7 Most-Favorable Reviews in March 2021

  • April 5, 2021

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.

7 Most-Favorable Reviews in March 2021

The Upstairs House: A Novel by Julia Fine (Harper). Reviewed by Sarahlyn Bruck. “The Upstairs House is fully immersive. As I read, I appreciated that I couldn’t predict where this well-crafted ghost story was going. Part of that uncertainty was a result of how poorly understood postpartum psychosis truly is, but it mostly came from the wonderful suspense pulsing throughout. I held my breath page after page, eager to know what would happen. Would Megan keep her baby safe? Could she save herself? I won’t tell, and I won’t be able to let this story go anytime soon.”

Prodigal Son: An Orphan X Novel by Gregg Hurwitz (Minotaur Books). Reviewed by Marvin McIntyre. “Clearly, Gregg Hurwitz has done it again. The action in Prodigal Son is brilliant, almost antiseptic, as the plot wavers between sci-fi and ‘Damn, could this really happen?’ I do have one small admonition, however: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THE FIVE PREVIOUS ORPHAN X NOVELS! You won’t be disappointed.”

Winter Pasture: One Woman’s Journey with China’s Kazakh Herders by Li Juan; translated by Jack Hargreaves and Yan Yan (Astra House). Reviewed by Gretchen Lida. “A memoir about hauling snow, shoveling manure, and living in a mud hut in one of the harshest environments on earth may not sound like a pleasure read. Yet, miraculously, Li Juan’s Winter Pasture: One Woman’s Journey with China’s Kazakh Herders is somehow just that. Part travelogue and part cultural exchange, the book luxuriates in wide-open spaces and the simple wonder of the everyday.”

wife/daughter/self: a memoir in essays by Beth Kephart (Forest Avenue Press). Reviewed by Patricia Ann McNair. “In these things collected we come to understand some of her story. wife/daughter/self is a collection of things Kephart — like Joan Didion — is thinking and looking at. What she wants and what she fears. As in the book’s title, Beth Kephart is a wife and a daughter, but her self is much more. She is also, among other things, a teacher, writer, student, woman, artist, worrier, and mother. This is her collection; this is her story.”

How We Read Now: Strategic Choices for Print, Screen, & Audio by Naomi S. Baron (Oxford University Press). Reviewed by Bárbara Mujica. “Educating tomorrow’s generations is of urgent importance to all of us, and for that reason, How We Read Now is must reading. Baron does not prescribe particular reading platforms, but rather enables us to better assess all the possibilities. The move toward digital is inevitable, she argues, and we must be aware of both the disadvantages and benefits of different mediums. And although How We Read Now is chockfull of statistics and tables, Baron’s light, conversational style makes for enjoyable reading — whether in print or on a screen.”

The Elephant of Belfast: A Novel by S. Kirk Walsh (Counterpoint). Reviewed by D.A. Spruzen. “Tragedy, betrayal, and danger stalk Hettie, but Violet nurtures her as she, in turn, nurtures Violet. Inspired by true events, this moving story of two heroines — a female zookeeper and an adolescent elephant — speaks not only to the brutality of war, but also to religious tensions in Northern Ireland that remain pervasive today. The finely drawn prose is cinematic in places, and the characters are vividly brought to life with Walsh’s deft portraiture. The Elephant of Belfast is historical fiction at its best.”

Red Widow: A Novel by Alma Katsu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “This is a book crafted for marketplace success, awaiting a following it grandly deserves. It offers a thrilling spy hunt, an atmospheric recreation of CIA operations and culture, and a gentle shift into an upbeat tale anybody can get behind. And there are enough skillfully placed loose ends to promise a dandy sequel.”

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