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

June 09, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we have five-star reviews for the latest novels by two award-winning authors. They feature a common thread of narrators revisiting the past in an attempt to make sense of the present. In Whereabouts, Jhumpa Lahiri depicts a woman shadowed by her own loneliness and memories through an unspecified Italian city. Lahiri wrote the book in Italian and translated it into English, and our Beyond the Book article explores more authors who have written in languages other than their native tongue.

Francisco Goldman's Monkey Boy features a narrator returning to the Boston of his youth, reliving incidents of violence and family turmoil, but also the glow of a formative first love. It's an autobiographical novel, and Goldman and his fictional counterpart in the novel, Francisco Goldberg, share a history as journalists in Latin America. Our Beyond the Book article looks at the Guatemalan Civil War, one of the subjects of the author's reportage.

We also have multiple debut novels that scored five stars from our reviewers. Dawnie Walton's The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is a dynamic fictional time capsule from the 1970s about a rock 'n' roll duo, while Eric Nguyen's Things We Lost to the Water is a lyrical family drama about Vietnamese immigrants living in New Orleans in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Plus, don't forget to check out the previews for upcoming releases and the new Wordplay.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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May 19, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

Since you subscribe to BookBrowse, it's probably a safe assumption that you have some degree of interest in not just books themselves but also writers and language; and in this issue all three come together with a running theme of books and the craft of writing.

The Plot is the latest slow-burn thriller from Jean Hanff Korelitz, whose novel You Should Have Known was recently adapted by HBO into the miniseries The Undoing starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. The Plot is centered around a writer who steals an idea from one of his MFA students. He is vaunted into literary stardom, but psychologically tormented by someone who knows the truth about the idea's origins. In our Beyond the Book article, we discuss the benefits, or possible lack thereof, of creative writing MFA programs.

Pip Williams' The Dictionary of Lost Words offers readers a fictionalized look at the composition of the Oxford English Dictionary through the eyes of a young woman who develops a fascination with obscure words. In the accompanying Beyond the Book article, we offer a reading list of books about the history of the OED and words that have fallen out of use.

Our review of The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano features a reading list of books about making the choice to become (or not to become) a mother, and our review of The Paris Hours runs with a brief biography of Gertrude Stein, the 20th century American writer well-known for her inventive experimentation with language.

We also have a new Wordplay — always popular with language lovers — plus previews of books publishing between now and our next issue; it's a bumper crop of more than 50 titles because it's a busy time of year and there's three weeks until the first of our two June issues on June 9.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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May 05, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

Our reviews in this issue feature several interesting Beyond the Book articles revolving around mythology. In the article accompanying the powerhouse YA debut novel The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, we look at the "monstrous women" of myth and literature who subvert the strictures of patriarchy designating how a woman is supposed to behave. Rowan Hisayo Buchanan's Starling Days is centered around a classical scholar, and our accompanying article highlights the character's interest in "Women Who Survived" the myths in which they appear, such as Odysseus's wife Penelope and Leda, who was seduced (or attacked) by Zeus in the guise of a swan.

In Genesis, Italian author and physicist Guido Tonelli guides readers through the origins of the universe, drawing parallels between the science and stories from Greek and other cultural mythologies. Our Beyond the Book article covers the creation myths Tonelli incorporates into his narrative, from the titular Book of Genesis to the Norse myth of the giant Ymir and his cow companion Audhumla.

We also have a new blog post focusing on the Most Popular Book Club Books of 2020, and a brand new Wordplay. Fans of humorous animal-related idioms may want to check out the answer to the previous puzzle, pigs might fly.

We feature plenty of other reviews and Beyond the Book articles inside, plus previews of upcoming releases and more.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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April 21, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we look at two books that offer valuable insight on preserving the environment, with particular focus on protecting endangered or otherwise vulnerable species of plants and animals. In Rescuing the Planet, journalist Tony Hiss explores the movement to protect 50 percent of the land in North America. Traveling throughout the continent, he highlights the work of scientists, activists and ecologists who are working to make this effort a reality.

In Under a White Sky, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Elizabeth Kolbert looks at some of the unorthodox ways scientists are attempting to protect the Earth and preserve species around the world, from electrocuting invasive Asian carp to fortifying coral reefs so they might survive warmer ocean temperatures. In our Beyond the Book article for this review, we discuss how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) might be powerful tools to protect people and animals from the adverse effects of climate change.

We also have reviews for some exciting new fiction releases, like Three O'Clock in the Morning, a novel by Italian author Gianrico Carofiglio about a burgeoning relationship between a father and his teenage son, set against the backdrop of the French city of Marseilles.

In addition to these and many more reviews, this issue contains a new Wordplay and previews of upcoming releases, including books by Jhumpa Lahiri, Joan Silber and Rachel Cusk; plus, the results of our recent survey of book club members to discover their all-time favorite authors to read and discuss, and their favorite book club books of 2020.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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April 07, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we feature reviews of new releases from two very popular award-winning authors. Best known for the Southern Reach trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer's latest, Hummingbird Salamander, is a speculative thriller about a woman plunged into a mystery involving the fate of a suspected ecoterrorist, a taxidermied hummingbird and deforestation in the Pacific Northwest. It's an action-packed blend of genres cleverly orchestrated by an author who's not afraid to experiment.

The new short story collection from Haruki Murakami, First Person Singular, considers the ephemeral nature of memory using some of the author's favorite subjects — music, baseball and women, among others. With his trademark wit and playful touches of magical realism, Murakami guides the reader through complex human emotions, like regret and nostalgia.

We also look at Mary H.K. Choi's third young adult novel, Yolk, which centers around two Korean American sisters living in New York City and contending with issues related to illness, identity and unpredictability. The accompanying Beyond the Book article for this review is a poignant personal reflection on Asian American representation on television.

Make sure to also check out our latest Book Club Q&A with a representative from Darien Public Library in Connecticut.

Enjoy and stay well.

Your editor,
Davina

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March 17, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

Parenthood requires making difficult choices, and looking after a child can make a perilous situation even more fraught. This is a connecting thread in several of the books we review in this issue. The family depicted in Patricia Engel's Infinite Country fled Colombia seeking safety in the United States, only to find themselves separated by the cruelties of immigration law. It's a thrilling novel with a compelling social message about the precarious lives of the undocumented in the U.S.

In Jakob Guanzon's debut novel Abundance, a single father tries to care for his son amid a seemingly inescapable cycle of poverty and poor luck. He wants desperately to be a better father than his own ever was, but without a home or a stable income and with a recent drug conviction on his record, his options are limited, the situation increasingly dire.

The protagonist of Nancy Johnson's The Kindest Lie got pregnant at 17 and decided the best choice was to give up her child. Over a decade later, she contends with lingering feelings of loss surrounding this decision as she contemplates having a child with her husband. She returns to her hometown hoping to track down her son and finds herself in the middle of a maelstrom of racial animosity.

In addition to these and plenty more great reviews, you'll want to check out our featured blog post on John Shors Literary Tours. John is a bestselling author whose novels take place all over the world, mostly in Asia. For the last couple of years he's run small group trips to take a lucky few to some of his favorite places. Upcoming tours include England this September, India in October, and Bhutan and Japan next April.

We also have a new book giveaway, previews of a host of notable books publishing soon, and a whole lot more.

We generally publish The BookBrowse Review twice a month, so sometimes there are three weeks between issues. This is one of those times; we'll be back with the next issue on April 7th.

Until then, best wishes and stay well.

Your editor,
Davina

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March 03, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

Two books in this issue examine political idealism from different genres and very different perspectives. In The Spymaster of Baghdad, a powerful work of investigative journalism, Margaret Coker explores the lives and patriotic impulses of three young people living in post-Hussein Iraq. Brothers Harith and Munaf al-Sudani join a counterterrorism unit of an Iraqi security team, with the former taking part in a daring mission that required him to go undercover posing as a member of ISIS. Meanwhile, a bright young woman named Abrar al-Kubaisi radicalized through online conversations, joins the terrorist organization with a sincere belief that she is acting to the benefit of her country. Make sure to check out our Beyond the Book article, where we take a look at the reasons some women are drawn to ISIS despite its rigid gender ideology.

In Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, a nameless protagonist is a communist double agent living in the U.S. after the Vietnam War. In the highly anticipated sequel, The Committed, he has abandoned the principles and idealism that informed his behavior in the first book and embraced a belief in "Nothing" as he relocates to Paris and becomes involved in a drug ring. Can this nihilism sustain a life? Can the protagonist reconcile his identity as a Vietnamese man with his paternal roots in France despite the colonialist past between the two countries? Nguyen investigates these questions within a riveting story of criminal intrigue.

We also review Klara and the Sun, the latest speculative novel from Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro; and we have terrific pieces by Yusef Salaam about how he channeled his experience of being accused and wrongfully convicted of being one of the "Central Park Five" into the YA novel Punching the Air and with his co-author Ibi Zoboi on what drew her to collaborate on the novel. Plus, check out reviews of the latest paperback releases, previews of notable books publishing in the next two weeks, and a new Wordplay.

Enjoy and stay well.

Your editor,
Davina

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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.