Book Review: Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay

Title: Of Literature & Lattes
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication date: May 12, 2020
Length: 364 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Katherine Reay returns to the cozy and delightful town of Winsome where two people discover the grace of letting go and the joy found in unexpected change.

After fleeing her hometown three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never planned to return. Then the Silicon Valley start-up she worked for collapsed and turned her world upside down. She is broke, under FBI investigation, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she comes home to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup then move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as friends and family welcome her back, Alyssa begins to see a place for herself in this small Midwestern community.

Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. After asking for her help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complex lives, and the future they both hoped for is not at all what they anticipated.

With the help of Winsome’s small-town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.

Of Literature & Lattes is Katherine Reay’s follow-up to The Printed Letter Bookshop, which I finally read and reviewed just last week. In this new novel, we return to the town of Winsome, Illinois — home of an amazing bookstore, lots of cute shops, and people who get what community is all about.

The story follows two main characters: Alyssa, returning with dread to her hometown after a disastrous stint in Silicon Valley, and Jeremy, a grown-up with a sad childhood behind him, looking to spend more time with his daughter and investing everything in a new coffee shop.

For Alyssa, nothing has worked out as intended, and she seems like the walking embodiment of someone having baggage. After her parents’ divorce three years earlier, she sided with her father, cut her mother out of her life, and moved as far away as she could get. Alyssa’s magic with numbers and coding landed her a great job at a medical start-up — but her world crashes down sudddenly when it turns out that the company was nothing but a fraud, and what’s worse, provided false information to people about future diagnoses of awful illnesses.

Wracked by guilt and totally broke, Alyssa has no choice but to head home — where nothing is as expected. Alyssa’s mother is Janet, one of the main characters in The Printed Letter Bookshop, and Janet has changed dramatically. Alyssa expects to be able to hide out at her father’s apartment, but instead, he forces her to face her mother. As Janet and Alyssa spend time together, they form new understandings and realize that they have a lot of work to do to overcome the harmful patterns of their past, if they ever hope to have a relationship in the future.

Meanwhile, life for Jeremy is complicated too. His 7-year-old daughter Becca lives nearby, and he’s relocated from Seattle to be with her. Jeremy invested all his savings into buying the local coffee shop from its retiring owner, dreaming of turning it into a modern, successful business. The problem is, the locals don’t share his vision — and as he transforms the cozy, shabby coffee shop into something sleek and streamlined, the daily traffic plummets.

Jeremy is a good guy and his heart is in the right place, but he has to learn to step back and understand what community is all about if his business is going to survive — and if he’s serious about creating a new home for himself and for Becca.

There’s a lot to love about Of Literature & Lattes. First of all, the town of Winsome is just as charming as in the previous book. It’s an idealized version of small-town homey-ness, and wouldn’t we all love to find a place like that to belong?

The people here seem to really care about one another, and while yes, they are all up in each other’s business a little more than I’d personally care for, this connection comes out in all sorts of ways that are heart-warming and important.

Alyssa and Janet spend a lot of this book at odds, and it’s messy and a little terrible, but also feels real. Their dynamic goes back years, and has as much to do with Janet’s feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction as with their actual relationship. It’s not easy for them to sort out all the ways in which they’ve hurt and misunderstood one another, but over the course of their months together, they make major strides — and find that they both truly want to make things better.

For Jeremy, the relationship with his ex Krista is difficult, and his business isn’t going as he’d hoped. He starts off very focused on his own vision — an outsider who thinks he knows what the town needs. It’s only when he allows himself to admit that he needs to learn that he starts to connect with the community in a real way, realizing that a coffee shop that’s perfect but lacks heart just isn’t going to cut it.

Once again, I really enjoyed the author’s way of weaving personal stories into a bigger picture of a community. I enjoyed seeing the familiar characters from the previous story, as well as meeting Alyssa and Jeremy and seeing how they fit into the greater whole.

While Of Literature & Lattes could work as a stand-alone, I’d recommend reading The Printed Letter Bookshop first. I’m glad I did! OL&L is touching and lovely, but it’s so much richer when set into the context of the larger story, and I think without the previous book, many of the connections would have gone right by me without leaving an impression.

Another heart-warming story from author Katherine Reay — and yes, plenty of book talk too!

Book Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

Title:The Printed Letter Bookshop
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication date: May 14, 2019
Length: 324 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

What a difference a year makes!

And reading moods certainly make a difference too.

Last year, I received an ARC of The Printed Letter Bookshop via NetGalley. And I was excited to read it, because I’ve enjoyed several of this author’s books previously. But according to my Goodreads post, I DNFd this book at about 25%, saying that I just wasn’t interested and couldn’t get into it.

This could probably be an entirely different post about reading according to a schedule (I was trying to read ARCs on or before publication date) and feeling obligated when choosing what to read… but suffice it to say, for whatever reason, this just wasn’t the right book for me at that particular time.

So here I am, a year later, and I received an ARC of Katherine Reay’s soon-to-be-released newest book (Of Literature and Lattes) — and as I started reading it, I realized (a) it’s set in the same town as The Printed Letter Bookshop, and (b) while it appears to be focusing on different characters, there’s definitely crossover. And even though I was already five chapters in, and enjoying it, I decided it was time to go back to The Printed Letter Bookshop and give it another try.

Whew. All that is just context for the actual review! So here goes…

The Printed Letter Bookshop is charming! It’s a look at women’s friendship, centered around a bookshop located in small-town Winsome, Illinois, just an hour’s drive from Chicago, but worlds away in terms of the cozy, quaint, close-knit nature of the community.

When the store owner Maddie dies, her two colleagues and close friends Janet and Claire are devastated by her loss, and then immediately have to begin worrying about their future of their beloved store. Maddie leaves all her belongings, including her house and the bookshop, to her niece Madeline, a hard-charging young lawyer who hasn’t visited Maddie in years.

Madeline doesn’t want the store or any permanent link to Maddie. While they used to be close, some rift between Maddie and Madeline’s parents years in the past caused horribly hurt feelings, and Madeline has never forgiven Maddie. Now, though, Maddie’s holdings are her responsibility, and they come at a time when Madeline’s professional life has taken a sudden detour.

Madeline’s plan is to get in, get the store’s finances in shape, and sell. But life seems to have other plans.

Once she begins to get involved at The Printed Letter Bookshop, Madeline starts to understand how much it means to Janet, Claire, and the town. She also gains fresh insight into Maddie as a person, how badly she misunderstood her parents’ estrangement from Maddie, and just how much she herself needs a fresh perspective on her own life.

Janet and Claire are also POV characters. Each has her own reason for being drawn to Maddie, who gave them purpose and connection by welcoming them into the bookshop. They each have troubled home lives, but through their work at the bookshop, they reinvent themselves and start to understand where their lives’ turning points were, and how to choose different directions.

Although the book opens with Maddie’s funeral, she’s a large presence throughout the story. She’s a warm, lovely person who truly understands the way books can transform lives. She has the knack of finding the right book for each person who enters The Printed Letter Bookshop, and as her parting gift to Madeline, Janet, and Claire, leaves each a list of books to read — no explanation, just a list. And for each woman, the book list helps her grow and change.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a lovely book. I’ve seen it shelved as Christian fiction (publisher Thomas Nelson specializes in Christian content) — but if I hadn’t known that, I don’t think I’d classify this book that way. (Full disclosure: I am not Christian, and would not normally read books classified at Christian fiction. I’m glad I didn’t see a “label” before picking up this book!)

There are discussions about faith and God in the book, but I never felt like those discussions dominated the novel or that I was being hit over the head with religion. Instead, these themes are a part of the women’s journeys, as they think about their lives, their families, their relationships, and the meaning of it all. While their beliefs don’t align with my own, I was actually quite moved by some of their inner processes and how they decide, each in their own way, to make important changes in their lives.

There’s also a love story for Madeline, but that’s probably the part that I cared about least in this book. I mean, it was nice, but I didn’t get a good feel for the relationship or how it grew, and didn’t feel all that invested in that piece of the plot.

All in all, I’m really glad I decided to give this book another chance! It’s a quick, engaging read, with heart, emotions, and LOTS OF BOOKS. (The author helpfully includes a list of all the books mentioned or referred to in the story at the back of the book… and we all know how awesome books about books can be!)

And now, I feel ready for Of Literature and Lattes.

Sometimes, it’s all about the timing.

Take A Peek Book Review: Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Ivy and her sisters have a secret: their reclusive Great-Aunt is actually Adela Martin, inspired author of the fantasy classic, Ivory Apples. Generations of obsessive fans have searched for Adela, poring over her letters, sharing their theories online, and gathering at book conventions. It is just a matter of time before one fan gets too close.

So when the seemingly-perfect Kate Burden appears at the local park, Ivy knows that something isn’t right. Kate has charmed the entire family, but she is suspiciously curious about Ivory Apples. And Ivy must protect what she and her Great-Aunt share: magic that is real, untamable, and—despite anyone’s desire—always prefers choosing its own vessel.

My Thoughts:

In Ivory Apples , four young sisters end up at the mercy of an outsider who charms her way into their family and then takes over. Kate is a clever but overly obsessed fan of the classic children’s fantasy book Ivory Apples — not just because she loves the story, but because she suspects that the author, Adela Martin, had access to real magic as she wrote the book, and Kate wants some of her own.

Oldest sister Ivy is the only one not fully taken in by Kate’s schemes, and breaks away from the family in order to keep her aunt’s secrets, only to return in desperation when she realizes that her sisters need rescuing. Meanwhile, Kate is right about one thing — there IS a source of real magic, and Adela and Ivy both have access to it.

I enjoyed the family dynamics and Ivy herself, as well as the central role played by the book Ivory Apples and its secrets. Not all of the magical aspects made complete sense to me, and the sense of urgency throughout lagged from time to time. Still, the book is different and unusual in all sorts of ways, and Kate makes for a devious and menacing bad guy beneath her pleasant and child-friendly exterior. I’d definitely like to read more by this author.

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The details:

Title: Ivory Apples
Author: Lisa Goldstein
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Publication date: October 15, 2019
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount: The perfect gift for the bibliophiles in your life!

If you’re looking for the absolutely perfect gift for a very special booklover, I’m here to tell you:

THIS IS THE ONE.

Bibliophile is just so, so wonderful. Anyone who’s crazy about books (and let’s face it, if you’re reading a book blog right now, you fit the category) will adore this book.

In this gorgeous hardcover, artist Jane Mount creates a reference guide/ode to great books/piece of artwork that is a pleasure to page through. I’ve had it sitting out on my nightstand for a few weeks now, ever since I treated myself to my very own copy, and I can personally attest that the few minutes I spend each day opening Bibliophile at random and soaking in a few pages at a time are utter bliss. And who doesn’t need that at the end of the day?

In my happy place

Okay, so now that I’ve raved on for a bit, here’s a little more about what’s actually inside.

Bibliophile is a smorgasbord of book-related subjects and illustrations, focusing on everything from favorite bookstores to bookstore cats, striking libraries to writers’ pets, iconic covers to books made into great movies.

The book is a gorgeous balance of illustrations and words, with full-color spreads to amaze and delight, such as the ones featured in this review on Read It Forward:

Jane Mount is a talented artist who specializes in books. You can check out her amazing work at Ideal Bookshelf, where you can find prints, notecards, totes and more — or if you really want to splurge you can even order a custom painting of your own favorite bookshelf.

Just a little taste of what’s available at https://www.idealbookshelf.com/collections/everything

By the way, you’ll probably want to check out her previous book, My Ideal Bookshelf, which features a round-up of cultural celebrities — writers, chefs, and more — describing the books they love the most, with Mount’s beautiful illustrations for each shelf.

And look at that! A post full of gift ideas for your favorite booklovers — or even little treats for yourself, because you deserve it.

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The details:

Title: Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany
Author: Jane Mount
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication date: September 11, 2018
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Non-fiction/art/reference
Source: Purchased

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Shelf Control #125: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Published: 2012
Length: 288 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

How and when I got it:

I finally picked up a Kindle edition a couple of years ago, after having this book on my wishlist since it first came out in 2012.

Why I want to read it:

Books about books and books about bookstores are always a treat! This book sounds wonderful and weird… and now that I’ve read the author’s newest (Sourdough), I’m kicking myself for not having read Mr. Penumbra yet.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Novella Review: Time Was by Ian McDonald

 

A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.

Time Was is a haunting, lovely story of love and loss, war and suffering. It’s also a bookish mystery of sorts, all served up in a compact 176 pages.

The framing of the device revolves around a man named Emmett, a book dealer who surrounds himself with stacks of archaic volumes and keeps himself housed and fed through his EBay sales. When he’s sorting through the book-filled dumpster outside yet another failed rare book store, he comes across what he thinks may be a valuable find — an odd little book of poetry, with an “inclusion” — a letter tucked inside. Both are clearly old, and could be worth quite a lot to a collector.

But as Emmett reads the letter, he realizes there’s more to the story. The letter is between two WWII soldiers, Tom and Ben, and it’s clearly a love letter. But there’s something strange about it too, and Emmett decides to try to find out more. He tracks down another person with artifacts related to Tom and Ben, but these are from World War I. And photos show young men who don’t appear to have aged. Are they some sort of immortals? Is it all a joke? How can this be?

Emmett becomes obsessed with finding out more about Tom and Ben, and meanwhile, we see bits and pieces narrated by them as well, as we learn of their meeting during World War II and the top-secret experiment that Ben is involved in. As Emmett discovers, it would appear that something — something inexplicable — happened, and the two have become unmoored in time, using notes tucked into copies of this unusual poetry book, to find one another again and again and again.

At first, it’s hard to see how it all fits together, and yet it works. The writing builds a sense of wonder, informed by a deep, passionate love that keeps Tom and Ben forever seeking and sometimes finding one another, no matter where in time they end up. It’s lovely and mysterious, and unlike anything I’ve read lately. I do love a good time travel story, when done well, and Time Was is done very well indeed.

The best types of time travel books make me feel like starting over again once I’ve reached the last page, so I can go back and see the chronological displacements and events out of order for what they truly are, catching the hints and clues I missed the first time around. Time Was is one of those books.

Highly recommended. It’s a fast, absorbing, and deeply touching story. I only wish we could have spent more time with Tom and Ben. There’s a tragic undertone to every moment they’re together, and I’d like to think they had plenty of happiness along the way as well. If you measure the success of a story by how much the reader comes to care about the characters, then I’d say this one is absolutely a success.

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The details:

Title: Time Was
Author: Ian McDonald
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: November 5, 2017
Length: 176 pages
Genre: Time travel/historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Shelf Control #76: The Bookshop on the Corner

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Title: The Bookshop on the Corner
Author: Jenny Colgan
Published: 2016
Length: 368 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

How I got it:

Bought it!

When I got it:

Last fall.

Why I want to read it:

I picked up a copy as soon as a bookish friend recommended it to me. Who doesn’t love a book about a bookshop? Bookstore settings are always such fun in fiction, even though they always make me rethink my life choices. Anyhoo… I bought this book as soon as my friend told me about it, and I’ve carted it around in my suitcase on a few different trips now — and somehow still haven’t actually started reading it. So even though The Bookshop on the Corner hasn’t been on my shelf for all that long, it’s one I really need to stop waiting on and just sit down and read — and therefore definitely deserves to be my Shelf Control pick this week.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Readers of Broken largeI’m guessing that anyone who writes or reads book blogs has a special warm and fuzzy place in their heart for books about bookstores. If that sounds like you, then you’ll need to make room for one more! The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend fits snugly alongside other “books about books”, and is a lovely example of a book that true booklovers will want to hug.

The town of Broken Wheel, Iowa is… well… broken. Hard times have driven out most businesses and bankrupted family farms. Main Street is full of boarded-up, empty shops, and the only school in town has long since closed. All this changes when Swedish tourist Sara Lindqvist shows up. Sara had been corresponding regularly with town elder Amy Harris for years, meeting first through their shared love of books, but developing a friendship and trust through their letters that culminates in Amy inviting Sara for a visit. Sadly, Sara arrives in Broken Wheel on the day of Amy’s funeral, but the townsfolk seem curiously insistent that she stay, as Amy would have wished.

Sara moves into Amy’s home, and is astounded to find that no one in Broken Wheel will let her pay for anything. At a loss as to how to repay their kindness, Sara realizes two important things: First, that Amy has thousands of books in her house. And second, that the people of Broken Wheel don’t seem to be readers… which shocks bookworm Sara to the core of her book-loving soul. So Sara comes up with an idea of how to repay Broken Wheel. She’ll clean up an abandoned storefront owned by Amy, set up a bookshop with Amy’s books (and using her own money to fill in the gaps), and will spread the joy of books and reading to all the lonely and disappointed souls of Broken Wheel.

Listen, if you’re a booklover, I’ve probably already convinced you that this is a book you need to read! Need more? I’ll keep going.

What did I enjoy about The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend? Let’s see.

Characters: The town of Broken Wheel is full of odd and quirky characters, and they come splendidly to life in this book. Sara herself is a shy, lonely young woman who really has nothing to go back to Sweden for. She’s not used to being sought out or admired, and being the sudden center of attention is a dramatic eye-opener for her. There’s Grace, descended from a line of Graces, who totes a rifle and sees herself as the town outsider, without admitting to herself just how deeply invested in the town she is. There’s Andy, who runs the only bar in town with his “special friend”, the outrageously attractive Carl. There’s George, a recovering alcoholic who finally starts finding hope again through Sara, her books, and the interconnectedness of the town. Caroline, a starchy, proper churchlady, comes surprisingly alive again once exposed to Sara’s books and the interest of a younger man. There are plenty more, but I’ll let you have the pleasure of discovering them on your own.

Of course, with books, you could have greater confidence that it would all end well. You worked through the disappointments and the complications, always conscious, deep down, that Elizabeth would get her Mr. Darcy in the end. With life, you couldn’t have the same faith. But sooner or later, she reminded herself, surely someone you could imagine was your Mr. Darcy would turn up.

Though that was assuming you were one of the main characters.

Writing: Debut author Katarina Bivald has a light and humorous touch, capturing people’s inner struggles and worries yet conveying even the sadness with a sense of honesty and hope. I love the way she captures the souls of people who love books — for example, this bit from one of Amy’s letters:

I can’t for the life of me explain why I have the bad sense to prefer people [over books]. If you went purely by numbers, then books would win hands down. I’ve loved maybe a handful of people in my entire life, compared with tens or maybe even hundreds of books (and here I’m counting only those books I’ve really loved, the kind that make you happy just to look at them, that make you smile regardless of what else is happening in your life, that you always turn back to like an old friend and can remember exactly where you first “met” them — I’m sure you know just what I’m talking about). But that handful of people you love… they’re surely worth just as much as all of those books.

The bookstore: Sara decides that the standard bookstore signage — fiction, non-fiction, etc. — just won’t cut it if she really wants to reach the people of Broken Wheel. Sara ends up setting up her bookstore with sections such as “Sex, Violence, and Weapons”, “Short But Sweet”, “For Friday Nights and Lazy Sundays”, “Gay Erotica” (more or less on a dare, but with surprising results), and “Warning: Unhappy Endings”.

If more bookshop owners had taken the responsibility to hang warning signs, her life would have been easier. Cigarette packets came with warnings, so why not tragic books? There was wording on bottles of beer warning against drinking and driving, but not a single word about the consequences of reading books without tissues to hand.

Love: In a way, Readers is a love story — the story of how an entire town fell in love with a newcomer in their midst, and how she fell right back in love with all of them. Beyond that, there are romances and relationships, not candy-coated or overly sentimental, but simply people with hopes and dreams, with disappointments and heartaches in their pasts, who find one another — for friendship, companionship, love, or lust — in all sorts of unusual ways that end up feeling just so right.

“If you don’t marry her, she’ll have to leave. And she got me a book!”

Plot: The plot of Readers is fairly simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s not engaging. There are no huge surprises here — outsider arrives, changes the people around her, gives them new lease on life, etc — but it’s still charming to see it all unfold.

The author just gets readers: A major theme of Readers is how books change lives, in big and little ways. People end up with books that they might never have thought of trying, but there’s always something that rubs off, some way that a person ends up changed or enriched or bothered, that leaves a person just slightly different from how they were before reading that book. It’s such fun to see how Sara finds people just the right book to touch them, and then to realize how some of those same books have affected me in ways similar and different.

“Can you smell it? The scent of new books. Unread adventures. Friends you haven’t met yet, hours of magical escapism awaiting you.”

Plus, this priceless sentiment from Sara struck an absolute nerve with me and perfectly sums up why I don’t commit to reading challenges:

If you were someone who spent the vast majority of your time with books, then at the very least you should have read the Nobel Prize winners and the classics, as well as all those books people talked about but had never actually read, as Mark Twain might have put it. She had thrown herself into one ambitious reading project after another, but things had rarely gone according to plan. It was boring to think of books as something you should read just because others had, and besides, she was much too easily distracted. There were far too many books out there to stick to any sort of theme.

I’ve seen this book described as perfect for people who loved The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (review) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — and considering that I loved both of those and love Readers, I think it’s an apt description!

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a quiet, sweet, quirky, and thoughtful book about people, community, books, and the way they all come together. Absolutely recommended for anyone who is passionate about books — who enjoys reading about books almost as much as actually reading books.

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The details:

Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Author: Katarina Bivald
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication date: January 19, 2016
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark

Thursday Quotables: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
(to be released January 19, 2016)

Books about books and bookstores! Awesome – am I right? I’ve read about 2/3 of this upcoming new release so far, and it’s very sweet and quirky — and sure to appeal to any booklover who’s ever dreamed of opening up his or her very own bookstore. I love the odd characters and their awkward moments:

Small talk was not something Sara excelled at. She couldn’t think of anything to say, so she stayed silent. Without realizing it, she was clutching her jacket pocket, where she had shoved a paperback just to be on the safe side. She didn’t think she could really take it out, even though Tom obviously had no desire to talk to her. People were strange like that. They could be completely uninterested in you, but the moment you picked up a book, you were the one being rude.

Watch for my review, coming soon!

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Book lovers unite! Top ten characters who NEED to READ.

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is about characters who are book nerds, book worms, book lovers… you know, people like us!

My top 10, with links for the ones I’ve reviewed here at Bookshelf Fantasies:

1) Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey: Sure, her tendency to get swept up in gothic novels leads to trouble (like suspecting her crush’s dad of dastardly deeds)… Still, she’s responsible for one of Jane Austen’s most quoted booklover lines:

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2) Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire: Tyrion credits at least a portion of his survival to wits gained through reading. “Sleep is good. And books are better.”

Wit & Wisdom

3) Jo March (and her sisters), Little Women: Is there anything better than the March sisters acting out the stories they read, or Jo’s own writing efforts? (Until Amy burns her stories. Curse you, Amy!)

Little Women

4) Leisel Meminger, The Book Thief: Does this even need explanation?

Book Thief

5) Mori Phelps, Among Others: A girl whose life revolves around interlibrary loans, and who has read pretty much every work of science fiction, ever. I love the fact that this book has its very own book list (put together by fans, I believe) of every book mentioned in the course of the story. See an assortment of bibliography links here on Jo Walton’s website.

Among Others

And some love for the bookstore owners (and workers):

6) A. J. Fikry, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A man whose entire life can be explained by the books he loves — and whose bookstore is everything I would want in my own bookstore. (review)

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7) Chloe Sinclair, The Book of Secrets: Bookstore owner, with a secret past in which book-related clues hold the key to everything. (review)

book of secrets

8) June Andersen, Goodnight June: Owner of a children’s bookstore with a secret connection to Margaret Wise Brown. (review)

Goodnight June

9) Maggie Duprès, The Moment of Everything: More bookstores! Gotta love a character who turns from a high-tech job to running a dusty used book store. (review)

moment everything

10) Jane True, the Jane True series: Jane works in a bookstore with the fabulous name Read It and Weep, and when she’s not learning about her supernatural gifts, she’s busy selling books to the peculiar characters in her small Maine town.

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What books about booklovers are on your list this week?

Share your link, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!