November 2023 Must-Haves

8 min read

| By Tamara Butler |

Readers looking for something different will be thankful this season for the wide variety of titles that Thorndike Press is offering in November. In Vampires of El Norte, a young girl whose heart was broken years ago is reunited with her former love. Only her anger at his abandoning her is nothing compared to the mysterious creatures that roam the ranches at night looking for blood. For readers who prefer a lighter experience, Sunshine Nails is about a Vietnamese Canadian family who run a small nail salon that is challenged to compete for business when a new, fancier salon comes to town. The glamour of Old Hollywood sets the stage for the Reese Book Club Pick, Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? When a white movie star dies, leaving everything to a family of wealthy Black women, the St. John sisters search for their connection to the movie star, whose past contains long-held family secrets. Family secrets are also the theme of The Connellys of County Down, where a young woman tries to rebuild her life after being incarcerated, only it isn’t easy to reconnect to her family. Last but not least, The Year of Second Chances is an uplifting tale of a young widow dealing with her grief when she receives a message that her late husband enrolled her in a dating service with the hope that she would find love again.

The Connellys of County Down: A Novel by Tracey Lange
Indie Next Pick
New York Times Bestselling Author

From the bestselling author of We Are the Brennans comes a story about fierce family loyalty, good intentions gone awry, and the consequences of improbable love. When Tara Connelly is released from prison after serving 18 months on a drug charge, she knows rebuilding her life at 30 years old won’t be easy. With no money and no prospects, she returns home to live with her siblings, who are both busy with their own problems. Her brother, a single dad, struggles with the ongoing effects of a brain injury he sustained years ago, and her sister’s fragile facade of calm and order is cracking under the burden of big secrets. Life becomes even more complicated when the cop who put her in prison keeps showing up unannounced, leaving Tara to wonder what he wants from her now. While she works to build a new career and hold her family together, Tara finds a chance at love in a most unlikely place. But when the Connellys’ secrets start to unravel and threaten her future, they all must face their worst fears and come clean, or risk losing each other forever.

Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas
LibraryReads Pick
Booklist Starred Review

Vampires, vaqueros (cowboys), and star-crossed lovers face off on the Texas-Mexico border in this supernatural western. As the daughter of a rancher in 1840s Mexico, Nena knows a thing or two about monsters—her home has long been threatened by tensions with Anglo settlers from the North. But something more sinister lurks near the ranch at night, something that drains men of their blood and leaves them for dead. Something that once attacked Nena nine years ago. Believing Nena dead, Néstor has been on the run from his grief ever since, moving from ranch to ranch working as a vaquero. But no amount of drink can dispel the night terrors of sharp teeth; no woman can erase his childhood sweetheart from his mind. When the United States invades Mexico in 1846, the two are brought abruptly together on the road to war: Nena as a curandera, a healer striving to prove her worth to her father so that he doesn’t marry her off to a stranger, and Néstor as a member of the auxiliary cavalry of ranchers and vaqueros. But the shock of their reunion—and Nena’s rage at Néstor for seemingly abandoning her long ago—is quickly overshadowed by the appearance of a nightmare made flesh.

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?: A Novel by Crystal Smith Paul
Reese’s Book Club Pick
Book of the Month Pick
Booklist Starred Review

A multigenerational saga that traverses the glamour of old Hollywood and the seductive draw of modern-day showbiz. When Kitty Karr Tate, a white icon of the silver screen, dies and bequeaths her multimillion-dollar estate to the St. John sisters—three young, wealthy Black women—it prompts questions. Lots of questions. A celebrity in her own right, Elise St. John would rather focus on sorting out Kitty’s affairs than deal with the press. But what she discovers in one of Kitty’s journals rocks her world harder than any other brewing scandal could—and between a cheating fiancé and the fallout from a controversial social media post, there are plenty. The truth behind Kitty’s ascent to stardom from her beginnings in the segregated South threatens to expose a web of unexpected family ties, debts owed, and debatable crimes that could, with one pull, unravel the all-American fabric of the St. John sisters and those closest to them.

Sunshine Nails: A Novel by Mai Nguyen
A Real Simple Must-Read Book of Summer 2023

A tender, humorous, and page-turning debut about a Vietnamese Canadian family in Toronto who will do whatever it takes to protect their no-frills nail salon after a new high-end salon opens up—even if it tears the family apart. Vietnamese refugees Debbie and Phil Tran have built a comfortable life for themselves in Toronto with their family nail salon. But when an ultraglam chain salon opens across the street, their world is rocked. Complicating matters further, their landlord has jacked up the rent, and it seems only a matter of time before they lose their business and everything they’ve built. They enlist the help of their daughter, Jessica, who has just returned home after a messy breakup and a messier firing. Together with their son, Dustin, and niece, Thuy, they devise some good old-fashioned sabotage. Relationships are put to the test as the line between right and wrong gets blurred. Debbie and Phil must choose: do they keep their family intact or fight for their salon? Sunshine Nails is a lighthearted, urgent fable of gentrification with a cast of memorable and complex characters who showcase the diversity of immigrant experiences and community resilience.

The Year of Second Chances: A Novel by Lara Avery
Booklist Starred Review

In this dazzling debut, Lara Avery crafts a story about one woman’s uplifting journey of possibility, second chances, and falling in love again . . . with life. Robin Lindstrom spent her first year as a young widow cocooned in the safe haven of the Minnesota farmhouse she’d once shared with Gabe, the love of her life—the man she thought she’d be with till the end. But her world is turned upside down when she receives an email informing her that her late husband has enrolled in something called “Bubbl”—a dating service. “The app subscription lasts 12 months; use it!”, Gabe’s message from the grave reads. “I don’t like the thought of you being alone. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it as a favor to me. Please.” After 12 months of pulling herself together, Robin’s fragile equilibrium is knocked sideways. How could Gabe, of all people, be asking her to venture out into the murky waters of twenty-first-century online dating? As her underemployed brother, Theo, points out, it’s “only” for a year, and it’s basically Gabe’s last request. So Robin tentatively takes steps to put herself out into the world once more, even if it means awkward outings at bowling alleys, club-hopping with DJs she meets online, and stammering conversations at dinner. Along the way, she’s surprised to find herself meeting new people, trying new things . . . and even getting to know a new version of herself. Because everyone deserves a second chance at love—and loving life. 

About the Author

Tamara Butler is an acquisitions editor with over 20 years prior experience in public and academic libraries. She has a master’s degree in library science from the University of Buffalo and a master of fine arts in writing from Lindenwood University. When not checking out the latest Southern gothic novels, Tamara loves to spend time on New England beaches and hang out with her two energetic beagles.

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