Clint Smith bears witness to seven sites of historical importance in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, including 5 sites in the American South, New York City, and Dakar, Senegal. Clint is a poet and educator as well as a historian and his descriptions of people and places are gorgeous and evocative. The beauty of the language is often at odds with the brutality of the stories, and this tension only draws the reader in further. This book will hit audiences differently, and that is exactly Clint’s point. This is a book we all need to read, so we too can bear witness to the past and current consequences of the American choice to enslave millions of human beings.
I immediately wanted to be best friends with our narrator, Kiki, voice of Brown Sugar, breaking down the dating scene of the African-Caribbean Society at her PWI (predominantly white institution) in England. Kiki, however, does not want to be my bestie- she has her girl Aminah and her studies, and she is all set with most other socializing. She does not want to be involved with any of the “wastemen” at her school whom she routinely drags on her radio show.
The electric chemistry between Kiki and Malakai leaps off the page! But they also learn how to be sweet and supportive of each other in ways neither expect. This is the perfect college romance with unforgettable characters!
If you are a fan of Carlile’s, you already know you want to read this book. And you are not wrong. It is an honest and often hilarious memoir that reflects the kind of storyteller you already know her to be. If you are a music fan, Carlile shares extraordinary tales of meeting many of her musical heroes including Elton John and Joni Mitchell.
It is not just a story about music and stardom, though. It is the coming of age story of a poor, queer kid in a conservative part of Washington state who loves Jesus, fishing and four wheeling. It is the love story of two women who met before their union could be recognized. It is the story of a white woman facing her privilege earnestly in the current political era. It is a story for everyone, right now.
What makes someone a good mother? How do you know? How might that be taught? Be assessed? Who gets to decide? After all, the stakes are the safety and well being of tiny, vulnerable humans.
This novel is different from other recent near-future dystopias and difficult to describe without giving away too much. The School for Good Mothers made me feel the realities of the dystopia we always/ already live in. As a daughter, as a mother… as a HUMAN… this book affected me in ways I hadn’t felt since I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in college. It astonished me; irritated me; pushed me.
How is it possible to be true to ourselves, honor where we came from, be gentle with our mistakes, and still hold ourselves responsible for being good parents, partners, and citizens?
This is not your average romance. It starts the night of Megan and Tom’s rehearsal dinner, and everything goes disastrously wrong. Megan wakes up the next day overwhelmed by their breakup and tries to decide on her next steps….
Except, it’s not the next day. It’s the day of the rehearsal, all over again. This “Groundhog Day” story is both very funny and very grounded in real feelings despite the unreality of the plot. And, the Pacific Northwest setting is highlighted in gorgeous detail. A very unique take ON a classic genre.
I was hooked from the very first sentence, and I barely put it down until I had devoured the whole thing.
Set from November 2019 to November 2020, this book captures much of what it was like to be a bookseller in a pandemic– scared and confused, but also hopeful and overwhelmed by the generosity of our community. Erdrich uses her own bookstore (and herself as a minor character!) to weave a complex story about love, commerce, race, colonialism and literacy against this backdrop.
Words matter. Definitions matter. Sentences matter. They create– and recreate– our realities.
The door is open. Go.
This book is, in fact, a delightful beach read! Like People We Meet on Vacation, it is an opposites- attract/ people-from-the-past story. January and Gus are former college creative writing rivals turned unexpected neighbors.
January is a romance novelist, and Emily Henry takes the opportunity to defend her chosen profession. Gus is a lit fic author with serious writer’s block who helps Emily as she confronts her grief over father’s death. Set in a vacation community on a Michigan lake, the book also includes a colorful cast of locals who both aid and hinder our couple on their journey.
Aunt Dot was a true force of nature when she passes away at 93– a real “hot ticket” in the parlance of her times. Her great niece Laurie is determined to settle her estate with the care it deserves and in doing so a central mystery of Dot’s life is revealed. Laurie might figure out something about herself along the way too ;)
For her sophomore novel, Linda Holmes returns to her fictional hamlet of Calcasset, Maine, and local readers will totally get the vibe of this seaside town. This book feels like getting dinner with old friends you have not seen in a while– warm feelings of familiarity mix with new laughter and stories.
The greatest strength of this book is that it is a book about race that is specifically written for white kids. As a YA writer Brendan Kiely is excellent at speaking to middle school kids in their own language. He writes about his experiences, both as an adult educator and writer coming to terms with his own previously limited understandings about race and about what Kiely now understands about his own white childhood in a Boston suburb.
This book seeks to have the kind of honest and direct conversations with white kids about race that BIPOC kids have every day with their families.
I read this in two quick sittings, and yet it has stayed with me months after I read it. At times melancholy, angry and even serene, Lahiri draws her reader in with gorgeous details of place.
Different from her other work, partially because she wrote it in Italian first and then translated herself, the novel follows one character as she moves about the places of her life: her home, her work, the piazza outside her apartment. Each chapter could stand as its own vignette, but put together they work as a rich meditation on how spaces shape our narratives, especially as we age.
Jessica’s a single mom and a data scientist. She’s also very tired of dating… except for the thoughts she spares for a mystery man she and her best friend have nicknamed “Americano.”
River’s a workaholic who barely notices anyone outside his start up. But their meet cute arrives when the trusty best friend learns that Americano is preparing to launch a scientifically accurate matchmaking service. Excellent romantic adventure; the twists and turns of Jessica and River’s story feel real and earned!
Long Division is a story about how you understand your place, and time, in the world— it will have you laughing out loud, but it will also break your heart. Set in Mississippi, it raises questions about the way our country understands race, diversity, and inclusion. Our hero, City, master of dynamic sentences, begins the narrative as a participant in a nationally televised “Can You Use That in a Sentence” contest (not a spelling bee), and where he finishes his journey will certainly surprise you.
This a book within not one, but two books. The timeline can be unsettling in a good way— our disorientation elevates the intense emotion in the prose. Part Southern gothic, part speculative fiction, and fully committed to the humanity of his characters, Laymon reminds us of Faulkner, Vonnegut, and Morrison. It is one of the most innovative books we’ve ever read. As soon as you finish it, you’ll want to read it again—we know we will. -Written with Alden
As Rhode Islander, I am powerless to resist any book set in our smallest state. Woonsocket is an old mill town that has struggled to find its feet in the twenty first century, and this book describes that reality with grace and compassion. A small group of nuns relocate to a halfway house there, Little Neon, when their own parish in upstate NY no longer has the budget to house and feed them.
Agatha is the reader’s anchor in this narrative as she questions all the choices she has made to get here, as well as all the ways choices were made for her. The book is bittersweet and yet always hopeful.
Lianne Moriarty is still an undisputed queen of the “dark side of suburbia” page turner.
Joy Delaney is missing. Her husband and four adult children have not heard from her except for a garbled text message on the last day she was seen. This novel follows two timelines– the aftermath of Joy’s disappearance and a time from six months prior when an unknown young woman suddenly appears at the Delaney house. Could she be the key to finding Joy?
Moriarty’s portrayal of generational trauma is complex an deftly handled, while still maintaining a plot that is as unsettling as you would expect from her.
Snowflake is similar to a Sally Rooney novel— young Irish woman comes of age— yet contains a magical realism that is almost fairy-tale-like. Debbie, our young protagonist, is a fish out of water at her new college. A culchie (pejorative for rural Irish people) in Dublin, she struggles to relate to her urban and urbane classmates. Debbie isn’t much more comfortable at home, as her family is well known for their eccentricities… or is there something more?
It is a fast read– I finished it in a day. This novel is in turn moody and atmospheric, but also hilarious and joyful— just like a good Irish take should be.
Like many middle aged (former) slackers, I will forever be a Mr. Show superfan. And I was not disappointed when Odenkirk makes it clear that Mr. Show is his favorite thing he’s done, at least in his comedy career. Also, wow– Bob does not hold back here! He talks about Chicago and Second City, Lorne and Saturday Night Live, and the LA comedy scene of the 90s. He doesn’t name drop for the sake of it, but he’s worked with many of the greats of my lifetime.
Odenkirk’s later chapters are rich with detail about what comes after- his struggles and triumphs post-Mr. Show as well as his surprising turn to drama. In between vignettes from his life, he stitches together a theory of comedy that is both self aware and audience aware. He acknowledges his comedy snobbery, but is genuine and constructive in his criticism.
I could not put down The Marriage Portrait. Inspired by Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” Maggie O’Farrell imagines what kind of life a young duchess might lead at a time when being obedient and producing heirs was a matter of survival.
Italophiles will love the lush descriptions of Florence and northern Italy, while historical fiction fans will appreciate the attention to detail. The narrative is rich with complexity; it reads like an old school fable disguised as a contemporary novel.
“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive……”
Dial A for Aunties is a romantic comedy of errors, centered on mistaken identities and auntie mayhem.
Meddie, our intrepid first person narrator, is delightful as she takes us with her to a high stakes wedding that should put her family and their wedding business on the map… but only if they get away with murder! So many people told me to read this book, and I am so grateful they did– it is the definition of a romp.
I loved how self aware this book is; Sutanto plays with so many familiar genres– romance, procedural, first generation narrative, and the aforementioned comedy of errors– and moves between them flawlessly.
Summer Fun is a delightful and unpredictable epistolary novel. Gala, our writer, is writing letters to her hero B-, the genius but now reclusive songwriter for the Get Happies (think Beach Boys).
The letters vary in content- in some she writes to the songwriter with an uncanny understanding about B-'s past. In others, Gala narrates her own present day experiences as a young trans woman running a hostel in New Mexico.
When I picked it up I expected a light summer bop, and instead I found a rich story that shifts in compelling ways.
What if? What if the family you *never* dreamed of suddenly appeared in your orderly, book-filled life? And, what if that was the key to everything?
This is what happens to Nina Hill in this delightful novel about an introverted bookseller in a surprisingly quaint neighborhood in Los Angeles. I loved following Nina’s journey for self improvement, family acceptance and her hyper-competitive pursuit of a regional trivia championship. The bookstore scenes are funny and surprisingly realistic. A quick and fun read for a quiet, introverted afternoon.
Beatriz Williams effortlessly leads you on a historic journey through the eyes of two women trying to find their own fulfilment in times when that would not be a sure thing. Lulu is an intrepid American reporter trying to support herself just before the start of WWII. She travels to the Bahamas and befriends Wallis Simpson while former King Edward is serving as the Governor in hopes of landing a regular gossip column. Meanwhile, Elfriede is a young woman at the turn of the twentieth century with even fewer avenues available to her. With rich period details, Williams interweaves both stories until they are brought fully together in a way that highlights the choices both women have made, willingly or otherwise.
This is also an excellent novel for considering the limitations of royalty and nationalism, while also trying to understand why people are still drawn to both.
Seven Days in June is a phenomenal mix of a literary fiction coming of age story and a contemporary romance
At times dark, though often hilarious, Tia Williams draws you in by tightly focusing her story around two weeks in June, separated by almost two decades, in which the main characters change the course of each other's lives. This novel gets bonus points for having a strong set of supporting characters, including witty best friends and precocious teenagers.