Flesh & Blood by N. West Moss

Flesh & Blood is a medical memoir that's as delicate as it is powerful. N. West Moss perfectly captures the heartache of infertility and chronic illness - and the fears, hopes, and frustrations that come with major surgery and its recovery - all with a gentle sense of humor and a lovely way of looking at the world, even the smallest little details. Moss has written this book in very short chapters consisting of beautifully engaging prose, making it difficult to put the book down once you pick it up. I grew to love the people she loves (and a praying mantis!), and felt like I was right there with her each step of the way. What a stunning memoir,…

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As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman

As the Crow Flies is a graphic novel about Charlie, a 13-year-old queer Black kid at an all-white, all-girls summer Christian backpacking camp. She's deconstructing some of the toxic theology she's been taught (specifically, white evangelicalism), but also holding on to her faith and giving it space to grow. As soon as the camp leader said there was going to be a "feminist ceremony," I knew TERF rhetoric wasn't far behind. Heads up for transphobia, gender essentialism, and racism in this book (none of these things are left unchecked). Charlie makes a new friend at camp who is also troubled by their leader's racism and TERF ideology, and the two girls become each other's confidants—and better yet, accomplices. The book…

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The Seep by Chana Porter

Chana Porter's The Seep takes place after an alien invasion that, instead of bringing war and destruction, makes people kinder, more caring and thoughtful. Earth has become a utopia, free of capitalism. Everyone has the ability to be whoever or whatever they feel they need to be, and they are kept happy and soothed. But there's an air of toxic positivity and superficial spirituality, too. The protagonist, Trina, sees through it and struggles with her conflicting, unsatisfied feelings. When her wife Deeba decides to make the ultimate Seep modification, Trina is left to deal with her grief. The world-building and the storytelling is superb. I don't always do well with fiction on audiobook, which is how I took in this…

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Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price

When I picked up Laziness Does Not Exist, I was expecting a book that counters capitalistic thinking—maybe along the lines of David Graeber's Bullshit Jobs. The opening of the book got my hopes up and I was excited to dig in deep. Instead, this ended up feeling more like a self-help book for people who have economic and class privilege. It focused on fairly privileged people in traditional workplace environments, with suggestions on setting boundaries, having realistic expectations, and avoiding burnout. That's important stuff for people who are in those environments, but there are so many people working jobs where there is no HR to talk to or negotiate with, where working from home isn't possible at all, and who…

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What If We Were Somewhere Else by Wendy J. Fox

Wendy J. Fox's collection of interconnected short stories, What If We Were Somewhere Else, follows the employees of a nondescript office through their relationships, layoffs, and changes in life circumstances. Some of the stories are in first person, others are in third person, but each has their own personality and voice, so it's not too hard to keep track of who's who. You get each character's perspective at least twice throughout the book, and the characters pop up in each other's stories as well. I found Melissa's story most compelling, hearing about the commune she'd grown up in, what it was like to leave and eventually return home, and the impact of these choices on her life. I was also…

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Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

How do I start? Where do I start? There is so much in this book, and it got more and more infuriating with every page. In Jesus and John Wayne, Kristin Kobes Du Mez outlines exactly what brought white American evangelicalism to the profound state of corruption we see today, and why it's so easy for people to be carried along with it. A heads up: This book may be intensely triggering if you have past church trauma or you've been on the receiving end of religious hate. Du Mez takes us through the past 75 years of American history, culture, and politics to help us understand what brought us to this point and why. Get ready for a nauseating…

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Weather by Jenny Offill

Have you ever read a book that you simultaneously loved but also...didn't? Jenny Offill's thankfully-short book Weather was that kind of read for me. I love the writing style and the fragmented, slightly random feel of the narrative. It felt like microblog posts. I loved it so much. It carried me along and made the book feel even shorter than its 200 or so pages. But there's no forward motion whatsoever, in plot or character development. Maybe that's the point? If this is an exercise in ennui and existential dread (especially regarding climate change), it does that magnificently. But I still wanted something to happen. I don't especially want to read a book that is basically a mood and nothing…

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The Rock Eaters by Brenda Peynado

Dominican-American author Brenda Peynado's short story collection, The Rock Eaters, is perfect for readers who enjoy magical realism, fabulism, speculative fiction, and social commentary. The collection begins with the shocking "Thoughts and Prayers," a story about the fruitless ways adults react to school shootings that have become all too common. This story is a provocative way to start off a book, and sets the stage for Peynado's no-holds-barred approach to satire. You can read an excerpt on Literary Hub. "The Touches" felt like Wool meets The Matrix meets a plague. It was published on Tor.com November 2019, where you can still read it, and boy did this hit hard now that we're all experiencing a pandemic. This story was so…

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Sybelia Drive by Karin Cecile Davidson

Karin Cecile Davidson's debut novel Sybelia Drive follows three childhood friends (and the people in their lives) as they come of age. Set against the Vietnam War, the novel explores personal as well as societal impacts. The pacing is a bit on the slow side, but in a gentle, luxurious way. You can feel the muggy heat of Florida, the joy and freedom of childhood, but also the weight of heavy things on the minds of all the characters. The chapters switch perspectives and hop around in time. This was an aspect I found more distracting than expected, because that's something I normally love in a book. But I couldn't tell which character I was reading right away, and that…

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Geekerella by Ashley Poston

The first book in Ashley Poston's Once Upon a Con trilogy, Geekerella is a Cinderella retelling set around a sci-fi TV show, Starfield, and its annual convention. This story will resonate with teens who feel the angst and frustration that comes with being mature enough to determine their own futures, but trapped because their parents still make most of the big decisions in their lives. Darien and Elle are both in situations where the adults in their lives are excessively controlling, and they're both almost, but not yet, old enough to escape it. The characters feel authentic, and their friendship and budding romance is super cute. Honestly, all of the friendships in this book are wonderful! "You don't have to…

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