Love is in the air this February, which means it’s the perfect time for our staff to get down on one knee and propose . . . that you read one of the perfect books that we’ve fallen for lately! No matter your type, we’ve got just the range of genres here, ready to woo and wow you.
Staff Picks: 6 Books We’re Loving Lately
Laura’s Pick: Listen, I’m not above admitting that I judge a book by its cover, and the beautifully designed deep-blue and gold tarot card on the cover of THE CLOISTERS was no exception. But the story within is what kept me glued to this novel. To escape her painful past, Ann Stilwell accepts an art history internship in New York City. However, instead of spending the summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she’ll be spending it at The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden. Initially skeptical of the subject she’s researching—the history of tarot cards and fortune telling—Ann gradually grows obsessed with the idea of fate. When the research turns deadly, Ann finds herself asking: Do we have any choice in our futures? No matter if you’re a tarot believer or a skeptic, you’ll find yourself obsessing over this book.
The Secret History meets Ninth House in this sinister, atmospheric novel following a circle of researchers as they uncover a mysterious deck of tarot cards and shocking secrets in New York’s famed Met Cloisters.
When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination.
Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.
A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Sabrina’s Pick #1: Reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, but for a younger generation, Shea Ernshaw’s A WILDERNESS OF STARS takes the reader on a journey through rough terrain. Ernshaw’s world hasn’t quite reached the point of apocalyptic demise, but it’s getting close with a population being ravaged by consumption. Seventeen-year-old Vega has just lost her mother to the disease and, despite spending her entire life being shielded by a remote valley, she’s received an omen that it’s time to venture out into the world. She’s the Last Astronomer, a title carried down from previous generations, and the sacred knowledge she possesses keeps her in danger, so she has to carefully weigh what she reveals to everyone she encounters. Vega is an inspiring and scrappy heroine. The seclusion of her upbringing has made her anything but timid, and she’s determined to carve a path to her destiny at any expense. A WILDERNESS OF STARS is a novel for all ages, full of mystery, secrets and surprises, and magic and romance, told against the gritty backdrop of constant physical and psychological turmoil.
Deluxe edition with special embellishments on first printing only!
In this magical romance from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Long Live the Pumpkin Queen, an illness cursing the land forces a teen girl astronomer to venture across the wilderness in search of the stars’ message that will, hopefully, save them all.
When all is lost, look to the stars.
Vega has lived in the valley her whole life—forbidden by her mother to leave the safety of its borders because of the unknown threats waiting for her in the wilds beyond. But when Vega sees an omen in the sky—one she cannot ignore—she is forced to leave the protective boundaries of the valley. Yet the outside world is much more terrifying than Vega could have ever imagined. People are gravely sick—they lose their eyesight and their hearing, just before they lose their lives.
But Vega has a secret: she is the Last Astronomer—a title carried from generation to generation—and she is the only one who understands the knowledge of the stars. Knowledge that could hold the key to a cure. So when locals spot the tattoo on Vega’s neck in the shape of a constellation—the mark of an astronomer—chaos erupts. Fearing for her life, Vega is rescued by a girl named Cricket who leads her to Noah, a boy marked by his own mysterious tattoos.
On the run from the men hunting her, Vega sets out across the plains with Cricket and Noah, in search of a fabled cure kept secret by the astronomers. But as the line between friends and protectors begins to blur, Vega must decide whether to safeguard the sacred knowledge of the astronomers…or if she will risk everything to try to save them all.
Sabrina’s Pick #2: HANG THE MOON was my first introduction to fiction by Jeannette Walls, but years ago I fell in love with her memoir THE GLASS CASTLE, so I knew I had to give it a try. This Prohibition-era novel, coming out this March 28, has characters with the lively spunk and grit I expect from Walls. Her novel screams “book to screen”—you can vividly imagine each scene and cast your favorite actors in each role. Sallie Kincaid is a determined heroine, engaging in an unrelenting fight for her place in her family’s life of wealth and privilege. And though she’s clearly the most qualified person to take over the business, she’ll encounter tragedy after tragedy before she finally secures her place. The Kincaid family is a deep well of lies and secrets, and just when you think you’ve finally tied up all the loose threads, Walls throws another surprise at you. HANG THE MOON will have you reeling from excitement until the very end.
From Jeannette Walls, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle, comes a riveting new novel about an indomitable young woman in Virginia during Prohibition.
Most folk thought Sallie Kincaid was a nobody who’d amount to nothing. Sallie had other plans.
Sallie Kincaid is the daughter of the biggest man in a small town, the charismatic Duke Kincaid. Born at the turn of the 20th century into a life of comfort and privilege, Sallie remembers little about her mother who died in a violent argument with the Duke. By the time she is just eight years old, the Duke has remarried and had a son, Eddie. While Sallie is her father’s daughter, sharp-witted and resourceful, Eddie is his mother’s son, timid and cerebral. When Sallie tries to teach young Eddie to be more like their father, her daredevil coaching leads to an accident, and Sallie is cast out.
Nine years later, she returns, determined to reclaim her place in the family. That’s a lot more complicated than Sallie expected, and she enters a world of conflict and lawlessness. Sallie confronts the secrets and scandals that hide in the shadows of the Big House, navigates the factions in the family and town, and finally comes into her own as a bold, sometimes reckless bootlegger.
You will fall in love with Sallie Kincaid, a feisty and fearless, terrified and damaged young woman who refuses to be corralled.
Sharon’s Pick #1: I had been looking to pick up something by Claudia Rankine, so when I spotted a copy of her play THE WHITE CARD in a used bookstore, I had to buy it. Rankine’s examination of the intersection between art and representations of race was so compelling, I devoured it in two sittings. At the center of THE WHITE CARD are two wealthy white art dealers, Virginia and Charles, who invite Charlotte, an up-and-coming Black artist, over to their apartment for dinner. What begins as a proposition to buy Charlotte’s body of work devolves into an intense argument, devastating Virginia and Charles’s intentions.
Sharon’s Pick #2: THE THICK AND THE LEAN is one of my current reads, and it is every bit as compelling as Chana Porter’s first novel, THE SEEP, which I fell in love with in 2021. Porter is a master in the speculative fiction realm, and in THE THICK AND THE LEAN she examines the themes of restriction and resistance through her main characters, Beatrice and Reiko. Beatrice wants to become a chef more than anything in the world, but her religious community’s fixation on calorie counting makes her dream forbidden. Reiko is a college student looking to enter the tech industry, but when her school pulls her funding, she must forge a new path for herself.
In Lambda Award finalist Chana Porter’s highly anticipated new novel, an aspiring chef, a cyberthief, and a kitchen maid each break free of a society that wants to constrain them.
In the quaint religious town of Seagate, abstaining from food brings one closer to God.
But Beatrice Bolano is hungry. She craves the forbidden: butter, flambé, marzipan. As Seagate takes increasingly extreme measures to regulate every calorie its citizens consume, Beatrice must make a choice: give up her secret passion for cooking or leave the only community she has known.
Elsewhere, Reiko Rimando has left her modest roots for a college tech scholarship in the big city. A flawless student, she is set up for success...until her school pulls her funding, leaving her to face either a mountain of debt or a humiliating return home. But Reiko is done being at the mercy of the system. She forges a third path—outside of the law.
With the guidance of a mysterious cookbook written by a kitchen maid centuries ago, Beatrice and Reiko each grasp for a life of freedom—something more easily imagined than achieved in a world dominated by catastrophic corporate greed.
A startling fable of the entwined perils of capitalism, body politics, and the stigmas women face for appetites of every kind, Chana Porter’s profound new novel explores the reclamation of pleasure as a revolutionary act.
Sharon’s Pick #3: It’s safe to say that BLISS MONTAGE has maintained permanent residency inside my brain ever since I finished the book. I never thought it would be possible to find a short story collection where I love every single story, but this book proved me wrong. BLISS MONTAGE took me on a wild ride through Ling Ma’s brilliant imagination, as each story was grounded in themes such as immigration, race, and gender, but infused with surrealism. If I had to choose a favorite story from the collection, it would be “G,” which explores a toxic friendship centered around a drug that makes you invisible.
Photo credit: iStock / freedom007