Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

About Beartownbeartown

Hardcover: 432 pages
Published: April 2017 by Atria
Source:
 Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionThe #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Review

I’ll come right out and say it…..there’s way too much talk about hockey Beartown. Both the book and the town, frankly. If Beartown had been written by anyone other than Fredrik Backman, I’d have given up about 25 pages in. There’s THAT MUCH HOCKEY. And too much repetition. But it’s Backman, and I’m a Backman fangirl, so I kept at it. (For evidence of just how much I love Backman, check out my previous reviews of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.)

Beartown tells the story of a small town’s dreams of being hockey champions. Those dreams rest on the shoulders of the boys’ junior team as they enter the semifinals. Then tragedy occurs, and the town has to deal with the fallout.

I apologize for the spoiler here, though I imagine it’s not too much of a giveaway if you read the book jacket. This book deals with rape.  You can’t read Beartown and not think about the way society responds to rape victims. Whether that was his intent or not, the book has some pretty hefty options for discussion. It’d be a great book club book.

Beartown’s cast of characters is a motley crew of misfits, miserable adults, and misguided teenagers. For me, there’s just something about the way Backman writes his characters. They’re real. They’re awful and they’re beautiful. They’re human. Perhaps that’s it – they represent the many pieces of all of us. No other writer makes me care so much about what happens to his or her characters. Reading a Backman novel is an emotional experience – it’s like meeting someone, falling in love, having your heart broken, and then finding out you really were soulmates and forgiving each other.

In short, it’s a Backman novel through and through. If you’ve read and loved his others, you’ll love Beartown. Likewise, if you hated his others, steer clear….unless you’re mad for hockey. If you’ve never read Backman….start with A Man Called Ove.

Review: The River of Kings by Taylor Brown

About The River of Kingstheriverofkings

Hardcover: 336 pages
Published: March 2017 by St. Martin’s Press
Source:
 Netgalley

Goodreads DescriptionTwo brothers travel a storied river’s past and present in search of the truth about their father’s death in the second novel by the acclaimed author of Fallen Land.

The Altamaha River, Georgia’s “Little Amazon,” has been named one of the 75 “Last Great Places in the World.” Crossed by roads only five times in its 137-mile length, the blackwater river is home to thousand-year-old virgin cypress, descendants of 18th-century Highland warriors, and a motley cast of rare and endangered species. The Altamaha has even been rumored to harbor its own river monster, as well as traces of the most ancient European fort in North America.

Brothers Hunter and Lawton Loggins set off to kayak the river, bearing their father’s ashes toward the sea. Hunter is a college student, Lawton a Navy SEAL on leave; both young men were raised by an angry, enigmatic shrimper who loved the river, and whose death remains a mystery that his sons hope to resolve. As the brothers proceed downriver, their story is interwoven with that of Jacques Le Moyne, an artist who accompanied the 1564 expedition to found a French settlement at the river’s mouth, which began as a search for riches and ended in a bloody confrontation with Spanish conquistadors and native tribes, leaving the fort in ruins and a few survivors fleeing for their lives.

In The River of Kings, SIBA-bestselling author Taylor Brown artfully weaves three narrative strands—the brothers’ journey, their father’s past, and the dramatic history of the river’s earliest people—to evoke a legendary place and its powerful hold on the human imagination.

My Review

The River of Kings is a story about family. About love, about triumph, and about truth. It’s a beautiful story, or rather, set of stories – the book covers three time periods. If you’ve ever read Michener, Brown’s writing reminds me quite a bit of his.

I read this one slowly, only a couple of chapters at a time. The writing is lyrical, but dense. I wanted to read because I enjoyed the style, but had a hard time staying engaged with the story. As often happens with books where the timeline shifts, I’d get engrossed in one story only to be moved to the next. And so on. It wasn’t frustrating, exactly, but made it that much easier to put the book down.

Because of that, or perhaps because of my mood, I ended up listing this one as abandoned. I simply don’t have the dedication to offer The River of Kings at the moment. Maybe I’ll pick it up again. It’s a great book, just not at the right time for me.

3 stars

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

5 Great Audiobooks for National Audiobook Month

audiobookmonthJune is National Audiobook Month

Happy Audiobook Month! For several years now, the Audio Publishers Association has held a national campaign every June to promote audiobook listening. Librarians, booksellers, publishers, and the rest of the reading world come together to celebrate the joys of listening to books. I’ll admit, I’m a little late to the party, since the month is nearly half over. Regardless, I couldn’t miss a chance to join in!

It seems like we’re all over the board when it comes to audiobooks. I know people who would never finish a book if not for audio – and then I know people who consider listening to a book “cheating.” I know people who say they can’t pay attention to the book if they listen to it, and people who find they pick up more listening than reading. And I know plenty of people who have just never tried one!

At one time or another, I’ve been all of those people. I listened to my first audiobook in August 2016. I’d always thought I’d get bored by listening. Plus there was the time factor – I could easily read two or even three books in the time it would take to listen to one. But, I had a trip to Atlanta coming up, and I was driving by myself, and I was bored with all my music. I signed up for a free trial of Scribd, downloaded a book, and off I went. It took me about half an hour to get used to the experience, but by then I was engrossed in the story and knew I was going to finish it. And now here I am, writing a post about audiobooks for Audiobook Month! So without further ado….

5 Great Audiobooks for National Audiobook Month

If You’ve Never Listened to an Audiobook, Try…

theravenboys

Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven BoysThe first of the series, The Raven Boys is a captivating story by an author who knows how to grab (and keep) your attention. Will Patton’s narration (you may know him from movies like Remember the Titans and Armageddon) is breathtaking, and it’s no wonder he’s won an Audie award for Best Male Narrator. Review in this post.

 

 

 

 

If You Need a Beach-Worthy Audiobook, Try…

bookshoponthecornerJenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner. It’s a feel-good story for any book lover. Be warned, though, I gave all the characters in the next two books I read Scottish accentsafter listening to Lucy Price-Lewis’ narration. This is a perfect light read with substance, not to mention an excellent travelogue. I’m planning a trip to Scotland now, and I 100% blame this book. You can read my full review here.

 

 

 

 

If You’re Short on Time, Try…

norsemythologyNeil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. Just over 6 hours in length, and each myth has its own chapter. Unlike a lot of other audiobooks, the chapter endings don’t feel like cliffhangers. That makes Norse Mythology easily digestible, especially if you have limited listening time. And as for narration? Neil Gaiman is superb. Hearing an author read his or her own work is kind of the ultimate experience, since you get to hear it exactly how the author intended. Full review here.

 

 

 

If You Need a Book Club Recommendation, Try…

undergroundrailroadColson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. It won the National Book Award last year for a reason. It’s timely, compelling, and in-your-face. I listened to this separate from book club, but I wish I knew someone else who’d read it so we could discuss. There’s so much here to talk about, and not just about the past either. Bahni Turpin does the narration, and her ability to convey the emotion and turmoil of the story is remarkable. Full review here.

 

 

 

For Epic Feats of Narration, Try…

sleepinggiantsSylvain Nuevel’s Sleeping GiantsThe audio version features a full-cast recording. The story is told in a series of vignettes – interviews, case files, journal entries, and the like. Having the full-cast recording makes the listening experience that much richer, because you feel like you’re really getting to know each character. Review is coming on this one!

 

 

 

 

How are you celebrating National Audiobook Month? What audiobook should I listen to next? Leave a comment below telling me your favorite recordings!

Not an audiobook listener yet? Use my link to get two free months of Scribd! Rent audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, and more. You’ll get two audiobooks and 6 ebooks during your trial, and if you continue after that, it’s just $9 a month. 

Review: Assault and Pepper by Leslie Budewitz

About Assault and Pepperassaultandpepper

Series: A Spice Shop Mystery (#1)
Kindle Edition: 304 pages
Published: March 2015 by Berkley
Source:
 Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionThe Agatha Award-winning author of Crime Rib is proud to introduce Pepper Reece, the owner of the Seattle Spice Shop who thinks she can handle any kind of salty customer—until a murderer ends up in the mix…

After leaving a dicey marriage and losing a beloved job in a corporate crash, Pepper Reece has found a new zest for life running a busy spice and tea shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are the talk of the town, and everyone stops by for a cup of her refreshing spice tea, even other shopkeepers and Market regulars. But when a panhandler named Doc shows up dead on the store’s doorstep, a Seattle Spice Shop cup in his hand, the local gossip gets too hot for Pepper to handle—especially after the police arrest one of Pepper’s staffers, Tory Finch, for murder.

Tory seems to know why she’s a suspect, but she refuses to do anything to curry favor with the cops. Convinced her reticent employee is innocent, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. Only, if she’s not careful, Pepper’s nosy ways might make her next on the killer’s list…

My Review

Assault and Pepper is the first book in Leslie Budewitz’s Spice Shop Mystery series. Pepper has recently lost her job, divorced her detective husband, and purchased the Seattle Spice Shop. She’s just starting to get the hang of being a small business owner in downtown Seattle, when one of the area’s local panhandlers dies outside her store. The police quickly deem it murder, and soon arrest one of Pepper’s employees.

If you’re like me and sometimes skip straight to the rating (it’s fine, we all do it), you’ll see this wasn’t a hit for me. For one thing, I felt like I didn’t know Pepper – or any of the other characters – any better at the end of the story than at the beginning. There just wasn’t enough character development. Because of that, I truly didn’t care what happened.

I also didn’t really care about the mystery, because to me the killer was painstakingly obvious. Part of it was the fact that the person was mentioned and then more or less ignored. If you read enough cozies (which I do), that’s a sure sign that’s whodunit. The other part was the method – poisoning requires certain knowledge, and there’s a small number of likely candidates. If you read Assault and Pepper, come back and tell me how long it took you to guess the murderer.

What I did enjoy, though, were all the descriptions of spices. Which is funny, because a lot of reviewers seem to think there was too much spice talk! For me, the lack of character and plot development made the spices the only interesting part of the book.

I ended up skimming the last third or so of Assault and Pepper, but I don’t regret reading it. Cozies are generally quick and light. If you’re a fan of the genre, this one might be worth keeping for a rainy day.

Book Bites: What I’m Reading Right Now (June 12, 2017)

bookbitesreadingrightnowWelcome to Book Bites, where you get a glimpse into my reading life! Here I chronicle what I’ve finished (and what you can expect reviews on soon!), what I’m reading right now, and what I’m reading next.

Big reading week for me! I knocked out 5 books. Ok, so technically I ended up abandoning two of them, but you’ll have to wait for those reviews to find out why. Regardless, I read enough of them to call them read, so we’re counting them.

Beartown and Sleeping Giants were ah-mazing, and I’ll try to get those reviews up soon.

On the What I’m Reading Right Now front, I’ve just started Waking Gods, sequel to Sleeping Giants.  I’m debating about what print book to start next – any suggestions?

I finally feel like I can breathe again, and having a few posts scheduled out makes it easier to write. Does that make sense? Expect a couple of travel-related posts soon! We took Olga hiking this weekend, so I’ll probably do a trail recap too. Our hike was longer than expected – nearly 8 miles! – but she did great. Love having such an active pup, since it forces us to be active too!!

Last Week’s Posts:

Review: Snow Blood Season 4 by Carol McKibben

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

I Just Finished:

 theriverofkings   

 

What I’m Reading Right Now:

On Hold for the Moment:

salttothesea difficultwomen strangethedreamer gonewiththewind

Soon I’ll Be Reading:

ensnared theacidwatcher truthwitch       

What are you reading right now? Any must-read books I should add to my list soon?

Missed what I read last week

Linkups

bookdatesundaypoststackingtheshelvesKathryn over at the Book Date hosts It’s Monday! What are you reading! It’s a way to share what you’ve just read, are currently reading, and are reading next.

Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly meme, The Sunday Post. It’s a chance to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

About The Bear and the Nightingalethebearandthenightingale

Hardcover: 322 pages
Audio: 11 hours
Published: January 2017 by Random House Audio
Source: Purchased (Scribd Audiobooks)

Goodreads DescriptionAt the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

My Review

It took me nearly two months to read this, mostly because I didn’t do a whole lot of driving. That said, though, I wasn’t super engrossed in The Bear and the Nightingale, much to my dismay. I was super excited when it came out, and I’ve seen a lot of great reviews for it. More on that in a minute.

The Bear and the Nightingale is more or less a fairytale set in the Russian wilderness. Vasilisa is a young girl who loves the woods – and who can see and interact with the house spirits. Either of those things alone would make her different, but both together make her feared and misunderstood. As the story progresses and the demons come closer, Vasilisa’s gifts become her strengths.

It’s actually a bit difficult for me to describe the story, because truthfully, there’s not much of it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Where The Bear and the Nightingale shines is in the world-building. Arden brings the Russian wilderness to life in a way few other writers can. Listening to this, I could easily picture the setting, even though I’ve never been to Russia and have certainly never been to Russia in the wilderness in whatever time period this book was set. (I couldn’t figure it out, but assumed it was sometime in the 1600s.)

The Bear and the Nightingale is the kind of book I’m glad I read, simply for it’s beauty and style. The best part of the book was the last hour or so (not sure what that translates to in pages, sorry!). Is it one I’d heartily recommend? Perhaps, if you’re looking for something graceful and atmospheric. If you’re looking for something gripping and thrilling – no.

Review: Snow Blood Season 4 by Carol McKibben

snowbloodseason4About Snow Blood Season 4

• Series: Snow Blood (#4)
• Kindle Edition:
 102 pages
• Published: December 2016 by Troll River Publications
• Source:
 Purchased (Amazon)

Goodreads DescriptionContinuing the paranormal adventures of Brogio, the First Vampire, and his kindred dog, Snow Blood…

Just as Snow Blood secures Nova’s love, a dark stranger in the forest warns of impending danger. The vampire clan is forewarned of new approaching threats. This time two daunting enemies return for blood, threatening both Brogio and his beloved children.

A Kresnick hunter, out for revenge, is dead-set on Brogio’s destruction and places Snow Blood’s pack in the crosshairs. All the while, another familiar force of evil threatens Brogio’s kindred. As the family comes together to strategize ways on how to overcome this new menacing threat, Snow Blood is led to another intriguing path. He discovers a heavenly interest in the continuing evil that haunts his loved ones.

Trying to discover secrets to help in the defeat of the new foes unravels the role of Kane’s friend, Seth. What part does he play in the returning evil? Along the way of these new journeys, he is surprised to discover the white witch’s true nature.

Relentless and merciless enemies plague our favorite vampire family at every turn. Snow Blood again fights to protect all of those he loves against destruction. A dangerous plot to draw out the elusive enemy could save innocent lives, as well as their own. All the while, the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

My Thoughts

I make no secret of that fact that I’ve fallen 100% in love with Carol McKibben’s Snow Blood series. I got a review copy of Snow Blood Season 1 last year (here’s that review), and enjoyed it so much that I purchased Seasons 2 and 3, and then pre-ordered Season 4. Season 4 came out in December, but I totally forgot about it. Two pages in, and I was immediately sorry I’d waited so long to read it.

Snow Blood Season 4 picks up right where Season 3 leaves off, which, since I haven’t reviewed won’t mean much to you. In a nutshell, Snow Blood is a husky-turned-vampire who serves Brogio, the first vampire. Oh, and Snow Blood has his very own vampire wolf-pack. Together with Brogio and his ladylove Selene, Snow Blood and his pack (plus all their friends and progeny) fight evil. Sometimes that evil is ancient Greek gods and goddesses. Actually, most of the time it’s ancient Greek gods and goddesses. In Season 4 there’s even a winged horse.

Believe me, I know. It sound absolutely absurd. I won’t even pretend that’s not the case. But the series is SO.MUCH.FUN. Seriously – I love these books. I’m anxiously awaiting a new installment, and I’ve tried to convince everyone I know to fork over the 99 cents for the first book, because it’s truly just a joy to read. (And hey, if you have Kindle Unlimited it’s free, so READ SNOW BLOOD.) Rarely do I push a book as much as I push these.

Truthfully, Season 4 wasn’t quite as great as the first three, but that didn’t matter in the slightest.

3 stars

Book Bites: What I’m Reading Right Now (June 5, 2017)

bookbitesreadingrightnowWelcome to Book Bites, where you get a glimpse into my reading life! Here I chronicle what I’ve finished (and what you can expect reviews on soon!), what I’m reading right now, and what I’m reading next.

Things are finally starting to somewhat return to normal, and I managed to get over my reading slump thanks to Snow Blood (I’m a huge fan of this totally ridiculous series). I finally finished listening to The Bear and the Nightingale, so that review should be up later this week. Since I slacked off in reading lately, reviews should come a little quicker now, at least until I get a backlog built back up.

I started listening to Sleeping Giants on Friday, and though I’m only about 20 minutes in, I’m already hooked. So excited to get through this one. And, I broke down and ordered a hard copy of Gone with the Wind. Anyone else prefer reading really big books in print?

I’m also working on a few ideas for travel posts, since it’s been a while since we had one of those. Anything in particular you guys want to know about all-inclusive resorts? I’m thinking on a series about how to choose which one to go to, stuff like that….and I still want to do another resort showdown with Royalton Riviera Cancun added in. Time to get writing, huh?!

Last Week’s Posts:

Review: Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James

Book Club: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I Just Finished:

thebearandthenightingale 

 

What I’m Reading Right Now:

theriverofkings  

On Hold for the Moment:

salttothesea difficultwomen strangethedreamer gonewiththewind

Soon I’ll Be Reading:

ensnared theacidwatcher truthwitch   

What are you reading right now? Any must-read books I should add to my list soon?

Missed what I read last week

Linkups

bookdatesundaypoststackingtheshelvesKathryn over at the Book Date hosts It’s Monday! What are you reading! It’s a way to share what you’ve just read, are currently reading, and are reading next.

Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly meme, The Sunday Post. It’s a chance to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual.

Book Club: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

thehateugiveAbout The Hate U Give

• Book Club: May 2017 
• Hardcover: 
453 pages
• Published: February 2017 by Balzer & Bray
• Source: Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionSixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Why We Picked It

It’s relevant, it’s timely, it’s YA (our May theme), and it’s one of the most talked about books of the year already. And because our Book Club is in-the-know, you know?

My Thoughts

I’m always hesitant to review culturally relevant books, because unless I give them a 5-star rating, inevitably someone gives me the “how do you not think this is the most amazing book ever” reaction. And I get that, I really do – there are books that are well-regarded and well-loved not because they’re necessarily well-written, but because they deal with a theme that’s important or timely or taboo. And the other side of that is true as well – there are books that are loved because they’re well-written, but deal with robots and love triangles and neon-green puppies. In a way, that’s the beauty of books. Reading is a personal experience, and what speaks to one reader may or may not speak to another. Things that drive me crazy will no doubt seem inconsequential to some of you (and vice versa).

With all that said, I’d had several people recommend The Hate U Give as being an excellent book for our times. If you’ve had your ear even just a little bit to the book world, you’ve no doubt heard of it, and heard how wonderful it is. When one of the Book Club girls suggested it for our YA theme, I was more than happy to read it – not because it was something I was particularly interested in, but because I saw the value in reading it.

The Hate U Give is about Starr, a 16-year-old girl who witnesses her childhood friend Khalil being pulled over and eventually shot by a police officer. The book focuses on Starr’s reaction to the situation, as well as the community’s – both black and white. We follow Starr to school, read about her conflicting emotions as she balances her life at home in Garden Heights with the life she’s created at her mostly-white prep school. We watch her family deal with the ever-growing gang presence, compounded by the fact that Garden Heights simply does not have the opportunities more affluent neighborhoods do. And we watch as both sides come to terms with the issues surrounding the question of race and equality.

And here’s where I have to be honest. I didn’t hate The Hate U Give, but I didn’t love it either. I absolutely understand why it’s gotten so much press, and I’m glad for that. But as a book, taken purely on the content and style and form? It lacks so much.

I questioned Starr’s credibility right from the beginning, because her emotions and reactions and thoughts are so inconsistent. One second she’s afraid to speak, the next, she’s telling all who will listen. She talks about loyalty and family and love, and then denies any relation or connection to that very same family. For the majority of the story, she lets other people make decisions for her, seemingly content to be lost in the background.

Before you point out that she’s 16 years old, yes, she is. And yes, she’s just been involved in a horrible, traumatic event, and yes, the world she lives in is vastly different from mine. The issue isn’t so much that she’s not a strong character – it’s that she’s portrayed as one, and written as another.  I was never able to truly care about her, and with a storyline like this one, it’s critical to care about your character.

It’s also entirely too long. I could have lost about 200 pages and still gotten the gist of the story.

Book Club Discussion

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your point of view), we all had similar reactions to the book. None of us hated it, but all of us felt the author missed out on a golden opportunity to really inspire change. The issues raised in The Hate U Give are incredibly important, but unless someone has absolutely no grasp of recent events, they’re issues most of us are already aware exist. In that regard, the book felt a little like a “rage against the machine” kind of approach, though I don’t mean that to say that it’s full of angst and hate. In fact, quite the opposite, as the themes of family and community are actually quite admirable. Simply, had Thomas been able to include solutions, or even attempts at reconciling the issues – or at the very least, beginning to address them – it could have been incredibly valuable in changing the current dialogue. (I realize that’s easier said than done; however, it’s not always enough to simply highlight an issue.)

We talked at length about that, and about how we’d wished we had someone who either disagreed with us or had had a different upbringing. As white, middle-class, college-educated young women, it was incredibly difficult to imagine a world like Starr’s.

Bottom line? The Hate U Give is an important – if not entirely engrossing – read that makes for great discussion. It doesn’t shy away from the truth, but doesn’t assault you with it either. My hope is that as people read it, they begin to recognize some of the more deeply rooted issues in our society, and begin thinking of ways to look at the world a little differently.

June’s Book Club Theme: In a Land Far, Far Away…

June’s Book Club Book: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Review: Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James

askingfortruffleAbout Asking for Truffle

Series: A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery (#1)
Kindle Edition: 304 pages
Published: September 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
Source:
 NetGalley

Goodreads DescriptionWhen Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, The Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered any contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize–only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.

Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.

Rich and decadent, Asking for Truffle, the first in a new cozy series by Dorothy St. James, is sure to be a delectable read for fans of JoAnna Carl and Joanne Fluke.

My Review

I really am a sucker for dogs on covers. But I mean, I love cozy mysteries, and this one promised to talk about chocolate. Can’t go wrong there, right?

I’ll just come right out and say it – you really have to stick with this one. Penn is awful for the majority of the book – she’s self-centered, and has an enormous chip on her shoulder. For much of the novel, the secondary characters are the only thing keeping it alive. I kept reading because I wanted to know more about Mabel and Bertie and the rest of Camellia Beach.

But, by the end of the novel, I was actually rooting for Penn. She grows just a tiny bit, enough to make her tolerable. Same with her dog, Stella – actually, the two are kinda similar. Stella bites, and Penn probably would too if she were a dog. By the end, both are nipping instead of chomping…progress right?

The mystery was actually pretty strong, if a little hard to follow at times. I did think the murderer was obvious, but I don’t fault the author for that. I read a ton of cozy mysteries, so I’m good at spotting the killer, and it’s incredibly rare for me to be surprised.

I loved learning about chocolate though, and the town spirit was rather enjoyable. I can see myself picking up the next book in the series to see how Penn’s decision plays out in the next book.

Bottom line? Asking for Truffle is a sweet start to the Southern Chocolate Shop series.

3 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!