Hello, and welcome back to the weekly roundup of new and interesting books from A Good Book. We're not going to be coy this week, just like the protagonist in Alex Michaelides's new book, The Maidens, which is out this week.
London psychotherapist Mariana Andros leaps to the aid of her niece, who is studying at Cambridge, where murder and obsession go hand-in-hand with heavy class loads in Grecian tragedy. Who is killing the co-eds? you ask. Well, our earnest psychotherapist has someone picked out and . . . oh, we're sorry, did you think everything was on the up-and-up? Oh, dear. No, no, no. This is a Michaelides book, after all, where narrators are terribly unreliable.
Michaelides, whose The Silent Patient was the talk of summer a year or so ago, knows not to mess with a successful formula, and so if you liked The Silent Patient, well, here you go. It's very Gothic Donna Tartt territory this time around with The Maidens, and you might want to brush up on your Euripides to catch all the wink-wink going on here.
Nothing is as it seems and everything is inexplicable. Welcome to the middle of June, which is just about halfway through the year, except it's not because the months are uneven and the moon wobbles a bit in its orbit. And it's not even a leap year.
And speaking of gothic tales meant to keep you doubting your sanity, Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's delightful stylish nod to Rebecca, is out in paperback this week. Moreno-Garcia knows the tropes and the traditions, and she's very good at infusing all of that with a modern sensibility that is quite marvelous. We're going to keep recommending this until Velvet is the Night Comes Out, and then we'll gush about that one. Plan accordingly.
God, that cover.
Meanwhile, here's India Holton's absolutely bonkers Victorian send-up, The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels. Now, follow along (and we'd like to note that we're applying absolutely no hyperbole in the following description): Cecilia Bassingwaite is eager to join the ranks of the Wisteria Society, a group of scandalous ladies who are the scourge of the English countryside in their flying houses. Naturally, there's all sorts of in-fighting among the scoundrel ladies, and before Bassingwaite can get her monogrammed parasol (or whatever the Society grants its new members), she must rescue her mentor from a frustrated poet; figure out who is trying to kill her (is it the pirate, the Italian, or the royal agent?); and drink lots of tea. We suspect the Brontë sisters would approve.
And speaking of resourceful women, Marjorie Liu's debut collection of short fiction is out this week. The Tangleroot Palace is a collection of seemingly disparate stories that are, ultimately, unified in their portrayal of complex female characters. These are fairy tales where maidens rescue princes, where witches save us from evil-doers, and where princesses don't give away their hearts to the first person they meet in the woods. Sparse, evocative, and elegant. Recommended.
And speaking of well-crafted tales, have you ever thought: "Hey, I wonder if I could carve my own garden gnome?" No? Well, you should, because you can with Nikki Reese's Carve a World of Gnomes: Step-by-Step Techniques for 7 Simple Projects. We know. We know. Now you're not going to be able to stop thinking about making your own gnomes. You're welcome. You can plant one in the back courtyard when you're done. We'll start a collection.
By the way, did you know that, during his lifetime, Edgar Allan Poe's bestselling work was something called The Conchologist's First Book? It was a scientific textbook. That's right. Poe was a science nerd. In John Tresch's new book, The Reason for the Darkness of the Night, we'll discover that Poe spent much of his life championing the new sciences that were being developed in the early part of the nineteenth century. Oooh. This is fascinating. Don't mind us. We're going to go curl up and read for a bit.
Hey. Suddenly we can trace a thematic line from Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket to Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas. Proto-science fiction. Hmm . . .
And speaking of things that make us scratch our heads and gaze off into the mid-distance, there's a new volume of Italo Calvino stories. Last Comes the Raven collects some of the Italian writer's earliest short stories, many of which have never been translated into English. Calvino is one of those authors who soaked in the mythopoeic, which infused his stories with an otherworldly veritas. Perfect for those who like pick at the edges of their reality and peek behind the curtains.
And speaking of peeking behind the curtain, Helene Wecker is back with the sequel to The Golem and the Jinni. The Hidden Palace continues the stories of Chava, a golem, and Ahmed, the titular jinni, as they participate in some of the seminal events of the early twentieth century. It's historical fiction that has been, as you can imagine, soaked in the mythopoeic and then set on fire. If you enjoyed the first book, you will, assuredly, be delighted with this sequel. It's so nice to see old friends again, isn't it?
And speaking of old friends, Laurie R. King is back with another sparkling adventure with Mary Russell and her pain-in-the-ass-know-it-all husband, Sherlock Holmes. King continues to insert Russell and Holmes deftly into the historical record, and in Castle Shade, the pair travel to Transylvania where they encounter the strange circumstances surrounding the daughter of Marie, Queen of Roumania.
And finally, here is John Paul Brammer's ¡Hola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons. Brammer is an LGBTQ advice columnist, and Hola Papi is presented in a similar question and answer format. Brammer has a breezy and self-deprecating style which makes the insightful answers to the hard questions go down much easier. A charming collection of life lessons.
And that's it for us this week. Remember to smile at your reflection. Overlook the little things. Take a deep breath now and again. Wait out a sunset. Listen for the night noises. You're doing well. Trust us. No, really. We're only unreliable when we're talking about books.