The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

BLOG“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only… A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

Monsieur Perdu is the owner of a floating bookshop in a barge on the Seine. He considers himself a literary apothecary and advises customers what books to read according to their particular need, be it a broken heart or a restless soul.  But Monsieur Perdu himself is not a happy man, and is still suffering from losing his one and only love who left him twenty-one years earlier.  After a series of events he decides to finally read the letter she had written to him before she disappeared.  This leads Perdu to embark on a journey to the south of France in order to heal his own broken heart.

The Little Paris Bookshop is a novel that takes its time, and is filled with some beautiful passages that portray emotions so well, exploring themes of love, loneliness and grief. The novel has three components: Perdu’s life as the literary apothecary, his journey to the south of France and the process of healing, and the love affair between Perdu and his lost love Manon.  The literary apothecary portion is a very small part of the book, and the majority of the story focuses on Perdu’s journey to make peace with the past along with flashbacks to his time with Manon.  As Perdu states: “There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only.”  This book is for those individuals who enjoy a slow paced read, a lot of romance, and the beauty of descriptive language and imagery.

Favourite quote: “Habit is a vain and treacherous goddess. She lets nothing disrupt her rule. She smothers one desire after another: the desire to travel, the desire for a better job or a new love. She stops us from living as we would like, because habit prevents us from asking ourselves whether we continue to enjoy doing what we do.”

*E-copy provided by NetGalley for review.

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

BLOG“Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time.”

In The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, independent bookstore owner A.J. Fikry is grieving the loss of his wife and has isolated himself from most people in his small island town.  The sales at his store are on the decline, a rare book has been stolen, and he is at a low point in his life.  One night, he finds a package that has been left on the floor of his bookstore, which changes his life forever.

With The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin has created a beautifully written and touching story.  It’s a story of happiness, humour, sadness, grief, hope, love and the beauty of new beginnings.  It is also about the love of books and the role bookstores play in a community.  Each chapter starts with a book selection and review by A.J. and gives the reader a nice introduction to the section ahead.  By the end of the book I had a good list of titles to research and add to my reading list.  The characters are endearing, wonderfully likeable and their wit and charisma are a source of many great quotes.  Quite simply, it’s a charming novel that will touch your heart.

Favourite quote:  “Why is any one book different from any other book?  They are different, A.J. decides, because they are.  We have to look inside many.  We have to believe.  We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

BLOG“What do you seek in these shelves?”

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore follows young protagonist Clay Jannon whose search for employment during an economic downturn leads him to a night shift position at a 24-hour bookstore run by the elderly Mr. Penumbra.  The store consists of two parts: the front section that carries regular books, and the back section that carries strange volumes that can only be borrowed by a select group of customers.  When Clay stumbles upon a pattern in customer book selection, he sets to uncover the mystery of Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore with the help of his friends Neel and Kat, along with a few others. Their discoveries lead them on an adventure filled with code breaking, secret societies and examines the relationship between new technology and old school books.

This is Robin Sloan’s first novel.  It was originally a short story that he posted to his website and later developed into a novel, which has gone on to receive a number of literary awards.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore has two of my favourite things: bookstores and a fun mystery.  It starts out with a small mystery in a little bookstore and expands into a great adventure well outside the bookstore walls, where it plays with the conflict between the high tech digital world and the old school world of books and paper.  The main character Clay Jannon is a likeable protagonist and his friends, roommates, and customers are a good group of supporting characters.  The main star and focus of the novel is the adventure itself, and the characters serve as a great vehicle to carry us along.  The author’s use of humour in the interactions between characters as well as in Clay’s internal dialogue is well done and provides a fun and amusing element to the story.  At times it does feel like the book tackles too many different subjects and steps a bit too far away from the main plot line in order to reach its conclusion.  However, Mr. Sloan’s concept for this book worked well overall and it was a very enjoyable read.

Favourite quote: “Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.”