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review 2019-04-04 20:03
Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn
Caterpillar Summer - Gillian McDunn

Cat spends a lot of time looking after her little brother Chicken. He's different than other kids and she knows what he likes and how to treat him when he has a "meltdown". After their father passed away their mother works a lot, so Cat is used to being responsible. When a long promised vacation together has to be cancelled, Cat is upset to find out her mother is dropping her off with grandparents she's never met on a coastal island in North Carolina. For the first time in years, Cat has the time and space to reflect on life, make friends and take care of herself for a change. What will this mean for her family?


This was a beautiful book. I wasn't sure how I would take this middle grade summer adventure, but McDunn pulls from her own personal experience to create a dynamic between Cat and Chicken that is realistic and elevates 'Caterpillar Summer' above most summer stories. What I liked the most was the honesty about the frustration as well as the joys of having a loved one who is different. Different is special and difficult at the same time and there are not many authors that can pull that off, especially in a way that younger readers can understand and appreciate.

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review 2019-04-01 17:34
Brute by Emily Skaja
Brute: Poems - Emily Skaja

Coming out this Tuesday, this collection has booksellers across the country excited. I was blown away. It's not often that I read poetry, but once I started I could not put this down.


'Brute' is a heady mixture of defiance and longing. Skaja's words beg to be read aloud and shared. Poetry is a hard medium to define, slippery, but this collection makes me want to try. The author grapples with expectations of femininity, sexuality, desire, and family, and responds with joy and anger, and with vigorous lines that demand your attention.

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review 2019-03-31 22:53
Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick
Lights All Night Long - Lydia Fitzpatrick

'Lights All Night Long' offers an interesting outsider perspective. Ilya, a Russian exchange student, arrives in Louisiana anxious about his brother's recent arrest for murder. He's unwilling to confide in his cheerful host family, and must dwell on his doubts alone, until he makes an unexpected ally in the family's teenage daughter.


Alternating between Ilya's childhood in Russia and his experiences in the United States, Ilya struggles to reconcile the memory of his brother with the horrible murders that haunted his home. Across a continent and an ocean he struggles to find evidence to redeem his brother, and himself, too.


Fitzpatrick expertly holds onto the tension of the story, seamlessly tying together the different timelines and never loosens her emotional grip on the reader.

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review 2019-03-29 19:33
The Devouring Gray, Four Paths #1 by Christine Lynn Herman
The Devouring Gray - Christine Lynn Herman

Another Indies Introduce selection, 'The Devouring Gray' is Christine Lynn Herman's first novel and she has created an atmospheric and addicting new series. Four Paths definitely has more in store for readers.


Violet Saunders is still reeling from the loss of her best friend and sister Rosie when their mother decides to move back to her home town of Four Paths. Set back in a remote area of upstate New  York, the town is more a part of the surrounding forest than not, and has some strange customs. Clay bells hang over every doorway and people look at her funny, especially when they hear her name. Certain kids at school are treated with respect that's borderline worship.


Something is trapped in the forest of around Four Paths, or, rather, something is trapped in The Gray that exists on another side of existence. Four families were responsible for its capture and protecting the town with their special abilities. As a Saunders, it turns out that Violet is a member of one of those families. Things are starting to go wrong in Four Paths, however. The beast is claiming more victims and Violet is losing time. If she doesn't find her gift and master it, she may be next. This will require working with the other Founding Families and there is some bad blood and dark secrets to work through before that's possible.


I loved this book. I came into this expecting some cheap YA thrills and a well-plotted scare or two. Herman moves from Violet's perspective to scions of other founding families. Their characters are well-developed, and if I can't sympathize with all of them (looking at you Justin), they are integral pieces of the story. Isaac was great to discover. Why didn't he get more back-cover copy love!? As an aside - book is a lot queerer than it looks, yay!


This book kept up a fast pace and sketched out the history of the town without it feeling labored or that there was nothing further to learn. I want more books like 'The Devouring Gray'. This is getting a lot of comparisons to 'Stranger Things' and 'Raven Boys', so I may have to catch up on the latter.


Four Paths:


Next: 'The Deck of Omens'

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review 2019-03-17 22:30
Lot by Bryan Washington
Lot: Stories - Bryan Washington

A novel of linked short stories, Bryan Washington's work embraces a Houston that is a riot of cultures crossing boundaries. They frankly address racial, sexual, and economic realities, and how they all collide and converge. Alternating glimpses into the life and loves of a boy growing up black, Latino, and gay binds the work together to create a rich, immersive saga. "Lot" is impossible to put down.


Short stories can be a hard sell nowadays, there are less markets for writers to develop the craft and many readers, myself included, often won't pick them up unless there's a compelling reason.


My compelling reason for you: these are phenomenal! There are connections in these stories so there is the continuity of the novel, but the diversity of voices in this book and the message it sends of Houston - a city in Texas for God's sake - as being a place of the future and a true reflection of America. This collection opened my eyes to a world I don't see living where I do and the stories gives me hope.


This was selection of Indies Introduce, a panel I was honored to be a part of, and it won the admiration of us booksellers because of its honesty and that hopefulness in the center of heartbreak that arrives in these stories. Please, support these stories and check them out at your local bookstore or library.

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