Reviews of the Week with Laura Lippman, Maureen Johnson, Lara Bazelon, and More!

The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of May 3 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Basil’s War, by Stephen Hunter. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, May 3

Dream Girl, by Laura Lippman

Just as Lippman’s Sunburn (2018) offered a kind of homage to James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, so her latest stand-alone pays respect to Stephen King’s Misery. Gerry Andersen, a best-selling novelist, is bedridden in his Baltimore penthouse after a freakish fall, tended by an assistant and a night nurse. Then the phone calls and letters start, purportedly from a fictional character, Aubrey, the heroine of Gerry’s breakthrough novel, Dream Girl, who claims she will expose how he stole her story without attribution. Knowing that Aubrey was a product of his imagination, Gerry is first baffled then panicked by this intrusion into his life, especially as there are no records of the phone calls. Has Gerry imagined the whole thing? 

Tuesday, May 4

The Box in the Woods, by Maureen Johnson

Stevie Bell did the impossible when she solved the decades-old Ellingham mystery at her boarding school last year. Now home for the summer, Stevie finds herself adrift after having accomplished her lifelong goal. But the Ellingham murders aren’t the only cold case out there. When Stevie is contacted by the owner of a summer camp that was the site of a gruesome—and unsolved—quadruple murder of four teenagers in the seventies, she jumps at the chance to get back in the game. With her friends in tow, Stevie arrives at Camp Sunny Pines to help investigate the murders, of which there is little evidence due to notorious police mishandling, and help an overeager camp director craft a podcast. But though Stevie remains as savvy as ever, there are many complications in her path: unlike the Ellingham murders, this case is recent enough that family members of the victims remain, and Stevie, always more comfortable with data than with people, is faced for the first time with the more complex truths of her work.  

Wednesday, May 5

A Good Mother, by Lara Bazelon

Abby Rosenberg wasn’t cut out for maternity leave, as she had long suspected. A hard-nosed public defender, she was amazed that her body had produced something as tiny and perfect as her son, Cal, but she couldn’t wait to get back in the courtroom. When Luz Rivera Hollis’ case lands on Abby’s desk, she jumps at the chance to defend the maddening, magnetic 19-year-old accused of stabbing her husband. Abby feels a strong connection to the case; both she and Luz are new mothers and would do anything to protect their children. As the case gains national attention, Abby and her colleague Will are consumed by the shadowy details of Luz’s history and the demands of the upcoming trial. Abby’s singular focus makes her an excellent trial lawyer, but she’s late to realize that Cal made her world bigger than Luz’s case, and now she’s in danger of losing everything.

Thursday, May 6

Ace of Spades, by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

When the newest prefects are announced at Niveus Private Academy, certain choices just make sense—like the promotion of popular and perfect Chiamaka Adebayo to head prefect—but when Devon is announced as prefect, a role he neither expected nor feels deserving of, he suspects something is afoot. The narrative escalates as Devon and Chiamaka begin receiving suspicious texts from someone known as Aces, who threatens to expose their secrets to the public, endangering their chances of becoming valedictorian—and their lives. Told in alternating chapters that capture each character’s unique voice and personality, Àbíké-Íyímídé’s adeptly crafted debut brings to life an unforgettable thriller that fuses intricate world building with compelling character development. 

Friday, May 7

Sparks Like Stars, by Nadia Hashimi and read by Mozhan Marnò

Veteran narrator Marnò has one of those gratifyingly recognizable, sigh-inducing audiobook voices that immediately immerses readers. Here, for 12 hours, she commands Afghan American pediatrician-turned-novelist Hashimi’s (A House without Windows, 2018) latest, ciphering the multi-pronged epic over decades and across continents, cultures, and languages, all while effortlessly embodying a vast cast. In 1978 Kabul, 10-year-old Sitara’s privileged life as the daughter of the Afghan president’s closest colleague ends suddenly with the slaughter of her entire family and of so many others. A once-trusted guard who may or may not be a murderer whisks her out of the palace, only to keep her a virtual prisoner in his own home, a death-defying risk to everyone involved. His improbable rescue sets into motion Sitara’s eventual rebirth as Aryana Shepherd, the adopted daughter of a U.S. diplomat. Thirty years later, in 2008 NYC, she’s an oncologist whose carefully balanced existence is shattered when Shair—the palace guard—walks into her examination room.

mruzicka@ala.org'

About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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