Christine DeZelar-Tiedman

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Beautifully rendered, this is a book to meditate over and perhaps reread.

This Place That Place

Without a traditional plot, there is a story, and a touching love story at that, underlying a frank and painful look at what opposing governments and ideologies do to individuals.


Despite the intense subject matter, Baker avoids melodrama in this relatively brief novel, and some expected confrontations never occur, which will frustrate some readers and relieve others.

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English

The short chapters keep the pages turning during the first two sections as the narrative heads toward the inevitable catastrophe, and the meta-fictional third section helps readers process what may have disturbed or offended in the story itself and its depiction of the characters, addressing current conversations about authorial voice, consent, and cultural appropriation. Extraordinary.

Bitter Orange Tree

Alharthi is an important new voice in world literature, and while Zuhour remains underdeveloped as a character, the novel is worth reading for the insights into Omani culture, particularly with regard to its exploration of family bonds and obligations, specifically women’s plight in those dynamics.


As this is a chronological reflection on a long life, the novel has an episodic feel, with events sweeping along at a rapid clip, though Allende still manages to pepper the tale with an abundance of memorable characters. Violeta is a character who follows her passions and lives an unconventional life but never stops evolving along with the century in which she lives. Recommended for all collections.

What the Fireflies Knew

Harris has chosen to tell the story entirely through a child’s eyes, without the imposition of an omniscient narrator or an adult KB looking back. This means that the reader is sometimes several steps ahead of her and frustrated or fearful of where her naivete will lead her. But KB’s wide-eyed honesty also helps her more-jaded elders progress toward reconciliation. Appropriate for both YA and adult collections.

I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness

Watkins is fearless in her depictions, particularly of the character based on herself; she makes no attempt to help the reader sympathize with her actions, which initially feel selfish and immature. But as the layers of the past and present are peeled away, one can understand how she’s been traumatized and begin to admire her grit and determination to be true to herself. In the end, the narrative calls to mind Rabbit, Run as well as works from the Beat Generation but reflected through a feminist, millennial lens.

Fight Night

Swiv’s narrative voice, by turns angry, sardonic, and full of both love and exasperation for her mother and grandmother, provides much of the charm and appeal of the novel. Elvira is a force of nature, charming everyone around her with her zest for life. Despite the dark elements in the story, the humor and love between the characters shine through. Recommended.

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