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Reader Review: "Anything Is Possible"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 06:00
by Julie M (Golden Valley): Anything is Possible is the sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton which I absolutely loved, and I was worried that it could only be disappointing in comparison. I couldn't have been more wrong! This book is even better than the first. I took some minor characters from My Name is Lucy Barton who Lucy and her mother gossip about in the first book and flesh out their "real" stories. It's almost like a book of connected short stories done as though each is a novel in itself. I will be recommending this book to everyone!

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Celebrating Diversity! Eight New & Notable LGBTQ Books for Young Adults

Editor's blog - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 15:08
In celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month, and in an effort to promote diversity in kids' literature, we've put together a list of eight highly praised LGBTQ books for young adults, all of which published (or will publish) in 2017. Why is diversity in kids' literature so important? According to Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Education at The Ohio State University, and former selection committee member for both the Caldecott and Newbery awards, in her essay "Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors": When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are ... [More]
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Reader Review: "The Zookeeper's Wife"

Top Reader Reviews - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "One of the most remarkable things about Antonina was her determination to include play, animals, wonder, curiosity, marvel, and a wide blaze of innocence in a household where all dodged the ambient dangers, horrors, and uncertainties. That takes a special stripe of bravery rarely valued in wartime"

The Zookeeper's Wife is the eleventh book by American author, Diane Ackerman. It is non-fiction, but often reads like a novel, a plain narrative with spurts of lush descriptive prose, for example: "In a country under a death sentence, with seasonal cues like morning light or drifting constellations hidden behind shutters, time changed shape, lost some of its elasticity, and Antonina wrote that her days grew even more ephemeral and 'brittle, like soap bubbles breaking'"

It tells the story of Antonina Zabinska and her husband, Director of the Warsaw Zoo, Jan Zabinski. When Poland is occupied by the Nazis in 1939, the animals that aren't killed during bombing raids are stolen by Berlin zookeepers, and Jan and Antonina need something else to keep them busy. As the zoo cycles through different legitimate incarnations (pig farm, fur farm), the one business that is soon a constant, very much behind the scenes, is the concealment of Jews trying to escape the Ghetto and Nazi persecution.

After initial descriptions of the time before occupation, the bulk of the story tells of the Guests that passed through the Zabinski's Villa, both human and animal, with all their quirks, traits and oddities. Sometimes the text does get a bit bogged down in details (insect collections, sculpture, extinct species and back breeding), but the ingenuity of these brave people is amazing, and their generosity is truly uplifting. As an officer in the Home Army, and very active in the Resistance, Jan is often absent an it is up to Antonina to keep things running smoothly, and facilitate the passage of some three hundred people to safety.

"In prewar days, the villa had harboured more exotic animals, including a pair of baby otters, but the Zabinksis continued their tradition of people and animals coexisting under one roof, over and over welcoming stray animals into their lives and an already stressed household. Zookeepers by disposition, not fate, even in wartime with food scarce, they needed to remain among animals for life to feel true…"

Ackerman's extensive research is apparent on every page, as well as in the 21 pages of notes on the chapters, the 7-page bibliography and the comprehensive index. She portrays Jan as cool under pressure, demanding and critical, while Antonina comes across as clever and intuitive, but they are hard to connect with, perhaps because Ackerman had to base her tale on diaries and notes. It will be interesting to see what Hollywood does with this tale. A fascinating true story.

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Reader Review: "Speak"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 06:00
by Sharon Mills (Portsmouth England UK): 'Speak' A Novel by Louisa Hall is a multi narrative consisting of five seemingly unconnected voices distanced by geography, and alternating time periods spanning from the 1600's, to the near future of 2040.

The 'voices' have their own individual style of narrative:

Mary, a young girl sailing with her parents and her new husband from England to the Colonies uses her journal to document her anguished thoughts as an outlet for her frustrations and feelings of increasing despair and isolation. So touching and exquisitely written this was by far the most compelling narrative for me;

A Texas inmate writes his (confessional) memoirs for his part in the story;

Chat transcripts of a young girl's internet conversations are used as evidence in the inmate's trial;

We hear the sad, deeply moving private and individual thoughts of a couple who are drifting ever farther apart, but remaining ever closer together; again these narratives were highly emotive and deeply moving.

Alan Turing writes letters voicing his concerns about a friend to the mother, ultimately divulging his own intimate thoughts, inner turmoils and dilemmas, again sensitive, touching and beautifully composed.

The narrators 'speak' because they have a need to be heard and understood, but they do not necessarily 'speak' to whom they really should, nor are their voices necessarily heard by their intended listener. Their private intimate divulgences may also be read out of context, misinterpreted or manipulated and used against them or people connected to them in some way by an unintended listener. Therefore, not speaking and being misunderstood becomes a common thread in this complex tale.

These totally random stories, and characters initially appear to be unconnected, however as you read on, fragments that interconnect the voices and threads begin to come together making sense as the story unravels.

I savoured and devoured this book in equal measures and genuinely didn't want it to end. Louisa Hall is a master in the art of painting vivid imagery with the written word. With stunning, sumptuous and beautiful balletic prose, I absolutely adored this novel.

Powerfully written in its complexity, and diverse in narrative style, Speak is sheer brilliance in its construction and delivery. Fans of David Mitchell's 'Cloud Atlas', Emily St. John Mandel's 'Station Eleven' and Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus' should seek this one out as a 'must read'.

It is unfathomable to believe that 'Speak' is only the second novel from the author. I'll definitely read more from Louisa Hall and will have to contain my excitement until her next book is published.

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Reader Review: "The Atomic Weight of Love"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 06:00
by Sharon (Portsmouth, England, UK): On Meri's 10th birthday her father gives her a book, 'The Burgess Bird Book for Children'. For her 11th birthday he gives her, Darwin's 'On The Origin of the Species'. Six months later her father dies leaving both Meri and her mother utterly devastated. At 17 years old Meri leaves her hometown of Pennsylvania and attends Chicago University with a fierce ambition to earn an advanced degree in ornithology. She sits in on one of Professor Whetstone's physics lectures and is completely smitten by this man old enough to be her father. This is what she says about seeing him at that first lecture, ' I was in awe of Alden. I could only sense the very fringes of concepts that his intellect grasped with such easy, ready fingers. I worshipped his knowledge, his aloof independence and greater world experience. He was my teacher; he led me, and I followed gladly.' They embark on an affair fuelled, not by passion or lustful recklessness, but of joint admiration of intellectual minds. They marry and Alden takes her away to Los Alamos, New Mexico.

At the commencement of each chapter there are ornithological terms of reference which cleverly shadow Meri's experiences within the chapter they refer to. The writing style is gently paced, and intelligent, with beautifully constructed sentences and phrases such as,"I watched the first snowfall begin as a light, dry powder and morph into those luscious, fat, lazy flakes that sashay downward and accumulate into weighty drifts." I fell immediately under the authors spell of words and eagerly devoured the pages of the book. In another poignantly beautifully written scene where the crows say farewell to one of their own, I cried as the loss and feeling of loneliness was utterly palpable and I truly believed I understood how Meri was feeling at that particular stage of her life.

The Atomic Weight of Love is primarily a love story written and voiced by Meri about the ever changing, evolving love she feels for Alden, and then in her 40's of her love for a much younger man. I found it in turns to be heartbreaking, and infuriating due to the out dated attitudes of the times, but above all an uplifting read. There is a bittersweet quality to the story and at times it simply broke my heart.

Elizabeth Church's debut novel is an exquisite poignant tale of loyalty, trust and knowing when to let go. I truly hope there's a lot more to come from her as a writer. I'd recommend it for readers who love beautifully written literary historical fiction that will make them question their own sacrifices and accomplishments. I would also suggest it for book group readers as the multitude of topics raised throughout the book could generate some lively discussion.

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Reader Review: "I Let You Go"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 05/14/2017 - 06:00
by Lesley (ENFIELD): This is the most memorable book I've read for a long time. It is so cleverly written. The effect has lingered in my mind, in a fascinating way, since reading it months ago.The locations add interest as they switch from urban to seaside and the author really helps the reader to imagine the protagonist's emotions as she struggles through her situation. It is so visual a story , that, as I read it, I could see a televised drama in front of my eyes. I'm sure it is only a matter of time.

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You've Got a Friend In Me: Celebrating Women's Friendships

Editor's blog - Sat, 05/06/2017 - 10:03
There has been much talk in recent years about why women need friendships with other women. According to a much referenced 2000 UCLA study, friendships between women not only "soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are," they're also good for women's health. These nine books explore the various aspects of women's friendships in all their complexities. [More]
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Reader Review: "Birds of a Feather"

Top Reader Reviews - Sat, 05/06/2017 - 06:00
by BeckyH (Chicago): A tight plot and likeable characters people this mystery set in post World War I England. Masie is a detective and a psychologist and uses both to solve interesting and informative crimes. This one is no different. Hired to find a runaway daughter, Masie stumbles on a serial killer. Well written, with believable and clearly drawn characters with interesting backgrounds and a spot on sense of time and place, this series gets better as it continues. While the second in the series, there is no need to have read the first before beginning this one. 5 of 5 stars

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Reader Review: "A Gentleman in Moscow"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 04/30/2017 - 06:00
by Sarah (Montana): This is one of my all-time favorite books. The Count is an example of a person who knows how to live life. Despite confinement he loves his adopted family and friends, and finds pleasure in the simple aspects of human existence. History and culture are also abundantly represented in this beautiful novel

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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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