Category Archives: Fiction

Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

About American Godsamericangods

Hardcover: 635 pages
Audio: 19 hours
Published: June 2011 by Harper Audio
Source: Purchased

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Goodreads DescriptionFirst published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. Now, discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this 10th anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.

A storm is coming….

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose.”

My Review

I finally finished!!!! Whew, that was long.

I’m really, really torn about American Gods. I really liked some of it, and I really hated some of it. I’ve heard that you either love the book or hate it, but that’s not really true for me. I just sort of…read it.

No doubt, that statement just lost me serious street cred from some of you.

But seriously, I understand why so many people love American Gods. And why so many hate it. For me, all the fantasy God-related stuff was…boring. Hard to follow. Hard to care about. And yes, I realize that’s the whole point of the book.

But it isn’t, really. Sure, in some ways American Gods is a fantasy novel, a metaphor for American culture. But it’s also a travelogue, an ode to America. That’s the part that I loved – Shadow’s time spent traversing the country, the people he met, and the circumstances he found himself in. I didn’t care about Laura, I didn’t care about most of the Gods, but I did care about the people of Lakeside. I also cared about Wednesday, about Jackal and Ibis, and about Czernobog, oddly enough.

This review is all over the place, but that’s kinda how I felt reading it. A lot of the “talkable” stuff was lost on me, simply because I couldn’t focus on half the story.

Jimmie read American Gods right before I did, and he enjoyed it but also didn’t care much for the Gods. I told him that I was somewhat sad American Gods was his first taste of Gaiman, and perhaps that’s the best thing for me to say. The book isn’t terrible, by any means, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book that everyone will love. To me, The Graveyard Book is a lot more accessible, and Norse Mythology is a much better look at mythology.

If you’ve read American Gods, where did you come down on the love it/hate it spectrum?

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Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

About Exit Westexitwest

Hardcover: 231 pages
Published: March 2017 by Riverhead
Source: Library via Overdrive

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Goodreads DescriptionIn a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

My Review

We are all migrants through time.

Those six words perfectly sum up not just Exit West, but humanity today. What are we, but migrants through time?

I don’t even really know what to tell you about Exit West . It’s hard to describe. In some ways, it’s a love story. In others, a social commentary. In yet other ways still it’s a travelogue. But I think that’s the point – Exit West is one of those rare stories that doesn’t have to fit in a box, that shouldn’t fit in a box. It’s a powerful and heartbreaking novel about the power of love and loss and identity.

Exit West follows a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, as they flee their home country in search of a better life. They’re lovers, and friends, and family. The country they flee is never identified, but that isn’t important – what’s important is their home has become a place where it is no longer safe to live. And so they run, through a metaphorical door, to another country and another life. Their journey takes them first to Greece, then to London, and then to the United States. Along the way they grow and change, and their relationship does as well. In their migration, they become truer versions of themselves.

I’ll be flat out honest and admit Exit West is not the sort of book I typically enjoy. Immigrant fiction just hasn’t been something that speaks to me. I talked about this some in my review of Behold the Dreamers, but it generally comes down to the fact that I just can’t relate to the characters. And for me, not being able to relate to the characters is a huge problem. I’m a character reader.

But Exit West grabbed me, and wouldn’t let me go. There’s something incredibly powerful in Nadia and Saeed, and in Hamid’s writing. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I’ve never left my home for a better life, that I’ve never felt oppressed or threatened or unsafe. I was right there with them, going through those doors, carving out a new way of life. I hurt for them, and I hurt for the millions of people around the world experiencing their story every day. I mourned their losses, and celebrated their victories. And so Mohsin Hamid has done what I thought was impossible – he has made me care about a population I have absolutely nothing in common with. And I thank him for it.

Exit West is short, but don’t mistake it for quick. It took me a week to read, and it’s only a little over 200 pages. The writing isn’t intense, but the story is, and Hamid is the kind of writer who gets the most out of the words he uses. Exit West has been Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize (alongside Lincoln in the Bardo and The Underground Railroad, among others). Will it win? We’ll see, but in my mind, it definitely deserves to be shortlisted.

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Review: Ten Birthdays by Kerry Wilkinson

Ten Birthdays isn’t quite the book I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. A charming summer read. 

About Ten Birthdaystenbirthdays

Paperback: 226 pages
Published: April 2017 by Bookouture
Source: Netgalley

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads Description: “There are going to be so many things I wish I could’ve told you in person, Poppy. I won’t get the chance to do that, so perhaps this is my only way…”

It’s Poppy Kinsey’s birthday. She should be blowing out candles and opening presents – but hers falls on the type of heart-wrenching, agonising anniversary she would far rather forget. The worst day of them all. The day her mother died.

But this year is special because the person she misses most in the world has left her a set of letters, one for each of her next ten birthdays. As Poppy opens them year by year, she discovers that no matter how tough life gets, her mum will always be by her side, guiding her along the way.

My Review

I picked up Ten Birthdays expecting to read a sappy story about a girl and her mom. I had the tissues ready and felt like I was emotionally prepared for a John Green-style roller coaster. Turned out I didn’t need any of that. Ten Birthdays isn’t a tear-jerker. Honestly, it’s not even all that emotional.

We meet Poppy on her 16th birthday. She’s doing her best to ignore it, since her birthday also happens to be the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death. Poppy and her friends go shopping, and Poppy realizes something’s up about the same time she walks into a room full of people throwing her a surprise party. Oops. Once she calms down, Poppy’s dad hands her a letter from her mom, written before her death. The letter is a way for her mom to stay in her daughter’s life, and share things with her. The remaining chapters of the book tell us what happens on Poppy’s birthdays, ending with her 25th.

I liked the premise of Ten Birthdays, because it kinda reminded me of P.S., I Love You. The two books are nothing alike, however. Poppy’s letters serve as backdrops for the events, and I admired the way Wilkinson fit them together. Her mom’s letters are relatively short, and strike a fine balance between amusing and “mom wisdom.” I appreciated the lightness of them, but in a way, they often felt unneccessary.

And I think that’s my biggest complaint with the book. The letters from Poppy’s mom simply didn’t add anything to the story. I think I’d have gotten just as much out of the book if it’d been billed as a “day in time” style, similar to David Nicholls’ One Day. I didn’t hate the birthday letters, but they lacked any real emotional connection to the story.

Despite that, or maybe because of it, I did enjoy Ten Birthdays quite a bit. It was a light, cute read, somewhat predictable, but with a well-crafted ending. This would be a good beach read, honestly.

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Review: A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake

About A Potion to Die Forapotiontodiefor

Series: Magic Potion Mysteries (#1)
Hardcover:
 313 pages
Published: November 2013 by NAL
Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads DescriptionTROUBLE IS BREWING…

As the owner of Little Shop of Potions, a magic potion shop specializing in love potions, Carly Bell Hartwell finds her product more in demand than ever. A local soothsayer has predicted that a couple in town will soon divorce—and now it seems every married person in Hitching Post, Alabama, wants a little extra matrimonial magic to make sure they stay hitched.

But when Carly finds a dead man in her shop, clutching one of her potion bottles, she goes from most popular potion person to public enemy number one. In no time the murder investigation becomes a witch hunt—literally! Now Carly is going to need to brew up some serious sleuthing skills to clear her name and find the real killer—before the whole town becomes convinced her potions really are to die for!

My Review

I’m a huge fan of Heather Blake’s Wishcraft Mysteries, and I’ve had a copy of A Potion to Die For on my shelves for well over two years. For some reason I just never got around to reading it! I’d always see the cover, swoon, and think, “I really need to read that.” FINALLY, I just grabbed it and started. Took me long enough.

A Potion to Die For is the first book in the Magic Potion Mysteries. Carly owns a potion shop, but very few people know the truth – she’s actually a witch, and the potions contain a secret ingredient that makes them real. Despite the secret, Carly’s shop has a strong customer base. At least, that is, until someone is found murdered in her shop, holding one of her potion bottles. Time for Carly to save her reputation and her shop!

Like I said, huge fan of the Wishcraft Mysteries, so I had high hopes. Plus, that cover. Unfortunately, I felt a little let down. I didn’t connect with Carly much as a character. In fact, I was more interested in her cousin Delia. I also thought the town was a little silly, though that could be because it reminded me of Pigeon Forge, the heart-shaped-hot tub capital of the world.

As with most cozies, I guessed the killer pretty early – but don’t let that sway you. I read a lot of cozies.

I’m sure I’ll continue the series at some point, but for now, I have more than enough cozies to keep me going. My two cents? If you’re looking for a supernatural cozy, check out the Wishcraft Mysteries instead.

 

 

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

About The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommendthereadersofbrokenwheelrecommend

Book Club: June 2017 
Hardcover: 
394 pages
Published: January 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads Description: Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Why We Picked It

The theme for June was In a Land Far, Far Away. We didn’t really come prepared, so I pulled out my “Book Club Recs” list on Goodreads. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend sounded promising, and since the main character traveled halfway across the world we figured it met the theme.

My Thoughts

Clearly, I have a thing for Swedish authors. By now it’s no secret that I’m a card-carrying member of the Fredrik Backman fan club. I also really loved the Millennium Trilogy (that’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), written by Stieg Larsson, also Swedish. As is Katarina Bivald.

Needless to say, I’m going to look for more Swedish authors, so let’s hear those recommendations.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is kind of a love story to books and small towns. Sara is a bit of a wet blanket, but for once in her life has decided to do something bold by traveling halfway around the world to spend two months in a town she’s never heard of with a pen pal she’s never met. Unfortunately, the pen pal dies right before Sara arrives, so she’s stuck in town and knows literally no one. It’s a relatively common theme, but one I almost always enjoy.

There are certainly books that do it better, though. Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner is a far better story. I found The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend to be much too predictable and cliche. And unlike Nina, Sara doesn’t really grow as a character. Her situation changes because the backdrop changes…not because she actually makes changes.

I still enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong – a lot, in fact.

 

Book Club Discussion

This was another super short conversation. For the most part, we all agreed. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a light, easy read, but not the best example of the books-about-books genre.

July/August Book Club Theme: Firecracker (Dynamic Characters)

July/August Book Club Book: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

About Waking Godswakinggods

• Series: Themis Files (#2)
• Hardcover:
 325 pages
• Audio: 9 hours
• Published: April 2017 by Random House Audio
• Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads DescriptionAs a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

My Review

I knew about halfway through Sleeping Giants that I was going to listen to Waking Gods, even though I had no idea what happened next in the story. Much of what I loved so much about Sleeping Giants is present in Waking Gods. That feeling of suspending belief and imagining a universe where we’re not alone is still very much part of the story.

That said, in Waking Gods we learn a lot more about the background, and we watch how the world deals with the discovery of other life forms. It’s less of an action thriller and more of a political one. That isn’t a bad thing, but it does alter the pacing significantly. I still finished this one quickly, but I didn’t feel compelled like I did with Sleeping Giants. 

For those of you listening to it, I do want to warn you: not all of the narrators are the same between the two books. Kara is different, and though the new narrator is close, it took me a while to get used to her.

I’m also going to semi-spoil it for you and tell you that not everyone survives Waking Gods. And while I understand why Neuvel killed the characters he did, I don’t actually think he had to. I think the story could have progressed much the same way had they lived. I suppose we’ll see for sure in the third book.

When I reviewed Sleeping Giants, I made the comment that I kinda liked the thought of an alien race who’s just as (or more) advanced as we are. Then, I said to ask me if I still felt that way after reading Waking Gods. Answer? Yes, I still think it’s neat, even if the aliens turn out to be (shocker) not so friendly.

No word yet on when we can expect Book 3, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for early 2018. There’s also some buzz that Sony picked up the film rights….dare we hope?!

Missed my review of Sleeping Giants? Look here.

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Blog Tour: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

About News of the Worldnewsoftheworld

• Hardcover: 240 pages
• Published: June 2017 by William Morrow (reprint)
• Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Goodreads Description: In the aftermath of the American Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this morally complex, multi-layered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.

addtogoodreads

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

paulettejiles

Photo by Jill Gann

About Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.

Find out more about Paulette at her website.

My Thoughts

I admit that I’ve only read half of News of the World. I thought I’d have plenty of time with a 200 page book to knock it out over the weekend. I didn’t think about the fact that it was the 4th of July weekend.

News of the World is the kind of story that makes you feel like you’re in it. It’s slow and steady, with almost a rolling cadence to the words. Jiles writes in a way that uses very few words to describe character interactions – but those words are chosen carefully enough to have maximum impact. Reading it, I feel like I’m in the wagon with Captain Kidd and Johanna.

I’m really enjoying the way the Captain and Johanna are learning to get along. Watching Johanna’s experience makes me stop and think about being a stranger in a strange land. I think a lot of the themes are ones that apply today, despite the fact that News of the World is set right after the Civil War.

I don’t want to give this one a rating yet, because I’m not finished with it – but if I had to guess, it’ll be a solid 4 stars. Don’t be fooled by the short length – News of the World has the makings of a great story.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

About Sleeping Giantssleepinggiants

• Series: Themis Files (#1)
• Hardcover:
 304 pages
• Audio: 8 hours
• Published: April 2016 by Random House Audio
• Source: Purchased (Scribd Audiobooks)

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads Description: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

An inventive debut in the tradition of World War Z and The Martian, told in interviews, journal entries, transcripts, and news articles, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by a quest for truth—and a fight for control of earthshaking power.

My Review

The prologue of Sleeping Giants ends with a line something to the effect of, “I looked around, and I was sitting in a giant metal hand.”

That’s the line that hooked me.

First of all, I don’t really see the comparison to The Martian, a book I read and absolutely loved. That’s not an issue in the slightest, since I also really enjoyed Sleeping Giants. Just throwing it out there, in case you’re thinking you’re getting a similar story. You’re not.

Second of all, I really really recommend the audio version if you can get your hands on it. Sleeping Giants is told in a series of vignettes – interviews, files, journal entries. In the audio, each character is voiced by a different actor, so you really get a feel for how different each person is. Plus, the narration is stellar.

Sleeping Giants is a little hard to explain, and the book jacket doesn’t really help. Basically, Rose falls into a hole and lands in a giant metal hand when she’s a kid. When she grows up and becomes a physicist, she gets assigned to study the same hand she fell into. Eventually, she realizes the hand is just one of several body parts strewn around the world. She sets out to find them all, convinced they’ll make up a robot left on Earth by aliens, though she has no idea why or what the robot does.

I know. It sounds absurd.

So maybe there’s the comparison to The Martian. A totally ridiculous idea that’s maybe not so ridiculous. And a whole lot of fun to read.

Sci-fi isn’t my genre. I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not usually the type of story that sucks me in. Space and robots and aliens and weird technology tend to fly right over my head. But. I loved Sleeping Giants because it explores the question of whether or not we’re really alone in this universe. And that’s really what sci-fi is supposed to be about – the idea that something is possible. That something fantastic and outrageous and beyond our imagining is…feasible. And while I don’t think it’s likely that there are giant metal robot parts strewn around the globe, I do kinda like the idea that there’s an alien race out there just as (if not more) advanced as we are.

Is that a terrifying thought? Perhaps. Ask me again after I finish Waking Gods, the sequel.

Anyway, Sleeping Giants. Pick it up if you like thrillers, mysteries, and possibilities.

Review: Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer by Sue Watson

About Ella’s Ice-Cream Summerella'sice-creamsummer

Series: Ice-Cream Cafe (#1)
Kindle Edition: 334 pages
Published: May 2017 by Bookouture
Source:
 Netgalley

Goodreads DescriptionElla’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer is a heart-warming and hilarious romance that will scoop you off your feet and prove it’s never too late for a fresh start. The ideal holiday read for fans of Lucy Diamond, Abby Clements and Debbie Johnson.

My Review

This cover just screams Summer, doesn’t it?! Light and fresh and fun.

Ella is 44-years-old, with two teenagers about to leave the nest, a mother who’s just discovered social media, and an ex-husband affectionately referred to as “The Dick.” She’s in a rut, feeling like she’s lost all sense of adventure and light. When her aunt dies, leaving a portion of the family ice cream business to her, Ella decides once and for all to do something just for her. She packs up, drives south, and begins selling homemade ice cream out of her aunt’s old van Reginaldo.

I loved the idea of Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer. It sounded perfectly summery, a light, airy escape read with heart. And yet, something just didn’t work for me. I gave up after reading about 35% of the book. Ella had JUST gotten to Devon with the van. The story simply didn’t move fast enough. I’d read roughly a third, and wasn’t interested in continuing.

I should remind you, I’m coming off a pretty serious reading slump. So….take this review with a grain of salt. It’s quite possible the issue is me, and not Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer. 

Good things: Ella’s mother cracked me up. I kinda think a book just about Ella dealing with her mom would have been more interesting. And when I finally did get to the ice cream, that was enjoyable too. But I wanted more. Much, much more….even for an escape read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

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.