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Reader Review: "Havana"

Top Reader Reviews - Sat, 04/22/2017 - 06:00
by CarolP (Tuscaloosa, Alabama): "Havana" is a nicely written introduction to this great city and its history and current culture. I have traveled there twice and regret this book was not available during my preparatory reading. A very accurate description of the area, devoid of romantic prose or political bias, my only regret was the lack of any mention of the ever prevalent signs of Santeria; is it a widespread religious practice, representative of the culture, or simply more of a touristic anomaly? The many wonderful novels about life in Cuba, before, during, and after the Revolution, may paint more emotional pictures, but a person wishing to grasp quickly a solid, factual summary of this city in current times will find this a fast and useful read.

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Reader Review: "Lincoln in the Bardo"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 06:00
by Lorri S (New Jersey): Just brilliant. I was skeptical at first because the structure of the novel is so unconventional (in the best way), but I believe the narrative carries you until you catch up and then you are just swept up. I was sobbing by the end. I will recommend it to everyone who will listen to me. George Saunders captures the hopefulness of life even in the face of its fragility and the inevitability of death. Saunders does not romanticize this, some of the characters are repellent but in a very human way. The narrative elicits some kind of primal empathy. For me, life changing.

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The Roots of the True Crime Genre

Editor's blog - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 08:30
As evidenced in her novel, Little Deaths, author Emma Flint is an aficionado of true crime. These books that chronicle the grim details of actual murders are written with a sensitive ear to readers' morbid curiosity about sensational crimes. The genre has been popular for centuries – people have long been willing to shell out cash to indulge the guilty pleasure of peeping into man's oldest and most heinous practice – murder. [More]
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Reader Review: "The Opposite of Everyone"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 06:00
by Linda Zagon (Melville,NY 11747): I would like to thank BookBrowse for a copy of "The Opposite of Everyone" by Joshilyn Jackson. The author writes about family, betrayal, trust,traditions.love and growth.The story centers around a character ,Paula Vauss a successful divorce attorney, and her journey to discover her relationship with her mother, family, and boyfriend. Paula's roots start with a dysfunctional young mother,Kai, who tells stories using Hindu as well as southern tradition. Kai makes many wrong choices, and goes to jail leaving Paula to grow up in a foster system. The children and the foster system contribute to Paula's poor self esteem. Paula feels guilty that she is separated from her mother, and believes that she betrayed her. This starts a pattern when Paula is constantly trying to make amends with Kai. As a successful attorney Paula sends money to Kai, to try to make amends, and mend their relationship. Paula has no address for her mother,just a post office box, and at one point Kai sends the money back with a cryptic note. The story starts off very slowly, but picks up and there are different twists and surprises. Many of the characters in this novel and Paula's life are broken and dysfunctional. I do like Paula and feel that she does show courage and growth. In my opinion this novel has many layers , and is very deep. I would recommend "The Opposite of Everyone", but please keep in mind it is a heavy read.

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Reader Review: "A Gentleman in Moscow"

Top Reader Reviews - Tue, 04/11/2017 - 06:00
by Alice: One of the best books I've ever read! Savor each chapter.

Short ones lead us into more serious chapters which lengthen with the depth of the story and the times.

We are confined to the Hotel just as is the Count and I marveled at his patience, joy of living, and philosophical insights during the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia. From a grand suite of rooms to a tiny attic with him we meet many interesting characters.

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The Environment in Fiction

Editor's blog - Tue, 04/11/2017 - 03:57
How do you take something as sprawling and all-encompassing as the environment around us and make it one of the primary players in fiction? These fascinating and compelling novels show us how it's done. What's more, they fulfill the basic premise of fiction, which is to make the story universal, to drive home the impact and maybe shed light on something we might not have heard about before. Just in time for Earth Day, these dramatic novels will doubtless give you plenty of fuel for discussion as we face the daunting challenge ahead of us. [More]
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The History of Fictional Female Detectives

Editor's blog - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 09:00
Many great novels start with a premise, which mirrors or takes inspiration from something in real life. In Greer Macallister's Girl in Disguise, the inspiration is the real-life Kate Warne, the first female private detective who began her career with Pinkerton's in 1856. Learning about her made me wonder which came first – did the concept of creating a woman detective rise from some writer's fertile imagination, or was Warne the inspiration for the first fictional female sleuth? According to the website Crime Fiction Lover, in 1864 Andrew Forrester (aka James Redding Ware) invented Mrs. Gladden as the protagonist of his The Female Detective series of adventure stories. This appears to be the first English language fiction to feature...
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Reader Review: "Victoria"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 06:00
by BeckyH (Chicago): This book covers only Victoria's early life and first few years of her long reign. Goodwin is a writer of historical fiction that borders on "women's fiction." She has a tendency to emphasis the more salacious and gossip laden events in the life of the person written about. That said the book is interesting and well researched. The life of a young girl manipulated by those around her and surrounded by great wealth and all its accouterments is discussed in great detail. Victoria is saved by the one scrupulous man in her life: Lord Melbourne, her first prime minister. Early Victorian English society, and the lives of the not-so-privileged, is covered well. (The book gives much more detail than the TV series and gives a more accurate portrayal of Victorian England. ) 4 of 5 stars

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Reader Review: "The Opposite of Everyone"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 06:00
by takngmytime (Illinois): This novel grabbed me in the first few pages and I had trouble putting it down. Not only is Joshilyn Jackson an accomplished writer, she is entertaining and imaginative.

Written in first person, Attorney Paula Vauss, aka Kali Jai, leads us down a winding lane of chaos, intermingling sadness, happiness, loss, redemption, love and family transformation along the way. From the days of traveling with her wild eccentric Mother to the lonely days of state placement to the "love 'um and leave 'um" lifestyle she maintains as an adult, we meet the people who hold her interest and influence her along the way. Continually paying off her "debt" to her Mother, Paula suddenly finds herself a sibling. Not once, but twice.

"You know how Karma works", is the final piece of the puzzle her dying Hindu-mythology-loving Mother leaves for her, as it changes her life forever.

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Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth: The Inspiration for "A Piece of the World"

Editor's blog - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 12:41
Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World, the subject of A Piece of the World, was initially met with little fanfare, and its critical reception was lackluster. Nevertheless, the painting, which features Christina Olson reaching toward her home in the distance, was purchased during its first showing at a New York Gallery in 1948 by Alfred Barr, the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Today it is one of MoMA's most admired exhibits and has become a well-known representation of American art. The painting has been loaned out only once since its purchase when it was shown for two days in 2009 at Chadds Ford, PA, Wyeth's hometown, in memoriam of the artist. [More]
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Reader Review: "The Atomic Weight of Love"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 06:00
by CharleneDS: I was surprised how much I loved this book. I was sorry when it ended because I felt very connected to Meridian. I thought this was a very honest portrayal of a woman's life - especially for that time period. I lived through much of it myself and could totally identify with what she was going through. I'm passing this book along to friends with my highest recommendation.

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Reader Review: "The Atomic Weight of Love"

Top Reader Reviews - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 06:00
by PiperUp: This one snuck up on me! I didn't realize how emotionally invested I was until I had tears in my eyes while reading the last chapter. Each chapter is titled after a group of specific birds, "An Exaltation of Larks", "A Murder of Crows", etc. with a description of the type of bird & usually an example of the phrase being used in literature or the symbolism of the bird in mythology. It's an extremely clever device that foreshadows what will occur in each chapter & provides additional context information related to both the plot line & ornithology. And...let's not forget the crows! I enjoyed reading about Meridian's studies of a murder of crows over the course of the years. Her studies are another clever plot device that enhanced the book. They're extremely social animals with a high level of intellect including extremely impressive memory & communication skills. I have both a fascination & a tiny fear of crows so I found Meridian's studies of crows to be quite captivating.

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Reader Review: "The Atomic Weight of Love"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 06:00
by Julie F. (Michigan): I enjoyed this book. While the characters in the story are a bit one-dimensional, the relationships and interactions make the story come alive. Meri's naïveté, particularle after 20 years of marriage, doesn't match her intelligence. Yet the story reflects that all of us make choices, and often our choices have unexpected and far-reaching consequences.

I also enjoyed the science and history reflected throughout the book. While fictional, it is an educational and accurate portrayal. I highly recommend this book for women's book clubs, as it will foster a lively and thoughtful discussion about the choices we all have made. The book is not appropriate for high school groups, due the several more graphic passage.

The book is now on my "recommended" list!

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Reader Review: "The Opposite of Everyone"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 06:00
by Sandi W. (Illinois): This novel grabbed me in the first few pages and I had trouble putting it down. Not only is Joshilyn Jackson an accomplished writer, she is entertaining and imaginative. Written in first person, Attorney Paula Vauss, aka Kali Jai, leads us down a winding lane of chaos, intermingling sadness, happiness, loss, redemption, love and family transformation along the way. From the days of traveling with her wild eccentric Mother to the lonely days of state placement to the "love 'um and leave 'um" lifestyle she maintains as an adult, we meet the people who hold her interest and influence her along the way. Continually paying off her "debt" to her Mother, Paula suddenly finds herself a sibling. Not once, but twice. "You know how Karma works", is the final piece of the puzzle her dying Hindu-mythology-loving Mother leaves for her, as it changes her life forever.

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From Sea to Shining Sea: The American Story

Editor's blog - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 00:05
Dear BookBrowsers, History and sociology are always intriguing but when presented together, they can create a revelatory portrait of our times. Such explorations feel ever more pressing these days in our raw and polarized landscape. These recommendations offer nuance, something that is often missing from the public discourse and invite readers and book club members to learn more about the American experience from where we have been to where we are headed. We hope this stokes some healthy debate and sheds new insights into aspects of the United States--in all its colorful, messy and sprawling glory. Which books would you recommend? Share them with us by posting in the comments section at the bottom! ...
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Reader Review: "Finding Fish"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 06:00
by Gram: As a former treatment foster parent, I can testify to the validity of the experiences "Fish" had in his foster homes. There are great foster homes and there are no so great foster homes. I have seen them all. Of the approximately 17 teens I fostered, all of them had been abused by their parent(s) and all of them were still searching for the approval of their parents. The foster sons who have stayed in touch with me are all reunited with their families in spite of extreme neglect and or abuse. Some of them are what I call a success in that they have jobs they enjoy and they are good employees who show up on time and don't abuse sick days. One young man in particular had come to me from our state youth correctional facility and now is a dad with a successful dog training business and a teacher of martial arts. I learned something about myself from each one of my foster sons and I would do it all over again.

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Reader Review: "Idaho"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 06:00
by dpfaef (Inland Northwest): When you read a book about murder especially a horrific murder you expect a resolution, an explanation, something to ease the pain. In Idaho Emily Ruskovich gives you none of that.

Ann knows when she married Wade that he has early on-set dementia and that his first wife murdered one of their children. The beauty of the story is not about the murder, but how Ann goes about bringing closure to an act that was so brutal. We don't often get a glimpse of the aftermath of a tragedy, it goes against our sensibilities not to know what happened but the author is more concerned with how life continues after such a tragedy. The book spans a thirty year period, moving from present to past, back and forth from character to character each giving us just a bit of insight always moving forward never back.

Idaho is beautifully written book but, challenging as it does not move in the direction you expect, it will move you from comfort zone.

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Circadian Novels

Editor's blog - Mon, 03/06/2017 - 18:02
Every time BookBrowse reviews a book we also go "beyond the book" to explore a related topic such as this article relating to Nicola Yoon's The Sun Is Also a Star: Nicola Yoon's The Sun Is Also a Star is an example of a circadian novel where the main action (except flashbacks, for instance) takes place all on one day. The most celebrated example is James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), set in 1904 Dublin on what has come to be known as "Bloomsday," June 16th. The protagonist, Leopold Bloom, mostly wanders the streets of his city: attending a funeral, arguing in a pub, and so on. The Sixteenth of June (2014) by Maya Lang recreates the format of Ulysses in a near-contemporary story set in Philadelphia. Three years after Ulysses came another f...
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Reader Review: "The Bees"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 03/02/2017 - 06:00
by OGPLibrarian (Georgia, New Jersey, Montana, Wyoming, New Hampshire): While the elite class and the middle class battle, the lowliest and least respected rise to leadership. A "foreign" untouchable sanitation worker preservers to become a respected leader bringing change from the least expected sect.

I read a print version while listening and had to keep pausing the audible version while annotating my print copy. Some lovely language throughout. Lots of interesting tidbits for gardeners and want-to-be bee keepers or regular folk wanting to provide habitat for pollinators.

Provocative take on some social concepts and behaviors... I think this would make an interesting book group choice paired with Animal Farm, Handmaid's Tale or even The Giver trilogy

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Reader Review: "This Is How It Always Is"

Top Reader Reviews - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 06:00
by Linda Zagon (Melville,NY): WOW!! Kudos to Laurie Frankel, author or "This is How it Always Is". The genre of this book is Fiction, but in the author's notes she courageously writes that the motivation comes from her living with a family member with the same issues.

Rosie and Penn have five children. Rosie is a Physician and Penn is a writer, and tells the children made up fairy tales. The baby of the family Claude is different. Claude loves to wear dresses, play with dolls, wears jewelry, Barrettes in his hair,and approaches life differently than his brothers.Claude is happiest when can do this.Rosie and Penn want to see their children happy. Claude draws himself with long hair and dresses.At first his parents feel that all children go through phases.

This is a controversial topic that ?is spoken about currently, but I feel that many of these issues just have always existed but never were addressed as openly. Children(and adults) can be devastatingly cruel, be bullies, and do not accept whatever the "norm" should be. It is not often that we speak of transgender children, sometimes as young as three.

Laurie Frankel gives me much to think about. Should answers be black and white, yes or no? Does a person have to make up their mind if they feel they are a girl/boy? Is it so simple? Should society force families to keep a "secret" if their feelings don't conform to what is supposedly expected?

I love the way that Laurie Frankel writes about family, love, support and acceptance I also feel that the hardest job in life is to be a parent. Of course, we want to see our children happy, but can we admit that we have certain expectations that might be or not be in our children's best interest?

I highly recommend this intriguing novel. It is so very different and unique, and Laurie Frankel's descriptions are amazing!

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