The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

Volunteer librarian Martha is kind of a doormat. She says yes to everyone's demands so often, they've grown used to taking advantage of her. She thought staying busy doing things for others was what brings her joy, but starts to realize that's not sustainable and actually, it's a huge burden. A mysterious book with her late grandmother's name listed as the author, and Martha's own childhood stories within, arrives on her doorstep. Finding the answers to the questions this book raises starts to change everything. Definitely a book for book lovers, The Library of Lost and Found is kind of like a mid-life coming of age story. It speaks to the power of stories, especially of fiction. It's a cozy…

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And So We Die, Having First Slept by Jennifer Spiegel

Wow. I need to say yes to self-published titles more often. And So We Die, Having First Slept is an incredible novel. Heavy, brutal, raw, and heart-wrenching, yes, but also philosophical and, somehow, beautiful. The writing style is absolutely stunning, and unique (I especially love Spiegel's clever use of exclamation points). This novel takes you through an intimate journey of one incredibly difficult marriage, the individual and joint lives of two characters who are trying so very hard, even as they're failing. I found this book just as compelling and rich as Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch or Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, except those two books left me feeling conflicted: I appreciated them deeply, but for some reason I had this…

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She’s My Dad by Jonathan S. Williams

Because it's a memoir, I feel bad that I didn't really enjoy She's My Dad. I'm just not sure who this is book for? Jonathan's reaction is so deeply entrenched in evangelical Christianity, I wonder how many readers (whether cis or trans) outside of that world would find this helpful. I struggled with how outdated the terminology and attitudes seemed. I wouldn't want to read this as a trans person, and certainly not as a nonbinary person (the narrative was very hung up on the gender binary). And I can't imagine giving it to a cis person trying to understand how a trans loved one feels, because again, it felt outdated, and it wasn't cohesive or far-reaching enough. There was…

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Not Everyone Is Special by Josh Denslow

Josh Denslow's short story collection Not Everyone Is Special didn't start off on the best foot with me. There were a number of moments that were ableist, fat shaming, and casually racist in that covert "joking" kind of way. BUT it seemed like, more often than not, the characters had moments of clarity about their flaws and learned from them. I enjoyed all of the stories, but they got better and better as the collection went on. I'm very glad I kept reading. Some are speculative fiction, others are slice of life. "Extra Ticket" was my favorite by far (have tissues handy). Denslow has a knack for diving deep into people's emotions and thought processes. The characters aren't always relatable,…

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