Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Us Against You by Frederik Backman

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I absolutely love the writing of Frederik Backman. His novel A MAN CALLED OVE made me both laugh and cry. His story of a hockey town in crisis, BEARTOWN, also made me cry. This summer he has a new novel out, a sequel to BEARTOWN, called US AGAINST YOU. It takes up the story of the families of Beartown and brings them through the next year as they continue to struggle and cope with the actions and activities of the past. Peter and Kira struggle with their marriage. Maya struggles with trying to live her life in the shadow of her assault. Leo struggles with adolescence. And throughout, the lives of these very ordinary people are set against the struggles of a hockey team (with a new coach) and the rivalry Beartown has with neighboring Hed. “Rivalry” might be too tame of a word for it, though.

One of Backman’s gifts as a writer is that he takes the very ordinary and makes it extraordinary. He can craft a simple moment and make it memorable; and he gets to the heart of emotion and humanity in doing so.

If you haven’t read Beartown, it makes most sense to read that novel first, but this can be a stand alone title as well.

Highly recommended! Thank you for my review e-copy from Net Galley!

Here’s the overview:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown returns with “a lyrical look at how a community heals, how families recover and how individuals grow” (The Washington Post).

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.

Here is a declaration of love for all the big and small, bright and dark stories that give form and color to our communities. With immense compassion and insight, Fredrik Backman reveals how loyalty, friendship, and kindness can carry a town through its most challenging days.

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The Good Twin by Marti Green

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A Note From the Publisher

Evil twins? Unreliable narrators? Double-crossing husbands who get their comeuppance??
Sign me up!
This was a fast and fun read that I was afraid would disappoint me, but didn’t!
Thank you for my e-copy!
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For My Ears: What I’ve Been Listening To…(it’s a lot!)

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Where would I be without audible during my daily commute (over an hour each way!) ??

I have listened to a LOT of really great reads this spring and have been so busy with work (and running around performing in a community theater production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame) that I haven’t posted recently about my listening finds.

Here’s what I’ve been spending my audible credits listening to:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a well-written, wrenching and vividly accurate portrayal of life for a black teenager, as she deals with her death of her close friend. It is superbly narrated by Bahni Turpin. A must read for teens and those who care about them, it’s on my 15 year old’s summer reading list and I’ve encouraged our school to incorporate it into our reading list.

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From Amazon:

Sixteen-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.

And don’t miss On the Come Up, Angie Thomas’s powerful follow-up to The Hate U Give.

One of Us Is Lying  by Karen M. McManus is a thoughtful and twisty mystery, as a group of teens grapple with the death of a classmate, which leaves them all suspects. Multiple narrators help keep the story straight as you listen (as they are in first person) and thankfully each chapter is headed by who is speaking. I figured it out in advance, but hey – I’m a teacher! 🙂 Great narration!

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The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention, and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday he died. But on Tuesday he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Cast of narrators:

Kim Mai Guest – Bronwyn
Shannon McManus – Andy
Robbie Daymond – Nate
Macleod Andrews – Cooper

Some Luck: A Novel by Jane Smiley is Ms. Smiley at her finest – telling an ordinary story about ordinary people that shows us just how extraordinary life can be. Her ability to take the simplest things – the dust floating in the air of the parlor, a mother tucking in her child at night, a man looking out over the  vast fields of his farm – and imbue them with a beauty and a life of their own, well, she is just simply extraordinary.

Ably narrated by Loralei King.

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From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: a powerful, engrossing new novel – the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America.

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart.

Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy – a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is a story of a Polish Jewish family during WWII. The family is divided and spread across the world in order to survive. In the end, they are reunited, and to be honest, I thought, “Well that could never happen, because the Jewish population of Poland was almost completely destroyed by Hitler’s forces.” Amazingly, the author’s note says that this is a true story of her family! Reading that at the end truly made my day. This is a wonderful story about the power of resiliency and the love of family. It is read by Kathleen Gati and Robert Fass.

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An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive – and to reunite.

It is the spring of 1939, and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable, and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.

A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports listeners from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow’s most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the 20th century’s darkest moment, the human spirit could find a way to survive and even triumph.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, and read by Julie Whelan, was a truly interesting and engaging read, following a family that moves “off the grid” to Alaska and the struggles they have, both physical and personal, to survive.

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This program is read by acclaimed narrator Julia Whelan, whose enchanting voice brought Gone Girl and Fates and Furies to life. Kristin Hannah reads the acknowledgments.

Alaska, 1974.

Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.

For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: He will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in 18 hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: They are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska – a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night audiobook about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and read by Mary Ann Lee, was a riveting, suspenseful story, some of which I was able to figure out, but some of which kept me guessing until the end. This is always a joy to have during a boring commute!

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For listeners of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in 36 languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: A twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening….

Anna Fox lives alone – a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times…and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble. And its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one – and nothing – is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is beautifully read by Caroline Lee and while it is a lot like the HBO series, the book is SO much better! A parent is murdered at a school function and the book works back in time to give the stories behind each of the main characters. This was the first read I’ve done by Ms. Moriarty, and I can see why she has a legion of fans.

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Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. The school principal is horrified. As police investigate what appears to have been a tragic accident, signs begin to indicate that this devastating death might have been cold-blooded murder.

In this thought-provoking novel, number-one New York Times best-selling author Liane Moriarty deftly explores the reality of parenting and playground politics, ex-husbands and ex-wives, and fractured families. And in her pitch-perfect way, she shows us the truth about what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

 

So — this is what I’ve been listening to. What do you have lately for your ears??

 

 

 

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The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

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I received this one a while ago through Net Galley. I love suspenseful reads! This one wasn’t a thriller, but more of a low grade suspense as I tried to figure everything out that was going on with all these characters! I was thinking while I read it that it reminded me of Big Little Lies, and I see that one of the “real” reviews made the same comparison.

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Recommended! Let me know if you read it. Thank you for my review copy!

 

 

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WILDWOOD by Elinor Florence

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I loved Elinor Florence’s Bird’s Eye View, so I was excited to see that she had a new book out: Wildwood. Wildwood tells the story of Molly Bannister, who leaves Arizona with her young daughter to go to northernmost Canada as she has inherited a farm from her great aunt. The conditions are: live on the farm for one year (no plumbing, no electricity) and then you can sell it. Molly needs money and the farm is prime land for oil fracking. She moves north (where it’s way colder than she’s ever experienced!) and slowly pioneers her way through the year, with four-year-old Bridget by her side. Finding her great aunt’s diary from her first year at Wildwood in the 20’s is an added bonus. Along the way, Molly begins to find that connecting with the land may be the best thing that has ever happened to her and her daughter.

I just loved this story – especially since I’m a big fan of a pioneer story and this one essentially had two in it: Molly’s and her great aunt’s. I loved how Molly was tough and self-sufficient, but also overwhelmed by the demands of living off the grid. Molly’s little girl, Bridget, is selective mute, something that is near and dear to me if you know me personally, and I loved the character of little Bridget. It was interesting to read about Canadian winter (I thought we had it bad in New England!) and the indigenous people of Canada as well.

Thank you so much for my review e-copy! I truly enjoyed it!!

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A Note From the Publisher

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I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

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When I was in my early twenties, I went through what I called my “Romanov stage”. I read every book in the library on the Romanovs and all the books about people who claimed to be Anastasia or Alexei rescued and grown. I was fascinated by their lifestyle and their tragic story, and I wanted so much to think that one of those beautiful children had survived and was alive and well.
This story had me at the title. I love Lawhon’s writing and have read all her other novels. The timeline was unique: Anastasia’s story starts with her family’s imprisonment and continues to their last days and the tragedy in the cellar. Anna’s story starts with the near present and moves backward to that same period.
You can tell that Ms. Lawhon spent her time researching not only the details, but the personalities and characteristics of the characters of this novel, from the sisters to Alexei to the servants.
A sad yet unforgettable read — especially for those, like me, who once went through an “Anastasia phase”.
Thank you for my review e-copy via Net Galley!
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THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV by Elizabeth Berg

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I think I’ve read everything that Elizabeth Berg has written and I’ve loved it all. Thus, I was excited to see that she had a new novel out and I could get it via Net Galley.

The Story of Arthur Truluv was a sweet and touching story that had me both laughing and crying. It reminded me a bit of “A Man Called Ove”, and I loved that novel as well.

Here’s the overview:

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I loved these characters so much, but especially Arthur. Elizabeth Berg has done it again, writing a beautiful novel with memorable characters and a resounding message.
Thank you for my review e-copy!
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For My Ears: ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman

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So I had heard about this book as folks chatted about it in the blogisphere. Everyone seemed to love it, so I was immediately suspicious. I find that if everyone loooooves a book, I can’t stand it. Then I end up feeling rather clumsy and socially awkward, like something is wrong with me. However, I got this one with my audible credit and listened to it during my commute. At first I was wondering where it was going, but then I was drawn in and grew to love Eleanor and Raymond and Eleanor’s story. I ended up laughing and cheering and crying and generally being a possible road hazard. It was also delightfully read by Cathleen McCarron and I loved her accent.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes…

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

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For My Ears: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE by Elizabeth Strout

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I really loved OLIVE KITTERIDGE and I enjoyed MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, so I knew I would like ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Elizabeth Strout is a master storyteller. She makes the ordinary extraordinary with her subtle emphasis on details. She creates and fleshes out characters like no other author; and she does it through simple prose. She is amazing.

Like her earlier books, it’s hard to describe her novels and make them sound amazing (or even interesting). This one tells the stories of people who touched the life of Lucy Barton. Sounds like a snooze fest, but it wasn’t. I laughed. I cried. I listened to it while commuting and I didn’t mind the drive! (It was superbly read by Kimberly Farr). I got mine through Audible. It will be one of my top books of 2018.

Here’s the overview:

An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss in this new work of fiction by number one best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout.

Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.

Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother’s happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author’s celebrated New York Times best seller) returns to visit her siblings after 17 years of absence.

Reverberating with the deep bonds of family and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout’s place as one of America’s most respected and cherished authors.

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Christmas on the Coast by Rebecca Boxall

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This was one of my many holiday reading picks from Net Galley this year. I really enjoyed this story that jumped between current day and WWII, as a woman reads her great-aunt diary.

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