The Best Books Out This Week

From a heartbreaking report about the failures of the foster care system to a charming paranormal adventure.

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The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

This gorgeous, queer historical novel based on true events takes place in 1518 Strasbourg when one woman’s manic, unceasing dance turns into a pandemic of dancing women. Lisbet lives just outside the city on a bee farm with her husband and mother-in-law. She loves beekeeping more than anything and is pregnant for the 13th time. All her previous pregnancies have resulted in miscarriage. When the novel opens, Lisbet’s small home of three is about to increase by one. Her husband’s sister, banished by the clergy, is returning after seven years of punishment. No one will tell Lisbet why she was banished, not even Lisbet’s best friend, who acts strangely when Lisbet’s sister-in-law arrives. All three women are captivated by news of the dancing women of Strasbourg, whose numbers increase every day. This novel is beautifully narrated by Ruta Gedmintas on audio. —Margaret Kingsbury

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Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai

In this charming xianxia-inspired paranormal adventure, Elle — an immortal descendant of the Chinese god of medicine — crushes on Luc — a half-elf security agent. Though Elle is a powerful magical calligrapher and healer, she hides her powers to protect herself and her older brother from their evil younger brother. Instead, she works as a low-level magical calligrapher for a temp agency and rarely leaves home, hoping her younger brother will never find her. Luc is a regular customer at the agency, and despite only taking on menial magic jobs, Elle finds herself putting in more effort on Luc’s orders, charmed by how handsome and sweet he is. When one of her glyphs saves Luc’s life, he convinces her to help him with a custom order on his newest job — to track down Elle’s evil brother. His request isn’t entirely practical; like Elle, Luc harbors feelings for Elle, but he also has his own baggage to deal with first. This is a lovely, absorbing read with wonderful characters, a perfect romance, and an action-packed plot. —Margaret Kingsbury

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Walking Practice by Dolki Min, Translated by Victoria Caudle

In this intriguing and gruesome debut novel by nonbinary South Korean artist and writer Dolki Min, a shapeshifting alien fleeing from war crash lands on Earth. The alien takes on a human shape as they search for food, though they soon find that humans are the only food they can consume. To lure human prey, the alien uses a dating app and shifts their form to match their target’s sexual preferences, striking when their prey is most vulnerable. Their existence is both exhausting and lonely as they spend every day hunting food and shape-shifting. Themes of gender, identity, and cultural alienation are all explored in this surreal, compelling, and unique novel. —Margaret Kingsbury

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Feed Them Silence by Lee Mandelo

Scientist Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon has discovered a way to neurologically link humans and animals in this fascinating novella set in the near future. Sean has always loved wolves, so when her research finally receives funding, she neurologically links to a wolf her research team has dubbed Kate. Through the link, Sean can experience what it’s like to be Kate, to sleep in a wolf pack, to hunt, to mate. Sean’s wife, however, thinks it’s immoral to alter a wolf’s brain chemistry since an animal cannot consent. The research project has set their marriage on edge. As Sean becomes increasingly engrossed in the daily life of a wolf, struggling to separate herself from her subject, the marriage becomes rockier and rockier. —Margaret Kingsbury

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We Were Once A Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America by Roxanna Asgarian

The 2018 murder suicide of the Hart family — a married white lesbian couple and their six adopted Black children—was shocking in its cruelty and incomprehension. Media stories in the aftermath tended to focus on the motives of the mothers. But as the Texas Tribune journalist Roxanna Asgarian notes in her new deeply researched book based on five years of reporting: “Stories about the children— who they were, where they came from, what happened to their birth families— were mostly absent.” All of the children, two sets of siblings, were part of the Texas foster care system. Asgarian finds and interviews the children’s birth families, case workers and culls through court documents, ultimately writing a powerful indictment of the foster care system. Blood relatives unknowingly terminated their rights to legally adopt the children. Siblings were separated and placed into separate care homes. And these acts of injustice happened because the families were poor, Black, and traumatized. This book is a poignant eye opener. — Tomi Obaro  

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We're All Lying by Marie Still

This domestic thriller explores what can go extraordinarily wrong when a husband cheats on his wife. It's perfect for fans of Mary Kubica and Lisa Unger's twisty novels. Cass is accused of killing her husband's mistress, Emma. Although she knows she didn't do it, the accusations threaten to reveal some dark secrets from Cass's past that could destroy everything. —Shireen Hakim

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Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Set aside some time for this delightful, heartwarming murder mystery because once you start reading it, you won’t want to stop. Vera Wong owns a tiny teashop in San Fransico’s Chinatown and spends her time snooping on her adult son and drinking copious amounts of tea. When she wakes up one morning to find a dead body in her teashop, she snatches the flash drive he clutches and then calls the police. Vera knows she’ll be much better at solving the murder than the police. All she needs to do is investigate everyone who comes to her teashop, for surely the murderer will return for the flash drive. However, now that she’s actually talking to her customers, she finds herself enjoying their company. Will she really be able to turn any of them in for murder? The audiobook, narrated by Eunice Wong, is fantastic. —Margaret Kingsbury

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The Love Wager by Lynn Painter

After hooking up with a guy she met while bartending a wedding, the last place Hallie Piper expects to find her one-night stand is on a dating app. Jack agrees that while they may not be a good fit, perhaps they'd be good at being each other's wing person. When they begin to schedule dates in the same place only to reconvene after if it goes bad, they decide to place a bet to see who can find true love first. But when they agree to fake date for a wedding, things become a bit more complicated. 

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I Will Find You Again by Sarah Lyu

Sarah Lyu's The Best Lies is one of my absolute favorite YA thrillers, so it's such a joy to have this new release to welcome to my bookshelf. Lia Vestiano's disappearance has thrown Chase Ohara's world into chaos. The two girls had been best friends forever before they fell in love, and now in the absence of Lia, Meadowlark, Long Island is even colder than it was before. But that's not to say Chase is lonely, as the secret and chaos left behind in Lia's wake are enough to shake even Chase's own self-image. If you're a thriller fan, this one is nothing short of extraordinary. —Rachel Strolle

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Midnight Strikes by Zeba Shahnaz

The only thing worse for Anaïs than being at the kingdom’s anniversary ball in the first place is being stuck at the ball over and over and over again. When the evening ends with a midnight explosion, killing everyone immediately, Anaïs is shocked to wake up in her bed and learn that it is the morning before. Every night ends the same, leaving her the only one with any knowledge of what is to come and a desperation crawling within her as she looks for any path to escape. —Rachel Strolle

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Enter the Body by Joy McCullough

Juliet…dead. Ophelia…dead. Cordelia…dead. These three young women, all from Shakespeare’s canon and all of whom die young, are comparing notes. As they support each other under the trapdoor of a stage, each gets the chance to tell her own story in her own way and reclaim the lives their plays took from them. —Rachel Strolle

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The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher

The promise of familiarity has kept Gwen Hathaway afloat since the death of her mother. Having had enough major change, she’s counting on the regularity of the ren faire circuit and time spent with her father. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell all of this to the final stop’s new owners, who have changed much of the faire and have a lute-playing bard of a son who wants to befriend her. And though it might be different from the faire her mother loved, Gwen might actually begin to open back up because of it. —Rachel Strolle

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