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The Mermaid Garden

Santa Montefiore

Touchstone, $24.99/hardcover

Every now and then I'll read a book that, when I reach the final page, I don't want to finish; I'm sad to say goodbye to a cast of characters who have become like family. Such was the case with The Mermaid Garden by Santa Montefiore. Steeped in mystery and familial controversy, two female protagonists — one a country house hotel owner living in modern-day England trying to keep her business running; the other a motherless girl in 1960s Tuscany falling in love for the first time — interweave their tales, chapter by chapter, until a final, much-anticipated commingling. Booklist has compared Montefiore with the prolific Maeve Binchy, and the comparison is worthy. This is Montefiore's 10th novel, and like Binchy, her books demand a serious time commitment (typically 400-plus pages long), but the payoff is often a deep sigh and a content heart. — Kirsten Akens

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The Filter Bubble

Eli Pariser

Penguin Press HC, Inc., $25.95/hardcover

It makes sense that websites try to be attractive, but a commonly used tool, the "personalize" function that remembers the things you've clicked and preferentially moves similar items to the top, is also keeping you from seeing all that's available. While that may seem convenient — who wants to wade through things that don't interest us? — it's also very dangerous; what you don't know can in fact hurt you. In The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You, Eli Pariser explores how personalizers work (at least, as much as anyone knows) and outlines how they're further segregating online communities, rather than bringing them closer together. If never being exposed to a differing viewpoint is your goal, Google will be fine. If, however, you'd like to be truly well-informed, you might want to try some of his suggestions about varying your sources of cyber-info. — Kel Munger

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Awake in the World

Michael Stone

Shambhala, $17.95/paperback

Canadian author, yoga instructor and psychotherapist Michael Stone has been called a leading voice in the theory and practice of yoga, with a strong contemporary perspective. His profession has taken him on the road as a lecturer, and his newest title, Awake in the World: Teachings From Yoga and Buddhism for Living an Engaged Life, is a compendium of 20 talks he gave around the world between 2004 and 2010. Stone's writing is successful not only because it's given in manageable chunks, but also because it's approachable. He relates yoga practice to Leonard Cohen lyrics; the flow of life to a story of observing birds in New York City's Union Square. In a particularly heartfelt final piece, he reflects on the paradox of suicide, writing, "The desire for death as an end to suffering is a desire to make life more possible." — Kirsten Akens

  • The Mermaid Garden, The Filter Bubble, Awake in the World

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