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Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto is a delightful cozy mystery that brims with humor and heart while introducing an unforgettable lead character.

The titular Vera leads a quiet life. She runs a tea shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown that rarely sees customers and spends her days cyberstalking her son, who often ignores her calls. Vera’s routine is disrupted when she discovers a corpse in her store. She springs into action—outlining the body with a Sharpie, just like she’s seen on TV; tidying up her shop and making tea to impress the police; and most notably, swiping a flash drive from the dead man, Marshall Chen. She’s not sure the police will take his death (which is clearly a murder, to her “CSI”-trained eyes) seriously. So Vera uses the information on the flash drive to identify four suspects: Oliver, Marshall’s brother; Julia, Marshall’s widow; and Sana and Riki, who claim to be journalists investigating the suspicious death. All four have something to hide, but as Vera investigates, the group comes together in unexpected and surprising ways. Is a killer truly among this newly found family of hers?

Vera is a tour-de-force creation. She’s feisty and meddlesome, with a big imagination and bigger heart. She’s riotously funny, often without trying to be. She spends a great deal of time dispensing tough love and sage advice, and is almost always correct, much to the annoyance of her new friends. Sutanto also delivers well-drawn, memorable secondary characters, particularly Julia and her daughter, Emma. As Vera worms her way into her suspects’ lives and hearts, so, too, will the characters of Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers endear themselves to readers.

The mystery itself is intriguing, with well-placed clues and foreshadowing. Marshall left behind a trail of lies and enemies, but Vera proves herself up to the task of solving his murder. And along the way, she even helps many of his friends and family heal and become better versions of themselves. Sutanto hits all the right notes in this cozy mystery, perfectly blending meddling, murder and found family.

Jesse Q. Sutanto hits all the right notes in Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, a cozy mystery worth reading for its hilariously meddlesome titular character alone.
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Most American history buffs have seen the terrifying photograph of the Ku Klux Klan’s parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1925, with the U.S. Capitol visible in the background. Sadly, that’s just a minor glimpse of the klan’s sway during what we prefer to remember as the Jazz Age. But in fact, there are more white robes concealed in musty attic trunks than we may realize; at its height, the klan had 6 million members. 

The KKK originated in defeated Confederate states after the Civil War, but the epicenter of the revived klan in the early 1920s was well to the north of the Mason-Dixon line. The Upper Midwest was a stronghold—particularly Indiana, where the klan effectively controlled the state’s political system. In his latest enthralling historical narrative, A Fever in the Heartland, Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Timothy Egan charts the klan’s rapid rise and spectacular collapse in 1920s America.

The new klan rose in reaction to the convergence of four things: high levels of immigration from Catholic and Jewish people, the Great Migration of Black Americans, the release of the racist movie The Birth of a Nation and the widespread popularity of fraternal organizations. The KKK pretended to benignly uphold “Americanism” but not-so-secretly terrorized anyone who wasn’t a white Protestant, with the complicity of a staggering number of clergypeople.

Egan, author of bestsellers including The Worst Hard Time and A Pilgrimage to Eternity, homes in on Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson, “the most talented psychopath ever to tread the banks of the Wabash,” who ran the Indiana KKK, of which the governor was a proud member. A serial sexual predator, Stephenson had not-unrealistic aspirations for high office—even the White House. But his plans were derailed when he sexually and physically abused Madge Oberholtzer, an educated young professional whose brave response helped turn public opinion. Egan skillfully leads readers through the horrifying experiences of Oberholtzer and a handful of other beleaguered klan opponents. 

American democracy had a close call in the 1920s. The KKK disintegrated as a powerful political force, but not before its influence helped pass much of its anti-immigrant and Jim Crow agenda. Its malevolence went underground for a while, but history shows that it has resurfaced again and again, like in the 1950s and ’60s. A Fever in the Heartland is just one important chapter in an ongoing history.

The latest enthralling historical narrative from National Book Award-winning author Timothy Egan focuses on the rapid rise and spectacular collapse of the KKK in the 1920s.
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The epigraph at the beginning of Nicole Chung’s vivid memoir A Living Remedy includes a line from Marie Howe’s poem “For Three Days”: “ . . . because even grief provides a living remedy.” As Chung immerses readers in her experience of grief, her powerful words compel us to follow her on a beautiful but difficult journey of loss.

Chung was born prematurely to Korean parents who felt they could not care for such a fragile baby. She wrote about her adoption by a white couple, and her subsequent search for her birth family as she became a mother herself, in her bestselling 2018 memoir, All You Can Ever Know. Now Chung continues her story, returning to the Oregon mountains of her childhood at the moment her beloved adoptive parents’ health began to fail.

Chung’s struggle to be present for her parents as a daughter, while also being a wife and a mother in another city three thousand miles away, will be familiar to many readers. When her father’s health began its slow downward spiral, he was still young enough to seek a better job with better health resources but was stymied by his limited education—and proud enough to resist the government assistance Chung begged him to request. When he finally did, he was denied, falling through the cracks of a broken health care system. By that time, his illness had taken an irreversible toll. Chung’s grief and frustration over his death were fanned by the costly miles between them, but she resolved to do better by her widowed mother. However, Chung’s time with her mother eventually ran out as well, as the gathering storm of the COVID-19 pandemic spread its own brand of pain and panic.

A Living Remedy makes this era of collective grief more personal, as Chung honestly explores her childhood and the lives and deaths of her parents. She gives these hard times a purpose, absorbing them with both fury and compassion, making them part of her own legacy to pass along to her daughters. For her, this is indeed a living remedy.

In Nicole Chung’s memoir about the deaths of her parents, she absorbs hard times with fury and compassion, making the universal experience of grief vividly personal.
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Some books make you stop, take notice and question: question the narratives we’ve been told about our history and the narratives we’ve told ourselves about ourselves. Victor LaValle’s latest novel, Lone Women, is one such book.

Lone Women tells the story of Adelaide Henry, who keeps a secret locked in a steamer trunk at the foot of her bed. After the deaths of her parents, she moves from California to Montana to make a life for herself. The deal is simple: If she can farm a plot of land for three years as a homesteader, the land is hers. But Montana isn’t what the pamphlets said it would be. The winters are harder, and the people—though kind—have harsh edges. Still, Adelaide finds friends in the form of Grace, a single mother on the next homestead over, and Bertie, a saloon owner who happens to be the only other Black woman in the area. As Adelaide settles in, she begins to think that she can forget what lies within her trunk. But secrets have a way of getting out, no matter how hard you try to keep them in.

There’s nowhere to hide in Victor LaValle’s vision of the American West.

LaValle combines historical fiction with horror to create a tapestry of desolation, wonder, despair and hope. Lone Women isn’t set in the American West as we know it—or at least not the male-dominated American West that is portrayed in midcentury Westerns. LaValle is determined not to whitewash the past, showing not only the full spectrum of people who settled as homesteaders, including women of color, but also the wreckage of Montana’s boom and bust development. He treats the reader to explorations of ghost towns alongside canny character studies of the types of people who would choose a life as hard as the one of a homesteader.

LaValle’s descriptions of the Montana wilderness are as stark and expansive as the land itself, making it painfully clear how someone could get prairie fever or freeze to death out in Big Sky Country. When it comes to Adelaide’s secret, his prose takes on the feeling of a waking nightmare, full of horrific discovery. LaValle explores the themes of shame and ostracization through not just Adelaide’s secret but also the expertly revealed reasons why many of Adelaide’s new friends aren’t fully accepted in town.

A powerful study in setting and character with a healthy dose of horror, Lone Women will forever change the way you think about the Wild West. 

A powerful study in setting and character with a healthy dose of horror, Lone Women will forever change the way you think about the Wild West.
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Nichole “Nic” Blake and her father, Calvin, have moved 10 times in as many years. In Jackson, Mississippi, Nic has finally managed to make a friend, JP, by bonding over their shared love of the bestselling Stevie James fantasy book series, but there’s one thing Nic must hide from her friend. She and her father are Remarkables, born with a Gift that’s “more powerful than magic,” and this is the year that Nic’s father has promised to teach her how to use it, so long as she keeps it a secret from Unremarkables like JP. But when Nic’s 12th birthday arrives, Calvin instead gives her a hellhound puppy and the same old promise: “Next year.”

Nic’s world turns upside down at a Stevie James book signing when the series’ author, TJ Retro, reveals to her that the books are actually based on his childhood, with two characters inspired by Nic’s parents. The revelation sets off a chain of events that leads to Calvin making a number of his own confessions, including that he’s actually been on the run for the past decade. Nic, JP and a newly revealed relative are thrown into a quest for an immensely powerful weapon called the Msaidizi that offers the only way to clear Calvin’s name.

Award-winning, bestselling YA author Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give) makes her middle grade debut with Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy, the magnificent, hilarious and captivating start to a planned series. Nic’s opinionated running commentary makes her instantly appealing, and Thomas’ skill for conversational prose and dialogue shines. Rapid shifts in tone keep readers on their toes and turning pages as quickly as possible. For instance, Nic and her friends meet a spirit who shares that one of the best parts of being a ghost is going anywhere you want, including Beyoncé’s headlining set at Coachella, only to scramble to escape from skeletal hands that burst through the floor moments later. 

What makes this novel truly special is Thomas’ world building. She seamlessly intertwines fantastical Remarkable history with real-life Black history, as when Calvin explains that “nothing about any Black people started with slavery” and describes how “the Gift was first given to our ancestors . . . in Africa.” Fans of mythology will be delighted to learn that the Msaidizi has been used by folklore legends John Henry, High John and Annie Christmas. Just as captivating is the concept of Glow, auras of various colors visible only to Remarkables that signal the identities of vampires, giants, fairies, merfolk and Manifestors like Nic.   

It can be challenging to satiate the appetites of readers who devour beloved middle grade fantasy series like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, Dhonielle Clayton’s The Marvellers and B.B. Alston’s Amari and the Night Brothers. Those readers will inhale Nic Blake and the Remarkables—and then begin counting down the days to its sequel.

Readers who devour series like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books will inhale Nic Blake and the Remarkables and then begin counting down the days to its sequel.
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Imagine if you could travel around the world in a single instant. If you began in Australia at 10 a.m. and went to Brazil, it would already be 8 p.m. there! Author Nicola Davies and illustrator Jenni Desmond follow two children on one such magical journey across time zones in One World. Along the way, the pair witness a variety of wild animals and learn about the threats that climate change poses to the creatures.

As the book opens, two children huddle together in a blanket fort in their Greenwich, U.K., bedroom, using a flashlight to look at a book. A clock on the wall shows that the time is about 11:45 p.m. Davies offers a brief, helpful introduction to the concept of time zones, then, as midnight arrives, whisks the pair out their bedroom window and off to Svalbard, Norway. There, it’s 1 a.m., and a family of polar bears are hunting for seals.

With each stroke of midnight back in Greenwich, readers instantly travel to a new time zone, where they discover a new species. At 8 a.m. in the Philippines, we see whale sharks “gulping plankton into mouths the size of trash cans.” We visit a mob of kangaroos at 10 a.m. in the scorching Australian Outback, marvel at emperor penguins at noon in Antarctica and more. Every spread discusses dangers to habitats, such as pesticides and deforestation, or protections needed, including anti-poaching measures and the development of alternative energy sources. Davies is careful to depict both the harmful and helpful impacts that humans can have.

The two children, one wearing a yellow nightgown with blue bunny slippers and the other clad in red- and white-striped pajamas, are keen observers. They hang upside down with a sloth in Ecuador, nestle in the petals of a wildflower in California and float alongside humpback whales in the ocean near Hawaii. Their bright clothing ensures that they stand out in every scene.

After soaring over plastic-filled seas and a brightly lit metropolis, the children return home. It’s the first hour of Earth Day, and Davies urges readers to “think of all the wonders that we’ve seen,” then “shout them out . . . and tell the sleepers to WAKE UP because tomorrow is already here.” Filled with informative prose and stunning art, One World delivers on its creative concept and leaves readers with not only a sense of awe at our planet’s remarkable biodiversity but also newfound feelings of respect and responsibility.

This book leaves readers with not only a sense of awe at our planet’s remarkable biodiversity but also newfound feelings of respect and responsibility.
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The photograph taken after the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Lorraine Motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, is one of the most recognizable of the 20th century. As the civil rights leader lay dying, people nearby pointed to something out of frame while one man knelt at King’s side. The photo captures a tragic moment in history, but for Leta McCollough Seletzky, the image is particularly haunting—because her father was the one trying to administer first aid. As she writes in her absorbing memoir, The Kneeling Man, “For my family, the assassination was a lifelong wound, something we didn’t touch for fear of aggravating it.”

Leta McCollough Seletzky reveals that it took her nearly 35 years to ask her father why he was present on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

Seletzky wasn’t born until eight years after King’s death, and her parents split up when she was 3. Her father, Marrell “Mac” McCollough, took a job with the CIA, moved to Washington, D.C., and didn’t see much of his daughter. As an adult, however, Seletzky began questioning him about his life, especially about his time working for the Memphis Police Department before she was born. In 2015, she began an intensive interviewing, research and writing project that resulted in this account, which not only chronicles her father’s life but also reckons with his role in history.

Mac was the ninth of 12 children born to parents who rented 40 acres of Mississippi farmland from a white man who lived in Memphis. Growing up, his focus was on getting his high school diploma and then his college degree, goals that were not easily achieved. At the time of King’s assassination, Mac was 23 years old and beginning to take part-time college classes while working as an undercover cop to infiltrate a group of Black activists called the Invaders. Seletzky’s detailed yet fluid prose shapes her father’s story into a compelling narrative arc—beginning with his birth in Mississippi and ending with his 1999 retirement from the CIA—while holding space for her to grapple with Mac’s history as a Black man spying on Black Power activists for the police.

While Seletzky keeps the focus on her father’s story, his experiences and observations make intriguing contributions to the MLK assassination canon. For example, Mac observed that the bullet that killed Dr. King exploded on impact, which is the sort of technology he believed wasn’t sold in gun stores at that time. When Seletzky told civil rights activist Andrew Young that she wanted to know what really happened that night, he advised, “No, you don’t.” In a later conversation, he indicated that he wasn’t convinced that James Earl Ray, King’s convicted killer, was the one who pulled the trigger.

Near the end of her book, Seletzky admits, “I’d jumped into Dad’s story not knowing what I’d find and afraid of what I might uncover.” Thankfully she persevered, growing closer to her father in the process. The Kneeling Man will enlighten generations to come about a pivotal, disturbing moment in our nation’s history.

For Leta McCollough Seletzky, the famous photo of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination is particularly haunting—because her father was the one trying to administer first aid.

Lana Ferguson makes her debut with The Nanny, a heartfelt, mature and thoughtful contemporary romance between the titular nanny and the single father she works for.

Cassie Evans thought she’d moved on from her OnlyFans days, but with a pending eviction following the loss of her job at a children’s hospital, it seems like her only option is to fall back on what she knows will pay the bills. So she’s thrilled when she lands a position as a live-in nanny instead—not because she’s ashamed of her former work, but because she closed her OnlyFans account after falling for a client who got cold feet before they met up in person.

That client is none other than Cassie’s new boss, sexy executive chef and single dad Aiden Reid, who has no idea who Cassie is when he hires her as a nanny for his 9-year-old daughter, Sophie. Cassie and Aiden have an immediate and increasingly distracting attraction to each other, but they don’t put two and two together right away. However, as they spend time together and get to know each other, they begin to suspect the other’s identity. Their chemistry sizzles hotter than a kitchen flash fire, but Aiden’s and Cassie’s statuses as employer and employee (living under the same roof, no less) obviously complicate the decision to potentially act on their feelings. Plus, once Cassie realizes who Aiden really is, she must sort through her lingering feelings of rejection and insecurity.

Everything about The Nanny is enjoyable: the plot, the pacing, the compelling characters and especially Ferguson’s wise and funny voice. It’s also extremely refreshing to see sex-positive characters who approach intimacy with maturity. Aiden doesn’t shame Cassie for her work on OnlyFans, and she doesn’t shame him for engaging with it. If you’re a fan of dirty talk and slow-burning chemistry, you’ll love The Nanny.

Fans of slow-burning chemistry and dirty talk will love The Nanny, a thoughtful romance between the titular nanny and the single father she works for.
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How well can we ever truly know another person? The exceptional first memoir from novelist Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), This Isn’t Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew, explores this question in a way that is simultaneously sharp-edged and loving, honest and painfully haunting.

Wallace’s honed prose and hypnotic pacing carry readers through a layered narrative intertwining the author’s life with those of his friend and brother-in-law William Nealy, his sister Holly and, tangentially, William’s best friend, Edgar. The result is a complicated story of love and loathing and, ultimately, Wallace’s complex deconstruction of his friendship with William after he died by suicide.

Daniel Wallace shares more about his discovery that writing a memoir is “very, very, very hard.”

A talented cartoonist, illustrator, whitewater adventurer and writer, William was a lodestar for Wallace. Their first encounter was during a pool party at Wallace’s childhood home. William was Holly’s 18-year-old boyfriend at the time, and he was perched on their roof, calculating the distance to the swimming pool below. Eventually he jumped through the air, landed in the water, made a huge splash and climbed back onto the roof to do it again. From that moment, the 12-year-old Wallace was “spellbound” by William’s “wildness, the derring-do, his willingness to take flight—literally—into the unknown. . . . He flew, and I, who couldn’t, just watched.”

Over time, Wallace’s relationship with William took root and grew—as a role model, friend, brother-in-law and creative inspiration. “He showed me how it was done: experience, imagine, then create,” Wallace writes. There were road trips across state borders toting illegal drugs, fishing expeditions, raucous rock concerts and other chaotic adventures. Though he was outwardly charismatic, inventive and Clint Eastwood-style macho, William was also Holly’s sensitive and devoted husband, becoming her caretaker as her rheumatoid arthritis worsened.

“But there were two Williams,” Wallace writes. “One was . . . the William we all knew. There was another we didn’t know . . . the William who lived in his own secret room, the narrow confines of an interior life with space for only one, and a much darker space than I’d ever imagined it would be.” It was not until well after William’s tragic death by suicide at age 48 that Wallace discovered a fuller picture of what both drove and tormented William. As Wallace moved through his anger at discovering a version of William he’d never known while William was alive, he gradually realized that even if you cannot fully know another human being, there is at least the possibility that you can, through kindness and self-compassion, know a measure of yourself.

The exceptional first memoir from Big Fish author Daniel Wallace is loving, honest and haunting as it deconstructs his friendship with his late brother-in-law.

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