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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.
Australian great Peter Carey returns with one of his best novels in years. In 1950's Australia, tiny Irene Bobs and her car salesman husband, Titch, attempt to escape Titch's scheming father by participating in the Redex Trial, a car race around the perimeter of the country. When they bring their quiz show wiz neighbor, Willie Bachhuber, on as navigator, secrets about family, race, and the dark underbelly of colonial Australian history are forced into the light. The genius of this book is that it starts off like a family comedy and ends up dropping bombs that readers never see coming, while remaining action packed and not actually about a car race at all. I laughed, I dropped the book in shock, I teared up, and I loved every minute.
This is my first experience with Meg Wolitzer and I gotta say, I'm sold. In this brilliant new book, we follow a young woman whose life is changed when she goes to see a prominent feminist speak at her college. Years later she's working for the Gloria Steinem-esque character that she idolizes and readers get a riveting examination of how friendship and romance change as people grow up, as well as what it's like to be a feminist today. Wolitzer's writing is utterly engrossing in this inspection of fallen idols, women and power, and the difficulty of sticking to the pure ethics and morals of youth, as corrupted adults. This powerful study of the inner lives of women should be read by all.
This is a great summer read, especially if you have any interest in Japan or translated fiction. The book follows a happily single thirty-eight-year-old woman as she develops a friendship with her old teacher, thirty years her senior. Both enjoy eating and drinking and as their quirky relationship progresses, a sweet partnership slowly forms. The detailed food descriptions kept me enthralled and the author's use of the seasons to mirror the character's fights and adventures paints a lively and humorous picture of modern life in Tokyo. For fans of slow burn romance, Murakami without the weirdness, Japanese food, and light slightly off-tempo reads, Strange Weather will hit all the right spots.
At 14, Redford free climbed a wall four times as tall as her house to blow off steam from being excluded from male activities in her family. Thus began an exhilarating and often tragic love affair with rock climbing, and the men and women who constantly risk their lives to bag big mountains. Redford, an outdoor writer, delves into the climbing scene in Canada in the 70's, and what it was like to be a female climber in a very masculine sport/lifestyle. Redford's climbing descriptions are vivid and tense, she keeps readers right on the rope with her, but I was more captivated by how the author navigated being a climber with marriage, raising children, and getting an education. Think Cheryl Strayed's Wild, but with mountains and motherhood.
This novel is, at times, both highly amusing and uttery gut wrenching. The author, herself an immigrant who fled the small African country before the genocide, uses a Rwandan all-girls school as a microcosm to explore the tensions and discrimination leading up to the infamous slaughter. It's not as dark as it sounds; Mukasonga masterfully inserts moments of humor that break the spell and, at it's core, the book is really a relatable coming of age story. If you'd like to know how something like the Rwandan genocide, or any ethnic conflict, could happen, this is a frighteningly realistic look at how prejudice builds from parent to child, teacher to class, leaving the tragedy to come not all that surprising. -Camilla
An aspiring author navigates housemates, romances, and family, as well as her country, in this tour de force by Miles Franklin Award winner Michelle de Kretser. This collection of interlocking stories takes readers to Sydney, Paris, and glimpses Sri Lanka, as it explores the relationships of mid-list writer Pippa, who secretly knows she'll never be more than mediocre, as well as a number of other, (sometimes more) memorable characters. I tore through this book in a weekend. De Kretser's writing is sublime, powerful yet beautifully nuanced, as she explores the human condition, from the jealousy and suspicion of infidelity to the complications and melancholic nostalgia of love and friendship. A compelling look at how literature, social media, and the stories we make up in our heads rewrite how we see each other, and ourselves.
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. -Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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! - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla
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. - Camilla