romance

Icebreaker- Deirdre Martin

During the same library trip where I picked up a copy of Their Pretend Amish Courtship, I also grabbed this copy of Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin (Berkley, 2011). I don’t know that I’ve ever mentioned it here before, but I love hockey. I have a love-hate relationship with it, somewhat; I love the rush of it all, the sounds, the skaters flying down the ice, the hard-won goals, but I hate the concussions, the injuries, the lost teeth. It’s a great sport and it’s an absolute rush to watch (especially live; I’ve been lucky enough to see two NHL games and a minor league game in person), but no professional sport is worth permanent injury in my book. So hockey in books is a lot safer, although there’s no cool sounds of skate blades and sticks on the ice. Unless they have those in audiobooks on hockey, in which case I’ve been going about this all wrong.

Sinead O’Brien is as single as it’s possible to get. That’s not without its benefits; she’s worked her way up to being the only female partner at her law firm, and part of that is because work is pretty much all she does. Her newest client, Adam Perry, a professional hockey player who’s been charged with assault after a rough hit on another player, is a man of few words, so few that Sinead’s about ready to rip her hair out whenever she’s around him. He’s barely willing to say anything at all, even if it means saving his butt. It’s a good thing Sinead is as good of a lawyer as she is.

But this is a romance, so you know there’s something simmering under the surface. It takes her a while to admit it, but Sinead is attracted to Adam from the start, and the feeling is mutual. With so much to lose if her bosses find out, Sinead’s not sure how far she can let this go, but Adam’s not interested in going back to being just friends…

Icebreaker is actually the third book I’ve read in the series; all the novels work well as stand-alones and the series doesn’t need to be read in order. This was just kind of okay for me. Adam was so reticent at times that he fell more into the ‘dumb jock’ stereotype; I never saw much evidence of more going on upstairs, especially with some of his throwback, caveman-style ideas (that another character rightfully took him to task on, multiple times). Sinead was fine, although her weird obsession about not connecting with her infant nephew became tiresome. He’s a baby. You’ll get there, don’t force it. Babies are weird and scream their faces off when their parents leave; it’s probably not you. (AKA my daughter every time I did something heinous like try to take a ten minute shower while my husband held her. SCREAMED THE ENTIRE TIME. See, Sinead? NOT JUST YOU. My poor husband. He was so frustrated, haha. And lest you think I’m exaggerating:

Her onesie says ‘Princess Fussypants,’ purchased specifically because she never stopped screaming when I handed her off to Papa.)

So this was just okay, not my favorite book, nor my favorite series about hockey (I preferred Mister Hockey by Lia Riley and See Jane Score by Rachel Gibbons). Not a bad read by any means, though, for a sports romance.

Are you a sports fan at all? Hockey is pretty much the only sport I enjoy watching, other than Olympic sports (swimming, gymnastics, track and field… I could sit and watch the Olympics all day. I don’t care about teams or countries, it’s the skill that amazes me!), but we don’t have cable, so I rarely get to watch (not that the Blackhawks have played all the well recently, but let’s not discuss that…). If you’ve got any suggestions for hockey romances, I’m all ears!

Visit Deirdre Martin’s website here.

fiction

Beartown- Fredrik Backman

Beartown by Fredrik Backman is a book I’ve seen popping up over and over again on the blogs lately (mostly in photos with other books, as luck would have it); it wasn’t until someone posted a full review that I realized the book centered around a town’s hockey team. My son and I are big hockey fans (can you be anything else, living this close to Chicago? Let’s just not talk about how the Blackhawks have been doing lately, though…), and I’ve developed a love for hockey books, so even though I had approximately nine million other books to read at the time, I still grabbed this from a display at the library last week. And my goodness, I’m so glad I did.

Beartown is the story of a washed-up, nothing town deep in the woods. Everyone says the town is finished; there’s hardly anything there anymore except a winning junior hockey team that has no right to be as good as it is. If they can win big this year, maybe this town can come back; maybe that new hockey school will be built there and the commerce will follow it. The hopes and dreams of an entire town, not to mention its future economy, lie on the shoulders of these young hockey players.

A terrible incident at a party after the semi-finals will change everything, pitting neighbor against neighbor, teammate against teammate, forcing everyone to make decisions about truth, justice, and loyalty. It’s not just Beartown’s future that hangs in the balance; it’s everyone who lives there.

This was riveting. Fredrik Backman delves deeply into human nature and presents the reader with characters who are relatable, recognizable as our friends, neighbors and family, even as they make terrible decisions that harm other people. His ability to weave a story that incorporates so many characters, so many points of view, is on par with Stephen King (whose narratives from The Stand and It are some of my absolute favorite pieces of writing; despite the length, I’ve read each of these multiple times throughout my life). There’s violence in this story, but it’s never gratuitous nor designed to shock, and having sworn off reading more Pat Conroy novels due to the graphic nature of some of his scenes, I appreciated that.

I very much enjoyed this, blowing through it in less than twenty-four hours, and I see there’s a second in the series, Us Against You. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve continued on and have read this. I’m definitely interested in reading more from Fredrik Backman; I’d never heard of him until I started seeing A Man Called Ove all over the place, so I’m surprised to see how many books he’s written. All the more for me to read!

Beartown does contain a rape scene, and what follows is what I think most women know to expect from humanity in general after something so terrible is made public: the doubts, the anger and threats towards the victim, people siding with the accused rapist. Knowing this, be kind to yourself and choose another book if you need to.

Visit Fredrik Backman’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here. (He tweets in both English and Swedish; I have a moderate level of Norwegian and can understand a lot of what he writes, although to me, Swedish looks like Norwegian spelled wrong. 😉 )