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Young Adults as Unreliable Narrators

Editor's blog - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:20
In How to Set a Fire and Why, Lucia claims to not remember exactly what occurred during an argument with her aunt's landlord, leaving her exact reasoning and motivation somewhat mysterious. In writing Lucia as an unreliable narrator, Jesse Ball draws from an established tradition. An unreliable narrator lies, expresses uncertainty or bias, or seems to have a misunderstanding of situations that occurred. The author may employ an unreliable narrator to intentionally mislead the reader or as a means of characterization. Part of the pleasure in encountering such a narrator is parsing out what is true and what is not. Teen and young adult narrators are some of the most obvious and well-known examples of the trope, and this makes logical sen... [More]
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Reader Review: "Idaho"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 11/15/2017 - 06:00
by Lorri (Ridgewood, NJ): This book is not what you may think it is. It sounds so dark from the description, one of those edge-of-your-seat-are-things-really-what-they seem page turners. But what it really is, is a book about grace, how a complicated life, filled with unimaginable sadness, still has those moments of grace, of connection. This is a beautifully written book, it quietly builds tension and then just as quietly releases you from it, but never completely. Happiness is never quite attained, sadness is always lurking at the edges, and yet there is a satisfaction there, equal parts resignation and unexpected joy.

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Climate Fiction: A Glimpse into the Growing Genre

Editor's blog - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:12
In Midnight at the Electric, it is the year 2065, and teenager Adri is part of a carefully selected group departing Earth forever to live on Mars. Although the story takes place less than 50 years from now, massive planetary destruction has already taken place. As Adri puts it early on, "there's no Miami and hardly any Bangladesh and no polar bears…and they're paying billions of dollars to start a colony on Mars because humans need an exit strategy." Considered by some to be a sub-genre of science-fiction, and by others to be an entirely new genre, climate-fiction highlights climate change and its potential ramifications. Although books exploring man-made climate change date back to the '70s, it was only in 2007 that journalist Da... [More]
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The Origins of the Kashmir Dispute

Editor's blog - Thu, 11/02/2017 - 10:42
The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan occupies center stage in Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. For readers unfamiliar with the dispute here is some background (this piece first ran as the "beyond the book" article for Roy's long awaited book): The conflict in Kashmir traces its roots back to the partition of India and Pakistan (see our Beyond the Book article for An Unrestored Woman). When the British left India in 1947, Kashmir was not an Indian state, but was instead one of hundreds of smaller independent princely states. each with their own rulers, who swore loyalty to the British empire. As the British Raj withdrew, these princely states had to make the complicated decision as to whether to become a pa... [More]
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Reader Review: "If the Creek Don't Rise"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 11/02/2017 - 06:00
by Tired Bookreader (Florida): It's rare that a book grabs you from the first sentence; and yet, that is exactly what happened. The people, the environment, the fear, the hate, the anger, the struggles...all of this made for a book that a person could not wait to keep reading. And then the ending...did NOT see that coming. I love this book and encourage anyone who loves a good tale to pick this one up.

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Reader Review: "Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 11/01/2017 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk is the second novel by American author, Kathleen Rooney. It's New Year's Eve, 1984 and Lillian Boxfish, ex-wife, mother, grandmother, just a shade older than the century itself, takes a walk from her home on Murray Hill to Grimaldis where she's going to have her traditional NYE dinner. Walking the footpaths of her city sets her thinking: about her city and about her life. She takes a detour for a drink, and at Grimaldis, things don't quite go as planned, and Lillian walks on.

As Lillian considers her life, she heads for landmarks meaningful to her: restaurants, a hospital, the Hudson River, places she's lived and her place of work for fifteen years. It was at R.H.Macy's that Lillian Boxfish became the highest-paid advertising woman in America. As Lillian walks, she thinks back on her life: her divorce, her marriage, the birth of her son, her honeymoon cruise, and another, less happy one, to Italy. She remembers parties, work, men, her best friend, homes, her boss, work colleagues, books she wrote and editors. A hospital stay and a certain TV appearance are among the less-favoured memories.

Despite the cautions and concerns of her son, she walks through the streets of New York on this last night of 1984, and she encounters its denizens: a limo driver at a loose end, a barman, a restaurant maître d', a security guard, a kindly dinner host, an angry homosexual, a terrified expectant mother, a helpful and courteous shop assistant and some disaffected black youths. She dines, drinks, shops, parties, gives away money and writes a bill of sale.

Rooney's story is based on an actual person, but is quite definitely fiction. She paints a marvellous picture of New York over a span of sixty years, and this is a tale that would appeal to readers familiar with New York City, but more especially, to residents of the Big Apple. The Boston Globe calls it "A witty and heartfelt ode to a city" and this is a most apt description. A moving and entertaining read.

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Reader Review: "Our Souls at Night"

Top Reader Reviews - Sat, 10/28/2017 - 06:00
by Judith Bates (Santa Fe, New Mexico): This is a short book, only 179 pages, and it is Kent Haruf's last book before he passed away and, of course, it takes place in Holt, Colorado. I think this is the best of his books,, although they are all good! It is a story about two senior people who have been "sort of friend" for many years. She knew his wife, but they were not close friends. Both his wife and her husband have passed away. This is a story that will make you happy and sad! It is undoubtedly one of the best stories I have ever read! It is a story about two people who "find" each other; there is happiness and sadness! Read it you will like it!!!!! It is the perfect story!!

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Women who Scheme: The Female as Villain in Greek Tragedies and Beyond

Editor's blog - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 11:23
The story of Clytemnestra is told in bits and pieces across several play cycles from the Classical period, and before. At the end of the House of Names, the author Colm Tóibín notes that, while the majority of the novel's events are not related to any source material, the overall shape of the narrative and the main characters are taken from The Oresteia by Aeschylus, Electra by Sophocles, Euripides' Electra, Orestes, and Iphigenia at Aulis. Clytemnestra, as well as Electra, make appearances in other plays and art forms throughout history, but are rarely humanized in the way that we see in Tóibín's book. In fact, the way in which House of Names is perhaps most subversive is how Tóibín humanizes these c... [More]
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What is The Bardo?

Editor's blog - Wed, 10/18/2017 - 08:08
Yesterday, George Saunders won the Man Booker Prize for Lincoln in The Bardo. So you might be wondering what the bardo is! Find out in our "beyond the book" article. You can also read our review and browse an excerpt. The word bardo comes from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and means "in-between." It refers to a transitional state when one's awareness of the physical world is suspended. According to Spiritualtravel.org the concept is an "umbrella term which includes the transitional states of birth, death, dream, transmigration or afterlife, meditation, and spiritual luminosity...for the dying individual, the bardo is the period of the afterlife that lies in between two different incarnations." Most of the characters in Lincoln in the Ba... [More]
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All About Fredrick Backman and His Books

Editor's blog - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 10:22
I've read all of Fredrik Backman's works that have English translations. In fact, I was lucky enough to be one of the first early readers of his debut novel, A Man Called Ove. I realized then that I was witnessing the birth of an amazing talent and, to date, he hasn't ever let me down. Unfortunately, it's tough to find a whole lot out about Backman. A New York Times article notes that before he published Ove, he was a college dropout (where he studied religion), and it took him a while to become the "overnight success" he is today. He was a freelance writer for a Swedish magazine while working "as a forklift driver at a food warehouse, taking night and weekend shifts so that he could write during the day." He's married, has two children, is... [More]
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Reader Review: "Sing, Unburied, Sing"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 06:00
by Nadja (California): I love Jesmyn Ward, so I grabbed this off the ARC shelf at work as soon as I saw it! She writes in a way that sucks you into the world of the characters, and manages to evoke pity even for the most unlikeable people by giving us a way to connect with their human experience. You will think about these people and their lives and how so many are set up to fail from the very beginning. This one will definitely punch you in the gut but it's worth it. I won't even try to describe what happens because I'm too afraid to accidentally provide spoilers. Highly recommend!

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Best Books for Book Clubs in 2018

Editor's blog - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 12:56

We know. Among the many hundreds upon thousands of books that are published every year, it is difficult to select just a few that will make worthy additions to your book club lineup. So we've done the legwork for you. These fourteen books offer engaging and powerful stories and plenty to discuss. We have included a good mix of fiction and nonfiction and tossed in a mystery and a thriller while while we're at it. After all, variety is the spice of life -- and of any respectable book club. If you've got suggestions to share, please do post at the bottom!
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Reader Review: "If the Creek Don't Rise"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 06:00
by jill (NJ): Tucked in to the Appalachian Mountains, the people of Baines Creek live a hard luck, hard scrabble life. Tied together by tradition, misfortune, and a distrust of outsiders they make their way by whatever means necessary. A product of that environment, without formal education, a family support system and self-esteem, Sadie Blue does what many girls in her situation are prone to. Sadie falls for the first smooth talking man that looks her way and jumps from a bad situation to a horrible one. An outsider, with a story of her own to tell, befriends Sadie and gives her the strength to do what needs to be done. With help with some of the creek's residents, some strange and some downright otherworldly Sadie begins to climb out of the situation she's found herself in. The area and its inhabitants and so well written and deeply explored that you can almost visualize them. I could not put this book down and its inhabitants have stayed with me in the days afterward.

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Reader Review: "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 06:00
by Michelle (Omaha, Nebraska): Alright, yes this was a tough read at times. Nothing about this book is black and white, there is just too much that matters and influence why things happen the way they do. I might have been on the fence about how I felt about this book if the author left the reader with questions as to what it was really about and left parts of the story to be filled based on a reader's interpretation. But she didn't... this story was about true love, no question. Sometimes love and life doesn't fall into a perfect little fairytale that can make everyone happy; they fall into something that is filled with such deep cracks to begin with the odds are great it won't survive. This is that story. This book pushed me out of my comfort zone, was very well written, and will stay with me for a long time ~

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The World's First Cookbook

Editor's blog - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 13:38
In Crystal King's Feast of Sorrow, Apicius and his slave, Thrasius, develop their own cookbook. A quick search into Roman history reveals that Marcus Gavius Apicius actually did publish such a book (or rather a series of them), which most historians consider the first cookbook ever written. However, nowhere in the 450-500 recipes in this eponymously titled tome is there a reference to a slave by name. King made this literary leap, jumping to the conclusion that it was highly likely that a slave invented and/or produced recipes for the Apicius household, and not the master himself. The fact that several sources I found note that the language used in these books was more "vulgar" than "classical" Latin would also support this idea – even... [More]
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Reader Review: "Cutting For Stone"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 06:00
by Becky H (Chicago): Although long (perhaps a bit too long), this tale of brothers holds your attention. When an Italian nun, woefully unprepared for a mission in Africa, turns up at a medical mission in Ethiopia, she is welcomed because of her skill with patients and her ability to serve as nurse to a highly skilled but disconnected surgeon. After she gives birth unexpectedly to twin boys, the story switches to the boys, raised at the mission, and the "family" at the mission that raises them to adulthood. World War II and the civil war that later divides Ethiopia into political factions serve as the background for this fascinating tale of medicine, natives, doctors, politicians and family. Secrets and intrigue abound and are satisfyingly brought to a conclusion as the two boys search for their birth father and fulfilling lives in the midst of great love and great upheaval. 5 of 5 stars

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Reader Review: "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 10/01/2017 - 06:00
by Rebecca (Western USA): I haven't stayed up late to finish a book in a long time, but that is exactly what I did for ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS. I had to know what the outcome would be for this novel's young female protagonist in a book which tells a story with unique American characters, and some gritty, tense moments. The problematic, substance-abuse situations sounded real, and at the end of the book when I read some background on the author, I understood why this book was believable. This book is not a make believe world where everyone is wealthy and gorgeous; it is real, taking the reader down back roads that we all know exist. People with money might be able to pay for prescriptions for opiod drugs and have "acceptable" substance abuse problems that our society feels free to talk about and have television ads about, up to and including opiod-induced constipation with clean cut, hardworking citizens endorsing the drug remedies. This book is not that clean, suburban world. I know that some readers might be put off by some of the rough, intimate scenes and a few of the words used to describe it, but this book is realistic. Without the gritty aspect, it would be like reading a history book of Europe in WWII and having Hitler's regime described as "Since Hitler did not want to be friends with Jewish people, he asked them to move out of his country." I will not forget reading about the character named Waverly.

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23 Movies Based on Books Releasing in Fall 2017 & Winter 2018 (and a further 40+ in development!)

Editor's blog - Sun, 09/24/2017 - 09:20

It's time again for our annual look at upcoming movies based on books, so you're in the know and ahead of the crowd - whether you intend to see the films or not! We've corralled 23 films releasing in the next six months, and the books they are based on; and a further 45+ in development. If we've missed any, or you have updated information, please do post at the bottom.
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Reader Review: "Miss Jane"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 06:00
by AnnieP (South Carolina): A very unusual book! An interesting treatment of a problem a woman and her family has to deal with from her birth and through her entire life. Even though it is the cause of her way of life, it's handled reasonably without great and gory detail. The characters are alive and real, and although there are some "raw" scenes, it's part of Miss Jane's life, and well-presented. Even though it's not for everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, enough to get a couple of Watson's other stories as well.

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Reader Review: "Being Mortal"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 06:00
by Peggy (Morton Grove, Illinois): This book adds greatly to the conversation of aging, death, and quality of life issues. It goes further than most by flipping the discussion on its head by not defining a "good death" but rather the a "good life". One should always strive to define for themselves what they want to do-- not allowing the medical establishment to try to prolong life as long as it can. Autonomy, dignity, and personal choice can only be decided by the individual. Sometimes families lovingly get in the way of the dying.

My only criticism is that Dr Gawande's sharing of many anecdotal stories became somewhat redundant. His account of his fathers' death, however, was very moving! The book needed tighter editing in my opinion. Overall, I highly recommend. His list of source material is extensive and provides further investigation for those interested.

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