Best New Books: Week of 2/13/2018

More than a few notable books are coming out this week. We have new titles from John Lescroart, Sophie Kinsella, and Jonathan Kellerman to look forward to, but perhaps the most buzz revolves around 2 other books. Caitlin Macy’s Mrs. is a family drama that’s garnering rave reviews and Amy Bloom’s White Houses is a piece of historical fiction that reveals a little known aspect of Eleanor Roosevelt. We’ve also got some mystery, some fantasy, and the first murder on the Moon. Nonfiction lovers won’t be disappointed either, as they can learn about the rise of Christianity or the impact of the Marshall Plan, or just get an impassioned plea for reason.



FICTION



Mrs. by  Caitlin Macy

mrsIn the well-heeled milieu of New York’s Upper East Side, coolly elegant Philippa Lye is the woman no one can stop talking about. Despite a shadowy past, Philippa has somehow married the scion of the last family-held investment bank in the city. And although her wealth and connections put her in the center of this world, she refuses to conform to its gossip-fueled culture.

Then, into her precariously balanced life, come two women: Gwen Hogan, a childhood acquaintance who uncovers an explosive secret about Philippa’s single days, and Minnie Curtis, a newcomer whose vast fortune and frank revelations about a penurious upbringing in Spanish Harlem put everyone on alert.

When Gwen’s husband, a heavy-drinking, obsessive prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office, stumbles over the connection between Philippa’s past and the criminal investigation he is pursuing at all costs, this insulated society is forced to confront the rot at its core and the price it has paid to survive into the new millennium.

Macy has written a modern-day House of Mirth, not for the age of railroads and steel but of hedge funds and overnight fortunes, of scorched-earth successes and abiding moral failures. A brilliant portrait of love, betrayal, fate and chance, Mrs. marries razor-sharp social critique and page-turning propulsion into an unforgettable tapestry of the way we live in the 21st Century.

Description from Goodreads.

“A fresh take on the society novel.” – Publishers Weekly

Mrs. could be the next Big Little Lies.” – Entertainment Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Freshwater by  Akwaeke Emezi

freshwaterAn extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.

Description from Goodreads.

“Nigerian-born author Emezi presents an emotionally charged debut with her novel, Freshwater . . . Emezi’s prose is vibrant and terrifying; she portrays Ada’s tribulations with breathtaking detail. Freshwater is a novel of unforgiving spirituality told in a manner that is sophisticated, precise and elegant.” – IndiePicks Magazine

“Part magical realism, part meditation on mental illness . . . Ada’s struggle provides a thought-provoking and visceral exploration of life with an altered state of mind.” – Harper’s Bazaar

Available Formats:

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Surprise Me by  Sophie Kinsella

surprise meAfter being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that questions some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

Description from Goodreads.

“In her signature fashion, Sophie Kinsella brings a cast of quirky, funny characters to this new work. [She] keeps the laughs coming. . . . Readers will follow the story with bated breath as the couple struggle to make their marriage right after everything they thought they knew about each other proves wrong.” – Library Journal
 
“Heartfelt . . . What at first seems like a light novel about familiar woes turns into a deeper story about trust, family, and perception.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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The Philosopher’s Flight by  Tom Miller

philosophers flightEighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service—a team of flying medics—Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals.

When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women.

Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers—and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.

In the tradition of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness, Tom Miller writes with unrivaled imagination, ambition, and humor. The Philosopher’s Flight is both a fantastical reimagining of American history and a beautifully composed coming-of-age tale for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.

Description from Goodreads.

“Part thriller, part romance, part coming-of-age fantasy, The Philosopher’s Flight by debut novelist Tom Miller has already set a high bar for any book vying to be the most entertaining novel of 2018…The wild and soaring The Philosopher’s Flight is as fun a read as you’ll come across. Miller appears to have left room for more at the story’s end; let’s hope this is the start of a new series.” – Bookpage 

“Spell-binding…a fantastical coming-of-age tale that will inspire and chill you.” – Rhode Island Monthly

Available Formats:

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MYSTERY & SUSPENSE



Night Moves by  Jonathan Kellerman

night movesAlex Delaware returns . . .

A brilliant criminal psychologist, Alex works with the police to help solve the most complex of crimes in Los Angeles, city of illusions, glamour and infamy.

An affluent family returns home from Sunday dinner only to find the murdered and brutalized corpse of a total stranger in their house. This baffling, twisted tale tests Alex and Milo to their intellectual and emotional limits.

Description from Goodreads.

“…exceptionally well-plotted… Newcomers will find this an easy entry point into this long-running series.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | AudiobookeBook


Death in the Stars by  Frances Brody

death in the starsYorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame . .

Description from Goodreads.

“Authentic period detail and memorable characters from the British music hall world distinguish this traditional mystery.” – Publishers Weekly

“Well-researched historical details, local knowledge, and some charming descriptive writing with vivid evocations of time and place make all the stories a great read. But this one, which opens with the brilliantly described solar eclipse of 1927, then transports itself into the fading days of music hall, is probably Brody’s best yet.” – Crime Review

Available Formats:

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Poison by  John Lescroart

poisonDismas Hardy is looking forward to cutting back his work hours and easing into retirement after recovering from two gunshot wounds. He is determined to spend more time with his family and even reconnect with his distant son, Vincent. But Dismas just can’t stay away from the courtroom for long and soon he is pulled into an intense family drama with fatal consequences.

Grant Carver, the vigorous patriarch of the Carver family and its four-generations owned family business, has been murdered. His bookkeeper Abby Jarvis, whom Hardy had defended on a DUI charge eleven years prior, is the prime suspect after police discover she’s been embezzling funds from the company—but she insists she did not kill her boss.

As he prepares to defend her, Dismas investigates the Carver clan and discovers the dark, twisted secrets within the family. It seems that Abby was not the only one who stood to profit from the company’s $25 million dollar market value. From jealous children to gold-digging girlfriends, Dismas has his work cut out for him in sifting through mud flinging, backstabbing, and accusations of blackmail.

But Dismas not only has to save his client’s life but his own, as it soon becomes clear that someone has a painted a target on his back, too. With Lescroart’s signature “smart, riveting, and utterly compelling” (Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author) prose, this whip smart and nail-bitingly suspenseful thriller will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Description from Goodreads.

“Lescroart never ceases to amaze his fans. The wit, the timing, the dialogue—everything combines to give this author yet another bestseller and provide readers with a fast-paced, memorable thriller.” – Suspense Magazine

“The narrative flows effortlessly and includes a Perry Mason–worthy moment when Hardy manifests a bit of courtroom magic. Lescroart is a perfect choice for readers who enjoy great ensemble casts.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

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HISTORICAL FICTION



White Houses by  Amy Bloom

white housesLorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan’s Washington Square, Amy Bloom’s new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.

Description from Goodreads.

“Bloom elevates this addition to the secret-lives-of-the-Roosevelts genre through elegant prose and by making Lorena Hickok a character engrossing enough to steal center stage from Eleanor Roosevelt.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Bloom convincingly weaves tender romance with hard-boiled reality.” –  USA Today

Available Formats:

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SCI-FI & FANTASY



Gunpowder Moon by  David Pedreira

gunpowder moonThe Moon smells like gunpowder. Every lunar walker since Apollo 11 has noticed it: a burnt-metal scent that reminds them of war. Caden Dechert, the chief of the U.S. mining operation on the edge of the Sea of Serenity, thinks the smell is just a trick of the mind—a reminder of his harrowing days as a Marine in the war-torn Middle East back on Earth.

It’s 2072, and lunar helium-3 mining is powering the fusion reactors that are bringing Earth back from environmental disaster. But competing for the richest prize in the history of the world has destroyed the oldest rule in space: Safety for All. When a bomb kills one of Dechert’s diggers on Mare Serenitatis, the haunted veteran goes on the hunt to expose the culprit before more blood is spilled.

But as Dechert races to solve the first murder in the history of the Moon, he gets caught in the crosshairs of two global powers spoiling for a fight. Reluctant to be the match that lights this powder-keg, Dechert knows the lives of him and his crew are meaningless to the politicians. Even worse, he knows the killer is still out there, hunting.

In his desperate attempts to save his crew and prevent the catastrophe he sees coming, the former Marine uncovers a dangerous conspiracy that, with one spark can ignite a full lunar war, wipe out his team . . . and perhaps plunge the Earth back into darkness.

Description from Goodreads.

“An excellent sci-fi thriller…The tension is especially strong in the novel’s last pages, leading to a conclusion that manages to be simultaneously cynical and hopeful. This is an exciting story with an unexpected depth—a solid winner.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Pedreira manages an impressive feat in his debut novel….bringing the all-too-familiar economic corruption and personal ruthlessness of capitalist exploitation to this foreign territory, and these subtle inflections elevate an already entertaining sci-fi mystery into a thought-provoking, unsettling work that will keep readers engaged.” – RT Book Reviews

Available Formats:

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NONFICTION



The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World by  Bart D. Ehrman

triumph of christianityFrom the New York Times bestselling authority on early Christianity, the story of how Christianity grew from a religion of twenty or so peasants in rural Galilee to the dominant religion in the West in less than four hundred years.

Christianity didn’t have to become the dominant religion in the West. It easily could have remained a sect of Judaism fated to have the historical importance of the Sadducees or the Essenes. In The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, a master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, shows how a religion whose first believers were twenty or so illiterate day laborers in a remote part of the empire became the official religion of Rome, converting some thirty million people in just four centuries. The Triumph of Christianity combines deep knowledge and meticulous research in an eye-opening, immensely readable narrative that upends the way we think about the single most important cultural transformation our world has ever seen—one that revolutionized art, music, literature, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law.

Description from Goodreads.

“The great appeal of Ehrman’s approach to Christian history has always been his steadfast humanizing impulse… Ehrman always thinks hard about history’s winners and losers without valorizing the losers or demonizing the winners… Reading about how an entire culture’s precepts and traditions can be overthrown without anyone being able to stop it may not be heartening at this particular historical moment. All the more reason to spend time in the company of such a humane, thoughtful and intelligent historian.” – The New York Times Book Review

“The value of Ehrman’s book, as is so often the case with his writings, is in his ability to synthesize complex material and distill it into highly readable prose.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

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Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by  Steven Pinker

9780525427575_Enlightenmen_JKF_REPRINT_NEONSIM.inddThe follow-up to Pinker’s groundbreaking The Better Angels of Our Nature presents the big picture of human progress: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature–tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking–which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.

Description from Goodreads.

“The world is getting better, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m glad we have brilliant thinkers like Steven Pinker to help us see the big picture. Enlightenment Now is not only the best book Pinker’s ever written. It’s my new favorite book of all time.” – Bill Gates

“Pinker defends progressive ideals against contemporary critics, pundits, cantankerous philosophers, and populist politicians to demonstrate how far humanity has come since the Enlightenment…In an era of increasingly “dystopian rhetoric,” Pinker’s sober, lucid, and meticulously researched vision of human progress is heartening and important.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War by  Benn Steil

marshall planThe award-winning author of Battle of Bretton Woods reveals the gripping history behind the Marshall Plan—told with verve, insight, and particular resonance for today.

In the wake of World War II, with Britain’s empire collapsing and Stalin on the rise, US officials under new secretary of state George C. Marshall set out with a plan to reconstruct Western Europe as a bulwark against communist authoritarianism. Their massive, costly, and ambitious undertaking would confront Europeans and Americans alike with a vision at odds with their history and self-conceptions. In the process, they would drive the creation of NATO, the European Union, and a Western identity that continues to shape world events.

Focusing on the critical years 1947 to 1949, Benn Steil’s thrilling account brings to life the seminal episodes marking the collapse of postwar US-Soviet relations—the Prague coup, the Berlin blockade, and the division of Germany. In each case, we see and understand like never before Stalin’s determination to crush the Marshall Plan and undermine American power in Europe.

Given the current echoes of the Cold War, as Putin’s Russia rattles the world order, the tenuous balance of power and uncertain global order of the late 1940s is as relevant as ever. The Marshall Plan provides thorough context into understanding today’s international landscape. Bringing to bear fascinating new material from American, Russian, German, and other European archives, Steil’s account will forever change how we see the birth of the Cold War and the Marshall Plan. A polished and masterly work of historical narrative, this is an instant classic of Cold War literature.

Description from Goodreads.

“A fresh perspective on the Marshall Plan….Though scholars have covered the subject many times before, general readers will do well to choose this lively, astute account….Steil writes a vivid, opinionated narrative full of colorful characters, dramatic scenarios, villains, and genuine heroes, and the good guys won. It will be the definitive account for years to come.” – Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

“Even readers who consider themselves well-versed on what became the Marshall Plan will be gripped by the details in Benn Steil’s retelling of just how Mr. Truman’s idea became reality…Mr. Steil, an economist for the Council on Foreign Relations, is at his narrative best in recounting how the program was put together.” – Washington Times 

Available Formats:

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