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Book Review | You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

From the publisher: If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao’s You’ve Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.

Seventeen-year-old Julie Clarke has her future all planned out―move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city; spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

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Book Review | Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

From the publisher: A dazzling, unforgettable novel about a young black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system—a debut that announces a blazingly original voice.

Nightcrawling is good. Really good. Gripping, heart wrenching, sick to your stomach good. It’s a novel, but it feels like the diary of a real teenager. Kiara. Her father is dead. Her mom is in a halfway house. She’s trying to take care of a neighbor child whose mother neglects him. Her brother is too busy trying to make it as a rapper to bring in money in any way besides dealing drugs. The rent is going up. Kiara is a high school dropout who is too young to get a job. So she starts selling herself – first to anyone on the street, then to the cops who pick her up. Sometimes they pay her, sometimes they just tell her she’s lucky they…

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Book Review | Light Years From Home by Mike Chen

From the publisher: Every family has issues. Most can’t blame them on extraterrestrials. The perfect combination of action, imagination and heart, Light Years from Home is a touching drama about a challenge as difficult as saving the galaxy: making peace with your family…and yourself.

Light Years from Home is a family novel disguised as science fiction, or the other way around. Jakob is intelligent, like his two sisters, but a screw up. He cheats on schoolwork and has no purpose in life. Then, he is abducted by aliens and pulled into a galactic war, and he finds his purpose in life. When he comes into possession of some intel that could change the war, he drops by Earth to regroup. Fifteen years have passed. He father, who never got over Jakob’s disappearance, is dead – drowned, searching for Jakob. His mother has dementia…

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Book Review | Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

From the publisher: I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We…

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Book Review | Weather by Jenny Offill

From the publisher: Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years, she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization.

As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep…

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Book Review | A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan

From the Publisher: Remy and Alicia, a couple of insecure service workers, are not particularly happy together. But they are bound by a shared obsession with Jen, a beautiful former co-worker of Remy’s who now seems to be following her bliss as a globe-trotting jewelry designer. In and outside the bedroom, Remy and Alicia’s entire relationship revolves around fantasies of Jen, whose every Instagram caption, outfit, and new age mantra they know by heart.

Imagine their confused excitement when they run into Jen, in the flesh, and she invites them on a surfing trip to the Hamptons with her wealthy boyfriend and their group. Once there, Remy and Alicia try (a little too hard) to fit into Jen’s exalted social circle, but violent desire and class resentment bubble beneath the surface of this beachside…

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Book Review | Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley

From the publisher: London has changed a lot over the years. The Soho that Precious and Tabitha live and work in is barely recognisable anymore. And now, the building they call their home is under threat; its billionaire-owner Agatha wants to kick the women out to build expensive restaurants and luxury flats. Men like Robert, who visit the brothel, will have to go elsewhere. The collection of vagabonds and strays in the basement will have to find somewhere else to live. But the women are not going to go quietly. They have plans to make things difficult for Agatha but she isn’t taking no for an answer.

Fiona Mozley writes with a voice that feels like the consistency of cornstarch and water–you know, if you poke at it too fast it’s like hitting concrete, but if you ever-so-gently dip…

Book Review | Fight Night by Miriam Toews

From the publisher: Fight Night is told in the unforgettable voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma takes on the role of teacher and gives her the task of writing to Swiv’s absent father about life in the household during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In turn, Swiv gives Grandma an assignment: to write a letter to “Gord,” her unborn grandchild (and Swiv’s soon-to-be brother or sister). “You’re a small thing,” Grandma writes to Gord, “and you must learn to fight.”

Miriam Toews, Canadian author of renowned novels including All My Puny Sorrows and…

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Book Review | Kneel by Candace Buford

From the publisher: The system is rigged. For guys like Russell Boudreaux, football is the only way out of their small town. As the team’s varsity tight end, Rus has a singular goal: to get a scholarship and play on the national stage. But when his best friend is unfairly arrested and kicked off the team, Rus faces an impossible choice: speak up or live in fear. “Please rise for the national anthem.” Desperate for change, Rus kneels during the national anthem. In one instant, he falls from local stardom and becomes a target for hatred. But he’s not alone. With the help of his best friend and an unlikely ally, Rus will fight for his dreams, and for justice.

Kneel is exactly what I expected from a book about a Black high school football player in Louisiana who kneels during the national anthem after his best friend is falsely accused of…

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Book Review | All’s Well by Mona Awad

From the publisher: From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny, a darkly funny novel about a theater professor suffering chronic pain, who in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers.

Miranda Fitch is the literal example of “those who can’t do, teach.” Because she can’t act the way she used to–an accident involving a bone-crunching fall off the stage during a production of Macbeth left her with a bad back, hip, and leg, and now she can barely walk from her office to the stage at her job as a college theater director.

Mona Awad does here what she did with Bunny and brings the macabre and magical realism into the picture. Miranda is quickly losing all hope with everything: the doctors and…

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