When I came back to blogging this year I was sure I’d be able to do weekly or even twice weekly book reviews to catch up on all the fantastic and few not so great books I’ve been reading. Clearly that hasn’t happened. So today, in a break from my cataloguing class (it’s so much greater than it sounds, though that just might be me?) I thought I’d do a combo review.
Given that so far 2017 has been something of a rubbish year for me, in some regards, I’ve been drawn to reading happy, light-hearted, humorous and just plain old charming books. I have been pretty selective so they’ve all been beautifully written, engaging novels that welcome you into a fictional world like a comforting arm around your shoulder. It’s kind of like cheap therapy, pulling me out of some darker patches of my mind. I’ve listed them below, given them a rating and a quick run down.
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman – I read this in January and have already reviewed it here. I gave it 5/5 – its sublime.
- The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – This is the story of a young(ish) Swedish women, Sara, who ventures to the town of Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet up with her long time pen pal. It’s only when she arrives and no is there to collect her from the bus that she finds out the pen pal has died. Despite this Sara decides to stay in Broken Wheel, a dying little town, and set up a book shop. The small town characters are unique and charming, and the adventures Sara takes change the course of many people’s lives, not least her own. For some reason this reminds me of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (without the cannibalism), I thinks it’s the location and the quirky characters. 4/5 for this one (added bonus, it has lots of literary references)
- Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series) by Alexander McCall Smith – If you know this series you’ll know what to expect with this one. Set, as always, in Botswana, with Mma Ramotswe solving cases big and small in her beloved town. This one involves a pair of blue shoes, a game reserve, and the sinister goings-on in a health clinic. With her usual penchant for bush tea and straight talking, Blue Shoes and Happiness is a lovely Sunday afternoon on the couch kind of book. 3.5/5
- The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – this book came at just the right time for me and made an enormous impact. The story circles around A. J. Fikry, a grumpy bookstore owner and recent widow living on the difficult to access Alice Island. He dislikes all but the classics, despises children’s books and detests most of his customers. All that changes when he discovers a small girl has been abandoned in his bookstore and he sets about raising her in the most literary of ways. That sounds preposterous, but it works, trust me. Along the way he connects with the local policeman, reconnects with his wife’s sister and brother-in-law and is introduced to his knew agent from a particular publisher (hint this turns romantic). Again there are lots of wonderful, intriguing and unique literary references and the character development is superb. Highly, HIGHLY recommended – 5/5.
- Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach (who also write the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) – Buffy, a much recognised but retired actor unexpectedly inherits a B&B in rural Wales and makes the sudden and surprising decision to pack up his London life and give country living a crack – mostly because he couldn’t get a carpark in his street! He’s a hopeless businessman, doesn’t really like the idea of sharing his space with strangers and has no idea how to even start. What could go wrong? The first half of this novel introduces you to a vast array of side characters. My advice is to let this wash over you to some degree, I promise it will all come together in the end. The connections made in the second half are amusing, delightful and surprising, as Buffy’s guests come to learn basic car maintenance and instead get a lesson in love. Not everything gets tied up which is a little frustrating and some characters that were introduced in the first half, seem to get dropped for inexplicable reasons in the second and the character development is a bit hit and miss, but overall it’s a fun and funny read. 3/5
And that’s a wrap, all the “charming” novels on my 2017 list. Please, please hit me with some more recommendations.