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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.

World War II

Author: Lisa Barr

This book was a saga of sorts. We follow the protagonist, Yakov/Julian, from childhood to middle age. He is a passionate painter with the drive to paint flowing through his veins. In attempts to become who he is he moves to New York from Chicago; to Paris from New York; to Germany from Paris. He is in Paris when Hitler is rising to power in Germany. Julian becomes friends with a close knit group of people who include Charlotte, Adrienne, Rene, and Felix (who is German).

Julian is always cast as the mediator or the go-between. He has strong values about painting and art as well as being loyal to friendship and honesty. For these reasons, he ends up embarking on a series of perilous and unfruitful journeys in the name of his friends and art.

It is not until many years later that Julian's methodology, determination and persistence finally pay off to see justice served.

There is surprise after surprise in this book and we learn a lot about the art world before, during, and after World War II. It was fascinating.

I liked how the author had the sins of the characters catch up with them because I think that is very realistic. I also liked how she did not sanitize the cruel acts that people did and she was clear about the myriad of betrayals that happen in a power struggle web of fear and retaliation.

Thanks to Kim Leisgang for recommending this book to me!

Author: Jodi Picoult

When I first began reading Jodi Picoult books, I always thought the subject matter controversial, but her approach was that not everything is black and white, and always made you wonder ~ Is there really a clear cut answer? What would I do?

I haven't read one of her books in a long time as I began to see a predictability in them, and there was the usual twist at the end. This book was no exception. When I was new to her books they had an edginess to them that I enjoyed.

There was a great deal of research into this book as one can tell from all of the facts given. But I also realize that this is probably a fictional account and probably the conglomerate of several survival stories pieced together.

I thought the middle was a little slow at times and could have been shorter. And the ending? Altogether predictable, and unsatisfied with it.

Originally posted in: APL Picks

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

Author: Louise Murphy

Will we ever truly understand what it was like to be Jewish in World War II? Probably not, but this book adds another perspective. Just like in the fairy tale you remember, two children are abandoned in the woods and if you pay close attention there is even a trail of breadcrumbs. But it isn't because the stepmother doesn't like them. The family is running for their very lives. They must all lose their identities in order to survive. Even their names have to change. There is a cottage in the woods, a mysterious and frightening old woman, and a big oven. It reminds us that mankind is all one family; we do horrible things to one another, and we do kind and caring things for one another. Not until the end did I realize you never know their real names. Sadly, neither do the children. Family, love and hope are present as strong characters. This is not a pretty story, but it is a compelling one.

Author: Laura Hillenbrand

This compelling story introduces us to the fascinating life of Louis Zamperini, a native of Torrance California, from rebellious youth, 1936 Olympic athlete during the Hitler regime, to Lieutenant and POW in the Army Air Force during World War II. He endured because he was driven and highly focused on not giving in to his inner demons. Zamperini was a sports and war hero. A page-turner.