Review of Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

I was first drawn to Britt-Marie Was Here because I had heard nothing but praise for his Fredrik Backman’s previous novel entitled  A Man Called Ove so when I stumbled across his latest book in my local Target, I had to pick it up. In this book, 63 year old Britt-Marie walks out on her husband and tries to begin a life for herself. However, given the financial crisis and her lacking skills, Britt-Marie finds herself employed at a dilapidated recreation center in Borg, a city struggling to stay afloat in these tough economic times. It is in this small town that she finds herself and learns all that she is capable of doing on her own when she cuts ties with someone who consistently made her feel small.

Initially, I was not very enamored with Britt-Marie’s character or with the motley crew of individuals that she encountered in Borg. For the first 50 pages of the novel, I couldn’t bring myself to empathize with Britt-Marie because, despite her trying circumstances, I found her mannerisms quite irritating. However, as the novel went on and Britt-Marie began to find herself, my heart warmed for her just as hers did for Borg (and soccer.)

What impressed me the most about this novel was how relatable all of the themes explored through Britt-Marie’s journey were. I honestly believe I learned just as much about myself while reading this novel as Britt-Marie did during her new life in Borg. Her fear of starting over so late in life complimented my current anxieties about navigating postgrad life. Moreover, her ability to love Kent despite his flaws honestly made me reconsider how I view my own personal relationships. Above all else, Britt-Marie’s story is empowering and demonstrates how a small corner of the universe can come to mean so much to a person and how one person’s actions can truly make a difference.

Overall, I was very impressed with Britt-Marie Was Here. Although it took me a while to warm up to, I am so grateful that I kept reading and went on this amazing journey that Backman created. His ability to make such beautifully flawed characters jump off the page is astounding and is what makes this novel so relatable. I definitely recommend this book, especially to those experiencing any sort of major transition in your own life because Britt-Marie’s story will reassure you that you, too can get through any trying time.

Let me know if the comments below your thoughts on this book, or any other books by Fredrik Backman that you’ve read!

4 out of 5 stars 

Favorite Quotes:

“All marriages have their bad sides because all people have weaknesses. If you life with another human being you learn to handle these weaknesses in a variety of ways. For instance, you may take the view that weaknesses are a bit like heavy pieces of furniture, and based on this you must learn to clean around them. To maintain the illusion” -p. 116

“Sometimes its easier to go on living, not even knowing who you are, when at least you know precisely where you are while you go on not knowing.” -p. 125

“A human being may not choose her circumstance, but she does choose her action.”
-p. 238

“One remarkable thing about communities built along roads with that you can find just as many reasons for leaving them as excuses to make you stay.” -p. 309

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Review of The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Hello Everyone! I apologize that I’ve been a bit slow at posting reviews. My job picked up a bit and I haven’t had as much time to read as I did earlier in the summer but with some better planning I’ll get back on track with my reading/reviewing schedule for August! Without further ado, here’s my review of The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens:

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens was the June pick for my book club and I absolutely devoured it! In this heartwarming, yet suspenseful tale, Joe Talbert sets out to complete a college writing assignment which involves interviewing someone and writing his or her biography. Given his difficult family life, he chooses to interview Carl Iverson who is a convicted murdered released from prison to spend his final days in a nursing home. As Joe learns more and more about Carl’s story, he becomes motivated to uncover the truth behind his conviction. With the help of his neighbor Lila, he begins a race against the clock to seek justice for Carl before he succumbs to his cancer.

The juxtaposition between the struggles that Carl faced, both in Vietnam and in prison, and Joe’s broken home is the main reason why I absolutely loved this book. In one of Joe and Carl’s first meetings, Carl assumes that Joe has never faced any sort of adversity in his life which prompts Joe to react quite strongly. The idea that you cannot judge anyone based on how they look or labels that have been placed on them is such an important and powerful theme that Eskens expertly brings to life throughout the course of this thriller.

Moreover, I was particularly impressed with portrayal of each character. Eskens did a remarkable job of creating characters that were authentically flawed and relatable. Even though I had never experienced exactly what Joe was going through or exactly what Carl was going through, I could relate to their pain and guilt so easily, which is a tribute to Eskens’ exquisite imagery and character development. I was particularly impressed with the portrayal ofJeremy, Joe’s autistic brother. Oftentimes I feel as though characters with special needs are made into caricatures of their disability yet, Eskens did a phenomenal job of finding Jeremy’s voice and making him defined by more than his autism. There was also a tremendous amount of depth to Joe’s mother’s character as well as Lila which I felt took the story line to another level.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book! The twists and turns of this heartwarming thriller left me breathless, but the ending made all the heart palpitations worth it! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone because the characters and themes are so incredibly engaging. Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read this book & keep an eye out for my review of Britt-Marie Was Here which will be up later this week!

5 out of 5 stars

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Review of Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

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When I first heard about Emma Straub’s new novel Modern Lovers, I could hardly contain my excitement. Her previous novel The Vacationers quickly became one of my all time favorites, so I simply could not wait to see what her next literary creation had in store and let me just say that Modern Lovers did not disappoint!

In this novel, Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe are former bandmates and now neighbors with teenage children who are trying to navigate their own midlife crises. Zoe and her wife Jane’s relationship is on the rocks and just down the street, Elizabeth is struggling with buried romantic feelings for another person while her husband Andrew attempts to find a new purpose for his life in a local yoga studio. To add to the struggles of middle age and parenthood, a potential movie release about their fourth bandmate Lydia causes unresolved issues from their college days to resurface and further complicate their daily lives.

What makes this story so captivating is Emma Straub’s uncanny ability to write authentically from the perspective of any character, regardless of their age. Her flawless transitions between the voices of Elizabeth and Harry or Zoe and Ruby is what makes her novel so real and therefore enjoyable. Furthermore, her entrancing imagery makes every part of Ditmas Park come alive, allowing the reader to become fully immersed in the tangled midlife crises of Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe, and Jane.

The drama that unfolds between the former bandmates and their teenage children is realistic and oddly reassuring to the reader that no one, even fictional characters, really has this whole life thing figured out. The underlying jealousies that complicate the friendships and marriages is are both subtle and relatable and ultimately make these characters jump off of the page.

Ultimately, Modern Lovers gave me all the feels! It beautifully captures the growing pains that emerge at all stages of life and is rounded off with an ending that gives the reader closure and simultaneously fills them with hope for their own lives. I absolutely recommend this book because I think everyone and anyone can find a little bit of themselves in each of the the characters that Straub brings to life.

5 out of 5 stars

Choose Your Own Adventure: Which ARC should I read next?

Hi Everyone! So I’ve got three advance review copies sitting on my Kindle ready to go and I wanted to give you guys the opportunity to choose which one you want me to review next.  Let me know in the comments below what you want to hear about next and I’ll review it next Tuesday. Also, keep an eye out for a review of Modern Lovers by Emma Straub that’ll be up on Sat!

Don’t Tell Anyone by Eleanor Gray
NetGalley Summary: Art historian Grace Neville watches Jordan Dukes sentenced for the murder of her teenage daughter, Tara. A few days later, as she attempts to come to terms with her loss, she receives a visit from Jordan’s father, Alan, who claims that his son is innocent and that a grave miscarriage of justice has taken place. Jordan’s violent history in a notorious gang, plus the fact that he doesn’t have an alibi, makes Alan’s story a hard sell . . . until someone breaks into Grace’s home and goes through Tara’s belongings. In Don’t Tell Anyone, Eleanor Gray explores the relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the secrets that drive Grace to start asking questions before it’s too late.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
NetGalley Summary: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
NetGalley Summary: #1 International bestselling novel set in 1920s Ceylon, about a young Englishwoman who marries a charming tea plantation owner and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences

Review of On The Run by Izai Amorium

Hi Everyone! Recently, I had the privilege of reading an ARC of Izai Amorium’s second novel entitled On the Run that is to be released on 9/6/16. Below is the Goodreads summary followed by my review!

Goodreads Blurb:
New York City, early nineteen-nineties: a young, rich, and well-educated Central American man on the run from the police and Colombian drug dealers. He is accused of crimes he didn’t commit. Ready to do what it takes to survive, Pablo ironically embraces the very drug trade that threatened his life in the first place. Who is he? What is he really capable of? The question of identity is at the heart of On The Run. More than a contemporary story of survival, it’s a journey of self-discovery.

Review:
After reading the first few pages of Izai Amorium’s novel On The Run, I was immediately intrigued by the narrator Pablo’s dark sense of humor and paralyzing fear of dying while wearing dirty underwear. I found Amorium’s choice to include the narrator’s each and every thought to be refreshing and unlike anything I had read previously. However, as the novel went on, I became less than captivated by the plot. Despite my love of the unique and authentic voices of each of the characters, I found myself being more irritated than inspired by their actions. I quickly became frustrated with the incessant discussion about fate, Mad Dog’s constant preaching, and Pablo/Birdy’s superiority complex. Furthermore, Pablo’s journey into the drug dealing world was less thrilling than I anticipated. I found myself constantly waiting for a gut-wrenching plot twist but what I got instead was a to do list of what Pablo needed to do in order to maintain his charade as a PSMT.

Despite the faults I found with the plot and character development, I was very impressed with Amorium’s exploration of identity and self-discovery within such an unlikely context. Pablo’s journey expertly demonstrates just how fragile our identities can be and highlights just how far we, as humans, will go in order to survive. Moreover, Amorium effortlessly humanizes the world of drug dealing by focusing on the authentic relationships formed throughout this enterprise. As ridiculous as Peter may have found the idea of Pablo and Mad Dog talking about love while they counted money and made cocaine packages, Amorium centered his novel around this very idea and easily created a story that is truly on another level.

Overall, I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to review On the Run. Amorium’s writing style is unlike anything I have ever encountered previously. Although I was a bit disappointed by the way the plot played out, I was very moved by Pablo’s search to to reconcile his many “legends” and figure out what it means to be Pablo/Baldy/Birdy.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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A special thanks to Netgalley and Mr. Amorium for providing me with an ebook in return for an honest review