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

September 22, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

Last week, Richard Powers' just published novel, Bewilderment was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Powers won the Pulitzer in 2019 for The Overstory, a sprawling, epic love letter to trees and their significance in our world and lives. Bewilderment too has an ecological focus, and Powers explained the thematic connection between the two books to the New York Times, "I wrote a book that asked a very hard question, which is, why are we so lost and how can we possibly get back? I thought, now you've asked the question, why not write a story about what that change would look like?" Our "beyond the book" article for this review looks at how young people are fighting for their futures via Youth Environmental Activism.

Ash Davidson's powerful debut novel Damnation Spring takes place in a California redwood town in the 1970s, where residents rely on the timber industry for their livelihoods but discover that the herbicides used to protect the trees are a serious health hazard. Where Powers' Bewilderment shows us where we might be headed in the future, Damnation Spring shows us warnings from the past that we did not heed.

Much like her debut novel Migrations, Charlotte McConaghy's Once There Were Wolves explores the repercussions of species endangerment and extinction. This book focuses on a woman attempting to "rewild" the Scottish Highlands by reintroducing wolves to the area. McConaghy's protagonist must fight to protect her efforts after a man is found dead and the community believes the wolves are to blame.

We also review Colson Whitehead's Harlem Shuffle, Lauren Groff's Matrix, and more in this issue.

Also, don't miss the bumper crop of new books publishing over the next two weeks under Publishing Soon, including new novels from Anthony Doerr, Jonathan Franzen, Miriam Toews and Amor Towles.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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September 08, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we have some great "beyond the book" articles for literature lovers. We highlight two books that were popular with our First Impressions readers, Emily Spurr's A Million Things and Freya Sampson's The Last Chance Library, both of which are debuts. With these reviews, we look at the cultural significance of Roald Dahl's beloved young adult novel Matilda (1988), and trace the history of the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Accompanying the review for Sally Rooney's much-anticipated Beautiful World, Where Are You, we take you on a tour through Literary Dublin, checking out the city's bookshops and landmarks made famous through references in literature.

We also cover Kristen Radtke's Seek You, a graphic work of nonfiction exploring loneliness as a pervasive facet of American life. This review is paired with a reading list of other books in the Graphic Nonfiction Genre, which has grown increasingly popular in recent years.

Our paperback review of Fortune Favors the Dead features an overview of a popular archetype, the Sidekick Character in Detective Fiction.

All this and more inside, including a new Wordplay.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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August 18, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

Sometimes, a work of fiction's setting can be just as important as its characters and major themes. In this issue, we review Anthony Veasna So's debut collection of stories, Afterparties. Most of the book is set in Stockton, California, a place the author knew well as a result of growing up there within the city's community of Cambodian Americans. So brings Stockton's Cambodian population to the page vividly as he reflects on the challenges of immigrant life and relating to others across generational divides.

Rupert Thomson's Barcelona Dreaming explores the city on the northeastern coast of Spain in 2008, at a time when the looming financial crisis and Brexit have not yet changed the shape and face of Europe. In three novellas, Thomson's protagonists walk the streets of Barcelona seeking love or meaning or an escape from mental demons. The three pieces are tied together by a few loose interconnecting threads, including the presence of FC Barcelona soccer phenom Ronaldinho.

We have two nonfiction reviews that conjure a distinct sense of place as well: our First Impressions reader favorite At the Chinese Table, a combination memoir and cookbook about author Carolyn Phillips' experience in Taiwan, and The Brilliant Abyss, in which marine biologist Helen Scales takes readers to the deepest recesses of the ocean to meet the fascinating creatures that live there, in a habitat imperiled by human enterprise.

You'll find these and many more reviews and "beyond the book" articles in this issue, along with previews of upcoming releases, a new Wordplay and more.

Also, our Book Club recently opened discussions of Ava Homa's Daughters of Smoke & Fire and Charlotte McConaghy's Migrations, so if you've read either of these books, please join us.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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August 04, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we cover two captivating nonfiction books about racial injustice. The readers in our First Impressions program were fascinated by Caseen Gaines' account of the first major all-Black Broadway production in Footnotes. The musical was called Shuffle Along, and our Beyond the Book article covers two of its creators, the multi-talented musicians Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle.

All That She Carried by Harvard historian Tiya Miles presents the moving story of a slavery artifact — a sack given by an enslaved mother, Rose, to her daughter, Ashley, who was sold away from Rose at age nine. In the accompanying Beyond the Book, our reviewer recalls her trip to the National African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C., describing some of its artifacts and exhibits.

We have three debuts in this issue that earned 5-star ratings from our reviewers: Claire Boyles' environmentally conscious short story collection Site Fidelity; Suburban Dicks, a snarky mystery novel by Fabian Nicieza, creator of the Marvel comic hero Deadpool; and the slow-burn historical thriller An Unlikely Spy by Rebecca Starford.

We have a new Book Club discussion of All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss, and one for Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy starting next week. If you've read either or both, do drop by and join the conversation.

All this, plus more reviews, previews, and a new Wordplay inside.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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July 14, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we bring you multiple reviews and Beyond the Book articles that feature women pushing back against the societal strictures that tried to contain them. Samantha Silva's Love and Fury is a sensitive and inspiring work of historical fiction about the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). In our Beyond the Book article, we look at Wollstonecraft's legacy in the almost 225 years following her death.

In The Woman They Could Not Silence, Kate Moore explores the life of Elizabeth Packard, a woman who was forcibly committed to a mental institution by her husband in 1860 because of her "impassioned eloquence." Packard fought for her freedom at trial and won, and she also launched a public awareness campaign about the mistreatment of women and the mentally ill, seeking to protect others from being similarly abused.

Walking on Cowrie Shells, the phenomenal debut short story collection by Nana Nkweti, features a range of female characters, many of whom face challenges related to societal expectations. In our Beyond the Book article, we cover the 1929 Women's War in Nigeria, a series of protests against the oppression of British colonial rule.

We also have two recently opened Book Club discussions on books about strong women breaking through boundaries, so if you have read The War Nurse by Tracey Enerson Wood or Yale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins, make sure to stop by and join the conversation.

The next issue of The BookBrowse Review will be out in three weeks instead of the usual two, but this issue is larger than most with 20 reviews total, so hopefully you will have plenty to read between now and then. Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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June 23, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

May 31st marked the 100-year anniversary of the race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the date was commemorated by a renewed push toward educating Americans about this devastating event and how its repercussions reverberate through the present day. In this issue, we review historian Scott Ellsworth's The Ground Breaking, a deeply informative and often moving exploration of the aftermath of the massacre and the contemporary search for the remains of the victims a century later.

In a fictionalized account of a historical event, young adult author Stacey Lee's Luck of the Titanic brings to light the little-told story of the Chinese passengers aboard the doomed titular ship. While Lee's characters are her own inventions, our Beyond the Book article explores what little is known about the real Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic.

We also review new releases from two very popular authors, Joan Silber's novel-in-stories Secrets of Happiness, and Andy Weir's space travel odyssey Project Hail Mary. The latter comes with a fun and informative Beyond the Book article on the evolution of the U.S. spacesuit.

Also, make sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy of J. Michael Straczynski's new novel, Together We Will Go.

Enjoy!

Your editor,
Davina

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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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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.