8/18/17

Beartown


Beartown by Fredrik Backman. Translated by Neil Smith. New York: Atria Books, 2016. 418 pages. ****

The story opens with "a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger." Beartown is a town that has lost most of its economic base, closed some schools, and is getting swallowed up by its desolateness. The town's hope for a bright future is hockey. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals and the town is counting on their star player, Kevin. A win will change the lives of the team members and justify the choices that the general manager and coach have made for the boys and their families. The actions of the players at an unsupervised party the night before the game challenges the beliefs of the parents, townspeople and the players themselves. When the police remove one of their own from the bus on the day of the big game, the players and townspeople rally to support him even though his innocence is questioned by his best friend. 

Backman has tackled a difficult subject and this book is unlike his others. Initially, I was disappointed because if you have read my previous posts, I love his writings and was hoping for similar characters and plot. This is one of those books that starts out slow and I knew something tragic was unfolding based on the first few lines. Yes, it is a book about hockey, but it could be any town and any sport. When players are idolized and are seen to be above the rules of society and the adults turn a blind eye, anything can and does happen. There are no easy answers and even the players who stand up for what is right and just are beaten for their stance. It is through Backman's characters, that hope, love, and courage win over ego and violence. 

 I am not a sports fan and maybe some of the situations are predictable and cliched, however, Backman's unique character development gives this story an edge. Difficult to read at times because of the anticipated outcome, I couldn't "look away" and had to keep reading.


Recommended for Book Clubs, there are many cultural and societal issues addressed and are ripe for discussion.

Reviews of his other books, click here.

Fredrik Backman's stories have been published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Visit him online at his blog: FredrikBackman.com, on twitter @backmanland, or on Instagram @backmansk.

#beartown #fredrikbackman 

8/13/17

You Were There Before My Eyes


You Were There Before My Eyes by Maria Riva. New York: Pegasus Books, 467 pages. ***** Publication Date - October 7, 2017.

The story begins, "The morning her mother died, Giovanna gave up on God." An only child, raised by a remote father and disciplined by the nuns in a quiet turn-of-the-century Italian village, Giovanna is determined to escape the inevitable future planned for her. When the brother of a friend returns to the village to choose a wife with certain qualities for a perfect marriage. When his chosen fiance turns him down, Giovanna volunteers to marry Giovanni and travel with him to America to start a new life as his wife.
Nothing prepares Giovanna for Ellis Island and the train journey to Detroit where her new husband works in the Ford factories. Renaming themselves, Jane and John, they are determined to fit into life in their new neighborhood and the culture surrounding employment in the Ford factory. Henry Ford has strong opinions about how his employees should behave and rewards those who are married. It is 1913 and the factory is installing the first assembly line to produce the Model T. John, a leader among his immigrant friends at the factory, is optimistic about the many opportunities available by working at the plant. Jane is determined to be a good wife to John and to make him proud of her, even if the many norms and customs in America are strange to her. With the advent of World War I, their world becomes one of suspicion, loss, and betrayal.

I knew nothing about this time period and the workings of the Ford factory, but I was absolutely captivated by this love story. Riva introduces us to everyday life for the poor working class at the turn of the century. The factory workers who revere the owners and those who covertly meet to push the "union" agenda. Immigrants who come to America believe that if one works hard enough, a better life and prosperity will be theirs. Being a family historian and ggggrandaughter of Irish immigrants, I am fascinated by the hardships, friendships, and relationships that they formed when they arrived in America. Riva gives us a glimpse into how it really does take a village to survive as an immigrant. Hannah, the landlady, takes Jane under her wing, befriends, and counsels her. The best historical fiction transports me to a time and place and I become lost in that other world, Jane and John's story does that for me.


I received an ecopy for a review.


Maria Riva was born in Berlin in 1924 and is the only child of Marlene Dietrich.  Maria performed in Germany and Italy as part of a USO troupe during World War II and taught acting at Fordham University upon her return to the United States.  She has performed on Broadway, radio, television, and film and has been nominated for an Emmy. Maria continues an active life in California and spends time visiting her sons and grandchildren. 

Enigma


Enigma by Catherine Coulter. New York: Gallery Books, 2017. 311 pages. ***** Published September 12, 2017.

In this latest FBI novel, Agents Savich and Sherlock race against time to free a pregnant woman held hostage by an armed stranger. When Savich saves Kara Moody from the crazy man who claims to be protecting her, Savich discovers a convoluted plot by a scientist to enable his father and others to live forever. At the same time, Wittier and Cabot track a violent criminal who has escaped during a well-planned rescue. Throw in the murder of the girlfriend of the President's Chief of Staff's only son and all bets are off.

Coulter once again delivers a heart-thumping, roller coaster of a ride. Her plots are involved and believable with likeable characters. This is her 21st FBI novel and I hope there will be many more from her. It's not easy to develop two plots simultaneously with strong alpha characters and create believable scenes and romantic situations. Make sure you have the time to finish this one once started because you are not going to want to put it down.

I received an ecopy for review.

Catherine Coulter is the New York Times bestselling author of 75 books. She lives in Sausalito, California. To learn more...http://www.catherinecoulter.com

8/5/17

A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere


A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere by Kris Radish. Tempe: Booksparks, 2017. 272 pages. ****
(Paperback- September 12th 2017.)

Briar Logan has finally found the love of her life only to see him kidnapped by lawless gold miners. Having survived a horrific childhood and life on the western frontier in the 1860s, Briar is determined to save her husband and return to the solace of their ranch. The harsh realities of the elements -- cold, snow, and gold thieves, whiskey runners, etc. force Briar to allow Jack and Percy to accompany her to the mines to save Logan. Jack, a damaged young man, and Percy, a notorious female horse trainer, prove their worth when Briar is injured and suffers a concussion. This unlikely trio forms a bond of love, courage, and resilience in an unforgiving world, however, is it enough to save Logan and bring him home?

Kris Radish's work always incorporates strong female characters. Pushed to their limits, they prove their worth in the face of extreme adversity. Every woman in the story has an important role in the survival of each other and Briar and Percy are no exceptions to this premise. I have liked her writing since the first book I read, The Elegant Gathering of White Snows. It's hard to believe that Kris is terrified of horses since Briar has a special relationship with her horse, Willow. This is a story of survival and love. Escapism at its best.

A received an ecopy for a review.

Kris Radish is the author of eleven novels and three works of nonfiction. A former journalist, nationally syndicated columnist, and university instructor, Radish is terrified of horses but has wanted to be a cowgirl her entire life. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, but readily admits her heart is in the mountains and the spirit of Mika is lurking her west. When she's not polishing her boots, Radish is working on a nonfiction book, a compilation of her poetry, her next two novels, and some really great stories to share around the campfire in Montana.

#historicalfiction #westernfrontierfiction