Book Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

BEARTOWN

Ok, let me start by saying that for the first fifty pages or so, I had a hard time getting into Beartown. Maybe it was my mood, maybe it was the amount of characters introduced (there are many), but I almost gave up on it. This, friends, would have been a huge mistake.

Beartown is set in a town much like my own; tiny, somewhat dying, where people have little to hold onto aside from their hockey team. With the whole town’s hopes and dreams riding on them, the players are left with a heavy weight of responsibility to carry. The pressure is high and morality often takes a backseat to winning. When one act of violence brings a family to their knees, Beartown forces readers to evaluate their own ethical standpoint. It’s smart, honest and feels very real.

Beartown is beautifully written and touches so many important subjects from rape-culture, to homophobia, to peer pressure, that I feel like this novel should be a mandatory read in every high school. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never read anything by Fredrik Backman before. After reading Beartown, this will change. And if you haven’t picked up any of his work yet, it should change for you too.

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Top Ten Book Dedications

Hi Everyone!

Although I realize that I’ve been MIA over the last little while, I’d like to assure you that I’m still very much alive and well. Life got in the way as it so easily does and I had to shelf the blog for a little bit. That being said, I will do my best to post more regularly (pinkie promise, as my children would say).

Since I’m currently trying to word the dedication for my third novel (easier said than done), I’ve decided to feature my top ten book dedications.

 

  1. Austenland, by Shannon Hale

 

For Colin Firth

You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.

 

  1. Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

You know how it is. You pick up a book, flip to the dedication, and find that, once again, the author has dedicated a book to someone else and not to you. Not this time. Because we haven’t yet met/have only a glancing acquaintance/are just crazy about each other/haven’t seen each other in much too long/are in some way related/will never meet, but will, I trust, despite that, always think fondly of each other! This one’s for you. With you know what, and you probably know why.

 

  1. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

Dear Pat, You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?” I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.” “What for?” “To put things in.” “What kind of things?” “Whatever you have,” you said. Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts- the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation. And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you. And still the box is not full. JOHN

 

  1. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint Exupery

To Leon Werth I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a serious reason: he is the best friend I have in the world. I have another reason: this grown-up understands everything, even books about children. I have a third reason: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs cheering up. If all these reasons are not enough, I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were once children—although few of them remember it. And so I correct my dedication:

To Leon Werth, When he was a little boy

 

6. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

 

I want to thank everyone who helped me create this book, except for that guy who yelled at me in Kmart when I was eight because he thought I was being “too rowdy.”

You’re an asshole, sir.

 

5. The House of Hades, by Rick Riordan

 

To my wonderful readers: Sorry about that last cliff-hanger. Well, no, not really. HAHAHAHA. But seriously, I love you guys.

 

4. Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Neil Gaiman

 

Because she’s threatened me with consequences too dreadful to consider if I don’t dedicate a book to her…

And because she’s taken to starting every transatlantic conversation with “Have you dedicated a book to me yet?”…

I would like to dedicate this book to intelligent life forms everywhere.

And to my sister, Claire.

 

3. The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer

 

To Grandma,

For being my first editor and giving me the best writing advice I’ve ever received: “Christopher, I think you should wait until you’re done with elementary school before worrying about being a failed writer.”

 

2. The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
To Lucy Barfield

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather,

C.S. Lewis

 

1. A Series of Unfortunate Events(books 1–13), by Lemony Snicket
To Beatrice– darling, dearest, dead. (The Bad Beginning: Book The First)

 

For Beatrice– My love for you shall live forever. You, however, did not. (The Reptile Room: Book The Second)

 

For Beatrice– I would much prefer it if you were alive and well. (The Wide Window: Book The Third)

 

To Beatrice– My love flew like a butterfly Until death swooped down like a bat As the poet Emma Montana McElroy said: “That’s the end of that.” (The Miserable Mill: Book The Fourth) 

 

For Beatrice– You will always be in my heart, In my mind, And in your grave. (The Austere Academy: Book The Fifth)

 

For Beatrice– When we met my life began, Soon afterward, yours ended. (The Ersatz Elevator: Book The Sixth)

 

For Beatrice– When we were together I felt breathless. Now you are. (The Vile Village: Book The Seventh)

 

For Beatrice– Summer without you is as cold as winter. Winter without you is even colder. (The Hostile Hospital: Book The Eighth)

 

For Beatrice– Our love broke my heart, and stopped yours. (The Carnivorous Carnival: Book The Ninth)

 

For Beatrice– When we first met, you were pretty, and I was lonely. Now I am pretty lonely. (The Slippery Slope: Book The Tenth)

 

For Beatrice– Dead women tell no tales. Sad men write them down. (The Grim Grotto: Book The Eleventh)

 

For Beatrice— No one could extinguish my love, or your house. (The Penultimate Peril: Book The Twelfth)

 

For Beatrice— I cherished, you perished. The world’s been nightmarished. (The End: Book The Thirteenth)

“Dear author, we regret to inform you…”

reject

Let’s not kid ourselves here; being rejected by a literary agent sucks. And being rejected by several agents sucks even more. You spend hours upon hours perfecting your query letter and emailing it to every literary agent you find online only to be met with a slew of very impersonal rejection responses weeks (or sometimes even months) later. Worse are the times that you aren’t even graced with a reply and instead find yourself in literary submission limbo – a place of both wishful thinking and utter hopelessness. As dismal as this may seem, it’s important to note that you’re not the first person to be subjected to this cold fate. Bestselling authors such as J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and Dr. Seuss were all rejected by literary agents numerous times before making it in the industry.

Last week, I attended a business seminar and the guest speaker made mention of Howard Schultz who was rejected by banks 242 times before someone loaned him the money to start his business. 242 times – let that sink in for a moment. Today, Starbucks has a net worth of 70.9 billion. I get that this anecdote has little relation to books however it has everything to do with persevering in the face of rejection. If everyone who faced rejection threw in the towel, then my favorite nonfat pumpkin spice latte wouldn’t be available every fall, we wouldn’t have grown up knowing the joys of Green Eggs and Ham and The Boy Who Lived would have never left the cupboard under the stairs.

Basically, what it all comes down to is this: will you have the ability to continue believing in your work no matter how many doors are slammed in your face?

Here are a few lessons that may help you:

  1. Rejection is often an opportunity in disguise. It allows us to examine what we did wrong and gives us insight on how to do it better for the next time. Perhaps your query wasn’t the best pitch for your novel. Or maybe you were sending it to agents that don’t represent your genre. Whatever the reason, a next time is coming if you really believe in your work. See rejection as a challenge and a source of motivation to do better in the future.
  2. Know your worth. Don’t underestimate yourself just because someone has passed on the opportunity to represent you. Allow rejection to build your courage and raise your determination. When you know that your work is of value it’s easier to accept that you may have to crawl through the trenches in order to reach the top.
  3. Ask yourself “What is the worst that can happen?” Seriously guys, being rejected hurts but it’s not a zombie apocalypse. If an agent (or several) turns you down then absorb the blow, brush yourself off and try again. Be unrelentingly tenacious. Most importantly, have the audacity to try again and the determination to understand that rejection doesn’t mean failure.

In short, rejection is unavoidable. In writing especially. You may call it an occupational hazard, but I call it a building block.

“If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, then your goals aren’t ambitious enough.” – Chris Dixon

(Photo above courtesy of Tumblr)

The Moving Van is Unloading…

So, here we are settling into our new blog home! I won’t lie; I hated to abandon my former site however due to reliability problems with the host’s server, here we now are.

As disgruntled I am about leaving my former blog behind, it was time for a change. In addition to the site problem (bad gateway 502, anyone?), my blog goals have (slightly) changed. Like its predecessor, this blog will still center around books though this time around it won’t only be about MY books. Yes friends, you’ve guessed it; I’ve decided to expand my blogging horizons and review books. Book bloggers gave me an amazing platform when I was in the midst of self-publishing and I believe I can return the favor. Besides, I’m always reading something. May as well blog about it.

Those who are a fan of my work, fret not. I will still alert you of upcoming novels and day-to-day writing posts.

I hope you all follow me to my new home (my blog home, not my actual home – that would be super creepy) and that you enjoy my caffeine-hinged rants along the way 🙂

Cheers,

J.D.

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