October 2021 Reading Round Up: More Than A Mystery

Everyone love a good puzzle–but in this collection of mysterious microreviews, there’s more to the story than just a carefully woven plot. These four titles take the mystery genre and use it to explore class, gender, race, and revolution. From a man who is searching for the literal woman of his dreams to the subtle tensions between two families–one Black and one white–in apocalyptic Long Island, these stories make you reconsider what the mystery novel can do.

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Review: Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau

Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau (Coffee House Press 2020)

Reviewed by Alicia Banaszewski

Asian-Australian author Jamie Marina Lau’s debut novel Pink Mountain on Locust Island published by Brow Books was shortlisted for Australia’s prestigious Stella Prize in 2019. It opens with a short chapter titled “Panther” that immediately throws the readers into Melbourne’s Chinatown and introduces the narrator’s father.

“On television a panther slicking its black limbs through paradise trees. Holy moly, look at this fur.

The third story of a Chinatown flat, and here the timber walls tighten around the fat Chinese man with a noodle moustache. A muddy bottle in his hand.”

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April 2021 Reading Round-Up: Sense of Place

In our second round of micro-reviews, we are thinking about place – not just in terms of physical setting, but also the emotional and imagined places that books allow us to inhabit.

This collection includes poetry set on a rumbling train, a novella about a woman for whom time is as much as a place as the otherworldly rural setting in which she finds herself, and a mystery in which the real horror comes from inhabiting the mind of the troubled narrator. With books set from Cairo to the Oregon coast and everywhere in between, you are sure to find a book in this round-up that speaks to your desire to escape.

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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Ray Books 2020)

Reviewed by Summer A.H. Christiansen

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest novel, Mexican Gothic is one feminist horror story you will not want to miss. The reader invests immediately in the heroine of the novel, Noemí. She is a 22-year-old socialite who enjoys her lavish life in Mexico City. Beautiful, well-dressed, and quick-witted, Noemi dreams of becoming an anthropologist. Her parents don’t agree with her lifestyle and wish instead she would focus on settling down and finding a husband, or as se sees it: “…she should never have any fun for the sake of having fun, but only as a way to obtain a husband” (6).

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Review: The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams (Doubleday Books 2020)

Reviewed by Summer A.H. Christiansen

Clare Beams’ new novel, The Illness Lesson is a gripping historical fiction that will leave you on the edge of your seat. The novel is set in Ashwell, Massachusetts in 1871, where Samuel Hood, a retired transcendental essayist, is establishing The School for the Trilling Heart. This private school for young women is the first of its kind. Its courses are taught by Samuel, young Civil War veteran David, and Samuel’s daughter Caroline. Throughout the novel, we follow Caroline as she struggles with her identity as an educated, unwed twenty-eight year old woman.

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Review: Category Five by Ann Davila Cardinal

Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal (Tor Teen 2020)

Reviewed by Maayan D’Antonio

Lupe Dávila returns for another summer in Puerto Rico. But once again things are not quiet on the island. Ten months after Hurricane Maria, a category five storm, the island is still struggling to recover. On top of that there are dead people popping up on Vieques, a small island off the northeastern coast of the main island of Puerto Rico. This time Lupe’s Tío, police chief Dávila, knows better than to try and keep Lupe away from the investigation. The first murder claims three Caucasian college boys at the bioluminescent bay. The murder scene is not too far away from construction on a new resort.

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Review: Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok (William Morrow & Company 2019)

Reviewed by Angela Gualtieri

In her latest novel, Searching for Sylvie Lee, author Jean Kwok draws on deep personal experience to find inspiration for her work. Searching for Sylvie Lee, begins with a heartfelt dedication to Kwok’s brother, who tragically passed away in an airplane crash after going missing for one week. Kwok channels her family’s pain, grief, and experience into the premise of her novel. After traveling from New York to the Netherlands to care for her dying grandmother, Sylvie Lee goes missing. Her younger sister, Amy, retraces Sylvie’s footsteps in hopes of finding the truth of what happened to her, discovering deep family secrets along the way. The novel examines significant themes like prejudice, immigration, secrets, and societal expectations, but the idea of family and familial love takes center stage.

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Recommended Reading: Books for Quarantine

Obviously, it’s a weird time to be alive. I won’t say much more about COVID-19 here, other than the fact that I am grateful to find solace in books while home-bound.

In that vein, I asked our editors and frequent contributors to send over a book or two that has made their quarantine more manageable. Some of these are old favorites, some are new finds, but all are solid picks to stave off your quarantine-fueled boredom, and maybe even provide a little hope or inspiration in moments of chaos and confusion.

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Review: Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Five Midnights by Ann Davila Cardinal (Tor, 2019)

Reviewed by Maayan D’Antonio

16-year-old Lupe Dávila is a bi-ethnic “Gringa-Rican” from Vermont on her way to spend the summer in Puerto Rico with her father’s family. Only this time she is going alone, as her father has decided to stay behind. Lupe is desperate to experience Puerto Rico without the constraints of her uncle, the police chief, who is in the middle of a very perplexing murder case. And though he and Lupe often discuss his cases, as they both share a love of solving murders, this time he refuses to talk with her about it.

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