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Do readers have an obligation to history to read "difficult" books?

Editor's blog - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 20:47
I was recently participating in BookBrowse's online book discussion for Vaddey Ratner's excellent novel, Music of the Ghosts, in which the main characters are survivors of the Khmer Rouge. Needless to say, since it discusses the horrors Cambodian citizens endured during the genocide, it contains some pretty intense passages, and one of my fellow posters mentioned finding the subject matter "difficult" and therefore hard to read about. This comment prompted an offline discussion with others regarding books that cover topics that we generally don't want to dwell on, specifically humanity's ability to be unimaginably cruel to others or indifferent to their suffering.  The question arose: As readers, do we have an obligation to history... [More]
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Reader Review: "Some Luck"

Top Reader Reviews - 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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Five Female-Focused Historical Novels for Book Clubs

Editor's blog - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 16:30
Women are at the heart of each of these historical novels, and so are the deep challenges of holding family together and pursuing personal dreams all at the same time. The Women in the Castle and Manhattan Beach both explore the effects of war on women and their families, while Love and other Consolation Prizes and Rebellion take readers across time and place to shine a light on the hidden ways we are all connected. Finally See What I Have Done offers an intimate glimpse into one family's complicated dynamics - sometimes what we think we see isn't always what is true, and sometimes we are not as connected as we appear to be. Each of these books are, or soon will be, available in paperback and are already available in e-b... [More]
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Reader Review: "Bellweather Rhapsody"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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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Reading Makes You Healthy Infographic

Editor's blog - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 16:14
You're about to curl up with that book you selected from BookBrowse's Editor's Choice, and you have tea brewing in the kitchen. It's time to dive right into another world.

Did you know that when you reemerge, you come back healthier, more empathic, and sharper? Reading also helps you live longer too. A study has shown that those who read for more than 3.5 hours per week are 23% less likely to die than those who do not read books.
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Four Exceptional Female Comic Book Writers

Editor's blog - Thu, 03/22/2018 - 00:04
Leia Birch, the central character in Joshilyn Jackson's The Almost Sisters, is the writer of a comic books series published by DC Comics. While the characters and the comic are both fictional, in real-life, as is in the book, female writers are in the minority. The comic book world is chock full of men - they are both characters in the pages and the writers and illustrators creating those pages - but women have made significant contributions to the genre. From the early 20th century, when comics were just entering the newspaper scene and Nell Brinkley became famous for her well-loved illustrations to Becky Cloonan, who was the first woman to draw Batman for DC Comics in 2012, women have written and drawn comics for newspapers, mainstream pu... [More]
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Reader Review: "Educated"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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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Six Spectacular Books Set in East Africa for Book Clubs

Editor's blog - Mon, 03/12/2018 - 11:30
East Africa is home to many countries with many different cultures, people, landscapes, traditions -- and stories. It would be a challenge for half a dozen books to give a balanced representation of a single country, let alone the 14 countries of continental Eastern Africa*, but we hope that these six books set in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe (listed in approximate geographical order, north to south) will give you and your book club a small taste of the region and, perhaps, spark a thirst to learn more.
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Reader Review: "The Girls in the Picture"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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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