Beartown by Fredrik Backman

The Widow of Wall Street

The Widow of Wall Street
The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers

Monday, May 22, 2017

Beartown by Fredrik Backman- Feature and Review


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: Beartown

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beartown by Fredrik Backman is a 2017 Simon & Schuster publication.

If you are honest, people may deceive you. Be honest anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway. All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Fredrik Backman won me over with ‘Brit- Marie was Here”. I have since read most of his other books, or at least have them in my ‘to read’ list, which means I feel I have become accustomed to the author’s style of writing by now.

However, when this book was released, gossip and loud whispers suggested this one may be a little bit of a departure from what I was used to. However, I trusted the author enough not to let that deter me.

Still, even with those advanced warnings, I found myself ill prepared for the deep impact this novel would have on me.

Hockey is the life blood for ‘Beartown’, a small community without much else going for it. While, hockey is ‘just a game’, it takes on new connotations in Beartown.

The junior team is preparing for the semi-finals, and the entire town is beside itself over it. The story centers around the team, the coaches, and their families who are affected by the town’s fever pitch excitement.

We know something went horribly awry from the very beginning. This knowledge creates a sinister and edgy feeling that followed me from start to finish. I understood the mentality of the hockey enthusiast, not because I know the first thing about hockey, because I don’t, but because I’ve seen that type of hysteria first hand in my own hometown, only with football being the sport of choice.

 That a sport can become like a God to be worshiped, that it is responsible for keeping the town afloat, by becoming a source of influx of revenue, it’s success making or breaking the livelihood of the coaches and their families, and being responsible for the morale of the residents in general, is distressing. But, to see kids living their lives without a spotlight on the arts or education, or presented with other opportunities is sad enough, but also seeing them forced into carrying such a heavy burden on their young shoulders is a disturbing and troubling setup.

However, not everyone is defined by the game of hockey in Beartown. Ironically, they seem to end up being the ones impacted by it the most.

Despite the much darker tone of the novel and the high pitch emotions involved, it is important to see the loyalty, the integrity, the courage and intelligence of those who stand up for what is right, consequences be damned. It is uplifting to see family stick by each other, to see those priorities in place, to see rock solid friendships, unlikely heroes, and unconditional love at its finest.

The cast of characters still embodies the author’s trademark quirkiness at times, but in this novel he doesn’t mask the sadness, anger, or other emotions behind the offbeat charm or dysfunction of the characters, like we’ve seen in the past. To do otherwise would have been an injustice to this story and I feel the author approached this material soberly, handled it with great care and precision, and nailed the situations, as they played out in an all too realistic fashion.

The justice we all feel is necessary doesn’t take place in the orthodox way, but in some ways the powerful equalizer that takes its place is enough to satisfy me. I liked the ending, was pleased by the way things worked out, and the powerful way the author allowed the suspense to build to an almost unbearable pitch while soothingly assuring us all will be well.

I’m not a person who believes an author must write one dimensional material. It’s sad that some readers insist they do, often complaining that one book is not exactly like the others he or she as written. I love it when an author steps out and broadens their scope. Sometimes it fails spectacularly, but sometimes it catapults them to an entirely new level.

With Beartown, Fredrik Backman has done just that.



Fredrik Backman, a blogger and columnist, is the New York Times bestselling author of A MAN CALLED OVE and MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY. Both were number one bestsellers in his native Sweden and around the world, and are being published in more than thirty five territories. His latest novel is BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE. He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children. Visit him online at his blog:, on twitter @backmanland, or on instagram @backmansk.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guilded Cage by Vic James- Feature and Review


A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke


Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge. 

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution. 

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts. 

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?





Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)Gilded Cage by Vic James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Gilded Cage by Vic James is a 2017 Del Ray publication.

Those who follow my reviews will notice there is a conspicuous absence of anything young adult, or dystopian on my reading list.

Neither of these genres appeals to me all that much, so I’ve pretty much avoided anything that reeks of YA or dystopian themes, despite their extreme popularity.

However, this one came highly recommended to me and the premise sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a go, with a very cautiously optimistic mindset.

The novel is set in Britain, in an alternate dystopian realm, where there are ‘equals’, a small group of people who usually have ‘skills’, running the country. Any of the remaining population born without ‘skills’ are forced to spend a decade of their lives serving ‘slave days’. Those who complete the ‘days’ have better opportunities in life once they have served their time.

Abi’s plan was to have her family, as a complete unit, serve their decade together, so that they could look forward to a better future. But, you know what they say about the best made plans.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is separated from the family, and forced to work hard labor, while the rest of the family got cushy jobs by comparison.

Abi swears she will find a way to free Luke of his circumstances, but the family gets swept away by ‘palace intrigue', while Luke becomes a part of a resistance movement.

The story switches back and for the between Abi’s and Luke’s perspective situations, building the suspense against an obvious politically charged atmosphere. The author does an excellent job of creating vivid descriptions and scenery, as well as the taut edginess that surrounds the Hadley family as they adjust to their new surroundings and learn the lay of the land. However, there were many characters, some without much development, but in a way that did mask the true nature of some of them, which kept me from figuring out hidden motives, and from the ability to fully trust any of them.

Yet, the story did get a little messy in spots, but rebounded quite nicely to conclude with a few stunning developments which commanded my rapt attention.

With a sense of duty and fair play, I feel I should warn you, although you probably already know, that this is a trilogy, which means a continuing storyline, aka, cliffhanger. In any other genre, that wouldn’t fly with me, but in these situations, it’s pretty much a given, so I wasn’t surprised or angered by it.

This is a debut novel, and as such, the author made a terrific first impression. I fully intend on completing the series and eagerly await the second installment!!

I think this book is true to the genre, but is also an unusual and fresh approach to the dystopian novel. Fans of this genre should gobble this one up enthusiastically, but this novel does have the potential for a wider appeal, outside its core fan base. So, even if this type of book is not your usual cuppa, I think you might find yourself very intrigued by it



Vic lives in London’s Notting Hill, but her life is more action-adventure than rom-com.

She studied History and English at Merton College, Oxford where Tolkien was once professor. Relocating to Rome, she completed her doctorate in the Vatican Secret Archives (they’re nothing like The Da Vinci Code), then spent five years living in Tokyo where she learned Japanese and worked as a journalist. She now writes full time.

Vic has scuba-dived on Easter Island, camped at Everest Base Camp, voyaged on one of the last mailboats to St Helena, hang-glided across Rio de Janeiro, and swum the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. But there’s little she loves more than lying in bed till midday with a good book and a supply of her favourite biscuits.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane- Feature and Review


Rachel's husband adores her. When she hit rock-bottom, he was there with her every step of the way as she slowly regained her confidence, and her sanity. But his mysterious behaviour forces her to probe for the truth about her beloved husband.
How can she feel certain that she ever knew him?
And was she right to ever trust him
Bringing together Dennis Lehane's trademark insightful and emphathetic characterisation, razor-sharp dialogue, stunning atmosphere and break-neck twists and turns, Since We Fell is a true masterpiece that will keep you in suspense until the very end.



Since We FellSince We Fell by Dennis Lehane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane is a 2017 Little, Brown Book Group publication.

Rachel has been through some pretty hard times in her life. She started suffering panic attacks early on, but while covering the Haitian earthquake, she has an on air meltdown, which leads to agoraphobia, the end of her career, and finally a divorce.

But when she miraculously encounters Brian, an old acquaintance, the couple begins a sweet relationship that eventually leads to marriage. Although Brian’s work requires him to travel often, he is so patient and their marriage is so solid, Rachel begins to slowly venture out again.

It is on one such rare outing, that Rachel’s entire life turns on a dime, prompting her to take a closer look at the man she married. Soon the rock solid trust she had with her husband is shaken to the core.

Should she be suspicious of Brian? Rachel won’t rest until she knows the answer to that question. Her investigation soon lures her into an incredible, and clever, cat and mouse game she is ill equipped to handle, but which could give her confidence and courage she didn’t know she was capable of.

Throw out all preconceived notions you have about this book. If you go into it expecting Mystic River, or a Kenzie & Gennaro type novel, you will rob yourself of the unique genius this story offers.

This book is one part character study and one part literary thriller/ psychological suspense. The story gets off to a bit of a sluggish start, but if you just sit back and allow yourself to be taken along where ever the author leads, before you know it, you will find yourself totally immersed in an absorbingly complex tale, with smart twists and turns, that keep those pages turning and your mind racing to keep up.

For those seeking a smart crime thriller, once the stage is set, you will love the atmosphere, and all the intrigue, action and suspense. For those looking for the literary side of the story, you will love the deep and surprising characterizations, which spotlights the amazing and surprising parts of themselves that people keep hidden from sight. Rachel’s character is central, as we watch a woman coping with intense, paralyzing fear, who has such a sensitive nature, go through an unbelievable metamorphosis.

Combining the character study with the literary prose, wrapping it up inside a dark and twisty, yet very stylish and polished caper -like thriller, is quite a unique experience. I thought it turned out quite nicely.

If you like crime drama, or smart literary thrillers, you can't go wrong with Dennis Lehane.



Dennis Lehane (born Aug 4th, 1966) is an American author. He has written several novels, including the New York Times bestseller Mystic River, which was later made into an Academy Award winning film, also called Mystic River, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon (Lehane can be briefly seen waving from a car in the parade scene at the end of the film). The novel was a finalist for the PEN/Winship Award and won the Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best Novel, the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction, and France's Prix Mystere de la Critique. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Heart of Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery by James W. Ziskin- Feature and Review


In the waning days of a lazy August holiday, Ellie Stone is enjoying a bright Adirondack-lake morning. Nearby, two men plummet to their deaths just a few feet short of the water of a dangerous diving pool. A tragic accident, it seems. But the state police quickly establish that the two victims--one, a stranger to the lake and, the other, a teenaged boy from a nearby music camp--surely didn't know each other. That anomaly is strange enough, but what really perplexes Ellie is the out-of-place station wagon parked twenty yards from the edge of the cliff.

Wading into a slippery morass of fellow travelers, free-love intellectuals, rabid John Birchers, and charismatic evangelicals, Ellie must navigate old grudges and Cold War passions, lost ideals and betrayed loves. She sticks her nose where it's unwanted, rattling nerves and putting herself in jeopardy. But this time, it's her heart that's at risk.



Heart of Stone (Ellie Stone Mysteries #4)Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin is a 2016 Seventh Street Books publication.

It’s summer in the Adirondacks, where Ellie is visiting her delightful aunt for a while. She is instantly drawn into a murder case when the inept and the disgusting chief of police asks her to take photographs of two dead bodies, the victims of a cliff diving accident. However, the circumstances are questionable enough to ping Ellie’s radar.

I enjoyed the change of scenery in this fourth installment of the series, and the musical elements, as well. Ellie’s character is slightly less morose here as she enjoys a little vacation time and connects with old friends. But, her need to discover the truth behind these tragic deaths, which leads her to a few very shocking and painful revelations.

Ellie, in a short span of time, has become one of my favorite amateur sleuths. Her character carves out opportunities for women in a field dominated by men, she has an open mind and heart, and feels things deeply. The mystery, while it seems like an open and shut case, turns out to be much more complex and is a real head scratcher. Again, the details, descriptions, characters and dialogue is crisp and sharp.

This is another fantastic chapter in the series!




February 1962: Tony Eberle has just scored his first role in a Hollywood movie, and the publisher of his hometown newspaper in upstate New York wants a profile of the local boy who's made good. Reporter Ellie Stone is dispatched to Los Angeles for the story. But when she arrives on set to meet her subject, Tony has vanished. The director is apoplectic, Tony’s agent is stumped, and the producer is found murdered.
     Ellie is on the story, diving headfirst into a treacherous demimonde of Hollywood wannabes, beautiful young men, desperately ambitious ingĂ©nues, panderers, and pornography hobbyists. Then there are some real movie stars with reputations to protect. To find the killer, Ellie must separate the lies from the truth, unearthing secrets no one wants revealed along the way. But before she can solve the producer’s murder, she must locate Tony Eberle.



Edgar, Anthony, Barry, and Lefty Award Nominee, James W. Ziskin is the author of the Ellie Stone Mysteries. 

HEART OF STONE, finalist for the 2017 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original
HEART OF STONE, finalist for the 2017 Lefty Award for Best Mystery Novel
STONE COLD DEAD, finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original
STONE COLD DEAD, finalist for the 2016 Barry Award for Best Paperback Original
STONE COLD DEAD, finalist for the 2016 Lefty Award for Best World Mystery Novel
NO STONE UNTURNED, finalist for the 2015 Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original

Monday, May 15, 2017

On Tyranny- Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder- Feature and Review


An historian of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.

On November 9th, millions of Americans woke up to the impossible: the election of Donald Trump as president. Against all predictions, one of the most-disliked presidential candidates in history had swept the electoral college, elevating a man with open contempt for democratic norms and institutions to the height of power.

Timothy Snyder is one of the most celebrated historians of the Holocaust. In his books Bloodlands and Black Earth, he has carefully dissected the events and values that enabled the rise of Hitler and Stalin and the execution of their catastrophic policies. With Twenty Lessons, Snyder draws from the darkest hours of the twentieth century to provide hope for the twenty-first. As he writes, “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism and communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.”

Twenty Lessons is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.



On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth CenturyOn Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder is a 2017 Tim Duggan Books publication.

As a Professor of History at Yale University, Professor Snyder uses his expertise to lay out the importance of learning from the mistakes made throughout history, and to warn against a cavalier attitude towards the strength of our own democracy.

The author lists habits we need to develop, and continually practice, in order to protect ourselves and our country, from falling prey to tyrannical regimes. He teaches us how to pick up on subtle changes, and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of tyranny and authoritarianism. He also advises us on what to do or not to do if the worst does happen.

Naturally, the release of this book begs many people in the United States to make comparisons to our current political climate. But, the trouble isn’t simply one for America. The current trend towards nationalism will remind many of another time when “America First” was a slogan and how the isolationism the world was gripped in was the perfect set up for powerful dictators and of course, we all know how that turned out. Still, we have often believed those days are long over with, and our democracy would never again regress or weaken.

Many have used this book to make comparisons between Trump and Hitler, which the author doesn’t discourage out of hand, but, the book was not written solely for that purpose. The book teaches that democracies can fail, and how they fail, and the lessons we should learn from history and those failures.

The lessons outlined here include many habits we should form and stick to, no matter how progressive or peaceful things are in our country or with our relationships with other countries.

I personally believe our complacency in taking for granted our democracy is safe, is a dangerous attitude to adopt, under any circumstances.

I didn’t always agree with everything the author suggested. I’m an extreme introvert, so I doubt I will ever force myself to 'get out there' and 'engage in small talk'. I also enjoy social media, like Goodreads, for example, and I love technologies and the internet, so again, I doubt I will ever deliberately dial back my time spent online.

However, many of the other suggestions the author urges the reader to try, are things I already do. I don’t have cable, so mainstream media talking heads aren’t constantly infiltrating my head, which keeps those trendy catchphrases out of my vocabulary as well. I read print papers, and read lots and lots of books, which is advice I can get behind.

The author does offer up a few suggested fiction and nonfiction titles that tie into his philosophies, and I do intend to read a few of them.

I believe the author offers sound advice. If you learn the mistakes made by failed democracies, learn your history, make yourself aware, learn to think for yourself, I believe you will have equipped yourself with enough intellect and armor to make informed choices and be prepared for the worst case scenario.

“If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny”

I hope people will not view this book simply as a comparison between Trump and Hitler, because while it may be difficult not to make those parallels right now, this book is one that reminds us that ‘History doesn’t repeat, but it does instruct’. It is a book that will be important, and relevant, not just for the here and now, but for all future eras of time, as well.



Timothy Snyder is Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. He has held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard.

His most recent book is Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, published in September 2015 by Crown Books. He is author also of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010), a history of Nazi and Soviet mass killing on the lands between Berlin and Moscow. A New York Times bestseller and a book of the year according to The Atlantic, The Independent, The Financial Times, the Telegraph, and the New Statesman, it has won twelve awards including the Emerson Prize in the Humanities, a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Leipzig Award for European Understanding, and the Hannah Arendt Prize in Political Thought.

His other award-winning publications include Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (1998); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (2003); Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist's Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (2005); The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of A Habsburg Archduke (2008), and Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010).

Snyder helped Tony Judt to compose a thematic history of political ideas and intellectuals in politics, Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012). He is also the co-editor of Stalin and Europe: Terror, War, Domination and Wall Around the West: State Power and Immigration Controls in Europe and North America (2001).

Snyder was the recipient of an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2015. He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and sits on the advisory council of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research Research.

He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in modern East European political history.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day from the The Book Review


Friday, May 12, 2017

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore- Feature and Review


The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice...

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.




The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining WomenThe Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore is a 2017 Sourcebooks publication.

“Luminous Processes, declared the local paper, seems to put profits before people.”
‘How quickly we forget.’

Only the most hard -hearted among us could read this book without shedding tears. So be warned this book is not for the faint of heart and while the bravery of these young ladies is certainly inspirational, the anger and frustration I felt about their untimely and excruciating deaths left me feeling emotionally and physically exhausted.

The author has obviously done meticulous research about the women who worked for the Radiant Dial Corporation and the United States Radium Corporation beginning in 1917.

The practice of ‘dip, lip, paint’, which was encouraged by the factory, to prevent waste, and to give the brush a sharper point, but exposed the women, who painted luminous dials on watches, with deadly radium. The factories were so popular, due to the wages, which were well above average, and because of the ‘glow’ the women had due to the radium exposure, which they were assured was perfectly safe. Some of the women even painted the substance onto their faces to see themselves glow in the dark.

Five women in particular stood out, as they battled what was termed ‘occupational diseases’, taking their case to court, but there were many more. The court cases were long, hard fought, and had many disappointments before all was said and done. It was a hard battle which lasted for many years, but the effects lingered on for these ladies’ offspring, for years to come.

But, the author really excelled at bringing these women to life, giving them a voice, so to speak. All these women were so very young, so full of life and hope. To hear, in horrific detail, their pain and suffering made for some very difficult reading. Catherine Wolfe Donohoe is one that stood out for me, with her loyal husband, Tom.

The suffering these women endured, was gruesome and unimaginable. Again, I warn you, this material is very graphic, and the author drives this point home with such vividness, I swear my joints and teeth ached.

This is a battle that waged for many years, with the factories refusing to accept that the radium was dangerous, then trying to hide that it was dangerous, by any means.

This is a painful story, one that highlights greed and deceit, but also proves what can happen if you stand up for yourself, speak out, and refuse to give up. The women featured here saved countless lives, while giving their own.

This is a powerful, gut wrenching story, and it’s one that has played out in various forms, since the years highlighted here, with various companies hiding dangers or releasing flawed products onto an unsuspecting public.

These women should never be forgotten and their bravery should set a shining example for anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation. You never know, you may, like the women featured in this book, bring about new standards of health and safety, expose dangers, and force accountability on those only concerned about their own bottom line.

Bravo to Madeline Piller, whose championed these ladies by raising funds for a bronze statue honoring these brave women. The statue was unveiled in 2011, in Ottawa, Illinois.

5 stars




 Kate Moore is the author of more than fifteen books across the genres of gift, humor, biography, history, and children's brand publishing. She is a multiple Sunday Times bestselling author.  Her work has been published in national newspapers, translated into more than twelve languages, used in national advertising campaigns and performed at the South Bank Centre, London.