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Banned Books in the USA - Infographic

Editor's blog - 13 hours 10 min ago
September 23rd is the start of Banned Books Week, an annual awareness campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International that celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books and highlights persecuted individuals. Last year's top ten banned titles included titles written for children and teens that address gender identity issues and adult titles read in schools such as The Kite Runner and To Kill a Mockingbird. In honor of Banned Books Week, here's an interesting infographic from Invaluable of the top banned books in different genres, the reasons why they've been banned in the past, and interesting facts and stats. Check out part of the infographic below or click ...
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Reader Review: "The Dry"

Top Reader Reviews - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): The Dry is the first book in the Aaron Falk series by award-winning Australian journalist and author, Jane Harper. After twenty years away, AFP agent Aaron Falk returns to drought-stricken rural Victoria for the funeral of his one-time best friend, Luke Hadler. All of Kiewarra is there to bury Luke, Karen and little Billy, but few of them are glad to see Falk.

Falk's field is financial crimes, so Luke's mother asks him to look into a possible alternative to the foregone conclusion of murder-suicide that seems to have been reached by the detectives from Clyde. And neither is Kiewarra's own cop, Sergeant Greg Raco, entirely convinced by this explanation. There are enough discrepancies in the facts that Falk decides to stay a few days, to see if he can cast light on this awful tragedy. He owes Luke's memory and his parents at least that much.

But Falk and his father left Kiewarra under a cloud when, at sixteen, his dear friend Ellie Deacon drowned in the Kiewarra River. While no one was ever charged, Falk had his suspicions then about who was responsible: are they affecting his impartiality now? Are there reasons to think the crimes are related?

During his informal investigation, Falk connects with townsfolk, reconnects with old friends and old enemies, and it is soon apparent that the ill will from his teens has been comprehensively reawakened.

Against the backdrop of a struggling country town, Harper gives the reader twin mysteries: a cold case and one still dominating the town's consciousness. Multiple narrators give a variety of perspectives, eventually revealing the truth about both these wretched events. Harper's characters are believably flawed: there are no saints here, and many of them harbour secrets. Falk's loyalty to his friends is tinged with doubt and suspicion.

Harper's Kiewarra easily evokes the typical country town with its small mindedness, its secrets, its rumour mill and the lightning spread of gossip, and a lack of the anonymity often felt in cities. This is a tale that is fast-paced, with an exciting climax and twists and red herrings that will keep even the most astute reader guessing until the final chapters. Harper's debut novel certainly lives up to the hype, so interest in Aaron Falk's second outing, Force of Nature, is bound to be high.

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Reader Review: "The Ninth Hour"

Top Reader Reviews - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 06:00
by bridgnut (San Francisco, CA): At first I thought this was a religious book but I feel it was about how you live your life. The nuns were all different so you could associate with them in your own life.

The author writes great descriptions about everything.

Phrases I liked.

Truth finds the light. Lies never stay hidden. Love's a tonic, not a cure.

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Reader Review: "Darius the Great Is Not Okay"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 06:00
by RebeccaR: I would classify this as a must-read for 2018! Darius is a unique teenage boy whose story will appeal to all ages, even though the book is categorized as YA. Darius has to deal with high school life where he isn't one of the supposedly cool, in-crowd boys along with the added difficulty of having a mother whose Middle Eastern heritage is viewed with suspicion. As the story progresses, he learns to appreciate so many things about his mother's side of the family. However, the learning process is realistic: neither side of the family is portrayed with rose colored glasses. This book has laugh-out-loud moments as well as those where the reader cringes in sympathy with Darius.

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Young Adult Novels for Book Clubs of All Ages

Editor's blog - Sat, 09/08/2018 - 07:23
When it comes to literature, young adult books are practically synonymous with coming of age. Novels in this category are about those life experiences that help us define ourselves. But this journey is not limited to young people. We are always in the process of self-definition and we are always growing. From Conrad Wesslehoef's Dirt Bikes, Drones and Other Ways to Fly, about one boy's experience of beginning to free himself from grief, to Renee Watson's Piecing Me Together, a look at the perseverance it takes to make it authentically in the world, these six young adult novels are ideal springboards for book clubs of all ages to jump off of into meaningful dialogue.

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Reader Review: "Harry's Trees"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 09/03/2018 - 06:00
by Linda Hutchinson (Orlando): What a dazzlingly yet wonderful cast of characters we meet in Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen. The one thing united them is grief and loss. A widow loses her husband to a sudden brain aneurysm, a husband loses his wife in a freak accident, and people all around this world wake up to loss and grief every day. Sometimes life is simply too hard. Here we have a magical story about finding yourself in the midst of despair and learning to let those we love go while simultaneously believing in the magic of a future. A future filled with love. The magical part is both metaphorical and literal in this story revolving around a little girl who believes her dead father is directing her future as a reincarnated winged bird, and her future hinges on a man falling for her widowed mother who climbs trees to restore his soul. Trees, after all, are powerful and have deep roots that make them strong and stable. Sometimes when all hope is lost…hope arrives and life begins anew. As one character states, "By its very nature, though, love is tragic. You can't protect it." because "That's what life is, loving and letting go." This is an enchanted story full of wit, wisdom, loss, and love. I also want you to know that this book made me cry and I rarely cry. I guarantee that you need to read this sweet novel; it is a book you can't afford to pass by. Read it and weep.

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Reader Review: "Don't Look Back: An Inspector Sejer Mystery"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 08/26/2018 - 06:00
by RobertaW (Albuquerque): A friend recommended this mystery to me and said she had just discovered Norwegian author Karin Fossum. This book is in a series of Inspector Sejer mysteries. Now I'm hooked!

Fossum creates a tension and feeling of dread in the very first chapter. Filled with psychological suspense, the book is about the murder investigation of a young woman. Inspector Sejer uncovers the secrets and hidden relationships in what appears to be an idyllic town. Lots of twists and turns.

I recommend it!

An excellent mystery and I want to read more of her work.

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A Short History of the Typewriter

Editor's blog - Tue, 08/21/2018 - 15:36
For those who grew up in the digital age, typewriters may seem all but extinct, a relic of a past era. But at one time, typewriters were as revolutionary and cutting edge as the latest laptop technology. The earliest progenitors of the typewriter believed they were creating a writing device only for the blind. They didn't foresee typewriters being needed by those who could see; after all, what were pens for? [More]
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Reader Review: "Southernmost"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 06:00
by Beth Wheeler Dean (Guntersville, Alabama): I like this book. It is full of imperfect characters whose flaws hold them back from relationships, acceptance, and joy, but, somehow, they learn, grown, and manage to stand up to all that life sends them. I cheered for them all and thoroughly enjoyed their strengths and weaknesses, their prayers and their failings. Imperfection blessed by healing wins the day in this one.

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Books in Translation: Bring the World to Your Book Club!

Editor's blog - Sun, 08/12/2018 - 18:25
Translating books from one language to another is an art and the translators of these six books are exceptionally talented artists. Of course, the original authors are incredible writers and storytellers too, so these novels deliver a one-two punch to invigorate your book club. [More]
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Creative Writing & Storytelling for the Family

Editor's blog - Sun, 08/12/2018 - 10:36
There is a lot of debate as to whether creative writing can be taught or not. Clearly a lot of people think it can be given the growth in creative writing courses. As with most interesting arguments, the truth is probably to be found somewhere in the middle, in that gray area between a polarizing 'yes' or 'no'. Certain elements like voice probably can't be 'taught' as such but they can be refined, given enough time, and the same goes for other aspects of storytelling. In which case, it would seem to make sense to give aspiring writers the fundamental tools they need so that they can learn to use them effectively to improve their writing craft.
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Reader Review: "Girl in the Blue Coat"

Top Reader Reviews - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 06:00
by Becky H (Chicago): A young woman living in Holland during the Nazi Occupation is forced into smuggling and utilizing the Black Market in order to feed her family and friends. One of her "regulars" asks her to find "the girl in the blue coat" and that is where the mystery begins. Secrets, betrayals, lost friendships, disappearances, dead lovers and danger on all sides makes this a compelling and tense read. Everyday life in an occupied city is made real and horrific. Although billed as Young Adult, this novel will appeal to anyone interested in WWII and the resistance, especially in Holland. 5 of 5 stars

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Reader Review: "The One-in-a-Million Boy"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 06:00
by J watson (Austin): This book was such a surprise! Outside my usual genres of mystery or historical fiction, I was totally captivated, I did not want it to end! I plan to have my book club read it when it is my turn to pick! The warmth of the story and characters are deeply felt.

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What's the Difference Between a Romance Novel and a Love Story?

Editor's blog - Sun, 07/29/2018 - 14:02
In literary terms, the distinction between a romance and a love story is arguably subjective and open for interpretation--perhaps rooted in literary snobbery--but as someone who appreciates both genres, this is how I discern the two. Characters As in many types of stories, characters are central to both love stories and romances. We need to be intrigued by and invested in them in order to fully appreciate their relationship. Characters in a romance may feel idealized in some way. They might have some type of flaw--but even this flaw is likely to be a strength in disguise. Love stories tend to have more deeply and authentically flawed characters. Regardless of the setting and time period they're placed in, they're un...
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Reader Review: "An American Marriage"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 06:00
by Dorothy L: I read this book for a book club discussion. I found it a little difficult to get into at first but then was caught up in the story. Our lives often seem to be following a plan, but one action, one moment, can change everything not only for the victim of injustice, but also for those around him. I thought the characters were well drawn, even the minor ones, but there were situations in the book that did not seem realistic to me (I am not being specific because of spoilers). I did, however, like the ending. That did seem realistic to me. I already know that some people in my book group did not like the book and others did so I expect an interesting discussion. And that is what book clubs are all about right?

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Reader Review: "Sometimes I Lie"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 07/22/2018 - 06:00
by mary challis: Awesome, captivating book - don't pass it by !! I don't know where to start or what to say except maybe.... it is mind blowing! compelling and exciting! It keeps you going until the end. You are gasping for breath, dizzy, and in so deep you feel like you can't put this book down. This book was twisted, raw and at some points scary, it went back and forth between present day, (Amber in a coma) to a week prior, the build up to Amber being in a coma, and 1992, a series of diaries. The twists and turns this book takes was so entertaining and spooky, I found myself speeding up the reading just to see what happened next! Pages were flying I was dead to the world, It kept me guessing, and thinking and guessing the entire time: gasp! Breathe..... I loved every second! Wow! This has got to be a movie...

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Reader Review: "The Radium Girls"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 06:00
by RebeccaR: I knew I wanted to read this book because I was curious about a part of history which I had not heard about previously, but what I did not expect was to find the book so interesting. I hesitate to call it entertaining because it deals with such sorrow and pain, but the author is able to pull the reader into the lives of the young women. One feels as if the story is unfolding for the first time before their eyes. Sometimes people have a tendency to romanticize so-called "Good ol' Days;" this book makes it clear that there are some dark and very disturbing parts of relatively modern American history. Author Kate Moore conveys her genuine concern for the subject matter, and every chapter contains well researched and documented facts. I have already recommended the book to several friends.

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Reader Review: "America for Beginners"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 06:00
by Betty Taylor (Macon GA): If you enjoyed Fatima Farheen Mirza's A PLACE FOR US, I highly recommend AMERICA FOR BEGINNERS.

Three misfits set out on a journey across America, a journey of evolution, and are changed forever.

Pival Sengupta, a newly widowed Indian woman, has booked a trip to America. Her servants are outraged! A woman just does not do this alone. But Pival is not going to see the sights of America. Instead, she is hoping to find her son whom her husband has told her is dead. After moving to America, Rahi revealed to his father Ram that he was gay and was immediately disowned. Then one night Ram took a call and told Pival it was from their son's lover in America and that Rahi had died. On her trip to America she wants to see what Rahi had possibly seen in America, perhaps walk where he walked before he died. But did he die? She wonders if her husband lied to her. She has had her doubts since the death was so sudden and there was no body returned to India. She is determined to find out the truth.

The characters in this story are each unique and all are engaging. From Mrs. Sengupta who is naïve about so much but determined in her mission, to Mr. Munshi, the hard-working Bangladeshi tour company owner who tries to pass himself off as Indian. The description of him that quickly comes to mind is a "snake oil salesman". One has to wonder how his business remains open given his naivety. Pival's guide is Satya who has only been in the US for a year and never outside New York City. He is sweet, extremely naïve, and always ravenously hungry. For reasons of modesty, Pival needs a female companion so Mr. Munshi hires Rebecca, an aspiring actress. This two-week tour being a companion sounds like a working vacation to her so she is thrilled to get the job.

As Pival, Rebecca, and Satya make their way across the country they are challenged by their cultural and generational differences. But they begin to evolve in their own self-growth and learn to see the world through someone else's eyes. They learn to appreciate the qualities the others have to offer. Barriers come down, animosities are forgotten, and true bonds are formed. There is humor, heartbreak, forgiveness, and acceptance. This story isn't about where they travel but rather the voyage itself.

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Reader Review: "A Place for Us"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 06:00
by Erica (Chicago): If you, your parents, your grandparents or people you know are immigrants to this country, this book will touch you on so many levels. The first generation to the country, holding on to the beliefs that make them the people they are, even if they are the "old ways"; their children, being raised on their parents values, while struggling to find their own identity in the country of their birth. There are also the family dynamics of birth order, male child vs. female child, and how culture controls and plays into that. The look into this immigrant's family life is eye-opening and educational. Written with great sensitivity. I can't say enough good things about this book.

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Reader Review: "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine"

Top Reader Reviews - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 06:00
by Bookwormatheart (West midlands): While I have to Admit I chose this book out of sheer luck, I am so glad that I did, i can honestly say that it was humorous, desperately sad at times and wonderfully thought provoking. I am ashamed to say that like most people I fall prey to judging others before giving them a chance, whether it be by how they dress, speak or even simply that they are different and not as society sees "normal". To me the story bought to the forefront that I should not be so quick to judge, and that something that I may class as insignificant could be important to others. I have never had a book impact me in quite away before (I have read thousands) and maybe it won't effect the next person to read it, but what I will take away personally is this, I won't be so quick to judge, I will try to give an act of kindness to somebody everyday whether that is just a smile when they need it or an ear if they just need to talk. Never again will I take for granted the loving family and network of support. Before anybody says I am well aware this is fiction and maybe you think that I am being a tad over zealous with my ramblings and that is probably true but either way it bought home a few home truths about the way we treat each other and maybe just maybe it will encourage us to treat each other a little kinder and a little more accepting. Sorry for the essay but thanks for the lesson x

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