Reviews of the Week with Martha McPhee, Suzanne Collins, Gail Tsukiyama, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

This collection of titles, featuring a smattering of reviews from our latest spotlight on historical fiction, plus the most anticipated titles already available, emphasizes the value of Booklist‘s Reviews of the Day. Add these great reads from the week’s #ReviewsOfTheWeek to your TBR pile. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, May 18

An Elegant Woman, by Martha McPhee

A richly animated work, McPhee’s enthralling new novel glides through American history, from early-twentieth-century Billings, Montana, to a Prohibition-era Adirondacks lakeside retreat and beyond, alongside fabulous characters. Sorting through the family home in present-day New Jersey, Isadora, a novelist, tells her late Grammy’s story as she would have wished, mingling realistic happenings with embellished ancestral lore. As a stocky child standing with her pretty younger sister, Katherine, on an Ohio train platform in 1910, awaiting their long journey to Montana with their mother, Thelma “Tommy” Stewart seems unlikely to develop into an elegant East Coast matriarch, but circumstances drive her to become a mistress of self-invention.

Tuesday, May 19

Beyond Me, by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu

Eleven-year-old Maya is a happy, confident, binational only child living near Tokyo with her Japanese father, grandmother, and great-grandfather and her American mother. Then the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastate northern Japan. Maya and her family are safe, but she changes overnight into a fearful child, constantly worried about those affected by the disaster, and wondering what will become of her own family when the predicted Big One (earthquake) hits Tokyo. Donwerth-Chikamatsu’s novel in verse uses numerous graphics to excellent effect: military time entries in red next to Maya’s stream-of-consciousness narrative establish her anxiety and racing thoughts, wavy fonts mimic the rolling of the earth, illustrative placement of different-sized text and punctuation marks turn text into pictures, and a sparingly used background of concentric circles calls to mind the ripple effects of the disaster and its effects on Maya.

Wednesday, May 20

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins

It’s been a decade since the Capitol overcame an uprising and instituted the bloody Hunger Games as punishment. Some families, like the Snows, lost much in the war. Coriolanus, 18, hides his poverty with charm and fights for acclaim in school, hoping success will restore the Snows to their former glory. Mentoring a tribute in the tenth Hunger Games is the chance he’s been waiting for, though Lucy Gray Baird, the tribute he’s assigned, is from the unimpressive District 12. And this is not Katniss Everdeen’s well-oiled Hunger Games. The event is brutish, short, and unpopular even with Capitol citizens. It’s up to Coriolanus—and perhaps his tribute, a magnetic, natural performer who might exceed his wildest dreams—to make it, and themselves, into something more.

Thursday, May 21

Camino Winds, by John Grisham

Returning to the setting of Grisham’s Camino Island (2017), Bruce Cable is still running his bookstore, but, frankly, he’s worried: a hurricane is bearing down on the island, promising to bring with it widespread destruction. Which it does, but it also brings something else: murder. In the middle of the worst storm to hit the island in years, a local writer, Nelson Kerr, is killed. The police have a lot on their plate in the aftermath of the storm, and they seem content to put this particular problem on the back burner, so Bruce decides to solve the mystery himself. The problem is, he has few clues and even fewer potential suspects.

Friday, May 22

The Color of Air, by Gail Tsukiyama

Lives reconverge under pressure in 1935, in Hilo, Hawaii. Koji, a once legendary sugar-cane cutter who came to the Big Island from Japan as a boy in 1895, is mourning Mariko, the love of his life. Also grieving is Mariko’s closest friend, clever and tireless Nori, whose fish market is the de facto community center for the town’s Japanese immigrant community. Mariko’s son, Daniel, has been gone for years, studying medicine in Chicago and securing a prestigious appointment rare for an “Oriental,” only to return home in despair. Daniel’s high school sweetheart, whom he left behind, has also sought refuge in Hilo, after suffering violence in Honolulu. Now everyone faces impending disaster as the enormous volcano, Mauna Loa, reawakens and demonstrates its explosive power.'

About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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