The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

It’s 1921 and gun moll Alice has run away from her life in New York, carrying very little with her apart from a bullet wound, and finds herself a guest at The Paragon Hotel, a black hotel in Portland, OR.

Faye explores the racial tensions of Oregon at the beginning of the 20th century, starting each chapter with a shocking quote from a variety of sources that she found during her research.  She takes a topic that we believe to be very Southern, the KKK, and explores what was happening in the Pacific Northwest.  Spoiler: it’s shocking and upsetting.  She flips between two story lines, exploring the mysteries in each.  I was sucked in right away and the crazy cast of characters kept me hooked.  Faye’s writing is just a joy to read.

4-stars

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

Bianca Marais has knocked it out of the park again with her new novel If You Want to Make God Laugh.  Taking place in South Africa from the day Nelson Mandela is elected onward, following three very different women as they deal with the changing world around them.  Race and class are explored, as well as tensions that came from the ending of apartheid.  The characters are strong, powerful women and I rooted for them on each and every page.  Marais left me picking up the pieces of my broken heart multiple times.
5-stars

The Storyteler by Pierre Jarawan

In The Storyteller, German-Lebanese author Pierre Jarawan has created a work of art that explores the importance of family and nationality in the creation of an identity.  Jarawan fills the book with stories of the Lebanese civil war, teaching the history of the country and the event without making it feel like you are learning anything or reading a history book.  Samir, the main character, is incredibly relatable in his search for understanding of himself even though his circumstances are not something even close to anything I have experienced.  Jarawan creates a cast of characters in which I cared about each and every one of them, despite their faults.  A definite must read.

4-stars

Death Prefers Blonds by Caleb Roehrig

Holy crap this book is amazing! I can’t handle the book hangover I am currently experiencing.  Hamlet meets drag queens who are also incredibly teenage thieves.  What more could you want?

Margo Manning is a rich, LA socialite with a secret.  In her spare time, she dresses up in drag with a group of her guy friends and pulls of incredible heists.  But while her social life is full of intrigue, her family life is falling apart.  Her father is sick and her mom lives in Italy.  What is a girl to do?

Roehrig has created amazing characters who you root for the entire time, even when they are doing things that are less than legal.  And boy oh boy is this book stormy.  I just want someone to look at me the way these characters look at each other.  This book is such a delight to read.  I can’t even handle how much I love this book.  I wish it was longer because I didn’t want it to end.  Make sure to pick this one up the second it comes out on January 29th.

(Want a signed copy?  Order it HERE and put what name you want it signed to in the comments!)

5-stars

You Have Me to Love by Jaap Robben

This debut novel by Dutch author Jaap Robben is absolutely beautiful.  Robben is a poet and children’s book author and you can see the influence of both of those writing styles in the books,  His writing is poetic yet sparse.  You Have Me to Love tells the story of a young boy, Mikael, as he grows up on a remote island.  Robben really explores what it would be like to go through puberty in a void, away from other teens and with his mother as the only female in his life.  I feel completely in love with Mikael and only wanted the best for him.  The entire time I was reading it, I just kept telling everyone at work, “You have to read this.  It’s amazing.”  A tough but definitely worthwhile read that will have you thinking about it for a long time after you finish reading it.

5-stars

Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

I wanted to like this book so much.  In fact, my co-worker, when I told her I didn’t like it said, “What? But it seemed right up your alley!”  Monstrous Devices is a cool concept but the book is a bit of a mess.  There is too much going on and none of it gets fully realized.  The grandfather in the book is constantly doing things that set a bad example for children.  He says “Don’t do what I do” but the characters only survive because of what he does.  A lot of things are brought up but never resolved.  Is the grandfather immortal?  He is a greater being? Is the bad guy Alex’s father?  Is the little girl his sister?  I didn’t believe it for a moment when he said that he didn’t care to know by the end of the book.  It felt like Love didn’t feel like making a decision one way or the other.  And then religion come in out of nowhere.  The characters need to know the true name of god to gain unlimited powers that come in the form of a golem.  It’s way too much stuff for such a short children’s book.  I am so disappointed that I didn’t like this one.

2-stars

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

This intense graphic novel reads like an indie movie.  The focus of the novel is on the dialogue rather than the art, which is unlike any graphic novel I have read before.  Drnaso explores grief as well as the toxicity of the internet and fear-mongering.  I felt so deeply for each of the characters.  This is not an easy read but it is definitely worth it.  The deep, heart-breaking story is in contract with simple line drawings.  It is clear why this book was the first graphic novel long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.  Drnaso has perfectly captured how scary and depressing the world can be while still showing the importance of friendships and interpersonal human interactions.

4-stars

The Legend of Greg by Chris Rylander

I ignored people telling me to read this for WAY too long! So don’t make the same mistake I did! Pick this up immediately! In Greg’s Chicago, there is an underground world filled with Dwarfs and Elves! But Greg doesn’t know that. All he knows is that he has one best friend and a dad who is always off looking for weird natural remedies and teas. But all of that changes when his dad is abducted by a… troll?! This book is a crazy fun adventure filled with a fully thought out magical world set under my very own feet. As well as being fun and entertaining, it’s also a great story of acceptance of all people, regardless of race (even if those races are magical in this book). Greg is a powerful underdog and I wish that I had him around as a role model when I was growing up.

5-stars

Scream All Night by Derek Milman

I requested this at the library after seeing it on a bunch of lists, which I don’t usually do because I have so much other stuff to read that I already own. But I am so glad that I did. Scream All Night is a completely unique concept, pulling the reader into the bizarre world of cult horror films. Milman’s writing is great. I can’t count the amount of times I laughed out loud and said “This is SO GOOD!” more times than I can count. While the situations in the book are completely unique, they are somehow also incredibly relatable. I love these characters, this setting, and the writing. I just want more.

4-stars

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This book is so adorable (and steamy, if that’s what you’re looking for). Stella Lane is an econometrician who has Autism. After a comment from a co-worker who she might have a crush on, Stella realizes that she doesn’t know how to be in a relationship. So she hires Michael, a super attractive escort, to teach her how to date people. This book is incredibly addicting and fun, as well as a great reminder that you don’t always appear to others in the way that you think you do. I love these characters so much.

5-stars

Genesis by Brendan Reichs

Nemesis left me hanging and so I inhaled Genesis.  And this book is so much more intense than I ever imagined it could be.  I love this series.  Set in our real world, Reichs messes with the reality around us and speculates a way in which the world could survive a horrible disaster.  If you haven’t read the first one yet, go out and get it as well as Genesis because you will need to read it immediately after.

The characters change and grow in this book more than they did in the first one.  Morals are questioned, status is commented on, and everyone is tested.  I breezed though this long book because I needed answers.  And now I need the next one!  What more could possibly happen to these characters?!?

4-stars

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

This short novel sure packs a punch.  It took me about 20 pages to relax into the writing style as it is very unique but once I was there, I was fully absorbed into this book.  Tin Man tells the story of different kinds of love, whether it be romantic or just friendly.  The three main characters are fascinating and I just wanted them to live the best lives possible.  Winman uses dramatic irony to completely rip your heart out.  Make sure to have tissues handy. A perfect quick, cathartic read.

4-stars