Book List, Staff Picks

New Staff Picks!

‘Tis time once more to check in with your friendly neighborhood booksellers to see what they’re reading this week!

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

Morningside Heights is a novel beautifully rooted in the realities of everyday life. Focusing on the Steiner-Robin family of Pru, Spence, their daughter Sarah, and Spence’s son Arlo, Henkin weaves together a breathtaking portrait of family and friendship in what is also a love letter to the residents of New York. Each character feels like a friend or family member, all with foibles and faults, strong wills and deep feelings. I didn’t want to leave their world, one that reminds me so much of the city I know and love, and my own family and friends who call it home.

When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. But when she falls in love with and marries Spence Robin, her hotshot young Shakespeare professor, her life takes a turn she couldn’t have anticipated.

Thirty years later, something is wrong with Spence. The Great Man can’t concentrate; he falls asleep reading The New York Review of Books. With their daughter, Sarah, away at medical school, Pru must struggle on her own to care for him. One day, feeling especially isolated, Pru meets a man, and the possibility of new romance blooms. Meanwhile, Spence’s estranged son from his first marriage has come back into their lives. Arlo, a wealthy entrepreneur who invests in biotech, may be his father’s last, best hope.

Morningside Heights is a sweeping and compassionate novel about a marriage surviving hardship. It’s about the love between women and men, and children and parents; about the things we give up in the face of adversity; and about how to survive when life turns out differently from what we thought we signed up for.

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

With a strong female protagonist young girls can look up to and a beautifully built fantasy world made up of lush details and historical elements of medieval India, HUNTED BY THE SKY is a gorgeous book with an enchanting story to tell. Full of magic, kick-ass warrior girls, and a slow burn romance alongside a dark spine tingling adventure. Seriously what more could you ask for in a story?

Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Tanaz Bhathena’s Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.

Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.

Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl—Gul—in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance—and discovers a magic he never expected to find.

Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort…a world with secrets deadlier than their own.

The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis

The First Sister is a breath of Queer-Space-Operatic fresh air on the Science Fiction scene. Linden Lewis’ debut novel follows the lives of “First Sister,” a voiceless comfort woman on a warship; Lito: an underdog among the military elite; and his non-binary partner Hiro, the unruly heir to a vast fortune. With hints of Atwood, Butler, and Le Guin, if you like feminist genre fiction or socially aware SFF, this book is for you!

Combining the social commentary of The Handmaid’s Tale with the white-knuckled thrills of Red Rising, this epic space opera filled with “lush prose” (Publishers Weekly) follows a comfort woman as she claims her agency, a soldier questioning his allegiances, and a non-binary hero out to save the solar system.

First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is much harder when you’re falling in love.

Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.

With “a layered, action-filled plot and diverse characters” (Library Journal), The First Sister explores the power of technology, colonization, race, and gender and is perfect for fans of James S.A. Corey, Chuck Wendig, and Jay Posey.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Another dynamite read from Riley Sager, this focuses on movie-buff Charlie grieving the death of her best friend from a campus serial killer and finding herself alone on a road trip with the man she thinks may have been responsible. My fingers were itching to turn each page, and if you’re a fan of unreliable narrators, classic Hollywood movies, and dramatic and tense scene-setting, this one’s for you!

It’s November 1991. Nirvana’s in the tape deck, George H. W. Bush is in the White House, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the shocking murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father—or so he says.

The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Presidential assassinations may not be your obsession, but we can all identify with the intensity of Sarah Vowell’s fandom. In Assassination Vacation, Vowell takes readers on a wittily entertaining trip across the United States, visiting historic sites and tourist attractions from the lives of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. She weaves her story not just from a historical perspective, but a sociological one, investigating how and why we react to national tragedy.

New York Times bestselling author of The Wordy Shipmates and contributor to NPR’s This American Life Sarah Vowell embarks on a road trip to sites of political violence, from Washington DC to Alaska, to better understand our nation’s ever-evolving political system and history.

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other—a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.

From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue—it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and—the author’s favorite—historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

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