How Winter Began by Joy Castro

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They’re not for sale

There’s a pull quote on both the front and back cover of Joy Castro’s new short story collection How Winter Began from American Book Award winning author Sandra Cisneros which in its entirety reads, “Joy Castro’s writing is like watching an Acapulco cliff diver. It takes my breath away every time.” Yes, but no. Cisneros isn’t wrong per se, but she has failed to adequately convey the full effect that the power of Castro’s words can have on an unsuspecting reader. Watching implies that you’re standing a safe distance away from the action. There’s nothing even remotely safe about Joy Castro’s writing. You may be emotionally harmed by these stories. You will be changed by them. That’s their purpose. That’s her gift.
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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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The words you can’t find, you borrow

A.J. Fikry is a lonely bookstore owner with a deep appreciation for certain literature and a “purcupine heart.”  He calls himself old and decrepit, but he’s really just a quirky middle-aged man who forgot how to take care of himself.  Island Books used to be a hub of activity in its small town – filled with children, laughter, and happy customers.  But since his wife died, A.J. hasn’t cared for the bookstore the way he used to.  Island Books is still open and fully functional, but its reputation has soured since A.J. became a widower, shutting out the world and his heart.

But when a mysterious woman abandons her child in the store the same week his prized (and highly valuable) Edgar Allen Poe book is stolen, A.J. must abruptly awaken from his haze of grief, self-pity, and depression in order to save a life.  But A.J. needs saving more than anyone, so toddler Maya is just the breath of fresh air that he needs.

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The First Bad Man by Miranda July

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I keep getting born to the wrong people

Miranda July has always been unapologetic in her exploration of the human spirit and psyche.  Her characters are both tender and urgent in their search for truth, importance, and intimacy within one another, yet the scenery is always slightly askew.  Maybe we’re looking into the story through a macro lens, or maybe it’s some sort of utopia that we don’t recognize.  Either way, there is something inherently unique about Miranda July, and her work has resonated with the literary and film communities for over a decade.

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1988: I Want to Talk With the World by Han Han

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Life is a Highway

Let’s face it, we all need to blow off steam from time to time. We need to temporarily trade in our hectic routines for simpler pursuits. Go golfing, take a hike, or hop in our cars and tear down the road on a joyride to parts unknown. Whatever pastime you choose to pursue, it’s safe and comfortable, because it’s fleeting, and comes attached with the knowledge that when the adventure ends, life as you’ve always known it—that monotonous grind of day-to-day living—will still be waiting, right where you left it, to be resumed in all its glory, as if you’d never even stepped away.

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Beyond the Pale Motel by Francesca Lia Block

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There is a skeleton of pain beneath your flesh and I can see it.

Francesca Lia Block has been a sensation in the YA scene for over 15 years.  Since her 1989 debut of Weetzie Bat, Block has been casting spells over readers with tales of magical realism in the glittering world of Los Angeles.  With a fearless exploration of love, sex, abuse, heartbreak, and redemption, her novels are powerful yet whimsical portrayals of growth, discovery, and perseverance.

With this novel, Block steps out of her YA comfort zone and into the Adult Mystery genre with a tale of lust, deceit, addiction, and murder in L.A.  Beyond the Pale Motel introduces readers to Catt, a fierce yet deeply heartbroken and damaged woman.  After more than ten years of sobriety, Catt and her best friend Bree are finally settling into positive routines, happiness, and health.

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