Reviews of the Week with Stephen Hunter, James Yang, Mia P. Manansala, and More!

The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of May 10 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, My Own World, written and illustrated by Mike Holmes. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, May 10

Basil’s War, by Stephen Hunter

Hunter, author of the Bob Lee Swagger series starring an American master sniper, now changes directions, geographically, temperamentally, and almost every other way. Basil St. Florian is a British agent with Churchill’s Special Operations Executive in WWII; he is everything Swagger isn’t: an English aristocrat with a flair for the outrageous, known for “trysts with American actresses and fights with Argentinian polo players,” who becomes a spy and puts his talent for subterfuge to unfailingly flamboyant use. His latest assignment finds him parachuting into occupied France in 1943, tasked with photographing pages from a rare religious tract that the Nazis are using as the basis of a book code. Tracked by a wily German spy hunter, Basil cavorts about Paris, staying a half step ahead of his pursuer. 

Tuesday, May 11

A Boy Named Isamu, by James Yang

Award-winning author-illustrator Yang (Stop! Bot!, 2019) renders this imagined biography of Japanese American Isamu Noguchi with the utmost tenderness. While young readers may not be familiar with Noguchi’s sculpture, some will be able to relate to his keen eye and astute curiosity about the world around him. Yang invites us to connect, positing, “If you were a boy named Isamu . . . ,” and then leads us to notice the details of his surroundings. Leaving the bustle of the marketplace, Isamu retreats into himself and wanders away, thinking about the textures, colors, and forms of objects in the natural world around him. The text and illustrations are almost as spare as Noguchi’s modernist sculpture, but rather than celebrate the success of the adult artist, this focuses on the quiet, cerebral, sentient qualities of the little boy who viewed the world as a gift.   

Wednesday, May 12

Arsenic and Adobo, by Mia P. Manansala

Manansala, the winner of Sisters in Crime’s 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland award, debuts with a spicy and sparkling mystery. Heroine Lila Macapagal has returned to her small hometown of Shady Palms, Illinois, after being burned by her ex in Chicago. When Lila’s aunt asks her to help at the family’s Filipino restaurant, she’s happy to do so—until another one of her exes shows up. Derek Winters, a food critic, is the last person Lila wants to see, especially since a bad review from him could ruin the family. But instead of publishing criticism, Derek drops dead at the dinner table, and Lila is the prime suspect. 

Thursday, May 13

The Ghosts We Keep, by Mason Deaver

After Liam’s older brother, Ethan, was killed in a hit-and-run, they were left with so many questions. Why was Ethan depressed in the weeks before he died? Why did Ethan’s best friend, Marcus, skip the funeral? Why were their parents so ready to go through Ethan’s room, and why have their best friends Joel and Vanessa been even cagier since Ethan died? Deaver’s (I Wish You All the Best, 2019) sophomore novel deftly captures the chasm that a sudden loss creates, while offering moving interactions between Liam and Ethan through flashbacks. Liam explores who they are becoming after Ethan’s death, and they also find out more about who Ethan was before. 

Friday, May 15

Dead by Dawn, by Paul Doiron

Once again, Doiron provides brilliant characterizations and a compelling narrative as Maine game warden Mike Bowditch struggles to stay alive and solve a mystery in his twelfth outing (after One Last Lie, 2020). Doiron sets his books in different months so he can capture the majesty of the Maine landscape all year round. This time it is December solstice, the shortest day of the year. For Bowditch, though, it feels like the longest day of his life when his jeep is hurtled into a freezing river after hitting some metal spikes in the road. He manages to free his wolf dog, Shadow, and fights his own way to the surface, but his gun and all means of communication are lost, and he is worried that whoever set the trap for him will come back to finish him off.'

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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