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STARRED REVIEWS

New and Upcoming Releases with Starred Reviews:

MOONRISE OVER NEW JESSUP

By: Jamila Minnicks

Library Journal- Starred Review

In this 2021 winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, getting off a Birmingham-bound bus in the town of New Jessup entirely changes the life of Alice, our heroine and narrator. The year is 1957, and Alice is amazed that this small town in Alabama has no signage for “coloreds only” at water fountains and restrooms. This community has only Black residents and is a well-organized, well-run, prosperous place. There Alice meets and falls in love with Raymond Campbell, the grandson of one of New Jessup’s founders and the owner of a successful automotive repair and towing business. Raymond secretly belongs to the National Negro Advancement Society, an organization striving to keep the races segregated and allow Black Alabamians to flourish without the aid of white people. Alice eventually learns that Raymond’s local group aims to make New Jessup a recognized municipality, and like the national group, they do not favor racial integration but separation and self-governance.

VERDICT An outstanding writer, Minnicks excels at capturing the atmosphere and issues of a specific locale at a particular time, the Deep South at the dawn of the civil rights era. This highly recommended title is an excellent choice for book discussion groups and would make a great movie.

Algonquin: January 10, 2023 ISBN: 9781643752464, Hardcover

LUNAR LOVE

By: Lauren Kung Jessen

Library Journal- Starred Review

DEBUT Olivia Huang Christenson is poised to take over Lunar Love, a third-generation family-run matchmaking business focusing on clients’ compatibility using Chinese zodiac traits. After decades of success, Olivia feels the pressure, especially since business hasn’t been booming recently, and a new dating app called ZodiaCupid could mean Lunar Love’s demise. Bennett O’Brien wants to honor his Chinese lineage by creating a successful dating app that matches users based, in part, on their Chinese zodiac animal. Olivia is incensed that Bennett stole a traditional, in-person matchmaking method to create a watered-down version for ZodiaCupid. When Olivia and Bennett confront each other on a live podcast, they agree to match one another, and whoever’s match results in true love, wins the wager. But both Bennett and Olivia learn that love doesn’t play by their rules when the two of them fall for each other.

VERDICT Debut author Kung Jessen does an impeccable job helping two adversarial lovers find common ground in their Chinese American heritage and creating a slow-burn romance with lots of humor, family, and food. An excellent match for fans of Jackie Lau, Jayci Lee, and Helena Hunting.

Forever: January 10, 2023 ISBN: 9781538710258, Paperback

NO RIGHT TO AN HONEST LIVING: The Struggles of Boston’s Black Workers in the Civil War Era

By: Jaqueline Jones

Kirkus- Starred Review

Superb social history of a Boston that, while nominally abolitionist, found little room in its 19th-century economy for Black workers.

In the years leading to the Civil War, writes Bancroft Prize–winning historian Jones, Black Bostonians faced numerous obstacles. There was old-fashioned “overt racial prejudice,” and then there was the related “hard-nosed calculation that the white laboring classes were too potent a political force to aggravate with calls for Black economic opportunity.” Competition with newly arrived Irish immigrants for low-wage work often saw Blacks unable to secure adequate employment. Given that “wage earning was a key signifier of citizenship,” Blacks in Boston were effectively less than full citizens. Even the onset of Civil War and, in time, the admission of Black troops into the Army did little to address basic inequalities. As so often explains matters historical, much of this had to do with economics. For example, while laws that “required Black seamen to be incarcerated while their ships were in southern ports” may have drawn murmurs of protest on the parts of sailors and abolitionists, the shipowners were disinclined to join them, recognizing that those ports represented money. In the end, Jones shows with her characteristic combination of meticulous research and able storytelling, while Blacks constituted a small segment of the professional classes, many more required public assistance, which worked, abolitionists feared, to prove that Blacks were naturally indolent and that their objection to “ill-paid, disagreeable work was somehow a function of their ‘race.’ ” Even after the war, nothing changed: Many Boston jobs required political patronage available only to White workers, and as a result, “for the period 1865 to 1920, Black men constituted just barely 1 percent of the commonwealth’s workforce.” Arguably, those patterns of old endure today, if perhaps better disguised than the open racism of old.

A brilliant exposé of hypocrisy in action, showing that anti-Black racism reigned on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Basic Books: January 10, 2023; ISBN: 9781541619791, Hardcover

THE SENSE OF WONDER

By: Matthew Salesses

Publisher’s Weekly- Starred Review

Novelist and critic Salesses (Craft in the Real World) offers a brilliant and scathing chronicle of two Asian Americans as they try to find their place in contemporary sports and media. As the first Asian American in the NBA, Korean American Won Lee is poised to become a star after he steps in for his injured Knicks teammate Paul Burton (nicknamed “Powerball!”), his winning streak earning him the nickname “the Wonder.” But he’s also confronted by casual and at times cutting racism from teammates, coaches, and fans, as well as professional jealousy from an ESPN reporter, Robert Sung, who played high school ball with Powerball! and used to imagine himself in Won’s shoes. Meanwhile, Won’s girlfriend, Carrie, is fighting an uphill battle in her efforts to bring Korean television dramas to an American market. Using language that is hilarious, caustic, and poignant, Salesses effectively interrogates whether and how Asians can contribute to American celebrity culture without meeting the same old racism in return. Robert’s profile of Won, for instance, ends up with a reference to China in the headline, and when Carrie risks pitching a K-drama with American characters, an executive asks if she can “hear how that sounds like you don’t know what you’re doing.” Incorporating both Won and Carrie’s perspectives while also weaving in plots and scripts from K-dramas, Salesses fills the page with all the bold, kinetic confidence of an athlete striding onto the court.

Little, Brown: January 17, 2023; ISBN: 9780316425711, Hardcover

STAYED ON FREEDOM : The Long History of Black Power Through One Family’s Journey

By: Dan Berger

Library Journal- Starred Review

Berger (comparative ethnic studies, Univ. of Washington-Bothell; Captive Nation) combines the most compelling aspects of social and oral history to invite readers to reconsider what Black Power really means in the fight for global freedom The author examines the progress of civil rights and global justice through the lens of one Black family—Zoharah and Michael Simmons and their daughter, Aisha. Their work took them from the South in the United States at the height of the civil rights movement, to the Middle East in support of women’s rights, to newly independent Eastern European countries as the Soviet Union collapsed, and back to the States in the MeToo era. Their story—beautiful, inspiring, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and thought-provoking—humanizes these movements, demonstrating how seemingly small, local mobilization is what it takes to change the world and how doing this work often comes with physical and emotional costs. Engaging, in-depth interviews are woven seamlessly with analyses that provide broader context to individual narratives.

VERDICT Highly recommended to those interested in civil rights, global justice, or Black Power movements, feminism, critical race theory, modern history, and biographies and memoirs.

Basic Books: January 24, 2023; ISBN: 9781541675360, Hardcover

★ WARRIOR

By: Lisa Guerrero

Library Journal- Starred Review

The variety and breadth of the many careers Guerrero has pursued in her life are nothing short of astonishing. Professional cheerleading for the Los Angeles Rams, becoming one of the first women in sportscasting, modeling on the cover of Playboy at age 41, and her current success as an award-winning investigative journalist on Inside Edition alone would make for a good read. However, as with all she has done throughout her life, the author surpassed the limits of good into great territory, making her memoir an essential read. Her storytelling is exquisite and emotional. Throughout the book, she weaves lessons she has learned with her own advice for women who want to be brave. That starts with empathy, she says. The book includes heart-wrenching accounts of misogyny, verbal abuse, and sexual harassment. She maintains grace and poise in her discussion of former colleagues, workplaces, and friends, even those who mistreated her. She is sincere, admits to her mistakes, and honors her successes.

VERDICT This memoir is highly recommended for all public libraries.

Hachette: January 24, 2023; ISBN: 9780306829499, Hardcover

BEHIND THE SCENES

By: Karelia Stetz-Waters

Publisher’s Weekly- Starred Review

This gentle, satisfying contemporary romance from Stetz-Waters (Satisfaction Guaranteed) about two perfectly gorgeous, perfectly talented professional women stumbling into one another at an animal rescue fund-raiser and becoming the perfect balm for each other’s hurts is escapism with no apologies. Rose Josten is 38 and prepping as efficiently and predictably for her midlife crisis as she does for her job as a Portland, Ore., business consultant. Ash Stewart, 40, is a brilliant filmmaker trying to get back in the game both romantically and professionally after a devastating car accident and divorce. Rose’s offer of a free one-hour consultation turns into love almost effortlessly, and though it’s not all smooth sailing from there, the entirely believable bumps in the lovers’ road are very much not the point. Nor is this the kind of rom-com dependent on over-the-top pratfalls. Instead, Stetz-Waters woos reader with unabashed sweetness lavishly sprinkled with girls’ gossiping nights, punk rock T-shirts, and a running gag about Pottery Barn decor. The result is irresistible wish fulfillment that will surely leave readers with a smile.

Forever: January 31, 2023; ISBN: 9781538709252: Trade Paperback

THE MAGICIAN’S DAUGHTER

By: H.G. Parry

Library Journal- Starred Review

Parry (A Radical Act of Free Magic) writes a coming-of-age fantasy set in an alternate 1912 London filled with heartbreak and wonder, as protagonist Biddy has to literally spread her wings and fly to save her guardians and magic itself. It’s also a found-family story where Biddy is forced to question everything she has ever believed about herself and magic. The magic started draining out of Biddy’s world long before she was born, but the legendary Hy-Brasil, where she was raised, has a bit of it left. That magic, Biddy’s magical guardians, and Biddy herself are pursued by a Mages’ Council determined to steal what little is left—unless Biddy and her guardians take the fight to them in one last desperate gamble to find the place magic has hidden. Either they let magic loose again in a world condemned to gloom and deprivation, or it will be hoarded and abused by those who have been chasing Biddy—because she holds the only key.


VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of heroine’s journeys, steampunk alternate worlds, and stories about what happens after the magic goes away.

Redhook, Orbit: February 21, 2023; ISBN: 9780316383707, Trade Paperback

★ WHATEVER NEXT? : Lessons from an Unexpected Life

By: Anne Glenconner

Booklist- Starred Review

Glenconner, the octogenarian daughter of the Earl of Leicester, coronation maid of honor to
Queen Elizabeth, and long-time lady in waiting to Princess Margaret, penned the memoir Lady in Waiting (2020), which became a surprise international hit. Her stories about her public experiences ran from glamorous events like coming-out balls to more mundane adventures like her work as a traveling pottery saleswoman. Her private reminiscences detailed her marriage to the wildly unpredictable Lord Glenconner—magically charismatic one moment, dangerously out of control the next—and the tragic deaths of two of their children. Throughout it all, Glenconner soldiered on with a stiff upper lip. Since that book’s publication, numerous readers reached out, asking for Glenconner’s advice on managing their own tumultuous lives. This book is a more nuanced re-visitation of her life as she shares how she applied the diplomatic qualities instilled in her by her mother: always do your best, put others first, concede the limelight, and consider your own needs last. Fans will be happy to know that Lady Anne is delighted with her current roles as best-selling author, gay icon, mother, and grandmother. Readers will also be happy to follow along and see where she goes next.

Hachette: February 21, 2023; ISBN: 9780306828706, Hardcover

WHAT HAPPENED TO RUTHY RAMIREZ

By: Claire Jiménez

Booklist- Starred Review

Jiménez’s witty debut novel focuses on the ferocious love of a tight-knit Puerto Rican family on Staten Island at the height of the 2008 recession haunted by the disappearance of 13-year-old middle daughter Ruthy 12 years ago. The narrative features multiple perspectives: Ruthy’s point of view lends a coming-of-age feel as she deals with bullies and middle-school angst, and those of the ones left behind (dad Eddie died soon after the incident) highlight their ups and downs. Oldest daughter Jessica, 27, is a nurse’s aid and tired mom; youngest daughter Nina, 22, hoping to become a med student, works grudgingly at a lingerie store; mom Dolores, 44, a parenting coach at a Pentecostal church, suffers from diabetes and frets for her and her daughters’ safety. After a tiresome work shift, Jessica alerts Nina about a woman in a tawdry reality show with an unmistakable resemblance to Ruthy. Propelled by the hopeful possibility of bringing their sister home, Jessica and Nina decide to travel to Boston to confront the mysterious woman. Things go hilariously off-kilter when their mom zealously tags along. Sympathetic and fiery Latina characters shine in this warm and moving novel portraying a down-to-earth family with deep loyalty and longing for closure.

Publisher’s Weekly- Starred Review

A Staten Island Puerto Rican family reckons with the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl in Jiménez’s brilliant debut. In 1996, middle daughter Ruthy Ramirez, a defiant, wildly independent eighth grader, mysteriously vanishes after track practice. Twelve years later, guilt-ridden matriarch Dolores harbors fear, resentment, and rage and has become obese, and determines to shed weight with help from a Christian exercise DVD. Dolores’s youngest daughter, Nina, a recent college graduate with few job options, returns to Staten Island for a lingerie retail job (“Better than any political science class… [the shop] really taught you how deeply patriarchy was linked to capitalism,” she narrates). Jessica, the oldest, an overworked nurse’s aid, shoulders the burden of her baby daughter and caring for Dolores. The sisters, especially Jessica, shield secrets: Nina wants to go to medical school, and Jessica wonders if the person who sexually abused her as an adolescent ever crossed paths with Ruthy. Then, one night, Jessica sees a woman she believes to be Ruthy on a reality show called Catfight, where five women live in a Boston condo and settle disputes with violence. Jessica and Nina hatch a plan to drive to Boston to rescue their sister, and after Dolores learns of the trip, she enlists her church friend Irene, and all four are soon en route to the Catfight condo, where mayhem ensues. The author perfectly harnesses the Ramirez women’s alternating viewpoints to illuminate how the years have worn on them, and in the stunning ending, she cannily reveal the truth behind Ruthy’s disappearance. This is a knockout.

Grand Central Publishing: March 7, 2023; ISBN: 9781538725962, Hardcover

SOMETHING WILD & WONDERFUL

By: Anita Kelly

Library Journal- Starred Review

Alexei Lebedev has only been hiking the Pacific Coast Trail for a few miles when he meets Ben Caravalho. Awkward and quiet, Alexei intended to do the trail solo, but Ben creeps under his guard with kindness and, well, hotness. Ben is hiking the PCT as an adventure—his last before settling into a new career. He didn’t mean to fall for Alexei. But the quiet hiker is cute and smart, and Ben can’t resist, no matter how hard he tries. Hiking together, the duo form a friendship, then a romance, one that lifts both up at a time when they need it most. Alexei and Ben are likable, relatable characters written with great depth and emotion. Both are carrying more baggage on their journey than just their packs, and readers will laugh and cry with them as they learn to share the load.

VERDICT This steamy opposites-attract m/m romance from Kelly (Love & Other Disasters) is impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

Forever: March 7, 2023; ISBN: 9781538754887, Trade Paperback

FORAGER: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult

By: Michelle Dowd

Kirkus- Starred Review

A moving and intense tale of the author’s experiences in an apocalyptic cult. “I grew up on a mountain, preparing for the Apocalypse,” writes Dowd at the beginning of this enthralling narrative, which describes her upbringing in the 1970s and ’80s in the Field, a religious cult founded by her grandfather in 1931. She spent her childhood preparing for the imminent end of days on “a sixteen-acre undeveloped camp sitting on the San Andreas Fault.” As a young girl, she underwent extreme military training, tests of her pain tolerance, and months of abandonment by her parents, who were frequently on a national tour known as “the Trip.” Forbidden to speak to “Outsiders,” unless she was raising money for the Field, Dowd turned to the landscape for solace and survival, drawing on her substantial knowledge of edible flora. “Violence is everywhere, and no one around here seems to care, least of all the God of my fathers,” she writes, delineating years of abuse, forced hunger, and neglect. Taught that holding hands out of wedlock is grounds for expulsion, and even affection between mother and child is sinful, she grew up without any outward indication of love. Certain that her family would readily sacrifice her if asked, she writes, “as descendants by blood, I think the only real distinction my cousins and I have from other leaders’ kids is knowing Grandpa would kill us if God asks him to.” Heartbreaking and difficult to put down, this book lyrically chronicles an impressive rise out of illness, poverty, and indoctrination. As she struggled with growing into a woman in an unsafe and patriarchal environment, Dowd realized she needed to escape. However, she notes, “freeing oneself is the first step; claiming ownership of that freed self has been a lifelong journey.” Leaving the cult meant losing her family and understanding of the world, with only her ecological knowledge and mental toughness to carry her forward. A harrowing, engrossing story of survival amid painful circumstances.

Algonquin: March 7, 2023; ISBN: 9781643751856, Hardcover

★ CROOKED: The Roaring 20s Tale of a Corrupt Attorney General, a Crusading Senator, and the Birth of the American Political Scandal

By: Nathan Masters

Kirkus- Starred Review

Revelations about a period of deep corruption that rocked American politics.

Masters, host and producer of the public TV series Lost L.A., makes an impressive book debut with a brisk, lively history of a political scandal, “one of those Roaring Twenties spectacles…that held the entire nation spellbound.” The central figures were newly elected Montana Sen. Burton Wheeler, eager to make his reputation as a crusader for public integrity, and the nation’s ruthless, manipulative Attorney General, Harry Daugherty. Appointed by President Warren B. Harding, Daugherty proved a bane for Harding’s successor, Calvin Coolidge, especially when Wheeler uncovered endemic fraud, bribery, and blackmail. In 1922, the Harding administration leased a Wyoming oil field known as Teapot Dome to politically connected oilmen, “in secret and without competitive bidding.” Wheeler hoped that Teapot Dome “would prove to be only the first domino to fall—a prelude to an even more troubling scandal that would expose threats to impartial justice, congressional independence, and the rule of law itself.” Convening a select committee, Wheeler heard evidence from an assortment of Daugherty’s associates, notably the smarmy Gaston Means, who testified that he carried out “black-bag operations” for which he “collected cash—lots of it.” One witness testified that he had “uncovered more than $7 million of fraud in the government’s wartime aviation contracts, only to have his findings ignored by higher-ups,” and “another was fired after his inquiry into Prohibition violations along the US-Mexican border implicated a federal prosecutor.” Drawing on extensive archival research, Masters creates a tense narrative peopled by colorful, often unsavory characters. “Wheeler’s investigation,” Masters writes, “shocked the American people into caring whether the Department of Justice was actually pursuing justice—or something else entirely.” The feisty senator, Masters asserts, revealed both the force of congressional investigations and the heady power of the court of public opinion.

A stirring look at a shameful episode that holds distressing relevance for today.

Hachette: March 21, 2023; ISBN: 9780306826139, Hardcover