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Reader Review: "Salt Houses"

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 06:00
by Linda Locker (Pickerington, OH): Salt Houses is a difficult story and the author did not shy away from difficult situations and family conflicts. It is the story of displacement and yearning for something called "home." The book covers almost fifty years in the life of a Palestinian family, spanning the years 1963 to 2014. The family tree included in the front of the book was very helpful. Each section is told from the perspective of a different family member. I thought the voice of the girls and women were particularly strong and very candid. The story did move slowly and I was expecting a greater building to a climax. But, the characters rang true and the author gave hope in the end. The story of this family, unfortunately, has been lived by many, many refugees. This diaspora continues to impact the stability of the world today. Salt Houses gives a very personal insight into the real lives of displaced persons and encourages empathy and understanding. I would recommend this book for those who have a real interest in the Middle East and the challenges of it's displaced people.

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Reader Review: "One Child"

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 06:00
by janis Rezek (U.S. A. state West Virginia): This account of China's one child policy shows the far reaching unintended or latent consequences of this social policy. On the surface we think of the intended consequences of a social policy being put into place. Now looking retrospectively we can see the consequences are multidimensional. They are cultural, economic and political. The part that brought the most surprise to me was the impact on aging parents and who would care for them. I intend to use this book in one of my sociology courses to demonstrate the impacts a social policy can make and how we need to use a holistic approach when policies are being made. This a a very good read for anyone interested in the cultural aspect of economics and politics.

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Reader Review: "The Midnight Watch"

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): The Midnight Watch is the first novel by Australian teacher and author, David Dyer. While the story of the sinking of the SS Titanic in April 1912 will be familiar to most people, the part played in the drama by the master and crew of the SS Californian is probably less well-known. While it is argued about, many accept that the Californian was the ship closest to Titanic when she sank; was, in fact, within sight of Titanic, and did not react when Titanic fired off eight distress rockets at five-minute intervals, except to signal with the Morse lamp. Nor did they try to contact the Titanic via wireless.

Dyer tells the story of what probably happened on the Californian that night, what the master and the crew did, and what occurred on their arrival in Boston, as well as their testimonies at the subsequent US Senate Inquiry in Washington DC and the British Inquiry in London. His narrator is John Steadman, a fictional journalist for the Boston American, whose story was instrumental in forcing master and crew to appear before the Inquiries.

The latter section of the book is a story titled Eight White Rockets, which Steadman has written as "an account the sea tragedy of the Titanic and the Sage Family", an actual family of eleven which perished in the sinking. Dyer's story is historical fiction but is based on fact. Many of the characters he fills out for the reader actually existed, and much of what he describes is backed up by witness accounts. Some of it is likely to leave the reader gasping.

Dyer's expertise in this field is apparent on every page. It should be noted that he spent many years as a lawyer at the London legal practice whose parent firm represented the Titanic's owners in 1912. He has also worked as a cadet and ship's officer on a wide range of merchant vessels, having graduated with distinction from the Australian Maritime College. His talent as an author ensures that this already-fascinating story takes on a human aspect. As well as being interesting and informative, this is a moving and captivating read.

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Reader Review: "The Girl Who Smiled Beads"

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 06:00
by Sue: This is one of the most difficult books I have read, yet it is an essential read. It is at once a memoir and an expose. How can I ever relate to Clemantine's life? I will never know her tragedy. The terrible genocide that was visited upon the Tutsi by the Hutu majority government becomes more than real in Clemantine's telling. I will never think of a refugee camp again with anything but horror.

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Reader Review: "Do Not Become Alarmed"

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 06:00
by Michael Haughton (Kingston,Jamaica): It all began with a cruise on a ship out in the wild seas. This family decided to make good on having a good time on a cruise. The writer made it clear from the beginning and so readers knew that from this came various scenes and misfortune.

Here is a short summary of the names of characters and events which I will tear apart with my intellect: When Liv and Nora decide to take their families on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship's comforts and possibilities seem infinite with this family.

Love the nonstop buffet and the independence they have at the Kids' Club. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor misfortunes leads the families farther and farther from the ship's safety. One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone. This summary was perfect but is the writer's narration?

I like the writer's style of the story. It includes the kids which were very intelligent and smart. This story had good insight and I kept reading on and on. I found no errs and I was surprise by that as usually a story like this had few errs but the writer was cleaver enough and very intelligent.

The only little flaw I had was that none of the kids knew Spanish well enough to know what the strange men and women were saying. These kids were frightened and hungry but also need medication. I was pleased with the plot because no info was given about what the men were doing with a shovel in the forest. My rating is high and I recommended this book to all readers.

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Reader Review: "Some Luck"

Mon, 04/16/2018 - 06:00
by Mal (California): Absolutely wonderful family saga. I fell in love with all the characters, the transitions between each one was incredibly well done, no make that flawless. The narrative has an easy, natural flow - simple yet detailed drawing the reader into the family fold. The beauty of the book - it takes an ordinary family dealing with everyday life and the roller coaster life can be. I could not put this book down, I cannot wait to continue the journey. Smiley is one incredible storyteller.

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Reader Review: "Bellweather Rhapsody"

Sun, 04/08/2018 - 06:00
by mtbikergirl: I loved this novel. It is funny, so funny I laughed out loud. It accurately and lovingly reflects how music truly entrances and collects musicians even before they become musicians. It is also brutally honest about musical prodigies, success and failure, dreams and reality. It is unpredictable and weaves a mystery, both past and present in an atmosphere that is ordinary yet chillingly creepy. It is also a coming of age story with characters so fully developed they rise off the page and follow you from room to room, leaving you to wonder of their futures beyond the book. Its mystery takes actions of the past and rolls them into the future almost like the skipping needle on an old record, turning endlessly then bumped into the next track dragging that skidding noise along with it.

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Reader Review: "Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk"

Sun, 04/08/2018 - 06:00
by Davida Chazan (Jerusalem, Israel): This book made it to my "top 5 of 2017" list, and is certainly my favorite type of fiction (although usually this happens more with historical fiction, and less with contemporary fiction - of which this is essentially both), shining a light on real people about whom we know little to nothing about, and Rooney's spotlight was as startlingly bright as it was flattering. To begin with, Rooney's writing style is so sophisticated and charming that you can't help but believe that Lillian was not only a talented writer and poet, but that she must have been even more beguiling than Rooney portrays her.

Rooney's use of language is also endearingly witty, and I'm trying to figure out how many words in the thesaurus I'll need to use to describe this book, because it's already starting to run out of appropriate adjectives.

As you can see, I'm in love with this book, and that makes it terribly difficult to review without becoming so effusive that my readers get sick of me. So rather than go on and on with piles of compliments that get not only whipped cream but several cherries on top, I'm simply going to say that I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and it deserves more than just a full five stars out of five! (Note to self: where have you been all my reading life, Kathleen Rooney?)

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Reader Review: "Pachinko"

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 06:00
by James BC Yu (Korea): I was born in Japan of Korean parents and lived there till age 10. After Japan was defeated in 1945, our mother took us back to Korea. Our father was killed in 1944 in an accident while he was conscripted to work at a Japanese Navy Ship Yard. My family consisted of mother (32), sister (13), me (10) and 2 younger brothers (3) years apart. Once I started reading Pachinko, I couldn't stop reading because the main character, Sunja, is my sister, a strong and determined head of my family. I lived in Korea for another 10 years till after the end of Korean War. I have lived in the States over 6 decades.

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Reader Review: "Educated"

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 06:00
by michael haughton (kingston,jamaica): At first it might seem abit difficult to read. Impossible to put down. A powerful, powerful book that you shouldn't miss. I can't just leave it at that because Tara Westover's story deserves more than those few words. I don't often read memoirs, but when I do I want them to be told by extraordinary people who have a meaningful story to tell and that would be faint praise for this book. It sounds odd to say how beautifully written this is because we are not spared of the ugly details of what this family was about, but yet it is beautifully written. I had to remind myself at times that I wasn't reading a gritty novel, that Tara and her family were real as I got more than just a glimpse of a life that was hard for me to even imagine.

A religious fanatic father, hoarding food and guns and bullets and keeping his family off the radar, not filing for birth certificates, not getting medical attention when they needed it, avoiding the government, the feds at all cost , keeping his children out of school, the paranoia, the preparation for the "Days of Abomination" - this is what we find in this place on a mountain in Idaho. There are horrible accidents and he won't get medical help for his family. Her mother's healing herbs and tinctures are used to treat the slightest scrape to the most horrible head injury or burns from gasoline to an explosion. If some thing bad happens it because that's the will of the Lord. Her mother seems at times more sympathetic to her children, but she is complicit by her subservience to her husband. I don't even know how to describe it other than gut wrenching to see the effects on this family of neglect in the name of religious beliefs and in reality mental illness. It isn't just her father but the brutality by one of her brother's which is more than awful and creates rifts between family members,

That she was bold enough and somehow found the will to rise above it all while she is torn with the sense of duty, of loyalty to her family, the ingrained beliefs, still loving her family is miraculous. Going to college was the first time she'd been in a classroom, not knowing what the Holocaust was, learning about slavery, the depression, WWII, the civil rights movement. She doesn't just get a college education but ultimately a PhD from Cambridge, a Harvard fellowship. She struggles for years to discover who she was, who she could be - a scholar, a writer, an independent woman. This is a stunning, awe inspiring story that will haunt the reader long after the book ends.

Thank you to Tara Westover for sharing yourself with us. It was well worth the reading late nights.

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Reader Review: "The Radium Girls"

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 06:00
by michael haughton (jamaica kingston): The Radium Girls is one of the most emotionally devastating, emotionally uplifting, roller coaster reads I have read in a very long time. I requested this book months ago and it took me forever to finish because there is just so much to take in mentally and emotionally while reading this book that I often had to set it down because I was both amazed and in tears because of what these women went through. Radium for those who don't know is a radioactive chemical that is very deadly to humans but many years ago was thought to have many uses both in home goods, health goods and beauty supplies and thought to be good for you. It was put into baby food, make up and in house hold objects until very quickly it was discovered that everyone who was exposed to it either died or became very ill from it. Radium Girls were the women who handled radium at the factory they worked and painted it on clock faces. I couldn't believe how many times they were assured that everything was fine in a time when they were discovering just how deadly it was and being allowed to handle it despite the fact that they actually glowed from it. The sad poor conditions and dismissal of such severe sickness and after effects they endured just because they were women, the company that denied any wrong doing, and the fight they had to take up to garner any attention broke my heart. Its sad to think so much of this history gets forgotten by so many and how the turn of events that led to us (women) having better treatment in the work place took so much sacrifice on their behalf. I would love to see inspiration for this book be turned into a film, I honestly think it would be an amazing movie. I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it yet.

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Reader Review: "The House of Broken Angels"

Sat, 03/17/2018 - 06:00
by michael haughton (jamaica kingston): How could a character like man be so touching. It brings tears to my eyes just to realize that sickness is no respect of h. Such a good soul Big Angel. In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel De La Cruz, known affectionately as Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies herself, leading to a farewell doubleheader.

Across one bittersweet weekend in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought them to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.

The story of the De La Cruzes is the American story. This indelible portrait of a complex family reminds us of what it means to be the first generation and to live two lives across one border. Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and it cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.I rate this as 4 out of 5 a very good read.

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Reader Review: "Sometimes I Lie"

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 06:00
by michael Haughton (jamaica, kingston): How could anyone not take notice of such brilliant writing? I find more and more that as I read each chapter my mind was filled with empathy and eagerness for the outcome.

I was captivated by the descriptions, such as when Amber Reynolds is trying to separate her dreams from her alleged reality, "I can smell my lost time." How great is that sentence?! Another example where I know the feeling too well is when she describes an uncomfortable atmosphere, "...the air in the room is thick with silence and remorse." This sentence transported me inside that room!

I believe the author successfully carries the voice of the unreliable narrator throughout the book. My attention did not wander and I did not have to suspend any belief to be completely wrapped up in the world of Amber Reynolds and the story she is telling us. The ending was satisfying and also left me hoping for another book by Alice Feeney. The ending can stand on its own, yet seems to hint that this story would be continued in a second novel. It is one of my true joys when a book captivates me and I think about it incessantly. I feel fortunate and grateful to BookBrowse for giving us readers the experience of being being able to read a book months before it is published. I am giving this book a rousing round of applause and yelling. Quite detailing on what suppose to be an imaginary write..living a life that makes living a misery.

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Reader Review: "The Great Alone"

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 06:00
by lalni: For those of you who have read Hannah's previous novel, do not expect a carbon copy of her work. This new book is, however, a wonderfully atmospheric and poignant look at the Alaska wilderness, PTSD, and fractured families. 13 year old old Lani Allbright is growing up in the 70's in the age of EST, Patty Hearst and Vietnam, where free love is all the rage. When her hippie parents decide to leave and move to land bestowed to them by a Vietnam buddy they hope getting away from the chaos of city life will be healing for the father and for the family as a whole. At first, it feels like this might be the answer to their prayers. With a colorful cast of characters, they plunge into a very rustic way of life yet awed by the majestic beauty of the state. However, the people keep warning them about the winter dangers and the people itself. As time goes on the winter darkness does takes hold but it becomes apparent that the real issue is not Alaska's winters but the darkness within the family. We watch Leni's growing awareness of the weakness within her family and her rising maturity regarding its dangers. Be warned-there is a lot of physical abuse in this book and for those who are sensitive to this issue, it may be a trigger. However, Hannah's beautiful prose portrays the splendor and ruggedness of a world we know too little about. It is easy to see how this world could unfurl difficulty for those running away from something. Note that this has already been optioned for film rights.

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Reader Review: "The Girls in the Picture"

Sun, 03/11/2018 - 07:00
by Diane D. (NW NJ): This book kept giving me more surprises as it went on. I hadn't realized that Mary Pickford was the first star of silent pictures, nor that she carried that over into Talkies & was the first in so many things. I did know that she and Douglas Fairbanks were married, but their lives blew me away.

The relationship between Mary and her best friend, Frances Marion, surprised me with it's constancy & intensity, because I kept expecting it to fall apart. When it didn't, I was surprised at all the changes in their lives over the years. A lot of the things Mary did disappointed me, because I wasn't expecting them of her. Frances' life was more what I wanted to read; I guess she just felt more like a real person to me. I had to give her a lot of credit for trying to help Mary at the end, since I don't know if I'd have been able to do it.

The book was very well written, and I enjoyed reading it, though I wish there had been more at the end.

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Reader Review: "Less"

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 06:00
by RobertaW (Albuquerque): My favorite thing about this book is that it made me laugh. Arthur Less is about to turn fifty and his longtime partner is going to marry another man. In order to avoid the wedding he decides to accept all the invitations he has been offered and travel around the world. With each stop we learn more and more about his past. The writing is wonderful and the book is witty, poignant and tender.

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Reader Review: "An American Marriage"

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 06:00
by Betty Taylor (Macon GA): Tayari Jones does not sugar coat her stories. They are raw, they are real. In her latest book "An American Marriage" her characters deal with the realities of their place in this world.

The characters are well developed – all with flaws, all with positive qualities. There were times I wanted to embrace a character and then later I felt like asking the same character "What were you thinking?!!" No one was all good, nor all bad. They were real! I had no idea how I wanted the story to go. I kept changing my mind. And I was never sure how the author would end their story.

This is the story of Roy and Celestial Hamilton who met through her best friend Dre. Roy and Celestial married and were deeply in love when after only 18 months of marriage had their world turned upside down. Roy goes to prison for a crime he did not commit. While he is away Celestial turns to Dre for support. Then when he is released he returns to different life. Has his marriage survived? Love, race, trust, loyalty, honesty, family obligations are all explored. This is a heartfelt story, nothing flashy. Ms. Jones wrote in such a way that I could feel the pain the characters felt over the decisions they had to make. No one was going to escape untouched.

'An American Marriage" is perfect for book clubs. It lends itself to an amazing discussion of the choices made, the consequences, the interactions, race inequality, feminism, family definition.

Mistakes are made, loved ones are betrayed, the term family is redefined, and emotions are laid bare. This is real life.

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Reader Review: "The Wife Between Us"

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 06:00
by Steph (Charlottesville): I want to avoid as much plot as possible because I don't want to ruin a single thing. There are some fantastic twisty bits to The Wife Between Us that genuinely run you over like a semi truck and I don't want to offer any hints. I did have to go back and reread some portions to try and suss out exactly what was going on. You'll need to use your brain a bit for this one.

Vanessa, ex-wife to Richard, is down on her luck and living in a small apartment with her aunt. Post divorce, she's gone from housewife to retail hell at Saks. She's an addict, alcohol being her drug of choice. I think that was one major thing that bothered me about The Wife Between Us. It's very en vogue these days to use alcohol issues as the perfect foil to create an unreliable narrator. It's been done several times and ways and every time I'm left feeling a little cold.

Nellie, Richard's soon to be new wife, is the anti-Vanessa. She's bright, teaches pre-school and is a genuinely happy and refreshing interval every other chapter. Where Vanessa is dark and brooding, Nellie is light and joyful… until Richard's ex starts to turn up. Or so it seems.

Initially I gave The Wife Between Us three stars. Then I thought about the book for a few days, always a good sign, and bumped it to 3.5. And then I sat down to review it today and thought "what the heck" and put it up to four. The fact that I'm still thinking about it even two weeks later means it has stuck with me, and with as many books as I read that's quite an accomplishment.

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Reader Review: "The Great Alone"

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 06:00
by Susie J (Indiana): I so looked forward to this new book by Kristin Hannah because her previous title was so rewarding and satisfying. Unfortunately, this one is far from that - at least for me. The repetition in this book is unbelievable - how could an editor have allowed this to pass? In addition, many of the events in the book are simply too far-fetched to actually occur under the circumstances. Too much happens in too short a time or space. There are brief segments where the prose literally sings, and once I arrived at that point I took a deep breath and hoped I had passed the worst - only to be disappointed again and again. The publishing house fell far short on this one, I feel. Either that or I am asking myself who really wrote Kristin Hannah's great World War II novel of a short time ago.

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Reader Review: "The Great Alone"

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 06:00
by Veronica: I read this book in one setting. I couldn't put it down. The characters just captured me and kept me enthralled. I visited Alaska in the 70's and the descriptions of the state are right on. Beautiful, but brutal. Just as the characters were beautiful, but brutal. I believe Kristin Hannah did it again.

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