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

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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January 20, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

We're introducing you to some terrific historical fiction in this issue, including the critically acclaimed debut of author Robert Jones Jr., The Prophets. Set on a Mississippi plantation, it's the moving story of two enslaved men who find solace and meaning in their love for one another amid the barbarity of their circumstances. Jones has attracted numerous comparisons to Toni Morrison from our First Impressions readers and critics alike.

In Outlawed, Anna North subverts the paradigm of the Wild West, introducing readers to a band of gender nonconformists living on the margins of society at the end of the 19th century. It's a compelling premise made captivating by North's quick pacing and the stakes of the plot, the urgency of the heroes' need to create a safe space where they can simply live their lives. Make sure to check out our Beyond the Book feature for this review, where we look at the gun-slinging, horse-stealing, stagecoach-robbing Women of the Wild West.

Stories from Suffragette City features short stories from authors like Paula McLain, Christina Baker Kline and Fiona Davis, all set on October 23, 1915, the day of a pivotal march for women's suffrage in New York City.

If historical fiction isn't your thing, fear not, we have plenty more recommendations in this issue, including Paul Yoon's second YA novel, Super Fake Love Song and the profound, heartrending memoir Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller. Plus, reviews of books new in paperback and a strong group of previews of upcoming releases.

We also have a new Wordplay, and if you haven't already, make sure to check out our blog post on Books in Translation for Book Clubs.

Enjoy and stay well.

Your editor,
Davina

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January 06, 2021

Dear BookBrowsers,

Happy New Year! In this issue, we look at a few noteworthy titles from the end of 2020 that we did not cover sooner due to the holiday break, along with one January 2021 release, the neo-Victorian mystery novel The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell. This is the author's second book but first released in the United States, and you can enter to win a copy here.

We have seven other featured debuts in this issue including Butter Honey Pig Bread by Nigerian Canadian author Francesca Ekwuyasi which tells the story of a mother and her twin daughters who are divided by a traumatic event in the girls' childhood and then reunited decades later. It's a moving story replete with sensory details and vivid love stories by an author to watch. Another debut is Simon Han's novel, Nights When Nothing Happened, about a Chinese American family living in Plano, Texas that experiences a divisive event which threatens both the stability of their household and their standing in the community. Han is a master of subtle suspense, and his well-drawn characters make this one a riveting read.

We also cover two short story collections by established authors, The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans and To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss. Make sure to check out the previews of books publishing soon, also featuring a number of debuts, including the already critically lauded Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters and Waiting for the Night Song, which our online Book Club will be discussing beginning January 9th.

Speaking of book clubs, if you haven't already, check out our blog post and new research report, Book Clubs in Lockdown, on how book groups are faring during the pandemic.

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.