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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.

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Author: Sandra Byrd

I absolutely adored this book.  Admittedly, I am a lover of most books about The Tudors, but even so, this one shines.  It's the story of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn as seen through the eyes of her best friend, Meg Wyatt.  Meg is there through thick and thin, and is the one who picks up Anne's body after she is sentenced to death by her husband on a charge of incest with her brother, which is historically accurate as to the reason she was executed.  History now proves she was completely innocent.   Although the book is fiction, it does an admirable job of describing life in the court of Henry VIII, where simply saying the wrong thing to the wrong person could result in a sentence of death by some unspeakably cruel means. 

If you love Tudor England, you'll love this book.  If you like books that speak to female friendships and how much a good friend means to all of us, you will treasure the friend Anne has in Meg at a time when she can trust no one else, including her own family.

Sweet Mercy

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Author: Ann Tatlock

This book is told from the viewpoint of Eve, who, at the start of the book, is telling her grandson about the memories she has of Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge, which was owned by her uncle.  She has gone back there to retrieve a wooden box which is very special to her as it holds some small items that carry nostalgic and precious meaning for her.  The Lodge is set to be torn down and her grandson takes her to find the box she left behind.  Eve lived there for some time in 1931 after her father lost his job at Ford Motor Company.    The country is in the midst of the Great Depression, and prohibition is in force.  Her uncle offers Eve's family room and board in exchange for help with the place, which is bustling despite the Depression.  Eve loves living there, until she learns some secrets that ruin her idyllic view of her uncle and her family.

Prohibition plays a huge part in this story, as does Jones, her cousin who happens to be albino.  She didn't know of Jones' existence as he was kept hidden away, but she doesn't see him as "different" and helps him to be more at ease with people.  Also playing a role is Link, a man who presents himself as a hobo looking for food.  Her uncle always feeds those who need it, and he feeds Link as he does many of the men who live down the road in a shantytown.  Most lost their jobs and are trying to find work to support their families left behind.

I loved this book and hated to see it end.  It vividly describes the Lodge, the dances held in the pavillion, the innocence lost, the cool swims in the river.  It's a great summer read.

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Author: Nancy Goldberg

We seldom associate strong women and the Middle Ages and yet... Raymond Berenger V, Count of Provence and Béatrice of Savoy parlayed their daughters to widen their influence and expand Provençal cultural radiance by striking matrimonial alliances, first between Marguerite and the French king Louis IX and between her sister Eleonore and the English king Henry III, then between Sanchia and Richard of Cornwall, Henry III's younger brother, who after much intrigue will become king of the Romans, and finally between Béatrice and Charles d'Anjou to become ever so briefly Sicily rulers. All four sisters played complex and influential roles first to establish their authority against powerful and at times stifling in-laws and then against rebellious children.

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Author: Linda Pingel

An author of articles noted in the National Geographic, and the New Yorker Magazines.  While also the author of an awarded winning book "Mr. America. He resides in New York with his family.  I read the book "Turn Right at Machu Picchu" which was the first literary piece I have read from this author.

For the past week, I spent my evenings traveling to Peru through the book Mr. Adams wrote.  It was my first visit to this country while my first time I read a book that actually let me go along on an exploration of a lost civilization.  The book came alive for me with the detailed writing not only of the land, but also of the companions that took part in various aspects of having this adventure come alive.

I appreciated the map at the beginning of the book as Peru is a country unknown to me. The glossary also assisted with the read as I found it handing in a quick look-up.  The photographs brought the written word to life.

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Author: Melanie Benjamin

This book tells the story of Anne Morrow, who became the wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh.  The daughter of a diplomat, Anne is sure the handsome, acclaimed "hero" will fall for her much prettier sister when they meet at a diplomatic function.  Much to her surprise, it is she who he seems to be drawn to.  He secretly takes her up in a plane quite early in the morning when the press and photographers, who bother him at every turn, will leave them alone.  They have a very hard time finding the time to be alone as they are stalked by the press, and if they try to hide, the press makes stories up to feed to their readers. 

The book casts an unflattering light on the Charles Lindbergh we have all read about.  He came from a home of tough love, and refused to allow Anne to coddle the children, or even to pick them up if they cried.  His attitude towards his children, including verbally belittling them quite often, was quite cruel; however, we are reminded he was treated the same way.  He left Anne alone much of the time, leaving and not telling her when he'd be back.

When their first son is born, Anne is thrilled, although the child is closer to his nanny, as Anne only sees him a couple of times a day.  His famous kidnapping and murder are touched upon in the book, and it is then we see the human side of both Anne and Charles.

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Author: Bill Bryson

I always love to read anything by Bill Bryson and this was no exception.  In this book, Bill takes an often hilarious journey throughout vast Australia.  He vividly describes the sometimes desolate landscape, and repeats many times that Australia has more ways to kill a person (and in a horrific way) than any other place on the planet.  His close encounters with some of these deadly creatures were told in a very funny way, although I'm sure he wasn't laughing at the time.  Bill also does a lot of research into the history of Australia, many of which is unknown to most of us in the US, not to mention the rest of the world.  For example, back in the 1960's Australia lost a Prime Minister.  He walked into the water and was never seen again.  It never even made the news here.  Imagine a U.S. President going out for a swim and disappearing forever and then that not making the news.  It is nearly 100% a probability that the PM was attacked, and devoured, by any number of venemous beings in Australian waters.  When Bill asks a local about swimming and whether he should worry about sharks, the local tells him not to worry, that the last attack was a very long time ago (2 whole months).

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Author: Rebecca Skloot

Very interesting and disturbing at the same time. Good book, especially for book club. We had stimulating discussion.

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Author: Margot Livesey

This book, standing alone, without the comparison to Jane Eyre, was an exceptional book.

Gemma Hardy is orphaned at the age of three in Iceland, and is taken to Scotland by her uncle, where he lives.  His love for her is limitless, but his untimely death six years later leaves her in the care of her vengeful aunt.  Her aunt treats her as an outcast, and eventually her three cousins follow suit.  Eventually, Aunt decides that Gemma is such a trouble maker, that she finds her a boarding school "on scholarship".

Gemma is a precocious ten year old who through sheer tenacity endures her years at Claypoole Boarding School.  Because she is a "working girl" her contact with the "prefects" is forbidden and she is almost entirely on her own.  Despite everything Gemma continues to learn and read at every opportunity.

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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: Erik Larson

William Dodd, a professor at the University of Chicago, longs to write his three-volume set about the history of the south.  It’s 1933 and President Roosevelt offers the American ambassador position to Dodd in Germany.  He accepts thinking he will have time to write his masterpiece where he had studied years before.  The Dodd family sets sail for Berlin.  The darker side of Germany emerges as Adolf Hitler’s power grows and he becomes the self-proclaimed Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor after the death of President Hindenberg.  Chilling.