RaveThe Associated PressJill Gutowitz, the \'self-proclaimed overlord of lesbian Twitter,\' takes readers on a thrilling excavation of lesbian pop culture and examines the way lesbian representation in media has directly impacted the way she views her own sexuality. From a young age, Gutowitz has been obsessed with celebrities, and she has channeled that obsession into a thriving writing career, sharing hilarious insights ... Through the refreshing, laugh-out-loud essays of Girls Can Kiss Now, Gutowitz proves she is still the reigning queen of it all. Every essay expertly envelops you in her \'celesbian\' world. Endlessly engaging the whole way through, she demonstrates how pop culture has evolved from the \'coded queerness\' it once perpetuated to a more outright embrace of LGBTQ identities ... The book is a perfect combination of humor and sincerity, of wit, self-deprecation, and most importantly, self-love.
PanThe Associated PressOcean State is, above all else, a story of the things love does to us, both the beautiful and terrible. The book will pull a reader in immediately, but it ultimately falls flat in delivering the plot-twisting suspense it’s opening seems to promise. What you learn on that very first page ultimately comes to light in more or less the way you would expect, without any shocking twists or turns to explain why the answer is given away so quickly.
Destiny O. Birdsong
RaveAssociated PressThe three women’s stories do not intersect per se, but together, they paint a powerful portrait of womanhood and the beautiful mess that comes along with it. Through these beautifully flawed women, Nobody’s Magic becomes a celebration of sexuality, friendship, family and love ... The prose are careful and deliberate, and every moment is filled with meaning. It’s a stunning read, with each woman wholly unique in her complexity and desires.
PositiveThe Associated Press... an exceedingly unique tale, one that feels as if it has a tone and genre all its own ... For those willing to work to untangle the dense language and complex storylines that weave their way through the novel, Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth could very well be considered a great novel. It’s sharp commentary on how corruption can infect a nation is powerful, and it is rich with humor, irony, and plot twists. Nevertheless, the style and language make it exceedingly difficult to grasp. It is easy to get lost in the multitude of characters and crisscrossing narratives. For those willing to ride the wave and who are seeking a story that challenges them, it could make a great choice. However, it isn’t right for those looking for a light or easily digestible read.
PositiveThe Associated Press... a force, an epic coming-of-age tale filled with pain, heartache, fear, and undying love. When you think the story might turn one direction, it turns another. But what remains steadfast throughout is Corey’s devotion to his mother, his guttural need to do all he can to protect her. It is, however, a very long read, and at times, the story feels slow. But on the whole, Lish has crafted a compelling tale filled with complex and at times, frightening characters that will keep you intrigued.
RaveThe Associated Press... a gripping love story ... riveting the whole way through, exploring a complex range of subjects in unique and interesting ways. Anna and Quan are an exciting, dynamic pair, their chemistry palpable as they fall deeper and deeper in love.
RaveThe Associated PressNichole Perkins shares essay after brilliant essay on life as a Southern Black woman learning to own her own power. The poet and Nashville native expertly uses pop culture as a lens through which to examine her life, and mostly her sexuality ... Perkins paints a deeply personal and unapologetic portrait of her journey to becoming the strong, empowered woman she is today. One of the most fearless books out there, it opens with a young, inexperienced Perkins navigating sex and love and ends with a woman who knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to go and get it ... Above all else, this is a book about desire, and more specifically, shamelessly owning that desire. Utilizing humor, raw honesty, and an intimate writing style with which readers can easily connect, Perkins has crafted a powerful memoir that is well worth the read.
RaveThe Associated PressHenderson’s writing will pull at your every heart string. She is raw, emotional, vulnerable. Through it all, she allows herself to be wholly human ... above all else, the story of a marriage that, like any, is filled with both an abundance of love and an abundance of obstacles. Henderson is able to craft the complexity of a relationship filled with understanding and mutual respect, yet at the same time, extreme disconnect.
PositiveThe Associated PressFilled with dark humor, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a beguiling read. Gilda is wholly unique, yet at the same time, exceedingly relatable. The world through her eyes is often a terrifying one, but it is one that anyone who has dealt with anxiety will no doubt recognize. Through it all, Gilda’s endlessly good heart shines through, making her impossible not to root for.
RaveThe Associated PressMcKinney is a strong and compelling storyteller and has crafted a captivating small town world full of gossip and intrigue. God Spare the Girls beautifully explores the challenges of young womanhood in the context of a religion that has its own very strict ideas about what it means to be a good daughter, sister, and wife ... Above all else, God Spare the Girls is a touching and powerful story of a bond between two sisters navigating a world and life they never chose. It is a beautifully rendered spin on classic coming-of-age tales, with the characters navigating intricate layers of relationships with themselves, with each other and with their faith.
RaveThe Associated Press... powerful and energetic ... Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking ... It takes a lot of talent to strike an artful balance between such funny stories and the solemn, traumatic moments in Henderson\'s life. She finds this balance expertly, taking readers along on her roller coaster ride of emotions. Her deeply honest writing is crisp, engaging and full of life as it examines the complexity of identity, family, childhood and independence ... Through it all, the deep love Henderson feels for her grandmother never stops shining through. This book, above all else, is an homage to the woman who dropped everything to be there for two kids who had no one else.
RaveThe Associated PressThis book is a powerhouse. It is impossible not to become fully absorbed in every scene, the vibrant, dynamic characters drawing you in again and again. It is by no means a light read. The story is dense, and in many ways quite disturbing, but it is this way in its unapologetic effort to confront the dark realities and harsh truths that we continue to face today ... the world through Pi Suleman’s eyes is dark, complex, and endlessly compelling.
RaveThe Associated PressThe stories are wrought with emotion and complexity, yet at the same time, Taylor’s writing is soft, quiet, gentle. The stories feel almost like slices of life, but the every day is heightened by the intensity of the characters’ longing, desire, anger and, above all else, passion ... Taylor’s characters are beautiful messes, with their flaws, uncertainty, and mistakes making them all the more intriguing and real. With some recurring in different stories, the reader is able to understand certain relationships from different perspectives and feel even more deeply the characters’ desperate attempts to connect to one another. The book is also wonderfully queer and presents queer love and identities with all the intricacy and uniqueness they deserve.
PositiveThe Associated Press... a thrilling story of what happens when a long-held family secret comes to light ... This is not your typical story of discovering a long-lost family member. The intricacies of the character\'s lives are fascinating, their secrets unpredictable, and the challenges they face infinitely complex. With this story, Strawser reveals just how complicated life can be. Through these dynamic characters, she shows that no one is ever truly a villain or a hero, but instead, we are all a beautiful and messy mix of both.
RaveThe Associated Press... a bold exploration of womanhood, feminism, parenting, aging, love and more ... This short, but mighty memoir opens with a proud declaration that Allende has been a feminist since kindergarten, and from there launches readers into an enchanting examination of the life she has lived ever since ... a chronicle of her fierce advocacy for herself and for the power of women, and it is also an ode to the many people who shaped her. With humor and wisdom, Allende offers poignant observations on topics like ambition, the lack of respect we show to aging people and the #MeToo movement ... Spending time with Allende within these pages is a true delight. The book is conversational, contemplative, and relatable. Allende is self-deprecating and jubilant, writing as if she is chatting over coffee and scones with an old friend about the lessons life has taught her. The book will no doubt make you think about these big concepts in new and personal ways.
RaveThe Associated Press... a bold exploration of womanhood, feminism, parenting, aging, love and more ... short but mighty ... With humor and wisdom, Allende offers poignant observations on topics such as ambition, the lack of respect we show to aging people and the #MeToo movement ... Spending time with Allende within these pages is a true delight. The book is conversational, contemplative and relatable. Allende is self-deprecating and jubilant, writing as if she is chatting over coffee and scones with an old friend. The book will no doubt make you think about these big concepts in new and personal ways.
Elizabeth Miki Brina
RaveThe Associated Press[A] masterful memoir in which Brina examines the complex relationship she has with her interracial parents ... Speak, Okinawa is both a mediation on Brina’s own family as well as a powerful history of the United States occupation of Okinawa, where it maintains a massive military presence to this day ... Brina’s writing is crisp, captivating and profound ... As educational as it is entertaining, Speak, Okinawa is well worth the read.
RaveThe Associated Press... a unique, thrilling adventure, with truly unexpected twists and turns the whole way through. Lovers of science fiction will no doubt delight in the intricacies of Evelyn’s work laid about by Gailey, who also crafts a compelling tension between Evelyn and Martine as they work to find common ground ... At times the plot feels a little slow, but on the whole, Gailey has created an enjoyable, edge-of-your-seat tale that will keep readers on their toes.
RaveThe Associated PressIshiguro creates a fascinating world through Klara’s eyes as she works to understand how humans operate, while at the same time working through a growing number of feelings of her own. Throughout the book, Klara is more or less treated as a person and sometimes, you may even forget that she isn’t one ... Ishiguro’s prose is soft and quiet. It feels like the perfect book to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon. He allows the story to unfold slowly and organically, revealing enough on every page to continue piquing the reader’s curiosity. The novel is an intriguing take on how artificial intelligence might play a role in our futures. It is also a poignant meditation on love and loneliness, and asks us to ponder whether someone like Klara can ever truly embody the human spirit, or if the soul is something that can never be manufactured.
Jeremy Atherton Lin
PositiveAssociated PressAs these institutions continue to close at alarming rates, Atherton Lin vividly reflects on his own experiences visiting gay bars from the early 1990s up to today ... It is all at once a celebration of these revolutionary spaces, an ode to the activists who fought for their right to exist out in the light, and a critique of some of the more ignominious aspects of the gay bar’s history ... Atherton Lin’s writing can be dense, but his deep and vivid details also bring his memories to life in a way that will make you feel like you are smack dab in the middle of those bars alongside him.
RaveThe Associated Press... a captivating, heartbreaking tale of a family who will do anything for one another—and everything to survive. The strength of Hannah’s prose brings the characters to life in a way that will make you unable to tear yourself away from them. You will celebrate their triumphs, mourn their tragedies, and commend their bravery. Through it all, it is easy to feel Hannah’s desire to honor those who lived and fought through this devastating time in history. The Four Winds is also an ode to the strength and ferocity of mothers, and a declaration that sometimes, love is the only thing that holds us together.
PositiveThe Associated PressThe book is an overall enjoyable, exciting, and action-packed read. Zoe and Jamie may possess superhuman abilities, but the challenges they endure together are profoundly human ... The mystery of Jamie and Zoe’s real identities is intriguing and will keep you wanting more. At times, however, the plot feels a little slow, especially toward the end once the answers begin to unfold. Nevertheless, We Could Be Heroes is an engaging story of good versus evil versus something in between. It is, at it’s core, just fun.
Robert Jones Jr
RaveAssociated PressThe Prophets, Jones’ debut novel, is a marvel, as much an extraordinary queer love story as a devastating and inimitable portrayal of the agony endured by slaves in the antebellum South. Jones’ stunning storytelling crafts deep and powerful portraits of not only Samuel and Isaiah, but also the many others at the plantation. Alternating between perspectives, each chapter is its own work of art, delving deep into each character’s heart and mind and creating a rhythmic tapestry of profound love and unbearable pain. The Prophets vividly depicts the viciousness of slavery while simultaneously allowing space for the love between Samuel and Isaiah. The Prophets is a novel, but feels almost like poetry, with every word holding a weight and power that will continue to astound those who lose themselves in its pages.
RaveThe Associated PressIt is nearly impossible to put down The Other Mother. Michael is a captivating narrator. His voice is strong, raw and unique, and through all of his trials and tribulations, his big heart continues to shine through as he fights for the people he loves -- and also for himself. The rest of the characters are equally complex, dynamic and lovable ... Filled with emotion, pain and joy, The Other Mother is well worth the read.
RaveAssociated PressMemorial is a powerful portrait of the challenges, both internal and external, that so often come with loving another human being. With unique and beautiful prose, it weaves together a fascinating story of cultures, families, and lovers both clashing and coming together in the beautiful mess that is loving and living ... While the characters feel lost and out of control, the story, itself, never does. Washington has a strong and purposeful command over every moment. With its soft prose and alternating perspectives, Memorial feels like a dance, effortlessly gliding between the characters’ stories as they discover who they are supposed to be.
PositiveThe Associated Press... a thrilling adventure, but the many timelines woven through the novel can also be a bit difficult to follow. With Picoult’s stories, there is always something new to learn, and The Book of Two Ways is no exception. The characters’ interests in ancient Egypt, quantum physics, death, and more bring a certain dynamism to the story, but at times, can also get a bit dense ... Nevertheless, Picoult has certainly crafted a fun and interesting read, one that will lead readers to both learn a lot and also ask themselves key questions about how to create happy lives for themselves during the short time we have on earth.
PositiveThe Associated PressThere is a lot to appreciate in Edmund White’s A Saint from Texas: the artful prose, the vivid storytelling, the darkly whimsical tone ... At times the story feels fresh and exciting, unlike anything else you’ll read, but the dense writing can also become cumbersome. Thus, as the story goes on, White wanes in his ability to fully engage the reader. White has masterfully created deeply complex and dynamic characters, though the writing style doesn’t always make it easy to feel wholly invested in their pursuits ... Still, with A Saint from Texas, White skillfully invites readers into an organized mess of a world filled with equal parts deceit and desire. It is a world full of sinners and saints, one that asks us to question what turns some of us into one and some of us into the other.
RaveThe Associated Press... a story of queerness, love and family like you’ve never seen it before ... a wholly unique exploration of identity, sexuality and the all-consuming power of love. Masad is a masterful storyteller who offers complex, dynamic characters that continue to surprise us until the very end.
PositiveThe Associated PressWhile L’Engle didn’t intend these stories to unite in a single collection, they feel bound together by her unique and powerful tone, which seems to split her characters wide open to expose their raw humanity and allows one story to effortlessly flow into the next ... Fans of A Wrinkle in Time and other L’Engle favorites will find in The Moment of Tenderness something new ... While they lack a certain whimsy one may expect from L’Engle, these stories are lovely in their own right. There is beauty in their simplicity and intrigue in the depth of the characters’ pain — feelings that Voiklis writes should give us all a glimpse into some of L’Engles own struggles ... There is even wonder in the feeling of incompleteness that lingers at the end of many of the stories. Perhaps some were indeed incomplete, but perhaps L’Engle merely desired to produce slices of life, ones that do not offer exact answers or unrealistically neat endings.
RaveThe Associated PressSamantha Irby offers yet another laugh-out-loud masterpiece ... Despite her rise in status...her writing is as raunchy and relatable as ever ... a perfect read at a time when we all could use a little comic relief.
MixedThe Dallas Morning NewsThe Operator is a fun, light and intriguing story, although at times it falls a little flat. The characters lack some dynamism, which makes it difficult to become deeply invested in their fears, failures and triumph.The story also seemed to go on longer than it needed to, with the more exciting revelations ending up being sandwiched between what felt like unnecessary moments. Still, there are several edge-of-your-seat moments where the story picks up, and Berg does succeed at making the reader want to keep turning the pages to find out Vivian’s big secret — as well as the consequences when all is revealed.
RaveThe Associated Press...a mesmerizing psychological thriller ... In a series of exciting twists and shocking turns, Emma and Mr. Nobody come to discover they are connected in ways neither could have imagined ... Steadman’s story is wholly unique and exceedingly well executed ... The writing is as crisp as the story itself. Its decisive urgency will make readers desperate to find out what happens next.
PositiveThe San Diego TribuneAcclaimed author Zadie Smith’s Grand Union is an enchanting collection that examines the complexity of contemporary life. This book of short stories, the author’s first, refuses to define itself as any one thing. Instead, Smith allows each story to take on a tone, genre and life of its own ... The stories can be heavy, yet they also take on a tone of slight whimsy that makes them feel both real and fantastical all at once, the same way that these days, reality so often feels ... At times, this wild ride that Smith takes readers on is a delight to experience. Her characters are vivid and unique, as are her observations about the state of the world. At other times, the stories can get complex, and it’s not always easy to grasp their meaning. Still, it’s well worth spending time with Smith, examining and dissecting the way things are, the way things were and the way things could become.
PositiveThe Philadelphia Tribune... an enchanting collection that examines the complexity of contemporary life. This book of short stories, the author’s first, refuses to define itself as any one thing. Instead, Smith allows each story to take on a tone, genre and life of its own ... The stories can be heavy, yet they also take on a tone of slight whimsy that makes them feel both real and fantastical all at once, the same way that these days, reality so often feels ... Throughout the book, there are moments when Smith seems to be talking directly to the readers, letting them know, for example, when she is using devices like metaphor or dramatic irony. While for some writers this tactic could risk a jarring effect, in Smith’s hands it feels appropriately playful and seems to create more intimacy between her and the readers. It’s as if she is reminding readers that she knows they are there, that the book is a conversation, that amid all of the real chaos and struggle that her stories reference, we’re in this together ... At times, this wild ride that Smith takes readers on is a delight to experience. Her characters are vivid and unique, as are her observations about the state of the world. At other times, the stories can get complex, and it’s not always easy to grasp their meaning. Still, it’s well worth spending time with Smith, examining and dissecting the way things are, the way things were and the way things could become.