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10 noteworthy books for May

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New books this month are out of this world, almost literally, with a fun memoir from a former air hostess and a couple of knockout fantasy and horror titles. You’ll also find some twisty thrillers and inspiring nonfiction. For the procrastination-inclined, you can still pick up several selections in time for Mother’s Day.

‘Fly Girl: A Memoir,’ by Ann Hood (W.W. Norton, May 3)

Before Hood became a best-selling author, she had the career of her childhood dreams – “airline stewardess.” In 1978, when flight attendant job interviews included weight measurements, TWA hired her right out of college. Although a glamorous international lifestyle was attractive, she soon learned more than airport codes and meal service skills, developing valuable expertise that served her well, like how to speak and act with authority, assess people and defuse trouble. With celebrity sightings, emergency situations and mile-high club thrill-seekers, her chatty memoir is filled with engaging stories evoking a bygone era.

‘Circa,’ by Devi S. Laskar (Mariner Books, May 3)

Seventeen-year-old Heera imagines someday she will marry Marco Grimaldi, her best friend’s older brother. But Heera is expected to wed a suitor chosen by her Indian immigrant parents, not the Italian boy next door. Years after a devastating night that tore them apart, Marco and Heera continue to feel a pull toward each other despite conflicting cultural and familial duties. Laskar skillfully portrays the burden of loss and longing in lives defined by trauma.

‘My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist’s Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole,’ by Will Jawando (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 3)

Jawando, a county council member from Montgomery County, Md., and former Obama White House official, was raised by a divorced White mother. With an emotionally distant Nigerian immigrant father, Jawando was receptive to Black men in his life who offered guidance, including a stepfather who helped him understand his Black American identity and an elementary school teacher who taught that being respectable meant caring for others as well as yourself. His deeply considered memoir offers a clarion call to those who want to support the unique and powerful impact Black men can have on their communities.

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‘The Hacienda,’ by Isabel Cañas (Berkley, May 3)

Marrying a wealthy landowner offered a way out of poverty for Beatriz Hernández Valenzuela, even though her new husband’s mentor, Gen. Guadalupe Victoria, executed her father as a traitor after the Mexican War of Independence. Upon entering her home, the gloomy Hacienda San Isidro, for the first time, Beatriz is seized by an eerie sensation before a cold and disapproving household staff, disembodied voices and frightening hallucinations make her question her sanity. A childhood fear of the dark was Cañas’s inspiration for this chilling gothic novel, a sinister ghost story that will probably encourage readers to keep their own lights on.

‘Mexican Gothic’ is a creepy, intoxicating mystery that’s almost impossible to put down

‘Overboard,’ by Sara Paretsky (William Morrow, May 10)

Fiercely independent private detective V.I. Warshawski is back in Paretsky’s latest thriller about a mysterious girl on the run. V.I., or rather her dog, Mitch, finds an injured girl hiding near Lake Michigan and summons help. When the hospitalized girl disappears, V.I. attempts to find her, only to become entangled in a conspiracy involving some of Chicago’s most corrupt officials and dangerous criminals. The stubborn detective has been a favorite since her debut in 1982, and in this enjoyable 22nd installment of the series, even a pandemic won’t stop her from setting wrongs to right.

‘First Time for Everything,’ by Henry Fry (Ballantine, May 10)

Danny Scudd’s relationship status is questionable, his career is stalled, and the room he rents is going to become a nursery. Newly homeless, he moves in with his best friend, a nonbinary artist, into a dilapidated Victorian villa filled with “openhearted queers who do the right thing by each other.” Other people’s opinions have always mattered to Danny, and as he explores a life as “the gay guy they always wanted me to be,” he must figure out how to stand in his own shoes. Fry brings a refreshing voice to the queer coming-of-age novel with characters whose stories don’t revolve around trauma. Instead, everyday experiences are portrayed with drama and delight.

Feel-good books guaranteed to lift your spirits

‘Mustique Island,’ by Sarah McCoy (William Morrow, May 10)

If you’ve ever wanted to slip into a picture by Slim Aarons, renowned photographer of elites on continuous vacations, now is your chance. McCoy’s gorgeous novel takes place on the Caribbean island of Mustique in the 1970s, a getaway for Princess Margaret and her celebrity hangers-on (paging Mick and Bianca). Divorcée Willy May Michael, a former Texas beauty queen, has her heart set on designing a home on the island to help rebuild her relationship with her daughters. Caught up in the social scene’s excesses and the politics of an island with a tangled history of colonization, she and her daughters live in a world of wealth but struggle and sacrifice to make the life they want for themselves.

‘We Measure the Earth With Our Bodies,’ by Tsering Yangzom Lama (Bloomsbury, May 17)

Lhamo promised she would always look out for her younger sister, Tenkyi. Newly orphaned and stranded in a Nepalese refugee camp after fleeing Chinese invaders, the Tibetan sisters must navigate an unknown world. A mysterious statue of the Nameless Saint, which vanishes and reappears in times of need, brings comfort, and decades later, becomes the catalyst for the sisters’ reclamation of their heritage. Lama, who grew up in a Tibetan refugee camp, brings a personal perspective to the plight of refugees and immigrants as they try to assimilate while honoring their pasts.

‘Two Nights in Lisbon,’ by Chris Pavone (MCD, May 24)

Ariel Pryce accompanied her new husband to Lisbon, but when she awakens on the morning of his important business meeting, he is nowhere to be found. The local police are no help, so she contacts the U.S. Embassy, which alerts the local CIA. A ransom phone call sets in motion a frantic rescue mission that reaches into the top echelons of society and government, triggered by events buried deep in the past. Nothing is quite as it seems in this energetic thriller that calls into question marriage, loyalty and truth.

A bored housewife jumps back into the spy game again in ‘The Paris Diversion’

‘Her Majesty’s Royal Coven,’ by Juno Dawson (Penguin Books, May 31)

The first installment of this fantasy trilogy imagines a Royal Coven established by Queen Elizabeth I to handle supernormal incidences and preserve witchcraft’s legacy. The witches in HMRC, a sort of Harvard-on-the-Thames, are proud of their noble history, but its exclusionary policies foment dissent and inspire a rival coven. Four childhood friends who took oaths together have chosen different paths, but their loyalties are tested when a young warlock appears, threatening destruction. Dawson’s first book out of the YA world explores themes of adult independence and feminism for a generation raised on the Spice Girls.

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