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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 November 8 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Beasts of a Little Land, by Juhea Kim. For more Reviews of the Week and other exciting lists check out the always freely available Booklist Blog.
Monday, November 8
★ Black Cloud Rising, by David Wright Faladé
The role of Black soldiers in the Civil War remains underchronicled. Faladé’s tensely wrought first novel is set during a critical time in 1863, just after the Emancipation Proclamation, when those enslaved by unrepentant secessionists were liberated and fled to join freedmen’s colonies or enlist in the Union army. Richard Etheridge, son of plantation owner John Etheridge and an enslaved Black woman, is one such soldier, proud of his sergeant’s stripes and his company’s mission to free other enslaved people on Roanoke Island. Yet despite the unifying call for abolition, the Union ranks remain mired in racism. Richard remains conflicted about the white half of his family. As he recalls the years of slights and mindless cruelties he endured as both his father’s child and property (“Strict obedience . . . was surely the only way that a slave father felt properly honored”), he nonetheless yearns for connection with his self-centred half sister, his cousin Patrick, and, most of all, his father.
Tuesday, November 9
★ The Snowy Cabin Cookbook: Meals and Drinks for Adventurous Days and Cozy Nights, by Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson
Cookbook authors Hanel and Stevenson team up for another seasonally inspired treat. With past books dedicated to picnics, the summer season, and campouts, this time around, cozy cabin-inspired cooking is front and center, with the entire cookbook aligned around meals meant to be cooked during the cold winter months. In over 75 recipes, Hanel and Stevenson serve up ski-slope-friendly snacks, hearty soups, root-vegetable salads, and both boozy and kid-friendly drinks to warm everyone up after a day spent playing in the snow. Accessible recipes paired with complex ingredients balance out to provide both professional and home cooks with recipes that can be savored. In addition to finding appealing recipes, readers can discover tips and tricks to make their home or cabin winter-wonderland ready.
Wednesday, November 10
★ Skin of the Sea, by Natasha Bowen
For her debut, Bowen pens a riveting, fast-paced fantasy readers won’t be able to put down. In service to the Gods, Simi fulfills the role of Mami Wata, a mermaid whose duty is to collect the souls of people who die at sea. But Simi’s memories of a former life perpetually haunt her and compel her to save a boy from drowning, instead of watching him die. Her choice violates an ancient edict, and the punishment for it threatens all Mami Wata. To atone, Simi must seek out the Supreme Creator; however, a shadowy force circling Simi desires to see her fail. The stakes for discovering what the force is could not be higher, as failure means that all Mami Wata—and perhaps the entire world—could perish.
Thursday, November 11
★ Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty, by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe, Read by Anderson Cooper
Veteran CNN host Cooper, the son of Gloria Vanderbilt and Wyatt Cooper, reads this history of the Vanderbilt family, beginning with Cornelius Vanderbilt, who borrowed money to buy his first boat, a ferry that ran between Staten Island and Manhattan. The prose continues through the Gilded Age, when the Vanderbilt family hosted multi-million-dollar balls and weddings and built extravagant “faux palaces.” Part Two begins in the early twentieth century, when Alva Vanderbilt, the divorced wife of Cornelius’ grandson, became politically active as a suffragist, and 38-year-old Alfred Vanderbilt perished on the Lusitania. Cooper never misses a vocal beat (“no one can make money evaporate into air like a Vanderbilt”), offering personal glimpses into the successes, failures, scandals, suicides, and foibles of his ancestors, his fashion-mogul mother included. Cooper is an ideal reader, never resorting to histrionics or wild emotional outbursts through the headline-worthy content.
Friday, November 12
★ The Ivory Key, by Akshaya Raman
Since the murder of the maharani of Ashoka—the country that controls all magic—the relationships between the royal siblings have fractured. At only 18, Vira has ascended to the throne, a role few in her council believe her capable of. Meanwhile, her twin brother, Ronak, is plotting to break free from a tactful marriage and taking their half-brother, Kaleb, (wrongfully imprisoned for the maharani’s assassination) with him. The siblings’ unease comes to a head when their sister Riya returns to the palace after two years of running with a group of rebels. As Ashoka’s quarry runs out of magic, the only option left is to find fragments of an old map leading to an ivory key rumored to unlock the lost quarries of Ashoka. Legend or not, all the siblings want a piece of it. Raman’s Indian-inspired fantasy debut is a dream for seekers of character-driven stories.
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