Sunburn: A Novel

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Lippman, Maizes, Stradal, McCulloch, Zambreno, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Laura Lippman, R.L. Maizes, J. Ryan Stradal, Gretchen McCulloch, Kate Zambreno, and more—that are publishing this week.

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The Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lady in the Lake: “Set in 1960s Baltimore, this smoldering standalone from Edgar winner Lippman (Sunburn) trails Madeline Schwartz, an affluent 37-year-old Jewish housewife who separates from her husband after dinner with an old classmate reminds her that she once had goals beyond marriage and motherhood. Maddie relishes her newfound freedom, renting an apartment downtown and starting an affair with a black patrolman, but she yearns for more. After discovering the corpse of 11-year-old Tessie Fine and later corresponding with Tessie’s incarcerated killer to determine his motive, Maddie leverages her story for an assistant’s position at the Star. She dreams of becoming a reporter, though, and starts investigating a crime otherwise ignored by the newspaper: the murder of Cleo Sherwood, a young black woman whose body turned up in the Druid Hill Park fountain. Lippman relates the bulk of the tale from Maddie’s perspective, but enriches the narrative with derisive commentary from Cleo and stunning vignettes of ancillary characters. Lippman’s fans will devour this sophisticated crime novel, which captures the era’s zeitgeist while painting a striking portrait of unapologetic female ambition.”

Gravity Is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Gravity Is the Thing: “This tender and frank adult debut by YA novelist Moriarty (The Year of Secret Assignments) follows one woman’s search for happiness in a world as brimming with promises of healing as it is overflowing with letdowns. On her 16th birthday, Abi Sorenson’s beloved brother went missing. On the very same day, she received the first chapter of a mysterious self-help book titled The Guidebook in the mail, and received chapters intermittently through the years—the chapters cover everything from the death of metaphysics (in a single paragraph) to winking criticism of Keats to more traditional self-help metaphors. Now 36 with a young son, and 20 years into the lessons of The Guidebook—and still reeling from the unresolved circumstances of her brother’s disappearance, as well as grieving her ruined marriage—Abi is invited to a remote island to learn the truth about why these messages came to her. The course ultimately leads her back to her hometown and an opportunity to further explore the mysteries surrounding The Guidebook with others whose life it has haunted—which, she hopes, might somehow help her find her brother. With an eye as keen for human idiosyncrasies as Miranda July’s, and a sense of humor as bright and surprising as Maria Semple’s, this is a novel of pure velocity; it sucks the reader into Abi’s problems and her joys in equal, brilliant measure. A complex dissection of the self-help industry, as well as a complete and moving portrait of a difficult, delightful woman, Moriarty proves her adult novels can live up to her YA work’s reputation.”

We Love Anderson Cooper by R.L. Maizes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Love Anderson Cooper: “Maizes depicts characters who feel ostracized from their peers under an array of circumstances in her delightfully eclectic debut collection. In the title story, a boy comes out as gay during his bar mitzvah speech. ‘Yiddish Lessons’ tells the tale of a young Orthodox Jewish girl whose desperate need for attention leads her to commit a horrible act involving a young child. In ‘The Infidelity of Judah Maccabee,’ the protagonist is jealous of his cat’s affection toward his wife. Maizes excels in humanizing the characters through their occasionally self-destructive flaws. Tattoo artist Trey lets his obsession with outward appearance destroy lives in the magical realism–inflected ‘Tattoo.’ In ‘No Shortage of Birds,’ middle-schooler Charlotte allows her jealousy of her mother’s new pet to fill her with violent resentment. United under the loose common theme of isolation, the stories meld together nicely, giving the collection a satisfying cumulative feel. Maizes’s direct manner of storytelling and her imperfect yet unmistakably human characters are sure to win over readers.”

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lager Queen of Minnesota: “Stradal follows up Kitchens of the Great Midwest with a refreshing story about women who know how to take charge in a family that becomes involved in the brewing industry. Edith and her sister, Helen, are young Minnesotans in the 1950s, and though the unassuming Edith gains temporary fame for her scrumptious pies, Helen becomes obsessed with making beer after her very first sip. Both women marry, and while Edith and Stanley Magnusson struggle to make ends meet, Helen manipulates her ailing, beer-loving father by selling him on her capacity to make a beer of her own. After he dies, she takes Edith’s inheritance along with her own. Helen’s husband, Orval Blotz, is heir to his family’s failing brewing empire, and while Helen uses her inheritance and persistence to bring Blotz Beer back to popularity, Edith has difficulty forgiving Helen for her betrayal. The sisters lose track of one another for decades, but Edith’s teenage granddaughter, Diana, is drawn, seemingly by fate, into the brewing business. This is not a story of drinkers and drinking, but is rather a testament to the setbacks and achievements that come with following one’s passion. This story about how a family business succeeds with generations of strong and determined women at the helm makes for a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always winning novel.”

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Because Internet: “McCulloch, writer of the ‘Resident Linguist’ column for Wired and podcast cohost of Lingthusiasm, debuts with a funny and fascinating examination of the evolution of language in the digital age. Exploring everything from capitalization and punctuation to emojis and gifs, her book breaks down the structure of ‘internet language’ in a precise and engaging way. She offers novices a well-structured introduction to modern linguistics, including a history of informal writing and the social implications of language. McCulloch discusses the ongoing shift toward less formal, more concise greetings in message writing, observing that receiving emails from strangers provides a ‘never-ending multiplayer guessing game of what generation someone’s in,’ based on how her correspondent addresses her. She also discusses the stylized language of memes, sharing an excerpt of Genesis translated into the terminology of lolcat memes (‘Oh hai. In teh beginning Ceiling Cat maded the skiez An da Urfs…’) and the function of punctuation in text messages, such as how a period may or may not signal passive aggression. An extensive notes section invites readers to further explore the impact the internet has had on language. Thanks to McCulloch’s skill in explaining both academic and popular subjects, this survey will make an excellent starting point for anyone’s exploration of the topic.”

Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Reasons to Be Cheerful: “Stibbe’s charming latest (after An Almost Perfect Christmas) chronicles how 18-year-old Lizzie Vogel navigates young adulthood while working at a dental practice in 1980s Leicester, England. With some nursing experience under her belt and a way with words, Lizzie finds a job as a dental assistant for the intolerant and often thoughtless JP Wintergreen. Lizzie helps out JP’s part-time employee turned girlfriend, Tammy, who remains a friendly, if overbearing, presence. Their personal foibles—such as JP’s desire to join the Freemasons and Tammy’s fertility issues—often spill into the workplace. Through the practice, Lizzie becomes involved with childhood acquaintance Andy, now a lab tech, though their love life suffers after her mom, Elizabeth, takes him in as a boarder and takes a shine to him that Lizzie worries might be romantic. Stibbe nicely captures the tug of love and exasperation at the heart of this mother-daughter relationship, and also successfully writes quirky characters that don’t come off as cutesy or forced. She’s particularly adept at inhabiting a daughter’s forgiving eye of her mother’s past alcoholism and other dark times. Stibbe’s memorable characterizations and storytelling talent hold steady as a tragedy in Lizzie’s life suddenly unfurls. This novel treats readers to a rare voice that captivates with pathos and humor.”

Also on shelves this week: Screen Tests by Kate Zambreno.

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