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Georgette reviews: Down and Across

Down and Across by [Ahmadi, Arvin]

16-year old Scott isn't sure what he wants to do with his life. He's restless, can't commit to anything beyond a few days, and is wildly failing at his parents' expectations for where he should be at this point in his life. Then his parents have to fly back to their country to be with a sick relative, and they leave Scott alone. He's inspired by the words of a well-known professor, so he hops on a plane to Washington, D.C. (with very little money and no plan) to schedule a meeting with her and hopes that she can point him on the right path to success.

Georgette reviews: The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man: A Novel by [Tudor, C. J.]

In 1986, 12-year-old Eddie and his group of misfit friends do the things normal teen boys do- blow off school, check out girls, and get in daily adventures. Until the day comes when the boys all find chalk men drawn in their driveways and various parts of town. Shortly thereafter, Eddie finds the dismembered body of a girl in the woods, and none of the boys are ever the same.

Georgette reviews: Woman in the Window

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This psychological thriller does have all the markings of an Alfred Hitchcock film. Anna Fox is a wine-chugging recluse who lives alone, spends her days spying on her neighbors, and her nights watching classic noir cinema. A new family moves in next door; they seem like normal everyday folk- until the day Anna sees something that makes the line between fantasy and reality blur more than her vision after a case of merlot. I'm not kidding when I say every chapter throws you a new curveball, and I'm not kidding when I tell you that reading it on break at work resulted in most of my staff wanting to read it because my reactions were so memorable.

Angelica reviews: Call Me By Your Name

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In Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman crafts both an intimate coming of age tale and heartbreaking coming out story. The novel chronicles the short but passionate relationship between 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver. Elio is the incredibly intelligent son of an academic who annually welcomes a research assistant during their summers on the Italian coast. While many have visited, Elio is transfixed by the newest arrival, Oliver. Despite the uncertainty that punctuates their relationship, they develop desire, love, and friendship over the course of six short weeks. As both Elio and Oliver navigate their unique bond, they each struggle with societal pressures and internal shame. As all summer’s end, their relationship is cut short before it is even begun. Their lives diverge, meeting throughout the years to share different realities but similar questions of what could have been. 

Frances reviews: Autonomous

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Autonomous is a dense and exciting new book by Annalee Newitz. Overflowing with futuristic tech and AI quandaries, Autonomous lies staunchly in the Sci-Fi genre. The book alternates between two main stories, which ultimately converge. The first follows Jack Chen, a pirate who steals drugs from Big Pharma and reverse-engineers them to be distributed to the poor and sick. Unfortunately, her most recent drug haul, a productivity drug called Zacuity, turns out to be dangerously addictive and results in multiple deaths. Jack, stricken by guilt, seeks to right this wrong by creating a cure and publicizing the drug manufacturer’s calamitous product.

The drug company, rich in resources and greed, collaborates with the international property police to send two agents after Jack. Paladin, a bot indentured to the military, is one of these agents, as well as the other main point of view in Autonomous. Paladin is programmed to be loyal to and protective of his fellow human agent, Eliasz. But as their search continues, Paladin questions how much of his feelings for Eliasz are programming and how much is real—and mostly whether this distinction matters at all. While Jack’s story takes us through economic disparity and the everlasting exhausting battle of activism, Paladin’s explores sexuality and gender identity. And, of course, both tales discuss autonomy.

Scout reviews: Future Home of the Living God

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Future Home of the Living God is a thought-provoking and unsettling book that centers on one impossible premise-- the sudden reversal of evolution-- and builds around it an eerily possible dystopian world.

The novel is formatted as a series of journal entries written by Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a young woman four months pregnant at the outset of this global catastrophe. Finding herself in a dangerous new militant America that is rounding up all pregnant women for study, Cedar makes her way with the help of both her adoptive parents, a white hippie couple from suburban Minneapolis, and her recently-rediscovered Ojibwe birth family, who own a Superpumper on a northern Minnesota reservation.

Comparisons between this book and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are unavoidable, as both novels deal with dystopian religious hegemony and reproductive freedoms. But Future Home of the Living God more than holds up as a spiritual successor, deftly handling these themes together with others that occupy Louise Erdrich’s earlier books, such as Native American identity and reservation border politics. 

Allie reviews: The Immortalists

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If you could know the exact date of your death, would you want to find out? And, if you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It's 1969 in New York City, and the four Gold children have gotten word of a fortune teller capable of telling anyone the day they will die. Varya, the eldest, followed by Daniel, Klara, and Simon decide to seek out their fortunes. What they learn that day will shape the rest of their lives.

Simon, the youngest of the siblings, takes off for San Francisco with his older sister Klara before finishing high school. He discovers a passion for dance, and he is finally able to feel free to be who he really is. Klara is the dreamer of the family. She's had an obsession with magic from an early age, and this follows her through the years. We see her travel from New York, to San Francisco with Simon, then eventually ending up in Las Vegas, a magician at last. Daniel, the eldest son, is hostile towards his younger siblings, for leaving himself and his older sister to care for their mother. He pursues a more grounded career and becomes a military doctor. Varya, like Daniel, feels resentment towards Simon and Klara. She becomes a scientist, focusing on longevity.

Georgette reviews: The Most Dangerous Man in America

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Covering a time period from July 1971 to January 1973, this eye-opening look at a year and a half of weird history is fascinating, funny, and at moments, eerily reminiscent of what power-mad politicians in the Oval Office do when unleashed on the public. Tim Leary is known as the man who popularized the phrase "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out", as well as championing the cause of exploring the therapeutic properties of psychedelic drugs under controlled conditions. Under the oft maniacal eye of the regime under Richard M. Nixon, his platforms on the subject came under intense scrutiny, to the point that it resembled nothing short of a witch hunt. In Minutaglio and Davis' capable hands, that strange time in history is brought back to life in entertaining form for those of us who weren't even born yet, but like to read about times that are often not found in your modern day history books.

Allie reviews: The Wrong Way to Save Your Life

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Megan Stielstra has written a fantastic essay collection, a book that easily made it into my top ten of 2017. These essays cover a range of topics, topics like fear, academia, the internet, and faith.

Whether discussing her close relationship with her father or disclosing her experiences of post-partum depression, Stielstra writes as if we are her confidants. In the titular essay, “The Wrong Way to Save Your Life,” in which her apartment building catches on fire, she compels us, the reader, to question what has value in our lives.

This book came to me at exactly the right time. I found it inspiring, beautifully written, and unflinchingly honest and human. No doubt I will be revisiting it time and time again.

Angelica reviews: The End We Start From

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Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From is a spectacular tale of motherhood, loss, and, hope. We are introduced to London sometime in the near future, as it is pushed into chaos when water begins to rise. At the center of the tale are a mother and her newborn child, Z, now refugees in a dismal new world. In efforts to find higher ground, they move north, finding comfort in the hands of strangers and in refugee camps. As loved ones appear and disappear, the bond between mother and child remain constant and unyielding amidst the uncertainty.

Hunter utilizes sparse prose, often times resembling the severity and visceral power of poetry. Instead of providing a panoramic view of a catastrophic event, Hunter zooms inward focusing on the relationship between a mother and her first child. Hunter reveals few details and instead, focuses on the disjointed thoughts of our remarkable protagonist as we wade through the chaos with her.

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