Reviews of the Week: Russell Banks, Firoozeh Dumas, Mary Roach, and More

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from April 18–22 below, so you can revisit the best of the week.

VoyagerMonday April 18

Voyager: Travel Writings, by Russell Banks

Fans of Banks’ exceptional fiction (A Permanent Member of the Family, 2013) and all readers enamored of travelogues will clamor aboard this compact, gusto-filled, retrospective anthology. A teenage Banks hits Florida with delusions of joining the Cuban Revolution, then, 42 years later, is extravagantly hosted by Fidel Castro. He complicates an island-hopping magazine assignment to the Caribbean with provocative scrutiny of his three failed marriages.

The Rose and the DaggerTuesday April 19

The Rose and the Dagger, by Renee Ahdieh

The romantic adventure begun in The Wrath and the Dawn (2015) comes to a thundering conclusion. Where the first book focused primarily on political intrigue and Shahrzad’s growing feelings for the not-so-murderous Khalid, this sequel brings the more fantastical aspects of this world into the foreground. Though she now knows the truth about Khalid’s curse, Shahrzad is separated from her beloved and back with her family and a group of rebels clamoring for Khalid’s death.

 

GruntWednesday April 20

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach

Roach is a rare literary bird, a best-selling science writer, and her irresistible if often unnerving subject is the human body and how it reacts to all that we put it through, from eating (Gulp, 2013) to sex (Bonk, 2008), space travel (Packing for Mars, 2010), and, in her latest, war. Roach avidly and impishly infiltrates the world of military science to discover what measures are taken to protect combatants against perils ranging from bomb blasts to food poisoning to sleep deprivation.

It Aint so Awful FalafelThursday April 21

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, by Firoozeh Dumas

Zomorod Yousefzadeh dreams of having a beanbag chair: “I imagine inviting a friend over. The minute she sees the beanbag chair, she knows that even if my parents speak a different language and I do not have a pet and we have no snack foods, I am still cool.” At age 11, she has moved four times between her native Iran and California, and her plan for fitting in at Newport Beach’s middle school starts with having a new American name, Cindy—just like on The Brady Bunch.

 

The HoneymoonFriday April 22

The Honeymoon, by Dinitia Smith

Smith’s vivid exploration of the mind of author George Eliot, given name Marian Evans, and her late-in-life marriage to John Walter Cross raises the bar for historical fiction. Yes, Smith credits the works of Eliot herself and a score of other sources for background information, but such research can only go so far. With that extensive investigation as a springboard, she nosedives into Eliot’s nineteenth-century life just as the 60-year-old Marian and 40-year-old John begin their honeymoon.

 

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Sarah Grant is the Marketing Associate for Booklist. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Grant.

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