Recent Reviews

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The Bad Muslim Discount: A Novel Cover Image
The Bad Muslim Discount

DUE NOVEMBER 17, 2020: The Bad Muslim Discount brings together in California the lives of two very different immigrants. Anvar, as an adolescent, migrated with his family from Pakistan as Islamic fundamentalism began to take hold there. Several years later, post-9/11, Safwa and her father take a much more difficult path from war-torn Baghdad, Iraq, entering the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. Both characters struggle within and against their religion, and with family members’ expectations and demands. As their stories unfold and entwine, the situation becomes volatile and frightening, and the mounting tension kept me turning the pages long into the night. Recommended by Nancy.

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Saving Ruby King Cover Image
Saving Ruby King

Saving Ruby King is a slow burn—a richly woven three-generation history of two families on the south side of Chicago, bound forever by trauma and religion.  A tragic murder in the present unearths secret wrongdoings of the past.  Intergenerational trauma is a primary focus, and the given circumstances allow readers to both hate and empathize with nearly all of the main characters.  The full cast—including the omniscient church building—narrates the audiobook beautifully.  Readers will learn that the bonds of true friendship can withstand anything. Listen at the following link and support the Raven: Recommended by Mary.

Trigger warnings: domestic violence, incest, rape.

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The Bright Lands Cover Image
The Bright Lands

Excuse my French here, but THE BRIGHT LANDS is one scary-ass book. Think Friday Night Lights rewritten by Stephen King. Set in where else but high-school-football-obsessed Texas, the story revolves around the brutal murder of the Bison's quarterback. When his brother comes back for the funeral, the homophobic culture of his hometown seems to have frightened and irreparably harmed more than just him. It's filled with sexy, homoerotic tension and builds to a nail-biting finish. Leave the lights on while you read or listen at The print copy is available now. Recommended by Kelly.

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This Is My America Cover Image
This Is My America

I can’t believe this is Kim Johnson’s debut novel!  It has easily cemented a spot in the social justice YA canon, alongside The Hate U Give, Monster, and co.  Written with an expert hand, This Is My America follows Tracy Beaumont as she fights to get her innocent father off of death row, while also trying to keep her community safe from police violence by teaching Know Your Rights workshops.  But she’s soon forced to divert her attention to a murder case in which her brother is the main suspect.  A compelling story of injustice and resistance—with a bit of a love triangle—This Is My America is required reading. Recommended by Mary.

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The Toni Morrison Book Club Cover Image
The Tony Morrison Book Club

The Toni Morrison Book Club Part introspection, part analysis, completely insightful and compelling, The Toni Morrison Book Club is a tribute to Morrison and her voice, illuminating its impact and relevance in our world. Four writers explore four of Morrison’s novels, each writing about two of them. So each novel is examined by two writers. In each essay, Morrison’s novel serves as the foundation or springboard for a discussion of events in the writers’ lives. With deep knowledge of the novels and great analytic skill, the authors move beyond literary analysis to examine life in the United States. Analysis of mothers in Morrison’s novels leads to discussion of motherhood, particularly Black motherhood, in 21st-century United States through the very personal lens of Black mothers. The theme of “other” in Morrison’s novels inspires reflections on growing up gay in a very conservative family. The richness of Morrison’s texts is made powerfully evident as these four authors weave her themes, her techniques, her wisdom into the fabric of their lives, their stories, and their examination of the realities and culture(s) of our nation. If you love Morrison, you should listen to or read this book. If you want to understand more about race and racism in the United States, you should listen to or read this book. If you enjoy memoir and good, rich writing, you should listen to or read this book. Maybe I am simply saying you should listen to or read this book! Beware - after listening to The Toni Morrison Book Club, I now want to re-read all of Morrison’s works. And I want to hear more from these four writers. Recommended by Nancy.

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Intimations: Six Essays Cover Image

Zadie Smith’s slim but concentrated Intimations is just what I needed during a pandemic. Our current collective American reality is validated in her intelligent voice, and it’s comforting.  She talks about the power writers have to create their own worlds.  She talks about suffering—how it defies class and privilege—and how she experiences her own privilege.  She talks about “the virus,” and about the virus of racism—how we’re willing to make societal changes to mitigate the spread of one, but not the other.  And at the end, a love letter/gratitude list.  Listen to the audiobook if you want to hear Zadie Smith sing (literally!). Recommended by Mary.

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You Should See Me in a Crown Cover Image
You Should See Me in a Crown

You Should See Me in a Crown is a quintessential prom story with some twists—namely that the protagonist is a queer Black girl.  Liz Lighty dreams of following in her late mother’s footsteps and attending Pennington.  But she can’t go to college without financial aid, and the music scholarship she was counting on fell through.  She has no other choice but to run for prom queen in the tiny Midwestern town where she’s never fit in, fighting for the cash prize like her future depends on it.  Campaign sabotage eventually forces her to stand up for herself and her values, because fairytales aren’t just for white heteros.  Read on for Black joy and queer romance! Recommended by Mary. Listen to the audio here:

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A Wild Winter Swan: A Novel Cover Image
A Wild Winter Swan

DUE IN OCTOBER: Just in time for the weird 2020 holiday season, Gregory Maquire's latest, A Wild Winter Swan, will take readers back to an extraordinarily weird Christmas week for Laura Ciardi, a teenage misfit in 1960s Upper East Side. Bullied by mean girls at school who make fun of her eccentric Italian family, all Laura needs is a one-winged swan boy to fly right from the pages of a Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale into her window on a particularly harsh winter night. This quirky coming-of-age story will remind young and old alike that an ability to embrace difference will be the salvation of us all. Recommended by Kelly

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Bones: Inside and Out Cover Image
Bones: Inside and Out

DUE IN OCTOBER: For the soft science reader, Bones: Inside and Out will take you on a fascinating journey through the micro and macro level of vertebrate architecture. You will learn everything from the historically gruesome history of "sawbones" to the latest archaeological discoveries of bones around the world. If there is a funny orthopedic surgeon, Roy Meals is the one!  Recommended by Kelly

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Leave the World Behind: A Novel Cover Image
Leave the World Behind

DUE IN OCTOBER: Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind will be the root cause of many sleepless nights this October. Here's the premise: A standard-issue white couple with two children is enjoying a week away from the City in a rental in upstate New York when, low and behold, a sixty-something black couple arrives on the doorstep claiming to own the home. They have fled a black-out in the City and could they possibly stay the night or maybe longer. What ensues is far from standard. Barging in on both families are issues of race and class and--when things out of everyone's control go horribly wrong--the tenability of human connection.  Everyone must read this book, especially now! Recommended by Kelly

Rumaan Alaam’s Leave the World Behind is a tense and clever bottle-episode apocalypse. When Amanda and Clay rent a nice vacation home for a family getaway, the last thing they expect is the house’s owners to arrive in the middle of the night, fleeing a New York City blackout, looking for a place to stay. The resulting clash of families, races, and fears amounts to a thrilling postapocalyptic novel in microscopic scale. Though the action never really leaves that one vacation home, Leave the World Behind is nonetheless an unsettling portrait of a whole world in crisis. Recommended by Danny