beartownNot being a hockey fan, I was not sure I was going to like this book. However, while the storyline revolves around the hockey team in a small dying blue-collar town, it is not really about hockey but rather is a fascinating look at the people in the community when faced with a crisis.  Backman’s characters (author of A Man Called Ove) are three-dimensional, so real that I felt I could relate to them or had known someone in my life like them.

A violent act sends the town into turmoil and pits one person against the other, bringing out both the worst and best in the town.  The characters are so well drawn that you can feel their raw emotions as they deal with guilt, pride, anger and the pain and suffering of those with secrets and those who have been wronged.

Bear Town challenges our thinking about right and wrong and good and evil as well as what we stand for.

Others have commented that the first 50 pages are a bit slow. Stick with it and you won’t be disappointed!

Shark TroublePeter Benchley’s final book is not another shark novel, but rather a “valuable guide to being safe in, on, under, and around the sea.” Awash with anecdotes based on over 3 decades of his own experiences, Benchley not only covers sharks in detail, but many other denizens of the deep that one may encounter.  He also explains how to swim safely in the ocean, the dangers of tides & currents, behaviors to avoid in the water, and how to survive when danger strikes.

Benchley regretted the irrational fear and wholesale slaughter of sharks that came in the wake of Jaws, and spent the last decade of his life seeking to educate the public and advocating for marine conservation & shark preservation. 

This is a great read for “Shark Week”—or, any week for that matter.

atkinson life after life homeLife After Life has an intriguing premise. The central character, Ursula, dies numerous times throughout the story returning time and again to her life in pre-WWI England, each time meeting a different fate and demise, depending on shifts in her choices or events and having life altering effects on all those around her. It is a story of “what ifs,” reincarnation, and fate. You need to have an open mind because this is not a linear story. The writing is beautiful, atmospheric and tension-filled.

On one level this is a story of one family's life in England over the course of two world wars. The details of everyday life are written so effectively  that I felt I was there witnessing the life changes for returning veterans, the political tensions leading to WWII, and experiencing the horrors of Londoners during the Blitz.

It’s a book that is difficult to explain. You must experience it for yourself!

before we were yours2Before We Were Yours, a work of historical fiction, is based on the real-life nefarious activities of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis starting in the 1930s and lasting for over 20 years. Tann operated a black market adoption trafficking ring. Tann had poor children kidnapped to be adopted out to unsuspecting clientele and, unfortunately local authorities knew about Georgia Tann and even colluded in the kidnappings.

The fictional story of the five Foss children parallels the real life experiences of hundreds of victims of Georgia Tann's adoption agency. The story begins when the children are stolen from their family's riverboat one night in the 1930’s. Their parents have to go to the hospital due to complications with their mother's pregnancy and childbirth. Left alone, the children are taken by corrupt police officers working for Tann and eventually adopted off one by one.

Emotional, engrossing, even shocking at times, this is a book that you will long remember after reading it especially so because the story is based on real events.

starry skyAn epic historical fiction of Robert Louis Stevenson’s and his artistic, strongly  independent American wife Fanny. Their travels to find a place that provided the best climate for RLS’s physical condition from TB, their potent love story, their struggles to provide a secure living and their professional challenges are covered in a captivating book.

Like her husband, Fanny was also an artist, painting and writing but she often felt devalued by her husband's friends and sometimes by Robert himself. However, they were deeply in love and Fanny's determined care pulled him through again and again his bouts with consumption (TB).

The settings, from France and England to Scotland, Switzerland and finally Samoa to find the best climate for Robert are well detailed and the complex nature of Fanny and Robert’s personalities are beautifully portrayed.

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