Best New Books: Week of 9/3/2019

Labor Day has come and gone, and with it the tourist season has ended. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a great book on the beach, or if you’ve had to head back away from the coast, out on your deck. And as usual we have a lot of great new books to choose from, so let’s get to this week’s list!



FICTION



Dominicana by  Angie Cruz ★

dominicanaFifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.

As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.

Description from Goodreads.

“Through a novel with so much depth, beauty, and grace, we, like Ana, are forever changed.” – Vanity Fair

“Enthralling… [Ana’s] growth and gradually blooming wisdom is described with a raw, expressive voice. Cruz’s winning novel will linger in the reader’s mind long after the close of the story.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“In this coming-to-America story, the harsh realities of immigration are laid bare, but equally clear are the resilience and resourcefulness of the people who choose to make a new life far from home…A moving, sad, and sometimes disarmingly funny take on migration and the forces that propel us into the world.” – Kirkus Reviews

“In Cruz’s rendering, the inevitability of hardship and the excitement of new possibilities makes for an affectingly complex journey into adulthood. Expect this to mark the author’s breakout.” – Entertainment Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book


Quichotte by  Salman Rushdie

quichotteIn a tour-de-force that is both an homage to an immortal work of literature and a modern masterpiece about the quest for love and family, Booker Prize-winning, internationally bestselling author Salman Rushdie has created a dazzling Don Quixote for the modern age.

Inspired by the Cervantes classic, Sam DuChamp, mediocre writer of spy thrillers, creates Quichotte, a courtly, addled salesman obsessed with television, who falls in impossible love with a TV star. Together with his (imaginary) son Sancho, Quichotte sets off on a picaresque quest across America to prove worthy of her hand, gallantly braving the tragicomic perils of an age where “Anything-Can-Happen”. Meanwhile his creator, in a midlife crisis, has equally urgent challenges of his own.

Just as Cervantes wrote Don Quixote to satirise the culture of his time, Rushdie takes the reader on a wild ride through a country on the verge of moral and spiritual collapse. And with the kind of storytelling magic that is the hallmark of his work, the fully realised lives of DuChamp and Quichotte intertwine in a profoundly human quest for love and a wickedly entertaining portrait of an age in which fact is so often indiscernible from fiction.
 

Description from Goodreads.

“This latest from Rushdie is nothing but extraordinary… This incisively outlandish but lyrical meditation on intolerance, TV addiction, and the opioid crisis operates on multiple planes, with razor-sharp topicality and humor, delivering a reflective examination of the plight of marginalized personhood with veritable aplomb.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[Quichotte] is Don Quixote for our time, a smart satire of every aspect of the contemporary culture. Witty, profound, tender, this love story shows a fiction master at his brilliant best.” – The Millions

“Allowing the wild adventure to overwhelm oneself is half the fun. Rushdie’s extravagant fiction is the lie that tells the truth… A brilliant rendition of the cheesy, sleazy, scary pandemonium of life in modern times.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Grammarians by  Cathleen Schine

grammarians“The Grammarians” are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart. Daphne, copy editor and grammar columnist, devotes herself to preserving the dignity and elegance of Standard English. Laurel, who gives up teaching kindergarten to write poetry, is drawn, instead, to the polymorphous, chameleon nature of the written and spoken word. Their fraying twin-ship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war, absurdly but passionately, over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition.

Cathleen Schine has written a playful and joyful celebration of the interplay of language and life. A dazzling comedy of sisterly and linguistic manners, a revelation of the delights and stresses of intimacy, The Grammarians is the work of one of our great comic novelists at her very best.

Description from Goodreads.

“Schine’s warmth and wisdom about how families work and don’t work are as reliable as her wry humor, and we often get both together… This impossibly endearing and clever novel sets off a depth charge of emotion and meaning.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Schine’s sparkling latest [is] both a fizzy exploration of the difficulties of separating from one’s closest ally and a quirky meditation on the limits of language for understanding the world.” – Publishers Weekly

“…marvelous… you don’t need to be a writer or editor to fall under Schine’s spell. The Grammarians is about family, the ebb and flow of our deep and tenuous connections to the people who make us who we are. Can Laurel and Daphne heal this break? Maybe. Put in perfect, seamless order, words can heal anything.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook



SUSPENSE



Cold Storage by  David Koepp

cold storageWhen Pentagon bioterror operative Roberto Diaz was sent to investigate a suspected biochemical attack, he found something far worse: a highly mutative organism capable of extinction-level destruction. He contained it and buried it in cold storage deep beneath a little-used military repository.

Now, after decades of festering in a forgotten sub-basement, the specimen has found its way out and is on a lethal feeding frenzy. Only Diaz knows how to stop it.

He races across the country to help two unwitting security guards—one an ex-con, the other a single mother. Over one harrowing night, the unlikely trio must figure out how to quarantine this horror again. All they have is luck, fearlessness, and a mordant sense of humor. Will that be enough to save all of humanity?

Description from Goodreads.

“A terrific thriller: ambitious, audacious, gory, scary, flamboyant, and funny… [Koepp makes] a seamless, massively effective transition from the visual medium to the literary. The book doesn’t read like a modestly beefed-up pitch for a movie; it’s a rich, textured, and downright impossible-to-put-down story.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A sensational SF thriller… Breakneck pacing and nonstop action… Michael Crichton fans won’t want to miss this one.” – Publishers Weekly

“Chilling… Propulsive… Koepp is skilled at sharp, often humorous dialogue… [A] taut, mordant thriller debut.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Chestnut Man by  Søren Sveistrup

chestnut manIf you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen.

His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.

Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted?

To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues.

Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over.

And no one is safe.

Description from Goodreads.

“A tension-charged debut… Incendiary.” – Financial Times

“A stellar debut.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“This is a page-turner that will make you hesitate before turning the page, so unnerving is the violence. One of the best and scariest crime novels of the year, it adds to its rewards by promising us at least one sequel. A tantalizing, un-put-down-able novel by an instant master of the form.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book



MYSTERY



This Tender Land by  William Kent Krueger

this tender land1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.

Description from Goodreads.

“Long, sprawling, and utterly captivating, readers will eat up every delicious word of it.” – New York Journal of Books

“More than a simple journey; it is a deeply satisfying odyssey, a quest in search of self and home. Richly imagined and exceptionally well plotted and written, the novel is, most of all, a compelling, often haunting story that will captivate both adult and young adult readers.” – Booklist

“Reminiscent of Huck and Jim and their trip down the Mississippi, the bedraggled youngsters encounter remarkable characters and learn life lessons as they escape by canoe down the Gilead River in Minnesota.” – Bookpage

Available Formats:

Print Book



HISTORICAL FICTION



The Secrets We Kept by  Lara Prescott ★

secrets we keptAt the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak’s magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world–using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally’s tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago’s heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak’s country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.

Description from Goodreads.

“Enthralling… This is the rare page-turner with prose that’s as wily as its plot.” – Vogue

“Through lucid images and vibrant storytelling, Prescott creates an edgy postfeminist vision of the Cold War, encompassing Sputnik to glasnost, typing pool to gulag, for a smart, lively page-turner. This debut shines as spy story, publication thriller, and historical romance with a twist.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Delightful… An intriguing and little-known chapter of literary history is brought to life with brio.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book



ROMANCE



Bringing Down the Duke by  Evie Dunmore

bringing down the dukeEngland, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring… or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke…

Description from Goodreads.

“Charming, sexy, and thoroughly transportive, this is historical romance done right.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Dunmore’s beautifully written debut perfectly balances history, sexual tension, romantic yearning, and the constant struggle smart women have in finding and maintaining their places and voices in life and love, with the added message that finding the right person brings true happiness and being with them is worth any price. A brilliant debut.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Full of witty banter, rich historical detail, and a fantastic group of female friends, the first installment in Dunmore’s League of Extraordinary Women series starts with fireworks as Annabelle and Montgomery try to find a path to happiness despite past mistakes and their vastly different places in society. Dunmore’s strong debut is sure to earn her legions of fans.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book



SCI-FI & FANTASY



 

After the Flood by  Kassandra Montag 

after the floodA little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.

Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Arctic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.

On their journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship and Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travelers.

A compulsively readable novel of dark despair and soaring hope, After the Flood is a magnificent, action packed, and sometimes frightening odyssey laced with wonder—an affecting and wholly original saga both redemptive and astonishing.

Description from Goodreads.

“Montag’s thrilling debut takes place in a future climate-change-altered world overrun by water… Anchored by a complicated, compelling heroine, this gripping, speculative, high-seas adventure is impossible to put down.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Debut novelist Montag manages to marry page-turning drama and emotional depth, vividly imagining a world where society rebuilds itself from scratch and history repeats.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Gripping… An adventure rife with great peril and high emotional stakes, this postapocalyptic novel reads like a fast-paced screenplay: intense, visceral, and relentless.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

eBook | eAudiobook



NONFICTION



Axiomatic by  Maria Tumarkin

axiomaticHow to speak of the searing, unpindownable power that the past—ours, our family’s, our culture’s—wields in the present?

Drawing on nine years of research, Axiomatic explores the ways we understand the traumas we inherit and the systems that sustain them. In five sections—each one built on an axiom about how the past affects the present—Tumarkin weaves together true and intimate stories of a community dealing with the extended aftermath of a suicide, a grandmother’s quest to kidnap her grandson to keep him safe, one community lawyer’s struggle inside and against the criminal justice system, a larger-than-life Holocaust survivor, and the history of the author’s longest friendship.

With verve, wit, and critical dexterity, Tumarkin asks questions about loss, grief, and how our particular histories inform the people we become in the world. Axiomatic introduces an unforgettable voice.

Description from Goodreads.

“The reader’s equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle, Axiomatic showcases a brilliant and perceptive mind… Full of grace and insight, it is an exceptional book.” – Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Tumarkin presents a remarkable tour de force… These essays will linger in readers’ minds for years after.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Everyone is looking for the next Helen Garner and Maria Tumarkin shares with Garner a gimlet eye for the flaws in official systems, along with a fascination for the narratives nested in everyday lives. Axiomatic’s symphonic structure, however, recalls Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian journalist and Nobel Laureate. She is another for whom reality attracts like a magnet, who has made a career out of appropriating and braiding voices and documents, seeing the world as a chorus and a collage. With this remarkable, wild, risk-laden book, Tumarkin has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as both of them.” – The Saturday Paper

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You by  Dina Nayeri

ungrateful refugeeWhat is it like to be a refugee? It is a question many of us do not give much thought to, and yet there are more than 25 million refugees in the world. To be a refugee is to grapple with your place in society, attempting to reconcile the life you have known with a new, unfamiliar home. All this while bearing the burden of gratitude in your host nation: the expectation that you should be forever thankful for the space you have been allowed.

Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother, and lived in the crumbling shell of an Italian hotel-turned–refugee camp. Eventually she was granted asylum in America. She settled in Oklahoma, then made her way to Princeton. In this book, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives and taking us through the different stages of their journeys, from escape to asylum to resettlement. In these pages, a couple falls in love over the phone, and women gather to prepare the noodles that remind them of home. A closeted queer man tries to make his case truthfully as he seeks asylum, and a translator attempts to help new arrivals present their stories to officials.

Nothing here is flattened; nothing is simplistic. Nayeri offers a new understanding of refugee life, confronting dangers from the metaphor of the swarm to the notion of “good” immigrants. She calls attention to the harmful way in which Western governments privilege certain dangers over others. With surprising and provocative questions, The Ungrateful Refugee recalibrates the conversation around the refugee experience. Here are the real human stories of what it is like to be forced to flee your home, and to journey across borders in the hope of starting afresh.

Description from Goodreads.

“This book’s combination of personal narrative and collective refugee story is compelling, necessary, and deeply thought and felt. Writing with truth and beauty, Nayeri reckons with her own past as a refugee… This valuable account of refugee lives will grip readers’ attention.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A work of astonishing, insistent importance… A book full of revelatory truths, moments where we are plunged deeply and painfully into the quotidian experience of the refugee.” – The Observer

“A gallery of powerful portraits of the experiences of those fleeing persecution and war, and those who help and support them. This is not comfortable reading, but it is compelling. In moving, poetic prose Nayeri unravels this difficult subject, never dodging troubling questions.” – Glasgow Review of Books

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook


Elements of Fiction by  Walter Mosley

elements of fictionIn his essential writing guide, This Year You Write Your Novel, Walter Mosley supplied aspiring writers with the basic tools to write a novel in one year. In this complementary follow up, Mosley guides the writer through the elements of not just any fiction writing, but the kind of writing that transcends convention and truly stands out. How does one approach the genius of writers like Melville, Dickens, or Twain? In The Elements of Fiction, Walter Mosley contemplates the answer.

In a series of instructive and conversational chapters, Mosley demonstrates how to master fiction’s most essential elements: character and character development, plot and story, voice and narrative, context and description, and more. The result is a vivid depiction of the writing process, from the blank page to the first draft to rewriting, and rewriting again. Throughout, The Elements of Fiction is enriched by brilliant demonstrative examples that Mosley himself has written here for the first time.

Inspiring, accessible, and told in a voice both trustworthy and wise, The Elements of Fiction will intrigue and encourage writers and readers alike.

Description from Goodreads.

“In this follow-up to This Year You Write Your Novel, Mosley further demystifies fiction writing through language as taut and spare as the prose in his own novels… The author is not only an inspiring instructor; he is also a bracingly open-minded one… As with other manuals, this one doesn’t shirk from emphasizing the difficulty of writing, but Mosley’s spirited generosity helps make it less daunting. A concise work that aspiring writers will find useful.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Compact but insight-rich… Mosley has skillfully packed a large canvas into a small frame, which should equally please readers who enjoy seeing a writer at work and writers in need of assistance.” – Publishers Weekly

“Multi-award-winner Mosley, best known for his ‘Easy Rawlins’ mystery series, explores life with genre-defying mastery. With conversational bounce, this guide provides writers with methods and tips to find clarity and emotion… A no-nonsense guide worthy of shelf space with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and E. M. Forster’s timeless Aspects of the Novel.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook


Whose Story Is This?: Old Conflicts, New Chapters by  Rebecca Solnit

Whose Story Is This cover 1Who gets to shape the narrative of our times? The current moment is a battle royale over that foundational power, one in which women, people of color, non-straight people are telling other versions, and white people and men and particularly white men are trying to hang onto the old versions and their own centrality. In Whose Story Is This? Rebecca Solnit appraises what’s emerging, why it matters, and what the obstacles are.

Description from Goodreads.

“Rebecca Solnit reasserts herself here as one of the most astute cultural critics in progressive discourse.” – Publishers Weekly

“Solnit’s passionate, shrewd, and hopeful critiques are a road map for positive change.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Solnit’s exquisite essays move between the political and the personal, the intellectual and the earthy.” – Elle

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

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