Review – The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle ZevinTitle: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
ISBN: 9781616203214
No. of Pages: 272
Genre: Fiction
Origins: Algonquin Books; She Reads Book Club
Release Date: 1 April 2014
Bottom Line: What a charming story
Synopsis:

“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 Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry 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, he 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, though large in weight–an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. 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., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, 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.”

Thoughts: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is the type of feel-good story that one sinks into with pleasure. Some of it is due to the smart book-speak that comes with owning a bookstore, interacting with publishers, and a character who loves to read. The rest is due to A. J. himself, his prickly demeanor, his reticence in crowds, and most importantly, his capacity to love.

It is a simple story, one without action or suspense. The most exciting thing to happen is the theft of A. J.’s prize possession. However, A. J. himself reminds readers not to get caught up in the big events and that the small events are often the best. As such, the story flows from small event to small event as smoothly as water flowing in a creek – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly but always moving forward without rest.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry makes a reader smile with A. J.’s literary snobbery. He has very strong ideas about literature and is not afraid to share them with others. However, he also has a bookseller’s unique ability to find the perfect book for potential readers, and that will have any bibliophile giddy with excitement at the idea of someone else learning to love to read. The many mentions of popular novels and authors are like the little surprises in boxes of Cracker Jack and sure to delight those readers who are current on all the recent must-reads and other bookish drama over the past few years.

While the story switches narrators, and one gets a better overall picture of A. J. as a result, the story really shines in A. J.’s own words. Readers will laugh at his surprise reaction to the package he finds and the path his life takes as a result. His introversion will strike a chord with most readers as well, since a majority will be able to relate to his discomfort in new situations. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is truly a character-driven narrative because it could not be anything less.

The glimpse inside the life of a bookstore owner is fascinating for those who fantasize about such things. Ms. Zevin captures the frustrations, challenges, and rewards of providing books for others’ enjoyment. Ms. Zevin also captures life in a small town, in which everyone knows everyone else, in addition to the significance of love and friendship. For, even introverts like A. J. cannot live successfully and be healthy without human kindness and affection. As. A. J. learns this lesson, he blossoms into a beautiful human being, and the story becomes more charming.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a story about love – love of books, love of life, love of self, and love of each other. Told quietly without literary gimmicks or flowery prose, it strikes to the heart of its theme without fanfare. It conquers its readers not through exaggerated drama or nail-biting suspense but gently, through its clean imagery and undemanding narrative. It doesn’t just remind readers on how amazing life can be; it also reminds them how awesome life should be if we let it. It is a story for the ages.

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Review – Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Title: Prisoner of Night and Fog Author: Anne Blankman ISBN: 9780062278814 No. of Pages: 416 Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction Origins: Balzer + Bray Release Date: 22 April 2014 Bottom Line: Fascinating insider’s look at the early Nazi party Synopsis: “In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the…

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Review – The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Forever Song Author: Julie Kagawa ISBN: 9780373211128 No. of Pages: 416 Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult Origins: Harlequin Teen Release Date: 15 April 2014 Bottom Line: Absolutely outstanding ending to this thrilling series Synopsis: “VENGEANCE WILL BE HERS Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her…

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Review – The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Title: The Here and Now Author: Ann Brashares ISBN: 978-0-385-73680-0 No. of Pages: 256 Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult; Romance Origins: Random House Children’s Publishing Release Date: 8 April 2014 Bottom Line: Predictable and clichéd but with a very interesting hypothesis Synopsis: “Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love. This is the…

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It’s Monday, April 14th! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Logo

Hosted by Sheila from Book Journey, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Finished Last Week: Currently Reading: Currently Listening: Up Next:     What are you reading?

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The Sunday Salon – April 13th Edition

The Sunday Salon Logo

Happy Sunday! It may be a typical Eeyore day on the outside, but here in the Shannon Teach (Gaelic for home), it’s been non-stop spring cleaning all weekend. Walls, floors, bedding, windows, carpets – the works. We even got a head start on the outdoors by tilling up some beds we want to redo and…

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Review – Encountering Ellis Island by Ronald H. Bayor

Encountering Ellis Island by Ronald H. Bayor

Title: Encountering Ellis Island: How European Immigrants Entered America Author: Ronald H. Bayor ISBN: 9781421413679 No. of Pages: 184 Genre: Nonfiction Origins: Johns Hopkins University Press Release Date: 8 April 2014 Bottom Line: Interesting glimpse into what fortitude it took to come to the US Synopsis: “America is famously known as a nation of immigrants. Millions…

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Review – Great by Sara Benincasa

Great by Sara Benincasa

Title: Great Author: Sara Benincasa ISBN: 9780062222695 No. of Pages: 272 Genre: Fiction; Young Adult Origins: HarperTeen Release Date: 8 April 2014 Bottom Line: Generic retelling of The Great Gatsby Synopsis: “Everyone loves a good scandal. Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother at her East Hampton home. And this year…

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Review – Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Sea of Shadows Author: Kelley Armstrong ISBN: 9780062071248 No. of Pages: 416 Genre: Fantasy; Young Adult Origins: HarperTeen Release Date: 8 April 2014 Bottom Line: Intriguing new series Synopsis: “They hear the spirits. They must obey. In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn…

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Review – No Book But the World by Leah Hager Cohen

No Book But the World by Leah Hager Cohen

Title: No Book But the World Author: Leah Hager Cohen ISBN: 9781594486036 No. of Pages: 320 Genre: Mystery Origins: Riverhead Books Release Date: 3 April 2014 Bottom Line: Brilliant writing, mediocre story Synopsis: “At the edge of a woods, on the grounds of a defunct ‘free school,’ Ava and her brother, Fred, shared a dreamy…

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