I couldn’t put this book down, and once I finished it, I needed several days to process what I’d just read. Beartown (published by Simon & Schuster) lives and breathes for hockey – the kids start young and pour their hearts into the sport in hopes of eventually making the top team of the organization (and maybe even a professional contract someday). From the beginning you can tell that the hockey organization is corrupt – from the President and Board of Directors, to the coaches, to the parents, to the entitled athletes. Members of the hockey organization run the town and everyone is enamored by them. The story builds up to one drunken night and the repercussions that follow.

I used to believe in the benefits of playing sports, but as I’ve become a parent of a child that’s on various sports teams, it’s become more and more evident that the culture of sports has changed. When I was younger and played sports, there was an emphasis on player development, team work, and integrity. Your teammates became your family. Now, teams change so much from year to year because it seems as if the parents are always seeking the next “better” team so their child will continue to advance their skills – and more than likely, their wins vs. loss records. There are clearly different motivating factors behind the coaching philosophies these days: win at all costs, reward/ignore selfish behavior, and unsportsmanlike conduct. It’s disappointing that what used to build character now seems to destroy it instead. It’s no longer about the kids; oftentimes, it’s more about the parent’s egos.

This book reminded me of Jon Krakauer’s book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, a real-life account of a very similar scenario. Sadly, as a former Division 1 athlete, the stories in both of these books (Beartown and Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town) are very realistic. There’s a sense of entitlement being fostered in elite athletes (some, not all!) and I wonder when we, as a society, start to acknowledge this behavior and work to change it. I am hopeful that we will stop putting these children on pedestals and start instilling the characteristics that sports used to be about. I’m as competitive as the next person, but when we’re ignoring player development and ethical behavior/sportsmanlike conduct because winning is more important, we have a problem.

This is the second book I’ve read by Backman (I also read, A Man Called Ove). Beartown is very different than that one, and I think it has a Jodi Picoult vibe – effectively explores every angle of the situation and character’s points of views while challenging everything you personally think and feel about the topic. I have found myself returning to the plot over and over again; it’s definitely a book that will stick with you!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is THE book of the summer. Everywhere one turns, there’s the turquoise cover with a cartoonish woman crossing her arms staring back at them. I was drawn to the cover and I just knew this was going to make my list of Favorite Books of 2017. So that’s why it’s so hard for me to say that…I didn’t love it. In fact, I wouldn’t have even finished it if I hadn’t a.) spent $26 on it, and b.) everyone I know, love, and respect in the #bookstagram community hadn’t read, loved, and rated it.

My biggest problem with the book was Eleanor. I know many people found her to be charming, witty, and endearing, but I simply found her to be pretentious, rude, and patronizing. She saw everyone else’s faults and none of her own. Raymond was the sweetest friend she’s ever had and she continually cut down the way he dressed and the way he ate. As I was reading, I kept wondering how she could be such a mean girl to the only friend she’s ever had! She stalked and obsessed over a mediocre musician – and I found this part of the story distracting and unnecessary and CREEPY!

Throughout the story, it was clear that Eleanor had suffered a traumatic event when she was a child. I knew the allusions would eventually lead to the big reveal, but I found it irritating that it was such a large part of the story, yet it wasn’t until the very end that we finally got to learn what had actually happened to Eleanor. Had it been revealed sooner, I feel like I would have connected more favorably to her character and quirky personality traits.

Once the big reveal happened, the story picked up for me (earning it an extra ½ star!). This is where Eleanor actually started to show some maturity and growth. I suppose that’s what I enjoy when reading a book – watching a character grow, learn, and redeem themselves. Finally, I saw Eleanor realize that she’s not so perfect herself:

Eleanor, I said to myself, sometimes you’re too quick to judge people. There are all kinds of reason why they might not look like the kind of person you’d want to sit next to on a bus, but you can’t sum someone up in a ten-second glance. That’s simply not enough time. The way you try not to sit next to fat people, for example. There’s nothing wrong with being overweight, is there? They could be eating because they’re sad, the same way you used to drink vodka. They could have had parents that never taught them how to cook or eat healthily. They could be disabled and unable to exercise, or else they could have an illness that contributes to weight gain despite their best efforts. You just don’t know, Eleanor, I said to myself.

I appreciated how Eleanor eventually soften. I wanted more of this new Eleanor – the one that wasn’t so judgmental, unkind, and closed off. I loved the relationship between Raymond and Eleanor. He stuck with her and softened her, supporting her through her journey to a healed heart. Their relationship was lovely, and ultimately, saved the book for me.

Ignis durum probate. “Fire tests gold.” The rest of the phrase: “…and adversity tests the brave.”

I really enjoyed the last 1/3 of the book very much; I wish more of the book would have had the same depth and insight. Eleanor’s quirky character reminded me of the book, A Man Called Ove. I personally preferred Ove over Eleanor because I liked his character and the story more.

I’m curious…have you read this one, and if you did, what were your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!

The Graybar Hotel


Thanks to Net Galley and Scribner for the digital review copy – all opinions are my own.

When a book stays with you long after you’ve read the last sentence, you know you’ve found a good one! I read The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins in less than 24 hours and have spend the last 24 hours ruminating on the collection of short stories.

We have a maximum security prison that sits just outside of our town; it’s like a city on a hill. On the darkest of nights, you can see the orange glow of the prison lights illuminating the bottom side of the clouds. When you walk into the local stores, you are constantly met by men and women in their correctional officer uniforms. The prison is never far from the minds of this town’s .

As I watched the fireworks explode over town last night, I thought about the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this country. I was free to sit on a grassy hilltop to enjoy the cool breeze and the beautiful explosions of color. I was free to hold my children tight – to watch their faces as the pops of colors changed from red, to white, to blue. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw that orange glow and immediately thought about the men inside that weren’t enjoying these same freedoms. Could they see the fireworks from their small window to the outside world? Or were they too far away? Or were they on the wrong side of the building?

My thoughts quickly turned to the stories in The Graybar Hotel. While the stories are a collection of fictional stories, I couldn’t help but think that there’s got to be a lot of truth within those sentences, too. Dawkins humanized his characters and managed to instill a sense of empathy and compassion for the men and women who spend their days and nights behind bars. The reader is introduced to many characters – Mickey, Peanut, Mo – who stitch themselves right onto your heartstrings.

The writing is lovely, and I’m looking forward to future writings from Dawkins. At the end of the book, he states that all proceeds from the sales of this book will be put into his children’s college funds. There’s something I really admire in that – even though he’s away, he’s doing his best to be supportive of his family (in a good and honorable way too, I might add).

The Graybar Hotel was released yesterday, so hurry and grab a copy and start reading this one soon!

Hello, Sunshine


Thanks to Net Galley for the digital review copy – all opinions are my own.

They say you can’t judge a book by the cover, but I totally did with this one! I went into the story blind, but I was hooked from the first chapter. Sunshine Mackenzie has it all – a YouTube cooking show, numerous #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband. But when she gets hacked on social media, it all comes crashing down around her. She retreats to her childhood home with her tail between her legs. But don’t give up on Sunshine just yet – she rises from the ashes stronger than ever!

This is the perfect summer beach read, and just like Sunshine, this book as it all: lies and truth, love and betrayal, transgressions and redemption. The characters are likable (and, in some cases, totally dislikable), and the writing is quick and witty. At times, I even found myself laughing out loud at some of the snarkiness – something I never do!

To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. If you’re looking for something light and easy – with some topics that will leave you questioning your personal feelings (**ahem, the pros and cons of social media**), this is the book for you! (Release date: July 11, 2017)

Also, there are rumors swirling that actress, Amy Pascal, and her Oscar-winning husband, Josh Singer, have purchased the rights to this book and will be adapting it into a movie…so read it before you watch it because we all know books > movies!

Imagine Me Gone


I finished this book last night and had to sit with my thoughts for an entire day before I even attempted to put my feelings into words. This one hit me like a ton of bricks – it deals with heavy subject matter in a very honest and sympathetic way. It took me a while to get into, but once I did, I craved the words and could not put the book down. It was haunting, and beautiful, and heartbreaking.

Imagine Me Gone, written by Adam Haslett, takes a hard look at mental illness and the effects it has on one family. The way Haslett describes mental illness is profound and humbling:

But that won’t do when the monster has its funnel driven into the back of your head and is sucking the light coming though your eyes straight out of you into the mouth of oblivion. So like a cripple I long for what others don’t notice they have: ordinary meaning.

Each of the characters were developed so deeply by Haslett that I found my heart aching alongside them as they tried to navigate this pervasive world. It was lovely and inspiring to see how each of the family members valiantly fought to stick together – that this was an illness that each of them had ownership with instead of leaving the one child affected the most, Michael, alone and adrift in the world he never could quite understand.

What do you fear when you fear everything? Time passing and not passing. Death and life…But even to say this would abet the lie that terror can be described, when anyone who’s ever known it knows that it has no components but is instead everywhere inside you all the time, until you can recognize yourself only by the tensions that string one minute to the next. And yet I keep lying, by describing, because how else can I avoid this second, and the one after it? This being the condition itself: the relentless need to escape a moment that never ends.

This story is a slow burn that builds up to an explosive ending. The reader is left with just as many questions at the end of the book as they were when they started: what is life worth? Can you save a loved one from the depths of mental illness and the various layers associated with that description – the illness itself, the medical costs, the benefits or costs of prescription medication. The topics are important and extremely timely in our present day. I encourage you to take a chance on this story – and push through the first one hundred pages – enough to get a feel for the direction Haslett wants to take you. Because in the end, you won’t be disappointed. And this is one of those stories that will stick with you for a very long time.

It’s a day I recall not in sadness, but in wonder at all that followed.

Warning: strong triggers throughout the story!