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

Two reviews for the price of one…ahem (free)

Just finished a couple of books and I thought I’d share my thoughts here. The first was a recommendation from the lovely lady at the used book store. She said, and she was completely right, ‘this is a read for the beach’. I didn’t quite understand that she meant by that then, I do now.

The book is My Very Best Friend by Cathy Lamb. It’s a tale of two women who were close friends as children and who have grown up and moved apart; they are actually in different continents when the story stats. Years have passed but their friendship has endured.

The first friend, and heroine of the book, is Charlotte Mackintosh who describes herself as a cat-loving hermit. The reality is kinder than that. Charlotte is a quirky author who tends to see the best in people and who loves animals. When her mother’s home in Scotland needs tending to, she hops on a plane and gets busy.

It’s in Scotland that Charlotte starts to bloom. She finds her old friend Toran who falls for her quickly and who she doesn’t believe she deserves. It’s through Toran that Charlotte hears about her best friend, Bridget and what has happened to her.

Cathy Lamb’s book is a great read for the beach, like the wise lady claimed because it’s not a thriller or scary book filled with twists and bends. It’s a slow read, with quirky characters and humour that brings the reader gently to a happy ending. The fact that we could tell what the ending was from the start doesn’t take away from its endearing qualities. This is a great book for a summer read.

My Very Best Friend by Cathy Lamb

My second book is completely different from the first. I picked this one up completely on a whim and the fact that I liked another book by the same author. Margaret Atwood is a definite genius of the written word and Alias Grace does not disappoint.

This book is certainly not a gentle read or a book without twists or turns. It’s like a great giant magnifying lens into the human mind. It starts without a rush (something I absolutely loved) and takes its time introducing us to Grace Marks.

Grace is in jail when we meet her and she was in an insane asylum before that. Dr. Jordan a young psychologist has an interest in finding out just what is going on inside Grace’s head and he tries, day after day, to unravel her secrets. And secrets she has.

This is a book to be savoured. There isn’t an extra word or line. Margaret Atwood knows what she’s doing and she sharpened her pencil when she wrote this book. But it’s certainly not an easy, light read. It’s heavy with content, hints, subtle nudges and symbols. There are layers in the conversations that one can unravel and relish. The characters are intricately created and have real depth and personality.

I would definitely recommend this read to just about anyone who likes reading. It has received the Giller Prize, is a national bestseller and was finalist for many other awards. Margaret Atwood is a master of the writing craft and this is a fine example of why.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Review: The shape of family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I got this book as a recommendation…again. It’s a book about a family and what happens to them when tragedy strikes. I didn’t know the author or the book or anything about the story. I just picked it up and read the first chapter and was hooked.

More than anyone else in the family, I related to Karina, the daughter who struggles to find find herself and discover who she is. I loved how determined she was and how hard she worked at her studies. Having always been a type-A personality, that part of her, caught my interest right away.

The book is not just Karina’s story, however. We learn about the father and mother and her brother, Prem. They too grow through the book and I found their stories interesting to say the least. It was nice to see that adults too struggle to cope and are also growing themselves.

More than anything else, the book is a tale about how a family, that encounters a huge tragedy and has to learn to reinvent itself. People have to live in different ways, connect in different ways and redefine who they are. That sort of adjustment is huge and not easy. It takes years and lots of trial and error to figure oneself out. I loved that The Shape of Family gave that growth an authentic, serious portrayal.

I would definitely recommend this book. It’s not only written by a bestselling author but it’s a wonderful story. I loved the writing and the rhythm of the book, stealing me away and keeping me hooked until I turned the last page. If you like stories about families, about growing up and stories about trying to belong, this one is a great book to try.

Image result for The shape of family

Review: The family upstairs by Lisa Jewell

The family upstairs is a mix of mystery book and family saga. This isn’t my usual read but lately, I’ve been straying from romance and trying new things. This particular book was a last minute recommendation as I left the bookstore and I’m glad I picked it up.

For me, the best part about the book was how quickly it caught my attention and refused to let go. The heroine, Libby finds a letter in her mailbox that simply changes everything for her and this is what starts the plot of the book. I loved Libby from the start. She’s intelligent, cautious, eager to know things and pretty reasonable. She doesn’t do foolhardy things that some heroines do in some movies or books that drive me crazy. Libby was interesting from the start and I didn’t want to close the book and not know what was going to happen to her.

This is a family saga book and the story threads include more than just Libby’s story. Since I don’t like to give away parts of plots of the book, I won’t explain too much here but I will mention that it was delicious because it told the story of a family and what happened to each member. Parents and children made serious decisions with serious consequences and I got to watch it all.

Since it was a mystery, there were twists. Now, I have to be one of the worst people to predict twists in movies or books; I can’t even foresee them coming in a Disney movie, let alone a book. So, to me, the twists were shocking, amazing and a complete surprise. There was even a point where I simply put the book down and stared at the words in disbelief. True, I’m pretty gullible, but I thought the twists were absolutely genius.

Definitely not one of my usual reads, it is still a great read that I inhaled in under 3 hours. I would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in mysteries or family sagas, or even anyone who likes a book that is a page turner. I had never read anything by Lisa Jewell but this one was a definite hit.

Image result for the family upstairs book

 

Review: Still Alice

This is another unusual read for me. I picked up this book and got caught up in the premise. What happens when a renowned Harvard professor gets diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. How does she cope? How does her family cope? How do priorities change and how does the way they relate to each other change?

Alice Howland is that Harvard professor. She’s known far and wide for her knowledge and insight. She leads a very busy, fulfilling life with her husband, also a hard-working professional and their three grown children.

We meet her as she’s rushing from one conference to another, presenting here, lecturing there. She’s professional, intelligent, able to multitask…and then she can’t remember a word at her presentation. It’s nothing that hasn’t happened to everyone at least once, but it keeps happening to Alice. Then there are the little things that she just can’t find and one day, she gets lost while running the same, familiar route.

Not being stupid, Alice realizes something is wrong and goes to check it out. The doctor not only confirms something is wrong, he explains it has probably been wrong for quite some time, she has just been able to cope because she’s very intelligent and she hasn’t noticed.

Once Alice finds out her diagnosis, the book becomes a map through the coping mechanisms of Alice and her family. We get to see it all through Alice…though she isn’t always the most reliable witness and gets worse as her illness progresses. She forgets who the characters in the book are and, at times, we have to decipher where she is or who she’s talking to from clues in her description.

The relationships in the family change with the illness. The relationship that I found most interesting was the one with her youngest daughter. Alice’s most troubling daughter, Lydia slowly becomes a supportive ally. Alice has to learn to think differently when she can’t simply use dialogue and words to analyze others. And through her new lenses, she sees things in Lydia that she had missed before.

This is definitely not a romance book or something I would normally read but I found it fascinating. One, it was really realistic. I could tell the author had done her research on the disease. Two, it was paced really well and we went from not knowing to knowing, organically and smoothly. And finally, the writing was magnetic. I really couldn’t put the thing down. I wanted to know what was going to happen and what the result would be for Alice.

Certainly, it’s not a book I’d recommend for someone searching for romance. It’s a book I’d recommend for someone looking for an interesting, quick, captivating read. It’s a story of a family coping with a life-changing event and how their relationships alter and change as they do. The book’s portrait of the illness is respectful but still manages to carry a punch in the story. All of it added up for a great read for me and explains why the book became not only a New York Times Bestseller but also a movie.

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: Letters from the Country

Letters from the country is non-fiction that reads like fiction. It’s funny and light and composed of small chapters detailing the adventures of the author, Marsha Boulton–a journalist who moved to the country to raise sheep.

This book reminds me a lot of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. Though there are parts that are sad, most are funny and some are outright hilarious.

The characters in the book are mostly animals. Determined sheep, stubborn cows who run away, quirky dogs and very silly chickens. Marsha tries to keep things neat, organized and clean and, of course, the animals will have none of it getting in the way in their unique and very often funny ways.

The neighbours are there too with their country-quirks and sayings but it’s the animals that made me laugh. I have dogs and I can relate so well to the fiascos her brood creates.

It’s an easy to book to pick up and you barely have to make a commitment. Each chapter is self-contained organized by seasons. The gift is the humour. I’ve laughed and laughed with this book.

It not only won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour but it inspired a series of books along the same lines. I definitely recommend it.

(credit:amazon.ca)

(credit:amazon.ca)

Tuesday Teaser

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“In an instant I saw the ewes lift their heads from the petunias in unison. If they had been cartoon characters they would have all sported a light bulb turning on in the balloon above their small brains.”

Pg. 120 from Tales from the Country by Marsha Boulton. A note on this book, it won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour.

(credit:amazon.ca)

(credit:amazon.ca)

What do you like to read?

I read romance. Inside that genre, I prefer historical or contemporary or paranormal but I’ll take any romance over other fiction. For me, there’s something about a love story that is just missing in other books and I go back unerringly to that genre time after time.

But, what about you? What do you read? See, I have no idea. So I thought: poll!

Share with me. What do you like to read? Thanks for taking the time to share!

Book review (NOT Romance!)

Okay, this is completely new for me….but I read a book that was not romance. I read Crow Lake by Mary Lawson and, wow, was it ever amazing. I loved it.

Crow Lake is the story of a family, well the story of the children of that family and how they cope with tragedy. While it’s not a tear jerker, it’s both gripping and interesting. It certainly caught my attention from the start. It’s not romance, it’s the story of a real-to-life family. Their personalities are honest and complete with everything from quirks to flaws. I felt like I’d known them for years.

I don’t usually do non-romance. But this one was wonderful. Well-written without dragging or using symbolism that I didn’t get, interesting without bordering on the ridiculous and filled with excellent dialogue. It was most definitely a page-turner because I really, really wanted to know what was going to happen…and that kept me, well, turning the pages.

I highly recommend it.

 

P.S. I also read Lover Unbound by J.R.Ward and that was simply delicious and also romance. 🙂