BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman, a 2017 publication

Those of us on the Texas Gulf Coast (I am located 30 miles south of Houston and 30 miles north of Galveston) are not used to waking up to 19 degrees with “feels-like” numbers of 9. We have shut everything down for the past two days since we are not equipped for sleet, snow, and frozen precipitation of any kind. Upon waking up, I thought I must be in Northern Beartown (a fictional town) deep in the forest where ice hockey is equivalent to life. Everything in Beartown revolves around hockey, and the high school Junior Ice Hockey team are the stars of the town, approaching a state championship. The players are celebrities, envied by students and adults( some former ice hockey stars themselves) alike. These young men are taking on their shoulders the hopes and dreams of their beloved Beartown.

As the team approaches the finals, there is a shocking act of violence.  Was it rape? Is the reader to believe Kevin, the superstar, or Amhed, the janitor’s gifted son, who is a recent addition to the team? What happens to an individual who dares to “go against the grain” and challenge the superstar hockey team? “…like ripples on a pond, [events] travel through all of Baytown, leaving no resident unaffected.”

This novel was reviewed and recommended by blogger friend, James J. Cudney, author of Watching Glass Shatter and the blog, “This Is My Truth Now.” I listened to it on CD’s (11 discs/418 pages) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The one drawback, which may have been accentuated because I listened to it, was the rough language. However as a veteran of junior high school teaching, the language was appropriate because it is exactly what high school young men would use.

You will be as caught up in Beartown’s story: its inhabitants, its team, its school administration and local government, and most of all, its high schoolers and their families, as I was.



Jennifer Egan is definitely an author I want to read again. Her 1917 novel, set in WWII, has many appeals: excellent characterization, accurate and fascinating peeks into the era, family mystery and dynamics, a coming-of-age-story, and many more “touches” that make it a “darned good read.” I literally stayed up late reading it.

Anna Kerrigan, the protagonist is twelve at the beginning; she is with her father, whom she idolizes, when she first meets Dexter Styles, the mystery man with gangster ties. Lydia, her crippled sister, is the center of her mother’s love and attention. Anna eventually becomes one of the first female divers at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, and she repairs ships, making them battle-ready in wartime. The “under-stories,” the father’s story and the mother’s story, and Styles’ story are equally as interesting as Anna’s.

The writing in this novel is outstanding. At times, Egan makes us shiver with apprehension; at times we smile or chuckle at a funny passage; always, we keep reading, wanting to discover the next thought or plot twist. We care about the characters and what happens to them–and plenty does. It is a wonderful story that would make a great movie, and I recommend you “read the book first.”


This is an old (1995) title that came into my hands from a friend who was donating it to my Little Free Library; however, it is full of “new” ideas and very inspiring. Don Moore and Lorna Dueck have collected short examples that prove, in Billy Graham’s words from his forward, “…God is still at work using ordinary people to do extraordinary things” and “…amid the apparent chaos and conflicts of our world, God is still at work through the lives of…men and women committed to Christ and seeking to serve Him.”

The examples chosen are mostly from Canada, but could be applied anywhere in anyone’s lives. There are a great deal of inspiring examples that might help the reader choose his own ministry/service as she/he sees needs arise in his/her location and life-situation. Heroes from sports figures to educators, to housewives and moms, to professional, trained leaders are given with each turn of the page. The stories often occur after the “hero” has taken a beating–losing a job or having to downsize, and turns it into an opportunity to serve in a way that is helpful to the Lord’s work and totally fulfilling.

This is an inspiring book for someone who wants to “do something.” Sometimes it is something that makes a difference in one life; sometimes it is something that “takes off” and makes a big difference in a big way. Regardless, the book is full of examples of people who took action, not just paid lip-service.

9 Things Non-Book Lovers Just Don’t Understand…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

by Natasha Orme

We’ve all been there. When a non-book lover makes a comment or just gives you a strange look.

In fact, I have a great story to share with you. I get the train to work – not for lack of a drivers’ license, it’s just easier all round. Winchester is a nightmare for parking and the station is ten minutes from my house. So I get the train.

When you do commute by train, you begin to recognise certain people who travel at the same time as you. Most of these people you’ll never speak to – us Brits don’t like nagging in conversation with strangers, it’s why we don’t make many friends…

Except there was this one guy who would start chatting to me. He was nice enough, it was harmless. The awkward joke of ‘I always see you on the train’ etc. and the occasionally…

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How quickly Sunday came around again! It has been a full and busy week. I did manage to work in some reading, however.

What I finished this week:

Hillbilly Elegy by Vance, my Third Tuesday Book Club selection/ The Beekeeper’s Daughter  I need some help with this one.  When I recommended this title Monday to a friend, she said she found three novels with this title. The one I read was by Montefiore, but it was in large print from our local library, so there was no information about the author and what other things she had written. Someone recommended this book to me by just the title, and I know nothing about two other authors who have used the same title.If someone has read a novel titled The Beekeeper’s Daughter, please leave a note in the comments section and either give me the author or a little about what the book entailed.

What I began and continued reading this week:

Playing With Fire , a novel by Tess Gerritson, author of the Rissoli and Isles TV series, which I can hardly put down/Boy, Snake, Bird by Helen Oyayemi, a strange but fascinating book

What I am still continuing to read:

Reading the Bible from the Margins, my non-fiction selection/Finish Strong, also non-fiction.  In both books, I’m approaching the end and hope to complete them this week.

What I can hardly wait to begin, but will probably not start this week:

Emerald City, a book of short stories by the author of Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan

My reading time will be limited this week, not only because of Wednesday’s class (Send me in, coach, I’m ready!), but because I have a lunch engagement Tuesday and a book club meeting that evening. I plan to do nothing Monday, MLK Day, but read, read, read!



Two Books Read During the Holidays: Reviews

A grammar handbook and a magnificent children’s book written by a global hero couldn’t be more different, but those two books were two I read over the holidays.

Thomas Parrish’s The Grumpy Grammarian was laugh-out-loud funny. It’s subtitle is “A How-Not-To-Guide to the 47Most Common Mistakes in English Made by Journalists, Broadcasters, and Others Who Should Know Better.” The author, Parrish pretends to have an older friend who has saved clippings full of errors from writers who “should know better.” Some of these come from prestigious newspapers and magazines (The New Yorker, Newsweek, USA Today, Washington Post to name a few) Some of the errors that make the grammarian friend grumps are “picky”; some are outdated, but others are just W-R-O-N-G.  The malapropisms and dangling modifiers often make the reader chuckle . It is not a book for all, but it was a delight to this grumpy grammarian. I gave it to two grammarian friends, father and son, who are anything BUT grumpy and decided to let them enjoy it as I did.

A children’s book by Malala Yousafzai,the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is  beautifully illustrated by the husband and wife team who go by the pseudonym KERASCOET was another fascinating reading “experience” I had this holiday season. It begins:
“When Malala was a child in Pakistan, she wished for a magic pencil.  She would use it to…

‘…draw a lock on her door to keep her brothers out.

…stop time so she could sleep an extra hour every morning.

…erase the smell of the trash dump near her house.’ ”

It tells how Malala, more than anything wanted to attend school, but in Pakistan this was forbidden because she was a girl. The book tells and shows in pictures how Malala found a pencil and wrote about the challenges she faced as a girl/young woman in Pakistan, a war-torn region.  Worldwide, people read her writing. The horrible attack she suffered is handled in a sensitive way (It is a child’s book, after all.) and points out that she saw the “magic of hope” through it all. As the cover states, this spectacular book is “The true story of one girl’s wish for a better world.”  It would be the perfect birthday book for a child or grandchild.  I was thoroughly enchanted by the illustrations and intrigued by the story.


This inspirational book by Max Lucado was one of the books I read over the holidays. It is a 2017 publication provided by my church library. Lucado has been my favorite inspirational author for twenty-something years, and this is not a reworked, revised, updated older publication, but a BRAND NEW “take” on an idea Lucado has not tackled before.

The book’s theme is anxiety, described as “…a meteor shower of what-ifs.” He defines the difference between anxiety and fear. “Fear sees a threat. Anxiety imagines one.” The writer bases the book on Phillipians 4:4-8 and directs the passage admirably, using the passage’s structure as the structure for his book.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men. Be anxiousus for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving , let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and minds through Jesus Christ.”(KJV) (italics mine) What, don’t worry? How is that possible? Lucado gives the steps to achieve the promise listed in the end of the passage–peace of heart and peace of mind.

The book is easy to pick up and put down, reading it at odd moments for short periods of time. There are only a total of ten chapters, divided into four sections, so while waiting for kids at the orthodontist, one can read a whole section, or at least come to a stopping place at the end of a chapter before the appointment is over. Questions for Reflection are presented for study groups, and there is a handy reprinting of all scriptures (in more than one version) at the chapters’/ book’s end(s). This is a  very applicable book to one’s attempt to improve his/her Christian walk.  It made me think and evaluate myself, and I intend to apply Lucado’s suggestions as I try to carry out my New Year’s goal of drawing closer to God.