The Best New Book Releases Out May 21, 2024

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Erica Ezeifedi, Associate Editor, is a transplant from Nashville, TN that has settled in the North East. In addition to being a writer, she has worked as a victim advocate and in public libraries, where she has focused on creating safe spaces for queer teens, mentorship, and providing test prep instruction free to students. Outside of work, much of her free time is spent looking for her next great read and planning her next snack.

Find her on Twitter at @Erica_Eze_.

Season three of Bridgerton is out, and, while I was turned off by something a character did towards the end of the first season and haven’t watched since, I’ve been seeing some excellent TikToks and Tweets about it. Case in point, this homage paid to Queen Charlotte’s statement wigs:

The bubbles! Kiii

As far as book releases, today has a lot going on. There are releases by a few prolific writers, like Nora Roberts’s romantic suspense Mind Games; Vanessa Riley’s historical romance, A Gamble at Sunset; and Stephen King’s new collection of horror stories, You Like It Darker.

If you’re down for short stories but want them sans the horror, there’s Coexistence by queer Indigenous author Billy-Ray Belcourt. There’s also more queer fiction — in the form of coming-of-age tales — in the addiction-laden Shae by Mesha Maren, and the early aughts-set In Tongues by Thomas Grattan (heads up that the latter features more of an adult coming-of-age situation).

You can also read about a woman who becomes reunited with her younger sister after their mother is deported back to Brazil in Wait by Gabriella Burnham, or about Daisy Ellery, and how she’s asked to get revenge against an abusive cop with her deadly pies in The Last to Pie by Misha Popp, the third in the cozy Pies Before Guys Mystery series.

Lastly, if you’re down for a fun, anachronistic samurai adventure set in Japan, YA graphic novel The Worst Ronin by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Faith Schaffer is also out.

The books below are also fire. There’s a new rom-com by Kevin Kwan (author of Crazy Rich Asians), an apocalyptic sci-fi mystery, tales of Hindu river goddesses, and so much more.

cover of Lies and Weddings by Kevin Kwan

Lies and Weddings by Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan, of Crazy Rich Asians fame, is back with another decadently funny romance with bougie boos. Rufus Leung Gresham is in a situation. You see, though he is the future Duke of Greshambury, there isn’t anything left in the Gresham Trust that hasn’t been eaten up by debt. His mom, a former supermodel trying to hold onto The BagTM, is trying to get him in on her scheming. If he can find a wealthy (future) wife at his sister’s upcoming luxury wedding, maybe he can salvage things. While there are certainly eligible bachelorettes there, like a French hotel heiress and a venture capitalist extraordinaire, Rufus can’t stop thinking of his firmly middle-class neighbor, Eden Tong. But all of the considerations for his future partner get put on hold when a volcano erupts during wedding events, and some of the family’s business gets aired out.

cover of The Last Murder at the End of the World by Stuart Turtoncover of The Last Murder at the End of the World by Stuart Turton

The Last Murder at the End of the World by Stuart Turton

The author of the immensely popular The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is back with a very unique, sort of “locked-room mystery.” I say sort of because, instead of just a room, the confined area is an entire island that houses the last of humanity after a fog swept the planet killing everyone it touched (that’s the “locked” part). Life on the island is chill — albeit unsustainable. The 100+ villagers are fine enough fishing, farming, and following the orders of the scientists who keep them safe. But then, one of the scientists is found stabbed to death, and with them comes lowered security around the island. What’s more, the security system has wiped everyone’s memory of what happened the night of the murder. If they don’t find out what happened within the next four or so days, the island, with its compromised security system, will be overtaken by the deadly fog.

cover of Goddess of the River by Vaishnavi Patelcover of Goddess of the River by Vaishnavi Patel

Goddess of the River by Vaishnavi Patel

Here’s another welcome entry into the female-characters-in-mythology-revisited sub-genre that’s having a moment. Except, the female character in question is Hindu river goddess Ganga, and not one from Greek mythology, like so many other modern retellings. Ganga is content, for a time, as she watches over the spirited baby gods who run up and down her river, but when they cause trouble for the wrong sage, it’s Ganga who is cursed to become mortal. Adapting to her new life, she marries King Shantanu and births a son, Devavrata. As she struggles to finally rid herself of the curse, she finds out she’ll have to give up her son. Then, it’s Devavrata who carries on the curse, and who unknowingly sets the world off on the course of war. As the years pass, Ganga’s and Devavrata’s unique mother/son dynamic shapes the lives of so many.

cover of The Guncle Abroad by Steven Rowleycover of The Guncle Abroad by Steven Rowley

The Guncle Abroad by Steven Rowley

The second installment of the sweet Guncle series finds the titular Guncle — that is, Gay Uncle — Patrick O’Hara reprising his uncle-ing duties with his niece and nephew, Maisie and Grant, once his brother announces a wedding in Italy. It’s there he meets a new Launt (Lesbian Aunt), contends with aging and loneliness after a breakup, all while trying his best to stop his sister Clara from having a Hot Girl Summer with wedding guests. With all that going on, Maisie and Grant are struggling with the changes going on in their lives. But at least Guncle Patrick is there to reassure them (while remaining their fave, hopefully).

cover of Grown Women by Sarai Johnsoncover of Grown Women by Sarai Johnson

Grown Women by Sarai Johnson

There’s a Biblical level of begetting in this debut novel, but the focus is on mothers and their daughters. Evelyn births Charlotte, and Charlotte births Corinna, who then finally gives birth to Camille — Camille being the intelligent girl who offers her mother and mothers before her a shimmer of hope for the future. There’s a lot of trauma wrapped up in these women’s familial bonds, and though there’s a chance to right past wrongs with Camille’s rearing, each woman doesn’t really know how to go about it. When Camille leaves the backwoods of Tennessee for D.C., she’ll have to decide whether she’ll allow herself to be swallowed by what all the women who came before could not be but want her to be, or if she will move toward her own version of happiness.

cover of Perfume & Pain by Anna Dorncover of Perfume & Pain by Anna Dorn

Perfume & Pain by Anna Dorn

When I read that this was a “hilarious nod to 1950s lesbian pulp fiction,” I was sold. It follows Astrid Dahl, who recently moved herself and her massive perfume collection to a small place in L.A. after getting kinda, sorta canceled for a thing. Trying to distract herself, she gets caught up with Ivy, a grad student researching 1950s lesbian pulp fiction, and Penelope, a vegan artist currently being sustained by an Urban Outfitters settlement, and who judges Astrid. Astrid hits a lick of luck when her agent calls her saying that an actress/influencer wants to adapt her book, but the pressure of it all sends Astrid down an Adderall/alcohol-induced series of low-key surreal blackouts and otherwise unfortunate events. This book will take you up, down, and around.

Other Book Riot New Releases Resources:

  • All the Books, our weekly new book releases podcast, where Liberty and a cast of co-hosts talk about eight books out that week that we’ve read and loved.
  • The New Books Newsletter, where we send you an email of the books out this week that are getting buzz.
  • Finally, if you want the real inside scoop on new releases, you have to check out Book Riot’s New Release Index! That’s where I find 90% of new releases, and you can filter by trending books, Rioters’ picks, and even LGBTQ new releases!

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