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

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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February 17, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we feature a few books with subject matter that may be challenging for some readers, but that are nevertheless important and extremely worthwhile. In Amelia Pang's debut work of nonfiction Made in China, the author explores the Chinese Laogai system, in which individuals who have committed crimes and those suspected of being political dissidents are imprisoned in forced labor camps. One of these supposed dissidents is a man named Sun Yi, who in 2012 managed to smuggle a note into a bag containing Halloween decorations he was forced to assemble — a note that made it into the hands of a woman living in Oregon. This book and Daniel Loedel's debut novel Hades, Argentina both contain frank descriptions of torture. Loedel's book is set in the titular South American country during the Dirty War of the 1970s-80s. In this review's Beyond the Book article, we discuss the U.S.-backed Operation Condor — a plot geared toward the targeting, kidnapping, torture and murder of suspected socialists across Latin America during this period.

In Malinda Lo's young adult novel Last Night at the Telegraph Club, we see persecution play out in the United States as a young, queer Chinese American woman worries for her safety, her family and her sense of self during the 1950s' Red Scare. Our accompanying Beyond the Book article demonstrates that state-sanctioned xenophobia is far from a thing of the past.

We cover many more books as well, including the highly anticipated debut novel of poet, memoirist and Twitter phenom Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This. Plus, we have a new blog post about how some book groups changed their reading habits over the course of 2020, as well as a giveaway where you can enter to win a copy of Katherine Seligman's At the Edge of the Haight, a penetrating novel focused on a young woman experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.

Enjoy and stay well.

Your editor,
Davina

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February 03, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

As seasoned readers of BookBrowse know, in addition to reviews of the best and most intriguing new releases, we like to expand minds and perhaps book club discussions with our thought-provoking Beyond the Book articles. This issue of The BookBrowse Review features some excellent offerings in that respect. We review the debut novel White Ivy by Susie Yang, about a young Chinese American woman torn between conflicting cultural influences and motivations. In our Beyond the Book article, we discuss common differences in American and Chinese parenting philosophies and the tension assimilation can incite within immigrant families.

Jasmine Aimaq's The Opium Prince, also a debut, is a thriller set in Afghanistan in the late 1970s about an American diplomat who finds his life and fate intertwined with that of an opium dealer. In our Beyond the Book article, we cover American intervention and counter-narcotic efforts in Afghanistan, which have become enmeshed with anti-Taliban counterterrorism efforts over three presidential administrations.

We also review the latest from Chang-rae Lee — the delightful and expectation-subverting novel My Year Abroad — plus neuroscientist and psychologist Ethan Kross's debut Chatter, a work of nonfiction about the negative self-talk that prevents many people from living their best lives.

With libraries under restrictions due to the pandemic, many book clubs have had trouble sourcing the books they need for their discussions. Check out our latest blog post to learn some of the creative ways they're getting around this roadblock — you might find some solutions for your own book group that you hadn't thought of before. You'll find plenty more reviews in this issue, plus previews of upcoming releases, and more.

Enjoy and stay well.

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.