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 It's realistically clunky, but in a way that felt bad to read and perpetuated outdated views instead of correcting them. 2) Angela uses a…


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!


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…


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…


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.


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…


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.


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.


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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