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Jess's Reviews

A colorful mural on a brick wall of William Shakespeare's bust, with a young woman wearing red standing next to it on the left.Jess is a Santa Cruz native, recently returned from a Master’s Degree program in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh. Living in Scotland for a year gave her a deep appreciation for whisky, graveyards, and the California sun, so now she mostly reads outside, sometimes with a dram of Lagavulin in hand (but usually not near any tombstones). She loves to read fiction, and actively seeks new and diverse voices to inform her own experience of the world. In her spare time, she cooks themed treats for her book club and writes.

Intimations: Six Essays by

These little essays about life during Covid contain so many nuggets of graceful wisdom. Smith writes about the embarrassment of having family members fully witness how we spend our days during quarantine; about menopause and the guy who hoverboards in the park; flowers in a garden and the way boys are indoctrinated by the toxic masculinity of our culture. She contains multitudes, and so does Intimations. - Jess

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Intimations: Six Essays Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593297612
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - July 28th, 2020

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Be prepared to stay up all night reading Carmen Maria Machado’s latest masterpiece. How can a book about abuse be so beautiful? Part memoir, part poem, part fever dream, In the Dream House contains so much searing honesty, such heart-crunching truth, that it will never leave you once you’ve read it. - Jess

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In the Dream House: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450383
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - December 1st, 2020

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

I will never be able to write a 60-word review that does this book justice, but here I am trying. Morrison is probably the greatest writer of all time, and this book is layered with symbolism, magic, and hard brutal truths about how Black people have always been treated in this country. The main character’s name is Milkman Dead; if that doesn’t sell you on it, I can’t help you. - Jess

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Song of Solomon (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400033423
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Published: Vintage - June 8th, 2004

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

O’Farrell makes words dance on the page, embodying the spirit of Shakespeare while focusing on the untold story of his wife, Agnes, a witchy wonder who brews herb tonics and trains falcons while her husband gets ink stains on his fingers in London. Yes, there is a death, and it is painful to read. But the tears feel good, ya know? - Jess

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Hamnet Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984898876
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Published: Vintage - May 18th, 2021

Greenfeast: Spring, Summer by Nigel Slater

Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter makes my mouth literally water every time I look through it, so you can bet I’ll be first in line to purchase the Spring, Summer edition. Full of delicious plant-based recipes for the hotter months of the year (because who wants to eat roasted turnips in July? Give me that tomato salad, please!), this sweet little cookbook is a must for anyone who loves vegetables or wants to learn how to love them. — Jess 

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Greenfeast: Spring, Summer: [A Cookbook] Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984858719
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ten Speed Press - April 20th, 2021

The Artisanal Kitchen: Summer Cocktails by Nick Mautone

If you, like me, have spent most of the last year in quarantine becoming your own favorite bartender, then you, like me, need this book. These cocktail recipes from Nick Mautone are boozy, crisp, and perfectly cooling for a hot summer day. Learn how to make everything, from the classic Margarita to the more esoteric Singapore Sling, and look to Mautone’s variations on each recipe to keep the flavors surprising. Cheers to summer! — Jess

Pacific Coasting: A Guide to the Ultimate Road Trip, from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest by Danielle Kroll

Summer is coming, which means: Vacation! Doesn’t a road trip sound fun? But where should you go? What should you see? If you’re planning a trip along any part of the West Coast of the US, this is the book for you! With gorgeous, whimsical illustrations from author-illustrator Danielle Kroll, Pacific Coasting will make planning your next trip a dreamy and engaging experience. Plus, when you’re done planning, you’ll have a beautiful coffee-table book to show for it! — Jess

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Pacific Coasting: A Guide to the Ultimate Road Trip, from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest Cover Image
ISBN: 9781579658717
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Artisan - March 16th, 2021

Long Division by Kiese Laymon

From the author of the incredible memoir Heavy, this debut novel is spectacular. Kiese Laymon’s writing is so fast, so smooth, so electrifying; the story he tells so odd and heavy, satirical and raw; the characters so perfectly described. Long Division is poetry in prose form, and it’s also a rich examination of one Black teenager’s encounters with sexuality, racism, bullying, complex family dynamics, friendship, and the surreal. A deeply affecting, tender, and funny read. — Jess

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Long Division: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982174828
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Published: Scribner - June 1st, 2021

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

Sammie is a married lesbian with a son she doesn’t understand and a suddenly-middle-aged-feeling life that leaves her desperate to find something more. As her son grows up and her marriage deteriorates, she seeks meaning and human connection. This novel is a captivating story that hasn’t quite been told yet; if the literary canon prized midlife crisis novels about queer women as highly as they do those of cis-het men, With Teeth would win every award. — Jess

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ISBN: 9780593191507
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Published: Riverhead Books - June 1st, 2021

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Why do we ignore the realities that upset our ideas of ourselves? What if we were forced to face them? What if you were a brilliant scientist who made a clone of yourself and then your husband started having an affair with that clone? The Echo Wife takes these questions and runs with them, merging Black Mirror’s eerie, science fiction energy with the page-turning thrill of a murder mystery (and don’t forget the strong feminist voice!). A must read for the modern sci-fi enthusiast! —Jess

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ISBN: 9781250174666
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Published: Tor Books - February 16th, 2021


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