Tag Archives: book review

Review: Winter at the Dog & Duck by Jill Steeples

winterdog&duckAbout Winter at the Dog & Duck

• Series: Dog & Duck (#1)
 Kindle Edition: 260 pages
• Published: September 2016 by Aria
• Source:
 Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionA perfect, feel-good romantic novel to curl up with this Christmas. A story of new beginnings, love and friendship. Perfect for the fans of Jenny Colgan and Lucy Diamond.

Ellie Browne has left behind her high-flying job in London to return to the charming Buckinghamshire village of Little Leyton. Working shifts at The Dog and Duck and running her own doggy-day-care business, Ellie’s looking for a much simpler way of life and a good old fashioned Christmas.

But Little Leyton’s landscape is changing; Johnny Tay, Ellie’s ex, wants to pick up where they left off; sultry property developer Max Golding, has moved into the village and is ruffling feathers; and rumour has it that the pub, which holds a special place in Ellie’s heart, might be sold. Suddenly, life’s looking a whole lot more complicated…

Can Ellie juggle her emotions and commitments in time to celebrate Christmas?

My Thoughts

I adore the cover of this one. Isn’t it fun?

I picked up Winter at the Dog & Duck because I managed to snag the sequel, Summer at the Dog & Duck, through Netgalley, and I hate reading books out of order. Yes, I’m one of those people.

In Winter at the Dog & Duck, we meet Ellie, our quirky heroine. She’s newly jobless, and back in her hometown trying her hand at dog-walking and beer-pouring. Ellie is taking some time to figure out what her future holds, and what better place than Little Leyton? But then, she finds out her beloved pub (the Dog & Duck) is going to be sold, and nobody knows to whom. And there’s that pesky, oh-so-good-looking Max Golding running around like he owns the place…..

Winter at the Dog & Duck is a fun little read. Ellie isn’t my favorite character – at times, she’s pretty annoying – but the plot is simple enough and the dialogue well-written enough that her flaws didn’t bother me too much. It was really interesting to me how she was portrayed. On one hand, she’s a successful corporate accountant. On the other, she comes off as an overly-dramatic twenty-something who hasn’t quite figured out how to adult. I really got the sense that she was in a period of transition, so I applaud the way Steeples wrote her.

I wanted to visit Little Leyton, and I’m really looking forward to reading the second book so I can see more of it. Steeples does a great job creating a little oasis in the town, and it felt perfectly cozy and welcoming. In fact, the whole book reminded me of a cozy mystery, except there’s really no mystery. I kept wondering what in the world the book was about, and what a second book would be about. I finally realized it’s just a cute little chick lit book – some romance, some friendships, some stress, but nothing terribly earth-shattering or serious. Escape reading at its finest!

3 stars

Blog Tour: How To Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick

emiliewapnickbookAbout How To Be Everything

• Hardcover: 240 pages
• Published: May 2017 by HarperOne
• Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Goodreads DescriptionWhat do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a familiar question we’re all asked as kids. While seemingly harmless, the question has unintended consequences. It can make you feel like you need to choose one job, one passion, one thing to be about. Guess what? You don’t.

Having a lot of different interests, projects and curiosities doesn’t make you a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” Your endless curiosity doesn’t mean you are broken or flaky. What you are is a multipotentialite: someone with many interests and creative pursuits. And that is actually your biggest strength.

How to Be Everything helps you channel your diverse passions and skills to work for you. Based on her popular TED talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”, Emilie Wapnick flips the script on conventional career advice. Instead of suggesting that you specialize, choose a niche or accumulate 10,000 hours of practice in a single area, Wapnick provides a practical framework for building a sustainable life around ALL of your passions.
You’ll discover:
•  Why your multipotentiality is your biggest strength, especially in today’s uncertain job market.
•  How to make a living and structure your work if you have many skills and interests.
•  How to focus on multiple projects and make progress on all of them.
•  How to handle common insecurities such as the fear of not being the best, the guilt associated with losing interest in something you used to love and the challenge of explaining “what you do” to others.

Not fitting neatly into a box can be a beautiful thing. How to Be Everything teaches you how to design a life, at any age and stage of your career, that allows you to be fully you, and find the kind of work you’ll love.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Emilie Wapnick

Emilie Wapnick is a speaker, career coach, blogger, and community leader. She is the founder and creative director at Puttylike.com, where she helps multipotentialites integrate all of their interests to create dynamic, fulfilling, and fruitful careers and lives. Unable to settle on a single path, Emilie studied music, art, film production, and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University in 2011. Emilie is a TED speaker and has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, The Financial Times, The Huffington Post, and Lifehacker. Her TED talk, “Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling,” has been viewed over 3.5 million times, and has been translated into 36 languages. She has been hired as a guest speaker and workshop facilitator at universities, high schools, and organizations across the United States and internationally.

Find out more about Emilie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Thoughts

Guys, I honestly don’t even know what to say about Emilie Wapnick’s How to Be Everything, other than if you’ve ever felt like there was something wrong with you because you simply couldn’t pick just ONE THING, you need to go read it right now.

When I picked up How to Be Everything, I hadn’t watched Wapnick’s TED Talk. I’d never heard of her, never heard of the term “multipotentialite.” I simply liked the description of the book.

I read the entire thing in one night.

As I read, I felt like Wapnick was speaking directly to me. Like she was in my head, in my heart, and in my soul. She got me. For the first time, someone was telling me it was ok – no, it was awesome – to have a million interests and passions and ideas. That just because I’m not an “expert” in one thing, that I haven’t devoted my entire life to one career or one purpose, that I struggle with defining what I want from a career – that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. Quite the opposite, in fact. It means I have tons of potential, and that I need to embrace my ideas.

How to Be Everything is full of affirmation for those of us who’ve struggled with boredom or the feeling of jumping around and around with no idea which way is up. First, Wapnick describes what it means to be a multipotentialite, and what our strengths are. I actually laughed out loud in this part – superpower #1 is “Idea Synthesis,” which just so happens to be the first thing my manager brings up in every single performance review.

Then, she suggests four different types of multipotentialites, including ways each type can incorporate their interests into their lives. These chapters also have exercises to help us put into action some of what we’ve read. To be honest, I typically ignore exercises like these, but Wapnick’s are both meaningful and doable, and I’ve found myself pulling the book out and working through them. (I’m an Einstein with a touch of Group Hug.)

Finally, Wapnick tells us how to avoid and work through some of the pitfalls multipotentialites face, such as staying focused and not getting discouraged. I love her idea of tracking small wins – something I do in other areas of my life, but never considered doing for my career.

This book certainly opened my eyes. For the first time in a very long time, I’m excited about the possibilities instead of feeling overwhelmed. I may not have all the answers yet, but I feel like I have a path forward. And who knows – maybe someday I’ll reach my full multipotential.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops below, and show your fellow readers some love!

Tuesday, May 2nd: Tina Says…

Wednesday, May 3rd: Jathan & Heather

Friday, May 5th: Sapphire Ng

Tuesday, May 9th: Books & Tea

Wednesday, May 10th: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 11th: WildmooBooks

Monday, May 15th: She’s All Booked

Tuesday, May 16th: Creating My Kaleidoscope

Wednesday, May 17th: Everyone Needs Therapy

Thursday, May 18th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, May 22nd: Brown Dog Solutions

Tuesday, May 23rd: Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, May 24th: Dwell in Possibility

Thursday, May 25th: Becklist

Friday, May 26th: Read Till Dawn

TBD: Literary Quicksand

Huge thanks to TLC Book Tours and HarperOne for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: Joyful Trouble by Patricia Furstenberg

joyfultroubleAbout Joyful Trouble

• Kindle Edition: 180 pages
• Published: April 2017
• Source: Direct from Author

Goodreads DescriptionA humorous read about an incredible dog and how he had found his true, yet unexpected calling. A dog. A friendship. A purpose.
When a Great Dane arrives in a navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this for-legged gentle giant? Tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.

About Patricia Furstenberg

Patricia Furstenberg writes children stories about real and imaginary dogs and about animals in general. She believes each creature has a story and a voice, if only we stop to listen. He first children’s book Happy Friends, is also available from Amazon. You can read more animal stories and poems on her author website, Alluring Creations.

She is a winner of the Write Your Own Christie Competition.

My Thoughts on Joyful Trouble

When Patricia reached out to me about reviewing her book, I made it as far in her email as “Joyful Trouble is based on the true story of the only dog….” and knew I was going to read it. (This should come as no surprise if you’ve been here a while.)

Joyful Trouble tells us the story of the Great Dane, Trouble, the only dog to enlist in the Royal Navy during WWII. Everyone loves Trouble, and the enlistment comes about as a way to save him from certain death – you see, Trouble has a tendency to ride the train without a ticket, and the Railway Authorities are none too pleased. The soldiers who come to know Trouble on the train just can’t let this happen.

We learn Trouble’s story by eavesdropping on a Grandfather’s story to his grandchildren. Joyful Trouble is a simple story, and as an adult reader I’d have liked a little more about what Trouble did after enlisting – however, I don’t think that’s necessary for the young audience. If you’re like me and want to know more, here’s Trouble’s – aka, Nuisance’s – Wikipedia page.

This is a quick read that lends itself well to a parent reading to their own children. There’s no fluff here, though – we get Trouble’s story without smoothing over any of the less savory details. However, it’s told well, and we’re left with a warm fuzzy feeling after reading it.

Thanks to author Patricia Furstenberg for the review copy!  

Blog Tour: Blue’s Prophecy by Emily Ross

bluesprophecyAbout Blue’s Prophecy

• Series: The Canis Chronicles (#1)
• Kindle Edition:
 230 pages
• Published: May 2017 by TitleTown Publishing
• Source: Publisher via YA Bound Book Tours

Goodreads DescriptionTwo genetically altered dogs, two different fates. One is Robo, a beloved Great Dane, who is tricked out of the embrace of his human family and then is horribly altered by an evil scientist who rebuilds him with robotic parts, weaponizing the dog for money from the military. But that s not all the scientist does the experiments he conducts leave Robo a genius, almost immortal and with powers beyond explanation. But the horror Robo experiences at the scientist’s hands changes him, driving him insane with the sole mission to destroy all humans, especially those who have tortured and hurt dogs.

Meanwhile, a scrappy alley husky sits in a shelter, when she with her blue eyes and tough wolf-like features captures the attention of another group of scientists desperate to stop Robo from his path of destruction. This dog, called Blue, could be the chosen one to fight and defeat Robo. She is also genetically enhanced and left with glowing turquoise eyes before being released to face Robo’s vicious dog army. Her mission: save human civilization and the packs of dogs she’s grown to love.

About Emily Ross

Emily Ross, 13, is a fifth generation writer and an owner of three dogs, Balta, Buddy and Zoey. Her prose exceeds her years, with Emily starting work on Blue’s Prophecy, a science fiction/fantasy book for pre-teens and teens, when she was 10. Living in Atlanta, Emily is also an animator and a skilled archer, and relaxes by playing the double bass in her middle school orchestra.

WebsiteTwitterFacebook

My Thoughts on Blue’s Prophecy

It’s a well-known fact that any book with a dog on the cover or featuring a dog is going to make it onto my “must-read-now” list. So it’ll come as no surprise that I literally jumped at the chance to participate in the blog tour for Blue’s Prophecy. I mean, look at that cover. Go ahead, look. I’ll wait.

Plus, the idea for Blue’s Prophecy is pretty unique – genetically engineered robot dogs? Yes, please.

The story focuses on Robo, a Great Dane who’s been ripped from his family and turned into a half-robot dog. Robo has, among other “improvements,” a metal leg and implants in his brain and eye that make it possible for him to shoot lasers and speak English. Then there’s Blue, a husky who’s lived on the streets her entire life, and who’s just fine being on her own. Until, that is, she saves a couple of abandoned puppies from one of Robo’s cronies. All of a sudden, Blue finds herself thrust into a fight to save humanity from Robo’s warped sense of justice.

Blue’s Prophecy was so much fun. If you’ve read any of the Survivors books, it’s a similar feel – dogs against the world. I loved the pack dynamics, and the way Blue really grew from a lone wolf to a pack leader. And I’m honestly blown away that this book was written by someone as young as Emily Ross. The only thing that gave her away as a new writer was the story’s timeline – I had a hard time keeping up with where in time things happened. I think that’s an easy fix, solved by simply giving the reader a few “the next day” type markers. I expect we’ll see a little more of that in Emily’s next books, along with a little more backstory for the characters. As a first novel, however, this one is a solid, enjoyable read.

And that cover.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops below, and show your fellow readers some love!

May 8Zerina Blossom’s Books and Reading for the Stars and Moon and 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!  

May 9The Avid Reader  and The Silver Dagger Scriptorium and Crystal’s Chaotic Confessions 

May 10She’s All Booked (that’s me!!) and The Cover Contessa

May 11Adventures thru Wonderland and Books,Dreams,Life

May 12SolaFide Book Club and Diane’s Book Blog

May 15I Read Indie and Shh, I am Reading

May 16: Two Heartbeats

May 17Haddie’s Haven and Booklove

May 18Booker T’s Farm: Books & Nails & Puppy Dog Tales and Lukten av trykksverte, and YA Book Divas

May 19: CBY Book Club and Loves Great Reads

Big thanks to YA Bound Book Tours and TitleTown Publishing for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

About The Little Book of Hygge

• Kindle Edition: 240 pages
• Published: January 2017 by William Morrow
• Source:
 Library (via Overdrive)

Goodreads DescriptionDenmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That’s down to one thing: hygge.

‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight…’

You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. He is committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.

Why The Little Book of Hygge?

Raise your hand if you’ve seen Hygge articles all over the Internet lately.

Yeah, me too.

Of course, I read them, because when you see a word like hygge you automatically want to know what it’s about. And then you read one article and it sounds amazing and you read every one that comes across your plate, and then you see The Little Book of Hygge on your library’s Overdrive page and of course you request it.

At least, that’s what happened to me.

You’ve got me. I requested The Little Book of Hygge partly because I didn’t want to be the only person in the world who didn’t really know what hygge was. Ok, mostly. So I read it, and now I know, and I kinda like the idea, even if I don’t really fully comprehend it.

My Thoughts on The Little Book of Hygge

The Little Book of Hygge is a short little introduction to the Danish way of living. Danes are big on hygge, which doesn’t translate strictly to English but roughly means that feeling you get when you’re sipping coffee wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, wearing a sweatshirt and thick socks, with a puppy on your feet, in front of a roaring fire. Or that same feeling when you’re sitting on a picnic blanket in a summer afternoon, wearing a floppy hat and big sunglasses, eating bread and cheese and drinking wine. Blissful contentment, in other words.

For me, reading The Little Book of Hygge was more about getting an introduction than it was about making life changes, but I do think there’s a bit of applicability in the book. Take the Hygge Manifesto, for example – 10 basic tenents of Hygge. You’ve got Atmosphere (think candles), Presence (living in the moment), Pleasure (this is more about things like chocolate and coffee than anything else), Equality (thinking of others), Gratitude (being thankful), Harmony (again, thinking of others), Comfort (sweaters and socks and baths), Truce (check the drama at the door), Togetherness (be with people you love), and Shelter (have a hygge home).

What’s not to love in all of that?

Review: Pit Perfect by Renee George

pitperfectAbout Pit Perfect

• Series: Barkside of the Moon (#1)
• Kindle Edition:
 175 pages
• Published: December 2016 by Book Boutiques
• Source:
 Netgalley

Goodreads DescriptionPit Perfect is a tale of mystery and suspense that will have you on the edge of your seat. Fall in love with Lily Mason, the shifter who only wants to live as a human, and her pit bull Smooshie, a rescue dog who in the end may be the one doing the rescuing!

When cougar-shifter Lily Mason moves to Moonrise, Missouri, she wishes for only three things from the town and its human population: 1) to find a job, 2) to find a place to live, and 3) to live as a human, not a therianthrope.

Lily gets more than she bargains for when a rescue pit bull named Smooshie rescues her from an oncoming car, and it’s love at first sight. Thanks to Smooshie, Lily’s first two wishes are granted by Parker Knowles, the owner of the Pit Bull Rescue center, who offers her a job at the shelter and the room over his garage for rent.

Lily’s new life as an integrator is threatened when Smooshie finds Katherine Kapersky, the local church choir leader and head of the town council, dead in the field behind the rescue center. Unfortunately, there are more suspects than mourners for the elderly town leader. Can Lily keep her less-than-human status under wraps? Or will the killer, who has pulled off a nearly Pit Perfect murder, expose her to keep Lily and her dog from digging up the truth?

This paranormal cozy mystery contains cougar-shifters, shifters, lovable pit bulls, and supernatural beings.

My Thoughts on Pit Perfect

Pit Perfect is the first book in Renee George’s Barkside of the Moon series. It features Lily Mason, a werecougar with a bit of witch. Lily has just left home in Paradise Falls, where she’s surrounded by other paranormal creatures, to track down her uncle in Missouri. It’s her first time living among humans, and she’s got some adjusting to do! On her first day in town, Lily adopts – or rather, is adopted by – Smooshie, a loveable pit bull, and the two are quickly inseparable. However, that night, the town’s matriarch and all-around-nasty-lady is murdered in the backyard of the animal rescue shelter. Parker Knowles, the shelter owner and Lily’s new crush, is the prime suspect. What’s a werecougar to do?

I had a blast reading Pit Perfect. I fell in love with Smooshie immediately – she definitely steals the show. I was really intrigued by the paranormal component, but honestly would have liked a little more of it! Perhaps that’s in book 2? I also thought the timeline was a bit unrealistic, since everything (including Lily feeling like she now has friends and family and a home) happens in pretty much 3 days. But, let’s be honest – neither of these things prevented me from thoroughly enjoying the story. I love these little gems – relatively unknown books that are a joy to read.

Pit Perfect is a very quick read at only 175 pages. Book 2, The Money Pit, was released a couple of weeks ago. I’ve already used a Scribd credit on it, so expect that review shortly! Renee George has a ton of books out – both cozy mysteries and romance – all with paranormal characters. Anyone read any of her others?

3 stars

Huge thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

zodiacAbout Zodiac 

• Series: Zodiac (#1)
Paperback: 480 pages
• Published: November 2015 by Razorbill
• Source:
 Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionBook 1 in the breathtaking sci-fi space saga inspired by astrology that will stun fans of the Illuminae Files and Starbound series.

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

My Thoughts

In Zodiac, we’re introduced to a galaxy made up of 12 planets, one for each of the constellations in the zodiac. Each planet is different, and the people who live on each planet embody their zodiac’s qualities. Each planet’s guardians serve as political leaders, ensuring the well-being of their planet, their people, and the entire galaxy.

Rho is a 16-year-old girl from Cancer, splitting her time between reading the stars and playing drums in her rock band. When Cancer is suddenly devastated by an asteroid attack and Cancer’s guardian killed, Rho is named as the new guardian despite her young age and complete lack of experience. Rho quickly determines Ophiuchus, the guardian of the fabled 13th house, caused the attack. Unfortunately, the only person who believes her is her best friend – the rest of the galaxy is convinced Ophiuchus is nothing but a children’s story. What follows is roughly 300 pages of Rho traveling across the galaxy trying to convince the rest of the guardians to band together to fight Ophiuchus, all while finding herself falling for two very different boys.

I picked up Zodiac in the bookstore because I was in the mood for a space opera, and the cover immediately caught my eye. Plus, I liked the idea of 12 different planets representing the zodiac. I read about a third of the book in one night – then it languished on my nightstand for about two months, waiting for me to finish it. When I finally picked it back up, I knocked it out in two more nights. Needless to say, it’s a pretty quick read.

That said, while I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to pick up the next book in the series. I didn’t actually like Rho a whole lot. Or rather, I didn’t dislike her, but I found her somewhat….useless? There just wasn’t enough action on her part to keep me rooting for her. In some ways, that’s to be expected from a 16-year-old character, and I don’t really fault Russell for that. I think she wrote her well, actually, but YA these days has conditioned us to want more from our main characters. Much of the “doing” is actually done by other characters, and to be perfectly honest, other than Mathias and Hysan, I had a hard time keeping all the secondary characters straight.

Speaking of Mathias and Hysan, have I mentioned how much I hate love triangles? No? Well, I despise them, and I REALLY despise them in YA novels. Thankfully, it’s not too intense in Zodiac, so I was able to ignore it even if I did find it lazy and predictable. I also don’t think the love triangle is *actually* resolved, but I don’t care enough to find out.

Seriously, though – why do YA authors think love triangles are necessary? And why is it always a girl stuck between two boys? Can’t we just have a strong female character who doesn’t need boys? (Feel free to leave me your suggestions – I know there’s gotta be books out there!!)

3 stars

Book Club: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

thestoriedlifeofajfikryAbout The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

• Book Club: April 2017 
• Hardcover: 
260 pages
• Published: April 2014 by Algonquin Books
• Source: Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionOn the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

Why We Picked It

First of all, sorry for yesterday’s goof about the Jenny Lawson review. That was a very old post from my other blog, and I was actually trying to take it down, not publish it again! I’ve got a lot of old reviews that I’d like to go back and fix, so you’ll see that post again eventually. Thanks for bearing with me while I figure out this whole WordPress thing. Anyway, book club.

Our theme for April was Fun and Fresh. We left that open to interpretation, which meant we had a really hard time choosing a book. We also didn’t want a love story, since one of the girls was in a funk about men. (Totally understandable.) We sort of hemmed and hawed for a while, then finally settled on The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry since it was short and sounded like it would be a fun read.

My Thoughts

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is about a man (A.J.) who, having just lost his wife, owns a bookstore on Alice Island. He’s grumpy, and generally unpleasant to be around. His bookstore is barely surviving, and he’s essentially counting down the days until he can be done with it all. Then one evening, someone leaves a baby in his bookstore (that’s the package – I don’t think it’s a spoiler), and life as he knows it changes. He decides to keep the baby, raise her as his daughter. Gradually he begins to love life again.

I hate to say it, but this one fell a little short for me. I wanted to read it for a long time, and I know several people who loved it. I really enjoyed Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere. Plus, I’ve seen it compared to A Man Called Ove, and we all know how much I adore that book. Maybe my expectations were too high.

I didn’t have any major complaints with the book, but I couldn’t connect with the characters. I liked them all well enough, but I didn’t feel anything for them. The whole book was just sorta “there” for me. I also struggled to create a clear picture of A.J – for example, he’s only 39 in the beginning of the book, but I constantly had him in his mid-sixties in my mind. Zevin didn’t really describe him physically, either, which struck me as strange since every other character was.

I also struggled with some of the story’s continuity. Amelia’s story has a lot of holes. Because she’s such an important part of A.J.’s story, I wanted those holes resolved. And Maya, the bookstore baby, is another central part of A.J.’s life, but seems a shell of a character. I honestly thought some of the tertiary characters, like Lambiase, were better developed.

Overall, it’s a short read that probably falls closer to a 2.5 for me, but I’ll go ahead and give it a 3.

Book Club Discussion

We all enjoyed the book, but the rest of the girls had similar grievances about how undeveloped the characters were. One girl called them one-dimensional – she’s spot on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – again, it’s a quick, light read. We agreed that part of the problem is the marketing for the book. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tends to be heralded as a moving, emotional, heartwarming read, but in our opinion, the characters lack the depth to really deliver on those claims. Perhaps the best thing we hit on in our discussion was that we’d have enjoyed this book more if it’d been written as a Young Adult book, because you expect that kind of flatness in a lot of those novels.

Also, a heads up for anyone considering this one for your own Book Club – the discussion questions are absolutely terrible. My favorite was easily the one that compared ebook buying to online dating. *Grin*

None of us would discourage anyone from reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – just know going into it that you’re getting more of a fluff read. Nothing wrong with that!

May’s Book Club Theme: Young Adult

May’s Book Club Book: The Hate U Give

Review: Swimmer Among the Stars by Kanishk Tharoor

swimmeramongthestarsAbout Swimmer Among the Stars

• Hardcover: 256 pages
• Published: March 2017 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
• Source:
 Netgalley

Goodreads DescriptionIn one of the singularly imaginative stories from Kanishk Tharoor’s Swimmer Among the Stars, despondent diplomats entertain themselves by playing table tennis in zero gravity—for after rising seas destroy Manhattan, the United Nations moves to an orbiting space hotel. In other tales, a team of anthropologists treks to a remote village to record a language’s last surviving speaker intoning her native tongue; an elephant and his driver cross the ocean to meet the whims of a Moroccan princess; and Genghis Khan’s marauding army steadily approaches an unnamed city’s walls.

With exuberant originality and startling vision, Tharoor cuts against the grain of literary convention, drawing equally from ancient history and current events. His world-spanning stories speak to contemporary challenges of environmental collapse and cultural appropriation, but also to the workings of legend and their timeless human truths. Whether refashioning the romances of Alexander the Great or confronting the plight of today’s refugees, Tharoor writes with distinctive insight and remarkable assurance. Swimmer Among the Stars announces the arrival of a vital, enchanting talent.

Why Swimmer Among the Stars?

I’m really enjoying short story collections lately. They’re nice because you can read one or two at a time, set the book down, and come back to it later without losing too much. And, most of the short stories I’ve read lately have been somewhat thought-provoking, so in between reading them I’m mulling them over in my head. I’ve found some of them stick with me, some don’t, but I’m enjoying the experience nonetheless. This is new for me – I used to be anti-short story for some bizarre reason.

My Thoughts

Swimmer Among the Stars is a collection of poetic, snarky short stories. Why snarky? Because on the surface, they’re often kind of nonsense, or at the least, silly. You can read them at face value and simply get a goofy little plot, like the diplomats playing tennis in zero gravity. But there’s more to each story if you simply think a little deeper – for example, the diplomats are in zero gravity because the world is dying. They’re mourning the loss of Earth, the result of human carelessness and technological advancement. It’s a warning tale, of a sorts.

Most of the stories are like that – sure, not all contain warnings, but all offer some insight into the past, present, or future. This is the kind of collection that would be perfect for a college course – choosing one or two stories to discuss in depth. Or even a book club, though again, I think you’d have to stick to one or two; otherwise, there’s simply too much to take in.

I think my favorite was the title story, Swimmer Among the Stars. It’s poignant and lovely, and I keep thinking about the line, “Humans always lose more history than they ever possess.”

Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

3 stars

Huge thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

About Norse Mythology

• Hardcover: 299 pages
• Audio: 6 hours
• Published: February 2017 by W.W. Norton and Company
• Source: Purchased (Scribd Audiobooks)

Goodreads DescriptionNeil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

Why Norse Mythology?

I will admit to picking up Norse Mythology simply because I kind of love Neil Gaiman and I’ve seen a lot of people reviewing the book lately. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in it – while it’s true it wasn’t high on my list, I knew next to nothing about Norse myths, and Neil Gaiman is such a great storyteller that I figured it’d be worth the listen.

And it was.

My Thoughts on Norse Mythology

I flew through this audiobook – it’s only about 6 hours, and the chapters are roughly half an hour each. Gaiman himself narrates it. For me, listening to the myths really enhanced the experience. After all, these kinds of stories have been handed down for centuries, and listening to them (rather than reading them) felt a little like sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories.

As with any collection, there were myths I enjoyed more than others. The Children of Loki was probably my favorite, and I doubt there’s any other writer in the world who could make me teary-eyed over Fenrir, the giant wolf-monster.

I thought Gaiman did a great job organizing Norse Mythology. While it’s not chronological (or at least, I don’t think it is), the myths are combined in such a way that characters are introduced in one myth, and then featured in a later one. That way, you get familiar with the characters instead of struggling to keep track of them. Same with story lines and elements – the context builds, so you’re first introduced to, for example, the world tree, and then later read more about it. It’s intuitive.

I should also mention that Jimmie was very excited when I told him that one of his video game weapons was actually a Norse weapon. Destiny fans, rejoice.

Definitely pick up Norse Mythology if you’re at all interested in mythology/gods and goddesses/Thor and Loki (though be warned, you’ll keep thinking of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston – not necessarily a bad thing!), if you like Neil Gaiman, or if you want a short, enjoyable audiobook experience.

4 stars