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Here’s a bit more from our sponsor: Macmillan Audio’s Listening Librarians Newsletter is dedicated to highlighting all things audiobooks to the library community, including new releases, narrator spotlights, behind-the-scenes content and phenomenal media hits. This quarterly newsletter will help librarians stay up to date on upcoming titles, access early audio programs, and hear personal recommendations from the Macmillan Audio team. Join us! 

The Kids Are All Right

Hey, I Recognize that Name: 8 Celebrity Picture Books Worth Reading

This post is written by Rachel Rosenberg.

There are a lot of celeb-penned children’s books out in the world, written with varying levels of goodness. After all, not all writers are created equal, but publishers are unlikely to turn down aspiring picture book writers who already have fans and clout. So, how do you find which celebrity picture books are worth reading? I have done the work and read many of them, and now I’ll give you my picks.

My choices aren’t about the figures personally—some famous folks whose acting work I love have written kids’ books that I’ve read but won’t revisit. While some of the books on this list are by celebs I’m indifferent to in general, I love their books because they come from storytellers with genuine charm, insight, and panache.

So these eight books are my favourites, pairing well-written stories with an appealing voice and purpose. Plus, they’re matched with beautiful illustrations that elevate and complement the words.

cover of The Enchanted Symphony by Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton, and Elly MacKay

The Enchanted Symphony by Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton, and Elly MacKay

This one inspired a real love-fest on the Children’s Librarian staff chat at work, we all loved it. Piccolino’s father is a maestro at their village’s opera house. Their home is busy and popular; that is, until a mysterious mist blankets everything and sends all the people home for an extended stay. When Piccolino and his father figure out a way to bring joy back to the village, the fog disappears. Andrews was inspired by how arts and nature brought people joy during the pandemic, and her story reflects that movingly.

cover of The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein and Henry Cole

The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein and Henry Cole

I’m a Fierstein fanatic, and this 2002 picture book of his does not disappoint. Elmer is a happy duckling who loves make-believe and cookie decorating. Sadly, he can’t find other boy ducklings who enjoy the same types of play, so his disappointed dad tries to coach Elmer in sports. Using wit and whimsy, Fierstein’s duckling hero finds the strength to confidently follow his heart and proudly be the duck he is.

cover of Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison

Nyong’o’s picture book is about a little girl named Sulwe, who struggles because her skin is darker than that of her parents and sister. She is self-conscious that it makes her less appealing to friends at school. The illustrations beautifully capture Nyong’o’s text, which portrays an important experience with nuance and sensitivity.

cover of Please Baby Please by Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee, and Kadir Nelson

Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee, and Kadir Nelson

Simple, repetition-heavy text accompanied by Nelson’s gorgeous illustrations makes this a win. Exhausted but loving parents plead with their little one to eat her peas, share her toys, and go back to bed. And as the parent of a newborn, I found the parental bargaining very relatable. All of that made for a funny, baby-friendly picture book.

Cover of Bompa's Insect Exhibition by Suzuki

Bompa’s Insect Expedition by David Suzuki, Tanya Lloyd Kyi, and Qin Leng

Suzuki, a famous scientist and environmentalist, co-wrote a nonfiction picture book about two children and their grandfather exploring nature together. Bompa and the twins, Nakina and Kaoru, wander around the backyard and examine insects. The twins ask questions that Bompa replies to with accessible information. Leng’s art is charming and provides silliness to the fact-based text, making the book fun to read and a great learning tool.

The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak

This book goes over bananas popular with kiddos, it’s a surefire hit during story times. True to its title, there are no pictures, but large font, nonsense words, and interactive text all combine to make this book the equivalent of child catnip.

cover of Remember to Dream, Ebere by Cynthia Erivo and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Remember to Dream, Ebere by Cynthia Erivo and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Every night, before bed, Ebere’s mother reminds her to dream. Ebere’s imagination is vast, and with each subsequent sleep, she fills out the details of her nighttime dreams. Erivo’s text is simple and calm, with gentle repetition, and the illustrations are playful and endearing.

cover of The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson and Eleanor Taylor

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson and Eleanor Taylor

Did you know that Emma Thompson wrote multiple Peter Rabbit books? This one was the first, written in conjunction with Peter’s 110th anniversary, and Thompson perfectly captures the mischievous spirit of the originals. Fun fact: I worked at Selfridges’ book department when this was published, and we hosted Thompson for a meet and greet—she wore adorably whimsical mismatched veggie earrings.

There you go, eight celebrity picture books that are worth reading. There are a ton of celebrities getting in on the kidlit scene and it can be overwhelming to choose which ones to spend time on, but I promise that these will delight you and your favourite kiddos when you sit down for storytime.

The Stack

A Fresh Wave of Comics Content

There are so many great graphic novels out there worth mentioning that it feels like we’re just swimming in amazing new stories. I can never fit in as many as I’d like to, so consider the Stack as a way to dip your toe into the wonderful world of comics!

Bookish Goods

A gold ring with four gemstones that match the shape and color of the Infinity Stones. On the inside is inscribed the names of the stones.

Gold Infinity Stones Ring by DailyGiftFinds

Collect the Infinity Stones the easy way! The movies would have been a lot more stylish if Thanos had worn one of these. $25

New Releases

Petar & Liza cover

Petar & Liza by Miroslav Sekulic-Struja

Ever since his army service, Petar has struggled to fit back into the regular world. As his mental health deteriorates, he meets a dancer named Liza who brings some happiness to his troubled existence. But is it enough?

Fool Night Vol 1 cover

Fool Night Volume One by Kasumi Yasuda

With the sun functionally gone and the bills piling up, Kamiya faces a devastating decision: keep struggling along as he is now, or agree to give up his body to be turned into an oxygen-giving plant. Fans of dark, dystopian stories that show humanity at its most selfish are sure to appreciate Fool Night.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

Today’s Riot Rec theme is: the ocean! World Oceans Day is behind us, but summer — and beach time — is just getting started!

cover of The Aquanaut by Dan Santat

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat

All Sophia has left of her dad is his theme park, Aqualand. But is there more going on at Aqualand than meets the eye? The Aquanaut, a quartet of sea creatures who break into the park in a protective suit, seems to think so. Now it’s up to Sophia to find out how to help her new friends.

Atana and the Firebird cover

Atana and the Firebird by Vivian Zhou

Atana is a mermaid who stays far away from mankind so they will not hunt her. The only thing that can make her leave the safety of her island is Ren, a firebird in need of protection. Will they find it with the Witch Queen, or will the cost of sanctuary prove too high for both of them?

A very small white-and-brown Havanese puppy asleep on a towel and a blanket

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Poppy pic. This is one of the first ones I ever took, about two years ago when we first got her!


Kissing Books

Gaming and Baseball and Monsters, Oh My!

Welcome, or welcome back, to the Kissing Books newsletter. I’m PN Hinton, your guide to all things romance-related. Thanks for taking time from your day to give this a read! I hope this newsletter helps to brighten up your day just a little bit more.

The second half of Bridgerton’s third season was released and to say it was divisive would be a massive understatement. I haven’t watched it yet, because I don’t have a Netflix account. And, honestly, I’m never been a fan of Penelope and Colin’s story. However, thanks to TikTok snippets, I have a good idea about most of the changes and can see the concerns from all sides.

That said, I’m also willing to see how it plays out, because Francesa’s story is one of my favorites out of the entire series. After all, while I was not a fan of how they pitted Edwina and Kate against one another for Anthony’s affection in season two, and, while nothing will change my mind on that, I still enjoyed it for what it was.

Bookish Goods

picture of Bridgerton bookmarks

Bridgerton Bookmarks by AKStationeryBoutique

With what is going on in the Romancelandia sphere across all the various social medias, it seemed fitting to share these Bridgerton bookmarks as today’s goodie. You can choose from five different styles and they are just $6

New Releases

Before I get into today’s new releases, I need to apologize about a mistake I made. In the last newsletter send, I said the Ashley Poston’s latest, A Novel Love Story came out this week. It actually won’t be released until next Tuesday. Super sorry for that; I was just excited for the book!

cover of Match Games

Match Game by Brittany Arreguin

Lydia spends her days working hard as the Director of Esports Gaming at her alma mater and her nights winding down with online gaming. One night, when her usual partner co-op partner is unavailable, she takes a chance on stranger PianoPuck18 and makes a surprising connection. She wants more, but her new gaming buddy is hesitant. Then she discovers he’s Griffin, a professional hockey player for the San Jose Stingrays. He keeps people at a distance, not wanting anyone to be negatively affected by his fame. Determined to prove she can handle it, Lydia proposes fake dating. When real feelings begin to develop between them, they’re left questioning if they want to make this fake relationship a reality.

cover of The Art of Catching Feelings

The Art of Catching Feelings by Alicia Thompson

After having too many beers at a baseball game, Daphne heckles Chris, one of the players, to the point of tears. Later, sober and embarrassed by her behavior, she reaches out on social media as “Duckie”, leaving out who she is. Having gone through a rough couple of months, Chris is happy to find some kindness in the online messages. But when Daphne starts working with the team in real life, their feelings deepen both on and off-line. Soon, she is left struggling with how to reveal the entire truth to him while still having a chance to hit a home run with him and love.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

With the world being what it is, I figured it was a good time for some light and fluffy romances. And while one may not think that those words go hand in hand with a monster romance, the overlap in that Venn diagram is actually fairly wide. Enjoy!

cover of I Accidentally Summoned a Demon Boyfriend

I Accidentally Summoned a Demon Boyfriend by Jessica Cage

Rayna is successful in every aspect of her life except love. After another disastrous first date, she gets drunk and, as a joke, uses a spell from one of her favorite fantasy books to summon a boyfriend. To her surprise, the spell is a real one that summons the moody demon Metice. The spell also had the added effect of binding the two. In order to sever the bond, the two must put aside initial misgivings and work together. However, the closer they get to said goal, the more they begin to question if it is what they truly want.

cover of Muscles and Monsters

Muscles & Monsters by Ashley Bennett

The first time that Atlas and Tegan meet, the shifter helps the cake decorator avoid a pastry-related disaster. Deciding she needs to work on her cake-lifting skills, Tegan signs up for membership at Atlas’s gym, Leviathan Fitness. Shortly after doing so, Tegan finds herself trying to balance her career, new personal goals, and the undeniable attraction between the two of them. Is there hope for the two, or will the differences in their species prove too much?

Personally, I found this article about *the* change in Francesca’s story interesting and it gave me a lot of food for thought.

Pick a dessert and get your soulmate’s Zodiac sign. Mine ended up being accurate!

And that’s all she wrote for today. If you’re ever interested in what I do between the sends, you can always give me a follow over on Instagram under @pns_bookish_world. Until then, happy reading and stay hydrated!

Book Radar

Early Reactions to IT ENDS WITH US Movie and More Book Radar!

Dearest Gentle Reader,

I finished Bridgerton last night. Should this author start writing like Lady Whistledown? What did you think about this recent season? I won’t give away my thoughts in case anyone is avoiding spoilers. But feel free to shoot me a message and let me know. Meanwhile, let’s talk about the news around the Book Ton.

Book Deals and Reveals

brewed with love book cover

Check out the cover of Brewed with Love by Shelley Page. It was designed by Casey Moses with artwork by Betsy Cola. It’s out on January 14, 2025!

And here’s the cover of At the Bottom of the Garden by Camilla Bruce. It’s out from Del Ray Books on January 28, 2025.

Here’s an excerpt of the upcoming novel The Villain Edit by Laurie Devore. It’s out on July 2 from Avon Books.

There was a surprise screening of It Ends With Us at Book Bonanza in Grapevine, Texas this past Saturday. Early reactions praise the film for being a “emotional, faithful adaptation of the hit novel.” It Ends With Us is in theaters everywhere on August 9.

Goldie Hawn is writing a series of middle grade novels with bestselling author Lin Oliver. The first book in the Kindness Club series will be out in 2026.

Denver, Colorado’s independent bookstore Tattered Cover was recently purchased by Barnes & Noble for $1.83 million. The sale will be finalized by July 31.

Here are the spiciest books on BookTok in 2024, according to readers.

Book Riot Recommends

Hi, welcome to everyone’s favorite segment of Book Radar called Book Riot Recommends. This is where I’ll talk to you about all the books I’m reading, the books I’m loving, and the books I can’t wait to read and love in the near future. I think you’re going to love them too!

Can’t Wait for This One!

the queen book cover

The Queen by Nick Cutter (Gallery Books, October 29)

I’m behind the times, but I just recently read Nick Cutter’s The Troop, and I was mesmerized. I know the rest of the book world has been on the Nick Cutter train for some time, but hello, welcome me on. I am finally aboard. And just in time too, because we’re getting a new Nick Cutter novel later this year. I can’t wait for this one, and considering how much horror fans love this author’s work, I know I’m not at all alone.

When Margaret Carpenter wakes up to find a brand new iPhone on her doorstep, she is surprised. But she’s even more surprised when she turns the phone on and sees a text from her friend Charity Atwater. After all, Charity has been dead for over a month. At least, that’s what most people assume.

There have been so many assumptions about Charity, and now she’s finally ready to tell her story and set the record straight. Here’s the thing. Charity’s secrets run deep. Unbeknownst to even her, Charity is secretly Subject Six, an integral part of the Project Athena gene manipulation experiment. But when Charity’s gene sequencing actualizes at a high school party, everything goes terribly, terribly wrong.

Words of Literary Wisdom

“When people thought of mothers, they smelled cookies baking and chocolate melting. But actual mothers got shit for giving their kids too much sugar. When people thought of mothers, they thought soft and warm and cuddly. But actual mothers went to great lengths to eradicate their soft warm cuddly bits. When people thought of mothers, they thought of mama bears and cheerleaders–fierce love and unconditional support–but actual mothers were accused of coddling and helicoptering.”

Family Family by Laurie Frankel

And Here’s A Cat Picture!

calico cat sniffing around

Cersei was my sweet little companion while watching Bridgerton, and now we’re moving on to House of the Dragon. What an exciting month for TV adaptations of literature. Doesn’t Cersei look excited?

Amazing. Welp. That’s all I have for you this Thursday! See you Monday for all the book things.



A Showgirl in a Darkly Magical 1930s Shanghai: Read an Excerpt of DAUGHTER OF CALAMITY by Rosalie M. Lin

Tour the dark corners and dangerous underbelly of a magical Shanghai with Jingwen, a showgirl determined to root out what or who is behind a gruesome series of thefts.

Book cover for Daughter of Calamity by Rosalie M. Lin featuring illustration of Chinese woman against a dark backdrop featuring gold leaves and white title and author text

In Rosalie M. Lin’s Daughter of Calamity, someone is stealing the faces of the city’s dancers and Jingwen must navigate Shanghai’s underground, its powerful gangsters, dark back rooms, and wealthy society on a transformative journey of survival. Glimpse Lin’s dark and moody tale of a city brooding with treacherous deals and morbid luxury items, with god-like powers wielded by mortals, in this excerpt where Jingwen meets with her grandmother after witnessing a face theft.

Daughter of Calamity by Rosalie M. Lin is available June 18 wherever books are sold.

Chapter Two

My grandma’s clinic lies in the attic of a piano bar on Blood Alley, in the bowels that lie between the groomed, sleeping towers of the International Settlement and the French Concession.

In the hellish blue alleys that run under the Bund’s distinguished consulates and banks, neon lamps illuminate the faces of courtesans and gangsters, who are smoking cigarettes in the shadows. Outside a dive bar, a group of boys in white uniforms—sailors in the American navy—nudge each other and whisper behind their hands, nodding at me. But on the other side of the street, a group of silver-handed gangsters from the Blue Dawn are keeping watch, steel sabres ready to be drawn at any second, making the sailors think twice about going after a Chinese woman.

Inside the Cabaret Volieré, merriment and abandon overflow like the foam atop a mug of beer. The Texan pianist is playing honky-tonk with his callused fingers on a peeling, out-of-tune grand piano, occasionally missing notes due to the broken keys. Knockoff absinthe, made in some British swindler’s bathtub, makes its rounds on brass trays. Everybody is drunk. The dresses are falling off the shoulders of the taxi dancers, who are lying across the laps of their patrons, their makeup smudged.

I run up the stairs behind the piano, past the couples tangled in each other’s skin on the second-floor lounge, to the closed door at the very top of the stairs.

The clinic, with its steel sink and gleaming operating table, is empty. Tendrils of warm sandalwood incense dance through the air like souls, rising from a small shrine in a corner of the room. A pile of offerings—oranges, apples, and a small pineapple—lay heaped before a nuo opera mask, a lacquered ebony face twisted into a grimace, with flaming red brows and a tiger’s whiskers.

As I approach the shrine, incense crawls after me like a summer insect, creating a halo around my head, and I bat the smoke away with my hand. “Go away,” I say, although it’s just smoke.

Near the clinic’s window, a steaming kettle of black coffee rests on a low sandalwood table beside diagrams of musculature and anatomy. The window is wide open, silk curtains fluttering in the breeze.

I arrange my high heels neatly under the windowsill and climb outside, onto the rusted fire escape. Down below, a couple of gangsters look up, cigarettes between their teeth. I smooth my dress down to conceal my underwear.

Yue Liqing is standing on the roof, leaning over the parapet, wearing a flowing blouse made of patterned silk. A strand of her curled, white hair dances in the night air.

“Waipo!” I yell from the fire escape. “What are you doing?”

She holds her hand up to silence me. “Breathing,” she says. “Jingwen, don’t you feel like the night air is haunted sometimes? It’s beautiful.”

In the distance, nightclub signs twinkle like paper lanterns floating down a stream. Automobiles glide up the avenues like a school of goldfish. The fog I had noticed earlier that evening has lifted.

“Waipo, I brought the money.”

Liqing’s eyes open slowly. “You’re also late. You were caught up dancing with some new paramour, weren’t you? That’s why you’re wearing that ridiculous thing on your head. Your mother was exactly the same in her youth.”

I reach up and realize I’m still wearing the beaded headdress. “There was an attack at the cabaret.” I comb my fingers through the beads to untangle them from my hair. “Waipo, you always know everything that happens in Shanghai after nightfall. What’s going on?”

Liqing exhales one last time, the warmth of her breath lingering in the air, and she descends the fire escape, her surgeon’s hands steady on the rails. At odds with the rest of the urban decay, she is wearing black-and-white cloth slippers, a relic of her childhood in the countryside.

In her clinic, she pours a mug of coffee. We sit across from each other at the table, both of us kneeling. When the mug is nearly full, I reach for it, but Liqing slaps my hand away.

“The first cup is always for the spirits,” she responds, setting it between us.

I sigh audibly, but she ignores my exasperation. With a deep breath, I prepare to launch into a rant about Huahua and her missing lips, but I bite my tongue before I start. Liqing’s shoulders are relaxed, her eyes closed as she inhales the coffee steam. If I say anything now, she won’t hear it. So, I gesture to the shrine instead, trying to appease her obsession with ghosts and demons. “The mask is different from the one you had a few hours ago when I came for the bones.”

Liqing fills a second mug of coffee. “Ah yes, that mask was meant to ward off the spirits of my hateful, long-dead in-laws. This one is meant to repel the pig-faced ghost.”

The vines of smoke dance toward my outstretched finger, hissing like a viper, and I draw my hand away. Liqing nudges the coffee toward me, and I take it as my cue to start.

I suck in another deep breath. “Someone cut Huahua’s lips from her face. It happened like lightning. One second everyone was dancing, including her, and then she screamed and her lips were gone. I don’t know how to describe it—she wasn’t even bleeding that much. Her face became a sort of moving shadow.”

“That is gruesome,” Liqing agrees, “but hardly the strangest thing I’ve heard about this city.”

“Even now, I wonder if I imagined it. Maybe I’m just going mad.”

My beaded headdress lies discarded on the old carpet—crown jewels under the Paramount’s sparkling chandeliers, but cheap junk on the floor of my grandmother’s clinic.

The lines around Liqing’s mouth deepen. “Shanghai is a wild animal. Her cruelty lies in her capitalistic nature. If you choose to become a cabaret girl, then you should be prepared to deal with the consequences.”

From Daughter of Calamity by Rosalie M. Lin. Copyright © 2024 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

True Story

It’s Pride Month!

We’re in our first heatwave of summer here in the eastern US. My spouse and I took the Corgis to the dog park in the morning, thinking that we would beat the heat. Apparently, we didn’t go early enough, because we ended up melting into puddles of goo. At least the Corgis played in the water and had a great time. This week, we’re featuring some queer Riot Recommendations. But first, let’s jump into some bookish goods!

Learn something new, sharpen your skills, and expand your horizons with our Better Living Through Books newsletter. Better Living Through Books is your resource for reading material that helps you live the life you want. From self-help to cookbooks to parenting to personal finance, relationships, and more, Better Living Through Books has got you covered. If it’s part of life, it can be part of your reading life. Sign up for your free subscription to Better Living Through Books today, or become an All Access member starting at $6 per month or $60 per year and get unlimited access to members-only content in 20+ newsletters, community features, and the warm fuzzies knowing you are supporting independent media.

Bookish Goods

a photo of an iPhone in a leather case. the leather case is designed to look like a book.

Leather iPhone Wallet by willowist

For over a decade, I’ve had some version of an iPhone case designed to look like a book. I love it! This is a really nice leather version that comes in all different sizes. $42

New Releases

a graphic of the cover of Night Flyer

Night Flyer: Harriet Tubman and the Faith Dreams of a Free People by Tiya Miles

Tiya Miles presents a new look at Harriet Tubman, the woman who led enslaved Black people to freedom time and time again. Miles focuses on the context of Tubman’s life and her spiritual connections to the other women around her.

a graphic of the cover of Rooted: The American Legacy of Land Theft and the Modern Movement for Black Land Ownership by Brea Baker

Rooted: The American Legacy of Land Theft and the Modern Movement for Black Land Ownership by Brea Baker

Author Brea Braker examines the question, why is only 1% of rural land owned by Black people? To find her answer, she looks back at the history of Black and Indigenous land ownership and follows it through to the present day.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

a graphic of the cover of Dinner on Monster Island by Tania De Rozario

Dinner on Monster Island: Essays by Tania De Rozario

In her short collection of essays, queer Singaporean author Tania De Rozario shares her experience growing up as a fat, biracial girl during a time when Singapore required children with a “high” BMI to participate in food restriction and extra exercise. Much of the novel follows De Rozario as she begins her journey of self-acceptance, embracing her body and sexuality as they are, not as what society tells her they should be.

a graphic of the cover of Sissy

Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia

In their memoir, Sissy, Jacob Tobia shares the story of their growing-up years as they navigated the difficulties of being genderqueer in a society that only sees the gender binary of man and woman. In their witty narrative voice, Tobia shares the insights and life lessons they have learned along the way, delivering inspirational quotes along with their hilarious anecdotes. Tobia’s audiobook narration is spectacular, making the whole experience feel like a performance.

a photo of Gwen, a black and white Cardigan Welsh Corgi, sitting on a multi-colored rug. Behind her sits several books strewn out across the floor.

You can find me over on my substack Winchester Ave, over on Instagram @kdwinchester, on TikTok @kendrawinchester, or on my podcast Read Appalachia. As always, feel free to drop me a line at For even MORE bookish content, you can find my articles over on Book Riot.

Happy reading, Friends!

~ Kendra

Unusual Suspects

10 Highly Rewatchable Mystery TV Shows

Hi, mystery fans! I just started Bodkin (Netflix) about a podcast group investigating a mystery in Ireland (so much catnip for me) and Interview With the Vampire (AMC+ and possibly other places), which I originally was excited for, but I didn’t record all the episodes on my Tivo in time, so take 2 (vampires, also catnip)!

Learn something new, sharpen your skills, and expand your horizons with our Better Living Through Books newsletter. Better Living Through Books is your resource for reading material that helps you live the life you want. From self-help to cookbooks to parenting to personal finance, relationships, and more, Better Living Through Books has got you covered. If it’s part of life, it can be part of your reading life. Sign up for your free subscription to Better Living Through Books today, or become an All Access member starting at $6 per month or $60 per year and get unlimited access to members-only content in 20+ newsletters, community features, and the warm fuzzies knowing you are supporting independent media.

Bookish Goods

a cross stitching of Jessica Fletcher excitedly answering the phone asking "who'se dead"

Jessica Fletcher Cross stitch pattern by MrsPeggottyArts

This made me laugh! (digital download: $8)

New Releases

cover image for What You Leave Behind

What You Leave Behind by Wanda M. Morris

For fans of a character returning home and legal thrillers!

Deena Wood has had a rough time as of late: her mother died, she’s divorced, and she lost her job at an Atlanta law firm. So she returns to her hometown of Brunswick, Georgia. Except things aren’t better there either: she’s not a fan of her new stepmother, and an elderly man points a shotgun at her, confusing her for a real estate agent trying to take his property. She later discovers that the man is now missing and there is a “for sale” sign on his property. She starts to investigate only to find that her community might be in danger…

Backlist readers should also definitely pick up All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run.

cover image for Blood in the Cut

Blood in the Cut by Alejandro Nodarse

For fans of neo-noir, Miami, suspense, and a character just released from prison!

While Iggy Guerra was in prison for selling drugs, his mom died, and it’s only one of the things he has to face now that he’s been released from prison. His dad is grieving and in debt, and the family might lose the butcher shop that’s been their business for generations. Iggy is forced to find a way to save the business and deal with his family problems, all while trying to build a life after being incarcerated…

The audiobook is narrated by actor Danny Pino, who you may know from ten years as Detective Nick Amaro on Law & Order SVU!

Looking for more new releases? Check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

Here are two nonfiction titles about undercover cops and spies.

a graphic of the cover of The Kneeling Man: My Father's Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. by Leta McCollough Seletzky

The Kneeling Man: My Father’s Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. by Leta McCollough Seletzky

For fans of memoir and biography blends, civil rights history, and family stories!

Marrell “Mac” McCullough was an undercover police officer in Memphis — who was in the famous photo of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination — and also worked for the CIA. Here Leta McCollough Seletzky, a litigator and essayist, delves into history and her father’s life to uncover his secrets while trying to reckon with it all.

cover image: vintage colored photograph from the '50s of a white teen girl with thick bangs and a bob of dark hari

MI5 and Me by Charlotte Bingham

For fans of humorous memoirs and nonviolent true crime!

At 18, Charlotte Bingham had two bombs dropped on her life when her father summoned her to his office: he was a spy for MI5, and he was forcing her to join the organization. (This was 1950s England, and not being 21 yet, she had to do as her parents said.) Truly against this idea, she tried to catch pneumonia to avoid this fate. Ultimately, she remained healthy and had to go work for MI5, where she hoped that communism would end so that her dad could be a “normal” father and she could quit her job.

News and Roundups

Your 101 Guide To Fighting A Local Book Ban

Alyssa Cole has created a GoFundMe campaign to bring clean water to Congo: “People in Congo’s displacement camps need CLEAN WATER, and we’re going to help them get it by raising funds for community water filtration stations!!”

Mare of Easttown Season 2 in ‘Early Discussions,’ Says HBO Drama Boss: ‘We Might Be Willing to Figure Out’ How to Pick Up the Story ‘Years Later’

Amazon Editors Best Mysteries, Thrillers and Suspense Books of 2024 So Far (and if you want all the genres: here you go)

BBC’s new crime drama reveals first look at cast joining Jenna Coleman

10 Highly Rewatchable Mystery TV Shows

60% of Netflix’s Most Popular Shows Are Based on Comics or Books

The 2024 Lambda Literary Award Winners

Browse the books recommended in Unusual Suspects’ previous newsletters on this shelf. See upcoming 2024 releases and mysteries from 2023. Check out this Unusual Suspects Pinterest board and get Tailored Book Recommendations!

Until next time, keep investigating! In the meantime, come talk books with me on Bluesky, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Litsy — you can find me under Jamie Canavés.

If a mystery fan forwarded this newsletter to you and you’d like your very own, you can sign up here.

Past Tense

History Meets Magic in These Historical Fantasy Reads

Hi, historical fiction fans,

It’s always a joy to spend time with friends who are readers, and this past weekend I got to spend time–and get copious amounts of book recommendations–from several of closest reader friends. These are friends who have recommended books that I almost certainly wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, but wound up loving nonetheless. Books that were strange and wonderful. Books like The Regional Office is Under Attack, The Lonesome Bodybuilder, and The Need. If you have friends like that in your life, keep them close and keep the wonderfully weird book recommendations coming.

Learn something new, sharpen your skills, and expand your horizons with our Better Living Through Books newsletter. Better Living Through Books is your resource for reading material that helps you live the life you want. From self-help to cookbooks to parenting to personal finance, relationships, and more, Better Living Through Books has got you covered. If it’s part of life, it can be part of your reading life. Sign up for your free subscription to Better Living Through Books today, or become an All Access member starting at $6 per month or $60 per year and get unlimited access to members-only content in 20+ newsletters, community features, and the warm fuzzies knowing you are supporting independent media.

Bookish Goods

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New Releases

The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands

The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands by Sarah Brooks

In a world where a strange Wasteland has appeared between Beijing and Moscow and only a train provides safe passage between the two, a price must be paid for any who want to make the journey on the Great Trans-Siberian Express. The price can’t be paid in any form of known currency. But for the characters at the heart of this tale, they can only hope the price is worth it.

Daughter of Calamity book cover

Daughter of Calamity by Rosalie M. Lin

Cabaret dancers’ faces are being stolen. Jingwen, who works at one of Shanghai’s finest clubs, worries she might be next. Her grandmother has always wanted her to become the next personal surgeon to the gang she herself serves, but in order to save herself and her fellow dancers, Jingwen will have to become something far more dangerous.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

Both our new releases have a magical bent this week, so let’s look at the wide wonderful world of historical fantasy books!

A Marvellous Light book cover

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

In a magical version of Edwardian England, a normal man and a magician must work together after a clerical error lands them in the same department. Their animosity isn’t even the worst of their problems when they discover a dangerous magical conspiracy threatening all of England.

gods of jade and shadow book cover

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

When Casiopea accidentally frees an ancient Mayan god from her rich grandfather’s house, her life becomes infinitely more interesting—and more dangerous. The god has a quest for her, and as she ventures across Mexico during the Roaring Twenties to fulfill it, she discovers a side of herself she had always hoped to pursue.

That’s it for now, folks! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books, historical or otherwise, you can find me @rachelsbrittain on most social media, including Instagram, Goodreads, and Litsy.

Right now I’m reading When Among Crows by Veronica Roth. What about you?



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