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Archives of "The BookBrowse Review": Reviews, previews, back-stories, news

April 08, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

In the midst of uncertainty, it can be therapeutic to turn off the news for a while and lose yourself in someone else's world. It's also a good idea to stick to your usual routines as much as possible. So if you're an avid reader, remember to set aside time to immerse yourself in a good book.

Michael Zapata's debut novel The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is about this very idea, as it centers around the immense power of a book, which intersects with the lives of a large, diverse cast of characters across time and space. It highlights the intrinsic value of storytelling as a unifying force in the world and the plot is wrapped in an absorbing mystery.

We also review Emily St. John Mandel's highly-anticipated new release, The Glass Hotel. This is Mandel's follow-up to the 2011 masterpiece Station Eleven and like its predecessor, it teems with life and meaning thanks to the author's vividly rendered cast of characters and luminous prose.

Wharton business professor Jonah Berg's The Catalyst couldn't be more relevant to present events as it explores best practices for convincing people to change their entrenched behavioral patterns and worldviews. In the accompanying Beyond the Book article, our reviewer considers how the COVID-19 pandemic could radically alter the way we operate as a society — perhaps for the better.

We're also bringing you the latest book news, paperback releases, and previews of upcoming releases, and if you haven't already, make sure to check out our article on bringing your book club online as we continue social distancing.

Very best wishes to you all, and a heartfelt thank you if you or any family members are on the front line of the COVID-19 response, whether that be in the medical field or providing essential services in any form. And for those of us who aren't, let's all do our part by following the health advisories. And, if you possibly can, give yourself plenty of time to decompress and do what you love, including reading.

Your editor,
Davina

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March 18, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

We hope very much that you're healthy and maintaining some semblance of calm throughout these trying times. No matter where you are in the world, we're all in this together. Perhaps we can interest you in the pleasant distraction of a good book? And if you do decide to buy one or more, please consider purchasing from your local bookstore. In most parts of the world, sales have fallen precipitously and they are in need of support more than ever, and many are offering to mail books to customers who are unable to come into the store.

We have exceptionally strong selections in this issue, including a couple of very highly-anticipated new releases. Critics and other advance readers have been buzzing about My Dark Vanessa, the debut novel by author Kate Russell about a teenager's relationship with her much older teacher and the fallout years later when he is accused of abuse by another woman. Also, a new book by Erik Larson is always a reason to celebrate and our First Impressions reviewers were thrilled with his latest, The Splendid and the Vile, in which the author provides a comprehensive and riveting account of a Blitz-besieged London with Winston Churchill at the helm as prime minister. Both of these books earned 5-star reviews, as did Paul Yoon's Run Me to Earth, a decades-spanning novel about three teenage orphans who endured the war in Laos only to face an uncertain future with complex moral quandaries. Our Beyond the Book article for this one looks at the legacy of peril war often leaves behind in the form of unexploded ordnance such as landmines and buried cluster bombs.

You'll definitely want to check out our previews for upcoming releases in this issue, as quite a substantial number of them have been very well-reviewed and many of those are debuts. Update your to-read lists accordingly!

During most of the year, we publish The BookBrowse Review twice a month, so usually there's two weeks between issues, but occasionally there are three weeks, which is the case between now and the next issue on April 8th.

Very best wishes,

Your editor,
Davina

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March 04, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

As a BookBrowse member, you likely share our view that books aren't so much an end destination in themselves, as a jumping off point to new discoveries. This is why we accompany every review with a "beyond the book" article which explores an historical, cultural or contextual aspect of the book.

search barThis week I am very happy to announce that these articles are now easier to access and read than ever before! You can now explore them by visiting bookbrowse.com/articles, or by using the new "Article" option on the main BookBrowse search bar. Go ahead, give it a try – just check the article box, put in a topic you're interested in, and if we've covered it in any of the thousands of articles we've written to date, you'll get a result; and just maybe you'll discover an intriguing new book into the bargain!

On the topic of "beyond the book" articles, we cover a number of intriguing and enlightening topics in this issue, including an article on American Complicity in Chinese Authoritarianism accompanying the review of The Scientist and the Spy by Maria Hvistendahl. This review and article were written by an American professor with a unique insight into the link between China and American academia, and we think you'll find it as fascinating as we did. You'll also want to check out the article on Predictions and Paradoxes in technology running alongside our review of Marc-Uwe Kling's Qualityland for some scientific conjecture that has stood the test of time. And if it's literary lore you're after, look no further than the Beyond the Book for Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson, all about the Locked Room Mystery genre.

Of course, there's plenty more to explore in this issue, including a review for the much-anticipated Weather by Jenny Offill, plus the latest in paperbacks, book club recommendations and previews of upcoming releases.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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February 19, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

The literary world is awash in dialogue about immigration stories at the moment; maybe you're even taking part in our current Book Club discussion about American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. In this issue, we cover Children of the Land, a moving memoir about the undocumented experience by a gifted young Mexican-born poet, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, who came to the United States when he was five years old. In the accompanying Beyond the Book article, we take a look at the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers temporary citizenship to young people currently living in the United States, provided they meet certain requirements.

We also review the hilarious and slightly unhinged English language debut of Cuban author Marcial Gala, The Black Cathedral. This clever satire features a large cast of vastly different narrators, all trying to secure success (or survival) in the city of Cienfuegos on Cuba's south coast.

If you're up for some historical fiction, we've got a couple of winners with The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams and The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick—two novels with very different tones but similar feminist themes.

As always, we also bring you reviews of the latest paperbacks and previews of upcoming releases (a lot of 5-star ratings in this batch!). Plus, the just published results from our January survey asking book clubbers to nominate their all-time favorite books, and their favorite book of 2019.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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February 05, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

Do you like a good mystery? You're not alone. True crime books have been all the rage in recent years, and one of the latest and most acclaimed releases in this genre is Emma Copley Eisenberg's contemplative exploration of a double murder in West Virginia, The Third Rainbow Girl.

Of course, not all mysteries involve crimes. In Meng Jin's debut novel Little Gods, a young woman travels to China, hoping to piece together a greater understanding of her deceased enigmatic mother's earlier life. In The Truants, Kate Weingberg's thrilling debut, a college student's world is turned upside down by secrets and lies centered around a professor who specializes in the work of author Agatha Christie. Our Beyond the Book for this one focuses on a real mystery from Christie's life that remains the subject of much conjecture.

The Volunteer, Jack Fairweather's harrowing biography of a Polish lieutenant who went undercover in Auschwitz to collect intelligence and organize resistance, won the Costa Book of the Year Award last week, so we're rerunning our First Impressions review for this one in case you missed it. The book is an astonishing firsthand account that draws heavily from the courageous soldier's journal.

We also have a wealth of intriguing beyond the book articles on a diverse range of topics including mythical healers, tree law, America's obsession with stuff, and the five Confucian virtues.

Additionally, we have an illuminating new Book Club Q&A in this issue with Adrienna Turner, librarian and book club facilitator at the Sacramento State Prison. Make sure to browse through the latest in paperback, and previews for upcoming releases as well!

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

P.S. We have a new section under development to showcase our Beyond the Book articles. You can search for topics, or browse alphabetically or by publication date. Please do let me know what you think!

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January 22, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

Books are fantastic tools for building empathy; they can take us to places we've never been before and show us the hearts and minds of people very different from ourselves, while also revealing commonalities. In Between Two Fires, journalist Joshua Yaffa explores the lives of everyday people in Russia as they attempt to carve out opportunities for themselves under an increasingly authoritarian regime. Coincidentally, this book was released the day before the entire Russian government resigned en masse. If you're wondering what this sudden shake-up means and what might happen next, we've broken it down for you in our accompanying Beyond the Book article.

Carmen Maria's Machado's In the Dream House takes readers on a tour through the abject horror of an abusive relationship — her own with a woman she met and fell in love with while attending graduate school. This haunting, genre-bending memoir offers insight into a rarely discussed phenomenon — abuse in queer relationships. We add our voices to the chorus of this book's critical acclaim.

On the other side of the memoir spectrum we also review a recently rediscovered account of a Jewish woman's harrowing escape from Nazi Germany, A Bookshop in Berlin. Our Beyond the Book article for this one covers Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," the first major, widespread act of violence against Jews during the rise of the Nazis, an event that author Francoise Frenkel witnessed firsthand.

Also, you'll want to check out our review for American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, which received the only perfect score in the history of our First Impressions review program (more than 600 books reviewed to date!) with every single member-reviewer rating it 5 stars. Our online Book Club discussion for this one begins February 11th.

Don't forget to check out the latest paperback releases and previews for late January/early February releases as well.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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January 08, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

Happy New Year! Did you make a resolution to learn something new? To read more nonfiction? Or would you like to do so without the crushing weight of obligation a resolution brings with it? You're in luck! Journey to Mosul with our First Impressions reviewers, who were riveted by Louise Callaghan's Father of Lions, and check out the accompanying beyond the book article where we explore how the city was affected by ISIS occupation.

We also review Life Undercover, the memoir of former CIA operative Amaryllis Fox, who recounts the personal and professional challenges she faced while working as a spy. Fox infiltrated illegal arms trade networks while with the Agency, so our beyond the book article covers the development and disarmament of nuclear weapons from the 1950s to the present.

Have you heard of the sophomore slump? These authors haven't! In the fiction department, we cover two highly anticipated second novels. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's A Kind of Freedom was longlisted for the National Book Award, and she returns with The Revisioners, a deeply affecting portrait of three generations of Louisiana women contending with racial prejudice. Erin Morgenstern's 2011 novel The Night Circus was a bestseller (she won BookBrowse's Best Debut Author Award that year), and she follows up with The Starless Sea, another charming, compulsively readable work of fantasy.

This are just a taste of the 18 books reviewed in this issue (including Bernardine Evaristo's Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other), and each is accompanied by a related "beyond the book" article, including a fun one on animal sounds in different languages.

Additionally, we have the usual lineup of previews, among which you'll find the next book everyone will be talking about: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, which is the first to score a perfect 5-star rating from our First Impressions reviewers!

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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