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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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Author: Chris Crutcher

This was so authentic--I loved it. Chris talks about his boyhood, adolescence, and somewhat about adulthood. Some of the stories are laugh out loud funny. I am just going to say one word, "scab", without being a spoiler! Chris fills us in on how many of his experiences contributed to plot lines and character sketches in his wonderful Young Adult books. Chris sees the universality of things that happen to form who we are. That was so interesting!

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Author: David Wroblewski

Okay, I finished reading the book yesterday. I read it over the course of a week and absolutely loved the writing. There were so many great elements that I thought were leading somewhere? The ending left me completely empty and disenchanted. Did I miss something critical? I thought the ending was a total bummer. Now, I just read on line that this a tribute to Hamlet (duh)! It definitely ends up being a tragedy and I don't do well with them apparently. The writing was exquisite, however. Without giving anything away I adored the rain scene when Edgar is out in the rain and notices something. I also loved the scenes describing the spooky lady who owned the grocery store. Finally, the character of Henry was one of my favorites.

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Author: Amy Alkon

I was mesmerized by the title of this book and I was not disappointed! Amy is amazing. She knows that if we are not assertive about our time and our space, then we get what we deserve! Her stories of how she stands up for herself (and others) are enthralling. It also makes you wonder at people's boorish behavior. I am glad that she chose to end the book with a chapter about being kind and how that reaps all sorts of rewards. Kindness trumps rudeness any time!

Book Features:

Pen Pals

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Title: Pen Pals
Author: Olivia Goldsmith

I have been a huge Olivia Goldsmith fan since 'First Wives Club'. This book was well written with strong characters. Jennifer is imprisoned because of a corporate crime that she did participate in. However, she was also set up as the fall gal. Through her time in prison she begins to learn respect for the other prisoners and realizes that conditions need to be improved in the prison. Using her financial savvy and her connections in the outside world she is able to turn the prison around. The prison warden is going through a midlife crisis and by teaming up with Jennifer they make positive change. Also, Goldsmith loves the exacting of revenge so there is a fair share of that, too, on the people(male) who set Jennifer up. There is one helpful, sensitive male--thank goodness--for relief. This book contains many subplots. But what I really liked was how many details I learned about actual prison life. Wow, it is an extremely difficult place to spend time emotionally. (I feel compelled to do something about prison reform myself after reading this book even though it was fiction.) I liked the title's play on words! I had no idea that the book was going to be about prison.

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Author: Pam Durban

There is a love story here. I just lingered and lingered over this because the story and writing were both so good. Annie moves back in with her mother, Louise, after both her husband and her father die. So we have two women coping with being widows and the truth emerges about both men, their families, their interests, their beings. Annie moves forward by falling in love with Legree and moving back out of her childhood home. Louise moves forward by finding God. Ultimately, the book is about the fact that nothing is ever as it really seems, forgiveness is key, and everyone has faults and weaknesses. I liked Annie a lot. I could tell she was going to be okay. (A cosmetic thing: I DID NOT like the weight of this book--too bad it wasn't published in an easier to manage book.)

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Author: Silas House

Oh, what a sweet poetic love story. This was a joy to read. The dialogue was sparse but the story kept moving. You wanted to know what was going to happen to this Cherokee woman who married this white man at the turn of the last century. They go through several trials and make it through as a couple. Loved it!

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Author: Chris Bohjalian

No doubt one of the most powerful books I have ever read. I have to say it is probably the saddest book I have ever read. This is a very important book about World War II. I became familiar with atrocities that I had never even heard of and I think that is essential. Hatred breeds chaos and gives permission for all sorts of unforgivable behavior. There were barbaric acts that were revengeful and those were hard to think/read about, also. Learning about wealthy German refugees was a whole new piece for me. The parallels of what they were encountering with what the people in the concentration camps were suffering were amazing. The reader feels empathy for all the sufferers no matter what the cause and/or what the amount. The author did an excellent job of layering the characters so that their rationales, strengths, and grappling to remain sane and healthy were felt by the reader. As the reader, I felt fear in the pit of my stomach several times while reading this book. Random acts of violence in the book kept me on high alert. The ending was amazing because it showed that a new phase of divisiveness was on its way. You'll be happy to know that there is still a happy ending of sorts!

Little Bee

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Title: Little Bee
Author: Chris Cleave

Thanks, Holly C. for lending me this amazing and wholly different book. What would it be like to be a refugee in England and how would you fit in? Little Bee is a refugee from Nigeria and she knows only one family in England. She met them for a brief few moments under trying and violent circumstances. Now, they are her only hope in her new country of England. So begins a heartbreaking and gripping story about egos, differing cultures, acceptance, growth, and possibilities. Also, just what accounts for stress? If you are a high powered editor of a magazine, how does that stress differ from learning English and its nuances? This is a fascinating, fast paced novel that you will be thinking about long after you have set it down. The ending made me cry for the possibilities that we still have not embraced as human beings. This is a very well written book.

If Only They Could Talk
Author: James Herriot

Fabulous book that stands the test of time because it is about humanity and interrelationships. Herriot is such a fine writer--he can make you laugh, he can make you cry. Along with being so good at weaving a story, his descriptions make you feel that you are right there. Excellent! Plus you learn some things about being a vet!

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Author: James Herriot

These stories are simply the sweetest and heart wrenching stories ever. Herriot has such a passion for the people in his village and surroundings. He is able to describe their relationship with their pets so well. He is not afraid to make you laugh and cry and he includes himself as a "victim." Simply charming.