The Other Side of Mrs. Wood by Lucy BarkerWhat it's about: In a late Victorian London obsessed with spiritualism, two ambitious women with very different approaches to their shared craft try to maintain the upper hand against each other while a skeptical journalist works tirelessly to expose spiritualism as fraudulent.
Reviewers say: The Other Side of Mrs. Wood is a "sly literary sleight of hand" (Kirkus Reviews).
Try this next: Rochester Knockings by Hubert Haddad; The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner.
King of the Armadillos by Wendy Chin-TannerWhat it is: a compelling and character-driven debut novel about a young Chinese American man's coming-of-age after being quarantined for Hansen's Disease (known historically as leprosy) and the strange kind of freedom he finds away from his family.
Read it for: the complex characters and sincere portrayal of a lesser-known part of the immigrant experience.
For fans of: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert.
Hotel Laguna by Nicola HarrisonWhat it's about: Hazel Francis got a taste for freedom while building airplanes during the Allied war effort, and in an effort to keep her independence she reinvents herself, heading to a then bohemian community in Laguna Beach to make a life that's unquestionably her own.
Reviewers say: "Harrison's story of self-determination is one to savor" (Publishers Weekly).
About the author: Nicola Harrison's previous books include the Ziegfeld Follies novel The Show Girl and Montauk, which follows wealthy vacationers on Long Island on the cusp of the Great Depression.
Do Tell by Lindsay LynchWhat it's about: Underemployed actress Edie O'Dare is working a side hustle as a gossip columnist in 1930s Hollywood when up-and-comer Sophie Melrose confides that she was sexually assaulted by a famous heartthrob.
Why you might like it: the well-crafted dialogue and engaging story make this tale of Hollywood's darker side go down a little smoother when dealing with sometimes dark, difficult issues.
For fans of: Big Red by Jerome Charyn.
Alchemy of a Blackbird by Claire McMillanBased on: a formative period in the life and career of Spanish Mexican surrealist painter Remedios Varo during her flight from Nazi-occupied Paris to the French Riviera, discovering the occultist literature that would inspire her later work while awaiting an exit visa.
Appearances by: Dada artist Benjamin Péret; British Mexican painter and novelist Leonora Carrington; socialite and art collector Peggy Guggenheim, who was Varo's benefactor during the war years.
Reviewers say: Alchemy of a Blackbird is "entrancing, vivid, and lushly illuminating" and features a "scintillating cast of actual and imagined characters" (Booklist).
The Apartment by Ana MenéndezWelcome to... The Helene, a 1940s art deco apartment building in South Miami Beach.
The people in 2B: Over seven decades, this apartment has had multiple residents, from Texas newlyweds to a troubled Vietnam veteran, and these interlinked tales showcase them all. But the book lingers longest on the latest to dwell there, a young Cuban woman.
Why you might like it: Featuring richly drawn characters and elegant writing, The Apartment examines memory, community, loneliness, and what makes a home.
Three Fires by Denise MinaWhat it is: an atmospheric and character-driven portrayal of the rise and fall of 15th-century friar Girolamo Savonarola, whose religious fanaticism took Medici-dominated Florence by storm, culminating in the 1497 "Bonfire of the Vanities" and Savonarola's eventual execution.
Read it for: the vivid historical details and lyrical prose.
Reviewers say: "This is a triumph" (Publishers Weekly).
Queen of Exiles by Vanessa RileyWhat it's about: the imagined post-royal life of Haitian queen Marie-Louise Christophe, who fled to Europe in 1820 after the overthrow and death of her husband, King Henry I.
Read it for: the engaging exploration of the unique issues a woman in Marie-Louise's precarious position would face, from fending off fortune hunters to defining her relationship with her African heritage in her European exile.
About the author: Novelist Vanessa Riley writes romance and historical fiction, the latter of which includes her novels Island Queen and Sister Mother Warrior.
The Radcliffe Ladies' Reading Club by Julia ThomasWhat it is: the moving, character-driven, and occasionally heartbreaking story of four young women from very different backgrounds and the refuge they find in a literature, each other, and the bookshop that brings them all together.
For fans of: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer; the film Mona Lisa Smile starring Julia Roberts and Kirsten Dunst.
Reviewers say: "A story of female freedom and constraints that doesn't shy away from the trauma -- and joy -- that faced U.S. women in the 1950s" (Kirkus Reviews).
A Right Worthy Woman by Ruth P. WatsonWhat it's about: the true story of Maggie Lena Walker, the daughter of a former slave whose determination and business investment acumen led to her becoming the first Black woman to both charter a bank and to serve as a bank's president.
About the author: Ruth P. Watson is a novelist whose work includes plays, juvenile and adult fiction, the latter of which includes the Blackberry Days of Summer series.
You might also like: Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander; The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict.
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