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.

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Review: The Shortest Way Home

The Shortest Way Home - Miriam Parker - Book ReviewTitle: The Shortest Way Home
Author: Miriam Parker
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: July 31, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Women’s | Literary
Synopsis from Dutton
Free copy provided by Penguin Publishing Group

Review: Warm and charming and brimming with vivid imagery.  THE SHORTEST WAY HOME is set in beautiful Sonoma Valley conjuring up a vibe where family is close, the food is delicious and the wine flows freely.

Hannah is smart, sweet and impulsive. She’s been dating Ethan all thru grad school in Berkeley.  They have high profile jobs lined up back in New York and an apartment in Tribeca waiting for them.  But Ethan’s methodical outlook on their future isn’t what Hannah really wants.  She makes a spontaneous decision to leave everything she thought she wanted behind for a marketing position with a flailing winery.

This story is exactly what I want in a summertime book – a journey to self discovery, romance, second chances and the importance of friends and family.

Parker sectioned the book into three parts aptly named for each progression of a meal; appetizer, main course and dessert featuring a mouth watering dish and wine pairing – I loved this!

Bookmail Friday

*Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada, Flatiron Books, HMH Books and Raincoast Books for these free books.

Bookmail Friday is a place where I share with you the books I received this week.

Here and Gone | The Family Tabor | The Vanderbeekers

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck – It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.  I have been disappointed with a lot of suspense / thriller books lately especially those with big name endorsements likening them to ‘Into the Water‘, ‘Gone Girl‘, and ‘The Girl on the Train‘, which I think is the kiss of death.  I don’t like those types of books because they all have a misogynistic angle and portray women as mentally imbalanced.  They are so dark and depressing.  The synopsis of Here and Gone makes me think the main character is pulling herself out of a deep, dark slump to protect her children, which takes so much strength making her a strong and likeable lead.

The Family Tabor by Cherise Wolas – Harry Tabor is about to be named Man of the Decade, a distinction that feels like the culmination of a life well lived. Gathering together in Palm Springs for the celebration are his wife, Roma, a distinguished child psychologist, and their children: Phoebe, a high-powered attorney; Camille, a brilliant social anthropologist; and Simon, a big-firm lawyer, who brings his glamorous wife and two young daughters. But immediately, cracks begin to appear in this smooth facade: Simon hasn’t been sleeping through the night, Camille can’t decide what to do with her life, and Phoebe is a little too cagey about her new boyfriend. Roma knows her children are hiding things. What she doesn’t know, what none of them know, is that Harry is suddenly haunted by the long-buried secret that drove him, decades ago, to relocate his young family to the California desert. As the ceremony nears, the family members are forced to confront the falsehoods upon which their lives are built.  I have been holding onto my copy of the revered The Resurrection of Joan Ashby since September and when I saw Wolas’ followup, The Family Tabor I immediately started reading Joan Ashby, which I’m fully invested in.

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden – 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. I read The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street to my daughters before Christmas and the whole family fell in live with this adorable family!  I’m super excited for the sequel, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, which we will read as a family also.

Review: How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time - Matt HaigTitle: How to Stop Time
Author: Matt Haig
Publisher: Harper Avenue
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Historical | Literary
Synopsis from HC

Review: What if you aged so slowly you were over 400 years old?  Would you view this as a gift or a curse?  Tom Hazard was born March 3, 1581 and suffers from a condition known as anageria, aging one year for every 15 years.  His life expectancy is just under one thousand years, which makes for a lonely existence because he doesn’t have a whole lot in common with other people.  He was once married in the 1600’s and has spent centuries searching for his daughter who has inherited his condition.

By all accounts I should have loved this book but I didn’t.  The premise is fascinating, the writing is amazing, and the historical elements sprinkled into the story are interesting.  I listened to the audiobook and could not connect with the narrator, therefore this book never stood a chance.  The main storyline is time travel and I’m just not interested in this topic.  Overall, I really struggled with this one, however, HOW TO STOP TIME is a well written literary book and will surely resonate well with readers who enjoy these elements.

What I’m Reading

The Great Alone, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, The Monk of MokhaSpring…after what feels like an endless winter I’m welcoming her with open arms.  I live in a rain forest where it rains almost daily from November until June, but the rain starts to wane in April and the sunshine returns.  Rainy days are not all bad, it’s a great reason to tuck in with a good book – a lot.  With the changing season I feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle more upbeat reads.

I want to share with you four really great books I’ve read recently that I think should be on everyone’s ‘to be read’ list.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – ‘Alaska, 1974. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.’  Spoiler alert! I’m already calling THE GREAT ALONE the best book of 2018.  I suffered a severe book hangover for two weeks after reading this one – it was on my mind all the time.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – ‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.‘  I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK is for true crime buffs but to be upfront it’s graphic and scary but well worth reading. This book follows the East Area Rapist now known as the Golden State Killer’s gruesome rampage in California during the 1970’s & 1980’s.

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner – ‘In this exhilarating thriller inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix faces off against a charming, merciless serial killer. This is actually book two from the Unsub series, which I highly recommend reading first to get to know the main character but stands up well on its own. INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE is another book for true crime lovers but with a fictional tie-in making it an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys thrillers.

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers – ‘The true story of a young Yemeni-American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war.THE MONK OF MOKHA is a fascinating book for anyone who is interested in all facets of how coffee is produced.  Mokhtar Alkhanshali is on a quest to bring the best cup of coffee to San Francisco without exploiting the workers and exporting the beans from Yemen during a civil war. Coffee lovers will enjoy this one but really it’s an interesting read for everyone.