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Six Thrillers to Chill Your Book Club in the Heat of Summer

Editor's blog - Sun, 06/10/2018 - 18:40

Rules for summer: Get outside. Sit down. Breathe deep. Grab a great book. Read.

We've got the last two covered! Here are six books that are page-turning, heart-racing, nail-biting thrillers sure to keep you riveted. Read them in blissful solitude or find a few extra chairs and invite your book club to read and discuss with you. Then you'll be following one last summer rule: Spend time with friends.

All six books are recently published in paperback and come with discussion guides; they are also available in hardcover and ebook.

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Reader Review: "The Last Ballad"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 06:00
by Sandi W. (Illinois): Written in the true-to-life battle of workers rights, Wiley Cash does what he is so good at.

It is 1929 in Appleton County North Carolina and Ella Mae Wiggins struggles to make ends meet. Ella works in the American Mill #2 - designated mill #2 because they employee African Americans in that mill. Ella is Caucasian, and not only works with but lives in the part of town that African Americans live in. Hers is the only white family there. Likewise, she is paid less money because she works alongside African Americans. She cannot make ends met. When offered a ride to a union rally, Ella accepts. Little did she know how involved she would become as a union leader.

The story is told years later by her daughter, reveling the bitter and tragic life of her Mother. This novel outlines the early struggles of the labor movement in the Appalachian south. It was based on a true story.

This is Cash's third novel. He continues to amaze. Like the author John Hart, you impatiently wait for the next book published and cannot get it in your hands quickly enough.

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Reader Review: "The Radium Girls"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 06:00
by Sandi W. (Illinois): Such a good, but sad book. The investigation that went into this book is astounding. The author Kate Moore had to have spent every single waking minute on this book. To accumulate the facts and discover the court records and newspaper articles from the early 1900's in both New Jersey and Illinois, the transcripts and family histories, pictures and quotations, the number of documents alone had to have numbered into the thousands. Extremely well put together factual story that reads like a novel from the victims point of view. Kudos to Ms Moore.

Radium was not always known to be the deadly chemical that it is today. Many, many young women understood it to be very safe and even a wonder drug to be ingested freely. Until the young women who worked with it on a daily basis, with factories in both New Jersey and Illinois, started to become ill. Within months they lost all their teeth, their jaw bones crumbled, they started showing signs of bone cancer, losing limbs, even losing their lives. Their employer, the United States Radium Corporation (USRC), who suggested they "lip" the paint brushes they used in their job, insisted that the radium was not the cause of any of their workers ailments. It took the death of many young women and 38 years for the USRC to lawfully be deemed liable and forced to pay out benefits to any of the young women.

In the early 40's USRC factories were raised. The rubble was taken to land fills. It takes radium 1500 years to disintegrate past the point of being lethal, which means everywhere that the rubble from those buildings were spread, in both Orange, New Jersey and Ottawa Illinois and their surrounding areas, is still contaminated. Buried in the earth, under houses, close to water supplies, just waiting for the possibility to infect its next victims. In 1979 the EPA ordered the successor of USRC to start an environmental clean up in both areas. As of 2015 the radium clean up is still in process.

On the good side, this long deadly battle that our courageous fore-sisters fought brought to law the culpability of an employer being responsible for on the job safety and the beginning of the Industrial Occupational Hazards law.

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Reader Review: "American by Day"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 06/03/2018 - 06:00
by lani: A piercing commentary on America seen through Norwegian eyes makes this novel one of the best of the year. I found myself relishing this book, rolling each word over my tongue, tasting it, digesting it and oh so appreciating it. Take one smart ass sheriff and mix it with an erudite logical police officer (Sigrid)from Norway and you have the basis for a story that cannot fail to delight and one that you may want to read over and over. When Sigrid's brother, Marcus who is living in the US, disappears, Sigrid travels to the USA to try and find him and see what is wrong. All of the police force believe that Marcus is responsible for the death of a black female college professor with whom he was having a relationship. However, Sigrid refuses to believe this and uses her scholarly investigative capacities to try and convince the sheriff that there could be other alternatives. I suppose this could be labeled a mystery but it was such a wonderfully drawn and unconventional novel that discusses race relations(at a level I found enamoring), religion, individualism that it is so much more. If you are looking for a novel to make you think, race to get this. I bet you will not be disappointed.

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Reader Review: "Gone Girl"

Top Reader Reviews - Sat, 06/02/2018 - 06:00
by CC: Lots of twists and turns and I'm still taking it in after finishing it. The ending didn't bother me at all, in fact I don't think it's an ending, but perhaps a beginning for another part of their life, if the author chooses to pursue it. If not, you can hardly speculate what's going to happen with a child in their lives, but kind of intriguing to think about.

Amy was incredibly brilliant as the villianess, I had to admire her craftiness and cunning, even though she was the ultimate she-devil. The author did a great job with weaving the dynamics of this intertwined relationship . It's a powerful codependent hate/love story to the conniving max. I found myself living vicariously in her antics. Wishing I had known her years ago when I went through a bad relationship, I'm sure she could of gave me some tips. But she's way too extreme in a crazy, psycho, manipulating, cunningly supreme, way. Even her husband had to stand in awe of her abilities and recognize her 'talent' in the most of his most lowest points. She was his crash course in absurdity and the many moods of marital obsession and I think he got it. He became a learned student. Let the games begin ... he's ready.

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Reader Review: "That Kind of Mother"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 06:00
by Lorri A Steinbacher (Ridgewood, NJ): I went into this thinking that it would be an "issues" book, but it is far more than that. It is really a character study of a particular woman, a particular mother over time. That this particular mother adopted a child of another race was important and would certainly generate discussion in a book group, but what fascinated me was Rebecca herself, her feelings, her motivations. I won't say that I liked her, because I didn't, not always, but Alam made me want to know what she was thinking. Recommended for readers who like literary fiction with compelling female characters and who don't mind if the "action" is interior growth. Good for book groups.

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Reader Review: "Paint Your Wife"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "When you are drawing you are actually learning how to see. You do this through looking. Looking is untarnished glass. No green bits of judgement hanging from the lens. In order to draw you must to learn to see how things are – not how you wish they were, or once were"

Paint Your Wife is the 10th fiction book by New Zealand author, Lloyd Jones. It starts with the mayor of New Egypt, Harry Bryant returning from a visit to his son in London. It is the late 1990s, and Harry's town, on the North Island of New Zealand, has fallen on hard times. The paint factory has closed up; ideas for tourist attractions fail to gain funding; long-time locals are beginning to abandon the town for more prosperous places. In a last ditch attempt to attract attention, Harry gets Alma Martin to reproduce his old portraits of the town wives in a public space: it generates some outside interest, but also acts as a sort of catalyst for the locals, as does the arrival at Harry's place of business (Pre-Loved Furnishings and Curios),of a young couple with twins, looking for accommodation.

Alma Martin lives in the old Fire Warden's cottage on the hill near Harry's mother's farm. He has tried his rather talented hand at quite a few things: colour technique at NE Paints; teaching; wartime rat catching; and, in lieu of payment for said rodent extermination, sketching and painting the wives of the town.

His most constant model was his neighbour, Alice Hands, but all the women, once they got the hang of sitting ("It is hard to know what to do with yourself the first time you sit. You are suddenly aware of your arms and legs, too aware, and as soon as that awareness slips into place it's as if those limbs were never really an integral part of you at all, but clumsy add-ons") were happy to do so: "As far as the rest of the women in the district were concerned, to be looked at or observed as rare as sugar or chocolate. They could have looked in the mirror, of course. But there is nothing like another's eyes to set us alight, to make our nerves stand on end, to tell us, in effect, who we are"

They learned to be silent because: "When a sitter begins to talk the pose loses all its binding; arms and legs fall away, the mouth widens, the tongue waggles, a sense of form withers" and enjoyed his attention ("You know something, Alma, when you are drawing I feel like you're touching me") and even his talks on art and artists ("It was the war years and everything was in short supply – including stimulation. Like plankton eaters they sat with their mouths and minds wide open").

Jones gives the reader a cast of charming and often quirky characters; the vignettes that fill in their backstories are captivating; there is plenty of humour and a fair share of wisdom; the feel of the town is well-rendered; the descriptive prose is a joy to read, making it difficult to choose just a few quotes to illustrate this. "In quick time the surrounding farmland revealed itself, straw-coloured, the black flecks of telegraph poles; and on the far edge of everything stood the ranges, in shadow at this time of day, but their jaws dropped open in the February heat" and "Some strain told on the window panes - a tension where the floor went one way and the windows another; it was an arrangement that made the ordinary blue sky sing in the way glass achieves in chapels and courtrooms" and "He tells her that it's like trying to nail a fast-moving cloud to the one spot in the sky. Hopeless if the sky is moving about too" are good examples.

Alma's advice on drawing is also superbly expressive: "Light and shadow, he liked to say, are in constant negotiation as to which parts of the world the other can have" and "…seeing is not the same as looking. And in learning how to draw what you really learn is how to see. Once you learn how to see, good or bad or better doesn't come into it" are just two illustrations of this.

This offering by Jones is a delightful read, moving and uplifting, and loaded with gorgeous prose. This book was originally published in 2004, two years before the prize-winning Mister Pip, but this new edition by Text Publishing has wonderfully evocative cover art by W.H.Chong. Highly recommended.

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Young Adult Novels Exploring Depression

Editor's blog - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 11:28
According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), suicide is the second leading cause of death in people 15-24 years of age, and ranks tenth when considering all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States, eight percent of all people over the age of twelve suffer from depression in any two-week period. Although females are more likely to experience a major bout, males' related suicide attempts are more likely to end in death.

In addition to The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork, several recently published books for teens explore the issues of depression and suicide in teens.
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Ways to Maximize Your Library's Welcome Kit

Editor's blog - Mon, 05/21/2018 - 10:44

Dean Baumeister at Memorial Hall Library in Andover, Massachusetts talks about ways to maximize a library's welcome kit.

Hello Dean! Please tell us about Memorial Hall Library's welcome kit; I'm curious to hear what you include.
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Reader Review: "Salt Houses"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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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Contemporary YA Novels about 9/11

Editor's blog - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 17:08
Over 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001. With the impact of that catastrophe being so far-reaching, it's no surprise that there have been a plethora of films and books released that recall 9/11. Oliver Stone's World Trade Center and Paul Greengrass' United 93 are two of the most popular movies to recreate that day. Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, an outstanding novel about an eccentric nine-year-old boy trying to piece together a puzzle his father left behind after being killed in the World Trade Center, is another title that might be familiar to those who seek out art related to America's contemporary history. But these well-known works aren't aimed specifically at younger readers, and there was certainly ...
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Reader Review: "The Girl Who Smiled Beads"

Top Reader Reviews - 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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Books About North & South Korea for Book Clubs

Editor's blog - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 10:35
One narrative can never fully represent any cultural experience but becoming aware of singular stories helps us find empathy for a wide range of the world. Here we have gathered a variety of stories that together explore a diverse representation of Korean perspectives, history and life situations. [More]
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