Tag Archives: Contemporary Fiction

Review: Summer at the Dog & Duck by Jill Steeples

About Summer at the Dog & Duck

• Series: Dog & Duck (#2)
 Kindle Edition: 241 pages
• Published: June 2017 by Aria
• Source:
 NetGalley

Goodreads DescriptionThe perfect summer read. Continuing the light hearted, uplifting dramas around the The Dog & Duck pub and the life of its landlady Ellie Browne.

Ellie Browne has found happiness running The Dog & Duck pub in the idyllic village of Little Leyton, and her blossoming romance with tall, handsome property developer, Max Golding, is going swimmingly. With her new best friend, Digby, the black Labrador at her side, life just couldn’t be sweeter.

But their peace is shattered when Max’s younger sister, Katy, turns up unannounced with a whole heap of attitude. And Max’s loyalties are stretched further when his glamorous ex, Sasha, re-appears with her own burgeoning secret.

With the master of the manor preoccupied with the demands of his ‘other women’, Ellie’s forced to consider if she has any role to play in Max’s life or in the village of Little Leyton.

Can Ellie get her life and relationship back on track in time for the summer charity ball at Braithwaite Manor?

My Thoughts

Ellie is back! It’s now Summer at the Dog & Duck, and Ellie has settled into her life in Little Leyton. She’s running the bar, dating Max, and spending time with her friends Josie and Polly. Life couldn’t be sweeter….and then Max’s kid sister Katy and super-hot ex-girlfriend Sasha show up in town.

I rather enjoyed Winter at the Dog & Duck. I thought it was fun, if not completely absorbing. I hate to say it, but Ellie REALLY got on my nerves in this one. So much so that at one point, I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it. Polly and Josie – and wanting to know more about the handsome newcomer, George – kept me going. I also liked Katy a lot, but the whole storyline with Ellie and Max made me want to throw in the towel.

Max is….I don’t know. He’s not terrible, but he’s got some issues and what happens is Ellie gets all worked up about how much of a jerk he’s being and then ends up apologizing. Yes, you read that right – Ellie apologizes to Max when Max is the one who should be apologizing to her. It really irked me. Maybe I’m just tired of reading about unhealthy relationships. Shrug.

I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series, which is a little bit of a shame – it’s great fluff reading, and the setting is lots of fun. Too bad the characters just don’t do it for me! I’m being generous and giving this one a 3 star rating, but truthfully it’s more along the lines of 2.5.

3 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC! 

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: The Bookshop On the Corner by Jenny Colgan

About The Bookshop On the Corner

• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Audio: 10 hours
• Published: September 2016 by William Morrow
• Source: Purchased (Audible)

Goodreads DescriptionNina 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.

My Thoughts

Do you ever think, “I wish I could read that book again for the first time”? This idea is introduced in The Bookshop on the Corner, and for me, describes this book perfectly. It was such a joy that I wish I could experience it brand new all over again.

In The Bookshop On the Corner, we meet Nina, a librarian on the brink of losing her job. Or rather, she’s lost it already, but she’s still got a few weeks to work before being ousted. She’s at a crossroads. One day, she realizes she’s always dreamt of owning her own bookstore, and decides to just go for it. Everyone thinks she’s crazy, but she buys a van in Scotland and sets up shop selling books out of the back of her van. The little town where she lands is up in the Highlands, desperate for books, and what follows is the kind of feel-good story we all need in our lives.

Before I go on, I do have to point out that the title does not at all work for me, and for that matter, neither does the cover. There’s never actually a bookshop on the corner. I suppose you could make the case that because the bookshop is mobile, it’s kind of always on the corner, but that’s a little too much of a stretch for my taste. This has nothing to do with how I felt about the book. It’s just me being picky.

For those of you who typically skip the introduction, DON’T. The introduction is written by Jenny Colgan, and it’s a hilarious look into where she hopes you’ll read her book. It also sets the tone for the novel – if you like the intro, you’ll like the book.

The Bookshop on the Corner made me laugh out loud. It also made me want to buy a book van and move to Scotland. Consider yourself warned. And, because I listened to it, for the next week every book I read I gave the characters Scottish accents. (I highly recommend the audio of this one.)

Nina was adorably hopeless in the way that makes you want her to succeed, instead of throttle her. She goes through a fair amount of growth, and while a lot of it isn’t exactly something she chooses so much as is forced on her, by the end of the novel she’s more or less grown a backbone. This isn’t exactly chick lit, but it’s definitely got a love story. Thankfully, that isn’t the prime focus of the book, so you avoid that whole “her life isn’t complete until she finds a man” thing. Instead, Nina’s growth is her own, and though the romance does factor into it, isn’t the be all end all. It’s surprisingly realistic for contemporary fiction.

The Bookshop on the Corner is a great, light read. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Jenny Colgan!

 

4 stars