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

May 18, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we review Either/Or, Elif Batuman's sequel to her 2017 coming-of-age novel The Idiot. It follows main character Selin's sophomore year at Harvard University as she seeks to understand herself and the world around her after her relationship with an upperclassman does not go as planned.

Meanwhile, in Michelle Hart's debut novel, We Do What We Do in the Dark, a college student named Mallory becomes romantically entangled with her married female professor. Like Either/Or, this novel centers on a young woman on the cusp of adulthood trying to make sense of her life and potential future.

Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate also features a young woman protagonist, Leigh Chen, who is the daughter of the US president in the year 2072. In this young adult sci-fi novel, Leigh is one of a group of 53 teenagers who flee Earth in a spaceship after a catastrophic volcano eruption. Leigh's struggles are both internal and external, as she must bolster her own delicate sense of self while also mediating conflict among the other teenagers.

In addition to these and many other reviews, this issue features a new Wordplay, a link to our blog post "15 Gripping Thriller and Mystery Books for Book Clubs" and much more, including over 40 previews for upcoming releases.

Thank you for being a member of BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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May 04, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

Douglas Stuart's debut novel Shuggie Bain won the Booker Prize in 2020, along with tremendous critical acclaim; so his second novel Young Mungo was widely anticipated and is more than living up to expectations. It follows protagonist Mungo Hamilton as he comes of age in Glasgow's East End in the 1980s, an environment marked by poverty and casual violence.

Audrey Magee's The Colony is set on an Irish island in the 1970s during "the Troubles," an extended sectarian conflict between Protestants and Catholics. Both Young Mungo and The Colony take place during a time of instability and conflict, and the accompanying Beyond the Book articles inform and intersect with one another.

In the article Colonization and the Irish Language, we track the decline of the Irish language over centuries. One of the key reasons for this decline was the Great Famine in the 1840s, which killed over one million people and triggered waves of emigration. Many fled the famine for Scotland, and in the article Religious Sectarianism in Glasgow: Then and Now, we look at how these new arrivals exacerbated conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Scotland, an issue that continues to plague the region in the present day.

We also review Jenny Tinghui Zhang's historical novel Four Treasures of the Sky, and Aamina Ahmad's emotionally resonant detective novel set in Lahore, The Return of Faraz Ali, both of which are debuts that earned 5-star ratings from our reviewers.

In addition to the 16 reviews in this issue, we have a new Wordplay, previews for upcoming releases, and much more. If you haven't already, make sure to check out our interview with the CEO of Vivat, a publisher in Ukraine working to maintain operations during the Russian invasion.

As always, thank you for reading BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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April 20, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

This issue features multiple Beyond the Book articles about books, authors and writing. In Lee Cole's critically acclaimed debut novel Groundskeeping, protagonist Owen Callahan returns to his hometown in Kentucky and takes a creative writing class at Ashby College, where he meets and falls for writer-in-residence Alma Hadzic. In the Beyond the Book, we look at writing residencies, which aim to give writers the freedom and time to ply their craft sans distractions.

In Scoundrel, Sarah Weinman chronicles the story of a convicted murderer who convinced conservative commentator William F. Buckley and many others of his innocence. In the accompanying Beyond the Book, we offer a brief history of the true crime genre, from Charles Dickens' "A Visit to Newgate" (1836) to Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark (2018).

We also have a few Beyond the Book reading lists in this issue, one of which compiles Young Adult Novels Written in Verse and another that focuses on Novels About Inheritance. You can look through our full collection of Beyond the Book reading lists anytime on the BookBrowse website. This feature is great for finding books to recommend to friends or book clubs, or to read yourself.

There is also a new Wordplay, along with a link to our blog post about the Most Popular Book Club Books in 2021.

As always, thank you for being a member of BookBrowse; we couldn't do this without you.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

P.S. We've just published an interview with the CEO of Vivat, Ukraine's second largest publisher based in Kharkiv very near the Russian border. I follow the news from Ukraine pretty obsessively, but speaking with Julia Orlova has given me a new perspective and I am in awe of the extraordinary work they are doing. I hope you find the interview interesting and will share with others.

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April 06, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we review Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility, a novel about time travel, war and a pandemic with all the pathos one has come to expect from this exceptional author. We also review The Impossible Us, a novel about a romance between two people living in different realities. Our Beyond the Book article for this review discusses the Mandela effect, a mysterious phenomenon revolving around the idea that some people remember the past differently than others because they used to be living in an alternate reality.

We review two books by Native authors, both of which are debuts. Lisa Bird-Wilson's novel Probably Ruby charts the life of a Métis woman adopted by a white family as a baby, articulating the alienation and marginalization she faces as she attempts to make a meaningful life for herself. Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe's debut memoir Red Paint provides a vivid picture of the musician/writer's exploration of her Coast Salish heritage (from the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian tribes in Washington State) as a means of healing from trauma.

This issue also contains a link (located under "Extras" in the left-hand menu) to our blog post featuring an interview with Kalani Pickhart, author of I Will Die in a Foreign Land, a novel about the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine in 2013-2014. The author offers insight into the present situation in Ukraine, as well as her process for researching and writing the book. Plus, we have a brand new Wordplay in this issue, nearly 50 previews of upcoming releases and much more.

Thank you for reading BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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March 16, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we're covering several books that strongly evoke a particular time and place, taking readers into the heart of eras of conflict and upheaval. Set in Ukraine, Kalani Pickhart's prescient debut novel I Will Die in a Foreign Land captures the taut atmosphere of the Euromaiden protests in 2013-2014, where demonstrators clashed with police over the government's decision to draw closer to Russia rather than the European Union.

In Ruta Sepetys's gripping YA novel I Must Betray You, a Romanian teenager named Cristian is forced to become an informant by the secret police, and later takes part in the revolution to overthrow the country's communist government in 1989. Meanwhile, Karen Cheung recounts her experience coming of age in Hong Kong in her debut memoir The Impossible City, focusing in particular on the 2019 protests against legislation that would have allowed those suspected of a crime to be extradited to mainland China. In the accompanying beyond the book article, our reviewer tracks the evolution of "Lion Rock Spirit," Hong Kong's unofficial cultural ethos of perseverance.

We also review Karen Joy Fowler's historical novel Booth, which tells the story of the family of John Wilkes Booth, nearly all of whom were well-known actors, across the mid- to late-19th century. The beyond the book article for this review features a look at the popularity of Shakespeare in America during this era.

This issue also features a new Wordplay, previews of nearly 50 books publishing in the next three weeks and a giveaway of Anne Tyler's new novel French Braid. Plus, check out our latest blog post, where we round up 16 Uplifting Books for Book Clubs.

As always, thank you for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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March 02, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

There are certain real-life figures from history that show up often in historical fiction. In this issue, we review two books that imagine the perspectives of lesser known characters, both from royal families.

In Antoinette's Sister, Diana Giovinazzo introduces readers to Maria Carolina, daughter of the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and sister of Marie Antoinette. The novel explores Maria Carolina's grief after her sister is executed during the French Revolution, her relationship with her husband, King Ferdinand of Naples, and the inner workings of the Spanish-Italian court with vivid historical detail. And you can learn all about Maria Theresa's remarkable descendants in our Beyond the Book article.

Meanwhile, our First Impressions readers review The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull, a historical novel focused on the Romanov family from the perspective of eldest daughter Olga. Our accompanying Beyond the Book article provides a brief overview of Olga's life.

In her debut collection of short stories, Shit Cassandra Saw, Gwen E. Kirby presents historical and mythical women through a feminist perspective, from the prophetess Cassandra to Mary Read, an 18th century English woman who lived as a man and traveled the seas with a crew of pirates.

We also rerun our First Impressions review of Stories from Suffragette City, a collection of short stories about the women's suffrage movement in the U.S. that is newly released in paperback.

This issue also includes a new Wordplay, previews for upcoming releases and much more.

As always, thank you for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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February 16, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

One remarkable thing about books is that they can take us to a different historical era and show us a defining moment through the eyes of someone who was there, real or imagined. In this issue, we review David Wright Faladé's Civil War novel Black Cloud Rising, which explores the complexities of life and relationships for the "African Brigade" — formerly enslaved men who joined the Union Army. In our accompanying Beyond the Book article, we delve deeper into the story of Faladé's real-life protagonist, Sergeant Richard Etheridge, who became a member of the United States Life-Saving Service after the war.

In Marcial Gala's novel Call Me Cassandra, the reader meets Raúl Iriarte, a Cuban boy who believes he is Cassandra of Troy from Greek mythology. Through Raúl's eyes, we see Cuba in the 1970s, and the circumstances of the Cuban intervention in the Angolan civil war. Meanwhile, our First Impressions readers review Lea Ypi's memoir Free, which recounts the author's youth in Albania in the 1980s-'90s, during and after the era of communism. Our Beyond the Book provides a brief history of Albania, with a focus on 20th century events.

This issue also features a new Wordplay and previews of almost 50 new books publishing over the next two weeks. Also, don't miss our new blog post featuring recommendations for the best short books for book clubs (all under 250 pages).

Thank you for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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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.