I like the blurb on the back page of the book: "A.J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over - and see everything anew."
That doesn't really give much away, does it? Good. The 1st 1/4 and the last 1/4 of the book are solid. The middle 1/2 is spectacular. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the other half. It just wasn't quite as good as the middle.
Zevin has done some really neat things with this book:
1. At the beginning of each chapter, A.J. writes a letter to Maya (you'll have to read a little bit to know who Maya is - I refuse to give it away).
2. There are tons of references to books; a number of which I have read - Bel Canto (thumbs up), The Time Traveler's Wife (thumbs sideways), The Chronicles of Narnia (thumbs way up).
3. And there are lots of references to authors; a number of whom I have read - Kate Atkinson, Jo Nesbo, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.
4. The author uses terms that I've come to know through book blogging -TBR (to be read) pile and ARCs (advanced reading copies).
5. The book is extremely well written. Here are a few examples:
a. Referring to his sister-in-law, A.J. says: "Pregnant, she is like a very pretty
b. While looking at Maya, A.J. says: "He feels drunk or at least carbonated."
c. In one of his letters to Maya, A.J. says: "You know everything you need to
know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite
And for the 1st time, I'm going to quote part of an author's acknowledgement page. I know that's a bit strange, but it's a passage I can actually relate to. Zevin says: "On her lunch hours from work, my mom, AeRan Zevin, used to drive me to the bookstore so I could get my favorite authors on their first day of release." I used to do that every Tuesday at the Barnes & Noble in The Pruneyard in Campbell, CA. It was just around the corner from my office. And on many of those Tuesdays an author would be at a big table near the front of store. That's how I met Jennifer Skully/Jasmine Haynes, Shelley Bates/Adina Sent, Peter Adler/A.R. Silverberry, and Hannah Schwartz/Hannah Jayne, to name just some of them. These and others have become very important to me and are authors that I still see today. (in fact, counting this coming Thursday, all 4 of those named are RBC authors.)
10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY: This coming Wednesday is the 10th anniversary of Kathleen's ownership of A Great Good Place for Books, located in the Montclair shopping district in Oakland. Saturday, November 28, will be an all-day celebration. If you haven't been to GGP yet, take some time to get out there on the 28th (or some other time). It's a very cool bookstore. It's similar to what Gabrielle Zevin makes us visualize with her description of Island Books in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
ANOTHER LOCAL AUTHOR GETS A LITERARY NOMINATION: I just found out today that, like A.R. Silverberry, Ellen Kirshman has been nominated for a USA Best Books award for her latest Dot Meyerhof (police psychologist) novel The Right Wrong Thing. Congrats, Ellen, and good luck. We'll be pulling for you.