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Camilla, when not riding her bike, hiking, or missing snow, is an assistant manager at Changing Hands Phoenix. She likes to read translated and contemporary fiction, YA and gender studies books, science fiction, fantasy, travel lit and graphic novels. She would love to discuss the finer points of international travel, Australia, vegan food, the White Sox, or zombies with you.
I'm not a big short story reader but this collection by Danielle Lazarin has changed that. Back Talk is stories about girls and women, their families, their inner lives, hopes, fears, needs, and their spoken and unspoken desires. A dazzling debut full of gritty, realistic characters, a refreshingly honest voice, and exhilarating writing. Highly recommended.
This is the first novel out of Madagascar to be published in English. For that reason alone you should read it. Need more? How about that's it's a sweeping coming of age novel with a heartbreaking love story centered around slave, Tsito, and his master's daughter, Fara? Or what about learning all about Queen Ranalova's attempts to keep foreign influence and Christian missionaries out of her country, often with the heaviest of hands? The affects of colonialism on local populations play a big part as well as the long arm of Christianity. This novel was shocking in Madagascar for it's discussion of slavery and the brutal "tangena" trial by ordeal that at points in history killed off up to 20% of the island's population. It's not an easy read but it is beautifully written, with every proverb, childhood grudge, and mythical story coming back later on. The translator did a great job of maintaining the circular storytelling that is traditional in Malagasy while telling a crucial, groundbreaking story that will make readers smile one page and destroy them the next.
I still can't believe this is a debut novel. The water is rising in London and no one is safe. A woman gives birth and must flee with her partner for higher ground, the baby still all milky smells, crying, and big eyes. Told in sparse, haunting prose that comes off dreamlike in the midst of violence, rationing, and flight, Hunter weaves an intimately beautiful tale of love and family. I've never read something that painted such a clear picture with so little words. This powerful little novel will stay with me for a long time.
Wow. This novel shocked, amused, and horrified me. Alex feels numb in the years after her older sister's murder. When the killer walks free she finally feels again, but it's rage and vengeance that come flooding in. She delivers justice on her own and also gets away with it, but can she trust herself now that she's committed such a violent act? Formerly a loner, in her senior year of high school she makes a new friend and possibly a boyfriend, but can these human connections change or soften her inner darkness? An unforgettable exploration of rape culture and sexual assault, McGinnis creates realistic teens and avoids producing a teenage vigilantly in a black and white world. There's a lot of gray here, but ultimately this is a story of loyalty to those we love and how violence begets more violence.
Menzies-Pike lost both her parents in a plane crash when she was 20-years-old. A decade of floundering followed, and then at 30 she discovered running. Blending together feminist and literary theory, history, and a starkly honest personal narrative about how movement, specifically running, can help one rise above grief and tragedy, Menzies-Pike has created a new running bible for anyone wishing to go the distance. This is a book for joggers, reluctant runners, and readers interested in the history of women running. If you've completed countless marathons you may not find inspiration here, but if you're running to heal, to feel your body move, or just to be in the moment, pick up The Long Run now.
A fiery little novel by a talented writer and bookseller in Melbourne. Serbian immigrant Jovan works as a janitor in a Melbourne hospital that is the site of frequent "graffiti" by a mysterious artist. As the art gets more and more disturbing, and repercussions start affecting hospital staff, the story of Jovan and wife Suzana's life in Serbia during the war, and they're attempts to heal in a new country, are interwoven with suspicions of who the graffiti artist is. This is a powerful and uncomfortable read. It smacks readers in the face with a lot of painful history and difficult immigrant experiences. It is also hard to put down and even harder to forget. The gritty, realistic characters, unique and psychotic art, and cutting writing that gets right to the heart of the story will stay with me for a long, long time.
I read this in one sitting on a plane. I didn't even notice the plane ride because I was so engrossed in the story of Rachel and Henry and a little bookshop with a Letter Library (a section where people can leave notes and letters to each other in books). This is a funny, beautiful story about love and loss, grief and redemption. It's a story of books and booksellers and love of the written word. It's a story you'll savor yet be unable to put down. Fans of Jandy Nelson will find a new favorite author in Cath Crowley.
Christopher Knight spent 27 years living outside, hidden and alone in central Maine, without once making a fire. The "how" and "why" of this unique and seemingly impossible existence make up Michael Finkel's excellent new book. A study of solitude across history and literature, fans of Into the Wild and Desert Solitude will enjoy this work even as questions of sanity and arrogance cloud the image of a man who was either heroic hermit or cunning thief, or perhaps both.
When I turned the final page of Angie Thomas' powerful debut novel, I physically had chills running up and down my arms. This book is impressive and dare I say, necessary. Yes, the subject matter is difficult - police brutality and socialized racism. Yes, parts of this book will rightly make you furious - the 16-year-old protagonist is a witness to the murders of both of her best friends. But you'll also laugh at the antics of the protagonist's family and smile at all the ways they protect and love each other and their neighborhood. If you want to read something that will make you feel the whole rainbow of emotions, a book that will challenge and shock and energize, pick up THE HATE U GIVE right now.
Two young women wake up in strange clothes, locked in a unfamiliar room in the middle of the Outback. As they struggle to understand not only where they are, but what they now are, a bond forms that abuse and neglect cannot break. The Natural Way of Things is a brutal allegorical novel about the way society judges and vilifies women for their bodies and the horrific crimes enacted on female bodies. The writing is savage and anyone that feels frustration over the treatment of women today will relish this tale of unjust punishment and ultimately, feminist revenge.
As soon as I read this gorgeous picture book, I knew I had to have a copy. And maybe one for my niece, and another for my nephew. Basically I want all the children I know to drift into the beautiful dream world author Laden and illustrator Castrillon have created. My copy will stay on a shelf next to favorites from my childhood like Madeline and Strega Nona until I have my own little one to delight over the fantastic images and sweet tale of imagination and wonder. Until then, I'll enjoy it on my own!
This science fiction tale about the overreaching influence of social media marks the first time I've ever devoured an entire 500 page tome in a single day. That's how addictive Connie Willis's writing is. Twists and turns constantly throw readers off what seems like a fairly straightforward story of being too connected. When a routine empathy implant, meant to help Briddey and her partner feel each others' emotions more easily, goes awry, Briddey is suddenly a little too connected, and to the wrong person. Willis is a master of quick, hilarious dialogue and the constant surprises in CrossTalk made me literally unable to put the book down.
Everyone needs alone time. Sometimes we get frustrated by distractions like kids and grandkids, bears, goats, or even aliens. When this happens, a new, quieter place to get work done is needed. Some people, like Vera Brosgol's old woman, will venture to new outrageous places until they can finish their projects. This hilarious picture book had me in stitches. It's a great reminder that even when loving adults get overwhelmed and want to scream "Leave Me Alone!" and wander off into the forest to be alone, they'll come back in the end.
Underground Airlines broke all the rules for me. It's an alternate history mystery, where the United States never suffered the Civil War and slavery is still legal in four Southern states. I'm not usually a big mystery reader, but I couldn't stop thinking about Winters's heart wrenching novel even when it wasn't in front of me. The main plot, a free black man working for the U.S. Marshals to recapture runaway slaves, is thrilling, but it's the world building that really impressed me. In an alternate today where the U.S. still participates in slavery, trade embargoes and sanctions, not to mention assassinations, change who the super powers are. Winters's attention to the economics and politics of an alternate reality, along with the chilling yet heartbreaking details of such a world, made Underground Airlines my favorite read this year.
As soon as I finished this chilling yet tender novel, I flipped back to the beginning to piece it all together once again. Told through 7 intricate narratives, The Light Fantastic tells the story of 3 fateful hours on April Donovan's 18th birthday that will change everything. This is a tough book. The subject matter is tough, the tightly woven story can be tricky to decipher, but the pay off is huge. Sarah Combs treats each narrator, would be killers, potential prey, confused and damaged teenagers, and a desperate teacher, as complete yet flawed humans, each trying earnestly to be heard and find happiness. At points this book was painful to read, to try to understand why kids hurt each other, but there are also so many beautiful moments that showcase the good in people, making it fantastically worthwhile.
Jessica Valenti, Guardian US columnist and co-founder of the fabulous Feministing blog, does so many things right in her new memoir. Broken up into the three sections that are supposed to be the focus of women's lives - Bodies, Boys, and Babies - Sex Object is not, like many titles one finds in the Women's Studies section, a call for women to hold their heads high and shake it off. Instead it is closer to a catalogue of all the ways Valenti, and all women, are objectified, harassed, and oppressed. There is power in simply talking about the problem, rather than searching for a solution. It's not all dark though, Valenti's stories about being a teenager in New York had me laughing and I was fully engrossed in tales of her boyfriends. Rather than another book willing men and women to fight for equality, Sex Object breaks ground by just telling one feminist writer's story, one subway flasher at a time.
Do you remember the lonely space between the worlds of children versus adults? Do you ever look back at your adolescence and wonder what you would have done, the lengths you'd have gone, to belong? Emma Cline's debut novel about 14-year-old Evie Boyd's struggle to find her place during the summer of 1969 examines how far people go for love, while also delving into the psychology of cults. Intrigued by the confident and carefree air of a beautiful older girl she spots in the park, Evie stumbles down a dreamy and dangerous path after her, one that will lead to an outrageous act of violence. Cline's writing is intoxicating, seeping into readers like the sticky joints Evie smokes with her new Manson-cult-like family. While not a cheerful read, this dark addictive debut had me racing towards the bloody climax, identifying with Evie's naivity even as I turned from the horror she unknowingly spirals straight towards.
As a person with tattoos myself, I was excited to finally see a picture book featuring ink. In Tattoo Story, a little boy asks his dad to tell him about the colorful images adorning the father's body. Each tattoo has a meaning, from childhood books and memories to important events in the father's life, and the explanations are rendered in vibrant images. From the father-son bonding aspect to the use of tattoos as a common, beautiful occurrence, Tattoo Story is a sweet and lovely tale that will make inked young parents and their children smile.
When I first started reading Bloom I was a little concerned there was too much text to keep kid's attention. Then I got sucked into the story and completely forgot I'd been worried. That's how engrossing Bloom is. In essence, it's about a muddy fairy getting kicked out of a kingdom, and the seemingly ordinary girl (who is actually anything but) who is the only one that can save the kingdom when it falls apart. This book teaches girls that they can be dirty and messy and hardworking AND the hero that saves the day. All they need to do is believe in themselves.
Lately I've been obsessed with books and blogs about hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). So when I discovered The Distance From Me to You, a YA novel about the AT I think I actually squealed, then proceeded to gorge myself over two days in a reading frenzy. While the novel is about McKenna, a recent high school grad attempting to thru hike the AT, it's also about independence, love, family, survival, taking risks, and the dangers, and rewards, inherent in striking out on one's own. This is the first fictional account I've read of hiking the AT and it was refreshing to read a story instead of a day to day journal account. During her hike McKenna falls in love but really this novel is about trusting yourself and following through on goals. Like a YA version of Wild, hiking enthusiasts will eat this right up.
Ever a Meg Rosoff fan after How I Live Now, I eagerly devoured this new novel. Snarky and funny, the book's protagonist, Jonathan, has recently inherited a pair of dogs that seem a bit too aware and complicit in their new human's life. How will they mesh with Jonathan's long time girlfriend? And will they be bored while he's at his soul destroying advertising job all day? I laughed out loud and couldn't stop turning the pages, especially after things get really weird and Jonathan (maybe) has a nervous breakdown. Fans of sharp dialogue and dog lovers in particular will find short and sweet Jonathan Unleashed the perfect lighthearted beach or plane read.