Monday, February 13, 2017

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Several years ago, I received The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin as an e-galley, but I couldn't get it to download to my Kindle. I knew that I was missing something really good, but I figured I would just wait until it was published and read it then. And then, as it tends to do, time passed. Finally, after hearing friend after friend, not to mention lots of reviewers, talk about the beauty of this book, I was able to get my hands on it. And I was not disappointed.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is about a recently widowed bookseller in his late thirties. A.J. Fikry owns the only bookstore on Alice Island, a fictional island in the area of Nantucket. He isn't a particularly lovable character, he's rather prickly in the beginning, but that is a bit understandable. His wife, whom he adored, died very unexpectedly nearly two years before we meet him. Then his prized possession, and future retirement, a rare, early edition of a book by Edgar Allen Poe, is stolen. Life does not seem to be going the way A.J. had hoped it would. Then everything changes when someone leaves something very unexpected in his bookstore for him. The isolation that A.J. has spent so much time crafting for himself suddenly evaporates as he becomes more and more connected to the people of Alice Island.

This book is really just lovely. I adored this book and my only regret is that I waited so long to read it. This would make a wonderful selection for any book club as there is so much to discuss. This is the kind of book you will want to hug, to curl up and hold these characters and their words. I am disappointed that I cannot tell you more without telling too much, so I will just reiterate that you really must read this book. I will leave you with a quote from A.J. Fikry, taken from when he describes a book he has recently discovered and loved:

"Every word the right one and exactly where it should be. That's basically the highest compliment I can give. I'm only sorry it took me so long to read it."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I love hearing about a book through the grapevine. I love when lots of people that I know from lots of different places like a book that isn't yet mainstream. That is how I found The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. So what were people saying about it that peaked my interest? Not much, actually. I read several things that basically said, "I can't tell you what this book is about, but it is so good." Oh, the intrigue! I don't usually share 'back of the book' summaries, but this time I'll make an exception:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

I was pretty sure I knew where this was going, but I wasn't positive and sometimes I really like that. And I wouldn't tell you, either, except that a movie version is being released and you're sure to see the trailer (oh, heck, here you go...) and figure it out anyway, I'll just go ahead and let the cat out of the bag. Melanie is a ten-year-old zombie. And do you want to know the other trick of it? She doesn't know it yet. Melanie lives on a military base approximately twenty years after the Breakdown. She is being taught, but she is also being studied. She loves school, but she especially loves her teacher, Miss Justineau. It is a strange world, but Melanie works hard to understand it.

This book was captivating and thrilling. Last night, I stayed up far too late just to finish it. It is a bit frightening (it's the end of the world as we know it), but also very sad. Melanie and others like her are just children and the way they are treated is heartbreaking. This book explores the idea of a greater good. Is evil okay if it will help everyone else? Does that even qualify as evil?

I loved how this book was written. At one point, the words "tropical brainforest" were used and the literary nerd in me couldn't move on until I had said it aloud several times. I also love how emotional this book is. Nothing is purely evil. Nothing is purely good.

Read this one. I think you'll really like it.