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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Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos

I read Anarchy Works a couple years ago, but apparently only posted my review on Goodreads. There's been a lot of talk recently, both in the news and on social media, about "anarchists" that either misunderstands the philosophy or is flat-out wrong. This book corrects that misinformation with a hopeful, down-to-earth tone, and encourages solidarity and unity. Anarchy Works is set up Q&A style, addressing common arguments people make against non-hierarchical societies based on egalitarian principles, voluntary, non-coercive interactions, and mutual cooperation. Gelderloos addresses these arguments and backs up his points with examples from all over the world, past and present. Best of all, he challenges a colonized worldview right from the start, This book covers a lot of history…

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To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu

If you're in the mood for a hard sci-fi short story collection, To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu (translated by Joel Martinsen, Adam Lanphier, John Chu, and Carmen Yiling Yan) certainly delivers. Liu's writing style often makes these stories feel very present-day even when they're obviously not, and his prose is beautiful. Many of these stories read like fables reminding us not to underestimate humanity, showing us the larger-scale impact of seemingly small gestures and our (compared to the universe) fleeting lives. "The Time Migration" reminded me of all the philosophical stuff I love about Star Trek: The Next Generation, Doctor Who, and The Little Prince, but 10x more in depth. "Ode to Joy" is where sci-fi meets…

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The Sacrifice of Darkness by Roxane Gay and Tracy Lynne Oliver

The world feels especially dark and heartless right now, which makes perfect timing for The Sacrifice of Darkness. This strangely hopeful, empowering graphic novel is a collaboration between Roxane Gay and Tracy Lynne Oliver, an adaptation of Roxane Gay's short story of the same title (from the collection Difficult Women), in which the sun's light has disappeared. This book is exactly what I needed to read at this moment in time. I found Rebecca Kirby's art and James Fenner's subdued colors both atmospheric and beautiful. I grew to care about the characters, and I loved the allegorical, speculative sci-fi feel of the story. The Sacrifice of Darkness is the kind of book you reach for when you need a breather…

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The Mindful Universe by Mark Westmoquette

The Mindful Universe is a mindfulness book like none other I've ever read. Written by astronomer Mark Westmoquette, this book communicates the depth of our connection to an incredible, awe-inspiring universe. Westmoquette explains the basic concepts of meditation and mindfulness, such as observing thoughts and how the body processes and responds to stress, in easy-to-access, everyday language. There's also a lot of science in here: physics, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, philosophy, and more. When the narrative did get heavy on the science, I was impressed by what a great teacher the author is. Some of the suggested meditations are really unique! They're also practical and applicable to our lives as they are, not how we wish they'd be. I've found that sometimes…

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Odessa by Jonathan Hill

In Jonathan Hill's Odessa, three siblings search for their mother in a post-apocalyptic United States, several years after a major earthquake has separated California from the rest of the country. Since this is the first book in a series, it spends a lot of time world-building and ends on a cliffhanger. The pacing felt rushed when it came to the conflicts and action that take place along the siblings' journey. Those moments resolved a little too quickly and neatly. The bickering between the siblings was a bit overdone and started to feel like filler. But the art is fantastic and the premise is cool. Odessa held my attention, and the book left me feeling like I must read the sequel(s)…

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Murder with Oolong Tea by Karen Rose Smith

I was in the mood for a cozy mystery, and Karen Rose Smith's Murder with Oolong Tea delivered. I loved the tea shop setting and was glad to find recipes in the back. I don't normally jump into the middle of an unfamiliar-to-me series, but the author dropped just enough detail that it was easy to keep track of the characters' relationships and histories. The main character and amateur sleuth, Daisy, is not perfect - I found her kind of uptight and judgy at first - but she grows, and you really get a sense of her kind, loving nature. You know what to expect going into a cozy mystery, to some degree, but all the charm and twists I…

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