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 The humor felt completely outdated, and I didn't find it funny.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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In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

The first half of Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood was dreadfully slow for me. The characters were shallow and annoying, and the fact that they were all going away for the weekend together was hard to believe. A little over halfway through, there was a huge shift and the pace really picked up. Although there were some holes in the plot, and I still found the characters insufferable, I can't deny that I couldn't stop turning the pages until I found out what had actually happened. I expected more suspense, more psychological thrills. I can't relate to Reese Witherspoon's quote on the front of the book ("Prepare to be scared...really scared!") at all. The parts that had the potential…

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Welcoming the Unwelcome by Pema Chodron

Pema Chödrön's new book Welcoming the Unwelcome is vital for anyone who wants to do their part to help ease the polarization happening in our communities and our relationships with others. If you wonder how you can possibly affect and contribute to the world when things seem so overwhelming, this book will give you hope! Though Chödrön writes from a Buddhist perspective, she also writes in a humble, down-to-earth style that all readers, regardless of faith, will find accessible and relevant. Welcoming the Unwelcome is her first book in over seven years, and it does not disappoint. This is a balm to all who are weary of the intense divide we are seeing today.

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I’m From Nowhere by Lindsay Lerman

Quietly pre-apocalyptic, I'm From Nowhere explores the intersections of grief, self-identity, and womanhood. The raw aftermath of grief is captured through a surreal sense of numbness, apathy, and deeply conflicting emotions. The despair, fears, desires, and hope of recently widowed Claire are the compelling force of this completely character-driven novel. Readers are with Claire every step of the way as she contemplates her life thus far, her role in this world, and begins to live for herself.

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Seven Sides of Self by Nancy Joie Wilkie

The way Nancy Joie Wilkie executed the overarching theme of Seven Sides of Self is one of the strongest I've read. Short story collections don't always have a sense of cohesiveness, but everything about this one, from how it generally fits together into a greater work, all the way down to the tiny threads that connect the stories to each other, was just superb. "Of the Green and Of the Gold" stood out most for me. I loved the use of color and an alien society to explore coded transphobia (and briefly, homophobia). I felt like it stripped away everything superfluous, so that all we are left with is a clear sense of how we should treat one another. "Perhaps…

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Ghosts of You by Cathy Ulrich

Each short chapter of Ghosts of You begins with the line: "The thing about being the murdered _____ is you set the plot in motion." Then the story describes, in second person, the aftermath of that loss, focusing on those left behind. Some chapters read more like the plot of a TV crime show, and others are heartbreakingly realistic. Each is a thoughtful look at the different ways people react to the news of a murder, whether they were close to the person or far removed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and appreciated its unique premise and clever format.

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Masterworks by Simon Jacobs

For the first four stories in Masterworks, Jacobs' writing is fast-paced and to-the-point, yet vibrantly descriptive. Vibrant like when you dream in color and it's a little bit trippy; and he didn't need a ton of extra words to create that effect. How did he pack so much creativity and forward motion into such a short space? I couldn't put the book down. "Let Me Take You to Olive Garden" includes a cis guy who is friends with a trans girl. Even though they were friends before she came out, the author handled it without needing to deadname or misgender her. Thank you! I absolutely loved the unique, sometimes absurd settings in each scene of "Partners." They were the perfect…

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Trans Power by Juno Roche

I haven't read any book on trans experiences quite like this one. TRANS POWER brings up perspectives and conversations that you don't tend to hear very often. The intimacy, the love for people in the community is so powerful I almost feel protective of the words inside. I love how NOT binary this book is. It creates an incredibly affirming, empowering space. Juno says after interviewing Michael, "They always push me to extend my line of thinking beyond my comfort place to a place where it tests the idea." And really, that's what TRANS POWER does for its readers. This is an emotional read that encourages readers to push their intellect beyond simplistic statements of what it means to be trans into deeply nuanced discussions. Best of all, it…

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The Warehouse by Rob Hart

Boy oh boy, is the world Rob Hart has created in The Warehouse ever messed up. And it's just near-future enough, and realistic enough, that it's creepy as all get out. If you enjoy dystopian novels that hit close to home, this is definitely a page-turner. It's smart and clever in a relaxed, never-pretentious style. Gibson is the CEO of an online retail giant named Cloud. Gibson doesn't seem so bad at first, but then you get to know him on a deeper level. His portrayal is so, so good. It's not over-the-top, look how evil this guy is. It's way more subtle. You get the feeling Gibson truly believes what he's doing is good for people. And then you…

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