Reviews of the Week, with Isabel Allende, Heather Fawcett, Stephanie Perkins, and More!

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 August 28 through September 1 so that you can revisit the week’s best books.

August 28

 Even the Darkest Stars, by Heather Fawcett

Though she’s grown up hearing that magic is a tool like any other, Kamzin, second daughter of the village elder, has never had much of a talent for it, despite her inevitable future as village shaman. Kamzin dreams of becoming an explorer, traversing and documenting the cold, treacherous mountains of the Empire and the dangerous witches who live there.  There are glimmerings of a love triangle, but the focus remains squarely on Kamzin’s brutal trek through the icy mountains, a fascinating, fantastical twist on early expeditions to Mount Everest.

 

 

August 29

 The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone

Fans of forgotten history, take note. Fagone has found a twentieth-century story that reads more like a thriller than nonfiction. Furthermore, Elizebeth Smith Friedman’s life has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood hit, and she is long overdue for the limelight. One of the greatest cryptologists of all time, she started her career in 1917, working for a mercurial millionaire who sought to prove that a hidden code exists in Shakespeare’s works that reveals Francis Bacon as their true author. After meeting an equally gifted code-breaking genius on that project, William Friedman, the man who became the father of the National Security Agency, the two broke German codes in WWI.

 

August 30

The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters upon Your Shore, by Jared Yates Sexton

Everyone knows how the story of the 2016 presidential campaign and election ended. What people are still trying to figure out is how it all began. The polarizing cast of political characters, the emotional confrontations that erupted during the campaign, and the high-stakes conflagrations that have ensued since the inauguration form a thrill-a-minute narrative arc.

A freelance journalist and self-described political hobbyist, Sexton began chronicling what he, and so many others, thought would be a snoozefest of a campaign at its outset, in June 2015. How quickly things would go from sleepy and predictable to mesmerizing and volatile. Astonishment, disbelief, and disgust were daily themes, fueling a nonstop feeding frenzy on cable news and social media.

 

August 31

There’s Someone inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins

The ever-popular Perkins takes a sharp turn out of YA romance in her latest offering, a clever—and, to fans, no doubt surprising—foray into the teen slasher genre. When Makani Young moved from her native Hawaii to her grandmother’s house in Nebraska, she thought her biggest concerns would be fitting in, putting her troubled past behind her, and navigating her attraction to a mysterious boy. She didn’t expect the students at Osborne High to start dying. And Makani certainly never expected herself to be targeted by the killer. Perkins deftly builds the suspense like a pro.

 

September 1

 In the Midst of Winter, by Isabel Allende

No one should be driving in blizzard-struck Brooklyn, but emergencies have forced Richard, a lonely academic, and Evelyn, a nanny caring for a boy with cerebral palsy, out onto the icy streets where their vehicles collide. When Evelyn reveals that she was driving her employer’s car and that there’s a body in the trunk, Richard summons his basement tenant and colleague, Lucia. Internationally beloved Allende as effervescent in her compassion, social concerns, and profound joy in storytelling as ever, brings both humor and intensity to this madcap, soulful, and transporting tale of three survivors who share their traumatic pasts while embarking on a lunatic mission of mercy.

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About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

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