Review: Us Against You

Us Against You Fredrik Backman ReviewTitle: Us Against You
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Literary | Sports

Synopsis: A small community tucked deep in the forest, Beartown is home to tough, hardworking people who don’t expect life to be easy or fair. No matter how difficult times get, they’ve always been able to take pride in their local ice hockey team. So it’s a cruel blow when they hear that Beartown ice hockey might soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in the neighboring town of Hed, take in that fact. As the tension mounts between the two adversaries, a newcomer arrives who gives Beartown hockey a surprising new coach and a chance at a comeback.

Soon a team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; always dutiful and eager-to-please Bobo; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the town’s enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big game approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt intensifies. By the time the last goal is scored, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after everything, the game they love can ever return to something as simple and innocent as a field of ice, two nets, and two teams. Us against you.

My Thoughts: In my review of Backman’s BEARTOWN I described the book as POWERFUL and when the sequel US AGAINST YOU came out I questioned whether it could stand up to its predecessor.  I can unequivocally say Backman pulled it off.  This book is all about STRENGTH.  It picks up where Beartown left off with the town reeling in the traumatic aftermath that left a sharp divide in the community.  We are plunked into an even darker Beartown injected with a political agenda, death and the emotional force of friendships, marriage, discrimination, rivalry and violence.  I was so, so happy to see my favorite characters return: Kira, Maya, Benji and Amat – it’s like visiting old friends.

I really hope there is a third book in this series that can break my heart and mend it all over again.  You do not have to love hockey or even like it to read these books – that’s what makes Backman masterful in his writing.  I strongly recommend you read Beartown first so you can become familiar with the setting and cast of characters – some you will love and others you will hate.


Review: The Personality Brokers

The Personality Brokers Merve Emre ReviewTitle: The Personality Brokers
Author: Merve Emre
Publisher: Random House Canada
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Genre: Nonfiction | Psychology
Free book provided by publisher

Synopsis: An unprecedented history of a personality test devised in the 1940s by a mother and daughter, both homemakers, that has achieved cult-like status and is used in today’s most distinguished boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond.

My Thoughts: What type are you?  Extrovert or introvert, thinking or feeling, sensing or intuiting, judging or perceiving?  Almost everyone has completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator because we like to know we fit into some type of descriptive box. Employers like it for its people sorting purpose. 

The Personality Brokers explores the popularity of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a widely used device to assess one’s personality, free from judgment, and generates only positive results.  No wonder everyone loves finding out their type!  Shaped by Carl Jung’s Psychological Types, Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers formulated a prescript to identify and understand people’s personalities.

I found Katharine’s early interest in personality fascinating.  She used her ‘obedience-curiosity’ method to raise Isabel. When she disobeyed she was slapped and punished, when she obeyed, rewarded with stories and her inquisitiveness encouraged.  I was drawn to Katharine’s typing of political leaders: Hitler (extravert / thinker) and FDR (extravert / feeling). She believed if you could determine a leader’s type (and expose his weakness) this could be his fall of leadership.

This book is not a fast read and slowed down at times and other times I found it bizarre but plenty of intriguing information to hold my attention. 

Review: The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden Karina Yan Glaser Review

Title: The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Publisher: HMH Kids
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Children’s | Middle Grade
Free copy provided by publisher

Synopsis: Return to Harlem’s “wildly entertaining” family in this funny, heartwarming sequel. When catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbors, the Vanderbeeker children set out to build the best, most magical healing garden in Harlem—in spite of a locked fence, thistles and trash, and the conflicting plans of a wealthy real estate developer.

My Thoughts: My favorite charming and heartfelt family from Harlem (and their adorable pets!) return in the sequel to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in this year’s middle-grade-must-read THE VANDERBEEKERS AND THE HIDDEN GARDEN.  Every bit as delightful the children come together to surprise an ailing neighbor with a garden as only The Vanderbeekers know how – with creativity and big hearts.

Yan Glaser blends the nostalgia of classics like Little House on the Prairie and Ramona & Beezus with modern day references to urban redevelopment and gentrification which completely resonates with me and my family of five living in the heart of a city undergoing this very thing!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how perfectly the illustrations add to the book’s charm.  Written for middle grade readers but easily loved by mature readers also.  This is the quintessential read-aloud series!

Review: The Good Luck Charm

The Good Luck Charm Helena Hunting Review
The Good Luck Charm
Author: Helena Hunting
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Romance

Synopsis: Lilah isn’t sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she’s no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let Ethan in, though, she finds out their reunion might have nothing to do with love and everything to do with improving his game. But Ethan’s already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he’ll do anything to keep from losing her again.

My Thoughts: What do you get when a sexy nurse and a super hot hockey player rekindle a relationship?  THE GOOD LUCK CHARM – a sultry, swoon-worthy, second-chance romance!  This is my first Helena Hunting book and I want to go back and read all of her hockey romance’s because we all know hockey players are S-E-X-Y!

This book is sweet, adorable and steamy.  Ethan knows he screwed up when hockey took him away from Lilah eight years ago and now this gorgeous, charming, successful hockey player is going to win her back.  Hunting weaves in a backstory that anchored the plot – Ethan’s decision to follow his dream while Lilah laid her marriage to rest.   Sometimes we have to make tough decisions even when we are not emotionally mature enough to make them – and thank goodness for second chances!  Funny, genuine, heartfelt, smoking hot – I was rooting for Lilah and Ethan from start to finish!

Review: How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure Kaye Newton ReviewTitle: How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure
Author: Kaye Newton
Publisher: Linland Press
Publication Date: January 11, 2018
Genre: Nonfiction | Self-Help
Free copy provided by author

Synopsis: Reading improves kids’ abilities to concentrate and enables them to do well in school. Studies show that reading can also reduce stress levels and help us relate to each other. “How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure” offers practical advice, kid-tested tips, and recommendations of books that will hook kids on reading.

My Thoughts: Each generation brings with it a new set of challenges parents face when raising their children.  But none are as problematic as the challenges presented raising children in the digital age.  Children today are fully dialled in to screens – television, phones, tablets, e-readers, and video games.  Many sources across the web cite that teenagers reading for pleasure is sharply declining while time spent on social media is increasing.  What does this mean for screen-loving kids?  Their ability to dissect information and develop necessary critical thinking skills from long-form writing is compromised because they spend upwards of four hours per day reading and writing texts and status updates.  Teenagers are not the only ones addicted to their screens; children 8 years and younger reportedly spend two hours per day on devices.

I am a mom to three children and the battle for screen time is strong in my house.  When Kaye Newton offered to share her book with me, HOW TO GET YOUR SCREEN-LOVING KIDS TO READ BOOKS FOR PLEASURE, it was like the skies opened up and a solution to my problem descended upon me.  I inhaled this book in a day and spent the following day re-reading it, dog-earring pages and highlighting important information so much that the book already looks like a well-used friend.

This book belongs in every parent’s toolbox because it is a vital resource for helping your children either get back their love of reading or establishing a love for reading.  Newton has created a How-To manual that includes the benefits of reading, how to support reading for children with learning differences (i.e. ADHD and dyslexia) and an exhaustive lists of ‘books that hook’ to get your child interested in reading for pleasure.  The tips and advice offered are completely actionable items every parent can follow thru on; for example, Newton suggests strategically placing stacks of interesting books, magazines and newspapers in key locations around the house, and letting your children ‘buy’ their screen time with reading time.

To be upfront I am not winning any awards from my kids implementing these reading strategies, at least for now.  Parenting is about making the tough choices to prepare our children for the most successful outcome possible for them and I am all in for this because I know my investment today will pay dividends in their futures.

If you are a parent I highly recommend you get your very own copy of HOW TO GET YOUR SCREEN-LOVING KIDS TO READ BOOKS FOR PLEASURE so your children can share in your love of reading.