November 2021 TBR

Not Quite Out by Louise Willingham 

William Anson is done with relationships, thanks. He’s starting the second year of his medicine degree single, focused, and ready to mingle with purely platonic intentions.

Meeting Daniel, a barely recovered drug addict ready to start living life on his own terms, might just change that.

There are two problems.

One: William isn’t out.

What’s the point in telling your friends you’re bisexual when you aren’t going to date anyone?

Two: Daniel’s abusive ex-boyfriend still roams the university campus, searching for cracks in Daniel’s recovery.

No matter how quickly William falls for Daniel, their friendship is too important to risk ruining over a crush.

William is fine with being just friends for the rest of forever.

Well, not quite. 

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao 

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong 

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

Luz at Midnight by Marisol Cortez 

Deeply embedded in the landscapes of South Texas, Luz at Midnight tells the story of an ill-timed love that unfolds in the time of climate change. Booksmart but naïve, Citlali Sanchez-O’Connor has just been hired to organize a San Antonio campaign against “gleaning,” a controversial new mining practice that promises a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. In the process, she soon encounters Joel Champlain, a journalist struggling to hide his manic-depression as he uncovers the corrupt politics that surround gleaning. During a chance trip together to Texas’s Gulf Coast, Lali is struck by a love as powerful and sudden as the electrical storm that birthed Luz, the unearthly canine trickster who has thrown them together. But Lali—married with a baby, poised to leave town for an academic job, and trained to think everything is explicable—finds she must decide what their connection means, if anything, for a path already set in motion.

A genre-hopping narrative that layers story with reporting, poetry, scholarship, and teatro, Luz questions the nature of desire and power, asking: What throws us into the path of those we love, and what pulls us apart? What agency powers the universe—and do we have any agency of our own to create a world different from the one powerful others have planned for us? Along the way of considering these questions, Luz is about the humorous (and not-so-humorous) inner workings of the nonprofit industrial complex; about Newtonian and Quantum theory; about birds and about dogs. It is also about what we call mental illness, and the possibility that love may be pathology, while madness may open some important window into the nature of reality.

The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change by Michelle MiJung Kim

Waking Up to Our Capacity to Transform Ourselves and the World 
  As we become more aware of various social injustices in the world, many of us want to be part of the movement toward positive change. But sometimes our best intentions cause unintended harm, and we fumble. We might feel afraid to say the wrong thing and feel guilt for not doing or knowing enough. Sometimes we might engage in performative allyship rather than thoughtful solidarity, leaving those already marginalized further burdened and exhausted. The feelings of fear, insecurity, inadequacy are all too common among a wide spectrum of changemakers, and they put many at a crossroads between feeling stuck and giving up, or staying grounded to keep going. So how can we go beyond performative allyship to creating real change in ourselves and in the world, together?

In The Wake Up, Michelle MiJung Kim shares foundational principles often missing in today’s mainstream conversations around “diversity and inclusion,” inviting readers to deep dive into the challenging and nuanced work of pursuing equity and justice, while exploring various complexities, contradictions, and conflicts inherent in our imperfect world. With a mix of in-the-trenches narrative and accessible unpacking of hot button issues—from inclusive language to representation to “cancel culture”—Michelle offers sustainable frameworks that guide us how to think, approach, and be in the journey as thoughtfully and powerfully as possible. 

The Wake Up is divided into four key parts:

Grounding: begin by moving beyond good intentions to interrogating our deeper “why” for committing to social justice and uncovering our “hidden stories.”

Orienting: establish a shared understanding around our historical and current context and issues we are trying to solve, starting with dismantling white supremacy.

Showing Up: learn critical principles to approach any situation with clarity and build our capacity to work through complexity, nuance, conflict, and imperfections.

Moving Together: remember the core of this work is about human lives, and commit to prioritizing humanity, healing, and community.

The Wake Up is an urgent call for us to move together while seeing each other’s full and expansive humanity that is at the core of our movement toward justice, healing, and freedom.

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