April Most Anticipated: 18 New Releases Ready to Reel You In

March 29 2022
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In the age of easy distractions, we’re desperate for an escape, but at the same time can’t seem to find a way out. Maybe that’s why all the books in our April Most Anticipated list have premises or covers that immediately grab us and are just too good to pass by. They hook us with gorgeous covers, reel us in with words like “heist novel” or “for Scrabble lovers.” And then, before we know it, the books have arrived on our doorstep and we’re lost in the pages for days.

Bluebird
by Genevieve Graham

Jordyn’s Pick: I cannot wait to add this stunning book to my collection; just look at that pop of blue on the cover! Genevieve Graham is known for her brilliant historical fiction focusing on parts of Canadian history many don’t know about, and she’s done it again with WWI nurses (known as the “bluebirds” for their blue gowns) and the rumrunners of the Prohibition era. And of course there’s the love story between a nurse and a soldier that will remind you of the power of love in tumultuous times. 

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Bluebird
Genevieve Graham

A dazzling novel set during the Great War and postwar Prohibition about a young nurse, a soldier, and a family secret that binds them together for generations to come—from USA TODAY and repeat #1 bestselling author Genevieve Graham.

Present day

Cassie Simmons, a museum curator, is enthusiastic about solving mysteries from the past, and she has a personal interest in the history of the rumrunners who ferried illegal booze across the Detroit River during Prohibition. So when a cache of whisky labeled Bailey Brothers’ Best is unearthed during a local home renovation, Cassie hopes to find the answers she’s been searching for about the legendary family of bootleggers...

1918

Corporal Jeremiah Bailey of the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company is tasked with planting mines in the tunnels beneath enemy trenches. After Jerry is badly wounded in an explosion, he finds himself in a Belgium field hospital under the care of Adele Savard, one of Canada’s nursing sisters, nicknamed “Bluebirds” for their blue gowns and white caps. As Jerry recovers, he forms a strong connection with Adele, who is from a place near his hometown of Windsor, along the Detroit River. In the midst of war, she’s a welcome reminder of home, and when Jerry is sent back to the front, he can only hope that he’ll see his bluebird again.

By war’s end, both Jerry and Adele return home to Windsor, scarred by the horrors of what they endured overseas. When they cross paths one day, they have a chance to start over. But the city is in the grip of Prohibition, which brings exciting opportunities as well as new dangerous conflicts that threaten to destroy everything they have fought for.

Pulled from the pages of history, Bluebird is a compelling, luminous novel about the strength of the human spirit and the power of love to call us home.

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The Sign for Home
by Blair Fell

Emily’s Pick #1: I think what most convinced me to move this book to the top of my list was this video of author Blair Fell discussing his inspiration for writing the story. He explains how during his work as an ASL interpreter and his friendships with Deaf and DeafBlind people, he decided he wanted to write a love story, bringing together the hearing world and the Deaf world. Thus, he began writing his debut novel, THE SIGN FOR HOME. College student Arlo Dilly fell in love at a boarding school for the Deaf years ago. But then his romantic interest died tragically, and he’d resigned himself to never finding love again, until he uncovers buried memories while completing a writing assignment. Did his hearing friends explain the complete truth about what happened? He sets out with a group of misfits to uncover the truth and potentially reunite with his love once more.

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The Sign for Home
Blair Fell

When Arlo Dilly learns the girl he thought was lost forever might still be out there, he takes it as a sign and embarks on a life-changing journey to find his great love—and his freedom.

Arlo Dilly is young, handsome and eager to meet the right girl. He also happens to be DeafBlind, a Jehovah’s Witness, and under the strict guardianship of his controlling uncle. His chances of finding someone to love seem slim to none.

And yet, it happened once before: many years ago, at a boarding school for the Deaf, Arlo met the love of his life—a mysterious girl with onyx eyes and beautifully expressive hands which told him the most amazing stories. But tragedy struck, and their love was lost forever.

Or so Arlo thought.

After years trying to heal his broken heart, Arlo is assigned a college writing assignment which unlocks buried memories of his past. Soon he wonders if the hearing people he was supposed to trust have been lying to him all along, and if his lost love might be found again.

No longer willing to accept what others tell him, Arlo convinces a small band of misfit friends to set off on a journey to learn the truth. After all, who better to bring on this quest than his gay interpreter and wildly inappropriate Belgian best friend? Despite the many forces working against him, Arlo will stop at nothing to find the girl who got away and experience all of life’s joyful possibilities.

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Portrait of a Thief
by Grace D. Li

Emily’s Pick #2: All I needed to know was that this was a heist novel about an art history major stealing back Chinese art from Western museums, and I immediately needed to read it. Plus, it’s inspired by a true story! Will Chen is an art history major who decides to steal Chinese sculptures and return them to Beijing. He assembles a crew of his friends and roommates who lean into their new roles as con artists, thieves, and getaway drivers with passion and humor. With its extremely high stakes, enlightening details about culture and art history, and complex ensemble cast, this novel has all the elements of an entertaining read.

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Portrait of a Thief
Grace D. Li

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The Children on the Hill
by Jennifer McMahon

Sara’s Pick: Jennifer McMahon is a horror queen, so whenever she has a new novel coming out, I am first in line to snag a copy. THE CHILDREN ON THE HILL sees McMahon tackle the Gothic horror of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN. When Dr. Helen Hildreth brings her grandchildren a new kid to play with, Violet and Eric are more than a little wary. Iris is odd, feral in a way most children aren’t, but soon enough, the kids accept her into their monster-hunting club. But there’s a darkness that will destroy their happy childhood, with the hard realization that monsters really are all around us—and that’s only half the story. Equal parts insightful and suspenseful, this is the book that will keep you up all night reading, especially since you’ll be worried about turning off the lights for the night.

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The Children on the Hill
Jennifer McMahon

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Drowning Kind comes a genre-defying new novel, inspired by Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, that brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us.

1978: At her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she’s home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she’s just Gran—teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love.

Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris—silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral—does not behave like a normal girl.

Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere.

2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She’s determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real—and one of them is her very own sister.

A haunting, vividly suspenseful page-turner from the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson” (Chris Bohjalian, author of The Flight Attendant), The Children on the Hill takes us on a breathless journey to face the primal fears that lurk within us all.

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Queen of the Tiles
by Hanna Alkaf

Nicole’s Pick: In a time when many of us start our days solving the Wordle and end our nights with true crime podcasts, QUEEN OF THE TILES arrives as the perfect combination of those activities. When the talented and popular Trina Low dies suddenly in the middle of a Scrabble tournament, it rocks the entire community, but especially her best friend Najwa. One year after Trina’s death, Najwa is finally ready to compete again in an effort to heal and move forward. But all of that comes to a screeching halt when someone starts posting from Trina’s Instagram account with clues alluding to her death being more than it seemed. Najwa is forced to examine her friends in a new light as she tries to uncover what happened to her best friend. Filled with secrets, twists, and a litany of Scrabble words that would excite any wordsmith, QUEEN OF THE TILES is an immediate TBR add.

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Queen of the Tiles
Hanna Alkaf

They Wish They Were Us meets The Queen’s Gambit in the world of competitive Scrabble when a teen girl is forced to investigate the mysterious death of her best friend a year after the fact when her Instagram comes back to life with cryptic posts and messages.

CATALYST
13 points
noun: a substance that speeds up a reaction without itself changing

When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.

But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.

As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.

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Drop Dead Gorgeous
by Rachel Gibson

Molly’s Pick: FREAKY FRIDAY meets IF I STAY in Rachel Gibson’s newest romantic comedy, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS. Small-town Texan Brittany Lynn Snider is on her way to meet a Tinder date when she crashes her mom’s minivan. The next thing she knows, she’s in the Limbo Lounge, a sort of in-between state, waiting to learn whether she’ll return to Earth or be sent to heaven. When a shimmering portal appears for Brittany to enter the pearly gates, a wealthy socialite named Edie swoops in and steals Brittany’s place. So, what happens to Brittany? She gets a second chance at life, but in Edie’s body. Rachel Gibson is a master at balancing heart and humor, and I’m so excited to read what author Angie Hockman describes as a “a beautiful, larger-than-life story of self-discovery that captures the imagination.”

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Drop Dead Gorgeous
Rachel Gibson

This hilarious fish-out-of-water tale—from the New York Times bestselling author of the “endearing, funny, and heart-tugging” (Karen Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author) novel How Lulu Lost Her Mind—explores what happens when a small-town Texas girl swaps bodies with a filthy rich socialite.

On her way from singing in church to hooking up with a Tinder date, Brittany Lynn Snider crashes her momma’s minivan, and her life is changed forever. One moment she’s texting HotGuyNate, and in the next she’s at a hospital in El Paso watching doctors operate on her near-lifeless body. If that wasn’t bad enough, she finds herself trapped in the Limbo Lounge where patients await their fate, playing cards and watching reruns of 7th Heaven and Heaven Help Us.

When a shimmering portal appears, it pulls Brittany upward toward heaven—until the lounge’s resident bully, a wealthy socialite named Edie, leaps through first and steals Brittany’s place. Brittany now has a second chance at life on Earth, but with a catch: she must inhabit Edie’s body.

Waking up as Edie in a mental facility where doctors try to cure her alleged retrograde amnesia, Brittany resumes a life of privilege in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Yet even as she basks in luxury and reconnects with Edie’s old flame, Brittany plans to return to her old life in Texas. But when things don’t go according to her plan, she must ask herself: Who is Brittany Lynn Snider, and what does she want now?

And where’s Edie? Did she manage to make it past the pearly gates?

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Watch Out for Her
by Samantha M. Bailey

Heather’s Pick #1: Beyond ready to trade in your winter layers for a swimsuit? Well, even if the weather doesn’t quite allow for that wardrobe change yet, you can pick up a book that’ll make you sweat like you’re out sunbathing in the summer. Samantha M. Bailey’s new psychological thriller, WATCH OUT FOR HER, is the nerve-racking story of Sarah Goldman, who’s starting over in a new town with her husband, Daniel, and young son, Jacob. The previous summer, she had hired a babysitter named Holly, who at first seemed like a gift to their family but turned out to be a nightmare. Sarah feels more secure with some distance from Holly, but that sense of safety doesn’t last for long. Why? Because she discovers hidden cameras in her new home, which makes Sarah wonder if she’s escaped the danger to her family after all . . .

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Watch Out for Her
Samantha M. Bailey

A tense psychological thriller about a mother who must keep watch at all times if she wants to keep her family safe—from USA TODAY and #1 national bestselling author Samantha M. Bailey.

Wherever you go…
she’ll be watching.

Sarah Goldman, mother to six-year-old Jacob, is relieved to move across the country. She has a lot she wants to leave behind, especially Holly Monroe, the pretty twenty-two-year-old babysitter she and her husband, Daniel, hired to take care of their young son last summer. It started out as a perfect arrangement—Sarah had a childminder her son adored, and Holly found the mother figure she’d always wanted. But Sarah’s never been one to trust very easily, so she kept a close eye on Holly, maybe too close at times. What she saw raised some questions, not only about who Holly really was but what she was hiding. The more Sarah watched, the more she learned—until one day, she saw something she couldn’t unsee, something so shocking that all she could do was flee.

Sarah has put it all behind her and is starting over in a different city with her husband and son. They’ve settled into a friendly suburb where the neighbors, a tight clique of good citizens, are always on the lookout for danger. But when Sarah finds hidden cameras in her new home, she has to wonder: Has her past caught up to her, and worse yet, who’s watching her now?

A spine-tingling, page-turning novel from USA TODAY and #1 national bestselling author Samantha M. Bailey, Watch Out for Her is psychological suspense at its very best—a chilling look at trust, voyeurism, and obsession in the modern age, and how far we will go to watch out for those we love.

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To Marry and to Meddle
by Martha Waters

Megan’s Pick: Martha Waters is back and better than ever with the third installment of the Regency Vows series! This time, we follow Julian and Emily, in addition to the lovable characters featured in TO HAVE AND TO HOAX and TO LOVE AND TO LOATHE, as they embark on a marriage of convenience. And, well, you’ll just have to read to see how convenient it really is. With this tender, heartfelt, and hilarious novel, Martha Waters has done it again!

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To Marry and to Meddle
Martha Waters

The “sweet, sexy, and utterly fun” (Emily Henry, author of People We Meet on Vacation) Regency Vows series continues with a witty, charming, and joyful novel following a seasoned debutante and a rakish theater owner as they navigate a complicated marriage of convenience.

Lady Emily Turner has been a debutante for six seasons now and should have long settled into a suitable marriage. However, due to her father’s large debts, her only suitor is the persistent and odious owner of her father’s favorite gambling house. Meanwhile, Lord Julian Belfry, the second son of a marquess, has scandalized society as an actor and owner of a theater—the kind of establishment where men take their mistresses, but not their wives. When their lives intersect at a house party, Lord Julian hatches a plan to benefit them both.

With a marriage of convenience, Emily will use her society connections to promote the theater to a more respectable clientele and Julian will take her out from under the shadows of her father’s unsavory associates. But they soon realize they have very different plans for their marriage—Julian wants Emily to remain a society wife, while Emily discovers an interest in the theater. But when a fleeing actress, murderous kitten, and meddlesome friends enter the fray, Emily and Julian will have to confront the fact that their marriage of convenience comes with rather inconvenient feelings.

With “an arch sense of humor and a marvelously witty voice that rivals the best of the Regency authors” (Entertainment Weekly), Martha Waters crafts another fresh romantic comedy that for fans of Julia Quinn and Evie Dunmore.

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The Candy House
by Jennifer Egan

Emily’s Pick #3: I read A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD years ago, so I was excited to see a new novel from Jennifer Egan coming out this spring with a similarly fun play with narrative devices, and even including some of the same characters! But while GOON SQUAD covered music, this one imagines a future where you can view anyone’s memories as long as you share your own as well. Using that as the background, Egan explores humanity and art through different perspectives: letter-writing, duets, tweets. I’m hoping this book does the same thing GOON SQUAD did for me: provide a uniquely fun reading experience while also challenging me to interpret its format and the reasoning behind stylistic choices that allow me to connect more closely with the characters. 

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The Candy House
Jennifer Egan

From one of the most celebrated writers of our time, a literary figure with cult status, a “sibling novel” to her Pulitzer Prize- and NBCC Award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad—an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private.

The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Bix is 40, with four kids, restless, desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. It’s 2010. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.

In spellbinding interlocking narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Intellectually dazzling, The Candy House is also extraordinarily moving, a testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption. In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter and a chapter of tweets.

If Goon Squad was organized like a concept album, The Candy House incorporates Electronic Dance Music’s more disjunctive approach. The parts are titled: Build, Break, Drop. With an emphasis on gaming, portals, and alternate worlds, its structure also suggests the experience of moving among dimensions in a role-playing game.

The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away. Egan takes to stunning new heights her “deeply intuitive forays into the darker aspects of our technology-driven, image-saturated culture” (Vogue). The Candy House delivers an absolutely extraordinary combination of fierce, exhilarating intelligence and heart.

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Bomb Shelter
by Mary Laura Philpott

Emily’s Pick #4: There’s a line in BOMB SHELTER that I can’t stop thinking about and that perfectly sums up Mary Laura Philpott’s writing style: “I keep trying to make sense of my life by stacking stories upon stories upon stories.” It’s what I love about this book. Whether she’s telling a frightening story about her son’s first epileptic episode or the time the turtle kept showing up and knocking on the back door, she connects so many different snippets of her life and previous scenes we’ve encountered in a way that imbues deeper meaning into everything. She’s so perceptive about her own actions and those around her that it may even change the way you view your own life. 

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Bomb Shelter
Mary Laura Philpott

From the bestselling author of I Miss You When I Blink and “writer of singular spark and delight” (Elizabeth Gilbert, #1 New York Times bestselling author) comes a poignant and powerful new memoir-in-essays that tackles the big questions of life, death, and existential fear with humor and hope.

A lifelong worrier, Philpott always kept an eye out for danger, a habit that only intensified when she became a parent. But she looked on the bright side, too, believing that as long as she cared enough, she could keep her loved ones safe.

Then, in the dark of one quiet, pre-dawn morning, she woke abruptly to a terrible sound—and found her teenage son unconscious on the floor. In the aftermath of a crisis that darkened her signature sunny spirit, she wondered: If this happened, what else could happen? And how do any of us keep going when we can’t know for sure what’s coming next?

Leave it to the writer whose critically acclaimed debut had us “laughing and crying on the same page” (NPR) to illuminate what it means to move through life with a soul made of equal parts anxiety and optimism (and while she’s at it, to ponder the mysteries of backyard turtles and the challenges of spatchcocking a turkey).

Hailed by The Washington Post as “Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck, Jean Kerr, and Laurie Colwin all rolled into one,” Philpott returns in her distinctive voice to explore our protective instincts, the ways we continue to grow up long after we’re grown, and the limits—both tragic and hilarious—of the human body and mind.

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Fevered Star
by Rebecca Roanhorse

Emily’s Pick #5:  For those unfamiliar with Rebecca Roanhorse’s epic Between Earth and Sky fantasy series, it takes place in a world inspired by pre-Columbian histories and myths, and follows multiple perspectives revolving around a rare celestial event. Each perspective submerges you into a new ingenious culture that helps you to better understand this world. We dive deep into a cultlike priesthood that has a fragile grip on its many Sky Made clans; the Teek heritage whose sea powers often mark them as outcasts; and the clan of Carrion Crow, whose so-called prophesies and avatars evoke complicated discussions on faith and religion. In this second book, I can’t wait to explore more corners of this fascinating world and find out what happened after that huge cliffhanger of an ending in BLACK SUN.

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Fevered Star
Rebecca Roanhorse

Return to The Meridian with New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Roanhorse’s sequel to the most critically hailed epic fantasy of 2020 Black Sun—finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Lambda, and Locus awards.

There are no tides more treacherous than those of the heart. —Teek saying

The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent.

The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded?

As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth.

And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction?

Welcome back to the fantasy series of the decade in Fevered Star—book two of Between Earth and Sky.

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Easy Beauty
by Chloé Cooper Jones

Sharon’s Pick #1: Do you ever have one of those moments where you’re planning on reading a book, and then you see the author quoted in another book you’re reading and you get even more excited to read the book? That’s what happened with me and Chloé Cooper Jones’s EASY BEAUTY. I was reading WOMEN AND OTHER MONSTERS by Jess Zimmerman; in the book’s first essay, Zimmerman utilized a quote from Jones where she stated that she never perceived herself as attractive due to those with disabilities being seen as “less than.” Reading this quote made me so excited to dive into EASY BEAUTY, as Jones expands on the quote’s themes throughout the book’s entirety. In addition to discussing the relationship between desirability and disability, she weaves in her experiences with motherhood and travel to fully explore her ideas of seeing and being seen.

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Easy Beauty
Chloé Cooper Jones

“Soul-stretching, breathtaking…A game-changing gift to readers.” —Booklist (starred review)

From Chloé Cooper Jones—Pulitzer Prize finalist, philosophy professor, Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant recipient—a groundbreaking memoir about disability, motherhood, and a journey to far-flung places in search of a new way of seeing and being seen.

“I am in a bar in Brooklyn, listening to two men, my friends, discuss whether my life is worth living.”

So begins Chloé Cooper Jones’s bold, revealing account of moving through the world in a body that looks different than most. Jones learned early on to factor “pain calculations” into every plan, every situation. Born with a rare congenital condition called sacral agenesis which affects both her stature and gait, her pain is physical. But there is also the pain of being judged and pitied for her appearance, of being dismissed as “less than.” The way she has been seen—or not seen—has informed her lens on the world her entire life. She resisted this reality by excelling academically and retreating to “the neutral room in her mind” until it passed. But after unexpectedly becoming a mother (in violation of unspoken social taboos about the disabled body), something in her shifts, and Jones sets off on a journey across the globe, reclaiming the spaces she’d been denied, and denied herself.

From the bars and domestic spaces of her life in Brooklyn to sculpture gardens in Rome; from film festivals in Utah to a Beyoncé concert in Milan; from a tennis tournament in California to the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh, Jones weaves memory, observation, experience, and aesthetic philosophy to probe the myths underlying our standards of beauty and desirability, and interrogates her own complicity in upholding those myths.

With its emotional depth, its prodigious, spiky intelligence, its passion and humor, Easy Beauty is the rare memoir that has the power to make you see the world, and your place in it, with new eyes.

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Some of My Best Friends
by Tajja Isen

Sharon’s Pick #2: I am highly anticipating reading SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS, which blends cultural criticism with humor. In the book’s nine essays, Catapult editor in chief and award-winning voice actor Tajja Isen explores different facets of performative activism and the lack of follow-through on social justice efforts. As Isen examines everything from the cartoon and publishing industries to the legal system and nationalism, she reveals how society is quick to make surface-level changes without addressing the systemic issues at hand. 

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Some of My Best Friends
Tajja Isen

A fearless and darkly comic essay collection about race, justice, and the limits of good intentions.

In this stunning debut collection, Catapult editor-in-chief and award-winning voice actor Tajja Isen explores the absurdity of living in a world that has grown fluent in the language of social justice but doesn’t always follow through.

These nine daring essays explore the sometimes troubling and often awkward nature of that discord. Some of My Best Friends takes on the cartoon industry’s pivot away from colorblind casting, the pursuit of diverse representation in the literary world, the law’s refusal to see inequality, and the cozy fictions of nationalism. Isen deftly examines the quick, cosmetic fixes society makes to address systemic problems, and reveals the unexpected ways they can misfire.

In the spirit of Zadie Smith, Cathy Park Hong, and Jia Tolentino, Isen interlaces cultural criticism with her lived experience to explore the gaps between what we say and what we do, what we do and what we value, what we value and what we demand.

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How to Keep House While Drowning
by KC Davis

Heather’s Pick #2: Who among us hasn’t felt overwhelmed by the Sisyphean task of staying up-to-date on household chores in addition to all other responsibilities? It takes an immense amount of work to maintain a tidy house at the best of times, let alone when you’re a new mother, as therapist KC Davis was when she started her uber-relatable TikTok @domesticblisters. The popularity of the account led her to expand on the same ideas in HOW TO KEEP HOUSE WHILE DROWNING, a comforting self-help guide with a compassionate theme: “You don’t work for your home; your home works for you.” With reminders that “messiness is not a moral failing” and practical tips on staggering tasks, cleaning in short bursts, and finding shortcuts, this book is aimed at helping us all manage our anxiety around our domestic to-do lists. As a fan of Margareta Magnusson’s similarly soothing and practical book THE GENTLE ART OF SWEDISH DEATH CLEANING, I am preparing a spot on my keeper shelf for HOW TO KEEP HOUSE WHILE DROWNING.

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How to Keep House While Drowning
KC Davis

This revolutionary approach to cleaning and organizing helps free you from feeling ashamed or overwhelmed by a messy home.

If you’re struggling to stay on top of your to-do list, you probably have a good reason: anxiety, fatigue, depression, ADHD, or lack of support. For therapist KC Davis, the birth of her second child triggered a stress-mess cycle. The more behind she felt, the less motivated she was to start. She didn’t fold a single piece of laundry for seven months. One life-changing realization restored her sanity—and the functionality of her home: You don’t work for your home; your home works for you.

In other words, messiness is not a moral failing. A new sense of calm washed over her as she let go of the shame-based messaging that interpreted a pile of dirty laundry as “I can never keep up” and a chaotic kitchen as “I’m a bad mother.” Instead, she looked at unwashed clothes and thought, “I am alive,” and at stacks of dishes and thought, “I cooked my family dinner three nights in a row.”

Building on this foundation of self-compassion, KC devised the powerful practical approach that has exploded in popularity through her TikTok account, @domesticblisters. The secret is to simplify your to-do list and to find creative workarounds that accommodate your limited time and energy. In this book, you’ll learn exactly how to customize your cleaning strategy and rebuild your relationship with your home, including:

-How to see chores as kindnesses to your future self, not as a reflection of your worth
-How to start by setting priorities
-How to stagger tasks so you won’t procrastinate
-How to clean in quick bursts within your existing daily routine
-How to use creative shortcuts to transform a room from messy to functional

With KC’s help, your home will feel like a sanctuary again. It will become a place to rest, even when things aren’t finished. You will move with ease, and peace and calm will edge out guilt, self-criticism, and endless checklists. They have no place here.

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Sari, Not Sari
by Sonya Singh

Heather’s Pick #3: Between its bright, cheerful cover and delightful premise, I am all in on Sonya Singh’s debut novel, SARI NOT SARI. This rom-com stars Manny Dogra, who at first glance seems to have everything going for her, including a successful company and a handsome fiancé. What she comes to realize, however, is that she’s missing a sense of connection to her family’s South Asian heritage—a connection that her client Sammy Patel promises he can help her reestablish. How? you might ask. By escorting her to his brother’s Indian wedding, of course! Something tells me that Manny and Sammy may lose their hearts during the festivities too . . .

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Sari, Not Sari
Sonya Singh

This delightful debut rom-com follows the adventures of a woman trying to connect with her South Asian roots and introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters in a veritable feast of food, family traditions, and fun.

Manny Dogra is the beautiful young CEO of Breakup, a highly successful company that helps people manage their relationship breakups. As preoccupied as she is with her business, she’s also planning her wedding to handsome architect Adam Jamieson while dealing with the loss of her beloved parents.

For reasons Manny has never understood, her mother and father, who were both born in India, always wanted her to become an “All-American” girl. So that’s what she did. She knows next to nothing about her South Asian heritage, and that’s never been a problem—until her parents are no longer around, and an image of Manny that’s been Photoshopped to make her skin look more white appears on a major magazine cover. Suddenly, the woman who built an empire encouraging people to be true to themselves is having her own identity crisis.

But when an irritating client named Sammy Patel approaches Manny with an odd breakup request, the perfect solution presents itself: If they both agree to certain terms, he’ll give her a crash course in being “Indian” at his brother’s wedding.

What follows is days of dancing and dal, masala and mehndi as Manny meets the lovable, if endlessly interfering, aunties and uncles of the Patel family, and, along the way, discovers much more than she could ever have anticipated.

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End of the World House
by Adrienne Celt

Elizabeth’s Pick: If you, like many during the pandemic, found your travel plans cut short or missed visits with long-distance friends, then END OF THE WORLD HOUSE is the perfect escapist read. The novel opens in Paris with Bertie and Kate, two best friends on a last-hurrah trip together before Kate leaves San Francisco—and Bertie—for a new job in LA. When a mysterious stranger offers them a private tour of the Louvre, the girls find themselves alone in the empty museum, where nothing is quite as it seems. For fans of genre-bending stories like LIFE AFTER LIFE and friendship-as-love-stories like IN FIVE YEARS, END OF THE WORLD HOUSE is a charming and thought-provoking novel exploring relationships, art, and the choices that make all the difference.  

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End of the World House
Adrienne Celt

Groundhog Day meets Ling Ma’s Severance in End of the World House, a thought-provoking comedic novel about two young women trying to save their friendship as the world collapses around them.

Bertie and Kate have been best friends since high school. Bertie is a semi-failed cartoonist, working for a prominent Silicon Valley tech firm. Her job depresses her, but not as much as the fact that Kate has recently decided to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

When Bertie’s attempts to make Kate stay fail, she suggests the next-best thing: a trip to Paris that will hopefully distract the duo from their upcoming separation. The vacation is also a sort of last hurrah, coming during a ceasefire in a series of escalating world conflicts.

One night in Paris, they meet a strange man in a bar who offers them a private tour of the Louvre. The women find themselves alone in the museum, where nothing is quite as it seems. Caught up in a day that keeps repeating itself, Bertie and Kate are eventually separated, and Bertie is faced with a mystery that threatens to derail everything. In order to make her way back to Kate, Bertie has to figure out how much control she has over her future—and her past—and how to survive an apocalypse when the world keeps refusing to end.

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The No-Show
by Beth O'Leary

Heather’s Pick #4: Beth O’Leary’s charming (and very British) novel THE FLATSHARE was one of my favorite reads of 2021, so I’m very curious to check out THE NO-SHOW despite its unusual setup. It’s rare, you see, for a romance to revolve around a man who has stood up not one, not two, but three women for a Valentine’s Day date. Each of the ladies—Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane—has been disappointed by this same guy, but also given him a second chance. Is he just a grade-A jerk, or does he have a good explanation for his actions? Can he possibly redeem himself and become worthy of the love of one of these heroines? I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out!

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The No-Show
Beth O'Leary

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Sedating Elaine
by Dawn Winter

Sharon’s Pick #3: SEDATING ELAINE earns a coveted spot in my preordered-books list, the achievement all the more impressive given this is a debut novel and I preordered the book from premise (and cover) alone. SEDATING ELAINE follows Frances, who is recovering from having her heart broken by the gorgeous Adrienne. While drowning her sorrows at a bar, she meets Elaine, who quickly becomes so attached to Frances she never leaves her bed. Between Elaine becoming a constant presence in her life and her need to pay back her drug dealer, Frances resorts to an obvious decision: she must sedate her girlfriend. SEDATING ELAINE’s messy, queer energy reminds me of MILK FED by Melissa Broder and PIZZA GIRL by Jean Kyoung Frazier, and I am here for it!

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Sedating Elaine
Dawn Winter

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