Kelso has been ravenously reading since she was 3 years old. The first books she remembers reading on her own were The Stinky Cheese Man and The Paper Bag Princess. Her favorite genres are true crime, mystery, LGBT authors, and literary fiction. When not at work, she likes to spend time reading, knitting, drinking tea, and playing roller derby (her roller derby name is BiblioReckah).
Kelso's July 2020 pick
August Pfeiffer is an openly gay high school kid who lives in the rural town/mystical energy nexus location of Fulton Heights where vampires and humans live a terse existence with each other.
Auggie is just trying to survive the last year of high school when a mysterious, annoyingly handsome, young, (and pansexual) vampire named Jude waltzes into his life with a warning: Auggie is essentially a breeding vessel for the vampire Santa Claus. Auggie is the only one who can stop the prophecy from coming true and wrecking havoc on his little town.
Yeah, total bummer, right?
The rest of the book is full of well thought out cliffhangers, teen lesbian romances, vampire slayers, ninjas, and supermodel hot soda shoppe boys.
The Fell of Dark is the best YA I've read in a while. It balances itself on a well-loved tightrope. Funny, well thought out characters without being over the top gay tropes; teenage drama without the eye rolling melodrama; funny moments met with tender truths about growing up queer.
This reads like a long lost Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, but with your protagonist being a thirsty gay boy incubating what's basically the antichrist. I have already picked out actors for the nonexistent but totally necessary TV series.
Please pick up this book for yourself, your favorite queer teenager, or your annoyingly hot vampire friend.
Kelso's May 2020 pick
If you had the chance, would you be willing to kill a toxic person from a stranger's life in exchange for an equally bad person being eliminated from yours? Quid pro quo style?
This is the basis of this fast-paced thriller from a queer author.
Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fail to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.
Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.
All she has to do is kill a stranger.
Ms.Heard has a real skill for creating characters who are as unique as they are compelling, with real-life flaws and big, strong voices. The plot of this novel moves at breakneck speed all the way to the dark yet satisfying conclusion, you'll eat this up in no time.
Perfect for fans of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and folks who need a way out of their reading slump. Pick up this full-throttle thriller ASAP.
Kelso's April 2020 pick
The Light Years by R.W.W Greene has kept me company during the Apocalypse.
Adem is a 26 year old maintenance engineer/budding musician who works on his mother's spaceship, the Hajj. Forced by his mother, Adem makes a deal with 24 year old Hisako's parents to marry her in exchange for her first class education and a pull out of poverty. At first, Hisako is not thrilled about her arranged marriage, but their budding romance is overshadowed by a bigger secret that Adem's mother has kept for years.
Part Space Opera, part Romance, Mr. Greene's full length Sci-fi debut is the perfect amount of entertainment and an exercise in character studies. Every character is as diverse as his English students he based them upon, the worldbuilding is spectacular, and the action packed, "Firefly"-esque ending deserved the air punch I accidentally gave my reading light.
Awesome debut novel, Mr. Greene is an author to watch out for.
Kelso's March 2020 pick
In 2010, Shannon Gilbert - a Craigslist escort - ran though an oceanfront community of Oak Beach on Long Island screaming for her life. She was never found again. Seven months later, in a bramble alongside a nearby highway uncovered four female bodies all wrapped in burlap. None of them were Shannon's.
Lost Girls is one of the best True Crime books I've read ever. Instead of the regular formula you often see with this genre (police investigation reports, torrid twists and gritty turns, pages of footnotes) the focus of Lost Girls is set directly on each of the murder victims - all of which are petite, twenty year old, female Craigslist/Backpage escorts.
Here, instead of listing the five female victims as "mere NYC prostitutes" Robert breathes life back into them via emotional interviews with loved ones, and vivid details of their personal lives and their struggles. We see the victims as sex workers second and as women first. Pair this with the remarkable, award-winning journalism from Mr. Kolker, Lost Girls is an absolute must read for anyone who believes to be a serious reader of True Crime.
Kelso's February 2020 pick, 1 of 2Let me first mention right off the bat that this is not - in the traditional sense - a "How-To" book. You will not find listicles about the top 5 best app blockers or buzzy words like "digital detox" and "mindfulness", but if you take your time with this collection of entwined essays I guarantee you will walk away with a new understanding of your awareness and place in the world.In a time where social media and the news cycle keeps us forever anxiously fixed on the present, Jenny expertly crafts a treatise on how to make use of your attention by simply doing nothing (or near nothing) via tools like bioregionalism, refusing/resisting in place, and acknowledging the right to not express yourself. I highly recommend this book for fans of Jaron Lanier's work, birdwatchers, and folks who don't mind a little heady academia with their "How-To".
Kelso's February 2020 pick, 2 of 2
Rachel is a twentysomething, unlucky in love librarian living in Brooklyn. Thomas is a remarkably handsome, twentysomething victim of a deadly motorcycle accident. He should have shuffled off this mortal coil already but there’s some bureaucratic red tape that needs to be fixed; so, the Powers That Be have requested he stay on Earth as a ghost for three months while his death is being reprocessed. Until then, he is warned not to seek out “any form of self-medication (pharmaceutical, alcoholic, sexual, or otherwise) lest he incur regrets.
Rachel & Thomas fall madly in love.
Equal parts ghost story and literary romance (You will not find Nicholas Sparks level of romance here, folks), “The Regrets” asks us to draw lines in the sand. The line between love and infatuation; when to keep hanging on and when to let go.
Kelso's January 2020 pick, 1 of 2
There's a saying that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and this debut novel shows how much that saying rings true. The novel centers around Emira, a 25 year old black female babysitter and her rich white female employer, Alix. The story begins with Emira being accused of kidnapping when she is at a high end grocery store with her employer's daughter; a little white girl. The novel progresses into Alix attempting (and failing) to "make things right" while trying to befriend Emira in the process.
Kiley beautifully weaves difficult yet necessary topics about race, class, white savoirism, and privilege into an incredibly accessible narrative. The characters are very well developed - every character in this book are well meaning but incredibly flawed, and the plot is excellently paced. I highly recommend this for a great book club pick.
Kelso's January 2020 pick, 2 of 2
Lindy has once again cranked out a well-written and hilarious observational book of essays covering topics such as GOOP to Grumpy Cat; Her love/hate relationship with Adam Sandler movies to the strange and gross serialization of male serial killers vis-a-vis Ted Bundy. I could not help myself laughing aloud during my son's basketball games, thus killing the mood (sorry kiddo!). Pick this up if you're infatuated with the works of Samantha Irby or David Sedaris.
Kelso's December 2020 pick
If it's one thing I enjoy, it's a good mystery, but I also - and this may shock some of you - love to laugh. "Who Wet My Pants?" is the book both kids and adults need in these turbulent times. Sure, it can be a book about potty training, but it's really a witty book about embarrassment, anger, empathy, and forgiveness. Hilarious storytelling (Try not to laugh when yelling "WHO WET MY PANTS?!" to the kiddos during your next holiday get together) supported with remarkable, bright and fun illustrations; this children's book will leave everyone rolling on the floor in laughter. Pants wetting optional.
Kelso's October 2019 pick
It all started with the missing farm magazine.
In 1993, Axton's family's mail was being stolen. Just little things like pen pal letters, and her father's farming magazines. Her parents just thought it was some neighboorhood kids pulling a prank, so they purchased a PO Box, but the mail was still getting stolen.
Then came the utility shutoffs, the credit card debts, and ultimately a foreclosure on Axton's childhood home. This was the work of an identity thief.
With the local police at a loss with how to help, Axton and her family became increasingly paranoid, cutting themselves off from friends, family, and tearing their family apart. When Axton learns that she too, has become a victim of identity fraud herself, she decides to devote her life to catching the persons responsible for the years of psychological, financial, and emotional damage.
Written with brilliant prose against the backdrop of Axton's Ph.D in Human Development with a focus on Child Identity Theft, and with a seriously shocking twist that even I didn't see coming, "The Less People Know About Us" is a stunning, heartbreaking work of True Crime that will keep you reading until the last page, I would highly recommend this book to readers new to the True Crime genre, or readers looking to a fantastic True Crime book, but without all the serial killers, murderers, blood, and gore.
Kelso's September 2019 pick, 1 of 2
Why is it that the majority of True Crime fanatics are women? What is the reason why women are drawn to these gruesome crimes? Rachel brilliantly tackles these heavy questions by seamlessly telling the stories of 4 women - Frances Glessner Lee (an heiress who crafted crime scene miniatures) Alisa Statman (a young woman who started to obsessively date Sharon Tate's sister), Lorri Davis-Echols (the woman who defended her husband - Damion Echols- for over 20 years), and Lindsay Souvannarat (who attempted to plot a mass murder in a Halifax shopping mall in 2016).
Savage Appetites is a stunning debut work of non-fiction that isn't afraid to tackle the cultural perspective of women obsessed with crime. Rachel really digs deep into her own psyche and puts a mirror up against herself and her reading audience. What drew me in the most was how she seamlessly interweaves her own personal history with the rich, factual, and accurate narrative of the folks she has interviewed. This book is destined to be a classic of the True Crime genre.
Kelso's September 2019 pick, 2 of 2
S.T. (short for...well, it's not appropriate that's for sure) is a foul-mouthed, Cheeto loving, domesticated crow who loves his owner, Big Jim but hates his owner's dog, a basset hound named Dennis. When Big Jim's eye pops out of his head one day, S.T. and Dennis set out to try and find help for their owner. Told in the perspectives of S.T. and all the other animals left behind after humanity succumbs to the Zombie Apoplycapse (Genghis Cat is a personal favorite of mine), this novel from a debut author aims a sharp yet tender story about the lengths we go for the ones we love, and how humanity - with all of its flaws - is worth saving. PS - parts of this novel can get kinda gross but stick with it, it's the funniest book I've read all year.
Kelso's July 2019 pick, 1 of 2
The narrator - Little Dog, now in his late 20s - crafts a letter to his illiterate, Vietnamese refugee mother, detailing a family history rooted in trauma, healing, and forgiveness. This novel, written by queer poet Ocean Vuong is getting major critical acclaim, and for good reason. The prose is beautifully written. The characters are unforgettable, and every page packs a little punch to your gut. Heartbreaking and tender, this is one novel that should be on every literary award's shortlist next year. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook narrated by the author via Libro.fm for the full immersive experience.
Want the audiobook?
Kelso's July 2019 pick, 2 of 2
Jaron brings his 20+ years as a Silicon Valley titan and AI pioneer to is arguments on how social media is BUMMER-ing ("Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent") us out. Social Media is turning politics terrifying, undermining truth in journalism, robbing us of our free will, and turning all of us into unhappy jerks (See Argument Three). Never fear though, since Jaron still brings his humanitarian positivity to his scary realizations. Equal parts eye-opening and optimistic, this is a book everyone should read regardless if they want to go full detox mode, or just need to take a break from the BUMMER machine.
Kelso's June 2019 pick, 1 of 3
In pre-9/11 Manhattan, a 24-year-old, blonde, skinny, rich, beautiful woman decides to combat her trauma by taking a boatload of prescription sedatives & psychotropic drugs administered by the worst psychiatrist I have ever come across in my reading life.
Ottessa knows how to craft the worst characters in history, but in a very Sienfield-ish/Larry Davidesque kind of way. She finds herself sleepwalking, sleep-purchasing, sleep-taking-lewd-photos-of-herself-and-sending-them-to-strangers-in-AOL-Chatrooms, doing things she has no recollection of doing. Her life is a mess of VHS tapes, melted ice cream, and pill popping. I thoroughly enjoyed this sardonic romp through the worst depths of her life, and eventually overcoming her trauma by processing it in the absolute worst way possible.
Some critics have said the Moshfegh writes "terrible", "horrible", "gross" and "unladylike" characters. But find me a woman who HASN'T dealt with their trauma by making terrible coping mechanisms a-la drinking, drugging, sexing, and I'll show you a liar. I found parts of my early 20s in the main character - blacking out, taking questionable substances, casually dating horrible people - and I think many women will too.
If you're into dark humor, female rage, and the gross, often morbid ways women tend to deal with shit that has happened to them, then please pick up Moshfegh's book. You won't be disappointed.
Kelso's June 2019 pick, 2 of 3
Bunny is a smart, compulsively readable, delicate, and sinister form of literary art. I am floored that this is her sophomore novel. Floored. Mona's dreamy, brutal prose is the perfect equal to Donna Tartt and Brett Easton Ellis. Refreshing, razor sharp, full bodied (and full OF bodies), Bunny will make your head explode into a dreamlike trance that you'll never be able to fully recover. Bunny is hands down my favorite read of 2019. I am now a new convert to the Mona Awad fan club and cannot wait to see what she comes out with next.
Kelso June 2019 pick, 3 of 3Set in the hills of Northern California in a backdrop of a present day US Magical Academy, Hardboiled detective Ivy Gramble (not a magical person) is tasked to investigate a murder within the halls of Osthorne Academy for Young Mages; where her estranged magical twin sister works as a teacher. Ivy and her sister try to reconcile their relationship while interviewing "Chosen Ones" "Mean Girls" and a host of other colorful fantasy tropes.I read this in a night, which is unheard of for me. Ironically, the last time I did this was for the last Harry Potter book, except this time the remedial magical students drink actual beer and instead of house elves there's a ton of hazing. Sarah takes multiple genres and interweaves them near seamlessly in this California Noir story with a sci-fi/fantasy bent. Even though I guessed the solution quickly, the journey of the whodunit - rooted in past traumas, character dysfunctions and teen insecurities - made the book compelling and yes, perhaps even a bit magical.
Kelso's May 2019 pick
The New Me is a 200 page satirical, stream-of-conscious novel that centers around the often dark and negative thoughts of Millie; a 30 year old woman working in a dead-end office temp job.
That's it. That's the whole book.
But look closer, it's more than that.
This is a book about making an effort by changing your behavior in a world that constantly thinks you're not worth your weight in crap.
This is a book that 90% of you are going to hate, and that's okay. Either you're not interested in reading about female rage or it's just not up your alley. Sure, it's okay to just be wrong in your opinion, I guess.
If you're one of the lucky 10% who-like me- finds this sort of longer formed character study with dark, self-deprecating, sinister humor right up your alley then pick this up.
Kelso's April 2019 pick
In 2005, an 18 year old Matt Young catapulted himself into a fire hydrant with his car in a drunken haze one night. The next day, looking for guidance and a way to get his crap together, he signed up for the Marine Corps.
What follows is a raw and unflinching look at the Iraq War. However, if you're here looking for valiant war stories with some moral or meaning, where violence and death have a larger purpose, then this is not the memoir for you.
If you're looking for a book that:
- Takes a useful corrective to the current idealization of the American Marine
- Gives you frank, brutal stories about life "in the shit" and
- Provides an unflinching experience about what war and the military does to young folks
Then please pick up this book. Eat the Apple answers everything I always wanted to ask my stepfather (1st Battalion, 2nd Marines) but was too afraid to ask.
Kelso's March 2019 pick
Maud is a grumpy 88 year old woman with no family, friends, and lives a life of delicious solitude in her late father's spacious apartment in Gothenburg. She's also a cold and calculating killer who uses her "feeble old lady" skills to deceive the police as she kills folks who need killing. You will cheer for Maud as she takes on abusive husbands, predatory ex lovers, and annoying celebrities.
For fans of A Man Called Ove and the movie Fargo (I know I've connected Fargo in my reviews before. Can you tell that it's my favorite movie?), this story collection is good for folks who'd like to get into the feel of Scandinavian mysteries but without all the graphic depictions that can typically go along with them.
This is a lithe, quick little book for anyone who's into crime/mystery novels, but has a long connecting flight or has a long afternoon to spare.This collection of stories delivers the perfect amount of dark humored punch with the sweet undertones of a cozy, lighthearted story.
Kelso's February 2019 pick
We follow a young Jessica around on a grand tour of the northeast where she plays classical violin for festivals, PBS concerts, and sold-out stadiums. But it's all a ruse. The microphones they play to are turned off, and a boom box is playing a Thomas Kincaidian music that sounds eerily similar to the 'Titanic' Soundtrack. She is hired under the tutelage of a Tommy Weiseau type of man known only to us as "The Composer". He likes to jog in his tuxedo and has no earthly idea how to use a microwave.
Oh by the way - this is memoir.
This book feels like a Cohen Brothers movie come to life. In a world full of phonies and an ever increasing unease about what is authentic and what is fake news, Ms. Hindman's debut is a polished, funny, unbelievable and angry account of the way young women are perceived, and the comfort we take in false pleasures.
Kelso's January 2019 pick
t’s hard to find words for a book as perfect as this one. Chee’s set of essays about writing and growing up as a queer Asian American man & seeing his transitions from an unsure student to master of the literary craft is incomparable to anything, I’ve read in my 30 years on Earth. Chee's novel is what I look for in contemporary literature. Some of these essays will make you cry. Every page, every passage grabs you by the neck and slams your nose in the book. Excellent prose will gut you like this.
I would say that he's up there with the greatest authors, but he's surpassed them all. I cannot and will not compare him to any other author, he's that good. Reading this book is like eating the last meal your grandmother ever cooked for you and knowing every other substitute afterwards will always pale in comparison.
Kelso's November 2018 pick
A wicked sharp satire about the jealousy that springs between 2 sisters. Korede is the sensible, no-nonsense, responsible sister who works as a nurse and holds the house down, while Ayoola is the social media obsessed, wantonly beautiful sister who has a habit of killing her boyfriends when she's done with them. Korede keeps her sister in line by disposing of the bodies, cleaning up the crime scene, and making sure she doesn't post that pasta dinner to Instagram while she should be mourning the loss of her boyfriend.
Things change when Korede falls in love with one of the doctors she works with, yet Ayoola has her eyes on the same man. Korede must decide between family loyalty and the love of her life.
Dark, funny, fully developed characters and prose that cuts like glass. This Nigerian slam poet's novel debut should be shot to the top of your TBR list. I'll be hard pressed to not find this novel on some Best Of or Longlisted lists next year.
Kelso's October 2018 pick
Jarrett writes about his complicated family life growing up in Worcester, MA. His mother is a heroin addict, in and out of jail and rehab homes, his father was never in the picture (he wasn't even listed on Jarrett's birth certificate until several years later) leaving Jarrett to be raised by his brash, opinionated, and loving grandparents. The color palate is soft, somber, and the line work is brushed with a hurried chaos that beautifully conveys the tension and drama surrounding the background of young Jarrett's life.
Hey, Kiddo is a powerful, gorgeous, articulate graphic memoir from the creator of the Lunch Lady series (yes, that comic your middle grade kids are obsessed with) that shows readers that you can still love your imperfect family and survive with your spirit unbroken.
Although this book does have content that could at the very least be considered PG-13 (depictions of drug use, a drawing of violence, chain-smoking grandparents, swearing) I do highly recommend this book to children (generally 10+ but anyone younger should have a grownup read it with them). I also recommend this book to everyone who has ever had an imperfect childhood or complicated family relationships - chain-smoking, swearing, grandparents included.
Kelso's September 2018 pick, 1 of 2
"A man's mind is his own kind of hell."
When Daryl kills Dwayne's brother Sissy in a tragic hunting accident, we are pulled into a darkly brutal cat-and-mouse chase in this gritty Southern Noir tale. Joy restlessly captures the grey areas of the human essence within the background of the lush Southern Appalachia mountains. For fans of Blood Meridian, and No Country for Old Men, this book will keep you gripped to your seat until the very last page.
Kelso's September 2018 pick 2 of 2
This is not a book about politics, nor a book about immigration, this is a book about being homeless. Cut adrift in a country where you are illegal and unwelcome, yet it's the only world you've ever known.
I tore though this book in 2 hours, I stopped only to grab more tissues. As an immigrant I saw EXACT parallels from my life - and the lives of other immigrants I know - throughout this book. From the time Jose found out he was "illegal", to being detained by ICE, to the muddled, grey hoops immigrants have to jump through to "get legal" (a burdensome process only made worse by your skin color, trust me). This book is required reading for every person (American and Immigrant alike). Jose Vargas is incredibly brave for writing this memoir, and for the 11 million immigrants who survive by lying, passing, and hiding, floating adrift in a sea of uncertainty and limbo, are grateful for the existence of this book.