Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (July 29, Amy Einhorn Books)

A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly? 

What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. 

But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads: 

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). 

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay. 

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. 

People say it takes a village to raise a child, but the kindergarten parents of Moriarty’s Big Little Lies need a homicide detective.  Little lies and ugly truths result in murder as Moriarty perfectly encapsulates modern parenting at its worst and most absurd. Readers will frantically turn the pages wanting to know whodunit and what other nasty little secrets are behind this upscale seaside town. —Alison Skap

This is the Water by Yannick Murphy

This Is The WaterThis is the Water by Yannick Murphy (July 29, Harper Perennial)

From Yannick Murphy, award-winning author of The Call, comes a fast-paced story of murder, adultery, parenthood, and romance, involving a girls’ swim team, their morally flawed parents, and a killer who swims in their midst.

In a quiet New England community members of swim team and their dedicated parents are preparing for a home meet. The most that Annie, a swim-mom of two girls, has to worry about is whether or not she fed her daughters enough carbs the night before; why her husband, Thomas, hasn’t kissed her in ages; and why she can’t get over the loss of her brother who shot himself a few years ago.

But Annie’s world is about to change. From the bleachers, looking down at the swimmers, a dark haired man watches a girl. No one notices him. Annie is busy getting to know Paul, who flirts with Annie despite the fact that he’s married to her friend Chris, and despite Annie’s greying hair and crow’s feet. Chris is busy trying to discover whether or not Paul is really having an affair, and the swimmers are trying to shave milliseconds off their race times by squeezing themselves into skin-tight bathing suits and visualizing themselves winning their races.

When a girl on the team is murdered at a nearby highway rest stop—the same rest stop where Paul made a gruesome discovery years ago—the parents suddenly find themselves adrift. Paul turns to Annie for comfort. Annie finds herself falling in love. Chris becomes obsessed with unmasking the killer.

With a serial killer now too close for comfort, Annie and her fellow swim-parents must make choices about where their loyalties lie. As a series of startling events unfold, Annie discovers what it means to follow your intuition, even if love, as well as lives, could be lost.

This is a girls’ swim team rocked by the shocking murder of one of their stars at a highway rest stop.This is a community cycling between fear, denial, and obsession with the danger that may be among them, feeling relationships shift and tensions mount. Related through suspense-building, snapshot-like scenes, This is the Water lures the reader in like a pool on a hot summer day.—Florinda Pendley Vasquez

Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke

DissonanceDissonance by Erica O’Rourke (July 22, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

In this inventive romantic thriller, Del has the power to navigate between alternate realities—and the power to save multiple worlds.

Delancey knows for sure that there is more than one universe. Many more. Because every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world is spun off the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed—all of these choices create alternate universes in which echo selves take the roads not traveled. Del knows all of this because she’s a Walker, someone who can navigate between the worlds, and whose job is to keep the dimensions in harmony.

But Del’s decisions have consequences too. Even though she’s forbidden from Walking after a training session goes horribly wrong, she secretly starts to investigate other dissonant worlds. She’s particularly intrigued by the echo versions of Simon Lane, a guy who won’t give her the time of day in the main world, but whose alternate selves are uniquely interested. But falling for Simon draws Del closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide—a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.

Interweaving music and string theory, O’Rourke introduces a richly-layered multiverse where a person’s choices give life to alternate timelines and echo selves. While clandestinely exploring these worlds, Del keeps encountering versions of her crush, Simon. Even though her relationship with him threatens the very fabric of existence, the reader yearns for a world where Del and Simon can be together.—Lenore Appelhans

What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault

What Strange CreaturesWhat Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault (July 22, William Morrow Paperbacks)

Scandal, love, family, and murder combine in this gripping literary mystery by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault, in which a young academic’s life is turned upside down when her brother is arrested for murder and she must prove his innocence.

The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years, one marriage and divorce, three cats, and a dog later, Theresa still hasn’t finished her dissertation. Instead of a degree, she’s got a houseful of adoring pets and a dead-end copywriting job for a local candle company.

Jeff, her so-called genius older brother, doesn’t have it together, either. Creative, and loyal, he’s also aimless in work and love. But his new girlfriend, Kim, a pretty waitress in her twenties, appears smitten.

When Theresa agrees to dog-sit Kim’s puggle for a weekend, she has no idea that it is the beginning of a terrifying nightmare that will shatter her quiet world. Soon, Kim’s body will be found in the woods, and Jeff will become the prime suspect.

Though the evidence is overwhelming, Theresa knows that her brother is not a cold-blooded murderer. But to clear him she must find out more about Kim. Investigating the dead woman’s past, Theresa uncovers a treacherous secret involving politics, murder, and scandal—and becomes entangled in a potentially dangerous romance. But the deeper she falls into this troubling case, the more it becomes clear that, in trying to save her brother’s life, she may be sacrificing her own.

Theresa’s brother is accused of murdering his girlfriend, but despite his flaws she knows he couldn’t have done it. She begins to investigate what really happened in this witty and engaging mystery. Brimming with truth about the human condition, What Strange Creatures entertains while celebrating the bond between siblings. —Amy Riley


Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

Losing TouchLosing Touch by Sandra Hunter (July 15, Oneworld Publications)

Arjun brought his family to North West London after Indian independence, but hopes of a better life rapidly dissipate. His wife Sunila spends all day longing for an Aga and a nice English tea service, his son hates anything Indian, and his daughter, well, that’s a whole other problem. Reeling from the death of his younger brother, Arjun vainly attempts to enforce the values he grew up with, while his family eagerly embrace the new. But when his right leg suddenly fails him, Arjun’s growing sense of imbalance is more than external.

Offering an intimate and touching portrait of an immigrant family precariously balanced on the cusp of East and West, Hunter’s strikingly sympathetic characters remind us of our own shortfalls, successes, hypocrisies – and humanity.

A quiet yet touching story about family and the need to connect with loved ones and society, Losing Touch, is filled with small moments of misunderstanding, longing, and regret. The moments are  expertly woven together, showcasing Hunter as a master observer of life and an author to follow.—Natasha Vasillis

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

EvergreenEvergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen (July 15, Knopf)

From the celebrated author of The Bird Sisters, a gorgeously rendered and emotionally charged novel that spans generations, telling the story of two siblings, raised apart, attempting to share a life.

It is 1938 when Eveline, a young bride, follows her husband into the wilderness of Minnesota. Though their cabin is rundown, they have a river full of fish, a garden out back, and a new baby boy named Hux. But when Emil leaves to take care of his sick father, the unthinkable happens: a stranger arrives, and Eveline becomes pregnant. She gives the child away, and while Hux grows up hunting and fishing in the woods with his parents, his sister, Naamah, is raised an orphan. Years later, haunted by the knowledge of this forsaken girl, Hux decides to find his sister and bring her home to the cabin. But Naamah, even wilder than the wilderness that surrounds them, may make it impossible for Hux to ever tame her, to ever make up for all that she, and they, have lost. Set before a backdrop of vanishing forest, this is a luminous novel of love, regret, and hope.

Set in the wilderness of Minnesota, this sophomore novel follows three generations of family, each beset with incidents that challenge their resolve and dedication. Beginning with a young bride moving to the wilderness to join her husband, followed by two generations of women struggling to understand why they were abandoned by their mothers, this eloquently-written novel captures the bonds between mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and the love that binds us all together. —Jenn Lawrence

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

The book of lifeThe Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (July 15, Viking Adult)

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close. 

Diana Bishop and Matthew de Claremont are back in the explosive finale to the All Souls Trilogy. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and Harkness makes that clear on every page with expert pacing and heightened suspense. The author’s vivid details and precise characterization serve her well; fans of the series will delight in this final installment, while also feeling bereft at the loss of these wonderful characters. —Swapna Krishna

California by Edan Lepucki

CaliforniaCalifornia by Edan Lepucki (July 8, Little Brown & Co. )

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they’ve left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can’t reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant. 

Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind’s dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

Buzz was building for Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, even before Stephen Colbert championed it on The Colbert Report as one of the excellent titles affected by ongoing negotiations between Hachette Book Group and Amazon. Readers will be pleased to discover that Colbert’s recommendation is not without merit.

California is a sweeping vision of a country radically transformed by the everyday news items we casually dismiss. Cal and Frida are an idealistic young couple whose efforts to live off the grid, and on the land come to a grinding halt when they discover Frida’s pregnancy. Unsettled by recent ominous signs, they decide to go in search of a community, both for protection and for aid in preparing for the birth of their child. What they find on their journey rocks them to their core and changes what they thought they understood about civilization and themselves. Lepucki novel explores the tensions and reinvention of family bonds and marital relations and loyalty against the shiftiness of an uncertain world.   — Nicole Bonía

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell (July 8, St. Martin’s Press )

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply—but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her—Neal is always a little upset with Georgie—but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

In the past year and a half, Rainbow Rowell has gained an incredible following based on the strength of her young adult novels Fangirl and especially Eleanor and Park. With Landline, her first adult novel in three years, she reminds us that she understands adults as well as she understands teenagers.

Georgie McCool has been paying more attention to her job than she does to her husband Neal and their children. When she realizes she needs to work over Christmas, it is the last straw for Neal, who takes the kids to his mother’s house in Iowa without Georgie. On the brink of a possible divorce, Georgie attempts to call Neal from the phone in her childhood room and inadvertently manages to communicate with Neal back in the week before Neal proposed to her on Christmas Day. Landline is a beautiful novel about how priorities get out of whack and someone receiving the grace to fix them.— Jen Karsbaek


War of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

War of roses - stormbirdWar of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden (July 8, G. P. Putnam & Sons)

In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named “The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.

A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it not only opportunity in the monarch, but also their patriotic duty in ousting an ineffectual king. As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late? 

In a time of political upheaval, the decisions and desires of a weak king to reach a truce with an enemy can lead to far worse consequences at home. Conn Iggulden portrays the realities of living during Henry VI’s early reign so vividly that knowledgeable readers will find themselves holding out hope for a better outcome. Well written and engaging, readers will be anticipating the next book in the series. —Jennifer Conner