Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Mosberg, Chai, Reid, and More

August 30, 2022 | 2 books mentioned 4 min read

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jason MosbergMay-lee ChaiTaylor Jenkins Reid, and more—that are publishing this week.

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My Dirty California by Jason Mosberg

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Dirty California: “The murder of Marty Morrel, an L.A. blogger focused on the ‘dark history below California’s undeniably beautiful surface,’ propels screenwriter Mosberg’s kaleidoscopic, sprawling debut—a mystery with a sci-fi/supernatural vibe. Marty’s brother uses his trove of videos and blog posts to search for the killer, but other story lines from Marty’s past intersect with his quest: Pen, a documentary filmmaker who believes that reality might be a simulation, stumbles on Marty’s blog; Renata, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, meets Marty then disappears; and Tiphony, a striving, struggling young mother, gets enmeshed in a scheme to find a stash of stolen art that may have had a connection to Marty. The entire narrative is framed as a kind of true crime podcast that was never released, but that conceit isn’t carried through effectively. Mosberg writes well about the many ills, past and present, in the Golden State, but he’s simply not in control of his unnavigable plot, which reads like a prose rendition of a 10-part Netflix series. Mystery fans won’t bite, but readers with a taste for freewheeling, ambiguous narratives may have fun.”

Tomorrow in Shanghai by May-lee Chai

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Tomorrow in Shanghai: “Chai (Useful Phrases for Immigrants) showcases in her insightful collection protagonists attempting to figure out their roles in their families and careers. In the gritty and poignant title story, a young Shanghai doctor uneasily travels to the Chinese countryside to extract organs after a prisoner’s execution—’not an ideal job,’ he admits, but he’s deep in debt. The doctor gives the condemned man a sedative to avoid a second shot from the firing squad, but refrains from watching the execution, and instead reflects on his lost youth and turns up his nose at the uncouth rural guards. In ‘Life on Mars,’ set in the late 1990s, teenager Guo Yu describes his new life in Denver in alien terms after relocating from China (‘It was both exactly like and nothing like the America of the movies he’d seen,’ Yu narrates, struck by the ‘jade-colored’ cornfields). Yu toils at a restaurant job over the summer, though a tutoring gig for the cook’s son offers a glimmer of hope. ‘Hong’s Mother’ follows a white woman married to a Chinese man who neglects to defend the couple’s children from racism in their small Midwestern town. At 19, their daughter, Hong, is dismayed her mother is going to visit her in France while she’s studying abroad, but goes to extreme lengths to ensure her mother has a good trip, feeling yet again she doesn’t measure up. Throughout, Chai commits brilliantly to the characters’ competing drives for self-determination and approval, and conveys them with perfect subtlety. This slim but wide-ranging work is a great achievement.”

Lapis by Kerri Webster

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lapis: “An epigraph from Oscar Wilde, ‘Where there is sorrow there is holy ground,’ is one of several that opens the introspective and conversational latest from Webster (The Trailhead). Investigating death, including that of her mother, a mentor, and a friend, these poems circle grief in four sections of prose, list, and long lyric poems that make intriguing use of white space. In ‘Elegy,’ Webster writes, ‘And I was equal to my longing:/ the mums blackening;/ sorrow a carboned figurine;/ the firmament steaming; your ashes/ interred in the boulder;/ the ugly birds crying dolor dolor dolor.’ In ‘Primrose, Orchid, Datura,’ she declares ‘-blossoms collected in jars,/ granite thieved from silt. I napped and architected/ a decadent inwardness.’ This entry, which displays Webster’s gift for moving and surprising imagery, ends: ‘Once I was a girl/ who wore feathers and ivory, a woman who let/ the tap run in the desert past all decency. Forgive me.’ In ‘Against Shame,’ she writes, ‘For the scroll of lamentations, no remedy. Your ravaged arms, your garnet light, your when, not if: poison mistranslated as honey.’ Webster’s expert use of form and evocative vision make this affecting and memorable.”

The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The House of Fortune: “Burton returns with a captivating standalone companion to 2014’s The Miniaturist. In 1705 Amsterdam, 18-year-old Thea Brandt lives in a cold mansion with her father, Otto, a Black man who was formerly enslaved; her aunt Nella; and her elderly nursemaid and cook Cornelia. The family can barely afford the house, which Otto inherited, leading to Nella intensifying her efforts to find a wealthy husband for Thea, whose mother was white, and Otto thinking about partnering with a botanist to cultivate pineapples in Holland. Thea finds refuge at a nearby theater with her friend Rebecca, a fierce and talented leading lady; and Walter, the chief set-painter and Thea’s secret lover. However, after Walter breaks her heart, Thea resigns herself to marrying a wealthy lawyer from a prominent family. Throughout, the mysterious ‘miniaturist’ of the previous book surreptitiously delivers warnings in the form of detailed figurines on Thea’s doorstep, each with its own eerie significance and seeming supernatural power, just as she had done years ago with Nella. While the ending feels a little abrupt, the vibrant period detail, the characters’ vibrant inner lives, and Thea’s fulfilling journey to maturity make for a winning combination. Readers will relish the return of Nella and her world.”

Also out this week: Enjoy Me Among My Ruins by Juniper Fitzgerald and Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

is a staff writer for The Millions. He lives in New York.

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