Best New Books: Week of 1/29/2019

A teenager growing up in New York in the 90’s. A father taking drastic measures to ensure the safety of his child. A hired assassin in Korea beginning to take his life into his own hands. A Trinidadian father faced with a wrenching decision. A young photographer in love with her twin brother’s best friend. Essays on the experience of being a black woman in America. With these stories, and more, you couldn’t ask for a more diverse group of books. Find out more about all of this week’s best new releases below, and see if one just might be your new favorite.



FICTION



The Falconer by  Dana Czapnik

falconerNew York, 1993. Seventeen-year-old Lucy Adler, a street-smart, trash-talking baller, is often the only girl on the public courts. At turns quixotic and cynical, insecure and self-possessed, Lucy is in unrequited love with her best friend and pick-up teammate Percy, scion to a prominent New York family, who wishes to resist his upper crust fate.

As she navigates this complex relationship with all its youthful heartache, Lucy is seduced by a different kind of life—one less consumed by conventional success and the approval of men. A pair of provocative female artists living in what remains of New York’s bohemia invite her into their world, but soon even their paradise begins to show cracks.

Told in vibrant, quicksilver prose, The Falconer is a “wholly original coming-of-age story” (Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists), providing a snapshot of the city and America through the eyes of the children of the baby boomers grappling with privilege and the fading of radical hopes. New York Times bestselling author Claire Messud calls The Falconer an “exhilarating debut,” adding that “Dana Czapnik’s frank heroine has a voice, and a perspective, you won’t soon forget.”

Description from Goodreads.

“Remember your moony-eyed, slightly awkward 17-year-old self, hesitantly optimistic for the future and bit overwhelmed by the present? Lucy Adler, the ridiculously endearing high school senior (and ridiculously gifted basketball player) at the center of Dana Czapnik’s debut novel, will take you back to the days of unrequited crushes with cold, cool boys and philosophical conversations with friends on walks home from school. The Falconer is the new definitive New York coming-of-age story — expect to underline many poignant sentences, as well as dreamy descriptions of the city at night.” – Refinery29

“The book is filled with highly caffeinated badass riffs on Manhattan’s scenery and soul, on feminism and art, on Lucy’s generation, and on basketball itself. . . . Lucy’s simmering sexuality, her reaction to the male bodies around her, is never off the page for long. After all the books we’ve read about horny, frustrated adolescent boys, it’s nice to get a different perspective. . . . Lucy may come from 1993, but her voice and her energy are just what we need right now.” – Newsday

“Coming-of-age in Manhattan may not have been done this brilliantly since Catcher in the Rye. . . . Get ready to fall in love.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book


We Cast a Shadow by  Maurice Carlos Ruffin

we cast a shadowHow far would you go to protect your child?

Our narrator faces an impossible decision. Like any father, he just wants the best for his son Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is growing larger by the day. In this near-future society plagued by resurgent racism, segregation, and expanding private prisons, our narrator knows Nigel might not survive. Having watched the world take away his own father, he is determined to stop history from repeating itself.

There is one potential solution: a new experimental medical procedure that promises to save lives by turning people white. But in order to afford Nigel’s whiteness operation, our narrator must make partner as one of the few Black associates at his law firm, jumping through a series of increasingly surreal hoops–from diversity committees to plantation tours to equality activist groups–in an urgent quest to protect his son.

This electrifying, suspenseful novel is at once a razor-sharp satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. Writing in the tradition of Ralph Ellison and Franz Kafka, Maurice Carlos Ruffin fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love.

Description from Goodreads.

“A full-throated novelistic debut of ferocious power and grace . . . a story that refracts the insanity of the world into a shape so unique you wonder how this book wasn’t there all along.” – Lit Hub

“Propulsive . . . We Cast a Shadow proves that the eeriest works of speculative fiction are those that hit closest to home.” – Vulture

“Like Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and the film Get Out . . . a singular and unforgettable work of political art.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An ambitious debut novel, We Cast a Shadow is a surrealistic satire about identity, race, and family relations. . . . [Ruffin] is a talented, genre-bending writer to watch.” – Garden & Gun

Available Formats:

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Golden Child by  Claire Adam

golden childRural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.

When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters–leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.

Like the Trinidadian landscape itself, Golden Child is both beautiful and unsettling; a resoundingly human story of aspiration, betrayal, and love.
 

Description from Goodreads.

“Throughout this stunning portrait of Trinidad’s multicultural diversity, and one family’s sacrifices, soaring hopes and ultimate despair, Adam weaves a poetic lightness and beauty that will transfix readers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Adam’s writing is luxuriant, evoking the atmospheric island setting and the complicated, worried lives lived under a near-constant sense of impending violence…Heartbreaking and lovely, this is an important work by a promising new voice.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“This is a tough, original novel of remarkable poise and confidence.” – The Economist

Available Formats:

Print Book


99 Percent Mine by  Sally Thorne

99 percent mineDarcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

Description from Goodreads.

“Thorne pours just the right amount of boy next door meets rebel girl into this slow-burn romance…[Darcy and Tom’s] sexual chemistry is hard to ignore, and Darcy’s snarky comebacks are the highlight of this novel…” – Publishers Weekly

“Thorne (The Hating Game, 2016) has crafted a romance that is equal parts funny, heartfelt, and steamy… Hand this to fans of Sophie Kinsella and Christina Lauren, who will savor this compulsively readable romantic comedy.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook



SUSPENSE



The Plotters by  Un-su Kim

plottersBehind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind–a plotter–working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city’s most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters? And more important, what do they want?

Reseng is an assassin. Raised by a cantankerous killer named Old Raccoon in the crime headquarters “The Library,” Reseng never questioned anything: where to go, who to kill, or why his home was filled with books that no one ever read. But one day, Reseng steps out of line on a job, toppling a set of carefully calibrated plans. And when he uncovers an extraordinary scheme set into motion by an eccentric trio of young women–a convenience store clerk, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed librarian–Reseng will have to decide if he will remain a pawn or finally take control of the plot. 

Crackling with action and filled with unforgettable characters, The Plotters is a deeply entertaining thriller that soars with the soul, wit, and lyricism of real literary craft.

Description from Goodreads.

“Korean author Kim makes his U.S. debut with a powerful, surreal political thriller…The complex plot, in which Reseng becomes involved with a more polished, CEO-like hit man named Hanja, builds to a highly cinematic and violent denouement. Most memorable, though, is the novel’s message about the insidiousness of unaccountable institutions, from those under the military junta to those that thrive in today’s economy. The consequence of the pervasive corruption is an air of existential despair. This strange, ambitious book will appeal equally to literary fiction readers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Plotters is no primer for a visit to Korea. What it does offer is a vivid portrait of a mesmerizing central character — the stoic Reseng. It will also keep readers delightfully off-balance. In The Plotters Kim has mixed bookishness, crackpots and commissioned murder into a rich and unsettling blend.” – The Washington Post

“The winner of prestigious prizes in Korea, Kim makes his anglophone debut, thanks to Kim-Russell, who captures his dark, dark wit and searing sarcasm in an irresistible sociopolitical parable designed to delight and dismay.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Out of the Dark by  Gregg Hurwitz

out of the darkTaken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was raised and trained as part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books operation designed to create deniable intelligence assets―i.e. assassins. Evan was Orphan X. He broke with the Program, using everything he learned to disappear and reinvent himself as the Nowhere Man, a man who helps the truly desperate when no one else can. But now Evan’s past in the Orphan Program is reaching out to him.

Someone at the very highest level of government has been trying to eliminate every trace of the Orphan Program by killing all the remaining Orphans and their trainers. After Evan’s mentor and the only father he ever knew was killed, he decided to strike back. His target is the man who started the program and who is now the most heavily guarded person in the world: the President of the United States.

But President Bennett knows that Orphan X is after him and, using weapons of his own, he’s decided to counter-attack. Bennett activates the one man who has the skills and experience to track down and take out Orphan X―the first recruit of the program, Orphan A.

With Evan devoting all his skills, resources, and intelligence to find a way through the layers of security that surround the President, suddenly he also has to protect himself against the deadliest of opponents. It’s Orphan vs. Orphan with the future of the country―even the world―on the line.
 

Description from Goodreads.

“Evan Smoak roars back with a vengeance in the fourth Orphan X thriller…this installment is as tightly plotted, efficiently written, and, yes, as curiously plausible as its predecessors. If Jack Reacher fans haven’t checked out Smoak yet, they’re missing a sure bet.” – Booklist

“…honestly the best thing Hurwitz has ever written!” – The Real Book Spy

“The plotting is clever, the action is nearly constant and usually over-the-top, and X has something resembling a moral core. Bad guys get what bad guys deserve… Hurwitz fans will certainly enjoy this latest entry in the series.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | Large Print BookeBook



HISTORICAL FICTION



At the Wolf’s Table by  Rosella Postorino

at the wolf's table“They called it the Wolfsschanze, the Wolf’s Lair. ‘Wolf’ was his nickname. As hapless as Little Red Riding Hood, I had ended up in his belly. A legion of hunters was out looking for him, and to get him in their grips they would gladly slay me as well.”

Germany, 1943: Twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer’s parents are gone, and her husband Gregor is far away, fighting on the front lines of WWII. Impoverished and alone, she makes the fateful decision to leave war-torn Berlin to live with her in-laws in the countryside, thinking she’ll find refuge there. But one morning, the SS come to tell her she has been conscripted to be one of Hitler’s tasters: three times a day, she and nine other women go to his secret headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair, to eat his meals before he does. Forced to eat what might kill them, the tasters begin to divide into The Fanatics, those loyal to Hitler, and the women like Rosa who insist they aren’t Nazis, even as they risk their lives every day for Hitler’s.

As secrets and resentments grow, this unlikely sisterhood reaches its own dramatic climax. What’s more, one of Rosa’s SS guards has become dangerously familiar, and the war is worsening outside. As the months pass, it becomes increasingly clear that Rosa and everyone she knows are on the wrong side of history.
 

Description from Goodreads.

“Unsettling and compelling… At the Wolf’s Table stays with you, and for a long time.” – La Repubblica

“This book―which speaks of love, hunger, survival and remorse―will end up engraved on your heart.” – Marie Claire

“You’ll fly into this novel with your heart in your throat and a constant feeling of identification all the way through to the final, magnificent chapter.” – Io Donna

Available Formats:

Print Book 



SCI-FI & FANTASY



Here and Now and Then by  Mike Chen

here and now and thenTo save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…

Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in I.T., trying to keep the spark in his marriage, and struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

Their mission: return Kin to 2142 where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.

Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.

A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart, and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.

Description from Goodreads.

“In this heartfelt and thrilling debut, Chen revitalizes the trope of the absent and unavailable father… Chen’s concept is unique, and [his characters’] agony is deeply moving. Quick pacing, complex characters, and a fascinating premise make this an unforgettable debut.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Chen’s debut novel is a welcome addition to this well-traveled genre, with the theories and mechanics of time travel not getting in the way of the character- and plot-driven story. Highly recommended for readers both new and familiar with the genre, and for fans of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife or books by Connie Willis.” –Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“A subtly woven meditation about the fragility of time raises the bar in this smart, fun, and affectionate story.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book



NONFICTION



Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine by  Emily Bernard

black is the body“I am black—and brown, too,” writes Emily Bernard. “Brown is the body I was born into. Black is the body of the stories I tell.”

And the storytelling, and the mystery of Bernard’s storytelling, of getting to the truth, begins with a stabbing in a New England college town. Bernard writes how, when she was a graduate student at Yale, she walked into a coffee shop and, along with six other people, was randomly attacked by a stranger with a knife (“I remember making the decision not to let the oddness of this stranger bother me”). “I was not stabbed because I was black,” she writes (the attacker was white), “but I have always viewed the violence I survived as a metaphor for the violent encounter that has generally characterized American race relations. There was no connection between us, yet we were suddenly and irreparably bound by a knife, an attachment that cost us both: him, his freedom; me, my wholeness.”
Bernard explores how that bizarre act of violence set her free and unleashed the storyteller in her (“The equation of writing and regeneration is fundamental to black American experience”). 

She writes in Black Is the Body how each of the essays goes beyond a narrative of black innocence and white guilt, how each is anchored in a mystery, and how each sets out to discover a new way of telling the truth as the author has lived it. “Blackness is an art, not a science. It is a paradox: intangible and visceral; a situation and a story. It is the thread that connects these essays, but its significance as an experience emerges randomly, unpredictably . . . Race is the story of my life, and therefore black is the body of this book.”

And what most interests Bernard is looking at “blackness at its borders, where it meets whiteness in fear and hope, in anguish and love.”

Description from Goodreads.

“Bernard’s honesty and vulnerability reveal a strong voice with no sugarcoating, sharing her struggle, ambivalence, hopes, and fears as an individual within a web of relationships, black and white. Highly recommended.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Lucid … deeply felt, unflinchingly honest, and openly questioning … [Bernard] illuminates a legacy of storytelling … and elaborates on the relationship between blacks and whites. A rare book of healing.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Contemplative and compassionate … Bernard’s voice is personable yet incisive in exploring the lived reality of race … [Her] wisdom and compassion radiate throughout this collection.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen by  Yasmin Khan

zaitounYasmin Khan unlocks the flavors and fragrances of modern Palestine, from the sun-kissed pomegranate stalls of Akka, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, through evergreen oases of date plantations in the Jordan Valley, to the fading fish markets of Gaza City.

Palestinian food is winningly fresh and bright, centered around colorful mezze dishes that feature the region’s bountiful eggplants, peppers, artichokes, and green beans; slow-cooked stews of chicken and lamb flavored with Palestinian barahat spice blends; and the marriage of local olive oil with earthy za’atar, served in small bowls to accompany toasted breads. It has evolved over several millennia through the influences of Arabic, Jewish, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Bedouin cultures and civilizations that have ruled over, or lived in, the area known as ancient Palestine.

In each place she visits, Khan enters the kitchens of Palestinians of all ages and backgrounds, discovering the secrets of their cuisine and sharing heartlifting stories.

Description from Goodreads.

“Part cookbook and part travel journal, this work is full of recipes, photos, and stories from Palestine. It is bright in flavour and colour and will teach you about this incredible nation through dishes like slow-cooked stews of chicken and lamb flavored with Palestinian barahat spice blends” – BookRiot

“Excellent. . . Khan’s cookbook is a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of the region’s food and culture.” – Publishers Weekly

“A zingingly evocative collection of personal stories…Calling it a cookbook does it a disservice. Zaitoun deserves to be read as much as cooked from.” – Guardian

Available Formats:

Print Book



CHILDREN’S



One-Third Nerd by  Gennifer Choldenko

one-third nerdFifth grade is not for amateurs, according to Liam. Luckily, he knows that being more than one-third nerd is not cool. Liam lives in the Bay area near San Francisco with his mom and two younger sisters. Dakota is fascinated by science and has a big personality but struggles to make friends; Izzy, a child with Down syndrome, makes friends easily and notices things that go past everyone else. Dad lives across town, but he’s over a lot. And then there’s Cupcake, their lovable German shepherd, who guards their basement apartment. 

Recently, Cupcake has a problem–she’s peeing in the house. The kids need to make enough money to take her to the vet before their landlord upstairs finds out. And Mom and Dad have said if Cupcake doesn’t stop, they will find her a new home. But the kids will never let Cupcake go. Can they save her?

Description from Goodreads.

“Reminiscent of Judy Blume’s work, this endearing story will make many children laugh and allow some to see a part of themselves.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“It is Liam’s quiet thoughtfulness and relationship with his sisters, especially his interest in their lives—Izzy’s Down syndrome social group “the Forty-Sevens” and Dakota’s impulsive experiments—that let him shine just as bright as his two extroverted sisters.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book

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