Shelf Awareness for Thursday, December 9, 2021

Atria Books: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: Deluxe Edition by Taylor Jenkins Reid

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley

Ace Books: Toto by AJ Hackwith and The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society by CM Waggoner

 Harpervia: Only Here, Only Now by Tom Newlands

Webtoon Unscrolled: Age Matters Volume Two by Enjelicious

St. Martin's Press:  How to Think Like Socrates: Ancient Philosophy as a Way of Life in the Modern World  by Donald J Robertson


Nook Books Opens in Lancaster, Pa.

(photos: Gabe McMullen)

"I wanted to create a space where an adult could walk in, see a beautiful children's book and buy it for themselves," said Emma O'Brien, owner of Nook Books in Lancaster, Pa. The 256-square-foot bookstore, which opened on November 20, carries a hyper-curated collection of children's books.

Every book O'Brien carries is hardcover, and most come from small and independent publishers, are self-published, or are older classics that might have slipped under the radar in recent years. As examples of the latter she pointed to Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books, as well as the work of William Steig and Richard Scarry. "They're classics everyone should have, but they're not available in Barnes & Noble anymore."

Given the size of the store and how particular the inventory is, she noted, Nook Books doesn't necessarily have something for everyone. The books on display, as well as the design of the store itself, are meant to emphasize the artistry of picture books and the physical experience of book buying.

"I knew all of the titles I wanted to have before I opened," said O'Brien, who has been collecting children's books since she was in college. "Kids' books have always been a huge part of my life."

Emma and Jonathan O'Brien

The store held its first read-aloud storytime last Friday, which O'Brien described as "awesome and crazy," and she plans to do those weekly. She also hopes to start doing some arts programming, such as bookmaking workshops and events with a local risograph printer. "I want this to be a place to read and interact with books, think of ideas and celebrate literacy in all its forms."

Before moving to Lancaster, O'Brien and her husband lived in New York, where O'Brien most recently did consulting work and copywriting for a variety of tech start-ups. Prior to that she had her own book subscription company called Reads, which she shut down in 2019. While she loved the act of curating books, she felt there was a lot lacking with an online-only bookstore and she "really wanted a reason to talk to people."

She dreamed of having a physical location, and before launching Reads as an online bookstore she had even looked at storefronts in New York City. She realized very quickly that a physical bookstore there was "not realistic" for her, given the extremely high commercial rents. Despite being online-only, she called Reads a "great learning curve for building the bookstore."

O'Brien had a baby last April, and she knew that "if I was going to go back to work, I wanted to work for myself and get off my computer." In August she saw that a great storefront was available in town and a "quick couple of months" ensued.

"I built this bookstore on my daughter's nap schedule," O'Brien recalled, laughing. To learn the ropes of running a physical bookstore, O'Brien joined bookseller Facebook groups, got advice from publishers and reached out to booksellers who had also recently opened new stores. While it wasn't a walk in the park navigating all of the different systems involved, she was able to open in a relatively short time.

Asked how the Lancaster community has responded to her store, O'Brien said she had some "panic dreams right before we opened," and was worried that people might think the store was too niche or not for them. But those worries have proven to be unfounded: she's been blown away by how community driven Lancaster is, and how community members as well as other local businesses have supported her. "It's been incredible to watch everyone be really excited." --Alex Mutter

Hi-Voltage Records, Tacoma, Wash., Adds Books

Hi-Voltage Records, a new and used record store in Tacoma, Wash., has taken over an adjacent storefront and added a selection of about 2,600 new books, the Tacoma News Tribune reported. The expansion, which made its debut on Black Friday, also sells T-shirts, posters and DVDs.

Owners Meredith and Brian Kenney, who opened the store about 17 years ago, are offering books for all ages and plan to add used books to the mix. Meredith Kenney said she's particularly proud of the store's children's book selection, which makes the store feel like a destination for the whole family. She explained that adding books wasn't part of any long-term business plan, but it came about quickly after the soap-and-pottery store next door closed earlier this year.

"This was not a long, thought-out, meticulously planned adventure. But it came together so easily for us because we had a business already going, which is what allowed us to be able to take a little bit of a risk," Kenney told the News Tribune. She noted that there seems to be a natural overlap between people who are interested in vinyl and people who are interested in physical books. "There are some things, in life, that I think just won't go away. I think books and music will always be a part of people's lives."

Brian Kenney added that he's always wanted to have a bookstore. There's a certain feeling people get when they walk into a record store, and it's "the same thing when you walk into a bookstore."

The Collective Book Studio: Women's Voices Non-Fiction Coming Fall 2024

NCAC Coalition Statement Condemns Political Attack on Books in Schools

The National Coalition Against Censorship and a coalition of supporters has issued a statement "condemning the organized political attack on books in schools" that is occurring across the country. The statement has more than 600 co-signers, including more than 80 organizations--including the ALA, the AAP, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, PEN America and the Authors Guild--17 publishers and more than 450 individuals, including booksellers, authors, teachers and librarians. Most notably, the co-signers include the American Booksellers Association, the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association, the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and some 50 individual bookstores. (See the full list here.)

The statement reads:

"In communities across the country, an organized political attack on books in schools threatens the education of America's children. These ongoing attempts to purge schools of books represent a partisan political battle fought in school board meetings and state legislatures. The undersigned organizations and individuals are deeply concerned about this sudden rise in censorship and its impact on education, the rights of students, and freedom of expression.

"Nearly all communities have developed policies for both handling book challenges and allowing parents to influence their own child's reading, but they must do so within the guideposts set forth by the Supreme Court, without infringing on the rights of other students. The law clearly prohibits the kind of activities we are seeing today: censoring school libraries, removing books--and entire reading lists--based on disagreement with viewpoint and without any review of their educational or literary merit. Some would-be censors have gone even farther, threatening teachers, school librarians, authors, and school board members with criminal charges and even violence for allowing students access to books.

"Libraries offer students the opportunity to encounter books and other material that they might otherwise never see and the freedom to make their own choices about what to read. Denying young people this freedom to explore--often on the basis of a single controversial passage cited out of context--will limit not only what they can learn but who they can become.

"Books help students connect with characters whose stories reflect their own lives. They also widen their view of a changing world that embraces diversity and multiculturalism. But there is always resistance to change. So it is not surprising that most of the books that are being attacked address concerns of groups previously underrepresented in libraries and school curriculums: books about lived experiences of racism or of growing up LGBTQIA and experiencing bias, discrimination, hate and even violence.

"The First Amendment guarantees that no individual, group of individuals, legislator, community member, or even school board member can dictate what public school students are allowed to read based on their own personal beliefs or political viewpoint.

"It is freedom of expression that ensures that we can meet the challenges of a changing world. That freedom is critical for the students who will lead America in the years ahead. We must fight to defend it."

Update: Binc's Year-End Fundraising Campaign Features Offer

More than $75,000 has been raised toward the Book Industry Charitable Foundation's year-end $100,000 campaign goal, which has featured a matching gift challenge of $15,000 from Penguin Random House.

To help raise the remaining $25,000, is rewarding donors who contribute $100 to $499 with a one-month gift membership ($15 value) and, for those who give $500 or more to Binc, a three-month gift membership ($45 value). This offer continues through December 31, 2021. All gift subscriptions will be e-mailed to the donors in early January 2022.

Binc receives an average of 8-10 calls a week from bookstore and comic shop employees and owners. The average grant is $2,100. Binc still needs $200,000 by December 31 to meet its annual fundraising goal.

"We know the pandemic has put pressure on many people, and we don't make this ask lightly," said Binc executive director Pamela French. "Making a gift will strengthen the book and comic industry's safety net so those struggling to navigate these challenging times have a place to call for help. Gifts of all amounts are valued and important, and we thank everyone who has given so far. Thank you."

You can donate to Binc's year-end campaign here, or contact Binc's director of development, Kathy Bartson, at 734-471-0201 or

International Update: Hodder & Stoughton CEO Steps Down, New Eslite Store in Kuala Lumpur

Jamie Hodder-Williams

In a major restructure at Hachette UK, Hodder & Stoughton CEO Jamie Hodder-Williams is leaving the company after more than 30 years at the publisher, the Bookseller reported. Katie Espiner, currently Orion managing director, will step into a newly created role as CEO of Hodder & Stoughton and Orion. Anna Valentine has been promoted from executive publisher to managing director at Orion. Both will start their new roles effective January 1, 2022.   

Hachette UK CEO David Shelley said: "I'm extremely grateful to Jamie for the enormous amount that he has contributed to Hachette over the years.... Jamie has been a terrific colleague and an invaluable source of publishing knowledge and insight for all of us here, as well as a kind and thoughtful mentor to many. He's also been fun and energizing to work with. I wish him all the very best in his new ventures, and he will always be a close friend of the house." 

Noting that he has "had the privilege of working with an incredible roster of authors," Hodder-Williams said: "I am incredibly grateful for all the support we have received from the wider trade--from agents, booksellers, the media and partners all over the world. The team at Hodder and the wider Hachette group are driven by their passion for great stories and I know that they will go on to even greater success in future." 

Shelley said that Espiner "has done the most amazing job at Orion: taking the company to new heights in her six years as managing director.... I have no doubt that Katie will bring her flair, dynamism, vision and--most of all--her passion for working with talented authors to the company." He also praised Valentine as "one of the fastest-rising and most exciting publishers in the industry.... Anna is a terrific publisher and a positive force, and I know she will help take Orion to new heights." 

Espiner commented: "I am unbelievably proud of our incredible authors and of everything the amazing teams at Orion have achieved over the past six years. Anna is one of the best people I have ever worked with and I know she will lead Orion magnificently to even greater things. I am incredibly excited to be given the opportunity to work with the hugely talented authors, contributors and teams at Hodder, while also continuing to work alongside my colleagues and our authors at Orion." 


Eslite, the Taiwanese bookstore chain that in recent years has opened branches in Hong Kong, China and Japan, will open a store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Taiwan News reported. The store will be in a property owned by YTL Corp., the large Malaysian conglomerate with which Eslite signed a partnership agreement last year. The new Eslite store in Kuala Lumpur should open in 2022.

Eslite is also opening some 100 "community bookstores" in Taiwan as well as two large stores in 2023 and 2024. Eslite has made a push to sell more English-language books and is developing podcasts and an app.


Rendering of A Different Booklist's future home (Ten 2 Four Architecture)

Canadian indie A Different Booklist in Toronto was showcased by the Star, which reported that the bookshop, opened in 1995 by Wesley Crichlow, "has been quarterbacked by the husband-and-wife team of Miguel San Vicente and Itah Sadu since 1998.... and they continue to stock and promote books reflecting the Black and Caribbean communities, and the African diaspora."

The bookstore is also home to A Different Booklist Cultural Centre: The People's Residence. Launched in 2016, the nonprofit organization has held author talks, book launches, children's programs and art exhibitions.

Miguel San Vicente said young Black readers "are excited when they can see themselves reflected in books, which is not often the case. And we really appreciate how so many schools have bought our books for their students, which has helped us survive all these years."

He added that A Different Booklist saw a surge of shoppers during and soon after the protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis: "It was great to see so many people coming out, including many non-Black readers, and buying books on fighting discrimination and racism and inequality. And it really helped when the Black Lives Matter movement encouraged people to support Black-owned businesses like ours."

Next fall, the store is set to move across the street, but its mission remains the same. "We want people to learn from the past and to challenge themselves to put their knowledge into action," San Vincente said. "And our books and programming help with those goals."


In the Spirit of the Season: Little City Books

Little City Books in Hoboken, N.J., raffled three copies of Renegades, signed by President Obama and Bruce Springsteen, raising $4,000 for the Hoboken Shelter. Bookstore owners Donna Garban (l.) and Kate Jacobs (r.) dropped off a check to shelter director Jaclyn Cherubini, who said it would pay for 2,000 meals at the shelter. The donation was made in memory of Bobby Helmeck, a lifelong Hoboken resident who died in October.

Chalkboard: Small World Books

Small World Books, Venice, Calif., shared a pic of its sidewalk chalkboard, seasonally decorated and featuring a bookishly appropriate message: "Holiday Gift Guide: Something you want. Something you need. Something you love. Something to read."

Personnel Changes at Knopf Doubleday

In the Knopf Doubleday marketing department:

Julianne Clancy has been promoted to the newly created role of marketing director for Pantheon and Schocken.

Lauren Weber is moving from Doubleday into the newly created role of director of Vintage Anchor and brand marketing.

Jess Deitcher is joining the audience development team as the director of backlist strategy.

Daniela Ayuso has been promoted to senior marketing manager for audience development.

Emily Murphy has been promoted to senior marketing manager at Knopf.

Hannah Engler has been promoted to marketing manager of consumer insights.

Annie Locke has been promoted to marketing manager at Vintage Anchor.

Erin Merlo has been promoted to backlist manager in the audience development team. She has been a title marketer at Doubleday and a social media associate at Vintage Anchor.

Morgan Fenton has been promoted to marketing associate.

Matthew Sciarappa has been promoted to marketing associate for Knopf titles and social media.

Book Trailer of the Day: The Whaler's Daughter

The Whaler's Daughter by Jerry Mikorenda (Regal House), a trailer created in collaboration with the Five Towns College Visual Arts Program.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Katie Couric on Live with Kelly and Ryan

Good Morning America: Michael Symon, author of Fix It with Food: Every Meal Easy: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Anyone with Autoimmune Issues and Inflammation (Clarkson Potter, $32.50, 9780593233108).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Katie Couric, author of Going There (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316535861).

This Weekend on Book TV: The Wisconsin Book Festival

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, December 11
9:55 a.m. Matthew Pearl, author of The Taking of Jemima Boone: Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnap That Shaped America (‎Harper, $27.99, 9780062937780). (Re-airs Saturday at 9:55 p.m.)

2 p.m. Gary Ginsberg, author of First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (And Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents (‎Twelve, $30, 9781538702925). (Re-airs Sunday at 2 a.m.)

Sunday, December 12
8 a.m. Janine di Giovanni, author of The Vanishing: Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets (‎PublicAffairs, $30, 9781541756717). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

9 a.m. John McWhorter, author of Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America (Portfolio, $28, 9780593423066). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.)

10 a.m. Nikole Hannah-Jones, co-author of The 1619 Project: Born on the Water (Kokila, $18.99, 9780593307359). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

2:35-7:30 p.m. Coverage of the Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison, Wis. Highlights include:

  • 2:35 p.m. Gregg Mitman, author of Empire of Rubber: Firestone's Scramble for Land and Power in Liberia (The New Press, $27.99, 9781620973776).
  • 3:34 p.m. Meghan O'Gieblyn, author of God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning (Doubleday, $28, 9780385543828).
  • 4:34 p.m. Jaquira Diaz, author of Ordinary Girls: A Memoir (Algonquin, $16.95, 9781643750828).
  • 5:33 p.m. Jude Stewart, author of Revelations in Air: A Guidebook to Smell (Penguin Books, $23, 9780143135999).
  • 6:30 p.m. Jarrett Adams, author of Redeeming Justice: From Defendant to Defender, My Fight for Equity on Both Sides of a Broken System (Convergent Books, $27, 9780593137819).

Books & Authors

Top Library Recommended Titles for 2021

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 titles public library staff across the country love. These are their "Favorites of Favorites" choices for 2021:

Top Pick
The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, $28.99, 9781250178602). "Elsa, abandoned by her husband, leaves Texas with her two children to save her young son from dust pneumonia. Beautifully written historical fiction about a mother's love and strength holding a family together as they leave the Dust Bowl and head West to fulfill dreams of green lands, only to find themselves unwelcome and with conditions worse than what they left. For readers who enjoy historical fiction with unforgettable characters, and fans of The Giver of Stars and Cilka's Journey." --Michele Coleman, Iredell County Public Library, Statesville, N.C.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (Berkley, $26, 9780593201237). "In the horror genre, the final girl is the last one standing at the end. Now imagine a group of them being targeted by a killer on the loose. Who will survive this time? Hendrix scatters plenty of twists and horror references throughout his latest novel." --Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Parma, Ohio

The Lincoln Highway: A Novel by Amor Towles (Viking, $30, 9780735222359). "In 1952, castoffs from a Nebraska juvenile detention camp embark on a road trip that takes them in different directions than initially intended. There's so much genuine sweetness and aching loss in this exuberant book full of characters you'll care about deeply. For fans of John Irving and Ann Patchett." --Diana Armstrong, Multnomah County Library, Portland, Ore.

The Lost Apothecary: A Novel by Sarah Penner (Park Row, $27.99, 9780778311010). "Caroline travels alone to London after discovering her husband's betrayal. Looking for a distraction, she finds one while mudlarking along the Thames: a small glass vial. Inspired to research its origins, Caroline uncovers a dark tale of poison and murder in the 1700s, where an apothecary owner with a unique talent, a dark past, and a keen sense of revenge meets a young girl with a curiosity that might lead her astray. A stellar debut that balances two intriguing storylines and three wonderful characters to create one page-turning story. For fans of The Clockmaker's Daughter, Once Upon a River, and The Essex Serpent." --Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, N.Y.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine, $28, 9781524798659). "Four celebrity children of Mick Riva, a famous singer, throw a massive party that ends in a fire and leaves family secrets exposed. Reid skillfully goes back and forth in time to fill in the background story of the entire Riva family, beautifully bringing each character to life." --Cathy Branciforte, Ramsey Free Public Library, Ramsey, N.J.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (Berkley, $16, 9781984806758). "An aching slow-burn romance focused on chaotic sprite Poppy and buttoned up Alex and their twelve years of summer vacations. Set in present day Palm Springs and interspersed with flashbacks from the previous vacations, this story is full of yearning, friendship, and discussions of what it means to find a home. For fans of This Time Next Year, One Day in December, and Waiting for Tom Hanks." --Elizabeth Gabriel, Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, Wis.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (Berkley, $27, 9780593101537). "Both history and homage to the Morgan Library, one of the world's greatest private libraries. It is also the story of a young African-American woman named Belle posing as a white woman of Portuguese descent. For fans of Fiona Davis' historical novels." --Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, N.J.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Ballantine, $28.99, 9780593135204). "Ryland Grace wakes up alone on a spaceship with amnesia. Gradually he remembers being on a one-way journey to save Earth from a dying sun. Then he encounters Rocky, an engineer on a similar mission. Hard to put down and impossible to forget, this is ingenious science fiction to celebrate and share." --Brenda O'Brien, Woodridge Public Library, Woodridge, Ill.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (Morrow, $17.99, 9780062943477). "Sophisticated Osla, ambitious Mab, and timid Beth become friends while working as codebreakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. The secrecy of their work has lasting effects on their lives. Years later, they are forced to forgive one another to unmask a traitor." --Nanette Donohue, Champaign Public Library, Champaign, Ill.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune (Tor, $26.99, 9781250217349). "After dying of a heart attack, Wallace ends up in Charon's Crossing Tea and Treats, a shop run by Hugo the ferryman, whose job is to help people come to terms with their death and cross over. Wallace learns and grows, becoming better in death than in life. For readers who enjoy character-driven, humorous, and heartrending stories and fans of A Man Called Ove, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance, and Less." --Andrea Roberts, Westhampton Free Library, Westhampton Beach, N.Y.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, December 14:

Fun Day at Fun Park by Lola M. Schaefer, illus. by Savannah Allen (Simon Spotlight, $17.99, 9781665903295) is the first book in a new early reader graphic series that features two cupcakes who go on an adventure.

Escape from Atlantis by Kate O’Hearn (Aladdin, $18.99, 9781534456914), the first book in a new middle-grade series in which two children are shipwrecked on Atlantis.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

The Teller of Secrets: A Novel by Bisi Adjapon (HarperVia, $26.99, 9780063088948). "An absolute page-turner of a book, a fiercely feminist coming-of-age tale about a young Ghanaian girl questioning what is expected of her and what she is owed. A mesmerizing and powerful read from a fresh literary talent." --Meghana Kandlur, Seminary Co-Op Bookstores, Chicago, Ill.

Blue-Skinned Gods: A Novel by SJ Sindu (Soho Press, $26, 9781641292429). "Kalki is said to be the tenth human incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu but, despite his blue skin, even he isn't sure he believes it. A wholly original coming-of-age story told with warmth and compassion." --Audrey Beatty, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury, Conn.

Nights When Nothing Happened: A Novel by Simon Han (Riverhead, $17, 9780593086063). "Deftly shifting time frames and points of view, Simon Han, in his dazzling debut, gives a piercing, often funny, and deeply moving account of a Chinese family's struggle to settle into the lives they think they should be living." --Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 4 to 8
A Hundred Thousand Welcomes by Mary Lee Donovan, illus. by Lian Cho (Greenwillow, $18.99, 9780062877727). "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes is a beautiful look at how we welcome others into our lives and celebrate other people. The illustrations are brilliant, adding another layer to all the possibilities for conversations with children as you read this book." --Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 8 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Neverforgotten by Alejandra Algorta, illus. by Iván Rickenmann, trans. by Aida Salazar (Levine Querido, $17.99, 9781646140947). "Neverforgotten is gorgeous. It is as simple as that--gorgeous. It's a story that absorbs the reader, that through words and drawings carries us to Bogotá, while at the same time brings us to our own thoughts and memories of moments when our lives shifted." --Connie Griffin, Bookworks, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

For Teen Readers: An Indies Introduce Title
The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker (Inkyard Press, $18.99, 9781335405661). "This 1890s historical fantasy about a half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami soul collector is delightfully fresh, dark, thrilling, and immersive, seamlessly weaving magic, mythology, and adventure with a profound exploration of biracial identity, racism, belonging, resilience, and courage. Sequel now, please!" --Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: The Arc

The Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen (St. Martin's Press, $27.99 hardcover, 352p., 9781250276773, February 8, 2022)

In a world rife with shiny new dating apps, how far is too far to go to find the one without having to suffer through dozens, if not hundreds, of bad dates? That's the question Tony Henwood Hoen poses in her debut novel, The Arc, in which the eponymous Arc promises clients just one perfect romantic match--in exchange for a week of time spent plumbing their physical and emotional depths and a $50,000 fee.

Ursula Byrne is crushing it at her job as v-p of strategic audacity at a branding agency in Manhattan that fills her bank account but not her soul. Woefully single, she's tired of her dating options and about ready to embrace life as a single lady with a cat when she is introduced to the Arc, whose website reads: "Lasting love is in the details. It's time to be more particular." Somewhere between skeptical and optimistic, Ursula signs up. When she's matched with Rafael Banks a few weeks later, it feels too good to be true: their first date stretches across an afternoon, evening, an overnight--the timeless thing first date dreams are made of, infused with "an entire day's worth of sexual tension, an entire life's worth of wondering if she would ever find someone that made her feel like this."

This magical first date doesn't happen until more than 100 pages into The Arc, during which readers have learned much about Ursula and nothing about Rafael. While this pacing feels uneven at first, it starts to feel more deliberate as the new couple's relationship takes off; The Arc is a romance novel, but even more so a story of self-discovery and womanhood, of Ursula coming into her own both as an individual and as one half of a perfectly happy couple. 

As any reader of romance knows, that perfect happiness cannot possibly last--or has the Arc figured out how to make it happen? Ursula and Rafael grapple with this question as they come together, then apart, and then together again. Along the way, Hoen's attention to the detail of Ursula's life provides ample opportunity for humorous and cutting insights into corporate life, modern-day dating, ridiculous venture capital investments and the absurd consumerism of the wellness world (among other topics). It's a lot to pack into one novel, but the frame of the Arc as "relationship architecture" holds it all together along the way, resulting in a delightful debut about love and dating and modern womanhood that asks as many questions about self-determination and free will as it answers. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

Shelf Talker: A contemporary romance novel unpacks modern-day womanhood, corporate culture and the optimization of everything (including love).

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