The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Lucy Foley's The Guest List was my virtual book club's pick for February. Our book club started at the beginning of the pandemic, and we chose this title because we realized we hadn't yet read a thriller. I was on the edge of my seat reading this book, ready to shout, "I knew it!" even though I wasn't exactly sure I really did "know it." And turns out, I didn't! I never did, even at the end! And wow, was this was ever a fast, curvy roller coaster by the end. The pacing was great, I loved the different points of view, I loved the execution of the jumps in time, and I loved her writing style. Even the teaser…

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30-Day Journey with Dorothy Day edited by Coleman Fannin

Broadleaf Books has a wonderful 30-Day Journey series featuring important spiritual thinkers. I requested a copy of the 30-Day Journey with Dorothy Day because I've been drawn to Christian anarchism in recent years, and thought it would resonate. (It did.) It's hard to sum up a life like Dorothy Day's in a brief introduction, but Coleman Fannin does a great job helping us get to know what Day accomplished, what motivated and inspired her, and making us to want to learn more about her. Day was one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, so her Catholicism is deeply woven into her writing. But as someone who isn't Catholic, I didn't find that alienating at all. I enjoyed learning…

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Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

Zak Salih's debut novel Let's Get Back to the Party is a look at cultural identity (specifically, gay identity) in the midst of a rapidly changing society. Set in the year between the U.S. marriage equality ruling and the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, the novel follows two gay men, Sebastian and Oscar, childhood friends recently reunited after years of estrangement. I enjoyed the character-driven, leisurely pace of Salih's writing. He digs deep into the psyches of these two men, and the slower pace and alternating points of view gave me the opportunity to get to know Sebastian and Oscar on a profound level. Let's Get Back to the Party explores cross-generational friendships within the gay community—and the feelings…

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Ladder to the Light by Steven Charleston

I truly needed the boost of hope and courage that reading Steven Charleston's Ladder to the Light gave me this past month. This is one powerful little book. Charleston, a retired Episcopal priest and bishop, is also an elder of the Choctaw Nation and a practitioner of Zen meditation. He leaves interpretation open for the phrase "the Spirit" so that as many people as possible feel at home in his writing, saying, "theological debates are for another day." He throws those doors open wide and invites readers "to interpret the nature and meaning of the Spirit for themselves." This book is radical in its inclusion and unity without falling into syncretism, and avoids the trap of offering spiritual platitudes and…

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Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

"History is very kind to the memory of mediocre white men." Ijeoma Oluo's Mediocre is a history of how the United States has upheld white male power, the systems they created, and how this has impacted society and given us the systemic issues we all continue to face today. Oluo sets a tone from the start of the book, when she gracefully, effortlessly shows how simple it is to be trans-inclusive: "Men without uteruses should not control our reproductive choices." "When I talk about mediocrity, I talk about success that is measured only by how much better white men are faring than people who aren’t white men." It was nice to see that allyship so clearly, right off the bat. I…

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Catch Lili Too by Sophie Whittemore

Catch Lili Too was an unusual reading choice for me, but when the author approached me about their "queer punk fantasy" book, something about this description was irresistible: Lili is a Mesopotamian siren, and life as an immortal being is hard enough as it is. She’s asexual (which is incredibly difficult to reconcile if your entire point as a mythical being is to seduce people to death). She’s also struggling with depression from being alive for so long. She moonlights as an immortal detective trying to track down a serial killer so ruthless that it makes even her murderous soul uneasy. However, there’s something larger at work than just one serial killer. A small town is hiding an even deadlier, global-scale…

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Adventure by Chicken Bus by Janet LoSole

Janet LoSole's Adventure by Chicken Bus is a memoir/travelogue following the author, her husband Lloyd, and their two young daughters, Jocelyn and Natalie, on an 18-month long homeschooling field trip backpacking through Central America and, for a short while, living in Costa Rica. From the start, Janet and Lloyd were adamant about participating in community-based travel, supporting the local economy instead of corporations that gentrify the area. From the epilogue, community-based travel focuses on: 1. Benefiting the local community and its natural environment. 2. Respecting the culture of the host community. 3. Relying on local, family-owned businesses for food, shelter, and transportation. Travel memoirs like this can easily devolve into poverty tourism. The writer must remain aware of this at…

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Creatures by Crissy Van Meter

I'm so thankful Algonquin approached me about being on the blog tour for Crissy Van Meter's novel, Creatures, because this debut was one of the best books I've read this year. The story centers around Evie, beginning on the eve of her wedding, and her dysfunctional family. We feel the long-lasting impact of growing up with neglect, abandonment, and parentification. How it affects a child's future self and future relationships. The deep, never-satiated ache for parents who aren't what they should be. The struggle to break the cycle. This is going to be a tough read for anyone raised by parents with addiction or Cluster B personality disorders, but wow, will those readers ever feel seen. I think, in a…

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Aster’s Good, Right Things by Kate Gordon

Aster's Good, Right Things is an important book about kids dealing with seriously heavy issues that, in a perfect world, they should never have to deal with. But this is reality for some kids in our very imperfect world, and this book will make these kids feel less alone. It has real potential to provide a sense of hope as well. Oh, Aster. What a lovable character you are. I felt for her right from the start. Aster feels bad—not just bad; fearful—about feeling happy. She's 11 years old and living with an anxiety disorder, and though it isn't specifically named in the book, it reads just like obsessive-compulsive disorder (she acts on compulsions—doing good, right things—to manage her anxiety…

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How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon

With the exception of his essay in The Fire This Time, I had yet to really sit down and read Kiese Laymon's writing, until now. Halfway through the essays in How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, I paused to head over to Goodreads and add his entire backlist to my to-be-read list. Laymon's writing is so commanding. Even when talking about sports (something I don't care much about), I had trouble putting this book down because, in Laymon's hands, the essay is never about "just sports"—or "just" anything. He digs in far beyond the surface and creates connections people often miss (due to privilege, lack of interest, white supremacy, or any number of reasons). I highlighted so…

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