Our Guatemalan July book is...

Guatemala flag

Thank you to all who voted! All votes have now been tallied. I'm excited to read Guatemala & support an author from a country with such a low literacy rate.

I hope that you'll be excited as I am to read this book, but I also want to note for all our new members that we want reading to be fun. We hope you to read the book & participate in the discussion. However, if this doesn't happen, that's ok. Mia & I will love you anyway. :)

So without further ado, the winning book chosen by our book club members for July is...

"'Right from the start I picked her for a thief, although that day she didn’t take anything. . . . I knew she’d be back,' the narrator/bookseller of Severina recalls in this novel’s opening pages. Imagine a dark-haired book thief as alluring as she is dangerous. Imagine the mesmerized bookseller secretly tracking the volumes she steals, hoping for insight into her character, her motives, her love life. In Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s hands, this tale of obsessive love is told with almost breathless precision and economy. The bookstore owner is soon entangled in Severina’s mystery: seductive and peripatetic, of uncertain nationality, she steals books to actually read them and to share with her purported grandfather, Señor Blanco.
 
In this unsettling exploration of the alienating and simultaneously liberating power of love, the bookseller’s monotonous existence is rocked by the enigmatic Severina. As in a dream, the disoriented man finds that the thin border between rational and irrational is no longer reliable. Severina confirms Rey Rosa’s privileged place in contemporary world literature."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Voting results

VOTE: Which book should we read from Guatemala?

Vote here

It was difficult to discover book suggestions for Guatemala. Many of the books found weren't written by Guatemalan authors, weren't available in both electronic & paper format, were only in Spanish, or were from authors who left Guatemala as young children. However, we persevered & together came up with 6 wonderful Guatemalan books.

But before I get into the books, I'd like to introduce the book club member who made a Guatemalan book suggestion this month which fit all of the crtieria, Aisha Esbhani. We have a wide variety of passionate book club members, but Aisha is pretty special. Just like Mia & I, she realized that her book shelf was filled almost entirely with books by North American & British authors so she set out to change this by reading the world. But her story is a bit different from ours in that she made this decision when she was just 12 years old last year. Here's her full story if you want to find out more. We're happy to have Aisha as a book club member & pleased that she helped us craft our list of Guatemalan books this month!

You have a number of genres to choose from for our Guatemala book: nonfiction, literature, history, poetry & testimonio (the latter of which is described in more detail in that book's description).

You can vote until Tues., June 20. To participate:

1. Review the books.

2. Vote by ranking each book in order from most want to read to least want to read.

We'll publish the anonymous results afterwards so you can get the book in advance.

 

 

Have you ever contacted an author of a book?

Contacting via mail

When I was very young, I wrote to Steven Spielberg as a part of a class project. All the other kids heard back from the people they contacted. Some received a form letter. Others received personal hand written letters & gifts!

I was the only one who didn't hear back at all & it crushed me. :(

Up until last week, this was my only experience in reaching out to someone in the public eye.

Then, I wrote to Douglas Rogers, the author of the May book our book club read called, The Last Resort. He responded back almost immediately & the little girl in me squealed with delight. 

I contacted him after our last book club discussion where we discussed the memoir piquing everyone's curiosity.  Was the resort (Drifters) still open & how were the author's parents doing? I thought Drifters was open pointing to a couple of links I found online. Club member Judy Shenk believed the links referenced a tour group instead.

So to find out the truth, I decided to ask the author directly & here is his response:

Email from the author

It was gratifying to hear back from Douglas, but even more so to know what actually happened to Drifters as well as Douglas' parents. (Special thanks to Judy whose discussion point made me curious enough to reach out to our Zimbabwean book author.)

So have you contacted an author you love or hate? If so, what drove you to send a message & what was the response?

Our new book suggestion method & new country

Flag of Guatemala

With our book club growing, we're adjusting how we compile the monthly book list. We'll now create a list of 6 books per month as follows:

  • I will suggest 2 books
  • Mia will suggest 2 books
  • We'll use 2 suggestions from members*

(This list is later voted on by members & the most popular book becomes the book we'll then read.) 

*Notes:

  • If more than 2 books are suggested, the entire list of suggestions will be entered into a lottery with 2 randomly chosen.
  • If fewer than 2 books are suggested, than Mia/I will add to the list to ensure a total of 6 books is compiled.
  • If more than 1 suggestion is provided by a single member, Mia & I will choose the book we feel will work best for the book club.

With all of this in mind, we'd love to hear book suggestions from you. Just let us know by Wed., June 14 11:59PM US ET. Also, please note we're specific in the books we read, they must: 

  • Largely occur in the country specified unless the world described is an alternate universe
  • Be written by an author born there who has spent a good portion of their life there
  • Exist in paperback & ebook available on both Amazon & Kindle at least in the US & hopefully elsewhere

But what country will we be reading?

Vista of volcanos

We'll be adventuring to a place we haven't been before as a club: Central America. Known for its volcanoes, ancient Mayan ruins, coffee & crazy bus rides, we'll be reading Guatemala!

Toy buses from Guatemala

Voting is "Finnished" ;) & here's our June book

Finnish flag

When your votes were tallied, there was a tie for 1st place: The Summer Book & The Blood of Angels. Because of this, we created a new rule: Mia & I will break any tie by choosing the novel we think is best for the book club.

Both books were suggested by club members & looked fantastic, but we chose The Blood of Angels because it's science fiction which we haven't read much of & it's an eco-thriller (with a hint of magic) which we haven't read at all.

"Another novel from the award-winning author of Troll & a powerhouse of the Finnish science fiction & fantasy scene.

It is claimed Einstein said that if bees disappear from the earth, mankind has four years left. When bee-vanishings of unprecedented scale hit the U.S., Orvo, a Finnish beekeeper, knows where it will lead. And when he sees the queen dead in his hives, it's clear the epidemic has spread to Europe, & the world is coming to an end. Orvo's knowledge of bees just may enable him to glimpse a solution to catastrophe: he takes a desperate step onto a path where only he & the bees know the way but it propels him into conflict with his estranged, but much-loved son, a committed animal activist. A magical plunge into the myth of death & immortality, this is a tale of human blindness in the face of devastation—& the inevitable."

(A special thank you to book club member, Caity Greig for the suggestion.)

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)

Final results of Finland book vote

VOTE: Which Finnish book should we read in June?

Finnish flag

In June, we're adventuring by book to a very different place this month's Zimbabwe book: Finland, a stable country with cold winters, thousands of lakes & a view of the Northern Lights.

Including our suggestions as well as those from book club members (thanks Caity, Ivor & Stéphanie G.!), we have sci fi, short stories, literature & satire for you to choose from for our Finland book.

You can vote until Sat., May 20. To participate:

1. Review the books.

2. Vote by ranking each book in order from most want to read to least want to read.

We'll publish the anonymous results afterwards so you can get the Finnish book in advance.

Curious what country we'll read in June or have a book suggestion?

Bag of Finnish candy


Well, this candy is made there. Apparently, you can make a "medicine" from it which is a "cure for all ailments" by crushing 2 bags & combining it with 1.5 liters of vodka. :o At least, that's what it says on Amazon.

Just knowing this makes me want to read...

...FINLAND all the more. Yep, we're going to a place quite different from May's Zimbabwe book.

We'll vote on which book to read on May 15 from a list of at least 6 books across genres. Before then, if you have any Finnish books to suggest, let us know. Just remember that we are specific in the books we read. They must:

- Largely occur in Finland unless the world described is an alternate universe
- Be written by an author born there who has spent a good portion of their life there
- Exist in paperback & ebook available on both Amazon & Kindle at least in the US & hopefully elsewhere

13 more reasons you'll love an eReader/Kindle

Your eReader replaces are those heavy books you had to lug around

I've offered 12 reasons you'll love an eReader/Kindle, but below are 13 more which are bound to convince you if haven't yet made up your mind.

1. Book reviews & suggestions available from your device. No need to look them up separately. 

2. More comfortable to hold in your hand than a book.

3. You can loan eBooks out on many eReaders.

4. No lugging around heavy books. Store hundreds on your eReader. 

5. It's one click to add your book to Goodreads.

6. The Kindle & many other eReaders recognize how fast you are reading so at a glance you can understand how long it will take you to finish a chapter or the book. 

7. Depending upon the eReader, you can save special pages throughout the book, make notes & highlight passages...& export these as a simple file for book club. If you ever re-read a book, everything remains available.

8. Some eReaders have a glare-free screen & automatically adjust your screen brightness to your current light condition so your eReader can go from full sunlight to dusk to nighttime with the screen showing the correct brightness for your eyes automatically.

9. With a Kindle & many other eReaders, words you look up in the dictionary are automatically added to a Vocabulary Builder which you can review to reinforce retention. 

10. Your eReader will automatically save your place in the book.

11. Many eReaders also have apps which allow you to pick up where you left off on your eReader & snatch a few minutes of reading on your phone.

12. With some eReaders, you can lookup word definitions, characters, settings, footnotes & many translations without losing your place in the book. 

13. Less clutter around your home. No more books stuffed everywhere or boxes hidden away. Keep only a smattering of special books on your bookshelf & coffee table.

I went from an eBook hater to a huge proponent. Try out an eReader & I'm sure you'll become an instant convert too.

Final note: I cherish my current Kindle Voyager & I loved my previous Kindle Paperwhite. Don't be snookered into the expensive Kindle Oasis. The Paperwhite? Delightful. The Voyage? A bit nicer, but pricier.

You voted & May's Zimbabwean book is...

Zimbabwe flag

Mia & I are excited to take this trip to read a new continent & hope you are as well. As you'll see at the end of this post, the top 3 books scored close to one another & we had a 3-way tie for 4th place! This has never happened before since the algorithm used when you rank each book weights each selection. 

The winner is...

"Thrilling, heartbreaking, and, at times, absurdly funny, The Last Resort is a remarkable true story about one family in a country under siege and a testament to the love, perseverance, and resilience of the human spirit. 

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Douglas Rogers is the son of white farmers living through that country’s long and tense transition from postcolonial rule. He escaped the dull future mapped out for him by his parents for one of adventure and excitement in Europe and the United States. But when Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe launched his violent program to reclaim white-owned land and Rogers’s parents were caught in the cross fire, everything changed. Lyn and Ros, the owners of Drifters–a famous game farm and backpacker lodge in the eastern mountains that was one of the most popular budget resorts in the country–found their home and resort under siege, their friends and neighbors expelled, and their lives in danger. But instead of leaving, as their son pleads with them to do, they haul out a shotgun and decide to stay. 

On returning to the country of his birth, Rogers finds his once orderly and progressive home transformed into something resembling a Marx Brothers romp crossed with Heart of Darkness: pot has supplanted maize in the fields; hookers have replaced college kids as guests; and soldiers, spies, and teenage diamond dealers guzzle beer at the bar. 

And yet, in spite of it all, Rogers’s parents–with the help of friends, farmworkers, lodge guests, and residents–among them black political dissidents and white refugee farmers–continue to hold on. But can they survive to the end? 

In the midst of a nation stuck between its stubborn past and an impatient future, Rogers soon begins to see his parents in a new light: unbowed, with passions and purpose renewed, even heroic. And, in the process, he learns that the "big story" he had relentlessly pursued his entire adult life as a roving journalist and travel writer was actually happening in his own backyard. 

Evoking elements of The Tender Bar and Absurdistan, The Last Resort is an inspiring, coming-of-age tale about home, love, hope, responsibility, and redemption. An edgy, roller-coaster adventure, it is also a deeply moving story about how to survive a corrupt Third World dictatorship with a little innovation, humor, bribery, and brothel management."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)


Results of Zimbabwe vote

VOTE: Which Zimbabwean book should we read in May?

Vote for Zimbabwe book

Mia picked an interesting country for May & I think the choice of books reflects this. We found many "Zimbabwean" books which were written about the country, but not by someone born there. Or books like the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency which are immensely popular & written by someone born in Zimbabwe, but take place in another African country instead. However, we're quite pleased by the literature, memoirs, short stories & historical fiction included in the list of books for you to vote on along with a book of essays kindly suggested by book club member, Ivor Watkins. All of the books are written by authors born in Zimbabwe, living a good portion of their life in Zimbabwe & about Zimbabwe. (Ok, now "Zimbabwe" sounds strange to me since I've written it more times in this article than I've probably said it in my entire life.)

It's all up to you now:

1. Review the books.

2. Vote by ranking each book in order from most want to read to least want to read.

Voting ends on Thurs., 4/20. We'll publish the anonymous results afterwards so you can get the Zimbabwean book ahead of time.

Curious about the unique flag of the country we'll be reading in May?

Zimbabwe flag

Before 1980, Zimbabwe was alternately known as Southern Rhodesia, Rhodesia & Zimbabwe Rhodesia before becoming the Republic of Zimbabwe as it's known today (after the historical stone structures called "Great Zimbabwe", the largest in Africa after the pyramids of Egypt). And this flag was adopted.

  • The red stripes represent the blood shed for independence. 
  • The yellow stripes represent the country's mineral wealth.
  • The green stripes symbolize Zimbabwe's agriculture & land.
  • The black stripe represents the African people.
  • The bird is a national symbol & represents a soapstone statuette of the bird found at the Great Zimbabwe archaeological site.
  • The red star behind the bird represents socialism.
  • The white triangle behind the red star stands for peace.

Weird fact: Zimbabwe has banned the use of its own flag.

We're reading a whole new continent in May!

Zimbabwe flag

Our online book club will be reading Zimbabwe in May!

We'll vote on which book to read on April 15 from a list of at least 6 books across genres. Before then, if you have any books to suggest, let us know. 

Just remember that we are specific in the books we read, they must:

- Largely occur in Zimbabwe unless the world described is an alternate universe
- Be written by an author born there who has spent a good portion of their life there
- Exist in paperback & ebook available on both Amazon & Kindle at least in the US & hopefully elsewhere

I'll leave you with a wonderful Zimbabwean proverb: In the world of books, the mind-set of the reader is of great importance.

9 easy ways to win free books

I never believed I could win a free book. I thought it was mostly a scam till I won a lovely bundle of books after just entering 2 random contests. I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first because I received the notice on April Fool's Day, but I actually won!

Email noting I won 

Then, I spoke to a number of bookish friends who assured me this wasn't a fluke. They win great books all the time. Want to get in on the action? Here are 9 easy ways to find & enter book giveaways.

1. Search Book Riot's giveways or get their newsletter delivered to your inbox.

2. Sign up for publisher newsletters: Choose a few of the largest publishers in the world or the publishers/authors of your favorite books. 

3. Enter Goodreads giveaways.

4. Follow book groups on social media like BookAholic Cafe on Facebook.

5. Check out Bookstr's giveaway page.

6. Search for social media giveaway tags like #bookgiveaway on Twitter.

7. Use the compiled book contest page on Bookloons to find the perfect book giveaway.

8. Join Free Book Friday.

9. Enter one of the weekly giveaways on Authors Cross Promotion.

Good luck to you all! 

12 solid reasons you'll LOVE an eReader/Kindle

Kindle eReader

I adore the smell of books, but a gift of a Kindle one year turned me from an eBook hater to a huge proponent.

I believed eReaders would tire my eyes like a computer screen or iPad, but they offer a screen made for reading. With it's "E Ink" technology, the Kindle in particular reads like paper.

Today, I convinced someone to buy their first eReader. Here are the solid reasons I gave to join the eBook army & why you'll love an eReader/Kindle.

1. Access to a larger world of books at your fingertips. Electronically obtain books no longer in print or only available in print in a few countries. 

2. You'll spend far less money. eBooks cost less money & tons of free eBook sites exist from Kindle Unlimited to BookBub.

3. No need to charge your eReader daily as with your phone. Most only require a single charge to last weeks & you can extend the time by turning off the wireless.

4. You won't run of out reading material. No new books on hand? Download one immediately anywhere.  (All Kindles come with WiFi, but you can also purchase one with FREE 3G which works almost any place on Earth. I bought a book while on a tiny island halfway around the globe.)

5. eBooks embody environmentally friendliness. No paper=no tree cut down & nothing manufactured. 

6. Smaller or hard to read print won't bother you. Simply adjust the text size or the font.

7. An eReader can fit in your purse, briefcase, backpack or even your pocket.

8. You can read free samples of books before you buy.

9. Many eReaders are backlit making it easy to read in dim light or complete darkness.

10. If you accidentally attempt to purchase an Amazon book you've already bought, your Kindle will notify you beforehand..

11. You can still love your library & enjoy more convenience! Yep, libraries lend eBooks which you can borrow while at home or on vacation.

12. No library fines. Libraries automatically return eBooks by their due date. And if you haven't completed the book on time, don't connect your device to the Internet & the eBook won't be removed. Still no fine & more time to read.

I've never known anyone to switch over to a good eReader & regret it. And remember, it doesn't preclude you from reading a paper-based book, but you may end up falling in love with eBooks that you end up reading 99% of your books this way.

Final note: I cherish my current Kindle Voyager & I loved my previous Kindle Paperwhite. Don't be snookered into the expensive Kindle Oasis. The Paperwhite? Delightful. The Voyage? A bit nicer, but pricier.

The votes are in for Japan & April's book to read is...

Flag of Japan

Drum roll, please!

We offered 8 different books from which to choose spanning a wide variety of genres including biography (2), humor, prose with poetry, science fiction (2), fantasy & literature.

The competition was tough.

The voting was close.

And the winner is...

"'A nonchalant string of anecdotes and wisecracks, told by a fellow who doesn't have a name, and has never caught a mouse, and isn't much good for anything except watching human beings in action...' —The New Yorker

Written over the course of 1904-1906, Soseki Natsume's comic masterpiece, I Am a Cat, satirizes the foolishness of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era. With acerbic wit and sardonic perspective, it follows the whimsical adventures of a world-weary stray kitten who comments on the follies and foibles of the people around him.

A classic of Japanese literature, I Am a Cat is one of Soseki's best-known novels. Considered by many as the greatest writer in modern Japanese history, Soseki's I Am a Cat is a classic novel sure to be enjoyed for years to come."

View on Amazon (US) | (UK) | (Canada)


Full results from vote on which book to read from Japan

Is it really a "fun" quiz if you get all the answers wrong?

Quiz

I never seem to do well at the literary quizzes. Most of the time, they seem to focus on books I haven't read or details that just didn't seem important enough for me to remember.

Can real people actually remember the opening or closing lines of books?

I swear I'm well read, but I seem prefer books which aren't often hugely popular with my peers. No Jane Austen or Kafka for me. I love Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn & Isaac Asimov!

So it was a huge relief to take a basic literature test & just get a single question wrong.

Do you do well at these literary quizzes? Take this quick quiz & tell me how you did. 

Soothing music...for reading?

Soothing music for reading?

A friend of mine swears that playing spa music in the background while she reads helps her delve deeper into her book. That it not only soothes her, but adds some white noise blocking out everything else happening in her house.

I'm not one of those people who can easily listen to music & do other things at the same time. However, I must admit that Pandora's New Age Spa Music station wasn't as distracting as I thought it would be. I don't think I'll be listening to music when I read in the future (sorry, Denise), but it's still fun to try new things.

How about you? Do you listen to music when you read?

VOTE: Which Japanese book should we read in April?

Vote on which Japanese book to read

Mia & I scoured the libraries & web to find you the best 6 books to read from Japan across genres. Thanks to book club members, Tatiana Medvedeva & Ivor Watkins, we now have a total of 8 books for you to choose from! (Alex Mackenzie was also kind enough to suggest a poet who already happened to grace our list.)

Now it's up to you:

a) Review the books

b) Vote by ranking each book in order from 1 (most want to read) to 8 (least want to read)

Once the voting ends on Mon., 3/20, we'll publish the anonymous results so you can get the Japanese book & begin reading on April 1.

A reader's best friend—the Library Browser Extension

Example of the Library Browser Extension on Goodreads

Example of the Library Browser Extension on Goodreads

I recently happened upon the most magical piece of tech—a FREE browser extension that checks to see whether a book you are perusing online is available via your local library as a hard copy or an Overdrive/3M ebook.

You simply install it on your browser & select your local library (or libraries) from a list which includes the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK & others. Anytime thereafter that you view a book (e.g., on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc.), the extension will show you whether you can borrow it for free! With a touch of a button, you can then snag the book from your library.

The extension currently works with Chrome & will soon be set-up to work with Firefox & then Safari as well.

See a video of how it works | Get the Library Extension

We'll be reading Japan in April!

Japanese cherry blossoms

Japanese cherry blossoms

Just in time for the cherry blossom festivals, our online book club will be reading Japan in April! 

We'll vote on which book to read on March 15 from a list of at least 6 books across genres. Before then, if you have any books to suggest, let us know. 

Just remember that we are specific in the books we read, they must:

- Largely occur in the country specified unless the world described is an alternate universe
- Be written by an author born there who has spent a good portion of their life there
- Exist in paperback & ebook available on both Amazon & Kindle at least in the US & hopefully elsewhere

ありがとうございます (or Arigatou gozaimasu which is a polite way of saying "thank you" in Japanese. See how to pronounce it)