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Reader Review: "An American Marriage"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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"

Top Reader Reviews - 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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Reader Review: "Only Child"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 02/15/2018 - 06:00
by Carole: Only Child is amazing! Once I started reading it I was unable to put it down. The writing flows and the characters are well-developed .It is intense, heartbreaking and uplifting. While it starts with a school shooting, that is not what it is about. There is so much more to this story. If you read one new book this year, make it this one. And really I rate it a 10.

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Read, Watch & Discuss! Five great book club books that are now movies

Editor's blog - Sun, 02/11/2018 - 20:09
Of course, we think any season is the right season to read, but winter can be a perfect time to read and watch! What better way to keep busy in these cold, dark months than reading with your book club, watching the movie version and then discussing both? It's always fun to watch characters you know and love come to life on the screen, and book club discussions can be broadened to explore comparisons between the book and movie. If you love books that delve into relationships, Our Souls at Night, and Call Me by Your Name are great choices. If you're interested in broader, social issue focused novels, we recommend Mudbound, Thank You for Your Service and The Colour Bar: The True Story of a Love That Shook an Empire (movie title: ... [More]
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Reader Review: "The Women in the Castle"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 02/11/2018 - 06:00
by Nancy: 'Commander of wives and children" is the title given to Marianne when she makes a promise to her husband and other German conspirators that plan to assassinate Hitler. When their plot fails, the men are executed. Committed to her promise, Marianne finds two other resistance wives, Benita and Ania, and brings them and their children to live in her decaying family castle.

This is not just another WWII story as the perspective is of three very different German women with very different experiences of loss, guilt, survival and recovery before, during and decades after the war.

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When Fantasy is More Real Than Nonfiction

Editor's blog - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 00:01
Ask me with a gun to my head if I believe in them, all the gods and myths that I write about, and I'd have to say no. Not literally. Not in the daylight, nor in well-lit places, with people about. But I believe in the stories we can tell with them. I believe in the reflections that they show us when they are told. And forget it or ignore it at your peril, it remains true: these stories have power. - Neil Gaiman, from Reflections on Myth It is through fantasy that we have always sought to make sense of the world, not through reason…It is through the fictive projections of our imaginations based on personal experience that we have sought to grasp, explain, alter, and comment on reality. This is again why such staples as the... [More]
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Reader Review: "The Women in the Castle"

Top Reader Reviews - Sun, 02/04/2018 - 06:00
by Roberta (Albuquerque): I loved this book. It is the story of three widows whose lives become intertwined during WWII in Germany. They are brought together as a result of the failed resistance plot to assassinate Hitler in July 1944. Marianne von Lingenfels promises one of the resisters that she will find and protect the other wives. She brings them together and from then on we learn about their joint and individual past and present struggles.

For me this book was deeply personal. My mother was a German war refugee and at so many points in the book I was reminded of her "story". Millions of Germans had similar stories and I was once again reminded of their suffering and the atrocities of war.

I also loved that this story was about and told by women. Their experiences and the ripple effects of war as well as their own actions and decisions makes this narrative even more compelling.

I do have some minor criticisms. The narrative goes back and forth in time and sometimes it is confusing to keep track of what has or has not happened as you read it. (Why are so many authors using this technique these days?) And there is a chapter after the book ends that the author did not include in the main narrative. I think it should have been included.

I highly recommend this book.

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Reader Review: "The Walking Dead"

Top Reader Reviews - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 06:00
by Dick Minim (Essex): Gerald Seymour sure knows how to cook up a tale but this gooey confection may be over-egged for even the hungriest of his fans, your reviewer included. A suicide bomber arrives in England from Saudi Arabia and the central plot involves the efforts to track him down before he causes carnage, a theme given more urgency by last year's shocking attack in Manchester. Mixed in with this are ingredients including the trial of two old-school cockney villains, complete with the most stupid (and unbelievable) juror ever and the incident-packed last days of an intelligence officer's career. Not Seymour at his best but a tasty treat all the same.

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A Few Outstanding Women War Correspondents

Editor's blog - Tue, 01/23/2018 - 14:55
Souad Mekhennet is one of many women journalists who have entered dangerous situations to try to inform the world about conditions in a war zone. A few of the most influential and best-known, now deceased, are listed below. [More]
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Six Debut Novels for Book Clubs in 2018

Editor's blog - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 20:34
As we settle into 2018, here are six of the best debut novels to read and discuss during the year. If you love books about place and community, Golden Hill, The Big Dry and If the Creek Don't Rise all transport readers to the streets of small towns and big cities and into the hearts of the people who struggle to make their lives there. Secrets are held – and readers' attentions are held too! – in both The Second Mrs. Hockaday and The Mothers. And, finally, readers can't help but root for quirky, clever teenager Ginny Moon even as she resists the loving family that finally wants to bring her home. All of these debuts are sure to spark emotion and conversation and are great bets for your book club! Read on for information on each... [More]
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Reader Review: "Ginny Moon"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 06:00
by Ellen F: I wasn't prepared to like this book or the main character. I thought it was going to be a very different type of book. The author brings the reader into Ginny's world as the story develops. I could empathize with all of the characters in her life and begin to understand how Ginny has invented ways to cope with the life she has been dealt. I found myself rooting for her dysfunctional mother despite what had gone before because the deep ties of family were apparent. I ended up loving the book and came away wiser having read Ginny's story.

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Reader Review: "The Immortalists"

Top Reader Reviews - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 06:00
by Becky H (Chicago): THE IMMORTALISTS follows four children throughout their lives. The children visit a woman who tells them their death date. That knowledge compels each of the young people to follow a different pathway through life. A gay boy who is uncertain of his sexuality and self-worth, a girl who may be suffering from a mental illness and infatuated by magic, a girl who is intellectually brilliant but socially inept and a boy who is the family's "golden child" intent on doing everything perfectly make up this group of siblings.

Each one's story is told in succession with little interaction between the siblings until each one's death. Each story is compelling on its own. The characters are well developed. Each life story has a clear beginning, middle and end. The place and time each sibling's story covers is detailed and distinct.

An intriguing, well written, and aware novel delineating the difference between belief and science, reality and fantasy. The choices each sibling makes will resonate long after you finish reading.

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Reader Review: "Ginny Moon"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 06:00
by M. Kassapa (Minneapolis): Ginny Moon, fourteen years old with autism, is trying to make sense of her world and with her as the narrator we are on a wild adventure following in her footsteps, watching how her mind works in navigating the zigzag path of her life. From the very first moment of this roller coaster of confusion and her desire to be reunited with her birth mother we want her to succeed. Once you understand the parameters of the journey Ginny is on, there is no way you can put this book down until reaching its culmination. Though at times you feel her fear and desperation, you hang in there with her. She holds our attention, our empathy and compassion as we cheer her through the obstacles that confound reaching her goal. And maybe she's not the only one who doesn't understand what's going on.

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Reader Review: "Ginny Moon"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 06:00
by Rebecca (Western USA): I absolutely loved this book and could not turn the pages fast enough. The newspaper review which compares this book to The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time caught my attention since I still remember reading that book many years ago. However, this book's narrator is more appealing. However, I must admit that I felt the frustration of the teachers and adoptive parents as the formerly abused, autistic fourteen-year-old made choices that continued to mess up her life. Anyone who has ever had a friend in an abusive situation or interacted on a regular basis with children or young teens with autism or other mental issues will immediately know that the characterization of Ginny rings true. I like the fact that this book tells a fast-paced story with some unsavory characters without having to use a plethora of curse words. I like to be able to recommend books to teenagers as well as adults, and with some other books, the pages of "T.M.I." intimate details sometimes ruined that opportunity. The reader will feel suspense, frustration with a victim of abuse who seems to choose to hinder her own progress, and some moments of restrained anger (much like the teachers and adoptive parents) I highly recommend this unique book and think it would work well with book clubs as well as anyone just wanting an interesting story. I also hope this book will be made into a movie some day, but I want the movie to follow the book exactly.

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Reader Review: "The Sellout"

Top Reader Reviews - Wed, 01/03/2018 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): The Sellout is the fourth novel by award-winning American author, Paul Beatty. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2016. Our narrator is the son of a psychologist by the name of Mee (who has dropped the second "e"). Until his untimely and unfortunate death at the hands of the Los Angeles Police, his father was known as the Nigger Whisper for his ability to talk down coloured folk attempting suicide, a role that has been thrust upon the narrator by default.

Since his father's death, he manages their farm in a suburban area of LA once known as the City of Dickens. A talented farmer, he grows, among other cash crops, square watermelons and pot, and his uniquely delicious produce is very popular locally. In the prologue, we find him summoned to appear before the Supreme Court of USA on charges of racial segregation and slavery.

Although our narrator's name is never mentioned, he is referred to by one character as The Sellout, and bears the nickname Bonbon from his performance in a school spelling bee. Beatty gives the reader a cast of quirky characters that includes a former child-actor, the Assistant Principal of the Chaff Middle School, a female bus driver and a has-been TV personality who rewrites classic texts into blackly correct books. A former city is re-established via Freeway signs and a three-inch-wide white painted border. Meetings of the Dum Dum Donuts Intellectuals are the forum for black ideas and our protagonist employs a sort of reverse psychology that ends up in a resegregation push. He also provides novel take on blackface entertainment.

One World have produced editions of Beatty's four novel with themed covers and this one has a lawn jockey with a gas lamp on the cover, the significance of which becomes clear in the text. This satire has been described as brilliant, outrageous, demented, hilarious and profound, all succinct and accurate descriptors. Very entertaining.

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American Reading Habits Infographic

Editor's blog - Mon, 01/01/2018 - 12:35
There's nothing quite like that feeling of getting a brand-new book from the bookstore, taking it home and spending hours absorbed in its pages.

People used to talk about the imminent death of reading. The internet, it was thought, would kill the book industry. But old habits die hard, and the trusty American novel continues to give readers many hours of escapism. In fact, according to Global English Editing's infographic on American reading habits published below, we're reading almost as much as we ever have. [More]
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Reader Review: "Slumberland"

Top Reader Reviews - Thu, 12/28/2017 - 06:00
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "The Schwa ruffled the pages of the book over his pant seam, and the resulting sound rivaled that of the best Max Roach brushwork. I nearly fainted. He lifted the book to his mouth and played chapter seven like a diatonic harmonica; blowing and drawing on the pages like leaves of grass in the hands of Pan. Who knew a Signet paperback was in the key of D? For the more percussive sounds he rapped the spine on his elbow, thumb drummed page corners, pizzicatoed the preface, flutter tongued the denouement and bariolaged the blurbs."

Slumberland is the third novel by Man Booker Prize-winning American author, Paul Beatty. Ferguson W. Sowell, aka DJ Darky has a talent for DJing, and says "I compensate for a lack of skills and Negritude with a surfeit of good taste and a record collection that I like to think is to DJing what the Louvre is to painting." He has spent months trying to compose his perfect beat, and it's almost there: in the parlance, it is "presque parfait".

The Beard Scratchers, members of his record pool, agree. After much analysis, they hit upon the missing element: it needs to be ratified by their ultimate beat break, the elusive Charles Stone, aka the Schwa. Coincidentally (or perhaps not quite?), Ferguson comes across a porn tape sound-tracked with music certain to be the Schwa's. The trail leads to East Germany and, with some help from the Beard Scratchers, Ferguson finds himself engaged as a Jukebox-Sommelier at the Slumberland Bar in Berlin.

It is a Berlin about to tear down its Wall, and Ferguson is somewhat surprised to find that others share his love of the Schwa's music: he is assisted in his quest by a bartender, a journalist, a Stasi agent, a pair of German negro sisters, and, eventually, the clientele of the Slumberland. Through a number of quirky characters and some crazy, laugh-out-loud events, Beatty examines the experience of the negro in Germany.

One World have produced editions of Beatty's four novel with themed covers and this one has LP discs on the cover. A knowledge and appreciation of jazz is bound to enhance the enjoyment of this story, but is not essential, because the plot and characters are strong enough to draw the reader in. The musical descriptions certainly make the reader wish to hear the Schwa's music. There's plenty of wit and black humour in Beatty's lyrical prose. Original, incisive and funny.

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Reader Review: "A Piece of the World"

Top Reader Reviews - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 06:00
by Suzy L (Westport Ct.): Andrew Wyeth spent his summers in Cushing, Maine with his family. It is here where he first met Christina Olson who later becomes the inspiration for his painting "Christina's World". Christina lived a tough life along with her brother Al on the neighboring farm. Their dilapidated home lacked modern day conveniences and had fallen into disrepair. Andrew encounters the Olsons through their neighbor Betsy and he decides to express their lives via a painting. As Andrew puts paint to canvas, the details of the Olson's hardships come to light.

The story unfolds with Christina's as a young girl. A childhood illness left her with difficulty walking and no cure for her bone disease. As she grew older, the effects worsened leaving her crippled making her farm chores difficult. A bright student, the opportunity to further her studies to become a teacher were dismissed early by her parents. Her future only left her with two choices, to marry or maintain the farm. Sadly, she had very few opportunities to make romantic connections leaving her with no escape. Christina is not the most likable character, but by reading the book you become sympathetic to her disposition. Andrew Wyeth developed a relationship with her over many years and was able to capture a different side of her in this painting.

Andrew Wyeth painted the portrait, but the author writes a beautiful story by bringing it to life. Intertwined in the story is how she met Wyeth, who through his masterpiece, shows the world her softer side of someone having suffered so much both internally and externally. The author showcases a very moving and impactful novel.

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