Weekend reading

Chris Schluep on May 21, 2020


With the long weekend coming up, the editors are looking forward to an extra day to catch up on reading and catch their breath after moving the Amazon Book Review to a new site on Amazon.com. We have been working on the move for a long time, and we are finally there. Kudos to senior editor Adrian Liang, who has spearheaded the effort. From now on you can find us at Amazon Book Review.

I'll say this about the books we are reading this weekend. They sure have fantastic covers. I know what they say about covers, but I still think it's a good sign. 

The Son of Good Fortune by Lysley Tenorio

You know the feeling of picking up a book and realizing within ten pages that what you’re reading is something... special? Something different? Well, that’s what it’s like reading Lysley Tenorio’s novel of a mother, Maxima, and her son, Excel, who are undocumented Filipino immigrants living in California. They each do their best to make money, blend in, and not get caught by the authorities. It is just not what you would expect: Maxima seduces men on the internet, eventually cajoling them to wire her money, while Excel, flees to a hippie commune. The Son of Good Fortune (publishing July 7) is a funny and kind novel about home and identity, and I’m loving it. —Al Woodworth

Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food by Gina Rae La Cerva

I have been on a food book kick lately (and just a food kick; “Quarantine 15,” here I come). I’ve recently read or revisited Gabrielle Hamilton’s brilliant memoir Blood, Bones & Butter, and Bill Buford’s Dirt. This weekend I’m going to dig into Feasting Wild. Some people smuggle cigars—and then there’s anthropologist Gina Rae La Cerva who sneaks Swedish moose meat home in her suitcase. Feasting Wild promises to be an original and fascinating travelogue, where she explores what’s at stake when we domesticate feral foods. Here’s hopin’ it's lessons domesticate my appetite. —Erin Kodicek

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This is the smart gothic novel I’ve been waiting for since gothics started hitting shelves again. Unsettled by a disturbing letter from a newly married cousin, Mexico City socialite Noemí goes to check on her cousin who now lives at the remote estate of High Place. Noemí—who smokes cigarettes, drives a convertible, and knows her mind—discovers that High Place lives in the past: mold runs along the ancient wall paper, the electricity barely works, and the servants don’t speak. Plus the very old master of the house has a thing for eugenics, and Noemí’s cousin is clearly losing her mind. And then Noemí begins to hear voices.… While Mexican Gothic (June 30) is set in the 1950s, Moreno-Garcia has written this creepy, fabulous read for today’s audience. —Adrian Liang

The Party Upstairs by Lee Conell

Note to the book designer: I was originally drawn to this book because I liked the cover. I don't know why I liked it—with covers I can rarely voice why I like them. I just know when I do. The Party Upstairs is a debut novel that does two things I really enjoy: it tells the story in one day, and it contrasts the experiences that people from different classes have when they are put into the same circumstance. The setup is very smart. Ruby grew up in a fancy building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, except she was the daughter of the super who looked after all the expensive apartments in the building. She has friends in the building, but she is different. She goes off to an elite liberal arts college, studies art, and eventually lands back in her father's basement apartment. Now one of her lifelong friends, Caroline, is having a party in her father's penthouse apartment this evening. I'll leave it there, because I have only just actually started reading the book. —Chris Schluep

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

I’ve been on a strange kick of psychological thrillers and stories of twisted relationships lately, so I finally started the audio edition of a book that’s been highly recommended by my colleagues—My Dark Vanessa. Author Kate Elizabeth Russell’s novel—which explores the effects of a relationship a young student, Vanessa, has with her decades-older teacher—is packing a punch. The story goes back and forth in time, exploring the years of the affair, then flashing ahead to when Vanessa is an adult still grappling with her feelings about the man she loved as a teen, as well as the psychological toll the relationship has had on her life. My Dark Vanessa is an intense and compelling story, and there have been moments when I think I have to take a pause from it…then don’t. I’m almost finished, and I’m certain I’ll be mulling it all over, thinking about this character long after its done. —Seira Wilson

The Slave Yards by Najwa Bin Shatwan

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but the cover of The Slave Yards is so beautiful I couldn't help it. The pages inside tell a sad tale in a simple yet moving way. It’s the story of Atiga, a Benghazi housewife, who grew up in the “slave yards,” the Benghazi encampment where black Africans—brought to Libya as slaves—were kept. When the novel opens, Atiga’s cousin Ali has turned up on her door to fill in the missing pieces of Atiga’s early life story, a story which also happens to shine a light on a very dark period in Libyan history. —Vannessa Cronin

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