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Summer Most Anticipated: 22 New Books You’ll Want in Your Beach Bag

May 17 2021
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Summer is rapidly approaching, and this upcoming season is teeming with electrifying reads! From wildly original debut novels to highly anticipated new releases from our favorite authors, we have rounded up all the books that we are most looking forward to reading poolside, beachside, and everywhere else outside this summer of 2021. Pour yourself a cool beverage because these new releases are coming in hot!

Plus, take a look at Simon & Schuster’s Summer Reading Guide for even more must-reads for the ultimate bookcation.

The Other Black Girl
by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Heather’s Pick #1: One of the buzziest books of the year, and rightfully so, is THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by debut novelist Zakiya Dalila Harris. Some of the anticipation stems from its setting in the world of book publishing and that it’s written by an author who has worked in the industry herself: she gets the little details of an editorial assistant exactly right. A bigger part of the excitement surrounding this book, though, comes from how masterfully it combines a gripping suspense plot with incisive cultural criticism about what it’s like to be a Black woman in a majority-white workplace. THE OTHER BLACK GIRL will draw you in with the story of 26-year-old Nella Rogers, who’s the only Black employee on her floor at Wagner Books, until the arrival of a new colleague named Hazel. While at first hopeful she and Hazel will be fast friends, Nella soon starts to feel that they’re in competition. And then one evening she finds a disturbing note on her desk…. To reveal any more would be to ruin some big story twists, so I will leave it at this: once you pick up this thriller, you won’t be able to put it down! Publication Date: June 1, 2021

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The Other Black Girl
Zakiya Dalila Harris

“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original. This is an exciting debut.” —Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel

Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

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The Shimmering State
by Meredith Westgate

Emily’s Pick #1: I’m a huge fan of Black Mirror, so I’m ready to have my mind blown by this novel, which sounds like the perfect literary counterpart to one of my favorite TV series. Memoroxin is an experimental new drug that’s supposed to treat memory issues, and in this propulsive drama diverging story lines follow two people who witness various uses (and abuses) of the drug. Lucien, in LA, watches the results as his grandmother takes it for her Alzheimer’s. And Sophie, a ballet dancer, witnesses the abuse of “Mem” in the world of Hollywood. But when Lucien and Sophie end up at the same recovery center and have no memory of how they got there, the story really takes off, exploring the powerful force of memory, manipulation, and storytelling, especially the tales we tell ourselves. Publication Date: August 10, 2021

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The Shimmering State
Meredith Westgate

“Cinematic, dreamlike, at times brutal yet poignant.” —Frances Cha, author of If I Had Your Face

“Meredith Westgate has an extraordinary ear, not only for the stories we tell ourselves in order to live, but for the ways that we endlessly revise them to suit the new selves we continue to construct.” —Adam Wilson, author of Sensation Machines

A luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives.

Lucien moves to Los Angeles to be with his grandmother as she undergoes an experimental memory treatment for Alzheimer’s using a new drug, Memoroxin. An emerging photographer, he’s also running from the sudden death of his mother, a well-known artist whose legacy haunts him even far from New York.

Sophie has just landed the lead in the upcoming performance of La Sylphide with the Los Angeles Ballet. She still waitresses during her off-hours at the Chateau Marmont, witnessing the recreational use of Memoroxin—or Mem—among the Hollywood elite.

When Lucien and Sophie meet at the Center, founded by the ambitious yet conflicted Dr. Angelica Sloane to treat patients who’ve abused Mem, they have no memory of how they got there—or why they feel so inexplicably drawn to one another. Is it attraction, or something they cannot remember from “before”?

Set in a city that seems to have no memory of its own, The Shimmering State is a graceful meditation on the power of story and its creation. It masterfully explores memory and how it can elude us, trap us, or even set us free.

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Malibu Rising
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Emily’s Pick #2: Doesn’t this evocative summer cover just make you want to dive in? I’m a big Taylor Jenkins Reid fan and was so excited to receive an advance reader copy of her newest book. The story takes place in Malibu in 1983 and revolves around the four popular Riva siblings, whose accomplishments, good looks, and legendary singer father attract everyone’s attention at an end-of-summer party at their family’s mansion. But these famous close-knit siblings are not what they seem, and secrets threaten to burst to the surface. With a flash-forward to the Riva mansion on fire the morning after the party, this book pulls the reader into each story line with rising tension to find out just what happened and wonder which sibling reached their boiling point. This is Taylor Jenkins Reid at her finest, with expert pacing, evocative scenes, and characters who’ll surprise you at every turn. Publication Date: June 1, 2021

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Malibu Rising
Taylor Jenkins Reid

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The Forest of Vanishing Stars
by Kristin Harmel

Holly’s Pick: Fans of Kristin Harmel are in for a harrowing story with her newest novel, THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS. This vivid novel set in World War II follows one young woman with a keen sense of knowledge of the wilderness. After being stolen from her parents in Germany and raised in the wilderness of eastern Europe, Yona suddenly finds herself alone in 1941 after the woman who kidnapped and raised her dies. But her solitude does not last long. After happening upon a group of Jews fleeing from the Nazis, Yona vows to teach them everything she knows about surviving the treacherous forest, despite their skepticism of her trustworthiness. This is a heartbreaking story based on a real event during the Nazi era. Publication Date: July 6, 2021

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The Forest of Vanishing Stars
Kristin Harmel

The New York Times bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (People) The Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).

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Such a Quiet Place
by Megan Miranda

Allie’s Pick #1: I love curling up with a new Megan Miranda thriller every year. Twisty and suspenseful, her stories always manage to be compulsively readable. This novel follows the residents of Hollow's Edge, an idyllic community that has become a nightmare after a couple was found murdered and one of the neighbors, Ruby, was implicated in their deaths. But when Ruby's conviction is overturned, she returns to Hollow's Edge, and suspicion begins to spread about who is guilty if Ruby is not. Publication Date: July 13, 2021

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Such a Quiet Place
Megan Miranda

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest—a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection—comes a new riveting suspense novel about a mysterious murder in an idyllic and close-knit neighborhood.

We had no warning that she’d come back.

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

Pulsating with suspense and with the shocking twists that are Megan Miranda’s trademark, Such a Quiet Place is Megan Miranda’s best novel yet—a twisty locked-box thriller that will keep you turning pages late into the night.

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Yours Cheerfully
by AJ Pearce

Allie’s Pick #2: I absolutely adored AJ Pearce's bestselling debut novel, DEAR MRS. BIRD, and I am so excited to return to the lives of Emmy and Bunty with this sequel. DEAR MRS. BIRD followed Emmy as she got a job at the London Evening Chronicle in 1940 and began responding to the many women who were desperately seeking help by writing to the paper's advice columnist, Mrs. Bird. In this new story in the Emmeline Lake Chronicles, the military is calling on women's magazines to help recruit women, who are desperately needed in the war effort. Emmy is eager to help, but when she uncovers the struggles that many women face, she is torn between duty and standing up for her correspondence friends. Publication Date: August 10, 2021

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Yours Cheerfully
AJ Pearce

From the author of the “jaunty, heartbreaking winner” (People) and international bestseller Dear Mrs. Bird, a new charming and uplifting novel set in London during World War II about a plucky aspiring journalist.

London, November 1941. Following the departure of the formidable Henrietta Bird from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles (now stationed back in the UK) is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, is bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.

When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends.

Every bit as funny, heartwarming, and touching as Dear Mrs. Bird, Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship—a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.

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One Last Stop
by Casey McQuiston

Nicole’s Pick: The time has almost come! Casey McQuiston’s follow-up to her debut novel RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE hits shelves this summer and the hype is real! If you loved RWRB or if you just love an unputdownable queer love story/mystery/ode to New York, then stop what you’re doing and pre-order this one right now. I’ll wait.

Okay, welcome back! ONE LAST STOP centers on August, a 23-year-old woman who’s just moved to New York City to prove every cynical thought she has about love and magic correct. Soul mates? No way. Love at first sight? Made up. She trudges through her NYC days from her job at a pancake diner to school to home, and repeat. That is, until she has a chance encounter with a gorgeous woman on the Q train. August’s subway crush is more than what she seems though. Jane exudes the kind of coolness that is right out of a true old school punk rock era, which makes sense since Jane is literally displaced in time from the 1970s. August must rely on parts of herself she hoped to leave behind in order to help Jane. Along the way, she starts to wonder if believing in things isn’t as crazy as she once thought. Publication Date: June 1, 2021

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One Last Stop
Casey McQuiston

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The Startup Wife
by Tahmima Anam

Sharon’s Pick #1: THE STARTUP WIFE is high up on my summer TBR, as it is one of those rare books where, every time I think about it, I get excited to read it for a new reason. When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued because of the bright, graphic cover, and for its mind-bending premise: What if there was an app that could replace organized religion? That was already enough to pique my interest, but then I learned that THE STARTUP WIFE also delivers a satirical, feminist view of marriage and startup culture, and I knew that this was going to be one of my summer must-reads. Publication Date: July 13, 2021

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The Startup Wife
Tahmima Anam

“Tahmima Anam deftly uses humor to explore both start-up culture and the institution of marriage in an utterly charming and genuinely thoughtful way.” —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

Newlyweds Asha and Cyrus build an app that replaces religious rituals and soon find themselves running one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

Meet Asha Ray.

Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones.

Cyrus inspires Asha to write a new algorithm. Before she knows it, she’s abandoned her PhD program, they’ve exchanged vows, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia.

The platform creates a sensation, with millions of users seeking personalized rituals every day. Will Cyrus and Asha’s marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah?

In this gripping, blistering novel, award-winning author Tahmima Anam takes on faith and the future with a gimlet eye and a deft touch. Come for the radical vision of human connection, stay for the wickedly funny feminist look at startup culture and modern partnership. Can technology—with all its limits and possibilities—disrupt love?

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Billy Summers
by Stephen King

Jessica’s Pick: I absolutely cannot wait for Stephen King’s new novel, BILLY SUMMERS, this August! I have been a huge fan of the King’s for years and having a new standalone story from him is always something to look forward to. He is a master at developing characters and he always finds a new way to do horror. I can’t wait to see what he’s done with Billy, a killer for hire with a conscience. I’m expecting, as with every King, a few twists and surprise that will keep me on my toes. What more can you ask for in a summer thriller read? Publication Date: August 3, 2021

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Billy Summers
Stephen King

From legendary storyteller and #1 bestseller Stephen King, whose “restless imagination is a power that cannot be contained,” (The New York Times Book Review) comes a thrilling new novel about a good guy in a bad job.

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?

How about everything.

This spectacular can’t-put-it-down novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.

You won’t put this story down, and you won’t forget Billy.

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The People We Keep
by Allison Larkin

Emily’s Pick #3: In a small town in New York in 1994, April Sawicki is a young songwriter who never felt at home in her father’s motorhome, which was won from gambling. On a whim, she drives off with no destination in mind, but ends up finding Café Decadence, a coffee shop in Ithaca where the people begin to feel more like family than April’s ever known. Because she is still deeply scarred from her upbringing, April’s not sure if she’s able to trust and feel safe just yet, but music and creativity are helping her work through it. She writes everything out in song, and we get to see her lyrical prose every step of the way, adding emotional color to this beautiful story. As an amateur songwriter myself, I’m deeply intrigued by this novel and its exploration of the healing powers of music! Publication Date: August 3, 2021

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The People We Keep
Allison Larkin

“Raw, surprising and ultimately uplifting, Allison Larkin’s The People We Keep will break your heart a million different ways before putting it back together again.” —Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank with Me and Better Luck Next Time

The People We Keep is a “big-hearted and deeply moving novel” (Bruce Holsinger, author of The Gifted School) from the bestselling author of Stay and Swimming for Sunlight about a young songwriter longing to find a home in the world.

Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at Margo’s diner, she’s left fending for herself in a town where she’s never quite felt at home. When she “borrows” her neighbor’s car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than where she came from. After a fight with her dad, April packs her stuff and leaves for good, setting off on a journey to find a life that’s all hers.

Driving without a chosen destination, she stops to rest in Ithaca. Her only plan is to survive, but as she looks for work, she finds a kindred sense of belonging at Cafe Decadence, the local coffee shop. Still, somehow, it doesn’t make sense to her that life could be this easy. The more she falls in love with her friends in Ithaca, the more she can’t shake the feeling that she’ll hurt them the way she’s been hurt.

As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn’t dictate who she has to be.

This lyrical, unflinching tale is for anyone who has ever yearned for the fierce power of found family or to grasp the profound beauty of choosing to belong.

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Long Division
by Kiese Laymon

Sharon’s Pick #2: Kiese Laymon has one of the most inventive voices in literature today, and after I finished (and had my mind blown by) his essay collection HOW TO SLOWLY KILL YOURSELF AND OTHERS IN AMERICA earlier this year, I made a vow that I would read all of Laymon’s writing. LONG DIVISION is Laymon’s debut novel, and like his nonfiction, it promises to be highly inventive while tackling topics such as race, violence, and the power of language. The book starts in 2013, with the fourteen-year-old protagonist Citoyen “City” Coldson becoming an overnight YouTube celebrity after having a meltdown onstage during a nationally televised quiz contest. In the aftermath, he is sent to stay with his grandmother in a small coastal community. Before he leaves, he is given a book without an author entitled Long Division, which stars him and his love interest in 1985, attempting to time travel into the future in order to save a fellow time traveler’s family in 1964. Publication Date: June 1, 2021

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Long Division
Kiese Laymon

From Kiese Laymon, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Heavy, comes a “funny, astute, searching” (The Wall Street Journal) debut novel about Black teenagers that is a satirical exploration of celebrity, authorship, violence, religion, and coming of age in post-Katrina Mississippi.

Written in a voice that’s alternately humorous, lacerating, and wise, Long Division features two interwoven stories. In the first, it’s 2013: after an on-stage meltdown during a nationally televised quiz contest, fourteen-year-old Citoyen “City” Coldson becomes an overnight YouTube celebrity. The next day, he’s sent to stay with his grandmother in the small coastal community of Melahatchie, where a young girl named Baize Shephard has recently disappeared.

Before leaving, City is given a strange book without an author called Long Division. He learns that one of the book’s main characters is also named City Coldson—but Long Division is set in 1985. This 1985-version of City, along with his friend and love interest, Shalaya Crump, discovers a way to travel into the future, and steals a laptop and cellphone from an orphaned teenage rapper called...Baize Shephard. They ultimately take these items with them all the way back to 1964, to help another time-traveler they meet to protect his family from the Ku Klux Klan.

City’s two stories ultimately converge in the work shed behind his grandmother’s house, where he discovers the key to Baize’s disappearance. Brilliantly “skewering the disingenuous masquerade of institutional racism” (Publishers Weekly), this dreamlike “smart, funny, and sharp” (Jesmyn Ward), novel shows the work that young Black Americans must do, while living under the shadow of a history “that they only gropingly understand and must try to fill in for themselves” (The Wall Street Journal).

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Falling
by T. J. Newman

Heather’s Pick #2: Who can resist a concept like “Speed, but in the air” or (in the words of author Don Winslow) “Jaws at 35,000 feet”? Not this reader! FALLING, by former flight attendant and debut author T.J. Newman, is the definition of a white-knuckle thriller. The book drops you into a terrifying but all-too-realistic scenario, one in which you’ve just learned that your pilot for a flight to New York is in a compromised position. As it turns out, his family was kidnapped mere minutes before boarding, and now he’s got exactly one choice: Crash a plane with you and 143 other passengers on board to save his family, or land the aircraft safely, knowing his family will be killed. I don’t know about you, but I’m already on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what happens next....Publication Date: July 6, 2021

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Falling
T. J. Newman

“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing...Intense suspense, shocks and scares...Chilling.” —Lee Child
“The perfect summer thriller. Relentlessly paced and unforgettable.” —Janet Evanovich

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

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The Other Passenger
by Louise Candlish

Jordyn’s Pick #1: If you’re a fan of Ruth Ware’s or Lisa Jewell’s books, then THE OTHER PASSENGER should be next on your list! This story fits so perfectly with those other writers’ thrillers, given its sense of foreboding and tension throughout. Jamie’s commuting buddy Kit has gone missing, and now the police want to question Jamie after finding out the two had a fight during their ferry ride the day before Kit disappeared. But Jamie had nothing to do with the disappearance, so why does he feel like he’s in danger? This had me reading into the night to figure out what was happening, and it’s perfect for those dreary spring days that call for a little more wake-up action. Publication Date: July 20, 2021

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The Other Passenger
Louise Candlish

The “queen of the sucker-punch twist” (Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author) and author of Our House weaves “a stunning masterwork of style and suspense” (Jeffery Deaver, New York Times bestselling author) about a commuter who becomes a suspect in his friend’s mysterious disappearance. Perfect for fans of the unputdownable page-turners by Christina McDonald and Lisa Jewell.

It all happens so quickly. One day you’re living the dream, commuting to work by ferry with your charismatic neighbor Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn’t turned up for the boat and his wife, Melia, has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends—ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren’t you?

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Lightning Strike
by William Kent Krueger

Emily’s Pick #4: Fans of William Kent Krueger’s thoughtful storytelling will be engaged by this story that takes place in a quaint Minnesota lake town in 1963 and what happens when a twelve-year-old finds the body of a townsperson he greatly respected hanging from the trees. Cork is still reeling over what he’s seen when the tension ramps up even more. He begins to suspect that the person was murdered, rather than committed suicide like everyone else suspects, including, initially, his sheriff father. This is a heartbreaking coming-of-age story that tackles big questions with care, and it’s a prequel, so it’s a great introduction to the Cork O’Connor series. Publication Date: August 24, 2021

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Lightning Strike
William Kent Krueger

The author of the instant New York Times bestseller This Tender Land returns with a powerful prequel to his acclaimed Cork O’Connor series—a book about fathers and sons, long-simmering conflicts in a small Minnesota town, and the events that echo through youth and shape our lives forever.

Aurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.

Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own. Together, father and son face the ultimate test of choosing between what their heads tell them is true and what their hearts know is right.

In this masterful story of a young man and a town on the cusp of change, beloved novelist William Kent Krueger shows that some mysteries can be solved even as others surpass our understanding.

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Damnation Spring
by Ash Davidson

Sharon’s Pick #3: DAMNATION SPRING by Ash Davidson caught my attention because of the buzz it generated among my coworkers. Its sweeping scope and the fact that this is Ash Davidson’s first novel make me highly intrigued to read it. It takes place in 1970s northern California, in the world of Damnation Grove and the small, logging-dependent town that borders it. Rich Gundersen, a logger working for the Sanderson Logging Company, wants a better life for his wife, young son, and himself; when he sees the opportunity to buy the 24-7 Ridge, which lies beyond Damnation Grove, he purchases it with the family’s savings, unbeknown to his wife. When the environmental degradation caused by the logging company becomes increasingly evident, Rich’s plans for the ranch, his marriage, and his community are put at stake. Publication Date: August 3, 2021

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Damnation Spring
Ash Davidson

An epic, immersive debut, Damnation Spring is the deeply human story of a Pacific Northwest logging town wrenched in two by a mystery that threatens to derail its way of life.

For generations, Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped a livelihood out of the redwood forest along California’s rugged coast. Now Rich and his wife, Colleen, are raising their own young son near Damnation Grove, a swath of ancient redwoods on which Rich’s employer, Sanderson Timber Co., plans to make a killing. In 1977, with most of the forest cleared or protected, a grove like Damnation—and beyond it 24-7 Ridge—is a logger’s dream.

It’s dangerous work. Rich has already lived decades longer than his father, killed on the job. Rich wants better for his son, Chub, so when the opportunity arises to buy 24-7 Ridge—costing them all the savings they’ve squirreled away for their growing family—he grabs it, unbeknownst to Colleen. Because the reality is their family isn’t growing; Colleen has lost several pregnancies. And she isn’t alone. As a midwife, Colleen has seen it with her own eyes.

For decades, the herbicides the logging company uses were considered harmless. But Colleen is no longer so sure. What if these miscarriages aren’t isolated strokes of bad luck? As mudslides take out clear-cut hillsides and salmon vanish from creeks, her search for answers threatens to unravel not just Rich’s plans for the 24-7, but their marriage too, dividing a town that lives and dies on timber along the way.

Told from the perspectives of Rich, Colleen, and Chub, in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, this intimate, compassionate portrait of a community clinging to a vanishing way of life amid the perils of environmental degradation makes Damnation Spring an essential novel for our time.

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Trejo
by Danny Trejo

Jordyn’s Pick #2: Okay, I won’t lie. I first saw Danny Trejo in Spy Kids, like most of my fellow millennials. It wasn’t until I was older that I started seeing him in action movies like Machete, Desperado, and eventually Breaking Bad. But it was definitely Spy Kids that I first saw him in, and I thought he was the coolest. TREJO is an honest and detailed memoir of his life, his addiction, and prison time, and also of his family and sobriety. There is so much heart in this story, and from page 1 you can hear his voice. It’s gritty and authentic, and absolutely engrossing and majorly inspirational. And yes, he talks about Spy Kids. Publication Date: July 6, 2021

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Trejo
Danny Trejo

For the first time, the full, fascinating, and inspirational true story of Danny Trejo’s journey from crime, prison, addiction, and loss to unexpected fame as Hollywood’s favorite bad guy with a heart of gold.

On screen, Danny Trejo the actor is a baddie who has been killed at least a hundred times. He’s been shot, stabbed, hanged, chopped up, squished by an elevator, and once, was even melted into a bloody goo. Off screen, he’s a hero beloved by recovery communities and obsessed fans alike. But the real Danny Trejo is much more complicated than the legend.

Raised in an abusive home, Danny struggled with heroin addiction and stints in some of the country’s most notorious state prisons, including San Quentin and Folsom, from an early age, before starring in such modern classics as Heat, From Dusk till Dawn, and Machete. Now, in this funny, painful, and suspenseful memoir, Danny takes us through the incredible ups and downs of his life, including meeting one of the world’s most notorious serial killers in prison and working with legends like Charles Bronson and Robert De Niro.

In honest, unflinching detail, Danny recounts how he managed the horrors of prison, rebuilt himself after finding sobriety and spirituality in solitary confinement, and draws inspiration from the adrenaline-fueled robbing heists of his past for the film roles that made him a household name. He also shares the painful contradictions in his personal life. Although he speaks everywhere from prison yards to NPR about his past to inspire countless others on their own road to recovery and redemption, he struggles to help his children with their personal battles with addiction, and to build relationships that last.

Redemptive and painful, poignant and real, Trejo is a portrait of a magnificent life and an unforgettable and exceptional journey through tragedy, pain, and, finally, success that will transfix and inspire.

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By Off the Shelf Staff | May 17, 2021

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That Summer
by Jennifer Weiner

Kelly’s Pick: This is not a drill: Jennifer Weiner has a new book coming out and the audiobook is narrated by Younger star and Tony Award winner Sutton Foster. You absolutely cannot miss this twisty story of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship. With a thriving career and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, Daisy Shoemaker should be content—but instead she can't sleep. While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women become friends. But as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Sutton's authentic performance in the audiobook really put me in Daisy's shoes. This is the ideal read or listen for a sunny day—its combination of fantastic writing and immersive setting held my attention until the very end! Publication Date: May 11, 2021

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That Summer
Jennifer Weiner

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another timely and deliciously twisty novel of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship.

Daisy Shoemaker can’t sleep. With a thriving cooking business, full schedule of volunteer work, and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, she should be content. But her teenage daughter can be a handful, her husband can be distant, her work can feel trivial, and she has lots of acquaintances, but no real friends. Still, Daisy knows she’s got it good. So why is she up all night?

While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling, whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. While Daisy’s driving carpools, Diana is chairing meetings. While Daisy’s making dinner, Diana’s making plans to reorganize corporations. Diana’s glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women meet and become friends. But, as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?

From the manicured Main Line of Philadelphia to the wild landscape of the Outer Cape, written with Jennifer Weiner’s signature wit and sharp observations, That Summer is a story about surviving our pasts, confronting our futures, and the sustaining bonds of friendship.

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The Last Thing He Told Me
by Laura Dave

Sharon’s Pick #4: If you’re looking for a thriller with morally ambiguous characters who will do whatever it takes to protect their family, THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME is for you! The book starts with Hannah Hall trying to fathom the sudden disappearance of her husband, Owen. All she’s left with is a duffel bag full of cash and a note saying, “Protect Her,” referencing Hannah’s teenage stepdaughter, Bailey. As Hannah tries to unravel what happened to Owen, she faces the additional challenge of helping Bailey cope with the trauma—a challenging task made all the more difficult since Bailey wants nothing to do with Hannah. Publication Day: May 4, 2021

Watch editor Marysue Rucci explain why she loves this book!

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The Last Thing He Told Me
Laura Dave

From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.

We all have stories we never tell.

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.

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It Had to Be You
by Georgia Clark

Heather’s Pick #3: I’m still all for blocking out the real world with rom-coms, so Georgia Clark’s IT HAD TO BE YOU grabbed me at “perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston.” What’s more, it has a beautiful cover and a somewhat mysterious premise. How could I not be intrigued? When Liv Goldenhorn’s husband suddenly passes away, she’s shocked to learn that he willed his half of their wedding planning business to a woman named Savannah Shipley, his secret girlfriend. Liv and Savannah have some things to work through, to put it mildly! By doing exactly that, however, the two of them will develop an unlikely friendship that will help each of them open back up to love. The result is a Love Actually-esque series of interconnected romantic entanglements that unravel beautifully. Publication Date: May 4, 2021

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It Had to Be You
Georgia Clark

“The book-equivalent of a perfect first date... Highly highly recommend.” —Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author of 28 Summers

The author of the “emotional, hilarious, and thought-provoking” (People) novel The Bucket List returns with a witty and heartfelt romantic comedy featuring a wedding planner, her unexpected business partner, and their coworkers in a series of linked love stories—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston.

For the past twenty years, Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have run In Love in New York, Brooklyn’s beloved wedding-planning business. When Eliot dies unexpectedly, he even more unexpectedly leaves half of the business to his younger, blonder girlfriend, Savannah. Liv and Savannah are not a match made in heaven, to say the least. But what starts as a personal and professional nightmare transforms into something even savvy, cynical Liv Goldenhorn couldn’t begin to imagine.

It Had to Be You cleverly unites Liv, Savannah, and couples as diverse and unique as New York City itself, in a joyous Love-Actually-style braided narrative. The result is a smart, modern love story that truly speaks to our times. Second chances, secret romance, and steamy soul mates are front and center in this sexy, tender, and utterly charming rom-com.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Swimming Back to Trout River
by Linda Rui Feng

Allie’s Pick #3: SWIMMING BACK TO TROUT RIVER is a breathtaking debut novel. Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, this story follows a family that has been separated geographically and emotionally from each other. Momo and Cassia both made their way to America years ago; however, they are estranged. Momo desperately wants to reunite his family so that they can bring their young daughter, Junie, over to America to be with them. It's a truly gorgeous novel that seems to carry music at its very core. I highly recommend reading this one! Publication Date: May 11, 2021

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Swimming Back to Trout River
Linda Rui Feng

A lyrical novel set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution that follows a father’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday, which Garth Greenwell calls “one of the most beautiful debuts I’ve read in years.”

How many times in life can we start over without losing ourselves?

In the summer of 1986 in a small Chinese village, ten-year-old Junie receives a momentous letter from her parents, who had left for America years ago: her father promises to return home and collect her by her twelfth birthday. But Junie’s growing determination to stay put in the idyllic countryside with her beloved grandparents threatens to derail her family’s shared future.

What Junie doesn’t know is that her parents, Momo and Cassia, are newly estranged from one another in their adopted country, each holding close private tragedies and histories from the tumultuous years of their youth during China’s Cultural Revolution. While Momo grapples anew with his deferred musical ambitions and dreams for Junie’s future in America, Cassia finally begins to wrestle with a shocking act of brutality from years ago. In order for Momo to fulfill his promise, he must make one last desperate attempt to reunite all three members of the family before Junie’s birthday—even if it means bringing painful family secrets to light.

“A beautifully written, poignant exploration of family, art, culture, immigration, and most of all, love,” (Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee) Swimming Back to Trout River weaves together the stories of Junie, Momo, Cassia, and Dawn—a talented violinist from Momo’s past—while depicting their heartbreak and resilience, tenderly revealing the hope, compromises, and abiding ingenuity that make up the lives of immigrants.

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People We Meet on Vacation
by Emily Henry

Courtney’s Pick: Emily Henry, the author of the iconic BEACH READ, is back with a new summer must-read. Poppy and Alex, two friends with more differences than similarities, had gone on a summer vacation together every year for ten years. Except two years ago something happened and they haven’t spoken since. When Poppy realizes that she can’t continue pretending Alex was never a part of her life, she convinces him to go on one last summer vacation with her. Will they be able to fix everything in seven days? Nothing is more fun than a vacation with friends; hopefully that holds true for these two too. Publication Date: May 11, 2021

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People We Meet on Vacation
Emily Henry

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MENTIONED IN:

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Heartbreak for Hire
by Sonia Hartl

Saimah’s Pick: Brinkley Saunders has been burned in the past—by her friends, her family and the guy she loved. She drops out of grad school and leaves the world of academia behind. Everyone thinks she works as an admin assistant for an insurance agency, but they don't know that she is actually a professional "heartbreaker". Through a service that specializes in revenge called Heartbreak for Hire, the heartbreakers will serve up revenge in their own specialized way– whether it's a jilted lover, an overstepping coworker, a frenemie, or a crazy roommate. All of the heartbreakers are women who were also burned in the past, but when her boss announces she's hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley feels betrayed again—especially when her newest co-worker also happens to be her most recent target, Mark. This steamy enemies-to-lovers romance is the perfect summer beach read! Publication Date: July 27, 2021

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Heartbreak for Hire
Sonia Hartl

A smart, sexy, and witty romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne—about a twentysomething who lives out every woman’s fantasy: getting paid to give men who do us wrong a taste of their own medicine. But when a previous target unexpectedly shows up at her office, she’s forced to rethink her life as a professional heartbreaker.

Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

With Sonia Hartl’s “bitingly funny” (Publishers Weekly) prose, Heartbreak for Hire is a clever romcom you and your girlfriends won’t be able to stop talking about.

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Sara Roncero-Menendez | October 15, 2021

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Photo credit: iStock / Gutzemberg

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