Thursday, January 31, 2019

Book Review: Brunch at Bittersweet Café (A Supper Club Novel) by Carla Laureano



Happy Last Day of January, Y'all!

Today I'm reviewing a new romance: Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano.  It's the second installment in The Saturday Night Supper Club Series, published by Christian publishing house Tyndale.   


According to Goodreads:


From the RITA Award-winning author of Five Days in Skye comes a sweet, romantic treat that will leave you hungry for more.

Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can't deny that she's stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it's a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he's looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he's already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country--an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.


Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she's faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she's come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.


My Review:

I really enjoyed this book.  Justin and Melody are well-drawn, complicated characters.  Both are scared of relationships, and both are having crises of faith.  I like how Justin and Melody are so well-suited for each other: Both share a sense of adventure.  However, Justin is a little bit more cautious even though he's a pilot.  Once he sets a goal for himself, nothing will derail him.  Melody is determined that nothing will interfere with her dream of opening the Bittersweet Café and Bakery with her best friend Rachel...especially not a man.  Melody has a history of allowing men to mess-up her career goals.  But once she meets Justin and falls for him, she has a dilemma: Stay in Denver and open her dream café with her best friend, or move to Florida where Justin is starting a company with his family.

Another thing I love about this book: the girlfriends! Melody and her friends Rachel and Ana have each other's backs.  They are all so supportive of each other, and they defend one another, too.  Ana even called Melody's mother Jenna when she didn't make it to Bittersweet's grand opening.  The first book in the series, The Saturday Night Supper Club, is Rachel's story, and I want to read it next.  These books read as stand alones....it isn't necessary to read it before reading Brunch at Bittersweet Café; I just want to read Rachel's story because I love her character!



Rachel's story 


Melody enjoys searching for rare, vintage books.  Her "white whale" is a yellowback edition of Far from the Maddening Crowd, which is interesting because Melody is a similar character to the novel's Bathsheba Everdene: Oh, the similarities are real!  One of my favorite scenes in the book is when she's on a date with Justin, and Melody takes him to her favorite bookstore.  He purchases her a first-edition paperback of Goldman's The Princess Bride, and by this point in the book, I'm truly in nerd heaven.  When Justin is paying for the book, Thomas, the store's owner, says: "Forget diamonds.  Books are this girl's best friend."  Gotta love that Thomas!

If you're in the mood for a faith-based romance that is not preachy in the least little bit (because after all, Justin and Melody are flawed), then I highly recommend Brunch at Bittersweet Café.  This is the first book I've ever read written by Carla Laureano, and I'm positive it won't be my last.  Her characters are so interesting, and the plot was very good, too.  It's always a good day when I discover a new writer I like, and I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.

I have a copy of Brunch at Bittersweet Café to give away.  Just leave a comment below telling me you're interested, and I'll draw a comment at random via number generator.  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Brunch at Bittersweet Café from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.



Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill






Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Field Trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art


Lonnie Holley
American
Born in Birmingham, AL (1950)
"Hungry Man's Cross"
Mixed Media
2006



Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  

Recently I went on a field trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art with several of my sorority sisters to see the Embodying Faith: Imagining Jesus Through the Ages Exhibit.  One of my sisters Holly, a docent at the museum, did an excellent job as a guide.

The exhibit is comprised mostly of works from the museum's archives.  It features art depicting the life of Christ from the annunciation to the ascension.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces:




Bicci di Lorenzo
Italian
Born in Florence, Italy (1373)
"Nativity"
about 1410 - 1415
Tempura On Panel




Clementine Hunter
American
Born in Natchitoches, LA (1886)
"Pregnant Nativity"
1970
Oil On Wall Board

I love the angels with their hair flying upwards in the wind!




Jacopo d'Arcangelo del Sellaio
Italian
Born Florence, Italy 1441
"Christ with Instruments of the Passion"
About 1485
Tempura On Panel

It's common to see the instruments used to torture Christ in art.  In the painting above the thorn of crowns, nails, whip, and sponge with vinegar are featured.




Sadao Watanabe
Japanese
Born in Tokyo (1913)
"Last Supper"  
1973
Hand-colored Stencil Print

Watanabe was a Christian, and as he shared the story of Christ, he used images that spoke to his audience.  This piece features Jesus and the disciples with Japanese features and a predominant fish on their supper table.




Albrecht Dürer
German
Born in Nuremberg (1471)
"Descent from the Cross"
1509-1511
Woodcut

The exhibit features several pieces by Dürer.  He is one of my favorite artists, certainly my favorite of the Northern Renaissance.  I love his self-portrait (below) because he knew he was "all that!"  The self portrait was painted in 1500 when he was around 28.  During the time he painted this, artists often depicted Christ facing directly front.  This was NOT a part of the exhibit!  I just want to share!






Sybil Gibson
American
Born in Dora, Alabama (1908)
"A Group of Disciples Witnessed the Ascension of Jesus"
About 1972 - 1986
Tempura On Paper Bag

Gibson was born in my home county, and she started painting when she retired from teaching school.  Her process was to wet a paper bag and draw/paint on the wet surface with chalk.



Although this is a small exhibit, it's definitely worth the trip.  It runs through Easter.




Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill





Tuesday, January 29, 2019

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander



Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  I thought that I'd scheduled this post for yesterday, but by mistake I scheduled it for the wrong date.  Yikes!  But I must say in my defense that I was a little discombobulated due to the impending doom of today's snow storm which NEVER HAPPENED!!!  I'm thankful for that, however!  All the schools are closed today for light rain.  Seriously.

In any event, I want to share another one of Tamera Alexander's sweet, clean romances with you: With This Pledge.  This is the first in a brand new series, the Carnton Series.  Carnton is a historical plantation house near Franklin, Tennessee.  


According to Goodreads:

History takes on vivid life in the stunning first full-length installment of Tamera Alexander's new series, The Carnton Novels.

On the night of November 30, 1864, a brutal battle in Franklin, Tennessee, all but decimates the Confederacy and nearly kills Captain Roland Ward Jones. A decorated Mississippi sharpshooter, Jones has a vision on the battlefield and, despite the severity of his wounds, believes his life will be spared. But a life without his leg, he can't abide. He compels Elizabeth "Lizzie" Clouston—governess to the McGavock family at the Carnton mansion—to intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate. True to her word, Lizzie speaks on his behalf and saves not only the captain's leg but also his life.

When a fourteen-year-old soldier dies in Lizzie's arms that night, the boy's final words, whispered with urgency, demand that Lizzie deliver them to their intended recipient. But all she has is the boy's first name. And, as she soon discovers, there's no record of him ever having enlisted. How can she set out alone across a land so divided by war and hatred to honor her pledge? Even more, does she dare accept Captain Jones's offer to accompany her? As he coalesces at Carnton, romance has blossomed between him and Lizzie—a woman already betrothed to a man she does not love.

From the pages of history and the personal accounts of those who endured the Battle of Franklin, Tamera Alexander weaves the real-life love letters between Captain Roland Ward Jones and Elizabeth Clouston into a story of unlikely romance first kindled amid the shadows of war.


My Review:

With This Pledge starts out at a really fast pace as Alexander documents the horrors of the Battle of Franklin.  She definitely did her research and used actual letters to weave into her narrative.  I want to stress that the battle scenes and the army medical scenes (Carnton Plantation became a field hospital for the Confederacy in the aftermath of the Battle of Franklin) are pretty intense: She describes in detail amputations and other combat wounds not to mention horrible, painful deaths. One of the reasons I love historical romances is the history, and I appreciate it when authors actually do the research by using primary sources.

I absolutely love Lizzie's character.  She is so brave, and she doesn't take the promises she makes lightly.  Her love interest Roland is almost perfect:  He's definitely swoon-worthy, but as a slave owner he does a terrible job defending the institution of slavery (because it's indefensible) and that's a character flaw that's hard to overlook.  However, he is gallant toward Lizzie, and although their love story is a little predictable it's still a pleasure to read.  Plus, since this is a Christian romance, God's grace saves the day and I cried when I read Roland's epiphany of his sin.

I always enjoy Alexander's romances.  I read and loved all her novels in the Belle Meade Series (based on a Nashville plantation).  You can read my review for To Wager Her Heart from that series HERE.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of With This Pledge from the publisher Thomas Nelson via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Also, I know several members of the McGavock family (Randal McGavock built Carnton Plantation) and I have even taught one of Randal McGavock's descendants, so I had a personal interest in reading a book with Carnton as its setting.  I can't wait to read the next one!


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Friday, January 25, 2019

Literary Friday: January 2019 Book Club - Pride and Prejudice


Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  
Today is the first "meeting" of The Sketchy Reader Book Club.  January's selection:  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


We will discuss this classic and what makes Elizabeth Bennet have such an exceptional sense of self below in the Comments Section.  I will post a few questions, and then YOU can also post questions of your own.  We'll keep the discussion open all weekend, so you can pop in whenever you can and participate.  Late Sunday I will close comments.

But first, I want to invite you in for some tea and refreshments:



How many Madeleines would you like?
Here is my Madeleines recipe:





How do you take your tea?


Y'all....I must admit I enjoyed this beautiful edition of Pride and Prejudice so much.


According to Goodreads:

Puffin Plated: A Book-to-Table Reading Experience

A deluxe, full-color hardback edition of the perennial Jane Austen classic featuring a selection of recipes for tea-time treats by the one and only Martha Stewart!

Have your book and eat it, too, with this clever edition of a classic novel, featuring delicious recipes from celebrity chefs. In this edition of Jane Austen's regency classic Pride and Prejudice, plan a fancy tea party or book club gathering with recipes for sweet confections and pastries. From maple glazed scones and delicate sugar and spice cake, to berry tartlets and French macaroons. Bring your friends and family together with a good meal and a good book!

Book includes full, unabridged text of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, interspersed with recipes, food photography, and special food artwork.


My Review:

This book is so beautiful.  The food photography by Bill Milne and the artistry of pastry chef extraordinaire Amber Spiegel make this book a literal feast for the eyes.  Plus it's filled with some of Martha Stewart's best dessert recipes.  I've already tried a couple: Cream Scones and Chocolate Shortbread Fingers.  Next week I'll share a little post about them both.

Amber Spiegel is known for her decorative sugar cookies.  She teaches students all over the world how to decorate their own sugar cookie masterpieces.  Amber created beautiful cookies that complemented the text throughout the book.  For example: some were iced with replicas of Longbourn, Rosings Park, and Pemberley.  Almost every single page in the book has either icing or fondant creations.  Some of my favorites are memorable quotes on cookies.

If you love Pride and Prejudice, you deserve to purchase this Puffin Plated Book-to-Table Classic.  It would make a fantastic gift, too!

Thanks so much for "attending" our January Book Club "meeting."  Remember to join-in on the discussion below!

February's book club selection is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.











Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill




Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A New Home Decor Project


These books need a home!


Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  What have y'all been up to?  I know some of y'all are up to your knees in snow!  No snow around here, although we might get snow flurries Thursday.  It has been cold here yesterday and today, so I stayed inside and started a project I wanted to do last year.

Remember when I wanted to redo Shanley Belle's bedroom?  I'm finally doing it!  First job:  Paint the room!




I chose Behr's Polar Bear White because it's a warm white.  I painted over pink which is a hard color to cover.  I had to paint two coats using their Marquee paint.

Shanley Belle is a bibliophile, and although most of her books are in Baton Rouge, she left many here in Birmingham.  There is a long wall in her room (one of the few long walls in our home) that connects to the dormer window, and this wall will be the location of new shelving.

While reading the February 2019 edition of Better Homes and Garden, I was inspired by the bookshelves below:



This is how I want Mr. Sketchy Reader to build the shelving.

Shanley's room is my least favorite in our home due to the sloping ceiling and lack of natural light.  I think that she will love the improvements next time she comes home for a visit.


Reminder:  Friday we will discuss our first book of 2019 based on The Heroine's Bookshelf!






January's selection is Pride and Prejudice.




I hope you will join me Friday while we discuss the book!  

I might not blog much the rest of the week because I have a museum outing on Wednesday, and I'll be working on Shanley's room.

Wherever you are...stay warm!

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




Friday, January 18, 2019

Literary Friday: The Story of Arthur Truluv



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Recently I read The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg.  Berg is one of my go-to writers because her stories usually contain quirky characters who somehow meet to form families of choice.  Plus, I've never been disappointed by any of her books.  I received the sequel to this book The Night of Miracles for Christmas.

I was shocked when I realized that I've never posted nor reviewed any of her novels before!  One day I should write a round-up post featuring her books, but in the meantime here are three others I highly recommend:


We Are All Welcome Here
Open House
The Year of Pleasures

I have reread The Year of Pleasures several times!  


According to Goodreads:

A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.


My Review:

This is definitely a character-driven novel, although the plot is also very entertaining.  I love how Arthur immediately takes a liking to Maddy and vice-versa, especially since they meet in a cemetery under unusual circumstances. Their friendship brings out the best in each other, and it opens their eyes to other opportunities.  Maddy's backstory is so pitiful: Her mother died during childbirth, and her father has never stopped grieving.  Arthur takes Maddy into his home when she needs the support and guidance of an adult most.

Lucille is Arthur's neighbor and busybody.  Everyone needs a Lucille in her life because she's that awesome!  Lucille experiences a tragedy during the course of the novel, but Arthur helps her through it, and then she moves across the street to live with Arthur and Maddy.  Maddy is not happy with the situation at first because Lucille is definitely an acquired taste, but soon Maddy realizes that Lucille is a valuable advocate.

This is such a sweet and charming story.  It made me think about the lonely people in our community, and how each Sunday we pray for the lonely in church.  I love stories about characters who create their own families in spite of previous hurts, disappointments, and tragic events. These three characters stay with you long after the last page, and I can't wait to start The Night of Miracles in a week or two.



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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill



Thursday, January 17, 2019

Big Mama's Pound Cake




Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  How is your week so far?  I've gotten a lot of boring stuff done...like cleaning out drawers and closets.  But I did bake my grandmother's pound cake because I saw Martha Stewart's recipe for Rosemary Pound Cakes in the Puffin Plated edition of Pride and Prejudice.




Plus, I baked it for Mr. Sketchy Reader as an "I'm sorry for being a meany" apology.  So I guess you can say that it's an apology cake!  And I'm not going to tell you what I did because you will unfollow me, so there!

I decided on Big Mama's recipe because I just wasn't in the mood for rosemary.

My grandmother baked this cake often when I was growing up.  I can remember eating it after school, and I liked it plain with nothing on it.  She preferred to bake it in loaf pans.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can give away one loaf and keep the other.  Plus, this cake freezes very well: I like to slice it and then freeze it in individual freezer bags.

This cake is called a "pound" cake because originally the recipe required a pound each of sugar, eggs, flour, and butter. 



I drizzled a little bit of honey on my slice.  Mr. Sketchy Reader likes whipped cream and berries on his.


If you choose not to bake it in loaf pans, you can bake it in a tube pan.  I used my fancy rose-shaped pan.  It looks pretty with confectioner's sugar sprinkled on top.  Another idea is to bake eight miniature loaf cakes for the holidays.  You could bake them for Valentine's Day, place them in pretty cellophane treat bags and finish each off with a red ribbon and card!


Big Mama's Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon, butter, or almond flavoring (or additional vanilla flavoring if you prefer)

Procedure:

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.  Add flour alternately with cream, beginning and ending with flour.  Add flavorings.  Pour into two 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 X 3 inch loaf pans, or 1 10-inch tube pan.  Bake at 325 F for one hour.  (Note:  My oven is slow, and it took closer to 1 hour and twenty minutes in the tube pan.  Check after one hour.)

The way you know when it's done is stick a wooden skewer into the cake and a little cake should be attached to it (not runny batter, but cake crumbs).  You don't want the skewer to come out clean!



In case you're wondering, I added lemon extract because it's Mr. Sketchy Reader's favorite.
I like more of a buttery taste, so I prefer the butter flavoring. 
Both daughters like vanilla only!


Pound cake is definitely on my Top Ten Comfort Foods List.  I think this and chocolate chip cookies are the only desserts on there.  I like savory more than sweet!


What about you?  Do you bake any comfort desserts?


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Help for Winter Skin and Hair



Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!

Today I want to share with you a few of my favorite products for combatting winter dryness.
Our skin and hair put up with a LOT during winter.  Heating systems dry out our hair and skin, and blowdryers compound the damage we do to our hair because we tend to use more heat on our hair in winter than in summer.  It's so important to protect our skin because it's the largest organ in our bodies!  Plus it's our first line of defense against illnesses.


These are my personal favorite products, and my daughters have introduced me to a few of them.  Many come in travel sizes so you can try them without spending tons of money.  


HAIR:

I've tried many moisturizing conditioner, but either they really aren't that moisturizing, or they make my baby fine hair too limp.  R+Co's Atlantis Moisturizing Conditioner  ($29.00 for 8 ounces) is the best I've ever tried.  Leave it in your hair for 10 minutes for extra conditioning, plus it smells heavenly with bergamot, wild fig, and cyclamen. (Available in travel size)

Some days I need even more moisture, so I use Aveda's Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil ($31.00 for 1 ounce).  Just three or four drops for longer hair is all that's needed.  It also helps with flyaways.  I can either use it on wet hair before styling or dry hair when needed.  It's also a multi-purpose product because it's great on dry elbows, knees and cuticles.


BODY:

Lush's Scrubee ($7.95 for 3.1 ounces) is one of my favorites.  Introduced in 2017 for their Mother's Day line, Lush has kept it because it's so popular.  You can see it in the lower left corner, above.  The Scrubee is made with shea butter and honey to moisturize and almonds and coconut shells to exfoliate.  Some folks shy away from exfoliating during winter, but this is a mistake!  The way you use it in the shower:  Rub the bar over wet skin and massage the rich butters and exfoliants into skin.  Rinse, and pat dry with a towel.  Easy peasy!

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream (not shown; $10.99 for 16 ounces) Is one of the best body moisturizers on the market.  I love it for my heels, especially.  (Available in travel size)


HANDS:

L'Occitane Gommage Mains One-Minute Hand Scrub (now made with shea butter and sold in a tube, $24.00 for 2.5 ounces) is quick and works wonders for dry hands.  I also like all of their hand creams, especially their Shea Butter Hand Cream (not shown, $29.00 for 5.2 ounces, available in travel size).

Aveda's Hand Relief Moisturizing Cream ($24.00 for 4.2 ounces) is my very favorite hand cream.  It only takes a little, and it's is very emollient.  My mom bought me one for Christmas!  (Available in travel size)


LIPS:

Lush Lip Scrubs (10.95 for 0.8 ounces) should seriously be illegal.  It's my guilty pleasure of the moment, and the flavors include: chocolate, honey, cherry bubblegum, and "mint julips."  I have the chocolate, of course!  They also make the lip balms to match, and with instructions like this: "Take a pea-sized amount and scrub your lips soft, then lick off the excess," need I say more?

Fresh's Sugar Lip Treatment ($24.00 for 4.3 grams) is the smoothest lip balm ever.  It's proven to keep lips moist for at least 6 hours, and it has an SPF 15 protection.  


FACE:

Clinique's Moisture Surge Overnight Mask ($35.00 for 3.4 ounces) helps prevent moisture loss while you sleep because everyone loses moisture overnight.  I've always loved moisture surge, so when Clinique came out with the overnight mask, I had to try it.  I love that it literally stays put on my face and doesn't get into my eyes overnight like many serums tend to do.  In the morning, your skin will look rested and moisturized.  (Available in travel size)



What are your go-to products to combat winter dryness?  Please let me know in the comments section below!


Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill




Monday, January 14, 2019

Bringing In a Little Cheerfulness for Gray January Days


Fresh flowers from the Piggly Wiggly


Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  This time of year I enjoy fluffing our home with fresh flowers and plants.  These additions help to brighten-up dreary, gray winter days.

And we've had bunches of those lately....

But fortunately for me we had a couple of sunny days recently so I could take some halfway decent photos in our home. 

I placed our fresh flowers in our powder room and kitchen:








I always scatter primroses around our home during January.  I also purchased a new fern and a cineraria.



Primrose in our family room



Cineraria in our foyer



New fern also in our family room



I moved this philodendron from our kitchen to the foyer



I decided to keep this red primrose on the breakfast room table for Valentine's Day

I usually don't decorate for Valentine's Day so early, but I decided to go ahead and decorate the breakfast room table.  I will probably change it closer to the big day...maybe change the runner and bring in roses.

























Resources:

Primroses:  The Leaf 'n Petal
Raffia hearts and rose napkin rings:  Pier1
Hearts teapot:  Emma Bridgwater
Runner and heart dessert plates:  Williams Sonoma
Napkins:  Anthropologie
Heart shaped dishes and bowls:  MacKenzie-Childs


I can't decide how to decorate our dining room.  I asked my Instagram Friends, and some of them had funny responses.  ;P  The three choices I asked their opinion about were: Mardi Gras, winter (which I'm sick of....but mayhap I should embrace the coldness and gray skies), or Valentine's Day.  Right now I'm leaning towards Mardi Gras!  What do you think?

I'm thinking about going out today and buying more primroses.  Maybe I could arrange them at each place setting in the dining room because it's the darkest and most depressing room in our home!  

How do you beat the post Christmas I hate winter because it isn't baseball season yet blues?

Until next time...

Blessings!
Ricki Jill





Friday, January 11, 2019

Literary Friday: Beartown



Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!

My first review for 2019 is Beartown by Fredrik Backman.  Several of my Instagram Friends have read it and loved it, so when I saw it at my local library, I checked it out.  I read it at the perfect time, when we were having flooding rains here in Central Alabama.  Beartown's setting is so cold and dismal that it made me feel better about our weather!

I've also read A Man Called Ove written by Backman, and I loved it.  

According to Goodreads:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

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 is located far from a major city, and is close to the arctic circle.  Although small, it is a microcosm because many different demographics call Beartown home.  And don't be fooled thinking that this is a novel about hockey and it wouldn't interest you (I'm from the Deep South and I know next to nothing about the sport).  This book is very deep, and has many, relatable themes.

It helps to know a little about the Swedish education model before reading Beartown.  Students with certain abilities can attend specialized high schools called gymnasiums (an art school would be an example).  There are also gymnasiums for sports, too.  In Beartown, the citizens are hopeful that the junior team will win the national hockey semi-finals and possibly the finals.  Then their town would receive a charter to build a hockey school, which would bring in families, which would bring in commerce and save the town.

I enjoyed the deep themes of this book: mob mentality, feminism, ethics, racism, and class divisions.  But the most compelling theme is that no matter what parents do, they cannot keep their children safe.  This is the theme that will wake you up at 2:00 A.M.  The story is very good, but at times during the plot Backman is repetitive (we get that Beartown is a hockey town already...quit repeating it).  I also enjoyed the characterizations, especially the teenage girls.  I found it hard to put down, and although I'm a baseball girl, Beartown has piqued my interest in hockey.  I suggest you grab a copy, make some hot cocoa, build a fire, and read!  It's the perfect book for winter reading.



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Are any of y'all reading Pride and Prejudice this month for book club?


You still have a couple of weeks to read it before we discuss it on January 25th.




I'm enjoying this edition so much!  



There are recipes scattered throughout the book.



I also love the quotes!


Please read it with me!!!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill