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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.

secrets

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Title: The Dinner
Author: Herman Koch

(translated)

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!

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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.)

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Author: Kourtney Heintz

I rated this book 1 star.

I must admit, the title grabbed me (as I am a Wisconsinite) and the synopsis sounded good. Little did I know what I was in for!

I could deal with the fact that this was "paranormal" ~ to a point. Some of it was just a little to out there for me. But even then, that wouldn't have been so bad. Oh my goodness. I did not need a simile for every feeling, action, or whatever else was going on. Too many words, too descriptive, and the story just seemed to drag on forever. The relationship with Kai and Oliver was a little too over the top too. Were they adults or middle school kids? After while it got old. I should have read the short story at the end of the book!

There were the occasional one liners thrown in, which made me chuckle. I liked the humor, and it did break the monotony.

I think this book could have been so much better with a lot of editing and the characters not acting so juvenile.

Premise was good, just not the execution . . .

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Author: Jennie Shortridge

I wish there were half stars, this one got 4, but was really worthy of 4 1/2.

This book kept me turning the pages ~ when I KNEW I should go to bed!!



Standing in the freezing Pacific Ocean, off the shore of San Francisco, Lucie Walker, looking around, doesn't have a clue who she is or where she is.  She realizes she is freezing.  Her legs are numb, but she is unable to move.  A kind man approaches her and gently coaxes her to shore.  She is rushed to a hospital, and is discovered to have dissociative fugue.  Amnesia.  Her fiance, Grady, comes from Seattle to take her home.  Her Aunt Helen from whom she has been estranged for 25 years contacts Grady.  As she begins the process of trying to piece her life back together, she discovers that there secrets, and not everyone is honest . . .

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Author: Elizabeth Kelly

I rated this book 2 stars.

This book is supposedly written from the perspective of 12 year old Riddle, a precocious girl living in Wellfleet, MA, near cape Cod.  Her father, Camp, is a rising politician, and her mother, Greer, is a former actress.  Greer is cold, aloof, sarcastic, condescending, pious, and not a nurturing mother.  Camp is a little better, but mostly unavailable as he is always off campaigning.  At the beginning of summer, Charlie Devlin, 15, disappears.  And Riddle knows what happened.

I had a hard time even thinking a 12 could think like the author wrote!!! I consider myself to have a decent vocabulary ~ but ~ whoa ~ I kept my dictionary by my elbow!!! Definitely not something a 12 or 13 year old could pick up and read. Not that I expected it to be written in a juvenile manner, but the thinking was just way beyond what a 12 year old would even grasp.

The author is an extremely good writer, but should not have broached this from the perspective of a young girl.

I thought the story line was interesting, and it held my interest, but it just dragged at times. And similes? I bet every page had one! Just too too many. Too descriptive that at times it just slowed the story down.

As the day got lighter and grew warmer with the progress of the afternoon sun, Mary and I meandered along the overgrown trails, me leaning forward in the saddle, my chest against her neck, my face against her mane, dodging the low-hanging branches that burdened the path. I looked out over an unbroken line of trees and longed for my world to give up its secrets. So many disturbing questions, answers as elusive as something lost in the woods, a hidden presence wanting to be found. Sitting on my horse, still and silent, watching as each revelatory breath rose up over the trees like a smoke signal fixing location, listening as each beat of the unseen heart gave itself away.

TMI.

I didn't particularly care for any of the characters. If that was the author's intent, then it was achieved. The only reason I finished it was to give a fair review.

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Author: Maeve Binchy

I have enjoyed Maeve Binchy's books for years and was glad to see a new one published.  This is typical Binchy storytelling.  She richly develops the story and characters.  If you aren't familiar with the author she is lives in Ireland and her stories take place around the Ireland countryside.  She discribes the landscape so well you could picture yourself there.  Most of her characters have their human flaws but are loveable.  Her stories usually involve families, cousins, or in-law's lives as they intertwine together.  Close friends, room-mates, or co-workers lives as one characters actions create a cause and effect reaction with one another.  She develops the storyline and it flows along and you want to keep reading to find out what will happen next.  Her books are clean written without curse words or explicit sex or violence.  Another good Mave Binchy read and her last as she passed away shortly after she finished this novel n July, 2012.

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Author: Sarah Addison Allen

Emily returns to Mullaby, North Carolina, to a grandfather she didn't know she had (he didn't know of her existence either), following her mother's death.  This is an unusual town, and her grandfather's house is also quite unusual.  Staying in her mother's childhood bedroom, she is quite astonished to find the wallpaper changes to fit her mood.  There are mystery lights she sees in the woods.

Julia Winterson takes Emily under her wing, trying to protect her from others who remember what Emily's mother did and who would do her harm.  Emily has no idea about any of her mother's past.

Filled with magic, mystery, and - did I mention - mouth watering food - as Julia runs a bakery that serves up some pretty spectacular cakes - this is a pretty good read!

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Author: Barbara Claypole White

This story revolves around Tilly, a widow with a young son, Isaac.  Tilly owns a very successful garden nursery business.  She puts her heart and soul into the business and can thereby hide from the world and temporarily not think about her husband's death.  A man comes to her door seeking someone, and willing to pay a huge wage, who will build the garden of his dreams.  Tilly is not a landscaper, and despite the amount of money offered, repeatedly tells him she will not take the job.  He isn't dissuaded, sure that Tilly is the one to create his vision.  The man is James Nealy, a man who suffers greatly from OCD, and has retired young from a successful software development company.  He believes that facing his fears, including creating this garden, will be therapeutic. 

A family emergency sends Tilly and Isaac back to her childhood home in England, where she faces a former love.  However, James shows up again, having followed her to her native home.

Throughout the story, there are many interesting supporting characters.

All in all, a well written book that would be great for a summer read, or for curling up on a cold winter's day.

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Author: Terri DuLong

This was one of those books that grabs your interest and holds on, one you really don't want to put down.  However, there is an integral part of the story that is totally forgotten about when you get to the end, and that disappointed me greatly.  The book centers on a woman in her 40's, Berkley,  who is looking to solve a puzzle from her past involving her mother and why she left her at a young age to go to Cedar Key for a summer.  Her only clues are found in a stack of postcards her mother left behind which she found after her mother passed away.  She goes to Cedar Key, falls iin love with the area and the people, and makes a life for herself there, all the while trying to find out what secrets it holds regarding her mother.  Throughout the story, there are hints of magic, including a plant which has been passed down from her grandmother, an antique clock, and other items.  Continuing a family traditon, Berkley opens a chocolate shop on Cedar Key, and is quite successful.  One of the ingredients in her chocolate is a portion of the plant mentioned earlier.  When people eat her chocolate, good things begin to happen.  This is the part of the story that is neglected in the ending, and I was quite curious as to what the plant was and why it had seemingly magical qualities.

That being said, the book is still an excellent read, giving you a great feel for the people and the island they love, and I would highly recommend it. 

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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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