Recent Reviews

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Lungfish: A Novel By Meghan Gilliss Cover Image
Lungfish

Through Tuck’s thoughts in stream-of-consciousness fashion, we come to know the characters in her world. Looking through only her lens offers us an intimate look into her actions and reactions, and great detail mixed with much left unknown about the actions, feelings, and thoughts of those around her. We watch her come to grips with and maneuver through her husband’s addiction and her new financial and social situation, and her struggles to provide for her child and herself. The limited perspective makes for a rich and extremely satisfying read, a deep dive into Tuck’s mind. Recommended by Nancy

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Sinkhole: A Legacy of Suicide By Juliet Patterson Cover Image
Sinkhole

When I started this lyrical exploration of suicide, inheritance, and place by lesbian poet Juliet Patterson, I had no idea that my home state would play such a central role. As it turns out, both of Patterson’s parents grew up in the former mining town of Pittsburg, KS, now ravaged by sinkholes. In an obsessive unearthing of family history spurred by grief for her father, Patterson investigates the lives and suicides of three family members: her father, and each of her parents’ fathers. As Patterson delicately processes her own experiences as a suicide survivor, she opens up a dialogue for readers—we can talk about suicide, and we should talk about suicide. Sinkhole is a beautiful, fascinating read. Recommended by Mary

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The Gingerbread Witch By Alexandra Overy Cover Image
Gingerbread Witch

Maud is a witch—at least she wants to be. She has the “witch mark”; she feels the power, but Mother Agatha refuses to let her do the spells. Maud is also not exactly normal, having been created by Agatha from gingerbread. When Agatha is popped into the oven by those pesky kids Hansel and Gretel, Maud sets out to find the First Witch’s spell book to try to restore Agatha to life. This is a fun, intriguing story of a young woman’s coming into her own, testing her love, friendship, loyalty and wisdom. Great middle-grade read. Reviewed by Sarah.

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Wretched Waterpark (The Sinister Summer Series #1) By Kiersten White Cover Image
Wretched Waterpark

Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl fans rejoice!  There’s a new entry in the eerie, slightly bent, odd-ball middle-grade spooky stories.  The Sinister Summer series by Kiersten White splashes down with Wretched Waterpark following the adventures of the aptly named Sinister-Winterbottom twins and their teen-aged sister who are dropped off at the worst waterpark on the planet for a week. They must navigate the Fathoms of Fun with its black beach towels, coffin-like boats, and cabanas that look like mausoleums. Why are people disappearing into the dark caverns of the Wave Pool?  Who wants to take a boat ride on the River Styx? Keylor Leigh’s delightful narration skillfully captures this clever, ooky, spooky mystery. Recommended by Sarah

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The Key to Deceit: An Electra McDonnell Novel (Electra McDonnell Series #2) By Ashley Weaver Cover Image
The Key to Deceit

The Key to Deceit is Ashley Weaver’s  second entry in the Electra McConnell series, and it’s another fun read.  Ellie (Electra) and her Uncle Mick are tapped again to help break up a spy ring just as London is preparing for the German onslaught of the Blitz.  With their special “skills”—i.e. of lock picking and burglary—the McDonnells find themselves in the service of King and country when it becomes apparent that a German spy ring has set up in London to photograph factories, shipyards and other vulnerable targets for bombers.  When your spies are using safety deposit boxes as drop points, you need safe crackers to solve the problem! Weaver is great at capturing the historical moment and gives us a little insight into the lives of ordinary people faced with the extraordinary and terrifying moment.  Ellie is an interesting character, and this book further develops her personal history and the mysteries in her past.  I loved the first book, A Peculiar Combination, and Weaver seems set to continue the series. Even if you haven’t read the first book, you can still get hooked on Ellie, her charming rascal of an uncle and the handsome Major Ramsey, their “handler” from British Intelligence. Alison Larkin’s narration is superb and really captures the personalities of a wide range of characters. Recommended by Sarah

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The Only Good Indians: A Novel By Stephen Graham Jones Cover Image
The Only Good Indians

I am a person who doesn’t like to be scared.  This book left me a little spooked, but in a way that made me smile because it’s so powerful and because the book’s so-called monster has good reason to be so. Stephen Graham Jones’ writing is rhythmic and cool, funny and tender, sometimes ruthless. This work of literary horror is about Blackfeet and basketball, friendship, love, and the torturous knife-twist of regret. Shaun Taylor-Corbett’s narration is perfect—laid back but intense, in the pocket. I enjoyed the hell out of this book. Recommended by Mary

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Coven By Jennifer Dugan, Kit Seaton (Illustrator) Cover Image
Coven

Coven is a rollercoaster of found family, magic, secrets, and high school. When Emsy has to leave her life and girlfriend in California to move in with her family’s coven, she is distraught. She has never known much about her family history, and she wants to fit in rather than fight an unknown evil attacking fellow witches. Through a cast of bizarre characters, including a grieving childhood friend and the local sheriff’s nosy but sweet daughter, Emsy connects nature, family, and witchcraft. Coven left me exhilarated, knowing that sometimes things don’t work out as you plan, but that together, communities can survive and thrive. Recommended by Nikita

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The Devouring Wolf By Natalie C. Parker Cover Image
Devouring Wolf

On the first full moon of her twelfth summer, Riley can’t wait to finally transform into a wolf for the first time, as do all werewolf children in her community by the time they’re her age.  But something is wrong—even as dozens of other kids are summoned away to transform, Riley and four other peers don’t hear the call.  Are they cursed, or could the problem be much more sinister?  Set on the Kansas prairie, this spooky and adventurous story includes a diverse cast featuring many queer characters and will appeal to fans of a certain young wizard.  The Devouring Wolf will help readers understand difficult emotions, bodily autonomy, and teamwork as they stay up past their bedtime to find out what happens next.  I loved Natalie C. Parker’s magical middle grade debut! Recommended by Mary

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Lavender House By Lev AC Rosen Cover Image
Lavender House

With Lavender House, Lev Ac Rosen has turned the locked-room mystery with its hard-boiled detective hero on its head with stunning results. Detective Andy Mills is fired from the San Francisco police department in the 1950s after being caught in a raid on a gay bar. He is diverted from killing himself in despair by Pearl, who hires him to investigate the apparent murder of her wife at their estate, Lavender House. Behind the fortress-like walls, lives her queer family, who present as “normal” to the dangerous outside world, but who live for themselves and each other on the inside. The novel echoes all kinds of film noir traditions but is ultimately about the protection of the family—in this case, the family you choose instead of the one you were born to. It’s a winner. Recommended by Mary

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Against the Loveless World: A Novel By Susan Abulhawa Cover Image
Against the Loveless World

Titled with the words of James Baldwin, Against the Loveless World is a novel of love and rebellion amidst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its heroine, Nahr, is a daring, sarcastic displaced Palestinian who writes the story of her life from solitary confinement, the timeline leaping between her present imprisonment and the years that led up to it. In Kuwait, Jordan, Palestine, she survives as a sex worker, beautician, daughter, sister, wife, divorcee. But every step she takes leads her to the man with whom she shares a powerful love, and that makes it all worth it. This book offers readers a glimpse of human experience beneath an ongoing political crisis. I especially appreciated the discussion of sexual trauma within the context of such a conservative culture. Recommended by Mary