MLA Platinum Award Press Release

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

August 05, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

One theme that emerges across multiple novels we review in this issue is an evocative sense of place. In Some Go Home, a military veteran grapples with a return to civilian life in her hometown of Pitchlynn, Mississippi. Author Odie Lindsey then widens his focus to explore Pitchlynn's other residents and the town's dark past of racial animosity.

In Catherine Lacey's slow-burning fable Pew, a mute, cryptic stranger arrives in an unnamed Southern town on the eve of the inhabitants' mysterious "Forgiveness Festival" and becomes the focus of their attention, and ultimately, their fear and hostility. Jayant Kaikini's collection of short stories No Presents Please is set in Mumbai and focuses on the lonely residents living on the city's margins.

Two of our nonfiction selections consider important social issues through an informative and empathetic lens. In After the Last Border, author Jessica Goudeau follows two immigrant families attempting to establish their lives in America as ever-evolving U.S. immigration policies threaten their stability. Dr. Christine Montross takes readers behind the scenes of the American carceral system in Waiting for an Echo to expose the inadequacy of its mental health resources and the dire need for prison reform.

We also have the usual round of previews for upcoming releases and reviews for books new in paperback.

Enjoy and stay well.

Your editor,
Davina

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July 15, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

It's always our goal to bring you thoughtful and candid reviews of some of the best and most notable new books, but we also hope to impart some context and knowledge via our Beyond the Book articles. In this issue, we have an exceptionally strong batch. For example, we accompany our review of David Mitchell's Utopia Avenue, a fictional rock band biography set in the late 1960s, with a look back at the legendary and long-running BBC program Top of the Pops and some of the show's iconic performances.

Almond, the debut novel of Korean director and screenwriter Sohn Won-pyung, features a neurodivergent teenager struggling to process a traumatic event, and our accompanying Beyond the Book article considers the importance of representation via realistic and nuanced portrayals of neurodiverse characters in literature. In Future Earth, climate journalist Eric Holthaus discusses possibilities for mitigating the repercussions of the climate crisis, while our Beyond the Book explores psychological responses to environmental change.

We have previews of 60+ upcoming releases in this issue, a number of which were moved from their original planned publication dates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure to also check out our latest Culture Corner feature in the Extras section, in which we bring you information about non-book related cultural events and programs available online. You can see all the posts to date in our blog. And we have a new introductory video. Click the image to view!

I hope you continue to be safe and well, and that you have plenty of good books to keep you occupied.

Your editor,
Davina

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June 24, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we cover two books published in 2019 that have recently surged to the top of the bestseller lists in response to protests and calls for change surrounding racism and police brutality. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo provides a comprehensive and accessible guide to discussing issues like these with openness and a desire to learn about others' experiences. In How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi considers the systemic roots of racism in America and how racist policies and cultural ideas perpetuate inequity in the present through the lens of his personal experiences. We discuss these books and many more in a recent blog post featuring Anti-Racist Reading Lists for Book Clubs.

We're also rerunning the review for Christy Lefteri's The Beekeeper of Aleppo which is newly released in paperback and will be the subject of one of our online Book Club discussions beginning June 27th.

We have some excellent Beyond the Book features in this issue as well, including a reading list of Books Narrated from Beyond the Grave accompanying the review for Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station and a look at the Kurdish female soldiers fighting the Islamic State and sexism accompanying the review of Daughters of Smoke & Fire by Ava Homa.

There are also many interesting book-related news stories, many of which relate to the publishing industry's reckoning with racial biases, and a considerable number of previews for upcoming releases that are generating a lot of positive buzz.

As always, I hope you are well and safe.

Your editor,
Davina

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June 03, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

Jane Austen is experiencing something of a revival in fiction at the moment (though she has never strayed far from the literary imagination). In this issue, we review the latest addition to the canon, The Jane Austen Society, a historical novel set just after World War II centered around a group of Austen fans that band together to turn the author's home in Chawton into a museum. In the related Beyond the Book article, we look at how Austen's legacy has endured over the centuries.

In a follow-up to her 2016 bestselling and critically acclaimed debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett's novel The Vanishing Half follows a set of twins who pursue vastly different paths against a backdrop illustrating the evolution of racism in the 20th century. It's a dazzling read that further highlights the author's exceptional imaginative skill and execution, and it's a great choice for book clubs.

If you're looking to expand your cultural horizons, debut author A. Kendra Greene takes readers on a tour of Iceland's museums in her ruminative and wide-ranging collection of essays, The Museum of Whales You Will Never See. After you read the review, brush up on your Icelandic geography with our accompanying Beyond the Book article.

Speaking of culture, we've introduced a new feature on BookBrowse called the Culture Corner. With museums, theaters, and the like still closed in many places due to COVID-19, many of you may be missing your connections to local arts communities. Each week we'll be providing you with suggestions of cultural material available to read, watch, or listen to online mostly beyond the world of books to try to fill that void. If you have suggestions for this ongoing feature, feel free to get in touch!

Take care and stay well.

Your editor,
Davina

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May 20, 2020

Dear Bookbrowsers,

Several of the books in this issue focus on a particular, evocative setting as a lens through which to explore significant sociopolitical issues. In some cases, these are communities in crisis. In Death in Mud Lick, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Eyre captures the particularly destructive toll the opioid epidemic has taken on a community in West Virginia. In Fire in Paradise, Guardian journalists Alistair Gee and Dani Anguiano present a riveting account of the wildfire that ravaged a California town in 2018, providing a heartbreaking example of how the effects of climate change are generating disastrous consequences.

In her debut short story collection, How to Pronounce Knife, Souvankham Thammavongsa chronicles the experiences of Lao immigrants living in Canada in poignant snapshots about acclimating to a new home far from one's country of origin. Nathacha Appanah's novel Tropic of Violence takes a darker look at this subject, as an orphaned immigrant teenager falls in with a bad crowd on the French islands of Mayotte, where natives are hostile toward the waves of migrants arriving on their shores. Make sure to check out the accompanying Beyond the Book article, which breaks down the implications of this very real crisis in Mayotte.

If you're a fan of Young Adult novels, we have a review of Sarah Tomp's The Easy Part of Impossible, and reviews of three newly published YA paperbacks. We also have previews of 25 notable books coming soon.

I hope you're staying safe and well,

Your editor,
Davina

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May 06, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

This issue, we cover two very different books about DNA. In Some Assembly Required, biologist Neil Shubin breaks down the history of evolutionary science in riveting prose designed for the layperson. In the accompanying Beyond the Book article, our reviewer discusses how viruses like COVID-19 affect us as a species, resulting in fundamental and lasting change. Libby Copeland's The Lost Family explores how commercial DNA tests have drastically altered many a person's understanding of themselves, their families and their histories. The Beyond the Book for this review looks at how DNA testing has been employed by law enforcement and the ethical concerns raised by this practice.

We also have two raw, powerful works of fiction centered around the lives of women struggling with mental and emotional distress. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 examines the strictures placed on women's lives in the author's native South Korea (where the book was released in 2016, generating heated controversy and selling over a million copies). Starling Days, meanwhile, considers the strain placed on intimate relationships by mental health challenges and the lengths a person might go to achieve fleeting happiness while submerged in a depressive episode.

There are also many intriguing Beyond the Book articles including an unintentional emphasis on ancient myth and history: from the Greek Nymphs to the Norse goddess Freya, by way of the druids of ancient Europe, the influence of Greek on the English language, and the women of classical mythology.

Make sure to check out the Extras in this issue, as we have a new Wordplay and Giveaway and a link to our latest blog post, which features 15 ideas for book clubs, which will be particularly relevant for groups that normally borrow books in print from the library but cannot do so while library buildings are closed.

You may notice that the Previews section is a little light this issue; due to the pandemic, many publishers have moved some of their lead books to later dates. Most are being pushed out to fall, and a few have moved all the way to 2021. We'll continue to bring you news of the very best books to look out for, even if the number of said books will be on the lighter side during May and June.

As always, I hope you are safe and well during this difficult time.

Your editor,
Davina

Read This Issue

April 22, 2020

Dear BookBrowsers,

Many of the books in this issue share the common theme of examining the experiences and hardships of women—real and fictional, past and present. They feature admirable women, relatable women, magical women, and, for those of us that enjoy the occasional dose of horror, vampire slaying women.

Our First Impressions readers recommend The Women with Silver Wings, a nonfiction account of the female pilots that took to the skies during World War II, ferrying supplies and even testing out new aircraft to be used in combat. In another nonfiction title, The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness, Sarah Ramey recounts her years-long battle with a seemingly undiagnosable series of ailments, and in the process presents a well-reasoned critique of a healthcare system that often refuses to take the legitimate complaints of female patients seriously.

If you're in need of a good novel, Afterlife by Julia Alvarez also comes highly recommended by our First Impressions readers, and Afia Atakora's Conjure Women is a riveting debut work of historical fiction that heralds the arrival of a promising new voice.

As always, we have reviews of the latest paperback releases, including Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. This one is currently being discussed by our online Book Club, so please do hop into the conversation if you've read it.

We also have an abundance of news stories for you about COVID-19's effect on the book world, the Guggenheim fellowship announcements, and more.

I hope you and your loved ones are, and stay, healthy and safe.

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.