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Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Vera grew up in a picturesque town along the mountains where girls become women who become mothers with the caveat that some will vanish. Desperate to determine who is going to encounter this affliction, gossip consumes the small town of who loves their child too much or too little, who hugs their child too long or short, and much more. Eventually, Vera encounters motherhood and begins to question the affliction and her future. Will she be able to watch her daughter grow up or will she disappear? Throughout this book, I was glued to the pages, desperate to decipher Vera’s future, engrossed in the town gossip, and basking in the setting as if I were there. Alexis Schaitkin does a marvelous job bringing readers into this story and feeling as though the affliction could reach them. A beautiful tribute to motherhood and the trials it bears.

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, (List Price: $26.99, Celadon, 9781250219633, June 2022)

Reviewed by Stephanie Carrion, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore

Subatomic super particles, string theory, parallel worlds, metaphysical, OBE—out-of-body-experience and different dimensions…. not many authors take their readers on such a tale as this paranormal story of a magician disappearing during a performance. Violet Volk disappeared a decade ago right in front of her audience and hasn’t been seen since. Her sister Sasha and Violet’s followers are still looking for answers. Is she alive? Was she really a psychic spy for the CIA? Does she exist in another dimension? Readers will not be able to put down this book as they read about the family situations and the magic that entwines this story.

Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore, (List Price: $27.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250815064, July 2022)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys

This is a first-contact novel set in the near future when international governments have broken down in the face of climate crisis and local networks built around watersheds (known as the dandelion networks) have grown up to save the world. A member of the Chesapeake network is monitoring things one night when she gets a strange reading and takes her wife and infant daughter to check it out. There they meet with an alien ship that has come to save humanity by taking them away. But what if humanity does not want to leave? The ensuing story weaves together elements of science fiction, Jewish storytelling, politics, and family dynamics into a tale that is as contained as it is sweeping. As a mother of young children there was a lot that really resonated with where I am in my own life, which was an amazing thing to find in a sci-fi novel and also made it difficult to read at times. I absolutely cannot wait to see this out in the world. If this is the future of climate fiction then maybe there is a future beyond the climate crisis as well.

A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys, (List Price: $26.99, Tordotcom, 9781250210982, July 2022)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle Zevin has written a novel about amazing game developers who the reader will come to know over thirty years. When Sam Masur and Sadie Green meet as children, they become fast intimate friends when playing video games, and as young adults they craft the game Ichigo. Besides seeing the artistry and genius built into designing these intricate and captivating games, we live their lives as they grow and experience loneliness and love, pain and comfort, success and devastating pain and loss. This is ultimately an unforgettable tale of lives finding love and connection in this high tech age and the collaboration in building the worlds of video games.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, (List Price: 28, Knopf, 9780593321201, July 2022)

Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Booksmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann

Kids turned superheroes. A lost dog. A magical train. A friendship that can save the city. Etta Invincible, told in scenes of written chapters and comic book pages, tells the story of Etta and Eleazar as they search for a lost dog and face the overwhelming sights and sounds, quirky characters, and magical foes all in their city of Chicago.

Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann, (List Price: $17.99, Aladdin, 9781534468375, July 2022)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald

Darkly funny and brutally honest, this memoir about surviving a chaotic childhood is a page-turner. The author is a natural storyteller who also offers insight into his motivations and those of his parents. (And I can attest to the accuracy of his descriptions of high school, since we attended the same one, though at different times!)

Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald, (List Price: 27, Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635573978, July 2022)

Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown writes beautifully and compassionately about adoption and infertility in her novel Any Other Family. Three couples, who have adopted siblings from the same birth mom and dad, decide to vacation together in Aspen for two weeks. Each couple comes harboring secrets and soon realize that what they have in common might tear them apart. When the birth mom ends up getting pregnant again, each adoptive family must face whether they want to take on the new baby or if they will choose the new adoptive parents. As an adoptive parent myself, I found this novel hard to put down and marveled at Brown’s ability to get all the emotions surrounding adoption just right. But the focus on family and what it really means will appeal to all readers of women’s fiction.

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown, (List Price: 27, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593328545, July 2022)

Reviewed by Linda Hodges, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Human Blues by Elisa Albert

I wanted to start this review with the phrase “a lot can happen in nine months,” but Aviva, the main character of Elisa Albert’s Human Blues would think that was hackneyed and immediately dismiss me with a sneer. But a lot does happen in the novel’s nine-month trip—just not the baby that almost famous singer-songwriter Aviva Rosner desperately wants. And while fertility and conception (just not IVF, which she’s very vocally opposed to) try to take center stage in this story, Aviva’s career, religion, marriage, and obsession with Amy Winehouse are also along for the ride. And it’s a wild ride!

Human Blues by Elisa Albert, (List Price: $28, Avid Reader Press, 9781982167868, July 2022)

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hardin, Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo

Powerhouse debater and soccer star TJ is considered one of the most beautiful girls at her school. But when a meme starts circulating comparing her flawless beauty to her Sikh cousin’s natural hairiness, TJ decides to ditch her hair-removal routines to show herself and the world that it’s possible to be both hairy and beautiful. The world, though, seems determined to prove her wrong — except her debate rival Charlie, who doesn’t seem to care at all. A fun, flirty story that couches a cutting criticism of societal beauty standards, handled in a way that will win over readers regardless of personal opinions.

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo, (List Price: $17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593403396, June 2022)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

A Girlhood by Carolyn Hays

While I suppose no book is perfect, I think A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter is about as perfect as they come.

It’s part memoir, part research project, part confessional. The writing is personal, tender, and fierce. I found so much that resonated about parenting in general, the way we love our kids and try to help them find the most joy possible in this life. And, as the wife of a trans guy, I also found kinship in the experience of watching someone transition and find their true selves. It’s beautiful. Sometimes frightening. And often hard for a host of reasons. But ultimately, joyful.

A Girlhood will be my go-to recommendation for anyone trying to understand gender identity or transness. And for parents of gay kids, trans kids, cis kids, gender non-conforming kids–parents of humans. I cannot think of anyone I wouldn’t recommend it to. As a person in the queer community who didn’t have a stellar coming out experience with my parents, I find narratives about parents who support and champion their LGBTQ kids to be a balm. Because I always believed I deserved better than I got–and seeing other kids get that kind of support is healing and hopeful. Because I was right. We do deserve better. And always have.

There’s lots of LGBTQ history mixed in to the narrative. And the writer is Catholic–so there’s also this gorgeous arc of what Catholicism can be. There’s a lot of hype there. But also a lot of realism. The author is constantly acknowledging her privilege and unpacking difficult social construction and religious dogma.

I am 100% enamored of Carolyn Hays’ intellect, compassion, and fierce love for her kid. This is a must read.

A Girlhood by Carolyn Hays, (List Price: $28.95, Blair, 9781949467901, September 2022)

Reviewed by Kendra Gayle Lee, Bookish Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro

Three women have shared a bond for decades. When they are reunited for one of their daughter’s weddings, the past comes back in a rush. The story is told in flashbacks and present day in a way that helps them reconcile where they have ended up and where they once dreamed they’d go. A timeless examination of all the dreams you hold for yourself, the dreams your parents and others have for you, and how much you are able to follow your heart.

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro, (List Price: $27, Knopf, 9780593320297, June 2022)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson

This book features a young woman who is a translator for an alien species that has come to Earth but that doesn’t have a spoken language. She translates their thoughts into English so other humans can understand them. She finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and she wants to keep her job and stay out of jail. I found this short novel charming and it’s a real love song to the written word and paper books. For lovers of Douglas Adams and John Scalzi.

Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson, (List Price: $26.99, Tordotcom, 9781250807342, June 2022)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Brave Every Day by Trudy Ludwig

A great reminder that our hearts are bigger than our worries. As adults we sometimes forget how kids struggle with big feelings they don’t always understand. This book is great to start the conversation about emotional awareness and other social emotional skills that are important for kids to be successful in school and life.

Brave Every Day by Trudy Ludwig, (List Price: $18.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593306376, June 2022)

Reviewed by Lupe Penn, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too by Jason Reynolds

Calling this the coolest most creative young adult book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, just wow! Powerhouse Jason Reynolds teams up with longtime best friend and artist Jason Griffin to bring the most interesting memoir I’ve ever read. Originally published in 2009 as Reynolds’s first book, this tiny but mighty memoir follows the two as they chase huge aspirations in New York City. Worlds, collages, and paint splatters cover the pages rather than paragraphs and it works so perfectly. Almost like a zine nonfiction novella, and if that wasn’t a thing it is now and I want more!

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too by Jason Reynolds, (List Price: $10.99, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 9781534478220, June 2022)

Reviewed by Grace Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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