Reviews of the Week with David Yoon, Jamie Figueroa, Rebecca Mahoney, and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles 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.

The latest from best-selling authors plus the best in debut fiction make up this week’s #ReviewsOfTheDay. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, November 9

Super Fake Love Song, by David Yoon

Sunny Dae doesn’t mean to lie to new girl Cirrus Soh—it’s just that she’s so cool and he’s a nerd who makes D&D videos. Surely he can be forgiven for claiming that his brother Gray’s guitar-filled bedroom is his own? As his friends Milo and Jamal point out, the easiest way out of the sticky situation he’s created is to make the lie true, and the two of them reluctantly agree to help him form a rock band even though they’d rather return to nerdier pursuits. Growing closer to Cirrus is everything Sunny dreamed it would be, and his new rock-star attitude—which he’s becoming oddly addicted to—is even making him popular. But his relationship with Gray, whose life is slowly falling apart, is strained, and the game he’s playing seems destined to implode.

Tuesday, November 10

The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah

With this emotionally charged epic of Dust Bowl-era Texas and its dramatic aftermath, the prolific Hannah has added another outstanding novel to her popular repertoire. In 1921, Elsa Wolcott is a tall, bookish woman of 25 whose soul is stifled by her superficial parents. By 1934, after marrying Rafe Martinelli, a young Italian Catholic who was the first man to show her affection, Elsa is a mother of two who has found a home on her beloved in-laws’ farm. Severe drought and terrible dust storms affect everyone in this proud family, and they are all forced to make tough choices. This wide-ranging saga ticks all the boxes for deeply satisfying historical fiction. Elsa is an achingly real character whose sense of self-worth slowly emerges through trying circumstances, and her shifting relationship with her rebellious daughter, Loreda, is particularly moving. Hannah brings the impact of the environmental devastation on the Great Plains down to a personal level with ample period-appropriate details and reactions, showing how people’s love for their land made them reluctant to leave.

Wednesday, November 11

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer, by Jamie Figueroa

Figueroa’s curious and dazzling first novel features a family in which love has been tragically twisted by traumas old and new. The story takes place over the weekend during which sister Rufina and brother Rafa grieve for their recently deceased mother, Rosalinda, even as her ghost lingers. With Rafa heading into peril, Rufina, in a bid to save his life, proposes a bet stipulating that over that fateful weekend they will make enough money for Rafa to get away from his troubles by performing a strange tableau with imaginary instruments and disintegrating clothes, a stratagem devised by the evil “explorer” of the title, for the tourists in their dusty New Mexican town. Certain entities watch over Rufina, standing ready to support her when needed, including their adobe house; her actual, scruffy guardian angel; an old suitor who also happens to be the strangely endearing town cop; and the Grandmothers to All.

Thursday, November 12

The Valley and the Flood, by Rebecca Mahoney

One year after her best friend Gaby’s death, Rose’s car breaks down in the middle of the Mojave Desert, stranding her physically and emotionally near the eerie town of Lotus Valley. After Rose hears a ghostly voice coming from her radio, Mahoney’s refreshing, magical debut follows her on a journey to find Gaby—and to escape the haunting memories of her friend’s overbearing mother and the secrets of the unpleasant young man who was in the driver’s seat the night Gaby died. In Lotus Valley, Rose finds herself surrounded by psychic prophets, a nostalgic diner with to-die-for pie, a wolfish mayor and her cronies, and paralyzing flashbacks and triggers to the PTSD she was diagnosed with. Mahoney has crafted a wholly unique world, replete with mysterious, otherworldly “neighbors” and a foreboding prophecy that Rose’s arrival in town will bring about an apocalyptic flood.

Friday, November 13

Saving Ruby King, by Catherine Adel West and read by a full cast

A dead woman opens West’s startling, haunting debut. Two fathers, two daughters, and the building that is Chicago’s Calvary Hope Christian Church will unravel her unfortunate murder, revealing generations of secrets and violence that culminate in young Ruby King cradling her mother Alice’s dying body. Kim Staunton as Alice is old beyond her years, the beaten-down wife of brutal Lebanon, who’s already served time for killing. Adam Lazarre-White growls and threatens throughout, simmering in Lebanon’s envy and hate. Their daughter Ruby—made both steely and vulnerable by Imani Parks—couldn’t protect her mother and has already tried suicide as her own escape, but her best friend, Layla, rescued her before and will do anything to help her again. Newcomer Terra Strong Lyons fills Layla with determined empathy and not a little rebellious spirit, especially directed at her protective father, Jackson, who recognizes the dangers that loom with knowing the Kings. Also making his aural debut, Lloyd Roberson II deftly channels Jackson’s well-substantiated suspicion and blinding worry.

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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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