Book review: Beartown

I picked up Beartown on a recommendation at the bookstore. The woman at the store said it was a book ‘about hockey, a tiny town and what happens when a tragedy hits’ and I immediately wanted to read it. I don’t know what it is about the smell of coffee and books that gets me all excited. In this case, however, I’m glad I trusted her comment. I read Beartown in a matter of hours.

The book is definitely about hockey. Being Canadian, that didn’t bother me. We’re pretty hockey obsessed. But I should explain that you don’t need to be a hockey fanatic or fan to read and understand the book. More than about hockey, this book is about people who love the sport–and some who don’t.

The tiny town of Beartown is set in a forest and has a small scattering of people. I love tiny towns. There’s something about the intimacy of them that appeals to me. Beartown, with it’s small set of quirky inhabitants was delicious. The book explained their stories, their backgrounds and why they acted like they did. It did so without breaking pace with the story, something that’s really hard to do. And, by the end, I felt like I was one of them, like I knew them.

Though this is mostly the story of one family, there were no outstanding heroes or heroines. Rather, this is the story of characters, with flaws and gifts, who acted in ways that caused a terrible incident to happen and then had to face the consequences. While I won’t destroy the story by saying what happens, I will say that the entire town has to react to it because Beartown is that small. Good or bad, everyone is changed by the end.

I loved that the characters weren’t perfect. I loved that they interacted with each other in good ways and in ways that drove the others mad. I loved how their past and stories were sprinkled throughout the book, like little gems to highlight their personalities and help the reader understand why it is that they acted the way they did.

Mostly, though. it is the writing that was addictive in the best sense of the word. Fredik Backman does an incredible job of creating interest. Just the way he presents what happens, the order in which he presents things, made me turn those pages. I will give you a snippet of what I mean by the very introduction. It’s very short but I think it will convey just how addictive the book is.

“Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shogun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.

“This is the story of how we got there.”

Doesn’t that just make you want to read more? It certainly did me. I read that little bit and had to buy the book right then and there.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading fiction, family fiction and those who enjoy a good mystery. It’s not a mystery, but it has enough suspense and action to satisfy the pickiest mystery fan. I would also recommend it to those who enjoy sports, because it is a lovely sports story. If you do pick it up, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Beartown: Amazon.ca: Backman, Fredrik: Books

Review: Vox

Just finished it last night and the scary after taste is still with me. Vox is one of those books that I picked up, read a paragraph and couldn’t put down. It gripped me and refused to let go in the best sense.

It’s written by Christina Dalcher who holds a PhD in theoretical linguistics and that knowledge becomes evident as the book carries on. The author understands just how important language is and what it does to the human mind if it is forbidden. The consequences are dire and terrifying.

Vox is a dystopic story set some time in the near future in the USA. The main character is Jean, a wife and mother who, like all women can’t say more than 100 words a day. Well, she can but the consequences are horrific. Each woman and female child has a device on their wrist that counts those words and administers an increasing level of electric shock when they pass their limit. That limit does get reset each and every night but they only get 100 and that’s it.

The set up is pretty reminiscent of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in that women are suppressed and men have all the power. It also suggests that this has happened because of a mix of politics and religion so the US is now a theocracy. There are innumerable police and enforcers, all men, who suppress the women and there are new versions of schools for girls where they get rewards for being quiet and are taught how to be dutiful, housewives while the boys are brainwashed by courses on ‘theology’ that teach that God created man above woman and the ignorance of that rule caused all the world’s problems.

I loved this book. Jean’s arc from naive witness to heroine is believable and terrifying. I liked her from the get go and the story only endeared her further to me.

But the book was terrifying. I guess reading about a dystopia while Covid-19 is shutting schools, businesses and normalcy is out the window wasn’t the smartest thing. But I couldn’t help it; this book was incredibly addictive.

The reaction of her children from silly, lovable little ones to brainwashed pawns and the transformation of her little girl were devastating to read. If there had been a dog hurt in the book, I would have been able to put it down but that wasn’t the case. It was terrifying because it was something that I could see happening very soon.

Still, the book ends well. There is a happy ending and sanity returns. Still, it is most definitely a page-turner. There was no way I was putting this thing down until I knew what happened.

Of course I would recommend this book. It is an incredible read and really well written but I would recommend it because of some very specific reasons. One, it is so easy to get into it, I defy anyone to read two pages and be able to put it down. It’s that yummy. Two, It’s a topic that needs to be read and understood. We can’t let something like that future happen to us or our children. And three, it was simply a great, enjoyable read. The characters are awesome, the story is really great and fun.

If you are a fan of the Handmaid’s Tale, or like dystopic stories, this one is for you. I would also recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers and suspense because it was definitely that as well.

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Review: The Testaments

I wanted to read this book almost as soon as I heard it was going to be written. The trouble with that is that I built it up in my head so much that I feared the reality couldn’t possibly match my wishes. Not only did the book meet my expectations, it surpassed them incredibly. This one is a keeper for years and years to come.

The Testaments is Margaret Atwood’s latest novel and one that she refused to write for over thirty years. It completes her earlier work, The Handmaid’s Tale. In an interview, she explained that the reason she decided to write it was that: “Instead of going away from Gilead, we turned around and started coming back towards Gilead.” She’s dead on.

Image result for cover time magazine with margaret atwood

Timing is just right for this book. It might not have hit us the same way 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. But, right now, it’s an incredibly pertinent and important document to read. And, such an amazing piece of writing.

Image result for cover time magazine with margaret atwood

Timing wasn’t, of course, what I loved most about this book. I picked up the hardcover (and I never, ever buy hardcovers) and read two paragraphs…and I knew I had to buy it. I loved, loved the content, the tone and the way she wrote, almost immediately.

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The book is written by different narrators-that I won’t explain so as to not ruin it for others. Each perspective has a very different perspective into the life in Gilead and each is rich with information, history and flavour. Eventually, without giving away too much, things merge and out of it comes, finally, the conclusion to the Handmaid’s Tale.

I loved each of the different perspectives. I was fascinated with the theocracy that Margaret Atwood had created. I thought it was authentic, brutally realistic without becoming overdone, and showed astute insight into human nature. As I read, I couldn’t help but to agree with the narrator’s logic and choices. As horrific as Gilead was, I could understand what transpired in the book, I could see why they had done the terrible things that they had done. It made logical sense.

It was also fascinating that the narrators didn’t destroy the mystery or the twists that happened in the book. I was left hanging, desperately hanging, at the end of each chapter, not knowing what was going to happen next.

I have many beefs with some books where characters step out of character, where rules that were once inviolable are suddenly broken, where the remnants of the plot are artificially twisted into a semblance of order at the end. I was so relieved that this book did none of those things. The ending was realistic and fit a grim and very plausible storyline. The characters stayed true to their beliefs, personalities and history. And nothing impossible according to Gileadian rules happened.

Better still, I was hooked. This is a book I read in bits of time stolen while my husband and I tried to get our house listed on the market. I snuck that book into work, tried to read while people talked around me and even moved important things aside so I could read it. It was addictive in the most delicious sense. If I could design heaven, it would be filled with books just like this one.

I absolutely recommend it. If you’re a fan of dystopian novels, female fiction or suspense, this book will fit you like a glove. You do not need to have read The Handmaid’s Tale to get hooked either. Try a couple of paragraphs, I bet you’re like me and can’t put the thing down. It was magical.

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