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

August 03, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

Learning to read is one of the most significant developments of childhood, but learning to read critically is a skill we develop and hone throughout our lives. Elaine Castillo's multifaceted and playful approach to the topic is captured in the title of her essay collection, How to Read Now, which can itself be read two ways: how to read literature in our contemporary moment, and how to read that moment itself — how to read the world that we're living in. In the accompanying Beyond the Book article, we discuss a classic work of literary criticism addressing this same topic, Toni Morrison's 1992 essay collection Playing in the Dark.

On the subject of books and reading, we have multiple Beyond the Book articles in this issue that feature reading lists. Alongside the review for Shashi Bhat's The Most Precious Substance on Earth, we explore Books About Female Friendship, and our review of Jean Thompson's novel The Poet's House features a list of other Novels About Poets.

We also review Bitch: On the Female of the Species by Lucy Cooke and Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard, among other new releases.

Plus, challenge yourself with a new Wordplay, and check out our latest blog post about fun names for book clubs.

Thank you for being a member of BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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July 13, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

This week, we review the latest novel from Sloane Crosley, perhaps best known for her funny and insightful essay collections, I Was Told There'd Be Cake (2008) and Look Alive Out There (2018). In Cult Classic, a New York City woman named Lola is plagued by run-ins with her ex-boyfriends, incidents that she comes to see are not random at all, but part of a strange social experiment designed by her former boss at a magazine called Modern Psychology. It's a riveting concept, and the novel is imbued with Crosley's trademark wit.

We also review Maggie Shipstead's collection of short stories You Have a Friend in 10A, which consists of pieces previously published in literary journals before the author became a household name with novels like Seating Arrangements (2012) and Great Circle (2021)—the latter made BookBrowse's Best of the Year list. Our Beyond the Book article accompanying this review looks at authors who have published both short story collections and novels.

This issue contains two paperback originals (new releases published in paperback form) — Night of the Living Rez, a debut short story collection by Morgan Talty about life on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Maine, and Carolina Moonset a mystery novel interwoven with family drama by Matt Goldman, which we're currently discussing in our book club forum.

Our latest book club interview is with Marcus Book Club, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The group operates out of the legendary Marcus Books in Oakland, California. Named for activist Marcus Garvey, the store's motto is "Books By and About Black People Everywhere."

We also have a new Wordplay and much more.

As always, thank you for being a BookBrowse member, we couldn't do this without you.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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June 22, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

Among the eighteen featured books in this issue, we review two focused on young women trying to break into fields with high and rigid standards to which they struggle to conform. In her memoir Corrections in Ink, Keri Blakinger narrates her path from competitive figure skater to heroin dealer, detailing how the sport's expectations for an athlete's body contributed to her developing an eating disorder and a drug habit.

In Nghi Vo's debut novel Siren Queen, a young, queer Chinese American woman attempts to break into the film industry in a reimagining of Hollywood's Golden Age. In our Beyond the Book article, we look at lavender marriages from this period of film history — relationships based on disguising one or both partners' sexuality.

Ocean Vuong's powerful second collection of poems, Time Is a Mother, also deals with issues related to queer and Asian American experiences. Among other things, the poet writes movingly of the loss of his mother to cancer and the ways in which her status as a non-English speaking immigrant made her vulnerable to medical negligence.

We have signed copies of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens to give away, just in time for the release of the movie adaptation on July 15th. Plus, we have a new Wordplay and over 50 previews of upcoming releases.

Thank you for being a member of BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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June 08, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we review the combination biography and sociopolitical history His Name Is George Floyd by Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, which marks the two-year anniversary of Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer. The authors explore Floyd's death in the wider context of American history from Reconstruction to the present day.

We also review Meron Hadero's prize-winning debut collection of short stories, A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, which brings readers to the Ethiopian diaspora in America with striking humor and poignancy. Meanwhile, Ken Kalfus's novel 2 A.M. in Little America looks at immigration through a dystopian lens, imagining a future in which the United States has been plunged into chaos as a result of political factionalism and Americans like the protagonist Ron Patterson must seek refuge in other countries, where they are frequently unwelcome.

We Had to Remove This Post is the first novel by famed Dutch author Hanna Bervoets to be translated into English, and it's been generating a lot of buzz. The plot centers around a woman who worked as a content moderator for a social media site, exploring the psychological repercussions of such a job and the societal ills that create the conditions for this kind of work.

In addition to the 18 reviews and Beyond the Book articles in this issue, we have author interviews, previews of upcoming releases, a new Wordplay and more.

Thanks for reading BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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May 18, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we review Either/Or, Elif Batuman's sequel to her 2017 coming-of-age novel The Idiot. It follows main character Selin's sophomore year at Harvard University as she seeks to understand herself and the world around her after her relationship with an upperclassman does not go as planned.

Meanwhile, in Michelle Hart's debut novel, We Do What We Do in the Dark, a college student named Mallory becomes romantically entangled with her married female professor. Like Either/Or, this novel centers on a young woman on the cusp of adulthood trying to make sense of her life and potential future.

Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate also features a young woman protagonist, Leigh Chen, who is the daughter of the US president in the year 2072. In this young adult sci-fi novel, Leigh is one of a group of 53 teenagers who flee Earth in a spaceship after a catastrophic volcano eruption. Leigh's struggles are both internal and external, as she must bolster her own delicate sense of self while also mediating conflict among the other teenagers.

In addition to these and many other reviews, this issue features a new Wordplay, a link to our blog post "15 Gripping Thriller and Mystery Books for Book Clubs" and much more, including over 40 previews for upcoming releases.

Thank you for being a member of BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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May 04, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

Douglas Stuart's debut novel Shuggie Bain won the Booker Prize in 2020, along with tremendous critical acclaim; so his second novel Young Mungo was widely anticipated and is more than living up to expectations. It follows protagonist Mungo Hamilton as he comes of age in Glasgow's East End in the 1980s, an environment marked by poverty and casual violence.

Audrey Magee's The Colony is set on an Irish island in the 1970s during "the Troubles," an extended sectarian conflict between Protestants and Catholics. Both Young Mungo and The Colony take place during a time of instability and conflict, and the accompanying Beyond the Book articles inform and intersect with one another.

In the article Colonization and the Irish Language, we track the decline of the Irish language over centuries. One of the key reasons for this decline was the Great Famine in the 1840s, which killed over one million people and triggered waves of emigration. Many fled the famine for Scotland, and in the article Religious Sectarianism in Glasgow: Then and Now, we look at how these new arrivals exacerbated conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Scotland, an issue that continues to plague the region in the present day.

We also review Jenny Tinghui Zhang's historical novel Four Treasures of the Sky, and Aamina Ahmad's emotionally resonant detective novel set in Lahore, The Return of Faraz Ali, both of which are debuts that earned 5-star ratings from our reviewers.

In addition to the 16 reviews in this issue, we have a new Wordplay, previews for upcoming releases, and much more. If you haven't already, make sure to check out our interview with the CEO of Vivat, a publisher in Ukraine working to maintain operations during the Russian invasion.

As always, thank you for reading BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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April 20, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

This issue features multiple Beyond the Book articles about books, authors and writing. In Lee Cole's critically acclaimed debut novel Groundskeeping, protagonist Owen Callahan returns to his hometown in Kentucky and takes a creative writing class at Ashby College, where he meets and falls for writer-in-residence Alma Hadzic. In the Beyond the Book, we look at writing residencies, which aim to give writers the freedom and time to ply their craft sans distractions.

In Scoundrel, Sarah Weinman chronicles the story of a convicted murderer who convinced conservative commentator William F. Buckley and many others of his innocence. In the accompanying Beyond the Book, we offer a brief history of the true crime genre, from Charles Dickens' "A Visit to Newgate" (1836) to Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark (2018).

We also have a few Beyond the Book reading lists in this issue, one of which compiles Young Adult Novels Written in Verse and another that focuses on Novels About Inheritance. You can look through our full collection of Beyond the Book reading lists anytime on the BookBrowse website. This feature is great for finding books to recommend to friends or book clubs, or to read yourself.

There is also a new Wordplay, along with a link to our blog post about the Most Popular Book Club Books in 2021.

As always, thank you for being a member of BookBrowse; we couldn't do this without you.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

P.S. We've just published an interview with the CEO of Vivat, Ukraine's second largest publisher based in Kharkiv very near the Russian border. I follow the news from Ukraine pretty obsessively, but speaking with Julia Orlova has given me a new perspective and I am in awe of the extraordinary work they are doing. I hope you find the interview interesting and will share with others.

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BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.