’s sole visitor has been his lawyer, although a Midwestern woman has corresponded with him and sent him books—lots of books. With execution imminent, he has one last wish that’s against prison rules and could get a friendly guard fired. The last yarn, Sparring Partners, features a most dysfunctional family of lawyers. Bolton Malloy is the disbarred head of Malloy & Malloy and is serving prison time for killing his wife, a most disagreeable woman whom no one misses. Rusty and Kirk, his two lawyer sons, despise each other as well as dear old dad, but their old man has forced them to sign an agreement never to leave the firm without paying a serious penalty. Bolton hopes to get out of prison soon, but the kids hope otherwise. So while the first two stories are touching, the last is anything but. You just want everybody to slither back under a rock—or maybe under separate rocks. Grisham’s fans will enjoy these tales of betrayal, hope, and dysfunction. Kirkus Review, May 2022


Red / Felicity McLean

Ruby McCoy (aka Red) is a rebellious teenager living with her dreamer/ schemer father, Sid. The McCoys have a history of being downtrodden by the Healy family. The latest Healy is a police sergeant. Sid is a larrikin whose appreciation of a quick dollar is greater than that for the law. The overtly corrupt Sergeant Healy uses his position within the law itself to make even quicker, bigger dollars. The two families are set on a collision course, with Red caught in the centre. It’s the early 1990s and the force is rife with dirty cops – none dirtier than Healy. Sid is coerced into Healy’s enterprises. Then, after he and his accomplice, Chook, are set up, Sid is jailed leaving Red alone. Her friend, Stevie, and his family take her in, but she’s drawn (fatefully) back to her home where she’s confronted by Sergeant Healy. This is a retelling of the Ned Kelly story, with crossovers of Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter. This story is in the country’s DNA; there’s no need for spoiler alerts. How that story is retold without reverting to cliché is pivotal to its success. The one abiding image of Ned is his armoured last stand. As the narrative reaches its crescendo this image is handled with dexterity, having been foreshadowed seamlessly into the early narrative. Importantly, Red narrates her own story. The language (especially the lack of punctuation) is styled to indicate her lack of education and/or her subversion of societal norms. The text has also been ‘censored’ with the swearing redacted, educated guesses notwithstanding. Time-specific cultural references are scattered throughout, making this a marvellous – and often humorous – 1990s time warp. This is a very clever reworking. Good Reading Magazine, June 2022


Elektra / Jennifer Saint

The tale of the Trojan War told by three women who have their own battles to fight. Elektra is just a girl when her father, Agamemnon, leads the largest Greek army ever assembled to wage war against Troy. She pines for his return as she comes of age over the decade it takes for Troy to fall. Her mother, Clytemnestra, seethes with rage, grief, and, above all, the desire for vengeance for what her husband is willing to sacrifice for this war of vanity. Meanwhile, in Troy itself, Cassandra watches the daily horrors unfold. Try as she might to warn her people of the devastation she sees coming, she can’t overcome her reputation as a madwoman. The novel is told from the first-person points of view of these three women, and, at first, trying to sort out all the names and family histories, however familiar, feels like the homework assignment it once was. But with the pieces in place, author Saint animates the three women and sets them off. Clytemnestra, the most fully realized, propels the narrative forward with a fresh, raw depth of emotion for a story that’s been told through the ages. Elektra’s and Cassandra’s sections can feel repetitive, but they tend to be shorter, which quickens the pace. Together, these voices show how three very different women understand family, the costs of war, and how to exercise their power. While Helen, Clytemnestra’s twin sister, has some nuance in this version, it seems odd that Saint chose not to take the opportunity to animate the perspective of the legendary beauty who incited the war. Nevertheless, the women whose perspectives are represented are riveting. Royals, revenge, curses, and prophecies done right. Kirkus Review, May 2022


We Had to Remove This Post / Hanna Bervoets

Scathing, darkly humorous exploration of the impact of VR, IRL. Up until 16 months ago, Kayleigh was a content moderator at Hexa, a company contracted by an unnamed social media platform to review user posts for inappropriate content. Kayleigh and her co-workers must view hundreds of disturbing posts and videos per day and accurately categorize and flag videos for removal according to company guidelines. The guidelines are often counterintuitive, with more attention to preventing litigation than preventing harm. As Kayleigh and her co-workers begin to internalize the horrors they see each day, the line between the virtual and the physical world, truth and bot chatter, grows fuzzy. Co-workers mistake a roof repairman for a jumper, try to contact users who livestream self-harm, and join flat-earther cults. In this twist on the workplace drama, Bervoets masterfully captures our contemporary moment without devolving into national politics or soapbox rhetoric. Think Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation but with characters who have aged a few years and started full-time jobs. The psychological toll inherent to today’s workforce, big tech ethics, and viral misinformation—each are examined in turn by Kayleigh’s wonderfully snarky, unreliable narration and Bervoets’ intimate portrayals of a well-imagined and diverse cast of characters. Look out for a sucker-punch ending as Kayleigh searches for one of her flagged influencers in person. At first it’s infuriating—over-the-top, out of character, and abrupt. But on further consideration, this controversial conclusion has the reader experience Kayleigh’s emotional process after reviewing each post: shocked back into reality and left to wonder how to live with what she’s seen. Bervoets just gets it. This is, unironically, a novel for our time. Kirkus Review, March 2022


Horse / Geraldine Brooks

A long-lost painting sets in motion a plot intertwining the odyssey of a famed 19th-century thoroughbred and his trainer with the 21st-century rediscovery of the horse’s portrait. In 2019, Nigerian American Georgetown graduate student Theo plucks a dingy canvas from a neighbor’s trash and gets an assignment from Smithsonian magazine to write about it. That puts him in touch with Jess, the Smithsonian’s “expert in skulls and bones,” who happens to be examining the same horse’s skeleton, which is in the museum’s collection. (Theo and Jess first meet when she sees him unlocking an expensive bike identical to hers and implies he’s trying to steal it—before he points hers out further down the same rack.) The horse is Lexington, “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history,” nurtured and trained from birth by Jarret, an enslaved man who negotiates with this extraordinary horse the treacherous political and racial landscape of Kentucky before and during the Civil War. Brooks, a White writer, risks criticism for appropriation by telling portions of these alternating storylines from Jarret’s and Theo’s points of view in addition to those of Jess and several other White characters. She demonstrates imaginative empathy with both men and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness, as when Theo takes Jess’ clumsy apology—“I was traumatized by my appalling behavior”—and thinks, “Typical….He’d been accused, yet she was traumatized.” Jarret is similarly but much more covertly irked by well-meaning White people patronizing him; Brooks skillfully uses their paired stories to demonstrate how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable when a Union officer angrily describes his Confederate prisoners as “lost to a narrative untethered to anything he recognized as true.…Their fabulous notions of what evils the Federal government intended for them should their cause fail…was ingrained so deep, beyond the reach of reasonable dialogue or evidence.” The 21st-century chapters’ shocking denouement drives home Brooks’ point that too much remains the same for Black people in America, a grim conclusion only slightly mitigated by a happier ending for Jarret. Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message. Kirkus Review, June 2022


Australiana / Yumna Kassab

When a book is set around a place you’ve lived in, the first page is approached with trepidation. When that place is Tamworth, the apprehension is whether there’ll be a focus on big hats and gee-tars. Thankfully, there’s not a hoedown in sight. This pathos-rich, deeply perceptive writing showcases an empathetic understanding of the trials facing rural towns. The book is divided into five parts. ‘The Town’ features a relay of interlocking vignettes with a baton change of characters from one story to the next. Each subsequent protagonist has some connection with the one before. The imagery is spectacular (the leather couch stuck in the mud; the dummy set into a tree for target practice). ‘My Face Is Nameless’ is more rural, with stand-alone stories dealing with the despair of empty tanks and the very real prospect of farmer suicide. ‘The Blind Side’ deals with rumours besetting a member of a tiny community and his life’s descent from town’s ‘royalty’ to abject scorn. ‘Pillaga’ deals with the myth of a ghost haunting the highway through the Pillaga Scrub. Gothic fiction at its finest. ‘Thunderbolt’ tells of the bushranger, Thunderbolt, and his time pillaging Uralla and highlights Kassab’s deft poetic sensibility. Kassab writes with consummate skill. Perhaps the greatest acclamation might come from these regional communities, when they see themselves rendered with such care and compassion. Good Reading Magazine, June 2022


An Olive Grove in Ends / Moses McKenzie

Drug violence, religious strife, and a star-crossed romance play out in this Shakespearean tale set in a Bristol neighborhood of Caribbean and Somali immigrants called Ends. Born into a large, “infamous” family of Pentecostal preachers with Jamaican roots, Sayon Hughes, the young narrator of this debut novel, is mostly raised by his grandmother alongside his many cousins. Along with them, he has inherited “generations of trauma passed on by relatives” and intensified by “a system intent on keeping us in place.” Drawn into the drug trade by his cousin Cuba, whom he considers his brother, Sayon is arrested for dealing and serves six months in jail. The sentence is one of many setbacks that threaten his relationship with the bright and upstanding Shona Jennings, a Baptist preacher’s daughter and aspiring record-label owner whom he and everyone else assumes he’ll marry. “If looks could kill she had a knife at my neck,” he says. After being pushed into a shocking act of violence, Sayon is so afraid of Shona’s finding out about the misdeed that he strikes a deal with her father, Pastor Lyle, who knows what happened but has his own dark secrets to keep. He won’t tell his daughter about the incident if Sayon promises to cut ties with Cuba and the rest of his family, repent, and become born again while living in the Jennings house. There’s no way that plan is going to work, but Pastor Lyle’s open hatred of Muslim Somalis ultimately has a positive effect in awakening Sayon to Islam, a religion that makes sense to him. One of the many notable achievements of this remarkable debut by the 23-year-old McKenzie is to sustain our affection for Sayon even when he is acting badly. “Childhood and innocence are only synonymous to the privileged,” he says. Recalling Zadie Smith’s masterpiece White Teeth (2000), published when she was 25, this is the most exciting U.K. debut in years. A gritty coming-of-age tale for the ages. Kirkus Review, March 2022


Ghost lover / Lisa Taddeo

Lisa Taddeo is known for her razor-sharp writing that peers into women’s interior lives and exposes their deepest desires. Ghost Lover is a collection of nine short stories that continues her exploration of the modern woman. There’s Ari, a self-made millionaire, living in a Malibu beachfront house, battling an eating disorder and obsessive love. Joan is a young woman working on a movie set who is determined to sleep with the star. Grace Magorian joins an invitation-only dating site and becomes obsessed with DigLitt, who is ‘searching for the best woman in the world’. There are 18-year-olds partying in Puerto Rico and three women competing to win the heart of a handsome politician at a fundraising event. Taddeo’s stories span different cities, timelines and lifestyles. Her writing appeals to the senses: the burn of the Californian sun, the taste of endless cocktails, the ache of a heart lusting over a person who doesn’t feel the same. But for all there is to admire – the unapologetic refusal to conform to how women are expected to feel – there is also an undercurrent of sadness. These middle-class white women are endlessly unhappy, hating their bodies, trying to stave off ageing, always at the mercy of male whims and wants. Nevertheless, Taddeo’s powerful writing is mesmerising and the characters unforgettable. Good Reading Magazine, July 2022

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Alpsten, EllenTsarina
Cornwell, BernardSharpe’s assassin
Tremain, RoseLily
Wilson, DominiqueOrphan rock

Sharpe’s Assassin / Bernard Cornwell

Last seen in 2007’s Sharpe’s Fury, the indestructible Richard Sharpe has one more battle to fight in bestseller Cornwell’s rousing 24th novel featuring the English rifleman. Born in the gutter to a London prostitute, Sharpe has risen in the ranks through his bravery and now, as a lieutenant colonel, leads a battalion headed for Paris after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. His benefactor, the Duke of Wellington, has a mission for him in the city—to rescue a British spy who’s keen on returning the artwork the French have looted from the rest of Europe to its rightful owners. He must also track down a rumored faction of Frenchmen determined to continue resistance and contend with a cowardly English major who flogged him for no reason years before when he was an ordinary soldier. Banter between Sharpe and his Irish sidekick, Sgt. Patrick Harper, adds some welcome humor. The action builds to a high-stakes sword fight between Sharpe and a French officer that’s resolved in an unexpected and satisfying way. Series fans will be pleased to see Sharpe retire from the army on a high note. Publisher’s Weekly, Dec 2021

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Adolfsson, MariaWild shores
Barton, FionaLocal gone missing
Billingham, MarkThe murder book
Burke, James LeeEvery cloak rolled in blood
Burr, ShelleyWake
Castillo, LindaFALLEN
Gray, ClaudiaThe murder of Mr. Wickham
Hare, LouiseMiss Aldridge regrets
Kaden, KylieOne of us
Lackberg, CamillaTrapped
McKinty, AdrianThe island
Montag, KassandraThose who return
Pinborough, SarahInsomnia
Riley, LucindaThe murders at Fleat House
Scrivenor, HayleyDirt town
Spain, JoThe last to disappear
Spencer, MatthewBlack river
Sten, CamillaThe resting place
Upson, NicolaDear Little Corpses
Weaver, TimThe blackbird

Local Gone Missing / Fiona Barton

In the prologue of this suspenseful crime novel from bestseller Barton (The Widow), set in the small British seaside community of Ebbing, an unidentified man strains to spit out the gag in his mouth just as someone enters the room where he’s being held. In the main narrative, cleaning woman Dee Eastwood, whose clientele includes 73-year-old Charlie Perry and his “some years” younger wife, Pauline, arrives one morning at the Perrys’ caravan and discovers Charlie is missing. Pauline later admits she hadn’t noticed his absence until Dee woke her. Flash back 17 days to Charlie’s visit to his brain-damaged daughter, Birdie, in a residential care facility. Birdie’s injuries were ostensibly caused by a drug addict who tortured her 20 years earlier during a burglary to get her to reveal where her valuables were. Another flashback introduces Det. Insp. Elise King, who also employs Dee. When Elise returns to active duty after being treated for breast cancer, she’s assigned to the search for Charlie, an inquiry that reveals multiple secrets about him, including why he lied about the real cause of Birdie’s injuries. Barton’s facility at creating plausible characters makes emotional involvement with them easy. Minette Walters fans will be pleased. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2022


The murder book / Mark Billingham

A female serial killer is only the tip of the latest iceberg for DI Tom Thorne. Richard Sumner, who’d planned to find some online “no strings nookie” while his wife was in Liverpool at a conference, ends up minus his ears and his life. Hari Reddy’s latest hookup in Clapham cuts out his tongue before killing him. Only then does a phone tip alert the coppers to the mutilated three-week-old corpse of Thomas Bristow in Hadley Wood. The murders are clearly the work of the same woman, and thanks to the panoptic surveillance apparatus of contemporary London, it’s not long before she’s identified as supermarket clerk Rebecca Driver. Only after her arrest do the twists start to come. Instead of denying her guilt, she seems to take pride in it and in her subservient direction by a man Thorne quickly decides is Stuart Nicklin, a prolific killer who escaped prison and kidnapped pathologist Phil Hendricks six years ago. When Thorne interviews Rebecca in prison, she all but laughs in his face. Nicklin, meantime, has started to assert himself in more direct and baleful ways that have Thorne scurrying to protect his girlfriend, forensic psychiatrist Melita Perera; his former partner, Helen Weeks; his current partner, DI Nicola Tanner; and of course Hendricks. But when he can’t even keep his emotions in check successfully enough to avoid threatening another officer whose complaint gets him removed from the case, how can he possibly stay one step ahead of a criminal who’s evidently spent years preparing his revenge? Another return-of-master-criminal sequel better in parts than as a whole. Kirkus Review, May 2022


Every cloak rolled in blood / James Lee Burke

More or less retired to Montana, SF author Aaron Holland Broussard is faced with a series of crimes evidently committed by someone who’s been dead for more than a hundred years. Aaron, now 85, has been haunted by the specter of his daughter, Fannie Mae, ever since she succumbed to alcohol, Ambien, and unsuitable men at the relatively tender age of 54. All he wants is to be left in peace on his homestead near the Flathead Reservation. Instead, he sees resentful neighbor John Fenimore Culpepper and his son, Leigh, painting a swastika on his barn door. Soon after he reports the outrage to State Trooper Ruby Spotted Horse and Sister Ginny Stokes, pastor of the New Gospel Tabernacle, stops off to repaint his door, he gets an unwelcome visit from Clayton and Jack Wetzel, a pair of meth-head brothers looking for trouble. Clayton’s problems end when he’s found dead near the railroad tracks, and Aaron tries to assuage Jack’s by giving him some work around his place and treating him with unaccustomed decency. But Aaron himself is more and more troubled, not only because two cafe waitresses are killed in separate incidents, but because his visitations from Fannie Mae are supplemented by increasingly painful visions of Maj. Eugene Baker, who ordered a historic massacre of the Native Americans living on the land in 1870. The arrival of murderous meth dealer Jimmie Kale, a familiar Burke type, convinces Aaron that “Baker had the power to commit crimes in the present”—and that present-day America offers him unique avatars and opportunities to do so. Less mystery than history, less history than prophecy, and all the stronger for it. Kirkus review, Mar 2022


The Murder of Mr. Wickham / Claudia Gray

This enchanting mystery from YA author Gray (Defy the Stars) answers the question long in the mind of every Jane Austen fan. Did all the couples from her novels live happily ever after? In 1820, Emma Woodhouse Knightley, social as ever after 16 years of marriage, decides to host a house party for her friends, including Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy and their 20-year-old son, Jonathan, and Juliet Tilney, the 17-year-old daughter of Emma’s good friend Catherine Tilney from Northanger Abbey. Emma definitely did not plan on George Wickham, despised widower of Elizabeth Darcy’s sister Lydia, showing up unannounced during a raging thunderstorm. Age has not improved Wickham’s character. He’s now a financial “advisor” whose latest investment scheme has brought several of his clients to the brink of ruin—including more than one of Emma’s guests. When Wickham is murdered, no one in the house party is above suspicion. The younger generation rises to the occasion when Jonathan and Juliet make a secret plan to uncover the murderer. The middle section drags a bit, but Gray perfectly captures the personalities of Austen’s beloved characters. This is a real treat for Austenites. Publishers Weekly, July 2022


Dirt town / Hayley Scrivenor

The novel opens with the discovery of Esther Bianchi’s body. However, it is who is telling the reader of the discovery that is so interesting: a group that speaks to the reader with one unified voice. A seemingly omnipresent group that knows things. A group that we find out are the children of the town. ‘Dirt Town’ is what the locals, mostly the children, call their town but Durton is its real name. And although this wonderful debut novel is predominantly about the disappearance of a young girl, it is about so much more. While the search is on for Esther, who the reader already knows is dead from the first chapter, Dirt Town slowly reveals its skeletons in the closet. In such a small town, everybody thinks they know everything about everybody, but they don’t. Scrivenor fills the narrative with wonderful characters. DS Sarah Michaels is the officer in charge of finding Esther, exposing the town’s secrets in her search. Ronnie is Esther’s best friend and the last person to see her alive. Lewis, the school’s outcast for his effeminacy, was also friends with both girls. He has information that would help the case but will not tell the authorities, fearing he will expose his own secret. However, his is only one of many that the town is hiding. The chapters are told from the perspective of different characters, including the collective group of children who are known simply as ‘We’. These chapters are a highlight of the book, starting and ending the novel. A stellar debut that had me guessing all the way! Good Reading Magazine, May 2022


Fallen / Linda Castillo

In bestseller Castillo’s exhilarating 13th Amish mystery (after 2020’s Outsider), Painters Mill, Ohio, police chief Kate Burkholder investigates the murder of Rachael Schwartz, a young woman she once babysat, who was beaten to death in a local motel. Kate, who recalls Rachael’s rebellious attitude as a child, isn’t surprised Rachael, like Kate, left the Amish faith. Rachael lived in Cleveland, where she co-owned a restaurant, but Kate can’t determine what brought her back to Painters Mill. As Kate speaks with Rachael’s business partner, Andrea Matson, and Amish best friend Loretta Bontrager, she deduces Rachael made most of her money from blackmailing people, creating several Amish and “English” enemies along the way. Flashbacks to 2008, when Rachael and Loretta were in their late teens, showcase Rachael’s free-spirited behavior and potential culprits. The tension rises as Kate narrows down the suspects and falls into danger at the climax. In addition to providing readers with plenty of Amish cultural context, Castillo adds surprising twists to the gripping plot and touches upon police brutality and Amish discrimination. This sterling entry can be easily read as a standalone. Publishers Weekly, April 2021


The Island / Adrian McKinty

Deliverance meets The Road Warrior in this harrowing survival thriller set in Australia from bestseller McKinty (The Chain). Heather, a 24-year-old Seattle massage therapist, has recently married surgeon Tom Baxter, a widower who’s 20 years her senior. She’s also taken on the responsibility of caring for Tom’s children, 14-year-old Olivia and 12-year-old Owen. Olivia and Owen view Heather as “too young to be a real mom,” and Heather agrees. When Tom is invited to give the keynote speech at a medical conference in Melbourne, he packs up the family, saying they can make a mini vacation of the trip. Given the incessant demands of the kids to see koalas and kangaroos, Tom agrees to pay an exorbitant sum to take a ferry to a small private island, which turns out to be the home of the unsavory O’Neil family. A penknife Heather received as a gift from an Aboriginal man on the mainland comes in handy after an accidental road death leads the vengeful O’Neils to target the Baxters. How Heather and the children wind up pooling their abilities to stay alive against all odds makes for an exhilarating ride. McKinty is a master of suspense. Publishers Weekly, May 2022


Black river / Matthew Spencer

Black River opens with the discovery of a young woman’s body, wrapped in black plastic, in the vast bushland of a prestigious private school in Sydney. Detective Chief Inspector O’Neil and Detective Sergeant Rose Riley are trying to find links between this fresh murder, and the two unsolved slayings by the ‘Blue Moon Killer’ along the Parramatta River. Washed up journalist Adam Bowman is thrown into the thick of the investigation, as he works between the detectives and his editor to help piece together this puzzle, while getting his career back on course. The entire school community watches on in horror as many of them become suspects in an investigation to hunt down a serial killer on the loose. Spencer puts you in the thick of the mystery, giving you a firm grasp on this murder mystery from both a detective’s perspective, as well as an investigative journalist perspective. His red herrings are millimetre perfect, as he constantly keeps you doubting your predictions. You could easily mistake him for a seasoned veteran of the thriller genre. A debut like few others, this tale feels vibrant and real for an array of reasons. Spencer himself is an accomplished journalist, who grew up in Parramatta with parents who taught and lived on the grounds of the prestigious King’s School. Keep the lights on while you read this one. The plotting is masterful and the setting faithful to the rugged Australian landscape. Spencer has made a statement in this outstanding debut. Black River has the potential to be one of the best police procedural novels of 2022.


The Resting Place / Camilla Sten

Eleanor, the heroine of this engrossing, character-rich psychological thriller from Swedish author Sten (The Lost Village), has prosopagnosia, or face blindness, which prevents her from recognizing the person she witnesses murder her grandmother, Vivianne. Months later, still undergoing therapy for trauma caused by the experience, Eleanor learns she has inherited Solhöga, her grandmother’s manor house located in isolated Swedish woodlands, and she—along with her long-standing boyfriend, Sebastian; a hostile aunt, Veronika; and the estate’s lawyer, Rickard—gather at Solhöga to sort out the details. Almost immediately, increasingly ominous incidents begin to occur: the groundskeeper who was supposed to meet them is missing, Eleanor sees a mysterious figure lurking on the grounds after dark, and unexplained accidents take place. It soon becomes clear that what’s going on is tied to Vivianne’s hidden past. Suspense builds steadily as a body is discovered, Rickard is seriously assaulted, and a winter storm traps the party with no hope of getting away. The powerful conclusion is satisfying for both Eleanor and the reader. Sten is on a roll. Publishers Weekly, January 2022


Dear Little Corpses / Nicola Upson

As certain war with Germany looms, the evacuation of children from London provides the perfect backdrop for mystery writer Josephine Tey’s latest round of sleuthing. The arrival of two buses filled with Shoreditch children in the Suffolk village of Polstead is marked by utter chaos. There are so many more arrivals than anyone had expected that the careful arrangements Hilary Lampton, the vicar’s wife, had made for placing the children are turned upside down. When siblings Lillian, Florence, and Edmund Herron refuse to take in Noah Stebbing along with Betty, the sister they’d agreed to house, Josephine and her lover, screenwriter Marta Fox, suddenly find themselves with Noah, who makes a beeline for his sister before his hosts are awake the next morning. A more serious disappearance is that of Annie Ridley, a local child who vanishes from the playground where the newcomers have been dropped off. DCI Penrose of Scotland Yard leads an all-out effort to find her that’s joined by virtually everyone in the village, including Josephine and the visiting fete judge Mrs. Carter, better known as fellow mystery writer Margery Allingham. An intensive three-day search for Annie ends when she’s discovered alive and safe, reassuring her mother back in London, though her disappearance is linked to the murder of Hoxton rent collector Frederick Clifford outside Castlefrank House, the home of Noah and Betty’s mother. Neither writer carries off detecting honors, but the historical background and the central situation Upson spins out of it are so strong that few readers will care. A depressingly timely historical village cozy guaranteed to disturb anyone who cares about Ukrainian refugees. Kirkus Review, May 2022

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Smith, EmmaPortable magic 028.9 SMIT
Montell, AmandaCultish 306.44 MONT
Doig, A.This mortal coil 306.9 DOIG
Grayling, A. C.For the good of the world 327.17 GRAY
Rudd, KevinThe avoidable war 327.5 RUDD
Logan, SandiBetrayed 363.45 LOGA
Faleiro, SoniaThe good girls 364.152 FALE
Williams, Rachel DeLoacheMy friend Anna 364.163 WILL
Walker, Matthew P.Why we sleep 612.821 WALK
Heneage, JamesThe shortest history of Greece 949.5 HENE
Devine, MirandaLaptop from hell 973.93 DEVI

The Good Girls / Sonia Faleiro

A modern-day Rashomon that offers multiple views of the widely publicized deaths of two young women in rural India. In the summer of 2014, two teenagers, whom Faleiro calls Padma and Lalli, left their homes in the countryside of Uttar Pradesh, walking to a nearby orchard. Not long after, they were found hanging from a tree. An autopsy was inconclusive, but it seemed likely that the girls had been raped. Consequently, the village was swept up in a vortex of contending views on religion, caste, gender roles, women’s rights, and other thorny issues, all cogently explored by the author. The principal suspects were members of a low caste. “Their lives had been dismantled,” writes Faleiro, a sympathetic yet unrelenting investigator. “And not one politician, they said, not even one of their own, had come to see them, never mind offer them assistance of any sort….This is what it meant to be poor.” Other issues were at play, including the fact that the girls had dared use their cellphones in public—an act that proved, according to a society where women are untrustworthy, that they were seeking dangerous liaisons. As Faleiro carefully documents, the disappearance of the girls was not extraordinary: “In the year that Padma and Lalli went missing, 12,361 people were kidnapped and abducted in Uttar Pradesh, accounting for 16 per cent of all such crimes in India.” In a recent case, a wealthy businessman had murdered at least 17 people, some of them children, whose disappearances the police had not paid attention to precisely because they were poor. Padma’s and Lalli’s graves suffered a final indignity during a devastating flood, and while their case seems to resist definitive resolution, it shows that, “for the poor, who have always suffered the most, India hasn’t changed all that much.” A gripping story that brings home the point that India may be “the worst place in the world to be a woman.” Kirkus Review, December 2021


For the good of the World / A. C. Grayling

The good intentions of this book cannot be overstated. Grayling is a philosopher and like any thinker worth their salt, questions humanity’s place in the world … and its (uncertain) future. This book outlines four significant obstacles to humanity’s survival. Central to the solution is the newly minted ‘Grayling’s Law’: ‘Anything that CAN be done WILL be done if it brings advantage or profit to those who can do it.’ Here Grayling suggests that global cooperation to alter the course of current and impending disasters is possible if all players see the upsides of action. Of the four, global warming is the most immediate. Solutions have received little more than lip service since 1824 and the Industrial Revolution. Grayling recognises that good policy is difficult to implement, but easy to dismantle (Abbott, Trump …). His greatest hope lies with today’s youth. Technology surges ahead. Can it be controlled by those producing it? Cyberwarfare is rife; genetic enhancement has already been attempted; robotic soldiers are mooted and human-AI interfaces may forever change human evolution. Equality of justice and human rights looks backwards to the still-lingering stain of colonialism and patriarchal hegemony. (How will those wielding power voluntarily relinquish it?) The fourth obstacle, relativism, relates to competing interests: someone’s access to rights shouldn’t impinge on another’s (equal) rights. Grayling’s solutions come in two parts. The first is to voluntarily agree to change. (Unlikely.) The other is having change forced upon us because the cost of inaction is unbearable. Grayling’s corollary is apt: ‘What CAN be done will NOT be done if it brings costs, economic or otherwise, to those who can stop it.’ With self-interested humans in charge, what hope do we have? Good Reading Magazine, March 2022


Cultish / Amanda Montell

A scrutiny of the social science behind cult communication. With the same verve demonstrated in her debut on feminism and language, Wordslut (2019), Montell explores how language can manipulate masses of people in detrimental ways. Using accessible prose, the author discusses the varied definitions of the word cult, the dangers of universally demonizing its terminology, and its murky history as society’s relationship with spirituality has evolved. Montell has always been intrigued by her father’s involvement in the Synanon movement in the 1970s, and she explores a wide range of “fanatical fringe groups with extreme ideologies.” The author compares their initial appeal to scanning the scene of an accident: The brain must assess the personal threat level and activate its “fight or flight” reaction. There is also the organic human need for communal intimacy, purpose, belonging, and organizational order. Montell intensively explores how the misleading euphemisms, politicized buzzwords, mantras, and subconsciously suggestive phrasing of “cult language” can be channeled and weaponized to mercilessly exploit participants of such “organizations” as QAnon or the notorious sex-trafficking group NXIVM. The author is an engaging storyteller, sharing tales of bizarre cult behavior found in a vast spectrum of memberships and organizations, including her own hard-sell encounter with Hollywood Scientologists. She also explores the mechanics of complex, multilevel marketing schemes like Amway. She chronicles her often shocking interviews with people who have been seduced by shadowy New Age groups like the 3HO Foundation as well as survivors of suicide cults like the Jonestown People’s Temple and the doomsayers of the Heaven’s Gate group. Of course, any discussion of cultlike language would be incomplete without hard-core fitness programs, and Montell diligently examines CrossFit, Peloton, and SoulCycle. With a provocative combination of interviews, anecdotes, and scientific and psychological research, Montell educates and empowers readers to become more aware of “the varying dialects of Cultish that imbue our daily lives.” A fascinating, enthusiastic narrative on the loaded language of cults. Kirkus Review, April 2021


Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams / Matthew P. Walker

Revelations about sleep that illustrate its vital importance to our brains, our bodies, and our lives. The director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Walker has spent decades researching sleep and has served as a consultant to sports teams, financial institutions, and TV producers. In other words, he is an expert, but more importantly, he knows how to explain it all clearly to general readers. He begins by showing what sleep is and what it isn’t, how other creatures sleep, and how it changes across a lifetime. In Part 2, he examines the numerous benefits of sleep and how it affects mental and physical health, such as the ability to learn and the fitness of the gut and the cardiovascular and immune systems. So important is sleep to our well-being that Walker counsels that the shorter one’s sleep, the shorter one’s life span. In Part 3, which peers into the brains of people dreaming, Walker provides examples of the sometimes-astonishing creativity and problem-solving power of dreams. This section also tackles the phenomenon of lucid dreams—i.e., dreams controlled by the dreamer. In Part 4, the author takes up sleep disorders and the harmful effects of sleep deprivation, not just to the individual, but to society. Walker counsels against sleeping pills and offers nondrug therapies that he has found to be effective. In the concluding chapter, “A New Vision for Sleep in the 21st Century,” the author outlines his proposals for enhancing sleep quantity and quality: individual use of new technology, sleep education in schools, sleep reform in the workplace, public campaigns to heighten awareness of the hazards of drowsy driving, and, more elusive, societal change in sleep awareness. Readers, he cordially advises, may read the parts in any order they prefer and close their eyes and take a nap if they feel like it. Though readers seeking dream interpretation will be disappointed, Walker provides a well-organized, highly accessible, up-to-date report on sleep and its crucial role in a healthy life. Kirkus Review, August 2017

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Holton, IndiaThe league of gentlewomen witches
Irwin, SophieA lady’s guide to fortune-hunting

The league of gentlewomen witches / India Holton

A screwball adventure within a paranormal comedy of manners. Charlotte Pettifer, the prophesied leader of the Wicken League of Gentlewomen Witches, stumbles into pirate Alex O’Riley while stealing a briefcase and just manages to escape by flying a bicycle over the roofs of London: Thus begins Holton’s second madcap rom-com about magic and mores in an alternate Britain, following The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels (2021). The gossamer-thin plot, in which Charlotte and Alex jostle to retrieve a magical amulet that belonged to a legendary witch, is mainly an excuse for clever banter, scenes of flying houses straight out of a Pixar movie, and jokey allusions to Jane Austen’s oeuvre. As the two careen around the countryside in Alex’s decrepit Irish cottage with his butler, Bixby, in search of the dangerous, wedding-obsessed witch who has stolen the amulet, arguing over who has kidnapped whom, they also tumble into bedroom activities. As they draw closer, Charlotte must accept her free spirit and learn to make friends, while Alex has to come to terms with childhood abuse by his parents and his own fear of intimacy. But the moments of self-reflection and mutual comforting between the two are kept to a minimum. With her arch turns of phrase and clever wordplay, Holton provides plenty of chuckles, evoking the gap between serious style and ridiculous content or vice versa that was the hallmark of the mock epic and Oscar Wilde. There’s no actual satire here, however, just a fun-filled romp in a topsy-turvy world of corset-wearing, knife-wielding, magic-casting women and gun-wielding, light-fingered, charming pirates. The cast of characters continues to amuse. For those who like romance that’s light on sex and heavy on hijinks. Kirkus Review, December 2012


A lady’s guide to fortune-hunting / Sophie Irwin

She’s looking for a fortune—any fortune. Kitty Talbot’s not like other fortune hunters of the ton. She was raised in Dorsetshire, far from the well-bred life of the season, and she has no interest in staying in town. She’s only in London because she has three months to snag a fortune, plus the man attached to it, so she and her four younger sisters can pay off her family’s debts and stay in their beloved home. She and her sister Cecily quickly get their feet on the first rung of the social ladder when they arrive, and Kitty employs some quick subterfuge to gain the interest of Archie de Lacy. He may not be the oldest son of his noble family, but he’s still good for “at least eight thousand a year,” and he nearly proposes to her—until his brother, Lord Radcliffe, comes home to put a stop to her conniving. At first she’s furious with Radcliffe, but they come to a mutual understanding, and he agrees to help her make a match with another high-born man who is debt-free and entitled to an allowance. Over several weeks, she and Cecily find their way into one society event after another, even snagging tickets to Almack’s Assembly Rooms, so Radcliffe and Kitty spend more time together as she tries to better understand the men she’s meeting. On the eve of a marriage proposal that could save her family, though, simultaneous family emergencies send Radcliffe off in pursuit of her sister and Kitty in pursuit of his brother, and the aftermath makes it difficult to deny what they have come to mean to each other. Irwin’s debut is charming, if a bit paint-by-numbers, recalling Georgette Heyer and other classics of the genre. In contrast to recent trends in historical romance, the hero and heroine don’t do much more than kiss on the page, and their romance develops quite late in the story; much of the plot focuses more on Kitty and Cecily’s introduction to the layers and intrigues of 1818 London. But it isn’t all Austen-esque; Kitty’s honesty about her aims, and Radcliffe’s acceptance of them, allows the story to suit modern sensibilities without sacrificing too much of the vintage feel. A sweet Regency debut for contemporary fans of classic romance. Kirkus Review, May 2022

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Feist, Raymond EMaster of furies
Miller, MadelineGalatea
Murray, AndyThe sanctuary

Master of Furies / Raymond E. Feist

Feist brings all his hallmarks—medieval-esque warfare, magical instruction, and strong family bonds—to bear in the satisfying conclusion to his Firemane Saga series. Following Queen of Storms, the forces of the Pride Lords from the continent of Nytanny have wiped out most settlers on the western edge of North Tembria, including the wives of Baron Daylon Dumarch and ironworker Declan Smith. Both men seek revenge, with Declan setting sail for a secret island where he can collect a special sand to forge an invincible blade and Daylon and his half brother, Balven, building up their army. Meanwhile, Hatushaly, last scion of the Firemane kings and heir to vast power, takes instruction from a mysterious visitor, as his wife, Hava, sails the seas, ferrying survivors to Sanctuary, news to Marquensas, and spies to Nytanny, all in preparation for an invasion. Feist does a fine job balancing skirmishes and battles with quieter moments of tutelage, espionage, and basic survival, and takes time as he wraps things up to tie the world of this series to others he’s created—a connection that won’t surprise fans. A late reveal points to further adventures for his characters, which readers will welcome. It’s a fittingly rip-roaring finale. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2022

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Walraven, ErnaSunset in Spain
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New additions to eBooks at SMSA

eBooks & Audiobooks help


General novelsBaldacci, DavidThe 6:20 Man
General novelsDavies, Matthew RyanThings We Bury
General novelsMercier, MercedesWhite Noise
General novelsNeal, RobbiThe Secret World of Connie Starr
MysteryGentill, SulariThe Woman in the Library
MysteryHart, PamelaAn A-List for Death
MysteryHicks, D. L.The fallback
MysteryLynch, RachelDead end
Non fictionAitken, BenThe Marmalade Diaries
Science fiction and fantasyGoenawan, ClarissaWatersong

The woman in the library / Sulari Gentill

This thrilling excursion into metafiction from Australian author Gentill wittily examines the writing process itself. Australian mystery writer Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid has come to Boston after receiving a prestigious writers’ fellowship. While she’s seeking inspiration in the Boston Public Library, a woman’s scream breaks the silence. Freddie seizes on this incident as the ideal start for her new opus, which involves “a group of people united by a scream.” Each chapter of Freddie’s book includes a letter written to famous Australian author Hannah Tigone by a dedicated fan, Leo Johnson, a fellow writer in residence who offers to be her beta reader. Hannah is writing the story of Freddie Kincaid, who’s writing the story of the murder in the library. Leo’s emails influence Hannah’s view of her characters and subsequently Freddie’s story. Leo’s emails shift from sycophantic to profoundly disturbing when his novel is rejected by Hannah’s agent. The agent dies a few days later, and murders in the two realities begin to multiply. This elegantly constructed novel is intelligent, funny, and profound. Who could ask for more? Publishers Weekly, March 2022


An A list for death / Pamela Hart

Poppy McGowan is back and her little house in Annandale is still not renovated. She is currently visiting her Aunty Mary in her retirement village while Mary is recovering from a knee replacement. And while she’s there, it is just Poppy’s usual luck to discover Mary’s neighbour and best friend Daisy unconscious and bleeding from a serious head wound in her bathroom. Fortunately, Daisy gets to hospital in time and gradually recovers but the attacks just keep coming – murder by strangulation, attempted murder by poisoning, burglary and vandalism – all linked to Daisy’s complicated family relationships, including a rock/pop star son, and provisions in a former husband’s will. As an extra complication, the retirement village manager appears to be taking kickbacks on the side. Long-suffering Detective Sergeant Chloe Prudhomme and her colleagues are involved again, along with Poppy’s work associates at the ABC and in the media, and Poppy’s ‘admirer’ Tol is a constant source of strength. When he becomes a suspect, Poppy is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of these disturbing events. Those readers familiar with Sydney will appreciate the settings in the inner city and the suburb of Ryde. However, these should not deter others from enjoying this contemporary urban mystery series. It is not necessary to have read Digging Up Dirt first to enjoy this second installment. Good Reading Magazine, July 2022

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General novelsAckerman, Eliot2034
General novelsCoyle, ZoeWhere the light gets in
General novelsWax, WendyThe break up book club
MysteryHewitt, J. M.The eight year lie
MysteryJoy, NaomiDo her no harm
MysteryMurphy, MargaretSee her burn
MysteryPadavona, Danthe final girl
MysteryThompson, VictoriaMurder in Chinatown
MysteryWilson, CarterThe dead husband
Science fictionChen, MikeLight years from home

2034 / Elliot Ackerman

In this sobering near-future novel from Ackerman (Waiting for Eden), a former Marine, and Stavridis (Sailing True North), a retired U.S. Navy admiral, a number of incidents across the globe build toward war between the U.S. and China. American war ships in the disputed waters of the South China Sea come upon an incapacitated trawler carrying advanced Chinese technology. The plane of a Marine pilot testing new stealth capability is remotely hijacked and delivered into Iranian hands. A Chinese defense attaché on assignment in the U.S. executes a plan to decimate the American Navy and cripple the nation’s cyber infrastructure. A U.S. deputy national security adviser at odds with his superiors must use his ethnic connections to negotiate a peace, even as an ever-escalating series of attacks engulfs American and Chinese cities in nuclear fire. The authors do a fine job depicting the human cost of geopolitical conflict, though they avoid the hardware emphasis of most military thrillers, and some of the potentially more exciting scenarios occur offstage. Those seeking a realistic look at how a future world war might play out will be rewarded. Publishers Weekly, December 2020


Light years from home / Michael Chen

Chen (We Could Be Heroes) returns with an endearing alien contact space opera that mixes dysfunctional family drama with UFO abduction conspiracies and makes for an excellent audiobook. Fifteen years ago, the Shao family was ripped apart when two of its members disappeared from a family camping trip: Arnold Shao, the family patriarch, who eventually returned, and his son Jakob, who did not. Arnold swore until his dying day that he and Jakob were abducted by aliens. Now Arnold’s twin daughters Kass and Evie barely speak and live on opposite sides of the country. Kass takes care of their mother, who has dementia, while Evie has dropped out of college to dive into the conspiracy theory–riddled world of UFO hunters. Soon Jakob returns, but is he really the brother Evie and Kass remember? Chen has written supremely thoughtful science fiction intertwined with a deeply relatable family drama, narrated here with gusto and empathy by the incomparable Emily Woo Zeller. Chen’s novel is sure to please fans of literary fiction as well as staples of sci-fi TV like The X-Files and Fringe. A worthy addition to any contemporary science fiction audio collection. Library Journal, April 2022


The break up book club / Wendy Wax

Annell’s book club meetings are like many others–half the time spent chatting about the book, half the time spent catching up, and plenty of wine and snacks. But the book club at Between the Covers, Annell’s bookstore, is special, too. It brings together a diverse group of customers, from EMTs to sports agents, golf-obsessed wives to quiet grandmothers. There’s a million reasons why every participant values the group’s camaraderie, community, and connection. When a rash of divorces, break-ups, and personal tragedies hits the group, they turn to each other for cheering up, sage advice, and an impressively researched revenge plot. An ensemble novel intertwining the stories of several women experiencing the highs and lows of modern love, Wax’s (My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding, 2019) latest novel was built for book clubs. Sure to delight rom-com fiends and fans of Emily Giffin’s and Holly Chamberlin’s books, it champions inner strength and the power of a fresh perspective. Highlighting the challenges of different seasons of life, Wax charts the journeys of a trusted group of strangers-turned-friends. Booklist, April 2021


The dead husband / Carter Wilson

A Milwaukee mystery writer recently and painfully widowed retreats to her childhood home in aptly named Bury, New Hampshire, to find even less comfort awaiting her there. The truth is that mostly unsuccessful entrepreneur Riley McKay’s adultery had killed his wife’s love even before a dose of sleeping pills washed down with alcohol killed Riley himself. Now Rose Yates has uprooted her son, Max, 11, from the only life he remembers and brought him into the orbit of her cruel, remote father, wealthy capital manager Logan Yates, mostly because she has nowhere else to go. Rose has been estranged from both her father and her older sister, Cora, for years. Some of the reasons are obvious from the moment Logan Yates shakes his grandson’s hand for the first time; others await the cold-case investigation into the disappearance 22 years ago of the sisters’ 16-year-old schoolmate Caleb Benner. What provokes that investigation, and what kindles Milwaukee Detective Colin Pearson’s interest in Riley McKay’s death, is Rose’s disconcerting habit of writing fictional versions of these mysteries into the novels she publishes as J.L. Sharp–years after Caleb Benner’s disappearance but well in advance of her late husband’s death. It’s clear that the Yateses are a memorably disturbed family, but is the root of the disturbance Rose’s writing, Cora’s bullying, or their father’s abuse? Wilson unveils each revelation of some new betrayal with surgical precision en route to a bittersweet finale. A harrowing reminder that you really can’t go home again. Kirkus Reviews, February 2021

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