Parkland by Dave Cullen

Obviously Parkland has its tough reading moments. But the focus is much less on the actual shooting itself, and more on the surviving kids finding hope and resilience, working through their grief, and most of all, organizing to effect change. Readers are with these kids as they experience how dirty (and partisan) politics is and how frustrating media spin can be. But we're also with them as they connect with, learn from, and try to help boost the voices of groups like the Peace Warriors and BRAVE (Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere) of Chicago. In his engaging narrative style, Cullen shows us teens with a deep sense of injustice who are capable of so much more than many adults give…

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A Dog Called Jack by Ivy Pembroke

Ivy Pembroke's A Dog Called Jack was full of delightful surprises. When I requested it on NetGalley, I was looking for a cozy, comforting read. And it was, but I didn't expect all the depth this book delivered. This novel achieves a wonderful balance between giving readers a relaxing read and giving its characters realistic—often tough—situations to deal with. It's heartfelt without being trite, sweet without feeling saccharine. And the humor is gentle; you find yourself chuckling momentarily, but it never breaks the flow. Christmas Street's residents are surprisingly diverse. They are a variety of ages, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and stages in life. I love that this actually mirrors my own little cul-de-sac. I loved watching 8-year-old son Teddy break through the crotchety…

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The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

"It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes! Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated."  I'm super excited to be part of the TLC Book Tour for Jonas…

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The Third Wheel by Michael J. Ritchie

"English teacher Dexter feels like he's being taunted by the universe. Every last one of his friends is settling down with their other halves, while Dexter spends his evenings marking schoolbooks with his ginger cat for company. After another wedding ends in a drunken disaster, Dexter is musing on the situation and wondering what he's going to screw up next, when he gets the shocking reminder that he's not the centre of the universe. An alien spaceship has landed on the continent and when first contact is made, it's anything but friendly. Humanity's numbers dwindle immediately, and the survivors are left to do exactly that - survive." The Third Wheel was a one-sitting read for me! Two-headed aliens invade Earth, a…

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Three Books That Fell Flat

Don't you hate when you pick up a book you're sure you're going to love, but it falls flat? I dread that "meh" feeling. Or worse, you end up abandoning it? Here are three of my recent reads that did just that. Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley I abandoned this about 30% of the way through. The characters were pretentious, privileged, and cold. I was so, so, so bored, and I didn't care about a single one of the characters. Actually, I pretty actively disliked them. And knowing this is a character-driven novel, I couldn't muster the desire to keep reading. Those of you who finished: Did I give up too soon? The Ensemble by Aja Gabel This…

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Freefall by Jessica Barry

"When her fiancé’s private plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies, Allison Carpenter miraculously survives. But the fight for her life is just beginning. Allison has been living with a terrible secret, a shocking truth that powerful men will kill to keep buried. If they know she’s alive, they will come for her. She must make it home." Whoa, Freefall was quite the gripping page-turner! I needed to know more! What was going on, who could be trusted and who couldn't? I had all kinds of ideas about how things would pan out, but I didn't actually know what was up until the very end. My only complaint about the book is that a couple of the women characters gave off a…

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Becoming by Michelle Obama

I don't get starry-eyed when I think of the Obamas, and I don't put President Obama on a pedestal. That being said, I really appreciated the kind, thoughtful candor of Michelle Obama's memoir, Becoming. Listening to her optimism chipped away a tiny bit of my own cynicism. Even though much of the Obamas' lives revolve around politics, Michelle Obama's memoir is more about human connections and community. That was so refreshing! I enjoyed hearing about her early life (especially her childhood piano lessons!), how she and Barack met and fell in love, the wisdom she's gained over the years, and the glimpses into everyday life in the White House. I'm glad I chose the audiobook version, narrated by Michelle herself.…

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She/He/They/Me by Robyn Ryle

One of the coolest things about She/He/They/Me is the "Choose Your Own Adventure" setup. You can read through the book following all sorts of gender paths, and there are a lot of interesting things to learn. Robyn Ryle calls out inequality and unfair treatment, how gender has been colonized, and she incorporates different beliefs surrounding gender among various cultures and throughout history. It's super interesting stuff! You can tell she's an ally who really and truly cares, and I enjoyed reading the book. However, if you are not cisgender, you likely won't be able to follow your own story without running into a dead end. For example, if you arrive at chapter 78, which is about an intersectional approach to…

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Six Books Worth/Not Worth the Hype

#AMonthofFaves is an annual blog event hosted by Girlxoxo, Traveling with T, and Estella’s Revenge. You can hop in anytime, and find all of the prompts here. Today we're talking about books that are worth (or not worth) the hype. I like to end on a positive note, so I'm going to start with the books that disappointed me, and leave you with the books you've got to read! Books Not Worth the Hype 1. All Systems Red by Martha Wells Okay, first, the agender/asexual rep here is abysmal and very obviously cis-centered, there was no real research or care taken with that. I could write an entire review based on that alone, but those readers will recognize it right…

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Fox 8 by George Saunders

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Fox 8 by George Saunders, an imaginative, very short book (50 to 60 pages, depending on the format) about the loss of innocence and how we humans treat the world around us. It's written as an open letter from the first-person perspective of a sweet, lovable fox called Fox 8. Fox 8 has a childlike trust that humans are good, but that trust is destroyed in one terrible moment. How do you stay hopeful? Is it possible to keep cynicism at bay once you realize the world is more awful than you ever imagined? Can you move cautiously in the world without sequestering yourself away completely? The audiobook runs only 37 minutes,…

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