May 23, 2013 In this issue of BookBrowse Highlights we review Khaled Hosseini's And The Mountains Echoed, and go "beyond the book" to explore stem cell research.
We also bring you three books that our members have been reading recently for First Impressions, and have a roundup of movies based on books releasing this summer.
In addition, please do join us to talk about any one of the eight books that are currently open for discussion at bookbrowse.com/booktalk including The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers and Five Days by Douglas Kennedy.
To all our American readers, I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with just the right book to make it particularly memorable!
Thanks for reading!
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Each month we give away books to members
to read and review (or discuss). Members who choose to take part tend to receive a free book about every three months. Here are their opinions on three recently published books:
by A .X. Ahmad
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Publication Date: 05/21/2013
Thrillers, 304 pages Number of reader reviews: 29
Readers' consensus: BookBrowse Members Say
"A.X. Ahmad has crafted a riveting mystery with a highly unlikely but engaging hero, Ranjit Singh and he is one of the reasons I enjoyed this so much. Singh has fled his past in the Indian military and now lives on Martha's Vineyard where he labors as a caretaker. When he takes a position working for a Senator, he discovers that the Senator has secrets that could have international implications. As the intrigue unfolds, Ahmad uses flashbacks very effectively to reveal what Singh is hiding and for me this character development is very important. Add crisp dialogue and vivid descriptions and you have a recipe for making me look forward to Ahmad's next book." - Vicki O. (Boston, MA)
"This is a hell of a book! When I first received it, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to read it, but after just a few pages, I was hooked. Thank you, Mr. Ahmad, for a wonderful read." - Annie P. (Murrells Inlet, SC).
"An excellent, engaging debut!" - Kathy S. (Oshkosh)
"The writer has written a masterful thriller, and has also explained many things about the Sikh religion that were a mystery to this reader. I especially like a story that also educates, and this one does. I highly recommend this tale to anyone who loves suspense." - Harriette K. (Northbrook, IL) Read all the Reviews Buy at Amazon
The Last Girl: A Maeve Kerrigan Novel by Jane Casey
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Publication Date: 05/21/2013
Mysteries, 368 pagesÂ
Number of reader reviews: 26
BookBrowse Members Say
"I have enjoyed all of Jane Casey's books, and The Last Girl was no exception. Set in London, the book opens with a grisly double-murder and no viable suspects other than the husband - maybe. The novel is told in first person by DC Maeve Kerrigan, a female detective looking to make her mark in a traditionally male dominated field. The interplay between Maeve and her boss, DI Josh Derwent, is engaging and adds a note of levity to an otherwise grim investigation. With no witnesses, interviews that raise more questions than provide answers, family secrets, half-truths, bold lies and blind alleys, this book will keep the reader guessing and entertained right up to the last page." - Kathy S. (Danbury, CT)
"I am an avid mystery reader and thoroughly enjoyed the book. The Last Girl was my first introduction to the series and I plan to read the earlier books featuring DC Kerrigan. I also hope there will be subsequent books to look forward to in this series." - Linda S. (Carlsbad, CA)
"I loved this book. Normally I can figure out a whodunit long before the author gives it up, but I was stumped until the final 'reveal.' What a nice surprise! I hadn't read Casey's previous Maeve Kerrigan books ... but I'm going to remedy that situation as soon as I get through the rest of my bedside stack. Highly recommended!" - Anne M. (Austin, TX).
"The ending was not what I expected, yet seemed to fit the story perfectly. I believe a book club would have fun discussing the characters and their relationships to the mystery, as well as to each other." - Cheryl K. (East Aurora, NY)
Above are 4 of the 26 reviews for this book
Read all the Reviews
Buy at Amazon
by Helen BryanPublisher: Amazon Publishing
Publication Date: 04/30/2013
Historical Fiction, 420 pages
Number of reader reviews: 26
BookBrowse Members Say
"The Sisterhood tells the tale of an isolated order of nuns in Spain and how it may be connected to an orphan found in the aftermath of a hurricane on the Pacific Coast of South America. The story jumps back and forth between the 1500s and the present day, drawing you into the lives of both the medieval nuns and the orphan, and making you anxious to discover the secrets they are keeping. ...I really enjoyed the history and thought the author did an excellent job creating believable characters that I wanted to learn more about." - Kathleen S. (Oshkosh, WI).
"Excellent back and forth details of Spanish Inquisition and modern day times. Historical religious beliefs interwoven with modern times make for a wonderful piece of work." - Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)
"This was one of the best books I've read this year." - Judy G. (Carmel, IN)
"This one definitely lived up to my expectations ... some good art history and some wonderful history into the time of the Inquisition in Spain and in the New World, all told from the perspective of nuns and common women." - Mary D. (Claremont, CA)
"It was a fun read, and I think it would be a good choice for a book club. It has a smattering of romance, intrigue, and history, so there would be lots to discuss." - Priscilla M. (Houston, TX)
Read all the Reviews
Buy at Amazon
Below is BookBrowse's review of And the Mountains Echoed
. Read the review and backstory here
And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini
Hardcover (May 2013), 416 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Critics' Consensus: Review:
Khaled Hosseini's gorgeous new novel begins with a father telling his two children a heartbreaking Persian fable: A father must choose one of his five children to give to a malevolent demon or have all five taken from him. With its themes of sacrifice and betrayal, this fable sets the tone for the rest of the narrative. And The Mountains Echoed
spills over with unforgettable, fully realized characters whose stories are woven together into a tapestry, a stunning portrait of family dynamics. Threads of longing, envy, guilt, and betrayal twist together to form the warp of the tapestry with devotion, loyalty, and innocence forming the weft. These are the things that can cleave a family apart or bind it together. Taking place over a period of sixty-one years (from 1949 to 2010), and spanning many generations, some of the stories - not all - overlap the others.
The novel opens with the two children. Ten year-old Abdullah is devoted to his three year-old sister Pari, who has inherited their dead mother's cheerful and hopeful nature -the single light in their hardscrabble existence. But when betrayal cleaves the family apart, Abdullah is left with an empty ache that he will carry with him all his life. We meet Nabi, the children's uncle, who is infatuated by his employer's wife, Nila. Nabi will do anything, including betraying his own family, to please her. For her part, the beautiful, restless and unhappy Nila is a modern woman with a scandalous history whose husband cannot love her because he loves another.
Also part of the novel are cousins Idris and Timur, raised in America who have returned to their native Kabul for family business. Timur is charming but entitled, while Idris is an introvert who is haunted by the atrocities he sees. When he returns to his family in California, Idris is disgusted by his successful life and the life of privilege his children lead, raising the question: how do you straddle two worlds so different from each other? How do you live your own life when the lives of others are in such shambles?
Many other characters play a part including Thalia, whose face was mauled by her stepfather's vicious dog, and who must now learn to live with her scars; and Adel, who adores his father, believing he is a benevolent leader until he discovers his beloved father is a war criminal, a thug who uses his intimidating power to steal from the poor.
Hosseini dissects people's lives with compassion, rendering them as layered and complex in their heartbreaking imperfections. We come to see, as Nabi says, "that one is well served by a degree of both humility and charity when judging the inner workings of another person's heart."
Time shifts and leaps, forward and backwards, with large gaps as storylines are taken up by new players. But as one of the characters tells another, "A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later."
Even the voices vary. Part of this novel is narrated through an omniscient voice, and another is in first person. One character reveals himself through a letter, while we come to understand yet another character through an interview. And although some of the storylines wander off to Paris and California, India and Greece, most of it is set in Kabul, brought to vivid life in all its exotic beauty, devastation and poverty.
If every good novel has a question at its heart, the question posed here is: Why do we hurt each other? The answer, it seems, is that we are victims of our longings. As we read, we come to see how closely love, devotion, betrayal and jealousy are entwined.
Despite the sadness and suffering, the story ends on a bittersweet but hopeful note. Those looking for a linear, traditional plot may find this one challenging or even frustrating in its unusual structure, but many will agree that its exploration of weighty issues in a nuanced style, makes the book well worth the read. Adults and older teens who appreciate complex storytelling, and vivid and intriguing characters, will enjoy And the Mountains Echoed
. Reviewed by Sharry Wright
Above is BookBrowse's review of And the Mountains Echoed
. Read the review & backstory in full here Browse the book Write your own review
Beyond the Book
At BookBrowse, we don't just review books, we go 'beyond the book' to explore interesting aspects relating to the story.
Sources for Stem Cells
At the heart of The Laws of Gravity is cord blood - full of potentially life-saving cells. But what is it exactly?
Cord blood is the blood left in the umbilical cord and the placenta after a baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut. Typically, this blood is discarded along with the cord and placenta. Cord blood, though, is full of stem cells, which are highly flexible cells that have the potential to become any specialized cell in the body. Because of this they can be used to treat various illnesses and genetic disorders, such as the leukemia that Nicole has in The Laws of Gravity. According to the March of Dimes, over 70 diseases and disorders have been treated with stem cells from cord blood. However, as the March of Dimes also states, cord blood stem cells are primarily used for children who need stem cell transplants because umbilical cords only contain a small amount of blood, which means that each unit of blood collected may not have enough cells to treat adults, or even older children. Cord blood stem cells can be stored and saved for a specific family (such as Ari does for his family) at a private cord bank, or they can be stored and saved at a public cord bank which allows those stem cells to be available to anyone who is a match.
But as reviewer Hazel R suggests in our review of The Laws of Gravity, there are other stem cell options available. At least four are at various stages of development and use:
The technology for bone marrow transplants has been around for more than 20 years. Stem cells from a healthy bone marrow donor are transplanted into the patient; in essence, the good cells replace the bad. If the transplant is successful, the good stem cells travel within the marrow and reproduce more good cells. But bone marrow stem cells have their limitations because, unlike stem cells from cord blood which are pluripotent (that is the cells can become any other cell in the body - from the Latin for very many and having power), stem cells from bone marrow are only multipotent (Latin: many and having power). This means that they can become any type of blood cell but cannot be used to repair other parts of the body.
People who want to be considered as bone marrow donors register with The National Marrow Donor Program. Registering is a serious commitment, but the process is relatively simple - assessing if the person is a viable donor and then providing a tissue sample (swabbing the inside of the cheek.)
According to the American Medical Association there is only one other viable option at this time, which is an adult stem cell transplant. Adult stem cells, or mature stem cells, are cells that are in already existing tissue. With this procedure, adult stem cells, which are also called peripheral blood stem cells, are taken directly from drawn blood. Two key problems with this kind of transplant are that, 1) like with cord blood, the numbers of stem cells in drawn blood are low, and 2) because they are already mature, adult stem cells have a narrower chance of being a perfect match.
Embryonic stem cells are in a different category all together as they are truly pluripotent - able to become any cell, or group of cells, in the body - and are not limited in quantity as cells from cord blood are. But research in the USA has been limited due to ethical concerns.
Scientists are also looking at ways to genetically reprogram adult cells so that they can act like stem cells. Continued
By Tamara Smith
Above is BookBrowse's backstory to The Laws of Gravity. Read the review and backstory in full
Blog: Books into Movies Summer 2013
If you're wondering what films based on books will release in Summer 2013 (May - August), BookBrowse has the answer - including a video trailer of each:
Go to Blog
On Sal Mal Lane
by Ru Freeman
Publication Date: May 2013
From the Jacket
In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war
On the day the Herath family moves in, Sal Mal Lane is still a quiet street, disturbed only by the cries of the children whose triumphs and tragedies sustain the families that live there. As the neighbors adapt to the newcomers in different ways, the children fill their days with cricket matches, romantic crushes, and small rivalries. But the tremors of civil war are mounting, and the conflict threatens to engulf them all.
In a heartrending novel poised between the past and the future, the innocence of the children - a beloved sister and her overprotective siblings, a rejected son and his twin sisters, two very different brothers - contrasts sharply with the petty prejudices of the adults charged with their care. In Ru Freeman's masterful hands, On Sal Mal Lane, a story of what was lost to a country and her people, becomes a resounding cry for reconciliation.
"Freeman's gift for verisimilitude is manifest with searing clarity ... And in fictionalizing Sri Lankan history, Freeman accomplishes what reportage alone cannot: she blends the journalist's loyalty to fact with impassioned imagination." - Booklist
5 people will each win a hardcover copy of On Sal Mal Lane. This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, unless you are a BookBrowse member, in which case you are eligible to win wherever you might live.
Enter the giveaway here
In The Shadow of the Banyan opens Jun 3
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I I M B T Give T T R
It is more blessed to give than to receive
The spiritual benefits of unselfishness outweigh material possessions Background:
Interestingly, although the concept is clearly at the heart of much of Jesus's teaching, he is not recorded as using the expression itself in any of the four gospels that record the events of his life. Instead it is first found in The Acts of the Apostles
, when Paul ends his address to the Ephesian elders saying, "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35 NIV).More
May 23 2013:
Borders owes nothing to holders of roughly $210.5 million of gift cards that had not been used by the time the bookstore chain shut down, a Manhattan federal judge ruled on Wednesday...(more)
May 20 2013:
Amazon will be called back to give further evidence to members of the British Parliament "to clarify how its activities in the U.K. justify its low corporate income tax bill," Reuters reported, noting that during the past six years, Amazon has paid approximately $9 million in income tax on more...(more)
May 16 2013:
In 2012, trade book sales (i.e. non academic book sales) rose 6.9%, to $15.049 billion, and e-book sales continued to grow, although the rate of growth slowed.
After several years of triple-digit growth, e-book sales grew 43% in 2012, representing 457 million e-books compared to 557...(more)
May 15 2013:
In their filings ahead of the June 3 trial date, the Justice Department and Apple present very different outlines of events that led to the adoption of the agency model for e-books in 2010 by five of the six major U.S. publishers (who have all already settled with the Justice Department)....(more)
May 14 2013:
The German union Verdi has called a strike today at two Amazon facilities in Germany--in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld--that is expected to last from 6 a.m. until "the end of the late shift." In Leipzig, the union is calling for starting pay of 10.66 euros ($13.84) an hour, compared with 9.30 euros...(more)
May 14 2013:
The Web site Insider Monkey posted a story Monday, quoting a "highly placed source inside Microsoft" saying that the company has no plans to buy Barnes & Noble's Nook Media group. Last week, citing documents it said it had seen, TechCrunch reported that Microsoft was prepared to offer $1 billion...(more)
Read these news stories, and many others, in full