Watch CBS News

CBS New York Book Club heats up winter with new FicPicks

Vote now for our February readers' choice
Vote now for our February readers' choice 00:50

Please consider joining our Facebook group by CLICKING HERE.  

Find out more about the books below.

#ClubCalvi, it's time to select our next Readers' Choice book 

The CBS New York Book Club has just announced the latest "Top 3 FicPicks."  These books are among the most anticipated releases of the season, featuring stories of family secrets and forgotten roots, class privilege and female friendships, and family outsiders and love linked by history and magic.

Your choices are: "Acts of Forgiveness" by Maura Cheeks, "The Fortune Seller" by Rachel Kapelke-Dale, and "A Love Song for Ricki Wilde" by Tia Williams. 

Read the excerpts below. 

The CBS New York Book Club focuses on fiction with plots and/or authors based in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.  These books may have adult themes. 

Voting closed at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18. We will reveal the Readers' Choice on Tuesday, Feb. 20. 

Prefer to listen? Audible has a 30-day free trial available right now.

"Acts of Forgiveness" by Maura Cheeks 

Ballantine Books

From the publisher: The country waits to see whether the first female president will pass the Forgiveness Act. The bill would allow Black families to claim up to $175,000 if they can prove they are the descendants of slaves, and for ambitious single mother Willie Revel the bill could be a long-awaited form of redemption. Willie gave up her burgeoning journalism career to help run her father's struggling construction company in Philadelphia and she has reluctantly put family first, without being able to forget who she might have become. Now she's back living with her parents and her young daughter while trying to keep her family from going into bankruptcy. Could the Forgiveness Act uncover her forgotten roots while also helping save their beloved home and her father's life's work?

Maura Cheeks lives in New York City.

"Acts of Forgiveness" by Maura Cheeks (Hardcover) $27

"Acts of Forgiveness" by Maura Cheeks (Kindle) $14

"The Fortune Seller" by Rachel Kapelke-Dale 

St. Martin's Press

From the publisher: Middle-class Rosie Macalister has worked for years to fit in with her wealthy friends on the Yale equestrian team. But when she comes back from her junior year abroad with newfound confidence, she finds that the group has been infiltrated by a mysterious intruder: Annelise Tattinger.  A talented tarot reader and a brilliant rider, the enigmatic Annelise is unlike anyone Rosie has ever met. But when one of their friends notices money disappearing from her bank account, Annelise's place in the circle is thrown into question. As the girls turn against each other, the group's unspoken tensions and assumptions lead to devastating consequences. It's only after graduation, when Rosie begins a job at a Manhattan hedge fund, that she uncovers Annelise's true identity––and how her place in their elite Yale set was no accident.

Rachel Kapelke-Dale lives in Paris.

"The Fortune Seller" by Rachel Kapelke-Dale (Hardcover) $29

"The Fortune Seller" by Rachel Kapelke-Dale (Kindle) $15

"A Love Song for Ricki Wilde" by Tia Williams   

Grand Central Publishing

From the publisher: Ricki Wilde has many talents, but being a Wilde isn't one of them. As the impulsive, artistic daughter of a powerful Atlanta dynasty, she's the opposite of her famous socialite sisters. When regal nonagenarian, Ms. Della, invites her to rent the bottom floor of her Harlem brownstone, Ricki jumps at the chance for a fresh beginning. She leaves behind her family, wealth, and chaotic romantic decisions to realize her dream of opening a flower shop. And just beneath the surface of her new neighborhood, the music, stories and dazzling drama of the Harlem Renaissance still simmers. One evening in February as the heady, curiously off-season scent of night-blooming jasmine fills the air, Ricki encounters a handsome, deeply mysterious stranger who knocks her world off balance in the most unexpected way. 

Tia Williams lives in Brooklyn.

"A Love Song for Ricki Wilde" by Tia Wiliams (Hardcover) $20

"A Love Song for Ricki Wilde" By Tia Williams (Kindle) $15

Excerpt: "Acts of Forgiveness" by Maura Cheeks 


Marcus Revel was willing to trade the illusion of his sanity to keep his home. The day before, neighbors found signs taped lopsidedly to telephone poles, slid under their front doors, and swirling around the playground:

Last Chance Yard Sale,

237 Hortter Street

Saturday, 6 am–??

Come for the food, stay for the history you make

Beautiful antiques, funky knickknacks

Help me get my house back

The signs had appeared overnight, scribbled in what appeared to be red crayon on the backs of paper bags, but that wasn't what startled the neighbors. No, the signs were confusing because everyone knew Marcus Revel didn't own his house. Like most of them, he had traded his life savings and his John Hancock for a promise. So, Marcus Revel drew a large crowd in part because his neighbors wanted to see what the signs really meant and in part because the signs were wholly out of character for the quiet, respectable man they knew Marcus Revel to be. The Marcus Revel they knew hid signs of indignity beneath clean clothes and a well-maintained beard. Not tacked onto public spaces.

By ten a.m., the small audience in front of Marcus's house looked like the type of crowd one might see when firemen talk a man off a ledge. The old folks gripped coffee mugs while staring wide-eyed at the lawn, the melodrama adding color to their cheeks. Mrs. Solomon squeezed the hand of the five-year-old daughter she had just adopted from Macon, Georgia. A follower of Father Divine offered to lead a prayer session. Marcus's best friend, Al, tried to get people off the sidewalk and into the yard to make a purchase or two, while Marcus's eight-year-old son, Max, strutted around the yard, fingering old toys like an underpaid store clerk. The entire scene was buttressed by the smell of Marcus's piquant barbecue, wafting under the noses of his neighbors, as Marcus focused his attention on the baby back ribs that needed slathering. As much slathering as it would take for him to forget how low he had sunk.

Mrs. Solomon clicked her tongue. "Imagine, ribs at this hour. What could Marcus be thinking?" But still, she didn't move, and neither did anyone else.

Al attempted to persuade Marcus to abandon the grill and say something to the crowd.

"They want to know why they are here, Marcus. They want to know what the hell is going on."

Marcus hated public speaking, but he hated the idea of being homeless more. He walked from the grill to the edge of his manicured lawn and wiped his hands on his apron.

"I want to thank you all for coming out here so early and spending your Saturday morning with me," he said, looking at no one in particular. Marcus paused. "I am behind on my payment to Mr. Friedrich," he said, touching his short black beard and clearing his throat. "I owe him three hundred dollars, and he said he will take my house from me if I don't get it to him by Monday. Please understand I am a proud man, and this is not easy. But all I want is to provide a home for my son, and so here I am, offering what I can."

Mrs. Solomon cast her eyes downward. Others felt cherry pits in their throats. The old folks shook their heads. They didn't want to see Marcus Revel pleading on his front lawn to keep a house that wasn't even his.

"Who is that?" Lourdes Solomon whispered, pointing at Marcus during his speech.

"That is Mr. Marcus Revel," Mrs. Solomon answered her new daughter. "And please don't point," she admonished, folding Lourdes's finger back into her palm.

"Is he crazy?"

"No, baby. Just sad and desperate is all."

Marcus had been the olive branch on the stunted Revel family tree. While the other boys drank the fear of war away with cheap beer, Marcus handed out see-you-laters instead of goodbyes, talking about how great his life would be when he got back.

"I'm going to be a doctor, and I'll open up a family clinic right over there," he used to say, nodding toward the abandoned blue row home on the corner.

And the war didn't break him, but the way the country treated him afterward did.

After the war, he went to a bar once a week to drink beers with two friends from the army. One evening his friend Ron, a stout bald man with translucent skin whose life Marcus had once saved in the Serchio River Valley, handed the bartender a ball of crumpled dollars. "I'm buying the first round," he said, beaming. He told them the government was paying for his engineering degree and had backed his mortgage on a house in South Philly.

The next week, Curtis appeared with his own bold headline. The local Veterans Affairs office had backed his mortgage on a house in Wayne. Curtis's monthly payment would be cheaper than Marcus's parents' rent.

Early one morning, feeling hopeful and not without proof of concept, Marcus put on his best suit, kissed his wife and toddler goodbye, and caught the trolley into the city to meet with the local officer in charge of benefits.

He arrived at a nondescript office building on Chestnut Street, walking up to the third floor, skipping every other step. There were ten men ahead of him. Marcus sat down in the last folding chair, spreading his legs apart and bending at forty-five degrees to rest his elbows on his kneecaps. He was a tall man, and the chairs seemed built for short men too squirrelly to put up a fight. When a plump secretary in a red skirt called, "Next," and no one else remained, Marcus walked into the office, his suit jacket swung over his right arm to stanch the sweat dancing down his spine.

The officer gestured reluctantly at a chair and then looked back down at his yellow Rite in the Rain notebook.

Marcus sat wide-kneed in the black leather chair across from the officer's desk. "Good morning, sir," he said. "My name is Marcus Revel. I fought in the Ninety-second Infantry Division." The man didn't look up. Marcus spoke louder. "I'm looking for information on tuition reimbursement and mortgage-loan guaran- tees."

"Only get one or the other. Can't get both."

"Well. I'd like to learn more about getting the VA to cosign a mortgage. I'm looking to buy a house."

"What area you looking in?"

"East Germantown, sir. Hoping to stay close to family."

"I can tell you now, we won't be able to guarantee a loan there."

The officer was sketching what appeared to be his name in large block letters. SCOTT. A smiley face filled the O and he had shaded around the T's to make them look three-dimensional. Marcus wondered whether it was the officer's first or last name.

"I can be flexible," Marcus said. "Where can you guarantee a loan, then?"

SCOTT glanced up, looking through Marcus, as if trying to see if it were possible for a suit without a face to speak. "I'm going to be honest with you," SCOTT said, placing his pen down slowly. "The VA is not going to guarantee your loan. I suggest you investigate alternative methods."

"Excuse me." Marcus cleared his throat. "I don't want to over- step, but I know a few people who have received these benefits." SCOTT stared at him for what felt like minutes but must have only been moments. "No, you excuse me. I've got some other business to attend to."

Marcus looked at the officer and the stack of paper on the man's desk. He thought about the papers' sharp edges and their ability to slice a thin, clean cut into his fingertips. How even the most innocent objects can be used to draw blood.

Excerpted from "Acts of Forgiveness" by Maura Cheeks. Copyright © 2024 by Maura Cheeks. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Return to top of page

Excerpt: "The Fortune Seller" by Rachel Kapelke Dale

Chapter 1

In late August before senior year, I returned to Yale to find that my best friends had locked me out of our house.

If it were one of them, they would have simply gone to a boyfriend's apartment or the suite of a prep school friend––or, f***, into the city for a night at the St. Regis, faster than you could say Amex Black. But I didn't have a boyfriend. I hated asking favors from anyone, let alone mere acquaintances. And though there was $3,000 in my bank account (enough for about three nights at the St. Regis), it was the most money I'd ever had at once, by a lot—and it had to last me until the following May.

I wasn't like them.

They didn't know it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

You cannot believe the beauty of Yale until you bathe in it yourself. And unlike some of my friends, who wrinkled their noses at the run-down city, the broken-glassed sidewalks and empty lots surrounding us, I found New Haven necessary to actually enjoying Yale. When we'd visited colleges the summer before my senior year of high school (driving through the night, my father grim-facedly adding up the costs of tuition), I'd found Princeton too precious, Harvard its own colonial world, Cornell and Dartmouth so impossibly remote they might as well have been in Western Plains. But to watch Yale's Gothic greenness arching up out of the jagged city around it—it was like plunging into a pool on a baking hot day.

And I was so ready for it. After two weeks in my southern Illinois hometown, a layover after a year in Buenos Aires, I felt dried out, like my skin was cracking from within.

I had craved the green of Yale before August even began. By the time I left for school, I could almost feel it in my hands, juicy as an aloe leaf. I thought about its trees, its grass, its stones, and its gates the whole eleven-hour trip: car to plane to subway to train.

Almost there. Almost back. Almost quenched.

I'd already realized that Cressida had forgotten to send me the keys to our shared house, of course. But these were the things my friends were particularly bad at. I always astonished them a little when I offered to return their overdue library books or to pay back the twenty dollars I'd borrowed. They looked at me like I was a stranger.

It took spending my junior year abroad—working at Miguel and Ana's polo stables, studying at the universidad—for me to realize the power of what I could do on my own. I didn't need my friends' approval. I didn't need to keep proving myself to them.

I was one of them, wasn't I? I'd been one of them for years.

As I stood outside the train station in the late-summer heat, I was already sweating through my white tank, wishing I'd worn my denim cutoffs instead of sweatpants. There was no sign of a taxi, and the walk toward campus offered little shade and total danger, as older girls had warned us our first year.

Then again, that had only made it more appealing to me, not less. I was brave. I'd always been the one grabbing the wildest horse for a trail ride, the one confronting a b***** rider who was not being a team player. Besides, it couldn't have been more than two miles, and it was good to move my legs after all that sitting. Still, I could feel the grime of eleven hours of travel coating my damp skin as I walked, could feel my curly red hair frizzing out from its ponytail. The whole time, my mom's voice echoing in my head: There's a fine line between brave and stupid, babycakes.

But then, there it was: Whitney Avenue.

My new home. I saw the tower before I saw the house as a whole. From a spacious, grassy corner lot, that garret was visible before I'd even turned onto the street. Most off-campus housing was in run-down three-story houses with ancient vinyl siding kept by slumlords, as we called them, specifically to be rented out to a never-ending cycle of students one year at a time. The rest were college-owned, glossy modern apartments that lacked character and that none of my friends had any interest in.

No, Cress had written to me the previous spring when I'd mentioned getting one of those suites. She was the only one of our little equestrian group left on campus, training through junior year so she could go pro after graduation. Just no.

I'd trusted her. And I'd been right to. Our new home was a tasteful white Victorian with a wide wraparound porch, bay windows poking out from every side, and an enormous stained-glass panel framing the door in purple and red and gold.

I trotted up the front steps and rang the bell.

I could hear the little melody ringing out inside; around me, bees buzzed, everything smelled like summer and grass. I held myself back from ringing again too soon, but there were no thumping footsteps on what had to be hardwood floors.

I flipped my phone open. No calls, no messages. Cress's number went to voicemail after two rings, while Lila's was off. I didn't bother calling Andra; she never picked up.

I texted all three of them: Here! Anybody home?


The four of us had kept in touch throughout junior year, through expensive texts that wouldn't always send from the farm and what Lila called Skypey when the internet connection would allow for it, but I'd only had a few random emails from Lila and Andra over the summer, once they were back in the States. I was in Argentina through July, and they had quickly dropped into their summer routines of family travel and hometown parties without a backward glance.

Cress, on the other hand, sent rambling, almost manic emails with surprising regularity throughout the school year and summer—about her horses, the shows, the team, but most of all, about her new BFF, whom she was clearly waving in my face, trying to make me jealous.

Cress was my best friend, but was I still hers? Then again––who else would be? The other girls on the team had always treated her with a respect that bordered on awe. The kids she'd gone to Dalton with had always told her whatever she'd wanted to hear. It was one of the things she loved about me, she'd said many times––that I couldn't lie, not without a splotchy red blush spreading from my cheeks down to my neck and chest.

But could Annabelle, the new girl on the team, have taken my place? Annabelle's such a great rider, Annabelle has this crazy style. Annabelle's like this beautiful witch, she's so floaty and ethereal and calm. I'd never acknowledged any of it. Cressida was just mad that I'd gone abroad, mad because You know I have to stay here, Rosie, if I'm ever going to win a thing after college. You're going to leave me all alone? 

But I think, deep down, she also respected that I'd stuck to my choice.

What she didn't know was that Argentina hadn't entirely been my choice. It had just been the cheapest program on offer—plus I had guaranteed free housing and even a job through a friend of our coach's.

I'd spent my whole childhood just outside doorways beyond which my parents whispered furiously about paying suppliers, about this month's gas bill, about new shoes. Eighteen years of that made being among my Yale friends a revelation. The idea that if you needed something, you could just buy it, pay for it, and forget about it. The idea that if you were stuck in a bad situation, you could just leave, pay to transport yourself somewhere else.

The idea that all of life was open to you, not just a little sliver of it—that all you had to do was go around pointing at things, experiences, people. Saying mine, mine, mine.

The ability to choose?

That was my idea of heaven.

From The Fortune-Seller by Rachel Kapelke-Dale. Copyright © 2024 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Publishing Group.

Return to the top of page

Excerpt: "A Love Song for Ricki Wilde" by Tia Williams

When Wilde Things held its grand opening on the first, it was an instant hit. Sure, some of it was due to the festive season. But at a time when flower trends were minimalist, Ricki's shop was an over-the-top winter wonderland! Think Christmas cactus and candy-cane-striped amaryllis; Kwanzaa bouquets with tropical red, black, and green blooms; and Hanukkah wreaths mixing blue poppies with white orchids.

By New Year's Day, she'd earned double her projection. And by the end of January, she'd lost every cent.

People just . . . stopped coming. Ricki couldn't figure it out. In December, she could barely keep blooms in stock, the orders were so fast and furious. What did she do wrong?

"I know what you did wrong," offered Tuesday one evening after closing. Foot traffic had been brutally slow that day. Now she and Ricki were stirring bowls of recycled, plantable paper infused with wildflower seeds. Ricki wanted to package the home-made paper into chic note card sets, offering them as a last-minute purchase at the register. If she ever had any more sales.

"Those weekly January promotions," continued Tuesday. "They were too esoteric to resonate with consumers."

Ali, who was crouched in a corner, repairing an exposed nail, stopped working long enough to look up "esoteric" and "resonate" on his phone. No one was more surprised than Ricki that they were still dating. It was a thrice-weekly hookup thing, but his sweet, uncomplicated presence was calming.

"But the themes were so punny!" exclaimed Ricki, fighting back tears. "Seize the Daisy? Hibiscus and Gravy? No one even tried my homemade gift-with-purchase biscuits."

"I love your biscuits." Ali made grabby hands at Ricki, grinning at his euphemism. And then he added, "But in keeping with my radical honesty practice, I should say your actual biscuits were mad dry. Did you use Crisco?"

Ricki stopped stirring the paper, her shoulders slumped in misery.

"I offended you!" Ali hopped up and slipped an arm around Ricki's waist. "I can't believe I said something so dumb."

"No?" Tuesday cocked a brow. "Ten minutes ago, you asked me if I paid Illuminati fees in blood."

"And you didn't answer."

"Please stop watching hoax YouTube, Ali. I beg of you. Read a book."

"Only sheep value books. A book is just a collection of some random individual's thoughts . . ."

"But you are some random individual."

"And I vibe off my own thoughts. My own interior work. My own journey towards living with energetic intention."

Tuesday groaned. "Ricki, your man's Jada Pinkett Smith-ing again."

Ricki was too lost in rising worry over Wilde Things to even register this exchange. She needed to get outside, touch some grass. Back at home, when life got too hectic, escaping to the for- est behind her parents' house gave her instant serenity. That was what she needed.

"Hey, is there a garden nearby? Something small, maybe? I need some nature."

Born in Harlem, Tuesday knew its contours by heart. "There's a cute community garden over on 145th."

"But it's dark out," protested Ali. "I'll go with you for protection."

Ricki smiled. "In this 'hood? Protection from who, ad execs and finance bros?"

Handing her spoon to Ricki, Tuesday said, "They're the scariest thugs of all."

*   *   *

It was chilly, but in a fresh, invigorating way. And Ricki was weatherproofed in her earmuffs and teddy coat. She walked ten blocks. At the entrance was an ornate wooden sign painted in childlike rainbow-colored letters: 145th street community garden.

Beyond the ornamental gate, there were perennial flowers, herbs, berries, fruit trees, and a small goldfish pond. Ricki followed a brick walking path through the foliage, to the center of the garden. She knelt down, taking a few deep, restorative breaths. Closing her eyes, she dug her fingers into the earth, the heart of everything. And it worked the way it always did.

You got this, she thought, feeling calmer. Get gritty. Get scrappy. But don't give up.

As she perched on the ground, something on a small teak plat- form glinted and caught her eye. Brushing the dirt off her hands, she walked over to investigate. It was a plaque.





Ricki read the last line out loud. She thought about being Black in the '20s, facing unfathomable obstacles and still flexing on the world. If Josephine Baker could go from being a thirteen-year-old divorcée eating out of Saint Louis garbage cans to a Broadway superstar in five years, why was Ricki crying? Her biggest problems were that she bruised easily and lacked closet space.

And that was when she noticed the undeniable fragrance: the sweet, heady vanilla almond of night-blooming jasmine. It wafted over her, carried on a chilly breeze. Sigh. It was her favorite scent. She'd recognize it anywhere. Ricki followed the walkway to a lush bed of jasmine where the delicate white and yellow flowers were crawling up a garden wall.

Transfixed by the nocturnal blooms, she almost didn't register the feeling of being watched. But then it hit her. She spun around and gasped, clapping a palm to her mouth.

A figure stood in the shadows.

He was tall and powerfully built. Chunky shearling coat, char- coal jeans. His features were cut from granite, with an impossible jawline and a stern, commanding brow, but then there was the sensual surprise of his mouth. It gave his chiseled masculinity a vulnerable, lush softness. The effect was mesmerizing.

Jesus Christ, he's beautiful, she thought, unabashedly staring. He'd be beautiful in any era, anytime, anywhere.

Then Ricki caught the blazing intensity in his expression. She froze. It was something beyond surprise, beyond shock.

The man looked terrified.

Ricki felt a punch of emotion in her chest almost knocking her off her feet. This moment was important. She didn't know why, but it was. She didn't know him, but she did. The hairs on her arms prickled, and every cell in her body jolted to attention. Her brain went haywire with images too vague to grasp. She was reeling. All the secret places she hid herself felt exposed. She stood before this man, this glorious stranger, and felt utterly naked. Laid bare.

A thrilling, throbbing sense of inevitability surged through her, and then she realized she felt as terrified as he looked.

He must've felt it, too.

But before she could ask, he was gone. As swiftly as if he'd never been there at all.

And Ricki was left standing alone in the garden, clutching her pounding heart.

Thoroughly thunderstruck, she realized only later that the mystery man wasn't the only reason she'd left the garden feeling so unsettled. The scent of night-blooming jasmine made no sense. The plant flowered only from July to October. And it was winter.

February 1.

Adapted Excerpt from A LOVE SONG FOR RICKI WILDE by Tia Williams. Copyright © 2024 by Tia Williams. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

Return to top of page

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.