Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online that highlights starred reviews, high-demand titles, and/or titles especially relevant to our current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from February 13 through 17 so that you can revisit the week’s best books.
Monday, February 13
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian McKinty
The chronicles of Sean Duffy could not be contained in McKinty’s Troubles trilogy, and this is the sixth novel in the series. Driving it all is McKinty’s compelling style: Duffy’s first-person narrative and internalized musing are lengthy at first, then reduced intermittently to terse one-sentence statements that move the story along at an astonishing pace. A must-read for fans of Stuart Neville and Celtic noir.
Tuesday, February 14
A Life in Parts, by Bryan Cranston
In this engaging memoir, Tony and Emmy Award winner Cranston chronicles the various roles he has taken onscreen, on the stage, and in life. He warmly narrates his own book and does it so naturally that listeners will forget he’s reading and imagine him simply sharing his story, one-on-one. The audio moves along wonderfully; Cranston doesn’t rush, and he shifts between gentle introspection about his life and vulnerability and lively, humorous episodes so seamlessly that listeners are swept along without realizing how deep into the audio they are. An engrossing, intimate recording from a refreshingly grounded figure.
Wednesday, February 15
Bronze and Sunflower, by Cao Wenxuan
Translated from Mandarin, the confident, well-paced storytelling uses an episodic format, alternating laughter and tears. The vivid imagery employs all the senses, evoking emotions and creating beautiful moments of reflection about the natural world. Written by a cultural insider, this story provides a window into life as a child in rural China during the early 1970s, near the end of the Cultural Revolution. Virtuous and kind, Bronze and Sunflower’s family reflects important cultural values including filial piety, respect for elders, the value of hard work and education, and the importance of saving face. This not-to-be-missed story reminds us to be thankful for family and love, no matter our station in life.
Thursday, February 16
American War, by Omar El Akkad
In 2074, the American South has once again attempted to secede from the Union, this time in ferocious opposition to the Sustainable Future Act. Catalyzed by his reporting on the Arab Spring; the war in Afghanistan; racial violence in Ferguson, Missouri; and environmental disasters, El Akkad has created a brilliantly well-crafted, profoundly shattering saga of one family’s suffering in a world of brutal power struggles, terrorism, ignorance, and vengeance. American War is a gripping, unsparing, and essential novel for dangerously contentious times.
Friday, February 17
Beach Party Surf Monkey, by Chris Grabenstein
Things are looking up for the Wonderland Motel. Not only did P. T. and his friend Gloria save the family business by forestalling foreclosure, they’ve persuaded a Hollywood director to shoot his new film there. What could go wrong? Nearly everything! Coauthored with James Patterson, Grabenstein continues the adventures of P. T. and Gloria with a fast-paced, highly readable story that delivers humor, adventure, a bit of mystery, and plenty of fun in the Florida sun. Will the series continue? What are the odds that, once again, catastrophe will threaten the Wonderland? Stay tuned.