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Welcome to Books R Us, a recommended reading blog from InfoSoup librarians and users and home to A Year of Listening Dangerously, the 2014 InfoSoup Reading Challenge! Find a great book to read next, add your own reviews, and check out our book related resources such as NoveList and BookLetters.

Reviews by Elizabeth: (Seymour) Muehl Public Library

Title: The Dinner
Author: Herman Koch


This is a well crafted and disturbing book. Of course, when a book is written in first person the reader is caught up in that person's thoughts and you become an ally as you read his reactions to the people and situations around him. In this case, the protagonist is Paul and the story begins as he and his wife Claire go out to dinner with Serge and Babette (after leaving their teenage son, Michel, at home). From the beginning, we understand that this dinner is going to be a difficult one because the meeting is fraught with so much stress and anxiety. The book is divided into the courses of the meal and as each course is presented new information is revealed. Basically, something has happened with the adolescent children, of both couples, that needs to be "addressed". Two thirds of the way through the book, flashbacks come closer together and we piece together a new image of Paul. We begin to question whether or not Paul and Claire should have reproduced. Paul's derogatory descriptions of both Serge and Babette start to ring false and, indeed, they (Serge & Babette) begin to appear to have an integrity that we did not at first grasp. This integrity is not part of Paul, Claire and Michel's collective or individual plans so they summarily "take care of business". It is shocking and haunting and violent and a book that you will be dying to talk to someone else about who has read it!

Author: Maggie O'Farrell

This fast read leaves you with lots of food for thought. It has several mysteries running simultaneously. During parts of the book, the author uses a very interesting writing style in which she injects fragments of thought and/or action from the perspectives of different characters which also cover different periods in time. Don't let this put you off! Just keep reading and it will all come together!

Esme is the main character who is institutionalized for over sixty years. (She has been disrespected in a series of ways. First and foremost is that the administration in the asylum will not call her by the name that she goes by, Esme.) The psychiatric unit is closing down and a great niece named Iris finds out about Esme. She never knew about her great aunt before! Iris goes to meet Esme and feels responsible for her future. Iris feels connected to Esme on some level that she doesn't understand. She knows they are related but it goes deeper than that.

Esme and Iris have had a series of dysfunctional experiences and they intersect at the end over a horrifying realization.

I was especially put off by how men treated women in this book. Also, how the women were not familiar with their own sexuality. When you are done reading you are left wondering, was Esme sane or insane?

Good one!!!

(For some reason reminded me of THE DINNER, by Herman Koch.)

Author: Randi Zuckerberg

Randi has a solid head on her shoulders. She is also positive, upbeat, and creative and that is shown in her writing. She expresses the fact that we are at such an interesting point in history and that, although fraught with complications, this is a very exciting time. I like how she highlights that the rapid technological changes in our world give us an extraordinary opportunity to be better people and better communicators, better relationship builders and better friends. I like how she imparts good, common sense advice about being mindful about how we use the technology, especially social media. She is also not shy about sharing her own blunders and how she has learned from her mistakes. I really appreciate that she is a thoughtful person who is willing to examine her own behaviors and keep learning! Her request for balance is invigorating!

Author: Robin Sloan

BRILLIANT!! I loved, loved, loved this book!! The two worlds of reading collide--the world of a sleepy, dusty old bookstore which has a puzzle encoded within its walls and the modern world of Google and e.readers. This author deftly crafts a story where both worlds hold potential and value. I am a geek for both worlds and I just delight in how the main character, Clay, is one, too! Woven into the story are subtle comments on everything book related: from book burning to audiobooks. And the overriding question of how we achieve balance within so many choices. There is a quest in the book and the characters are cleverly drawn and presented to us to be a part of the quest. The question of what is immortality, really, and how and when it is a good thing, is lingering below the surface. Every thing is tied up neatly @ the end, even down to what the bookstore is eventually converted into. The ending, however, is sheer perfection. You can just hear the tinkle of the bell and all of us bibiliophiles have experienced this moment, so many times! It is always magical, having the right book fall into your hands @ the precise moment in which you need it. Well, this book was certainly that for me. I have been hungry for a hopeful book like this. (Serendipitously, I was reading non-fiction "Dot Complicated" on the very same weekend!)

Author: Julie Kibler

Isabelle and Dorrie are unlikely friends.Dorrie is Isabelle's hairdresser but she is only in her thirties and Isabelle is 89. Also, Isabelle is Caucasian and Dorrie is African-American. When Isabelle suddenly needs help she requests that Dorrie drive her from Texas to Ohio for a funeral. Whose funeral? Why Dorrie? All is revealed through the conversations and incidents that are shared in their car journey together. This a lovely tale of friendship and changes in the times. Dorrie is a gift to Isabelle and Isabelle is a gift to Dorrie. The ending is poignant and wonderful--LOVED IT! I am recommending this to my patrons who loved THE HELP.

Author: Noelle Hancock

I loved this book because I think it is a great idea to learn more about your role models most especially when you are at loose ends yourself. I am a big Eleanor Roosevelt fan so that was just a bonus! What I liked, too, was that the author discovered some not so great things about Eleanor. I think that is so refreshing--we need to admit that everyone is human and has human failings and that we can still learn from our role models even when they fall short in our eyes. I thought of so many of my female friends when I read this and I was anxious to recommend this book to all of them! The age of the author and her journey of seeking reminded me a lot of "Julie and Julia". However, this book was SO much better! Noelle is introspective and brave and a fantastic writer.

Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This was the tenderest book I have read it in a long time and it is multi-layered which kept me intrigued. The protagonist, Victoria, is as unpredictable as a person who has been shoved from foster home to foster home would be. Hanging in there as she makes unwise choices will make your stomach ache but also will make you keep reading in your eagerness for resolution! Hang in there, you will be satisfied! Strong on characters,this was a great book.
The book begins with Victoria's "emancipation". I was not familiar with this term but it is also layered with meaning. At the age of 18 individuals are "emancipated" from the foster care system. But are they equipped? Are they ready? Who will be their support network? Do they have the tools to ask for help? You will be pondering these questions and more after you have completed this book.
I loved this book just as much as I adored "Like Water for Chocolate". The symbolism of flowers and how the thoughtful choice of what is given to whom, for what reason, is attractive to me. You can name it superstition but it is still a very cool concept! (The companion dictionary in the book is a must keep!)

Author: Mitch Albom

This book examines the concept of time from many different angles. It is very intriguing. The idea that measuring time was both an advancement and an obstacle to human evolution really hurt my brain! During the work week, I am personally fixated on time and time management and I have an eagerness to take off my watch on the weekend and be free of appointments and obligations by time. After reading this book, this now seems like a healthy and positive response!
In this novel, there are two stories running in current time. One of them is about a teenager named Sara and the other is about an elderly gentlemen named Victor. Both of them, in their own ways, would like to control time. Their motivations are different but the fact remains that they want to manipulate time in drastic (even violent) ways. Father Time steps in to "stop time" so that Sara and Victor have an opportunity to rethink their positions.

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Author: Jenna Blum

This historical novel was EXCELLENT. Anna and her daughter Trudy are from Weimar, Germany and now living in Minnesota. Trudy is a history professor who becomes involved in an interviewing project called "The German Project". She is interviewing Germans who were in Germany during World War II. These Germans were ordinary citizens and not necessarily Nazis. They were not Jewish, however. This is Trudy's point, to get this other perspective. Trudy's passion for this subject and a burning "need to know" are because of Anna's silence since they have moved to the U.S. Anna married one of the American soldiers who assisted in opening up the nearby concentration camp @ Buchenwald.

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Author: Jane Maas

This book did make me "mad" just as the episodes of "Mad Men" have made me! The way adults operated in this time and place is very disheartening. However, Jane had an incredible career and she offers great insights into what was happening to her and around her. The most interesting part was actually learning about her tenure under Leona Helmsley. I liked the writing style because it was  conversational. It was as if the author was looking back at her life in a surprised and candid way. She doesn't make excuses for behavior. However, she clearly elucidates how people are products of their times. Interesting!