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

September 21, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we cover three books set during the 1940s-1950s, offering a unique window into this era in world history from multiple perspectives. Jerome Charyn's entertaining latest Big Red is a noir-tinged exploration of the marriage between director Orson Welles and actress Rita Hayworth, narrated through the eyes of a spy sent by Columbia Pictures to surveil the famous couple.

Yiyun Li's The Book of Goose tells the story of two teenage girls, Agnès and Fabienne, who write a book in the early 1950s. When the book is published, Agnès becomes an overnight literary celebrity, which profoundly affects the course of her life and her friendship with Fabienne. In the Beyond the Book accompanying this review, we look at the life and career of real-life teenage author Françoise Sagan, whose debut novel Bonjour Tristesse attracted a similar level of fame and attention when it was published in 1954.

Melody Razak's much lauded debut novel Moth follows a Delhi family thrown headlong into the upheaval of Partition in 1947. Razak brings the profound disturbance of this event to life through the primary catalyst of a 14-year-old girl's abduction and a general atmosphere of dread punctuated by catastrophe.

This issue also features our review of the debut short story collection If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, which appeared on the National Book Award longlist last week.

We also have a fun new blog post featuring Book Club Food Ideas for Hearty Discussions, with some great tips for refreshments whether you're meeting in person or remotely, as well as a new Wordplay and much more.

Thanks as always for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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September 07, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we review some excellent new works of historical fiction, including Afterlives by Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah. This novel is set in East Africa in the early 20th century and focuses on the lives of characters impacted by German colonial rule. More than anything, though, it's a character study about people and their relationships to one another — human connections that span great distances and offer meaning during periods of upheaval.

The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters is set during the English Civil War (1642-1651) and also centers fascinating characters and their relationships to one another. These characters include Jayne Swift, a doctor, and William Harrier, a footman rumored to be a spy. Walters deeply explores her characters' backstories, beliefs, dreams and capabilities with care and nuance.

In Rebecca Stott's Dark Earth, two sisters survive by their wits in post-Roman Britain after their father dies, attempting to make a life for themselves at a time when women had few options beyond seeking safety from a man. The novel's highlights include the poignant bond between the two sisters and the well-drawn backdrop of London after the Romans abandoned it.

We also have a new Wordplay, along with over 40 previews of new releases. And if you haven't already entered our giveaway to win a copy of Susanne Pari's In the Time of Our History, make sure you do so by September 12.

As always, thank you for reading BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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August 24, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

This week, we cover two high-stakes thrillers involving Cold War tensions, both of which earned five-star ratings from our reviewers. In Natasha Pulley's The Half Life of Valery K, a former biochemist and a KGB officer in the Soviet Union are thrust together to determine why radiation levels are so high in the area around the mysterious "City 40." You can learn about the author's inspiration in our Beyond the Book article on the Kyshtym Nuclear Disaster.

Meanwhile, in Dan Fesperman's Winter Work, Emil Grimm, a former member of East Germany's secret police seeks to provide information to U.S. intelligence in exchange for a new life in America. But when his coworker is murdered, Emil's future freedom, and his life, come under threat.

We also review the latest from Anthony Marra, Mercury Pictures Presents, revolving around a Hollywood studio experiencing the upheaval of World War II, and a movie producer attempting to create art within the confines of the Hays code and conflicting personal and professional loyalties.

In addition to the 16 reviews and Beyond the Book articles in this issue, we have a link to our new blog post, featuring 8 Recent Books by Native Authors That We Recommend, a new Wordplay, and much more.

Plus, enter to win a copy of Susanne Pari's In the Time of Our History, a novel about an Iranian American family in the 1990s struggling with loss and generational differences, based on the author's personal experiences. The publisher has been extremely generous with copies of this book, so we have 50 copies to share, which are in addition to those already assigned through our August First Impressions offer.

As always, thank you for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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August 03, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

Learning to read is one of the most significant developments of childhood, but learning to read critically is a skill we develop and hone throughout our lives. Elaine Castillo's multifaceted and playful approach to the topic is captured in the title of her essay collection, How to Read Now, which can itself be read two ways: how to read literature in our contemporary moment, and how to read that moment itself — how to read the world that we're living in. In the accompanying Beyond the Book article, we discuss a classic work of literary criticism addressing this same topic, Toni Morrison's 1992 essay collection Playing in the Dark.

On the subject of books and reading, we have multiple Beyond the Book articles in this issue that feature reading lists. Alongside the review for Shashi Bhat's The Most Precious Substance on Earth, we explore Books About Female Friendship, and our review of Jean Thompson's novel The Poet's House features a list of other Novels About Poets.

We also review Bitch: On the Female of the Species by Lucy Cooke and Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard, among other new releases.

Plus, challenge yourself with a new Wordplay, and check out our latest blog post about fun names for book clubs.

Thank you for being a member of BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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July 13, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

This week, we review the latest novel from Sloane Crosley, perhaps best known for her funny and insightful essay collections, I Was Told There'd Be Cake (2008) and Look Alive Out There (2018). In Cult Classic, a New York City woman named Lola is plagued by run-ins with her ex-boyfriends, incidents that she comes to see are not random at all, but part of a strange social experiment designed by her former boss at a magazine called Modern Psychology. It's a riveting concept, and the novel is imbued with Crosley's trademark wit.

We also review Maggie Shipstead's collection of short stories You Have a Friend in 10A, which consists of pieces previously published in literary journals before the author became a household name with novels like Seating Arrangements (2012) and Great Circle (2021)—the latter made BookBrowse's Best of the Year list. Our Beyond the Book article accompanying this review looks at authors who have published both short story collections and novels.

This issue contains two paperback originals (new releases published in paperback form) — Night of the Living Rez, a debut short story collection by Morgan Talty about life on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Maine, and Carolina Moonset a mystery novel interwoven with family drama by Matt Goldman, which we're currently discussing in our book club forum.

Our latest book club interview is with Marcus Book Club, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The group operates out of the legendary Marcus Books in Oakland, California. Named for activist Marcus Garvey, the store's motto is "Books By and About Black People Everywhere."

We also have a new Wordplay and much more.

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

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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June 22, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

Among the eighteen featured books in this issue, we review two focused on young women trying to break into fields with high and rigid standards to which they struggle to conform. In her memoir Corrections in Ink, Keri Blakinger narrates her path from competitive figure skater to heroin dealer, detailing how the sport's expectations for an athlete's body contributed to her developing an eating disorder and a drug habit.

In Nghi Vo's debut novel Siren Queen, a young, queer Chinese American woman attempts to break into the film industry in a reimagining of Hollywood's Golden Age. In our Beyond the Book article, we look at lavender marriages from this period of film history — relationships based on disguising one or both partners' sexuality.

Ocean Vuong's powerful second collection of poems, Time Is a Mother, also deals with issues related to queer and Asian American experiences. Among other things, the poet writes movingly of the loss of his mother to cancer and the ways in which her status as a non-English speaking immigrant made her vulnerable to medical negligence.

We have signed copies of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens to give away, just in time for the release of the movie adaptation on July 15th. Plus, we have a new Wordplay and over 50 previews of upcoming releases.

Thank you for being a member of BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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June 08, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we review the combination biography and sociopolitical history His Name Is George Floyd by Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, which marks the two-year anniversary of Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer. The authors explore Floyd's death in the wider context of American history from Reconstruction to the present day.

We also review Meron Hadero's prize-winning debut collection of short stories, A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times, which brings readers to the Ethiopian diaspora in America with striking humor and poignancy. Meanwhile, Ken Kalfus's novel 2 A.M. in Little America looks at immigration through a dystopian lens, imagining a future in which the United States has been plunged into chaos as a result of political factionalism and Americans like the protagonist Ron Patterson must seek refuge in other countries, where they are frequently unwelcome.

We Had to Remove This Post is the first novel by famed Dutch author Hanna Bervoets to be translated into English, and it's been generating a lot of buzz. The plot centers around a woman who worked as a content moderator for a social media site, exploring the psychological repercussions of such a job and the societal ills that create the conditions for this kind of work.

In addition to the 18 reviews and Beyond the Book articles in this issue, we have author interviews, previews of upcoming releases, a new Wordplay and more.

Thanks for reading BookBrowse.

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.