Us Against You by Frederik Backman

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I absolutely love the writing of Frederik Backman. His novel A MAN CALLED OVE made me both laugh and cry. His story of a hockey town in crisis, BEARTOWN, also made me cry. This summer he has a new novel out, a sequel to BEARTOWN, called US AGAINST YOU. It takes up the story of the families of Beartown and brings them through the next year as they continue to struggle and cope with the actions and activities of the past. Peter and Kira struggle with their marriage. Maya struggles with trying to live her life in the shadow of her assault. Leo struggles with adolescence. And throughout, the lives of these very ordinary people are set against the struggles of a hockey team (with a new coach) and the rivalry Beartown has with neighboring Hed. “Rivalry” might be too tame of a word for it, though.

One of Backman’s gifts as a writer is that he takes the very ordinary and makes it extraordinary. He can craft a simple moment and make it memorable; and he gets to the heart of emotion and humanity in doing so.

If you haven’t read Beartown, it makes most sense to read that novel first, but this can be a stand alone title as well.

Highly recommended! Thank you for my review e-copy from Net Galley!

Here’s the overview:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown returns with “a lyrical look at how a community heals, how families recover and how individuals grow” (The Washington Post).

A small community tucked deep in the forest, Beartown is home to tough, hardworking people who don’t expect life to be easy or fair. No matter how difficult times get, they’ve always been able to take pride in their local ice hockey team. So it’s a cruel blow when they hear that Beartown ice hockey might soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in the neighboring town of Hed, take in that fact. As the tension mounts between the two adversaries, a newcomer arrives who gives Beartown hockey a surprising new coach and a chance at a comeback.

Soon a team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; always dutiful and eager-to-please Bobo; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the town’s enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big game approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt intensifies. By the time the last goal is scored, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after everything, the game they love can ever return to something as simple and innocent as a field of ice, two nets, and two teams. Us against you.

Here is a declaration of love for all the big and small, bright and dark stories that give form and color to our communities. With immense compassion and insight, Fredrik Backman reveals how loyalty, friendship, and kindness can carry a town through its most challenging days.

For the Kids – THE KINGDOM OF OCEANA by Mitchell Charles

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My friends at Book Publicity Services recently sent me a galley of THE KINGDOM OF OCEANA, a story of two brothers, taking place in what is present-day Hawaii (you know I love Hawaii!).

Here’s the info from them:

The Kingdom of Oceana is the first book in a new Young Adult fantasy adventure series by Mitchell Charles. It was published in November 2015.

The story takes place five centuries ago, on the island now called Hawaii, where there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic.  When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise.

As warring factions collide for control of Oceana, it sparks an age-old conflict between rival sorcerers that threatens to erupt–just like Mauna Kea, the towering volcano. With the help of his ancestral spirit animals, his shape shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must overcome his own insecurities, a lifetime of sibling rivalry, and a plague of cursed sea creatures brought forth by the tiki’s spell. Can peace be restored to the kingdom? Can Prince Ailani claim his rightful place as the future king of Oceana? Two brothers, but only one can rule.

“While the book is fiction, it is heavily influenced by the rich and beautiful Hawaiian myths, legends, locales, and culture.  Many locations in the story are inspired by real places in Hawaii,” says Mitchell.

The Kingdom of Oceana takes readers on a fun and exciting adventure, with big wave surfing, fire walking, and shark taming, while also being educational and bringing to light many environmental and social issues, like ocean conservation.

The Kingdom of Oceana is currently available for sale on Amazon in kindle and paperback. The audiobook will be released in April 2016.

Praise

“This book is a real page-turner, full of action and adventure, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I hope that there will be more books like this from Mitchell Charles in the future.” – 5 Stars, Readers’ Favorite

“This is a rollicking good read — a fascinating journey into a mythological world filled with legendary characters and magnificent twists and turns.” – 5 Stars, Amazon

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I had fun with this book. It had interesting elements of Hawaiian culture and beliefs, with fantasy thrown in (shape shifting and telepathy, for instance). But at its root, it’s a story about two brothers and their sibling rivalry. I thought it’d be a great classroom book, especially if you were doing a unit on Hawaii and Hawaiian history. Many Hawaiian words are used and a glossary is provided. On my kindle, I could just click and get the meaning of them, too.

Looks like a sequel is in the works!

Thank you for my review copy!

About the Author

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Mitchell Charles’ love of the ocean and its miraculous creatures began at the age of 12 when his father taught him to SCUBA dive. From his first adventure 50 feet (15 meters) beneath the Caribbean Sea he was hooked.  He has been involved in the Oceanic Society, America’s first non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, established in 1969.

Mitchell’s inspiration for The Kingdom of Oceana was born of exploring the spectacular coastline, lush valleys, and vibrant coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands. On these excursions, he imagined what Hawaii was like hundreds of years ago. Before Captain Cook arrived from England. Before the golf courses and hotels. Before the ukulele and the Mai Tai became icons of Hawaiian culture. He dreamed of a time when the islands were an undiscovered magical paradise.

These days, Mitchell divides his time between Southern California and Hawaii. He has two teenage children and a dog named Magic.

Mitchell is currently working on the second book in the Kingdom of Oceana series, The Legend of the Nine Sacred Pearls. For more information, visit http://kingdomofoceana.com/