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Bestselling Palestinian American author Etaf Rum was utterly transformed by the characters in her debut, A Woman Is No Man. With her second novel, she begins to process the aftermath.
Bestselling Palestinian American author Etaf Rum was utterly transformed by the characters in her debut, A Woman Is No Man. With her second novel, she begins to process the aftermath.

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Love Me Do

Lindsey Kelk’s sparkling Love Me Do is a fish-out-of-water rom-com with a Cyrano twist. Phoebe Chapman arrives in Los Angeles from England seeking a much-needed vacation and a distraction from her ex’s impending nuptials. Her sister was going to host her, but an unexpected business trip leaves Phoebe navigating the Hollywood Hills on her own. She’s fascinated by the neighborhood, by her sister’s sprightly personal trainer, Bel, and particularly by hunky carpenter Ren Garcia in the house next door. But since she’ll only be in town a short time, Phoebe tries to help Bel win the romantic Ren’s heart, using her writing skills to pen a killer love letter. Can this tangled web be straightened out? Kelk offers a golden-hued, fairy-tale vision of LA, complete with a wild celebrity party and a mischievous octogenarian actor. Told from Phoebe’s self-deprecating and charming first-person perspective, Love Me Do is pure fun.

My Rogue to Ruin

The wild Wynchester family is back in Erica Ridley’s My Rogue to Ruin. An artist and forger, Marjorie Wynchester has always been overshadowed by her more flamboyant siblings. While she carries the same fire in her heart to right wrongs, she’s never felt capable of taking the lead on one of their crime-solving endeavors—until now. That fire leads her straight into the den of a notorious blackmailer and into the arms of Lord Adrian Webb, who has had a scandalous reputation ever since being banished from society by his father. But Marjorie sees the goodness in Adrian and as they team up to stop the blackmailer and save Adrian’s sister from ruin, they both begin to see themselves differently and appreciate family in a truer way. Cleverly plotted and filled with nonstop action and the delightful and talented Wynchester clan (including their fabulous woodland pets), this Regency romance will have readers speeding through the pages and smiling all the while.

My Roommate Is a Vampire

The title of Jenna Levine’s debut says it all: My Roommate Is a Vampire. This breezy contemporary romance introduces the reader to Chicagoan Cassie Greenberg, a struggling 32-year-old artist who’s just desperate enough to respond to a too-good-to-be-true Craigslist ad for a roommate. The ad was posted by the awkward and strangely formal Frederick J. Fitzwilliam, who claims to sleep during the day and work at night. Though Cassie’s a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan, it takes time for her to suss out that Frederick’s a vamp, but by then, she’s already lusting after her charming, handsome and cool-to-the-touch roommate. Though hundreds of years old, Frederick appreciates Cassie’s looks, her art and just her. With steamy scenes and a bit of danger, this is an amusing, lighter look at love with the undead.

Jenna Levine’s debut romance delights our columnist! Plus a sparkling rom-com and the latest Wynchester love story.
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Fat Talk 

With the rise of the body positivity movement, many parents have asked, “How do I raise my child to love their body, eat healthy foods without demonizing sweets and navigate all of the negative talk about the sizes of bodies?” Most parents don’t know, because they’ve also grown up in a fatphobic society swarming with confusing advice and thin privilege. That’s where journalist Virginia Sole-Smith’s new book, Fat Talk comes in.

‘Fat Talk’ gives tons of helpful advice for navigating food and provides conversation starters to help unpack fatphobia with your child, no matter their size.

Sole-Smith presents research about how diet culture is promoted by Instagram influencers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies, all seeking to make a dollar. She also uncovers ample evidence that proves dieting doesn’t work, except as a strategy to blame the individual instead of society’s marginalization of larger, fat bodies. Rebalancing the narrative, she argues, will target the real problems, instead of shaming and harming children. It even helps the parent resolve complications they have with their own bodies.

In addition to its science-based debunking of diet culture, Fat Talk gives tons of helpful advice for navigating food and provides conversation starters to help unpack fatphobia with your child, no matter their size. It also includes a list of resources for parents including picture and middle-grade books, memoirs, podcasts, newsletters, movies and television shows and other resources.

Calm the Chaos

Pulling from her own experiences as both a mother of a child who doesn’t quite fit the mold and a teacher, Dayna Abraham’s book, Calm the Chaos is about empowering parents of children who need extra emotional, physical and developmental support. Abraham presents a five-stage framework that helps parents navigate and quell the storm. Each stage has been broken down into manageable chunks, often with illustrations; Abraham knows the parents who need her help do not have a lot of free time.

In a conversational and relatable way, Abraham helps families create safety through love for their high-needs child so each member can move from surviving to thriving. Every chapter includes lists of questions that help assess your current needs, actionable steps to put into practice based on where you are with your child and notes that relieve any shame that may come up as you assess your family’s needs.

Abraham knows the parents who need her help do not have a lot of free time.

Abraham provides real stories about real children who have benefited from her approach, giving the reader examples to draw from as they begin implementing the strategies in the book. Calm the Chaos will be a fabulous tool for anyone seeking to give their child the power to be who they were born to be.

Erasing the Finish Line

Most parents have worried about how to prepare their children for leaving the nest and finding a successful life of their own. In Erasing the Finish Line by early career development expert Ana Homayoun, parents are encouraged to let go of the made-up finish line at high school graduation and college admissions. As an academic advisor, Homayoun has helped countless young people figure out a new blueprint for success by building core competencies that will benefit them throughout their lives. Though they may lead to academic success, these core competencies aren’t structured around test scores and GPAs. Instead, Homayoun’s method crafts a blueprint based on the individual child’s goals. She encourages parents to instead teach their children how to organize, plan, prioritize, adapt, start and complete tasks. These skills will get older children through young adulthood and are important for long term success in any job or role.

Young people in their teens and early twenties are experiencing anxiety, depression and adjustment disorders at alarming rates, a fact that Homayoun says is contributed to by the intense focus on admissions to the “right” school. Erasing the Finish Line is a delightful read that functions as a handbook for loving and accepting your child just as they are. Only when our children feel an unconditional sense of acceptance can they find real success.

Growing Up in Public 

Many parents struggle to have healthy boundaries around technology, let alone help their children navigate the complex landscape of social media, texting and access to potentially harmful content. Growing Up in Public by Devorah Heitner, Ph.D. offers a wealth of relatable information, and will steer parents away from simply monitoring the ways children use technology, arguing instead for a mentorship approach that will guide children through the many landmines it can create for us.

Readers will walk away with a wealth of proactive strategies to prevent potential harm for their children who are engaging in the digital world.

From strategies rooted in trust versus surveillance, character building versus shaming and consent versus boundary crossing, Growing Up in Public gives parents a gentle guide on how to keep lines of communication open between them and their child.

Heitner’s gentleness shines in her writing. Her style puts the reader at ease, while also giving them permission to support tweens and teens through compassionate care. Readers will walk away with a wealth of proactive strategies to prevent potential harm for their children who are engaging in the digital world, as well as gentle guidance on what to do when the worst happens. This is an important guidebook for all parents as they seek to give their children the skills they need to navigate our brave new world.

Four parenting books on body positivity, neurodivergence and responsible social media use will ensure this remains the case.
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Fantasy has always been a playground for social commentary. From Tolkien’s anti-industrial allegories in Lord of the Rings to Samantha Shannon’s deconstruction of the archetypal damsel in The Priory of the Orange Tree, magical worlds with dragons and wizards are almost never as escapist as they seem. Urban fantasy is no exception, being as defined by its penchant for cultural critique as by its city settings. More than any other subgenre, urban fantasy is often unambiguously about real life.

Take The Hexologists by Josiah Bancroft. It’s essentially a fantasy mystery novel, following magically talented detective Iz Wilby and her imposing yet soft-hearted husband (and de facto chef), Warren, as they try to identify who has hexed the king of Bancroft’s barely fictionalized analogue of early 20th-century London. Bancroft’s leads are staunchly anti-royalist and anti-capitalist, positions which are proven to be entirely justified over and over throughout the book. Bancroft’s point could have been made more subtly, although, to be fair, subtlety does not seem to have been his intent: He opens the book with an overgrown tree golem attacking Iz and Warren’s house and spends a surprising amount of time justifying the couple’s high libido by asserting that sex helps Iz think. But The Hexologists is effective and entertaining regardless, not least because it also includes Felivox, a gourmand dragon who lives in a handbag. He is utterly delightful, and debilitatingly British dragons with discerning palates should be in more books.

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey’s The Dead Take the A Train, on the other hand, offsets its recognizable New York City setting with a relentless barrage of visceral body horror and deliriously twisted humor. So while their commentary—in their telling, Wall Street’s pursuit of money and power is literally devouring the world—is equally blatant, it feels more in line with the nature of the book. After all, we are introduced to the main protagonist, Julie, while she is amputating a bride-to-be’s arm in a nightclub with a penknife to extract a demon. After her plan to summon an angel to help a friend goes horribly awry, Julie tries to clean up her city-jeopardizing mess while also playing video games while high on possibly magical designer drugs, falling behind on rent and facing some creatively terrifying bogeymen. One antagonist is a seething mass of carnivorous worms, two others are twins who like to eat their sentient prey slowly, keeping it alive the whole time, and none of these is the one called The Mother Who Eats. This is most certainly not a book for the squeamish, the meek or the banker. (Remember: Wall Street is going to devour the world.)

Although The Hexologists is a mostly well-mannered British murder mystery and The Dead Take the A Train is a depraved carnival of nightmares and eldritch narcotics, they are both solid representatives of contemporary urban fantasy, addressing real-world injustices while also being very, very funny.

The Hexologists and The Dead Take the A Train blend social commentary with sensational genre thrills.
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The Second Murderer

Many a mystery writer has taken a shot at reimagining the work of Raymond Chandler, usually with mixed results. But in The Second Murderer, Denise Mina seamlessly resurrects Chandler’s supersleuth Philip Marlowe, right from the opening line: “I was in my office, feet up, making use of a bottle of mood-straightener I kept in the desk.” As was often the case with Marlowe as penned by Chandler, our hero can be found in a high-society mansion in one scene and sleeping off a hangover in a Skid Row flophouse in the next, but he’s a breed apart in both milieus. The Second Murderer is a pre-World War II, Los Angeles-set PI mystery, but with a modern sensibility—and it plays much better than one might expect of such an amalgam. As Marlowe attempts to track down a missing socialite, he’s joined on the case by Anne Riordan, owner of her very own all-female detective agency. Mina has done what few before her have managed, ably resuscitating Marlowe for legions of Chandler fans yearning for one more installment.

A Killer in the Family

With last year’s inventive and suspenseful Little Sister, Gytha Lodge propelled herself onto mystery fans’ must-read lists (including that of this reader). I am happy to announce that her latest Jonah Sheen mystery, A Killer in the Family, is just as impressive. Aisling Cooley sends a DNA sample to an ancestry website in hopes of locating her long-missing father, but is horrified when she’s subsequently contacted by the police. Aisling’s DNA closely aligns with that found at a murder scene, one of the grisly tableaus created by the so-called “bonfire killer,” who leaves their victims on pyres in fields. Aisling’s sons—one lively and popular, the other brooding and taciturn—naturally pique the interest of the police, but Aisling’s father is of even greater interest. Before he disappeared 30 years ago, he left a cryptic note saying that he loved his family, but could not “keep living this duplicitous life.” Thus, Aisling finds herself caught on the horns of a dilemma: whether to assist the police or protect her family. Lodge has a surefire winner on her hands with A Killer in the Family, easily one of the most original mysteries since the aforementioned Little Sister.

A Chateau Under Siege

The medieval town of Sarlat is a bit outside the bailiwick of Bruno Courreges, everyone’s favorite French policeman since the days of Inspector Jacques Clouseau, but there is to be a reenactment of the liberation of the town from England during the Hundred Years’ War and Bruno is on hand for the festivities. When a horse slips and falls, its swordsman rider is forced to improvise his role in the choreographed performance. He winds up getting stabbed in front of the horrified onlookers and appears to be bleeding out. A doctor appears out of nowhere to take charge of the emergency and the patient is airlifted to a hospital, after which he vanishes from the face of the earth. Strange, right? It will get stranger, as Martin Walker’s A Chateau Under Siege, one of Bruno’s more unusual adventures, proceeds. Bruno is tasked with guarding the daughters of the victim, who may or may not have been a clandestine government agent of some sort. And, as happens with some regularity in the Bruno novels, our hero finds himself tangled up in a situation with international ramifications that would tax any small-town cop (other than Bruno, of course). Balzac the basset hound, always a welcome diversion, plays a minor but pivotal role, and as with all the preceding books in the series, A Chateau Under Siege is by turns suspenseful, amusing and, in its Gallic way, nothing short of charming.

Proud Sorrows

The latest Billy Boyle mystery from author James R. Benn, Proud Sorrows finds the wartime military investigator on leave in rural Norfolk, England, although it will prove to be the proverbial busman’s holiday, with little of the rest and recuperation the hero sorely needs after his adventures in the two previous novels, Road of Bones and From the Shadows. A downed German bomber that crashed two years prior resurfaces in a peculiar turn of the tides at a nearby bay. When one of the bodies found in the cockpit turns out to be that of an English officer, the case falls to Billy to investigate. It appears the English officer has been murdered, as his injuries are not consistent with the crash. It will not be the last murder tied to the bomber, however, as one of Billy’s informants, a shell-shocked veteran, gets stabbed to death in a melee following an air raid scare. Sir Richard Seaton, the father of Billy’s lover, Diana, is considered by police to be a good candidate for the perpetrator. To exonerate Sir Richard, Billy turns to his trusty allies: Kaz, with his powerful intellect; Big Mike, the tenderhearted muscle of the group; and quick-witted and lovable Diana. The mystery is first-rate, the dialogue is period correct and the series as a whole is the best set of wartime novels since those of the legendary Nevil Shute. Proud Sorrows is absolutely not to be missed!

The latest Bruno, Chief of Police and Billy Boyle mysteries impress (When don’t they?) and Denise Mina resurrects Philip Marlowe in this month’s Whodunit column.
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Set in the 1800s, R.F. Kuang’s historical fantasy novel Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution follows the adventures of Robin Swift, a Chinese student at the Royal Institute of Translation at Oxford University, where the act of translation is used to derive magical power. Though languages like Bengali, Haitian creole and Robin’s native Cantonese are the source of much of this power, Britain and its ruling class reaps almost all of the benefits. As Robin progresses at the institute, his loyalties are tested when Britain threatens war with China. The politicization of language and the allure of institutional power are among the book’s rich discussion topics. 

Jason Fitger, the protagonist of Julie Schumacher’s witty campus novel Dear Committee Members, teaches creative writing and literature at Payne University, where he contends with funding cuts and diminishing department resources. He also frequently writes letters of recommendation for students and colleagues, and it’s through these letters that the novel unfolds. Schumacher uses this unique spin on the epistolary novel to create a revealing portrait of a curmudgeonly academic struggling to navigate the complexities of campus life. Reading groups will savor this shrewdly trenchant take on the higher-ed experience, and if you find yourself wanting to sign up for another course with Professor Fitger, Schumacher’s two sequels (The Shakespeare Requirement and The English Experience) are also on the syllabus.

For a surrealist send-up of the liberal arts world, turn to Mona Awad’s clever, disturbing Bunny. Samantha Mackey made it into the MFA creative writing program of Warren University thanks to a scholarship. The other writers—a tightknit circle of wealthy young women known as the Bunnies—convene regularly for a horrifying ritual. When Samantha is invited to take part, she learns difficult lessons about female friendship and her own identity. This haunting, often funny novel probes the dark side of academia and the challenges of the artistic process.

In her uncompromising, upfront memoir, They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up, Eternity Martis writes about being a Black student at Western University, a mostly white college in Ontario. Martis was initially thrilled to attend the university, but the racism she experienced in the classroom and in social settings made her question her life choices. Her smart observations, unfailing sense of humor and invaluable reporting on contemporary education make this a must-read campus memoir.

Go back to school with tomes that spotlight the scandals and drama of life on campus.

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BookPage highlights the best new books across all genres, as chosen by our editors. Every book we cover is one that we are excited to recommend to readers. A star indicates a book of exceptional quality in its genre or category.