Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from T. Kingfisher, Una Mannion, Jennifer Cramer-Miller, and more.


T. Kingfisher. Tor, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-250-24409-3
Kingfisher (What Moves the Dead) continues her hot streak with this equally haunting, heartfelt, and darkly humorous horror riff on “Sleeping Beauty.” The fairy Toadling is “neither beautiful nor made of malice, as many of the Fair Folk are said to be,” but instead “fretful and often tired” due to her exhausting efforts to keep a certain princess confined within a tower surrounded by a wall of thorns. It would be an easier job if tales of the princess did not keep spreading, unabated even by an early medieval outbreak of the Black Death. These stories draw Halim, a curious and courteous Muslim knight in search of a good quest. Halim is not put off by Toadling’s habit of turning into a toad when overwhelmed or frightened, and befriends her, helping Toadling to move past 200 years of dread to explain just who—or rather what—is in the tower, and how the fairy came to be responsible for keeping it there. The slow reveal of Toadling’s connection to the princess, and what the princess actually is, fashions a subtle and satisfying horror story, while Kingfisher’s trademark wit and compassion transforms “Sleeping Beauty” into a moving meditation on guilt, grief, and duty, as well as a surprisingly sweet romance between outsiders. There are no false notes here. (Aug.)

Tell Me What I Am

Una Mannion. Harper, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-331477-1
Mannion (A Crooked Tree) explores the long shadow of domestic violence in this outstanding mystery. In 2004, Nessa Garvey’s sister, Deena, disappears after leaving their shared Philadelphia apartment for work. Nessa feels certain Deena’s abusive ex, Lucas Chevalier, is responsible—particularly when he uses Deena’s absence to gain custody of the couple’s four-year-old daughter, Ruby—but Lucas’s mother alibis him. He then convinces a judge to deny Nessa visitation rights to see Ruby and decamps with the girl to Vermont. Nessa refuses to move on, however, obsessing over her sister and niece’s fates; meanwhile, as Ruby grows up exploring Lake Champlain’s islands, she learns to hunt, farm, and manage her father’s temper. She knows not to ask about her “messed up” mother, whom Lucas says abandoned them when Ruby was two, but when someone mails her a picture contradicting that timeline, she starts questioning her father’s motives. Mannion expertly intertwines Nessa and Ruby’s stories via visceral, close-third-person narration that alternates perspectives, and weaves through time to build tension and dole out reveals. Her subtly shaded characters add nuance and poignancy. This artful slow burn should earn Mannion new fans. (Aug.)

Incurable Optimist: Living with Illness and Chronic Hope

Jennifer Cramer-Miller. She Writes, $17.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-1-64742-527-2
Cramer-Miller debuts with a knockout memoir on living with a life-threatening kidney disease. In 1987, Cramer-Miller was 22 and living with a friend in Seattle, excited to embark on life after college. Seeking treatment for symptoms of fatigue and skin puffiness, she’s diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, which causes inflammation in the kidneys’ filters (since then she has had four kidney transplants, with a fifth on the way). Early in the course of the illness, words from her father and a stack of self-help books nudge Cramer-Miller toward positive thinking, which becomes a “lifelong tool” tested by her rare complications of the condition, including hair loss. Cramer-Miller’s optimism is measured—she concedes she’s not blind to the risks of the disease—and all the more moving for it. “Perhaps the inevitability of death is the best motivation for living a good life. Every day. Right now,” she muses. The existence of this openhearted memoir, which will touch anyone who’s ever known someone with a chronic illness or struggled with one themselves, is proof of her concept. There’s plenty of wisdom in these pages. (Aug.)

Fever House

Keith Rosson. Random House, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-59575-6
In this stellar supernatural thriller, Rosson (Road Seven) makes suspending disbelief easy by creating plausible, multidimensional characters who just happen to get caught up in the chaos surrounding a dangerous relic. Hutch Holtz and Tim Reed work as debt collectors for loan shark Peach Serrano in Portland, Ore. When Holtz and Reed go to strong-arm Wesley, a drug addict who owes Serrano $12,000, their thoughts are invaded by a powerful negative aura like “an itch in the dark meat of the skull.” They trace the sensation to a severed hand that Wesley keeps inside a Wonder Bread bag and decide to take it along to their boss. That choice leads to some unexpected consequences, as proximity to the hand triggers murderous instincts. Rosson ups the suspense by intercutting this story line with transcriptions of an interrogation by a covert U.S. intelligence agency of a being named Michael, who’s asked to use his remote-viewing abilities to help locate the hand. Sophisticated characterizations—even brutish Holtz and Reed are imbued with a degree of sympathy—distinguish this page-turner. The result should win Rosson a legion of new fans. (Aug.)

West of the Sea

Stephanie Willing. Viking, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-46557-8
Willing’s sparkling debut incorporates profound family dynamics, ghostly dinosaurs, a shape-shifting cryptid, and Celtic mythology, culminating in a suspenseful, innovative read. Eleven-year-old Haven West’s mother has been “a mood ring stuck on the blues” since Haven’s grandparents died suddenly a year ago. Mama has been acting strangely as well; she spends long hours in the bathtub, and Haven often catches her muttering things like “my shape is trapped in the rock, what we need is in the air, but my power is in the water.” Even more oddly, when Haven saw her last, Mama looked like a humanoid lizard. Then Mama vanishes. Accompanied by her environmentally conscious teenage sister Margie and kind, puzzle-solving tween neighbor Rye Wilson-Ruiz, the trio steal a food truck and set off across Texas to search for Mama. Their quest turns dire, though, after Haven briefly transforms into a lizard herself, prompting questions about the siblings’ heritage. Willing skillfully balances the narrative’s inherently fantastical underpinnings with a nuanced cast whose grounded challenges—including issues surrounding coming out and mental health—add ample heart to this road-trip adventure. The West family is white; Rye is Black and Latinx. Ages 8–12. Agent: Alexandra Levick, Writers House. (Aug.)

The Secret to a Southern Wedding

Synithia Williams. Canary Street, $18.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-335-43053-3
Williams (the Heart and Soul series) launches her Peachtree Cove series with a pitch-perfect small-town romance focused on forgiveness, second chances, and new beginnings. Successful big-city obstetrician Imani Kemp has no desire to return to Peachtree Cove, Ga., where, as a child, she witnessed her father’s mistress shoot her mother, Linda (who survived). In the aftermath, the small-town gossip mill put Imani and Linda, now divorced, through the wringer. Then Linda, who still lives in Peachtree Cove, announces she’s getting married in a month to a man she just met, and Imani reluctantly returns home, determined to stop the wedding. She’s prepared to face her demons—but she’s unprepared for the attraction she feels to her soon-to-be stepbrother, bartender Cyril Dash. Peachtree Cove has been a haven for Cyril and his widowed father, Preston, in the years since Cyril’s mother’s murder. Cyril has also witnessed firsthand how happy Linda and Preston make each other, so as Imani works to split them up, he works to keep them together. Along the way, their mutual attraction grows into an emotional connection they cannot deny. It’s a joy to watch Imani’s walls fall down, and readers will swoon over sensitive Cyril. The older couple are equally endearing, and the charm of Peachtree Cove only enhances the proceedings. Readers will eagerly look forward to revisiting this quaint community. Agent: Tricia Skinner, Fuse Literary. (Aug.)

The Romantic

William Boyd. Knopf, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-0-593-53679-7
Cast as a true story “discovered” by Boyd (Any Human Heart), this raucous picaresque chronicles an Englishman’s search for fulfilment and his encounters with prominent historical figures. Cashel Greville Ross is raised by an aunt, his parents having drowned shortly after his birth in 1799. He joins the British army as a young man, serves as a drummer at Waterloo, and travels the globe in search of his fortune. In Pisa, he meets Mary Shelley, who introduces him to her poet husband, Percy, and the couple’s good friend Lord Byron. In Africa, he races Richard Francis Burton and John Speke to locate the headwaters of the Nile. After he’s almost court-martialed for disobeying orders in Ceylon, Cashel does a stint in debtor’s prison in England, founds a brewery in America, and becomes an accidental smuggler of Greek antiquities in Trieste. He also falls in love with numerous beautiful women, among them a countess in Ravenna and a free-spirited Bostonian. Whether in describing military life on the far-flung frontiers of the British empire, detailing the financial perils of 19th-century publishing, or backgrounding Cashel’s adventure as Nicaraguan consul to Trieste, this inventively charts the highs and lows of a life extravagantly lived. Once again, Boyd holds the reader spellbound. (Aug.)

Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go

Cleo Qian. Tin House, $17.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-9535-3492-7
Qian’s bold and affecting debut collection explores aging, desire, cultural identity, and queer love among Asian girls and women. In “Zeroes:Ones,” Luna, 22, struggles to reconcile her Asian and American identities while on a fellowship in Suzhou, China, where she nurses her loneliness by playing a dating simulation game and keeping up a texting-only friendship with a stranger she calls Zero-One. Performance and reality collide in the eerie title story, which features a group of 20-somethings attending a cultish retreat on Mount Haruna in Japan, where the characters’ charged relationship dynamics come to a head, leading to an unexplained disappearance. Other stories delve more explicitly into the uncanny, as in the immersive “The Girl with the Double Eyelids,” in which a teenager who’s recently undergone eyelid surgery starts glimpsing imaginary symbols on other people’s bodies—an enormous pink tongue on the back of her teacher’s neck, a string of letters on her father’s wrist—that she believes might point to secrets they’re hiding. Throughout, Qian depicts with honesty and compassion her protagonists’ complex inner lives, portraying people who are by turns thrilled and afraid, desirous and resentful as they grapple with the anxieties of growing up. This is necessary and poignant. Agent: Annie Hwang, Pande Literary. (Aug.)