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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.

Wisconsin Author

Author: Nickolas Butler

I love reading books by Wisconsin authors. Michael Perry, Jane Hamilton, David Rhodes, & Jacquelyn Mitchard are some favorites, to name a few. Nickolas Butler now joins my list of favorites with his book, Shotgun Lovesongs. The book has a distinctive midwestern voice, and I, as a reader, felt like I was in familiar territory. At the same time, the lives of his small town, rural characters were anything but typical and kept me interested from the very start. The book's description in InfoSoup states, "Shotgun Lovesongs is a remarkable and uncompromising saga that explores the age-old question of whether or not you can ever truly come home again - the the kind of steely faith and love returning requires." Maybe that's why I identified with it so strongly - I left my small hometown for college and never went back. Relationships lost and history left behind - this book made me think about what it would have been like to go home.

Author Nickolas Butler was raised in Eau Claire, WI and studied at the University of WI-Madison. He still lives in rural Wisconsin on 16 acres of land. 

Audiobook Review
Author: Michael Perry

Michael Perry narrates this audiobook which adds to the entertainment, as he is a humorous and thoughtful speaker. I've read and enjoyed all of Perry's previous books on rural life in northwestern Wisconsin. He can be described as a redneck intellectual, and his stories of hunting, farming, plowing, and sawing are filled with detailed reflections on the joys and frustrations of working outdoors in the company of family and friends. Tom is Perry's 82 year old neighbor, and although the book centers around him, it is just as much about Perry's home and family.

There is not a lot of action in this book, or any of Perry's books, yet their folksy stories and humor provide many memorable moments. His tale of woe as he tries to prevent the highway commission from changing the road near his home to a configuration that would make it more dangerous mirrors Tom's past struggles with the state when they built a noisy highway through his property. This back story runs throughout the book and highlights a changing world where the values of the two men are somewhat antiquated. Like the Little House series, those Midwestern classics, Perry's focuses on the importance of place, being neighborly, the conflict between the old ways and modernization, and finding comfort in the outdoors. Listening to Perry is like a visit at the kitchen table with an old friend.

Author: Audrey Edmunds

Edmunds' account of her trial and imprisonment following the death of a child she watched in her home. Somehow, I managed to know nothing about this trial or the overturned conviction though the story took place in Wisconsin. It was interesting subject matter, and considering she lost 11 years of her childrens' lives, a very sad story.

However, it is poorly written. It's repetitive (we get it you take good care of your body, your girls are precious & beautiful, and you like pretty things and your blonde hair). It's off-putting to me how she comes off condescending of other inmates. The characters are hard to follow (her friends who helped her).

That being said, unlike most poorly written books, I don't feel bad with Edmunds making money off the book sales. She needs and deserves the money. This has a Lifetime movie written all over it.

Author: Jess Riley

After receiving a kidney transplant Leigh questions whether some of her desires are being channeled thru her new kidney by reflecting the personality of the donor. No longer tied down by dialysis appointments, Leigh sets out on an "Unfinished Business" road trip from Wisconsin to California. The road trip is filled with adventure, mishaps and interesting characters. Jess Riley has a way of painting a place with her words so you are transported to the landscape at hand. Her writing is witty, sarcastic and brutally honest. Riley is a resident of Oshkosh and Driving Sideways is laced with Wisconsin references that make the book all the more enjoyable.

Author: Steven Dewald

Reading this book reminded me of a evening when my dad and two uncles sat around the kitchen table "telling tales" from their hunting and fishing experiences.  I stayed very quiet so that I would be allowed to stay and listen.  Some of the stories were funny, some sad, and some cautionary.  Mr. Dewald goes beyond the usual stories in that he was part of larger issues such as the growing of maijauana on public lands and problems that the DNR has in keeping our wildlife both animal and plant safe.  Being a warden would seem to be more of  calling than a job in putting up with long hours, difficult people and an often clueless public (which includes polititians).  It is a fairly small book filled with a world most of us will never see.

Author: Chad Harbach

This was our January book club book and I was a bit skeptical at first - baseball is probably my least favorite sport. However, I picked this book up last Saturday and I couldn't read it fast enough. I was instantly drawn in to the characters; their connections, compassion, resolve, dedication and unexpected friendships. I think another reason I liked it was because Westish College was a D3 school in WI and it brought me back to my D3 college days (including visiting my then-fiance's school which was on Lake Michigan). I really had a lot of the same feelings about my school as most of the main characters did in the book. This book also opened up a world that I never really entered before, having never played on competitive sports teams in my life. Overall it was a great read and one that I will recommend to friends and family.

Originally posted in: APL Picks

The Poisoner's Handbook

Author: Deborah Blum

Untraceable poisons were easy to get, Tammany Hall controlled the coroner’s office while corrupt cops and politicians ruled Jazz Age New York—it had never been easier to get away with murder. This is how Pulitzer-prize winning author Deborah Blum’s fascinating story about the beginning of forensic and chemical detective work begins.

In 1918, Charles Norris was appointed chief medical examiner for New York City. When toxicologist Alexander Gettler came on board, they began to scientifically investigate unexplained deaths, mysterious illnesses, and other deadly puzzles. As they created experiments to discover poisons and solve murders, they also discovered chemicals that were polluting the lives of everyone around them.

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Author: Laurel Mills

Martha lost Grace, her partner of 20 years, in a tragic accident. The following summer, Martha returns to her island cottage off the coast of Maine to reconnect with family and friends and face her grief anew. When the quiet young man working on the cabin next door attempts suicide, Martha learns about his difficult childhood and takes him in. Side by side, but separately, they work through their sorrows. As the summer unfolds, Martha knows more than she should about Ben’s troubles and less than she thought about her own tragic loss.

Author Laurel Mills is Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin—Fox Valley.

Author: Lesley Kagen

The third I've read by Lesley Kagen. This is filled with so many characters (and some of them similar) that it takes a while to catch on. The protagonists are twin girls--Shenandoah and Woody. Shenandoah is taking care of Woody since she has gone mute due to a trauma. Both girls are trying to sort out the death of their murder and the cruelness of their father. Even though the subject matter is tough, Kagen again manages to bring a lighthearted attitude to the topic by creating an atmosphere where the girls are on an adventure. Kagen's language play in this book is that the girls have a secret twin language--that is very cool. In this book I very much enjoyed the southern rural setting and the intertwining of race relations.

Author: Lesley Kagen

Sally O'Malley, the protagonist in this book, is a girl blossoming into young adulthood. She is exuberant and funny and in her innocence is still taking many concepts literally. In the story, both the adults and the kids are being careful and watchful in their neighborhood because there is a serial killer in their midst who is killing girls who are the age of Sally O'Malley. The author sets a tone of summer, lightheartedness and a carefree time (late 50s). Because the author does this, the murderer/molester is not as frightening as he could be. The way that Sally deals with and wonders about adults reminded me a lot of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I loved this book and I loved the resolutions at the end of it.