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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

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Title: I'm Down
Author: Mishna Wolff

This memoir reminded me a lot of "Glass Castle" in that you can't believe the immaturity, selfishness, and eccentricity of the father. Also, the girls in both books adore their fathers (despite everything) and just wish for some attention/affirmation in return. This book was particularly different because the author's father, although a white man, more than anything else in the world would like to be black. Mishna spends much of her childhood and adolescence trying to please her father by being "down" and being as black as possible. Mishna has a wicked sense of humor and there are laugh out loud parts. Ultimately, this very weird upbringing has contributed to the cool and versatile person that she is today! But you couldn't help but feel sad for her and the ending was a little disjointed. Maybe there is another memoir in the works? I would love to learn about Mishna from where this book left off.

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Author: Adriana Trigiani

This book takes up where 'Very Valentine' left off. (Read 'Very Valentine' first). The book begins with Valentine's grandmother getting married in Italy. When Valentine returns to New York she is making new plans for her custom shoe business with the help of her friends, Gabriel and Bret, her brother Alfred, and her grandmother's colleague, June. June takes on a larger role in this book. We love her spunk and wisdom and her ability to be accepting. Valentine is grappling with her feelings about her short lived romance in Italy with Gianluca. And she unearths a family secret that takes her to Buenos Aires to meet a long lost cousin,Roberta, who is also in the shoe making business! The role of family is still integral in this book. Valentine witnesses several different marriages in her life and is deciphering what she would like for her own future. This soap opera was fun to listen to and I can't wait for the third in the series to tie it all up! (Ciao, Valentine)

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Author: Adriana Trigiani

I just love this author. She writes to Nancy Pearl's pillars of a great book: great writing, well-written characters, great settings, and a good story/plot. Valentine is a modern young woman in her early thirties and she is discovering what she believes about love and family and her career as a shoe designer. The story is set in both New York and Italy which are both well-described. Valentine is working in the family business with her grandmother as her mentor and friend.  The business is experiencing some fiscal troubles since they hand craft the shoes for a niche market--weddings. As Valentine learns to diversify she also learns to be proud of tradition and embrace her heritage. Her Italian family is rich in fun and lovable people and it is great to see them through her eyes. A very fun read that has elements of truth and respect in it. I liked the injection of a reference to "The Elves and the Shoemaker" which is one of my all time favorite folk tales.

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Author: Roland Merullo

This is a deceptively simple novel about a man named Otto who is in his mid-life. He is satisfied with the status quo. Then an opportunity occurs, (because his sister is friends with a man named Volya, a Skovorodinian monk who is considered enlightened and a promising spiritual writer) for Otto to go on a road trip for a couple of weeks with a man who is completely different than himself (Volya). First Otto resists everything about Volya. Over time he realizes that he can learn from Volya. The lessons are small or are they? Actually, the lessons are life changing. As Otto learns to respect Volya he also sees life around him with new lenses. He examines his own childhood and family. He examines his married life with children. At the end of the book he is set on a new path for the next part of his life. Although purely fiction, the author has studied many religious and spiritual traditions and weaves the best of them into this book.

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Author: Eleanor Brown

I loved the household that these three sisters grew up in where their parents were madly in love; where there dad was a Shakespeare professor so it was all Shakespeare all the time; where reading was a passion of all the household members. All three sisters return to their childhood home as they are grappling with each of their own adult issues and they rally around their mother who has cancer. Coming home is a growth time for them. The book is amazing in that it is written in the "voice" of all three of the women. This took a while to get used to--maybe because I just kept asking myself, "who is narrating?" but it was an unusual and fantastic way of relaying the story. A great read!

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Author: Ken Kesey

This year marks the 50th anniversary of this book and this book is just as "fresh" today as when it was written. The book is written from the point of view of a Native American patient(Chief Bromden) in an asylum who is assumed to be deaf and dumb because he has never spoken anything. His silence allows him to be keenly observant of everything that is going on in the ward (& to be overlooked). A new patient enters the scene, McMurphy, and he turns everything upside down. Is McMurphy insane or isn't he? Chief Bromden doesn't think he is especially because he knows he can hear and speak almost immediately.

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Author: Ka Hancock

A sensitive novel about how it would be to marry a man who is bipolar and how to stick it out with him. The author deftly captures how this man, Mick, would be fighting his ups and downs. How he would be living his life in between bouts of hospitalization. How he would need support from many different avenues. This book is a love story about how Mick finds the love of his life, Lucy, and how they build a marriage. Challenges occur for them. Lucy gets cancer. Lucy also has an accidental pregnancy. How do Mick and Lucy traverse these challenges? You will have to read the book to find out! This book is very well done down to the title itself.

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Author: Rachel Simon

Perfect! The author thought of everything! I just adored how creative and soulful this book was. We see the story from three different points of view (Lynnie, Homan, Martha) and eventually a fourth (Kate). As each person is painted in their part of the story, they are self-actualizing. It is marvelous. Also a considerable amount of time is covered, from 1968 to the present. The changes in American culture are carefully reflected in the ongoing unfolding. Lynnie (beautiful girl) is put away in an institution, by her family, because she is considered retarded. Homan works at the institution and he is misunderstood himself because he is deaf. He is simply called "42". However, Lynnie calls him "Buddy" and he calls her "beautiful girl." Their friendship and respect for one another swiftly develops into love. They make a break for it and Lynnie has given birth to a baby girl but although Homan delivered the baby he is not the father. They arrive at the farmhouse of Martha (an ex-schoolteacher) who is a sensitive soul.

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Author: Julian Barnes

Written in first person, this is the fictional account of Tony Webster and his mid-life crisis of sorts. He seems to be remembering his college years in a distinct way. He is reunited with people he knew in college and comes to discover that is perceptions are very far off. The final paragraph of the book sums it up nicely, "There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is unrest. There is great unrest." After I finished the book I had to promptly read it again to see how the plot was pointing in a different direction. This book was a wonder.

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Author: Diane Kelly

This book would make a great beach read. The fast paced, smart writing takes you through a solid story with some twists. Tara Holloway could be the next Stephanie Plum if this this debut novel is any indication! Tara is a special agent for the Treasury Department's Criminal Investigations Division, by day. When she is off the clock, she is enjoying the finer things of life in Dallas, Texas. The next in the series is already in the oven. I see a great future for this character and this author!