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review 2017-04-26 04:27
Anything is Possible
Anything Is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

By: Elizabeth Strout

ISBN: 9780812989403

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 4/25/2017  

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars +

 
From the author of My Name is Lucy Barton and the smashing hit Olive Kitteridge the HBO mini-series starring Frances McDormand (I loved) — Elizabeth Strout once again "wows" readers and her avid fans, with her insights into the human psyche — when ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Extraordinary novels, deftly combining lyrical prose with heartrending subject matter. A desperate need to be understood and accepted.

Compelling! Nine powerful and emotional stories. Grace and forgiveness. Flawed people who have experienced tragedy and haunting childhoods, abuse, mental illness, injustice, poverty, bullying, regrets, torment, war trauma, imploding lives, marriage problems, and severe loss.

People who hide behind social status. A sense of entitlement. Those who have survived and yet still remain with their own scars. There have been deep fissures in each of these families. The cracks. Some have been pushed to the breaking point, with shattering, unforeseeable consequences.

If you read My Name Is Lucy Barton (highly recommend), you may be rushing back to the title to refresh yourself, as I found myself doing.

Lucy came from a poor and dysfunctional family. She was determined and managed to escape the small town of Amgash, IL. She was diligent and became a successful author. She ultimately forgave her parents.

However, the scars of her past and the people who shaped her life, and the way she was treated by her family, siblings, and people of this town have haunted her.

Strout takes us back to some of the characters, cousins, family members, neighbors, school classmates, and siblings. We learn of the heartaches and fears, the narrow-minded thinking of these people. Where are these people today? Discovering how harsh words and actions stay with people. A profound message.

Even when someone succeeds, there are those who try and tear down the things we are most proud of. Each story sends a powerful message. Who do they blame? Are they accountable for their actions?

Broken people. Such hope for us all if only can learn to communicate. Not only with our families but the people whom we come in contact with on a daily basis. Intuitive. Being able to help those who need someone to care.

We can see from the outside a dysfunctional family can fall prey to those in a small town who do not really understand what's going on with the family as a whole, or those that make up the family (s).

We each have our own favorite stories in the collection. I enjoyed the story of Tommy, Pete, Patty, and Lucy’s return to town which did not go as expected when Vicky (sister) brings up the horrors of the past and Lucy has a panic attack driving her away. I also enjoyed the people from her past which showed up at her book signing.

Family dysfunction, problems, and crossing social classes; people are mean and they are ugly. A cruel world and Strout does not hold back. A reminder to us all. One act of compassion, caring, or kindness can make all the difference in the word.

The characters in the nine stories are shaped and at the same time, haunted by their past. They still feel trapped by the difficulties in their present day relationships and their inability to say how they truly feel. The author is a master at drawing you into the lives of her characters as she weaves in her powerful observations of human complexities and interactions. From anger, frustration, and bullying mixed with fear and cruelty.

I love this stand-out author! Her writing just keeps getting better and betters. Beautifully written, with each book I read, it makes me return to re-read or perhaps one I missed. Strout is authentic, prolific, and has mastered her skilled craft at getting inside her character’s heads, heart, and soul. They come alive on the page. ?

If you come from a small town and you happen to be the one who left and got away (I am) and became successful— you will resonate with these stories. Often those left behind are often bitter and resentful, and lash out in hateful ways and try to destroy another’s happiness when they do not have the facts. Their views are narrow and they do not think big and wide outside the box. They could have made the choice to leave. Everyone has choices. How hard do we want to strive for a better life is the question.

If you have not watched Olive Kitteridge I highly recommend. I want to watch it over and over. It stays with you. I am hoping we will get to see Anything is Possible and My Name is Lucy Barton, will be played out on the big screen. These are powerful stories that people can connect with on many levels.

There is always hope, forgiveness, and love amidst the imperfections. We are reminded that in life Anything is Possible!

For me the Washington Post article by Susan Scarf Merrell offers the perfect summary of ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE:

. . . “These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else, which is to render quiet portraits of the indignities and disappointments of normal life, and the moments of grace and kindness we are gifted in response.

Such a simple goal, so difficult to achieve. Each of these stories stands alone, but they are richer in juxtaposition to the others. And that’s because over the years, from angle after angle, Strout has been packing and unpacking how silence works — between people, within a single person, on the page, in the spaces between stories.

Omission is where you find what makes a writer a writer; it is in the silences where forgiveness and wisdom grow, and it is where Strout’s art flourishes. This new book pushes that endeavor even further.” . . . Read More


Well said. I just purchased Amy and Isabelle and Abide with Me audiobooks, I missed along the way. Highly recommend this author.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in." —Leonard Cohen

This book reminds me of a plaque I have on my desk:
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
I am reminded of this each time I return to my small hometown and family. Fans of Fredrik Backman will enjoy the exploration of small town characters and the examination of the fragile human spirit.

A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/01/Anything-Is-Possible
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review 2017-04-23 04:12
Beartown
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

By: Fredrik Backman 

ISBN: 978-1501160769

Publisher: Atria

Publication Date: 4/25/2017

Format:  Hardcover 

My Rating:  5 Stars

 

This author has a knack for "Best Books To Tug At Your Heart Strings."

Talented storyteller, Fredrick Backman returns following the novella (2016), And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: (A small book with a BIG message ), with his latest powerful story, BEARTOWN — A Swedish dying hockey town. A town of stories. A town of secrets.

High-expectations. Burdens. Pressures. A town which relies on the sport and its youth to pull them through. Some people have the "bear" in them.

Beartown isn’t close to anything. The town is losing. It has been a very long time since it won at anything. The town slogan, “Beartown Leaves You Wanting More.” The wind, snow, and weather have since wiped out the word “more.”

The ice hockey stands are packed every weekend, even though the team’s achievements have collapsed in line with the town’s economy. A small town with big dreams. A community. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden to carry, for all concerned.

There are also those from the Hollow. Those less fortunate. How do those from different social classes stack up?

“Hockey is both complicated and not complicated at all. It can be hard to understand the rules, challenging to live with the culture, as good as impossible to get all the people who love it not to pull so hard in different directions that it breaks . . . “

This is why everyone hopes that when the team’s fortune improves, the rest of the town will get pulled up along with it. Their motto has been: "Word hard, take the knocks, don’t complain, keep your mouth shut, and show the bastards in the big cities where they are from."

Once upon a time, Beartown Ice Hockey’s A-team was one step above the juniors and second best in the top division in the country. That was more than two decades and three divisions ago, and now Beartown will go up against the best once again. A win means something for the town’s economy. Survival.

“The sport demands only one thing from you. Your all.“

Maya hates hockey but understands her father (Peter)’s love for it. Peter had made it all the way to Canada and the NHL, matching up against the best in the world. He had come home to take over the team. Peter and his wife, Kira (attorney) have their own grief from the past. Does family mean more than sports, a town, a community's survival?

When the star player on the hockey team, whom everyone looks up to is accused of rape, the town is devastated. The guy on the pedestal. Who would dare take him down?

"It’s only a game. It can only change people’s lives. "

A hidden crime. One that could change lives. There are secrets and lies among friends, family, teens, husbands, and wives.

Backman reaches down into the soul and hearts of his characters and the human psyche. He takes his flawed characters to the dark places and brings hope. They become heroes. As with all his books, readers will find themselves bookmarking many passages, with this bold story of friendship and family bonds; ultimately one of redemption. Rich in character and the true meaning of family.

From loyalty, betrayal, and courage.

Backman's writing is lyrical, poignant, and thought-provoking. Highly emotional and insightful; part coming-of-age and a cautionary tale for both parents and teens; the consequences of carrying other’s dreams on our shoulders.

 



Have read all his books and highly recommend each one.
A Man Called Ove
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Britt-Marie Was Here
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

 

Best Novella of 2016

A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an early reading copy. (always love his quirky covers). Also purchased the audiobook.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 

 

PRAISE FOR BEARTOWN

“Like Friday Night Lights, this is about more than youth sports; it's part coming-of-age novel, part study of moral failure, and finally a chronicle of groupthink in which an unlikely hero steps forward to save more than one person from self-destruction. A thoroughly empathetic examination of the fragile human spirit, Backman's latest will resonate a long time.”—Kirkus Reviews

 

“Lest readers think hockey is the star here, it’s Backman’s rich characters that steal the show, and his deft handling of tragedy and its effects on an insular town. While the story is dark at times, love, sacrifice, and the bonds of friendship and family shine through ultimately offering hope and even redemption.”—Publishers Weekly

 

“The sentimentally savvy Backman takes a sobering and solemn look at the ways alienation and acceptance, ethics and emotions nearly destroy a small town and young people.”
Booklist

 

 

About the Author

 

 

Fredrik Backman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, as well as a novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. His books are being published around the world in more than thirty-five languages.

 

He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.  Read More 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/01/Beartown
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review 2017-04-19 05:40
Review: A Teaspoon of Trouble by Shirley Jump
A Teaspoon of Trouble (Bachelor Bake-Off, #1) - Shirley Jump

http://witandsin.blogspot.com/2017/04/review-teaspoon-of-trouble-by-shirley.html

 

Carolyn’s life was turned upside-down when her sister died. Now the successful New York City chef finds herself guardian to her four-year-old niece who comes with a disobedient dog, and that’s on top of grieving herself. In an attempt to sort out her life, Carolyn travels to her parents’ house in the small town of Marietta…a place Carolyn couldn’t get away from fast enough once upon a time. Coming home was never in Carolyn’s plan, and neither was getting knocked off her feet by her first love, the seriously handsome veterinarian Matthew West. Matthew’s got the skills to solve Carolyn’s easiest problem – the dog she can’t seem to control – and in turn she can help him learn to bake for the Bachelor Bake-Off. The only problem is, the longer Carolyn’s around Matthew, the more old feelings come to the surface. But she’s got a life in New York and a traumatized little girl on her hands who she has no idea how to mother. She simply doesn’t have time for falling in love with Matthew all over again. Too bad for Carolyn, her heart has different ideas than her brain…

A Teaspoon of Trouble is an interesting story. I loved that author Shirley Jump wasn’t afraid to deliver a struggling, flawed heroine. Carolyn was definitely my favorite thing about this book because she was so imperfect. She’s grieving, overwhelmed, and her whole life plan has just changed. She doesn’t automatically know how to become a mother to her niece, even though she loves the girl. She doesn’t want to give up the career she worked so hard for. She doesn’t want to stay in her idyllic hometown. In other words, she’s realistic and relatable, for better or worse. I could have read a whole book about Carolyn’s personal journey because there’s quite a bit of depth to her and she has a heck of a lot on her plate.

As much as I liked Carolyn, wanted to see her find love with Matthew, and for the two of them and her niece to become a family, the romance is where A Teaspoon of Trouble fell short for me. Matthew is a too-perfect hero who is definitely dreamy, but I would have loved more depth to him (or at least a flaw or two). He’s never fallen out of love with Carolyn and if the story hadn’t taken place directly after the death of Carolyn’s sister and the resulting upending of her entire life, I would have been more at ease with their fairly light romance. But the love story felt more like an afterthought to the beginnings of a much deeper book. Had the story been longer, perhaps the romance could have developed more organically. The bones of an entertaining romance were there (Matthew is a seriously hot guy who is good with kids and dogs, after all), but it just didn’t meet its potential. As it stands, I did enjoy Carolyn’s journey and the romance was sweet, if rushed, so I’d say I liked A Teaspoon of Trouble overall.

Source: witandsin.blogspot.com/2017/04/review-teaspoon-of-trouble-by-shirley.html
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review 2017-04-17 02:42
Review: A Recipe for Romance by Lara Van Hulzen
A Recipe for Romance - Lara Van Hulzen

http://witandsin.blogspot.com/2017/04/review-recipe-for-romance-by-lara-van.html

 

A Recipe for Romance is a Hallmark movie-ready story. It’s sweet, has picture-perfect characters, and the story has a reliable, satisfying plot. It’s not the freshest story out there, but it has charm and is a cozy read.

Noelle is a former ballet dancer looking for a fresh start after a tragedy turned her life upside down. She’s sweet and caring, and I definitely liked her, but I wanted to delve more into her character, her past… I wanted something that made her stand out to me. As for Wes, he’s a bit too boilerplate billionaire for my personal preferences. He’s rich, handsome, is intrigued by Noelle because she’s not interested in his money, and he can be the knight in shining armor with the wealth and power to save the damsel in distress from losing her business. It’s a story I’ve read a dozen times before and unfortunately author Lara Van Hulzen doesn’t add a fresh twist to liven the story up. That being said, A Recipe for Romance isn’t a bad book – not in the slightest. There’s nothing to dislike about it and it’s a fast and sweet read when you’re looking for something light with a satisfying happily ever after.

A Recipe for Romance is the fifth book in the multi-author Bachelor Bake-Off series, but it can easily be read as a standalone. As relative newcomers to Marietta, neither Wes nor Noelle had much of a connection to the town, which was a bit of a bummer for a small town romance. Still, while this book wasn’t exactly my cup of tea I will say that it’s sweet and the romance is light and lovely. And if Ms. Van Hulzen writes a book for Wes’s widower brother, Mike, I will definitely be first in line for that tale. Mike stole the show for me every time he appeared on the page, and I hope Ms. Van Hulzen has a happily ever after waiting for him.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Source: witandsin.blogspot.com/2017/04/review-recipe-for-romance-by-lara-van.html
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review 2017-04-15 18:10
For police procedural lovers looking for characters they can relate to. And some great secondary players.
Marred - Sue Coletta

I’m reviewing this book as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and was provided with a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Sue Coletta’s Wings of Mayhem, book one in The Mayhem Series (check the review here), and was impressed and intrigued. Now, on the occasion of the launch of the second book in the Grafton County Series, Cleaved (yes, I’m reading and reviewing that too, try and stop me!) I managed to catch up with the author’s first book in that series, that chronicles the lives of Sage and Niko Quintano, a couple who now live in Grafton County, New Hampshire, where they took refuge after something horrific happened to Sage. Niko is the new sheriff and Sage is a successful author of crime novels, although, unfortunately, she ends up playing the part of the victim in real life more than once.

Sage and Niko are trying to recover from their personal tragedy, as Sage lost a baby she was carrying when she was assaulted but they are both keeping things from each other, in an attempt at protecting the other. During the book, they’ll realise they are stronger together and the best way to beat evil is to be honest with each other and to share the truth, however hard it might be to hear.

The novel has strong elements of the police procedural genre. Niko is an accomplished detective, although sometimes hindered by his personal feelings and his inability to see and accept the unacceptable, and as there are not as many crime fighting means in a small town, he gets to share his expertise (his training one of the deputies gives the reader the perfect opportunity to eavesdrop and learn, although it might be a bit too much detail for those with no appetite for the grosser things in the art of detecting) on issues such as blood spatter and how to process a crime scene. Frankie, his fiery and fashion conscious deputy, is a fabulous character who takes no prisoners and tolerates no fools. Sadly, that means she has little opportunity for career advancement, as tact is not her strong suit, but through the novel, we get to understand her better, see her softer side, and she’s great at one-liners and gritty and witty repartees. Although Niko might complain about Frankie’s evident disdain for authority, he enjoys the banter and their relationship is one of the fun and lighter elements in the novel. The crimes are gruesome, bizarre and puzzling, as it appears the killer is trying to send a message but nobody knows what it is or who the intended recipient might be. There are red herrings and confusion, as it becomes clear that these crimes relate to what happened to Sage years back, in Boston, but we don’t know how or why. Lies and withholding of information don’t help and Sage does a fair deal of amateur investigating too.

Apart from the police procedural aspect, there are also other elements that give the novel a distinct flavour. The strong relationship between the couple and their shared (at least in part) trauma plays a big part in the action and also in the reactions and behaviours of the characters, that at times might stretch reader’s suspension of disbelief but would fit in with somebody trying to survive to a horrible ordeal. This is not the typical novel about the lone detective, who lives only for his work and solving cases but is totally unable to have a meaningful relationship. Thanks to Sage’s memories we share some of the couple’s high and low points. Pet names, real pets and home life (including thoughts about the laundry) ground the characters and their relationship making them more relatable and real, rather than just case-solving automatons. Sage’s otherworldly encounters (she consults a spiritual guide and has a very special experience during the investigation, but I won’t spoil the story) are also outside the norm for a book otherwise very realistic and detailed.

The story is told from the points of view of several characters. Sage’s point of view is narrated in the first person and that makes the reader identify with her more closely. She is also a writer through and through and observes everybody around her, everything that happens and analyses her own thoughts and feelings in detail. Niko and Frankie are also given a narrative, although theirs is in the third person but still manages to make us see their different perspectives, helps us understand their behaviours and thought processes, and provides more information the readers can try and use to put together the jigsaw puzzle.

The book has a great sense of rhythm, and alternates very tense and dark scenes with moments of light relief (Frankie and the other deputies are always at hand with some strenuous comment or mishap, Sage and Niko also have their humorous moments and the novel is tongue-in-cheek about possible comparisons, including comments about Castle) and is particularly effective at dropping the readers right into the action and making them share the experiences and emotions of the characters.  The ending manages to be satisfyingly upbeat while also introducing a final disquieting note.

A recommended reading for those who love detailed police procedural novels (and TV series like CSI, Criminal Minds and yes, Castle), with characters who carry a heavy baggage, in a backwoods/small-town setting and with less down-to-earth elements thrown in too. A strong stomach is a necessary requirement. I’d also recommend it to writers keen on the genre as there’s much to be learned from the author.

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