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

The BookBrowse Review

September 18, 2019

Dear Bookbrowsers,

Books can be an invaluable resource when it comes to making sense of hot-button political debates of the day, and few issues are more relevant at the present moment than migration. While the plight of border-crossers in the U.S. and refugees seeking asylum in Europe are in the news daily, you may be less aware of the growth of migration in other parts of the world—estimated to be 50% higher than it was at the turn of this century—with a constant flow of people seeking better employment opportunities outside of their home countries.

According to New York Times journalist Jason DeParle, there are an estimated 258 million migrants spread around the world at this moment, who send a total of US$477 billion a year back to their home countries—three times the world's foreign aid budgets combined! In A Good Provider is One Who Leaves, DeParle follows a family in the Philippines over a span of three decades, as the patriarch relocates to Saudi Arabia for work, and later one of his daughters emigrates to the United States.

Meanwhile, Tash Aw's fourth novel We, the Survivors is centered around a Malaysian man who served time in prison for murdering a Bangladeshi migrant. Bangladeshis make up one-eighth of the labor force in Malaysia, and in her beyond the book article for Aw's book, Rachel Hullett chronicles the ever-fluctuating policies between Malyasia and Bangladesh concerning imported labor. Edwidge Danticat's latest collection of short stories, Everything Inside also touches on the topic of immigration through several protagonists who have come to the United States from Haiti.

Make sure to check out the reviews for Pet, a debut YA novel from Akwaeke Emezi, and Kochland by Christopher Leonard, both of which are generating a lot of positive press; and our 40 previews of books publishing in late September!

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

Read This Issue

September 04, 2019

Dear BookBrowsers,

We've got a little something for everybody in this issue, from historical fiction to YA to sociological study. Representing the latter category is journalist Emily Guendelsberger's On the Clock, an account of the author's eye-opening experience working at a McDonald's, an Amazon warehouse, and a call center. She considers how these employers' management systems establish unrealistic expectations for workers, setting them up to fail, and how many people are working tirelessly and still unable to support themselves. In the Beyond the Book article for this review, we examine the increasingly detrimental ways automation is being used to track employees' movements and measure their work efforts. Another Beyond the Book article zeroes in on the continued decline of the coal industry in Greene County, Pennsylvania, despite the president's campaign promises to bring jobs back to this region.

Three books covered in this issue revolve around the French Resistance during World War II. One of the three, When the Plums are Ripe by Patrice Nganang is set in Cameroon (a French colony at the time), where members of the Resistance conscripted the locals into war with the Nazis. Nganang skillfully explores the moral implications of the indigenous being forced to serve as soldiers by their colonizers.

A similar topic is taken up by author Marie Arana in her sprawling history of Latin America, Silver, Sword, and Stone, in which she recounts centuries of Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule and enslavement of the native population in this region.

Make sure to check out the new paperback releases and the previews as well!

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

Read This Issue

August 21, 2019

Dear Bookbrowsers,

We're traversing the globe in this issue! Marjan Kamali's The Stationery Shop spirits readers away to Tehran in 1953 for a gripping, against-the-odds love story, while many of the pieces in Ayse Paptya Bucak's debut short story collection The Trojan War Museum take place the other side of the Iranian border in the author's home country of Turkey. Meanwhile, Polish phenom Olga Tokarczuk follows up her 2018 Man Booker Award-winner Flights with an entirely different affair; Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a murder mystery about an older woman whose certainty that she can solve the crimes is belittled by her community.

These books offer great opportunities for learning something new about other places and cultures. Make sure to check out the Beyond the Book article on Iranian Cuisine, complete with links to recipes, as well as the feature accompanying Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead that explores Women Writers in Translation. This article highlights a few organizations doing important work in support of female authors all over the world. The Beyond the Book article accompanying Ellie and the Harpmaker explores this novel's setting, England's idyllic and archaeologically rich Exmoor National Park.

You may notice a small change to The BookBrowse Review with this latest issue. At the request of a number of members, we've added a way for you to identify a book's genres and themes more easily than before. Look to the right of any book jacket image and you'll now see a link labelled "Genres." If you click this, a window will pop up showing you the genre that the book fits in and, for all featured books, you'll also see each title categorized by setting, time period and theme. This information has always been available but, until now, was somewhat hidden as a subcategory under Readalikes.

With the summer coming to a close, we are returning to our regular two week schedule, so look out for the next issue on September 4th!

Enjoy!

Your Editor,
Davina

Read This Issue

July 31, 2019

Dear BookBrowsers,

We've got some interesting non-fiction works in the mix for you this issue, with The Volunteer by Jack Fairweather, a riveting story of a heroic Polish soldier's journey into Auschwitz, and back out again; and Shadowlands by Anthony McCann, which covers the 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Ammon Bundy and his right-wing supporters.

We also cover Colson Whitehead's latest, The Nickel Boys. While it's a work of fiction, it's steeped in historical events from the 1960s, and our Beyond the Book article takes a look at the author's inspiration, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. This reform school had a disturbing history of abuse, the details of which finally emerged in 2008 when victims came forward with their stories. The Beyond the Book article for Justina Ireland's Dread Nation offers a parallel account from the 19th century about the forced assimilation practices at government-run boarding schools for Native American children.

In addition to the reviews and Beyond the Book articles, this issue is packed with 60+ previews of books slated for release between now and our next issue. Some of these titles are already generating a lot of buzz, such as Kochland, award-winning journalist Christopher Leonard's deep-dive into corporate interests in politics.

We will return with a new issue in three weeks; in the meantime, keep cool and stay hydrated!

Your editor,
Davina

Read This Issue

July 10, 2019

Dear Bookbrowsers,

I hope your summer is going well. If you don't have a vacation planned (or even if you do), you can always revel in the escapism of a good book. We've got some interesting thematic pairs in this issue, spanning a variety of subjects and genres:

Our two debuts, Amanda Lee Koe's Delayed Rays of a Star and Tim Mason's The Darwin Affair are both historical fictions based around the lives of real people. The former imagines the interior lives of actresses Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong, along with Nazi propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl during World War II (and the years after), while the latter uses the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species as a catalyst for a murder mystery.

Sonia Purnell's A Woman of No Importance is a riveting biography of little known World War II spy Virginia Hall, and Jeanne Mackin's novel The Last Collection is also set during the war, offering a fictionalized version of the lives of fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.

In the travelogue Hungry, journalist Jeff Gordinier follows famed Danish chef René Redzepi through Mexico and Australia on a mission to find the most exciting and authentic local ingredients. In Elizabeth Acevedo's latest YA phenom With the Fire on High, a teenage mother is inspired by a cooking class in her senior year of high school.

Max Porter's Lanny and Barbara Bourland's Fake Like Me are both dark stories centered around gripping mysteries that keep the reader guessing, though the former is something of a modern day fairy tale, and the latter a gritty noir set among New York City's artistic elite.

Finally, many parts of the world have recently celebrated LGBTQ+ pride, and we're keeping the celebration going just a little longer in this issue with Sarah Henstra's We Contain Multitudes, a tender YA love story about two very different high school boys navigating the confusing waters of their sexuality. We also take a look at Jennifer Weiner's Mrs. Everything, a novel exploring multiple generations of one Detroit family that depicts the changing attitudes about LGBTQ+ people in American society over several decades through the lens of main character Jo (who was based on the author's mother).

We will return with a new issue on July 31; hopefully you've got enough to read until then!

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

Read This Issue

June 19, 2019

Dear BookBrowsers,

Great literature allows us to become tourists visiting realms far outside our ordinary setting, whether that be a bustling metropolis across the country, or an alien planet in a distant galaxy. A good author can take the reader by the hand and make them feel at home in the strangest of places. We get to know the locals and their customs, and perhaps even imagine ourselves as part of their world. Several of the books in this issue are noteworthy for their vivid settings, some historical, some contemporary and familiar, and some surreal and askew.

Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls offers a dazzling rendition of 1940s New York City as backdrop to a young woman's coming-of-age, while Taffy Brodesser-Akner's Fleishman Is in Trouble provides a present-day look at the city and its upper echelons through a protagonist navigating the murky waters of dating and parenting after a marital separation.

Robert Macfarlane's Underland takes readers underground, through Parisian catacombs, Norwegian sea caves and Egyptian burial chambers, among many more locations, to explore our own interior, dark spaces on a metaphorical level, as well as the alarming trends of climate change.

The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer travels back to Vichy France during World War II to recount a fictionalized version of the heroic rescues undertaken by American journalist Varian Fry as he ferried thousands of Jews out of Europe and into the United States. Poet Ocean Vuong's novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous presents a window into the immigrant experience through the lens of a Vietnamese family with inter-generational trauma tied to the U.S. war in their homeland.

One of the issue's more experimental books, Mohammed Hanif's Red Birds, also concerns U.S. military intervention, and in this case the setting is obscured—a refugee camp in the desert, somewhere in the Middle East. It might be more accurate to simply say that the novel's setting is "war." Karen Russell's short story collection Orange World, meanwhile, features settings ranging from Joshua Tree National Park to 17th century Korčula.

When you're finished perusing the reviews, head on over to the American Library Association's website to read my article So Much Love for Library Book Groups!, and if you find it interesting, please share!

We continue to be on a three week summer schedule, so our next issue will be published on July 10th.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

Read This Issue

May 29, 2019

Dear BookBrowsers—

Among this issue's featured books are novels featuring layered, complicated female characters questioning what it means to be strong versus vulnerable (and how those seemingly contradictory qualities are actually two sides of the same coin), fighting back against societal racism and even taking on a drug cartel to save a beloved canine companion. They are singers, attorneys, troubled teens and former Marines.

In The Confessions of Frannie Langton, a historical fiction debut by Sara Collins, the titular character is a former slave and servant from Jamaica accused of murdering her employers. Rather than merely claiming her own innocence, her account places the onus on a racist, sexist London society that loathes black women and undermined her attempts to better herself at every turn.

Catherine Chung's The Tenth Muse narrates a Chinese mathematician's arduous struggle to be taken seriously in her field where her race and gender frequently provoke discrimination. Both Confessions of Frannie Langton and The Tenth Muse feature plots that spiral outward, as their narrators consider how their pasts inform their present, and how history and social issues intersect with their personal stories and struggles.

Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & The Six is the biography of a fictional 1970s rock band that unfolds in an interview format, with three resilient and dynamic female characters, including lead singer Daisy Jones. Daisy exhibits powerhouse vocals on the band's songs, but inside, she's aching for the love she never got from her parents, and trying to fill the void with drugs. But music gives Daisy an outlet for her feelings, a way to express herself even when doing so is scary.

The women in these novels refuse to be silenced or taken advantage of, no matter how much the odds might be stacked against them.

Among the other 13 books in this issue, we also feature The Age of Living Machines, a fascinating look at the future of bioengineering by neuroscientist and first female president of MIT, Susan Hockfield. The immediate future of literature looks bright as well—we've got previews of more than 70 books publishing between now and our next issue! Talking of which, every June and July, BookBrowse moves from our usual two-week publishing schedule to every three weeks, so the next BookBrowse Review will be on June 19.

Enjoy!

Your editor
Davina

Read This Issue

More Back Issues

Your guide toexceptional          books

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.