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Reader Review: "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): All The Ugly And Wonderful Things is the first novel by American author, Bryn Greenwood. Eight-year-old Wavonna Lee Quinn has seen more than her share of ugly things in her short life. Her father is a drug dealer with a meth lab just down the hill from the farmhouse where she lives with her mother. Valerie Quinn is drug-addled and self-absorbed, and Wavy spends her days trying to live something like a normal life while protecting her baby brother, Donal from Val's psychotic fluctuations.

In her life there are few wonderful things; one of those is lying in the nearby meadow looking up at the stars and naming the constellations. Which is what Wavy is doing when Jesse Joe Kellen, a mechanic on an errand for her father, comes riding along on his 1956 Panhead. Seeing ths blond angel at the side of the road causes Kellen to skid, wreck the bike and injure himself in the process. Wavy overcomes her usual reserve to help him.

From this accidental meeting, an unlikely friendship develops between these two. With her family's lifestyle, Wavy is exposed to violence, drugs and indiscriminate sex, so she has learned to keep a low profile, to eschew attachment to possessions, to trust no one. But Kellen, despite his appearance, despite his criminal history, despite his age (he's thirteen years older than her), earns her trust. In fact, he's the only person in her life who cares enough to see her nourished, schooled and protected from harm. But when Wavy reaches her teens, and the relationship changes tenor, it attracts unwelcome attention with tragic consequences.

Greenwood uses multiple narrators to present her story, and these give many points of view, but from Kellen and Wavy's perspectives, the relationship can be seen as genuine and pure. Greenwood portrays her characters skilfully, and she conveys the sense of time and place and the prevalent social attitudes with consummate ease. Her descriptive prose is often exquisite. This is a tale that is likely to polarise readers, emotional and thought-provoking. A brilliant debut.

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Reader Review: "News of the World"

Top Reader Reviews - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 06:00
by Ruth H (Sebring, FL): What an amazing story. Could not put it down! Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd takes on a captured 10 year old girl for a most dangerous trip in 1870 through Texas. Could not imagine how difficult this must have been. Author Paulette Jiles has written so descriptively that one would imagine being right there. So enjoyed this book.

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Reader Review: "Cruel Beautiful World"

Top Reader Reviews - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 06:00
by Becky H (Chicago): Lucy, 16 and naive, runs away with her High School teacher. Their life together in an isolated, and isolating, rural area is not what Lucy expected. Lucy is portrayed sympathetically. The reader gets to know her intimately through her thoughts and actions. William, the teacher, is not so well known. His back story is presented in back flashes. His life with Lucy is seen only through her eyes. Lucy's sister, a minor but very important character, never gives up searching for her sister. The reader is constantly aware that "this will not end well", but the actual ending is dramatic and terrifying. You will remember this book for a long time.

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Page-Turners to Pack - and to Discuss in Your Book Club!

Editor's blog - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 17:15
Dear BookBrowsers,

It's a booklover's midsummer dream: to spend a whole day at the beach or in your backyard hammock, reading. Summer's necessary indulgences include chugging through a fast-paced novel or two, so we have included an entire lineup of gripping books that you simply won't be able to put down. Even better, they make for great discussion and come with reading guides, so you can be confident recommending them to your book club as well. Make sure to pack a couple of these in your beach bag. After all, every lazy day deserves page-turning action! [More]
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5 Ways Librarians Can Tell Patrons About Library Resources

Editor's blog - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 11:23
Your library works hard to procure the very best resources possible. But do your patrons utilize them? Do they even know what's available? Here are five suggestions for ways to connect your patrons to all the information, education and entertainment that your library provides, with a particular eye to the electronic resources available through your website: Highlight one or two different resources each month and feature them in the library, on the website and in newsletters so that patrons get used to checking for (and using) different resources each month. Use this regular feature as a way to continuously remind patrons of all of the other resources you have. Add a footnote that hints at the range of resources available, ...
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Reader Review: "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 06/21/2017 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "Even the circus freak side of my face – my damaged half – was better than the alternative, which would have meant death by fire. I didn't burn to ashes. I emerged from the flames like a little phoenix. I ran my fingers over the scar tissue, caressing the contours…. There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they're there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope."

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the first novel by British author, Gail Honeyman. At thirty years of age, and despite her degree in Classics, Eleanor Oliphant has worked a mundane office job in By Design, a graphic design company in Glasgow for nine years. She has no friends and the people she works with find her strange. But her life is well organised: completely fine, in her opinion, needing nothing. Until, that is, she casts eyes on musician Johnnie Lomond.

Eleanor sets out to attract the love of her life, undergoing several preparatory procedures to ready herself for a potential encounter (waxing, hair, nails, make-up), as well as acquiring the electronic means to do some research on the object of her attention. She is distracted from her task by Raymond Gibbons, the firm's (rather slovenly) IT consultant, who ropes her into helping an old man who has fallen in the street. Eleanor is sure he's drunk but "…Even alcoholics deserve help, I suppose, although they should get drunk at home, like I do, so that they don't cause anyone else any trouble. But then, not everyone is as sensible and considerate as me."

Honeyman gives the reader a moving tale that includes a good dose of humour. Eleanor is a complex character: socially inept but generally unaware of it, often remarking on the lack of manners that others display: "'You don't look like a social worker,' I said. She stared at me but said nothing. Not again! In every walk of life, I encounter people with underdeveloped social skills with alarming frequency. Why is it that client-facing jobs hold such allure for misanthropes…"

Yet Eleanor is often insightful, although she can also be naïve: "After all, how hard could it be? … If I could perform scansion on the Aeneid, if I could build a macro in an Excel spreadsheet, if I could spend the last nine birthdays and Christmases and New Year's Eves alone, then I'm sure I could manage to organize a delightful festive lunch for thirty people on a budget of ten pounds per capita"

Her literal interpretation of what people say often makes for laugh-out-loud moments, and her observations can be shrewd: "She had tried to steer me towards vertiginous heels again – why are these people so incredibly keen on crippling their female customers? I began to wonder if cobblers and chiropractors had established fiendish cartel."

This brilliant debut novel touches on childhood neglect, physical cruelty and emotional abuse, as well as repressed memories and survivor guilt. It highlights the value of a skilled counsellor and the importance of care and understanding, friendship and love. Recommended!

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Reader Review: "Lily and the Octopus"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 06:00
by Stephanie: It's got an adorable dog. It's got a guy who loves the adorable dog. In addition, he named the dog Lily (as opposed to something like Schnitzel) because he knew the dog was going to be his friend, his companion and possibly the most important living creature in his life.

The write up refers to his therapist as "ineffective". I think that the relationship between Edward and his therapist is much more complicated than that. He's annoyed by her seemingly simple/simplistic questions, but then he's also annoyed when he asks if an octopus is a fish and she says she believes it's a cephalopod. At that point, he seems to think she's smart, but in the wrong way.

Of course, it's very sad, but it ends on a hopeful note and, no matter what happens, Lily is always with Edward.

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Reader Review: "House of Names"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 06:00
by Sandi W. (East Moline): I tell you this man can take a muddy puddle and make you think it is a fresh spring shower!! I thought I was done with mythology back in college. I had two literature classes devoted to mythology and thought I had read and reviewed it all. However, with all the authors coming out with up to date revised books on the Bard and mythology I am thoroughly enjoying the stories. This is not only one of my favorite authors, but it is his rendition of a Greek tragedy. Toibin's writing literally just takes me away. This is the story of King Agamemnon and his betrayal of his family, as he focuses on the coming war. The death of one daughter, the loss of his son and then the revenge of his wife takes place. His wife having taken in an enemy of the kingdom, to help her plot her revenge, gets her remaining daughter to lie for her and in the name of protection, exiles her son at the hand of her accompanying accomplice. Years go by before the son finds his way home, but not until after the death of his father. The two remaining children must then put the kingdom back to it rights - however they can. Written beautifully, Toibin carries you through the times and customs of this Greek tragedy as if you were reading a current day novel.

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Middle East Must-Reads

Editor's blog - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 09:09
Summer might not seem like the time to visit desert sands, and sure, there's more than just desert in the Middle East. But the subject is always topical.

To make sense of the geopolitics, it helps to be steeped in a place, to try to understand the people and their motivations. These books won't make you an expert but maybe they will clarify the murk somewhat, allowing you to see varying parts of the Middle East through the eyes of people who live there.

Best of all, they are great to read for their own sake and also well suited for discussion. If you're ready for some armchair travel to a region of the world that's often terribly misunderstood, buckle your seat-belts and join us for the ride! [More]
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Reader Review: "Beneath a Marble Sky"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 06:00
by Meg Keelly: John Shors was able to present a history lesson in a way that would make any person want to study the Taj Mahal. I am often surprised when people say they will only read nonfiction books. I don't think they realize how well researched a great piece of fiction is and the amount of education that can be gained from reading it. From page one I could not put this book down.

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Reader Review: "Being Mortal"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 06:00
by Nancy: This should be required reading for anyone over 30.....what Gwande has to say is important.....we are all mortal and at some point the effort to cure should be replaced with the effort to provide humane support and freedom from pain....to end our lives with dignity and peace....the medical profession and family members need to understand that treatments which prolong life at all costs ,no matter how well intended,only prolong pain and suffering.....professional hubris and selfish justification need to give way to a more humane acceptance of reality .....and certainly Hospice is one option for doing just that....clearly written with reason and compassion this book is a definitive argument for a realistic approach to illness and death.

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