Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein

I loved Weinstein's Children of the New World, so I was eager to read this title. The speculative stories in Universal Love imagine how future technology will impact humanity; how we survive, how we come to know ourselves, and how we connect to each other. The premises seem far-fetched, but terrifyingly not the more you read. I enjoyed every single story, but "Beijing" and "Comfort Porn" were my favorites by far. LGBTQ+ folks who've been made to feel that living authentically creates problems for others will be moved by "Beijing." "Comfort Porn" frankly explores social media's effects on friendship and human connection, especially in a capitalist society that reduces people to transactions. Universal Love was everything I love in speculative…

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Things You Leave Behind by M.L. Kennedy

First off, how about that retro cover?! As I read M.L. Kennedy's Things You Leave Behind, I kept thinking, yeah, this is good. I'm enjoying myself, I'm turning the pages, eager to find out what's going on. And then the end was SO profound for me, I can't put it into words. It tied the whole book together, and it's one of those endings that I think will mean something different to each reader. Two things kept this from being 5 stars for me: 1) A brief conversation about gender identity occurs between Angela and Susan. It's realistically clunky, but in a way that felt bad to read and perpetuated outdated views instead of correcting them. 2) Angela uses a…

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Day Zero by Kelly deVos

I like Young Adult fiction just fine, but it takes a lot to completely win me over because—let's be real—I'm long past the target age group. But wow, Kelly deVos had me hooked with Day Zero. I couldn't tear myself away from this whirlwind of intrigue and excitement. The pace is fast, there are unexpected twists and turns, and I was shocked by what happens/is revealed near the end. There's an interesting focus on what motivates people to align themselves with various political movements, and that tension is intense without being overdone or too black-and-white. Be warned: This ends on a cliffhanger. I'm not even annoyed by that—I cannot wait for the second book!

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Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairing

  Nonfiction November Week 2: (Nov. 4 to 8) – Book Pairing (hosted by Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together.  My book pairing for this week's prompt is Friday Black, a collection of speculative fiction short stories by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah with Citizen: An American Lyric, nonfiction essays, images, and poetry by Claudia Rankine. If you found one of these books powerful, I think you'll find the other equally compelling. (If you haven't read either, run to the bookstore.) They both creatively tackle the exhaustion that comes with…

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Nonfiction November TBR

I'm starting off Nonfiction November with One Coin Found: How God's Love Stretches to the Margins by Rev. Emmy Kegler, but I gathered up all the nonfiction in the house that I've been wanting to read but haven't gotten around to. So this is my TBR stack of possibilities (because I'm a total mood reader). Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing by Adam P. Frankel The Unspeakable Mind: Stories of Trauma and Healing from the Frontlines of PTSD Science by Shaili Jain Marx at the Arcade: Consoles, Controllers, and Class Struggle by…

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My Year in Nonfiction (So Far)

It's time for Nonfiction November! Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) – Your Year in Nonfiction (hosted by Julz of Julz Reads): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions. What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? My favorite nonfiction read of the year so far has to be Pema Chödrön's Welcoming the Unwelcome. She is so kind, wise, and down to earth. Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? I gravitate heavily toward memoir when it comes to nonfiction. I enjoy reading about others' experiences and learning from them. What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? The audiobook of Split Tooth by…

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Tender Cuts by Jayne Martin

Jayne Martin's Tender Cuts is one of my first encounters with flash fiction. We're talking very short stories: just a page, usually; sometimes only a handful of sentences. I was surprised at how much story and emotion could be packed into such a compact format. I was not a fan of the drawings at the end of each story. I felt like the words were powerful enough on their own, and the illustrations detracted from that impact. My favorite stories from this collection include: "Zero Tolerance" "Blue Boy" "Thanksgiving," "Morning Glory" "Pinky Swear" And of course, I couldn't help but feel for beauty pageant contestant Julie-Sue, who we see in different stages of life in her multiple appearances throughout the…

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I'd been meaning to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for years. I was at an indie bookstore and this particular cover caught my eye, so I finally snagged a copy. I've never watched the movie Blade Runner, so I went into this without really knowing what it was about. Okay, so this definitely has a good bit of ableism and sexism throughout, but I can't deny that I really had trouble putting it down. I could fully imagine the world and its technology, and I liked that it wasn't over-explained. The plot moved along at a quick pace, and it brought up some philosophical questions that will stick with me for a while. All in all, this was…

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay focuses on coming to terms with and moving beyond loss, grief, and loneliness. The relationships/friendships between the characters in this book are complex, but more importantly, healthy and respectful. And the characters' diverse identities aren't "issues"! This is such a wholesome read. The quiet, gentle tone throughout had me feeling like I was holding my breath⁠—it was that stunning. What a wonderful character-driven novel.

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Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

It's been a long time since I read a book that had me mark "Did Not Like It" on Goodreads. Southern Lady Code just got worse and worse the longer I read. The humor felt completely outdated, and I didn't find it funny. Ellis romanticizes some really messed up stuff, does that gross "gay friends as trophies" thing that straight women so often do, is casually ableist, and brushes off racism like it's a cute, innocent character flaw. I really enjoyed the stories in Ellis's American Housewife, and I think that's the only reason I held out hope for this book and didn't set it aside.

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