Monday, February 27, 2023

Literature with the Girlies: Recs From My Favorite Women

My life has been blessed by incredible books, and the incredible women who recommended them. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are a few key books given to me by important ladies. 

“Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman
A common sentiment on social media: “Men become philosophers when they come to the conclusions most girls have at 12 years old alone in their bedrooms.” Indeed, catch-ups with my girlies often resemble Enlightenment-era salons, or Plato’s symposium, where human nature and metaphysics are braided in with the latest steaming-hot gossip. A close friend from college gave me a copy of Alan Lightman’s “Einstein’s Dreams” in the airport. This slim volume holds quick snippets of alternate realities, and in each one, time works differently than in our world. Is it essentially Albert Einstein fanfic? Yes. Is it thought-provoking? For sure.

  “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides
Friendships among high schoolers are built on bartering; the limited economic power of part-time jobs and parental dependences means many must trade to get the things they need. My high school bestie and I switched socks and books with little expectation of getting our things back. Cleaning an old bedroom, I recently found a battered copy of Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Middlesex.” This is a sprawling narrative bouncing between generations and continents, from grandparents to grandchildren, from Detroit to remote Greek villages. Our protagonist is an intersex man named Cal, grappling with fate, love, genetics, and tragedy. It won a Pulitzer, so I figured it’d be good. My best friend recommended it, so I knew it’d be good. 

“Blood and Guts in High School” by Kathy Acker
Educators who really truly believe in their pupils make all the difference. I’d picked up a fat stack of books for class; on top of the pile was Kathy Acker’s “Blood and Guts in High School.” I flipped through its pages -- all scribbled-over, often nonsensical, always provocative. I knew then my favorite professor had another wild semester prepped for us. The book’s protagonist, Janey, tells her story in collage; hers is a child-like portrayal of a traumatic life. Our professor, an incredible writer herself, showed us the fan mail she had sent Acker years ago. Women have forever honored women, and I hope I one day too can pass on all that this professor had given me.

“All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks
There’s two important girlie relationships: the ones we have with other random girls, and with ourselves. This book, for me, lies at the intersection of both. bell hooks’ “All About Love: New Visions” was recommended by a stranger, and grounded my understanding of love, for self and others, in a foundation more beautiful than anything before. hooks weaves together personal stories with academic criticism and pop culture references, sharing her new vision of the world. It’s beautiful!

Mountains Beyond Mountains 1st edition 9780812973013 0812973011 “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder
The first and most important woman I ever met was my mother. She radiates beauty, confidence, care, and so much intelligence. She works in public health, and a hero of the field is Paul Farmer, who unfortunately passed about a year ago. In “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder chronicles the physician and anthropologist’s work in healthcare around the globe. My mother gave me a copy. Here were the motivations and tribulations of the job, with all the beauty and pain it carries. It was a peek into my mother’s world, one that let me understand her a bit better. Isn’t that the point of books?

Monday, February 13, 2023

Preet's Spring Romance TBR

Winter is on it's way out, and Spring is on it's way in. And with Valentine's around the corner, what better time for some young adult and adult romances? Here are some on my radar and TBR! Please know this list is in no way complete. Paring my list down to this many was extremely difficult, if you have any I should have on my TBR, please let me know! 


The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest 2/28 -

Tropes: Mistaken Identity, Epistolary, Forced Proximity

Just My Type by Falon Ballard 2/7-

Tropes: Second-Chance Romance, Workplace Romance, Rom-Com

Isha, Unscripted by Sajni Patel- 2/14

Tropes: Rom-Com, Adventure, Indian-American Rep

Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey 2/7-

Tropes: Unrequited Love, Grumpy/Sunshine, Small Town

End of Story by Kylie Scott 2/14-

Tropes: Friends to Lovers, Grumpy/Sunshine, Found Family

Radiant Sin by Katee Robert 2/7-

Tropes: Workplace Romance, Unrequited Love/Yearning, Fake Relationship

Lucy Score will be in store on March 2nd at 7PM to sign copies, more information here:

Things We Hide From the Light by Lucy Score 2/21-

Tropes: Opposites, Small Town, Slow Burn, Intrigue

Bitter Play by Alison Rhymes 2/7-

Tropes: Frenemies to Lovers, Best Friend's Brother, Unrequited Feelings


The Love Wager by Lynn Painter 3/14-

Tropes: Rom-Com, One-Night Stand, Lovers to Friends to Lovers, Fake Dating

Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller 3/28-

 Tropes: Spies, Balls, Waltzes, Exquisite banter

The Portrait of a Duchess by Scarlett Peckham 3/7-

Tropes: Anti-heroine, Second-chance, Marriage of convenience 

Rogue by Elle Kennedy 3/7-

Tropes: Prep School, Secrets, Good Girl Who Has Had Enough

Bad Mother by Mia Sheridan 3/28-

Tropes: Romantic Suspense, Serial Killer, Coming Home

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles 3/7- 

Tropes: LGBTQIA+, Blackmail, Enemies to Lovers

Come join us for Tati's Book Launch! More information here:

The Build Up by Tati Richardson 3/28-

Tropes: Workplace Romance, Rom-Com, 

While You Were Dreaming by Alisha Rai (YA) 3/21-

Tropes: Viral online fame, Fake dating, Love triangle

Flowerheart (YA)- Catherine Bakewell 3/14-

Tropes: Friends to Enemies, Cottagecore, Saving the world

The Karma Map (YA) by Nisha Sharma 3/1-

Tropes: Opposites, Forced Proximity, Road Trip


A Cruel Arrangement by Tijan 4/25-
Tropes: Mafia, Childhood friends, Forced Proximity

Something Spectacular by Alexis Hall-4/11

Tropes: Non-conforming, Friends to Lovers, LGBTQIA+

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez 4/11-

Tropes: Workplace rivals, bad meet cute, all the feelings!

To Swoon and To Spar by Martha Waters 4/11-

Tropes: Marriage of convenience, Rom-Com, Ghosts

Bewitched by Laura Thalassa 4/18-

Tropes: Fated Mates, Witches, Amnesia

The Do-Over by Suzanne Park 4/4-

Tropes: Second chance, Fish out of water, Asian-American Rep

The Plus One by Mazey Eddings 4/4-

Tropes: Fake Dating, Childhood enemies to lovers, Fish out of water

Happy Place by Emily Henry 4/25-

Tropes; Second Chance Romance, Fake Dating, Only One Bed

Only Love Can Hurt Like This by Paige Toon 4/25-

Tropes: Starting Over Again, Secrets, Feelings!

Verity and the Forbidden Suitor by J.J. McAvoy 4/11-

Tropes: Forbidden, friends to lovers, Breaking the rules

The Fiancee Farce by Alexandra Bellefleur-

Tropes: Fake Dating, Sapphic, Opposites 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Night Gallery: The Hauntings of Eagle Eye

    Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three artistic objects, revealed here to the public for the first time. Each is a collector’s item in its own way—not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures in its own story, suspended in time and space, a page in the book of Eagle Eye's tales from the darkside.

The Haunted Baby

I can remember the day that Finn, a humble clerk and scholar of literature, processed his first large donation—two storage totes full of old children’s books that had been left at our door.
*  As he unpacked the second tote, his hand caught on the corner of a wooden frame. He carefully lifted the dusty hardbacks off of it, revealing an old photograph of a baby. But this was not just any baby. He was the most photogenic baby Finn had ever seen. Looking to be around 14 months old, he struck a sassy pose in light blue overalls and had thin, curly hair, in the style of most boomer babies. Finn showed us the baby and he dazzled us all. He placed the picture in the front corner of the store, for any lucky customers who happened to be shopping for socks to see.

            The trouble started almost immediately. Customers began complaining that the sock area was freezing cold. When they tried to select a pair to look at, sometimes they would fly violently onto the floor. These customers swore that they heard a high-pitched voice yell “NO!” in their heads as the socks hit the ground. When I came in to open the store the next day, boxes of tea situated near the photograph were stacked in a small tower.

            After some trial and error, we figured out that serenading the photo with one of our music boxes first thing in the morning works to put an end to these happenings…mostly. If you come by and walk past the photograph, some say you just might hear the faint sound of baby laughter.

*please don't leave boxes at our door overnight.

The Red Shirt         

Last year, Jamille designed t-shirts with our store logo on them. But they aren’t the first shirts on our shelves that sport our name. You may have noticed, perched above the travel books, a red, long-sleeved collared shirt with “Eagle Eye Book Shop” printed on it in tiny letters. Legend has it that this shirt appeared in a shipment that came in ten years ago. It was nowhere to be found on the packing list, and nobody remembered putting it on order at all.

One night after close, I went to pull a travel book someone had ordered off the shelf when I felt something drip on top of my head. Then something dripped onto my hand. It was thick, red, and disconcertingly warm. Frantically looking up, I saw nothing but the red shirt—and it was leaking blood! I ran up front to get away. But when I looked at my hand again, there was no trace of it. Everything around the travel section looked normal. Nobody believes me, and they refuse to move the shirt because it’s a very convenient way to show customers where the travel books are.

It is worth noting that one of our most storied employees has an identical red shirt. We have no idea where he even got it. This is just another piece of evidence supporting our theory that he is a vampire.

Large Marge

It never ceases to surprise me how many longtime customers don't know about our reading room. In the liminal space where mystery/thriller ends and children's picture books begin, there is a door to a warmly-lit room with well-stocked wall shelves and some cozy places to sit. Here live the Westerns, dozens of hardback sci-fi titles, and a ragtag assortment of overflow books that cannot fit on the main floor shelves. Last year, these unassuming residents found themselves with a strange new neighbor, threatening the entire vibe of their home.

        "Don't ask me how much this cost." Doug, the proud owner of Eagle Eye, stood with his hands on his hips in front of a looming mechanical eagle, mounted on a wheeled wooden platform. We stood open-mouthed as he made the contraption come alive by nudging a sphere suspended beneath the eagle's body. In an impressive illusion of flight, her wings began to flap. Jamille christened her Large Marge in tribute to one of our favorite films, Pee Wee's Big Adventure. She was given a place of honor, next to the cooking station, ready to welcome customers on their way in with a steady, determined gaze.

        Things went smoothly for a few weeks, until the day a beloved former employee, Foster Lewis, came searching for a book by some dead charlatan who devised a new method of prayer by smooching mossy rocks in the woods. As Foster walked alongside Large Marge, all of us watched in horror as her wings began to flap violently. Foster had the misfortune of being the exact height for one of her wings to slice clean through his neck, sending his head flying at the feet of some poor soul who had just walked in the door.

        Dispatching Large Marge to the dumpster would have required dragging her all the way past the parking lot and down a bumpy slope to the dumpster area. Nobody was particularly eager to do that. So it was decided that we would banish her to another realm. Doug tied a rope around the feet of Large Marge--a safe distance from her wingspan--and carefully pulled her through the threshold of the reading room.

        And so Large Marge has been caged, in a way, between a cabinet and the wall. With her wings lowered, she doesn't take up much space. She still holds her head high, with dignity, her gaze exuding power and pride. Her indomitable spirit persists, and she stands as a worthy, if not morally ambiguous, guardian of her territory.

Bonus tale: The Boo-comer

Mary Kay Andrews is a werewolf.

Why "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is the Perfect Halloween Novel

     Halloween isn’t like other holidays. While it’s true I can only really speak for the holidays my family and I celebrate, the act of gathering in a home, enjoying hot food and warm fires, and sharing time with your loved ones feels fairly consistent. Halloween, broadly speaking, doesn’t prioritize any of these things. Halloween pushes you out of your four cozy walls just as winter’s first frosty advances are sending the leaves toppling from their branches. Halloween rejects the light, insisting that its most sacred rituals take place under the cover of night. Halloween eschews the familiar, embracing the weird, the abject, the monstrous. Ray Bradbury understood Halloween, a fact plain to see in many of his writings from The October Country to The Halloween Tree. However, I believe that his 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes most perfectly describes that indrawn breath of terror and delight that is Halloween. Beware, some light spoilers may follow.

    I think that having an October birthday predisposes you for hauntings. For me, a childhood full of Halloween-themed birthdays doubled the significance of the season. The jack-o’-lanterns, skeletons, bats, and other of Halloween’s folk seemed to emerge to celebrate my birth, making me price of the festivities and carrier of its phantom spirit. Bradbury seems to agree, as his protagonists take the idea a step further. Will Halloway, born October 30th, 11:59pm, is bright-spirited, sensitive, cautious and loyal. Jim Nightshade, born October 31st, 12:01am, is dark, reserved, impulsive, and fearless. The two boys of thirteen each embody the seasonal spirit differently, Will ever returning to his father, his home, his family as a touchpoint, while Jim pushes ever farther into freedom and mystery. However, this is not a novel in which the children must brave horrors alone, the adults blissfully blind to the atrocities brewing in their small town arcadia. Will’s father, Charles, follows the two into the dark.

    It is this tension between child and adult, young and old, past and future, that sets the tone for the novel’s central conflict. On the surface, the book tells the story of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, a twisted and demonic carnival that sets its sights on Will and Jim after touching down in their home town. Through this overlying story, Bradbury describes the perspective of the child on Halloween: their world has been invaded by the supernatural, and the inanimate or dead come to life in the flickering dark. Upon closer inspection, however, the characters inner concerns consistently circle back to topics of age and intergenerational understanding. Jim wants to be older, feels that he has seen the darkness of the world but is still too young to protect himself against it. Charles wants to be younger, feels embarrassed about having his first child at 39, and feels discouraged by the age gap between him and his son. This is the novel’s perspective on the adult: holidays express themselves to the fullest through the eyes of children, and it is only in bittersweet remembrances that Charles Halloway is able to find himself the protagonist of his own story. These desires, to be younger or older than you are, have no solutions, save time and acceptance. No solutions, until the Carnival’s profane festivities bring forth a carousel that can wind the years of a life forwards or backwards. Suddenly the hidden desires become attainable, and in doing so become unable to be ignored.

    The malleability of age shapes much of the horror of the story. Hierarchies of assumption break down; age ceases to have meaning when it can be turned forward or back like the hands on a clock. The Carnival weaponizes the carousel against its victims, sending them back to helpless childhood, or far forward into decrepitude. Unable to return to their former lives, the victims have no choice but to join the traveling sideshow, becoming just another monstrous attraction to sharpen the teeth of Cooger and Dark themselves. The breaking down of these boundaries, which seem so set in stone, is another characteristic of Halloween. The way the characters choose to respond to this dangerous and unpredictable position is where the true soul of the novel resides.

    Ultimately, Something Wicked This Way Comes doesn’t need its commentary on time and age to be a wonderful Halloween novel. Its monstrous cast, from the all-seeing Dust Witch, to the ancient and decaying Mr. Electrico, to the soul-hoarding Illustrated Man, have enough spine-tingling texture to make the novel well worth reading all on their own. However, the way it so subtly interrogates how the fear and magic experienced in childhood changes, or doesn’t change, makes it truly special. The book reminds children that their parents are people too, and reminds adults that rationality falls apart when your very skin is telling you that the horrors unfolding before your eyes are real and true. Halloween thrives on that feeling. When the night is over and you have laughed off all the scares, that chill reminds you that while you may have survived another year, Halloween waits with open arms. If you don’t believe me now, try out the book. Bradbury can certainly convince you.

Happy Halloween!

Purchase the book here

Friday, September 16, 2022

Peachtree Bikes

I stopped by Peachtree Bikes that just opened next door and sat down to talk with Patrick Gregory, one of the owners and operators of the family business, and Lauren Hadley, the Store Manager.

Thanks for sitting with me and letting our readers and community know more about you!

Lauren: Thank you so much!  It is so cool to do this!
Patrick: Yes, we are happy to talk about bikes!

So, what is your bike background?

Patrick: I started at another one of our stores at 14 years old so like....
Lauren: Oh no. *laughs*
Patrick: over 20 years ago?  It was my first job.  I think I even had to get a permit.  It was our location at Gwinnett Place Mall, which isn't there anymore.
Lauren: I started working at Atlanta cycling in 2020, it was a part time job. 
Patrick: But you have ridden most of your life.
Lauren: I have always ridden bikes, and bought my first bike from Chastain (sister store) at like 14 years old, and also commuted through college.  I just started to ride bikes because I thought it would be a fun. 

What brought you to Decatur?

Patrick: We always knew Bike South (A bike shop that shuttered in 2019 after 50 years), and Bike South caused a bit of a vacuum when it closed where there were no real bike shops in the area, and we wanted to step in and help the market with the university and a lot of people who bike in this area.  Stars aligned and we found a place right across the street.

While I was talking with Patrick and Lauren, a customer came into the shop all the way from College Park to get his bike serviced, showcasing just how there aren't many shops in the greater Atlanta Area that service local riders.

Atlanta seems to be doing better and better with access for bike riders and enthusiasts, what would you say Decatur and Atlanta could do to improve?

Patrick: That's easy! The infrastructure on the roads. Being able to ride on the street safely is a serious problem here.  It is getting better, Atlanta and Decatur have come around with off-road paths and trails like The Belt Line and Stone Mountain path.
Lauren: Yeah. People just feel so unsafe commuting on bikes around Atlanta so fixing the roads and infrastructure. Also, group rides being more advertised would be nice or any outreach.  Marta and transportation being more friendly to take your bikes from one part of town to another. The bike lanes in Atlanta are so bad they are commonly referred to as "trash lanes," because of the amount of trash and lack of maintenance.

If you were to generally commuting around Decatur, which bike would you choose and why?

Patrick: VADO electric pedal assist, it just amplifies your pedal power so you don't have to do as much work.  It comes equipped with racks and lights and you can even hook your phone up and use it for routes. 

Lauren: All of our regulars around here have this bike.  Like all of them!  I would choose the VADO with the smaller battery.
Patrick: You are trying to copy me!
Lauren: No!  *laughs*
Ok, ok I am gonna choose the Sirrus X 4.0.  A non electric bike, but is the most capable for the most amount of terrain. Light weight, good for not slipping in the rain and good both off-road and on-road commuting.

If you were to go to some of the trails in the North Georgia mountains or Stone Mountain for a day of mountain bike riding which bikes would you choose and why?

Lauren: Epic (looks at Patrick waiting for him to say the same bike and laughing). It's a lightweight full suspension mountain bike that specializes in cross country style mountain biking.  It is good for most any rough terrain riding.

Patrick:  I don't get a ton of time so I want to make the most of it and choose an electric mountain LEVO.  It is also a boosted pedal, if I am pressed for time and have an hour, you can do more and see more because it opens up more possibilities, and has walking mode.  So it will walk 2 miles per hour and you don't have to carry or push it.

It is Atlanta circa 2010 and the apocalypse has happened and you survive The Walking Dead, what bike do you have? What 3 bike accessories do you carry?

Patrick: Oh that is a good question.  No electric bike, no charge. I would go with a Crux.
Lauren: A Diverge.
Patrick: They are both very similar. They are fast, they are super capable and can go anywhere.
Both of them are half mountain bike, half road bike.  It is superior for both of those things.

Tim, the mechanic and master tech walked up front to help a customer picking up their bike and joined into our zombie discussion.

What would your 3 bike accessories be?

Patrick: Tim would say a pedal wrench because you could knock a zombie over the head.  Every bike shop says if they ever needed any weapon it would be a pedal wrench.
Tim: A flat repair kit.
Lauren: A helmet.
Patrick: I don't think you would need a helmet if you are dealing with zombies!
Lauren: Maybe.
Patrick: Sunglasses to look cool
Lauren: Yeah I have sensitive eyes and yeah they look cool! We have cool ones!
Tim: Sunglasses and a helmet!

What would you suggest is the best maintenance to do for a bike and how often?
Tim: Clean it.
Patrick: CLEAN IT.
Tim: Clean it and lube it up.
Clean it once a week especially if you ride every day.  Maybe once every 2 rides.
Patrick: If you do this type of maintenance it will absolutely give you serious longevity on your bike.

Obviously bikes are a very green approach that will help lessen climate change as it takes hold on our world.  Unfortunately, Georgia is a very hot place.  What advice would you give riders to stay cool as temperatures continue to rise while riding your bike?

Tim: Hydration.
Lauren: A hack is freezing your water bottle the night before.
Patrick: Don't go out in cotton, having the right clothing and cooling fabric that doesn't absorb heat. Same with helmets.
Lauren: Nutrition.  Salt tablets and other supplements for electrolytes which we carry. There are recommendations like, for instance, an hour out on the trail you should be drinking 24 ounces of water.

Any cool tips you would like to give any riders out there?

Lauren: Yes, if you are interested in bikes you should test ride bikes.  The best way to learn about bikes is to ride them and come into shops and ask questions, we even have a 30 days for a return to make sure you have the right bike.  If people are nervous about riding a bike in Atlanta because it feels dangerous, there are group rides in the community, for all different levels.  The community has a lot of offer.  
Tim: They used to do some rides with themes, like riding around and looking at all the original firehouses, another was modern architecture. Of course around Halloween there was graveyard themes. I am not sure they have them anymore but there are a lot of group rides here in the community.

Peachtree Bikes is open now, and stay tuned for more information about the Grand Opening!

Monday, August 29, 2022

What is Ecofiction?

 book _

    Corresponding with the Confluence events beginning September 10th, now seemed like the opportune time to talk about ecofiction, as a genre and a social transition. The Confluence events seek to celebrate the intersection of art, environment and activism, and ecofiction in its modern form is often inextricably bound to all three. Ecofiction, or ecological fiction, has made significant leaps over the past several decades, but certainly existed prior to the popularization of the term in the 1970’s. To even call it a genre would be a mistake; it presents, rather, as a descriptor which extends its tendrils into many different branches of the literary world. While definitions abound, Jim Dwyer’s four characteristics of ecofiction from his book Where the Wild Books Are seem to me the most comprehensive. He describes ecofiction thusly:


  • The nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history.

  • The human history is not understood to be the only legitimate interest.

  • Human accountability to the environment is part of the text’s ethical orientation.

  • Some sense of the environment as a process rather than as a constant or a given is at least implicit in the text.

    Clearly, texts which comply with these principles have existed for hundreds of years, as long as humans have written about nature as a complex system within which we are intertwined. Writers like John Steinbeck, Daphne du Maurier, Frank Herbert, and E. B. White all contributed to the field of ecofiction in the early to mid 20th century without bringing up climate change as we would think of it today. That being said, the category has taken on new significance, and perhaps importance, as our notion of the environment becomes increasingly filtered through an awareness of the anthropocene and our dangerous impact on our ecosystems. In writing about the environment today, it seems like in order to ethically orient the text towards “human accountability to the environment” as described above, some mention of climate change or the human activities that cause it is necessary. However, the manner in which that concern is represented within the plot can vary drastically. The recent bestseller The Overstory, by Richard Powers, uses the natural world as a framing device for many of the stories within the novel, in which the destruction of the environment motivates some characters more directly than others. Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson, sets solving environmental catastrophe on a broad scale as the driving force behind the entire story. The new release Venomous Lumpsucker, by Ned Beauman, deals with ecological collapse through the lens of a single species. Talking about climate change in fiction appears to be as multifaceted as the phenomenon itself.

    Confluence promises to forefront many of the same themes highlighted by the books and authors listed here. The panels and discussions take the form of both an appreciation of nature and a call to action. Please consider taking some time out of your weekend to join in the celebration of our wonderful, interconnected world!

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Summer Reads You May Have Missed!

The beauty about a beach read is anything can be a beach read. You don't even have to be on the beach to read it. It really is all about the feeling it evokes. Here are some of the books that you might want to add to your reading list to take with you! 

After the Lights Go Out by John Vercher (Mystery/Thriller)

Synopsis: From the critcially acclaimed author of Three-Fifths comes After the Lights Go Out--a harrowing and spellbinding story about family, the complications of mixed-race relationships, misplaced loyalties, and the price athletes pay to entertain.

Xavier Scarecrow Wallace, a mixed-race MMA fighter on the wrong side of thirty, is facing the fight of his life. Xavier is losing his battle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), or pugilistic dementia--a struggle he can no longer deny. Through the fog of memory loss, migraines, and paranoia, Xavier does his best to keep in shape while he waits for the call that will reinstate him after a year-long suspension. He watches his diet and trains every day at the Philadelphia gym owned by his cousin-cum-manager, Shot, a retired champion boxer to whom Xavier owes an unpayable debt. Xavier makes ends meet by teaching youth classes at Shot's gym and by living rent-free in the house of his white father, whom Xavier has been forced to commit to a nursing home because of the progress of his end-stage Alzheimer's. Dementia has revealed a shocking truth about Sam Wallace, and Xavier finally gains insight into why his Black mother left the family when Xavier was young.

As Xavier battles his aging body and his failing brain, each day is filled with challenges and setbacks. His angry, confused father wants to come home, but Xavier can't take care of him. He's not even safe in his own house. Xavier sticks out like a sore thumb among Sam Wallace's white, MAGA hat-wearing neighbors, who are constantly looking for a reason to call the cops on him while he takes out his trash.

Then Xavier is offered a chance at redemption: a last-minute comeback fight in the largest MMA promotion. If he can get himself back in the game, he'll be able to clear his name and begin to pay off Shot. But with his memory in shreds and his life crumbling around him, can Xavier hold onto the focus he needs to survive?

Daughter of the Redwinter by Ed McDonald
Synopsis: Those who see the dead soon join them.

From the author of the critically-acclaimed Blackwing trilogy comes Ed McDonald's Daughter of Redwinter, the first of a brilliant fantasy series about how one choice can change a universe.

Raine can see--and more importantly, speak--to the dead. It's a wretched gift with a death sentence that has her doing many dubious things to save her skin. Seeking refuge with a deluded cult is her latest bad, survival-related decision. But her rare act of kindness--rescuing an injured woman in the snow--is even worse.

Because the woman has escaped from Redwinter, the fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, warrior magicians who answer to no king and who will stop at nothing to retrieve what she's stolen. A battle, a betrayal, and a horrific revelation forces Raine to enter Redwinter. It becomes clear that her ability might save an entire nation.

Pity she might have to die for that to happen...

Synopsis: She was the face that launched a thousand ships, the fierce beauty at the heart of Olympus...and she was never ours to claim.

*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Helen of Troy, Achilles, and Patroclus that's as sinful as it is sweet.*

In Olympus, you either have the power to rule...or you are ruled. Achilles Kallis may have been born with nothing, but as a child he vowed he would claw his way into the poisonous city's inner circle. Now that a coveted role has opened to anyone with the strength to claim it, he and his partner, Patroclus Fotos, plan to compete and double their odds of winning.

Neither expect infamous beauty Helen Kasios to be part of the prize...or for the complicated fire that burns the moment she looks their way.

Zeus may have decided Helen is his to give to away, but she has her own plans. She enters into the competition as a middle finger to the meddling Thirteen rulers, effectively vying for her own hand in marriage. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see her dead than lead the city. The only people she can trust are the ones she can't keep her hands off―Achilles and Patroclus. But can she really believe they have her best interests at heart when every stolen kiss is a battlefield?

Literature with the Girlies: Recs From My Favorite Women

My life has been blessed by incredible books, and the incredible women who recommended them. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are a f...